First batch of post-Heroes Con reviews

6-26-19

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 https://ogresfeathers.wordpress.com/2018/05/12/enormous-review-post/#uy9for 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: https://www.zompist.com/bob9.html

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 http://eddiecampbell.blogspot.com/2007/07/munch.htmlfor 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 (https://www.instagram.com/p/BzKAEoIh_m5/). 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.

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