About 90 reviews

12-18-18

New comics received on November 23:

LUMBERJANES #56 (Boom!, 2018) – “Follow Your Art” (conclusion), [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Dozerdraws. A satisfying conclusion to an excellent storyline. The girls defeat Tammy Tickles by acting all hyperactive and distracting her. This leads to several amazing moments, including “Hands up top!” “That means stop!” and Tromatikos being hit by a five-ton cat. Oh, and Tromatikos loses because non-archival glue can’t handle stress. At the climactic moment in this issue, Jen calls the girls “preteens” even though they seem to be 12 at the youngest; see Fantastic Four #4 for the opposite error.

WEST COAST AVENGERS #4 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Stefano Caselli. The Avengers defeat Brodok and save all the monster women, except one who sensibly chooses to remain a dragon. Kate spends most of the issue as a giant hawk. The reality-show element of this series was heavily hyped in the initial publicity, but it’s really not all that big a deal; it’s just an excuse for the characters to occasionally address the reader directly.

MIDDLEWEST #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. Skottie’s first non-humorous creator-owned work is also probably his best-written comic yet. It has some fantasy trappings, including a talking fox and a giant storm monster, and I expect its fantasy elements will become more prominent soon. But the emotional core of this issue is its brutal depiction of child abuse. The protagonist’s single father is a horrible uncaring bastard who punishes his son harshly and provides no positive reinforcement. This issue should come with a warning label for younger readers: “If your parents treat you like the father in this book, tell someone at school.”

EXORSISTERS #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ian Boothby, [A] Gisèle Lagacé. This issue gives us Kate and Cate’s origin story. As I expected, they’re more or less the same person: Kate is Cate’s soul, which, thanks to their mother’s unfortunate deal with the devil, is now a separate entity. Exorsisters is a hilarious comic; it has the subject matter of a horror comic, but it’s written and drawn in the style of an Archie comic (whereas Afterlife with Archie is the other way around).

HIGH HEAVEN #3 (Ahoy, 2018) – “Chapter Three,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Greg Scott. There’s some good dialogue in this issue, including David’s comment to Ben: “So much in common. Both killed by you.” But this issue doesn’t advance the plot very much. We learn that L-Meat is bad news, but we already knew that.

MY LITTLE PONY: NIGHTMARE KNIGHTS #2 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Tony Fleecs. Luna recruits a team consisting of herself, Capper, Tempest Shadow, Stygian, and Trixie, and they head off to infiltrate Eris’s casino. I don’t remember this issue very well because I read #3 before writing this review, but this is a fun issue, and it continues this series’ theme of former villains seeking to redeem themselves.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #37 (Marvel, 2018) – “Ice Age,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Gustavo Duarte. A Christmas story in which Lunella has to fill in for Santa Claus. It’s cute, as usual, but has a cliched ending where Lunella has to give Eduardo the toy she really wants. Gustavo Duarte’s guest artwork is very good, reminding me of Jay Fosgitt.

BLACK HAMMER: AGE OF DOOM #7 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Rich Tommaso. In the conclusion of the Limbo two-parter, Colonel Weird gets outside his fictional universe and encounters his creator, Jeff Lemire himself. It’s not much of an encounter because Jeff is only shown from the neck down, but this scene is another callback to Grant Morrison’s Animal Man. I can’t recognize any of the other faceless creators who are standing next to Jeff. This two-parter was not bad, but it felt like an interruption in the main storyline, and maybe it could have been a one-shot special instead of two issues of the main series.

SHURI #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Baobab Tree,” [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Leonardo Romero. This is perhaps the first Marvel comic ever that includes no male characters at all, besides Rocket Raccoon and Groot in the last panel. (On Facebook, I asked if there were any earlier Marvel comics with no male characters, and no one could come up with one.) Otherwise, this was a pretty good issue, though very similar to #1. Nnedi Okorafor is becoming an excellent comics writer –  see the review of LaGuardia #1 below – and Leonardo Romero’s art is beautiful.

THE LONG CON #5 (Oni, 2018) – “Now Entering Capetown,” [W] Dylan Meconis & Ben Coleman, [A] Ed Dench. The protagonists reach the part of the convention that’s been taken over by superhero cosplayers, and we meet Helvetica Caslon, the comics editor. Her first and last names are both fonts. As expected, this issue is full of self-referential jokes, even more so than the rest of the series.

MR. & MRS. X #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Love & Marriage, Part Five,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Oscar Bazaldua. The protagonists defeat the Imperial Guard, Gambit and Rogue have a heart-to-heart talk, and perhaps most importantly, we meet Gambit’s three cats, Oliver, Lucifer and Figaro. See the review of #6 below for more on this series.

SUKEBAN TURBO #1 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sylvain Runberg, [A] Victor Santos. This is a translation of a French comic, but one that was originally published in the American format. If I’m reading https://www.bedetheque.com/BD-Sukeban-Turbo-296462.html correctly, Sukeban Turbo was the first original comic created for the Glénat Comics imprint, which mostly consists of translations of American comics like Letter 44 and Sex Criminals. So unlike with most French comics published in comic book format, the artwork doesn’t suffer from being reduced to a smaller format and a different aspect ratio. However, Victor Santos’s artwork still employs the complex page layouts characteristic of BD. Sylvain Runberg is a very successful writer, and this comic seems well-written. It’s about two childhood friends who grow up to become a pop star and a gangster. I’m glad this series exists because French commercial comics tend to be higher-quality than comparable American comics, but I much prefer the comic book format to the album format.

MARS ATTACKS #2 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Chris Schweizer. The Carbutts encounter a group of fellow survivors, who try to resist the Martians and are all killed, except for a dog. This issue is full of fun mayhem and carnage, and this series continues to be very well executed.

AMERICAN CARNAGE #1 (Vertigo, 2018) – “Freedom,” [W] Bryan Hill, [A] Leandro Fernandez. I enjoyed this when I read it, but I had to look through it again to remember what it was about. Oh, right – this comic is about a convicted felon who gets hired to infiltrate a domestic terrorist group. This series is important because it addresses white male terrorism, a far bigger threat to America than Islamic terrorism. Leandro Fernandez’s art is as brilliant in this series as in The Old Guard. He deserves to be as big a star as his countryman Eduardo Risso.

ATOMIC ROBO: GREATEST HITS #1 (IDW, 2018) – “The Trial of Doctor Dinosaur” and “The Centralia Job,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. This $1 comic includes two stories that, according to the blurb at the end, have never been printed in comic book form before. That’s not strictly true because “The Centralia Job” previously appeared in the 2014 Atomic Robo & Friends FCBD issue, and I already read it there. But “The Trial of Doctor Dinosaur,” originally called “The Trial of Atomic Robo,” was only published digitally and in trades. Like every Dr. Dinosaur appearance, this story is a laugh riot. They ought to bring Dr. Dinosaur back and give him his own series.

REAL SCIENCE ADVENTURES: THE NICODEMUS JOB #5 (IDW, 2018) – “The Nicodemus Job Part 5,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Meredith McClaren. This is an exciting conclusion to the series, though there are no huge surprises. It would be fun to see these characters again, but it might be even better if Brian Clevinger wrote some other Real Science Adventures series set in other historical periods.

LUCIFER #2 (Vertigo, 2018) – “Of Red Death and Ginger Tomcats,” [W] Dan Watters, [A] Max Fiumara. This comic is still very hard to understand, with multiple plotlines that are all confusing on their own and that have no apparent connection to each other. Still, I enjoyed this issue more than the last one. It draws heavily on literary references, including “The Masque of the Red Death” and The Tempest. I wouldn’t buy this series on its own, but I’m willing to keep reading it as long as it’s included in DCBS’s package deal, where you get all the Vertigo comics at a discount if you buy all of them.

GO-BOTS #1 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Tom Scioli. An adaptation of the poor man’s alternative to the Transformers. I’ve met Tom Scioli at a lot of conventions, and I find his work fascinating, but difficult, which is why I still haven’t read most of GI Joe and Transformers. His work reminds me of the Japanese heta-uma aesthetic (or rather, the things I’ve read about that aesthetic) because it looks extremely raw and unpolished, like something a schoolkid drew. And at conventions I’ve seen him drawing on graph paper or other low-quality paper. On each page of Go-Bots you can actually see the grain of the paper Tom drew on, unless it’s a paper veneer. Yet his work is very fundamentally sound; it reveals an extreme level of detail and composition. This issue’s story is also very strange. It’s about a world where Go-Bots are basically slaves, except the villain, Cy-Kill, and his rebels, so it seems like we’re supposed to sympathize with the villain and not the hero. This is a fascinating comic, and it made me want to go back and read more of Tom’s work.

GØDLAND #35 (Image, 2011) – “The Maximum Secret,” [W] Joe Casey, [A] Tom Scioli. This earlier Scioli comic is drawn in a far more polished style, with computer coloring and white paper, but paradoxically that makes his work less appealing. The rawness of his style vanishes, and instead what you notice about his work is how much it resembles Kirby. Which I guess was the point, because this comic is a deliberate Kirbyesque pastiche. In particular, it resembles his late work like Eternals or Captain Victory, and like those comics, it has a convoluted and nonsensical plot. Gødland shows that Tom Scioli is a brilliant Kirby imitator, but Go-Bots shows that he’s also more than that.

At this point I realized that I have a ton of interesting comics that I ordered from DCBS several years ago and never read. Back in 2015 and 2016, I was ordering a lot of new comics, and I didn’t make an effort to read all the comics I was getting, so I ended up with a substantial backlog. (This may be because I was only getting new comics every other week, and after I’d read all the best comics from my new stack, I lost interest in reading the less exciting ones. In contrast, this past year I’ve been trying to read every new comic I get every week.) So I decided to start reading some of the comics from that backlog, starting with:

THE HUMANS #9 (Image, 2015) – “The Human Code Part 1,” [W] Keenan Marshall Keller, [A] Tom Neely. The Humans plan their final assault on the police, which will end with most of them getting killed. This series is an effective evocation of ‘70s radicalism and biker culture, and as I’ve pointed out before, it reminds me a lot of Spain’s comics. But it’s pretty much the same thing every issue, so maybe it’s just as well that this series only lasted ten issues.

HOT LUNCH SPECIAL #4 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Traders,” [W] Eliot Rahal, [A] Jorge Fornes. The protagonists head to Milwaukee for a meatpacking convention, and more violence and intrigue ensues. I’m losing interest in this series because it’s becoming just a generic crime comic. It doesn’t evoke the local color of the upper Midwest as powerfully as Revival did.

TRANSFORMERS VS. G.I. JOE #7 (IDW, 2015) – untitled, [W] John Barber, [A] Tom Scioli. This series is drawn in the same style as Go-Bots, and the artwork and writing are similarly bizarre. Most of this issue focuses on Scarlett, who, thanks to Dr. Mindbinder, is experiencing a delusion where she’s married with two children and GI Joe doesn’t exist. The other plotline involves a battle between GI Joe and the Transformers and a giant Scorponok. The visual highlight of the issue is a two-page splash in which Scorponok is the size of an entire city. The only thing I don’t like about this comic is the digital lettering. In Go-Bots, Tom does his own lettering, and it suits his style much better.

GIANT-SIZE LITTLE MARVEL: AVX #3 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Skottie Young. In this Secret Wars spinoff, the Avengers and X-Men are children, and they’re each trying to recruit two new kids in town, Zachary and Zoe. This comic has the same basic idea as Tiny Titans, except it’s just better. Whereas Tiny Titans is sometimes too cute and wholesome for its own good, Skottie’s humor is just a little bit raucous and irrelevant (less so here than in Bully Wars or I Hate Fairyland), and his art is incredible; there are visual gags everywhere. Among the comics I bought in 2015 and didn’t read, this was one of the best.

GOD HATES ASTRONAUTS #10 (Image, 2018) – “Cosmic Apocalypse,” [W/A] Ryan Browne. I gave up on this series because I didn’t much like its absurdist style of humor. Browne was just trying to be weird for weirdness’s sake, and his stories had no real point and didn’t go anywhere. This issue does little to change my opinion of the series. It’s the conclusion of a story where the two protagonists’ baby is kidnapped by aliens who are based on video game consoles. This issue has some funny jokes that are directed at gamers of my generation, but otherwise there’s not much substance to it.

SAVAGE DRAGON #80 (Image, 2000) – “The Lurkers Beneath Lake Fear!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Fleeing from Cyberface’s minions, Dragon dives underwater only to encounter a giant sea monster. Dragon spends most of the issue underwater, and Erik creates a powerful sense of danger and claustrophobia, because Dragon can’t breathe underwater and he rapidly becomes desperate for air. The issue ends with him passing out. Otherwise, this is a pretty standard issue from the “This Savage World” era.

SUGAR & SPIKE #88 (DC, 1970) – “Little Arthur Strikes Again!” and “Eggs Sunny-Side Down!”, [W/A] Sheldon Mayer. In this issue’s first story, Spike learns a grown-up word – “bigdumdum” – and causes mayhem by saying it at the wrong moments. In the second story, Sugar and Spike visit a museum where they cause further mayhem. I still don’t like this series as much as Little Lulu or Little Archie, but Shelly Mayer’s comic timing was very good.

DOOM PATROL #30 (DC, 1989) – “Going Underground,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Richard Case. Cliff Steele tries to save a comatose Jane by entering her unconscious mind. This issue is the origin of the idea that Jane’s unconscious takes the form of a subway system, as we saw in the current Doom Patrol series. At the end, Jane finally confronts the memory of her father’s abuse, but Cliff gets stuck inside her mind. This is a good issue, and it may be Grant’s most powerful depiction of Jane’s abuse and trauma.

MORNING GLORIES #45 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Nick Spencer, [A] Joe Eisma. Much of this issue is a flashback to Jade’s past. Jade’s mother died in a car accident, and Jade revived her, but her mother became delusional and thought Jade was the devil. Jade’s rejection by her mother is kind of heartwrenching. However, this issue feels kind of pointless because the series went on permanent hiatus after just five more issues, leaving many plot threads unresolved.

FEATHERS #4 (Archaia, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Jorge Corona. I can finally finish this series now that I’ve acquired issue 3, which I missed when it came out. This issue, Feathers finally makes it into the walled city, but discovers that the White Guide is just a statue. This seems like a really important revelation, but it’s been so long since I read issues 1 and 2 that I don’t remember what the White Guide is.

TINY TITANS: RETURN TO THE TREEHOUSE #2 (DC, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] Art Baltazar, [W] Franco. The same as every other issue of this miniseries. This issue took longer to read than usual because I had to decode Blue Beetle’s scarab’s dialogue.

DOCTOR SPEKTOR: MASTER OF THE OCCULT #1 (Dynamite, 2014) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Neil Edwards. Reviving Dr. Spektor was an odd idea because unlike Magnus, Turok or Dr. Solar, Dr. Spektor had never been revived before, and had not appeared in a new story since 1977. That means the only people who know about this character are readers of the original ‘70s series. And even though I have read the original Dr. Spektor comic, I couldn’t really get into Mark Waid’s version. The main attractions of the old Dr. Spektor comic are, first, Jesse Santos’s artwork, and second, the relationship between Adam Spektor and Lakota Rainwater. This issue doesn’t have either of those – I guess either Mark was saving Lakota for later, or else she’s too much of an ethnic stereotype to be reused. Dr. Spektor himself isn’t much of a character, so Mark has to invent a personality for him out of whole cloth. He chooses to turn Spektor into Dr. Strange with Tony Stark’s personality, and that’s not as interesting as it sounds.

TITANS/LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES: UNIVERSE ABLAZE #1 (DC, 2000) – untitled, [W] Dan Jurgens, [A] Phil Jimenez. This could have been a classic, like X-Men/Teen Titans. Unfortunately it’s written by Dan Jurgens, whose only qualification is that he wrote a short-lived and unsuccessful Titans comic, and he fails to create any excitement or to provide any interesting characterization. This issue is most memorable for the series of creepy and disturbing scenes in which Roy Harper tries to seduce Luornu Durgo. Oh, also, Jurgens missed an opportunity for a hilarious scene: he could have had Starfire kiss any of the Legionnaires so she could learn Interlac, but he seemingly forgot she has that power.

BONANZA #33 (Gold Key, 1969) – “The Mesteñera” and other stories, [W] unknown (Paul S. Newman?), [A] Tom Gill. See https://ogresfeathers.wordpress.com/2016/04/24/reviews-for-most-of-march/#omen1 for an explanation of where I got this comic. What I don’t say in that review is that that ICFA trip was a low point in my life, because I thought I was going to have no job for the following school year. Anyway, this comic is surprisingly good. In the first story, protagonists Ben and Joe encounter a little mesteñera, or wild mustang herder, named Sarita, and they help save her father from being wrongfully executed. See https://www.instagram.com/p/BqwEyoxHxIy/ for a poignant moment from this story. The other stories in this issue aren’t quite as good.

EUTHANAUTS #4 (Black Crown, 2018) – “Spacewalk,” [W] Tini Howard, [A] Nick Robles. I’m finally starting to understand this comic’s plot, but I still don’t like it as much as Assassinistas. But Nick Robles’s art is very trippy and bizarre.

RUINWORLD #5 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Derek Laufman. The heroes defeat the villain and manage to escape with some gold. This series was entertaining, but not great. Derek Laufman still doesn’t seem to have found his own distinctive style.

DICK TRACY: DEAD OR ALIVE #2 (IDW, 2018) – “Tracy Unwarranted,” [W] Lee Allred & Mike Allred, [A] Rich Tommaso. Tracy discovers that police corruption is just as much of a threat as his rogues gallery is. This issue was quite similar to the last one. The highlight was Tracy’s Captain Haddock disguise.

BLACK BADGE #4 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. After the end of their previous mission, the Black Badge campers are sent to participate in a competition against three other teams of secret agent campers. This series is already getting a little stale, so I’m glad the campers are doing something other than going on another secret agent mission. This issue implies that Black Badge and Grass Kings take place in the same universe, and that makes me want to go back and finish reading Grass Kings.

BLACK AF: WIDOWS AND ORPHANS #4 (Black Mask, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kwanza Osajyefo 3, [A] Tim Smith. The interesting idea here is that the black superheroes, or some of them, are all children of a single superpowered couple. Other than that, this is just a rather generic superhero comic.

GOD HATES ASTRONAUTS #7 (Image, 2015) – “Cosmic Apocalypse” part ??, [W/A] Ryan Browne. The gimmick this issue is that it’s narrated by Ryan Browne’s collaborator, Charles Soule. Besides that, I have nothing new to say about this issue; see the review of #10 above.

CAPTAIN MARVEL AND THE CAROL CORPS #2 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick & Kelly Thompson, [A] David Lopez. Despite this issue’s impressive lineup of talent, it’s not all that interesting. TBH, neither were most of the Secret Wars spinoff miniseries. It’s hard to care very much about this version of Captain Marvel when you know she’s only going to exist for a few more issues.

GIANT-SIZE LITTLE MARVEL: AVX #2 (Marvel, 2015) – as above. I read this issue out of order. It follows the same formula as issue 3, but it’s an excellent formula.

New comics received on December 1:

FANTASTIC FOUR #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Irreplaceable,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Stefano Caselli & Nico Leon. After no new FF for a month, we get two in three weeks. This issue the FF make it back to regular Earth, but the Future Foundation kids decide to continue exploring the multiverse. I really like the Future Foundation characters, but I guess writing them out of the series is a reasonable way to maintain a manageable cast size. Back on Earth, the FF fight the Wrecking Crew and a new replacement FF team, and then they move into a new headquarters, 4 Yancy Street. An annoying moment in this issue is when Val describes herself as a teenager. There is no way that can be true. The last time Val’s age was mentioned, she was only 3, and that was only about 5 in-universe years ago. I prefer to just assume Val was speaking imprecisely, just like Jen, in Lumberjanes #56, did not literally mean that all the girls were preteens. Of course the underlying problem is that the ages of Franklin, Val and the Power kids are impossible to reconcile with each other.

PRINCELESS VOL. 7: FIND YOURSELF #1 (Action Lab, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Emily Martin. This is the first new non-Raven Princeless comic in over a year. Incidentally, Jeremy confirmed on Twitter that the second half of Princeless: Make Yourself was only published digitally and in the “Make Yourself Part 2” trade paperback. I’ll have to order that. It looks like Raven: The Pirate Princess was cancelled, and that’s a shame, but I prefer the regular Princeless series. This issue Adrienne acts like a brat and gets in a pointless fight with Sparky, then fights a giant sand monster and loses. Also there’s a subplot involving all the other characters who are searching for Adrienne.

FENCE #12 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] C.S. Pacat, [A] Johanna the Mad. Nicholas and Eugene both get to be alternates – which is a slight anticlimax – and they’re initiated into the fencing fraternity. And that’s the last issue. It’s just as well that this series is becoming trade paperback only, because it will read much better in that format.

OH S#!T IT’S KIM & KIM #4 (Black Mask, 2018) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. The Kims start a prison riot and escape, but on the way out they run into Saar and Columbus, who are basically male versions of themselves (like how Ray and Doyle are the male versions of Maggie and Hopey). This is a hilarious and thrilling issue. The highlight is the gang of “Disco Kids,” whose leader introduces himself with “You can tell by the way I hold this mace, I’m a violent man.”

HEROES IN CRISIS #3 (DC, 2018) – “Master of the Lagoon,” [W] Tom King, [A] Lee Weeks & Clay Mann. This was already the worst comic of the year, and it gets worse with each issue. This issue Wally is tormented by memories of Linda, Iris and Jae. I guess they’re not actually dead, they just don’t exist in this universe, but that’s almost worse. And it seems that the method of therapy in Sanctuary is to force patients to confront their worst fears continuously. Actual psychiatrists have pointed out what a terrible idea this is. I didn’t order issue 4, so I’m glad that #3 is the last issue I have to read. I do have to give credit to Tom King for vetoing the Poison Ivy variant cover for #7. See my forthcoming article in the Journal of Fandom Studies for a discussion of other similar cover-related controversies.

MAN-EATERS #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Chelsea Cain, [A] Kate Niemczyk. Not a whole lot happens in this issue, except that we get to meet some of Chelsea Cain’s signature corgis. This series still hasn’t made any effort to address its obvious problems with gender essentialism and transphobia.

IRONHEART #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Eve Ewing, [A] Kevin Libranda & Luciano Vecchio. When Eve Ewing was announced as the writer of this series, Comicgaters griped that she was a “diversity hire” who was unqualified for her job. They said she was hired only because she’s a black woman, even though she had no previous comics writing experience. Of course, what the Comicsgaters were really angry about was that they didn’t get hired to write for Marvel, and a black woman did. The argument about her lack of experience was disingenuous; as Neil Gaiman pointed out, he didn’t have any comics experience either when he was hired to write Black Orchid. The further irony is that Ironheart #1 is an extremely well-written comic. It’s a thrilling superhero story which also has a serious message: Riri’s observation that she wasn’t supposed to be alive, let alone at MIT, is very powerful. I also like how Marvel currently has three different black girl scientist characters (Riri, Lunella and a supporting character in Unstoppable Wasp), and they all have very different personalities.

HOUSE AMOK #3 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Shawn McManus. Dylan tries to get Ollie to realize that their parents aren’t normal, but it backfires severely. This is a creepy series and a powerful depiction of child abuse and mental illness. The really scary part is that for all the reader knows, the parents’ delusions might actually be real – maybe there is a “global conspiracy to overwrite our reality” or whatever.

THE TERRIFICS #10 (DC, 2018) – “Tom Strong & The Terrifics Part Four,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Viktor Bogdanovic. The Strongs and Terrifics defeat Doc Dread, but in doing so they sever their connection to the dark multiverse. So they have no further reason to stay together, and they break up, leaving Linnya alone. This has been a fun series.

FAITH DREAMSIDE #3 (Valiant, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] MJ Kim. In search of Monica’s soul, Faith and Dr. Mirage travel to the afterlife, where they encounter bizarre things like living flowers and a dragon car. Also, Faith meets her clone who died in a previous story. This is another fun series, and Jody Houser is a very underrated writer; see the reviews of Spider-Girls below.

KIM REAPER: VAMPIRE ISLAND #4 (Oni, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Sarah Graley. Becca and Tyler travel to the afterlife, which is quite different from the afterlife in Faith Dreamside, to rescue Kim. But it turns out Kim has already reconciled with the Grim Reaper, and Kim and Becca repair their relationship. This was a really cute series, and I hope we’ll see more of these characters soon. It’s nice that Scholastic has recognized Sarah Graley’s talent by hiring her to do a graphic novel.

CODA #7 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. Mr. Nameless and Serka execute a plan to kill the pilot of the Gog, but it turns out there is no pilot and the Gog is piloting itself. But Mr. Nameless manages to steal enough akker to make the potion to heal Serka, even though it’s not at all clear whether he should use it. I don’t think we know yet what the potion does. This is a dense and difficult series, but it may have the best art of any of Si Spurrier’s comics, and that’s saying a lot.

HEX WIVES #2 (Vertigo, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ben Blacker, [A] Mirka Andolfo. More of the same thing as last issue. The one particularly notable moment in this issue is when Isadora’s husband tells her that he’s a terrible husband. Thanks to r/relationships, I’ve learned that this is a common thing that bad romantic partners do. It’s a backhanded way of fishing for affirmation; the point is to get the wife to reply, no, of course you’re not a terrible husband.

ARCHIE 1941 #3 (Archie, 2018) – “Home & Away,” [W] Brian Augustyn & Mark Waid, [A] Peter Krause. The title is appropriate because this issue depicts how the Riverdale citizens’ lives are torn apart by the war, both in training camp and on the home front. An especially poignant moment is when Chuck Clayton almost gets lynched, and Moose saves him. Also, we learn that Archie’s unit is going to be deployed to North Africa.

SPIDER-GWEN: GHOST SPIDER #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Spider-Geddon Part 2: The Ballad of Gwen Stacy,” [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Rosi Kämpe. I can’t pinpoint just why, but this issue fell flat for me. It had a lot of plot and characterization, but it felt like just a by-the-numbers superhero comic, and it wasn’t nearly as exciting or original as the Seanan McGuire novel I read. Perhaps the problem is that all the current Spider-Man titles are too heavily tied into the Spider-Geddon crossover. After reading this issue, I decided to give up on this series.

SPIDER-GIRLS #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Spider-Geddon,” [W] Jody Houser, [A] Andrés Genolet. I had the exact opposite reaction to this issue. Jody Houser does a great job of writing this series’ three protagonists. The emotional heart of Spider-Girls is Annie May, who’s been raised as a future Spider-Woman and is desperate to prove herself. This character, like Monica Jim in Faith Dreamside, shows that Jody Houser is really good at writing teen girls. Also this issue has some adorably awful spider-monsters. It’s too bad that Spider-Girls is just three issues and Spider-Gwen is an ongoing, and not the other way around.

BOOKS OF MAGIC #2 (Vertigo, 2018) – “Unreliable Narrators,” [W] Kat Howard, [A] Tom Fowler. I liked this better than #1. It feels like Kat Howard fundamentally understands Tim’s character: he’s a young boy who’s well-intentioned and serious, but also super awkward. This issue, Tim tries to revive his mother, but it doesn’t go well.

BLACK PANTHER #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Many Thousands Gone” part 5, [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Daniel Acuña. Some time has passed since last issue, and T’Challa and his allies are hiding on some rock somewhere. Nakia convinces T’Challa to man up and resume the mantle of the Black Panther. As mentioned in my review of #4, I was ready to drop this series, but with this issue I feel that this series has a purpose and is going somewhere, so I’m going to stick with it.

BLACK PANTHER #6 (Marvel, 2018) – “Many Thousands Gone” part 6, [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Jen Bartel. This isn’t Jen Bartel’s first work for Marvel, but it’s a sign of her growing reputation. This issue we move away from T’Challa and his allies to focus on N’Jadaka, the Big Bad of this storyline, and we learn how N’Jadaka and Bast corrupted each other. This was another good issue, and it confirms my decision to keep reading Black Panther.

LUCIFER #3 (Vertigo, 2016) – “Cold Heaven Part Three: Mothers of All,” [W] Holly Black, [A] Lee Garbett. I started reading this when it came out, but gave up after one issue. This issue’s main story is not all that great. But it has a very effective subplot about an adopted Haitian girl who’s abused by her racist, fundamentalist adoptive parents and siblings. This issue could be a case study on the perils of transracial adoption. At the end of the issue, one of the siblings gets killed, and the reader is not sorry at all.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #10 (Marvel, 2018) – “Being Fantastic,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramon Perez. I’m not sure what Ramon Perez’s art actually looks like, because they seem to keep hiring him to imitate other artists or to draw in a house style. This issue is the conclusion to the Mad Thinker storyline, and it includes a scene where Ben and Johnny say the L-word to each other. Besides that, it’s not very notable.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #11 (Marvel, 2018) – “Past Tense,” as above. This issue takes place after the current Fantastic Four series begins, so the core premise of this MTIO series – that Ben and Johnny are searching for Reed, Sue and the kids – is now moot. Instead, this issue is a team-up between Ben and Reed. It offers some mildly interesting insights into Ben and Reed’s relationship, but that relationship has ben explored very heavily in many other comics.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #12 (Marvel, 2018) – “Family,” as above. The other half of the FF, Sue and Johnny, team up to fight the Mole Man, and the Rachna Koul subplot is resolved. There are also appearances by the rest of the FF, including Val, who is drawn to look much too old. And so ends a disappointing series.

REVIVAL #4 (Image, 2012) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Mike Norton. May Tao gets involved in some kind of intrigue, Dana and Ibrahim have a heart-to-heart talk, and various other subplots happen. The high point of this issue is the panel where Ibrahim says he’s “spent the last eleven years putting up with assumptions that people like my nice, sweet parents are secretly plotting the downfall of this country.”

THE BOOKS OF MAGIC #44 (Vertigo, 1998) – “The End: Slave of Heavens Prologue,” [W] John Ney Rieber, [A] Peter Gross. Angels and demons are at war. Tim gives up his magic so the rest of the world can have it. Also, Tim tells off a Hindu goddess. I’m really not sure what’s going on in this issue.

ROY ROGERS’ TRIGGER #10 (Dell, 1953) – “Killer Cat” and “Trigger Turns Detective,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Till Goodan. This comic is incomplete, though I knew that when I bought it – it was in the quarter box at the Nostalgia Zone in Minneapolis. Even if it was complete, it would be a pretty forgettable comic; it’s just a generic Western story.

IMAGE FIRSTS: WYTCHES #1 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Jock. A teenage girl has some sort of traumatic event in her past, which left her mother crippled. She moves to a new school where a bully tries to rape her, but gets eaten by a tree instead. Also, there’s some business about children being pledged to witches. There are some powerful moments in this issue, but I’ve decided I don’t like Scott Snyder’s writing. His dialogue just sounds wrong, and his stories seem heavier on flash than substance.

TRANSFORMERS VS. G.I. JOE #9 (IDW, 2015) – “Stick to Your Guns – Spotlight: Destro,” [W/A] Tom Scioli. This issue is credited to Tom alone, without John Barber. It consists of the origin story of the Destro family. According to this story, the Destro mask was made from the face of a hibernating Transformer. Also, the Destros are Scottish, so this issue is full of rather inaccurate Scottish English. Otherwise, this is a standard example of Tom’s style. See the above reviews of Transformers vs. G.I. Joe #7 and Go-Bots #1 for further comments.

FEATHERS #5 (Archaia, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Jorge Corona. Poe learns the truth about his origin, but I don’t understand what that truth is. Bianca runs away from home and gets captured by the red dude, and Poe goes looking for her. Which sets the stage for:

FEATHERS #6 (Archaia, 2015) – as above. The Captain dude steals Poe’s feathers, leaving him looking disturbingly naked. Poe and Bianca defeat the Captain and save the day, setting the stage for the breaking of the barriers between the city and the slums. There’s a hook for a sequel miniseries at the end. Overall, Feathers was a pretty good series, but not spectacular. I think my favorite thing about Feathers is Poe’s visual appearance.

CONAN/RED SONJA #4 (Dark Horse, 2015) – “The Age of Death,” [W] Gail Simone & Jim Zub, [A] Randy Green. Conan and Sonja fight Thoth-Amon and win. This was not that great of an issue, especially not compared to Red Sonja/Tarzan.

THE UNWRITTEN #6 (Vertigo, 2009) – “Inside Man Part One,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. This may be the earliest issue I hadn’t read yet. This issue, Tommy is sent to prison, coincidentally in Roncesvalles where Roland was killed, and Lizzie goes looking for him. This issue has some interesting design elements: there’s a scene where Lizzie communicates with someone else through the text of a book, and there’s a page made up entirely of fake Internet news stories.

HELLBOY AND THE BPRD 1952 #2 (Dark Horse, 2015) – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola & John Arcudi, [A] Alex Maleev. I don’t think I’ve read an Alex Maleev comic since he was drawing Daredevil, so this issue was a bit nostalgic. Otherwise it’s a pretty standard Hellboy story, in which Hellboy and the BPRD visit Brazil and encounter a murderous monkey-like demon.

CONAN/RED SONJA #2 (Dark Horse, 2015) – “The Age of Adventure,” [W] Gail Simone & Jim Zub, [A] Dan Panosian. Red Sonja encounters Conan and Bêlit during their Black Corsairs period. I was going to say that this is the only story I know of in which Red Sonja meets Bêlit, but it turns out that this already happened in Conan the Barbarian #67, and that issue was much better than this one. The other Black Corsairs rarely appear in this issue, and when we do see them, they look racially ambiguous rather than being obviously black. Maybe the idea of two white people commanding a black crew was considered too embarrassing.

BACCHUS #3 (Eddie Campbell, 1995) – “King Bacchus Part 2: It’s D.T. and the Screaming Habdabs,” [W/A] Eddie Campbell. Bacchus vanishes into William Hogarth’s Beer Street painting. Nothing much else happens, but this story is fun anyway. There’s also a chapter of “Immortality Isn’t Forever,” but I’ve already read the trade paperback of that story.

BACCHUS #4 – as above except the title is “King Bacchus Part 3: Beer Street Ain’t What It Used to Be.” Bacchus is chased through a bunch of paintings by his old nemesis, the puritanical Mr. Dry. The story ends with Bacchus finding himself inside American Gothic. Meanwhile, the other people in the bar create a new grim-and-gritty version of Bacchus.

STRAY BULLETS #1 (El Capitán, 1995) – “The Look of Love,” [W/A] David Lapham. I’ve acquired a few David Lapham comics, but I think this is the first one I’ve actually read, and I’m seriously impressed. This opening story is about an older man, Frank, and a younger man, Joey, who seems to be intellectually disabled. They’re trying to get rid of a body for some reason, but they keep making dumb mistakes which result in other people seeing the body, and they then have to kill those people too. The issue ends with Joey killing Frank. One reason this series is impressive is because it’s a crime comic with an indie comics sensibility. David Lapham’s art is black-and-white and hand-lettered, and reminds me a lot of Jaime Hernandez’s art, both because of his spotting of blacks and because every page uses a 2×4 grid. The other impressive thing about this comic is its brutal depiction of violence, but more on that later.

MURDER ME DEAD #4 (El Capitán, 2001) – “Murder Me Dead Chapter Four,” [W/A] David Lapham. This issue is difficult to understand out of context, but it seems to be about a woman who’s two-timing two men, and she murders one of them, then gets the other one to take the blame. Like Stray Bullets #1 – and Lodger #2, to reviewed later – this issue includes a scene of brutal violence that erupts out of nowhere. In Stray Bullets #1, Joey is able to kill so many people because he has easy access to guns; by contrast, in Murder Me Dead #4, the murder is committed with a knife. But the common theme seems to be that wherever you are in America, you’re never far away from murder. BTW, I should point out that each page of this issue has four panel tiers, but some tiers have more or less than two panels.

CRIMINAL: THE SINNERS #1 (Icon, 2009) – “The Sinners Part One,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. This issue’s protagonist, the hitman Tracy Lawless, previously appeared in several other Criminal story arcs. The premise of this storyline is that Tracy has to track down some people who are killing his fellow criminals, in exchange for being able to abandon his murderous lifestyle. Criminal is a very different crime comic from Stray Bullets. It’s much slicker and more polished, which is both good and bad.

WILD’S END: THE ENEMY WITHIN #2 (Boom!, 2015) – “Friend or Foe,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] I.N.J. Culbard. This series is perhaps the prime example of the poor buying decisions I made in 2015. I ordered this entire miniseries, but didn’t read any of it. I’m not sure what was the logic behind this; I guess maybe I thought that if I had the entire series, I would feel obligated to read it, but it didn’t work that way. My current thinking is that if I’ve gotten seriously behind on a comic, I might as well quit reading it. Anyway, this miniseries is a cross between The War of the Worlds and The Wind in the Willows (perhaps this idea was inspired by the similarity of those two titles), in which Martians invade a version of Britain where all the people have animal heads. As this issue begins, the British army is holding a bunch of people captive because they witnessed the start of a Martian invasion. The detainees try to escape, but are betrayed by the detainee Susan’s despicable ex-husband, and another of them is shot.

WILD’S END: THE ENEMY WITHIN #3 – as above except the title is “Into the Unknown.” This issue only advances the plot a little bit. It ends with the army discovering that there are far more Martian ships than they realized. When I implied in the previous review that I shouldn’t have been ordering this series, that doesn’t imply that it’s a bad comic. It’s actually quite good. Abnett’s story is exciting and historically plausible, except for the Martians, and Culbard is a skilled animal artist. I especially like the squirrel character with the giant eyes.

WILD’S END: THE ENEMY WITHIN #4 – as above except the title is “Curiosity.” The army awakens one of the Martian tripods, with deadly results. Meanwhile, the detainees Susan and Peter manage to get to a town.

CASANOVA: AVARITIA #3 (Icon, 2012) – “The Width of a Circle,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Gabriel Bá. I bought this years ago, but didn’t read it, because I thought I had read it already in a different format. It seems I was wrong about that; there have been four volumes of Casanova so far, and Avaritia is the one I haven’t read. The art in this issue is beautiful, but as with the latest Casanova miniseries, the story makes very little sense.

GOLD KEY SPOTLIGHT #9 (Gold Key, 1977) – “Where Prowls the Devil Shark,” [W] Don Glut, [A] Dan Spiegle. This is the last appearance of Tragg and the Sky Gods, one of Glut and Santos’s three original series from the ‘70s, along with Dagar and Dr. Spektor. Tragg and the Sky Gods is about an encounter between cavemen and aliens. This issue doesn’t exactly resolve the stories of Tragg and his alien counterpart Ferenk, but it does give them a satisfying ending. It also has an unusual narrative structure by Gold Key standards: for eleven consecutive pages, the top 2/3 of each page are devoted to the main story, but the bottom tier of panels follows the story of the eponymous devil shark. Finally the two narrative threads merge when the shark attacks the alien woman Keera.

NAMELESS #3 (Image, 2015) – “Into the Burrows,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Chris Burnham. I ordered the first five issues of this series, but only read the first issue, and I couldn’t make head or tail of it. I expected that this issue would be a similar exercise in frustration, and I was surprised when it actually made sense and was also quite exciting. Nameless is about a team of astronauts who are trying to use magic to deflect an asteroid, Xibalba, that’s going to hit Earth. Except it turns out Xibalba is some kind of alien megastructure. Besides being surprisingly well-written, Nameless #3 has excellent art. Chris Burnham’s style reminds me a lot of Frank Quitely’s.

GOD IS DEAD #2 (Avatar, 2013) – “God is Dead Chapter Two,” [W] Jonathan Hickman & Mike DiCosta, [A] Di Amorim. The premise of this series is that a bunch of gods from different pantheons all return to Earth at once, and promptly go to war. The problem with this premise is that gods are supposed to gain power from their believers, and right now the Hindu gods have billions of worshippers, while the Greek and Norse gods have almost none. So if a war of pantheons really did happen in real life, it would be no contest. Oh, also, this series only seems to include a few token African gods, even though the Yoruba deities, for example, have lots of worshippers today. In terms of craftsmanship, God is Dead has some acceptable writing, but the artwork is at the level of a ‘90s Image comic.

DISNEY PRINCESSES FCBD 2018 (Joe Books, 2018) – various single-page strips, [W/A] various. This is the dumbest comic I’ve read all year. It’s just a bunch of gag strips about the Little Mermaid characters, and none of the strips are even remotely funny. This comic is intended for very young children, but even for that audience, there are better comics available.

WILD’S END: THE ENEMY WITHIN #5 (Boom!, 2016) – as above except the title is “Shoot to Kill.” Fawkes the poacher, perhaps the most sympathetic character in the series, gets killed saving his friends. I read this and the next two comics by flashlight in a freezing, pitch-dark apartment, because the power was out thanks to a snowstorm. This was the third blackout this semester, and also the worst. The power company was giving me no updates on when power would be restored. And unlike during the previous blackout, I couldn’t go to the nearby Panera or Starbucks, because they were closed. At least the blackout was a good opportunity to get some reading done.

WILD’S END: THE ENEMY WITHIN #6 – as above except the title is “National Security.” A disappointing and anticlimactic conclusion to what had been a pretty good series. The army gets wiped out by the Martians, and when Susan and Peter try to spread the news of the invasion, they find that the Martians have already destroyed the town they were staying in. And that’s the end. I guess there’s a third volume, but it was only published as a trade paperback, and I’m in no hurry to get that book, though I would buy it if I happened to find it for a low price.

THE LAST AMERICAN #4 (Epic, 1991) – “Oh, Say, Does That Star-Spangled Banner Yet Wave?”, [W] Alan Grant & John Wagner, [A] Mike McMahon. Ulysses finds evidence that some people may have survived the nuclear war, but he loses track of them. And he decides that he shouldn’t look for them, because the violent America that he represents should die with him. This is a fairly satisfying ending – which itself is a surprise, because I had trouble imagining any way that this series could end.

November reviews

11-30

As usual I’m well over a month behind. I got all these comics on November 2, and I don’t remember them very well:

OH S#!T IT’S KIM & KIM #3 (Black Mask, 2018) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. The Kims get thrown into a women’s prison, where they make their own separate escape plans. Lots of hilarious stuff happens. For example, the announcer for all the fights between prisoners is a giant corgi. Also, there’s a scene that reveals that Furious Quattro, Kim Q’s dad, is not only a transphobic jerk but also a literal James Bond villain – we see him suspending a heroine over a lava pit. Kim & Kim is one of the most fun series on the market right now.

DOOM PATROL #12 (DC, 2018) – “To Tame a Land: Into the Daemonscape,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Nick Derington. This comic is so late that it references Milk Wars, which ended months ago, as occurring in the future. It also makes little sense on its own. This issue depicts Lucius and his parents are having a Dungeons & Dragons adventure, and the issue’s cover is an homage to the design of classic D&D modules. I don’t know what any of this has to do with anything. It would be nice if the next issue of this series comes out before another six months have passed.

FENCE #11 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] C.S. Pacat, [A] Johanna the Mad. Nicholas can only make the team if Aiden loses, but Aiden wins, and Nicholas’s dreams are shattered. Except it turns out he and Eugene are tied for the reserve spot. This comic is unusual because the protagonist loses more often than he wins – he doesn’t have an easy path to the top, like heroes in sports stories usually do.

NANCY DREW #5 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jenn St.-Onge. After a very tense and exciting confrontation, Nancy saves the day and unmasks the villains, but the issue ends with Nancy getting arrested. And I don’t know when this cliffhanger will be resolved, because issue 6 hasn’t been solicited yet. I need to remember to show this series to a colleage who read Nancy Drew books as a child.

MAN-EATERS #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Chelsea Cain, [A] Kate Niemczyk. Maude puts in a tampon for the first time, then her dad investigates a cat attack. And that’s the entire issue. The tampon scene is fairly powerful, but after finishing the issue, I was like “That’s all?” Besides lacking a plot, Man-Eaters #2 also fails to do anything to address the charges of gender essentialism and transphobia that have been leveled against this series. I still really like Chelsea Cain’s sense of humor and her skillful use of typography and design (e.g. the ad on the inside front cover), but Man-Eaters is shaping up to be the second most disappointing series of the year.

HEROES IN CRISIS #2 (DC, 2018) – “Then I Became Superman,” [W] Tom King, [A] Clay Mann & Travis Moore. And here’s the first most disappointing series of the year. There are good things in this issue: I like Tom King’s depiction of the Penguin, and it’s kind of cool how Harley Quinn defeats Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. But this whole series is just an inappropriate use of the superhero genre. Tom King attempts to do a dark, gritty, realistic examination of superhero psychology and trauma, but this is doomed to fail because the characters in this series are superpowered people who wear long underwear. This series ultimately feels like a trivialization of the issues it addresses, just like Alpha Flight #106 was a trivialization of the topics of AIDS and homosexuality. I’ve heard some speculation that Tom King originally had very different plans for this series which were derailed by editorial interference, and I really hope that’s true.

WEST COAST AVENGERS #3 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Stefano Caselli. This was a fun issue, but it’s hard to remember much about it since I already read issue 4. The West Coast Avengers fight a bunch of giant mutated women, and it becomes clear that BRODOK created them because he’s a crazy incel. (He also reminds me of Gideon Gordon Graves, who put his ex-girlfriends in suspended animation.) And then BRODOK turns Kate into a giant hawk.

HEX WIVES #1 (DC, 2018) – “Bewildered and Bothered, “ [W] Ben Blacker, ]A] Mirka Andolfo. This new Vertigo title is about a group of lesbian witches who keep getting killed by sexist men and then reincarnated. Their latest reincarnation is as a group of housewives in ‘50s America, hence the punny title. Like Lady Killer, this series satirizes the myth of American domesticity, by depicting seemingly perfect housewives who turn out to be horribly violent killers. In its deliberate use of nostalgia, it also resembles Blacker’s previous work, Thrilling Adventure Hour. It looks like this will be a fun series.

THE TERRIFICS ANNUAL #1 (DC, 2018) – “Masquerade,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Joe Bennett, plus other stories. In this annual’s first story, the Terrifics fight a bunch of monsters that look like real Stagg employees. This is Gene Luen Yang’s best DC comics story that I’ve read, although that’s not saying much, and it has some good characterization of Linnya and Michael in particular. The high point of the annual is “Origin of the Specious,” which I think is the only collaboration between Mark Russell and Doc Shaner. It’s not very political, unlike almost every other Mark Russell story; it’s just a poignant examination of Java’s origin and psychology. The last story in the annual is just setup for the current Tom Strong storyline in the main Terrifics series.

VAGRANT QUEEN #5 (Vault, 2018) – “The Bezoar of Kings,” [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Jason Smith. Isaac captures Ellida, and then Lazaro beats them both up and leaves them to die. This was an okay issue, but this comic’s artwork hasn’t gotten any better.

ARCHIE MEETS BATMAN ’66 #4 (Archie, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker & Michael Moreci, [A] Dan Parent. A fun issue, but pretty much exactly the same as the first three. Notable moments in this issue include The Siren’s “Doo doo doo what we say” song, and the suggestion that Betty is related to Aunt Harriet Cooper.

FAITH DREAMSIDE #2 (Valiant, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] MJ Kim. Last issue, Faith met a young girl, Monica, who was being tormented by ghosts. This issue, Faith introduces Monica to Dr. Mirage. This issue has a lot of effective character interactions and funny jokes, like when Monica wonders if she’s sitting on Dr. Mirage’s husband’s ghost (the ghost is visible to the reader, but not to most of the characters). Monica is a very realistic portrayal of a terrified young girl.

CHAMPIONS #7 (Marvel, 1976) – “The Man Who Created the Black Widow,” [W] Tony Isabella, [A] George Tuska. The Champions battle the Griffin and a new villain who turns out to be the son of Ivan, the Black Widow’s sidekick. (Ivan basically disappeared from the Marvel Universe after the ‘70s, I don’t know why.) This comic is a fun piece of ‘70s nostalgia, but it could have been much better with a more exciting writer. For example, Gerry Conway could have done some great stuff with characters like Black Widow, Hercules and the Beast.

GREEN LANTERN/HUCKLEBERRY HOUND #1 (DC, 2018) – “The Test,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Rick Leonardi. It’s 1972, and John Stewart is training with Katma Tui to be an intergalactic superhero. But back home in Detroit, he’s just another black man, and is facing constant racism and police brutality. After an encounter with Huckleberry Hound, another victim of discrimination, John is provoked into using his ring to save other black people from being killed by police. John fully expects that this will cost him his ring, but Katma lets him keep it, telling him that “knowing when to disobey is the most important skill of a Green Lantern.” This issue is a very powerful statement about race, and much like the Snagglepuss series, it’s just as much about contemporary America as it’s about the historical period it depicts. It’s also nice to see John and Katma interacting again – I like when Katma asks how to stop the chair from spinning. Prez Rickard makes a cameo appearance at the end of the issue.

WONDER WOMAN #52 (DC, 2018) – “The Enemy of Both Sides, Part One,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Aco. Diana teams up with Artemis and Aztek to fight Tezcatlipoca. I’m not familiar with Aztek’s continuity, and I don’t know how this issue relates to the Bana Mighdall plotline from issue 54. But this is an exciting and well-drawn comic. Whoever Aco is, he draws some nice panel compositions, and he makes productive use of Aztec art as an influence.

DOOM PATROL/JLA SPECIAL #1 (DC, 2018) – “Milk Wars: The End,” [W] Steve Orlando & Gerard Way, [A] Dale Eaglesham & Nick Derington. In the conclusion to Milk Wars, it turns out that Milkman Man is Casey and Terry’s son, and lots of other weird stuff happened. This comic is okay, but I never quite understood what was going on in Milk Wars.

BLACK PANTHER #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Many Thousands Gone,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Daniel Acuña. Most of this issue is a Star Wars-esque spaceship battle. At the end, we learn that the McGuffin of this story is a shard of the M’Krann Crystal. This was a competently written comic with some exciting action sequences, but it didn’t really excite me.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #8 (Marvel, 2018) – “Slow Burn,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón K. Pérez. Another fairly boring comic. This issue starts with a setup that reminds me of Black Hammer: Ben and Johnny are stuck in a small town in the middle of nowhere. Johnny finally figures out that Ben’s been lying to him about Reed and Sue being alive. He burns down his and Ben’s house in a fit of rage, then at the end of the issue, an evil Fantastic Four from another dimension show up.

PUNKS NOT DEAD #6 (IDW, 2018) – “About a Boy: Teenage Kicks, Part 6,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Martin Simmonds. Fergie and Sid escape the bird-monsters and head to London in search of Fergie’s dad. This conclusion doesn’t really resolve very much, but the next miniseries, appropriately called London Calling, has been solicited for February.

BRITANNIA: LOST EAGLES OF ROME #1 (Valiant, 2018) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Robert Gill. I ordered this because it was a new Peter Milligan miniseries, but then I kind of forgot to read it. This miniseries appears to be a sequel to an earlier series. It stars a Roman government official who’s ordered by Nero to recover the legionary eagles that were lost in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. This comic seems quite historically accurate, and it has some political relevance because it’s about a crazy all-powerful dictator, but overall it’s just average.

ENCOUNTER #5 (Lion Forge, 2018) – untitled, [W] Art Baltazar & Franco, [W/A] Chris Giarrusso. I continue to read this series in backwards order. This issue, Encounter meets some aliens who turn out to be from his own home planet.

AVENGERS #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Secret Origin of the Marvel Universe,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Paco Medina. This issue illustrates why I quit reading this series: it’s too cosmic and epic for its own good, and it has no characterization. This issue, we learn that Marvel Earth’s superheroes all evolved because of the radioactive blood of a dead Celestial. This revelation would have had more impact if there hadn’t already been a ton of other “secret origins of the Marvel Universe.” I thought Marvel superheroes came about because of the Eternals, or the Kree, or any of several other causes. Oh, also, this issue ends with all the Avengers growing to giant size to fight the Celestials, but who cares. This isn’t an Avengers comic, it’s a poor imitation of Grant Morrison’s JLA.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Winter in America: Part II,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Leinil Francis Yu. Cap fights a bunch of Nukes, but no one much cares, and Thunderbolt Ross orders him to stop. TNC’s Captain America, like his Black Panther, is more interesting on an intellectual than an emotional level, which is why I’ve gotten behind on my reading of both series.

INCREDIBLES 2: CRISIS IN MID-LIFE! AND OTHER STORIES #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Crisis in Mid-Life! Part Two,” [W] Christos Gage, [A] GuriHiru, plus other stories. This comic is too wholesome for its own good. Its jokes are unfunny (except the businessman who’s angry about being late to work, because he’s merging and acquiring), and its gender politics are straight from the ‘50s. The Parrs feel like a sitcom family, not a real one.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #9 (Marvel, 2018) – “Being Fantastic,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón K. Pérez. It turns out that the fake FF are the Mad Thinker – who is perhaps my favorite FF villain, although he’s not used much – and his minions. Sue Storm appears at the end of the issue. I have the next three issues of this series, but I haven’t yet felt like reading them.

BLACK PANTHER #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Many Thousands Gone” part 3, as above. T’Challa and his pals try to recover the M’Krann Shard, and there are more fight scenes. Manifold appears at the end. A flaw in TNC’s writing is excessive decompression; he writes a lot of issues where nothing happens.

CAPTAIN CONFEDERACY #3 (SteelDragon, 1986) – “Choices,” [W] Will Shetterly, [A] Vince Stone. I hate Will Shetterly’s politics and his online behavior, and I’ve blocked him on Facebook. However, his work is relevant to me because he was part of the ‘80s Minneapolis SF and comics scene. Indeed, the most interesting thing about this comic might be the ad on the last page for Comic City, which later became the Comic Book College, the first comic book store I ever visited. Maybe that local connection is why I bought this comic. It’s a superhero story taking place in an alternate universe where the Confederacy won the Civil War. That’s an interesting premise, but this comic’s art and writing are pretty average. This issue includes an Ant Boy backup story by Matt Feazell.

MARS ATTACKS #1 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Chris Schweizer. I know Chris Schweizer from when I lived in Atlanta, but I’ve read very little of his work, and I didn’t realize what a talented artist he is. This issue is drawn in a sort of Clear Line style, and it’s beautiful, very colorful and detailed. Kyle Starks’s writing is also impressive. This series’ protagonists are a young ne’er-do-well, Spencer Carbutt, and his father, an elderly veteran. The father is extremely disappointed in his son, but when Martians invade and start killing people indiscriminately, the Carbutts have to overcome their mutual hatred enough to save each other. No familiarity with the Mars Attacks franchise is assumed.

GRIMM’S GHOST STORIES #21 (Gold Key, 1974) – “Cowards Yield,” [W] uncredited, [A] Win Mortimer, plus other stories. This issue consists of four horror stories that are all equally formulaic and boring. The most interesting thing about this issue is the third story, drawn by Oscar Novello. I hadn’t heard of this artist before, but he started his career in Argentina in the 1940s. His story in this issue is surprisingly detailed considering the low page rates he must have been getting, and he draws some good facial expressions.

SEX DEATH REVOLUTION #1 (Black Mask, 2018) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Becca Farrow. This was the last comic I read this week because it’s really long. Sex Death Revolution has a transgender protagonist who’s dealing with mental illness, so it’s reminiscent of both Kim & Kim and Eternity Girl. I can’t remember what exactly happens in this issue, but its plot has something to do with black magic that can selectively edit the past. This is a rather difficult comic, but it could be Mags’s best serious work yet (I wouldn’t call Kim & Kim a serious work).

New comics received on November 10, at which point I was able to enjoy them a bit more because I was no longer terrified about the midterm elections:

RUNAWAYS #15 (Marvel, 2018) – “That Was Yesterday Part III,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. Nico encounters the spirit contained in her staff, which turns out to be a crazy world-conquering demon, and it forces Nico to make a bargain where it gets stronger whenever she uses a spell. Also, it really likes pancakes. Besides the pancakes, the highlight of the issue is the last panel, where the demon’s shadow is visible behind Nico’s shadow. Not much happens in terms of any of the other plotlines.

GIANT DAYS #44 (IDW, 2018) – “Esther Falls in Love with Elon Musk,” [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. That’s not the real title. In a Valentine’s Day-themed story, Esther falls in love with a billionaire tech bro, but then dumps him because he’s invovled with hyperloops. The tech bro then falls in love with the girl who’s been making all the noise in Esther’s dorm. This was a fun issue, as usual, and I like how this series’s plot actually progresses over time. I wonder what’s going to happen to Giant Days when the protagonists graduate from university.

BLACKBIRD #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Jen Bartel. Nina and her talking cat investigate Marisa’s disappearance, and they encounter lots of weird people. This was an entertaining issue, but very similar to issue 1, although it’s nice to see Nina actually caring about something.

CROWDED #4 (Image, 2018) – “The American in Me,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Ro Stein. Vita’s house burns down, thanks in large part to the apathy of the for-profit fire department. This is another example of how Crowded is just barely science-fictional. Privatized fire departments that charge extra for foam aren’t real, but they easily could be. Besides that, this issue also focuses heavily on Trotter, and it starts to show us why everyone hates Charlotte.

SPARROWHAWK #2 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Delilah S. Dawson, [A] Matias Basla. I can’t remember the protagonist’s name, but she fights a bunch of monsters and travels through some bizarre environments. At the end of the issue she moults and grows bigger wings. This is an impressive series, and Matias Basla’s art is gorgeous. I particularly like the scene with the garden full of mazes and topiary monsters.

MOTH & WHISPER #3 (AfterShock, 2018) – “Suspended Bodies,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Jen Hickman. Nikki tries to infiltrate a factory run by Wolfe, the Big Bad (as TVTropes calls it), but Wolfe captures them and claims that their parents were working for him before they disappeared. Also, Nikki confirms that they’re genderqueer and their pronouns are they/them. This is a really fun series, but also rather grim: for example, Wolfe’s factory is used to harvest organs from live people.

THE GREEN LANTERN #1 (DC, 2018) – “Intergalactic Lawman,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. It is a truth universally acknowledged that Grant Morrison is washed up, having become too cosmic and trippy that he can no longer tell a good story. So I expected this comic to be underwhelming, but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. This issue begins with a battle between some alien Green Lanterns and the Luck Lords of Ventura – a nice Legion reference. Then, in an echo of Hal Jordan’s origin, a dying Green Lantern lands on Earth and gives Hal his ring. And it turns out there’s something wrong with the Book of Oa. Unlike most recent Grant Morrison comics, this issue makes complete sense – although it’s not obvious how all the plot threads are connected – and it’s also fun to read. And Liam Sharp is a better artist than I gave him credit for.

ADVENTURES OF THE SUPER SONS #4 (DC, 2018) – “Lost Boys,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Carlo Barberi. This issue’s cover is an homage to the cover of Brave and the Bold #93, the Batman-House of Mystery team-up. That’s appropriate because in this issue, after Space Cabby’s cab crashlands, Damian has to take a severly ill Jon to the “House of Secret Mysteries” for help. This is a really fun series, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. I forgot to say this before, but the girl Captain Cold is really cute.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #72 (IDW, 2018) – “The Extra Ingredient is Pear,” [W] Thom Zahler, [A] Agnes Garbowska. Not the actual title. This issue is a quasi-sequel to “The Perfect Pear,” perhaps the best episode of the entire series. The Apples find Pear Butter’s apple pie recipe, and they try to recreate it for Granny, but they can’t quite get it right. After numerous failed attempts, each of which involves a flashback, Applejack figures out that the missing ingredient is a pear – because Pear Butter loved both sides of her family. Heartwarming.

X-23 #6 (Marvel, 2018) – “Operation Kindergarten Clone,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Georges Duarte. Gabby poses as a high school student (although she looks too young to be in high school) in order to track down a creator of illegal clones. Hijinks and battles ensue. This was a really fun issue, though it was a quick read. Gabby and Laura’s interactions are the primary draw of this series.

BORDER TOWN #3 (DC, 2018) – “Child Sacrifices,” [W] Eric Esquivel, [A] Ramon Villalobos. There are two standout scenes in this issue. The first is Aimi’s confrontation with a racist, sexist, lecherous school principal. The second is the scene right after that, with the crazy Nazi survivalist and his equally bad son. Both these scenes depict the depth of racism and misogyny in today’s America, in a creepily plausible way. By comparison, the scene with the curandera is pretty cute. Border Town continues to be a challenging but important comic.

FARMHAND #5 (Image, 2018) – “The Antique Lady,” [W/A] Rob Guillory. It turns out that Ms. Thorne is seriously bad news, and unfortunately she just got elected mayor. Also, the mysterious green blight is spreading out of Freetown. This issue includes a reference to a drugstore called Guidry’s, which is cute because I have a friend who’s from Louisiana and is named Guidry. And in general, this series demonstrates a lot of local knowledge; it’s clear that Rob Guillory grew up in a town much like Freetown.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE FUNNIES #1 (Image, 2018) – various stories, [W] Kieron Gillen et al, [A] Jamie McKelvie et al. A collection of humorous stories starring the WicDiv cast, by a large number of writers and artists. The best stories in the issue are 1) the first story, where the protagonists are dogs instead of gods – I just noticed the anagrammatic pun there. And 2) “5 Things Everyone Who’s Lived with Sakhmet Will Understand,” where Sakhmet brings her human dead people, instead of dead mice and birds. This issue is a lot of good clean fun.

OUTER DARKNESS #1 (Image, 2018) – “Each Other’s Throats Pt. 1: Captain on the Bridge,” [W] John Layman, [A] Afu Chan. In this space opera comic, a starship captain is fired for refusing an illegal order from his shipowner. He gets hired instead to command a new ship, whose engine is a demon fueled by human sacrifices. This comic feels like a gritty and unromantic version of Star Wars, with a very diverse cast, and I like Afu Chan’s art.

UMBRELLA ACADEMY: HOTEL OBLIVION #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Miniature War in a Miniature Home,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Gabriel Bá. Like #1, this comic is completely impenetrable and makes no effort at all to cater to new readers. I’m done with this comic. Even Gabriel Bá’s art isn’t a sufficient reason to put up with a story that makes utterly no sense.

BULLY WARS #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Aaron Conley. This issue consists of a long dream sequence followed by some setup for the actual Bully War. This series is aimed at young kids, but it appeals to me because it demonstrates the cruelty and cynicism of actual children.

LEVIATHAN #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Layman, [A] Nick Pitarra. I was underwhelmed by the first issue of this series, and I didn’t quite get what Leviathan was supposed to be about. Issue 2 is somewhat clearer, and it was fun enough that I immediately went on to read #3. This issue, we learn that the inside of the earth is full of dinosaurs, and the government has created a robot army to destroy the dinosaurs, thinking they were responsible for the kaiju attack in issue 1. But the kaiju from last issue was a demon, not a dinosaur, and in mistakenly attempting to exact revenge on the dinosaurs, the army arouses the ire of a giant three-headed radioactive dinosaur. Also, the protagonist’s girlfriend isn’t dead. I was kind of unimpressed by Nick Pitarra’s art in #1, but this time around I like it; it’s rather Darrow-esque.

LEVIATHAN #3 (Image, 2018) – as above. The protagonist, Ryan, meets an exorcist who knows where the demon came from. We’re also introduced to a mad scientist who created a mutant scorpion to deal with the radioactive dinosaur. So basically all hell is breaking loose, and it’s pretty fun.

THE DREAMING #2 (DC, 2018) – “The Foundation,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Bilquis Evely. Again, I didn’t read this issue immediately because I was unimpressed with issue 1. It was boring and overly convoluted. This issue is still pretty confusing, but it’s more entertaining than #1 was. The Dreaming is descending into chaos, as Daniel seems to be gone for good, and Lucien won’t give Mervyn any attention. Mervyn decides to fix things by summoning a new dream character named Judge Gallows. Also, the characters from House of Whispers make a cameo appearance.

BLACK PANTHER #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Many Thousands Gone” part 4, [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Daniel Acuña. Yet another issue that consists entirely of a giant fight scene. I’m mostly reading this series out of a sense of obligation, and I think I’m going to drop it.

THE DREAMING #3 (DC, 2018) – “The Glory,” as above. Judge Gallows holds a show trial and resurrects Brute and Glob. This was an okay but unspectacular issue. I like this series enough to continue ordering it for now.

THE PHANTOM #73 (Charlton, 1976) – “The Torch,” [W] Bill Pearson, [A] Don Newton. The writer is credited as “Ben S. Parillo,” an anagram of his real name. This issue has a complicated but competently written story in which the Phantom confronts an assassin, the Torch, and a mad scientist, Raven. What makes it a near-classic is Don Newton’s brilliant visual storytelling and draftsmanship. Don Newton’s issues of this series were probably the best Phantom comic books published in America.

FRED THE CLOWN #2 (Hotel Fred, 2002) –“Dummies” and other stories, [W/A] Roger Langridge. This comic consists of a series of short stories about a sad clown. Some of the stories are wordless, while others are narrated by captions, but the clown never talks. All these stories are brilliant and poignant, and they demonstrate Langridge’s mastery of visual storytelling. Some of them are even a bit experimental – there’s one where in each panel, Fred is described with an adjective beginning with a different letter of the alphabet, from A to Z.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS & STORIES #238 (Dell, 1960) – “The Dog-Sitter,” [W/A] Carl Barks, plus other stories. This comic is unfortunately missing some pages, but only the Scamp and Chip & Dale stories are affected, so I don’t care that much. The Barks story is a screwball comedy in which Donald agrees to do a babysitting job for the nephews, but it turns out the “baby” is a dog. And then the dog gets loose and Donald tries to recapture it, but instead  catches a different dog. Much of the humor in this story comes from the dog itself, a shaggy, silent, staring monster. This issue also includes a Paul Murry Mickey Mouse story, but unfortunately the new character in this story, Thursday, is a horrible racist stereotype.

KORAK, SON OF TARZAN #13 (Gold Key, 1966) – “The Night Riders of Ras Kaffa” and “The Hidden World,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Warren Tufts. I initially thought this comic was drawn by Russ Manning, but it’s actually by an even more rarely seen artist, Warren Tufts. This artist is best known for the comic strips Casey Ruggles and Lance, but also drew some comic books for Gold Key. His art in this issue is amazing, with dynamic compositions and Caniff-esque spotting of blacks. However, Tufts’s art for comic books must have suffered from the small size and poor reproduction of that format, compared to the comic strip format. The story in this issue is also interesting. Korak teams up with a cute Ethiopian princess to investigate an abandoned castle. Ethiopia was still a monarchy at the time. In the backup story, Korak meets a girl named Nanette who has the same origin as Tarzan.

BATMAN #288 (DC, 1977) – “The Little Men’s Hall of Fame!”, [W] David V. Reed, [A] Mike Grell. The villain in this story is the Penguin, one of my favorite Batman villains, but otherwise it’s pretty forgettable. The high point of the issue is probably the scene where Batman uses a pair of robotic wings to escape from a pit. Mike Grell’s artwork in this issue is quite good.

LETTER 44 #20 (Oni, 2015) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Alberto Jimenez Albuquerque. Earth is about to be destroyed by an asteroid, and the previous President tries to use the disaster to build a power base, but the astronauts save the day. This was a fun comic, but it was hard to understand without having read the previous issues.

WONDER WOMAN #301 (DC, 1983) – “Dark Challenger,” [W] Dan Mishkin, [A] Gene Colan. I read this while I was reading Jill Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman, or perhaps shortly after finishing that book. I expected to dislike Lepore’s book, since she’s made some public statements that I violently disagreed with, but I ended up loving it. Lepore correctly points out that most post-Marston (and pre-Pérez) Wonder Woman stories tried to domesticate the character and run away from her revolutionary potential, but Wonder Woman #301 is at least not terrible. Dan Mishkin is a more feminist writer than most of his predecessors on the series. This issue, Diana trains a Greek visitor to Themyscira named Sofia, and then battles a skeleton in a Wonder Woman costume. This issue also includes a Huntress backup story which, unfortunately, is written by Joey Cavalieri instead of Paul Levitz. Cavalieri makes a mockery of Levitz’s Huntress series by depicting Harry Sims as a misogynistic, overprotective jerk.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #291 (Marvel, 1987) – “Dark Journey!”, [W] David Michelinie, [A] John Romita Jr. This issue begins with MJ refusing Peter’s marriage proposal, though obviously she later changed her mind about that. MJ goes off to visit her sister, who turns out to be in prison, while Peter battles a Spider-Slayer created by Alistair Smythe. Peter faces a dilemma when MJ asks him to visit her in Pittsburgh, even though Smythe is still at large, and he decides to go to Pittsburgh. But Smythe follows him there. This is a good issue, which ends on an impressive cliffhanger. I forget if I have #292.

SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND LOIS LANE #103 (DC, 1970) – “The Devil’s Bride!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Curt Swan. In a story continued from last issue, Lois falls in love with a man who appears to be Satan, but is actually an alien who looks like the devil. Yes, really. He takes her to her home planet, and she’s about to marrry him until she realizes Superman still loves her. Like much of Kanigher’s work, this story is nonsensical and insulting to the reader’s intelligence. The one cute touch is that before getting married to the alien, Lois has to take a ritual bath called a “kvimha,” which is an anagram of “mikvah” and thus a reference to Kanigher’s Jewish heritage. This issue also includes a ‘60s reprint which, while not good, is at least less bad than the main story.

THE LAST AMERICAN #3 (Epic, 1991) – “An American Dream,” [W] Alan Grant & John Wagner, [A] Mike McMahon. It turns out that the radio broadcast from a fellow survivor was a fake, created by the robots in order to keep Ulysses from going nuts. So there really isn’t anyone else still alive, and I don’t know what can possibly happen in issue 4, other than Ulysses committing suicide. The protagonist’s full name is Ulysses S. Pilgrim; I wonder if the S stands for Scott.

Y: THE LAST MAN #55 (Vertigo, 2007) – “Whys and Wherefores Chapter One,” [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Pia Guerra. This issue has the same title as Incredible Hulk #346. This issue, Yorick and Agent 355 are in Russia, and lots of other subplots are going on. This issue is so late in the series that I have no idea how it fits into the story.

JONNY QUEST #27 (Comico, 1988) – “Wilderness,” PW[ William Messner-Loebs, [A] Marc Hempel. This comic has a completely blank cover, which is justified because its story is set during a blizzard, but it also must have saved Comico a lot of money. Other than that, this issue is yet another sheer masterpiece. Jonny, Race and Bandit’s plane crashlands in northern Ontario in the midst of a snowstorm, and with Race badly hurt, Jonny has to survive on his own until help arrives. Meanwhile, Dr. Quest is frantically searching for the plane with no success. Jonny and Race do get rescued, of course, but the creators viscerally convey the terrible danger Jonny is in. The reader is actually more scared than Jonny, who reacts to his predicament with his usual resourcefulness and courage.

GROO THE WANDERER #28 (Epic, 1987) – “Gourmet Kings,” [W] Sergio Aragones, [A] Mark Evanier. Groo visits a town where the royal chef makes the best food in the world, although the common people are starving. After leaving, Groo visits another town where the king needs a chef to prepare a feast for a visiting foreign dignitary. And then things happen the way you’d expect. Groo goes back to the first town, kidnaps the chef, and brings him back to the second town, but it turns out that the visiting dignitary is the same king whose chef Groo just kidnapped. Several of the names in this story are Spanish words for food, like King Sopa (soup) and the village of Almuerzo (lunch).

MIRACLEMAN: APOCRYPHA #2 (Eclipse, 1992) – “Prodigal,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Christopher Schenck, plus other stories. This issue includes three short stories, with a framing sequence by Gaiman and Buckingham in which the three stories are described as fictional works written by characters in Miracleman’s world. The best of the stories is “Prodigal,” about a young man who leaves his village of insane paranoid survivalists to visit the larger world, but later comes back to his village and is promptly murdered. “The Janitor” has some nice art by Alan Smith, an artist who has only one other GCD credit. This issue also includes an order form for Miracleman #23 through #28, at $3 each. I hope nobody ordered issues #25-28.

WONDER WOMAN #23 (DC, 2017) – “The Truth Conclusion,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Liam Sharp. I forgot to read this when it came out, so I never knew how “The Truth” ended. This issue Diana learns that Themyscira is a prison for Ares, and when she left Themyscira, she couldn’t come back because she could have led Ares back to the wider world. Also, Veronica Cale’s daughter decides to stay with Ares. Liam Sharp’s art in this issue is quite good.

TALES TO ASTONISH #97 (Marvel, 1967) – “The Sovereign and the Savages,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Werner Roth, and “The Legion of the Living Lightning,” [W] Stan Lee, [A] Marie Severin. I read this just after Stan Lee died. The Namor story in this issue is very average. The Hulk story is somewhat better. The Hulk meets a man who offers him friendship and acceptance, but it turns out the man just wants to recruit him on behalf of a cult of lightning-controlling terrorists. One of the members of the Living Lightning cult in this issue was the father of the West Coast Avenger also named Living Lightning.

New comics received on November 17:

FANTASTIC FOUR #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Family Reunion,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Sara Pichelli & Nico Leon. This is such a sweet, heartwarming comic. Reed, Sue and the kids are overjoyed to see Ben and Johnny again. Of course they also have to battle a horrible cosmic menace, but as usual, Reed comes up with a brilliant idea that saves the day. Dan Slott’s characterization in this issue is brilliant. He focuses on the six main characters, of course, and the highlight of the issue is Franklin reluctantly agreeing to use his powers. But lots of the other characters get their own cute moments. For example, on just the next-to-last page we see T’Challa suggesting that Val should meet Shuri, while one of the Atlantean kids asks Bobby Drake to explain “not canon.” I don’t know why we had to wait two months for this issue, but it was worth the wait.

MS. MARVEL #36 (Marvel, 2018) – “Silk Road,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. Most of this issue consists of a flashback to the 13th century, starring characters who bear a strange resemblance to Kamala and her friends. It’s very rare for a Marvel comic to depict non-Western history, but other than that, this issue was pretty boring. Because of Willow’s health problems, this might be the last issue for a couple months.

MISTER MIRACLE #12 (DC, 2018) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. I was apprehensive about this issue because I heard someone say something bad about it, and also I hate Tom King’s other current series. But this issue ended up being a beautiful conclusion to a classic miniseries. The Apokolips war is still going on, and Scott is still having visions of Darkseid, but he’s managed to come to terms with his trauma and mental illness. Also, Scott and Barda have a second child on the way. The issue ends by raising and then dismissing the suggestion that the reality in this comic is less “real” than the mainstream DCU. Overall, Mister Miracle is a brilliant story about living with trauma – not “overcoming” it – and it’s easily the best DC comic of 2018.

THE QUANTUM AGE #4 (Image, 2018) – “Life and Death and the End of Time,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Wilfredo Torres. Not the real title. We get Hammer Lass’s origin story, which creates another connection to the main Black Hammer series: Hammer Lass got her powers from Lucy, the 21st-century Black Hammer. Then it’s back to the Quantum Leaguers’ confrontation with Talky Walky, who refuses to release Archive to them. But Hammer Lass comes up with the idea of going back in time to prevent the Martian invasion and save the League. And I hope that works, because my major problem with this series is that almost the entire League is dead, and it’s not a Legion comic unless there are at least 24 members (which is, of course, the most members a group can have before its taxes go way up). The issue ends with the League traveling to the end of time and encountering the Time Trapper, excuse me, I mean Chronokus, who turns out to be Colonel Weird.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #38 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. After establishing that none of them are Skrulls, Doreen and her friends confide in Tony Stark, but then when they go back and see him again, they discover that he’s an impostor. One fun thing about this issue is its use of computer science. Doreen and her pals come up with an algorithm for proving that they can trust each other, and a major plot point in this issue is the security, or lack thereof, of Tony’s computer system. Throughout this series, Ryan has done a great job of teaching the reader about computer science without being either pedantic or overly technical.

EXILES #10 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Rodríguez. In the conclusion to the Arabian Nights story, the Exiles defeat Shahriyar/Doom, who makes Nocturne his successor as caliph. My only problem with this storyline is that it was too short; I wanted to see even more of the Arabian Nights universe. The issue ends with the team being attacked by a bunch of dead former Exiles, including Khan.

WONDER WOMAN #58 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Just War Part I,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Cary Nord. I was obviously thrilled at the prospect of Willow writing Wonder Woman, but this issue is a bit underwhelming. It’s a well-written and well-drawn Wonder Woman comic, but it’s similar to Greg Rucka’s Wonder Woman; it even guest-stars Rucka’s pet character, Veronica Cale. The plot is based on that of “The Truth,” with Ares returning from his captivity under Themyscira. I don’t see much about this comic that’s characteristic of Wilson, but I look forward to seeing how she puts her own stamp on this series.

RAINBOW BRITE #2 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Brittney Williams. This is an excellent kids’ comic and also a fun piece of nostalgia, since I grew up watching this show. Murky Dismal and his bumbling sidekick Lurky are just as I remember them, although I had actually forgotten Lurky until I reencountered him here. My main concern about this comic is the unfortunate color symbolism. I was thinking Wisp and Willow would somehow both become Rainbow Brite, but instead this issue ends with the white girl, Wisp, becoming Rainbow Brite, and her black friend, Willow, is nowhere to be seen. It’s also rather dubious that shadow is evil, while white light is the ultimate power. I’m making this comic sound worse than it is, though, and I’m sure that Jeremy knows what he’s doing, and that we’ll see Willow again soon.

CAPTAIN GINGER #2 (Ahoy, 2018) – “Chapter Two,” [W] Stuart Moore, [A] June Brigman. Things go from bad to worse on the ship, with litterboxes overflowing and feral cats breeding out of control. Captain Ginger decides to go on a mission with Mittens to find the other ship. There have been lots of recent comics with cat protagonists – Hero Cats, Action Cat, even Beasts of Burden – but Captain Ginger is the best such comic, at least in terms of its depiction of cats. The cats in this comic are as realistic as Terry Pratchett’s Greebo. The high point of this issue is when the first officer places a call to engineering, and on the screen we see an adorable kitten saying “Mew?”

UNSTOPPABLE WASP #2 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] GuriHiru. Nadia teams up with Viv Vision and Ironheart, then goes out to a fancy dinner and a wrestling match with Jan. This is a nice day-in-the-life issue. It’s full of great character moments, and it feels substantial even though not many major events happen. This issue repeatedly demonstrates Nadia’s awkwardness and lack of self-consciousness, as illustrated by her habit of falling asleep in unusual positions, though Jeremy has explained that there’s a psychological reason why she does that. The issue ends with AIM troops attacking the GIRL headquarters.

INFINITY WARS: INFINITY WARPS #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Moon Squirrel and Tippysaur,” [W] Ryan North, [A] Natacha Bustos, plus other stories. I bought this comic because of the first story, which is a clever mashup of Squirrel Girl and Moon Girl, and also the main character’s sidekick is a dinosaur-sized orange squirrel. The rest of the issue isn’t as good. Mariko Tamaki and Francisco Herrera’s “Green Widow” is the worst-drawn Marvel story of the year; the artist’s female anatomy resembles that of a ‘90s Image comic. Jim Zub’s Fantastic Four story is competent but boring.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #3 (DC, 2018) – “Walk on Gilded Splinters,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson, [A] Domo Stanton. Erzulie saves King Monday from being eaten by crocodiles, then transforms into one of her alternate forms or aspects, Erzulie Dantor. Meanwhile, the two human lovers are suffering from the Cotard delusion, where you think you’re dead, and lots of other people in New Orleans are falling victim to the same thing. This continues to be a really good series, though I wish it wasn’t tied to the Vertigo universe.

BY NIGHT #5 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Christine Larsen. Barney steals the girls’ footage, while back in the other dimension, the goblin dude is tried and sentenced. I like this series, but I still don’t understand what it’s about, and it’s not grabbing me as much as Giant Days does. But I didn’t get Giant Days at first either.

THOR #7 (Marvel, 2018) – “Young Thor’s Lament,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Tony Moore. In a flashback, a much younger Thor travels to Midgard and falls in love with a mortal woman named Erika. But when he leaves Midgard and comes back, he finds that forty years have passed and Erika has died of old age. It turns out this was all a plot by Loki to make Thor give up on Midgard, but it backfires; instead, Thor honors Erika’s memory by becoming more attached to Midgard than ever. This issue reminds me a bit of the filk song “Thong of Thor.”

BITTER ROOT #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] David F. Walker & Chuck Brown, [A] Sanford Greene. A really interesting new series. It takes place in the ‘20s but isn’t explicitly about the Harlem Renaissance. Instead, it focuses on a lineage of black adventurers and demon-fighters. One of the protagonists is a woman who wants to join her brothers in fighting demons and stuff, but her elderly mother or grandmother won’t let her. I’m excited to read more of this.

PLASTIC MAN #6 (DC, 2018) – “Moon and Back,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Adriana Melo. One of the primary villains turns out to be a Durlan, but Plas defeats the villains and is reunited with Pado Swakatoon. However, Plas’s ex-girlfriend still wants to kill him. This was a really good miniseries, and I hope that there’s going to be a sequel, as implied on the last page.

CATWOMAN #5 (DC, 2018) – “Copycats, Part 5,” [W/A] Joëlle Jones. This issue includes no cats at all, but it’s still good. In two parallel plotlines, the villain, Raina Creel, murders her husband, while Selina tries to break out of the mental hospital but fails.

LONE RANGER #2 (Dynamite, 2018) – “Finders Keepers,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Bob Q. Much of this issue focuses on Tonto. Mark Russell distorts the historical record by having Tonto play football for Carlisle Indian School – even though Carlisle didn’t start sponsoring football until 1893, whereas this series is clearly set in the 1880s at the latest. As evidence of the latter, this series’s plot revolves around Texas’s barbed wire conflicts, which happened in the early 1880s, and it shows the Texas Capitol building, which was finished in 1888, as still under construction. This anachronism is an acceptable piece of artistic license, but it’s worth mentioning. Anyway, Mark Russell’s depiction of Tonto’s character is very effective. Instead of a stereotype, his Tonto is a complex man who knows how to manipulate white people’s misperceptions about Native Americans for his own benefit.

GIDEON FALLS #8 (Image, 2018) – “Killer Smile,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. We get a flashback to Daniel/Norton’s abusive upbringing in an orphanage. Then the priest has a vision where he learns the name Norton Sinclair, and discovers a cache of hidden photos of Daniel. During the vision sequence, there’s yet another of Sorrentino’s trademark bizarre page layouts: it’s a two-page spread with hundreds of tiny panels, some of them identical. Meanwhile, Dr. Xu still can’t get Daniel out of the mental hospital. It’s still not clear how the two plotlines or worlds of this series are related, but they’re starting to bleed into each other.

SUPERGIRL #24 (DC, 2018) – “A (Super)girl Walks Into a Bar,” [W] Marc Andreyko, [A] Evan “Doc” Shaner. Supergirl visits an outer-space bar where she and Krypto team up to fight some aliens, and then she meets a Coluan who looks a lot like Brainiac 5. I bought this comic because of Doc Shaner’s art, which is amazing. His page layouts remind me a bit of Darwyn Cooke’s even. He’s easily DC’s best current artist. The Ambush Bug cameo in this issue was also cute. But the plot didn’t grab me enough to make me want to continue reading this series.

JOOK JOINT #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Tee Franklin, [A] Alitha Martinez. This issue is pretty much the same as last issue. It continues the story of Heloise, the abused wife, as she tries to use the Jook Joint’s power to get rid of her husband. This series is a powerful depiction of spousal abuse, though I have mixed feelings about its writer.

CEMETERY BEACH #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Jason Howard. Most of this issue is a long fight scene. There’s almost no dialogue until the last four pages, which supply all the conversation and characterization that’s missing from the rest of the issue. There’s nothing here that makes me want to continue reading this series.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #159 (DC, 1980) – “The Crystal Armageddon!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Jim Aparo. I’m surprised this wasn’t included in the Batman: Tales of the Demon trade paperback, because it’s a chapter of the Batman/Ra’s al Ghul saga, and it came out after some of the stories that were reprinted in that book. This issue includes all the classic Ra’s al Ghul tropes: the Lazarus Pit, Talia and her passion for Batman, and the League of Assassins. The plot is that Batman and Ra’s team up to save the world from the “Hatter formula,” which is obviously inspired by ice-nine from Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, because it has the exact same effect. Denny’s Ra’s al Ghul stories were some of his best writing, and it’s exciting to discover a Ra’s al Ghul story by Denny that I hadn’t known about.

AQUAMAN #32 (DC, 1997) – “Sea of Green,” [W] Peter David, [A] Jim Calafiore. As far as I know, this issue was the first Aquaman/Swamp Thing team-up, though there was another one in 2014. These characters are a natural pairing because they’re both guardians of nature, and because plants depend on water. I don’t remember much about this issue’s plot, but PAD writes Swamp Thing very well.

FANTASTIC FOUR #160 (Marvel, 1975) – “In One World – and Out the Other!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] John Buscema. The Thing battles Arkon. Then with Lockjaw’s help, Ben follows Arkon’s trail to an alternative reality where there are only two members of the Fantastic Four. The Jim Zub story from Infinity Warps #1 is also about a two-member Fantastic Four, each with two sets of powers, but that may just be a coincidence. There’s also a plot where Reed sells a 51% interest in Fantastic Four, Inc. to a man named Albert DeVoor. That looks like an anagram for something, but it’s not.

REVIVAL #10 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Mike Norton. Ibrahim steps in a bear trap, while Cooper and Derek are kidnapped by two crazy redheaded men. This was a pretty good issue, though my enthusiasm for this series has lessened now that I know how it ends. A depressing moment in this issue is when Dana and Em’s dad says, referring to Ibrahim, that “he seems like a nice guy, but all I need is one of them for a son-in-law.” This is an unpleasant reminder that despite this character’s positive aspects, he probably would have voted for Trump.

ARCHIE GIANT SERIES #549 (Archie, 1985) – “The Flying Barracuda,” [W/A] Bob Bolling. Mad Doctor Doom creates a flying robot barracuda that seeks out gold. Chester creeps into Little Archie’s bedroom and steals a lock of his hair, so the barracuda can hunt down Little Archie too. Archie cunningly (or accidentally) destroys the barracuda, by using a kite with a gold fishing lure to cause the barracuda to be struck by lightning. The highlight of the story is the last panel, where Archie goes to bed wearing a helmet so Chester can’t steal his hair again, and also sets up a picture of Chester for his dog to look at. Unfortunately, Bob Bolling’s artwork is impaired by Chic Stone’s lifeless inking.

RAW #1 (Raw, 1980) – various stories, [E] Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly. I got Raw #1 and #3 at the Shatter Daze sale for just $2 each, and I think they actually charged me less than that. As I told the person running the sale, these two comics alone justified my entire trip to the sale. Raw #1 is a massively important comic; it could be seen as the starting point of alternative or “art” comics, and thus also of the rise of comics to literary status. The high point of the issue is “Manhattan,” Jacques Tardi’s first story published in America. It doesn’t have much of a plot – it ends with the narrator committing suicide for unexplained reasons – but it’s a bleak, gritty, realistic depiction of Times Square in the ‘70s. The huge size of Raw #1 allows the reader to see Tardi’s beautiful art in all its glory (while also making the comic very difficult to store). The other great story in this issue is Spiegelman’s “Two-Fisted Painters,” which is contained in a much smaller booklet that’s bound into the comic at its centerfold. This sort of formal experimentation was a trademark of Raw, and this issue also has a removable sticker on the front cover, although I haven’t dared to remove the sticker. Anyway, “Two-Fisted Painters” is an absurdist murder story that’s also a brilliant metatextual reflection on the use of color in comics. When I read old Spiegelman stories, I’m reminded that his career is bigger than just Maus. It’s a shame that he’s produced so little new work since 1991. Other artists featured in this issue include Joost Swarte, Mark Beyer, Mariscal, and Drew Friedman, and there’s even a rare example of an actual comic by Françoise Mouly, although it’s a formalist experiment that includes no original artwork.

MIRACLEMAN #8 (Eclipse, 1986) – “Miracleman Confronts the Electric Terror,” [W/A] Mick Anglo, plus other stories. Because the Eclipse offices were flooded, the story originally intended for #8 was postponed to #9, and #8 instead consists of reprints of classic Miracleman stories. The only new material in #8 is a new framing sequence and a preview of a new Eclipse series, New Wave. The reprinted material is not bad, but not great either, and Miracleman #8 is only worth owning for the sake of completism.

PROXIMA CENTAURI #6 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Farel Dalrymple. More stuff happens in this issue that doesn’t make sense. I wish I had time to go back and read Farel’s entire oeuvre from scratch, but even if I did that, I think I still wouldn’t understand his plots.

REVIVAL #13 (Image, 2013) – as above. Dana goes on a date with Ibrahim, while Em babysits Jordan and Cooper. I don’t remember whether Dana and Ibrahim’s romance ever amounted to anything.

NINE PRINCES IN AMBER #1 (DC, 1996) – “Book One,” [W] Terry Bisson, [A] Lou Harrison. An adaptation of Roger Zelazny’s most famous novel. This adaptation is not particularly well-written or well-drawn, and that’s not surprising since neither of the creators was a specialist in comics. But it’s been a long long time since I read Nine Princes in Amber, so this comic was a nice reminder of how much I enjoyed the novel.

Reviews that almost vanished

The following reviews were nearly lost, until I found them in an old AutoRecovery file:

THE LONG CON #4 (Oni, 2018) – untitled, [W] Dylan Meconis & Ben Coleman, [A] E.A. Denich. The protagonists meet the celebrity guests, who have star##ted cannibalizing each other in reverse order of A-list-ness. Also, we get the best exchange of dialogue this week: “THAT THING YOU ALL LIKE IS PROBLEMATIC!” “WAIT WHO SAID THAT IT IS NOT”. Like Space Battle Lunchtime or Kim Reaper, The Long Con is a hidden gem that’s probably getting less attention than it deserves because it’s published by Oni.

SPIDER-GWEN: GHOST SPIDER #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Spider-Geddon Part 1: Uncharted,” [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Rosi Kämpe. I read one of Seanan McGuire’s novels, under her pen name of Mira Grant. I’ve been wanting to read her Wayward Children series, but it’s not out in paperback. Rosi Kämpe is from Finland, a country which has produced many great cartoonists, but few who have worked in America. Ghost Spider #1 is pretty fun, and much more lighthearted than the previous Spider-Gwen series, which became terminally grim toward the end. However, this issue is too heavily mired in continuity. I don’t care about all these alternate-dimensional spider people, I just want to read about Gwen Stacy.

THE BACKSTAGERS HALLOWEEN INTERMISSION #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Rian Sygh. Some of the boys stay at the theater on Thanksgiving and encounter a terrifying bug that feeds on stage fright. Sasha saves the day by being cute. There are also several backup stories. The Backstagers isn’t my favorite Boom! Box comic, but it’s nice to see it again.

On Friday, October 27th, I went to my second Heroes Pop Swap. Afterward, I went to the Shatter Daze pop-up comic sale. I bought a bunch of good stuff at each event, most notably including two issues of Raw vol. 1, though I haven’t read those yet. I could have bought even more stuff at Shatter Daze, but I was approaching the limit of my weight-carrying capacity. Here are some of the comics I bought:

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #58 (Marvel, 1968) – “To Kill a Spider-Man!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Romita. This was a bargain at $4. The issue begins by wrapping up Ka-Zar’s encounter with Spider-Man, and then JJJ teams up with Professor Smythe to build a new Spider-Slayer. Besides John Romita’s stunning art, a highlight of the issue is JJJ’s horrified realization that he only wants to humiliate Spider-Man, but Smythe wants to kill him. Also, there’s a funny scene where Spidey finds Smythe’s hideout by looking him up in the phone book. The trouble is, he doesn’t know Smythe’s first name, and there are lots of Smythes – but luckily, only one of them has the word “scientist” after his name.

THE MUPPET SHOW #11 (Boom!, 2010) – “The Curse of Beaker,” [W/A] Roger Langridge. In this horror-themed story, the Muppets are trying to put on a show, but Dr. Bunsen keeps shorting out the power with his experiments. Also, he’s trying to put Beaker’s brain in a robot body, even though Beaker is not fully on board with this idea. This issue is exciting and beautifully drawn, and has perfect comic timing. Roger Langridge is such a brilliant humorous storyteller that I would describe him as the heir to Don Rosa.

EXILES #7 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Rod Reis. I missed this when it came out, so I bought it at Heroes. This issue is the conclusion to the Wild West two-parter, and it takes an unusually dark turn at the end, as Morph and Valkyrie’s horse both get killed. Exiles #6-7 are the low point of this series so far, thanks to the lack of Javier Rodriguez art, but they’re still very good.

HELLBLAZER #27 (DC, 1990) – “Hold Me,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Dave McKean. I paid $7 for this, which is at the upper limit of what I’m willing to pay for a comic, but it was worth it. “Hold Me” is the best issue of Hellblazer, and one of Neil’s masterpieces. The story begins with a homeless man freezing to death. Later, Constantine goes to a party where a woman tries to seduce him, but it turns out she’s a lesbian and she’s trying to trick him into impregnate her. (This is not the “Ursula Imada trope” that I described in my review of Green Arrow #37; Neil’s treatment of this theme is more nuanced.) But she happens to live in the same building where the homeless man died, and it turns out his ghost has just killed a woman. Confronting the ghost, Constantine realizes that all it wants is for someone to hug it and warm it up. “Hold Me” is a beautiful story about the need for human connection. Not only the ghost, but all the characters in the story are just looking for someone to hold them. A further highlight of this classic issue is Dave McKean’s art. Here he shows that he’s not just a brilliant painter and collage artist, he can also draw with great emotional power. I’ve had a copy of Cages for years, and I ought to get around to reading it soon.

CRYSTAL NIGHT #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1980) – “Crystal Night,” [W/A] Sharon Rudahl. I saw a copy of this at Wiscon, but it was slightly beyond my price range. I was thrilled to find it at Shatter Daze for just $2, and they actually gave it to me for less than that. Crystal Night #1 is Sharon Rudahl’s only solo comic. I’m indebted to Margaret Galvan for turning me on to this artist, who, like her Wimmen’s Comix colleague Lee Marrs, is brilliant and highly underrated. Crystal Night is set in an extremely dystopian future where “aristos” live in stagnant luxury, while “walkers” can barely afford to breathe. The protagonist, Crystal Night, is a child of a walker, but grows up as an aristo, only to later discover the evil nature of the system she’s part of. Rudahl’s story is powerful as well as feminist and intersectional, and it draws upon her Jewish heritage; the name Crystal Night is a translation of Kristallnacht. Thanks to its epic scope and 32-page length, this comic feels like a small graphic novel. Its ending feels like a deus ex machina, but at least it’s set up earlier in the story. Crystal Night is now back in print as part of Dan Nadel’s Art in Time anthology, and that’s a good thing, because this comic is essential reading.

JIM #1 (Fantagraphics, 1993) – “Manhog Beyond the Face” and other stories, [W/A] Jim Woodring. In this issue’s Frank story, Manhog tries to catch a bird, but hits his head and starts hallucinating, and then things get even weirder. This story is a classic example of Woodring’s style because it’s horrifying and weird, but it has beautiful artwork and bright colors. Oddly, this story has no dialogue, but at the bottom of each page are explanatory captions, which are somewhat redundant. Woodring explains in #2’s letter column that the reason is because “Manhog Beyond the Face” was originally published in a magazine with a different page format. When Woodring reprinted the story in comic book form, he added the captions so there wouldn’t be a ton of white space. This issue also includes a dream story in which the protagonist is a stonemason working on some kind of bizarre and unexplained project. I actually almost prefer Woodring’s Jim stories to his Frank stories. His dream sequences are so strange and yet coherent, I wonder whether he really did dream them, or whether he made them up while awake. BTW, I bought this issue from the same person who sold me a bunch of other alternative comics at last year’s Heroes Pop Swap.

HATE #12 (Fantagraphics, 1993) – “Collector Scum!”, [W/A] Peter Bagge. Buddy and Lisa set up as dealers at a comic convention, and they get into a violent feud with a fellow dealer, Yahtzi. As usual with Hate, this issue is laugh-out-loud funny. It also feels totally plausible, with only slight exaggeration. I think that actual comics dealers probably get up to the same sort of antics depicted in this issue. An aspect of this comic that hasn’t aged well is that Buddy’s fight with Yahtzi happens because Buddy steals some of Yahtzi’s VHS tapes. Nowadays, VHS tapes are no longer a major collector’s item (though see https://medium.com/@waiteski/the-horrifying-world-of-vhs-collectors-35853f093e8).

SWEET TOOTH #2 (Vertigo, 2009) – “Out of the Deep Woods, Part 2,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. I don’t know what happened in #1, but #2 is a great introduction to the series. Tommy Jepperd rescues Gus from some poachers, and we learn that Gus was raised by his dad and has never left his home (reminds me of Room). And the title of the series is explained: Jepperd gives Gus a candy bar, Gus really likes it, and Jepperd calls him “sweet tooth.” The issue seems to end happily as Jepperd promises to take Gus to the Preserve, but thanks to reading later issues, I knw that Jepperd is going to betray Gus and deliver him to vivisectionists.

MR. AND MRS. X #2 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Oscar Bazaldua. I bought #2 and #3 of this series at Heroes. This issue, Rogue and Gambit bicker with Deadpool over the egg, then they all team up to fight the Technet. I’m delighted to see the Technet again, but Kelly doesn’t write these characters as well as Claremont or Davis did. Deadpool’s dialogue is pretty good, but one issue worth of it is enough for me. The issue ends with the egg hatching into a duplicate of Rogue.

BLACK PANTHER #5 (Marvel, 1977) – “Quest for the Sacred Water-Skin!!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. I had better get as many of these as I can now, before they go way up in price. This issue, the dictatorial Princess Zanda forces T’Challa and Mister Little to go look for a hidden samurai city. While looking for it, they fight a yeti. Kirby’s Black Panther has some impressive art, but it’s not Kirby’s best ‘70s comic, and it has essentially nothing to do with any other Black Panther title.

LITTLE ARCHIE #142 (Archie, 1979) – “Silver Flash,” [W/A] Bob Bolling, plus other stories. Bob Bolling’s new story in this issue focuses on the poor waif Sue Stringly, a character who only appeared in his stories (like Abercrombie and Stitch or Mad Dr. Doom and Chester). Archie is saving up money for new roller skates, but when he realizes that Sue barely has enough to eat, he instead uses the money to buy her some food. Archie’s parents are so impressed that they buy him the skates. This plot is not very original – there’s a very similar story in Archie #232, which I reviewed here in 2013 – but Bolling tells this story in his usual heartwarming and funny style. There’s one funny moment when Archie runs out of the house without kissing his parents goodbye, and his mother asks if Archie is forgetting to kiss someone, and Archie is like, “Oh yeah, I forgot” and he kisses the dog. As always, the non-Bolling stories in this issue are pointless.

HAUNTED LOVE #10 (Charlton, 1975) – “A New Life,” [W] Joe Gill?, [A] Enrique Nieto, plus two other stories. The writing in this issue is terrible, and I won’t even bother summarizing the stories, but this issue has two stories by the super-underrated Enrique Nieto Nadal. His art here is not as radical as some of his other work, but his linework is great, and he puts great effort into drawing the patterns of characters’ clothes. As a result, these stories sometimes look like collages. The other story in this issue is by Tom Sutton, and includes some more great art. I usually skip the prose stories in old comics – which were not even really meant to be read, but were included so the comics would qualify for cheaper mailing rates. However, the one in this issue is kind of interesting. It’s about a lonely bachelor who marries his cat. https://www.instagram.com/p/BpfPizHlxrz/

MR. & MRS. X #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Love & Marriage, Part Three,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Oscar Bazaldua. The fake Rogue turns into Xandra, Xavier and Lilandra’s daughter. Xandra is an adorable character, very similar to Singularity. This was an okay issue, but by this point Deadpool had long since worn out his welcome.

MAN-BAT #1 (DC, 1976) – “Beware the Eyes of Baron Tyme,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Steve Ditko. Francine Langstrom is possessed by an evil sorcerer named Baron Tyme. Man-Bat and Batman team up to save her, after an initial misunderstanding. This issue is okay, but it’s not the best Man-Bat story. I wonder why this series only lasted two issues.

JIM #2 (Fantagraphics, 1994) – four untitled stories, [W/A] Jim Woodring. In this issue’s first story, Frank visits the “Palace of Horrors,” only to realize that his entire world is a Palace of Horrors. This story kind of sums up Woodring’s philosophy. Then there’s another dream story where Jim writes a letter to the “Supreme Altruist” and builds a weird-looking desk. The third story is about some kids who encounter Pulque, the spirit of drunkenness, and the fourth one is about an encounter between two very realistically written cats. This is a good issue, but because there are four stories, the impact of each individual story is diluted.

INCREDIBLE HULK #195 (Marvel, 1975) – “Warfare in Wonderland!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Sal Buscema. This is one of many stories where the Hulk befriends a little kid. The logic behind such stories is that the Hulk is an overgrown toddler himself, so he gets along better with other kids than with adults. In this issue, the Hulk meets a boy named Ricky who’s running away from an orphanage, and they go to an amusement park based on Alice in Wonderland. Unfortunately, they are followed there by the Abomination, who’s been falsely informed that he’ll be killed if he doesn’t pursue the Hulk on behalf of the government. The really depressing part is that at the end of the issue, the Hulk abandons Ricky, thinking the boy has betrayed him, and we never see Ricky again. I wonder what happened to him.

THE MUPPET SHOW #1 (Boom!, 2009) – “On the Road,” [W/A] Roger Langridge. The Muppets go on tour and perform a show in a small town. It does not go well. Again, this issue is a masterpiece of visual storytelling. I think the running gag with the tiger in the caravan is the best part, but there are a ton of great gags and vignettes in this issue, and they all come together into a satisfying narrative.

THE SENTRY #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Sentry World Part 5,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Joshua Cassara. The new hybrid Sentry/Void kills Billy and also possibly Cranio, then leaves Earth. This is sort of an anticlimactic ending; instead of resolving Sentry’s character arc, this series just turns him into yet another villain.

CODA #6 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. This issue reveals the horrible lengths that the bandits go to in order to “feed the Gog.” Otherwise it doesn’t advance the plot very much.

THRILLING ADVENTURE HOUR #4 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ben Acker & Ben Blacker, [A] M.J. Erickson. Frank and Sadie are visited by a vampire and his minions. After a lot of rules lawyering about what constitutes an invitation, the vampire steps into their hotel room uninvited, and promptly explodes. Meanwhile, the subplot with the ghost journalist continues. This series is insubstantial, but also cute and funny.

SWEET XVI #3 (Marvel, 1991) – “All Roads Lead to Rome High,” [W/A] Barbara Slate. This series is basically Archie set in the Roman Empire. The ancient Roman setting is just a gimmick with little impact on the plot, and the comic makes no attempt at historical accuracy (it takes place in a co-ed high school, which was obviously not a thing in ancient times.) The main theme this issue is that Rome High is electing a student president, and a girl campaigns on behalf of a boy who can’t speak in public, but ends up getting elected herself. This issue is funny, but not as good as Angel Love. BTW, I just submitted a conference proposal on Angel Love, Misty and Amethyst, and I really hope it gets accepted.

SPIDER-WOMAN #43 (Marvel, 1982) – “Last Stands,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Steve Leialoha. This issue, Jessica battles the Silver Samurai, while her friends are pursued by the Viper. This series is essential for a Claremont completist like me, but it’s not as good as Claremont’s X-Men or Ms. Marvel or even Marvel Team-Up. Steve Leialoha’s art here is very similar to Frank Miller’s. The highlight of the issue is the panel where Lindsey McCabe’s cat says “Prowl now?”

LOCKE & KEY: HEAD GAMES #4 (IDW, 2009) – “Head Games, Chapter Three,” [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. Tyler shows the head key to his love interest, but she’s understandably horrified and runs away. Meanwhile, Duncan gets beaten up by some gay-bashers. I finally get that Duncan is Tyler, Kinsey and Bode’s uncle.

MIRACLEMAN #12 (Eclipse, 1987) – “Olympus Chapter Two: Aphrodite,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] John Totleben. I already have the Marvel reprint of this story, but I still want to complete my run of the original Miracleman comic, so I bought this issue when I saw it at Heroes Pop Swap. (I also saw Miracleman #16 for three dollars at a recent convention, but I didn’t buy it because I wasn’t 100% sure I didn’t have it already. I should have bought it.) As noted in my previous review of the Marvel edition of this issue, “Aphrodite” is the origin story of Miraclewoman, and it also explains what happened to Terry Rebbeck, a.k.a. Young Nastyman. The original Eclipse issue also includes a Laser Eraser & Pressbutton backup story, which has a complicated time-travel plot. One thing that strikes me as I read this issue is that Miracleman did a piss-poor job of taking care of Johnny Bates. He mistakenly assumed that Bates’s powers were gone, and allowed Bates to be placed in a brutal reform school where he was bullied and ultimately raped by his classmates. As a result, the blood of everyone who died in London is on Miracleman’s hands. It would have been better if he’d just killed Bates in issue 2.

DINOSAUR REX #2 (Fantagraphics, 1987) – untitled, [W] Jan Strnad & Henry Mayo. Dinosaur Rex #1 was in color, but thanks to budget cuts, #2 is in black and white. As a result, the artwork looks worse and is harder to read. This issue, Hempsted, Flavia and Dubadah travel to Africa to look for Hempsted’s uncle as well as the legendary Tyrannicorn. This issue is funny, but it doesn’t advance the plot a whole lot.

KONA, MONARCH OF MONSTER ISLE #7 (Dell, 1963) – untitled, [W] uncredited (Don Segall or Lionel Ziprin), [A] Sam Glanzman. I was motivated to read this after reading Fielder #1; see above. I haven’t read Kona in a while, and I forgot just how bizarre it is. Sam Glanzman’s art in this issue is pretty standard, and the plot is not that weird – the entire issue is devoted to a fight between Kona’s crew and some giant ants. However, the dialogue in this comic is like nothing else in comics history. A random sample: “Indeed! From the water rising spire of Kona’s sub sea kingdom… from that Pacific risen chimney crater emerges an army! An ant army! It moves in scarlet single file!!” “O! The discipline of insects! For what can match those precisions in an ant? We’re done for, dear ones! They’ll grind our bones to powder!” Or later: “Led by the bug subjected to the most beastly burn of all, the ruthless rubies now determined to undo the Konanites in one quick crush!” The whole issue is like that. The writer’s prose style is far weirder and more histrionic than even Kirby’s. No wonder Kona has been an inspiration to alternative cartoonists like Kevin Huizenga. A difficult question is who wrote Kona’s bizarre prose. Kona is usually credited to Don Segall, but Kevin Huizenga claims it was written by Lionel Ziprin, a beatnik poet and Kabbalist. This claim seems to originate with Ziprin himself (https://www.newsfromme.com/2009/04/11/from-the-e-mailbag-7-3/) and I’m not sure whether to believe him.

HEARTTHROB SEASON TWO #4 (Oni, 2017) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Robert Wilson IV. I don’t quite understand the plot of this issue, but what strikes me about it is that Callie and Mercer’s relationship seems kind of abusive. Like, they seem to delight in annoying each other, and Mercer seems to be separating Callie from her other friends.

VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA #1 (Gold Key, 1964) – “The Last Survivor,” [W] Dick Wood, [A] Mike Sekowsky. This issue is an adaptation of the TV show of the same name, which was the sixties’ longest-running American science fiction show with continuing characters – it ran four seasons, compared to Star Trek’s three. It’s about a privately operated nuclear submarine. In this issue the submarine’s crew battles a mad scientist who’s using tidal generators to create giant tsunamis. Despite the undistinguished creative team, VTTBOTS #1 is quite an exciting comic. The technology and oceanography in this issue are realistic, and the plot is gripping and serious.

MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #79 (Marvel, 1991) – “Weapon X, Chapter Seven,” [W/A] Barry Windsor-Smith, plus other stories. Again the only reason to own this issue is the Weapon X installment, which has some beautiful BWS art. However, in this story Logan fights a bear, and it looks more like a giant rat than a bear. Of the other stories in this issue, the least bad one is the one where Sgt. Fury teams up with Dracula. The Sunspot solo story has John Byrne art, but appallingly bad writing. Example: “Your tender tragedies elude me. I’ll be hated and hounded with humanity’s savagery always exposing to harm those I’m near.” This story’s writer, Daryl Edelman, only has two other writing credits in the GCD, and one of them is “Paper, Not Paper” from Classic X-Men #35, which is at least as bad. The last story, starring Dr. Strange, is just mediocre. But I must have read this issue as a little kid, because when I read the line “Encase this fiend in the scarlet sack / The crimson bands of Cyttorak,” I instantly recognized it.

SPIDER-GIRLS #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] Andrés Genolet. Mayday Parker and Anya Corazon team up with a new character named Annie, a.k.a. Spiderling, the daughter of a Peter Parker and a Mary Jane who are both superheroes. Annie is a really cute new character, but like Ghost Spider #1, Spider-Girls #1 suffers from being overly mired in continuity. I just want to read about the interactions between these three different Spider-Girls, without having to care about this Inheritors nonsense.

BABYTEETH #13 (Aftershock, 2018) – “The Goddamn Devil,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. In hell, Sadie and her companions are reunited with Heather and Clark, but then Satan shows up. And Clark says “Dada” and Satan takes off his mask and says “I have a kid?” I’ve been lukewarm on Babyteeth lately, but this issue’s last page was a complete shock, and makes me excited to see what comes next.