Multiple review posts at once

7-19-18

I’ve been hesitant to write any more reviews because I’m almost out of space in my boxes. I ordered five more boxes, and they’re supposed to arrive on Wednesday.

A few comics I read after I finished the last round of reviews:

ARCADE #4 (Print Mint, 1975) – various stories, [E] Art Spiegelman & Bill Griffith. This was one of my most exciting finds at Heroes Con. I never thought I’d own an actual issue of Arcade. This issue is most notable because it’s the only comic in my collection that includes new work by Art Spiegelman. His story, “As the Mind Reels/A Soap Opera,” is very experimental and nonlinear, and its artwork and lettering are brilliant. This issue’s lineup of talent also includes Crumb, Griffith, Spain, Deitch, and Robert Williams. As is well known and as this issue demonstrates, Arcade was a bridge between the early underground comics and the more mature tradition of comics represented by Raw.

MANHUNTER #13 (DC, 2005) – “Manhunted Part Four: Skin Deep,” [W] Marc Andreyko, [A] Brad Walker. This series was unusual when it came out (and still today, I guess) because its protagonist was a single mother. But it’s mostly forgotten now, and perhaps with good reason. This issue has a couple nice moments, but Andreyko spends most of the issue exploring the connections between all the previous Manhunters.

ATOMIC ROBO: THE SAVAGE SWORD OF DR. DINOSAUR #1 (Red 5, 2013) – untitled, [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. Robo and his employees explore a cryptid sighting in Venezuela, and run into Dr. Dinosaur. This issue was less funny than other issues of this miniseries, mostly because there was less Dr. Dinosaur. There’s one funny moment when Robo has to carry his entire team using one climbing harness.

LOCKE & KEY: KEYS TO THE KINGDOM #1 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. Luke uses the animal key to turn himself into a wolf, and tries to kill Ty (who I mistakenly referred to as Rendell in two previous reviews; Rendell is his father). Bode saves Ty by turning himself into a flock of birds. The scenes from Bode’s POV are drawn in a faux-Calvin & Hobbes style, demonstrating Rodriguez’s stylistic versatility.

BATMAN #375 (DC, 1984) – “The Glacier Under Gotham,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Don Newton. This issue’s cover has Batman saying “Robin – what have I done to you!” I assume this is just a coincidence, unless the infamous panel with that same line of dialogue was already a meme in 1984. The issue’s story is narrated in awful rhymed verse that doesn’t even scan, which proves that Moench’s poetry was even worse than its prose. The plot is that Mr. Freeze tries to freeze Gotham solid, and Julia Pennyworth and Vicki Vale try to stop him, but only succeed in getting captured. Meanwhile, a social worker decides to take Jason Todd away from Bruce because Bruce is an unfit parent. I can’t blame her.

At the end of June I went to visit my parents in Minneapolis. While I was there, my dad and I visited the Comic Book College at its new location. I have a deep sentimental attachment to the old Comic College because it was the first comic book store I ever visited. But I do have to admit that the new location is really nice and quite spacious. They had a ton of back issues and I could easily have spent an hour hunting through everything they had, but I didn’t have the time. I did buy a small stack of comics, of which I only read one before I got home:

GOAT: H.A.E.D.U.S. #1 (Valiant, 1998) – “The Troll,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Keith Giffen & Charlie Adlard. This is probably the rarest Quantum & Woody comic, so I didn’t mind paying $5 for it. This one-shot tells the origin of Eric and Woody’s pet goat. Like all Q&W comics, it’s very funny but also confusing and nonlinear, and requires serious effort to decipher. It includes a scene that’s also shown from a different perspective in Quantum & Woody #15 or #16, I forget which.

New comics that I picked up on July 4, after I got home:

LUMBERJANES #51 (Boom!, 2018) – “Board, Board, Board” part 3, [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Dozerdraws. Another great issue of a really fun storyline. The board game storyline is almost as exciting as the underground exploration storyline. I don’t play board games, but I kind of want to play Penterra. Molly’s line “Everyone is enjoying this game in different ways… there’s nothing wrong with that” is kind of the central principle of this comic, as well as My Little Pony.

SAGA #53 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. The problem when Saga and Lumberjanes both come out the same day is that I have to choose which comic to read first – the best current comic (Saga) or my favorite current comic (Lumberjanes). I chose Saga the last three times this happened, but this time I chose Lumberjanes. This issue of Saga is full of brutal violence. The mole assassin is shot in the face, though unfortunately she doesn’t die, and on the last page The Will rips Prince Robot’s head off. A few days ago, I was thinking that it would be nice if Saga didn’t have a shocking twist every issue, or if not every storyline ended with a horrible catastrophe. If only Marko, Alana and Hazel could get some quiet time to themselves for once. But that’s not BKV’s style – his comics depend on shocks and twists and constant tension.

MS. MARVEL #31 (Marvel, 2018) – “One Night Only,” [W] G. Willow Wilson et al, [A] Nico Leon et al. Kamala invites Nakia, Zoe and Mike to a sleepover, but keeps having to run out on her own party to deal with emergencies. Within this framing sequence are three sequences by guest writers, including Rainbow Rowell, Saladin Ahmed and Hasan Minhaj. The lineup of talent in this issue is tremendous – G. Willow Wilson, Rainbow Rowell and Saladin Ahmed are three of Marvel’s four best current writers (besides Ryan North), and each of them is also a successful novelist. And this comic mostly lives up to the talent involved. Kamala asking Lockjaw if Black Bolt fell down the old well is a priceless moment. It’s heartwarming when Kamala finally reveals her secret identity to her girlfriends, all of whom knew it already. The weak link in the issue is Hasan Minhaj’s segment; it’s obvious that he hasn’t written comics before.

ASTRO CITY #52 (DC, 2018) – “And, in the End…”, [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Brent Anderson. The last monthly issue of Astro City is an effective finale to the series. Michael tells the truth about his wife to his support group, and most of them believe him – except Rose, the bereaved woman from last issue, who calls him a liar and storms out. But most of the group members come back anyway. There’s no real resolution at the end, but there doesn’t need to be. For selfish reasons, I’m sorry that Kurt is dispensing with the monthly Astro City comic. I’m sure that going straight to trade paperback is a better option; it’s just that I love the comic book format, and I’d rather own everything in that form.

SEX CRIMINALS #25 (Image, 2018) – “No Tell,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Chip Zdarsky. This series continues to be rather difficult and confusing, but this was the best and clearest issue in a while. Perhaps inevitably, Jon and Suzie get back together, and it’s a heartwarming moment, even if it feels like they haven’t really resolved the issues behind their breakup. Also, I guess Kegelface isn’t evil anymore?

MODERN FANTASY #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Kristen Gudsnuk. I haven’t heard of this writer before, but I loved Kristen Gudsnuk’s Henchgirl. I actually wish I’d read it slower than I did, because it’s a very dense work, with all sorts of Easter eggs and hidden jokes. This comic is similarly full of little details and references, and Gudsnuk uses them to build a unique and evocative fantasy world (whereas Henchgirl takes place in our world). Modern Fantasy is sort of like Monsters, Inc. or Top Ten in that its world is full of epic fantasy tropes and cliches, but otherwise operates according to real-world logic. The protagonist, Sage of the Riverlands, is an office drone whose boss is a Conan-esque barbarian. Given the depth and originality of the worldbuilding, this comic would be good enough if it were just a slice-of-life story. But it also has a plot, in which Sage gets stuck with some property that belongs to the mob. I’m excited for this series and I look forward to the next issue.

KILL OR BE KILLED #20 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. We begin with a fake happy ending in which Dylan survives his gunshot wound, returns to his normal life with Kira, and continues being a vigilante even though he’s free of the demon. Unsurprisingly, it turns out this is just an imaginary sequence and Dylan really is dead. And then Kira gets possessed by the demon. This issue is a satisfying conclusion to a well-done series. Besides being an entertaining crime story, it also functions as a critique of the superhero genre, showing that one dude fighting bad people doesn’t solve any problems.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #37 (Image, 2018) – “Nothing to Be Scared Of,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. This issue begins with ten pages of black panels. This was a… surprising decision, but it makes sense in context. And apparently the ten blank pages were free to the reader; the issue cost the same and had the same number of “real” pages as any other issue. I remember either Kieron or Jamie said something about these pages on Twitter, but I can’t find that tweet now. In the rest of the issue, Baphomet fights Morrigan, and she apparently dies.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #32 (Marvel, 2018) – “Save Our School Part 1 of 5,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Lunella’s new classmate is the Kingpin’s daughter, Princess Fisk, who is the same proportionate size as her father. And Lunella catches Princess breaking into school after hours. This was a fun issue, though not as memorable as last issue, and a promising start to a new storyline. On Twitter, I asked Brandon what Lunella’s parents’ first names are, and he replied, “Mr. and Mrs.”

BLACKWOOD #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Veronica Fish. Another really strong issue, but basically the same sort of thing as last issue. It turns out the four protagonists were all recruited for Blackwood’s secret school within the school, which trains students to protect the world from occult threats. And the blond-haired kid tries to leave Blackwood and go home, only to run into the creepy old lady from last issue, who is carrying around a giant rat-eating bug.

THE TERRIFICS #5 (DC, 2018) – “Element World! Part One,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Doc Shaner. The Terrifics try to resume their interrupted personal lives, but get summoned to fight Algon, the Ancient Elemental Man. Compared to Jeff’s other current titles, The Terrifics is kind of a minor work, but it’s very fun, and Doc Shaner’s art is brilliant. Metamorpho and Sapphire have always had an extremely unhealthy and codependent relationship, and they really ought to break up.

DODGE CITY #4 (Boom!, 2018) – “Whump!”, [W] Josh Trujillo, [A] Cara McGee. The Jazz Pandas lose their match, but learn a valuable lesson about friendship, I guess. This was the worst Boom! Box title yet. The characters were insufficiently developed, and the reader had no reason to care whether they won or lost. If there’s another Dodge City miniseries, I won’t be buying it.

DESCENDER #31 (Image, 2018) – “The End of the Universe 3 of 4,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Nothing truly unexpected. Tim tries to get the Descenders to stop destroying the universe, and they say no. One more issue left.

LUCY DREAMING #4 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Max Bemis, [A] Michael Dialynas. Lucy and Welsey find themselves in a superhero story, where Welsey turns out to be the supervillain. And Lucy’s mom reveals that “the masculine energy of this world has become lopsidedly pronounced,” so I guess this comic is an allegory about boys’ versus girls’ stories, though I’m not sure what the point of the allegory is. The issue ends with Lucy reawakening within an Alice in Wonderland story.

THE WEATHERMAN #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jody LeHeup, [A] Nathan Fox. A science fiction comic from one of the writers of Shirtless Bear-Fighter. It takes place on Mars seven years after Earth was destroyed, and the protagonist is a celebrity weather reporter. I enjoyed this comic, but I have trouble remembering anything about it, even what the premise is. There’s a scene where the (male) hero attempts to breastfeed a baby.

PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #306 (Marvel, 2018) – “Coming Home – Part One,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Adam Kubert & Juan Frigeri. Back in the present, Spidey and some other superheroes come up with a plan to stop the Vedomi. This issue was a step down in quality from the previous storyline; it lacked the emotional resonance of the encounter between the past and present Spideys. I had trouble remembering anything about this issue.

LUBA #2 (Fantagraphics, 1998) – “Luba in America, Part 2” and other stories, [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. At this point in Beto’s ongoing Luba saga, its plot was still fairly understandable – whereas now it’s gotten so convoluted that I’m not even sure who the characters are. This issue of Luba includes some references to “Poison River,” a story I don’t understand well, but otherwise it’s pretty clear. Conveniently, Beto includes a list of characters on the inside front cover. The stories in this issue feature Luba herself, Fritz and Petra, and Guadalupe and Gato.

MARVEL SPOTLIGHT #14 (Marvel, 1973) – “Ice and Hellfire!”, [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Jim Mooney. Daimon Hellstrom visits “Gateway University” in St. Louis to investigate some demon sightings. While there, he encounters a female professor who becomes intrigued by him. This issue has some Gerberesque touches, like the flaming chariot with demon steeds at the beginning, but Gerber’s Son of Satan is not one of his major works.

FIRST ISSUE SPECIAL #1 (DC, 1975) – “Atlas the Great!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Atlas is a heroic warrior who will eventually become the model for the Greek Titan of the same name. Atlas, the comic, feels like Kirby’s take on the barbarian genre, although it’s drawn in a typically Kirbyesque style and looks nothing like a barbarian comic. Atlas is orphaned as a child, and when he grows up, he becomes a mercenary warrior seek revenge on the wizard who killed his parents. This is the same plot as Wulf the Barbarian or Dagar the Invincible. Besides that, Atlas is a pretty typical ’70s Kirby comic, and lacks the excitement and originality of his better works of that period.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #7 (Marvel, 2018) – “Chasing Your Monster,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón K. Pérez. Ben, Johnny and Rachna travel to yet another alternate reality, where they have to fight in a gladiatorial arena. Then Rachna runs off in search of a device to heal her sister, abandoning Ben and Johnny. This series honestly hasn’t been all that good, and this issue felt like a chore to read. MTIO also lacks a sense of purpose, since Ben believes Reed and Sue are dead, meaning that his and Johnny’s attempt to find them is futile. Of course the reader knows that Reed and Sue are coming back in a few months, but there’s no hint of that in MTIO itself. MTIO’s lack of purpose is a problem which is intrinsic to the text, and I don’t think you can solve such a problem by applying knowledge from outside the text.

AMERICAN SPLENDOR: TRANSATLANTIC COMICS #1 (Dark Horse, 1998) – “Transatlatic Comics,” [W] Harvey Pekar, [A] Frank Stack & Colin Warneford. Most of this issue is drawn by an autistic British fan, Colin Warneford, and consists of a sequence in which Harvey reads Warneford’s letter to him. Warneford’s letter has little to do with Harvey Pekar’s life, but Harvey enjoyed using American Splendor to tell other people’s stories as well as his own – he did that on a larger scale in the Unsung Hero miniseries. Warneford’s story is quite touching. His autism isolates him and subjects him to mockery and prejudice – for example, people make fun of him whenever he goes out. Attitudes about autism have changed since this comic came out, but I expect that the prejudices this story depicts are still very common. This issue of American Splendor was Colin Warneford’s only published comics work, and I can’t find any information as to what became of him. I hope he’s still alive and well.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #41 (Marvel, 1975) – “Havoc on Homeworld!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Al Milgrom. My collection of this series mostly stops with Jim Starlin’s departure, but I ought to collect all the late issues that Englehart wrote. In this issue, Mar-Vell and Rick visit the Kree homeworld, which is a hideous dystopia, and the Supreme Intelligence makes them fight Ronan. Al Milgrom does an okay job of imitating Starlin.

THOR #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Odinson Boys Ride Again,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mike Del Mundo. Thor and Loki go to Niffleheim, where they meet some characters we haven’t seen in a while: Balder, Tyr, Karnilla and Skurge. And they all try to organize a defense against Malekith and the Queen of Cinders. Also, Thori receives a marriage proposal from Tyr’s pet dinosaur, and we briefly encounter Lady Allmour of the Pleasure Lands, who I’d like to see more of. Mike Del Mundo’s art helps to distinguish this series from the previous Thor comic, which is good because that series is a tough act to follow.

GIRL OVER PARIS: THE CIRQUE AMERICAN SERIES #1 (JetCity, 2016) – untitled, [W] Gwenda Bond & Kate Leth, [A] Ming Doyle. I pulled this from a cheap box at Heroes Con because Kate Leth wrote it. This comic is published by Amazon’s comics imprint, and it’s an adaptation of a novel series also published by Amazon, about a female circus performer. The comic is a fairly intriguing depiction of the circus lifestyle, and it has an air of verisimilitude, but it’s not all that exciting.

SUICIDE SQUAD #24 (DC, 1989) – “Slings and Arrows,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Luke McDonnell. Amanda Waller is forced to testify to Congress about the Squad’s existence. To prevent the Suicide Squad themselves from having to testify, she sends them on a mission to the African country of Ogaden – named after an actual disputed territory in Ethiopia. This is just a great superhero comic; it’s full of fascinating characters and exciting moments. A high point of the issue is when Nemesis stands up to Waller, calls her a bully, and refuses to go on the mission. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s a scene where Punch and Jewelee engage in foreplay in front of their teammates – including Punch telling Jewelee to “eat this salami.” How did that get past the Code?

ACTION COMICS #466 (DC, 1976) – “You Can Take the Man Out of the Super, But You Can’t Take the Super Out of the Boy!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. What a title. According to this issue’s Neal Adams-drawn cover, Luthor has turned Batman and the Flash into children and killed them, and is now doing the same to Superman. The story inside is okay, but it doesn’t quite live up to the cover, although Superboy, Batboy and Kid Flash are fairly cute.

REVOLVER #5 (Renegade, 1986) – “The Crackling Blazer,” [W/A] Steve Ditko, plus other stories. I read this just after learning that Steve Ditko had died. He’s not my favorite artist, but I admire both his artwork and his personal integrity, and his death is a great loss. “The Crackling Blazer” is a series of one-page strips which were created in 1977 for a newspaper about CB radio, but never published. It’s a typically bizarre piece of work, about a radio-powered superhero who defends drivers on a living highway. It includes all of Ditko’s stock characters: an eccentric old inventor, his attractive daughter, a mad scientist, and a superhero with bizarre energy powers and a two-syllable name (Cal Bane). Indeed, this comic is similar enough to Ditko’s Static that I wonder if one was a prototype for the other. CB also strongly resembles Shade the Changing Man. This comic also includes some short backup stories, including one of Henry Boltinoff’s last one-pagers.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: WAKANDA FOREVER #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “A Strange Little Birdie,” [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Alberto Albuquerque. Spidey teams up with Ayo, Aneka and Okoye to fight Nakia and Hydro-Man. Incidentally, the comic version of Nakia, who appears in this issue, is shockingly different from the movie version. New readers encountering this comic will probably wonder why Nakia looks and dresses crazy and is terrorizing children. Marvel would be well advised to retcon Nakia so that she matches her depiction in the movie. Anyway, the story in this issue is pretty average, but the characterization is very impressive. The Dora Milaje themselves, as well as the kids at the beginning of the issue, are interesting, their dialogue is well-written, and they remind me of the characters in Okorafor’s books. In writing these characters, Nnedi Okorafor is able to draw upon her firsthand knowledge of both African and American culture. I’m glad she’s getting more work for Marvel. There are several Caribbean restaurants named The Hummingbird Restaurant, including one in Trenton, NJ, but none of them are in New York City.

BLOODSTRIKE BRUTALISTS #23 (Image, 2018) – “Tag, You’re It!”, [W/A] Michel Fiffe. Bloodstrike member Tag gets involved in a bizarre and disturbing murder mystery. This issue has a fairly intricate plot, and as usual, Michel Fiffe’s art is exciting and radically experimental. Perhaps the highlight of the issue is a backup story by Rob Liefeld, starring his self-parody character The Pouch.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #123 (Marvel, 1970) – “Suprema, the Deadliest of the Species!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Gene Colan. A new villain called Suprema (later Mother Night) hypnotizes Nick Fury and takes control of SHIELD, but Cap figures out her weakness and defeats her. This issue’s plot is pretty dumb, but Gene’s artwork is spectacular. There’s one page where Stan doesn’t include any dialogue and just lets Gene’s artwork tell the story. Stan did that at least one other time, in Tales of Suspense #85.

DETECTIVE COMICS #484 (DC, 1979) – “Assault on Olympus!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Don Newton. In the opening story, Batman battles Maxie Zeus. This story is well-drawn, but nothing special. There are backup stories starring the Human Target, Batgirl, Robin, the Demon, and Batman again. The Robin story is mildly poignant because Dick revisits Haley’s Circus, and the Demon story is drawn by Steve Ditko. I like Jack C. Harris’s Batgirl stories because I like Batgirl, but those stories weren’t especially well written.

BACCHUS #6 (Eddie Campbell, 1995) – “King Bacchus, Part 5: Ours is a Random Association” and “The Gods of Business, Part 2: The White Knight,” [W/A] Eddie Campbell with Pete Mullins and Ed Hillyer. This issue’s first story guest-stars Neil Gaiman. In the backup story, the Telchines, the eponymous gods of business, explain their origin and then try to kidnap Joe Theseus’s previous wife and his young son. I’ve read a bunch of Eddie’s Bacchus stories in collected form or in other comic books, and I’m never quite sure which ones I have and haven’t read, so it was nice to realize that I hadn’t read either of these stories before. Eddie is equally good at telling a story with a plot (The Gods of Business) or a plotless meandering ramble (King Bacchus).

ACTION COMICS #391 (DC, 1970) – “The Punishment of Superman’s Son!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Ross Andru. This imaginary story depicts some of the worst parenting in comic book history. Superman is disappointed in his teenage son, who keeps making all sorts of stupid mistakes. He wishes his son were more like Batman Jr, who is following in his father’s footsteps. And Superman tells Superman Jr all of this, repeatedly and at length. In short, Superman is an abusive father. He constantly criticizes and insults his son and sets him up to fail, and he never considers the possibility that Superman Jr’s failings are the result of bad parenting. (Batman is just as bad; he mocks Superman for having such an inferior son, which is actually kind of hilarious.) And at the end of the issue, Superman erases Superman This story continues into the following issue, which is even worse: Superman Sr has second thoughts and gives his own powers to Superman Jr, who now has an impossible burden to live up to. The saving grace of this story is that it was a prototype for Bob Haney’s Super Sons stories, which were much better, and eventually for Peter Tomasi’s Super Sons series. This issue also includes a Legion backup in which Element Lad and some other Legionnaires go on an espionage mission. This story is pretty average, and the only really interesting moment occurs when Saturn Girl meets a friend of hers from before she joined the Legion.

BATMAN #42 (DC, 2015) – “Superheroes, Part 2,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Greg Capullo. This issue seems quite well done, but it’s confusing and not new-reader friendly. As of the start of this issue, Jim Gordon is the new Batman. There’s no explanation of why he’s Batman or why Bruce Wayne has a beard and is working at some sort of youth center. I should have been reading Scott Snyder’s Batman when it came out, but by now the original issues are going to be tough to find, and I try to avoid buying trade paperbacks of Marvel or DC comics.

SUPERMAN #28 (DC, 2017) – “Independence Day,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] Scott Godlewski. Clark, Lois and Jon visit Washington DC, tour the monuments, and meet some descendants of a soldier lost at Gettysburg (a Union soldier, thankfully). Superman recovers the soldier’s body and delivers it to his family. This issue has some heartwarming moments, but it’s full of a type of unquestioning patriotism that rings very hollow at the moment. I know I can’t expect very much political critique from a DC comic, but right now I have trouble believing that our country is in okay shape, or that our heritage is something to be uncritically proud of. I especially don’t like the opening scene, which draws a false equivalence between pro- and anti-climate-change protesters.

FANTASTIC FOUR #150 (Marvel, 1974) – “Ultron-7: He’ll Rule the World!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Rich Buckler. The first half of this issue is the conclusion of a crossover with Avengers #127, in which the Avengers, FF and Inhumans battle Ultron, who looks very odd because he’s wearing a red costume. The second half of the issue is Quicksilver and Crystal’s wedding, but oddly enough, neither Quicksilver nor Crystal has any dialogue in the entire issue. Perhaps that was a bad omen for their marriage. In general, this is a very average comic.

ARCHANGEL #1 (IDW, 2016) – untitled, [W] William Gibson, [A] Butch Guice. I’ve read Neuromancer, and I have three other William Gibson novels that I haven’t read. He’s not my favorite author. His first comics project is a time-travel story in which some future scientists investigate alien sightings during World War II. About half of this issue consists of sketches and worldbuilding material, and it’s obvious that a lot of thought and preliminary work went into this comic. But I haven’t yet felt motivated to read the other four issues.

THE SENTRY #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Sentry World, Part 1,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Kim Jacinto. Bob Reynolds is working at a diner and living in a hovel, while using a device called the Confluctor to engage in fantasy adventures as the Sentry. One day he comes home and finds the Confluctor stolen, but the fantasy world it creates still exists independently. This comic is an interesting take on Superman. It reminds me of Black Hammer in its blending of the superhero and slice-of-life genres, and it also reminds me of early issues of Miracleman.

KID BLASTOFF #1 (Slave Labor, 1996) – “The Attack of the Bomb Squad,” [W/A] Evan Dorkin & Sarah Dyer. A collection of strips that originally appeared in Disney Adventures, about an incompetent new superhero and his much smarter female sidekick. These stories are entertaining and funny, but they’re not the best Evan is capable of. Kid Blastoff could have been presented as even more of an incompetent glory-hound. I did a little research on Disney Adventures for my UF keynote speech, and I’d like to look into it further. That magazine was an important precursor to the current YA comics boom.

TARZAN #161 (Gold Key, 1966) – “Fight for the Treasure,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Russ Manning. The conclusion of an adaptation of The Jewels of Opar, an exciting novel with a very complex but understandable plot. I’ve never read an actual Tarzan novel, but I’ve read so many comics adaptations of ERB novels, it’s as if I had read the novels themselves. Russ Manning is one of my favorite classic comic book artists, and this issue demonstrates why. Manning’s anatomy and his action sequences are perfect. It seems like no detail in any panel could be changed without making it worse. There’s one very funny moment in this issue where Tarzan speaks in great ape language and pretends he’s speaking Greek. (Edit: Turns out I already had this issue.)

BACCHUS #7 (Eddie Campbell, 1995) – “King Bacchus, Part 6” and “The Gods of Business, Part 3,” creators as above. One of the characters in “King Bacchus” has a shirt depicting Gran’ma Ben from Bone. The Gods of Bacchus story includes a brutal moment where the Telchines murder Joe Theseus’s sleeping child. The Telchines may be the worst villains Eddie has created. See the review of #6 above for more general comments.

BROTHERS OF THE SPEAR #15 (Gold Key, 1975) – “The Phantom Leopards,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Dan Spiegle. A workmanlike but well-crafted story in which the Aba-Zulu fight off an invasion by an enemy tribe. This series never gets the credit it deserves for depicting interracial friendships and an integrated society, at a time when such depictions were risky.

SUPERB #10 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “Those Who Remain,” [W] David Walker, [A] Alitha Martinez. The Foresight people are torturing the captured Jonah by forcing him to engage in constant testing. Kayla tries to break in and rescue him. Foresight’s brutal treatment of Jonah is disturbing, as well as the ways they justify it – the one dude basically says it’s okay because Jonah isn’t human. I enjoyed this issue more than the last few.

TALES OF THE BEANWORLD #21 (Eclipse, 1993) – “The First Time Professor Garbanzo Discovered the Four Realities,” [W/A] Larry Marder. Proffy tells the Cuties the story of how she got inside the Fix-It Shop and discovered the Four Realities. Unlike some of the other later issues, this issue doesn’t expand our understanding of the Beanworld very much, but it does fill in some past history, and the Cuties are adorable. Professor Garbanzo’s story suggests that the Beanworld recreates itself every year, and that the current Beanworld is the latest in a succession of others.

BACCHUS #8 (Eddie Campbell, 1995) – “King Bacchus, Part 7” and “The Gods of Business, Part 4: The Joe Theseus Interview,” creators as above. Again, this issue’s King Bacchus installment has no real plot. In the “Gods of Business” chapter, Joe Theseus explains his entire history, then frees the Eyeball Kid from the Telchines’ captivity.

BATMAN #12 (DC, 2017) – “I Am Suicide Part Four,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mikel Janin. I enjoyed this more than the Scott Snyder issue I reviewed above, mostly because the artwork is really good. Mikel Janin’s draftsmanship is excellent. However, this issue mostly consists of two-page splashes in which Batman fights a bunch of guys, and it’s not clear who they are or why Batman is fighting them. Unless you’re as good a storyteller as Walt Simonson, it’s probably better not to imitate Thor #380.

My next new comics shipment came on July 10th. UPS previously made two unsuccessful delivery attempts on the 7th and the 9th. I wasn’t at home either time, and the delivery driver didn’t want to leave the package, even though I had left instructions that he should do so. Apparently he thought the package was valuable because it contained “comic books.” After a phone call to UPS and a conversation with the driver, I’ve cleared this up, and I didn’t have any problem receiving the subsequent two packages.

PAPER GIRLS #22 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. The girls discover that Jahpo is still alive, then a giant robot librarian chases them out of the library. They split up to look for Jahpo and Wari and to find a cure for Mac’s cancer. Mac uses a walkie-talkie and hears the voice of her future self. Overall another good issue.

QUANTUM AGE #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Wilfredo Torres. This issue’s framing sequence takes place in the year 3041, 25 years after the Quantum League – i.e. the Legion of Super-Heroes – failed to prevent Earth from being conquered by Martians. A young Martian boy is recruited by the League’s few remaining members. A flashback sequence depicts the League in its glory days, just before the invasion. Quantum Age #1 is probably the best Legion comic of the decade – not that there’s a lot of competition, but it really feels like a classic Legion story. The Quantum League has a large and diverse membership, including not just humans with blue or orange skin, but also a telepathic floating armadillo, a gorilla, a giant rock creature, etc. We only get glimpses of each of these characters, but we can tell that they all have stories and personalities. Like the actual Legionnaires, they engage in soap opera romance as well as adventure – the characters based on Brainiac 5 and Supergirl are a couple. In this issue Jeff shows that he understands the appeal of the Legion, and that he has the rare ability to write a satisfying Legion story. If only DC would hire him, or for that matter anyone else, to write the actual Legion.

CATWOMAN #1 (DC, 2018) – “Copycats, Part 1,” [W/A] Joëlle Jones. This comic has the one thing every Catwoman comic needs: cats. There’s a scene where Catwoman goes home and is greeted by at least eleven cats. Then she gets angry and throws something, and one of the cats looks at her in complete shock. I’ve seen expressions like that on my own cat’s face. Besides the cats, this comic also has an intriguing plot: Selina Kyle moves away from Gotham after her aborted wedding, and discovers that some other female thieves are pretending to be her. I’m excited about this series, mostly because of the cats, but also because Joëlle Jones is really good.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #67 (IDW, 2018) – “The Return of Tempest Shadow,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Andy Price. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but Jeremy provides all the background on Tempest Shadow that I need. Sick of Twilight Sparkle’s constant friendship lessons, Tempest Shadow leaves Ponyville for the Crystal Empire. Princess Cadance sends her to assist another pony in investigating some crimes. The other pony turns out to be Tempest’s old friend Glitter Drops, and during the investigation, Tempest encounters the same creature that broke her horn. This issue is fascinating because it stars a character who doesn’t subscribe to the guiding principles of the series. Tempest Shadow sincerely refuses to believe that friendship is the solution to everything. No amount of parties or friendship lessons is enough to change her mind. She offers a perspective we basically never see in the MLP franchise, because it denies the foundations on which the MLP universe is built. Jeremy and Andy also do a good job of depicting Tempest’s reaction to past trauma. This issue is reminiscent of the Demon Bear Saga from New Mutants, maybe intentionally so. There’s also a really cute panel where Glitter Drops feeds a bunch of cats and other animals, and one of the cats insists that it hasn’t been fed, even though its bowl is full. Andy draws some really cute cats.

ASSASSINISTAS #6 (IDW, 2018) – “Die Young and Save Yourself the Trouble!”, [W] Tini Howard, [A] Gilbert Hernandez. A satisfying conclusion to an excellent miniseries. Dominic and Octavia resolve their relationship, which was the central conflict of the series, and everything else works out okay. I look forward to seeing what Tini Howard does next.

GIANT DAYS #40 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Thank God Max Sarin is back, because the guest artist for the last two issues was not nearly as good, and Sarin’s artwork has become just as essential to this series as Allison’s writing. Other than that, this is a pretty standard issue. The girls redesign Ed’s bedroom, and Susan sees her ex Ingrid kissing some guy.

MARVEL RISING: SQUIRREL GIRL/MS. MARVEL #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Marvel Rising, Part 2,” [W] Ryan North, G. Willow Wilson & Devin Grayson, [A] Irene Strychalski & Ramón Bachs. Another comic with an all-star cast of writers. This issue consists of two segments, each narrated by one of the two title characters, and wrtten by that character’s regular writer. Therefore, this issue offers a unique opportunity to compare Ryan and Willow’s writing styles and to see each of them write the other’s character. Besides being out of continuity, this comic is effectively an extra issue of both Unbeatable Squrrel Girl and Ms. Marvel. It also guest-stars America and Inferno, who I’m not familiar with, but see the Inhuman review below. They just announced a Marvel Rising cartoon, and I might actually reactivate my Netflix account just for that.

VAGRANT QUEEN #2 (Black Mask, 2018) – “The Bezoar of Kings,” [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Jason Smith. Elida and Isaac break into the prison where Elida’s mother is being held. This wasn’t bad, but it didn’t make a huge impression on me. So far this series is less impressive than Kim & Kim (see below).

SPACE ADVENTURES #10 (Charlton, 1978) – “Backfire” and other stories, [W] Joe Gill, [A] Steve Ditko. This comic includes four Captain Atom stories reprinted from an earlier series also called Space Adventures. All four stories are terrible. They’re just five pages each, so they have only the flimsiest of plots, and Ditko shows little of the creativity he displayed in other works of that period (1960 and 1961). Captain Atom didn’t start appearing in full-length stories until 1965.

I HATE FAIRYLAND #19 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Skottie Young. I didn’t bother reading this issue until the next issue came out, which is perhaps a sign that this series has worn out its welcome. This issue’s opening sequence is confusing because it turns out to be a flashback to Gert’s past, when she was still trying to complete her original quest. Duncan recruits Gert’s past self to defeat Dark Cloudia, which leads us to…

I HATE FAIRYLAND #20 – as above. Gert defeats Dark Cloudia and returns to the real world, which turns out to be just as bad as Fairyland. This is a pretty satisfying and ironic ending. I think Skottie made a wise decision by wrapping this series up. It was basically the same joke every issue, and that joke has gotten pretty old. Now Skottie can move on to something different.

INCOGNEGRO: RENAISSANCE #5 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Byline,” [W] Mat Johnson, [A] Warren Pleece. Zane and Bette successfully prove that Arna is the murderer, but Bette is outed as a balck woman, forcing her to leave Broadway for the black theater. This was a satisfying and surprisingly happy ending. I kind of expected that the killer would get off scot-free and that at least one of the protagonists would be killed. This issue has some really fun moments, including the janitors’ strike, and Zane rolling his eyes when the two white people talk about Arna’s “authenticity” and “dedication” (https://www.instagram.com/p/BlHJBEslBt2/?taken-by=aaronkashtan).

VALIANT HIGH #3 (Valiant, 2018) – “The Big Game, Part Three,” [W] Daniel Kibblesmith, [A] Derek Charm. More high school drama, including Livewire discovering that her feelings for Aric aren’t mutual. This is a fun series, but nothing spectacular. It makes me feel old that Gilad describes the ’90s as a long-ago, faraway time.

RED SONJA/TARZAN #3 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Gail Simone, [A] Walter Geovani. Looks like I missed issue 2. In this issue, Eson Duul tries to abduct Korak’s son Jackie, Tarzan’s grandson. As depicted in this comic, Tarzan seems too young to be a grandfather. Maybe he ages slowly or something. Tarzan and Red Sonja become blood siblings, and they use a time machine to head back to the past to confront Eson Duul. The time machine is borrowed from HG Wells, who makes a cameo appearance in this comic. Coincidentally I just read his novel The First Men in the Moon. This comic also mentions that Red Sonja has one of the Swords of Sorrow, which gave me an excuse to read:

SWORDS OF SORROW #2 (Dynamite, 2015) – untitled, [W] Gail Simone, [A] Sergio Davila. I ordered this entire miniseries, but only read the first issue. This was during a period when I was ordering a lot of comics I shouldn’t have. Back in 2015, I probably thought the first issue was disappointing and didn’t live up to the hype, but I think I was expecting too much from it. This series doesn’t have high artistic aspirations; it’s just a fun team-up between a lot of classic female genre fiction characters (e.g. Dejah Thoris, Vampirella and Red Sonja). It’s also implicitly feminist, in that it enables these women to be the heroes of their own story. That’s all this series is trying to do – to tell an exciting and mildly feminist adventure story – and it basically succeeds.

AVENGERS #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “A Battle That Was Lost a Million Years Ago,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Ed McGuinness. Another issue full of thrilling superhero action but very little characterization. I’ve been complaining about this series’ lack of characterization since the beginning, and I’ve had enough of it. I’ve already ordered issues 5 and 6, but those are the last issues I’ll be getting. My problem with Marvel and DC flagship titles is that they focus on shock and awe and cool stuff at the expense of telling a good story or creating interesting characters or settings. It turns out that not even a brilliant writer like Jason Aaron is able to avoid that trap. Maybe the problem is Ed McGuinness’s art. McGuinness tends to draw epic splash pages with very few panels, and he doesn’t give the writer much opportunity to develop the story.

UNNATURAL #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Mirka Andolfo. This is translated from an Italian independent comic, although oddly it seems to have been published in the American comic book format – or at least the pages seem to have the standard dimensions of American comic book pages. I had no idea what to expect from this comic, and I was pleasantly surprised. It takes place in a furry universe where people are only supposed to breed with others of their own species. The protagonist, a pig woman, is having erotic fantasies about a wolf man, but her government is forcibly setting her up with a pig dude. Mirka Andolfo is using the furry genre to tell a pretty interesting story about sexual desire and repression. In some furry and funny animal comics, species is just a cosmetic feature, or a proxy for characters’ personalities. For example, Stan Sakai consistently refuses to answer questions about whether different “species” in Usagi’s world can crossbreed with each other. The characters in Usagi are all humans, they just happen to look like different kinds of animals, according to their personalities. The same is true with Omaha. But in this series, Mirka Andolfo seriously considers the implications of a world where everyone is a different kind of animal, and asks how such a society would think about issues of sex and race.

SWORDS OF SORROW #3 – as above. See previous review. This series’ plot is a bit hard to follow because it’s part of a crossover event, and there are lots of other one-shots and miniseries that tie in with it. However, the plot hardly matters; it’s mostly just an excuse for fight scenes and interactions between characters from different universes.

TALES OF THE BEANWORLD #17 (Eclipse, 1990) – “The Mystery Pods Must Go!”, [W/A] Larry Marder. Mr. Spook throws some Mystery Pods over the Legendary Edge, with unexpected results. And he discovers that the Elusive Notworm is actually his lost fork. This was just an average issue. There’s a short backup story starring the Goofy Service Jerks.

INHUMAN #8 (Marvel, 2015) – “Comes the Light,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Pepe Larraz. This series introduced Inferno, who appears in Marvel Rising #1. There’s some fairly good writing in this comic, including a scene where a cop has to tell two children that their mother was killed. But Inhuman seems like a rather forgettable series.

PALOOKA-VILLE #5 (Drawn & Quarterly, 1994) – “It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken, Part Two,” [W/A] Seth. I already have the graphic novel version of this story, but I bought this comic anyway because it was cheap. I read “It’s a Good Life…” a long long time ago, and it’s nice to revisit it with my current level of knowledge. When I read it the first time, I don’t think I even realized that Seth’s long-haired friend was Chester Brown. Reading this comic again now, I can appreciate the quietness and melancholy of Seth’s storytelling and the deliberately old-fashioned style of his draftsmanship. This story is still his best work, at least until the complete edition of “Clyde Fans” comes out.

SWORDS OF SORROW #4 (Dynamite, 2015) – as above. See previous reviews. This issue we learn that the main villain of this comic is Prince Charming, and the blue-skinned woman is the witch from Snow White. This comic includes some short sequences in which two of the protagonists team up together, just like in an old Justice League comic.

SWORDS OF SORROW #5 (Dynamite, 2015) – “The Long Walk Across Worlds,” as above. We’ve now learned that Vampi, Sonja and Dejah Thoris need to use their three Swords of Sorrow to defeat Prnice Charming. But Vampi seemingly gets killed at the end of this issue. Nothing else to add.

SWORDS OF SORROW #6 (Dynamite, 2015) – as above. Vampi isn’t really dead, of course, and the heroines defeat the villains and they all live happily ever after. There’s a cute cameo appearance by Dejah Thoris’s pet monster dog. This was a fun series, although, as explained above, it has modest intentions.

BLAMMO #7 (Kilgore, 2011) – various stories, [W/A] Noah van Sciver. I got this and several other issues of Blammo as a Kickstarter reward. The Kickstarter was a nice opportunity because I haven’t read much of Noah’s work, but I love what little of it I’ve read. I also love the comic book format, and Noah is one of the few remaining alternative cartoonists who works in that format – and several of the stories in this issue are self-parodies of Noah’s allegiance to periodical comics. He calls Blammo “an alternative comic book that is introspective and drawn by a hopelessly poor twentysomething with seasonal affective disorder” – just like Palooka-Ville or Optic Nerve or Yummy Fur. The stories in this issue are of somewhat varying quality, though. The best is probably the one where a depressed guy encounters a little girl who’s been abandoned while trick-or-treating, and essentially becomes her surrogate dad until her asshole brother shows up to claim her. There’s also a short adaptation of the Book of Mormon, a topic also covered in Blammo #10, as discussed below.

HAUNTED LOVE #1 (Charlton, 1971/1978) – “Eternal Teacher,” [W] Nick Cuti, [A] Joe Staton, and “A Kiss to Save Him from the Grave,” [W/A] Tom Sutton. This series was Charlton’s lower-budget answer to Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love. (All the ’70s gothic romance comics must have been inspired by the TV show Dark Shadows.) The first story is a rather creepy horror version of the movie 50 First Dates: in both, a man falls in love with a woman who can’t form new memories. The backup story is more interesting because it’s a 16-pager by Tom Sutton. He was a brilliant horror artist, probably the best at Charlton. But his talents were more suited to supernatural horror than Gothic romance, and too many of this story’s pages are just static talkfests. Sutton was a better writer than you’d expect, though.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Winter in America, Part 1,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Leinil Francis Yu. As of the start of this issue, Hydra has conquered America with the aid of a bunch of Nukes (i.e. guys with flag tattoos, not nuclear bombs), and Cap has defeated them. That must have happened in the last few Waid/Garney issues, which I have not read yet. This issue begins with Cap mopping up the remaining Nukes. This comic doesn’t mention Trump, of course, yet it’s obviously a comment on the current political situation. The image of an America occupied by hostile forces is powerfully resonant today. Coates’s Cap is an attempt to think through what it means to be loyal to the American dream, at a time when American patriotism has been corrupted and appropriated for evil purposes. Coates is not the most fun or thrilling superhero writer, but his Captain America is going to be an important comic. I like how he explicitly references the original Nuke story, by having Cap say he’s loyal to nothing except the dream.

DAREDEVIL #58 (Marvel, 1969) – “Spin-Out on Fifth Avenue!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Gene Colan. Another Gene Colan comic with brilliant art but kind of a dumb story. Matt reveals his secret identity to Karen Page and proposes to her, and she accepts. Matt promises that he’s going to quit being Daredevil so he won’t leave Karen a widow. But of course he breaks that promise the first chance he gets. Matt is attacked by villain named the Stunt-Master, probably based on Evel Knievel. After defeating the Stunt-Master, Matt is so high on adrenaline that when he’s about to announce his retirement, he instead says nothing, and Karen quite justifiably leaves him. Matt Murdock is supposed to be a moral man of great integrity, but until Frank Miller’s run, he was actually an awful sexist and gloryhound, and that’s rarely more clear than in this story. Matt also reminds me of Nathan Drake in Uncharted 4, who similarly almost ruins his marriage through his addiction to danger.

New comics received on July 14:

MECH CADET YU #10 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. I read this first because the cliffhanger from the previous issue was so thrilling. However, this issue doesn’t resolve the cliffhanger, but instead ratchets up the tension even further. Buddy keeps trying to sacrifice itself to power the super-robo. When Stanford switches Buddy to manual control so that it can’t, Olivia jumps inside Buddy so that she can sacrifice herself and him. I assume next issue is the real conclusion, and I’m excited and nervous for it.

MS. MARVEL #32 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Ratio, Part One,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. Bruno experiments on Kamala to figure out how her powers work, but something goes wrong and Kamala gets stuck at tiny size, just as the Shocker attacks Jersey City. This was an average issue compared to #31, which was a classic. I don’t know what “the ratio” means.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #34 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. Doreen and her friends are jailed and put on trial as accomplices to Kraven, who, we remember, is a thief and a murderer. Everyone is acquitted except Kraven, who is convicted and immediately flees from the police. This was a fun issue as usual, but its depiction of court procedure is ludicrously inaccurate. I know that’s not unusual in comic books, but it would be nice if Ryan North could depict the law as accurately as he depicts computer science.

EXILES #5 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Rodriguez. This has become one of my top four Marvel titles, along with Ms. Marvel, Squirrel Girl, and Runaways. This issue is less funny and lighthearted than the previous four, but it’s quite powerful. Kamala sacrifices herself to defeat Kang, and we learn incidentally that she was married to Bruno and they had a daughter. Blink encounters her foster father, Sabretooth. Wolvie does more cute stuff. This was a great first storyline, and I’m excited to see what happens next.

ARCHIE #32 (Archie, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid & Ian Flynn, [A] Audrey Mok. We never do find out how Eddie got back into the gym after he locked all the doors from outside. Either this is a plot hole, or it was explained last issue and I missed it. This issue, Archie tries to use his bad-luck powers to defeat Eddie, but his luck turns good just when he doesn’t want it to. However, Jughead saves the day. This issue was kind of disappointing, although it’s a reasonable conclusion to Mark’s groundbreaking Archie run. Unfortunately this is also the last issue of Archie I’ll be reading anytime soon, since the new writer is Nick Spencer, who I can’t stand.

RAT QUEENS #10 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kurtis J. Wiebe, [A] Owen Gieni. We finally get some idea of what’s going on. After the end of the previous volume, Dee summoned N’Rygoth to bring back Hannah. But instead she created a new Hannah, or something. And the entire last ten issues have been taking place in a series of dreams that Dee created. I’m glad this comic is finally almost making sense. The trouble is, it’s not much fun anymore. As I was reading the new Kim & Kim, reviewed below, I realized that it was like Rat Queens used to be. Rat Queens volume 1 was a thrilling, raucous, anarchic adventure story about four women with no inhibitions and no sense of shame. Rat Queens volume 2 has abandoned that core identity and has become a depressing and overly complicated. I’m going to keep reading Rat Queens for now, but I think this series has gone seriously off the rails.

SHE COULD FLY #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Agony in Eight Fits,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Martín Morazzo. I really enjoyed this, although now I have trouble remembering any details about it. The protagonist, Luna Brewster, is a high school girl who has severe anxiety and OCD, and is terrified that she’ll kill someone. Meanwhile, a flying woman has been sighted in her town, and this is somehow the result of a conspiracy involving a device called the accelerator. The issue ends with Luna climbing up on a roof to kill herself. The creators do a fantastic job of depicting a mentally ill teenager’s psychology. Because of its combination of SF with realistic exploration of mental health issues, She Could Fly reminds me of I Kill Giants – though the two series are otherwise very different – and it has the potential to be as good as I Kill Giants was.

RUINWORLD #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Derek Laufman. Continuing with the theme of comparing comics to other comics, I would compare Ruinworld to Nilson Groundthumper & Hermy. Like that series, Ruinworld is an epic fantasy parody with two anthropomorphic protagonists, a smart one and a stupid one. Derek Laufman’s dialogue is kind of annoying and doesn’t flow well, but he’s good at worldbuilding and slapstick humor, and this series shows promise.

NANCY DREW #2 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jenn St.-Onge. Nancy meets a boy named Pete, and discovers that he summoned her back to Bayport to solve his mother’s murder, which happened at the same time Nancy’s own mother died. This issue offers ample amounts of exciting adventure, slapstick, and detective work, and is alternately funny and poignant. It’s another demonstration of Kelly’s writing skill.

ISOLA #4 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brendan Fletcher, [W/A] Karl Kerschl, [A] Msassyk. In a flashback, we learn that Queen Olwyn was turned into a tiger by her evil brother. In the present, Rook has to choose whether to donate her skin to save Olwyn. This issue was less compressed than the previous issue, and its plot moved a lot faster, but I feel that this series could still be delivering more storytelling per issue. The artwork is amazing as ever, though.

MONSTRESS #18 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. I didn’t vote for Marjorie Liu, but she’s a deserving Eisner recipient, and I celebrate her achievement of becoming the first woman to win an Eisner for best writer. This issue, Maika successfully uses the masks to defeat the attack on Pontus. Meanwhile, Ren decides to betray his bosses and not deliver Kippa to them, but they abduct Kippa anyway and beat Ren up.

INCREDIBLES 2: CRISIS IN MID-LIFE AND OTHER STORIES #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Crisis in Mid-Life, Part 1,” [W] Christos Gage, [A] Gurihiru, plus other stories. I wrote about The Incredibles in my dissertation, and I tried to argue against the common reading of the film as politically conservative. Now, I think that that reading is probably well-grounded. I’m not willing to defend the film anymore, although I still love it, and I haven’t seen Incredibles 2, but I think it looks pretty bad. The stories in this new Incredibles issue are just okay, and they don’t do anything to counteract my current lack of enthusiasm for this franchise. I liked Mark Waid’s Incredibles comics a lot better.

QUICKSILVER: NO SURRENDER #3 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Eric Nguyen & Paul Renaud. While continuing to fight the superspeed creatures, Pietro ruminates on his vexed and complicated relationship with Wanda. This comic is very touching, and it fits together 50 years of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch stories into a coherent and logical narrative, kind of like what Ed Piskor is doing in X-Men: Grand Design. My one complaint about this issue is that I’ve spent my entire life believing Magneto was Pietro and Wanda’s father, and in my headcanon, he still is. But that’s not Saladin’s fault. In black and white, Wanda looks very similar to the Enchantress.

FARMHAND #1 (Image, 2018) – “You Can Go Home Again… But Why?” [W/A] Rob Guillory. In Rob Guillory’s first solo comic, the big surprise is that the title is meant to be taken literally. The comic is set on a farm that grows hands, as well as other replacement organs. The protagonists, an interracial family, are the heirs to this farm. But of course there’s some bizarre conspiracy going on with zombies or something. This comic has much the same sensibility as Chew, except it’s about body parts instead of food. Rob Guillory has never written a published comic before, but it’s hard to tell, because his writing shows no lack of experience. I suspect that he contributed more actively to the writing of Chew than I realized at the time. In particular, this comic is full of textual gags and hidden messages, and that suggests that the similar textual gags in Chew were partly Rob’s work.

LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: THE TEMPEST #1 (Top Shelf, 2018) – “Farewell to Forever,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Kevin O’Neill. LOEG has always been a difficult comic, but this issue was beyond difficult. I couldn’t make head or tail of it. I haven’t read the Nemo trilogy, and it’s been several years since I read The Black Dossier or Century, and this issue assumes knowledge of all those comics. And as usual with LOEG, it’s full of references and Easter eggs. Jess Nevins’s annotations to LOEG have always been useful, but for this series they’re going to be indispensable. The one delightful moment in this issue is the panel where they’re thawing out Austin Powers.

CODA #3 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. This comic is somewhat difficult to read because of its length and the density of its art, but it’s another excellent Spurrier miniseries. Matías Bergara is a super-talented artist whose work wouldn’t be out of place in a European comic. Coda’s plot is similar to that of Godshaper, since both series takes place in a post-apocalyptic society that runs on a scarce resource – magic and belief respectively. This issue ends with the surprising revelation that the protagonist’s wife is still alive and that he can summon her.

PUMA BLUES #9 (Aardvark/Vanaheim, 1987) – “Deconstruction,” [W] Stephen Murphy, [A] Michael Zulli. I’ve been seeing this comic in cheap boxes for years, but I didn’t realize it was actually worth buying until Dover published a collection of it. This issue is narrated in a confusing, fragmentary style, and I was unable to follow its plot. But I did gather that it’s an environmentalist story, and Michael Zulli’s art is really good. I also like this comic’s slim format – it’s just 22 pages with no ads. This issue’s back cover features what may have been the first-ever ad for the CBLDF.

ALISON DARE AND THE HEART OF THE MAIDEN #1 (Oni, 2002) – “The Heart of the Maiden, Part One,” [W] J. Torres, [A] J. Bone. The protagonist and her friends uncover a conspiracy at their boarding school. This comic looks a lot like Bone and its protagonist kind of resembles Chance Falconer, but it’s only average. It would have been a top-tier kids’ comic in 2002, but standards for kids’ comics have improved since then. Also, this comic’s plot is confusing because it includes a single scene that’s repeated three times.

CODENAME: KNOCKOUT #14 (Vertigo, 2002) – “H.E.A.V.E.N. Sent,” [W] Robert Rodi, [A] Amanda Conner. This comic’s main purpose is apparently to give Amanda Conner an excuse to draw cheesecake, and she does that beautifully. Amanda Conner is the best cheesecake artist in the industry, which is evidence that erotic art is not inherently sexist. This issue also has some fairly good dialogue, and a flimsy plot about a rivalry between two spy organizations.

ETERNITY GIRL #5 (DC, 2018) – “Earth’s Rough Kiss,” [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Sonny Liew. This issue has excellent art as usual, but a very confusing plot. I’m losing the ability to follow what’s going on in this series. I tried to write a summary of what happens in this issue, and I can’t.

KLAUS AND THE CRISIS IN XMASVILLE #1 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Dan Mora. In this one-shot, a dying old soda magnate sells children to aliens in exchange for ownership of the concept of Christmas. Klaus defeats them with help from other incarnations of Father Christmas. I think this was better than the previous Klaus one-shot. It includes some of Dan Mora’s best art yet – at times his art is close to that of Dustin Nguyen. And the scenes with the old grandmother are quite touching.

NEW LIEUTENANTS OF METAL #1 (Image, 2018) – “Ride the Lightning,” [W] Joe Casey, [A] Ulises Farinas. I don’t like Joe Casey’s writing, but I bought this comic because of Ulises Farinas’s art – which is very good, although not as hyperdetailed as in Gamma or Motro or Judge Dredd. New Lieutenants of Metal is a superhero or tokusatsu comic about a group of heavy metal fans who fight monsters. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s full of Easter eggs and references to heavy metal music. I probably missed a lot of references because I don’t listen to this kind of music myself.

BLACK PANTHER #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Daniel Acuña. On a planet ruled by the Wakandan space empire, a nameless prisoner escapes from captivity and joins a group of rebels. They give him the name T’Challa. We also meet several other characters who have familiar names like M’Baku and N’Jadaka. As explained on this issue’s last page, we’re not supposed to understand what’s going on here yet, and the connection between this comic and the previous Black Panther title is intentionally unclear. I’m curious to see where this series is going.

FLASH #252 (DC, 1977) – “Double Dose of Danger!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Irv Novick. The Elongated Man goes missing and subsequently reappears as a villain called the Molder. This is a very average issue. The only really interesting moment is when Barry comes home and tells Iris “Guess who’s back home and ready for some good-” But we never find out how that sentence would have ended.

GUFF! #nn (Dark Horse, 1998) – untitled, [E] Scott Allie & Dave Land. A one-shot humor anthology whose organizing theme, apparently, is gross-out humor. The highlight of this issue is Sergio Aragonés’s Timoteo, about a kid whose cellphone ringtone is a fart noise. This must have been one of the earliest comic book stories specifically focused on cell phones. Other creators include Dave Cooper and Gavin McInnis, Jay Stephens, and Jay Lynch and John Pound.

INVINCIBLE #136 (Image, 2018) – “The End of All Things, Part Four,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Ryan Ottley. Just a big long fight scene with some very gross moments. A good example of why I quit reading this series, although I’m still willing to buy it when I see it for a dollar or less.

THE LAST SIEGE #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Landry Q. Walker, [A] Justin Greenwood. The castle prepares for a siege, and it turns out the vault is full of barrels of gunpowder, which is still a novelty in this time period. There’s nothing particuarly exciting about this series, and this issue will be my last.

X-23 #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Two Birthdays and Three Funerals,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Juann Cabal. I had low expectations for this issue because I’ve been unimpressed by some of Mariko’s other recent comics, but it turned out to be excellent. Juann Cabal’s art is excellent, and Gabby is a super-cute character and an effective foil for Laura. This comic’s plot is about the three surviving Stepford Cuckoos and their attempt to revive their two dead sisters. My favorite part of this comic is the poster for the band Wham! that doubles as a sound effect.

PLASTIC MAN #2 (DC, 2018) – “Where the *&^% is Pado Swakatoon?”, [W] Gail Simone, [A] Adriana Melo. Another pretty good issue. Gail is writing Plastic Man much better than Jeff Lemire is writing him in Terrifics. I don’t remember much about this issue’s plot, but what matters in this series is not the plot but Plas’s transformations and the bizarre situations he gets into.

ANT-MAN AND THE WASP #3 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Javier Garron. Scott and Nadia finally get back to their normal size, but they take the micro-alien scientist Dalen with them. And then Scott gets photo-reversed somehow. This series is super-weird and reasonably fun, but not much more than that.

HYDROGEN BOMB FUNNIES #1 (Rip Off, 1970) – Another exciting find from Heroes Con. This one-shot has a loose theme of atomic bombs and nuclear warfare. It begins with a long Wonder Wart-Hog story by Gilbert Shelton, and there’s also a Freak Brothers story elsewhere in the issue. The issue ends with Frank Stack’s “Jesus, Savior of the World.” I hadn’t read any of Stack’s New Adventures of Jesus before, and this story was funnier than I expected. I especially like Jesus criticizing God’s grammar. In addition there’s a Kim Deitch story which is fairly rudimentary and is missing Deitch’s usual theme of pre-WWII pop culture. Other artists featured in this issue include R. Crumb, S. Clay Wilson, Robert Williams and Greg Irons.

SOMERSET HOLMES #4 (Pacific, 1984) – “California Screamin'”, [W] Bruce Jones w/ April Campbell, [A] Brent Anderson. Unusually for an ’80s comic, this is printed on glossy paper. It’s an exciting crime drama, but suffers from women-in-refrigerators syndrome. The protagonist befriends a sex worker, Barbie, who is portrayed in a surprisingly positive way. Barbie is a kind and forthright woman who happens to practice an unpopular profession. She and Somerset Holmes (I assume that’s the protagonist’s name) also have a same-sex flirtation. This seems intended as titillation for the male reader, rather than as a genuine portrayal of a queer relationship, but it still would have been unusual in 1984. Unfortunately, at the end of the issue Barbie gets shot for no reason, and a good character is wasted. This issue also includes an Al Williamson backup story which, unlike every other Williamson story I’ve reviewed on this blog, is unimpressive. It’s mostly just talking heads with few action sequences.

TWO-FISTED TALES #12 (EC, 1952/1995) – four stories, [E] Harvey Kurtzman. Not the best issue of this series. Jack Davis’s “Korea!” is probably the highlight. It’s about a soldier in the Korean War who gets so mad about his buddy’s death that he stops seeing Koreans as people. It’s an effective portrayal of the dehumanization and racism caused by war. Severin’s “Red Knight!”, about the Red Baron, and Severin and Elder’s “Washington!” are fairly straightforward historical tales. The surprise of the issue is “Fire Mission” by Dave Berg, better known for his 40 years worth of mediocre “The Lighter Side Of” strips in Mad Magazine. “Fire Mission” is also fairly mediocre, but at least it shows that he had some drawing skill.

ATOMIC ROBO: REVENGE OF THE VAMPIRE DIMENSION #1 (Red 5, 2010) – “Bernard’s First Day,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. Robo interviews two job candidates: Bernard Fischer and Rex Cannon. As one can guess from their names, the latter is far more qualified. But the Tesladyne office is invaded by interdimensional vampires and Rex is killed instantly, and Bernard, a bespectacled milquetoast, has to help Robo save the universe. Which they do, with help from Tesladyne employee Jenkins, who somehow has the ability to kill tons of zombies singlehandedly. This was a really fun issue, one of the best Atomic Robo comics I’ve read lately.

SUPERMAN #44 (DC, 2015) – “Before the Truth,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] John Romita Jr. There’s nothing interesting in this issue at all. Gene’s Superman was a huge disappointment.

STRANGE TALES #155 (Marvel, 1966) – Nick Fury in “Death Trap!”, [W/A] Jim Steranko, and Dr. Strange in “The Fearful Finish–!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Marie Severin. You need to read lots of other old comic books in order to understand why Steranko was so impressive. In 1966, most artists in the industry, even Kirby, tended to treat the page as a grid of independent panels. Steranko’s innovation was to think of each page as a single compositional unit. He used the vertical and diagonal dimensions of the page, and he was equally willing to leave a lot of white space, or to fill up a page with a dozen panels (for the latter, see the splash page of Captain America #111). The SHIELD story in this issue is less radical than later work by Steranko, but the page layouts are much more varied than in a typical 1966 Marvel comic. However, the plot, involving a battle between SHIELD and HYDRA, is pretty average. The Doctor Strange story pales by comparison to the SHIELD story, though it’s not bad.

PEEP SHOW #5 (Drawn & Quarterly, 1993) – “Binswhacker, Part Two,” [W/A] Joe Matt. If I ranked all the autobiographical cartoonists according to how much I liked them personally based on their comics, then Harvey Pekar would be at the top of the list, and Joe Matt would be at the bottom. Joe Matt is a disgusting sexist creep, or at least that’s how he portrays himself. This issue, he tries to convince a very sweet girl to have sex him, even though she’s clearly not all that interested in him, and he sees her as just a stopgap until the girl he really likes returns to town. Also, he refers to the latter as “the Asian girl” and he seems to have a racist Asian fetish. At least Joe has the self-awareness to realize that his behavior is creepy and that he might be better off just watching porn. I still don’t quite understand why Joe makes himself look so unpleasant, and it makes for a disturbing reading experience. At least his art and lettering are really good, and there’s a panel where a squirrel climbs on his lap.

RIP IN TIME #3 (Fantagor, 1987) – “Rip in Time,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Richard Corben. An exciting and well-drawn time travel story with dinosaurs and cyborgs. The lettering is kind of ugly, and Corben’s dinosaurs could be more realistic. Also, this story deserves to be seen in color. There’s also a backup story which is a reprint from 1972, with three new pages. On the letters page, Corben apologetically explains that some of the reprinted stories in this series had to be edited to remove nudity: “Comic dealers put up with people with inflexible attitudes, so I decided this time it was better to cover the nudes.” Remember that the Friendly Frank’s case was still going on at the time.

SUPERMAN #33 (DC, 2017) – “The Super Man Who Would Be King,” [W] Peter Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] Doug Mahnke. The continuity of this title is very hard to follow, because I only bought about half the issues, and some of those issues weren’t written by Tomasi and Gleason. This issue, Luthor pretends to be a good guy and teams up with Superman, but of course he has a hidden agenda. This issue has a cute Clark-Lois-Jon scene, which is the main reason this series is worth reading.

INVINCIBLE #138 (Image, 2017) – “The End of All Things, Part Six,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Ryan Ottley. In perhaps the most disgusting scene in the entire series, Thragg kills Nolan by literally ripping his heart out. It’s a bit hypocritical to complain about this sort of thing, because when I buy an issue of Invincible, I know what I’m going to get. Still, I followed Invincible for quite a while, and I’d like to collect the whole series and to see how the story ends. It’s annoying that in order to do that, I have to put up with all this tasteless gore and violence.

SUGAR & SPIKE #58 (DC, 1965) – “Lion in the House!”, [W/A] Sheldon Mayer. My copy of this issue is missing some pages, but they don’t affect the story. In this issue’s main story, the babies encounter an escaped circus lion and his mouse friend. I don’t like Mayer as much as Stanley, Barks or Bolling, but he had a real knack for putting his characters in ridiculous situations.

YUMMY FUR #29 (Drawn & Quarterly, 1992) – “Fuck Part Two,” [W/A] Chester Brown. This issue’s main story is a chapter of the I Never Liked You graphic novel. I’ve read that, but not for a while, and it was nice to revisit it. The backup story is an adaptation of Matthew 9:18 to 9:30. I enjoy Chester Brown’s Bible adaptations because they feel realistic and unfiltered. This one includes a funny moment that’s not in the Bible: Jesus heals two blind beggars, and one of them tells the other, “Hey, man, you’re really ugly.”

AQUAMAN #44 (DC, 1998) – “Depths of Perception,” [W] Peter David & Bill Mumy, [A] Jim Calafiore. Aquaman teams up with Alan Scott and Jay Garrick to defeat a monster. This is a fun issue, although there’s a sad ending when Aquaman has to euthanize the monster – which is named Timmorn, an odd Elfquest reference. I do suspect that PAD may have been losing interest in this series at this point. At least three times in this issue we’re reminded that Jay and Joan Garrick still have sex.

HELLBOY: KRAMPUSNACHT #nn (Dark Horse, 2017) – “Krampusnacht,” [W] Mike Mignola, [A] Adam Hughes. This issue just won the Eisner for Best Single Issue/One-Shot. That award should have gone to Pope Hats #5, but probably far more voters read Hellboy: Krampusnacht than Pope Hats #5. That’s just how Eisner voting works. This comic isn’t bad, though. It’s a pretty straightforward Christmas-themed Hellboy story, but Adam Hughes’s art is beautiful.

BOOK OF BALLADS AND SAGAS #3 (Green Man, 1996) – “Barbara Allen” etc., [W] various, [A] Charles Vess. Three adaptations of folk songs, plus some other miscellaneous material. Vess’s adaptations of ballads are often less narratively effective than the originals, because Vess and his collaborators make unnecessary changes that water the stories down. For example, Vess and Midori Snyder’s “Barbara Allen” includes an unnecessary subplot in which Barbara is a demon or something. But the primary appeal of this series is Vess’s artwork, which, as always, is incredible. This issue includes one of only two comic book stories written by Delia Sherman, an award-winning fantasy novel. I wasn’t previously familiar with “The Galtie Mare,” which is adapted in this issue; it’s a humorous ballad about some farmers who sell their horse and are tricked into buying it back at a loss.

ATOM #21 (DC, 1965) – “Combat Under Glass!”, [W] Gardner Fox & Gil Kane. I don’t like The Atom as much as other Silver Age DC heroes. Neither Ray Palmer nor his supporting cast is particularly interesting, and there are better-written comics about shrinking heroes. Maybe this explains why I’ve only read one other Atom comic, besides this one, since at least 2013. At least this issue includes a story where Atom fights a cat. In the backup story, Atom travels back in time to 1752 to solve a trivial mystery. Fox and Kane seem to have at least tried to be historically accurate.

SPACE ADVENTURES #4 (Charlton, 1968) – “Surrender Earth!”, [W] Joe Gill, [A] Pat Boyette, and “The Imitation People,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Jim Aparo. “Surrender Earth!” is forgettable, but “The Imitation People” is a pleasant surprise. It’s about a scientist who creates a planet of androids, falls in love with one of them, and eventually becomes an android himself. Joe Gill’s stories were usually very boring, but this one is surprisingly moving. And Aparo’s artwork is brilliant. This story is almost as well-drawn as his Aquaman run. The late ’60s and early ’70s were the peak of Aparo’s long career.

New comics received on July 23:

RUNAWAYS #11 (Marvel, 2018) – “Am I the Same Girl You Used to Know,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. This may be my least favorite issue yet, although it’s still pretty good; it’s just that this series has set a high standard. Basically all the Runaways are sad about one thing or another. The Doombot builds Victor a new body, but he rejects it because he’s still traumatized after the Vision series, and he prefers to remain a disembodied head. Meanwhile, Gert dyes her hair, and her teammates are okay with her new look, which is a nice moment. There’s also a backup story explaining what happened to Klara. I don’t mind Klara’s absence because she’s not part of the original series; she’s the only Runaway not created by BKV. However, I still want to know what happened to Xavin. I assumed Rainbow had plans for them, but maybe not.

FLAVOR #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Wook-Jin Clark. There’s not much worldbuilding this issue, which is unfortunate, but in exchange the creators demonstrate their skill with narrative. Xoo and Anant both have to prepare crepes Suzette, the signature dish of Anant’s culinary academy, under severe pressure, but in very different circumstances. The artist effectively juxtaposes Xoo and Anant’s cooking competitions, and creates a lot of suspense. This is a great series so far.

FENCE #8 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] C.S. Pacat, [A] Johanna the Mad. Seiji beats Harvard easily, and we only have another issue or two to go before the team is decided. This series continues to move at a pace more typical of manga than American comics. I think that’s a valid artistic decision, but I hope this series doesn’t get cancelled before Nicholas and Seiji get to compete in a tournament. I just read the second volume of Haikyu!, and Fence is very similar, only it takes the homoerotic subtext of a typical sports manga and turns it into text. My impression is that Fence is actually kind of innovative in being an explicitly gay sports comic. I Googled “gay sports manga” and the first page of results included two news stories about Fence.

ROYAL CITY #12 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Olive, Tommy’s daughter, settles into the Pike home, and then we get a flashback that finally shows Tommy’s death. Afterward, Patrick picks up Tommy’s journal, which made me wonder if he used it as the source for his only successful novel. Next issue I discovered that this was indeed the case.

OH S#!T IT’S KIM & KIM #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. Probably the best comic of the week. Kim & Kim are now working for a corporation, but that means they have to control their irresponsible impulses and accept undesirable jobs – like distracting Xue Peng, a famous art thief, so another bounty hunter can recover the property she stole. As I was just saying, Kim & Kim is like the best issues of Rat Queens because of its raucous humor and its irresponsible, reckless characters, not to mention its deep characterization. This issue also has some excellent action sequences as well as one laugh-out-loud funny moment. When Kim Q tells Xue Peng that she knows the location of the original master tape of “Heaven is a Place on Earth,” Xue squeals “Do you know what that’s worth?”

BY NIGHT #2 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Christine Larsen. On the other side of the portal, Jane and Heather discover a weird and silly fantasy world. I’m still not sure where this series is going, and I’m not getting into it as much as Giant Days, but I look forward to reading more of it.

THOR #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “A Lovely Day in Hel for a Wedding,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mike del Mundo. Another issue with lots of fun moments, especially the line “Mead. Wenches. Wenches with mead.” Loki kills Thor so he can get to Valhalla. Meanwhile, Balder is forced into a marriage of convenience with Hela, despite his love for Karnilla. But the wedding is interrupted by an unexpected but appropriate guest: Thanos.

MY LITTLE PONY: PONYVILLE MYSTERIES #3 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Christina Rice, [A] Agnes Garbowska. This series is less interesting than some of the other MLP spinoffs because each issue has the same protagonists. I preferred the broader cast of characters in Friends Forever. This issue, the CMC investigate a fire at the retirement home. It turns out it was caused by an old mare reliving her days as a Filly Guide (i.e. Girl Scout).

RAT QUEENS SPECIAL: NEON STATIC #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kurtis J. Wiebe, [A] William Kirkby. This one-shot is an alternate reality story that takes place in a cyberpunk setting. Dee is a hacker instead of a sorceress, and the Rat Queens fight with guns instead of swords. The characters translate very well to this genre, and this issue is a lot more fun than recent issues of the main Rat Queens series. I think it was while I was reading this issue that I realized how unfun Rat Queens had become. William Kirkby has a similar style of linework to James Stokoe, although his art is far less detailed.

DRY COUNTY #5 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Rich Tommaso. This issue’s timeframe is a little confusing, but it eventually becomes clear what happened. Janet was kidnapped again after being kidnapped the first time, and finally freed herself. Lou goes back to his normal life. As I’ve probably said before, this series had somewhat modest ambitions, but it was a very fun and well-crafted crime comic, with a strong sense of local specificity. I’d like to see more comics like this.

SUICIDE RISK #5 (Boom!, 2013) – “Instant Access,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Joëlle Jones. Going into this issue I knew nothing about this series, but this issue is a mostly self-contained story. A middle-aged woman is living a horrible life in rural California with an abusive husband, a pregnant teenage daughter, and a son who’s being hunted by criminals. A stranger offers her superpowers, which she uses to kill her husband (good riddance), save her son, and take over the criminals’ racket. This was a pretty fun story with an air of verisimilitude, except for the superpowers. Joëlle Jones’s art, which was the primary reason I bought this comic, is up to its usual high standard.

EUTHANAUTS #1 (IDW, 2018) – “Ground Control,” [W] Tini Howard, [A] Nick Robles. A young woman who works in a funeral home discovers that she has the power to see dead people’s spirits, and is recruited as a psychopomp. I’m a little unclear on exactly what happened in this issue, but this comic is both an enjoyable read and a thoughtful meditation on death, and Nick Robles’s art is very good.

PROXIMA CENTAURI #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Farel Dalrymple. Another typically beautiful but confusing comic from Farel Dalrymple. I still don’t understand the plot, but one thing that impresses me about this comic is the intensity and determination of the kid protagonists. Intense, determined kids are a trademark of Dalrymple’s comics, including Omega.

ARCHIE MEETS BATMAN ’66 #1 (Archie, 2018) – “The Batman of Riverdale,” [W] Jeff Parker & Michael Moreci, [A] Dan Parent. I stopped reading Batman ’66 a while ago, but Batman ’66 and Archie are a natural pairing, and Jeff Parker effectively draws out the fun and silliness of these characters. Having just published a book that dealt with e-reading devices, I was delighted by the scene where the Bookworm steals a prototype of an electronic book. It can display up to twenty different works, it has a postage-stamp-sized screen, and for its time, it’s an amazing technological marvel. And the Bookworm smells it and complains that it has “no bouquet of decayed parchment and india inks.”

BLAMMO #10 (Kilgore, 2018) – “Burning Brigsby” etc., [W/A] Noah Van Sciver. This shows even more artistic maturity and skill than Blammo #7, reviewed above. The first major story in the issue, “The Hypo,” is a slice-of-life autobio story about Noah’s anxieties over his artistic career and reputation. It’s a really effective meditation on authorship and the role of comics as art. “Burning Brigsby” approaches this same topic from a fictional standpoint. It’s about the adult children of a dead cartoonist and their quest for their father’s final unpublished work. “Artemus Ward (His Travels) Among the Mormons” is maybe the highlight of the issue, thanks to its funny and historically accurate depiction of the 19th-century American West. Like the Joseph Smith story in #7, this story is Noah’s attempt to engage with his own Mormon heritage. Now that the art-comics community has mostly shifted to graphic novels, the “alternative” or “art” comic book is almost extinct, and I’m glad that at least one artist is continuing to publish in this form.

GIDEON FALLS #5 (Image, 2018) – “We Are All Just Soft Instruments,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. In the Father Wilfred segment, a character I don’t remember murders another character I don’t remember. In the Norton segment, Norton uses hypnosis to recover his memories of the Black Barn. The hypnosis scene is the highlight of the issue. It includes some bizarre full-page compositions that are closer to abstract art than comics. Come to think of it, Lemire and Foreman’s Animal Man also included some pages like this, so I wonder whether the idea for these pages came from Lemire or Sorrentino.

SPIDER-GWEN #34 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Life of Gwen Stacy, Conclusion,” [W] Jason Latour, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. Gwen is released from prison and publicly unmasks herself as Spider-Woman. I’m glad this series is over. I probably should have dropped it several months ago. I can’t remember the last issue I fully enjoyed.

SUPERB #11 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “For Us, the Living,” [W] David Walker, [A] Alitha Martinez. The rescue mission continues. Kayla discovers that her father has been killed. This series is continuing to move at a fairly slow pace, but the last few issues have been very hard-hitting.

THRILLING ADVENTURE HOUR #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ben Acker & Ben Blacker, [A] M.J. Erickson. Despite the title, this series focuses solely on Frank and Sadie Doyle, and not Sparks Nevada. This comic follows the same formula as the previous Beyond Belief comic and, I assume, the radio show: Frank and Sadie Doyle investigate ghosts while drinking a lot. It’s a good formula, though. I just read Thorne Smith’s novel Topper, about a husband-wife pair of alcoholic ghosts. I assume Beyond Belief must have been partly inspired by this novel, as well as by The Thin Man.

BLACK AF: WIDOWS AND ORPHANS #2 (Black Mask, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kwanza Osajyefo, [A] Tim Smith 3. This issue contains a powerful scene in which superpowered black children are being sold into slavery, but otherwise it’s just average. I don’t see much reason to continue reading this series.

PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #307 (Marvel, 2018) – “No More – Part Four,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Adam Kubert. Spidey defeats the Tinkerer and the aliens, saves the world, and, obviously, doesn’t die. This was a mediocre and overly predictable issue. Its only saving grace is the last scene, where Teresa can’t bring herself to meet Aunt May.

100% #1 (Vertigo, 2002) – untitled, [W/A] Paul Pope. This miniseries has some mild science fictional elements and a plot involving a serial killer, but this issue is mostly a slice-of-life story about hipsters in Manhattan, or a town very similar to it. 100% is a very visually and narratively dense comic, but its most striking quality is its sense of mood. Using only words and images, Paul Pope somehow manages to convey the sounds, smells and atmosphere of dark nightclubs and deserted city streets. This comic is titled “A Graphic Movie,” but comparing it to a movie is selling it short, because it makes effective use of the unique properties of comics.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #666 (Gemstone, 2006) – “Mickey’s Inferno,” [W] Guido Martina, [A] Angelo Bioletto. Considering its issue number, it’s appropriate that this comic includes the first English translation of “Mickey’s Inferno.” This 37-page Italian story from 1949 is an adaptation of Dante’s Inferno, with Mickey and Goofy replacing Dante and Virgil. It’s included on Paul Gravett’s list of the 1001 comics you must read before you die, and it inspired a whole series of “Great Parodies” in which classic literary works were reinterpreted with Disney characters. This story is somewhat dated and tedious to read, but it’s impressive because of its sheer scope. Martina and Bioletto don’t have enough room to adapt the entire Inferno, but they do their best. The story displays a deep knowledge of Dante’s original text. For example, a character says “Pape Pluto, pape Pluto, aleppe”, and the narrator mentions that no one except Dante himself knows what that means. This is a reference to “Papé Satàn, papé Satàn aleppe,” a line from canto VII of the Inferno, the meaning of which is unexplained. I didn’t understand this reference until I looked it up. Lots of other Disney characters besides Mickey and Goofy appear in the story, but I don’t know enough about Dante to appreciate the correspondences between the Dante characters and the Disney characters. But perhaps the most impresive thing about “Mickey’s Inferno” is that all the captions are written in terza rima, and the translator of the English version manages to maintain the same rhyme scheme. Overall, while this story is less impressive today than it must have been in 1949, it’s still a great achievement.

FANTASTIC FOUR #137 (Marvel, 1973) – “Rumble on Planet 3,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] John Buscema. In this story, a hidebound old man, Slugger Johnson, has used the Shaper of Worlds’s powers to return America to the ’50s. As a result, America is embroiled in a civil war between traditionalists and “youthies.” And for some reason, there’s also a giant gorilla with a nuclear warhead for a head. This issue is much weirder and more interesting than a typical ’70s FF comic, and the Buscema-Sinnott artwork is excellent, especially the depiction of the castle on the splash page.

THE SANDMAN #6 (DC, 1976) – “The Plot to Destroy Washington, D.C.!”, [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Jack Kirby. This is kind of a stupid and campy comic, and while its three creators (Fleisher, Kirby, and inker Wally Wood) are all excellent individually, their styles don’t mesh well. At least this issue has some funny moments (like this panel: https://www.instagram.com/p/Blv2doeFpMa/). The ’70s Sandman series is mostly remembered today because of Neil Gaiman’s use of the characters Jed, Brute and Glob, and it’s kind of cool to see those characters in their original form.

CHILDREN OF FIRE #1 (Fantagor, 1987) – “”Children of Fire,” [W/A] Richard Corben. This is a pretty typical Corben comic, with beautiful airbrushed artwork, muscular naked people, and weird monsters. The plot involves aliens landing on a primitive world. This comic took a while to read because the aliens’ dialogue is written in code. I couldn’t resist decoding the dialogue, and it was easy, but time-consuming. There are also two reprinted stories from the early ’70s. The second of these, “To Spear a Fair Maiden,” is very funny, but I feel ashamed of myself for liking it, because of its premise: it’s about a mercenary who’s hired to rape a girl so that she’ll be an unsuitable candidate for a virgin sacrifice.

SUPERBOY #64 (DC, 1999) – “Hyper-Tension! Part Five: Zero Tolerance,” [W] Karl Kesel, [A] Tom Grummett. Kesel and Grummett’s second run on Superboy was an excellent homage to Kirby, but I haven’t felt like reading it lately. I guess it’s a bit repetitive. In this issue, a bunch of Superboys from different dimensions team up to defeat the evil Superboy Black Zero. There’s a funny panel on the last page where Dabney Donovan puts on a party hat and blows a noisemaker after hearing that Superboy is dead.

SNARF #12 (Kitchen Sink, 1989) – multiple stories, [E] Denis Kitchen & Dave Schreiner. This issue begins with Howard Cruse’s “Raising Nancy,” which is basically about raising sea monkeys, except instead of sea monkeys, they’re identical copies of Nancy the comic strip character. It’s a weird and disturbing story. There’s also a chapter of Frank Stack’s “New Adventures of Jesus,” which is probably the highlight of the issue, as well as Harvey Pekar’s “What Superman Means to Me.” The latter story is not really about Superman at all; it’s a vignette that takes place at a comic convention. Harvey did several stories about comic conventions, and I’m sorry that I never attended a convention he was at, or if I did, it was before I knew about American Splendor. I expect it would have been easy to walk up to his table and talk to him. The other notable story in Snarf #12 is a very early piece of work by Joe Matt.

MR. MONSTER #4 (Dark Horse, 1988) – “Origins, Chapter 4,” [W/A] Michael T. Gilbert. Mr. Monster’s mother gets pregnant, and tries to induce an “accidental” abortion – I don’t remember what her motivation is for doing this. But despite her best efforts, Strongfort Stearn is born. This is a well-drawn story with beautiful lettering, and it humorously combines horror with ’50s domesticity.

SHAZAM! #33 (DC, 1978) – “The World’s Mightiest Race,” [W] E. Nelson Bridwell, [A] Tenny Henson. Captain Marvel competes against Mr. Atom in the Indy 500. This comic is a dreadful piece of nonsense.

New comics received on July 28:

SAGA #54 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. OH GOD DAMN YOU BRIAN. NO. HOW DARE YOU. YOU HEARTLESS MURDERER. This is the second time Brian has killed off a character I deeply loved. And unlike when he killed Gert in Runaways, there is little chance of that character being resurrected by another writer. And I need to wait at least a year to find out what happens next. Grrrr.

After reading that comic, I had to take a few minutes to recover before reading the next one:

LUMBERJANES #52 (Boom!, 2018) – “Board, Board, Board” (part 4), [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Dozerdraws. Another funny and touching issue. In the mess hall, the players discover that nobody can win the game because of rules glitches. Meanwhile, Ripley, Mal and April get back above ground, but are followed by a horde of giant moths and caterpillars. Just as everyone is fleeing the mess hall in terror (the rain having stopped), Ripley stops and asks Jen if it’s okay to go outside – showing that Ripley has learned a lesson, even if she hasn’t applied it well. One reason this story was successful is that it broke up the usual pairs of Lumberjanes (Mal/Molly, Jo/April, Ripley/Jen) and created interactions between characters who aren’t each other’s closest companions.

X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN – SECOND GENESIS #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Second Genesis,” [W/A] Ed Piskor. Another brilliant piece of art, writing and design. This issue covers Giant-Size X-Men #1 and X-Men vol. 1 #94 to #138. Unlike in the first X-Men: Grand Design series, Ed is retelling stories that are well-remembered as classics and that already have strong characterization. Therefore, instead of developing the characters, he concentrates on making explicit the often scattered threads of Claremont’s plots. In particular, he focuses on the Dark Phoenix Saga, showing how everything in the New X-Men’s early years was leading up to X-Men #137. He concentrates less on characterization than on explaining why things happened the way they did. Ed makes some surprising choices about what to include and what to leave out, and he contradicts some things that happened in the original comics. For example, he mostly ignores the Savage Land story in X-Men #114-116, and he has the other X-Men arrive in Scotland after Jean has already defeated Proteus. The result is, not a retelling of Claremont’s X-Men, but a reinterpretation of those comics from a very different perspective.

DESCENDER #32 (Image, 2018) – “The End of the Universe 4 of 4,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Not the ending I expected. The Descenders take Tim away, and he can’t prevent them from killing 99% of the population of the universe. At the last minute, Driller saves Andy and Effie. Ten years later, we’re introduced to Andy’s daughter Mila, who will be the protagonist of the sequel series, Ascender. At the back of the issue, Jeff explains that this was indeed not the ending he originally planned on. After writing the issue where Driller meets the old Yoda-esque alien, Jeff got an idea for how to continue the series, and rewrote the ending accordingly. I’m really curious what the original ending was, and I wish Jeff would publish a “Descender #32b” that represents his initial conception of the ending (like Phoenix: The Untold Story).

MODERN FANTASY #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Kristen Gudsnuk. Sage and her friends break into a power plant to rescue Fentax and recover the amulet, which has the power to end the world or something. They get Fentax back, but not the amulet, so now they have a new quest. This is another really fun comic, with great character interactions and worldbuilding, as well visually dense artwork full of sight gags. Looking through this issue just now, I noticed something I missed or had forgotten about: an ad for an “R.O.U.S. Surprise.”

THE LONG CON #1 (Oni, 2018) – untitled, [W] Dylan Meconis & Ben Coleman, [A] Ed Denich. There have been lots of individual comic books set at comic conventions (we’ll see another example shortly), but to my knowledge, this is the first entire comic series that takes place at a convention. Several years after the apocalypse, a reporter for the “Post Event Post” is sent to investigate the site of Long Con 50, where there seem to be people and artifacts that survived the apocalypse. We then get a flashback to the beginning of the convention, and I assume these flashbacks are going to explain how the apocalypse happened in the first place. So far, The Long Con #1 is a well-executed comic with an amazing premise. It also shows understanding of fan culture, and not just the comics part of it: at the end of the issue, there’s some Kirk/Spock fanart, a fan fiction story, and a convention schedule.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #68 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Andy Price. Tempest Shadow and Glitter Drops succeed in defeating the bear, or rather escorting it back to its mother, and they resolve their past trauma and renew their friendship. This ending was a little disappointing because Tempest Shadow ends up accepting the logic of friendship after all, whereas her critical attitude toward friendship was what made the last issue so unusual. Still, this was a very good issue overall. Tempest and Cadance’s conversation at the end is probably the highlight.

BLACKWOOD #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Veronica Fish & Andy Fish. This issue’s first panel depicts the dead, maggot-ridden face of the kid who was trying to leave town at the end of last issue. Ewww. So we now know that the stakes in this comic are pretty high. The rest of the issue is full of even more creepy horror and tense character interactions. Horror is not my favorite genre, but Blackwood is a great example of that genre.

ROYAL CITY #13 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire. More stuff happens this issue than in the last few issues combined. Both Pike parents admit to each other that they’re having affairs, Patrick admits that he stole his first book from his dead brother, and Tommy’s ghost tries to convince Richie to kill himself, but Richie calls home instead. This issue packed a lot of emotional power, but if it had been the last issue of the series, it would have felt like an overly comfortable, tidy conclusion. However, there’s still one issue left, so we’ll see whether this ending is as happy as it seems.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #33 (Marvel, 2018) – “Save Our School, Part Two: Daddy’s Little Girl,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Lunella tries to cure her random body exchanges with Devil, but instead she turns Devil into a red-haired human child. Meanwhile, Lunella and Princess’s personality conflict continues. Princess and Kingpin are a funny reimagining of Little Orphan Annie and Daddy Warbucks.

THE TERRIFICS #6 (DC, 2018) – “Element World! Part 2,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Joe Bennett. The lack of Doc Shaner artwork is disappointing. Although it turns out I was wrong in thinking that Doc was the regular artist. He’s only drawn two issues so far. This issue has a nice gimmick the first few pages each consist of four panels, each panel depicting one of the team members. Then when the team members get together, the panels merge: there are two pages with two panels each, then three splash pages. Otherwise, this is a well-executed but average superhero comic.

SAVAGE DRAGON #236 (Image, 2018) – “Kids’ Day Out!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. I dropped this series because of the tasteless and exploitative sex scenes, but I ordered this issue because it looked fun. My favorite Savage Dragon stories are the ones that focused on Angel when she was a kid, especially #105 with the Candyman. In this issue, Malcolm’s kids have their first solo adventure, and their scenes are drawn in a style that parodies Calvin & Hobbes (see also Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom #1). However, this comic’s tasteless depiction of sex is still a severe problem. Malcolm’s wife Maxine is so obsessed with sex that she’s more worried about getting off than about finding her missing children. I hope next issue begins with Malcolm taking Maxine to a therapist to treat her sex addiction.

X-23 #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Two Birthdays and Three Funerals, Part 2,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Juann Cabal. This is even better than last issue. I think it’s Mariko’s best-written comic since Supergirl: Being Super. Gabby is a cute and realistically written kid, and her conversation with Laura at breakfast is the high point of the issue. The art isn’t bad either. The two-page spread where Laura gets psychically attacked is brilliant. It’s drawn in such an abstract, nonlinear style that you can only look at it and not read it.

SENTRY #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Sentry World, Part 2 of 5,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Kim Jacinto. This is the fourth Jeff Lemire comic I read this week. Jeff deserves an Eisner for Best Writer, if only for being so versatile, and for maintaining such a high level of quality with such a heavy workload. This issue is only okay, though. Tony Stark throws Bob in prison, Bob turns into the Sentry and escapes, and it turns out Bob’s evil coworker stole the device that was controlling Bob’s powers.

X-MEN: WAKANDA FOREVER #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Echo Chamber,” [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Ray-Anthony Height & Alberto Albuquerque. This one-shot is mostly about Nakia’s history with Storm, with a couple other X-Men as side characters. The main appeal of this issue is the scenes in the African grocery store. These scenes are presumably based on personal experience, and they show us Okorafor’s perspective of an American of recent African descent, a perspective which is almost unprecedented in American comics. The actual plot of the issue is a little underwhelming by comparison. I still think they either need to radically change Nakia’s character, or rename her, because her depiction in this comic is going to be an unpleasant surprise to readers who only know her from the movie. It was an unpleasant surprise to me, even.

REAL SCIENCE ADVENTURES: THE NICODEMUS JOB #1 (IDW, 2018) – “The Nicodemus Job Part 1,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Meredith McClaren. This comic takes place in Constantinople in 1095, where a group of rogues and misfits are teaming up to recover some stolen manuscripts. Initially I had no idea where this comic was going or what it had to do with Atomic Robo. But eventually I understood, and in the back of the issue, Brian Clevinger confirmed that my understanding was correct. In the 11th century, things like astronomy and mathematics were the forefront of science, and copying and translating old manuscripts was how science was done. The protagonists in this comic are scientist-adventurers, just like Robo and his sidekicks. So this is a promising comic: it’s an interesting twist on science and history, set in a milieu that’s rarely depicted in popular culture.

THE WEATHERMAN #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jody Leheup, [A] Nathan Fox. It turns out that the protagonist is the same man who destroyed Earth, only he gave himself an unexpected memory wipe. This is a fascinating twist that makes this series a lot more interesting; after the last issue, I wasn’t sure where this comic was going. Nathan Fox’s art is quite good.

INFINITY 8 VOL. 2 #1 – “Back to the Führer,” [W] Lewis Trondheim, [A] Olivier Vatine. This is an interesting comic with beautiful art, but it was completely ruined for me by one page, in which we meet an alien named “Shlomo Ju.” He has a long beard and earlocks and dresses in black, and he abused a woman because she spoke to a man. This character is an unbelievable anti-Semitic caricature. The writers try to cover their asses by describing him as an “ultraorthodox radical,” but he’s also the only Jewish character in the comic; there are no positive representations of Jews to counter this offensive stereotype. I have no idea why anyone thought this was okay. Ironically, the actual depictions of Nazis in this comic are much less offensive, and are kind of funny.

CHAMPIONS #1.MU (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Ro Stein. The Champions fight a team of teenage supervillains who are trying to break up an environmentalist protest, and then some giant monsters show up. I expected this to be just a typical crossover issue, but it’s actually good. Just like in Raven or Unstoppable Wasp, in this issue Jeremy writes excellent dialogue and shows a sympathetic understanding of teenagers, including both the heroes and the villains.

MEN IN BLACK VOL. II #3 (Aircel, 1991) – “Con Sequences,” [W] Lowell Cunningham, [A] Sandy Carruthers. I bought this because I’ve never seen an actual Men in Black comic before. Probably the vast majority of people who have seen the movies don’t even know they were based on a comic, and this may be because the comic was rather mediocre. Although Men in Black v2 #3 is not a very good comic, it’s interesting because the story takes place at an Atlanta science fiction convention. The writer shows an insider knowledge of SF fan culture, and I assume some of the characters in the issue are based on actual Atlanta fans, though I have no idea who they’re based on.

BRAVEST WARRIORS #26 (Boom!, 2014) – untitled, [W] Kate Leth, [A] Ian McGinty. The two stories in this issue have appealing artwork and coloring, but I can’t remember anything about their plots. Bravest Warriors was notable less because of its actual quality than because of the careers it launched; besides Leth and McGinty, this issue also includes art by Kat Leyh.

LUCY DREAMING #5 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Max Bemis, [A] Michael Dialynas. Lucy summons all her past selves to defeat Welsey, and as we learn from the infodump at the start of the issue, this also represents a symbolic victory of female-oriented over male-oriented stories. Then Lucy starts drawing comics. Max Bemis is a good dialogue writer, but I’m not so sure about his plots. I also think this comic engages in gender essentialism. I agree with the general point that boy-oriented hero narratives do a lot of harm, but instead of suggesting any better models for stories with boy protagonists, Bemis limits himself to arguing that stories with girl protagonists will solve everything. Both halves of this argument are equally reductive: quest stories about boys are not uniformly regressive, and stories with girl protagonists are not uniformly progressive.

SECRETS OF YOUNG BRIDES #8 (Charlton, 1976) – “Nothing Special” and other stories, [W] Joe Gill (probably), [A] Charles Nicholas & Vince Alascia et al. Some very boring romance stories. In this issue’s second story, a young girl leaves home for the big city and falls in with a crowd of dirty, drug-abusing hippies, but her blue-collar boyfriend rescues her and takes her home. It’s instructive to compare this story with contemporaneous underground comics, where the hippies were the good guys and the “straights” were the villains.

KID COLT OUTLAW #179 (Marvel, 1962/1976) – “The Circus of Crime!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Keller. The Circus of Crime in this comic is not to be confused with the similarly named group led by the Ringmaster. However, this story was originally published in September 1962, the same month that the original Circus of Crime were reintroduced in Incredible Hulk #3 (they first appeared in the ’40s). Probably Stan was trying to economize by using similar villains in two different stories. Otherwise Kid Colt #179 is of little interest.

STRONTIUM DOG #4 (Quality, 1987) – “The Moses Incident,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. The Quality comics published from 1987 to 1989 were so poorly printed as to be almost unreadable, and I don’t plan to buy any more of them. The comics published under the Eagle label before 1987, and under the Fleetway/Quality label in the early ’90s, had much higher production values. Despite the poor printing, this comic is enjoyable. The protagonist, mutant bounty hunter Johnny Alpha, accidentally kills a little boy in a gunfight, then goes on a quest to resurrect him. I like the 2000 AD style of art, and Carlos Ezquerra was one of the masters of that style. My problem with this comic’s storyline is that Johnny Alpha is really not to blame for the boy’s death. If anyone is at fault, it’s the boy’s mother, who couldn’t stop him from watching a gunfight at close range, but the mother acts as if it’s all Johnny Alpha’s fault.

FABULOUS FURRY FREAK BROTHERS #6 (Rip Off, 1980) – six stories, [W] various, [A] Gilbert Shelton. I have mixed feelings about Crumb, but I unreservedly love Shelton. His comics are raucous, immoral, anarchic, and hilarious. The stories in this issue aren’t all equally well written, and they all have super-implausible plots, but that’s kind of deliberate. “He Who Hesitates” and “The 4th Freak Brother!” are a two-parter, in which a cop tries to arrest the Freak Brothers, but ends up losing his memory and joining them. “The Death of Fat Freddy” includes a scene where Fat Freddy’s friends attend his wake (though he’s not dead, of course) and then confiscate his property to cover his debts to them. The friends/creditors appear to include Spain Rodriguez, Robert Crumb, Aline Kominsky-Crumb and Trina Robbins, and I assume the others are based on other comics people. https://www.instagram.com/p/Bl9YlmfFGpN/?taken-by=aaronkashtan

SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE #29 (DC, 1995) – “The Hourman, Act One,” [W] Matt Wagner & Steven T. Seagle, [A] Guy Davis. Another typically high-quality issue. Wesley and Dian continue to progress their relationship, while Hourman tries to help a wife save her abusive husband from criminals. Along with the subtle and deep interactions between Wes and Dian, the highlight of the issue is the gritty depiction of the craven, cowardly husband and his browbeaten wife.

ALL-STAR COMICS #59 (DC, 1976) – “Brainwave Blows Up!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Ric Estrada & Wally Wood. It appears that Ric Estrada did the layouts and Woody did the finishes, so in this comic you get Woody’s draftsmanship, but not his masterful storytelling. This issue is basically an extended fight between the JSA and the team of Brainwave and Per Degaton. The ’70s All-Star Comics was only slightly above average even when Paul Levitz took it over, and this issue is just average.

FRANKENSTEIN #3 (Dell, 1966) – “The Trap,” [W] D.J. Arneson, [A] Tony Tallarico. Usually when I say that a comic is bad, I mean that it’s just average or mediocre. Most “bad” comics are written and drawn at a professional level, but they lack interest or excitement or a creative spark, or else they don’t suit my tastes. But this comic is just straight up bad. It’s worse than mediocre: the art is ugly and barely competent, the lettering is hideous, and the story is a series of dumb cliches. Obviously Dell was desperate to cash in on the superhero fad (tthis is a superhero comic, despite the title), and they were willing to hire anyone who could hold a pencil.

WULF THE BARBARIAN #3 (Atlas/Seaboard, 1975) – “The Colossus of the Iron Citadel,” [W] Steve Skeates, [A] Leo Summers. Like most Atlas/Seaboard titles, Wulf got a new creative team after just a couple issues. Wulf #3 isn’t completely terrible, but it’s weird. It’s supposed to be a barbarian comic, but the plot is that Wulf’s archenemy tries to take over a giant foundry that uses Industrial Revolution-era technology. And this comic just doesn’t feel like the first two issues of Wulf, which were actually kind of good. Leo Summers drew less than 20 comics stories, almost all of them for Warren or Atlas/Seaboard in 1974 and 1975, and I can’t find any biographical information about him.

TARZAN #249 (DC, 1976) – “Tarzan and the Champion,” [W] Joe Kubert, [A] Rudy Florese. Joe Kubert’s last issue of Tarzan is an adaptation of an ERB story, in which Tarzan saves a boxer from being eaten by cannibals, then defeats him in a boxing match. Because of its depiction of the cannibals, this story is even more racist than Tarzan comics usually are. Otherwise, this is a typical example of the later part of Kubert’s Tarzan run.

MARA #4 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Brian Wood, [A] Ming Doyle. I bought Mara when it came out because of its unusual topic – the protagonist is a professional volleyball player. It turns out I just don’t like Brian Wood’s writing – I find his comics unsubtle and humorless – and this comic does nothing to change my mind about him.

THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER #1 (Dark Horse, 2013) – “The Fall of the House of Usher,” [W/A] Richard Corben. As he explains in a note, Corben has adapted this Poe story before, so this time he changed things up by adding plot elements from “The Oval Portrait.” This comic is gruesome, creepy, and beautifully drawn and colored, making it an example of Corben’s classic style. However, the characters talk in modern dialogue, even though the story is clearly set in the 19th century.

FIGHTIN’ ARMY #113 (Charlton, 1974) – “The Brothers,” uncredited, and “Shoot Out at Argentan!”, [A] Nicholas/Alascia. “The Brothers” is about two German immigrants to America who end up fighting on opposite sides of WWII. It has a cheap and unsatisfying ending: the one who fights for the Nazis is redeemed at the end, because he visited Auschwitz and realized that Nazis suck. However, this happens behind the scenes, rather than on-panel, so what should be the emotional heart of the story is left out. What makes this story interesting is the excellent draftsmanship. The art is not by José Luis García-López, but it resembles his realistic style, and I suspect the artist might be Spanish or Argentine. I would love to know who drew this story, but sadly there are no credits, and the GCD is no help.

IMAGINE AGENTS #4 (Boom!, 2014) – untitled, [W] Brian Joines, [A] Bachan. I was glad when I finally came across my copy of this issue; it was hiding somewhere in the back of a box. This issue has a pretty conventional happy ending, but what makes this series unique and interesting is Bachan’s creative depiction of children’s imaginary friends. Also, Joines writes a pretty poignant speech about why imaginary friends are important to children. A highlight of this issue is “The Guier,” an orange tutu-wearing winged creature who’s always complaining.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #34 (DC, 1965) – “The Deadly Dreams of Doctor Destiny!”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Mike Sekowsky. Having lost his original materioptikon, Dr. Destiny builds a new one in his dreams, then uses it to nearly defeat the Justice League. I haven’t read many Dr. Destiny stories, and this issue demonstrates why it made sense for Neil Gaiman to use him as a villain in Sandman. In general, JLoA #34 is a pretty exciting and weird Silver Age comic.

DENNIS THE MENACE #53 (Fawcett, 1961) – multiple stories, [W] Fred Toole, [A] Al Wiseman. I can’t really tell the difference between Al Wiseman and his successor Owen Fitzgerald, but the stories in this issue are cute and often very funny. The highlight of the issue is a page where Dennis’s dad is relaxing on a lawn chair, when a hammer falls out of the sky and almost hits him. https://www.instagram.com/p/BmCK2UvFJ4r/

THE SPIRIT #26 (Kitchen Sink, 1986) – four stories, [W/A] Will Eisner. This issue’s two middle stories are a duology about on a young convict named “Bleak,” a typically Eisneresque name. Bleak is released from reform school and immediately gets roped into committing more crimes, but he frees himself and is reunited with his childhood sweetheart. There’s also a story about diamonds being smuggled in army surplus umbrella handles, and a Charles Atlas parody. I wasn’t all that impressed by the last couple Spirit comics I read, but this issue reminds me what a god of comics Eisner was. The reason he was able to tell complete, satisfying stories in seven pages – one of which doubled as the cover – was because of his skill at narrative compression. The panels in these stories often have multiple things happening at once, so that the reader is forced to slow down and read carefully just to follow the story. Eisner also conveys lots of information through body language and facial expressions as well as text. His mastery of storytelling is one reason why the annual awards are named after him.

New comics received Saturday, August 4:

QUANTUM AGE #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Wilfredo Torres. Compared to the previous issue, this comic was a bit disappointing. The problem was that I wanted to learn more about the original Quantum League, and instead Jeff focuses on Barbali-Teen and the older Modular Lass and Erb, and their struggle against Earthgov (a name borrowed from the actual Legion comics). But it’s not really Jeff’s fault if the story he wants to tell is not the story I want to read. This is still an exciting comic, and I love the scene where the kids are debating who was the best Quantum Leaguer – Gorilla Girl, Doppler Damsel or Modular Lass. I do hope we get to see more Quantum Leaguers soon, because to me, it doesn’t feel like a Legion comic unless there are a whole bunch of Legionnaires.

MISTER MIRACLE #10 (DC, 2018) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. I didn’t vote for Mitch Gerads in the Eisners, but he’s a deserving winner. I’ve already talked about this series’s bizarre and touching combination of domesticity and cosmic warfare. This issue gives us a lot more of that, and it also shows Scott confronting the dilemma of whether to sacrifice his son to stop the war. When you put it like that, the answer is pretty obvious: no. Scott is the ultimate escape artist, and he had better not fall victim to this trap. I also think that Scott is being kind of selfish in acting like this is his decision alone, not his and Barda’s.

PAPER GIRLS #23 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. Kaje reveals that she and Mac are lovers in the future, and Mac is not happy. Erin and the two Tiffanies locate Wari. This was a pretty typical issue. I really like the future dialogue, and I almost wish it wasn’t translated. There’s a crossword puzzle at the end of the issue, but I didn’t even attempt it. I’d have to reread the entire series to learn the answers to some of the clues.

GIANT DAYS #41 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Susan destroys a little girl’s soccer ball, and she’s right to do it. Daisy learns that Ingrid has a new boyfriend, despite her friends’ best efforts to keep her from finding out. More assorted drama happens. Again, this was a very typical issue.

ADVENTURES OF THE SUPER SONS #1 (DC, 2018) – “Action Detectives, Part One: Bad Guys,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Carlo Barberi. At the beginning of their “Summer of Super,” Clark and Damien encounter some adorable kid versions of DC villains. This was another excellent Super Sons story, and was probably the best comic of the week besides Mister Miracle #10, although it was an underwhelming week. The sculptor who made the statue at the beginning of the issue is named “Alan Swan” because this statue first appeared in “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow,” by Alan Moore and Curt Swan.

MARVEL RISING: MS. MARVEL AND SQUIRREL GIRL #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Marvel Rising, Part 3,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, Ryan North & Devin Grayson, [A] Ramon Bachs & Irene Strychalski. Unfortunately my copy of this issue has a printing error in which one page is printed twice, just like Head Lopper #8. On Twitter, Ryan North confirmed that Marvel is aware of this error and that the issue will be reprinted. As far as I can tell without reading the missing page, in this issue we learn that the real villain is Arcade, and Kamala, Doreen and their allies almost convince Emulator to go straight. Also, they get thrown into an MMORPG world where they spend weeks grinding. One cool thing about this issue is seeing Ryan and Willow write each other’s characters. I’m not sure if Ryan wrote Squirrel Girl’s dialogue in the Ms. Marvel half of the issue, or if Willow just did a good job of imitating Ryan’s prose style.

SCALES & SCOUNDRELS #11 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] Galaad. Dorma brings her brother’s body back to their home cavern, and gets in a fight with her parents about whether to move elsewhere. Also, it turns out that the next issue of Scales & Scoundrels will be the last. That’s kind of sad. Scales & Scoundrels was never the best fantasy comic on the market, but it had potential.

LEVIATHAN #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Layman, [A] Nick Pitarra. So far, John Layman’s post-Chew project is less interesting than that of Rob Guillory. There are a lot of funny moments in this comic, but the artwork is too busy and is also rather gross, and I’m not sure how this comic is different from a generic kaiju story. But I will reserve judgment until I read a few more issues.

VALIANT HIGH #4 (Valiant, 2018) – “The Big Dance,” [W] Daniel Kibblesmith, [A] Derek Charm. Valiant High loses the homecoming game, and some other drama happens. This series was cute and easy to read, but it was no substitute for Faith, which is thankfully returning soon. My favorite thing about this issue is the line “float like a jellyfish, sting like a jellyfish.”

ANIMOSITY #15 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Power: Part Two,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Rafael Delatorre. This issue gives us the backstory of the guy who was killed at the end of last issue. His story is tragic and depressing, but also kind of emotionally manipulative. I’m getting Animosity: Evolution next week, but after that I’m done with this series.

CONCRETE: THINK LIKE A MOUNTAIN #4 (Dark Horse, 1996) – “Weight of the World,” [W/A] Paul Chadwick. This issue showcases Paul Chadwick’s beautiful, Moebius-esque art. Chadwick is not only one of the smartest writers in the comics industry, but also a brilliant artist. In this issue, some radical environmentalists convince Concrete to join their cause. This issue shows evidence of extensive research into or preexisting knowledge of environmentalism. I don’t want to think about the environmental issues this comic raises, because it’s too depressing.

BACCHUS #13 (Eddie Campbell, 1996) – “King Bacchus, Part 12,” [W/A] Eddie Campbell. Two characters I don’t remember get married. We learn that Collage is pregnant with Bacchus’s child. Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Dave Sim make guest appearances, and the latter gets beaten up. I figured out it was Sim when he complaned about a “noble male light being subsumed into merged permanence.” This issue also includes a chapter of “Doing the Islands,” which I’ve read at least twice already.

FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #12 (DC, 2018) – “Crash of the Titans,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Alain Mauricet. Buzz and Frankenstein battle an armadillo-bat-jaguar thing. This was a fun and exciting issue, and I’m sorry that it’s the last Future Quest comic.

VOID INDIGO #2 (Marvel, 1985) – “Spikes and Demons / Rapture and Violence,” [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Val Mayerik. This series was quickly cancelled after this issue, and you can immediately see why just by reading the first page. This page shows a naked flaming woman having sex with a pink-skinned giant man, and the caption mentions that the woman is possessing the body of a 14-year-old girl. So no wonder Marvel wanted nothing more to do with this series. In general, Void Indigo #2 is a typical example of Gerber’s bizarre writing. It’s also confusing and hard to follow, and I’m not sure if this series’ cancellation was that big of a loss.

CATWOMAN #8 (DC, 2002) – “Disguises, Part 2,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Brad Rader. Catwoman and Slam Bradley get involved in a complex plot involving corrupt cops and the Russian mob. This issue includes a number of panels depicting Selina’s cats. Brad Rader is a worse cat artist than Darwyn Cooke or Joëlle Jones, but he’s a pretty good artist in general. I wonder what happened to him.

BATMAN ’66 #26 (DC, 2015) – “Poison Ivy’s Deadly Kiss,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Jesse Hamm. Batman meets the ’66 version of Poison Ivy. This is a pretty funny and entertaining comic, with some good plant jokes. However, this series, like the show it was based on, is rather repetitive; it has the same basic jokes every issue.

FLASH GORDON #11 (King, 1967) – “Dream Devils of the Volcanic World,” [W] Bill Pearson, [A] Reed Crandall. Flash and Dale are captured by some pygmies, who use noxious gases to trap them in a dream state. I don’t like Reed Crandall nearly as much as Al Williamson, but his art in this issue is really good, with some very nice cross-hatching. Unfortunately some of the pages are badly printed, making it difficult to see the fine details of the art.

DONALD DUCK ADVENTURES #14 (Gladstone, 1943/1989) – “Donald Duck and the Mummy’s Ring,” [W/A] Carl Barks. A somewhat crude early Barks story in which Donald and two of the nephews travel to Egypt to rescue the third nephew from a mummy. The villain of this story looks very similar to Peg-Leg Pete. In 1965, Barks had to redraw three pages of this story because the original plates were damaged, and DDA #14 includes both the original and the redrawn pages.

ITTY BITTY HELLBOY #2 (Dark Horse, 2013) – “You Call Him Smitty” etc., [W/A] Art Baltazar, [W] Franco. This comic took about one minute to read, and is a demonstration of the principle that if you’ve read one Baltazar/Franco comic (besides the ones with continued storylines, like Super Friends), you’ve read them all.

ANT-MAN AND THE WASP #4 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Javier Garrón. Again, this is a fun issue, but it’s not as good as Unstoppable Wasp. Also, Mark’s science is getting really really farfetched. This issue, Scott, Nadia and Burr Dalen get back to Earth, but it turns out to not be their Earth.

CHEVAL NOIR #23 (Dark Horse, 1991) – various stories, [E] Mike Richardson. There are three stories in this issue that I specifically want to mention. I’ve heard of both Makyo and Rossi before, but I’m not familiar with their story in this issue, “Jordan.” It turns out this story is part of a series called “Le cycle des deux horizons.” It’s about a boy whose abusive mother keeps his shoes locked up so he can’t go out, but he befriends another boy, and he sneaks out at night and they take turns carrying each other around. I don’t know what the larger plot of this series is, but this first chapter is interesting. In the conclusion of Tardi’s Adele Blanc-Sec album “Mummies on Parade,” Adele surprisingly gets killed, but then it turns out she was cryogenically frozen instead. Tardi decided to have her frozen during World War I, so that he wouldn’t have to explain what she did during the war. This issue also includes the conclusion of Cosey’s “Voyage in Italy.” It seems like a very poignant conclusion, but I don’t remember what this album is about, or who the characters are.

TARZAN #190 – “Tarzan and the Forbidden City, Part One,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Paul Norris. A mediocre story in which Tarzan gets caught up in a war between two cities. The people of the two cities are all white, even though this story takes place in Africa, and there’s no explanation of why this is the case. Gold Key’s Tarzan never recovered from Russ Manning’s departure.

Finally I have no more comics waiting to be reviewed.