New comics received on December 10:
LAGUARDIA #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Homecoming,” [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Tana Ford. This is Nnedi Okorafor’s best comic yet, and it shows that she, like Saladin Ahmed and G. Willow Wilson, has succeeded in making the transition from prose SFF to comics. The only caveat is that it takes place in the same universe as her novels Lagoon and Binti, and I would have had a harder time understanding this comic if I hadn’t read Lagoon. The basic premise is that Nigeria, and specifically Lagos, has become a gateway to Earth for all kinds of alien species. The protagonist, a pregnant woman named Future, is traveling from Lagos to New York, and is also smuggling in a (literal) illegal alien. This comic makes effective use of SF tropes to investigate the topic of immigration. It also has really nice art; Tana Ford has the rare talent of drawing aliens that really look alien. I especially like the scene where some green flower-like aliens get out of a plane, and in the next panel, we discover that they’re the size of human feet. In addition, this is perhaps the first comic book I’ve ever read that includes Nigerian English. On YouTube, some Comicgate troll made a video criticizing this comic as racist. He singled out the scene where Future is going through security and a little white girl pulls on her dreadlocks, saying that this would never happen in real life. The irony is that on Facebook, Nnedi Okorafor said that this scene was based on personal experience.
THE WRONG EARTH #4 (Ahoy, 2018) – “The Wrong Earth Chapter Four,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Jamal Igle. This was a bit less impressive than the first three issues, but only by a small margin. The highlight of the issue is when the Harley Quinn character decides she’s had enough of the Joker character. This is still one of the best superhero parodies I’ve ever read, and I’m glad to see that it’s actually gaining readers.
THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #40 (Image, 2018) – “For a Certain Value of ‘Okay,’” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. In a horrifying twist, Baal decides to sacrifice the entire crowd at the O2 Arena to defeat the Great Darkness. I’m not sure if we even know yet what the Great Darkness is. There are now five issues of WicDiv remaining. I’m glad it’s ending soon, because it’s not getting any easier to understand.
CROWDED #5 (Image, 2018) – “Too Many People,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Ro Stein. Trotter leads Vita and Charlie into an ambush. This issue is more of the same hilarious mayhem as usual. The high point of the issue is probably “Swipe for 30 more minutes of vintage Los Angeles skies.”
MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #38 (Marvel, 2018) – “Bad Dream, Part One: A Nightmare on Yancy Street,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Lunella has a series of nightmares. It turns out that a little boy (possibly a reference to Little Nemo) and his “cloud chimera” are responsible. I expect that capital-N Nightmare and Sleepwalker are going to appear later in this story. This was a really fun issue, and this storyline is promising. Funny moments in this issue include Lunella’s bedroom and her awkward sleeping position, and the Moloid and the giant-eyed lobster in the school basement.
GIANT DAYS: WHERE WOMEN GLOW AND MEN PLUNDER #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] John Allison. Ed Gemmell goes to Australia to visit his girlfriend Nina. While there, he has to foil a plot to steal Australia’s longest snag, i.e. sausage. This is even more hilarious than an average issue of Giant Days. I have no idea if John Allison’s portrayal of Australia is accurate, but it feels accurate. And I think this is the first time John has drawn Giant Days since its webcomic days. He has a distinctive and weird style, and it’s fun to see his visual take on his own characters.
BLACKBIRD #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Jen Bartel. Nina gets better acquainted with Clint, the white-haired paragon dude, and then her mother shows up out of nowhere. It looks like Clint will be the primary love interest in this series.
ADVENTURES OF THE SUPER SONS #5 (DC, 018) – “Deus Ex Machina,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Carlo Barberi. Jon and Damian meet their older, fatter selves, as well as their future children. This issue has some poignant moments, but it’s weird to see Jon already thinking about fatherhood at his age.
DIE #1 (Image, 2018) – “The Party,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans. Kieron’s next major work is about some kids who play a game of Dungeons & Dragons, during which they perform actual magic and transport themselves into the world of the game. And then two years later, all of them come back… except one. The series then picks up 25 years later, when the kids are all adults. Their lives have been ruined by their two years in the fantasy world, and they’re under a geas not to talk about anything that happened there. And then they’re summoned back to that world. As Kieron points out in his editorial, this comic is inspired by the ‘80s Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, but it also draws upon the moral panic over D&D from the same period. And then there’s the extra element of adults revisiting their childhood traumas. This promises to be a complicated and fascinating work, though I don’t like Stephanie Hans’s art as much as I like Jamie McKelvie’s.
WEST COAST AVENGERS #5 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. The Avengers fight with a funny new villain named Gridlock who controls cars. Then they’re summoned to a spooky abandoned amusement park, but it turns out to be a plot by Madame Masque. Kate’s mother shows up at the end of the issue. This story is the latest chapter in Kelly’s ongoing epic about Madame Masque and Kate’s parents, which was left unfinished when Hawkeye was cancelled. Indeed, this West Coast Avengers series is really just Kelly’s Hawkeye series under another name, and that’s not a bad thing.
MOTH & WHISPER #4 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Hidden Assets,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Jen Hickman. Niki escapes from Wolfe’s factory and then encounters his parents’ old friend, The Mole. This is another strong issue, but it seems odd that Niki is so quick to trust The Mole.
SMOOTH CRIMINALS #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kurt Lustgarden & Kristen “Kiwi” Smith, [A] Leisha Riddel. This new Boom! Box series is by the same writers as Misfit City, a fun and highly underrated series. Smooth Criminals is set in 1999, and stars a hacker and community college student who encounters a time-traveling criminal from the ‘60s. This issue is fun so far, but unlike Misfit City, it doesn’t have an obvious hook or theme, and I’m not sure where it’s going.
BORDER TOWN #4 (DC, 2018) – “The Extra-Hard Setting,” [W] Eric Esquivel, [A] Ramon Villalobos. Instead of reviewing this comic, I will say that I’m shocked and disappointed by the news about Eric Esquivel, and that I’m grateful to Cynthia Nagle for having the courage to publicly denounce him. Besides being horrified by Esquivel’s behavior, I’m also sorry that Border Town, which seemed like a genuinely progressive and important comic, is now permanently tainted. What DC should do is launch another similar comic that deals with border and immigration policy, written by another writer who has personal knowledge of these topics, but who is not a sexual predator. As for Esquivel, Border Town #4 should be his last comic book.
WELCOME TO WANDERLAND #3 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jackie Ball, [A] Maddi Gonzales. Riot and Lark encounter the Walt Disney character, and have some relationship problems. There’s a lot of fun stuff in this issue, but maybe that’s not entirely a good thing. This comic has too much going on, and it seems like resolving the entire plot in one issue may be difficult.
SNOTGIRL #12 (Image, 2018) – “Heat Wave,” [W] Bryan Lee O’Malley, [A] Leslie Hung. Now here’s another series that has too much going on and that lacks a clear plot. But Snotgirl is an ongoing, so it’s not under any pressure to finish its story. And it has such a strong visual style that I don’t mind being confused about the plot and characters sometimes. The main event this issue is that Lottie’s sister Rosie shows up unannounced, and promptly establishes herself in Lottie’s house and acts like it’s her house. Rosie is just horrible, but in a totally realistic and plausible way. Thanks to reading r/relationships, I know what Lottie should do: she should throw Rosie the hell out, and call the police if Rosie refuses to leave. But Lottie doesn’t have the strength of will to do that, because she’s spent her life letting Rosie push her around.
THE GREEN LANTERN #2 (DC, 2018) – “Darkness Visible,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. A cabal of super-villains kidnaps Evil Star because they need his Starband as part of their plot. And at the end of the issue, Hal discovers that Earth has been stolen. What’s most notable about this issue is the alienness of the alien characters. Rot Lop Fan appears at the start of the issue, and then later, we’re introduced to a new Green Lantern whose head is a volcano. Even when we meet Trilla-Tru, a Xudarian, we’re reminded that she’s an avian whose diet consists of seeds and bugs. And these characters spend half the issue interrogating an alien spider. In general, this is an enjoyable series so far, and it’s mostly free of Grant’s worst tendencies.
GRUMBLE #1 (Albatross, 2018) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Mike Norton. I ordered this because Rafer Roberts was the writer of Modern Fantasy, which was really good. This series is also set in a fantasy world, but one which is less fantastic and closer to our world. In keeping wth Mike Norton’s less cartoony style compared to that of Kristen Gudsnuk, there are fewer inside jokes and sight gags. The plot is about a young woman who’s just been orphaned and is involved in some kind of mob plot. And then she meets an old friend of her mother’s, who promptly gets turned into a dog that walks on its hind legs. Also, the series is set in Baltimore, and although I’ve never been to Baltimore, I get the sense that the writer and artist know the city very well. So far I don’t love this series as much as Modern Fantasy, but it’s interesting.
BLACK AF: DEVIL’S DYE #1 (Black Mask, 2018) – untitled, [W] Vita Ayala & Kwanza Osajyefo, [A] Liana Kangas. This new series in the Black franchise is about a new drug that’s devastating the community of superpowered black people. The art in this issue is… not my favorite, but the story is much more interesting than that of Black AF: Widows and Orphans. My favorite moment is the line “You’d think that we’d learn – it’s not that we ain’t trying. It’s that no matter what we do, it’s never enough.” I haven’t been super-impressed by any of the previus comics in this universe, but I’m willing to keep reading this latest series.
NAMELESS #2 (Image, 2015) – “The Double Headed Horror at the Door,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Chris Burnham. I accidentally read this after #3. This issue explains how the astronauts get to the Xibalba asteroid in the first place, and why their suits are covered with magical symbols. Also, it turns out that while they were exploring the asteroid, the astronauts back on their ship were all going nuts and killing each other. I think my favorite thing about this series is Chris Burnham’s spectacular, epic art. He really is at least comparable to Frank Quitely.
INFINITY WARS: INFINITY WARPS #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Kamala Kang,” [W] Chris Hastings, [A] Kev Walker. I bought this because of the Punisher/Power Pack mashup story by Cullen Bunn and Garry Brown. This story has a brilliant premise – it’s like Archie/Punisher, but even more incongruous – and it’s drawn in a dark, gritty style. But it’s not as funny as it could be, and it’s not worth the entire price of the issue. None of the other stories in the issue are of interest to me.
LODGER #2 (IDW, 2018) – “Empathy for the Devil,” [W/A] David Lapham, [W] Maria Lapham. Issue 1 of this series was the first Black Crown comic that I didn’t order, because I didn’t think I’d like David Lapham. Then for some reason I changed my mind and ordered #2, and in the meantime, I also discovered that I do like David Lapham. I’m not quite sure what the premise of Lodger is, but it resembles Stray Bullets #1 in that it’s brutally violent, and the violence erupts out of nowhere. There’s a scene in this issue where a woman holds an entire bar hostage, and then when a man asks her if she’s all right, she yells “Who said you could talk to me” and kicks his chair over. And he hits the back of his head on a table and apparently dies. That’s the kind of thing that happens in David Lapham’s comics. Lodger is also very simliar to Stray Bullets in terms of art style; most pages have 2×4 grids. I do think that if I had more experience with Lapham’s work, I might think that this comic was repetitive. But if I had read more of his other work, I’d also be able to tell how Lodger is different from his other comics, so it’s a wash.
ARCHIE MEETS BATMAN ’66 #5 (Archie, 2018) – “The Batman of Riverdale, Part 5: To Fight Another Day,” [W] Jeff Parker & Michael Moreci, [A] Dan Parent. This is a fun comic, but it’s exactly the same thing as the last four issues. Perhaps six issues was too many.
NAMELESS #4 (Image, 2015) – “Dark House,” as above. The two surviving astronauts reach the center of Xibalba, where they start having weird visions. At this point Nameless loses its narrative coherence, although the art is still really good. This issue also makes me suspect that this comic was based on 2001: A Space Odyssey.
NAMELESS #5 – “Star of Fear,” as above. Like so many other Grant Morrison comics, this issue is impossible to understand. It’s not even clear which of the events in this issue are “really” happening, and which are just visions that the protagonists are having. Understanding this comic would require multiple readings, and even then it wouldn’t completely make sense. I didn’t order #6, and I’m not entirely sorry about that.
THE DREAMING #4 (DC, 2018) – “Eternity,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Bilquis Evely. Judge Gallows tyrannizes the other inhabitants of the Dreaming. To save the day, Dora and Lucian head off to Destruction’s vacant realm. I still feel lukewarm about this comic, but this issue was reasonably good.
NAMOR: THE BEST DEFENSE #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Carlos Magno. This is part of a crossover in which the Defenders will reunite. This issue is an oversized Namor solo story, with some nice Kubert-esque artwork, but a pretty average story. I should stop automatically buying every Marvel comic written by Chip.
BULLY WARS #4 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Aaron Conley. Rufus fights a bunch of other bullies, while Spencer tries to save himself from the same bullies. And there’s a lot of gross-out humor. Bully Wars is fun and clever enough that I’m going to keep reading it, but it’s fairly low on my list of my favorite current comics, which is why it was one of the last comics I read this week.
UMBRELLA ACADEMY: HOTEL OBLIVION #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Violence,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Gabriel Bá. Yet another issue that looks pretty, but makes no sense at all. This is the last issue of this series that I’ll be reading.
18 DAYS #2 (Graphic India, 2015) – “The White Flag,” [W] Grant Morrison, Gotham Chopra & Sharad Devarajan, [A] Jeevan Kang. An adaptation of the scene from the Mahabharata where the Pandavas ask Bhishma and Drona for their blessing on the eve of battle. This is an interesting story, but only because I’m not familiar with it already. I get the sense that the adaptation doesn’t add much to the original. Also, 18 Days reads like a webcomic or iPad comic converted to print form – every panel is rectangular in shape, and most panels are the width of the page – and I suspect that Grant Morrison had very little actual involvement with it.
THE FOX #5 (Archie, 2015) – “I, Superhero,” [W/A] Dean Haspiel, [W] Mark Waid. When this came out, it was hailed as a throwback to classic superhero comics, but I don’t think it’s all that great. It has a grim, serious style of writing that contrasts oddly with its cartoony art.
GIANT-SIZE LITTLE MARVEL #4 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Skottie Young. Another great issue. Zachary and Zoe decide they don’t want to join either team, and they end up getting recruited into the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Part of the fun of this comic is seeing Skottie Young’s kid versions of all the Marvel heroes and villains.
SPIDEY #2 (Marvel, 2016) – “Enter the Sandman,” [W] Robbie Thompson, [A] Nick Bradshaw. This has pretty good art, but a stupid, infantile story. As early as page seven, the reader can already figure out how Spidey is going to defeat the Sandman. This series is a massive drop down in quality from the previous kid-focused Spider-Man series, Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man, which showed much more respect for the reader’s intelligence.
New comics received on December 15. I don’t know how I managed to read 10 comic books that day, because I also had to finish grading, and I attended a friend’s birthday party on top of that.
UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #39 (Marvel, 2018) – “Where’s Tony?”, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. It turns out there’s only one Skrull, and she’s the cutest Skrull ever. And she claims that she kidnapped Tony because otherwise the entire planet will be doomed. Also, there’s a lot more (presumably) accurate computer science. This has been a really fun storyline.
CAPTAIN GINGER #3 (Ahoy, 2018) – “Captain Ginger, Chapter Three,” [W] Stuart Moore, [A] June Brigman. Captain Ginger and Mittens search for the source of the signal, while also bickering a lot. Meanwhile, we get some clues as to how the cats became intelligent. On Facebook, I ranked Captain Ginger at #1 on my list of the best cat comics of the year, although Harley Quinn #55, to be reviewed below, gave it a run for its money.
THE QUANTUM AGE #5 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Wilfredo Torres. Sadly, Colonel Weird is not willing to send the Leaguers back in time, but he does convince Talky Walky to release Archive. And thus, Supergirl and Brainiac 5 are finally reunited. Other than that really cute moment, this issue is not so much a Legion homage as a chapter in the ongoing Black Hammer saga. I’m disappointed about that, but it’s not Jeff’s fault that his priorities for this series are different from mine. I just miss the Legion, dammit.
THE UNSTOPPABLE WASP #3 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] GuriHiru. The two Wasps and the agents of GIRL battle the AIM agents, including Finesse. As a former Avengers Academy reader, I’m kind of sorry to see Finesse as a villain, but I have to admit she’s suited to that role. This issue reminds me a lot of the issue of Princeless: Raven with the pirate ship battle. Here, as in that issue, Jeremy uses a fight scene as an opportunity to develop his characters and illustrate their personalities. This is something that most writers don’t do, and as a result, the fight scenes are usually the least interesting part of a superhero comic.
GIANT DAYS #45 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Ed and Nina almost break up because of Nina’s alcoholism. This issue is hilarious, as usual, but it’s also a poignant depiction of alcoholism and British drinking culture. It helps to have read Where Women Glow and Men Plunder before reading this issue, because then you realize that Nina’s account of what happened in Australia is edited to make Ed look more heroic than he really was.
WONDER WOMAN #60 (DC, 2018) – “The Just War Part III,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Cary Nord. I forgot to order issue 59. Most of this issue is devoted to a fight between Diana and Ares. I’m still not all that impressed with this series; it feels like any other Wonder Woman comic. I’m still waiting for Willow to impose her personal stamp on Wonder Woman.
MY LITTLE PONY: NIGHTMARE KNIGHTS #3 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Tony Fleecs. The Nightmare Knights infiltrate the casino. There were some funny moments in this issue, like the kitten version of Capper playing with a ball of yarn. But when I read this comic, I was too tired to fully enjoy it.
MR. & MRS. X #6 (Marvel, 2018) – “King & Queen,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] David Lopez. This is probably the best issue yet. Remy and Rogue’s housewarming party is full of hilarious moments, lke when Laura and Bobby casually observe Remy falling off the roof. Also, the three cats make numerous appearances. The issue ends with Rogue and Gambit being kidnapped by Mojo. An impressive thing about Mr. & Mrs. X is its unromanticized portrayal of marriage: Rogue and Gambit obviously love each other, but their marriage isn’t some perfect perpetual honeymoon.
MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Garrón. I barely remember anything about that issue, but that’s not because it wasn’t good. I must have been dead tired when I read it. Looking at this issue again, I think it’s an effective Spider-Man story. It combines superheroic action with relationship drama, and it shows Miles’s struggle to balance his superhero career and his real life. At the time I read this comic I wasn’t familiar with Miles Morales’s character, but now that I’ve seen into the Spider-Verse, I’m excited to read more stories about Miles.
BY NIGHT #6 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Christine Larsen. The male protagonist, Barney, gets involved in some kind of mob plot. This series has gotten off to a slow start, and it only has six more issues to go. I fear that it may never be as good as Giant Days or Bad Machinery.
On December 16, I went to the latest Charlotte Comic Con. This was a disappointing convention, but that’s partly because I was really tired after spending the previous day grading. I didn’t have the mental energy to make intelligent purchasing decisions. I did get some good stuff, including:
THIRTEEN #18 (Gold Key, 1966) – “Battle of the Sisses” and other stories, [W/A] John Stanley. This is such a brilliant comic. As I’ve mentioned before, John Stanley was an absolute master of comic timing, and he had a knack for putting his characters in bizarre situations. In this issue’s first story, Val is frustrated with Evie for spending hours in the bathroom. So she sneaks into Billy’s house through the window, so that she can telephone her own house and make Evie leave the bathroom to answer the phone. And she gets stuck halfway through the window. (https://www.instagram.com/p/BrdkBKincYl/) It’s a ridiculous situation that also feels totally plausible. The other standout story in this issue is the one where Val is wrongly suspected of stealing a wig.
SCOOBY-DOO #1 (Marvel, 1977) – “Three Phantoms Too Many,” [W] Bill Ziegler, [A] Dan Spiegle. Evanier/Spiegle Scooby-Doos are tough to find, so I was willing to pay $3 for this one, even though it only has a six-pager by that creative team. The Evanier/Spiegle story, “The Horrible Hound Sound,” is about a rock musician who makes fake ghost noises to keep fans away from his studio. There’s also a Dynomutt three-pager written by Evanier. The other non-Evanier story in the issue is just average.
WONDER WOMAN #185 (DC, 1969) – “Them!”, [W/A] Mike Sekowsky. Diana Prince adopts a girl named Cathy who ran away from home and was enslaved by some crooks. This is a weird and clumsily written comic, and it has some moments of unintentional (?) homoeroticism – Diana gives Cathy a bath, and then later we see that they’ve been sharing a bed. (https://www.instagram.com/p/Brd5ja1HAFW/) Yet this comic has a lot of energy and vitality to it. The reader gets the sense that Mike Sekowsky cares about Wonder Woman, and that he was at least trying to depict contemporary young people accurately, even though he was over 40 at the time. (See also the Harvey #2 review below.) By contrast, for most of the period between Marston’s death and the Diana Prince era, Wonder Woman had been written by a writer who actively hated the character, and that writer’s stories were terrible and didn’t respect the reader’s intelligence – as we will see in another review below. For those reasons, even if the no-costume Wonder Woman stories seem embarrassing today, they were a massive improvement over the previous era of Wonder Woman stories.
BUCKY O’HARE #2 (Continuity, 1991) – untitled, [W] Larry Hama, [A] Michael Golden. Bucky and his crewmates find their way into Willy DuWitt’s human universe. This series doesn’t take itself very seriously, but Michael Golden’s art is brilliant. He’s equally good at depicting anthropomorphic animals and spaceship battles. Bucky O’Hare is probably the only good comic published by Continuity.
FLEX MENTALLO #4 (DC, 1996) – “After the ‘Fact,’ Part Four: We Are All UFOs,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Frank Quitely. I already have the trade paperback of this series, but I haven’t read it yet. I prefer not to read comics in trade format when they’re available in single issue format. (Indeed, even if I’ve already read a comic in trade paperback form, I still prefer to get th single issues. See the below review of Watchmen #3.) So Flex Mentallo #4 was new to me. This is a very difficult comic, and I suspect it would only be a bit less difficult if I’d read the first three issues. But it has some brilliant art and writing. The point of this series seems to be that Flex Mentallo is the true principle of heroism, which is not the same as the model of heroism presented in most superhero comics. I hope I can find the first three issues.
GREEN LANTERN #79 (DC, 1970) – “Ulysses Star is Still Alive!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Neal Adams. I paid $5 for this. I’ve already read it thanks to the ‘80s GL/GA reprint series, but again, I prefer to own the original issues. I now have four out of thirteen issues of Neal and Denny’s Green Lantern, although I’m missing the key issues #76, #85 and #87. “Ulysses Star is Still Alive!” has spectacular art; it still looks fresh and modern today, almost forty years later. However, its story is kind of embarrasing today because it’s a white savior narrative, in which Ollie convinces some Native Americans to recover their proud warrior spirit. And it’s stupid how a conflict over Native American rights is resolved by a fistfight between two white dudes. At least Denny tried to depict Native Americans sympathetically, at a time when cowboys-and-Indians stories were still common. And the closing sequence, where Hal and Ollie’s fight is juxtaposed with a Norman Mailer quotation, is genuinely powerful. As a nitpick, this issue’s cover depicts the Native Americans as using both totem poles and feather headdresses. There is no Native American nation that historically used both of those things.
DEATH RATTLE #2 (Kitchen Sink, 1973) – “Foreshadow,” [W/A] John Pound, plus other stories. To my surprise, there was one dealer at the convention who had some underground comics. But all of them were beyond my price range except this one, which was $5. This Death Rattle series is distinct from the ‘80s series with the same name and publisher. This issue’s first story is John Pound’s postapocalyptic SF story “Foreshadow,” which is effectively an EC story – there’s nothing in it that would have been inappropriate in an EC comic. Next is a partly wordless story by Tim Boxell that has some pretty art, but an incomprehensible plot. There’s also “A Normal Event on the New York Subway” by Mike Olshan and Mike Vosburg, in which a man has a bizarre vision while on the subway. Mike Olshan only has one other writing credit in the GCD. Overall, this is a pretty average underground comic.
STINZ #2 (Fantagraphics, 1989) – “Breaking to Harness,” [W/A] Donna Barr. Stinz begins his army training, and it doesn’t go well. He can’t eat meat, he has to be issued a pair of pants even though he can’t wear them, and so on. And his drill instructor hates him. This issue is both funny and touching; it illustrates what life would actually be like for a centaur in a human world. Even Stinz’s tyrannical drill sergeant is a somewhat sympathetic character.
HAUNT OF FEAR #7 (EC, 1951/1994) – “Room for One More!”, [W] Al Feldstein, [A] Graham Ingels, plus other stories. This issue’s lead story is amazing. A young man has an obsessive desire to be buried in his family’s mausoleum, alongside his late parents. But there’s only one vacant spot in the mausoleum, and he has three older cousins. Following typical EC logic, he kills his cousins and disposes of their bodies. And then the three dead cousins rise from their graves, kill him, and bury themselves in the vacant spot in the mausoleum. Graham Ingels depicts all of this with his usual ghastliness. The other three stories, drawn by Jack Davis, Jack Kamen, and Johnny Craig, are not quite as memorable. The Davis story is about a man who always carries a basket on his shoulder and who seems to have two distinct personalities. It was not hard to figure out that he was using the basket to conceal his extra head.
SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON #13 (Gold Key, 1965) – “The Pit of Doom,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Dan Spiegle. The family visit a planet where the local humans are terrorized by shapeshifting amoebas. This is an enjoyable SF story with some nice Dan Spiegle art, though it’s nothing all that great.
SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND LOIS LANE #93 (DC, 1969) – “The Superman-Wonder Woman Team!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Irv Novick. I bought this because it’s one of the few appearances of the no-costume Wonder Woman outside her own title. But ironically, this comic demonstrates why Kanigher’s Wonder Woman was so awful, and why Sekowsky’s Wonder Woman was so much better. The premise of this issue is that since Diana Prince now has no powers, Lois thinks Diana is no longer her rival for Superman’s affections, but instead Diana and Superman fall in love and decide to get married. The trouble with this issue is that it ignores all of Diana’s character development in her own series, except for her lack of powers. It’s just another silly love triangle story. Kanigher could write this kind of story in his sleep, and probably did. Also, Kanigher shows no interest in Diana’s own feelings for Superman. We never get a sense of whether she even likes him. It’s as if Superman’s relationship with Wonder Woman is totally one-sided. It turns out that this is because she’s actually not Diana, but a Phantom Zone prisoner masquerading as Diana. However, this plot twist seems like an excuse to allow Kanigher to ignore Diana’s feelings. Overall, this story is an insult to both Wonder Woman’s character and the reader’s intelligence.
HOUSE OF WHISPERS #4 (DC, 2018) – “Dip Me in the Healing Stream,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson, [A] Domo Stanton. The Cotard delusion keeps spreading in New Orleans, while Erzulie scrambles to fix things. This is still my favorite current Sandman title, but this issue was mostly the same thing as the last few issues.
MARS #3 (First, 1984) – “Transformation,” [W] Mark Wheatley, [A] Marc Hempel. Morgana encounters her old crewmate Milos, then goes to bed and has a bizarre dream about a living city. According to the Slings & Arrows Guide, this series lacks “even the pretense of linear narrative,” and that seems fair, but it’s a fun comic anyway.
BLACK HAMMER: CTHU-LOUISE (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Cthu-Louise,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Emi Lenox. This one-shot focuses on a character we previously met in the Sherlock Frankenstein miniseries. Lemire and Lenox’s depiction of Cthu-Louise is brutal. Both her parents abuse her, and thanks to her bizarre appearance, she’s relentlessly bullied in school. When she finally snaps and sacrifices her bullies to her grandfather Cthulhu, the reader is actually happy for her.
THIRTEEN #20 (Gold Key, 1966) – “Right? Right!”, [W/A] John Stanley. Another excellent issue, though its impact on me was lessened because I had just read another issue of Thirteen. John Stanley’s stories are mostly free of topical references or explicit feminism, but this issue includes a story where Val looks at the moon and thinks “How exciting that soon there’ll be men on it! Guess it’ll be a while before they put a girl on it, though.” (And she was right.) There’s also a story where Billy saves Val from being crushed by a rock, and for a minute, they actually seem like a real couple, rather than two kids who like to torment each other.
GODDESS MODE #1 (Vertigo, 2018) – “Out of Sync,” [W] Zoe Quinn, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. I was apprehensive about this comic because Zoe Quinn is another writer with no previous comics experience. But Goddess Mode turns out to be excellent. It takes place in a dystopian world where everyday life is dominated by an MMORPG called Azoth. (So it’s a bit like Ready Player One, but without the toxic masculinity.) Then Azoth unaccountably goes offline, and the protagonist, Cass Price, has to figure out what’s going on. This comic benefits from Zoe Quinn’s personal knowledge of gaming and Internet culture. Like Crowded, it depicts a world where everything is monetized: there’s an adfor water with “50% less cholera* ,” and Cass needs “augments” to breathe the air in her apartment. And her apartment is full of ads that she has to pay a fee to turn off. This is a future that’s only slightly exaggerated relative to the real world. Zoe Quinn also shows a sharp understanding of Cass Price’s psychology, reminding us that she (Zoe) initially became famous for a game about mental health. The following lines are especially powerful: “The only person who has ever felt like home hasn’t opened his eyes since I was a kid… And yeah, maybe I never figured out how to be a person after that.” Also, Robbi Rodriguez is an ideal artist for this story. This is an exciting series, and as an added bonus, it’s going to be equally annoying to both Gamergaters and Comicsgaters.
SPIDER-GIRLS #3 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] Andrés Genolet. Another issue full of adorably awful spiders and cute character interactions. Annie, with her burning desire to help, is the heart of this series. It’s too bad that this is the last issue. I would eagerly read an ongoing series about these characters, or even just Annie.
LONE RANGER #3 (Dynamite, 2018) – “Deal with the Devil,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Bob Q. The Lone Ranger and Tonto start a cattle stampede, then rebrand all the cattle so their owners can’t tell which cattle are whose. Also, we’re introduced to a new villain who is kind of like Bat Lash, except he’s a cannibal. Not a bad issue, though less memorable than #2.
BITTER ROOT #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] David F. Walker & Chuck Brown, [A] Sanford Greene. One of the Sangeryes prevents a lynching, and we learn that white people turn into jinoos when they kill black people. That’s a fascinating premise. Meanwhile, the giant dude, Berg, gets infected and turns into a goblin or something. Because of his combination of huge size and intellectual language, this character reminds me of the big blue dude from ClanDestine. The young female Sangerye from last issue doesn’t appear in this one.
X-23 #7 (Marvel, 2018) – “X-Assassin Part 1,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Diego Olortegui. Let me just point out something I’ve been noticing lately: Marvel has been hiring a lot of international artists, mostly from Spain or Latin America, but few of these artists ever get to do a really long run on a series. And they rarely get promoted as stars. Marvel seems to treat them like interchangeable parts. Juann Cabal is a really good artist, and I’d be curious to know why he’s no longer drawing X-23. I’d also like it if the comics press put more emphasis on Marvel and DC’s artists as well as their writers. Anyway, this issue Gabby waits in a long line for gelato, and then she and Laura fight an assassin who turns out to look just like them. This is an okay issue. I like the description of Hank McCoy as “regal.”
HARVEY #2 (Marvel, 1970) – “Playing Post Office!” and other stories, [W] Stan Lee, [A] uncredited (possibly Stan Goldberg). This would be just another average Archie knockoff if not for the fact that it’s written by Stan Lee. The dialogue is all in Stan’s recognizable style, and the second story, “It’s Only Money, Honey!”, is notable because of its contemporary relevance. The Archie character, Harvey, needs money for a ticket to a “Jefferson Zeppelin” concert. After he goes through all sorts of hijinks to get the money, he discovers it’s a free concert. The name “Jefferson Zeppelin” (Jefferson Airplane + Led Zeppelin) and the free concert show that Stan was paying attention to the counterculture of the time. This was part of his brilliance. Even though he was approaching forty years old when he co-created the Marvel Universe, he was able to connect with readers who were half his age or less, because he knew what sort of things they cared about. You also see this in his Spider-Man comics that were about drugs or campus protests. As someone suggested when I made these observations on Facebook, Stan may have had only a shallow knowledge of contemporary youth culture, acquired by watching TV. But even then, most other comics writers at the time had no knowledge of youth culture at all.
FELIX THE CAT #16 (Dell, 1950) – multiple stories, [W/A] Otto Messmer (?). I think this is the oldest comic book in my collection. It’s in such poor condition that I hesitate even to take it out of its bag. This comic is uncredited, but it’s in the exact same style as Otto Messmer’s classic Felix cartoons, and when I posted one page of it on Facebook, Mark Newgarden identified that page as Messmer’s work. Like the Felix cartoon series, this comic consists of various adventure stories with no continuity between them. There’s none of the self-reflexivity of the cartoon (Felix doesn’t remove his tail, or play with ? and ! marks), but the overall art style is very two-dimensional, and the gags are very similar to those in the cartoon. For example, there’s one story where Felix dives underwater for some pearls, and encounters an octopus that resembles the one in Comicalamities, which is discussed in my dissertation. In general, this is a fascinating comic, and I’m proud to have it. Maybe I should get the IDW hardcover collection of Messmer’s Felix comic books.
CRIME SUSPENSTORIES #7 (EC, 1951/1994) – multiple stories, [E] Al Feldstein. A collection of excellent stories. In Johnny Craig’s “Hatchet-Killer,” a woman murders her housekeeper, mistaking her for an axe murderer. This is a pretty impressive story of fear and paranoia, but the shock ending, where we learn that the axe murderer is already dead, is underwhelming. I thought the woman’s husband was going to be the murderer. Next is a Jack Kamen story which uses the typical EC trope of a woman conspiring with her lover to kill her rich husband. Jack Davis’s “Phonies” is a clever stry about one thief manipulating another into opening a safe. Maybe the best story in the issue is Graham Ingels’s “Horror Under the Big-Top!”, in which an acrobat and a human cannonball murder each other.
JOURNEY #12 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “Hidden Spirits,” [W/A] William Messner-Loebs. Wolverine gets knocked off his canoe and has to run to the next bend in the river to get back on it. Meanwhile at the fort, an Indian domestic servant pretends to be servile and docile, but then we learn that she’s a spy for Tecumseh. As I have probably said before, one fascinating thing about this series is its depiction of the diversity and complexity of Native American culture. There’s also a backup story by someone named Jim Miller.
BLACKHAWK #269 (DC, 1984) – “Changes,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Dan Spiegle. I haven’t really gotten into this series, even though I love all the other Evanier-Spiegle collaborations. Probably the reason is that I don’t like war comics. But Blackhawk is not a typical example of that genre. It has the same witty dialogue and clever plots as Evanier’s other comics, without the gritty realism of most DC war comics This issue, Blackhawk is trapped in Nazi Germany, but escapes by hiding in a coffin that has to be shipped out of the country at once. This is a clever plot twist that’s set up very early in the issue. Meanwhile, the other Blackhawks have a new leader who is obviously some kind of spy.
SMOOTH CRIMINALS #2 (Boom!, 2018) – as above. It turns out Mia didn’t travel through time, she was cryogenically frozen. Also, her nemesis, Hatch Leonard, is still alive. This is a fun comic and a nice piece of ‘90s nostalgia, but I’m still not sure what its point is.
FANTASTIC FOUR WEDDING SPECIAL #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “(Invisible) Girls Gone Wild, [W] Gail Simone, [A] Laura Braga, and “Father Figure,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Mark Buckingham. This issue’s first story depicts Alicia Masters’s bachelorette party. It’s very similar to Incredible Hulk #417, except for the cute ending, where Alicia and her friends help their chauffeur celebrate his wedding anniversary. The backup story is much more clever. Ben visits the Puppet Master in prison to ask for his blessing, and gets it, but there’s a twist at the end that’s so brilliant I don’t want to spoil it. The Braille text at the end just says “father figure.” It took me several minutes to figure that out, even with the Braille alphabet in front of me.
JINGLE BELLE: THE HOMEMADES’ TALE (IDW, 2018) – “The Homemades’ Tale,” [W] Paul Dini, [A] Nicoletta Baldari. Jingle Belle encounters the Queen of Toys, who collects all the toys that children throw away because they prefer their shiny new Christmas presents. It turns out the Queen herself is an animate doll that was created to resemble Jingle Belle. This is a really cute story, and it’s drawn in a style that resembles a child’s crayon drawing.
SPIDER-GWEN: GHOST SPIDER #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Spider-Geddon Part Three: Better Sorry than Safe,” [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Rosi Kämpe. This is maybe a little better than last issue, but it still feels like just a generic superhero comic. I don’t think I’m going to keep reading this series.
RED SONJA/TARZAN #6 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Gail Simone, [A] Walter Geovani. Sonja and Tarzan finally defeat Eson Duul and kill him dead. Good riddance. This was a pretty good miniseries – certainly much better than Conan/Red Sonja.
OUTER DARKNESS #2 (Image, 2018) – “Each Other’s Throats Pt. 2: Red Alert,” [W] John Layman, [A] Afu Chan. Captain Joshua Rigg subjects his crew to a dangerous, unnecessary ordeal, just to see how they’ll react under pressure. His officer, Baxter, gives him a good whack, which he totally deserves. Also, there’s a scene where all the surfaces on the ship’s bridge are covered with eyes. I previously said that Outer Darkness “feels like a gritty and unromantic version of Star Wars, with a very diverse cast,” but I actually meant Star Trek, specifically The Next Generation. It almost seems like a grotesque parody of that series.
TALES OF ORDINARY MADNESS #1 (Dark Horse, 1992) – “Paranoid,” [W] Malcolm Bourne, [A] Mike Allred. This comic’s writer, Malcolm Bourne, is better known as a letterhack, but his day job is as a psychiatrist, and this comic is clearly based on his professional experience. This issue is a (presumably) very realistic depiction of a man suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. This comic is from so early in Mike Allred’s career that he was still signing his name M. Dalton Allred. But he draws this issue in much the same style as the early issues of Madman, and that style is perfectly suited to the task of illustrating the protagonist’s paranoid delusions.
RENEGADE ROMANCE #1 (Renegade, 1987) – multiple stories, [E] Deni Loubert. This series was an unsuccessful but well-intentioned effort to revive the romance comics genre. This issue is impressive because of the diverse range of work it includes. It begins with “Art Lovers,” one of very few comics stories written by Jackie Estrada. It’s about a gallery owner who has an affair with a married artist. I haven’t heard of the artist, Steven Sullivan, but there’s some nice inking by Al Williamson. Next is Mario Hernandez’s “Waiting for You,” about a wife who may be having an affair with a man named Julio – coincidentally or not, the same name as the protagonist of a different Mario Hernandez’s comic, Julio’s Day. Angela Bocage’s “How Did You Guys Meet” is just one page, but it’s cute. Cynthia Martin’s “Noë” is about a woman whose husband is obsessed with his dead first wife. A curious note about this story is that the lettering is credited to “Raoul Gato,” but is done in Tom Orzechowski’s style. On Facebook, Tom confirmed that “Raoul Gato” was him, either alone or with Lois Buhalis, and that he had a cat named Raoul, but he couldn’t remember why he used the pseudonym. The artistic highlight of the issue is Mary Wilshire’s “Artheart,” about a romance between an artist and a gallery patron. It’s drawn in delicate and evocative graytones. Mary Wilshire had a long career in commercial comics, but she also drew some stories in this painterly style, and I’d like to track down more of them. Next, Trina Robbins’s “Red Love” is an adaptation of a Russian Marxist novel by Alexandra Kollontai. Krystine Kryttre’s “My, What a Big Ass I Have” is a raucous and visually inventive creation myth, and Bob Rozakis and Stephen DiStefano’s “Love is a Balloon” is a cute depiction of how relationships evolve with age. Overall, this is a really strong anthology comic, and it’s a shame that there was only one other issue.
WEREWOLF BY NIGHT #3 (Marvel, 1972) – “The Mystery of the Mad Monk!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Mike Ploog. This issue has a dumb plot in which Jack Russell battles Aelfric the Mad Monk. The relevance of this story to later continuity is that Aelfric wrote the Darkhold, although according to later retcons, he only reassembled it. However, though the story in this issue is not great, the artwork is. Mike Ploog is really good at drawing werewolves, and there’s one horrifying panel showing a policeman’s flesh melting off his skull. This panel wouldn’t be out of place in a Basil Wolverton comic.
HEAD LOPPER #10 (Image, 2018) – “Head Lopper and the Knights of Venora,” [W/A] Andrew MacLean. The city of Venora is besieged by a huge army of goblins. The giant egg that towers over the city finally hatches, but it turns out the creature inside it is dead. Meanwhile, Norgal sits in a tavern drinking instead of fighting alongside the defenders, and I’m not sure why. This issue has an impressively epic scope.
HELLBOY WINTER SPECIAL 2018 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Happy New Year, Ava Galluci,” [W] Mike Mignola, [A] Ben Stenbeck, plus other stories. I haven’t heard of Ben Stenbeck before, but he’s not bad. His story is about a long-undead English gentleman who was cursed by a witch. Both the gentleman and the witch end up getting turned into frogs. Then there’s a story by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, which draws upon the Bulgarian tradition of costumed dancers called kukeri. Finally, there’s a gangster story by Tonci Zonjic. This is a pretty good issue, if not spectacular.
BLACK PANTHER #7 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Gathering of My Name Part One,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Kev Walker. This issue begins by introducing Killmonger’s adorable little daughter, Zenzi. Then there’s a sequence where Nakia infiltrates a casino planet in disguise and kidnaps an imperial Wakandan noble. Like “Avengers of the New World,” this story is developing very slowly, but I think it’ll reward the reader’s patience.
SILVER SURFER: THE BEST DEFENSE #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Best Defense,” [W/A] Jason Latour. Offhand I can’t think of another comic that’s both written and drawn by Jason Latour. In this issue, the Surfer visits a planet of truly horrible scumbags. The planet is about to be destroyed by the Driver, a creature similar to Galactus but worse, and everyone on the planet is trying to profit off the situation. The Surfer meets a girl who’s slightly less bad than all the other people, and tries to save her. This issue is an impressive display of Jason’s talent at boh art and writing, though I wish he was drawing more Southern Bastards instead.
New comics received on December 21:
LUMBERJANES #57 (Boom!, 2018) – “The Life of the Party” part one, [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] AnneMarie Rogers. The art in this issue looks extremely crude at first, but the artist’s storytelling is strong, and she draws good facial expressions. In this new story, it’s Jo’s birthday today, and April wants to throw the best birthday party ever. But she needs help. Specifically, in order to distract Jo while she plans, April needs Mal to distract Jo by helping going out on a boat with her – despite Mal’s well-known fear of water. Of course, things promptly go wrong. And of course, things promptly go wrong when Mal and Jo leave their emergency flare and liferaft behind. The best moment of this issue is when April pulls out a laserdisc, which none of the other girls recognize, and then a sasquatch accidentally breaks it in half. But more broadly, this story is effective because it draws on what we already know about the characters. This story only works because we already know that April and Jo are lifelong best friends, and that Mal is terrified of water.
RUNAWAYS #16 (Marvel, 2018) – “That Was Yesterday Pt. 4,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. All the Marvel comics this week have covers with a “Stan Lee 1922-2018” banner instead of a logo, and the first four interior pages of each comic are blank except for a picture of Stan. I guess it’s a touching tribute, but it’s also kind of annoying and unsightly. It’s hard to distinguish any of these comics from each other. As for Runaways #16, Nico’s “Jolly holiday!” spell is one of the funniest and cutest moments in the series. I especially love the scene where everyone gets socks, including Old Lace, Gib, and the cat. Unfortunately, Alex spends the whole issue acting like the loathsome manipulative jerk he is.
EXILES #11 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Rodríguez. It sucks that this series is cancelled. It was easily the best new Marvel title of the year. At least I know that both creators will go on to other things. This issue, the Exiles battle another team of Exiles, including a Captain America Hulk and a skeleton Thor (similar to the one from Simonson’s Ragnarok). Wolvie saves the day by being cute, as usual, and then the Exiles decide to head to the moon to fight… I’m not sure who.
PRINCELESS VOL. 7: FIND YOURSELF #2 (Action Lab, 2018) – “Find Yourself Part 2,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Emily Martin. Adrienne’s brother and his companions try to escape from Valmar, while Adrienne meets her older sister… and her new brother-in-law. This issue is still a bit confusing, but I bought the Make Yourself Part 2 trade paperback and read it, so now at least I’m caught up. The high point of the issue is the page where Adrienne has a nightmare about being forced to wear a chainmail bikini.
HARLEY QUINN #56 (DC, 2018) – “Pettergate,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mirka Andolfo. This is the second best cat comic of the year, after Captain Ginger. There are cats on almost every page. Lots of them. And they do things like steal wallets and accept money for hot dogs. On top of that, this issue is also a Gamergate parody. (The plot is that Harley Quinn has to adopt out a large number of cats, but she becomes the target of a group of jerks who think that only men should sell pets.) Some people have complained that this issue’s message about Gamergate/Comicsgate is too obvious and unsubtle, and I sympathize with that – although there are some more subtle jokes, like the acronym of “Mike’s Rent-an-Animal.” However, I think that this comic is still an effective rebuttal Comicsgate, if only because, first, it has the official sanction of DC, and second, because it’s by a writer who is not himself a Comicsgate target. Mark Russell didn’t need to make a statement about Comicsgate, but he did, and that’s important. Also, the line “They’re worse than evil. They’re nostalgic” is a perfect summary of the whole mess. As a footnote, I don’t think Mr. Katz’s first name is mentioned in the issue, but the solicitation stated that his first name is Ferrell.
EXORSISTERS #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ian Boothby, [A] Gisèle Lagacé. Cate and Kate save a soul from hell, then they’re contacted by Kate’s ex-boyfriend Buzz, who’s been turned into a fly. (BTW, I’m not sure which of Kate and Cate is which.) In a flashback, we learn why Buzz is a fly, then he tells Cate and Kate that he needs their help to save hell from an even worse evil. And then angels start falling from the sky. This is a really entertaining series, and it makes me want to read Gisèle Lagacé’s other work, especially Ménage à 3.
HIGH HEAVEN #4 (Ahoy, 2018) – “Chapter Four,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Greg Scott. This issue reveals the origin of the mediocre heaven. Due to God’s overly high standards, not enough people were getting into heaven. So heaven’s rulers decided to admit a billion people who didn’t meet the standards, and to give them “a heaven no better than they deserve.” And the door to this heaven is L-Meat, a substance that represents inadequacy and disappointment. I’m still not sure how exactly the mediocre heaven and L-Meat are connected, but both these concepts are fascinating.
MIDDLEWEST #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. Abel is chased by some villains, but is rescued by an old wizard dude. Also Abel discovers that he has a cursed birthmark on his chest that glows when he’s mad. So Abel sets off to look for Magdalena, the only person who can cure his curse. This issue is rather different from #1: Abel’s abusive father doesn’t appear, and instead the focus is on the fantasy world of the series. I do think that Jorge Corona is a worse artist than Skottie. The skeleton crow dude in this issue is terrifying, and there’s one striking depiction of livestock with ingrown faces. But otherwise, most of the characters and scenes in this issue would have looked better if Skottie had drawn them himself.
MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #73 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Thom Zahler, [A] Toni Kuusisto. Fluttershy discovers a cursed amulet that causes her to take on the characteristics of any animal she meets. This leads to some hilarious moments. Pinkie Pie visits Fluttershy and finds her napping, and then Fluttershy acts rude and aloof toward Pinkie. Later we realize that Fluttershy has acquired the traits of a cat. On the next page, Fluttershy flies past an owl, and then she says “Who? Who is that?” and turns her head around 180 degrees. There’s also a cute/scary subplot where Fluttershy rehabilitates a baby timber wolf. Toni Kuusisto is a pretty good animal artist.
SPARROWHAWK #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Delilah Dawson, [A] Matías Basla. Artemisia meets a giant talking boar that’s being chased by the Wild Hunt. She almost gets killed by the Wild Hunt too, but defeats them by exploiting faeries’ weakness to salt and sugar. This is a really weird series, but in a good way. The faeries in this series are simultaneously adorable and deadly, and that’s exactly how faeries should be depicted.
CATWOMAN #6 (DC, 2018) – “Copycats Finale,” [W/A] Joëlle Jones. Again there are no cats at all in this issue, but it’s a fairly exciting conclusion to the opening storyline. This has been an enjoyable series.
RAT QUEENS #13 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kurtis J. Wiebe, [A] Owen Gieni. The newly deified Dee meets Bilford Bogin, the same Bilford Bogin that all the characters in the series swear by. It turns out he’s the smidgen god of empathy and compassion. Meanwhile, the other Rat Queens are in truly dire straits, so Betty prays to Bilford Bogin, but Dee comes to help instead. This series is finally good again, but I’m still not enjoying it as much as when it was new.
AQUAMAN #43 (DC, 2018) – “Unspoken Water Part 1,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Robson Rocha. In this new storyline, Aquaman has lost his memory and is stranded in a remote fishing village. I was looking forward to this series, but so far I’m not super impressed. I had trouble figuring out what was happening and which names referred to which characters. In its overall tone, this issue reminds me of Pretty Deadly, and I didn’t like Pretty Deadly. Perhaps Kelly Sue’s writing just rubs me the wrong way. I will keep reading this series for now, though.
SHURI #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Groot Boom,” [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Leonardo Romero. It’s really fun to see Nnedi writing Rocket Raccoon and Groot. It does feel a bit like a cheat when Groot gets to use intelligible language, although we have heard Groot’s thoughts before, on the alternate cover to All-New X-Men #23. This issue’s plot is that a giant space bug is trying to destroy Rocket and Groot’s ship. The bug is pretty cute, and it reminds me of the various weird creatures whose pictures Nnedi posts on social media.
AMERICAN CARNAGE #2 (Vertigo, 2018) – “Fire,” [W] Bryan Hill, [A] Leandro Fernandez. Richard begins his initiation into the white supremacist cult, but his plan hits a snag when he’s asked to participate in a lynching. Bryan Hill just announced his retirement from comics. I hope he finishes this series first, because it’s a very realistic and hard-hitting treatment of white male terrorism.
BEASTS OF BURDEN: WISE DOGS AND ELDRITCH MEN #4 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Benjamin Dewey. The Wise Dogs defeat the terrorists as well as a giant Lovecraftian monster, with the aid of the salamander from a previous issue. Based on a Twitter thread last month, it seems like Evan and Jill Thompson’s working relationship has deteriorated, so this could be the last Beasts of Burden comic for a while. That would be a shame.
SEASON’S BEATINGS #1 (Marvel, 2018) – multiple connected stories, [W] Jason Latour, [A] various. This is sort of a Deadpool Christmas special, but with inset stories starring other characters. It has some good art and some funny moments, but the humor feels too forced. For example, there’s an unfunny running joke about how no one likes X-Force anymore.
THOR #8 (Marvel, 2018) – “Prison of Angels,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mike Del Mundo. Thor is held captive in heaven, but escapes with help from Angela. This is an okay issue, though not the best. Marvel’s version of heaven is quite terrifying. Mike Del Mundo’s art seems blurrier and less polished than it used to be.
ENCOUNTER #9 (Lion Forge, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Chris Giarrusso, [W] Art Baltazar & Franco. We learn more of Encounter’s origin story, then he and his friends battle Plagnor Zok, a villain from his home planet. Also, it turns out that Champion is not Kayla’s uncle, but Kayla herself. Most of the issue takes place in the Aw Yeah Comics store, and there are comic books lying around wth titles like ZIP, STOP IT and BLAH.
GIDEON FALLS #9 (Image, 2018) – “The Transfiguration,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. This issue has no unusual page layouts, but it advances the plot significantly. It looks like this series’ two plot threads are about to merge.
SUPERB #15 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “Face Your Fear,” [W] David F. Walker, [A] Alitha Martinez. Alitha’s artwork looks quite different this issue, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the coloring. This issue begins with a touching scene where Jonah’s parents are told that their as-yet-unborn baby has Down syndrome, and they refuse to even consider any options other than keeping him. Which makes it especially painful when one of Jonah’s new teammates insults and abuses him for his disabililty. This issue’s Cosmosis backup story is kind of a waste of space.
BLACK BADGE #5 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. The competition between Badge groups continues. The highlight of this issue is the scene where Kenny explains how he became a Black Badge, and his narration doesn’t match what’s shown in the panels.
KLAUS AND THE CRYING SNOWMAN #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Dan Mora. Klaus confronts an invasion by comet-dwelling aliens, with the aid of a snowman. It turns out that the snowman is the reincarnation of a man who died in a car crash after cheating on his wife. Unable to defeat the aliens in battle, Klaus instead uses time travel to convince them not to invade Earth. This was a fun comic, and Dan Mora’s art is getting really impressive.
GRUMBLE #2 (Albatross, 2018) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Mike Norton. Tala (the girl) and Eddie (the pug) meet an old witch, but then they’re pursued by a creature that looks like a duck’s skeleton. This is a pretty good issue, though I’m still not enjoying this series as much as Modern Fantasy.
IMPOSSIBLE INCORPORATED #3 (IDW, 2018) – “Extermination!”, [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Mike Cavallaro. Number decides to release some imprisoned Celestial-like alien gods so they can help her find her father. Then she decides not to do it because she’s had another idea, but she ends up releasing the gods by accident anyway. This series is a pretty good Kirby homage, but as I suggested in my review of #2, it may be too cosmic for its own good. It may also have too many things going on at once.
SUKEBAN TURBO #2 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sylvain Runberg, [A] Victor Santos. This comic is very well-crafted, but it’s a fairly unsurprising continuation of the plots from last issue.
SWAMP THING #10 (DC, 1974) – “The Man Who Would Not Die!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Bernie Wrightson. Len and Bernie’s last issue is one of their best. This is the one where Anton Arcane comes back and tries to enslave Swampy, but then he says the words “slave” and “master” one too many times, and some dead slaves rise from their graves and drag him and his minions to hell. Bernie’s art in this issue is utterly spectacular. His Swamp Thing is a hulking monster, and Arcane and his Un-Men are misshapen mockeries of nature. Bernie’s use of shadows and highlights make his art look three-dimensional, despite the flat coloring. A weird discovery I made when reading this issue is that the old black woman is named Auntie De Luvian (antediluvian). In all the reprints of this issue, her name is changed to Auntie Bellum (antebellum). I guess this change was made because Auntie Bellum is a better joke, but then why was that name not used to begin with? Sadly, most of the people who could have answered this question are now dead.
LAFF-A-LYMPICS #2 (Marvel, 1978) – “Trouble at the Track Meet,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Owen Fitzgerald. This must be the same Owen Fitzgerald who drew Dennis the Menace, but his art on this issue is in a totally different style. This series is about an athletic competition between different Hanna-Barbera characters. It’s an excellent read because of Evanier’s funny dialogue and his complicated but clever plot. A new character in this issue, Roger Rankle, is a sportscaster with sleepy eyes and a giant nose, who has an overly critical view of everything. I’m guessing this character is based on Howard Cosell.
INFIDEL #4 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Aaron Campbell. This series has appeared on a lot of year-end best comics lists. Based on this issue, the acclaim seems justifiable. Infidel has some terrifying art and coloring, and a diverse and intriguing cast of characters. I should start ordering it.
GHOST RIDER #13 (Marvel, 1975) – “You’ve Got a Second Chance, Johnny Blaze!”, [W] Tony Isabella, [A] George Tuska. Johnny Blaze moves to Hollywood, fights the Trapster, and falls in love at first sight with Karen Page. This is a very mediocre comic. I don’t think Ghost Rider has ever been particularly good. There’s a funny moment where Johnny calculates that if it takes him two days to bike to LA, he’ll only have to eat at McDonald’s six times.
WATCHMEN #3 (DC, 1986) – “The Judge of All the Earth,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Dave Gibbons. I’ve already read this multiple times in trade paperback form, and I just bought it for completism’s sake and because it was cheap. When I returned to Watchmen #3 after not having read it for several years, the main thing that struck me about it was its extremely tight, deliberate construction. Every panel and every line of dialogue in this comic is significant. There are no purely random or accidental details. For example, throughout Watchmen Alan uses non-diegetic caption boxes, where the voice in the caption box is not located in the same place that’s depicted in the image. But in all these cases, there’s a subtle thematic connection between the caption box and the image. For example, on page 7 there’s a panel where the Gordian Knot man is coming to fix Dan Dreiberg’s lock, and in the caption box Janey Slater is saying “Some things, once they’re busted, they can’t ever be fixed.” Similarly, every time there’s a dialogue box from the Black Freighter comic, it’s some kind of ironic comment on the main story. Dave’s panels are full of incidental details that are somehow significant, and there are all these subtle but unimportant things happening in the background. For example, the man with the “end is nigh” sign turns out to be Rorschach, and the business with the Gordian Knot lock company ends up being an essential plot point. No other comic I’ve ever read exhibits this sort of tight control over its creation of meaning. You don’t even see it in Alan’s other major works.
WONDER WOMAN #223 (DC, 1976) – “Welcome Back to Life… Steve Trevor!”, [W] Martin Pasko, [A] José Delbo. Reading this comic immediately after reading Watchmen seems blasphemous somehow, but while Wonder Woman #223 is clearly no Watchmen, it’s interesting anyway. After the end of the no-costume era (which was blamed, perhaps unfairly, on Gloria Steinem), Robert Kanigher took over Wonder Woman and immediately reversed all the changes Mike Sekowsky and Denny O’Neil had made. Kanigher restored Diana’s powers, killed off I Ching, and even removed Diana’s memories of her Diana Prince period. In Wonder Woman #223, Martin Pasko reverses another of Sekowsky’s changes by bringing back Steve Trevor. But he also tries to undo some of the damage Kanigher did, by restoring Diana’s lost memories. In general, Pasko, unlike Kanigher, seems to have actually cared about Wonder Woman, and therefore his Wonder Woman was one of the better pre-Pérez takes on the character.
SPIDER-MAN TEAM-UP #7 (Marvel, 1997) – “Old Scores,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Sal Buscema. Spider-Man teams up with the Thunderbolts against some old villains known as the Enclave. This issue demonstrates Kurt’s encyclopedic continuity knowledge and his mastery at writing both Spider-Man and the Thunderbolts. However, as I’ve said before, Thunderbolts is not my favorite Busiek comic. None of the Thunderbolts are fully sympathetic characters, and their constant intrigues and backstabbing are interesting but somewhat repetitive.
INCREDIBLE SCIENCE FICTION #10 (EC, 1955/1995 – various stories, [E] Al Feldstein. This issue is written by Joe Simon’s brother-in-law Jack Oleck, rather than by Feldstein himself. Therefore, the stories are mediocre, although there’s some amazing art. The first story, “Fallen Idol,” has pretty good art by Joe Orlando, who I’m not very familiar with. It’s about some postapocalyptic humans who worship a mechanism that turns out to be a washing machine. The impact of this story is lessened because the machine doesn’t look like any washing machine I’ve ever seen, and I had to use Google to find out what it was supposed to be. “Food for Thought” has perhaps the best Al Williamson art I’ve seen in an EC comic, but again the story, about an intelligent alien tree, is unimpressive. The other two stories are by Bernie Krigstein and Jack Davis, but the Krigstein story has none of his trademark innovative panel structures.
LUCIFER #3 (Vertigo, 2018) – “The Annulment of Heaven and Hell,” [W] Dan Watters, [A] Max Fiumara & Sebastien Fiumara. This issue guest-stars William Blake, and Dan Watters seems to have more than a casual knowledge of Blake’s life and work. For example, we see Blake having a copyright dispute with his fellow engraver Thomas Stothard. That really did happen. (I’ve absorbed some knowledge about Blake by osmosis because my graduate advisor, Don Ault, is a Blakean, and I hope to actually read some Blake soon, but I haven’t had the time yet.) Unfortunately, this Lucifer series still makes no sense to me at all. I still can’t understand what’s going on in any of the individual plot threads, let alone how they all fit together. I’m only still reading this series because I’m getting it as part of a package deal.
GREEN LANTERN #101 (DC, 1978) – “The Big Braintrust Boom!”, [W] Frank McGinty, [A] Alex Saviuk. As noted on the first page, this is an inventory story whch was used because Denny O’Neil missed his deadline. Frank McGinty has no other credits in the GCD, and I can’t find any information about him at all. That makes me suspect that he might be a pseudonym for some other writer. Another reason I suspect this is because Green Lantern #101 feels like the work of an experienced writer, rather than a total novice. It’s a well-plotted and well-dialogued story in which Hal and Ollie stop Hector Hammond’s plan to use a phony religion as a vehicle for world domination. Hector Hammond’s cult may have been based on the Church of Scientology.
INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #21 (Marvel, 2010) – “Stark Disassembled Part 2: Digging in the Dirt,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Salvador Larroca. While Tony Stark lies in a coma, his friends, including Thor and two Captain Americas, execute his complicated plan to restore his brain. The plan requires Thor to channel power from Mjolnir through Captain America’s shield into Iron Man’s repulsor chestplate. That’s kind of a fun way to combine the weapons of three primary Avengers. This issue also includes a poignant scene where Pepper Potts observes that her feelings and needs always get neglected in favor of Tony’s.
SWEET TOOTH #13 (Vertigo, 2010) – “Animal Armies Part One,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. A pretty normal issue. Tommy Jepperd and some new allies of his infiltrate a city controlled by animal people. Meanwhile, Gus is still languishing in the research facility.
ASTRO CITY #1 (Image, 1995) – “In Dreams,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Brent Anderson. I started reading Astro City with the first ongoing series, so I didn’t get the original miniseries when it came out. I did get the Life in the Big City trade paperback later, so I’ve read “In Dreams” before, but again, I decided to buy Astro City vol. 1 #1 for completism’s sake. “In Dreams” introduces Samaritan, Astro City’s version of Superman, and shows us his overburdened lifestyle and his inability to ever truly enjoy flying. It’s a powerful story, but somewhat bleak and depressing, like most of the first six Astro City stories. Over the years, we’ve learned a lot more about Samaritan’s character, beyond what was shown in his first appearance.
LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN VOL. 4: THE TEMPEST #2 (Top Shelf, 2018) – “To an Age of Giants, Adieu,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Kevin O’Neill. I’m glad that Alan and Kevin are going to wind this series down, because it’s starting to collapse under its own weight. LOEG has so much continuity and mythology behind it that it’s become impossible to follow. I didn’t understand issue 1, and I understand issue 2 even less. The Tempest #2 has some very clever individual scenes. However, it’s like a puzzle where the individual pieces are pretty to look at, but you can’t tell how to fit them together.
INCREDIBLES 2: CRISIS IN MID-LIFE AND OTHER STORIES #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Crisis in Mid-Life! Part 3,” [W] Christos Gage, [A] GuriHiru. I don’t like this comic at all. It just feels like a generic superhero comic, and it’s too wholesome and sweet for its own good. I’m not quite sure what it was that made The Incredibles such a great movie, but whatever it was, it’s absent from this comic.
THE WEATHER MAN #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jody Leheup, [A] Nathan Fox. I should have stopped ordering this series. This issue has some effective artwork that reminds me of Robbi Rodriguez’s art, but there’s nothing very innovative or exciting about its story, and the protagonist is not sympathetic.
ANIMOSITY: EVOLUTION #7 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Lex Machina: Part 2,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Eric Gapstur. Another series I continued getting for much longer than I should have. As I’ve argued before, Animosity’s premise, while interesting, is logically unsustainable, and Marguerite Bennett fails to exploit that premise to its full potential. This issue, like most issues of Animosity: Evolution, contains a lot of political intrigue and not much else.
DETECTIVE COMICS #585 (DC, 1988) – “The Ratcatcher,” [W] Alan Grant & John Wagner, [A] Norm Breyfogle. This is the Ratcatcher’s first appearance, and he is a seriously creepy new villain. He wears a breathing apparatus, hangs out in a sewer, and is always surrounded by rats. Grant, Wagner and Breyfogle’s Batman was the first run of Batman comics I ever read, so I tend to take them for granted, but they were really good.
INCREDIBLE HULK #609 (Marvel, 2010) – “Perfection,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Paul Pelletier. This issue could have been called “For the Hulk Who Has Everything,” because it includes a sequence where Bruce has a vision of his perfect life. In the vision, he’s no longer the Hulk, and he and Betty have two children. Other than that sequence, this issue is forgettable. It’s part of the World War Hulks crossover, so it’s too complicated and has too many characters and plot threads.
BLACK PANTHER #172 (Marvel, 2018) – “Avengers of the New World Part 13,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Leonard Kirk. The Wakandans have to fight the Adversary, who is explicitly identified as the same Adversary from Fall of the Mutants. They win by exploiting the fact that Storm is a literal goddess. Then T’Challa and Ororo have an intimate moment. “Avengers of the New World” went on far too long, and I think the inclusion of the Adversary was superfluous.
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #212 (DC, 1983) – “We Are the War-Kohn – and Our Destiny is to Conquer!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Rich Buckler & Paris Cullins. This issue concludes a three-part story in which the Justice League fight a bunch of aliens. According to the GCD, it was originally intended for an issue of All-New Collectors’ Edition. This issue has an impressively epic scope and includes some weird-looking creatures, but other than that, it’s mediocre. Rich Buckler drew this issue in a style that imitates that of George Pérez.
SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #166 (Marvel, 1990) – “The Deadly Lads from Liverpool,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Sal Buscema. Gerry is a highly experienced and skillful Spider-Man writer, but this issue suffers because half of it takes place in England. Gerry doesn’t seem to know anything about England beyond the usual cliches, and he uses as many of those as he has room for. For example, we hear “mate,” “two bob,” “lorry,” “What’s all this then?”, and “rawther,” and we see Scotland Yard, a bobby, and a double-decker bus.
I got new comics on December 28, but it was a very small shipment of only five comics, all of which I read immediately:
FANTASTIC FOUR #5 (Marvel, 2019) – three stories, [W] Dan Slott, [A] Aaron Kuder, Mike Allred & Adam Hughes. A fairly satisfying wedding issue with lots of cute moments. It’s not all that different from any other superhero wedding story, but it’s good. Notable things in this issue include the Baxter Building being bigger on the inside, and Thundra joining the bachelor party.
MAN-EATERS #4 (Image, 2018) – “Cat Fight: A Boys’ Guide to Dangerous Cats,” [W] Chelsea Cain, [A] Lia Miternique. This is not a comic book at all but rather a fake magazine, which represents itself as an actual magazine existing within Man Eaters’ universe. I’m of two minds about this. On one hand, this issue is a brilliant experiment in materiality and design. On the other hand, when I read a comic book, I want it to be a comic book, not a magazine or a prose novel or anything else. On top of that, Man-Eaters already suffers from a complete lack of plot – its storyline has made almost no progress at all in three issues – and as a result, it seems especially inappropriate to publish an issue that doesn’t advance the plot at all. As some people suggested on my Facebook, the magazine experiment might have been more successful if it had only lasted half the issue, or if it had been an FCBD comic rather than a full issue. Overall, I was excited about Man-Eaters at first, but it has two crippling problems – its white-feminist attitude and its lack of plot – and either of those problems would be an independent reason to give up on it. It’s too late to cancel my orders of Man-Eaters #5 and #6, but if #5 isn’t an improvement, then I’m done with this comic.
MARS ATTACKS #3 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Chris Schweizer. In the midst of all the destruction and carnage, the son and the father have a heart-to-heart talk about why their relationship went wrong. This is another fun issue.
GO-BOTS #2 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Tom Scioli. Basically the same sort of thing as last issue. See my review of Go-Bots #1 for more opinions. One thing I like about this series is that the Go-Bots have very ugly and clunky designs, but Scioli kind of embraces that, and his art seems to shows us how robots really would look if they were designed like the Go-Bots.
ENCOUNTER #8 (Lion Forge, 2018) – as above. This issue introduces Plagnor Zok and reveals that Champion is Kayla. I have no idea why I received #9 after #8.
Since there were so few new comics this week, I took advantage of the opportunity to read some comics I bought earlier but didn’t read. I mentioned above how in 2015 and 2016, I was ordering a lot of new comics and not reading them. But I continued doing that right up until this year, if not to the same extent. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I started making an active effort to read every new comic I got every week.
DOMINO #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Like a Sword Made of Flesh,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] David Baldeón. Domino visits Shang Chi for help getting her good luck powers back. Meanwhile, we meet a new character who has bad luck in exact proportion to Domino’s good luck. This is a fun comic, but all of Gail’s Marvel comics feel like Deadpool comics to me, and indeed Deadpool appears in this issue.
RISE OF THE BLACK PANTHER #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Power Show,” [W] Evan Narcisse, [A] Javier Pina & Edgar Salazar. While searching for his evil half-brother Jakarra, T’Challa encounters Storm. This issue is okay, but not great. It’s annoying how much T’Challa and Storm’s relationship has been retconned. First they barely knew each other, then they had a short affair, and now it’s as if they were star-crossed lovers from birth.
ASTONISHER #7 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “It’s All in the Mind,” [W] Alex de Campi, [A] Al Barrionuevo. This series is about a hero with some kind of dream powers. I can’t follow the plot, but Alex de Campi’s dialogue and characterization are quite good. I quit ordering this series because I wasn’t reading it, but now I kind of wish I had been reading it.
JAMES BOND: VARGR FCBD 2018 #1 (Dynamite, 2018) – “VARGR,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Jason Masters. I am not a James Bond fan, perhaps because I think Bond is an amoral sociopath. Therefore, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this FCBD comic. Warren Ellis’s action sequences are quite good, and his characterization of Bond is funny and believable. I especially like Bond’s annoyance that thanks to Parliamentary action, he’s no longer exempt from the ban on carrying guns within the UK, and he has to travel to his next mission unarmed.
BOMBSHELLS UNITED #4 (DC, 2017) – “American Soil Part 7” and “Part 8,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] David Hahn and Pasquale Qualano. I had been reading a lot of Marguerite Bennett comics, but I’ve given up on her. I just can’t get into her writing, and I think that may be because her work has fundamental flaws and is heavier on flash than substance. For example, DC Comics Bombshells is set during World War II, but it makes no attempt at historical accuracy and is instead based on 21st-century progressive values. In this issue, a character says “I don’t know how to make you believe that you should care about other people.” This is an important progressive maxim, but it’s also an anachronism in this context, and it seems to have been dropped into this story without a sufficient excuse. More broadly, DC Comics Bombshells’s characters are hard to tell apart, and its story seems rather aimless.
ANIMOSITY: THE RISE #3 (AfterShock, 2017) – “The Resistance,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Juan Doe. See my review of Animosity: Evolution #7 above. Nothing new here.
ANIMOSITY: EVOLUTION #2 (AfterShock, 2017) – “Four Sisters,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Eric Gapstur. I have been very negative about this series lately, so I was surprised when I actually liked this issue. It focuses on four mice who arrive in the City in the Sea and are almost tricked into being eaten by a snake. This issue is reasonably fun to read, and unlike most issues of Animosity, it’s sensitive to the differences between species. Also, one of the mice is named Septicemia.
GRASS KINGS #5 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. This issue is an extended fight scene, but I’m not sure who’s fighting or why. This series wasn’t nearly as interesting as Black Badge currently is.
GREAT LAKES AVENGERS #7 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Zac Gorman, [A] Will Robson. The GLA defeat Dr. Nod, but then Deadpool shows up and tells them they no longer have the rights to the Avengers name, and that’s the end of the series. This was a pretty fun miniseries. Its style of humor was much more sarcastic and mean-spirited, compared to other Marvel humor comics.
SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP #25 (Marvel, 2017) – “Ghosts Are Not Healthy for Dogs and Other Living Things,” [W] Sholly Fisch, [A] Dario Brizuela. The Scooby Gang investigates some ghosts that are haunting a town founded by hippies. It turns out the Psycho-Pirate is the culprit. The guest stars are the ‘70s versions of Green Lantern and Green Arrow. This issue is entertaining enough on its own, and it’s full of funny in-jokes aimed at readers who are familiar with hippie culture and the O’Neil-Adams GL/GA. For example, Ollie keeps saying “hideous moral cancer,” and the title of the issue is a parody of a hippie slogan.
UNBELIEVABLE GWENPOOL #14 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Christopher Hastings, [A] Myisha Haynes. Not an impressive comic. This issue guest-stars Hawkeye (Kate) and Ghost Rider (Robbie), but Hastings does not have a good handle on Kate’s personality. This series was never very good, and I should have quit ordering it long before it was cancelled.
CAPTAIN KID #3 (AfterShock, 2016) – “Grow Up, Be Young,” [W] Mark Waid & Tom Peyer, [A] Wilfredo Torres. Reading this comic is disorienting because it looks exactly like Quantum Age. In hindsight, Captain Kid was a preview of Tom Peyer’s recent career revival with High Heaven and Wrong Earth, but it’s not as good as either of those titles. This issue has too much going on at once, and the interesting new idea, about a late-middle-age superhero who has the power to turn into a teenage boy, is lost in the shuffle.
BETTY BOOP #2 (Dynamite, 2016) – “Members Only,” [W] Roger Langridge, [A] Gisèle Lagacé. Betty, Ko-Ko and Bimbo have to evict some ghosts from Betty’s grampy’s house. This comic brilliantly captures the weirdness, melancholy and raucous humor of the Fleischer cartoons. However, now that I’ve read Nicholas Sammond’s Birth of an Industry: Blackface Minstrelsy and the Rise of American Animation, I’ll never be able to look at old cartoons the same way. Roger Langridge may not know, for example, that Bimbo’s white gloves are a classic minstrel trope – I certainly didn’t know that until I read Sammond’s book – but now that I do know it, I can’t forget it.
DETECTIVE COMICS #621 (DC, 1990) – “Rite of Passage Part Four: Trial by Fire,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. This is the story where the Obeah Man kills Tim Drake’s mother. It’s a very effective Batman story, but it suffers from very questionable politics. The entire story takes place in Haiti, which, as the writer is obviously aware, is one of the poorest countries in the world. At the time of this story, Haiti was just emerging from a brutal dictatorship. But Batman never bothered to intervene in Haiti until a Haitian supervillain kidnapped a rich white American couple. So when I see Batman beating up the Obeah Man’s minions, I can’t avoid thinking that these minions are desperately poor people who are doing whatever they can to survive, and that Batman could have done a lot to prevent them from becoming criminals in the first place. As Bruce Wayne, he could have paid off a big chunk of Haiti’s foreign debt all by himself. Of course when you read superhero comics, you have to ignore objections like this. But when a superhero comic takes place in a country like Haiti, it becomes hard to suspend disbelief and to avoid wondering why superheroes can’t do more to improve the world.
I read the following comics just after midnight on December 31st, but I’m still going to count them toward my total for 2018:
BATMAN ’66 #19 (DC, 2015) – “The Villain of Vapor Street,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Leonardo Romero. Batman and Robin battle a villain who masquerades as a Victorian schoolteacher. This comic is funny, but it has the same jokes as every other issue of Batman ’66. This series quickly became repetitive, and I should have stopped ordering it.
ANGELA: ASGARD’S ASSASSIN #3 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen & Marguerite Bennett, [A] Phil Jimenez & Stephanie Hans. This was better than I expected, perhaps because Marguerite Bennett only wrote part of it. There’s one really cool plot point: Angela goes to hell to retrieve Heimdall’s bride’s wedding dress because, for reasons of modesty, is the only thing Heimdall can’t see through! However, Phil Jimenez’s artwork in this issue is too busy and complicated.
ANNIHILATOR #5 (Legendary, 2015) – untitled, [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Frazer Irving. Yet another Morrison comic that has brilliant artwork – by the highly underrated Frazer Irving – but a plot that makes no sense at all. I couldn’t even say what this series is about, except that it has something to do with a Cthulhu-esque creature called Oorga. For some reason I only ordered the last three issues of this series.
COPPERHEAD #1 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Jay Faerber, [A] Scott Godlewski. A science-fictional Western, starring a single mother who arrives in a remote alien frontier town to become the new sherif, excuse me, sheriff (there’s a running joke about the spelling of that word). Copperhead was never among Image’s best titles, but it was entertaining and well-drawn, with impressively weird aliens. I do think that it’s not science-fictional enough: the aliens just act like weird-looking humans, and you could turn this comic into a regular non-SF Western by just making cosmetic changes.
MORNING GLORIES #40 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Nick Spencer, [A] Joe Eisma. Ian’s father Oliver visits the kids’ class and gives a guest lecture about the nature of reality. This is an okay comic, but as I’ve pointed out before, it’s hard to care about this series when you know about its eventual fate. Just ten issues after #40, Nick Spencer abandoned Morning Glories, leaving all its intriguing plot threads unresolved. And I don’t think he’s even admitted that the series is dead; he’s still holding out the false hope that it might come back someday.
SAUCER COUNTRY #2 (Vertigo, 2012) – “Run Part Two,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Ryan Kelly. The Presidential candidate wrestles with the trauma of her alien abduction, which, as we soon learn, included an anal probe. A recurring plot point in this issue is that in Saucer Country’s universe, all the old alien abduction cliches, like anal probing and flying saucers, are actually true. There was an explanation for this, but I forget what the explanation was.
INHUMAN #3 (Marvel, 2014) – “They Fall,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Joe Madureira. The Inhuman Professor X (i.e. Medusa) battles the Inhuman Magneto (i.e. Lash). This is an okay comic, but nothing great. I was surprised to see who drew it. Joe Mad was the ultimate flash-in-the-pan/flavor-of-the-month artist: he achieved superstardom based on a tiny handful of comics, then vanished from the industry.
HOWTOONS: REIGNITION #3 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Fred Van Lente, [A] Tom Fowler. This was one of the first comics I ordered from DCBS but didn’t read. I should have, because it’s a really entertaining all-ages comic that also includes recipes for building stuff. I no longer enjoy Fred Van Lente’s writing, but this was a fun series.
And that’s the end of 2018. I read 1801 comics this year, by far my largest total ever. The reason I was able to read so many comics was that first, I bought a lot of comics, both old and new. Charlotte has multiple comic conventions a year, as well as other random comics sales. Second, especially toward the end of the year, I actively tried to read every new comic I got every week.