Last reviews of comics read in 2017:
PAPER GIRLS #18 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. Another issue full of events that are funny and exciting, but difficult to follow. The only thing I specifically remember from this issue is that the bearded future dude turns out to be Jahpo, the cavegirl’s son.
GIANT DAYS #33 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Having been abandoned by their respective roommates, Esther and Ed both search frantically for housing for next year. This was another hilarious and poignant issue, though not very different from any other issue of Giant Days.
MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #61 (IDW, 2017) – “Convocation of the Creatures!”, [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Andy Price. Representatives of all the intelligent species gather at Mount Metazoa for a convention. While there, Twilight discovers ancient treaties that state that Canterlot technically belongs to the griffins. This issue has no real plot until the end, but it’s an excellent display of Andy Price’s artwork; it’s full of spectacular crowd scenes and sight gags, like the cat trying to grab the Breezie.
JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: DIMENSIONS #1 (IDW, 2017) – “Catnap,” [W/A] Sophie Campbell, and “Roll with It,” [W] Kate Leth, [A] Tana Ford. In the first story, the Misfits go on a ski trip. It’s Sophie Campbell’s first Jem story in a long time, and it heavily features Pizzazz’s cat, so it’s got two things going for it. In the backup story, Jem and the Holograms play Dungeons & Dragons. It’s good, but not as good. I think the highlight is Kimber’s pony costume.
MOONSTRUCK #4 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Grace Ellis, [A] Shae Beagle. The protagonists are still trying to get Chet’s horse body back. This issue was not as good as #3, though better than #2, and I can’t remember much about it.
BLACK BOLT #8 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Christian Ward. Black Bolt and Blinky return to Earth, then head off to inform Titania about Crusher Creel’s death. (Wait, he died? I forgot that.) This issue has some spectacular artwork, as usual, but is mostly just an interlude between bigger storylines. The best moment is the splash page where Black Bolt surprisingly gives his estranged son a hug.
USAGI YOJIMBO #164 (Dark Horse, 2017) – “Mouse Trap, Part 2,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. This was a good issue, but I don’t remember much about it specifically. I’ll have more to say about this storyline when I get to issue 165, which I read this morning.
PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS YEAR TWO: LOVE AND REVENGE #2 (Action Lab, 2017) – “Overboard,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Xenia Panfil. Jeremy seems more interested in Raven than in Adrienne, which is his prerogative, but it’s too bad that the main Princeless series has been on hold for more than a year. This issue is an exciting fight scene in which the girls beat up a bunch of male chauvinist pirates. But by the end of the issue, Sunshine still hasn’t been rescued.
SECRETS OF HAUNTED HOUSE #35 (DC, 1981) – “Deathwing, Lord of Darkness!”, [W] Bob Haney, [A] Fred Carrillo, plus other stories. This issue’s first story is full of Haney’s typical nonsense, but it must not have gone over well with readers: it appears to have been intended as the start to an ongoing strip, but the characters in it never appeared again. The second story is a mildly funny piece by Arnold Drake and Al McWilliams, in which aliens visit a post-apocalyptic Earth. The issue ends with a Mr. E story, which has some nice Dan Spiegle artwork, but it’s no wonder that Mr. E failed to become a successful character.
FANTASTIC FOUR #228 (Marvel, 1981) – “Ego-Spawn,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Bill Sienkiewicz. Doug Moench was the worst Fantastic Four writer ever. This issue demonstrates why. Moench includes too much text, he writes unrealistic dialogue, and he wastes too much space on three new characters (Lorrie Melton, Abe Jankowitz and Ego-Spawn) who rarely if ever appeared again. By a weird coincidence, Ego-Spawn’s real name is Franco Berardi, which is also the name of a well-known philosopher.
WEIRDO #5 (Last Gasp, 1982) – various stories, [E] R. Crumb. I’m glad that I finally own an issue of this legendary series, but I can’t say I enjoyed reading it. This issue is an obvious homage to Mad, and like a typical issue of Mad magazine, it contains a lot of different material in various styles, but much of that material is very tedious and poorly done. In particular, the two-page text article by Clifford Neal is unreadable. The highlights of the issue are Crumb’s “The Old Songs Are the Best Songs” and Harry S. Robins’s Professor Brainard strips. Robins is better known as a voice actor, but his artwork and lettering are amazing, though they deserve to be reproduced even bigger.
HAWKEYE #13 (Marvel, 2017) – “Family Reunion, Part 1,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Leonardo Romero. It sucks that this series was cancelled. It’s the worst casualty of Marvel’s recent cancellation bloodbath. I don’t agree with some of the alarmist takes on Marvel’s cancellations, because most comics get cancelled eventually, and some of the cancelled titles had serious flaws (America, Gwenpool, She-Hulk – more on the last one later). But Hawkeye had no such flaws, and it deserved more of a chance. This issue, Kate and Clint team up and fight Eden Vale, the Swordsman’s apprentice. I hope Kate gets to find her mother before the series ends.
LOVE AND ROCKETS VOL. IV #2 (Fantagraphics, 2016) – multiple stories, [W/A] Los Bros Hernandez. This issue begins with the words “Fritz haters will just have to be patient,” which could have been personally addressed to me. I have trouble caring about Fritz and Petra or any of their associated characters, even after reading about them for over a decade. Looking through this issue again, I don’t see much else that I particularly liked, besides the first of the two Jaime stories. But things would improve with issue 3, reviewed below.
FAITH’S WINTER WONDERLAND SPECIAL #1 (Valiant, 2017) – untitled, [W] Marguerite Sauvage, [A] Francis Portela. Faith gets sucked into the world of her favorite childhood TV show. This is much more of an Alice in Wonderland pastiche than a Christmas story, but it’s fun.
LOVE AND ROCKETS VOL. IV #3 (Fantagraphics, 2017) – as above. This issue is much more enjoyable than #2, though maybe it just seems that way in retrospect. It begins with a flashback story about a 14-year-old Maggie. It would be kind of cool if in some future collected edition this story was reprinted in chronological order. There’s also a Beto story which is an obvious Doctor Who parody. The highlight of the issue is the present-day Maggie and Hopey story, which ends on a cliffhanger in which Maggie and Hopey are about to be attacked by Eugene, a very large man. The Fritz/Killer story is still not my favorite, but at least it’s easier to follow when you read multiple issues consecutively, and Luba shows up at the end.
LOVE AND ROCKETS VOL. IV #4 (Fantagraphics, 2017) – Gilbert’s “Since I Don’t Have You” is set just after Soledad’s death in a mental asylum, and incorporates a flashback showing that Pipo was partly responsible for Soledad killing Manuel. This story is a throwback to Gilbert’s very first Palomar story, and to the Palomar stories more generally; for example, it includes a haunting splash page depicting a mysterious statue. I think this was Gilbert’s best story in these three issues. There’s also some more flashback stories by Jaime, depicting the earliest days of Maggie and Hopey’s relationship. Disappointingly, last issue’s cliffhanger with Maggie, Hopey and Eugene is not resolved; we have to wait several months to find out whether Maggie and Hopey will be okay.
SCALES & SCOUNDRELS #4 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] Galaad. The protagonists discover a city at the bottom of Dened Lewen, then they go on past there to a mysterious ruin full of creepy fish people. This is still a pretty standard plot, but this series is worth reading because Lu is an awesome protagonist, and because Galaad’s art is quietly excellent.
CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN #87 (DC, 1978) – “Twelve Million Years to Twilight,” [W] Carla Conway & Gerry Conway, [A] Keith Giffen. This issue guest-stars Deadman and Swamp Thing and includes some effective early Giffen artwork, which resembles his later work on the Legion. But none of that was enough to save the series from cancellation, because this was the last issue. Perhaps that was partly because the Conways’ story is convoluted and forgettable.
YUMMY FUR #4 (Vortex, 1987) – “Forgiven,” [W/A] Chester Brown. Most of this issue consists of a bizarre, surrealistic story that seems to be a chapter of Ed the Happy Clown, though I didn’t realize this at first. The basic idea is that Chester finds himself reliving the life of St. Justin, who cut off his own hand to avoid sinning. Similarly, Chester loses his hand, and when it gets reattached, it just flops around. There is some obvious phallic and masturbatory symbolism here. This St. Justin appears to be Brown’s invention; there are several real St. Justins, but they all lived at different periods from the one in this story. This issue also includes the first chapter of Brown’s adaptation of the Gospel of Mark.
CAPTAIN AMERICA #696 (Marvel, 2017) – “Home of the Brave,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Chris Samnee. Not nearly as good as last issue, despite Chris Samnee’s amazing art. Cap visits a small town incognito but is immediately recognized, creating a media sensation, and the Swordsman immediately comes to town and threatens to blow up the local dam. Cap saves the town, of course, but no one bothers to mention that the town wouldn’t have needed to be saved if Cap hadn’t been there. On top of that, the at the end of the issue we’re expected to believe that the town is safe and no damag is done, but this requires us to forget that the Swordsman murdered a bunch of the workers at the dam.
DC SPECIAL #27 (DC, 1977) – “Danger: Dinosaurs at Large!”, [W] Bob Rozakis, [A] Rich Buckler. Tommy Tomorrow and Captain Comet team up to defeat an attempted dinosaur invasion of Earth. This comic is not especially profound or well-crafted, but it’s silly and fun; all it promises is lots of scenes of future people fighting dinosaurs, and it delivers on that promise. The best part is the panel where Tommy Tomorrow defeats a dinosaur by throwing a rock at it, with a “SOKK” sound effect.
GROO THE WANDERER #98 (1993) – “The Wager of the Gods, Book Three,” [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. This was as good as any other issue of Groo, but I don’t remember much about it. The plot of this four-parter is that the god Megatheos is trying to get Arcadio to emulate the feats of other gods’ heroes, but Groo keeps screwing up everything Arcadio does.
SIX FROM SIRIUS #1 (Marvel, 1984) – “Phase 1: Phaedra,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Paul Gulacy. This space opera story does not have the most original or exciting plot, and it suffers from Doug Moench’s habit of overwriting. But other than that, it’s not bad at all, and it includes some very impressive visual storytelling and draftsmanship. Gulacy’s art has declined over the years to the point where he’s no more than an average artist, but back in 1984 he was still really good.
DETECTIVE COMICS #446 (DC, 1975) – “Slaughter in Silver,” [W] Len Wein, [A] Jim Aparo. A pretty average story in which Batman battles Sterling Silversmith, coupled with impressive art by Jim Aparo at the peak of his career. This issue also includes a Hawkman story in which Carter behaves in a sexist way toward Shiera.
ACTION LAB, DOG OF WONDER #6 (Action Lab, 2017) – “Stash’s Story,” [W] Vito Delsante & Scott Fogg, [A] Reilly Leeds. Action Lab encounters an alien dog. This was a cute issue, but I can’t remember much about it. This series appears to have been silently cancelled.
TALES TO ASTONISH #95 (Marvel, 1967) – “The Power of the Plunderer!”, [W] Roy Thomas & Raymond Marais, [A] Bill Everett; and “A World He Never Made!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Marie Severin. In the Sub-Mariner story, Namor battles Ka-Zar’s brother, the Plunderer. It’s pretty average. The credits don’t make it clear what Marais did, so I assumed he was the co-artist. It turns out he was the co-writer and Everett did all the artwork, but his art is badly hurt by lazy inking. The Hulk backup story is more fun, but it’s kind of weird in that it features the High Evolutionary, one of the most Kirbyesque villains, but is not drawn by Kirby.
GREEN LANTERN #98 (DC, 1977) – “Listen to the Mocking Bird!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Mike Grell. An alien called Ffa’rzz convinces Black Canary that her dead husband is still alive, then tries to kidnap Katma-Tui. The main appeal of this story is Denny’s portrayal of Dinah’s bereavement and Katma’s unfamiliarity with Earth. Unfortunately, this story, like Brave and the Bold #91, becomes really creepy if you accept the retcon that Larry Lance was the Earth-1 Black Canary’s father, not her husband.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #303 (Marvel, 303) – “Dock Savage,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] Todd McFarlane. This issue’s title is lettered in the same font as Doc Savage’s logo. The plot is that Spidey teams up with Silver Sable and Sandman against some neo-Nazis, while MJ wrestles over whether to move with Peter to Kansas so he can take a job there. In the end, MJ grudgingly decides to do it, but Peter decides to reject the job offer because it might ruin MJ’s career and their marriage. This seems like a pretty accurate portrayal of a marital disagreement – it can be a pretty big dealbreaker if two spouses can’t agree on where to live.
HAUNTED LOVE #5 (Charlton, 1973) – “Until We Meet Again,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Steve Ditko, plus other stories. This series must have been Charlton’s attempt to imitate DC’s gothic romance titles like Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love. It even says “Tales of Gothic Romance” on the cover. However, it’s really just a standard Charlton horror comic except that all the stories involve romantic relationships. The three stories in this issue are drawn by Steve Ditko, Joe Staton and Tom Sutton. The latter was probably Charlton’s best horror artist of the ‘70s, and his story is the best one in the issue; it’s about a witch who manipulates her son into getting married so she can be reincarnated as her own grandchild.
JOHNNY DYNAMITE #1 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “Underworld, Book One: Revenge for a Black-Eyed Blonde,” [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. This is a revival of the ‘50s Pete Morisi comic of the same name, which was reprinted in some later issues of Ms. Tree. Probably very few people admire Johnny Dynamite as much as Collins and Beatty do, but this adaptation is more than just a pastiche of the source material. This first issue is a very grim hard-boiled detective story, narrated by an old Johnny Dynamite as he’s dying of cancer, in which Johnny avenges his old lover’s death. But at the end of the issue, we’re told that his lover’s killer, Faustino, is going to come back from the dead thanks to a pact with Satan, so the other issues of this series will be much less realistic than this one. I need to look for the other issues of this miniseries.
THUNDERBUNNY #5 (WaRP, 1986) – “Moonlight Miss,” [W] Marty Greim, [A] Brian Buniak. This could also have been called “The Last Rutland Story,” although there were a couple other such stories in the ‘90s. Like several ‘70s Marvel and DC comics, this story takes place at the Rutland, VT Halloween Parade and guest-stars the parade’s co-founder, Tom Fagan. Specifically, the plot is that Thunderbunny/Bobby Caswell visits Rutland for the parade, where he teams up with Moon Miss, a new character his own age, against some villains who are an obvious parody of the A-Team. This comic is heavily aimed at an audience of Greim’s fellow comics fans, and is full of references to other comics, some of which reach the point of copyright infringement. This comic has a rather limited appeal, and Moon Miss is sexualized to a disturbing extent given her age, but otherwise, this issue is a really fun piece of nostalgia.
THIEVES & KINGS #4 (I Box, 1995) – untitled, [W/A] Mark Oakley. The main problem with this comic is that it’s full of giant blocks of text. Oakley makes the questionable choice of using text to narrate things he doesn’t have time to draw. As I have written in many other reviews, if I want to read text, I’ll read a book, not a comic book. Also, this comic has a convoluted and poorly explained plot. I’d buy more issues of this comic if I saw them for under a dollar, but I’d prefer to start with issue 1.
PEACEMAKER #5 (Charlton, 1967) – “The Fire World,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Pat Boyette. This comic combines some excellent Pat Boyette artwork with a fairly good script. As Dick Giordano points out in an interview published in Last Kiss #2 (reviewed below), Joe Gill wrote so many comics so quickly that he couldn’t devote much effort to any of them, but Peacemaker and Fightin’ 5 were among the few series that he really cared about. The Fightin’ 5 backup story in this issue has much worse art, by Montes and Bache, but an even more sophisticated and politically charged story. In this issue’s letter column, the editor points out that at a price point of 12 cents, a publisher has to sell 100,000 copies of each issue in order to just break even. Things have changed a lot since then.
On December 17, I went to the winter edition of the Charlotte Comic Con. My last Charlotte Comic Con, in August, was pretty disappointing, but this one was fantastic. The main reason was because I’ve rethought my approach to comic collecting. I’ve always read all kinds of comics, but in the past I’ve mostly focused on Marvel and DC from the Bronze Age and up. But now I already have most of the classic post-‘60s Marvel and DC comics, and there aren’t many more of them to collect. The solution is to diversify my interests and look for other kinds of comics to collect. Reading the Slings & Arrows Comic Guide has really helped with that, because it discusses so many obscure but interesting comics. I thought I had a comprehensive knowledge of the comics field, but on almost every page of the Slings & Arrows Guide, I learn about comics I’m not familiar with. So at this latest convention, I specifically looked for cheap but interesting stuff that I haven’t read before, and I was able to find quite a lot of it. My purchases included:
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #105 (Marvel, 1972) – “The Spider Slayer!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Gil Kane. A rare example of a classic Spidey story I hadn’t read. This issue, JJJ hires Spencer Smythe to build a third Spider-Slayer robot, but it turns out that Smythe really intends to use the robot to take control of the surveillance cameras around town. This issue is also full of subplots; Peter stops a protest at the Daily Bugle offices, then goes to a party to welcome Flash home from Vietnam. The five-way love triangle between Peter, Gwen, Flash, MJ and Harry was a prominent feature of this era of Spider-Man.
SNARF #10 (Kitchen Sink, 1987) – various stories, [E] Denis Kitchen & Dave Schreiner. This issue includes something even more rare: an Omaha story I haven’t read. It’s a flashback to Omaha and Chuck’s first meeting, and is extremely cute. After some initial misunderstandings, Omaha and Chuck bond over their shared hatred of roommates. The other stories in this issue aren’t nearly as good, though there’s some work by Mary Fleener, Howard Cruse and Chester Brown. The story by J.D. King includes a scene where two teenagers throw a cinder block off an overpass into traffic. Last October, some teenagers in Michigan killed someone by doing that, and are now facing murder charges.
TWO-FISTED TALES #5 (Russ Cochran, 1951/1993) – various stories, [E] Harvey Kurtzman. One of my best finds at the convention was eight issues of Two-Fisted Tales (the Russ Cochran reprints) for under a dollar each. Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat are the best war comics ever published in America. Unlike the much more jingoistic war comics published by Marvel and DC, Kurtzman’s war comics are bitter, unromantic blackly humorous depictions of war, from the perspective of the common soldier. The standout story this issue is Severin and Elder’s “Chicken!”, about a brutal infantry captain who enforces regulations to the letter, but doesn’t realize that “soldiers are human beings.” Another impressive one is Jack Davis’s “Enemy Contact!”, in which a medic risks his life to save a soldier dying of appendicitis, only for that soldier to get killed by the enemy. Toth’s “Dying City” and Woody’s “Massacre at Agincourt” are less powerful, but brilliantly drawn.
UNICORN ISLE #3 (Apple, 1986) – untitled, [W] Lee Marrs, [A] Nicholas Koenig. This is a very different genre of story from Marrs’s other major work, Pudge, Girl Blimp, but is just as dense and complicated. It’s a fantasy story about two telepathic twins who team up with a sacred unicorn to rescue the unicorn’s mate. This comic has a pretty cool premise, but as noted, it’s extremely dense, to the point that I had a hard time getting through it.
RIO AT BAY #2 (Dark Horse, 1992) – untitled, [W/A] Doug Wildey. This was the last Rio comic published in Wildey’s lifetime, though two more appeared later in IDW’s complete Rio collection. The premise is that Rio arrives at San Francisco with a lot of money, then gets robbed and shanghaied by a crooked casino owner, but gets his revenge. It’s a pretty low-stakes story (no pun intended), but it’s elevated to classic status by Wildey’s incredible artwork. Every panel is lush and gorgeous, drawing upon photo reference and extensive historical research, and the action sequences are thrilling. Doug Wildey was a Hall of Fame-caliber artist, although he’s not in the Hall of Fame, perhaps because he produced a limited body of work and was more famous as an animator.
IRON MAN #16 (Marvel, 1969) – “Of Beasts and Men!”, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] George Tuska. I read the issue before this one earlier this year. In #14, the Red Ghost tricked the Unicorn into teaming up with him. This issue, Iron Man and the Unicorn reluctantly team up against the Red Ghost. In the end, the Red Ghost’s super-apes get tired of his oppressive behavior and turn on him, which is a rather unexpected and poignant development.
THE ADVENTURES OF EVIL AND MALICE #2 (Image, 1999) – untitled, [W/A] Jimmie Robinson. A comic I would never have bought if I hadn’t read a fairly positive review of it in the Slings & Arrows Guide. It’s about two young superheroines whose father is a supervillain. It’s no Bone, but it’s funny and exciting, with reasonably good manga-style art.
MR. NIGHT #1 (Slave Labor, 2005) – “Mr. Night’s Greek Holiday” and other stories, [W] Glenn Dakin, [A] Phil Elliott. An unjustly obscure comic which, again, I only bought because the Slings & Arrows Guide includes positive reviews of other comics by these creators. It contains three stories about the title character, a gloomy pessimist, and his more sunny friend Mr. Day. These stories are very much in the vein of Eddie Campbell’s Bacchus; they’re drawn in a sort of Clear-Line-esque black and white style, and they have impressive humor and philosophical depth. Dakin and Elliott are two of the many artists who came out of the ‘80s British underground scene and who have been unfairly overshadowed by Eddie Campbell. Other such artists include Shaky Kane, Paul Grist, Rian Hughes, Ed Pinsent, etc.
DOOM PATROL #88 (DC, 1964) – “Revealed at Last the Incredible Origin of the Chief,” [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Bruno Premiani. The Doom Patrol encounters a villain called the Baron who turns out to be sponsored by General Immortus. To explain why he’s scared of General Immortus, the Chief has to reveal his origin: General Immortus was the Chief’s own patron, and as a result of their involvement, the Chief lost his legs. The Chief’s origin story provides a valuable insight into this somewhat enigmatic character. In particular, we learn that he needed private funding because despite being a brilliant scientist, he was so disagreeable that no one would work with him.
THE RETURN OF ALISON DARE: LITTLE MISS ADVENTURES #2 (Oni, 2001) – “Alison Dare and the Secret of the Blue Scarab,” [W] J. Torres, [A] J. Bone. At boarding school, the title character is told that her superhero father, the Blue Scarab, is dead, but she responds by explaining why he can’t die. This comic is similar to Bone or Leave it to Chance, if less successful than either. In particular, the artist’s surname is a weird coincidence because his artwork and lettering are a lot like on Jeff Smith’s. While the story in this comic is entertaining, it concentrates too much on Alison’s parents instead of Alison herself.
JIM #3 (Fantagraphics, 1994) – “The Hindu Marriage Game” and other stories, [W/A] Jim Woodring. This issue includes several short stories. The Jim story is typically bizarre. Jim goes to a party where he’s forced to “marry” a stranger, then she convinces him to fight a dead man for control of the man’s raft, only it turns out the dead man is alive. There are two Frank stories, one in color and one in black and white. In the black and white story, Frank gets a fruit out of its inedible shell by hanging it from a tree, but when Manhog tries to do the same thing with a cube, the cube grows arms and legs and attacks him. So yeah, this is a pretty typical Woodring comic.
TWO-FISTED TALES #6 (Russ Cochran, 1951/1993) – various stories, [E] Harvey Kurtzman. All four stories in this issue are brilliant. Jack Davis’s “Death Stand” is about a soldier who volunteers for a suicide mission, only to survive when all his comrades die. Woody’s “Old Soldiers Never Die,” set in WWI, is about a soldier who survives the entire war, only to be killed at the exact moment hostilities end. Kurtzman’s “Kill!” is probably the highlight of the issue. It’s a parallel story of an American and a Chinese soldier, whose common homicidal tendencies cause them to kill each other. Like many Kurtzman war stories, “Kill!” humanizes the enemy, demonstrating that “they” are just as human as “we” are – though in this case it demonstrates that in a negative sense, showing that the Chinese and the American soldier are both equally barbaric. Finally, Severin and Elder’s “Dog Fight!” is about a flying ace who thinks his girlfriend has stopped writing to him, only for a huge packet of her letters to appear just before he gets killed.
TAILGUNNER JO #1 (Dc, 1988) – “The Curve of Binding Energy,” [W] Peter B. Gillis, [A] Tom Artis. I’ve seen lots of house ads for this series, but, again, I finally felt motivated to buy it because of the Slings & Arrows review. I should have bought it sooner, because I enjoy Peter Gillis’s writing and I’ve corresponded with him on Facebook. This comic is a cyberpunk story about a cyborg warrior whose brain is implanted with the personality of his disabled young daughter. It’s a powerful story about a man whose life is destroyed by an evil corporation, but Jo’s cheerful personality makes this comic less grim than it could have been. I’ll be looking for the rest of this series.
THE UNTOUCHABLES #1 (Eastern, 1988) – untitled, [W/A] Lee Hyun-Se. I was excited to learn that this comic even existed (again thanks to the Slings & Arrows Guide, which gives it a poor review) and I was even more excited to come across all four issues of it. This series is the only English publication of Lee Hyun-Se’s manhwa 공포의 외인구단, which is variously translated as The Terrifying, Alien or Mercenary Baseball Team. It’s one of the seminal works of Korean comics, and is included in Paul Gravett’s list of 1001 comics you must read, although there’s very little English-language information about it. This issue is somewhat poorly translated and reproduced, and represents only a tiny fraction of the entire work, but it’s better than nothing. Lee Hyun-Se’s story is about a father and son who live in the woods, where the father trains his son to become a star pitcher by throwing baseballs at animals. Then they head to town so the son can try out for baseball. While this series is technically a sports comic, it has more in common with Lone Wolf & Cub, and Lee Hyun-Se draws in a style reminiscent of samurai manga. This is a really intriguing comic, and I want to learn more about it. Unfortunately, English-language information about classic Korean comics is very hard to find.
CHIP ZDARSKY’S PRISON FUNNIES #2 (Legion of Evil, 2003) – “Destiny’s Child!”, [W/A] Chip Zdarsky. This early self-published work of Chip Zdarsky is so obscure that it doesn’t have a GCD entry. You would think it would have gone up in value thanks to Chip’s superstar status, but I guess not. As the title suggests, this comic takes place in prison, and it’s full of brutal black humor and hidden messages in tiny text. It’s much cruder than Kaptara or Sex Criminals, which are pretty crude to begin with, and it has limited value on its own, but it’s an interesting glimpse at an early stage of an important artist’s career.
SKELETON KEY VOL. II #1 (Slave Labor, 1999) – “Roots,” [W/A] Andi Watson. I’ve only read one or two other comics by this artist. This comic seems to be about a high school girl who’s friends with a Japanese fox spirit. It’s hard to follow because it assumes knowledge of the previous miniseries, though it does provide some background. It’s drawn in a minimal but appealing style, with impressive emotional depth. Watson reminds me a bit of Colleen Coover, though he’s not as good. I should read more of his stuff.
THE WEDDING OF POPEYE AND OLIVE OYL #1 (Ocean, 1999) – “The Wedding of Popeye and Olive,” [W] Peter David, [A] Dave Garcia. I have sort of a personal connection to this comic because my friend Lisa Palin is the daughter of its publisher, but I hadn’t read it before. This comic is heavily based on the classic E.C. Segar Popeye, rather than any of the later versions. It’s not as successful a pastiche of classic Popeye as Roger Langridge’s version was, but it’s exciting and fun, and shows extensive knowledge of the source material. However, if I didn’t know that Peter David had written it, I wouldn’t have guessed.
BANANA SUNDAY #4 (Oni, 2005) – untitled, [W] Paul Tobin (as Root Nibot), [A] Colleen Coover. In the final issue of this miniseries, we finally learn where the monkeys came from: they’re the original monkeys from the “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” meme, and Kirby found them when they fell out of heaven. Also, this issue resolves the ongoing plot about Kirby’s high school troubles. Like the other issues of this series, it’s an adorable and well-executed piece of work.
I received the following new comics on December 18. These comics arrived three days late to begin with, and I didn’t pick the package up until late at night, because the tracking information was slow to update, and I didn’t realize it had been deilvered.
RUNAWAYS #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Find Your Way Home Pt. IV,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. Probably the best issue yet. Molly’s house and her grandmother are just what you’d expect. Molly’s house is full of cats and other cute stuff, and her grandmother is such a kind, sweet woman, you have to wonder how Molly’s parents turned out so badly. Molly seems like a truly happy kid. Which makes it even more poignant that the other Runaways, especially Gert and Nico, are so lost and aimless. In the end, Gert chooses to stay with Molly. I’m not sure where the series is going to go from here, but I trust that Rainbow knows what she’s doing. By the way, I have now read two of her novels. I just finished Fangirl, which was one of the best books I read in 2017.
UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #27 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Forbidden Pla-Nut, Part 1,” [W] Ryan North, [A] Erica Henderson. Some alien squirrels abduct Nancy so she can tell them how to save their planet from Galactus. Doreen teams up with Loki in order to figure out where Nancy went. And then it turns out that Galactus himself is the herald of an even bigger being that eats universes… no, wait, that’s Moon Girl #25. This is yet another fun issue of Squirrel Girl, and it contains more squirrel characters with speaking parts than almost any previous issue.
MISTER MIRACLE #5 (DC, 2018) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. Another fantastic issue of one of the best comics of the year. Scott and Barda enjoy a last day together before Scott’s execution, including some kinky sex and a meal at Canter’s Deli. It’s appropriate that Scott has a bondage fetish. And then Barda decides she’s not okay with Scott being executed, after all. As someone else pointed out on Facebook, the panel with a naked, bloodstained Barda saying “Stay” is, strangely, one of the most romantic moments in the series.
ROYAL CITY #8 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Kind of an uneventful issue. Tommy has a psychotic reaction while in the car with Richie, and Tara discovers she’s pregnant. Which may explain the cliffhanger in issue 5 where Patrick learns he has a niece.
MY LITTLE PONY HOLIDAY SPECIAL 2017 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] James Asmus, [A] Brenda Hickey. I somehow got the artist’s edition of this issue, with a cover reproduced from Andy Price’s pencils, and that cover is better than the interior story. Flim and Flam try to capitalize on Hearth’s Warming Eve by making everyone buy windigo merchandise. Twilight Sparkle gets rid of them by asking them to give their merchandise away for free, but then everyone gets mad at her for ruining their holiday, and Twilight realizes that they’re right to be angry. This comic could have been a witty critique of the excessive commercialism of Christmas, but instead it ruined its own message, by declaring that a little commercialism is okay if it’s all in good fun.
SLAM! THE NEXT JAM #4 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Pamela Ribon, [A] Marina Julia. This is an okay conclusion to the series, and it’s better than the last couple issues, but it’s still disappointing compared to the first Slam! miniseries. This comic never recovered from the departure of Veronica Fish. At least it lasted more than four issues, unlike some Boom! Box titles.
SHE-HULK #160 (Marvel, 2017) – “Jen Walters Must Die,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Jahnoy Lindsay. Part two of the Leader storyline is worse than part one; there’s nothing as good in this issue as the burgercakes from last issue. This series’ cancellation is disappointing but understandable. Mariko Tamaki is an amazing writer, and her depiction of trauma was groundbreaking, but she has serious problems with pacing.
TWO-FISTED TALES #7 (Russ Cochran, 1951/1994) – various stories, [E] Harvey Kurtzman. The famous story in this issue is Kurtzman’s “Rubble!”, about a Korean peasant who painstakingly builds a house with his own hands, only to see it blown up along with himself and his family. This story depicts the Korean family in a somewhat patronizing way, but it’s a deeply powerful piece of comics storytelling. It demonstrates that our “enemies” are people too, and that what seems like insignificant collateral damage, from the perspective of an entire war, can be a matter of life and death, from the perspective of an individual civilian. Jack Davis’s “Hill 203” is a brutal story about a soldier who sacrifices himself to defend a hill. In Woody’s “Bug Out!”, a starving soldier is so desperate for food and shelter that he sacrifices his sanity and even his humanity. In Severin and Elder’s “Weak Link!”, an individual soldier’s cowardice gets his entire platoon killed. All four stories this issue demonstrate the horrors that war inflicts on average people.
THE WICKED + THE DIVINE CHRISTMAS ANNUAL #nn (Image, 2017) – “Sumer Loving” and other chapters, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. Each chapter of this story has a different inker. I have mixed feelings about this series, but this annual is fascinating because it shows us the beginning of the gods’ careers, when Lucifer and all the others were still alive and still enchanted with their new powers. It’s also kind of cool to see how McKelvie’s artwork changes with different inkers.
HAND OF FATE #1 (Eclipse, 1988) – “Night of the Siren,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Gerald Forton. One of Bruce Jones’s many Eclipse and Pacific titles, Hand of Fate is about a “psychic detective,” though it’s actually his female assistant who’s the psychic. This comic is a well-plotted and exciting private eye mystery, though I’m not sure the plot made complete sense. Gerald Forton’s art is kind of Ditkoesque. His opening splash panel, which is a top-down view of Fate’s office, is impressive.
TALES OF GHOST CASTLE #3 (DC, 1975) – “The Demon’s Here to Stay!”, [W] Jack Oleck, [A] Ernie Chua. The last issue of one of DC’s more obscure mystery titles. It’s no wonder it was the last issue, because none of the three stories in it are very good. The second story, about a man who murders the woman he’s having an affair with, is slightly better than the others because of the Frank Redondo artwork.
GREEN LANTERN #78 (DC, 1970) – “A Kind of Loving, a Way of Death!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Neal Adams. This is one of only three O’Neil/Adams GL/GA issues I own, although I’ve read all of them in reprinted form. I am a long way from having a complete collection of this run, since I still don’t have #76, #85 or #87. This issue has one of my favorite story titles ever, but the only thing I really remembered about it was the page with Black Canary beating up the bikers (which also includes the unfortunate line about how “you look at her and see a soft, totally feminine woman”). On reading this story again, I realize it’s probably even more topical today than in 1970, since it’s about a crazy racist ideologue who organizes an anti-government militia in the American West. Joshua is sort of a combination of Cliven Bundy and the Ku Klux Klan. The final scene in this issue, where Dinah overcomes Joshua’s mind control and refrains from killing Ollie, is quite powerful.
FANTASTIC FOUR #89 (Marvel, 1969) – “The Madness of the Mole Man!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. Not one of the better Lee/Kirby issues. The FF battle the Mole Man, whose plan is to make everyone on the surface world blind, so he can take over. The highlight of the issue is the angry lecture that Johnny Storm gives the Mole Man after defeating him; Johnny tells the Mole Man to suck it up and stop pitying himself.
TELLOS #2 (Image, 1999) – untitled, [W] Todd DeZago, [A] Mike Wieringo. The late Mike Wieringo’s only major creator-owned work is a somewhat formulaic piece of epic fantasy, but it’s well-drawn and professionally produced, and one of the characters is a giant anthropomorphic tiger. I’d buy more of these if I found them at a low price.
KID LOBOTOMY #3 (IDW, 2017) – “Lost in Franz,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Tess Fowler. As usual with Peter Milligan (and his master Grant Morrison), this comic gets harder and harder to follow as it goes on, but it’s still well-executed enough that I’m enjoying it even when I can’t follow it. I didn’t really notice Tess Fowler’s art when she was drawing Rat Queens, but her art on this series is really impressive.
DEPT. H #21 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. This issue is yet another flashback to Roger and Hari’s past. I guess it’s not surprising that there are so many flashbacks, given that this is a mystery story, and mysteries are all about uncovering what happened before the story began. At the end, Roger tries to get Mia to go to the surface alone, but one of the other characters objects.
SUPERNATURAL THRILLERS #11 (Marvel, 1975) – “The Asp’s Big Score!”, [W] Tony Isabella, [A] Val Mayerik. This Living Mummy story is a convoluted, overwritten piece of work with few interesting characters, although it’s not terrible. One of the principal characters is named Olddan, which is apparently not a typo for Old Dan. The two-page backup story by Tom Sutton is better than the main story.
STRANGE ADVENTURES #214 (DC, 1968) – “To Haunt a Killer,” [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Neal Adams. An awesome Deadman story. Feeling lonely, Deadman possesses a man named Phil who’s desperately in love with his fiancee, or at least she is with him. But then Deadman discovers Phil is a professional assassin. The creators set up a poignant contrast between Phil’s two sides, as a loving husband-to-be and a heartless killer. Adams’s artwork is fantastic, although this issue is full of double-page compositions that are printed ineptly (see https://www.instagram.com/p/Bc_nNtRl0Jz/?taken-by=aaronkashtan).
PSYCHOANALYSIS #3 (Gemstone, 1955/1999) – “Freddy Carter” and other stories, [W/A] Jack Kamen. This is the weirdest comic EC ever published, and that’s saying a lot. It consists of three stories, each depicting a session between a psychoanalyst and his client. Each story is an extremely text-heavy talkfest, in which the analyst and the analysand go over a lot of complicated psychosexual material in an extreme hurry. The analyst is depicted as the Lacanian “subject supposed to know”; he knows everything and has all the answers, and the client’s job is to figure out what the analyst is telling him or her. (As a caveat, my use of Freudian and Lacanian language here may imply that I understand psychoanalysis better than I actually do.) The analyst’s conclusions are unquestionable even when they’re wrong. For example, the father in the first story is an abusive asshole who ridicules his son, yet the analyst only cares about convincing the son to be more fair to the father. In general, this comic is disturbing and poorly executed, but it’s also kind of fascinating. EC’s Psychoanalysis is a fascinating depiction of how people thought about psychoanalysis in the ‘50s, and I’m surprised that there seems to be no scholarship on it – it would be a great project for a psychoanalytically inclined comics scholar. I showed the cover of this comic to my grandfather, who used to be a practicing psychoanalyst, and he was delighted.
New comics received on Friday, December 22:
MS. MARVEL #25 (Marvel, 2017) – “Teenage Wasteland, Part One,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. This is probably the funniest issue of this series ever. Kamala doesn’t appear in this issue. Instead, it focuses on her friends, who are trying to find her while also impersonating Ms. Marvel, so no one realizes that Ms. Marvel is missing too. This premise leads to all sorts of hilarious hijinks and misadventures, and the issue ends with Kamala’s friends confronting a giant iguana in a robot suit. This issue has gotten some attention from non-comics readers thanks to its reference to Orthodox Union kosher certification. The reason Kamala can eat the sandwich Naftali brings her is because kosher is a more restrictive standard than halal, so kosher food is generally considered halal, though not vice versa. This scene is based on G. Willow Wilson’s personal lifestyle: according to her own Twitter page, most halal meat is below her standards for zabihah, or ritual slaughter, so she eats kosher meat instead.
X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN #1 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Ed Piskor. This is a dense, compelling, and provocative work. As a longtime Marvel fan, I loved reading this – it engaged my geek instincts because it kept making me think “That’s not how I remember that happening” or “I didn’t notice that before.” What I’m not sure about is what exactly this comic is trying to do. My initial take was that this comic is Ed’s version of The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck. He’s taking a vast body of stories that were not meant to be read together, and combining them into a cohesive whole. But that analogy doesn’t completely work, because Ed Piskor isn’t necessarily being strictly faithful to the source texts. Peter Sanderson complained that Piskor got a number of things wrong, and Sanderson knows Marvel continuity better than anyone alive, so he’s probably right. (Even I noticed, for instance, that Piskor’s version of the Xavier/Shadow King battle doesn’t exactly match the version in X-Men #117.) So maybe this comic is intended instead as Ed Piskor’s personal and necessarily selective vision of Marvel history. It’s hard to tell at this point. Either way, this is a brilliant and important comic, and I’m excited to see where it goes.
One minor thing I liked about this comic is that on one hand, it doesn’t say that Magneto is Wanda and Pietro’s father, since that is no longer true – but on the other hand, Piskor draws Pietro to look exactly like Magnus.
ANGELIC #4 (Image, 2017) – “Heirs and Graces, Part 4,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Caspar Wijngaard. Things get worse, as Qora and Complainer are caught in the struggle between the monkeys and the manatees. Also, they find a bunch of cryogenically frozen humans. This wasn’t the best issue of Angelic, but I love the panel where the humanoid robot turns out to have tentacles for legs.
FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #5 (DC, 2017) – “Birdman in Invisible Sun!”, [W] Phil Hester, [A] Steve Rude. This is the first Future Quest story not written by Jeff Parker, but Phil Hester does an admirable job of filling in, and the Dude’s artwork is as brilliant as you’d expect. The thing that soured my enjoyment of this issue was that Rude’s depiction of Maori people struck me as offensive. However, I can’t pinpoint anything offensive in particular, except that the people’s faces look a bit apelike. It’s possible that I’m being oversensitive because I’m remembering the blatantly racist depictions of Africans in an earlier Rude comic, The Moth Special #1.
FENCE #2 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] C.S. Pacat, [A] Johanna the Mad. Like issue 1, this issue is heavily influenced by sports manga, but it also has a significant queer subtext that I didn’t notice in issue 1. I guess that means this comic is treading the same territory as The Backstagers, in that it’s a queer comic with an all-male cast. In particular, this issue introduces a new character, Bobby, who… I think he’s a boy, but he’s depicted with visual conventions borrowed from shojo manga. Another thing I notice about this comic is that it’s genre-savvy; Seiji tells Nicholas that “you’re one of those… someone told you once that you had potential [but] hundreds of fencers get told that.” This comic seems somewhat unsure as to what sort of tone it’s going for, but it’s a really interesting piece of work. I just hope it doesn’t get cancelled after four issues.
ASSASSINISTAS #1 (IDW, 2017) – “Dominic Price and the Semester Abroad,” [W] Tini Howard, [A] Gilbert Hernandez. A rare example of a comic written but not drawn by Gilbert Hernandez. However, it feels very much like a Beto comic, with its focus on action girls, family relationships, sex, etc. It’s also somewhat reminiscent of Kill Bill, though that could be because Kill Bill was drawing on the same body of influences. I haven’t heard of Tini Howard before, but her writing is not bad at all.
SHERLOCK FRANKENSTEIN AND THE LEGION OF EVIL #3 (Dark Horse, 2017) – “Part Three: Who is the Metal Minotaur?”, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] David Rubín. An issue full of unexpected developments. The third villain on Lucy’s list is the Metal Minotaur, a battlesuited villain who surprisingly turns out to be a black woman. Also surprisingly, the Metal Minotaur tells Lucy that Sherlock Frankenstein was trying to save the heroes, not kill them, and Lucy realizes that Sherlock has been in Spiral Asylum all along.
MIGHTY THOR #702 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Last Days of the Goddess of Thunder,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Russell Dauterman. As things get grimmer and grimmer, Jane recruits Hercules, then shames Odin into emerging from his seclusion. Just in time too, because the Mangog shows up on the last page.
SUPERMAN #37 (DC, 2017) – “Super Sons of Tomorrow, Part 1: Dark of the Son,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] Jorge Jimenez. This entire issue is a fight scene between Superman and an alternate-universe Tim Drake who’s become an evil version of Batman. It’s a complete waste of an issue, and I shouldn’t have bought it. Also, this comic’s cover is deceptive in that none of the characters on the cover appear in the comic, except Superman himself.
SUPER SONS #11 (DC, 2017) – “Super Sons of Tomorrow, Part 2: Sundown,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] Ryan Benjamin. This is even worse than Superman #37 because it’s a wasted issue of a series I was enjoying. This issue does have a cute scene with the Super Sons and the Titans, but it spends too many pages on plot developments that I don’t care about. And the evil Batman is a crappy villain; he’s so grim and dark that he’s not fun to read about, and Super Sons is supposed to be a fun comic. This issue illustrates the problem with crossovers: they interrupt the plots and character arcs of the titles involved, and they’re rarely good enough to justify this interruption.
BACCHUS #1 (Eddie Campbell, 1995) – “The Face on the Bar-Room Floor,” [W/A] Eddie Campbell & Dave Sim, plus other stories. The problem with this series is that almost all the material in it has been published in a variety of other formats, so whenever I read an issue of Bacchus, I always suspect that I’ve already read the stories in it elsewhere. The opening story in this issue is a new Bacchus-Cerebus crossover where Campbell and Sim collaborated on both the writing and the art, but most of the issue is occupied by the first chapter of King Bacchus, and I’m pretty sure I’ve read at least some of this before.
WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #8 (Marvel, 1985) – “Local Super Hero!”, [W] David Michelinie, [A] Geof Isherwood. This is weird and not very good. The opening eight pages of this issue depict the origin of the Smithville Thunderbolt, local superhero of a small Pennsylvania town. The word balloons in this segment all have four words or less, which appears to be a deliberate formal constraint, but not a very successful one. In the second half of the story, Spider-Man goes to Smithville to do a story on the Thunderbolt. It turns out the Smithville Thunderbolt has lost his powers with age, and is now creating disasters so he can solve them. This is an intriguing premise, but Michelinie deals with it way too quickly, wasting the chance to explore its implications.
DOOM PATROL #6 (DC, 2017) – “Brick by Brick, Part 6,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Nick Derington. I quit reading this comic because of its chronic lateness, but when it started appearing on critics’ year-end lists, I decided to get caught up on it. I had trouble remembering what was going on in this series, but this issue is fairly self-contained. The premise is that Crazy Jane has founded a cult of “oneness,” and she wants to drop a gene bomb on herself and her fellow cultists, so as to merge them all into one being. But Jane’s other personalities sabotage the bomb so that it instead kills the version of Jane who’s leading the cult, and leaves Jane’s other personalities intact. This issue is an impressive reimagining of Grant Morrison’s best Doom Patrol character, and it also explores the relationship between Jane and Cliff Steele, which was vitally important in the Morrison series.
DOOM PATROL #47 (DC, 1991) – “The World, the Flesh, and the Devil,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Richard Case. Not Morrison’s best issue. It’s mostly a prelude to the Doom Patrol’s battle with Shadowy Mr. Evans. The best moment is when Rebis is informed that hs mother died, and he replies “Which one?”
DOOM PATROL #7 (DC, 2017) – “Into the Scantoverse or Emotional Robots and Psychic Werewolves,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Mike Allred. A weird and wacky story in which Niles Caulder rejoins the Doom Patrol, then leads them on a bizarre adventure that almost gets them killed. It turns out that the Chief is just manipulating the Doom Patrol into helping him settle a debt to the mob, and they all decide they’re better off without him. Gerard Way has a good take on the Chief’s toxic personality, and Allred’s art is some of his weirdest in recent memory.
GIANT-SIZE KUNG FU BIBLE STORIES #1 (Image, 2014) – various stories, [E] Erik Larsen & Bruce Timm. This treasury-sized comic has a cover price of $20. I “only” paid $12 for it, but I still feel like I got ripped off. There’s not much here that justifies the price. Bruce Timm’s story is impressively drawn but is a dumb and outdated piece of superhero parody, and the only truly impressive things in the issue are the pinups and one-pagers by Art Adams and Tom Scioli. Another serious problem with this comic is its unwieldy format. This comic is impossible to store properly because I don’t think they even make boxes that are big enough for it. My copy of this comic is badly damaged because it’s taller than the box I was storing it in, and I piled things on top of that box by accident.
BUG! THE ADVENTURES OF FORAGER #5 (DC, 2017) – “Water, Water Everywhere and Not a Drop to Shrink,” [W] Lee Allred, [A] Mike Allred. Forager meets Omac and they fight Dr. Skuba, the villain who shrinks oceans into cubes (see my review of Omac #7 from earlier this year). Lots of other weird stuff happens. This is another fun issue, but I would rather it had included three blank pages than the Midnight backup story. James Harvey’s style is intriguing, but not well suited to linear storytelling, and his text is overwritten and tedious to read.
PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #298 (Marvel, 2017) – “Escape Plans,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Adam Kubert. Peter is rescued from a questionably legal prison by Human Torch and Ant-Man, then they set out trying to save Peter from the deep state, which is surprisingly tough. Just when things look hopeless, Black Panther shows up. In this storyline, Chip Zdarsky has achieved the difficult feat of making me genuinely wonder how Spider-Man can get out of his predicament.
HEAD LOPPER #8 (Image, 2017) – “Head Lopper and the Crimson Tower, Part 4 of 4,” [W/A] Andrew MacLean. This issue was recalled because of a printing error in which one page was printed twice and another page was omitted. DCBS didn’t get the memo in time and sent me one of the misprinted copies anyway, and I was unpleasantly surprised to discover the printing error after I was 15 pages into the comic. I asked Andrew MacLean if he would post the missing page on Twitter, and he was kind enough to do so, which allowed me to finish reading the comic. This issue is a rather depressing conclusion to the Crimson Tower story. Zhaania Kota Ka discovers that Berserkr is her own mother. She drops her weapons and begs her mother to team up wth her against Ulrich, but in a reversal of the usual cliché, Zhaania’s mother fails to overcome her brainwashing and kills her daughter. In the end, Norgal, Agatha, Twerpal and Bik defeat the enemy, and little Bik becomes the master of the Crimson Tower. And now we have to wait for Norgal and Agatha’s next adventure.
BUG! THE ADVENTURES OF FORAGER #6 (DC, 2017) – “Just Another Bug in the Wall,” [W] Lee Allred, [A] Mike Allred. This issue finally explains what’s been going on in this series, though the explanation isn’t all that clear. It turns out that Chagra, the main antagonist, is a clone of Metron, and Forager and Chagra team up against Metron, who’s the real villain. And then Kuzuko is reunited with her parents, who turn out to be the living embodiment of the Source. It’s pretty cool how this series and Mr. Miracle are so different in tone, and yet they both feel like faithful adaptations of Kirby’s source (no pun intended) material.
DOOM PATROL #8 (DC, 2017) – “Nothing Matters: Part 1 of Nada,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Nick Derington. In part one of the next major storyline, Casey is reunited with her cat Lotion, who has somehow become a cat-headed human, but continues to act just like a cat. He’s a bit like the human Greebo in Witches Abroad, if a bit more articulate. Finally, Sam Reynolds’s son Lucius tries to summon a demon. At this point I think we can say that there are three major Doom Patrol writers: Arnold Drake, Grant Morrison, and Gerard Way.
DOOM PATROL #9 (DC, 2017) – “NineNineNine99999: Part 2 of Nada,” creators as above. The demon Lucius summons turns out to be Grant Morrison’s greatest Doom Patrol villain, Mr. Nobody, who has put together a new Brotherhood of Dada. I don’t know if the new Brotherhood members are as funny as the originals, but I’m delighted to see Mr. Nobody again. Also, there’s a new villain, The Disappointment, and there’s a subplot involving a superfood called $#!+.
TUROK, SON OF STONE #126 (Whitman, 1981/1970) – “Too Many Signs” and “The ‘Magic’ Arrows,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Jack Sparling. Both stories in this issue are boring and formulaic. In the first story, Turok and Andar find an exit from Lost Valley, but it caves in before they can escape, which is lucky because if they ever got out of Lost Valley, the series would end immediately.
TWO-FISTED TALES #3 (Russ Cochran, 1951/1993) – various stories, [E] Harvey Kurtzman. This wasn’t one of the eight issues I bought at the convention; I already had it, but forgot about it. The highlight of this issue is Kurtzman’s “Pirate Gold!”, in which a pirate is shipwrecked and suffers amnesia. On being rescued, he slowly recovers his memory while hunting down his former comrades, who, he realizes, have betrayed him and stolen his treasure chest. He finds his betrayers and brutally murders them, but his lack of memory is his undoing, because he forgets that he buried his treasure chest in quicksand. I recognized this story because some panels from it are reprinted in R.C. Harvey’s Art of the Comic Book. The second best story in the issue is Woody’s “Devils in Baggy Pants,” in which a paratrooper is ridiculed by his sergeant for cowardice, but bravely sacrifices his life while the sergeant runs away. The other stories are Severin and Elder’s “Massacred!”, in which a North Korean officer outsmarts himself and gets killed by his own men, and Jack Davis’s “Army Revolver”, about a gun whose six bullets kill six man, the last of whom is the gun’s original owner. Because of its focus on an inanimate object and its ironic, circular ending, “Army Revolver” is a bit like an Eisner Spirit story. This issue of Two-Fisted Tales is different from later issues in that only two of the stories about war, while the other two belong to other genres (pirates and cowboys).
STAR-SPANGLED WAR STORIES #193 (DC, 1975) – “Save the Children!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Gerry Talaoc. As a war comic this is vastly inferior to Two-Fisted Tales, not just because it has worse writing and artwork, but also because it lacks realism. Where Two-Fisted Tales focuses on common soldiers, this issue stars the Unknown Soldier, an elite super-commando, and it has a deeply implausible and farfetched plot. The Unknown Soldier impersonates an elite Nazi officer and hangs out with the officer’s wife and children, who somehow fail to notice the impersonation. Then the Unknown Soldier makes it all the way into Hitler’s personal presence, but doesn’t bother trying to assassinate Hitler because he assumes he’d fail – which is odd, since he seems to be able to do anything else the plot requires. This story does have a poignant ending – the Unknown Soldier is unable to save the officer’s wife and children from being sent to a concentration camp. But that’s not enough to save this story. This isn’t a horrible comic, but it pales in comparison to the comic I read just before it. The backup story, written by Arnold Drake, is a little better than the main story.
COMBAT #35 (Dell, 1972) – “Cassino,” [W] unknown, [A] Sam Glanzman. This is reprinted from #9 of the same series, which was misnumbered as #8. The writer is unknown, but I’m guessing Don Segall, because the histrionic tone of the writing reminds me of Kona. The main story in this issue is a dense and deeply researched retelling of the bombing of Monte Cassino. This abbey was a world-renowned artistic and historical treasure, but in 1944 the Allies bombed it because they wrongly suspected that the Germans were occupying it. Glanzman and the unknown writer tell this story with poignant detail, focusing on the abbey’s saintly 80-year-old abbot, Gregorio Diamare. This story is full of precise factual detail, suggesting deep research on the writer’s part. The writer’s style is florid and verbose, but his prose style is not bad at all. The artistic highlights of the story are Glanzman’s powerful splash pages and his almost abstract depictions of the abbey’s bombing. In short, this comic is a forgotten classic. Drew Ford is organizing a Kickstarter to reprint one of Glanzman’s other stories from this series, but someone really ought to reprint the entire run of Combat.
THE UNCENSORED MOUSE #1 (Eternity, 1989) – untitled, [W] Walt Disney, [A] Ub Iwerks and Win Smith. The story behind this comic is better than the comic itself. Eternity’s publishers realized that the earliest Mickey Mouse comic strips were in the public domain, so they published a comic book that reprinted those strips from the beginning. To avoid legal action from Disney, they published the comic under a solid black cover that does not use the words “Disney” or “Mickey.” Alas, Disney sued anyway, and the comic was cancelled after one more issue. The word Uncensored in the title refers to the fact that these comics are reprinted without alteration, but also implies that Disney would rather these strips didn’t see print, since they reflect a crude, unsanitized version of Mickey. The eventual goal of this comic was to reprint Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse strips, which were out of print at the time, and Bill Blackbeard’s essay on this comic’s inside front cover is all about how great Gottfredson was. However, the strips in this issue predate Gottfredson’s tenure on the strip, and are not nearly as good as his work. They’re essentially just silent animation gags in print form, with almost no continuity, and they’re full of blatant racist imagery. So these strips are only of historical interest. Also, this comic is quite poorly printed. Luckily, though The Uncensored Mouse was a failed project, its goal was achieved anyway, since the Gottfredson and pre-Gottfredson Mickey Mouse is now back in print.
UNICORN ISLE #4 (Apple, 1987) – “Unicorn Isle Betrayed, Chapter 4,” [W] Lee Mars, [A] Nicholas Koenig. This comic is a bit easier to follow than chapter 3, but I don’t like it nearly as much as Pudge, Girl Blimp or Lee Marrs’s stories in Star*Reach. The two main kid characters are cute, but the other characters are kind of boring, and the plot is too complicated.
KINGSWAY WEST #2 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Mirko Colak. I kind of regret not getting this when it came out, but it should be easy to find the back issues. This comic is a hybrid of the western and SF genres, with a Chinese-American protagonist. It has some interesting premises, but its plot is hard to understand without having read the first issue.
LAST KISS #2 (Shanda, 2001) – “Widow Ms. Muffet,” [W] John Lustig, [A] Dick Giordano, plus other stories. This comic consists of old Charlton romance comics with new satirical dialogue, although the first story in the issue is entirely new. It was published the same year as Jeanne Martinet’s Truer than True Romance, which also consists of rewritten old romance comics, but Martinet was unaware of Lustig’s work (see http://www.sequentialtart.com/archive/feb02/lustig.shtml). The stories in this comic are reasonably funny in an unsubtle way, but the most interesting thing about this issue is Lustig’s interview with Giordano about his Charlton years. I mentioned this interview in my review of Peacemaker #5 above.
TEEN CONFESSIONS #71 (Charlton, 1971) – “A Cure for Heartbreak,” uncredited, plus other stories. I bought this at a store I visited in Orlando with some friends from UF. The stories in this issue are all pretty bad, and the best thing about them is the ‘70s fashions. The first story includes a scene where the protagonist decides to go to a resort and look for a husband until her money runs out, and her boss says that she can have her job back whenever she wants. I wish my job was like that. (https://www.instagram.com/p/BdJzDnrl0dJ/?taken-by=aaronkashtan)
TANK GIRL: 21ST CENTURY TANK GIRL #2 (Titan, 2015) – “Nanango ‘71” and other stories, [W] Alan Martin, [A] Brett Parson et al. I shouldn’t have bought this because it’s a poor introduction to Tank Girl. It provides no background on the characters, and it’s not all that good on its own. Also, I feel like Tank Girl’s aesthetic is a bit dated today. I do still want to read the original Tank Girl comics, if I can ever afford them.
MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #1 (Marvel, 2017) – “Fast Burn,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jim Cheung. Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm are both feeling adrift in life after the disappearance of the Richards family. At Dr. Doom’s prompting, they get together to look for Reed, Sue and the kids. This issue is fairly poignant and funny, but it makes me realize how much I wish Marvel would publish a Fantastic Four comic again.
New comics received on December 30, the last New Comic Book Day of the year:
LUMBERJANES #45 (Boom!, 2017) – “Zoo It Yourself,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Ayme Sotuyo. The best thing in this issue is probably the sleeping giant kitty on the first page. Other than that, this issue is a little underwhelming, and it seems less dense and rich than some earlier issues. It was over too fast. But this is just part one, so we’ll see where this story goes.
MOTOR CRUSH #9 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Babs Tarr, [W] Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart. Domino, Lola and Calax find Julianne, but the mysterious masked dude shows up and interferes, and Julianne decides she doesn’t want to be rescued. This is a very exciting issue, but it doesn’t give us any new information about the central mysteries of the series. This issue does mention the name Ulterion, which we haven’t heard before.
BATMAN: CREATURE OF THE NIGHT #2 (DC, 2017) – “Boy Wonder, “ [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] John Paul Leon. This comic took a long time to finish, mostly because I was exhausted while reading it, but also because it’s a very long and dense piece of work. Bruce Wainwright graduates from college and goes on to a successful business career, while “Batman” continues to fight crime. Bruce starts using his money to sponsor orphans, the first of whom is significantly named Robin. But the issue ends with a shocking revelation: Bruce’s apparently effortless successes are not his doing. Instead, “Batman” is manipulating Bruce’s life to protect him and keep him safe, regardless of the cost to anyone else. This is a brilliant plot twist, and I’m eager to see what happens next.
SCOOBY-DOO! TEAM-UP #33 (DC, 2017) – “The Ghost of Ferro Lad!”, [W] Sholly Fisch, [A] Dario Brizuela. This is a shallow but fun comic. It’s not as good as the Batman ‘66/Legion team-up, but it’s not bad. The Matter-Eater Lad scene is awesome, and using Ferro Lad’s ghost as the fake villain is a clever idea. It’s kind of unfortunate that this comic guest-stars the Adventure Comics Legion, with its total lack of diversity. I had a conversation on social media recently that forced me to realize just how much the Legion falls short of its own ideals of diversity and inclusion, and I wish DC would publish a Legion comic that didn’t have a majority straight white human cast – although any Legion comic is better than none at all.
MOON GIRL #26 (Marvel, 2017) – “1 + 2 = Fantastic Three,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Alitha Martinez. This was a disappointing issue – in general, most of the comics this week were disappointing. I don’t like the idea that Galactus is the herald of an even bigger being that eats whole universes. Galactus creates enough of a sense of wonder on his own. I do like the interactions between the Thing and Moon Girl’s classmate Eduardo.
MISFIT CITY #8 (Boom!, 2017) – An excellent conclusion to the series, though it would have been even better if I had remembered more of the plot. After a Barksian or Indiana Jones-esque treasure hunt and a confrontation with the villains, the girls finally find the treasure. It turns out to be cursed so that it can only be used to benefit the local people, so the girls use it to open a Tillamook Nation Culture Center. I don’t understand what’s going on in the last panel; it suggests that there’s still an unresolved mystery, but I can’t remember what that mystery is.
Total number of comics read this year: 1452, which is by far the highest total since I started keeping track, but I think I can do even better next year.
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