Second review post of 2018

New comics received on Monday, January 22:

FENCE #3 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] C.S. Pacat, [A] Johanna the Mad. I was surprised when Fence was promoted to an ongoing series, because its subject matter seemed so esoteric. On the other hand, it’s very funny and well-executed, has a strong LGBTQ theme, and appeals to readers of manga, so maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. This is another good issue. It focuses mostly on the tryouts for the fencing team and the relationships among the players, but there is also a subtheme of class conflict. I like the scene where Robert complains about how many times he has to change clothes each day.

ANGELIC #5 (Image, 2018) – “Heirs and Graces, Part 5,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Caspar Wijngaard. This miniseries is Spurrier’s best work yet. This issue we learn what’s going on with this world: the animals were created by humans to take care of the world in the event of nuclear war, with the expectation that humans would eventually come out of cryogenic sleep and would take the world back. The dead humans in this series are pretty awful, and are matched only for their awfulness by the monkey and manatee leaders, who are perfectly fine with doing their dead creators’ will. Can Qora and Complainer change the entire world all on their own? I’m excited to find out. A highlight of this issue is the murderous teleporting cat who just wants attention.

PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS YEAR TWO #3 (Action Lab, 2018) – “The Ballad of Katie Kling,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Xenia Panfil. The fight continues. Katie beats the crap out of Dana, and meanwhile the two engineer girls sink the other ship. And Helena kills someone and is very guilty about it. This is a really fun and progressive comic, but I wish that each issue came with a list of characters. I can’t remember any of the characters’ names besides Raven and Ximena, although the artist does an excellent job of distinguishing them visually.

MIGHTY THOR #703 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Fall of Asgard,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Russell Dauterman. Much like Spider-Gwen, this series gets bleaker and more depressing with every issue. Jane finally agrees to stop being Thor and accept medical care. But meanwhile the Mangog smashes through Asgard’s defenses, easily beating the Destroyer (controlled by Frigga, which is pretty cool). I’m afraid this isn’t going to end well.

ASSASSINISTAS #2 (IDW, 2018) – “Pregnant Pauses and Campout Makeouts!”, [W] Tini Howard, [A] Gilbert Hernandez. This is a fun comic, and it feels very much like a Gilbert Hernandez comic despite not being written by him. Perhaps Tini Howard’s writing is why this comic seems so fun; Gilbert’s solo work is often quite grim and ominous even when it’s funny. This issue both advances the plot, and explores the main characters’ relationships with their children. This comic bears obvious similarities to Kill Bill (I just noticed the reference to “many former assassins who hung up their guns in the past ten years in order to retire and have children”), but it’s an original story.

SUPERB #6 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “Dressed for Success,” [W] David Walker & Sheena Howard, [A] Ray-Anthony Height & Alitha Martinez. Kayla finally chooses a code name, unless she did that last issue, and she and Jonah invade the prison. Corinna, one of the teen supervillains, joins forces with them. This was an okay issue.

WONDER WOMAN/CONAN #5 (DC, 2018) – “Like Blood from the Sky,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Aaron Lopresti. Disappointingly, it turns out that Yanna is dead and Diana is not her. Or maybe we learned that last issue. Diana gives Conan one of her bracelets, and they fight to save Diana’s fellow Amazons from the evil crow women. Then Diana has to go back to Themyscira, but she leaves Conan with her lasso. I didn’t enjoy this issue much; it felt disappointing somehow.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #697 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Chris Samnee. Kraven the Hunter kidnaps Cap and forces him to play The Most Dangerous Game, while also protecting an innocent bystander who keeps trying to get himself killed. This character must be related to Mark’s version of Archie. At the end, it turns out that the bystander is working for Kraven, and Cap gets frozen in ice. Neither of the last two issues of this series has been half as good as #695, although Samnee’s art is as brilliant as ever.

PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #299 (Marvel, 2018) – “Most Wanted,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Adam Kubert. Spidey continues to flee from his enemies, who now include Hawkeye, while Hophni Mason turns out to be Phineas Mason inside a robot suit. Chip Zdarsky’s dialogue is getting really good; I especially like the line “Rethink your liiiiivessss…”

SUPER SONS #12 (DC, 2018) – “Super Sons of Tomorrow, Finale: Last Minute Saved,” [W] Peter Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] Tyler Kirkham. A bunch of crossover crap happens that I don’t care about, then Jon asks to join the Titans and is rejected. This and the previous issue demonstrate the problem with crossovers. These two issues are incomprehensible unless you read the other parts of the crossover, and they probably wouldn’t be any good even if I did read the other parts; moreover, these issues have killed the momentum of the series.

UNCANNY X-MEN #220 (Marvel, 1987) – “Unfinished Business,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Marc Silvestri. This issue is a(n inferior) sequel to #186, “Lifedeath.” Returning to Eagle Plaza to look for Forge, Storm sees a bunch of videos depicting her past history with him. Then she finds Nazé, who is also looking for Forge, except I’m pretty sure Nazé is also the Adversary. This issue begins a storyline which had been set up as long ago as #187, though I’m not sure the payoff was worth it. The only other X-Man who appears is Wolverine, and he’s only on three pages.

SLASHER #3 (Floating World, 2017) – “Wandering Blade,” [W/A] Charles Forsman. The female protagonist kills a bunch of people for no clear reason, then sneaks back home. I can’t remember issue 2 very well, but even if I had remembered it, I don’t think issue 3 would have made much more sense; it seems like the senselessness of the murders is intentional.

STUMPTOWN #10 (Oni, 2016) – “The Case of the Night That Wouldn’t End,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Justin Greenwood. This is the last issue so far, which is too bad; this series was a lot more enjoyable than some other Rucka comics (cough cough Lazarus). A man hires Dex to find out if his wife is cheating, which is a very realistic touch, since actual private detectives are much more likely to investigate extramarital affairs than robberies or murders. This issue even made me wonder if there are any mystery novels about private eyes who track down cheating spouses. There’s a mostly wordless sequence stakeout sequence, which is exciting despite Justin Greenwood’s lifeless art. At the end, we learn that the wife’s apparent affair partner is actually her son by a previous relationship, and she agrees to tell her husband about her son.

SLASHER #4 (Floating World, 2017) – “2 Headed Snake,” as above. Christine somehow finds herself tied to a bed being tortured by two hicks. How this follows logically from the previous issue is unclear. They cut her hand off and throw her in a pit, where she finds Joshua’s body. Reading Leonard Pierce’s TCJ review of the comic, I realize that the two hicks actually were Joshua, or rather they were pretending to be Joshua in order to catfish Christine. This wasn’t clear from reading the comic. Then the two guys get killed in a shootout with police, and Christine gets her mask and runs away.

SLASHER #5 (Floating World, 2017) – “Mommy Mommy,” as above. Christine returns home, where she tells her brother that she can only have orgasms from violence, and then commits hara-kiri. She somehow finds herself back in the pit with Joshua’s body, and the series ends with her kissing him. This is a compelling, disturbing comic, but the storytelling was confusing and fragmentary, and I’d need to read it again to really get it.

THOR #196 (Marvel, 1972) – “Within the Realm of Kartag!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] John Buscema. Like most of Conway’s Thor comics, this is a forgettable and overly convoluted story, though at least it has John Buscema art. The plot is that Thor and the Warriors Three are seeking the “Well at the Edge of the World” for some reason, while the Mangog is attacking Asgard.

FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #6 (DC, 2018) -“Son of Birdman,” [W] Phil Hester, [A] Steve Rude. This issue’s artwork is better than the story, though the story is not terrible. Birdman learns he has a son he didn’t know about, then Mentok tries to get his son’s mother to kill him, and the issue ends on a cliffhanger.

TWO-FISTED TALES #16 (EC, 1953/1996) – various stories, [E] Harvey Kurtzman. In Jack Davis’s “Signal Corps,” some Signal Corps soldiers defeat an enemy ambush, demonstrating that they’re soldiers too. John Severin’s “Outpost” takes place in modern-day Afghanistan or Pakistan and is both boring and Orientalist. “Pearl Divers!” is a rare EC story by Joe Kubert, though the plot is not great. Wally Wood’s “Atom Bomb!” is the highlight of the issue; it depicts both the human cost of the bombing of Nagasaki, and the subsequent recovery of the city. It’s not comparable to Barefoot Gen, but it’s not bad. Overall this issue was a significant drop-off in quality from earlier issues of the series.

ANIMOSITY #10 (Aftershock, 2017) – “Honeywine,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Rafael De Latorre. I’m losing enthusiasm for this series and for Marguerite Bennett’s work in general. This issue, Jesse and Sandor hunt for the bees and find themselves in a human/animal colony that seems perfect, except there are no women. Jesse has a good line: “If you’re a girl, and you go into a place, and there’s no other women there, you need to be careful, or else just leave.”

MEASLES #4 (Fantagraphics, 1999) – “The New Adventures of Venus,” [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez, plus other work. Beto’s stories in this issue are much more heartfelt and enjoyable than most of his stories with Venus and her family. This issue also includes less interesting work by Mario Hernandez, Steven Weissman (who I’m not familiar with) and Sam Henderson.

On January 27, I went to the Charlotte Mini Con at the Grady Cole Convention Center. This was another amazing local convention. I fond some awesome stuff, and then as I was on my way out, I discovered a second dealer’s room I hadn’t known about, with two booths with dollar boxes. I’ve literally had dreams like that. When I got home, my weekly shipment of comics was waiting for me, and it was hard to decide what to read first.

PRINCELESS #4 (Action Lab, 2013) – “The Arduous Business of Getting Rescued,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] M. Goodwin. Adrienne and Bedelia escape from Bedelia’s burning shop, then Bedelia meets Sparks, and they all go off to rescue Adrienne’s next sister. This is a fun comic, and it reminds me that I miss the regular Princeless title, and that I enjoy it more than Raven. I do remember seeing a social media post from Jeremy that suggested that Princeless will be back soon, though I can’t find it now.

LUMBERJANES #46 (Boom!, 2018) – “Zoo It Yourself,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Ayme Sotuyo. This was my favorite issue in several months. Emmy’s creatures are adorable, especially the perfectly normal squirrel who may or may not have hatched from an egg, and who imitates Emmy’s hand gestures. There are lots of other cute moments in the issue, and it gives me high hopes for the rest of the storyline.

DAREDEVIL #9 (Marvel, 1965) – “That He May See!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Wally Wood & Bob Powell. I now own two single-digit issues of long-running Marvel titles, the other being Iron Man #2. The highlight of this issue is Wally Wood’s spectacular visual storytelling. The writing isn’t quite the equal of the art, although the art is very good. Searching for the only doctor in the world who can cure his blindness, Matt travels to a small fictional European country that’s ruled by a supervillain dictator and has a name starting with L… except it’s Lichtenbad, not the country you were thinking of. Matt defeats the dictator in battle, but the doctor sacrifices his life to prevent nuclear war, in a scene that reminds me a lot of Spock’s death in Star Trek III, and Matt loses his chance to get his vision back. The subplot in this issue involves a love triangle between Matt, Karen and Foggy, which is surprising since in later years, the latter two were depicted as just friends.

THOR #174 (Marvel, 1970) – “The Carnage of the Crypto-Man!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. A mad scientist saps Thor’s strength and uses it to create the robotic Crypto-Man. Meanwhile, a certain Mrs. Whyte contacts Don Blake and begs him to find her missing son Jasper. It turns out, of course, that Jasper Whyte is the mad scientist, and on realizing that the Crypto-Man is a danger to his mother, he sacrifices his life to destroy it. Don Blake has to tell Mrs. Whyte that her son is dead, which is a genuinely touching moment. Other than that the best part of this issue is the Kirby art. The Crypto-Man only made a few other appearances, but one of them was notable: in Incredible Hulk #205, it killed Jarella.

SOUTHERN BASTARDS #19 (Image, 2018) – “Gut Check, Part Five,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Jason Latour. This series has become very irregular – part one of “Gut Check” came out in November 2016. At least it’s worth waiting for, and its lateness is understandable since both its creators have so many other projects. In the midst of yet another embarrassing football game, Coach Boss and his players murder McCluskey, giving the Rebels enough motivation that they finally win a game. On his way home, Coach Boss is confronted by Roberta, but some bearded dude stops her from killing him because he wants to do it himself. I forget if we’ve seen this character before. I hope issue 20 comes out soon.

KIM & KIM #1 (Black Mask, 2016) – “This Glamorous, High-Flying Rock Star Life,” [W] Mags Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. A promising debut for one of the most exciting new writers in the industry at the moment. This issue provides a queer, I mean clear explanation of who Kim and Kim are, and is extremely fun. I especially like the montage sequence in which Kim and Kim play chess with Death, and then have tea in a Victorian tea room.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #245 (vol. 21 #5) (Dell, 1961) – “Sitting High,” [W/A] Carl Barks, plus other stories. One of the highlights of Charlotte Mini Con was one particular booth that had a ton of old comics for either 50 cents or a dollar each. And I mean old comics, like ’60s Dells and Gold Keys. I bought a lot of stuff from that booth, including this issue of WDC&S, and I should maybe have bought even more. In this issue’s new Barks story, Donald and the nephews travel to a resort frequented by celebrities, and Donald does a bunch of stunts in order to get Hollywood producers to notice him. And he does get noticed and his picture appears in the paper, but they misspell his name as “Ronald Dunk.” The most memorable thing about this story is that it includes characters based on popular actors of the time, including “Snarlin’ Grando,” “Jane Girlsfield,” and “Brigitte Van Doran” (Brigitte Bardot plus Mamie Van Doren, I had to look that one up). This issue also includes a Mickey Mouse story by Carl Fallberg and Paul Murry.

IT’S SCIENCE… WITH DR. RADIUM #1 (Slave Labor, 1987) – “Alien Terror! (oh, my!)”, [W/A] Scott Saavedra. The Slings & Arrows Guide includes reviews of multiple comics by Scott Saavedra, but I haven’t read any of his work. This issue’s cover is a parody of the cover of Mad #1, with the word “science” replacing “Melvin”. The main story is about a mad scientist and his bumbling assistant, and there’s also a backup story that parodies A Contract with God. This comic is pretty funny, and I’d like to read more comics by this author.

SEX CRIMINALS #21 (Image, 2018) – “Spaces,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Chip Zdarsky. Six months after their breakup, Jon and Susie are both in new and unsatisfying relationships. This point is driven home when they both show up at the same party dressed in the same ridiculous outfit. This series has gotten difficult to follow because it comes out so rarely, and I hope we get another issue sooner rather than later.

MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC #10 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Tony Fleecs. For some reason I got this issue before issue 9, though I didn’t realize this until after I read it. This issue begins as Flash Magnus is trying to stop a war between dragons and ponies. Meadowbrook saves the day by diagnosing and curing the dragons’ illness, then they all go off to recruit Somnambula. The highlight of the issue may have been Somnambula saying “Stay on target! Stay on target!”

JIM VOL. II #4 (Fantagraphics, 1994) – untitled, [W/A] Jim Woodring. This “Special All-Frank Issue” includes two stories black-and-white and one in color. In the longest story, Frank buys a top that causes the person who uses it to spin uncontrollably. He throws it away, and Manhog finds it and uses it and gets transformed into a cocoon. Then one of those giant spindle creatures finds him and adopts him, or something. I don’t know why I even bother trying to summarize Woodring comics.

ABBOTT #1 (Boom!, 2018) – “Just My Imagination,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Sami Kivelä. An important debut issue from another emerging star writer. Abbott is about a black female journalist in early 1970s Detroit, who gets involved in investigating a supernatural crime. Even without the fantasy element, this would be an awesome series because of its historical and local accuracy and its depiction of racial politics. Abbott effectively captures the spirit of the early ’70s, a time when segregation was illegal and you couldn’t say the N-word in public anymore, yet all the old racism was still buried just below the surface. (Actually that sounds like I’m describing America today.) Saladin Ahmed grew up in Detroit, and his depiction of Detroit seems extremely well researched. I’ve been to Detroit frequently, though not this part of it, and Ahmed’s depiction rang true to me. Abbott is going to be one of the best comics of 2018, and I think it may have significant appeal beyond the usual comics audience. For example, I have an uncle who works for the Detroit Free Press, and I think he and his family would enjoy this comic.

MUKTUK WOLFSBREATH: HARD-BOILED SHAMAN #1 (Vertigo, 1998) – “Mommy’s Girl,” [W] Terry LaBan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. This is still the only work of popular culture I know of in which the characters are indigenous Siberians. It’s basically just a hard-boiled detective story, and the joke is that it combines an old, clichéd genre with a setting that’s totally unfamiliar to American readers. In this issue, Muktuk goes to investigate some supernatural murders and encounters an old flame of his.

SUPERMAN #3 (DC, 2016) – “Son of Superman, Part Three,” [W] Peter Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] Jorge Jiménez. Lois and Clark take an unconscious Jon to the Fortress of Solitude to heal him. On arriving there, they encounter the Eradicator. After a fight scene, the Eradicator offers to heal Jon, but it turns out he really wants to get rid of Jon’s human half, and a further fight ensues. There are some nice moments in this issue, but Superman’s rage at the Eradicator is rather disturbing. Until looking it up just now, I didn’t realize Jon was Lois and Clark’s biological child. I was confusing him with Chris Kent, who was nearly the same character, but was the son of Zod and Ursa.

PRINCELESS VOL. 2 #2 (Action Lab, 2013) – “Get Over Yourself” part 2, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Emily Martin. This issue begins with a confusing flashback in which Adrienne’s father encounters a mysterious Black Knight. Not having read issue 1, I was unsure what was going on here. Then Adrienne and Bedelia arrive at the town where Adrienne’s next sister, Angelica, is held captive. Angelica seems to be something of an evil version of Rarity.

OUR ARMY AT WAR #247 (DC, 1972) – “The Vision!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Russ Heath. This issue’s full-length story is about a reincarnated Joan of Arc, and features spectacular Russ Heath artwork. I need to collect more of the ’70s DC comics drawn by Heath. But the real highlight of the issue is “Color Me Brave!”, Sam Glanzman’s most famous U.S.S. Stevens story. During the Pearl Harbor raid, a sailor, Mac Stringer, rescues some trapped comrades at an incredible risk to his own life. But he gets no reward for his bravery, and on the last page we learn why not: it’s because “his color is black.” I already knew the ending to this story, but it’s still an impressive piece of work, and it was brave of Glanzman to publish such a story in the rather conservative forum of a DC war title. “Color Me Brave!” is also an effective use of color for narrative purposes. Most of the story takes place underwater, so everything is colored in blue tones; therefore, we don’t realize until the last panel that Mac Stringer is black.

SHERLOCK FRANKENSTEIN AND THE LEGION OF EVIL #4 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “The Undying Love of Sherlock Frankenstein,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] David Rubín. Lucy finally contronts Sherlock Frankenstein and learns his long and tragic history, including the fact that he’s in love with Golden Gail. Disappointingly, Lucy’s conversation with Sherlock takes up the entire issue. I thought this miniseries was going to depict how Lucy got to Black Hammer Farm, but the issue ends before that point.

MOONSTRUCK #5 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Grace Ellis, [A] Shae Beagle. Chet finally gets his horse butt back. This comic is fun, but it also seems kind of pointless; it doesn’t have a clear premise or a narrative thread. It’s not clear to me just what this comic is supposed to be about. I hope that with the next story arc, Moonstruck will develop more of an identity.

MANIFEST DESTINY #33 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. Madame Boniface… by the way, I couldn’t remember this character’s name and it was difficult to look it up. Madame Boniface confronts Lewis and Clark outside the fort, and they finally explain what’s really going on. The demon – the one who possessed the old Spanish dude – wants “a child born of two people at war” as a sacrifice, and that sacrifice is Sacagawea’s baby. So the central mystery of the series is finally cleared up, although I guess we still don’t know what the demon’s agenda is, or what the sacrifice is supposed to accomplish. Then they all return to the fort and discover that Pryor has mutinied and locked them out.

JOURNEY #1 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “Chapter 1: Chase,” [W/A] William Messner-Loebs. This takes place around the same time as Manifest Destiny, in a different but almost equally wild part of America. It begins with an exciting action sequence in which Wolverine MacAlistaire encounters a bear and barely escapes with his life. Then he meets two men who ask him to deliver a package to the other side of Michigan. This issue lacks the narrative complexity of later Journey stories, but it’s a good start to the series.

THE VISITOR: HOW AND WHY HE STAYED #3 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola & Chris Roberson, [A] Paul Grist. I would have ordered this when it came out if I’d realized it was drawn by Paul Grist. This comic has a pretty standard Mignolaverse plot, in which the Visitor, a character very similar to the Phantom Stranger, battles a cult leader. However, Paul Grist’s dynamic storytelling and Clear Line-esque draftsmanship are brilliant.

UNCLE SCROOGE #70 (Gold Key, 1967) – “The Doom Diamond,” [W/A] Carl Barks. This is the only comic in my collection that includes a new full-length story written and drawn by Barks, although I have other comics with original Barks ten-pagers. I tend to assume that original Barks comics are outside my price range, but maybe not. In “The Doom Diamond,” Scrooge and the nephews sail to “South Miserystan” with a boatload full of cash, so that Scrooge can purchase the famous Zero Diamond. Scrooge builds all sort of anti-theft measures into his ship, but the Beagle Boys learn about his plans and build their own ship designed to defeat Scrooge’s. After some exciting naval battles, Scrooge makes it to South Miserystan, but the diamond turns out to be cursed. There’s a very funny scene where as soon as Scrooge touches the diamond, he stubs his toe, gets hit by a falling rock, and gets stung by a bee. Then Scrooge has to get back to Duckburg, leading to further adventures. “The Doom Diamond” is one of Barks’s last stories, but it’s very entertaining and shows little evidence of decline.

CRIME SUSPENSTORIES #1 (EC, 1950/1992) – various stories, [E] Bill Gaines. This reprint begins with a tribute page honoring Bill Gaines, who had just died. In Johnny Craig’s “Murder May Boomerang,” an unnamed man’s father is menaced by an escaped convict. The man kills another man who his father identifies as the escaped convict, but it turns out that the father got the wrong guy. This story’s shock ending is not great, but the story is a realistic depiction of how an ordinary man could become a killer. In “W. Allen Wood”‘s “Death’s Double-Cross,” a woman helps her husband’s identical twin brother murder her husband. Afterward, she realizes that she doesn’t know whether her brother-in-law killed her husband, or vice versa. This is probably the best story in the issue because of how its ending leaves the reader in suspense. In Graham Ingels’s “Snapshot of Death!”, a woman is diagnosed with a terminal illness, so she hires someone to kill her. Then it turns out she was misdiagnosed. The real surprise in this story is that it ends happily, because the person who was supposed to kill her is himself killed in an accident. In most other EC stories, the woman would have been murdered. Kurtzman’s “High Tide” is another good one. Five people are alone in a boat when they discover that one of them is an escaped murderer. Thanks to their panicked efforts to figure out which of them is the murderer, they all ensure their own deaths, except the one who actually is the murderer.

MONSTRESS #13 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. Maika, Ren and Kippa arrive in the land of Pontus, and lots of complicated plot stuff happens. But the clear highlight of this issue is the café and pastry shop run by cats. I find it hard to imagine cats serving anyone, but the splash page with the cat café is just adorable. I’m glad this series is back.

KORAK, SON OF TARZAN #8 (Gold Key, 1965) – “Lair of the Dragon,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Russ Manning. Korak and some stranded Peace Corps volunteers find themselves in a lost kingdom of Arabs. The Peace Corps was still new when this story was published, and it’s also notable that one of the volunteers is black. However, the real appeal of the story is Manning’s spectacular draftsmanship and his thrilling action sequences. The Arabs in the story are depicted in a rather Orientalist way, but at least they’re not completely evil.

PRINCELESS VOL. 2 #3 (Action Lab, 2013) – “Get Over Yourself” part 3, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Emily Martin. Adrienne discovers that Angelina doesn’t want to be rescued, because she’s perfectly happy living in a place where everyone constantly praises her beauty. Then Adrienne fights some dude wearing a lion skin. This is a good comic, but I still don’t understand what’s going on with the Black Knight and the elves.

ZODIAC STARFORCE: CRIES OF THE FIRE PRINCE #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kevin Panetta, [A] Paulina Ganucheau. The new Zodiac Starforce meets the old one, and drama ensues. This was a pretty good comic, but it was overshadowed by other better comics that I read this week.

DOOM PATROL #10 (DC, 2018) – “No Control,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Nick Derington. The Brotherhood of Dada storyline continues. It turns out Terry None is pregnant with Casey’s baby, which makes no sense because they’re both female, but this is Doom Patrol, it’s not supposed to make sense. I’m not sure how or if this story ties into the Milk Wars crossover.

BATGIRL #19 (DC, 2018) – “Cold Snap, Part One,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Chris Wildgoose. This was a fun issue, but I can’t remember much about it now. The best part is the beginning, when Batgirl defeats some punks who are trying to run a black-owned donut shop out of business. In the main plot, Batgirl fights some hackers who have screwed with the city’s weather prediction system, and the Penguin makes a cameo appearance.

WEIRD SCIENCE #15 (East Coast Comix, 1952/1973) – various stories, [E] Bill Gaines. This is actually “EC Classic Reprint #2,” the second in a short-lived series of EC reprints published by two fans named Ron Barlow and Bruce Hershenson. I have no idea how or if they obtained permission to do this. According to the editorial material in this issue, they intended to reprint all the EC comics, in a somewhat random order, but they only published 12 issues. This issue is printed on worse paper and has worse reproduction than the later Russ Cochran reprints. Its first story is “The Martians,” which has a dumb plot but brilliant Wally Wood art. Al Williamson’s “Captivity” has equally good or better art, which is poorly served by the ugly reproduction, but it too has a dumb plot. Jack Kamen’s “Miscalculation” is even dumber – it’s about a man who inexplicably obtains a supply of dehydrated harem girls, just add water – but at least it’s funny. Joe Orlando’s “Bum Steer!” continues the trend of silly stories with good art; it has the best Joe Orlando artwork I’ve seen, but the characters literally tell the reader the shock ending in advance.

RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT #1 (Gold Key, 1965) – “The Mummy’s Hand,” [W] George Evans, plus other stories. The lineup of artistic talent in this issue is amazing: George Evans, Wally Wood, Al Williamson, and even Alberto Giolitti. Unfortunately, although the art in this issue is at the same level as the art in a classic EC comic, the same cannot be said of the writing.

UNICORN ISLE #1 (WaRP, 1986) – “Unicorn Isle Betrayed: Chapter 1,” [W] Lee Marrs, [A] Romeo Tanghal. This issue is definitely the best place to start with this comic. Unicorn Isle’s plot and worldbuilding are so complicated that they don’t make sense if you start in the middle, as I did. In this issue we meet the protagonists, young twins Nils and Nola. Their mother gets killed trying to stop a plot to kidnap two sacred unicorns, and their father unfairly blames the twins for it. Nils and Nola are appealing characters, and their world is fairly original, though it suffers from “calling a rabbit a smeerp,” i.e. giving fantasy names to ordinary concepts; for example, having sex is called “cleaving.”

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Our First Adventure,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] John Dell. Looking for Reed and Sue (or pretending to), Ben and Johnny visit Monster Island and fight the Mole Man and his monsters. This comic has some good dialogue and some funny moments, like the “Victor von Doof” prank, but it’s forgettable.

DEPT. H #22 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. After a lot of drama, Q stabs Raj, who totally deserved it – he’s become the prime suspect in Hari’s murder. Then everyone agrees to let Mia try for the surface. Two issues left.

POWER MAN #26 (Marvel, 1975) – “The Night Shocker!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] George Tuska. According to its splash page, this issue was an inventory story inspired by the Night Stalker TV movie. It wasn’t needed immediately, and might never have seen print because it was no longer relevant, except that the Kolchak: The Night Stalker TV show came out two years later. It’s unusual for a Marvel comic to be so honest about its influences. I’ve never seen either the Kolchak movie or TV show, so to me this is just a fun but weird story, in which Luke tracks down a man who appears to be a vampire but isn’t. This issue’s plot is rather convoluted, and it’s hard to figure out who actually committed the murders the vampire was accused of, or why.

TALES TO ASTONISH #88 (Marvel, 1967) – “A Stranger Strikes from Space!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Bill Everett, and “Boomerang and the Brute!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Gil Kane. In the Namor story, Attuma battles a robot that fell to earth from a passing alien ship, then figures out how to control the robot, and uses it to launch an invasion of Atlantis. The aliens who built the robot were never identified and never appeared again. This story has some excellent artwork, almost as good as Everett’s late issues of Sub-Mariner. In the backup story, the Hulk almost earns an amnesty from the government, but Boomerang shows up and ruins everything. Boomerang’s costume in this issue is one of the ugliest costumes of any Silver Age Marvel character.

NEW ROMANCER #5 (Vertigo, 2016) – “This Byronic Life,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Brett Parson. It’s been a long time since I read the rest of this story, so I don’t remember what’s been going on, but this is a fun if convoluted comic. Milligan’s version of Byron is a really cute character.

NEW ROMANCER #6 (Vertigo, 2016) – “My Date with Destiny,” as above. In the conclusion, Lexy and her allies defeat Casanova, and the series ends with a triple wedding. We’re led to expect that one of the couples will be Lexy and Byron, but instead it’s Lexy’s dad and Mata Hari, and the series ends with Lexy driving off into the sunset. I think this ending makes sense, but I’m kind of sad that Lexy and Byron didn’t end up together, even if he would have been an awful boyfriend.

BLACK MAGICK #10 (Image, 2018) – “Awakening II, Part 5,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Nicola Scott. Raven’s partner’s baby is born. A villain invades Raven’s house despite receiving a stern lecture from her cat. Another villain tries to kidnap the baby. This story is well done, but I’m still very confused about who the villains are or what they want.

ASTRO CITY #50 (DC, 2018) – “Aftermaths,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Brent Anderson. Kurt and Brent celebrate this milestone issue with a sequel to their greatest story, “The Nearness of You.” Years after his encounter with the Hanged Man, Michael Tenicek is running a support group for other people who suffered collateral damage in superhero battles. As a hobby, he paints pictures of his wife, who was retconned out of existence. But it looks like the Hanged Man wants something else from him. We’ll have to see where this story goes, but it seems like a worthy sequel. As someone who prefers to buy single issues whenever possible, I’m sad that Astro City is going trade-only, though I see why it would make financial sense.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #62 (IDW, 2018) – “Convocation of the Creatures, Part Two,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Andy Price. The best thing about this issue is the cover, a brilliant parody of Norman Rockwell’s “The Gossips.” This cover is a virtuoso display of Andy’s cartooning skill. The 15 characters on the cover all have totally different facial expressions which indicate their different personalities. The interior story is also pretty good. The assembled bureaucrats find proof that the griffons don’t actually own Equestria, but the tough part is delivering the evidence to Princess Celestia.

JLA/DOOM PATROL SPECIAL #1 (DC, 2018) – “Milk Wars Part One,” [W] Steve Orlando & Gerard Way, [A] Aco. I was excited about this, but it left me disappointed. I could barely understand what was happening in this story, or how it fit into the continuity of the Doom Patrol series. This comic seems to assume the reader is also reading the ongoing JLA series. I do want to point out that even though this comic isn’t drawn by Nick Derington, it looks visually similar to a regular issue of Doom Patrol, because of Tamra Bonvillain’s distinctive and appealing colors. I’d vote for her for the Eisner for best colorist.

HUNGRY GHOSTS #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Kaidan” and other stories, [W] Anthony Bourdain & Joel Rose, [A] Alberto Ponticelli & Vanesa del Rey. An anthology of ghost stories based on the Japanese hyaku monogatari tradition, with the twist that most of the stories are about food. I like the premise of this comic, but the execution is not spectacular.

ATOMIC ROBO AND THE SPECTRE OF TOMORROW #4 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. Robo teams up with Helsingard against… something, I guess it’s the evil computer from Ghost of Station X. Then Helsingard switches sides and joins the enemy. I don’t quite understand this part of the plot because I can’t remember who Helsingard even is. What’s more interesting is the subplot, in which Robo’s allies figure out how to manipulate their HOA’s rules so they can start construction on their base. This subplot is funny because it reminds me of all the posts I’ve seen on r/legaladvice about tyrannical HOAs. I am now convinced that when I buy a house someday, I want to be very sure it’s not in an HOA.

ANGEL LOVE #3 (DC, 1986) – untitled, [W/A] Barbara Slate. On Twitter, Kurt Busiek pointed out that this series was intended for a nontraditional audience, but failed to reach that audience because it was only distributed through comic book stores. (https://twitter.com/KurtBusiek/status/957394674779488256) That explains a lot – both why this comic existed, and why it didn’t last. For my next project, I’d love to interview Barbara Slate and find out more about this comic and its intended audience. Angel Love #3 continues this series’ theme of discussing serious issues in a cartoony style, as Angel’s friend Cindy announces that she’s pregnant and considering an abortion. Cindy ultimately decides to have the baby, but not to marry the father. Also, there’s a silly subplot involving Angel’s blonde friend who wants to be an actress.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: DIMENSIONS #2 (IDW, 2018) – “Face Off,” [W] Sarah Kuhn, [A] Siobhan Keenan, and “Stargirl,” [W/A] Sarah Winifred Searle. This issue’s first story is about a karaoke contest between the Holograms and the Misfits. It’s quite funny and cute. In the backup story, Shana’s friends help her organize a fashion show. This story has an interesting art style and includes a prominent new (?) character who’s a drag queen. Amusingly, this could easily have been a My Little Pony story instead of a Jem story, with Rarity replacing Shana, except that the plot involves Shana’s indecision between her two careers in music and fashion.

MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC #9 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Tony Fleecs. As noted above, I received this issue after issue 9. At the end of issue 8, Meadowbrook’s home was besieged by “an army of huggably fluffy animals.” This issue, the other Pillars help Meadowbrook cure the animals of their madness, then they all head off to look for Flash Magnus.

MISTER MIRACLE #19 (DC, 1977) – “It’s All in the Mine,” [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Marshall Rogers. I had avoided this series in the past because it’s not by Kirby, but I believe Kirby always intended for his Fourth World characters to be used by others. This issue is mostly just a pastiche of Kirby’s Mister Miracle, rather than an original take like Tom King’s current series, but it’s not bad. Englehart and Rogers were DC’s top creative team at the time, and although this issue is not their best work, Rogers’s art is quite impressive. Englehart gets a few things wrong about the Fourth World: he suggests that only Apokolips gods can use Boom Tubes, and, more seriously, he has Metron fighting on the side of New Genesis, when Metron is supposed to be neutral.

KID LOBOTOMY #4 (IDW, 2018) – “The Chambermaid’s Tale,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Tess Fowler. This issue is narrated by Ottla the chambermaid, who is based on Franz Kafka’s sister. The story isn’t bad, but I can’t remember much about it now.

STINZ VOL. 3 #6 (A Fine Line, 1998) – “A Marvelous Resistance,” [W/A] Donna Barr. In this issue Stinz tells the story of his return from the war, i.e. World War I, and in the process he clarifies a lot of things about his world that I hadn’t understood. It turns out that the war was ended by some kind of magical event that turned people into animals, except in Stinz’s case it had the opposite effect, turning him into a human. Compared to the current Moonstruck storyline, this issue is a much more “realistic” depiction of how a centaur would feel about having their horse legs replaced with human legs. Donna effectively shows Stinz’s confusion and embarrassment at having to walk on two legs. As soon as Stinz returns to his valley, though, he magically turns back into a centaur, which explains why he never wants to leave his valley again. Overall, this comic is quite long and visually dense, but excellent.

EIGHTBALL #13 (Fantagraphics, 1994) – “Blue Italian Shit” and other stories, [W/A] Daniel Clowes. This issue’s inside front cover is a bizarre parody of Peter Bagge’s characters Buddy Bradley, Stinky and Lisa. “Blue Italian Shit” is a rambling, emo story about growing up in the ’80s. It’s not Clowes’s best short story, but it’s moody and evocative. “Cool Your Jets” is a four-pager in which two misogynistic jerks complain about women. The second half of the issue is an installment of “Ghost World,” which I haven’t reread in many years.

HUGO #2 (Fantagraphics, 1985) – “It’s No Man’s Affair,” [W/A] Milton Knight. A series of lewd funny animal stories starring a medieval jester, drawn in a style that reminds me of Fleischer Studio cartoons. The first story is based on the medieval story of Phyllis riding Aristotle, and contains some near nudity, which is surprising since this looks like a kids’ comic. In the second story, the protagonist, Hugo, quits his job as a jester and starts drawing comics instead, until the local church shuts him down. Knight draws upon the same influences as Kim Deitch, though he’s not nearly as talented. Despite that, Knight’s stories are funny and raucous, and I’d be interested in reading more of his work.

SPIDER-GWEN #28 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jason Latour, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. This issue explains the origin of this universe’s Matt Murdock. I’m still enjoying this series enough to keep buying it, but I’ve gotten thoroughly sick of the current plotline. Matt Murdock is a frustrating villain because he can do anything he wants to Gwen, and she’s powerless against him. That makes for an unsatisfying reading experience. Also, Gwen has been fighting Matt for way too long, and I’d like to see her do something else.

OMEGA MEN #2 (DC, 2015) – “Victory is Assured,” [W] Tom King, [A] Barnaby Bagenda. I have about half of this series, but I only read the first issue, and I didn’t understand it. Somehow issue 2 is clearer. On the planet of Ogyptu, the Citadel arranges a mass public execution as punishment for an Omega Men raid. It looks like Primus and the Omega Men are going to stop the execution, but instead they use it as cover to steal a spaceship and escape the planet. This issue was brutal to read because of the Omega Men’s blatant lack of concern for the people of Ogyptu. Primus explains that saving the victims would have backfired, but he explains this in such a smug and cruel way that he completely loses my sympathy. At the end of this issue, it’s clear that the Omega Men are almost as bad as the Citadel. The truly sympathetic character in the issue is Kyle Rayner, who has to watch these awful events and is powerless to intervene.

OMEGA MEN #3 (DC, 2015) – “Save the Princess,” as above. The Omega Men recruit Kalista, a beautiful princess who’s also a complete sociopath; her hobby is killing people in single combat. After reading these two issues, I really want to read the rest of this maxi-series. I have issues 9 through 12, but I’m not sure if I should read them yet.

ARCHIE #27 (Archie, 2018) – “I Built a Speedometer,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Audrey Mok. After a lot of relationship drama, Archie invites Betty – now able to walk again – to the spring dance, and she turns him down. Perhaps my favorite thing about this comic is the visual comedy. Audrey Mok’s depictions of Archie’s bad luck are very funny – an example is the page where Jughead steers Archie around a patch of wet cement and a barking dog.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #12 (Marvel, 1973) – “Wolf at Bay,” [W] Len Wein, [A] Ross Andru. This issue takes place right after Gwen Stacy’s death. Trying to get his mind off Gwen, Peter visits San Francisco, where he encounters Werewolf by Night. The main plot of this issue is boring, but the depiction of Peter’s psychology is quite good, and Ross Andru’s art is excellent. It’s kind of disturbing how on the splash page, Peter is thinking “Maybe here I can finally get my mind off Gwendy for a while,” but as he’s thinking this, he’s climbing on top of a bridge.

MOTHERLANDS #1 (DC, 2018) – “One,” [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Rachael Stott. Yet another in a string of Si Spurrier miniseries with fascinating and original premises. He has a real gift for worldbuilding. Motherlands takes place in a reality where humans are in contact with other humans from alternate realities. The protagonist, Tabitha Tubach, is a multiversal bounty hunter who’s trying to escape the influence of her domineering mother. Then Tabitha has to get in touch with her mother again, because it turns out her latest target is her (Tabitha’s) estranged brother.

CHEER UP #1 (Hic & Hoc, 2015) – various stories, [W/A] Noah Van Sciver. This small-format comic is a collection of blackly humorous short stories. It’s an effective demonstration of Noah’s art style and his depressing, cynical sense of humor. I need to read more of his work.

ARCHIE #21 (Archie, 2017) – “Over the Edge, Part 2,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Pete Woods. This may be one of the most powerful Archie comics ever. Betty’s car crash is not directly shown. Instead, the issue depicts various characters learning that something’s happened to Betty. We don’t see Betty herself until the end of the issue, when we see her lying comatose in a hospital bed while doctors frantically try to revive her. It looks like I stopped reading this series regularly after issue 12, but I’m glad I kept ordering it anyway.

New comics received on February 9:

RUNAWAYS #6 (Marvel, 2018) – “Find Your Way Home, Part VI,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. An amazing conclusion to one of the best Marvel storylines in recent memory. The Runaways fight Molly’s grandma and her horde of telepathic cats, until Nico casts a “herd cats” spell. Molly is torn between loyalty to her grandma and her friends, until it turns out that Molly’s grandma had Molly’s parents cloned. Molly is reluctantly forced to admit that her grandma has gone off the deep end, and she leaves with her teammates. While all this gloomy stuff is going on, we learn that Old Lace ate the cats. As a cat person, I think this is… hilarious, actually. Especially the panel where Old Lace coughs up a hairball. And then the Runaways decide to go home, wherever that is.

PAPER GIRLS #20 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. Charlotte gets shot by people from the future. The girls figure out how to operate one of the robots, and they use it to time travel into the future. The plot developments in this comic have been so fast and relentless that I’ve never quite understood what’s going on. At some point I’d like to read the entire series in one sitting.

MECH CADET YU #6 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. Baby Sharg invade the mech cadet academy. Showing true heroism, Stanford risks his life to save two of his comrades. At the end of the issue, the academy is demolished and the mech cadet program is terminated, but obviously that’s not the end of the series.

PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS YEAR TWO #4 (Action Lab, 2018) – “Stitches,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Xenia Panfil. The pirates clean up after their battle, while each grieving the loss of Sunshine in their own way. It turns out that Sunshine isn’t actually dead, of course, but is in some kind of undersea kingdom. A cute moment in this issue is the conversation where Desideria says she was given something by “the girl… you know, the black one,” and Quinn needs three guesses to identify which character Desideria means. Another highlight of this issue is the editorial, where Jeremy states his commitment to his readers: “I am, after all, a straight white cis man writing a whole crew full of diverse queer women. That’s a responsibility I take very seriously.” Jeremy is saying exactly the right things here, and so far he’s been practicing what he preaches.

SNOTGIRL #9 (Image, 2018) – “Weekend, Part One,” [W] Bryan Lee O’Malley, [A] Leslie Hung. Snotgirl and the other characters go to a conference. Snotgirl has visions of the ghost of Caroline. This is a fun comic, though I always have trouble following the plot of this series. I really like the eight-panel strip at the end where Cutegirl demands the smallest possible waffle.

MOON GIRL #27 (Marvel, 2018) – “Fantastic Three” (part three?), [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. This is an improvement over the last two issues, though still worse than the Girl Moon storyline. Ben and Johnny rescue a cat from a tree, there’s a funny meta-joke about Johnny being replaced by Herbie the robot, and the Super-Skrull shows up at the end – it was obviously him who was impersonating the FF.

TWISTED ROMANCE #1 (Image, 2018) – “Old Flames,” [W/A] Katie Skelly, [W] Alex de Campi (I assume, it’s not clear who did what). The first issue of a weekly anthology miniseries. The main story is about an encounter between an incubus and a succubus. I don’t remember much about this story now, but it’s witty and well-drawn. I’ve had one of Katie Skelly’s books for several years but have not read it, so this story was a good introduction to her. The backup story, by Sarah Horrocks, is visually impressive but makes no narrative sense. Unfortunately this issue also includes an eight-page unillustrated text story. I didn’t like this story much, but even if it had been better than it was, I really hate it when comic books include lengthy prose stories.

GIANT DAYS #35 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Ed suffers a concussion from his fall off the wall. The girls are forced to hang out with Lottie, Esther’s friend’s little sister, who, according to Google research, also appears in some of Allison’s other comics. Thanks to Esther, Daisy realizes she doesn’t actually like Lottie. This is another fun issue, and it includes more funny jokes and gags than I can list or remember.

ROGUE & GAMBIT #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Ring of Fire, Part 2,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Pere Pérez. Rogue and Gambit go to therapy and remember their first couple meetings, then they fight some mutant dudes. I still have slightly mixed feelings about this series, and I think it’s a little creepy how the plot seems to be forcing Rogue and Gambit into each other’s arms, although I trust Kelly to not do anything truly anti-feminist to Rogue.

ARCHIE #28 (Archie, 2018) – “Riverdale’s: The Bachelor,” [W] Mark Waid & Ian Flynn, [A] Audrey Mok. This issue’s plot is mostly just a bunch of drama and hijinks surrounding the upcoming spring dance. Also, Jason and Cheryl’s dad plans to break out of prison. This issue has a lot of excellent sight gags; I think the best is when Archie inflates some balloons and they come out as cubes and pyramids instead of ovoids. This issue includes references to two other Archie comics, Cosmo and The Shield.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE 1923 AD (Image, 2018) – “And Then There Was One…”, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Aud Koch. This is the best TWTD special yet, because all the characters are still alive when it begins, and we get to see how their personalities interact. Also, the creators effectively capture both the political climate and the aesthetics of the ’20s. I love how the entire issue is colored in sepia tones, like a silent film, and how the caption boxes and text segments look like silent film title cards. It is unfortunate that so much of the story is delivered through unillustrated text pages, but even that can be justified as a reference to pulp fiction. The story is a powerful depiction of how the aesthetic scene of the interwar period helped lead to World War II. On Twitter, someone named RicG and I came up with the following historical models for the gods:

Neptune = Ernest Hemingway
Minerva = Shirley Temple
Dionysus = Pablo Picasso
Baal = Ezra Pound / T.S. Eliot
Set = Virginia Woolf
Woden = Fritz Lang / Joseph Goebbels?
Lucifer = Aleister Crowley

SCALES & SCOUNDRELS #6 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] Galaad. Dorma and Koro narrowly survive their encounter with the demon, after being subjected to Black Mercy-esque visions of their secret desires. Koro emerges as a complex character: she loves Prince Aki but resents having had to devote her life to him. Luvander and Prince Aki don’t appear in this issue, but I assume neither of them is dead.

INCOGNEGRO: RENAISSANCE #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Soaked,” [W] Mat Johnson, [A] Warren Pleece. I have not read the graphic novel this is based on, and I really should have; I’m adding it to my Amazon want list now. This issue takes place in New York during the Harlem Renaissance. Zane Pinchback, a light-skinned black reporter, attends a party held by rich white people who cultivate black acquaintances. One of the black celebrities at the party is murdered, and the police don’t care, so Zane, who can pass for white by putting his hat on, decides to get to the bottom of it. This is an important comic; it shows deep insight into racial issues that are just as relevant today as in the 1920s. Zane’s ability to pass as white is poignant because it lets him move in both worlds and hear things that white people only say to each other.

JOHN BOLTON’S STRANGE WINK #1 (Dark Horse, 1998) – several stories, [W/A] John Bolton. A collection of short pieces by the versatile and underrated John Bolton. The first story is a very effective adaptation of Goethe’s Der Erl-King, although it’s hampered by a bad translation of the German text. “A Lot on His Plate” and “Permanent Fixture” are short stories that I assume were previously published in some British comic. The highlight of the issue is Bolton’s brilliant adaptation of Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market,” although it too has a significant flaw, namely the decision to include Rossetti’s entire poem verbatim. I’m not reading Bolton’s story because I want to reread “Goblin Market”; I’m reading it because I want to focus on Bolton’s illustrations and his narrative decisions. It’s hard to focus on those things when I have to read every word of Rossetti’s poem.

KING MANDRAKE THE MAGICIAN #2 (Dynamite, 2015) – untitled, [W] Roger Langridge, [A] Jeremy Treece. This issue continues the story of Mandrake and Karma’s battle with Mandrake’s ex-wife. It has excellent, snappy dialogue, but a forgettable plot.

HAWKEYE #15 (Marvel, 2018) – “Family Reunion,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Leonardo Romero. Hawkeye and Hawkeye fight a bunch of Madame Masque’s goons, then they fight more goons and kidnap Kate’s dad. The action sequences in this issue are really good, as well as the character interactions. It’s such a shame that this series was cancelled.

I HATE FAIRYLAND #16 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Skottie Young. Gert suffers the torments of hell, including having a vision of being returned to her home. I think this is the first time we’ve seen Gert’s home or her family. With its emphasis on gluttony, this scene reminds me of the transformation of Chihiro’s parents in Spirited Away. This scene also implies that even if Gert did get to go home, she couldn’t return to her life as a normal little girl (which I guess is also a theme of Spirited Away). The issue ends with Gert being returned to Fairyland, which is her real personal hell.

BLACK PANTHER #169 (Marvel, 2018) – “Avengers of the New World, Part 10,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Leonard Kirk. In his base, Klaw uses a massive dose of sonic energy to attempt to revive his sister. This creates a distraction that allows Ayo to escape from him. Because Klaw’s sonic energy drowns out all other sound in the area, most of this issue consists of silent sequences, which is a nice touch. However, this current storyline has been going on way too long already, and there’s no end in sight.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: DIMENSIONS #3 (IDW, 2018) – “Shooting Stars,” [W/A] Nicole Goux, and “Haunted,” [W] Sam Maggs, [A] Rachael Stott. This issue’s first story is perhaps the worst Jem story IDW has published. It may have just rubbed me the wrong way, but I thought that the plot was implausible and that almost every line of dialogue was a cliché. The story is about characters who insist on performing in public even though they’re not ready yet, and I feel that this is also what the story’s author is doing. The backup story, in which the Misfits and the Holograms team up to escape a haunted house, is better.

SWEET TOOTH #23 (Vertigo, 2011) – “Endangered Species: Part Four,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. This is a well-drawn and suspenseful comic, but it’s impossible to understand without having followed the entire series.

THE BACKSTAGERS: VALENTINE’S INTERMISSION #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Rian Sygh, plus backup stories. This is probably the best Backstagers story yet. It’s touching, funny, and full of both straight and queer romance. The plot of the main story is that Beckett, who hates Valentine’s Day, decides to sabotage the school’s Valentine’s Day show, but a visit to the pocket universe behind the stage causes him to change his mind. There are also some short backup stories. I’m glad to see Backstagers again, and I hope the series will return again soon.

SUPERMAN #4 (DC, 2016) – “Son of Superman, Part Four,” [W/A] Patrick Gleason, c[W] Peter J. Tomasi. Clark and Jon continue their fight with the Eradicator, who has somehow become a vessel for the dead souls of Krypton. This issue was not as good as later issues of this series.

POWER COMICS #2 (Eclipse, 1988) – “The All-Africa Wrestling Championship” and “The Return of Dr. Crime,” [W] Don Avenall & Norman Worker, [A] Dave Gibbons & Brian Bolland. I was reminded I had this comic after a conversation with Tayo Fatunla on Facebook. This issue is a reprint of stories which were produced in the ’70s by British artists for publication in Nigeria. The writers were veterans of the British industry, and the artists were a very young Gibbons and Bolland. The Superman-esque protagonist, Powerman, was renamed to Powerbolt for obvious reasons when the comics were reprinted in America (but the renaming was done inconsistently – there’s at least one panel where he’s called Powerman). These comics have fairly simple plots, and were clearly intended for an audience with no prior knowledge of comics. According to the inside front cover, Gibbons was instructed to put a number on each panel to indicate the reading order, even though his storytelling was already quite clear. Despite all that, these stories are exciting and vigorous, kind of like Golden Age Superman or Captain Marvel stories. And just the idea of an African Superman is quietly revolutionary. I wish there were more comics like this, by African rather than European creators.

BATMAN #409 (DC, 1987) – “Just Another Kid on Crime Alley!”, [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Ross Andru. Bruce Wayne enrolls Jason Todd in a boarding school that turns out to be a school for criminals, run by an old lady named Fay Gunn (i.e. Fagan – I needed help to figure this out). Jason helps Batman bring Fay Gunn to justice, and Batman decides Jason can be the new Robin. It strains credulity that Batman didn’t already know Fay Gunn was a criminal. It’s also disturbing how according to this issue, Batman only visits Crime Alley once a year, letting the criminals dominate it the rest of the year. I was also confused as to why Jason Todd wasn’t Robin already at this point. Apparently this story was Jason Todd’s completely revised post-Crisis origin, and the earlier stories in which he appeared were no longer in continuity.

ATOMIC ROBO AND THE SHADOW FROM BEYOND TIME #5 (Red 5, 2009) – “From Beyond,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. An excellent Atomic Robo comic. I enjoyed it more than most of the recent issues of the series, which suggests that Atomic Robo may be declining in quality a little. Two of Robo’s assistants create a “quantum decomputer,” which Robo instantly recognizes as evil, but they turn it on anyway, and it transforms into a Lovecraftian monstrosity. Robo defeats the monster with the assistance of three of his past selves. I haven’t read every issue of this miniseries, but apparently each issue of this miniseries takes place at a different period in Robo’s life (except #2, which takes place right after #1) and depicts this same encounter from the perspective of a different one of Robo’s selves. That’s a really cool trick, comparable to the adventure where Corum, Hawkmoon, Elric and Erekosë met each other.

BATMAN #413 (DC, 1987) – “The Ghost of Masahiko Tanaka,” [W] Jo Duffy, [A] Kieron Dwyer. The best thing about this issue is the Walt Simonson cover. In this issue, Batman and Robin battle a Japanese criminal who’s trying to steal a rare suit of Japanese armor. This issue demonstrates a basic knowledge of Japanese culture, but is nonetheless heavily based on stereotypes like samurai and ninjas, and it’s not very good either.

WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN #38 (Marvel, 2014) – untitled, [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Pepe Larraz. I bought this when it came out, but never bothered to read it, becuase the series was already close to cancellation at that point. This is a surprisingly good issue, though, and it reminds me why Wolverine and the X-Men was my favorite X-Men comic until Grand Design. Two new students enroll at the Jean Grey School, one of whom has a squid for a head, and Broo gives them a guided tour, resulting in numerous funny moments. At the end, it turns out the students are spies working for Cyclops and Emma Frost.

RISE OF THE BLACK PANTHER #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Coffin for Head of State,” [W] Evan Narcisse, [A] Javier Pina. I just saw the Black Panther movie, which was amazing, and this comic would be a great introduction to the comics for fans of the movie. I hope Marvel is promoting it heavily. I didn’t remember having heard of the Heart-Shaped Herb before reading this issue, and I wondered if it was introduced in this comic because it appears in the movie, but I guess it already existed in the comics. This issue, T’Challa encounters Namor for the first time as they rescue Nigandan citizens who were kidnapped by an Atlantean warlord. Evan Narcisse effectively depicts the encounter between these two characters, who are both kings, but who have sharply different personalities.

BLACK PANTHER #4 (Marvel, 1999) – “The Price,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Mark Texeira. I read this and some of the following comics after reading Abraham Riesman’s article on Priest (http://www.vulture.com/2018/01/christopher-priest-made-black-panther-cool-then-disappeared.html). I had trouble understanding some of the earlier issues of this series, but Riesman points out that this is partly deliberate. Riesman says the following of Quantum & Woody: “Told in nonlinear fashion, it was a delightful challenge to read: Details were withheld, recollections were unreliable, and jokes often required a detailed memory of what had gone before.” That also applies to Priest’s Black Panther, and difficulty and lack of linearity seem to be his stylistic trademarks. This issue, T’Challa fights some Wakandan secret police, then beats up Mephisto with one punch.

THE BLACK MONDAY MURDERS #1 (Image, 2016) – “A Story of Human Sacrifice,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Tomm Coker. Thanks to Hickman fatigue, I only ordered the first issue of this series. That was a mistake, because this is a good comic. It’s a dense, complicated story about the 1929 stock market crash and the four families that run the finance industry. It looks like this series is still going on, and I ought to look for the other issues of it.

JUSTICE LEAGUE TASK FORCE #37 (DC, 1996) – “Rejoice,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Ramon Bernado. Surprisingly, this extremely low-profile comic was my favorite of the several Priest comics I just read. I heard from Facebook friends that this series was basically a joke; the JLTF were supposed to be the JLA’s secret weapon for emergencies, but they were never needed, and they were really the team where the JLA dumped all the people they didn’t want. This final issue of the series demonstrates Priest’s skill with characterization. It’s a difficult comic to understand without having read the previous issues, and I didn’t figure out that Will and Triumph were the same person until halfway through the issue. But the interpersonal drama is very well done, and Priest effectively shows what a jerk Triumph is.

BLACK PANTHER #8 (Marvel, 1999) – “That Business with the Avengers!”, [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Joe Jusko with Amanda Conner. This issue’s first five pages are a near-verbatim retelling of Captain America #100, drawn in a Kirbyesque style. I don’t think this sequence matters to the narrative, but it’s a surprising stylistic decision. Conner’s artwork contrasts radically with Joe Jusko’s photorealistic style. This issue is also notable for the revelation that T’Challa joined the Avengers to spy on them. It includes a guest appearance by Busiek and Pérez’s version of the Avengers, which makes me feel very nostalgic.

WEAVERS #2 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Dylan Burnett. This is one of the few Spurrier comics I haven’t read. Like most of Spurrier’s comics, it has an innovative high concept, as well as excellent artwork from an artist I’m not familiar with. Either Spurrier or his editor is really good at spotting artistic talent. This particular comic is a film-noir-esque story about people infested with alien spiders that give them superpowers.

New comics received on February 16:

MS. MARVEL #27 (Marvel, 2018) – “Teenage Wasteland, Part Three,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. The Substitute Kamalas battles the Inventor, and they use Kamala’s signal watch to summon Captain Marvel, who hasn’t appeared in this series lately (and good riddance). Meanwhile, Naftali continues searching for Kamala. This is the third consecutive issue in which Kamala doesn’t appear. It’s a testament to Willow’s skill with characterization that she’s able to tell an interesting story starring only her supporting characters, without using her main character at all. Still, I want to see Kamala again soon.

ANGELIC #6 (Image, 2018) – “Heirs and Graces, Part 6,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Casper Wijngaard. Qora recovers Ay’s Eye by petting the cat and making him/her cough it up. I feel a bit guilty for enjoying Runaways #6, in which a number of cats get eaten by a dinosaur (and see also Babyteeth #5 below). I feel a bit less guilty now that I’ve read a comic in which a character literally saves the world by petting a cat. Anyway, Qora sends the bird on a mission to restore Ay’s Eye, which will resurrect the humans or something. But Qora pulls a sleight-of-hand trick and replaces the Eye with the EMP pulse bomb, and Ay gets destroyed, leaving the monkeys and manatees free to choose their own destiny. Sadly, the bird gets killed in the process, making Qora realize that she’s sacrificed an animal for her own benefit, just like the humans did. The final surprise is that the last page says “Angelic will return,” so this could be more than just a miniseries. Overall, this is Simon Spurrier’s best work yet, and would be a great introduction to his work for new readers. I don’t know why he’s not more popular, because he’s an awesome writer.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #29 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Forbidden Pla-Nut” part ???, [W] Ryan North, [A] Erica Henderson. This series is starting to feel a bit repetitive, but that’s an uncharitable thing to say, because Ryan and Erica are still doing an amazing job. This issue, Loki summons a bunch of characters to fight the Silver Surfer, including Hocky Hoof Hank, the Thor who’s an actual horse. Eventually the misunderstanding about the Surfer’s identity gets resolved, but by then it’s too late, because the planet is being besieged by aliens who were robbed by the fake Surfer. Besides Hocky Hoof Hank, the best jokes in this issue are the Star Wars opening crawl, and the caption about Ulyaoth putting his reading glasses back on and returning to his book.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #63 (IDW, 2018) – “Ponies Versus Prohibition,” [W] Christina Rice, [A] Brenda Hickey. I made up that title. A new character named Temperance Flowerdew arrives in Ponyville and leads a campaign against sugar. She manages to enlist Pinkie Pie, of all ponies, to her cause. However, her campaign backfires: the other ponies open a speakeasy that serves illegal desserts, leading them to eat even more sugar than before. At the end of the issue, it turns out that Temperance hates sugar because she was deprived of it as a filly, and things go back to normal. This issue is a very funny parody of real-life prohibition, and includes some jokes that younger readers will miss; for example, the password to the speakeasy is “swordfish.” There’s also a song, with lyrics that scan perfectly.

BABYTEETH #8 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Marty and Me,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. This is the second comic I’ve read this month in which a cat gets eaten by a monster, although in this case it happened before the issue began. This issue, Sadie’s mother turns out to be an awful person who drugs her own daughter. Also, the dark-haired guy in the maroon suit is Sadie’s brother. But Heather, Sadie’s dad, and the demon raccoon are going to try to rescue Sadie.

TWISTED ROMANCE #2 (Image, 2018) – “Twinkle & The Star,” [W/A] Alejandra Gutiérrez, [A] Alex de Campi. In this issue’s main story, an Indian-American, non-conventionally-attractive woman falls in love with a celebrity actor. The story powerfully demonstrates Twinkle’s low self-esteem, compared to the confidence of the people who work with, and her struggle to see herself as worthy of the star. Alejandra Gutiérrez’s art seems heavily influenced by Brandon Graham, but her style is not a carbon copy of his. My problem with this comic is the ending, where it turns out that Nick is asexual. I get that asexual representation is important, but Twinkle clearly does have sexual desire for Nick – there’s an entire page that shows her fantasizing about him – and it seems unfortunate that she should end up with a man who can’t satisfy her desires. This issue includes another prose story, but it’s much more enjoyable than the one from last issue, and I’d read it even if it wasn’t published in a comic book that I was already reading. It’s a touching portrayal of both college life and relationship angst. The backup story, by Meredith McClaren, is about a relationship between a human and an AI.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #698 (Marvel, 2018) – “Out of Time, Part 1,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Chris Samnee. Having been frozen in ice again, Cap wakes up in the future. In this era the U.S. is run by a capitalist fascist dictator named King Baby, who used a nuclear war as a pretext to seize total power. And it’s only 2025, so this all happened in seven years. Gee, it’s a good thing that this is a totally fictional and implausible scenario, and that there’s no contemporary American political figure to whom the name “King Baby” could obviously refer. After two unimpressive issues, Mark has gotten back to the level of quality he achieved in #695. This issue is powerful, political and exciting, and could be a spiritual sequel to Peter B. Gillis’s What If? #44. Meanwhile, Chris Samnee continues to be one of Marvel’s two best artists.

XERO #2 (DC, 1997) – “The Rookie,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Chriscross. This partially creator-owned series stars a secret agent who specializes in cleaning up after other secret agents’ mistakes. Also, he disguises himself as a blonde white man, but in his secret identity he’s a black basketball player. There is a lot of potential here, but this comic is so confusing and convoluted that I had serious trouble following it, and that’s especially bad since this is only the second issue. I would read more of this series, but I’d want to start with #1.

MOTHER PANIC/BATMAN SPECIAL #1 (DC, 2018) – “Milk Wars, Part 2,” [W] Jody Houser, [A] Ty Templeton. Mother Panic is the only Young Animal title I haven’t been reading, although I’m behind on Cave Carson and Shade. In this issue, Mother Panic and Batman team up to rescue some children from a creepy milk cult. I’m not sure if these Milk Wars installments are all meant to be read together, or if they’re all separate takes on the theme of milk. Either way, this is a fun and creepy comic (I have “Cushy cow Bonny, let down your milk” running through my head) and Ty Templeton’s art and John Workman’s art create a nostalgic feel.

DIRTY PLOTTE #11 (Drawn & Quarterly, 1997) – “My New York Diary, Part 2,” [W/A] Julie Doucet. I’ve read the My New York Diary graphic novel, but I read it years ago, and it was my first Doucet comic. Now that I have a bit more familiarity with her work, I can see how this story was a big advance on her previous work, in terms of its narrative scope and realism. Also, I remember Julie’s boyfriend being a real asshole, but reading this story again, I see that he was an even bigger asshole than I realized.

SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL/WONDER WOMAN SPECIAL #1 (DC, 2018) – “Mother’s Milk,” [W] Cecil Castellucci, [A] Mirka Andolfo. This has no connection to the Mother Panic-Batman issue. In this issue, Wonder Woman is the priestess of a cult of domesticity and motherhood, and her servants are several different versions of Shade, each representing a different emotion. Eventually Shade helps Diana recover her true identity. I enjoyed this issue.

ARCHIE #22 (Archie, 2017) – “Over the Edge, Part 3,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Pete Woods. Betty’s friends all have flashbacks to their past lives with her. There’s even one sequence that shows Little Archie’s first meeting with little Betty, which I assume is an intentional homage to Bob Bolling. At the end, Betty wakes up but can’t feel her legs. I wish I’d ordered the next two issues.

KILL OR BE KILLED #4 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. This issue begins with a sequence in which Dylan kills two muggers on the subway. Thankfully, it turns out that this was just a fantasy, and Dylan proceeds to explain why it was unrealistic and racist. Having trouble finding a bad person to kill, Dylan eventually kills a Russian sex trafficker, but is then forced to kill one of his girls in self-defense. Also, Dylan’s roommates are starting to figure out who he is. These events illustrate how difficult it would be to actually maintain a secret identity in real life, or to be a professional crimefighter. Sean Phillips’s artwork in this issue is spectacular, both realistic and attractive.

VIC AND BLOOD #2 (Mad Dog, 1988) – “A Boy and His Dog” and “Run, Spot, Run,” [W] Harlan Ellison, [A] Richard Corben. Since reading the first issue of this series, I’ve read Ellison’s original story. As a result, when I read Corben’s adaptation of the second half of Ellison’s story, I was frustrated by how much was missing. Corben leaves out a lot of important points, including the ambiguity as to whether or not Quilla June had sex with Vic voluntarily, and Ira’s incestuous passion for his daughter. The adaptation reads like a summary of the high points of “A Boy and His Dog,” rather than an adaptation, although the shock ending is still quite powerful. I know it’s not possible to adapt a prose work to comics without certain sacrifices, but I think Corben could have done better. The backup story in this issue, a sequel to “A Boy and His Dog,” is better because it was intended as a comic rather than a prose story. However, it has an anticlimactic ending in which Vic gets eaten by giant spiders, and Blood goes off on his own. According to Wikipedia, Ellison wrote this story because he was sick of being asked for more stories about Vic and Blood.

ARCHIE AND FRIENDS #147 (Archie, 2010) – “Twilite, Part 2,” [W] Angelo DeCesare, [A] Bill Galvan. A dumb but funny parody of Twilight, with Veronica as Bella. I assume it’s better than actual Twilight, but I wouldn’t know. This comic is not exactly poorly crafted, but it feels much lighter and less ambitious than Waid or Zdarsky’s Archie comics.

And now, for the first time all year, I have no comics left to review.

First reviews of 2018

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This is now the sixth calendar year in which I’ve worked on this project.

Comics I read before the first new comic book day of 2018:

USAGI YOJIMBO #165 (Dark Horse, 2017) – “Mouse Trap, Part 3,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi and Ishida capture the lesser criminals, but their mastermind escapes. This was not a bad conclusion, and it effectively set up the next story. I think this is the last issue with the current numbering; it looks like the next Usagi story will be a miniseries.

BATGIRL #18 (DC, 2017) – “White Elephant,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Sami Basri. Babs and her friends get together for Christmas, but Harley Quinn shows up and leads them on an adventure. There’s also a subplot about an evil dudebro venture capitalist. This was a fun issue, but I don’t remember much about it now.

WONDER WOMAN/CONAN #4 (DC, 2017) – “War and the Windrider,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Aaron Lopresti. This issue has some fun character interactions, but it doesn’t advance the plot much. This series could maybe have been five issues instead of six.

SPIDER-GWEN #27 (Marvel, 2017) – “Gwenom,” [W] Jason Latour, [A] Veronica Fish & Olivia Margraf. Another issue in which not very much happens. This issue has pages by two separate artists, but it’s hard to tell them apart.

DETECTIVE COMICS #645 (DC, 1992) – “Electric City, Part 2: Grounded!”, [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Tom Lyle. Batman and the Electrocutioner, Gotham’s version of the Punisher, race against each other to catch a serial  killer. Despite my intense dislike for Chuck Dixon, I thought this was a fairly exciting comic.

SOMERSET HOLMES #3 (Pacific, 1984) – untitled, [W] Bruce Jones & April Campbell, [A] Brent Anderson. This series, one of Bruce Jones’s numerous creator-owned titles, is a hard-boiled detective story. It’s very well-drawn, but hard to follow because it’s part 3 in an ongoing story. In my memory I confused it with Hand of Fate, which is also a detective comic by Bruce Jones, but with more of a supernatural element. This issue also includes a backup story with excellent art by Al Williamson.

SHADE THE CHANGING MAN #9 (DC, 1991) – “The Prophet Margin,” [W] Peter Miligan, [A] Chris Bachalo. Like many Peter Milligan comics, this comic felt very profound and complex when I was reading it, but I couldn’t remember much about it afterward. In this story Shade battles an aging hippie who wants to share his LSD addiction with the rest of the world, or something like that, and also Shade gets stuck in the body of a giant newborn baby.

MICKEY MOUSE #228 (Gladstone, 1987) – “The Captive Castaways,” [W/A] Floyd Gottfredson, [W] Merrill de Maris. Now that I’ve read the awful pre-Gottfredson Mickey strips (see my review of The Uncensored Mouse #1 from last year), I understand what a great storyteller Gottfredson was. This issue is the conclusion to a complex and funny story in which Peg-Leg Pete becomes the captain of a pirate ship and kidnaps Minnie. But Mickey tricks Pete into making Mickey the captain, so that Mickey can perform Pete and Minnie’s wedding, and Mickey orders Pete’s men to mutiny. The plot is driven by Mickey’s brilliance and Pete’s stupidity – the fact that Pete can’t read is a significant plot point. After reading this issue, I begin to understand why Gottfredson was so great, and I want to collect more of the Gladstone reprints of his work.

TWO-FISTED TALES #8 (Russ Cochran, 1951/1994) – four stories, [E] Harvey Kurtzman. The first two stories, Jack Davis’s “Mud!” and Wally Wood’s “Bunker Hill!”, have excellent artwork, but the plots aren’t that great. The highlight of this issue is “Corpse on the Imjin!”, one of Kurtzman’s most famous stories. An American soldier sits by the Imjin river watching a corpse float by, then gets attacked by a North Korean soldier. The American kills the North Korean with his bare hands, turning him into another corpse floating in the river. This story exhibits the great themes of Kurtzman’s war comics – the brutality of war and the common humanity of “us” and “them”. The story is also a masterful demonstration of cartooning, especially the page in which Kurtzman depicts the orgasmic buildup to the Korean soldier’s death, and the release of tension afterward. Severin and Elder’s “Buzz Bomb!” is another good-but-not-great story.

ASTONISHING TALES #9 (Marvel, 1971) – “The Legend of the Lizard Men!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Buscema. For unspecified reasons, the story originally intended for this issue was postponed to issue 10. This may have been related to the fact that #9 was the first issue of Astonishing Tales with only one feature instead of two. Instead, #9 consists of a fill-in story in which Ka-Zar encounters a witch who turns men into lizardmen. This story has some nice artwork, but is otherwise forgettable. This issue also includes a reprinted “story” starring Lorna the Jungle Girl, with art by Jay Scott Pike. I put “story” in quotation marks because the first four and the last two pages of this story are in fact reprinted from two different stories, both originally published in the same issue. I assume this was not intentional.

DAREDEVIL #145 (Marvel, 1977) – “Danger Rides the Bitter Wind!”, [W] Jim Shooter & Gerry Conway, [A] George Tuska. Daredevil battles the Owl, whose last adventure has left him in a wheelchair. This is a boring issue from a bad run of Daredevil comics.

NAUGHTY BITS #5 (Fantagraphics, 1992) – “Toadman Returns,” [W/A] Roberta Gregory. Earlier in the series, Midge had an unsatisfying sexual encounter with a man named Lyle, a.k.a. Toadman. This issue, he turns out to be Midge’s new coworker. Toadman instantly starts hitting on Midge, to the point of sexually harassing her. All his Midge’s female coworkers encourage him in it, while needling Midge for refusing his advances. This is an effective depiction of how sexism and workplace harassment are perpetuated by women as well as men. In the end, Midge takes Toadman out on a date just so she can tell him to go to hell (https://www.instagram.com/p/BdjJ0eCFIf1/?taken-by=aaronkashtan). Toadman subsequently gets fired for conducting personal business on work time and for being a deadbeat dad, but his female coworkers all make excuses for him, showing that while Toadman may be gone, he’s just a symptom of a bigger problem.

THE SPIRIT #44 (Kitchen Sink, 1988) – “The Crime of Passion” and three other stories, [W/A] Will Eisner. This series is probably the best way to collect The Spirit, since the Archives volumes are beyond my price range, but it’s a pity that the stories are reprinted in black and white. Without color, Eisner’s artwork can be difficult to read. The four stories in this issue are all good examples of Eisner’s postwar style, but none of them particularly stand out. The last one, “Black Alley,” is marginally better than the rest.

MADMAN ATOMIC COMICS #16 (Image, 2009) – “Last Night the Atomics Saved My Life!”, [W] Jamie S. Rich, [A] Joëlle Jones; and “Tweenage Wasteland!”, [W/A] Mike Allred. This issue’s main story is narrated by a groupie who falls in love with the lead singer of the Atomics. The backup story also guest-stars the Atomics. Neither story is all that great.

USAGI YOJIMBO #22 (Fantagraphics, 1990) – “Blood Wings, Part 2,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi defends a village from the Komori ninja. These characters are a poor fit for this series because they have superhuman abilities that correspond to the animal they’re based on – in other words, they can fly because they’re bats. The animal forms of most of the other characters in Usagi Yojimbo are purely cosmetic; for example, Usagi is effectively a human with a rabbit’s head, not a human-sized rabbit. Maybe this is why Stan has used the Komori ninja very rarely in recent years. The backup story in this issue is a little better than usual because some of the art is by Stan.

LEGEND OF OZ: THE WICKED WEST VOL. 2 #1 (Big Dog Ink, 2012) – untitled, [W] Tom Hutchison, [A] Alisson Borges. A trite and poorly drawn Oz parody. I got this for free at a convention, and I’m glad I didn’t waste any money on it.

FIGHTIN’ ARMY #103 (Charlton, 1972) – “The Sniper,” [W] unknown, [A] Sam Glanzman. This issue’s lead story has some good art, but the writing is lifeless, and the writer makes no attempt to examine the psychology of the characters. The other stories in this issue don’t even have Glanzman artwork to recommend them.

THE MIGHTY AVENGERS #28 (Marvel, 2009) – “The Unspoken, Part 2,” [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Khoi Pham. I bought this from a 50-cent box because I like both the writers, but they both phoned it in on this issue. There are at least some rudimentary attempts at characterization, including some scenes with Stature, but it doesn’t feel like a lot of effort went into this comic.

The following comics were waiting for me when I came back from MLA:

PAPER GIRLS #19 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. An average issue. There are more scenes with Charlotte and Jahpo and giant robots, but none of it is especially striking or memorable.

RAT QUEENS #7 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kurtis J. Wiebe, [A] Owen Gieni. This issue’s main plot is about a bar that’s serving some weird mushrooms. Also, Orc Dave has somehow gotten his son killed, and Violet’s father is dead. I had trouble following this issue’s plot – in particular, I can’t remember what happened to Dave’s son. But the Cheech Wizard character shows up on the last page, suggesting that all or part of this issue was a dream sequence or a hallucination.

MISTER MIRACLE #6 (DC, 2018) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. A truly touching piece of work. Barda and Scott have a conversation about renovating their condo, all while escaping traps and battling Orion’s flunkies. It turns out the reason Barda wants to renovate the condo is because she’s pregnant. This is an adorable moment that totally changes the tone of the issue, although then there’s another jarring shift in tone when Scott reaches Orion’s throne room and finds him dead, with Darkseid standing over him.

X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN #2 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Ed Piskor. This issue continues the story up to the point where X-Men was cancelled. The next miniseries, coming later this year, will start with Giant-Size X-Men #1. The stories summarized in this issue were written by multiple people and were not originally intended as a single cohesive plot. Piskor’s achievement is to combine all these different stories into a giant overarching narrative, hence the title Grand Design. He even makes it seem like the X-Men writers prior to Claremont were intentionally setting up for events in Claremont’s run, even though that is obviously not factually true. In general, this is an awesome comic; it’s probably the best Marvel comic since Vision, and the best X-Men comic in at least a decade.

RISE OF THE BLACK PANTHER #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “The King at the End of Everything,” [W] Evan Narcisse w/ Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Paul Renaud. This is possibly even better than the regular Black Panther series. Narcisse retells Black Panther’s origin clearly and passionately, revealing lots of details that are either new or unfamiliar to me, and investing these details with strong emotion. T’Challa’s mother N’Yami is an impressive character, whose death in childbirth is surprising and saddening. This series will be the definitive Black Panther origin story.

GIANT DAYS #34 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Esther and Ed go on  a pub crawl, which ends with Ed falling off a roof. This was a pretty typical issue of Giant Days.

HAWKEYE #14 (Marvel, 2018) – “Family Reunion,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Leonardo Romero. Eden Vale offers to bring back Kate’s mom if Kate helps her against Clint. Kate touchingly refuses because Clint is as much her family as her mother is. Then Madame Masque and Eden Vale decide to team up. This is a pretty good issue of a series that will be sadly missed.

ATOMIC ROBO AND THE SPECTRE OF TOMORROW #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. This is good, but it suffers from “third issue syndrome,” meaning that it continues all the existing plotlines but doesn’t resolve any of them. I don’t remember much about it.

ROGUE & GAMBIT #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Ring of Fire, Part 1,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Pere Pérez. This is one of the few new X-Men comics I’ve bought since Wolverine and the X-Men ended. I think one of Marvel’s bigger problems at the moment is their inability to produce successful X-Men comics. This series is at least a reasonable attempt at an X-Men title that has top-tier creators and appeals to a broad audience. Rogue and Gambit were never my favorite X-Men, partly because of their accents, but I grew up reading about them in Fabian Nicieza’s X-Men and watching them on the TV cartoon, so this issue triggers some nice feelings of nostalgia, and Kelly Thompson displays her usual brilliant characterization.

SCALES & SCOUNDRELS #5 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] Galaad. Tom Spurgeon just said something nice about this comic on Twitter, and it’s definitely not the sort of comic he usually praises. This issue, the heroes finally get to the treasure, but then the prince falls off a cliff.

DOOM PATROL #61 (DC, 1992) – “…”, [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Richard Case & Stan Woch. The Candlemaker systematically demolishes the Doom Patrol, but Dorothy, Cliff and Rebis succeed in defeating him, only to realize that Niles Caulder’s nanomachines are an even bigger threat. This issue is an epic conclusion to one of Grant’s greatest works.

WORLDS’ FINEST #0 (DC, 2012) – “Beginnings,” [W] Paul Levitz, [A] Kevin Maguire. I bought this when it came out, but never read it. When Paul was writing Huntress and Power Girl in the ‘70s, they were among DC’s best female characters. But when he returned to these characters in the 2010s, the standards for female superheroes were much higher, while Paul was still the same writer he was in the ‘70s, so his Worlds’ Finest series was a failure. This issue depicts Huntress/Robin and Power Girl/Supergirl’s first team-up, and it has some nice moments. But it covers the same events as Paul’s “From Each Ending… a Beginning” in DC Super Stars #17, and that story was better.

BLACK BOLT #9 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Midnight King Returns to Earth,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Christian Ward. Black Bolt and Titania get in a fight which ends when Titania realizes her husband is dead. Carl Creel’s wake and funeral are very touching, even if it won’t be long before Carl is resurrected by some other writer. Then some evil Inhumans invade the funeral and kidnap Blinky. There’s a rumor that this series is going to end with #12, which would be a pity, but Saladin Ahmed is going to go on to bigger and better things; see my review of Abbott #1 below.

DIVA #2 (Starhead, 1994) – “Doudou, the Poilu in Strays,” [W/A] Diana Sasse, plus other stories. An anthology of comics by women, edited by Michael Dowers and with creators such as Donna Barr and Roberta Gregory. The first story in this anthology title is a translated German comic, taking place in a postapocalyptic world divided between humans, or Poilus, and centaurs, or Boches. These terms of course also refer to French and German soldiers. As Donna Barr points out in her introduction, this comic is shockingly similar to Stinz, although I assume Donna didn’t discover it until Stinz already existed. This issue also includes some intriguing but narratively weak comics by E. Fitz Smith, who is better known as a graphic designer. The highlight of the issue is the multiple stories by Roberta Gregory, including one in which Bitchy Bitch meets Bitchy Butch, and they don’t hit it off well.

FIGHTIN’ FIVE #28 (Charlton, 1964) – “Introducing the Fightin’ 5, America’s Super Squad,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Bill Montes. Despite the issue number, this is the first appearance of these characters. As usual, Charlton continued the numbering from a cancelled title, Space War, in order to qualify for lower mailing rates. As the GCD points out, the Fightin’ 5 are very similar to the Blackhawks, except they lack individual personalities. Still, Joe Gill clearly put more effort into this comic than into the dozens of other stories he churned out every month, and the result is an exciting adventure story with lots of references to Cold War politics.

VIC & BLOOD #1 (Mad Dog, 1987) – “Eggsucker,” [W] Harlan Ellison, [A] Richard Corben. This is Corben’s adaptation of Ellison’s classic short story “A Boy and His Dog.” I’ve never read any of Ellison’s non-comics work, although I have one of his short story collections, but this comic makes me interested in reading more of his work. It stars a teenage boy and his telepathic dog, who live in a very bleak and disturbing fantasy world. Corben’s art is up to his usual high standards.

GIANT-SIZE SUPER-VILLAIN TEAM-UP #2 (Marvel, 1975) – “To Bestride the World!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Mike Sekowsky. Based on Namor and Doom’s costumes in this issue, I thought it might be the issue where Doom says “Doom toots as he pleases,” but it’s not. In this issue, Doom and Namor team up against a robot named Andro who makes androids. It’s a tiresome and overly long piece of work. The backup story, a reprint of Amazing Spider-Man #8, is much better than the main story.

SUPERB #5 (Lion Forge, 2017) – “Matters of Trust,” [W] Sheena Howard & David Walker, [A] Ray-Anthony Height & Alitha Martinez. Another cute issue of an enjoyable series. The issue begins with a flashback to Jonah and Kayla’s childhoods, then Jonah and Kayla plan their assault on the facility where their parents are being held, and Jonah repeatedly insists that Kayla choose a code name.

HAPPY HOUR IN AMERICA #1 (Fantagraphics, 2017) – “Steve McQueen Has Vanished,” [W/A] Tim Lane. This is an ambitious piece of work, with beautiful art and lavish production design. The main story focuses on Steve McQueen, who is traveling the country incognito just after becoming America’s highest-paid film star. Steve McQueen died before I was born and I know nothing about him, so this story was a fun look at some history I’m not familiar with. Tim Lane’s artwork reminds me of Drew Friedman’s because of its photorealism and its nostalgia for mid-century America, though Lane’s draftsmanship is nothing like Friedman’s. This comic could be an Eisner contender.

NOT BRAND ECCH #14 (Marvel, 2017) – “Secret Empire: Abridged,” [W] Nick Spencer, [A] Scott Koblish. This issue’s main story is a frustrating piece of trollery. In this story, Nick Spencer repeats fans’ criticisms of Secret Empire in a mocking way, without in any way addressing the concerns behind these criticisms. This is a classic example of lampshading, where a text points out its own problems and then makes no attempt to resolve those problems. This story demonstrates Spencer’s hostility to his readers and his inability to accept criticism, and it won’t win him any new fans. It’s a shame that this story draws the reader’s attention away from the other quality work in this issue, including stories by Katie Cook, Jay Fosgitt, and Ryan North and Erica Henderson.

PLANETARY #6 (Wildstorm, 1999) – “It’s a Strange World,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] John Cassaday. I’ve bought a bunch of issues of this comic lately, and I only need #4, #9, #23 and #25 for a complete run. This issue narrates the origin of the Four, a.k.a. the Fantastic Four, the primary villains of the series.

PRYDE AND WISDOM #1 (Marvel, 1996) – “Mystery School,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Terry Dodson. This miniseries co-stars Kitty Pryde, one of my favorite Marvel characters, but it has two serious problems. The first is Terry Dodson’s barely competent artwork. He’s become something of a fan favorite, but I’m not sure why. The second problem is the other co-star, Pete Wisdom, who is a blatant Gary Stu. He’s not a totally unoriginal character, but he’s also not as interesting as Ellis thinks, and it takes some nerve for Ellis to refer to Pete and Kitty –  rather than Nightcrawler, Meggan or Captain Britain – as “the heart and soul of Excalibur. (BTW, I need to get that annual that introduces Brian and Meggan’s baby.) I have the other two issues of this miniseries, but I haven’t felt like reading them.

SUPERMAN #29 (DC, 2017) – “A Minute Longer,” [W] Keith Champagne, [A] Doug Mahnke. I only bought this comic because I didn’t realize Peter Tomasi had left the series. I only read it because I was about to go to sleep, and I wanted to read something non-challenging. This comic has one good line – “courage is fear trying to hold on a minute longer” – but otherwise it’s pointless.

AVENGERS #99 (Marvel, 1972) – “—They First Make Mad!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Barry Windsor-Smith. I read this story many years ago when it was reprinted in one of the later issues of Kurt Busiek’s run. In this issue, an amnesiac Hercules explains how he lost his memory, and then the Avengers fight Kratos and Bia, who show up to kidnap Herc. Meanwhile, there’s an extended subplot involving a love triangle between Vision, Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye. This subplot includes perhaps the worst line Roy Thomas ever wrote – “in which case, Witchie, there’s weddin’ bells in your future!” – but Wanda’s growing passion for Vizh, despite her brother’s attempts to scare her away from him, is genuinely touching. BWS’s artwork on this issue is very good, though not up to the level of his later issues of Conan.

SNOID COMICS #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1980/1989) – “The Snoid Goes Bohemian” and other stories, [W/A] R. Crumb. The various stories in this issue are more notable for their misogyny and their bizarre sexual obsessions than for their artistic quality. One of them is about the Snoid’s foot fetish. After reading a bunch of Crumb comics, I still feel like I’m not quite getting the point. What other work has he done that’s on the same level as “Uncle Bob’s Mid-Life Crisis” or “The Goose and the Gander Were Talking One Night”? What is there to his work besides weird male power fantasies? The artistic highlight of the issue is the famous “A Short History of America,” which depicts the same piece of ground at intervals of many years, although this piece originally appeared in a non-comics publication.

FABULOUS FURRY FREAK BROTHERS #2 (Rip Off, 1972/1980) – “Shootout at the County Slammer” and other stories, [W/A] Gilbert Shelton. Unlike Crumb, Shelton is genuinely fun even when his work lacks philosophical depth, as it generally does. This issue begins with a ten-page story in which the Freak Brothers break into a prison. Then there are a bunch of one-page strips, as well as some short pieces by Bobby London, Ted Richards and Dave Sheridan. In one of the sequences of strips, the Freak Brothers split up and return to their family homes (they’re not actually brothers), and Fat Freddy ends up sleeping with his own sister.

EXIT STAGE LEFT: THE SNAGGLEPUSS CHRONICLES #1 (DC, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mike Feehan. This is a thematic sequel to Flintstones, although it’s much more “realistic,” in that the only fantastic element is that some of the characters are anthropomorphic animals. I’m not familiar with Snagglepuss, but it seems like all I need to know about him is that he’s an anthropomorphic lion, like Loony Leo from Astro City. This issue is set in the ‘50s and initially seems very straightforward, but it quickly takes a surprising turn when Snagglepuss disguises himself and visits the Stonewall Inn. Meanwhile, the McCarthy hearings are in full swing, and it looks like Snagglepuss will be blackmailed into testifying. The Rosenbergs and Dorothy Parker also appear, and the latter has some very witty dialogue. Like Prez and Flintstones, this comic is a deep, complex and political work, even though – or especially because – it’s based on some very banal source material.

MICKEY MOUSE #256 (Gladstone, 1990) – “The Mystery of Tapiocus VI,” [W/A] Romano Scarpa. I was disappointed to realize that this wasn’t by Gottfredson. But at least instead it’s by Scarpa, perhaps the only European Disney artist I actually like, and its cleverness and epic scope are worthy of Gottfredson or Barks. In this story, Mickey encounters an old man who behaves exactly like a six-year-old child. It turns out the old man is a king who’s been deposed and rendered amnesiac by Pete, and Mickey restores his memory and returns him to his throne.

New comics received on January 16:

RUNAWAYS #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Find Your Way Home Part V,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. I’m loving this comic so much that I read it before Ms. Marvel or Squirrel Girl. Gert is now living with Molly and her grandmother, but it becomes clear that Molly’s grandmother has ulterior motives, and Gert and Molly decide to escape and return to their former teammates. Molly’s grandmother catches them escaping, but Chase, Nico, Karolina and Victor show up in the nick of time. This comic continues the major themes of the series – nostalgia for childhood and the inability to go home again – and Rowell and Anka depict the characters’ emotions beautifully, especially Gert’s homesickness. Also, this issue is full of cats and cute cat-shaped objects. The panel with the eight unconscious cats is just amazing. Until reading this comic, I actually didn’t know that you could buy loose catnip and give it to cats, and I have now bought some for my own cat. So who says comics can’t be educational?

MS. MARVEL #26 (Marvel, 2018) – “Teenage Wasteland, Part 2,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. The Legion of Substitute Kamalas (I just thought of that name) battles a giant robot lizard, and Zoe realizes that it must be the work of the Inventor, who returns for the first time since issue 11 of the previous volume. It turns out the Inventor has switched to kidnapping old people instead of teenagers. Also, Naftali makes another brief appearance.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #28 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Forbidden Pla-Nut” (part 2), [W] Ryan North, [A] Erica Henderson. Doreen and Loki defeat Dormammu by summoning squirrel ghosts, then they head to the squirrel planet and defeat the fake Galactus. But then the real Silver Surfer shows up and Doreen mistakes him for the fake one, with unfortunate results. Until I read through this issue again, I didn’t notice the visual gag on the last page, where Norrin’s body is conveniently positioned so that Doreen misreads Loki’s message. The letters page includes a letter from (a squirrel friend of) a Professor Scott who teaches at Longwood and goes to Heroes Con. I’d like to meet that person.

MECH CADET YU #5 (Boom!, 2018) – A good but not great issue. The kids are grounded and forced to work as janitors with Stanford’s mom – and by the way, this series makes the important point that janitors are just as important as anyone else. Then they clean up some alien eggs, and Skip Tanaka gives them some special training.

ROYAL CITY #9 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. This issue doesn’t advance the plot very much, except that it shows us the scene where Pat quits the factory, which we’ve already seen as a flashback.

NEW SUPER-MAN #19 (DC, 2018) – “Day in the Life of a Shanghai Reporter,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Brent Peeples. I gave up on this comic months ago, but I ordered this issue because it’s written by Mariko Tamaki. This issue is not a classic, but it’s much better than Gene Luen Yang’s issues of this series. Tamaki is much better at writing periodical comics than Yang. She succeeds in making Laney Lan a unique character rather than a Lois Lane clone, and her story feels like it’s set in China rather than in America disguised as China, which was my problem with Yang’s run on this series.

STUMPTOWN #4 (Oni, 2014) – “The Case of the King of Clubs, Part 4,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Justin Greenwood. I can’t remember much about this issue’s plot, but it’s an entertaining detective story. Unfortunately, Justin Greenwood is perhaps the worst artist Rucka has ever collaborated with.

BABYTEETH #7 (Aftershock, 2018) – “The Coyote,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. This issue begins with a flashback to an earlier Antichrist-baby incident. Then Sadie and Heather’s mom, who appeared at the end of last issue, starts trying to impose her will on her children and ex-husband, but Heather is not willing to put up with it. Heather is so much more forceful and proactive than Sadie that she’s almost the real protagonist of the series. Sadie has a meek personality and is in a near-constant state of shock, making her almost recede into the background. The issue ends with Carl the assassin deciding to switch sides and protect Sadie instead of killing her.

BATMAN #1: BATMAN DAY SPECIAL EDITION (DC, 2016) – “I Am Gotham, Part One,” [W] Tom King, [A] David Finch. This is a reprint of Batman: Rebirth #1 that was distributed for free. It consists of an extended action sequence in which Batman nearly sacrifices his life to save an airliner from crashing, but is saved at the last minute by two new characters, Gotham and Gotham Girl. It’s an okay Batman story, but it doesn’t make me want to read any more of Tom King’s Batman. The John Workman lettering is a nice touch.

ARCHIE #20 (Archie, 2017) – “Over the Edge, Part 1,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Pete Woods. Reggie challenges Archie to a dangerous illegal drag race. Trying to stop them, Betty gets in a near-fatal car crash. This is only an average issue, but it leads to some very interesting plot twists.

SWORD OF AGES #2 (IDW, 2018) – “The Sacred Cave” and other chapters, [W/A] Gabriel Rodríguez. This issue didn’t impress me as the last issue, because I knew what to expect, but it’s still an exciting and exquisitely drawn SF/adventure comic. It’s an attempt to create an American commercial comic with the same level of quality as French commercial comics. Rodríguez’s writing is maybe not the best, and I have trouble following the plot, but his art and visual storytelling are so good that the plot almost doesn’t matter.

THE SPIRIT #2 (Kitchen Sink, 1983) – “Hildie & Satin” and other stories, [W/A] Will Eisner. The early issues of this series were in color. This issue’s first story introduces Silk Satin’s daughter Hildie, while in the last story, Eisner gets rid of Ebony, who had become an embarrassment, by sending him to school to learn to speak proper English. The racist implications of this are unfortunate, but at least this story shows that Eisner was beginning to regret his portrayal of Ebony. What especially impresses me about all these stories is their narrative compression. Eisner succeeded in telling complete and satisfying stories in seven pages by having multiple things happen in the same panel, and by relying on the reader to supply missing information.

TWO-FISTED TALES #4 (Russ Cochran, 1951/1993) – four stories, [E] Harvey Kurtzman. In Jack Davis’s “Ambush!”, eight soldiers get caught in a North Korean ambush, and only one of them survives. This story is less impressive for its shock ending, in which the surviving soldier realizes that he survived because he didn’t have his good luck charm, than for Davis’s brutal depiction of the soldiers’ deaths. For example, one of them sacrifices his life to throw back a grenade at the enemy, and the expression on his face is indescribable. Severin and Elder’s “Pigs of the Roman Empire” is an underwhelming story about an alcoholic Roman commander. In Wally Wood’s “The Murmansk Run!”, a sailor is forced to stand watch on the deck in freezing cold. Disobeying orders, he lights a can of Sterno to warm himself, but this reveals his ship’s location to an enemy sub, which sinks the ship. We hate the sailor for his selfishness and insubordination, but at the same time, we sympathize with him for the inhuman conditions in which he’s placed. Finally, Kurtzman’s “Search” is kind of predictable. Its protagonist, an American soldier who emigrated to Italy, has returned to Italy during World War II and is looking for his brother who never left. Of course the brother turns out to be dead. But at least this story is a rare and valuable example of Kurtzman artwork.

ARCHIE GIANT SERIES #596 (Archie, 1989) – “A Reel Experience” and other stories, [W/A] Bob Bolling. This issue begins with another of Bolling’s excellent nature stories, in which Archie tries to catch the Perilous Pike. The next story isn’t that great, but at least it includes the line “grown-ups aren’t supposed to be happy.” There are two other stories, one in which Betty’s cat causes mayhem, and another in which Archie’s dog-washing business causes even more mayhem.

HATE #19 (Fantagraphics, 1995) – “Partners,” [W/A] Peter Bagge. Buddy opens a book and record store with his partner Jay, who nearly runs the business into the ground with his drug addiction. This issue is less funny than some issues of Hate, but it’s an effective depiction of the ‘90s alternative cultural scene and the perils of small business ownership. This story takes place in Jersey and not Seattle, but when I read it, I kept visualizing Buddy’s store as the Fantagraphics store. At the end of the story, Jay overcomes his addiction, which is heartwarming if somewhat hard to believe.

INCREDIBLE HULK #169 (Marvel, 1973) – “Calamity in the Clouds!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Herb Trimpe. The Hulk and the Harpy, a.k.a. Betty Ross, encounter the Bi-Beast, who makes his/their first appearance in this issue. Despite the stupid villain, this is a pretty exciting issue from a good run of Hulk comics.

HERO CATS #20 (Action Lab, 2018) – “Bot to the Future!”, [W] Kyle Puttkammer, [A] Andy Duggan. The Hero Cats team up with a robot from the future, resulting in some Terminator jokes. This issue is another piece of good clean fun. Next issue is billed as the finale of “season one.” The series has been running since 2014, so it seems rather disingenuous to declare that the whole series so far has been one season.

STUMPTOWN #6 (Oni, 2015) – “The Case of a Cup of Joe: Part One,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Justin Greenwood. Despite Greenwood’s very subpar artwork, this is an entertaining story and a funny sendup of the Pacific Northwest’s coffee culture. A coffee franchise owner named Weeks hires Dex Parios to pick up a shipment of his new civet coffee – I won’t describe what civet coffee is, but it’s pretty gross. Then Weekes’s professional rival tries to hire Dex to deliver some of the coffee to him instead. Meanwhile, Dex’s ne’er-do-well sister drops in on her unannounced and demands to stay for six weeks.

SHE-HULK #161 (Marvel, 2018) – “Jen Walters Must Die,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Jahnoy Lindsay. Jen defeats the Leader, then visits someone named Flo for therapy. I had no recollection of who Flo was, but Google tells me that she appeared earlier in this series, and that she’s a therapist who Jen was supposed to visit but didn’t. This was a fairly unimpressive issue, and it’s further proof that Mariko Tamaki is better at characterization than superheroic action.

BLACK PANTHER #168 (Marvel, 2018) – “Avengers of the New World, Part 9,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Chris Sprouse. Half of this issue is a fight scene between T’Challa and his allies and the ancient gods. The other half depicts negotiations between T’Challa’s stepmom and the Dora Milaje. This is still a good comic, but the current storyline has dragged on way too long (much like “Panther’s Rage”), and I still haven’t read issue 169.

ADVENTURE FINDERS #3 (Antarctic, 2018) – “The Village of Orphans,” [W/A] Rod Espinosa. I ordered this because Espinosa’s previous work, Courageous Princess, got a positive review in the Slings & Arrows Guide. This comic is an epic fantasy narrative with a teen girl protagonist. Espinosa relies too much on standard epic fantasy cliches, he includes too many unimportant named characters, and his facial expressions are kind of ugly. But this comic is exciting enough that I enjoyed it despite all that, and I’d read more of it.

SLASHER #1 (Floating World, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Charles Forsman. I have this entire series now, and I finally decided to finish reading it. This issue introduces us to two protagonists: a disabled boy and a girl who’s obsessed with blood. The girl turns to murder and violence for unclear reasons. This is a gruesome and enigmatic but intriguing work, with a much looser art style than Forsman’s I Am Not Okay With This, which I just read.

STUMPTOWN #7 (Oni, 2015) – “The Case of a Cup of Joe, Part Two,” as above. Dex delivers the first shipment of coffee, then returns home to find that her sister Fuji has been a terrible houseguest. But Fuji has weaseled her way into the good graces of Dex’s disabled brother, so it won’t be easy for Dex to get rid of her. I read r/relationships frequently, and I see so many stories about people who have awful roommates that they can’t get rid of, so Fuji’s behavior seems very realistic.

STUMPTOWN #9 (Oni, 2015) – “The Case of a Cup of Joe, Part Four,” as above. I forgot to order issue 8, but I was able to understand issue 9 anyway. As if Fuji’s behavior wasn’t bad enough, it turns out that she’s been conspiring with some local louts to steal the civet coffee. In a parlor scene, Dex defeats both plots to steal the coffee. Then Fuji finally leaves town. This was a cute and entertaining story.