Last reviews of 2019

Last reviews of the year:

SUICIDE SQUAD #38 (DC, 1990) – “Caging the Tiger!”, [W] John Ostrander & Bob Greenberger, [A] Luke McDonnell. This is mostly a Bronze Tiger solo story. Benjamin Turner is called on the carpet by Sarge Steel and other government officials, and they more or less harass him until he runs out of the room screaming. Their treatment of him is clearly racist, though this isn’t acknowledged. Also, Jewelee discovers she’s pregnant. Her baby did get born but was never given a name. This issue maintains the series’ usual level of quality even though Ostrander didn’t write the script; I wonder why not.

CAMELOT 3000 #4 (DC, 1983) – “Assault on New Camelot!”, [W] Mike W. Barr, [A] Brian Bolland. King Arthur is introduced to the public and meets his new Knights of the Round Table. This comic is really not all that good, especially not now that we have Once & Future to compare it to. As I complained before, Bolland’s art is below his usual standard, and Barr knew only the most basic facts about Arthurian legend.

THE SPECTRE #3 (DC, 1993) – “Crimes and Punishments,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Tom Mandrake. The Spectre deals with some crooks by turning into rats. In a flashback, we see Jim Corrigan’s new origin: he was a corrupt cop who was murdered by the mob. This is a reasonably good issue, but Ostrander’s Spectre was far more brutal and less subtle than his Suicide Squad, although that was deliberate.

REVIVAL #14 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Mike Norton. Em tries to take Jordan, the creepy little reviver girl, back home after a playdate. But Jordan is more interested in reuniting with her disembodied soul-thing, and Em has to keep her alive, or at least undead. This is a pretty good issue. Jordan is one of the more disturbing characters in the series.

LEGIONNAIRES #78 (DC, 1999) – “Emissary,” [W] Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, [A] Jeffrey Moy. This is Jeff Moy’s final issue. He and the “Archie Legion” era are synonymous with each other; he defined the visual style of this era of the Legion, and in turn, the Legion defined his career. However, his lighthearted style was not a good fit for DnA’s grimmer take on the franchise. This issue, a team of Legionnaires embarks on a mission that they wouldn’t return from, at least not until many years later. Also, Garth proposes to Imra, but they never got married; Garth died and was revived, and by then, the series was about to be rebooted again. On the last two pages of this issue, the stargate network collapses, and the art duties are taken over by Olivier Coipel, the definitive artist of the Legion’s next era.

HARDWARE #24 (Milestone, 1995) – “New World Disorder,” [W] Otis Wesley Clay & Denton Fixx Jr, [A] Humberto Ramos. Hardware fights a villain called Indigo, who turns out to be a little boy, and the boy’s legs get blown off in an explosion. This issue is okay, but Hardware is one of the less exciting Milestone titles.

NEIL THE HORSE COMICS AND STORIES #1 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – multiple stories, [W/A] Katherine Collins. A mixed bag of material, including what appear to be reprints of newspaper strips. In the first story, Neil and Soapy use suction-cup shoes to run around on rooftops, and they cause a lot of havoc. Then there’s a four-pager, “Neil the Horse Goes to Hell,” which reminds me of a Fleischer Brothers cartoon. Collins’s art on this story is incredibly detailed. There’s also an illustrated prose story in which Neil, Poupée and Soapy visit colonial Quebec.

WHAT IF…? #5 (Marvel, 1989) – “What If Wonder Man Had Not Died?” and “What If the Vision Had Destroyed the Avengers?”, [W/A] Jim Valentino. This issue’s point of divergence is that in Avengers #9, Simon Williams survives his battle with the Avengers. He goes on to marry Wanda, despite Pietro’s extreme jealousy. But as an unintended consequence, Ultron can’t use Simon’s brain waves to create the Vision, so the Vision is completely evil, and the Avengers’ first encounter with Ultron and the Vision turns out much worse. After a riff on the “Journey to the Center of the Android” scene from Avengers #93, Ultron kills Simon, and Hank Pym has to save him by implanting his brain waves into the Vision’s body. So as often happens in these What If? stories, the status quo of the mainline Marvel Universe is restored at the end. This issue is okay, although What If? volume 2 was rarely any better than okay.

DETECTIVE COMICS #848 (DC, 2008) – “Batman, R.I.P.: Heart of Dusk,” [W] Paul Dini, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Catwoman fights Hush, and meanwhile, Batman fights a young boy who Hush and Scarecrow have turned into a monster. This issue is too heavy on continuity and is not as entertaining as Dini and Nguyen’s better Batman stories.

SEAGUY: SLAVES OF MICKEY EYE #3 (Vertigo, 2009) – “Burn, Mickey, Burn!”, [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Cameron Stewart. A suitably bizarre and un-summarizable conclusion to Grant’s weirdest series.

I read 2,262 comics in 2019. That is by far my highest total ever. The reasons for this were because: 1) I deliberately tried to read every new comic I got, and I mostly succeeded. The only major exceptions were Infinity 8 and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Captain America. 2) I tried to make a dent in my massive backlog of unread comics. Again, I succeeded, though I keep buying new comics, so my stack of unread comics rarely gets any smaller. I expect that I will scale back my comics reading in 2020, though I still expect to read a ton of comics.