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May and June reviews

5-30

Just woke up to the awful news that Uncle Hugo’s was destroyed in the Minneapolis protests. Going to distract myself by writing reviews.

LOIS LANE #10 (DC, 2020) – “Enemy of the People, Part Ten,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Mike Perkins. Another comic that was delivered by DCBS even though Diamond was shut down. This issue had some sort of plot about multiple universes, but I don’t remember anything else about it. This series has been a disappointment.

BATMAN #407 (DC, 1987) – “Year One Chapter Four: Friend in Need,” [W] Frank Miller, [A] David Mazzucchelli. I’ve read this before, as a reprint, but not for a while. The main thing that strikes me on rereading is its incredible narrative economy. I remembered the climactic kidnapping scene as if it took up half the issue, but it’s actually just seven pages. And Miller and Mazzucchelli effectively created the modern Catwoman in just a few pages. This is all possible because of Miller’s super-economical writing and Mazzucchelli’s mastery of visual narration. A couple other points: The black criminal in this issue is an offensive stereotype. And I didn’t realize before that in the last couple panels, when Gordon’s face is suddenly illuminated, it’s because he’s just turned on the Bat-Signal.

FANTASTIC FOUR #172 (Marvel, 1976) – “Cry, the Bedeviled Planet!”, [W] Roy Thomas & Bill Mantlo, [A] George Pérez. The FF fight Gorr the Golden Gorilla, then they team up to protect Counter-Earth from Galactus. This issue’s story is not terrible, and Pérez’s art is excellent, though I’ve always been unimpressed by his FF as compared to his other ‘70s and ‘80s comics.

GUNMASTER #5 (Charlton, 1966) – “Death Wears Black to Boothill” and “White War-Chief,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Bill Fraccio. A mediocre Western comic whose gimmick is that the hero is a gunsmith. The second story spreads the harmful message that the only “good” Indians are those who submit to white supremacy.

U.S.AVENGERS #3 (Marvel, 2017) – “$kullocracy,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Paco Medina & Carlo Barberi. The USAvengers fight the Golden Skull with the help of a grown-up future Danielle Cage. There’s one cute moment when Danielle reveals that she remembers when Squirrel Girl was her babysitter. Otherwise this is a pretty average issue. I assume this was the last part of the introductory storyline.

EVIL EYE #4 (Fantagraphics, 1999) – “Reflection in a Glass Scorpion” and “Peculia,” [W/A] Richard Sala. Unfortunately Richard Sala just died. I haven’t read much of his work, only the graphic novel Cat Burglar Black, but he was similar to Edward Gorey and Rick Geary and Charles Addams. This issue includes two creepy and humorous adventure-mystery stories with female protagonists. It definitely makes me want to read more of his work.

MY ROMANTIC ADVENTURES #92 (ACG, 1958) – “Bad Luck Girl!”, [W] unknown, [A] John Rosenberger, plus two other stories. This issue’s first story is about a woman who thinks she has awful luck, but the unlucky things that befall her turn out to be blessings in disguise. Craig Yoe included this story in his Weird Love anthology series. The other stories are about a woman who almost gets killed climbing a mountain, and a woman who thinks she’s a better artist than she is. None of these stories are especially progressive, but the third story’s depiction of the beatnik art scene is kind of funny. An unintentional moment of humor in this issue is a panel explaining that women shouldn’t talk about manly things like baseball. https://www.instagram.com/p/CATm4dsBFTw/

EDGAR ALLAN POE’S SNIFTER OF TERROR SEASON TWO #6 (Ahoy, 2020) – “The Purloined Letter,” [W/A] Carol Lay, and “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Steve Yeowell. The first story is a very funny and gory prequel to “The Purloined Letter,” explaining that the letter reveals how the lady had the minister’s son butchered and turned into stew. The second story is even funnier. It’s about what if (or for copyright reasons, “which things wuold occur when”) Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was written by an Englishman. Accordingly it’s full of silly English stereotypes. And it guest-stars the great cricketer W.G. Grace. I should mention here that I’m very angry because Ahoy has announced that Captain Ginger Season Two will be completed in digital form. This trend toward digital-only releases of comics that were previously solicited as single issues is absolutely infuriating, and it needs to stop at once.

KILLADELPHIA #5 (Image, 2020) – “The Sun Will Rise,” [W] Rodney Barnes, [A] Jason Shawn Alexander. I have very mixed feelings about this series. It’s obviously highly relevant right now because of its focus on black people and the police. But the vampire plot seems rather trite and uninteresting, and I think the series would be better if it was just a crime drama. I’m not sure if I want to keep buying Killadelphia.

TOMORROW #2 (Dark Horse, 2020) –“A Town Called Hope,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Jesús Hervás. This issue continues the stories of each of the various survivors. Like many other Peter Milligan comics, Tomorrow suffers from a lack of focus. It’s not clear to me just what this comic’s central premise is, or how it differs from other postapocalyptic stories. The most interesting character in the series, by far, is the autistic cellist kid, and I wish the series was just about him and not the other characters.

FCBD MANHWA CONTEMPORARY KOREAN COMICS (Drawn & Quarterly, 2020) – four stories, [W/A] various. This FCBD comic reprints four of Drawn & Quarterly’s translations of manhwa. The only substantial Korean comic I had previously read was a volume of Kim Dong-Hwa’s Color Trilogy, and this issue was a good introduction to the field. The most impressive of the four stories is the excerpt from Keum-Suk Gendry Kim’s Grass, about Korean prisoners of war during WWII. Gendry Kim’s style of brushwork reminds me of Mazzucchelli or Baudoin. The excerpt from Ancco’s Bad Friends was also exciting enough that it inspired me to read the entire book, which I already had. I also already have Hong Yeon-Sik’s Uncomfortably Happily, and I will get around to it eventually.

ON THE STUMP #2 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Chuck Brown, [A] Prenzy. This issue is full of very gruesome violence, and it strays quite far from what I thought was the core premise –that of a society where political issues are resolved by wrestling matches. I’m going to give this series one more issue.

CAT SHIT ONE #1 (Antarctic, 2020) – “Special Mission,” [W/A] Motofumi Kobayashi. This manga is a very realistic take on the Vietnam War from the American perspective, with the gimmick that the natives of each nation are depicted as a different animal. This comic began in 1998, so it could have been influenced by Maus. Kobayashi’s artwork is very detailed and is full of visible pencilwork; it’s closer to Miyazaki than to most other manga. My criticisms are that first, the comic book format is inappropriate for manga. Second, Cat Shit One lacks an interesting plot; it feels like just a series of straightforward retellings of things that happened in the war. Finally, its characters’ personalities are not well defined.

EVE STRANGER #5 (IDW, 2020) – “A Change is Gonna Come,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Philip Bond. Sadly this is the final Black Crown comic. Black Crown deserved to last longer than it did. This issue has some excellent artwork, but I had trouble caring about its plot. See later reviews for more thoughts on Philip Bond.

THE ‘NAM #2 (Marvel, 1987) – “Dustoff,” [W] Doug Murray, [A] Michael Golden. I’ve never read this long-running series before, but this issue does not make me want to read more of it. It’s a less realistic or introspective war comic than G.I. Joe. This issue is just a series of fight scenes, with a subplot about a rivalry between officers. The writer shows no interest in the Vietnamese perspective on the war. Some of Michael Golden’s artwork is excellent, especially the first three pages where the soldiers set up an ambush in darkness. However, Golden’s faces look ugly and unrealistic.

THE SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #2 (Marvel, 2013) – “The Peter Principle,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Ryan Stegman. Doc Ock, in Peter’s body, tries to date MJ, but it doesn’t work. Also, Doc Ock sets up a system of spider-bots. Part of Slott’s brilliance in this series is that he writes Doc Ock as a very typical supervillain. Everything Otto says in his own voice (i.e. when not pretending to be Peter) is a mad scientist cliché. And that makes it even more powerful when Otto gradually becomes a hero.

BATWOMAN: REBIRTH #1 (DC, 2017) – “Batwoman Rebirth,” [W] Marguerite Bennett & James Tynion IV, [A] Steve Epting. This issue is a patchwork of scenes from Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams’s Batwoman: Elegy. When I read this issue, I felt at times as if I was reading a reprint of that story. This issue certainly doesn’t feel like an original or new take on Kate Kane, although it does reveal some details about her overprivileged upbringing.

NINA’S ALL-TIME GREATEST COLLECTOR’S ITEM CLASSIC COMICS #1 (Dark Horse, 1992) – various stories, [W/A] Nina Paley. Nina Paley is such an awful TERF that her picture should be in the dictionary next to the word TERF. Her transphobic attitudes have destroyed her reputation. This is unfortunate because she’s a talented cartoonist. She draws in a very appealing comic-strip style, and she has a sardonic sense of humor. The best story in this issue is “Nina’s Adventures with the Big Editor Boss-Man,” where she’s told that her work is unmarketable, and so she tries to draw underground comics style instead. Thus, the story includes several pages drawn in a style that parodies that of Aline Kominsky-Crumb or whoever.

MARVELS SNAPSHOTS: FANTASTIC FOUR #1 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin & Sarah Dyer, [A] Benjamin Dewey. This is really a Human Torch solo story. It takes place at Johnny and Dorrie Evans’s high school reunion in Glenville. The people of Glendale act like they’re ashamed and resentful of Johnny, but the twist ending is that they actually love Johnny, and their disdain for him is just an act. This was a pretty fun issue.

Had to stop writing here to watch Trump’s utterly terrifying Rose Garden speech. Fuck. This week was bad enough already.

THE CIMMERIAN: QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST #2 (Ablaze, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jean-David Morvan, [A] Pierre Alary. I’m always glad when French comics are translated into English, and this issue has some striking artwork. However, it offers nothing we haven’t seen in lots of other Conan comics, and Morvan’s take on Conan is pretty boring.

DEADLINE U.S.A. #6 (Dark Horse, 1992) – numerous stories, [E] Chris Warner. Lots of interesting stories here. Unfortunately there’s a story by Molly Eyre and D’Israeli where you have to rotate each page in a circle twice in order to read all the text around the edges. And there are three different chapters of this story scattered throughout the issue. So this comic is a very annoying read. Besides that, highlights of this issue include Nick Abadzis’s Hugo Tate and Milligan and Ewins’s Johnny Nemo. More about Deadline later.

ICE CREAM MAN #8 (Image, 2018) – “Emergencies,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. The most impenetrable of all the Ice Cream Man comics I’ve read. “Emergencies” is about two ambulance drivers who are addicted to drugs, but it doesn’t have a clear plot, except that it ends with the discovery that there’s a corpse in the back of the ambulance. There’s some very disturbing imagery, including a panel showing a face with way too many mouths.

EIGHTBALL #3 (Fantagraphics, 1990) – “Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron” and other stories, [W/A] Daniel Clowes. This issue’s main story is a chapter of Clowes’s first major graphic novel. “Like a Velvet Glove…” is very surreal and disturbing, and I suspect it was influenced by Chester Brown’s Ed the Happy Clown. Next is “The Stroll,” a five-page monologue by a misanthropic jerk. Last is a chapter of “Young Dan Pussey,” in which the title character, a cartoonist, tries to make the transition from superhero to alternative comics, but it doesn’t go well. This story includes obvious parodies of Art Spiegelman, Gary Groth, and Los Bros Hernandez. The name ”Krzchyk” appears in both of the last two stories.

SUPURBIA #8 (Boom!, 2013) – untitled, [W] Grace Randolph, [A] Russell Dauterman. The supervillain Hector Hunt kidnaps Zuri, the daughter of one of the main superhero couples, and a huge fight results. This is a rather conventional superhero comic, and its plot is hard to understand out of context, but Russell Dauterman’s art is excellent.

SCARAB #1 (Vertigo, 1993) – “All Roads Lead to the Minotaur,” [W] John Smith, [A] Scot Eaton. The Scarab is an old retired superhero. His wife Eleanor is trapped in an extra-dimensional labyrinth, and he himself is being hunted by a villain called the Sicari. Scarab was originally pitched as a revival of Dr. Fate, and it helps to know that in order to understand what’s going on in this comic. Scarab #1 is rather difficult and depressing, but John Smith’s prose style is very lyrical and intricate. (Example: “The tiger menace of things to be is red in the sky.”) Smith is certainly comparable to Alan Moore or Neil Gaiman as a prose stylist, though not necessarily in other areas of his writing.

THE MULTIVERSITY #2 (DC, 2015) – “Superjudge,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Ivan Reis. Grant Morrison’s greatest flaw as a writer is extreme obscurancy. You often can’t understand his comics unless you read them at one sitting, and then read them again, and even then it often doesn’t feel worth the effort. Moore and Ellis’s comics are equally deep, but they don’t seem to resist understanding as much. Multiversity #2 is a prime example of Morrison’s excessive difficulty. I had no idea what was going on in this issue. It had something to do with Nix Uotan, the Gentry, and a 17-move solution to Rubik’s Cube, but all of that went over my head, and the whole issue felt like just a generic example of an epic cosmic superhero story. Multiversity #2 would probably make more sense now that I’ve read some of the earlier issues, but again, I don’t know if it’s worth the trouble of rereading it.

ONE FOR ONE: BRAIN BOY #1 (Dark Horse, 2014) – “Psy vs. Psy Part One of Three,” [W] Fred Van Lente, [A] R.B. Silva. This series, starring a rude teenage telepath, is a revival of an old Dell comic. I honestly think that Fred Van Lente is just an average writer. The only one of his comics I really liked was Incredible Hercules, which was co-written by Greg Pak. Brain Boy #1 is okay, but it didn’t make me want to read issue 2.

MULTIVERSITY: MASTERMEN #1 (DC, 2015) – “Splendour Falls,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Jim Lee. Mastermen is set on an alternate Earth where Kal-El’s rocket crashlanded in Nazi Germany. It’s well-written, I suppose, but it leaves me kind of cold. I read this issue along with the commentary at comicsalliance.com, and that did help, but I still think it’s a problem when a comic is unintelligible without notes. At least Mastermen isn’t as tough as Multiversity #2.

CHARLTON BULLSEYE #9 (Charlton, 1982) – “Bludd the Ultimate Barbarian,” [W] James Waley, [A] Gene Day & V. Marchesano. This was intended for Waley’s magazine Orb, but was left in limbo when that magazine was cancelled. (Note: On page 123 of his Star*Reach Companion, Richard Arndt mentions that a preview of Bludd appeared in the last issue of Orb, but he says that to his knowledge, Bludd was never published anywhere. He was wrong about that.) Bludd has the same premise as Starslayer, but is not nearly as well-written. Gene Day’s art is pretty good, but is hampered by Waley’s excessive captions. In his editor’s note, Waley admits Bludd’s resemblance to Starslayer, though he points out that Bludd was created first.

STALKER #4 (DC, 1976) – “Invade the Inferno,” [W] Paul Levitz, [A] Steve Ditko. There are four names in this issue’s credits box –  Levitz, Ditko, Wally Wood, and Joe Orlando – and all four of these men are now in the Eisner Hall of Fame. Sadly, Stalker is not as good as you would expect from such a team. Stalker is an unsympathetic character – a cursed warrior who’s trying to rescue his stolen soul from hell – and his adventures are boring. Easily the best thing about the issue is the combination of Ditko pencils and Woody inks.

THE PHANTOM #60 (Charlton, 1974) – “Assault on the Phantom’s Treasure!”, [W] Giovanni Fiorentini, [A] Mario Pedrazzi. This story is reprinted from an Italian comic, and was probably produced by Alberto Giolitti’s studio. Pedrazzi’s art is competent, but lacks any distinctive style, and Fiorentini’s story is boring.

MANY GHOSTS OF DR. GRAVES #46 (Charlton, 1974) – “Swamp!”, [W] Steve Morisi, [A] Pete Morisi. Steve Morisi seems to have been Pete’s son. Pete Morisi did not publish his comics under his real name, but I guess Steve Morisi did. Their story in this issue is about a ventriloquist who escapes from prison, and it has no supernatural elements. Next is a fortuneteller story by Joe Gill and Rudy Palais, whose style looks as if it had barely changed since the Golden Age. Last is a ghost story drawn by Sanho Kim. This comic isn’t great, but it’s an interesting juxtaposition of art styles.

SON OF SATAN #3 (Marvel, 1976) – “Demon’s Head,” [W] John Warner, [A] Sonny Trinidad. A confusing, pointless and overwritten story. I can barely remember anything that happens in this issue, let alone explain it. In the 1970s there were lots of writers like John Warner who worked in comics for just a couple years, then vanished from the industry. I have no idea what he’s doing now. Of course, in every era of comics there have been people who drifted in and out of the industry.

THE DESTRUCTOR #3 (Atlas, 1975) – “In the Hands of the Huntress,” [W] Larry Lieber & Archie Goodwin, [A] Steve Ditko. The Destructor battles two new villains, the Huntress and Lupo. Another comic that’s disappointing given the caliber of talent behind it. Atlas/Seaboard was extremely derivative of Marvel, and the Atlas titles were all cancelled before they could hit their stride.

PUMA BLUES #2 (Aardvark/Vanaheim, 1986) – “Watch That Man,” [W] Stephen Murphy, [A] Michael Zulli. Most of this issue is a flashback to 1995, when white supremacists assassinated President Jack Kemp and started a nuclear war. Eerily, Jack Kemp really was nominated for Vice President in 1996. The farfetched part is that white nationalists would kill a Republican president; as we’ve seen this past week, white nationalists are our current President’s most enthusiastic supporters. Anyway, Murphy and Zulli’s depiction of the 1995 events is very compelling. I especially like how they cut away from the main events to show us the impassive or shocked reactions of spectators.

SKULL THE SLAYER #2 (Marvel, 1975) – “Gods and Super-Gods,” [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Steve Gan. I recently wrote a negative review of Skull the Slayer #5, but issue 2 shows that Skull the Slayer could have been a good series if Marv Wolfman had stayed with it longer. Jim Scully is a Vietnam vet who finds himself trapped in the prehistoric age with three other modern-day people. Skull and his companions’ adventures are exciting and fun, and I particularly like the scene where they talk about their respective problems with the modern world. For example, the one woman in the group complains about suffering employment discrimination because of her gender.

JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS #4 (Archie, 2017) – untitled, [W] Marguerite Bennett & Cameron DeOrdio, [A] Audrey Mok. I’m biased because I dislike Bennett’s writing, but this issue really annoyed me. Almost every line of dialogue in the issue is a pun or a pop culture reference. Also the syntax of the dialogue is awkward. Two sample word balloons (both from the same character): “I haven’t heard a sound that captures true rock and roll like this since Stillwater! But I’ll take Josie’s voice over that My Name is Earl-lookin’ guy’s any day!” This sort of dialogue is only acceptable in small doses. The only thing I like about this issue is the page before that, which is drawn in a style that parodies shojo manga, with flowers and no panel borders.

FELL #3 (Image, 2005) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Ben Templesmith. Fell goes to buy new clothing, but finds a suicide bomber in the dressing room. Fell discovers that the clothing store owner is giving away guns illegally, and the bomber’s brother was killed by one of those guns. Fell manages to resolve the situation with minimal violence. I’ve read a lot of Warren Ellis comics lately, but Fell is among the most interesting of them. Fell is a compelling character, a Sherlock Holmes with a heart. Snowtown is so horrible it’s funny, but not too funny; as a reader, I laugh at it, but I realize it could actually exist.

THE PHANTOM #11 (Gold Key, 1965) – “Blind Man’s Bluff,” [W] Dick Wood or Bill Harris, [A] Bill Lignante. The GCD has two candidates for who wrote this story. This issue isn’t great, but it’s less bad than #60, reviewed above. It has a somewhat suspenseful plot in which the Phantom goes blind. Last night I was wondering why Phantom comics are so popular overseas, e.g. in Australia and India, while they’re completely unknown in America. The reason may be that American Phantom comics aren’t very good – the only truly excellent Phantom comics I’ve read are the ones drawn by Don Newton. The best Phantom stories were created in Sweden starting in the ’70s, but that was about the same time that the American Phantom series was cancelled, and most of the Swedish Phantom comics were never published in America. (Out of curiosity, I just ordered some Australian Phantom comics. Watch this space for reviews of them.)

SPIDER-WOMAN #13 (Marvel, 1979) – “Suddenly… the Shroud!”, [W] Mark Gruenwald, [A] Carmine Infantino. Jessica Drew moves into her friend Jerry’s apartment and tries to get a job through a temp agency – even though her only previous work experience is with a “nest of spies.” None of her temp placements work out, and she tries to improve her employability by visiting the “Hatros Institute for Emotional Research,” which is probably a reference to the Church of Scientology. Of course the Hatros Institute turns out to be an evil cult, and while investigating it, Jessica runs into the Shroud. This is a fairly enjoyable issue, though Infantino’s artwork is awful.

ADVENTURE COMICS #404 (DC, 1971) – “Super-Girl?”, [W/A] Mike Sekowsky. Supergirl has to fight Starfire’s gang (not Princess Koriand’r of course) even though she’s been losing and regaining her powers at random intervals. Mike Sekowsky was actually a good writer of female protagonists, both here and in Wonder Woman, and this issue is a fun read. I also like Supergirl’s costume from this period, with the skirt and the knee-length boots.

G.I. JOE #62 (Marvel, 1987) – “Transit,” [W] Larry Hama, [A] William Johnson & Arvell Jones. In Borovia, Stalker, Quick-Kick and Snow-Job are convicted of espionage in a show trial and are sent to a prison camp, with no rescue forthcoming. Meanwhile, Outback, the fourth member of their mission, returns to America and faces scorn from his fellow Joes, but Snake-Eyes and Scarlett seem to be organizing a covert rescue mission. I read the issue after this one as a kid, and I still remember its brutal depiction of a Communist prison. In both #62 and #63, Larry Hama powerfully depicts how when people are subjected to dehumanizing conditions, they respond by acting in inhuman ways. Stalker tries to get his fellow prisoners to behave better, and in explaining why, he delivers a stunning line of dialogue: “You know who gives quarters to the bums on the street? Poor people. They’re close enough to the edge to see the drop.” You wouldn’t expect this sort of insight from a comic based on a toy line.

MULTIVERSITY: ULTRA COMICS #1 (DC, 2015) – “Ultra Comics Lives!”, [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Doug Mahnke. I have very mixed feelings about Multiversity, but this issue is perhaps Grant’s best metatextual experiment since Animal Man. Indeed, the whole issue is an extrapolation from the classic “I can see you!” moment in Animal Man #19. Ultra Comics #1, the actual comic book, is a crucial part of Multiversity’s plot because it’s the vehicle through which the series’ extradimensional villains, the Gentry, are entering the DC multiverse. Accordingly, this issue begins with a warning telling the reader not to turn the page (like The Monster at the End of This Book). Also, it’s set on Earth-Prime, and it stars Earth-Prime’s only superhero, Ultra(a), who is literally made of paper and ink. The issue is full of fourth-wall-breaking moments like that. One moment that particularly appeals to me, given my interest in materiality, is when a man addresses the reader and says “You’re interacting with a real, physical object.” (But is this still true if you read Ultra Comics #1 digitally? See my discussion of Finder: Talisman in Between Pen and Pixel.)

SANDMAN #15 (DC, 1990) – “Into the Night,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Mike Dringenberg. In the penultimate chapter of A Doll’s House, Rose Walker goes to sleep and causes her housemates’ dreams to blur together. The “vortex” sequence begins by depicting each dreamer’s dreams (Hal, Ken, Barbie, Chantal) with a unique style of art and lettering, and then as Rose creates the vortex, the dreams start to blur together and encroach on each other. I love the moment where Barbie and Martin Tenbones suddenly “hear” a caption box from Ken’s dream. Todd Klein deserves credit for this sequence because of his creation of all the different lettering styles. During this sequence, the reader sympathizes with Rose’s desire to merge everyone’s minds together – but we also realize that Morpheus really does have to kill her, because she’s destroying the privacy of people’s dreamworlds. Mike Dringenberg’s art throughout A Doll’s House was excellent, and I wonder why his career never went anywhere.

THE WOODS #2 (Boom!, 2014) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. An entire school is teleported to an alien planet (like in Kazuo Umezu’s Drifting Classroom), and the students and teachers have different plans on how to survive. James Tynion’s characterization in this issue is very effective, and Michael Dialynas draws some delightfully weird alien creatures and settings. I’m going to have to read more of this series, as well as Tynion’s other creator-owned works.

IRON MARSHAL #13 (Jademan, 1991) – untitled, [W] Henry Wright, [A] F.L. Khoo. The title character battles the Bloody Duke and some other villains. This issue has an execrably poor translation; the dialogue is so awkward and confusing that it’s very hard to tell what exactly is going on in the plot. At least the art is good.

DETECTIVE COMICS #582 (DC, 1988) – “Sole Survivor,” [W] Jo Duffy, [A] Norm Breyfogle. A Millennium crossover issue in which Commissioner Gordon tries to save his old navy buddies from being assassinated by Manhunters. Millennium was a terrible crossover event, and the best thing about this issue is Breyfogle’s art.

On May 22, I finally got a full DCBS shipment, i.e. one that included items from publishers other than DC. It was a small shipment consisting of just six comics and one graphic novel. The industry is not yet back to full production capacity yet, and will not be until September at least.

THE LUDOCRATS #1 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen & Jim Rossignol, [A] Jeff Stokely. This is by far the best comic book published since the pandemic began. The Ludocrats takes place in a world dominated by bizarre and ridiculous people/creatures, where the greatest sin is to be boring. The protagonist, Baron Otto von Subertan, meets Grattina Gavelstein, High Steam-Judge of New Prussia, at a wedding, and it’s love at first sight. But Gratty is immediately kidnapped by “mechanical boring people.” Ludocrats’s premise gives the creators carte blanche to draw the strangest and silliest things they can imagine, and they take full advantage of this opportunity. The high point of the issue is the wedding scene, where we see a person with a goldfish bowl for a head, a giant octopus holding a martini glass, etc. Casanova Quinn makes a cameo appearance in this issue, and his presence in this universe makes complete sense.

BIRTHRIGHT #43 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Mikey explains to Rya why he worked with Lore, but we don’t get to hear what he says. Mikey and Rya share a tender moment, and then Mikey finally confronts Lore. Next issue is going to be an epic fight scene.

THE DOLLHOUSE FAMILY #6 (DC, 2020) – “Una,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. A talking cat tells Alice that the entire series’ plot was caused by a struggle between itself and the demon Cloax. Alice enters the dollhouse for the last time and uses the Bright Metal to defeat Cloax, allowing the cat to eat it like a mouse. As a reward, the cat fixes Alice’s personal timeline so that her parents both survive (sadly including her dad), she marries Jake, and Una is born with a silver hand. Which may be a reference to Nuada Airgetlam or Corum or both. This feels like a tacked-on happy ending, but other than that, I really enjoyed this series.

SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #10 (DC, 2020) – “Up to Old Tricks!” etc., [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Steve Lieber. It finally becomes clear that Jimmy’s brother Julian is trying to kill Jimmy in order to steal the money in his personal trust. Also, there’s a funny quotation of the music video for Madonna’s “Material Girl,” with Jimmy as Madonna. As usual, lots of other stuff happens in this issue. This has been a fascinating series; however, its shtick is getting a bit tiresome, and I’m not sorry there are just two more issues.

PLUNGE #3 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Stuart Immonen. The crew of the sunken ship return as zombies, and they claim to have found the last digit of pi and solved the Riemann hypothesis and Crouzeix’s conjecture. Crouzeix’s conjecture is a real thing, but it’s very obscure. I wonder if Joe Hill meant Collatz’s conjecture, which is far better known. Anyway, I like how this issue uses math as a vehicle for horror.

GHOSTED IN L.A. #10 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Sina Grace. Daphne tries to come up with a solution to the evil ghost, and also sleeps with Zola, off-panel. Meanwhile, Daphne’s awful roommate sneaks into the ghost house. I’m glad this series is still being published in single-issue form, unlike some other Boom! comics. However, I don’t see issue 11 on Boom!’s current release schedule, and even more disturbingly, I don’t see Lumberjanes either. Ghosted in LA #11 and Lumberjanes #73 and #74 were both supposed to come out next week, according to https://bleedingcool.com/comics/boom-studios-latest-may-june-2020-schedules-triple-lumberjanes/, but neither of them is listed at comiclist.com. Now I’m worried.

HITMAN #28 (DC, 1998) – “Door into the Dark,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] John McCrea. Tommy has a nightmare, argues with his girlfriend, and then goes to the bar, where he listens to a bad “Irish” musician. I hate this series, and this issue does nothing to change my opinion of it. Hitman #28 is crude and vulgar, and its main character is an unsympathetic jerk. I do want to read more Hitman now that I’ve read some 2000 AD (see below), just to see if my opinion changes.

INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK #18 (Marvel, 2014) – “Humanity Bomb Part Two,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Jheremy Rapack & Miguel Sepulveda. A very average Hulk comic. Indestructible Hulk was  fine when it came out, I guess, but it’s not comparable to Immortal Hulk.

THE MULTIVERSITY: SOCIETY OF SUPER-HEROES #1 (DC, 2014) – “Conquerors from the Counter-World,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Chris Sprouse. Two parallel worlds are involved in a proxy war between The Immortal Man and Vandal Savage. This was another very difficult issue, and even after reading it, I’m not quite sure what it was about.

BATMAN #701 (DC, 2010) – “R.I.P. The Missing Chapter, Part One: The Hole in Things,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Tony Daniel. I guess this storyline was intended to fill the gap between Batman R.I.P. and Final Crisis. I’m not familiar with either of those stories, so I found this issue difficult to understand, and I don’t get what its point was.

DC COMICS PRESENTS #51 (DC, 1982) – “Rendezvous with Death,” [W] Dan Mishkin, [A] Alex Saviuk. Superman and the Atom use the Time Pool to go back in time to figure out what happened to his ancestor, Var-El. The issue ends with Var-El remaining on Earth in the 20th century, but I don’t think he ever appeared again. Overall this is a forgettable story. This issue is interrupted halfway through by a Masters of the Universe preview comic, the same one that appeared in Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 2 #293.

THE LONE RANGER #96 (Dell, 1956) – “Gunshy” and “Revenge,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Tom Gill. Two ten-page stories, one about a sheriff who suffers from cowardice, another about a rancher who tries to get revenge on cattle rustlers, but targets the wrong people. Paul S. Newman’s scripts for these stories are adequate, but Tom Gill’s art is impressive. He draws with a ton of detail and dynamism, and he makes potentially boring material exciting. Tom Gill had an extremely long run on this series. He attended at least one Comic-Con that I went to, but at the time I wasn’t familiar with his work. The main problem with this issue is the racist portrayal of Tonto. However, the real gem of the issue is the backup story, a chapter of Gaylord DuBois and Rex Maxon’s Young Hawk. This series stars two Mandan Indian brothers, possible prototypes for Turok and Andar, in what seems to be precolonial America. In this issue’s installment, Young Hawk and Little Buck meet some Iroquois people and teach them canoe sailing. This story shows awareness that precolonial Native Americans were not a single monolithic bloc. The Mandan and Iroquois people in the story look and dress differently and have different customs and technology. Young Hawk is included on Paul Gravett’s “1001 comics you must read” list, and I want to look for more of it.

BATMAN #28 (DC, 2017) – “The War of Jokes and Riddles Part 3,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mikel Janin. Batman dresses up as Commissioner Gordon, and each of them infiltrates one of the warring villain camps. Batman sleeps with Catwoman. Deadshot and Deathstroke fight each other. This issue has some excellent art, but feels kind of muddled. It has too many giant epic splash pages for its own good. Also, I strongly doubt either that Deathstroke could compete with Deadshot in marksmanship, or that Deadshot could challenge Deathstroke in a hand-to-hand fight. These two villains are not mirror images of each other.

BATMAN #335 (DC, 1981) – “The Lazarus Affair Chapter Four: Ashes to Ashes!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Irv Novick. I can’t believe I haven’t already read this, because it’s the conclusion to “The Lazarus Affair,” perhaps the best Batman story arc of the early ‘80s. At this point, Ra’s al Ghul has kidnapped Batman and friends and brought them to an island with a Lazarus Pit. Ra’s offers Batman immortality, but Batman of course refuses. This results in an epic battle that finally ends when Ra’s falls into the Lazarus Pit and blows it up. A subplot involves Batman’s tense relations with Robin after Robin left college. As a conclusion to Batman and Ra’s al Ghul’s rivalry, this issue works far better than “Requiem for a Martyr” in Detective Comics #490, and it’s a thrilling read.

NEW YORK: YEAR ZERO #4 (Eclipse, 1988) – untitled, [W] Ricardo Barreiro, [A] Juan Zanotto. This is a reprint of an Argentine comic, which seems to be set in a postapocalyptic New York. Zanotto’s artwork in this issue is amazing. He does a great job of spotting blacks, and his machinery and costumes look highly realistic. The masked battle suits that appear in nearly every panel are a striking visual image. Zanotto’s only weakness as an artist is his indistinct facial expressions. The main problem with this comic is Barreiro’s script, which is wooden and devoid of characterization. However, I still want to track down the other three issues of this miniseries.

SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #5 (Marvel, 2013) – “Emotional Triggers,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. Massacre holds everyone in Grand Central Station hostage (this reminds me of a certain mission in the PS4 Spider-Man game), but Spidey/Doc Ock defeats him. Faced with the real possibility of death, Massacre suddenly becomes repentant, but Spidey executes him anyway. Good riddance to bad rubbish. Also, this issue is the first appearance of Anna Maria Marconi, perhaps Slott’s best new supporting character.

COGNETIC #1 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Eryk Donovan. Cognetic is the second in a trilogy of three miniseries, preceded by Memetic and followed by Eugenic. In Memetic, the Empire State Building is taken over by what seems to be a living meme; people possessed by it speak in blue text, and anyone who hears them starts to speak in blue text too. The issue’s other plot thread is about a young woman with red hair, and at the end of the issue, she goes to the Empire State Building and says “It’s been a long time, brother” in red text. This is an intriguing setup.

HILLBILLY #9 (Albatross, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Eric Powell. Rondel battles Tailypo, Hansel and Gretel, but is rescued by James Stoneturner. In a flashback we see James’s origin story, which is mildly Afrofuturist. This was a pretty average issue.

GASP! #3 (ACG, 1967) – “Sorry, You’ve Got the Wrong Ghosts!”, [W] Richard Hughes (as Adam Barr), [A] Sal Trapani. Gasp! was ACG’s last new series. The first story in Gasp! #3 is about two soldiers, one from the Civil War and one from World War II, both of whom died after betraying their comrades. Many years later, their ghosts petition the afterlife for a chance at redemption, and each of them is sent back in time to the other one’s era. In their new time periods, the soldiers sacrifice their lives heroically and are sent to heaven. This story is compelling and also very funny; there’s a scene where an “appeals agent”, with a suit and briefcase, descends from heaven to rule on the soldiers’ case. Richard Hughes was an excellent writer and would be a good candidate for a posthumous Bill Finger Award. The backup story, written by Lorna Cass, is really dumb. It appears to be her only comics credit, and no wonder.

GREEN LANTERN #110 (DC, 1978) – “Brand of Power,” [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Mike Grell. The high point of this issue comes on page two, when Dinah tells off Ollie for badmouthing Carol Ferris. The rest of the issue is disappointing. Hal and Ollie somehow find themselves in a Wild West town, except the local bad guy is a four-armed alien. There’s also a boring Alan Scott backup story by Cary Burkett and Juan Ortiz.

SON OF VULCAN #49 (Charlton, 1965) – “The Diamond Dancers,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Bill Fraccio. An awful comic. Son of Vulcan is an obvious rip-off of Thor, but Gill and Fraccio are no Lee and Kirby. Besides having bad writing and art, this issue also includes some stereotypical depictions of Chinese people. This issue’s cover says “Special thanks to Dave Cockrum for costume ideas.” At this time Cockrum was not yet a professional, so Son of Vulcan #49 was probably the first comic book whose cover had his name on it.

ACTION COMICS #359 (DC, 1968) – “The Case of the People Against Superman!”, [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Curt Swan. This issue has a classic Neal Adams cover, in which Superman is sitting on the witness stand in court, and a little girl is accusing him of killing her father. That moment only occupies one panel in the actual issue, and of course we learn that the mob killed the girl’s father and framed Superman for it. The trial depicted in this issue is implausible; the prosecution introduces a lot of irrelevant evidence, and the defense commits shenanigans that should have led to a mistrial. In the backup story, Supergirl stops a Stanhope College fraternity from hazing new members. This was Kurt Schaffenberger’s first story as the regular Supergirl artist.

DETECTIVE COMICS #768 (DC, 2002) – “Purity,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Steve Lieber. Batman tries to track down the source of a lethal batch of heroin. The climactic scene in this issue takes place in a Chinese garden in the middle of downtown Gotham. Steve Lieber lives in Portland, so I wonder if this garden is based on the Lan Su Chinese Garden in that city. This issue includes a Josie Mac backup story by Judd Winick and Cliff Chiang.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #325 (Marvel, 1989) – “Finale in Red!”, [W] David Michelinie, [A] Todd McFarlane. In the finale of “The Assassin Nation Plot,” Spidey battles the Red Skull and a bunch of terrorists in the National Archives. Drawing Spider-Man is just about the only thing Todd McFarlane is good at, but he’s very good at it. Reading this issue, I realized that Todd’s characteristic vertical page layouts are probably inspired by Cerebus.

GROO #1 (Image, 1994) – “The Promised Land,” [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. This is the first issue after Sergio and Mark left Marvel, and on page one, Groo gestures to this by thinking “Everything looks so different here… the marvels of the world are but images before me” (emphasis added). In this issue Groo meets some refugees and finds a ship to take them to a new homeland across the sea. Somehow he succeeds in this even though the ship he hires is captained by Ahax. At the end, Groo discovers that there are already people living in the refugeees’ new land, and they’re happy to share what they have: “There will always be enough, so long as we respect one another’s rights and culture.” Uh-oh. As usual this issue is full of funny moments; for example, on the way to the promised land, the ship disembarks in another country that turns out to be full of giant monsters.

SHOWCASE #83 (DC, 1969) – “Sing a Song of Sorcery!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Bernie Wrightson. This is the second of three issues starring Nightmaster. In terms of its plot, Showcase #83 is a mildly parodic sword-and-sorcery story. It’s reminiscent of Wally Wood’s fantasy works, but it’s not as well written. However, this issue is a hidden gem because of who drew it. Nightmaster was one of Bernie’s earliest professional works, but he was already an amazing artist by 1969. His draftsmanship is stunning, and his visual storytelling is almost equally so. I need to get Showcase #84, and I should also look for more of Wrightson’s early works.

In late May I discovered the website atomicavenue.com, and I found a seller on that website who was selling a lot of cheap British comics. I ordered a bunch of stuff from him, including a lot of 2000 ADs and an assortment of other things. I haven’t read a lot of British comics, so I was very excited to receive this order. It included the following comics:

2000 AD #665 (Fleetway, 1990) – “Chopper: Song of the Surfer Part 12,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Colin MacNeil, etc. Of the British comics I received in the aforementioned shipment, 2000 AD is easily my favorite. I really like its format. Each issue consists of five or six stories of about six pages each, so the reader gets a substantial chunk of a number of different stories, representing different subgenres and art styles. Most of the artists take effective advantage of the tabloid-size pages. 2000 AD also has a unique aesthetic that combines brutal violence and black humor. This issue begins with the conclusion of Wagner and MacNeil’s “Chopper: Song of the Surfer,” about a surfer who’s the last survivor of a bloody competition, and dies as he crosses the finish line. The silent page where the protagonist dies is very powerful. Next is Peter Milligan and James McCarthy’s “Bix Barton,” starring an upper-class detective who makes constant references to rugby. Also, he meets a member of the Ugly People’s Liberation Army, whose honorary president is Cecil Parkinson. If you Google Cecil Parkinson, you’ll see why. This issue’s Judge Dredd chapter is by Wagnre and “the Simpsons” and is a prelude to the epic Necropolis story arc. The other stories are “Beyond Zero” and “Zippy Couriers,” the latter of which has some impressive color art by John Higgins.

TAMMY #409 (IPC, 1978) – “Bella tackles the snake,” [W] unknown, [A] John Armstrong, etc. So far, this is the best British comic book I’ve read that wasn’t 2000 AD. Tammy is an example of British girls’ comics, a massive body of work that has gotten very little critical attention. This issue begins with a chapter of John Armstrong’s gymnastics strip Bella at the Bar, another comic that’s on Gravett’s “1001 comics” list. Armstrong’s female anatomy is amazing, and his linework really reminds me of Alan Davis’s. I even wonder if he was an influence on Davis. This particular Bella story guest-stars an Australian Aboriginal girl who is depicted in a relatively non-stereotypical way. In San Diego I bought the collected edition of Bella at the Bar that Rebellion recently published, but I haven’t read it yet. This issue also includes stories about dancing, theater, dogs, Gothic romance, etc. Tammy is not notably progressive or feminist, but it also doesn’t condescend to its readers; it feels like an intelligent piece of girls’ entertainment. I wish there was an easy way I could get more comics like this, although I could read them online if I wanted.

THE HOTSPUR #997 (D.C. Thomson, 1978) – “The Red Sands of Roga,” [W] and [A] unknown, etc. Not nearly as impressive as 2000 AD. This issue includes various sports and adventure stories, all of them uncredited and with fairly generic art and writing. The best is probably V for Vengeance, in which “Jack One, Leader of the Deathless Men” infiltrates a Nazi forced labor camp. This story focuses on a Czech prisoner who sacrifices his life after witnessing the death of a fellow Czech. A low point in the issue is the story immediately following this one: “The Coonskin Grenadier,” in which a British regiment gets a new recruit who’s a stereotypical American hillbilly.

2000 AD #682 (Fleetway, 1990) – “Necropolis Part 9,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra, etc. This prog’s Judge Dredd story is obviously epic in scope, but makes little sense on its own. The highlight of the issue is “Indigo Prime’s Fegredo and Brecht” by John Smith and Chris Weston. This is a self-contained story (divided into two parts, both in this prog), but it’s part of a larger continuity. It’s about two agents who discover a community of aliens that worship the ’70s. I already praised John Smith’s writing in my review of Scarab #1, and Chris Weston is the most impressive artist in all the 2000 ADs that I’ve read lately. His work is amazingly intricate and imaginative. The highlight of “Fegredo and Brecht” is a 3/4-page splash depicting a giant statue of Starsky and Hutch. Chris Weston achieved some success in America thanks to The Filth, but he should have been an even bigger star. The other notable story in this issue is Alan McKenzie and Simon Harrison’s “Bradley Goes Mental,” which has very vivid painted art that reminds me of both Brendan McCarthy and Ralph Steadman.

THE BEANO #1561 (D.C. Thomson, 1972) – numerous uncredited stories. My British comics order included several issues of The Beano and The Dandy. These comics are national institutions in Britain, probably even more so than 2000 AD. However, so far I don’t enjoy them nearly as much as 2000 AD. The Beano #1561 consists of a bunch of one- and two-page strips, most of them about kids engaging in shenanigans. Some of these strips were created by famous artists, like Ken Reid and Leo Baxendale. But by 1972 those artists were long gone, and the general level of artwork in this issue is rather low. And the humor is aimed at young kids and has little appeal to adults. One thing I do like about this comic is the occasional breaking of the fourth wall; for example, when there’s a narratively important detail in a panel, there will be an arrow and caption pointing to it. The Beano #1561 also includes one adventure strip, “Billy the Cat and Katie,” but it clashes with the overall aesthetic of the comic, and it was dropped two years later.

THE DANDY #2021 (D.C. Thomson, 1980) – numerous uncredited stories. I can’t tell the difference between The Dandy and The Beano, although Nick Richardson claims that The Dandy is more focused on Scottish and northern English humor (https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2013/january/izzy-skint). The Dandy’s flagship character seems to be Desperate Dan, a super-strong cowboy who loves cow pies – which to an American reader sounds very disturbing, but in this context a cow pie is a meat pie with cow  horns sticking out. Desperate Dan was created by the great cartoonist Dudley D. Watkins, but he died in 1969, and as with The Beano #1561, none of the artwork in The Dandy #2021 is particularly distinctive. A lot of the humor in The Dandy focuses on  food. Lew Stringer has argued that the central importance of food in British comics is related to Britain’s history of rationing and poverty.

Before I finished writing the following review, I saw the bombshell news about DC abandoning Diamond. I think I’ve gotten over my initial panic at this news, but I’m still nervous as to what might come of this development. By the way, fuck DC. The long-term effects of their action could be positive, but in the short term, the already suffering direct market will suffer even more.

2000 AD #679 (Fleetway, 1990) – “Necropolis” part 6, [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. I still don’t quite understand Necropolis. Overall this prog is less memorable than the last two I read. The highlight of the prog is Hilary Robinson and Ron Smith’s “Chronos Carnival,” more for the art than the writing. Ron Smith’s art is highly detailed and shows great visual imagination. Ron Smith is not well known to American readers who aren’t Dredd fans, but he had a fifty-year career and was the most prolific Dredd artist of his time. This issue also includes a Peter Milligan story, “Shadows,” but it’s part eight, and doesn’t make sense on its own.

TRINITY #6 (DC, 2008) – “Truth, Justice & the American Way,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Mark Bagley. It feels very strange to read a standard-sized American comic book after reading 2000 AD. Regular American comics are so much smaller. About half this issue is a discussion between Clark, Diana and Bruce about their relative similarities and differences. This sequence shows Kurt’s keen insight into all three characters. The rest of the issue is a team-up between Hawkman and Gangbuster.

THE EXTREMIST #3 (DC, 1993) – “July, Nineteen Ninety-Three,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Ted McKeever. A woman discovers that her late husband was an assassin belonging to some sort of evil BDSM conspiracy. She puts on his gimp suit (a term I know because of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas) and tries to hunt down her husband’s killers. This is an excellent issue; it’s full of bizarre sex stuff, but Milligan also convincingly portrays Judy’s horror at learning who her husband was, and her growing curiosity about his secret life. Ted McKeever’s expressionistic style of art is unique and fascinating, if not conventionally beautiful. I want to complete my run of this miniseries.

THE WILD STORM #3 (DC, 2017) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Jon Davis-Hunt. This issue focuses on Angela Spica, aka the Engineer from The Authority. She’s in hiding from some kind of secret organization, but three members of the WildCATs – Void, Grifter and Savant – show up to look for her. This issue was confusing, though it made more sense when I figured out who the characters were (and I had to look up Savant just now). This issue includes some in-jokes about DCU characters like Martian Manhunter and Crime Doctor.

COR!! #115 (IPC, 1972) – “Gus Gorilla” and other stories, [W/A] unknown. This is another humor comic, but it’s even less memorable than the issues of The Dandy and The Beano reviewed above. It does include some stories with better than usual art, including “Jasper the Grasper” and “Hire a Horror.” The former was created by Ken Reid, but the installment in this issue is by Trevor Metcalfe. The latter seems to have been drawn by former DC Thomson artist Robert Nixon. One annoying thing about these old British comics is that there are no credits – apparently this was on purpose, so the artists wouldn’t demand a better deal – and so it’s hard to become familiar with individual artists. The one strip in Cor!! #115 that does stand out is Rat-Trap, which is silly, but is drawn in an adventure-comic style. It says at  http://kazoop.blogspot.com/2012/07/look-at-cor-strips-rat-trap.html that the artist of this comic was Giorgio Giorgetti, who, according to Lambiek, was from Italy but spent his entire career working for British comics.

2000 AD #708 (Fleetway, 1990) – “Wot I Did During Necropolis Part Two,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Anthony Williams, etc. In this prog’s Dredd story, an overgrown child murders his parents and then murders another boy using poisoned pants. Typical 2000 AD humor. The next story is “Time Flies” by two familiar creators, Garth Ennis and Philip Bond. This story doesn’t make much logical sense, but it has beautiful art and funny writing – it takes place on the planet Meetne 2vej in the Kolest’rol system. To my surprise, the third story, “Junker,” is by American writer Michael Fleisher. According to my Facebook friends, he was working for 2000 AD at the time because no one else would hire him, and his stories were not well liked, although I can’t see any major difference in quality between his work and that of other 2000 AD writers. The next story, “Silo,” is by Mark Millar and Dave D’Antiquis and is drawn entirely in black and white, with no variations in tone. I’ve never heard of this artist before, but he’s interesting. Last, there’s a Psi-Judge Anderson story by Alan Grant and Arthur Ranson. This story begins with an impressive depiction of a Tibetan or Bhutanese temple.

DEADLINE #26 (Deadline, 1991) – various stories, [E] Si Spencer. This magazine was one of the major venues of British underground comics, along with Escape, for which see below. Deadline included music reviews and articles as well as comics, and it had a significant impact on U.S. culture because it introduced Tank Girl. This issue begins with a short story by Philip Bond, then the next story is “Fireball,” with utterly amazing art by Deadline’s other primary artist, Jamie Hewlett. “Fireball” has a totally incoherent plot, but Hewlett’s full-page depictions of cars and women’s faces are breathtaking. I’d love to read more of Hewlett’s work, but Tank Girl is difficult to find in any format. BTW, I didn’t realize until now that Hewlett was a major influence on Evan Dorkin. Other stories in this issue are by Carol Swain, Shaky Kane, William Potter, Glenn Dakin, and Glyn Dillon. The latter artist’s story is the most impressive; it includes some impressive collage art. Overall this was an entertaining read, though I could have done without the music articles, and I hope I can find more issues of Deadline.

SPARKY #414 (DC Thomson, 1972) – “Barney Bulldog” and other humor comics, [W/A] unknown. Another unimpressive humor comic. A few of the stories are drawn in a realistic style, but all of them are humorous. A problem with this and other British kids’ comics is the lack of continuity. Each issue is just a series of one- or two-page gag strips. The status quo in each strip never changes. Reading one of these comics is probably like reading an old newspaper Sunday comics section, from back when Sunday strips were a full page, except that American Sunday comics had more variation in style and subject matter.

SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #28 (Marvel, 2014) – “Goblin Nation Part 2,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. Superior Spidey battles the Green Goblin and a bunch of his goblin minions, while Peter has trouble untangling his memories from those of Otto Octavius. The best moments in this issue are the pair of two-page sequences in which Peter relives Otto’s memories, including his history of being abused as a child.

AXEL PRESSBUTTON #3 (Eclipse, 1985) – multiple stories, [W] Steve Moore, [A] Steve Dillon. A series of reprinted Laser Eraser and Pressbutton stories from Warrior. This issue’s plot is complicated and I don’t recall much about it, but the two title characters are entertaining foils for each other. There are two backup stories: one by Steve Moore and Cam Kennedy, which includes a same-sex kiss, and another by Steve Parkhouse and John Ridgway.

NUTTY #215 (DC Thomson, 1984) – “Bananaman,” [W] Steve Bright, [A] John Geering, etc. Bananaman is a superhero parody strip that presupposes an audience familiar with American superheroes. The installment in this issue isn’t especially funny to me, but it was Nutty’s biggest hit and became one of The Dandy’s primary strips, according to Wikipedia. The other strips in this issue are all standard Dandy/Beano material, though the “Eddie the Gent” strip has an unusual half-page panel. Most of the other strips in this and similar comics seem to use a strict three- or four-tier page layout.

2000 AD #716 (Fleetway, 1990) – “First Offence: A Death Aid Interlude,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Steve Yeowell. The Dredd strip in this issue is a one-shot in which a man steals a wallet from a corpse, and Dredd of course brings him to “justice.” Short stories like this are an effective way to demonstrate who Dredd is. Next is a “Tharg’s Future Shock” by David Anderson and Ron Smith, about a man who steals talents from others. Ron Smith also draws this issue’s Rogue Trooper story, written by Fleisher. Next is a Psi-Judge Anderson story by Alan Grant and David Roach. I know David Roach from Facebook but have never seen his art, which is intriguing. The issue ends with another installment of Junker, by Fleisher and John Ridgway.

THE FILTH #7 (Vertigo, 2003) – “Zero Democracy,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Chris Weston. This issue is about a revolt on a gigantic floating city called Libertania. I didn’t understand this issue and couldn’t see how it connected to #6, and Chris Weston’s art here is not as exciting as in 2000 AD. It just looks like normal artwork, although his two-page splash depicting the gigantic ship is pretty impressive. Perhaps Weston’s style didn’t adapt well to color or to the smaller U.S. page size.

ZENITH #2/1 (Fleetway/Quality, 1993) – “Phase II/Prologue: Down Under” etc., [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. This issue’s prologue takes place in a parallel universe and depicts a fight between two dinosaurs. Then we cut to Zenith as his apartment is attacked by a giant robot, and then a woman named Phaedra Cale tells him that she can help him find his parents. A funny moment in this issue is when a man is called an “old Scotch fairy” and replies “It’s Scots, if you don’t mind. Scotch is a drink!”

OUR LOVE IS REAL (Image, 2011) – “Our Love is Real,” [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Steven Sanders. Wikipedia claims that this issue is a prequel to Higher Earth, but I don’t see how. Our Love is Real is about a “zoosexual” policeman, i.e. he does what Dori Seda claimed she didn’t do. He hunts “vegisexuals” and “mineralsexuals.” Eventually a mineralsexual turns him into a crystal, and they have amazing sex. No one in this world seems to even realize that it’s possible to have sex with other humans. Our Love is Real is a one-joke comic, but it’s a very funny joke, and since it’s just a one-shot, the joke doesn’t have time to get old.

The following comics were part of a second order from Atomic Avenue:

THE AIRTIGHT GARAGE #1 (Epic, 1993) – various stories, [W/A] Moebius. This is one of Moebius’s greatest works, and sadly, this four-issue comic-book-format reprint is the easiest way to get it in English. Dark Horse has the license to publish Moebius in English, but they’ve been publishing Moebius books that nobody wants – like The Art of Edena and a book of interviews – and his major works like Arzach and The Airtight Garage are nowhere to be seen. I almost suspect that they’re holding the best Moebius comics hostage until more people buy the bad ones. Or maybe Dark Horse is bowing to the will of his estate. Anyway, The Airtight Garage does have a plot, but it’s deliberately overcomplicated and not all that important. What makes it an essential comic is Moebius’s art. His visual imagination is the equal of Kirby’s, and he can draw scenes that combine the fantastic with the mundane, and that feel slick and futuristic but also dirty. His visual language is unique to him, and it inspired hundreds of other artists. It’s a shame that his work is still so hard to find in English.

ALL-NEW COLLECTOR’S EDITION #C-55 (DC, 1978) – “The Millennium Massacre,” [W] Paul Levitz, [A] Mike Grell. This was an incredible find at just $3. It’s the most obscure of Paul Levitz’s Legion comics, thanks to its inconvenient size – it’s one of the largest comics in my entire collection. In “The Millennium Massacre,” Superboy travels to the 30th century to attend Lightning Lad and Saturn Girl’s wedding, only to discover that the peaceful 30th century he knows is gone, and has been replaced by one where all the planets are at war. We eventually learn that the Time Trapper is responsible, although this version of the Trapper is a Controller from Malthus. (The Time Trapper probably holds the record for having had the most major retcons of any Marvel or DC character, except maybe Donna Troy.) Levitz’s characterization is not as great as it would become in the ‘80s, but he gives each Legionnaire a chance to shine, and there are some nice character moments. For example, there’s a panel in this issue where Shadow Lass kisses Superboy on the cheek, and this issue is probably the first time that Light Lass and Star Boy both used their powers on the same thing. Mike Grell makes effective use of the giant-size treasury format, though unfortunately he’s inked by the inker-who-must-not-be-named. Overall, this comic is a gem, and I’m proud that it’s in my collection.

LASSIE #30 (Dell, 1954) – “The Jungle Princess” and other stories [W] unknown, [A] John Lehti. The first story takes place in the Brazilian Amazon, and the “princess” is a jaguar. In the backup story, Lassie’s owners travel from Brazil to New York, but some criminals hide stolen emerals in Lassie’s collar. In the third story, Lassie carries some drugs to a sick patient, like Balto. These stories aren’t spectacular, but they’re entertaining. John Lehti’s artwork is generic but serviceable. The back cover is the last page of the third story.

FOUR COLOR #1256 (Dell, 1962) – “Kona,” [W] Don Segall or Lionel Ziprin, [A] Sam Glanzman. This is the only issue of Four Color in my collection so far. Four Color was probably the highest-numbered American comic book ever, though it wasn’t really a coherent series but rather a sequence of one-shots that introduced new characters and titles, like DC’s Showcase. Four Color #1256 introduces Kona, one of Dell’s most famous and bizarre original characters, and it also counts as issue 1 of Kona’s own series. Kona’s first appearance is somewhat less weird than later ones, but it does include some of the histrionic captions that the series is famous for. Don Segall is usually credited with writing Kona, but Lionel Ziprin, better known as a beat poet and rabbi, also claimed that he wrote it; however, his claim sounds too good to be true.

FORBIDDEN TALES OF DARK MANSION #7 (DC, 1972) – “Eye of the Beholder,” [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Howard Chaykin, etc. This title started out as Dark Mansion of Secret Love, but unfortunately the gothic romance format was dropped after issue 4, and it became just another horror series. The main appeal of this issue is that its cover and splash page are by Mike Kaluta. The first story is not bad; it’s about a romance between a man and a woman whose sister is a giant spider. It ends with a “lady or the tiger” decision, or rather “lady of the spider.” The other two stories are drawn by Win Mortimer and Bill Draut and are not very interesting. The third story has a plot that revolves around a nobleman’s droit du segnieur, though of course we are not told what exactly this right allows the nobleman to do.

RAGMAN #3 (DC, 1977) – “See No Evil,” [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Joe Kubert & Redondo Studio. Ragman meets a blind, mute black orphan boy – wow, talk about starting life on the highest difficulty setting! – who has witnessed a murder. All the boy knows is that the murderer has a habit of snapping his fingers. During a Chinese New Year festival, the boy encounters the murderer again, and the boy’s pet cat saves him. Ragman is one of Kanigher’s greatest works; its depiction of urban life is grim and depressing, but also deeply compassionate. Also, Ragman’s costume is amazing. It’s too bad his first series only lasted five issues. This issue’s letters page states that Rory Regan is Irish, not Jewish as he was later retconned to be.

G.I. JOE #40 (Marvel, 1985) – “Hydrofoil,” [W] Larry Hama, [A] Rod Whigham. The G.I. Joes fight a sea battle with Cobra, but it’s actually a ruse to get the Joes to blow up an underwater tectonic fault. There’s also a subplot about Candy Appel. A weird thing about G.I. Joe is that none of the characters’ real names are ever used, probably because there are so many of them that it’s hard to remember more than one name apiece. Also, while some of the characters are generic soldiers, others are specialists who have only one job and are the only person who can do that job. If a fire needs to be put out, only Barbecue can do it. If a phone call has to be traced, only Dial-Tone can do that.

THE AIRTIGHT GARAGE #2 (Marvel, 1993) – as above. Not much to say here that I didn’t say in my review of issue 1. The Airtight Garage was initially published as a series of two- to four-page installments in Métal Hurlant. Each installment begins with a title page, some of which have unique logo designs, like Will Eisner’s Spirit stories did.

ARCHIE’S MADHOUSE #56 (Archie, 1967) – “Captain Sprocket in The Shape Scrape,” [W] unknown, [A] Joe Edwards, plus other stories. This series had an unusual number of title and format changes. As of 1967 it seems to have been a sort of Mad imitation, like Marvel’s Spoof. Most of the stories in this issue are superhero parodies, probably inspired by contemporary Marvel and DC comics. One story is a science fiction parody and is drawn by Chic Stone, who worked for a lot of companies in the ’60s, most notably Marvel. None of the writing in this issue is all that funny.

TREASURE CHEST #18.2 (Geo. A. Pflaum, 1962) – “Fearless Ferdy,” [W] Frank Moss, [A] Frank Borth, etc. This issue includes two stories by Dick Giordano, one about colonial Canada and the other about the 1914 Boston Braves. The next story is an informational feature on the Battle of Lepanto, and it actually taught me something I didn’t know: in a trireme, each rower pulled his oar by climbing some steps and then falling back on his bench. Not surprisingly given Treasure Chest’s Catholic perspective, this feature is a piece of propaganda; it ends by saying that just as Christians in 1571 prayed for a victory over “Mohammedism,” they should pray for a victory over Communism today. The highlight of this issue is Fran Matera’s adventure strip Chuck White and His Friends. Matera draws in a similar style to Milton Caniff, and was one of Caniff’s successors on Dickie Dare.

New DCBS shipment received on May 27:

FARMHAND #15 (Image, 2020) – “The Knowledge of Good and Evil,” [W/A] Rob Guillory. Rob Guillory suggested on social media that this issue would contain an Easter egg for readers who have followed the series closely, but I’m not sure what he meant. Unless he meant that this issue explains how Ezekiel’s mother, Anna, died. She was shot by Monica Thorne, and then Jedediah tried to heal her with his seed, but instead it gave her cancer. At the end of the issue, Monica raises an army of zombies, and Ezekiel is tempted to join her in order to bring his mother back. That’s the end of the third volume.

EXORSISTERS #6 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Ian Boothby, [A] Gisèle Lagacé. I doubted this series would ever return, and I’m glad I was wrong. Because it’s been over two years since issue 5, I can’t quite remember what happened in that issue, but Exorsisters #6 is a lot of fun anyway. Because of my enjoyment of this series I ordered Gisèle Lagacé’s new book, Sticky Dilly Buns, but I haven’t gotten to it yet.

BASKETFUL OF HEADS #7 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Leomacs. June uses the axe to save herself from drowning, them rescues Liam. But she discovers that Liam was complicit in Emily Dunn’s death, and inevitably, she cuts his head off too. It’s rather surprising that June does this, and it only makes sense because she’s already beheaded so many other people. She’s picked up by the Clausens’ housekeeper, who turns out to have been gathering evidence on the corrupt police chief for the FBI, and the series ends happily. This miniseries was lots of fun and was easily Joe Hill’s best non-Locke & Key comic.

ALIENATED #3 (Boom!, 2020) – “Things to Do, People to See,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Chris Wildgoose. It’s Samantha’s turn to experiment with the psychic alien. She uses it to relive her traumatic experience of being impregnated and abandoned by a boy named Craig, and then giving their baby up for adoption. Craig is an awful little shit, but by the end of the issue, we do feel that the baby is better off with its adoptive parents. Meanwhile, the alien becomes a sort of surrogate child to Samantha, replacing her actual child. This continues to be a brilliant series, probably Spurrier’s best yet.

AQUAMAN #59 (DC, 2020) – “Echoes of a Life Lived Well Part 2,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Robson Rocha. Aquaman invades Atlantis to look for baby Andy, but Orm convinces Aquaman that he didn’t kidnap Andy, even though Orm does seem to be guilty of something or other. Meanwhile, Aqualad goes looking for his father Black Manta. The best moment of the issue is when Jackson’s mother says that she’s “a black woman in Maine! Maine!” and that she stayed there for her son.

OUTER DARKNESS/CHEW #2 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] John Layman, [A] Afu Chan with Rob Guillory. This issue starts with a holodeck – excuse me, holosseum – sequence in which a Jane Austen story is interrupted by aliens and lizards. Then Tony and Colby discover that they themselves are holosseum characters, and they have a funny fourth-wall-breaking conversation about Layman and Guillory’s faults as creators. Also, it seems that they’re both going to suffer a premature and gruesome death (though we already saw that happen in Manhattan Projects #17). Tony negotiates with the alien ambassador and discovers that there’s nothing to negotiate – the interests of the aliens and the humans are identical. That’s a bad thing for Tony and Colby, because they’re both going to disappear as soon as the negotiations end. So Colby summons a bunch of other Chew characters to help out, including Poyo, who’s been possessed by a demon. The splash page depicting the Chew characters seems to be the only part of the issue that’s drawn by Guillory. This miniseries is very fun and is a great gift to readers of either Chew or Outer Darkness.

BLACKWOOD: THE MOURNING AFTER #3 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Veronica Fish & Andy Fish. The kids try to revive their dead classmate Dennis. Dean Ogden’s funeral is held, and promptly descends into chaos. Dean Ogden’s two-headed monkey tries to escape from captivity. This was an exciting and funny issue, but nothing about it stood out as much as the cats in issue 2.

THE LOW, LOW WOODS #5 (DC, 2020) – “The Witch’s Tale,” [W] Carmen Maria Machado, [A] Dani. Finally we get an explanation of what the hell’s been going on. The witch explains how the local insane asylum employees were using Lethe water to rape women and make them forget about it. When the witch’s mentor, Circe, discovered this, the men killed her. In response, the witch cast a spell to send all the guilty men beneath the earth, but the spell backfired. And now it seems that a younger generation of boys are planning to abuse the Lethe water in the same way. With these revelations, we realize that The Low, Low Woods is a powerful story about unresolvable trauma.

2000 AD #719 (Fleetway, 1991) – “Death Aid Part 6,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Carlos Ezquerra, etc. This issue has a spectacular cover by Zac Sandler, depicting 150 different characters from 2000 AD’s first 14 years. I’ve never heard of Sandler before. This prog’s Dredd story is about a club of assassins. Next is “Brigand Doom” by McKenzie and D’Antiquis, drawn in the same duotone style as D’Antiquis’s story in prog #708. After a Rogue Trooper story by Fleisher and Ron Smith, there’s an anniversary story, “Galactic Greetings,” starring 2000 AD’s mascot, Tharg the Mighty. This story is drawn by industry veteran Eric Bradbury, but the writing is credited to T.M.O., i.e. the Mighty One or Tharg himself, and I don’t know who really wrote it. In this story some aliens send Tharg a mysterious package that turns out to be a birthday cake. The last story is “Danzig’s Inferno” by John Smith and Sean Phillips, who is older than I realized: he was already ten years into his career at this point. “Danzig’s Inferno” is bizarre and fascinating; its plot involves Situationism and spontaneously generating sheep.

KING OF NOWHERE #2 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Tyler Jenkins. Denis dreams he’s the father of a fish baby, then he encounters a talking tree named Greg, and lots of other weird stuff happens. This series isn’t grabbing me as much as Ice Cream Man, but it’s interesting.

THE AIRTIGHT GARAGE #4 (Epic, 1993) – as above. We learn that the entire series’ plot is driven by a war between two cosmic entities, the Bakalite and the Nagual. This is a bit like the war between Order and Chaos that motivates Moorcock’s Eternal Champion universe, and the Airtight Garage’s multiverse, consisting of multiple “levels” of reality, is also similar to Moorcock’s multiverse. Perhaps that explains why the character Lewis Carnelian, in the English translation of The Airtight Garage, was originally called Jerry Cornelius. As expected from this series, this final issue contains some stunning graphic imagery.

2000 AD #737 (Fleetway, 1991) – “Teddy-Bear’s Firefight,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Brian Williamson. “Teddy Bear’s Firefight” is a one-shot Dredd story about a living teddy bear with a gun. It’s full of Ennis’s signature black humor, without his signature lack of good taste. After a boring Rogue Trooper story, there’s an installment of a new Bix Barton serial (see the review of prog #665 above), in which Bix tries to stop a mass lover’s leap off the cliffs of Dover. Also, he falls in love with his own walking stick. Bix Barton is hilarious and I’d like to read more stories about this character. Next is another Indigo Prime story by John Smith and Chris Weston. This story is just as well-drawn as the one in #682, and is also in color. Its plot is a blend of steampunk and horror. Then there’s a two-pager drawn by Dave Hine, creator of Strange Embrace, and the last story is “Below Zero” by John Brosnan and Kev Hopgood.

SERA AND THE ROYAL STARS #7 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jon Tsuei, [A] Audrey Mok. This comic is honestly not as good as I’d like it to be. It has some impressive coloring and okay characterization, but it often feels like just a generic fantasy comic, except with Persian names. I still want to support it because of its use of Persian mythology, but I wish it were more exciting.

THE TERRIFICS #27 (DC, 2020) – “The Day Simon Stagg Died Part 2,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Sergio Davila. Simon Stagg finally dies, and he leaves his fortune to a secret child we didn’t know he had. This is the last issue I’ll be reading, because the rest of the series will be digital-only. In return for supporting this series loyally for more than two years, my “reward” is that I don’t get to own the final issues in physical form, unless I want to buy a trade paperback that contains material I already paid for once. This trend of making comics digital-only is utterly infuriating, and it needs to stop immediately. I don’t care what the excuse is. Sadly, making The Terrifics digital-only is not even the most frustrating thing DC has done this month.

G.I. JOE #93 (Marvel, 1989) – “Taking the Plunge,” [W] Larry Hama, [A] M.D. Bright. I owned this comic as a kid, but I think I lost my copy of it, and if I did have it, it would be at my parents’ house. It’s probably been 25 years since I read this story, but I remember it very well. The moment when Snake-Eyes explains (through sign language) why he wants facial restoration surgery is one of Larry Hama’s most poetic moments. And then a couple pages later we get to see Snake-Eyes’s unmasked face, which is horrific. A moment that went over my head the first time I read this issue is when Roadblock scares off a crowd of anti-military protesters. This scene could be read as a piece of chauvinistic pro-military propaganda, but it can also be seen as a critique of the materialism and insincerity of ‘80s America.

ESCAPE #8 (Escape, 1986) – various stories, ed. Paul Gravett & Peter Stansbury. Besides Deadline, Escape was the other major British alternative comics anthology. While Deadline was tied to the punk rock scene, Escape feels more like a British version of Raw. Escape #8 includes work by Gary Panter, Jacques Tardi, Charles Burns and Lynda Barry, all of whom appeared in Raw. However, there was overlap between Deadline and Escape; for instance, Glenn Dakin and Shaky Kane appeared in both. Escape #8 includes comics by several artists I’m not familiar with: Ed Pinsent, Bob Lynch, Chris Flewitt and John Bagnall. Pinsent’s experimental story “Primitif” is especially intriguing. Bagnall’s story is about a girl who’s obsessed with President Kennedy. The Tardi story in this issue is “The Murderer of Hung,“ which also appears in Tardi’s anthology New York Mon Amour. The other notable story in this issue is Eddie Campbell’s “Hermeese.” It’s an Alec story set in the King Canute bar, but it was intentionally excluded from the various Alec reprint editions, thuogh I have read it before in Bacchus #51. In that issue, Campbell explains that he excluded “Hermeese” from the “Alec canon” because it was made-up and not truly autobiographical. Finally, Escape #8 includes Alan Moore’s glowing review of a book by Rick Geary. I would love to read more issues of Escape, but finding them will be tough.

BAD COMPANY #2 (Fleetway/Quality, 1988) – multiple stories, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Brett Ewins. Fleetway/Quality’s 2000 AD reprints are so low-quality as to be barely readable. The art is reproduced way too small, making fine details invisible and caption boxes illegible. There’s no indication of where each chapter of each story begins and ends, and the covers are hideous. Bad Company is an exciting story, by the same team as Skreemer and Johnny Nemo, but it would be better to read it in some other format. This issue also contains Rogue Trooper and Universal Soldier backup stories, as well as a two-pager drawn by Bryan Talbot.

LOONEY TUNES AND MERRIE MELODIES #107 (Dell, 1950) – various stories, [W] unknown, [A] John Carey et al. The stories in this issue aren’t especially memorable, but they’re cleverly written and appealingly drawn. According to Lambiek, John Carey started out as a WB animator, and he obviously knew how to draw the Looney Tunes characters. Dell comics of the ‘50s were consistently high-quality, and they’re not as hard to find as I’d have thought.

2000 AD #789 (Fleetway, 1992) – “Judgement Day Part 5,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. In “Judgement Day,” a major Dredd epic, the judges deal with a doomsday cult and an army of zombies. Steve Parkhouse and Anthnoy Williams’s “Kola Kommandos” is about evil advertising mascots. Pat Mills, Tony Skinner and Kev Walker’s ABC Warriors chapter is probably the first ABC Warriors story I’ve read, so it didn’t make much sense to me, though Walker’s art is striking. Then there’s a Rogue Trooper story by Fleisher and Ron Smith. The most notable story in the issue is part ten of John Wagner and Arthur Ranson’s “Button Man,” which is on Paul Gravett’s 1001 comics list. This chapter is about an assassin who has to hold off four other assassins with just one bullet. Ranson’s art style is less flashy than that of other 2000 AD artists, but also very detailed and distinctive.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #209 (Marvel, 1977) – “Arnim Zola – The Bio-Fanatic!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. In his second appearance, Arnim Zola creates a giant dough monster to imprison Cap and Maria. Kirby’s solo run on Cap has kind of a poor reputation because of its extreme contrast to the Englehart run that preceded it. Kirby’s Captain America is fine when judged on its own terms, but it’s not one of his better ‘70s works.

LEAVING MEGALOPOLIS: SURVIVING MEGALOPOLIS #2 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, [W] Gail Simone, [A] Jim Calafiore. Yet another comic set in a gimmick superhero universe; in this case, the gimmick is that the superheroes have all turned evil. This issue includes a funny Southern-accented supervillain named Southern Belle, and Calafiore’s artwork is pretty good, but overall this is not the most memorable comic.

INCREDIBLE HULK #322 (Marvel, 1986) – “Must the Hulk Die?”, [W/A] Al Milgrom. Al Milgrom is the classic example of a competent but unspectacular superhero artist, and on the Hulk he had the bad luck of following John Byrne and preceding Peter David. But Hulk #322 is better than I expected. At this point in the series, Bruce Banner and the Hulk are in separate bodies, but Bruce is dying of Hulk withdrawal. Milgrom deserves credit for helping to introduce what has now become the Hulk’s central theme – i.e. that his status quo is constantly changing.

DETECTIVE COMICS #766 (DC, 2002) – “Procedure,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Scott McDaniel. In part one of “Bruce Wayne: Murderer?”, Bruce Wayne and Sasha Bordeaux are arrested for the murder of Vesper Fairchild. As its title indicates, this issue is a good example of the police procedural genre. I like the moment when Renee Montoya lies to Sasha while interrogating her; Renee falsely claims that Bruce’s attorney is already here and is helping him make a plea bargain. This feels like the sort of lie that a cop really would tell. This issue includes a Josie Mac backup by Winick and Chiang, in which Josie’s dad tries to get her to drop her interrogation.

HELLBLAZER #49 (DC, 1992) – “Lord of the Dance,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Steve Dillon. Garth Ennis’s Hellblazer stories often reference Irish music – as does Hitman #28, reviewed above –but this entire issue is about a song, “Lord of the Dance,” which is sort of an Irish song because it was covered by the Dubliners. In this issue we learn that “Lord of the Dance” is about the real Lord of the Dance, a sort of mashup of Santa Claus and Herne the Hunter, and that Sydney Carter (who Ennis oddly avoids naming) bastardized it into a Christian song. Constantine meets the Lord of the Dance and shows him that midwinter dancing and revelry are still alive. Constantine’s encounter with the Lord gives him the confidence to make a move on Kit, and they sleep together for the first time. This is a fun issue, though I don’t understand Ennis’s dislike of the standard version of “Lord of the Dance”; it’s one of the few Christian songs I actually like.

DAREDEVIL #4 (Marvel, 2011) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Marcos Martin. After fighting a lion and saving people from a fire, Matt takes on a client who was fired because he heard people speaking in Latverian. Midway through this issue, Foggy mentions a person who wants to sue a cemetery because his mother’s grave is sinking. This is a clever piece of foreshadowing for the Mole Man story a few issues later. Mark Waid worked with multiple artists on this series – Marcos Martin, Chris Samnee, Paco Rivera, etc. – yet somehow they were all really good, and they all had compatible styles.

UNCANNY X-MEN #261 (Marvel, 1990) – “Harriers Hunt,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Marc Silvestri. This issue introduces Hardcase and the Harriers, although some of them had already appeared in Wolverine #5. They were pointless and redundant characters, and they only ever made one more major appearance (Wolverine #139). At least this issue has some interesting dialogue between Wolverine, Jubilee and Psylocke, who are the only X-Men who play a major role in it. There’s also a subplot where the Muir Island team returns to the ruins of the mansion.

DRAWN & QUARTERLY VOL. 1 #9 (Drawn & Quarterly, 1992) – various stories, [E] Chris Oliveros. This issue has an amazing lineup of talent, though most of the stories in it are short. The first long story, by Spanish artist Marti, is about an old lady who gets scammed by two people claiming to be her relatives. The other long story is Michael Dougan’s “Kentucky Fried Funeral,” an autobiographical story in which he works at a funeral home and fails to get a refund for some inedible fried chicken. There are shorter pieces by Peter Kuper, Seth, Debbie Drechsler, David Mazzucchelli, Lloyd Dangle, etc.

JONNY QUEST: THE REAL ADVENTURES #4 (Dark Horse, 1996) – “Net of Chaos,” [W] Kate Worley, [A] Francisco Solano Lopez. That’s a surprising creative team for an adaptation of a short-lived, barely remembered TV cartoon. Clearly Dark Horse, like Comico, was taking Jonny Quest seriously. In this issue, Jonny and his friends team up with some young Roma people in order to defeat an opportunistic Roma nationalist, who’s actually a supervillain. This issue isn’t as stunning as Bill Messner-Loebs’s Jonny Quest was, but it’s good, and it depicts Roma people in a respectful way.

VAMPIRELLA VOL. 5 #0 (Dynamite, 2019) – “Disciple,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Ergün Gündüz. This was an FCBD comic. The new Vampirella story in this issue is well-drawn, but it’s confusing, and it doesn’t make me want to read more of Priest’s Vampirella. The backup story in this issue is Kurt Busiek and Art Adams’s “Bugs,” a reprint from 1993, and it’s much better. Art Adams draws a very sexy Vampirella, and Busiek tells a satisfying story about a conflict between sentient insects and bigoted villagers.

WORLD WITHOUT END #3 (DC, 1991) – “Rumour,” [W] Jamie Delano, [A] John Higgins. “Rumour” is very confusing at first, thanks to its alien setting and the weird syntax of its dialogue. We gradually realize that the protagonist, Rumour, is a Skitton, i.e. a woman, created as a sex toy for Gess, i.e. men. Rumour manages to escape and find her way to the Scarlots, or free women. But a conflict is developing betwene the Skittons and the Ges thanks to the emergence of Brother Bones, an anti-female crusader. This comic is by two 2000 AD alumni and would have been entirely at home in that magazine; however, it also feels very much like a proto-Vertigo comic.

DETECTIVE COMICS #517 (DC, 1982) – “The Monster in the Mirror,” [W] Gerry Conway & Paul Levitz, [A] Gene Colan. Batman turns into a vampire. A priest shows up and explains that the vampire who bit Batman was originally a Southern slaveholder, and became a vampire when he was cursed by his former slaves. Meanwhile, Rupert Thorne tries to figure out Batman’s secret identity. Despite its all-star creative team, this issue is not memorable at all. There’s a backup story, by Cary Burkett and José Delbo, in which Batgirl turns into a snake.

ACTION COMICS #393 (DC, 1970) – “Superman Meets Super-Houdini!”, [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Curt Swan. Superman meets Hair-Breadth Holahn, an ex-con turned super-escape-artist, and his young son. Holahan is not a ripoff of Mr. Miracle, who wasn’t created until the following year. I think Curt Swan was at his peak in the early ‘70s when he was inked by Murphy Anderson, and his artwork here is excellent. The backup story is “The Day Superboy Became Superman,” by Dorfman and Andru, and it starts out well with a vivid depiction of some children playing in a squalid Metropolis slum. In this story, set while Clark Kent is in college, Superboy keeps punishing slum children for committing petty crimes. His classmate, Marla, shames him into helping the children instead. So far this story seems surprisingly progressive, and reminiscent of Green Lantern #76. But then Marla gets killed in an accident, and Superboy chooses to “honor” her memory by doing nothing at all to help the slum dwellers; instead, he exhorts them to lift themselves up by their bootstraps. Thus, the story stops short of actually being progressive. Its ending resembles that of “Must There Be a Superman” in Superman #247, but that story was better written.

ANIMAL MAN ANNUAL #2 (DC, 2013) – “One Last Flight,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Travel Foreman. Just after Cliff’s funeral, Buddy has a flashback to the day of Maxine’s birth, when Cliff was kidnapped by a sentient spider-woman who was feeding her babies on human emotions. Buddy managed to rescue Cliff and convince the spider-woman to feed her children on animal emotions instead. This is a touching story, and Travel Foreman draws some spectacular body horror. He was probably the best artist of the early period of the New 52.

2000 AD #818 (Fleetway, 1993) – “Ex-Men,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] John Higgins. This prog begins with a one-shot Dredd story about terminally ill assassins who turn themselves into living bombs. It’s a rather cruel story; it focuses on an Ex-Man who agrees to blow himself up so his wife and baby will be provided for. Next is “Dead Meat” by Michael Cook and Simon Jacob, about a meat-eating Texan in a society where meat is illegal. One of the characters in this story is a human-sheep hybrid who pronounces “a” as “aa,” as if baa-ing. Ennis and Nigel Dobbyn’s Strontium Dog story stars a Gronk, a muppet-like creature who gets heart attacks at the drop of the hat and who adds unnecessary s’s at the ends of words. Then there’s a Brigand Doom story by Alan McKenzie and Dave D’Antiquis, and “Flesh: The Legend of Shamana,” written by Pat Mills and Tony Skinner and with lush painted art by Carl Critchlow.

CLONE CONSPIRACY #4 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Dan Slott, [A] Jim Cheung. This is from the tail end of Slott’s run, after Superior Spider-Man. The Jackal, formerly Ben Reilly, tries to win Peter Parker’s support by showing him clones of all his dead loved ones. But we then learn that all the Jackal’s clones have a fatal and contagious disease. Meanwhile, Doc Ock, back in his own boody, encounters his ex-lover Anna Maria. Probably the high point of the issue is when Anna Maria refuses the Jackal’s offer of a new, normal-sized body, because she’s already perfect. This issue does a reasonable job of taking the worst Spider-Man story ever (the clone saga) and turning it into something good.

DENNIS THE MENACE AND HIS FRIENDS SERIES #22 (Fawcett, 1974) – “Fishing Around” and other stories, [W/A] uncredited. A bunch of stories guest-starring Joey. These stories are all well-crafted but are typical examples of the Dennis comic book formula. The best one is the last, where Dennis and Joey play golf inside the house.

ALL-STAR COMICS #61 (DC, 1976) – “Hellfire and Holocaust,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Keith Giffen. The JSA battle a villain named Vulcan. This series wasn’t great even when Paul Levitz was writing it, and it was worse before Levitz arrived. The best thing about this issue is Wally Wood’s inking.

CLASSIC STAR WARS #13 (Dark Horse, 1993) – untitled, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Al Williamson. This issue consists of reprints from the newspaper strip. It begins with the last part of one story arc, in which the rebels establish a base on Hoth. The issue concludes with the start of a new story arc, where Luke and his friends visit a swamp planet to rescue Admiral Ackbar (of “It’s a trap!” fame). These strips follow the continuity of the films very closely, and seem to have been intended to bridge the gap between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Williamson’s art is excellent, but was not meant to be seen at comic book size.

MINIMUM WAGE #1 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] Bob Fingerman. This is in fact the third volume of Minimum Wage. At this point in the series, protagonist Rob Hoffman has just gotten divorced, and this issue begins with his friends taking him to a bar to pick up girls. Then Rob discovers that his job as an erotic cartoonist might be doomed, and then he starts going on blind dates. This issue didn’t impress me. It feels a lot like Box Office Poison, but with a less interesting style of art, and Rob’s friends’ dialogue is extremely annoying.

HILLBILLY #2 (Albatross, 2016) – untitled, [W/A] Eric Powell. A young woman has been cursed by a witch. Rondel, accompanied by Death himself, volunteers to break the curse. Rondel discovers that the cursed girl’s sister and her fiancé conspired with the witch to curse her. This issue’s plot is a little confusing, but otherwise it’s excellent, and I like Eric Powell’s version of the Grim Reaper.

GWENPOOL #8 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Christopher Hastings, [A] GuriHiru. Gwenpool fights some squid aliens, and at the end of the issue she encounters a Doombot. I don’t like this series to begin with, and this issue is confusing and aimless.

FELL #1 (Image, 2006) – “My New Home,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Ben Templesmith. Fell arrives in Snowtown, meets his love interest Mayko, and solves his first case, about a woman who killed her husband by giving him a whisky enema. As with other issues of Fell, this mystery is based on a real murder. Ellis’s editor’s note in this issue explains his rationale for publishing a shorter-than-normal comic at just $2.

JUDGE DREDD: LEGENDS OF THE LAW #4 (DC, 1995) – “Stop the Music – I Wanna Be Sick!”, [W] Alan Grant & John Wagner, [A] Brent Anderson. Legends of the Law was an anthology series consisting of original Dredd material. In this story, Dredd battles an insane surgeon who’s been stapling people’s bodies together. This issue was written by two veteran Dredd writers, and it feels like a 2000 AD story. However, the next issue would be written by D.G. Chichester, and I can’t imagine that he was able to write Dredd properly.

HILLBILLY #6 (Albatross, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Eric Powell. Rondel is imprisoned in a town on the back of a giant zombie. He tells his cellmate that he’s only ever loved three woman: his mother, his unrequited love interest (i.e. Esther), and a bear. Then Rondel tells the story of his encounter with Lucille the talking grizzly bear, and after the story is finished, Lucille shows up again and saves Rondel from prison. This was a fun issue.

PRYDE & WISDOM #2 (Marvel, 1996) – “Mystery Walk,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Terry Dodson & Aaron Lopresti. Kitty Pryde and Pete Wisdom try to track down a serial killer. This issue isn’t bad, and it has better art than most of Ellis’s Excalibur comics did. However, Ellis’s Kitty Pryde doesn’t feel like Kitty Pryde to me. In fact, she feels like a generic girlfriend character with no real personality.

VAMPIRELLA OF DRAKULON #4 (Harris, 1996) – “Slithers of the Sand!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] José Gonzalez. In a story reprinted from Warren’s Vampirella #21, Vampi, Pendragon and the Van Helsings travel to a desert planet to look for Dracula. Warren’s Vampirella stories were never all that great, and “Slithers of the Sand” is just average. Also, José Gonzalez’s art wasn’t meant to be seen in color.

DETECTIVE COMICS #853 (DC, 2009) – “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? Part 2 of 2,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Andy Kubert. A bunch of heroes and villains give elegies at Batman’s funeral, and then Batman has a near-death experience in which he meets his mother. The issue ends with a flashback or flashforward to the moment of Bruce Wayne’s birth. This two-parter was obviously intended as the Batman version of Alan Moore and Curt Swan’s “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” It’s a lyrical and powerful story, but its plot is kind of incoherent, and it’s not nearly as much of a classic as Moore and Swan’s story.

THE BEANO #2799 (DC Thomson, 1996) – multiple uncredited stories. This issue’s cover story is about a Dennis the Menace lookalike contest – the UK Dennis, not the American one. Unlike The Beano #1561, #2799 is entirely in color, and it uses a wider variety of page layouts. However, this issue’s humor is still rather unfunny, and its stories still lack any narrative depth.

THE HOTSPUR #1034 (DC Thomson, 1979) – “The Coonskin Grenadier” and other stories, [W/A] uncredited. A weird feature of The Hotspur is that each individual page has a title, which appears in a thought balloon somewhere at the top or bottom of a panel tier. There’s some good artwork in this issue, but none of it is credited, and the stories are implausible and unexciting. Even the sports stories are rather farfetched.

HERBIE #13 (ACG, 1965) – “Pirate Gold!”, [W] Richard Hughes, [A] Ogden Whitney. In the first story, Herbie goes back in time to get a chest of pirate gold, in order to help his dad become president of the men’s club. It almost makes sense in context. In the backup story, Herbie goes to the Arctic to get a fur coat for his mother. This story sadly includes some of the Native American stereotypes that were ubiquitous at the time. Besides that, this issue of Herbie is weird and funny. Herbie was one of the strangest and most unique comics of the ‘60s.

New comics received on June 4:

FAR SECTOR #6 (DC, 2020) – “Do not fear mistakes. There are none,” [W] N.K. Jemisin, [A] Jamal Campbell. Jo continues her romance with Marth, while also trying to deal with the riots. Far Sector #6 is prophetic: it was written long before George Floyd was murdered, yet it feels as if it’s specifically about the George Floyd protests. Jemisin writes: “The Council has issued an official apology. Full investigation, mistakese were made, blah blah blah. No one’s lost their job or been arrested. Councilor Marth… hasn’t resigned in disgrace.” She could be talking about the killers of George Floyd or Breonna Taylor. Jemisin was able to seemingly predict the future in this way because she’s such an incisive observer of American society – and also, sadly, because these things have happened before, and it was inevitable that they would happen again. Besides that, Jo and Marth’s romance is really cute.

COPRA #6 (Image, 2020) – “Heads of Ochizon, Annihilate,” [W] Michel Fiffe. This issue is a stunning formalist experiment. It consists entirely of silent splash pages, so it combines the constraints of G.I. Joe #21 and Thor #380. On top of that, the frame of each page is a giant letter. The first page is a giant letter H, the second page is a letter E, and so on until all 24 issues of the title have been spelled out. So this entire story is its own title page. The narrative of this issue is a little hard to follow, as one would expect, but it more or less makes sense, and Fiffe’s fight scenes are very epic. This issue also includes a reprint of Fiffe’s minicomic Negativeland, starring characters who seem to be based on the Doom Patrol.

THE GOON #10 (Albatross, 2020) – untitled, [W] Roger Langridge, [A] Mike Norton. The fight between the witches and the fish continues. This is another funny issue, but it’s very similar to #9. My favorite thing about it is that the witches’ brewery is full of black cats.

RAGNAROK: THE BREAKING OF HELHEIM #5 (IDW, 2020) – “In Hel’s Horizon…,” [W/A] Walt Simonson. Thor finally reaches Hela, but discovers that she’s trying to doublecross him. The artwork in this issue is excellent as usual, and there are some cute Ratatoskr moments.

CATWOMAN #22 (DC, 2020) – “The Cleaners,” [W] Paula Sevenbergen, [A] Aneke. I bought this by accident, not realizing it was written by neither Joëlle Jones nor Ram V. However, this issue was a lot better than I expected. Its plot is that Catwoman fights two lingerie-clad thieves who disguise themselves as house cleaners. This issue is obviously a huge dose of cheesecake, but it’s tasteful and funny cheesecake.

SABRINA: SOMETHING WICKED #1 (Archie, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Veronica Fish & Andy Fish. Sabrina tries to trace the origins of a mysterious curse, and discovers that her aunts are responsible. This issue is a direct continuation of the previous Sabrina series, and there was no real need to restart its numbering. Other than that, this is an excellent comic.

KIDZ #3 (Ablaze, 2020) – “Just Shut Up,” [W] Aurélien Ducoudray, [A] Jocelyn Joret. The kids’ house is invaded by a zombie at night. In the morning, they do some target practice. I was on the verge of dropping this series, but this issue is exciting and funny enough that I’ve changed my mind, and I now intend to keep reading Kidz.

FINGER GUNS #2 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Justin Richards, [A] Val Halvorson. The kids try out their new powers. The girl deals with her father’s abuse, and discovers that her father may be plotting her mother’s death. This issue wasn’t as good as #1, but this series is still very intriguing.

PSYCHODRAMA ILLUSTRATED #1 (Fantagraphics, 2020) – “False Modesty,” [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. This series was solicited years ago – the cover is signed “Beto / 2016.” Like many of Beto’s other miniseries, it’s an “adaptation” of one of Fritz’s films, Hypnotwist 2.0, but it also has an extensive framing sequence in which Fritz and Killer discuss the film. I’ve never particularly liked Beto’s Fritz stories, but I’m willing to read anything he publishes.

2000 AD #840 (Fleetway, 1993) – “Tough Justice,” [W] Mark Millar, [A] Mick Austin. Some kids tell each other stories about Dredd’s exploits, and then Dredd arrests them all because one of them has a gun. I usually hate Millar’s writing, but this story is not bad, and it includes a funny Reservoir Dogs parody. Next, John Tomlinson and Simon Jacob’s Armoured Gedeon installment is okay but forgettable. John Smith and Paul Marshall’s “Firekind” installment is part seven, but was mistakenly skipped and was published after all the other parts. It has some excellent prose, but makes little sense on its own. Millar and Ezquerra’s “Purgatory” is about a rogue Judge. Alan McKenzie and Mick Austin’s “Karma” is a Tharg’s Terror Tale, which I guess is like a Tharg’s Future Shock, but its surprise ending is predictable: it’s about a serial killer and a victim, but we’re misled as to which is which.

ROY ROGERS COMICS #53 (Dell, 1952) – “The Portrait of Uncle Ezra,” uncredited. Roy Rogers, “King of the Cowboys,” meets an artist who’s drawn a portrait of a fugitive counterfeiter. In the backup story, Roy deals with a case of cattle rustling. These stories are exciting and professionally written, though the art is unexciting. Oddly, these comics, like the show they were based on, are set in the Old West, yet the characters have cars and artificial lights and modern furnishings. This issue also includes a backup story, about a wolf hunter and his dog, which has better art than the main stories. I would definitely read more issues of this series if I could get them cheaply.

PLANETOID #4 (Image, 2012) – untitled, [W/A] Ken Garing. Silas goes to investigate the Ono Mao signal that was received at the end of the last issue. The Ono Mao capture him and sentence him to be “commodified.” He escapes thanks to his pet lizard, and warns the other humans that an Ono Mao assault is coming. At the end of the issue, Silas sleeps with Onica.

PLANETOID #5 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W/A] Ken Garing. The humans fight valiantly against the Ono Mao, but get their asses kicked. Silas crashes his plane into the Ono Mao’s control tower, saving the other humans at the cost of his life and the humans’ chance of escaping the planet. The issue ends with an epilogue set ten years later, where we meet Onica and Nkunda’s children (including Zuri from Planetoid Praxis #1), and they discover some money which is now only useful as compost. Onica’s son has silver hair, implying that he may be Silas’s posthumous child.

2000 AD #864 (Fleetway, 1993) – “Book of the Dead,” [W] Grant Morrison & Mark Millar, [A] Dermot Power. Dredd narrowly escapes a death trap in an Egyptian prison. Dermot Power’s art here is reminiscent of Simon Bisley’s. Peter Hogan and David Hill’s “A Time of Peace” is a Tharg’s Future Shock in which aliens resolve a war between humans. In Millar and Chris Weston’s “Canon Fodder,” Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty investigate the murder of God. This story is the high point of the issue because of Weston’s amazing art, especially in the splash page depicting the horrors that have been inflicted on heaven. The other two stories are Strontium Dogs by Ennis and Dobbyn, and Timehouse by Hogan and Tim Bollard. Peter Hogan is perhaps best known in America for co-writing Terra Obscura with Alan Moore.

BATMAN #452 (DC, 1990) –“Dark Knight, Dark City,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Kieron Dwyer. I had already read part three of this storyline, but not the first two parts. “Dark Knight, Dark City” begins with a flashback to an 18th-century occult ritual in which Thomas Jefferson participated, and then in the present, Batman has to rescue some newborn babies who have been kidnapped by the Riddler. “Dark Knight, Dark City” is one of the darkest and most frightening Batman stories I’ve ever read. The Riddler’s plot is truly horrible, especially since at this point in the plot, the reader doesn’t know what he’s trying to achieve. At one point in this issue, the reader thinks for a moment that Batman has run over a newborn baby with the Batmobile.

SAVAGE DRAGON #128 (Image, 2006) – “Wanted,” [W/A] Erik Larsen. This issue is a crossover with Mark Millar’s Wanted, a comic I have no interest in ever reading. It’s also part of the ongoing Mr. Glum story arc. A major problem with Savage Dragon is its convoluted plot; this issue includes two versions each of Dragon and Angel, and I can’t remember which universe each of them is from. I stopped ordering Savage Dragon a while ago, but I’m going to order the next issue, simply because there are so few new comics at the moment.

LOVE AND ROCKETS #8 (Fantagraphics, 2020) – “Rosy,” [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez, etc. The highlight of this issue is Jaime’s “Lifer Drawing,” in which some mean girls harass Maggie and steal her hat, only to discover that she’s the wife of their art teacher. This is a funny and touching story that feels like a classic example of Jaime’s style. The issue’s other Jaime story, “Anima,” doesn’t make much sense. This issue’s Beto stories are also quite good. They’re mostly about the relationship between Fritz and her long-lost relatives. Over time, Fritz has gradually replaced Luba as the center of Beto’s universe. At the end of this issue, Beverly, the surrogate mother of Fritz’s children, and her husband, Zander, are both murdered.

BRAVEST WARRIORS #27 (Boom!, 2014) – untitled, [W] Kate Leth, [A] Ian McGinty. In the main story, the Bravest Warriors get some new Voltron-esque battlesuits. I’ve never understood what exactly Bravest Warriors is supposed to be about, and this particular story is pretty boring. Also, it has bottom-of-page “alt texts,” like Squirrel Girl, but Kate Leth is not as good at writing these texts as Ryan North. The backup story, “Praying Mantis Prom” by Mad Rupert and Kat Leyh, is better than the main story.

FANTASTIC FOUR #542 (Marvel, 2007) – “We Used to Go to Hyperspace Just for Donuts,” [W] Dwayne McDuffie, [A] Mike McKone. This issue starts with a conversation between Reed and Johnny about Civil War. This sequence is boring and annoying, but the issue improves when Reed goes to visit the Mad Thinker. I like this villain a lot, and McDuffie had a good understanding of how to write him. Later in the issue, there’s a cute moment where Franklin and Valeria are throwing stuff through a hole in the ceiling, but then Sue gets angry at Reed for reasons which are not explained to the reader.

JON SABLE, FREELANCE #40 (First, 1988) – ‘The Fan,” [W/A] Mike Grell. Jon Sable competes in a ”practical shooting” competition against Rob Leatham, an actual competitor in this sport. This issue rubbed me the wrong way, because the sport of practical shooting (not to be confused with Olympic shooting) is sponsored by the NRA and is highly connected to America’s toxic gun culture. I don’t want to know anything about this sport. At least the art in this issue is better than was usual at this point in the series.

VAMPIRELLA #49 (Warren, 1975) – “Bloody Queen of Hearts,” [W] Bill DuBay, [A] Esteban Maroto. Vampirella battles her archenemy the Blood Red Queen of Hearts. Maroto’s art in this story is excellent at times, but as previously noted, Warren’s Vampirella stories are never all that great. This issue includes five other stories, all by Spanish artists. “The Thing in Jane’s Closet” by Budd Lewis and Ramon Torrents is probably the best. It’s about a girl whose psychiatrist gaslights her into thinking she’s crazy. The second best is a succubus story, also by Torrents. Other artists in this issue are Joaquin Blazquez, José Bea and Isidro Mones.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #211 (Marvel, 1993) – “The Gods Above, the Beasts Below,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Rafael Kayanan. The other day I visited Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find and bought four issues of SSOC for a dollar each. I decided that before reading them, I should read some other SSOCs that I’ve had for a long time. This issue begins Marvel’s adaptation of Conan and the Gods of the Mountain, the sequel to Red Nails. Roy writes some great dialogue between Conan and Valeria, and Rafael Kayanan effectively imitates Barry Windsor-Smith’s art style. This issue also includes a never-published inventory story, “The God of Thieves, Part One” by James Rose and Ernie Chan. I’ve never heard of James Rose, but he’s a mediocre writer.

2000 AD #873 (Fleetway, 1994) – “The Sugar Beat Part 1,” [W] “Sonny Steelgrove” (pen name for Alan McKenzie or John Tomlinson), [A] Ron Smith. Dredd goes to Bolivia to investigate an illegal drug operation. We’re led to think that the drug is cocaine or heroin, but it’s actually sugar. Next is a Luke Kirby story written by Alan McKenzie, with Clear Line-esque art by Steve Parkhouse. Unlike most 2000 AD serials, this is a fantasy or horror story set in modern England, instead of science fiction or high fantasy. Other stories include Tyranny Rex by John Smith and Paul Marshall, Rogue Trooper by Fleisher and Weston, and Dinosity by Pat Mills and Clint Langley. This last is probably the highlight of the prog. It’s a raucous, gruesome story about a war between dinosaurs and humans, written as if it were a chivalric romance.

HELLBLAZER: BAD BLOOD #1 (Vertigo, 2000) – “Bad Blood (A Restoration Comedy) Part 1,” [W] Jamie Delano, [A] Philip Bond. An elderly John Constantine lives in an antiseptic, dictatorial England where Princess Diana is worshipped as a goddess. Constantine and a young woman named Dolly, short for Daljit, try to uncover some kind of plot to steal the throne. I like both Delano and Bond a lot, and this is an interesting debut issue.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #25 (Marvel, 1977) – “A Tale of Two Countries!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Ron Wilson. While Ben Grimm and Alicia Masters are at a New York Jets game, Ben is abducted and taken to a fictional Asian country, where he teams up with Iron Fist. This issue has some witty dialogue, but its plot is boring. This issue includes a severe lettering or editing error in which an entire caption box is repeated. https://www.instagram.com/p/CBKU2CHBeOk/

GRIMM’S GHOST STORIES #8 (Gold Key, 1973) – “The Genius Touch,” [W] unknown, [A] Frank Bolle, etc. This issue’s first story is mediocre. The second is kind of funny, since it’s about a man who trips over the cord to his iron and dies. The third story, drawn by Argentinian Oscar Novelle, is also mediocre. The thing that redeems this issue is the last story, “The Locket,” drawn by Al Williamson. It’s not his best or most labor-intensive work, but it’s head and shoulders above the rest of the issue.

LITTLE LULU #36 (Dell, 1951) – “Pieces of Eight” etc., [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. In the first story, Lulu, Alvin and Dolly go to the beach and find a treasure chest that turns out to be full of balloons. In the second story, Lulu tricks the fellers into selling her their clubhouse and then buying it back at a loss. Then there’s a Lulu/Alvin story where Lulu travels all over the world looking for her mother. In the last story, the child actress Little Rita Rosebud comes to town, and Tubby can’t afford to see her, but then he encounters a mysterious girl who, of course, is none other than Little Rita. More on Little Lulu later.

I was enjoying my 2000 ADs so much, I went back to the seller I ordered them from, and I ordered all his other 2000 ADs that were $1.50 or less. They arrived on June 8, and I read them in order, starting with:

2000 AD #337 (Fleetway, 1983) –  “The Graveyard Shift Part 3,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant (as T.B. Grover), [A] Ron Smith. Dredd investigates a bunch of crimes taking place at night. A key moment in this story is when Dredd tells a man “The only freedom you got, creep, is freedom to do what you’re told!” That could almost be Dredd’s motto. Judge Dredd would be a better symbol for U.S. police than the Punisher, since he’s a fascist authoritarian who sees everyone other than himself as a potential criminal. The next story is Sláine by Pat Mills and Massimo Belardinelli. This story’s art is stunningly detailed, reminding me of Alcala’s Voltar, and Sláine is a fascinating character. Sláine’s stories are inspired by the ugly, gory aspects of Irish mythology, especially the Ulster Cycle. The high point of the issue is a Nemesis the Warlock chapter by Mills and O’Neill, in which Nemesis’s son is hatched. O’Neill drew some extremely alien-looking aliens, and it’s possible that Nemesis, and not League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, is his masterpiece. Next is a Strontium Dog story that I’ve already read in reprinted form, and the prog ends with a Rogue Trooper story by Gerry Finley-Day and Brett Ewins. This issue is printed on newsprint and is mostly black and white.

2000 AD #342 (IPC, 1983) – “Suspect,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Cam Kennedy. Dredd arrests a man for moonlighting at three different jobs. Humorously, one of the jobs is testing beds, which explains how he gets any sleep. Next is the conclusion to the Sláine story that began in #347. Sláine saves a woman from being sacrificed to the god Crom Cruach, but she’s not grateful at all. At the beginning of this chapter Sláine is in his warp-spasm, a state of berserk fury in which his whole body is transformed. The warp-spasm is a direct borrowing from the myths of Cuchulain. Next is a Nemesis story that begins with an enormous two-page splash, depicting a giant battle robot on roller blades. Again, Kevin O’Neill’s art here is incredible. Next is the continuation of the Strontium Dog story “The Moses Incident.” Johnny Alpha tries to resurrect a boy he’s accidentally killed, but only succeeds in turning the boy into a zombie. Last is a Rogue Trooper chapter by Finley-Day and Rafael Boluda, a Spanish artist. Boluda’s art here is extremely solid, although it’s overshadowed by Belardinelli and O’Neill’s art earlier in the issue. Overall, although 2000 AD maintained a constant high level of quality, 1983 seems to have been a really good year for the series. I wonder how I can get other 2000 ADs from this period.

2000 AD #372 (IPC, 1984) – “Outlaw Part 10,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Sadly there’s no Sláine or Nemesis in this prog. Instead it begins with a Strontium Dog story that guest-stars the Gronk, who I previously encountered in prog #818. Next is “What’s Up, Dock?” by Alan Hebden and José Casanovas, in which a ship captain accidentally destroys New York by falling asleep at the wheel. This issue demonstrates why it’s an awful idea to have only one crew member aboard a gigantic ship. Then there’s a very funny Dredd story, “Bingo,” about an illegal Bingo operation. Next is a Tharg’s Future Shock about aliens with hyperdeveloped senses. I don’t think I understand the twist in this story. Finally, there’s a Rogue Trooper chapter in which one of Rogue’s fellow soldiers is a traitor.

2000 AD #373 (IPC, 1984) – “Outlaw Part 11,” as above. Johnny Alpha and his companions try and fail to escape from the pursuers. One of the companions is Middenface McNulty, who has a deformed face and an exaggerated Scottish accent. After a two-page Future Shock about overeating, there’s a one-shot, “The Right Stuff,” about trainee astronauts. Alan Hebden writes this under an anagram of his real name, Dean Behnal. Pseudonymous credits are unusually common in this series. In the Dredd story, Dredd’s trainee, Dekker, finally becomes a full-fledged Judge. In the Rogue Trooper story, the traitor succeeds in getting rid of the entire squad except himself and Rogue. It was only after reading this story that I felt I understood Rogue Trooper’s premise. The prog ends with another Future Shock written by Hebden.

THE POWER OF SHAZAM! #24 (DC, 1997) – “The Trail of the Scorpion,” [W] Jerry Ordway, [A] Peter Krause. Most of this issue is a flashback to C.C. Batson and Spy Smasher’s adventures during World War II. C.C. is Billy and Mary Batson’s father, and at the end of the issue, we discover that he’s somehow still alive. Captain Marvel himself does not appear in this issue.

CHEVAL NOIR #33 (Dark Horse, 1992) – “The Man from the Ciguri,” [W/A] Moebius. This issue starts with a chapter of Moebius’s sequel to The Airtight Garage. Like its predecessor, The Man from the Ciguri” has some excellent art, but an incoherent plot. Next, Daniel Torres’s “Sabotage” is about classic cars and illicit love. It’s part two of three, so it’s not understandable on its own, but it has gorgeous art. As a modern Clear Line artist, Torres was on the same level as Yves Chaland. “Sabotage” was also published in a single installment in Heavy Metal vol. 11 #1. Unfortunately, both these stories suffer from the lack of color. Finally, Cosey’s “In Search of Peter Pan” works much better in black and white. It’s a poetic story about a Yugoslavian living in the Alps, where he meets a mysterious woman.

DAREDEVIL #136 (Marvel, 1976) – “Hanging for a Hero!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] John Buscema. The Jester uses doctored video to convince everyone in New York that Daredevil is a criminal and that the police are murdering innocent people (well, that last one is true). In this story Marv Wolfman predicts the concept of deepfakes, over 40 years before that term was even coined. However, this issue feels like a Batman comic, with the Jester instead of the Joker. The whole problem with Daredevil is that he’s either a poor man’s Batman or a poor man’s Spider-Man, and very few writers have succeeded in distinguishing him from either. Unfortunately this issue also includes Heather Glenn.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #14 (Marvel, 1972) – “A Sword Called Stormbringer!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Roy Thomas. This is Elric’s first comics appearance. Michael Moorcock and his longtime collaborator James Cawthorn are credited with co-plotting this issue. Roy Thomas shows a reasonably good understanding of Elric’s character, and it’s fun to see Conan and Elric interacting. However, BWS’s draftsmanship was still far from his best. It would be a few more issues before he became the artist he is now.

BARBARELLA #2 (Dynamite, 2017) – “Red Hot Gospel Part Two: Fall from Grace,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Kenan Yarar. I was predisposed to not like this issue, but Carey and Yarar do a good job of replicating the strangeness and whimsicality of Jean-Claude Forest’s original stories. The main problem with this comic is that it’s not sexy. Barbarella’s original claim to fame was that the heroine was a sexual libertine, but this issue has no sexual content and is just a normal adventure story.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #484 (DC, 1991) – “Blackout,” [W] Jerry Ordway, [A] Tom Grummett. Mr. Z manipulates Emil Hamilton into making Superman put on a mind-controlling helmet. Superman manages to remove the helmet, but only by blowing out Metropolis’s power grid. This issue shows a surprising amount of knowledge as to how municipal power systems work. Tom Grummett’s art is quite good. I don’t know what happened to Mr. Z; he only appeared in Superman comics for a couple years.

2000 AD #392 (IPC, 1984) – “Rogue Trooper: To the Ends of Nu-Earth – Final Episode!”, [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Cam Kennedy. Rogue Trooper and his sentient pieces of equipment defeat a traitor general. Cam Kennedy’s art here reminds me of Al Williamson. Next is a Nemesis the Warlock chapter by Mills and Bryan Talbot, which is also an ABC Warriors crossover. Talbot’s art here is very detailed and impressive. In the Dredd story, Dredd apprehends a rogue Judge who’s been smuggling arms, i.e. actual limbs, not weapons. Ewins draws this story in an almost Clear Line style, though maybe I only think that because I was just reading some Daniel Torres. In the Ace’s Trucking Company story by Wagner, Grant and Belardinelli, Ace’s coworkers rebel and take over his trucking operation. Ace is a pointy-headed alien with two extra arms that operate independently. Belardinelli’s art here is not as stunning as in his Sláine chapters, but it’s still very good. The issue ends with “Hell Trekkers” by Wagner, Grant, and Horacio Lalia.

This afternoon, June 9, I used Facebook Marketplace to purchase a collection of Little Lulu comics. There were a bunch of them, and I paid $25 for the lot, less than $1 an issue. This was  an amazing bargain, but I feel the price was fair; the comics are complete but in low grade, with a lot of browning.

LITTLE LULU #68 (Dell, 1954) – “The Bear Trap” etc., [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. Little Lulu is probably the best kid humor comic ever published. It had perfect comic timing and was quite feminist; there’s a reason why the Friends of Lulu called themselves that. As Michael Barrier points out in Funnybooks, the only problem is that its stories tended to be repetitive, a problem Stanley tried to solve by having Lulu tell fairy tales to Alvin. A weird thing about Little Lulu is that the stories take place in an endless summer. None of the characters ever seem to go to school. In this issue’s first story, Lulu gets stuck inside a trophy bear’s head and foils an attempted robbery of Wilbur’s house. Second story: Lulu accidentally convinces the fellers that she has super-strength. Third story, Mr. Moppet gets stuck in a closet. Fourth: Lulu fools the fellers into thinking that a dinosaur egg has hatched. Fifth: Lulu’s picture gets used in an ad for “tiny tot’s tonic.” Sixth: the Poor Little Girl is hired as an assistant to Ol’ Witch Hazel. Seventh: Tubby switches places with a midget prisoner who looks just like him.

LITTLE LULU #26 (Dell, 1950) – “Piggy Bank Blues” etc., as above. This issue begins with a very funny silent strip where Lulu keeps appearing at the window and then disappearing, and we finally learn that she’s on a pogo stick. In the first story, Lulu tries to hide her piggy bank in the woods, but the fellers learn where it is. Like much of Stanley’s work, this story has a very clever and intricate plot, which elevates it aboove the British humor comics I’ve been reading. The next story is about a surprise party, and it has an awesome moment where Alvin refuses to go to Lulu’s party (https://www.instagram.com/p/CBOR4F4hQPH/). Stanley almost always used a 2×4 panel grid, but he was a master at using this format for comic effect. A continuity error in this story is that it shows Annie and Iggy living in separate houses, even though they’re siblings. The next story would have been “The Bogeyman,” but Marge Henderson Buell rejected this story for being too cruel. It was replaced by a reprint from 1946, in which Alvin looks very off-model. In the last story, Tubby has to guard the clubhouse at night.

LITTLE LULU #84 (Dell, 1955) – “The Case of the Grasshopper’s Ghost” etc., as above. By this point the issues were 36 pages each instead of 52 pages, and the Dell Pledge to Parents had started to appear. This issue’s first story is kind of pointless, though it has the amusing implication that Mrs. Moppet gave away her hat because all the other women were wearing the same hat. The other stories are about: a fake trip to the moon, a bird that sets up its nest in the fellers’ clubhouse, Little Itch (Witch Hazel’s apprentice) trying to steal the Poor Little Girl’s doll carriage, and Tubby’s worm ranch.

LITTLE LULU #58 (Dell, 1953) – “Special Delivery,” as above. Annie and Iggy are getting a baby sibling. Lulu tries to get the stork to bring it to her house instead, but ends up with five kittens. I doubt if Annie and Iggy’s baby brother ever appeared again; he was introduced just for the sake of this one story. The next story is possibly the first appearance of Sluggo’s worm ranch, which also appears in #84. The next two stories are about Wilbur, then there’s one where Tubby becomes a cowpoke. Next is the usual Ol’ Witch Hazel fairy tale, and finally a story where the kids get temporary tattoos. This story suggests that in the ‘50s, tattooing was strongly associated with sailors and nobody else.

2000 AD #439 (IPC, 1985) – “Nemesis the Warlock Book Five,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Bryan Talbot. Torquemada’s wife Candida learns that her children have been killed by Nemesis. I wonder if Torquemada’s kids ever actually appeared in the series, or if they lived and died off-panel. Talbot’s artwork is again very impressive, and Candida looks a lot like Octobriana from Luther Arkwright. In a story by Wagner, Grant and Ian Gibson, Sam Slade, Robo-Hunter visits a gambling planet to track down some missing robots. In a Dredd story by the same two writers and Carlos Ezquerra, a journalist discovers that the Judges are using tranquilizing drugs to keep the population docile, but Dredd has him lobotomized so he can’t reveal this information. This story is another good example of Dredd’s anti-democratic nature. Next is a Future Shock about an elderly gladiator, written by Peter Milligan, and last is a Mean Team story by Grant, Wagner and Belardinelli.

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