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.

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