Reviews for first half of May

New comics received on April 26:

FANTASTIC FOUR #9 (Marvel, 2019) – “Outside the Box,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Aaron Kuder et al. The FF escape from Doom’s traps and set Galactus free, but then Doom captures them again and is about to execute them. Meanwhile, Wyatt and company rescue Franklin from Wendy’s house, but Wendy’s friends chase them and are about to kill them. Here, Dan Slott cleverly brings the two plots together: Franklin and Val build a teleporter and teleport Wendy’s demons from America to Latveria, while sending the FF in the other direction. This issue is a fairly predictable conclusion to the storyline, but the convergence of the A plot and the B plot is a nice touch.

RUNAWAYS #20 (Marvel, 2019) – “But You Can’t Hide Pt. II,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Andrés Genolet. A pretty low-key issue that focuses on the various Runaways’ problems. Victor is racked by guilt over Vin Vision, Gib can’t eat anything except souls, and Karolina is failing all her college classes. As usual, the most fun thing about this issue is Old Lace’s antics.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #43 (Image, 2019) – “Show Time,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. Minerva/Ananke tellls her origin story, and it turns out she created her powers by convincing people that stories or myths are real. So this whole series is a meditation on the power and danger of storytelling, much like Kieron’s Journey into Mystery. The gods realize they can break the cycle of godhood by renouncing their powers, but Lucifer refuses to cooperate. I think the plot of this series finally makes sense to me now, but I still wish I had time to reread the whole thing.

ASCENDER #1 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Appropriately, Ascender is the opposite of Descender in terms of genre, though it has the same style of art and writing. Some years after Descender ended, the remaining worlds are ruled by an oppressive dictator named Mother. Andy and his orphaned daughter Mila are living alone on a mountain and trying to avoid Mother’s attention, but Mila is getting sick of her isolated existence. Conveniently, something falls out of the sky, and it turns out to be Bandit, except for some reason he says FRA! FRA! instead of ARF! ARF! Meanwhile, Mother has just received a prophecy: “Beware of the hound with the backwards tongue.” I still think the ending to Descender was anticlimactic, but it looks like this sequel will be fascinating.

INVISIBLE KINGDOM #2 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “Walking the Path Part Two,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Christian Ward. Grix and Vess’s situations get steadily worse, but it looks like they’re finally going to meet each other next issue. An interesting revelation in this issue is that though Vess uses female pronouns, her actual gender is “down”; her species seems to have four genders or sexes. Christian Ward’s draftsmanship is not perfect – it seems looser here than in Black Bolt or ODY-C. But his spectacular use of color makes him perhaps the best artist in the industry.

PRINCELESS VOL. 8: PRINCESSES #1 (Action Lab, 2019) – “Alize,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Kaitlin Jann. This miniseries is not a direct sequel to volume 7, but a series of origin stories for Adrienne’s sisters. We begin with Alize, who co-starred in volume 7. This issue shows how she escaped from her tower, was rescued by desert elves, ended up back in her tower with a sphinx for a guardian, and met her future husband. It’s not a bad issue, but I liked volume 7 better.

WONDER WOMAN #69 (DC, 2019) – “Love is a Battlefield, Part 1,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Xermanico. The subject matter of this issue is kind of appropriate considering its issue number. On the way back from the previous mission, Diana, Aphrodite and Maggie end up in Summergrove, Connecticut, where everyone is having extramarital affairs and engaging in public lewdness. It turns out that this is due to the influence of Aphrodite’s child Atlantiades, aka Hermaphroditus. This issue is very funny and entertaining, unlike Willow’s first storyline, which was too serious for its own good. I think she’s finally finding her own approach to Wonder Woman.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #42 (Marvel, 2019) – “Power & Responsibility,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Ray-Anthony Height. Lunella and Spider-Man team up to fight a pink goblin. This issue suffers from clumsy dialogue and a boring plot, and Ray-Anthony Height’s art style is too harsh and angular for this series.

CODA #11 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. Hum escapes from the mer-witch’s captivity, but only after writing an epic narrative about her deeds in which she’s the hero. She uses Hum’s story to mind-control everyone, including Serka. It now becomes clear that Coda, like WicDiv, is about the power of story, but not in a nice way. The message of this series is that power consists in getting people to believe that you’re the main character of their story.

IRONHEART #5 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Eve Ewing, [A] Luciano Vecchio. Riri finally rescues the enslaved kids, and their abductor, a corrupt city councilman, is brought to justice. Riri starts a community center where the kids can hang out and learn about tech, and she also starts therapy. This is a heartwarming issue, but it’s also brutally honest about contemporary black life. The most powerful moment in the issue is not when Riri rescues the kids, but afterward, when she’s waiting for their parents to pick them up. And the kids say things like “My mama don’t get off ‘til 3 AM.” “My daddy has to stay in line at the shelter or we won’t get a spot.” “Our phone is cut off.” These lines reveal that contemporary real-life America is a worse oppressor of children than any Marvel villain. And I don’t know if any Marvel writer other than Eve Ewing could have written this scene.

MARVEL RISING #2 (Marvel, 2019) – “Heroes of the Round Table!”, [W] Nilah Magruder, [A] Roberto di Salvo. The highlight of this issue is the scene where Squirrel Girl and Quake are talking in the foreground, and in the background, the other characters are taking a photo with a little boy. Otherwise, this issue suffers from overwriting, poor dialogue, and a boring plot, and it feels like it’s talking down to its readers. I really wanted to like this series, but I can’t justify continuing to order it. Incidentally, I also don’t want to believe that Squirrel Girl’s Deadpool Trading Cards “really” exist. I think they should be just a metatextual device that only Squirrel Girl and the reader can see.

THE TERRIFICS #15 (DC, 2019) – “The God Game Part 1,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Stephen Segovia. Mr. and Mrs. Terrific go on a date, then the Terrifics confront a series of threats based on the ten plagues of Egypt. Gene Luen Yang has a very poor track record of writing superhero comics, but this issue is interesting, and I’m going to stick with this series for now. It’s odd that Offspring doesn’t appear in this story.

THE AVANT-GUARDS #4 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Carly Usdin, [A] Noah Hayes. At the victory party, Olivia tries to romance Charlie, and it turns out Charlie is not ready for a relationship just yet, but is definitely interested. Then Olivia gets a message that the team’s games are suspended. This is another really cute and happy issue. I’ve noticed that almost every Boom! Box title has a queer theme, and I assume this is intentional. Queer-friendliness is one of the key features of the Boom! Box line.

DIAL H FOR HERO #2 (DC, 2019) – “River Deep, Mountain High,” [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Joe Quinones. Miguel throws the H-Dial into a river, but another character finds it and uses it to turn into Jobu, the Zonkey King, an obvious parody of Goku from Dragon Ball. Miguel gets the dial back and turns into Iron Deadhead, which may be based on either Akira or Full Metal Alchemist. The Jobu sequence is illustrated in a manga style, with manga-esque page layouts and word balloons, limited colors, screentones, and speed lines. Joe Quinones’s ability to imitate other artists is amazing, and I hope he keeps doing this in future issues. He can even imitate differentkinds of manga; in the manga sequence, he draws like both Toriyama and Otomo.

GODDESS MODE #5 (DC, 2019) – “Keepalive Pattern,” [W] Zoë Quinn, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. I think I’ve pinpointed what I don’t like about this series: it’s doing too many things at once. The ideas in this comic are good, but there are too many of them. There’s Azoth, the Tall Poppies, the oppressive corporation, the father’s legacy… there are too many moving parts to this story, and it’s not clear how they fit together. Nor can I identify what the main theme of this comic is supposed to be. I think that Azoth alone would have been enough, without the subplot about the corporation and the protagonist’s father. This is a common mistake made by writers new to fiction writing: instead of writing manageable stories, they try to write giant epics that are too big to ever finish.

SMOOTH CRIMINALS #5 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kurt Lustgarten, Kiwi Smith & Amy Roy, [A] Leisha Riddel. I wonder why this issue has an extra writer. This issue is an extended training montage, with Mia and Brenda trying to master the Net of Indra’s security system. Smooth Criminals is a fun comic, but its plot hasn’t been going anywhere. It could have been at least an issue shorter.

SUPERB #19 (Lion Forge, 2019) – “We Could Be Heroes,” [W] David F. Walker, [A] Alitha Martinez. Jonah beats up that one evil kid, and forms a possible relationship with a gender-nonconforming kid. That seems to be the end of the series. I enjoyed Superb, but I’m also not going to miss it very much. The recent news about the layoffs at Lion Forge is infuriating; it sucks that so many talented people, many of them queer or POC, are out of work.

G.I. JOE: SIERRA MUERTE #3 (IDW, 2019) – “Sierra Muerte Conclusion,” [W/A] Michel Fiffe. I enjoyed this a lot more than last issue, since I was reading it for the story, and I wasn’t expecting much of Michel Fiffe’s experimental draftsmanship. This issue has an exciting story: the revelation that Destro was really Zartan is a nice twist. And this issue also has better artwork. It includes some highly experimental linework and coloring. Reading this series has made me interested in Larry Hama’s GI Joe again; see below.

HEATHEN #5 (Vault, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Natasha Alterici. The previous issues of this series were not solicited through DCBS, as far as I know. And issue 8 was solicited, then cancelled, then offered again. In any event, Heathen is about a lesbian relationship between a female Viking and a Valkyrie. This issue, the Viking, Aydis, tries to hire a ship to cross the northern sea, but the ship owner refuses because the journey is unsafe. Then Aydis meets some mermaids who she convinces to guide the ship. Natasha Alterici’s artwork is amazing. She draws with thick lines and strong white-black contrasts, creating a sense of a wintry northern world. Her dialogue, characterization and historical knowledge are also excellent.

QUEEN OF BAD DREAMS #1 (Vault, 2019) – untitled, [W] Danny Lore, [A] Jordi Perez. This new series is about a woman who hunts down “figments,” i.e. dreams that become real. Queen of Bad Dreams isn’t a terrible comic, but there’s nothing very exciting about it, and I don’t intend to read any more of it.

RAWHIDE KID #61 (Marvel, 1967) – “Shotgun to Deadwood!”, [W] Gary Friedrich, [A] Dick Ayers. A shockingly racist comic, even for its time. This issue’s plot is that the Rawhide Kid saves some civilians from murderous bandits and Indians, with the aid of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. The Indians in the story are violent savages, they’re addicted to firewater, and they speak in baby talk. There’s no acknowledgement that they’re being brutally dispossessed of their land and culture. Also, the writer can’t distinguish between Indian nations. The story appears to be set in the West or Southwest, yet the Indians use wampum as money, and one of them claims to be a Cherokee. Since 1967, our society hasn’t made much progress toward equality for Native Americans, but at least we’ve mostly stopped publishing stories like this one. What’s especially ironic is that on the letters page, a reader praises Marvel for its favorable portrayal of Indians (https://www.instagram.com/p/Bw0u4NkhFzy/).

RAWHIDE KID #76 (Marvel, 1970) – “Guns of the Bandoleros!”, [W/A] Larry Lieber. The Rawhide Kid encounters a Dragon Lady-esque Mexican bandit named Lynx. This issue is pretty average, but at least it’s not blatantly racist, though the Mexicans in the story are pretty stereotypical.

BOOKS OF MAGIC #7 (DC, 2019) – “Over the River and Through the Worlds,” [W] Kat Howard, [A] Tom Fowler. Tim and Rose go to Faerie where they meet Titania. This series was already on my chopping block because of its extremely slow pacing, and that problem has not gotten any better. I’ve decided to quit reading it.

HEATHEN #6 (Vault, 2017) – as above. There’s a sequence with the Valkyrie, and then we return to the Viking and her shipmates. It turns out that the crew of the ship are all women who escaped from slavery, and they check every ship they encounter for additional slaves. This is a brilliant idea, and a nice twist on the now-familiar “lady pirates” trope. Overall, this is another excellent issue. I hope I can find issues 2 through 4 somehow – I already have #1.

GHOSTS #71 (DC, 1978) – three stories, [E] Murray Boltinoff. A collection of boring, unscary horror stories about ghosts. The artists are Bill Draut, Ken Landgraf and Jim Craig.

BAD LUCK CHUCK #2 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “Disaster on Demand,” [W] Lela Gwenn, [A] Matthew Dow Smith. A continuation of the plotline with the mother-daughter rivalry. This series is okay, but it’s not especially exciting or unusual, and I didn’t bother to order #4.

CRIMINAL #4 (Image, 2019) – “Orphans,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. This issue focuses on Ricky Lawless, a hopeless drug addict and ne’er-do-well. He’s trying to hunt down the people who killed his dad (as mentioned in #1), but he spends most of the issue getting beaten up and abusing his ex-girlfriend’s generosity. This is a good issue, but not as memorable as “Bad Weekend.”

MARVEL UNIVERSE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #2 (Marvel, 2015) – “Show and Tell,” [W] Mairghread Scott, [A] Adam Archer. I don’t know why I bought this comic. I guess I was hoping it would be like the old Marvel Adventures titles, but it doesn’t come close to that level of quality, although it’s better than the next two issues (see below). This issue, the Guardians’ ship is invaded by a creature that only Groot can see. Each issue of this series also includes a backup story which is an adaptation of an animated short.

MARVEL UNIVERSE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #3 (Marvel, 2015) – “Hang on Tight,” [W] Paul Allor, [A] Adam Archer. The Guardians visit a farming planet that’s experiencing a severe water shortage, and also, all the people there hate Drax. This issue was worse than the previous one, though none of them were especially great.

MARVEL UNIVERSE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #4 (Marvel, 2015) – “All Hail King Groot,” [W] Joe Caramagna, [A] Adam Archer. The Guardians visit a planet where the people worship Groot. Compared to Marvel Adventures, this series suffers from a severe lack of creativity or narrative complexity. The stories are predictable, and they all end by restoring the status quo.

THANOS #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “Zero Sanctuary Part 1,” [W] Tini Howard, [A] Ariel Olivetti. A slightly retconned version of Thanos’s origin. This comic is excessively violent and morbid, since Thanos has to sacrifice people to Lady Death on a regular basis. I only ordered this comic because Tini Howard wrote it, but by this point I’ve lost confidence in her work.

WIZARD BEACH #5 (Boom!, 2019) – “Bugs” and other chapters, [W] Shaun Simon, [A] Conor Nolan. Hexley goes back home and solves the crisis that brought him to Wizard Beach, but then there’s another crisis that’s even worse. Hexley realizes that the people in the Wizard Mountains don’t actually want to be happy, so he goes back to the beach for good, and accepts Agnes’s romantic advances. This comic has a somewhat trite and predictable plot, but it’s also cute and heartwarming. Conor Nolan’s artwork is super-detailed and full of sight gags, and effectively immerses the reader in Wizard Beach’s world.

BLACK PANTHER #11 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Gathering of My Name” (again), [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Kev Walker. The rebels confront Princess Zenzi, who is possessed by Bast the cat god. She tells them that their Wakanda is not the only one, and restores T’Challa’s memory. So finally this story is approaching a climax.

PUNKS NOT DEAD: LONDON CALLING #3 (IDW, 2019) – “I Was There, Too,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Martin Simmonds. The squirrel girl (not that one) introduces Fergie and Sid to some other special people. Meanwhile, the weird old lady tells a story about Beleth’s past history. Martin Simmonds’s artwork in this every issue is every bit as gorgeous as in the first Punks Not Dead miniseries.

THE FORGOTTEN QUEEN #3 (Valiant, 2019) – untitled, [W] Tini Howard, [A] Amilcar Pinna. This issue largely consists of a flashback to Vexana’s history with Vlad the Impaler. As with Thanos #1, I only ordered this comic because of Tini Howard, and I wish I hadn’t ordered it. It’s just not all that good.

DARK RED #2 (Aftershock, 2019) – “Flyover States,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Corin Howell. A Nazi vampire tries to enlist Chip to help create an Aryan vampire nation, and Chip reacts violently to this idea. I appreciate that Tim Seeley is trying to confront the topic of rural American whiteness. However, it feels disingenuous when Chip gets furious at the idea of “bringing Nazis to my town.” If there’s any organized resistance to racism and fascism among rural white Americans, I haven’t seen it. From my experience, it’s exactly people like Chip who have made white supremacism such a problem in rural America. I think that as well as rejecting Nazism, Chip should show some awareness of how he might be complicit in it. Overall, I don’t enjoy this series enough to continue reading it.

STRAY BULLETS: KILLERS #3 (Image, 2014) – “The Five Fingers,” [W/A] David Lapham. As suggested in CBR’s review (https://www.cbr.com/stray-bullets-killers-3/), this issue is a perfect introduction to Stray Bullets. A man named Dez Finger hires Virginia to babysit his children. It should be a simple task, but it turns out Dez is a brutal cheater, spousal abuser, and deadbeat dad. Also, he’s going to kill Virginia unless she finds his wife’s hidden stash of cash. This issue is a brilliant piece of thriller writing, and it demonstrates Lapham’s ability to go from boredom to high tension in just a few panels. By the end of the issue, I was terrified for Dez’s wife and kids, and I badly wanted to see him dead.

DETECTIVE COMICS #549 (DC, 1985) – “Dr. Harvey and Mr. Bullock,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Pat Broderick. Harvey Bullock is perhaps the worst part of Doug Moench’s Batman, because he’s so unsavory and also such a cliché. He’s the archetypal example of the fat, dirty, lazy cop. This issue, Moench tries to deepen Harvey’s character by revealing that he’s also a film buff. This story does succeed at making Harvey a less one-dimensional character, but only to a slight degree. What’s much more exciting about this issue is that its Green Arrow backup story is written by Alan Moore. “Night Olympics” doesn’t have much of a plot, and it’s not on the same level of quality as “For the Man Who Has Everything” or even “Mogo Doesn’t Socialize.” But it’s full of expertly written dialogue and captions.

JON SABLE, FREELANCE #34 (First, 1986) – untitled, [W/A] Mike Grell. Jon Sable gets lessons in hunting from an old Native American man. At the end of the issue, he discovers a mysterious survivalist compound. This issue is reasonably good, but by this point in the series Grell’s art had become a lot looser and less detailed, and his pages include a ton of unnecessary white space. As a result, this issue is an excessively quick read.

AVENGERS #210 (Marvel, 1981) – “You Don’t Need the Weathermen to Know Which Way the Wind Blows!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Gene Colan. The Avengers battle some new villains with weather-controlling powers. I’ve read almost every issue of Avengers from #100 to #300, and of all those issues, this is one of the worst. The Weathermen are potentially exciting villains, but Mantlo fails to exploit their potential effectively, and he never writes one line of dialogue when two would do. Also, Gene Colan’s artwork in this issue is less than his best.

New comics received on May 3, which, unfortunately, was a grading day:

PAPER GIRLS #28 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. This issue has a structure reminiscent of Alan Moore’s “How Things Work Out.” Each page has four horizontal panels, each depicting one of the four girls’ storylines. The issue can be read either vertically, one page at a time, or horizontally, one storyline at a time. This results in some fascinating tricks; for example, at one point a character says “Afraid I don’t understand the reference,” and this can refer to either the reference to Bobby McFerrin on the previous page, or the reference to Freddy Krueger in the panel directly above. And there are also some moments where the four storylines connect. Of course, as usual I can’t make head or tail of this comic’s storyline, and I’m looking forward to the end of the series so that I can read the whole thing at one sitting.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #2 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Eve Ewing, [A] Joey Vazquez. This is the best “superheroes switch bodies” story I’ve ever read. Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel not only have different powers, they also have very different lives, and Eve Ewing explores what would realistically happen if an adult white man switched bodies with a teenage brown girl. This issue is hilarious precisely because the situations in it are totally plausible, if you accept that body-switching is possible. For example, Peter Parker is amazed by the taste of lip gloss, and Kamala Khan enjoys being able to shave her face and buy scratch-off tickets. Peter in Kamala’s body even gets period cramps, although they’re not identified as such. On top of all that, this issue even has a cat joke (https://www.instagram.com/p/BxA-lcthY60/). What more could you ask for?

GIANT DAYS #50 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. On Facebook, Siva Vaidhyanathan asked for advice on how to understand cricket culture, and I just recommended this comic to him. In this issue, John McGraw’s pub cricket teammates all get food poisoning on the eve of an important match (well, important to him) and McGraw’s friends are enlisted as replacement players. The resulting cricket match is utterly hilarious, and it even gives me a better understanding of why people like cricket. Personally, I find cricket less interesting than baseball because of the lack of baserunning and its associated strategy, but after reading this comic as well as Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland, I want to watch more cricket. But then at the end of the issue, as McGraw is basking in his victory, the comic takes an unexpectedly dark turn when McGraw receives the worst news of his life. I’m sad that Giant Days is ending soon, but it’s going out on a high note.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #77 (IDW, 2019) – “Cosmos Part 4: All Together Now,” [W] Katie Cook, [W/A] Andy Price. This issue was a slight letdown after the brilliance of Giant Days #50, but it’s good. Cosmos inevitably manages to collect all six stars, acquire infinite power, and mind-control the princesses, and things are looking really bad for the rest of the Mane Six. Andy’s art in this issue is as amazing as usual, especially the panel where Cosmos says “I feel delightful!”

GRUMBLE #6 (Ahoy, 2019) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Mike Norton. Eddie and Tala visit Asbury Park, New Jersey in order to make a withdrawal from Jimmy the Keeper, a man who can swallow people whole. This is a good issue, but not as good as the last couple.

BEASTS OF BURDEN: THE PRESENCE OF OTHERS #1 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Jill Thompson. I’m surprised this comic was published at all, since its writer has publicly criticized its artist for lateness, but I’m glad it did eventually come out. In this new story, the Beasts of Burden meet three humans, two teenagers and their dad, who can understand what they say. The animals and humans battle a giant ratlike ogre, and the dad gets turned into a zombie. Jill’s art is spectacular, as usual. Benjamin Dewey was an adequate replacement, but he’s no Jill Thompson.

GREEN LANTERN #7 (DC, 2019) – “Emerald Sands,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. This issue takes place in a mysterious dark realm where a woman named Pengowirr is trying to escape the attention of a villain called Myrwhydden. Then Hal Jordan shows up, and it soon becomes clear that they’re inside his ring, and Pengowirr – an anagram of “power ring” – is the embodiment of the ring’s intelligence. Having had to enter his ring in order to save his life, Hal is floating in space far away from a power battery, and he has to work with Pengowirr and Myrwhydden to reach safety. This whole issue is brilliant; it’s a Green Lantern version of the Doctor Who episode “The Doctor’s Wife” (which I admittedly have not seen). An especially nice touch is that most of the panel borders are shaped like the Green Lantern symbol.

THE DREAMING #9 (DC, 2019) – “The Void,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Bilquis Evely. Like Books of Magic #7, The Dreaming #9 takes place in Faerie, but the similarities end there because The Dreaming #9 is much better. Following Daniel’s trail, Dora goes to Faerie, where Nuala tells her about Daniel’s recent visit there. Inevitably, Nuala has to save Dora from Titania. Bilquis Evely’s depiction of Faerie is amazing, especially the establishing shot of Nuala’s house, and the scene where Titania is riding at the head of the Unseelie Court. I also love how every time Titania is introduced, her herald lists all her alternate names.

GOGOR #1 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Ken Garing. A fascinating debut issue by an artist I hadn’t heard of before. Gogor takes place in a bizarre fantasy world. Its protagonist, Armano, rides a giant shrew and is pursued by masked men riding beetles, and he escapes them by leaping between the floating islands that make up his world. To defeat an oppressive dictatorship, Armano has to resurrect Gogor, a creature that resembles Swamp-Thing crossed with the Hulk. This comic isn’t very simliar to anything else, but it reminds me a bit of Weirdworld or Beanworld, just because of the sheer strangeness of its setting. Ken Garing’s art is understated but subtly brilliant. I will be on the lookout for his previous series, Planetoid and Planetoid Praxis.

MR. & MRS. X #10 (Marvel, 2019) – “Gambit & Rogue Forever Part Four,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Oscar Bazaldúa. Gambit and Rogue save Spiral’s baby and defeat Mojo, but it turns out that the “baby” is just a fragment of Spiral’s soul, which Gambit perceived as a baby. Based on this, I predict that this series will end with a pregnancy. After finally getting home, Rogue has to go help Captain Marvel, as was already depicted in Captain Marvel’s own title, and meanwhile Gambit’s father summons him back to New Orleans. It’s too bad this series has just two issues left.

On Saturday, May 4th, I went to Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find for their Free Comic Book Day event. Ironically, I had to pass up most of the best FCBD comics because I had already ordered them from DCBS. But I did get some of the less desirable FCBD comics, and I bought some new comics I had missed, as well as a stack of dollar comics. Some of my acquisitions:

LITTLE BIRD #2 (Image, 2019) – “The Fight for Elder’s Hope,” [W] Darcy Van Poelgeest, [A] Ian Bertram. Another fantastic new series. I wasn’t sure what was going on in this comic at first, but I soon realized that it’s a postapocalyptic story taking place in Canada, and the protagonist is a rebel against a brutal Christian dictatorship. This comic’s plot is fairly standard, but Ian Bertram’s artwork is stunning. His page layouts are intricate and innovative, and his linework is extremely distinctive. I see hints of Carla Speed McNeil and Andrew MacLean in his style, but it’s a style that’s entirely his own. I would certainly have preordered this entire series if I’d known what the art looked like. I did order issue 5, and I hope I can get the other three issues.

DARE #1 (Fantagraphics, 1991) – multiple chapters, [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Rian Hughes. This was my most exciting find at FCBD. It’s Grant Morrison’s sarcastic, dystopian take on Dan Dare, originally published in the British magazines Revolver and Crisis. Dan Dare is bored and depressed after retiring from his career as an adventurer, but a fascist right-wing prime minister, based on Margaret Thatcher, enlists his aid for her campaign. Dare is an important work of Grant’s early career. Like much of Grant’s best work, it’s a postmodern take on classic comics. It also demonstrates his hatred of Thatcherism, which we also see in St. Swithin’s Day. But the really stunning thing about Dare is Rian Hughes’s art. Hughes is one of many super-underrated artists who came out of the ‘80s British small press, along with Phil Elliott, Paul Grist, David Hine, etc. In this issue, his depictions of art deco architecture and machinery are so slick and colorful that they remind me of Chaland or Daniel Torres.

CRIMINAL: THE LAST OF THE INNOCENT #2 (Marvel, 2011) – “The Last of the Innocent,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. “The Last of the Innocent” – a.k.a. the Archie story – is probably the best Criminal story, although “Bad Weekend” comes close. Heroes also had the other issues of this miniseries, but I decided to pass them up and save them for later; maybe that was a bad decision. In this issue, Riley (Archie) executes his plot to kill his wife Felix (Veronica) – who was sleeping with Teddy (Reggie) – and to pin the murder on his drug-addicted friend Freakout (Jughead). This story works perfectly well as a crime drama, but it’s extra funny if you get the references. In that sense, it’s like Afterlife with Archie, but it came out before that series did.

GHOST HOG FCBD SPECIAL #1 (Oni, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Joey Weiser. A simple and forgettable story about ghost animals. It doesn’t make me want to read the graphic novel it’s excerpted from.

JACK STAFF #9 (Image, 2005) – “Tom Tom the Robot Man,” [W/A] Paul Grist. As usual I’m not sure what’s going on in this issue. I rarely come across Paul Grist comics, so I haven’t read enough Jack Staff to understand its continuity or premise, except that it’s an homage to classic British comics. This issue has one plotline about Tom Tom the Robot Man, and another about the Nazi supervillain. As always, Paul Grist’s draftsmanship, page layouts, and coloring are fantastic.

G.I. JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO #61 (Marvel, 1987) – “Beginnings… and Endings,” [W] Larry Hama, [A] Marshall Rogers. G.I. Joe and Transformers were the first two comic books I ever followed, and I continued to subscribe to G.I. Joe almost until it was cancelled. But by the time my subscription expired in 1994, I had gotten interested in other comics, and I felt ashamed of reading a comic based on a toy line. I never came back to it, and I even left my GI Joe and Transformers comics at my parents’ house when I shipped all my other comics out. But just like how C.S. Lewis stopped feeling ashamed of reading fairy tales, I now feel comfortable admitting that I liked G.I. Joe and that it’s a well-written and well-drawn comic. Indeed, I feel much more embarrassed of some of the other comics I read after G.I. Joe, like X-Men 2099 and the ‘90s Guardians of the Galaxy. Anyway, this issue, a team of Joes goes on a mission to rescue an American spy from Borovia, apparently based on Yugoslavia. But it turns out that the State Department already made a deal to extricate the spy, without telling GI Joe, and the Joes have to extricate themselves from a hostile country. This plot twist seems very plausible. Despite all the ridiculous machinery and codenames, GI Joe benefitted from Larry Hama’s insider knowledge of the military. This issue also has a bunch of subplots, including one where Cobra Commander seemingly dies.

PAPERCUTZ FCBD #1 (Papercutz, 2019) – “Gilbert: The Curious Mysterious Preview,” [W/A] Art Baltazar. A very typical Art Baltazar comic about a fish boy. It’s not bad, but it’s no different from any of Art’s other work. This issue also includes a preview of an American translation of Mauricio de Souza’s Monica, the most famous Brazilian comic. Sadly, what is translated here is not Mauricio de Souza’s original, but a later adaptation by a different artist in a manga style, and there’s nothing interesting about it.

THE UNEXPECTED #119 (DC, 1970) – “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the Deadliest of All?”, [W] uncredited, [A] Bernie Wrightson. When I found this issue in a dollar box at Heroes, I instantly identified the first story as by Wrightson, though it’s uncredited. This story has a typical boring plot, about a mirror that remembers crimes it witnesses, and would be entirely forgettable if drawn by anyone else. But in Wrightson’s hands, it becomes a masterpiece of mood and psychological terror. It’s a rare example of a ‘70s DC horror story that’s actually frightening. Bernie did several other stories for DC’s horror anthologies, and it’s a pity that they’ve never been published as a collection. The other stories in this issue are by Werner Roth (“and friend”) and Sid Greene and are of no interest. The Werner Roth story is called “Swamp Child” but has nothing to do with Swamp Thing.

UNDERGROUND #1 (Image, 2009) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Steve Lieber. I’m surprised I’ve never heard of this series because I love Jeff Parker’s work. Steve Lieber is also an excellent and underrated artist. Underground is a thriller series starring two Kentucky rangers. The two protagonists have just become lovers, but they disagree on whether a local cave should be opened to visitors. While exploring the cave, the male protagonist encounters two men trying to blow it up, and gets caught in the explosion. I hope I can find the other four issues of this miniseries, because it’s a fascinating setup with some interesting characters.

IMMORTAL HULK #8 (Marvel, 2019) – “His Hideous Heart,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. A rogue scientist dismembers the Hulk in order to test how his healing factor works. It turns out the Hulk can control all the parts of his body even when they’re separate, and things don’t end well for the scientist. Meanwhile, Walter Langkowski and the reporter from issue 16 are looking for the Hulk. I think this series is the most interesting Hulk comic in years. It’s squarely in line with the character’s past continuity, yet it’s more a horror comic than a superhero comic. I never noticed Joe Bennett’s artwork much before, but in this series he does a good job of emulating Kelley Jones or Bernie Wrightson.

SUPERMAN CONFIDENTIAL #1 (DC, 2007) – “Kryptonite,” [W] Darwyn Cooke, [A] Tim Sale. This issue, like the other issues in this story arc, begins with a flashback sequence narrated by an animate chunk of Kryptonite. The main story takes place very early in Superman’s Metropolis years. This issue mostly focuses on Lois and Clark’s relationship problems. In general, this is an excellent Superman comic. Darwyn’s writing is almost as good as his artwork, and Tim Sale is a brilliant visual storyteller.

ZENITH PHASE I #1 (Fleetway/Quality, 1992) – “Dropping In,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. Grant Morrison’s first major work, originally published in 2000 AD, is a deconstructionist superhero story in a style similar to Miracleman. Years after the old superheroes have retired, the only new superhero, 19-year-old playboy Zenith, has to team up with his older colleagues to defeat an eldritch Lovecraftian horror. So far, Zenith is not as exciting as Grant’s more mature work, but it’s an interesting window into his development, and it feels like a useful point of comparison to Miracleman. Steve Yeowell was very bad at drawing Lovecraftian monsters, but the costume designs are by Brendan McCarthy, and they look excellent. This series is the origin of the phrase “many-angled ones,” later used by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning among others.

ADVENTURES OF THE SUPER SONS #10 (DC, 2019) – “The Injustice War Part One” or “Gang War,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Carlo Barberi. In this issue’s framing sequence, we learn that the entire series is a story told by an elderly Jon and Damian to their grandkids. That helps explain the major problem with this series, namely the fact that it was already out of continuity before it was finished. In this issue’s main sequence, there’s a giant fun fight scene, then Jonah Hex gets killed, but it turns out he was a robot. And then the cavalry arrives, consisting of Tommy Tomorrow and the Super Sons’ fathers.

YOUNG LIARS #3 (DC, 2008) – “A Hard-Knock Life,” [W/A] David Lapham. This Vertigo series is about a young man whose girlfriend is unable to feel emotion due to brain damage. Young Liars #3 is the first David Lapham comic I’ve read that I didn’t like. The first reason is because it’s in color. David Lapham is an excellent black-and-white artist, but when his work is colorized, it just looks ordinary. Color makes his linework and visual storytelling harder to appreciate. Perhaps the specific problem is that Jared Fletcher’s coloring is too realistic; it adds subtle shades of color that are not present in Lapham’s stark, minimal pencils and inks. The second problem with this comic is that the violence and mayhem start right away, almost on the first page, and never stop. The violence in Stray Bullets is so shocking precisely because it comes out of nowhere. Lapham’s usual tactic is to start with an innocent, ordinary situation and then turn it into a horrific nightmare. But in this comic, the horrible nightmare starts right away, so there’s nothing to compare it to, and the violence loses its shock value.

ANIMOSITY TALES #1 (AfterShock, 2019) – “Animosity Tales,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Elton Thomasi. This FCBD comic is about a fish who falls in love with his human caretaker after the animals become sentient. There are a lot of cute moments in this issue, and I think maybe Animosity would have been better if it had focused on small stories like this one, rather than the epic of Sandor and Jesse. As I have observed before, the premise of Animosity is unsustainable; a world where all animals have human-level intelligence is not logically possible. But this premise is interesting in smaller doses.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #5 (Marvel, 2014) – untitled, [W] Dan Slott, [A] Humberto Ramos. Dan Slott’s Spider-Man hasn’t impressed me as much as I’d hoped, and I wonder if I’ve just been starting with the wrong issues of his run. But this issue is good. Peter Parker and Cindy Moon can’t keep their hands off each other, but just as they’re exploring their relationship further, Peter has to do a TV interview. J. Jonah Jameson, who Slott writes extremely well, is also present, and when the TV studio is invaded by Black Cat, Eel and Electro, JJJ gets a chance to unmask Spider-Man on live TV.

ZENITH PHASE I #2 (Fleetway/Quality, 1992) – “Patterns,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. Zenith and Ruby Fox recruit Red Dragon, an alcoholic Welsh superhero. Red Dragon is a fascinating character, but he promptly gets killed in a fight with a Nazi superhuman possessed by a Many-Angled One. Again, Zenith is not as good as Animal Man or Doom Patrol, but it’s interesting. I have the next four issues, but have not gotten to them yet.

PRETTY DEADLY #9 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Emma Rios. I thinkthis issue is about Ginny’s battle with the Reaper of War, but I couldn’t understand its plot at all, and Emma Rios’s abstract page layouts didn’t help. This comic’s writing and art attempt to be lyrical and evocative, but they mostly succeed only in creating confusion. I should have stopped buying this series after issue 3, if not earlier.

LODGER #4 (IDW, 2019) – “Who to Trust,” [W/A] David Lapham, [W] Maria Lapham. This issue is much better than Young Liars #3, but I couldn’t follow its plot. It seems to be about a travel writer and her boyfriend, but it has a ton of plot threads, and I don’t understand how they fit together.

BLACK HAMMER ’45 #3 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ray Fawkes w/ Jeff Lemire, [A] Matt Kindt. I’m willing to keep buying this, but it’s the worst Black Hammer comic yet. This issue, the Black Hammer Squadron has to fight both a German pilot and a giant Soviet robot in order to rescue a scientist and his family from a concentration camp.

SUPERMAN CONFIDENTIAL #2 (DC, 2007) – as above. Rather than go on a date with Lois, Superman has to rescue some villagers from a volcano, and the experience scares him so much that he has to go see his parents for moral support. Meanwhile, Lois goes out with Anthony Gallo, a creepy dude who, I just noticed, has a Kryptonite ring. In this issue Cooke and Sale show a deep understanding of both Clark and Lois. It’s such a tragedy that Darwyn didn’t have time to publish more comics; he was a phenomenal talent.

THUNDERBOLTS #173 (Marvel, 2012) – “Like Lightning Part 2,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Declan Shalvey. The present Thunderbolts go back in time and team up with their earlier selves, from during the Onslaught storyline. But Norbert Ebersol gets into an argument with his past self, and ends up murdering him. The character interactions in this issue are really good.

THE GIRL IN THE BAY #4 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “Time’s End,” [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Corin Howell. Katherine defeats the weird monster dude, and it turns out that her whole situation is the result of time splitting into three parts. This miniseries was better than Impossible, Inc., but it was still only average, and I probably won’t buy JM DeMatteis’s next new title.

BRITANNIA ONE DOLLAR DEBUT #1 (Valiant, 2019) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Juan José Ryp. Antonius Axia is a widowed private detective and ex-centurion who suffers from PTSD. The insane Emperor Nero sends Axia to investigate some strange occurrences in the frontier province of Britannia. This comic’s historical accuracy is impressive, and Antonius Axia is an interesting protagonist. Also, I really like Juan José Ryp’s moody and ominous art.

BLACK AF: DEVIL’S DYE #3 (Black Mask, 2019) – untitled, [W] Vita Ayala, [A] Liana Kangas. I can’t follow this comic’s plot, and I dislike the art. I suppose Liana Kangas’s storytelling is good, but her linework is just not appealing. I think this will be the last Black comic I order. I love the idea behind this franchise, but I’ve never been satisfied with the execution.

WAR OF THE REALMS #3 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Quest for Thor,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Russell Dauterman. This is a big dumb crossover series, but it has a far better creative team than most such series. And Jason Aaron has experience writing most of the principal characters, so they’re less out-of-character than is usually the case in crossover stories. This issue, Daredevil becomes the new Heimdall, and the heroes look for Thor, who finally shows up at the end of the issue. Incidentally, I think it’s really stupid that there’s one villain and one army for each continent, even though Australia, for instance, has a fraction of the population of Asia.

DOMINO: HOTSHOTS #3 (Marvel, 2019) – “Cold War Part 3,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] David Baldeón. I’m not enjoying this series very much. It’s just a lighthearted romp with no long-term implications, but I don’t find it very funny or exciting. As I suggested in my review of the previous issue, Gail rarely succeeds in making me care about her characters. I’ve cancelled my order of issue 5. This issue does have one very unusual two-page spread where all the panels are arranged diagonally. It’s an interesting experiment, though it results in a confusing reading experience.

RED SONJA #4 (Dynamite, 2019) – “The Brothers of Misfortune,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mirko Colak & Bob Q. Another story that focuses on military strategy. Atypically for Mark Russell, this comic shows a lack of understanding of either Red Sonja or the sword-and-sorcery genre, as I have already observed. Also, it has no obvious connection to contemporary politics. If there is a political allegory in this series, I’ve missed it completely. I’m going to give up on this title.

HASHTAG: DANGER #1 (Ahoy, 2019) – “The Name of the Game is Death!”, [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Chris Giarrusso. I’ve never liked Chris Giarrusso’s style, and I disliked the Hashtag: Danger backup stories in other Ahoy comics. But this issue is better, possibly because of its greater length and narrative scope. It reminds me a bit of Futurama in its style of humor. Perhaps the highlight of this story is the last panel, which is a parody of the last panel of Superman #233 (“moving slowly, relentlessly toward a terrible destiny”). This issue includes a backup story about people waiting in line at a concert.

SEX DEATH REVOLUTION #2 (Black Mask, 2019) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Kasia Witerscheim. It turns out that Esperanza’s magical problems are the result of a creepy obsessive stalker, and he tries to get at her through her friend Suze. This isn’t my favorite of Mags’s current series, but the villain in this issue is really creepy and plausible; he acts just like real sexual predators do. The line “Will you be a good girl for me?” is especially creepy.

DEADLY CLASS: KILLER SET FCBD SPECIAL #nn (Image, 2019) – “Killer Set,” [W] Rick Remender, [A] Wes Craig. This one-shot acts as a jumping-on point to a series about a school for assassins. Wes Craig’s art here is very good, with excellent coloring and page layouts, but this series’s premise does nothing for me.

THE MAXX #22 (Image, 1996) – “Other People’s Crap,” [W] Bill Messner-Loebs, [A] Sam Kieth. This issue focuses on Sara, who is currently taking care of her useless unemployed roommate. Also, a giant banana slug is going around eating people. The Maxx is probably Sam Kieth’s best work because it showcases his truly unique art, while Bill Loebs provides a coherent story and effective characterization, neither of which are among Sam Kieth’s strong points.

ACTION COMICS #0 (DC, 1994) – “The Yesterday Man,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] Jackson Guice. Despite its issue number, this is not an origin or flashback issue but simply a chapter of the then-ongoing Conduit storyline. Conduit was a creepy, obsessed asshole who somehow knew Superman’s secret identity. I don’t recall him ever appearing again after his initial storyline. I read a lot of Superman comics from this era when I was a kid, and I think they still hold up today, but this issue is only average.

PRETTY DEADLY #5 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Emma Rios. The heroines battle Death in an Old West town. This is perhaps the most coherently plotted issue of Pretty Deadly, but it’s still confusing, and it has all the typical flaws of this series.

DETECTIVE COMICS #813 (DC, 2006) – “City of Crime,” [W] David Lapham, [A] Ramon Bachs. A villain called The Body is driving the people of Gotham crazy. I didn’t quite understand this issue, but it is kind of cool how part of the story takes place in the ruins underneath Gotham City. These ruins were a major setting in the Arkham City video game. I’m not sure if there was a direct line of influence from one to the other.

More new comics arrived on May 9. By that point I was mostly done with the semester, so I was able to read even more comics than usual.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #44 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. Squirrel Girl teams up with Ratatoskr, but when they try to get information from some (stereotypical) local people, they end up getting mistaken for Frost Giants. This is a pretty average issue. I appreciate that it doesn’t require much if any knowledge of the War of the Realms crossover. Ryan is Canadian himself, so the Canadian stereotypes in this story are probably being used knowingly.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #6 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Sole Survivor,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mahmud Asrar. Turan is invading Stygia under the command of Prince Yezdigerd. Conan falls in with the Turanian army and proves to be a much better commander than any of its generals, who are chosen on the basis of birth rather than merit. This is still a good Conan comic, but I think it’s my least favorite issue yet; it doesn’t have much of a story. In this continuity, Conan’s first encounter with Yezdigerd happens very differently than in the previous Marvel series. In Roy Thomas’s continuity, Conan serves under Yezdigerd at Makkalet and later slashes him in the face, earning his lifelong enmity.

DRAGONFLY & DRAGONFLYMAN #1 (Ahoy, 2019) – “Police Crackdown,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Russ Braun. This FCBD comic is a prequel to Wrong Earth, and tells two parallel stories each taking place on one of the Earths. It doesn’t tell us much we didn’t already know about the characters or their worlds, but it’s hilarious. I especially like Dragonflyman’s line about how teachers are the real heroes. There’s also a Captain Ginger backup story that shows why Ginger and Mittens don’t like each other. I hope we see both these series again soon.

RONIN ISLAND #3 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Giannis Milonogiannis. Hana and Kenichi travel to Japan with General Sato. After fighting some zombies, they meet the shogun, who turns out to be a useless, spoiled, racist brat. The shogun appoints Kenichi to rule Ronin Island instead of General Sato. This series continues to be fascinating, with unexpected plot twists and complicated moral dilemmas.

BRONZE AGE BOOGIE #2 (Ahoy, 2019) – “Welcome to Fear City!”, [W] Stuart Moore, [A] Alberto Ponticelli. Brita Constantina and Lynda Darrk fight the Martians with the help of Jackson Li, a dead ringer for Shang-Chi. In Jackson Li, Stuart Moore perfectly parodies Doug Moench’s histrionic dialogue and fake Eastern philosophy. This series may have limited appeal to readers who aren’t familiar with ‘70s comics, but for readers who do get the joke, it’s amazing. This issue also includes a backup story about an astronaut bear. A notable moment in this story is when the bear is working as a janitor, and he tells his coworker “You have no idea how hard this is. There’s so much I could be doing – but they’re so blinded by fear and prejudice that they won’t even give me a chance.” And his fellow janitor, who is drawn to look very Mexican, just gives him a long look.

GRUMBLE VS. THE GOON #nn (Albatross, 2019) – “Grumble vs. the Goon,” [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Mike Norton, [W/A] Eric Powell. This FCBD comic is a crossover between two series both now published by Albatross. I like Grumble a lot more than The Goon; the latter series was funny at first, but quickly got repetitive. However, in this issue Powell, Roberts and Norton find a plausible way to make the two franchises interact, and their respective styles of art and humor are an interesting contrast. I especially appreciate how the two artists collaborate on the same pages. Throughout the comic, each artist draws the characters and settings from his own series, and the characters from each series even speak in their usual lettering fonts. So there are have panels where Tala and Eddie are drawn by Roberts, and the Goon and Franky are drawn by Norton. This is a simple idea but hard to pull off.

THE UNSTOPPABLE WASP #7 (Marvel, 2019) – “Happy Birthday, Nadia!”, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Alti Firmansyah. Depressingly, this series has been cancelled a second time. I’m disappointed if not surprised. Unstoppable Wasp should be as popular as Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel and Moon Girl, but it’s as if Marvel doesn’t understand why those series are successful, or how to replicate their success. At least we still get a few more issues, and this is perhaps the happiest issue of the entire series. At her birthday party, Nadia meets all the members of her extended family, and there’s one cute and cathartic moment after another. I especially loved the cameo appearance by Tigra’s son William, and I even noticed William’s little tail under the table on the splash page. As another example, I like the moment where Priya Aggarwal and Kamala Khan realize that their families are both from Mumbai.

LUMBERJANES: THE SHAPE OF FRIENDSHIP FCBD SPECIAL 2019 (Boom!, 2019) – “Shape of Friendship,” [W] Lilah Sturges, [A] Polterink. The Shape of Friendship graphic novel is the only Lumberjanes comic I haven’t read, so the excerpt from it in this issue is new to me. In this excerpt, the girls fight a hydra, then they sneak out of camp once Jo is asleep. The lack of color in this story is annoying, but it’s not bad, and I need to get around to reading the rest of the graphic novel. This issue also reprints a backup story which previously appeared in the 2016 Makin’ the Ghost of It special. I had forgotten about this story, so it was worth revisiting, but I wish Boom! would have commissioned a new story instead of reprinting old material.

BLACK HAMMER: AGE OF DOOM #10 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. Lucy restores the memories of her colleagues by hitting them with her hammer. Golden Gail is too old and frail for that to work, but she manages to recover herself enough to say Zafram. Then Lucy gets teleported to the Rock of Eternity-esque dimension where her dad is. This is another good issue; the scenes with the decrepit Golden Gail are especially poignant.

THESE SAVAGE SHORES #4 (Vault, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ram V, [A] Sumit Kumar. The Anglo-Mysore War continues, while the European vampires and vampire hunters fight each other. At the end of the issue, we learn that Kori has also become a vampire. This wasn’t the best issue, but I still love this series. I appreciate Ram V’s boldness in immersing American readers in such an unfamiliar setting and history, and trusting us to be able to understand what’s going on.

FCBD 2019: A SHEETS STORY (Lion Forge, 2019) – “A Sheets Story,” [W/A] Brenda Thummler. The best FCBD comic of the year. It’s a sequel to the author’s graphic novel Sheets, which I haven’t read, but I was easily able to deduce all the relevant background information. Seventh-grader Marjorie has recently lost her mother, and her friend Wendell is the ghost of a dead boy. On a visit to her grandmother, she has to deal with both her grief and her anxieties about growing up. A Sheets Story is lyrical and beautiful, and its messages about loss and maturity are conveyed subtly, almost without seeming like deliberate messages at all. Brenda Thummler’s linework and coloring are not the best, but she portrays emotions perfectly. I just ordered the Sheets graphic novel, and I look forward to reading it.

EVE STRANGER #1 (IDW, 2019) – “Rescue Me,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Philip Bond. This new Black Crown series is about a secret agent of some sort who’s unable to form new memories. Anterograde amnesia has become a cliché by now; it appears in everything from 50 First Dates to Memento to Gene Wolfe’s Iatro series. It’s a useful narrative device, because it allows the reader to learn the story at the same time the character does, but it’s no longer new and original. What does make this series enjoyable is Philip Bond’s art. His linework, coloring and visual storytelling are brilliant. He’s another example of a highly underrated British alternative cartoonist, as mentioned in my review of Dare #1 above.

LITTLE LULU IN THE WORLD’S BEST COMIC BOOK #1 (Drawn & Quarterly, 2019) – “The Practical Jokers” and other stories, [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. I’m not sure this comic’s title is accurate. Little Lulu is definitely one of the best comics ever, but I’ve read better issues of Little Lulu than this one. The best story in this issue is “The Practical Jokers” from Little Lulu #4, but the other stories are just average, and they seem to be from early in John Stanley’s run. They lack the complexity and subtlety of his best work.

WONDER WOMAN #70 (DC, 2019) – “Love is a Battlefield Part 2,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Xermanico. Atlantiades continues to drive everyone crazy with desire, which soon turns into anger. This issue doesn’t offer much that wasn’t in issue 69, but it provides further evidence that Willow is developing her own original approach to this title.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #5 (Marvel, 2019) – “Re-Entry Conclusion,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Carmen Carnero. Carol and her allies defeat Makhizmo, but are unable to save Som. Much like Willow’s first Wonder Woman storyline, the “Re-Entry” arc was an acceptable opening to the series, but it didn’t feel particularly new or original. I look forward to seeing what else Kelly can do with this series. The highlight of this issue is the page with Chewie the cat.

OUR FAVORITE THING IS MY FAVORITE THING IS MONSTERS: FCBD 2019 (Fantagraphics, 2019) – three stories, [W/A] Emil Ferris. This issue includes two previously published stories by Emil Ferris, plus one new one. I can’t remember if I’ve read “The Bite That Changed My Life” before, but it’s an impressive story, and the new chapter of Karen and Deeze’s adventures is also excellent. As ever, Emil Ferris’s art is superhumanly good. It’s no wonder that My Favorite Thing is Monsters has been delayed a lot, but this issue renews my enthusiasm for it.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #9 (DC, 2019) – “House Rules,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson & Dan Watters, [A] Domo Stanton. Erzulie tells Anansi a story of her encounter with Mazikeen – who, by the way, I really hate, because her dialogue is very hard to read. Then Anansi tells a story about Habibi and her sisters, which has unexpected consequences. This story benefits from Nalo Hopkinson’s deep knowledge of West African mythology. Her version of Anansi feels extremely creepy and threatening, while most other versions of this character are far more sanitized. The dude who gives Habibi the book is based on the writer Daniel José Older.

AGE OF CONAN: BÊLIT #3 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Lesson,” [W] Tini Howard, [A] Kate Niemczyk. Another unimpressive issue. Tini Howard’s Bêlit lacks a distinctive personality and doesn’t feel like the same character as any other version of Bêlit, and this comic is not comparable to other comics about female pirates. I didn’t order issue 4.

ATOMIC ROBO: DAWN OF A NEW ERA #5 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. I wish this comic had a gallery of character faces, because I can never remember who’s who, except Robo obviously. This issue, Robo’s teammates debate his decision to rehabilitate Alan, while the plotlines with the vampires and the underground monsters continue. This is in fact the last issue of the current miniseries, which is surprising because it leaves so many plot threads unresolved, so I guess the next series is going to follow directly from the ending of this one.

LUCY & ANDY NEANDERTHAL BIG AND BOULDER (Random House, 2019) – “Big and Boulder,” [W/A] Jeffrey Brown. I’ve read and loved some of Jeffrey Brown’s adult-oriented work, especially A Matter of Life, but I haven’t read many of his kids’ comics. This FCBD comic is a short story based on his Lucy & Andy Neanderthal series, about two prehistoric siblings. It’s not all that great, and the caveman setting is just a cosmetic feature; this same story could be told with 21st-century kids. The best part about this comic is the sabertooth kitten.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2019: GENERAL (Dark Horse, 2019) – “The Game Master,” [W] Jody Houser, [A] Ibrahim Moustafa, and “Horrors to Come,” [W] Jeff Lemire & Ray Fawkes, [A] David Rubín. The main story in this FCBD issue is a Stranger Things adaptation. It assumes the reader has seen Stranger Things, which I haven’t, and so I wasn’t able to follow the plot. However, it does have a cute plot about a kid teaching two older kids to play Dungeons & Dragons. What is not immediately obvious is that this comic also includes a Black Hammer backup story. It doesn’t have much of a plot, but it does have beautiful art by David Rubín. I’m going to file this issue under Black Hammer.

WONDER TWINS #4 (DC, 2019) – “A Date Which Will Live in Infamy,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Stephen Byrne. This issue’s first page includes a scene where a teacher looks at a diagram and says “Ooh, sounds edgy” (https://www.instagram.com/p/BxWQQQAhsjR/) In the mathematical field of graph theory, the lines on a diagram like this are known as “edges,” so I thought the word “edgy” was a subtle math joke. Sadly, on Facebook, Mark Russell said that this was not intentional. Anyway, this issue Zan and Jayna both go on disastrous dates. Zan’s date is just using him to make her ex-boyfriend jealous, while Jayna’s date is a supervillain with the appropriate name of Red Flag. This is another great issue, and it’s a shame that this is only a six-issue miniseries.

THE LONG CON #9 (Oni, 2019) – “Was It Paradise… or Was It a Prison?”, [W] Dylan Meconis & Ben Coleman, [A] E.A. Denich. Destiny and Victor go before the Grand Gatekeeper, who lets Victor into the inner sanctum, a.k.a. the writer’s room. The Grand Gatekeeper dumps Destiny into a pit, but she makes it to the writer’s room too. This series seems to be approaching a conclusion. The Long Con has quietly been one of the funniest and most clever comics of the past year, and it deserves a bigger audience.

SHE COULD FLY: THE LOST PILOT #2 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “Animal,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Martín Morazzo. Luna’s mental state continues to deteriorate, but a boy named Gary seems to be in love with her. Meanwhile, there are some other plotlines that are complicated and difficult to follow. This series is really disturbing, and is closer to horror than science fiction. The panel with the one woman’s destroyed face is as bad as the braces panel from issue 1.

BY NIGHT #11 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Christine Larsen. There are a lot of plot developments in this issue, but I don’t care much about any of them. I’m glad this series has just one issue left.

CATWOMAN #11 (DC, 2019) – untitled, [W] Joëlle Jones, [A] Fernando Blanco & Hugo Petrus. Selina gets into a giant car chase which takes her right through the middle of a film premiere. This was a thrilling issue, but seemed lacking in substance.

WAR OF THE REALMS: NEW AGENTS OF ATLAS #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “Fire and Ice Chapter One,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Gang Hyuk Lim. Greg Pak organizes a new Agents of Atlas comprised of heroes from various Asian backgrounds. This team includes some new characters, such as a superheroine who’s a K-pop star. This issue is impressive because it shows an understanding of the diversity of Asian cultures. This is most obvious in the scene where Shang Chi, Amadeus Cho, Silk and Kamala Khan debate over what a certain type of pear is called. Greg Pak understands that there are certain commonalities among Asian-American communities, for example, but that Korean- and Pakistani- and Chinese-American perspectives are all significantly different. Overall, I really like this issue, and I hope this miniseries becomes an ongoing.

DENNIS THE MENACE BONUS MAGAZINE SERIES #129 (Fawcett, 1974) – “The Circus is in Town,” uncredited. Dennis and his family go to the circus, and hijinks ensue. In this issue, Dennis’s parents show themselves to be blatantly irresponsible: they let him go to the bathroom by himself in a crowded arena, and of course he gets lost. Worse, the circus performers mistake Dennis for a fellow performer and allow him to participate in dangerous animal and trapeze acts. One wonders if they’ve ever heard of liability.

CATWOMAN #38 (DC, 2015) – “The Serpent,” [W] Genevieve Valentine, [A] Garry Brown. I stupidly ordered this because it was written by a science fiction writer I’d heard of, but I never got around to reading it until now. Based on the evidence of this issue, Genevieve Valentine’s Catwoman is boring and uninspired, with none of the fun of Joëlle Jones’s Catwoman.

THEY’RE NOT LIKE US #2 (Image, 2015) – “Black Holes for the Young,” [W] Eric Stephenson, [A] Simon Gane. This comic’s plot and characters are of little interest. It’s basically just a remake of X-Men except that Professor X is evil. What is interesting about They’re Not Like Us is Simon Gane’s art. He reminds me of various other British artists (see the review of Dare #1 above for some names) because he draws in a sort of Clear Line style, with precise linework and solid coloring. But his linework is very shaky and fragmented. I didn’t order the first issue of his new series Ghost Tree, but I did order the second issue, and I look forward to it.

SECTION ZERO #2 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Karl Kesel, [A] Tom Grummett. Another really fun issue. It feels like Challengers of the Unknown or any number of other Kirby comics, but it’s not just a slavish copy. Kesel and Grummett are emulating the essence of Kirby, like they did on Superboy (see below). Indeed, Section Zero is almost a continuation of Kesel and Grummett’s second Superboy run. This issue, the protagonists encounter some weird creatures, then Tina gets sucked into a portal, and we get a flashback to Sam and Tina’s tragic honeymoon.

TREASURY OF BRITISH COMICS PRESENTS FUNNY PAGES #nn (Rebellion, 2019) – multiple uncredited stories, [W/A] Ken Reid et al. I think it’s a shame that most of the classic British humor comics are unavailable today, even in Britain. However, after reading this FCBD comic, I think it’s possible that this body of work just doesn’t hold up well anymore. Most of the stories in this issue are just one- or two-page gag strips with no continuity or narrative complexity. None of them seem comparable to the best American comic strips or kids’ comic books, and it seems like they would only appeal to young children. I’d like to read more comics by Leo Baxendale and Ken Reid and their contemporaries, but so far, I don’t see the appeal of this tradition of comics.

H1 IGNITION FCBD (Humanoids, 2019) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Phil Briones. A model of how not to do an FCBD comic. The first half of this issue is a preview story that’s meant to set up Humanoids’s new superhero universe. This story made no sense to me, and after reading it I had no idea what the premise of the H1 universe was, or how it was different from any other superhero universe. I didn’t even realize that the preview story was based on multiple different H1 titles, not just one. After reading the prose articles that follow the comic story, I understood the H1 universe a little better, but I still couldn’t tell you what its overarching premise is. The goal of an FCBD title is to encourage the reader to purchase the comic it’s based on, and H1 Ignition accomplishes the opposite: it makes me less interested in buying the H1 titles. It’s the worst FCBD comic of the year.

WOLFIE MONSTER AND THE BIG BAD PIZZA BATTLE FCBD (Scholastic, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Joey Ellis. Three monster brothers are running a restaurant that serves disgusting pizza. A large corporation opens a new pizza restaurant in the same town and offers to buy out the protagonist’s restaurant, but this proves to be part of a plot to turn the town’s citizens into zombies. This comic is very silly and is intended for quite a young audience, but it’s more entertaining and has a deeper narrative than I expected, and Joey Ellis’s bright, colorful artwork is attractive. I kind of want to read the graphic novel from which this comic is excerpted, although I probably won’t.

DEFENDERS: MARVEL FEATURE #1 FACSIMILE EDITION (Marvel, 1971/2019) – “The Day of the Defenders!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Ross Andru. Marvel Premiere #1 is not within my price range, so I’m glad Marvel published this facsimile edition. It includes the ads and Bullpen Bulletins page and so on, so it’s the next best thing to owning the actual issue. I just saw that DC announced a simliar facsimile edition for Batman #232. The Defenders’ first appearance is a very basic superhero story, in which the Hulk, Namor and Dr. Strange save the world from Yandroth’s doomsday device. It lacks the humor or originality of later Defenders stories, but it’s not bad. This issue also includes a reprinted Golden Age Namor story by Bill Everett, and a Dr. Strange solo story by Roy Thomas and Don Heck, explaining how Dr. Strange got his powers back. At the time of this issue, Doc had been on hiatus since the end of his solo series.

ZAGOR: THE ALIEN SAGA FCBD (Epicenter, 2019) – untitled, [W] Sergio Bonelli (as Guido Nolitta), [A] Gallieno Ferri. Zagor is a classic Italian comic. Its co-creator, Sergio Bonelli, was the son of the founder of one of Italy’s major comics publishers. However, this comic is hopefully not the best example of his work. It’s a standard alien-invasion story with a Flash Gordon-esque hero and his bumbling sidekick, and it relies on continuity the reader doesn’t know about. Epicenter’s previous FCBD comic, Tex: Patagonia, was far better.

SUPERBOY #54 (DC, 1998) – “Darkness & Light,” [W] Karl Kesel, [A] Scott Kolins. In their second Superboy run, Kesel and Grummett (absent from this issue) tied together all of Kirby’s concepts from his various ‘70s DC titles – notably Jimmy Olsen and Kamandi, but others too. The result was a series which was somewhat derivative, but which brilliantly evoked the feel of Kirby’s comics, while making sense of their somewhat nonsensical plots. This issue, Superboy attends the unromantic wedding of Tuftan and Nosferata. Then he heads to Paris, where he fights a giant gargoyle and makes an enemy of a supermodel named Hex.

DIAL H #9 (DC, 2013) – “A Hiding to Nothing,” [W] China Miéville, [A] Alberto Ponticelli. China Miéville’s Dial H was too weird and esoteric for its own good, and it showed a lack of comics writing experience. However, in this issue China comes up with a stunning idea: a superhero named Glimpse who people can only see out of the corners of their eyes. In comics terms, this means he’s only partially depicted in every panel he appears in; we only ever see his hand or foot or the back of his head. It is very rare for superheroes to have powers that involve breaking the fourth wall, and I wish this would happen more often. I had an idea once for a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes who would always be just outside the panel border.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2019: ALL AGES (Dark Horse, 2019) – “Griefer,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Meredith Gran, and “Date Knight,” [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Kawaii Creative Studio. This issue’s first story is about a Minecraft griefer who learns the error of her ways. It’s forgettable, but not bad. Meredith Gran is best known for the webcomic Octopus Pie, which I have not read. There’s also an Incredibles backup story in which the kids try to stop their parents’ date night from being interrupted by villains. This story is even worse than the “Crisis in Mid-Life” miniseries, and that miniseries was pretty bad. I’ve completely given up on the Incredibles franchise. It’s become a vehicle for pointless nostalgia.

BIRTHRIGHT #7 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. A further continuation of the plot from the last few issues. There’s a rather poignant flashback to Mikey’s first birthday in Terrenos. The major new development is that Brennan develops a crush on a girl named Becca. I believe I am now out of unread issues of Birthright.

LITTLE ARCHIE #154 (Archie, 1980) – “Imagine That!”, [W/A] Bob Bolling, plus other stories. This issue has just one Bob Bolling story, a six-pager where Little Archie and Sue Stringly discover a military satellite. It’s an okay story, but not Bolling’s best. The rest of the issue is full of forgettable Dexter Taylor stories.

USAGI YOJIMBO #27 (Dark Horse, 1991) – “My Lord’s Daughter,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi is on a quest to rescue his lord’s daughter from an ogre. He defeats 40,000 demons, then a sword-wielding octopus, then a giant centipede, then the ogre. Finally he rescues the princess but refuses her offer of marriage. At the end, it turns out this is all a story Usagi is telling to the children of the family he’s staying with. The twist ending to this story is predictable, given the wild implausibility of Usagi’s story. But this issue is still extremely fun and includes some beautifully drawn monsters and fight scenes. There’s also a backup story by Mel. White, a prominent furry fan.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES VOL. 4# 57 (DC, 1994) – “Friends and Foes,” [W] Tom McCraw, [A] Christopher Taylor. A muddled story with bad art, way too many characters, and a ton of subplots that don’t interact well. Even to an experienced Legion fan, this story is impenetrable. It makes me think that the abandonment of this Legion continuity, just a few issues later, was a mercy killing.

ARCLIGHT #4 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Brandon Graham, [A] Marian Churchland. This issue has some fairly good art, but an unintelligible plot. I believe Brandon Graham is capable of writing plots that make sense, but here he failed to do so. The Arclight universe never really got off the ground.

THE DESTRUCTOR #2 (Atlas/Seaboard, 1975) – “Deathgrip!”, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Steve Ditko. The Destructor had the best talent lineup of all the Atlas/Seaboard titles; besides the two just named, this issue is inked by Wally Wood. However, while this issue is well-drawn and well-plotted, there’s not much that distinguishes it from any other random ‘70s superhero title. This series could have been good if it had had more time to develop its continuity and characters, but it never got the chance. If Paramount and Steven Paul were willing to spend lots of money to acquire the Atlas/Seaboard library, then they must be pretty desperate for intellectual property. The only way to make a profitable film from any of the Atlas/Seaboard comics would be to essentially redesign them from scratch.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Winter in America: Part III,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Leinil Francis Yu. I lost interest in this series almost immediately, but kept buying it nonetheless, out of a misplaced sense of obligation. This issue, Cap visits a small rural town where Hydra has revitalized the local economy and given people pride again. I was going to say that Hydra can be read as Trump, but the problem with that is that Trump hasn’tdone anything for the rural American economy, and yet rural white people still vote for him. So the political allegory in this comic is more complex than that. However, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s major problem is that his comics are not exciting; they have more intellectual interest than entertainment value. This issue is never entertaining, not even when Cap fights a giant army of Nukes.

BLACK AF: WIDOWS AND ORPHANS #4 (Black Mask, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kwanza Osajyefo, [A] Tim Smith 3. Another issue with an incoherent plot consisting mostly of pointless fight scenes. I really want the Black comics to be good, but at the moment, they are not.

IMAGINARY FIENDS #3 (Vertigo, 2018) – “The Cat’s Paw,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Stephen Molnar. I barely remember anything about this comic. It’s not terrible, but none of Tim Seeley’s other creator-owned works have had the passion or the local specificity of Revival.

V-WARS #0 FCBD (IDW, 2014) – untitled, [W] Jonathan Maberry, [A] Alan Robinson. Besides Female Furies, this may be the worst comic I’ve read all year. It’s an adaptation of a horror novel in which each region of the world is infested with its own native variety of vampires. The protagonist is an academic expert on vampire mythology, who has been recruited by the government to become a super vampire hunter, because he knows so much about vampires. FYI, everyone: this is a wildly inaccurate portrayal of what humanities academics do. A humanities scholar is not just someone with an encyclopedic knowledge of their topic, but someone who understands the larger significance of their topic and how it functions within society. For example, I know someone who is an authority on monster theory. He would probably not be capable of listing every type of monster in every culture. What he can do is explain why monsters are significant in general, and how certain specific cultures have used monster narratives to think about particular cultural problems. I doubt he would be capable of actually fighting monsters.

That is only the beginning of the problems with this comic. Its first story ends with a splash page in which the protagonist discovers his little daughter devouring her mother’s corpse. I guess there’s a place for this sort of horror porn, but it’s not something I’m interested in. Perhaps worst of all, this comic ends with twelve pages of text written in a typewriter font. When I read a comic book, the last thing I want to do is read prose text – especially boring prose text that’s typeset in an unreadable font. I spend enough time reading novels already. Overall, this comic is a disaster.

RISE OF THE MAGI #0 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Marc Silvestri, [A] Sumeyye Kesgin. Another FCBD comic that I acquired a few years ago but never read. This comic isn’t offensively bad like V-Wars, and it has some interesting art, but it’s not especially interesting. I can’t think of a single good comic that Top Cow has published.

OMEGA THE UNKNOWN #4 (Marvel, 2008) – untitled, [W] Jonathan Lethem, [A] Farel Dalrymple. Besides Farel’s typically gorgeous art, this issue is most notable for a scene where a high school boy is effectively murdered by bullies. After kidnapping and tormenting him, they give him a gun and dare him to fire it, and seeing no way out of the situation, he shoots himself. Jonathan Lethem is not the best comics writer, but by the end of this sequence I was furious, and I wanted the boy to shoot the bullies, no matter the consequences. This scene is probably based on Lethem’s own experiences with similar bullying, as fictionalized in The Fortress of Solitude.

ULTIMATE DAREDEVIL VS. ELEKTRA #1 (Marvel, 2003) – untitled, [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Salvador Larroca. Back in 2003, I somehow managed to read this comic without buying it. I later did buy it, but didn’t go back and read it again, until now. I did buy the other three issues of the same miniseries. Anyway, this issue is not a superhero comic at all, but a realistic story about Elektra’s freshman year at Columbia and her romance with Matt. The most notable thing in this issue is that Elektra’s roommate gets sexually harassed by a jock, and at the end of the issue, we discover that he’s raped her. This sort of realistic and sensitive depiction of sexual violence was rare at the time.

ATLAS #2 (Marvel, 2010) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Gabriel Hardman. Atlas and Delroy Garrett, the former Triathlon, team up to fight some giant monsters. This is an entertaining and well-crafted comic, though nothing about it particularly stands out.

WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN #27.AU (Marvel, 2013) – “Age of Ultron: Road Trip,” [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Paco Medina. I must have bought this mistakenly thinking it was a regular issue of Wolverine and the X-Men. Instead it’s an Age of Ultron crossover in which Wolverine and Sue Storm go back in time to when Ultron was created. It’s a pointless comic, and it has some gruesome scenes where Wolverine vomits up a baby Groot. It incorporates some artwork from ‘60s Marvel comics, but the only effect of this gimmick is to remind the reader how much better those comics were than this one. There’s one flashback scene where Sue is trying to end an argument with Reed by leaving the room, and Reed grabs her. Nowadays this would be considered abuse.

ALPHA FLIGHT #3 (Marvel, 2011) – “Powered & Dangerous,” [W] Greg Pak & Fred Van Lente, [A] Dale Eaglesham. I bought Alpha Flight #3 and #4 by accident, by pulling them out of a dollar box when I meant to grab something else. This comic isn’t terrible, but it’s no different from any other superhero comic, and it doesn’t feel Canadian. John Byrne’s Alpha Flight was a labor of love because he’s from Canada himself, and when writing Alpha Flight, Byrne incorporated his insider knowledge of Canada – just like when Greg Pak writes about Korean-American characters. Pak and Van Lente are not from Canada and don’t know more than the most basic information about it, so their Alpha Flight feels uninformed and lacks a clear reason to exist.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS #4 (DC, 2012) – “The Long Con,” [W] Nick Spencer, [A] Wes Craig. Here’s another comic with no reason to exist other than nostalgia for the characters. Nick Spencer’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents has none of the excitement or originality of the original, or even the ‘80s revivals. Wes Craig’s artwork in this issue is sometimes brilliant, but at other times muddy and unreadable.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #18 (Marvel, 1972) – “The Thing in the Temple!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Gil Kane. Conan and his pal Fafnir have just made the slave-girl Aala the queen of Bal-Sagoth. But in this issue, Conan and Aala get attacked by monsters, Aala turns on them, and then the city is destroyed by a volcano. Conan and Fafnir escape and are picked up by Prince Yezdigerd, who is on his way to assault the city of Makkalet, as mentioned in the above review of Conan #6. This issue isn’t the best, especially since it lacks BWS art, but it’s not bad. The letters page includes a letter by big-name SF fan Ted White.

JLA #30 (DC, 1999) – “Crisis Times Five Part Three: Worlds Beyond,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Howard Porter. I’d have read this sooner if I’d realized it was Jakeem Thunder’s origin story. As its title suggests, this issue is part of a JLA/JSA crossover in which the combined teams are embroiled in a battle between two fifth-dimensional genies, Yz and Lkz (a.k.a. “Say You” and “So Cool”). Grant’s innovation in this story is to show that Mr. Mxyzptlk, Quisp, and Johnny Thunder’s Thunderbolt are all from the same Fifth Dimension. This issue includes a scene where Alan Scott and Zauriel create an entire civilization that evolves at rapid speed – like in the Simpsons Treehouse of Horror segment “The Genesis Tub.”

ALPHA FLIGHT #4 (Marvel, 2011) – “With Many, Strength,” [W] Grge Pak & Fred Van Lente, [A] Dale Eaglesham. Canada is taken over by fascists, and it turns out the Master of the World is responsible. This is another example of the writers’ lack of Canadian knowledge: if fascism ever does come to Canada, it will probably not look like it would in America. This issue also includes an annoying piece of Tuckerization in which a person says that Arune Singh, then a Marvel employee, is the greatest goalie in Habs history. The writers should have chosen a team that doesn’t have multiple Hall of Fame goalies. I notice that since the end of Incredible Hercules, Pak and Van Lente have gone in opposite directions: Greg Pak has become a star with series like Mech Cadet Yu and Ronin Island, while Fred Van Lente’s career has gone nowhere.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2019 (SPIDER-MAN/VENOM) #1 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled Venom story, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Ryan Stegman, and untitled Spider-Man story, [W] Saladin Ahmed & Tom Taylor, [A] Cory Smith. This issue’s first story is dreadful. It reintroduces Carnage into continuity by having him commit some gruesome, pointless mayhem. The second story is a pleasant surprise. Peter Parker and Miles Morales are debating about whether Manhattan or Brooklyn has better pizza. Then they team up to fight the Shocker, who tells them that Bronx pizza is better. In the end, Peter and Miles realize that the best pizza is the one that tastes the most like home.

SUPERBOY #34 (DC, 1996) – “Going Mental,” [W] Ron Marz, [A] Ramon Bernando. This comic has all the characters from Kesel and Grummett’s first Superboy run – Rex, Roxy, Tana, Dubbilex, etc. – but none of the heart. Ron Marz’s characters act emotional, but you never get the sense that they really feel the emotions they’re expressing. Also, Marz writes wooden dialogue. Perhaps I’m biased because I don’t like Marz’s writing, but there’s a reason for that.

New comics received on Thursday, May 16, just three days ago, meaning I’m almost caught up with reviews:

LUMBERJANES #62 (Boom!, 2019) – “The Right Stuff,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] AnneMarie Rogers. The other Lumberjanes travel to the Land of Lost Objects, where they manage to find Mal, but then get attacked by two giant birds. This is another excellent issue. AnneMarie Rogers’s art has improved exponentially since her first issue; her linework no longer looks crude or unrefined at all. She does a great job of visually distinguishing the Roanokes from each other. The highlight of this issue is when April says “I’ve never seen something so truly ancient before,” and it turns out she’s looking at a rotary phone.

PLANET OF THE NERDS #2 (Ahoy, 2019) – “War for the Planet of the Nerds,” [W] Paul Constant, [A] Alan Robinson. The three jocks learn some things about the 21st century, including that you can no longer beat someone up in public and get away with it, and that the police have become militarized. Also, they discover that they’ve gone forward in time and that their old victim, Alvin Pingree, is now a CEO. This comic is funny but also has some subtler moments, like when the black jock, Drew, has to pretend to be shocked by police brutality. This issue also has a backup story in which Drew suffers discrimination from his high school guidance counselor. I don’t know if Paul Constant himself is black, but he shows a deeper understanding of racism than some writers I could name.

ALEXANDRA OCASIO-CORTEZ AND THE FRESHMAN FORCE: NEW PARTY, WHO DIS? (Devil’s Due, 2019) – multiple stories, [E] Josh Blaylock. I was afraid this comic would be a dumb gimmick, and it is, but it’s not dumb. It’s intelligent and well-crafted, and it’s exactly what I needed this past week, when all the political news has been horrible. A week after the Alabama abortion ban, it’s hard to remember how hopeful I felt on the night AOC was elected. But this comic’s overarching message is that AOC and her fellow first-term representatives are going to lead a renaissance in this country, and it delivers that message powerfully and in a variety of different ways. I especially like the opening story, a pro wrestling parody (see https://www.instagram.com/p/Bxh1Xg1B4jx/), but there’s lots of other great stuff in this issue. In a bleak political landscape, AOC and the Freshman Force provides comic relief but also hope.

IRONHEART #6 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Eve L. Ewing, [A] Kevin Libranda. Riri goes looking for a missing Miles Morales, and finds that he’s been trapped in a time loop by a villain named Tank. This is the least impressive issue of Ironheart yet, but it’s fun. Its central theme is that Miles and Riri are learning to like each other, even though they didn’t hit it off well at first. This issue has a running joke where neither Miles nor Riri can remember the name of the movie Groundhog Day.

PRINCELESS VOL. 8: PRINCESSES #2 (Action Lab, 2019) – “Angelica,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Jackie Crofts. Unlike last issue, this is not an origin story. Instead it chronicles Angelica’s efforts to find something she’s good at. She turns out to be a great player of a certain board game, which seems to be based on Settlers of Catan or some other Euro-style game. As a result of this expertise, the Black Knight recruits her as a strategist. This isn’t a bad issue, but I want to get back to Adrienne soon.

CALAMITY KATE #3 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Corin Howell. Kate fights some monsters while having flashbacks to the breakup of her relationship. At the end of the issue, she somehow finds herself on the way back to New York. Over the course of this issue, the monsters come to seem like metaphors rather than real entities, and the reader wonders if they actually exist. A common thread in Mags’s comics is that many of her heroines are complete screw-ups. They have good intentions, but they seem incapable of coping with adult life. Calamity Kate is an especially pure example of that theme. I wish it had more than one issue left.

ORPHAN AGE #2 (AfterShock, 2019) – “Give,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Nuno Plati. The three protagonists go to an abandoned mall to buy stuff, but the proprietor tries to rob them, and they thwart him by kidnapping his son. The proprietor tells an interesting story about how when all the adults died, the kids who survived were the ones who went looking for tools. I like this comic, especially its artwork and coloring. However, I think Ted could have spent more time on worldbuilding. I’d like to understand more about how this world works, and what happened when the adults died. It feels as if we’ve skipped a bunch of chapters.

SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH #2 (Archie, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Veronica Fish & Andy Fish. Sabrina tries to figure out what’s up with the kraken that attacked her last issue. Meanwhile, Harvey asks her out. This is a fun issue, and while this series is perhaps not as original or memorable as Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, at least it’s being published on a monthly basis.

FARMHAND #8 (Image, 2019) – “A Time to Reap,” [W/A] Rob Guillory. The intruder from last issue proves to be a recipient of Jeb’s donor organs, except his new eyes have turned into flowers. He almost kills Jeb, but Riley saves him with the aid of his caterpillar-puppy pal. This is another good issue, though it has nothing particularly unexpected.

GIDEON FALLS #13 (Image, 2019) – “He Said I Was Special,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. Father Fred travels from Steampunk Gideon Falls to Dystopian Gideon Falls, and then at the end of the issue, he finds himself in Pastoral Fantasy Gideon Falls. I don’t know quite what’s going on in this storyline, but it’s fascinating. A nice touch is that in the segment at the end of the issue, the panel borders change from straight lines to blank white spaces in the shape of twigs or wisps of smoke.

IMMORTAL HULK #17 (Marvel, 2019) – “Abomination,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. The Hulk, now with the Joe Fixit personality in command, outsmarts Bushwhacker and beats the crap out of him. At the end of the issue we learn that the next villain being deployed against the Hulk is the Abomination. This issue is another thrilling blend of superheroic action and body horror. Immortal Hulk is the most original Hulk comic I’ve read since Bruce Jones’s run in the 2000s.

BLUBBER #3 (Fantagraphics, 2016) – “Blubberoo” and other stories, [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. This is one of the most disgusting comics I’ve ever read. It’s an entire issue full of sex, brutal violence, and scatology. Nearly every page has at least one penis on it, and usually several. I don’t understand what Beto was thinking when he drew this. I can’t say it’s poorly crafted, but I also don’t know what sort of person would enjoy it.

BLACK BADGE #10 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. The Black Badge kids learn about an earlier class’s graduation exercise, which was actually a test for recruitment into the evil cabal that controls the Black Badges. Back at camp, the kids realize that their mentor, Gottschalk, has been falsely condemned as a traitor. Then it’s time for their own graduation exercise, but the other groups of scouts are there to prevent them from graduating. This is an exciting issue, and it reminds me a lot of MIND MGMT.

WAR OF THE REALMS #4 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Stand at the Black Bridge,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Russell Dauterman. This issue’s title is an obvious tribute to one of Walt Simonson’s greatest Thor moments, the Executioner’s last stand at Gjallerbru. In this issue, it is instead Odin and Frigga who are standing alone against all the forces of Hel. Odin’s “Iron All-Father” costume is pretty cool, especially the helmet with one eye hole. As with previous issues, this is a typical dumb crossover, but it separates itself from other crossover stories by being genuinely entertaining.

ALL TIME COMICS: ZEROSIS DEATHSCAPE #0 (Floating World, 2019) – “The Pit,” [W] Josh Bayer, [A] Josh Simmons. I ordered most of the previous All Time Comics releases, but didn’t read them. This issue includes a fairly short superhero story drawn in an alternative comics style, along with a lot of ancillary material. It’s okay, but not especially great.

HIGH LEVEL #4 (DC, 2019) – “Pleasure Island,” [W] Rob Sheridan, [A] Barnaby Bagenda. Thirteen has to rescue Minnow from a bunch of child slavers who are also white supremacists. Barnaby Bagenda’s artwork in this issue is excellent as usual, but Robb Sheridan’s story is not up to snuff. By having Thirteen fight sexists and racists, he tries to establish her as a champion of equality. But this doesn’t work because the villains in this issue are caricatures. They’re cartoon strawman versions of racists and sexists. I know there are many people who literally advocate for white supremacy, but most racists today are like the guidance counselor from Planet of the Nerds #2 – that is, white people who say and even think they’re not racist, but who actively discriminate against black people. If you want to show that you’re an anti-racist or feminist writer, you need to do more than just have your hero fight the KKK; you need to show an understanding of how racism really manifests itself today. My further complaint about this issue is that Thirteen is a shallow character with no distinctive personality. I won’t be getting issue 5.

AMERICAN CARNAGE #7 (DC, 2019) – “Judgment,” [W] Bryan Hill, [A] Leandro Fernandez. Richard is supposed to ensure the safety of a junkie who stole from the Aryan Brotherhood, but the junkie gets kidnapped before Richard can smuggle him away, and Richard has to team up with the Obama mask dude to save him. This issue has great art, as usual, and there’s nothing about it that pisses me off, which is more than I can say about issue 6.

AQUAMAN #48 (DC, 2019) – “Mother Shark Part One,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Viktor Bogdanovic. Aquaman has a vision in which he learns about his origin, then discovers that Mera is responsible for his death (though he got better). I’ve mostly lost confidence in Kelly Sue’s writing, but this issue is intriguing, and it suggests that we’ll see more of Mera soon.

INTERCEPTOR #1 (Vault, 2019) – “Leathers,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Dylan Burnett. This FCBD issue is a preview of a new series. Interceptor’s premise is that humans have to leave Earth because of a vampire invasion, but then their new home planet, Palus, gets invaded by vampires too. Interceptor does not take itself seriously. For example, early in the issue we learn that the current President of Palus is 65 years old, but he looks as if he’s about 8, and we never learn why. However, Interceptor’s jokes are also not funny. It employs an immature Deadpool-esque style of humor. I still like Babyteeth, but other than that, I haven’t read anything else by Donny Cates that I liked.

MORNING IN AMERICA #3 (Oni, 2019) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Claudia Aguirre. Now reduced from four to three, the Sick Sisters investigate the local police station, then get attacked by a giant flying bat-thing. This is a very interesting series, though I don’t like it as much as Calamity Kate. It doesn’t quite follow Mags’s usual theme of a heroine who’s a screw-up, although the Sick Sisters are not exactly fully functioning members of society.

THE SYSTEM #2 (DC, 1996) – untitled, [W/A] Peter Kuper. A series of intersecting silent vignettes, all taking place in the same city and connected by visual segues. The whole issue is drawn in an expressionistic painted style. It’s a fascinating comic, though the lack of dialogue is a perhaps unnecessary constraint that makes the plot hard to follow. I haven’t read much Kuper because back when he was publishing comic books, I thought his style of comics was boring. I need to read more of his work.

CONAN THE CIMMERIAN #21 (Dark Horse, 2010) – “Blood on the Ilbars,” [W] Tim Truman, [A] Tomás Giorello. Conan barely survives the destruction of the Kozaki by Shah Amurath’s forces, then encounters Shah Amurath himself pursuing a woman named Olivia. This leads into the adaptation of “Shadows on the Moonlight” in the following issue. (Incidentally, I’ve never read REH’s original Conan stories, and I kind of want to, even though I’ve heard bad things about them.) This issue isn’t the best, mostly because it’s full of redundant captions written in purple prose. Truman was probably trying to imitate REH’s prose style, but I don’t think it was worth the effort.

AVENGERS #299 (Marvel, 1989) – “I ©NY,” [W] Walt Simonson, [A] John Buscema. I believe that the actual Avengers were disbanded at this point, so this issue stars the members of the next Avengers team: The Captain, Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, and Gilgamesh the Forgotten One. In the midst of Inferno, Cap encounters the New Mutants, while Franklin Richards is kidnapped by Nanny and the Orphan Maker. Because of all the non-Avenger characters in it, this issue doesn’t feel much like an Avengers comic, but it’s not bad. However, Nanny and the Orphan Maker were two of the dumbest Marvel villains ever. John Buscema’s art in this issue is excellent, but the reader tends not to notice it much.

JLA #20 (DC, 1998) – “Mystery in Space,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Arnie Jorgensen. Adam Strange kidnaps the JLA and enslaves them. It turns out he thinks this will somehow bring back Alanna, who was still believed dead at this point. This issue’s plot is only mediocre, and in particular, Mark fails to capitalize on the dramatic potential of Steel, a black character based on an African American folk hero, becoming a slave. Also, Arnie Jorgensen’s artwork is frankly terrible. He was nowhere near ready to draw DC’s flagship title.

ORION #24 (DC, 2002) – “The Eyes of the Hunter!”, [W/A] Walt Simonson. A blind Orion battles a villain named Arnicus Wolfram who has obtained an Apokaliptian time travel device. Wolfram’s origin is interesting: he used to be a warrior of the ancient kingdom of Angkor. Overall this issue is well-crafted and exciting, but somehow I’ve never really gotten into Walt Simonson’s Orion. Maybe this is because Orion is a fundamentally unsympathetic character.

INCREDIBLE HULK #218 (Marvel, 1977) – “The Rhino Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore,” [W] Len Wein & Roger Stern, [A] George Tuska & Keith Pollard. This issue’s cover says “Because you demanded it – Doc Samson in solo super-action at last!!” Indeed, this issue is a Doc Samson solo story, and the Hulk only appears on a couple pages. Doc Samson spends most of the issue fighting the Rhino, whose depiction is highly off-model; he looks like a normal dude, rather than a giant hulking bruiser. This isn’t a terrible issue, but there have been better Doc Samson stories.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2013 (INFINITY) #1 (Marvel, 2013) – “Infinity,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Jim Cheung. This issue’s first story is a dumb introduction to a crossover that’s already been forgotten, though the art is good. What’s more interesting is the backup story, a reprint from Logan’s Run #6 in which Thanos battles Drax. I have no idea why this story appeared in a comic based on a licensed property, but oh well.

KING CONAN: THE HOUR OF THE DRAGON #1 (Dark Horse, 2013) – “O Sleeper, Awaken,” [W] Tim Truman, [A] Tomás Giorello. An adaptation of the beginning of REH’s only Conan novel. I liked this better than Conan the Cimmerian #21, perhaps because it’s better plotted, or because it has fewer redundant captions.

UNCANNY AVENGERS #1 (Marvel, 2012) – “New Union,” [W] Rick Remender, [A] John Cassaday. After Professor Xavier’s death, Havok is invited to join a new Avengers team. This issue has good art, but is completely lacking in fun or humor. Also, it ends with a disgusting plot twist: the Red Skull has stolen Professor X’s brain.

UNCANNY X-MEN #2 (Marvel, 2012) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Carlos Pacheco, Jorge Molina & Rodney Buchemi. The X-Men battle Mr. Sinister, who has created a bunch of clone copies of himself. Mr. Sinister is an annoying villain, but this issue has some very clever writing, good dialogue, and bizarre art, none of which Uncanny Avengers #1 has. I’d be interested in reading more of Gillen’s X-Men.

Some reviews, but I still have more to write

4-26-19

New comics received on 3/28:

FANTASTIC FOUR #8 (Marvel, 2019) – “First World Power,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Aaron Kuder et al. For a long time I thought that Lee, Byrne and Waid were the three best Fantastic Four writers, but now Hickman is also a candidate as one of the three best, and possibly Slott as well. Simonson is not in my top three because his run was so short. This issue continues the plotline with Doom, Victorious and the imprisoned Galactus. The issue ends with Sue making Doom’s armor invisible and revealing his horribly mutilated body to the whole world. Meanwhile, Franklin (who now has blue hair for some reason) runs away from home and encounters Wendy and her friends from FF #239. That was not one of Byrne’s more memorable issues, and I had to check my copy of it to remember who Wendy and her friends were.

WONDER WOMAN #67 (DC, 2019) – “Giants War Part 2,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Cary Nord. Diana and Giganta continue their pursuit of the Titan, while Maggie finds a mysterious sword in a lake. In my mind this issue has become blurred together with issue 68.

BLACK HAMMER: AGE OF DOOM #9 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. Lucy and Abraham’s lives continue to get worse, while on Mars, Mark Markz’s lover is murdered. The highlight of this issue is the scene where Abe is reading a comic book, and some young punks tear it in half, spit in his eye, and beat him up. This scene shows how this version of Spiral City is totally devoid of hope. But the issue ends with Lucy recovering her powers.

THE AVANT-GUARDS #3 (Boom!, 2019) – I just lost power for no apparent reason, so I might as well write some reviews, since there’s enough daylight to see by. This issue, the Avant-Guards play their first game, against a team from a veterinary school. And they win in a blowout. This was surprising to me because I expect that in sports stories, the protagonists will start out really bad, but the other team is even worse. This series has some excellent characterization: the focal character this issue is Liv, who is incredibly cheerful. Also, this issue features some adorable dogs, though I’m not a dog person.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #41 (Marvel, 2019) – “Bad Dream, Part Four: Face Your Fears,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Lunella finally gets Bad Dream to fall asleep, then returns him to his parents. This storyline was not bad, but not great either. It could have been a couple issues shorter.

ISOLA #7 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Brenden Fletcher, [W/A] Karl Kerschl, [A] Msassyk. This series just earned a bunch of Eisner nominations. I think they’re deserved, although I have concerns about the pace of its storytelling. This issue, Rook and Olwyn descend into a mining village in the chasm, where all the children have been stolen. This new plotline is eerie and intriguing, and the art this issue is brilliant. There’s a two-page splash showing the massive scale of the mining operation, and a splash page with a bunch of weird flying owl-monkeys.

MARVEL RISING #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “Heroes of the Round Table!”, [W] Nilah Magruder, [A] Roberto Di Salvo. I’m glad this series is back, but this new debut issue has way too much exposition and not enough characterization or humor. At times it reads like a public service comic about college majors, and not a very well-written one either. When Squirrel Girl makes a speech about how English majors learn “very important skills for a super hero,” it feels as if she’s either talking down to the reader, or reading from a press release. Also, it’s very odd that ESU only has a single “Department of Science,” and I’ve never heard of a research university where journalism and communications were in the English department.

IRONHEART #4 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Eve Ewing, [A] Luciano Vecchio. This issue wastes a lot of space on Midnight’s Fire’s origin story. I don’t care about him, I care about Riri. The beginning of the issue is better, where Riri gets increasingly annoyed at the dean’s officious interference, and her mother tells her a story about her childhood.

SNOTGIRL #13 (Image, 2019) – “Eyes on Me,” [W] Bryan Lee O’Malley, [A] Leslie Hung. My favorite issue in some time. Lottie is doing a pop-up event at a store, but her friend Meg shows up with her dog, who promptly shits on the floor. The “pewp” sound effect is perhaps the most memorable part of the issue. Lottie’s attempt to clean it up goes horribly wrong, and the pop-up event is ruined. Meanwhile, Cutegirl continues messing with Lottie’s mind. Things turn out reasonably okay in the end, but I can sympathize with Lottie when she says “I guess it’s just cool to know I’m the least important person in everyone’s life today!”

THE TERRIFICS #14 (DC, 2019) – “Terrifics No More! Part 4,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Joe Bennett. The Terrifics fight the Dreadfuls and kick their asses. Then they decide to stay together even though their dark energy bond is broken, and Mrs. Terrific, Offspring and Element Dog become permanent team members. This is a heartwarming conclusion to Jeff’s run. I doubt that Gene Luen Yang will be able to maintain the same level of quality, though I’ll give him a chance.

HEX WIVES #6 (Vertigo, 2019) – “Ladies Liberty,” [W] Ben Blacker, [A] Mirka Andolfo. A very satisfying conclusion. The wives finally get their revenge on the husbands, then leave town to go learn about their true identities. I fear that this may be the last issue, but if it is, then at least the series has ended on a high note.

GLOW #1 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Tini Howard, [A] Hannah Templer. I have not seen the Netflix series that this is based on, but I ordered it anyway because I like the art style and the premise. Glow is about a group of female professional wrestlers and takes place in the ‘80s. The artwork in this series is really cute, and the dialogue is humorous. But what strikes me about this comic is the characters’ unfair working conditions. They have to rehearse every single day, after their day jobs. Then when they think they have a weekend off, they discover that they have to pay to work that day. It’s like they’re adjuncts or something.

DIAL H FOR HERO #1 (DC, 2019) – “The Hero Within,” [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Joe Quinones. This is DC’s second Dial H for Hero revival in the past decade. The protagonist this time is a teenager living in a boring dead-end town. The first hero he turns into is Monster Truck, a parody of Liefeld characters, and the Monster Truck sequence is drawn in a Liefeldian style. Dial H for Hero is less ambitious than China Miéville’s Dial H, but it’s more accessible, and it’s written by a writer who has previous comics experience.

SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH #1 (Archie, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Veronica Fish & Andy Fish. By publishing this comic, Archie is essentially admitting that Chilling Adventures of Sabrina will never be finished. I liked that series, but the creators were not capable of delivering even one issue a year, and it’s high time to give up on it. Like Dial H for Hero, Sabrina series is less ambitious than its predecessor; in exchange, however, Sabrina has a creative team that can keep a regular schedule. This Sabrina series is a fairly standard high school drama, but with more sophisticated art and more realistic writing than a typical classic Archie comic. It also includes a horror subplot about a wendigo, so Sabrina’s magical powers are more than just a gimmick.

CODA #10 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matias Bergara. Matias Bergara received a well-deserved Eisner nomination for his art on this series. This issue, we learn that the bathtub mermaid witch has engineered all the events of the entire series in order to set herself up as a benevolent queen. Her goal was to defeat the Thundergog and acquire the imprisoned Ylf for herself, and she more or less accomplishes that this issue. So I guess it’s up to Hum and Serka to save the world.

MR. & MRS. X #9 (Marvel, 2019) – “Gambit & Rogue Forever Part Three,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Oscar Bazaldua. This series appears to have been silently cancelled, which is a pity because it was really good, and probably the best comic with these characters. This issue, Gambit discovers that the McGuffin of the current storyline is Spiral’s baby. Meanwhile, inside her mind, Rogue confronts her past self and her psychic hang-ups. Confusingly, Rogue is also appearing in Captain Marvel right now, but that story is unrelated to this one.

BOOKS OF MAGIC #6 (Vertigo, 2019) – “A Twist in the Narrative,” [W] Kat Howard, [A] Tom Fowler. Tim heads to Faerie to find his mother and Ellie, a kidnapped classmate of his. This series’ plot continues to move at a glacial pace.

GODDESS MODE #4 (Vertigo, 2019) – “Dispose Pattern,” [W] Zoe Quinn, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. I feel kind of unmotivated to read this series, and I’m not sure why, because it’s good. Maybe the problem is that there’s just too much going on in the plot, and it’s hard to keep it all straight. The thing that stands out most in this issue is the woman who suffered a moral dilemma from working as a social media moderator.

BAD LUCK CHUCK #1 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “Disaster on Demand,” [W] Lela Gwenn, [A] Matthew Dow Smith. This series’ protagonist has exceptionally bad luck, like Calamity King from the Legion. A woman hires her to track down her daughter, who’s joined a cult. I ordered this comic on a whim, and I kind of wish I hadn’t, because it’s not all that interesting.

BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY #8 (Gold Key, 1980) – “The Battle Over Planet Earth,” [W] Michael Teitelbaum, [A] Al McWilliams. This is the first Buck Rogers comic I’ve read. Before reading it, I thought that Buck Rogers was the bargain basement version of Flash Gordon, and I still think so now. This issue has a convoluted and unexciting plot, but some excellent artwork, especially in the space battle sequences. However, Al McWilliams’s backgrounds and interiors are pretty boring.

BIRTHRIGHT #5 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bresson. The flashback sequence continues, while in the present day, Mikey kills the wizard Ward. At the end of the issue, Mikey’s childhood friend Rya travels through a portal to Earth, and we discover that she’s pregnant with Mikey’s child. This is shocking since by Earth chronology, Mikey should still be a child himself.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES VOL. 4 #10 (DC, 1990) – untitled, [W/A] Keith Giffen, [W] Tom Bierbaum & Mary Bierbaum. This was one of the only issues of v4 that I was missing, other than about eight issues from the very end of the run. As usual with v4, this issue includes a ton of concurrent plotlines. The main event of the issue is that Roxxas invades the Ranzz family plantation on Winath and seemingly kills a bunch of Legionnaires, though none of them actually died. (I spelled that “Roxas” at first thanks to Kingdom Hearts.) There are some very nice interactions between characters, like the scene where Imra tells Brainy that she’ll call him for dinner, and he says “Just send mine up.” Another highlight of the issue is the end, where Tenzil arrives on Earth with a bunch of Venturan Walking Money.

SYNERGY #1 (IDW, 2019) – various stories, [E] Megan Brown. An anthology of stories and pin-ups by female contributors to IDW’s Hasbro titles. The stories in this issue are a mixed bag, and it contains too many pin-ups and not enough comics. Overall it doesn’t justify its $7.99 price tag. However, I had to buy it because of Katie Cook’s autobiographical story. This story is brilliantly done, and provides some fascinating insight into my favorite pony writer. I especially like the scene where she tells her children “That’s Mommy in a pony suit” and “I wrote her backstory,” and her kids are unimpressed. I also liked the autobio stories written by Maighread Scott and Emma Vieceli, but I wish that this issue had consisted entirely of stories like these.

BLACK PANTHER #10 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Gathering of My Name,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Kev Walker. Mostly another big fight scene. Like Ta-Nehisi’s previous Black Panther storyline, The Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda is wearing out its welcome a bit.

G.I. JOE: SIERRA MUERTE #2 (IDW, 2019) – “Sierra Muerte Part 2,” [W/A] Michel Fiffe. This isn’t bad, but it’s still not as interesting as Copra or Bloodstrike Brutalists. See my review of #1 for more on this series. Chad Bowers’s essays in the back of this series are making me more interested in rereading Larry Hama’s GI Joe, which was one of the first comics I ever read. However, Bowers’s extremely admiring attitude is a bit annoying.

GO-BOTS #5 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Tom Scioli. A weird conclusion to a weird and fascinating series. Tom Scioli’s work is a fascinating combination of a Gary Panter- or Fort Thunder-esque aesthetic with commercial media franchises. The issue ends by strongly implying that the Go-Bots are the ancestors of the Transformers, as with the line about the one dude creating “ an optimizedversion of my self.” The “they are all equal now” caption in the last panel is a reference to Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon.

INVADERS #3 (Marvel, 2019) – “War-Ghosts, Part III,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Carlos Magno. Another installment of the Randall and Nay Peterson plot. Randall dies at the end of the issue, although that’s hardly a surprise considering his age. This series was never very interesting, and I’m not getting issue 4.

DAREDEVIL #3 (Marvel, 2019) – “Know Fear Part 3,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Checchetto. This storyline is essentially a retread of Born Again; the plot is that the Kingpin pushes Matt beyond his limits and forces him to doubt himself. The difference is that in “Know Fear,” the reader doesn’t even sympathize with Matt. We’re supposed to believe that Matt was framed for killing that dude, but we haven’t been given any evidence of that; the more we read, the more certain it seems that Matt really did kill him. As a result, I find myself resenting Matt for not turning himself in.  He really feels like a menace to society.

ASTONISHER #4 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “After the Fall,” [W] Alex de Campi, [A] Pop Mhan. This issue, the protagonist escapes from a mental asylum with the aid of his friends. I should have quit reading this series almost as soon as I started reading it, because I’ve never understood its plot or premise.

DETECTIVE COMICS #1000 (DC, 2019) – numerous stories, [E] Chris Conroy & Dave Wielgosz. The average quality of this issue was higher than that of Action Comics #1000. There were no truly great stories, but no awful ones either. I think the best one is Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen’s “The Legend of Knute Brody,” about an epically inept crook who turns out to be Batman in disguise. In selecting creators for this issue, DC provided a representative sample of the past 50 years of Batman’s history. Denny O’Neil’s writing and Neal Adams’s art have not aged well, but they certainly deserve to be included here.

LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: THE TEMPEST #5 (Top Shelf, 2019) – “The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke!”, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Kevin O’Neill. At this point I’m only reading this series out of a sense of obligation and completism. This series never made any sense to me in the first place, and it becomes even more incomprehensible with each issue. And I say that as someone who enjoyed The Birth Caul and the second half of Promethea.

PUNKS NOT DEAD: LONDON CALLING #2 (IDW, 2019) – “…To the Faraway Towns,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Martin Simmonds. I thought the artwork last issue was a bit unimpressive, but  the art this issue is as amazing as in any issue of the first miniseries. This issue continues the existing plot, and also introduces a new character who can see Sid.

THE FORGOTTEN QUEEN #2 (Valiant, 2019) – untitled, [W] Tini Howard, [A] Amilcar Pinna. A flashback to Sarnai’s history with the immortal warrior queen. There are some nice lines in this issue, especially “Some men do not understand that the word for ‘respected and feared woman’ is simply: ‘woman.’” However, the protagonists of this series are a genocidal villain and her lover, and it’s hard to sympathize with either of them. I assume this comic has some larger purpose, which I am not aware of, within Valiant’s shared universe.

BIRTHRIGHT #6 (Image, 2015) – as above. Mikey’s parents have a heart-to-heart talk. Meanwhile, Mikey bonds with his brother, but then callously kills a mother bear that had already stopped attacking him. This scene reminds us that Mikey is actually evil, as we already knew.

DETECTIVE COMICS #499 (DC, 1981) – “Allies in the Shadows,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Dan Newton. Batman and Blockbuster are trapped in a West Virginia coal mine with a bunch of miners, and Batman has to keep Blockbuster calm until they can escape and go after the corrupt mine owners. This comic is effectively a Batman-Hulk crossover; you could replace Blockbuster with the Hulk without having to change anything else about the story. But that’s not a bad thing, because Batman and Blockbuster’s interactions are really interesting, and in general this is a very solid and well-drawn Batman story. This issue also includes an unimpressive Batgirl backup story by Burkett and Delbo.

In early April, I went to Davenport, Iowa for the International Comic Arts Forum. Highlights of this conference included seeing my old mentor and friend Ana Merino for the first time in over a decade, and hanging out at the airport with Ana, Jose Alaniz, and Jaime Hernandez. On Sunday, I skipped one of the artist talks to visit a nearby comic book store, Superstars & Superheroes. This is an amazing store; like the defunct Hoyt’s in Gainesville, it’s completely full of old comics, many of them at very reasonable prices. I bought a modest stack of comics there, including the following two, and I could have bought even more if I’d had time.

THE ADVENTURES OF LITTLE ARCHIE #29 (Archie, 1961) – “Dig Those Grubbers” and other stories, [W/A] Bob Bolling and Dexter Taylor. My copy of this issue is in such bad condition that I don’t want to remove it from its bag. The first of this issue’s two Bolling stories is Mad Doctor Doom and Chester’s second appearance. Like Barks’s “Land Beneath the Ground,” it’s about some creatures that live in the Earth’s crust. In the second story, Archie is late for school because he’s returning a baby bird to its nest. A nice pun in this story is that Archie encounters a bird fancier named Phoebe Finch. This issue also includes a bunch of Dexter Taylor stories. Taylor’s work on this series is always disappointing by comparison with Bolling’s, but I think he was better in the ‘60s than in later decades.

DOOM PATROL #104 (DC, 1966) – “The Bride of the Doom Patrol,” [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Bruno Premiani. One of the weirdest superhero wedding issues ever. Steve Dayton, Cliff Steele and Larry Trainor (Mento, Robotman and Negative Man) are all in love with Rita Farr (Elasti-Girl). After Rita falls in love with Steve and accepts his proposal, Cliff and Larry get all jealous and sabotage their wedding. Then Mento attacks the Doom Patrol’s headquarters, but it turns out “he” is really Madame Rouge. A battle between the Doom Patrol and the Brotherhood of Evil ensues, after which Steve and Rita get married after all. As this summary indicates, Arnold Drake’s Doom Patrol is just as bizarre and illogical as Bob Haney’s Titans; however, Drake’s Doom Patrol has the advantage of Marvel-style characterization. All the characters in this issue behave in embarrassing ways, but at least they have somewhat understandable motives for their actions.

New comics received on April 7, which was right after I got back from ICAF, so I was even more exhausted than usual:

PAPER GIRLS #27 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. This issue advances a bunch of different plotlines, and then at the end, Erin encounters Jahpo. There are just three more issues after this one. I have no idea how Brian and Cliff are going to be able to resolve all the dangling plotlines.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #5 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Captain of the Ship of the Dead,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mahmud Asrar. Conan is trapped on a derelict ship along with a bunch of corpses and an idol that turns people into monsters. Through sheer force of will, he survives until he encounters a pirate ship, then defeats the pirates singlehandedly and becomes their new captain. The moral of the story is that “Conan knew he was not meant to be alone”: despite being kind of a grumpy misanthrope, he needs other people’s company. This issue makes effective use of both Lovecraftian horror, and Jason Aaron’s grim humor.

GIANT DAYS #49 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Esther has to write a dissertation on American literature, but is plagued by writer’s block and tense relations with her parents. This was a funny issue with some heartwarming moments (“You should have more kids.” “You were plenty”), though I don’t remember much about it specifically. I think Esther’s “dissertation” is what we Americans would call a BA thesis.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #1 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Eve Ewing, [A] Joey Vazquez. This issue is a team-up between Ms. Marvel and Spider-Man. It’s also a flip book, so one half of the issue tells the story from Kamala’s perspective, then the other half tells the same story from Peter’s perspective, and the two stories meet in the middle. This is a cute gimmick, though it’s not as brilliantly executed as Silver Surfer #11. Kamala and Peter are a natural pairing because of their shared interest in science.

DIE #5 (Image, 2019) – “Premise Rejection,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans. The heroes defeat Sol, but it turns out they don’t all want to go home, and also, all the dead people in the gameworld are the ghosts of former players. So that’s the end of the first storyline. This is a fascinating series, although you kind of need to read Kieron’s notes to understand it. But at least that’s an improvement over The Wicked + The Divine, where Kieron doesn’t even provide notes (at least not notes that help explain the story).

FEMALE FURIES #3 (DC, 2019) – “Nevertheless, She Persisted,” [W] Cecil Castellucci, [A] Adriana Melo. I read this because I was tired and felt like hate-reading something, and this is a very hate-readable comic. Auralie tries to escape Apokolips, but Barda and Granny Goodness force her to return to Willik, who promptly kills her. But not before she gives a depressing speech about how all she wanted to do was dance. This story’s title evokes Maxine Waters, but I would argue that it’s not a feminist story at all; it’s just torture porn. Auralie’s suffering and death are utterly meaningless, and are presented with a pornographic level of detail. The story denies her any kind of agency: even when she tries to help herself, she fails. I guess Auralie’s death is supposed to be what inspires Barda to become a hero, but that effectively means that Auralie is being fridged for the benefit of Barda and Scott, and fridging isn’t any better when it’s done on behalf of a female character’s narrative arc. Besides being horrible on its own, this story also tarnishes Big Barda’s character irredeemably, and it’s an insult to the memory of one of Kirby’s greatest Fourth World stories, “Himon” (Mister Miracle #9). In future it will be difficult to read “Himon” without perceiving Auralie as a helpless rape victim. Overall, this is a train wreck of a comic, and everyone involved with it should be ashamed.

GREEN LANTERN #6 (DC, 2019) – “Under Strange Skies,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. Now this is closer to the kind of experience I want when I read a superhero comic. On Rann, Blackstar Hal Jordan kills Adam Strange in a duel. For a moment I thought Adam was really dead, but then I reached the panel where Hal winks at Alanna, showing that Adam is alive and Hal has a plan. And he does, thought it ends with him being sent to some limbo dimension, where he encounters Myrwhidden [sic]. This issue is full of nice moments. I like how Alanna gets to kill the villain at the end, and Controller Mu’s reference to Aleea as a “strangelet” is a brilliant pun.

POWERS IN ACTION #2 (Action Lab, 2019) – “The Impending Storm,” [W/A] Art Baltazar. Like all of Art’s work, this comic is light and accessible, but entertaining. It has the flavor of a classic superhero comic, with just enough innovation to not be a pure retread. I like the scene where the big strong dude tries ice cream for the first time.

BRONZE AGE BOOGIE #1 (Ahoy, 2019) – untitled, [W] Stuart Moore, [A] Alberto Ponticelli. I was so sleepy when I read this that I can barely remember it, but it’s good. As its title indicates, this comic is a mashup of several different genres of ‘70s comics. The protagonist of this first  issue is Brita Constantina, the teenage daughter of a character who’s essentially Conan the Barbarian. Brita knows about the 20th century because of her talking monkey companion Sniffer Ape, who’s very similar to Howard the Duck. Then she gets transported to the future, where she encounters a woman who resembles Misty Knight. I wasn’t alive during the ‘70s, but to me the ‘70s have always felt like the first modern decade, and the creators of Bronze Age Boogie effectively capture the atmosphere of ‘70s comics. They even include one page that’s half printed text and half illustration, which was a trademark of Steve Gerber.

IMMORTAL HULK #16 (Marvel, 2019) – “It’s Joe,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. I ordered this because I’ve been hearing good things about this series. This issue has one plotline where Bruce and Doc Samson are trying to find Rick Jones’s body, and another plotline where a reporter named Jackie McGee is looking for Bruce. Most of the issue is narrated via captions from Rick’s autobiography. Overall this is a pretty fascinating comic. It feels like both a horror comic and a classic Hulk comic at once.

ATOMIC ROBO: DAWN OF A NEW ERA #4 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. The best line in this issue is on the first page: “The thing I’m having trouble with isn’t primordial cosmic beasts, but that their names are puns in English.” “They would work out to monster puns in any language. Such is their power.” There’s lots of other fun stuff in this issue. The main event is that Robo’s allies learn that he’s resurrected Alan, though the impact of this moment is lessened because I can’t remember who Alan is.

BLACK HAMMER ’45 #2 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ray Fawkes, [A] Matt Kindt. This issue is mostly a flashback sequence in which the Black Hammer pilots fight a Nazi werebat. Matt Kindt’s aviation art is pretty good, and this issue does a good job of capturing the sensibility of old Blackhawk comics. (It turns out I already mentioned in my review of #1 that this series is the Black Hammer version of Blackhawk.) But this series is not as interesting as the Black Hammer titles written by Jeff Lemire.

THE DREAMING #8 (Vertigo, 2019) – “Love, Part 2,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Abigail Larson. This issue is kind of difficult, and not as fascinating as issue 7. Over the course of the issue it becomes clear that Daniel has been trapped in the same way as Morpheus was trapped by Roderick Burgess. Daniel vanishes with Ivy Walker, going I’m not sure where, and I think that’s the end of this storyline. A couple things worth noting: Daniel says that it’s every child’s fantasy to romance the babysitter, which is a reference to how Rose babysat him when he was a baby. This issue includes a reference to gu poisoning. This is an actual method of poisoning from Chinese culture, in which multiple venomous creatures are put into a sealed container, and then a poison is made from the last one that survives.

ADVENTURES OF THE SUPER SONS #9 (DC, 2019) – “The Good, the Bad and the Sons,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Scott Godlewski. This issue is another parody of Western cliches, with Damian, Jon and Kid Lantern continuing their team-up with Jonah Hex. It’s a fun comic, but I still don’t like how this series is isolated from the rest of the DC universe.

MARVEL ACTION: BLACK PANTHER #1 (IDW, 2019) – “The Little Things,” [W] Kyle Baker, [A] Juan Samu. Before I get to reviewing this comic, it is really stupid how Marvel is outsourcing their kids’ superhero comics to IDW. I know Marvel has made multiple failed attempts at kids’ superhero lines, but that’s no excuse for giving up. Why can’t they try to replicate the success they’ve already had with Moon Girl? Anyway, this Black Panther comic is not bad, but it’s nowhere near as good as Shuri, and it’s not the best work Kyle Baker is capable of.

DOMINO: HOTSHOTS #2 (Marvel, 2019) – “Cold War Part 2,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] David Baldeon. I’m already losing my enthusiasm for this series, although I was very tired when I read this issue. This comic is a fun lighthearted romp, but Gail’s comics tend to leave me cold. They’re fun, but they lack the passion and enthusiasm I find in similar comics by other writers, and they seem like parodies of themselves.

RED SONJA #3 (Dynamite, 2019) – “The Gold Mine,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mirko Colak & Bob Q. The strategies and intrigues in this comic are exciting, but it still doesn’t feel like a Red Sonja comic, or even a barbarian comic. As previously noted, Mark Russell’s work is effective because he adopts the premises and conventions of each franchise he’s adapting, but he also turns those franchises into political allegories. For example, his Lone Ranger miniseries worked as both a Western comic and an allegory about border politics. But his Red Sonja shows no understanding of the barbarian genre or the character’s history, and therefore it falls flat to me.

THE GIRL IN THE BAY #3 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “Time’s Shadow,” [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Corin Howell. I am losing confidence in JM DeMatteis – see the review of Impossible, Inc. below – but The Girl in the Bay remains interesting. I think what I like about it is its nostalgic evocation of the ‘60s, and specifically of ’60s Orientalist mysticism. In that sense, this comic reminds me of Rogan Gosh or Kim Deitch’s story “The Road to Rana Poona.” The plot of this issue is pretty much what you would expect.

SECRET SIX #2 (DC, 1968) – “Plunder the Pentagon!”, [W] E. Nelson Bridwell & Joe Gill, [A] Frank Springer. The original Secret Six were six talented people with severe vulnerabilities – a  dark secret, a terminal medical condition, a crippled child, etc. A mysterious person named Mockingbird solved their problems for them, but now they have to perform secret spy missions on Mockingbird’s behalf, or he’ll reveal their secrets, stop their medical treatment, etc. The catch is that one of the Secret Six is Mockingbird, and we don’t know which one. The premise of this series is spectacular, and ENB and Joe Gill take full advantage of it. This issue has a super-complicated plot that revolves around a Soviet attempt to steal blueprints from the Pentagon. The Secret Six have to foil the plot, while also trying to guess which of their number is Mockingbird. As the issue goes on, the plot becomes too complicated to follow (and also very implausible), but that’s part of the fun. This is a really enjoyable issue, and I need to track down the rest of this short-lived series.

STAR WARS #35 (Marvel, 1980) – “Dark Lord’s Gambit,” [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Carmine Infantino. Just after Episode IV, Luke has to visit a planet called Monastery to obtain its support for the Rebels. However, Darth Vader is also trying to recruit the same planet for the Empire. Also, the handsome young woman who invites Luke to Monastery turns out to be secretly working for Vader. When writing this comic, Archie clearly did not know that Luke was Vader’s son or Leia’s brother. As a result, there is a love triangle between Luke, Leia and Han, which feels very creepy in hindsight. And Vader feels like just a generic Marvel villain. Also, Infantino’s art had already gone into a steep decline by 1980.

JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #4 (Marvel, 1973) – multiple stories, [E] Roy Thomas. This issue begins with a Lovecraftian horror story by Ron Goulart and Gene Colan. Sadly, this story’s coloring is way too bright and cheerful, and as a result it fails to generate any sense of horror. Gene was capable of drawing excellent horror comics, but he didn’t do so in this case. The second story, despite its all-star creative team of Steve Gerber and P. Craig Russell, is very slight. The last story, by Gardner Fox, Don McGregor and Win Mortimer, is the best, because it’s about a man who grows a face on his chest. However, this revelation would have been much more shocking  if it had come on the last page rather than the first page, which is where the creators put it.

DATE WITH DEBBI #1 (DC, 1969) – “Detention’s the Thing!” and other stories, [W] Steve Skeates, [A] Samm Schwartz. An uninspired Archie ripoff, with nothing especially new or interesting about it.

MARVEL PREMIERE #18 (Marvel, 1974) – “Lair of Shattered Vengeance!”, [W] Doug Moench, [A] Larry Hama. Doug Moench may have been the second worst writer of purple prose in ‘70s comics, after Don McGregor. (You could also put Gerber on that list, but at least his prose was good.) Despite that, this is an interesting comic. Larry Hama’s art is pretty exciting, and this issue includes an important moment in Danny Rand’s life. He encounters his father’s killer, Harold Meachum, who gives Danny more information on their shared past before being murdered by a ninja. Just them, Meachum’s daughter walks in and mistakenly thinks Danny killed her father. I’ve never liked Iron Fist as much as Master of Kung Fu, but it’s a good example of the kind of comic that Bronze Age Boogie is based on.

STRANGE SPORTS STORIES #4 (DC, 1974) – “The Challenge of the Faceless Five,” [W] Cary Bates, [A] John Rosenberger. This comic is an interesting experiment, but not an especially successful one. The first story would be ridiculously implausible even without the SF element. Its protagonists are a team of five baseball players who have played together since first grade and have neverlost. Also, they’ve played “every second of every game, without substitutions.” Not even Bill Russell’s Celtics were that good. The story gets worse from there. A fortuneteller reveals that the five “Unbeatables” are going to become an elite planetary security force, and will then take on some alien invaders and lose because of overconfidence. So in order to save the world from that fate, they have to lose a basketball game… to their own future sons. Um, yeah. As this story demonstrates, Cary Bates was incapable of writing anything other than superhero comics in the Silver Age DC style. The backup story, by Denny O’Neil and Irv Novick, is about the police officer son of a boxer who was murdered by the mob. Despite its obvious resemblance to Daredevil, this story is much better than the lead story because its supernatural element is more understated.

IMPOSSIBLE INCORPORATED #5 (IDW, 2019) – “The Beginningless Beginning,” [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Mike Cavallaro. I enjoyed the first couple issues of this miniseries, but it quickly ran out of steam. It tries to do too many things at once, and doesn’t succeed at any of them. Its plot is so cosmic that the reader’s sense of wonder is overwhelmed. What I liked about the first couple issues was their exploration of Number Horowitz’s relationship with her father, but the rest of the series didn’t deliver enough of that. I will think twice before ordering JM DeMatteis’s next miniseries.

M.A.R.S. PATROL TOTAL WAR #4 (Gold Key, 1967) – “Operation Deep-Freeze,” [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Mike Roy. Another comic I bought in Davenport. Unfortunately the previous issue of this series was the last one with Wally Wood art, and this issue has a vastly inferior creative team. This issue is a reasonably entertaining war comic with SF elements, kind of like GI Joe, but it’s not great.

GIRLS’ ROMANCES #83 (DC, 1962) – various stories, [E] Phyllis Reed. After reading The Ten-Cent Plague back in March, I’ve gotten interested in reading more romance comics. These comics are easy to dismiss because, in addition to being targeted at a marginalized audience, they tended to have very tame stories that preached conventional moral values. But these comics were aimed at girls, even though they were mostly created by adult men, so they’re an important part of the story I’m trying to tell in my next book. And I’m guessing that the genre was more diverse and intriguing than one might think. In this issue’s first story, the protagonist falls in love with a man who already has a girlfriend, and decides to leave him alone, even though he’s interested in her too. The second story is about a man who falls in love with his dead brother’s widow, and they don’t get together in the end, though there’s a suggestion that they will later. The third story is about a romance that fails because the woman has much more money than the man. The fourth story (whose splash page is by John Romita) is actually kind of progressive. The woman is a rich heiress, and the man is a poor sailor. In the middle of this story, she tells him that someday he’ll own his own boat, and “then my family will sit up and take notice!” That results in this exchange:

HIM: Is that what you’re counting on? That I’ll “better” myself so that I can become acceptable to the Fairbanks?

HER: Well, there’s nothing wrong with that – I mean – you don’t want to work with your hands for the rest of your life, do you?

HIM: That’s exactly what I want to do! I happen to love working with my hands – and if that’s not good enough for you, it’s lucky we found it out now!
She learns her lesson from this, and they do end up together in the end, but this story is an acknowledgement that love isn’t always enough. In general, this comic was much more intriguing than I expected, and I want to collect more comics like it.

FANTASTIC FOUR #145 (Marvel, 1974) – “Nightmare in the Snow!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Ross Andru. Stranded in the Himalayas after a plane crash, Johnny and Medusa encounter an abominable snowman named Ternak who wants to take over the world. Reading this issue again, I realize that Ternak is very similar to Gorilla Grodd. This is an okay issue, but not great.

BEETLE BAILEY #21 (Dell, 1959) – multiple uncredited stories. At ICAF, Andy Kunka was kind enough to give this to me, as well as another issue of Beetle Bailey that I haven’t read yet. I want to know where he gets all these old Dell comics, so I can go there myself. This comic isn’t the best, but it’s much more interesting than the regular Beetle Bailey strip because of its longer stories, which provide more room to develop the humor. Compared to Sad Sack (or at least the one issue of Sad Sack that I’ve read), it’s a bit more plausible, and it shows more knowledge about the military.

New comics received on April 12:

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #43 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. It’s very unfortunate that this is a War of Realms crossover, because most of its readers will have no idea what War of Realms even is. However, Ryan North does his best to explain all the necessary background and to avoid assuming any prior knowledge of continuity. All the reader has to know is that frost giants are invading Canada and only Squirrel Girl can stop them. Other than that, I think the highlight of this issue is Doreen’s snow uniform. I wish I remembered why there’s an Ultron tree at Doreen’s parents’ house.

RONIN ISLAND #2 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Giannis Milonogiannis. This series has already been extended from five to twelve issues, and that honor is well deserved. This issue, the invading samurai take over the island in order to “save” the villagers from the invading zombies. The invasion and colonization are bad enough, but what’s worse is the samurai’s racist behavior. But then the zombies show up, and Kenichi and Hana are faced with a series of moral dilemmas. Like Mech Cadet Yu, Ronin Island is an exciting adventure story, but it also has realistic characterization and complex politics.

UNSTOPPABLE WASP #6 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Alti Firmansyah. Nadia spends most of this issue trying to atone for all the stuff she did in the last two issues. Meanwhile, Priya discovers she has plant-growing powers, and Shay and Ying have lunch with Shay’s mother, who turns out to be a horrible person. The scene with Shay’s mother is the heart of the issue. In just a few pages, she emerges as the most distasteful character Jeremy has ever created. She’s a self-absorbed, arrogant body-shamer who cares more about her daughter’s appearance than her daughter’s feelings. It’s deeply satisfying when Ying tells her off.

WONDER WOMAN #68 (DC, 2019) – “Giants War Finale,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Cary Nord & Ronan Cliquet. Diana and Giganta have a heart-to-heart talk while fighting the Titan, but then Maggie appears, brandishes the sword, and tells it to shove off. This ending is a little anticlimactic, but it leads into the next story. Willow’s characterization is getting really good. Maggie is a fascinating new character.

SHE COULD FLY: THE LOST PILOT #1 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Martin Morazzo. Some time after the end of the last series, Luna is getting a lot of therapy, while Verna and Bill are trying to sell the device they stole, and no one knows where Dana Church is. And Kido may or may not be alive. I’m excited that there’s a sequel to one of the best miniseries of last year. However, reading this comic makes me worried about Christopher Cantwell’s mental health. This comic is a brutal and unsettling depiction of mental illness and PTSD, to the point where it’s almost closer to the horror genre than the SF or thriller genres. The scariest thing in this issue is the girl with the braces that look like scalpels.

THE LONG CON #8 (Oni, 2019) – untitled, [W] Dylan Meconis & Ben Coleman, [A] E.A. Denich. It’s becoming difficult to keep the characters in this comic straight, but this issue focuses on Flix Bixby, a fictionalized version of Wil Wheaton. This issue he has to go on trial to prove he’s “really” is Chip Nimitz, the character he played. The trial sequence ends with a gay kiss which is illustrated like a panel from a shonen manga. Also, the judge of the trial, Flavia Happenstance, is based on Octavia Butler. The other highlight of this issue is the sign that says GATEKEEPING IN PROGRESS. That phrase is another example of how this series is a very witty satire of fan culture, based on insider knowledge.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #4 (Marvel, 2019) – “Re-Entry, Part 4,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Carmen Carnero. Makhizmo/Machus/Nuclear Man forces Carol to fight Rogue, and Carol loses on purpose so that Rogue can use her powers. It looks like Carol has won, but it turns out Machus has an ace up his sleeve. Confusingly, this is not the same Rogue who’s currently appearing in Mr. & Mrs. X. I’m glad that Kelly was nominated for an Eisner, because she hasn’t been getting as much recognition as she deserves. However, though this Captain Marvel storyline is well-executed, it’s not my favorite of her works.

WONDER TWINS #3 (DC, 2019) – “Monkey Business,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Stephen Byrne. The Wonder Twins have to fight the League of Annoyance again. Meanwhile, Gleek is traumatized by memories of his circus career, during which he had to ride a bike through a flaming hoop. At the end of the issue, Gleek has to do exactly that to rescue the Wonder Twins and save the day. Zan and Jayna’s kindness to Gleek is what eventually saves them, which demonstrates the moral of the story: “You save the world one act of kindness at a time.” This issue is a dmeonstration of Mark Russell’s writing skill, specifically his ability to create satisfying plots and to integrate the theme of his story with the plot.

OUTER DARKNESS #6 (Image, 2019) – “Each Other’s Throats,” [W] John Layman, [A] Afu Chan. At the end of last issue, things were looking really bad for the Charon’s crew: they were trapped on an ice planet along with a demon. This issue they somehow make it off the ice planet alive. But now Sato Shin, who is possessed by a different demon (if I understand correctly) is enslaved to the disgruntled first officer, Satalis. Also, the Charon crew don’t actually kill the first demon, they just discorporate it for a hundred years, which explains last issue’s opening sequence. That’s the end of the first story arc. I’m really enjoying this series, even though or rather because all the characters are awful.

RAT QUEENS SPECIAL: SWAMP ROMP #1 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ryan Ferrier, [A] Priscilla Petraites. The Rat Queens travel into a swamp to search for a creature called the Slog Chimp. This issue is fairly enjoyable, and it makes a genuine effort to emulate the atmosphere of Rat Queens volume 1, but it’s not great. I’m going to keep reading Ryan Ferrier’s Rat Queens for now, but I have low expectations for it.

AGE OF CONAN: BÊLIT #2 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Mad Quest,” [W] Tini Howard, [A] Kate Niemczyk. I really liked Tini Howard’s Assassinistas, but I haven’t been equally impressed by anything else she’s written. Age of Bêlit is not as interesting as other lady pirate comics, like Raven: The Pirate Princess or Polly and the Pirates, and it doesn’t tell us anything about Bêlit that we didn’t already know. Issue 3 of this series will be my last.

CATWOMAN #10 (DC, 2019) – “VRRRRROOOMMM,” [W] Joelle Jones, [A] Fernando Blanco. That’s probably not intended as the title, but it’s the only text on the title page, besides the credits. This issue is enjoyable, but I can’t remember much about it specifically. It continues the plots with the Penguin and the evil political matriarch. There are more panels depicting cats in this issue than in the last few issues combined.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #8 (Vertigo, 2019) – “Eight-Legged Griot,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson & Dan Watters, [A] Domo Stanton. Shakpana continues to cause mayhem on Earth, while in the Dreaming, Erzulie and her allies go to see Anansi. The issue ends with Erzulie challenging Anansi to a storytelling contest. The theme of this issue is that stories have power. I love the scene where Uncle Monday is telling a story about a jaguar, and he puts his finger into the panel that depicts the story, and the jaguar bites him on the finger.

X-23 #11 (Marvel, 2019) – “Dear Gabby Part 1,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Diego Olortegui. Laura and Gabby invade a facility that’s making more clones of them. Then they have a major falling out, because Laura wants to stop the production of additional clones, and Gabby doesn’t. Gabby runs off by herself. Laura and Gabby’s relationship is the whole point of this series, and this new storyline is going to present a severe challenge to that relationship.

ORPHAN AGE #1 (Aftershock, 2019) – “Childhood,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Nuno Plati. Ted Anderson’s second creator-owned series takes place in a postapocalyptic world where all the adults died. Twenty years later, the preteen protagonist’s village is invaded by religious fascists, and she has to escape. This premise is not as original as that of Moth & Whisper, but tis first issue is exciting, and I really like this comic’s artwork and coloring.

BY NIGHT #10 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Christine Larsen. The two protagonists travel into the alternate dimension, where they finally find Chet Charles. At this point I’m only reading this series because it’s too late to stop.

LOVE & ROCKETS #6 (Fantagraphics, 2018) – various stories, [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez & Jaime Hernandez. I somehow missed ordering this, but it was given away for free at ICAF. As I mentioned, one of the highlights of the show was hanging out with Jaime Hernandez. I’ve met him before but haven’t talked to him very much, and it was really nice to get to know him a bit more. This issue includes a lot of random miscellaneous material. I think the best things in it are the scenes in the Beto stories where Guadalupe interacts with Gato’s ghost.

SUPERMAN CONFIDENTIAL #3 (DC, 2007) – “Kryptonite,” [W] Darwyn Cooke, [A] Tim Sale. This story takes place at the beginning of Superman’s career, and focuses on his relationships with Lois and Luthor. It’s very well written, and Tim Sale’s artwork is beautiful. I haven’t read much of his work because I don’t like Jeph Loeb’s writing, but he’s a brilliant artist, whose style is very dissimilar from the standard DC house style.

B.P.R.D. HELL ON EARTH #107 (Dark Horse, 2013) – “Wasteland Part 1 of 3,” [W] Mike Mignola & John Arcudi, [A] Lawrence Campbell. A few years ago I bought a bunch of BPRD comics because I thought I wanted to get a complete collection of it, but the problem is that I don’t actually like this series. It’s boring and repetitive. At least this issue has some cool-looking monsters. Also, I like the moment where a woman tells a child “Only five? You look so grown up, I thought you were at least seven!” That’s a very realistic line of dialogue.

SUPERMAN #383 (DC, 1983) – “Your World or Your Life, Superman – One Must Die!”, [W]. Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. This is a reasonably enjoyable issue, but not all that memorable. A giant armored robot named Robrox attacks Superman for no reason. It turns out that Robrox has discovered that Superman is contaminated with radiation, and if Superman uses his heat vision, he’ll cause a chain reaction that will kill everyone on earth. Man, Cary Bates’s plots are tough to summarize. Meanwhile, Lois goes on a trip to the Middle East to get away from Superman.

ADVENTURE COMICS #451 (DC, 1977) – “The Secret of the Sinister Abyss,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] Jim Aparo. Topo kidnaps Aquababy, and while looking for him, Aquaman runs into Starro. As it turns out, this issue was only Starro’s second appearance, and it depicts him as an unimpressive villain who’s no match for Aquaman. It wasn’t until the ‘90s that Grant Morrison established Starro as one of the most fearsome villains in the DC Universe. This issue also has a Martian Manhunter backup story by Denny O’Neil and Mike Nasser. It’s most notable for the horrible expression on Superman’s face in the last panel.

SHOWCASE #93 (DC, 1970) – “Never Trust a Red-Haired Greenie,” [W/A] Mike Sekowsky. This issue stars Manhunter 2070, aka Starker, a futuristic bounty hunter. It’s a fairly mundane thriller story with science fiction trappings. The most interesting thing about it is the titular red-haired greenies, who remind me of Kono and the Sklarian people from the v4 Legion. The issue ends on a cliffhanger that was never resolved, and Starker’s only later appearances were in the 1990 Twilight miniseries and the Judas Coin graphic novel. Showcase was cancelled after this issue, but was revived with the same numbering in 1977.

PROPHET: EARTH WAR #3 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Brandon Graham & Simon Roy, [A] Grim Wilkins. I really liked Brandon Graham’s work, and I was frustrated when he committed career suicide with his “diss track” comic. It’s a shame that his toxic behavior ruined his successful career, especially since besides being a brilliant artist himself, he was also a great developer of new talent. Grim Wilkins, who drew this issue, is one of the many artists he promoted. In general this issue is similar to any of Brandon’s other Prophet comics, and I’m not going to try to explain its plot.

DC NATION #0 (DC, 2018) – “Your Big Day,” [W] Tom King, [A] Clay Mann, plus two other stories. This 25-cent comic seems more calculated to repel new readers than attract them. It begins with a story where the Joker puts a man through horrible psychological tortures, then murders him in cold blood. This story is brutal and horrific, and I don’t know what kind of person would enjoy reading it. Next is a Superman story which has excellent art by José Luis García López, but is unfortunately written by Bendis. The most interesting story is the third one, which introduces a bunch of different Justice Leagues with different specialties (magic, science, etc.). This story almost makes me want to read the “No Justice” storyline.

SILK #6 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Robbie Thompson, [A] Tana Ford. Silk tells Mockingbird about an encounter with the Green Goblin. This comic makes a valuable attempt to depict Silk’s struggles with mental illness, but its story is overly compressed, and overall it’s not nearly as interesting as Spider-Woman or Spider-Gwen.

BLOODSHOT: SALVATION #11 (Valiant, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Doug Braithwaite. In the present, Bloodshot’s daughter Jessie is stolen from her mother Magic by a villain. In 4002 AD, a talking dog tries to convince Bloodshot to kill a man who will become a villain in the future… it’s complicated. At the end of the issue, Bloodshot surprisingly does kill the man in exchange for being sent back to the present. Like all of Jeff Lemire’s work, this is a gripping and powerful comic.

BLOODSHOT: SALVATION #12 – as above. Bloodshot returns to the present and saves Jessie, but spares the evil government official who was behind Jessie’s kidnapping. The series ends on a bittersweet note, with Bloodshot and his family back together but on the run from the government. This series was followed by Bloodshot: Rising Spirit, which is not written by Lemire.

BATMAN #29 (DC, 2017) – “The War of Jokes & Riddles Part 4,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mikel Janín. Bruce Wayne hosts a dinner meeting between the Joker and the Riddler. The issue is structured around the sequence of courses of a formal French meal, from hors d’oeuvres to coffee. I haven’t been impressed with Tom King’s Batman, but this issue is clever.

G.I. COMBAT #192 (DC, 1976) – “The General Has Two Faces,” [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Sam Glanzman. It’s hard to go back to DC war comics after reading a bunch of Two-Fisted Tales. Compared to Kurtzman’s war comics, Bob Kanigher’s war comics are jingoistic, implausible, and immature. They don’t feel like an accurate depiction of war, no matter how many of the creators were veterans. At least this issue has Sam Glanzman art. In this issue’s first story, the Haunted Tank crew are trying to hunt down Rommel, and they end up in a German castle full of fugitive students. There’s a backup story by Bart Regan and Ric Estrada, about an OSS agent.

UNCANNY X-MEN #264 (Marvel, 1990) – “Hot Pursuit,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Mike Collins. Mike Collins may have been the worst artist to work with Claremont on X-Men. In this issue’s main plot, Forge teams up with a female cop named Jonesy to fight some Genoshan agents. Then the same Genoshans attack X-Factor’s headquarters. There are interesting things in this issue, but it includes too many different plotlines at once. It’s rather jarring how on the last page, the Genosha plotline is temporarily forgotten, and Claremont instead focuses on the amnesiac Colossus and his girlfriend, who have played a very minor role in the rest of the issue. It feels as though by this point in the series, Claremont didn’t have a clear agenda. Luckily the next issue begins the storyline that introduces Gambit.

BATMAN #485 (DC, 1992) – “Faces of Death,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Tom Grindberg. Black Mask kidnaps Lucius Fox, and Batman has to rescue him. Tom Grindberg’s art in this issue is quite atmospheric and moody, but otherwise this is a really average issue. Doug Moench’s second stint on Batman wasn’t that much better than his first.

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS #4 (IDW, 2013) – untitled, [W] Phil Hester, [A] Andrea Di Vito. The THUNDER Agents and Iron Maiden battle some kind of giant robot demon. This series was one of two different THUNDER Agents revivals published around the same time, and neither of them was especially exciting. Neither of them had as much energy as the original series, or even the two ‘80s revival series.

THE MAXX #20 (Image, 1995) – untitled, [W/A] Sam Kieth, [W] William Messner-Loebs. This issue is the conclusion to the main storyline with the Outback and Mr. Gone. There was only one more issue, which I think was some kind of epilogue. It’s a bit hard to understand this issue’s plot out of context, but Sam Kieth’s artwork is beautifully weird, with contorted page layouts and bizarre hairy creatures. The Maxx was the first Image comic that made any attempt to be artistic or introspective, and it was the precursor to Image’s transformation into a serious comics publisher.

JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS #105 (Archie, 1982) – “Voice of Experience,” [W] Frank Doyle, [A] Stan Goldberg. This issue’s first two stories are both about Alexandra Cabot, the Pussycats’ managers sister, who has magical powers and a talking cat. I don’t understand why Archie needed this character when they already had Sabrina. Otherwise, this is a generic Archie comic.

SWEET TOOTH #11 (DC, 2010) – “In Captivity, Conclusion,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. It’s stupid of me to read this series out of order, because this issue includes some essential information that I was missing when I read some of the subsequent issues. This issue consists of a flashback sequence in which Tommy Jepperd is imprisoned in the research facility, while his wife Louise is giving birth. Tommy escapes from captivity but can’t save Louise and his son from dying in childbirth (or so they tell him). His captors offer to return his wife’s body if he brings them a live hybrid child. Which explains why Tommy kidnapped Gus. Also, we learn that all the children born since the global pandemic are hybrids. Like every other Lemire solo work, Sweet Tooth #11 is gripping and powerful. I already have some of the last issues of Sweet Tooth, but I kind of don’t want to read them yet.

New comics received on April 19:

LUMBERJANES #61 (Boom!, 2019) – “The Fright Stuff,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] AnneMarie Rogers. When the girls get chased by a monster at night, Riley is thrilled, but Mal is terrified. So Mal asks Riley how to be braver – which is a great idea on the writers’ part, because these two characters have never interacted very much. Riley takes Mal to the woods to look for the monster, but her plan works too well, because Mal gets stuck in the Land of Lost Things. This issue is a promising start to the next storyline. Lumberjanes no longer has any semblance of an ongoing plot, and the characters are never going to leave camp until the series gets cancelled, but who cares. Incidentally, we learn from this issue that Riley has two twin siblings as well as a brother named Declan. That breaks the pattern where all Riley’s siblings were named after science fiction protagonists.

THE MAGNIFICENT MS. MARVEL #2 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Minkyu Jung. Kamala is traumatized by watching her parents melt in front of her, but she still has to fight Josh as well as a giant three-headed lizard monster. And then after Kamala does find her parents alive, some alien dudes tell her that she’s their planet’s chosen one. This is an exciting issue, and Saladin powerfully depicts Kamala’s horror when she thinks her parents have been killed. This issue is still not quite as good as Willow’s best storylines, but that’s an unfair standard.

ASSASSIN NATION #2 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Erica Henderson. While trying to protect their boss, the assassins reminisce about the first people they killed. I was unimpressed with this issue at first, but I really liked the flashback sequences, which demonstrate some impressive visual economy.

CALAMITY KATE #2 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Corin Howell. Kate is driving her friend crazy, but all she cares about is her monster-hunting rivalry with Javelin. This is another fun issue, and Calamity Kate might be my second favorite Visaggio comic after Kim & Kim. I really like the scene where Kate’s friend (whose name I forgot) is teaching her daughter to tie her shoes – it reminds me of the difficulty my parents had in teaching me to tie my shoes.

PETER CANNON, THUNDERBOLT #4 (Dynamite, 2019) – “Watch Part Four,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Caspar Wijngaard. According to my DCBS order forms, I did receive issue 3 of Peter Cannon, but I can’t find my copy anywhere. I even looked under my bed and didn’t find it, though I found a different comic I was missing (see below). This has never happened to me before, and I’m not sure whether to buy another copy or not. Anyway, issue 4 is a homage to Eddie Campbell’s Alec. I may have missed some of the references in this story – for example, I’m not sure who Doctor K is, though he seems like a blend of Walter Kovacs and Alan Moore. But in general, the creators perfectly capture the visual appearance and the atmosphere of Campbell’s early work, and this issue is delightful. Sadly, thanks to the news that Dynamite allowed a certain horrible person to commission covers for them, I will have to seriously consider boycotting them.

PLANET OF THE NERDS #1 (Ahoy, 2019) – “Journey to the Planet of the Nerds,” [W] Paul Constant, [A] Alan Robinson. In Ahoy’s latest ongoing series, some bullying jocks are transported from 1988 to 2019 thanks to accidental cryogenic freezing. They wake up in a world where the nerds have won the war against the jocks. ‘80s (and ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘90s) nostalgia has become a common theme in comic books, appearing most notably in Paper Girls, but this series does it really well. It takes the familiar theme of movies like Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds, and transports that theme into a world where nerd culture has a very different meaning. I look forward to seeing where this series goes.

MIDDLEWEST #6 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. Abel gets into a comfortable routine at the carnival, but of course it doesn’t last, because there’s a storm coming, and the storm is Abel’s dad. Magdalena tries to hypnotize Abel to cure his anger, but she only succeeds in trapping Abel inside his own mind, just as his dad arrives. This is another excellent issue, though I still think Jorge Corona doesn’t quite have the ability to fully realize Skottie’s visions.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #5 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Garrón. On this issue’s first page, Miles orders a Jamaican beef patty on coco bread with cheese and pepperoni. I have had patties often, but have never heard of a patty with cheese and pepperoni. It seems like this combination is unique to New York. It sounds a bit disgusting, but also tasty, and it’s a natural combination of two different cuisines – kind of like Korean tacos. In the rest of the issue, Miles gets involved in a gang war, lies to his girlfriend about his secret identity, and worries about how to maintain his supply of web fluid. As I write this summary, I realize that despite having a different protagonist, this Miles Morales series is very similar to a classic Spider-Man comic.

FARMHAND #7 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Rob Guillory. We begin with a flashback to Zeke’s mother’s death, then we return to the present day, where the plots and intrigues and subterfuges continue. I’m getting the impression that the Jedidiah seed is alive and has developed some kind of collective intelligence. Another high point of ICAF was Rob Guillory’s chat with Qiana Whitted. I asked him about the Easter eggs and hidden messages that he includes in his work, and he said (quoting my own Tweet): “They were inspired by Watchmen and Jim Mahfood’s work. He mostly does them on his own initiative. They’re usually the last thing he does when working on pages.”

GIDEON FALLS #12 (Image, 2019) – “The Laughing Man, Part One,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. This title got a well-deserved Eisner nomination for Best New Series, and I think I’m going to vote for it – though Bitter Root, Crowded and Isola would also be excellent choices. This issue, Father Fred visits a Wild West version of Gideon Falls, then a steampunk version of the same town. And he starts making a diagram of how all the Gideon Fallses relate to each other. As usual, Andrea Sorrentino provides some bizarre page layouts.

MORNING IN AMERICA #2 (Oni, 2019) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Claudia Aguirre. The Sick Sisters break into a house to investigate the mysterious disappearances, but one of them gets carried off by some kind of monster. This series is fascinating so far; the characters all have distinctive and memorable personalities, though I can’t remember their names. Morning in America is another example of a comic based on ‘80s nostalgia, and it has a certain similarity to Paper Girls, though its premise is very different.

SHURI #7 (Marvel, 2019) – “A Friend in Need Part Two,” [W] Vita Ayala, [A] Paul Davidson. This issue is not as good as Nnedi’s issues, but it might be Vita Ayala’s best comic yet. It focuses on a high school student who becomes a supercriminal because his family is desperately poor. It shows a keen understanding of contemporary poverty, and the ending, where Shuri offers to provide Augustin with opportunities once he gets out of jail, is heartwarming. I’d like to see more comics where superheroes show compassion to criminals, instead of beating them up.

XENA, WARRIOR PRINCESS #1 (Dynamite, 2019) – untitled, [W] Vita Ayala, [A] Olympia Sweetman. I probably shouldn’t have ordered this. I’m not a fan of the Xena franchise, and I’m no longer willing to buy a comic just based on Vita Ayala’s name. (And I am sometimes willing to read a licensed-property comic if I’m not familiar with the property it’s based on – a notable example is Jem.) This comic is not bad, but it doesn’t give me enough of motivation to keep reading the series.

BLACK BADGE #9 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. This issue starts with a flashback to an earlier generation of Black Badges on a mission in Cold War Berlin. Then the current Black Badges find themselves in a mysterious village that looks like something out of The Prisoner. I’m not quite sure what’s going on here.

WEST COAST AVENGERS #10 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Moy R. I’m noticing a number of comic artists without actual names – Moy R, Bob Q and Dozerdraws all come to mind. Of course this is not a new trend; there’s also Herge, David B, Spain, etc. WCA #10 is the last issue, and that is very unfortunate because this has been a really fun series. Besides the shrimp planet, the highlights of this issue are two metatextual moments: Hawkeye’s shirt getting torn for no reason, and the ending, where Kate says “Who’s the Dutch Oven and why’s he saying he can get us cancelled?” and then the caption says THE END! I couldn’t remember who the Dutch Oven was, but I guess he’s a rejected applicant from an earlier issue.

HIGH LEVEL #3 (Vertigo, 2019) – “The Outlands,” [W] Rob Sheridan, [A] Barnaby Bagenda. The art in this series is quite good, and I really like the interactions between the two main characters. However, this comic has a boring plot and a boring premise. And this issue ends with the main characters being kidnapped by bounty hunters. This sort of deliberate interruption to the plot is very annoying. The protagonists’ only goal is to get to High Level, and now they have to spend a whole issue escaping from their captors, without getting any closer to High Level. Overall, while this comic has some good qualities, I feel justified in giving up on it.

AQUAMAN #47 (DC, 2019) – “Unspoken Water Part 5,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Robson Rocha. In an epic fight, the sea gods sacrifice themselves to defeat Namma, and Aquaman becomes a god himself. This was an okay storyline, but I want to see more of Kelly Sue’s version of Mera.

DAREDEVIL #4 (Marvel, 2019) – “Know Fear Part 4,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Checchetto. This issue unfortunately guest-stars the Punisher, a character I hate with a passion. I consider him a supervillain, not a hero. The point of this story is to explain the difference between Daredevil and the Punisher, but Frank Miller already did that in Daredevil #183-184. I didn’t order issue 5.

AMERICAN CARNAGE #6 (DC, 2019) – “Faith,” [W] Bryan Hill, [A] Leandro Fernandez. This comic deserves a trigger warning, because it begins with a five-page sequence in which Wynn advocates white supremacy. This sequence is well-executed and makes sense in context, but it’s disgusting to read. It makes me want to reach inside the comic and wring Wynn’s neck. After that, it’s hard to remember anything else about this issue, but it ends with Richard getting his cover blown. On the subject of white supremacy, the New Yorker just published an interview with a scholar named Eric Kaufmann who advocates “white identity politics” and denies the existence of structural racism. I think that people like Kaufmann are just as bad as Wynn, and even more dangerous because their racism is less obvious.

LUCIFER #7 (DC, 2019) – “A Slight Detour to Hell,” [W] Dan Watters, [A] Max Fiumara & Sebastian Fiumara. Yet another completely incomprehensible issue. I should have given up on this comic after issue 1. I’m sorry I ordered issue 8.

THE WAR OF THE REALMS: WAR SCROLLS #1 (Marvel, 2019) – various stories, [E] Will Moss. I ordered this because of Zdarsky and Quinones’s “War of the Realms,” a tribute to their Howard the Duck series. It’s only four pages, but it’s a lot of fun, and it reminds me how much I enjoyed that Howard comic. There’s even an appearance by Biggs the talking cat. However, the other stories in this issue are forgettable, even the one by Jason Aaron and Andrea Sorrentino, and this comic doesn’t justify its cover price. I wonder how Sorrentino found the time to draw his story for this issue, while also drawing Gideon Falls.

THE WAR OF THE REALMS #2 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Midgard Massacre,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Russell Dauterman. I meant to order every issue of this series, but I forgot to order issue 1. Maybe that’s not a bad thing, because these crossover events are always disappointing. At least this issue is a reunion of the greatest Thor creative team since Walt Simonson. And there are some cute callbacks to other Jason Aaron comics – for example, the catcalling snakes from Doctor Strange’s mansion make a cameo appearance. But as usual with crossover comics, the fight scenes are the least interesting thing in this issue.

THOR #12 (Marvel, 2019) – “The War of the Lokis,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mike del Mundo. This comic must have been accidentally published under the wrong title, because Thor doesn’t appear in it. The entire issue is about Loki’s confrontations with his past selves. I’m getting kind of sick of Loki, and I didn’t find this issue very interesting. Also, it would be nice if a comic named after Thor would have Thor in it.

TRUE BELIEVERS: AVENGERS – ENDGAME! #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “Endgame!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Roy Thomas. I ordered this because I don’t already have Avengers #71, which is reprinted in this issue, although Avengers #71 is within my price range and I might get it someday. In “Endgame!”, Kang plays a game against the Grandmaster in which the prize is power over life and death. Kang wins, but decides to use his power to kill the Avengers instead of reviving his beloved Ravonna. And he doesn’t even succeed in killing the Avengers, because he’s defeated by the Black Knight, who’s not an Avenger yet. Because this is a Roy Thomas comic, it also includes an unnecessary appearance by Golden Age characters. This is not among Roy’s best Avengers stories, but it’s good, and Sal Buscema’s art is more exciting than I expected.

SPIDER-MAN: LIFE STORY #2 (Marvel, 2019) – “Our Fathers’ Way,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Mark Bagley. Again, I forgot to get issue 1 of this series. Chip Zdarsky has written a lot of comics lately that I did not enjoy, but this issue is good. It includes a lot of shocking plot twist, and it takes advantage of the “what if” format in order to do things that couldn’t be done in a regular Spider-Man comic. (The premise of this series is that it tells Spider-Man’s life story if he had aged at a normal rate.) I plan on continuing to read this series.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #118 (DC, 1975) – “Takeover of the Earth-Masters!”, [W] Elliot S! Maggin, [A] Dick Dillin. This was the comic book I found under my bed (see the review of Peter Cannon #3 above). In this issue, the JLA fight a bunch of shapeshifting creatures called Adaptoids. It’s a pretty average issue, but it has some OK characterization, though not as much as an Englehart JLA issue.

DENNIS THE MENACE BONUS MAGAZINE SERIES #182 (Fawcett, 1978) – “The Secret Santa,” uncredited. Dennis and his friends convince themselves that Mr. Wilson is Santa Claus. This comic is really cute and well-executed, but there’s not much difference between one Dennis the Menace comic book and another.

PRETTY DEADLY #7 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Emma Rios. I honestly never liked this comic. My reviews of issues 1 through 4 were all negative, and I never got around to reading the other issues. In this issue, as in the rest of the series, Emma Rios turns in some brilliant page layouts, but Kelly Sue’s dialogue is awkward and unnatural, and her plots and characters make no sense. Also, this series includes a World War I sequence which is historically inaccurate and implausible.

ANGELA: QUEEN OF HEL #3 (Marvel, 2016) – “Greatest Hits,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Kim Jacinto & Stephanie Hans. This is another of those comics I shouldn’t have ordered. This issue has some good ideas in it, such as its depiction of Marvel’s Heaven, but it’s mostly just a retread of Kieron Gillen’s Journey into Mystery.

MERCURY HEAT #7 (Avatar, 2016) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Nahuel Lopez. This, on the other hand, is a comic I regret not buying more of. Like most Avatar comics, it’s full of gruesome and exploitative violence, but it also has excellent dialogue and brilliant ideas. For example, the protagonist has a heads-up display that shows ads while she’s in the middle of combat, and she has the ability to edit her own memories. This is not one of Kieron’s major works, but it’s not bad either.

FURTHER ADVENTURES OF NICK WILSON #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Eddie Gorodetsky & Marc Andreyko, [A] Stephen Sadowski. I have no idea why I ordered this. It was probably just because it was a #1 issue from Image, and it looked vaguely interesting. It turns out to be a trite, unfunny superhero parody, about a superhero who loses his powers and can barely make a living. I’m glad I didn’t order any more issues of this.

PEEPSHOW #9 (Drawn & Quarterly, 1996) – “Fair Weather Part Three,” [W/A] Joe Matt. A school-aged Joe Matt is dragged to church by his parents. Then he shows an older kid a hole in a wall that can be used to spy on naked girls (is this where the series’ title comes from?), and in exchange, the older kid gives him a copy of Action Comics #1. But of course it turns out to be the 1970s oversized reprint. This is a beautifully drawn comic, it’s less unpleasant than some of Joe Matt’s other work, and it captures the boredom and pettiness of childhood.

SUB-MARINER #20 (Marvel, 1969) – “In the Darkness Dwells… Doom!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] John Buscema. The army chases Namor into the Latverian embassy, where Dr. Doom deprives Namor of water in order to obtain Namor’s armies for himself. Namor manages to set off the sprinkler system and escape. This comic is exciting, but not that much different from any other Namor-Doom story. However, Big John’s artwork is brilliant. I think I’ve always taken him for granted, maybe because I was exposed to his work when I was too inexperienced to appreciate it, or because he so rarely got to draw in his own natural style.

STRAY BULLETS: SUNSHINE AND ROSES #1 (Image, 2015) – “Kretchmeyer,” [W/A] David Lapham. Beth meets a new love interest named Kretchmeyer. But it turns out Kretchmeyer is an assassin, and he’s the cause of a gang war between Scottie and Del. (Scottie was responsible for the murder that Ginny witnessed in Stray Bullets #2, reviewed earlier.) Mayhem ensues. The highlight of this issue is a half-page panel where Kretch and Scottie are both pointing guns at Beth’s head, and Beth says “Nobody fucking move.”

MARVEL PREMIERE #40 (Marvel, 1978) – “Battle with the Big Man!”, [W] Marv Wolfman & Bill Mantlo, [A] Bob Brown. This issue stars Torpedo, a boring new character. His only distinguishing features are that he used to be an NFL player, and that he’s married with children. The plot is just as forgettable as the character. Torpedo never got his ongoing series, but became a supporting character in Rom, which was also written by Mantlo.

G.I. COMBAT #157 (DC, 1973) – “The Fountain,” [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Sam Glanzman. The Haunted Tank liberates a village with a fountain that has miraculous healing powers. This story has some nice artwork and visual storytelling, but it has the same problems as any Kanigher war story; see the above review of G.I. Combat #192. Early in the story, General Jeb Stuart prophecies that Lieutenant Jeb Stuart will come out of this mission a different person, but that prophecy is not fulfilled in a satisfying way. This issue’s first backup story, by Raymond Marais and Ric Estrada, is a retelling of the Nibelungenlied. It’s written confusingly, and makes little sense even if you know the story it’s based on. There’s also a USS Stevens backup by Glanzman. This piece has some lyrical writing and gruesome artwork, but it’s not a story, just a riff on “This is the House That Jack Built.” I know that Glanzman’s USS Stevens stories are classics, but I’ve never gotten into them.

YUMMY FUR #1 (Vortex, 1986) – three stories, [W/A] Chester Brown. This reprints the first three of Chester’s self-published minicomics. These stories are totally illogical and absurdist, and are only of interest as a demonstration of how Chester’s style evolved.

DEADPOOL #4 (Marvel, 2013) – “The Quick and the Dead and the Really Dead,” [W] Brian Posehn & Gerry Duggan, [A] Tony Moore. Deadpool fights a bunch of zombie versions of dead presidents. This comic’s humor is blunt and unsubtle and, in my opinion, not funny. As with BPRD, there was a brief period when I was trying to collect Deadpool comics, but it turns out I don’t like Deadpool.

NEW MUTANTS #49 (Marvel, 2012) – “Fight the Future Part 3,” [W] Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, [A] Felix Ruiz. The New Mutants battle a future version of Cypher. This series was a nice throwback to Claremont’s New Mutants, but it wasn’t all that good, and I have little interest in collecting the rest of it.

POWER PACK #54 (Marvel, 1990) – “Dino-Might or Boys and Their Toys!”, [W] Judy Bogdanove, [A] Jon Bogdanove. Jack Power is bored, so he invites Franklin Richards to visit the mall and see a dinosaur exhibit. It turns out the exhibit was set up by the Mad Thinker. Hijinks ensue. This issue suffers from awkward dialogue and an implausible plot. On the other hand, it’s a lot of fun. And it’s the only example of a team-up between Jack and Franklin, who are a natural big brother-little brother pairing. This issue includes a cameo appearance by Calvin and Hobbes, and a number of its background characters appear to be based on real people, but I don’t know who.

BEEP BEEP THE ROAD RUNNER #22 (Gold Key, 1971) – “The Conked Condor” and other stories, uncredited. Besides having terrible writing and art, this comic bears no resemblance to the cartoons it’s based on. The Road Runner cartoons were unforgettable because they had a simple but perfect formula, and because their humor was purely visual and aural, with no words except captions and ACME product labels. This comic throws the Road Runner format out the window. It violates at least four of Chuck Jones’s nine rules for the Road Runner cartoons – “no outside force can harm the Coyote,” “no dialogue ever,” “the Road Runner must remain on the road,” and “all action must be confined to the Southwest American desert.” Not only do the characters speak, but the Road Runner speaks in rhyme, and for some reason he has three sons who also speak in rhyme. And this issue includes stories that take place in a city, a haunted house, and a mountain range. I don’t know what the creators of this comic thought they were doing, but they didn’t succeed.