Heroes Con is coming up fast, so I’m making a concerted effort to clear out some space in my boxes of unread comics. I’m trying to read ten comic books a day. It’s not impossible because it’s summer and I don’t have to work.
A few more comics from the week of May 16:
LUCIFER #8 (DC, 2019) – “A Fine Day for a Black Mass.” Another issue that includes some good individual scenes, but makes no sense as a unit. I’m thoroughly sick of this series, and I wish I’d dropped it after issue 1. Bleeding Cool reported today that Vertigo is being shut down. If that’s true, it’s sad, but also inevitable. Vertigo’s doom was sealed when DC decided to stop offering competitive rights deals. As a result, creators took their proposals elsewhere, mostly to Image. Vertigo used to be the natural home for comics like Saga, Sex Criminals and WicDiv would have been, but Image got them instead. Vertigo’s last truly successful new series were American Vampire and iZombie, and those are almost a decade old. Even in the current wave of Vertigo titles, only House of Whispers and The Dreaming are truly excellent. I feel sorry for all the people whose series will be cancelled when or if Vertigo shuts down, but I expect those series will find other publishers, like Second Coming did.
DOCTOR WHO FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2019 (Titan, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] Giorgia Sposito. The Thirteenth Doctor and her companions visit an alien amusement park, where if patrons play carnival games and lose, they get kidnapped and added to the prize pool. The Doctor saves the captured guests. This is an entertaining story, but nothing great.
SPIDER-MAN: LIFE STORY #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “Chapter One: The War at Home,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Mark Bagley. A revisionist version of the ’60s Spider-Man, in which Peter fights Norman Osborn and argues with Flash Thompson about the morality of going to Vietnam. Spider-Man: Life Story may be Chip Zdarsky’s best work for Marvel, besides Howard the Duck. It feels like a classic Spider-Man story, but without the requirement that the status quo be preserved. And unlike in a typical What If story, the divergences from standard Marvel continuity have an emotional impact. I especially like how this comic addresses the controversy over the Vietnam war. At the end of this issue, Captain America shows up in Vietnam but appears to be fighting on the North Vietnamese side – just like the Old Soldier did in Astro City. I’m thoroughly convinced that America’s involvement in the Vietnam War was wrong, and it was partly through comics that I formed that opinion.
SPIDER-MAN: LIFE STORY #3 (Marvel, 2019) – “Chapter Three: Our Secret Wars,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Mark Bagley. Just as his wife MJ is about to give birth to twins, Peter is yanked off to Battleworld to fight in the Secret Wars. When he comes back, Peter becomes addicted to his new alien costume, and a dying Kraven tries to kill him. Peter is ultimately unable to balance his responsibility to his powers and his family, and MJ leaves him with the kids. This is a strange thing to say given all the tragedy that’s happened in the regular Spider-Man comic, but Spider-Man: Life Story is actually darker and grimmer than the stories it’s based on. In regular Marvel continuity, heroes never get older (a shocking moment in this issue is the sight of Reed Richards with white hair) and they don’t make irreparable mistakes, or default on their responsibilities.
CONAN THE BARBARIAN #22 (Marvel, 1973) – “The Coming of Conan!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Barry (Windsor-)Smith. This issue has a beautiful new BWS cover, but inside it’s just a reprint of issue 1. According to the letters page, this was because thirteen pages of BWS’s original art were lost in the mail.
SECRET SIX #5 (DC, 1969) – “The Queen Without a Crown!”, [W] E. Nelson Bridwell & Joe Gill, [A] Jack Sparling. Mockingbird sends the Secret Six to the European country of Graustania, where they have to recover the stolen crown jewels so the rightful queen can be crowned. But one of their enemies is Secret Six member Kim Dawn’s sleazy ex-husband. Despite an undistinguished creative team, this comic is really fun. Jack Sparling’s storytelling is dynamic and exciting, with lots of diagonal panel borders. ENB and Joe Gill craft a thrilling and convoluted story with strong characterization. I need to collect the rest of this series.
SUPURBIA #3 (Boom!, 2012) – untitled, [W] Grace Randolph, [A] Russell Dauterman. At Comic-Con, Grace Randolph signed my copy of this issue, but I never got around to reading it. The gimmick of this series is that it’s like Real Housewives, except the husbands are superheroes. This comic is entertaining and has good characterization, but its plot is confusing. At this point Russell Dauterman wasn’t yet the artist he is now, though his art isn’t bad.
SUPER DINOSAUR #21 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Jason Howard. Derek and Devil Dinosaur, excuse me, Super Dinosaur sneak into the evil dinosaurs’ base. I liked this series when it was coming out, but it really doesn’t compare favorably to current YA comic books like Lumberjanes or Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur. It lacks complexity and has a non-diverse cast. It seems to be mostly a tribute to the things Kirkman enjoyed when he was a kid.
BOOM! STUDIOS FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2019 #1 (Boom!, 2019) – “Boss Moon: Birth of a Unificator,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Ethan Young, plus another story. This issue includes a Firefly story and two Buffy stories. This comic is competently executed, but I’m not a Whedonverse fan, and none of the stories were of any interest to me.
STRANGERS IN PARADISE XXV (Abstract Studio, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Terry Moore. It’s been twenty years since I last read Strangers in Paradise. I loved it when I was in high school, but I only read it for a year or two, and then I discovered better comics. SIP has not held up well. It’s implausible and farfetched, and Terry Moore’s ability to write female characters is overrated – in particular, Francine and Katchoo seem like caricatures compared to Maggie and Hopey. This FCBD comic has some pretty artwork, but it does nothing to change my opinion of Terry Moore’s work.
BATMAN ’66 MEETS WONDER WOMAN ’77 #1 (DC, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker & Marc Andreyko, [A] David Hahn. This comic is exactly what its title indicates. It includes some cute touches, like Catwoman’s constant cat puns, or young Bruce Wayne and Talia’s first meeting. But like the regular Batman ’66 series, it fails to transcend its rather limited premise.
SUPERMAN #15 (DC, 2017 – “Multiplicity Part 2,” [W] Peter Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] various. I really liked this series at first, for the same reasons I like Adventures of the Super Sons. However, almost as soon as I started reading Superman, it became unreadable because it was mired in pointless crossovers. This issue is an example of that. Its plot is impossible to understand, and there’s no reason why the reader should even try.
SILK #8 (Marvel, 2016) – “Spider-Women Part 6,” [W] Robbie Thompson, [A] Tana Ford. Marvel’s Spider-Women titles all suffered from excessive crossover involvement as well, but Silk wouldn’t have been much good even if it had never been part of a crossover. As usual with Silk, this issue has an overly compressed story and boring dialogue.
VAMPIRELLA #4 (Dynamite, 2016) – untitled, [W] Kate Leth, [A] Eman Casallos. Vampirella goes to a party at the home of a villainess. I didn’t like either of the two previous issues of this series, and this one isn’t especially great either, but at least it has some witty dialogue.
FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2019 (AVENGERS/SAVAGE AVENGERS) #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “Make Mine Avengers,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Stefano Caselli, and “Savage Avengers vs. Free Comic Book Day,” [W] Gerry Duggan, [A] Mike Deodato Jr. This issue starts with a silly joke: a monologue in which Iron Man says that he likes DC, but that “they spend too much time worried about us.” By DC, Tony ostensibly means the government, but it’s obvious what he really means, especially since the monologue is juxtaposed with a fight between Namor and the Squadron Supreme. Besides that, this story is okay but not great, and the backup story is worse. I was right to quit reading Jason Aaron’s Avengers.
BATMAN #461 (DC, 1991) – “Sisters in Arms Part Two: Ladies’ Night,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. Batman tries to save some women from human trafficking; meanwhile, Catwoman is trying to steal something, and Sarah Essen and Vicki Vale are both pursuing her for different reasons. This is a fascinating story, with and intricate plot and three very different female characters. Grant and Breyfogle are one of the most underrated Batman creative teams. A highlight of this issue is when the villain opens a door and is assaulted by a horde of stray cats.
TREASURE CHEST #25.4 (Pflaum, 1969) – “Fire in the Oil Fields,” [W] Helen L. Gillum, [A] Tony Tallarico, plus other stories. This issue includes a couple adventure stories, a nonfiction feature about oil refinery fires, and a biography of the father of the US Air Force. The highlight is the installment of Matt Christopher and Fran Matera’s “Chuck White and His Friends.” Matt Christopher is best known as an author of children’s books about sports. Treasure Chest was never a spectacular comic, but it’s worth revisiting once in a while.
SUPERMAN #27 (DC, 2017) – “Declaration,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] Scott Godlewski. Lois, Clark and Jon go on a summer trip to some famous spots from American history. This issue tries to be charming and sometimes succeeds, but it shows an uncritical attitude toward American history. It repeats the myth that America is a land of freedom and equal opportunity. Even when we do witness discrimination, it’s fixed at once – the Kents see a homeless, disabled veteran being thrown out of a restaurant, and Clark makes a patriotic speech and gets the veteran hired as a dishwasher at the restaurant. In the Trump era, myths like these are becoming more unsustainable than ever. I get that Clark and Lois are trying to give their son a sense of pride, but they could also acknowledge that America doesn’t always live up to its own myths.
CHAMPIONS #11 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Humberto Ramos. A Secret Empire crossover in which the Champions search for survivors in the ruins of Las Vegas. There are some good scenes in this issue, such as Patriot, Riri and Miles’s conversation about race. But this issue is hurt by its involvement in a crossover, and the destruction of Las Vegas has no emotional impact because it was just done for shock value. I dropped this series because of the controversy surrounding the previous issue (https://ogresfeathers.wordpress.com/2017/07/27/pre-vacation-reviews/#cham10), and I’m not sorry I did.
POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #72 (Marvel, 1981) – “Paper Tiger!”, [W] Mary Jo Duffy, [A] Kerry Gammill. Luke and Danny battle a villain named Chaka, whose gang has taken over Manhattan’s Chinatown. This is an exciting and funny issue, though it lacks the complexity of some of the other issues of this run. This comic is full of stereotypes about Chinese people, but at least it tries to show sympathy to the lives of immigrants who live in ethnic enclaves. Besides Chaka, the main Chinese character in the issue is William Hao, who works in the white-dominated city government but lives in Chinatown and feels an obligation to his fellow Chinese-Americans.
UNTOLD LEGEND OF THE BATMAN #3 (DC, 1980) – “The Man Behind the Mask!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Jim Aparo. Batman goes on an obsessive pursuit of the villain who destroyed the Batmobile and Thomas Wayne’s original Batman costume. After a series of flashbacks to Batman’s past, we discover that the villain is actually Bruce himself, suffering from a split personality, and Robin shocks him back to his senses. Untold Legend is not nearly as ambitious as Batman: Year One, which superseded it as Batman’s definitive origin story; however, Untold Legend is a fun comic in its own right, and a perfect introduction to Batman for new readers.
VEIL #5 (Dark Horse, 2014) – untitled, [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Toni Fejzula. This comic is drawn in a fascinating style that blends woodcut-esque linework with painterly coloring. I don’t understand its story at all, except that it’s a horror story about a succubus. I will have to look for the previous four issues of this miniseries.
SAN FRANCISCO COMIC BOOK #6 (Last Gasp, 1981) – various stories, [E] Gary Arlington. The clear highlight of this issue is Melinda Gebbie’s “I Dreamt I Was a Character in Underground Heaven.” Its first four pages are an account of a party hosted by Trina Robbins, and are drawn in a meticulous style with lots of feathering. The pages after that are full of bizarre psychedelic images, often without clear panel borders, in a style reminiscent of Rick Griffin or Victor Moscoso. This story is a visual tour de force. San Francisco Comic Book #6 also includes a two-pager by Justin Green and a pin-up by Spain, but the rest of the issue is average at best.
HINTERKIND #1 (Vertigo, 2013) – “Once Upon a Time… Chapter One,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Francesco Trifogli. A postapocalyptic SF comic set in a world where mythical creatures have replaced humans as the dominant species. This comic has an interesting premise, and Trifogli’s artwork is subtle but effective. I’d be interested in reading the rest of this series.
PALOOKA-VILLE #7 (Drawn & Quarterly, 1995) – “It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken Part 4,” [W/A] Seth. Seth visits his old hometown to look for information about Kalo, but finds nothing, and spends the rest of the issue wandering around and musing. I’ve already read this graphic novel in its collected form, but it’s worth reading again. One thing I missed when I read IAGLIYDW the first time was the sense of local specificity Seth creates. Despite his extremely stylized artwork, he summons up the atmosphere of a rural Ontario town.
POLICE ACTION #1 (Atlas/Seaboard, 1975) – “Sam Lomax NYPD,” [W] Russ Jones, [A] Mike Sekowsky. This issue’s first story is a fairly generic piece of crime fiction, but it’s well-plotted and well-drawn, and not half bad. There’s also a backup story written and drawn by Mike Ploog. It’s weird seeing his artwork on a non-horror story. This comic is only average, but it suggests some possibilities that were never realized. Cop and detective shows are one of the dominant genres of American TV, but have somehow never been a popular genre of comic books. Of course, this might have something to do with the moral panic over crime comics, which happened just two decades before Police Action #1 came out.
ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #431 (DC, 1987) – “They Call Him – Doctor Stratos,” [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Erik Larsen. Superman battles a mad scientist who thinks he’s a Greek god. Erik Larsen’s artwork in this issue is not bad, but Marv’s story has some crippling problems. Doctor Stratos is too similar to Maxie Zeus, which perhaps explains why this issue was his only appearance ever. Superman spends half the issue resolving crises that Doctor Stratos has created, and it takes him too long to realize that he should just attack Doctor Stratos at his hideout. Also, this issue’s major subplot involves Cat Grant, a rather sexist character.
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS #3 (DC, 2012) – “A Godawful Small Affair,” [W] Nick Spencer, [A] Wes Craig & Walt Simonson. This issue’s flashback sequence is drawn in Walt Simonson’s style, and it took me a while to realize that it’s actually byWalt Simonson, rather than Wes Craig trying to imitate him. Besides that, this is a mediocre comic. The first couple of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents revivals were done by people who fondly remembered the original series and wanted to resurrect its greatness, but the more recent T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents comics have felt as if they were only published to retain the copyright.
JSA #10 (DC, 2000) – “Wild Hunt,” [W] David S. Goyer & Geoff Johns, [A] Stephen Sadowski. The Injustice Society invades the JSA headquarters while Ted Grant is there alone, and Ted singlehandedly defeats them. At the end of the issue, he literally uses one of the Injustice Society members, Blackbriar Thorn, as a toothpick. This is a really fun issue, a bit like X-Men #143, and I wouldn’t be such an anti-fan of Geoff Johns if he had stuck to stories like this.
New comics received on May 24:
RUNAWAYS #21 (Marvel, 2019) – “But You Can’t Hide Pt. III,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Andrés Genolet. This is perhaps the first Marvel comic to depict a man shopping for tampons. That’s not the only good thing about it. This issue, Molly is suffering from separation anxiety, Karolina is severely anxious, and Viktor and Gert seem to be a couple. Meanwhile, Chase is carrying the entire team on my back, as literally depicted on the cover. Although this issue spends a lot of time on Molly and Karolina’s psychological struggles, it really makes me feel sympathy for Chase; he’s singlehandedly supporting five people, plus a cat and a dinosaur, and he’s not getting much help.
INVISIBLE KINGDOM #3 (Image, 2019) – “Walking the Path Part Three,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Christian Ward. Grix and Vess finally meet, just before they jump off a cliff to escape pursuit. Grix and Vess’s predicament is becoming truly scary, and Christian Ward’s art is gorgeous, as usual. I like how this series is in a totally different genre from any of Willow’s previous work, and yet it still shares her overarching theme of religious faith.
MONSTRESS #22 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. Kippa meets a giant underground dragon, then gets it to help her escape the boy who captured her. Meanwhile, Maika negotiates with her dad and some of his allies. This is an entertaining issue. I like its focus on Kippa.
DIAL H FOR HERO #3 (DC, 2019) – “Yesterday,” [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Joe Quinones & Arist Deyn. There’s a lot of plot in this issue, but the main attraction, as with the two previous issues, is the two sequences with new superheroes. First, the lady cop uses the dial to turn into the Bluebird of Happiness, seemingly based on Brendan McCarthy’s Rogan Gosh. Then, Summer uses the dial to become Lo Lo Kick You, based on Mike Allred characters such as Madman and U-Go Girl. The sequences with these characters are drawn in a pastiche of McCarthy and Allred’s styles. I don’t know which of the two credited artists is responsible for these scenes, but they’re brilliant. It’s a pity that this series just has two issues to go.
MOON GIRL & DEVIL DINOSAUR #43 (Marvel, 2019) – “Methinks”, [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Gustavo Duarte & Ray-Anthony Height. Unfortunately this is a War of the Realms crossover, but it doesn’t require the reader to know anything about War of the Realms, except that the frost giants are the bad guys. Also, most of the issue is a self-contained flashback sequence in which Lunella teams up with Thor and the Asgardians to solve Loki’s riddle. The flashback is fairly entertaining, and it’s drawn by Gustavo Duarte in a very distinctive style which reminds me of that of Jay Fosgitt. More on this artist in the review of A. Bizarro below.
MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #6 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Garrón. As Spider-Man, Miles encounters a cute new superheroine named Starling. As Miles, he experiences a racist microaggression and gets an ultimatum from his girlfriend. Also, Miles discovers that his uncle Aaron is a criminal, just like in the movie. As I’ve said before, this series feels like a classic Spider-Man comic, even though it has a different protagonist. Like Peter, Miles has much more difficulty living his normal life than battling supervillains.
SHURI #8 (Marvel, 2019) – “24/7 Vibranium,” [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Rachael Stott. It’s nice to have Nnedi back, even if this series is ending soon. This issue, Nnedi returns to Wakanda, but the Space-Lubber follows her there. Rachael Stott is a less impressive artist than Leonardo Romero, but this is a really fun and weird issue. The highlight is the scene with the giant bug singing “Shake it, Wakanda honey, shake it!” And this scene makes perfect sense in context.
UNSTOPPABLE WASP #8 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Gurihiru. The inaugural GIRL Young Scientists Expo is held at the Javits Center – it’s not identified as such, but you can recognize it. Of course the event is interrupted by Whirlwind and a new villain called El Cucuy or the Boogeyman, not to be confused with the Boogeyman from Power Pack. Meanwhille, Bucky Barnes and Bobbi Morse are invading a Red Room secret base. This is another fun issue, though I’m sad that there are only a few issues left.
MIDDLEWEST #7 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. In a flashback, we see that Abel’s anger problems go back to his infancy. In the present, the old wizard dude manages to end Abel’s destructive tantrum, but his sister throws Abel out of the carnival, and I don’t blame her at all. So again Abel and Fox are alone. This series is Skottie’s best work yet. He’s established himself as a humor writer, but Middlewest shows that he’s also capable of handling the very serious topic of child abuse.
GHOST TREE #2 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Bobby Curnow, [A] Simon Gane. This new title is about a young Japanese man who has the ability to see and exorcise ghosts. The main attraction here is Simon Gane’s art, which is as appealing and distinctive as in They’re Not Like Us (see previous review post). The story is reasonably interesting, but it does raise potential concerns about cultural appropriation. This comic is set in Japan and is influenced by Japanese yokai folklore, but I don’t think either of the creators is Japanese.
CLUE CANDLESTICK #1 (IDW, 2019) – “On Murder Considered as a Recreational Activity,” [W/A] Dash Shaw. This is the latest in a string of IDW titles that combine licensed properties with alternative and indie creators, and just like Michel Fiffe’s GI Joe or Tom Scioli’s Go-Bots, Dash Shaw’s Clue is fascinating. It’s a bizarre, disturbing take on the cozy mystery genre. It’s full of visual tricks such as codes, mazes, and arrows pointing to revealing details. It’s written in paranoid, unrealistic purple prose, and it reveals the psychological weirdness of the Clue game. Clue Candlestick could be one of the best miniseries of the year.
ASSASSIN NATION #3 (Image, 2019) – “Thanks, Gun Dad,” [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Erica Henderson. This issue is full of hilarious mayhem, but it’s also surprisingly sweet and funny. Starks and Henderson’s styles clash with each other, and that’s why they work so well together.
WONDER WOMAN #71 (DC, 2019) – “Love is a Battlefield Part 3,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Xermanico. Diana and Aphrodite finally convince Atlantiades to fix the mess she created in Summer Grove. Meanwhile, Maggie finds the path back to Olympus, but then she and Diana have to fight a giant minotaur dude. “Love is a Battlefield” is Willow’s best Wonder Woman story yet.
BOOKS OF MAGIC #8 (Vertigo, 2019) – “Out of This Wood Do Not Desire to Go,” [W] Kat Howard, [A] Tom Fowler. Tim and Rose visit Faerie and get Titania to send them where Ellie is. This issue is maybe marginally better than #7, but in terms of its depiction of Faerie, it pales in comparison to The Dreaming #9. The next issue of this series will be my last.
BLUBBER #4 (Fantagraphics, 2017) – “Tower of the Sindog” and other stories, [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. I feel obligated to read this because it’s Gilbert, but I’m glad there isn’t any more of it. Nearly every page of this issue is full of scatology, rape, dismemberment, and too many other fetishes to name. It’s a profoundly unpleasant reading experience, and it’s easily my least favorite of Gilbert’s works.
MR. & MRS. X #11 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Lady & The Tiger,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Oscar Bazaldúa. Gambit has to go to New Orleans to confront his ex-wife Belladonna and the External Candra. I think the New Orleans Thieves Guild is a stupid and boring piece of continuity, but at least Kelly uses it as an opportunity to reveal more about Gambit and Rogue’s relationship. Gambit wants Rogue to keep herself safe and not come to New Orleans, but she comes to save him anyway, because she loves him, and that makes him happy despite himself. There’s no follow-up yet to last issue’s suggestion that Gambit wants a baby.
WELCOME TO WANDERLAND #4 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jackie Ball, [A] Mollie Rose. This issue was delayed so much that I didn’t think it was ever coming out. The previous three issues came out last September, October and December. I don’t remember any other Boom! comic that was this late, and I’d like to know what caused the delay. Because it’s been five months since #3, I can’t remember any of the details of this series’s plot, and so the conclusion of the story didn’t make much of an impression on me.
THE TERRIFICS #16 (DC, 2019) – “The God Game Part 2,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Stephen Segovia. The Terrifics continue to fight the ten plagues, and they discover that their enemy is the Noosphere, an entity that might as well be God. This is a pretty fun comic, and I’m going to keep reading The Terrifics for now, despite my lack of confidence in Yang’s ability to write superhero stories. A fascinating suggestion in this issue is that Linnya is attracted to Offspring because he reminds her of someone from her past. Could that someone be Ultra Boy?
AVANT-GUARDS #5 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Carly Usdin, [A] Noah Hayes. Jay West has their first solo art show, and their partner comes up with a way to save the league, even though it’s lost its sponsors. Meanwhile, Liv and Charlie’s romance continues to develop. This is a cute issue. Noah Hayes does a good job of making Jay’s paintings look as good as everyone says they are. (This is a problem when a work of art or literature is represented within a work of fiction; you can’t depict a work of art that’s better than you yourself are capable of creating.)
WAR OF THE REALMS: NEW AGENTS OF ATLAS #2 (Marvel, 2019) – “Fire and Ice Chapter Two,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Gang Hyuk Lim. The two teams of Asian superheroes combine into one, then head off to Siberia to confront the next crisis. This issue is mostly a series of fight scenes, but I really like this series, and I think it’s an important representation of all sorts of Asian ethnicities. I’m glad that there’s another New Agents of Atlas series coming in August, though sadly it’s just a miniseries.
Now some older comics:
MOCKINGBIRD #5 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Chelsea Cain, [A] Ibrahim Moustafa. Chelsea Cain teams up with Howard the Duck and Miles Morales to battle a sentient virus. This comic is really fun, and it’s what Man-Eaters should have been. In this issue Chelsea’s quirks, such as her explanatory captions and her use of metatext, are entertaining, whereas in Man-Eaters they’re annoying; perhaps this is because Mockingbird had an editor and Man-Eaters didn’t, as another reviewer suggested.
Addendum written later: After I wrote this review but before I posted it, Chelsea Cain was revealed to have included a fan’s critical tweets in an issue of Man-Eaters, without obtaining the fan’s permission. She also framed those tweets so as to suggest that the fan was a sexist, when in fact the fan was accusing Cain of being trans-exclusionary. On Twitter, Chelsea Cain “apologized” for this, but then proceeded to repeatedly dig the hole deeper. She asked for trans sensitivity readers, but was not willing to pay. Then she retracted her apology and deleted her Twitter account. In my opinion, Chelsea Cain’s behavior is a peak example of white feminism. She’s demonstrated that she doesn’t understand or care about the perspectives of people unlike her, and that she can’t accept criticism. As far as I’m concerned, her comics career is finished.
CEREBUS #101 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1987) – “Ave Avid,” [W/A] Dave Sim & Gerhard. This entire issue consists of a long conversation that makes no sense out of context. There are also some letters debating the topic of papal infallibility. I probably shouldn’t buy single issues of Cerebus, but Dave’s cover art and design are really good, and the letter columns are occasionally interesting.
NAMOR #19 (Marvel, 1991) – “9 Wives,” [W/A] John Byrne. I have often said that John Byrne jumped the shark after 1987, so I was surprised that I enjoyed this issue. In this issue John’s backgrounds and machinery are as well-drawn as they were in his classic period. His women’s faces all look the same, but he’s never been able to draw more than one female face. However, this issue also demonstrates John’s love of unnecessary retcons. The plot is that Namor and Namorita confront a rogue Atlantean scientist who’s been making clones of Lady Dorma, and at the end of the issue we learn that Namorita is a clone of her mother Namora. I should note that this issue’s first page includes some grossly racist images of Japanese people. On the next page, these images are identified as coming from a (fictional) old comic book and are condemned for their bigotry, but that’s not a sufficient excuse.
ASTONISHING TALES #23 (Marvel, 1974) – “Conquerors Three!”, [W] Tony Isabella, [A] Dick Ayers. This issue’s It the Living Colossus story is a stupidly written, poorly drawn mess, with perhaps the worst lettering I’ve ever seen in a Marvel comic. It includes some reprinted artwork from Fin Fang Foom’s debut appearance in Strange Tales #89. These reprinted pages are so much better-looking than the rest of the issue that I could tell they were by a different artist, even though they were not identified as such.
SUPERBOY #66 (DC, 1999) – “Wild Hunt!”, [W] Karl Kesel, [A] Aaron Lopresti. In a sequel to a story from about a year before, Superboy and his friends revisit the Wild Lands and investigate reports of a swamp monster. The lack of Tom Grummett art in this issue is unfortunate, but the various Wild Lands animal-human hybrids are well-designed. A high point of this story is the continuing love triangle between Tuftan, Tawna and Nosferata. This issue includes an obscure reference to William Shatner’s awful performance of “Mr. Tambourine Man.”
STRANGE TALES #162 (Marvel, 1967) – “So Evil, the Night!”, [W/A] Jim Steranko, and “From the Never-World Comes… Nebulos!”, [W] Jim Lawrence, [A] Dan Adkins. I bought this years ago, but never read it because my copy is in awful condition. “So Evil, the Night” is one of Steranko’s less impressive Nick Fury stories, but it’s still excellent. The thing I remember most about it is the color-changing car, but the fight scene on top of a moving car is also excellent. The Dr. Strange backup story pales by comparison, though the art is reasonably good.
BLUE RIBBON COMICS #11 (Archie, 1984) – “The Billion Dollar Rip-Off!”, [W] Stan Timmons & Rich Buckler, [A] Dick Ayers. The Black Hood foils a plot to use subliminal messages in video games to hypnotize people. This story is mediocre, but it’s interesting because it reveals a deep anxiety about the effect of video games. The writers seem to think that video games are as bad as drugs – which is true, but it’s not the complete truth. There’s also a backup story with bad art by Carmine Infantino, starring an entirely different Black Hood.
GRIMM’S GHOST STORIES #38 (Whitman, 1977) – “Gone – But Not Forgotten,” [W] George Kashdan, [A] Frank Bolle, plus two other stories. Of the three stories in this issue, the only truly interesting one is “The Art of Vengeance,” about a sculptor whose favorite model is murdered by an art critic. This story is drawn by an uncredited Jesse Santos and may have been written by Don Glut, and it’s kind of funny. However, the sculptor’s artwork is in such an outdated style that it’s hard to see why any critic would write about it.
DEADPOOL #19 (Marvel, 1998) – “The Quick and the Dead,” [W] Joe Kelly, [A] Walter McDaniel. This issue has a convoluted plot in which Deadpool is trying to exorcise some ghosts by avenging their deaths, or something like that. I suppose this issue is reasonably well-executed, but I just don’t like the characteristic Deadpool style of humor. I don’t plan on collecting any more Deadpool comics anytime soon.
ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #508 (DC, 1994) – “The Future is Now!”, [W] Karl Kesel, [A] Barry Kitson. Bizarrely, this issue’s story takes place “between panels 1 and 2 on the last page of Challengers of the Unknown #4.” On that page, the Challengers captured a time-traveling villain, and Adventures of Superman #508 explains what happened after they captured him but before they got him into custody. Karl Kesel had probably wanted to tell this story for a long time, since the credits box described it as “the story Karl Kesel […] demanded.” It’s a fun story and an affectionate tribute to the Challs. The last panel reveals that by 1994, Prof is no longer living. The one unfortunate thing about this issue is that it also depicts Cat Grant’s son’s funeral. Adam Grant’s murder was a regrettable decision.
SUGAR & SPIKE #91 (DC, 1970) – “Beach Nuts!” and “The Walking Riot!”, [W/A] Sheldon Mayer. In the lead story, the babies go to the beach where they cause a lot of mayhem. In the second story, Sugar’s parents get her a talking doll to improve her language skills, and mayhem ensues. This issue is all right, but I don’t “get” Sheldon Mayer the way I get Barks or John Stanley or Bob Bolling. Mayer’s stories are very clever, but to me they feel kind of repetitive, and also rather mean-spirited.
BATMAN #457 (DC, 1990) – “Master of Fear,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. The Scarecrow captures Batman and Vicki Vale and tests his fear potions on them. Tim Drake helps rescue them, even though Batman had ordered him to stay home. At the end of the issue, Tim becomes the new Robin for good. Tim’s psychological struggle is at the heart of this story. He fully believes that by disobeying Batman’s orders, he’s ending his own career as Robin, but he feels he has to help Batman anyway.
GHOST STORIES #3 (Dell, 1963) – four stories, [W] Carl Memling, [A] Gerald McCann. Four competent but mediocre ghost stories. Because this comic was produced in the wake of the moral panic over horror comics, the ghost stories are more surprising than scary. I probably bought this thinking it was by John Stanley, but he only did issue 1.
AW YEAH COMICS! #4 (Aw Yeah Comics!, 2013) – various stories, [E] Art Baltazar & Franco. A bunch of short kid-oriented stories of variable quality. One of them introduces Anti-Gravity Bear, who seems to have been designed by Art’s daughter.
NEIL THE HORSE COMICS AND STORIES #7 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “Video Warrior,” [W/A] Katherine Collins. Neil, Poupée and Soapy team up with some fairies to fight a horde of video game creatures. Like Blue Ribbon Comics #11, this comic depicts video games as a threat, but Collins seems less seriously worried about the dangers of video games than Timmons and Buckler were. At the end of the issue, one of the faeries decides to spend his allotted one night of mortal life per century with Poupée. The faerie and Poupée sing a duet together, and Collins provides sheet music for the song.
MEET MISTY #1 (Marvel, 1985) – “Misty Collins!”, [W/A] Trina Robbins. The indicia title of this series is Misty, but it’s universally remembered (if at all) as Meet Misty. I briefly refer to this comic in my forthcoming book chapter about Amethyst and Angel Love, and I’m going to need to explore it further when I return to that research. Meet Misty seems to be intended as a revival of Marvel’s girls’ comics from earlier decades; the protagonist, Misty Collins, is Millie the Model’s niece. The stories in this issue are pretty standard pieces of high school drama, with the gimmick that the characters’ costumes are designed by readers – or rather by Trina’s friends, since there were no readers yet. Many of the costumes were designed by Renaldo Barnette and Mike Madrid. The former is now a professional fashion illustrator, and the latter published a book about superheroes and feminism.
PALOOKA-VILLE #8 (Drawn & Quarterly, 1995) – “It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken, Part 5,” [W/A] Seth. Nothing really happens plot-wise in this issue, except that Seth breaks up with his latest girlfriend. But really, the fact that nothing happens is the whole point. This issue’s first five pages consist entirely of silent panels depicting various summer scenes around Toronto. As with manga, the point of such pages is not to advance the plot, but to create a sense of mood – although Seth’s style has little else in common with manga. I just saw the collected Clyde Fans in a bookstore, and it’s a beautiful book, but super-expensive. I hope there will be a cheaper softcover.
SANDMAN #41 (Vertigo, 1992) – “Brief Lives, Part 1,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Jill Thompson. I must have read this before, but I barely remember it. Delirium is feeling depressed, so she asks Desire and Despair for help finding their lost brother Destruction. Neither of them is willing to help. The issue ends with a flashback to the last time Despair saw Destruction. Maybe the reason I don’t remember this issue is because the most memorable thing about “Brief Lives” is the interplay between Dream and Delirium, and Dream doesn’t appear in this issue.
A. BIZARRO #1 (DC, 2015) – “America: Part 6,” [W] Heath Corson, [A] Gustavo Duarte w/ Bill Sienkiewicz. Before this comic came out, Heath Corson was asked during a Twitter chat whether it would include any characters of color. He replied “Bizarro is grey, so I hope you’re counting him.” This joke was not well received (https://www.themarysue.com/dc-comics-bizarro/) and the resulting controversy overshadowed the actual A. Bizarro series. If not for this controversy, there would be little reason to remember A. Bizarro at all, because it’s a poorly written comic; it’s not remotely funny, and it has a stupid plot about a used car salesman who thinks he’s a pharaoh. The only thing that does make this comic readable is Gustavo Duarte’s excellent and unique artwork. I ought to look for Dark Horse’s collection of his Brazilian work, Monsters! and Other Stories.
JSA #61 (DC, 2004) – “Redemption Lost Part II,” [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Don Kramer w/ Tom Mandrake. This is a confusing story, but it appears to be a sequel to Justice League of America #171-172, in which the Spirit King murders the original Mr. Terrific and gets away scot-free. That story was terrible, so it’s nice to see Geoff Johns attempting to fix it. The other “redemption” in this issue is that of Jim Corrigan, so this issue is also a sequel to Ostrander and Mandrake’s Spectre. Mandrake even gets to draw the first three pages, resulting in a nice sense of nostalgia.
ALL-TIME COMICS: BLIND JUSTICE #1 (Fantagraphics, 2017) – “Bitter Voyage,” [W/A] Josh Bayer, [A] Rich Buckler & Al Milgrom et al. This issue is an homage to superhero comics of the ‘80s, but in an indie-comics style. It’s reasonably well-executed and well-designed, but it’s hard to distinguish it from the things it’s parodying.
JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #13 (Marvel, 1974) – multiple stories, [W/A] various. A collection of ‘50s horror reprints. Perhaps the most notable one is “Revolt of the Robots,” about a fanatical anti-robot crusader who turns out to be a robot himself. The analogy to racism is obvious, but is left implicit. In the last story, a thief puts sleeping powder in a rich gambler’s toothpaste, so that he can rob the gambler’s room while he’s asleep. But the thief fails to anticipate the possibility that the gambler’s teeth might be false. What an idiot.
SKAAR, SON OF HULK #3 (Marvel, 2008) – “The Princess and the Beast,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Ron Garney. This comic is okay, but it’s a bit hard to understand if you’re not familiar with the Planet Hulk storyline. I’m not interested in buying any more issues of this series.
BATMAN #630 (DC, 2004) – “As the Crow Flies Part Four: Home Invasion,” [W] Judd Winick, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Most of this issue is devoted to a pointless, boring fight between Batman and the Scarecrow’s Scarebeast. Dustin Nguyen’s line-drawn art is less interesting than his painted art.
CAPTAIN MARVEL #22 (Marvel, 2001) – “Dude, Where’s My Kree?”, [W] Peter David, [A] ChrisCross. Unlike the previous few comics, this one was genuinely good. In the main plot, Rick Jones is trapped among some green-skinned alien who worship him as a god. Then at the end, Rick and Genis encounter Ronan and some Ruul, who are the evolved version of the Kree. But what’s more interesting is the subplot, about a woman named Lorraine. She’s just come back to life after having been killed in an earlier issue, but when she contacts her friends and family, none of them believe it’s really her. It’s quite a sad predicament. Reading this issue makes me want to collect more of PAD’s Captain Marvel.
IMAGE FIRSTS: THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS #1 (Image, 2012) – “Infinite Oppenheimers,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Nick Pitarra. This series is a science-fictional depiction of the Manhattan Project. In the debut issue, Robert Oppenheimer is hired as the director of the project, but it turns out it’s not him but his evil twin. (In real life, Oppenheimer did not have a twin brother.) I have a ton of other unread issues of this series, and I still haven’t felt like reading any more of them, but at least now I have a better idea of what The Manhattan Projects is about.
INCREDIBLE HULK #238 (Marvel, 1979) – “Post Hulk… Post Holocaust!”, [W] Roger Stern, [A] Sal Buscema. An issue with many subplots, but no overarching plot. The Hulk wanders around aimlessly, Clay Quatermain hangs out with Jimmy Carter (who speaks in an exaggerated Southern accent, as in other Marvel comics), Betty and Glenn Talbot get divorced, and They Who Wield Power hire Goldbug to fight the Hulk. They Who Wield Power were mentioned in a large number of Marvel titles starting in 1973, and their storyline was finally concluded in this and the next five issues of the Hulk.
ACTION COMICS #365 (DC, 1968) – “Superman’s Funeral!”, [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Ross Andru. Thanks to Luthor, Superman is dying of a virus, and he takes a rocket through the galaxy to the sun where he plans to be cremated. Nothing really happens in this story, and about half of it consists of flashbacks to Superman’s past. This issue also includes a Supergirl backup story, in which Supergirl unknowingly commits a bunch of petty pranks due to red kryptonite exposure.
THE WITCHING HOUR #68 (DC, 1977) – three stories, [E] Murray Boltinoff. The last story in this issue, “Young Man in a Shroud” by Carl Wessler and Ruben Yandoc is kind of clever. It’s a murder mystery, involving a hillbilly family feud, but the identity of the victim is just as much of a mystery as that of the murderer. The other two stories are totally forgettable, but at least they have art by E.R. Cruz and Fred Carrillo. People seem indifferent to E.R. Cruz’s art, but I’ve always liked him, perhaps because he was the first Filipino artist whose work I saw.
TEEN TITANS #31 (DC, 2006) – “Lost and Found Part 2 of 2,” [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Tony Daniel & Todd Nauck. A terrible comic. Most the issue is occupied by a brutal, poorly drawn, pointless fight between the Titans and Brother Blood. There are also some pages depicting Captain Carrot and the Zoo Crew. These pages are less bad, but they have no connection whatsoever to the main story.
SUB-MARINER #42 (Marvel, 1971) – “And a House Whose Name is… Death!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] George Tuska. Namor battles a mad female scientist named Aunt Serr (a pun on “answer,” I guess), her mutant son Karl, and some other mutants. This comic includes some of Gerry’s purplest prose ever, and it’s not clear why it’s even a Namor comic. The entire issue takes place on land, and Namor could have been replaced as the issue’s protagonist by any other Marvel superhero, without any other changes being made.
CAPTAIN MARVEL #7 (Marvel, 2003) – “Monsters and Gods Part One,” [W] Peter David, [A] Kyle Hotz. Captain Marvel wants to understand what a god is, so he visits a church. Then he travels Asgard, which at the time was floating above New York. This issue’s meditations on religion are kind of unoriginal, and overall this issue is far less interesting than the previous Captain Marvel I read.
TEEN TITANS #41 (DC, 2007) – “Titans Around the World Part IV,” [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Paco Diaz & Ryan Benjamin. A newly resurrected Jericho teams up with the Titans to battle the traitorous Titan Bombshell. This issue is less bad than #31, and it shows an intimate knowledge of Jericho’s history. However, stapled into this issue is an advertising insert containing an animated Titans story by Marc Sumerak and Todd Nauck, and this advertising insert is better than the actual comic it’s attached to.
ROCKETEER ADVENTURES VOL. 2 #1 (IDW, 2012) – various stories, [E] Scott Dunbier. The highlight of this issue is Stan Sakai’s “A Dream of Flying,” in which a little boy saves Cliff Secord from being shot, and then Cliff gives the boy a jetpack ride. We soon realize that the boy is a non-powered Clark Kent, although he’s not explicitly identified. This story draws a brilliant connection between two classic comics that are both about the thrill of flight. As for the two other stories in this issue, Peter David and Bill Sienkiewicz’s “The Ducketeer” is an unreadable piece of nonsense, but Sandy Plunkett at least does a good job of imitating Dave Stevens’s art style.
JSA #70 (DC, 2005) – “JSA/JSA Chapter III: High Societies,” [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Don Kramer. The contemporary JSA travel back in time to 1951, where they encounter the previous JSA and also confront all sorts of explicit racism. This issue is not bad; it includes some nice moments where the present JSA members have uncomfortable encounters with their predecessors. However, the depiction of racism is a bit heavy-handed and unsubtle. The issue ends with Mr. Terrific randomly running into a bunch of KKK members.
SUPURBIA #9 (Boom!, 2013) – untitled, [W] Grace Randolph, [A] Russell Dauterman. This issue is very heavy on plot, and is hard for a new reader to understand. It really feels like just a typical superhero comic, with a slightly heavier focus on the superheroes’ supporting cast. The “Real Housewives” gimmick matters less than one would expect. Russell Dauterman’s art in this issue is already noticeably better than in issue 3.
INCREDIBLE HULK #230 (Marvel, 1978) – “Harvester from Beyond!”, [W] Elliot S! Maggin, [A] Sal Buscema. This issue is weird, but in a good way. At first it looks like a very routine story in which the Hulk is kidnapped a bug-eyed alien. The surprise comes when we learn what the alien wants the Hulk for. The Hulk has just been hanging out in a cornfield and has a lot of dirt under his fingernails, and the alien needs the dirt because his own planet’s soil is devoid of nutrients. So the alien literally saves his planet by giving the Hulk a manicure. Hulk #230 is just one of six comics Maggin ever wrote for Marvel. Four of them were published in 1977 or 1978, and the other two in the mid-‘90s. Elliot’s style was much better suited to DC than Marvel, but I wonder what else he could have done with Marvel characters, if he’d gotten the chance.
CAPTION ACTION CAT: THE TIMESTREAM CATASTROPHE! #3 (Dynamite, 2014) –untitled, [W/A] Art Baltazar, [W] Franco & Chris “Zod” Smits. This is a pretty typical Baltazar-Franco comic. Its unusual aspect is that it’s also a crossover between 1) Captain Action, 2) Dark Horse properties such as X and Ghost, and 3) Baltazar and Franco’s own Action Cat characters.
STRAY BULLETS #9 (El Capitán, 1996) – “Twenty-Eight Guys Named Nick,” [W/A] David Lapham. This is a confusing issue because it only seems to include one guy named Nick. Also, Nick is a pretty strange character. He’s a rather pathetic loser, a small-time criminal who lives with his mother and pretends he has a girlfriend. But his confidence never wavers, and at the end of the issue he commits an act of true heroism, saving two men from much worse criminals than himself. Maybe the point of the title is that Nick is a different character on every page.
DYLAN DOG #47 (Bonelli, 1995) – “Scritto con il sangue,” [W] Claudio Chiaverotti, [A] Giuseppe Montanari & Ernesto Grassani. This requires a lot of explanation. While idly browsing Facebook’s Marketplace, I saw that someone was selling a large collection of Italian comics for just $75 total. I offered $65 and was accepted, and the seller delivered the comics the next day. It’s a huge collection – about 200 comics, including mostly Dylan Dog, Nick Raider and Alan Ford, but also some other stuff. These comics are in the Italian format, so most of them are paperbacks of 100 pages or more, printed on cheap paper with black-and-white art. I technically can’t read Italian, and I felt kind of guilty spending $65 for comics I can’t read. But I can read Spanish, which is fairly similar, and I love the Italian style of artwork.
I haven’t had time to actually read many of these comics yet, but I have made a start. I began with the oldest issue of Dylan Dog in the collection. Dylan Dog is a combination of the crime and horror genres; the main character is a detective who investigates cases with a supernatural aspect. His sidekick is Groucho, who is identical to Groucho Marx. If the two issues I’ve read so far are typical, then Dylan Dog’s cases usually turn out to have a purely rational explanation, and he usually sleeps with his female clients.
It took me a whole evening to read Dylan Dog #47. I recognized a lot of words from Spanish, but I had to look up a lot of other words, and there are also some idioms that don’t translate. Groucho is a particular problem because he talks a lot, and his dialogue is full of puns. But this issue was worth the effort of reading it. Dylan Dog is genuinely scary. This particular issue is about a serial killer who targets a female psychoanalyst’s patients, and the murder scenes are brutal. This comic seems targeted at adult readers and would not be appropriate for younger kids. The black-and-white art, with heavy spotting of blacks, adds to the effect of horror. But the issue is also full of sarcastic humor, and the female protagonist is quite sexy. I was really impressed with this comic, and I hope I can find some time soon to read some more of them. See also my review of #48 below.
New comics received on May 31:
FANTASTIC FOUR #10 (Marvel, 2019) – “Neighboring Realm,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Paco Medina w/ Kevin Libranda. Franklin and Valeria are not adjusting well to their new life on Yancy Street, so the adult FF members decide to throw a block party. Of course some Frost Giants show up to crash it. This is the best issue in several months; it’s full of funny moments and insightful character interactions. Easily the highlight of the issue is seeing Val team up with Lunella Lafayette. Both these characters are girl supergeniuses, but they’re very different, and they bounce off each other in a fun way. I especially love the panel where Lunella pokes the Frost Giant with a piece of iron, and he says “Ow! Quitteth that!”
THE MAGNIFICENT MS. MARVEL #3 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Minkyu Jung. Kamala and her parents arrive at the alien planet of Saffa, but it soon becomes clear that the aliens have been lying to them, and that Saffa is actually a cruel dictatorship. That’s hardly a surprising development, but the real excitiing thing about this issue is that it’s narrated by Kamala’s mom, and she has a fascinating perspective that we haven’t seen before. On Twitter, my colleague Adrienne Resha pointed out that Saladin Ahmed intentionally avoids translating the Urdu and Arabic words in this issue, and instead expects the reader to figure them out (https://twitter.com/AdrienneResha/status/1134915275827142656). This is a good choice because it shows trust in the reader: Saladin assumes that if you don’t know what the Urdu words mean, you’re able and willing to look them up. However, there’s one phrase in this issue that I couldn’t understand, even after Googling: “beh maan larka.”
POPE HATS #6 (AdHouse, 2019) – “Shapeshifter,” [W/A] Hartley Lin. The first post-Young Frances issue of Pope Hats is a series of autobiographical vignettes, mostly focusing on the experience of new fatherhood. This comic is extremely well-done and has a lot of emotional charge. However, it also reminds me a lot of many other autobio or semi-autobio comics by many other artists, ranging from Seth to Michel Rabagliati to Adrian Tomine. It’s hard to detect what makes Hartley Lin’s voice different from the voice of another cartoonist. Young Frances was a brilliant work because of its story and characterization, and Pope Hats #6 doesn’t have much of either. But it is good that Hartley Lin is trying something new, and he is unquestionably a major new talent.
LUMBERJANES: SOMEWHERE THAT’S GREEN #1 (Boom!, 2019) – “Somewhere That’s Green,” [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Alexa Bosy. In the latest Lumberjanes one-shot, a adventure begins when Ripley discovers some lost green kittens. It turns out the kittens have escaped from the farm of some “epimeliads”: nymphs who care for plant livestock, like “vegetable lambs, vampire pumpkins, hydra vines.” This is perhaps the cutest and sappiest Lumberjanes comic yet, and not in a bad way. It’s an entire issue full of sheer adorableness, which is balanced by a generous dose of weirdness. The giant rideable pumpkin beasts are especially cute/bizarre.
ASCENDER #2 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Andy and Bandit (tidnaB?) are reunited, but Mother’s goons arrive to investigate, and Mila has to kill one of them to save her dad. Andy, Bandit and Mila have to leave their home to find sanctuary with Telsa. This issue includes no major surprises, but it’s exciting. The best moment of the issue is the scene with Mother’s giant disembodied eye.
CODA #12 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. An epic conclusion to Si Spurrier’s best series yet. Hum and Serka manage to save the day despite themselves, and they ride off into the sunset toward a new life that won’t be determined by preexisting stories. I didn’t notice until just now that Hum lost his leg.
IMMORTAL HULK #18 (Marvel, 2019) – “Necessary,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. This issue offers a sort of pause for breath, as Doc Samson and Walter Langkowski look for the Hulk, while the Hulk tries to sort out his situation. The issue ends with the promised fight between the Hulk and the Abomination.
MY LITTLE PONY: SPIRIT OF THE FOREST #1 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Brenda Hickey. This is another miniseries starring the Cutie Mark Crusaders, and it even alludes to the previous such series, Ponyville Mysteries. (“We need to do a stakeout! Just like we did when we were detectives!” “Ooh, that was a fun week!”) On a camping trip, the CMC look for the mysterious Spirit of the Forest, but instead they find that Filthy Rich is cutting the forest down. The Spirit of the Forest seems uncomfortably similar to the Great Seedling from the recent episode “Going to Seed.”
X-23 #12 (Marvel, 2019) – “Dear Gabby Conclusion,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Diego Olortegui. Laura rescues Gabby, and they resolve their relationship problem. And that’s the end of the series. Like many of her other comics, Mariko’s X-23 suffered from an overly fast pace. But overall it was a fun series with a lot of passion, and I’m sorry it didn’t last longer.
MARVEL RISING #3 (Marvel, 2019) – “Heroes of the Round Table!”, [W] Nilah Magruder, [A] Roberto Di Salvo & Georges Duarte. This series is a major disappointment. The plot is unexciting, and there’s no real characterization; the characters are impossible to tell apart. It seems impossible to write a boring comic that stars Kamala Khan, Doreen Green and Miles Morales, but Nilah Magruder has managed to do it. I canceled my order for issue 5.
WAR OF THE REALMS: WAR SCROLLS #2 (Marvel, 2019) – “The God Without Fear Part Two,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Andrea Sorrentino, plus other stories. This issue’s Aaron-Sorentino Daredevil story is not the best work that either creator is capable of. I’m losing interest in Daredevil, and Andrea Sorrentino’s brilliant storytelling is not well adapted to superhero comics. Devin Grayson’s story starring Dr. Strange is just average. The high point of the issue is “Wiccan & Hulkling in My Drag Brunch with Loki,” whose title is accurate.
THOR #13 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Ballad of Cul Borson, God of Fear,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mike del Mundo. Another issue with no Thor, except in flashbacks. Instead, this issue focuses on Cul, who redeems himself by giving his life to save some imprisoned dark elf children. Cul’s final act of heroism is powerful, and the scenes with the elf kids reveal that Malekith is just as cruel to his own people as his enemies. The “crimes” for which the kids are imprisoned are heartwrenching; one of the kids was enslaved for crying at his father’s funeral.
BLACK PANTHER #12 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Gathering of My Name,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Jen Bartel & Kris Anka. T’Challa visits the Djalia and then embarks on his journey home. He wakes up and encounters an Emperor of Wakanda who doesn’t look familiar. Not a whole lot happens in this issue, but T’Challa and Storm’s pillow talk is a cute scene. TNC is the only writer who has convinced me that T’Challa and Storm are a real couple.
DOG DAYS OF SUMMER #1 (DC, 2019) – various stories, [E] Alex Antone & Dave Wielgosz. This 80-page giant includes a number of stories about pets and other animals. The best story may be the first one, a poignant exploration of Superman and Krypto’s relationship. I also like Willow’s story that stars Ferdinand the minotaur chef. But the other stories range from average to terrible, and in general this comic is not nearly as fun as it should have been.
CATWOMAN ANNUAL #1 (DC, 2019) – untitled, [W] Joëlle Jones, [A] Elena Casagrande, Hugo Petrus & Scott Godlewski. Catwoman battles the Immortal Man, as well as a number of her former proteges who have betrayed her. This issue is fairly well done, but it didn’t leave much of an impression on me. Like many annuals, it feels like an afterthought rather than an integral part of the series.
THE FORGOTTEN QUEEN #4 (Valiant, 2019) – untitled, [W] Tini Howard, [A] Amilcar Pinna. A pointless conclusion to an unimpressive series. I shouldn’t have ordered any issues of this comic, and I’m going to think twice before buying any more comics by Tini Howard.
BAD LUCK CHUCK #3 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Lela Gwenn, [A] Matthew Dow Smith. This is better than the previous issue, and I like the scenes in the Tibetan monastery. But this miniseries has just been average at best, and I’m not sorry I didn’t order issue 4.
X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN – X-TINCTION #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “X-Tinction,” [W/A] Ed Piskor. The final chapter of Ed Piskor’s latest masterpiece focuses on the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, which were the worst era of Claremont’s X-Men. During this period, Claremont seemed to lack a coherent plan, and the plot changed direction so frequently that it was hard to tell what the status quo was. As in previous issues, Ed’s major achievement is to make sense of Claremont’s scattered plot threads and to make them seem like a single coherent narrative. This issue is notable for depicting of Cyclops as the horrible jerk we all know he is. Even before Jean comes back, Scott is already tired of his marriage to Madelyne, and then when Jean shows up, Scott abandons his new family at the drop of a hat. For some reason, this issue mostly refers to the villain of Fall of the Mutants as the Trickster instead of the Adversary.
PETER CANNON, THUNDERBOLT #5 (Dynamite, 2019) – “Watch Part Five: For a New Society,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Casper Wijngaard. The good Peter Cannon defeats the evil one by tearing him apart with a nine-panel grid, thus demonstrating “the dangers of unrelenting deconstruction.” It looks like the series is going to end with another familiar line – “I leave it entirely in your hands” – but there’s one page after that, where Peter decides to give up on formalism and “repeating easy signifiers.” Overall, this series is a far better sequel to Watchmen than anything DC is capable of producing, and it’s one of the smartest comics Kieron Gillen has ever written.
PUNKS NOT DEAD: LONDON CALLING #4 (IDW, 2019) – “…To the Imitation Zone,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Martin Simmonds. Sparrow betrays Fergie to his pursuers, but Beleth shows up and saves Fergie, and father and son are finally reunited. There’s only one issue left. This series has been great, and I’ll be sorry to see it end.
FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2013 (AVENGERS/HULK) #1 (Marvel, 2019) – two stories, [W/A] Joe Caramagna et al. This is barely a comic book at all; it consists of a sequence of shots from two TV cartoon episodes, arranged into comics pages. The original animation artwork was not meant to be seen at this size, so it’s often very blurry. Joe Caramagna’s adaptation leaves out a lot of essential information, without which the plots make no sense. This issue was a poor choice for an FCBD comic.
JSA #81 (DC, 2006) – “My Heroes,” [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Dale Eaglesham. This issue focuses on Geoff Johns’s pet character, Stargirl. The basic theme of the issue is Courtney’s struggle to become a good daughter. The issue ends with Courtney’s stepdad Pat calling her a wonderful daughter. That may be true, but earlier in the issue, Pat’s biological son Mike accuses Pat of being a better father to Courtney than to him (Mike), and in my opinion, Mike is completely right. It seems like Johns is giving Courtney special treatment just because she’s his protagonist.
MIRACLEMAN #8 (Marvel, 2014) – “Bodies,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Chuck Austen. I bought this thinking that it would fill a gap in my collection between Miracleman #7 and #9, but it turns out that this issue is a reprint of the Eclipse Miracleman #7. (Marvel’s first seven issues of Miracleman don’t contain the same stories as the Eclipse issues with the same numbers; Marvel chose to spread out those stories across seven issues rather than six.) So this comic is redundant, but I can’t get rid of it, because it also includes a reprinted ‘50s story which is not represented elsewhere in my collection. In addition, this issue includes the bonus pages from Eclipse’s Miracleman #8 that explain why that issue was a reprint. However, on one of those pages, an entire word balloon is relettered in order to replace the name “Alan Moore” with “The Original Writer.”
KABOOM! SUMMER BLAST FCBD EDITION (Boom!, 2014) – various stories, [E] Shannon Watters. This issue includes a preview of Herobear and the Kid: Saving Time, as well as a number of stories based on various licensed properties. None of this material is very good; the best thing in the issue is a Garfield story written by Mark Evanier. I’m glad that Boom! is now focusing on developing new material, as well as licensed-property comics.
SUPER DINOSAUR #22 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Jason Howard. The evil dinosaurs invade the Dynamo Dome. Derek’s mom finally wakes up, but seems determined to “sacrifice Super Dinosaur to save my family.” I really don’t miss this series very much.
WATSON AND HOLMES #6 (New Paradigm, 2013) – untitled, [W] Brandon Easton, [A] N. Steven Harris. I bought this comic because it was nominated for an Eisner for Best Single Issue, but I never got around to reading it. This series is obviously a Sherlock Holmes adaptation, but with the twist that Holmes and Watson are black men living in Harlem. The characters and setting are depicted convincingly, and the plot addresses the serious topics of human trafficking and transphobia. Despite somewhat poor production values, this comic is a worthy Eisner candidate, though I wouldn’t have voted for it (it was up against Hawkeye #11).
AQUAMAN SPECIAL #1 (DC, 1988) – “The Missing Peace,” [W] Gary Cohn & Dan Mishkin, [A] George Freeman. A rather weird story in which Aquaman has to defeat a villain named Magus in order to obtain the missing half of his soul. This issue has a rather bright and cheerful tone, which is odd since Aquaman’s history has been so full of tragedies. Arthur Curry Jr’s death is only mentioned in one panel.
ELFQUEST #1 (Warp, 1996) – “Wild Hunt,” [W] Joellyn Auklandus, [A] Steve Blevins, plus other stories. This series continues all the storylines from Warp’s various Elfquest spinoff titles. I have mixed feelings about even Wendy and Richard Pini’s Elfquest stories, so I have even more mixed feelings about Elfquest stories by other creators. In this issue’s first story, some elves allow a human boy to see them, and the boy is sacrificed to a monster as a result. This is kind of brutal, but it’s depicted with insufficient gravity and doesn’t have much of an impact on the reader. The third story, “Rogue’s Curse,” is probably the best; it’s about Rayek’s obsession with Winnowill, which is one of the main driving forces of the Elfquest saga.
ADVENTURE COMICS #457 (DC, 1978) – “A Fire Within,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] Joe Staton. Superboy is targeted by anti-alien extremists. As with Journey into Mystery #4, this story is an obvious allegory for racism, but such an allegory was a much less daring choice in the ‘70s than the ‘50s. This issue also includes an Eclipso backup story with art by Joe Orlando, but it’s not especially good art.
CLAW THE UNCONQUERED #8 (DC, 1976) – “Master of the Seventh Void,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] Keith Giffen. This was much better than I expected. David must have been reading a lot of Michael Moorcock around this time, because this comic has a very Moorcockian plot: Claw has to travel to the realm of Chaos in order to retrieve a magical sword. And the villain even used to live in one of the “seven planes of Law.” For that matter, Claw himself is similar to Corum in that they both have a magical prosthetic hand, although that may be a coincidence. Giffen’s art also shows a Moorcockian influence, perhaps filtered through Philippe Druillet. There are panels in Claw #8 that suggest that Giffen he was already reading Druillet, who he blatantly swiped from in LSH vol. 3.
CALIFORNIA GIRLS #3 (Eclipse, 1987) – “Let Sleeping Cats Lie,” [W/A] Trina Robbins. This series also came up in my research for my Amethyst and Angel Love paper, but I haven’t read it before. California Girls is extremely similar to Meet Misty, except in black and white and without the Millie the Model collection. Like Misty, California Girls is a high school comedy series that features reader-designed costumes, many of them by Renaldo Barnette. The best story in this issue is the first one, where one of the girls buys a very sleepy cat. In fact, it’s not just sleepy, it’s dead. But wait, it was never alive to begin with; it’s a toy, not a real cat. Of course, with Trina’s art style, it’s impossible to tell the difference between a live cat and a fake one.
PUMA BLUES #1 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1990) – “The Puma Blues, Part 1,” [W] Stephen Murphy, [A] Michael Zulli. A strange and compelling comic, about a man who becomes a park ranger during a near-future period of environmental catastrophe. This comic has a very minimal plot and is quite difficult to follow, but the plot isn’t the point. It’s more invested in depicting the simultaneous beauty and precarity of nature, and therefore it seems very relevant to the present cultural moment. Michael Zulli’s artwork is brilliant; it enforces a slow reading pace because of its extreme level of detail, but that may be intentional.
ARCHIE’S MADHOUSE #68 (Archie, 1968) – various stories, [W] George Gladir, [A] Stan Goldberg. I think I bought this issue because of the psychedelic artwork on the cover. Madhouse went through a large number of renamings and format changes, but at this time it was a parody of hippie culture. There is one story in Madhouse #68 that’s interesting in that context; it’s about a school that teaches students to live an “outtasite” lifestyle. However, everything else in this issue is overshadowed by a grossly racist two-page sequence in which Sabrina travels back in time to Pocahontas’s era. The artist reproduces all the old Indian stereotypes, and he clearly did no research on what Pocahontas’s people looked like.
UNCLE SCROOGE #227 (Gladstone, 1988) – “As You Hike It,” [W] Jan Kruse, [A] Rob Phielix. This issue’s main story also includes some unfortunate depictions of Native Americans. The plot is that a Native American chieftain is giving away as much land as a man can walk around in a day, so Scrooge gets his nephews to help him walk around all the most valuable land. This plot is based on the perhaps legendary Walking Purchase of 1737, which has been a source of contention between the U.S. and the Delaware tribe for centuries. The idea of Native Americans giving their land away for free is offensive to begin with, and the Native Americans in this story are depicted inaccurately: they live in tepees and build totem poles. In real life, there were no tribes that did both. Barks’s own depictions of indigenous people are very problematic, but at least he knew better than to make this mistake: his story “Land of the Totem Poles” is correctly set in the Pacific Northwest. Uncle Scrooge #227 does have some Barks stories and a Rosa story, but the latter is just a two-pager.
SPYBOY/YOUNG JUSTICE #3 (Dark Horse, 2002) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Todd Nauck & Pop Mhan. This crossover series offers none of the excitement or cleverness of the original Young Justice comic, and it doesn’t give me any reason to want to read the Spyboy comic.
ALL-NEW DOOP #2 (Marvel, 2014) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] David Lafuente. This issue is very cumbersome to read because it’s full of Doop speak, but Doop’s dialogue is lettered in a different font than usual, so the online Doop translators don’t work. By the end of the next issue, I gave up trying to translate Doop’s dialogue and just ignored it instead. Also, this series has a creepy plot in which Doop is trying to convince Kitty Pryde to marry him. David Lafuente’s art is not bad, and this comic has some interesting metatextual moments, because Doop has the power to travel between panels. But overall I did not enjoy this issue.
ALL-NEW DOOP #3 (Marvel, 2014) – as above. See previous review. I neglected to mention that this issue is a Battle of the Atom crossover, which makes it even harder to follow than it already was. I think Doop is funnier when he’s just a background character. When you try to tell stories about him, the joke gets stretched too thin.
NOWHERE MEN #4 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Eric Stephenson, [A] Nate Bellegarde. Like Watson & Holmes, this series was nominated for an Eisner, but I think it shouldn’t have been. It has an incomprehensible and confusing plot about an alliance of four scientists. Without having read the previous three issues, the reader is completely lost. The main thing I liked about this issue was Jordie Bellaire’s coloring. Oh, also this comic includes some long blocks of unillustrated text. I have said many times that when I read a comic, I want to read comics, not prose.
DAREDEVIL #195 (Marvel, 1983) – “Betrayal,” [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Klaus Janson. Denny O’Neil wrote some reasonably good issues of Daredevil, but this isn’t one of them. The main event of this issue is that Heather Glenn gets drunk and reveals Matt’s secret identity to a complete stranger, who turns out to be a villain. The villain conveniently dies, but the damage to Heather’s reputation is already done. Heather made only one further appearance – in Daredevil #220, where she committed suicide. Heather Glenn is perhaps the worst superhero girlfriend in the Marvel universe, and her awfulness is mostly Denny’s fault. Frank Miller wrote her out of the series in issue 189, but then Denny brought her back, turned her into an irresponsible alcoholic, and then made her kill herself.
ELFQUEST: THE HIDDEN YEARS #8 (Warp, 1993) – “Daughter’s Day,” [W] Sarah Byam, [A] Paul Abrams. This is better than the previous Elfquest comic I read. It focuses on Rayek’s attempt to fix his relationship with his daughter Venka. It’s a fairly touching story. Rayek may be the most compelling character in Elfquest, and much of the franchise’s plot revolves around his dual obsessions with Winnowill and Leetah.
RONIN #4 (DC, 1984) – untitled, [W/A] Frank Miller. At the time I read this, I had had it longer than any other unread comic book in my collection. It was at the very back of my boxes of unread comics, which are arranged in order of when I got the comics. Ronin’s plot is hard to follow, and its draftsmanship is ugly and overcomplicated. It’s not on the same plane of quality as DKR or even Sin City. However, Ronin is important for historical reasons. It was an early example of a prestige-format comic that was sold through the direct market and was marketed to fans of its author’s previous work. Also, both the plot and the art style reveal a heavy manga influence. It’s obvious that Miller was reading a lot of Lone Wolf and Cub at the time.
ELFQUEST: NEW BLOOD #12 (Warp, 1993) – “War, Part Two,” [W] Wendy Pini, [A] Barry Blair. Besides Rob Liefeld, Barry Blair was the worst comic book artist of the ‘80s and ‘90s. He was a severe racist, and his depictions of children and teenagers were exploitative and quasi-pornographic. This issue of Elfquest is not racist, but it’s full of sexualized depictions of boys and young men; conversely, Blair seems very reluctant to draw women with breasts. In terms of the story, this comic is about a raid on Sorrow’s End, and it’s pretty depressing.
THE FOX #2 (Archie, 2014) – “Freak Magnet Part Two: Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” [W/A] Dean Haspiel, [W] Mark Waid. This comic isn’t spectacular, but at least it’s fun. While traveling in some sort of alternate dimension, the Fox encounters a woman named the Queen of Diamonds, who is recruiting heroes to defeat an evil druid. The most entertaining thing about this issue is the Queen of Diamonds’s bizarre syntax. Example: “Under druid’s mystical, my husband-king violenced the men of pulp and courage. – And, of swiftness, the druid surgeried them into captive scaries.”
SUPERBOY #55 (DC, 1998) – “Hexed,” [W] Karl Kesel, [A] Scott Kolins. In #54, reviewed in a previous post, Superboy saved a model named Hex from a gargoyle. This issue, that plotline continues, and Hex is possessed by the spirit of her namesake, Jonah Hex. This is a fun comic, though again, the lack of Tom Grummett art is unfortunate.
VIGILANTE #18 (DC, 1985) – “Father’s Day Part II,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jim Baikie. A long time ago someone told me that this comic wasn’t up to Alan Moore’s usual level of quality, but I disagree. This issue isn’t his absolute best work, but it’s a powerful story about a murderous criminal who kidnaps his daughter from her mother. The villain in this story is appallingly evil, and I was thrilled at the scene where Vigilante’s love interest kills him. Jim Baikie’s art is excellent; it reminds me of Dave Gibbons’s early work. I need to track down Vigilante #17, which was the first part of this story.
MARSHAL LAW #2 (Epic, 1988) – “Evilution,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. This is a potentially interesting comic with an all-star creative team. However, it’s ruined by a brutal, offensive scene in which Law’s girlfriend is raped and murdered. At that point, if not before, Marshal Law becomes worse than any of the grim-and-gritty comics it’s parodying. I will not be in a hurry to read any more of Marshal Law.
THE AUTHORITY #5 (Wildstorm, 1999) – “Shiftships One of Four,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Bryan Hitch. I have never been able to get into this series; its staple “widescreen” art style seems like just an excuse for overly decompressed storytelling. But this issue is interesting. The issue begins with a sequence set in a strange, corrupt alternate Britain ruled by aliens. And then this alternate reality invades the Authority’s earth. After reading this issue, I actually wanted to read the next one.
ELFQUEST: SIEGE AT BLUE MOUNTAIN #8 (Apple, 1988) – “Siege at Blue Mountain,” [W/A] Wendy Pini, [W] Richard Pini. Unlike the last two Elfquest comics I reviewed, this one is an integral part of the saga of the Wolfriders, and it’s written and drawn by Wendy Pini. As a result, it’s much more interesting. I’ve always found it hard to follow Elfquest’s plot, but in this issue the Wolfriders escape from Blue Mountain, and the kidnapped baby Windkin is rescued.
SLEEPER SEASON TWO #3 (Wildstorm, 2004) – “The Manipulations,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Sleeper’s protagonist, Holden Carver, is ordered to assassinate a woman named Philomena M’Batu. She tells him some disturbing information about the person who gave him that order, but he kills her anyway. Because of its superhero trappings and its connection to the Wildstorm universe, I’ve never liked Sleeper as much as other Brubaker-Phillips titles
ELFQUEST: BLOOD OF TEN CHIEFS #11 (Warp, 1994) – “The Broken Circle – Part Two,” [W] Terry Collins, [A] Steve Blevins. A flashback story in which a young Cutter and Skywise have a vision of Timmain… at least that’s what I think happens, but it’s not clear. This issue is forgettable.
MORNING GLORIES #6 (Image, 2011) – untitled, [W] Nick Spencer, [A] Joe Eisma. I already read this issue in trade paperback format. I used to like Morning Glories, but in hindsight it has two major flaws: an overly complicated plot that never went anywhere, and a lack of sympathetic characters.
DYLAN DOG #48 (Bonelli, 1995) – “Horror Paradise,” [W] Michele Medda, Antonio Serra & Bepi Vigna, [A] Claudio Castellini. This issue was much easier to read than #47; even a little bit of experience reading Italian helps a lot. It was also an even better comic, because the art is phenomenal. This was one of just a couple Dylan Dog comics drawn by the brilliant Claudio Castellini. Its plot is that people are being murdered by movie monsters such as a Xenomorph and Freddy Krueger, and a deceased film director named Alfred Hotchkiss (i.e. Hitchcock) is somehow involved. This story is perfectly suited to its artist, because all the monsters turn out to be animatronic robots, and Castellini’s greatest talent is his ability to draw complicated, intricate machines. His action sequences are also incredible, and overall he reminds me of John Byrne in his prime. Castellini went on to do a few comics for the American market, most notably DC versus Marvel. According to the Italian Wikipedia, his style is so time-consuming that he stopped doing comic books and now only does commissions. It’s a pity that this incredible artist is not better known to American readers.
INVISIBLES #15 (DC, 1995) – “Sheman, Part Three: Apocalipstick,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Jill Thompson. I’ve never been able to get into this series, but I just read Douglas Wolk’s Reading Comics, and he has a chapter on Invisibles. After reading that chapter, I had a better idea of what this series is about, and I felt like trying it again. This issue is mostly about a transgender character who travels to a Mesoamerican underworld, and also there’s another plot involving King Mob. Overall I liked this comic, and while I still don’t quite get Invisibles, I can see why Wolk thinks it’s Morrison’s central work.
THE AUTHORITY #6 (Wildstorm, 1999) – “Shiftships Two of Four,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Bryan Hitch. This issue continues the story of the parallel world, Sliding Albion, and also explains the history of its relations with Earth. Again, it’s not bad, although I still don’t understand why this series is so famous.
CONAN THE BARBARIAN #26 (Marvel, 1973) – “The Hour of the Griffin!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] John Buscema. I bought this years ago but never read it, because I assumed I’d already read it in the first Essential Conan volume. It turns out that Conan #26 is the first issue not included in that volume. This issue concludes the ongoing Living Tarim saga. The forces of Turan conquer Makkalet and kill its king, along with the Tarim, but they dress a corpse up in its clothing and pretend it’s him. Conan wants to run off with the king’s wife, but it turns out she’s pregnant, so she has to found a new Makkalet somewhere else. Conan heads off to new adventures. This issue is okay, but Roy would go on to write better Conan comics.
THE INVISIBLES #1 (Vertigo, 1997) – “Black Science Part One: Bangin’,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Phil Jiménez. In the first issue of.a new volume, the Invisibles gather at a safehouse. Then they head off on a new mission: to invade a facility in New Mexico and steal an HIV cure that’s existed since 1978. Then there’s a scene in which Lord Fanny, a female-presenting transgender character, goes into a men’s bathroom, resulting in a violent confrontation with some hicks. The Invisibles seems to have been ahead of the curve in its treatment of transgender issues.
BLAZE BROTHERS #1 (IDW, 2013) – untitled, [W] Vernon Whitlock III & Matthew Scott Krentz, [A] Marat Mychaels & Dietrich Smith. A wildly implausible, disgustingly violent Tarantino ripoff, drawn in a sub-Liefeldian style. Marat Mychaels was an even more inept artist than Liefeld himself, and I can’t believe he’s still getting work. I suppose this comic would appeal to people who like this sort of thing, but to me it’s awful, and I can’t believe it was published by a company of the caliber of IDW.
WEIRD WESTERN TALES #46 (DC, 1978) – “The Savage Streets,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Dick Ayers. In the midst of the Civil War, Bat Lash and Scalphunter are trying to steal a new model of gatling gun, but a bunch of other people on both sides of the war are also looking for it. Scalphunter is a very boring character, but his interactions with Bat Lash are funny, and Conway has a pretty good handle on Bat Lash’s unique personality.
BLACK WIDOW #1 (Marvel, 2014) – “Raison d’Etre,” [W] Nathan Edmondson, [A] Phil Noto. Nathan Edmondson is a notorious sexual harasser, and as a result he’s no longer working in comics, and good riddance to him. Because of this, I was kind of unpleasantly surprised to discover that Black Widow #1 is quite a good comic. It’s an exciting espionage story with distinctive artwork. However, I don’t plan to buy any more of Edmondson’s comics.
NOWHERE MEN #6 (Image, 2013) – as above. This was a little less difficult than issue 4, but only a little. The layout and design of this comic are better than the comic itself.
AIR #15 (Vertigo, 2010) – “Air Heart,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] M.K. Perker. I just realized that this issue’s title is a pun. Air #15 is hard to follow, but it’s mostly about Amelia Earhart and her return from wherever she vanished to. Air was Willow’s first major series, and it lacks most of the characteristic themes and concerns of her other work.
WILDC.A.T.S #30 (Image, 1996) – “Fire from Heaven Chapter 13,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Travis Charest & Ryan Benjamin. Travis Charest only did the first five pages of this issue. Embarrassingly, I couldn’t tell the difference between his art and Ryan Benjamin’s. This issue of WildC.A.T.s is a fairly exciting adventure comic, but that’s all it is. It’s not a major Alan Moore work.
New comics received on June 10:
GIANT DAYS #51 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. I had to read this first because issue 50 ended on such a shocking cliffhanger. At his father’s funeral, John McGraw maintains such a stoic, stiff-upper-lip attitude that his friends worry about him. Finally, during a visit to the Peak District, John breaks down and sobs. This issue is a plausible and realistic depiction of the grieving process, and it’s one of the best issues of the entire series. It shows that John Allison is capable of arousing emotions other than humor. Max Sarin also deserves credit for the expressivity of his characters’ faces. The issue ends with Esther getting an interview for a job in London.
PAPER GIRLS #29 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. The girls finally defeat Jahpo, who I guess is the primary villain, but then their younger selves force them to undergo a memory wipe. There’s one more issue left, and who knows what will happen in it. I still want to read this entire series from the beginning.
RONIN ISLAND #4 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Giannis Milonogiannis. At the shogun’s castle, Kenichi discovers that the shogun’s head scientist has been killing people and turning them into monsters. Master Ito becomes a monster too, and Hana has to kill him. The castle burns down, and Kenichi decides to return to the island, while Hana stays with the shogun. This series has been rather brutal so far – much more so than Mech Cadet Yu. It’s hard to see how either Kenichi or Hana can get a happy ending. As a minor quibble, the food on the shogun’s table doesn’t look like Japanese food. It includes an entire roast chicken, which would be impossible to eat with chopsticks. I do like the parallelism in this sequence: Hana is just eating plain rice, but but she’s having a great time, while the shogun and his guests are eating a lavish meal but not enjoying it at all.
MARVEL TEAM-UP #3 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Eve Ewing, [A] Joey Vazquez. Peter and Kamala defeat the Jackal and are restored to their own bodies. This issue wasn’t as fun as the last two, but I really enjoyed this whole storyline. I’m sorry that Eve Ewing won’t be the permanent writer for this title. Speaking of food again, I can’t quite identify any of the dishes on the Khans’ table.
CAPTAIN MARVEL #6 (Marvel, 2019) –“Strange Trip Part 1,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Annapaola Martello. Carol has a vision in which she and Dr. Strange defeat the Enchantress. But the Enchantress has the same vision, so she decides to prevent it from coming true by making Carol and Doc switch bodies. Wait, didn’t I just read another comic where a superhero and a superheroine switch bodies? Oh well. The bigger problem with this issue is that Kelly Thompson still hasn’t developed a distinctive approach to this series; she hasn’t defined who Captain Marvel is, or what her comic is about. The first five issues of Captain Marvel were a single long epic, and the issue after that is part of a crossover. If this issue had been a quieter, more contemplative story, it could have done more to establish Carol’s character.
BEASTS OF BURDEN: THE PRESENCE OF OTHERS #2 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “The Presence of Others,” [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Jill Thompson. The animals and humans escape from a murder of crows, then the dad shoots Ace and tries to drive off with one of the other dogs. But Ace returns to life as a werewolf and runs the dad’s car off the road. The humans leave Burden Hill, but are severely traumatized by their experience. This issue includes perhaps the scariest moment in the entire Beasts of Burden series. The animals see a strange black tree that’s swaying in the wind, even though there’s no wind. And then the tree explodes into a giant cloud of crows. Evan said on Twitter that this is “the last main series issue for a while”; I hope it’s not too long a while.
THE DREAMING #10 (DC, 2019) – “Empty Shells,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Bilquis Evely. Dora and Matthew follow Daniel’s trail to Hell, where they meet a (badly) rhyming demon named Balam. This character appeared in issue 1, but I’ve forgotten all about him. Balam leads them to see the Biblical Serpent. There’s a really cool sequence where Baalam says that to visit the serpent you have to “adjust [you]r persepctive,” and the direction of reading changes from right-side-up to sideways. Dora and Matthew’s next stop is World’s End, from the Sandman storyline of the same name. Meanwhile in the Dreaming, the Moth and Abel are very confused as to what’s going on.
GREEN LANTERN #8 (DC, 2019) – “Space Junkies,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. While pursuing some dealers of extraterrestrial drugs, Hal and Ollie encounter Xeen Lantern and Xeen Arrow, who are versions of themselves from a higher dimension. Accordingly, XL and XA have the ability to move outside the panel, and there’s a scene at the end where Hal and Ollie are being crushed by panel borders. Besides being metatextual on a formal level, this issue is also an obvious tribute to the O’Neil/Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow. Throughout the issue Liam Sharp imitates Adams’s page layouts; an example is the last panel on page 10, where Hal’s head is projecting past the panel border. And Hal remarks that a painting in Ollie’s apartment is an “original Adams.”
ADVENTURES OF THE SUPER SONS #11 (DC, 2019) – “Gang War Part 2,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Carlo Barberi. It turns out the characters who showed up at the end of last issue are not Superman and Batman, but the adult Jon and Damian from earlier in the series. After a really entertaining fight scene, Jon, Damian and their allies defeat all the villains except Luthor, but Luthor goes back to Earth through a portal, and Jon and Damian have to follow him there. It’s too bad there’s just one issue left.
BIRTHRIGHT #36 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. The main event in this issue is a flashback to how the human world and the world of magic discovered each other. This issue doesn’t advance the plot all that much, but it makes me excited for what’s coming next.
WAR OF THE REALMS: AGENTS OF ATLAS #3 (Marvel, 2019) – “Fire and Ice Chapter Three,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Gang Hyuk Lim. This issue is mostly a series of action sequences, but when the heroes take a break for a meal, something amazing happens. One character says “All they have… is spam,” and four other characters – a Filipina, a Hawaiian, a Korean and a Korean-American – all say “Spam?” at once. And on the next page, we see the entire team eating spamsilog, spam fried rice, and spam musubi. The joke here is that while spam is considered a low-quality food in the contiguous U.S., it’s a valued ingredient in Filipino, Hawaiian and Korean cuisine. However, while all three of these cuisines use the same basic ingredients of spam and rice, they all do different things with them. Like the scene about pears in issue 1, the spam scene demonstrates the diversity of “Asian” culture, and also shows that Greg Pak is familiar with the various cultures he includes in this series.
WAR OF THE REALMS #5 (Marvel, 2019) – “The World Tree is Burning,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Russell Dauterman. I feel kind of ashamed to admit it, but I like this comic. It reminds me of the epic crossover stories I used to read, like Crisis on Infinite Earths or Age of Apocalypse. And it has some really excellent art. Also, there’s a panel in this issue where Broo is sitting on Gorilla-Man’s shoulder. This panel is unquestionably fanservice, but it works. This issue’s ending is rather abrupt.
SECTION ZERO #3 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Karl Kesel, [A] Tom Grummett. This issue begins with a scene where Sam meets a character who’s basically Madame Xanadu. This scene makes me suspect that Section Zero may have started out as a rejected Challengers of the Unknown proposal. In the rest of the issue, the Section Zero characters battle a villain called the Rat King in a sewer. I’m really enjoying this series; it’s essentially a continuation of Kesel and Grummett’s Superboy.
BLACK HAMMER ’45 #4 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “Give ‘Em Hell, Black Hammer!”, [W] Ray Fawkes w/ Jeff Lemire, [A] Matt Kindt. The WWII-era Black Hammer and the Ghost Hunter both get killed in a climactic duel. At the end of the issue we finally see how this series ties in to the bigger Black Hammer universe: the Hammer of 1945 was the predecessor of the other two characters of that name. Besides that, this miniseries was rather pointless, and it was easily the worst Black Hammer comic yet. I fear that if there are more Black Hammer series that aren’t written by Jeff Lemire, the brand might get diluted.
HASHTAG DANGER #2 (Ahoy, 2019) – “Through the Valley of Shadows Part 1,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Chris Giarrusso. Through inaction, the Hashtag Danger crew cause a horrible disaster, but all they care about is that no one is paying attention to them. To compensate, they decide to get a supervillain to fight. But in a flashforward sequence, we learn that the supervillain they find is their own teammate, Sugar. This comic has a very sarcastic, dark sense of humor that contrasts oddly with Chris Giarrusso’s cartoony art. This is the first time I’ve found Giarrusso’s art to be truly effective. None of the backup features impressed me much.
CRIMINAL #5 (Image, 2019) – “Night of the Hunter,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. This issue introduces us to a private detective, Dan Farraday, who is very good at finding people. He’s been asked to find a woman named Marina who was the mistress of an evil rich man. Dan finds her, but decides to betray his client and not tell him where Marina is. But Marina’s accomplice, Teeg Lawless, ambushes him, and when Dan wakes up, he decides to use his talents to track down Teeg and “rescue” Marina from him. Ed Brubaker is really good at telling stories like this one, where the reader is initially unclear on where the story is going or why it matters, and then suddenly it makes sense. We already know that Teeg Lawless is going to die, and now it looks like Dan will be the one to kill him.
INCREDIBLE HULK: LAST CALL #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “Last Call,” [W] Peter David, [A] Dale Keown. This one-shot is a tribute to PAD’s Hulk, but it lacks the humor or energy of PAD’s best Hulk stories. It feels like he’s just phoning it in. Also, Dale Keown’s version of Bruce Banner looks more like Peter Parker. The one truly impressive moment in this issue is the ending, where we learn that the hitman Bruce hired to kill himself was Deadpool.
RED SONJA #5 (Dynamite, 2019) – “Capture,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mirko Colak & Robert Carey. There are some really good lines of dialogue in this issue, like “Family is whatever remains when everything else deserts you.” But the dialogue is the only thing I liked about this issue. This series’ plot is going nowhere, and as I’ve noted before, it misrepresents the Conan universe. Zamora doesn’t seem like the kind of place that would have an expansionist empire – unlike, for example, Turan or Aquilonia. And I hesitate to point this out, but this story depicts the people of Koth as having dark skin, whereas every other comic depicts Kothians as proto-Europeans. This doesn’t matter on its own, but it suggests that Mark hasn’t familiarized himself with the universe he’s writing about.
IGNITED #1 (Humanoids, 2019) – “Triggered Part 1,” [W] Mark Waid & Kwanza Osajyefo, [A] Phil Briones. I expected this to be a typical teen superhero comic, but was surprised to discover that it’s also something more. This story takes place at a high school that was recently the site of a deadly shooting. The superheroes in this comic start out as hackers or pranksters who are angry at the school’s draconian security measures. This premise speaks to me personally because there was a shooting at my own school last month. I am furious at all the ineffective measures taken to “prevent” school shootings, like transparent backpacks or, God forbid, arming teachers. The only thing that will keep us from being shot is stronger gun legislation, and we all know that. We also know that the only reason why the obvious solution isn’t being tried, is because our nation’s political system is broken. So I have a lot of sympathy for the idea behind this comic, and that idea is executed fairly well. Phil Briones’s art is quite good. However, Mark Waid’s ability to write about teenagers has declined over time. He used to be the industry’s premier writer of teenage characters, but he’s fallen behind the curve.
DOMINO: HOTSHOTS #4 (Marvel, 2019) – “Cold War Part 4 of 5,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] David Baldeón & Michael Shelfer. This comic isn’t bad or anything, but I honestly don’t care what happens in it, and I’m glad I didn’t order issue 5. I’ve never felt any emotional connection to Domino or any of her teammates.
L.E.G.I.O.N. ’89 #3 (DC, 1989) – “How to Win Friends and Influence People!”, [W/A] Keith Giffen, [W] Alan Grant, [A] Barry Kitson. Vril Dox and his teammates seem to have defeated the Computer Tyrants of Colu, but in fact the tyrants have projected their minds into a robot body. Meanwhile, Garryn Bek and Lyrissa Mallor leave Colu in disgust, but their spaceship accidentally kills one of Lobo’s dolphins, and soon Vril and his teammates have both Lobo and the tyrants to deal with. This first LEGION storyline is weird because the series hasn’t yet found its premise. At this point, LEGION was not yet an intergalactic peacekeeping force, and Dox was more of a vigilante.