As usual I have over 100 comics to review. Let’s get started.
BLACK PANTHER #11 (Marvel, 1999) – “Enemy of the State, Book Three,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Mark D. Bright. This issue is an early appearance of Nakia and Okoye, and is notable for a scene where Nakia fakes Monica Lynne’s death. There’s also a flashback where Nakia interrupts T’Challa and Monica while they’re getting romantic. Nakia as depicted in this comic is a fascinating but largely negative character, whose primary motivation is jealousy that T’Challa thinks he’s too old for her. The film’s version of Nakia seems to have little in common with the comic version but the name.
POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #119 (Marvel, 1985) – “Daughter of the Dragon King,” [W] Jim Owsley, [A] Mark D. Bright. This is an early work by Owsley/Priest. Most of it consists of an extended flashback to Danny’s past in K’un L’un and that of his parents. It’s difficult to understand, and not especially good.
HOOK JAW #1 (Titan, 2016) – untitled, [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Conor Boyle. A revival of a classic ‘70s British comic that was cancelled for excessive violence. It’s the same idea as Jaws, except that it takes place in the Indian Ocean. It’s full of funny gore and violence, and Spurrier deserves credit for depicting Somali pirates as people with realistic motivations, rather than faceless criminals.
KILL OR BE KILLED #6 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. This issue introduces a policewoman named Lily who’s figured out that there’s a serial killer (Dylan) who’s been murdering evil people. But her supervisors refuse to believe her theory. Lily is an interesting character, and Brubaker effectively depicts the struggle she faces as a woman in a male-dominated profession. But I kind of sympathize with her bosses, who don’t have the benefit of knowing that Lily’s theory is correct, as the reader does. For them it could just be a crackpot theory.
BLACK PANTHER #15 (Marvel, 2000) – “Smash,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Sal Velluto. Everett battles the Hulk alongside T’Challa’s new bodyguard, Queen Divine Justice, who is woke AF before that term existed. Back in Wakanda, Everett is forced to lead a ceremonial elephant hunt. Meanwhile, T’Challa encounters an old lover of his. Killmonger returns at the end of the issue. After reading this issue, I’ve now read all the Priest Black Panthers that I have, and it’ll be difficult to get more. The one unfortunate thing about the success of the movie is that old Black Panther comics are now going to go way up in value, especially the first appearances of characters like Nakia and Okoye.
New comics received on February 23:
FENCE #4 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] C.S. Pacat, [A] Johanna the Mad. This has become one of my favorite current titles, and I may write an entire article or review essay about it. This issue, the tryouts for the team begin, but Nicholas gets his ass kicked in his first match, thanks to excessive anxiety.
SEX CRIMINALS #22 (Image, 2018) – “Follow the Honey,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Chip Zdarsky. This issue is full of plot developments that I don’t remember clearly. In particular, Suzie apparently makes contact with her father’s ghost. The best moment in this issue was Suzie saying that Uber and Lyft “don’t exist in this continuity.”
MULTIPLE WARHEADS: GHOST THRONE #1 (Image, 2018) – “Ghost Throne,” [W/A] Brandon Graham. A new Brandon Graham comic is always cause for celebration. This oversized issue is the conclusion to the story that ran intermittently in Island. Its plot is hard to follow, as usual with Brandon, but it’s full of gorgeous compositions, beautiful women, and cute puns and sight gags. I hope there will be more Multiple Warheads or King City soon.
LUKE CAGE #170 (Marvel, 2018) – “Danielle’s Fairy Tale,” [W] David Walker, [A] Guillermo Sanna. (That’s not the actual title.) David Walker’s last issue of Luke Cage is also his best, besides the Sweet Christmas Special. David didn’t get many opportunities to write Danielle Cage, probably because Bendis had dibs on her. To help Danielle deal with bullying at preschool, Luke tells her a story, except Danielle tells most of the story herself. David clearly has firsthand experience with children this age, because Danielle’s dialogue and thought processes seem totally realistic. This comic has echoes of both X-Men #153 (with Jessica secretly listening to the fairy tale from outside the room) and Axe Cop (because of the bizarre narrative logic), and it’s incredibly fun. Danielle’s age is inconsistent between this series and Jessica Jones, but who cares.
PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS YEAR TWO #5 (Action Lab, 2018) – “The Kiss,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Christine Hipp. Sunshine finds herself in an undersea realm, where the queen, Pavarti (a misspelling of Parvati?), uses a scrying pool to show her a vision of her former crewmates. Sunshine watches as Raven and Ximena almost kiss, and summons a lightning bolt to break them up. Meanwhile, Zoe writes a terrible love poem for Quinn.
DESCENDER #27 (Image, 2018) – “Old Worlds 1 of 3,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. By the time I read #28, which I will review below, I had totally forgotten about this issue. It takes place 4000 years before the main timeline, and stars Master Professor Osris from the planet of Ostrakon, who discovers a race of intelligent machines. The significance of this will be clear next issue, but maybe the reason I couldn’t remember anything about this issue was because I couldn’t tell how it was connected to the rest of the series. I think there’s an Optimus Prime cameo appearance on the last page.
When I returned from work on Wednesday, February 28, I was very surprised to find my new comics shipment waiting for me. That’s the first time in years that I’ve gotten new comics on Wednesday – usually they show up on Friday – and I’m not sure how it happened.
SAGA #49 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. I am of course thrilled to have Saga back, but not much happened in this issue. Prince Robot considers letting Upsher and Doff reveal Hazel’s existence, and Hazel gets in a fight with Squire and Ghüs.
LUMBERJANES #47 (Boom!, 2018) – “Zoo It Yourself” (conclusion), [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Ayme Sotuyo. This was a fun issue, with lots of cute animals and a sentient tornado. But this issue felt less rich and dense than earlier issues. There weren’t as many funny jokes or sight gags, and there wasn’t much character development either. I hope the next storyline will be a bit more substantial.
RAT QUEENS #8 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kurtis Wiebe, [A] Owen Gieni. This issue didn’t make any sense at first. In one storyline, the Rat Queens invade a dungeon full of snail creatures, and Hannah engages in a level of wanton cruelty that’s disturbing even in this series. In another storyline, Hannah is sent to some kind of wizard prison. And all the Rat Queens except Betty seem to have forgotten that Violet exists. Things become a little clearer when the Cheech Wizard character shows up, and the issue ends with the line “Sometimes love isn’t enough,” which was the last line of the previous volume of the series. So it seems like the confusing nature of this story arc is deliberate, but I wish it would be explained soon.
ABBOTT #2 (Boom!, 2018) – “Do Right Woman,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Sami Kivelä. This was a bit less impressive than issue one, but still very good. Abbott travels around Detroit looking for information on the murder from last issue, and encounters various magical phenomena. The magic in this series is almost gratuitous; I feel like this comic would be good enough if it were just an investigation of racial politics in ‘70s Detroit. (Here I may be repeating something I read in someone else’s review.)
MOTOR CRUSH #10 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brenden Fletcher & Cameron Stewart, [W/A] Babs Tarr. I don’t remember this one very well. Domino and some friends invade a casino to rescue Domino’s dad, then Juli shows up via the pyramid and destroys the casino. This issue was just OK, I guess.
DOCTOR STAR AND THE KINGDOM OF LOST TOMORROWS #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Star Child,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Max Fiumara. Another Black Hammer spinoff. This series’s protagonist is heavily based on James Robinson’s portrayal of Starman/Ted Knight, and is actually named James “Jimmy” Robinson. After discovering a cosmic power source, Dr. Robinson becomes so obsessed that he neglects his wife and child, and then he becomes a member of the Black Hammer version of the Justice Society. At the end of the issue, he visits his son in hospice. This was a pretty good issue, but I don’t see how it fits into the overall narrative of Black Hammer.
LOCKJAW #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Who’s a Good Boy?”, [W] Daniel Kibblesmith, [A] Carlos Villa. I was excited when Marvel announced a Lockjaw solo title, and this debut issue did not disappoint. As expected, this issue is incredibly cute – among other things, it includes a battle between Lockjaw and D-Man and a squad of flying alien hamsters.
MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC #11 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Tony Fleecs. The Pillars arrive at Mistmane’s greenhouse, where they get in a big fight with Mistmane’s plants. Then Mistmane joins the team, and they encounter Starswirl. This was a good issue, but not spectacular.
THE MIGHTY THOR #704 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Gospel According to Jane,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Russell Dauterman. While the Mangog is beating the crap out of Asgard’s defenders, Jane reminisces about her life. Jason Aaron takes this opportunity to answer a question that’s been bothering me for a long time: What happened to Jane’s husband and son? I even asked Jason this question at Heroes Con, and I’ve forgotten what exactly he said, but he gave me the impression that he wasn’t ever going to mention these characters. Well, in this issue we learn that Keith and Jimmy were killed in a car accident. This is a shocking revelation, especially given how long it was deferred. At the end of the issue, Jane accepts the inevitability of fate and becomes Thor for the final time. This is a powerful but very dark issue, with the only comic relief coming from Thori’s obsessive pursuit of anyone with a hammer. Overall, this is an excellent chapter of the best Thor comic since the ‘80s – more on that later.
SUPER SONS #13 (DC, 2018) – “The Parent Trap! Part One,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Carlo Barberi. I can’t remember much about this issue. Damian and Jon are going to the same boarding school for some reason. Talia shows up at their school, and Damian and Jon learn that she’s accepted a contract to kill Lois.
DEPT. H #23 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. On her way to the surface, Mia thinks about all the evidence and realizes that the killer is Blake. He got rid of Hari to ensure that no one could cure the plague, because he (Blake) wants to kill half the world’s population. As usual, people who are worried about overpopulation are only willing to solve the problem by killing other people, never themselves. The issue ends with Mia struggling to reach the surface.
HEATHEN #1 (Comixology, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Natasha Alterici. I saw some positive reviews of this comic on Twitter, and remembered that I had gotten the first issue of it at NYCC – it was a free comic distributed at the Comixology booth. This series is a gender-swapped version of Siegfried, in which a female warrior tries to rescue Brunhilde from the magic fire. It feels like a very progressive and queer story, and Alterici’s art is fascinating. Her style is hard to describe, but it feels both line-drawn and painted at once. It appears that this series was initially published only on Comixology, but is now being released in print form by Vault. I ordered the latest issue, and will be looking for the others.
DEE VEE #1 (Dee Vee, 1997) – various stories, [E] Marcus Moore & Daren White. An anthology of Australian comics. The lead story is by Eddie Campbell, and I believe it was later incorporated into Alec: How to Be an Artist. Most of the other stories in the issue are quite short and insubstantial. Besides Eddie, creators represented in this issue include Pete Mullins and Bruce Mutard.
MONSTRESS #14 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. Maika tries to activate the Pontus shield, but instead destroys it. Meanwhile, Kippa discovers a refugee camp full of other foxes. More on this series later.
WONDER WOMAN/CONAN #6 (DC, 2018) – “A Feast of Forbidden Flesh,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Aaron Lopresti. Diana defies her mother’s orders and leads an Amazon army to help Conan. They free the slaves, including Yanna. But it turns out Yanna is already married with children, so she and Conan don’t end up together. Then, in the present day, Diana encounters a man who looks a lot like Conan. I wonder if Gail was thinking of the “Conan the Salaryman” Twitter account here – I doubt it though. Overall, this issue is a slightly weak conclusion. I think Gail has trouble writing satisfactory conclusions, though I can’t think of any other specific examples of this problem.
PUNKS NOT DEAD #1 (IDW, 2018) – “Don’t Let Them Take You Alive: Teenage Kcks, Part One,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Martin Simmonds. This is the only Black Crown title whose creators are completely new to me. I took a bit of a risk by ordering it, but I trust Shelly Bond’s ability to spot talent, and it turns out that this is a pretty good comic. It stars a lonely, fatherless teenage boy who encounters the ghost of Sid Vicious. It’s a fun comic that makes good use of ‘70s nostalgia, and Simmonds’s art style is distinctive and unique.
SUPERB #7 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “What Could Possibly Go Wrong?”, [W] David Walker & Sheena Howard, [A] Alitha Martinez. Corinna betrays Kayla and Jonah and summons her other teammates to recapture them. This is still a funny and cute comic, but its plot has been moving very slowly. I think the last five or six issues have all taken place on the same day.
KID LOBOTOMY #5 (Black Crown, 2018) – “The Boy with Two Hearts,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Tess Fowler. This series gets more confusing with every issue. This issue, lots of confusing stuff happens, Adam Mee shoots his own hand off, Kid Lobotomy is renamed “Milligan,” and then he falls into a hole into some kind of desert filled with goblins.
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS #2 (Tower, 1966) – “Dynamo Battles Dynavac,” [W] Len Brown, [A] Wally Wood, plus other stories. Most of this issue’s stories revolve around the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents’ battle with the Warlord, who dies at the end of the issue, except it turns out he was just one member of an entire alien race of Warlords. Wally Wood’s amazing artwork is the primary appeal of the issue. Also, Alice and Kitten get a few chances to do useful stuff rather than just being hostages. Some of the non-Woody stories in this issue are a bit tedious.
ONI DOUBLE FEATURE #13 (Oni, 1999) – Jingle Belle in “Sanity Clauses,” [W] Paul Dini, [A] Stephen DiStefano, and “The Honor Rollers, Part 2,” [W] Paul Dini, [A] Tom Fowler. This is the last issue and is billed as “Dini Double Feature” on the cover. In the first story, Jing struggles to win her father’s respect, only to immediately forfeit it once she gets it. The backup story isn’t as good; it makes no sense if you haven’t read the previous issue.
MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #28 (Marvel, 2018) – “1+2=Fantastic Three, Part 4: Three is Not Enough,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Lunella, Ben and Johnny defeat the Super-Skrull with help from the Silver Surfer, then because of some complicated handwaving, Lunella needs to recruit a fourth member for her Fantastic Four. This storyline has been much less impressive than the previous one.
BLACK PANTHER #170 (Marvel, 2018) – “Avengers of the New World, Part 11,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Leonard Kirk. While the fight goes on, Changamire has a long conversation with Killmonger. Asira shows up at the end of the issue. Google indicates that this is the same character as Queen Divine Justice. I can’t remember much about this issue now, and I think Avengers of the New World has been going on way too long. Ta-Nehisi ought to end it already and move on to something else.
ROYAL CITY #10 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. All four Pikes go to a party where Tara has an uncomfortable conversation with her babydaddy, and Tommy loses his virginity. So I guess there are two possibilities as to which of the siblings is the parent of Patrick’s niece. Or even three, because who knows what Richie’s been up to.
ATOMIC ROBO AND THE SPECTRE OF TOMORROW #5 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. Robo defeats Helsingard with help from his drones and ALAN. I don’t remember who ALAN is, but apparently he appeared in Ghost of Station X, and he was an evil AI created by Alan Turing. At the end of the issue, the drones introduce themselves as ALAN. The best thing about this issue may be the cover, which shows Robo’s two assistants looking in a bathroom mirror.
MOTHERLANDS #2 (Vertigo, 2018) – “Two,” [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Stephen Byrne. This is only issue 2 and it already has a guest artist, which is not a good sign. And speaking of the art, I couldn’t initially tell that the assassin at the end of the issue was supposed to be tiny in size. This issue, Tabitha and her mother continue their quest for Tabitha’s brother. This series is okay, but not as exciting as Spire or Angelic.
THE TERRIFICS #1 (DC, 2018) – “Meet the Terrifics,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Ivan Reis. This issue introduces DC’s version of the Fantastic Four, consisting of Mr. Terrific, Phantom Girl/Lady, Plastic Man, and Metamorpho. This is a very entertaining comic and a good debut issue. However, it comes with two major annoyances. First, Phantom Girl is probably my favorite Legionnaire, and I’m annoyed that the Phantom Girl in this series is Tinya Wazzo in everything but name. Why couldn’t they have just named her Tinya instead of “Linnya”? It’s not as if DC had any other plans for the original Tinya Wazzo, and there’s a long tradition of Legionnaires getting stuck in the 20th century. Second, Tom Strong appears at the end of the issue. Incorporating Tom Strong into the DC Universe is not as much of a crime as incorporating the Watchmen into the DC Universe. Tom Strong has already been written by writers other than Alan Moore, with Alan’s full support. However, Alan went to great lengths to ensure that the ABC characters wouldn’t become DC’s property, even when DC unexpectedly bought Wildstorm, and it’s very annoying that Alan wasn’t able to protect his characters from DC. Neither of these annoyances are bad enough to get me to stop reading Terrifics, but they do diminish my enjoyment of this series.
WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #144 (Dell, 1952) – untitled (Spending Money), [W/A] Carl Barks, plus other stories. This is one of the oldest comics I own. Just after I moved to Oxford, I bought this and two other old duck comics from a local antique store, at a very cheap price. Somehow I never got around to actually reading them, but I feel proud just to own them. In this issue’s Barks ten-pager, Scrooge has too much money to keep anywhere, so he hires Donald to spend the excess money. Scrooge and the nephews go out and make all sorts of wasteful purchases, but it turns out that they made all the purchases at businesses Scrooge already owns, so Scrooge ends up with more money than he started with. This story can be read as a satire or reductio ad absurdum of capitalism. Barks said that if Scrooge really existed, he would never spend any money and would steadily grow richer while everyone else grew poorer. (I don’t know the source for this quotation; I read it in Ana Merino’s El comic hispanico, where it’s quoted from Charles Bergquist’s Labor and the Course of American Democracy, but I don’t know where Bergquist got it.) This story illustrates that point. The other stories in this issue are much worse, and one of them, starring Little Hiawatha, is horribly racist.
L.E.G.I.O.N. ’89 #9 (DC, 1989) – “Second Chances,” [W/A] Keith Giffen, [W] Alan Grant, [A] Barry Kitson. Speaking of characters who aren’t Phantom Girl… This is a fun comic with a lot of concurrent plotlines, but is most notable for introducing Phase, who was clearly supposed to be Phantom Girl. This character was later retconned multiple times: first she was revealed to be Tinya’s cousin, Enya Wazzo, and then it turned out that Apparition was half Cargggite and Phase was one of her three bodies. This sort of convoluted continuity is why if DC ever revives the Legion, they should just restart it from scratch.
DOOM PATROL #31 (DC, 1990) – “The Word Made Flesh,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Richard Case. Will Magnus builds a new body for Robotman. Willoughby Kipling, a character rather similar to John Constantine, enlists the Doom Patrol to help him defeat the Cult of the Unwritten Book. This was an okay issue.
DINOSAUR REX #3 (Fantagraphics, 1987) – untitled, [W] Jan Strnad, [A] Henry Mayo. I don’t know what I expected from this comic, but I certainly didn’t expect a P.G. Wodehouse parody with dinosaurs. It works surprisingly well, though – but I guess P.G. Wodehouse can be mashed up with just about any genre. More specifically, this issue is about a rich, airheaded dinosaur hunter with an extremely competent lizard butler. It’s a very entertaining and funny story, and it’s too bad this series has been completely forgotten. This issue also has a backup story, “The Dragons of Summer,” by William Messner-Loebs and Dennis Fujitake.
FRENCH ICE #4 (Renegade, 1987) – Carmen Cru in “Sunday Afternoon” and other stories, [W/A] Jean-Marc Lelong. I buy a lot of comic books, and as a result I have a lot of unread comic books – about seven and a half long boxes of them, at the moment. My unread comics are organized in the order in which I bought them, so the comics I bought the least recently are the furthest back. French Ice #4 was at the very back of the last box. I bought several issues of this series some years ago, but never read most of them. After finally reading this issue, I understand why. This issue contains a series of stories about a hideous old crone living in some French city. Lelong’s artwork is quite realistic, but these stories all have the same joke: that Carmen Cru is an awful old battleaxe who drives all her neighbors crazy and doesn’t care. Reading several of these stories in succession is very tedious. It would have been better if this series had been an anthology, with one Carmen Cru story per issue, plus stories by other artists.
BATGIRL #20 (DC, 2018) – “Cold Snap, Part Two,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Sami Basri. While trying to figure out who hacked some weather satellites, Batgirl discovers the Penguin’s plot to brainwash Gotham’s citizens into trusting him. It turns out the other villain behind the plot is the Penguin’s son, who is pissed at Batgirl for giving him a scar. This issue’s plot reminds me a bit of that of Batman Returns. The highlight of this issue is when Babs tells the mayor that “something smells fishy,” meaning it metaphorically. And the mayor replies “of course” and points to the Penguin’s penguins, who are being fed raw fish.
ARCHIE #26 (Archie, 2018) – “If I Could Reach His Face,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Audrey Mok. Archie and Veronica have a heart-to-heart talk which ends with Veronica asking him to choose her or Betty. Meanwhile, Dilton professes his love to Betty and asks her to choose him or Archie. I know I complain about Mark Waid a lot, but the issues of Archie from #20 onward are perhaps the best-written Archie comics I’ve ever read. They’re funny and powerful at once. I should also note that this issue includes an effective critique of the sexist notion of the “friend zone.”
NOW #1 (Fantagraphics, 2017) – many stories, [E] Eric Reynolds. This counts as a comic book because it has an issue number and it fits inside a longbox. This anthology is a collection of a wide variety of avant-garde comics, some very abstract and others more straightforward. Highlights include: Eleanor Davis’s “Hurt or Fuck” makes little logical sense but is beautiful to look at. Dash Shaw’s “Scorpio” is a possibly autobiographical story in which a baby is born on election night in 2016, while his father is obsessively checking exit poll results. At the end, the father doesn’t have the heart to tell the mother who won. This is kind of heartbreaking. Jean-Christophe Menu’s “SOS Suitcases” feels like an account of a dream, but is beautifully drawn. Noah Van Sciver’s “Wall of Shame” was my favorite story of the issue. Noah returns to his hometown for an art show, but the trip is ruined by his brother’s boorish behavior (not his best-known brother, another one). The story is an insightful and honest account of a complicated sibling relationship. Matt Sheean and Malachi Ward’s “Widening Horizon” is an interesting piece of alternate history.
A1 #4 (Atomeka, 1990) – various stories, [E] Dave Elliott & Garry Leach. There’s lots of interesting stuff in this issue, although it’s much more uneven than Now #1. One section of the issue is devoted to rare work by Moebius, including an autobiographical story from 1974 in which Moebius is interviewed. There’s also a new Dalgoda story by Jan Strnad and Kevin Nowlan, which was a surprise, since I had thought I’d read all of Dalgoda. This story appears to take place after Flesh & Bones. This issue includes two stories I’ve read elsewhere: “A Lot on His Plate” by John Bolton, and “Song of the Terraces” from the Bojeffries Saga. After rereading the latter, I had the refrain “Sun, Sun, Sun, Sun, Sun, Guardian, Sun” running through my head. Other stories in this issue feature art by Jamie Hewlett, Phil Elliott and Glenn Fabry.
THE BEEF #1 (Image, 2018) – “Mudsville,” [W] Richard Starkings & Tyler Shainline, [A] Shaky Kane. This miniseries stars a bullied young boy who grows up to work at a slaughterhouse, while still being tormented by his childhood bullies. After a lifetime of emotional abuse and of absorbing chemicals from beef, he turns into the Hulk, more or less. This issue’s plot is surprisingly effective, although the highlight is Shaky Kane’s Kirbyesque art and his impressive sense of design.
KILL OR BE KILLED #7 (Image, 2017) – “What Kira Sees,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Dylan’s girlfriend Kira goes to a therapist and discusses her traumatic family history. Then she talks with her old, sick mother, who’s in the hospital. This issue is an effective exploration of Kira’s psychology, but I didn’t remember much about it before I looked at it again.
WEIRD SCIENCE #6 (EC, 1951/1993) – four stories, [E] Bill Gaines. This issue begins with Al Feldstein’s “Spawn of Venus.” This story is not bad, but Wally Wood did a better version of it, which went unpublished until 1969. The highlight of the issue is Kurtzman’s “Man and Superman,” which stars two brothers-in-law: Niels Urey Vannever, a nerd (probably named after Niels Bohr, Harold Urey and Vannevar Bush), and Charlemagne Farbish, a bodybuilder. Charlemagne tries to use a machine built by Niels to increase his body mass, but kills himself. While this story’s plot is kind of dumb, Kurtzman does a brilliant job of contrasting Niels and Charlemagne, while also showing that they’re both equally awful. I was reading Bridget Blodgett and Anastasia Salter’s book Toxic Geek Masculinity when I read this comic, and “Man and Superman” is a perfect demonstration of that book’s thesis that geek masculinity is potentially just as bad as normative masculinity. Of the other stories in the issue, Woody’s “The Sinking of the Titanic” is super-predictable but well-drawn, and Jack Kamen’s “Divide and Conquer” is really creepy.
KILL OR BE KILLED #12 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Dylan tracks down Tino, a member of the Russian mob, and gets a bunch of information out of Tino before killing him. Tino tells Dylan that the mob will never stop looking for him because he killed the big boss’s cousin. This was not the most memorable issue.
KILL OR BE KILLED #13 (Image, 2017) – as above. Dylan and Kira go to Dylan’s mother’s house, where Dylan looks through his dad’s old artwork for clues about the demon that’s possessing him. Then Dylan goes off to hunt down the big boss, and that leads us to the point of the flashforward from issue 1.
THE HIGHEST HOUSE #1 (IDW, 2018) – “Obsidian’s Bargain, Part 1,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. I was surprised to discover that this comic is magazine-sized, and that it takes place in a medieval fantasy world, rather than present-day Earth. I expected something more like Locke & Key. This comic’s protagonist is a poor boy who is sold as a slave to the master of the namesake house. He gets trained to be a roofer, but he obviously has some kind of magic powers. I’m curious to see where this is going.
ZERO ZERO #6 (Fantagraphics, 1995) – various stories, [E] Kim Thompson. The clear highlight of this anthology comic is Kim Deitch’s “The Strange Secret of Molly O’Dare.” This is a very typical Deitch comic. It blends fairy-tale fantasy with Hollywood nostalgia, and has a framing sequence starring Kim himself. Like much of Kim’s work, it’s also very creepy, sordid and unsettling. This story was later collected in the book Shadowland, along with the series of that name, which also stars Molly O’Dare. The other longer stories in this issue are by Bob Richard Sala and Ted Stearn. Besides Deitch, the creators represented in Zero Zero seem to have been among the lesser Fantagraphics artists, and I actively disliked the Ted Stearn story in this issue.
CHEVAL NOIR #19 (Fantagraphics, 1991) – various stories, [E] Mike Richardson. I have a bunch of issues of this series, but I haven’t been reading them because they’re quite long. This series included a wide variety of excellent French comics plus some Anglophone material, although unfortunately it was in black and white, and some of the material in it was really meant to be seen in color. This issue includes chapters of Andreas’s Rork, Rosinski and Van Hamme’s The Great Power of the Chninkel, Cosey’s Voyage to Italy, and Tardi’s Adele Blanc-Sec. I’m already familiar with a couple of these, but I was really impressed by the Cosey story, and I want to read the rest of this album. However, the Rork story was confusing and abstract and difficult to understand. The low point of this issue was a chapter of Marvano’s overly literal and uninspired adaptation of Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War.
NOW #2 (Fantagraphics, 2018) – various stories, [E] Eric Reynolds. This wasn’t as good as issue 1. The best stories were Tommi Musturi’s “Samuel,” Susan Jonaitis and Graham Chaffee’s “Sharpshooter,” and Ariel López V’s “A Perfect Triangle,” and none of them were as good as the Van Sciver story from #1. Some of the other stories in this issue were really not to my taste. James Turek’s 30-page “Saved” makes no sense and is drawn in an ugly style. Another big chunk of the issue is taken up by Fabio Zimbres’s “The Apocalypse According to Dr. Zerg,” originally published as a minicomic in Brazil. Matt Madden translated it, and he really likes it, but I don’t share his enthusiasm. I suppose this story has an interesting message about capitalism, but it’s so crudely drawn that the message is hard to appreciate.
My next new comics shipment arrived on March 9:
THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #34 (Image, 2018) – “The Grace of Loving Machines,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. We begin with a flashback to 6000 years ago, when Ananke kills her own sister and collects her head, adding it to a bag of other severed heads. I guess that sort of explains why Minerva was also collecting severed heads, but I still have no idea what’s going on here.
MECH CADET YU #7 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. It turns out that Central Command is murdering robots in order to use their hearts for a super-robot. Stanford tries to stop this evil plot, with unexpected assistance from Park. The revelation that Central Command is killing robots is disappointing, but somehow not surprising; we’ve already seen that this organization is somewhat corrupt and non-transparent.
DODGE CITY #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Josh Trujillo, [A] Cara McGee. This is an attractively drawn comic with a multicultural cast, including a rare example of a Sikh character. However, this comic suffers from a lack of clarity. It’s about a dodgeball team, but I can’t tell if it’s a professional or a high school team, or if the characters are adults or teens. In general, there’s not enough background on the characters. So far, this comic is very similar to Slam, but worse.
ASSASSINISTAS #3 (IDW, 2018) – “Don’t Find Me – I’m Allergic to You!”, [W] Tini Howard, [A] Gilbert Hernandez. In the present day, Octavia, Dominic and Tyler’s rescue mission continues. In the flashback, we learn that Roz has a daughter, Roxana. This was another really fun issue of what has become a very entertaining series, especially compared to some of Beto’s other recent works like Blubber.
GIANT DAYS #36 (Boom!, 2018) – “Daisy Finally Comes to Her Senses,” [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. That’s not the real title. The main event of this issue is that Daisy finally breaks up with Ingrid, who outs Daisy to her grandmother in revenge. A subplot involves Esther and her Middle English class. The best moment of the issue is when Esther says “Wel oghten we to doon al oure entente,” and it’s lettered in Gothic lettering.
SCALES & SCOUNDRELS #7 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] Galaad. Esther and Prince Aki reach the treasure, but it turns out that the dude with the two dogs got there first, and that he, like Lu, is a dragon. This leads to a giant fight scene, which includes the best line in the issue: “Am I the only one here who isn’t a dragon?” Unfortunately, the storytelling in the fight scene is less clear than it could have been. At the end of the issue, Lu and her companions go their separate ways, but this isn’t the last issue. I guess the next storyline will focus on Lu alone.
BINGO LOVE (Image, 2018) – “Bingo Love,” [W] Tee Franklin, [A] Jenn St.-Onge. Bingo Love is of the best and most important comics of 2018. Its story and artwork are straightforward, appealing and accessible, but it explores characters and experiences that are completely invisible in most other comics. It tells the story of two black girls who fall in love as teenagers, but who are separated and forced into marriage by their families, and don’t meet again until they’ve both become grandmothers. As a queer, disabled black woman, Tee Franklin has firsthand knowledge that’s unavailable to most comic creators, who tend to be straight white non-disabled men, and she effectively conveys that knowledge. Another thing that struck me about Bingo Love is that it’s about black people, but it’s not about racism. It’s unquestionably an African-American story – it relies on cultural practices and beliefs that are specific to African-Americans. But it’s not about the African-American struggle for freedom. The oppression that the characters struggle against is black homophobia, not white racism – indeed, there are almost no white people in the book. This is important because as pointed out in Denene Millner’s NYT article “Black Kids Don’t Want to Read About Harriet Tubman All the Time,” black readers need books that explore all aspects of their experience. Bingo Love shows black people leading rich emotional lives that are not defined solely by racism, and we need comics like that, as well as comics like March.
A couple minor criticisms are that Tee Franklin’s dialogue is occasionally somewhat wooden, and that one important plot point is left out; to learn James’s secret, the reader has to read Bingo Love: Secrets, which isn’t out yet. However, it’s pretty clear that James’s secret is that he too is gay – notice that he never mentions his lover’s gender. Also, this story covers a very long timeframe, and a lot of important events happen off-panel. Usually this is fine, because the main focus of the book is Hazel and Mari’s relationship, and the other aspects of their lives aren’t as important. But it does feel like handwaving when Hazel says “We eventually started family therapy. It took some time, but our family healed.” I feel like that event is important enough that it deserved more than a single dialogue box.
INCOGNEGRO: RENAISSANCE #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Cotton,” [W] Mat Johnson, [A] Warren Pleece. Here, on the other hand, is a black-authored comic that’s explicitly about racism – and I didn’t mean that such comics weren’t important, just that comics should depict other aspects of black life as well. This issue, Zane passes as white and infiltrates the Cotton Club to gather evidence, but he accomplishes nothing, and experiences both racism and hostility from other black people. (Though the scene where the coat check guy helps Zane escape is kind of touching.) Among the many brutal scenes in this issue, one that struck me was when the dude refuses to talk to Zane because he’s a reporter for the black press, not the “real press.” Unfortunately, that mentality is still common today.
HAWKEYE #16 (Marvel, 2018) – “Family Reunion,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Leonardo Romero. A sweet conclusion to a series that really shouldn’t have been cancelled. Kate and Clint defeat Madame Masque, and Kate convinces Eden Blake to have a change of heart. And we learn that Kate’s mother is alive. And that’s the end. I really hope Kelly gets to tell the rest of this story somehow.
GREEN LANTERN #107 (DC, 1978) – “The Man Who Murdered Green Lantern!”, [W] Bob Rozakis, [A] Alex Saviuk. A bad fill-in story by a mediocre creative team. It guest-stars Air-Wave, who I think was Bob Rozakis’s pet character or something. There’s also a backup story starring Katma Tui. BTW, this story mentions how in Katma Tui’s first appearance, she decided to remain a Green Lantern rather than get married. Was this plot point mentioned when Katma actually did get married? I can’t remember.
ROGUE & GAMBIT #3 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Pere Pérez. This issue begins with a flashback to the Antarctica story in X-Men #348, which I have never read – it was just after I quit reading X-Men – but now I kind of want to track it down. Then Rogue and Gambit have sex, which is rather heartwarming, since I grew up with these characters and I always assumed that their passion was hopeless. And then Rogue and Gambit fight a bunch of copies of themselves. The nice thing about this series is that it draws heavily upon the early ‘90s X-Men, but it’s better written than those X-Men comics were.
I HATE FAIRYLAND #17 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Skottie Young. Duncan Dragon becomes a postal courier and delivers a package to a witch, who uses it to summon a demon, which I assume is Gert. This issue had some nice jokes, including the scene with the devil hanging out at the beach, but it was otherwise forgettable.
GIDEON FALLS #1 (Image, 2018) – “The Speed of Pain,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. This is a new Jeff Lemire comic, so I have high expectations for it, but I’m not sure what’s going on in it. This issue has two storylines – one about a crazy man who collects nails, and another about a priest who takes over a church whose previous priest died mysteriously – and it’s not clear what these storylines have to do with each other.
RISE OF THE BLACK PANTHER #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Mr. Follow Follow,” [W] Evan Narcisse, [A] Paul Renaud. T’Challa invites a bunch of foreign dignitaries to Wakanda, one of whom turns out to be the Soviet superheroine Darkstar, and she’s accompanied by the Winter Soldier. This was a pretty good issue, and it was interesting to compare the foreigners’ and the Wakandans’ reactions to each other. However, I had trouble remembering anything about this issue until I looked through it again just now.
TRUE BELIEVERS: VENOM VS. SPIDER-MAN #1 (Marvel, 1988/2018) – “Venom,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] Todd McFarlane. I had never read this story before – an original copy of Amazing Spider-Man #300 is outside my price range, and somehow I’d never read it in reprinted form. This story is a classic, despite Todd’s exploitative depictions of Mary Jane. It has a lot of cute moments, like when Peter and MJ invite some friends to help them move, and one of the friends is Alfred E. Neuman. But the key themes of the story are Venom’s irrational hatred of Spider-Man and MJ’s traumatic reaction to being terrorized by Venom, and those themes come across powerfully.
PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #300 (Marvel, 2018) – “Showdown,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Adam Kubert & Juan Frigeri. This issue’s main story is essentially just a big long fight scene, which ends with Peter, Teresa and JJJ going back in time to acquire the technology they need to stop the Tinkerer’s plot. The backup story is far more memorable. The Black Cat proposes marriage to Spider-Man, but it turns out she just did it to throw off his spider-sense so she could escape from him with her loot. This scene is hilarious even if you don’t realize it’s a parody of the scene where Catwoman proposes to Batman.
NO BETTER WORDS #nn (Silver Sprocket, 2018) – “No Better Words,” [W/A] Carolyn Nowak. This small-format comic is also labeled as Silver #080. It’s a simple but very effective story about a young woman who has sex with her boyfriend for the first time. It’s a powerful, sex-positive depiction of female desire. I couldn’t remember where I’d heard of Carolyn Nowak before, but she’s drawn a bunch of Lumberjanes stories. Now I wish I’d ordered her upcoming collection Girl Town.
SHE-HULK #162 (Marvel, 2018) – “Jen Walters Must Die,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Jahnoy Lindsay. Jen visits Flo for a therapy session. This comic reminds me of X-Factor #87 or Hulk #393, but it’s worse than either. I didn’t feel emotionally connected to Jen’s mental struggle, which is odd, since Mariko Tamaki’s depiction of Jen’s trauma has been the best thing about this series. Maybe I didn’t give this issue a fair chance.
SHE-HULK #163 (Marvel, 2018) – “Jen Walters Must Die” (again), [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Diego Olortegui. This was a better issue, and a reasonably satisfying conclusion to this run. Jen and Patsy attend a prom as guests of New York’s first mutant class president. The prom is invaded by anti-mutant terrorists. I like how this issue directly references alt-right terrorism.
CHEVAL NOIR #10 (Dark Horse, 1990) – various stories, [E] Mike Richardson. The highlight of this issue is a chapter of Schuiten and Peeters’s The Tower, about a fat, awkward scholar who lives in an infinitely tall tower. Ever since I read a different chapter of this same album in another issue of Cheval Noir, I’ve been fascinated with Schuiten and Peeters. I wish IDW would get around to releasing a new edition of this album; they’re supposed to be publishing the entire Obscure Cities series, but only three volumes have come out so far, and no others have been solicited. The other impressive story in this issue is a chapter of Tardi and Legrand’s Roach Killer, which, like much of Tardi’s other work, is a gritty, disturbing film noir-esque mystery. This entire album is included in the Fantagraphics book New York Mon Amour. Of the other comics in this issue, Marvano’s Forever War adaptation is not good, Andreas’s Coutoo is difficult to understand, and Druillet and Lob’s Lone Sloane: Delirius is crippled by the lack of color.
MOEBIUS COMICS #5 (Caliber, 1997) – various stories. A collection of random Moebius material, including storyboards from some kind of film, and a silent story starring the characters from The World of Edena, and a Western story from the ‘50s which is one of Moebius’s earliest works. The second of these appeared in Concrete Celebrates Earth Day, so I must have read it before, but I don’t remember it. The Western story is undistinguished, but it does remind me that Moebius’s biggest influence was Jijé, probably the most important French cartoonist whose work has never appeared in English. This issue also includes two Moebius pastiches by Ladronn and Steve Leialoha.
CHEVAL NOIR #5 (Dark Horse, 1990) – as above. This issue includes chapters of three albums I’ve already read: Schuiten and Peeters’s Fever in Urbicand, Tardi’s The Demon of the Eiffel Tower, and Druillet’s Lone Sloane. Stories in this issue that are new to me include Eddie Campbell’s Eyeball Kid, Andreas’s Rork, and Cailleteau and Vatine’s Fred & Bob, which is pure crap.
JEREMIAH: THE HEIRS #2 (Malibu, 1991) – “The Heirs,” [W/A] Hermann. I read the first half of this album a while ago, and I had to reread it to remind myself what’s going on. Jeremiah is basically a post-apocalyptic Western about an itinerant gunslinger and his dumb sidekick. In this album, Jeremiah encounters some rich people who are forcing the local poor people to work for them or starve. Hermann’s action sequences are exciting, and his draftsmanship is excellent, though it reminds me a lot of Moebius. This reprint is in black and white, though, which makes the artwork difficult to parse. French comics are often difficult to read when reprinted in black and white, because they make such heavy use of color to distinguish objects from each other.
SUPERBOY #130 (DC, 1966) – “Prince Rama’s Super Stand-In!”, [W] Jerry Siegel, [A] George Papp. Superboy visits a kingdom in Asia, presumably somewhere in India, whose prince is an exact double for him. This story is really dumb, and Siegel obviously knew nothing about India other than the most common stereotypes. The backup story, in which Superbaby tries to find a pet and causes all sorts of mayhem, is only a little better.
BLACK BOLT #10 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Midnight King Returns to Earth,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Christian Ward. Black Bolt and Titania chase Lash and the kidnapped Blinky to the ruined city of Orollan. Black Bolt has a partial reconciliation with Medusa. Blinky is possessed by the Jailer’s ghost. In this issue Christian Ward’s art and Saladin Ahmed’s prose style are really good, as usual. But I won’t miss this series all that much, because I know that both these creators are going on to other things.
BLACK BOLT #11 – as above. The battle continues. Inside the Jailer’s mind, Blinky encounters Black Bolt’s son, and they witness a scene from Black Bolt’s childhood. This issue is very similar to the previous issue, though that’s not a bad thing.
HATE #9 (Fantagraphics, 1992) – “Follow That Dream, Part 2,” [W/A] Peter Bagge. Buddy becomes the manager of Leonard/Stinky’s band, and takes advantage of his position in order to sleep with a girl and embezzle money. However, Buddy can’t stand Stinky’s music, or Stinky himself, for that matter. When the band goes on tour, tensions come to a head, and Stinky throws Buddy out of the van and abandons him in the middle of nowhere. And then the band also gets stuck in the middle of nowhere when the money runs out. This issue is a hilarious send-up of the early ‘90s alternative rock scene.
WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #291 (Western, 1964) – “Delivery Dilemma,” [W/A] Carl Barks, and other stories. In this issue’s Barks ten-pager, Scrooge signs a contract to deliver some eggs to a remote Pacific island. But it turns out the other party to the contract is the Beagle Boys, and Scrooge has to pay them his entire fortune if he can’t deliver the eggs. This leads to a thrilling chase where Scrooge does everything he can to reach the island, and the Beagle Boys do everything in their power to stop him or break the eggs. Oh, also it turns out the contract describes the eggs as rabbit eggs, which are logically impossible. This story is very similar to “The Doom Diamond” – they both include an ocean voyage to a remote island, and a technological arms race between Scrooge and the Beagle Boys. I wonder if Barks was running out of ideas. The only other interesting thing in this issue is a Mickey Mouse story by Fallberg and Murry.
GIANT-SIZE CONAN #2 (Marvel, 1974) – “Conan Bound!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Gil Kane. In this chapter of an adaptation of The Hour of the Dragon, Conan meets his future queen, Zenobia, for the first time. This is a really impressive story, a powerful demonstration of Conan’s character and of Roy Thomas’s writing skills. Zenobia is an exciting character and you can see why Conan falls for her, even if she’s more traditionally feminine than Bêlit or Red Sonja. This story is not to be confused with Conan Annual #4, in which Conan goes back for Zenobia. Giant-Size Conan #2 also includes a reprint of “Zukala’s Daughter” from Conan #5, my least favorite issue of BWS’s run.
SELF-LOATHING COMICS #2 (Fantagraphics, 1997) – “A Couple a’ Nasty, Raunchy Old Things,” [W/A] Robert Crumb & Aline Kominsky-Crumb. There is currently an ongoing debate on the comix-scholars list about Crumb’s legacy and his history of sexism and racism. This comic is one of Crumb’s less offensive works because it’s a collaboration with Aline, although it still contains some misogyny and some mild anti-Semitism. I feel like in order to enjoy Crumb, you have to make an effort to ignore or forgive his offensiveness, and it’s not fair to expect female or minority readers to make that effort. This issue also contains a bit too much obsessive navel-gazing. The value of this issue is its depiction of Bob and Aline’s relationship. It’s kind of heartwarming that they still find each other desirable after so many years of marriage. This issue also touches on their ambivalence about the fact that their daughter is growing up. Some panels in this issue are drawn by Art Spiegelman, Charles Burns and Pete Poplaski.
UNCANNY X-MEN #231 (Marvel, 1988) – “…Dressed for Dinner!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Rick Leonardi. A surprisingly enjoyable issue. Colossus visits Limbo to help out hs sister Magik, who still thinks he’s dead. Magik thinks Colossus is a demon she’s summoned and not the real thing, which makes the story extra poignant. The art is by Rick Leonardi, perhaps the most underrated Marvel artist of the ’80s and ‘90s. I don’t know why he never became a superstar; he was far more gifted than many other more famous artists.
TWISTED TALES #1 (Pacific, 1982) – variouus stories, [W] Bruce Jones. This horror anthology comic is very reminiscent of a classic EC comic. It consists of four stories with twist endings, and the first story even has Leroy lettering. My favorite is probably “A Walk in the Woods,” in which a couple gets lost in the woods and encounters situations from various fairy tales and nursery rhymes, ending with Jack and Jill. The best artwork is in Corben’s “Infected,” in which a man sleeps with a woman who has crabs, except not that kind of crabs. The story by Alfredo Alcala is disappointing because the quality of the artwork goes way down after the first page. The fourth story is about a boy who dies during a Halloween prank gone bad, and then comes back as a ghost and forces his murderers to go trick or treating with him.
MARVELS: EYE OF THE CAMERA #4 (Marvel, 2008) – “Deep Wounds,” [W] Kurt Busiek & Roger Stern, [A] Jay Anacleto. This issue continues Phil Seuling’s story into the ‘80s. Even more so than the original Marvels, this is a comic for hardcore fans. Nearly every page contains multiple references to ‘80s Marvel comics. To a reader like me, this comic offers unique pleasures, but it doesn’t offer much else besides that. A reader who didn’t get the references would miss most of the fun of this comic, and unlike the original Marvels, it’s not worth reading just for the art.
SUPERSTAR: AS SEEN ON TV #1 (Image, 2001) – “Superstar!”, [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Stuart Immonen. This one-shot introduces a new superhero who gets his power from “bio-energy” donations from other people – so to maintain his superhero status, he has to be a celebrity, so that lots of people will give him their energy. This is a really interesting premise. However, Kurt doesn’t sufficiently explore the fascinating implications of Superstar’s powers, and Superstar himself is overshadowed by his father, a horrible sociopath who takes advantage of his son. Superstar’s relationship with his father overshadows everything else in the comic, and I kept wishing that Superstar would stop being such a doormat and that he’d just cut his dad off already. There’s also an implication that Superstar’s dad is actually bankrolling all his supervillains (which is a plot twist we’ve seen at least once in Astro City, such as in the Mock Turtle/Red Queen story), but this is never confirmed. A further question this comic raises is why it wasn’t an issue of Astro City, because it easily could have been. In a 2000 interview, Kurt was asked that exact question, and he replied:
“If I put Superstar into ASTRO CITY, he’d be an ASTRO CITY character. ASTRO CITY is a vehicle for exploring the genre and finding out what life is like within a superhero reality — it’s only secondarily about adventure and thrills. So that would change the tone of the stories I’d do right there. And if I did Superstar in ASTRO CITY, I’d only be able to tell stories about him every now and then, since he’d share the book with the rest of the cast of dozens of superheroes and millions of ordinary people.” (https://www.cbr.com/shockrockets-and-superstars-kurt-busiek-interview/)
I wonder if Kurt still stands behind that answer. I feel like Astro City is varied enough in tone that it could easily accommodate a character like Superstar. And the part about not wanting Superstar to share the spotlight with other characters is ironic, because Kurt unfortunately never published any other Superstar stories. If Superstar had been an Astro City character, Kurt would have been able to tell more stories about him, not fewer.
New comics received on March 19. This was a very short week because I didn’t get my new comics until Tuesday:
MISTER MIRACLE #7 (DC, 2018) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. I’m a little annoyed that they skipped through Barda’s entire pregnancy, but the birth scene is thrilling and heartwarming, and is probably the best such scene in any comic book since Miracleman #9. As usual in this series, this issue combines cosmic characters with very mundane situations. I love the scenes with the Female Furies sitting in the waiting room. The use of the Fahren-Knife to cut the umbilical cord is a powerful scene, though I’m not sure what it means.
THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #30 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Forbidden Pla-Nut” conclusion, [W] Ryan North, [A] Erica Henderson. This was my favorite issue in a while, perhaps because there were few other new comics this week, so I was able to give this issue my full attention rather than being distracted by other stuff. Having dealt with the fake Surfer, Doreen faces the even more difficult task of getting hundreds of enemy alien races to reconcile. My favorite line in this issue is “a-whooby whooby whooby woo,” but this issue is full of great moments, such as Tippy becoming the Silver Squirrel, and Nancy being baffled by the alien bathroom. Also, Erica does a great job of drawing aliens that really look alien. I’m sorry to hear that she’s leaving this comic, but I congratulate her on an amazing run.
ETERNITY GIRL #1 (DC, 2018) – “Jumper,” [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Sonny Liew. An excellent debut issue, starring a former superheroine who can’t control her powers and is losing her grip on reality, and who keeps trying to kill herself but failing. This issue is a powerful depiction of depression and the difficulty of recovering from it. My one question is why this character is called Eternity Girl and not Element Girl, because that’s more or less who she is, and it’s obvious that this comic is inspired by Sandman #20.
PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #301 (Marvel, 2018) – “Amazing Fantasy – Part One,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Joe Quinones. This is probably Chip’s best issue yet. Peter, Teresa and JJJ’s visit to Peter’s past leads to all sorts of great moments, and Chip writes a lot of good dialogue. Especially fun moments include young Peter saying “Nice try, Mysterio”; the two Spider-Men joining forces to drive Doc Ock crazy with their banter; and the older JJJ being indistinguishable from the older JJJ.
DRY COUNTY #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Rich Tommaso. Like Dark Corridor, Dry County is essentially a film noir story. In Miami, a cartoonist named Lou Rossi encounters an attractive woman who turns out to be hiding from her abusive boyfriend. This comic is another brilliant display of Tommaso’s artwork and design sense, but it’s not initially clear where its story is going. I guess the plot is that Lou will have to protect Janet from her ex-boyfriend.
ENCOUNTER #1 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “Encounter!”, [W/A] Chris Giarrusso, [W] Art Baltazar & Franco. This comic is obviously reminiscent of Aw Yeah Comics!, but it also reminds me of E-Man, because it’s about a shapeshifting alien who crashlands on Earth and is adopted by a human woman. The similarity to E-Man is a good thing, because Baltazar, Franco and Giarrusso have a cute, funny sensibility that’s similar to that of Cuti and Staton. I need to remember to keep ordering this series.
HANDS OF THE DRAGON #1 (Atlas/Seaboard, 1975) – “The Hands of the Dragon,” [W] Ed Fedory, [A] Jim Craig. Even compared to other Atlas/Seaboard comics, this comic is terrible. Like many mid-‘70s comics, it’s an attempt to catch in on the contemporary kung fu fad. But it offers nothing you wouldn’t find in any issue of Yang or Karate Kid or Iron Fist, and it’s significantly worse than any of those comics, let alone Master of Kung Fu.
MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Mad Company,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Valerio Schiti. Ben and Johnny visit Rachna Koul, a biologist who helps superheroes and villains with their powers. She reminds me a bit of Edna Mode, and has a nicely forceful personality. Hercules and the Mad Thinker also make guest appearances. This was an okay but not great issue.
MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Forward,” as above. Ben, Johnny and Rachna visit an alternate universe where Ben died fighting Galactus, and Doom stole Galactus’s power and ate the entire universe except for Earth. Again, this issue was good, but nothing spectacular.
New comics received on Friday, March 23:
MS. MARVEL #28 (Marvel, 2018) – “Teenage Wasteland, Part Four,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. Naftali tracks down Kamala, who has been living at an exclusive snotty private school, and finally gives her her sandwich. Kamala teams up with Captain Marvel and the Substitute Kamalas to defeat the Inventor. The splash page where Kamala returns is an awesome moment. In general, this was a heartwarming issue, and it was the first comic in months in which Captain Marvel isn’t completely awful. This issue is also full of nice gags and visual puns. One that I noticed while flipping through it just now is the panel that depicts both sides of the private school’s wall, with light inside and darkness and graffiti outside.
RUNAWAYS #7 (Marvel, 2018) – “Best Friends Forever, Part 1,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. If not for my intense loyalty to Ms. Marvel and Squirrel Girl, Runaways would be my favorite current Marvel title, and this is another excellent issue. Molly goes back to school and has a wonderful time, except there’s something weird about her new best friend, Abigail. Molly’s happiness at school is just adorable, though the best panel in the issue is the one where Old Lace gulps down the cheeseburger. Also, Nico and Karolina have a long conversation, and Julie Power appears as a voice on the telephone. I do feel like Molly should probably be a couple years older at this point, but oh well.
PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS YEAR TWO #6 (Action Lab, 2018) – “The Heart of the Sea,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Christine Hipp. In the undersea kingdom, Sunshine falls for a new character, Ananda. This issue effectively depicts Sunshine’s growing desire, but I’m concerned about the fact that none of the other protagonists appears in it. I almost feel as if Jeremy has stopped focusing on the main Princeless series because he was more interested in Raven, and now it seems like he’s repeating that pattern by ignoring Raven and focusing on Sunshine instead.
MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #64 (IDW, 2018) – “Everything Old,” [W] Thom Zahler, [A] Andy Price. This was a great issue. On a visit to Manhattan, Rarity is shocked to learn that ‘80s fashion is popular again, while Fluttershy learns that starting an animal shelter involves a lot of bureaucracy. As usual, each pony solves the other’s problem by accident. Andy’s artwork in this issue is some of his best in a long time. Because of this comic’s fashion theme, Andy gets lots of opportunities to display his design sense, and his nouveau-‘80s costumes look fantastic.
USAGI YOJIMBO #166 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “The Hidden, Part 1,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. This issue is also listed as Usagi Yojimbo: The Hidden #1 and as #232 in a series. After a lot of shorter Usagi stories, it’s finally time for a seven-part epic. Most of this issue consists of a chase sequence in which a samurai is hunted down and murdered because of an item he was carrying, only we don’t learn what it is. In the epilogue, we learn that the murder has something to do with Kirishitans, or Japanese crypto-Christians. Stan previously addressed this theme in issue #76, where Usagi helped smuggle a package that turned out to contain a cross, but “The Hidden” will address Japan’s persecution of Christians at much greater length. I wonder if Stan has a personal stake in this story – I don’t know if he himself identifies as Christian.
DEPT. H #24 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. An ambiguous conclusion. Mia makes it to the surface, where she ends up stranded on a literal desert island. At the end, a ship comes for her, but I’m not sure whose ship it is – although I guess I could look through the previous issues and check if we’ve seen it before. This was a good series, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as MIND MGMT.
BABYTEETH #9 (AfterShock, 2018) – “Fathers of Daughters,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. Sadie’s mom imprisons Sadie and her dad, just as the old assassin dude invades the compound. Heather wakes the baby, possibly at the cost of her own life, and even more mayhem ensues. I think it would actually make sense in terms of narrative logic if Heather died now, because she’s dominated the story so much that Sadie hasn’t had a chance to emerge from her shadow.
THE MIGHTY THOR #705 (Marvel, 2018) – “Sundown,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Russell Dauterman. In a flashback, we finally witness the moment when Jane lifts the hammer. There follows an epic fight scene, which ends with Jane tying the Mangog to Mjolnir and throwing them both into the sun. Of course, this also results in Jane’s inevitable but tragic death. “The Death of the Mighty Thor” isn’t over yet, but I’m already willing to declare it one of the best Thor stories ever – it’s the best run of Thor comics in thirty years, and Aaron and Dauterman are by far the best creative team on Thor since Walt Simonson left.
MONSTRESS #15 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. As usual, this issue’s main plot is impossible to understand. What’s really interesting about it, besides the art, is the subplots involving Kippa and Ren. Kippa wants to rescue her fellow foxes from slavery or death, but Ren’s evil cat bosses (well, that’s redundant) want him to betray Kippa and bring her to them.
SUPER SONS #14 (DC, 2018) – “The Parent Trap! Part Two: Blood Relative,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Carlo Barberi. Jon and Damian rescue Lois from Talia. This was a fun issue, though not the best issue of this series. It sucks that Super Sons only has two more issues left, but I assume DC has some kind of plans for these characters.
INFINITY 8 #1 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “Love and Mummies,” [W] Lewis Trondheim & Zep, [A] Dominique Bertail. I’m excited that Lion Forge is publishing this new series by Trondheim, and in comics format no less. It’s a fairly conventional SF adventure story, about a space adventurer who’s fighting an invasion of alien zombies while also looking for a prospective father for her child… actually that doesn’t sound conventional at all, now that I write it out. Dominique Bertail is a gifted artist who does a fascinating job of depicting aliens, especially the captain, an indescribable giant blue thing with a smiley face. This comic does have a lot of T&A, and the protagonist feels like a man’s sexist notion of a strong female character. But characters like her are not unusual in French comics – she reminds me a bit of Barbarella or Roxana.
FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #8 (DC, 2018) – “First Contact,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Steve Lieber. I haven’t read #7 yet because I wasn’t especially interested in the Birdman storyline. This issue is more appealing because it’s written by Jeff Parker, and because Mightor is a more exciting character. Parker writes him as a really good kid whose family inspires him to be a hero, so he’s a lot like Johnny and Hadji. The plot, in which Mightor battles an invading alien, is negligible but entertaining.
DESCENDER #28 (Image, 2018) – “Old Worlds 2 of 2,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Finally the relevance of the current storyline becomes clear. Professor Osris discovers that the sentient robots are called the Descenders (hence we finally know why this comic is called Descender) and that they may have created biological life, rather than vice versa. Osris uses the knowledge he gained from the Descenders to create his own sentient robot, but it turns against him and destroys Ostrakon, then vanishes for 4000 years until Dr. Solomon and Dr. Quon find him again. And it turns out that this robot created Tim, and Tim is the only one who can stop the Descenders from returning and destroying humanity, or something like that. This series is heading for a thrilling conclusion.
LUCY DREAMING #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Max Bemis, [A] Michael Dialynas. This new series stars a girl in her early teens who reads too many violent young adult books, until one day she falls asleep and finds herself inside one of those books, and is unable to escape. This series reminds me of I Hate Fairyland in that it has an unpleasant young girl for a protagonist, and is rather violent and not intended for kids of the protagonist’s age. It also seems a bit mean-spirited and pessimistic, like X-Men: Worst X-Man Ever. These comments might imply that I didn’t enjoy this comic, but I actually did like it. I’m not entirely sure where it’s going or who its audience is, but I guess we’ll see.
THOR: GOD OF THUNDER #9 (Marvel, 2013) – “Godbomb, Part Three of Five: Thunder in the Blood,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Esad Ribic. Three different Thors from different stages in their lives battle Gorr the God Butcher. This is an exciting issue, and the interactions between the old, young and regular-aged Thors are a lot of fun, but this comic isn’t as good as the current Mighty Thor series.
SUPERMAN #5 (DC, 2016) – “Son of Superman, Part Five,” [W] Peter Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] Doug Mahnke. The Superman family and the Eradicator arrive at Batman’s lunar Batcave, where they spend another whole issue fighting. The notable thing about this issue is that Lois gets a chance to do some fighting too, using one of Batman’s battlesuits. This is refreshing because my only serious problem with this comic is its depiction of Lois; too often she seems like just a wife and mom who doesn’t get to do anything proactive.
SUPERMAN #6 (DC, 2016) – “Son of Superman” (conclusion), [W] Peter Tomasi, [W/A] Patrick Gleason. Clark and Jon finally defeat the Eradicator, Krypto comes back to life, and Clark introduces Jon to the Justice League as Superboy. There are some heartwarming scenes in this issue, but the Eradicator storyline went on too long.
SUPERB #8 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “Things Fall Apart,” [W] Sheena Howard & David Walker, [A] Ray-Anthony Height & Alitha Martinez. Another issue that doesn’t advance the plot very much. Jonah, Kayla and Abbie spend most of the issue fighting Corrina. Luckily the next issue blurb says “to be concluded next issue,” so I hope this comic’s plot will make some progress soon.
L.E.G.I.O.N. ’92 #46 (DC, 1992) – “Transitions,” [W/A] Barry Kitson. An alien possesses Captain Comet and tries to use its power to kill Lady Quark. A bunch of LEGION members fight the alien. The highlight of this issue is the scenes starring Bertron Diib, the enormous dude with a potato for a head.
ABYSS #3 (Red 5, 2008) – “Genius of Love,” [W] Kevin Rubio, [A] Lucas Marangon. I got this for free at Comic-Con. This comic isn’t as bad as I expected, but it’s not all that good either. Its plot is incomprehensible since I haven’t read the first two issues, but it appears to be a parody of DC superheroes. While it includes some funny jokes, those jokes are only funny to an audience that’s intimately familiar with superheroes, so its appeal is limited.
PUNKS NOT DEAD #2 (IDW, 2018) – “Turn It Up to Eleven: Teenage Kicks, Part 2,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Martin Simmonds. This issue, Sid Vicious’s ghost follows Feargal Ferguson to school, while in a subplot, an old Margaret Thatcher-esque lady exorcises the ghost of John Profumo. This comic continues to make effective use of nostalgia for punk and for the ‘60s Swinging London era, and Martin Simmonds’s art is unique and fascinating.
ARCHIE #29 (Archie, 2018) – “And the Beat Goes On,” [W] Mark Waid & Ian Flynn, [A] Audrey Mok. Mark spends this issue basically marking time until we get to the big dance. Archie runs around town looking for his stolen guitar, but it turns out it wasn’t stolen after all. Meanwhile, the Blossoms’ dad escapes from prison.
SUPERMAN #7 (DC, 2016) – “Our Town,” [W] Peter Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] Jorge Jimenez. A truly adorable issue. The Kents go to the local fair where they play carnival games, eat junk food, and stop a robbery. Ths comic is full of small-town nostalgia, as the title indicates, but it’s so cute that I don’t mind.
KILL OR BE KILLED #14 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Dylan successfully assassinates the Russian mob boss, so it looks like his troubles are over for now. But on the last page, he has a vision of Kira with the demon’s head. Meanwhile, Dylan’s roommate Mason is acting like a real jerk.
KILL OR BE KILLED #15 (Image, 2018) – as above. Shockingly, at the beginning of this issue Dylan is in a mental hospital. A flashback reveals how he got there. Not satisfied after Dylan killed all those mobsters, the demon kept tormenting him by telling him about all the sinners he was leaving alive. Finally, the demon provoked Dylan into beating up Mason, and Kira had Dylan committed. At the end of the issue, Dylan tries to tell his psychiatrist that he’s the vigilante killer, but the doctor doesn’t believe him, because someone else has been committing vigilante murders while Dylan’s been in the hospital. This issue makes me feel some sympathy for Dylan: he’s done some awful things, but it’s not his fault that he’s literally possessed by a demon.
DORK! #2 (Slave Labor, 1994) – various stories, [W/A] Evan Dorkin. This issue mostly consists of previously published material. Disappointingly, it begins with a Murder Family story that I already read in Epic Lite #1. Next are some strips that Evan and Kyle Baker did for an alternative music magazine callled Reflex. These strips barely qualify as comics because they have far more text than artwork. Also, they’re boring; they’re mostly a series of complaints about the audiences at various punk rock concerts. The other stories in this issue are just a couple pages each at most.
SPIDER-GWEN #29 (Marvel, 2018) – “Gwenom,” [W] Jason Latour, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. This comic’s irreverent sense of humor is one of the main reasons I keep reading it, along with Robbi’s artwork. The scene with the two Watchers at the start is funny, though it would be funnier if I could remember where we’ve seen these Watchers before. This issue’s main plot is a continuation of the overly long and frustrating Matt Murdock storyline, which I’ve complained about often.