Two more weeks of reviews

New comics received on February 22:

LUMBERJANES #59 (Boom!, 2019) – “The Life of the Party,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] AnneMarie Rogers. The boating party finds Seafarin’ Karen, but her ship is in the clutches of a sea serpent, and when they try to get the ship free, the serpent eats them all. (Though of course they don’t die.) Meanwhile, preparations for the play are not going well. This was another fun issue, but other than the sea serpent, there was little in it that was new or surprising.

MONSTRESS #20 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. The Warlord and Tuya are unhappily married. Lots of other stuff happens that’s hard to understand, and at the end, Maika meets a man claiming to be her father. This issue was exciting, but confusing. I didn’t realize until just now that the “Baroness” who Corwin accuses of betraying Maika is none other than Tuya.

UNSTOPPABLE WASP #5 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] GuriHiru. Nadia’s friends try to snap her out of her manic episode, but it doesn’t work; she beats them up and retreats into her microworld. Understandably exasperated with Nadia and afraid for their own safety, most of the GIRL agents decide to leave Nadia alone for now and go take care of themselves. But Priya puts on a Wasp suit and goes to find Nadia, who is now in the depressive part of her cycle. She sees herself as the villain of her own story, and thinks that things are never going to get better. Priya talks Nadia out of a suicide attempt, and the issue ends with a cathartic group hug. Unstoppable Wasp #4 and #5 are probably the high point of Jeremy’s career so far. These two issues are a powerful and sympathetic portrayal of mental illness. I think the most powerful part of the story is Priya and Nadia’s heart-to-heart talk, but this entire story sets a benchmark for the representation of mental illness in superhero comics.

SHURI #5 (Marvel, 2019) – “The End of the Earth,” [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Leonardo Romero. This story’s title is a traditional epithet for Timbuktu, whose name used to be a byword for a remote and inaccessible place. I think I read that on Nnedi’s social media. This issue, Shuri and Iron Man have to deal with both the space bug and Moses Magnum. (I was surprised to learn that Moses Magnum is Ethiopian, but it seems that’s been true since his first appearance.) This is a really fun issue, and I’m starting to enjoy Shuri as much as LaGuardia. I especially like the scene in the library; it reminds the reader that far from being the middle of nowhere, Timbuktu used to be the “academic hub of the world.” A couple miscellaneous notes: I initially thought the headline in Wakandan script was in a real African script. For research purposes, I forced myself to watch R*****d M***r’s video about this issue, and it made me so mad I couldn’t see straight.

EXORSISTERS #5 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ian Boothby, [A] Gisèle Lagacé. Cate and Kate confront the encroaching First Shadow, and at the end of the issue they find themselves in heaven. This is a fun issue, but it’s nothing especially new.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #3 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Garrón. It’s weird to be reading this comic at the same time I’m playing the PS4 Spider-Man game, in which Rhino is a villain. This issue, Miles and Rhino rescue the kidnapped kids with the aid of Captain America, who Saladin writes perfectly. The kidnapper, Snatcher, turns out to be a typical “strong borders” dudebro. Also, there’s an appearance by Cap’s congressman, Marisol Hurtado-Montes, whose name sounds oddly similar to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

RAINBOW BRITE #4 (Dynamite, 2019) – untitled,  [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Xenia Pamfil. Wisp befriends Red Flare and gets a new costume that makes her look like a roller derby star. Also, Starlite the horse turns out to be a huge prima donna. Willow still doesn’t appear in this issue, though she at least gets mentioned. I continue to think that the color symbolism in this comic is unfortunate.

MIDDLEWEST #4 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. At the carnival, Abel and the fox don’t find Mystical Magdalena. But they do meet the series’ first major female character, as well as her robot companion. I don’t think her name has been mentioned yet. This was a fun issue.

CATWOMAN #8 (DC, 2019) – “Something Smells Fishy Part 2 of 2,” [W] Joëlle Jones, [A] Elena Casagrande. Selina beats up some woman and steals the reliquary she was guarding. It’s weird that this issue is labeled as 2 of 2, because it doesn’t feel like a conclusion to anything.

CODA #9 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. I guess this comic’s protagonist is named Hum, though I don’t recall that ever being mentioned in the actual comic. This issue, Hum has been robbed of his purpose in life, so he goes back to the bathtub mermaid lady to find something else to do. But it turns out that she’s in league with the giant that’s been pillaging all the towns, and she kidnaps him. I’m a little fuzzy on the specific details of the plot, but this has been a really enjoyable series, with fantastic art.

GRUMBLE #4 (Albatross, 2019) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Mike Norton. I’m starting to really enjoy this comic. It’s just so fun, and the comic interplay between Tala and Eddie is hilarious. This issue, they have a giant car chase with the Imp’s goons, and three green-skinned alien dudes are also hunting them. The best part of the issue is how Eddie’s car’s license plate keeps commenting on what’s going on. For example, when the car crashes through an outdoor market, the license plate says SORRY!

BLACK BADGE #7 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. The Black Badges discover that the White Badges are traitors. Then they win the field day competition, but their “reward” is a vacation, which prevents them from carrying out operations against the White Badges. This is a reasonably exciting issue. The line “Kenny – oh my god! You monsters!” is hilarious. The first page includes an erroneous reference to “fifteen Nobel Peace Prize-winning scientists.”

HOT LUNCH SPECIAL #5 (AfterShock, 2019) – “The Family Business,” [W] Eliot Rahal, [A] Jorge Fornés. The rivalry between the two crime families comes to a bloody conclusion, and the patriarch of the Khoury family sacrifices his life to save his children. This is an okay ending to the series, but it was just an average crime comic. It never did anything exciting with its rural Minnesota setting or its characters’ Lebanese background.

BITTER ROOT #4 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] David F. Walker, [A] Sanford Greene. This issue is mostly a bunch of fight scenes, but it also introduces a new type of monster called inzondo, which are to black people what jinoo are to white people. This issue includes an essay by my friend and fellow comics scholar Qiana Whitted.

SUPERB #17 (Lion Forge, 2019) – “Undisputed Truths,” [W] David F. Walker, [A] Alitha Martinez. The flashback scenes that begin every issue of this current storyline are better than the actual main story. This issue, Jonah’s Little League coach refuses to let him play, and his teammates also refuse to play in solidarity. In the main story, Jonah fights Cipher, and one of his teammates gets killed. I hope it’s the one who was being mean to him. The Cosmosis backup story is, as usual, a waste of space.

AQUAMAN #45 (DC, 2019) – “Unspoken Water Part 3 of 5,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Robson Rocha. I was thinking of dropping this comic. It was starting to remind me of Pretty Deadly, which I never much liked. But this issue is an improvement. The mythological account of Namma and Caille’s origins is quite effective; it feels like an actual myth. And Robson Rocha’s art is quite good. I’m going to give this a few more issues at least.

LUCIFER #5 (Vertigo, 2019) – “The Man Who Bested the Devil Not Once But Twice,” [W] Dan Watters, [A] Max Fiumara & Sebastian Fiumara. This issue introduces the folklore character of Stingy Jack, who tricked the devil into exempting him from hell, but couldn’t go to heaven either. As usual with this series, the individual pieces of its story are fascinating, but it’s impossible to tell how these pieces fit together. I’m only reading this series because DCBS’s package deal allows me to get it essentially for free.

THE LONE RANGER #5 (Dynamite, 2019) – “Trail of Blood,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Bob Q. The Lone Ranger and Tonto save the day by paying off all the evil ranchers’ gunmen, none of whom liked their employers much anyway. At the end, Tonto describes America as “a land forever busy building gateways and fences. And I can’t always tell which is which.” The reference to contemporary politics is obvious. This was another pretty good series, though perhaps not as good as Snagglepuss or Flintstones.

MARS ATTACKS #5 (Dynamite, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Chris Schweizer. Young Carbutt successfully reaches the military base with his Martian prisoner, and gets picked to lead a combat mission to Mars. So he’s following his father’s wishes, though only after his father is dead. This was a fun series. The opening sequence, where Carbutt is leading the Martian at gunpoint while battles rage in the background, includes some of Chris’s best art in this series.

HIGH LEVEL #1 (Vertigo, 2019) – “Chapter One: Onida,” [W] Rob Sheridan, [A] Barnaby Bagenda. A series set in a postapocalyptic world where a small population of privileged people enjoy a carefree life in High Level, while everyone else struggles to survive. The protagonist, Thirteen, has to take a refugee child back to High Level. This issue did not impress me. Its setup is not especially original, and Rob Sheridan’s dialogue is boring and trite. If this series doesn’t get better in a hurry, I’m going to stop ordering both it and Lucifer, and I’ll get the other Vertigo titles on an a la carte basis.

AMERICAN CARNAGE #4 (Vertigo, 2019) – “Animals,” [W] Bryan Hill, [A] Leandro Fernandez. Another difficult but brilliant issue. Jennifer finally gets fed up with Richard and throws him out of their car, and then the Obama mask dude apparently kills him. The next issue blurb makes it obvious that Richard isn’t dead, but I look forward to seeing how he survives. Meanwhile, Jennifer’s dad has trouble with one of his fellow white terrorists. Also, Richard tells Angel a touching fairy tale. This series reminds me of Southern Bastards because its plot is driven by the internal rivalries between two horrible criminals.

BLACK PANTHER #5 (Marvel, 1999) – “Lord of the Damned,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Vince Evans. This series is hard to follow, but I’m finally starting to understand it. This issue, T’Challa and Everett Ross battle Mephisto in hell, and T’Challa defeats Mephisto by calling on his ancestor’s souls. We also get some flashbacks to Klaw’s invasion of Wakanda and T’Chaka’s death.

ETHER: THE COPPER GOLEMS #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] David Rubín. Boone and his pals defeat a copper golem inside a volcano, then they head to a realm based on Egypt. I really enjoyed this issue, unlike the previous two. It just felt more fun somehow, and David Rubín’s art in this issue is spectacular. The highlight is a page where Boone and friends are riding a giant fish labeled “Sea Cab,” while Boone is commenting, “Wonderful, isn’t it? What the human imagination can come up with?” Rubín is a superstar in his native Spain, and he should be a superstar here too.

A-FORCE #10 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Paulo Siqueira & Joe Bennett. This series began very promisingly, but it soon petered out, and the only really memorable thing about it was Singularity. She plays a part in this final issue, but the plot is mostly about a town where the people have been turned into giant bug monsters. To save the town, Elsa Bloodstone lets herself be turned into a monster too – just like the woman in the first West Coast Avengers storyline who doesn’t want her transformation into a monster to be reversed. I don’t know if tis is a coincidence or not.

CAPTAIN KID #4 (AfterShock, 2017) – “He’ll Live,” [W] Mark Waid & Tom Peyer, [A] Brent Peeples. The main event this issue is that Captain Kid has to save his elderly father, who doesn’t know his secret identity. This scene is touching, but Captain Kid suffered from a lack of a clear direction or theme. It was sort of a dry run for the current Ahoy titles, which are much more coherent and focused.

LOVE ROMANCES #1 (Marvel, 2019) – four stories, [E] Mark Paniccia. A weird and perplexing comic. I guess this was intended as an homage to old Marvel romance comics, but it seems to lack a coherent focus. The first story, written by Gail, is a steampunk romance story that doesn’t make much logical sense. Next is a silent ghost story by two artists, including French cartoonist Margaux Motin, whose graphic memoir Plate Tectonics is forthcoming from Archaia. I didn’t quite understand this story either. Next is a Romeo-and-Juliet romance story with a gruesome twist ending, written by Dennis Hopeless (although it’s not totally clear which credits correspond to which story). The highlight of the issue is the last story, by Jon Adams, about two lovers who have themselves turned into robots. I haven’t heard of this creator before, but I liked this story enough that I’d be interested in reading more of his work.

SUKEBAN TURBO #4 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Sylvain Runberg, [A] Victor Santos. Sam publicly beats up the girl he slept with in an earlier issue, tanking his career. Meanwhile, Shelby becomes a big-time mob enforcer. This wasn’t the best comic ever, but it was well-crafted and entertaining.

ETHER: THE COPPER GOLEMS #4 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] David Rubín. Boone and Grandor defeat a giant Copper Golem by climbing inside it. Then, looking for the last portal, they meet the “Master Storyteller,” who sends each of them into a dream sequence. Each sequence is drawn in a different style. I love it when artists use multiple styles in the same story, and David Rubín does it very well here. I espsecially like Glum’s sequence, which uses a cartoony style.

ETHER: THE COPPER GOLEMS #5 (Dark Horse, 2018) – as above. Boone and friends close the last portal, but it turns out their enemy Lord Ubel has become the new Golden Blaze, and he exiles Boone from the Ether. Back on Earth, Boone discovers that one of his daughters has died and the other wants nothing to do with him, but she gives him some food he can eat in the Ether. So Boone doesn’t belong anywhere now. There’s going to be a third miniseries, The Disappearance of Violet Bell, but it hasn’t been solicited yet.

GO-BOTS #4 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Tom Scioli. This issue finally makes sense of the previous issue: it turns out this story is taking place far in the future, and humans have devolved into animals. There’s a sequence where some Go-Bots are trying to make humans transform or combine. When I read this comic, it didn’t stand out to me, but when it was shared out of context on Facebook, I realized how bizarre it was. But I’ve gotten used to the sheer insanity of Tom Scioli’s work. This issue also introduces the Rock Lords to the storyline.

THE CHRONICLES OF CORUM: THE KNIGHT OF THE SWORDS #1 (First, 1987) – untitled, [W] Mike Baron, [A] Mike Mignola. It’s been a long time since I read the book this is based on. To go off on a tangent, I bought that book at the old DreamHaven location in uptown Minneapolis. I used to love uptown Minneapolis because there were so many bookstores and comic book stores there, all in close proximity: the Comic Book College, the Nostalgia Zone, BookSmart, Magers & Quinn, the Calhoun Square Borders, and a bit further away, DreamHaven. Now all those stores except Magers & Quinn have either closed or moved elsewhere. It makes me sad to think how much harder it is today to find quality bookstores. Anyway, this is a fairly effective adaptation, though Mignola hadn’t yet developed his mature style. The Knight of the Swords is not one of Moorcock’s better works, and I never felt motivated to read the other five Corum novels.

SCALPED #27 (Vertigo, 2009) – “The Ballad of Baylis Earl Nitz: High Lonesome Part 3 of 5,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Francesco Francavilla. I just read a book that discusses Scalped, so I was able to understand this issue’s story, even though I’ve only read one other issue of the series. This issue focuses on the main antagonist, the FBI agent who is investigating the long-ago murders of his two colleagues (based on the real murders for which Leonard Peltier was convicted). Throughout the issue we see that Nitz is devoted to his colleagues’ memories above everything else, even his own family. At first it seems like he’s a noble and dedicated man, who cares about his fallen comrades to the point of obsession. But then we learn why Nitz worships Bayer and Berntson so much: because they corrupted him. When a criminal stabbed Nitz, Bayer and Berntson kidnapped the criminal so that Nitz could murder him. It’s a brutal shock ending to a powerful story, whose only fault is the artwork. Francesco Francavilla is a brilliant artist, but he’s not suited to a realistic crime story. I can clearly see how Scalped prefigures Southern Bastards, and I want to read more of Scalped.

U.S.AVENGERS #4 (Marvel, 2017) – “Here Be Monsters…”, [W] Al Ewing, [A] Paco Medina. The USAvengers battle American Kaiju. This issue is divided into several vignettes, each of which amusingly begins with a fake cover. The covers look exactly like actual Marvel covers, together with UPC codes and the Bonus Digital Content label. So this is an entire crossover within a single issue. The rest of the comic is fun too; it includes some cute examples of Deadpool’s fourth-wall breaking, and I love the concept of American Kaiju.

KINGS WATCH #5 (Dynamite, 2014) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Marc Laming. The King heroes defeat Ming’s invasion of Earth, at the cost of the Phantom’s life, and Lothar becomes the next Phantom. Turning Lothar into the Phantom is a clever way to counteract the racist, colonialist implications of both the Phantom and Mandrake. In general, this is an exciting adventure story. Jeff Parker may be the single most underrated writer in recent comics history. All of his stuff is excellent, and he never gets much credit for it.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2017: ALL AGES (Dark Horse, 2017) – Buffy in “No Need to Fear, the Slayer’s Here,” [W] Kel McDonald, [A] Yishan Li; and Plants vs. Zombies in “Unrest in the Old West,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Rachel Downing. This issue’s Buffy in High School story is mediocre. The Plants vs. Zombies story is painful to read. I suppose it would be appealing to kids who like silly humor. But I don’t see the point of writing a comic about a game with no storyline – and Paul Tobin has done this twice, since he also wrote the Angry Birds comic.

ASTONISHER #8 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “Nowhere Else to Go,” [W] Alex de Campi, [A] Pop Mhan & Al Barrionuevo. The protagonist takes over a satellite in order to defeat a villain’s plot. This issue’s writing is fairly clever, but I’ve never quite understood the premise of Astonisher. I think it’s about a superhero with dream-related powers and an overbearing stage mom.

NOBLE #3 (Lion Forge, 2017) – “Matter Over Mind,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Roger Robinson. This issue reminds me of Weapon X, in that it’s about a superhero who’s being experimented on. Other than that, I wasn’t sure what this comic was about, and the artist wastes a lot of space on unimpressive drawings of explosions.

ICE: CRITICAL MASS #1 (12 Gauge, 2014) – untitled, [W] Doug Wagner, [A] Daniel Hillyard. I bought this at Heroes Con because of its weird title, which I will explain momentarily. On its own, this comic is just an average cop story; nothing about it particularly stands out. What makes this comic noteworthy is that its title stands for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Back in 2014, ICE was not as controversial as it is now. That explains why it was possible for 12 Gauge to publish a comic about ICE without triggering a media frenzy. But even before the family separation controversy, ICE was notorious for deporting and detaining and generally mistreating people. Even in 2014, depicting ICE agents in a sympathetic and uncritical way, as this comic does, was rather offensive. The villains in this comic are human traffickers, not undocumented immigrants, so this comic isn’t as offensive as it could have been, but it’s still fundamentally flawed.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #5 (Marvel, 2016) – “Rise of the Alpha Flight Part Five,” [W] Michele Fazekas, [A] Tara Butters, [A] Kris Anka & Felipe Smith. I just now realized this issue was drawn by Kris Anka. Other than that, it’s a boring and forgettable comic. The main thing that killed Captain Marvel’s momentum (at least until the movie and the Kelly Thompson comic) was Civil War II, but this series certainly didn’t help reverse the character’s decline.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #6 (Marvel, 2016) – “Lonely at the Top: Part 1,” [W] Ruth Fletcher Gage & Christos Gage, [A] Kris Anka. I did realize that this issue was drawn by Kris Anka, and I perceived its art as being better than last issue’s. That shows the extent to which my aesthetic judgments are affected by my prior beliefs. This issue is better than #5, but only marginally, and it’s a Civil War II crossover.

My next comics shipment arrived on March 1. I was also grading that day, so I had limited energy for reading comics.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #42 (Image, 2019) – “The Truth Will Set You Free and/or Kill You,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. I’m sorry to hear that Jamie is having back problems. Lots of stuff happens this issue. Minerva finally explains her connection with Ananke: they’re the same entity, but every time a new generation of gods arises, Minerva splits off as a separate being. We also learn that the Great Darkness is being generated by a Frankenstein monster created by the 1831 Woden, so WicDiv: 1831 is actually an integral part of the plot. Also, Ananke kills Woden. Good riddance to bad rubbish. And Nergal/Baphomet sacrifices himself to revive Dionysus. This series is getting really exciting.

FANTASTIC FOUR #7 (Marvel, 2019) – “Four-Man Invasion,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Aaron Kuder. Doom manipulates the FF into helping them turn Galactus into an energy source. Then he sentences them to death. This issue’s plot is very clever; I especially like Reed turning his hand into a fake Ultimate Nullifier. And Victorious is an interesting new character. But the highlight of the issue is Franklin and Val getting out of bed and building a teleporter so they can help their parents.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #40 (Marvel, 2019) – “Bad Dream Part 3: All That We See or Seem,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Lunella, Dr. Strange and Sleepwalker investigate the Dream Dimension, and back in the waking world, Devil battles a giant multi-eyed dream monster. The highlight of the issue is when Doc puts Lunella to sleep by telling her his origin story, although I saw a preview of this scene before I read the issue.

AVANT-GUARDS #2 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Carly Usdin, [A] Noah Hayes. This issue focuses on Olivia, who executes an ultimately successful campaign to get Charlie to join the basketball team. This is a really fun series. Olivia’s energy and passion are infectious, and the other characters are cute too.

BLACK HAMMER: AGE OF DOOM #8 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “Stories to Astonish,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. Lucy finds herself in Spiral City, where nothing ever happens. So it’s the same as the previous Black Hammer series, except now the characters are stuck in Spral City rather than Black Hammer Farm. But the issue ends with Lucy finding Mr. Talky-Walky again. Meanwhile, Barbalien is stuck on Mars and is trying to get himself to Earth.

WONDER WOMAN #65 (DC, 2019) – “The Grudge, Part 2,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Jesús Merino. Dinah discovers that Nemesis is manipulating Veronica Cale instead of vice versa. Diana convinces Veronica of this by hugging her, a surprising but very in-character act. Aphrodite summons a giant flying swan so that she, Steve and Diana can find Veronica’s daughter, as well as Aphrodite’s own child, Hermaphroditus. I really like Willow’s portrayal of Diana, but her plots are too close to Greg Rucka’s, as I have noted before.

PRINCELESS: FIND YOURSELF #5 (Action Lab, 2019) – “Into the Woods of the Wolves,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Emily Martin. This issue is a landmark moment in the series, because Adrienne finally meets her mother and learns her mother’s origin story. It turns out that Adrienne’s mom was a werewolf, not a princess, and that she was always the Black Knight. And she’s been following Adrienne for the entire series. But just as Adrienne is finally getting over her resentment of her mother for abandoning her adventurer life, Adrienne realizes that her dad’s kingdom is at war with the elves. The timeline of this issue confused me because it seemed like Aveline/Danielle’s entire career as the Black Knight, plus the births of all her children, must have happened within 27 years. But on rereading, it looks like 27 years is the time she spent as a queen. That would be enough time to have eight children, the youngest of whom is a teenager.

PETER CANNON: THUNDERBOLT #2 (Dynamite, 2019) – “Watch, Part Two,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Caspar Wijngaard. The Watchmen influence in this issue is less obvious. But I LOLed at the panel where the Rorschach character vomits up a bunch of raspberries onto a yellow table, resulting in an image that looks just like the bloodstained smiley face from Watchmen. (Oh, and later this character says “never compromise, even in the face of….” before getting killed.) Next, Thunderbolt and his friends transport themselves into the alternate Thunderbolt world by inscribing themselves into a nine-panel grid. I’m not quite sure how this works, but it’s an amazing piece of metatext, and I love the line “This level of formalism is dangerous.” This is a fascinating series.

MAN-EATERS #6 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Chelsea Cain, [A] Kate Niemczyk. There’s a little bit of plot in this issue, and that’s an improvement, since previous issues had no plot at all. And the issue begins with a reference to “males with female sex organs.” However, this reference is more insulting than helpful. For the entire run of this series, Chelsea has ignored the perspectives of transgender fans, and she owes them an actual apology, not a token acknowledgement of their existence. This is the last issue of Man-Eaters that I’ll be reading. Véronique Emma Houxbois’s review effectively sums up the problems with this series, and offers the intriguing suggestion that these problems are the result of a lack of editing. http://www.comicosity.com/transmyscira-the-cat-eats-its-own-tail-in-man-eaters/

WEST COAST AVENGERS #8 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Gang Hyuk Lim. The Avengers infiltrate the Church of Sci… um, the Temple of the Shifting Sun, which turns out to be a hive of vampires. I think the best moment in this issue is the panel with the land shark drinking coffee. This is a fun issue, but I’m saddened to realize that this series is getting cancelled after two more issues.

ATOMIC ROBO: DAWN OF A NEW ERA #3 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. Jenkins, who was presumed dead, shows up alive, and Bernie encounters his subterranean lover Princess Nequa. This issue is a fairly straightforward continuation from last issue.

BLACK PANTHER #9 (Marvel, 2019) – “Book 2: The Gathering of My Name,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Kev Walker. T’Challa and Nakia invade an underground kingdom to rescue something called the Jengu. But the local ruler, Agwe, tells them that their boss, Jafari, is a traitor, and that the Jengu is actually a giant whale goddess that Jafari wants for himself. Kev Walker’s art in this issue is really good.

THE TERRIFICS #13 (DC, 2019) – “The Terrifics No More! Part Three,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Joe Bennett. Mr. Terrific meets an alternate-dimensional version of his wife, and the Terrifics reunite to save Michael and Paula from Java and the Dreadfuls. Besides Michael and Paula’s reunion, the highlight of this issue is Linnya’s first meeting with Plas’s son Luke. I LOLed at Luke’s embarrassed expression on seeing Tinya. I guess that’s why this series has no Ultra Boy character – because Luke is going to be Linnya’s love interest.

CAPTAIN MARVEL: BRAVER & MIGHTIER #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “Braver & Mightier,” [W] Jody Houser, [A] Simone Buonfantino. While Carol fights some aliens in space, two high school students try to think of a single question to ask her. The question they come up with – “What would you ask your younger self?” – is a bit anticlimactic, but besides that, this is a very well-written one-shot that effectively sums up Carol’s character. Also, as previously demonstrated in Faith Dreamside, Jody Houser is really good at writing teenagers.

SMOOTH CRIMINALS #4 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kurt Lustgarten & Kiwi Smith, [A] Leisha Riddel. More of the same plotlines from last issue: Brenda and Mia are plotting to steal the Net of Indra. Meanwhile, Mia’s mother is questioned as to why her daughter is still the same age she was in 1969. The main appeal of this series is the interplay between Brenda and Mia, who are the same age, but were born 30 years apart. I especially like the discussion of homophobia, which Mia doesn’t understand because she grew up in the era of free love. Oh, and also Brenda has a huge crush on Mia, to which Mia is oblivious.

THE FORGOTTEN QUEEN #1 (Valiant, 2019) – untitled, [W] Tini Howard, [A] Amilcar Pinna. This new series is about an immortal villainess. In flashbacks, we see her history with Cain and Abel and with Genghis Khan, and in the present day, another woman tries to revive her. This is a pretty good debut issue with some nice art, and the creators seem to have done some research on the Mongol Empire. (Except that at one point Genghis is called “khal,” not “khan.” This isn’t Game of Thrones.)

THE BOOKS OF MAGIC #5 (Vertigo, 2019) – “A Twist in the Narrative,” [W] Kat Howard, [A] Tom Fowler. Tim visits the Dreaming, meets Lucien and the new artificial-intelligence Dream, and comes back with a book. This was an entertaining issue, but this series continues to be very slow-paced.

HEX WIVES #5 (Vertigo, 2019) – “Cleaning House,” [W] Ben Blacker, [A] Mirka Andolfo. The best issue yet. The wives finally get a chance to talk and discuss their powers, despite the husbands’ best efforts at distraction. Finally the husbands drop the pretense of niceness and become violent, but it’s too late; the wives have succeeded in summoning the ancient crone who gave them their powers. The husbands in this series are just awful, with their domineering sexism which ultimately turns into aggressive violence. It’s going to be cathartic when they finally get their comeuppance. Also, there’s a scene with some talking cats, and Ben Blacker writes some really good cat dialogue. “Just tell her, then pick me up. No, pick me up first.” “I gotta get this water. Get it! Agh! Get, get, get!”

WIMMEN’S COMIX #7 (Last Gasp, 1976) – “Outlaws,” [E] Melinda Gebbie & Dot Butcher. This issue’s stories are about female outlaws, including but not limited to pirates and sex workers. One notable thing about Wimmen’s Comix, and perhaps about underground comics in general, was its non-hierarchical nature. This issue includes work by five major artists (Roberta Gregory, Melinda Gebbie, Joyce Farmer, Lee Marrs and Sharon Rudahl) and a lot of other artists I’ve never heard of. But the editors don’t draw any distinction between the stars and the unknown artists. There wasn’t an attempt to promote the star artists at the expense of the others, and I like that. As usual, the stories in this issue are of widely varying quality. The best is Lee Marrs’s “Moonshine Mama,” about an Appalachian grandmother who, in her younger days, was a moonshiner and then a union crusader. The other highlights are Roberta Gregory’s story about an encounter with homophobic police, and Joyce Farmer’s story about a sex worker, although the latter is hard to follow.

TRUE BELIEVERS: ANT-MAN AND THE WASP – ON THE TRAIL OF SPIDER-MAN #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “On the Trail of the Amazing Spider-Man!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Dick Ayers, and “A Voice in the Dark,” [W/A] Larry Lieber. Both these stories are from Tales to Astonish #57. The first one is a straightforward “superheroes fight then team up” story, in which Egghead manipulates Spidey into fighting Hank and Jan. The highlight of this story is how Spidey and Jan don’t like each other because spiders and wasps are natural enemies. “A Voice in the Dark” is mostly a Wasp solo story. It’s better than the first story, but unfortunately Jan doesn’t get to do much. She’s too weak to physically affect the villain in any way, so she defeats him by pretending to be the Invisible Girl. Adding insult to injury, Hank refuses to believe Jan when she says it was her and not Sue Storm who defeated the villain.

PUNKS NOT DEAD: LONDON CALLING #1 (IDW, 2019) – “…To the Zombies of Death,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Martin Simmonds. Sid and Fergie arrive in London and start tracking down Sid’s dad. I’m glad Punks Not Dead got a sequel, but Martin Simmonds’s art in this issue is a step down from his art in the first miniseries. There are some excellent individual pages, like the page where the woman attacks Sid and Fergie with her tentacles, but this issue’s art looks line-drawn rather than painted.

DAREDEVIL #2 (Marvel, 2019) – “Know Fear Part 2,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Checchetto. Matt tries to deal with the fallout from his apparent killing of a criminal. This issue is okay, but it feels too much like a retread of Miller or Bendis’s Daredevil. I’m going to stop ordering this series.

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