Reviews for most of September

9-21

Starting again on September 21 with the rest of the comics from the week of August 28. I didn’t want to write any more reviews because I was running out of space in my boxes, but I received another package of drawerboxes yesterday.

ASCENDER #5 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Another thrilling issue. Telsa doesn’t want to help Andy and Mia, but her decision is made for her when Mother’s troops show up. Andy gets stabbed through the chest, and Telsa and Mia have to sail off without him, though the end of the issue reveals that he’s not dead. Meanwhile, Mother discovers that Bandit is the Hound with the Backwards Tongue.

STAR PIG #2 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Delilah Dawson, [A] Francesco Gaston. Vess the human and Theo the space tardigrade meet Johnny B. Goode, a spore colony who collects human memorabilia. The jewel of his collection is “a Keanu Reeves” – i.e. Keanu Reeves himself, cryogenically frozen. Johnny turns out to have ulterior motives, but Vess tricks him into trapping himself in a spacesuit. Then she injures herself trying to escape, but all three of them are rescued by other humans. This is another fun comic by Delilah Dawson, and it’s very different in tone from either Ladycastle or Sparrowhawk.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #81 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Thom Zahler, [A] Nicoletta Baldari. Scootaloo and Rumble, an injured Wonderbolt, visit the Wonderbolt museum. While there, they learn the story of Wind Sock, the only earth pony to become a Wonderbolt. This is a reasonably good issue, but not all that memorable. Speaking of Thom, I wonder if Love & Capes: The Family Way is going to be published as single issues or if it’ll go straight to trade paperback.

MOON GIRL & DEVIL DINOSAUR #46 (Marvel, 2019) – “Ms. Fantastic, Part One,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Alitha E. Martinez. Lunella has an unpleasant encounter with Mr. Fantastic, and decides to prove she’s smarter than him. This was only an average issue, and I felt that Reed was acting somewhat out of character, but it’s always nice to see Lunella’s parents. Sadly, Marvel seems to have stealth-cancelled this series. It’s not clear why they decided to do this now and not several years ago, since it’s never sold well in the direct market. It seems like Marvel never really understood why this series was so successful in trade form, because they haven’t made any real effort to create more titles like it.

WONDER WOMAN #77 (DC, 2019) – “Loveless Part 1,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Jesus Merino. Diana, Steve and Atlantiades return home to find Aphrodite dead. Diana rushes off to seek revenge on Cheetah, but it doesn’t go well. This issue wasn’t as interesting as #78, to be reviewed later (probably in a separate post).

SPIDER-MAN: LIFE STORY #6 (Marvel, 2019) – “All My Enemies,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Mark Bagley. This issue introduces Miles Morales, and its plot is based on Dying Wish and other recent storylines. As expected, Peter dies heroically, and Miles takes over as the new Spider-Man. This was a really enjoyable series, a brilliant use of the What If format.

THE TERRIFICS #19 (DC, 2019) – “Forward to the Past!”, [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Max Raynor. The Terrifics encounter their Bizarro counterparts, the Terribles. Most of the issue is narrated from Bizarro’s perspective. Gene Luen Yang writes some funny Bizarro dialogue and sound effects, but this series is no longer as special or unique as when Jeff Lemire was writing it.

ABSOLUTE CARNAGE: MILES MORALES #1 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Federico Vicentini. A boring crossover installment that gives Saladin no opportunity to demonstrate his writing skills. It’s mostly a long fight scene. I shouldn’t have ordered this.

SERA AND THE ROYAL STARS #2 (Vault, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jon Tsuei, [A] Audrey Mok. Sera fights alongside the first Royal Star, Aldebaran/Tascheter/the Bull. Then they go to look for the other three stars: the Fish, the Scorpion and the Lion. The idea of the four Royal Stars seems to be based on genuine Zoroastrian mythology. I don’t know where Tsuei and Mok are getting their information about Iranian culture, but I love that they’re using it as a source. I also really like the colors and costume designs in this comic; they make this comic look very different from most superhero comics.

THOR #16 (Marvel, 2019) – “Once Upon a Time in Asgard,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mike del Mundo. Thor misses his own coronation party because he’s too busy doing good deeds. Writing this review a few weeks later, I had trouble remembering this issue, but it’s a satisfying finale to the series (though the actual finale is the upcoming King Thor). The first page, with Thor rebuilding the church, has gone somewhat viral.

BABYTEETH #15 (AfterShock, 2019) – “Get Thee Behind Me,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. God leads an army of angels to capture the baby. Sadie’s dad sacrifices himself so the rest of the family can escape. The impact of this issue is lessened by the fact that it’s been eight months since the previous issue. After such a long wait, it was hard to remember or care what was happening in this series.

BLACK PANTHER #15 (Marvel, 2019) – “Book 3: Two Thousand Seasons,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Daniel Acuña. I’m glad this overly long storyline is approaching its end. Not much happens in this issue, though there are some cute scenes with T’Challa and Storm.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #5 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Clint McElroy, [A] Ig Guara. Carol and Kamala confront Walter Lawson, a character from Mar-Vell’s first appearance. This issue was pretty forgettable, and this series has already been cancelled. It’s too bad that Eve Ewing only wrote the first story arc.

BATGIRL #38 (DC, 2019) – “Oracle Rising Part 2,” [W] Cecil Castellucci, [A] Carmine Digiandomenico. This issue has a complex plot involving Killer Moth, a new Oracle, and the Terrible Trio. This comic is okay, but it doesn’t make me feel the spark I felt when I read Fletcher and Stewart or Larson’s Batgirl. I don’t think I’m going to continue reading this series.

TOMMY GUN WIZARDS #1 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Christian Ward, [A] Sami Kivelä. Christian Ward is the preeminent artist in comic books right now, but this is the first comic he’s written, and I was a little apprehensive about it. I liked it, though. It’s set in a fantasy version of 1930s Chicago, where Prohibition is a ban on not alcohol but “lick,” a magical drug (like akker in Coda). The series stars Eliot Ness, an anti-lick crusader who turns out to be a lick addict himself. The action sequences in this issue are pretty good, but the highlight of the issue is the scene with Eliot sitting at his sleeping young son’s bedside. This is a promising debut issue.

MARVEL BOY #5 (Marvel, 2000) – “Zero Zero: Year of Love,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] J.G. Jones. Noh-Varr is held captive by Oubliette, who’s been led to believe that she’s hideously ugly, when she’s actually beautiful. And because this is a Grant Morrison comic, lots of other weird and confusing stuff happens. I didn’t quite understand this issue, but it made me curious to read the rest of this miniseries.

EXCALIBUR #89 (Marvel, 1995) – “Dream Nails 2: Easy Tiger,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] David Williams. Warren Ellis’s Excalibur had two severe problems. The first was terrible art. The second was Pete Wisdom, a Gary Stu character who was hard to tell apart from any of Ellis’s other male protagonists. Ellis also didn’t write Kitty Pryde very well, mostly because he had to write her as a person who would be attracted to someone like Pete Wisdom. Allowing for all of that, Ellis was still the best (and only good) Excalibur writer other than Claremont or Davis. This issue is mostly a Kitty and Pete solo story, focusing on their mission to the Dream Nails facility, though there are some other subplots as well.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2017: GENERAL (Dark Horse, 2017) – “Brothers,” [W] Sherri L. Smith, [A] Doug Wheatley, and “The Village,” [W] Brian Wood, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. This issue’s first story is an adaptation of James Cameron’s Avatar, a movie I hate. It’s a blatant white savior narrative, and its stance on issues of technology, embodiment, and disability is very disturbing. Like, there’s something deeply unsettling about a story where the protagonist literally gives up the body he was born with in exchange for another one that’s depicted as 100% better. Anyway, there’s no reason I’d want to read a comics adaptation of this movie, and this particular comics adaptation isn’t much good either. The backup story is a preview of Brian Woods’s Briggs’ Land. Brian Wood has been dogged by accusations of sexual misconduct for several years, and Dark Horse has finally fired him as a result. On top of that, he’s also a boring and unsubtle writer, and I have no interest in his work.

IZOMBIE #28 (Vertigo, 2012) – “The End Conclusion,” [W] Chris Roberson, [A] Mike Allred. I think this is the final issue. Gwen Dylan and her friends defeat a Lovecraftian monster called Xitalu, and then the series ends with a where-are-they-now sequence. I mostly didn’t understand this issue, but it’s well-drawn and reasonably exciting.

THE IMMORTAL HULK: DIRECTOR’S CUT #2 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Walking Ghost,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. Bruce Banner visits a small town that’s suffered an epidemic of inexplicable deaths. It turns out the deaths are the result of a mad scientist’s experiments with gamma radiation. This is a pretty good issue, but the “Director’s Cut” material – mostly consisting of Joe Bennett’s original pencils to the entire issue – is not worth the extra price tag. I wish they had just reprinted Immortal Hulk #1-6 at their original cover price.

THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST #8 (Marvel, 2007) – “The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven Part 1,” [W] Matt Fraction & Ed Brubaker, [A] David Aja & Roy Allan Martinez. Danny Rand represents K’un L’un in a tournament between the eponymous seven capital cities. The best part of the issue is the splash page that introduces the champions of the other six cities. This splash page subtly informs us about all these characters’ personalities; for example, Fat Cobra is sitting at a table covered with food, Dog Brother #1 is accompanied by his dog, and the Prince of Orphans is completely alone with only a cup on his table. I read this series occasionally when it was coming out, but I ought to go back and collect the rest of it. Immortal Iron Fist had an impressive lineup of talent, and although it could be accused of cultural appropriation, this issue feels like a fairly respectful use of Chinese popular culture.

STARMAN #66 (DC, 2000) – “Grand Guignol: Cinquieme Partie,” [W] James Robinson, [A] Peter Snejbjerg. This is one of the few issues of this series that I hadn’t read. Grand Guignol may have been the low point of James Robinson’s Starman. It went on too long, and I don’t much like the main villain, Culp. This issue gives us Culp’s backstory, and it’s particularly bad because it’s narrated by Culp himself, in his annoying Cockney style of dialogue. And there are some pages with 10 or 20 caption boxes, so it’s a tough comic to get through.

WARLORD #28 (DC, 1979) – “The Curse of the Cobra Queen,” [W/A] Mike Grell. Morgan fights a yellow-skinned scaly woman who turns out to be a giant cobra. The backup story inroduces Wizard World and Mongo Ironhand. The Wizard World setting feels like a ripoff of Marvel’s Weirdworld or Wally Wood’s The Wizard King, or perhaps Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards, although those may all have been drawing on the same sources.

TEST #3 (Vault, 2019) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Jen Hickman. In their apartment, Aleph-Null discovers a secret passage that leads to the free part of Laurelwood. This series gets weirder with every issue. I’m still not quite enjoying it, but this issue is at least interesting.

DOCTOR MIRAGE #1 (Valiant, 2019) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Nick Robles. Shan Fong Mirage is devastated by the loss of her husband, but she’s tracked down by a mentally ill girl who claims to be able to see her husband’s ghost. Like most of Mags’s comics, this series is about a woman – or in this case two women – who is recovering from severe trauma, and is trying to learn how to cope with life again. This first issue is an interesting setup.

THE AUTHORITY #19 (Wildstorm, 2000) – “Earth Inferno,” [W] Mark Millar, [A] Frank Quitely. Faced with an apocalyptic threat, the Authority evacuates the entire population of Earth into alternate dimensions. This issue includes some excellent visual storytelling, and I’d be willing to collect more of this series just because of the artwork. Unfortunately this comic is written by Mark Millar, so it’s violent, offensive, and completely lacking in subtlety. Even in a superhero comic, the idea of evacuating everyone in the world is difficult to accept. At least there’s nothing in this issue that’s as bad as the maternity ward scene (see the review of Authority #8 above).

REVIVAL #19 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Mike Norton. This issue advances a bunch of different plots, but has no truly important moments. Perhaps the most memorable thing in the issue is the scene where Ibrahim treats Dana for some infected wounds caused by broken glass. The issue ends with Dana being approached by some FBI agents from New York.

WONDER WOMAN #194 (DC, 2003) – “The Game of the Gods Part 6: The Passion of Trevor!”, [W] Walt Simonson, [A] Jerry Ordway. I believe that I bought some of the other issues of this storyline when they came out, but for some reason I didn’t get this issue. In the conclusion of “Game of the Gods,” Diana’s boyfriend Trevor Barnes sacrifices himself to defeat some kind of mythological villain. This issue is reasonably good, but not as good as Greg Rucka’s run, which began in the following issue.

MINISTRY OF SPACE #1 (Image, 2001) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Chris Weston. Yet another in Warren Ellis’s long list of miniseries. Ministry of Space is an alternative universe story in which England builds a space program instead of America. It starts with a flashforward to the technologically advanced England of 2001. Then we flash back to 1945, when England led a mission to capture Nazi Germany’s rocket scientists before America could get to them. This series has an interesting setup, and Chris Weston’s art is brilliant. I think Warren Ellis is fundamentally a science fiction writer. In series like Ministry of Space or Ocean or Trees or even Planetary, he imagines that something about technology or history is different than in the real world; then he imagines what kind of world would result from this difference.

MASTER OF KUNG FU #78 (Marvel, 1979) – “Tread the Night Softly,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Mike Zeck. Shang Chi tracks down a villain named Zaran, who is responsible for nearly killing Leiko Wu. Meanwhile, Black Jack Tarr is being held captive by Zaran’s collaborator, Sarsfield. This is a very fun issue. I keep forgetting how entertaining and exciting MOKF is, despite its severe overwriting.

FANTASTIC FOUR #312 (Marvel, 1988) – “The Turning Point!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Keith Pollard. A team-up between two awful teams: Steve Englehart’s Fantastic Four (with Sharon and Crystal instead of Reed and Sue) and X-Factor Investigations. There’s a lot of characterization in this issue, as usual with Englehart, but his characters are either boring or dislikable. In particular, this issue focuses heavily on the Beast, and it takes place during the period when he got dumber every time he used his strength. That period was the lowest point in Hank McCoy’s entire history. Watching this brilliant, funny man lose his intelligence and personality is rather depressing. Also, Sharon Ventura spends much of this issue whining about her ugliness and wishing she was dead.

JACK STAFF #4 (Image, 2003) – “Hurricane” and other vignettes, [W/A] Paul Grist. The Hurricane, apparently based on the Hulk, invades Castle Town. This is another entertaining issue, but not as unique as other Jack Staff comics I’ve read lately. I wish someone would make a guide to the inspirations for all the characters in this series. Some of them are easy for me to recognize (Janus Stark, Steel Claw), but others are impossible for a non-British reader to identify.

CAREER GIRL ROMANCES #73 (Charlton, 1973) – “Beware of His Kisses,” [W] Joe Gill?, [A] Charles Nicholas, plus other stories. This comic is exactly what it says on the tin: it consists of romance stories about professional women. These stories are sort of feminist, but only in a very limited way; for example, the third story is about a woman who wants to be a pilot, but she ends up getting married instead. The first story is a cautionary tale in which a social worker falls in love with the cheating boyfriend of one of her clients. Then she finds him making out with another woman. The second story is perhaps the best, mostly because of the scene where the protagonist’s date is shocked to learn that she’s a policewoman. https://www.instagram.com/p/B17uc5khpVn/

SWEET TOOTH #26 (Vertigo, 2011) – “The Taxidermist Part 1 of 3: The Hinterlands,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Matt Kindt. This storyline may be the only comic written by Lemire and drawn by Kindt, unless you count Black Hammer ’45, which I wouldn’t. They also cowrote The Valiant. “The Taxidermist” is a flashback story whose connection to Sweet Tooth is not immediately obvious. In 1911, a scientist leads an expedition into the Arctic, but things start to go horribly wrong when someone kills his sled dogs. I guess this story will explain the origin of the plague that created the animal children.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #16 (Marvel, 2015) – “The Graveyard Shift Part One: The Late, Late Mr. Parker,” [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Humberto Ramos. Peter has to make a high-stakes presentation to investors, but he’s busy fighting the Iguana (a rather redundant character, given the existence of the Lizard and Stegron). The dialogue in the fight scene is amazing. The Iguana is offended that Peter is talking on the phone while fighting him (https://www.instagram.com/p/B17xE79BjFh/), and then Peter beats up the Iguana while bragging about his compassion. There’s also a backup story starring the Black Cat.

SCENE OF THE CRIME #2 (Vertigo, 1999) – “A Little Piece of Goodnight,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Michael Lark. It’s been a while since I read issue 1, so this issue was hard to follow, but it’s good. Scene of the Crime is a tightly plotted and exciting detective story with strong characterization. It’s too bad this series lasted four issues, but it was sort of a prototype for Criminal.

MISTY #4 (Marvel, 1986) – “Misty’s Fairy Tale,” [W/A] Trina Robbins. I sat near Trina at Kim Munson’s breakfast in San Diego, and we talked a bit about Misty and California Girls. I hope to interview her at some point, if time ever permits. In this issue’s first story, Misty is babysitting two bratty kids, and she tells them a fairy tale. This fairy tale is probably an homage to the “poor little girl” stories in Little Lulu. In the backup story, Misty goes to New York for a photo shoot with Heaventeen magazine, but the photographers are more interested in photographing Aunt Millie, once they realize she’s Millie the Model. Misty is jealous of her aunt for stealing attention from her, but in a touching ending, Misty realizes Millie wasn’t doing it deliberately and was just glad for a second chance at modeling. This issue includes more costumes drawn by Gilbert Hernandez, Barb Rausch, Renaldo Barnette, etc.

DEN #3 (Fantagor, 1988) – “The House of Silence,” [W/A] Richard Corben, [W] Simon Revelstroke. Looking for Kath, Den visits the tower of the wizard Lusque. There’s also a Corben backup story which is a sort of parody of Adam and Eve, plus another backup story by someone else, which is a blatant Vaughn Bodé ripoff. After reading Den, I finally realized what Gogor reminds me of. Gogor has the same bizarre, whimsical atmosphere as much of Corben’s work has, and Den in particular seems to have been a huge influence on Gogor. You can see some volumes of Den in the epilogue to Gogor #5 (to be reviewed later).

CONAN THE AVENGER #4 (Dark Horse, 2014) – “Shadows Over Kush Part Four,” [W] Fred Van Lente, [A] Eduardo Francisco. Conan leads an army in a siege on a Kushite city. This comic isn’t as bad as I expected, but it’s not great either, and I don’t like how Fred Van Lente writes Conan. His Conan is too bloodthirsty and bombastic.

WYTCHES #6 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Jock. Charlie Rooks sacrifices himself so his daughter Sail can escape from a horde of zombies chanting “Pledged is pledged.” I’ve warmed up to this series a little bit, but I still don’t like it that much.

GROO & RUFFERTO #1 (Dark Horse, 1998) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. An evil king named Ravenus is obsessed with his riches, but needs a place where he can escape with them if something goes wrong. Ravenus’s court wizard invents a time-travel procedure that can transport Ravenus into the future. But the wizard needs an animal to test the time travel method on, so he kidnaps Rufferto and sends him into the late 20th century. Then Groo shows up looking for his missing dog. This will not end well. I didn’t like Groo & Rufferto #1 as much as I liked #3, but it’s still a hilarious issue.

THOR #611 (Marvel, 2010) – “The Fine Print, Part 1,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Rich Elson. Thor holds a funeral for the people killed in the latest epic storyline, and there’s also a plot involving Hela and the Disir. Kieron Gillen’s Thor has been overshadowed by his Journey into Mystery and by Jason Aaron’s Thor, and this issue isn’t especially memorable.

FANTASTIC FOUR #529 (Marvel, 2005) – “Appointment Overdue,” [W] J. Michael Straczynski, [A] Mike McKone. Another team of scientists tries to replicate the experiment that gave the FF their powers. (Compare the new FF # 14,where we meet the people who were supposed to go on the flight instead of Sue and Johnny.) Meanwhile, Reed and Sue are investigated by CPS for their delinquent parenting. This is an okay issue, but at the time it would have been a huge disappointment, compared to Mark Waid’s recently concluded FF run.

SUPERMAN #32 (DC, 2017) – “Breaking Point Part Two,” [W] James Bonny, [A] Tyler Kirkham. An execrably bad fill-in story. “Breaking Point,” in which Superman fights Deathstroke, is supposed to be an investigation of why Superman doesn’t kill. However, practically every line of dialogue in the issue is a cliché, and there’s no characterization and no genuine excitement. There’s a reason I’ve never heard of this writer before.

CRIMINAL #3 (Image, 2008) – “Female of the Species,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. This one-shot issue stars Danica, a black female sex worker and drug addict. This character is something of a stereotype, but at least this story explains how she got to be how she is, and it has a fairly clever plot structure. I don’t know how Danica fits into the overall narrative of Criminal, though I think she may have been present at the Dungeons & Dragons game in issue 7 of the current series.

ONE FOR ONE: AXE COP: BAD GUY EARTH #1 (Dark Horse, 2014) – “Bad Guy Earth Part One of Three,” [W] Malachai Nicolle, [A] Ethan Nicolle. The same thing as Axe Cop: President of the World, except even more incoherent, since the kid was even younger at the time. I think this comic is exploitative and unethical. Malachi Nicolle was not capable of giving consent for his stories to be shared with a mass audience. At the very least, I hope the kid had a good lawyer.

BATWOMAN #4 (DC, 2011) – “Hydrology 4: Estuary,” [W/A] J.H. Williams III, [A] W. Haden Blackman. I bought this comic several years ago, but didn’t read it. I’d have read it much sooner if I’d realized it was drawn as well as written by J.H. Williams III. This issue’s plot is only average, but the artwork offers further evidence that Williams is the finest comic book artist of his generation. Each page of this issue is part of a two-page composition with a unique and intricate layout, and Williams uses multiple different styles of draftsmanship, often on the same page. I need to get the other issues of this storyline. I wonder what Williams has been doing since finishing Sandman: Overture.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #254 (Marvel, 1981) – “Blood on the Moors,” [W] Roger Stern, [A] John Byrne. I read this long ago in trade paperback form, but it’s worth reading again. This is the one where Cap kills Baron Blood. Stern and Byrne were probably the best Captain America creative team since Lee and Kirby, though their run only lasted nine issues. Cap #254 is a thrilling adventure story, and also a nice tribute to England. Cap beheading Baron Blood with his shield is an unforgettable moment.

JSA #82 (DC, 2006) – “Ghost in the House,” [W] Paul Levitz, [A] George Pérez. A flashback story about a battle between the Earth-2 Superman and the Gentleman Ghost, framed as a story that Ma Hunkel reads to Power Girl from the Earth-2 Lois Lane’s journal. The inset story in this issue is pretty mundane, and I wonder if it originated as an inventory story.

ONE FOR ONE: CONAN THE BARBARIAN #1 (Dark Horse, 2014) – “Queen of the Black Coast, Part 1,” [W] Brian Wood, [A] Becky Cloonan. See the above review of FCBD: General 2017 for more comments on Brian Wood. Becky Cloonan’s art in this issue is excellent, but Brian Wood’s story is boring. He doesn’t provide us with anything we didn’t already get in Thomas and Buscema’s version of “Queen of the Black Coast.”

MORNING GLORIES #41 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Nick Spencer, [A] Joe Eisma. I don’t much like this series anymore, but I also don’t like how Nick Spencer abandoned it without resolving any of its dangling plotlines. The main event this issue is that teams are chosen for the annual Towerball event, where the red team somehow always beats the blue team. Also, there’s a subplot about Jun and Hisao. I would have to literally reread the entire series to figure out which of Jun and Hisao is which.

TALES OF THE BEANWORLD #3 (Eclipse, 1985) – “Big Fish Story,” [W/A] Larry Marder. I met Larry Marder at Comic-Con. I ordered this issue a few years ago because I was thinking of writing a book chapter about Beanworld, but I ended up writing it about something else. This issue explains how Mr. Spook got his fork, and how the fork made it possible to collect Chow much more efficiently and with less harm to the Sprout-Butts.

SWAMP THING #22 (DC, 2013) – “The Whiskey Tree Part 1 of 2,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Kano. Swamp Thing is chasing a villain named Seeder. This issue, he follows Seeder to a Scottish village which has become destitute since its distillery closed. Seeder saves the village by making whisky grow from a tree. However, it turns out that the whisky makes people crazy. Also, John Constantine makes a guest appearance. Charles Soule missed a golden opportunity: he could have called this story “I Am Going, I Am Going, Where Trees of Whiskey Are Growing.”

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS #6 (DC, 2011) – “Scared Little Girls,” [W] Nick Spencer, [A] Cafu. Another boring issue with a forgettable plot, including a rather Orientalist scene where the Iron Maiden rescues some women from human trafficking. Nick Spencer had no understanding of what made T.H.U.N.D.ER. Agents special; he just wrote it as a generic superhero comic.

RAT GOD #2 (Dark Horse, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Richard Corben. Another really weird Lovecraft-influenced story. This issue, the protagonist finds himself in a town where all the people look like rats. This comic’s depiction of Native Americans is a little problematic, and overall I’m not sure whether it’s a good comic or not, but it’s interesting.

THE FLASH #154 (DC, 1999) – “Dimensionally Challenged,” [W] Mark Waid & Brian Augustyn, [A] Paul Pelletier. The new Flash, whose identity is as yet unrevealed, battles a villain named Gauss who can move between dimensions (i.e. he can make himself two- or four-dimensional). Meanwhile, Bart, Max and Jesse try to figure out who the Flash is. There’s also a subplot in which Linda Park is lost in another dimension (i.e. another reality). The issue ends with the new Flash revealing himself as an older, scarred Wally West. By this point in the series, Mark seems to have run out of ideas, no pun intended.

POWER PACK #58 (Marvel, 1990) – “Star Struck,” [W] Michael Higgins, [A] Tom Morgan. The four Power kids battle Nova (Frankie Raye), who’s gone insane. Meanwhile, Franklin Richards is trapped on Friday with an old hobo and an alien. Later in the issue, Jim and Margaret Power discover that their kids are superheroes and go crazy. In general, this is a bad issue with an incoherent plot and minimal characterization. A fundamental problem with the Power franchise is that if Mr. and Mrs. Power don’t know that their children are superheroes, then they’re the most oblivious parents ever; and if they do know but pretend they don’t, then they’re the most irresponsible parents ever. I think it’s best to deal with this problem by ignoring it.

POWER PACK #3 (Marvel, 2000) – “Split Decision,” [W] Shon Bury, [A] Colleen Doran. After reading Power Pack #58, I thought, “That was the worst Power Pack comic ever.” But this issue is even worse. It’s badly overwritten (i.e. it has too much text), its plot is a rehash of plot elements from the previous volume, and it’s way too serious for its own good. It’s completely lacking in humor or cuteness, and it has no appeal even to hardcore Power Pack fans. Even Colleen Doran’s art doesn’t save it. Shon Bury was recently in the news for abusive behavior toward his coworkers: https://www.bleedingcool.com/2017/11/28/space-goat-shon-bury-sexism-abusive-behavior/?fbclid=IwAR3Mf13-WYvtmBr183L5i6HIbDhd-u0RIGZSi4ArnzrnpMCFq7dvprNllK0

IRREDEEMABLE #3 (Boom!, 2009) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Peter Krause. The Plutonian’s greatest enemies get together in his ally Inferno’s secret headquarters (i.e. the Batcave) to plot against him. But they find Inferno there already, and he kills them all. This series is brutal, but its violence is so over-the-top that it’s almost funny. See also the review of Pretty Violent #1, to be posted later.

New comics received on September 9:

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #45 (Image, 2019) – “In Memoriam,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. This issue takes place 40 years after #44, at the funeral of Cassandra, who married Laura at some point in the intervening decades. The overall theme of the issue is that there are no gods anymore, so it’s up to ordinary people to decide their own fate. The series ends with Laura saying “The future is a—“, followed by several blank pages. This issue is a satisfying conclusion to a series I enjoyed, even if I never quite understood it.

GIANT DAYS #54 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. With this issue, the finest humor comic of the decade comes to a close. Giant Days #54 is an affectionate farewell to a group of characters we’ve known and come to love. It reminds me of my own last day of college, which was one of the most bittersweet moments of my life. Highlights of the issue include Esther’s parents discovering her tattoo, and the line “Behold the welcoming new face of comics!” I’m glad there’s going to be another special issue, and John Allison has already moved on to another project (see Steeple #1 review below), but Giant Days will be sorely missed.

USAGI YOJIMBO #4 (IDW, 2019) – “The Hero Part One,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. This issue begins with Usagi fighting a bunch of zombies, and then we discover that this is a story Usagi is reading. Then we meet the author of the story, Lady Mura, and Usagi protects her from being kidnapped by her jealous husband. This is an exciting story as usual, though Lady Mura seems too much like a modern Western idea of an author. Until reading the letters page I failed to realize she was based on Murasaki Shikibu.

FUTURE FOUNDATION #2 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Will Robson & Paco Diaz. This series has already been cancelled, which is a sad sign of Marvel’s lack of faith in Jeremy or in younger readers. This series hasn’t been my favorite Jeremy Whitley comic so far, but it’s been entertaining, and it deserves more than five issues. Marvel could at least have given Future Foundation a little more time to build an audience. This issue we learn that the mysterious new girl from last issue is Rikki Barnes. The highlight of the issue is Phyllis vowing revenge on everyone who made fun of her name. https://www.instagram.com/p/B2NBeJAh4ef/

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #9 (Marvel, 2019) – “The God Below,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mahmud Asrar. Conan finds himself inside a weird red cave, where he defends a bunch of other random people from various perils, all but one of which are familiar to him. In the end we learn that the “cave” is a giant monster’s stomach, and the people in the cave are the people the monster ate. And the last enemy Conan fought inside the monster is the demon that’s eventually going to kill him. This was an okay issue, but the twist (i.e. that Conan was inside a monster’s belly all along) was rather obvious.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES: MILLENNIUM #1 (DC, 2019) – untitled, [W] Brian Michael Bendis, [A] Jim Lee et al. When I learned Bendis would be writing the Legion revival, it was like the “Corrupt a Wish” game. My favorite comic was finally back after a six-year hiatus, but it was going to be written by a writer I can’t stand. But I like Ryan Sook’s designs for the Legionnaires, and I’m cautiously optimistic for Bendis’s Legion. However, this introductory issue includes no actual Legionnaires. It stars the immortal Rose Forrest, aka Rose and the Thorn, as she lives through various eras in the DC Universe’s future. This issue is okay, and the dialogue is not as bad as I’d feared. but it’s too bad we have to wait until next issue to see the Legion.

SEA OF STARS #3 (Image, 2019) – “Lost in the Wild Heavens,” [W] Jason Aaron & Dennis Hallum, [A] Stephen Green. Kadyn has some ridiculous adventures with a “quarkshark” and other creatures, while Gil struggles to keep himself alive and avoid despair. This is another good issue, and I love how this series’ two subplots have two completely different tones. This series has a lot in common with Star Pig, but I think that’s a coincidence.

FANTASTIC FOUR #14 (Marvel, 2019) – “Point of Origin Part One: Wanderlust,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Paco Medina. The FF’s original rocket (now retroactively named Marvel-1) is installed in the Smithsonian, and we meet Duke and Sandy, who were supposed to have gone on the FF’s rocket trip instead of Sue and Johnny. Then there are some flashbacks to the FF’s origin, containing some new information. And then Reed decides to build a second rocket, the Marvel-2, so the FF can complete their original mission from back in 1961. This new storyline is exciting, and this issue is full of great moments, like the woman telling her child “We don’t point at the disfigured.”

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #1 (Boom!, 2019) – “The Angel of Archer’s Peak Part One,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. This series has been heavily hyped, and I thought I had forgotten to order it, so I was glad to discover that I had indeed ordered it. This new horror title is set in the town of Archer’s Peak, where a boy named James is the only survivor of an incident in which three other boys were mysteriously killed. Later, James meets a strange white-haired girl who’s come to town to kill the monster that killed the other boys. This debut issue is an effective piece of horror, and I like Werther Dell’Edera’s moody and realistic artwork.

BATTLEPUG #1 (Image, 2019) – “War on Christmas Part One,” [W] Mike Norton, [A] Allen Passalaqua. Battlepug chronicles the adventures of the Last Kinmundian, a Conan-like character who rides a giant pug. (As a result of this series and Grumble, Mike Norton is justifiably worried about being pigeonholed as “the pug guy.”) This issue, the Kinmundian defeats Covfefe, a politician who wants to make Ashkum great again – the parody here is rather obvious. Then the Kinmundian sets off to confront his evil foster father, the King of the Northland Elves, i.e. Santa Claus. This series is another in a long line of Conan parodies, but it’s funny and affectionate, and the characters are endearing. I haven’t read any of the Battlepug graphic novels, but after reading this issue, I want to.

DIE #7 (Image, 2019) – “Wisdom Check,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans. This issue follows the other half of the party, Isabelle and Chuck. They get involved in some elven politics, and also Izzy asks her goddess, Mistress Woe, to curse Chuck. The most memorable thing about this issue is Chuck, who is a completely toxic, self-destructive asshole, but also a very realistic and complex character. Sadly, characters like these are much more compelling in fiction than in real life. Which is kind of an appropriate comment, because a running theme in this issue is Chuck critiquing how well-written all the other characters are.

CROWDED #9 (Image, 2019) – “Babes Never Die,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Ro Stein. After executing a convoluted plot, Charlie and Vita get in to see Quincy, a combination of a modern-day techbro and Howard Hughes. Charlie and Vita manage to get some help from Quincy before they have to parachute out of his apartment. This is another thrilling issue. I’ve already mentioned that Vita and Charlie’s relationship is the main appeal of this series, but also, Sebela and Stein’s near-future worldbuilding is amazing.

IRONHEART #9 (Marvel, 2019) – “Ironheart Goes to Wakanda,” [W] Eve Ewing, [A] Luciano Vecchio. Riri follows Midnight’s Fire’s trail to Wakanda, where she meets Shuri. Riri and Shuri’s relationship gets off to a poor start because they’re too similar to each other. Yet Eve Ewing also demonstrates that they’re not the same character; they’re both black girl scientists, but they come from radically different backgrounds and have different personalities. As the issue goes on, Riri and Shuri resolve their differences by working together to save people, and then the former New Warrior, Silhouette, shows up at the end.

THE DREAMING #13 (DC, 2019) – “Tiqqun, the Rectification,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Dani. Perhaps the saddest issue yet. This issue focuses on a support group for mythological creatures who are being forgotten, and thus disappearing. I couldn’t identify all these characters, but they include the Green Man and El Bufeo Colorado, a legendary Amazonian creature. A nice touch is that one of the characters is the Gentle Goellan, and over the course of the issue, he fades from memory until he no longer even has a Wikipedia entry. There is no Wikipedia page for the Gentle Goellan, or any other Internet references to him, except in the context of this issue. Does that mean that the Goellan is a fictional creature invented by Spurrier? Or has he been forgotten in real life, not just in this comic? I didn’t notice any connections to the rest of the Sandman universe in this issue, but I didn’t mind.

BIRTHRIGHT #39 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Mastema tells a sob story about her dead lover Klay, who, as it turns out, was not a person but a statue she animated. Mikey’s attempts to enlist Mastema’s help against Lore are a total failure. The issue ends with Mastema reverting Lore to his child self. This is another good issue, though there’s nothing unique about it.

BERSERKER UNBOUND #2 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Mike Deodato Jr. The Mongrel King hangs out with a homeless man, then they head over to the nearby city. This is Jeff Lemire’s worst creator-owned comic yet. It’s extremely slow-paced, and I think it’s actually worse than What If? vol. 1 #11 and #43.

EVERYTHING #1 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “Grand Opening!”, [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] I.N.J. Culbard. Christopher Cantwell’s second ongoing series is even weirder than his first, and that’s saying a lot. Everything takes place in 1980 in Holland, Michigan, where a new giant department store is opening. The first issue consists of a number of vignettes that all relate to the Everything store somehow. I have no idea yet where this comic is going or what it’s about, though I’m curious to find out.

BATMAN #181 (FACSIMILE EDITION) (DC, 1966/2019) – “Beware of—Poison Ivy!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Sheldon Moldoff. This issue’s first story introduces Poison Ivy, but it depicts her as a generic female villain. It has the kind of dumb sexist plot that was typical of Kanigher: Poison Ivy tries to prove that she’s greater than three other female villains, none of whom ever appeared before or since. Poison Ivy’s trademark plant gimmick wouldn’t be introduced until later. This issue’s backup story is by Gardner Fox and Chic Stone. It’s a fairly well-crafted mystery, and is better than the Poison Ivy story.

AGENTS OF ATLAS #2 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Portal City of Pan Part 2,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Nico Leon & Pop Mhan. Amadeus Cho gets increasingly convinced that something is wrong with Pan, though his teammates don’t share his concern. Then the Pan troops try to shoot some Madripoorian undocumented immigrants, and Amadeus has to fight them. Meanwhile, sparks fly between Amadeus and his teammate Luna Snow. The scene with the Madripoorians is an obvious comment on real-world politics.

IMMORTAL HULK #23 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Face of the Enemy,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. The Hulk and his friends continue their assault on Fortean’s base. Fortean spits acid on the Hulk and makes him tear his face off. High points in this issue include the disgusting last page, and Rick’s “Ira member you” joke.

GREEN LANTERN #11 (DC, 2019) – “Quest for the Cosmic Grail,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. Hal teams up with an other-dimensional Star Sapphire against Lost Zundernell, the Golden Lantern. But there’s another even worse villain on the horizon: the Qwa-Man from issue 9. The best part of this issue is the scene where all the Green Lanterns are reciting their oaths, one of which ends “When other Lanterns lose their sh[…] / we keep the magic lantern lit.” This series is both the best Green Lantern comic and the best Grant Morrison comic in a long time.

SECTION ZERO #6 (Image, 2019) – “Ring of Fire,” [W] Karl Kesel, [A] Tom Grummett. This issue is full of interlocking plots, and it’s hard to follow everything that happens in it. But it does seem like Kesel and Grummett managed to resolve all the dangling plot threads. Amusingly, the climactic scene of the issue happens in the Mall of America. I don’t know why Section Zero is just a six-issue miniseries; I’d like to read more of it.

NO ONE LEFT TO FIGHT #3 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Aubrey Sitterson, [A] Fico Ossio. Winda tries to seduce Vâle, but he turns her down because he thinks she’s too young. However, he then has a vision of Winda pregnant with his child. Maybe he really rejected her because he’s afraid of commitment. Also, Vâle encounters a mysterious character called the Hierophant. Beyond its Dragon Ball trappings, No One Left to Fight is a pretty sophisticated story about growing up.

DOOM PATROL: WEIGHT OF THE WORLDS #3 (DC, 2019) – “Time in Goliath,” [W] Gerard Way, Jeremy Lambert & Steve Orlando, [A] Evan “Doc” Shaner. The artwork and coloring in this issue are brilliant. It would be unfair to describe Doc Shaner as the next Darwyn Cooke, but the film noir atmosphere in this issue reminds me of Darwyn’s work. The other brilliant thing about this issue is its use of metatext. On page two, we discover that this issue is reprinted from “Doom Patrol #172, published March 2031.” There are other references to other comics that haven’t been published yet, and the plot is that a future version of the Doom Patrol is using clues in books to track down Steve Dayton. Eventually we learn that the entire issue is a vision that the DPers had when they encountered a time-traveling future version of Steve.

LOIS LANE #3 (DC, 2019) – “Enemy of the People Part Three,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Mike Perkins. Lois confronts Clark about his overprotectiveness. Meanwhile, Renee Montoya encounters Vic Sage, aka Charlie, the previous Question. At the end of the issue, Lois mistakes Clark for Jon in a very awkward way. This is a very well-executed issue. A nice subtle moment is the last panel on page 5, where Lois and Renee’s hair blows in the wind created by Superman’s arrival.

MARVEL ACTION: SPIDER-MAN #8 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Delilah S. Dawson, [A] Fico Ossio. Peter, Miles and Gwen fight some escaped leopards at a zoo. There are some hilarious cat moments in this issue, like the panel where Peter uses a web as a ball of yarn for one of the leopards to play with. But besids that, this comic is pretty average, and I’m not all that interested in the characters. I don’t plan on continuing to order this.

ALL-TIME COMICS: ZEROSIS DEATHSCAPE #3 (Floating World, 2019) – “Stabbing Toward Zero Hour,” [W] Josh Bayer & Josh Simmons, [A] Josh Simmons, Tom Toye & Trevor von Eeden. The first 13 pages of this issue are amazing, especially the first six, where Simmons draws in a style resembling that of Michael DeForge. This comic reminds me that I need to get around to reading Simmons’s graphic novel Black River. The section of the issue that’s drawn by Trevor von Eeden is much more conventional. One of von Eeden’s pages is a tribute to the splash page from Captain America #113 where Cap lifts the Hydra agent over his head.

TRUE BELIEVERS: HULK – HEAD OF BANNER #1 (Marvel, 1963/2019) – “The Incredible Hulk vs. the Metal Master!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Steve Ditko. This is a reprint of Incredible Hulk vol. 1 #6. This issue’s villain is the Metal Master, an alien who has the same powers as Magneto, hence why he rarely ever appeared again. The “Head of Banner” title refers to a scene in which Bruce inexplicably turns into the Hulk but retains Bruce Banner’s head. This issue also introduces the Teen Brigade. Hulk #6 is a very early Marvel Universe comic, and it feels kind of weird and old-fashioned, in the same way as early issues of FF and Thor. It also has a surprisingly compressed narrative; Stan packs a ton of plot points into just one issue.

BATWOMAN #22 (DC, 2013) – “His Blood is Thick: Hits,” [W] J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman, [A] Trevor McCarthy. Due to the lack of Williams artwork, this comic is much less interesting than #4. Its plot makes little sense out of context, and is also rather boring. This issue guest-stars two of Williams’s pet characters, Chase and Mr. Bones.

THIEF OF THIEVES #7 (Image, 2012) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman & Nick Spencer, [A] Shawn Martinborough. This comic mostly focuses on the theft of an item from the FBI’s evidence storage. The theft is executed in a clever way, but besides that, this comic is pretty average.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #366 (Marvel, 1992) – “Skullwork!”, [W] David Michelinie, [A] Jerry Bingham. Peter has some awkward interactions with his newly resurrected parents, then investigates whether the Red Skull is responsible for their return. The “return of Peter’s parents” story was pretty bad, although it’s forgotten today because it led into the clone saga, which was even worse. It’s painful to see Peter, a grown, married man, being treated like a child by his parents. Also, Jerry Bingham is a good artist, but he was not suited to drawing Spider-Man. His Spider-Man action scenes are stiff and unexciting.

18 DAYS #3 (Graphic India, 2015) – “The Unholy Birth of Duryodhana,” [W] Sharad Devarajan & Gautam Chopra, [A] Francesco Biagini. This issue is much better than I expected, mostly because of Francesco Biagini’s art. It’s a flashback to the birth of the 100 Kauravas, the sons of Dhritarashtra and Gandhari. Biagini uses effective spotting of blacks to create eerie backgrounds and settings. When Gandari gives birth to a giant amorphous lump of flesh (which will later be divided to create her 100 sons), it looks horrible.

ACTION COMICS #843 (DC, 2006) – “All Out Action: Back in Action Part 3,” [W] Kurt Busiek & Fabian Nicieza, [A] Pete Woods. Superman and a bunch of other heroes (including Busiek’s creation Skyrocket) battle the Auctioneer. This issue is entirely composed of action sequences, and it’s not Kurt’s best Superman story, but it’s well-done.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #39 (Marvel, 1974) – “The Dragon from the Inland Sea,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] John Buscema. One of the few Roy Thomas issues of Conan the Barbarian that I hadn’t read. After fighting some bandits, Conan meets an exiled village chieftain and his niece. The chieftain explains that he was exiled by a wizard who had the power to summon a giant dragon lizard from the sea. Conan accompanies them back to the village and gets rid of both the wizard and the dragon – really more of a giant crocodile – but it turns out the wizard was the chieftain’s brother and the niece’s father. The best thing about this issue is that the fight with the dragon is very tense and exciting.

DEATH RATTLE #14 (Kitchen Sink, 1988) – three stories, [E] Denis Kitchen & Dave Schreiner. Three fascinating stories by three very different artists. Mike Baron and Rand Holmes’s “Bummer” is about a concert where a rock band tries to sacrifice the audience to a demon. It’s a rather slight story, but it feels like a realistic depiction of a ‘70s rock concert, and Holmes’s art is amazing. Next is a chapter of Jaxon’s “Bulto,” which includes an accurate depiction of the 1759 Battle of the Twin Villages (as Wikipedia calls it). Last is a reprinted Spacehawk story by Basil Wolverton. I may have read this story before in Dark Horse’s Wolverton in Space volume, but I read that book a long time ago. Looking at Spacehawk again now, I realize how truly bizarre and unique Wolverton’s style was.

THUNDERBOLTS #167 (Marvel, 2012) – “The Ripper Tour, Part 2,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Declan Shalvey. This issue’s cover is an early work by Mike (or Michael) del Mundo. In the interior story, some of the Thunderbolts travel back in time to investigate the Jack the Ripper murders. As previously noted, Jeff Parker’s Thunderbolts was a sort of Marvel version of Suicide Squad, in that its main source of interest was the interactions between the various bizarre characters. This issue is good, but not as impressive as other issues of this run.

JUGHEAD #15 (Archie, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid & Ian Flynn, [A] Derek Charm. Sabrina curses Josie and the Pussycats so they’ll fall in love with Jughead. This issue is okay, but it pales in comparison with Chip Zdarsky’s Jughead. The major knock on Mark Waid’s Jughead was that he ignored Zdarsky’s decision that Jughead is asexual. This issue, he mostly avoids the question of Jughead’s sexuality by focusing instead on Sabrina and on Josie and her bandmates.

DAREDEVIL #5 (Marvel, 2011) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Marcos Martin. Daredevil tries to protect a blind linguist, Austin Cao, who’s been targeted for assassination by the mob because he heard something incriminating, though he doesn’t know what. This is an exciting comic with very impressive art. The best moment is when Matt makes Austin remember the incriminating conversation by triggering Austin’s sense of smell.

AVENGERS #310 (Marvel, 1989) – “Death in Olympia!”, [W] John Byrne, [A] Paul Ryan. The Avengers fight Blastaar with assistance from the Warriors Three. Blastaar is a really cool and underused villain, but otherwise this is a mediocre issue. This issue feels like an Acts of Vengeance installment because it has the Avengers fighting a Fantastic Four villain; however, Acts of Vengeance didn’t officially start until the next month.

JOE HILL’S THE CAPE: FALLEN #3 (IDW, 2019) – “Hide and Seek and Die,” [W] Jason Ciaramella, [A] Zach Howard. Some nerds go on a LARP vacation in the woods, with no phone reception and no way back to civilization. A crazy dude with superpowers starts killing them one by one. This comic is brutal and sadistic, and of all the comics about crazy superheroes murdering people, it may be the worst.

BATMAN/THE MAXX: ARKHAM DREAMS #2 (IDW/DC, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Sam Kieth. I did not enjoy issue 1 of this series, but issue 2 is better than I expected. Sam Kieth’s art is impressive, and his writing is at least not terrible, though he would have been better off hiring someone else to write his dialogue.

IRREDEEMABLE #4 (Boom!, 2009) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Peter Krause. This comic has a very similar premise to The Cape, but unlike The Cape, it’s cleverly written and has interesting characters. This issue, the Plutonian murders the entire population of Singapore on a petty whim. Thinking about this comic in hindsight, I guess it suffers from one of Mark Waid’s characteristic flaws: he tries too hard to top himself, creating increasingly epic stories with ever higher stakes. Some of his later Captain America stories were notable examples of this, like the one where the Red Skull becomes omnipotent. But Irredeemable is an ongoing series, so the reader knows that the Plutonian’s destruction of Singapore is just one moment in a bigger story. In order for the story to continue, the Plutonian’s former enemies have to be able to effectively fight against him, and as a reader I’m curious as to how they’re going to do that. It’s weird how all the ads in this comic are for other Boom! comics that I’ve never heard of, mostly in the SF and horror genres. In the decade since Irredeemable #4, Boom! has completely transformed itself as a publisher.

FCBD 2011 GREEN LANTERN FLASHPOINT SPECIAL EDITION #1 (DC, 2011) – “Secret Origin Book 2,” [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Ivan Reis. This issue has the same cover as Green Lantern (2005) #31, but it reprints the story from #30 of that series, which is a retelling of Hal Jordan’s origin. I read Green Lantern #30 when it came out, and when I read it again, it barely rang a bell. It must have been a forgettable issue. There’s also a backup story that’s a preview of Flashpoint.

SPIDER-MAN: LIFELINE #3 (Marvel, 2001) – “A Taste of Infinity: Lifeline Part 3,” [W] Fabian Nicieza, [A] Steve Rude. Spider-Man fights the Lizard, Hammerhead and Boomerang in order to protect the secret of the ancient stone tablet. This issue is a very faithful tribute to Lee and Romita’s Spider-Man, to the point where I even assumed it was taking place somewhere around the #70s or #80s of Amazing Spider-Man. I was surprised to realize that it takes place much later, after Gwen Stacy’s death. In addition to demonstrating his usual artistic brilliance, the Dude does a great job of imitating Romita’s style of art.

EXCALIBUR #22 (Marvel, 1990) – “Shadows Triumphant?”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Chris Wozniak. This is an installment of the interminable Cross-Time Caper epic. Claremont’s Excalibur stories were much worse when they weren’t drawn by Alan Davis. This issue is so confusing that I can’t make head or tail of it, and Chris Wozniak is a boring artist.

THE POWER COMPANY: BORK #1 (DC, 2002) – “Vulnerability,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Kieron Dwyer. This was part of a series of one-shots that led into the short-lived Power Company ongoing series. This one stars Bork, a villain whose only previous appearance was in Brave and the Bold #81. For this reason, Kurt has the freedom to do whatever he wants with Bork, and he writes him compellingly as a man with no real purpose in life, who wants to redeem himself and gain his mother’s respect. Bork is a bit like Steeljack, from an Astro City story that had concluded a couple years before. I just noticed that on the first page of this issue there’s a sign that says Haney’s Deli, in honor of the writer of Bork’s only previous story.

AVENGERS #293 (Marvel, 1988) – “And Flights of Angels…”, [W] Walt Simonson, [A] John Buscema. Namor’s wife Marrina has turned into a giant monster, and Namor and the Avengers are forced to kill her. It’s a sad end for a character no one really cared about. At the end of the issue, we learn that Marrina has laid three eggs, implied to have been fathered by Namor, and the eggs start hatching. Only one of Namor and Marrina’s three children ever appeared again; the others have vanished into limbo. See https://www.cbr.com/avengers-namor-marrina-children/2/.

THUNDERBOLTS #16 (Marvel, 1998) – “Thunder & Lightning,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Mark Bagley. The Thunderbolts fight the Great Lakes Avengers, who are now calling themselves the Lightning Rods. This is a fun issue, though Kurt isn’t the best humor writer. It’s probably because of this issue that the Great Lakes Avengers later got their own miniseries, and therefore this issue is indirectly responsible for popularizing Squirrel Girl.

MS. TREE #41 (Renegade, 1987) – “Coming of Rage, Chapter One: This Awful Heritage,” [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. Ms. Tree sends her stepson Mike to an exclusive private school, where he meets the daughter of the Muerta family. There’s also a reprinted Johnny Dynamite story. Johnny Dynamite was a surprisingly entertaining piece of crime fiction, and it deserves to be reprinted – and for that matter, so does Ms. Tree. On the letters page, Max writes that in order for Ms. Tree to return to its old format with a full-length story in every issue, its sales would have to double. The series only lasted nine more issues before moving to DC, where it was a quarterly title. The letters page also briefly mentions the Friendly Frank’s case.

THE FLASH #172 (DC, 2001) – “Blood Will Run Part III: Close to Home,” [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Scott Kolins. Wally battles his ex-girlfriend Magenta and a cult leader named Cicada. I think Magenta has been Wally’s psychotic, villainous ex-girlfriend for much longer than she was his actual girlfriend. There’s also a subplot about two policemen named Chyre and Morillo. At this point in Geoff Johns’s career, his work still felt fresh and original.

GREEN ARROW #54 (DC, 1991) – “The List Part 2,” [W] Mike Grell, [A] Rick Hoberg. Ollie Queen and Eddie Fyers hide out in the Seattle Underground (which really exists), where they fight a bunch of assassins. This issue has some nice action sequences but is otherwise forgettable.

NEXUS #79 (Dark Horse, 1991) – “Skip Day,” [W] Mike Baron, [A] Hugh Haynes. Nexus’s next execution target is Dexter Qassat, an old black man who committed a number of murders while fighting for independence (note that this issue came out the year after Nelson Mandela was released from prison). After spending a day with Qassat, Nexus decides that he’s reformed and that he no longer deserves to die. The Merk is not happy about this, so Nexus executes three other people instead – including a baby who’s the reincarnation of a dead murderer. This is a fun issue, and it reminds me that I still love Nexus, even if Mike Baron’s toxic politics and online behavior have made me unwilling to buy his comics.

JUGHEAD #16 (Archie, 2017) – untitled, [W] Ian Flynn & Mark Waid, [A] Derek Charm. Jughead arrives at the Josie and the Pussycats concert only to discover that the entire audience has fallen in love with him. There’s a clever sequence early in the issue that’s a deliberate ripoff of Afterlife with Archie. Otherwise, this comic is only mildly funny. This volume of Jughead was cancelled after this issue.

SUPERMAN #26 (DC, 2017) – “Brains vs. Brawn,” [W] Michael Moreci, [A] Scott Godlewski. Clark tries to teach Jon to be more restrained and less hotheaded. In flashbacks, we see Pa Kent trying to teach Clark himself the same lesson. In this continuity, Ma and Pa Kent are apparently dead. The issue ends with Clark and Jon teaming up to fight Psi-Phon and Dreadnought, two villains I had completely forgotten about. Superman #26 feels like a fill-in issue, but it’s fairly enjoyable and touching; it’s certainly much better than Superman #32.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #9 (Marvel, 1971) – “The Garden of Fear,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Barry [Windsor-]Smith. Conan’s annoying girlfriend Jenna is kidnapped by a green winged dude, and to save her, Conan has to infiltrate a tower that’s surrounded by carnivorous plants. This is far from BWS’s best Conan story, but at this point in the series he was already breaking free from Kirby and Steranko’s influence and developing his own style.

THE KENTS #2 (DC, 1997) – “Bleeding Kansas Part 2,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Tim Truman. I believe I have this entire miniseries, but I’ve only read the first issue. I finally located my copy of #2 (my boxes of unread comics are in order by when I bought them, not by title) and decided to read the rest of the series. The Kents is a sort-of Western comic, chronicling the early history of Smallville and the Kent family during the Civil War era. Issue 1 ended with the death of Silas Kent. #2 focuses on Silas’s sons Nate and Jeb as they get involved in the volatile politics of 1850s Kansas. There are cameo appearances by famous historical figures like Wild Bill Hickok and John Brown. I enjoyed this issue enough that I went straight on to:

THE KENTS #3 (DC, 1997) – “Bleeding Kansas Part 3,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Tim Truman. This issue begins with Preston Brooks’s famous assault on Charles Sumner. After that, the Kents’ hometown of Lawrence is attacked by pro-slavery forces, and Jeb Kent inexplicably lets them burn down his family’s print shop. This is the start of Jeb’s descent into evil. Meanwhile, Nate meets his future love interest, Mary Glenowen. At this point, I was starting to think that The Kents is one of Ostrander and Truman’s best collaborations. It shows evidence of deep research, and it tells a compelling story full of fascinating characters.

INCORRUPTIBLE #16 (Boom!, 2011) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Marcio Takara. Incorruptible is a spinoff of Irredeemable and has the opposite premise. It stars Max Damage, a former villain who’s become a hero. This issue is mostly a fight sequence in which Max battles some unreformed supervillains who practice sex magic (as we discover in a funny scene). Also, Max tries and fails to rescue his former sidekick Headcase. Alana Patel, the Lois Lane character from Irredeemable, makes a guest appearance.

INCORRUPTIBLE #17 – as above. Alana Patel tries to strike a deal between Max Damage and the fabulously rich Hayes Bellamy. Incorruptible may not be Mark’s greatest work, but it’s a quick and entertaining read, and I’d like to collect more of it.

SUPERMAN #608 (DC, 2002) – “Dawn’s Early Light,” [W] Joe Casey, [A] Derec Aucoin. This issue includes several pages that use the same format as the TV show sequences in Dark Knight Returns. As a result, this comic is tedious to read. Its plot is that a bunch of villains are attacking Clark Kent’s friends and associates, like his high school coach.

MAJOR BUMMER #3 (DC, 1997) – “Alone Against the Other Guys!”, [W] John Arcudi, [A] Doug Mahnke. Major Bummer (Lou Martin) fights a bunch of stupid villains who also got their powers from the aliens Zinnac and Yoof. Also, he meets Martin Lewis, the man who Zinnac and Yoof were supposed to turn into a superhero. Martin Lewis seems to be based on Icon. I’m not a particular fan of either Arcudi or Mahnke, but they created something memorable and unique in this series. I especially like Mahnke’s bizarre depictions of aliens and monsters. Lou Martin works at a VCR repair store, which shows you how long ago this comic was published.

THE KENTS #4 (DC, 1997) – “Bleeding Kansas Part 4,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Tim Truman. Nate Kent realizes that even though he’s an abolitionist, he doesn’t know any black people, so he introduces himself to his black neighbors. This scene is kind of cringeworthy; Nate’s heart is in the right place, but he’s literally looking for someone to be his Black Friend. A few pages later, Mary Glenowen incorrectly states that the Delaware people are one of the five original tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy. Besides these false notes, this is another good issue. The main event is that the infamous William Quantrill tries to kidnap Nate’s new black friends, and when Nate tries to protect him, Jeb shoots him from behind. Also, Mary gives Nate a blanket with the Superman symbol on it.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #21 (Marvel, 1972) – “The Monster of the Monoliths!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Barry Windsor-Smith. According to this issue’s letters page, BWS only did rough sketches for most of the issue, and they were finished by Val Mayerik and P. Craig Russell. Still, this issue shows a tremendous improvement compared to #8. By this point, BWS’s ornate, detailed style was fully developed. In “The Monster of the Monoliths,” the rulers of Makkalet send Conan on a mission, but it turns out that they meant for him to be sacrificed to a frog demon. Conan survives by figuring out that the frog is attracted to the armband the queen of Makkalet gave him. Overall, this is of BWS’s best issues of Conan. The splash page where the frog charges from the monoliths toward Conan is one of the most striking moments of BWS’s run; it creates a powerful sense of mystery and danger. And I love the sequence two pages later where Conan tosses the amulet to the other dude, and then the frog’s shadow appears over his face.

INCORRUPTIBLE #6 (Boom!, 2010) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Horacio Domingues. Max Damage rescues his sidekick Jailbait from another villain called Deathgiver. However, Jailbait then tries to commit suicide. Meanwhile, Max’s other sidekick, Annie, is trapped in a burning house. I don’t remember much about this issue.

CATWOMAN #11 (DC, 2002) – “Final Report,” [W] Steven Grant, [A] Brad Rader. This issue is just credited to “Grant,” with no first name. According to https://www.cbr.com/catwoman-11-contents-changed-steven-grant-writes-issue/, it was written by Steven Grant, not Alan. “Final Report” is a fill-in issue, but a good one. This story depicts Catwoman’s successful theft of a jewel from a rival criminal. It’s a bit confusing at first because it starts in medias res and seems to be continued from a previous issue; however, it offers an effective capsule summary of what kind of character Catwoman is. What really impresses me about this issue is Brad Rader’s art. He draws in an animation-influenced style resembling that of Bruce Timm or Darwyn Cooke or Cameron Stewart, and he’s really good at it. I’m sorry that he didn’t do more work in comics.

FLASH #58 (DC, 1991) – “The Way of a Will,” [W] William Messner-Loebs, [A] Greg La Rocque. Wally and Piper travel to an isolated, snowbound mansion to attend the reading of the Icicle’s will. (I assume the Icicle died of redundancy, since DC had so many other villains with cold-related gimmicks.) But the Icicle’s relatives are also in attendance, and they’re not happy that Wally stands to inherit his money. This is an obvious setup for a murder mystery, and indeed, later in the issue the relatives start getting murdered. William Messner-Loebs was really not suited to writing superhero comics, and this issue feels weird and awkward. Also, it’s hard to reconcile Mike Baron and Bill Loebs’s version of Wally West with Mark Wadi and subsequent writers’ version of the character.

Reviews for August

Starting again on August 24 with some more comics I read the week of August 8:

AXE COP: PRESIDENT OF THE WORLD #3 (Dark Horse, 2012) – “President of the World Part 3 of 3,” [W] Malachai Nicolle, [A] Ethan Nicolle. The gimmick of this series is that it’s written by an eight-year-old and drawn by his 31-year-old brother. This gimmick is mildly funny at first, but quickly becomes annoying instead, because the writer has no sense of logic or plausibility or narrative structure. I also think it’s ethically questionable for Ethan Nicolle to distribute his brother’s work in this way. I also wrote a lot of stories when I was eight years old, but as an adult, I wouldn’t want anyone else to see them. On top of that, Ethan Nicolle is a Gamergate supporter. I don’t intend to collect any more of this series.

SAVAGE DRAGON #87 (Image, 2001) – “Havoc in the Hidden City,” [W/A] Erik Larsen. Compared to Axe Cop, Savage Dragon feels like the best-written comic ever. Erik is not the best writer, but at least he understands things like pacing and dialogue. In this installment of the Savage World saga, Dragon beats up a giant fish and then climbs up a mountain to the hidden city of the gods. It’s a lighthearted and fun comic.

SECTION ZERO #5 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Karl Kesel, [A] Tom Grummett. Section Zero investigates a giant carnivorous plant in a swamp, and then the Loch Ness monster. Meanwhile, some people called the Ghost Soldiers recruit a little boy who turns out to be the reincarnation of one of their members. I don’t remember this issue very well.

INVISIBLE WOMAN #2 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Mattia de Iulis. I really like the way this artist draws faces; on the fourth panel of the page right after the title page, Wanda’s facial expression is amazingly realistic, and she has a face type I rarely see in comics. This comic is fun, but it’s kind of a generic spy story, and it feels more like a Black Widow comic than an Invisible Woman comic. Of course the problem here is that Sue has rarely had a story to herself without her family involved. It’s hard to imagine what an Invisible Woman comic, without any of the other FF members, would look like. Creating such a story is Mark Waid’s task in this series, and I’m not sure how much he’s succeeded.

SINESTRO: YEAR OF THE VILLAIN #1 (DC, 2019) – “Micron Management,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Yildiray Cinar. As part of some dumb crossover I don’t care about, Sinestro is fighting “Paragons,” giant demigods who automatically heal themselves. It turns out this is because each demigod is inhabited by a society of Microns, tiny intelligent beings who devote their entire lives to healing their Paragon. Sinestro convinces the Microns to live for themselves instead of the Paragons. Of course, because he’s a villain, he finds a way to exploit the Microns and turn their newfound freedom into a curse. In this issue, as he does so often, Mark Russell turns a stupid premise into a brilliant meditation on contemporary social issues – in this case, the authoritarian personality, and the problem of devoting your life to an institution that doesn’t care about you. Sinestro: YOTV #1 is one of his best single issues yet.

IMAGE FIRSTS: TREES #1 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Jason Howard. A bunch of giant alien structures appear in the midst of various cities. Many years alter, a young Chinese man from the provinces arrives in the walled city of Shu. Meanwhile, in the Arctic, some scientists try to figure out what the trees are. Trees is a fascinating series, and I’m looking forward to the upcoming second volume.

THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU #1/a> (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ted Adams, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. This comic is full of fascinating artwork by one of the best artists in the industry. However, Ted Adams’s writing is not worthy of Gabriel Rodriguez’s art. Adams makes the most common mistake people make when adapting novels to comics: he includes too much of the original text. His word balloons are overly long and are tedious to read, sapping the energy created by the art. As a result, this is an annoying comic to read.

IGNITED #3 (Humanoids, 2019) – “Triggered Part 3,” [W] Mark Waid & Kwanza Osajyefo, [A] Phil Briones. This is reasonably good, but I was tired when I read it. The premise of this series, about school shootings, is much more interesting than the characters or their powers. In fact, I hardly remember anything about the characters at all.

G.I. JOE #73 (Marvel, 1988) – “Divided We Fall,” [W] Larry Hama, [A] Ron Wagner. This is the first part of the Cobra civil war storyline, which ends in #76, reviewed earlier this year. The main plot is that Serpentor and Cobra Commander’s rivalry erupts into open battle when they disagree over possession of a mysterious black box. Like #73, this is an entertaining issue with lots of humor and complicated plotting. Some of the characters in this issue (Quick Kick and  Captain Minh) are ethnic stereotypes, but Larry Hama was good at doing interesting things with silly characters.

INVISIBLES #5 (DC, 1995) – “Arcadia Part 1: Bloody Poetry,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Jill Thompson. A scattershot and confusing but fascinating issue. In the main plot, Dane/Jack Frost gets to know his new teammates, and they travel back in time to the French Revolution. Meanwhile, there’s a subplot starring Lord Byron and Percy Shelley. There’s also another scene that seems to echo the scene in Animal Man where Buddy’s ghost appears to Maxine. The first page of the issue is a seemingly accurate account of Javanese puppet theatre.

ONYX #1 (IDW, 2015) – “The Arrival,” [W] Chris Ryall, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. This comic has the same problem as Island of Dr. Moreau #1. Gabriel Rodriguez’s art is incredible, but Chris Ryall’s story is trite, overwritten and boring. None of the characters or premises are interesting at all, and the entire comic feels like a ripoff of Rom, which Chris Ryall also wrote – or alternately Metroid, since the armored space warrior turns out to be a woman. Gabriel Rodriguez is perhaps the finest draftsman in the comics industry, but he needs to stop working with writers who are unworthy of his talents.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE #23 (Vertigo, 2012) – “Death Race Part 2 of 4,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. This may have been the last great Vertigo series. I’ve been harshly negative about Scott Snyder’s work lately, but American Vampire #23 was much better than I expected. I don’t understand the plot of this series, but this issue is a thrilling car chase with exciting artwork.

SWEET TOOTH #14 (Vertigo, 2010) – “Animal Armies Part Two,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Gus and the other animal kids begin their escape from the research facility, while Jepperd leads an army of cultists against the same facility. The highlight of this issue is a scene where Gus is forced to beat an alligator hybrid boy to death in order to save another child.

DOLL #4 (Rip Off, 1990) – untitled, [W/A] Guy Colwell. A philosopher, Holger, has sex with a living sex doll in an attempt to cure his neuroses. While doing so, he goes on a long monologue about how women are attracted to awful men. This is a really weird comic, and mostly in a good way, but it’s kind of tedious to read because of the extreme amount of dialogue. Also, a lot of the stuff Holger says reminds me of contemporary incel and MRA propaganda, although his comments wouldn’t have had that resonance in 1990.

FACTS O’ LIFE FUNNIES #1 (Rip Off, 1972) – various stories, [E] Lora Fountain. This is a public service comic devoted to sex education, and it includes informational features such as a list of failure rates for common contraceptives. But it’s mostly devoted to underground comics about sex. The high point of the issue is Gilbert Shelton’s laugh-out-loud funny “Fat Freddy Gets the Clap.” There’s also Crumb’s “Strawberry Fields,” some “Trots and Bonnie” strips by Shary Flenniken, and stories by Ted Richards, Bobby London and Lora Fountain. In general, this is one of the more entertaining and accessible underground comics. It’s also an intriguing historical artifact. 1972 was prior to the AIDS crisis, so the characters in the comic are mostly worried about gonorrhea and chlamydia.

MR. MONSTER PRESENTS (CRACK-A-BOOM!) #2 (Caliber, 1997) – “Eel’s Well That Ends Well!!” and other stories, [W/A] Michael T. Gilbert et al. A collection of Mr. Monster stories by MTG and other creators. In the opening story, a young Strongfort Stearnn battles a vampire in a pet shop. As usual with this artist, this story is ridiculously over the top and is full of Easter eggs. The best story in the issue has nothing to do with Mr. Monster; it’s a Wolff & Byrd story called “The 1040 from 2032,” in which the IRS sends agents back from the future to collect delinquent taxes.

SWEET TOOTH #16 (Vertigo, 2011) – “Animal Armies 3,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. The title is an error; this issue is actually part 4. The main cultist dude reveals that his wife gave birth to five hybrid children, who then ate her. Ewww. Then Jepperd invades the research facility and fights the main scientist dude, who reveals that Jepperd’s son is still alive. That cliffhanger leads into…

SWEET TOOTH #17 (Vertigo, 2011) – “Animal Armies Part 5,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Jepperd almost finds his son, but the boy is dragged off by the cultist’s sons, and I guess he shows up again later in the series. Jepperd and Gus’s groups of characters are reunited, and they head off to Alaska, where Gus’s parents originally came from. It is unfortunate that I’m reading this series out of order, but “Animal Armies” was a thrilling storyline.

AQUAMAN #6 (DC, 1962) – “Too Many Quisps,” [W] Jack Miller, [A] Nick Cardy. At my last few conventions I’ve looked for old Aquaman comics and failed to find any, so I was glad to see that I already had this one. However, this issue is less interesting than later Aquaman issues because there’s no Mera yet. Also, this issue has a silly plot where Aquaman thinks Quisp (his version of Bat-Mite or Mxyzptlk) has gone evil, but it turns out Quisp has two evil twins. Nick Cardy’s art here is good, but not his best.

VALENTINO #1 (Renegade, 1985) – “Drafted!!” and other stories, [W/A] Jim Valentino. A series of autobiographical stories by Jim Valentino. This artist is perhaps most notable for his role in turning Image into a serious comics publisher, rather than for his own work, but the stories in this issue are pretty interesting. The stories are about Valentino’s efforts to dodge the Vietnam draft, his wedding, and how he quit smoking. These stories are drawn in a fairly mainstream style, but their content makes them reminiscent of alternative comics, especially the one about being drafted. Unfortunately the second half of the issue consists of an illustrated prose story about Valentino’s grandmother’s death. This story shows deep emotion, but it’s clumsily written, and I wish it had been a comic instead of a prose story.

ZOOT! #1 (Fantagraphics, 1992) – “Art d’Ecco and the Gump,” [W/A] Roger Langridge, [W] Andrew Langridge. A collection of short humorous stories, some of them starring characters from the Langridge’s previous series, Art d’Ecco. The best story is the one where a man’s car is towed even though it’s legally parked. When he tries to get it back, he encounters a Kafkaesque level of indifference and bureaucratic inefficiency, and in the end he discovers his car was destroyed. Even back in 1992, Roger Langridge was already an incredible artist and designer. Every page of this comic is impeccably drawn and lettered.

INVISIBLES #6 (Vertigo, 1995) – “Arcadia Part 2: Mysteries of the Guillotine,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Jill Thompson. In the 1790s, the Invisibles battle some Cyphermen and recruit the Marquis de Sade. Back in the present, they encounter the dude who’s spent the last two issues killing random people. There’s also a subplot where Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley encounters some creepy dude in a carriage. Jill Thompson’s artwork in Invisibles #5 and #6 is in her more conventional style, meaning it’s quite good, but not as distinctive as her art in Scary Godmother or Little Endless.

SILVER SURFER #12 (Marvel, 1988) – “Sick!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Marshall Rogers. This issue reunites one of the greatest Batman creative teams, but by 1988, neither Englehart nor Rogers was as good as in 1978. This issue mostly focuses on three villains – Reptyl, the Contemplator, and Clumsy Foul-Up – and the Surfer himself is barely in the issue at all. At the end, there’s a disgusting scene where Reptyl eats the Contemplator, justifying the issue’s title.

SUICIDE SQUAD #37 (DC, 1989) – “Threads,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] John K. Snyder III & Geof Isherwood. The Squad returns from a mission with the body of Amanda Waller’s aide Flo, who was killed. Murph figures out that Captain Boomerang is responsible for the pie-throwing attacks that have been a running joke since #21 (see https://www.cbr.com/suicide-squad-pie-throwing-mystery/). There’s also one subplot about an old Soviet superhuman, and another about a war between voodoo houngans. The voodoo character are featured on the cover despite only appearing on a few pages.

AGE OF BRONZE #7 (Image, 2000) – untitled (A Thousand Ships 7), [W/A] Eric Shanower. As previously noted, this issue begins with Deidamia giving birth to Pyrrhus/Neoptolemus. Agamemnon recruits Nestor for his army, and we get a flashback explaining the origin of the suitors’ oath. In Troy, there’s a scene that sets up the Troilus/Cressida romance. The issue ends with Palamedes exposing Odysseus’s feigned madness and forcing him to join the army. Even though I’ve already read this issue, it’s worth revisiting.

CREATURES ON THE LOOSE #25 (Marvel, 1973) – “The Wizard of Lemuria!”, [W] George [Alec] Effinger & Tony Isabella, [A] Val Mayerik. On Twitter, Osvaldo Oyola expressed his regret that he passed up a chance to buy an issue of Creatures on the Loose starring Thongor of Lost Lemuria. I told him not to worry, because these comics show up all the time. Also, they’re not all that good. Lin Carter’s Thongor was a blatant Conan ripoff, and COTL #25 is worse than an average issue of Conan. Roy Thomas could easily have turned this issue into a Conan story by changing all the names (as he sometimes did with non-Conan stories), and if he’d done that, the results would have been better.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #572 (Marvel, 2008) – “New Ways to Die Part 5: Easy Targets,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] John Romita Jr. Norman Osborn uses Radioactive Man to create a new Scorpion, while also hiring Bullseye to assassinate Spider-Man. Meanwhle, Peter, Harry and Lily are caught in a love triangle. There’s too much going on in this issue to summarize or remember it all, but that’s actually its main strength. Dan Slott’s complicated, exciting plots resemble those of other great Spider-Man writers like Stan Lee and Roger Stern.

TREES #9 (Image, 2015) – “Steps We Take,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Jason Howard. A woman named Jo is hired to go to the Orkney islands to survey the tree there. This issue is a pretty quick read, and has little to do with issue 1 besides being set in the same world.

CHEW #7 (Image, 2009) – “International Flavor Part 2,” [W] John Layman, [A] Rob Guillory. Tony travels to the Pacific island of Yamapalu to investigate an illegal chicken scheme. Coincidentally, his brother Chow Chu is also headed to Yamapalu to open a new restaurant. We’re also introduced to USDA agent Lin Sae Woo and her pet rat. Why have I not heard of this character before? Because she gets killed at the end of the issue. This is a fun issue as usual; the rivalry between Tony and Chow is particularly funny.

SCRIBBLENAUTS UNMASKED: A CRISIS OF IMAGINATION #1 (DC, 2014) – “The Last Laugh?”, [W] Josh Elder, [A] Adam Archer & Ben Bates. I bought this when it came out because I wrote about Scribblenauts in my dissertation, but I never felt like reading it. I love the ideas behind Scribblenauts; however, the games themselves never fulfilled their massive potential, and I quit playing them after Super Scribblenauts. If even the Scribblenauts games are disappointing, the comics are still more so. Like Angry Birds or Plants vs. Zombies, Scribblenauts has no real plot or characters, so adapting it into a comic is a questionable idea. As of Scribblenauts Unlimited, 5th Cell came up with a backstory for Maxwell and Lily, but this backstory is stupid and adds nothing to the game. And the Scribblenauts Unmasked comic is just a generic kids’ DC comic that guest-stars the Scribblenauts characters and uses the game’s graphic style. As I argued in my dissertation, the Scribblenauts game is all about handwriting and drawing, which are also the fundamental elements of comics, and a Scribblenauts comic could have been far more interesting than this issue was.

HITMAN #54 (DC, 2000) – “Closing Time: 2,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] John McCrea. I pretty much hate most of Garth Ennis’s comics besides Hellblazer, and Hitman is the prime example of why I don’t like his work. The entire series is a litany of gratuitous violence and gross-out humor. This issue is no exception. The main event in this issue is that Tommy Monaghan’s apartment gets blown up, he saves a CIA agent named Kathryn McAllister, and then they make out on the fire escape.

ACTION COMICS #745 (DC, 1998) – “Polyesteryear Part 1: Ready, Fire, Aim,” [W] Stuart Immonen, [A] Anthony Williams. This issue is part of the Dominus Effect crossover, where each Superman title took place in a different era of Superman’s history. Action Comics was set in the ‘70s, and in this issue Clark tries to foil various plots by the Prankster. “Ready, Fire, Aim”  is a pretty average story, and it doesn’t feel like a real ‘70s Superman comic. They should have just hired Elliot S! Maggin or Cary Bates to write this issue.

ACTION COMICS #681 (DC, 1992) – “Odds &… Endings,” [W] Roger Stern, [A] Jackson Guice. At STAR Labs, Superman teams up with Rampage to fight Hellgrammite. Roger Stern did not create Rampage, but he used her a lot, both here and in his Starman series. She was a fairly unique character – kind of like She-Hulk, except she’s a scientist and not a lawyer. The Superman titles in the early ‘90s had a consistently high level of quality, though my opinion of them may be influenced by nostalgia, since I read them when I was a kid.

ADVENTURE COMICS #476 (DC, 1980) – “The Poseidon Effect,” [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Dick Giordano, plus two other stories. In this issue’s lead story, Aquaman battles the god Poseidon, or someone claiming to be him. This story is pretty mediocre, like most Aquaman stories between Arthur Curry Jr’s death and Peter David’s run. Next is a Starman (Prince Gavyn) story by Levitz and Ditko, which is the best story in the issue, though it’s still not great. Finally there’s an average Plastic Man story by Pasko and Staton. By a weird coincidence, in both the Aquaman and Starman stories in this issue, the hero defeats the villain by breaking his staff.

THE FLASH #158 (DC, 2000) – “Reverse Flash,” [W] Mark Waid & Brian Augustyn, [A] Paul Pelletier. Mark Waid’s second run on this volume of Flash was not nearly as good as his first. This issue is way too confusing and convoluted, with a plot involving both the Reverse Flash and Abra Kadabra, and it ends with yet another reiteration of how much Wally and Linda love each other.

JON SABLE, FREELANCE #41 (First, 1986) – “The Fan Part II,” [W/A] Mike Grell. Jon Sable saves an actress from being murdered by a psychotic stalker fan. By this point in the series, Grell’s draftsmanship had deteriorated badly; he hardly seemed to be trying. At least this issue is better drawn than #34, reviewed earlier this year, and it has a fairly exciting plot. I realize I’ve been writing a lot of bad reviews, but that’s because I’ve been reviewing a bunch of comics that I’ve owned for years without ever reading them.

PRIVATEER: THE LINE OF DUTY #1 (self-published 2011) – untitled, [W] Adrian McIlroy Speed, [A] Randyl Bishop. I was given this for free by one of the creators. It’s a science fiction comic set in a vaguely Star Trek-like universe. It includes some interesting ideas, but it’s unmistakably a fan comic, and it would be unfair to review it the way I would review a professional comic.

TRANSMETROPOLITAN #16 (DC, 1998) – “Year of the Bastard 4: Hate,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Darick Robertson. Thanks to his writing about politics, Spider Jerusalem is now a major celebrity. And he hates it, because as his editor explains, he’s only capable of writing when people hate him. So Spider exploits his newfound popularity by walking through a trendy hipster neighborhood and getting people to follow him. Then he leads them into the adjacent neighborhood, a rundown housing project full of diseased children. In a heartbreaking moment, Spider asks a scarred, half-blind child what he wants to be when he grows up, and he says “Nothing.” I’ve read a bunch of issues of Transmet lately, and this is probably the best one.

YUMMY FUR #31 (Drawn & Quarterly, 1993) – untitled, [W/A] Chester Brown. This issue begins with a wordless, surrealistic story that appears to be a tribute to Chester’s romance with his new girlfriend Sook-Yin. There’s also an adaptation of Matthew 9:31 to 10:42. Most of the pages in this issue are just a few panels surrounded by a ton of blank space. In the letters page, a fan named Marc Payton complains about this, saying that each issue of Yummy Fur can be read in just ten minutes. In response, Chester admits that Yummy Fur is not a good deal, at least in terms of the time it takes to read. There was just one more issue of the series, and Chester eventually abandoned the periodical comics format in favor of graphic novels.

FANTASTIC FOUR #316 (Marvel, 1988) – “Cold Storage!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Keith Pollard. On page 1, we’re told that this issue will include the one word we never expected to see again in a Marvel comic. Sadly, that word is “Beyonder.” Other than that, in the first half of this issue, the new FF (Ben, Johnny, Sharon and Crystal) fight some ice creatures. Then there’s a long flashback explaining the origin of the Savage Land, and there’s also some relationship drama between the FF members and Alicia. Englehart’s FF is kind of interesting, but not particularly good, and his characters are often very unappealing. For example, when Johnny is reunited with his wife Alicia, he thinks that she’s just what he needed to make him forget about Crystal.

PLANETARY #10 (Wildstorm, 2000) – “Magic & Loss,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] John Cassaday. A good example of the brilliance of this series. While investigating the Four’s base, the Planetary members find a trophy room containing a cape, a lantern and some bracelets. Then there are some flashbacks depicting the origin of three characters who are obvious analogues of Superman, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman. But then we see how the Four killed all of these characters before they could begin their superhero careers. There’s one brutal page where the Human Torch character murders the infant Superman character in his rocketship. This issue is amazing, and it powerfully demonstrates the central thesis of this series, namely that the Marvel Universe sucked all the life out of the comics and fantasy genres. (Though it’s not as if there aren’t still tons of Superman and Green Lantern and Wonder Woman comics.) My main complaint is that John Cassaday is not good at drawing aliens. There’s one impressive splash page depicting a ton of Green Lantern corps members, but this page could have been far better than it was.

THE SPECTRE #2 (DC, 1993) – “Crimes of Passion,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Tom Mandrake. The Spectre tries to put a murdered woman’s ghost to rest by finding her killer. He solves the mystery, but the ghost continues reliving her murder. Also, when he falsely accuses a man of the murder, the man hangs himself in his prison cell. (Maybe that’s what really happened to Jeffrey Epstein.) This issue is brutal and depressing, but intentionally so, and it’s rather powerful.

AGE OF BRONZE #8 (Image, 2000) – untitled (A Thousand Ships 8), [W/A] Eric Shanower. Odysseus joins the army. At Delphi the Greeks encounter Calchas, who tells them where to find Achilles. Odysseus uses a trick to reveal Achilles’s identity and convince him to come to Troy. In addition to its excellent story, this issue has some interesting letter column responses. For example, Eric mentions his sources for Deidamia’s childbirth method and for the libation trough at Nestor’s palace.

BLACK PANTHER #53 (Marvel, 2003) – “Black and White Chapter 3: Shadrach in the Furnace,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Jorge Lucas. Kevin “Kasper” Cole, the son of a cop, is the new Black Panther, but he’s embroiled in a rivalry with the White Wolf. He’s also trying to save his father from being executed. The present-day scenes are interspersed with flashbacks depicting Kasper’s relationship with his father. As usual with Priest, this comic is very confusing, but also gripping and enjoyable.

SUPERMAN #16 (DC, 2017) – “Multiplicity Conclusion,” [W] Peter Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] Tony Daniel & Clay Mann. This is part of a crossover in which a bunch of Superman from different realities fight a cosmic villain. As noted in my review of #13 above, this volume of Superman jumped the shark because it participated in too many crossovers. This issue makes no sense at all without knowledge of the other Superman titles. Also, there’s no Jon or Lois. At the end of this issue, Clark and Kong Kenan eat xiaolongbao and gan shao niu wa. These are real Shanghai dishes, but the description of the latter dish is plagiarized from https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/shanghai-best-dishes/index.html.

JONAH HEX #22 (DC, 1979) – “Requiem for a Pack Rat!”, [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Vicente Alcazar. Jonah Hex saves a prospector and his family from being killed by bandits. This is an exciting issue, but its racial politics are dubious. The issue begins with a scene where a black man is hanged. That’s a pretty bad look,  even though in context, the man is a murderer and deserves to be executed. The bandits and the prospector’s family are all black, so that’s kind of progressive, but it also makes Jonah a white savior. Vicente Alcazar’s artwork in this issue is very good.

THE AUTHORITY #7 (Wildstorm, 1999) – “Shiftships Three of Four,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Bryan Hitch. The battle with Sliding Albion continues. Jenny Sparks confronts a Blue who used to be her husband. Apollo nearly dies from exhausting his solar energy. There are subtle hints in this issue that Midnighter and Apollo are a couple, but it’s not confirmed until #8. This issue is okay, but it’s an overly quick read.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE #14 (Vertigo, 2011) – “Ghost War,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. During World War II, some soldiers fight vampires on a remote island. I like the art in this issue, but the story isn’t as exciting as that of #23.

JACK STAFF #12 (Dancing Elephant, 2003) – “Time’s Up!”, [W/A] Paul Grist. A few individual panels in this issue are in color. In a story told out of chronological order, Jack Staff, Charlie Raven and some other characters are trapped in a locked vault that’s about to be flooded. Charlie Raven engineers their escape, while in flashback scenes, we see how they got into the vault to begin with.

My next comics shipment arrived around 10:30 am on August 16. It’s lucky that it didn’t arrive any later, because at noon that day I had to leave for a work retreat. I read some of the week’s new comics while at the retreat.

SECOND COMING #2 (Ahoy, 2019) – “Life of the Party,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Richard Pace. Patton Oswalt promoted this comic on Twitter, and specifically praised the scene where Heaven’s food court is full of defunct chain restaurants. But there’s lots of other great stuff in this issue besides that. The main plot is that Sunstar’s girlfriend is being harassed by an “oyster pirate” – which was an actual thing, but only in the 19th century. Sunstar is offended by this insult to his male pride, so he harasses the man he thinks is the oyster pirate and possibly kills him. But it turns out the oyster pirate was someone else, and the man whose life Sunstar ruined was innocent. This illustrates Jesus’s point that the greatest temptation is not to do evil, but to “be seen doing good.” Sunstar is a good example of toxic masculinity, while Jesus is a good example of the opposite phenomenon, tender masculinity.

FANTASTIC FOUR #13 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Fight of Your Life,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Sean Izaakse. I skipped to the end of this comic and was disappointed to see that Ben and Alicia don’t get to consummate their marriage. But this is a great issue anyway. Ben defeats the Hulk not by being physically stronger, which he isn’t, but by having a greater heart. In that sense, this issue is a throwback to a classic Thing story, Marvel Two-in-One Annual #7. Meanwhile, Alicia saves herself and the other trapped people without needing Ben’s help. This issue addresses a chronic problem with Alicia’s character: she’s always been depicted as kind, generous and understanding, but also as a helpless victim. Her usual role in stories is to take care of the kids or to be rescued. So it’s ipmortant that in this issue she gets to save the day.

BLACK HAMMER/JUSTICE LEAGUE #2 (DC & Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Michael Walsh. The Justice Leaguers and Black Hammer characters try to adapt to each other’s worlds, while Colonel Weird may hold the key to resolving the situation. At the end of the issue, we learn that Barry Allen died on arriving at the farm, just like the original Black Hammer did. The fun part of this series is seeing each team of heroes adjust to being stuck in the other team’s world, but I hope the two teams get to interact soon.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #47 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. The final Squirrel Girl storyline reintroduces Doreen’s greatest enemy, Melissa Morbeck. Doreen discovers Melissa is back by decoding a very clever hidden message left by a kidnapped Brain Drain. Then, in a sort of tribute to Daredevil: Born Again or Knightfall, Melissa reveals Doreen’s secret identity, destroys her apartment, and send all her old enemies after her. This storyline is going to be a great way to end the series.

USAGI YOJIMBO #3 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “Bunraku Part Three,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi and Sasuke defeat Takagi the puppetmaster in a fairly clever way, by burning his puppets. This storyline was a good introduction to the new volume.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #9 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Garron. Miles’s father and uncle save him from the Assessor’s prison, although we don’t learn who the Assessor was working for. This is a fun issue, and I really appreciate its focus on Miles’s family. It’s nice that Miles doesn’t always have to save himself, and that he can rely on other people once in a while. Uncle Aaron is a fascinatingly complex character.

GOGOR #4 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Ken Garing. Armano gets to the city of Azimuth, and makes his way inside by putting a talking frog on his head – it makes sense in context. Azimuth has a libertarian economy where nothing can be given away for free, and all the inhabitants are obsessed with handheld devices that are obvious parodies of smartphones. Eventually Armano gets thrown in prison. The political satire in this issue may be a bit too obvious, but it’s another fun and weird issue. Later addendum: After reading an issue of Richard Corben’s Den (see below), I finally realize what Gogor reminds me of.

WONDER WOMAN #76 (DC, 2019) – “Mothers and Children,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Lee Garbett. I read this sitting in a chair facing the Blue Ridge Mountains. I squeed so hard at the first page, where Hippolyta is doing Diana’s hair. I squeed even harder at the scene where Diana reunites Veronica Cale with her daughter. Steve’s encounter with Atlantiades is also cute, and I like how Lee Garbett’s Cheetah has the mannerisms of an actual cat. Sadly, the issue ends with Cheetah using the God Killer sword to murder Aphrodite. It’s too bad that Willow is leaving this series already. She has had a fairly long run, thanks to the biweekly publication schedule, but I still feel like she hasn’t reached her full potential as a Wonder Woman writer.

MY LITTLE PONY: SPIRIT OF THE FOREST #3 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Brenda Hickey. When all hope for saving White Tail Woods seems lost, Diamond Tiara takes her father Filthy Rich on a tour of the woods, and reminds him of his pleasant memories of his great-grandmother’s cabin. As a result, Filthy Rich agrees to implementing a “sustainable forest development” plan that allows logging without destroying the woods. The actual Spirit of the Forest shows up on the last page. This was a sweet story with a nice lesson about environmentalism.

OUTER DARKNESS #9 (Image, 2019) – “Castrophony of Hate Pt. 9: Slasher,” [W] John Layman, [A] Afu Chan. The Charon encounters another ship, the Ouroboros, whose crew all went crazy and killed each other with swords. Captain Rigg and First Officer Satalis lead an away team to the Ouroboros. Some of the away team members pick up the swords and go crazy too, and Rigg and the other non-redshirts narrowly escape with their lives. Rigg realizes that Satalis is intentionally trying to kill him. This series’ debt to Star Trek becomes more obvious with every issue, but it’s also a fun comic in its own right.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #12 (DC, 2019) – “The Dogs of War,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson & Dan Watters, [A] Domo Stanton. The two girls save the day by throwing weapons at a dog… again, it makes sense in context. Erzulie finally defeats Ananse, but at the cost of her husband Agwe’s life. This issue feels like the conclusion to the entire series, but it ends with the Corinthian discovering the counterpart to the House of Whispers: the House of Watchers.

WHITE TREES: A BLACKSAND TALE #1 (Image, 2019) – “Part One: This is Death,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Kris Anka. In a fantasy world, a hero’s daughter and the son of two other heroes are kidnapped, and their fathers (including a gay couple) have to go on a quest to find them. By now I’ve forgotten a lot about this issue, but I liked it a lot, and I think it may be Chip’s best solo work. I especially like the scene where the heroes are tempted by succubi. The gay hero encounters a male succubus; the straight hero, a female succubus; and the bisexual hero, both at once. The main story is interspersed with flashbacks showing Sir Krylos’s vexed relationship with his son. This is a fascinating series, and it’s too bad there’s only one more issue, but the subtitle “A Blacksand Tale” indicates that Chip may intend to do more comics set in the same world.

ORPHAN AGE #5 (Aftershock, 2019) – “Exodus,” [W]  Ted Anderson, [A] Nuno Plati. The three protagonists escape from Albany, which I guess is the one in Georgia, not the one in New York.  The last page includes a quotation from a George Oppen poem. This is a good issue, but as with previous issues of this series, it’s a very quick read.

GIDEON FALLS #16 (Image, 2019) – “All Those Little Scars,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. There’s a flashback to Clara and Daniel’s childhood – I think we saw Clara before at the start of this series, but I don’t remember. Then Norton/Daniel wakes up and Clara takes him to her father. The issue is full of creepy images of the Black Barn and the red-eyed murderer dude, but there are no truly exceptional page layouts.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #9 (Marvel, 2019) – “Falling Star Part 2,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Carmen Carnero. Carol fights a giant kraken, then Tony discovers she has some kind of Kree weapon inside her chest, which is causing her powers to vanish. This is just an average issue. Kelly’s Captain Marvel still hasn’t been as exciting as her other series like Hawkeye or Mr. & Mrs. X.

CATWOMAN #14 (DC, 2019) – “Hermosa Heat Part One,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mirka Andolfo. It looks like Joelle Jones is done with this series, but I’m still enjoying it for now, so I might as well keep ordering it. This issue, Selina steals a briefcase that contains evidence against all the other local criminals, but that makes her a target. Also she encounters the Gentleman Ghost, an awesome villain who hardly ever appears, and pets a cat.

COLLAPSER #2 (DC, 2019) – “It’s a Bad Day, Liam James,” [W] Mikey Way & Shaun Simon, [A] Ilias Kyriazis. Liam spends the entire issue seeing horrible visions that no one else can see. I love Ilias Kyriazis’s art, but the plot of this series is only mildly interesting, and Liam is a really annoying protagonist.

GHOSTED IN L.A. #2 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Sina Grace, [A] Siobhan Keenan. I hate it when I can’t remember the name of a comic’s protagonist, and neither can I look it up easily. This comic’s protagonist is named Daphne. In this issue, Daphne goes on a date with a horrible asshole named Brint. When Brint gets them thrown out of a concert, Daphne tries to get away from him, but he won’t leave her alone. Luckily Daphne is able to get rid of him by leading him into the house with the ghosts. This issue is a frightening and effective depiction of dating violence. Brint is a scary character because he’s plausible.

THE AUTHORITY #8 (Wildstorm, 1999) – “Shiftships Four of Four,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Bryan Hitch. In this issue, the Authority finally defeats Regis and Sliding Albion. While I was reading either this issue or issue 9, I realized that I’ve been misjudging Warren Ellis for many years. I thought he wrote the issue of Authority where the evil superhero blows up a maternity ward. It turns out that Mark Millar wrote that issue. Ellis’s Authority is often violent and brutal, but it’s never that tasteless or disgusting. And it’s part of the tradition of British SF and superhero comics. The main problem with Ellis’s Authority is its lack of substance. Bryan Hitch specializes in giant epic panels where not much happens, so there’s not much content in each issue. Oh, except that this issue reveals that Authority and Midnighter are a couple. A gay superhero couple is so relatively unremarkable now, it’s hard for me to remember what a big deal this moment was in 1999.

SUPERMAN #422 (DC, 1986) – “Dark Moon Rising,” [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Curt Swan. Superman fights a werewolf, and we’re misdirected into thinking the werewolf is the celebrity Lois Lane is dating. This issue is most notable for its amazing cover by Brian Bolland. It’s hard to care about Lois’s relationship problems, though, because this is the last regular issue of the pre-Crisis Superman title. Issue #423 was part one of “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow,” and after that the series became Adventures of Superman.

THE FLASH #220 (DC, 2005) – “Rogue War Chapter 1,” [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Howard Porter. The Rogues cause a lot of mayhem, and meanwhile, Wally and Linda learn that they still can’t have children. This issue is depressing and overly violent. Geoff Johns is good at introducing new elements into old continuity, but he treats his characters in a heartless, sadistic way. Why did he have to kill Wally’s children before birth, and then add insult to injury by making him unable to have any more children? It’s just pointless tragedy for tragedy’s sake.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #31 (Marvel, 2002) – “Wish List,” [W] Peter David, [A] Derec Aucoin. On the cover, the letters “vel” in Marvel are crossed out and replaced with “lo,” making this an issue of Captain Marlo. Also, for some reason my copy of this issue is half an inch shorter than most other comic books. This issue focuses on Marlo, whose life is flashing before her eyes because she fell (in a comic book store) and hurt herself. Just in time, Phyla-Vell shows up and saves Marlo. Meanwhile, there are three flashbacks to past moments when Marlo narrowly escaped death. Captain Marvel himself only appears on the last page. This is a fun issue, and certainly much better than the previous two comics I read.

THE PHANTOM #30 (Charlton, 1969) – “The Secret of the Golden Ransom,” uncredited, plus other stories. Two boring Phantom stories, plus two boring horror/mystrey stories without the Phantom in them. The second Phantom story has questionable racial politics, because it’s about a native who leaves the jungle and learns to distrust his native beliefs. Of course, for that matter, the entire Phantom franchise has dubious racial politics, though it’s popular in developing countries. This story was written by Gary Poole, whose spent most of his career as a comedy writer, and now lives fairly near me.

ACTION COMICS #673 (DC, 1992) – “Friends in Need,” [W] Roger Stern, [A] Bob McLeod. This issue advances several plotlines at once. Bibbo takes care of a homeless Jimmy Olsen, Hellgrammite accepts a contract to kill Lex Luthor Jr, and Mannheim puts on some Apokolips armor and fights Superman. I really like this era of Superman, although maybe that’s because of nostalgia, since these were the Superman comics I grew up with. Superman comics by writers like Dan Jurgens and Roger Stern have the passion and heart that’s missing in Geoff Johns’s  work.

DETECTIVE COMICS #635 (DC, 1991) – “Mind Games,” [W] Louise Simonson, [A] Jim Fern. Some villains try to kill Commissioner Gordon by making him see visions of video game characters. Then they do the same to Batman. This is a pretty forgettable issue which is notable mostly for how it depicts video games; see my review of Blue Ribbon Comics #11.

FANTASTIC FOUR #322 (Marvel, 1989) – “Between a Rock and a Hard Place!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Keith Pollard. In the middle of Inferno, the FF fight Graviton, a villain whose powers are incredible but whose massive ego prevents him from ever achieving anything. This is a pretty boring issue. It’s not even weird in a funny way, like some of Englehart’s FF comics.

THE AUTHORITY #9 (WildStorm, 2000) – “Outer Dark One of Four,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Bryan Hitch. In the first issue of Warren’s last Authority storyline, the Earth is attacked by horrible Lovecraftian monsters that are basically God. The highlight of this issue is the astronaut’s “last words of a dead man” speech. It’s a horrific moment.

THE IMMORTAL HULK: DIRECTOR’S CUT #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “Or Is He Both,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. This reprint of Immortal Hulk #1 is overpriced, but even then it’s probably much cheaper than the original issue, which has become a speculation target. This issue begins with a criminal murdering several people while robbing a gas station. Unluckily for him, one of the people is Bruce Banner. Bruce returns to life as the Hulk and exacts a horrifying revenge for the murder. This is a simple story, but it’s told with brutal power. It’s a good start to the best Hulk series since Peter David’s first run.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN: EXODUS #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “Exodus,” [W/A] Esad Ribic. A wordless story in which Conan fights some wild animals, then gets crucified by some soldiers, but escapes. I regret buying this comic. Esad Ribic’s art is good, but not that good. Moreover, the #1 rule when creating a wordless comic is that your storytelling has to be exceptionally clear. The first two-thirds of this story are easy to understand, but when Conan encounters other people, it becoems difficult if not impossible to tell what’s going on. This story gains nothing from being wordless, and could have used some explanatory dialogue. Even with dialogue, though, I doubt it would tell us anything new or unexpected about Conan.

THE AUTHORITY #10 (WildStorm, 2000) – “Outer Dark Two of Four,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Bryan Hitch. This issue, the horrible monsters kill more people and start terraforming the planet to suit them. The Doctor discovers that the monsters were responsible for creating human life in the first place, so they’re more or less God. And only he (the Doctor) can stop them. I bought the first ten issues of this series at Comic-Con some years ago, but not #11 and #12, so I will have to look for those.

RAT GOD #1 (Dark Horse, 2015) – “The Rat God with Mag the Hag,” [W/A] Richard Corben. I think I have this entire miniseries, but I haven’t read any of it. In the first half of this issue, two precolonial Native Americans try to escape from an undead monster. Then the time shifts to the 1920s or so, and we’re introduced to Clark Elwood, a character apparently based on H.P. Lovecraft. We learn a bit about his background, and then he almost gets killed by a panther. This could be an interesting series, but I haven’t been motivated to read any more of it yet.

EXCALIBUR #90 (Marvel, 1996) – “Dream Nails Part 3: Blood Eagle,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] four pencilers. I accidentally read this before #89, which I also have. The main plot of this issue is that Kitty and Pete Wisdom have broken into a secret facility called Dream Nails. While there, Pete Wisdom confronts a yellow-faced dude named Shrine. Meanwhile, Kitty learns about some aliens called the Uncreated who believe that they’ve killed God. The scene with the Uncreated is the most interesting thing in the issue. There are also some subplots, one involving Rahne and Moira, and another involving Rory Campbell, who’s destined to become Ahab. This issue is hampered by ugly art from four different artists.

SUPERBOY #20 (DC, 1995) – “The Hunt,” [W] Eddie Berganza, [A] Darryl Banks & Joe St. Pierre. Eddie Berganza is an infamous sexual predator who will hopefully never work in comics again. He’s not much of a writer either. Superboy #20 is a boring fill-in issue where Superboy and Green Lantern (Kyle) investigate a shipwreck and fight a villain called the Technician.

DONALD DUCK #181 (Gold Key, 1977) – “The Desert Sands of Abou-Bou,” [W/A] Bob Gregory. A boring story where Scrooge and the nephews encounter the Beagle Boys in the Arabian desert, followed by a boring story in which Donald goes to a class reunion. Bob Gregory is perhaps most notable as the father of Roberta Gregory.

THE ASTOUNDING WOLF-MAN #19 (Image, 2009) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Jason Howard. Wolf-Man and some other superheroes fight a giant monster called Gorgg. This comic felt rather pointless, and this whole series was never all that great. Robert Kirkman had a couple big hits, but over time his writing gets less and less impressive in hindsight.

SCRIBBLENAUTS UNMASKED: A CRISIS OF IMAGINATION #2 (DC, 2014) – “Imperious Lex,” [W] Josh Elder, [A] Adam Archer & Ben Bates. More of the same pointless nonsense as issue 1. The idea behind this franchise was great, but the execution was consistently disappointing.

THE SAVAGE DRAGON #85 (Image, 2001) – “Peril in Pittsburgh!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Dragon teams up with Madman and the Atomics against Cyberface. This issue is a good example of the typical Savage Dragon formula.

New comics received on August 22, the day after I started teaching for the year:

THE MAGNIFICENT MS. MARVEL #6 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Minkyu Jung. My friend who disliked issue 5 also disliked this issue. When reading it, I tried to see his perspective, but I still liked this issue. I do think it’s dumb that Kamala’s parents no longer remember her secret identity. But other than that, this issue is not bad at all. Saladin’s take on Kamala is different from Willow’s, but that’s the whole advantage of multi-authored franchises.

MIDDLEWEST #10 (Image, 2019) – “Hello, Grandson…”, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. Abel confronts his grandfather, who turns out to be just as abusive as Abel’s father. This was the worst issue of Middlewest yet. It was an overly quick read, and it felt insubstantial. And Abel’s grandfather’s abusive behavior seems to lack a motive or excuse, though that may be on purpose.

STRAYED #1 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Carlos Giffoni, [A] Juan Doe. There have been a lot of great cat comics lately, but this one is unlike any of the others. Dr. Kiara Rodriguez is the only person who can communicate with Lou, a cat with the power of astral projection. A savage imperialist government uses Kiara and Lou to track down new worlds to colonize. This comic poignantly depicts Kiara and Lou’s relationship and their distress at being separated from each other. Juan Doe is really good at drawing cats, and he makes the reader feel Lou’s pain and suffering.

BRONZE AGE BOOGIE #5 (Ahoy, 2019) – “Hard to Be a Godd,” [W] Stuart Moore, [A] Alberto Ponticelli. The main event this issue is that Lydda has a vision of a creature named GODD, who may be responsible for this series’ entire plot. Also there are a lot of fight scenes. There’s a backup story called “Who Is… the Moon-Thing?” in which a robot fights a Frankenstein monster. It’s not clear to me whether the Moon-Thing is the robot or the monster.

CRIMINAL #7 (Image, 2019) – “Cruel Summer Part Three,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. This issue begins with a scene in which a Dungeon & Dragons session goes badly wrong. I don’t play D&D, but I’m sure that if I did, this scene would ring very true. The rest of the issue retells some of the same events as the last two issues, but from Ricky Lawless’s perspective. Jacob Kurtz and Leo, the “Coward” from the namesake story arc, also appear as Ricky’s childhood friends. I hadn’t realized that these characters all knew each other. I like the use of multiple narrators in this story arc; it forces the reader to solve the puzzle of how all these stories fit together. I assume that one of the later issues will be narrated by Jane/Marina.

GRUMBLE #9 (Albatross, 2019) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Mike Norton. All the villains converge on the house in the New Jersey Pine Barrens where Tala and Eddie are hiding out. At the full moon, Jimmy the Keeper turns into a werehouse – not a warehouse – and Tala and Eddie walk inside him. Meanwhile, the army shows up. This storyline is setting up for an exciting finish.

FEARLESS #2 (Marvel, 2019) – “Campfire Song Part 2,” [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Claire Roe. In part two of the serialized story, Sue, Ororo and Carol arrive at camp, while Kamala also arrives as a camper. Not a whole lot happens in this story, but the dialogue is really good. I didn’t realize the counselor was a mutant at first – I thought her weird skin colors were just a (cute) fashion choice. Like issue #1, Fearless #2 also includes a backup story starring a forgotten female Marvel character – this time it’s Night Nurse. Her story, in which she fights Stegron, is funny although somewhat insubstantial. There’s also a short backup story by Eve Ewing and Alitha Martinez, which is a veiled critique of the Trump administration’s kids-in-cages policy.

SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #2 (DC, 2019) – “You Can’t Keep a Good Olsson Down!” and other vignettes, [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Steve Lieber. My friend Corey Creekmur recommended this issue highly, and I liked it too, though I read it when I was too tired to appreciate it fully. The emotional heart of the issue is the scene where Jimmy says “I do silly. That’s what people want.” That kind of defines the relationship between Jimmy and Superman. As my other friend Craig Fischer pointed out, the montage of past Jimmy Olsen moments is also a highlight. There’s one panel where Jimmy and Superman are turned into horses, and another panel where Jimmy, Lois and Clark are embedded reporters in Iraq. Overall, this is an impressive series so far.

SNOTGIRL #14 (Image, 2019) – “The Bachelors Issue,” [W] Bryan Lee O’Malley, [A] Leslie Hung. Lottie’s friends learn about her pet names for them (Cutegirl, Normgirl, etc.), and there are also some plot developments that I was unable to follow. This is still a really fun series, but following it in single-issue form is not really ideal. It only comes out a couple times a year, yet each issue requires the reader to remember the previous issue’s plot.

VALKYRIE #2 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Sacred and the Profane Part II,” [W] Jason Aaron & Al Ewing, [A] Cafu. Jane Foster defeats Bullseye by shattering the previous Valkyrie’s sword, but Bullseye kills Heimdall. The fight scene in this issue is exciting, but it takes up the entire issue, leaving no room for any quieter moments.

MARVEL ACTION: CAPTAIN MARVEL #1 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Sam Maggs, [A] Sweeney Boo. I wouldn’t have bought this if I’d realized who wrote it, because I’ve hated the other Sam Maggs comics I’ve read. This issue is less bad than Sam Maggs’s two pony comics, mostly because the plot revolves around cats. Carol battles an apparent invasion of Flerkens, and one of them eats her.  Unfortunately, all the cats in this issue are drawn with the exact same facial expression.

GHOST SPIDER #1 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. Spider-Gwen moves to Earth-616 to attend college, with Peter Parker as her mentor. I gave up on the previous volume of Ghost Spider because I couldn’t understand it without reading the other Spider-Man titles. This new issue stands on its own much better, and I like its college theme. I plan on continuing to read this series.

BATMAN #232 (FACSIMILE EDITION) (DC, 1971/2019) – “Daughter of the Demon,” [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Neal Adams. This is a true facsimile edition, with all the original ads and letters pages as well as the story. An actual copy of Batman #232 is outside my budget, so this reprint is the next best thing. The printing quality on the ads and letters pages is rather low, but that may have been unavoidable. Batman #232 is of course a major key issue because it introduces Ra’s al Ghul. My favorite part of this story is the mountain scene on pages 12 and 13. First there’s the mountain in the shape of Ra’s’s face, and then there’s the panel where Ra’s talks about his “love for emptiness [and] desolation,” while his face is superimposed on the mountains in front of him.

AQUAMAN #51 (DC, 2019) – “Amnesty, Part 2: Light in the Darkness,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Robson Rocha. Aquaman hangs out with his new sidekick/partner Jackson Hyde, Mera prepares for the wedding, and Luthor gives Black Manta a new Mecha Manta robot. Kelly Sue’s Aquaman is entertaining because it’s written with care and affection, and it’s not overambitious, like some of her works. Speaking of which, I’m not getting the new Pretty Deadly miniseries.

SHE COULD FLY: THE LOST PILOT #5 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “Grounded,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Martin Morazzo. Luna meets Mayura’s children, then she and Bill figure out how to fix Mayura’s jetpack. Luna decides to “fly” by hanging onto a giant balloon panda – I don’t know why she couldn’t use the jetpack. Bill tries to save her with the jetpack, but gets shot. Then the crazy teacher lady does save Luna, but keeps on flying, and in perhaps the most horrific scene in the series, she burns up in the atmosphere with a smile on her face. (The mythological reference here is obvious.) Luna wakes up five months later, surrounded by all the surviving characters. This was a brilliant series, but it was also one of the most disturbing comics this side of Phoebe Gloeckner.

THE AVANT-GUARDS #7 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Carly Usdin, [A] Noah Hayes. Olivia is horribly depressed after the team’s first loss, so her teammates organize a sports movie marathon to cheer her up. It works, and also, Liv discovers that her romance with Charlie is an open secret. This is a really fun comic, but ominously, Boom! cancelled issue 9 with no explanation. I hope this series will be completed.

MARVEL ACTION: SPIDER-MAN #7 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Delilah Dawson, [A] Fico Ossio. Peter, Miles and Gwen fight the Black Cat. This is a competently written and reasonably well-drawn comic, but it doesn’t captivate me the way Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man did. I don’t plan on ordering any more of this series. I wonder how Fico Ossio can draw both this series and No One Left to Fight. Speaking of Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man, I wish we would see Chat again.

ADVENTURE FINDERS: THE EDGE OF EMPIRE #1 (Action Lab, 2019) – “The Long March,” [W/A] Rod Espinosa. Rod left Antarctic Press during the controversy over Jawbreakers, and I’m glad he found a better publisher. I do have mixed feelings about this comic. The synopsis of the plot is hard to understand, and while the art in this issue is very detailed, not much happens in the story. Mostly the entire issue is about a caravan traveling to I don’t know where. Also, Rod’s characters are really cute, but his backgrounds are too obviously computer-generated. Given all of that, I was feeling lukewarm about this comic, but by the end of the issue, I felt curious about what was going to happen next. It looks like I already ordered the next two issues of this series, and I’m not sorry I did.

HISTORY OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE #2 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Javier Rodriguez. One amazing thing about this comic is Javier Rodriguez’s art. Another is the depth of Mark Waid’s research. His notes at the back of the issue refer to hundreds of old Marvel comcs, some of them very obscure. It’s amazing that Mark was able to synthesize all these often conflicting sources into a coherent narrative.

A few specific notes: This issue officially confirms that Mystique and Destiny were lovers. It depicts the infant Wanda Maximoff, but avoids specifying who her father was. I’ve spent my whole life believing that Magneto was Pietro and Wanda’s father, and I refuse to accept the retcon that Django Maximoff was their father. This issue establishes that the Marvel Universe had a fictional “Sin-Cong War,” and that this was the war Reed Richards and Ben Grimm fought in, as well as other characters. This retcon is kind of clumsy, but unavoidable. The alternative, which Marvel previously tried, is to keep retconning which war Reed and Ben were in. First it was WWII, then the Vietnam War. It’s easier to avoid tying Marvel continuity too closely to specific historical events.

WARLORD OF MARS ATTACKS #3 (Dynamite, 2019) – “Warlord of Earth,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Kyle Hotz. John Carter recovers his memory and fights the Martians, and then the other protagonists figure out how to transport him back to Barsoom. This was good, but not as funny as last issue.

EVE STRANGER #3 (Black Crown, 2019) – untitled, [W] David Barnett, [A] Philip Bond. Eve sings “The Irish Rover” with a drunken gorilla – this scene was the clear highlight of the issue – and then she goes on another mission. Eve’s mother turns up alive at the end of the issue. There’s also a backup story drawn by Liz Prince. I’m enjoying this series, but I’ve noticed that IDW hasn’t solicited or announced any new Black Crown titles. They’ve hinted that a new Black Crown title by Joe Hill and Martin Simmonds is coming this winter, but that’s it. I hope the Black Crown imprint hasn’t been silently cancelled.

INFINITY 8 #2.2 (Lion Forge, 2019) – “Back to the Führer Part 2,” [W] Lewis Trondheim, [A]  Olivier Vatine. I stopped reading this series because of the anti-Semitic stereotypes in the previous issue, but I kept ordering it because of my interest in French comics. I suppose it’s time to get caught up on it, since it’s now the only comic I’m buying but not reading. Luckily, in this issue Shlomo Ju, the anti-Semitic stereotype from #2.1, emerges as a more complex and multifaceted character, and he gets to help save the day. The main event of the issue is that Hitler figures out how to control the ship’s robots, enabling him to threaten the survival of the whole ship. As always with this series, the artwork is on a higher level than that of most American comics. Olivier Vatine is a successful artist in France, and his artwork and coloring in Infinity 8 are spectacular.

SLOW DEATH #6 (Last Gasp, 1974) – various stories, [E] Ron Turner. This was an underground comics series with horror and environmentalist themes. In this issue’s first story, Charles Dallas’s “Call of the Wild,” a pet shop employee frees all the pets, and they eat the owner. Charles Dallas’s art isn’t amazing, but it’s intriguing and distinctive. George Metzger’s “The Long Sleep” is about an astronaut who wakes up from suspended animation aboard a spaceship. Metzger’s art is excellent, but his story is just okay. In Rand Holmes’s “Raw Meat,” a woman picks up a creepy sexist dude at a bar, then takes him back to her apartment, where she feeds him to her pet dinosaur. This story is the high point of the issue, but the monster in the last panel looks silly and unrealistic. Jack Jackson’s “The White Man’s Burden” is a sort of parable in which colonized people gain the upper hand on their colonizers, only to become just as racist. This story has good intentions, but it sends the problematic message that oppressed people are just as bad as their oppressors.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #573 (Marvel, 2008) – “New Ways to Die Part Six: Weapons of Self Destruction,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] John Romita Jr. Spider-Man and Anti-Venom team up against Green Goblin and Scorpion. This is another spectacular issue of a great Spider-Man run. Most of the issue consists of fight scenes, but there’s also a lot of plot, and some soap-opera moments between Peter, Harry and Lily. This issue includes a backup story in which Spider-Man meets Stephen Colbert and saves him from the Grizzly.

VERTIGO POP! LONDON #1 (Vertigo, 2003) – “My Generation Part 1,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Philip Bond. I think I’m going to file this under M for Milligan, not V for Vertigo. It’s a purely self-contained series, aside from a casual reference to King Mob. Vertigo Pop: London stars an aging British Invasion rock musician; he reminds me of George Harrison because of his obsession with Indian culture. While in India, he learned how to swap bodies from a swami. Decades later, suffering from a midlife crisis, he swaps bodies with a young musician who seems to be based on Liam Gallagher – the one song this character sings is a thinly disguised version of “Wonderwall.” This is an interesting series, but Philip Bond’s art here is not as amazing as in Eve Stranger.

INCREDIBLE HULK #130 (Marvel, 1970) – “If I Kill You – I Die!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Herb Trimpe. Unfortunately this issue’s front and back covers separated from each other as I started reading it. That made the comic difficult to read, and dampened my enjoyment of it. Otherwise, this is a pretty good issue, in which a scientist named Raoul Stoddard devises a method to physically separate Bruce Banner and the Hulk.

IRREDEEMABLE #2 (Boom!, 2009) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Peter Krause. This series is about a Superman-esque superhero, the Plutonian, who goes insane and tries to conquer the world. Most of this issue is a flashback sequence, framed as an interview with the Plutonian’s reporter girlfriend Alana Patel (i.e. Lois Lane). When Plutonian tells her his secret identity, she gets angry and reveals his secret to her entire newsroom. Then he goes nuts and threatens to kill everyone in the newsroom if they ever tell anyone else, and most of them go on to commit suicide. This comic is an effective piece of horror, and the Plutonian is a terrifying villain. This whole series is kind of an extended version of Miracleman #15. I want to collect more of it.

A TOUCH OF SILVER #2 (Image, 1997) – “Dance,” [W/A] Jim Valentino. As a kid in 1962, Jim Valentino (or a fictional character based on him) has a puppy-love romance with a girl, and his mother throws away his comic books. This comic feels very cute and authentic, though the art and lettering are sometimes clumsy. At one point there’s a mention that Valentino suffers from discrimination because of his dark skin, but this is not elaborated upon further.

I AM GROOT #4 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Forgotten Door,” [W] Christopher Hastings, [A] Flaviano. This was easily the worst of Marvel’s Groot and Rocket Raccoon comics. Christopher Hastings’s plot is completely incoherent. It’s based on some nonsense about a forgotten door, and there’s one character with a dog’s head and another character with three heads, but there’s no reason why the reader should bother figuring out what’s going on. Also, the jokes in this comic aren’t funny at all. I should have given up on this series after one or two issues.

STAR HUNTERS #3 (DC, 1978) – “The Sowers of Holocaust,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] Mike Nasser. This comic is now totally forgotten, but it was better than I expected. It’s a reasonably exciting piece of space opera, and as an added bonus, the main female character looks like Phantom Girl. One of the planets in the comic is named Darkever, a probable reference to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover. Star Hunters  is an example of ‘70s DC’s willingness to experiment with new things. Sadly, it was one of the many titles cancelled because of the DC Implosion.

FORLORN FUNNIES #1 (Fantagraphics, 2017) – “Fehlender Geist” and other stories, [W/A] Paul Hornschemeier. I read Paul Hornschemeier’s book Mother, Come Home some years ago, but I haven’t followed his work since then. Hornschemeier is often compared to Chris Ware, but in this issue he mostly abandons his Chris Ware influence and draws in a loose, cartoony style. However, that new style is not particularly interesting; his art in this issue mostly looks crude and ugly. The one exception is the story “Captain All in ‘The Devouring Turn,’” but this story is just a surrealist parody of Silver Age comics. Also, this issue wastes seven pages on a prose story. I hate it when comic books contain prose stories, and this particular story is terrible; it wouldn’t be publishable anywhere else. Overall, this comic does not make me optimistic about Hornschemeier’s future work.

BIRTHRIGHT #16 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Rya and Wendy have dinner with  Mastema, while Samael takes the boys to his vault so he can heal Mikey’s injuries. The most fun part of this issue is spotting all the Easter eggs in Mikey’s vault. In a single two-page splash, we can see the Iron Throne, the Ten Commandments, Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors, Aladdin’s lamp, the crocodile from Peter Pan, Captain America’s shield, the Monster Book of Monsters, and lots of other stuff.

THE PUMA BLUES #16 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1988) – “Man Ray,” [W] Stephen Murphy, [A] Michael Zulli. Like most issues of Puma Blues, this issue is evocative and beautifully drawn, but impossible to follow. This issue consists of a fight scene interspersed with scenes of flying manta rays migrating. As with Cerebus, the letter columns and backup features in Puma Blues are often almost as interesting as the comics themselves.

I AM GROOT #5 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Forgotten Door, Part 5,” as above. Another terrible issue, in which Groot fights Shuma-Gorath, but the reader doesn’t care who wins. It’s no wonder this was Marvel’s last Groot comic to date.

SUPERMAN #42 (DC, 1990) – “The Day of the Krypton Man Part IV,” [W/A] Jerry Ordway. As mentioned above, I think this era of Superman is significantly underrated. In this storyline, Superman has lost his normal personality and become a complete jerk, possibly due to an encounter with the Eradicator. This issue he fights Draaga and his sidekick K’raamdyn, based on Ralph Kramden from The Honeymooners. There are also some subplots about Jose Delgado, Emil Hamilton and Cat Grant.

UNCLE SCROOGE #282 (Gladstone, 1993) – “The Trouble with Dimes,” [W/A] Carl Barks. In this issue’s Barks ten-pager, Donald discovers a rare dime, so he buys it from Scrooge for a dollar, then  sells it for five. Then he discovers that Scrooge has more of those dimes, so he buys five more of them, then sells them for 25 dollars, and so on. Unfortunately, by continuing to do this, Donald increases the supply of the dimes until they’re worthless. Meanwhile, the nephews discover an even rarer dime… This story is hilarious, and is also a good lesson in basic economics. The other stories in the issue are forgettable. The letter column includes a somewhat tone-deaf defense of Barks’s racist depictions of natives in “The Secret of Hondorica.”

GROO & RUFFERTO #3 (Dark Horse, 1999) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. Groo is angry that someone has stolen Rufferto, so he vows not to let anyone cross a certain bridge until he gets Rufferto back. This has unexpected positive effects. On one side of the bridge is the castle of a tyrannical king who taxes his people into starvation. The king’s people are trapped on the other side, and since the king’s tax collectors can’t reach them, they set up a self-sufficient, prosperous society of their own. (When I summarize it like this, the story sounds like something by Ayn Rand, but I think it’s a critique of predatory taxation, not taxation as such.) Meanwhile, Rufferto is stuck in the 20th century somehow. This is a hilarious issue that reminds me why I love Groo.

YOUNG LUST #7 (Last Gasp, 1990) – multiple stories, [E] Jay Kinney & Susie Bright. This is much better produced and more professional-looking than most underground comics, although considering when it was published, it’s more of an alternative than an underground comic. All its stories have some sort of romantic etheme. Young Lust #7 has a spectacular lineup of creators: Dan Clowes, Bill Griffith, Michael McMillen, Diane Noomin, Spain (two stories), Phoebe Gloeckner, Harry S. Robins, Justin Green, and Jennifer Camper, among others. Perhaps the most memorable story is Griffith’s surrealist “Hot Tears for Tamara,” where the hero falls in love with a woman who turns out to be Tammy Faye Bakker. Harry Robins’s “Grace” has phenomenal artwork and is written in verse that scans perfectly. Robins could have been a major artist if he’d done more comics. I even like the issue’s first story, Jay Kinney and Paul Mavrides’s “Guilt-Edged Bonds,” in which Bettie Page falls in love with Kim Il-Sung.

STORMWATCH #43 (Image, 1996) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Tom Raney. Jack Hawksmoor investigates a series of murders in Manhattan. It turns out the murderer is the illegitimate son of President Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, though this is not stated explicitly, only implied. The writing in this issue is really good, but Tom Raney’s art is not at the same level as Ellis’s story. Raney’s drawings look nice, but lack any substance.

INFINITY 8 #2.3 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “Back to the Führer Part 3,” [W] Lewis Trondheim, [A] Olivier Vatine. The protagonist manages to survive Hitler’s assault long enough for the ship to “reboot,” rewinding time to before Hitler’s invasion. This is an exciting conclusion to the storyline. I still haven’t had the energy to read any more Infinity 8, but I will get to volume 3 soon.

SUPERMAN #706 (DC, 2011) – “Breaking News: A Grounded Interlude,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Amilcar Pinna. “Grounded” was perhaps the worst Superman storyline ever published, but this issue is better than the rest of the storyline because it’s a fill-in. With Clark Kent out of town, Perry White is anguished that the Planet is losing readers to social media. And then a local blog announces plans to publish an article on the Daily Planet’s improper relationship with Superman. So Perry sends one of the Planet’s young reporters to infiltrate the blog and sabotage the planned article. Perry’s actions in this issue are ethically problematic, and the whole story shows uncritical nostalgia for traditional journalism as opposed to digital journalism. But at least “Breaking News” is well-written, and it shows Willow’s understanding of digital media and youth culture.

SUICIDE SQUAD #52 (DC, 1991) – “The Death and Life and Death and Life and Death and Life of Dr. Light,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Jim Fern. Perhaps the funniest issue of this series. Dr. Light mysteriously comes back to life, and tells Amanda Waller how this happens. It turns out that the two Dr. Lights, Arthur Light and Jacob Finlay, both died and went to hell. However, some demons decided to resurrect them, but in such a way as to ensure they’ll just die again. First, Arthur Light, the evil Dr. Light returns to life inside his coffin, and promptly suffocates. Then Jacob Finlay, the good Dr. Light, returns to life as a zombie. He saves a family (a parody of Bruce Wayne and his parents) from a robbery, but the robber’s victims think he’s a demon and stomp him to death. Finally, Arthur and Jacob both get resurrected in the same body, and they encounter the other Dr. Light, Kimiyo Hoshi. An Easter egg in this issue is that one of the graves in Arthur Light’s graveyard belongs to Stevie Ray Vaughan, who had just died.

BIRTHRIGHT #17 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bresson. Samael battles Enoch, the last of the five wizards. Meanwhile, Brennan tries to cure Mikey of the Nevermind that’s possessing him, but it doesn’t work. The issue ends with Brennan getting an awesome new suit of armor.

DAREDEVIL #125 (Marvel, 1975) – “Vengeance is the Copperhead!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Bob Brown. The Copperhead in this issue is completely different from the Serpent Society member of the same name. He’s named after copper because he’s based on Doc Savage, the Man of Bronze, as well as the Shadow. The plotline in this issue is that Copperhead is the son of an author who created a pulp fiction hero named the Copperhead. But he thinks he’s the actual Copperhead, and he tries to collect royalties from a paperback publisher who’s been reprinting “his” adventures. This issue has problems with overwriting and boring artwork, but its pulp-fiction-based plot makes it more interesting than a typical issue of Marv Wolfman’s Daredevil.

BACCHUS #18 (Eddie Campbell, 1996) – “Banged Up Part 3: Visiting Privileges,” [W/A] Eddie Campbell. I’ve read both of this issue’s Bacchus stories already. One of them has the line “We didn’t even get a chance to discuss my pregnancy,” and the other one has the line about how Zeus “was off raping a maiden.” The third story in the issue, “Legless,” is new to me. It’s a retelling of the myth of Procrustes, and it includes some panels inked byJosé Muñoz, as well as other panels drawn (not written) by Alan Moore. There’s also an Alec story, “The Swop,” which I think was reprinted in the King Canute Crowd volume.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #106 (Marvel, 1984) – “…And an Ill Wind Shall Come!”, [W] Alan Rowlands, [A] Greg LaRocque. I had never heard of Alan Rowlands before, and I can’t find any biographical information about him. I wondered if he might be a different writer using a pseudonym, but I can’t find any evidence of that either, and he does seem to have some other credits for Marvel and other publishers. This issue, Luke and Danny are hired to protect a woman from her stalker boyfriend, who turns out to be David Cannon, a.k.a. Whirlwind. But when they track Cannon down to his home neighborhood, his neighbors take his side and protect him. This is a reasonably well-written issue, but it could have taken a less lukewarm stance on stalking and dating violence. This story could have featured any villain at all, but using Whirlwind was a clever choice, because he’s spent his entire career stalking the Wasp.

WARLORD #4 (DC, 1977) – “Duel of the Titans,” [W/A] Mike Grell. I haven’t read an issue of Warlord in several years. This issue, Travis Morgan besieges the city of Thera in order to save Tara, who’s been kidnapped by Deimos. Morgan defeats Deimos, and there’s a twist ending where we learn that Deimos’s powers are based on holograms. Warlord isn’t the best comic ever, but it’s an exciting piece of fantasy/SF, and I wouldn’t mind reading more of it.

New comics received on Wednesday, August 28:

LUMBERJANES #65 (Boom!, 2019) – “It’s a Myth-Tery,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Kanesha C. Bryant. The Roanokes and Zodiacs go on a trip to watch a meteor shower. A giant meteorite lands, and the goddess Freya comes out of it. The Zodiac girls, especially Hes, play a big role in this issue. There’s a cute scene where Hes asks Mal for relationship advice, since Mal and Molly are the official camp couple. Kanesha Bryant’s art is good, but will take some getting used to; her facial expressions are kind of strange.

RUNAWAYS #24 (Marvel, 2019) – “But You Can’t Hide Part VI,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Andrés Genolet. Nico and Karolina put on superhero costumes and go on patrol, but they can’t find any civilians who need saving. Then they get in a fight with some actual villains and lose, but a new character, Doc Justice, shows up to help them. This is obviously going to lead into Doc Justice and the J-Team, which was announced as a new series but was soon identified as just the next Runaways story arc. This issue also advances some of the other plotlines. There’s a cute scene where Gert tries to feed Gib by “sacrificing” a cheeseburger to him.

POWER PACK: GROW UP #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “Growing Pains,” [W] Louise Simonson, [A] June Brigman. This was one of the cutest, sweetest comics of the year. It felt just like an issue of the original Power Pack series. The plot of the first story is that Alex wants to have a birthday party with the incredibly perfect Alison, and is annoyed that his siblings come too. And then the party is interrupted when Kofi shows up, pursued by some Snarks.  The backup story, “The Gift,” with art by GuriHiru, may be even better. Katie was supposed to buy Alex a birthday present, but instead she used the money to buy herself a Lila Cheney doll. As a result Katie suffers an attack of guilt, but as a result of something that happened in the first story, she’s able to salvage both her conscience and her relationship with her oldest sibling. Overall, this issue is both a lovely gift to longtime readers, and a reminder that Weezie, June, and GuriHiru are really good at creating comics for kids.

PLANET OF THE NERDS #5 (Ahoy, 2019) – “Battle for the Planet of the Nerds,” [W] Paul Constant, [A] Alan Robinson. Alvin hires the three bullies to serve as spokesmen for his cryogenics technology. However, it turns out the technology doesn’t in fact work, and also Alvin is a Nazi. At Alvin’s press conference, the bullies reveal the truth. Mayhem ensues, and Alvin and Chad both get cryogenically frozen, with no way to thaw them. But Drew and Steve get a happy ending, and the series ends with Steve in bed with a man. There’s a funny backup story that shows how Alvin learned the bullies were alive. This was a really entertaining series, but unlike some of the other Ahoy comics, it leaves no room for a sequel.

MARVEL COMICS #1000 (Marvel, 2019) – many stories, [W] Al Ewing et al, [A] various. This comic is a tribute to Marvel’s 80th anniversary, and consists of 80 stories by different creative teams. It has possibly the greatest lineup of talent in Marvel’s history, though the best stories in the issue aren’t necessarily the ones by the best creators. Each page is based on a particular year in Marvel’s history; however, some pages have only a tenuous connection with the year they’re associated with, and some important events in Marvel history are ignored (for example, as Adrienne Resha pointed out, Kamala Khan doesn’t appear anywhere in the issue). It seems like the editor must have decided the lineup of creative teams and characters first, and that each story must have been assigned to a particular year only later. Because of the huge number of stories in the issue, it’s hard to choose a particular favorite, but some of the pages in this issue have gone viral – for example, “The End of the Day,” depicting what Iron Man and Dr. Doom did after Iron Man #150, or “The Last Word,” about a failed attempt to interview the Hulk. I was especially delighted that this issue includes Neil Gaiman’s first new Miracleman story since the ‘90s. Other highlights include Jeremy Whitley’s America story and Paul Hornschemeier’s parody of Little Nemo. Another really fun part of this issue was trying to identify each of the artists before looking at the credits. All of Al Ewing’s stories in this issue are linked together, and they show how the entire history of the Marvel Universe was influenced by a certain mysterious mask. These stories are a lead-in to an upcoming new Marvel title.