Reviews for the week of August 24

9-13

As I write this, Hurricane Florence is on its way to the Carolinas. I hope my comics don’t all get destroyed before I finish reviewing them.

I am still severely behind. These comics arrived on August 24:

LUMBERJANES #53 (Boom!, 2018) – “Follow Your Art,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Dozerdraws. Following a treasure map, the Zodiacs discover a broken stone statue that, when reassembled, comes to life and turns out to be some kind of ancient Greek goddess. So I guess this is another Diana storyline. I really liked this issue, but I can’t remember much about it now.

WEST COAST AVENGERS #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Stefano Caselli. Some Comiscgate troll posted a tweet in which he compared this comic to the original West Coast Avengers #1, and used this comparison as an example of what Comicsgaters are so pissed about. The 1984 West Coast Avengers miniseries was actually good, but this new series is probably better, and certainly more important because it expands the audience for Marvel comics – and that, of course, is why it makes Comicsgaters angry. In terms of its content, the new West Coast Avengers #1 is a sequel to Kelly Thompson’s Hawkeye run, with the addition of Quentin Quire, America, Gwenpool, etc. None of these characters are favorites of mine, but their personalities contrast with each other in interesting ways. The reality show angle is rather trite, but that’s not a serious problem. I expect this series will be at least as good as Kelly’s Hawkeye was.

BLACK HAMMER: AGE OF DOOM #4 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. The heroes confront Madame Dragonfly, and she explains that she was indeed responsible for sending them to Black Hammer farm, but she did it to save them all. Then on the last page, they all wake up in cryogenic chambers inside a space station. It looks like next issue the plot of this series will finally be explained, at long last.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #34 (Marvel, 2018) – “Save Our School,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Devil Dinosaur’s first day at school is a predictable disaster. It’s a bit disappointing that he can barely talk, because I’d like to see more of his personality. But I love how he keeps his arms inside his sleeves, because he’s used to having tiny useless arms. At first I didn’t realize why he was doing this, and I was delighted when I figured it out. I also love the short scene with all four of Lunella’s grandparents. This scene is more important than it looks, because Marvel comics don’t often depict black people just doing normal family stuff.

BEASTS OF BURDEN: WISE DOGS AND ELDRITCH MEN #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Benjamin Dewey. Based on his previous work on Autumnlands, another series narrated by a dog, Benjamin Dewey is a good choice as the first artist other than Jill Thompson to draw Beasts of Burden. As a cat person, I’m disappointed that this series is all about the dogs, but it’s a good Beasts of Burden comic. I understand that Beasts of Burden and Blackwood are set in the same universe, and as I read this issue, I kept looking for references to Blackwood.

ROYAL CITY #14 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. All the loose ends are resolved, and the five versions of Tommy walk into the lake together. This conclusion is perhaps overly neat and predictable, but it’s also deeply touching, because Jeff is a brilliant cartoonist and he does a great job of making the reader share the characters’ emotions.

THE TERRIFICS #7 (DC, 2018) – “Tom Strong & the Terrifics, Part One,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dale Eaglesham. This issue starts with some flashbacks to Tom Strong’s past, and then the Terrifics go looking for him, but get stuck in the Forest of Eternity. It really, really sucks that Tom Strong has become a character in the DC Universe even though Alan Moore did everything in his power to avoid working for DC. Leaving that aside, this is a pretty fun comic.

ITTY BITTY HELLBOY #3 (Dark Horse, 2013) – untitled, [W/A] Art Baltazar, [W] Franco. See my earlier reviews of Itty Bitty Hellboy #2 and #5. I regret having bought this comic. It serves its intended audience well, but it has nothing to offer an older reader.

RED SONJA/TARZAN #4 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Gail Simone, [A] Walter Geovani. The blue-skinned woman from Swords of Sorrow makes a return appearance in this issue. Otherwise, it’s very similar to the previous issues.

REAL SCIENCE ADVENTURES: THE NICODEMUS JOB #2 (IDW, 2018) – “The Nicodemus Job Part 2,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Meredith McClaren. The heroes plan their infiltration of the imperial library. There’s also a flashback scene where Nicolas catches Iskander making fake passports, and lets him get away with it. This scene is an obvious reference to the contemporary immigration crisis.

LITTLE LULU #63 (Dell, 1953) – “The Tea Party” and other stories, [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. Another collection of brilliant and funny stories. One notable story in this issue is “The Substitute,” where Lulu is chasing an escaped monkey while trying to avoid Mr. McNabbem the truant officer. Mr. McNabbem doesn’t appear in every issue, but when he does, he’s usually trying to catch Lulu even though she has a legitimate reason for not being in school. I know I recently read a non-comics book that referenced this character, but I can’t figure out what book it was.

DENNIS THE MENACE #7 (Marvel, 1982) – “Party Time” and other stories, [W] Fred Toole, [A] Bill Williams or Karen Matchette? These credits are courtesy of Mark Evanier on Facebook. The actual comic is uncredited. This issue’s first story is sort of a crossover, because Dennis puts on a Spider-Man costume to go to Margaret’s party. Otherwise, this issue lacks the humor and tenderness of the Fawcett Dennis comics.

GIDEON FALLS #6 (Image, 2018) – “The Faller of Trees,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. This may be the best-drawn comic book of the year. Andrea Sorrentino’s page layouts are radically experimental, and his pages seem to have four dimensions rather than two. The highlight may be the two-page spread containing 45 panels, which all depicting the same scene but are not arranged in chronological order. Similarly radical page layouts have appeared in other Jeff Lemire comics such as Animal Man, and I wonder if Jeff himself is designing these pages, rather than his artists. The story of Gideon Falls still doesn’t make sense, but its artwork is amazing.

BABYTEETH #12 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Birthday,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. Sadie and her dad go looking for the baby, even though Sadie’s dad thinks this mission is too dangerous for a girl. This series is getting a bit boring, and I’m disappointed that Sadie is still so weak and unassertive. I thought she’d have become a more effective protagonist by now.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #282 (Gold Key, 1964) – “The Bubbleweight Champ,” [W/A] Carl Barks. In this issue’s Barks ten-pager, Donald has to fight a boxing match against a muscular strongman, even though he’s so addicted to Gurgleurp soda that he can barely walk. This story is very funny, but also unusual because it references a real-life social problem: Donald’s Gurgleurp addiction is an obvious alusion to alcoholism. Also, to quote my own Facebook post, it’s a weird coincidence that this story is about “a man named Donald who’s addicted to carbonated soda, which ruins his physical and mental health and makes him unable to fulfill his duties.” The backup stories in this issue are of no interest.

ARCHIE MEETS BATMAN ’66 #2 (Archie, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker & Michael Moreci, [A] Dan Parent. Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon enroll at Riverdale high school as new students, resulting in instant romantic drama. Meanwhile, the villains all arrive in Riverdale. This issue is pretty funny, but not significantly different from issue 1.

ROWANS RUIN #4 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, [W] Mike Carey, [A] Mike Perkins. This is a pretty scary horror or psychological thriller story, but I had trouble remembering who the characters were. I wish I’d read this series in order.

THE SENTRY #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Sentry World Part 3 of 5,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Kim Jacinto. It turns out that Billy Turner, a.k.a. Scout, worked together with Sentry’s old enemy Cranio to steal the Confluctor. At the end of this issue there are a couple pages with bizarre layouts, which reinforces my theory that Lemire is partially responsible for the page layouts in Gideon Falls. The Sentry #3 is perhaps the worst of this week’s four Jeff Lemire comics, but it’s amazing that Jeff Lemire is able to write so many different comics at once, covering so many different genres. He deserves an Eisner for that alone.

THRILLING ADVENTURE HOUR #2 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ben Acker & Ben Blacker, [A] M.J. Erickson. Frank and Sadie continue to investigate ghosts and drink excessively. Nothing new here.

AVENGERS: WAKANDA FOREVER #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Chapter Three: Reflections,” [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Oleg Okunev. I didn’t enjoy this issue as much as the last two, since it didn’t have any explicit references to Nigerian-American identity. The main event this issue is that Nakia dies, which is probably a good thing, since the character was broken beyond repair. I expect that now Marvel will introduce a new Nakia who will be more similar to the film version of the character. I’m not sure whether to file this issue under A or under W.

HEARTTHROB #2 (Oni, 2016) – untitled, [W] Chris Sebela, [A] Robert Wilson IV. Callie and Mercer rob a bank, then start planning an even bigger heist. This is a really fun comic, both because of its ridiculous premise (a woman is haunted by the ghost of her heart donor), and because Callie commits a bunch of crimes and gets away with them. This comic is a bit like Grand Theft Auto, which also depicts crime as a fun and exciting pursuit. I enjoyed this comic enough that I immediately went on to:

HEARTTHROB #3 (Oni, 2016) – as above. Callie and her accomplices successfully rob the insurance company where she worked before her injury. Then she starts planning another heist. But as suggested by the flash-forwards at the end of this and the previous issue, her streak of luck is about to reverse itself. This was another fun issue.

SWEET TOOTH #7 (Vertigo, 2010) – “In Captivity, Part 2,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Tommy Jepperd buries his wife, and in a flashback, we see the moment where she learned she was pregnant. Meanwhile, the antler-headed kid is taken to surgery. I still have trouble following what’s going on in this comic, but at least I’m becoming more familiar with the characters.

BATMAN #271 (DC, 1976) – “The Corpse Came C.O.D.!”, [W] David V. Reed, [A] Irv Novick. Alfred discovers a corpse rolled up in a rug. It turns out the rug belonged to a cult of worshippers of Agni, the Vedic fire god. While reading this comic, I did a little Google research and learned that Vedic deities like Agni and Indra are not commonly worshipped today, at least not compared to Shiva, Vishnu, etc. This issue Batman teams up with an inquisitive reporter named Carol Ames, who is hard to distinguish from Vicki Vale – their names even have the same number of letters and the same meter. Carol Ames never appeared anywhere else.

GIDEON FALLS #3 (Image, 2018) – “The Faller of Trees” (part 3), [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. I missed this when it came out. It’s not quite as beautiful as issue 6, but it fills in some gaps in the storyline.

TARZAN #142 (Gold Key, 1964) – “The Dreadful Swamp” and “The Guilt of Belazi,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Jesse Marsh. I don’t understand the appeal of Jesse Marsh’s art. However, all of his stories that I’ve read are from the last few years of his career, and I assume his earlier work was better. This issue’s second story is hideously colonialist, even more so than a typical Tarzan story. The title character, Belazi, is a diamond miner who steals diamonds to pay for his fiancee’s bride price. Tarzan convinces Belazi to return the diamonds to his white employer, and to continue working at the mine until he earns the bride price. No mention is made of the fact that the diamond mine is on Belazi’s people’s ancestral land, and Belazi has a better right to the diamonds than any white dude has. The story essentially suggests that Africans ought to be grateful and deferential to the white people who are stealing their resources. This story is especially tone-deaf because at the time it was published, most of the countries in Africa had either just become independent, or were only a few years from independence. The saving grace of Tarzan #142 is that it ends with a five-page Brothers of the Spear story by Russ Manning.

LOCKE & KEY: CROWN OF SHADOWS #4 (IDW, 2010) – “Crown of Shadows, Part Four,” [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. I was delighted to discover this comic and Keys to the Kingdom #4 in one of my boxes of old unread comics. This issue, the (gorgeously drawn) shadows continue to threaten the kids. Kinsey realizes she can make them vanish by turning the lights on – as noted in an earlier review, they’re pretty similar to grues. The shadows pursue Kinsey and Bode in search of the wellhouse key, but Ty uses the giant key from the previous issue to turn himself into a giant, which is really awesome. Part of the fun of this series is learning about all the different keys and the unexpected things they can do.

LOCKE & KEY: KEYS TO THE KINGDOM #4 (IDW, 2011) – “Casualties,” [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. Bode makes friends with Rufus, the autistic boy from Head Games #6. A ghost shows Rufus some weird stuff in the basement. This issue includes some pages drawn in a war comic style, depicting the game Bode and Rufus play with their toy soldiers. Besides being funny, these pages demonstrate Gabriel Rodriguez’s ability to imitate any style of comics .

LITTLE IODINE #53 (Dell, 1961) – “The Sultan of Swat” and other stories, [W/A] Jimmy Hatlo (but almost certainly ghosted by someone else). This comic is an adaptation of Jimmy Hatlo’s newspaper strip about a bratty little girl. It’s drawn in a screwball style that was already old-fashioned in 1961, and it lacks the craftsmanship or passion of Little Lulu or even Nancy. One story in this issue includes a magician who keeps calling people “gates,” and their reactions indicate that this term is offensive. After extensive Googling, I’ve figured out that “Greetings, gates” was a catchphrase used by Bob Hope’s sidekick Jerry Colonna, and it didn’t mean anything.

COMICS ON PARADE #104 (United Feature, 1956) – various untitled stories, [W/A] Ernie Bushmiller. Comics on Parade was one of the oldest comic books, dating back to 1938. It seems that this series only ever reprinted United Feature newspaper strips, and never published any original material. By the time of #104, the final issue, it was exclusively a vehicle for reprinting Nancy strips. Most of the strips reprinted in this issue are Sunday. As Karasik and Newgarden explain in How to Read Nancy, which I just finished reading, Sunday strips were never Bushmiller’s strong suit. It’s especially annoying how all the strips in this comic begin with a tier of throwaway panels – that is, panels which some newspapers would remove in order to save space, and which therefore could not contain any essential information.

MOCKINGBIRD #8 (Marvel, 2016) – “The Daily Blowhole,” [W] Chelsea Cain, [A] Kate Niemczyk. This issue’s “Ask Me About My Feminist Agenda” cover was one of the catalysts for Comicsgate. It’s also the last issue of the series, and that sucks because it’s a really fun comic; it has all sorts of witty dialogue and even a full-page “Ghost Cowboy Stalker Ex Plan Flowchart.” And there’s also a scene where Bobbi is saved by mercorgis, which are exactly what they sound like. As an overarching comment, Marvel’s treatment of Chelsea Cain has been consistently shameful. They cancelled this series after eight issues, they didn’t explain to her how to attend the Eisners, and now they’ve inexplicably cancelled her Vision miniseries before it was released. I can’t imagine she’ll ever be willing to work for Marvel again. The silver lining is that because she doesn’t depend on comics writing for her income, she’s been able to publicly criticize Marvel for their shortsighted actions. Another writer would have to just grin and bear it, for fear of being blacklisted. Also, Marvel’s loss is Image’s gain. I’m eagerly looking forward to Man-Eaters.

LITTLE LULU #95 (Dell, 1956) – “Big Bite” and other stories, [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. My copy of this issue has some giant holes in the pages, causing multiple interruptions in the stories. I hope I can find a replacement copy someday. The most interesting story in this issue is the Witch Hazel story where the Poor Little Girl and Freddy go to a costume party.

MISTY #3 (Marvel, 1986) – “With a Friend Like Darlene… Who Needs Enemies?” and other stories, [W/A] Trina Robbins. In this issue’s first story, Misty and her friend Darlene both appear on the same TV show, and they both fall in love with the same costar. In the second story, Misty and her friends visit an old house that they think is haunted, and it turns out that a lonely old woman lives there. I don’t like Misty nearly as much as other comparable comics like Amethyst or Angel Love, but it’s an important piece of a story I want to tell in my research, the story of how comics publishers abandoned female readers before recently deciding to reach out to them again. This issue’s letters page provides a rather sad demonstration of why Misty failed. There are two letters from female fans who want to subscribe to Misty, because they’re having trouble finding it. The editor replies, “I’m sorry to say that you can’t subscribe to Misty just yet, but you should be able to find it at any comic book store. If they don’t have Misty at your local comic book store, you should ask the manager to order it for you!” (https://www.instagram.com/p/BnKflujF_9U/?taken-by=aaronkashtan) No wonder this series was cancelled.

DETECTIVE COMICS #454 (DC, 1975) – “The Set-Up Caper,” [W] David V. Reed, [A] José Luis García López. JLGL is usually described as a Spanish artist, but he grew up in Argentina and started his career there. His artwork in this issue doesn’t look very much like him, and I initially wondered if the issue was drawn by Ernie Chan, who is also credited with the art. I  guess either this wasn’t one of his better stories, or else I’m just not seeing the resemblance to his usual style. This issue’s main story is about a villain who imitates Batman’s fighting style. It’s pretty forgettable. There’s also a Hawkman backup story which is also drawn by JLGL and is equally unmemorable.

SUICIDE SQUAD #58 (DC, 1991) – “Suicide Attack!”, [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Geof Isherwood. A War of the Gods crossover in which Amanda Waller assembles a huge team of former villains to attack the sorceress Circe. The first highlight of this issue is when a character named Maser asks why he should take Waller’s orders, and she grabs him by his cape and replies that, first, she’s a sick old woman, and second, if he backtalks her, she’ll skin him alive. (https://www.instagram.com/p/BnKothOl2j7/?taken-by=aaronkashtan) This is a classic Waller moment. Perhaps even better, this issue is the first and only appearance of The Writer, a character who can make things happen by writing them on his computer – except when “the writer who is now writing me intervenes and then I see what’s about to happen.” Unfortunately, he suffers writer’s block at an inopportune moment and gets killed by a werewolf. This is an amazing piece of metatext, and it gets even more amazing when you realize that this character previously appeared in Animal Man #26 under the name of Grant Morrison.

POWER PACK #46 (Marvel, 1989) – “The Great Goo-Gam Rip-Off!”, [W] Terry Austin, [A] Whilce Portacio. I assumed that since this issue wasn’t written by Louise Simonson, it would be bad, but it’s actually not. It’s a direct sequel to #21, which Terry also guest-wrote. It guest-stars the Punisher and Dakota North, who team up with Katie and Jack respectively. The Punisher and Katie Power are a hilarious pairing, even more so than Katie and Wolverine, and Jack’s puppy-love crush on Dakota is cute. So this was a very funny issue. Also, from reading this issue I learned that Strange Tales vol. II #13-14 are a Power Pack guest appearance. See below.

THE KILLER: MODUS VIVENDI #3 (Archaia, 2010) – untitled, [W] Matz, [A] Luc Jacamon. This issue begins with a tedious eleven-page diatribe about how humans are cruel and inhumane, America is destroying the world, and Cuba sucks less than all the other countries suck. Such a monologue is a terrible way to begin a comic book, especially one whose primary purpose is entertainment rather than high art. I already know how awful the world is, I just want to get on with the story already. After the monologue ends, this comic does include an actual plot, but I can’t remember what it is. At least the art and coloring are good.

STELLAR #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Bret Blevins. I ordered the first couple issues of this series, but I never felt motivated to read them, and I didn’t order issue 3. That was a wise decision, because there’s nothing particularly memorable about this debut issue – I’m not even sure what this comic is about, except that it’s science fiction. Also, this issue ends with an essay about how much Keatinge loved Blevins’s earlier work, Sleepwalker. I have trouble believing this, because I’ve never heard anyone else say anything positive about Sleepwalker.

SHANGHAI RED #3 (Image, 2018) – “In This Wilderness,” [W] Chris Sebela, [A] Joshua Hixson. More brutal violence and intrigue set in 19th-century Portland. Because of its setting, this comic reminds me of Elizabeth Bear’s novel Karen Memory, except without the steampunk. This is my least favorite of the Chris Sebela comics I’ve read lately, but it’s very well done.

Another week of reviews

On August 18, I went to yet another Charlotte Comicon. For the first time, this con was held on two days. In hindsight, I should have gone either on both days, or just on Sunday. On Saturday most of the comics seemed overly expensive, and also there were too many booths selling things other than comics. It would have been my most disappointing Charlotte Comicon yet, except that I eventually found a box with about ten old Little Lulus for a dollar each. I also made some other good finds, but overall it was a lackluster show. The major theme of my purchases at this show was Gold Key and Dell comics. I’m slowly discovering the diversity and quality of this company’s output.

Comics I read that week, including new comics received on August 18:

SCOOBY-DOO MYSTERY COMICS #27 (Gold Key, 1974) – “The Star-Spangled Spectre” and “Nightmare First-Class,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Dan Spiegle. I found this in a dollar box, which makes it my second best find of the convention. This issue’s first story is a well-written but unspectacular bicentennial story. The backup story is much better. Its first page includes the caption “These are the heroes whohad the hound that hunted the hoodoo that haunted the house that Hal had,” and it goes on to tell an exciting and complex story about a fake heir. Evanier and Spiegle’s Scooby-Doo is just as much of an underrated classic as their later Crossfire and Hollywood Superstars, and it deserves to be reprinted.

FLAVOR #4 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Wook-Jin Clark. Anant surprisingly passes his cooking exam. Geof steals Xoo’s stash of money and uses it to enter her in a cooking tournament. This was a fun issue, but as with last issue, it didn’t include enough worldbuilding.

LITTLE LULU #65 (Dell, 1953) – “Little Lulu Pays a Sick Call” and other stories, [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. As mentioned above, I bought about ten old Little Lulus at the convention. They’re all from the early to mid ‘50s, and are therefore among the oldest comics in my collection. They’re all beat up, but completely readable. (For example, my copy of #65 has a giant rip near the top that goes through every page and is badly fixed with tape.) I’m still kind of shocked that I had these comics; I have a ton of ‘60s comics, but I assumed that anything older than that would be beyond my price range. In terms of their content, these comics are just as amazing now as they were 60 years ago. Stanley uses a fairly small cast of characters and an unvarying 2×4 panel grid. But like Herriman or Prohias or Bushmiller, he develops an endless range of variations out of a limited set of premises, and he constantly surprises the reader. As mentioned in earlier reviews, Stanley’s comic timing is brilliant, and he’s a master at getting his characters into bizarre but believeable situations. The highlight of this issue is probably the story where Lulu and Tubby have to make a delivery to a house that turns out to be a grave.

THIRTEEN #17 (Dell, 1966) – “One of These Days” etc., [W/A] John Stanley. This is my favorite John Stanley comic besides Little Lulu. What separates it from Archie and other teen humor comics is, again, Stanley’s masterful storytelling. As I read this issue, I noticed that Stanley sometimes has important things happen between panels or offscreen, which forces the reader to put in a bit more work to get the joke. For instance, in the story “A Knockout” in this issue, Robert sticks his whole body through Judy’s window while Judy is sitting on a couch reading. The scene then shifts to Val, and Robert doesn’t appear again until two pages later, when we discover him lying unconscious in a bush outside the window. In the last panel of the story, we finally learn that Val hit Robert with a dictionary. ”Hiccups” in Little Lulu #65 has a similar off-panel scene, in which Tubby tries to set a trap for Lulu but knocks himself over instead; however, in that story we never learn what exactly happened off-panel. These unseen moments create a sense of mystery and, as noted, force readers to use their imagination.

USAGI YOJIMBO #36 (Fantagraphics, 1992) – “Gen, Chapter 3: Lady Asano’s Revenge,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. I don’t remember the previous two parts of this story, but in this final chapter, Gen’s old friend Lady Asano and his enemy Oda kill each other. This story is notable because it gives us insight into Gen’s past, and because it shows him acting serious for once, whereas he’s usually a comic relief character.

SUPERMAN/BATMAN #52 (DC, 2008) – “Li’l Leaguers Part 2 of 2,” [W] Michael Green & Mike Johnson, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. This isn’t quite as good as the previous issue, but it’s still an excellent story that blends cuteness with heartbreak. The little Superman sacrifices his life at the end of the issue, which is kind of a horrible moment. The little Joker remains in the adult DC Universe at the end, but I doubt if he ever appeared again. It’s too bad this storyline only lasted two issues, although as noted previously, Wolvie in Exiles is the same type of character as the Li’l Leaguers.

BY NIGHT #3 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Christine Larsen. The one protagonist’s dad and her friend go looking for her, and encounter a bunch of punks. The protagonists only appear at the end, and we don’t get to see any of the alternate dimension. This issue was okay, but not great.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #38 (Image, 2018) – “Ambition Makes You Pretty. Also, Ugly,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. There are a lot more plot developments in this issue, but I’ve forgotten most of them. The most notable thing about this issue is the opening scene,  in which Robert Graves uses Ananke and Minerva as evidence for his White Goddess theory.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #64 (Marvel, 1980) – “The Last Gamble,” [W] Jo Duffy, [A] Kerry Gammill. Luke and Danny try to track down two villains named Luck and Death, a.k.a. Suerte and Muerte. All the local criminals are terrified of Luck and Death, and Luke and Danny (I just noticed the similarity of names) have to go to extreme measures to find them. This issue is most notable for its witty dialogue.

STAR TREK #49 (DC, 1988) – “Aspiring to Be Angels,” [W] Peter David, [A] Tom Sutton. In my Mind the Gaps paper, I pointed out that even the best Star Trek comics aren’t that good as comics; they never do much to exploit the unique properties of comics. With that caveat, Peter David’s Star Trek comics are probably the best ever written. This issue focuses on three characters who only appeared in DC’s first Star Trek series: Bryce, Konom and Bearclaw. Bryce and Konom, a human woman and a Klingon man, have just gotten married, but when they encounter a half-Klingon child, they realize the difficulties they might encounter in becoming parents. Meanwhile, in this issue’s most memorable scene, Kirk fires Bearclaw from the Enterprise crew. This Star Trek series has nostalgic associations for me because I saw The Undiscovered Country, the last movie with the original crew, in the theater, so to me the TOS movies seem very modern and recent, even though they’re not. I also have some nostalgia for DC’s Star Trek comics because when I was a little kid, I read a lot of them (though not this one) by checking them out of the public library.

FENCE #9 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] C.S. Pacat, [A] Johanna the Mad. Nick beats Kally 15-14. Then Nick and Seiji are caught in a compromising position in the (literal) closet. This series is going to become TPB-only after issue 12. Fence is at least the third title I’ve been reading that has gone this route (along with Astro City and Goldie Vance), and as a dedicated fan of the comic book form, I’m disturbed by this trend toward abandoning single issues. However, if any title would benefit from being published in TPB format, it’s Fence. As I have observed repeatedly, this series has a glacially slow pace, and is more like a manga than a comic book in its pacing.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #594 (Gladstone, 1994) – Donald in “The Better Life,” [W/A] William Van Horn, and Mickey in “The Monarch of Medioka, Part 2,” [W/A] Floyd Gottfredson et al. This issue’s Van Horn story is okay, but it seems like Van Horn was only good at imitating Barks’s shorter comedic stories. He doesn’t seem to have done many of the longer adventure stories that Rosa was so good at. “The Monarch of Medioka” is a classic Gottfredson story, a Mickey Mouse version of The Prisoner of Zenda. Whenever I read Gladstone’s Gottfredson reprints, I find myself constantly counting panels in order to figure out where each daily installment begins and ends.

LUCIFER #21 (DC, 2002) – “Paradiso Part 1 of 3,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. This issue has one plotline taking place in heaven, and another plotline focusing on the half-angel child Elaine Belloc. I’ve been wanting to read more of this series, but there was nothing especially memorable about this issue.

KICK-ASS #7 (Marvel, 2009) – untitled, [W] Mark Millar, [A] John Romita Jr. I have a very negative impression of Mark Millar’s writing, although I haven’t read many of his comics. This issue did nothing to change my mind about him. It’s just a lot of mindless violence and torture. Millar’s comics claim to be parodies of ultraviolent superhero comics, but they’re actually among the worst examples of what they’re parodying.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #223 (Dell, 1959) – untitled Donald Duck story, [W/A] Carl Barks, plus other stories. This issue begins with a hilarious Barks ten-pager in which Donald tries to go fishing, while the nephews try to fly their kites, and they keep getting in each other’s way. Barks was really good at slapstick comedy stories like this, though unlike Van Horn, he was also really good at epic adventure stories. Unfortunately, in my copy there’s a giant hole torn out of the last page of this story. The only other good story in this issue is Fallberg and Murry’s Mickey story “Alaskan Adventure.”

INCREDIBLE HULK #160 (Marvel, 1972) – “Nightmare in Niagara Falls!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Herb Trimpe. Betty and Glenn Talbot go to Niagara Falls for their honeymoon. The Hulk follows them there and gets in a fight with Tiger Shark. This was a fairly good issue. Seeing Glenn and Betty on their honeymoon is kind of painful for the reader as well as for Bruce. They were perhaps the least romantic couple in the history of the Marvel Universe, besides Quicksilver and Crystal.

USAGI YOJIMBO #170 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “The Hidden Part Five,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. At the end of the issue, we learn that the mysterious box contained a Japanese translation of the Bible. No wonder so many people were so obsessed with recovering the box’s contents. However, I think “The Hidden” is a bit too long. It could have included at least one fewer chapter.

LITTLE LULU #45 (Dell, 1952) – “The Case of the Exploding Cigar” etc., [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. I believe I paid $4 or $5 for this, shortly before discovering a bunch of other old Little Lulus for a dollar each. But $4 or $5 is still a good price for such a great old comic. I’ve already read the stories in this issue, because they’re reprinted in the one Dark Horse Little Lulu volume that I have. But that book is in black and white, and Stanley and Tripp’s art was meant to be seen in color.

LITTLE LULU #88 (Dell, 1955) – “Picnic in the Cellar” etc., [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. Another collection of brilliant short stories, of which the best may be the one where Lulu tricks Tubby and the fellers into digging a well. At this point I was starting to see some patterns in these comics. In particular, each issue of Little Lulu includes a story in which Lulu tells Willie a fairy tale about Witch Hazel and the poor little girl. One of John Stanley’s many amazing achievements is that he told five or six stories every month about the same very limited cast of characters, and each story was different and unique – they never started to feel stale. Few if any other American comic book creators have ever pulled off this feat.

RUINWORLD #2 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Derek Laufman. This issue introduces a new female coprotagonist, Kale (unless she already appeared last issue), and otherwise it’s mostly the same thing as last issue. Derek Laufman’s style takes some getting used to, especially his dialogue, but he’s a pretty effective storyteller.

MANIFEST DESTINY #36 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. In a flashback, we learn what happened outside the fort during the events of the previous couple issues. As I predicted, Charbonneau’s appearance with the Mandan was part of Lewis and Clark’s plan. The scene at the end, where York resists his impulse to beat Jensen to death, is impressive. It may be this series’ best statement about race.

VAGRANT QUEEN #3 (Vault, 2018) – “The Bezoar of Kings,” [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Jason Smith. This issue mostly examines Elida’s relationship with Stelling. I like this series, but it deserves a better artist. Jason Smith’s storytelling and draftsmanship are average at best.

CODA #4 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. Like Godshaper, Coda is so dense and complicated that I hesitate to actually read it. This is not an uncommon problem with Si Spurrier’s comics, although Angelic and The Spire have mostly avoided it. This issue we learn Serka’s backstory, and the protagonist steals the dead elf dude’s head.

THOR #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “War is Hel,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mike Del Mundo. After a lot of wacky complications, Hela ends up marrying Karnilla. This was a fun storyline with excellent art. Some comic relief was badly needed after the relentless grimness of the last few Jane Foster story arcs, and I think that shifting the tone of the series was a wise decision on Jason’s part.

LITTLE LULU #87 (Dell, 1955) – “Bubble Bath” and other stories, [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. The best story in this issue is “The Lookout,” in which the fellers offer to let Lulu join their club if she protects their clubhouse from the West Side Boys. She does that successfully, but they refuse to let her join their club, and she wrecks the clubhouse in frustration. Lulu’s unfair exclusion from the boys’ club, despite (or because of) the fact that she’s smarter than them, is one of the most poignant symbols in this comic. This motif is why Lulu was chosen as the mascot of the Friends of Lulu. There’s another story where Tubby changes his name to Lancelot so that Gloria and Wilbur won’t name a hippo after him. This reminds me a bit of the Max Power episode of the Simpsons.

CROWDED #1 (Image, 2018) – “Welcome to the Working Week,” [W] Chris Sebela, [A] Ro Stein. This new series is a very funny and clever satire of the sharing economy or crowdsourcing or whatever it’s called. The protagonist, Charlotte, works about ten different gig economy jobs – Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, babysitting, etc. Then one day someone starts a campaign on Reapr, the crowdfunding site for assassinations, to have her killed. So she recruits the other protagonist from Dfend, the corresponding site for bodyguards. This premise – that there are versions of Uber for assassins and bodyguards – is ridiculous, yet close enough to real life that it’s almost plausible. The result is a very funny comic that also doubles as a serious critique of the gig economy. I’m looking forward to issue 2.

CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN #33 (DC, 1963) – “The Challengers Meet Their Master,” [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Bob Brown. The Challengers fight a villain called Jacquard who’s better than each of them at their respective specialties. It turns out the whole thing is a setup by Ace to teach them not to be overconfident. There’s also a backup story that I don’t remember at all. The Challengers have some notable similarities to the Fantastic Four, but there are good reasons why the FF are still published today and the Challs are not.

WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #194 (DC, 1970) – “Inside the Mafia Gang!”, [W] Bob Haney, [A] Ross Andru. This story refers to the Mafia by name, which was rare in comic books at the time, perhaps because the Mafia controlled the distribution network for comic books. The plot is that Batman and Superman team up to infiltrate the Mafia. This issue is fairly exciting and has some good art, but it’s not a classic.

BATMAN #26 (DC, 2014) – “Zero Year: Dark City,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Greg Capullo. Like most of the Snyder Batman comics I’ve read, this issue is tough to understand. It takes place before Bruce becomes Batman, and includes a flashback to Bruce’s first encounter with Gordon, when Gordon got his trenchcoat as a kickback. And this meeting happened on the day of Bruce’s parents’ murder. Given the number of events that have been stated as happening on that day, it must have lasted far longer than 24 hours (for example, see Batman #430 and Detective Comics #457).

QUACK! #2 (Star*Reach, 1977) – “Newton the Rabbit Wondr!”, [W] Sergio Aragonés, [A] Steve Leialoha, plus other stories. This issue’s lead story resembles Howard the Duck, but with less social satire and more implied interspecies sex. The next story is by Michael T. Gilbert, and it’s kind of funny, but the lettering is hideous. No wonder he teamed up with Ken Bruzenak later on. Other creators in this issue include Steve Skeates (drawing, rather crudely, as well as writing), Alan Kupperberg and Scott Shaw!. Overall this issue is rather mediocre.

SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON #9 (Gold Key, 1964) – “The Creeping Greens,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Dan Spiegle. I haven’t read this series before. I’d assumed it was an adaptation of Lost in Space, but in fact the reverse is true. Lost in Space was an unauthorized ripoff of Space Family Robinson, and Western Publishing later reached a settlement allowing them to add the title Lost in Space to the cover of Space Family Robinson. As for this actual comic book, “The Creeping Greens” is a well-crafted story by two excellent craftsmen. It’s not Magnus or Scooby-Doo, but it’s a fun comic, and I’d like to read more of this series.

SEA HUNT #11 (Dell, 1961) – “Canyon Danger” and “Davey Jones’s Ledger,” [W] Eric Freiwald & Robert Schaefer, [A] Russ Manning. At Mind the Gaps, I was sitting next to Andy Kunka as he was reading this comic, and I was like, is that a Russ Manning comic I don’t know about? I need to collect it! And he was kind enough to give it to me – it turns out it was a duplicate, and he took it to the conference to give it away. Sea Hunt is an adaptation of a 1958-1961 TV show about two adventurous divers. In general, it’s not the best showcase for Manning’s talents; there’s too much talk and too little action. However, the diving sequences are excellent. They allow Manning to depict the human body in action, which was one of the things he did best. Also, the second story includes a vivacious and proactive female character, who hires the two divers to find evidence to convict her employee of embezzlement.

PROXIMA CENTAURI #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Farel Dalrymple. As usual with this artist, this comic is beautifully drawn and includes some evocative storytelling about childhood, but its plot makes no sense.

LOCKE & KEY: CROWN OF SHADOWS #3 (IDW, 2010) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodríguez. Tyler and Bode find a giant key – this will be important in a comic I’ll be reviewing later. Dodge finds another key that lets him turn shadows into monsters. Gabriel’s depictions of the shadows are just beautiful; they all look terrifying in different ways. This is a really awesome series, and I need to complete my run of it. The only problem is that it’s hard to remember the order of all the different miniseries.

SUPERB #12 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “We Could Be Heroes,” [W] David Walker, [A] Alitha Martinez. More of the same plot as last issue. It turns out that Kayla’s dad might not be as dead as he looks.

 

One week of reviews

At the beginning of August I went to the inaugural Comics Studies Society conference in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois. It was one of the best academic conferences I’ve ever attended. I felt rather guilty about the quality of my own paper, but I met a lot of old friends, made a lot of new ones, and got some great ideas. After the conference a bunch of us went to G-Mart, a comic store in downtown Champaign, where I bought a few comics. The only one I read before I got back home was:

MR. AND MRS. X #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Love & Marriage,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Oscar Bazaldua. I couldn’t have ordered this because I didn’t know what it was. This is an adorable comic, a heartwarming piece of nostalgia for ‘90s X-Men fans, and an effective sequel to Kelly’s Rogue & Gambit miniseries. The plot is that during their honeymoon, Rogue and Gambit have to intervene in an intergalactic conflict involving the Shi’ar, Cerise and Deadpool.

New comics that arrived while I was out of town:

FANTASTIC FOUR #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Signal in the Sky,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Sara Pichelli, plus backups. I’ve been looking forward to the FF revival, but this first issue is mostly just setup and flashback scenes. Reed and Sue only appear on a couple pages, and the kids don’t appear at all. Until I wrote this review, I didn’t notice the Impossible Man story on the last page.

MECH CADET YU #11 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. This issue continues to ratchet up the tension, without resolving the dilemma of Buddy having to sacrifice itself. I’m glad this storyline is ending after one more issue, because the suspense is getting ridiculous.

LUMBERJANES: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S SCHEME #1 (Boom!, 2018) – “A Midsummer Night’s Scheme,” [W] Nicole Andelfinger, [A] Maddi Gonzalez. The girls are decorating their cabin for a masquerade, but some fairies steal all their decorations. This was an average Lumberjanes story. At one point while reading it I started to feel bored, which hardly ever happens when I read Lumberjanes. There’s a backup story by Brittney Williams. I’m glad to see her working in comics again.

EXILES #6 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Rod Reis. The Exiles visit a Wild West version of the Marvel Universe, where they meet a sheriff/cowboy version of T’Challa. This is a good start to the second story arc, but Rod Reis is a less exciting artist than Javier Rodriguez.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #35 (Marvel, 2018) – “Last Hunt for Kraven!”, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. This was a fun issue, but this Kraven story arc hasn’t really connected me. Whatever Doreen may think of him, Kraven is a murderer and a villain, and it’s hard to sympathize with him as much as Doreen does. Also, I’ve pinpointed why Ryan North’s writing annoys me sometimes: it feels like he’s talking down to the reader. His bottom-of-page captions, in particular, often feel condescending, or they give the impression that Ryan is trying to show how cool he is. But this may just be a personal pet peeve on my part. I don’t think Ryan is deliberately trying to give this impression.

SHE COULD FLY #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Beware the Bandersnatch,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Martín Morazzo. Another very strong issue, although it made less of an impact on me than #1, because I was more tired when I read it. The strength of this series is its powerful and realistic depiction of Luna’s mental illness. Luna’s parents are another strong point: the writer shows us that while they truly care for Luna, they aren’t equipped to deal with her problems.

CATWOMAN #2 (DC, 2018) – “Copycats Part 2,” [W/A] Joelle Jones. Selina discovers that the women impersonating her are hired actors, not actual villains, and goes on a quest to find out who hired them. Other than Ed Brubaker’s Catwoman, this is the only Catwoman series I’ve been really excited about. This issue has fewer cats than last issue, but it does include some scenes with Selina’s cats, and I love how Selina sleeps in a curled-up position.

NANCY DREW #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jenn St-Onge. The investigation continues. This was another really good issue, with lots of great character interactions, but nothing about it stands out to me in particular.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #69 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Paul Allor, [A] Toni Kuusisto. Pinkie Pie gains the power to grant wishes. Horrible consequences ensue. This is a pretty average issue, and it offers little that we haven’t seen before in other Pinkie Pie stories. I don’t remember Paul Allor having written for this series before.

SANDMAN UNIVERSE #1 (DC, 2018) – untitled, [W] Neil Gaiman et al, [A] various. A series of previews of the upcoming Sandman spinoff titles. None of these segments are satisfying in their own right, but they effectively create excitement for the series they’re previewing. I’m especially excited for the voodoo-inspired comic written by Nalo Hopkinson, a brilliant SF writer who has not written for comics before, as far as I know. The last time Neil Gaiman returned to Sandman, I thought it was a cynical cash grab, and that might be true of this new Sandman revival as well. But at least they’re giving other writers a chance to work with Gaiman’s concepts, rather than having Neil retread his old familiar territory yet again.

ARCHIE #153 (Archie, 1965) – “Language Barrier” and other stories, [W] Frank Doyle, [A] Harry Lucey. A bunch of typical and mostly forgettable stories. In the first story, Archie and friends are cavemen (or cave boys and girls), and they all come up with different words for the same things. This was one of a few stories from this period in which the Archie characters were cavepeople.

SAVAGE DRAGON #237 (Image, 2018) – “Beware the Scourge!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. I stopped reading this series because of the tasteless and exploitative sex scenes. I decided to give it another chance, but on page four of this issue, there’s a panel where Maxine is eating Angel out while being serviced by Malcolm. Looks like I’ll be dropping this series again for the same reason.

STAR TREK #8 (Marvel, 1980) – “The Expansionist Syndrome,” [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Dave Cockrum. In my Mind the Gaps paper I negatively compared Star Trek comics to My Little Pony comics, but oddly, that made me want to read some Star Trek comics. However, this issue is an example of an ineffective comics adaptation of a TV show. It doesn’t feel like a Star Trek story, it has a trite plot with an overly convenient ending, and Dave Cockrum’s art is lifeless.

PLASTIC MAN #3 (DC, 2018) – “Under Cover of Darkness,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Adriana Melo. Another fun issue, but I have nothing new to say about it that I didn’t say about the previous two issues. The highlight is the panel where Plastic Man becomes a My Little Pony doll.

FARMHAND #2 (Image, 2018) – “The Haunted Man,” [W/A] Rob Guillory. The protagonist investigates whatever bizarre mystery is going on, while his kids have some trouble in school. The highlight of the issue is the opening scene where the woman is provided with a new nose. I expect that as with Chew, this series is going to consist mostly of variations on the central joke.

QUICKSILVER: NO SURRENDER #4 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [A] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Erik Nguyen. In the climactic moment of the series, Pietro reads every book in the library and learns to slow down. Geoff Johns already used this idea with Bart Allen in an early issue of his Teen Titans, but Saladin executes the idea better.

DEN #1 (Fantagor, 1988) – “Dreams and Alarums,” [W] Simon Revelstroke, [A] Richard Corben. Simon Revelstroke’s real name is John Pocsik. This series is in fact the fourth chapter of an ongoing saga which started in Heavy Metal in 1977, and its protagonist was created in 1968 for a short film. Therefore, this comic’s plot is somewhat inaccessible, but as usual with Corben, the plot is less important than the beautiful airbrushing, muscular heroes, busty women, awful monsters, etc. This comic has a backup story which is a blatant ripoff of Vaughn Bodé’s works.

HOT LUNCH SPECIAL #1 (AfterShock, 2018) – “Habibi,” [W] Eliot Rahal, [A] Jorge Fornes. I bought this comic because it takes place in the Iron Range of Minnesota, my home state. The writer clearly has Minnesota credentials: on page seven, one character offers another character a “bar,” a Minnesota term for a bar-shaped cookie or cake. The other wrinkle in this comic is that the characters are of Lebanese descent. I like how the daughter works at a fast food restaurant that sells “Mediterranean tuna salad,” which is only Mediterranean because it has olives in it, but she eats dolma at home. It’s an interesting example of the difference between the food people make for themselves and for others. Otherwise this is a pretty standard crime comic, but it’s intriguing enough that I plan to stick with it.

DOORWAY TO NIGHTMARE #4 (DC, 1978) – “Six Claws of the Dragon!”, [W] Catherine B. Andrews & Stuart Hopen, [A] Johnny Craig. A pretty dumb comic. The plot revolves around a Chinese ghost, but the writers know nothing about China. For example, the ghost is a mummified princess from Manchuria named “Shieko Morea.” That’s not a plausible Chinese or Manchu name, and mummification was never practiced in China.

THE SPECTRE #46 (DC, 1996) – “Gather the Ghosts,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Tom Mandrake. The Spectre encounters an Apache shaman who’s trying to revive the Ghost Dance religion. Meanwhile, some villains are looking for the Spear of Destiny. This story runs the risk of reproducing old cliches about Native Americans, but Ostrander mostly avoids that risk and shows sensitivity to Native American culture. For example, he has a character mention that the Mescalero Apaches never did the Ghost Dance to begin with.

NEW STATESMEN #2 (Fleetway/Quality, 1989) – multiple chapters, [W] John Smith, [A] Jim Baikie. This has been described as a political superhero comic. Not having read the first issue, I’m not sure what’s going on in this issue, but I find it intriguing. John Smith’s prose style is very reminiscent of Alan Moore’s, in a good way, and there are moments in this comic that remind me of Watchmen. This comic feels like it belongs to the same corpus of texts as Watchmen, Miracleman, Brat Pack, etc., and I want to read more of it.

THE KILLER: MODUS VIVENDI #2 (Archaia, 2010) – untitled, [W] Matz, [A] Luc Jacamon. This series is a good example of Kim Thompson’s principle that “more crap is what we need” (http://www.tcj.com/a-modest-proposal-more-crap-is-what-we-need/). It’s not a major artistic masterpiece, but it’s a well-executed piece of genre fiction. It effectively confronts the protagonist, a professional assassin, with a moral dilemma: some unknown clients manipulate him into killing a saintly nun in order to cause political unrest. (This plot resembles that of the “Gateless Barrier” chapter of Lone Wolf and Cub.) The most impressive thing about this comic, though, is the gorgeous coloring.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #84 (DC, 1969) – “The Angel, the Rock and the Cowl!”, [W] Bob Haney, [A] Neal Adams. This story is a blatant continuity violation on multiple levels. First, it states that Batman fought in World War II, and second, it indicates that Sgt. Rock survived World War II, when Robert Kanigher claimed that Rock died on the last day of the war. Apparently DC later established that this story took place on Earth-B, along with other Bob Haney stories that were impossible to reconcile with Earth-1 or Earth-2 continuity. If you can ignore all that, this is an exciting and well-drawn comic, though it’s not as well-written as other Haney-Adams collaborations.

AQUAMAN #17 (DC, 1964) – “The Man Who Vanquished Aquaman,” [W] Jack Miller, [A] Nick Cardy. Aquaman and Mera had a whirlwind (whirlpool?) romance: this is only her sixth appearance and they’re already talking about marriage. In this issue, Mera is kidnapped by Poseidon, who bears little resemblance to how he’s usually depicted in mythology. At one point the writer describes him as Zeus’s son, though he is later correctly identified as Zeus’s brother. The best things about this comic are Nick Cardy’s exciting action sequences and his beautiful renderings of Mera.

BLACK BADGE #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. This series continues Matt Kindt’s usual theme of spies and espionage, while also adding a new wrinkle: the main characters are kids who pose as Boy Scouts. Or rather, they’re Boy Scouts who earn badges by infiltrating foreign countries and assassinating people. I still haven’t finished reading Grass Kings, but Black Badge has a more interesting premise, and I’m more excited about it than I was about Grass Kings.

MISTER X #13 (Vortex, 1988) – “Nightclubs/Daydreams,” [W] Dean Motter, [A] Seth. The best thing about this comic is the beautiful cover by Mike Kaluta (incidentally, the same is true of Doorway to Nightmare #4). The interior story is confusing and incomprehensible. Seth’s artwork is recognizable as his, and there’s one background character who appears to be a self-portrait, but Seth is not well suited to drawing an action comic. Indeed, in most of his comics, barely anything happens at all.

SAVAGE DRAGON #48 (Image, 1998) – untitled, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Dragon fights Powerhouse, and Barbaric and Ricochet’s baby is born. Reading old Savage Dragon comics is a bit weird because it’s hard to keep track of the plot, and so much of the plot has been retconned into nonexistence anyway. I’m not even sure how many different worlds there are in this series, or which world the current issues are taking place in.

FLASH GORDON #2 (Dynamite, 2014) – “Flash in the Forest,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Doc Shaner. Flash and his companions visit Arboria and meet Prince Barin. Flash Gordon has perhaps the most distinguished artistic heritage of any American comic – its past artists include Alex Raymond, Al Williamson and Mac Raboy. A high compliment that can be given to Doc Shaner is that he does honor to his predecessors on this series.

TRIDENT #8 (Trident, 1990) – various stories, [E] Martin Skidmore. A British black-and-white independent comic, published in the American format. Artists in this issue include Paul Grist, D’Israeli, Eddie Campbell, and others I haven’t heard of. Most of the artwork in the issue  is drawn in a style similar to that of Grist and Phil Elliott. I don’t know what this style is called or where it originated from, but it appears to be the dominant style of British indie comics. The Bacchus story by Campbell is easily the highlight of the issue.

KINGDOM OF THE WICKED #1 (Caliber, 1996) – “Chapter One,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] D’Israeli. Caliber is a terrible publisher, but this comic is fascinating. The protagonist is a children’s book author who finds himself back in the fantasy realm he created as a child, except that world has taken a very dark turn and has become embroiled in an endless war. The idea of a child’s fantasy world turned real is quite familiar – other examples include Joe the Barbarian or, outside comics, Jonathan Carroll’s The Land of Laughs. But Edginton and D’Israeli approach this idea from a British perspective, creating allusions to World War I, and their writing and artwork are very solid. I want to read more of their work.

CRIMINAL #2 (Marvel, 2008) – “A Wolf Among Wolves,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. An excellent comic. In 1972, Teeg Lawless returns from Vietnam with a massive case of PTSD that renders him unable to relate to his family. He becomes easy prey for criminals, who encourage him to use his military training for evil purposes. Brubaker and Phillips effectively  depict Teeg’s trauma and his inability to cope with civilian life. A visual device they use repeatedly is to interrupt the story with black panels, representing Teeg’s blackouts.

SWAMP THING #7 (DC, 1973) – “Night of the Bat,” [W] Len Wein, [A] Bernie Wrightson. This  Batman-Swampy team-up is probably Wein and Wrightson’s best Swamp Thing story. Wein writes an exciting story that provides a plausible reason for Swampy and Batman to meet. Wrightson’s anatomy, action sequences, and moodiness are amazing, and the Swamp Thing-Batman fight scene is a highlight of his career. It’s too bad he didn’t get to draw Batman again until he was past his artistic prime. Wrightson draws Swampy as a hulking naked guy with a weird-shaped head. I believe it was Steve Bissette who started the trend of drawing Swamp Thing as a man-shaped heap of plant matter, composed of leaves and vines and constantly dripping.

UNDERWATER #4 (Drawn & Quarterly, 1995) – three stories, [W/A] Chester Brown. The main feature in this series is told from the viewpoint of a pre-verbal baby. The baby can’t understand most of the words s/he hears, so much of the dialogue in the series is gibberish, and s/he is unable to distinguish between waking and dream states. This all results in a sense of extreme weirdness. The second story, “My Mother is a Schizophrenic,” presents Chester’s theory that schizophrenia doesn’t exist. As the son of a psychiatrist, I am inclined to be very unsympathetic to this theory, although Chester makes a superficially convincing case for it. There’s also a chapter of Chester’s ongoing adaptation of the New Testament.

THE LAST AMERICAN #2 (Marvel, 1991) – “Apocalypse: The Musical,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Mike McMahon. This is one of the most depressing comics ever, which is why I took a while to get around to reading it. The protagonist spends most of the issue driving around a barren, sunless post-nuclear wasteland, and finally decides to kill himself. But on the last page he picks up a radio transmission from another survivor, which is lucky, because I was wondering how this series could possibly go on for two more issues.

DEE VEE #2 (Dee Vee, 1997) – various stories, [E] Marcus Moore. Like Trident #8, this anthology comic includes an Eddie Campbell story which is vastly better than anything else in it. The Campbell story in this issue appears to be a chapter of “How to Be an Artist.” The other artists featured in Dee Vee #2 include Bruce Mutard, Pete Mullins, and lots of people I’ve never heard of, and to put it politely, the material in this issue is of variable quality.

UMBRELLA ACADEMY: DALLAS #4 (Dark Horse, 2009) – untitled, [W] Gerard Way, [A] Gabriel Bá. This comic’s story makes no sense, and the recap on the inside front cover doesn’t help at all, although Gabriel Ba’s artwork is as brilliant as usual.

THE TERRIFICS #2 (DC, 2018) – “Meet the Terrifics, Part 2,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Ivan Reis. We learn Linnya’s origin, which is sort of a mix of Superman and Mon-El’s origins, and then there are a bunch of action sequences. This issue would have been more impressive if I’d read it when it came out – I bought it at G-Mart in Champaign.

ZOOT! #4 (Fantagraphics, 1993) – “Mister Piggy Fibs,” [W] Andrew Langridge, [A] Roger Langridge. Not at all what I expected. Roger Langridge is one of the most skilled storytellers in English-language comics, but this issue consists of a series of absurdist surrealist comics, with no apparent plot and with unfunny jokes. Roger draws with great precision and slickness and shows a great diversity of style, but I don’t think I care for Andrew’s writing.

METROPOL #1 (Marvel, 1991) – “Secrets and Revelations,” [W/A] Ted McKeever. I think this is my first McKeever comic. It’s a rather surrealistic and Kafkaesque story, taking place in a grim totalitarian city. It’s well done, but it didn’t make a huge impact on me.

MR. MONSTER #1 (Dark Horse, 1988) – “Origins,” [W/A] Michael T. Gilbert. In the past I wasn’t all that enthusiastic about this series, but I’m starting to really get into it now. Its histrionic, over-the-top style of writing and art is deliberate, and quite funny. This issue begins Mr. Monster’s origin story long before his conception, as Kelly’s mother explains how she broke up with the previous Mr. Monster because he cared more about fighting monsters than about her. The issue also incorporates a reprint of one of the original Mr. Monster stories from the Canadian Whites.

SWEET TOOTH #6 (DC, 2010) – “In Captivity Part 1,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. One of this issue’s plotlines focuses on Tommy Jepperd, a former hockey player, as he carries his wife across a postapocalyptic Canada to bury her. The other plotline is about an antler-headed kid, presumably Tommy’s son, who is trapped in a scientific facility along with other hybrid human-animal children. This issue is hard to understand out of context, but it’s pretty good, and it features a lot of Lemire’s stock themes – hockey, Canada, family, etc.

UNNATURAL #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Mirka Andolfo. Leslie goes to the reproduction center to find a fellow pig to breed with. This comic is still very interesting, and   Mirka Andolfo draws some beautiful animal people, but her use of animals as a metaphor for LGBTQ identity is kind of crude and unsubtle.

BLOODSTRIKE BRUTALISTS #24 (Image, 2018) – “Life in Hell,” [W/A] Michel Fiffe. In this final issue, Cabbot goes on a mission to recover (what he thinks are) the dead bodies of his teammates so they can be revived again. On the letters page, Michel Fiffe explains that this series was created to fill in the gap between Bloodstrike #22 and #25, since those issues were published, but #23 and #24 were not – it’s complicated. This was a well-done series with some brilliant art.

WIMMEN’S COMIX #8 (Last Gasp, 1983) – various stories, [E] Kathryn LeMieux & Lee Binswanger. This issue has an amazing lineup of talent: Trina Robbins, Lee Marrs, Lynda Barry, Dori Seda, Carol Lay, Phoebe Gloeckner, Mary Wilshire and Sharon Rudahl, among others. Highlights include: 1) A science fiction story by Marrs. 2) Caryn Leschen’s “Holding the Torch,” a story with obsessively dense artwork, in which some New Yorkrs visit San Francisco and suffer a culture shock. 3) Dori Seda’s story about self-defense against rape. 4) Carol Lay’s “The Misogynist,” which reads like a prototype for Irene Van De Kamp. 5) Sharon Rudahl’s “Mein Rue Platz,” which I believe was discussed in one of Margaret Galvan’s conference papers.

MOCKINGBIRD #7 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Chelsea Cain, [A] Kate Niemczyk. Bobbi Morse and Lance Hunter investigate a murder aboard a cruise ship. It turns out that Bobbi’s dead rapist, the Phantom Rider, is responsible. This is an excellent comic with lots of great jokes, and I’m glad that this creative team has a new series forthcoming from Image.

U.S.AVENGERS #1 (Marvel, 2017) – “$kullocracy Part One,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Paco Medina. A new team of Avengers fights a new Secret Empire. This was okay, but not nearly as good as the later story with the Archie characters.

OMAC #5 (DC, 1975) – “New Bodies for Old!!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Omac battles some criminals who are stealing young people’s bodies in order to transplant old people’s minds into them. This is a pretty good Kirby comic, but it suffers from D. Bruce Berry’s poor inking and ugly lettering.