Categories
Uncategorized

Two more weeks of reviews

7-8-20

2000 AD #880 (Fleetway, 1994) – I have a lot of 2000 ADs to get through, so let’s try a new format. Judge Dredd: “Under Siege,” [W] Mark Millar, [A] Paul Peart. A one-shot in which Dredd saves some people from an automated luxury apartment building whose AI is malfunctioning. Grudge-Father: “Part 3,” [W] Mark Millar, [A] Jim McCarthy. I can’t remember the plot of this one, though Peart draws some impressive monsters. Dinosity: “Pray It Isn’t True,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Clint Langley. Drakon and the humans execute their master plan against the dinosaurs. This story is hilarious, and Langley’s artwork and coloring are awe-inspiring. Tyranny Rex: “Deus Ex Machina Part 8,” [W] John Smith, [A] Richard Elson. This story has some impressive psychedelic art, but I still can’t follow its plot. I just read some earlier Tyranny Rex stories today, and they have nothing in common with Deus Ex Machina. Rogue Trooper: “Part 8,” [W] Mike Fleisher & Falco, [A Chris Weston & Mike Hadley. Friday saves himself from being blown up by a self-destruct device, then heads to Earth to confront a traitor named Clavell. This whole storyline is unimpressive.

CRIMINAL: THE SINNERS #4 (Icon, 2010) – “The Sinners Part Four,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Teeg Lawless continues to investigate a wave of killings, and is pressured by both the government and Sebastian Hyde. This is not one of my favorite Criminal stories, though maybe that’s because I read it out of order.

SUPERMAN #328 (DC, 1978) – “Attack of the Kryptonoid!”, [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Curt Swan. An intelligent swarm of Kryptonian microorganisms comes to Earth, posssesses a Superman robot, and fights Superman. Afterward, the microorganisms unite with Superman’s human enemy, D.W. Derwent, becoming the Kryptonoid. Notably, the Kryptonoid is hybrid of an nonhumanoid alien creature and a human who has a grudge against a superhero, and it debuted a decade before Venom. I think the similarity between the Kryptonoid and Venom is a coincidence, but it’s a funny one. This issue also includes a Private Life of Clark Kent story where Clark helps reunite a rich man and his kidnapped son. This story is an obvious reference to the Lindbergh baby kidnapping.

JOHNNY NEMO MAGAZINE #2 (Eclipse, 1985) – “The Spice of Death,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Brett Ewins. In a classic hard-boiled detective trope, Johnny discovers that his own client, who’s also his lover, has betrayed him. I wonder why Johnny Nemo wasn’t published in 2000 AD; it had the same creators as Bad Company, which did appear there. This issue also includes a Sindi Shade backup story, in which we learn that the library runs on the chief librarian’s urine. With its library theme, Sindi Shade reminds me of the work of Borges or Eco.

BATTLEAXES #2 (DC, 2000) – “How the Other Half Lives,” [W] Terry LaBan, [A] Alex Horley. The Battleaxes arrive in a civilized town, where their friendships start to collapse as a result of divided loyalties and sexual jealousy. This series is a lot like Rat Queens, but it presents the characters’ relationships and traumas in a grimmer, less funny way, making it less accessible. It’s still really interesting though.

ETERNALS #11 (Marvel, 1977) – “The Russians Are Coming!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Eternals come from everywhere to join in the Uni-Mind, and we’re introduced to a new team of Eternals from Russia. Kirby probably had no idea what Russian gods are supposed to look like, and his Russian Eternals look like generic Kirby characters. But overall, this issue is much more entertaining than #15.

THOR #306 (Marvel, 1981) – “Fury of the Firelord!”, [W] Mark Gruenwald & Ralph Macchio, [A] Keith Pollard et al. Thor battles Firelord, who mistakenly blames him for killing Air-Walker. This issue includes a long flashback detailing Firelord’s origin and his relationship with the other heralds of Galactus. There’s also a backup story in which Balder’s girlfriend Nanna sacrifices her life to stop Balder from marrying Karnilla. This story may have been written to explain why Nanna, the wife of the mythological Balder, is absent from the Marvel Universe.

GREEN ARROW #32 (DC, 1990) – “The Canary is a Bird of Prey Part Two,” [W] Mike Grell, [A] Grant Miehm. Dinah rescues Ollie from some criminals who have captured him and beaten him within an inch of his life. In the process, Dinah asks like a classic white savior. The criminals’ hideout is located in a black neighborhood, and Dinah shames the local black people for having tolerated the criminals’ presence.

GREEN ARROW #33 (DC, 1990) – “Broken Arrow,” [W] Mike Grell, [A] Dan Jurgens. In the aftermath of last issue’s traumatic events, Ollie sees a psychiatrist, while Dinah deals with her guilt over having killed one of Ollie’s kidnappers. This issue was a more realistic depiction of trauma than was usual at the time. However, the psychiatrist’s questions seem kind of unprofessional; her questions for Ollie seem more appropriate to a cross-examining attorney. At the end of the issue, Dinah decides she wants to have a baby with Ollie, in case he gets killed. This is a dumb reason to have a baby, and Dinah’s line “I want you to plant the seed so I can feel it grow in my body” is cringe-inducing. It’s just as well that Dinah proved to be infertile.

B.P.R.D.: PLAGUE OF FROGS #4 (Dark Horse, 2004) – “Plague of Frogs, Part 4,” [W] Mike Mignola, [A] Guy Davis. Like all the other issues of BPRD I’ve read, this issue feels well-executed, but it’s hard to understand without a complete knowledge of Mignolaverse continuity. By the way, this issue was edited by Scott Allie. I hope that this predator’s career is finally over. It’s an embarrassment that he, like Charles Brownstein and Eddie Berganza, was allowed to inflict pain on vulnerable people for so long.

New comics received on June 25:

ONCE & FUTURE #8 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. The best current monthly comic is finally back. This issue is mostly setup. Duncan and Gran try to figure out what the villains’ plot is, and Beowulf, Merlin and Arthur meet.

ASH & THORN #1 (Ahoy, 2020) – “Chapter One,” [W] Mariah McCourt, [A] Soo Lee. Lottie Thorn, a woman of mature years, is recruited as Earth’s new mystic champion. This series was explicitly intended as diversity representation, of a type that’s very unusual in comics. Lottie Thorn is an old woman, and the basic joke of the series is that her mentor was expecting her to be a vigorous young lady. In comics and SFF, it’s very rare to encounter an elderly female protagonist, or an old woman of any kind who’s not a stereotypical witch or hag. Lottie is also black, but her race is much less central to the series than her age. Besides having an important diversity agenda, Ash & Thorn is also a lot of fun so far.

SEX CRIMINALS #29 (Image, 2020) – “The End Part Four: O.D.D.,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Chip Zdarsky. Jon obsessively destroys everything in Kuber Badal’s apartment, but then gets arrested, because his powers aren’t working. So now we know why Jon was in jail. This was perhaps my favorite issue since the restart, simply because it was the easiest to follow.

WICKED THINGS #2 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. The police investigate the murder of the Japanese detective, who turns out to not be dead, yet. Lottie is released from jail under house arrest and starts her own investigation. This series is a standard example of John Allison’s style, but it’s very funny.

MIDDLEWEST #17 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. Nicholas and Maggie confront each other. Abel unleashes the storm, but Nicholas has planned against this contingency, and it looks like Abel is going to die. And then the “cavalry” arrives in the form of Abel’s dad. Surprisingly, this is the next-to-last issue. One more issue seems sufficient to resolve all the dangling plotlines, and I assume the series was always intended to end after 18 issues.

OUTER DARKNESS/CHEW #3 (Image, 2020) – “Fusion Cuisine Part Three,” [W] John Layman, [A] Afu Chan. A predictable but fun conclusion. The holodeck characters go insane and terrorize the ship, and Tony and Colby accept their inevitable deaths. I’m furious to learn that this is the final issue of Outer Darkness. It seems that Outer Darkness is owned outright by Skybound, and they can make the unilateral decision to cancel it. That seems like a terrible deal for Layman and Chan, and it’s also directly contrary to Image’s founding principles. I know there will be more John Layman comics, but I wanted more of this one.

DIE #11 (Image, 2020) – “Risk,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans. This issue is mostly taken up with more political maneuvering and inter-group drama. At the end, we discover that Prussia is invading Angria, and that Angela’s daughter Molly has somehow gotten into the RPG world.

MONSTRESS #28 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. Kippa endures more trauma that would drive a much older person insane. The various good guys battle the Grey Riders from last issue and kick their asses. This series continues to be very powerful, but it suffers from an overly complex plot. I still have no idea how many sides there are in the war, or who’s on which side, and I’m not sure what they’re fighting about.

IMMORTAL HULK #34 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Apotheosis of Samuel Sterns,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Butch Guice. I’m sorry to see Butch Guice’s name on this comic because he’s affiliated with Comicsgate. Other than that, this issue introduces the Leader into the series, and it summarizes his complicated history in a very clear and logical way. Al Ewing comes up with an in-universe explanation for why the Leader is always getting killed and coming back. This series is ending with issue 50. That seems fine to me; it’s better if Ewing can conclude his story rather than artificially prolonging it. Immortal Hulk deserves an Eisner for Best Continuing Series, and I think it will get one, though I voted for Crowded instead.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #105 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Sophie Campbell. The Turtles and their friends go to a concert. Alopex is inducted into the Splinter clan. The Turtles start a martial arts class, and Jenny comforts a lonely little girl. The issue ends with the appearance of a mysterious traveler from the future and/or another dimension. This TMNT run is extremely fun and heartwarming. As with Jem, Sophie Campbell has made me fall in love with a franchise I didn’t care about before (well, I used to be a Turtles fan, but that was a quarter century ago).

HARLEY QUINN AND THE BIRDS OF PREY #1 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Amanda Conner, [W] Jimmy Palmiotti. Harley’s apartment building is repossessed by the mob, and she has to travel to Gotham to deal with the situation. This series’ plot is pretty standard raucous comedy, but Amanda Conner’s artwork is incredible, as usual. She draws extremely cute women – she may be the best female artist of cheesecake in the history of American comics – and her panels are full of sight gags. She’s reached the point in her career where it’s no longer cost-effective for her to do monthly comics, so I’m glad she’s still producing new work.

AQUAMAN #60 (DC, 2020) – “Echoes of a Life Lived Well Part 4,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Robson Rocha. Aquaman uses Black Manta’s technology to find Andy, but has to give her up for her own safety. Mera wakes up to discover that the wedding is taking place tomorrow. This was just an okay issue.

MARVELS SNAPSHOTS: CAPTAIN AMERICA #1 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Ramón Pérez. This is Mark Russell’s first work for Marvel. It focuses on Felix Waterhouse, a young black man from the South Bronx. He’s a brilliant engineer, but his college plans are dashed when his neighborhood is destroyed by the Madbomb War, which took place in Captain America #193-200. So Felix goes to work for Advanced Idea Mechanics. Inevitably, Felix ends up fighting Captain America, and the issue ends with a frank discussion between Felix and Cap. This is quite an effective issue. Russell powerfully shows us how generational poverty and racism combine to deny Felix a future. The ending is a bit unconvincing, but I like Cap’s line about how all superheroes know how to do is punch things.

PLUNGE #4 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Stuart Immonen. The Derleth crew try to get the living humans to help them, and one of the humans, a loathsome corporate stooge, is interested in cooperating. This issue doesn’t include any more of the mathematical references from last issue.

IRON MAN 2020 #4 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Pete Woods. The robot war continues. Tony recovers his memory. There’s a flashback revealing that Tony is adopted, but I guess I was already supposed to know that. There’s also a cute scene with a cat typing on a keyboard. Tony’s “13th floor virtual environment” reminds me of the ancient memory palace method.

JOHN CONSTANTINE, HELLBLAZER #7 (DC, 2020) – “Britannia, Rule the Waves,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Aaron Campbell. For some reason I got #7 before I got #6. Issue 7 focuses on Freddie, an English fisherman whose industry is being devastated by foreign competition and environmental regulations, or so he thinks. Freddie falls in love with a mermaid, and she supplies him with the best fish. But Freddie turns out to be a horrid little monster; he cuts off the mermaid’s tail and sells it as fish. Even though she’s pregnant with his child. Besides being an excellent horror story, this issue is also an incisive critique of the Brexit mentality. Freddie is a classic Brexit supporter, blaming imaginary foreign enemies for his own perceived lack of manliness.

SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #11 (DC, 2020) – “For the Defense of… Earth!” etc., [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Steve Lieber. Most of the characters from earlier in the series show up to save Jimmy from Jix’s evil boyfriend. Jimmy and Jix’s marriage is dissolved, and with that, most of this series’ plot threads have been resolved. This series has gotten a bit tiresome, and I’m not sorry that it’s almost over.

THE LOW, LOW WOODS #6 (DC, 2020) – “Bells to Rest, Lambs to Slaughter,” [W] Carmen Maria Machado, [A] Dani. Vee gets into college. The two girls decide to give the women of Shudder-to-Think the choice of whether or not to restore their memories. This was an excellent series. For a first-time comics writer, Carmen Maria Machado did quite well, and this comic continues the themes of her prose work.

HARLEY QUINN AND THE BIRDS OF PREY #2 – as above. As with last issue, this issue has beautiful artwork and a fun but inconsequential plot. This issue includes an appearance by Atli, aka Terra, one of Conner and Palmiotti’s pet characters.

2000 AD #885 (Fleetway, 1994) – Judge Dredd: “Scales of Justice Part 2,” [W/A] John Higgins. Dredd battles some judge cadets who were abandoned for 18 months in the Cursed Earth. Higgins’s painted art is impressive. Luke Kirby: “Sympathy for the Devil Part 7,” [W] Alan McKenzie, [A] Steve Parkhouse. Luke continues his quest, and the devil knocks him off a bridge into an abyss. Babe Race 2020: untitled, [W] Mark Millar, [A] Anthony Williams. This story is about a deadly motorcycle race between hot babes. It’s a bit like Chopper: Song of the Surfer, except it’s utterly tasteless and it’s just an excuse for T&A. Clown: “The Painted Mask Part 5,” [W] Igor Goldkind, Robert Bliss. A superhero story about a deranged superheroic clown, with excellent painted art. Bradley: “The Sprog Prince Part 1,” [W] Alan McKenzie, [A] Simon Harrison. A “Prince and the Pauper” parody starring a crazy alien child. This story has more beautiful painted art, in a style reminiscent of Ralph Steadman (I made this comparison before).

A shipment of two comics from Shortbox:

SOBEK #1 (Shortbox, 2019) – “Sobek,” [W/A] James Stokoe. This is perhaps the most beautiful, elaborately produced comic book in my entire collection. It has a gold foil cover, thick paper, and, of course, insanely lush and detailed artwork by the finest draftsman in comics. Its price is proportional to its quality: 9 pounds, about $11, for just 32 pages, although because of Stokoe’s hyper-detailed draftsmanship, those 32 pages take as long to read as a hundred pages of normal comics. As for its story, Sobek is set in ancient Egypt and depicts a battle between Sobek, the crocodile god, and Set, the god of Chaos. It’s an Egyptian version of Godzilla, including the ending where Sobek wanders back into the water. This comic suggests a possible path forward for periodical comics. If standard-format comic books become unprofitable as a mass medium, they could still survive as an expensive prestige product, intended for a small audience of collectors. I don’t think that’s the only solution for the industry, but it’s a possibility, and I would certainly buy more comics like Sobek. Also, I regret that I didn’t read this comic until after I cast my Eisner votes.

MINÖTAAR #1 (Shortbox, 2019) – untitled, [W] Lissa Tremain. This comic is much smaller than a typical comic book, though it’s still printed on excellent paper, and it’s cheaper than Sobek and has less elaborate art. But it’s delightful in its own way. Like Grady Hendrix’s novel Horrorstör, Minötaar is a horror story set in IKEA. I assume these two stories were developed independently, because IKEA is such a natural setting for horror. And these two stories are actually quite different in tone and subject matter. Minötaar is about two women who go to IKOS (IKEA) to get furniture for their new apartment. But they get lost in IKOS’s (literally) labyrinthine showroom, and they have to use all their courage in order to escape with their friendship intact. Minötaar is very funny and well-executed, and it shows that while Lissa Tremain is mostly known as the initial artist of Giant Days, she’s also a skilled writer-artist in her own right.

2000 AD #888 (Fleetway, 1994) – In this issue, all four of the continuing stories end. Judge Dredd: “The Accidental Culprit,” [W] “Sonny Steelgrove” (Alan McKenzie or John Tomlinson), [A] Anthony Williams. A humorous story about accidental criminals. Luke Kirby: “Sympathy for the Devil Part 10,” [W] Alan McKenzie, [A] Steve Parkhouse. Luke discovers that his father can’t be returned to life. He goes back home, content to stay away from magic. Luke Kirby next appeared in prog 954. Babe Race 2000: “Part 6,” [W] Mark Millar, [A] Anthony Williams. More horrendous crap. After winning the race, the main character says she’s going to settle down and have some kids. One website calls Babe Race 2000 “possibly one of the worst written in the title’s history” (https://britishcomics.fandom.com/wiki/Babe_Race_2000), and that’s putting it mildly. Clown: “The Painted Mask,” [W] Igor Goldkind, [A] Greg Staples. A conclusion that I don’t really understand. This story is kind of like Batman, except with a second Joker instead of Batman. Bradley: “The Sprog Prince Part 4,” [W] Alan McKenzie, [A] Simon Harrison. Bradley saves the prince of Oscuritania (Ruritania) from being assassinated. Simon Harrison’s art is better suited to color than to black and white.

GAY COMIX #6 (Bob Ross, 1985) – various stories, [E] Robert Triptow. Trina Robbins’s “Tommy Teene” is a gender-swapped parody of Katy Keene, complete with reader-designed clothes, except the “readers” are fak enames like “J.D. Busby, Berkeley” and “W. Whitman, N.Y.” Tim Barela’s Leonard and Larry story depicts a meeting between some gay men and their conservative relatives. Tim Barela’s draftsmanship is excellent, but his comics are very text-heavy. Roberta Gregory’s “Acute Observation” is about aliens observing human sexuality, and it reminds me of her solo comic Winging It. The back cover is a Wendel strip by Howard Cruse. Of the other stories in the issue, the best is a two-pager by Jerry Mills, who also did the cover. Sadly, a later issue of this series included Mills’s obituary.

TRUTH: RED, WHITE AND BLACK #3 (Marvel, 2003) – “The Passage Part III,” [W] Robert Morales, [A] Kyle Baker. Isaiah Bradley and his black soldiers are subjected to dangerous and sometimes fatal experiments, while Isaiah’s wife investigates her husband’s disappearance. I have five issues of this series, and I need to get the other two. This series is one of Marvel’s most important treatments of racial issues.

DAN DARE #4 (Titan, 2018) – “Different Worlds, Different People,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Alberto Foche. This short-lived Dan Dare revival has high production values, but feels like a rehash of old-fashioned old comics. So far the only Dan Dare comic I’ve really liked is Morrison and Hughes’s Dare, but I have a volume of Frank Hampson’s original series, and I ought to read it soon.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #106 (Marvel, 1981) – “A Savage Sting Has – the Scorpion!”, [W] Tom DeFalco, [A] Herb Trimpe. The Scorpion tries to get revenge on J. Jonah Jameson, and Spider-Man teams up with Captain America. This is a surprisingly fun issue, but it’s really a Spider-Man solo story. Cap plays no essential role in the plot. On the last page, Cap even admits that the Scorpion is no match for either him or Spidey alone, let alone both of them. This issue is perhaps most notable for its Frank Miller cover.

ACTION COMICS #703 (DC, 1994) – “Chronocide!”, [W] David Michelinie, [A] Jackson Guice. Because of Zero Hour, time is disappearing from the past forward, and older people are vanishing as their birthdays are eradicated. Superman tries to save his parents by moving them into another reality. This issue is unimpressive, and it reminds me that Zero Hour was pretty dumb.

RED CIRCLE SORCERY #10 (Archie, 1974) – “Death is My Love’s Name,” [W] Marv Channing, [A] Gray Morrow, etc. A Pygmalion-and-Galatea story that ends much less happily than the original one did. The second story is Channing and Chaykin’s “Pirate Island,” an early example of Chaykin’s central theme of the desire for swashbuckling adventure. Other artists in this issue include Gray Morrow, Al McWilliams and Jack Abel.

LOKI, AGENT OF ASGARD #12 (Marvel, 2015) – “Time Alone Shall Murder All the Flowers,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Lee Garbett. At the end of time, the evil King Loki tells Thor and the younger Loki about his plan to become king of the multiverse. As part of his monologuing, King Loki summarizes a lot of stories that were never published. This issue includes one panel that’s deservedly gone viral – the one with the caption “actually it’s about ethics in hammer-wielding!” – but the rest of the issue isn’t nearly as good as that panel.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #206 (Marvel, 1977) – “Face to Face with the Swine!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Having just returned to New York from his latest adventure, Cap witnesses a man being kidnapped by agents of the Swine, a brutal Latin American dictator. The Swine is a huge stereotype, though at least he doesn’t speak in a fake Mexican accent, like the Latin American characters in 2000 AD. On this issue’s letters page, several readers criticize Jack Kirby’s writing, and one guy complains about Kirby’s lack of sophistication compared to Englehart. This critique is not wrong, though the editor is also correct to point out that “the difference between Kirby and Englehart is basically one of style.”

GAY COMICS #17 (Bob Ross, 1993) – various stories, [E] Andy Mangels. The highlights of this issue are Eric Shanower’s “Pizza Face,” about a kid with exaggerated acne, and Roberta Gregory’s “Bitchy Butch Returns.” There are also some strips by Jennifer Camper, and Julie Frankl’s “A Trip to Queersville USA,” about queer tourism, is interesting. It depicts a trip to Provincetown, Massachusetts, which at the time was one of the few places where gay people could safely vacation. It’s kind of strange to read a story like this almost 30 years later, when queer culture has become much more normalized.

DEADLINE USA #1 (Dark Horse, 1992) – various stories, [E] Chris Warner & Jerry Prosser. There are too many stories in this issue to mention them all, but highlights include: Richard Sala’s Thirteen O’Clock. Wild World by Philip Bond. Johnny Nemo by Milligan and Ewins. Beryl the Bitch by Julie Hollings, one of the few female artists in the UK alternative comics scene. Hugo Tate by Nick Abadzis. Wild World may be my favorite Deadline strip, and it really should be collected into a single volume. It’s been described, somewhat accurately, as a British version of Locas.

LOKI, AGENT OF ASGARD #11 (Marvel, 2015) – “Turn Away and Slam the Door,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Lee Garbett. I assume all the issues of this series are named after song lyrics, but I don’t recognize them all, though of course I do recognize the source of this one. This issue, Freyja accuses Loki of betraying Asgard, and then King Loki shows up and reveals his scheme. I’ve already seen what happens next. More thoughts on this series later.

CHAMPION SPORTS #2 (DC, 1974) – “The Enchanted Bat,” [W] Joe Simon, [A] Jerry Grandenetti. A baseball player becomes a superstar because of a magical bat. We later learn that it’s a normal bat and that the player became a star all by himself, but even without this trite conclusion, the story would still be ludicrous. Contemporary baseball players use dozens of bats every season, and I assume this was also true in 1974. Next is an uninteresting story about boxing, and the third story is about an offensive lineman who’s embarrassed that he’s not the quarterback. The story ends with the OL being drafted by the NFL, while the QB becomes an insurance salesman. This ending is quite realistic; the unrealistic part is that the offensive lineman shouldn’t have had such a massive inferiority complex in the first place.

2000 AD #889 (Fleetway, 1994) – This is a “jumping-on point” issue in which several new stories begin, since all the stories from last issue have concluded. This issue also introduces a new format for the opening pages. Judge Dredd: “The Time Machine,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Some Cambridge dons travel from 1999 to 2116 and are horrified by the dystopian Mega-City One. Ezquerra’s opening splash panel is impressive. Mambo: “The New Flesh 1,” [W/A] Dave Hine. Mambo is a 21st-century cop with red hair and a plate over her left eye. I don’t quite get what this story is about. Rogue Trooper: “Mercy Killing Part 1,” [W] Steve White, [A] Henry Flint. Rogue Trooper fights some “ice nomads” and their war mammoth. Henry Flint’s art and coloring here are very impressive; the entire story has a distinctive blue color scheme. Flint only created a small body of work for the American market. Armoured Gideon: “An Evening with Michelle Pfeiffer,” [W] John Tomlinson, [A] Simon Jacob. A man named Frank Weitz dreams that he’s become rich and famous by taking photos of the robot Armoured Gideon. Then he wakes up. This story’s last panel mentions the Volgans from Invasion! and ABC Warriors. Slaine: “The Queen of Witches,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Dermot Power. Slaine fights some blue guy, then we learn that he’s become a year king, destined to be sacrificed at the next Beltane. Also, the Romans are invading Britain, and Ukko has a plan to stop them.

SUPERMAN #47 (DC, 1990) – “Lives in the Balance Part Two of Three,” [W/A] Jerry Ordway. Superman battles Blaze in hell for the souls of Jimmy Olsen and Jerry White. Luthor reveals that he’s Jerry White’s father. There’s also an unnecessary appearance by the Black Racer. Jerry Ordway is an underrated writer.

DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS #14 (DC, 2014) – “Love Stories,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Laura Braga & Mirka Andolfo. I hate Marguerite Bennett’s writing, and unfortunately I didn’t figure this out until I already had a giant stack of unread comics written by her. My principal problem with her writing is her dialogue. But in the case of DC Comics Bombshells, further problems include an overabundance of forgettable characters, and a lack of an overarching plot. It’s impossible to tell where the story is going, or how the characters connect to each other. This is partly due to the series’ origin as a webcomic. This issue begins with a chapter about Mera and then continues with chapters about Zatanna and about Harley Quinn. However, there’s no explicit indication of where the chapters begin and end, so the reader gets the sense that the entire comic is one story with three different unrelated plots.

SAVAGE DRAGON #94 (Image, 2001) – “Kingdom Khan,” [W/A] Erik Larsen. Dragon confronts Sebastian Khan, and there are some other subplots. This is a pretty standard Savage Dragon story. At one point Dragon mentions Calvin’s lucky rocketship underpants.

LOKI, AGENT OF ASGARD #13 (Marvel, 2014) – “The Magic Theater,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Lee Garbett. Young Loki defeats King Loki thanks to emotional support from Verity. I like the way Al Ewing writes Loki, but the King Loki subplot was pointless and frustrating. It’s not fun to read about Loki being constantly frustrated in his efforts to do anything good. This series would have been better if it had just been about the wacky adventures of Loki and Verity.

HEAVY METAL #86 (HM, 1984) – various stories, [E] Julie Simmons-Lynch. This is the first issue of Heavy Metal I’ve read. It is a very lengthy read at about 100 pages, including numerous text pieces. The issue begins with Pepe Moreno’s “Bunker 6A,” which has some nice coloring in a style similar to BWS’s. There’s also a chapter of Druillet’s Salammbo, and a pre-Cities of the Fantastic piece by Schuiten, although the latter has some very rigid and unchanging page layouts. Then there’s a chapter of The Incal, which I’ve already read, and a chapter of Liberatore’s Ranxerox. I’ve never read this series before, and it’s as gruesome and explicit as I’ve been led to expect. The last notable feature in this issue is Charles Burns’s El Borbah. The issue also includes a lot of material by lesser artists, and some of this material is quite bad. After reading this comic, I ordered a couple other issues of Heavy Metal, and I’d like to read even more. Heavy Metal has some significant flaws, but it’s an important comic that I’ve barely explored at all, although I have read a lot of the comics that Heavy Metal introduced to Anglophone readers.

LOKI, AGENT OF ASGARD #14 (Marvel, 2015) – “Born One Morning and the Sun Didn’t Shine,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Lee Garbett. Loki is reunited with Verity, and the gods of Asgard prepare for the coming Secret Wars. This issue is severely hampered by being tied to a boring crossover event, and it doesn’t give us enough of Loki and Verity. The good Loki appears on less than half the pages of this issue. The rest of the issue is devoted to the evil Loki and the Asgardian gods.

THE GOON: ONCE UPON A HARD TIME #3 (Dark Horse, 2015) – “Once Upon a Hard Time, Part 3,” [W/A] Eric Powell. The Goon confronts a mobster who’s been persecuting him, and meanwhile, the Nameless Man tells the gruesome story of his skin hat. I didn’t quite understand the plot of this issue, but its artwork is excellent and very creepy. Eric Powell is quite a good horror artist in the tradition of Bernie Wrightson and Kelley Jones.

REVIVAL #17 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Mike Norton. I didn’t quite understand this issue’s plot, but it ends with Professor Aaron Weimar getting killed. This is a good thing because he was cheating on his wife with his student, something that I, as a college instructor, find repulsive.

THE GOON: ONCE UPON A HARD TIME #4 – as above. The Goon defeats some horrific villains, and then he and Franky leave town. This issue feels like it could have been the conclusion of the entire series, although The Goon has now been revived with a different writer.

LOKI, AGENT OF ASGARD #15 (Marvel, 2015) – “The Old Army Game,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Lee Garbett. This is better than the last few issues because it focuses more on Verity. In particular, we learn that Verity is the daughter of Roger Willis, from Simonson’s Thor run. This issue is also mildly metatextual; it begins by saying “your reading of the text affects the text,” though I don’t think this is really true. Unfortunately, again half the issue is wasted on pointless Secret Wars nonsense.

2000 AD #900 (Fleetway, 1994) – “Casualties of War,” [W] John Wagner, [A] John Higgins. This issue is unique in two ways: it consists of just one long story, and that story depicts Judge Dredd and Rogue Trooper’s first mission ever. After a crushing defeat, Friday and his fellow soldiers travel in time (not sure whether forward or backward) to Judge Dredd’s time. With help from the Psi-Division, Dredd and Friday figure out that Friday’s sergeant, Hagar, betrayed his men to the enemy. They team up to bring Hagar to justice. This is an entertaining story that benefits from having more than the usual number of pages.

YUMMY FUR #26 (Vortex, 1991) – “Fuck Part One: Grades Seven to Nine,” [W/A] Chester Brown. At age nine, Chester’s mother punishes him for saying “shit,” giving him an aversion to foul language. When he’s a little older, his schoolmates bully him for not swearing. In collected form, this story was called I Never Liked You, and I’ve read that book, though not for a long time. Chester Brown’s brand of autobio comics is starting to seem dated – Faye Stacey called it the “ ‘I’m a bad person’ sad dude” genre – but back in 1991 it was still groundbreaking. This issue also includes Brown’s adaptation of Matthew 9:14 to 9:17.

KARATE KID #8 (DC, 1977) – “Pandemonium… Panic… Pulsar!”, [W] Barry Jameson, [A] Ric Estrada. Val battles a villain named Pulsar. At the end of the issue, Jeckie travels back in time to see Val and finds him kissing his 20th-century companion Iris. This series was a transparent attempt to cash in on the kung fu craze using a character DC already owned, and it had little to do with the Legion. This issue isn’t terrible, but it’s not great either.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #32 (Marvel, 2008) – “The Death of Captain America Part 2: The Burden of Dreams,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Steve Epting. Black Widow and Falcon team up to rescue Sharon Carter from Dr. Faustus. This issue has very solid writing and artwork, but it feels too slick and polished, and I couldn’t get into it. I loved Brubaker and Epting’s Cap when it was just starting, but I eventually got tired of it because of its lack of emotion.

SENTIENT #1 (TKO, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Gabriel Walta. This miniseries was published and distributed by TKO. This company has a unique publishing model: all their series are available exclusively from their web store, as either trades or boxed sets of single issues, and the first issue of each series is free. As a fan of the single-issue format, I of course chose the latter option. Like Shortbox comics, TKO comics are very handsomely produced. Sentient #1 is much taller than a normal comic, but still fits in a drawerbox. Because my copies of Sentient were delivered late, I have a credit for 50% off any other TKO comic, but I haven’t used it yet. On to the actual issue. Sentient #1 takes place on a spaceship headed from a dying Earth to an extraterrestrial colony. Just after the ship passes out of communications range, one of the crew members, Kruger, reveals herself as a “separatist” terrorist. She murders all the other adults on the ship, intending to indoctrinate the children into her cult. The ship’s sentient AI, Valarie, manages to kill Kruger before she can harm the children, but the kids are left alone on the ship, with Valarie as their sole parent. And one of the kids is Kruger’s son. This issue is absolutely thrilling; it creates incredible suspense and excitement, and Kruger’s death is such a cathartic moment that I actually clapped. Lemire and Walta’s characterization is subtle but powerful. For example, the issue begins by depicting the two main child characters, Lil and Isaac, waking up and starting their day. Without using any captions, the creators show us that Lil has a close and tender relationship with her mother, while Isaac and his mother are much more cold to each other.

SENTIENT #2 – as above. This issue is much slower-paced than the previous issue. Its main event is that the kids witness their parents’ bodies and hold a funeral. Still, this is another extremely powerful issue. Walta is the perfect artist for this series; he draws subtle facial expressions and stark, striking page layouts.

2000 AD #909</a. (Fleetway, 1994) – Judge Dredd: “Wilderlands 6,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Dredd and some other judges crash-land on a “hell-planet,” where they start to go insane from eating tainted food. Red Razors: “The Hunt for Red Razors,” [W] Mark Millar, [A] Nigel Dobbyn. This story takes place in East-Meg Two, i.e. Russia, but I can’t follow its plot. Nigel Dobbyn’s art is quite appealing. ABC Warriors: “Hellbringer Part 6,” [W] Pat Mills & Tony Skinner, [A] Kev Walker. I couldn’t follow this one either, though it has some nice painted art. Having subsequently read some much earlier ABC Warriors stories, I notice that in this story Joe Pineapples can talk in normal English, while originally he could only talk in letters and numbers. Sam Slade: Robo Hunter: “Metropolis 6: Land on the Run,” [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Rian Hughes. This is the highlight of the issue because of its beautiful Clear Line art, though Sam Slade’s talking pen is yet another Mexican stereotype. Button Man: “The Confession of Harry Exton,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Arthur Ranson. The Button Man has a shootout in a meat warehouse. Arthur Ransom’s artwork is realistic and exciting.

LOKI, AGENT OF ASGARD #16 (Marvel, 2015) – “Would You Know More?”, [W] Al Ewing, [A] Lee Garbett. This title of course comes from Thor #380. Ragnarok happens, but it turns out to all be part of Teen Loki’s plot. Also, at some point in the last couple issues, Loki turned into a woman. To elaborate on earlier comments, the main appeal of this series is that Loki is a fascinating protagonist. That was why Marvel launched this series to begin with, because of the popularity of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and Kieron Gillen’s Journey into Mystery. And Verity was a great foil for Loki. But the problem with this series is that it was mired in crossovers and continuity, and there was not nearly enough of a focus on Loki him/herself.

THUNDERBOLTS #146 (Marvel, 2010) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Kev Walker. The Thunderbolts examine the mystery of Troll, and then they go on a mission to investigate some miners who have been turneed into spider-creatures. As I have observed before, Jeff Parker’s Thunderbolts is like a Marvel version of Suicide Squad because of its weird and distinctive characters. And it’s more accessible than Kurt Busiek’s classic Thunderbolts. A funny thing in this issue is that Man-Thing lives in a giant terrarium and needs to be watered.

GHOST RIDER #72 (Marvel, 1982) – “Remnants!”, [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Bob Budiansky. Johnny Cash leaves his carnival after some sort of disaster for which Ghost Rider was responsible. Johnny befriends an old friend named Adam, who gets kidnapped by a villain called Centurious – not to be confused with Centurius. Centurious is a psychic vampire who drains people’s spirits. I’ve never had much interest in Ghost Rider, but this issue is not bad.

KINGDOM OF THE WICKED #2 (Caliber, 1996) – “Chapter Two,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] D’Israeli. Chris sees a psychiatrist, then has another vision of his imagined world of Castrovalva. There are references to the Brontës’ Glass Town and the old British comic Lion. D’Israeli’s art is excellent, though I don’t like his use of greytones. This may be the only good Caliber comic I’ve read.

GRENDEL #6 (Comico, 1987) – “Challenge the Devil,” [W] Matt Wagner, [A] Arnold Pander & Jacob Pander. Christine Spar, the current Grendel, battles an evil kabuki actor named Tujiro. This issue’s plot is confusing, and its art is unimpressive. I’ve never understood Grendel or been able to get into it, and this issue did nothing to change that.

ECLIPSE, THE MAGAZINE #2 (Eclipse, 1981) – various stories, [E] Dean Mullaney. I have a huge backlog of magazine-sized comics, and being in quarantine has given me time to read some of them. This issue starts with a completely nonsensical funny-animal story by Steve Leialoha, then continues with a Ken Steacy story with a dumb plot and too much text. But after that things start to improve. The next story is Coyote. This is Marshall Rogers’s best post-Batman work. Its lack of color is unfortunate, but Rogers’s page layouts and screentones are brilliant. Then there’s Dope by Trina Robbins, and chapter one of Gerber and Mayerik’s “Role Model.” This story is a vicious satire of TV Standards & Practices departments. The villain is a television censor who insists on clean TV, but ironically lives in horrible squalor. This story must be based on Gerber’s personal experience writing for television. He did a lot of writing for animation, though Wikipedia doesn’t show him as having any TV credits prior to 1983. Next there are short stories by Howard Cruse and Rick Geary, and part two of Ms. Tree’s origin story.

BATMAN/THE MAXX: ARKHAM DREAMS #3 (DC, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Sam Kieth. A standard Maxx story with a thin plot but gorgeous art. This issue includes a strange monster called a Wumpus Woof. One of Kieth’s most unique qualities as an artist is his ability to draw things that are silly and threatening at once. He also reminds me a lot of Corben. As of this writing, this is the last issue of Arkham Dreams. Issues 4 and 5 have been solicited but not released.

ECLIPSE, THE MAGAZINE #4 (Eclipse, 1982) – as above. In the Coyote story, Coyote sleeps with a mysterious woman named Phyllida. Hunt Emerson’s “Kon-Tiki” is a silly satire of Thor Heyerdahl’s expedition of the same name. Alex Simmons and James Sherman’s “Demon Chronicles” is not interesting, and it shows that Jim Sherman’s art hadn’t evolved much since the early ‘70s. The next stories are by McGregor and Graham and by Trina Robbins, and then there’s an eerie four-pager by Rick Geary. I’ve noticed that Geary has a habit of leaving important information out of the panels, focusing instead on irrelevant details. This forces the reader to imagine details that are worse than what can actually be seen. In the Ms. Tree chapter, Ms. Tree discovers that her late husband has a son she didn’t know about. I have three of the eight issues of Eclipse Magazine, and I want to get the other five.

SENTIENT #3 – as above. The kids start running the ship on their own, but Lil and Isaac become bitter rivals, since Isaac’s mother killed Lil’s mother. The USS Montgomery docks at a derelict space station, and Valarie detects life signs from inside. Against Valarie’s orders, Lil goes to investigate and discovers a crazy man. This issue, and much of the series, is driven by the evolving relationships between Lil and Isaac and between Valarie and the children.

2000 AD #947 (Fleetway, 1995) – Judge Dredd: “Goodnight Kiss,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Nick Percival. Dredd fights a villain named Gideon in the Cursed Earth. Nick Percival’s art here is not the best. Mambo: “Fleshworld Part 8,” [W/A] Dave Hine. I don’t understand this story’s plot, but Dave Hine’s art is very weird, full of strange alien life forms. Even the panel borders are drawn to look like alien flesh. Rogue Trooper: “Ascent Part Two,” [W] Steve White, [A] Steve Tappin. Rogue visits a “biochip mausoleum.” Steve Tappin’s art resembles that of Henry Flint or Ron Smith. Finn: “Interventions Part 18,” [W] Pat Mills & Tony Skinner, [A] Paul Staples. A heavily muscled warrior battles a grotesque alien deity. I don’t know what this story is about, but it has some excellent art. Strontium Dogs: “High Moon Part 8,” [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Mark Harrison. Gronk and Bullmoose Saxon are lost at sea, but are rescued by Middenface McNulty. None of the stories in this prog really stood out.

COYOTE #9 (Marvel, 1984) – “The Initiation!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Chas Truog. Coyote is trapped on an alien spaceship and has had half his brain removed. Because of the lack of Marshall Rogers artwork, this story is much less exciting than the Coyote stories in Eclipse Magazine. There’s also a backup story by Englehart and Ditko.

SENTIENT #4 (TKO, 2019) – as above. The crazy survivor tries to kill Lil, but Isaac shows up to rescue her. Lil and Isaac manage to get back to the Montgomery, where Valarie kills the crazy dude. The issue ends with the arrival of another ship, controlled by an AI named Victor. This is another thrilling issue.

MOCKINGBIRD #4 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Chelsea Cain, [A] Kate Niemczyk. Bobbi Morse rescues Clint Barton from an underwater AIM lab. This issue is a lot better than Man-Eaters, probably because of more proactive editing.

UNTOUCHABLES #2 (Eastern, 1988) – untitled, [W/A] Lee Hyun-Se. The tyrannical father from last issue secures a contract for his son, Haesong, with a major league baseball club. Later, Haesong tells a friend how his father used to beat him, and he appreciated it, because it meant his father cared about him. In a Western cultural context, this would be horrifying, but in the Korean context, Haesong’s desensitization to abuse seems less shocking. Though in saying that, I might be relying on stereotypes. There’s also a subplot about Haesong’s love interest, Omji.

THOR #309 (Marvel, 1981) – “Beware the Bombardiers!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Rick Leonardi. Rick Leonardi’s art in this issue is very good. His splash page, depicting a futuristic car, could almost have been drawn by Michael Golden. I don’t know why Leonardi wasn’t more of a star. However, this issue’s plot is inappropriate for a Thor story; the villains are a bunch of petty gangsters who are obviously no match for Thor. Besides the art, the best thing about this comic is that Thor spends the entire issue in the company of a cat. And the cat defeats a villain by clawing him in the face.

CAPTAIN CONFEDERACY #9 (SteelDragon, 1988) – “Dear Brutus,” [W] Will Shetterly & John M. Ford, [A] Vince Stone. This issue has ugly lettering and muddy art, but it’s fairly well written. John M. Ford was a brilliant SF novelist. This issue also includes an Ant Boy backup story by Matt Feazell. This comic feels a lot like an SF fanzine. It includes letters from SF authors Peni Griffin and Keith R.A. DeCandido, and an ad for SF books. SteelDragon was owned by Shetterly and his wife Emma Bull, both prominent SF authors, and it published fiction as well as comics. I’d be interested in reading more Captain Confederacy just because of its SFF connections, despite my aversion to Will Shetterly’s politics.

GREEN LANTERN #128 (DC, 1980) – “The Green That Got Away!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Dave Cockrum. An inset story in which Hal fights Hector Hammond, along with a framing sequence by O’Neil and Staton. According to the GCD, the Hector Hammond story was intended for Adventure Comics #467 before that issue was changed from a Dollar Comic to a standard-size comic. See the GCD entry on Adventure Comics #466 for a full explanation.

2000 AD #974 (Fleetway, 1996) – Judge Dredd: “The Pit Part 5,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Dredd fights some rogue judges. This story is very suspenseful, but its computer coloring is ugly. Flesh: “Chronocide Part 2,” [W] Dan Abnett & Steve White, [A] Gary Erskine. A man named Regan hunts a monstrous shark. This story is exciting, and Gary Erskine’s depiction of the shark is humorously over-the-top. Vector 13: “Case Ten: Thrillkill,” [W] Brian Williamson, [A] John Burns. Martin, a filmmaker who produces films of celebrity deaths, discovers that the same mysterious mustached man has been present at many different tragedies. The mustached man kills Martin. I’m not sure whether Vector 13 was a continuing story, or a series of one-shot stories like Tharg’s Future Shocks. Parasites: “The Future King Part 12,” [W] Mark Eyles, [A] Mike Hadley. I don’t remember this one at all. Kid Cyborg: “Part 3,” [W] Kek-W, [A] Jim McCarthy. The main character is pursued by the Men in Black.

SENTIENT #5 – as above. The new ship, Victor, forcibly docks with the Montgomery, against Valarie’s objections. It becomes clear that Victor’s ship is full of separatists, and that Victor and his crew do not have the kids’ best interests at heart. Victor starts overwriting Valarie’s code with his own. Isaac and Linda have to save Valarie before Victor can defeat her and gain control of the ship and the younger kids. This issue is tremendously suspenseful. When the separatists enter the ship and declare “This ship is now a free vessel and you are free children. Do not be afraid,” it’s a terrifying moment.

SENTINEL #6 – as above. Lil kills one of the separatists, and then in another extremely cathartic moment, Isaac manages to revive Val so that she can kill the rest. The human villains in this series are just horrifying – they all see the kids as tools to be used, not as people, and the separatists in #5 and #6 are perfectly willing to murder all the kids in order to gain control of the ship. Victor manages to overwrite Valarie’s code, but Isaac traps Victor aboard the Montgomery, and now that Victor’s own ship is empty, the kids use that ship to reach the colony safely. At the colony, they reboot Valarie from scratch, and Lil and Isaac become Val’s parents, rather than vice versa. This series is a masterpiece; it’s one of Jeff Lemire’s greatest short works, and Gabriel Walta also deserves a lot of credit for his brilliant visual storytelling. Now that I’ve read this series, I wish I could change my Eisner vote. Little Bird was very good, but Sentient was better.

New comics received on July 3:

THE GODDAMNED: THE VIRGIN BRIDES #1 (Image, 2020) – “The Wedding Rose,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] R.M. Guera. I’m excited that this series is back. This new series is not directly to the previous Goddamned miniseries. Instead it’s based on Genesis 6:4, about the Nephilim and the “sons of God.” This series is about a group of young girls who are held in slavery at the foot of a mountain, waiting for puberty so that they can be married to the “sons of God.” When one of the girls reaches puberty and is taken up the mountain, two of the other girls climb up the mountain to look for her. There they discover that the sons of God are impregnating their brides and forcing them to bear monstrous inhuman children. The two protagonists, Sharri and Jael, have to flee before the same thing happens to them. This series is a horrifying tale of sexual slavery, and R.M. Guera’s art is spectacular.

BILLIONAIRE ISLAND #2 (Ahoy, 2020) – “Chapter Two,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Pugh. The assassin protagonist makes it to Billionaire Island, but his cover is blown at once. Meanwhile, the reporter protagonist makes it out of jail. This issue contains some more very effective satire. Reading this issue, I had the insight that Mark Russell is the new Steve Gerber. Like Gerber, he has a deep understanding of the contemporary moment, and he creates a perfect blend of realism and satire.

RONIN ISLAND #12 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Giannis Milonogiannis. The islanders repel the invasion, and the shogun finally gets killed. Hana goes back to the mainland to look for survivors. The series ends with an important exchange: “You belong here, Hana… on the island. All of us belong.” “I’ve heard those words all my life, Kenichi… someday we’ll make them true.” The island, of course, is America. This series was a lot darker and grimmer than I expected, especially compared to Mech Cadet Yu, but it was excellent.

THE GOON #11 (Albatross, 2020) – untitled, [W] Roger Langridge, [A] Mike Norton. Witchfinder Matthew Hopkins starts a literal witch hunt against Mother Brewster and her fellow witches. Mother Brewster’s cat plays a significant role in this issue. This is another very fun comic.

JOHN CONSTANTINE, HELLBLAZER #6 (DC, 2020) – “Quiet,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Aaron Campbell. A terminally ill old racist woman sends out her astral form to attack and kill immigrants. Noah, Constantine’s mute companion, placates the woman by telling her “I’m sorry nobody come 2 visit.” This issue reminds me of the classic “Hold Me,” in that it ends with a moment of compassion, although in this case the recipient of the compassion doesn’t deserve it. This issue also shows deep sympathy for BAME people. There’s one page where we’re told that D.S. Davinder Dole has an “accent adrift between Putney and Punjab,” and nurse Zadie Headley is a descendant of Windrush immigrants.

PSYCHODRAMA ILLUSTRATED #2 (Fantagraphics, 2020) – “Mercy and the Devil,” [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. This story depicts another one of Fritz’s films, about a mother and daughter who are sleeping with the same men. I have trouble getting into Beto’s Fritz stories because Fritz is an unsympathetic protagonist, and unlike with Luba, the characters surrounding her are as bad as she is. The Fritz stories would be more fun if they had more sympathetic characters like Ofelia or Hector or the young Guadalupe.

ON THE STUMP #3 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Chuck Brown, [A] Prenzy. This issue has a confusing plot, no clear premise, and extremely loose artwork. I’m giving up on this series.

PRETTY VIOLENT #7 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Derek Hunter, [W] Jason Young. Gamma Rae is assigned to be a new superheroine’s mentor, and like everything else Gamma Rae does, her mentorship effort goes horribly wrong. This is a one-joke series, but it’s a good joke.

KIDZ #4 (Ablaze, 2020) – untitled, [W] Aurélien Ducoudray, [A] Jocelyn Joret. The kids go to the mall, where they encounter an adult survivor. This issue is not bad, but the actual story ends on the second page after the staple, and then there’s a ten-page preview of The Cimmerian: Red Nails.

KING OF NOWHERE #3 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Tyler Jenkins. The fish dude takes the main character to visit his parents, and there are some other subplots. I don’t quite understand this series.

2000 AD #979 (Fleetway, 1996) – Judge Dredd: “The Pit Part 10,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Dredd fights some rogue judges in a prison. Flesh: “Chronocide Part 7,” [W] Steve White & Dan Abnett, [A] Gary Erskine. The villain gets eaten by a shark, and the protagonist gets sent back into the past, where he finds some humans there already. Darkness Visible: “Part 5,” [W] Nick Abadzis, [A] John Ridgway. The protagonist, Hewitt, encounters a flying skeleton named Manon. I don’t understand this one. Kid Cyborg: “Part 8,” [W] Kek-W, [A] Jim McCarthy. The protagonist fights the Men in Black and wins. Venus Bluegenes: “Venus on the Frag Shell Part 4,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Simon Coleby. Venus Bluegenes, a sort of female version of Rogue Trooper, battles a mutated anthropomorphic shark. Simon Coleby’s art looks a lot like that of Jim Calafiore.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #198 (Marvel, 1992) – “The Soul Eater,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] John Buscema. Conan’s pirate ship picks up three mysterious siren-like women. When the ship arrives at the pirate town of Port Tortage, the women convince all the male pirates to abandon their evil ways and worship a deity called Atarata. Meanwhile, all the women on the island, including Valeria from Red Nails, are exiled. Atarata turns out to be a horrible shaggy monster that lives under a lake, and Conan defeats it and saves the town. This is an exciting issue that makes effective use of its 45-page length. A notable subplot involves the love quadrangle between Conan, Valeria, Conan’s captain Strom, and Strom’s girlfriend/sex slave Morganis.

PROTECTOR #4 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Simon Roy & Daniel Bensen, [A] Artyom Trakhanov. All the characters arrive at the ruins of St. Louis, and there’s another big fight. I’m losing interest in this series. It has some good worldbuilding, but it doesn’t have much of a plot.

EZEQUIEL HIMES, ZOMBIE HUNTER #1 (Amigo, 2020) – “It Ain’t Just a Job,” [W] Victor Santos, [A] Alberto Hernandez. A combination of the blaxploitation and zombie genres. This is pretty boring, and I regret that I already ordered issue 2.

2000 AD #980 (Fleetway, 1996) – Judge Dredd: “The Pit Part 11,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Dredd finally defeats the criminals. Venus Bluegenes: “Stealth Part 1,” [W] Steve White, [A] Henry Flint. Venus participates in some kind of military operation along a river. Henry Flint’s art and coloring in this story are amazing. Canon Fodder: ‘Part 1,” [W] Kek-W, [A] Chris Weston. Canon Fodder fails to prevent a church from being destroyed by terrorists, while Sigmund Freud plans to psychoanalyze him. I already encountered this character in prog 864. As usual, Chris Weston’s artwork is stunning. Janus: Psi: “A New Star, Part 1,” [W] Mark Millar, [A] Paul Johnson. A new story starring a Psi-Judge who talks in exaggerated ‘90s slang. Paul Johnson draws some very scary-looking poltergeists.

MARSHAL LAW #4(Marvel, 1988) – “Conduct Unbecoming,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. This issue begins with a splash page of Public Spirit injecting steroids into his arm. At least that’s not as bad as the rape scene from issue 2, which turned me off from this series. This issue includes a letter criticizing the rape scene, and a rather weak defense of it by the editors. Anyway, in the rest of the issue, we gradually realize that the murderers are the former superheroine Virago and Danny, her illegitimate son by Public Spirit.

MARSHAL LAW #5 – “Mark of Caine,” as above. We get Danny’s origin story. Public Spirit murders Virago, and Marshal Law and Danny/Sleepman prepare for their final confrontation. These two issues are very hard-hitting, but also quite disturbing and brutal. This whole series relies way too much on shock value, as exemplified by the aforementioned rape scene.

HERU, SON OF AUSAR #1 (Ania, 1993) – untitled, [W/A] Roger Barnes. A superhero-influenced retelling of the myth of Heru, a.k.a. Horus, who in this version is black. This series is rather poorly executed, with ugly lettering and too much text, but it has good intentions. Its inside front covers include citations from Afrocentric authors like Walter Rodney and Molefi Kete Asante. I don’t know if any other issues of this series were ever published.

UNTOUCHABLES #3 – as above. Haesong’s dad gets hit by a bus while drunk. Haesong himself starts batting practice, since all he knows how to do is pitch fastballs. This series has a very manga-esque style, and each issue is a quick read.

UNTOUCHABLES #4 – as above. Haesong confronts Omji, who’s engaged to another man. That’s the end of the series, or at least the part of it that was translated into English. Lee Hyun-Se’s 공포의 외인구단 – unfortunately this title has no standard translation or transliteration – is one of the most renowned Korean comics, but these four issues don’t really convey what was so great about it. I wish someone would translate the rest of it.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES FCBD 2017 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Tom Waltz, [A] Cory Smith. The first half of this FCBD issue is a recap of past stories, then the Turtles fight a villain from Dimension X, and then they travel to Dimension X themselves. This is a boring and pointless comic, especially by comparison to Sophie Campbell’s current TMNT comics.

STAR-LORD #6 (Marvel, 2017) – “How We Die,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Kris Anka. Star-Lord goes to a funeral and then meets Old Man Logan and Rocket Raccoon. The highlight of the issue is when Rocket is drinking in a bar, and the bartender tells him to leave because he’s an unaccompanied animal.

On July 6, I received two orders of comics. One was a recent order from Atomic Avenue, and the other was a lot of old 2000 ADs, plus a few underground comics, that I had ordered in late June.

SAVAGE TALES #2 (Marvel, 1973) – “Red Nails,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Barry Windsor-Smith. This was about $8, more than I usually pay for any individual comic. But by ordering Savage Tales #2 and #3, I was able to get free shipping, and the shipping would have cost $16, so the two issues of Savage Tales were essentially free. Anyway, eight bucks is a bargain for a comic of such quality. “Red Nails” is BWS’s finest early work, and perhaps his best work ever. I read the reprint of this story in Conan Saga when I was in college, and I wasn’t impressed, but looking at it again, I’m stunned. BWS’s draftsmanship on this story is immaculate; he must have spent days on every page. His visual storytelling is also excellent. A high point is the half-page panel where Conan deals the final blow to the stegosaurus. Another highlight of the story is Valeria, who has a quite different personality from Conan’s other two major woman warrior characters, Red Sonja and Bêlit. Backup features in this issue include Gerry Conway and Gray Morrow’s “Dark Tomorrow,” which has good art but lousy writing; a reprinted Joe Maneely story; BWS’s adaptation of REH’s poem “Cimmeria”; and a reprint of Thomas and Bernie Wrightson’s Kull story from Creatures on the Loose #10.

2000 AD #99 (IPC, 1979) – This and the other progs prior to #127 are entitled 2000 AD AND STARLORD. Judge Dredd: “The Day the Law Died!”, [W] John Wagner, [A] Ron Smith. Dredd battles the insane Judge Cal, who has taken over the city with help from sone aliens. Angel: “Chapter 5 – The Escape!”, [W] Chris Stevens, [A] Carlos Pino. A cyborg astronaut barely survives reentry into Earth’s atmosphere, then captures a traitorous soldier. Carlos Pino’s artwork is fairly good. He was partners with the better-known Spanish artist Vicente Alcázar, and they both worked on Archie’s Red Circle comics. Ro-Busters: “Terra-Meks! Part Two: Mek-Mania!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Dave Gibbons. This is the highlight of the issue. It begins with an amazing double-page splash depicting a bunch of giant robots that are about to demolish an entire city. A robot named Charlie is tasked with saving the city. Flesh: “Book 2,” [W] Geoffrey Miller, [A] Carlos Pino. Some humans use a time machine to hunt prehistoric monsters. One of the monsters gets pulled forward into the present, and that’s where the Loch Ness monster came from. This story has little in common with the much later Flesh story that I just read.

2000 AD #100 (IPC, 1979) – My copy of this issue is missing a page, but it’s just a recap of previous Sam Slade stories. Ro-Busters: “Terra-Meks! Part 3: To the Death!”, as above. Charlie defeats the Terra-Meks in an epic battle. Judge Dredd: as above. Judge Cal goes further off the cliff, declaring happiness to be illegal. Meanwhile, Dredd fights a subhuman monster named Fergie. Robo-Hunter: untitled, [W] John Wagner, [A] Ian Gibson. Sam Slade and his one-year-old sidekick, Kidd, hang out with some talking appliances. Ian Gibson’s artwork in this story is extremely creative. He draws sentient machines very well. Dan Dare: “Servant of Evil!”, [W] Tom Tully, [A] Dave Gibbons. A dying Mekon robs Dan Dare of his memory so that Dare can save the Mekon’s life. Dave Gibbons is an excellent SF artist.

SCOOBY-DOO MYSTERY COMICS #24 (Gold Key, 1974) – “Mark of the Scarab” and “Monkey See, Scooby Doo,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Dan Spiegle. This was $5, not a bad price for a series which is quite hard to find. In the first story, Shaggy gets a job as an assistant to a comic book artist, but his boss is terrorized by a living superhero. This story is obviously quite metatextual, though I can’t tell if the comics creators in it are based on any real people. The second story is about an archaeologist who’s being terrorized by a fake gorilla spirit. Both these stories are very exciting and funny. Evanier and Spiegle’s Scooby Doo is as good in its own way as Crossfire, and it sucks that it’s so hard to find. Someone ought to reprint this entire run.

LAUGH IN THE DARK #1 (Last Gasp, 1971) – various stories, [E] uncredited. This was intended to be Bogeyman Comics #4. It starts with Spain’s “Wilfred Kreel, Seeker of the Strange,” a minimally plotted but impressively drawn piece of Lovecraftian horror. It includes a character named Immanuel Kant. Next are two pieces by Rory Hayes, perhaps the strangest and most schizophrenic cartoonist I’ve ever seen. I find his work very disturbing. Then there’s a jam story, and then Bill Griffith’s “The Toad on a Hill!”, starring a character who later appeared in Zippy. Griffith’s style here is crude and unrefined, as in Young Lust #1. Next are short pieces by Larry Fuller, S. Clay Wilson, George Metzger, and Michael McMillan, the last of whom is an important and underrated artist. Then there’s Justin Green’s “The Agony of Binky Brown,” which I may not have seen before. I don’t remember whether it’s in The Binky Brown Sampler. The issue ends with one of Kim Deitch’s earlier Waldo stories, “Blue But True,” in which Waldo escapes from death row and goes to the North Pole with Santa. Overall, this issue is a valued addition to my underground comics collection.

2000 AD #103 (IPC, 1979) – Judge Dredd: as above except [A] Garry Leach. Fergie is now on Dredd’s side, and they prepare for their final offensive against Cal. Robo-Hunter: as above. Another story full of weird and creatively drawn animated appliances. Dan Dare: “Servant of Evil! Part Four: Death in Space!”, as above. The Mekon sends a still-amnesiac Dan Dare to find the “Crystal of Life.” Despite his amnesia, Dare still has his principles, so when Dare witnesses some innocent prisoners being executed, the Mekon has to scramble to come up with an explanation. Ro-Busters: “The Fall and Rise of Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. The two main characters are in danger of being sent to the Robo-Knacker’s Yard. Kevin O’Neill’s style was not yet well-developed at this point.

2000 AD #119 (IPC, 1979) – Judge Dredd: untitled, [W] John Wagner, [A] Ron Smith. Walter the Wobot tells the story of how Dredd sent him to prison. The running joke in this story is that Walter keeps trying to make Dredd eat healthy food. Walter was a major comic relief character in Dredd’s early years, but was later phased out. Bill Savage: “Disaster 1990!”, [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Carlos Pino. London is destroyed by floods when an accidental nuclear explosion causes the Arctic ice cap to melt. Bill Savage, who previously appeared in “Invasion!” in progs 1 to 51, has to look for survivors. ABC Warriors: untitled, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. This is the first appearance of this long-running feature, although one of the protagonists, Hammer-Stein, had previously starred in Ro-Busters. In this story, Hammer-Stein engineers the death of his cruel, elitist human commander. The other two initial ABC Warriors are Joe Pineapples and Happy Shrapnel. Kevin O’Neill’s art in this story is much better and much closer to his mature style than in prog 103. Project Overkill: untitled, [W] Kelvin Gosnell, [A] Ian Gibson. A commercial airliner crashes near a secret government base. The plane’s pilot is knocked unconscious and wakes up two days later to find that the plane and passengers have vanished. The visual highlight of this story is the government soldiers’ black uniforms. Ian Gibson was quite good at spotting blacks. Dan Dare: as above. Dan has succeeded in finding the Crystal of Life and regaining his memory, but on returning to Earth, he finds that he’s been framed for treason. Tom Tully and Gerry Finley-Day’s writing seems somewhat old-fashioned relative to that of Mills and Wagner.

HERBIE #11 (ACG, 1965) – “Beware of the B-Bomb, Buster!” and “Christopher Columbus Popnecker!”, [W] Richard Hughes, [A] Ogden Whitney. In the first story, Herbie’s parents take him to Washington, DC, and the government hires him to recover the stolen plans to the B-Bomb, which is even more powerful than the A- or H-bombs. In the backup story, Herbie goes back in time to get Christopher Columbus’s autograph, which turns out to be an X. This story makes no attempt at historical accuracy; it seems very unlikely that Columbus was illiterate in 1492. One reason this series is so funny is because of Herbie’s utter lack of affect. The most absurd things happen all around him, and he barely cracks a smile.

NO DUCKS! #1 (Last Gasp, 1977) – various stories, [E] Tim Boxell. An underground comic whose stories are all about funny animals. I’m guessing that this comic came out of the fanzine Vootie, which is mentioned in Boxell’s dedication. I think I remember Reed Waller saying something like that in my interview with him. The main contributors to this issue are Boxell and Rich Larson, but this comic also includes some of Reed Waller’s earliest work, which is why I ordered it. My favorite story in the issue is Waller, Boxell and Jim Schumeister’s “Lone Wolf,” which guest-stars Mickey Mouse’s abandoned wife. Other stories in this issue are parodies of Moebius’s Arzach and Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards.

2000 AD #120 (IPC, 1979) – Judge Dredd: “The Forever Crimes,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Brian Bolland. Dr. Gold runs a suspended animation facility, but he’s secretly waking his clients up and pumping them for secrets that he can use to blackmail their children. Dredd uncovers Dr. Gold’s crimes and fatally wounds him in a gunfight. Dredd puts Gold in suspended animation, so that when science is able to cure his wounds, he can be resurrected to serve out his sentence. The story ends with the classic line “Even death is no escape from the law!” Even as early as 1979, Brian Bolland was an incredible artist. Bill Savage: as above. One of the survivors, a man who looks a lot like Hitler, sets himself up as a dictator. Savage uses an amphibious vehicle called a DUKW to defeat him. ABC Warriors: “The Retreat from Volgow!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Brendan McCarthy. Hammer-Stein defeats the Volgan robot Old Horney, and his mysterious new human officer sends him on a mission to recruit his fourth team member, Mongrol. McCarthy’s opening splash page is beautifully dark and gloomy, although it’s unfortunate that the rest of the story is in black and white. Project Overkill: as above. Captain Kenny Harris is framed for killing a cop, but escapes from prison. Dan Dare: as above. Dan and Sondar visit the space program headquarters try to clear their names, but get captured. According to this issue’s back cover, when Star Wars was being filmed in Tunisia, the local people worshiped C-3PO as a god. This is probably a made-up story, but it bears a curious resemblance to something that does happen in Return of the Jedi.

2000 AD #122 (IPC, 1979) – Judge Dredd: “Father Earth,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Brian Bolland. A villain named Father Earth, covered in flowers and resembling the mythological Green Man, leads an ecoterrorist crusade against Mega-City One. This story is full of more brilliant Bolland art. Bill Savage: as above. Bill befriends a scientist named Bamber, who will become his sidekick. His name may be a reference to TV presenter Bamber Gascoigne. ABC Warriors: “Mongrol,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. Hammer-Stein recruits Mongrol to the team by saving his life. Project Overkill: as above except [A] Jesus Redondo. Kenny discovers the existence of a mysterious conspiracy, created by the President but now independent of his control. This series reminds me vaguely of The Prisoner. Dan Dare: as above. Dare and Sondar manage to escape from captivity. Throughout this story arc, Dan Dare relies heavily on his over-powered “Cosmic Claw”.

SAVAGE TALES #3 (Marvel, 1974) – “The Lurker in the Catacombs,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Barry Windsor-Smith. Parts two and three of Red Nails are just as gorgeous and thrilling as part one. A subtle highlight of this story is Prince Olmec’s long, bushy beard. Imagine how long BWS must have spent drawing that. The classic moment in this story is Conan’s closing line “Crom, but it’s been a hell of a night!” The other major story in this issue is Stan Lee and John Romita’s “Fury of the Femizons,” an SF story about a 23rd-century female supremacist society. This story is embarrassing because of its outdated, “both-sides” approach to feminism.

2000 AD #123 (IPC, 1979) – Judge Dredd: as above. Father Earth invades Mega-City One. Meanwhile, a mayoral election is held, with candidates including a clown and a cat. According to a friend of a friend on Facebook, the newsanchor presenting the election is based on the late journalist Robin Day. This is the sort of reference that would have been obvious to British readers at the time, but that goes straight over my head. Bill Savage: as above except [E] Alan Willow. Bill Savage and Bamber encounter some convicts and also some Marines. The convicts kill the Marines and take their weapons hostage. Alan Willow’s art was very boring and not up to 2000 AD’s usual standards, and he only did a few other stories for 2000 AD. ABC Warriors: “The Order of Knights Martial,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Nill. The fifth ABC Warrior is Deadlock, the priest of an arcane cult. With his introduction, an element of horror and magic enters into the series. Project Overkill: as above. Harris visits a hospital to remove the bomb that Project Overkill has planted in him. Dan Dare: as above. Sondar realizes that he and Dare were betrayed by a shapeshifting alien called a Krulgan. Dare and Sondar visit the planet of Topsoil, similar to Mos Eisley, to look for the Krulgan.

2000 AD #124 (IPC, 1979) – Judge Dredd: as above except [A] Ron Smith. Father Earth tries to destroy Mega-City One’s geothermal power plant, and is stopped at the cost of many lives. Bill Savage: as above except [A] Carlos Pino. Savage saves the civilian survivors from the convicts, but the convicts pursue them in powerboats. ABC Warriors: “The Tournament of the Damned,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Brett Ewins. Hammer-Stein succeeds in defeating and recruiting Deadlock. Project Overkill: as above. Kenny finds the location of Project Overkill, but when he gets there in his plane, he’s attacked by four other planes. Dan Dare: as above. Dan and Sondar find the Krulgan, and they also encounter a three-headed singing girl. Dan again uses the Cosmic Claw as a get-out-of-fight-free card.

VAMPIRELLA #13 (Warren, 1971) – “Lurker in the Deep,” [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] José Gonzalez. Vampirella encounters an ocean-dwelling Lovecraftian monster. The only other notable artist in this issue is José Bea. His story, set in ancient Egypt, is visually attractive, but his characters look stiff and lifeless. Of the other stories, the best is Gerry Conway and Steve Hickman’s “From Death’s Dark Corner,” drawn in a very Wrightson-esque style. There’s also a story both written and drawn by Bill DuBay, in a style that’s a ripoff of Wally Wood.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #20 (Marvel, 1972) – “The Black Hound of Vengeance!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Barry Windsor-Smith. Conan infiltrates the city of Makkalet in a failed attempt to capture the Living Tarim. When he gets back to the Turanian army, he finds that his friend Fafnir has been murdered. In revenge, Conan slashes Prince Yezdigerd’s face. By this point in his run, BWS was finally getting good. Memorable scenes in this issue include the Tarim’s hall of mirrors, and the climactic scene where Conan attacks Yezdigerd.

INCREDIBLE HULK #245 (Marvel, 1980) – “When the Hulk Comes Raging!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Sal Buscema. Searching for Jarella’s body, the Hulk invades Gamma Base and battles a Mandroid-suited Glenn Talbot. I have read very few issues from this era of the Hulk, because I don’t like Mantlo’s writing. This issue has some surprisingly effective art, especially the opening two-page splash. But it also has some odd moments, like Rick Jones coincidentally running into Captain Marvel and Elysius at a concert.

INCREDIBLE HULK #105 (Marvel, 2007) – “Planet Hulk: Armageddon, Part II,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Carlo Pagulayan. Just as the Hulk and Caiera are about to lead Sakaar into a golden age, Caiera is killed in a massive explosion, for which Hulk holds the Avengers responsible. Caiera’s death was a waste of a good character.

SPIDER-MAN 2099 #6 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Will Sliney. I bought this series out of a misplaced sense of loyalty to PAD, even though I wasn’t reading it. This issue is a Spider-Verse crossover story in which Miguel O’Hara teams up with a steampunk Spider-Lady and a six-armed Peter Parker. This issue is an extremely quick and insubstantial read, and it reads as though PAD phoned it in.

ALL-NEW HAWKEYE #3 (Marvel, 2015) – “Wunderkammer Part 3,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Ramón Pérez. Clint and Kate rescue the three psychic kids from SHIELD. At the bottom of each page is a separate strip depicting Clint and Barney’s circus days, colored in a very different style from the main story. Jeff Lemire’s Hawkeye was a blatant imitation of Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye, and it was not a successful imitation because Lemire is a much less funny writer than Fraction. Lemire’s stories are funny sometimes, but only in a subtle and understated way.

2000 AD #125 (IPC, 1979) – Judge Dredd: “Father Earth Part 4,” as above. Father Earth gets himself killed by a giant carnivorous plant with a siren’s song. Bill Savage: as above. Savage defeats the criminals, although it’s not clear why they were pursuing him – just out of sadism, I guess. Then Savage picks up a radio signal from Oxford. This series reminds me a bit of The Eternaut because of its postapocalyptic setting, although The Eternaut is infinitely better. ABC Warriors: “The Bougainville Massacre,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. The sixth ABC Warrior is the Volgan general Blackblood, one of the most visually striking 2000 AD characters of all. Oddly, this story takes place on the Pacific island of Bougainville, but all the people there appear to be white. Project Overkill: as above. Kenny makes it into Project Overkill and meets his captured flight attendant. Dan Dare: as above. Dare and Sondar fight the Krulgan, but a woman named Morag kills it before Dare can use it to clear his name.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #59 (Marvel, 1980) – “The City of Skulls,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Mike Vosburg. For reasons I don’t quite understand, this issue adapts a story that was already adapted in Conan the Barbarian #37. Conan and his black companion Juma are hired to deliver a Turanian princess, Zosara, to her fiancé. Zosara is kidnapped by an evil wizard, and Conan saves her from being killed by a giant living statue, and also gets her pregnant. I can’t think of any other woman who Conan is explictly stated to have impregnated out of wedlock, except Ursla from Conan the Barbarian #48. This issue also includes Thomas and Chan’s adaptation of “Wolves Beyond the Border,” an REH story in which Conan is mentioned but doesn’t appear.

Yet another shipment of 2000 AD comics arrived on July 7. At this point I don’t intend to buy any more 2000 ADs until I finish the ones I already have.

2000 AD #582 (Fleetway, 1988) – Bad Company: “The Krool Heart,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Brett Ewins. This story has impressive artwork but is very confusing, something that can be said of much of Milligan’s work. It was hard to even follow the continuity from panel to panel. Strontium Dog: “The No-Go Job,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Simon Harrison. Johnny Alpha and his friends rescue a kidnapped Middenface McNulty and his dog. Simon Harrison’s art is excellent, but not well suited to black and white. His linework is often incomplete, and it’s hard to figure out what’s going on in each panel. Judge Dredd: “Full Mental Jacket Part 5,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Steve Parkhouse. This story focuses on some gangsters, one of whom is shot dead by his own mother. Tyranny Rex: “Under Foreign Skies,” [W] John Smith, [A] Steve Dillon. An aerial mall is eaten by a giant floating balloon creature, and Tyranny Rex, an anthropomorphic reptile girl, is enlisted to rescue a celebrity who was inside the mall. This story has nothing in common with the other Tyranny Rex story I’ve read. Sláine: “The Killing Field,” [W] Angie Kincaid, [A] Glenn Fabry. A three-page prologue to Sláine the King, showing Slaine standing over a heap of gruesome corpses.

2000 AD #583 (Fleetway, 1988) – Bad Company: as above. Another beautiful but confusing story, made more so by the fact that at this point, we don’t know who the narrator is, and the narrator doesn’t know either. Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny and his party continue their quest for a certain “Bishop.” Judge Dredd: “Bloodline,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Will Simpson. This story is deliberately confusing, but it seems to be about a judge named Kraken who’s Dredd’s clone brother. Tyranny Rex: as above. Rex enters the mall and encounters the celebrity and a bunch of his groupies. Overall, these two issues are much darker and more serious than the 1979 issues I’d been reading.

SPIDER-MAN 2099 #7 – as above. Another boring and lazily written issue, although it does include a cameo by Punisher 2099. This character is mildly interesting because he was co-created by Pat Mills.

2000 AD #126 (IPC, 1979) – Judge Dredd: untitled, [W] John Wagner, [A] John Cooper. Judge Dredd rescues some talking animals that are being used as (literal) guinea pigs to test a common cold virus. The best thing about this story is that it guest-stars a talking cat. On the page after this story is a piece of fan art by Shaky Kane, surely his earliest published work. Bill Savage: as above except [A] Alan Willow. Savage visits the London Zoo and battles an alligator and a bunch of piranhas. ABC Warriors: as above. Joe Pineapples recruits Blackblood by shooting him, even though the shot is almost impossible because Blackblood is using a child as a human shield. Blackblood’s face is really cool-looking. Project Overkill: as above. Harris sacrifices his life to destroy Project Overkill. Dan Dare: as above. Morag tells her story, and she joins Dare and Sondar to go look for the Mekon.

2000 AD #584 (IPC, 1988) – Bad Company: as above. Kano kills the alien that shares half of his mind. Strontium Dog: as above. Most of this installment is a fight scene. Judge Dredd: as above. Dredd meets Kraken, and it becomes clear that he has some kind of secret which the Chief Judge is keeping from Dredd. Tyranny Rex: as above. Rex rescues the captured celebrity, at the cost of involving him in a cross-dressing scandal.

RAT GOD #3 (Dark Horse, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Richard Corben. Clark saves Gharlena from being executed. This issue has some very effective and weird artwork. Corben is good at drawing things that look both three-dimensional and cartoony at once, and he can shift between the two modes very easily.

ARCHIE GIANT SERIES #556 (Archie, 1986) – “The Funny Man,” [W/A] Dexter Taylor, etc. I bought this issue because it has one Bob Bolling story, in which Little Archie’s mother forces him to take ballroom dancing lessons. This story is okay, but it’s not Bolliing’s best. The rest of the stories in the issue are by Taylor and are completely forgettable.

SPIDER-MAN 2099 #9 (Marvel, 2015) – as above. Miguel travels into an alternate future and encounters the Maestro. I know that PAD really likes this character and is proud of the story that introduces him, but none of his later Maestro stories have been anywhere close to the quality level of Future Imperfect.

2000 AD #127 (IPC, 1979) – With this issue the title changes to 2000 AD AND TORNADO, as 2000 AD adopts three strips from the short-lived comic Tornado. One of the three is a one-page gag strip, and I won’t mention it further. Judge Dredd: “Night of the Fog,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Brian Bolland. Dredd fights Sweeney Todd, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and other escapees from a robot wax museum. Again, Bolland’s artwork in this story is amazing. Blackhawk: untitled, [W] Alan Grant & Kelvin Gosnell, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. Blackhawk started out in Tornado as a historical fiction strip, but with the move to 2000 AD, it became a science fiction strip. A Nubian warrior, perhaps 2000 AD’s first black protagonist, is telpeorted into the future by aliens. Belardinelli’s artwork here isn’t as amazing as in the early chapters of Slaine. ABC Warriors: “Steelhorn,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Brendan McCarthy. The final ABC Warrior is the indestructible Steelhorn. In his first appearance, Steelhorn is melted down to slag, becoming the Mess, so McCarthy’s beautiful design for this character is only seen on a few pages. Wolfie Smith: “The Mind of Wolfie Smith,” [W] Tom Tully, [A] Ian Gibson. Wolfie Smith, a telepathic teenage boy, discovers the existence of another person with powers comparable to his. Bill Savage: as above except [E] Carlos Pino. Bill Savage confronts a war profiteer who’s selling essential supplies at high prices.

2000 AD #585 (Fleetway, 1988) – Bad Company: as above. The narrator reveals himself as both Danny Franks and the Krool Heart. The Krool take over Earth, and Kano and Mac, the two survivors of Bad Company, leave the planet. Strontium Dog: as above. Strontium Dog recovers the bishop he’s been sent to find, but the “bishop” proves to be a bag of burnt bones. Judge Dredd: “Bat-Mugger,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Alan Davis. A criminal disguises himself as a bat in order to mug people and get rich quick. Of course, Dredd eventually catches him. This story is hilarious, thanks largely to the criminal’s deadpan style of narration, and Davis’s art is excellent. He had already drawn a bunch of actual Batman comics by this time. Tribal Memories: untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Tony Wright. Some rich people travel from space to a depopulated Earth in order to search for the last surviving Maasai, who is also the last human who still has his own original personality.

RAT GOD #4 – as above. Clark Elwood has some more strange adventures. The second half of this issue takes place at a party where the décor and costumes are Mesoamerican-themed. Corben’s artwork and coloring in this sequence are stunnig.

SWEET TOOTH #28 (Vertigo, 2012) – “The Taxidermist Part 3 of 3: Apocalypse!”, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Matt Kindt. In the 1910s, some white explorers murder an entire village of Alaska Natives in order to obtain a child who carries the animal plague. They hide the child away in a cave, but on their trip back to civilization, they all die of the plague, and good riddance. I assume the purpose of this interpolated story is to explain where the plague came from.

SIN CITY: THE BIG FAT KILL #1 (Dark Horse, 1994) – untitled, [W/A] Frank Miller. This series’ protagonist is named Dwight. A criminal named Jackie-boy invades his girlfriend’s home with a bunch of his friends. Dwight has to get rid of Jackie without being caught by the police himself. This comic feels rather misogynistic, like much of Frank Miller’s work, and it has way too much text in each word balloon. Also, Sin City feels like a far less realistic crime comic than Criminal or even Fell. I have little interest in reading more Sin City.

THE SPECTRE #61 (DC, 1998) – “The Face of God,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Tom Mandrake. The Spectre meets God, who appears to have gone nuts. Then he has a flashback to his own father’s troubled childhood. Then, in a discussion with Jim Corrigan, Father Cramer raises the possibility that it wasn’t really God who the Spectre met. This is the next-to-last issue. Tom Mandrake’s art here, like that of many of his Kubert School classmates, is very Kubert-esque.

SPIDER-MAN 2099 #10 (Marvel, 2015) – as above. With the help of Dr. Strange 2099, Miguel uses Dr. Doom’s time machine to get back to the 21st century. The best part of this issue is identifying all the superhero gear in the Maestro’s gallery.

IRON MAN #71 (Marvel, 1974) – “Battle: Tooth and Yellow Claw!”, [W] Mike Friedrich, [A] George Tuska. Tony fights the Yellow Claw, who’s participating in the Black Lama’s villain contest. There’s also a subplot about Roxanne Gilbert. This issue is as boring as you’d expect from its creative team.

DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS #22 (DC, 2017) – “Mechanical Gods,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Mirka Andolfo et al. The protagonists go on a mission to the country of Zambesi. I can’t believe I have at least 10 more issues of this series to get through. This comic is the poster child for why I shouldn’t keep buying comics that I’m not reading.

UNBELIEVABLE GWENPOOL #13 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Christopher Hastings, [A] Atli Firmansyah & GuriHiru. Gwenpool and Deadpool team up to escape from Arcade’s RPG dungeon. As one might expect, this issue includes a lot of fourth-wall breaking. It’s less bad than I expected.

2000 AD #128 (Fleetway, 1979) – “Battle of the Black Atlantic,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ron Smith. While making a random unscheduled investigation of one Mr. Sweet’s home, Dredd discovers that Sweet isn’t guilty of any crime at all. This itself makes Dredd suspicious, and he invetigates further and discovers Sweet to be a Sov agent. Dredd pursues Sweet onto a ship in international waters. The first part of this story, with the random “crime blitz,” shows the extent to which Mega-City One is a dictatorial police state. Blackhawk: as above. Blackhawk fights a giant sasquatch. ABC Warriors: as above. The Mess becomes the seventh ABC Warrior, and also the ABC Warriors discover that the “demob camp” for robots is actually a slaughterhouse. At the end, we finally meet the ABC Warriors’ human boss. Wolfie Smith: as above. Wolfie investigates the mysterious other psychic, who has just used his powers to make a man commit suicide. Bill Savage: as above. In a scene reminiscent of the end of “This Man… This Monster,” the war profiteer sacrifices his life to save the other survivors from being killed by a whirlpool.

2000 AD #1001 (Fleetway, 1996) – Slaine: “The Treasures of Britain,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Dermot Power. Most of this story is a retelling of Arthur and Mordred’s final confrontation at the Battle of Camlann. Dermot Power’s painted art is excellent. Black Light: “Survivor Syndrome,” [W] Dan Abnett & Steve White, [A] John Burns. A woman named Emma Paris is a victim of a chemical weapon in Kurdistan. Later we meet Emma again, now with a horribly scarred face. Durham Red: “Night of the Hunters Part 2,” [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Mark Harrison. The vampiress Durham Red battles some bounty hunters who are competing to kill her. Peter Hogan wrote this story under the name Alan Smithee, apparently because his work was rewritten without his consent. Outlaw: “Part 2,” [W] Paul Neal, [A] S.B. Davis. A black gunfighter participates in the second edition of the “Deadliest Man Alive” contest in order to save his kidnapped daughter. Judge Dredd: “Dead Reckoning Part 2,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Greg Staples. Judge Death escapes from prison and possesses a man with an elderly mother. Both these last two stories have very good art. Greg Staples is not the same as Paul Staples from prog 947.

FINALS #3 (Vertigo, 1999) – untitled, [W] Will Pfeifer, [A] Jill Thompson. The students all go home for Thanksgiving, and then return to campus to work on their respective senior projects. Mayhem ensues. The issue ends with a standoff between Nancy’s cult and the police. This is another very funny issue.

JONAH HEX #64 (DC, 1983) – “The Pearl!”, [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Dick Ayers. In San Francisco, Jonah encounters a girl named Sharon who claims to have stolen a priceless pearl from her wealthy father. Some criminals kidnap Sharon to force her to reveal where the pearl is. It turns out that the pearl never existed and Sharon was making it up. Mike Fleisher was much more suited to this series than to 2000 AD. A problematic aspect of this issue is that Jonah initially turns down Sharon’s advances because of her young age (she claims to be 18, but we know she’s a liar). However, later he does sleep with her.

SPIDER-MAN 2099 #11 (Marvel, 2015) – as above. Back in the 20th century, Miguel is reunited with his love interest and with Peter Parker. This issue has better dialogue than the previous few issues.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s