On September 1, Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find held a “warehouse sale.” They had thousands of comics which were priced at $1 on Saturday, 50 cents on Sunday, and 25 cents on Monday. I went to the sale on Saturday and bought about 40 comics for a dollar each, including:
MUKTUK WOLFSBREATH, HARD-BOILED SHAMAN #2 (DC, 1998) – “Mommy’s Girl, Part 2: Kiss and Hell,” [W] Terry LaBan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. Muktuk visits the underworld and meets Nusqua, the villain/femme fatale, who has sex with him and then transforms herself into the Great Mother. Also, he has a rather delicate negotiation with a Siberian tiger. This is a really fun series and, as I’ve written before, it explores a culture that’s hardly ever referenced in any kind of English-language fiction.
KARATE KID #1 (DC, 1976) – “My World Begins in Yesterday,” [W] Paul Levitz, [A] Ric Estrada. This was one of the only Paul Levitz Legion comics I hadn’t read, but it’s hardly his best effort. Val pursues his archenemy Nemesis Kid into the 20th century, then decides to stay there for no real reason. Princess Projectra neither appears nor is mentioned in this issue, which surprised me, because I thought the whole point of Val’s 20th-century trip was to prove his worthiness to marry her. This series was an obvious attempt to cash in on the kung fu fad by using a character DC already owned.
When I got back from Heroes, there were some new comics waiting for me:
RUNAWAYS #12 (DC, 2018) – “Time After Time,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. Nico and Karolina go on a date. Victor tells Gert about his trauma from Tom King’s Vision series, and then Gert kisses him. The issue ends with Alex Wilder unexpectedly showing up. In my mind this issue is overshadowed by #13, which came out just two weeks later.
MS. MARVEL #33 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Ratio, Part Two,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. Not much happens in this issue. Kamala fights the Shocker with little success, and Bruno keeps trying to figure out how Kamala’s powers work. The only really notable thing in this issue is the Shocker’s Rube Goldberg device for “catching do-gooders.”
MODERN FANTASY #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Kristen Gudsnuk. As promised, this is the training montage issue. It’s full of funny dialogue, sight gags and hidden messages. Also, Sage kisses Darquin Silvermane. I love this series and I wish it was an ongoing.
X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN – SECOND GENESIS #2 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Ed Piskor. This issue covers approximately Uncanny X-Men #141 to #187. As with the previous issue, Ed doesn’t try to replicate the emotional power and characterization of Claremont’s X-Men. Instead, he seeks to tie together Claremont’s X-Men stories into a coherent narrative, and to make it look like if Claremont planned his whole X-Men run as a single long story. This is a difficult feat, comparable to Don Rosa’s achievement of reconciling all of Barks’s references to Scrooge McDuck’s history. Of course, Ed also makes a lot of changes to established continuity. His version of Days of Future Past is especially surprising because the future Kate Pryde isn’t mentioned at all.
ANGEL LOVE #7 (DC, 1987) – “The Search for Mary Beth,” [W/A] Barbara Slate with John Wm. Lopez. Angel discovers that her long-lost sister Mary Beth has changed her name and is now the front-runner for a seat in Congress. Thus, Angel tries to see Mary Beth and convince her to donate bone marrow to their mother. See my review of Angel Love Special #1 for more on this. In a comic relief subplot, Wendy has an audition which goes terribly. On the leters page, Barbara Slate claims that Angel Love is an eight-issue maxiseries. I’m guessing it was designated as such retroactively, so they wouldn’t have to admit it had been cancelled after eight issues.
SPOTLIGHT #3 (Marvel, 1979) – The Jetsons in “All’s Fair in Love and Warranty,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Tony Strobl. This series is officially called “Spotlight” even though the cover says Hanna-Barbera Spotlight. This issue includes two Jetsons stories written by Mark Evanier, as well as a Yakky Doodle story. The artists, Tony Strobl and Pete Alvarado, are Disney comics veterans. Evanier’s stories in this issue are funny, but not as clever or complicated as his best work.
LITTLE ARCHIE #152 (Archie, 1980) – “Unhappy Birthday,” [W/A] Bob Bolling, plus other stories. Heading to Veronica’s party, Little Archie takes a shortcut, against his parents’ orders, and runs into an alien teenage girl (well, actually her age is 712) who’s also taken an unauthorized shortcut. As a result of this encounter, Archie learns a lesson about love. This story is both wacky and touching. There are no other Bolling stories in this issue.
ISOLA #5 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brenden Fletcher, [W/A] Karl Kerschl, [A] Msassyk. Olwyn turns back into a cat again. Other stuff also happens that I can’t remember very well. As usual, this comic is beautifully drawn but its plot moves rather slowly.
THE LEGEND OF WONDER WOMAN #1 (DC, 1986) – “Legends Live Forever,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Trina Robbins. This comic was published because George Pérez’s Wonder Woman revival wasn’t ready by the time the previous Wonder Woman series ended, and at the time, DC’s contract with the Marston estate required them to publish Wonder Woman comics regularly or lose the rights to the character. This Legend of Wonder Woman is not as good as Renae de Liz’s series by the same name, but it’s an affectionate tribute to the Golden Age Wonder Woman. H.G. Peter is one of Trina’s strongest influences, and in this comic she closely imitates his style.
HOT WHEELS #3 (DC, 1970) – “Stakeout,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Alex Toth. This was a very exciting find, because each issue of this series included a story by perhaps the greatest visual storyteller in the history of American comic books. Unfortunately, his story in this issue is inked by the worst inker in the history of American comic books, whose name will go unmentioned. Despite this, Toth’s artwork in “Stakeout” is brilliant, though the story has a typically boring Joe Gill plot about modifying cars to catch crooks. This issue also includes artwork by Jack Keller, a noted artist of car comics, and Ric Estrada.
BLACKWOOD #4 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Veronica Fish. It turns out that the evil old lady, Grace Drayton (named after a cartoonist), was the lover of Dean Ogden, a.k.a. Nathan Blackwood. Then they both die, and the issue ends by suggesting that there’s also some worse secret behind Blackwood. This was a really effective horror series, and I hope it comes back soon.
X-23 #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Two Birthdays and Three Funerals Part 3,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Juann Cabal. After a bunch of action sequences, the Cuckoos transfer their dead sister’s mind into Gabby’s body. This issue has some very effective art, but thanks to the emphasis on action over characterization, it’s not as good as the first two. Actually that’s a standard problem in Mariko Tamaki’s superhero comics: her action sequences are much worse than her quieter character-building scenes. Though really, very few superhero writers are, and action sequences are usually the worst part of any superhero comic. Laura’s contact list includes Mariko herself, Moon Kngiht, Nightcrawler, Wasp and Deadpool as well as some names I didn’t recognize.
TRILLIUM #3 (Vertigo, 2013) – “Telemetry,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. As of the Heroes sale, I now have all but one issue of this series. In this issue the future sequences are right-side-up, and the past sequences are upside-down. There’s also a two-page spread that combines right-side-up and upside-down panels. Some of the dialogue in this issue is written in an alien language, which is easy to decode, but time-consuming; however, someone on the Internet has posted a transcript of all this dialogue. Trillium’s plot is very confusing, involving multiple different timelines, and it would be hard to understand this series even if I was reading it in order. It’s fascinating though.
THE SANDMAN #21 (DC, 1990) – “Season of Mists: A Prologue,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Mike Dringenberg. At the Heroes sale I was able to fill a lot of the gaps in my Sandman run, though I’m still missing the two most expensive issues, #1 and #8. This issue, six of the Endless have a family reunion, and Delirium makes her first appearance. She’s one of the best characters in the series, and her appearances are always a highlight. Also, at the urging of Desire and Death, Morpheus decides to go to hell to free Nada, which sets the events of “Season of Mists” into motion. This issue includes a preview for a series called World Without End by Jamie Delano and John Higgins. I hadn’t heard of that series before, but I was able to find a couple issues of it on my return trip to Heroes (see below).
STAR TREK #13 (DC, 1990) – “The Return of the Worthy, Part One: A Rude Awakening!”, [W] Peter David & Bill Mumy, [A] Gordon Purcell. In PAD’s final story arc on this series, the Enterprise crew discover the cryogenically preserved bodies of the Worthy, a family of legendary space explorers called the Worthy. I read this issue once before as a kid, and didn’t understand it at all. When I reread it this month, I was equally mystified; I was like, why are we supposed to believe that the Worthy are great legends throughout the galaxy, when we’ve never heard of them before? Then I read the line where one of the Worthy, a young boy, says “The robot’s as much a member of our team as anyone else.” That’s when I realized that this Worthy are actually the crew of Lost in Space – as hinted by the fact that Bill Mumy, who played Will Robinson on that show, is the co-writer. With that context, the references to the Worthy’s legendary status make perfect sense, and this comic is actually kind of a brilliant crossover between two classic SF franchises.
HARLEY QUINN & GOSSAMER #1 (DC, 2018) – “A Hairy Predicament!”, [W] Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti, [A] Pier Brito. I stopped reading Harley Quinn a while ago, but I couldn’t resist this issue, which guest-stars my favorite minor Looney Tunes character. This issue has a pretty funny plot, in which Harley discovers Gossamer and mistakenly thinks he was sent by the Joker. But the issue is worth the cover price just for Harley’s interactions with Gossamer. The highlight is probably the panel where Harley imitates the scene with Bugs doing Gossamer’s hair. I do think Pier Brito’s version of Gossamer is a bit off-model; the creature’s mouth should be invisible most of the time, as it is in Sholly Fisch and Dave Alvarez’s backup story.
THE BOOKS OF MAGIC #2 (DC, 1994) – “Bindings, Book 2: A Book of Leaves,” [W] John Ney Rieber, [A] Gary Amaro. Tim discovers that the man he thought was his father actually isn’t, and goes looking for his real father. Instead he falls into the hands of a fanged dude who claims to be a schoolmaster and uses a lot of Latin phrases. Meanwhile, Tim’s actual father, Tamlin, goes looking for his son. Not a bad issue.
BATGIRL #26 (DC, 2018) – “Art of the Crime, Part One: Knockdown,” [W] Maighread Scott, [A] Paul Pelletier. A major step down in quality from the previous two runs. This comic isn’t terrible, but it’s uninspired and boring, and lacks any interest. I’m dropping this series immediately.
On Monday, September 3, I went back to Heroes and bought about 140 comics for a quarter each, including:
POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #62 (Marvel, 1980) – “One Must Die!”, [W] Jo Duffy, [A] Kerry Gammill. Luke, Danny, and another superhero named Thunderbolt battle Man-Mountain Marko. Thunderbolt has superspeed powers which are causing him to age rapidly, and at the end of the issue, he uses his last remaining power, and sacrifices his life, to avenge his brother’s murder. This was grimmer than a typical issue of this run.
STRANGE EMBRACE #1 (Image, 2007) – untitled, [W/A] David Hine. I’ve seen several positive reviews of this comic, but I knew nothing about it. But when I found this comic in the quarter box at Heroes and paged through it, I was instantly excited by Dave Hine’s art. Hine draws in the same quasi-Clear-Line style as Paul Grist or Phil Elliott, a style which I’ve previously described as characteristic of British alternative comics. In this comic Hine uses that style to illustrate a creepy Lovecraftian mystery about a house filled with ghosts and stories, or something like that. I can’t clearly remember the details of the plot, but it’s scary. I also got the second issue of this series at Heroes, and I’ll read it the first chance I get.
WEIRD MYSTERY TALES #21 (DC, 1975) – “Deadly Stalkers of the North!”, [W] Steve Skeates, [A] Ricardo Villamonte, etc. Besides Villamonte, this issue includes stories by E.R. Cruz and Alex Niño. The three stories are about werewolves, giant alien slugs, and pirates. All of them are well-drawn, but none are especially well-written.
DARK HORSE PRESENTS #1 (Dark Horse, 1986) – “Black Cross,” [W/A] Chris Warner, plus three other stories. This issue is mostly worth owning for completism’s sake, but it also includes one fascinating story that’s not widely available. The highlight of this issue is Paul Chadwick’s first Concrete story. It’s the one where a woman tricks Concrete into attending her child’s birthday party, and in revenge, he puts her car on the roof of her garage. I’ve read this before, although I forgot about the twist ending. The aforementioned fascinating story is “Brighter!”, which stars a woman with light and sound powers. She had previously used these powers for musical performances, but she decides to move on to bigger and better things. This character is obviously a stand-in for Dazzler, the protagonist of Chadwick’s previous series, and maybe her decision to change her career is a reference to Chadwick’s newfound artistic maturity.
GREEN LANTERN #109 (DC, 1978) – “Assault on Replikon,” [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Mike Grell. Carol Ferris has a new boyfriend, André. It turns out André is really the alien villain Replikon (who wears Batman’s cowl for some reason). Hal, Ollie and Dinah defeat Replikon, but Carol is not grateful to Hal. This story illustrates that Carol and Hal are incompatible and that their relationship is a disaster. Mike Grell’s art is quite good. There’s also an Alan Scott backup story.
SILVER AGE: DIAL H FOR HERO #1 (DC, 2000) – “The One-Man Justice League,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Barry Kitson. This is part of a fifth-week crossover event. It’s designed to look like a Silver Age DC comic, with half-page ads and Gaspar Saladino-esque lettering on the cover. The plot involves a battle between Robby Reed and the Martian Manhunter, who’s swapped bodies with Dr. Light. This comic is underwhelming given the creators involved, and the best part about it, as with all Dial H for Hero stories, is seeing all the different superheroes that Robby turns into.
ACTION COMICS #579 (DC, 1986) – “Prisoners of Time! (1986 AD to CCLIII AD)”, [W] Randy Lofficier & Jean-Marc Lofficier, [A] Keith Giffen. Like Star Trek #13, reviewed above, this comic is an unannounced crossover. In this issue, Superman travels back in time to the ancient Roman era, where he battles a giant fat barbarian and a druid who brews magic potion. These characters are obviously Obelix and Getafix/Panoramix from Asterix. Oddly, Asterix himself does not appear. The cover shows Superman battling a character based on Asterix, but in the comic, that character is stated to have already died. In fact, the comic takes place long after the time period of the Asterix comics, and the Obelix and Getafix characters are only still alive because of the magic potion. The entire issue is full of Asterix references and is written in a Goscinny-esque style. Overall it demonstrates the Lofficiers’ love for French comics, which they helped to promote in America through their translations of Moebius. I’d have enjoyed this issue even more if I’d read more Asterix. I need to get around to doing that.
JUPITER’S LEGACY #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mark Millar, [A] Frank Quitely. I didn’t realize this was five years old already. During the Depression, some explorers discover a source of superpowers. Many decades later, their descendants are famous but bored young super-celebrities. This comic is less bad than a typical Mark Millar comic, but that’s the best I can say for it. Frank Quitely’s art isn’t the best he’s capable of.
LETTER 44 #3 (Oni, 2014) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Alberto Jiménez Albuquerque. A bunch of politics, espionage, interpersonal drama, and space sex. Nothing especially memorable happens in this issue, but it’s a good example of Charles Soule’s writing style. I want to collect the entire run of this series.
THE BOOKS OF MAGIC #4 (Vertigo, 1994) – “Bindings, Epilogue: Lost Causes,” [W] John Ney Rieber, [A] Peter Gross & Gary Amaro. Last issue, Tim was killed by the Manticore – the fanged teacher dude from issue 2. This issue, Tim has a long conversation with Death, who is her usual charming self, but then Tamlin, Tim’s real dad, sacrifices his life to resurrect his son. This was one of the better issues of the series, mostly because of the Death appearance, and it was an effective conclusion to the first story arc.
SWEET TOOTH #19 (Vertigo, 2011) – “Endangered Species Prelude: Lost Trials,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire with Nate Powell, Emi Lenox and Matt Kindt. I got a bunch of issues of Sweet Tooth at Heroes, though I’m still missing the first few. This should be a fairly easy run to complete. This issue provides the origin stories of three female characters, including Wendy, the little pig-nosed girl who was imprisoned with the antlered boy. The three origin sequences are illustrated by three guest artists, as listed above.
X-MEN GOLD #28 (Marvel, 2018) – “ ‘Til Death Do Us Part, Part 3,” [W] Marc Guggenheim, [A] Michele Bandini. This issue suffers from uninspired, trite dialogue, competent but unexciting art, and a boring plot. It focuses on my favorite X-Man, Kitty Pryde, but even then it failed to hold my interest. If Marvel thinks Marc Guggenheim is the best choice to write X-Men, then no wonder the series has been bleeding readers for years. Marvel needs to revitalize the franchise by hiring some top-tier writing talent.
JON SABLE, FREELANCE #23 (First, 1985) – “The Crucified Man,” [W/A] Mike Grell. Jon Sable goes on a mission in Israel. This comic has some excellent action sequences, but Grell seems to be trying too hard to imitate Lawrence of Arabia, and the sex scene between Jon and his female handler is unnecessary. I think my interest in this series has waned over time. This issue also includes a long essay by Grell about a hunting trip he took in Africa. I already knew Mike was a sport hunter, but this essay is really TMI.
CASPER THE FRIENDLY GHOST #207 (Harvey, 1979) – “A Boy Named X,” uncredited. Unlike most Harvey comics I’ve read, this issue has a full-length story – about an amnesiac young boy – rather than just consisting of short stories. However, “A Boy Named X” is pretty boring and unfunny, and I fell asleep at least once while reading it. I still haven’t read a Harvey comic that was actually well written, and I wonder if there are any.
ARCHIE GIANT SERIES #562 (Archie, 1986) – Josie and the Pussycats in “Vacation Blahs,” [W] George Gladir, [A] Dan DeCarlo. Josie and the band go on vacation, but each of the places they visit turns out to be even more stressful than their day job. This story reminds me of MLP Micro-Series #3, where Rarity goes to Flax Seed and Wheat Grass’s resort. The other stories in this issue are forgettable, but even then this comic is much better than Casper #207.
THE DEMON #16 (DC, 1974) – “Immortal Enemy!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Etrigan battles Morgaine Le Fay, and his girlfriend Glenda learns that he’s really Jason Blood. And there the series ends. The Demon is not bad, but it’s not as good as Kamandi or the Fourth World titles.
SWEET TOOTH #5 (Vertigo, 2010) – “Out of the Deep Woods, Conclusion,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Tommy Jepperd takes Gus (the antlered kid) to the Preserve, where he exchanges Gus for his wife’s body. Finally this series is starting to make sense to me. This issue includes a two-page spread with one of Lemire’s trademark experimental page layouts. It’s the scene where Gus gets hit on the head, and then there’s a 4×6 panel grid on the left-hand page, which “crumbles” into individual disconnected panels on the right-hand page.
SAUCER COUNTRY #6 (Vertigo, 2012) – “A Field Guide to Flying Saucers,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Jimmy Broxton. Most of this issue is a lecture about UFO encounters. I’m not sure how well this sequence works as a comic, but it’s interesting. It investigates the psychology and culture behind people’s accounts of UFO experiences. I still haven’t really gotten into this series.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #8 (Marvel, 2016) – “The Dark Kingdom, Part 3: Black & White,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Matteo Buffagni. Spider-Man, Cloak and Dagger battle Mr. Negative. This isn’t a classic Spider-Man comic, but it’s fun and well-drawn. One nice thing about 25-cent boxes is that they allow me to read comics, like this one. I enjoyed reading this comic, but I wouldn’t have paid full price or even a dollar for it.
SWAMP THING #12 (DC, 2012) – “Rotworld Prologue: Part 2,” [W] Scott Snyder & Jeff Lemire, [A] Marco Rudy. This issue’s story is continued from Animal Man #12, which I read when it came out. This is a pretty solid horror comic, with, again, some bizarre page layouts, and it’s fun to see Abigail Arcane interacting with Ellen and Maxine Baker. I went canvassing for the Democratic party yesterday, and my canvassing partner had a volume of this Swamp Thing run in his car. When I noticed that, it was a nice icebreaker.
INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #20 (Marvel, 2010) – “Stark Disassembled Part 1: Counting Up from Zero,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Salvador Larroca. Here’s another series that I wouldn’t pay more than 50 cents for, but I’m happy to buy it when I see it in a quarter box. This issue is part of the story arc where Tony Stark removes his own memory. Tony spends most of the issue lying in a hospital bed having weird dreams. Matt Fraction is probably the best Iron Man writer since David Michelinie, although that’s not saying much. He seems to have been responsible for making the comic book version of Tony match Robert Downey Jr’s filmic portrayal of the character.
GREEN LANTERN CORPS #24 (DC, 2008) – “Ringquest Part 3,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Patrick Gleason. Yet another series that I like, but that I only buy when I see it in the cheap boxes. This issue, a bunch of Green Lanterns battle Mongul, or possibly one of his children, and an army of Black Mercies. The Black Mercy, a parasitic plant that paralyzes its victims by granting them visions of their greatest desire, is one of Alan Moore’s many brilliant throwaway ideas. It was smart of Peter Tomasi to reuse it here. Otherwise, the best thing about this issue is the diversity of the different Green Lanterns.
TRILLIUM #4 (Vertigo, 2014) – “Chapter 4: Entropy,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Nika and William encounter some Amazonian tribespeople who speak the alien language. Meanwhile, Nika’s boss from the future decides to destroy the planet with the trillium on it. This issue has no unusual design elements. One of the many weird things about this series is the lack of connection between issues; it almost feels like every issue is about a different version of Nika and William.
COYOTE #3 (Epic, 1983) – “How Coyote Chased His Tail,” [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Butch Guice. This is Steve Englehart’s most important creator-owned series, but that’s damning with faint praise. This comic has a convoluted plot which isn’t worth the effort required to understand it. What makes this series interesting is the hero, who is basically a coyote in a human body, and doesn’t understand human stuff like technology and monogamy. Like, one of the subplots is that he’s two-timing two women, and doesn’t see anything wrong with it.
STRANGE TALES #13 (Marvel, 1988) – Cloak and Dagger in “Disorderly Conduct,” [W] Terry Austin, [A] June Brigman, and Dr. Strange in “Ascent into Hell,” [W] Peter B. Gillis, [A] Richard Case. This issue’s Cloak & Dagger story is a prequel to Power Pack #13, reviewed above. It guest-stars the Punisher as well as Power Pack. Despite starring the Punisher, this is a really light-hearted and fun comic, whose highlight is Katie Power’s version of the Punisher’s war journal. In contrast, the Dr. Strange backup story is too serious for its own good. The villain in this story looks a lot like Gillis’s creator-owned character the Black Flame.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #618 (Marvel, 2010) – “Mysterioso Part 2: Un-Murder Incorporated,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Marcos Martín. The art in this issue is really good. Marcos Martín and Javier Pulido are fairly similar artists, which makes sense because they’re both from Spain and they both broke into the industry via Planeta de Agostini. This issue, Silvermane attempts to reassert his control over the Maggia, and there are also some plot threads involving Mr. Negative, Mysterio, and Carlie Cooper’s dad. Dan Slott’s Spider-Man is really quite good, and I should read more of it.
THE WORLD BELOW #1 (Dark Horse, 1999) – “The Flock,” [W/A] Paul Chadwick. This series is Paul Chadwick’s version of Cave Carson – I even wonder if it started out as a rejected proposal for a new Cave Carson series. This issue introduces the rather flimsy premise of the series: there’s a newly discovered underground realm full of bizarre creatures and machines, and a team of six adventurers, equipped with a giant red truck, are dispatched to investigate. This gives Chadwick an excuse to draw the weirdest stuff he can think of. The World Below is an excellent series, and it’s a shame that it’s been totally overshadowed by Concrete.
I received these new comics on September 7. I barely remember most of the comics I read that day, so I must have been very tired.
PAPER GIRLS #24 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. We begin with a flashback explaining how Wari and Jahpo got to the future. Then we learn that Mac has untreatable time travel cancer. And Kaje saves Mac’s life with her rocket boots, which is a really nice moment. Also, Erin discovers a map leading I don’t know where.
BORDER TOWN #1 (Vertigo, 2018) – “Bienvenidos a Hell,” [W] Eric Esquivel, [A] Ramon Villalobos. This debut issue is very important, but also problematic. It takes place in Arizona on the U.S.-Mexico border, which, in this reality, is inhabited by giant monsters. Also the Aztec god of the dead, Mictlántécutli, is involved somehow. This series has the potential to be a fascinating and highly politically relevant exploration of border politics and Latinx identity. The problem is that it suffers from overwriting. Practically every word balloon has one sentence too many, and as a result, the story doesn’t flow well. Also, there’s a ton of stuff happening in the story at once, and it’s not clear what’s important and what’s not. Border Town has explosive potential, which hopefully will not go unrealized.
GIANT DAYS #42 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Esther has a crush on Ed again, but Ed “has been spending a lot of time with some vast and loud Australian entity.” Meanwhile, McGraw is burning a bunch of wood for some reason. So this is a pretty typical issue.
THE LONG CON #2 (Oni, 2018) – untitled, [W] Dylan Meconis & Ben Coleman, [A] EA Denich. More of the same stuff. Dez fights her way through some feral children to acquire hot dogs, then there’s another flashback to the beginning of the con. I still love the idea behind this series, and the creators are executing it fairly well.
ADVENTURES OF THE SUPER SONS #2 (DC, 2018) – “Action Detectives, Part 2,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Carlo Barberi. We learn that the kid supervillains come from an alien planet, where the kid Luthor grew up with Lex Luthor as a role model. Also, the kid Joker is actually a good guy, and he helps Jon and Damian escape from captivity, but Jon somehow gets split into Superboy-Red and Superboy-Blue. This is a really fun and exciting superhero comic.
SNOTGIRL #11 (Image, 2018) – “My Second Date,” [W] Bryan Lee O’Malley, [A] Leslie Hung. I can’t remember much about this issue. Snotgirl has such a convoluted plot and comes out so infrequently that it’s very hard to follow, though it’s worth reading anyway.
KIM REAPER: VAMPIRE ISLAND #1 (Oni, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Sarah Graley. Becca and Kim are fans of a show called Vampire Teen Drama, so Kim decides to take them to meet some actual vampires. But while they’re partying with the vampires, Kim gets called away on a Grim Reaper assignment, and Becca and Tyler are left alone, with disastrous consequences. It’s nice to see this comic again.
MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #70 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Toni Kuusisto. This is a sequel to “Grannies Gone Wild,” the episode where Rainbow Dash accompanies Granny Smith and her friends to Las Pegasus. This issue, the grannies are sick of playing bingo, so Rainbow Dash arranges an extreme bingo game for them, even though Applejack thinks it’s unsafe. This results in a classic conflict between Rainbow Dash’s carelessness and Applejack’s overprotectiveness. There are some excellent gags in this issue, like Pinkie Pie trying to eat all the cakes in the shop because she thinks there’s a bingo ball in one of them.
QUICKSILVER: NO SURRENDER #5 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Eric Nguyen. It turns out the monsters are creatures that live between moments – not sure how that works – and that have been animated by Pietro’s emotions. Pietro defeats the monsters by sympathizing with them, and then hangs out with Wanda. In this series, Saladin has accomplished the feat of taking the most unpleasant superhero in the Marvel Universe and making him kind of sympathetic.
THE DREAMING #1 (DC, 2018) – “The Kingdom,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Bilquis Evely. I’ve seen some negative reactions to this comic, and I think those reactions are justified. This issue is confusing and convoluted even to a veteran Sandman reader, let alone a new reader, and it’s not that interesting either. I do plan to keep reading this series, since I’m a fan of both Si Spurrier and Sandman.
HOUSE AMOK #1 (IDW, 2018) – “We’re a Happy Family,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Shawn McManus. This is the fourth different Chris Sebela comic I’ve read in the past month or two. Besides having good dialogue, his comics have fascinating and clever premises, which he exploits to their full potential. (For example, the idea of a woman being haunted by the ghost of her heart donor is absurd, but Chris turns this idea into a compelling story.) His latest series is about two preteen twin girls whose parents believe in all sorts of crazy conspiracy theories. Because they don’t know any better, the girls accept their parents’ nonsensical ideas and act as accomplices to their parents’ crimes. But one of them slowly starts to realize her parents are insane. This comic is an intriguing exploration of conspiracy theorists, and also a plausible depiction of a child whose normal meter is broken, as they say on r/relationships.
DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE SORCERERS SUPREME #2 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Robbie Thompson, [A] Javier Rodriguez. I didn’t buy this when it came out, but it turns out to be quite good. In this miniseries, a bunch of Sorcerers Supreme from various time periods team up against a villain named the Forgotten. The Sorcerers Supreme include an older Wiccan, who is married to Hulkling with a child, and Mindful, a sentient Mindless One. Mindful is an adorable character. Other than him, the highlight of this issue is Javier Rodriguez’s brilliant artwork. I think I’ve failed to appreciate him enough because he gets overshadowed by the writers he works with, but he’s an amazing visual storyteller.
LITTLE ARCHIE #166 (Archie, 1981) – “The Team Mate,” [W/A] Bob Bolling. Another story where Little Archie meets an alien. Bob Bolling really liked this premise – in addition to this story and the one in #152, Bolling wrote several stories where Little Archie encounters two aliens named Abercrombie and Stitch. In “The Team Mate,” Archie encounters an alien his own age, Odiko, who has superspeed powers. Archie tries to draft Odiko for his baseball team, but the other kids discover that Odiko is an alien and reject him. As a result, the kids learn a lesson about prejudice. The last panel shows Archie’s black friend saying “I think we lost a good friend.” I’m not sure whether that’s subtle or heavy-handed.
TRILLIUM #5 (Vertigo, 2014) – “Starcrossed,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Another very experimental issue. Each issue has a top half which reads right-side-up and a bottom half that reads upside-down. After getting to the end of the comic, you flip it upside-down and keep reading from the bottom. Each half tells a different story: the top half takes place in some kind of steampunk world, and the bottom half takes place in Nika’s usual future world. The top and bottom halves of each page have the same panel structure and are parallel in other ways, so this issue is reminiscent of Watchmen #5. The plot of Trillium still doesn’t make sense to me – I don’t remember having seen the steampunk universe before – but this issue is fascinating to read anyway.
THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #139 (DC, 1978) – “Requiem for a Top Cop,” [W] Bob Haney, [A] Jim Aparo. In this Batman/Hawkman teamup, we learn that Commissioner Gordon killed an alien as a young man, and now an alien bounty hunter named Vorgan wants to avenge the murder by killing Gordon. Batman and Hawkman join forces to save Gordon. This comic attempts to blend the crime and science fiction genres, but does not succeed; the Batman and Hawkman parts of the plot are at odds with each other. However, this comic is notable for a couple reasons Bob Haney couldn’t have been aware of. First, in a sad way, it’s kind of touching how Gordon feels so guilty over the alien’s death. It would be nice if, for example, Amber Guyger felt equally guilty for killing Botham Jean. Second, the idea of an alien bounty hunter who assassinates murderers seems very familiar. This comic was published just two years before Nexus #1, and it’s very plausible that Mike Baron read it.
VELVET #2 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Steve Epting. A story about a female secret agent who’s running from her employers, or something. It’s essentially a Black Widow comic in all but name. It’s pretty similar to any Brubaker/Phillips comic except that the art is by Steve Epting. This was jarring at first, but Epting’s art is just as terrific as in his and Brubaker’s Captain America.
LANCER #2 (Gold Key, 1969) – “The Diamond-Studded Steer,” [W] Dick Wood, [A] Luis Dominguez. An adaptation of a long-forgotten TV show about two cowboy brothers who dislike each other. Unusually, this story shows cowboys engaged in their actual occupation of herding cows, rather than fighting outlaws. The plot is that the Lancer brothers have to lead a cattle drive to Mexico and prevent it from being sabotaged. Dick Wood’s script is serviceable, and Luis Dominguez’s art is pretty good. He’s from Argentina, and I assume he was influenced by Arturo del Castillo and José Luis Salinas.
HAWKEYE #5 (Marvel, 2013) – “The Tape Part 2: Operation Eucritta,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Javier Pulido. An excellent issue of a series that’s already a classic. The issue is mostly a long action sequence, in which Clint and Kate fight Madame Masque’s henchmen to recover an incriminating tape. Javier Pulido’s art and design are fantastic. The highlight of the issue is when Clint and Kate kick a door open, and the sound effect is FOOTOOMP!
STRANGE TALES #14 (Marvel, 1988) – “Disorderly Conduct,” [W] Terry Austin, [A] June Brigman, and “Apogee,” [W] Peter B. Gillis, [A] Richard Case. Again, the Punisher-Power Pack-Cloak and Dagger story in this issue is heartwarming (I’m trying to limit my use of the word adorable). Katie Power and the Punisher get along surprisingly well, since Katie is the same age the Punisher’s daughter was. But the highlight of the story is the ending, where the Powers have a birthday party for their hamster, and Julie teaches Cloak to read. The Dr. Strange story is just average.
ANGEL LOVE SPECIAL #1 (DC, 1987) – “Dark Revelations!”, [W/A] Barbara Slate. A strong conclusion to a series that never found an audience. Angel convinces her sister Mary Beth to donate bone marrow to their mother. But as a result, Mary Beth is discovered to have been using a false name, and she loses her election for Congress. It’s kind of unethical for Angel to browbeat her sister into doing the donation. As a reader of r/relationships, I’ve heard lots of stories about people being contacted by estranged relatives who want them to donate organs. In those cases, the usual advice is that you’re not obligated to serve as a donor, and if you don’t want to, you shouldn’t be guilted into doing it. But Barbara Slate avoids fully endorsing either Angel or Mary Beth’s behavior, and allows the reader to see the ambivalence of their relationship. Other than that, this issue is full of lots of other drama and funny stuff. Too bad this was Angel Love’s last appearance.
CLASSIC STAR WARS #4 (Dark Horse, 1992) – untitled, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Al Williamson. A reprint of some comic strips that take place between two of the movies of the original trilogy (not sure which two). Luke teams up with a thief named Tanith – named after Tanith Lee? – while Han and Leia have some relationship drama. Al Williamson’s art is really good, but it suffers from being reprinted too large. And the panels are rearranged to fit on the comic book page, so there’s lots of wasted space, and some panels are partly obscured by others.
CAPTAIN VICTORY AND THE GALACTIC RANGERS #11 (Pacific, 1983) – “Meet Big Ugly,” [W/A] Jack Kirby. A minor late Kirby work that suffers from bad lettering, and nonsensical storytelling. It’s superficially similar to New Gods, but not as inspired. There’s also a backup story by Tim Conrad.
STARSLAYER #12 (First, 1984) – “Stranded!”, [W] John Ostrander, [A] Leni Delsol. The Starslayer story in this issue is pretty mediocre. The Grimjack backup story is significantly better, though Ostrander and Truman hadn’t quite figured out the Grimjack formula yet.
WONDER WOMAN #107 (DC, 1996) – “Lifelines Part Three,” [W/A] John Byrne. The best thing about this issue is Cassie Sandsmark, a really cute character. Otherwise, this issue offers further evidence that John Byrne had long since jumped the shark by 1996, and that he was never a very good writer in the first place.
CATWOMAN #18 (DC, 2003) – “No Easy Way Down Part Two,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Javier Pulido. An early work by an excellent artist. In this issue Javier Pulido tries to draw like Darwyn Cooke or Cameron Stewart, but you can still recognize his unique style of visual storytelling. Brubaker’s dialogue is pretty good, but the plot is forgettable; it’s some kind of hard-boiled murder mystery.
SAUCER COUNTRY #8 (Vertigo, 2012) – “The Reticulan Candidate Part One,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Ryan Kelly. A blend of political campaign drama with conspiracy theorizing about aliens. I guess you could call this comic Men in Black meets The West Wing. I’d be willing to read more of this comic if I saw it in a cheap box, but I wouldn’t pay very much for it.
THE WAKE #1 (Vertigo, 2013) – “The Wake Part One,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Sean Murphy. The art in this comic is spectacular. Because of his style of linework and the amount of detail he puts into his drawings, Sean (Gordon) Murphy is more like a European than an American artist. His machinery, architecture and animals demand very close attention – which is why I haven’t had the energy to read any of the other issues of The Wake that I have. The Wake’s story is less interesting than its art. The protagonist is a divorced female cetologist who’s hired to decode some mysterious whale songs. I have yet to be truly impressed by Scott Snyder’s writing.
NEIL THE HORSE COMICS AND STORIES #9 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “The Hour of the Hand of the Shadow Fiend from the Forgotten Blood-Cursed Crypt!”, [W] Katherine Collins (under her previous name), [A] Barb Rausch. This issue’s first story is a Conan parody. It’s well-drawn but more silly than funny. The second story is about breakdancing and is narrated in rhyme. I guess it’s an early example of a comic influenced by hip-hop culture.
FIGHTIN’ MARINES #61 (Charlton, 1964) – “The Non-Combatants!”, [W] Joe Gill probably, [A] Charles Nicholas & Vince Alascia, plus other stories. A boring piece of mediocrity. This comic promotes a jingoistic and uncritical view of war, which is especially annoying since it came out during the Vietnam war.
BULLY WARS #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Aaron Conley. This is less immediately appealing than I Hate Fairyland was. It’s about bullying and high school drama, but it treats these subjects in Skottie Young’s usual funny and tasteless way. It’s not bad, but it’s not my favorite either. Aaron Conley’s art is less hyper-detailed than in Sabertooth Swordsman, but much less difficult to read, since it’s in color.
CATWOMAN/TWEETY & SYLVESTER #1 (DC, 2018) – “A Fine Fit of Feather and Fur,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Inaki Miranda. A very funny story, especially since it’s full of cats. Catwoman and Black Canary team up with Sylvester and Tweety, respectively, in a battle between cats and birds. Most of DC’s other cat- and bird-based characters are also enlisted, and the issue is full of Looney Tunes references. This is one of Gail’s best-written comics in years, and Inaki Miranda draws some very cute animals.
EUTHANAUTS #2 (IDW, 2018) – “Check Ignition,” [W] Tini Howard, [A] Nick Robles. I had to read the previous issue to remind myself what this series was about, and even then I had trouble following it. But this comic at least seems like a sensitive and thoughtful examination of death. Maybe it’s a good thing this comic is coming out now, because it looks like I’ll have to attend a funeral soon.
MY LITTLE PONY: PONYVILLE MYSTERIES #4 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Christina Rice, [A] Agnes Garbowska. Someone has dammed the water supply leading to the spa. It initially looks like the Apples used the water to irrigate their farm, but then it turns out Flim and Flam are responsible. Early in the issue there’s a funny mistake where the word “damn” is used instead of “dam.” I remember this comic more clearly than other comics I read the same day, so that’s probably a point in its favor.
DENNIS THE MENACE FUN FEST SERIES #14 (Fawcett, 1980) – “Having a Ball” and other stories, uncredited. In this issue’s first story, Gina teaches the other kids to play soccer. In the second story, Mr. and Mrs. Wilson move into a retirement community where everything fun is prohibited, and they discover that life without Dennis is less interesting. In the third story, the Mitchells try to get the cat to stop climbing on the table. This was a pretty funny comic, certanly better than the previous Dennis comic I read.
WONDER WOMAN ’77 SPECIAL #2 (DC, 2015) – “The Cat Came Back,” [W] Marc Andreyko, [A] Drew Johnson. The Lynda Carter version of Wonder Woman battles the Cheetah. This comic isn’t terrible, but it’s not great either, and it’s tediously long. I suppose this comic would have some nostalgia value for fans of the ‘70s Wonder Woman TV show, but I have never seen that show.
!GAG! #1 (Harrier, 1987) – various stories, editor uncredited. An anthology of British small-press humor comics. Creators featured in this issue include Eddie Campbell, Ed Pinsent, Steve Way and Glenn Dakin, and Trevs (Woodrow) Phoenix. The Way and Dakin story stars Paris, the Man of Plaster. This comic is perhaps less notable for the individual stories in it, than for its demonstration of the stylistic diversity of British underground comics.
THE BATMAN ADVENTURES #4 (DC, 1993) – “Riot Act,” [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Brad Rader. The Scarecrow engineers a plot to make the people of Gotham City illiterate. I was excited to discover that I had an unread issue of this series, but this issue is not by the usual creators, and it’s kind of mediocre.
Comics received on September 12:
RUNAWAYS #13 (Marvel, 2018) – “That Was Yesterday, Part 1,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] David Lafuente. Alex Wilder reappears, and instantly acts like he’s still the leader of the team, as well as getting them into a fight with a three-headed dog thing. Also, the Gibborim show up again, or rather their children. The issue ends with a panel depicting all six of the original Runaways, plus Victor. This story is paradoxical because it returns us to the premise of the original series – the Runaways versus the Pride and the Gibborim – but it also reminds us how much things have changed since the series began.
MECH CADET YU #12 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. The kids pool their powers to activate the Suprarobo and defeat the Sharg. The issue and the series end with Stanford and Olivia visiting their late parents’ graves. This ending was satisfying, but a bit predictable. I was hoping it would turn out that the Sharg weren’t as evil as they looked. It’s too bad this series is over.
UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #36 (Marvel, 2018) – “🔇”, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. The title of this story is the mute icon. This issue is a piece of Oulipian constrained writing, where the constraint is incorporated into and justified by the story. A librarian’s ghost gets angry at all the noise in New York, so she forces the entire city to be quiet, and thus the entire issue is silent. This enables Ryan North and Derek Charm to display their skill with visual storytelling and humor. The visual storytelling in this series tends to go unnoticed because the reader pays attention to the dialogue instead. But this issue reminds us that the creators are really good with sight gags and body language. I especially like all the scenes set in front of the ESU library, showing how New York changes as the silence continues. Overall this is one of the best issues of Squirrel Girl.
MS. MARVEL #34 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Ratio, Part Three,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. I’m sorry to hear about Willow’s health problems, and I wish her a quick recovery. This issue, Bruno learns that Kamala shapeshifts by absorbing mass from her past or future selves. Also, Kamala encounters Singularity. “The Ratio” has not been among this series’ best story arcs.
WELCOME TO WANDERLAND #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jackie Ball, [A] Maddi Gonzalez. Yet another excellent Boom! Box miniseries. This one is about a girl working at an amusement park, obviously based on Disneyland/world, who discovers a secret portal into the fantasy world that the park’s attractions are based on. Maddi Gonzalez’s artwork is appealing. Jackie Ball’s script is witty, and is inspired by actual experience working at theme parks.
EXILES #8 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Trial of the Exiles!”, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Joe Quinones. I somehow failed to order issue 7, which concludes the Exiles’ encounter with the cowboy Black Panther. This issue, the Exiles are put on trial by a bunch of rogue Watchers, and they all have to recount their back stories. This issue provides a lot of useful insight into the team members. It ends with Blink waking up in an Arabian Nights-based world. Next issue should be good, since it draws upon the same mythology that Saladin Ahmed grew up with and used in his novel.
THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #39 (Image, 2018) – “Low,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. A bunch more drama, which ends with Persephone discovering that she still has powers. Not a very exciting issue.
SHE COULD FLY #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Just the Place for a Snark,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Martin Morazzo. This issue includes one of the wordiest word balloons I’ve ever seen, containing well over 100 words, but there’s a reason for it. Verna asks Luna about her mental illness, and Luna’s response takes up almost half a page, ending “I’ve never told anyone this before.” This is a really powerful moment. Other than that, this issue Luna’s guidance counselor starts looking for her and gets involved in the conspiracy, and the enemy finds Bill. She Could Fly is one of the best miniseries of the year. Too bad there’s just one more issue.
CATWOMAN #3 (DC, 2018) – “Copycats Part 3,” [W/A] Joëlle Jones with Fernando Blanco. This issue is somewhat lacking in the cat department. Selina’s cats only appear in one panel. Also, there’s a four-page sequence devoted to the origin of a new character whose significance is not clear. Other than that, this is an okay issue.
CROWDED #2 (Image, 2018) – “Future Starts Slow,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Ro Stein. Jo saves Vita from some assassins, then they go looking for the person who took out a contract on Vita. Also there’s a funny scene that takes place at a comic book store. This is a good second issue, though less humorous than #1, now that the novelty of the premise has worn off.
FANTASTIC FOUR #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Where We Make Our Stand,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Sara Pichelli. This issue we finally get to see Franklin, Valeria and the Future Foundation kids, and our first sight of Valeria is shocking: she has breasts and is receiving a marriage proposal from some alien dude. The last time her age was stated, she was about three years old, so lots of time must have passed while the FF were away. Increasing Franklin and Val’s age is probably a good decision, since Franklin’s improbably young age is the biggest continuity problem in the Marvel universe. However, this solution creates other problems; in particular, if Val is in her early teens, then Alex Power, who is aging at the same rate, must be about 30. It’s best not to think about this too much. Anyway, this issue we learn that Reed, Sue and the kids have been creating new worlds and exploring them, but then Franklin’s power runs out, just as a creature called the Griever starts devouring these realities. So the FF return to Earth to make their last stand, alongside everyone who’s been a FF member. Besides the continuity issues I just mentioned, this is a really good issue. It’s both fun and original, and it effectively builds upon the heritage of this series.
NANCY DREW #4 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jenn St.-Onge. This issue includes a scene where the detectives go to a rave, and they all split up to investigate different things. From there, the sequence is divided into three different narrative threads, each of which has a different color scheme and occupies a different tier of panels. On Twitter, Kelly indicated that she was proud of this sequence, and she should be. This issue also ends on an exciting cliffhanger where Bess is captured by the crooks.
FARMHAND #3 (Image, 2018) – “Pet Sins,” [W/A] Rob Guillory. A dog gets into the Jenkins farm and turns into an awful monster. Other plot stuff happens. This is another good issue, full of witty dialogue and funny gags. The best joke in the issue is the line of guys waiting to get into the “melon patch,” where certain private body parts are grown.
HOUSE OF WHISPERS #1 (DC, 2018) – “Broken Telephone,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson, [A] Domo Stanton. This is, I believe, the first comic by one of my favorite current SF writers. Like many of Nalo Hopkinson’s novels, House of Whispers is heavily based on voodoo and West African mythologies. It begins with a scene set in the Dreaming, where Erzulie Fréda is meeting Uncle Monday – either a version of Baron Samedi, or a very similar character. Meanwhile, in the human world, some girls unwittingly summon a loa called Shakpana by playing telephone. This comic feels like a very passionate and authentic depiction of Caribbean culture and mythology. It’s a bit difficult to follow at times, but it’s fascinating, and it draws upon a cultural tradition that rarely appears in comics except in a very stereotyped form. This comic may be difficult for readers who aren’t familiar with Nalo Hopkinson or West African religion, and its connection to The Sandman is very tenuous.
RAT QUEENS #11 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kurtis J. Wiebe, Owen Gieni. This was the best issue of Rat Queens volume 2, simply because it was the first one that made sense. After a lot of confusing and unintelligible stories, the Rat Queens are finally back together, and now they’re looking for the evil version of Hannah. I didn’t realize there were two Hannahs, but I guess that was established last issue. Then the Rat Queens go on a quest to help their former teammate Sadie, who’s been turned into an owl. I hope this issue is indicative of the future direction of this series.
MARVEL RISING OMEGA #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Marvel Rising Part 4,” [W] Devin Grayson, [A] Georges Duarte. A predictable but fun conclusion, in which the good guys beat Arcade and save Ember. Lunella Lafayette makes a cameo appearance on the last page. This was a fun series which teamed up some of Marvel’s best characters for the first time. It should be an ongoing series, though.
X-23 #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Two Birthdays and Three Funerals, Part 4,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Juann Cabal. The dead Stepford Cuckoo gets reanimated in Gabby’s body. This issue was mostly plot with little character development.
SCALES & SCOUNDRELS #12 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] Galaad. In the final issue, Dorma finds a way out of the cave, and leaves home to pursue her fortune again. It’s too bad this is the last issue, but this issue was a fairly satisfying conclusion. Scales & Scoundrels was never a great comic, but it was quite a good one.
SUPERMAN #43 (DC, 2015) – “Before Truth Part 3,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] John Romita Jr. This issue is slightly less bad than Gene Luen Yang’s other issues of Superman, since it includes some effective character interaction between Clark and Lois. However, Clark and Lois’s relationship has been done to death already, and this issue doesn’t depict it in a particularly original way. This run of Superman was such a disappointment.
MOTH & WHISPER #1 (AfterShock, 2018) – “Once Upon a Time,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Jen Hickman. I’ve read a lot of Ted Anderson’s pony comics and have corresponded with him on Facebook, so I was intrigued to read his new creator-owned series. This comic takes place in a dystopian society ruled by an oppressive government. The hero, Niki, is the child of two legendary thieves, Moth and Whisper. In general this is a pretty good debut issue, but the striking thing about it is that Niki, like the artist, is nonbinary. This is not directly stated or depicted as problematic in any way – there just aren’t any references to Niki’s gender. Niki is a really cute kid and an effective example of nonbinary representation, and I look forward to reading more about them.
HOT LUNCH SPECIAL #2 (AfterShock, 2018) – “Death in the Family,” [W] Eliot Rahal, [A] Jorge Fornés. This issue is about the fallout from Benjamin Khoury’s murder. It’s not bad, but the only really notable thing about it is the scene set in First Avenue in Minneapolis. I only remember having been to First Avenue once – I’m not really the concert-attending type – and I’m not sure if the artist’s depiction of it is accurate.
REAL SCIENCE ADVENTURES: THE NICODEMUS JOB #3 (IDW, 2018) – “The Nicodemus Job Part 3,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Meredith McClaren. The thieves infiltrate the library, only to discover that they need to get into the room for heretical books. The most interesting thing about this issue is the author’s note, where Brian Clevinger explains how the Advocatus is a made-up position, but based on officials that actually existed in medieval Europe. On Twitter, I observed that the Advocatus in this series is kind of like Judge Dee from Chinese detective fiction, and Brian Clevinger confirmed that officials like Judge Dee were part of the inspiration for Nicolas.
THE WRONG EARTH #1 (Ahoy, 2018) – “The Wrong Earth, Chapter One,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Jamal Igle. I was skeptical about this comic because, although Tom Peyer wrote the comics that made me a Legion of Super-Heroes fan, his other work has been very uneven. But the premise behind this series is amazing. This premise is that the Silver Age Batman and the Dark Knight Returns Batman (or rather, Dragonflyman) swap universes with each other. The results of this are both funny and tragic. The two universes are depicted with wildly contrasting styles of art, lettering and dialogue, and Peyer and Igle brilliantly depict the two Dragonflies’ bewilderment at their new realities. I’m surprised that the idea behind this series hasn’t been used before, but Peyer and Igle execute it extremely well.
ARCHIE 1941 #1 (Archie, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian Augustyn & Mark Waid, [A] Peter Krause. After graduating from high school, Archie is bored and listless, not knowing what to do with his life. But it’s late 1941, and December 7 is coming. This is a weird and intriguing comic, and I’m curious to see where it goes. It almost reads like a crossover between Archie and Captain America. Maybe next issue, Archie will get turned down by the Army, but will be asked to volunteer for Dr. Reinstein’s experiment.
HEAD LOPPER #9 (Image, 2018) – “Head Lopper and the Knights of Venora, Part 1,” [W/A] Andrew MacLean. Head Lopper encounters a talkative female warrior, and they visit a city that contains a mysterious giant egg. Also, some kind of villain is plotting against Norgal. This is a good issue, but it’s more complicated and less immediately gripping than the debut issues of the last two storylines.
PROXIMA CENTAURI #4 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Farel Dalrymple. The kids fight and defeat Carousel, a man in a top hat who summons demons out of a bag. As usual, this isue is beautifully drawn and evocative, but its plot makes little sense.
RUINWORLD #3 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Derek Laufman. The pig dude finds himself in the Dengus Isles, where some frog people are about to cook and eat him. The other protagonists have to rescue him. This comic is an insubstantial but entertaining romp.
CEMETERY BEACH #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Jason Howard. A special agent from Earth investigates an offworld colony that was created in the 1930s and has had no contact with Earth since. This comic reminds me of Bioshock because of its premise, but otherwise there’s nothing particularly new or original about it, and I don’t know why I should keep reading it.
TRANSMETROPOLITAN #15 (Vertigo, 1998) – “Year of the Bastard Part 3: Smile,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Darick Robertson. A much better Warren Ellis comic. This storyline is about an American Presidential campaign. The main event this issue is that Spider Jerusalem attends a rally by Senator Bob Heller, which is effectively a Trump rally, except the racism is even less disguised. Spider’s shocked reaction after hearing Heller’s speech is very similar to how actual reasonable people react to Trump’s rhetoric.
POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #63 (Marvel, 1980) – “Luck and Death,” [W] Jo Duffy, [A] Kerry Gammill. The two namesake villains, Suerte and Muerte, blow up the Gem Theater and almost kill D.W. Griffith (named after the filmmaker). This is a pretty good issue, though not especially memorable. Now that I’ve read Times Square Red, Times Square Blue, I have a much better understanding of the area where the Gem Theater is located.
MARS #5 (First, 1984) – “The Whole Shebang,” [W] Mark Wheatley, [A] Marc Hempel. A bunch of science fictional relationship drama, illustrated in a simple and appealing style. The main event of the issue is that one of the two female characters is discovered to be pregnant. I didn’t quite understand what was going on in this issue, but it was much better paced than issue 1, reviewed below.
TRANSMETROPOLITAN #21 (Vertigo, 1999) – “The New Scum 3: New President,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Darick Robertson. Spider Jerusalem interviews the president, who turns out to be an alcoholic, cynical jerk with no principles. Spider points out that the President is “not interested in anything other than having the Presidency, but […] also not interested in actually being a President.” Besides the alcoholism, this character reminds me of Trump, though he’s not so aggressively stupid. Like #15, this issue is a sensitive and prescient exploration of American politics.
LITTLE MISTER MAN #1 (Slave Labor, 1995) – “Little Mister Man,” [W/A] James Kochalka. A silly Superboy parody, drawn in Kochalka’s trademark minimalist style. The main character looks kind of like Dilbert. This was one of Kochalka’s first comics, but it’s barely distinguishable from his mature work.
PLASTIC MAN #4 (DC, 2018) – “Revenge of the Curse of the Horror Creature,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Adriana Melo. Plas buys some clothes for Pado Swakatoon, and discovers that Agent Obscura has ulterior motives. This is a fun and well-drawn series, and Plas’s relationship with Pado is very touching. But the plot of this series is hard to follow.
DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE SORCERERS SUPREME #4 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Robbie Thompson, [A] Javier Rodriguez. It turns out that the Forgotten is a composite of various magicians who were imprisoned by Merlin. Also, sadly, Mindful does not in fact have a soul, but was merely animated by Isaac Newton. As usual with Javier Rodriguez, this issue is beautifully drawn.
THE KILLER: MODUS VIVENDI #4 (Archaia, 2010) – untitled, [W] Matz, [A] Luc Jacamon. The Killer succeeds in faking Angel Carrasco’s death and getting rid of his unwanted clients. And there the album ends. I still don’t think this series is all that great, but it’s well-executed, and it shows more awareness of global politics than most American comics do.
WONDER WOMAN #54 (DC, 2018) – “The Enemy of Both Sides, Part Three,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Raúl Allen. I wasn’t impressed by the last Steve Orlando comic I read (namely Crude), so I had low expectations for this issue, but I was pleasantly surprised. This comic has excellent art and coloring and an engaging story, and that’s more than I can say for most Wonder Woman comics. The story is about a war between Qurac and the Bana Mighdall.
MARS #1 (First, 1984) – “Rebirth,” [W] Mark Wheatley, [A] Marc Hempel. This debut issue suffers from some of the worst narrative compression I’ve ever seen. As a child, the protagonist, Morgana Trace, loses her father in an attack that also leaves her paralyzed. She invents a system that lets her connect a computer to her legs, allowing her to walk again. Then she travels to the moon and becomes part of a mission to Mars. Then she and her crewmates lose contact with Earth, so they all go into cryogenic stasis for 10000 years. Finally, Morgana wakes up and heads to Mars to look for her missing crewmates. All these events happen in just one issue, and each of them flashes by so quickly that the reader doesn’t have time to process it before the next thing happens. The further irony is that most of this setup is unnecessary; all the reader really needs to know is that Morgana is stranded on far-future Mars with four other people. As noted above, later issues of this series had better pacing.
STAR TREK #40 (Gold Key, 1976) – “Furlough to Fury,” [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Al McWilliams. This issue ought to have been terrible. First, it screws with continuity by giving McCoy a daughter named Barbara – not to be confused with his other much better-known daughter, Joanna. Barbara only ever appeared in this series, and her existence is hard to reconcile with McCoy’s history. And Kirk has a crush on her, which is rather creepy. (This issue also mentions Scotty’s otherwise unknown brother Robby.) On top of that, this issue’s plot is poorly suited to Star Trek. The plot is that while on furlough on Earth, Kirk and McCoy foil an attempted jewel theft with the aid of a telepathic alien bear. Besides the alien bear part, this plot is more suited to Batman than Star Trek. The shocking part, then, is that this comic is actually good. Arnold Drake was a gifted storyteller who wrote excellent dialogue, and Al McWilliams was a terrific science fiction artist, possibly the best artist who ever worked on Star Trek comics. I especially like his rendition of the Enterprise. So this is a pretty good comic, though not necessarily a good Star Trek comic.
ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #491 (DC, 1992) – “A Good Head on Your Shoulders,” [W] Tom Grummett, [A] Doug Hazlewood. Superman battles Metallo, with help from Terrible Dan Turpin. This comic is nothing special, but it’s a well-written and entertaining Superman comic.
THE SPECTRE #12 (DC, 1993) – “Final Fate,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Tom Mandrake. Amy is murdered by a serial killer. This was a rather depressing and grim series, and it was rarely grimmer or more depressing than in this issue.
New comics received on September 22:
LUMBERJANES #54 (Boom!, 2018) – “Follow Your Art,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Dozerdraws. Another incredibly cute issue. The villain turns out to be Tromatikos, or Tammy Tickles as Ripley calls her, a creature that drains energy. Tromatikos summons all the magic kittens, resulting in one of the cutest panels in the entire series. Jo and the girls go looking for Ripley. Oh, and we also learn that Rosie knows the phone number for Mount Olympus. Because of course she does.
FLAVOR #5 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Wook-Jin Clark. Xoo chews out Geof for his inconsiderateness, but enters the competition anyway. Meanwhile, Anant wants to enter too, but his parents refuse. This was a pretty good issue. The highlight was the panel with Geof getting “drunk” on ice cream. The food Anant and his parents are eating looks really good – it may be Korean BBQ.
MISTER MIRACLE #11 (DC, 2018) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. Scott and Barda engineer a brilliant plan to defeat Darkseid and avoid having to give Jacob up. But afterward, it turns out Desaad is actually Metron, and Metron tells Scott that he’s in the wrong universe. This ending is unexpected and confusing. Obviously the high point of this issue is Darkseid eating the vegetables.
BLACK HAMMER: AGE OF DOOM #5 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. Finally the truth is revealed: Madame Dragonfly and Colonel Weird kidnapped the superheroes because if they return to Earth, Anti-God will come back. But then it turns out Colonel Weird already sent the ship on a course to who knows where. I’m glad to have finally learned what’s going on, but with the revelations in this issue, some of the suspense in this comic has been lost. This issue includes Doctor Star’s first appearance outside his own title.
OH S#!T IT’S KIM & KIM #2 (Black Mask, 2018) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. Another great issue. Kim Q tries to call her dad to ask to borrow the Belinda Carlisle tape, but he insists on using her deadname, and the conversation is over before it starts. This is perhaps the best scene in the entire series. It illustrates the pain of transphobia and the insensitivity of people who refuse to acknowledge a trans person’s identity. The rest of the issue is also pretty good. The Kims and Xue Peng execute their plan to steal the tape, but things don’t go as intended. The heist sequence includes some really good dialogue.
BY NIGHT #4 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Christine Larsen. Gardt the goblin leads the protagonists on a tour of his world, but they go off the intended path and run into some sleeping vampires. This issue is quite funny; I especially liked the Mr. T running joke and the reference to Twizzlers as “crimson banquet rods.” But I’m still not sure what this series is supposed to be about.
USAGI YOJIMBO #171 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “The Hidden, Part 6,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi and Inspector Ishida track down the Japanese translation of the Bible, but the villains are right behind them. The main virtue of this issue is that it demonstrates the incredibly explosive nature of the Japanese Bible translation. William Tyndale’s English Bible was dangerous enough that it got him executed, and the Japanese Bible is even more dangerous than that. “The Hidden” has been a pretty good story – I would rank it below “Grasscutter” but above “The Treasure of the Mother of Mountains” – and I look forward to seeing how it ends.
BLACK BADGE #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. Another good issue, though not as funny as #1, since we already know the premise now. This issue the kids encounter another group of spy campers. Also, the girl camper tells her origin story, but it’s actually the origin story of Pippi Longstocking.
WEST COAST AVENGERS #2 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Stefano Caselli. BRODOK drives off the giant Tigra, then the two Hawkeyes investigate an Advanced Image Mechanics plant. This was a good issue, with some effective character interactions, but nothing spectacular. I really hope Tigra comes to her senses quickly and doesn’t get killed.
VAGRANT QUEEN #4 (Vault, 2018) – “The Bezoar of Kings,” [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Jason Smith. This issue mostly consists of a flashback explaining how Elida’s kingdom was overthrown. We learn that Ellida was well-intentioned but was never in charge of her own government, and was led astray by her rather heartless mother. But the people who overthrew her government were even worse. One thing I don’t get is why Elida is the queen if her mother is still alive. I guess her father was the previous king, and her mother was just the king’s consort. This series continues to suffer from very poor artwork.
OLIVIA TWIST #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Darin Strauss & Adam Dalva, [A] Emma Vieceli. I decided to give up on this series before I even finished reading this issue. Olivia Twist is a dystopian SF retelling of Oliver Twist. I’ve never read Oliver Twist, but this premise is interesting enough. The problem is that the writers have no understanding of pacing. As with Mars #1, reviewed above, so much stuff happens in this comic that the reader can’t process any of it. We move from “Please, sir, can I have some more” to the Artful Dodger to Fagin, all in one issue, and at the same time we’re being introduced to Olivia Twist’s world. Because of the excessive pace of the story, none of the events in it have any impact. Neither of this comic’s writers has any previous comics experience, and it shows. I’m glad that I didn’t order issue 2.
IMPOSSIBLE, INC. #1 (IDW, 2018) – “Beyond the Spiral!”, [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Mike Cavallaro. I had kind of low expectations for this comic, but it pleasantly surprised me. The protagonist is the daughter of a character who’s basically Reed Richards. But their father has gone missing in some alternate dimension, and she and her brother have to look for him. For someone who’s never written the Fantastic Four (as far as I know), J.M. DeMatteis captures its spirit of scientific exploration and discovery very well.
SAVAGE DRAGON #238 (Image, 2018) – “Out for Blood!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Malcolm saves Angel’s life by giving her a blood donation, but is immediately besieged by sick people who also want his blood. Also, Maxine finally gets some therapy for her sex addiction. I bought this issue before I decided to drop this series again. If every issue of this series was like this one, I wouldn’t be dropping it.
DICK TRACY: DEAD OR ALIVE #1 (IDW, 2018) – “Tracy Unleashed,” [W] Lee Allred & Mike Allred, [A] Rich Tommaso. Dick Tracy arrives in Chicago and instantly starts cleaning up corruption and shooting people. This comic is well-written and well-drawn, and Tommaso and the Allreds do a good job of capturing the spirit of Chester Gould’s Dick Tracy. However, their version of Tracy is so bloodthirsty that he reminds me of the Punisher.
EDGE OF SPIDER-GEDDON #3 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jason Latour, [A] Tonci Zonjić. This alternate-universe story stars thirteen-year-old Petey Parker and his Uncle Ben, both of whom have spider powers. I couldn’t understand the plot of this comic at all; it’s poorly explained and fragmented, and it’s also part of a crossover of some kind. However, this comic is worth reading anyway because little Peter is heartachingly cute, and his relationship with Ben is very sweet.
THOR #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Old Gods,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Christian Ward. The far-future Thor battles the far-future Wolverine, who has the power of the Phoenix. Christian Ward’s art is, as usual, beautiful, but this issue is just a long fight scene, and it’s not all that interesting.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Ties That Bind,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Garry Brown. A retelling of the alien costume saga from the perspective of the alien symbiote. I’ve never actually read the original version of this story, but the retold version is easy enough to understand anyway. This issue is a successful piece of science fiction because it shows the reader “a creature that thinks as well as a man, but not like a man,” and it’s also rather touching.
Starting again on October 13:
CAPTAIN AMERICA ANNUAL #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Ziegenfarm,” [W] Tini Howard, [A] Chris Sprouse & Ron Lim. An excellent Captain America story. It reminds me of Waid and Garney’s “Sanctuary,” in Captain America vol. 1 #454, because it’s a very simple story and yet it perfectly captures the essence of Cap. The plot is that Cap has to rescue some concentration camp escapees, including a man who’s been sentenced to death for being gay. He escorts them to safety, with their assistance, and just when things look hopeless, he comes up with one last trick to save them.
THE UNWRITTEN #18 (DC, 2010) – “Mix,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. I have a lot of unread issues of this series. This issue focuses on a meeting of the people who secretly control the world through writing, including the terrifying bald bearded dude. It was a difficult comic to understand, but it made a lot more sense when I read the Rudyard Kipling issue, reviewed below.
CATWOMAN #36 (DC, 2004) – “War Games: Act 3 Part 7 – Multiple Fronts,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Paul Gulacy. This is barely even a Catwoman comic. It’s part of a giant crossover, and Catwoman appears on less than half the pages. This issue makes no sense out of context of the larger crossover, and it’s a good argument against crossover stories like War Games.
THE BOOKS OF MAGIC #30 (DC, 1996) – “Shells: Rites of Passage Part 4,” [W] John Ney Rieber, [A] Peter Gross & Peter Snejbjerg. Leah, disguised as Molly, tries to seduce Tim and fails, while the actual Molly has a tense encounter with Titania. This was an okay issue. The scene where Tim almost loses his virginity, until he realizes it’s not Molly, is an interesting insight into his character.
SLEEPER #3 (Wildstorm, 2003) – “Secrets and Lies,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Sleeper may be the worst Brubaker-Phillips collaboration. It’s confusing, it’s too heavily tied to Wildstorm Universe continuity, and Sean Phillips hadn’t yet developed his current style. In this issue he uses some weird panel structures in which multiple inset panels are arranged on top of a single background panel. As for this issue’s plot, I don’t understand it at all.
LUCIFER #3 (DC, 2000) – “A Six-Card Spread,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Chris Weston. Lucifer and Mazikeen visit a cabaret in Berlin, where the star attraction is possessed by some magical tarot cards, or something. Chris Weston’s art in this issue is very good, but I’ve never really gotten into Lucifer. This is only the second issue of this Lucifer series that I’ve read since 2013.
WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #514 (Gladstone, 1987) – untitled, [W/A] Daan Jippes & Freddy Milton, plus other stories. I usually don’t like European Disney comics, but the ten-pager in this issue is surprisingly good. Donald tries to get the nephews to clean up their room, and through a series of mishaps, he gets stuck with a giant pile of garbage. Jippes and Milton do a good job of imitating Barks’s style. This issue also includes a Mickey Mouse story by Fallberg and Murry, and a Gyro Gearloose four-pager by Barks. This latter story is rather puzzling. Gyro tries to build a hydroelectric plant in a poor, unelectrified Southeast Asian country, but the plant ends up consuming more energy than it produces. “And so, Farbakishan stays un-uplifted – its people toiling like beasts of burden, and its beasts of burden still untoiling!” This story seems like it’s making fun of the people of Farbakishan. But another possible reading is that Gyro’s modernization project fails because he’s an outside interloper with no knowledge of actual life in Farbakishan.
HIT-GIRL #8 (Image, 2018) – “Canada, Part 4,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Eduardo Risso. I bought this comic because of the creative team. In this story Hit-Girl visits northern Ontario and kills a bunch of people, I forget why. Risso’s art in this issue is pretty good, though also a bit lazy, without the level of detail I expect from him. The highlight of this issue is the ending, where Hit-Girl lies down in the snow and makes a snow angel, reminding the reader that she’s still a little girl. And then the last page shows the corpse of a man who Hit-Girl hit in the head with an axe.
THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #64 (DC, 1966) – “Batman Versus Eclipso,” [W] Bob Haney, [A] Win Mortimer. Bruce Wayne falls in love with Marcia Monroe, actually the Queen Bee, who tricks him into helping her steal a diamond. Bruce has to team up with Bruce Gordon to defeat Marcia and her mob. Inconveniently, Bruce Gordon is also Eclipso. This was a reasonably fun issue. On page four there’s a very disturbing panel where Bruce spanks Marcia. It’s hard to imagine why anyone thought this panel was a good idea. There are a couple weird coincidences in this issue. First, a better-known villain also named the Queen Bee had already been introduced three years earlier. Perhaps this is why Marcia Monroe never appeared again. Second, the symbol of Marcia’s gang is a giant green eyeball that looks exactly like the Emerald Eye, which made its first appearance in 1967.
INVINCIBLE #115 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Ryan Ottley. Thragg and Battle Beast beat the crap out of each other, but we don’t see who wins. Also, we learn that Thragg has been fathering an army of children with the insect people. Like most late issues of Invincible, this issue was disgusting and excessively violent.
HEART THROB SEASON TWO #3 (Oni, 2017) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Robert Wilson IV. The main focus of this issue is Callie’s psychology. She’s increasingly depressed over her terminal illness, and it’s making her do weird things, like steal a safe from a bank and then drop it off a pier without looking at it. This was a well-written issue, but I couldn’t remember anything about it until I looked through it just now.
SOUTHERN KNIGHTS #3 (The Guild, 1983) “Paradise: Lost!”, [W] Henry Vogel, Audrey Vogel & David Willis, [A] Michael Morrison. My colleague Brannon Costello is writing a book chapter about this series, but I found very little of any interest in this issue. It feels like just a ripoff of John Byrne’s X-Men. Also, this comic takes place in the South but doesn’t depict any black people. I think I recall Brandon mentioning this point on social media. Perhaps the most notable thing about this comic is that it includes ads for Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find and for the 1984 Heroes Con.
GRAYSON #11 (DC, 2015) – “Nemesis, Part 3,” [W] Tom King & Tim Seeley, [A] Mikel Janin. Dick fights some villain who looks just like him. At its best, this series is a fun, sexy romp with excellent artwork, but this issue was a bit too serious, and I didn’t understand the plot.
INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #26 (Marvel, 2010) – “Stark Resilient Part 2: Visionary Men,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Salvador Larroca. A typical issue of Matt Fraction’s Iron Man, in which lots of corporate intrigue happens, and Tony acts weird. I can’t remember much about this issue specifically. Salvador Larroca is a very underrated artist, one of a number of Spanish artists who have had successful but obscure careers in American comics – Mikel Janin is another such artist.
CODA #5 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. The protagonist engages in more low-down dirty tricks to get the potion to cure Serka, but he only succeeds in getting the recipe for the potion. At the end of the issue, a creepy-looking drooling dude with a sword shows up instead when he expects Serka. This series is getting a little tiresome and confusing, kind of like Godshaper did. Maybe Simon Spurrier’s problem is that his characters are hard to sympathize with, and maybe that’s why Angelic was his best work so far. But Coda is still very well-executed, especially the art. Matías Bergara is the only Uruguayan cartoonist I know of, unless Alberto Breccia counts.
INCOGNITO #5 (Icon, 2011) – “Bad Influences,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. This comic is much better drawn than Sleeper, but like that series, it’s a grim film-noir-influenced superhero deconstruction, and I think this genre is a bit overdone. Also, this issue is hard to understand because it’s the conclusion to a storyline. Brubaker redeems this series somewhat in the author’s note, which explains that his intent was to mash up the superhero and crime comic genres, since they both evolved from pulp fiction.
ALL-NEW HAWKEYE #1 (Marvel, 2015) – “The Bishop’s Man Part One,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Ramón Pérez. Jeff Lemire’s Hawkeye was one of his few unsuccessful series. This comic is essentially an imitation of Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye, without the originality or the heart. It feels like just an attempt to cash in. Ramón Pérez does his best to imitate David Aja’s style of storytelling, but he draws faces very differently from Aja, so his art has an uncanny, incongruous feel.
New comics received on September 29:
FENCE #10 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] C.S. Pacat, [A] Johanna the Mad. We meet some of the boys’ relatives, and then Seiji and Nicholas finally fight. Seiji wins easily, but Nicholas scores one touch, which feels like just as much of a victory as if he had won the match. Just a couple issues left.
THE WICKED + THE DIVINE 1373 AD (Image, 2018) – “We All Fall Down,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Ryan Kelly. At the height of the Black Plague, the only surviving god is Lucifer. This issue demonstrates the cognitive dissonance caused when a faith-based society is ravaged by a horrible catastrophe. Other than that, it seems mostly intended to offer further hints about Ananke and Minerva’s relationship.
MAN-EATERS #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Chelsea Cain, [A] Kate Niemczyk. I was looking forward to this series, and this is a fun issue, with lots of excellent gags. Also this series is about cats, which is a further plus. However, this comic has several fundamental problems. First, the premise is that women turn into man-eating cats when they menstruate. The trouble, as many people have pointed out, is that this premise implicitly defines women as people who menstruate, and that’s transphobic. As far as I know, Chelsea Cain has not publicly responded to this critique, though I haven’t been on Twitter much lately. Second, this comic is vulnerable to accusations of “white feminism” in the pejorative sense, in that it depicts women as a single, homogeneous group, ignoring differences between them. If the premise of this comic actually came true, black and Latina women would probably be oppressed much worse than white women. Overall, while I still plan to continue reading this comic, I’m a lot less excited by it than I was at first.
HEROES IN CRISIS #1 (DC, 2018) – “I’m Just Warming Up,” [W] Tom King, [A] Clay Mann. The worst comic of 2018. This issue is just a litany of bloody scenes of violence between superheroes and villains, together with monologues where the characters talk about their mental problems. Tom King writes this comic in the same style of dialogue as The Vision or Mister Miracle, but unlike in those series, he shows no affection for his characters. The Vision and Mister Miracle had some very grim content, but the darkness never became dominant or oppressive, the way it does in this issue. The dark moments were always relieved by cuter, happier moments. This comic just feels grim for grimness’s sake. Also, while I obviously think mental illness is an important issue, Tom King’s treatment of this issue feels trivializing. It’s not appropriate to tackle the topics of trauma and PTSD in a comic that‘s primarily about costumed people beating each other up. Just like Alpha Flight #106, Heroes in Crisis addresses a very serious real-world topic while staying within the conventions of the superhero genre, and that proves to be impossible, because that topic is incompatible with those generic conventions. It is possible to write superhero comics about mental illness, but only if they’re quite different from standard Marvel and DC comics. Finally, in this issue Tom King kills off a lot of beloved characters, including Wally West, for no good reason. I don’t care that much, because the New 52 version of Wally West is not the character I grew up with, but still, it feels wrong to kill him off in such a casual way. Anyway, I certainly won’t be ordering any further issues of Heroes in Crisis.
MODERN FANTASY #4 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Kristen Gudsnuk. A satisfying conclusion to the series. The heroes defeat the demon, obviously, and Sage gets a new job, only to discover that it pays less. I wish this series had been longer than four issues.
MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #35 (Marvel, 2018) – “Save Our School Part 5: What’s the Big Idea?”, [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Lunella and Devil fight the Wrecking Crew, and Devil turns back into a dinosaur, but Lunella can’t figure out how to stop them from switching bodies. This was an okay issue.
LONG CON #3 (Oni, 2018) – untitled, [W] Dylan Meconis & Ben Coleman, [A] E.A. Denich. I don’t know if this series has lived up to its initial promise, but this issue isn’t bad. It turns out that since the apocalypse, Skylarks fans have turned into an oppressive gatekeeping army. This plot development has some parallels to stuff that’s happening in contemporary fandom. There’s a page in this issue that’s narrated with emojis, and later there’s a “WILHELM SCREAM” sound effect.
MY LITTLE PONY: PONYVILLE MYSTERIES #5 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Christina Rice, [A] Agnes Garbowska. Songbird Serenade’s prized statue, the Abyssinia Albatross, is stolen. The statue’s name is an obvious reference of the Maltese Falcon, but the comic only has casual similarities to that movie. This was a pretty good issue, but I’m glad that this series is ending, because I expect Nightmare Knights will be better.
THE TERRIFICS #8 (DC, 2018) – “Tom Strong and the Terrifics, Part Two,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dale Eaglesham. In a classic Justice League plot twist, the Terrifics get separated and thrust into different alternative realities. These include Warren Strong’s world, as well as the Aztech empire from an early issue of Tom Strong. This issue is a nice throwback to the original Tom Strong series, although I don’t remember the Aztechs being as evil as they’re depicted here.
FAITH DREAMSIDE #1 (Valiant, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] M.J. Kim. After the events of the previous Faith series, Faith is considered a public enemy. This issue, she has to fight a villain without getting arrested herself. This is a pretty good issue, and it’s nice to see Faith again.
HIGH HEAVEN #1 (Ahoy, 2018) – “High Heaven Chapter One,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Greg Scott. There are all kinds of fictional stories about hell, but very few about heaven – perhaps because it’s hard to write stories about a realm of eternal bliss where nothing bad ever happens. High Heaven addresses this general neglect of heaven, by telling a story in which a newly dead person discovers that heaven is boring and sterile (literally so; he has nothing between his legs). So the story is about how he escapes heaven. High Heaven #1 may be the best comic of the week. I had modest expectations for Ahoy Comics, but both their debut issues so far have been very good. However, the Grant Morrison text story at the end of this issue is a waste of space.
BEASTS OF BURDEN: WISE DOGS AND ELDRITCH MEN #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Benjamin Dewey. The dogs meet an old dude who can talk to them, and who has a diploma from Blackwood College. That’s a nice piece of cross-title continuity. Then the dogs fight some horrifying raccoons with human faces. This is a pretty good series, but I like Jill Thompson’s art better than Benjamin Dewey’s, and I wish this series had more cats.
WONDER WOMAN #55 (DC, 2018) – “The Enemy of Both Sides, Finale,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Raúl Allen. This issue has a strong story and excellent artwork. Raúl Allen is yet another in a long line of underrated but talented Spanish artists. Steve Orlando’s version of Wonder Woman is clearly based on Marston’s original version. At one point Orlando has Diana say “Loving submission can be intimidating… so can the truth. They both make us stronger.”
PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #308 (Marvel, 2018) – “Cracked Hourglass – Part One,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Chris Bachalo. The Sandman is dying of an inability to maintain his cohesion. Peter escorts him to the beach where his origin happened, so he can die in peace. But the Sandman is also being pursued by his future self. This was a pretty sad issue.
PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #309 (Marvel, 2018) – “Cracked Hourglass, Part Two,” as above. Sandman’s future self takes over his body. Peter and Johnny Storm team up to defeat him. I believe that’s the end of Chip Zdarsky’s PPSSM run. It was generally a pretty good run, though sometimes a bit underwhelming.
DOOM PATROL #23 (DC, 1989) – “The Butterfly Collector,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Richard Case. This issue is mostly setup for future storylines. Joshua Clay meets Dorothy Spinner. Rebis comforts Eleanor Poole’s fiancé Dan (Eleanor Poole is Rebis’s female component). And Cliff and Jane discover that the new villain, Red Jack, is Jack the Ripper. Doom Patrol was Grant Morrison’s greatest work, besides Animal Man, because it combined bizarre high-concept ideas with the type of deep characterization that this issue demonstrates.
TRILLIUM #6 (Vertigo, 2014) – “Escape Velocity,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Another issue that has both right-side-up and upside-down sections. It ends with some pages in which right-side-up and upside-down panels alternate. At this point I think I’ve read all but one issue of Trillium, but although I love its artwork and its bizarre formalist gimmicks, I can’t make head or tail of its plot. I need to read the entire series at one sitting.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #10 (Marvel, 2016) – “Scorpio Rising, Part 2: Power Play,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. Giuseppe Camuncoli is from Italy, a country which has produced fewer Marvel and DC artists than Spain, perhaps because Italy’s domestic comics industry is more vibrant than Spain’s. This issue, Spidey battles a member of Zodiac on top of a train. He’s assisted by Anna Maria and the Living Brain, which is a pretty funny character.
THE UNWRITTEN #5 (DC, 2009) – “How the Whale Became,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. This is probably the best Unwritten comic I’ve read, and it was deservedly nominated for an Eisner. This issue tells the life story of Rudyard Kipling, with the added twist that his rise to fame was engineered by a cabal of shadowy figures who control the world through stories. Kipling willingly works for them – unlike Mark Twain, who turns them down – and watches as they ruin Oscar Wilde’s life. When Kipling tries to defy his masters, they murder his child, and when he asks them to save his son from being killed in World War I, they refuse to help. Mike Carey must have done a lot of research on Kipling’s life and work, and his story ties together Kipling’s biography, his influence on the British empire, and the fictional conceits of The Unwritten. This issue is a rare moment where The Unwritten approaches the same level of quality as The Sandman.
ARCHIE MEETS BATMAN ’66 #3 (Archie, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker & Michael Moreci, [A] Dan Parent. The villains succeed in mind-controlling all the adults in town, but have no success with the kids, until the Joker tempts Jughead with burgers in exchange for telling him how to control the kids too. This issue was fun, but no different from the previous two.
SUPERB #13 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “No Time for Tears,” [W] David F. Walker, [A] Alitha Martinez. This issue begins with a public service ad showing how dangerous enhanced people are. Then the researchers force the kids to beat each other up for no reason. Meanwhile, the rescue effort continues. This series is becoming very reminiscent of X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills. I almost wish it was an actual X-Men comic, because it depicts the psychological toll of anti-mutant (or anti-enhanced) prejudice better than most X-Men comics do.
THE UNEXPECTED #4 (DC, 2018) – “Call of the Unknown, Part 4: Answers in the Sky,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Yvel Guichet & Cary Nord. I didn’t understand a single panel of this comic. It consists of a bunch of fight scenes between characters whose names I can’t remember, for reasons I don’t understand. I ordered this comic because it was written by Steve Orlando, but I should have saved my money.
OWLY AND FRIENDS FCBD 2008 (Top Shelf, 2008) – Owly “Picnic Today,” [W/A] Andy Runton, plus other stories. Four stories aimed at little kids. The other three are by Christian Slade, James Kochalka, and Corey Barba. The Owly story is by far the best; it reveals Andy’s mastery of wordless storytelling. Corey Barba’s “Yam” is a pleasant surprise. It’s drawn in a cartoony yet detailed style that’s hard to compare to anything, and it’s very cute. Barba published one graphic novel, which this story is a preview of, but he unfortunately seems to have abandoned comics after that.
THRILLING ADVENTURE HOUR #3 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ben Acker & Ben Blacker, [A] M.J. Erickson. This issue, the vampire paralyzes the Doyles and their clients, but they succeed in defeating him. Also, it turns out the reporter who was following the Doyles is a ghost. This series is funny, but I have trouble remembering its plot.
WORLD WITHOUT END #2 (DC, 1990) – untitled, [W] Jamie Delano, [A] John Higgins. I bought this comic because I saw it advertised in Sandman #21, as noted in my review of that comic. World Without End was created by two former 2000 AD creators, and is very stylistically similar to a 2000 AD series. It takes place in a bizarre alien world with multiple races, and focuses on a character called Brother Bones who preaches masculiniy and seeks to destroy women. The challenge of reading this comic is that Brother Bones’s dialogue is full of weird typographical symbols, so you have to pronounce his word balloons in order to understand what he’s saying. (See http://sequart.org/magazine/66424/on-the-origin-of-the-sexes-war-jamie-delano-and-john-higgins’-world-without-end/world-without-end-brother-bones/ for an example.) Although this comic is somewhat difficult to read, it’s fascinating, and I want to read the other five issues.
TALES OF EVIL #3 (Atlas/Seaboard, 1975) – “Man-Monster!”, [W] Gary Friedrich & Tony Isabella, [W/A] Rich Buckler. This issue’s first story introduces a new character who’s a second-rate Hulk ripoff. It ends with the words “To be continued in the first exciting issue of Man-Monster,” but that issue was never published. The second story stars the Bog Beast, who was introduced last issue, and is much more interesting. The artist is only credited as “Romero” but is presumably Enrique Badía Romero, best known for Modesty Blaise. On this story he uses the scratchboard style that was common among Spanish artists at the time. His art is visually fascinating, although the story, by Gabriel Levy, is pointless.
I read the next ten comics on the night of October 4, when I had to get up in the morning to fly to Detroit for a funeral. I was too exhausted, saddened and worried to do anything serious, so I thought I might as well read some comics.
POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #70 (Marvel, 1981) – “Coconut Snow,” [W] Mary Jo Duffy, [A] Kerry Gammill. Danny and Luke team up with El Supremo, a Latin American strongman, to investigate illegal drug smuggling. In a development that comes as no surprise to the reader, it turns out El Supremo wants to take over the drug trade himself. Meanwhile, Colleen Wing has to take care of her father, who’s lost his memory of her. The issue ends with a touching moment when Colleen’s dad finally remembers who his daughter is.
STARSLAYER #6 (First, 1983) – “The Log of the Jolly Roger” part six, [W/A] Mike Grell. Mike’s last issue of Starslayer includes some good action sequences, but some very sloppily drawn spaceships and alien cities, and the plot is kind of trite. After this issue, Mike left Starslayer and moved on to Jon Sable, which was much better suited to his talents. Starslayer was much less important for the actual Starslayer stories than for its backup stories, which introduced Rocketeer, Groo and Grimjack. However, the backup story in this issue, about a cannibalistic butcher, is terrible.
CHEYENNE KID #97 (Charlton, 1973) – “The Killer’s Lair,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Sanho Kim. The stories in this issue are all awful, and they feature multiple different Indian tribes that all somehow look exactly alike. At least this issue includes two stories drawn by Sanho Kim, the first East Asian cartoonist to make an impact on American comics. His art in this issue is rather crude, but very different from anything else in American comics at the time.
TOM STRONG AND THE PLANET OF PERIL #1 (DC, 2013) – “The Girl in the Bubble,” [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Chris Sprouse. In an echo of Fantastic Four Annual #1, Tesla is in danger of dying from her pregnancy by Val Var Garm. To save Tesla and the baby, Tom and Val have to return to Terra Obscura. There’s a metatextual joke about how Tom was able to read about Terra Obscura in comic books, but those comics aren’t being published anymore. I bought this comic back in 2013 even though I was boycotting DC at the time, but I never got around to reading it. It’s a competent Tom Strong story, but it lacks the creativity and cleverness of the Alan Moore issues.
AVENGERS #6 (Marvel, 2018) – “Planet of Pathogens,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Ed McGuinness. Another issue that’s all flash and no substance. It’s full of epic cosmic drama, but lacks any characterization, which is the heart of every good Avengers comic. Also, while the events in this comic are supposed to be epic and earth-shattering, Jason fails to create the sense that they actually matter. The reader knows the Celestials aren’t really going to destroy the world. This is the last issue of this series that I’ll be getting.
THE SENTRY #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Sentry World Part 4,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Kim Jacinto. This is probably Jeff Lemire’s worst current comic, but it’s still good. Most of this issue is a fight scene involving Bob, Billy, and Iron Man. Billy is quite similar to Kid Miracleman in that he’s a former kid sidekick who’s grown more powerful than his old boss. At the end of the issue, Bob finally accepts his evil side and turns into a new character who’s both the Sentry and the Void.
WORLDS’ FINEST #4 (DC, 2012) – “Rebirth Conclusion,” [W] Paul Levitz, [A] George Pérez & Kevin Maguire. When Paul Levitz returned to writing comics, I was excited at first, but it soon became clear that his writing style had been stagnant since the ‘80s. Paul’s Huntress and Power Girl stories were groundbreaking in the ‘70s, but back then, the standards for female representation in superhero comics were very low. When Paul wrote superhero comics with capable, confident female protagonists, that in itself was groundbreaking. But the aforementioned standards have evolved since then, while Paul’s writing has not. As a result, Worlds’ Finest #4 is a boring comic. Its redeeming quality is George Pérez’s artwork, but George only drew half the issue.
TOM STRONG AND THE ROBOTS OF DOOM #1 (America’s Best Comics, 2010) – “Black Sun Rising,” [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Chris Sprouse. Just before Tesla’s wedding to Val Var Garm, Ingrid Weiss changes the past so that the world is ruled by Nazis. Like Planet of Peril #1, this comic is competent but unexciting.
R.E.B.E.L.S. #5 (DC, 2009) – “The Stars We Are,” [W] Tony Bedard, [A] Claude St. Aubin. This was the only Tony Bedard comic I liked. It was a successful sequel to the old L.E.G.I.O.N. title. This issue, Vril Dox fights a bunch of enemies at once, including a warrior woman possessed by Starro, a Durlan disguised as a little girl, and the Dominators.
MARVELS: EYE OF THE CAMERA #6 (Marvel, 2010) – “Closing the Book,” [W] Kurt Busiek & Roger Stern, [A] Jay Anacleto. Maggie explains what happened to her after Marvels #2: she went to live with uncontacted people in Papua New Guinea, who thought that all Americans looked like her. That’s kind of clever. We also learn that Maggie is grateful for Phil’s influence and sees him as a role model. Just as Phil’s wife and daughters are celebrating their reunion with Maggie, Phil passes away, and the series ends with his funeral. This issue is a powerful conclusion to the Marvels series. It gives the reader the sense that though Phil is gone, his legacy outlives him. It was a good comic to read when I was about to attend a funeral myself.
JOURNEY #3 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “Woodschildren,” [W/A] William Messner-Loebs. Wolverine MacAlistaire is trapped in a storm with some other travelers. To pass the time, he tells a story about when some Huron people hired him to rescue a girl from some sasquatches. The story ends as MacAlistaire and a Huron warrior are out of bullets and surrounded by sasquatches. When MacAlistaire’s listeners ask him what happened next, he says “They kilt us,” and we realize the whole issue is a tall tale. Jim Bridger, the real-life mountain man, supposedly told a similar story with the same punchline. An unexpected moment in this issue is when one of the listeners asks MacAlistaire why the Huron hired him to find the girl, rather than doing it themselves. MacAlistaire replies that “the Huron are farmers and fishers mostly. They’re civilized… I ain’t.” This reverses the usual presumption that white people are civilized and natives are savages.
BATGIRL #27 (DC, 2018) – “Art of the Crime, Part Two: Found Objects,” [W] Maighread Scott, [A] Paul Pelletier. This is better than issue 26, because it shows some interesting insights into Batgirl’s disability. But it’s not good enough to make me change my mind about dropping this series.
VAMPIRELLA #9 (Dynamite, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Creees Lee, Paulo Barrios & Andy Belanger. (Not sure which of these were pencilers and which were inkers.) This issue takes place in a postapocalyptic world where no one can die. Vampi fights some punks, sleeps with a woman named Vicki, and then encounters her old acquaintance Pantha. Jeremy is mostly associated with kids’ comics, but he also turns out to be quite good at writing a sexy, violent vampire comic.
My next comics shipment was significantly delayed because DCBS was moving their warehouse. It finally arrived on October 10:
PAPER GIRLS #25 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. Tiffany and Mac kiss. The older Tiffany blows herself up to save the girls. Then Erin’s evil clone shows up and activates a device that sends all the girls to different timelines. This was my favorite Paper Girls in months. I finally feel like I get what’s going on in this series, and this issue engages with a difficult question: does the existence of time travel mean that fate is predetermined?
RAINBOW BRITE #1 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Brittney Williams. This issue stars two little girls, Wisp and Willow. Wisp is chased by some monsters that are stealing the color blue. A creature called Twinkle saves Wisp by teleporting her into Rainbow Land, which has been drained of all its color. I’m guessing that Willow will follow Wisp there, and that they’ll somehow combine to become Rainbow Brite. Having two little sisters, I watched Rainbow Brite a lot as a kid. So I was excited about this revival, and it lived up to my expectations. This issue is cute but also entertaining. Brittney’s art is, if anything, even better than in Goldie Vance and Hellcat. And Willow is a good example of a black kid protagonist.
BLACKBIRD #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Jen Bartel. At age thirteen, this series’ protagonist, Nina, had a vision where she learned that magic is real. Now, as a nominal adult, Nina is an underemployed drug addict who sponges off her sister Marisa. But it turns out that magic still is real, because a magical chimera shows up and abducts Nina’s sister. I had no idea what to expect from this series, but I like it. Nina is a fascinating protagonist because she’s totally unsympathetic. Thanks to r/relationships I’ve read about lots of people like her: people who have no plans in life, and who expect their siblings or parents or significant others to support them forever. Besides Jen Bartel’s creative depictions of magic, the highlight of this issue is the scene where Marisa fills out a college application for Nina, and all Nina has to do is go buy a stamp, and she can’t even do that. I’m curious to see what happens to this character next.
SPARROWHAWK #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Delilah S. Dawson, [A] Matias Basla. I loved Ladycastle, which sadly ended after four issues, so I’m glad to see another comic by Delilah Dawson. Sparrowhawk starts out as a Cinderella story, with the added twist that the Cinderella character is a multiracial love child, so her stepmother’s hatred of her has racist implications. The comic takes an even grimmer turn when the protagonist is sucked into the faerie world, and learns that she has to kill other creatures to gain enough power to escape. This is clearly going to be a much darker series than Ladycastle, aimed at an older audience. Matias Basla is very good at drawing faeries and bizarre otherworldly landscapes. I think he’s from Argentina, but I can’t find much information about him. Sparrowhawk seems to be his first major work.
GIANT DAYS #43 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Daisy gets a job at a Christmas-themed amusement park, and recruits other people to work there too. But it turns out the park is a cult, and none of the workers are getting paid. Also, one of the people Daisy recruited is an undercover journalist. This issue is funny, but also disturbingly plausible, especially the scene where Ed earns negative wages because he has to pay for “costume hire, outsourced training and payment in arrears.” This is an example of debt peonage, which is a real and very bad thing.
ADVENTURES OF THE SUPER SONS #3 (DC, 2018) – “Action Detectives, Part Three,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Carlo Barberi. This artist is from Mexico, like Humberto Ramos and Bachan This issue, Superboy-Red and Superboy-Blue manage to overcome their mutual hatred long enough to stop the villains’ spaceship from crashing. Meanwhile, Kid Joker is lost in space but is rescued by Space Cabbie, a character I definitely did not expect to ever see again. This was a really fun comic. The two Superboys’ bickering is hilarious.
BORDER TOWN #2 (DC, 2018) – “Máscaras,” [W] Eric Esquivel, [A] Ramon Villalobos. I enjoyed issue 1 of this series, but I was concerned about the convoluted plot and the overwritten dialogue. This issue, the plot is maybe still too complicated, but the overwriting is less noticeable, though some word balloons still have at least a sentence too many. What makes this comic really valuable is the kid protagonists, who embody the class and racial divisions in American society. A nice moment is when Frank asks if people are going to care about Julietta’s immigration status when she says she’s contacted an alien species, and she replies “To them, we already are an alien species.”
MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #71 (IDW, 2018) – “Do You Believe in Magic,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Andy Price. On Nightmare Night, the Mane Six arrange a scary friendship exercise for the Young Six, but it goes badly wrong. The Young Six end up in a castle filled with fake traps and wild animals “as well as hundreds of lit candles and flammable silk draperies.” Besides having an exciting and hilarious plot, this issue is one of Andy Price’s best-drawn comics ever. In addition to the usual sight gags, it includes marginal gags that resemble Sergio Aragonés’s Mad Marginals. In reading this comic, I had the thought that Andy Price is to ponies as Don Rosa is to ducks, and I’m not sure that’s not an accurate comparison.
LONE RANGER #1 (Dynamite, 2018) – “The Devil’s Rope,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Bob Q. This starts out as a pretty standard Western story, but it soon turns out to have a political subtext, like all of Mark Russell’s work. Near the end of this issue, the villain outlines his plan for America. He wants to organize the country like a cotton plantation, where women stick to their housework, black and brown people do all the work, “poor whites have their guns, and a few old rich men rule it all from the porch.” This is a pretty accurate description of the Republican party’s vision for America.
KIM REAPER: VAMPIRE ISLAND #2 (Oni, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Sarah Graley. Another fun issue. Kim’s vampire friend Charlie defeats the other vampires by ordering a hundred garlic pizzas. But as a result, Charlie suffers garlic poisoning themself, and needs blood to survive. Also, we learn that Kim became a grim reaper at the same time Charlie became a vampire.
JOOK JOINT #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Tee Franklin, [A] Alitha Martinez. Jook Joint is the first comic I’ve read that starts with a trigger warning, and with good reason. It’s about a witch named Mahalia who runs a magic shop, but also has an underwater dungeon where she tortures abusive men. This comic is very grim and bloody, especially compared to Bingo Love. But it makes a powerful statement about domestic violence, and it shows that spousal abuse is a problem that cuts across racial lines. However, I felt kind of bad about reading this comic because in July, it became publicly known that Tee Franklin has a record of rude and unprofessional behavior toward her collaborators. I’m still willing to support her work, but I’m disappointed in her.
THESE SAVAGE SHORES #1 (Vault, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ram V, [A] Sumit Kumar. This comic’s premise is completely unique: it’s a sexy vampire story that takes place in eighteenth-century south India. The apparent protagonist is a French vampire who flees to India to escape vampire hunters in Europe. He gets involved in colonial intrigues between France and India, but at the end of the issue he gets killed, so I guess the real protagonists are the native temple dancer and her lover. This comic’s creators do a great job of evoking a place and a historical period that are unfamiliar to Western readers, and they also effectively juxtapose European and native perspectives on South India. This comic also appears to be historically accurate. The Zamorin of Calicut, who appears in the comic, was a real person, and his father really did kill himself to avoid surrendering to Haider Ali of Mysore. (N.B. Calicut, or Kozhikode, is a completely different city from Calcutta, or Kolkata.) Overall, this is a fascinating comic. I forgot to order issue 2, but I look forward to issues 3 and up.
HOUSE AMOK #2 (IDW, 2018) – “Dream of the Machines,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Shawn McManus. This issue is mostly a flashback, detailing how Dylan and Ollie’s parents gradually went nuts, and how their mother accidentally killed a man and covered it up. At the end of the issue, Dylan’s parents demand that she kill a man too. This comic is getting really disturbing and fascinating. It’s an effective depiction of parents who are paranoid conspiracy theorists, and children who grow up not realizing their parents aren’t normal.
EUTHANAUTS #3 (IDW, 2018) – “Liftoff,” [W] Tini Howard, [A] Nick Robles. As previously noted, this comic is confusing and difficult. It’s hard to keep track of who the characters even are. But I really like the artwork and dialogue. This issue, we learn that the old dying lady from #1 had a husband who killed himself for purposes of researching the afterlife. Then the issue ends with the protagonist about to die.
TRUE BELIEVERS: MARVEL KNIGHTS 20TH ANNIVERSARY – DAREDEVIL BY LEE & EVERETT #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Origin of Daredevil,” [W] Stan Lee, [A] Bill Everett. A reprint of Daredevil #1, which I had not read before. Most of the details of Daredevil’s origin are familiar from many later retellings, but Matt Murdock’s first appearance is still a powerful story, allowing for its outdated nature. It reminds me of Kirby’s “Street Code” in its emphasis on the brutality of Matt’s Manhattan childhood. Bill Everett’s artwork is only average, not nearly at the level of his ‘70s Sub-Mariner comics.
ARCHIE #699 (Archie, 2018) – “So It’s Come to This: An Archie Clip Show,” [W] Ian Flynn, [A] various. That’s not the actual title, but it should have been. This issue is a comics equivalent of a clip show: it consists entirely of reused art from earlier Archie comics, and the story is just a recap of all the events of the current Archie series. There’s also a three-page preview of Nick Spencer’s Archie #700, which I don’t intend to read. Archie #699 only costs a dollar, but even then it’s overpriced, since it has no value for people who have already read the comics it summarizes. It should have been given away for free.
MORNING GLORIES #25 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Nick Spencer, [A] Joe Eisma. I was motivated to read this after reading the Nick Spencer backup story in Archie #699. I quit reading Morning Glories because the story was confusing and never went anywhere. It turns out I was right to give up on Morning Glories, because its story never did get finished; the series went on hiatus after isue 50, and Spencer is so busy he’ll probably never have time for it again. Issue 25 is an example of the problems that led me to give up on the series. Without having read the immediately preceding issues, I was unable to understand this issue, and it felt totally incoherent at times. The narrative would shift between characters or even between time periods with no warning.
MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #75 (Marvel, 1991) – “Weapon X, Chapter 3,” [W/A] Barry Windsor-Smith, plus three other stories. I probably read this comic as a little kid, because a lot of it was vaguely familiar to me. Obviously the reason this comic is worth owning is because of the Weapon X chapter. BWS’s draftsmanship on Weapon X is spectacular, and his visual storytelling is almost equually good. However, BWS’s story is kind of flimsy and not as good as his art. This issue also includes a Shanna story by Gerard Jones (whose work I will never be able to read again without shuddering) and Paul Gulacy, a Dr. Doom story by Dave Cockrum, and a Meggan/Shadowcat teamup by two people I’ve never heard of. The Meggan/Shadowcat story is notable for its sheer awfulness. Kitty meets a new character, a Russian spy, and instantly falls in love with him, but he gets killed. All this happens in eight pages, and Kitty’s dead love is never mentioned again.
THE NAZZ #1 (DC, 1990) – “Michael’s Book,” [W] Tom Veitch, [A] Bryan Talbot. The protagonist of this comic is a very familiar character type: a privileged young man who’s absolutely convinced he’s the smartest person ever. There is a Twitter thread (https://twitter.com/mc_heckin_duff/status/894810972019359744?lang=en) about how men like this are a dime a dozen, even though they all think they’re special and unique. However, the man in this series actually is sort of unique, because he goes to India, acquires superhuman powers, and comes back to New York, where he becomes a brutal vigilante. (Also his name is Michael Nazareth, which may be a reference to Mike Nasser/Netzer.) Despite The Nazz’s boring personality, what makes this comic exciting is the synergy between the writing and the art. I haven’t read any of Tom Veitch’s major work, but I’ve heard that his underground comics are notable for their brutal violence. The Nazz is an extremely violent story, and Bryan Talbot powerfully depicts the brutality of Tom Veitch’s script.
SUPERBOY #167 (DC, 1970) – “The Day Superbaby Blew Up the World!”, [W] Frank Robbins, [A] Bob Brown. Superbaby stories tend to be awful, and this one is not really an exception to that. Frank Robbins makes Superbaby act somewhat more realistically than he usually does, but his plot is ridiculous. This issue also includes a backup story by the same creators, about circus workers who commit crimes using a robot elephant.
MORNING GLORIES #18 (Image, 2012) – as above. This issue is notable for a scene in which Guillaume and Hisao/Jun have sex. I say Hisao/Jun because I can never keep track of which of these characters is which. Otherwise, this comic’s plot is impossible to follow. What did surprise me is that as I read this issue, I felt nostalgic for the characters in this series. Nick Spencer has crippling flaws as a writer (e.g. confusing plotting and hostility towards fans), but he did create some interesting characters.
MORNING GLORIES #24 (Image, 2013) – as above. Perhaps Spencer’s most fascinating character is Hunter, the most loathsome, sociopathic teenage boy ever. This issue mostly focuses on Hunter’s toxic relationship with his father, Abraham. Some other dude tries to force Hunter to kill Abraham, but instead Hunter threatens to kill Jade unless Abraham reveals some kind of secret, I’m not sure what. This issue is still confusing, but at least it helps me understand issue 25.
THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY: HOTEL OBLIVION #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Evil,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Gabriel Bá. This comic is worth reading because of Gabriel Bá’s brilliant art, but its story makes no sense at all. The writer assumes the reader has read all the previous Umbrella Academy comics, and provides no explanations for new readers. Not only do I not understand the plot, I don’t even understand what this comic’s premise is.
SCARY GODMOTHER #4 (Sirius, 2001) – “Ghouls Out for Summer, Part 4,” [W] Jill Thompson. At summer camp, Orson kidnaps Hannah so a vampire lord can drink her blood. Meanwhile, the Scary Godmother has been replaced by a faerie impostor. Scary Godmother’s hyperdetailed art makes it a very slow read, but it’s an amazing comic. It has just the right amount of creepiness to keep it from becoming annoyingly cute. (I wrote a paper once about this cute/scary affect, but it was never published.) Scary Godmother may have been the best all-ages comic of its time, and it should be more widely known.
THE WAKE #2 (Vertigo, 2013) – “The Descent,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Sean Murphy. In this issue, as in #1, Sean Murphy’s depictions of monsters, technology and landscapes are amazing. His artwork would not be out of place in a European comic. The major weakness in his art is that his faces are generic-looking and inexpressive. The Wake’s plot is not nearly as interesting as its art; I feel like Scott Snyder’s writing lacks substance.
THE WALKING DEAD #181 (Image, 2018) – “Together Strong,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Charlie Adlard. This seems like a reasonably good comic book, but I’m so far behind on this series that I have absolutely no idea what’s going on in this issue. The cover is a close-up shot of Glenn, with no logo, but Glenn doesn’t appear in the issue.
GREEN ARROW #37 (DC, 1990) – “The Black Arrow Saga, Part 3: Quarry,” [W] Mike Grell, [A] Rick Hoberg. Dinah has a heart-to-heart talk with Shado, while Ollie looks for Eddie Fyers, who seems to have been visually based on Archie Goodwin. Dinah and Shado’s conversation reminds us that Shado literally raped Ollie, and got away with it. Shado is an example of the “Ursula X.X. Imada” trope, where a female villain rapes a male hero in order to impregnate herself with his baby. This comes up not only here and in Nexus, but also in Tom Strong, twice, and James Robinson’s Starman. It is a sexist trope on multiple levels. On one hand, it implies that the hero is so sexy that even his enemy wants to sleep with him and bear his children. On the other hand, writers who use this trope rarely pay any attention to the psychological damage it inflicts on the male hero. A footnote about this issue is that it depicts a newspaper with the headline PSYCHIC SAYS QUEEN SON OF TRUMP.
ACTION COMICS #651 (DC, 1990) – “Not of This Earth,” [W] Roger Stern, [A] George Pérez & Kerry Gammill. Coincidentally, this comic also has a female villain, Maxima, who wants to sleep with a male hero and bear his child. However, Superman realizes Maxima is a villain and wants nothing to do with her, and a fight ensues. This was a pretty fun issue. At first I was wondering why Superman was acting weird and speaking in a stilted style, without using contractions, but later in the issue we learn that he’s actually the Eradicator. As another footnote, Maxima comes from the planet Almerac. That name is an acronym for Carmela, the name of Roger Stern’s wife.
WORLD WAR HULK #1 (Marvel, 2007) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] John Romita Jr. The Hulk and his Warbound invade Earth. Iron Man kills the pregnant Caiera, who spends most of the issue off-panel. This is a pretty generic event comic; it’s just a lot of fight scenes without much actual substance. I am not a big fan of JR Jr’s art, because his comics tend to be full of epic action sequences and not much else.
DINOSAUR REX #1 (Fantagraphics, 1987) – “The Dragons of Summer,” [W] Jan Strnad, [A] Henry Mayo. This largely forgotten series is a mashup of PG Wodehouse and dinosaurs. The Bertie Wooster character, Hempstead, is summoned by his aunt Celia, who tells him that his uncle Grenville has vanished while hunting dinosaurs in Africa. This is relevant to Hempstead because it’s caused his allowance to be stopped. So Hempstead has to team up with his much more competent cousin, Flavia, and Grenville’s dinosaur butler (the Jeeves character) in order to find his uncle. SF and fantasy adaptations of Wodehouse are not that uncommon, but this one is funny and well-executed. There’s also a backup story by William Messner-Loebs and Dennis Fujitake.
CAPTAIN ACTION CAT: THE TIMESTREAM CATASTROPHE #1 (Dynamite, 2014) – “The Timestream Catastrophe!”, [W/A] Art Baltazar, [W] Franco & Chris Smits. This is a crossover between 1) the original Captain Action, who in this comic is a cat, and 2) Baltazar and Franco’s Action Cat and Adventure Bug. It’s a pretty typical Baltazar/Franco comic, but it may be confusing for younger readers because of its multiple realities and its references to the Golden and Silver Age.
WONDER WOMAN #51 (DC, 2018) – “The Fifty-Second Visit,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Laura Braga. This is one of the best single-issue Wonder Woman stories I’ve ever read. In issue 28, Diana battled a villain named Moon Robinson, a.k.a. Mayfly, and sent her to prison. This issue, Diana visits Moon in prison just to talk to her. Moon emphatically refuses Diana’s help, but Diana keeps coming back, over and over again, until she finally succeeds in rehabilitating Moon. It’s a pretty simple story, but a perfect introduction to who Wonder Woman is: it illustrates both her compassion and her iron will.
LETTER 44 #25 (Oni, 2016) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Alberto Jiménez Albuquerque. This issue advances a bunch of different plotlines at once, but it had little impact on me, because I’m not caught up on this series. The most memorable moment is when a villain murders an old woman in cold blood.
UNCLE SCROOGE #232 (Gladstone, 1988) – “The Tenderfoot Test,” [W/A] Carl Barks, plus other stories. This issue begins with a ten-pager in which Scrooge, Donald and Gladstone compete in a “desert rat” contest. This story includes some great slapstick comedy, but since Gladstone is involved, the ending is predictable. Although Barks does throw in a surprise: Gladstone loses the contest, but it doesn’t matter because the prize was a uranium mine, and during the contest Gladstone found ten other uranium mines. The other stories in the issue are just credited to Gutenberghus. In one of them, Scrooge thinks Magica de Spell has stolen his dime, but she turns out to be innocent. The other story consists mostly of flashbacks in which Scrooge is repeatedly fooled by the same crook. That seems inconsistent with his character.
The next shipment arrived on October 16. This was a Tuesday, so I had been teaching all day, and I was pretty tired when I read these comics.
UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #37 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Death of the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl?!”, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. This issue begins at Squirrel Girl’s funeral. We quickly learn that she’s not actually dead, and is attending the funeral disguised as Bass Lass (along with Nancy, disguised as Fish Miss). Watching the video of “her” final moments, Doreen realizes that the person who “died” was actually a Skrull disguised as her (Skrull Girl or Squirrel Skrull, I guess). This is a very funny premise, and this issue was quite good.
MS. MARVEL #35 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Ratio,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. Kamala beats the Shocker, and Bruno confesses that he loves her. Which makes me wonder what happened to Mike – did she break up with Bruno when he left for Wakanda? This was a reasonably fun issue, but “The Ratio” was the worst Ms. Marvel storyline in quite a while. It just seemed to lack inspiration, and the Shocker is a boring villain.
THE QUANTUM AGE #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Wilfredo Torres. This issue retells the origin of the Legion, focusing on the Brainiac 5 character, Archive, who replaces Lightning Lad as one of the three founders. Like Brainiac 5, Archive’s character arc is driven by the conflict between his computer brain and his human emotions. I squeed really hard at the origin retelling and the two-page splash depicting all the Leaguers. For an old Legion fan like me, this series is an extremely powerful piece of nostalgia, especially considering that there’s no regular Legion series anymore. Of course, that also means it’s especially painful that in this series’ present-day timeframe, most of the Leaguers are dead. I would love it if Kid Martian teamed up with the surviving adult Leaguers to create a new League that surpasses the old, but I fear that this series may end before it gets to that point. If only DC would hire Jeff Lemire, or anyone else for that matter, to write an actual Legion comic. In terms of the overall Black Hammer continuity, this issue is significant because it reveals that Archive was created by Talky Walky.
EXILES #9 (Marvel, 2018) – “One Thousand and One Marvel Nights!”, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Rodríguez. On Twitter, Saladin said that he’d wanted to do this story for years, and no wonder: it enables him to combine Marvel superheroes with his ancestral culture. In this story the Exiles are trapped in three stories from the Arabian Nights. Blink becomes Aladdin, Valkyrie becomes Ali Baba, and Sheriff T’Challa becomes Sindbad the Sailor. Saladin knows these stories very well, and Javier Rodriguez turns in an amazing artistic performance. The depiction of medieval Baghdad on the splash page is especially striking. The only problem with this issue is that it was too short! Only the three most popular Arabian Nights stories were included, and only small pieces of those. But that’s the trouble with having only 22 pages a month to work with. Luckily this story continues for one more issue. We discover at the end that Nocturne has become Shahrazad, with Dr. Doom as the murderous husband she has to pacify with stories.
SHE COULD FLY #4 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Martín Morazzo. One of the best miniseries of the year concludes in shocking fashion. The two opposing criminal factions both end up at Luna’s house, and a firefight ensues in which lots of people are killed. Afterward, Luna and her guidance counselor both end up in a mental hospital, which is honestly not that bad of an ending, since it means they’re getting the care they need. The violence in this issue is shocking and disturbing, especially considering that the last three issues weren’t violent at all. But unlike in most violent comics, the violence in She Could Fly #4 is depicted realistically and not sensationalistically; the reader experiences it as a horrific, traumatic event. In the author’s note, Chris Cantwell admits that the ending of this issue is kind of inconclusive, but he suggests that this is because real life doesn’t have neat ending. He also mentions that he himself is suffering the same struggles as Luna. I hope that he gets better, and that he continues to produce work of this level of quality. This was a hard comic to read, but an important one – perhaps the best portrayal of mental illness in comic books since I Kill Giants.
THE WRONG EARTH #2 (Ahoy, 2018) – “The Wrong Earth, Chapter 2,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Jamal Igle. After a scary comic, a funny one. Each version of Dragonflyman adjusts to his new Earth, and we learn that the Christian Bale Dragonflyman has hidden reserves of tenderness – that his soul has not been totally crushed by his harsh environment. Meanwhile, the Adam West Dragonflyman is not just a joke – he’s a man of great integrity, who simply cannot stand for bribery, corruption, or even foul language. But even if he’s not totally a joke, the Adam West Dragonfly is responsible for the funniest moment in any comic this week: when he realizes he’s in danger of being shot, he takes an “anti-bullet antidote capsule,” and it works. As indicated by the names I gave to the two Dragonflymen, the basic conceit of this series is that Christopher Nolan’s Batman changes places with the ‘60s TV Batman. This premise results in a story that’s hilarious, but also surprisingly poignant.
CATWOMAN #4 (DC, 2018) – “Copycats, Part 4,” [W/A] Joëlle Jones, [A] Fernando Blanco. This issue is mostly about Selina’s troubled history with her sister Maggie. It powerfully depicts Selina’s traumatic childhood, but I don’t quite get how Maggie fits into the overall scheme of this series. I also wish Joëlle Jones had drawn the entire issue, though I’m not surprised that she needed a guest artist. Only two panels in this issue include cats.
FARMHAND #4 (Image, 2018) – “Between Worlds,” [W/A] Rob Guillory. This issue includes some great jokes, like the “arm tree pruning accident.” But it only advances the story a little bit. We learn in this issue that the protagonist’s sister, Andrea, is a government agent, but besides that, I can’t remember much about this issue’s plot.
MOTH & WHISPER #2 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Going to the Ball,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Jen Hickman. Niki goes to a party where they successfully negotiate an alliance with the scion of a leading crime family. Niki’s non-binary nature turns out to be an asset, as they’re able to pose as both a man and a woman. I really like this series; it’s both an outstanding example of non-binary representation, and a critique of the surveillance society.
MY LITTLE PONY: NIGHTMARE KNIGHTS #1 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Tony Fleecs. When Celestia dreams about a Pony of Shadows from another dimension, Luna and Stygian use Starswirl’s mirror to visit that dimension. It turns out the other dimension is ruled by Eris, Discord’s sister, and she’s creating an army of villains. So Stygina and Luna return to their home dimension in order to recruit a team to defeat Eris. Nightmare Knights is perhaps the darkest pony comic yet, and seems to be intended for an older audience. Its major theme is Stygian and Luna’s struggle to overcome their evil pasts. There’s a poignant moment where they both have to prove they’re villains in order to enter Eris’s casino, and they both succeed in doing so.
PLASTIC MAN #5 (DC, 2018) – “The Wrong Man to Save Them,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Adriana Melo. Plas takes Pado to the boardwalk, where they share some touching moments – until some people from CPS come and take Pado away, and it turns out Plas called them himself. This was absolutely the right thing to do, and yet Plas justifiably feels like an asshole for doing it: “Doing the right thing? It damn well sucks.” Also, lots of other stuff happens. I don’t understand why this is just a six-issue miniseries, because it deserves to be an ongoing. As noted in my review of #1, Gail is the only good Plastic Man writer other than Kyle Baker and Jack Cole himself, and I hope she gets more opportunities to work on this character.
X-23 #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Two Birthdays and Three Funerals Part 5,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Juann Cabal. Laura and Gabby succeed in defeating the Stepford Cuckoos, then they complete their interrupted birthday party. This was better than the last two issues, but it still wasted too much space on action sequences. There’s one double-page splash near the end of the issue that looks nice enough, but is not worth two pages.
CROWDED #3 (Image, 2018) – “Kill v. Maim,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Ro Stein. This issue introduces two of the assassins who are trying to kill Charlotte: Trotter, a blond celebrity dudebro, and… I don’t know if the other one has a name, but she’s the complete opposite, an enigma who operates in the shadows. This issue is creepy because it shows us how determined the assassins are, and how much the American public has bought into the idea of crowdsourced murder. Sebela even gives a perfunctory explanation of why Reapr is legal. Part of Crowded #3 takes place in a library, which has become a free hotel for homeless people. This idea, just like the idea of Reapr itself, is disturbingly plausible.
HOUSE OF WHISPERS #2 (DC, 2018) – “The Power Divided,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson, [A] Domo Stanton. Erzulie and Uncle Monday try to escape the Dreaming, while their human worshippers try to contact them. This issue draws heavily upon what I assume is firsthand knowledge of voodoo culture. There’s one scene where Erzulie’s worshippers summon Agwe, Damballa and Ogun. This comic would actually be better if it wasn’t a Sandman spinoff. Cain and Abel add very little to the narrative, and they draw the reader’s attention away from the voodoo lwa and the human characters, all of whom are more interesting. Maybe after this series, Nalo Hopkinson will get the opportunity to do a creator-owned title that’s not tied to an existing universe. For a writer who hasn’t done comics before, Hopkinson shows almost no signs of inexperience, but she does include some unnecessary caption boxes.
IMPOSSIBLE, INC. #2 (IDW, 2018) – “Lost and Found,” [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Mike Cavallaro. At times this issue is too cosmic and Kirbyesque for its own good. It includes so much wild, bizarre nonsense that the reader’s credibility is strained. Also, the worldbuilding in this series is a distraction from the main interest of the series, which is Number/Goose’s relationship with her father and her adopted brother. But eventually we do get to the point. Number and Buddy find their father, but it turns out he’s only one of many clones of their father, and their mission is to find the real one from whom the clones were made.
HOT LUNCH SPECIAL #3 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Blood for Blood,” [W] Eliot Rahal, [A] Jorge Fornés. This felt too much like a generic crime comic, without enough emphasis on the two things that make this series unique: the Minnesota setting and the protagonists’ Lebanese ancestry. At least Hot Lunch Special is a well-executed crime comic. I like Jorge Fornés’s art.
RUINWORLD #4 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Derek Laufman. Lots of stuff happens in this issue, but I think that when I read it, I was too tired to pay much attention. Reading this comic sometimes feels like a chore because of its heavy dialogue and its convoluted plot. Derek Laufman has potential, but his jokes could be funnier, and his adventures could be more exciting.
BULLY WARS #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Aaron Conley. After initially being rejected, Rufus succeeds in getting invited to the Bully Wars competition. This series is potentially problematic because it glorifies bullying, which is a major social problem. But Bully Wars appears to be targeted toward an audience of young kids, and if there’s one thing kids love, it’s stories that glorify “bad” stuff – that’s why children’s literature is so full of gross-out humor. Seen in that light, Bully Wars is a pretty successful comic for kids.
TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED #6 (DC, 2007) – “Hear No Evil,” [W] David Lapham, [A] Tom Mandrake. The Spectre story in this series is one of DC’s worst comics in recent memory. Its artwork arouses memories of Ostrander and Mandrake’s classic Spectre series, but Lapham’s writing lacks any of the subtlety or humor of Ostrander’s writing. His story is a litany of horrific violence. In this issue, a serial killer murders a little girl, and the Spectre can’t do anything about it. The reason I even have this comic is because of the Dr. Thirteen backup series, which, besides the excellent Cliff Chiang art, is perhaps the best thing Brian Azzarello ever wrote. It’s funny, metatextual and weird, and it introduces Traci Thirteen, an excellent character who was too quickly forgotten.
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS #3 (IDW, 2013) – “The Judgment Tower, Part Three: Underground,” [W] Phil Hester, [A] Andrea Di Vito. There have been a couple good T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents revivals, but they were both published in the ‘80s, and subsequent attempts to resurrect these characters have all failed. Perhaps this is because the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents just aren’t that interesting except to readers of the original series. Hester and Di Vito’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents is just a generic superhero comic with no distinctive features.
WORLDS’ FINEST #5 (DC, 2012) – “Three Midnights, Far from Home,” [W] Paul Levitz, [A] George Pérez, Jerry Ordway & Wes Craig. This issue consists of what appear to be two inventory stories, linked by a new framing sequence. It has no redeeming qualities except for a few pages of Pérez artwork.
GORILLA-MAN #1 (Marvel, 2010) – “The Serpent and the Hawk,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Giancarlo Caracuzzo. I’ve had this comic longer than almost any unread comic in my collection. I think I may have bought it in Gainesville, at the now-closed Florida Bookstore vol. II. This comic stars Ken Hale, the gorilla agent of Atlas. It’s funny, but not as funny as you would expect from a comic with a gorilla protagonist. This issue ends with a reprint of Arthur Nagan’s origin story, from a pre-superhero Marvel mystery title.
New comics received on Friday, October 19. I got these in the evening after spending the morning and afternoon at a conference.
LUMBERJANES #55 (Boom!, 2018) – “Follow Your Art” part 3, [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Dozerdraws. This is a really fun storyline. The highlight, obviously, is all the scenes with Ripley playing with the superpowered cats. Well, no, maybe the real highlight is the scene where Marigold grows to giant size. I also like the idea that Ripley’s greatest fear is the monsters from the movies she wasn’t allowed to watch. I do wonder about the overall story arc of this series. Several storylines ago, Jo was trying to figure out why time moved so slowly in camp, but I don’t think she ever did find out. The characters seem to have accepted that the summer is never going to end. That’s fine with me, since I want this series to keep going on indefinitely. But it would also be fun if there was a spinoff series showing the Lumberjanes at home, or a series that took place in the future and showed them as adults.
RUNAWAYS #14 (Marvel, 2018) – “That Was Yesterday, Part II” and “Interlude with Dinosaur,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] David Lafuente & Takeshi Miyazawa. The main story in this issue is disappointingly short and doesn’t advance the plot much, except by introducing a new minor villain. This issue is redeemed by the backup story, which is told from Old Lace’s episode. This story is like Momo’s segment in the Avatar episode “Tales of Ba Sing Se”: the POV character is an animal who can’t understand human speech, so it’s a purely visual narrative. Rainbow Rowell executes this type of storytelling quite well, and her version of Old Lace is extremely cute.
FLAVOR #6 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Wook-Jin Clark. This issue begins with the unwelcome announcement that it’s the last issue of Flavor in comic book format. I understand why comics keep abandoning the single-issue format and going to trades-only. I realize that for a series like Flavor, which mostly caters to audiences that don’t visit comic book stores, such a decision is probably correct. But that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it. I like comic books better than trades, and I would collect everything in comic book form if I could. Oh well. The worse problem with Flavor #6 is that it ends on a cliffhanger, with no indication of when, or if, the cliffhanger will be resolved. Xoo starts the first stage of the contest, but we don’t find out if she wins or loses. I really like Flavor, but after reading this issue I feel cheated. If a series is going to end, it should at least wrap up its loose ends.
UNSTOPPABLE WASP #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Gurihiru. I’m thrilled that this series was revived after being cancelled, something that hardly ever happens. The original Unstoppable Wasp was one of Marvel’s best comics for girls, and this revival is equally impressive. This debut issue is a direct continuation of the previous series, with Nadia and her fellow G.I.R.L. agents battling AIM and preparing for a public expo. (I like the inside joke that the date they wanted for the expo was unavailable because of “some sort of comic convention.”) As usual, Jeremy’s female characters are amazing, and he does a great job of distinguishing them from each other.
CAPTAIN GINGER #1 (Ahoy, 2018) – “Captain Ginger, Chapter One,” [W] Stuart Moore, [A] June Brigman. This comic is tailor-made for me because it’s about a spaceship crewed by anthropomorphic talking cats. What distinguishes Captain Ginger from Hero Cats or Action Cat is that the characters act like real cats. They breed uncontrollably, they vomit on the floor, they chase the red dot, and they have tiny attention spans. Captain Ginger and his shipmates are fluffy and adorable, but also unpredictable and frustrating – again, just like real cats. So Captain Ginger captures the essential strangeness of cats, better than almost any other cat comic. I’m excited to read more of it.
WELCOME TO WANDERLAND #2 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jackie Ball, [A] Maddi Gonzalez. Lark and Bellamy explore each other’s worlds, and lots of weird stuff happens. This comic is as cute and entertaining as any Boom! Box comic, but its plot is kind of incoherent and aimless. But maybe that’s intentional: the theme of the comic is “If you can’t find your path… make your path.”
BLACK HAMMER: AGE OF DOOM #6 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Rich Tommaso. The heroes leave the Para-Zone for Earth. But Colonel Weird is separated from his teammates and sent to a limbo-planet, populated by forgotten superheroes like Inspector Insector (ha!) and Barbali-Bunny. This exact same thing happened to Buddy Baker in Animal Man #25, and that’s probably no accident, since everything in this series is borrowed from other comics. But Jeff must have some reason for reusing this plot. At the end of the issue, Anti-God shows up. Rich Tommaso’s artwork in this issue is a major departure from this series’ usual art style.
SHURI #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Gone,” [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Leonardo Romero. T’Challa fails to return from a space mission – I assume this is related to the current Black Panther series, which I’m behind on – and Shuri has to take up the mantle of the Black Panther again. Shuri #1 is probably Nnedi’s most accomplished work in comics. It’s full of humor and passion, and it shows few signs of inexperience. Also, Leonardo Romero’s art is excellent. His style resembles that of David Aja or Chris Samnee, and his flashback sequence in this issue is very striking; it uses no colors but white, yellow and red. Shuri #1 depicts a Shuri and a Wakanda that greatly resemble their counterparts from the movie, and it explores one of the most interesting aspects of the movie Wakanda: its matriarchal nature. In this issue Shuri revives an ancient tradition where women meet secretly to discuss the nation’s problems. A lot of Nnedi’s work seems intended to critique the sexist stereotypes associated with African culture, and this comic fits into that projec.
BLACK BADGE #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. The kids go to Peshawar, Pakistan to rescue a captured spy, and they run into a former teammate. This series is still pretty exciting, but by now I’ve gotten used to the idea of secret agents disguised as summer camp kids, and the novelty has worn off a bit.
EXORSISTERS #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ian Boothby, [A] Gisèle Lagacé. The two title characters, Cate and Kate, are occult investigators. This issue they’re hired by a bride whose bridegroom was kidnapped by a demon during their wedding. I had modest expectations for this comic after reading the preview, but I really liked it. It reminds me of Supernatural Law, with its casual, deadpan take on the supernatural, but its art and writing remind me more of an Archie comic. Ian Boothby is a very funny writer, possibly thanks to his experience as a Simpsons Comics writer (I had thought he was an Archie writer, but I was confusing him with Ian Flynn), and Gisèle Lagacé’s art is sexy but very tasteful.
MR. & MRS. X #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Love & Marriage, Part 4,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Oscar Bazaldua. I missed the last two issues of this series because I wasn’t willing to order a mystery X-Men title without knowing what it was or who its creators were. As of this issue, Rogue and Gambit are charged with the care of Xandra, Professor X and Lilandra’s daughter. Xandra is an utterly adorable character, and the interplay between Rogue and Gambit is really entertaining. I like Oscar Bazaldua’s art, but his Imperial Guard doesn’t look anything like the Legion of Super-Heroes.
THOR #6 (Marvel, 2018) – “Midgard’s Final Doom,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Christian Ward. This issue was better than last issue, and Christian Ward’s art is amazing, as usual. But the current Thor storyline has the same all-flash-no-substance problem as Jason Aaron’s Avengers. I wish we’d get back to the present-day Thor already.
LUCIFER #1 (DC, 2018) – “The Fall from Grace and Down the Stairs,” [W] Dan Watters, [A] Max Fiumara. There are interesting ideas in this comic – it begins with a discussion of Bach’s endlessly rising canon – but its story makes no sense at all. There are at least two different plotlines that have no apparent connection to each other. The only reason I’m not giving up on this comic immediately, is because DCBS gives you a discount if you order all the Vertigo titles.
REAL SCIENCE ADVENTURES: THE NICODEMUS JOB #4 (IDW, 2018) – “The Nicodemus Job Part 4,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Meredith McClaren. The thieves use some clever social engineering to get the Aryabhata map. I don’t know how historically accurate this comic is, but it feels like a very plausible recreation of medieval city life.
GIDEON FALLS #7 (Image, 2018) – “The Sum of Its Parts,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. Another good issue. Maybe the highlight of this issue is the flashback sequence to Daniel and Clara’s childhood, which is drawn in a different graphic style from the rest of the comic. At this point it’s pretty clear that Norton is Daniel, but we’re still waiting for an explanation of how the farm and city storylines are connected.
FLASH GORDON ANNUAL 2014 (Dynamite, 2014) – multiple stories, [E] Nate Cosby. I have no idea why this was solicited in DCBS as if it were a new comic. This issue includes five stories depicting the earlier years of various Flash Gordon characters. The best story in the issue is the one about the princess of Coralia, but none of them are all that great, and only the last one is written by Jeff Parker.
ENCOUNTER #7 (Lion Forge, 2018) – untitled, [W] Art Baltazar & Franco, [W/A] Chris Giarrusso. I’m not caught up on this series, but I decided to read this issue anyway. In this issue Encounter teams up with a new superhero, Champion, who is obviously Kayla’s uncle, except when he takes off his mask at the end of the issue, he has Kayla’s face. Like Superman Family Adventures, Encounter is better than a typical Baltazar/Franco comic because it has an ongoing plot, rather than just being a series of gags.
ARCHIE 1941 #2 (Archie, 2018) – “It’s War!”, [W] Brian Augustyn & Mark Waid, [A] Peter Krause. After a lot of waffling, Archie decides to enlist in World War II. This series is effective because it depicts the uncertainty and anxiety of America in 1941. At that time, no one knew that the war would be over in four years, or that we would win.
No further comics waiting to be reviewed.