Enormous review post

New comics received on April 14:

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #31 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Erica Henderson. This issue’s cover contains the hidden message “BYE ERICA WE LOVE YOU,” and the story inside is a fitting end to Erica’s run, as well as one of the best issues of the whole series. Doreen and Nancy are hit by a weapon that causes them to move extremely fast, so they live out their entire lives over the course of a weekend. Stuck in a frozen, silent world, they labor to build a time machine before they die of old age. This issue is amazingly poignant. It shows us the strength of Doreen’s bond with her best friend, and it’s very sad when they have to wipe out their memories and return to their younger bodies. Also, you get the sense that Ryan North has thought deeply about this issue’s premise and has explored all of its logical consequences. Ryan seems like a lighthearted humorist, but he’s also just as much of a logical, exact thinker as Jason Shiga or Randall Munroe. A disturbing implication of this issue is that the Flash should age really fast, since he spends most of his life traveling at superspeed (though I guess there are some official explanations for why this doesn’t happen).

EXILES #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Rodriguez. I never read the previous Exiles series, except for some issues from very late in the run that I received for free. Luckily this issue does not require knowledge of other Exiles comics. In this new series, Blink, the main protagonist of the previous Exiles series, has to assemble a team of superheroes from various realities in order to defeat a universe-destroying monster. This issue only introduces two of the other team members, but the best character so far is the elderly, battle-hardened Kamala Khan. In general this issue is a promising debut, with strong artwork. I like how Rodriguez’s version of Blink looks like a black woman with pink skin, whereas most other artists’ takes on this character are totally de-ethnicized.

DODGE CITY #2 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Josh Trujillo, [A] Cara McGee. Like all Boom! Box comics, this comic is fun and exciting. But so far, Dodge City is inferior to Fence or Slam! because of its lack of clarity. After two issues, I still don’t know who these characters are, or how old they are, or what kind of dodgeball league they’re playing in, or why they play dodgeball. This comic doesn’t even explain the rules of dodgeball, and I could use an explanation because I haven’t played dodgeball since junior high.

ETERNITY GIRL #2 (DC, 2018) – “Signal,” [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Sonny Liew. Another issue that alternates between Caroline’s real life and her dreams about a bizarre Kirbyesque world. For me the most interesting thing about this issue is the scene where Dani takes Caroline to a comedy show, and then Caroline gets mad at Dani, saying “I can’t believe you thought I’d be into this.” This scene tests the reader’s sympathy for Caroline, because Dani was just trying to help Caroline, at her own expense, and she doesn’t deserve this vitriol. But this seems like a common scenario with depressed people: ironically, their very depression makes it difficult for them to help themselves or even accept help from others. So this series is quite a realistic and unflattering depiction of depression. Also, Sonny Liew’s artwork is spectacular.

DEAD DUCK AND ZOMBIE CHICK: RISING FROM THE GRAVE #1 (Source Point, 2016) – “The Demon Tuber of Queen Street” and other stories, [W/A] Jay Fosgitt. This issue reprints several of Fosgitt’s early works. The stories in this issue are a bit confusing and disjointed and contain some mildly sexist humor, but Fosgitt’s artwork and design are brilliant. This comic isn’t quite as good as Bodie Troll, but it is an important step in his artistic development.

GIDEON FALLS #2 (Image, 2018) – “All the Little Sinners Say Hallelujah,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. This issue makes it easier to understand what’s going on: the insane dude, Norton, is collecting pieces of the black barn that the priest thinks he saw. But it’s not yet clear what the black barn is, or why only these two people can see it. A weird thing about this issue is that the reader is supposed to sympathize with Norton because he’s the protagonist, even though everyone thinks he’s crazy. Yet Norton’s therapist and all the other characters in the story are perfectly justified in thinking Norton is crazy. They don’t get to see the evidence of Norton’s sanity that the reader sees, and Norton acts exactly like a crazy person would act. So this comic is an interesting example of how works of fiction create a bias in favor of whichever character happens to be the protagonist.

SWORD OF AGES #3 (IDW, 2018) – “Nightmares” etc., [W/A] Gabriel Rodriguez. This continues to be one of the best-drawn comics of the year. It’s a rare example of an American comic whose art is at the level of a European comic. However, this comic’s plot is difficult to follow and also somewhat unoriginal.

SEA OF THIEVES #2 (Titan, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Rhoald Marcellus. I forgot to order the first issue of this video game adaptation, because I didn’t realize it was written by Jeremy. As a result, I didn’t understand the plot of this comic, which is about a bunch of opposing groups of pirates. And it suffers from the obvious comparison to Raven, because the characters aren’t as interesting.

BLOODSHOT: REBORN #0 (Valiant, 2015) – “Colorado,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Mico Suayan. Someone told me on Facebook that this series was good, and it’s written by Jeff Lemire, so I thought it was worth trying. In this $1 jumping-on-point issue, Bloodshot, a Punisher-esque killing machine with regenerative powers, is trying to live a normal life. But his mind keeps messing with him, and someone who looks like him is going on a killing spree. I usually don’t read comics that resemble Punisher, but this comic is effectively written and shows deep insight into Bloodshot’s personality, making me want to read more of the series.

BLOODSHOT: SALVATION #8 (Valiant, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Renato Guedes. This is the latest issue. It has more of a fantasy element than Bloodshot: Reborn #0, as Bloodshot fights to save his dying daughter from hell. The image of a powerful warrior carrying a baby reminds me of Lone Wolf & Cub. I don’t completely understand what’s happening in this issue, but it’s exciting.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Doom’s Day,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Valerio Schiti. Ben, Johnny and Rachna try to rally the heroes of Earth-Whatever against Doom/Galactus. This was an average issue with no particularly spectacular moments.

On Sunday, April 15, I went to the latest Charlotte Comic Convention. As usual I bought a lot of stuff. As I was running out of energy to buy more comics, I discovered a booth I hadn’t seen before, which had about ten 25-cent boxes full of indie comics from the ’80s and ’90s. Those are exactly the kind of comics I’m most interested in right now, and I love hunting through quarter boxes, so I wondered if maybe someone was setting a trap for me.

Some comics I bought at this show:

CATWOMAN #1 (DC, 2002) – “Anodyne, Part One,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Darwyn Cooke. This is the only issue of this run I was missing. It’s not Darwyn’s absolute best work, but it’s still bravura display of storytelling, and an effective introduction to the series. For me the highlight of the issue was Selina’s cat rubbing her under the chin. Every Catwoman comic should have scenes of Selina interacting with her cats.

JUDGMENT DAY AFTERMATH #1 (Awesome, 1998) – “Trial by Tempest” and other segments, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Gil Kane. I didn’t even know this comic existed, and it was a delightful discovery, especially given that it’s the only collaboration between these two Hall of Fame creators. This comic was meant as an introduction to the new Awesome universe. It consists of a series of segments featuring various superheroes, together with a framing sequence starring a character named the Imagineer who is obviously Gil himself. Despite low production values and glaring lettering errors, this comic is a joyful celebration of Silver Age superheroes. Even at the end of his life, Gil was as brilliant an artist as ever, though his style is not suited for computer coloring. The most interesting of the segments is the one that stars Glory; it includes a visit to the “realm of moonlight and imagination,” which seems like a prototype for the Immateria in Promethea.

BLACK PANTHER #10 (Marvel, 1999) – “Enemy of the State Book Two,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Mike Manley. I bought a bunch of Black Panther comics at the convention. I was surprised at how cheap they were because I expected that every Black Panther comic would go way up in price. This issue is most notable for revealing Hunter’s origin. The plot of “Enemy of the State” makes a lot more sense now that I’ve seen the movie.

VOID INDIGO #1 (Marvel/Epic, 1984) – “Killing to be Clever,” [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Val Mayerik. This comic is about ancient superhuman beings who are resurrected in modern-day California. It’s a sequel to an earlier graphic novel. It was intended as an ongoing series, but was cancelled after just two issues because of poor reviews and excessive violence. According to the Slings & Arrows Guide, it was better than any of Gerber’s subsequent works, and I can believe that. This comic’s plot is hard to follow, especially if one hasn’t read the graphic novel, but it’s exciting and bizarre, and highly reminiscent of Gerber’s cosmic stories from the ’70s. The violence is nothing special by contemporary standards. This issue includes a reference to Zhered-Na, a character from Man-Thing, although the story doesn’t appear to be set in the Marvel Universe.

SPIDER-WOMAN #40 (Marvel, 1981) – “Flying Tiger – Kills!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Steve Leialoha. Spider-Woman battles a villain called the Flying Tiger, suffers serious injuries, and starts training in martial arts to recuperate. This comic isn’t as good as Claremont’s Ms. Marvel, let alone his X-Men, but it is interesting; it has a complicated plot and interesting characters, and has nothing to do with Spider-Man except its name.

USAGI YOJIMBO #9 (Mirage, 1994) – “Slavers,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi meets a young boy whose fellow villagers have all been enslaved by bandits. Usagi sends the boy to get help, while disguising himself as a bandit so he can infiltrate the slavers. But Usagi’s scheme goes wrong and the slavers discover he’s a samurai, while also claiming to have found and killed the boy. To be continued. This story was so thrilling that after reading it, I rushed to my boxes to check if I had issue 10. It turns out I don’t, so I will have to wait to find out what happens next.

THE AIRTIGHT GARAGE #3 (Epic, 1993) – “The Garage Hermetic,” [W/A] Moebius. This is a comic-book-format reprint of one of Moebius’s most famous albums, which was itself assembled from chapters published in Métal Hurlant. On its own it makes basically no narrative sense, and this is not just because I missed the first two issues, but also because Moebius seems to have been making stuff up as he went along. The “plot summary” of one of the chapters even makes fun of the comic’s illogical nature: “Our story: Lewis Carnelian had a garage in which he parked all his vehicles. But… but this garage was airtight! Alas!” (Incidentally, Lewis Carnelian was originally named Jerry Cornelius, but was renamed because Moebius mistakenly thought Michael Moorcock disapproved of his use of the name.) What makes this comic a major classic is the artwork, which is at least as good as the art in The Incal. It reveals a visual imagination equal to Kirby’s, and somehow manages to look both slick and dingy at once. This comic needs to be reprinted ASAP. I wish Dark Horse would get around to publishing Moebius’s major works like The Airtight Garage and Arzach, instead of wasting time on minor late works like The Art of Edena and Inside Moebius.

WONDER WOMAN #227 (DC, 1977) – “My World… in Ashes!”, [W] Martin Pasko, [A] José Delbo. This is an underrated classic. It’s easily one of the best pre-Crisis Wonder Woman stories I’ve read, although that’s not saying much, because pre-Crisis Wonder Woman was usually quite bad. This issue’s plot is that Hephaestus is plotting to destroy Carnegie Hall during a concert by Julie Gabriel, a famous diva who’s notorious for stage fright and moodiness. Wonder Woman defeats Hephaestus, but at the cost of the life of Julie Garland, who burns to death while singing her signature song, “Confetti.” Julie Gabriel is a fascinating character, with a psychological depth that was rare in Wonder Woman comics at the time. All she knows how to do is sing, but her psychological problems make it increasingly hard for her to do even that. But Julie Gabriel became even more fascinating when, thanks to Google research, I realized she was based on Judy Garland – which shows how old this comic is, because readers in 1977 would have instantly realized who Julie Garland was. With that context, this comic becomes a beautiful tribute to Judy Garland’s brilliant career and her tragic death. The image of Julie dying even as she sings her greatest song is very striking. I especially like the lyrics of “Confetti,” which Martin seems to have written himself: “Snow used to fall when the world was a ball / but it broke and the snow was confetti.”

MY LOVE #12 (Marvel, 1971) – “The Look of Love!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Enrique Monserratt, plus other stories. At the show, I found this in a 50-cent box along with some other interesting old comics, but most of the best stuff in that booth was gone before I got there. This issue only has one new story, but it’s fascinating because of Monserratt’s artwork. I hadn’t heard of this artist before, but apparently he was a Spanish artist who worked with Josep Toutain’s agency. His design sense is brilliant, especially his fashions. This issue also includes some reprinted stories with art by Matt Baker and Jay Scott Pike. However, the writing in this comic is uniformly terrible, although the Jay Scott Pike story is at least unusual because it doesn’t have a happy ending.

CALEXIT #2 (Black Mask, 2018) – “Moments Like This Never Last,” [W] Matteo Pizzolo, [A] Amancay Nahuelpan. This comic got some positive buzz, and I probably should have been ordering it, although this issue is the most recent yet. Calexit is about a near-future dystopian America in which California secedes and descends into civil war. This comic is very long and is disturbing to read because of extreme violence, but it’s quite politically astute and well-drawn, and it contains some powerful scenes. Early in the comic, a man is stabbed to death with a pool cue. And it gets worse; later, a dying pregnant woman is refused an ambulance, and two characters trying to flee down the coast are beaten by militarized police wearing face shields. Again, this is quite tough to read, but seems very realistic. I will plan on ordering any future issues of this series if I see them in Previews.

BATGIRL #6 (DC, 2017) – “Beyond Burnside, Epilogue,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. At the convention, I was able to get most of the issues of this series that I skipped when they came out. This issue, while on her flight back to Gotham, Batgirl discovers that one of her fellow passengers is Poison Ivy, and they team up to defeat one of Ivy’s plants which has gone out of control. This was an okay issue, but not nearly as good as the three that followed it (see below).

BLUE DEVIL #1 (DC, 1984) – “How to Trap a Demon,” [W] Dan Mishkin & Gary Cohn, [A] Paris Cullins. This series has the same writers as Amethyst, and I heard that it was comparable in quality to that series. This issue is a pretty basic origin story, in which a Hollywood stuntman encounters a demon who imprisons him in a devil suit. It’s not all that promising, but I’d be willing to read more Blue Devil comics.

THE JAM #1 (Slave Labor, 1989) – untitled, [W/A] Bernie Mireault. A confusingly plotted but effectively drawn debut issue in which an eccentric superhero prevents a suicide attempt. I don’t quite get the point of this series yet, but the Slings & Arrows Guide praises it highly, and I’d like to read more of it.

MICKEY MOUSE #249 (Gladstone, 1989) – “The Land of Long Ago, Part II,” [W/A] Floyd Gottfredson, [W] Merrill de Maris. The conclusion of a lost-world story in which Mickey, Goofy, and a certain Professor Dustibones are trapped on an island of cavemen and dinosaurs. It has Gottfredson’s usual combination of humor, suspense, and intricate plotting. These Gladstone Mickey reprints are a cheap way to obtain some amazing comics.

BLOODSHOT REBORN #10 (Valiant, 2016) – “The Analog Man, Part 1,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Lewis Larosa. The bulk of this issue takes place in a post-apocalyptic future, where an elderly Bloodshot is the guardian of a small town located just outside a giant walled city. Needing to get water for his town, he encounters a giant army of Shadowmen, and then Ninjak. There’s also a brief present-day sequence involving Bloodshot and his girlfriend Magic. This issue is an intriguing start to a new story arc.

THE JACKAROO #3 (Eternity, 1990) – “Down & Out in Dugga Dugga,” [W/A] Gary Chaloner. I bought this mostly because it’s an example of Australian comics, but it turns out to be very good. It’s an adventure story set mostly in rural Australia. Chaloner has a very distinctive and slick style, and his writing has a notably Australian feel to it. The backup story, with art by Jason Paulos, is not as attractively drawn. I believe Jason Paulos used to collaborate with an old Internet friend of mine, Paul Newell.

BLACK PANTHER #7 (Marvel, 1999) – “Caged,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Joe Jusko. T’Challa and Everett Ross are kidnapped by henchmen of Kraven. After they escape, T’Challa discovers that it was White Wolf/Hunter who hired Kraven. Nakia and Okoye have a brief conversation about Nakia’s unrequited passion for T’Challa, and the Busiek/Pérez version of the Avengers appear at the end of the issue. This issue was much easier to understand than most of Priest’s Black Panther comics.

BATGIRL #7 (DC, 2017) – “Son of Penguin, Part 1,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Chris Wildgoose. Batgirl deals with gentrification, begins her new MALS program, and meets a potential love interest, Ethan, who happens to be the son of the Penguin. Also, Ethan is the creator of an app called Safestreets that hipsters can use to have homeless people kidnapped. This issue is very cleverly written and offers some insightful commentary on the issue of gentrification. By the way, the other day I was walking around NoDa, which is basically Charlotte’s version of Burnside, and I realized that I hate neighborhoods like that; they’re so phony and insincere.

THE VISITOR: HOW AND WHY HE STAYED #1 (Dark Horse, 201) – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola & Chris Roberson, [A] Paul Grist. As noted in my review of #3, I should have ordered this comic when it came out, but I didn’t know the art was by Paul Grist. This issue depicts Hellboy’s early years from the perspective of the Visitor, an alien who was assigned to monitor Hellboy, but realized that Hellboy could be a force for good. It’s an intriguing story, and Grist’s artwork is beautiful, as usual.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #60 (DC, 1994) – “End of an Era, Part Three: Infinite Possibilities,” [W] Tom McCraw & Mark Waid, [A] Stuart Immonen. This is one of the last issues of v4 I was missing; I’ve assembled an almost complete run of v4 without realizing it. This issue is part of the “End of an Era” crossover that led to the reboot of the franchise. It contains a lot of pointless fight scenes and bad retcons, but it does contain a few cute scenes, including a two-page splash depicting all the surviving members of both Legions. I believe this issue is the final appearance of Catspaw and the Infinite Man.

THE ADVENTURES OF LITTLE ARCHIE #26 (Archie, 1963) – “Reel Adventure” and other stories, [W/A] Bob Bolling & Dexter Taylor. I bought this issue from the same dealer who sold me a few other issues of Little Archie. It includes three Bob Bolling stories of more than one page. In “A Reel Adventure,” Little Archie accidentally films two criminals committing a crime, and they chase him to get the camera back. This story includes a funny exchange: “I always went to the toy department as a kid.” “It’s hard to imagine you as a kid, Sharkey.” “Well, you gotta start stealing somewhere.” In “Made for Trouble,” Little Archie meets a demon who offers to let Archie battle his entire lifetime of troubles; if Little Archie wins, he’ll never have any troubles again. But the fight is a draw, so the demon promises that Little Archie won’t have any more troubles than anyone else. This story is the highlight of the issue. “Daddy’s Diet” is a rare Polly Cooper appearance, in which Polly tries to force her dad to stick to his diet.

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY #2 (Marvel, 1976) – “Vira the She-Demon!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. This issue is a self-contained story that follows the same plot structure as the book and movie it’s based on. The title character is a warlike cavewoman who encounters the Monolith, which inspires her to set herself up as a goddess. Vira’s story occupies half the issue. It ends with a brilliant segue, probably inspired by the famous bone-to-spaceship transition in the 2001 film, in which a panel depicting Vira sitting in a cave is followed by a panel depicting a female astronaut, Vera Gentry, sitting in a spaceship. (See There follows a sequence in which Vera encounters another monolith and becomes a Star Child.

SHE WOLF #1 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W/A] Rich Tommaso. This miniseries, about a girl who turns into a werewolf, appears to be an homage to ’70s and ’80s horror films. However, its plot is so compressed and abbreviated that it’s difficult to figure out what’s going on. As a result this issue is inferior to any other Tommaso comic I’ve read, though his artwork and design are as fascinating as usual.

DOMINO #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Lottery,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] David Baldeon. I’ve been kind of unimpressed with Gail’s comics lately, but this debut issue is cute, sexy and exciting, and it also has an adorable dog in it. I plan to continue reading this series.

IRON MAN #88 (Marvel, 1976) – “Fear Wears Two Faces!”, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] George Tuska. This is an early appearance of the Blood Brothers, Thanos’s henchmen, and thus a minor chapter of the ongoing Thanos saga. It also includes subplots involving Pepper and Happy and Roxanne Gilbert. It’s an okay issue but not great.

STARSLAYER #16 (First, 1984) – “S.A.M.,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Tim Truman. The Starslayer story in this issue is only notable for Truman’s artwork. The plot is basically that Torin Mac Quillon acts like the jerk he is, and gets jealous of Tam for being attracted to someone else. It’s no wonder that Mike Grell abandoned Starslayer so quickly, because it wasn’t that great of a series. This issue is much more important for including an early Grimjack story, in which Grimjack is forced to kill a vampire who he used to regard as a little brother. This story deals with Grimjack’s origins on a Celtic-themed fantasy world. This aspect of his character was rarely mentioned later.

FBP #3 (DC, 2013) – “Paradigm Shift, Part Three,” [W] Simon Oliver, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. The premise of this series is not clear from this issue, but as I learned from reading issue 1 (see below), it takes place on a world where the laws of physics change without notice. This present issue doesn’t do anything all that interesting with this premise, and it’s mostly notable for Robbi Rodriguez’s art. However, FBP seems to have been much less suited to Robbi’s talents than Spider-Gwen, and it doesn’t really provide him with an opportunity to demonstrate what he can do.

SPIDER-WOMAN #44 (Marvel, 1982) – “Vengeance!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Steve Leialoha. This issue’s splash page feels like a ripoff of Frank Miller’s Daredevil. This issue explains the mystery behind the Viper’s obsession with Jessica Drew, by revealing that Viper is Jessica’s mother! That piece of continuity was retconned away less than a year later ( A subplot in this issue involves Jessica’s rivalry with Morgan le Fey.

INCREDIBLE HULK #192 (Marvel, 1975) – “The Lurker Beneath Loch Fear!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Herb Trimpe. The Hulk finds himself in Scotland and gets involved in a plot to kill the monster beneath Loch Ness, I mean Fear. Half the fun of this story is that it’s full of Scottish stereotypes, and all the characters except Bruce speak in exaggerated Scottish accents.

ANGEL AND THE APE #3 (DC, 1991) – “Family Feud,” [W/A] Phil Foglio. Angel and the Ape team up with the Inferior Five to battle Gorilla Grodd. It turns out that Grodd is Sam Simeon’s grandfather, and Dumb Bunny of the Inferior Five is Angel’s sister. The climactic fight scene in this issue employs a bizarre panel structure in which Grodd’s origin story occupies a giant panel in the center, and the fight scene is depicted in a ring of panels around the outside. This comic is reasonably fun, and I wouldn’t mind reading the rest of this miniseries, but it’s not as well-crafted as Bob Oksner’s original series.

L.E.G.I.O.N. ’91 #30 (DC, 1991) – “Welcome to the War!”, [W] Alan Grant, [A] Barry Kitson. This is kind of like a Legion try-out issue, except that almost no one gets rejected. It introduces several notable characters, including Ig’nea, Bertron Diib and Amon Hakk. The narration, which consists of excerpts from a manual for L.E.G.I.O.N. trainees, is quite funny. This issue also includes a poignant moment where Lyrissa Mallor visits her mother’s statue, and a fight scene where Phase beats up Lobo.

DENNIS THE MENACE BONUS MAGAZINE SERIES #117 (Fawcett, 1973) – “The Menace of the Seas” and other stories, uncredited. This giant-sized issue consists of a number of cute, funny and well-crafted stories. My favorite is “Something Fishy,” in which Dennis takes a nap at the beach and dreams about encountering various sea creatures.

NEW MUTANTS #40 (Marvel, 1986) – “Avengers Assemble!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Jackson Guice. The conclusion to a three-part story in which the New Mutants transfer to the Massachusetts Academy and experience a series of nightmares. The explanation for the odd story title is that while trying to locate his missing students, Magneto gets in a fight with the Avengers. Unfortunately, the kids’ recovery from their mental illness is dealt with in just three panels, although there is one very poignant panel where Rahne sits on Magneto’s lap and asks to be returned to her mother.

SUPERMAN #5 (DC, 1987) – “The Mummy Strikes,” [W/A] John Byrne. Because of my disdain for Byrne, I haven’t been actively collecting this run of Superman stories. But in 1987, John could still draw quite well, and this is a very attractive issue. The most interesting thing in it is the silent opening sequence, which turns out to be a dream Superman is having about Wonder Woman. In the main plot, Superman follows Lois to a fictional South American country, where he battles a giant robot wrapped in mummy bandages.

FBP #1 (Vertigo, 2013) – “The Paradigm Shift, Part One,” as above. As noted previously, this issue explains this series’ plot. It’s set in a world where the laws of physics change randomly, resulting in things like localized gravity failures, and the protagonist is a member of an agency that enforces the laws of physics. Unfortunately, Simon Oliver is not capable of exploiting the full potential of this premise, and much of the issue consists of dialogue scenes, which are not what Robbi is best at. Robbi does do a good job of depicting the action sequences and the violations of normal physics.

SUICIDE SQUAD #11 (DC, 1987) – “Blood & Snow, Part One,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Luke McDonnell. Mari McCabe, a.k.a. Vixen, has retired as a superhero to become a model, but while she’s on a photoshoot, her coworkers are murdered by a Colombian drug lord. The Suicide Squad team up with Vixen and Speedy on a somewhat morally problematic mission to assassinate the drug lord. This issue is full of fun moments. Besides the just-summarized sequence with Vixen, there’s also a scene where the Mirror Master robs a bank, but surprisingly starts speaking in an Australian accent, and then you realize it’s Captain Boomerang using the Mirror Master’s equipment.

ACTION COMICS #424 (DC, 1973) – “Gorilla Grodd’s Grandstand Play!”, [W] Elliot S! Maggin, [A] Curt Swan. An excellent issue. When Gorilla City’s existence is inadvertently revealed to the world, Solovar visits New York to make a speech at the United Nations. And of course Grodd shows up to spoil everything. This issue’s premise – a gorilla speaking at the United Nations – is inherently very funny, and Elliot wisely allows the humor of this premise to reveal itself, rather than hitting the reader over the head with how funny it is. And there are some awesome fight scenes between Superman and the super-gorillas. There’s also a surprisingly poignant moment where Lois thinks Superman is dead and collapses into Clark’s arms. But then Clark says they’re reporters and they have a job to do, and Lois agrees, and Clark looks at the reader with a sad half-smile ( At the end of the story, Lois rejects the idea of a romance with Clark, and Clark looks sad for three whole panels, then laughs his head off – but I’m not sure what he’s laughing at. This issue also includes an okay Green Arrow backup story, also written by Elliot.

New comics received on April 21:

MS. MARVEL #29 (Marvel, 2018) – “Something New, Part One,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. What an amazing comic book. It’s funny and heartwarming, and the whole time I was reading it, I was going AWWW. The issue begins with the birth of Kamala’s nephew, Malik Theodore. Then Kamala has her first kiss, with Red Dagger – and then realizes that Bruno is watching. A flashback depicts Bruno and his Wakandan friend Kwazi enduring the hell-on-earth that is Newark Airport. Then Kamala visits her sheikh, who gives her some very wise advice. In the midst of all the relationship drama, here’s also a very funny sequence in which Kwazi behaves just like a typical American visitor to a developing country ( This was one of the most emotionally affecting comics I’ve read lately, and I can’t wait for the next issue.

ANTAR: THE BLACK KNIGHT #1 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Eric Battle. I’m embarrassed to admit that this is only the second Nnedi Okorafor work I’ve read, after Who Fears Death. I loved that book, though, and I’ve been excited to read her comics. This new series is an adaptation of the Sirat Antar, an Arabian oral epic based on the life of the pre-Islamic Arab warrior poet Antar ibn Shaddad. This first issue depicts Antar’s birth, to an Arab magnate and an Ethiopian slave woman, and his tortured childhood. It ends with him killing a lion that’s just killed his best friend. This is a very emotionally charged story, which Eric Battle illustrates effectively. My main criticism is that this comic doesn’t provide very much background. I love the idea of a comic adaptation of a non-Western mythical/romantic tradition. But while Antar is (I assume) a household name in the Muslim world, his story is basically unknown in America – there isn’t even an English translation of the Sirat Antar. I am not saying that Antar’s story doesn’t matter, or that American readers shouldn’t be expected to do some research and learn more about him. I just think that some more explanation of this story’s cultural context and significance would help it reach a wider audience.

FENCE #5 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] C.S. Pacat, [A] Johanna the Mad. Seiji finally loses a match. Nicholas regains some of his lost confidence. This was a good issue, as usual, but was somewhat overshadowed by Ms. Marvel #29.

MISTER MIRACLE #8 (DC, 2018) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. Another bizarre and perfect blend of domesticity and epic cosmic warfare. A beautiful, adorable depiction of Scott and Barda’s first year of parenthood is juxtaposed with a succession of horrific battle scenes. The issue ends with Jacob (who I hadn’t realized was named after Jack Kirby) saying his first word.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #65 (IDW, 2018) – “Queen for One Less Day,” [W] Thom Zahler, [A] Andy Price. Like Death or Haroun al-Rashid, Queen Celestia spends one day a year in the form of an ordinary pony, so that she can observe her subjects more closely. While Celestia is observing this tradition, an evil old hag pony steals the amulet containing her powers, and she has to enlist Twilight and Starlight’s aid to get it back. This is a terrific issue, with some of Andy’s best artwork in a while, which is unsurprising since Celestia is his pet character. And it effectively delivers a lesson about teacher-student relationships.

BLACK HAMMER: AGE OF DOOM #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. This issue is disappointing because it teases the reader with the prospect of a solution to the series’ central mystery, only to yank that solution away. Back at Black Hammer Farm, Lucy announces that she knows where they are and how they can get home. But before she can say anything, she’s yanked away to an even weirder place: a bar full of monsters. So instead of answers, we only get more questions.

ASSASSINISTAS #4 (IDW, 2018) – “The Thing That Grew Inside Me!!”, [W] Tini Howard, [A] Gilbert Hernandez. The big revelation this issue is that the villain is not Rosalyn but her daughter. Beto’s artwork in this series has been as excellent as usual, but Tini Howard is also an impressive talent. She writes great dialogue and she does a great job of fleshing out the characters, although some of that is probably due to Beto’s skill at depicting emotions. I’d read a Tini Howard comic even if it wasn’t drawn by Beto.

BATMAN: CREATURE OF THE NIGHT #3 (DC, 2018) – “Crusader,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] John Paul Leon. Bruce learns that the Commissioner Gordon character is evil, and that his world is so corrupt and apathetic that even Batman can’t help much. This series is one of the grimmest, darkest things Kurt has written, whereas Superman: Secret Identity is one of the warmest and sunniest, and I think this is deliberate. The difference between the two series mirrors the difference between Superman and Batman.

USAGI YOJIMBO: THE HIDDEN #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “The Hidden, Part Two,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi and Ishida collect more clues. It becomes clear that the Kirishitans are at the heart of the mystery, and that Ishida’s supervisor dislikes him. Because this issue is part two of seven, it doesn’t advance the plot much.

SUPER SONS #15 (DC, 2018) – “End of Innocence, Part One,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Carlo Barberi. A below-average issue which consists mostly of a fight between the two boys and Kid Amazo.

LUCY DREAMING #2 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Max Bemis, [A] Michael Dialynas. We get a pseudoscientific explanation of Lucy’s powers, and Lucy projects herself into another dream world, which is an obvious parody of The Hunger Games. At the end, Lucy meets a mysterious boy who must be important somehow. “This machine caused your brain to warp into the body of a living myth” is a terrible line, but otherwise this was a good issue.

DESCENDER #29 (Image, 2018) – “The End of the Universe 1 of 4,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. The war continues. The old Descender dude gets Tim to summon the Descenders, but they refuse to help. Telsa’s dad reveals that the GC has their own Harvester, but only Tim can operate it. Obviously the only way to save the universe is for Tim and Andy to act together, but how?

SUPERB #9 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “Everything We Hold Dear,” [W] David Walker & Sheena Howard, [A] Alitha Martinez. Another issue that advances the plot very little. I really like the ideas behind this series, and I enjoy the characterization, but the plot has been moving at a glacial pace.

MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC ANNUAL 2018 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Brenda Hickey. The Pillars of Equestria travel to another dimension to rescue Celestia and Luna, who have been abducted by a villain who turns out to be Stygian’s alternate self. This issue was an exciting adventure story with some fun interactions between the team members, but it was not spectacular, and the twist ending was predictable.

THE VISITOR: HOW AND WHY HE STAYED #2 – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola & Chris Roberson, [A] Paul Grist. See the review of #1 above. This issue, the Visitor witnesses another of Hellboy’s early adventures, and forms a relationship with a woman named Ruby. I guess she’s the Kathy Sutton to his Red Tornado.

GREEN LANTERN #96 (DC, 1977) – “How Can an Immortal… Die?”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Mike Grell. Katma Tui travels to Earth to enlist Hal Jordan’s aid against a monster that’s enslaved the Guardians and the other Green Lanterns. The main plot of this issue is less interesting than the scenes back on Earth, with Ollie, Carol and Dinah trying to revive Katma. These scenes have some sexist moments, such as Dinah feeling jealous that Ollie is paying so much attention to Katma. But this issue does have one panel in which three different women all have lines of dialogue, which is unusual in a ’70s DC comic.

ACTION COMICS #1000 (DC, 2018) – “From the City That Has Everything,” [W/A] Dan Jurgens, plus many other stories. This was rather disappointing. The gold standard of anniversary issues is Superman #400, and Action Comics #1000 tries to achieve that same level of quality and talent, but fails. The Dan Jurgens story that begins the issue really grates on my nerves. I just can’t accept that Clark is as impatient as this story indicates, or that so much assistance from other superheroes was necessary just to get Clark to attend a ceremony. Most of the other stories in the issue are just average. It is nice that this issue includes a posthumous Curt Swan story, although it appears to be an old unfinished inventory story, with a pinup added as the last page. By far the highlight of the issue is Paul Dini and José Luis García López’s “Actionland,” starring Mr. Mxyzptlk and his rarely seen girlfriend Gspie. As for the preview of Bendis’s Superman, I have made no secret of my feelings about Bendis, so I will decline comment on this story.

KA-ZAR THE SAVAGE #11 (Marvel, 1982) – “Children of the Damned,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Brent Anderson. One of Jones’s weirder Ka-Zar stories. Kevin, Shanna and a winged green dude named Buth travel through an amusement-park version of Dante’s Inferno. And we learn that before Dante wrote the Divine Comedy, he chased Belasco all the way to the Savage Land to rescue Beatrice. That seems rather improbable. As usual with this series, this issue has some excellent dialogue and characterization.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #127 (DC, 1976) – “The Command is Chaos!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Dick Dillin. The JLA battles a villain called Simon Elis, a.k.a. the Anarchist, who is siphoning power from Green Lantern’s ring. This was a very lackluster issue.

BATMAN FAMILY #7 (DC, 1976) – “13 Points to a Dead End!”, [W] Elliot S! Maggin, [A] Curt Swan. A fairly entertaining Batgirl/Robin team-up, in which Sportsmaster and Huntress force Dick and Babs to compete against each other in various sports. Dick and Babs’s interactions are the highlight of the issue. There’s also a reprint of “The Amazing Doctor Double X!” from Detective Comics #261.

HELLBOY IN HELL #4 (Dark Horse, 2013) – untitled, [W/A] Mike Mignola. This issue has good art, but I didn’t understand a word of the story. It appears to be some kind of crossover with another Mignola series, Witchfinder.

PUNKS NOT DEAD #3 (IDW, 2018) – “Wide Awake in a Dream,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Martin Simmonds. There’s a mysterious dance epidemic in Wigan. That one purple-haired girl, Nat, is pissed at Feargal. Also, this issue prominently features the “three for a girl, four for a boy” rhyme, which is used for counting magpies, and some giant magpie creatures are looking for Feargal.

CODENAME: KNOCKOUT #13 (Vertigo, 2003) – “Fleshback ’32: Arrivederci, Roma,” [W] Robert Rodi, [A] Amanda Conner. I don’t know anything about this issue, and I bought it because of who drew it. This issue is a flashback sequence in which a female African-American secret agent travels to Italy to stop an anarchist bombing plot. I don’t know what this comic is about or how this flashback story fits into its overall narrative, but Amanda’s art is fantastic, and she makes full use of her talent for cheesecake artwork. There’s one sequence where a woman (not the secret agent) spends three pages posing nude, and then later there’s a catfight between three women. And yet this is all depicted in a very tasteful, non-exploitative way. It turns out Amanda also drew three other issues of this title, and I will have to track them down.

BATGIRL #8 (DC, 2017) – “Son of Penguin Part 2,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Chris Wildgoose. This issue confusingly begins with Babs and Ethan trying to stop Two-Face from bombing a bus, but it turns out this is an escape room that they’ve visited for their first date. After a scene where Babs meets an adorable little hacker girl, she discovers another app that Ethan has created: Walkhome, a version of Uber that allows people to hire bodyguards. And it turns out one of the bodyguards is an old supervillain, Magpie (which is an odd coincidence since I just read another comic about magpies). This is a really fun issue, and its only flaw is the scene where Batgirl stops Magpie from beating up a creepy sexual harasser, because that guy really deserved to get beaten. This last-mentioned character is also a good example of a very realistic portrayal of sexual harassment.

DEFENDERS #2 (Marvel, 2001) – “The Curse,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [W/A] Erk Larsen. This series has a somewhat poor reputation, but this issue, in which the classic Defenders team reunites to battle Pluto, is not bad. It has some nice Simonson-esque artwork and some cute characterization. This comic’s main flaw is that it tries too hard to imitate the original Defenders series.

BATGIRL #9 (DC, 2017) – “Son of Penguin, Part 3,” as above. Batgirl meets the tiny hacker again and teaches her about data mining. Alyssa and Jo are having further relationship problems. Babs tries to write a paper for her library science class, but is too preoccupied – this sequence feels especially realistic. At the end of the issue, Babs finally infiltrates the company that’s making all the suspicious apps, and finds the Penguin there. This is an excellent and very underrated series – it’s one of the best DC comics of the past couple years, and Hope Larson has quietly developed into one of the top writers in the industry.

NAZA #3 (Dell, 1964) – “Ambush!”, [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Jack Sparling. This caveman comic has a fairly intricate plot but a total lack of characterization or humor. It doesn’t compare favorably to Anthro, which came out just four years later.

STAR WARS: CHEWBACCA #2 (Marvel, 2015) – “Chewbacca, Part II,” [W] Gerry Duggan, [A] Phil Noto. Part of a story in which Chewbacca helps a young girl rescue her people from slavers. This comic is competently written and drawn, but not extraordinary, and as a more-or-less silent protagonist, Chewbacca is inferior to Groot.

INCREDIBLE HULK #222 (Marvel, 1978) – “Feeding Billy,” [W] Len Wein, [A] Alfredo Alcala. The Hulk encounters two innocent little children who introduce him to their little brother, Billy. It turns out Billy is a giant cannibalistic monster who’s already eaten their parents. While trying to kill and eat the Hulk, Billy buries himself in an avalanche. This story reminds me somehow of Theodore Sturgeon’s “Baby is Three,” probably because of the monstrous infant. Disturbingly, the fate of Billy’s two orphaned siblings is left unresolved. Len should have ended the story by having Bruce take the kids to the police or something.

GROO: FRAY OF THE GODS #2 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragones, [A] Mark Evanier. In the previous issue, a king named Cuffi set himself up as a god. Groo overthrows Cuffi and replaces him with his brother Saffi, who turns out to be equally bad. Meanwhile, Cuffi finds some other gullible people and sets himself up as their god. This is an okay Groo comic, but very similar to every other Groo comic.

GROO: FRAY OF THE GODS #4 (Dark Horse, 2017) – as above. I actually mistook this for issue 3, so the story confused me until I realized I’d skipped an issue. But it doesn’t really matter because the conclusion to the story is quite predictable. Both kings get dethroned and Cuffi loses his status as a god. The best moment in the issue is that Groo discovers an echo that repeats everything he says. So he says “Groo is the handsomest, smartest, and bravest hero in the world”… and the echo is silent.

MISTY #2 (Marvel, 1986) – “Ms. Heaventeen is Ms. Understood,” [W/A] Trina Robbins. The first story in this issue is a bunch of high school friendship drama. The backup series is a parody of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” framed as a story that the protagonist tells to some kids. This comic is reminiscent of Bill Woggon’s Katy Keene, in that all the characters’ clothes have notes explaining who designed them. However, the designers mostly seem to be Trina’s friends (e.g. Barb Rausch, Gilbert Hernandez and Sharon Rudahl) rather than readers of the comic. Overall, this comic was okay but not great. On Twitter, Kurt Busiek described Misty and Angel Love as “two good books aimed at audience that largely weren’t looking at comic books or going to comics shops” (, but I think Misty is worse than Angel Love.

New comics received on Friday, April 27:

SAGA #51 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. The big event this issue is that Doff is murdered by that mole-headed woman, who is one of the worst villains in a series that’s full of awful villains. However, The Will escapes from her control – that’s the meaning of the empty manacles on the last page, as I just realized when examining the comic again. Also, Marco starts writing a manuscript, and Hazel encounters a mustached kingfish.

LUMBERJANES #49 (Boom!, 2018) – “Board, Board, Board,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Dozerdraws. Due to rain, the Lumberjanes are trapped in the mess hall and are forbidden to go outside. Ripley, April and Mal obey the letter of the law, if not its spirit, by exploring a mysterious secret tunnel below the kitchen. Meanwhile, Molly and Jo play a board game with super-complicated rules. This story arc has a much better premise than the last one. I’m very curious to see where that tunnel goes. I’m a bit surprised that Mal joined Ripley and April in doing irresponsible stuff, but it’ll be interesting to see Mal and Molly separated from each other.

THE MIGHTY THOR #706 (Marvel, 2018) – “At the Gates of Valhalla,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Russell Dauterman. A strong conclusion to the finest Thor storyline since “The Surtur Saga.” Jane is dead and about to enter into Valhalla, but Odin and Thor team up to resuscitate her. Jane’s resurrection is heartwarming, and also surprising – I was sure she was dead for good. But Jane’s superhero career is over. The final page – with Jane leaning on a cane as she looks at the sky and imagines herself as Thor – is a sublime moment, because it reminds the reader what a great hero Jane-as-Thor was. As just mentioned, the Jane Foster Saga was the best run of Thor comics in thirty years.

ABBOTT #4 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Sami Kivelä. I thought this was an ongoing series and I’m disappointed that it’s just a miniseries, because it’s been amazing. Elena’s been fired and her friends are all abandoning her or dying, but she’s finally found the source of her problems: Philip Howard Bellcamp (note the similarity of the name to Howard Philip Lovecraft). This issue contains a couple moments that illustrate Saladin’s sensitivity to racial issues. First, Elena visits the police station, and the duty officer assumes she’s there to bail out her son or boyfriend. And then she visits the hall of records, where an older black woman welcomes her as “our very own Brenda Starr” and reminiscences about how she wanted to be a journalist too, but when she was Elena’s age it was impossible.

THE TERRIFICS #3 (DC, 2018) – “Meet the Terrifics, Conclusion,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Joe Bennett. I forgot to order issue 2. This issue, the Terrifics battle the War Wheel while also wrestling with their own problems. Tinya, excuse me, Linnya can’t turn solid, Rex and Sapphire’s relationship is suffering thanks to Simon Stagg’s meddling, and Mr. Terrific is hiding in his lab. The one weak link in this series is Plastic Man, who Jeff Lemire incorrectly portrays as a joker, rather than a serious man in an absurd world. This is the same mistake made by every Plastic Man writer except Jack Cole and Kyle Baker. Though on the other hand, the “hardball special” panel, where Plas uses his eyes as a slingshot, is brilliant.

KILL OR BE KILLED #18 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Sadly, it turns out that the dead copycat killer was not Mason, but a new character: Buck Thomson, a racist alt-righter Iraq vet. This issue is an effective depiction of white male terrorism, though that’s not its primary purpose. Now that Buck is dead, the police assume the killings are over, but Detective Sharpe realizes Dylan wasn’t the killer and figures out Dylan’s actual identity. The letter column mentions that there are metatextual references in this issue. I assume this means that Detective Sharpe is investigating Dylan in the same way that Lois Lane investigates Superman. Also, apparently the fact that Dylan has to kill someone every month is a reference to the monthly publication schedule of superhero comic books.

EXILES #2 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Rodriguez. This issue introduces the remaining team members, Valkyrie and Wolvie. Valkyrie is an excellent character, but Wolvie is the high point of the series so far. Wolvie’s happy friendly world is hilarious, and I assume Magneto stealing the pies is a reference to Luthor stealing forty cakes. I look forward to seeing how he interacts with Marvel’s grimmer worlds. As Rob Barrett pointed out on my Facebook wall, Javer Rodriguez’s art in this series is excellent.

PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #303 (Marvel, 2018) – “Amazing Fantasy – Part Three,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Joe Quinones. Norman Osborn kidnaps Aunt May and throws her off the Brooklyn Bridge, but the older Peter saves her – by making a web net for her to fall into, rather than grabbing her by the foot. I guess it’s firmly established in canon now that Gwen died because Peter’s webbing snapped her neck. But the issue ends with the younger Peter throwing his costume in the trash and walking away. This issue is an effective tribute to old Spider-Man comics, while also adding some new stuff.

MARVEL RISING #0 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Devin Grayson, [A] Marco Failla. I wonder why this wasn’t an FCBD title. I gave up on Devin Grayson after her disastrous 1999-2000 Titans series, but this is a very fun story and a good introduction to a new title. And it offers the unique pleasure of seeing Doreen Green team up with Kamala Khan.

BATGIRL #22 (DC, 2018) – “Strange Loop, Part One,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Minkyu Jung. Babs is shot while saving a woman from her murderous ex-husband (an even worse character than the creep from issue 8), but recovers and defeats him. Then Babs encounters two characters from this series’ first storyline. At the end of the issue, Babs learns that she actually hasn’t recovered from being shot, and the events since then have all been happening in her mind. I was under the impression that Hope Larson was leaving after the next issue, because #24 was solicited as being written by Shawn Aldridge, but I guess that issue is just a fill-in.

BABYTEETH #10 (Aftershock, 2010) – “Son of a Bitch,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. We’ve finally reached the flashforward in issue 1, where Sadie says that when her son is old enough to understand her message, she’ll be gone. This statement turns out to be misleading, because as we learn in this issue, Clark is immortal and ages very slowly. So Sadie will die before Clark grows up. Also, Heather grabs Clark and travels through a portal into “the Red Realm,” and the old assassin dude sacrifices himself so Sadie and her dad can escape.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #30 (Marvel, 2018) – “1+2=Fantastic Three, Part Six of Six: World’s Greatest Comic Magazine,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Devil Dinosaur defeats the Super-Skrull by stepping on him, and with that, this overly long storyline is finally over. I expect the next one will be better.

DAYGLOAYHOLE #1 (Silver Sprocket, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Ben Passmore. This comic is exciting, but also confusing and difficult. It takes place in a postapocalyptic world and has two protagonists, an old bearded poet-wanderer and a younger adventurer type. It also contains a lot of fourth-wall breaking. I’m not sure yet what this comic is about, but its art is excellent and it clearly has high artistic aspirations, so I plan to continue reading it.

LOCKJAW #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Funny Business,” [W] Daniel Kibblesmith, [A] Carlos Villa. Lockjaw and D-Man find themselves on Spider-Ham’s Earth, where they battle the Wrecking Zoo and then meet Doc Jaw, Lockjaw’s hyperintelligent sibling. Sleepwalker shows up on the last page. This was another fun issue.

ARCHIE #30 (Archie, 2018) – “It’s the Final Countdown,” [W] Mark Waid & Ian Flynn, [A] Audrey Mok. It’s finally time for the prom or the spring dance or whatever, and there’s all kinds of drama. The high point of the issue is Moose’s disastrous date with Janet. I really like Waid’s version of Moose, although for that matter, I like his versions of all the characters. The issue ends with the Blossoms’ dad arriving at the prom.

FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #9 (DC, 2018) – “The Arrival of Animan!”, [W] Rob Williams, [A] Aaron Lopresti. Dorno, of the Herculoids, encounters an alien resembling Metroid, who makes Dorno’s parents disappear and then turns him into an adult. This was a competently written issue, but rather trite. Neither Williams nor Lopresti are at the same level of talent as the other creators who have worked on this series.

SPIDER-GWEN #31 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Life of Gwen Stacy, Part 2: The Bridge,” [W] Jason Latour, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. The Groot cereal is a highlight of this issue. The main scene is that Gwen visits the Brooklyn Bridge, which is the central location in the life of all Gwens. This series is definitely approaching a conclusion, but I’ve gotten kind of lost and there’s all kinds of stuff in this issue that I don’t understand.

DOOM PATROL #11 (DC, 2018) – “At the Bottom of Everything,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Nick Derington. This issue does not benefit from having been published after another long hiatus. It introduces some new concepts, including the Eonymous – the gods who are going to destroy the world if they’re not distracted by entertainment – and a new Elasti-Girl. It’s also full of metatextual commentary. But it doesn’t explain what happened to Terry and Casey’s baby. This issue reminds me of a Grant Morrison comic, and not necessarily in a good way: it has all kinds of great concepts, but is well nigh impossible to understand.

IMAGE FIRSTS: REDNECK #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Lisandro Estherren. I started buying this series because I was enjoying Babyteeth, but I never got around to actually reading it until now. So this $1 reprint is a good excuse to get caught up on it. This issue introduces a family of vampires who live in rural Texas. Their uneasy relationship with the local humans soon erupts into violence. This comic is an innovative blend of Southern Bastards and a vampire story, but what especially impresses me about it is the art. Lisandro Estherren’s art is European-influenced and reminiscent of Eduardo Risso’s art, which is natural since Estherren is from Argentina.

REDNECK #6 (Image, 2017) – as above. The first storyline concludes with all the characters either dead or transformed into vampires or both. The surviving members of the protagonists’ family all get in a boat and sail away on an underground river. I think the next issue is #9.

BLACK AF: WIDOWS AND ORPHANS #1 (Black Mask, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kwanza Osajyefo, [A] Tim Smith 3. I have the trade paperback or one-shot that comes before this comic, but I have not read it yet. This series appears to take place in the same world as Black, but this issue is mostly a fight between two superpowered characters, and it’s not clear to me who the characters are or why they’re fighting. I don’t understand this comic, and I’m not sure I’d enjoy it anymore if I did understand it. I’m giving this series one more issue to impress me before I drop it.

L.E.G.I.O.N. ’91 #28 (DC, 1991) – “Mommy’s Boy,” [W/A] Keith Giffen, [W] Alan Grant. This may well be the best issue of L.E.G.I.O.N. because of its sheer strangeness. As Stealth tries to give birth to her and Vril Dox’s baby, we learn about Stealth’s race through a series of flashbacks and quotations from their scriptures. It turns out the members of Stealth’s species are all female. They mate with males of other species, kill them, and give birth to offspring that resemble the fathers. Stealth is an outcast even among these creatures because of her mutant powers. The fascinating and disturbing thing about this comic is how it presents Stealth’s people from their own bizarre perspective, and almost makes the reader believe that males are a necessary evil, 28 is the sacred number, etc. This comic is an effective depiction of “a creature that thinks as well as a man, but not like a man.”

TRUE BELIEVERS: CAROL DANVERS #1 (Marvel, 1968/2018) – “Where Stalks the Sentry!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Gene Colan. A reprint of the main story Marvel Super-Heroes #13, Carol Danvers’s first appearance and Mar-Vell’s second. This reprint is not a full facsimile edition of MSH #13, since that also included some Golden Age reprints, but it will have to do, since MSH #13 is probably outside my price range. In this early appearance, Mar-Vell is a very different character than he would be even a few years later. He’s just an elite Kree soldier with no powers other than his equipment, and Rick Jones is nowhere to be seen. Also, he has to take medicine every hour to survive on Earth, so he has an even more severe weakness than Aquaman. This issue, he poses as deceased NASA scientist Walter Lawson (remember that name) so he can infiltrate Cape Canaveral, where he meets Carol Danvers and battles a Kree Sentry. Carol only appears on two pages of this issue, and there’s nothing to distinguish her from any other Silver Age Marvel supporting character. Also, Mar-Vell thinks of her as a “girl.” Carol did go on to become a recurring character in Mar-Vell’s solo series, and I’d like to collect more of that series and learn more about her early evolution.

QUANTUM & WOODY #15 (Acclaim, 1998) – “Magnum Force, Round 2: Peace,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] M.D. Bright. A hilarious comic. The plot of this issue is just that Quantum and Woody have been kidnapped, apparently by a villain called WarLocke, and are trying to escape. But the issue is full of witty dialogue and humor, including a running joke where Woody accuses people of being gay.

THE AUTHORITY #4 (WildStorm, 1999) – “The Circle Four of Four,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Bryan Hitch. A page from this issue is included on Vulture’s list of the 100 pages that shaped comics. The page is the one where the Authority’s ship crashes into Gamorra Tower, and it’s included as an example of the widescreen style. After reading this issue, I think that “widescreen comics” are overrated, and that the term itself is just a synonym for the style of Bryan Hitch (and I guess also Frank Quitely and John Cassaday). This issue consists of an extended fight between the Authority and Kaizen Gamorra, and it’s reasonably well executed, but I still don’t understand what was so great about this series.

L.E.G.I.O.N. ’89 #4 (DC, 1989) – “The Godfather Pulls the Strings,” [W] Keith Giffen & Alan Grant, [A] Barry Kitson. A funny and exciting issue with excellent characterization. After successfully defeating the Computer Tyrants of Colu, Vril Dox tries to rebuild the planet’s society from scratch, while his teammates stand around with nothing to do. Then Lobo arrives on Colu looking for Garryn Bek, who killed one of Lobo’s pet dolphins. The best moment in the issue is when Lobo introduces himself to Bek, and Bek faints.

WEIRD WAR TALES #27 (DC, 1974) – “Survival of the Fittest,” [W] Jack Oleck, [A] Frank Robbins. This issue’s first story is about a Nazi submarine captain who sinks a ship full of refugees, then gets stuck in a time loop where he keeps getting reincarnated as a passenger on the ship. This story gave me a new appreciation for Robbins, because I found myself focusing on his excellent storytelling and settings, instead of his characters’ ugly faces. This issue also includes a very well-drawn story by Alfredo Alcala, and a rare example of DC comics work by Paul Kirchner.

MARVELS: EYE OF THE CAMERA #1 (Marvel, 2009) – “Just One Little Thing,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Jay Anacleto. Here’s an example of the depth of Kurt Busiek’s research and knowledge: Page 2 of this issue depicts a newspaper article about Reed Richards’s rocket flight. That article quotes “rocketry expert Walter Lawson, Ph.D.” That character was only ever mentioned in one previous Marvel comic: Marvel Super Heroes #13, discussed above. I wouldn’t even have gotten this reference if I hadn’t just read a reprint of that issue. The rest of the issue isn’t quite as impressive as that, though. An aging Phil Sheldon has a series of flashbacks to his early career, and then he visits the doctor and learns he has lung cancer.

SCUD THE DISPOSABLE ASSASSIN #12 (Fireman, 1996) – “Race of Doom,” [W/A] Rob Schrab. This was one of the first independent comics I ever read. I read my friend Danny Dikel’s copy of it shortly after it came out. But I never owned my own copy until much more recently, so it was nice to revisit this issue. This series has not necessarily aged well, because it’s rather sexist and testosterone-filled, and Rob Schrab was clearly more interested in movies than comics. But what still impresses me about this issue is Rob Schrab’s creativity and restless energy. In this issue, Scud accidentally enters the “Mr. Tough Guy” competition, which is eventually won by his future lover Sussudio. Scud has to defeat a bunch of bizarre creatures in a series of equally bizarre competitions, like anti-gravity bullfighting and lava hockey. My two favorite moments from this issue are the sight of Scud in a hockey uniform, and the revelation that Scud’s opponent Patriot is also a disposable assassin, and for some reason his primary target is a plant.

SUPERMAN #283 (DC, 1975) – “Superman’s Mystery Masquerade!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. This feels like one of those comics where the cover was designed first and then the story was written to match the cover. This issue’s cover is brilliant – it shows Superman transforming into his secret identity, which is not Clark Kent but “Chris Delbart, the wolf of Wall Street.” But the interior of the comic does not live up to the cover. It turns out Superman is just posing as Chris Delbart in order to fool some mad scientist. The backup story, “One of Our Imps is Missing” by Maggin and Swan, is much better, even though it’s just an average Mr. Mxyzptlk story.

ANIMOSITY #11 (Aftershock, 2017) – “The Sting,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Rafael Delatorre. This issue, Jessie finally manages to free the bees. I’m going to quit ordering this series because I’m no longer enjoying it.

ANIMOSITY: EVOLUTION #1 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Brave New World,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Eric Gapstur. This issue begins with a page where some mayflies are discussing their history, which is very short, since their species only lives for 35 minutes. This scene is a powerful depiction of animal intelligence, which makes it disappointing that the rest of the issue isn’t nearly as good. This series takes place in a city where a wolf named Wintermute keeps a fragile peace between humans and animals. The problem with this series, as with Animosity in general, is that the animals act too much like humans with animal bodies. If Bennett would write the animals as less similar to humans, then this comic would be better able to achieve its potential.

On May 5, I went to Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find for FCBD, and then I had some new comics waiting for me at home:

RED SONJA/TARZAN #1 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Gail Simone, [A] Walter Geovani. I only heard about this comic after it had already come out, so I bought it at Heroes. In this comic, Red Sonja and Tarzan both encounter a villain named Eson Duul in their respective eras, and then he somehow uses time travel powers to bring them together. This comic shows an effective understanding of both its protagonists, but what’s most memorable about it is Esan Duul. This villain is a terrifying combination of the things Tarzan and Red Sonja hate most, civilization and male sexual violence. This comic could have been called “Red Sonja and Tarzan vs. Toxic Colonial Masculinity.”

CODA #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. This comic book is very long, and I’d have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t been exhausted when I read it, but it’s quite good – yet another exciting debut issue from a brilliant, versatile writer. Coda takes place in a Tolkienesque fantasy world which has just suffered a catastrophe that killed all the elves. The technology in this world is powered by a substance called akker, and the adventurer protagonist needs as much of it as he can to revive his dead (?) wife. This comic is full of fascinating ideas – the hero rides a five-horned demon unicorn, and the issue begins with him exploring the skeleton of a dead dragon, which is just barely alive enough to curse at him while he’s doing it. Coda also includes a lot of parodies of standard fantasy cliches. I think this series’ s worldbuilding might be more interesting than its plot, but I look forward to reading more of it.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY: SPARKS #1 (Graphix, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ian Boothby, [A] Nina Matsumoto. The first chapter of a graphic novel about a heroic dog who is actually two cats in a dog suit. This comic is intended for a very young audience, but is quite funny and is drawn in an attractive style.

DOCTOR STAR AND THE KINGDOM OF LOST TOMORROWS #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Max Fiumara. Doctor Star is summoned by the Star Sheriff Squadron, the Black Hammer version of the Green Lantern Corps. Max Fiumara draws the Green Lantern Corps better than most actual Green Lantern artists do. His Star Sheriffs include a bewildering variety of creatures, such as a giant manta ray, an even bigger snake, two little frog dudes joined at the arm, and a dwarf with a waist-length beard. I actually had a dream about this last character. But while the Star Sheriffs revere Jimmy as a hero, his wife and son justifiably hate him for abandoning them for 18 years. I still don’t see the connection between Doctor Star and the main Black Hammer title, but maybe there isn’t any. Black Hammer is Jeff Lemire’s version of Astro City: a ready-made superhero universe which includes all the classic Marvel and DC characters, but is not creator-owned or shackled to Marvel or DC continuity.

GIANT DAYS #38 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Julia Madrigal. This issue has a new artist, and her style was quite jarring at first, but she has a fairly similar sensibility to Lissa Tremain and Max Sarin. This issue, Daisy starts her new job as an RA and then resolves a pointless fight between Susan and McGraw.

SEX CRIMINALS #24 (Image, 2018) – “Would You Like Some Help with That,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Chip Zdarsky. Each issue of Sex Criminals has been more difficult than the last, and finally, here’s an issue that just went completely over my head. The key example of this is the scene with the two balding men. I know one of these men is the one who’s obsessed with anime, but I’m not sure which one, or who the other one is. Though there are some brilliant moments in this issue, like the “Clitty” mascot character. I need to find time to reread this series starting with the most recent issue that I fully understood.

ROGUE & GAMBIT #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Ring of Fire, Conclusion,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Pere Pérez. Rogue and Gambit defeat Lavish, who turns out to have been yet another golem. At the end of the issue, it looks like Gambit is about to propose to Rogue, but instead he asks her how she feels about cats, which is also a very important question. This was a really entertaining series and an effective piece of ’90s nostalgia. I wish it was an ongoing.

RELAY #0 (AfterShock, 2018) – “The Farmer and the First World,” [W] Zac Thompson, [A] Andy Clarke. A science fiction comic about a race (possibly consisting of humans) that tries to impose a common culture on every planet in the universe. There are some intriguing ideas in this comic, but it didn’t make me want to read more of this series.

SCALES & SCOUNDRELS #9 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] Galaad. The best issue yet. It’s a silent story where all the word balloons are pictures. I’ve read other comics with this gimmick before, but in this issue the gimmick is justified by the storyline: Luvander meets a man whose voice has been stolen by a mermaid, and she travels under the sea to get his voice back. Silent stories are a severe test of a creative team’s visual storytelling skills, and Girner and Galaad pass that test: they succeed in making the story intelligible without words. I especially like how the mermaid’s word balloons are just pictures of dark water.

ADVENTURE TIME WITH FIONNA AND CAKE 2018 FCBD SPECIAL (Boom!, 2018) – “What’s the Punchline,” [W] Kiernan Sjursen-Lien, [A] C. Larsen. Fionna and Cake, the gender-swapped versions of Finn and Jake, are taking some punch to Prince Gumball’s punch parade, but they keep encountering people who want their punch. This issue is fun, but nothing spectacular.

ZODIAC STARFORCE: CRIES OF THE FIRE PRINCE #4 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kevin Panetta, [A] Paulina Ganucheau. This is the last issue, which surprised me because the previous miniseries was four issues. The two Zodiac Starforces defeat the Fire Prince in an epic battle, but two of them are dragged through a dimensional portal along with him, and the series ends on a cliffhanger. I hope there will be a sequel.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2018 (AVENGERS/CAPTAIN AMERICA) #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Sara Pichelli. This FCBD issue begins with a preview of the new Avengers title. It’s set in 1,000,000 BCE and stars a team of prehistoric Avengers, including Odin, Phoenix, Agamotto, and a caveman Hulk. This story is pretty fun. The backup story, a preview of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Captain America, is not as promising.

AVENGERS #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Final Host,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Ed McGuinness. Steve Rogers, Thor Odinson and Tony Stark form a new Avengers team to combat the imminent arrival of the Final Celestial Host. This is an exciting issue, a rare example of a Marvel flagship title that may actually be worth reading.

YUPPIES FROM HELL #1 (Marvel, 1989) – “First Date/Last Date” and other stories, [W/A] Barbara Slate. One of the most obscure Marvel comics of the ’80s, Yuppies from Hell is another work of the underrated and forgotten Barbara Slate. This first issue is a collection of interrelated short black-and-white strips about yuppies in late-’80s New York. Not all the jokes are equally funny, but this comic shows a keen understanding of money and gender politics, and a lot of its jokes are still applicable to hipsters today. Yuppies from Hell appeals to sort of the same audience as Cathy, but is better crafted (which isn’t saying much).

HATE #26 (Fantagraphics, 1997) – “Let’s Start a Crackhouse!”, [W/A] Peter Bagge. Stinky is back in town, and he, Buddy’s brother Butch, and their ex-con friend Jimmy want to use Buddy’s home as a crack house. Buddy is not happy about it. This issue is excellent, but the next one was even better. This issue also includes some short backup features, which are a mixed bag. Among them are a one-pager by Jaime Hernandez and a three-pager by Gilbert Hernandez.

EXIT STAGE LEFT: THE SNAGGLEPUSS CHRONICLES #5 (DC, 2018) – “Opening Night,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mike Feehan. Snagglepuss testifies before the HUAC and refuses to name names. Meanwhile, Huckleberry Hound hangs himself. This is another fantastic issue, whose strong points include Snagglepuss’s poetic dialogue and Russell’s depiction of the paranoid, oppressive atmosphere of 50s America.

DEATHSTROKE #31 (DC, 2018) – “The Falling Stars, Part 2 of 6,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Carlo Pagulayan & Roberto Viacara. This comic shows that Priest has still got it. Deathstroke #31 has all his trademarks – it’s structured as a series of vignettes with their own titles, and it has a convoluted plot and snappy dialogue. I’m glad I ordered this.

HATE #27 (Fantagraphics, 1997) – “Buddy Cleans House,” [W/A] Peter Bagge with Jim Blanchard. One of Bagge’s finest single issues, Hate #27 begins with perhaps the most shocking scene he’s ever drawn. Jimmy and Stinky are hanging out at the beach, shooting at beer bottles and complaining about Buddy, when Stinky says “Just wait ’til you get a load of this” – and shoots himself in the head! A low-key, funny scene turns (literally) deadly serious, with no warning and in the space of one panel. The rest of the issue is almost as good. Buddy gets increasingly pissed at Butch, Jimmy and Stinky’s childish antics and petty crimes, until he erupts in suppressed rage, as depicted in a single panel that fills a half page. It’s a turning point in Buddy’s life: he realizes he’s outgrown all this twentysomething drama, and he decides to buy out Jay’s share of the business, sell his monster truck, and start acting like an adult. The issue ends with Buddy visiting Stinky’s grave. Overall, this issue is an important moment in Buddy’s life and Bagge’s career, and it reminds me that Peter Bagge is not just a great humorist, but a great cartoonist, period. The best of the backup stories this issue is Bagge and Crumb’s “Caffy,” a parody of Cathy, although unfortunately it’s grossly sexist.

THE WORLD BELOW: DEEPER AND STRANGER #3 (Dark Horse, 2000) – “The Brain!”, [W/A] Paul Chadwick. On another trip underground, the protagonists encounter a giant alien brain that’s controlling a bunch of other creatures. Then they meet some deformed humans. This issue is an excellent showcase of Chadwick’s art, which usually takes a back seat to his writing. It’s kind of an ascended version of Cave Carson. It also has a powerfully written flashback scene in which a lunatic tries to shoot up an abortion clinic.

ARCHIE #15 (Archie, 2017) – “Don’t Be Absurd,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Joe Eisma. Due to the stress of planning his anniversary party, Archie has gone insane and switched personalities with Jughead. Meanwhile, Cheryl Blossom decides to move to Riverdale. This was an average issue.

ARCHIE #16 (Archie, 2017) – “You’ve Invented Yelp,” as above. This issue is a spotlight on Dilton Doiley. He invents an app that can be used to rate anything, but predictably, everyone in town starts using it to post negative reviews of people they dislike. This story also establishes that Dilton has a crush on Betty, which becomes relevant later.

RIVERDALE FCBD EDITION (Archie, 2018) – “Chock’lit Shop of Horrors,” [W] Ross Maxwell & Will Ewing, [A] Joe Eisma. Pop tells Betty a series of ghost stories, ending with a story about his encounter with a mysterious stranger, who predictably turns out to be the devil. This is an odd choice for an FCBD comic because it’s more suited for October than May.

THE WEAVERS #1 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Dylan Burnett. I already reviewed issue 2 of this series. This first issue explains the premise: The protagonist is the newest member of a mob. It turns out that each member of this organization is possessed by a superpowered spider, and when one of them dies, its spider is transferred to someone else, which is what happened to the protagonist. This comic is a blend of film noir and supernatural horror. It’s not Spurrier’s best miniseries, but not his worst either (that would be Motherlands).

SCION #1 (CrossGen, 2000) – untitled, [W] Ron Marz, [A] Jim Cheung. I liked this more than I expected to, given that I dislike Ron Marz’s writing. This comic’s setting is mostly an epic fantasy milieu but with some technology. Its protagonist, Ethan, turns 21 and goes to fight in a tournament, only to discover that he’s a sigil-bearer. Ethan is a very appealing protagonist, and Jim Cheung is good at both worldbuilding and emotion.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #17 (DC, 1991) – “The Last Battle,” [W/A] Keith Giffen, [W] Tom Bierbaum, Mary Bierbaum & Al Gordon. The Legion fights a desperate battle against the Khunds and their leader Glorith. Mysa Nal saves the day. This issue has some very exciting fight scenes, and one epic moment when Vi bursts out of Laurel’s earring, but it could have been better.

GRIP: THE STRANGE WORLD OF MEN #3 (DC, 2002) – “Gripping Romantic Western Mystery,” [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. Along with Blubber, this is one of the weirdest things Beto has ever written. It’s full of body horror and violence. And unlike Blubber it has a plot and characters, although the plot is so weird and convoluted that I can’t summarize it.

LOCKE & KEY: HEAD GAMES #1 (IDW, 2009) – “Intermission,” [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. I read the first trade paperback of this series and enjoyed it, but somehow I never got around to reading any more of it. In this issue, the ghostly villain, Luke, encounters an old high school teacher who knew him when he was alive. The teacher’s life and his grief for his dead wife are depicted in great detail, and then Luke murders him. Joe Hill’s characterization and dialogue are quite powerful. Gabriel Rodriguez’s art is not as spectacular as his art in Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland or Sword of Ages, but this issue does include one spectacular two-page spread depicting a performance of The Tempest.

And now I am FINALLY done with my current stack of reviews, until tomorrow when my new comics are supposed to come…

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