Reviews for most of October

New comics received on October 8:

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES: MILLENNIUM #2 (DC, 2019) – untitled, [W] Brian Michael Bendis, [A] various. Again, this issue is disappointing because it’s barely a Legion comic; it’s more of a tour of the DC Universe’s future. In this issue Rose & Thorn travels through a bunch more future eras of the DCU, meeting Omac and visiting the Space Museum. The Legion does appear on one two-page spread at the end, and they look fascinating. Here Bendis’s habit of extreme overwriting is actually an advantage because it means that a lot of different Legionnaires get their own dialogue. Still, I’m getting impatient to read a real Legion comic.

RUNAWAYS #25 (Marvel, 2019) – “Canon Fodder Pt. 1,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Andres Genolet. Now that Squirrel Girl is ending and G. Willow Wilson has left Ms. Marvel, Runaways is my favorite Marvel title. This issue, Nico and Karolina meet Doc Justice, an old enemy of the Pride who has somehow never been mentioned before. And it looks like the Runaways have to accept his offer to work with them, because their home is being destroyed by construction. This issue includes some cute cat moments.

FANTASTIC FOUR #15 (Marvel, 2019) – “Point of Origin, Part Two: The Invasion,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Paco Medina. In a cute gimmick, this issue is narrated from the perspective of the Unparalleled, an alien superhero team whose planet is being “invaded” by the Fantastic Four. Therefore, most of the Fantastic Four’s dialogue in the issue is written in illegible symbols. It’s easy, but tedious, to translate these symbols into English, and so this issue took forever to read. The most notable thing about the Unparallelled’s planet is that all its inhabitants are assigned a future spouse at puberty, and one of the Unparalleled thinks that Johnny Storm is her intended. I’m curious to see where this plotline goes.

MARVEL COMICS #1001 (Marvel, 2019) – numerous stories, [W] Al Ewing et al, [A] various. This is basically a collection of all the extra material that couldn’t be included in Marvel Comics #1000. As with Marvel Comics #1000, the vignettes in #1000 are a mixed bag. Some of them are brilliant, like Marc Sumerak’s return to the Fantastic Four, or Amanda Conner’s Tigra story. Others, like Will Murray and Derek Charm’s Squirrel Girl story, are pretty bad. Notably, this issue includes a story about Kamala Khan, which addresses one of the major complaints about Marvel Comics #1000.

SEA OF STARS #4 (Image, 2019) – “Lost in the Wild Heavens,” [W] Jason Aaron & Dennis Hallum, [A] Stephen Green. Kadyn meets an alien woman named Dalla the Despised who thinks he’s her people’s messiah, Quasarro. It turns out the alien artifact that Kadyn touched, back in issue 1, was Quasarro’s war club. Meanwhile, Gil is pursued by some alien hunters who belong to the same race as Dalla. So the overall plot of this series is finally becoming clear.

STAR PIG #3 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Delilah Dawson, [A] Francesco Gaston. I just saw Delilah Dawson and her collaborator Kevin Hearne at an event at Park Road Books in Charlotte. They mostly talked about their novels, but I asked her a question about how she writes differently for comics and for prose. I also bought a copy of her first novel with Kevin Hearne, Kill the Farm Boy. In Star Pig #3, Vess meets a cute alien boy, Theo, whose people’s culture is based on Earth popular culture. But it looks like Theo is some kind of carnivorous monster in disguise. This issue includes a lot of cute moments, such as a scene where Vess tries on a bunch of funny costumes (this reminds me of the clothes-generator sequence in X-Men #157).

MANIFEST DESTINY #37 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. This series has been on hiatus for so long that I was afraid it was cancelled. But I saw Matthew Roberts at Heroes Con and he assured me it was coming back, and I’m glad that he was telling the truth. This issue, the Corps of Discovery has survived a harsh winter and Pryor’s attempted rebellion, but as spring begins, they encounter a giant underground mammalian worm. Also, Sacagawea’s baby is adorable, but Sacagawea is showing a notable lack of interest in motherhood.

FUTURE FOUNDATION #3 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Will Robson & Paco Diaz. Rikki Barnes’s origin is explained, and we learn that she previously appeared in Jeremy’s Exiles series. The FF escape from the alien planet, but they’re not out of trouble yet, and one of the prisoners they rescued is actually Lyja the Lazerfist. It’s a bit hard to care about this series when it’s ending in just two more issues.

LOIS LANE #4 (DC, 2019) – “Enemy of the People Part 4,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Mike Perkins. This issue begins with a really cute scene with Lois and Jon. Given how last issue ended, I expected this encounter to be much more awkward than it was. It’s nice that Lois and Jon are so comfortable with each other. Jon also tells Lois that he’s been invited to join the Legion. The rest of the issue mostly focuses on the subplots with the Question and the Russian spies.

BIRTHRIGHT #40 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Little Mikey has an unproductive discussion with Mastema. The five wizards try to recreate the spell separating Earth from Terrenos, but it fails. Samael stabs Mastema, and monsters from Terrenos start pouring into Earth. This series has about 10 issues left, and is heading towards an epic conclusion.

DIE #8 (Image, 2019) – “Legacy Heroes,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans. We’re back in Angria. Ash explains how she has an 18-year-old son. Matt goes to meet some other knights representing other emotions. At the end, Isabelle shows up in Angria – but without Chuck. This issue was rather low-key, compared to the previous few issues.

IMMORTAL HULK #24 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Steel Throne,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. The Hulk finally defeats Reginald Fortean and somehow absorbs Fortean’s personality into himself. The Hulk becomes the new commander of Fortean’s base. In two scenes at the beginning and end of the issue, we see that the Hulk will be the last survivor of this universe, like how Galactus was the last survivor of the previous universe. Oh, also, the second to last survivor will be Mr. Immortal. That’s both silly and entirely logical.

NO ONE LEFT TO FIGHT #4 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Aubrey Sitterson, [A] Fico Ossio. Vale, Timor and Krysta finally reach the home of their old friends Quon and Kaya. More relationship drama ensues. At the end of the issue, Hierophant shows up and resurrects Bruton, the ultimate villain. Just one issue left in this very entertaining series.

BERSERKER UNBOUND #3 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Mike Deodato Jr. Some other homeless dudes try to steal the old man’s stuff, but the Mongrel King drives them off. Then the Mongrel King’s old enemies show up. This whole miniseries has been awful; it’s far below Jeff’s usual standards. I think the problem is that Mike Deodato draws very few panels per page, so there’s not enough room in each issue for any real plot or characterization.

GREEN LANTERN #12 (DC, 2019) – “Return of the Qwa-Man,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. Hal battles the Qwa-Man, his own antimatter counterpart, who is executing the plan of Controller Mu. Hal almost gets killed, but is saved at the last minute by his fellow Blackstars. The Blackstars tell Hal that he’s the final component in the doomsday device they’ve been creating throughout the series, which they call the Miracle Machine. This leads into the next miniseries, Blackstars. Grant Morrison’s Green Lantern has been amazing, and he may even be the best Green Lantern writer since Steve Englehart.

POWERS IN ACTION #3 (Action Lab, 2019) – “The Dusk of Vortexial Time!”, [W/A] Art Baltazar. Just a generic kid-oriented superhero comic. I guess that makes sense because Art created all these characters when he himself was a kid.

EVERYTHING #2 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “The Evil That Never Arrived,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] I.N.J. Culbard. Another difficult and confusing issue, partly because it has no main character; in fact, none of the characters are memorable at all. The plot seems to be that the mall is causing people to go insane and die, and the Mr. Bear dolls from the toy store are somehow responsible.

MARVEL ACTION: BLACK PANTHER #3 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kyle Baker, [A] Juan Samu. T’Challa and his friends defeat the evil businessman’s plot to take over Wakanda. The businessman is revealed as King Cadaver, a villain created by Don McGregor and Billy Graham. This story was okay, but it was neither a great Black Panther comic nor a great Kyle Baker comic.

ABSOLUTE CARNAGE: IMMORTAL HULK #1 (Marvel, 2 019) – untitled, [W] Al Ewing, [A] Filipe Andrade. Bruce Banner wakes up with no memory of where he’s been, and discovers that the Hulk has manipulated him into tracking down the stolen corpse of Thunderbolt Ross. Also, Hulk gets infected with the Venom symbiote. This issue is much better than Absolute Carnage: Miles Morales, and is worth reading even though I have no interest in the Absolute Carnage crossover. This issue’s narrative strategy is very effective: when Bruce wakes up, he doesn’t know what’s going on, any more than the reader does, and the reader and Bruce discover the situation together.

THE DREAMING #14 (DC, 2019) – “Shevirat, the Shattering,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. This issue reunites Spurrier with his brilliant artistic collaborator from Coda. After a one-issue interlude, we’re back to the main storyline, as Dora plays a game with a demon in order to learn some answers about her origin. The twist is that Dora is really playing two demons at once, and using each of their moves against the other. As a reward for winning, Dora learns that the man who “broke her” is a certain Hyperion Keter, who is now on his deathbed.

CANTO #5 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. Canto and his friends battle three flying women. This sequence was hard to follow because I didn’t realize there were three of them and not one. Then Canto confronts the Shrouded Man. I don’t understand this issue’s plot, and I wish I’d read issues 2 and 3.

COPRA #1 (Image, 2019) – “End of Complications,” [W/A] Michel Fiffe. This issue is the major-publisher debut of a long-running self-published comic. Copra is an homage to John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad, but it’s drawn in a radically experimental style, with scratchy artwork, weird page layouts, and innovative drawing techniques. It’s the leading example of a contemporary school of comics that’s influenced by both ‘90s mainstream comics and alternative comics – by both Rob Liefeld and Gary Panter, so to speak. Other representatives of this school include Ed Piskor, Tom Scioli, Charles Forsman, and Ben Marra. I’ve read the first two Copra trade paperbacks, and I have the next two, but I don’t remember much about the plot. Luckily, this issue is pretty accessible, and it includes biographies of the main characters and plot summaries of all the self-published issues. Michel Fiffe’s artwork in this issue is not as radical as in early issues of Copra, but it’s more interesting than his artwork in GI Joe or Bloodstrike Brutalists. Part of the fun in this series is identifying which Marvel and DC characters the members of Copra are based on.

ALL-TIME COMICS: ZEROSIS DEATHSCAPE #4 (All Time, 2019) – “To Annihilate the Future!”, [W] Josh Bayer & Josh Simmons, [A] Julia Gfrörrer & Trevor von Eeden. As with last issue, this issue’s first nine pages are much more interesting than pages 10 to 32. In this issue, Julia Gfrörer, whose work I haven’t seen before, draws a sequence in which a superheroine battles a villain called the Misogynist. In the rest of the issue, Trevor von Eeden’s work reminds me of Neal Adams’s late-period work for Continuity Comics.

Older comics:

WHERE IS JAKE ELLIS? #4 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Nathan Edmondson, [A] Tonci Zonjic. This is the first Jake Ellis comic I’ve read, and it was a poor place to start; its plot makes no sense out of context. Tonci Zonjic’s art is good, but not good enough to carry the whole plot by itself. I bought the TPB of the previous miniseries, Who Is Jake Ellis, but I never read it. And now I’m disinclined to read it because I’ve learned that Nathan Edmondson is a sexual predator.

ENIGMA #5 (Vertigo, 1993) – “Lizards and Ghosts,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Duncan Fegredo. The Interior League and Envelope Girl continue to murder people. Titus Bird and Michael Smith go to Arizona to investigate. It becomes clear that all the Enigma’s villains have something to do with lizards. This is another good issue, but it doesn’t contain any major revelations or plot twists.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Winter in America: Part V,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Leinil Francis Yu. Cap fights the Taskmaster, and there’s also another plot involving Selene and Aleksander Lukin. TNC’s Captain America was really boring, and I wish I had stopped ordering it much sooner t hani did.

SUICIDE SQUAD #30 (DC, 1989) – “Endgame,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] John K. Snyder. This is part ten of “The Janus Directive,” a crossover in which Suicide Squad and Checkmate teamed up against Kobra. This issue, the president orders a nuclear strike against Kobra’s base, but Captain Atom prevents it. Also, Lois Lane gets hit with a pie. This is a thrilling and well-written comic, which still makes sense even without having read parts 1 through 9. However, it’s a bit ironic that Copra has far better art than the actual Suicide Squad comic ever had.

COMET #2 (Archie, 1983) – untitled, [W] Bill Dubay, [A] Carmine Infantino. A ponderous and confusing comic, which makes a noble attempt to use the superhero genre to address the issue of child abuse, but ultimately collapses under its own weight. The plot is tough to follow because there are a ton of characters who aren’t adequately introduced to the reader, including two different Comets. Also, at the end of the issue, the Comet is shamed for not forgiving his abusive father before the latter dies. That’s a bad message to send. Children of abusers should not be forced to forgive their parents. This issue is inked by Alex Niño, whose style was a poor match for Infantino’s, though Infantino himself wasn’t much good by this point in his career.

CROSSING MIDNIGHT #1 (Vertigo, 2006) – “The Shrine Part 1 of 3,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Jim Fern. This was an ongoing series, though it only lasted 19 issues. This first issue introduces Kai and Toshi, two Japanese teenagers whose grandmother is an atomic bomb survivor. As they grow up, Kai and Toshi discover that they have some strange abilities, and ultimately they learn that this is because, before their birth, they were dedicated as offerings to a rather nasty kami. Crossing Midnight is a comic about Japan by a non-Japanese writer, but unlike David Mack in Kabuki (see previous post), it feels like Mike Carey has genuinely done his research. For example, at one point in the issue we see Toshi reading Pink, a classic manga that hadn’t been published in English at the time. Jim Fern’s art in this issue is the best of his career, though he’s had a mediocre career.

SWEET SIXTEEN #5 (Marvel, 1991) – “What Can I Get a Princess?” and other vignettes, [W/A] Barbara Slate. More stories that follow the typical Sweet XVI formula. One of these stories is mildly progressive because it shows a girl beating some sexist boys at sports. I briefly talked about this series with Barbara Slate when I interviewed her, and I hope to write about it in more detail elsewhere.

ENIGMA #6 (DC, 1993) – “The End of the World,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Duncan Fegredo. This issue we finally start to understand Enigma’s origin: as a child, he fell into a well and couldn’t get out, and sustained himself by eating lizards. The issue ends with the pivotal moment of the entire series, when Enigma helps Michael realize that he’s gay, and that his angry reaction to Titus Bird in #3 was the result of his own internalized homophobia. This is a powerful moment. At the time, it may have been the most realistic and sensitive coming-out scene that had yet been portrayed in a commercial comic book. It’s still an impressive scene now, when depictions of LGBTQ people in comics are far more common. The letter column includes editor Art Young’s comments on the allegedly homophobic scene in #3. I wonder if I might write about Enigma for that upcoming roundtable on paratexts in comics. I want to contribute to that, but no topic has come to mind yet.

THE WALKING DEAD #163 (Image, 2017) – “Conquered,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Charlie Adlard. Rick Grimes’s city gets attacked by a huge horde of zombies. This is an exciting issue. However, it was published as a special 25-cent issue for new readers, but it’s not as accessible as it could have been. It doesn’t include a plot summary or profiles of the characters, and I had trouble recognizing any of the characters, even Rick.

THE CAPE: GREATEST HITS #1 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jason Ciaramella, [A] Zach Howard. This is an adaptation of a short story by Joe Hill. The protagonist, Eric, is a lazy, childish ne’er-do-well who sponges off his girlfriend until she can’t stand him anymore. After moving back into his mother’s basement, Eric discovers a magic flying cape, which he uses to murder his girlfriend. This comic somehow got an Eisner nomination, but it shouldn’t have, because it’s a mean-spirited, offensive piece of crap. I have read so many posts on r/relationships by women complaining about boyfriends like Eric, and in every case, the correct advice is that the woman should just dump the boyfriend. The Cape #1 makes it abundantly clear that Eric is an emotionally stunted manchild and that the girlfriend was right to dump him. But because The Cape #1 follows the visual conventions of superhero comics, the reader is encouraged to identify with Eric and to see his girlfriend as an object to be desired and possessed. Also, Eric is the narrator, which further biases the reader in his favor. As a result, this comic manipulates readers into sympathizing with Eric when they should despise him. Maybe you’re supposed to read this comic and feel ashamed of yourself for identifying with Eric, but if that’s the point, I think readers are likely to miss the point and instead just see Eric as the hero.

IMMORTAL IRON FIST #4 (Marvel, 2007) – “The Last Iron Fist Story Part 4,” [W] Ed Brubaker & Matt Fraction, [A] David Aja w/ Travel Foreman & Derek Fridolfs. Danny Rand fights alongside the previous Iron Fist, Orson Randall, and there’s also a subplot about Davos the Steel Serpent. This is an exciting issue that feels kind of like an actual wuxia film or novel. Pages 9 and 10 of this issue are drawn by a different artist (Derek Fridolfs, I assume) whose style contrasts oddly with that of the rest of the issue.

REVIVAL #6 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Mike Norton. Dana investigates a murder, and there are a bunch of other subplots. The two most notable things in this issue are the scene where Cooper is playing with his toys, and the scene where May Tao talks with an old Hmong woman (in English, oddly).

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #370 (Marvel, 1992) – “Life Stings! Invasion of the Spider-Slayers, Part 3,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] Mark Bagley. Another bad issue of a bad storyline, although at least it’s drawn by a real Spider-Man artist, unlike #366. At least Richard and Mary Parker only appear on a couple pages; most of the issue is devoted to a fight between Spidey, Black Cat and Scorpion. Michelinie wrote Richard and Mary as a pair of aloof, anxious old busybodies, and I doubt if any readers liked them very much. There’s a backup story written by JM DeMatteis in which Aunt May visits Uncle Ben’s grave. This story is a little too syrupy, but it’s better than the main story.

ELEPHANTMEN #8 (Image, 2007) – “Moxa Cautery!”, [W] Richard Starkings, [A] Moritat. This is a gangster story with animal protagonists – so it’s like Blacksad, but with much worse art. There’s also a flip book story starring protagonist Hip Flask’s pet frog, as well as a lot of ancillary materials that are only of interest to hardcore fans. According to Wikipedia, Hip Flask was created to appear in Starkings’s ads for Comicraft, and somehow ended up getting his own comic.

FOUR WOMEN #2 (Image, 2002) – untitled, [W/A] Sam Kieth. Four women driving alone at night are assaulted by a bunch of men who try to break into their car. The artwork in this comic is fairly interesting. However, it’s obvious that Four Women #1 was written by a man. As I observed in my review of issue 1, Four Women feels like a man’s idea of how women talk to other women. This issue is even worse, because Sam Kieth is trying to imagine how women react to being threatened by men, and it doesn’t seem like he has any knowledge of this. He’s just extrapolating from how men would react in an analogous situation. According to Wikipedia, in the rest of the series, the situation escalates even further; one of the women gets raped, and another of them, who is narrating the series, blames herself for it. I guess Sam Kieth deserves credit for being willing to engage with the topic of rape, but he’s just not a good enough writer to be able to tackle a story like this.

B.P.R.D.: THE DEAD REMEMBERED #3 (Dark Horse, 2011) – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola & Scott Allie, [A] Karl Moline. A young Liz Sherman confronts the ghosts of some of the victims of the Salem witch trials. Like most Mignolaverse comics not solely written by Mignola, this issue is okay, but it’s nothing great.

MANHUNTER #27 (DC, 2007) – “Unleashed, Part Two: Chains of Evidence,” [W] Marc Andreyko, [A] Javier Pina & Fernando Blanco. Kate Spencer defends Wonder Woman before a grand jury, there’s a subplot about the Order of Saint Dumas, and the supposedly dead Ted Kord shows up alive. The courtroom sequence in this issue feels very realistic, so much so that it made me think Marc Andreyko was an actual lawyer, although as far as I can tell, he is not.

ENIGMA #7 (Vertigo, 1993) – “Sex in Arizona,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Duncan Fegredo. Michael Smith has sex with the Enigma, and then they try to cure Victoria Yes, who was turned into Envelope Girl. But they’re interrupted by Enigma’s mother, a monstrous hunchback. Enigma’s origin is also revealed in detail, and the issue ends with an impressive splash page depicting the moment where Enigma climbs out of the well and sees the sky for the first time.

HELLBLAZER #113 (Vertigo, 1997) – “You’re Just a…,” [W] Paul Jenkins, [A] Sean Phillips. This issue gets off to a promising start, as John talks with Bran the Blessed, a character from Welsh mythology. But after that, the story descends into incoherence.

POWER & GLORY #2 (Malibu, 1994) – untitled, [W/A] Howard Chaykin. The government creates a new superhero, Allan Powell, but he turns out to be a distasteful, incompetent jerk who hates being touched. So his handler, Michael Gorski, has to do all the actual superhero stuff. I have little interest in Chaykin’s current work, because it’s problematic for a lot of reasons that I don’t want to go into. This issue has some problems too; for example, it includes a scene which would be considered transphobic today, in which a transvestite uses a urinal next to a man. Still, Power & Glory is interesting, and it may have been Chaykin’s last truly major work.

QUANTUM & WOODY #0 (Valiant, 2014) – “Get Your Goat” and other vignettes, [W] James Asmus, [A] Tom Fowler. This is billed as “Quantum & Woody: Goat” on the cover. It depicts the origin of Quantum and Woody’s goat, and its doomed romance with Dolly the cloned sheep. It’s written in the same style as the classic Q&W series, with a bunch of vignettes in non-chronological order. However, James Asmus is not nearly as funny a writer as Priest.

JOE KUBERT PRESENTS #4 (DC, 2013) – The Redeemer in “The Golden Warrior,” [W/A] Joe Kubert, plus two other stories. This issue’s first story introduces The Redeemer, a character who has multiple lives in various eras. It was drawn in 1983 but never published. It’s okay, but it’s indistinguishable from any other Kubert comic, and it takes too much of a both-sides attitude toward the Civil War. This issue also includes an Angel and Ape story by Brian Buniak, which is not well written but has amazing art. This artist deserves to be better known. There’s also a USS Stevens story by Sam Glanzman, but it’s extremely text-heavy and doesn’t have much of a plot.

FLASH #32 (DC, 1989) – “Welcome to Keystone City,” [W] William Messner-Loebs, [A] Greg LaRocque. Wally, Piper and Mason move to the impoverished Keystone City. There they encounter two villains named Sloe and Steddy (heh) who have kidnapped Piper’s family. This issue is okay, but not nearly as good as an average issue by Mark Waid.

GLADSTONE’S SCHOOL FOR WORLD CONQUERORS #4 (Image, 2011) – untitled, [W] Mark Andrew Smith, [A] Armand Villavert. This comic has excellent art and some cute character moments, but it’s mostly a long fight scene whose context is unclear.

STATIC #26 (Milestone, 1995) – “Two Tickets to Paradise,” [W] Ivan Velez Jr, [A] Wilfred. This is part of the “Long Hot Summer” crossover. The premise of this crossover a giant state-of-the-art theme park opens in the middle of Dakota’s black neighborhood, whose inhabitants are mostly unable to pay to get into the park. The racial implications of this are obvious; there’s a literal giant wall separating Utopia Park from the housing projects and condemned buildings surrounding it. This issue also has some nice character moments, including a scene with Virgil and his girlfriend Daisy. I need to read more Milestone comics.

BOX OFFICE POISON #15 (Antarctic, 1999) – multiple vignettes, [W/A] Alex Robinson. Last issue ended on a cliffhanger when Sherman’s girlfriend Dorothy asked to move in with him. This issue, Sherman says no, and Dorothy is not happy. Then Sherman goes to work at a bookstore, encountering rude customers and a mean new boss, and then he runs into his deadbeat asshole of a father. The issue ends with a cathartic moment in which Sherman tells his dad off. I really enjoyed this issue. Like Martin Wagner, Alex Robinson is heavily influenced by Dave Sim, but he has a distinctive style of art, and he shows a solid understanding of both male and female characters. I really need to read more Box Office Poison. I started reading the collected edition on my Kindle, but never finished it, and I hate reading comics on screens anyway. I should probably just try to collect all the single issues of it. Alex Robinson is an excellent cartoonist, and it’s unfortunate how his work doesn’t seem to have much of an audience at the moment.

ENIGMA #8 (Vertigo, 1993) – “Queer,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Duncan Fegredo. This issue wraps up all the loose ends, and reveals that Enigma created all of the villains. The series concludes on a cliffhanger as Enigma, Michael and Titus confront Enigma’s mother. And then we learn that the narrator of the series was one of the lizards from Enigma’s well. Like all of Peter Milligan’s comics, Enigma is quite difficult to follow, but it’s one of the most satisfying and artistically successful things he’s done. It deserves to be more widely read.

Thanks to “severe staffing issues” at DCBS, I again received two comics shipments in one week. The first one arrived on Wednesday, October 16:

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #49 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. The “penNUTimate issue” consists of a long fight scene, complete with a “chance-of-winning-the-big-fight-scene-o-meter” that swings back and forth between bad guys, good guys and “anyone’s guess.” Just as Doreen and her friends are getting stomped, there’s a heartwarming plot twist when the cavalry arrives, consisting of all the former villains that Doreen turned into friends. Except then Doreen has to throw herself on top of a bomb. Just one more issue to go in this incredible series.

THESE SAVAGE SHORES #5 (Vault, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ram V, [A] Sumit Kumar. Bishan and Kori travel to England and defeat the evil vampire, but Kori is a vampire herself now, so their romance is ruined. The twist ending of this issue made a lot more sense after I Googled “Andhana” and discovered that he was a demon who created new copies of himself whenever his blood touched the ground. This is another example of Ram V’s trust in his readers: this comic requires some knowledge of Indian culture and history, and Ram trusts his readers to acquire that knowledge. Ram has deservedly gotten some higher-profile assignments as a result of this miniseries, but Sumit Kumar should also be praised for his thrilling fight scenes and realistic, moody settings.

MAGNIFICENT MS. MARVEL #8 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Joey Vazquez. Kamala defeats Josh, Becky and “Uncle Brett,” whose funny gimmick is that he’s a supervillain who looks and talks just like a techbro. The message of this story is that “growth is usually a good thing … but growth can be something else – something terrible.”

USAGI YOJIMBO #5 (IDW, 2019) – “The Hero, Part Two,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Because of Japanese patriarchy, Lady Mura’s dad is forced to return her to her jealous, abusive husband, who promptly has her killed. This outcome was foreshadowed at the start of the issue, when Usagi wishes the hero and heroine of Mura’s novel could have lived happily ever after, and she says, “That is not our tradition… in our stories the hero never gets the girl at the end.” (See Ivan Morris’s The Nobility of Failure.) Lady Mura has her revenge from beyond the grave, when her husband discovers that she’s more famous than he is, and kills himself in shame. “The Hero” is a heartbreaking tale of a woman killed by her society’s sexism, and it shows that Stan is still the finest storyteller in American comics.

OUTER DARKNESS #11 (Image, 2019) – “Castrophany of Hate Pt. 11: Shore Leave,” [W] John Layman, [A] Afu Chan. Rigg is on the verge of killing Satalis when the ship arrives at its station. Over Prakash’s objections, Rigg treats his crew to a liquor-fueled orgy with alien sex priests. Prakash’s dad orders Rigg to recover the spirit of a dead leader of the Dryx, the race with which the humans are at war. Rigg knocks out Dryx’s dad and returns to his ship, where his crew are being massacred by the alien sex priests. Rigg obviously has some kind of bizarre and devious plan, and I can’t wait to find out what it is.

BLACK HAMMER/JUSTICE LEAGUE: HAMMER OF JUSTICE #4 (DC/Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Michael Walsh. Mr. Mxyzptlk is revealed as the villain behind it all, and he tells the heroes that they can only return to their worlds if they all agree to – including Golden Gail, who’s just been restored to her normal age. This has been a reasonably good miniseries.

WONDER WOMAN #80 (DC, 2019) – “Loveless Part 4,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Jesús Merino & Tom Derenick. Diana is about to defeat Cheetah, but discovers that Veronica Cale betrayed her, and the beaker that was supposed to defeat Cheetah only made her more powerful. So Diana is screwed. With so few issues left in Willow’s run, I’d have appreciated more of a focus on her supporting cast; I’m not in love with either Veronica or Cheetah.

RONIN ISLAND #7 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Giannis Milogiannis. In a series of flashbacks, we see the younger Hana and Kenichi learning to work as a team to defend the island. In the present, Hana finally gives up on Sato and stabs him. I keep remembering her line “I gave you so many chances.” Then Hana and Kenichi finally decide to start working together. This series has been extremely grim, with the situation worsening each issue. But in #7, it finally seems like Hana and Kenichi understand what they should be doing.

BATTLEPUG #2 (Image, 2019) – “War on Christmas Part II,” [W/A] Mike Norton. The Kinmundian meets the queen of the Northland Elves, i.e. Mrs. Claus. Meanwhile, the other characters encounter an old dude who says “scribbly” and “scrabbly” after every sentence, and then a herd of mean pastel-colored ponies. I don’t quite understand this series’ style of humor yet, but I like it so far.

WONDER TWINS #8 (DC, 2019) – “Reunions,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mike Norton. How did he manage to draw two comic books in one month? Anyway, this issue is the principal’s high school reunion, and while there he has to confront the librarian, who used to be his girlfriend. They don’t get back together, but their reunion is a sweet moment. Also, Polly Math breaks out of prison, and Zan tells her that he has a plan to get her father back.

GINSENG ROOTS #1 (Uncivilized, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Craig Thompson. I have mixed feelings about Craig Thompson. I used to love Blankets, but I haven’t read it in years, and I don’t think it holds up well. It’s a very young man’s book, and its gender politics are rather simplistic. I still haven’t read Habibi or Space Dumplins. Someone suggested to me recently that his best book was actually Carnet de Voyage, and that may be true. Luckily, Ginseng Roots is more like Carnet de Voyage than like Blankets. It’s a slow-paced, muted meditation on Craig’s youth, when he worked on a ginseng farm. It reveals that Craig still has the best linework of any American cartoonist; his draftsmanship is just heart-achingly beautiful. In this issue he draws upon Chinese visual culture, e.g. ink painting and calligraphy, but he does it in a way that feels respectful rather than appropriative. Ginseng Roots suggests that Craig is continuing to evolve as an artist. For selfish reasons, I’m also glad he published it in the comic book format, although I wish it had been the standard comic book size, so it would have fit in my boxes.

CATWOMAN #16 (DC, 2019) – “Year of the Villain…?”, [W/A] Joëlle Jones. I’m surprised Joëlle Jones is back; I had thought Ram V was the new permanent writer. And it’s an especially pleasant surprise that she drew this issue as well as writing it. In this issue Selina visits a children’s party to look for Raina Creel. There’s also a silent backup story in which Selina uses the Lazarus Pit to revive herself. I don’t understand why she was dying in the first place, but I love how her cat saves her, not by doing anything but by shaming her into getting up and saving herself.

EDGAR ALLAN POE’S SNIFTER OF TERROR SEASON TWO #2 (Ahoy, 2019) – “The Tell-Tale Black Cask of Usher,” [W/A] Dean Motter. The first volume of this series was the only Ahoy title I didn’t read. As its title indicates, this issue is a humorous mashup of a bunch of different Poe stories. It’s cleverly written and funny, and shows evidence of historical research, but Dean Motter’s art style is too slick and polished for me.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #14 (DC, 2019) – “Wicked Burn, Part 2,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson & Dan Watters, [A] Matthew Dow Smith. Djuna’s marriage gets worse, and the firebreathing chicken gets more aggressive. Damballah reappears at the end. There wasn’t much in this issue that wasn’t already in issue 13, but I do like this comic’s dialogue. It includes some Caribbean English words (like “rahtid”) that I had to look up.

COLLAPSER #4 (DC, 2019) – “Manic,” [W] Mikey Way & Shaun Simon. This comic has some excellent art, like the splash panel on page 3. But Collapser is just another standard superhero comic, with no truly new ideas, and I hate its protagonist. I didn’t order issue 5.

ABSOLUTE CARNAGE: MILES MORALES #3 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Federico Vicentini. A complete waste of Saladin’s talents. The only interesting thing in this issue is the scene where Miles saves the shopkeeper and is offered a free pair of sneakers. Otherwise, this comic is so generic that anybody could have written it.

IMMORTAL HULK DIRECTOR’S CUT #5 (Marvel, 2019) – “In Every Mirror,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. Sasquatch is possessed by the spirit of Bruce Banner’s dad. Hulk defeats him, but somehow removes Walter’s ability to turn into Sasquatch. Hulk looks into a mirror and sees his dad’s face. Something weird is going on here. I don’t understand how the Hulk absorbed his father’s personality, but it must have been the same way that he absorbed Reginald Fortean in issue 24. I almost wish Immortal Hulk Director’s Cut was continuing after this issue, because I’m still missing issues #7 and #9-15.

GHOSTED IN L.A. #4 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Sina Grace, [A] Siobhan Keenan. In a flashback, we see that Maurice was a toxic asshole all his life, until he thankfully died from a fall. After death, he continues to be a toxic asshole, forcing the other ghosts to exorcise him to protect Daphne. Then the ghost of the just-deceased rock star Zola Tesla appears in the mansion. A nice moment in this issue is when the ghosts tell Daphne to put flowers on a grave, and she also puts a stone on the grave, as is the Jewish custom. I hadn’t even realized Daphne was Jewish.

DOOM PATROL: WEIGHT OF THE WORLDS #4 (DC, 2019) – “Whatever Happened to Destiny Beach?”, [W] Gerard Way & Jeremy Lambert, [A] Nick Pitarra. This series appears to have been cancelled. That’s too bad, but its chronic lateness may be partly to blame. This issue, Flex Mentallo wins a bizarre fitness competition and is exiled into space. Meanwhile, Cliff Steele becomes Cliff Fixit. Nick Pitarra’s artwork in this issue is extremely hyper-detailed. Despite having had several artists, this version of Doom Patrol has had a very consistent graphic style thanks to Tamara Bonvillain’s coloring.

DEADPOOL VS. X-FORCE #1 (Marvel, 2014) – untitled, [W] Duane Swierczynski, [A] Pepe Larraz. Deadpool goes back in time to the American Revolution for some reason, and X-Force follows him. This issue takes place before New Mutants #98, though this is not made clear until the info page at the end. I ordered this because it was just 70 cents, and I’m glad I didn’t pay any more for it.

The next shipment arrived on Friday, October 18:

ONCE & FUTURE #3 (Boom!, 2019) – “The King is Undead,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. This issue consists msotly of action sequences, but there are some really fun interactions between Duncan, his grandmother and his girlfriend. In this issue Kieron continues to demonstrate the depth of his knowledge. The name “Clarent” for the sword in the stone seems to be authentic, and the grandmother is correct that Galahad gradually replaced Percival as the hero of the Grail quest. I don’t know if any of my medievalist friends are reading this comic, but they should be.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #2 (Boom!, 2019) – “The Angel of Archer’s Peak Part Two, [W] James Tynion, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. The weird monster hunter girl continues to investigate, and we learn that her stuffed octopus toy is actually alive. We’re also introduced to Tommy, the brother of one of the victims. There’s also a reference to how millennials are killing Applebee’s. I read this comic while I was exhausted after returning from work, but I liked it.

STEEPLE #2 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] John Allison. Billie tries to befriend some delinquent teens, and also tries to make peace between the reverend and the sea monsters. Again, I was falling asleep while I read this comic, so I don’t remember it well, but it was pretty good.

SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #4 (DC, 2019) – “The Crazy Board of Irresponsible Blogger Timmy Olsen,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Steve Lieber. Jimmy disguises himself as Timmy, a YouTube prankster. Jimmy shows Lois his cork board, which contains his evidence that Luthor is conspiring to take control of all the data in Metropolis, and that Luthor is trying to kill Jimmy because he knows about this plan. There are a lot of great moments in this issue (like Jimmy’s reference to “Ocean’s Razor,” and this series continues to be fascinating.

GIDEON FALLS #17 (Image, 2019) – “The Pentoculus: Part 1 of 5 ‘Forever and Ever,’” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. Danny/Norton and Father Fred have now switched places. Father Fred meets the bishop, who’s constructed some kind of bizarre dimensional transport machine. Meanwhile, Danny/Norton’s father has a bizarre vision which is depicted on solid black backgrounds with red lineworks, and then he wakes up and kills someone with a knife and fork. That description notwithstanding, his is actually not the weirdest issue of Gideon Falls.

TREES: THREE FATES #2 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Jason Howard. Sergeant Klara continues to investigate the murder, and while visiting the tree, she sees her ex-boyfriend Sasha. Then there’s a flashback to a conversation they had eleven years ago. This issue is a really quick read.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #83 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Thom Zahler, [A] Kate Sherron. Twilight and Spike investigate the theft of the racing turtle Silver Blaze. This whole issue is a parody of the Sherlock Holmes story “The Adventure of Silver Blaze,” and it’s full of Holmesian puns, including some that I probably missed. For example, the police detective is Leigh Strade (Lestrade) of Trotland Yard. The climactic turtle race is as funny as one would expect.

AQUAMAN #53 (DC, 2019) – “Amnesty, Part 4:StrangeBeasts,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Robson Rocha & Eduardo Paniccia. Aquaman confronts Tristan Maurer. Mera, now visibly pregnant, heads to Amnesty Bay to track down the ship that invadedAtlantis. Arthur and Mera barely get to confront each other before they’re interrupted by Black Manta’s attack. The same symbol appears on the last pages of this issue and Catwoman #16. This symbol must have something to do with the Year of the Villain crossover.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #11 (Marvel, 2019) – “Falling Star Conclusion,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Carmen Carnero. Star almost kicks Carol’s ass, but Hazmat arrives to save the day, and then Carol beats Star by pulling out her syphon… I think. I don’t quite understand what Carol did. The fight is televised nationwide, restoring Carol’s reputation. This was perhaps Kelly’s best issue yet, thanks to the high stakes of the fight and the very real sense that Carol could lose. I especially love the scene where the little girl jumps between Carol and Star. By knocking the girl down, Star demonstrates how far she’s gone off the deep end.

HISTORY OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE #4 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Javier Rodriguez. This issue covers everything from X-Men #101 to Onslaught. That’s 20-plus years of stories summarized in a single comic book. There’s no way to synthesize so many different comics into a single overarching narrative, and Mark doesn’t really try. Also, as far as I could tell, there was no new information in this issue. As a result, although Javier Rodriguez’s artwork is as brilliant as ever, HOTMU #4 was tedious to read.

ARCHIE: THE MARRIED LIFE 10TH ANNIVERSARY #3 (Archie, 2019) – “The Only Thing Constant is Change!” and “New York, New York – A Hell of a Town!”, [W] Michael Uslan, [A] Dan Parent. In the first story, Veronica is coerced into taking over her father’s company. In the second story, Archie is offered his big break in the music business, but only if he spends the whole year on the road. The problem with both these stories is that they try to have realistic plots about adult characters, but they’re drawn in the Archie house style, and this combination doesn’t work for me. When Archie and Veronica talk about work and marriage counseling, but they’re drawn like the teenage Archie and Veronica, it’s hard to take them seriously. NY Times comics journalist George Gene Gustines appears in this issue.

REVENGER HALLOWEEN SPECIAL 2019 #1 (Floating World, 2019) – “Mala Carne,” [W/A] Charles Forsman. Revenger is not to be confused with Slasher. I’ve read one previous issue of Revenger, but I don’t remember much about it. Revenger appears to be some kind of monster hunter. In this issue she encounters a little girl who’s been turned into a vampire, and the girl accompanies her while she kills a bunch of other vampires. “Mala Carne” is a pretty standard adventure comic, but it’s drawn in an alternative-comics style – see my review of Copra #1 above – and it’s very exciting. I wish more alternative cartoonists would publish their work in the comic book format.

MARVEL ACTION: BLACK PANTHER #4 (Marvel, 2019) – “King for a Day,” [W] Vita Ayala, [A] Arianna Florean. T’Challa exchanges places with one of his subjects, a vibranium worker, and uncovers corruption in the vibranium industry. This comic depicts Wakanda as too much of a utopia (something which Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Black Panther has avoided) and has too little conflict. Also, T’Challa’s behavior is stupid. He realizes his boss is corrupt, but tries to expose the corruption immediately, thus exposing himself to danger. It would have been much smarter to expose the corruption after he was back in his palace.

STRAYED #3 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “Oblivia,” [W] Carlos Giffoni, [A] Juan Doe. Lou the cat meets the creator of the flowers and learns what they are, but on returning to his body, he falls into a coma. Meanwhile, we see more of Premier Peely’s plot for universal domination. As hinted on the letters page, this whole story is an allegory about colonialism. The alien in this issue can understand Lou, so Lou gets a few lines of dialogue. I would rather Lou didn’t talk, but at least he talks like a cat. The artwork and coloring in this issue are gorgeous, though at times, like on page one, it’s hard to figure out what I’m looking at.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #10 (Marvel, 2019) – “Dark Cavern, Dark Crystal,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Alan Davis. Roy Thomas is the greatest Conan comics writer, and this issue shows that he still writes Conan as well as ever. This issue, two Corinthians hire Conan to lead them through the lands of the Afghulis in search of a treasure. While on the trip, Conan tries to make himself the chief of the Afghulis, but they decide to hang him from a tree instead. The high point of this issue takes place at the start, right after Conan has killed a man in a bar fight. The two Corinthians come into the bar and approach Conan, mistaking him for someone named Guptar. Conan points to the corpse of the man he just killed and says “That’s Guptar.”

ADVENTURE FINDERS: THE EDGE OF EMPIRE #3 (Action Lab, 2019) – “The Tireless Pursuit – No Rest for the Harried,” [W/A] Rod Espinosa. Some soldiers try to save Clari and her companions from the enemy Verbolgs. But the soldiers’ leader gets killed, and his second-in-command decides to retreat, leaving Clari alone in enemy territory with a few exhausted soldiers and a bunch of nuns and small children. This is the best Rod Espinosa comic I’ve read yet. It creates a real sense of the terror and exhaustion of warfare. I still think Rod’s backgrounds are too obviously computer-generated.

THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU #2 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ted Adams, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. On Facebook, I recently wrote: “When adapting a prose novel or story into a comic, the single biggest mistake you can make is to keep too much of the original text.” I had this specific comic in mind when I wrote that. In adapting The Island of Dr. Moreau,Ted Adams retains way too much of H.G. Wells’s text, resulting in a very slow-paced comic with no sense of narrative momentum. Also, Wells’s prose style doesn’t match Rodriguez’s art style. Ellie looks like a 21st-century woman, but she speaks in Victorian English. On top of that, Rodriguez’s storytelling is very unclear, and I was never quite able to follow the plot of the novel. Overall, this is an awful comic. While Gabriel Rodriguez’s draftsmanship is as amazing as it always is, his time would have been better spent working on something else.

TRUE BELIEVERS: UNCANNY X-MEN – JUBILEE #1 (Marvel, 2019) –“Ladies’ Night,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Marc Silvestri. This reprints Uncanny X-Men #244, one of the only late Claremont issues that I don’t have. This issue is most notable as the first appearance of Jubilee, but there are a few other notable things about it. First, it only includes the female X-Men, while issue #245 only included the male X-Men. Both issues were parodies: #245 was a parody of DC’s Invasion, and #244 includes a group of villains named M-Squad who are obviously based on the Ghostbusters. One of the M-Squad members even says that they left New York and changed jobs. The individual M-Squad members are all based on science fiction writers who were Claremont’s fellow contributors to the Wild Cards anthology series. One of the M-Squad is based on George R.R. Martin, already a veteran SF writer but not yet an international celebrity. Besides all that, this is a really fun issue, but it’s about as ‘90s as you can get. The whole issue takes place in a mall, and it’s full of cheesecake imagery and made-up ‘90s slang.

THE DARK TOWER: THE DRAWING OF THE THREE/REVENGE SAMPLER #1 (Marvel, 2014) – two untitled stories. This free flipbook comic includes previews of two upcoming Marvel graphic novels. Half of the issue is a preview of an adaptation of Stephen King’s The Drawing of the Three, but it’s an unlettered preview, so it made no sense at all. The other is a preview of something called Revenge, but I couldn’t understand this preview either, even though it did include dialogue.

ALL-NEW BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #7 (DC, 2011) – “Shadows & Light,” [W] Sholly Fisch, [A] Rick Burchett. Batman teams up with a distrustful Alan Scott and ends up convincing Alan of his good intentions. This issue is a quick and reasonably fun read.

KING KONG #1 (Fantagraphics, 1991) – untitled, [W/A] Don Simpson. I think I bought this comic because of its gorgeous Dave Stevens cover, but it’s a good comic in its own right. Although I don’t remember much about the original King Kong movie, I get the sense that Don Simpson’s adaptation adds a lot to the movie. I feel like he explores the personalities and motivations of the characters more deeply than the original film did. He also draws some really expressive faces. This comic includes some mildly offensive depictions of indigenous people, but King Kong is an inherently racist text anyway.

ELFQUEST: SHARDS #14 (WaRP, 1996) – “Reunion,” [W/A] Wendy Pini, [W] Richard Pini. This is a black-and-white comic, but a previous owner seems to have colored in some of the pages with colored pencils. “Reunion” would have been an exciting comic if I had been able to follow the story. Its plot involves Winnowill and Grohmul Djun and the Palace and the Scroll of Colors and a lot of other stuff. I’ve never been able to understand the large-scale structure of Elfquest’s plot, and I’m not sure it’s worth trying.

CRITTERS #16 (Fantagraphics, 1987) – “Return of the Wizard,” [W/A] Stan Sakai, plus two other stories. This issue begins with a Nilson and Hermy story in which a wizard tries to kill the two heroes, but Nilson kills him instead. This story is funny, but it’s far from Stan’s best. Most of the issue is devoted to Freddy Milton’s “For the Love of Gnellie, Part 2,” in which Gnuff’s wife Gnellie encounters an old lover. This story is touching and is also extremely Barksian; it’s no surprise that Milton was a longtime Disney artist. The issue ends with a chapter of Steven A. Gallacci’s “Birthright,” a comic I severely dislike because of its minimal artwork and ugly lettering.

BALTIMORE: THE INQUISITOR #nn (Dark Horse, 2013) – “The Inquisitor,” [W] Mike Mignola & Christopher Golden, [A] Ben Steinbeck. During World War I, a judge interviews a prisoner and tells the prisoner his backstory. Just like most Hellboyverse comics, Baltimore: The Inquisitor is stylistically similar to the main Hellboy title, but is not nearly as good. Ben Steinbeck’s style is about as close as you can get to Mignola’s style without being Mignola.

DOOM PATROL/SUICIDE SQUAD SPECIAL #1 (DC, 1988) – “Red Pawn,” [W] John Ostrander & Paul Kupperberg, [A] Erik Larsen. This issue is important in terms of continuity because it includes the deaths of the Thinker, the Weasel, Mr. 104 and Psi. Otherwise, this comic is pure crap. It consists of a single long fight scene in which Doom Patrol tries to rescue Hawk from Nicaragua, while the Suicide Squad tries to kill him. The fight sequences are boring, and there’s no characterization to speak of. This issue is a Suicide Squad comic in name only; the only regular Suicide Squad character in it is Rick Flag, and his teammates are four throwaway characters who all get killed, as noted above. Also, this comic’s politics are very simplistic, and its depiction of Nicaraguans is offensive. There’s one page where a Nicaraguan soldier tells Hawk “Es halcón estación… hawk season!” and then Hawk calls him “taco brain.” Estación means station, not season, and tacos are not a major staple food in Nicaragua (see another example of the same mistake).

FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #33 (Marvel, 2012) – “Through a Dark Glass Paradoxically,” [W/A] Alan Davis. This is the first part of a three-part crossover story starring Alan Davis’s ClanDestine. I bought all three parts when they came out, but never read any of them until now. In this annual, Reed and Sue are on vacation with the kids, and Ben and Johnny are lying unconscious in front of the TV. Then Reed’s interdimensional alarm goes off, and Ben and Johnny are drawn into a time-traveling adventure with Vincent, one of the Destine siblings. Alan’s artwork in this issue is excellent, but the timeline of this issue was very hard to follow, and I didn’t quite understand what w as giong on with Vincent until I read the other two annuals.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #73 (Marvel, 1978) – “A Fluttering of Wings Most Foul!”, [W] Gary Friedrich, [A] Kerry Gammill. This must have been one of Gary Friedrich’s last comics for Marvel. Besides that, there’s not much else about it that’s notable. It’s a formulaic team-up story in which Daredevil and Spider-Man fight the Owl.

THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS #6 (Image, 2012) – “Star City,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Nick Pitarra. I have a large number of unread issues of this series. This issue is a spotlight on Helmut Gröttrup, who, in real life, was an engineer who worked under Wernher von Braun in Nazi Germany, and then under Sergei Koralev in Soviet Russia. In Manhattan Projects’s alternate universe, his history is essentially similar, except that his bosses are working on bizarre science fiction projects, and one of them is a disembodied brain. Whether working for the Nazis or the Soviets, Gröttrup is an abject slave. Manhattan Projects is an interesting series, but it’s never really excited me, which is why I have so many unread issues of it.

ROCKETEER ADVENTURES VOL. 2 #2 (IDW , 2012) – three stories, [E] Scott Dunbier. The most interesting story in this issue is the first one, which has a minimal plot, but excellent artwork and lettering by Colin Wilson. This artist is from New Zealand but has mostly worked for the British and French markets. Next is a story by Paul Dini and Bill Morrison in which a jealous Cliff spies on Betty as she’s making a movie. This story is slight but funny. In the last story, by Walt Simonson and John Paul Leon, Cliff meets Judy Garland.

DAREDEVIL ANNUAL #1 (Marvel, 2012) – “A Tourist in Hell,” [W/A] Alan Davis. Daredevil encounters Kay, aka Cuckoo, another of the Destine children. Vincent’s spirit possesses the Plastoid, a robot that previously appeared in Daredevil #49, and Matt and Kay team up to fight it. This issue is much easier to understand than FF Annual #33, but it’s not Alan’s best work.

THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS #7 (Image, 2012) – “Above and Beyond,” as above. The Soviet characters hold a secret summit with the American characters in order to collaborate on something, I don’t know what. I didn’t quite understand this issue, and I would have a hard time explaining what this series is about.

WOLVERINE ANNUAL #1 (Marvel, 2012) – “The Greater Evil,” [W/A] Alan Davis. The last of the three annuals is the best because it guest-stars Rory and Pandora, the two youngest Destine children. The emotional heart of the ClanDestine saga is Rory and Pandora’s relationships with each other and with their much older siblings. This issue, Rory, Pandora and the rest of the family team up to battle a spirit that might or might not be Vincent. I think this issue is the last ClanDestine story published to date, and it’s a reasonable conclusion to the saga.

CRIMINAL #8 (Icon, 2007) – “Lawless Part Three,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Tracy Lawless sleeps with a fellow criminal, Mallory, while continuing to secretly investigate his brother Ricky’s murder. This is a good issue, but it doesn’t advance the plot significantly. On the letters page, Brubaker recommends a novel I’ve never heard of, The Name of the Game is Death by Dan Marlowe.

DEN #4 (Fantagor, 1988) – “The King of Air and Darkness,” [W] Simon Revelstroke, [A] Richard Corben. Den fights an aerial battle with a villain named Scon. Corben is an unexpectedly good aviation artist. There’s also a backup story, “Encounter at War,” which was originally published in 1972.

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