NEW GODS #5 (DC, 1971) – “Spawn,” [W/A] Jack Kirby. This is Kirby at his most Kirbyesque, Kirby at his most epic and awesome and yet also human. This issue begins with the unforgettable scene where Metron visits the Source Wall and sees the Promethean Giants. Then the very next scene shows Orion’s human friends wondering where he’s gone. This contrast between cosmic and human scales is essential. Besides Dan Turpin, none of the human characters in New Gods are especially important; however, they act as surrogates for the reader, allowing us a lens through which to understand Orion’s cosmic adventures on our own human level. That’s especially crucial in this series because Orion is a difficult character to relate to or sympathize with. This issue’s main plot is about Orion’s battle with the Deep Six, and then there’s a rather long Manhunter reprint, which is the reason why I didn’t read this issue sooner. There’s also a short backup feature that introduces Fastbak.
SUICIDE SQUAD #3 (DC, 1987) –“Jailbreak,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Luke McDonnell. This title began as a spinoff of Legends, and this issue picks up a dangling plot thread from that crossover. Darkseid sends the Female Furies to rescue Glorious Godfrey, a major villain in Legends, from Belle Reeve prison. That leads to a big fight scene, and at the end, Bernadeth intentionally abandons Lashina on Earth. She later becomes the Squad member Duchess. In this issue Ostrander shows an excellent understanding of the Fourth World characters. I like the moment where Bernadeth criticizes Darkseid’s decision to send the Furies, and Darkseid is silent for several panels and then says “It’s what I want.”
New comics received on February 7:
CAPTAIN GINGER SEASON TWO #1 (Ahoy, 2020) – “Dogworld Chapter One,” [W] Stuart Moore, [A] June Brigman. I’m very glad that this series is back. In this issue the cats continue to be their lovely, awful selves, but they also encounter a bunch of stupid dogs, as well as the aliens that wiped out the Feeders (i.e. humans). I’m not sure where this story arc is going, but I’m excited to find out.
THE MAGNIFICENT MS. MARVEL #12 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Minkyu Jung. Kamala has to choose between saving her dad and saving her enemy Josh, and of course she makes the heroic and dumb choice: she chooses Josh. Bruno asks her why she’s nt saving her dad first, and she says, “That’s just… not how it works.” As a result, Abba survives but is permanently disabled. This is very similar to Miles Morales’s choice to save Uncle Aaron from the consequences of his own misdeeds, rather than witness his sister’s birth. I wish that once in a while Saladin would allow his characters to do the selfish thing. Also in this issue, Kamala and Bruno decide to leave their relationship undefined.
MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #15 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Garrón. Miles saves the school from a horde of Green Goblins, and in return, his principal agrees not to reveal his secret identity. This conclusion is predictable and slightly anticlimactic, but it’s executed well. Javier Garrón’s art in this issue is excellent.
SPIDER-MAN & VENOM: DOUBLE TROUBLE #4 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] GuriHiru. Spidey and Venom manage to switch their minds back with the squirrel and cat occupying their bodies, and everything ends happily. This series was a very quick, light read, but it was tremendous fun. I didn’t know that Mariko Tamaki could be this funny. GuriHiru are surprisingly good at drawing animals. I especially love the scene where Venom tries to summon some cats, and they all ignore him. And the antics of the squirrel and cat in Spidey and Venom’s bodies are hilarious.
MANIFEST DESTINY #41 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. Lewis and Clark finally come clean to Magdalene about the Spanish ghost dude. It turns out they were able to communicate about him through their diaries, even though they couldn’t speak about him. The plot with the rabbit women is put on the backburner for most of the issue, and Lewis and Clark ultimately decide not to go back for the crewmen who went to the rabbit village.
CROWDED #11 (Image, 2020) – “Anxious Type,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Ro Stein & Ted Brandt. Charlie and Vita hole up in a commune located in an abandoned missile silo. Of course it turns out thhe commune is stockpiling weapons for some reason, and at the end of the issue they lock Charlie and Vita inside their room. This issue includes more excellent scenes between the two protagonists. Crowded is Chris Sebela’s best work yet, by far. I’m just sorry that the last story arc won’t be available in single-issue form.
GIDEON FALLS #21 (Image, 2020) – “The Pentoculus Part 5 of 5: The Eater of All Things,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. The two groups of protagonists confront the Black Barn, and the issue ends with some weird fourth-wall-breaking page layouts in which the comic book seems to collapse into itself. I don’t quite understand what happens in this issue, but it’s exciting.
ISOLA #10 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Brenden Fletcher, [W/A] Karl Kerschl, [A] Msassyk. Rook has a dream where Olwyn is human again. But it turns out that “Olwyn” is actually the evil witch from the last few issues, and the real Olwyn shows up and defeats her. Unfortunately, Rook also learns that her mother was killed on Olwyn’s orders. I’m glad this series is continuing to come out, albeit rather sporadically.
USAGI YOJIMBO #8 (IDW, 2020) – “Tatami Part 1 of 2,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. “Tatami” is the latest in a long line of Usagi stories that focus on elements of Japanese traditional culture – in this case, tatami mats. The issue begins with a detailed description of how tatami mats are made. Of course, there’s also a plot. A caravan carrying tatami mats is attacked by Neko ninja, and Usagi and Chizu join the caravan as guards. The ninja are in the employ of Lord Hikiji, and the caravan seems to be carrying something more than just flooring.
BIRTHRIGHT #41 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Most of this issue is a flashback to the origin of the main villain, Lore. At the end, we find that Mikey has captured the three witches, who originally turned Lore from a human boy into a demono lord. This series has two story arcs remaining.
On February 8, I went to my fourth Charlotte Mini-Con. It was held in the downtown Westin, in the same room where they hold the Drink & Draw at Heroes Con. The Westin is a far better venue than the Grady Cole Convention Center, where the last three Mini-Cons were held; the Grady Cole is a decaying old hockey rink in an inconvenient part of town. However, that particular room at the Westin was far too small. There wasn’t enough space for vendors, and people were constantly having to push past each other.
At the con I had lunch with Andy Kunka, and I also saw Craig Yoe and a bunch of other people. Craig Fischer was apparently there, but I somehow didn’t see him, despite the aforementioned small size of the venue. Some of the comics I bought were:
THE ADVENTUROUS UNCLE SCROOGE MCDUCK #2 (Gladstone, 1998) – “A Little Something Special,” [W/A] Don Rosa. It’s been a while since I read an unfamiliar Don Rosa story, and I’d forgotten what an incredible genius he is. In this story, the city of Duckburg stages a celebration to honor the 50th anniversary of Scrooge’s arrival, but all three of Barks’s recurring villains – Magica DeSpell, Flintheart Glomgold, and the Beagle Boys – team up to spoil the party. Even by Rosa’s usual high standards, this story has an extremely clever and intricate plot, and it’s full of brilliiant visual and narrative moments. For example, near the end of the story, Blackheart Beagle almost escapes. But on Gladstone’s suggestion, the mayor offers a reward for his capture, and Gladstone immediately captures him by a stroke of luck. The interactions between the villains are also brilliant. When the Beagle Boys succeed in stealing Scrooge’s fortune, Magica’s plans are frustrated because Scrooge is now no longer the world’s richest duck, so his Number One Dime is powerless. A key theme of the story is desire. The three villains are able to team up because they all want different things from Scrooge: Magica wants the dime, the Beagle Boys want his money, and Glomgold wants to be richer than him. Meanwhile, the city of Duckburg stages a competition to give Scrooge something he wants and doesn’t already have. It turns out, of course, that the answer is a kiss from Glittering Goldie.
THOR #152 (Marvel, 1968) – “The Dilemma of Dr. Blake!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. Thor battles the Destroyer, while elsewhere Balder battles Ulik. This issue has some amazing fight sceenes, but not much plot or characterization. There’s also an Inhumans backup story in which Triton visits New York. This story is inked by Joe Sinnott, while the main story is inked by one whose name will not be mentioned.
TEEN TITANS #2 (DC, 1966) – “The Million-Year-Old Teenager,” [W] Bob Haney, [A] Nick Cardy. In the town of Smedleyville, the Titans help a reanimated caveboy defeat his old enemy and get together with his girlfriend. The caveboy in this issue is named Garn, not to be confused with Gnarrk, who was a separate character. Perhaps Bob Haney created Gnarrk because he forgot he’d already craeted Garn. Bob Haney’s art in this issue is good, but far from his best.
GLORY #0 (Awesome, 1999) – “Glory and the Gate of Tears,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Brandon Peterson. Glory grapples with her newfound mortality. This comic is interesting, but only contains ten pages of actual story, making its $2.50 cover price an insult. The rest of the issue consists of sketches and previews. Because Awesome went out of business, no other issues of this volume of Glory ever appeared. However, two more issues of Alan Moore’s Glory were later published by Avatar.
MAGNUS, ROBOT FIGHTER #8 (Gold Key, 1964) – “Havoc at Weather Control,” [W/A] Russ Manning. This was one of the only original Magnus stories I hadn’t read. While Magnus and Leeja are celebrating a festival, an evil robot sabotages North Am’s weather control system. To defeat it, Magnus has to team up with a gang of kids called the Outsiders, who show up again in a few later stories. As always, Manning’s artwork in this issue is phenomenal. His robots look slick and realistic, and his anatomy and action sequences are dynamic and thrilling.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #133 (Marvel, 1974) – “The Molten Man Breaks Out!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Ross Andru. Spidey battles the Molten Man and meets Liz Allan, who hadn’t appeared since the ‘60s. This issue is a good example of Conway and Andru’s Spider-Man. Conway gives Peter, Liz and MJ some nice characterization, and the Molten Man is an effective villain because he doesn’t have bad intentions; he’s just terrified of his own impending doom.
MUKTUK WOLFSBREATH, HARD-BOILED SHAMAN #3 (Vertigo, 1998) – “Mommy’s Girl Part 3: Hi, Mom!”, [W] Terry LaBan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. Muktuk defeats the femme fatale Nusqua and saves the day. This series was not perfectly executed – its central mystery and its villain are a bit boring. But I forgive that because the series’ premise is so original and entertaining. I wish there had been more than three issues.
AVENGERS #67 (Marvel, 1969) – “We Stand at… Armageddon!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Barry Windsor-Smith. This issue has impressive art by BWS in his Kirby-imitator phase. However, this second Ultron story feels like a rehash of the first one. The Vision gets a lot of panel time, but he spends most of the issue complaining, and the rest of the issue consists mostly of fight scenes.
THIRTEEN GOING ON EIGHTEEN #23 (Dell, 1967) – “For an Opener,” [W/A] John Stanley. Another demonstration of John Stanley’s comedic genius. I think the best story in this issue is the first one, where Val and Billy are unable to have both a bottle and a bottle opener at the same time. There’s another story where Judy dreams she’s on the phone with King Arthur, and one where Judy goes to a party in a truly absurd costume.
TANTALIZING STORIES #4 (Tundra, 1993) – multiple stories, [W/A] Jim Woodring, Mark Martin & Gerald Jablonski. In this issue Woodring and Martin switch characters, with Martin drawing Frank while Woodring draws Montgomery Wart. Each cartoonist does a good job of imitating the other’s style, and I couldn’t even tell at first that the Frank story was not by Woodring. But both stories feel kind of unoriginal, and I would have preferred if the artists had stuck to their own characters. This issue also includes some of Jablonski’s absurdist Farmer Ned stories, drawn in a style that reminds me of Drew Friedman.
COPRA #5 (Image, 2020) – “Tender Living,” [W/A] Michel Fiffe. The team fights some supervillains who are empowered by Ochizon. Meanwhile, Sonia tries to recruit some more allies. Michel Fiffe’s art this issue is really impressive; his cosmic New Gods-based stories seem to inspire him to higher levels of visual imagination. Here is a useful website that matches Copra characters to their Marvel and DC counterparts: http://en.wikibedia.ru/wiki/Draft:COPRA_analogues
DAREDEVIL #76 (Marvel, 1971) – “Deathmarch of El Condor!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Gene Colan. Matt Murdock gets involved in a civil war in the fictional country of Delvadia. Gene Colan’s action sequences in this issue are excellent, and he draws some very realistic machinery. However, this issue’s plot is trite and full of stereotypes, and there’s no Black Widow, who was the best thing about Conway’s Daredevil run.
CAPTAIN ACTION #2 (DC, 1969) – “The Battle Begins!”, [W] Jim Shooter, [A] Gil Kane. The villain Krellik steals some of the coins that give Captain Action and Action Boy their powers, but the heroes use other coins to defeat the villains. The artwork in this issue is amazing. Kane is inked by Wally Wood, and Kane’s compositions plus Woody’s linework are a perfect combination. I don’t remember the detailed history behind this comic, but it only lasted five issues, and no creator worked on all five of them. With #3, Gil Kane took over as writer, and the tone of the series shifted significantly. Still, Captain Action was one of the finest DC comics of the late ‘60s, and it shouldn’t be so hard to find. IDW announced at Comic-Con last year that they would be reprinting the entire series, but there’s still no date for it.
IRON FIST #2 (Marvel, 1975) – “Valley of the Damned!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] John Byrne. This issue is mostly a flashback in which Danny Rand’s sister, Miranda, tries to flee K’un Lun with her lover, but they both get killed by some plant monsters. The plant creatures are called H’ylithri, a name which sounds a lot like the Shi’ar deity K’ythri. It was news to me that Danny even had a sister; she only ever made a few other appearances. Iron Fist is my least favorite Claremont-Byrne collaboration, and a particular problem in this issue is Frank Chiaramonte’s lazy inking, which obliterates all of Byrne’s fine linework.
YUMMY FUR #32 (Drawn & Quarterly, 1994) – “Matthew 11:2-12:45, 14:2-14:12,” [W/A] Chester Brown. The final issue of Yummy Fur is devoted entirely to a chapter of Brown’s adaptation of the New Testament. Part of the issue depicts the death of John the Baptist. It’s hard for me to read any version of this story without thinking of Oscar Wilde’s Salomé. In the rest of the story, Brown depicts Jesus as a terrifying, uncompromising figure. His Jesus is radically different from Mark Russell and Richard Pace’s kind, gentle Jesus. It’s too bad this adaptation was never finished. Brown apparently cancelled Yummy Fur because the name was no longer appropriate, and he wanted to devote his energies to Underwater, though that series was never finished either.
SUICIDE SQUAD #34 (DC, 1989) – “Armagetto,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] John K. Snyder III. I love the cover of this issue, which shows Amanda Waller and Granny Goodness fighting. It’s a battle of DC’s two greatest old battleaxes. In this issue, Lashina has shanghaied most of the Squad to Apokolips in order to help her recapture leadership of the Female Furies from Bernadeth (whose betrayal was shown in #3, reviewed above). The Squad are facing the fight of their lives, but they rise up to the challenge. Meanwhile, Bronze Tiger tries to organize a relief mission, despite being officially forbidden to recruit any felons. The Apokolips storyline was one of the most exciting moments of this series.
CONAN: BATTLE FOR THE SERPENT CROWN #1 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Luke Ross. In modern-day Las Vegas, Conan teams up with a thief named Nyla. The idea of Conan in the 20th/21st century is not new, but this story is better executed than most of the previous stories with this premise. Nyla is an exciting new character, and I like her interactions with Conan. I just wish Saladin had explained how Conan got to the 21st century. I assume this is a result of events in some other comic that I’m not reading.
BATMAN #225 (DC, 1970) – “Wanted for Murder-One, the Batman,” [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Irv Novick. Batman is accused of murdering Jonah Jory, a talk-show host who was notorious for his rudeness. It turns out that Jory killed himself and framed Batman for it. Denny invites the reader to solve the mystery before Batman does. I failed to do so, though I did notice the key clue. Probably the biggest clue that it was a suicide is that there are no other likely suspects – except Arthur Reeves, and it can’t be him because he appears in later issues. This issue also includes a backup story about illegal street racing.
FANTASTIC FOUR #70 (Marvel, 1967) – “When Fall the Mighty,” [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. This issue is from just after Lee and Kirby’s greatest period (the #40s to the #60s), but their FF is still the greatest superhero comic ever created. This issue, the three male FF members fight the Mad Thinker and his androids. This plot is nothing special, but Kirby and Sinnott’s artwork is beyond incredible. The main problem with this issue is the sexist treatment of Sue, whose pregnancy makes her even more useless than usual. In contrast, Saturn Girl fought the Legion of Super-Villains while nearly at full term with twins.
CRIMINAL #2 (Icon, 2006) – “Coward Part Two,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. It’s weird to read such an early Criminal story now that I’m almost caught up on the series. This issue, Tommy Patterson executes a clever plot to steal a shipment of diamonds from a police evidence van. But his co-conspirators betray him even before the heist is over, and then he discovers that what he’s stolen was not diamonds but drugs.
TALES TO ASTONISH #85 (Marvel, 1966) – “—And One Shall Die,” [W] Stan Lee, [A] Gene Colan, and “The Missile and the Monster!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Buscema. In the Namor story, Namor battles the first Number One of the Secret Empire, whose goal is to win worldwide fame. In an ironic twist, Number One blows himself up, and his body is burned beyond recognition. Unusually for this series, the Sub-Mariner story leads directly into the Hulk story. As a result of Number One’s failed plots, the Hulk finds himself in New York, and he has to save the city from a missile launched by a Soviet spy. This is a pretty fun issue.
THE MAN WHO F#&%ED UP TIME #1 (AfterShock, 2020) – “The Here and Now,” [W] John Layman, [A] Karl Mostert. Our protagonist is Sean Bennett, a young scientist working on a time travel project, who is subjected to possibly racist abuse from his lab partner. Sean’s future self visits him and tells him to go back in time, so he does, but he accidentally creates a dystopian reality where everyone dresses like Abe Lincoln. I really like time travel stories, and so far this series looks like a fun example of that genre.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #3 (Marvel, 2014) – untitled, [W] Dan Slott, [A] Humberto Ramos. This issue takes place right after the end of the Superior Spider-Man saga. The Black Cat seeks revenge on Spider-Man, not realizing that he’s not the same Spider-Man who incurred her hatred. Meanwhile, Peter tries to reintegrate himself into his old life. This is yet another super-fun issue.
JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #69 (DC, 1969) – “A Matter of Menace!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Dick Dillin. Wonder Woman quits the JLA because she’s lost her powers, and then a villain named Head Master frames Green Arrow for murder. Perhaps because of its new young writer, this issue feels more energetic than a typical ‘60s JLA issue, but it’s still kind of forgettable. Dick Dillin’s Wonder Woman is cute.
BIRTHRIGHT #10 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Wendy is shocked to discover that she’s about to be a grandmother. There’s another flashback to Mikey’s childhood, and Mikey defeats some kind of creature called a Diviner. This issue is the end of the second story arc.
ARCHIE: THE MARRIED LIFE 10TH ANNIVERSARY #6 (Archie, 2020) – “Happily Ever After?”, [W] Michael Uslan, [A] Dan Parent. Both stories end with Dilton taking Archie, Betty and Veronica for a ride in a Back-to-the-Future-esque flying car. Overall, this was a disappointing series with just one really memorable moment (“I wish I had spent more time at work!”).
THE LEGION #7 (DC, 2002) – “Terror Incognita 2: Fear of Change,” [W] Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, [A] Olivier Coipel. The Legion fights Ra’s al Ghul and his Hypertaxis plot. I believe I bought issue 8 when it came out, and it impressed me enough that I started reading the Legion again after having given it up for a couple years. This issue is genuinely quite exciting and has a high-stakes, tense plot. However, as usual with these writers, it also includes insufficient characterization, and it feels too dark and grim to be a Legion story.
WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #178 (Dell, 1955) – untitled, [W/A] Carl Barks. Suffering from insomnia, Donald decides to move to a quieter house. But he only succeeds in starting a noisemaking arms race with his new neighbors. It only ends when an elderly neighbor blows a giant alpenhorn, causing Donald to go deaf. This story is a typically hilarious Barks ten-pager. The only other notable thing in the issue is a Mickey Mouse story by Fallberg and Murry, taking place in Mexico. Of course, the Mexican characters in the story are all extreme stereotypes.
THE DREAMING #18 (DC, 2020) – “The Crown, Part Four,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Marguerite Sauvage. Dora is dying and the Dreaming is in a state of collapse. Cain, Matthew and Rose Walker try to save the day, with some assistance from an off-panel Desire. I wonder if there’s some legal reason why Desire isn’t fully shown. Dora discovers that Morpheus hid his ruby inside her, and it may be the key to saving the Dreaming. I didn’t like this series much at first, but now I love it, and I’m sorry Si Spurrier is leaving after #20. Marguerite Sauvage’s art didn’t impress me as much in this issue as in #17, but I still love her work.
LOIS LANE #8 (DC, 2020) – “Enemy of the People Part Eight,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Mike Perkins. A skull-masked assassin tries to kill Lois and Renee. This is just an average issue, and the scene where Superman is swarmed by admirers is kind of annoying. I kind of feel like there’s been too much Superman in this series. The whole point of the series is (or should be) to depict Lois as a hero in her own right, who doesn’t need to use Superman as a crutch. But Rucka has been continuously undercutting her independence, perhaps not on purpose.
INCREDIBLE HULK #167 (Marvel, 1973) – “To Destroy the Monster!”, [A] Steve Englehart, [A] Herb Trimpe. Betty learns that her new husband Glenn Talbot is dead (though he wasn’t, yet) and suffers a psychotic break. This leads into her debut as the Harpy in the next issue. Meanwhile, the Hulk battles MODOK in a giant robot body. This is a pretty good issue from one of the best Hulk creative teams prior to Peter David. There’s a funny moment in this issue where someone (Jim Wilson) greets the Hulk, and the Hulk complains that he was happier alone. https://www.instagram.com/p/B8cK-pJBcPV/
ADLER #1 (Titan, 2020) – untitled, [W] Lavie Tidhar, [A] Paul McCaffrey. I think this is the first comic by the World Fantasy Award-winning novelist Lavie Tidhar, and I bought it because of him. This series is named after Irene Adler, but it’s really more of a League of Extraordinary Gentlewomen; it co-stars Estella Havisham, Jane Eyre, and J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla. Steampunk pastiches like this are a dime a dozen now, and Theodora Goss has even used a premise similar to this one in her Athena Club series. But Tidhar seems to have done a lot of research, and he succeeds in creating a sense of historical plausibility. And Paul McCaffrey’s artwork is very good. I need to remember to order the rest of this series.
MONEY SHOT #4 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Sarah Beattie, [A] Rebekah Isaacs. I regret that I didn’t order issues 1 and 2, because I had trouble following what was going on in this issue. At least it seems pretty entertaining, though there’s not a whole lot of sex in it.
DOLLAR COMICS: BATMAN #386 (DC, 2020) – “Black Mask: Losing Face,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Tom Mandrake. A reprint of Black Mask’s first appearance. Moench writes Black Mask as an anti-Batman: a rich boy whose parents don’t die, and who grows up without a clear sense of who he is. Eventually, Roman Sionis kills his parents himself and becomes a supervillain. The theme of masks and the faces they conceal is emphasized very heavily; Black Mask is the heir to a cosmetics company, and his hobby is collecting ritual masks. It seems like later writers have de-emphasized Black Mask’s obsession with masks and have made him into more of a typical crime boss, although I haven’t read many other stories with this character.
BIRTHRIGHT #20 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Mikey and his family’s encounter with Enoch ends in a battle with a dragon. Sameal kills Enoch to save Aaron, but Mikey is kidnapped by one of the other remaining wizards, Kylen. Meanwhile, Mastema reveals that Lore is her father. Nothing about this issue particularly stands out.
SUPERBOY #171 (DC, 1971) – “Dark Strangler of the Seas!”, [W] Frank Robbins, [A] Bob Brown. Superboy and Aquaboy, the teenage version of Aquaman, team up to fight some polluters. This story is one of the few times Aquaman’s Aquaboy phase was ever mentioned. Aquaboy has a girlfriend named Marita who looks a lot like Mera. This character never appeared anywhere else, and I’m guessing that she was initially supposed to be Mera, but that someone remembered at the last minute that Aquaman didn’t meet Mera until they were both adults.
LOGAN’S RUN 2 (Marvel, 1977) – “Cathedral Kill,” [W] David Kraft, [A] George Pérez. This series is only interesting because of George Pérez’s artwork, but his art is very good. Logan’s Run’s mixture of SF and action sequences makes it a good fit for his talents. The inker is Klaus Janson, whose style clashes with Pérez’s, but at least Janson doesn’t ruin Pérez’s pencils.
BARBIE #45 (Marvel, 1994) – “Melissa’s Dress Mess,” [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Win Mortimer. This issue’s main story includes a long sequence set in a fantasy version of ancient Rome, so it’s somewhat similar to Barbara Slate’s Sweet Sixteen. Unfortunately, Win Mortimer was a very boring artist. He was in his seventies at the time, and died four years later. This issue includes a letter from an eight-year-old girl complaining that she can’t find Barbie comics at comic book stores. https://www.instagram.com/p/B8czi6xhkS9/This is exactly the problem that has historically plagued girls’ comic books – not a lack of potential readers, but a lack of effective marketing and distribution.
DEVIL DINOSAUR #4 (Marvel, 1978) – “Object from the Sky,” [W/A] Jack Kirby. Devil and Moon-Boy encounter some really cool-looking aliens. This issue includes some excellent individual pages and some exciting fight scenes, but Devil Dinosaur was never as exciting as Kirby’s other ’70s comics. One problem with it was the lack of characters who could actually talk.
KING JUNGLE JIM #1 (Dynamite, 2015) – untitled, [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Sandy Jarrell. Lille Devrille, a woman from Arboria, leads an expedition to find the legendary Jungle Jim and enlist his aid against Ming. Dynamite’s King Features comics were all really fun, and this one is no exception.
New comics received on February 12:
ALIENATED #1 (Boom!, 2020) – “Three Kids Named Sam Go Walking in the Woods,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Chris Wildgoose. We are introduced to three high school kids, all named Sam. Samuel is an online troll, Samantha is being slut-shamed due to an unwanted pregnancy, and Samir is a victim of racism. All three are being bullied by a little bastard named Leon. While walking in the woods, they encounter an alien creature that melds their mines. It also kills Leon, and good riddance. This is a fascinating first issue, a good start to yet another exciting Si Spurrier comic. I didn’t even get that it was a pastiche of E.T. until I read some reviews of it.
THE DOLLHOUSE FAMILY #4 (DC, 2020) – “Come Up,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. Alice survives the bombing but loses a leg, and her daughter loses a hand. Alice’s daughter makes a deal with the dollhouse to get her mother’s leg back. This series is still really good, but I still don’t understand why Alice has to suffer so much. The dollhouse seems to be targeting her even though she didn’t do anything wrong – besides killing her father, and she should have gotten a medal for that.
ASCENDER #9 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. This issue begins with a flashback to Mother’s origin. As a child, she was the hated, abused servant to a coven of witches, while her older red-haired sister was the witches’ cherished protégé. Mother finally murdered her sister and took over the senior witches’ power for herself. But back in the present, Sister comes back to life and overpowers Mother. This issue reminds me of the fairy tale Snow White and Rose Red.
RONIN ISLAND #10 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Giannis Milonogiannis. After some more fighting, Kenichi and Hana finally get back to the island, but some captured shogunate soldiers escape back to the mainland to warn the shogun. This issue finally gives us some reason to hope, but this series is still very grim.
GREEN LANTERN SEASON TWO #1 (DC, 2020) – “Young Guardians,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. An intergalactic law enforcement convention is held on Oa, and we meet some more bizarre new characters. Hal is sent to Maltus to recruit some new Guardians, with the aid of a candidate GL, Ryk, who’s a sentient rock crystal. On Maltus, Hal and Ryk have to rescue Mother Juna from some evil gorillas so she can create the new Guardians. Mother Juna is a clever throwback to old continuity. I believe her only previous appearance was in GL #81, the story that introduced the planet Maltus. (That story was about overpopulation, and the name Maltus is a reference to Thomas Malthus.)
IMMORTAL HULK #31 (Marvel, 2020) – “Remember?”, [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett & Javier Rodriguez. In a flashback sequence drawn by Rodriguez, Dr. Charlene McGowan remembers encountering Daredevil while working for the Kingpin. Back in the present, Xemnu, the Marvel villain who sheds the most, manipulates everyone’s memories to make them think he (Xemnu) is and always was the Hulk. There’s a historical in-joke here because Xemnu was originally called the Hulk before Bruce Banner was created; see the Bruce Banner review below. At the end of the issue, the original flashback is repeated, but with Xemnu replacing Daredevil. This whole storyline is very clever.
X-MEN #6 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Oracle,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Matteo Buffagni. Mystique accepts a mission to infiltrate a space station called the Orchis Forge, which is manufacturing Sentinels. In exchange, Xavier promises to resurrect Destiny, but he reneges on that promise in order to keep Mystique under his thumb, and Mystique is not happy. The emotional high point of this issue is Mystique shouting “I want my wife back!” Claremont always intended Mystique and Destiny to be a couple, but in his time, their relationship couldn’t be explicitly mentioned on-panel. Now they are an official couple, and X-Men #6 is the first time their marriage has been revealed.
THE TERRIFICS #25 (DC, 2020) – “The Adventures You Choose,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Dan Mora. This is a choose-your-own-adventure story. It’s not as innovative as the CYOA issues of Squirrel Girl or Adventure Time, let alone Meanwhile, but it’s fun. It has a couple gamelike elements. You need to use information from a dead-end narrative branch in order to choose between four identical door knockers (although I chose the right one by accident). Later on, you need to do a side quest in order to learn the crow people’s language, which is necessary to finish the issue. On Twitter, Yang confirmed that the name Lord Shiga in this issue is a reference to Jason Shiga. I’m kind of surprised that The Terrifics has lasted 25 issues, but it’s a genuinely fun series.
POWERS IN ACTION #4 (Action Lab, 2020) – “Suplexian Supremacy,” [W/A] Art Baltazar. Suplex fights some villains from his home planet. This series is the same as any of Art Baltazar’s other comics, and it offers nothing I haven’t seen before. This issue will be my last.
DRAGONFLY & DRAGONFLYMAN #4 (Ahoy, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Peter Krause. Dragonflyman has been hypnotized and can’t fight, so he creates a device that allows Stinger to control him like a video game character. Meanwhile, the other Stinger discovers that Dragonfly implanted a tracking device in his wrist, and at the end of the issue, Dragonfly discovers him trying to dig it out with a scalpel. This page is a deliberate homage to Green Lantern/Green Arrow #85.
BLACKWOOD: THE MOURNING AFTER #1 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Veronica Fish & Andy Fish. In today’s comics market, you never know whether an innovative series like Blackwood will survive or not, and I’m glad it’s gotten a second miniseries. This issue, the Blackwood faculty deals with the aftermath of Dean Ogden’s death. Meanwhile, the students decide to use the well to resurrect their dead classmate Dennis. This series has some very detailed and spooky art, and it effectively blends humor with horror.
CATWOMAN #20 (DC, 2020) – “No Guts No Glory,” [W] Joëlle Jones, [A] Fernando Blanco. A party at the Creel mansion is invaded by zombies. Meanwhile, Catwoman suffers from despair, but her cats motivate her to regain her confidence and confront Raina Creel one last time. Catwoman’s cats have had some great moments in this series, though not as many as I’d have liked.
HOUSE OF WHISPERS #18 (DC, 2020) – “Heart of Glass,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson & Dan Watters, [A] Domo Stanton. Poquita makes a new friend who is transgender and disabled. Erzulie tries to reassemble the Corinthian, but discovers a piece missing, which explains where Poquita’s cat friend came from. People throughout the world have visions of Erzulie’s ship. I like this series a lot, but its plot tends to ramble and not really go anywhere, though this may be intentional.
GUTT GHOST #1 (Scout, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Enzo Garza. I ordered this because the art looked interesting. The protagonist, Gute, is a ghost who can manipulate his own entrails. Garza draws Gute really well; he (Garza) shows a talent for body hororor that reminds me of Michael DeForge. However, this comic has a flimsy plot, and Garza has a limited ability to draw things other than intestines. Many of his panels lack backgrounds. This artist is promising, but he needs to develop his craft more.
GHOSTED IN L.A. #8 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] Sina Grace, [A] Siobhan Keenan. Daphne lets Agi possess her body for a ritual that will allow Shirley’s spirit to move on. It’s not clear whether the ritual works or not. Agi-possessing-Daphne gets some cute scenes. This series is entertaining and insightful, but rather slow-paced. This is the end of the second story arc. I hope that there will be a third, and that it will be published in comic book form.
ARCHIE 1955 #5 (Archie, 2020) – “Real Gone, Baby!”, [W] Brian Augustyn & Mark Waid, [A] Ray-Anthony Height & Rick Burchett. Archie refuses to re-sign his contract with Hiram Lodge, and he and Veronica walk off into the sunset. Archie joins Big Earl’s band. This is a satisfying ending, and I like how Archie actually chooses between Betty and Veronica for once. Overall, Archie 1955 was significantly better than Archie 1941. I wonder if there’s going to be an Arcihe 1966 or whatever.
IRON MAN 2020 #2 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Pete Woods. Tony launches a robot uprising, but Arno Stark stays one step ahead of him and foils his plans. Iron Man 2020, the nominal hero of this series, is actually the villain, and the reader’s sympathies are firmly with Tony. Early in this issue there are some really cute scenes depicting the start of the robot revolution. Awesome Android rescues an experimental robot (built by “Brevoort Dynamics”), and Quasimodo and Herbie save some crash test dummies who are sick of repeatedly getting killed.
TARTARUS #1 (Image, 2020) – “As Above/So Below,” [W] Johnnie Christmas, [A] Jack T. Cole. In this issue’s first sequence, a badass rebel woman named Surka tries to escape from a space prison, but is killed. 17 years later, Surka’s daughter Tilde, a cadet in a military academy, discovers her parentage and is thrust into the same conflict that killed her mother. This is a really fun and exciting debut issue, though it’s very long. Jack T. Cole is unlucky in that he shares his name with a much better known comic book artist (hence why he uses his middle initial), but his art is very striking, and his visual imagination is impressive. Johnnie Christmas also wrote Firebug, which I read when it appeared in Island, but I don’t remember it well.
QUEEN & COUNTRY #30 (Oni, 2006) – “Red Panda Part 1,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Chris Samnee. Tara is still not recovered from her previous mission, but Paul sends her and Nick to Iraq to perform an assassination. There are hints that Tara is pregnant with Tom’s posthumous child, and this was indeed the case, as revealed in the prose novels that take place after the comics. Chris Samnee was just starting his career in 2006, and his art is unimpressive compared to his later work; it just looks like generic black and white art. His mature style didn’t develop until around 2011.
FANTASTIC FOUR #88 (Marvel, 1969) – “A House There Was!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. This issue has an adorable splash page showing Alicia cradling the newborn, still unnamed Franklin. The rest of the story also indirectly revolves around Franklin, as Reed and Sue are looking for a new home for their family, and the house they choose turns out to be a trap created by the Mole Man. There’s some breathtaking artwork in this issue: https://www.instagram.com/p/B8pxUKOBSUS/
BATMAN #177 (DC, 1965) – “Two Batmen Too Many!”, [W] Bill Finger, [A] Sheldon Moldoff. Batman catches some crooks by having Atom and Elongated Men disguise themselves as two additional Batmen. There’s also a backup story about art theft. This story is most notable for containing a tacked-on, unconvincing romance. ’60s Batman comics are generally not very good; however, they’re very hard to find, compared to ‘60s Superman comics, and I’m glad I have this one.
TALES TO ASTONISH #70 (Marvel, 1965) – “The Start of the Quest!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Gene Colan (as Adam Austin), and “To Live Again!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. Starting with this issue Sub-Mariner replaced Giant-Man as one of TTA’s two features. In the Sub-Mariner story, Krang takes over Atlantis, and Namor goes on a quest to find the lost trident of Neptune in order to prove his right to the throne. This story isn’t great, and it’s inked by the worst inker in comics history. The Hulk story is better. The Hulk is trapped in Hulk form but with Banner’s mind, and he has to fight a giant android sent by the Leader (who is depicted with a normal-sized head). According to the GCD, this is the first story in which the Hulk says “the madder I get, the stronger I get.”
NAILBITER #19 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Mike Henderson. A horror/thriller series about a bunch of serial killers who all come from the town of Buckaroo, Oregon. This series lacks the strong theme of “family” that characterizes Birthright, and Mike Henderson is a much less impressive artist than Andrei Bressan. I don’t plan to collect any more of this series.
SUPERBOY #194 (DC, 1973) – “The Super-Merman of the Sea!”, [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Bob Brown. Superboy is turned into a merman by an Atlantean scientist. He teams up with the scientist’s niece Yorell, who kind of looks like Mera, and gets his legs back. This story has some cute art, but is rather boring. Superboy #194 was the second to last issue that didn’t include a Legion story. Starting with #197, the Legion got equal billing on the covers, and they gradually took the series over entirely. This was a positive development bcause the Legion stories were far more exciting than the Superboy solo stories.
New comics received on February 20:
LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #4 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] Brian Michael Bendis, [A] Ryan Sook & Mikel Janín. This issue is better than the first three issues put together, and it singlehandedly restores my interest in the series. We get a partial retelling of the Legion’s origin, and as a result, we finally get to see the characters (specifically, Luornu, Ayla and the three founders) as people rather than anonymous voices in a crowd. I especially like the Winath sequence. In this continuity, Garth and Ayla come from a large family with two mothers and six other children, and they’re sharply divided about the wisdom of joining the UP’s youth delegation. Braal and Titan are also interestingly different from earlier versions of the same planets. I hope Bendis can maintain this level of characterization and worldbuilding in forthcoming issues. However, I still don’t care about the whole trident business.
LUMBERJANES #71 (Boom!, 2020) – “Forestry is the Best Policy Part 3,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Kanesha Bryant & Julia Madrigal. The girls defeat the evil rhizome monster. In a flashback, we learn how the original Lumberjane ran away from home, disguised herself as a male lumberjack, and then discovered that her mother’s campsite was about to be clearcut. I love the explanation of why the camp was originally located in the woods: “If they [the girl campers] could keep their hair neat and dresses pristine in such awful conditions, they could do so anywhere!” Another nice touch is the sasquatch with a monocle and top hat.
RUNAWAYS #30 (Marvel, 2020) – “Cannon Fodder Part VI,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Andres Genolet. Gert discovers that Doc Justice is going to get all her teammates killed on purpose. Despite resistance from Matthew, Gert rushes off to save the day. Doc Justice is the creepiest villain of Rainbow’s run; he pretends to be a hero, but his “heroism” masks a total lack of concern for his young friends’ lives.
FANTASTIC FOUR #19 (Marvel, 2020) – “Four Gone Conclusion,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Sean Izaakse. The situation on Spire is resolved peacefully, and Sky comes back to Earth with the FF. Back on Earth, the kids are having a wild party with Lunella and Devil, and the Mole Man’s monsters are attacking Wyatt Wingfoot’s tribe’s reservation. This issue is mostly just a bridge between the last storyline and the next one.
MIDDLEWEST #15 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. The relief mission is stopped at a river where the bridge has been washed out by a flood. Maggie uses magic to revive the old “river master” from his coma so he can help them get across. Meanwhile, Abel begins to execute his escape plan. The most striking thing in this issue is the two-page conversation between Maggie and Mick. It shouldn’t work because it’s two pages of nothing but dialogue, yet somehow it does work.
SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #8 (DC, 2020) – “Eminent Domain!” etc., [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Steve Lieber. This series is getting a little tedious, but it’s still the best current DC comic, besides Dial H for Hero. This issue is a bunch of random vignettes. The first sequence shows us the four replacement Jimmys (a reference to Reign of the Supermen), and later in the issue Jimmy is reunited with his alien wife.
UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #4 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule & Scott Snyder, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Daniele Orlandini. Daniel steals the key and runs off with Charlotte. The rest of the team escapes from the Destiny Man’s fortress and pursues Daniel. We learn that all of the team members are there because someone named “aurora” requested them by name. As usual, the art in this issue is amazing. I really didn’t expect that Daniel would betray his teammates. I’m kind of disappointed in him.
NEW MUTANTS #7 (Marvel, 2020) – “Spoilers,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Rod Reis. The New Mutants succeed in resolving the Shi’ar civil war, and Xandra is restored to the throne. Until I looked it up, I totally forgot that Xandra was from Mr. & Mrs. X. Most of this issue is narrated by Bobby, and Hickman perfectly captures his boastful personality. This issue has some great metatextual moments: Bobby and Dani argue over what happened in which issue, and later, the reader is invited to use dice to simulate a fight scene.
BANG! #1 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Wilfredo Torres. Thomas Cord, a secret agent, is sent to recover a manuscript from a reclusive writer named Philip Verve. But Verve reveals to Cord that he’s not the only Thomas Cord; he’s just one of many incarnations of the same character. This series continues the metatextual, metaleptic themes of much of Kindt’s other work. Thomas Cord is an obvious reference to James Bond, and the novel The 18 Stigmata of Philip Verve references Philip K. Dick’s The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, although Verve has appeared in some of Kindt’s other comics.
AQUAMAN #57 (DC, 2020) – “Amnesty, Finale: Xebel’s Daughter,” [W] Kelly SueDeCononick, [A] Robson Rocha. Aquaman takes Mera back to Atlantis, where she gives birth prematurely to a baby girl, then falls into a coma. Meanwhile, Arthur discovers a chaotic and unsettled situation in Atlantis. I’m not sure where the storyline is going from here, but Arthur’s first sight of his daughter is a heartwarming moment.
ON THE STUMP #1 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Chuck Brown, [A] Prenzy. I was hesitant to order this because I disliked Chuck Brown’s previous solo work, The Quiet Kind. So far this series is a bit more interesting. Its premise is funny: it’s set in a future America where senators get bills passed by beating each other up in MMA matches. However, this comic also includes some very gruesome and exaggerated violence. I’m going to keep reading it for now, but I’m not sold on it yet.
BITTER ROOT #6 (Image, 2020) – “Rage & Redemption Part One,” [W] David Walker & Chuck Brown, [A] Sanford Greene. This is one of the most important comic books currently being published, and I’m glad it’s back. This issue includes a lot of fight scenes, but the best moment is the inter-ethnic summit between the head Sangerye and his Chinese, Punjabi and Irish counterparts. This issue includes an essay by a scholar named Reynaldo Anderson, who I don’t know.
FAMILY TREE #4 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Phil Hester. The biggest emotion this comic arouses in me is hatred of the old grandpa dude. He’s such an insufferable know-it-all, especially toward his daughter-in-law. I hope he dies. This issue, the apartment where the main characters are staying is invaded by a bunch of goons, and the grandpa holds them off so the mother and daughters can escape. So far I’m not liking Family Tree nearly as much as Jeff’s other series, but it’s still worth reading.
SKULLDIGGER AND SKELETON BOY #3 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Tonci Zonjic. Skeleton Boy intervenes in Skulldigger’s fight with Grimjim. Skulldigger reveals that Grimjim is his father. This issue includes some very well-drawn action sequences, but otherwise it’s rather forgettable.
CAPTAIN MARVEL #15 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Last Avenger Part Four,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Lee Garbett. Carol beats the Hulk, and then Captain America surrenders to her without a fight, which is a nice moment. But Vox Supreme defeats and captures Carol anyway. This whole storyline has felt very contrived and annoying. Kelly seems to have systematically closed off every loophole that could allow Carol to not fight the Avengers, just so Carol can be the bad guy. And Vox Supreme’s smugness is driving me nuts. Also, Kelly still has yet to truly define who Carol is. This series has been consistently disappointing, and I’m actually considering giving up on it.
ARCHIE #711 (Archie, 2020) – “Archie and Katy Keene Part 2,” [W] Kevin Panetta & Mariko Tamaki, [A] Laura Braga. This issue has no real plot and is mostly an excuse to show off Laura Braga’s fashion designs for Katy and the other girls. Laura Braga does some excellent fashion art, but this issue’s lack of plot makes it somewhat tedious to read.
ATLANTIS ATTACKS #2 (Marvel, 2020) – “Tactics and Trust,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Ario Anindito & Robert Gill. This series should have been called “Agents of Atlas: Atlantis Attacks”; if it had been called that, I’d have bought the first issue. And it is an Agents of Atlas comic in all but name. In this issue, the new and old Atlas squads team up against Namor. On Ario Anindito, see https://www.thejakartapost.com/life/2017/11/06/finding-indonesia-in-marvel-universe.html. He’s one of a number of Indonesians who have been working for the Big 2. Most of them have been under fans’ radar, with the unfortunate exception of Ardian Syaf.
GHOST-SPIDER #7 (Marvel, 2020) – “Into the Unknown,” [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Ig Guara. We get some more information about the Earth-GS Sue and Johnny and their awful mother. Gwen has some low-key encounters with criminals. This series is very slow-paced and lighthearted, but that’s why I like it.
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #103 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Sophie Campbell. April and Donatello make their way inside the walled-off city, where some baby mutanimals are causing a lot of havoc. I don’t understand the plot of this comic, but Sophie Campbell arouses a genuine sense of emotion. When Donatello is sad, the reader feels sad too. And Campbell is a truly masterful artist. She’s as good at drawing animals as she is at drawing diverse human bodies.
VALKYRIE #8 (Marvel, 2020) – “At the End of All Things Part 1,” [W] Jason Aaron & Torunn Grønbekk, [A] Cafu. Jane and Thor fight an invasion of demons. This is a very formulaic and forgettable issue. It makes me wonder how much Jason Aaron is actually contributing to the series, and it makes me suspect that the things I liked about issues #1-#7 were mostly due to Al Ewing.
PLUNGE #1 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Stuart Immonen. A sunken ship called the Derleth floats back to the surface after an earthquake, and it’s full of some kind of monsters. This is an effective piece of Lovecraftian horror, and it demonstrates significant knowledge about marine biology and maritime professions. The fictional island where the ship sank is Sinnikik Ungayagagta. According to Google, that phrase is Aleut for “to disturb the mind.”
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #32 (IDW, 2014) – “Northampton Part 4,” [W] Tom Waltz et al, [A] Sophie Campbell. This issue is a marked contrast to #103 because it has very little story or characterization. It’s mostly a fight between the Turtles and the mutant bird Koya, who also appears in #103. There’s also a subplot with April’s family, but their characterization is much shallower than in #103. Sophie Campbell’s art is good, but it’s overshadoowed by the poor writing. The comparison between #32 and #103 demonstrates that Sophie Campbell is a great writer as well as a great artist.
DAREDEVIL #39 (Marvel, 1968) – “The Exterminator and the Super-Powered Unholy Three,” [W] Stan Lee, [A] Gene Colan. Daredevil fights the Unholy Three (Ape-Man, Cat-Man and Bird-Man) and their boss the Organizer, who ‘s built a time travel device. Also, Matt and Foggy go on a double date with Karen and Debbie. This issue has a very effective plot, but only average writing.
THE OLD GUARD: FORCE MULTIPLIED #3 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Leandro Fernandez. The soldiers get in some more fights, and the authorities try to figure out what they’ve been up to. Two things remain true about this series. First, I can’t follow the plot. I can’t tell the characters’ personalities apart, and I can’t remember which name corresponds to which character. Second, Leandro Fernandez is a stunning artist who deserves an Eisner nomination.
THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS #16 (Image, 2013) – “Schism,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Nick Pitarra. While the scientists are imprisoned, Oppenheimer tortures Leslie Groves. In a flashback, we see how Einstein and Feynman captured an alien creature, and then back in the present, the creature is freed from captivity. I bought this issue at Charlotte Mini-Con so that I could read #17 and #18, which I already had.
THE LOW, LOW WOODS #3 (DC, 2020) – “The Fruiting Body,” [W] Carmen Maria Machado, [A] Dani. Vee visits the local witch, then she makes out with her girlfriend, whose mother has a giant hole in her middle. This series has a very oppressive, disturbing mood, but its plot is meandering and not making much progress, though I think that’s also characteristic of Machado’s stories. One scene in this issue takes place in Hungry Daughters State Park, a reference to Machado’s story “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers.”
SERA AND THE ROYAL STARS #6 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jon Tsuei, [A] Audrey Mok. Sera goes back to Parsa to rescue her family. The other gods visit the Pleiades, who are depicted as seven naked women with varying body types. The page that introduces the Pleiades is the high point of the issue. The best things about this series are Audrey Mok’s costume designs, and the complicated mythology that’s being built up around the stars.
100 BULLETS #16 (Vertigo, 2000) – “Hang Up on the Hang Low,” [W] Brian Azzarello, [A] Eduardo Risso. Like every Risso comic, this issue has excellent artwork, but its plot centers on some black criminals who are depicted in a rather stereotypical way. In my opinion, Brian Azzarello was never a very good writer. 100 Bullets was his biggest success by far, and on that series he benefitted from collaborating with a world-class artist.
BROTHERS OF THE SPEAR #10 (Gold Key, 1975) – “The Raiders’ Roost,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Dan Spiegle. I haven’t read a Dan Spiegle comic in a while, and it’s nice seeing his art again. This issue, Dan-el and Natongo have to rescue some women who were kidnapped by buffalo-riding raiders. This issue is competently written, but kind of boring.
TRANSHUMAN #3 (Image, 2008) – “Business is War,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] J.M. Ringuet. This early work of Hickman is one of his worst comics. It has too much text, and the text carries the entire story. The artwork is almost all just talking heads. The only exception is a page that shows a monkey raping a man. I’m not even sure what this series is about.
SANDMAN MIDNIGHT THEATRE #1 (Vertigo, 1995) – “Sandman Midnight Theatre,” [W] Neil Gaiman & Matt Wagner, [A] Teddy Kristiansen. This was perhaps my best find at Charlotte Mini-Con, although it took me a while to read it because it’s rather long. In this crossover between DC’s two Sandman titles, Dian Belmont has gone to London to get away from Wesley Dodds. But Wesley goes there too, not to follow her but to investigate his father’s friend’s suicide. Meanwhile, a super-thief called the Cannon is committing a spree of crimes. The Cannon is based on Leslie Charteris’s The Saint, and his name puns on his secret identity as a canon, i.e. a clergyman. Wesley, Dian and the Cannon are all invited to a party at Roderick Burgess’s mansion Fawney Rig, where Morpheus is being held captive, and they alll find themselves prowling around the mansion at night. The centerpiece of the story is the page where Wesley meets Morpheus for the first and only time. Wesley can’t help Morpheus escape and doesn’t understand who he is. But when the murderer escapes, Morpheus uses his limited powers to help Wesley out by giving the villain an incapacitating nightmare – or at least that’s my interpretation of the ending. Sandman Midnight Theatre is an excellent comic and an integral part of Sandman Mystery Theatre’s storyline. Sadly, it’s hard to find even in reprint form. (While looking for reprints of this issue, I learned that Neil wrote Swamp Thing Annual #5. I will have to look for that.)
EDGAR ALLAN POE’S SNIFTER OF TERROR SEASON TWO #5 (Ahoy, 2020) – “The Man That Was Used Up,” [W/A] Rick Geary, and “Berenice,” [W] Alisa Kwitney, [A] Mauricet. Rick Geary is a perfect artist for this series because his work blends horror and humor, and because of his expert knowledge of the 19th century. “The Man That Was Used Up” is a very clever story about (then-)modern technology and its disembodying effects, and its art is beautifully weird. “Berenice” is not nearly as impressive, but its conclusion involves the vagina dentata motif, which I don’t think was in the original story.
HEIST #4 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Arjuna Susini. Glane Breld executes his plot to steal the deeds to the planet. I still think Arjuna Susini’s artwork is inappropriate for this type of story, but there are some striking images in this issue, like the giant bearded six-armed creature in a top hat. Also, one character tells another character a story about a house-sized cat.
WONDER TWINS #12 (DC, 2020) – “Astrisk*,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Stephen Byrne. The Wonder Twins win a final victory over Cell Phone Sylvia and some other villains, and the Justice League decides to create a new organization staffed by them and Filo and Polly Math. This is a surprisingly happy conclusion to a series that was rather depressing at times. Overall, Wonder Twins was excellent, though there are other Mark Russell comics that I liked better.
ADVENTURE FINDERS: THE EDGE OF EMPIRE #5 (Action Lab, 2020) – “The Bones of Argodor,” [W/A] Rod Espinosa. The main character falls into an underground tomb and fights a giant snake. But then the entire traveling party gets captured by some bandits. This is the last issue of the current volume. I like this series, but I don’t know if I like it eough to follow it in a format other than single issues.
THE HIDING PLACE (Fleming H. Revell, 1973) – “The Hiding Place,” [W/A] Al Hartley. This Spire Christian Comic is an adaptation of Corrie ten Boom’s narrative about hiding Jews during the Holocaust. As a comic it’s just average; the art is okay, but there’s too much text. However, this comic is rather offensive. Corrie ten Boom’s story uses the Holocaust as an excuse to preach the word of God. In her view, she survived because of divine favor, and if she hadn’t survived, she would have been better off in heaven. This view of the Holocaust trivializes the actual human suffering of its victims. Near the end of the story, we learn that ten Boom was released from a concentration camp due to a clerical error, and all the other women her age were killed. Are we supposed to think that God liked ten Boom better than all the women who died? Or that they’re better off dead because now they’re in heaven? Also, Ten Boom and Hartley show no interest in the central theological problem of the Holocaust: the question of why a loving God would have let it happen. She implies that her faith in God was never shaken at all by her suffering. It’s probably unfair to compare The Hiding Place to Maus, but even a comparison to the much older story “Master Race” reveals what an insubstantial work The Hiding Place is. A weird moment in this story is when the young Corrie asks her father what “sexsin” means, and her father refuses to answer. All the Google hits for “sexsin” are references to this scene. It appears to be a mistranslation from the Dutch.
DETECTIVE COMICS #698 (DC, 1996) – “The Tomb,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Graham Nolan. Batman has to rescue some villains who are being held captive by Lock-Up. This is an okay comic, but both its creators are conservative Comicsgate supporters and are on my boycott list, or would be if I made one. Graham Nolan’s politics are a shame because he’s a talented artist. This comic includs a scene where Lock-Up attacks some black criminals. As I read this comic, I realized that black and Latinx people rarely appeared in ‘80s and ‘90s Batman comics except as criminals. When I was reading these comics as a kid, I’d been socialized to not notice this kind of subtle racism, but it would be obvious to a black or Latinx reader.
THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS #17 (Image, 2014) – “What We Made,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Nick Pitarra. In a flashback, we see more of Einstein and Feynman’s encounter with the alien hunter. In the present, the alien rampages through the project and kills a bunch of people, two of whom are based on John Layman and Rob Guillory. (See https://www.instagram.com/p/B87zB9zBMmo/. The clue was the FDA badges.) Humorously, the alien talks like a hippie.
THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS #18 (Image, 2014) – “Assassination,” as above. General Westmoreland kills the alien. The scientists escape their cell. Someone shoots Oppenheimer in the head. This was the last issue of the regular series that I bought, though I do still have a couple unread issues of the sequel miniseries, The Sun Beyond the Stars. Overall, I should have stopped collecting this series after I stopped reading it. It’s just not that great.
THE MAXX #5 (Image, 1993) – untitled, [W/A] Sam Kieth, [W] William Messner-Loebs. The Maxx has a dream in which he’s inside a children’s cartoon. This sequence is written entirely in Dr. Seuss-style verse, with correct meter, and it’s drawn in a style that’s very different from how Sam normally draws. This sequence is very impressive, and it demonstrates how much better Sam’s comics get when he works with a dialogue writer.
TRUE BELIEVERS: KIRBY 100TH – GROOT #1 (Marvel, 2017) – “I Challenged… Groot! The Monster from Planet X!” and “I Was a Slave of the Living Hulk!”, [W] Stan Lee & Larry Lieber, [A] Jack Kirby. This reprints the first appearances of Groot and Xemnu, from Tales to Astonish #13 and Journey into Mystery #62. These are both very typical pre-superhero Marvel stories. The original version of Groot has little in common with the character depicted in the Guardians of the Galaxy film. However, Al Ewing’s version of Xemnu is very consistent with the character’s original depiction. The first Xemnu story depicts his hypnosis powers, which are vitally important in the current Immortal Hulk storyline.
New comics received on February 26:
AMETHYST #1 (DC, 2020) – “Amethyst in Gemworld,” [W/A] Amy Reeder. I’m excited about this series because I love the original Amethyst, and I even have a forthcoming essay about it. Amy Reeder’s Amethyst suffers from some awkward dialogue, just like Moon Girl did. But her Amethyst feels like a realistic 16-year-old girl, and her plot is exciting. Amethyst returns to Gemworld for her sweet sixteen party, but she discovers that her realm is deserted, and no one remembers her except her flying horse. Unlike Christy Marx’s earlier revival – which was Amethyst in name only – Reeder’s series is a direct sequel to Mishkin and Cohn’s original. It picks up sometime after their run ended, ignoring the dreadful miniseries by Keith Giffen. However, this Gemworld is subtly different; for example, the people in the Turquoise realm all have four arms. Overall, this is a promising debut, and I hope it will bring DC some new, younger readers.
DIAL H FOR HERO #12 (DC, 2020) – “Dial F for Finale!”, [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Joe Quinones. Miguel and Summer save the day by dialing H for hope, and they live happily ever after. This issue includes a lot of different homages, including Krazy Kat, Popeye, Howard the Duck, and Elfquest. Overall, this was an incredible series. The homages were extremely clever, and they were perfectly integrated into the narrative. I’m sorry this is the last issue.
INVISIBLE KINGDOM #10 (Image, 2020) – “Edge of Everything Part Five,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Christian Ward. Vess and Grix kiss. The other Lux captain betrays Grix to the company, and things are looking grim, but at the last minute, a new group of Nones shows up and tells Grix that they want to start a revolution. The other captain’s betrayal is a really depressing moment; it seems for a moment that no one cares about the truth, and that Grix’s efforts are pointless. The ending feels like a bit of a deus ex machina, but I’m sure the other Nones have their own hidden agenda.
SEX CRIMINALS #27 (Image, 2020) – “Before It’s Too Late,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Chip Zdarsky. This issue is mostly plot, but somehow it makes a lot more sense than last issue did. The opening scene with Jon and Suzie in bed is beautiful. I still don’t know why Jon was in prison at the end of last issue. As with last issue, I was exhausted when I read this, and I couldn’t be bothered to read the entire letter column.
FINGER GUNS #1 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Justin Richards, [A] Val Halvorson. This new Vault series is about two teenagers, Wes and Sadie, who discover that they can make people angry by doing the finger-gun gesture at them. Wes’s parents are perpetually absent, and Sadie’s father is abusive. I really like this comic’s premise and characters, and Val Halvorson’s art is appealingly simple. This looks like yet another exciting Vault comic.
X-MEN #7 (Marvel, 2020) – “Lifedeath,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Leinil Francis Yu. It takes some nerve to reuse the title of a classic X-Men story, but the title makes sense in this context. This issue, Melody Guthrie participates in the first “Crucible.” This means that she fights Apocalypse, loses, and is killed, so she can be revived with her mutant powers restored – since she was one of the mutants who lost her powers during House of M. Throughout the issue, various characters grapple with the moral implications of killing and reviving mutants in this way. I like how every issue of this series has felt very different from the others.
BASKETFUL OF HEADS #5 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Leomacs. The villain in this issue, Hank, is the most insufferable, smug, overprivileged little bastard ever. I couldn’t wait for June to cut his head off, and I was very disappointed that he was still alive at the end of the issue. Also, this issue Hank explains the plot of the entire series, or at least the non-supernatural part of the plot. The McGuffins are a Senate seat and a bunch of drug money.
FAR SECTOR #4 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] N.K. Jemisin, [A] Jamal Campbell. Jo tries to resolve the riots, while the aliens plot against her. We also learn that she has super-limited powers and that her ring takes days to recharge. This is perhaps the best issue yet, and it feels very similar to Jemisin’s other work. I love the moment when she declares that firing on an unarmed crowd is “not peace.” It reminds me of the “no voting on who gets to be people” moment in The Obelisk Gate.
FOLKLORDS #4 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Matt Smith. There are only a few issues left, since this series hasn’t been upgraded to an ongoing. So in this issue Ansel and the troll girl finally get to the library. There are some good moments in this issue, like the “Librarynth” and the librarians shouting “Sshh!”, but I still feel that this series hasn’t lived up to its potential.
HEATHEN #9 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Natasha Alterici, [A] Ashley Woods. I just this moment realized that Natasha Alterici didn’t draw this issue herself, though Ashley Woods’s style resembles hers. Maybe that’s why this was the least impressive issue yet. The protagonist is captured by two trolls, a father and son, but she convinces them to let her into Odin’s palace so she can free their wife and mother.
MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #87 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Tony Fleecs. This series has been spinning its wheels lately, and I’m impatient for the start of the Season Ten stories. However, this issue is better than the last few. Big Mac and Applejack enter the “Draytona Breach” race, where Big Mac has to compete against his old rival Silver Streak. Meanwhile, a thief named Sacks Roamer is using the race as a cover to steal the Mangalese Drake. (The puns here are too obvious to explain.) This storyline will continue into next issue. A cute new idea this issue is that Spike is able to “interpret” for Big Mac by reading his facial expressions.
VAGRANT QUEEN: A PLANET CALLED DOOM #2 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Jason Smith. Elida languishes in prison, while her deceitful old partner, whose name I forget, is also in dire straits. Not much happens this issue. Jason Smith’s art still isn’t great, but I noticed it less than usual.
ICE CREAM MAN #18 (Image, 2020) – “Watch as It All Recedes,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. A dying old man steadily loses his memories, while his adult children struggle with his impending loss. The ice cream man is only mentioned once or twice. This issue was touching and sad, and very different in tone from the other two I’ve read. I need to look for some back issues of this series.
STAR #2 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Javier Pina & Filipe Andrade. Wanda and Star fight some alien creatures. There’s a subplot with some characters I don’t recognize, but at the end, we learn that they’re the Black Order in human form. This series is kind of boring so far, and I probably should have skipped it, but I might as well finish it now that I’ve started it.
MONSTRESS #26 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. This series continues to be very hard to follow. I feel like only a very dedicated fan could understand the overall plot. But the central conflict is still that Maika has to control her compulsion to eat people. This issue takes place in the besieged city of Ravenna, where civic order has broken down, and there are hordes of refugees demanding entry. In a powerful scene, Maika is forced to kill a bunch of people in order to resolve the refugee crisis and restore morale. And as the reader, I feel like she did exactly the right thing.
DYING IS EASY #3 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Martin Simmonds. This is Joe Hill’s worst series yet, and it’s a complete waste of Martin Simmonds’s talents. This issue begins with a car chase, even though Simmonds is not particularly good at drawing action scenes. What he is good at is static visual arrangements, like fashion designs or psychedelic dream visions, fashion design, bizarre page layouts, etc. But this series gives him no opportunity to do what he’s good at. The striking “Meet Your Match!” billboard in this issue is an example of what he can do, but this comic should have had much more of that kind of art.
JOHN CONSTANTINE, HELLBLAZER #4 (Image, 2020) – “Scrubbing Up, Part One,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. This issue reunites Simon Spurrier with one of his best artistic collaborators. Bergara’s art looks scratchier and less slick in this issue than in Coda, but it’s still beautiful. The poop demon is a particular highlight. This issue, Constantine meets a new sidekick, Tommy, a New Age hipster with a man-bun who performs magic using puns. Together they investigate a mystery at the Tower of London. This storyline continues the series’ theme of the toxic influence of British nationalism. In a funny reference to From Hell, Tommy discovers a hidden network of magical sites all over London. Constantine guesses that they’re in the shape of a pentagram, but instead they’re arranged in a much more obscene shape.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: DAILY BUGLE #2 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Hanging Judge Part 2,” [W] Mat Johnson, [A] Mack Chater & Francesco Mobili. Peter Parker and Chloe Robertson investigate the mystery webbing. This issue is pretty good, but it feels more like a standard Spider-Man comic than like Incognegro. At one point in this issue, Ben Urich takes a taxi all over New York to investigate some addresses. I wonder if he could have just used Google Earth instead.
KILLADELPHIA #4 (Image, 2020) – “Sins of the Father Part IV,” [W] Rodney Barnes, [A] Jason Shawn Alexander. More of the same stuff as last issue. I’m leaning toward giving up on this series. The relationship between James Sangster Sr and Jr is fascinating, but the mąin plot about Vampire John Adams is stupid, and this series is concentrating more on the latter than the former.
TOMORROW #1 (Dark Horse, 2020) – “Going Viral,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Jesús Hervás. The world is struck by a pandemic that kills all adults but leaves children untouched, and that seems to be spread by communications media. There are several POV characters, but the most memorable one is Oscar, a young virtuoso cellist who seems to be autistic and psychologically dependent on his twin sister. There’s also a plot about a cyber security expert, who discovers the virus, and his two young children. This is a very exciting first issue, and it’s much more straightforward and less confusing than most Peter Milligan comics.
FLASH #123 (DC, 1961/2020) – “Flash of Two Worlds!”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Carmine Infantino. This is the most important issue of the 1959-1985 Flash series, and one of the most important of all DC comics. It introduces Earth-2, thus paving the way for the DC multiverse, and it reintroduces the Golden Age characters into the Silver Age DCU. The scene where Barry Allen first meets Jay Garrick is pretty epic. After that, though, the rest of the issue is a letdown. It’s just a lengthy battle of wits between the two Flashes and three Golden Age villains.
DETECTIVE COMICS #632 (DC, 1991) – “The Golem of Gotham Part Two,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Jim Aparo. Batman battles a golem created by an old rabbi who survived the Holocaust. Then Batman saves the rabbi from some white nationalist thugs, before coercing him into deactivating the golem. My review of issue 631 was rather lukewarm (https://ogresfeathers.wordpress.com/2017/06/08/reviews-for-may-and-early-june/#tec631), but in comparison with The Hiding Place, ‘Tec #632 looks much better. It shows understanding of how the Holocaust is a generational trauma that continues to terrorize its victims, even fifty years later. And it doesn’t just affect those who directly experienced it. When Batman bullies the rabbi into erasing the golem’s forehead, he reflects that he’s doing to him what the Nazis did.
PROTECTOR #2 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Simon Roy & Daniel Bensen, [A] Artyom Trakhanov. The protagonist, whose name I can’t remember, causes a lot of havoc with her new robot friend. She also tells a garbled version of the story of Jesus. The writing in this comic is kind of average, but I like the worldbuilding, and the artwork is often stunning.
KIDZ #2 (Ablaze, 2020) – untitled, [W] Aurelien Ducoudray, [A] Jocelyn Jordet. The kids explore some abandoned houses and have a pool party. This series is not particularly interesting or original, and I’m going to stop ordering it.
DARK HORSE PRESENTS #22 (Dark Horse, 1988) – “Goodwill Ambassador,” [W/A] Paul Chadwick, plus other stories. This issue begins with a very cute Concrete story. It’s told from the perspective of a little Tibetan or Nepali boy, Kirkyap, whose village is preparing for a visit by Concrete. Kirkyap is terrified at his first sight of Concrete, but changes his mind, and Concrete carries him to the next village. Paul Chadwick writes very effectively from the perspective of a child, and as usual, his art is fantastic. This issue also includes a one-pager by Rick Geary, as well as Trekker and Duckman stories, and an illustrated prose story about cloning.
HITMAN #19 (DC, 1997) – “Ace of Killers, Part Five,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] John McCrea. I frankly hate this series, and I’m only reading this issue because I’ve owned it for years. Like every issue of Hitman, this issue is full of brutal violence and vulgar black humor.
DETECTIVE COMICS #865 (DC, 2010) – “Beneath the Mask Part Two: Face Off!”, [W] David Hine, [A] Jeremy Haun. This issue mostly focuses on two villains I’m not familiar with, Jeremiah Arkham (aka Black Mask II) and Alyce Sinner. It’s hard to understand out of contxt, and it doesn’t seem espceially interesting. At least this issue also has a Question/Huntress backup story written by Greg Rucka.
BATMAN #501 (DC, 1993) – “Code Name: Mekros,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Mike Manley. This issue includes a scene where some mobsters are eating in an Italian restaurant, with red-and-white checkered tablecloths. Not surprisingly, some other mobsters barge into the restaurant and assassinate them. This issue also contains some scenes where Jean-Paul Valley acts like a complete jerk. I read once that the Batman writers intentionally made Azrael unlikable, but that they made him even more unlikable than they had meant to.
MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #17 (Marvel, 1976) – “This City – Afire!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Sal Buscema. Spidey and the Thing team up to fight the Basilisk. This story was part of a crossover that continued into Marvel Team-Up. This issue is very boring and formulaic, and offers the reader little motivation to read the second half of the crossover.
DAREDEVIL #199 (Marvel, 1983) – “Daughter of a Dark Wind,” [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] William Johnson. This storyline is most notable for introducing Yuriko Oyama, the future Lady Deathstrike. This issue is set in Japan, and was probably an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of Frank Miller’s Japanese-themed stories. However, O’Neil and Johnson are no substitute for Miller. Daredevil was William Johnson’s highest-profile assignment by far, and he seems to have vanished from the industry after about 1988. I can’t find any biographical information about him.
NEW GODS #11 (DC, 1972) – “Darkseid and Sons!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. The last issue of New Gods is a bit of an anticlimax. I get the sense that Kirby was required to wrap up his storyline very quickly. Still, this issue include some epic fight scenes between Orion and Kalibak. There’s no explicit acknowledgement in the issue that the series was cancelled, thuogh there are references to Kirby’s upcoming series Kamandi and The Demon.
WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #142 (Dell, 1952) – untitled, [W/A] Carl Barks, plus other stories. In this issue’s new Barks ten-pager, Donald makes the nephews spend their summer vacation with him on a houseboat, so that they won’t be able to get in any trouble. Of course, the nephews find every possible way to cause havoc and mayhem, and the story ends with Donald going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. This story is hilarious and its plot is perfectly crafted. Nearly every element that Barks introducse into the story (e.g. the fish, the water barrel and the gasoline) ultimately plays a pivotal role in the plot. This issue also includes a Li’l Bad Wolf story that guest-stars Goofy, as well as a Mickey Mouse adventure story. The latter story provides an example of the old stereotype that all cops were Irish. https://www.instagram.com/p/B9M3G3FBBfA/
SUPERBOY #132 (DC, 1966) – “Krypto’s Cat Crook Caper!”, [W] Otto Binder, [A] George Papp. In this issue’s lead story, Krypto and the Space Canine Patrol Agency battle some criminal cats. The SCPA is an awesome example of Silver Age weirdness, but this story tries too hard to be funny. The backup story is “The Youth Who Was Braver Than Superboy!” by Dorfman and Swan. Here, Superboy meets a new, even more powerful super-teen named Supremo. In an unexpectedly poignant ending, Supremo dies of a terminal illness, and we learn that his scientist uncle faked his superpowers so he could die a hero. This ending reminds me of the classic “Be Wonder Woman… and Die!” from Wonder Woman #286.
CAPTAIN AMERICA #119 (Marvel, 1969) – “Now Falls the Skull!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Gene Colan. Captain America and the Falcon battle the Red Skull, who has acquired a Cosmic Cube for the second time. They defeat the Skull thanks to some unintentional help from Modok. I already have this issue, but my existing copy is coverless. Gene Colan’s artwork here is really good.
BATMAN #219 (DC, 1970) – “Death Casts the Deciding Vote!”, [W] Frank Robbins, [A] Irv Novick. In this issue’s main story, Batman accompanies an elderly senator on a plane trip to Washington, but the plane is hijacked by crooks. This story is well-crafted but unspectacular. However, the backup story, Mike Friedrich and Neal Adams’s “The Silent Night of the Batman,” is a minor classic. On Christmas, Batman decides to sing Christmas carols instead of fighting crime. Somehow, this causes the spirit of Christmas to spread over Gotham. In a silent sequence, we watch as some young thieves return their stolen goods, a would-be murderer throws away his gun, and a young army widow is saved from suicide when her husband turns up alive. In each case, an image or representation of Batman is somehow responsible for stopping the tragedy (for instance, the thieves return a stolen Christmas present when they see that it’s a Batman toy). This story is rather syrupy, but it demonstrates Neal’s mastery of visual storytelling.
TOR #6 (DC,1976) – various stories, [W/A] Joe Kubert. The stories in this issue are all reprints from the ‘50s. Compared to Kubert’s later work, they have more detailed linework, but less dynamic visual storytelling. Also, Tor is a rather boring character because of his lack of a supporting cast, other than his pet monkey.
HELLBLAZER #39 (DC, 1990) – “The Hanged Man,” [W] Jamie Delano, [A] Steve Pugh. Constantine spends the first half of this issue whining about nothing much. In the second half, he has a mystical vision and discovers that he has an unborn twin brother, the Golden Boy, who he strangled in the womb. This sequence includes some striking artwork. During the vision, Constantine dreams that he’s entering a cave through a narrow entrance. This is an obvious piece of vaginal symbolism, and it reminds me of a similar scene in Robertson Davies’s The Manticore.
BATMAN #414 (DC, 1987) – “Victims!”, [W] Jim Starlin, [A] Jim Aparo. While investigating a series of murders of young women, Batman meets a feisty young social worker named Kate Babcock. Kate is a compelling character, but annoyingly, she only survives for a few pages before she becomes the serial killer’s next victim. Batman tracks down a man he believes to be the killer, but while he’s doing that, another woman is killed. This issue is actually not too bad. I thought it was going to be very straightforward and formulaic, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Batman guessed wrong as to who the killer was. However, Kate’s fridging is very frustrating.
ACTION COMICS #527 (DC, 1982) – “Sorcery Over Stonehenge,” [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Curt Swan. This issue introduces two new magical-themed villains, Lord Satanis and his wife Syrene. I’m guessing Marv created these characters in order to give Superman some enemies who could exploit his vulnerability to magic. Lord Satanis is more or less the same character as the post-Crisis Lord Satanus, but the two versions of the character have little in common besides being magical. Syrene’s post-Crisis counterpart is Satanus’s sister Blaze. “Sorcery Over Stonehenge” is an average story, but it suffers from Satanis’s poorly defined powers; he can basically do anything he wants. There’s also a backup story by Rozakis and Saviuk in which Air-Wave teams up with Aquaman. Air-Wave was a boring character, and I think Bob Rozakis was the only writer who used him.
DARK HORSE PRESENTS #16 (Dark Horse, 1988) – “A Sky of Heads: With a Whimper,” [W/A] Paul Chadwick, plus other stories. This issue’s Chadwick story has a double framing sequence: Concrete and Larry watch a TV show, and in the show, a disembodied head tells some other heads a story. The story is about an Olympic runner who whimpers a lot. This is not one of Chadwick’s better stories, and the framing sequences are a waste of space. There were two other “Sky of Heads” stories, in DHP #18 and Concrete: Strange Armor #6. The second story in this issue is the third installment of Gary Martin’s superhero parody Captain Crusader. It’s also the last installment, as the inept protagonist is shot dead at the end. Last, there’s a story by Gary Davis about Native Americans hunting buffalo. This story has some very attractive Moebius-inspired art. Davis was a regular contributor to DHP, and he published one solo comic, Warworld. I should look for more of his work.
DETECTIVE COMICS #637 (DC, 1991) – “Control Freak,” [W] Louise Simonson, [A] Jim Fern. Batman battles a mind-controlled kid who’s able to bring video game characters and objects to life. This issue is really dumb. It’s based on conventional stereotypes about video games, rather than actual knowledge. And the story is wildy inconsistent as to how real the video game entities are, or what they can and can’t do. I like Weezie’s writing, but this story makes her weaknesses evident.
ANIMAL MAN #24 (DC, 2013) – “Hollywood Babylon Part 1 of 2,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. Brother Blood becomes the new avatar of the Red and holds the Academy Awards hostage. This series never recovred from the loss of Travel Foreman, and this issue is well-written and well-drawn, but not particularly memorable.
CAPTAIN MARVEL #15 (Marvel, 1969) – “That Zo Might Live… A Galaxy Must Die!”, [W] Gary Friedrich, [A] Tom Sutton. The first half of this issue is a psychedelic, Steranko-esque dream sequence in which Mar-Vell is shown a series of visions by a god named Zo. (I was going to say Starlinesque, but this was before Starlin’s career began.) Tom Sutton was pretty good at this kind of art, and this sequence is rather striking. The second half of the issue, in which Zo sends Mar-Vell on a mission to Hala, is more conventional. As Brian Cronin explains, the character of Zo was created by Arnold Drake and then fleshed out by Friedrich, but the next writer, Archie Goodwin, retconned him into nonexistence. https://www.cbr.com/captain-mar-vell-god-zo/
FANTASTIC FOUR #128 (Marvel, 1972) – “Death in a Dark and Lonely Place!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] John Buscema. The Thing goes to Subterranea to find a cure for Alicia’s blindness, but he gets involved in a three-way power struggle between the Mole Man, Kala and Tyrannus. Roy’s FF suffers from being a follow-up to the best run of superhero comics ever, but it’s still pretty good in its own right. I especially like the poignant conclusion, where Ben realizes that he’s better off than the Mole Man because he’s not alone.
Last comic in the stack:
SHOWCASE #85 (DC, 1969) – “I Don’t Belong Here… I Don’t Belong There!”, [W/A] Joe Kubert. This issue introduces Firehair, a young white man raised by Blackfoot Indians, who is tormented by being too white for the Indians and too Indian for the whites. Kubert’s artwork here is much more accomplished and exciting than in Tor #6. The issue is full of thrilling action scenes and dynamic page compositions. At times this story shows a tendency to conflate different Native American nations: the Blackfoot are wrongly depicted with a totem pole, and one page has border designs based on Navajo art. However, the Blackfoot are consistently shown as far more honorable and courageous, while the white people in the story are all murderous brutes. As a result the reader sympathizes with the Indians. Firehair appeared twice more in Showcase and then starred in a backup feature in Hawk, Son of Tomahawk.