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.

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