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Three weeks of reviews

My next DCBS shipment was severely delayed for some reason, and as a result I received two shipments on consecutive days. The following comics arrived on Friday, September 20:

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #48 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. This is billed as “the antepeNUTimate issue.” Too much happens in this issue to summarize it all, but it’s a thrilling issue with lots of twists and turns. I’m going to miss Squirrel Girl when it’s gone. I’m relieved to learn that Mew survived the destruction of the apartment.

ISOLA #9 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Brenden Fletcher, [W/A] Karl Kerschl, [A] Msassyk. The witch hypnotizes Rook into falling in love with her, but Olwyn exposes the witch’s evil and frees the children she turned into animals. It’s a cathartic moment when the kids thank Olwyn for saving them. As always, the artwork in this issue is spectacular.

WONDER WOMAN #78 (DC, 2019) – “Loveless Part 2,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Romulo Fajardo. With Aphrodite dead, the entire world becomes awful, or more awful than it was already. Dinah enlists Veronica Cale to reverse engineer the Godslayer sword. The high point of this issue is when Etta Candy points out that with Aphrodite dead, people have stopped going to work. Diana: “You mean they loved their jobs?” Etta: “No, they hate their jobs, but they loved their families. So they put up with their jobs.” I’m probably not going to keep reading this series after Willow leaves. The next writer, Steve Orlando, is good, but not as good as Willow.

BLACK HAMMER/JUSTICE LEAGUE: HAMMER OF JUSTICE #3 (DC/Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Michael Walsh. The Black Hammer and Justice League worlds start bleeding into each other. Zatanna helps Golden Gail transform into her elderly self. This series has been fun, but not quite as good as the primary Black Hammer series.

OUTER DARKNESS #10 (Image, 2019) – “Castrophany of Hate Part 10: Hate Blossoms,” [W] John Layman, [A] Afu Chan. Thanks to some “hate blossoms,” the Outer Darkness crew members are trapped in a series of visions in which they all murder each other. By chance, the cat discovers the hate blossoms, and in a truly epic moment, it destroys them by knocking a lantern off a table and starting a fire. Therefore, an alternative title for this issue is “The One Where the Cat Saves the Day by Doing What Cats Do.”

DIAL H FOR HERO #6 (DC, 2019) – “Anyone Can Be a Hero,” [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Joe Quinones. Mr. Thunderbolt turns all the people of Metropolis into superheroes, causing widespread mayhem, but Miguel and Summer save the day. This issue has some of the most spectacular artwork in the entire series. Just in the first few pages, there are visual references to the Simpsons (or Futurama maybe), Scott Pilgrim, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Squirrel Girl, Captain Harlock (?), Major Bummer (?), Dark Knight Returns, Xenozoic Tales, Rocketeer, and lots of other stuff I couldn’t identify. There’s also an extended sequence where Quinones imitates the style of Daniel Clowes, including his coloring. I love this series, and I think it deserves an Eisner nomination for best artist.

GOGOR #5 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Ken Garing. While reading this issue, I saw a Bleeding Cool story that said that the individual issues of Princeless vol. 9 had been cancelled. That made me feel very pessimistic about the future of the direct market. Then I started thinking, well, at least the direct market can still produce a series as bizarre and creative as Gogor. But then I got to the end of Gogor #5 and learned that it was the last issue, thanks to poor sales. That made me even more depressed. I mean, I know the comics medium is going to be fine. I just like to buy stuff in single issues, and I’m afraid that fewer and fewer comics will appear in that format. At least Gogor #5 is a good issue. I especially like the sequence where Armano uses a spider to create a key. The issue ends with a short comic strip in which Ken Garing ruminates about the cancellation of the series. In this strip he depicts a bookshelf with several volumes of Corben’s Den, confirming my realization that Corben is his primary influence.

PRETTY VIOLENT #1 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Derek Hunter, [W] Jason Young. This is sort of a superhero version of I Hate Fairyland. It’s a superhero comic drawn in a cartoony style (reminiscent of Andrew MacLean’s style), but it’s deliberately ultraviolent and offensive. The protagonist is a novice “superheroine” who fails to save anyone, and instead kills lots of people in horrifying ways. At the end, we learn that she comes from a family of supervillans. Again like I Hate Fairyland, Pretty Violent is kind of a silly one-joke comic, but it’s a funny joke so far.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #10 (Marvel, 2019) – “Falling Star Part 3,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Carmen Carnero. Carol discovers that her old enemy, Dr. Minerva, exposed her Kree heritage and is now channeling her power into Star. Carol manages to cut off Star from her power, but instead Star begins draining energy from all the other local people. I still have yet to be truly impressed by Kelly’s Captain Marvel. This was an okay issue, but it wasn’t nearly as good as most of Kelly’s other work.

TREES: THREE FATES #1 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Jason Howard. This issue begins with a vignette where two lovers are fighting, and then one of them gets crushed by one of the giant alien trees. Eleven years later, the same woman, Klara Voronova, investigates a murder occurring below the same tree. Trees is a rare comics example of the SF trope known as “Big Dumb Objects.” But so far, this series is less about the trees themselves than about how they impact the lives of individual people.

Some more comics arrived on Saturday, September 21:

SECOND COMING #3 (Ahoy, 2019) – “You Can’t Go Home Again,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Richard Pace. Jesus and Sunstar rescue a young supervillain (I like the scene where Sunstar bullies him into studying something other than film theory). Then Sunstar goes to look for his missing grandmother, while Jesus learns how badly people have distorted his teachings. This is another brilliant issue. I think the best line in it is “I asked James to spread my word. I asked Peter to spread my word. I never even asked Paul to spread the jelly!” This reminds me of the scene in James Morrow’s Only Begotten Daughter where Jesus is shocked to learn that his religion has become popular among gentiles.

ONCE AND FUTURE #2 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. The neofascists perform a ritual to resurrect King Arthur, and he starts recruiting Knights of the Round Table. A key moment in this issue is when Arthur kills some of the fascists because they’re not Britons but Anglo-Saxons (a term which has caused immense controversy in medieval studies). This issue wasn’t quite as surprising or as dense as issue 1, but Once and Future is an extremely promising series. Kieron Gillen is building a complex and varied body of work, and he may be the best writer in mainstream comics right now.

THE MAGNIFICENT MS. MARVEL #7 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Joey Vazquez. Kamala, Nakia and Zoe go on a road trip, only to encounter Josh, Becky and their army of zombies. I think the high point of this issue is the scene where Kamala and Nakia feel nervous sitting in an empty restaurant. Meanwhile, the subplot about Kamala’s dad’s illness continues, and Kamala’s baby nephew makes a cameo appearance.

STEEPLE #1 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] John Allison. In John Allison’s follow-up to Giant Days, a young woman travels to a remote Cornish village to take up a job as a curate. But it turns out that the local priest spends every night battling a mysterious creature with a giant eye for a head. So far this series is much more promising than By Night, thanks largely to its eerie, disturbing rural setting. I’m also glad that John Allison is drawing it himself.

BLACK HAMMER: AGE OF DOOM #12 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. All the heroes except Lucy go back to the farm. Gail, Abraham and Barbalien get to be with their lovers. The series ends happily ever after. This ending is a huge anticlimax, so much so that I hardly believe it even is the ending. I was hoping for an epic confrontation with Anti-God. I know there’s more Black Hammer material coming, and I can only hope that this series will get a more satisfying ending.

MIDDLEWEST #11 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. Abel and Fox head into a city. Abel gets pissed at Fox for no reason and runs off, and he’s kidnapped by a human trafficker, who turns out to have also kidnapped Bobby. The key moment in this issue is when Fox tells Abel that he’s behaving like his father – which is a central theme of this series, that victims of abuse become abusers themselves.

HISTORY OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE #3 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Javier Rodriguez. This issue covers the ‘60s and ‘70s, from Fantastic Four #1 to X-Men #101. It’s mostly a summary of old stories; the only new information I noticed was Franklin’s conversation with Galactus. As with the previous two issues, Javier Rodriguez’s artwork is brilliant, and Mark’s depth of research is impressive.

SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #3 (DC, 2019) – “Desperadoes Under the Leaves!” and other vignettes, [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Steve Lieber. Again, this issue consists of a bunch of vignettes in no apparent order. The comic acknowledges its own unconventional story structure: there’s a caption t hat says “Like, in what actual order do these scenes occur? Keep reading, for there is a method to our madness!” This makes me very curious to find out what is going on, and what this series is about. This issue introduces a possibly new character named Doctor Mantel, whose black hole technology may or may not be central to the plot.

STRAYED #2 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “Chapter Two: Systemisch,” [W] Carlos Giffoni, [A] Juan Doe. You can tell this comic is good because it’s endorsed by Nnedi Okorafor’s cat. This issue, we learn that the protagonist’s masters want to find more flowers so they can make themselves gods, never mind the cost to billions of innocent aliens. This series is heartbreaking because of the contrast between Kiara and Lou’s mutual love, on the one hand, and their bosses’ horrible inhumanity, on the other hand.

GRUMBLE #10 (Albatross, 2019) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Mike Norton. Eddie and Tala retrieve the McGuffin from inside Jimmy, but Tala is shot, and Eddie has to use Arachne’s Fang to save her instead of restoring himself. Eddie reveals that he’s Tala’s father, although I think this was already spoiled somewhere. Tala and Eddie, who’s still a dog, head off to Memphis to find Tala’s mother. On its own this would be a satisfying conclusion to the series, but there’s a second volume coming next year.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN # 10 (Marvel, 2019) – “Celebration,” [W] Saladin Ahmed & Javier Garrón. It’s Miles’s birthday, although he’s still traumatized from his encounter with the Assessor. Miles has to miss his own birthday party to fight some villains, one of whom turns out to be an alternative (and white) version of Miles himself. The bakery where Miles gets his birthday cake is called “Aricebo”; this must be a misspelling of Arecibo. There’s a backup story explaining the origin of Starling, Vulture’s granddaughter and protegee. This story is unusual because it depicts Adrian Toomes as a positive role model.

RONIN ISLAND #6 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Giannis Milonogiannis. Some brigands try to torture Kenichi into revealing the location of the island, but Kenichi recruits them to help him kill the shogun. Meanwhile, Hana watches the shogun continue to act like a real jerk. This series is full of fascinating black-and-gray morality and moral dilemmas, as I’ve observed before. But it’s also far grimmer and more depressing than Mech Cadet Yu, even though both titles seem to be aimed at the same audience.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #82 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kate Sherron, [A] Toni Kuusisto. Rarity is forced to take care of Cerberus because none of the other ponies are willing to. This issue is okay, but its plot is rather contrived. I’m glad to learn that the pony comics are going to continue after the show ends.

IRONHEART #10 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Enemy Within…,” [W] Eve Ewing, [A] Luciano Vecchio. Like Nnedi Okorafor’s Shuri, Ironheart passes the “black female Bechdel test” with flying colors. This issue includes four named black female characters, each of whom is quite different from the others. Riri, Shuri and Silhouette’s conversation during the plane trip underscores how much their backgrounds and personalities differ from each other, despite the adorable nickname Shuriri. My other favorite moment in this issue is when Riri’s friend asks her if they have jollof rice in Wakanda.

AQUAMAN #52 (DC, 2019) – “Amnesty, Part 3: Giants and Monsters,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Robson Rocha. Aquaman and his friends fight a giant dragon thing. Tristan Maurer shows up at the end of the issue. Mera and Vulko do not appear. This was a pretty forgettable issue.

WONDER TWINS #7 (DC, 2019) – “Trials and Twinulations,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Stephen Byrne. A meteor is about to destroy the earth, and Superman and the rest of the Justice League don’t seem to care. Also, we’re introduced to a very lonely superhero/villain named Repulso, who has to live in isolation because of his horrible smell. This issue was good, but not as memorable as the Scrambler storyline.

SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH #5 (Archie, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Veronica Fish. Sabrina defeats the villain, who turns out to be Professor Sampson. Unfortunately, the cat gets shrunk back to normal size. Sabrina decides to postpone choosing between her two love interests. According to the last page, there’s going to be a sequel to this series in 2020, though Archie does not have a good track record with publishing Sabrina comics on time.

VALKYRIE: JANE FOSTER #3 (DC, 2019) – “The Sacred and the Profane Part III,” [W] Jason Aaron & Al Ewing, [A] Cafu et al. I guess “Jane Foster”is part of this comic’s official title. Heimdall has been killed by Bullseye. Jane takes him on a tour of the Marvel Universe’s afterlives, including Heven, Hades and “the Far Shore” (possibly a Le Guin reference). Each afterlife sequence is drawn by a different artist. The best of them is the Far Shore sequence, by the super-underrated Frazer Irving. Also, Jane learns that her horse talks – with a Northern English accent, to be precise – and the Grim Reaper appears at the end.

HASHTAG: DANGER #5 (Ahoy, 2019) – “The Cry of Night is – Sudden Death!”, [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Chris Giarrusso. The baby yeti’s mother finally shows up, and then we see how Sugar Rae turns into a supervillain, as predicted in an earlier issue. I think that’s the end of this series. Hashtag: Danger was funny, but I think it was my least favorite Ahoy title yet. This issue’s letters page includes an exciting list of upcoming Ahoy titles.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #13 (Vertigo, 2019) – “Wicked Burn, Part 1,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson & Dan Watters, [A] Matthew Dow Smith. This issue has a really cute cover: Erzulie’s neighbor is surprised to see Erzulie’s pet, a giant rooster creature, picking up the morning paper. The interior story focuses on the same neighbor, whose name is Djuna, like Djuna Barnes. As if Djuna’s abusive boyfriend wasn’t making her suffer enough, she opens her fridge to discover a mysterious egg that hatches into a firebreathing chicken monster. This story is an interesting change of pace from the Anansi epic.

YEAR OF THE VILLAIN: THE RIDDLER #1 (DC, 2019) – “Thanks for Nothing,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Scott Godlewski. The gimmick behind Year of the Villain is that Luthor gives gifts to all the villains, like Neron did in Underworld Unleashed. But in YOTV: Riddler, Luthor gives the Riddler nothing, just some advice. As a result, the Riddler realizes that his career is going nowhere, and he quits. Mark Russell has become the industry’s best writer of single-issue stories, but this one was a bit anticlimactic. It doesn’t quite feel like a Riddler story. The funniest moment in the issue is when the tiger ruins the “lady or the tiger” challenge by roaring from behind its door.

KING THOR #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “Twilight of the Thunder God,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Esad Ribic. Jason Aaron’s farewell to Thor is set in the far future, when Loki is trying to destroy the universe. This issue includes several characters from earlier in Jason’s run: Thor’s three granddaughters; Shadrak, god of various alliterative things; and Gorr the God-Butcher. The future Thor storylines have never been my favorite part of Jason’s Thor, and Esad Ribic isn’t my favorite artist, but this series is worth reading anyway.

BABYTEETH #16 (AfterShock, 2019) – “Revelations,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. This issue takes place five years after #15. In a flashback, we see that Satan tried to kidnap the baby, but Marty prevented him. Then Olivia dies, and then Sadie, Clark and Simon return to Earth, which has been taken over by demons. And Sadie’s mom shows up again. I’m losing interest in this series. This issue is full of exciting plot twists, but none of them have any real impact, although Marty’s reappearance was a nice moment.

ARCHIE: THE MARRIED LIFE – 10TH ANNIVERSARY #2 (Archie, 2019) – “Twists & Turns,” [W] Michael Uslan, [A] Dan Parent. Lots of stuff happens in this issue’s Archie Marries Veronica story, but the main event is that Hiram Lodge dies. Hilariously, his last words are “If only I had spent more time at work.” The Archie & Betty story is full of relationship drama, but has nothing as funny as Hiram’s last words. I don’t love either of the individual storylines in this comic; they both suffer from shallow characterization and overly compressed plotting. However, the contrasts between Archie’s two possible futures make this series interesting.

GHOSTED IN L.A. #3 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Sina Grace, [A] Siobhan Keenan. This issue starts with a flashback to an argument between two gay men in 1980. One of these men became one of the ghosts of the mansion, and given the timeframe, I can guess how he died. The rest of the issue focuses on Daphne’s relationship with Ronnie, who turns out to be gay. Also, one of the other ghosts is getting really pissed at Daphne’s interference with the mansion’s life.

CATWOMAN #15 (DC, 2019) – “Hermosa Heat Part Two,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mirka Andolfo. Catwoman fights Lock-Up, then interrupts a dinner where the villains are eating ortolan. I believe Ram V’s description of how ortolans are cooked and eaten is accurate. Otherwise I barely remember anything about this issue.

ARCHIE ’55 #1 (Archie, 2019) – “…Whatever Became of Archie Andrews?”, [W] Brian Augustyn & Mark Waid, [A] Tom Grummett. A Facebook friend of mine was making fun of this comic the other day, but I don’t think he’s familiar with the idea behind it. In this sequel to Archie 1941, Archie is a budding rock-and-roll star, which comes as a shock to his friends and his parents. A notable scene in this issue is when Archie’s black friend takes him to a black nightclub to listen to Big Earl Dixon, possibly based on Little Richard or Louis Jordan. This scene raises some uncomfortable questions about racism and cultural appropriation, but it’s also an accurate portrayal of how the rock-and-roll sound developed.

COLLAPSER #3 (DC, 2019) – “Black Holes and Revelations,” [W] Mikey Way & Shaun Simon, [A] Ilias Kyriazis. This comic has pretty good art, but its storyline is overly complicated and confusing. And the writers give us no reason to care what happens to Liam James, who is a rather annoying protagonist. I have stopped ordering this series.

TEST #4 (Vault, 2019) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Jen Hickman. Test gets stranger with every issue. Every time I think I understand what it’s about, I’m proven wrong. I think Test is an important series, and I’m going to keep reading it, but I can’t say I’m enjoying it.

INVISIBLE WOMAN #3 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Mattia De Iulis. Sue tracks down Aidan Tintreach’s wife, who turns out to be another secret agent. Then she infiltrates an expensive celebrity event in Rome. This series is not Mark’s best work, but it’s entertaining, and it provides lots of interesting insights into Sue’s character.

IMMORTAL HULK DIRECTOR’S CUT #3 (Marvel, 2019) – “Point of View,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett et al. This is probably the most unique issue of the series. It’s a Marvel version of Rashomon, in which the Hulk’s latest rampage is narrated from the viewpoint of four different characters. The four characters’ narratives are drawn by four different artists, including Paul Hornschemeier, Marguerite Sauvage, Leonardo Romero, and Garry Brown. I recently posted a negative review of Hornschemeier’s latest comic, but his and Sauvage’s styles are a powerful contrast to Bennett, Romero and Brown’s more conventional superhero artwork. Thanks to these contrasting styles, this comic is a collage of different types of art, representing different people’s ways of seeing the world.

ARCHIE VS. PREDATOR II #2 (Archie, 2019) – “Pleased to Meet Me,” [W] Alex de Campi, [A] Robert Hack. A bunch of Predators invade a Halloween dance. This series has a very different feel than the previous Archie vs. Predator, thanks to Robert Hack’s gritty, realistic-looking art. It results in the same kind of incongruous effect as in Afterlife with Archie, although with a subtle difference, since Archie vs. Predator II is funnier than Afterlife with Archie. The Predator-Archie’s dialogue is impossible to understand because he speaks in emojis.

ADVENTURE FINDERS: THE EDGE OF EMPIRE #2 (Action Lab, 2019) – “The Wounded Beast,” [W/A] Rod Espinosa. The attack on the wagon continues. Rod Espinosa’s style of storytelling is entertaining, but I still don’t quite get what this series is about, or who is fighting who and why.

CANTO #4 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. I forgot to order issues 2 and 3 of this series, and I may have missed my chance to get them, because Canto seems to have become a target for speculators. In #4, Canto and his companions arrive at the City of Dis, where they have to negotiate their way past the monsters guarding the gate. Then once they’re inside, they have to fight some Furies. Not having read issues 2 and 3, I wasn’t quite sure what was going on in this issue.

IGNITED #4 (Humanoids, 2019) – “Triggered Part 4,” [W] Mark Waid & Kwanza Osajyefo, [A] Phil Briones. More of the same thing as in the first three issues. I think the themes of this series are very important, but the plot is monotonous, and I can’t remember anything about any of the characters. I’m at the point of giving up on it.

THE KENTS #5 (DC, 1997) – “Brother vs. Brother Part 1,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Tim Truman. Nathaniel’s black friends are kidnapped by slavers, though Nathaniel rescues their son and also survives being shot. The Civil War begins, and inevitably, Nathaniel and Jeb find themselves on opposite sides of the same battle. By now, Nathaniel and Mary Glenowen are an official couple.

THE KENTS #6 (DC, 1997) – “Brother vs. Brother Part 2,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Tim Truman. Nate finds his enslaved friend Sarah, just in time to watch her die. Riding with Quantrill’s gang, Jeb invades Lawrence, Kansas and massacres a lot of people. Like most of the events in this series,the Lawrence massacre really happened. On the letters page, the editor basically admits that The Kents’ connection to Superman is tenuous, but “without tying into a known entity such as Superman, the market, as it is, would probably be unkind to a historical Western.” I think I have the other six issues of this maxi-series, but I’m not sure where in my boxes they are.

GROO THE WANDERER #114 (Marvel, 1994) – “The Birds of Vultura! Part One of Two,” [W/A] Sergio Aragones, [W] Mark Evanier. Groo visits a town where everyone is starving, because their crops are being stolen by raiders who ride giant vultures. Groo then meets the raiders and joins them, without, of course, realizing that they’re the ones who are raiding the town. The raiders take Groo to their mountaintop lair, but Groo falls off the mountain to his apparent death. I believe I have issue 115, but I can’t remember how Groo saves himself. At one point in this issue, Groo asks “Me? Fly through the air like the bird or the bee or the bull?” Later Groo fights a man who boasts of having killed his parents. Groo defeats the man, but decides to spare him because he’s an orphan. This gag is based on an old joke which has been used as a definition of chutzpah.

SUPERMAN #24 (DC, 2017) – “Black Dawn Chapter 5,” [W] Patrick Gleason & Peter Tomasi, [A] Doug Mahnke. Yet another issue that makes no sense at all if you haven’t been reading the other Superman titles. I really should have quit ordering this series.

CHAMPIONS #9 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Humberto Ramos. I dropped this series because of the previous issue’s offensive line of dialogue about Japanese internment. However, by that point I had already ordered issue 9. Champions #9 introduces Red Locust, an indigenous superheroine from San Diego, and there’s also a scene where the characters watch the Avatar episode with the “secret tunnel under the mountain” song. This issue isn’t as bad as #8, though it’s not great.

New comics received on Thursday, September 26:

LUMBERJANES #66 (Boom!, 2019) – “It’s a Myth-Tery Part 2,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Kanesha C. Bryant. The Lumberjanes are all fascinated with Freya, except Diane, who finds her suspicious. Meanwhile, the other group of Lumberjanes discuss Hes’s crush on Diane while looking for crop circles. At the end of the issue, Freya steals Marigold the giant cat. This was a really fun issue. The only problem is that it’s hard to tell which Lumberjanes are in which group, perhaps because the author doesn’t draw backgrounds.

DIAL H FOR HERO #7 (DC, 2019) – “The New Heroes of Metropolis!”, [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Joe Quinones et al. After the visual explosion of issue 6, this issue was disappointing at first because most of it is not drawn by Joe Quinones. However, it’s still an effective artistic experiment, just in a different way. This issue consists of four vignettes, each drawn by a different artist, about ordinary Metropolis citizens who get turned into superheroes. The best of these sequences are the ones by Erica Henderson and by Stacey Lee, an aritst I’m not familiar with. All four of the new heroes find it difficult to act in a heroic way, but they’re all inspired by a mysterious heroine named Guardian Angel. In Stacey Lee’s sequence, we learn that Guardian Angel is a dog turned into a human. This is a funny twist, and it turns the entire story into a witty comment on the nature of heroism.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #47 (Marvel, 2019) – “Ms. Fantastic Part Two of Two,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Alitha E. Martinez. Lunella finishes her contest with Mr. Fantastic, and the series ends. The letters page makes it explicit that the series is cancelled, not just on hiatus. I always had problems with how Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur was written, but it wasn’t intended for me. It was intended for readers Lunella’s age, and it seems to have been a huge success among those readers – yet that success didn’t save it from cancellation, because its sales were not coming from the direct market. The success of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur really ought to have made Marvel rethink its entire approach to selling comics, but I’m not sure if they understand or care why it did so well.

CRIMINAL #8 (Image, 2019) – “Cruel Summer Part Four: On the Edge of No Escape,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. This issue is narrated from Jane’s perspective. She follows Ricky and discovers that he’s gone off to assassinate some junkie, so she takes pity on him and kills the junkie on his behalf. On the letters page, Brubaker states that if you don’t understand why this man was killed, the clues are in this issue and the previous one. I went back and reread #7, and it seems clear that the junkie raped Ricky while he was in juvenile detention. Also in this issue, Jane learns that a man has been looking for her, but she doesn’t pay attention, even though this information seems important. I wonder if the man was Dan the detective.

WONDER WOMAN #79 (DC, 2019) – “Loveless Part 3,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Scot Eaton. Atlantiades meets Maggie again. Veronica Cale engineers a countermeasure to the Godslayer sword, and Diana uses it to defeat Cheetah. Steve and Diana break up. This is a pretty depressing issue.

FEARLESS #3 (Marvel, 2019) – “Campfire Song Part 3,” [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Claire Roe. Katie’s science project summons a bunch of toad aliens. Kamala realizes that the camp director caused this to happen on purpose. I’m enjoying this storyline a lot. In the first backup story, by Zoe Quinn, Patsy Walker gets a new sidekick who’s a cat demon. There’s also a short backup story about Jubilee, but this story is forgettable and it ignores all the recent changes to Jubilee’s character.

WHITE TREES #2 (Image, 2019) – “I Raised Him,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Kris Anka. The heroes discover that it was their own king who kidnapped their children. They rescue the kids and defeat the king, but at the cost of Krylos’s life. Despite being only two issues, White Trees was an excellent miniseries with very strong characterization and worldbuilding, as well as beautiful art. It’s a powerful portrayal of parent-child relationships and queer identity. I hope there will be more comics set in this world.

BRONZE AGE BOOGIE #6 (Ahoy, 2019) – “(It’s Fun to Serve in the) YMCA,” [W] Stuart Moore, [A] Alberto Ponticelli. YMCA in this context means Young Monkeys’ Chronal Authority. This issue, the good guys win after a big fight, and we discover that the Shang-Chi character is gay. At the end of the issue, a time traveler named Rake Lovelost summons the heroes to help him out in the 69th century. Hopefully there will be another miniseries so that this cliffhanger can be resolved. The back matter in this issue includes a crossword puzzle, which I actually finished.

WARLORD OF MARS ATTACKS #4 (Dynamite, 2019) – “Back to Barsoom,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Dean Kotz. John Carter and his companions return to Barsoom, where John and Dejah Thoris are reuinted. At the end of the issue, Dr. Norman is shot by a Martian. Just one issue left.

GHOST SPIDER #2 (Marvel, 2019) –“Candy Store,” [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. Gwen makes a new friend who turns out to be spying on her on behalf of Miles Warren. Meanwhile, on Gwen’s Earth, Man-Wolf is released from prison. This issue is not bad, but not particularly memorable either.

PRETTY VIOLENT #2 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Derek Hunter, [A] Jason Young. Rae’s supervillain siblings make fun of her attempts at heroism, and then she unknowingly saves the city from her brother and sister’s plot. This is another fun issue. Despite this series’ deliberately offensive plot and artwork, Rae is an interesting and sympathetic character.

ETHER: THE DISAPPEARANCE OF VIOLET BELL 1 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] David Rubín. Boone’s wife and daughter are dead, and his old enemy Ubel has taken over the Ether. Boone returns to action to solve the kidnapping of the faerie princess Violet Bell. David Rubín’s art in this issue is amazing, especially in the opening montage about the Seven Lucky Gods (who are lucky only because they survived and the eighth one didn’t). I’m looking forward to the rest of this miniseries.

ABSOLUTE CARNAGE: MILES MORALES #2 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Federico Vicentini. This is slightly better than issue 1, and it gives us some interesting insights into the psychology of Venom symbiotes. However, this series is still not nearly as good as the main Miles Morales title.

BLACK PANTHER #16 (Marvel, 2019) – “Two Thousand Seasons” part four, [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Daniel Acuña. This issue is mostly a series of conversations. At the end, Changamire, Tetu and Zenzi show up again. TNC’s Black Panther has always been kind of boring, and “The Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda” has gone on way too long.

DOCTOR MIRAGE #2 (Valiant, 2019) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Nick Robles. In a flashback, Dr. Mirage and her dead husband investigate the cult of Isis. In the present, Grace takes Dr. Mirage into some kind of hallucinogenic world. I think the best thing about this comic is the coloring. This and Strangelands seem to be Mags’s only current titles. Marilyn Manor has been cancelled, and Sex Death Revolution seems to have been totally forgotten.

THE AVANT-GUARDS #8 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Carly Usdin, [A] Noah Hayes. This issue’s featured character is Tiffany, the occult Goth girl. We learn this issue that Tiffany’s interest in occultism is ironic because her father is a famous astronaut. Also, the Avant-Guards win their playoff game, but there may not be any funding to keep their league around for another season. In a case of art imitating life, Avant-Guards #9 has been cancelled, and issues 11 and 12 haven’t been solicited yet. Avant-Guards #8 does not indicate that it’s the last issue, and the story ends on a cliffhanger, but I can’t find any information on whether or how the series will be completed.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #6 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Clint McElroy, [A] Ig Guara. Kamala and Carol fight both the Kree Starforce and Wastrel. The Kree sentence Walter to community service, and they part with Kamala and Carol on good terms. This series had a promising start, but Eve Ewing left after three issues, and Clint McElroy wasn’t nearly as good. I’m not sorry this title was cancelled.

TOMMY GUN WIZARDS #2 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Christian Ward, [A] Sami Kivelä. Eliot’s fight with the mob continues, and we learn that Lick is made from the secretions of a giant alien toad. This is a really exciting issue with some nice worldbuilding. I’m glad to learn that Christian Ward is a solid writer as well as a brilliant artist.

RAGNAROK: THE BREAKING OF HELHEIM #2 (IDW, 2019) – “Through the Gates of Helheim…,” [W/A] Walt Simonson. Thor arrives at Helheim, which is now ruled by Freyr, though apparently not the Asgardian god of that name. Freyr throws Thor into his soul mines, where he meets Hagen, the leader of Freyr’s slaves. This issue’s letter column discusses Ratatoskr’s resurrection and Thor’s lack of a lower jaw.

THE TERRIFICS #20 (DC, 2019) – “If We Could Turn Back Time,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Stephen Segovia & Brent Peeples. The Bizarros decide to go back in time to obtain Superman’s Phantom Zone crystal, and the Terrifics have to follow them. This is a fun issue, and I’m enjoying this series enough to keep reading it, even though Gene Luen Yang is a worse superhero writer than Jeff Lemire.

ACTION COMICS #646 (DC, 1989) – “Burial Ground,” [W] Roger Stern, [W/A] Keith Giffen. Superman goes to Antarctica to dispose of the Eradicator (the device, not the person). While there he fights a giant alien worm. This issue is drawn and co-plotted by Keith Giffen, so it looks a lot like an issue of the early v4 Legion. Like that series, Action #646 includes some very lazy artwork; there’s a two-page sequence where every drawing of Superman is a solid black silhouette.

IMMORTAL HULK DIRECTOR’S CUT #4 (Marvel, 2019) – “Time of Death,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. Walter Langkowski tells Jackie his origin story, then he and Jackie go looking for the Hulk. But before they find him, Walter is apparently stabbed to death while trying to break up a bar fight. Immortal Hulk #4 isn’t experimental like #3 was, but it’s good anyway.

Most of the following comics were purchased many years ago, in 2014 or earlier:

IMPULSE #58 (DC, 2000) – “Flashing Before My Eyes,” [W] Todd DeZago, [A] Jamal Igle & Grey. I read this series when it was first coming out, but I dropped it after Mark Waid left. I later bought a couple of the later issues from cheap boxes. This issue is a Max Mercury solo story that includes a flashback to his Wild West days. There’s also a backup story, drawn by Ethan van Sciver, that’s a homage to/ripoff of Calvin & Hobbes.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #368 (Marvel, 1992) – “On Razored Wings: Invasion of the Spider-Slayers Part One,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] Mark Bagley. Spidey battles a Spider-Slayer, and there are a few scenes with Peter and his parents. There’s also a backup story written by JM DeMatteis, in which JJJ asks Peter for an exclusive interview with the parents, and Peter uncharacteristically gets furious and attacks his boss. The latter part of David Michelinie’s Spider-Man run was really not that great, mostly because it was bogged down by stuff like the Clone Saga and the Richard and Mary Parker story. I grew up reading these comics, but they haven’t necessarily aged well.

MAGNUS ROBOT FIGHTER #3 (Dynamite, 2014) – “Leeja Clane, Human Hunter,” [W] Fred van Lente, [A] Cory Smith. Mostly a fight scene between Leeja and Magnus. This issue begins with a song that includes lines like “Strong female human protagonist! Her aggressiveness does not compromise her femininity! Her subjectivity and sexuality exist independent of the male gaze!” However, these claims are contradicted by the way Leeja is drawn in the actual comic, and it feels like Van Lente is making fun of the language of feminism, rather than quoting it with sincere intent.

JON SABLE, FREELANCE #42 (First, 1986) – “Appointment with a Lady,” [W/A] Mike Grell. This feels like a much earlier issue of Jon Sable because the drawings are fully rendered. Grell doesn’t use the ugly, lazy style that he used in most late issues of this series. This issue, Sable encounters Rachel, the Israeli secret agent from earlier in the series, and they end up having to work together to defeat a terrorist bomber.

INCORRUPTIBLE #19 (Boom!, 2011) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Marcio Takara. I hadn’t realized I owned so many issues of this series. This issue, Max Damage recruits an old enemy of his, Whelan, to serve as the governor of Coalville. But then some other villain tears Whelan’s heart out. This issue also includes a character named Safeword who can make people freeze in place by yelling ”Stop!”

THE STARDUST KID #3 (Image, 2005) – “Another World, “ [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Mike Ploog. This series was a follow-up to DeMatteis and Ploog’s Abadazad, which was left incomplete when CrossGen went out of business. It’s about four human kids and their adventures with fairies. The Stardust Kid includes some of the finest art of Mike Ploog’s career. It’s f ull of enchanting and weird depictions of fairies, witches, trolls, giant bugs, mushrooms, etc. However, the power of Ploog’s art is diminished because every page is full of unnecessary captions. For example, there’s one gorgeous splash page that has 13 different caption boxes. Most of the captions in this comic are just purple prose. They could have been deleted without losing any essential information, and I wish they had been cut.

GREEN ARROW #54 (DC, 2005) – “Heading into the Light Part One: His Name is My Name Too,” [W] Judd Winick, [A] Tom Fowler. Ollie, Black Lightning, and the good Dr. Light battle the evil Dr. Light. This was a rather pointless issue.

ATOMIC ROBO PRESENTS REAL SCIENCE ADVENTURES #10 (Red 5, 2013) – untitled, [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Erich Owen. I lost interest in this series because it was worse than the main Atomic Robo series. However, this issue is still very funny and entertaining, especially by comparison to the previous few comics I read. In this issue’s main story, Harry Houdini, Nikola Tesla and some other characters disguise themselves as firefighters in order to steal an earthquake device. In the backup story, Atomic Robo battles the Yonkers Devil. I think I might already have read this story somewhere else, but I’m not sure.

BATMAN #509 (DC, 1994) – “KnightsEnd Part 1: Spirit of the Bat,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Mike Manley. Recovering from having his back broken by Bane, Bruce Wayne goes to Lady Shiva for martial arts training. This comic is kind of similar to Master of Kung Fu in its fantastical portrayal of martial arts. However, by the ‘90s, Doug Moench’s depictions of kung fu and Chinese culture were getting rather dated.

THUNDERBOLTS #17 (Marvel, 1998) – “Matters of Gravity,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Mark Bagley. The Thunderbolts and Great Lakes Avengers fight Graviton. Moonstone gets Graviton to go away by pointing out that he doesn’t know what he wants in life. This is an astute observation on Busiek’s part: Graviton is one of the most powerful villains in the Marvel Universe, but he never achieves anything because he has no clear goals. Meanwhile, Baron Zemo fights the new Citizen V.

DOKTOR SLEEPLESS #8 (Avatar, 2008) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Ivan Rodriguez. I first met Steven Shaviro at a conference where he gave a paper about this comic. As an Avatar comic, Doktor Sleepless has crummy art and production values. But it also has an interesting story, about a mad scientist who wants to destroy the world so Lovecraftian Old Ones can’t destroy it first. I’d read more of this series, but there are other Warren Ellis comics that interest me more.

THE WEIRD WORLD OF JACK STAFF #2 (Image, 2010) – untitled, [W/A] Paul Grist. According to Wikipedia, this series was renamed because it was about Jack Staff’s supporting cast as much as Jack Staff himself. This issue consists of multiple vignettes taking place at different points in time, all revolving around a villain who’s a flaming skeleton.

CRIMINAL #7 (Icon, 2007) – “Lawless Part Two,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Tracy Lawless helps rescue a man named Simon from prison so that Simon can help with an even bigger heist. There are also some flashbacks to Tracy’s past, and an appearance by Leo Patterson, who was the best friend of Leo’s brother Ricky. It’s too bad I’ve been reading Criminal out of order, because this issue gives me some important information about the Lawless family that I’d been unaware of. I’m not sure I even realized that Tracy and Ricky Lawless were different characters.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #87 (Marvel, 1979) – “The Razor’s Edge!”, [W] Steven Grant, [A] Gene Colan. A villain named Hellrazor impersonates Black Panther in order to frame him for kidnapping a man who defrauded the Wakandan government. This is a pretty mediocre issue, and Colan’s art is not his best. Hellrazor’s only other appearance was in Captain America #319, where he was killed by Scourge.

THE FLASH #9 (DC, 1987) – “The Chunk,” [W] Mike Baron, [A] Jackson Guice. This issue introduces Chunk, one of the signature characters from Baron and Messner-Loebs’s Flash runs. Also, Wally’s mother treats his girlfriend Tina very rudely. Mike Baron’s Flash was truly weird. It hardly seemed like a superhero comic at all, partly because Baron wrote Wally as a selfish, hedonistic jerk. According to https://www.cbr.com/flash-supporting-cast-william-messner-loebs-mark-waid/, Mark Waid didn’t use any of Loebs’s supporting characters, like Chunk and Mary West, because Loebs was planning to use them himself in Wonder Woman. That still doesn’t explain why Wally’s mother almost never appeared in Mark Waid’s Flash, even after Loebs was no longer writing Wonder Woman. I can only include that Mark decided to ignore Wally’s mom’s existence because she was a horrible old shrew.

THE FLASH #173 (DC, 2001) – “Blood Will Run… Part 4: Uneasy Idol,” [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Scott Kolins. Wally defeats Cicada, but all of Cicada’s followers get killed. Also, Wally and Linda’s house is destroyed. In an epilogue, we encounter a baby that we’re made to think is Wally’s son, although it was later revealed that he wasn’t the father. This is a competently written and exciting issue, but it suffers from a certain lack of humor or fun.

TEEN TITANS #42 (DC, 2007) – “Devil-May-Care,” [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Peter Snejbjerg. A spotlight on Kid Devil, who is not a new character but was introduced in Gary Cohn and Dan Mishkin’s Blue Devil run. It turns out that Kid Devil (Eddie)’s life was going nowhere, so he bargained with Neron for superpowers. The catch was that if Eddie lost his trust in his old mentor Blue Devil before he reached the age of 20, his soul would be forfeit to Neron. As soon as Eddie makes the deal, Neron tells him that Daniel was responsible for the death of Eddie’s beloved aunt. So what does Eddie go and do? He asks Daniel whether Neron’s claim is true, and Daniel admits it is true. Eddie then says “I don’t trust you,” ensuring his own damnation. I really don’t like this ending because number one, Eddie was an idiot to take Neron’s deal in the first place. In the second place, if he did take the deal, then he was even more of an idiot to ask Daniel that question before he turned 20. But the biggest problem with this story is that it demonstrates Geoff Johns’s habit of torturing his characters for no reason. It’s not bad enough that Eddie was an orphan or that his beloved aunt died. No, Geoff Johns wasn’t satisfied until he’d found a way for Eddie to condemn himself to hell.

THE FLASH #8 (DC, 1987) – “Purple Haze,” [W] Mike Baron, [A] Jackson Guice. In a Millennium crossover, Wally battles the Soviet speedster teams, Blue Trinity and Red Trinity, and then he discovers that his father is a Manhunter. Also, Wally’s dad claims that his mother was drowned, but she sadly turns out to be alive. The problem with this issue is Wally’s nonchalance. In this issue Wally learns that his father is an evil alien agent and that his mother is dead (though the latter proves false), but he never reacts with the shock or grief that an ordinary person would have shown. I should note that Wally’s dad has always been depicted as an awful man, so it was no loss when he was written out of the series. A possible in-universe reason why Wally’s parents rarely appeared in Mark’s Flash run is that Wally never liked his parents anyway, so he decided to go low-contact with them.

BATMAN INCORPORATED #6 (DC, 2011) – “Nyktomorph,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Chris Burnham. Bruce Wayne creates an international army of Batmen, who have multiple simultaneous adventures. Early in the issue, Bruce uses some Batman robots to defeat a gang of crooks wearing emoticon masks. Those masks are the best thing in this issue, but it’s an excellent issue overall, largely because of Chris Burnham’s art. He may be the next best thing to Frank Quitely.

THE INTREPID ESCAPEGOAT/THE STUFF OF LEGEND FCBD (Th3rd World, 2011) – “The Princess and the Pyramid,” [W/A] Brian Smith. A competent but mediocre kids’ comic, in which an anthropomorphic goat thief has an adventure in an Egyptian pyramid. The flip side of this issue is a Stuff of Legend story, but it’s more of a plot summary than an actual story.

SEAGUY: THE SLAVES OF MICKEY EYE #2 (Vertigo, 2009) – “Viva El Macho,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Cameron Stewart. Seaguy has a vision in which he’s a “bull-dresser” – a matador who puts clothes on the bulls instead of killing them – and also he has a pregnant Spanish girlfriend. Also, lots of other weird stuff happens. Seaguy is probably Grant’s most surrealist comic, and he’s written a lot of surrealist comics.

SUPER-VILLAIN TEAM-UP #15 (Marvel, 1978) – “The Invaders!”, [W] Larry Lieber, [A] Wally Wood. A reprint of the Dr. Doom stories from Astonishing Tales #4 and #5, both of which I already own.

ACTION COMICS #459 (DC, 1976) – “Superman’s Big Crack-Up!”, [W] Elliot S! Maggin, [A] Curt Swan. I met Elliot S! Maggin at Comic-Con. It’s too bad he’s no longer working in comics, although I doubt his writing would be as innovative now as it was in the ‘70s. This issue concludes Superman’s battle with the TV-themed villain Blackrock. I don’t know if Elliot had started writing for TV when this comic was published, but he at least creates the impression that he has expert knowledge of the TV business, and Blackrock’s dialogue is full of TV puns. There’s also a Private Life of Clark Kent story in which Clark rescues a boxer who has a habit of writing poetry. I assume this was a reference to Muhammad Ali and his rhymes. One of the minor characters in this story is named Taine – perhaps he was an ancestor of Bouncing Boy.

SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE #42 (DC, 1996) – “The Phantom of the Fair Two,” [W] Matt Wagner & Steven T. Seagle, [A] Guy Davis. I still have a lot of unread issues of this series. This issue, Wes and Dian investigate a murder at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Notably, Wesley Dodds himself first appeared in a promotional comic published to commemorate this same World’s Fair. This issue includes a couple scenes set in a gay bar.

ARCHER & ARMSTRONG #7 (Valiant, 1992) – untitled, [W] Barry Windsor-Smith, [A] Art Nichols. Archer and Armstrong visit a French chateau that turns out to be a front for some kind of criminal organization. The lack of BWS artwork makes this issue much less interesting than other issues of this series. Art Nichols does his best to draw like BWS, but he’s no BWS.

AVENGERS #294 (Marvel, 1988) – “If Wishes Were Horses…”, [W] Walt Simonson, [A] John Buscema. There’s a funny scene in this issue where Dr. Druid has a vision of himself as an Adam Strange-esque superhero. Later in the issue, Monica Rambeau nearly dies from expending too much energy in last issue’s fight against Marrina, and Dr. Druid hypnotizes the other Avengers into electing him leader. Walt Simonson’s Avengers represents the point where the series jumped the shark. It never returned to its former level of quality until Kurt Busiek’s run. This is not entirely Walt’s fault; I get the impression that he was forced to use bad characters like Dr. Druid and Gilgamesh.

NIGHT FORCE #12 (DC, 1982) – “Mark of the Beast, Chapter 2: …Greater than the Sum!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Gene Colan. Baron Winters and Vanessa van Helsing travel back in time to 1934 and fight a giant eight-headed lion. Then back in the present, Winters has to save Vanessa and her husband Jack Gold from some other peril. This series is a spiritual sequel to Tomb of Dracula, and Vanessa and Jack remind me a lot of Rachel and Frank. I’ve been feeling rather negative about Marv Wolfman’s work lately, but I ought to complete my collection of Night Force.

IMPULSE #76 (DC, 2001) – “Missing You,” [W] Todd DeZago, [A] Carlo Barberi. Bart is depressed after losing his best friend, Carol, under circumstances the writer doesn’t explain. Max takes Bart to see Dr. Morlo to cure his depression. Then Bart has an adventure with his old frenemy White Lightning. This issue was much better than #58, reviewed above. It had a lot of genuine emotion.

HELLBLAZER #8 (DC, 1988) – “Intensive Care,” [W] Jamie Delano, [A] John Ridgway. John Constantine is immobilized in a hospital bed, but a demon comes and frees him in order to enlist his aid, possibly to defeat the fundamentalist Christian cult that’s depicted at the start of the issue. Jamie Delano’s Hellblazer, like Mike Baron’s Flash, is very strange; it hardly feels like a Hellblazer comic, mostly because John himself rarely seems to be at the center of the plot. Delano’s version of John seems like more of a bystander than a facilitator of events. I get the sense that at this point in John’s history, his character hadn’t been clearly defined.

OMEGA THE UNKNOWN #7 (Marvel, 1977) – “Blockbuster!”, [W] Scott Edelman, [A] Jim Mooney. The original Omega the Unknown series only lasted ten issues, and two of those were fill-ins. According to a comment at http://www.supermegamonkey.net/chronocomic/entries/omega_the_unknown_110.shtml, Jim Shooter spontaneously asked Scott Edelman and Roger Stern to write these two issues because Gerber was chronically late. Scott Edelman’s issue of Omega is consistent with Gerber’s version of the series, but it’s not nearly as good as any of Gerber’s issues. Omega #7 consists mostly of a fight between the Omega android and a villain named Blockbuster.

STAR-SPANGLED WAR STORIES #170 (DC, 1973) – “Legends Don’t Die!”, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Jack Sparling. In this issue’s first story, the Unknown Soldier impersonates a kidnapped Marine officer, thus giving his men the morale they need to capture a Japanese-held island. This story is reasonably good, but the backup story, “UFM,” is more interesting because it’s Walt Simonson’s second published comic (after Weird War Tales #10). Even at the start of his career, Walt was already brilliant. His panel structures in “UFM” are radically experimental, and he draws some gorgeous machinery and architecture. In the letter column, Archie points out that he had trouble spotting Walt’s signature even after he knew what panel it was in. Of course, this was before everyone knew that Walt’s signature is a dinosaur.

KABUKI: CIRCLE OF BLOOD #1 (Caliber, 1995) – “For Her,” [W/A] David Mack. I think the only previous David Mack comic I’ve read was his run on Daredevil, back in the 2000s. Kabuki is a much more conventional comic than David Mack’s Daredevil, withline-drawn rather than painted art, but it’s still really weird. Mack’s panel structures are bizarre – some pages have no panel borders, others have tons of panels, and there are large blocks of text everywhere. Kabuki’s story is set in Japan, but its actual plot is not made clear, and nothing really happens in this issue. It’s hard to tell whether this is a groundbreaking and innovative comic, or a piece of amateurish nonsense. A more serious complaint about this comic is that it’s cultural appropriation. David Mack is not Japanese, and as a reader, I get the impression that his knowledge of Japan is rather shallow.

ASTRO CITY #3 (Image, 1995) – “A Little Knowledge,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Brent Anderson. A common criminal accidentally learns Jack-in-the-Box’s secret identity, but it does him no good. He becomes paranoid that his knowledge will get him killed, and eventually leaves Astro City for Alaska. I read this issue in trade paperback form a long time ago, but it’s still good. It’s one of the grimmest issues of the whole series.

SWEET TOOTH #24 (Vertigo, 2011) – “Endangered Species: Part Five,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Gus and Tommy are reunited, but only after Gus has been shot. While Tommy tries to save him, Gus has a series of horrific and beautifully drawn nightmares. This issue is a quick read, but it’s good.

PLANETARY #4 (WildStorm, 1999) – “Strange Harbours,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] John Cassaday. Planetary is excavating an alien “shiftship” that travels between dimensions. Chasing a thief, a man named James Wilder jumps onto the shiftship and is transported to another dimension. As a result he gains superpowers. According to Wikipedia, James Wilder is based on Captain Marvel, although the link between the two characters is pretty tenuous. The best thing about this issue is John Cassaday’s spectacular depictions of alien technology.

ONCE UPON A TIME: SHADOW OF THE QUEEN/AVENGERS: ENDLESS WARTIME FREE PREVIEW (Marvel, 2013) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Mike McKone. A free preview of two upcoming Marvel comics. One of them is a tie-in to the TV show Once Upon a Time and is totally forgettable. The other comic, Avengers: Endless Wartime, is billed as Marvel’s first original graphic novel, which is a blatant lie. However, the preview story is actually good, and I think I’ve seen excerpts of it on Scans_Daily or some other website. It shows the Avengers going through their morning routine and interacting with Jarvis. A cute moment is when Jarvis convinces Cap to let him make the coffee, even though Cap can do it himself.

ENIGMA #3 (DC, 1993) – “The Good Boy,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Duncan Fegredo. I have this entire series, but I read the first two issues and didn’t understand them at all. Surprisingly, the third issue makes a lot of sense on its own. This issue, Michael Smith goes to look for the writer of Enigma, the comic book that comforted him when he was orphaned as a child. Enigma the comic is reminiscent of Steve Ditko’s Shade, but Titus Bird is no Steve Ditko; he’s a gay man who wrote Enigma while under the influence of various substances. Late in the issue, Michael reacts violently when Titus assumes he’s gay. As explained in a later letter column, this scene is not evidence of the writer’s homophobia; rather, Michael himself is in denial of his own homosexuality. This issue also introduces a new villain, Envelope Girl. Duncan Fegredo’s art in Enigma is fascinating; he’s like a muddier version of Chris Bachalo. Also, Enigma is a brilliant design. Peter Milligan’s comics have included a lot of great costume designs, some of which Brendan McCarthy was responsible for.

BATWOMAN #11 (DC, 2012) – “To Drown the World Part Six,” [W] J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman, [A] Trevor McCarthy. Another pretty boring issue. The only interesting moment is when Maggie Sawyer tells Kate Kane about her daughter. Unlike Christian Ward, J.H. Williams III was not remotely as good at writing as he is at art.

ENIGMA #4 (DC, 1993) – “And Then What?”, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Duncan Fegredo. Michael Smith and Titus Bird return to Michael’s hometown of Pacific, where the Interior League and Envelope Girl are committing massacres. There’s one page in this issue that’s supposed to be from the ‘70s Enigma comic. Also, Michael breaks up with his girlfriend Sandra. This is another interesting issue, but it doesn’t advance the plot very much.

REFLECTIONS #13 (Icon, 2009) – various non-comics material, [W/A] David Mack. This is not a comic but a collection of David Mack’s sketches and paintings, including a couple that he did as a child. I have mixed feelings about this issue. On one hand, David Mack is a brilliant painter. On the other hand, he’s not brilliant enough that I would actually want to pay $5.99 (the cover price of this issue) for a collection of his outtakes and works-in-progress. Reflections is only of interest to hardcore Mack fans. I’m surprised that there were enough such fans that Marvel was willing to publish multiple issues worth of Reflections.

IMPRACTICAL JOKERS TRUTV EDITION 2013 (DC, 2013) – “The Secret Origins oftruTV’s Impractical Jokers,” [W] Doug Wagner, [A] Adam Archer. A stupid free preview comic about a stupid reality TV show.

SAVAGE DRAGON #39 (Image, 1997) – untitled, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Dragon has been expelled from the police force, and at the end of the issue he’s replaced by She-Dragon. Meanwhile, Dragon fights Dung, Chaos and Control. The latter two villains have a really cool gimmick: Chaos is a giant rampaging monster, and Control, well, controls Chaos by putting his eyes on Chaos’s horns.

THE FOX #5 (Archie, 2014) – “Freak Magnet Part 5,” [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Dean Haspiel. Mark Waid’s Fox was not that great, but JM DeMatteis’s Fox is actively bad. This issue, the Fox is forced to collaborate with other WWII-era superheroes from Britain, Germany and Japan. This demonstrates that the world’s problems could be solved if people from different countries would love each other. That’s a trite but well-intentioned message; however, it’s extremely offensive to suggest that an American should collaborate with a Nazi and a Japanese imperialist. DeMatteis himself realized this, and at the end of the issue he reveals that the German superhero, Master Race, was unaware of the Holocaust. That doesn’t solve the problem, because it’s hard to believe that a person who fought for the Nazi party and called himself “Master Race” would have been unaware of his own government’s atrocities.

XOMBI #3 (DC, 2011) – “The Ninth Stronghold Part Three: Exit Strategies,” [W] John Rozum, [A] Frazer Irving. I thought I remembered reading that John Rozum disavowed this series, but I may have been thinking of his New 52 Static series. However, John Rozum did say that Xombi was cancelled before it was even available to preorder. (https://www.bleedingcool.com/2013/09/13/john-rozum-talks-milestone/) That’s a pity because Rozum and Irving are both very talented, and it’s also unfortunate that Rozum has rarely been able to achieve his potential as a writer. This issue, Xombi battles a lion-headed creature called Maranatha.

JON SABLE, FREELANCE #37 (First, 1986) – “Ivory Apes & Peacocks,” [W/A] Mike Grell. This issue has the ugly, unfinished style of art that I complained about in my review of #42 above. By this point in the series, Grell was incapable of maintaining his standard of artistic quality, and he should have hired someone else to draw Jon Sable for him. In this issue, Jon and Myke go on a safari for some reason I didn’t get, and Jon gets mauled by a leopard.

INCORRUPTIBLE #7 (Boom!, 2010) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Horacio Domingues. Jailbait is injured after last issue, so Annie takes her costume and becomes the new Jailbait. Meanwhile, Max Damage fights some anti-immigrant punks, but falls asleep, thus losing his powers. I don’t know if I have any further unread issues of Incorruptible.

B.P.R.D.: HELL ON EARTH – MONSTERS #2 (Dark Horse, 2011) – “Monsters, Part 2,” [W] Mike Mignola & John Arcudi, [A] Tyler Crook. Liz Sherman fights some kind of cult in a trailer park. This issue wasn’t terrible, but I couldn’t follow its plot.

ELFQUEST: BLOOD OF TEN CHIEFS #12 (WaRP, 1994) – “Coyote,” [W] Terry Collins, [A] Mat Nastos, Jen Marrus & Barry Blair. A flashback story about a former Wolfrider chief who liked to trick humans. At the end of the issue, he meets his counterpart, a human who likes to trick elves. This is a silly comic, and it includes some of Barry Blair’s typical creepy, quasi-pornographic art.

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