Reviews for late February and early March

Other comics I read after I wrote the previous reviews:

ATOMIC ROBO: THE FLYING SHE-DEVILS OF THE PACIFIC #5 (Red 5, 2012) – untitled, [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. Robo and the Flying She-Devils defeat some Imperial Japanese soldiers, but at the cost of many of the She-Devils’ lives. This is a fun issue, and the She-Devils are really cool characters, but this isn’t my favorite Atomic Robo story.

INVADERS #2 (Marvel, 2019) – “War Ghosts Part II,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Carlos Magno. The art in this issue is pretty good, especially the Atlantean architecture and clothing. But the story doesn’t tell us anything new or interesting about the characters. It’s just another “Namor invades the surface world” story. I’ve already quit ordering this series.

LEGION OF SUPER–HEROES VOL. 4 #125 (DC, 2000) – “Extinction Event,” [W] Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, [A] Angel Unzueta. In the final issue of this volume, the Legion save the galaxy from the rift that’s destroying the stargates, but half the team is lost. This leads directly into Legion Lost. I have very mixed feelings about DnA’s Legion. It was skillfully written, but it didn’t feel like the Legion, primarily because they focused on a few characters (the three founders, Brainy and Jazmin) to the exclusion of all others. But at least their Legion was better than nothing, unlike the Legion/Bugs Bunny special. This issue may be the final appearance of Lori Morning; if so, good riddance.

DAREDEVIL #3 (Marvel, 2011) – “Sound and Fury,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Paolo Rivera. Matt battles Klaw, or rather a bunch of echoes of Klaw. That’s a really cool idea, and you can tell Mark has actually considered the implications of a man being made of solid sound. The artwork and the fight scenes in this issue are excellent. The depiction of legal procedure is not as good. Foggy Nelson is told his client, Jobrani, is hearing voices, which turn out to be Klaw. This makes Jobrani an “unreliable witness,” so Foggy drops him as a client and refuses to refer him to another lawyer. Then Jobrani can’t find another lawyer, so he has to represent himself in court, but Matt gets to coach him on how to do it. So this all seems rather contrived and inaccurate. And if Jobrani’s case is as much of a slam dunk as we’re told it is, then it’s not clear why the case even went to trial, rather than settling out of court.

TONGUES #1 (No Miracles, 2017) – “The Prisoner’s Dream” and other stories, [W/A] Anders Nilsen. An amazing comic. I haven’t read anything by Nilsen before, and I thought he was a minimalist, but his artwork and coloring in this issue are brilliant and highly detailed. The story is difficult but compelling. The issue begins with a conversation between a giant and a bird, who we soon realize are Prometheus and the vulture that eats his liver. The next segment is called ”Hercules” and depicts a boy walking through a desert. The last segment, “The Murderer,” depicts a Swahili-speaking girl who emerges out of a crashed vehicle in that same desert. It’s obvious that all these stories are connected, but I can’t tell how, or which comes first in chronological order. Apparently there’s a second issue of this. I need to look for it.

TWISTED SISTERS #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1994) – four stories, [E] Diane Noomin. The best of this issue’s four stories is Carol Tyler’s “Migrant Mother,” about a disastrous plane trip with a toddler. This story is affectionate and heartfelt, like all of Tyler’s work, but it’s also a sobering depiction of American society’s unfriendliness to parents and young children. Carol is exhausted and ill and can’t access her money or her diaper bag, and no one shows any willingness to help her. It’s funny, but it’s also not. The second best story is Mary Fleener’s survey of her experiences with surfing. It’s drawn in a mostly realistic style, with her trademark cubist style making only a few appearances. The other two stories, by Carel Moiseiwitsch and Fiona Smythe, are beautifully drawn but light on narrative.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #64 (Marvel, 1976) – “The Secret of Skull River!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Jim Starlin. This reprints the same story as True Believers: Conan – The Secret of Skull River. Amusingly, most of Conan and Nala’s sex scene is cut, probably because Conan #64 was Code-approved, and Savage Tales #5, in which the story originally appeared, is not. Also, Conan #64 is in color while Savage Tales #5 was black and white. However, the coloring is muddy and it makes the text hard to read.

NEW TALES OF OLD PALOMAR #1 (Fantagraphics, 2006) – “The Children of Palomar,” [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. I’m ashamed to say that I probably bought this when it came out, but I never read it until now. I have trouble motivating myself to read comics that are in larger-than-normal format. This week I tried to make a small dent in my stack of magazine-sized comics. New Tales of Old Palomar #1 includes two separate stories, both set before or just after the original “Heartbreak Soup.” The first of these is the origin of Tonantzín and Diana Villaseñor. In the second, Pipo saves Tonantzín and Diana from being blown up. These stories are in much the same style as the earliest Heartbreak Soup stories, and they include a lot of characters who hadn’t been seen in years, like Carmen, Heraclio and Chelo. So this issue is a nice piece of nostalgia.

NEW TALES OF OLD PALOMAR #2 (Fantagraphics, 2007) – “The Children of Palomar,” [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. This issue’s takes place long before “Heartbreak Soup,” when Gato, Manuel and their friends are still kids. The Palomar stories included magical realist elements from the beginning, but this issue is a departure from the other Palomar stories because it’s science fictional. While exploring outside town, Gato, Manuel and Pintor are kidnapped by weird blond-haired people in spacesuits, and they have visions of their future deaths. Chelo risks her own life to rescue them. We’re never told who the spacesuited people are, and the story leaves the reader feeling mystified. Notably, at the end of the issue, Pintor says, “At least Manuel and I die in Palomar and we get to become ghosts. Gato dies in the U.S.A. and that’s it.” That implies that people can only become ghosts if they die in Palomar. But I think Tonantzín is a counterexample to that; she appears as a ghost at the end of “Human Diastrophism,” and she didn’t die in Palomar.

INVINCIBLE #144 (Image, 2019) – “The End of All Things Part Twelve,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Ryan Ottley & Cory Walker. The final issue of Invincible reminds me why I liked it in the first place. The issue begins with Mark’s first meeting with Marky, the son conceived when Anissa raped him, and then we flash forward to a series of scenes from Mark’s future. Mark becomes a benevolent Viltrumite emperor, turning the empire into a force for good. Meanwhile, Marky becomes the new Invincible, but grows to resent his father’s absence. This issue is full of touching scenes that remind us of the series’ long history; a particular highlight is when Art Rosenbaum makes Marky’s costume. It also suggests a lot of intriguing stories that could have been told if Kirkman hadn’t decided to end the series. If Invincible had had more cute, entertaining issues like this, and less of the blood and gore and violence that dominated the series from the Viltrumite War onward, then I wouldn’t have quit reading it.

EX MACHINA #20 (DC, 2006) – “March of War Conclusion,” [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Tony Harris. I’m not sure what the plot of this issue is, but it seems quite well-written and well-drawn. However, this series has not aged nearly as well as Y: The Last Man, because it’s so tied to the Bush era and the aftermath of 9/11. This issue draws upon the then-current fear of Islamic terrorism, which now seems like far less of a threat than domestic terrorism. At one point in the issue, Mitchell tells a terrorist, “I’m not giving you the satisfaction of… of seventy-two virgins.” I don’t think BKV would write a line like that today.

GORILLA-MAN #3 (Marvel, 2010) – “The Serpent and the Hawk, Part 3,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Giancarlo Caracuzzo. I’ve had this comic for years without reading it, and I should have read it sooner, because it’s really fun. It’s an exciting adventure comic with a talking gorilla for a hero. The highlight of the issue is when Ken Hale refers to some female gorillas as “naked hotties.”

RAW #3 (Raw, 1981) – various stories, [E] Françoise Mouly & Art Spiegelman. Besides chapter two of Maus, the highlight of this issue is Muñoz and Sampayo’s “Mister Wilcox and Mister Conrad,” about an assassin who befriends his victim and then kills him for unexplained reasons. This story’s ending is predictable, but that only makes the killer’s actions more disturbing, and Muñoz’s art is brilliant. This is one of the “Joe’s Bar” stories, which, to my knowledge, were never published in English in collected form. Other artists in this issue are Charles Burns, Ever Meulen and Javier Mariscal. Mariscal’s silent story “Crash” is especially notable for how it exploits the giant tabloid size of the pages. It includes one of the physically largest two-page splashes I’ve ever seen.

U.S.AVENGERS #5 (Marvel, 2017) – “Meet the New Boss,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Paco Diaz. Unfortunately this issue is a Secret Empire crossover. In his interview with Roberto da Costa, Captain America acts really creepy and arrogant and overbearing, and it’s almost a relief to realize that this is the Hydra Cap and not the real thing. Also in this issue, Squirrel Girl fights Arthur Nagan, and there’s a scene with Cannonball and his wife Smasher and their son. I know Cannonball was created more than thirty years ago, but he still seems like a kid to me, and it’s strange to see him as a father.

STRANGE EMBRACE #4 (Image, 2007) – untitled, [W/A] David Hine. Anthony’s marriage to Sarah collapses, and Sarah starts getting suspiciously close to Anthony’s father. It’s strongly implied that Sarah becomes pregnant by her own father-in-law. Then Anthony’s father dies, after revealing that Anthony’s mother is still alive. There’s a backup story about a man who lives on rooftops.

STRANGE EMBRACE #5 – as above. The flashback to Anthony Corbeau’s youth ends with Sarah’s violent death, and then we return to Alex’s conversation with Sukumar. In another sequence of nested flashbacks, Alex finds Sarah’s diary and reads about how her marriage to Anthony was a cruel bait-and-switch; it was never consummated, because Anthony only cared about his African figurines. We’re getting closer to the heart of this creepy horror masterpiece, but this was the last issue I had. I need to get the other three as soon as I can.

MOTHER PANIC #3 (DC, 2017) – “A Work in Progress, Part 3,” [W] Jody Houser, [A] Tommy Lee Edwards. I wish I’d stopped ordering this series. This issue is just a thoroughly average superhero comic with nothing especially new about it. I think Jody Houser’s main strength is in writing optimistic, inspiring comics like Faith and Spider-Girls. A grim, gritty superhero comic set in Gotham City is not the best use of her talents.

SWEET TOOTH #18 (Vertigo, 2011) – “The Adventures of the Boy and the Big Man,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. This issue has a sideways format, and includes some pages of text written from Gus’s perspective. Jeff Lemire effectively depicts the perspective of a child with a bizarre upbringing. It’s clear that Gus’s understanding of the world is limited, but that he has strong feelings and values, and is not okay with some of Jepperd’s actions. The emotional high point of the issue is when Jepperd is about to kill a man, and Gus intervenes and shames Jepperd into letting the man go. Oh, and the issue ends with an adorable scene of Gus and his companions playing in the snow.

18 DAYS #5 (Graphic India, 2015) – “Vimana Wars,” [W] Gotham Chopra & Ashwin Pande, [A] Jeevan J. Kang. This issue covers the first day of the Kurukshetra war. The main event is a battle between Shalya and Krishna’s teenage son Abhimanyu. Shalya looks very creepy, and Abhimanyu is a cute kid. Other than that, this is a pretty boring comic.

ATOMIC ROBO: KNIGHTS OF THE GOLDEN CIRCLE #3 (Red 5, 2014) – untitled, [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. This is my least favorite Atomic Robo miniseries. I just don’t much like the Wild West setting. This issue, Robo, Doc Holliday and Bass Reeves fight some outlaws on a train.

ATOMIC ROBO: KNIGHTS OF THE GOLDEN CIRCLE #5 – as above. Robo and his companions fight some battlesuited Germans inside a flying zeppelin. The issue ends with Robo dying in battle, but he arranges to have his head preserved and sent to Tesladyne in 2014. And that brings us up to the beginning of Ring of Fire, which was when I started reading Atomic Robo consistently.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #189 (Marvel, 1979) – “Mayhem by Moonlight!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] John Byrne. This issue is most notable for a scene where Peter and Betty Brant are implied to have had sex off-panel. As far as I know, that had never happened before and would never happen again. Besides that, this is an unimpressive issue. The plot is that JJJ thinks John Jameson is dead, and is frantically searching for his killer, but it turns out John is alive and has been turned into a “mummified marauder.” Marv was a very poor Spider-Man writer, and although John Byrne was at the peak of his career in 1979, his artwork in this issue is ruined by Jim Mooney’s half-assed inking.

New comics received on March 8:

PAPER GIRLS #26 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. I think this is the last story arc. At the end of #25, the girls were all sent to different time periods. Erin finds herself in the present (i.e. 2019) or the near future. The other girls are sent to the ‘50s, the final days of Earth, and the slightly less far future. I have no idea how BKV can resolve all this series’s plot threads in just a few more issues, but I look forward to finding out.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #75 (IDW, 2019) – “Cosmos, Part 1: It Isn’t Me Doing This,” [W] Katie Cook, [A] Andy Price. With the recent announcement that the upcoming MLP:FIM season will be the final one, it seems likely that this will be the final milestone issue of the MLP:FIM comic. Therefore, it’s appropriate that this issue features the return of the best MLP writer and artist. And “Cosmos” is just as funny and as ambitious as their previous epic storylines. This issue introduces Cosmos, Discord’s even more powerful stalker/ex-girlfriend. Many years ago, Discord got rid of her by turning her into six jewels. But when Twilight finds one of the jewels, it possesses her and turns her into Cosmos, and she manipulates her friends into collecting the other five. It’s an impressive setup. Besides that, this issue is full of Katie and Andy’s trademark crowd scenes and Easter eggs and metatextual moments.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #4 (Marvel, 2019) – “The King in the Cage,” [W Jason Aaron, [A] Gerardo Zaffino. This artist is the son of the late Jorge Zaffino, who was a notable cartoonist in both Argentina and the U.S. This issue takes place just after Conan became king of Aquilonia, before his marriage to Zenobia. (Incidentally, I’ve never read the story of how Conan killed Numedides and seized his throne. That happened in de Camp and Carter’s Conan the Liberator, which was adapted in the #50s of Savage Sword of Conan.) Conan finds that kingship is tedious and oppressive, so he spends his nights hunting down and killing criminals, accompanied by a lion. While doing this, he disguises himself with a mask that looks suspiciously similar to the Punisher’s logo. This is my least favorite issue of this series so far, but it’s not bad.

GIANT DAYS #48 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] John Allison. Max Sarin’s artwork has become so central to this series that it looks weird when John Allison draws his own characters. This issue, the girls go to McGraw’s brother’s wedding, and a lot of drama ensues. The best part about this issue is how Esther and Daisy stay in a frog-themed hotel whose owner mistakes them for a lesbian couple.

THE GREEN LANTERN #5 (DC, 2019) – “Blackstar at Zenith,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. Hal goes through a bizarre ordeal to become a Blackstar. At the end of the issue, there’s a flashback where we learn that Hal is joining the Blackstars to hunt down a double agent, and then Hal, newly initiated into the Blackstars, is ordered to kill Adam Strange. This issue is a reasonably effective horror story, but it’s not as fun or interesting as the last few issues. At one point in the issue, Hal claims that Countess Belzebeth’s father was killed by Green Arrow. I don’t think anyone knows yet who her father was.

FEMALE FURIES #2 (DC, 2019) – “Nasty Woman,” [W] Cecil Castellucci, [A] Adriana Melo. Before I got Female Furies #2, I read a Facebook post by Corrina Lawson in which she harshly criticized this issue, pointing out that it’s potentially triggering to sexual assault survivors. I don’t know what I would have thought of the issue if I hadn’t read Corrina’s comments first, but now that I have read her take on it, I can’t read it any other way. This issue is one of the most disturbing comics DC has ever published. Aurelie is repeatedly raped by Willik, and there’s nothing she can do about it. She tells everyone that he’s raping her, but they don’t believe her; rather, they shame her for being weak, and act like the situation is her fault. As I type those sentences, I feel disgusted and angry all over again. And that’s aproblem. The thing is, I know that horrible situations like this happen in real life. Every day, women get raped and don’t report it, or they report it and aren’t believed. It’s important to document these things, so that people know they happen. However, I don’t believe that a superhero comic is the right place for such a brutal depiction of rape – especially not a superhero comic with bright coloring and Jack Kirby characters. Depicting rape in this context trivializes it, and also runs the risk of further traumatizing readers who have suffered similar things themselves. I think DC really should not have published this comic, at least not without alerting readers to its content. I certainly won’t be reading any more of this series, except issue 3, which I already ordered. I’m also surprised that Cecil Castellucci wrote this comic, because none of her other work includes any of this sort of content.

BLACK HAMMER ’45 #1 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ray Fawkes w/ Jeff Lemire, [A] Matt Kindt. I was disappointed to see that this was written by Ray Fawkes and not Jeff himself, because the last time I read a Ray Fawkes comic, I couldn’t make head or tail of it. But this issue is very clearly written and interesting. It’s more or less the Black Hammer version of Blackhawk, except the Blackhawk characters have some kind of bizarre, disturbing secret. It’s weird seeing Matt Kindt’s artwork on a comic he didn’t write, but he seems like an appropriate artist for this story.

RONIN ISLAND #1 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Giannis Milonogiannis. This new miniseries takes place on an island populated by refugees from all over East Asia, who fled there after some kind of apocalypse. The protagonists are a teenage boy and girl who have a fierce rivalry. Just after their coming of age ceremony, the island is invaded by the shogun of Japan, and then by some kind of zombies. This is a really fun debut issue, and this series looks like it’ll be a strong follow-up to Mech Cadet Yu. The protagonists of this series remind me of Team Avatar, and I think Greg Pak would be a good writer of Avatar comics.

MORNING IN AMERICA #1 (Oni, 2019) – “The Sick Sisters: One Week Before the End of the World,” [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Claudia Aguirre. Mags Visaggio’s latest creator-owned series stars a group of juvenile delinquent girls, and is set in Ohio’s Rust Belt in 1983. There’s a mysterious new factory in town, and kids keep disappearing, and no one knows why. It’s up to the Sick Sisters to investigate. I just realized that this series’s title is a reference to Reagan’s “New Morning in America.” This is a promising first issue, and it certainly has much better art than Vagrant Queen did.

DIE #4 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans. The party members arrive at Glass Town (a name derived from the Brontës’ juvenile writings), where they hang out in a bar. This is an entertaining issue, but much less substantial than #3.

ADVENTURES OF THE SUPER SONS #8 (DC, 2019) – “Jailhouse Rocked,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Carlo Barberi. Damian and Jon escape Takron-Galtos with the aid of Kid Joker and a cadet Green Lantern, Al-X. As usual, this is a really fun issue. The best part is that Al-X is 104 years old and has 67 siblings, but doesn’t know how long ten seconds is.

DOMINO: HOTSHOTS #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “Cold War Part 1,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] David Baldeón. Two scientists find an artifact that gives them the power of a Celestial. To deal with the threat, Domino forms a team consisting of her old teammates from the previous series, plus Black Widow and White Fox. (I don’t know if the latter is a new character or not.) I was on the fence about whether to order this series, but this issue is reasonably good.

SAUCER COUNTRY #12 (Vertigo, 2013) – “President’s Day,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Ryan Kelly. The Democratic presidential candidate discovers that her advisor, Professor Kidd, has been seeing visions of the Pioneer plaque aliens. The professor kills himself. Also, lots of other stuff happens that I didn’t quite understand. This series is just okay; as a science-fictional political drama, it’s inferior to Letter 44. The opening scene of this issue seems to take place in Minneapolis, because you can see the Foshay Tower and the AT&T Tower in Professor Kidd’s window.

THE DREAMING #7 (Vertigo, 2019) – “Love, Part 1,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Abigail Larson. My favorite issue yet. This issue focuses on Rose Walker, who has been cursed with a series of unfulfilling relationships, and her daughter Ivy, who she was pregnant with at the end of The Sandman. While visiting her dying mother, Rose meets another patient who I’m guessing is Lucien, and she tells him the story of Ivy’s romance with a young man who is obviously Daniel. This comic makes good use of a number of plot threads from The Sandman, and it’s also an interesting meditation on desire. It also includes an appearance from capital-D Desire. In this issue Daniel goes by a name that sounds like Olly Luckyjay. I had no idea what this name meant, so I asked Simon Spurrier on Twitter, and he was kind enough to reply and tell me to Google “Ole Lukøje.” It turns out that this was the name of Hans Christian Andersen’s version of the Sandman – and appropriately, that character also had a sibling named Death.

RED SONJA #2 (Dynamite, 2019) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mirko Colak. This comic still shows a total lack of knowledge of REH’s world, and its versions of Red Sonja and Shadizar are unrecognizable. In order to enjoy this comic, you have to pretend that it’s just a generic barbarian comic and that it’s not called Red Sonja. If you do that, then it becomes a clever and entertaining story about imperialism. I do think it’s odd that this comic is so unfaithful to its source material. One of the reasons Mark Russell’s earlier works have been so successful is that they show a deep knowledge of their sources (the Flintstones, the Lone Ranger, etc.), while also turning those sources into political allegories.

THE GIRL IN THE BAY #2 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “Time’s Malice,” [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Corin Howell. Katherine Sartori confronts her older self, but then the older self is murdered by Hugh Lansky. Meanwhile, the younger Katherine meets the ghost of a rock star named Winston Burton. As noted before, I have mixed feelings about J.M. DeMatteis’s creator-owned work, but so far this miniseries is very interesting.

UNNATURAL #8 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Mirka Andolfo. This issue includes some more plot twists, but I’ve realized that I’m just not interested in this series anymore, and I don’t care what happens to the characters. I’m not willing to stay with this comic for four more issues. I’ve cancelled my order of issue 9.

SUPERMAN/BATMAN “BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE DAY” SPECIAL EDITION 1 (DC, 2016) – “The World’s Finest,” [W] Jeph Loeb, [A] Ed McGuinness. This reprints Superman/Batman #1. Given my low regard for Jeph Loeb, I expected to dislike this comic, but it was surprisingly good. It’s a very simple but effective superhero story. It begins by establishing the central contrasts between Superman and Batman, and then throws them into a battle with Metallo. This issue is very fun and well-executed, and would be a good introduction to these characters for new readers.

IMAGE FIRSTS: BIRTHRIGHT #1 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Another comic that was much better than I expected. A little boy disappears in a forest, and his father is blamed for his murder, even though there’s no evidence. Then the boy reappears, except now he’s an adult, bearded, tattooed barbarian warrior. In a flashback, we see how he was transported to the fantasy world of Terrenos, where he became a hero. Except it turns out he’s not a hero, but an agent of a demon lord. I don’t think this is as good as Skyward or Die or early Rat Queens, but it seems like a well-done epic fantasy story, and I’d be interested in reading more of it.

COPPERHEAD #7 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Jay Faerber, [A] Scott Godlewski. Sheriff Clara goes on a date with a local schoolteacher, then takes him home to bed, but they’re interrupted by a home invasion. Meanwhile, Budroxifinicus is kidnapped by criminals. This is a fairly entertaining issue. See also the review of #6 below.

SOUTHERN CROSS #3 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Becky Cloonan, [A] Andy Belanger. Another painfully dull issue. I think I do understand this comic’s plot now, I just don’t care about it. Becky Cloonan’s dialogue is trite and wooden, and her characters are flat. Andy Belanger’s art is excellent, but it’s wasted on Cloonan’s story.

GIRL CRAZY #1 (Dark Horse, 1996) – “What’s Knittin’, Kitten?” and other chapters, [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. This issue introduces us to three protagonists, each approaching her 16th birthday. Kitten is an IRS agent in a gorilla suit, Maribel is a barbarian, and Gaby is a lawyer in the 1950s. They decide to team up to rescue their fourth teammate, Una, from prison. Like much of Gilbert’s later work, this comic is completely absurdist. It takes place in a world where time travel and giant monsters are taken for granted, and where the IRS resorts to supernatural means to collect taxes. But unlike Blubber, for example, this comic has an identifiable plot, and while its narrative premises are absurd, it applies those premises consistently. I want to read the other two issues of this miniseries.

MS. TREE #8 (Eclipse, 1984) – “The Cold Dish” chapters 9 and 10, [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. Ms. Tree rescues her kidnapped stepson Mike Jr, but the boy’s grandfather is killed in the process – which is not surprising, because that character doesn’t appear in later issues. This comic has a brutal, unpolished sensibility that really appeals to me, and Terry Beatty’s somewhat crude art is more appropriate than a slicker style of art would have been. This issue also includes some unpublished daily strips by Max Collins and veteran comic strip artist Ray Gotto.

SENSATION COMICS #13 (DC, 2015) – “Besties,” [W] Barbara Randall Kesel, [A] Irene Koh, Emma Vieceli & Laura Braga. This is really not good. The entire issue is devoted to a battle between Wonder Woman and Superwoman from Earth-3, with three young women for an audience. Each of its three chapters is by a different artist. Throughout the issue, Diana acts uncharacteristically arrogant, rude and prideful. She claims that she’s the best, and that she’s beaten everyone. She also says that she’d fight crime naked if it didn’t detract from her message. I have no idea what message the writer was trying to send by portraying Diana in this way. As a minor note, the writer also seems to think that “docced” is a word.

ELFQUEST: THE FINAL QUEST #12 (Dark Horse, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Wendy Pini, [W] Richard Pini. This isn’t the worst issue of this series, but it’s not particularly good either, and its story is difficult or impossible to follow. This series is strictly for hardcore fans, which I am not.

GEORGE PEREZ’S SIRENS #3 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] George Pérez. Another issue full of spectacular art by the greatest living superhero artist. Unfortunately, it also has an incoherent and confusing story, although as noted in my review of #2, the story is just an excuse. This issue does have an interesting metatextual sequence that’s framed as a comic book drawn by a character in the story. This sequence includes some pages reproduced from Gentleman George’s pencils.

THE NEW AVENGERS #3 (Marvel, 2015) – “The Dark Is Rising,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Gerardo Sandoval. This issue has the same irreverent sense of humor as USAvengers, and includes two characters, Sunspot and Squirrel Girl, who would later appear in that series. The reason I ordered this issue was because of Squirrel Girl, although she plays a fairly minor role in this issue. However, New Avengers is inferior to USAvengers because Gerardo Sandoval’s artwork is ugly and makes ineffective use of its obvious manga influences. This issue’s plot is that some Skrulls kidnap Hulkling so he can be their new emperor. There’s also a brief discussion of how Wiccan’s code name is offensive.

THE WEATHER MAN #4 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jody LeHeup, [A] Nathan Fox. I should have bailed on this series after issue 3. This issue is confusing, excessively violent, and pointless. The only thing this series has going for it is Nathan Fox’s art.

THE WEATHER MAN #5 – as above. Nathan Bright/Ian Black has been kidnapped by a talk show host, who subjects him to horrible tortures. The orange-haired woman in the white costume tries to rescue him, but she has to beat some villains first. The issue ends with the talk show host being sliced in half.

THE WEATHER MAN #6 – as above. More pointless violence and gore. The storyline ends on a cliffhanger, but I have no intention of reading the next story arc.

COPPERHEAD #6 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Jay Faerber, [A] Scott Godlewski. A low-key day-in-the-life issue that sets up the plotlines from #7 and #8. (I have unfortunately been reading this series in reverse order.) We also see that Clara’s son has been delivering food to a mysterious vagabond. This series feels like an attempt to capitalize on the success of Saga, but it’s an entertaining comic in its own right. I also ordered #9 and #10, and I will need to read those and then track down issues 11 through 16.

THE SANDMAN #16 (DC, 1990) – “Lost Hearts,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Mike Dringenberg. This issue leads directly into some of the plot threads from The Dreaming #7. I already read it a long time ago, but it was fun to revisit it in that context. In this issue, Unity sacrifices herself so Morpheus doesn’t have to kill Rose. Morpheus then figures out that Desire was Rose’s grandfather, and was trying to trick Morpheus into killing his own relative. This issue also includes Fiddler’s Green, one of the series’ best minor characters (or settings). Mike Dringenberg was perhaps the least successful of all the major artists on this series, but his art is somehow perfect for this storyline.

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