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.