Post-Heroes-Con, pre-Comic-Con reviews

New comics received on Thursday, June 27:

RUNAWAYS #22 (Marvel, 2019) – “But You Can’t Hide IV,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Andrés Genolet. Karolina saves a falling window washer. Molly makes another failed attempt to feed Gib. But the main part of the issue focuses on the Chase/Gert/Victor love triangle.  It turns out Chase was waiting for Gert to get older so that their age gap wouldn’t be an issue, and now he’s pissed that she didn’t wait for him. Chase’s angry reaction to Gert and Victor’s relationship is understandable, but he’s clearly wrong to think that he has “dibs” on Gert. Oh, also, Victor resurrects the Doombot, but without the failsafe that stopped it from being evil. Runaways is technically a superhero comic, but in most superhero comics, the soap opera and day-in-the-life elements are secondary to the superheroic action, whereas in Runaways, the exploration of the characters’ relationships is the whole point of the series.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #7 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Life & Death of Conan Part Seven: Barbarian Love,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mahmud Asrar. Each issue of this storyline has examined on a different aspect of Conan, and this issue explores Conan’s sexy side. Conan hires five prostitutes, but not for the usual reason; instead, he takes them on a mysterious secret mission. We eventually realize that this story takes place just after Bêlit’s death, and Conan is using the five women as part of his plot to assassinate one of Bêlit’s old enemies. Of course, after the mission is accomplished, Conan sleeps with all five women at once. This is actually not the sexiest Conan story I’ve read, but it’s not bad. A line of dialogue at the end of the issue suggests that Conan and Zenobia only had one son; in the earlier Marvel continuity, they also had a second son.

DIAL H FOR HERO #4 (DC, 2019) – “Detroit City Blues,” [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Joe Quinones. This is the most visually striking issue yet, and that’s saying a lot. Miguel and Summer visit the JLA’s old Detroit headquarters, where they find Snapper Carr. Then they’re attacked by robots, and all three of them use the dial. Summer turns into Chimp Change, based on Frank Miller’s Sin City; Snapper turns into Alien Ice Cream Man, based on Moebius; and Miguel becomes Lil Miguelito, based on Dennis the Menace. Disappointed, Miguel dials again and turns into Nancy, Cathy, and Hagar the Horrible. Maybe the highlight of the whole series so far is the panel where Miguel has a Nancy hairstyle, a Hagar the Horrible helmet, and a T-shirt that says SUMMER IS LIT – a reference to the “Sluggo is lit” meme.  Joe Quinones deserves an Eisner nomination for the artistic virtuosity he’s shown in this series, and Sam Humphries’s writing isn’t bad either.

FANTASTIC FOUR #11 (Marvel, 2019) – “License to Quantum Drive,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] four artists. Franklin and Valeria have to take a driving test in order to be able to pilot the Fantasticar. This leads to some massive sibling rivalry, because Valeria is so much smarter than Franklin and seems guaranteed to pass the test, and Franklin resents her for it. Of course, the driving test is interrupted by a villain from Microworld, and Franklin ends up passing the test while Valeria fails. I’m a bit surprised by Dan Slott’s depiction of Franklin, but I think it’s reasonable. For most of his history, Franklin was too young to have a clearly defined personality. His main distinguishing quality was his extreme power, and it makes sense that his loss of that power troubles him so much. Dan Slott seems to share Brian K. Vaughan’s love of water bears.

ISOLA #8 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Brenden Fletcher, [W/A] Karl Kerschl, [A] Msassyk. In this issue, Rook falls ill and is nursed by a witch named Miluše. But it soon becomes clear that Miluše kidnapped the kids from the mining town in issue 7. Besides Christian Ward, Karl Kerschl is the best artist in comic books right now. It’s just too bad that this comic comes out so infrequently, because it’s hard to remember what happened last issue.

THE MAGNIFICENT MS. MARVEL #4 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Minkyu Jung. This issue is narrated by Kamala, and explores how Kamala sometimes feels stifled by her parents. I like the sequence where Kamala says “Sometimes, when my head is echoing with everyone else’s stories about me… I have to raise my voice to tell mine.” I’m not from Kamala’s culture, but her relationship with her parents seems very realistic. This issue also includes some further development of her relationship with Bruno, though he only appears in flashback. The plot isn’t as interesting as the characterization; the main event is that the Beast Legions turn out to be real. By the way, this is off-topic, but I just read David Low’s book chapter about the depiction of charter schools in Bendis and Pichelli’s first Miles Morales story. I don’t believe Saladin’s Miles Morales series has ever commented on the politics of charter schools, and I think it would be nice if he examined this question. I’ll say more about this the next time I write a review of Miles Morales.

STEEL CAGE #1 (Ahoy, 2019) – three stories, [E] Tom Peyer. This comic’s gimmick is “3 Comics Enter… 1 Comic Leaves!” It includes three stories by different creators, and readers are invited to vote on which of them should become an ongoing series. The first story, Peyer and Alan Robinson’s “True Identity,” stars a Superman knock-off who represents the next-to-last stage in human evolution. So he’s far more evolved than normal humans, but still feels inferior in comparison to the ultimate humans who created him. Next is Stuart Moore and Peter Gross’s “Bright Boy,” starring a brilliant but insufferable scientist who repeatedly saves the world, but leaves a trail of destruction in his wake. Finally, Mark Waid and Lanna Souvanny’s “Noah Zark” features a young space explorer who’s searching for homes for his menagerie of bizarre alien creatures. But he doesn’t know where to find his own home, Earth. After reading this issue, I immediately went online and voted for Noah Zark. This series’s premise is touching, and Lanna Souvanny’s alien creatures are adorably weird. I really want to see more of this comic. True Identity’s premise is intriguing, but seems to have limited potential. Meanwhile, Bright Boy has a loathsome protagonist, and I’m not sure what its main premise is. However, I definitely plan on buying whichever of these comics wins the contest.

MARILYN MANOR #1 (IDW, 2019) – “Living on Video,” [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Marley Zarcone. Mags Visaggio’s latest new series is about the president’s daughter, a bratty teenager who enjoys throwing parties in the White House and dodging her Secret Service agent. The president in this story is a sort of combination of Kennedy and Clinton, but like Morning in America, the series is set in the ‘80s. This comic is a lot of fun, but feels less deep and substantial than Mags’s other work.

ASCENDER #3 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Andy and Mila’s journey to Telsa is interrupted by flashbacks to Mila’s birth and infancy. The last of these flashbacks shows how Effie got killed. Incidentally, I can’t recall if Andy and Effie ever had sex during the Descender series, and I wonder if Mila was conceived before they got divorced. At the end of the issue, Bandit shows off its previously unknown “guard dog” mode.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #44 (Marvel, 2019) – “Your Place in the World,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Alitha E. Martinez. Lunella accidentally time-travels to the 1960s, where she meets her own grandmother, JoJo. In a rather sad development, she has to prevent her grandmother from taking an advanced placement test, rather than allow the timeline to be compromised. Because this is a time travel story with a black female protagonist, it calls Octavia Butler’s Kindred to mind; however, Montclare doesn’t explicitly refer to racial issues. (Actually it’ s kind of progressive how this series doesn’t present Lunella as unusual or different because of her race.) Doctor Strange appears in the ‘60s sequence as an adult. I initially thought this was a huge continuity problem – how can he be so much older than Lunella’s grandmother? – but it turns out he also got there by time travel.

BOOKS OF MAGIC #9 (Vertigo, 2019) – “Storytime, [W] Kat Howard, [A] Tom Fowler. Another complete waste of an issue, full of scenes that could have been narrated in one page, but are stretched out across three or four pages. The scene where Ellie escapes from a prison made of words is kind of cool, but it wasn’t worth a whole issue. Also, Kat Howard missed an opportunity for something even cooler. Instead of burning the words, Ellie could have escaped by rewriting them; for example, the words include “lock” and “unbreakable,” so she could have just changed them to “unlock” and “breakable.” I’m not getting issue 10.

MARVEL RISING #4 (Marvel, 2019) – “Heroes of the Round Table!”, [W] Nilah Magruder, [A] Roberto Di Salvo & Georges Duarte. Another extremely disappointing issue. It’s just a completely generic superhero comic. The characters are impossible to tell apart, the fights are boring, the humor is unfunny, and nothing about this comic is creative or original. Marvel’s younger readers deserve much better than this. In a flashback in this issue, we see that King Arthur killed Morgaine le Fay’s mother. That was a weird thing for him to do, since Morgaine’s mother was King Arthur’s mother too. Maybe this will be explained next issue, but I won’t be reading that issue.

XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS #2 (Dynamite, 2019) – untitled, [W] Vita Ayala, [A] Olympia Sweetman. I thought I hadn’t ordered this, but it turned out I did order it, and my copy slipped between some boxes. It’s a thoroughly average comic, of interest only to existing Xena fans.

WONDER WOMAN #73 (DC, 2019) – “The Queen and the Empress,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Aaron Lopestri. This is a fill-in issue, but not a bad one. Steve Orlando was a good Wonder Woman writer, though not as good as Willow. This issue explains what Dimension Chi is: an evil mirror universe created by Hippolyta. Most of the issue is a flashback in which Hippolyta battles her evil duplicate with the aid of a young Diana.

MY LITTLE PONY: SPIRIT OF THE FOREST #2 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Brenda Hickey. The CMC disguise themselves as the Spirit of the Forest and convince Filthy Rich to close down the lumber mill, but Filthy Rich discovers the deception and reopens the mill. Throughout the issue the CMC’s big sisters are notably unsympathetic and unhelpful. There’s a cute metatextual moment on page one, when Applejack correctly predicts that there’s about to be a crisis.

EVE STRANGER #2 (IDW, 2019) – “Nowhere to Run,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Philip Bond. In flashbacks, we learn that Eve’s superpowers and memory loss are the result of her father’s nanotech. Also, Eve has some more bizarre adventures, including escorting a little person through the running of the bulls in Pamplona. Philip Bond’s artwork continues to be amazing. Eve calls her father Pabbi, and he calls her Fiflar; these terms appear to be Icelandic.

THE TERRIFICS #17 (DC, 2019) – “The God Game, Part 3,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Stephen Segovia. The Terrifics fight some more plagues. This series is no longer as good as when Jeff Lemire was writing it, but it’s good enough to continue reading. Considering what the tenth plague was, Plastic Man’s firstborn son is in some danger.

TRANSMETROPOLITAN #36 (Vertigo, 2000) – “Gouge Away Part Three,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Darick Robertson. Spider Jerusalem has just implicated a presidential aide in a sex scandal. This issue, the aide commits suicide, and the White House goes into crisis mode. Spider’s employer fires him, but Spider already has an escape plan prepared. There’s also a scene in this issue where a woman is killed by a sniper, probably the same one from #44. Transmetropolitan does three things really well: it has a bizarre and funny setting, Spider Jerusalem is a fascinating protagonist, and the series investigates serious questions about journalism and truth.

PUNKS NOT DEAD: LONDON CALLING #5 (Black Crown, 2019) – “…To the Underworld,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Martin Simmonds. Julie dies and goes to the afterlife with Beleth. Sid survives – if that’s the right word, since he was already dead – and he and Fergie head off to New York. This was another really fun miniseries with great art, and I hope there’s another sequel. Asif’s father’s story about the snow leopard woman appears to be based on a story collected by the anthropologist John Mock: All the Google hits for the place name “Lenarz Keshk” are references to this source.

SECRET ROMANCE #37 (Charlton, 1976) – “Bus Ride Blues,” [W] unknown, [A] Demetrio Sánchez Gómez, plus two other stories. The stories in this issue are of no interest, but the first story has some fascinating art. Demetrio Sánchez Gómez is very similar to Enrique Nieto because he was a Spanish artist whose only U.S. work was for Charlton, and he put much more effort into his work than was justified by Charlton’s page rates. In “Bus Ride Blues,” Demetrio shows great skill at drawing clothing and hair, and he draws a lot of abstract decorative swirls in the background. As a result, his pages look kind of like psychedelic posters or something. The second story in the issue is by Nicholas and Alascia, and the third one is by Jorge Badia Romero, the brother of the Modesty Blaise artist Enrique Romero.

VICTOR LAVALLE’S DESTROYER #5 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Dietrich Smith. There’s a lot of fascinating stuff in this issue, but the most fascinating thing is the flashback to Akai’s murder. It turns out that a woman called the cops on him because she saw him walking down her street with a baseball bat, and she mistook him for an adult with a rifle. And her willful blindness had tragic consequences. In a sense, the police are the same sort of destructive monstrosity as Destroyer’s fictional Frankenstein creatures. As previously stated, this is a brilliant comic, and it might be a good comic to teach.

WAR OF THE REALMS: NEW AGENTS OF ATLAS #4 (Marvel, 2019) – “Fire and Ice Chapter 4,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Gang Hyuk Lim, Moy R. & Pop Mhan. The Agents of Atlas defeat the Queen of Cinders, and it turns out that Pele is a simulacrum, not the real thing. And that leads us into the next miniseries. This issue is mostly just fight scenes rather than character interactions, but I do like the characterization of Sun Wukong as a showboating attention seeker.

THOR #14 (Marvel, 2019) – “To Hell with Hammers,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Scott Hepburn. Malekith has kidnapped Odin and Freya and has magically prevented anyone except Thor from coming to rescue them. So Thor recruits his past and future selves, as well as Jane Foster, as his allies. During the course of the ensuing fight with Malekith-plus-Venom, Thor’s younger self becomes worthy to lift Mjolnir for the first time. This is a pretty fun issue, with lots of funny dialogue between Thor’s three selves.

WAR OF THE REALMS #6 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Storm of Thors,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Russell Dauterman. This issue retells some of the same events as Thor #14, but from a different perspective – Thor #14 was narrated by the younger Thor. In War of the Realms #4, Thor forges a new Mjolnir out of the last chip of the old one, and uses it to finally defeat Malekith. Afterward, Thor becomes the new All-Father. This is kind of a predictable conclusion, since we all knew Thor would get Mjolnir back eventually. But War of the Realms is better than a typical crossover because it’s the culmination of seven years of Thor comics, and it has a top-tier creative team. It’s a reasonable conclusion to the second or third best era of Thor.

BLACK PANTHER #13 (Marvel, 2019) – “Two Thousand Seasons,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Daniel Acuna. Another issue in which not a lot happens, except that the Wakandans from Earth-616 finally contact T’Challa. Surprisingly, one of the highlights of TNC’s Black Panther run is Storm. I always thought T’Challa and Ororo’s marriage was a publicity stunt, but TNC writes Storm really well, and he makes me believe that she and T’Challa love each other.

MR. & MRS. X #12 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Lady & the Tiger Part 2,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Javier Pina. Rogue and Gambit defeat Belladonna and Candra, then return home to their cats. It turns out they’re not ready for kids yet, but maybe someday. This was a truly entertaining series, probably Marvel’s most realistic portrayal of a married couple, and I’m sorry it only lasted twelve issues. It was too good for the current industry.

GLOW #3 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Tini Howard, [A] Hannah Templer. This issue is a spotlight on Carmen, one of the GLOW girls, who takes it upon herself to become the coach of the others.  Glow is a reasonably enjoyable comic, but the cast is so large that it’s impossible to remember all the character’s names, and only a few of them get any significant development.

LETTER 44 #16 (Oni, 2015) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Alberto Jiménez Albuquerque. Two major events this issue: newborn Astra has a heart-to-heart talk with her mother, and the President stops his Secret Service agent from kidnapping the First Lady. Then the First Lady murders the agent in cold blood, and I don’t blame her at all. This is a really entertaining and well-written series, but I wish I wasn’t reading it out of order.

CANTO #1 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. I was skeptical about this series because I don’t like its art style, but Canto #1 is a strong debut. Canto is an example of clockwork fantasy, if there is such a genre. Its protagonists are nameless clockwork robots who are enslaved by a race of beast-men. One of them gives himself a name and falls in love, and he goes on a quest to retrieve his lover’s stolen heart. Canto is a powerful and evocative story, although at times its storytelling is hard to follow. I couldn’t understand the sequence where Canto picks up the stone and then the beast knocks it out of his hand.

ANIMOSITY #13 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Howl,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Rafael De Latorre. This series concludes the story arc about the bee colony, and then at the end, an older man kidnaps Jesse and takes her to the Walled City. I’ve already stated what I think about this series, but the bee story is better than most Animosity comics, because it revolves around animals that have an alien way of thinking. Most of the animals in Animosity act exactly like humans, and that’s one of the major flaws of the series.

ANIMOSITY: EVOLUTION #3 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Lex Animata: Part 1,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Eric Gapstur. This is a more typical issue of Animosity. In this issue, an important witness in a corruption trial is murdered by a poison-arrow frog, which gets into the witness’s room by crawling through the vents. This is an example of the absurdity of this comic’s premise. Animals can do literally anything, and therefore, there are no meaningful constraints on what can happen in this comic’s plot. As a tangent, this year I’ve been trying to read every new comic book I receive each week, before the next week’s shipment arrives. I’ve mostly succeeded, and because of this, if I’m not enjoying a comic, I can quit ordering it immediately. In the past I didn’t have this policy, and as a result, I often kept ordering comics out of a sense of obligation, even though I hadn’t read the earlier issues of those comics. That’s how I ended up with so many unread issues of Animosity, as well as other comics like DC Comics Bombshells, Ringside, Curse Words, Black Cloud, etc.

SUPERGIRL #71 (DC, 2002) – “Pyramid Schemes,” [W] Peter David, [A] Jamal Igle. At this point in the series, Linda Danvers and Mary Marvel are searching for Supergirl, who has become a separate entity from Linda. They follow Supergirl to the Mexican archaeological site of Teotihuacan, where they fight some native people who have traveled forward in time. That leads us into…

SUPERGIRL #72 (DC, 2002) – “Spiders and Snakes,” [W] Peter David, [A] Leonard Kirk. Linda and Mary battle the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, along with a spider deity. The Pyramid Schemes/Spiders and Snakes two-parter is impressive because of Linda and Mary’s interactions and because of PAD’s use of Jewish mysticism. PAD makes intelligent use of concepts like the Shekhinah and the angel Metatron. What’s less impressive about this series is its depiction of ancient Mexican natives as bloody savages. Obviously even the most extreme moral relativists will have trouble defending human sacrifice. However, this comic implies that Aztecs practiced human sacrifice solely because they wanted to be evil.

STUMPTOWN #8 (Oni, 2015) – “The Case of a Cup of Joe: Part Three,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Justin Greenwood. In this installment of the coffee story, Dex defeats an attempt to steal her coffee beans, but then her awful sister pretends to have been kidnapped in order to extort Dex for reward money. This issue is full of coffee jokes. Overall, “The Case of a Cup of Joe” is an excellent story, perhaps the high point of Stumptown volume three. See below for more thoughts about the Stumptown series.

ARTBABE #1 (Fantagraphics, 1997) – “As I Live and Breathe,” [W/A] Jessica Abel. I believe I have this story in the Mirror, Window collection, but I’ve had that book for years without reading it. I’m much more likely to read comic books than graphic novels. “As I Live and Breathe” is a slice-of-life story about an awkward relationship. It’s nothing spectacular, but it’s a sensitive and nuanced story about relationships. It demonstrates Jessica’s intelligence and her ability to see multiple perspectives.

X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN – X-TINCTION #2 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Ed Piskor. This issue covers everything up to the X-Tinction Agenda, But when we get to the end of that story arc, it doesn’t end the way it did in the published comics. Instead, the U.S. drops a bunch of nukes on Genosha, and this triggers the Days of Future Past timeline. The series ends with the adult Kitty Pryde being sent back in time to the past. It’s suggested that her mission succeeds, and that from this point, things are going to happen the same way they did in the 616 universe. I’m not sure how to interpret this ending, but it feels like instead of adapting the actual end of Claremont’s X-Men, Ed is trying to imagine what would have happened if Claremont had been able to continue his story. Claremont had plans for X-Men #300 and beyond, but he fired or was quit after #279. And even before that point, Jim Lee and Whilce Portacio had already taken over the plotting, according to Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. Therefore, X-Men: Grand Design offers us an intriguing glimpse of how Claremont’s “grand design” might have continued, if he had been allowed to tell it.

THE AVANT-GUARDS #6 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Carly Usdin, [A] Noah Hayes. The Avant-Guards defeat the College of Endocrinology, then their next game is against the Royal Academy of Punk Rock. But in one of the funniest moments in the series, the punks forfeit the game because they can’t be bothered to wear regulation uniforms. Finally, the Avant-Guards lose in a heartbreaker to the Institute of Internet Influencers. Of course there’s also a ton of relationship drama. The Avant-Guards is an entertaining series that reminds me a bit of Giant Days. I especially like all the weird other colleges in this issue.

SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “Spider-Ham in : Boared Again!”, [W] Jason Latour, [A] David Lafuente. Based on the cover, you would think this was Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham #1, and it stars that character. This annual is full of animal jokes, many of which went over my head – accordnig to the beginning of the issue, you can get a No-Prize for identifying all the animal-themed villains, nut I was not able to do it. David Lafuente’s artwork is reasonably good. But I think Jason Latour overestimates how funny Spider-Ham is, and overall I was not thrilled with this issue.

MIRACLEMAN #14 (Eclipse, 1988) – “Book III Chapter Four: Pantheon,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] John Totleben. A ton of stuff happens in this issue. Winter heads off to outer space, the Firedrake Huey Moon is introduced, Liz leaves Michael Moran for good, and then Michael says “Kimota” for the last time and symbolically commits suicide. That all happens by page ten, out of a sixteen-page story. But the most significant event this issue is when Johnny Bates is raped by his classmates, and saves himself by turning into Kid Miracleman. And then he kills not only his tormentors, but also the one person who was nice to him, and we all know what he goes on to do next.  As noted in my review of issue 13 above, Miracleman is an idiot; after he heard Johnny say “Miracleman” without transforming (in issue 2), he naively assumed that Johnny was no threat, and allowed him to be neglected and abused. As a result, the blood of every murdered person in London is on Miracleman’s hands. This issue also includes a backup story by Doug Moench and Jim Sullivan, which reads like a rejected submission to Alien Worlds or Twisted Tales. I now have every issue of Miracleman up to #14, but an interesting quandary is whether I should hang on to my Marvel reprints of #13 and #14, now that I have the originals. Those issues include some reprinted Mick Anglo stories, but I wouldn’t have bought them if I’d already had the original Eclipse issues.

GHOST TREE #3 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Bobby Curnow, [A] Simon Gane. It turns out Bobby Curnow is the editor of the My Little Pony comics, so I’d like to interview him sometime. However, Ghost Tree is a pretty average comic. The only thing I really like about it is Simon Gane’s art, and even that’s not as good as his art on They’re Not Like Us.

INVISIBLES #2 (Vertigo, 1994) – “Down and Out in Heaven and Hell Part 1,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. Dane McGowan meets Tom o’Bedlam, the same one from Macbeth, who gives him a basic education in being an Invisible. At the end of the issue, Dane encounters some men in dark glasses and fox-hunting clothes. The highlight of this issue is Tom o’Bedlam’s brilliantly written dialogue. He has a fantastically bizarre speech pattern, and even when he’s not directly quoting Shakespeare, he sounds like he is. His best line is “Could you give us some money? I won’t lie, sir, it’s for drink. I’m alcoholic and must have drink, that’s all.” Invisibles #3 also includes the first reference to Barbelith.

SUPERGIRL #22 (DC, 1998) – “Comet’s Tale,” [W] Peter David, [A] Leonard Kirk. In this issue PAD comes up with a funny way to rehabilitate a rather embarrassing and creepy old character. His version of Comet the Super-Horse is a jockey who was paralyzed in a racing accident and was “healed” by being implanted with horse DNA. Other than that, this is an average comic. I have other unread issues of PAD’s Supergirl, and I’m more likely to read them now that I understand the premise of the series.

BONE #11 (Cartoon Books, 1994) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Smith. I read this after reading Annette Wannamaker’s brilliant book chapter “‘ This Is a Well-Loved Book’: Weighing (in on) Jeff Smith’s Bone,” which analyzes the different materialities of the various versions of Bone. (For full disclosure, I also wrote a chapter of the book in which this essay appeared.) I already had the Image reprint of Bone #11, and the Cartoon Books version of that issue is exactly the same as the Image version; they even both include the same letters page. The only difference is that the Cartoon Books printing has different ads.

CRIMINAL #5 (Marvel, 2008) – “Bad Night Part Two,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. I should have read this before issue 6. This issue, Iris and her boyfriend Danny force Jacob (who is indeed the same Jacob from “Bad Weekend”) to make them a fake FBI badge. Then Danny strongarms Jacob into accompanying them on a heist. Afterward, when things inevitably go badly, Iris and Jacob are forced to kill Danny. This issue creates a powerful sense of suspense: Jacob is terrified of Danny, but can’t report him to the police because of his own criminal history. There’s also a gimmick where the Dick Tracy-esque protagonist of jacob’s comic strip keeps appearing and giving him advice.

DEADFACE #1 (Harrier, 1987) – untitled (“Immortality Isn’t Forever Part 1,” [W/A] Eddie Campbell. This is the same story as Bacchus #1 (1995), which I already have. However, the 1987 printing of “Immortality Isn’t Forever” is very different from the later versions, because the reprinted versions are extensively redrawn. Most notably, in the 1995 version, Bacchus is redrawn to have a much bulkier body and a more sardonic, world-weary facial expression. In the 1987 version, Bacchus looked like a skinny scarecrow, and his facial expressions were manic and half-crazed. See an example of the differences between the two versions. As a result, these these two comics have exactly the same dialogue, the same visual content, and even the same lettering, and yet they feel like different comics. Comparing the two versions offers a fascinating example of how even minor alterations to a comic can completely change the way it looks and feels.

FLASH GORDON #25 (Gold Key, 1979) – “Volcano!”, [W] Gary Poole, [A] Carlos Garzón. This comic has a pretty formulaic story, but Carlos Garzón’s artwork is quite good. He’s mostly remembered today as an inker and assistant to Al Williamson, but he was one of the foremost comics artists in his native Colombia. His artwork in this issue is very similar to Williamson’s, to the point where it’s hard to tell the difference if you don’t look too closely.

INVISIBLES #3 (Vertigo, 1994) – “Down and Out in Heaven and Hell Part 2,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. Tom hangs out with Danny some more, and shows him a bunch of weird visions. Tom gives a weird speech about how cities are viruses, and then he tells Danny that they’re going to jump off the Canary Wharf building. Steve Yeowell’s artwork in this storyline is quite sober and ordinary, creating a contrast with the bizarre writing.

HEAD LOPPER #12 (Image, 2019) – “Head Lopper and the Knights of Venora, Part 4,” [W/A] Andrew MacLean. Norgal and Brishka fight a bunch of giant flying snakes, Norgal uses the power of Agatha’s head to save Venora, and at the end of the issue, some mysterious figure on a throne learns that Norgal is alive. I’m glad this story arc is over because it was very difficult to follow. A complicated plot and a quarterly publication schedule don’t mix.

TRUE BELIEVERS: SPIDER-MAN VS. MYSTERIO #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Menace of… Mysterio!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Steve Ditko. A reprint of Mysterio’s first appearance from Amazing Spider-Man #13. I already had the issue of Spider-Man Classics that reprinted this story, but the True Believers reprint has the original cover and is printed on better paper. The best part of ASM #13 is the scene where Peter flirts with Liz, and then Flash says Liz is beautiful with her new hairstyle, and she says (in a word balloon with an icy border), “Really, Mister Thompson?? And what was I before, pray tell?”

THOR #131 (Marvel, 1966) – “They Strike from Space!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. A great comic which is unfortunately hampered by the worst inker in comics history, whose name will not be mentioned here. On the first page, Thor and Hercules teleport into Olympus, and there’s a giant expanse of white space below their feet. I have little doubt that Kirby originally drew something there, and the inker erased it. Otherwise, this is a good issue that leads directly into the classic Ego/Black Galaxy storyline. This issue, Tana Nile reveals herself as a Rigellian Colonizer. The Colonizers are both awe-inspiring and funny, reminding me of some of Kirby’s later ‘70s creations. I especially like the scene where an old lady sees one of the Rigellians and says “Can this be one of those avant-garde New York happenings that I sometimes read about?” This story also includes a collage panel, though it’s printed so dark that it’s hard to appreciate. In addition, this issue has a Tales of Asgard backup story, about Harokin and the Warlock’s Eye (not the same as the Evil Eye).

HUNGRY GHOSTS #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Salty Horse” and “The Heads,” [W] Anthony Bourdain & Joel Rose, [A] Leonardo Manco and Mateus Santolouco. I wasn’t impressed with the first issue of this miniseries, but #2 is better because it combines humor with horror. “Salty Horse” is about a wealthy horse breeder who’s so obsessed with horsemeat that he eats all his horses, and is finally possessed by a horse ghost. Leonardo Manco makes horsemeat look delicious, so that we feel that the protagonist’s problem is not that he eats horse in the first place, but that he overindulges in it. The backup story, about floating head demons, is not as good. I just read Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential after reading this comic, and it turns out he was a skilled writer of both fiction and memoirs, as well as being a celebrity chef.

NEOZOIC #5 (Red 5, 2008) – “Outside Bad, Inside Worse,” [W] Paul Ens, [A] J. Korim. A boring fantasy story about dinosaurs, with ugly lettering. This comic was published by the same company as Atomic Robo, but it ain’t Atomic Robo.

HENCHGIRL #9 (Scout, 2016) – untitled, [W/A] Kristen Gudsnuk. I already have the trade paperback of Henchgirl, so I feel kind of guilty for having bought one of the single issues, but it was only 50 cents. Also, Kristen Gudsnuk’s work is so dense that it’s hard to read in large doses; it’s full of sight gags and hidden messages. I read the Henchgirl collection so quickly that it was hard to fully appreciate it. Therefore, I don’t mind reading it again. In this issue, Mary Posa/Henchgirl saves her parents and her golden-girl sister from a villain named Gunpowder. But she kills Gunpowder while doing it, so instead of getting any credit, she gets arrested.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #115 (Marvel, 1969) – “Now Begins the Nightmare!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Buscema. The Red Skull gets the Cosmic Cube again and uses it to torment Cap, including switching his and Cap’s minds. John Buscema’s art in this issue is excellent, but the plot depends on the Red Skull being an idiot. Like Green Lantern’s ring, the Cosmic Cube has no limits except its wielder’s imagination, and every time the Red Skull gets the Cosmic Cube, he can’t imagine anything to do with it except humiliate Cap.

G.I. JOE #76 (Marvel, 1988) – “All’s Fair,” [W] Larry Hama, [A] Ron Wagner. The G.I. Joes intervene in the Cobra civil war between Cobra Commander and Serpentor. G.I. Joe #76 is much better than #37 because it feels realistic. Despite the wildly implausible characters, vehicles and weapons, it feels like an accurate depiction of war, from the perspective of both strategists and common soldiers. The war is resolved when Zartan kills Serpentor by shooting him in the eye with an arrow, as supposedly happened to Harold Godwinson at Hastings. Serpentor’s gimmick is that he keeps making references to military history. However, at one point he mistakenly claims that “von Student” tried to assassinate Hitler despite having just one eye and one arm. Here either Larry Hama or Serpentor has confused Kurt Student with Claus von Stauffenberg. One of the Joes appearing in this issue is a stealth pilot, and there’s a running joke where no one can remember his name. The explanation is that this character’s official name was “Ghost Rider.” Marvel didn’t want to refer to him by name because they already had a different character named Ghost Rider. So instead Larry came up with a joke where Ghost Rider, the G.I. Joe character, was so stealthy that no one could remember his name.

STUMPTOWN #2 (Oni, 2014) – “The Case of the King of Clubs, Part 2,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Justin Greenwood. Dex investigates the beating of a fan at a Portland Timbers game, and encounters rumors that Seattle soccer fans might be responsible. This would be the MLS’s worst nightmare because it could lead to European-style football violence. Stumptown is one of Greg Rucka’s less ambitious projects, but also one of his best, despite Justin Greenwood’s pedestrian art. Stumptown creates a powerful sense of local specificity, and it makes the reader feel affection for Dex, her disabled brother, and their city.

STRANGE ADVENTURES #209 (DC, 1968) – “How Many Times Can a Guy Die? Part 3,” [W] Jack Miller, [A] Neal Adams. As uusal, Neal’s artwork on this issue is incredible. He was head and shoulders above any other DC artist at the time. I especially like the opening two pages, a silent sequence in which where a worker removes a poster of Boston Brand and replaces it with a poster of an acrobat called the Eagle. This issue follows the typical Deadman formula where Deadman mistakes a criminal – in this case, the aforementioned Eagle – for his killer. During the climactic fight scene, Deadman seems to temporarily forget that he can jump out of the body he’s occupying and possess the Eagle’s body.

INCREDIBLE HULK #128 (Marvel, 1970) – “And in This Corner… the Avengers!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Herb Trimpe. The Hulk is traveling underground in the direction of the San Andreas fault, and the Avengers are summoned to prevent the Hulk from starting an earthquake. This leads to an entertaining fight scene. Herb Trimpe’s art in this era of Hulk comics was fantastic. This issue may have been the first time the Hulk met the Vision.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #219 (Dell, 1958) – untitled coyote story, [W/A] Carl Barks, plus other stories. I love how I can actually afford to own comics with original Carl Barks stories. In this issue’s Barks ten-pager, Donald and the nephews are staying at Grandma’s farm when a baby coyote starts eating Grandma’s chickens. The ducks try to tame the coyote, but it turns out to be much smarter and fiercer than them. The coyote’s thoughts are depicted using visual thought balloons, a device I haven’t seen Barks using elsewhere. Otherwise this story is a light but funny piece of slapstick. This issue also includes a Mickey Mouse story by Paul Murry, along with some lesser material.

SANDMAN #3 (DC, 1989) – “…Dream a Little Dream of Me,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Sam Kieth & Mike Dringenberg. Morpheus requests John Constantine’s aid to get back his missing pouch of dust. The first Sandman story arc shows some of what TVTropes calls “Early Installment Weirdness.” In this storyline Morpheus acts like a superhero with well-defined powers (e.g. the ability to travel through dreams) and accessories (the helmet, pouch and ruby). Later in the series, Morpheus’s superhero trappings tended to be taken for granted, and Morpheus himself was often de-emphasized in favor of the other characters around him. However, Sandman #3 still has some really good writing, and the interactions between Sandman and Constantine are entertaining. I especially like how throughout the issue, whenever the radio is on, it’s playing a song about the Sandman or dreams.

THE INVISIBLES #4 (DC, 1994) – “Down and Out in Heaven and Hell Part 3,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. Tom o’Bedlam dies and bequeaths his position to Dane McGowan, a.k.a. Jack Frost. Dane/Jack meets the other Invisibles for the first time, including King Mob and Ragged Robin. This first story arc is a good introduction to the series, though I still don’t get just what the Invisibles are fighting against.

TRANSMETROPOLITAN #20 (Vertigo, 1999) – “The New Scum 2: New City,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Darick Robertson. This issue consists of a bunch of loosely related scenes which all revolve around the upcoming presidential election. Spider saves a man from being stoned to death by Christian fundamentalists, then gets hit by an “information bomb,” then later there’s a splash page depicting a cannibal restaurant called “Top of the Food Chain.” In the stoning scene, one of the fundamentalists gives a long list of sins, one of which is “fogletism.” I thought this was some kind of inside joke, but apparently a “foglet” is a type of nanotech creature that was introduced in an earlier issue. At the end of the issue, Spider is offered an interview with the President.

STARSTRUCK #5 (IDW, 2010) – “Hugs and Kisses,” [W] Elaine Lee, [A] Michael Wm. Kaluta. On her 21st birthday, Molly/Galatia 9 is imprisoned, then allowed to escape on the orders of her evil sister. There’s also a Galactic Girl Guides backup story. Starstruck is a fascinating series with beautiful art, though it’s very dense and difficult.

THE UNWRITTEN #24 (Vertigo, 2011) – “Stairway to Heaven,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. This issue was deservedly nominated for an Eisner. It’s a standalone issue starring Pauly Bruckner, who was imprisoned in a storybook by Wilson Taylor, as previously depicted in issue 12. In “Stairway to Heaven,” Pauly escapes into a world where a bunch of fairytale animals are climbing an endless stairway. He becomes their leader and the lover of the Moomintroll-esque Quark Maiden, who narrates the story. He even has three kittens by her, but at the end of the story, he cravenly abandons the other animals and escapes. However, Quark Maiden and the other animals take inspiration from him and continue their quest. Peter Gross’s artwork in this issue an amazing combination of lighthearted fairytale whimsy and Gothic grimness, thanks in large part to the finishes by Al Davison.

SAUCER COUNTRY #9 (Vertigo, 2013) – “The Reticulan Candidate Part Two,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Ryan Kelly. Some dude tries to assassinate Arcadia, the presidential candidate who is this series’ main protagonist. There’s also a plot thread that explains the origin of the “men in black” trope. This series is okay, but not nearly as good as another comic that blended science fiction with politics, Letter 44.

WYTCHES #4 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Jock. Sailor has been kidnapped by a witch, and her parents are scrambling to find her.I read this issue and #3 in the wrong order, but it doesn’t matter because I don’t like this series anyway; I think Snyder is a very overrated writer. Jock’s art in this comic is actually kind of pedestrian, but includes some striking coloring effects.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #135 (Marvel, 1971) – “More Monster than Man!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Gene Colan. I bought this years ago, but never read it because of its poor condition. In this issue, Cap and Falcon battle a scientist named Dr. Gorbo who turns himself into a human ape. Curiously, Dr. Gorbo already looks like an ape even in his human form. Gene Colan’s artwork in this issue is amazing, perhaps due to very precise inking by Tom Palmer.

GREEN LANTERN CORPS #44 (DC, 2010) – “Red Badge of Rage Part 2,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Patrick Gleason. A bunch of Green Lanterns battle Guy Gardner, who has been turned into a Red Lantern. Despite having the same creative team as Super Sons, this is a pretty boring crossover installment.

MADAME XANADU #16 (Vertigo, 2009) – “Broken House of Cards Chapter One: Ladise’ Harm Journal,” [W] Matt Wagner, [A] Amy Reeder Hadley. In 1957, a housewife is experiencing bizarre magical effects. She consults Madame Xanadu, who discovers that someone has cursed her. I disliked this issue at first because of its shallow depiction of ‘50s domesticity; it seems much less historically accurate than Lady Killer or Hex Wives. However, Wagner and Reeder Hadley do a good job of arousing the reader’s curiosity. By the end of the issue, I was really curious as to who cursed Mrs. Reynolds and why.

DETECTIVE COMICS #820 (DC, 2006) – “Face the Face Part 7 of 8,” [W] James Robinson, [A] Leonard Kirk & Andy Clarke. James Robinson had a bizarre career trajectory. In the ‘90s he wrote Starman, the best DC superhero comic of its time, as well as Leave It to Chance, an excellent kids’ comic. But none of his subsequent comics was anywhere near that level, and some of them, like Justice League, Cry for Justice, were horrendous. Detective Comics #820 is such an average comic that it would be hard to even summarize what it’s about. The main event is that Scarecrow makes Batman and Robin think they’re fighting other versions of themselves, and also Superboy-Prime.

SUPERMAN #700 (DC, 2010) – “The Comeback,” [W] James Robinson, [A] Bernard Chang, plus two other stories. This issue begins with a boring story where Superman saves Lois from the Parasite. Next, “Geometry” by Dan Jurgens, is the best of this issue’s three stories, though it’s much more about Robin than Superman. The last story, by J. Michael Straczynski and Eddy Barrows, a woman slaps Superman at a press conference. She explains that her husband died of a cancer that only Superman could have cured, because Superman was away in space. As a result of this, Superman decides that he’s lost touch with the common people, and he decides to spend some time seeing the real world. This entire story is a bunch of emotionally manipulative nonsense. If Superman hadn’t been doing whatever he was doing in space, many more people would have died. There have been many far better and more subtle treatments of the theme of superheroes failing to save people. See for example Superman vol. 2 #64, in which Superman fails to save a man from dying of a brain tumor. But instead of feeling guilty, Superman accepts the fact that he can’t save everyone. (Other less directly relevant examples are Spectacular Spider-Man #310 or Flash #87-89). Worse, this story is the prologue to “Grounded,” the worst Superman story ever published.

New comics received on Saturday, July 6:

GIANT DAYS #52 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Esther has her job interview, but discovers that investment banking is not for her. Esther leverages her connections with Ken Lord to get Shelley Winters a publishing contract, and in return, one of Ken’s friends hires Esther for a publishing position. Giant Days #52 is another brilliant issue of a comic that will be sorely missed. The best part of the issue is when Esther’s future coworkers talk about attending a “money and cocaine party”.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #46 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. I complain sometimes about Ryan North’s writing style, but this issue reminds me what a brilliant writer he is. At the start of the issue, Squirrel Girl reveals her plan to defeat the frost giants by eliminating their food source, which, as she explains, is the same way the province of Alberta got rid of rats. Alberta is so cold that there’s nothing there for rats to eat, except humans’ food, and the Alberta government takes aggressive measures to exterminate any rats found on houses or farms. When I read this sequence, I hadn’t heard of Alberta’s control policy before, but I instantly knew that Ryan North’s description of it must be accurate. He wouldn’t put something like that in his comic unless it was true. And indeed his account is substantially true. Ryan’s prose style is condescending sometimes, but he shows utmost respect for his readers by always providing them with accurate facts. And somehow those facts are always weirder than anything he could make up. Anyway, on the next page Ryan mentions “the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea.” I love Stan Rogers’s music, and I was delighted at this reference to “Northwest Passage,” Canada’s unofficial national anthem. Besides that, there’s a ton of other great stuff in this issue, including a fight between whales and frost giants, and a scene in which Doreen and Rachel convince the Frost Giants to turn on their leader by reading to them from John Locke.

THE WORLD OF BLACK HAMMER ENCYCLOPEDIA (Dark Horse, 2019) – many vignettes, [W] Tate Brombal w/ Jeff Lemire, [A] various. A Black Hammer version of the Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe or Who’s Who in the DC Universe. This comic (if that’s the proper term) is full of fascinating data on Black Hammer’s characters and settings, some of which we haven’t seen yet. The highlight for me is the entry on the Quantum League, in which we finally get a complete list of all 27 Leaguers. However, I’m disappointed that there’s no entry on the Star Sheriffs. Dr. Star is referred to as Dr. Andromeda throughout this issue, even in the ad at the end. There’s no official explanation for this yet, but the speculation is that someone else has the rights to the name Dr. Star.

SEA OF STARS #1 (Image, 2019) – “Lost in the Wild Heavens,” [W] Jason Aaron & Dennis Hallum. The idea behind this comic is that it’s two series in one: a lighthearted adventure story about a little boy lost in space, and a grim, mature story about the boy’s father’s search for his son. Sea of Stars #1 is a thrilling debut issue that effectively sets up both stories. Kadyn is an adorable little brat, and Stephen Green’s artwork is gorgeous; he’s great at drawing both technology and alien creatures. He reminds me a bit of Sean Murphy. Rico Renzi’s moody, dark coloring also helps a lot. I look forward to reading more of this series.

BLACK HAMMER: AGE OF DOOM #11 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. In New World (aka New Genesis or the Rock of Eternity), Lucy encounters her father, who’s not dead. He tells her that Anti-God is coming back because the balance between good and evil is broken, and the only way to stop Anti-God is to keep the other heroes from returning to Earth. Then there’s a sequence where the other heroes recruit Madame Dragonfly, who’s masquerading as a suburban housewife. This was an okay issue. I strongly suspect that Lucy’s dad is lying to her.

PRINCELESS VOL. 8: PRINCESSES #3 (Action Lab, 2019) – “Chapter Three: Angoisse,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Newt Taber & Takeia Marie. I thought I’d forgotten to order this, but I did order it, they just delivered it out of order. In this issue, Angoisse stops some unauthorized logging, and then her goblin friends have an election, which is an obvious parody of the 2016 presidential campaign. The goblin election sequence is funny, but has nothing to do with Adrienne and her sisters’ story. The Black Knight doesn’t appear in this issue, as she did in #1, #2 and #4.

NO ONE LEFT TO FIGHT #1 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Aubrey Sitterson, [A] Fico Ossio. Vale, a wandering martial artist, visits his identical friend Timor, now married with a family, and old tensions start to boil over. This series is explicitly based on Dragon Ball; it’s been advertised as an examination of what happens to Goku when, as the series indicates, he runs out of people to fight. I have only mild familiarity with Dragon Ball, so I’m sure I missed a lot of the references in this comic. I assume that Vale = Goku, Timor = Vegeta, and Krysta = Bulma. But even without knowledge of Dragon Ball, I enjoyed this comic. Fico Ossio’s art and coloring are excellent, and I really like the pet octopus.

CROWDED #7 (Image, 2019) – “Time to Pretend,” [W] Christoper Sebela, [A] Ro Stein & Ted Brandt. I’m glad that my favorite Chris Sebela comic is back. This issue, Charlie and Vita take a train to Las Vegas, defeating an assassination attempt on the way. But when they arrive, it turns out there’s a Reapr convention in town. Funny things in this issue include Charlie’s “Loose Slots Here” shirt, the bench that “reaches melting temperature after 1 hour,” and “Marie’s Condos, minimum space, maximum joy.”

ADVENTURES OF THE SUPER SONS #12 (DC, 2019) – “Gang War Conclusion,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Carlo Barberi. Jon and Damian meet the living hypercube who created the planet of kid supervillains. They defeat the villains and make it back in time for school. The series ends with another framing sequence with the elderly Jon and Damian and their grandkids. This comic was a lot of fun, but 12 issues may have been too many. Long before this comic was finished, it had already been rendered obsolete by developments elsewhere in the DCU, and it no longer felt relevant.

MS. MARVEL ANNUAL #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Sting,” [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Jon Lam. Kamala encounters a new superhero, Captain Hero. It turns out Captain Hero is really the Super-Skrull, seeking revenge for the destruction of the Skrull Throneworld. A friend of mine wrote an as yet unpublished review which critiques this comic’s politics. I don’t have the same objections as my friend does, but that’s mostly because in my opinion, this comic’s politics are too incoherent to be worth criticizing. In the end, Kamala tells Kl’rt that the past isn’t coming back and they need to build a better future, which is a completely vapid principle. Also, it’s weird how Kl’rt waited until now to take revenge for Throneworld’s destruction, which happened over thirty years ago in real-world time. Overall this issue is far below Mags’s usual standards, and I didn’t like the art either. And the new character introduced in this issue, Shebang, is a complete cipher. This issue may be the first time we’ve seen Kamala’s mother with her hair uncovered. I forget whether she’s usually shown wearing a headscarf around the house.

THE DREAMING #11 (Vertigo, 2019) – “Understanding,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Bilquis Evely. Dora and Matthew arrive at the Worlds’ End inn, where all the patrons are listening to three people telling stories. The three stories belong to different genres (fantasy, SF and crime) and are drawn in different styles, but each story ends with a person starting to tell one of the other stories, so none of the stories ever ends. And everyone else is so mesmerized by the stories that they don’t realize the inn is burning down. In the end, Dora saves the day by narrating her own ending to all the stories at once. This issue is a brilliant piece of experimental narration, as well as a meditation on the power of storytelling – a power which can be destructive, because the desire for narrative closure is so strong. Besides drawing in multiple different styles, Bilquis Evely does a great job of depicting the bizarre creatures that hang out at Worlds’ End.

BLACK AF: DEVIL’S DYE #4 (Black Mask, 2019) – untitled, [W] Vita Ayala, [A] Liana Kangas. I shouldn’t have ordered this, but it’s too late now. I’m totally unable to follow this comic’s plot, and I fail to understand the appeal of Liana Kangas’s art. I suppose her storytelling is good, but her linework is sloppy and ugly. I really want Black to be good, but it’s not, and I won’t be ordering the next Black miniseries.

LOIS LANE #1 (DC, 2019) – “Enemy of the People,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Mike Perkins. Lois investigates stories about Russian interference and human trafficking. Greg Rucka has written lots of comics starring confident, super-competent women – Queen & Country, Lazarus, Black Magick, Stumptown, etc. His version of Lois is just as formidable as any of those series’ protagonists, and I like her so far. This comic also has some obvious relevance to current politics. It’s notable that Lois’s son is only mentioned once in this issue. Over the past few years, Lois has been essentially defined by her role as a mother, and I actually thought at first that this comic must be taking place before Jon was born. I still think it’s odd that Jon is nowhere to be seen in this comic. On the other hand, Peter Tomasi’s portrayal of Lois was borderline sexism at times, and I’m glad that this series is exploring other aspects of Lois’s life besides her relationship to her family.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #79 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Sam Maggs, [A] Toni Kuusisto. The second worst pony comic IDW has published, after issue 40, the one that depicted Twilight Sparkle as a preteen single mother. The main problem with this issue is its complete lack of a plot. Apple Bloom distracts Mayor Mare so that the other ponies can arrange a surprise anniversary celebration. Then Mayor Mare comes back to city hall, and Sunset Shimmer plays a concert. That’s literally the whole issue. On top of that, the storytelling is incoherent at times, especially on the page with Bulk Biceps’s audition. Sam Maggs is best known as a journalist and critic, and she clearly has limited experience writing comics.

HEATHEN #7 (Vault, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Natasha Alterici. Frigga and Odin have an argument, and then Aydis falls overboard in a storm, and one of the pirates rescues her but loses a foot as a result. This issue was difficult to follow, but Natasha Alterici’s artwork is brilliant. I love her light-dark contrasts and the way she draws diverse body types. Issue 8 is the last one that’s been solicited so far, and I don’t see how this story can be completed in one more issue. Maybe more issues will be solicited later.

THE LONG CON #10 (Oni, 2019) – untitled, [W] Dylan Meconis & Ben Coleman, [A] E.A. Denich. Destiny and Victor finally make it in to see the Special Guest, a fictionalized version of Gene Roddenberry. In a flashback, we learn that the catastrophe was caused by Marla, the computer from the Skylarks franchise. It turns out that Marla was real, and she kept getting smarter and more obsessed with maintaining continuity. And according to Skylarks continuity, a worldwide apocalypse happened in the year 2018 (like how in Star Trek continuity, the Eugenics Wars started in 1993), so when that year came around and there wasn’t an apocalypse, Marla made one happen. Marla’s next step is to launch everyone at the convention into deep space. But just in time, Victor and Dez realize that Marla’s true goal is to keep the fans happy, and they convince her that this is inherently impossible, thus saving the day. This ending is brilliantly metatextual, and overall, The Long Con is one of the best miniseries of the past year. It’s an incisive satire of fandom. I wish people were paying more attention to it.

HASHTAG: DANGER #3 (Ahoy, 2019) – “The Ape in the Iron Mask!”, [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Chris Giarrusso. The team goes to the moon to look for a supervillain who turns out to not exist. There’s no mention of the cliffhanger from last issue, where Sugar becomes a supervillain. This issue includes a backup story in which a Trump supporter gets punched in the face. Hashtag: Danger is probably my least favorite Ahoy title, though it’s still good.

BIRTHRIGHT #37 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. The good guys prepare for a mission to recruit Mastema, the daughter of the primary villain, Lore. We also encounter Mikey and Aaron’s grandfather Samael, who is himself some kind of wizard. Birthright is one of those series where there’s not much difference between one issue and another.

SWEET TOOTH #15 (Vertigo, 2011) – “Animal Armies 3,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. This issue includes two parallel plot threads, one about Gus and the other about Tommy Jepperd. The highlight of the issue is when Gus and Tommy are both dreaming, and for two consecutive two-page spreads, the left page depicts Tommy’s dream while the right page depicts Gus’s dream. Then on the following two-page spread, the two dreams merge into a single big thought balloon, and Gus and Tommy both wake up in shock. This effect is easier to see than to describe, and it’s the sort of trick Jeff Lemire is really good at.

IMMORTAL HULK #20 (Marvel, 2019) – “Metatron,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. The Hulk dies from having his heart cut out, but dying restarts his healing factor, and he and the Harpy team up to defeat the Abomination. Then there’s an enigmatic sequence where Bruce Banner encounters the angel Metatron. Immortal Hulk may be the best Hulk comic since PAD’s first run.

TEST #1 (Vault, 2019) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Jen Hickman. Chris Sebela seems to be competing with Mags Visaggio to see who can start the most new series. This comic stars Aleph Null (a name derived from mathematics, specifically set theory), a “professional guinea pig” who makes a living by being experimented upon. Like the protagonist of Jen Hickman’s previous series Moth & Whisper, Aleph Null appears to be transgender; at one point their gender is stated as “various given.” In this issue, Aleph Null travels to a mysterious midwestern town called Laurelwood. I’m not sure yet what this series is about, but it’s interesting so far.

GREEN LANTERN #9 (DC, 2019) – “The Day the Stars Fell Down!”, [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. This issue starts with a sequence where a cosmic villain destroys a world full of superheroes, including Vartox. Then the scene shifts to a fantasy world called Athmoora, where Hal is taking a vacation. While there, he encounters an other-dimensional version of Abin Sur, and then he’s attacked by the same villain from the first sequence. It’s called Qwa-Man (Qwa = Qward?) and seems to be some kind of reverse version of Hal. Then the issue ends with Hal being recruited by three alternate Hal Jordans from other realities. This was a very dense issue, and I don’t quite understand this storyline yet. I do like how every issue of Grant’s Green Lantern has been very different from the others.

DOOM PATROL: WEIGHT OF THE WORLDS #1 (DC, 2019) – “Damaged,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] James Harvey. This excellent but chronically delayed series is finally back. I was disappointed by the lack of Nick Derington art, but James Harvey, who I haven’t heard of before, is equally brilliant in a different way. He does amazing stuff with coloring and lettering and page layout. This issue, the new Doom Patrol visits a planet where the naturally sphere-shaped inhabitants have been forced to contort themselves into human shapes. Meanwhile, the newly human Cliff Steele is rejected by his elderly father, and in grief, Cliff drives himself off a cliff, trying to replicate the accident that made him Robotman.

SECTION ZERO #4 (Image, 2019) – “A Long Time Dead,” [W] Karl Kesel, [A] Tom Grummett.  Confusingly, this issue starts 18 years after #3. I guess that’s because this is the first new issue, while the first three were reprints from the original Gorilla series. In this issue, the Section Zero characters visit a daycare where all the children turn out to be changelings.

TALES TO ASTONISH #86 (Marvel, 1966) – “The Wrath of Warlord Krang!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jerry Grandenetti, and “The Birth of… the Hulk-Killer!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Buscema. In this issue’s Namor story, Namor tries to rescue Dorma from Warlord Krang. Dorma was a pretty boring superhero girlfriend, and overall this is an average story. The Hulk story is a bit better, although the villain is Boomerang, whose costume is hideous. In general, Tales to Astonish was one of the lesser ‘60s Marvel titles

IGNITED #2 (Humanoids, 2019) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid & Kwanza Osajyefo, [A] Phil Briones. In the wake of the shooting and the superheroes’ appearance, tensions at the school erupt into violence. There’s also a backup story written by Carla Speed McNeil. This issue is just okay; it lacks the impact of issue 1.

PUMA BLUES #3 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1986) – “Strings,” [W] Stephen Murphy, [A] Michael Zulli. Another issue that has a minimal plot, but creates a powerful sense of mood and atmosphere. The overarching theme of Puma Blues is ecological catastrophe, and this issue narrates that theme from several viewpoints. Sequences in this issue include a dream about nuclear war, narrated by a college professor, and a TV movie about the Rapture.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #108 (Marvel, 1968) – “The Snares of the Trapster!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. A thrilling story full of epic action sequences. Unfortunately it stars Marvel’s dumbest villain ever. At least by this point he’s calling himself the Trapster instead of Paste Pot Pete, but he still has a bizarre belief that there’s no problem that can’t be solved with paste.

WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #154 (DC, 1965) – “The Sons of Batman and Superman!”, [W] Edmond Hamilton, [A] Curt Swan. This issue introduces the Super Sons, though they’re distinctly different from the ‘70s versions of those characters. Notably, these Super Sons’ mothers are named as Lois Lane and Kathy Kane, while in Bob Haney’s Super Sons stories, their mothers were never identified. This first Super Sons story is very cute and lighthearted.  A very young Kal-El Jr and Bruce Jr get into a fight, and their mothers forbid them to see each other. They decide to run off together, but Kal Jr gets kidnapped by a villain, and Bruce Jr rescues him. Kal Jr and Bruce Jr appeared again a few issues later, then were forgotten until the ‘70s. World’s Finest #154 also includes a reprinted Green Arrow backup story.

WYTCHES #3 (DC, 2014) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Jock. Sailor Rooks’s dad searches for his kidnapped daughter and instead finds a man who’s been stuffed inside a tree. There’s also an extended flashback depicting Sailor and her parents at a playground. This is an okay comic, but not great. I’m not surprised there wasn’t a sequel after the initial six issues.

THE UNWRITTEN #20 (Vertigo, 2011) – “Leviathan 2,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. Tom Taylor and Lizzie Hexam visit Pittsfield, Massachusetts for the annual Moby Dick festival, which is sadly not a real thing, although Herman Melville was in fact born in that town. Tom gets sucked inside the book and discovers that his father is Captain Ahab. There’s a flashback in which a young Tom and Lizzie discuss the difference between “real truth” and “story truth.” As usual, this issue is fascinating; it’s full of literary references and metatextual moments.

HUNGRY GHOSTS #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Deep” and “Boil in the Belly,” [W] Anthony Bourdain & Joel Rose, [A] Sebastian Cabrot and Paul Pope. “Deep” is about a chef who’s sexually harassed by a senior coworker. Another coworker kills the evil chef by summoning a kappa to rip out his shirikodama, or the ball in his ass – apparently this business about the ball is a real part of kappa mythology. This story is inspired by Bourdain’s own experiences working in abusive, hierarchical restaurant kitchens. At one point, a senior chef says “I make two chefs like you in the toilet every day!” In Kitchen Confidential,Bourdain attributes this exact same insult to his culinary school professor. The backup story is about a man who develops a second mouth in his belly, and because it’s drawn by Paul Pope, it has the best art in the entire miniseries.

HUNGRY GHOSTS #4 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “The Snow Woman” and “The Cow Head,” [W] Anthony Bourdain & Joel Rose, [A] Irene Koh and Francesco Francavilla. “The Snow Woman” is about an encounter with Yuki-Onna, the snow spirit. This story is disappointing because it’s not about food at all. “The Cow Head” is about a minotaur who visits a famine-starved town, where the people kill and eat him. It has some pretty good artwork, though I’ve seen better art from Francavilla. Overall, Hungry Ghosts is a moderately successful experiment. Bourdain’s stories benefit from his expert knowledge of food, but most of them are unsatisfying in terms of narrative; they’re too short and their twist endings are nonsensical. Sadly, he never got the chance to develop his comics writing skills any further.

TRUE BELIEVERS: WOLVERINE VS. SABRETOOTH #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “24 Hours,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] John Buscema. This story is reprinted from Wolverine #10. It intercuts between two sequences: a flashback to the day Sabretooth killed Silver Fox, and a present-day sequence in which Wolverine hunts for Sabretooth in Madripoor. The latter story thread guest-stars Jessica Drew and her partner Lindsey McCabe, two old Claremont characters. “24 Hours” is very well-constructed and exciting, and effectively reveals the characters of both Wolverine and Sabretooth. It’s a small gem, and it was well worth reprinting. However, John Buscema’s pencils and Bill Sienkiewicz’s inks don’t mix well.

CRIMINAL #4 (Icon, 2007) – “Coward Part Four,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. This issue’s protagonist is a career criminal named Leo. His friend Ivan dies from overdosing on some stolen heroin, and Leo heads off to town to deal with the owners of the heroin, leaving his girlfriend Greta alone in the country with the drugs. At the end of the issue, we realize that the people Leo is looking for in town have already tracked down Greta in the country. I’m not quite sure what the larger context of this story is, but it’s an exciting story. I think Criminal is probably Ed Brubaker’s masterpiece.

ANIMOSITY: EVOLUTION #6 (AfterShock, 2018) – “Lex Machina: Part 1,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Eric Gapstur. Someone has just killed all the animal-machine hybrids except Wintermute herself, who barely survived, and this issue deals with the aftermath of that. There’s one scene in this issue where a pig explains that when the animals all came alive, the humans and their pets felt like they had lost their freedoms. But “their freedoms were astonishing luxuries that the rest of us” (i.e. the other animals) “could never dream of… ‘the most meager step towards equality’ will, to those in power, always feel like ‘relentless oppression.’” Here we see what Animosity could have been. It could have been the ultimate expression of the principle that “when you’re used to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” It could have explored the feelings of animals who have been tortured and killed for generations, and who are finally free to become something more than food. However, the series wasted this potential by failing to treat the animals as animals. As I’ve said many times before, the animals in Animosity are just humans in smaller bodies. They all think and talk like humans, except the bees. They seek for freedom and equality entirely on human terms. Therefore, Animosity can’t seriously explore the question of what it might mean for mice or cows or bats to be equal to people. It just assumes that an animal’s version of freedom and equality is the same as a human’s version. Animosity also fails to seriously confront other problems with its premise, like the fact that some animals have to eat other animals to live. In the end, Animosity promised far more than it could deliver.

ZAP COMIX #7 (Last Gasp, 1974) – “Sangrella,” [W/A] Spain, plus other stories. This comic is an expression of the underground movement at its peak, and that’s both a good and a bad thing. Zap #7 is an incredible demonstration of graphic virtuosity, to such an extent that it’s a rather labor-intensive reading experience. There’s a major story by Spain, two stories by Robt. Williams (both of which are heavily influenced by classic animation), multiple stories and pinups by S. Clay Wilson, and short pieces by Rick Griffin and Victor Moscoso. Compared with all this material, the two stories by Crumb almost feel like breaks from the difficulty and complexity of the rest of the issue. While the stories in Zap #7 are visually brilliant, they’re also full of testosterone and misogyny. S. Clay Wilson’s stories are some of the most gruesome material ever printed in a non-pornographic comic, and the entire issue is full of male sex fantasies. Even though Spain’s “Sangrella” has a female protagonist, it too seems intended to appeal to the male gaze. A comic like this shows you why It Ain’t Me, Babe and Wimmen’s Comix were necessary correctives.

GRIP: THE STRANGE WORLD OF MEN #1 (Dark Horse, 2002) – “Grip of Fear,” [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. This issue is less difficult than some of the later issues of the series, but still very weird. A man wakes up with no memory and no idea who he is. He encounters various other bizarre people, and we gradually realize that his skin and his body belong to different people. On the last page, his empty skin is found in his bed, with no body inside it. Grip has the same sort of disturbing body horror as Blubber, but unlike Blubber, Grip also has a coherent story.

HATE #13 (Fantagraphics, 1993) – “In Search of the Enigmatic George Cecil Hamilton the Third,” [W/A] Peter Bagge. Buddy’s old roommate, George, writes an article slandering Buddy as an example of the worst qualities of Generation X, and publishes the article in a free newspaper with nationwide distribution. After making a futile attempt to steal all the copies of the newspaper, Buddy tracks down George and forces him to publish a retraction. The sequence where Buddy discovers the slanderous article is hilarious; I was laughing my ass off as I read. The second half of the issue isn’t as funny. There’s also a backup story that shows what happened to Leonard/Stinky after “Follow That Dream.”

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE ANNUAL #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Declan Shalvey. Dr. Doom and Ben Grimm visit an alternate reality, where they fight a different version of Doom. This comic has some useful insights into the relationship between Doom and the FF, but it’s not nearly as entertaining as the current FF series. Surprisingly, this issue shows both versions of Doom with bare faces, although it doesn’t technically break the taboo on showing Dr. Doom’s face: one of the Dooms is from an alternate reality, and the other has previously had his face healed.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #140 (Dell, 1952) – untitled Gladstone story, [W/A] Carl Barks, plus other stories. In this issue’s Barks story, Donald and the nephews are sick of Gladstone’s constant good luck. They decide that he must have some kind of good luck charm, so they visit his house and find that he has a locked safe. With Scrooge’s help, they break into Gladstone’s house and open the safe, which turns out to contain a dime. Gladstone explains that this dime is the only money he ever earned by working, and he was so ashamed of it that he hid it in the safe. The symmetry of this is brilliant. Scrooge’s Old Number One dime represents the beginning of his life of hard work and honest earning. Gladstone’s dime is the exact opposite; it represents his allergy to work, and his faith that random chance will provide for his needs. In general, Gladstone represents the exception to the Protestant logic of Scrooge’s universe, according to which success is the reward for hard work. As with most of these old WDC&S comics, the non-Barks stories in this issue are of no interest at all, though the Grandma Duck story has some good artwork.

TRUE BELIEVERS: MARVEL KNIGHTS 20TH ANNIVERSARY – IRON FIST BY THOMAS & KANE #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Fury of Iron Fist!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Gil Kane. This reprints Marvel Premiere #15, Iron Fist’s first appearance and origin story. This issue is valuable because I didn’t actually know Iron Fist’s origin before; I knew some of the separate pieces of this story, but I wasn’t sure how they fit together. “The Fury of Iron Fist!” introduces a number of important concepts and characters, like Danny’s parents, Howard Meachum, K’un L’un, and the August Personage in Jade. Gil Kane’s art in this issue is excellent, though I’m not sure he understood how to draw martial arts action, as opposed to Western styles of combat.

STORMWATCH #50 (Image, 1997) – “Change or Die Part 3,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Tom Raney. This is the storyline that leads into The Authority, but not directly; prior to The Authority, there was a second volume of Stormwatch. Reading this issue, I was confused as to how Warren, in the space of one issue, could advance the story to the point where The Authority begins, but it turns out he didn’t have to. Besides that, Stormwatch #50 creates further confusion because it has a ton of characters who aren’t clearly identified, and Tom Raney’s art is kind of bad. But besides all that, “Change or Die” is an important story. The basic idea is that Stormwatch battles a group of superheroes, the Changers, who want to remake the world on their terms. Stormwatch wins, but later, some of the Stormwatch members decide that the Changers’ goal was correct, though their methods were flawed. And that’s how we get to The Authority.

THE UNWRITTEN #13 (Vertigo, 2010) – “Dead Man’s Knock: Monsters,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. Tom Taylor, Lizzie Hexam and Savoy are in London searching for Wilson Taylor. Meanwhile, the impending release of the fourteenth Tom Taylor book has led to a massive media frenzy, but what no one realizes is that the book is a complete train wreck, full of obvious plagiarism. This issue is full of fascinating stuff; its most striking moment is a two-page splash depicting a giant whale made up of people carrying umbrellas.

THE UNWRITTEN #14 (Vertigo, 2010) – “Dead Man’s Knock: Atrocities,” as above. While searching through my boxes, I discovered that I also have #9 and #11, but I decided to read #14 first. It begins with an excerpt from the new Tom Taylor novel, in which we encounter a black runesword that hungres for souls, a “Powder, with a capital P” that “is the raw stuff of sentience,” an “emerald telescope,” and a “blade of subtlety.” These obvious plagiarisms of Michael Moorcock and Philip Pullman are very funny. Next, Lizzie Hexam contacts Wilson Taylor by cutting her hand and throwing the blood onto the pages of a book, but Wilson’s message is that she’s on her own. Then Tom and Savoy fend off an attack by agents of some unknown power, and the issue ends with Lizzie projecting herself into the world of a Dickens novel. I’m not sure how all the pieces of this story fit together, but Unwritten is an amazing comic. It’s an inspired piece of metatextual playfulness, and it also offers a satisfying story.

DOMINO #6 (Marvel, 2018) – “Killer Instinct Conclusion,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] David Baldeon. I only read this because I was tired and wanted to read something simple, and I didn’t expect to enjoy it. Surprisingly, I did. My main complaint about this series is its lack of passion, but in her fight with Topaz, Domino displays a lot of passion. Also, this comic’s dialogue is very funny, and David Baldeon’s art is excellent. I take back some of the negative things I said about Gail’s writing.


First batch of post-Heroes Con reviews


I received a new comics shipment on June 13, the day before Heroes Con. Before picking up these comics, I had actually been to Heroes Con already to get my badge and meet Andy Kunka for dinner.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #45 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. Squirrel Girl and Ratatoskr have a disagreement and break up, but then they team up again to fight the frost giants. Also, Ratatoskr mind-controls a frost giant named Daisy and makes her sing a song. The best part of the issue is the sequence where Doreen feeds a deer while reciting “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” This is perhaps the sweetest and most lyrical moment in the series. And it’s true that this poem recently did enter the public domain.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #78 (IDW, 2019) – “Cosmos Episode Five: I Hate Myself for Loving You,” [W] Katie Cook, [A] Andy Price. The ponies and Discord finally defeat Cosmos by having Spike eat her stars. This may or may not be a reference to Matter-Eater Lad eating the Miracle Machine. This whole story is another masterpiece from Katie and Andy, with clever writing and gorgeous art. As usual, it’s full of references that younger fans will miss (e.g. “Beratis Kesla Redjac” is a Star Trek reference), and it’s one of the grimmest pony comics yet. At Heroes Con, I moderated a My Little Pony panel with Katie, Andy, and Jeremy Whitley, and it was an amazing experience. Besides being brilliant creators, all three of them are a delight to talk to.

GRUMBLE #7 (Albatross, 2019) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Mike Norton. Tala and Eddie execute a complicated plot to kidnap Jimmy the Keeper. As part of the plot, Eddie sells his soul to the devil, or an aspect thereof. This was only an average issue, compared to the previous few. The panel with Jimmy the Keeper swallowing a car is horrifying.

BRONZE AGE BOOGIE #3 (Ahoy, 2019) – “Who Watches the Walkman?”, [W] Stuart Moore, [A] Alberto Pontichelli. Jackson Li and Lynda Darrk use a magical teleporting Walkman to escape back to Brita Constantina’s time period. But now Jackson is in the hands of the Martians, while Brita and Lynda are stuck in the past. I forget if I mentioned this before, but Jackson’s sequences are narrated in second person, just like Doug Moench’s Master of Kung Fu. This issue includes another chapter of Major Ursa, which is by far the best of Ahoy’s backup features.

PRINCELESS VOL. 8: PRINCESSES #4 (Action Lab, 2019) – “Chapter 4: Antonia & Andrea,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Robin Kaplan. I must have forgotten to order issue 3, and Jeremy didn’t have any single issues for sale at Heroes Con. This issue, Antonia and Andrea turn each other into a cat and a rabbit, leading to a ton of funny moments. Besides looking like a bunny, Andrea is terrified and has a craving for carrots, and Antonia feels compelled to pounce on people and rub up against objects. After some additional mayhem, Antonia and Andrea are recruited by the Black Knight, like all their sisters were.

CALAMITY KATE #4 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Corin Howell. Kate leaves LA and, I guess, decides to get to work on herself. Thirteen years later, a now grown-up Jade becomes a monster hunter herself and discovers that she’s been given Kate’s car. And that’s the end of the series. Calamity Kate was excellent but short; it could have used a couple more issues. On Twitter, I saw where someone claimed that this series was plagiarized from an independent comic which is also about transgender monster hunters. Even if this accusation is true, and there is some circumstantial evidence to support it, I don’t think it matters. Calamity Kate seems to have only superficial similarities to the other series; if Mags did borrow the other series’s premise, she took it in a direction of her own, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In Calamity Kate, the monster hunting is not the point; the comic is about Kate’s internal struggles, and it’s not clear whether the monsters are even “real” or whether they’re just a metaphor.

GOGOR #2 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Ken Garing. Armano and Gogor continue their journey and meet some more weird creatures. At the end of the issue, they encounter the sorceress Tetra Hedron, who promises to explain what’s going on. This is a fascinating comic with distinctive artwork and writing. It reminds me of the Hulk or Swamp Thing on one hand, and Weirdworld or Wally Wood’s The Wizard King on the other hand, but it doesn’t resemble any of these very much. It feels like a sui generis thing. I didn’t see any of Ken Garing’s other comics at Heroes Con, but I expect I will come across them sooner or later.

WONDER TWINS #5 (DC, 2019) – “Magic and Games,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Stephen Byrne. This issue is a parody of recent incidents in which white people have killed black people and gotten off scot-free. Sylvia from the League of Annoyance zaps Filo Math with a Kryptonian cell phone, apparently killing him, though in fact she just sends him to the Phantom Zone. She becomes “Cell Phone Sylvia” (like BBQ Becky), and the media narrative focuses entirely on her victimhood, ignoring Filo Math. At the end of the issue, Scrambler decides he’s sick of this sort of injustice, so he enforces the Rawlsian veil of ignorance: he announces that in thirty days, he’ll scramble the brains of everyone on earth, because “the powerful will only make a system that works for everybody today if they don’t know whether they are going to be powerful tomorrow.” Another great one-liner, in the previous panel, is that “those worth the power to change the world don’t have any incentive to do so.” BTW, I am really glad that this series and Dial H for Hero have both been extended to 12 issues.

IRONHEART #7 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Eve Ewing, [A] Luciano Vecchio. Riri teams up with Nadia van Dyne to battle a zombie apocalypse. Like Faith Erin Hicks’s Zombies Calling, this issue derives much of its humor from the characters’ knowledge of the conventions of the zombie genre. It wasn’t the best issue of Ironheart, but I like how Marvel has such a big stable of teen heroes. I hope Nadia will continue to appear in other titles even though her own series was cancelled again.

OUTER DARKNESS #7 (Image, 2019) – “Castrophony of Hate Pt. 7: Haunted,” [W] John Layman, [A] Afu Chan. The ship encounters a medieval church floating in space. Inside is a 20th-century nun, Sister Magdalena Antonia, who becomes the newest crew member. This is a rather slow issue, but the image of the floating, glow-in-the-dark church is brilliant. It reminds me of something out of Star Trek: TOS, which is of course the inspiration for this series.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #10 (DC, 2019) – “But Some of Us Were Brave,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson & Dan Watters, [A] Domo Stanton. The kids escape from the wyvern with Damballah’s help, but Erzulie loses her storytelling contest with Ananse, and things aren’t looking good for her. This is the best current Vertigo title, although this issue was anticlimactic.

And then it was time for Heroes Con. This was an incredible convention, one of the most enjoyable cons I’ve ever attended. Highlights included the two panels I moderated (the one on My Little Pony, as mentioned above, and another on all-ages comics), the Don Ault tribute panel that Craig Fischer organized, and the after-party at the Heroes store. I don’t know who did the catering for that party, but the food was some of the best BBQ I’ve had in Charlotte. In general, I’m starting to feel like an actual member of the local comics community, rather than just a spectator, and that makes Heroes Con even more fun.

Some of the comics I bought at the con, as well as the remaining comics from the June 13 shipment:

MIRACLEMAN #23 (Eclipse, 1992) – “The Secret Origin of Young Miracleman!”, [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Mark Buckingham. Near the end of the con, I found this in a $5 box. I was amazed because this comic has been on my want list for decades, and I’ve never had much hope of owning it. Miracleman #23 and #24 had low print runs and have never been reprinted in any form, although Marvel keeps promising that they’ll reprint these issues as well as the completion of the Silver Age storyline. Miracleman #23 begins with a scene where three of Miracleman’s superpowered children play-fight with each other, causing massive property damage. Then Miracleman resurrects his dead sidekick Young Miracleman, aka Dicky Dauntless, who turns out to be totally unprepared for life in the post-Olympus world. My overwhelming reaction to this issue is that Miracleman is kind of an idiot; he seems to have failed to anticipate Dicky’s reaction to waking up in a completely unrecognizable world. Dicky is also kind of a naïve idiot with outdated racist values, and maybe he should have been allowed to rest in peace (on this point see also Dash Shaw’s Doctors, which I just read this morning). The scenes with Miracleman’s kids are funny, but also disturbing because of the kids’ lack of respect for the damage they’re causing. This issue’s letters page includes a blatantly homophobic letter from a JD Ryder.

TRUST FALL #1 (Aftershock, 2019) – “New Meanings to Old Worlds,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Chris Visions. This series appears to be about a girl who belongs to a family of superpowered criminals. It resembles House Amok or Lazarus, in that the protagonist has spent her life in a toxic environment with skewed values, and therefore fails to understand that her situation isn’t normal. However, Trust Fall’s plot is hard to follow, and Chris Visions’s unclear storytelling adds to the confusion. His style is very distinctive and unusual style, but it doesn’t appeal to me.

CATWOMAN #12 (DC, 2019) – untitled, [W] Joëlle Jones, [A] Fernando Blanco & Hugo Petrus. Selma steals an ancient Mesoamerican mask and has a couple encounters with cops. I don’t remember much about this issue, either because it was a rather uneventful issue, or because I was exhausted and drunk when I read it. This issue includes several panels depicting Selina’s cats.

WONDER WOMAN #72 (DC, 2019) – “Love is a Battlefield Finale,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Jesús Merino & Tom Derenick. Diana and Maggie defeat the minotaur, then with Atlantiades’s help, they battle some frog monsters and find the way to Themyscira. This issue is a pretty quick read, but the interactions between Diana and her allies are very entertaining.

SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #310 (Marvel, 2018) – “Finale,” [W/A] Chip Zdarsky. I was glad to find this at the convention because I forgot to order it, and it was the most acclaimed issue of its run; it’s currently up for an Eisner. After reading this issue, I believe it’s probably the best comic Chip has written. It’s his equivalent of “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man.” “Finale” is framed as a series of interviews with random people about Spider-Man, but the main plot is that Spider-Man defeats some criminals and discovers that one of them is a young boy, Kyle. Spidey befriends Kyle and even helps him with school, but tragically, the other criminals think Kyle betrayed them to Spider-Man, so they murder him (i.e. Kyle). And then we see that Spider-Man’s kindness to his friends is matched only by his fearfulness to his foes. A key reason this story works so well is its tastefulness and subtlety. Another writer might have concentrated on Peter’s guilt over his role in Kyle’s death. Chip instead emphasizes that Peter “tries to do the right thing” but “can’t save everyone.” Overall, this story is a perfect summary of who Spider-Man is.

UNCLE SCROOGE #49 (Gold Key, 1964) – “The Loony Lunar Gold Rush,” [W/A] Carl Barks. As mentioned above, at Heroes Con I was on a tribute panel to my late mentor Don Ault. Don must have read Uncle Scrooge #49 when it came out, but at the time, he only knew its creator as the Good Duck Artist (he didn’t learn the name Carl Barks until several years later). “The Loony Lunar Gold Rush” is a late Barks story, but it reveals the storytelling genius that earned Barks his nickname. It must have been inspired by the Apollo space program, because it begins with astronauts discovering gold on the moon, leading to a gold rush. Obviously, Scrooge can’t resist going to the moon himself. Despite the best efforts of a villain named Dan McShrew (a reference to Robert W. Service’s “The Shooting of Dan McGrew”), Scrooge makes a fortune by selling supplies at inflated prices to all the other prospectors. This story implies that during the Yukon gold rush, Scrooge made his original fortune as a shopkeeper rather than as a prosectpr. That contradicts a lot of other continuity, but Barks wasn’t all that worried about continuity.

BY NIGHT #12 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Christine Larsen. A confusing and anticlimactic ending to a bad series. I think the problem with By Night was that it tried to be a self-contained story of novelistic scope, and that’s not the type of story that John Allison is good at. His talent lends itself to writing short stories or vignettes that eventually combine into a bigger tapestry. His next series, Steeple, will only be five issues, and I hope that length will suit him better.

ORPHAN AGE #3 (Aftershock, 2019) – “Wild,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Nuno Piati. Daniel, Willa and Princess encounter a wild man who was raised by animals after his parents died in the apocalypse. Princess feels sorry for the feral man and tries to feed him, but in the end, Willa has to kill him. At times Orphan Age feels like just a generic postapocalyptic story, but this issue shows an interesting way in which this apocalypse is different from others. If all the adults died, then naturally there would be lots of kids who grew up with no human contact. Anderson’s portrayal of the wild man seems quite plausible. As usual, one of the highlights of this issue is Plati and João Lemos’s coloring.

X-MEN #129 (Marvel, 1980) – “God Spare the Child!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Terry Austin. This was another of my best finds at Heroes Con. It’s a genuine key issue, and I was shocked when I got it for just $5, though of course my copy is in low grade. X-Men #129 starts with the team’s return from Scotland, and the scene where Jean says “And I you, Scott, with all my heart” for the first time. I’ve always hated this line of dialogue, but unfortunately it’s consistent with Claremont’s usual prose style. Notice how in this scene, Byrne creates a greater sense of emphasis on Scott and Jean by not including backgrounds or panel borders; later in his career, he avoided drawing backgrounds because of simple laziness. Anyway, the main event in this issue is the second half, where Kitty Pryde and Emma Frost make their first appearances. Kitty’s first encounter with the X-Men includes the unfortunate “we got black kids in our school” line, but besides that, what stands out in this scene is that in Kitty’s first appearance, she was already a well-developed character. We already see that she loves to dance, that she’s worried about puberty and about the collapse of her parents’ marriage, and that she’s very brave.

DETECTIVE COMICS #475 (DC, 1978) – “The Laughing Fish!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Marshall Rogers. This was the last of my three best finds at Heroes Con, and like Miracleman #24 and X-Men #129, it only cost me $5. It’s the only Englehart/Rogers Batman issue I was missing. In my opinion, “The Laughing Fish” is the best Joker story ever published. It depicts a Joker who is terrifying and insane, but whose actions are logically consistent. His “plan” in this story is to put Joker faces on fish, then claim intellectual property rights to the fish. That’s ridiculous, but it also makes a certain kind of sense. This issue also includes some important scenes with Englehart’s two major supporting characters, Silver St. Cloud and Rupert Thorne. Pages 2 and 3 of this issue, where Batman visits Silver in her apartment, are analyzed in R.C. Harvey’s The Art of the Comic Book.

USAGI YOJIMBO #10 (Mirage, 1994) – “Slavers Part 2,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Stan was one of the guests of honor at Heroes Con. I only got to exchange a few words with him, because there was always a massive line at his table (and an even longer line for Sergio Aragonés, who was also there). I hope I see him again at Comic-Con. This issue is the sequel to one that I read last year; see a summary. This issue, it turns out that the village boy who escaped the slavers wasn’t actually dead, and he helps Usagi defeat the slavers. But the head slaver escapes with Usagi’s swords, which leads into the next storyline. There’s also a backup story in which Jei encounters a very unfortunate fisherman.

ADAM STRANGE/FUTURE QUEST SPECIAL #1 (DC, 2017) – “Strangequest,” [W] Jeff Parker & Marc Andreyko, [A] Steve Lieber. I somehow forgot to order this, even though it was the most appealing of the DC/Hanna-Barbera crossover titles. “Strangequest” is a pretty straightforward adventure story, but it’s exciting, and seeing the Quest family again is really fun. Also, Steve Lieber is an excellent and underrated artist.  As a minor note, it’s nice how when Benton Quest meets Adam, he introduces both Hadji and Jonny as his sons. Other Jonny Quest stories often give the impression that Hadji isn’t really Benton Quest’s son.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #146 (Marvel, 1975) – “Scorpion… Where is Thy Sting?”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Ross Andru. Much of this issue is devoted to a fight between Spider-Man and the Scorpion. There’s a cute scene at the end where Spidey forces the Scorpion to apologize to Aunt May for scaring her, and Aunt May tells him off. But the most important part of this issue is the subplot involving the Jackal and the clone of Gwen. There’s a rather depressing scene where “Gwen” kisses Peter and is hurt by his lack of response. Gwen doesn’t know that since “her” death, Peter has fallen in love with Mary Jane.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #14 (Marvel, 2006) – “Invincible,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Cory Walker. This is a crossover between Spider-Man and Invincible, but really it’s an issue of Invincible that guest-stars Spider-Man. Unlike most crossover stories, this one has a premise that makes sense. At the time Invincible had been fighting Angstrom Levy, who had been sending him into a bunch of different dimensions – and it turns out that one of those dimensions was the Marvel Universe. I don’t think Kirkman’s writing style is appropriate for Spider-Man, because he’s fundamentally too dark. But as a one-time thing, this issue is lots of fun, and it derives a lot of humor from the two heroes’ unfamiliarity with each other. For example, Spidey calls Invincible Hair-Boy.

NANCY #166 (Dell, 1959) – various stories, [W] John Stanley, [A] Dan Gormley. This issue is in such poor condition that I hesitate to remove it from its bag. Its cover split in half as I was reading it. John Stanley’s Nancy is very similar to his Little Lulu, except that the jokes revolve around Sluggo’s poor hygiene instead of Tubby’s obesity. The most notable story in the issue is about Oona Goosepimple, a character Stanley created. She resembles Wednesday Addams and has a labyrinthine house that people get lost in. There’s also a story about an escaped prisoner who tunnels into a cage at the zoo.

BARBIE #18 (Marvel, 1992) – “Planes, Boats, Trains & Cars,” [W] Trina Robbins, [A] Anna-Maria Cool. I was actively looking for Barbie comics at Heroes Con. I just submitted a draft of a book chapter about Amethyst, Angel Love, and other ‘80s girls comics published by the Big Two. The idea of the article was to examine earlier efforts to market comic books to girls, prior to the contemporary “blue age” of comics, as Adrienne Resha calls it. In doing research for this article, I realized that Marvel’s Barbie comics are an important part of this history, and that I need to start collecting them. I even included some material about Barbie in a previous draft of the Amethyst/Angel Love essay, but it had to be cut for lack of space.

I’ve talked to three Barbie comics creators so far – Barbara Slate, June Brigman and Lisa Trusiani, the last two of whom were at Heroes Con. The impression I’m getting is that working on Barbie was a challenge because of the severe restrictions imposed by Mattel. Barbie couldn’t make mistakes, and she couldn’t do anything the doll couldn’t. This issue is hurt by those constraints, because it doesn’t have much of a conflict. Barbie and her bandmates accept a challenge to perform a concert in all 50 states (in a possible homage to Around the World in 80 Days), and they succeed without much of a challenge. The artwork in this issue is rather static, and the characters really do look like dolls.

IMMORTAL HULK #19 (Marvel, 2019) – “Butterfly,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. The Hulk’s fight with the Abomination goes rather poorly, since the Abomination’s spit neutralizes the Hulk’s healing factor. Betty Ross Banner shows up in the form of the Harpy, but instead of saving the Hulk, she rips his heart out and eats it. This continues to be the best and most original Hulk comic in many years.

XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS #3 (Dynamite, 2019) – untitled, [W] Vita Ayala, [A] Jordi Pérez. This isn’t terrible, but it’s not memorable in any way, and I’m not a fan of the Xena franchise. I shouldn’t have ordered this comic.

SPIDER-MAN: LIFE STORY #4 (Marvel, 2019) – “Brothers in Arms,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Mark Bagley. It’s the ‘90s. Aunt May is finally dead for good, and Peter is dating Jessica Jones. Otherwise, Peter’s life is not going well. When Ben Reilly shows up and is (falsely) revealed as the original Peter Parker instead of the clone, Peter is happy to surrender his life and identity to Ben. The issue ends with Peter returning to MJ and their children. This series gets more depressing with every issue, because all the familiar characters keep getting older. This whole series is a good demonstration of why Marvel and DC characters can’t be allowed to age in real time. Of course if this was the real Spider-Man series, Peter would probably have been replaced as the main character by his children, just like in Savage Dragon.

SHE COULD FLY: THE LOST PILOT #3 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “Harold,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Martin Morazzo. This issuse includes some more excellent depictions of mental illness. I especially like the scene where Luna thinks she’s hit someone with her car. This seems to be a common manifestation of OCD. However, this series’s plot is getting so confusing that I can barely follow it.

MORNING IN AMERICA #4 (Oni, 2019) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Claudia Aguirre. This issue focuses on the Latina protagonist, Nancy. She witnesses her parents splitting up, then infiltrates the Marathon factory, where we see some scientists talking about a plot to summon alien beings through a wormhole. I don’t remember this issue very well, but Morning in America has been a pretty fun series so far.

GLOW #2 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Tini Howard, [A] Hannah Templer. The GLOW girls prepare for their match against a team of more serious female wrestlers. I’ve lost my enthusiasm for Tini Howard’s writing, but this series has some witty dialogue and good art. It also has a feminist message, because it’s about the struggles of women in a male-dominated field. Overall it feels like a Boom! Box comic, which is why I’m reading it. However, there are so many characters in Glow that I can’t tell them apart.

SMOOTH CRIMINALS #6 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kurt Lustgarten, Kiwi Smith & Amy Roy. The Net of Indra is moved to a new facility, so Mia and Brenda have to completely rethink their plans. But of course something goes wrong – specifically, Mia’s mother betrays them. The interactions between Mia and Brenda are really fun, but I think Smooth Criminals’s story is getting stretched too thin; it’s too insubstantial of a story to support a twelve-issue maxiseries.

ATOMIC CITY TALES #1 (Black Eye, 1994) – “Atomic City Tales,” [W/A] Jay Stephens. This is the first Jay Stephens comic I’ve read. I bought an issue of Land of Nod last year, but haven’t gotten to it yet. Atomic City Tales #1 is about an encounter between Stephens himself and a superhero named Big Bang. It feels very similar to Madman, because it’s influenced by Silver Age comics and ‘60s hipster culture, and its goal is to be entertaining in a campy way. However, unlike Madman, it doesn’t have much of a plot, and Big Bang is a blatant wish fulfillment fantasy. Despite all that, Jay Stephens’s style is really interesting, and I want to read more of his work.

MANHUNT #1 (Print Mint, 1973) – various stories, [E] Terry Richards. I’m not sure what the origin of this comic was, but it’s an underground comic with both male and female creators, and it feels like a parody of romance comics. As usual with underground comics, the stories in this issue are of widely varying quality. The highlight of the issue is probably Sharon Rudahl’s strip about Calamity Jane, on the inside back cover. Other creators include Shary Flenniken (under a pseudonym), Aline Kominsky and Bobby London. Aline Kominsky’s strip “My Fat Came Between Us” is intentionally disgusting. Willy Murphy’s “Henry Henpeck Breaks Out” appears to be a parody of The Lockhorns.

BATGIRL #10 (DC, 2017) – “Son of Penguin Part 4,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Chris Wildgoose. Babs breaks up with Ethan and has a heart-to-heart chat with Dick Grayson, while continuing to try to defeat Ethan’s plot. The issue ends with a confrontation between Ethan and his father, the Penguin. This isn’t my favorite Hope Larson Batgirl issue, but it’s not bad. The relationship drama is more interesting than the plot.

SUPERGIRL #1 (DC, 1996) – “Body & Soul,” [W] Peter David, [A] Gary Frank. I’ve never quite understood this series’ premise, so I was glad to finally find a copy of the first issue. As Supergirl #1 begins, a woman wakes up with no memories. She discovers that her name is Linda Danvers, and that she was believed to have been murdered by her boyfriend Buzz. But it’s more complicated than that, because “Linda” is really Supergirl, aka the shapeshifting Matrix. As the original Linda died, Matrix somehow absorbed her memories and personality. It’s a fascinating premise, which transforms the rather boring post-Crisis Supergirl into an interesting character. Now that I know what’s going on in this series, I look forward to reading more of it.

INVISIBLES #1 (DC, 1994) – “Dead Beatles,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. The first issue of Invisibles focuses on Dane McGowan, a Liverpool teenage boy who has no interests other than committing crimes and causing property damage. After an encounter with the ghosts of John Lennon and Stuart Sutcliffe, he commits a further crime and is sentenced to Harmony House, a Dickensian workhouse that tries to destroy its inmates’ emotions. But King Mob, one of the so-called Invisibles, shows up and rescues him. Invisibles #1 doesn’t make it entirely clear what the series is about; so far, it seems to have a rather simplistic message about the superiority of emotion to reason. But there’s a lot of fascinating stuff in this issue, and it displays deep research and erudition (especially in the Lennon/Sutcliffe scene). I plan on actively collecting this series.

DAREDEVIL #37 (Marvel, 1967) – “Don’t Look Now, but It’s… Dr. Doom!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Gene Colan. This issue has a simple but iconic cover, showing Daredevil fighting Dr. Doom on a black background. As the issue begins, Daredevil fights Doom and obviously loses because he’s overmatched. In a flashback, we see how Doom survived crashing into Galactus’s barrier in Fantastic Four #60. Then Doom switches bodies with Daredevil for some reason. I assume that the next issue begins with Doom discovering the hard way that Daredevil is blind. This was an okay issue, but not a classic.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #32 (Marvel, 2017) – “Personal Demon,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Greg Smallwood. This issue is a Norman Osborn solo story. Prior to this issue, Spider-Man injected Norman with nanites that prevent his super-strength serum from working. In the tradition of Baron Mordo and Dr. Strange, Norman Osborn goes to a remote mountain monastery to get his powers back. The monks train him and endow him with magic powers, which he uses to kill Spider-Man. Then he turns his powers on the monks as well. But at that point we learn that Norman’s training and the subsequent events never really happened. The monks were testing him by making him think he had powers, so that so they could see what he would do with those powers. And Norman failed the test. This is a surprising twist, and the entire issue, with its echoes of Dr. Strange, is a good example of Dan Slott’s ability to connect different parts of the Marvel Universe.

STRANGEHAVEN #5 (Abiogenesis, 1996) – “Cooking for Alex,” [W/A] Gary Spencer Millidge. Strangehaven takes place in a remote English village where the protagonist, Alex, has recently arrived as a teacher. The main event of the issue is that Alex has dinner with a local woman named Janey, but deeply hurts her when he rejects her sexual advances. Throughout the issue there are hints that something… strange is going on in Strangehaven, but Millidge is less interested in plot than in creating a mood and a sense of local specificity. He portrays rural England with great verisimilitude; it seems like he has intimate knowledge of villages like Strangehaven. I hope I come across some more issues of this series. One panel early in the issue depicts a shop window full of fake ads, including an ad for Alec McGarry’s home-brewed wine and ale.

PRISM STALKER #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Sloane Leong. This series was well-reviewed when it came out, and I regret that I didn’t order it. Prism Stalker starts out very confusingly, but we eventually realize that it’s about humans who are enslaved by aliens. In return for the aliens saving them from extinction, the humans have to “uproot” the aliens’ eggs by singing to them. But then the protagonist, Vep, is ordered to travel to a different planet to attend a “Chorus Academy.” Prism Stalker’s main attractions are its weirdness and its lyricism. The aliens have a bizarre biology and culture, which is presented to us with weird artwork and with captions like “Infinite blue instead of wet hive-green.” Prism Stalker has a very similar sensibility to Brandon Graham’s Prophet, and its aliens look a lot like one of the alien species from that series. This is no coincidence, because Sloane Leong worked on Prophet.

CHEW #6 (Image, 2019) – “International Flavor Part 1 of 5,” [W] John Layman, [A] Rob Guillory. I was surprised to discover that I’m missing a bunch of issues of Chew. I kind of assumed that I had all of them except the first few. This issue is mostly about Tony Chu and John Colby’s troubled relationship. They spend the issue investigating a black market chicken operation, but at the end, Tony discovers that the “chicken” is in fact Gallsaberry, a plant that tastes just like chicken. A notable moment in this issue is when Chu and Colby decide to do some conventional detective work to track down the criminals, when they could have gotten the same information by eating a pile of feces.

HAUNT OF FEAR #8 (Russ Cochran, 1994) – four stories, [E] Al Feldstein. This issue begins with Graham Ingels’s “Hounded to Death!”, about a woman unhappily married to a hunter who abuses his dogs. Like so many other wives in EC comics, she cheats on her husband with another man, and her husband murders her lover by throwing her to his dogs. The lover comes back as a zombie and kills the husband, Ingels’s artwork in this story is brilliant. George Roussos’s “The Very Strange Mummy!” is a generic mummy story, with the twist that the mummy is also a vampire. In Ed Smalle’s “Diminishing Returns,” an explorer lures a wealthy client to his death at the hands of Ecuadorean headhunters, but the client’s shrunken head somehow comes to life and kills the explorer. Ed Smalle worked in comics from about 1940 to 1956, but this was his only story for EC. The best story in the issue is Jack Davis’s “The Irony of Death.” Steel mill foreman Jeffrey Slag (heh) wants to marry the mill owner’s daughter, but the owner refuses, so Jeffrey murders him by throwing him into a vat of molten iron. Then he takes further sadistic revenge by using the iron from the vat to make tools. But two of the ingots from the vat are misplaced. Later, while visiting a museum, Jeffrey gets inside an iron maiden to see how it works. Of course, the iron maiden closes on him and kills him, and it turns out to have been made from the two missing ingots.

GREEN LANTERN #82 (DC, 1971) – “How Do You Fight a Nightmare?”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Neal Adams. This is the one where Sinestro teams up with a bunch of alien harpies and Amazons (no apparent relation to the Amazons from Wonder Woman). It’s the worst issue of O’Neil and Adams’s Green Lantern, because its plot is confusing, and its treatment of feminism is very superficial. The villain Medusa is a straw feminist who just wants vengeance against all men. Dinah’s line “It would forever stain our honor as women to slay man at the bidding of man” rubs me the wrong way; it’s as if Dinah is saying that she and Medusa should have common interests, simply because they’re both women. However, even the worst issue of GL/GA still includes all sorts of amazing artwork. I especially like the panel with Ollie shooting an arrow through a ring. Also, this issue does have some cute scenes between Ollie and Dinah.

VICTOR LAVALLE’S DESTROYER #3 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Dietrich Smith. This series’ plot is very intricate, and I have not found issue 1 yet, so I didn’t understand everything in issue 3. But the parts I do understand are fascinating. The main protagonist, Dr.  Baker, is a black female nanotechnologist. Her young son Akai was murdered by police on the way home from a baseball game (more on this in my review of issue 5, much later). She used her nanotech processes to resurrect him, thus turning him into a modern Frankenstein’s monster. And now Dr. Baker and Akai are being pursued by both the government and the original Frankenstein’s monster. This series is a brilliant combination of the Frankenstein myth with the contemporary police brutality crisis. An especially powerful moment is when Dr. Baker draws a connection between her son’s murder and that of Medgar Evers. I hope that Destroyer won’t be Victor LaValle’s only work in comics.

TRANSMETROPOLITAN #44 (Vertigo, 2001) – “Dirge Part 2,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Darick Robertson. A sniper is going around killing people at random. The cops are all off work because of “blue flu” (i.e. a strike disguised as a sickout), and the weather is terrible. This all creates a situation where Spider Jerusalem and his “filthy assistants” are the only people on the city streets. This story creates a great sense of suspense, and I’d like to know what happens in issue 45. As with Invincibles, I’ve decided to start actively trying for a complete run of Transmetropolitan.

BATMAN #322 (DC, 1980) – “Chaos – Coming and Going!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Irv Novick. Captain Boomerang shows up in Gotham and blackmails a newspaper called the Gotham Guardian. It turns out the Gotham Guardian is run by Gregorian Falstaff, who was the primary villain of this era of Batman. Meanwhile, Selina Kyle is trying to go straight, but she learns that she has a rare disease which can only be cured by certain herbs that were known to the ancient Egyptians. And conveniently, there’s an Egyptian exhibit going on at a Gotham museum. Batman #322 isn’t the best Batman comic, but it’s a lot of fun. Len Wein brought a Marvel-esque sensibility to the character.

INCREDIBLE HULK #123 (Marvel, 1969) – “No More the Monster!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Herb Trimpe. Bruce Banner finally gains the ability to control his transformations into the Hulk. Overjoyed, he proposes marriage to Betty Ross. But just as Bruce is enjoying a rare moment of happiness, Thunderbolt Ross recruits him to test a new weapons system, and the Leader shows up and tries to steal it. I believe it’s next issue where Bruce is forcibly transformed into the Hulk during his own wedding. Herb Trimpe’s artwork in Hulk #123 is brilliant. The next issue blurb is funny: Bruce says “This I swear… that I will never become the Hulk… not even… if my life depends on it!” Caption at bottom: “Next issue: IT DOES!”

METAL MEN #47 (DC, 1976) – “The ‘X’ Effect,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Walt Simonson. In Antarctica, the Metal Men battle the Plutonium Man and his robot, which can take on the properties of any element. This issue’s story is only average, but Walt Simonson’s artwork is spectacular. Both the compositions and the draftsmanship are dynamic and exciting. Simonson’s Metal Men is an important transitional chapter between his two greatest works, Manhunter and Thor.

KANE #9 (Dancing Elephant, 1995) – “His Story,” [W/A] Paul Grist. This issue is the origin story of Oscar Darke, the series’ primary villain. This comic’s plot is difficult to follow; I had to look up who Oscar Darke was. Paul Grist’s artwork is extremely minimalistic, and his panel compositions are stark and simple. He uses the absolute minimum of linework to tell his story, and as a result he reminds me of Alex Toth. His artwork in Jack Staff is usually much more complex, though still quite minimalistic.

AVENGERS #37 (Marvel, 1966) – “To Conquer a Colossus!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Don Heck. The Avengers battle Ixar the Invincible, a boring villain who never appeared again. Black Widow saves the day by threatening to kill Ixar unless he surrenders. This would be a violation of the Avengers’ oath, but at this point Natasha isn’t an Avenger yet. Avengers #37 has some good characterization, but it’s not the most memorable issue.

CRITTERS #19 (Fantagraphics, 1987) – four stories, [E] Kim Thompson. I bought this issue because it includes a three-page Sam and Max story, “Night of the Cringing Wildebeest.” I believe this makes Critters #19 the only Sam and Max comic in my collection. These characters are famous thanks to their starring roles in other media, but their actual comics appearances are very rare and difficult to find. That’s a shame because Steve Purcell is a brilliant cartoonist. Even three pages of Sam and Max are worth the price of an entire issue. Sam and Max are memorable characters who are effective foils for each other: Sam is a self-important blowhard, and Max is a tiny homicidal maniac. Also, their stories use metatext in very funny ways. In Critters #19, Sam tells the criminal “I can’t think of anything to say in this panel. Take care of him, Max,” and in the next panel Max says “I’ve been authorized by the jurisdiction of whatever city this is to punish you in whatever way I can think of!” This issue also includes Gnuff, Lizards and Fission Chicken stories.

MIRACLEMAN #13 (Eclipse, 1987) – “Chapter III: Hermes,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] John Totleben. I already have the Marvel reprint of this issue, but I wasn’t going to pass up a chance to upload my reprint into an original. In this issue, Miracleman and Miraclewoman help mediate a peace treaty between the Qys and the Warpsmiths, but then Miracleman comes home to find that his wife is leaving him. Meanwhile, Johnny Bates is amnesiac and powerless, but his Kid Miracleman personality is demanding to be freed. This issue includes some beautifully lyrical writing and art, like the opening page with the “and/oroid” creature. I love  how the and/oroids have a word for “nostalgia for a hole’s intriguing shape once it’s been filled.” However, this issue also gives the sense that Miracleman is kind of an idiot; he ignores his wife’s postpartum depression and her feelings of inadequacy, and he makes no attempt to prevent Johnny Bates from turning back into Kid Miracleman. This issue’s main story is only 16 pages, so it also includes an old Marvelman reprint.

PALOOKA-VILLE #1 (Drawn & Quarterly, 1994) – “I Should’a Ran,” [W/A] Seth. An autobiographical story in which a young Seth is beaten by thugs who think he’s gay. This comic isn’t bad – the scene of the beating is shocking and brutal – but it feels more like a Joe Matt comic than a Seth comic. It lacks the lyricism and nostalgia that I associate with Seth, except in one silent panel that depicts a woman waiting for a bus on a snowy night.

THE FURTHER FATTENING ADVENTURES OF PUDGE, GIRL BLIMP #1 (Last Gasp, 1973) – multiple stories, [W/A] Lee Marrs. At the height of the hippie era, an overweight teenage girl runs away to San Francisco to find herself and lose her virginity. Pudge, Girl Blimp is Lee Marrs’s masterpiece. It’s funny, heartfelt, and extremely dense; each page has a ton of panels, and each panel is packed with dialogue and sight gags. It also depicts San Francisco with incredible detail and verisimilitude; you can tell it was drawn in the same place and at the same time as the events it narrates. The chapters of Pudge’s story are interspersed with scenes from the story of Mei-Lin Luftwaffe, Aerial Infant. These pages are drawn in a much simpler style. I also got Pudge, Girl Blimp #2 at Heroes Con, but haven’t read it yet. It’s too bad that there are only three issues, and that Lee Marrs wasn’t able to continue this fascinating project.

SUICIDE SQUAD #44 (DC, 1990)  – “Grave Matters,” [W] John Ostrander & David de Vries, [A] Luke McDonnell. This issue is a spotlight on Captain Boomerang, the most entertaining character in the series. While attending his mother’s funeral, Boomerbutt tells Deadshot his origin story. As a kid growing up in Australia, George Harkness was obsessed with boomerangs. But his abusive father neglected him, and George grew up to be a criminal.  Eventually, George is forced to flee to America to seek help from his “uncle” Walt W. Wiggins, a character from his first appearance in Flash #117. This starts the chain of events that leads to Captain Boomerang becoming a villain. Back in the present, we discover the explanation for George’s troubled family life: Walt Wiggins is his biological father. George rejects both his fathers and goes “where we’re loved. Back to Momma Waller.” It’s a touching ending to a powerful story, one which helps to humanize an entertaining but rather unsympathetic character. This was the only issue of Suicide Squad where David de Vries got a credit. I assume he was brought in as a consultant because he’s from Australia.

BIRTHRIGHT #9 (Image, 2015) – unknown, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. In the present, Mikey battles a creature known as a Diviner, while in a flashback, we see how Mikey first learned about the Diviners. The issue ends with Wendy encountering Rya, her grandchild’s mother, for the first time.

TREES #6 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Jason Howard. Apparently this series’ main plot is about some giant alien monoliths that land all over Earth. But Trees #6 is mostly about a young Chinese man who’s fallen in love with a transgender woman. It’s a sensitive and nuanced depiction of transgender issues. I especially like the line “On a healthy planet, gender is a continuum.”

VERY VICKY #1 (Meet Danny Ocean, 1994) – “Yesterday’s Coming Back Tomorrow,” [W] John Mitchell, [A] Jana Christy. Basically a slice-of-life story about an aloof, quiet teenage girl who vacations with her aunt and uncle on the beach. This comic suffers from a lack of a distinctive voice or aesthetic. It’s not clear just what effect Mitchell and Christy are trying to create, and Vicky never quite emerges as a distinctive character. However, I appreciate that Mitchell and Christy were at least trying something original. This comic is also relevant to my interests because it’s a ‘90s comic aimed at female readers, and I’d like to read more of it, if only to get a better understanding of what’s going on with it. See also this review:

BATMAN AND ROBIN #38 (DC, 2015) – “Superpower – Fly Robin Fly,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Patrick Gleason. Prior to this issue, Damian Wayne has somehow acquired superpowers, and he spends most of this issue trying out his new powers and grappling with his vexed relationship with his mother Talia. I enjoyed this issue reasonably well, and that makes sense because I already love Tomasi and Gleason’s Superboy and Superboy/Robin stories.

DOCTOR STRANGE #174 (Marvel, 1968) – “The Power and the Pendulum,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Gene Colan. Clea is now living on Earth full-time, and she has to adjust to her new environment, her new relationship with Dr. Strange, and her jealousy over Strange’s closeness to Victoria Bentley. Halfway through the issue, Strange and Bentley go to England to visit Lord Nekron (no relation to the later Green Lantern villain Nekron), who turns out to have sold his soul to Satannish for a year of power. By the terms of the deal, Nekron’s powers will increase constantly over the course of the year, but at the end of the year, he’ll be damned unless he can find another sorcerer to substitute for him. Because Nekron is an idiot, he waits until the last hour of the year to confront Strange, and Strange defeats him by casting a spell that makes time go faster, so the hour ends and Nekron is claimed by Satannish. Besides the scenes with Clea, the main appeal of this issue is Gene Colan’s spectacular artwork. I especially like the page where Strange is guided into Nekron’s lair by a grid of dazzling lights.

New comics received on June 21:

LUMBERJANES #63 (Boom!, 2019) – “The Fright Stuff,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] AnneMarie Rogers. The Lumberjanes are attacked by a dinosaur, but it turns out to be Jonesy, the velociraptor that Ripley befriended in an earlier story. Jonesy now has feathers and looks exactly like an enormous bird. Then there’s a thrilling and funny chase sequence, and at the end of the issue, the girls discover that the dinosaurs’ migration is blocked by the wreckage of a crashed space station. This issue is much faster-paced and less dense than #62, but it’s still excellent.

USAGI YOJIMBO #1 (IDW, 2019) – “Bunraku Part One,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. This is Usagi Yojimbo’s fourth volume from as many publishers, but the only difference from the third volume is that it’s in color. Tom Luth is obviously the ideal choice as colorist, and he does a great job. “Bunraku” begins with Sasuke fighting some demons, and then we cut to Usagi watching a bunraku (puppet theater) performance with some very lifelike puppets – a bit too lifelike, in fact, because they’re alive. This is a good start to volume 4, and I’m glad that Stan is back on a regular schedule again. I talked to him briefly at Heroes Con, but I’d have liked to ask him some more questions. (Was “The Hidden” inspired by his personal faith? Is he ever going to do a story about kaiseki?)

INVISIBLE KINGDOM #4 (Image, 2019) – “Walking the Path Part Four,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Christian Ward. Vess and Grix escape the ship that’s pursuing them, then they appeal to the local government, but get no help. And then an even bigger ship shows up. Invisible Kingdom is an exciting adventure story and a showpiece for Christian Ward’s phenomenal art. But it’s also a subtle examination of Willow’s overarching theme of religious faith. What does it mean to have faith in a religion, when that religion’s leadership is totally corrupt and hypocritical?

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #7 (Marvel, 2019) – “A Day in the Lives,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] four artists. Day-in-the-life stories are perhaps my favorite kind of superhero comics, and this is a pretty good one. The main event this issue is that Miles learns that his parents are having another baby.

SHURI #9 (Marvel, 2019) – “Godhead,” [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Rachael Stott. Shuri and Storm pursue the Space Lubber to the vibranium mines, which are full of hallucinogenic coral. The Space Lubber is an adorable villain, and this series is a lot of fun in general. I’m just sorry that there’s only one issue left. I hope Nnedi will return to comics soon.

UNSTOPPABLE WASP #9 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] GuriHiru. This issue is a series of fight scenes, but Jeremy uses the fight scenes as a way of revealing more about the protagonists. Nadia escapes from the Boogeyman, while Janet beats the crap out of her insane stalker Whirlwind. David Cannon’s portrayal in this issue shows Jeremy’s understanding of stalkers’ creepy logic.

PLANET OF THE NERDS #3 (Ahoy, 2019) – “Beneath the Planet of the Nerds,” [W] Paul Constant, [A] Alan Robinson. Chad continues to act like a complete shit, and his own lack of social skills prevents him from getting any closer to Alvin. Part of the fun of this comic is that it lets us witness a high school bully getting his comeuppance, not after he grows up, but while he’s still a high schooler. At the end of the issue, Steve encounters his girlfriend Jenny, who’s gotten much older. A backup story reveals that Chad became a bully because of his abusive father. This information helps us understand Chad better, but doesn’t make him any more sympathetic; he could have chosen not to act like his father.

MONSTRESS #23 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. The Lord Doctor (I guess this is Maika’s dad’s name) tricks Maika into eating human flesh, and we learn that Maika has to eat people to stay alive. This may not be new information, but I didn’t realize it until now, and it makes the central themes of the series a lot clearer. If Maika is an obligate cannibal, that explains why she’s a monster. At the end of the issue, the Lord Doctor tells Zinn that he conspired with someone named Marium to betray the Shaman-Empress. Kippa and Ren only make a cameo appearance in the issue.

GODDESS MODE #6 (Vertigo, 2019) – “End of File,” [W] Zoe Quinn, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. This issue has some good lines of dialogue, such as “Hope is something you make.” But its story makes no sense, even though I’ve read issues 1 through 5. I’ve completely lost sight of who the Tall Poppies are fighting or why. Goddess Mode got off to a good start, but quickly declined in quality because Zoe Quinn made a mistake common to new fiction writers: she tried to do way too much. This series is full of ambitious concepts and themes, but these concepts and themes don’t fit together well, and none of them gets enough attention.

BLACK BADGE #11 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. The Black Badges defeat the corrupt Honor Society, but now they have to go back to the orphanage. At the end of the issue, they’re approached by an unseen character who tells them that they still have a lot of work to do. This issue reminds me of the ending of MIND MGMT, where Meru defeats the evil leadership of her organization, and then has to rearrange it on a superior basis. In general I like this series much more than Grass Kings, though not as much as MIND MGMT.

MIDDLEWEST #8 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. At Heroes Con, I told Skottie Young that Middlewest proves he can write in genres other than humor, and he seemed pleased to hear it. This issue begins with Bobby criticizing Magdalena for throwing out Abel. I honestly can’t blame Magdalena. She had to protect everyone in the circus, not Abel, and Abel had already burned through the goodwill he’d established with her. But Bobby’s reaction also makes sense. Next, Dale gets in a bar fight with a man who recognizes him as an abusive father, and Abel and Fox travel through a forest, where they’re surrounded by a horde of creepy squirrels.

GIDEON FALLS #14 (Image, 2019) – “The Village Near the Centre,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. Father Fred finds himself in a village whose people who seem to understand the nature of the Gideon Falls universe. Meanwhile, in 1953, Father Jeremiah Burke, who looks exactly like Father Fred, wakes up after a 50-year coma. The issue ends with a scene depicting am apparent villain named Bishop Burke. I assume that Fred, Jeremiah Burke, and Bishop Burke are all the same man, but how they relate to each other is not clear. As usual, this issue includes some brilliant artwork. Given the relative tameness of Andrea Sorrentino’s art in War of the Realms: War Scrolls, I assume that Jeff is at least partly responsible for Gideon Falls’s radically experimental page layouts.

RAT QUEENS #16 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ryan Ferrier, [A] Priscilla Petraites. In this issue Betty asks “Remember when all this was fun?” That perfectly expresses my feelings about Rat Queens, because this issue is not fun at all. For example, one of the central moments is that Betty gets an intervention for alcoholism. That’s quite realistic, but I don’t want Rat Queens to be realistic. I want it to be a raucous, anarchic, feminist story about women who drink, fuck, and fight. Rat Queens hasn’t been that sort of story for several years. The characters have been so consumed by their internal struggles that they’ve forgotten how to have fun. Possibly the same thing has happened to the comic’s creators. Rat Queens has suffered from constant problems on the creative front, starting with the revelation that its original artist is a spousal abuser. Kurtis Wiebe is no longer interested in writing this comic, and I see no reason why another writer could do a better job. I was willing to give Ryan Ferrier a chance, but Rat Queens #16 offers no hope that the franchise will reverse its decline, and I’m giving up on it. I think it should have just been cancelled.

ASSASSIN NATION #4 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Erica Henderson. I had dinner with Kyle Starks at Heroes Con – well, sort of; he was at the table next to where Andy Kunka and I were sitting. Assassin Nation #4 is another fun issue of a very entertaining series. After yet another exaggeratedly gruesome fight scene, the assassins discover that their client, Rankin, has been setting them up to be killed.

FARMHAND #9 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Rob Guillory. The transplant patients start to get even creepier, and the new mayor begins to execute her plan. This issue is more focused on horror than humor, and it shows that Farmhand is not just a humor comic.

SUPERMAN #1 (DC, 2016) – “Son of Superman,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Patrick Gleason. This issue doesn’t have much plot, but it’s an effective introduction to the Kent family. The main event this issue is that Jonathan uses his heat vision to save a cat from a hawk, but accidentally kills both creatures, and a little girl sees him do it. I mostly love Peter Tomasi’s Superman Family stories; however, they are rather heteronormative, and a friend of mine has complained about Tomasi’s somewhat sexist portrayal of Lois.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #581 (Marvel, 2009) – “Mind on Fire Part One: The Trouble with Harry,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Mike McKone. Harry Osborn’s new girlfriend’s dad is running for mayor. Peter Parker accompanies Harry to see his estranged wife and child, Liz Allan and Normie. It turns out that Liz is living with her stepbrother the Molten Man, and he wakes up, destroys the house, and sets it on fire. This issue is a pretty effective portrayal of the Osborns’ screwed-up family dynamics. It’s kind of a sequel to Spectacular Spider-Man #189 and #200. Normie Osborn doesn’t seem to have aged much in the past twenty years of stories.

AQUAMAN #49 (DC, 2019) – “Mother Shark Part Two,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Viktor Bogdanovic. This issue’s title has something of a double meaning, since it turns out to be about impending parenthood. In a flashback, we see what happened before Unspoken Water began: Mera told Arthur she was pregnant, and Arthur was so terrified by this news that he caused an earthquake. Arthur and Mera’s reactions both seem completely plausible: it makes sense that Arthur is scared to be a father, and that Mera is offended that he’s scared. I feel like this whole issue wouldn’t have happened if Arthur had just politely asked Mera to be quiet for a moment and let him calm down. I wonder if DC’s edict that Arthur and Mera can’t get married is still in force.

SECRET HEARTS #151 (DC, 1971) – “Mother, Let Me Go!”, [W] Jack Miller, [A] Lee Elias. This issue’s lead story is about a girl, Elaine, whose mother drives her crazy by trying to set her up with boys. Eventually, Elaine falls in love on her own. However, the problem of the mother’s interference is never solved; even in the last panel, the mother is saying that Elaine should listen to her. I imagine that if Elaine were to have children, her mother would constantly criticize and undermine her parenting. There are also two other less interesting stories, one of which is a reprint with updated hairstyles and clothing. By 1971 the romance comics genre was already moribund, and Secret Hearts was cancelled with #153.

WARLORD OF MARS ATTACKS #1 (Dynamite, 2019) – “Mysteries of Mars,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Dean Kotz. This crossover series begins as the evil brain-headed Martians attack Barsoom. Dejah Thoris nukes the city of Helium to defeat them, but teleports John Carter back to Earth so that he at least can survive. The scene then shifts to Earth, which is being invaded by the same evil Martians. The Eath segment focuses on two scientists and an insufferable slob named Ramon. At the end of the issue, they head to Arizona, where John Carter has just been teleported. This is a fun series so far, though I’m already sick of Ramon.

NAUGHTY BITS #13 (Fantagraphics, 1994) – “Bitchy Bitch Goes Back to Work,” [W/A] Roberta Gregory. Midge returns to work after her vacation, and discovers that her new coworker is someone she knew in high school. There’s also a lot of the usual office politics and family drama. In an earlier review, I complained that Very Vicky didn’t have a coherent narrative voice, and that’s exactly what Naughty Bits does so well; it has a unique, distinctive style of storytelling. On the letters page, a reader named Tiel Jackson complains that Bitchy is unsympathetic and that her character never develops. That’s true, but I don’t think it’s a problem, because we’re not supposed to completely sympathize with Bitchy. A lot of the humor of the series comes from her histrionic personality and her exaggerated reactions to common problems.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #7 (Marvel, 2019) – “Strange Trip Part 2,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Annapaola Martello. Dr. Strange and Captain Marvel manage to master each other’s powers enough to defeat the Enchantress. This isn’t a bad comic, but it’s very unfortunate that “Strange Trip” was published at the same time as Marvel Team-Up #1-3, which featured a much better story about superheroes switching bodies. The best part of this issue is the scene where Black Widow beats a crocodile to death in the background, while Doc and Carol are having a conversation in the foreground.

SWEET TOOTH #4 (Vertigo, 2010) – “Out of the Deep Woods Part 4,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. I’m getting close to a complete run of Sweet Tooth, but I still haven’t found issue 1. This issue, Gus and Tommy visit a brothel where the enslaved women pretend to be animals. They kill the brothel owners and escape, but the women choose to stay. This issue is fairly powerful, but less complex than later issues of the series. At the end, Gus says he doesn’t think Tommy is a bad man. That’s a nice piece of dramatic irony if the reader already knows that Tommy intends to betray Gus.

SABRINA #3 (Archie, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Veronica Fish. Although this issue includes a fair amount of plot, it’s mostly notable for having the best cat moment in any comic this year. After a long day of magical adventures, Sabrina lies down in bed and starts petting Salem. But Salem gets offended, telling Sabrina that he’s her familiar and not her pet. Sabrina says “Can’t you just be both?” and Salem grudgingly agrees to accept pets, saying “ Fine! But I’m not going to enjoy it!” And then in the next panel, he starts purring as she pets him. This scene is a perfect expression of the cat-human bond.

BATGIRL #11 (DC, 2017) – “Son of Penguin Finale,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Chris Wildgoose. Batgirl finally defeats Ethan/Blacksun by luring him into a park, where he doesn’t get cell phone reception, so his mind control won’t work. This was a really good storyline, and overall, Hope Larson’s Batgirl was at least as good as that of Fletcher, Stewart and Tarr.

YAHOO #5 (Fantagraphics, 1991) – “How I Loved the War,” [W/A] Joe Sacco. Joe Sacco is my primary example of a cartoonist whose work I appreciate but don’t enjoy. His skill is undeniable, and his work is very important, but his comics are not fun to read, nor are they supposed to be. Like all of Sacco’s work, Yahoo #5 is a brutal reading experience, but in this case it’s mostly because of Sacco’s portrayal of himself. Much of the issue focuses on his excessive drinking and relationship problems, rather than his journalism, and he depicts himself as unflatteringly as Joe Matt does. Sacco always presents himself in a negative light, but it’s usually not this negative. This issue does include some of the journalism and foreign affairs analysis that Sacco is famous for. There’s one vignette where he’s teaching German to Palestinians, and there’s a story called “War Junkie” that’s about Sacco’s obsession with Gulf War news – the first Gulf War, that is. (The first Gulf War started on my little sister’s birthday. I was just eight at the time, and I didn’t understand why the war was such a bad thing. I thought it was kind of cool.)

CLUE CANDLESTICK #2 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Dash Shaw. Much of this issue is about Mr. Boddy’s obsession with Miss Scarlet, an artist’s model. The issue is full of puzzles and bizarre page layouts, and at the end of the issue, we’re told that if we do all the puzzles, we have enough information to solve the mystery on our own. The main puzzle in this issue requires colored pencils or markers to solve, and I don’t know if I’ll have the energy to solve this or any of the other puzzles by myself, but it’s really cool that the mystery is solvable. Another fascinating moment in this issue is when we witness Mrs. Boddy’s murder, and then on the next page, we’re asked to remember what the murderer looked like – the color of his shoes, the pattern of his shirt, what he was holding, etc. I couldn’t remember any of this information without looking it up, and this sequence is a vivid demonstration of the fallibility of memory.

AMERICAN CARNAGE #8 (DC, 2019) – “Mercy,” [W] Bryan Hill, [A] Leandro Fernandez. Another issue full of politically charged crime drama, but not many decisive events. Leandro Fernandez’s artwork is as beautiful as ever, but I strongly dislike all the characters in this series, and that makes it hard to care what happens to them. I won’t be sorry when this comic ends.

WAR OF THE REALMS: WAR SCROLLS #3 (Marvel, 2019) – “The God Without Fear Part Three,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. Part three of “The God Without Fear” is no more impressive than the first two. As noted in my Gideon Falls #13 review above, “The God Without Fear” includes none of Sorrentino’s trademark weird page layouts, and it’s only an average story overall. The next story, written by Christopher Cantwell from She Could Fly, is a bit more interesting, though still not great. The most interesting thing about this story is that it includes some examples of the Latverian language, and Latverian seems to be closely related to Hungarian. I guess it was already canon that Latverian was based on Hungarian, but I don’t know where this was established. The best story in the issue is the last one, which I believe is the first comic by Nebula-winning novelist Charlie Jane Anders. It’s not a great story, but it’s a cute exploration of She-Hulk and Thor’s relationship. However, as other people have noted, the current version of She-Hulk basically ignores everything that happened to the character in Mariko Tamaki’s series.

BY THE TIME I GET TO WAGGA WAGGA #1 (Harrier, 1987) – “Dapper John Minds the Baby” and other stories, [W/A] Eddie Campbell. This one-shot is a collection of stories that were drawn in the late ‘70s and were later released as minicomics. These stories, along with other material, were later collected by Fantagraphics under the title In the Days of the Ace Rock ‘n’ Roll Club, but that book is long out of print, and I don’t think any of these stories are included in the Alec omnibus edition. So in short, By the Time I Get to Wagga Wagga #1 is a collection of early work that Eddie has more or less repudiated. That’s a shame because “Dapper John Minds the Baby,” in particular, is a touching and funny story. It’s about a young ne’er-do-well who’s stuck babysitting his baby nephew. He heads to the local bar (the Ace Rock ‘n’ Roll Club), where he inveigles a woman into helping him care for the baby. This story is a good example of Eddie’s early work; it’s in basically the same style as the stories collected in Alec: The King Canute Crowd. See a few comments by Eddie about this story.

WONDER WOMAN #163 (DC, 1966) – “Giganta – the Gorilla Girl!” and “Danger – Wonder Woman!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Ross Andru. This issue is the first Silver Age appearance of two Golden Age villains, Giganta and Paula von Gunta (i.e. Gunther). It’s the only Wonder Woman comic in my collection from before the no-costume era. Reading this issue, I realize that there are good reasons why I don’t collect Wonder Woman comics from this period. This comic is frankly awful; it’s thoroughly boring, and it lacks any characterization or any genuine excitement. It’s well known that Kanigher hated Wonder Woman. Jill Lepore quotes him referring to her as “the grotesque inhuman original Wonder Woman” (the source for this is an interview in the DC archives). Probably he was only writing Wonder Woman because someone had to; under the terms of DC’s contract with the Marston estate, they had to continuously publish Wonder Woman comics in order to retain the rights to the character. And the result of all this was two decades of bad Wonder Woman comics like this one.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #698 (Marvel, 2013) – “Dying Wish Prelude: Day in the Life,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Richard Elson. A brilliant piece of narrative sleight of hand. This issue begins by showing us Dr. Octopus on his deathbed. Then we cut to Peter Parker, who is finally doing all right for once. He loves being Spider-Man, and he has all sorts of great ideas for new inventions. But then Doc Ock starts asking for “Peter Parker.” Spider-Man visits the dying Doc Ock… who tells him “I’m Peter Parker.“ And then we realize that the Peter Parker from the first half of the comic was not Peter at all, but Doc Ock’s mind in Peter’s body, and vice versa! Realizing this, we look back earlier in the issue and notice clues we missed, especially “Peter’s” reference to Aunt May as a “dear, sweet woman.” Of course I knew there had been a story where Peter and Doc Ock switched bodies, but the final reveal was shocking anyway, because I didn’t realize that this was the issue where we learned about the body switch. ASM #698 must have been massively controversial when it came out, but now that the Superior Spider-Man story arc is over, I can look back on this issue and appreciate Dan Slott’s stunning storytelling.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #699 (Marvel, 2013) – “Dying Wish: Outside the Box,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Humberto Ramos. While Doc Ock is off being Peter, the actual Peter is trapped inside Doc Ock’s nearly dead body. Faced with one of the direst predicaments of his life, Peter manages to mentally activate Doc Ock’s last-ditch contingency plan, which involves getting Hydro-Man, Scorpion and Trapster to break him out of jail. So Peter survives the issue, but he’s still immobile and dying, and he’s allied himself with villains. How is he going to get out of this one? Or is he? I need to find issue 700 if I don’t already have it.

TALES TO ASTONISH #64 (Marvel, 1965) – “When Attuma Strikes!”, [W] Leon Lazarus, [A] Carl Burgos, and “The Horde of Humanoids!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Steve Ditko. Leon Lazarus sounds like a pen name for Larry Lieber, but he was a real person. He was finally tracked down in 2005, shortly after his death, and Jim Amash’s interview with him was published in Alter Ego. The Giant-Man/Wasp story in TTA #64 was the only Marvel Universe story he wrote. It’s a very average story, and according to Amash’s interview, Lazarus was not comfortable with the Marvel method. This issue’s Hulk story is much better. It’s the third appearance of the Leader, and it includes a fight between the Hulk and a bunch of humanoids. At this point, the Hulk was mean and savage, but could still speak in full sentences.

CRIMINAL #6 (Icon, 2008) – “Bad Night Part Three,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Jacob (the same Jacob from “Bad Weekend,” I think) and a woman named Iris have to dispose of a dead body. But the police may be on to them. I had trouble following this story, and I confused it with issue 4 of the current Criminal series, which has kind of a similar plot. But this comic is a really effective piece of crime fiction. I especially like the psychosexual aspects of this story; it turns out that Jacob and Iris are both aroused by danger, panic and tawdriness.

BATMAN #301 (DC, 1978) – “The Only Man Batman Ever Killed!”, [W] David V. Reed, [A] John Calnan. This comic’s cover is shocking; it depicts Batman standing over a dead man, a smoking gun in his hand, while the man’s wife accuses Batman of murdering him. Sadly, the story inside the comic does not live up to the cover. Batman doesn’t actually kill the man, he just pretends to have done so, and it’s not clear why. And the plot, involving a criminal overlord and a society of “wire-heads,” is confusing and incoherent.

DEFENDERS #7 (Marvel, 1973) – “War Between the Waves!”, [W] Steve Englehart & Len Wein, [A] Sal Buscema. Hawkeye joins the Defenders as they battle Attuma and the Red Ghost. The highlight of the issue is a panel where the Red Ghost compares porpoises to apes ( For some reason the first half of the issue is written by Steve Englehart, and the second half by Len Wein. This gives the reader a rare opportunity to directly compare their styles.

MIGHTY SAMSON #27 (Gold Key, 1975) – “Noah’s Ark,” [W] Allan Moniz, [A] José Delbo. Samson and his friends encounter a madman who pretends to be the biblical Noah, along with his ark full of preapocalyptic animals. This comic isn’t great, but it has some fun moments. I especially like the “pentopus,” an octopus with five tentacles and a crab’s claw.

CHEW #4 (Image, 2009) – “Taster’s Choice Part 4,” [W] John Layman, [A] Rob Guillory. Tony Chu and Mason Savoy (not yet revealed as a villain) investigate an Arctic observatory that’s implicated in a black market chicken ring. It turns out the observatory is monitoring one particular planet, and this is the beginning of the plot thread about aliens, which continues throughout the series. This issue has some awesome moments, such as the scene where Savoy holds up an urn of human ashes in front of an electric fan.

WONDER WOMAN #235 (DC, 1977) – “The Biology Bomb!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] José Delbo. During World War II, Diana and Dr. Mid-Nite battle Steve Trevor, who’s essentially been turned into the Hulk. This comic isn’t spectacular, but at least it’s readable and has an adequate level of storytelling and characterization. Therefore, it’s vastly better than Wonder Woman #163.

SPIDER-WOMAN #38 (Marvel, 1981) – “Criminal at Large!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Steve Leialoha. Jessica Drew teams up with some of the X-Men to fight Black Tom, Siryn and Juggernaut. This issue feels like an extra issue of Claremont’s X-Men; it even has Tom Orzechowski lettering. It’s also the answer to a trivia question: “Name an ‘80s comic written by Chris Claremont in which Colossus battles the Juggernaut, besides Uncanny X-Men #183.” In the last panel of this issue, three of the books on Jess’s bookshelf are Valerian albums. One of these is Metro Chatelet Direction Cassiopeia, which had come out the previous year, and would not be translated into English for decades. So one of this comics’ creators must have been reading French comics in the original French.

TRINITY #2 (DC, 2008) – “A Personal Best at Giant Robot Smashing,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Mark Bagley. I ought to be collecting this because it’s written by Kurt Busiek. This issue is a very simple and straightforward superhero story, but a well-crafted one. The first story stars Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, hence the title of the series. There’s also a backup story starring John Stewart, co-written by Fabian Nicieza.

AIRBOY #2 (Eclipse, 1986) – “The Wolf and the Phoenix,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Tim Truman & Tom Yeates. I detest Chuck Dixon so much that I’m hesitant even to read a thirty-year-old comic he wrote. But Airboy had some other good creators, it’s a well-crafted comic, and it’s also a very quick read. I kind of like the idea of a biweekly comic that’s just 16 pages. This issue, Airboy meets Skywolf and tries to learn more about his father’s relationship with Valkyrie, who shows up at the end of the issue.

STARSTRUCK #4 (IDW, 2009) – “Make a Wish” and other material, [W] Elaine Lee, [A] Michael Wm. Kaluta. Starstruck has such a confusing publication history that it’s hard to know where to start reading it. Briefly, Starstruck was first published in the Spanish magazine Comix Internacional, and then first published in English in Heavy Metal. Those same stories were collected as Marvel: Graphic Novel #13, and were then reprinted in an expanded form by Dark Horse in 1990. The 2009 IDW Starstruck series contains all that material, plus the first issue of the 1985-1986 Starstruck series published by Epic. IDW later reprinted the other five issues of that Epic series, along with new material, under the title Starstruck: Old Proldiers Never Die. So it seems like if I get all the issues of Starstruck (2009) and Starstruck: Old Proldiers Never Die, I’ll have all the Starstruck comics that exist.

Okay, now to the actual comic. Starstruck’s actual content is just as weird as its history. This issue’s first half is a series of flashbacks to the childhood of the main protagonist, Galatia 9, a.k.a. Molly. It emphasizes her troubled relationships with her mother, stepfather and half-sister, who become the main antagonists. There’s also a backup story about the Galactic Girl Guides, who are kind of like the Lumberjanes in outer space. Overall, Starstruck is a very difficult comic, but it has an appealing anarchist and feminist streak, and Kaluta’s artwork is beautiful. I bought three other issues of IDW’s Starstruck at Heroes Con, and I want to get to them soon.

LITTLE BIRD #1 (Image, 2019) – “The Fight for Elder’s Hope Chapter One,” [W] Darcy Van Poelgeest, [A] Ian Bertram. I just noticed that this comic’s inside front cover says “‘Little Bird’ was written on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Musqueam people.” I haven’t seen a land acknowledgement in a comic book before. As I inferred from reading issue 1, Little Bird is about a First Nations girl who rebels against an oppressive United States-led dictatorship. In this comic, she breaks into a prison for superheroes and rescues an old superhero named the Axe, who we eventually realize is her grandfather. Meanwhile, the American dictator known as Bishop, who is also Little Bird’s father, is trying to recapture her with the aid of his young protégé Gabriel. Little Bird is one of the best debut titles of the year; its story is more complicated than it seems, and Ian Bertram’s artwork is phenomenal. He reminds me at times of Carla Speeed McNeil, Andrew Maclean, and Frank Quitely, but he has his own original style. I enjoyed this issue so much that I immediately reread issue 2, and then moved on to issue 3:

LITTLE BIRD #3 (Image, 2019) – as above. Little Bird and Axe lead an attack on the government forces, but it ends disastrously. Little Bird meets Gabriel, who looks exactly like her. Axe apparently gets killed, and Bishop stabs Little Bird through the chest, while also confirming that he’s her father. Now I’m caught up on this series, although I missed my chance to order issue 4.

SUPURBIA #1 (Boom!, 2012) – untitled, [W] Grace Randolph, [A] Russell Dauterman. As noted in previous reviews, Supurbia was billed as a superhero version of Desperate Housewives, but it’s not all that different from a typical superhero comic. It often reminds me of Mark Gruenwald’s Squadron Supreme, which also included a lot of characters with families. Supurbia #1 introduces us to the characters, all of whom are obviously based on famous superheroes. The best part about this issue is the Wonder Woman character and her family. She’s a militant female supremacist who neglects her son in favor of her daughter.

LITTLE LULU #79 (Dell, 1955) – “Wishing Well” and other stories, [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. In this issue’s lead story, Tubby fools the girls into thinking that his wishes are being granted by a wishing well. As usual, Lulu turns the tables on him and tricks him into beign trapped inside the well. There are also a bunch of other stories, one of which stars Alvin and Witch Hazel. John Stanley’s Little Lulu comics are very formulaic, but the formula was a good one, and Stanley kept coming up with new ways for Lulu to outsmart Tubby.

BARBIE FASHION #20 (Marvel, 1992) – “Get Me the Scoop!”, [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Dan Parent. A nosy reporter is trying to get some dirt on Barbie. Meanwhile, Barbie is trying to get more funding for a day care center. Barbie eventually comes up with a way to use each problem to solve the other. This comic is better than Barbie #18 because it has a much more interesting plot. However, it still has the fundamental problem that Barbie is impossibly perfect, and therefore not interesting to read about.

G.I. JOE #37 (Marvel, 1985) – “Twin Brothers,” [W] Larry Hama, [A] Frank Springer. I bought a bunch of G.I. Joe comics at Heroes Con. I have a bunch more at my parents’ house, but they’re in terrible shape, and I hesitate to add a lot of additional comics to my boxes when I’m already low on storage space. It might be better to just buy new copies of those comics, if I can find them in quarter boxes or whatever. Anyway, G.I. Joe #37 isn’t the best example of the series. A group of Joes fight Tomax and Xamot at a carnival, but it’s not clear what the Cobra agents are doing at the carnival, or what their overall goal is. In general, this comic feels like a toy commercial rather than a realistic war story, and of course G.I. Joe is always the former, but it’s sometimes the latter as well.

UNCLE SCROOGE #283 (Gladstone, 1993) – “Foxy Relations,” [W/A] Carl Barks, plus other stories. In this issue’s Barks ten-pager, Donald has to go on a fox hunt, and of course it ends disastrously. The excuse for the fox hunt is that Scrooge wants to buy “two billion acres of oil lands” from an English nobleman, but the nobleman  won’t sell to anyone who isn’t a sportsman. Two billion acres is about half the United States, or five percent of all the land in the world. As with most Gladstone comics, the other stories in this issue are far less impressive. One of them is a Gyro Gearloose storty in which he has to publish a paper in order to save his job. But Gyro doesn’t publish papers, he just invents stuff. But then why can’t he just publish a paper describing one of his inventions?

BATMAN #465 (DC, 1991) – “Debut,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. Tim Drake goes on his first mission as Robin, and saves an actor from a psychotic stalker. Meanwhile, Batman catches two criminals and realizes that as Bruce Wayne, he’s paying to sponsor them through college. This is an understated but excellent issue. Now that Alan Brennert is finally getting the credit he deserves, I think Alan Grant is the most underrated Batman writer.

SEVEN SOLDIERS: FRANKENSTEIN #1 (DC, 2006) – “Uglyhead,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Doug Mahnke. I was surprised to discover this near the back of my unread comics boxes. The villain of “Uglyhead” is an ugly, telepathic high school kid who tries to enslave all the popular kids. I assume he’s connected with the Sheeda in some way. Frankenstein(’s monster) shows up and defeats Uglyhead. Seven Soldiers was a very complicated project, but it was written in a modular format where each issue and each miniseries was supposed to stand alone. So this issue was enjoyable, even though I wasn’t quite sure how it connected to the rest of the Seven Soldiers comics.