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Lockdown reviews

5-12

Starting again now that I’ve finished grading. These comics were from a shipment I received from HipComic:

ATOMIC ROBO AND THE SHADOW FROM BEYOND TIME #3 (Red 5, 2009) – “At the Farm of Madness,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. In 1967, Robo travels to Cloverdale, Oregon with his team to confront the next manifestation of the Lovecraftian monster. They discover that the monster has turned the town’s population into Zombies. This is a really fun issue, but it feels like just a standard Atomic Robo comic.

CRIMINAL: THE LAST OF THE INNOCENT #3 (Icon, 2011) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker,  [A] Sean Phillips. Riley (Archie) successfully frames Teddy (Reggie) for the murder of Riley’s wife (Veronica), but Riley’s father-in-law (Hiram Lodge) suspects something and hires a private investigator. This issue’s main story is interspersed with short funny vignettes drawn in an Archie-esque style. Sebastian Hyde appears in this issue, connecting this story to the rest of the Criminal universe. If not for Hyde, Last of the Innocent could have been an independent work instead of a Criminal miniseries.

LOVE AND CAPES #12 (Maerkle Press, 2009) – untitled, [W/A] Thom Zahler. On the eve of her wedding, Abby finds herself in an alternate universe where Mark was killed three years ago. The Dr. Strange character sends Abby back in time to three  years to the night of Mark’s death, which was also the night of her and Mark’s first date. Since Abby looks exactly like her past self, she saves Mark by distracting him with a kiss, causing him to miss his appointment with death. The wedding goes as planned. This was a really sweet wedding issue. The background characters in the wedding scene are all caricatures of readers.

CRIMINAL: THE LAST OF THE INNOCENT #4 (Icon, 2011) – as above. Riley gets Teeg Lawless to arrange Teddy’s murder (another connection to the Criminal universe). In a flashback, we learn that Mrs. Grundy and Mr. Weatherbee were responsible for a spree of murders. Teddy ties up the last loose end by murdering Freakout (Jughead), then goes off to live happily ever after with Lizzie (Betty). The PI, Britt Black, is unable to prove anything, though he promises to keep an eye on Riley. Britt Black is based on Encyclopedia Brown. I realized this when he said he’d been catching people in lies since age 12. His first name stands for Britannica. As other reviewers have discussed, this issue ends enigmatically. In the last panel, Riley and Lizzie are drawn in the faux-Archie style and are smiling, but in the background, we see two people conducting an apparent drug deal, and they’re drawn in Sean Phillips’s normal style. The point here is to remind us that Riley’s new idyllic life is tainted by his sordid murders. But I thought at first that one of the people in the background was either Phil or Britt Black. Maybe this scene is also meant to indicate that Riley’s crimes are eventually going to catch up to him.

PLANETOID PRAXIS #1 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Ken Garing. This is the second volume of Garing’s other major work besides Gogor. This issue, an alien named O-Hom lands on an ugly-looking planet and befriends a little girl named Zuri. But O-Hom turns out to be a member of the Ono Mao, a race that’s at war with humans, and the human adults execute him. As in Gogor, Ken Garing’s art is appealingly weird. The alien’s space suit and his hideous face are particularly impressive.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #652 (Marvel, 2011) – “Revenge of the Spider-Slayer Part One: Army of Insects,” [W]Dan Slott, [A] Stefano Caselli. While Peter is watching Carlie Cooper play roller derby, the Scorpion and Smythe sabotage John Jameson’s rocket launch. This story is very well-executed and exciting, though nothing about it especially stands out, except maybe the scene where Peter injures himself by walking into a glass door. There’s a backup story written by Fred Van Lente, who, I’m coming to realize, is a far worse writer than Slott.

STRANGEHAVEN #2 (Abiogenesis, 1995) – “Special Delivery/Guide of Souls/Secrets,” [W/A] Gary Spencer Millidge. Alex’s new love interest Janey shows him around town, while in the last segment, we witness an initiation ritual for a KKK-esque secret society. I’m really starting to like Strangehaven. It effectively evokes the atmosphere of rural England, but it also feels very weird.

HERBIE #22 (ACG, 1966) – “Just Like Magic!”, [W] Shane O’Shea (Richard Hughes), [A] Ogden Whitney. Herbie has to learn magic to defeat a creature named Magical Moe whose catchphrase is “Oh, tiddle, tiddle, tiddle.” Richard Hughes’s absurdist plot contrasts oddly with Whitney’s sober artwork. It turns out I already had this issue, but my old copy was coverless.

STAR SLAMMERS #4 (IDW, 2014) – “The Minoan Agendas Chapter One: The Prisoner,” [W/A] Walt Simonson. This issue begins with another stunning fight scene, but it turns out to be taking place inside the mind of a captured Star Slammer. Then we’re introduced to his captor, the white-haired, half-naked Phaedra. This story originally appeared in issue 1 of Malibu’s 1994 Star Slammers series.

THOR #218 (Marvel, 1973) – “Where Pass the Black Stars There Also Passes… Death!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] John Buscema. Thor, Tana Nile and some other Asgardians go to Rigel to search for the home planet of the Colonizers. But the Colonizers have already fled their planet to escape from five galaxy-eating black stars. This issue has some exciting Buscema artwork, but its story is unimpressive, and the Black Stars are barely distinguishable from Galactus or Ego. The Black Stars and their Rhunian masters never appeared again after this storyline.

RIP IN TIME #5 (Fantagor, 1987) – untitled, [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Richard Corben. Four modern humans are stranded in the era of dinosaurs, and one of them decides to play The  Most Dangerous Game with the other three. In the future, a scientist sacrifices his life to bring the stranded people back. Corben’s art in this issue is beautiful, as usual, and Jones’s plot is exciting, though his female characters have unflattering personalities.

SUICIDE SQUAD #15 (DC, 1988) – “Devil to Pay,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Luke McDonnell. The Suicide Squad are trapped in the Nightshade dimension, where Eve Eden discovers that her brother is possessed by a creature called the Incubus. This issue is okay, but its plot is very hard to understand without prior knowledge of Nightshade. This character was introduced in Ditko’s Captain Atom, but got most of her character development in Suicide Squad.

TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE #7 (IDW, 2012) – untitled, [W] James Roberts, [A] Alex Milne. The Decepticon Justice Division tracks down a victim, and then the rest of the issue deals with the Lost Light crew. This series has brilliant dialogue and appealing art, but I don’t understand its plot, and I can’t tell any of the characters apart.

DAREDEVIL #14 (Marvel, 2012) – “Damned If You Do… Damned If You Don’t,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Chris Samnee. Matt tries to escape from Latveria, where he’s been abducted by Dr. Doom’s chancellor. Chris Samnee’s art is as amazing as always, but this issue’s plot is very forgettable – so much so that when I looked at it again just now, I wasn’t sure if I’d actually read it or not.

DEN #5 (Fantagor, 1989) – “Drowned Worlds,” [W] Simon Revelstroke, [A] Richard Corben. Lost at sea, Den is picked up by a submarine crewed by fish people. He finds that his lover Kath is captive on the same ship. Den is taken to the fish people’s city, where they try to make him their queen’s consort, but he and Kath escape. Corben’s art really demands to be seen in color, as it is here; his virtuosity with the airbrush is perhaps his most distinctive quality as an artist. Also, his fish people are very creepy. This issue includes two backup stories. The first one previously appeared in Catalan’s Werewolf hardcover, and the second is a silly two-pager that had never been published before, though it was done as “a possible men’s magazine feature.”

DEN #6 (Fantagor, 1989) – “Giants Below,” [W] Simon Revelstroke, [A] Richard Corben. Den and Kath travel through an underground passage using a tunnel-boring vehicle – and they’re fully aware of the sexual subtext of this. On finishing their journey, they continue their quest for the wizard Scon. Den may be Corben’s best work; it’s funny, exciting, and beautifully drawn, and it enables him to fully express his unique talents. It’s a shame that Den has fallen completely out of print. Dark Horse or Heavy Metal ought to do a complete collection of the entire saga.

ULTIMATE COMICS X-MEN #14 (Marvel, 2012) – “Divided We Fall,” [W] Brian Wood, [A] Paco Medina w/ Reilly Brown. The U.S. has split up into several different nations, and a group of former X-Men are trying to escape from Reverend Stryker’s anti-mutant persecution. This doesn’t feel like an X-Men comic at all; the characters have the same names as familiar X-Men characters, but that’s all. Also, this issue is extremely bleak. It feels like the X-Men can’t possibly escape from genocide. That is not the sort of mood I’m looking for in a superhero comic.

ALIEN ENCOUNTERS #1 (Eclipse, 1985) – “Pretending,” [W] Eric Dinehart, [A] Mike Gustovich, plus other stories. I read this thinking it was Alien Worlds, but it’s a different series, which Bruce Jones was not involved with. This issue’s main story, about a planet called Bocland, is overwritten and completely incoherent. While reading it, I had no idea what it was about. The second story, by Ken Macklin, is forgettable, but at least it makes logical sense. The only good story in the issue is Buzz Dixon and Mike Hoffman’s “Gorgonzo,” about a special effects supervisor who gets revenge on his philistinic, penny-pinching boss.

ELFQUEST: THE FINAL QUEST #11 (Dark Horse, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Wendy Pini, [W] Richard Pini. I think the main event this issue is that Skywise and Timmain become a couple. Otherwise, this issue consists mostly of relationship drama that I don’t care about. As with Transformers, a difficulty with reading Elfquest is the large cast of characters, some of whom are hard to tell apart.

GOD HATES ASTRONAUTS #8 (Image, 2015) – “Cosmic Apocalypse,” [W/A] Ryan Browne. The present version of Shelley goes into the past to recruit her and Bill’s past selves, and a lot of other nonsensical stuff happens. This series is only enjoyable if you like its absurdist, over-the-top style of humor, and I don’t.

PLANETARY #11 (DC, 2000) – “Mad World,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] John Cassaday. This issue introduces John Stone, Agent of S.T.O.R.M., based on James Bond and Nick Fury. We begin with one of his adventures from 1969, and then in the present, Elijah Snow consults him for information on his (Snow)’s past. This issue is well-executed, but it’s not nearly as clever as #7.

SUPERMAN #23 (DC, 2017) – “Black Dawn,” [W] Peter Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] Doug Mahnke. Superman fights Mr. Cobb, the father of Jon’s friend Kathy. Meanwhile, Jon has been kidnapped by Manchester Black, who started out as a parody but who was later treated as a serious example of the character type he was parodying. I think I owe this insight to someone else.

HOME GROWN FUNNIES #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1971/1997) – “Whiteman Meets Bigfoot” and other stories, [W/A] Robert Crumb. This issue unfortunately begins with a grossly racist Angelfood McSpade story. Based on stories like this, it’s no wonder that younger generations of cartoonists are disowning Crumb. The bulk of this issue is devoted to “Whiteman Meets Bigfoot,” which I’ve read before. This story is perhaps Crumb’s ultimate wish fulfillment fantasy: it’s about a man who escapes from society and lives alone in the woods with a giant, hairy, horny woman. Despite being an obvious piece of wish fulfillment, it’s one of his most powerful and affecting works. I especially like the sequence where Whiteman returns to society, gets henpecked by his cruel wife (although of course we don’t get her perspective), and then discovers that scientists are experimenting on Bigfoot.

MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #80 (Marvel, 1991) – “Weapon X Chapter Eight,” [W/A] Barry Windsor-Smith, plus other stories. The main story in this issue is another beautiful Weapon X chapter, in which Wolverine escapes captivity and hacks the Professor’s hand off. As a child, I got some issues of MCP featuring Weapon X from the library, but I didn’t understand its plot, and I was unable to se what was so distinctive and special about BWS’s art. It’s nice to revisit this storyline as an adult. The issue continues with a Captain America  story by Steve Ditko, which is a standard example of his late style. It includes his odd monosyllabic names, like “Jake Bage,” and a character with a similar hairstyle to Norman Osborn. Its politics are also a bit reactionary. Next is a Daughters of the Dragon story written by Jo Duffy, and then a Mr. Fantastic story by Danny Fingeroth, in which Reed encounters a black child prodigy scientist. I know I read this story when I was little,  because I remember the kid telling Reed to use the sine instead of the cosine. I think that was the first time I ever heard those words.

WONDER WOMAN #218 (DC, 2005) – “The Calm,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Ron Randall. Ares comes to Paradise Island and kidnaps his young daughter Lyta. There are also a lot of other subplots. This was a very average issue, and I don’t remember much about it. I was very enthusiastic about Rucka’s first Wonder Woman run when it began, but I gradually lost interest in it.

LOCKE & KEY: CLOCKWORKS #4 (IDW, 2012) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. This issue is a flashback to Rendell Locke and Dodge’s high school years. With their high school graduation coming up, Rendell, Dodge and their friends decide to go through the forbidden Black Door, since they’re only forbidden to look through it, not open it. But Rendell’s little brother Duncan, who plays the same role in this series as Bode does in the other miniseries, insists on coming along. Dodge makes Duncan promise not to “walk down these steps into the Drowning Cave” again that day, but there’s a loophole in that promise, and when the kids open the Black Door, Duncan shows up again and ruins everything. Which I assume was Dodge’s plan. Locke & Key back issues have become hard to find, probably due to the TV series. I hope I can find more of them soon.

HILLBILLY #11 (Albatross, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Eric Powell. Half this issue is a sequence in which a mother tells her son a story about the Iron Child. The Iron Child sequence is illustrated with deliberately crude art that seems to have been reproduced directly from pencils. In the other half of the issue, Rondel tries to recruit people to fight the witches, but it doesn’t work until he reveals that he himself is the Iron Child. For most of this issue the only color used is green, but there’s a striking moment when a witch fires a purple energy bolt at Rondel.

QUANTUM & WOODY #19 (Acclaim, 1999) – “Heroes,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] M.D. Bright. Quantum and Woody’s link has been severed, but Toyo Harada is planning something. This issue made even less sense to me than a typical Priest comic, and I don’t remember much about it. Quantum & Woody is one of those comics that I’d like to go back and read in order, if I had unlimited time.

Some of the following comics were part of an order I received from Midtown Comics, consisting entirely of dollar books. One thing I’m going to miss about conventions is being able to dig through dollar and quarter boxes.

BATMAN #41 (DC, 2015) – “Superheavy Part One,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Greg Capullo. Commissioner Gordon assumes the role of Batman, puts on a suit of armor with rabbit ears, and battles an electricity-powered villain. I remember that when this comic came out, people made a lot of jokes about the rabbit armor, but it’s not as silly as it looks. However, this comic is only okay and not great, though Capullo’s art is excellent.

THE NEW AVENGERS #13 (Marvel, 2016) – “A.I.M. vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. Part II: Part of the Team,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Paco Medina. A Civil War II crossover in which the main event is Songbird’s battlewith a bunch of Life Model Decoys of Dum Dum Dugan. The New Avengers was a sort of prequel to USAvengers, a series I really like, and it has a similar sense of humor.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #17 (Marvel, 2015) – “The Graveyard Shift Part Two: Trust Issues,” [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Humberto Ramos. This issue begins with a funny scene in which Aunt May and JJJ Sr think Peter and Anna Maria are a couple, because they don’t know that Peter was possessed by Doc Ock while he and Anna Maria were together. Afterward, the Ghost invades Parker Industries, and the main story ends as he’s about to kill Peter’s coworker Sanjani. The backup story is about the Black Cat.

MOON KNIGHT #4 (Marvel, 2014) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Declan Shalvey. Moon Knight investigates the case of a sleep scientist whose patients are all having the same dreams. I’ve never had much interest in Moon Knight, but the dream sequence in this issue is stunning. It’s drawn in a surrealistic style, with bizarre colors and fungal growths everywhere, and it ends in a splash page depicting an insectoid-fungal creature that looks like something out of Jeff VanderMeer. The plot of this issue is also VanderMeer-esque, since the dreams are being caused by a corpse with a fungal infection.

STRANGEHAVEN #3 (Abiogenesis, 1996) – “Call No Man Happy/My Alien Retina/Too Many Questions,” [W/A] Gary Spencer Millidge. Alex gets hired as a teacher at Strangehaven Primary, but his boss is a member of the creepy local version of the KKK.  This is another dense and fascinating issue. I think the best thing about this series is its sense of extreme local specificity.

ZENITH #1/3 (Fleetway/Quality, 1993) – “Fixin’ to Die” and other sequences, [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. Zenith defeats the Lovecraftian monster, and then in a couple  flashback sequences, we get some background on the WWII-era origins of this universe’s superheroes. This series is very reminiscent of Miracleman, though not as accomplished. Steve Parkhouse’s art is old-fashioned and he’s not great at drawing cosmic horror, but Brendan McCarthy’s costume designs are excellent.

INJECTION #6 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Declan Shalvey. This issue has the same creative team as the issue of Moon Knight I just reviewed. Injection #6 introduces a detective named Headland, who resembles Sherlock Holmes but seems to be even further on the autism spectrum. A rich man hires Headland to locate his missing son, and Headland discovers that the son was murdered and turned into ham. This issue isn’t as stunning as Moon Knight #4, but it’s fascinating. I can’t see how it connects to the other issues of Injection that I’ve read.

DETECTIVE COMICS #47 (DC, 2016) – “Robin War Part Three: Getting Dirty,” [W] Ray Fawkes, [A] Steve Pugh. Jim Gordon is still Batman and is still wearing the bunny suit. Gotham has been imprisoning and locking up teenagers who sympathize with Robin. The Robin War premise is interesting, but otherwise this is just an average Batman comic.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #104 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Sophie Campbell. Jenny befriends the runaway mutant kids from last issue, and then the Turtles are finally reunited. This issue is very emotionally charged, and the four Turtle siblings’ reunion is a heartwarming moment. Issue 101, to be reviewed later, offers important context as to why the Turtles were separated and why some of them were in such poor mental health.

ACTION COMICS #371 (DC, 1969) – “The President of Steel!”, [W] Otto Binder, [A] Curt Swan. Superman forgets his secret identity, so he assumes he must really be the President. He manages to successfully substitute himself for the President, but then he discovers that the real President was kidnapped, and rescues him. The obvious problem with Superman’s guess as to his secret identity is that the President is hardly ever alone long enough to maintain a double life. Superman even points out that with the Secret Service always around, it was hard to switch to his other identity. According to a footnote, the President in this issue was drawn to look different from any real politician, “in order not to offend the dignity of the office of President.” Back in 1969, that office still had some dignity. In the backup story, by Dorfman and Schaffenberger, Supergirl discovers a biography of herself from the future.

BATMAN #592 (DC, 2001) – “Shot Through the Heart,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Scott McDaniel. Bruce is shot by Deadshot, then meets an alleged childhood friend of Mallory Moxon. If that surname sounds familiar, that’s because her father is Lew Moxon, who, in pre-Crisis continuity, arranged the Waynes’ deaths. Deadshot is depicted in this issue as just a generic villain, without the personality that Ostrander and Yale gave him.

KARNAK #3 (Marvel, 2016) – “The Flaw in All Things Part 3,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Roland Boschi. Karnak investigates a cult called the Chapel of the Single Shadow. The most interesting thing about this series is its exploration of Karnak, both his personality and the strange implications of his powers. Other than that, this comic is just okay.

THE FILTH #6 (Vertigo, 2003) – “The World of Anders Klimakks,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Gary Erskine. The protagonists battle two villainous sex-themed villains called Tex Porneau and Anders Klimakks. Chris Weston’s art in this issue is excellent, but this issue’s is a disturbing read. There is sex everywhere in this issue, including the cover. It depicts sex with even less subtlety than Sex Criminals, as hard as that is to do, and it makes the reader feel embarrassed and dirty. Also, as usual with Morrison, this issue’s plot is hard to follow.

TRANSFORMERS #68 (Marvel, 1990) – “The Human Factor!”, [W] Simon Furman, [A] Dwayne Turner. This issue introduces the Neo-Knights, a team of human superheroes assembled by G.B. Blackrock. I don’t understand why Furman chose to introduce a superhero team into a comic about giant robots. Based on information from tfwiki.net, I think Furman may have been hoping to spin off these characters into their own series, though that didn’t happen. In any event, this issue is handicapped by Dwayne Turner’s art. He was okay at drawing people, but he had no ability to draw realistic-looking robots.

G.I. JOE #65 (Marvel, 1987) – “Shuttle Complex,” [W] Larry Hama, [A] Ron Wagner. A G.I. Joe spaceship battles a Cobra spaceship piloted by the Baroness and Fred, who is posing as Cobra Commander. This issue expresses a basic paradox of this series. On one hand, it was a realistic, gritty war comic, based on Hama’s own military experience. On the other hand, it was based on a toy line, so it had to include farfetched stuff like space dogfights.

DETECTIVE COMICS #743 (DC, 2000) – “Evolution One: Whispers in the Dark,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Shawn Martinborough. Gotham is embroiled in a five-way gang war stemming from No Man’s Land. I actually remember No Man’s Land from when I read Batman comics semi-regularly, so this issue serves as a bridge between the Batman comics I remember and the era when I wasn’t following Batman at all. Also in this issue, Bruce meets a love interest named Whisper A’Daire who’s actually a minion of Ra’s al Ghul. I don’t like Shawn Martinborough’s draftsmanship, but the coloring in this issue is quite distinctive; the only colors used are red and orange.

CREATURES ON THE LOOSE #23 (DC, 1973) – “Where Broods the Demon!”, [W] George Alec Effinger, [A] Val Mayerik. An adaptation of a story starring Thongor, Warrior of Lost Lemuria. Thongor is a bargain-basement version of Conan, and this story is barely distinguishable from an issue of Conan the Barbarian, except it lacks Roy Thomas’s witty dialogue. At least Val Mayerik’s art isn’t bad. A demon in this issue is named Aqquoonkagua, presumably after the South American mountain Aconcagua. This issue includes a reprinted old story about some giant aliens who decide not to conquer Earth because it‘s beneath their notice.

FANTASTIC FOUR #180 (Marvel, 1977) – “Bedlam in the Baxter Building!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. This issue has an exciting cover depicting Thundra, Tigra and the Impossible Man, but none of those characters appear in it. Instead, the entire issue is a Dreaded Deadline Doom reprint of FF #101, which I already had. It has been a while since I read FF #101, and it’s not a bad issue; its plot is that a Maggia leader called the Top Man tries to take over the Baxter Building.

TEEN TITANS #33 (DC, 1971) – “Less than Human?”, [W] Bob Haney, [A] George Tuska & Nick Cardy. It’s not clear which of the two artists did what. In this issue the Titans return from a mission to the past, but a caveman named Gnarrk comes back with them, and they have to “civilize” him and turn him into a modern man. In the process, Gnarrk falls in love with Lilith. This issue’s treatment of Gnarrk is very paternalistic and colonialist; the Titans treat him as if he were a baby, and there’s little acknowledgement that he’s 17 years old and has his own language and culture. Still, Gnarrk and Lilith’s romance is cute, and the art in this issue is good. Gnarrk is oddly similar to Garn from issue 2, as I mentioned in my review of that issue earlier this year.

SKULL THE SLAYER #5 (Marvel, 1976) – “Magic, Myth and Madness!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Sal Buscema. Mantlo was this series’ third writer in as many issues. This issue, Skull and his friends team up with the Black Knight and King Arthur’s knights and fight a villain named Slitherogue. But both the knights and the villains turn out to be robots, endlessly refighting a pointless war. This issue has a vague anti-war message, but it’s mostly a bunch of fight scenes with tedious captions.

HILLBILLY #10 (Albatross, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Eric Powell. Rondel and his friends James and Esther try to recruit allies, both human and animal, for the coming battle against the witches. This issue is mostly setup for the next two. Again, Eric Powell’s art is excellent. I like how his characters look highly stylized, while also seeming to have three dimensions.

ROYALS #9 (Marvel, 2017) – “On the Other Side,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Javier Rodriguez. This series stars the Inhuman royals, including Medusa and Gorgon, who are sleeping together. I don’t recall much about this issue’s plot, but Javier Rodriguez’s art is amazing, especially his full-page depictions of bizarre alien worlds. He is one of the best artists Marvel has at the moment, and he deserves to be more of a superstar than he is.

TALES OF THE BEANWORLD #7 (Eclipse, 1987) – “New & Improved Gunk’l’dunk!”, [W/A] Larry Marder. Mr. Spook is suspicious of the hypnotic powers of the Clang Twang, but Proffy discovers that it can be used to produce a superior version of Gunk’l’dunk. The fun part about Beanworld is that every issue gives us more understanding of what the Beanworld is and how it works. There’s a sequence in this issue where one of the Boom’r Beans has to swim under the island to get to the other side. I don’t see why he couldn’t have walked there.

FANTASTIC FOUR #96 (Marvel, 1969) – “The Mad Thinker and the Androids of Death!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. The Mad Thinker kidnaps Johnny and Sue, but Reed and Ben manage to beat him and his androids. This is an exciting issue with thrilling artwork. Its weak point is its sexist depiction of Sue. The scene where she goes shopping for clothes is kind of cringeworthy.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #653 (Marvel, 2011) – “Revenge of the Spider-Slayer Part Two: All You Love Will Die”, [W] Dan Slott & Fred Van Lente, [A] Stefano Caselli. Peter tries to save John Jameson’s space shuttle from the Scorpion, while other insect villains are invading the Daily Bugle offices and the spa where Aunt May and Marla are relaxing. The most memorable moment in this issue is when Spidey calls Avengers Mansion and Squirrel Girl answers the phone. This was when she was Danielle Cage’s nanny, so she’s depicted less seriously than in Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. It’s easy to forget that Slott, not Ryan North, was the writer who revived Squirrel Girl. This issue suffers a bit from the lack of Slott’s dialogue.

EXTRAORDINARY X-MEN #12 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Humberto Ramos. A boring story that’s mostly about Apocalypse and Magik. There’s little or nothing about this issue that indicates that Jeff Lemire wrote it.

THOR #264 (Marvel, 1977) – “Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Walt Simonson. Walt Simonson’s first Thor run was far less impressive than his second, because first, he didn’t write it himself, and second, he was saddled with inappropriate inkers like Tony DeZuniga. There are only a few places in this issue where you can recognize Simonson’s style under DeZuniga’s inks. This issue has a formulaic plot where Loki seizes the throne of Asgard, and Thor and his friends have to get it back. The best moment in this issue is when Volstagg says his eye, arm and heart are like those of an eagle, titan and lion, and Fandral replies that his mouth is like that of the “bellowing wind.”

WONDER WOMAN #302 (DC, 1983) – “Victory!”, [W] Dan Mishkin, [A] Gene Colan. Diana fights a skeletal Amazon warrior named Artemis, not to be confused with the later, more prominent character of that name. Mishkin’s Wonder Woman helped qualify him to write Amethyst, and this issue is reasonably good, but it’s not spectacular. There’s also a Huntress backup story by Joey Cavalieri. When written by Paul Levitz, the Huntress backup stories in Wonder Woman were always much better than the main stories, but here it’s the other way around. Cavalieri’s Huntress stories were boring, and he ruined Helena and Harry Sims’s relationship.

STAR TREK #51 (DC, 1988) – “Haunted Honeymoon,” [W] Peter David, [A] Tom Sutton. Bryce and Konom, two characters who only appeared in this comic book series, get married. Lieutenant Castille, another character unique to this series, loses control of his telepathic powers, and the entire crew goes crazy. I love how Peter David writes the classic Star Trek characters, but Tom Sutton was an odd choice of artist for this series. His talents are far more suited to horror. Perhaps he was chosen because of his prior experience drawing Planet of the Apes.

TWISTED TALES #3 (Pacific, 1983) – “Me an Ol’ Rex,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Richard Corben. All the stories in this issue are written by Jones. The first one is about an abused, neglected little boy who starts feeding people to his pet tyrannosaurus. The twist ending is that the tyrannosaurus is actually his dad. This seems unnecessary and tacked on. Next, in Doug Wildey’s “Off Key,” a screenwriter and his wife discover that they’re characters in a screenplay. Wildey’s art here is phenomenal. He’s especially good at drawing naked women, something I would not have expected. Bill Wray’s “With Honor” is an unconvincing story about a Japanese soldier who’s tricked into thinking World War II is still going on. Last, Bret Blevins’s “Sunken Chest” has the typical EC plot where a woman conspires with her lover to murder her husband. The way the murderers are revealed is gruesome and surprising.

HILLBILLY #12 (Albatross, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Eric Powell. On the eve of the final battle, Rondel confesses his love for Esther. Rondel and his allies ar victorious, but Esther is killed, and Rondel goes off to wander the hills with his bear companion. This is an effective conclusion to a series that was better than I realized.

CRITTERS #14 (Fantagraphics, 1987) – “Bounty Hunter II,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi and Gen team up to collect a bounty, and Gen emerges unscathed while Usagi gets into a bloody, painful fight. Usagi gets his revenge by sticking Gen with their tavern bill. Usagi behaves rather differently with Gen than with anyone else, and this may be because Usagi and Gen’s relationship originated in early stories like this one, when Usagi’s personality was not fully developed. This issue also includes a Gnuff story, which is not bad, and a chapter of Steven Gallacci’s Birthright, perhaps one of the worst comics Fantagraphics ever published.

AQUAMAN #42 (DC, 1998) – “Necessary Poisons,” [W] Peter David, [A] Jim Calafiore. Aquaman battles a new villain who turns into a werewolf when wet. Back at home, he gets increasingly impatient with running Poseidonis. I get the sense that at this point in his run, PAD was getting kind of tired of Aquaman. There aren’t a lot of new ideas in this issue.

PLANETOID #1 (Image, 2012) – untitled, [W/A] Ken Garing, An astronaut lands on a grim, ugly planet covered with decaying industrial buildings. After fighting a robotic snake, he meets another human, and they tell each other their stories. The upshot is that the astronaut arrived on the planet while fleeing from the hostile alien Ono Mao – but now that he’s on the planet, he can’t leave. I have a few more issues of Planetoid, but I haven’t read them yet.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #655 (Marvel, 2011) – “In Memory of Marla Jameson,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Marcos Martin. This is probably Dan Slott’s best issue of Spider-Man, or perhaps of any comic book. In #654, Marla Jameson was killed. The first half of this issue is a wordless sequence depicting her funeral. In the second half, Peter has a ddraem sequence where he sees all his dead loved ones – his parents, Uncle Ben, Gwen, Sally Avril, the Kid Who Collects Spider-Man, and many others I couldn’t recognize. Peter’s only response is to swear that he won’t let anyone else die. The problem is that the end of the issue introduces Massacre, a villain who openly states he has no concern for human life. The real MVP of this issue is Marcos Martin. Without using any words, he conveys the grimness of the funeral service. In the dream sequence, his nonstandard page layouts (one page is a spiral, and another page  is an Escherian scene with no clear up and down) convey Peter’s sense of uneasiness and distortion.

BATMAN #74 (DC, 2019) – “The Fall and the Fallen, Conclusion,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mikel Janin. Batman and his alleged father travel through the desert to a Lazarus pit. Because of the desert setting and Batman’s lack of a shirt, I assume this issue is a deliberate homage to “The Demon Lives Again” from Batman #244. This issue extensively quotes from a Russian folktale where some animals fall into a pit and eat each other. This is a real folktale called “The Animals in the Pit,” written or recorded by Alexander Afanasyev, and it previously showed up in issue 57.

THE DESERT PEACH #6 (Mu Press, 1990) – “A Day Like Any Other,” [W/A] Donna Barr. A new medical officer joins Pfirsch Rommel’s regiment and is shocked to discover all the weird people that Pfirsch surrounds himself with. This issue is very funny and also serves as an efficient introduction to the series. Throughout her work, Donna Barr threads the needle of presenting German culture sympathetically without becoming an apologist for Nazism. In this issue, she accomplishes that balance by showing that Pfirsch is disgusted by typical Nazi racism. This issue has a visual gimmick where somewhere on each page, there’s a bird (a duck maybe) that has the page number attached to it. At the end of the issue, one of Pfirsch’s soldiers captures and kills the bird.

HAUNTED LOVE #9 (Charlton, 1975) – “Death Waits for Moonrise,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Sanho Kim, plus other stories. This issue starts with a werewolf story which is reasonably good, but has an incongruous happy ending. It includes an unintentionally funny moment where the protagonist says he can’t marry his fiancee until he creats a vaccine for lycanthropy. Next are two ghost stories: a boring one by Pat Boyette, and a gorgeous one by the super-underrated Enrique Nieto.

THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY: DALLAS #1 (Dark Horse, 2008) – “Dallas Part One: The Jungle,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Gabriel Bá. I still don’t understand this series at all, and I probably won’t until I read the first miniseries, the original issues of which are prohibitively expensive. At least this issue is extremely well-drawn. I love Moon and Bá’s art. And this issue is at least a little clearer than Hotel Oblivion was.

BATMAN #606 (DC, 2002) – “Death-Wish for Two,” [W] Ed Brubaker & Geoff Johns, [A] Scott McDaniel. Batman tries to save David Cain from being assassinated by Deadshot. This is a pretty boring issue, although at least it gives Deadshot a bit more of a personality than issue 602 did.

HILLBILLY #7 (Albatross, 2017) – “Beware the Wolf,” [W/A] Eric Powell. Rondell meets a shaman who causes him to have a vision of a monstrous wolf. The vision sequence is in 3D, but I don’t think this comic came with 3D glasses. Also, the vision sequence is drawn rather sloppily as  compared to Powell’s usual style.

SILK #7 (Marvel, 2016) – “Spider-Women 3,” [W] Robbie Thompson, [A] Tana Ford. Cindy Moon finds herself on Earth-65, I think, where she meets alternate versions of herself and her family. This issue is part of the Spider-Woman crossover, which in the case of this series is actually a good thing, because its usual plots were less interesting than that of the crossover.

CREATURES ON THE LOOSE #16 (Marvel, 1972) – “Warrior of Mars,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Gil Kane. This issue is an adaptation of Edwin L. Arnold’s 1905 novel Lieut. Gullivar Jones, which has some curious similarities to ERB’s John Carter novels, and may have helped inspire them. Gullivar Jones was totally forgotten until Dick Lupoff rediscovered it in the ‘60s, and in tribute to Lupoff, an Abin Sur-esque character in Creatures on the Loose #16 is named Lu-Pov. My friend Ian Gould has read Gullivar Jones and says it’s “not that similar” to John Carter; however, Jones and Kane’s adaptation of the novel reads very like a John Carter comic.  As one would expect, Gil Kane’s artwork on this story is brilliant. Unfortunately the Gullivar Jones story is just ten pages, and the rest of the issue consists of reprinted monster stories.

Some of the next comics were part of an order I received from Mile High, who had a 65% off sale:

THE AUTHORITY #12 (Wildstorm, 2000) – “Outer Dark Four of Four,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Bryan Hitch. The Authority battle God and win, but Jenny Sparks dies as the century ends (and she has an answer for why she’s dying in 2000, not 2001). This issue produces a powerful sense of wonder; Ellis’s writing and Hitch’s widescreen art convey the sublime majesty and terror of the alien entity. I’ve probably said this before, but I think Ellis is fundamentally a science fiction writer, and his work often seeks to convey the sense of wonder which is a characteristic affect of SF. By contrast, his successor on Authority, Mark Millar, is more interested in shock value.

SUPERNATURAL LAW #33 (Exhibit A, 2002) – “Lawyers & Clients,” [W/A] Batton Lash. A demon named Huberis the Dybbuk hires Wolff & Byrd to sue a church for not letting him worship there. However, Huberis refuses to work with Wolff because she’s a woman, and when Byrd wins his case anyway, he’s still not happy because the judge is also a woman. This issue is an extremely witty parody of Cerebus. Huberis, of course, is a parody of Sim’s extreme sexism, and may have been prompted by Sim’s misogynistic “Tangents” essay from the previous year. Huberis’s part of the story is narrated in illustrated text, which Sim often used in the latter part of Cerebus, and these sequences even use Sim’s characteristic fuzzy black panel borders. The issue is also full of Cerebus in-jokes, including references to Astoria, Tarim, and “something fell.” “Lawyers and Clients” actually makes me want to read more Cerebus, because some of the in-jokes probably went over my head.

FLASH GORDON #7 (Dynamite, 2014) – “Skyfall,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Evan “Doc” Shaner. This was the last issue of this series that I was missing. In “Skyfall,” Vultan, king of Sky World, wants Flash, Dale and Zarkov’s assistance against Ming, but Zarkov gets Vultan drunk so they can steal their ship back from him. Doc Shaner’s art in this issue is amazing, and Jeff Parker gives the characters more of a personality than they ever had before. The problem with this issue is that it’s too short; the main story ends on the first page of the centerfold.

ARCHIE #24 (Archie, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Audrey Mok. “Over the Edge” and the issues immediately following it were probably Mark Waid’s best comics of the past decade. This issue deals with Betty’s trauma over her injury, as well as the extensive accommodations required to make her house accessible. A powerful moment is when Archie sells his car to pay for Betty’s physical therapy, even though Betty’s father is refusing to let him see her. So instead, Archie draws a heart in the frost on Betty’s window.

JOHN CONSTANTINE, HELLBLAZER #5 (DC, 2020) – “Scrubbing Up, Part Two,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. Tommy Willowtree tells Constantine that he was appointed this generation’s Mystagogue by the Guardians of the Merlintrove. Constantine has never heard of these Guardians, so he goes out looking for him, but while he’s gone, they attack Tommy and severely injure him. Meanwhile, Constantine’s older self recruits his younger self’s enemy Barry. Much of the appeal of this series comes from the interplay between Constantine and Tommy, who embodies all the stereotypes about hipsters.

JIMBO #1 (Zongo, 1995) – numerous vignettes, [W/A] Gary Panter. A series of short strips mostly focusing on a Bart Simpson-haired punk who wanders through a postapocalyptic world. This comic’s art style is intentionally crude; the lettering and linework are shaky, and there’s no variation in line width. The story also seems incoherent at first, though it eventually does start to make sense. The strange thing is that though Panter’s artwork looks awful at first glance, at least in this comic, he’s unquestionably one of the most important influences on contemporary comics. He inspired lots of artists who deliberately reject virtuosity and seek to convey the handmade quality of their art. Jeffrey Brown is the first example who comes to mind. Also, Panter’s elaborate cover art for this issue shows that he (like Brown) is not an incompetent, but a highly skilled artist who’s capable of working in many different styles. I’ve never been able to get into Panter, but I need to try. I   bought Jimbo: Adventures in Paradise back in high school but never read it, and it’s still at my parents’ house. The next time I go there, I need to take that book back.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #657 (Marvel, 2011) – “Torch Song,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Marcos Martin et al. This was part of another order from Heroes. This issue was published just after Johnny Storm’s temporary death in  Fantastic Four #587, and so Slott was faced with the task of writing two funeral stories in three issues. Peter alludes to this by saying that he skipped Johnny’s funeral because he’s been to too many funerals later. Slott wisely chooses not to do another sad story like #655. Instead, #657 is a frame story with three inserted stories by different artists, each illustrating a different facet of Peter and the FF’s relationship. At the end, Johnny bequeaths Peter his spot in the FF. This issue is a touching tribute to Peter and Johnny’s friendship, and it still holds up well even though Johnny has long since come back to life.

SKYWARD #4 (Action Lab, 2013) – “Rabite Season,” [W/A] Jeremy Dale. I wonder if the next issue was called “Duk Season.” This issue has a number of different plotlines, including one about a young prince whose father refuses to let him join the royal army, and another about a tribe of warrior bunnies. Jeremy Dale’s artwork and storytelling are extremely appealing, and this is a very fun comic. It’s too bad he didn’t get a chance to develop his talents further.

HEATHEN #10 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Natasha Alterici, [A] Ashley A. Woods. Aydis infiltrates the prison, and there’s also a subplot about her friends who are looking for her. This series is significantly worse without Alterici’s art. She’s still doing the coloring, but Woods is unable to imitate her unique art style.

DETECTIVE COMICS #51 (DC, 2016) – “Our Gordon at War,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Fernando Pasarin. Jim Gordon meets an old war buddy who tells him that the members of their unit are being murdered, and then the buddy is himself murdered, by an Egyptian cultist. Gordon heads to a military base in Afghanistan to investigate. This issue is very gruesome and grim, but its depiction of the army feels realistic.

WILD’S END #4 (Boom!, 2014) – “Upper Deeping,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] I.N.J. Culbard. The survivors reach the village of Upper Deeping, where they find one remaining survivor, but he and Alph apparently get blown up by a pursuing Martian. I love how the Martians in this comic have heads that look like lampposts; it makes them seem quaintly Victorian, yet also threatening. This issue’s bonus feature is an excerpt from one of Lewis F. Corbett’s stories, which, as we learn this issue, were ghostwritten by his ex-wife. I forgot to mention earlier that the setting of this comic is not the real England, but an idealized fantasy version thereof. But its setting still feels very English.

STARMAN #61 (DC, 2000) – “In Tranquility and Fire: A Prologue to Grand Guignol,” [W] James Robinson, [A] Peter Snejbjerg. This was one of only two issues I was missing, along with #69. This issue is a bridge between the series’ last two major story arcs, The Stars My Destination and Grand Guignol. Jack goes home and can’t wait to see Sadie, but she’s not there, and something weird is going on in Opal. The issue ends with Culp staging a massive terrorist attack.

WILD’S END #5 (Boom!, 2015) – “Downstream,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] I.N.J. Culbard. Alph survives the Martian attack, but with serious injuries. The old dog guy gives him a speech about war. This character’s wartime trauma is an important subtext to the series. The survivors visit the local squire, who has a car (though he’s not a toad), but he foolishly confronts an alien and gets killed. The protagonists take his car and drive off, only to realize that they don’t dare go to the nearest town because the aliens would follow them there. This issue completes my Wild’s End collection. I still have to read the third volume, which was only released as a trade.

HEATHEN #4 (Vault, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Natasha Alterici. Aydis saves an alleged witch from being lynched, and learns that the witch was arranging meetings for two male lovers. In a flashback, Aydis tells a story about a similar experience that made her realize she was gay. This is a touching story about queer identity, and it also benefits from Alterici’s entirely unique style of art.

SHE-HULK #16 (Marvel, 2007) – “Planet Without a Hulk, Part Two: Gamma Flight,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Rick Burchett. She-Hulk and Wolverine fight Wendigo, while the Hulkbusters and the Tsuu T’ina First Nation argue about jurisdiction. There are also some scenes set back in New York at the GLKH law firm. At the end of the issue, Jen propositions Wolverine, but he turns her down because he doesn’t want Juggernaut’s sloppy seconds. This foreshadows a later issue which retcons away the story where Jen slept with Juggernaut. A similar metatextual reference occurs earlier in this issue where Stu Cicero’s staff can’t figure out how Avengers/Power Pack and Stan Lee Meets Spider-Man fit into continuity. On Stu and his comics vault, see my recent essay in the edited collection Ms. Marvel’s America: No Normal.

INJECTION #8 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Declan Shalvey. Headland continues to investigate the Case of the Human Ham, and we get some background on his lack of emotion. There’s also a subplot that I don’t quite understand. Injection is one of the more interesting of Ellis’s less prominent works.

STINZ #5 (Brave New Worlds, 1990) – “Wedding Hell,” [W/A] Donna Barr. Stinz’s wedding is coming up, but he has to stop his dumb friends from staging a traditional Brautjagd, or bride abduction. Bride kidnapping, real or staged, is a traditional custom in many cultures, but I can’t tell if it was ever a custom in Germany. The wedding turns out fine in the end, but what Stinz doesn’t know is that his unit is about to be called up to action. There’s a backup story in which a two-legger scientist describes his observations of the Geisel Valley  at an earlier period.

HELLBLAZER #176 (DC, 2002) – “High on Life Part 2 of 2,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Steve Dillon. In Liverpool, Constantine, who is wearing a beard for some reason, investigates a crime spree in which women are being murdered with a straight razor. He discovers that the killer is an old lady who’s murdering beautiful women so she can magically access their memories of being beautiful. This issue gives a powerful sense of the grim, gritty atmosphere of Liverpool, but I had trouble remembering anything else about it.

WINTERWORLD #1 (Eclipse, 1987) – untitled, [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Jorge Zaffino. An SF story set in a dystopian snow-covered future world. Chuck Dixon’s story is average (and I feel obliged to mention here that I can’t stand him), but the real attraction of this comic is Zaffino’s art. He was from Argentina, and he draws in a scratchy, realistic style presumably influenced by Breccia and Pratt. His art is fascinating, although it would probably be far more effctive in black and white. IDW did reprint Winterworld in black and white, but if I bought that book, I would make sure to buy it used, so as not to give any money to Dixon.

SENSATION COMICS FEATURING WONDER WOMAN #17 (DC, 2016) – “Island of Lost Souls,” [W] Trina Robbins, [A] Chris Gugliotti. A full-length story that focuses on Wonder Woman and Cheetah’s relationship. It also includes a doctor named George Herbert and a bunch of human-animal hybrids, so it’s a mildly disguised homage to The Island of Dr. Moreau. It’s not the best Wonder Woman story, but it’s reasonably good. Chris Gugliotti has a cute and distinctive style of art that vaguely reminds me of that of Tana Ford.

CATWOMAN #40 (DC, 2015) – “The Issue and End,” [W] Genevieve Valentine, [A] Garry Brown. Another lousy issue: a bunch of uninteresting mob intrigue, dressed up with classical and Renaissance references. I still haven’t read any of Valentine’s fiction, but I’m not impressed with her comics work.

THE FOX #2 (Archie, 2015) – “The Other Shoe,” [W/A] Dean Haspiel, [W] Mark Waid. The Fox and his son, the Ghost Fox, fight three different villains at once. Some of my friends liked this series because it reminded them of older comics, but I was never particularly impressed with it.

DEATHBLOW: BYBLOWS #1 (WildStorm, 1999) – “Byblows Part One,”  [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jim Baikie. I’ve often been underwhelmed by Moore’s Image and WildStorm work, so this issue was a very pleasant surprise. A naked, bald woman wakes up inside an incubator on an alien planet. She fights and defeats an alien cyborg, and then meets a little boy in a suit. All three characters are named Cray. This issue creates an appealing sense of mystery and strangeness, but perhaps its best quality is its art, which was often the weak point in Moore’s Image comics. Baikie was an old collaborator of Moore’s – they worked together on Skizz, which I have not read – and he draws in a very British style that resembles that of Dave Gibbons. His draftsmanship is kind of blocky, but his storytelling is extremely strong. About half this issue is wordless, yet the reader is never confused as to what’s going on.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #659 (Marvel, 2011) – “Fantastic Voyage Part I of II,” [W] Dan Slott & Fred Van Lente, [A] Stefano Caselli. Peter and the Fantastic Four go back in time to look for Blackbeard’s treasure, and they fight some zombie pirates. Meanwhile, Carlie Cooper gets a drunk tattoo. This is an entertaining issue, and it’s really fun seeing Peter interacting with the Future Foundation kids, but Van Lente is a worse dialogue writer than Slott. There are two backup stories: a two-pager written by Slott, and a longer one written by Rob Williams, in which Spidey teams up with Ghost Rider.

THE WILD STORM #2 (DC, 2017) – “The Wild Storm – Chapter Two,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Jon Davis-Hunt. I guess this series was a reboot of the entire WildStorm universe. It includes characters like Grifter and Henry Bendix. It’s not bad, but it’s not as interesting as other Ellis comics I’ve read lately, and its story is hard to understand.

CURSE WORDS #3 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. Sizzajee decides to send Ruby Stitch to the human world. Meanwhile, Wizord accidentally discovers how to use Places of Power to restore his powers. There are no real surprises in this issue since I’ve already read many of the later ones, but this issue does fill in some gaps in the plot.

DYING IS EASY #4 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Martin Simmonds. Another issue that completely squanders Martin Simmonds’s artistic talents. The only thing in this issue that looks like Simmonds (or the version of him that we saw in Punks Not Dead) is the woman carrying balloons. I’m so frustrated with the art in this series that I don’t care about the writing. I’m sorry that I already ordered issue 5.

ARCHIE #522 (Archie, 2002) – “Repair Despair!”, [W] Bill Golliher, [A] Stan Goldberg, plus other stories. In the main story, Mr. Andrews refuses to pay for repairs to Archie’s car, but when he’s forced to drive the car himself, he changes his mind. This issue also includes a story where Archie works as a waiter, a Star Trek parody, and a story about Archie’s pet turtle. This issue’s two stories written by Bill Golliher are much wittier than the two written by Mike Pellowski.

NEOTOPIA #1 (Antarctic, 2003) – “The Replacement Princess,” [W/A] Rod Espinosa. In a utopian world that blends SF and fantasy elements, we’re introduced a kind and brave young princess. But then we realize that this girl is a stand-in for the real princess, who is a horrible person. I’d be willing to read more of this series. Espinosa’s artwork here is perhaps better than in Adventure Finders, because it’s less obviously reliant on digital imagery.

ASTONISHER #6 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “It’s a Beautiful Li(f)e,” [W] Alex de Campi, [A] Al Barrionuevo & Pop Mhan. This issue is about two brothers, one of whom is a crazy ne’er-do-well. I’ve never been able to follow the plot of this series, although Alex de Campi is a great writer whose work I need to explore further.

THE FIX #8 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Nick Spencer, [A] Steve Lieber. This issue begins with a partly silent sequence about an injured dog. A funny moment here is when one of the dog’s owners says that the family cat will be worried sick, and in a four-panel sequence, we see the cat licking itself and going back to sleep in its basket. The second half of this issue is an unfunny parody of the secret agent genre. I hate Nick Spencer’s writing, largely because of the contempt he shows for his readers, and I mostly bought this comic because of Steve Lieber’s art.

LEGENDARY STAR-LORD #12 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Paco Medina. This issue includes some funny depictions of the Collector’s collection, which includes items like the Beyonder’s blazer and Rocket Raccoon’s original tail. Also, the Collector’s museum is located in the head of a giant frog. This version of the Collector is clearly based on Benicio del Toro’s film portrayal, and not on the depiction of the character in earlier comics. Other than that, I neither understand nor care about this comic’s plot.

LOVE AND CAPES: THE FAMILY WAY #1 (Maerkle Press, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Thom Zahler. Like Eric Shanower with Age of Bronze, Thom Zahler has stopped publishing new issues of Love & Capes through the direct market, but he’s still selling them on his website. I resisted ordering them before because of the high shipping costs, and because I expected to be able to buy them from him in person at a convention. But with the pandemic, I decided to order all the issues that were available, and Thom was nice enough to sign them. The Family Way takes place five years after What to Expect, when Mark and Abby’s five-year-old son James has been joined by an eight-month-old baby sister, Hayley. This issue is mostly devoted to establishing the new status quo: Darkblade and Amazonia are broken up, but they miss each other, and baby Hayley has inherited her dad’s powers. Love & Capes is as cute and heartwarming as any superhero comic I know of, and it’s great to see it back.

LOVE & CAPES: THE FAMILY WAY #2 – as above. This issue is msotly a continuation of the previous one, but it does have a self-contained subplot, about how Mark is disturbed that James wants to be Kylo Ren for Halloween. Meanwhile, Abby applies for a liquor license for the bookstore. Having written that, I realize why this series describes itself as a situation comedy.

The next few comics were from a MyComicShop shipment:

PRINCELESS: SHORT STORIES FOR WARRIOR WOMEN #1 (Action Lab, 2012) – “The Thing in the Dungeon,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Nancy King. This must be one of the rarer Princeless comics. I didn’t even know it existed at first. This issue’s first story is about a childhood adventure of Adrienne and her brother Devin, and the backup story shows how Adrienne’s parents met. Both of these stories are prime examples of the Princeless style, but unfortunately this issue wastes some space on an unnecessary preview of Princeless volume 2.

ZAP COMIX #0 (Last Gasp, 1967/1988) – “Meatball” and other stories, [W/A] Robert Crumb. The stories in this issue were intended for Zap #1, but the artwork was lost and not recovered until after #2 was published, hence the number #0. While Zap #0 was not the truly groundbreaking issue of the series, it’s still an extremely important comic, and it gives me a better understanding of Crumb’s impact. “Meatball” is the key story here; it’s a metaphor for the experience of being jolted out of conventional midcentury American life and joining the counterculture. The issue includes a bunch of other stories on similar themes, including a Mr. Natural six-pager. While the material in this issue must have seemed utterly unprecedented to ‘60s readers, it clearly didn’t come out of nowhere. Zap #0 is full of referencse to EC comics, Fleisher Brothers animation, and other pop-cultural texts. For example, the title “Meatball” is lettered in the same style as Kurtzman’s story titles.

VICTOR LAVALLE’S DESTROYER #1 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Dietrich Smith. In the first half of this issue, Frankenstein’s monster emerges from isolation and hijacks a ship. The second half introduces Dr. Josephine Baker, a modern-day Frankenstein, and her young son. In his author’s note, LaValle explains that he never read Frankenstein until he was an adult, and that this series is an attempt to combine the story of Frankenstein with the contemporary topic of violence against black people. I now have this entire miniseries, but I haven’t read #4 yet.

AQUAMAN #24 (DC, 1965) – “Aquaman, Save Our Seas,” [W] unknown (Bob Haney?), [A] Nick Cardy. Aquaman and Mera battle the Terrible Trio, consisting of the Fisherman and two new villains, the Un-Thing and Karla. The latter is especially interesting because she’s sort of an evil version of Mera, with equally red hair but with fire powers instead of water powers. This story actually passes the Bechdel test because Mera and Karla argue with each other while they’re fighting. It’s too bad Karla never appeared again. As always, Nick Cardy’s artwork in this issue is incredible.

DAREDEVIL #4 (Marvel, 2014) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Chris Samnee. Matt teams up with the Shroud against the Owl, but it’s not clear where the Shroud’s loyalties lie. This was the only issue I was missing from this volume of Daredevil, but it’s only an average issue. Of course Chris Samnee’s fight sequences are excellent.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #101 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Sophie Campbell. This issue finally explains what was going on in #102-104. In #100, Splinter was killed, and a section of Manhattan was quarantined because of an airborne mutagenic agent. That explains why the Turtles are all so sad, and why there are so many mutants. This issue also heavily features Jennika, a preexisting character who Campbell redesigned as a female Turtle. (Jennika is not to be confused with the other female Turtle, Venus de Milo.) As she did with Jem, Sophie Campbell has made me care about a franchise in which I previously had no interest. I used to watch the Turtles TV show and movies, but that was way back in the early ‘90s.

LOVE AND CAPES: THE FAMILY WAY #3 (Maerkle Press, 2019) – as above. Abby, James and Hayley all get sick. Mark is obviously immune, but he exhausts himself taking care of them, causing him to do things like rearrange the Hollywood sign in alphabetical order. (DHLLOOOWY.) There are also a bunch of subplots, and a running joke about Amazonia’s inability to find a new tiara.

STRANGE EMBRACE #6 (Image, 2007) – untitled, [W/A] David Hine. In Paris, Sarah gradually gives in to her father-in-law Edward’s seduction, until finally he embarrasses her in front of his creepy friends and then rapes her. Strange Embrace may be the perfect horror comic. It disorients the reader with its multiple layers of frame stories, and it’s writing and art are consistently gloomy and ominous. The highlight of this issue is the splash page showing the leering faces of Edward’s friends, illustrated in thick black linework.

KING READING LIBRARY #R-05 (King Features, 1973) – “Quincy Gets a Job,” [W/A] unknown (Ted Shearer?) I read this comic after attending a virtual panel consisting of Rebecca Wanzo, Barbara Brandon-Croft and Bianca Xunise. From listening to Rebecca’s lecture, I realized that there have been a lot of comic strips with black authors and protagonists – Curtis, Luther, Wee Pals, Where I’m Coming From, etc. Most of these strips are unavailable now. Another example of this archive of material is Ted Shearer’s 1970-1986 strip Quincy. In the present comic book, part of a series intended for beginning readers, preteen Quincy gets a job at a supermarket. The humor in this comic is pretty lame, but its urban setting is realistic, reminding me of the setting of Sesame Street. And there’s a surprising moment when Quincy says that his grandmother thinks he’ll have trouble getting a job when he grows up, and his friend replies “Was she thinking of your color?” (Though Quincy clarifies that it’s because of his grades.) Unfortunately the Quincy material is only half the issue, and the other half consists of Henry and “The Little Guy” strips by John Loney.

DEADSHOT #4 (DC, 1988) – “Astride a Grave,” [W] Kim Yale & John Ostrander, [A] Luke McDonnell. Deadshot’s therapist confronts his evil mother, trying to understand how Floyd’s brother died and how his father was paralyzed. Then Floyd himself shows up, seeking revenge for the death of his son. The confrontation ends with Floyd shooting his mother and paralyzing her too. At the end, the therapist tries to initiate a relationship with Floyd, but he tells her that he’s incurable. I wish I’d read this miniseries in order. Deadshot is the most complicated of all the fascinating characters in Suicide Squad, and his miniseries is the key to his personality.

THE DREAMING #20 (DC, 2020) – “One Magical Movement, Part Two,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Bilquis Evely. I received this comic in a DCBS shipment on May 1, because even though Diamond was still closed, DC was still distributing comics through DCBS and Midtown. I think DC’s actions are disgraceful – by continuing to sell comics while Diamond and most comic stores are closed, they’re sabotaging the health of the direct market. Because DCBS was complicit in this, I plan to quit ordering from them and start using a local comic store instead, possibly through mail order. Anyway, the title of this issue is a quotation from David Bowie’s “Station to Station,” which, appropriately, is about the return of the thin white duke. In this issue Daniel comes back and tries to sacrifice Rose Walker,  just like in Sandman #16. But Wan/Moth offers itself in her place, and things go back to normal. The Dreaming #20 was a strong conclusion to an excellent series, but I wish DC had waited to release it until after May 20.

PRINCELESS VOL. 2 #1 (Action Lab, 2013) – “Get Over Yourself Part 1,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Emily Martin. This issue starts with the same sequence that appeared in Short Stories for Warrior Women #1, in which Ashe recruits some knights to go after Adrienne – including the Black Knight, who is later revealed as Adrienne’s mother. Then Devin decides to go after Adrienne himself. Meanwhile, Adrienne and Bedelia go looking for Angelica. This is a really fun issue, and it makes me wish that volume 10 would come out soon.

TOMATO #1 (Starhead, 1994) – “Birdie & Spike in… After Hours,” [W/A] Ellen Forney. This rather obscure comic is the first issue of Forney’s short-lived solo series. Tomato #1 and #2 were probably the only standard-format comic books that she ever published. This issue begins with a four-page story in woodcuts, showing a woman using a ketchup bottle as a sex toy. Next is a very cute and sexy story about two women doing an erotic photo shoot. This is followed by some “I Was Seven in ‘75” strips, possibly reprinted from somewhere else, and the last main story is “My Date with Camille Paglia,” whose title accurately describes its contents, except that the date never happens. Like Forney’s graphic novel Marbles, this story uses lettering as a primary visual element. Its pages all have far more text than images, yet it still feels like a comic and not a prose story. Overall, Tomato #1 is an exciting comic that justifies its author’s nickname, Horny Forney.

THE MUPPET SHOW #3 (Boom!, 2010) – “On the Road Part 3: Box Clever,” [W/A] Roger Langridge. The Muppets return home, without Gonzo or Fozzie, and put on a show. But they’ve received a mysterious box addressed to Fozzie, who still hasn’t shown up. Of course it turns out that Fozzie himself is in the box. There are also a bunch of subplots, the most notable of which is about Statler and Waldorf. Here’s a controversial opinion: Roger Langridge is the heir to Don Rosa. His visual storytelling is masterful, he crams every page full of content, and he’s just as good with intellectual properties as with his own characters. I’ve never even watched the original Muppet Show, and yet from reading Langridge’s comics, I feel I understand its premise completely.

HE SAID/SHE SAID COMICS #5 (First Amendment, 1994) – “The O.J. Simpson Story/The Nicole Simpson Story”, [W] Arthur Meehan, [A] Mike Scorzelli & Roberto Andujar. This issue is a flip book where half the issue tells the story of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman’s murders from OJ’s perspective, and the other half retells the same story from Nicole’s perspective. As a comic book, this issue is pretty terrible; the art and the lettering in the OJ story are below professional standards. But as a historical curiosity, this issue is fascinating. It was released so early in the OJ Simpson trial that it doesn’t even mention Judge Lance Ito. He Said/She Said Comics is most notable because issue 3 (Bill Clinton/Gennifer Flowers) has a classic cover by Drew Friedman.

MONSTRESS #27 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. I always find this series somewhat hard to read, but this issue is fairly clear. And its depiction of war is grimly realistic, despite all the magic and talking animals. This issue, Kippa tries to save the fox refugees, but ends up leading the enemy into the city instead. Also, Maika meets some apparently new characters called the Grey Riders.

DEATHBLOW: BYBLOWS #2 (WildStorm, 1999) – “Byblows Part 2,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jim Baikie. Genevieve and John-Joe Cray continue their journey. In a strange city called Providence, they meet the psychotic Damon Cray, and then Klaus Cray, the cyborg, shows up alive again. At night, Genevieve is attacked by a talking mandrill, but he says that he’s trying to save her, and that John-Joe and his twin brother Joe-John are trying to kill her. This proves to be true. All the nice things I said about issue 1 also apply here. The main problem with this series is that its computer coloring is not suited to Jim Baikie’s linework.

GIFTS OF THE NIGHT #3 (Vertigo, 1999) – untitled, [W] Paul Chadwick, [A] John Bolton. This series is a hidden treasure. Its rather simple plot is about a scholar, Reyes, who tutors a young prince and tells him enriching stories, in order to make him a good king. But Reyes is also sleeping with the prince’s nurse, and his rival Leuchet takes advantage of this by telling the prince stories that counteract Reyes’s lessons. What makes this comic special is John Bolton’s painted art. His facial expressions are beautiful, and his style of painting alternately recalls Jeff Jones and Gustav Klimt. I need to track down the rest of this series.

MILLENNIUM FEVER #1 (Vertigo, 1995) – “A Way of Saying Things,” [W] Nick Abadzis, [A] Duncan Fegredo. Despite the promising creative team, this issue is less impressive than Gifts of the Night #3. The protagonist, Jerome, is a British high schooler of partial Caribbean descent. He meets his dream girl and is about to lose his virginity with her, but her fingers start turning into phalluses, and the issue ends there. This issue includes some effective art and writing, but first, neither creator is black or Caribbean, and their depiction of Jerome is unconvincing. Second, this comic feels like a plotless slice-of-life story until the final three panels, where it takes a hard right turn into horror. I would read the other issues of this series, but only if they were very cheap.

BIRTHRIGHT #24 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Mikey finally discovers that Rya is pregnant, just in time for her to go into labor. The opening Mikey/Rya scene is heartwarming, but the issue quickly bcomes much grimmer. Mikey kills Kylen in cold blood, but Kylen comes back to life and reveals himself as Kallista.

AVENGERS #311 (Marvel, 1989) – “The Weakest Point,” [W] John Byrne, [A] Paul Ryan. The only Avenger who appears in this issue is Quasar. The issue focuses on the Avengers’ civilian staff members, like Peggy Carter and M’Daka, as they unsuccsesfully try to save Hydrobase Island from being sunk by robots. This is a pretty unimpressive issue, though at least it’s inked by Tom Palmer.

TRANSFORMERS #65 (Marvel, 1990) – “Matrix Quest Part Four: Dark Creation,” [W] Simon Furman, [A] Geoff Senior. This is far better than #68 because first, it’s about the Transformers instead of their human supporting cast, and second, Geoff Senior understands how to draw giant robots. This issue’s plot is that the Decepticon leader Thunderwing takes control of the Matrix of Leadership. That plotline leads directly into Transformers #75, one of the first comic books I ever read. On this issue’s first page we learn the names of the Autobot leaders who preceded Optimus Prime.

THE ONCE AND FUTURE QUEEN #1 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W] Adam P. Knave & D.J. Kirkbride, [A] Nick Brokenshire. This is the same creative team as Amelia Cole, which is an okay comic but not great. The Once and Future Queen stars Indian-American teenage chess prodigy Rani Arcturus, i.e. Queen Arthur. On a trip to Cornwall for a chess tournament, she goes walking on the shore and discovers the Sword in the Stone, which turns her into King/Queen Arthur. She promptly makes two new friends who become her Lancelot and Guinevere. This comic isn’t awful, but because of its title and premise, it’s hard not to compare it to Once and Future, and it suffers by the comparison. Its Arthurian references are obvious and unsubtle.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #660 (Marvel, 2011) – “Fantastic Voyage Part 2 of 2,” [W] Fred Van Lente & Dan Slott, [A] Mike McKone with Stefano Caselli. Peter, the FF and the Future Foundation fight the new Sinister Six. Back at home, Carlie Cooper shows Peter the Spider-Man tattoo she got when she was drunk. This is a fun issue, but it’s not as good as a typical issue written by Slott alone.

STAR #3 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Javier Pina with Filipe Andrade. Early in May, Marvel announced that the remaining issues of this miniseries and  Ghost-Spider will be digital-only, and will only be released in print as part of trade paperbacks. My response to that is, fuck you, Marvel. This decision is an appalling slap in the face to fans who have been buying those series in print form, and also to retailers. And just today DC followed Marvel over the same cliff, announcing that Terrifics will be  concluded in digital form only. This decision means that I won’t be able to have a complete collection of any of these series, and that if I want to read the rest of Star, I either have to read it digitally, or buy a trade paperback that contains stories I already own. I’m not willing to do either of those, so I’m probably not going to read the rest of Star, Spider-Gwen or Terrfiics at all. It’s just as well that none of these series are particular favorites of mine. As for the actual issue under discussion here, I liked Star #3 a bit more than the previous two issues, but I’m not sure why.

SWEET TOOTH #3 (Vertigo, 2010) – “Out of the Deep Woods 3,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Gus and Tommy continue their journey, ending up in the brothel of mutant women. Gus and Tommy’s interactions in this issue are very touching, but also ironic since I already know that Tommy is planning to betray Gus. I don’t know if this issue’s original readers would have known this, since I haven’t read issue 1. A powerful moment in this issue is when Gus finds a dead boy his own age, clutching a children’s book.

VIXEN: RETURN OF THE LION #1 (DC, 2008) – “Return of the Lion Part 1: Preparations,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Cafu. Superman gives Vixen a lead on the whereabouts of her mother’s killers, and Vixen travels to Africa to seek revenge. This was one of Willow’s first comics, and it didn’t get much attention, but it’s impressive. Her characterization of Vixen and Superman is excellent. Although Zambesi is a fictional country, it has a sense of verisimilitude, and Willow’s childhood friend Abiesa feels like an actual character rather than a collection of characters. Willow’s writing benefits from the fact that she’s lived and traveled extensively in non-Western countries.

PRINCELESS: SHORT STORIES FOR WARRIOR WOMEN #2 (Action Lab, 2012) – “The Runaway Prince,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Kelly Lawrence. The first story in this issue is confusing at first, but we eventually discover that it’s about Shadira the elf and how she helps a prince escape from prison. I’m not sure what this story has to do with anything. Much better is the second story, in which Bedelia’s mother leaves her abusive alcoholic husband, but Bedelia refuses to come with her. This story is depressingly plausible, and it adds a new wrinkle to Bedelia’s character.

POPEYE #5 (IDW, 2012) – “The Wrong Side of the Tracks,” [W] Roger Langridge, [A] Bruce Ozella. Angry at his father for correcting his spelling of “cat” to “kat,” Swee’pea runs away and joins a gang of older kids. This comic is another example of Langridge’s virtuosic ability to adapt the work of other creators. It feels just like a long-form version of E.C. Segar strips. Its depiction of pre-WWII America also feels authentic. The highlight of the story is when Popeye makes “tomato yum-yum” for dinner, but it consists entirely of spinach.

KANE #13 (Dancing Elephant, 1996) – “Point of View,” [W/A] Paul Grist. Grist and Millidge were part of the same generation of British alternative cartoonists, and they mention each other in their editorial notes. This issue has a gimmick in which every panel has the same point of view, hence the title. In each panel, we’re looking over the shoulders of two policemen sitting in their car. This could have been a cheap labor-saving device, but its plot is quite complicated, and Grist generates a lot of visual interest by varying the body language of the policemen and the things that are happening outside their car. At the end of the issue, a sniper shoots out the windshield of the police car, and then there’s no image in the following panel, only captions. This page is especially striking because by this point, the reader is so used to seeing the same POV in every panel.

IMMORTAL HULK #7 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Avenger,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. This issue starts with a three-page sequence where the Hulk destroys a family’s home. Marvel comics are usually very cavalier about property damage, but this sequence shows the human cost that superhero battles would have, if they were real. Most of the issue is an epic fight scene between the Hulk and the Avengers, and at the end, the Hulk is captured, taken to Shadow Base, and dissected. On Facebook, I suggested that Al Ewing might be the second best Hulk writer ever, after Peter David. Some of my friends disagreed, saying that Ewing is the first best.

RUNE #1 (Malibu, 1994) – “Rune,” [W/A] Barry Windsor-Smith, [W] Chris Ulm. This issue has a rather thin plot about an immortal vampire, but its art is spectacular. Barry Windsor-Smith’s draftsmanship is incredible; Rune himself is a stunning visual image, and this issue also includes some imaginative depictions of alien machinery. And BWS takes full advantage of Malibu’s computer coloring technology, which was perhaps the best in the industry at the time (and was allegedly the reason why Marvel later bought Malibu). I don’t think this comic has ever been reprinted. According to his personal website, BWS has been trying to get Marvel to either reprint Rune or give him the rights to it, but Marvel has refused.

PROTECTOR #3 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Simon Roy & Daniel Bensen, [A] Artyom Trakhanov. I had trouble following this issue’s plot. Mari (I think that’s the protagonist’s name) discovers more evidence of the ancient robot’s origins, and she leads her followers to investigate the robot further, but a bunch of other characters are plotting against her. Protector is reminiscent of The Last American because it’s about a soldier who goes into hibernation and wakes up in a very different world. But besides that, the two series don’t have much in common.

DARKNESS VISIBLE #1 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mike Carey & Arvind Ethan David, [A] Brendan Cahill. This urban fantasy series is set in a world where humans live alongside demons, or Shaitans. The protagonist, Daniel Aston, is a policeman and single father. In an encounter with Shaitans, Daniel is killed and his daughter Maggie seriously hurt, but Daniel comes back to life while in the morgue. This series tries to draw a parallel between Shaitans and real-life minorities; at the start of the issue, Daniel and Maggie go to see The Merchant of Venice. The problem with this analogy is that humans’ prejudice against Shaitans seems justifiable, since all the Shaitans who appear in this issue are dangerous criminals. Though maybe that doesn’t invalidate the analogy. At the end of his famous speech, Shylock asks “If you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”

FOLKLORDS #5 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Matt Smith. Sal becomes the new leader of the Librarians, and Ansel continues his journey to the Writers’ Room. After a promising start, this series quickly became disappointing, and its ending doesn’t offer much of a resolution. I’m surprised it wasn’t turned into an ongoing, given the high sales of the early issues. I’m also surprised that it was solicited as just a five-issue miniseries, when it clearly needed more issues to wrap up its story.

THE SAGA OF THE MAN-ELF #2 (Trident, 1989) – “Animal Magic” and “The Price of Love,” [W] Guy Lawley, [A] Steve Whitaker. The Man-Elf rescues Una Persson from prison, and meanwhile, Una Persson and Mitzi Beesley consolidate their control over the government. This issue is difficult to follow because of its large cast of characters and its multiple plotlines, but it feels like a very savvy depiction of British politics and mythology. It’s hard to say why exactly, but of all the comics based on Michael Moorcock’s work, Man-Elf (and Luther Arkwright) feels like it’s the closest to the spirit of Moorcock’s writing.

THOR, GOD OF THUNDER #18 (Marvel, 2014) – “Days of Wine and Roses,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Das Pastoras. In 894 AD, Thor wakes up with a hangover, and inside the mouth of a dragon. Thor and the dragon, Skabgagg, become fast friends as they fight alongside the local Vikings, but Skabgagg eventually gives in to his desire to eat people, and Thor has to kill him. This is a sad story, and it suggests that Thor’s own love of drinking and fighting is partly responsible for Skabgagg’s death. Das Pastoras has a very distinctive style of painted art. His artwork is grisly and bloody, kind of like a cruder version of Corben. He got his start in the ‘80s in Spanish underground comics, and he only started working in American comics fairly recently.

NOT REALLY KANE #24 (Dancing Elephant, 1999) – “Shots,” [W/A] Paul Grist. This is indeed not Kane #24, but a free comic that Grist gave out at conventions. It includes just eight pages, comprising two stories. The longer of the stories is about Kane’s confrontation with his corrupt partner.

Another shipment from Mile High, consisting mostly of cheap comics:

WANDERING STAR #1 (Pen & Ink, 1993) – untitled, [W/A] Teri S. Wood. Teri Sue Wood was one of the first comics professionals I ever interacted with online, but I haven’t read her work until now. I should have read it sooner. Her artwork is evocative and attractive, reminding me very much of Carla Speed McNeil, and her writing is charming and passionate. Wandering Star is a space opera with a female protagonist, Casi. Issue 1 begins with a flashforward sequence where an older Casi is talking with a biographer, and then we flash back to her youth, when she leaves Earth for the space academy. I especially like the scene where Casi meets up with her friends. It reminds me of a Legion or Young Justice comic.

WELCOME TO TRANQUILITY #1 (WildStorm, 2007) – “Fade to Grey,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Neil Googe. Tranquility is a town full of retired old superheroes, like a World War II aviatrix who insists on continuing to fly her plane, and an elderly Captain Marvel who can’t remember his magic word. The protagonist, Tommy (Thomasina), is tasked with keeping the town safe from the superheroes without destroying their value as a tourist attraction. I have mixed feelings about Gail’s work in general, but this feels like one of her more innovative and exciting works, and I ought to read more of it.

GLOBAL FREQUENCY #2 (WildStorm, 2003) – “Big Wheel,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Glenn Fabry. A government-created cyborg is going crazy, and a Global Frequency team has to stop him before he causes a nuclear disaster. This comic is notable for its realistic depiction of what being a cyborg would actually involve. Most other superhero comics assume that you can just tack a bionic limb onto a person’s body without making any other changes. But in this issue, one of the Global Frequency agents explains that she has a bionic arm, and that her entire body had to be reinforced to support it. Now extrapolate that to a man whose entire body is bionic. When we actually see the cyborg, he barely looks human. Glenn Fabry’s art on this comic is not as incredible as I expected, but his depiction of the cyborg is horrifying and heartrending.

TRINITY #4 (DC, 2008) – “Caped Simioid Thinks So, Hm?”, [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Mark Bagley. Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman all collaborate against the monster Konvikt, and Kurt uses the fight scene to illustrate the differences between the three heroes. In the backup story, a tarot card reader has a vision of Kanjar Ro and Despero. Trinity is not one of Kurt’s greatest works, but it’s interesting and well-written.

THE MUPPET SHOW: THE TREASURE OF PEG-LEG WILSON #1 (Boom!, 2009) – “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral,” [W/A] Roger Langridge. I didn’t know this miniseries existed until I saw it on Mile High’s website. This issue includes a bunch of short gag strips, but the main plot is that some mysterious people are trying to excavate a treasure under the Muppet Theater. Also, Kermit and Animal seem to have been replaced by Animal. This issue is another example of Langridge’s storytelling brilliance.

PRAIRIE MOON AND OTHER STORIES #1 (Dark Horse, 1992) – “Prairie Moon” and other stories (duh), [W/A] Rick Geary. A collection of short pieces by Geary, mostly about turn-of-the-century America. I’ve read some of these stories before, probably in Cheval Noir. I especially remember the one about Aimee McPherson, “that wonderful person,” and the one that lists how the narrator’s relatives died (e.g. “bursten and rupture”). But some of the other stories are new to me. Rick Geary is a unique artist – his stories illustrate the weirdness of old-time America, and they always feel vaguely creepy, whatever their subject matter.

NEAR MYTHS #nn (Last Gasp, 1990) – “Ankhesenamun” and other stories, [W/A] Trina Robbins. I thought this was a kids’ comic at first, but it’s an adult underground comic. It shares its title with an older British underground comic, which included the first Luther Arkwright stories and the first work of Grant Morrison; however, in the indicia, Trina says that Bryan Talbot gave her permission to use the title. All the stories have mythological themes. I think my favorite is “Sinsemella,” a Cinderella parody in which the main character is “permanently stoned” and can only say “o wow.” Another notable one is “The Woman Who Loved the Moon,” a lesbian-themed epic fantasy story written by World Fantasy Award winner Elizabeth Lynn.

PLANET TERRY #1 (Marvel, 1985) – “The Search,” [W] Lennie Herman, [A] Warren Kremer. The title character is a little boy who travels from planet to planet in a spaceship, seeking his parents. In his first story, he finally gets a lead on them, and he also acquires two companions, a robot and an alien. Star Comics was essentially a revival of Harvey Comics. I don’t know anything about Lennie Herman, but Warren Kremer was Harvey’s greatest artist, and his art in this issue is extremely appealing and cute, with lots of gags and weird creatures. I like Planet Terry’s premise, though its plotting is contrived; it’s rather convenient that Terry just happens to run into someone who knew his parents. I need to find the rest of this series. I should also collect more Harvey comics; it seems like Hot Stuff may be a good place to start. I was hoping to talk to Tom DeFalco about Star Comics at Heroes Con, but that will have to wait until next year.

GATECRASHER: RING OF FIRE #2 (Black Bull, 2000) – “Don’t Touch That!”, [W] Mark Waid w/ Jimmy Palmiotti, [A] Amanda Conner. Black Bull was a short-lived comics imprint of Wizard magazine. Their two main series were Gatecrasher and Garth Ennis’s Just a Pilgrim. Gatecrasher is about a clumsy teenage boy, Alec, who gets recruited into the Split-Second Squad, similar to the Nova Corps. This issue, Alec is forced to go on a Split-Second Squad mission on prom night. He wants to get home before the prom starts and without losing the corsage he bought for his date, but he fails on both counts. Amanda Conner’s art here is not her absolute best, but it’s excellent, especially in terms of facial expressions. I need to collect more Gatecrasher because I’m running out of Amanda Conner comics to read. She seems to have reached the point in her career where it’s no longer cost-effective for her to do monthly comics.

LOVE AND CAPES #7 (Maerkle Press, 2008) – untitled, [W/A] Thom Zahler. This was distributed as an FCBD comic. Mark decides to propose to Abby at Christmas, but Charlotte talks him out of it. I approve of this, because I hate public proposals; they make it impossible for the woman to say no. Mark ends up proposing in private, in a very simple and heartfelt way, and Abby accepts. Also, Paul offers Charlotte a scholarship to the Louvre, and there are some subplots about Mark’s fellow superheroes.

STORMWATCH #40 (Image, 1996) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Tom Raney. This issue gets off on the wrong foot, with a description of a plane crash that ends “Two hundred and thirty-three people have just found out there’s no God.” That’s just tasteless and disturbing. The rest of the issue is also rather gross. A team of Stormwatch agents investigates the plane crash and discovers a lot of people with hideous mutations. Kaizen Gamorra proves to be responsible, and Rose Tattoo is sent to Gamorra Island to kill 233 random people in revenge. At Ellis is self-aware about how gruesome this issue is; its last line is “Well, I thought it was about time somebody tried to make a joke.”

TALES TO OFFEND #1 (Dark Horse, 1997) – “Lance Blastoff,” [W/A] Frank Miller, plus other stories. This one-shot consists of short stories reprinted from Dark Horse Presents and other anthologies. One of them is a sordid Sin City story about masochism and incest. The others are about Lance Blastoff, an ultraviolent, misogynistic space mercenary, kind of like Duke Nukem. These stories are all deliberately offensive, but at least they’re vry well-drawn.

THE SAGA OF THE MAN-ELF #4 (Trident, 1990) – “The Boys’ Night Out” and “Father’s Day,” [W] Guy Lawley, [A] Richard Weston. Man-Elf rescues his mother from prison (again?) but gets captured himself. Miss Brunner performs a ritual and discovers that Man-Elf’s father was the last survivor of an advanced elven race – an origin story which resembles that of Corum. It’s a real shame that this series was never finished and has never been collected. It’s fascinating.

THE VINYL UNDERGROUND #1 (DC, 2007) – “Snogging for England,” [W] Si Spencer, [A] Simon Gane. This series stars Morrison Shepherd, the idle rich son of a famous footballer. In his debut story, he and two of his love interests investigate a case of African ritual murder. This series has some impressive artwork, but its depiction of African people is frustrating. The writer conflates different African cultures: the evil traditional healer is named Femi Abiola, an obviously Nigerian name, but he performs “mutu” magic (more often known as muti), which is native to Southern Africa. And Vinyl Underground isn’t good enough to make up for this lack of accuracy.

WONDER WOMAN #222 (DC, 2005) – “Blood Debt,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Cliff Richards. As a result of the events of Infinite Crisis, Diana is on trial for killing Max Lord. Meanwhile, Cheetah is jealous of Wonder Woman for being so perfect and for not being enslaved to an evil god. This issue is an interesting contrast to Sensation Comics #17, in terms of its depiction of the Cheetah’s feelings toward Wonder Woman. However, this issue is much too closely tied to Infinite Crisis.

GREEN LANTERN SEASON TWO #3 (DC, 2020) – “Thunder on Wonder Mountain,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. This comic and the next one were part of another DCBS shipment. Hal and his pet baby birds have to save Hal’s old girlfriend Cowgirl from a liquid cloud creature. This issue’s story is okay, but its art is a failed experiment. Liam Sharp’s art and colors in this issue are entirely digital. His colors are outdated, looking like something out of the ‘80s or ‘90s, and his compositions are full of wasted space. He ought to stick to traditional line-drawing.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #20 (DC, 2020) – “I Will Meet Thee, Sister, in the Land of Souls,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson & Dan Watters, [A] Domo Stanton. In 1817, “Black Joe” Johnson, a former American slave living in England, meets an upper-class British woman. After his death, “Black Joe” is escorted to the afterlife by Agwe. Then there are a bunch more scenes involving Anansi, Poquita, etc. Black Joe’s story is fascinating, but it has no clear relevance to the plot. That’s a major problem with this series: it has great ideas, but its plot constantly meanders and goes in circles. That’s fine in a novel, but not in a monthly comic.

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #1 (Marvel, 2008) – “The Five Nightmares Part 1: Armageddon Day,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Salvador Larroca. Tony discovers that someone has stolen his Iron Man technology and used it to stage a terror attack in Tanzania, realizing his worst nightmares. Matt Fraction is the best Iron Man writer since David Michelinie – though that’s a very low bar to clear – and in this issue he explicitly calls back to Michelinie and Layton’s classic Armor Wars storyline. My copy of this issue has Robert Downey Jr’s photo on the cover.

FALLEN ANGEL #3 (DC, 2003) – “Little Better Than a Beast, Part One: Night and Day,” [W] Peter David, [A] David Lopez. The protagonist spends much of this issue lying unconscious in an elevator. Meanwhile, there’s a cleverly written scene where a schoolgirl asks her coach about abortion, except it turns out she’s not talking about abortion. I don’t quite get what Fallen Angel is about, except that it’s a sort of spiritual sequel to PAD’s Supergirl. It feels somewhat darker than most of PAD’s work.

STAR TREK #8 (DC, 1990) – “Going, Going…”, [W] Peter David, [A] James Fry. Kirk and R.J. Blaise are kidnapped by a bounty hunter named Sweeney, whose gimmick is that when anyone hears his name, they say “Not… Sweeney!” PAD is the best writer of Star Trek comics, as far as I know, and this issue includes some very witty dialogue. I read this issue as a kid, but I forgot everything about it except the tagline “Not… Sweeney!”

WANDERING STAR #11 (Pen & Ink, 1996) – untitled, [W/A] Teri S. Wood. This was the last self-published issue before the series moved to Sirius. It begins with a convenient summary of what’s been happening. Casi’s friend Mekon has been kidnapped and subjected to the Tul’sar process, which turns people into emotionless robots. Casi has to use his aid to save herself and the telepathic boy Madison, who was mentioned in issue 1. Casi finally succeeds in escaping in her ship, the Wandering Star (hence the title of the series). I have to collect the rest of the comic. It’s a good example of how the ‘90s were a flourishing time for independent and alternative comics.

LOVE AND CAPES: THE FAMILY WAY #4 (Maerkle Press, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Thom Zahler. Abby runs into her college friend Bria, who has a high-powered corporate job. Abby struggles with feeling inferior to Bria, but eventually realizes that she’s happy with her life. That sounds like the plot to a Hallmark Channel movie, but one advantage of this series is that Abby is not an antifeminist stereotype. Her role as a wife and mother is not her entire identity.

YUMMY FUR #15 (Vortex, 1989) – untitled (Ed the Happy Clown), [W/A] Chester Brown. Some disguised aliens attend a church service, where the pastor says that “only when you have the love of Jesus inside you will you live forever.” The aliens take this literally, and they kidnap two little girls from the church in order to make them reveal the secret of immortality. This issue also includes the first part of Brown’s adaptation of the Gospel of Matthew, starting with Jesus’s genealogy. Brown includes a number of details here that aren’t in the original text, like the story of David and Bathsheba.

OCEAN #2 (Wildstorm, 2005) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Chris Sprouse. Accompanied by the scientist Fadia, Nathan Kane travels under the ice of Europa and discovers that the moon’s ocean is full of alien weapons. Also, the megacorporation Doors (i.e. Microsoft) has already made the same discovery. This issue is a great example of Warren Ellis’s ability to create a sense of wonder. Chris Sprouse is unexpectedly good at the widescreen style of comics.

HIGHER EARTH #1 (Boom!, 2012) – untitled, [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Francesco Biagini. This series is a sequel to the one-shot Our Love is Real, which I own but have not read. Its premise is that there are hundreds of worlds, each arranged vertically on top of the next. A man from a higher world visits a lower world and brings a native woman back with him to the next world up. This series’ premise is great, but probably too ambitious, and so far this series isn’t as impressive as other comics by Humphries.

THE OLD GUARD: FORCE MULTIPLIED #4 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Leandro Fernandez. This issue starts with a long flashback to Noriko and Andy’s shared history, and then there are various scenes with the present-day Noriko and the other immortals. This issue makes a lot more sense than any of the previous three, and again, Leandro Fernandez’s art is spectacular. If I were an immortal, I would assemble the world’s largest personal library.

DEATHBLOW: BYBLOWS #3 (WildStorm, 2000) – “Byblows Part 3,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jim Baikie. Judgment Cray kills all the other Crays except Genevieve, thinking that they’re all hallucinations. Genevieve manages to escape from him into the real world. She discovers that she and the other Crays are clones of Michael Cray, the original Deathblow, and that until now they’ve been in a virtual world designed to test which clone was strongest. Judgment escapes too, but Genevieve kills him and goes off to explore her new world. The series ends with a Winston Churchill quotation: “I am ready to meet my maker. Whether my maker is prepared for the ordeal of meeting me is another matter.” This was a really impressive miniseries, one of Alan’s best works at Image or Wildstorm, and it should be better known.

MADE MEN #1 (Oni, 2017) – untitled, [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Arjuna Susini. Before reading this comic I assumed it was about mobsters. Then I read the opening scene, where the protagonist and her fellow police officers are all killed in an ambush, but the protagonist wakes up. At that point I thought this series had the same premise as The Old Guard. But then the protagonist reveals that she’s a member of the Frankenstein family, and suddenly the title “Made Men” takes on a different meaning. I suppose I’d categorize Made Men as a horror comic, but it has the whimsical tone of most of Tobin’s work. Arjuna Susini’s art here is more appropriate than in Heist.

FELL #2 (Image, 2006) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Ben Templesmith. This series’ gimmick was that it cost $1.99 for just 16 story pages. Fell is a hybrid crime/horror comic about the eponymous protagonist, a homicide detective in a dystopian city, and his love interest Mayko, a bartender. Ben Templesmith draws it with highly stylized linework and coloring. In this issue, Fell discovers that someone is killing pregnant women to use their fetuses as lucky charms. This is allegedly a form of magic used in Cambodia, where these charms are called “smoke children” or “kun krak,” but I don’t know whether it’s a real crime or just an urban legend. Anyway, Fell #2 is fascinating, and it made me want to read more of the series.

BOMBSHELLS UNITED #1 (DC, 2017) – “American Soil,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Marguerite Sauvage. This is something very rare: an entire comic book illustrated by Marguerite Sauvage. Unfortunatley it’s written by the other Marguerite, Bennett, whose work I strongly dislike. Her writing is full of platitudes and slogans, and it lacks any real substance. Because of my dislike of this comic’s writing, I had difficulty enjoying its artwork. This issue is relevant to my interests as a Legion fan because it introduces Dawnstar into Bombshells continuity.

FINALS #1 (Vertigo, 1999) – “Back to School,” [W] Will Pfeifer, [A] Jill Thompson. I now have this entire miniseries, but I hadn’t read any of it until now. I also have Vertigo Resurrected: Finals, a collection of the entire series in comic book format, but I can get rid of it now. Finals is set at Knox State University, where the students are required to do harmful and dangerous experiments as their senior thesis projects. For example, the main character’s girlfriend is a religious studies major, and as her project, she forms a cult and makes the underclasswomen worship her as a goddess. This series has a funny premise, and Jill Thompson’s artwork is very expressive and full of funny details, although her artwork is line-drawn rather than painted (as in Beasts of Burden).

JOURNEY #13 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “Normaltimes,” [W/A] William Messner-Loebs. In this crossover story, Jim Valentino’s Normalman teleports back in time and befriends Wolverine MacAlistaire and his Ojibwe friend “Runs Amid Bones of Foxes.” Loebs convincingly shows us the vast cultural differences between MacAlistaire and Normalman, but he also makes me believe that they can be friends despite that. A notable aspect of this series is that it’s set in a place and time where Native Americans are the majority, and MacAlistaire often seems more comfortable with native people than with European-Americans. This issue includes a letter from my friend Kevin Maroney, and also a “special hello” to my fellow Charlotte native Michael Kobre.

DOOM PATROL #64 (DC, 1993) – “Sliding in the Wreckage Part 1: Burn in the Curse,” [W] Rachel Pollack, [A] Richard Case. One issue after Cliff, Jane and Rebis left for Danny the Planet, Dorothy Spinner is stuck on Earth. She is plagued by hallucinations of gibberish-speaking monsters, and she also suffers discrimination for her facial appearance. Rachel Pollack had the impossible task of succeeding Grant Morrison on Doom Patrol, and as a result, her Doom Patrol run is largely forgotten. But she’s an important writer in her own right, a World Fantasy Award winner and Nebula nominee, and her comics probably deserve more attention. I’m especially curious about her later issues that explore the topic of transgender identity, since Pollack is a trans woman herself, and she was writing at a time when trans people had no visibility.

BATMAN #66 (DC, 2019) – “Knightmares Part 4,” [W] Tom King, [A] Jorge Fornes. The Question questions Catwoman about her history with Batman. Jorge Fornes draws this entire issue in a style that heavily imitates David Mazzucchelli’s art from Batman: Year One. This issue is okay, but its artwork feels very derivative.

NO ONE’S ROSE #1 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Zac Thompson & Emily Horn, [A] Alberto Albuquerque. In a dystopian future, the only surviving humans live inside a giant glass dome. The dome is divided into higher and lower levels, reserved for the upper class and the workers respectively. A sister and brother from the lower level sneak to the higher level, where the brother starts a demonstration in favor of “non-human rights.” I’m not sure what this means; I guess the plants in the city are sentient. This comic’s setup is kind of cliched, but its theme of plants and flowers is interesting. I’d be willing to read at least the next couple issues.

FCBD STEPPING STONES/MAX AND THE MIDKNIGHTS (RH Graphic, 2020) – “Stepping Stones,” [W/A] Lucy Knisley. This FCBD comic was included in my last pre-pandemic DCBS shipment. I don’t know when the remaining FCBD comics for this year will be available. This comic is mostly a preview of Lucy Knisley’s upcoming graphic novel for kids. I have problems with her work – in the two books of hers I’ve read, she seems blind to her own privilege. But Stepping Stones is fascinating so far. The protagonist is a little girl, Jen, who lives on a farm. A family friend comes for a visit, and Jen is forced to hang out with the friend’s daughter Andy, who turns out to be a horrible little goody-two-shoes. Andy acts as if she can do all of Jen’s tasks better than Jen herself can, and Jen’s parents encourage her. By the end of this excerpt, I hated Andy. Jen seems to be a self-portrait; she shares Knisley’s farm background and interest in drawing. This issue also includes a story by Lincoln Peirce that doesn’t appeal to me at all.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #661 (Marvel, 2011) – “The Substitute Part One,” [W] Christos Gage, [A] Reilly Brown. This is an issue of Avengers Academy disguised as an issue of Amazing Spider-Man, but that’s okay because I liked Avengers Academy. Ant-Man hires Spidey as a substitute teacher for the academy students, but when Spidey goes on patrol with the kids, they run into the Psycho-Man. I think the best part of this issue is when the kids question Peter’s usual assumptions – like, Veil suggests that Spidey could have done more good if he had stayed in show business. This issue’s bonus feature is a silent story by Paul Benjamin and Javier Pulido, whose visual storytelling is excellent.

PLANETOID #3 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Ken Garing. Silas, the stranded spaceman, organizes the planet’s human population into a functioning society. He gets some buy-in from some frog people who can’t speak the humans’ language, and he even builds a kite to keep the kids busy. I guess this issue is a bit of a white savior narrative, but it stresses the communitarian nature of the society Silas is creating. But as the issue ends, the warrior Ozender – who left town earlier rather than work with Silas – is found murdered, apparently by the Ono Mao.

BATMAN #252 (DC, 1973) – “The Spook’s Master Stroke!”, [W] Frank Robbins, [A] Irv Novick. Batman matches wits with the Spook. Throughout this story, Batman and the Spook each show an implausible ability to predict exactly what the other will do. A weird moment in this story is when Batman fakes his own death and is buried in a grave, but then we learn that Jason Bard is in the grave, instead of Batman. Since the point of this stratagem was just to make the Spook think Batman was dead, I don’t see why it mattered whetheror not the fake corpse really was Batman. The backup story, by Elliot S! Maggin and Dick Dillin, is better than the main story. Davy King, a thinly disguised stand-in for Danny Kaye, enrolls at Hudson University, where he entertains some kids and helps Robin catch a criminal.

FELL #6 (Image, 2006) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Ben Templesmith. Fell and Mayko go out on a date, but they get sidetracked into investigating a disturbance at the house of a single father and child. Fell discovers that the father is a horrifying pedophile who injects his daughter with her own feces in order to keep her under his control. This plot element was based on an actual crime that happened in 2005. Fell is a very grim series, but Fell and Mayko’s relationship is cute.

GWENPOOL #12 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Christopher Hastings, [A] GuriHiru. Gwenpool and her friends find themselves in a role-playing-game dungeon, which is in fact one of Arcade’s Murderworlds. This issue is better than I expected from this series.

JON SABLE, FREELANCE #43 (First, 1986) – untitled, [W/A] Mike Grell. Sable and Rachel foil a terrorist plot to blow up the Statue of Liberty. The terrorists’ plan is very clever, but by this point in the series, Grell no longer seemed to care about the quality of his art. His linework is very loose and crude, with hardly any fine detail.

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Reviews: The Longest Wednesday

My last DCBS shipment, until further notice, arrived on March 25. (DCBS has actually started shipping comics again, but only DC comics. This is partly why I’m leaning toward not using DCBS anymore after my outstanding orders are filled. More on that later.) I haven’t even finished all the comics from the March 25 shipment. I’m not in any hurry to finish the current week’s comics before the next week’s comics arrive, and also, I don’t want to run out of new comics to read; I think that would make me very sad. I’m probably going to wait to finish the March 25 comics until distribution has resumed and the next shipment of new comics is on the way. Hopefully, that will happen around May 20 as planned. Meanwhile, in the absence of new comics or local comic book conventions, I’ve been ordering a lot of back issues online.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #5 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] Brian Michael Bendis, [A] Ryan Sook. I can’t be bothered to read the giant blocks of Interlac text on the first page. I wish Bendis would stop doing that. I used to be able to read Interlac, but I’m out of practice. This issue finishes the Legion’s origin story and also reintroduces R.J. Brande, who is female in this continuity. Bendis is getting a bit better at giving Legionnaires individual personalities; I especially like the scene where Blok is invited to join the Legion, and he answers in monosyllables. However, it is ridiculous that we still don’t know the characters’ names. I’ve started enjoying this series despite my general hatred for Bendis, but it’s still not a great Legion comic.

ONCE AND FUTURE #7 (Boom!, 2020) – “Old English,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. With Saga still on hiatus, Once and Future is probably the best current ongoing title. This issue, the bad guys steal the original manuscript of Beowulf and use it to summon Beowulf himself. This plot twist introduces another essential English medieval text into the series. At the end of the issue, one of the villains reads the start of Beowulf out loud. I took a photo of this scene and shared it on social media, and it got positive reactions from people who hadn’t heard of Once and Future.

AMETHYST #2 (DC, 2020) – “Out of Place,” [W/A] Amy Reeder. Amy and Phoss escape from the Sapphire Realm on the back of a caterpillar and flee to the Aquamarine Realm. There Amy learns how to teleport between amethyst stones, and by using this ability, she discovers that her birth parents are still alive. Amy Reeder’s dialogue feels clumsy at times, but her artwork is highly imaginative. So far, this series is the only good Amethyst comic not written by Mishkin and Cohn.

FAR SECTOR #5 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] N.K. Jemisin, [A] Jamal Campbell. The flashback to Jo’s origin is perhaps the high point of the series so far. After suffering a lifetime of racism, Jo went into the army and then the police force, where she became an agent of racist violence against other oppressed people. Jo was recruited into the GLC because of her commitment to the justice that was denied to her: “Nobody ever goes to jail for this shit. It never gets better. It has too get better. I have to make it better somehow.” This expresses some major themes of Jemisin’s work: righteous anger at the treatment of oppressed groups by dominant groups, together with a conviction that a more equitable world can be imagined. On a lighter note, when CanHaz says that Jo is paying her salary in cat memes, that must be an allusion to Naomi Kritzer’s “Cat Pictures Please.”

MARVEL ACTION: AVENGERS #1 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Katie Cook, [A] Butch Mapa. I’ve been unimpressed by the Marvel Action titles, but I had to order this one because I love Katie Cook’s writing. This issue has a silly plot, in which Thor breaks Black Widow’s ceramic figure, and he and Ant-Man have to replace it. But the issue is full of funny inside jokes, and Katie skillfully parodies each Avenger’s personality. This comic was lots of fun, and I hope Katie writes more of this series.

BASKETFUL OF HEADS #6 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Leomacs. June decapitates Hank, then gets the heads to tell her the rest of what’s going on. She sets out to save Liam from Hank’s dad’s boat (named Skidbladnir, a Norse mythological reference), but it turns out Hank has set a trap for her, and the issue ends with June being thrown overboard tied to an anchor. This has been a very fast-paced and exciting series, easily the best of Joe Hill’s three current titles.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #88 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Tony Fleecs. Silver Streak wins the Draytona Breach, but only because he doesn’t stop to help an injured Rainbow Dash. This ending reminds me of the ending of the original Cars, where the villain wins the race, but it’s a hollow victory. Also, Sacks Roamer is captured and the dragon statue is recovered. This was a fun story. Next issue, whenever it finally comes out, will be the start of Season Nine.

INCREDIBLE HULK #182 facsimile (Marvel, 1974/2020) – “Between Hammer and Anvil!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Herb Trimpe. I’ve heard this is a really good issue, but the original issue is prohibitively expensive because it includes an early cameo appearance by Wolverine. So I was excited when this facsimile edition was announced, and now that I’ve read it, I agree that it’s a classic. After parting company with Wolverine, Hulk meets an old homeless black man named Crackajack Jackson. Hulk and Crackajack, both outcasts from society, become instant friends. But their friendship is short-lived: Crackajack is killed by his own son, a convict turned supervillain, and the story ends with Hulk writing Crackajack’s name on his tombstone. Crackajack only ever appeared on a few pages, but he’s a memorable character, and his friendship with Hulk is truly touching. As an aside, Hammer and Anvil have a really cool gimmick – they’re a black man and a white racist who are attached to each other by a chain. Sadly they only appeared a couple more times before being murdered by Scourge. This issue’s letter column includes a bunch of letters on whether it’s appropriate to show naked people in comics.

CROWDED #12 (Image, 2020) – “Glad Girls,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Ro Stein & Ted Brandt. This is the last monthly issue, but there’s only one more storyline left anyway. Vita and Charlie find a clever and funny way to escape the missile silo, but they leave Dog beind, and Vita has to go back for it. Sadly, when she returns with Dog, Charlie has cancelled Vita’s contract and has hired a new Dfendr who is none other than Circe the assassin. It’s going to be hard to wait for the next trade. Crowded is Sebela’s best comic yet by far.

SEX CRIMINALS #28 (Image, 2020) – “As Badal as I Wanna Bedal,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Chip Zdarsky. This issue is Kuber Badal’s origin story. As we learn, Badal can only get off by making other people suffer, and his goal is to use sex powers to change the past. This is another extremely well-done issue, but I’ve been losing enthusiasm for this series, and under the present circumstances, I found it hard to fully enjoy this issue.

SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP #22 (DC, 2017) – “Nothing is Impossible,” [W] Sholly Fisch, [A] Dave Alvarez. The Scooby Gang team up with the Impossibls to fight Frankenstein Jr, who has been mind-controlled by the Mad Inventor. Unusually for a Scooby comic, there is no  mystery villain, although the Mad Inventor does deliver the “meddling kids” line. This issue is entertaining enough, but not memorable.

HILLBILLY #5 (Albatross, 2016) – “The Midnight Devilment of Tailypo,” [W/A] Eric Powell. This issue’s lead story is a retelling of the old Tailypo legend, in which a hunter cuts off a monster’s tail and eats it, and then the monster pursues the man, demanding its tail back. There’s also a backup story, drawn by Steve Mannion, starring the Iron Child, who we later learn is the same character as Rondel the hillbilly himself. I got tired of this series quickly, perhaps because I found the dialogue annoying. However, Eric Powell’s draftsmanship is really good, and he’s a gifted visual storyteller.

AQUAMAN #17 (DC, 1996) – “Numbers,” [W] Peter David, [A] Jim Calafiore. Aquaman and Dolphin travel to Hy-Brasil, one of the lost cities of Atlantis. Aquaman fights and defeats the guardian of Hy-Brasil, who kills himself, and Aquaman becomes the new guardian and is expected to marry the old guardian’s widow. PAD’s Aquaman is extremely fun; it’s closer to fantasy or SF than superheroes, and it creates a sense of strangeness and wonder. It also has great dialogue, and the two main artists, Calafiore and Marty Egeland, are both quite underrated.

FANTASTIC FOUR #153 (Marvel, 1974) – “Worlds in Collision!”, [W] Tony Isabella, [A] Rich Buckler. The FF and the super-female-chauvinist Thundra battle the super-male-chauvinist Makhizmo. The story ends with Thundra’s Femizons and Makhizmo’s male chauvinists achieving gender equality. Putting these two worlds on the same level feels like false equivalence. This issue is okay, but Roy Thomas wrote a better version of this story in Avengers West Coast #75 (one of the first comic books I ever read).

SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP #21 (DC, 2017) – “Happy Harley Daze!”, [W] Sholly Fisch, [A] Dario Brizuela. The Scooby Gang and Harley Quinn investigate some appearances by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. The Joker shows up to complicate matters. This isuse is full of funny jokes – for example, two of the suspects are Doug Chippendale and Sarah Shaker from the antique department. Oh, and Harley has two pet hyenas who she calls her babies.

WEIRD WESTERN TALES #58 (DC, 1979) – “Weep the Widow,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Dick Ayers. While pursuing some homicidal Union army deserters, Scalphunter meets a widow whose husband was killed in the war, and who is terrified of any kind of violence. The deserters appear, and Scalphunter is about to kill them and rescue the widow and her son. But the widow decides to coldcock Scalphunter with a frying pan so that he won’t commit further violence. As a result, the deserters burn the widow’s house down, she and her son barely survive, and Scalphunter kills the deserters anyway. I guess this story is a meditation on the awfulness of war, but the widow’s decision to attack Scalphunter was extremely stupid and counterproductive, and she deserved to have her house burned down. Her actions can only be excused if we assume she was so traumatized as to not be responsible for her own behavior.

SUICIDE SQUAD #45 (DC, 1990) – “The Jerusalem Serpent,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Geof Isherwood. Kobra announces that the next Kali Yuga will begin in Jerusalem,  and the Suicide Squad travels to Israel to stop Kobra’s plot. This issue includes some excellent dialogue scenes between pairs of characters – Ravan and Bronze Tiger, Captain Boomerang and Deadshot, Amanda Waller and Vixen. It also introduces the Israeli superhero team Hayoth. Neither Ostrander nor Yale are or were Jewish as far as I know, but they must have had nontrivial knowledge of Judaism, judging by the Hayoth’s names and powers. For example, one of them is named Rambam, after Maimonides’s nickname, and he swears by the Ineffable Name.

GRUMBLE: MEMPHIS AND BEYOND THE INFINITE #1 (Albatross, 2020) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Mike Norton. I’m glad to see this back, if only for one month. This issue, Eddie and Tala begin their plot to rescue Tala’s mother from prison, and they get drafted into an elaborate rescue mission run by a bunch of aliens. I think the best part of this issue is the giant hairy aliens with no visible faces.

MISTER MIRACLE #21 (DC, 1977) – “Command Performance!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Marshall Rogers. These creators were perhaps the greatest Batman creative team ever, but Mister Miracle is not Batman. This issue has some nice page layouts and effective artwork, but it doesn’t feel Kirbyesque. Its plot is that Barda is dying, and Scott tries to revive her by fomenting a revolution in Armagetto.

MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #76 (Marvel, 1991) – “Weapon X Chapter Four,” [W/A] Barry Windsor-Smith, plus other stories. This issue’s four stories were drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith, Paul Gulacy, Bryan Hitch and Dave Cockrum. That’s an amazing lineup of talent for such a bottom-drawer title. The highlight of this issue is Weapon X because of its stunning artwork and coloring, and I think Hitch’s Death’s Head story, written by Simon Furman, is the second best. I vaguely remember getting this issue from the library when I was a little kid.

IMMORTAL HULK #33 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Thoughtful Man,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett et al. In a segment drawn by Nick Pitarra, the Hulk from Planet Hulk convinces the original Hulk to free himself from Xemnu’s mind control. Pitarra was a good choice of guest artist bceause he’s skilled at body horror and his art is fundamentally weird. Rick inspires the Hulk to defeat Xemnu in an extremely gruesome fight, but then we learn that Rick has been mind-controlled by the Leader all along. I think the most memorable thing in this issue is the”Xemnu’s Magic Planet” theme song, which includes the line “where the sun is black as hair and the mountains are not there.”

THOR #472 (Marvel, 1994) – “If Twilight Falls…”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] M.C. Wyman. I have very few issues of Thor from between #400 and #500, since the series went into a massive decline after Simonson left. At least this issue is written by Thomas and not DeFalco, but it has a boring plot and unappealing art, and it feels somehow like a relic of the early ‘90s. I’d still pick up more issues of this Thor run if theye were very cheap.

SILVER SURFER #3 (Marvel, 1987) – “Heaven,” [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Marshall Rogers. By 1987, Rogers’s art only barely resembled his art from his Batman run. This issue the Surfer meets the Runner, an Elder of the Universe, and Mantis shows up at the end. The idea of the Elders of the Universe was introduced by other writers, but it seems like it was Englehart who developed them in detail.

ATOMIC ROBO: SHADOW FROM BEYOND TIME #1 (Red 5, 2009) – “Horror on Houston Street,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. In 1926, a young Robo meets Charles Fort and H.P. Lovecraft. The latter is accurately presented as an awful racist who speaks in hysterical, archaic language. Fort enlists Robo’s aid against an extra-dimensional monster that’s possessed Lovecraft. Shadow from Beyond Time is my favorite Atomic Robo miniseries because of its extremely clever narrative structure, although that structure is not yet evident in this issue.

SWAMP THING #3 (Vertigo, 2000) – “Kill Your Darlings,” [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Roger Petersen. A grown-up Tefé is working on a fishing boat. One of the crewmen starts killing the others. The captain overreacts to this and hangs his prime suspect, who is his daughter’s boyfriend and the father of her unborn child. But it turns out that the real murderer was another crewman, things go to hell in a hurry, and everyone dies except for Tefé and the captain’s daughter, but the latter’s baby is killed. This is a rather tasteless and gruesome piece of horror, and it has nothing to do with Swamp Thing. Tefe’s powers have almost no effect on the plot. As its title indicates, this issue also has a theme of metatext, but BKV doesn’t do anything exciting with this theme. The one thing I did like about this issue is the captain’s daughter, a woman whose tyrannical father has prevented her from becoming her own person, but this character suffers some unfortunate fridging.

GREEN LANTERN #26 (DC, 1964) – “Star Sapphire Unmasks Green Lantern!” and “The World Within the Power Ring!”,  [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Gil Kane. Star Sapphire tries to get Green Lantern to marry her by forcing him to admit defeat and thus weakening his will. Of course it doesn’t work. Star Sapphire is a much more forceful character than Carol Ferris, who is portrayed in this story as a total wimp. Fox was a rather sexist writer, but he was capable of writing interesting female characters, especially Hawkgirl. The backup story is the first appearance of Myrwhydden, the evil wizard trapped in Hal’s power ring. Grant Morrison recently did a brilliant revival of this character.

STAR SLAMMERS #3 (IDW, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] Walt Simonson. Uncle Walt has been working on this series off and on for his entire career, but this IDW series is the definitive remastered edition of all the Star Slammers comics from Marvel, Malibu and Dark Horse. The material in #3 originally appeared in a 1983 Marvel Graphic Novel. I had trouble following this issue because I hadn’t read the previous two, but the art in it is stunning. It includes some very ambitious page layouts that depict the Star Slammers’ Silvermind, which is similar to the Eternals’ Unmind. These pages remind me of the fractal page in Thor #341 where Fafnir hypnotizes Lorelei. Walt’s best-known works are in the fantasy or superhero genre, but he’s also extremely good at drawing space battles.

BATMAN #323 (DC, 1980) – “Shadow of the Cat!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Irv Novick. Batman tries to arrest Catwoman for stealing some Egyptian cat artifacts, but she protests her innocence. The real culprit proves to be Cat-Man. There’s a subplot involving Gregorian Falstaff, and there’s also a scene where Lucius Fox argues with his younger and more radical son. This reminds me a lot of Robbie and Randy Robertson’s similar arguments.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #249 (Dell, 1961) – “Stranger than Fiction,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Donald is annoyed that the nephews are reading science fiction stories about teleportation, so he gets Gyro Gearloose to invent a real teleportation device. This results in a bunch of funny gags. This issue includes an early example of Tuckerization. The book the nephews are reading is Ten Seconds to Mars by Spicer Willits. That name references John Spicer and Malcolm Willits, the first two fans who learned Barks’s name and corresponded with him. (https://www.mouseplanet.com/9969/How_Disney_Fans_Found_Carl_Barks) Of the three other stories in this issue, the only notable one is a Mickey Mouse story by Fallberg and Murry.

At this point I received an order from Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find, including a graphic novel as well as five Slott Spider-Man issues. The latter were the first new comic books I had gotten since DCBS shipments stopped.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #648 (Marvel, 2011) – “Big Time,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Humberto Ramos. Spidey fights the Sinister Six alongside the Avengers, but then gets thrown out of his apartment and has no luck finding a roommate. Luckily he gets hired by a tech startup run by a man named Max Modell. There’s also a backup story written by Paul Tobin. #648 was the start of Slott’s solo Spider-Man run, and it’s a great start. One of my favorite things about Slott is how he constantly keeps the reader interested. On nearly every page there’s a funny joke or a touching piece of characterization or a clever new piece of continuity. The highlight of this issue is when Peter saves the day by realizing that it’s the first day of Daylight Savings Time, so the Avengers have an extra hour before Doc Ock’s bomb goes off.

UNCLE SCROOGE #233 (Gladstone, 1989) – “Outfoxed Fox,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Uncle Scrooge wants the land Donald’s house stands on, but Donald won’t sell because he doesn’t want to give up his garden. Scrooge tricks Donald and his neighbor, Jughead Jones, into digging up their gardens and tearing down their houses in search of a made-up treasure. The nephews turn the tables on Scrooge by convincing Donald and Jughead to do the same to Scrooge’s own house. I have no idea whether the name Jughead Jones was a coincidence or an intentional reference to Archie comics. If Barks used the name on purpose, I don’t understand why. The Jughead in this story has nothing in common with Archie’s best friend. This issue also includes two European stories.

JONAH HEX #65 (DC, 2011) – “Snowblind,”[W] Jimmy Palmiotti & Justin Gray, [A] Jordi Bernet. Jonah Hex is caught in a snowstorm and has to spend the winter living with an eccentric hermit, who he protects from wolves and bandits. On the last page, we learn that Jonah was supposed to capture the hermit for a reward, but he decides not to. This issue is a quite effective piece of storytelling, but Bernet’s art is less effective in color than in black and white.

DETECTIVE COMICS #770 (DC, 2002) – “Purity Part 3 of 3,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Steve Lieber. Batman fights some Chinese drug dealers, whose leader has a beak and wings. There’s also a Josie Mac story by Judd Winick and Cliff Chiang. This issue is rather forgettable. The best thing about it is Andrew Robinson’s cover art.

STAR SLAMMERS #1 (IDW, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] Walt Simonson. This issue introduces the Star Slammers, a group of intergalactic mercenaries. We first see them when they’re hired to help out the losing side of a war. Only three of them show up, but that’s more than enough to win the war, even when they’re betrayed by the side that hired them. As in issue 3, Walt’s draftsmanship, page layouts, and costume designs are amazing.

THE GOON: ONCE UPON A HARD TIME #1 (Dark Horse, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Eric Powell. The Goon beats up a lot of people and drinks himself into a stupor. His friend Frankie grows increasingly worried about him. As in issue 2, Eric Powell’s art is extremely effective. I think the closest artist to him is Kevin Nowlan, but Powell’s art is more painterly than Nowlan’s.

GREEN LANTERN #167 (DC, 1983) – “Ring Against Ring!”, [W] Joey Cavalieri, [A] George Tuska. In the lead story, some Green Lanterns go rogue because they’ve heard that the Guardians are intentionally depriving them of rings that don’t have a weakness to yellow. This story is no better than you would expect from its creators. The backup story, “Successor” by Todd Klein and Dave Gibbons, is much better. It’s about a horse-like Green Lantern who retires  and is replaced by his robot butler. Gibbons is a great visual storyteller, and he draws some cute horses.

ACTION COMICS #364 (DC, 1968) – “The Untouchable from Krypton!”, [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Ross Andru. The best thing about this issue is Neal Adams’s cover. Ross Andru’s interior art is also good, but far more old-fashioned-looking. “The Untouchable from Krypton!” is part of a continuing story in which Superman contracts Kryptonian leprosy and has to leave Earth. There’s also a Supergirl story by Otto Binder and Kurt Schaffenberger, in which two of Supergirl’s acquaintances both marry the same man and immediately die. To investigate their deaths, Supergirl gets engaged to the man herself. This story’s premise is extremely dumb, and the resolution to the mystery is also ridiculous.

PLANETARY #7 (Wildstorm, 2000) – “To Be in England, in the Summertime,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] John Cassaday. This is quite possibly Warren Ellis’s best individual comic book, although you have to have read lots of other comics in order to understand why. Jack Carter, i.e. John Constantine, is dead, and the members of Planetary attend his funeral. For Ellis, Carter is the embodiment of ‘80s comics, which in his view were principally about the horribleness of Thatcher’s Britain. The examples Ellis has in mind are mostly the work of Moore, Gaiman and Morrison; for example, there’s a panel where two stand-ins for Morpheus and Death are feeding pigeons. The murderer turns out to be a character based on Miracleman, who’s angry because he liked his old, boring, respectable self and was unhappy with being deconstructed and turning grim and dark. At the end, Jack Carter reveals himself to be alive, and he visually transforms himself into Spider Jerusalem. Here Ellis is making an implicit declaration of independence: he’s tired of the ’80s school of comics, and in Transmetropolitan (and Planetary) he’s trying to do something different. This issue may be faulted for demanding too much insider knowledge of comics, but it’s an extremely ambitious and clever piece of metafiction.

DAREDEVIL #10 (Marvel, 2012) – “Underground Crime,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Paolo Rivera. Daredevil fights the Mole Man, who dug up Jack Murdock’s grave because his own lost lover (or stalking victim, rather) was buried nearby. Matt shows a total lack of sympathy for the Mole Man, but he really doesn’t deserve any. Paolo Rivera’s art in this issue is excellent. The issue begins with a scene where Matt escapes from a monster which we never see fully – we only see its eyes, tongue and teeth.

CLASSIC STAR WARS: THE EARLY ADVENTURES #6 (Dark Horse, 1995) – “The Second Kessel Run,” [W/A] Russ Manning. I believe this issue consists of newspaper strips cut up and rearranged in comic book form. Luke, Han and friends have to save the planet of Kessel from being destroyed by a scientist’s terraforming project. Luke has a cute flirtation with the scientist’s daughter. Russ Manning’s artwork in this issue is excellent, although it’s reproduced too large. However, Manning’s graphic style does not fit with the style of the Star Wars films. Manning’s spaceships and machines look slick, aerodynamic and futuristic, but they’re juxtaposed with costumes and ships that are borrowed from the films, and that look dingy, dilapidated, and overly complicated. The result is a clash between two incompatible design styles, and Manning’s own designs come off looking old-fashioned by comparison to the designs from the films. Al Williamson did a better job of matching his own style to the visual aesthetic of the Star Wars franchise.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #651 (Marvel, 2011) – untitled (Big Time), [W] Dan Slott, [A] Humberto Ramos. Spidey and Black Cat invade the Kingpin’s headquarters and fight the Hobgoblin. As a countermeasure to the Hobgoblin’s powers, Spidey uses a device that blocks out sound,  and this leads to some funny complications. The dialogue in this issue is also excellent; Slott is really good at writing Spider-Man’s witty banter. The main story ends with Peter realizing he’s finally hit the big time, hence the title of the story arc. There’s also a backup story where Alistair Smythe recruits the Scorpion to help him get revenge on JJJ.

CHEW #25 (Image, 2012) – “Major League Chew Part 5,” [W] John Layman, [A] Rob Guillory. Tony Chu has been kidnapped, and the kidnapper auctions him off, with his cibopathic powers, to the highest bidder. Amelia Mintz saves him. At the end of the issue, Colby is assigned Poyo as his new partner. This issue begins with a scene where Colby’s boss basically rapes him. This is funny in context, but may be offensive to some readers.

ADVENTURE COMICS #442 (DC, 1975) – “H is for Holocaust,” [W] Paul Levitz, [A] Jim Aparo. Aquaman has to save a hijacked ship before the U.S. government can nuke it, which would devastate Atlantis’s environment. There’s a subplot about an insurrection in Atlantis. This story is okay, but not as good as other Aquaman stories from this period. This issue also includes a Seven Soldiers of Victory story, drawn by José Luis Garcia-Lopez from an unpublished Golden Age script. JLGL’s art is only average, and Joe Samachson’s script is extremely stupid and childish. Samachson was still alive at the time, though he had long since abandoned his writing career.

SUICIDE SQUAD #50 (DC, 1991) – “Debt of Honor,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Geof Isherwood et al. This issue begins with a confusing scene in which Rick Flag abandons his friend Jess Bright after a mountaineering disaster. This scene is shown more fully in Secret Origins #14, which I don’t have. Jess Bright survives, but suffers extreme injuries and becomes the supervillain Koshchei the Deathless. Many years later, Bright kidnaps Flag’s posthumous son by Karin Grace. The Squad have to save the boy, even though Koshchei tries to stop them by resurrecting their many dead teammates. This is a very exciting issue that effectively draws upon the series’ previous four years of continuity.

DETECTIVE COMICS #759 (DC, 2001) – “Unknowing Part Two,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Shawn Martinborough. I’m surprised this issue is so old because its cover art and design look extremely up to date. Rucka’s run on Detective Comics feels like the beginning of the contemporary era of Batman, as opposed to the previous era that was dominated by crossovers like Knightfall and No Man’s Land. This issue, Batman tries to unravel the Mad Hatter’s mind control plot, and Bruce Wayne’s bodyguard Sasha Bordeaux tries to assist him, even though Batman doesn’t want her help. There’s also a Slam Bradley backup story with beautiful art by Darwyn Cooke and Cameron Stewart, though it’s a bit hard to tell which of them did what. I think this was Darwyn’s second published comic book story, after Legion Worlds #2, and not counting Batman: Ego.