July reviews

Trying to write reviews while listening to a Comic-Con panel. This will probably not work.

2000 AD #129 (IPC, 1979) – Judge Dredd: “Battle of the Black Atlantic Part 2,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ron Smith. Dredd defeats the Sov troops and arrests their whole ship. This is the highlight of the issue. Tharg: “A Day in the Life of the Mighty Tharg!”, [W] unknown (credited to Tharg the Mighty), [A] Carlos Ezquerra. As the title indicates. This anniversary story replaces Blackhawk this week. It’s pretty cute. ABC Warriors: “Mars! The Devil Planet!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. Now that the ABC Warriors team is assembled, their first mission is to resolve a war between Martian food companies. This story is well-drawn, but coming after the story of the team’s founding, it’s an anticlimax. Wolfie Smith: “The Mind of Wolfie Smith,” [W] Tom Tully, [A] Ian Gibson. Wolfie battles another psychic named Hobb. This story is a bit like X-Men #117. Bill Savage: “Disaster 1990,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Alan Willow. Bill and Bamber fight some hicks, then they finally get to Oxford where they’re rendered unconscious by a mysterious mist.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #226 (DC, 1984) – “Hell on Earth!”, [W] Joey Cavalieri, [A] Chuck Patton. The Justice League fights some generic demons. A lousy issue by a lousy creative team.

New comics received on July 11:

STRANGE ACADEMY #2 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. It’s nice to see this series again. It’s basically Jason Aaron’s Wolverine and the X-Men except with magic instead of mutant powers. But that’s not a bad thing because Wolverine and the X-Men was really fun, and so is this comic. The characters aren’t particularly well-defined yet, but I expect that will change.

ASH & THORN #2 (Ahoy, 2020) – untitled, [W] Mariah McCourt, [A] Soo Lee. This is good, and important. But it could be funnier, and the art could be better. Soo Lee’s art makes me wish that Jill Thompson was doing the interiors as well as the covers. I believe I saw both Soo Lee and Mariah McCourt on Comic-Con at Home panels.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #8 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. The cop dude tries to kidnap little Bian, but Erica prevents him. Tommy gets abducted by baby monsters. Kind of a forgettable issue.

EMPYRE: FANTASTIC FOUR #0 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Dan Slott, [A] R.B. Silva & Sean Izaakse. In her Casino Cosmico, the Profiteer, sister of the Grandmaster, is staging battles betweeen a Kree and a Skrull warrior. The twist is that the two “warriors” are young children. The FF arrive at the Casino Cosmico while investigating something else, and they rescue the two kids and take them back to Earth. I don’t care about the Arena crossover, but this was a really entertaining issue. It’s also a sequel to Fantastic Four Annual #18.

ALIENATED #4 (Boom!, 2020) – ‘Meet Thy Maker,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Chris Wildgoose. It’s Samir’s turn to experiment with Chip (the alien). He uses it to locate and confront his deadbeat father. We learn that Samir wrongly blames himself for his father’s departure; Samir thinks he drove his father away through his own failure to be a proper Muslim and Pakistani, and has been self-harming as a result. Meanwhile, Samuel learns that he lost the YouTube contest. This issue includes the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Alienated is one of Si Spurrier’s best works yet, along with Coda and Angelic.

ADVENTUREMAN #2 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Terry Dodson. Claire goes to the address on the new Adventureman novel and finds a giant building no one else can see, filled with bizarre technology. This issue is much shorter than #1, and thus less tedious to read. Claire is an engaging character, but she seems like a rather irresponsible and carefree parent. Terry Dodson’s art is excellent, but as I’ve observed before, it seems inhumanly slick and polished.

FINGER GUNS #3 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Justin Richards, [A] Val Halvorson. The two kids continue experimenting with their powers, and the girl’s father continues to abuse her mother. This issue is just average, and as a depiction of domestic abuse, this comic is inferior to Middlewest.

SABRINA: SOMETHING WICKED #2 (Archie, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Veronica Fish & Andy Fish. Della teaches Sabrina to play cards, and then Sabrina casts a spell that has some unintended consequences. I don’t remember much about this issue.

BITTER ROOT #9 (Image, 2020) – “Rage and Redemption Part Four,” [W] David F. Walker & Chuck Brown, [A] Sanford Greene. This series just won the Eisner for Best Continuing Series. I voted for Crowded and I expected Immortal Hulk to win, but Bitter Root is a deserving winner, especially at the present cultural moment. This issue continues a bunch of different plotlines, and we meet one of the Chinatown monsters, which takes the form of a lion dance costume. At the end of the issue, Walter Sylvester, the main villain of the storyline, gets chased into a sundown town. This weekend I watched a Comic-Con panel where either Walker or Greene discussed the imp creatures that show up throughout this series.

NO ONE’S ROSE #3 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Zac Thompson & Emily Horn, [A] Alberto Albuquerque. The sister is browbeaten into making a pro-government broadcast, while the brother continues to foment rebellion. This series has a fairly conventional sibling-against-sibling plot, but its plant-based technology is unique, and Alberto Albuquerque’s art is excellent.

MONEY SHOT #6 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Sarah Beattie, [A] Rebekah Isaacs. Part of this issue is about an alien warrior who serves an evil colonialist empire. And she’s been ordered to breed with another high-class alien, even though she loves one of her own subordinates. Meanwhile, the Money Shot crew is looking for their next mission, and their leader, Christine Ocampo, seems to have a sexually transmitted disease. The highlight of this issue is Christine’s cat, who uses a cat-to-human translator to say things like ”Quiet. Sleeping” and “No! No touch!”

THE CIMMERIAN: RED NAILS #2 (Ablaze, 2020) – “Red Nails Part 2,” [W] Regis Hautière, [A] Olivier Vatine & Didier Cassegrain. I didn’t like the first Cimmerian album, and I wasn’t going to read the second one, but I ordered this issue by mistake. This is a comic that didn’t need to exist. Thomas and BWS’s adaptation of “Red Nails” is an all-time classic, and probably the best Conan comic ever. This new adaptation adds nothing that’s not in the Thomas-BWS version, except that the artists make Xuchotl look more like a Mesoamerican city.

DOOM PATROL: WEIGHT OF THE WORLDS #7 (DC, 2020) – “Fixed,” [W] Gerard Way & Jeremy Lambert, [A] Nick Derington. Casey revives Crazy Jane so she can deal with the insane Robotman. Jane turns Robotman into a robot baby, and Casey returns to the pages of her comic book. Way and Derington’s Doom Patrol was one of the best DC comics of the 2010s, but it was crippled by chronic lateness.

LOIS LANE #12 (DC, 2020) – “Enemy of the People Part 12,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Mike Perkins. This issue wraps up the plot of the series, but I don’t understand that plot anymore, nor do I care about it. Lois Lane started out promisingly but turned into a huge disappointment. Its plot was hard to follow, and Lois was too dependent on Superman; she didn’t have enough agency of her own.

GREEN LANTERN SEASON TWO #5 (DC, 2020) – “Wanted: Hyperman Dead or Alive!”, [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. In order to avenge the murder of a Green Lantern, Hal fights an evil version of Superman and his evil family. This issue’s art style is an obvious homage to Kirby. So far, Season Two of Green Lantern has been worse than Season One due to its lack of a clear plot. Season One was tied together by the Blackstars story arc, but I’m not sure what Season Two is supposed to be about.

SPIDER-MAN 2099 #12 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Will Sliney. Miguel fights his girlfriend, who’s been turned into a giant mutant wasp. Thankfully this is the final issue. This series was not one of PAD’s better works.

2000 AD #587 (Fleetway, 1988) – Nemesis: “Deathbringer,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] John Hicklenton. This story has amazing art, but I don’t understand its plot. Nemesis in general is very confusing; it seems to involve a lot of time travel and alternate realities. Strontium Dog: “The No-Go Job Part 8,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Simon Harrison. Sagan betrays Johnny Alpha and Middenface McNulty (who has an awesome name) and kills McNulty’s dog. The “bones” that served as this storyline’s McGuffin are revealed as belonging to “the magician Malak Brood.” Dredd: “The Brainstem Man,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Barry Kitson. Dredd fights a mutated lizard man. This story is inconsequential, though its art is good. Tribal Memories: “Part Three,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Tony Wright. The protagonist and the last surviving Maasai return to the protagonist’s home planet. This story depicts the Maasai in a problematic way, implying that they represent the primal, original essence of humanity.

DRYAD #3 (Oni, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kurtis Wiebe, [A] Justin Osterling. The parents’ village is invaded by soldiers with ray guns, and we now realize that this series is SF, not fantasy; the first issue took place in a fantasy enclave within an SF world. I have doubts about Kurtis Wiebe’s writing, but I’m enjoying this series enough to continue reading it.

VAGRANT QUEEN: A PLANET CALLED DOOM #4 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Jason Smith. It’s been so long since issue 3 that I barely remember what’s going on in this series. In this issue, Ellida is fleeing from the main villain, Brother John, and Ellida’s girlfriend is looking for her. This whole miniseries has been kind of underwhelming.

SUPERMAN #405 (DC, 1985) – “The Mystery of the Super-Batman!”, [W] Craig Boldman, [A] Alex Saviuk. Superman grows horns because of some cursed pipes of Pan. To conceal the horns, Superman disguises himself as Batman. This is quite a funny story. The backup story, by Rozakis and Schaffenberger, is about a little boy who doesn’t believe Superman exists. This idea had already been used in a 1954 TV episode, and later in Superman #96 the following year.

2000 AD #130 (IPC, 1979)- Dredd: “The Testimonial of Lips Lazarus,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Dave Gibbons. Dredd has to protect a mob informant who’s lost his body and consists only of a head. This story is funny, but the art looks more like Ron Smith than Gibbons. Blackhawk: untitled, [W] Alan Grant, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. Blackhawk and Ursa compete in a deadly obstacle course. Blackhawk saves Ursa’s life, against the orders of their trainer Battak. ABC Warriors: “Cyboons,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Dave Gibbons. The ABC Warriors defend a herd of Martian “soya bean cows” from an army of intelligent baboons. This story is ridiculous, and it clashes with the more serious tone of the previous ABC Warriors stories. Wolfie Smith: “The Mind of Wolfie Smith,” [W] Tom Tully, [A] Ian Gibson. Wolfie defeats Hobb and heads off to his next adventure. Bill Savage: “Disaster 1990!”, [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Carlos Pino. Bill wakes up in Oxford, which is run by a bunch of cliquey, elitist professors. Oxford is invaded by a flock of birds – yes, birds. By this point I was getting rather tired of “Disaster 1990.”

RAT GOD #5 (Dark Horse, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Richard Corben. Clark and Kito escape from Lame Dog and witness a battle between the titular rat god and a giant panther. The old mad scientist shows up and kills Clark, but he and the rat god get blown up, and Kito escapes and becomes the ancestor of the series’ original narrator. This miniseries’ plot is not without flaws, but Corben’s art is amazing. The rat/panther battle in this issue is particularly epic.

MS. TREE #15 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1985) – “Skin Deep Chapter Three,” [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. This storyline is based on the 1984 Miss America scandal, when Vanessa Williams was voted the first black Miss America, but had to resign when Penthouse announced plans to publish nude photographs of her. In “Skin Deep,” a photographer has been murdered after obtaining nude pictures of Veronica Valer (Williams), the new “All-American Miss” (Miss America). Another of the suspects is “Harry Rynd,” i.e. Larry Flynt. Ms. Tree eventually discovers that the culprit is an obsessive All-American Miss collector who wanted to protect the pageant’s reputation. Part of the fun of this issue is identifying the real-world basis of its story and characters.

IRON MAN #251 (Marvel, 1989) – “Wrecked Him? He Nearly Killed Him!”, [W] Dwayne McDuffie, [A] Herb Trimpe. An Acts of Vengeance crossover in which Iron Man fights the Wrecker. Tony beats the Wrecker, but another villain, Chemistro, shows up to finish Tony off. The scenes with Chemistro and his amputee, ex-con brother are the only interesting things about this issue.

2000 AD #589 (Fleetway, 1988) – Starting with this issue the covers are printed on glossy paper instead of newsprint, and there are also several more color pages. Zenith: “Phase II Prologue: Down Under,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. This prologue takes place in a different universe from the main story, and depicts a fight between two dinosaurs. The prologue doesn’t have anything to do with the main plot of Phase II. Nemesis: as above. Again, this story has excellent art, but I don’t understand what it’s about. Dredd: ‘Twister Part Two: Somewhere… Over the Radzone,” [A] John Wagner, [A] John Ridgway. Another “Dredd in Oz” story, except it’s set in L. Frank Baum’s Oz, not Australia. It’s as funny as you’d expect. It even takes advantage of the fact that 2000 AD only included a few color pages at this time. Dredd’s arrival in Oz takes place on the first color page, so when the twister drops him off in Oz, the world changes from black and white to color, just like in the movie. Slaine: “Slaine the King,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Glenn Fabry. Slaine defeats an army of Fomorians. This story includes a classic nearly-full-page depiction of Slaine’s warp spasm ( Rogue Trooper: “Through the Eyes of a Gun,” [W/A] Steve Dillon. As indicated by the title, this story is mostly about Rogue’s gun, Gunnar.

RAGEMOOR #1 (Dark Horse, 2012) – untitled, [W] Jan Strnad, [A] Richard Corben. Ragemoor is an ancient castle with a dark history of human sacrifice. The castle’s current inhabitants are the insane owner, Machlan,  and his son Humbert. Machlan’s brother tries to gain control of the castle, but the castle comes to life to foil his plot. Despite being black and white, this series is just as beautiful as Rat God. Its plot has obvious similarities to Gormenghast, The Fall of the House of Usher, etc.

RIO AT BAY #1 (Dark Horse, 1992) – “Hot Lead for Jonny Hardluck,” [W/A] Doug Wildey. A young boy wins a priceless gold nugget in a poker game with some corrupt mine owners. The mine owners try to kill the boy and get the nugget back, and Rio has to save him. Rio at Bay is some of Doug Wildey’s finest work. His action sequences are beautiful, and his backgrounds are detailed and immersive. It’s a pity that he produced so few comics after his animation career began.

2000 AD #131 (IPC, 1979) – “Sob Story,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ron Smith. Judge Dredd finds a dead body in a “mo-pad” – a motor home that’s permanently on autopilot. The victim is a former contestant on a reality show where viewers donate money to the person with the saddest sob story. There are some very funny concepts in this story. Blackhawk: as above. Blackhawk fights Battak in the arena and wins, but refuses to kill him. Ursa becomes Blackhawk’s official sidekick. ABC Warriors: as above. The ABC Warriors resolve the conflict in favor of the Cyboons, but the Cyboon chief’s educated son is killed. Again, this story is rather silly. Wolfie Smith: “Night of the Carnivore,” [W] Tom Tully, [A] Eduardo Vaño. Wolfie visits the set of a horror movie, which is being filmed on location next to some creepy old standing stones. Vaño uses the scratchy, mixed-media style associated with other Spanish artists like José Ortiz and Vicente Alcazar. Bill Savage: as above. Savage tracks down a villain who’s raising killer waterfowl. This story is also quite silly, and not on purpose.

ALL-NEW X-FACTOR #13 (Marvel, 2014) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Pop Mhan. Quicksilver takes Luna and Georgia Dakei to Colonial Williamsburg. Gorgon – who is now sleeping with Pietro’s ex-wife Crystal – shows up to recover Luna, claiming that Pietro kidnapped her. A fight starts, and Crystal herself arrives to resolve it. There are also a bunch of other subplots. I haven’t read much of PAD’s second run on X-Factor, but it’s a lot better than his second run on Spider-Man 2099.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #38 (Marvel, 1975) – “Night of the Griffin,” [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Sal Buscema. Spider-Man and the Beast team up to fight the Griffin. This issue was the first time these two characters teamed up, but otherwise it’s completely uninteresting. That’s too bad because both its protagonists are famous for their witty dialogue.

PRETTY DEADLY #6 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Emma Rios. An old woman is dying, and her descendants try to keep Death away from her until her son can return from World War I. This issue at least has a coherent plot, unlike most issues of Pretty Deadly, but I still hate this series.

SPIDER-MAN 2099 #3 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Will Sliney. Miguel fights a villain named Doctor Cronos. This is another pointless issue, and thankfully it was the last one I ordered.

THE WAKE #4 (Vertigo, 2013) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Sean Murphy. The protagonists manage to escape from underwater zombies by deafening them with a really loud drill. But then an even bigger zombie appears. This issue isn’t as visually stunning as earlier issues of The Wake, but it’s still well-drawn. I should point out here that Sean Gordon Murphy has exhibited a pattern of problematic behavior, and therefore I don’t want to support his work.

INCREDIBLE HULK #99 (Marvel, 2006) – “Anarchy Part IV,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Aaron Lopresti. The Hulk and Caiera fight, but then Caiera’s boss, the Red King, drops a bomb on her in a futile attempt to kill the Hulk. Caiera and the Hulk decide to team up against the Red King, who they now realize is the real enemy. This issue climaxes in a shocking sequence where Caiera is hit by the bomb while holding a small child, and the child’s body crumbles to dust while Caiera is unhurt. Greg Pak was probably the best Hulk writer between PAD and Al Ewing.

ELFQUEST: THE FINAL QUEST #9 (Dark Horse, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Wendy Pini, [W] Richard Pini. The elves fight some trolls underground, and there are various other subplots. This whole series was boring and aimless and was of little interest to a casual Elfquest fan like me.

EPIC ILLUSTRATED #9 (Marvel, 1981) – various stories, [E] Archie Goodwin. I bought a bunch of these at a book sale back when I lived in Gainesville, but I’ve only read a few of them. This issue starts with the conclusion of Jim Starlin’s “Metamorphosis Odyssey,” the story that introduced Dreadstar. I have mixed feelings about most of Starlin’s post-‘70s work, but Metamorphosis Odyssey is interesting and has some nice painted art, and it makes me want to read more Dreadstar. Charles Vess’s “Children of the Stars” has gorgeous draftsmanship but a thin plot. The protagonists’ names, Bran and Bronwen, come from the Mabinogion, but otherwise Vess’s story is original. The high point of the issue is part one of a new Weirdworld story by Doug Moench and John Buscema. After their adventures in Marvel Super Special, Tyndall and Velanna are living in a village of dwarves, but Velanna is sick of constant domestic work and is getting ready to dump Tyndall. Luckily, they both get thrust into another epic quest. I love Weirdworld, and I’m excited to discover that there’s another Weirdworld story I haven’t read. Next is a story by Lee Marrs about a science-fictional marriage counseling exercise. This story is a lot like her work in Star*Reach. Finally, there’s a wordless story by P. Craig Russell. Overall this is an impressive issue.

2000 AD #590 (Fleetway, 1990) – Zenith: “Phase II/1: Many Happy Returns,” as above. Zenith fights a robot that’s later revealed to be his father. I already read this story earlier this year, in an American reprint. This story quotes the Smiths’ song “The Queen is Dead.” Dredd: “The Mean Machine!”, [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. A series of newspaper strip reprints, in which Dredd fights Mean Machine, the last surviving member of the Angel Gang. Nemesis: as above. I still don’t undertsand this story, although John Hicklenton’s artwork is stunning. Dredd: “Twister Part 3: Follow the Yellow Brick Road,” as above. Dredd meets the Scarecrow and the Tin Man. This story is interrupted by a reprint of Alan Moore’s “The Big Clock” from prog 315, and after that there’s another new Future Shock. Slaine: as above. A fun story, but it’s only three pages. On the back cover there’s a gallery of Slaine and his chief warriors.

STAR SLAMMERS #2 (IDW, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] Walt Simonson. Little Ethon sacrifices his life to allow his comrades to escape, but now the galactic powers that be are aware of the Star Slammers’ existence. This series is one of Walt’s major works; its writing and art are both excellent.

TRUTH: RED, WHITE AND BLACK #2 (Marvel, 2003) – “The Basics,” [W] Robert Morales, [A] Kyle Baker. Isaiah Bradley learns he’s become a father, but then his unit’s commander is murdered in cold blood by a higher-ranking officer, and he and his entire unit are put on trucks and taken who knows where. This issue draws some disturbing parallels between the conduct of the US Army and that of the Nazis.

SUPERMAN #66 (DC, 1992) – “Our Army at War,” [W/A] Dan Jurgens. In the conclusion of Panic in the Sky, a bunch of superheroes fight Brainiac in Warworld. Panic in the Sky was a rather pointless crossover, just like Jurgens’s next major crossover, Zero Hour, and these stories together suggest that Jurgens was an overrated writer. This issue shows Metron fighting on the side of the superheroes. That seems wrong since Metron has no principles or allegiances other than his desire for knowledge.

DREADSTAR #29 (First, 1987) – “Mindwar,” [W/A] Jim Starlin. Willow and Oedi battle a telepathic villain named Monalo in his underground lair. This issue has some very effective storytelling. Dreadstar himself and his other companions only appear at the end of the issue.

SHADE THE CHANGING MAN #21 (DC, 1992) – “Off the Road Part 1 of 5,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Chris Bachalo. Shade, Lenny and Kathy camp out in a junkyard. Shade tries to sleep with Kathy but can’t finish, so he allows his more aggressive split personality, Hades, to take over his body. Issue 26, reviewed below, gives us a different perspective on what happened in this issue.

LITTLE ARCHIE #161 (Archie, 1980) – “A Twist of Fate,” [W/A] Dexter Taylor, etc. The Bob Bolling story in this issue is “Falcons Don’t Forget.” The South Side Serpents try to shoot a mother falcon and her baby, and Little Archie and Dilton use a model airplane to save the birds. This story has a cute plot, and it demonstrates Bolling’s effective action sequences and his realistic drawings of animals.

NEXT MEN #24 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “Power 2 of 4,” [W/A] John Byrne. This issue’s epigraph is a Shakespeare quotation which Byrne attributes to Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford. I already had enough reasons to dislike John Byrne, but I have an even lower opinion of him now that I know he subscribes to the Oxonian conspiracy theory. Besides that, the issue starts with a dumb metatextual sequence where Byrne, Mignola and another artist confront their editor (named Ben Horowitz, perhaps in reference to Bob Harras). Later in the issue there’s a cameo appearance by Concrete, but he doesn’t act like Concrete. I’m not sure which of the characters in this issue are the actual Next Men.

JONAH HEX: TWO-GUN MOJO #3 (Vertigo, 1993) – “The Resurrectionist,” [W] Joe R. Lansdale, [A] Tim Truman. Jonah encounters Doc Williams, a snake oil salesman who speaks in a font based on old posters, like P.T. Bridgeport in Pogo. Doc Williams has been resurrecting dead people by curing them in pickle barrels, and he captures Jonah and subjects him to the same treatment. This is a very funny series; it takes the raucous humor of the original Jonah Hex comics and turns it up to 11.

New comics received on July 16:

FANTASTIC FOUR #21 (Marvel, 2020) – “Living History,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Paco Medina w/ Sean Izaakse. The adult FF members go off to participate in the Empire crossover, leaving Franklin and Valeria to babysit the Kree and Skrull kids, Jo-Venn and N’Kalla. Franklin and Val recruit a replacment Fantatsic Four to help defuse the fight between the two kids, but this results in N’Kalla getting stabbed by Wolverine. This is another really fun issue, and it’s a relief that this series is back.

ONCE AND FUTURE #9 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. Duncan manages to survive being attacked by Beowulf. Gran returns to the old folks’ home. Grendel shows up at the end of the issue. So far this storyline has been less impressive than the first one. I think Beowulf ought to speak in alliterative verse.

LUDOCRATS #3 (Image, 2020) – “In Which Interrogation Becomes Terrible Seduction,” [W] Kieron Gillen & Jim Rossignol, [A] Jeff Stokely. Otto and Gratty consummate their love, then they investigate what the Hyper-Pope is up to. Highlights of this issue include the tentacled glowing creature in a police hat, and the pedantic dude who appears to provide exposition. Ludocrats continues to be the best new comic of the year.

STRANGE ADVENTURES #3 (DC, 2020) – “Good Guys and Bad Guys,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads & Doc Shaner. In flashback, Adam fights a lizard dude in an arena. In the present, Adam and Alanna’s conflicts with the Justice League continue. I’m still kind of confused as to where this story is going. Adam and Alanna don’t act like parents who have recently lost a child. This series is better than Heroes in Crisis, but it ought to be the best Alanna Strange story ever, and so far it isn’t. Tom King was in the news this weekend because of his denunciation of Jae Lee. His handling of the situation could be criticized, but I obviously think he’s right to take an aggressive anti-C*micsg*te stance, and it’s important that such an influential figure in the industry is publicly coming out on the correct side.

CONAN: BATTLE FOR THE SERPENT CROWN #3 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Luke Ross. Conan and Nyla encounter Black Panther in Wakanda. The Black Panther guest appearance is a bit unnecessary, but Saladin writes both these characters well.  Saladin earned his first recognition with a sword-and-sorcery novel, and he would be an ideal writer for the regular Conan series.

IMMORTAL HULK #35 (Marvel, 2020) – “A Certain Amount of Light,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Mike Hawthorne. A rather low-intensity issue. The main events are that the Savage Hulk talks with Banner inside their mind, and then he helps rebuild a house. The issue ends with the Hulk blowing up, so there’s more excitement on the way. This issue includes a helpful list of all the Hulk personalities. As mentioned above, I was surprised that this series didn’t win an Eisner for Best Continuing Series.

SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #12 (DC, 2020) – “Finally!”, [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Steve Lieber. Jimmy foils Julian’s plot and becomes the new publisher of the Daily Planet. This is a satisfying conclusion, though I still want to reread the series to see how all the plot threads fit together. Overall this was an excellent miniseries, despite its sometimes overly complicatd plot.

GIDEON FALLS #23 (Image, 2020) – “Wicked Worlds Part 2 of 5: Neon Bible,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. Father Fred discovers that he can sell his blood for more than enough money to see the bishop, but the “bishop” is actually a cybersex program. Fred befriends a poor young girl, and then the Black Barn chases them both into a steampunk version of Gideon Falls. This issue was far easier to follow than #22.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #106 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell & Ronda Pattison, [A] Nelson Daniel. It’s too bad this issue isn’t drawn by Sophie Campbell, but just like Jem and the Holograms, TMNT is so well-written that I’m willing to continue reading it despite the lack of Campbell’s artwork. This issue, mutant children are disappearing, and Leonardo refuses to believe little Lita when she claims that “the Slithery” is responsible. But the Slithery is real, and Lita herself becomes its next victim.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #17 (Marvel, 2020) – “Game Night,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Francesco Manna. Carol invites Kamala Khan to the regular superhero poker game, only to discover that gambling is against Kamala’s religion. To salvage the situation, Carol, Kamala and friends go to an escape room instead. Of course the escape room is a trap created by a supervillain. This is easily Kelly’s best issue of Captain Marvel. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a throwback to other classic comics like Marvel Two-in-One #51. However, while this issue is fun, it’s mostly fun because of the other characters and not Carol herself. Kelly’s version of Carol is still not interesting enough to carry the entire series.

GIANT-SIZE X-MEN: MAGNETO #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “Wait & See,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Ramón Pérez. Magneto negotiates with Namor for the rights to a vacant island, and they fight some undersea enemies together. This issue is okay, but it’s too decompressed. It includes a lot of silent panels that do nothing but pad the length of the story.

FAMILY TREE #7 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Phil Hester. This issue barely advances the plot at all. I’m not yet ready to give up on this series, but I’m starting to think about doing so.

HEIST #6 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Arjuna Susini. Reven manipulates the minds of everyone on the planet, ordering them to kill Glane Breld. This is another fun issue. I was surprised that this wasn’t the last issue. I had assumed Heist was a six-issue miniseries.

THE OLD GUARD: FORCE MULTIPLIED #5 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Leandro Fernandez. Noriko tells Nile about Andromache’s complicity in ancient slavery, thereby poisoning Nile’s relationship with the other Old Guard. This issue has only a short action sequence. I haven’t seen the TV adaptation of this comic, but it’s gotten good reviews.

AQUAMAN #61 (DC, 2020) – “Echoes of a Life Lived Well Part 4,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Miguel Mendonça. Mera tries to cancel the wedding, Ocean Master insists on marrying her, and a giant fight starts. Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Ocean Master is a very effective villain. I notice that this issue’s entire plot is the result of Dan DiDio’s idiotic anti-marriage policy, because of which Arthur and Mera aren’t married, even though they have a child.

2000 AD #132 (IPC, 1979) – Judge Dredd: as above. Dredd apprehends the person who’s killing Sob Story contestants, and in an ironic twist, the host of Sob Story is bankrupted by lawsuits and has to beg his own listeners for money. Blackhawk: untitled, [W] Alan Grant, [A] Ramon Sola. Blackhawk and Ursa fight a giant dinosaur. This prog may be the first time Ursa sings his “crushing thud” song. ABC Warriors: “The Red Death,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. The ABC Warriors investigate a plague that kills people when they get scared. Wolfie Smith: as above. The film shoot starts, and Wolfie has a vision of the Carnivore monster. Vanyo continues to exhibit some interesting artistic techniques. Bill Savage: as above. The crazy bird-breeder gets killed by his own birds, and Savage and Bamber decide to leave Oxford.

A1 VOL. 2 #2 (Epic, 1992) – various stories, [E] Dave Elliott & Garry Leach. This issue begins with Hunt Emerson’ story about a jazz musician and his talking horn. It’s a good introduction to Emerson’s style. George Pratt’s story is well-drawn but is all about his inability to write a good story. Philip Bond and Jon Beeston’s ”Cheekie Wee Budgie Boy in the Castafiore Affair” is an excellent story, an SF murder mystery with a bird-headed protagonist. Nick Abadzis’s “Sacharine Fools” has very distinctive artwork but makes little sense. Peter Milligan and Jamie Hewlett’s “King Leon Part One” is also excellent, though its art is much more restrained than is usual for Hewlett. The issue ends with a two-pager by Roger Langridge.

SUPERMAN #366 (DC, 1981) – “Revenge, Superman Style,” [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. Superman disguises himself as an alien in order to infiltrate the Superman Revenge Squad. Bates fails to convince me that the Superman Revenge Squad are scary enough that Superman has to take such elaborate precautions when dealing with them. The backup story, by Rozakis and Schaffenberger, is about Perry Wihte’s attempts to prove that Superboy has moved to Metropolis. According to this story, George Taylor was Perry’s boss at the start of his career.

ARCHIE #197 (Archie, 1970) – “A Fair Shake” and other stories, [W] Frank Doyle, [A] Harry Lucey. A bunch of forgettable stories. The first one is about how Betty feels that her musical contributions to the Archies are not appreciated. One of the other stories is set in caveman times.

THOR #332 (Marvel, 1983) – “Blood of a Goddess!”, [W] Alan Zelenetz, [A] Don Perlin. Dracula visits New York and tries to suck Sif’s blood. This issue isn’t actively bad, but it’s not great either, and Dracula is not an appropriate villain for Thor. Notably, this issue depicts Thor and Sif sharing a bed.

At this point I received a small shipment of back issues:

TANK GIRL 2 #3 (Dark Horse, 1993) – various stories, [W] Alan Martin, [A] Jamie Hewlett. This cost $5, and it was the main reason I placed this order. Most of the other comics in the shipment were things I added to justify the shipping costs. The stories in this issue are all reprinted from Deadline. The stories are almost devoid of plot, but Hewlett’s draftsmanship, page layouts, lettering, and coloring are spectacular. He has a unique aesthetic that heavily influenced Evan Dorkin and probably lots of other artists. His talents are perhaps more suited to poster art than graphic narrative, and he’s achieved his greatest fame as the graphic designer for Gorillaz.

SNARF #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1972) – “Rex Glamour, Process Server” and other stories, [W/A] Denis Kitchen et al. This issue is kind of disappointing. The most notable artists in it are Kitchen himself and the Dutch underground cartoonist Evert Geradts. Other contributors include Tim Boxell, Dave Herring, Wendel Pugh and Don Glassford. Kitchen’s art is slick and polished, but the best art in the issue is actually in Pugh’s “Crescent City Rollo.” Later issues of Snarf would have a more exciting lineup of talent.

ACCIDENT MAN #1 (Dark Horse, 1993) – untitled, [W] Pat Mills & Tony Skinner, [A] Duke Mighten. A very funny story about an assassin who’s obsessed with expensive cars and clothing. It’s sort of a parody of James Bond. Duke Mighten is a fairly obscure British artist, but he’s not bad. This issue’s cover is by Howard Chaykin.

UNDERWATER #1 (Drawn & Quarterly, 1994) – untitled, [W/A] Chester Brown. Chester Brown’s first post-Yummy Fur work is the story of two twin babies named Yuy and Kupifam. It begins with their birth and depicts their gradual acquisition of language. The gimmick is that the adults’ dialogue starts out as unintelligible gibberish, but is gradually replaced by standard English as the series goes on. Underwater is disturbing and nightmarish, reflecting how small children find themselves in an unfamiliar, intimidating new world. However, this series’ narrative potential is rather limited, and Brown got bored with it and never finished it.

HARDWARE #1 (Milestone, 1993) – “The Man in the Machine Chapter One,” [W] Dwayne McDuffie, [A] Denys Cowan. Curtis Metcalf is a brilliant young black engineer who was born into poverty. His career was sponsored by white billionaire Edwin Alva (named after Thomas Alva Edison). But when he grew up, Curtis realized that Alva had trapped him in a contract that gave Alva all the rights to Curtis’s inventions and prevented Curtis from ever working anywhere else. This is of course a metaphor for white people’s historical exploitation of black people’s labor. Unhappy with this arrangement, Curtis invents an Iron Man suit and sets about using it to destroy Alva’s company. Of the four Milestone launch titles, Hardware is the one I’m least familiar with. But its premise is just as fascinating as that of Icon, Static, or Blood Syndicate, and I want to read more of it.

THE BLACK LAMB #1 (DC/Helix, 1996) – “The Hated, the Haunted, the Hunted,” [W/A] Tim Truman. The Black Lamb is a vampire who hunts vampire hunters, and who looks a lot like Grimjack. This first issue depicts his adventures in a dystopian future. The idea of monsters fighting back against their hunters is interesting, but late in this issue Truman makes a serious misstep. He shows a werewolf eating a fairy alive, which puts the lie to the idea that the monsters are the injured party and that the humans are the real villains. Truman’s artwork in this issue is very good. This issue includes clever references to Lead Belly and Woody Guthrie (

THE THING #9 (Marvel, 1984) – “What Price a Soul?”, [W] John Byrne, [A] Ron Wilson. The Thing has been possessed by the spirit of an ancient warrior, and Alicia Masters has to save him. This issue is reasonably exciting, but Byrne’s prose style is rather overwrought, and Alicia’s dialogue is especially so; for some reason Byrne never lets her use contractions. I wonder why Alicia doesn’t use a white cane or a guide dog. It would be interesting if someone would write an issue of Fantastic Four from Alicia’s perspective, using techniques like those of the animated film Out of Sight (

2000 AD #591 (Fleetway, 1988) – Zenith: “Phase II/2: Visitors,” as above. Zenith meets Phaedra Cale, and we learn that the villains have Zenith’s mother’s eyes in a jar. Judge Dredd: “The Mean Machine Part 2,” as above. Two pages of reprinted newspaper strips. Moon Runners: untitled, [W] Alan McKenzie & Steve Parkhouse, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. A new series about space-traveling cargo haulers. This prog’s cover depicts two women and has the caption “Moon Runners: Where No Woman Has Gone Before,” but these women don’t appear in the story. Judge Dredd: “Twister Part Four: There’s No Place Like Home,” [W] John Wagner, [A] John Ridgway. Dredd meets the Cowardly Lion, and it turns out the whole thing was a hallucination. “Twister” was a very funny story. Nemesis: as above. Yet another story I don’t understand. Slaine: as above. Slaine is bored with feasts and petty fighting, so he decides to go on a quest for three treasures: a sword, a spear and a stone. This sets up “The Horned God,” the most famous Slaine story.

IRON MAN #111 (Marvel, 1978) – “The Man, the Metal, and the Mayhem!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Keith Polllard. Tony gets drawn into a battle between the Rigellian Colonizers and the Knights of Wundagore. This feels more like a Thor comic than an Iron Man comic. Indeed, most of the footnotes are references to old issues of Thor.

SUPERMAN #257 (DC, 1972) – “Superman Battles the War-Horn!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. Superman fights an alien that’s trying to harvest Earth’s nitrogen. This story doesn’t live up to the cover, which depicts Superman telling two boys “There’s nobody in this forest but us!”, while directly below, an alien is aiming a weapon at them from underground. This issue’s backup story, Maggin and Dillin’s “The Greatest Green Lantern of All!’”, is about Tomar-Re’s failed attempt to stop the destruction of Krypton. It was included in The Greatest Team-Up Stories Ever Told.

EPIC ILLUSTRATED #16 (Marvel, 1982) – various stories, [E] Archie Goodwin. Rick Veitch’s “Abraxas and the Earthmen” makes no sense, and Marc Hempel’s “Arise, Awake” is a predictable twist-ending story about a man who wakes up as a robot.  This issue’s main attraction is three new stories by Barry Windsor-Smith. The first one, “The Beguiling”, gave its name to the best comic book store in North America, and it has some stunning artwork. It was his first new story in a decade, and also his first comic that used his mature style of coloring. This story is important for completing my understanding of his career. The second BWS story is a two-page Little Nemo homage, and the third one is an illustration to a (bad) prose story by Goodwin. The issue also includes a two-pager by Dave Sim, and then Trina Robbins’s “The Woman Who Loved the Moon,” which I previously encountered in Near Myths. Then there’s a tribute to the recently deceased Gene Day, and stories by Carl Potts and Charles Vess. As usual, Vess’s story has beautiful draftsmanship but below-average writing.

WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #213 (DC, 1972) – “Peril in a Very Small Place!”, [W] Elliot S! Maggin, [A] Dick Dillin. While trying to visit Superman via a phone line, the Atom gets trapped in a microworld. Superman has to use the Kandorian shrinking ray to free Atom, so they can fight a villain together. This is a fun issue from a very good period of World’s Finest Comics, when Superman was teaming up with heroes other than Batman. There’s a running joke where Clark Kent and his musician neighbor are annoying each other with their music.

MAVIS #2 (Exhibit A, 1999) – “Mavis!”, [W/A] Batton Lash. Mavis has to work at night while all her friends are partying, and what’s worse, one of her clients, a teenaged vampire, is harassing her. This is a funny comic that blends suprenatural humor with effective characterization.

ZAP COMIX #5 (Print Mint, 1970) – various stories, [E] uncredited. There’s an extremely tiny jam comic on the inside front cover. The highlights of this issue are two stories each by Williams and Crumb. Robert Williams’s “Bludgeon Funnies” and “Docil Days” have artwork that’s difficult to parse, but immaculately drawn and lettered. Williams was probably the most talented of all the underground artists, and it’s no surprise he went on to a fine art career. Crumb’s untitled Mr. Natural story is about how Flakey Foont has started ignoring him and sitting in a bathtub all day, and there’s also “The Adventures of Fuzzy the Bunny,” a collaboration with his brother Charles. There’s also Shelton’s satirical “Believe It or Leave It,” and various stories by Moscoso and, unfortunately, S. Clay Wilson.

NEW STATESMEN #1 (Fleetway, 1989) – multiple stories, [W] John Smith, [A] Jim Baikie. New Statesmen originally appeared in Crisis, a 2000 AD spinoff title. It takes place in a mid-21st-century America where England is the 51st state, and each state has its own superhero. As a revisionist superhero story, New Statesmen is comparable to Watchmen or Zenith or Squadron Supreme, and it also addresses issues of race and sexuality. Its main problem is confusing plotting. New Statesmen #1 takes place in multiple timeframes at once and has a huge cast of characters. It’s impossible to keep the timeline straight or to remember who any of the characters are. As I’ve said before, John Smith is a master prose stylist, but perhaps his weakness was his plotting.

SWAMP THING #142 (DC, 1994) – “Soul Train,” [W] Grant Morrison & Mark Millar, [A] Phil Hester & Kim DeMulder. Alec Holland has a vision where he’s on a train of damned souls, and then Odin appears and tells him he’s really Swamp Thing. Meanwhile, Abby is trying to find Swampy. This issue is somewhat confusing, but it does make me want to read more of this storyline.

COYOTE #6 (Marvel/Epic, 1984) – “X-Caliber!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Chas Truog. Englehart is another writer whose plots tend to be overly complicated, and this issue is kind of tough to figure out. I think my favorite thing about this series is Coyote himself, because he’s such a dog in both the literal and the sexual sense. This issue includes a scene where Coyote turns into a panda and whacks a guy with his paw.

2000 AD #133 (IPC, 1979) – This issue has an unusually boring cover; it’s just a wanted poster of an alien’s head. Dredd: “The Great Muldoon,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Barry Mitchell. Dredd tries to stop a magician from attempting a fatal trick. Dredd fails, and the magician dies. “Guess that’s showbiz.” Blackhawk: as above. Blackhawk fights a “smiling chukwalla” and then a savage dwarf named Zog. ABC Warriors: as above. The robots defeat the Red Death, which incarnates itself as a creepy little boy. Wolfie Smith: as above. Simon Trent the stuntman has a vision of the Carnivore, causing him to fall and hurt himself. This storyline is rather slow-paced; this and the previous few installments have just been setup. Bill Savage: as above. Savage is sent to contact some sheep farmers in the Pennine Hills, but on the way there he and Bamber are attacked by a water snake. Overall this prog is kind of boring. At this point in 2000 AD, the only consistently good series was Judge Dredd.

JOHNNY NEMO MAGAZINE #3 (Eclipse, 1986) – “New London Pride,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Brett Ewins & Steve Dillon. Johnny has a dream where he kills his parents. When he wakes up, he encounters a gang of skinheads who worship him as the god of violence, and then he goes on a berserk killing spree. The story ends here with no real resolution. Johnny Nemo next appeared in Deadline. There’s also a Sindi Shade backup story, which unfortunately was this character’s last appearance.

HELLBLAZER #292 (Vertigo, 2012) – “The House of Wolves,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Simon Bisley. This issue is mostly a flashback to ten years ago, focusing on Constantine’s future wife, Epiphany or Piffy. When Piffy was 14, her father was supplying elderly House of Lords members with an aphrodisiac that turned them into werewolves. Constantine got an accidental dose of the aphrodisiac, became a werewolf, and tried to either eat or possibly rape Piffy, before her father intervened. As that summary indicates, Constantine and Piffy’s relationship is kind of creepy. Bisley’s artwork in this issue is not bad, but it’s not in the same style as his Slaine or Lobo.

ATLANTIS ATTACKS #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Serpent in the Tower Part 1,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Ario Anindito. I didn’t buy this when it came out because I didn’t realize it was a continuation of Agents of Atlas. This issue, Namor invades Pan and orders Mike Nguyen to return the kidnapped dragon in one day or face an invaison. Jimmy Woo summons the original Agents of Atlas to try to save the day.

THE PHANTOM #749 (Frew, 1982) – “The Jungle Patrol,” [W] Lee Falk, [A] Wilson McCoy. I purchased a lot of seven Australian Phantom comics in late June, and they arrived in mid-July. The Phantom is largely forgotten in America but is very popular in other countries, especially Australia, where Frew Publications’ Phantom series is approaching its 2000th issue. These Australian Phantom comics are printed in black and white on paper that’s barely better than toilet paper. The covers are printed on the same paper as the interiors, and the seven issues’ covers look nearly identical; they all have a giant image of the Phantom against a blue background. However, these features actually add to the comics’ charm. “The Jungle Patrol” is a newspaper strip sequence reprinted from 1952. It focuses on Smythe, a new agent of the Phantom’s Jungle Patrol, who’s obsessed with uncovering the identity of the patrol’s commander (i.e. the Phantom himself). Also, Smythe is a coward who didn’t want to join the patrol to begin with. After an adventure with some smugglers, Smythe gains new courage and gives up trying to identify the Phantom. I’ve never read Lee Falk’s Phantom before, and I’m pleasantly surprised that despite its age, this story is exciting and relatable.

THE PHANTOM #764 (Frew, 1983) – “The Prisoner in Marrakech,” [W] Janne Lundström, [A] Jamie Vallvé. This is a much newer story, published in Sweden by a Swedish writer and a Spanish artist, and created for comic books rather than comic strips. “The Prisoner of Marrakech” is a flashback story that takes place in 1912 and stars the 18th Phantom, the grandfather of the current one. On their honeymoon, the Phantom’s wife is abducted by a French officer who carries her off to Morocco. The Phantom follows the officer to Morocco, where the officer is fighting a Berber rebellion. He rescues her and kills her abductor, and also learns that he has a child on the way. This story is notable for presenting the French colonialists as villains who are oppressing the native Moroccans. The Phantom is an archetypal white savior character, but he always fights for the oppressed against their oppressors, and perhaps this explains his popularity in postcolonial countries like India.

2000 AD #592 (Fleetway, 1988) – Zenith: “Phase II/3: Take the High Road,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. This is the one where Zenith’s agent objects to being called a “Scotch fairy” because “Scots is a drink.” Moon Runners: as above. Finally we meet the women from last prog’s cover. In this story they try to preveent the characters from last prog from completing their delivery. Judge Dredd: “P.J. Maybe, Age 13,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Liam Sharp. A story told from the perspective of P.J. Maybe, a 13-year-old serial killer who preys on his richer relatives, the Yes family. Nemesis: as above. I still don’t understand the Deathbringer story, but this installment includes some interesting depictions of punk rock culture and fashion. Judge Dredd: “The Mean Machine,” as above. Dredd’s battle with the Mean Machine continues.

MONSTER MASSACRE #nn (Atomeka, 1993) – various stories, [E] Dave Elliott, Garry Leach & Steve White. A monster-themed anthology from the publishers of A1. John Tomlinson and Kevin O’Neill’s “The Kingdom of Zitturk” is a silly kaiju  story, but it has some very detailed and funny art. Simon Furman and Dougie Braithwaite’s “Headcase” is kind of dumb but is nicely inked by Dave Gibbons. Tomlinson and Henry Flint’s “Of Ill Omen” is about space zombies and has some very nice painted artwork. Tomlinson and Peter Snejbjerg’s “Expressway to Your Skull” is in the same continuity as his later Lords of Misrule miniseries from Dark Horse. It’s a scary piece of supernatural horror, and it makes me want to read more Lords of Misrule. Dave Eliott and Simon Bisley’s “Maximum Force” is the sort of ultraviolent superhero parody that’s hard to tell apart from what it’s parodying. Again, though, it has very good artwork. Overall this is an impressive anthology, even though some of the contributors aren’t well known in America.

SHADE THE CHANGING MAN #26 (DC, 1992) – “Lenny’s Story,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Chris Bachalo. This issue begins with Kathy and Lenny in bed, and then we flash back to issue 21. Lenny reveals that she and Kathy had sex for the first time in the junkyard, after Shade tried to have sex with Kathy and couldn’t. Then we flash back even further to when Lenny was sexually abused by her uncle, and got her revenge on him by calling him out at his wedding.  Back in the present day, we discover that Shade, who’s currently trapped in na immaterial form, has heard Lenny and Kathy’s entire conversation. I don’t know how well this issue holds up today, but back in 1992, this issue was pioneering in its frank treatment of same-sex relationships and childhood sexual abuse. Peter Milligan deserves credit for helpinig introduce LGBTQ topics into mainstream comics, both in Shade and Enigma.

SWEET TOOTH #29 (Vertigo, 2012) – “Unnatural Habitats,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Jepperd sends Gus back to the dam as he prepares to confront the as-yet-unseen villain Haggarty. But then in the most shocking twist in the series, we learn that the man living in the dam, who calls himself Walter, actually is Haggarty. And the women and kids are trapped in the dam with him. This was such a stunning cliffhanger that I had to read the rest of the storyline at once.

SWEET TOOTH #30 – as above. This is labeled Part 2 of 3, but there are actually four parts. Instead of Haggarty, Jepperd finds the remaining Project Evergreen survivors, who tell him how Haggarty tricked his way into the dam and then expelled them from it. Jepperd rushes back to the dam, but overturns his truck, and is found by a mysterious man with an axe.   Back at the dam, Haggarty terrorizes Gus and Jepperd’s friends.

SWEET TOOTH #31 – as above. Another adult abducts Gus, but Gus frees himself and heads back to the dam, where Haggarty has been threatening to kill the children unless Becky does his bidding. Meanwhile, the man who found Jepperd is holding him captive, and Jepperd has to free himself so he can save the day. “Unnatural Habitats” is a thrilling, tense story, almost as much so as Sentient. By this point in the story I couldn’t wait for Haggarty/Walter to die.

SWEET TOOTH #32 – as above. Jepperd discovers that his rescuer is a fellow hockey player, Jimmy Jacobs, and he accompanies Jepperd back to the dam. But at the dam, Gus and the other kids and women have already disarmed Haggarty and thrown him out in the cold. Jepperd and Jacobs finally reach the dam to find Lucy dying, since Haggarty injected her with the plague. I still don’t have issues 33 and 34, and I really want to get them.

THOR #176 (Marvel, 1970) – “Inferno!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. Loki has finally succeeded in taking over Asgard. But much like certain real-life villains, he only wants to be king for the sake of being king, and he has no interest in the responsibilities that come with the job. When Surtur invades Asgard, Loki flees, leaving Thor and the other Asgardians to deal with the crisis on their own. This issue is not bad, although “Loki takes over Asgard” must have been a trite plot even in 1970.

THE PHANTOM #753 (Frew, 1982) – “The Flirtatious Princess,” [W] Lee Falk, [A] Wilson McCoy. This story is from 1949, so it’s older than the one in #750. It’s a story in the Ruritanian romance genre, set in the fictional kingdom of Pathia. Two noblemen are contending for the throne, and the king’s daughter, Gwena, promises to marry both of them. To avoid having to choose between them, she flees the country and is rescued by the Phantom. After a series of adventures, Gwena decides to marry the Phantom instead of either of her suitors, but he misinforms her that he already has 300 other wives. She ends up marrying the humble palace guard who she loved to begin with. Gwena is a rather sexist character, but other than that, “The Flirtatious Princess” is a really fun story.

GAY COMICS #18 (Bob Ross, 1993) – various stories, [E] Andy Mangels. Most of the stories in this issue are by people I’ve never heard of, and some of them are quite bad. The highlight of the issue is Ivan Velez Jr’s “Into the Out Of,” which examines intersections between queer, black and Puerto Rican identity. This issue also includes a one-page comic by my friend Diana Green.

2000 AD #135 (IPC, 1979) – “The Invisible Man,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ron Smith. “Edwin the Confessor” has a habit of falsely confessing to crimes. He accidentally helps Dredd catch a criminal who’s using a time machine to rob banks, and Dredd “rewards” Edwin by giving him a short prison sentence. Blackhawk: as above. Blackhawk fights the basilisk-like Goool, his weirdest-looking opponent yet. Belardinelli’s art here is better than in earlier Blackhawk stories. ABC Warriors: “Golgotha,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. The robots battle the giant armored dinosaur Golgotha and his mate Delilah. Golgotha is the grandson of Old One Eye from the Flesh series, and this family of dinosaurs also appears in other 2000 AD strips. The Old One Eye family are not related to the dinosaurs from Dinosty, except that both groups of characters were the result of Pat Mills’s dinosaur obsession. Bill Savage: as above. Savage and Bamber fight some crazy farmers, and then they return to Oxford only to find it in ruins.

New comics received on July 22:

BILLIONAIRE ISLAND #3 (Ahoy, 20200 – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Pugh. After Shelley and Flynn encounter another escapee, Flynn gives up on escaping and returns to prison. Meanwhile, Trent is tortured, and a “Business Dog” is brought in to decide whether  he’ll live or die. This issue includees some deservedly bitter criticism of the ultra-rich – like, that they literally shit gold, but that faced with a worldwide catastrophe that they created, all they can do is hide on private islands.

MIDDLEWEST #18 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. Abel and his dad fight, Abel wins, and Abel’s dad finally apologizes. But Abel refuses to go home; his relationship with his dad is irreparably ruined, and he’s found a new family. This ending feels appropriate, because it shows that Abel’s dad’s apology is significant, but not sufficient to make up for Abel’s lifetime of trauma.

AMETHYST #4 (DC, 2020) – “At a Loss,” [W/A] Amy Reeder. Amy confronts Dark Opal, but accomplishes nothing. Maxixe reveals that he’s not really a prince and abandons Amy and Phoss. Amy starts to realize that House Amethyst has not been an entirely benevolent influence on Gemworld. Amy and Phoss’s next destination is Diamond, but they get captured on the way there. I wish there were more than two issues of Amethyst left.

THE MAN WHO F#&%ED UP TIME #4 (Aftershock, 2020) – “Sins of the Past,” [W] John Layman, [A] Karl Mostert. Sean screws things up even further, creating a future where bees are the dominant species. But then he figures out that his future selves actually aren’t his future selves, because they don’t have the same scars he has. And he realizes whodunit, but he doesn’t tell the reader. It looks like the next issue will be the last.

BIRTHRIGHT #45 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Having killed Lore, Mikey finally gets to meet his newborn daughter. But Brennan, Aaron and Wendy still have to fix the barriers between Terrenos and Earth. Aaron and Wendy get delayed rescuing some orphaned children, and are stranded on the wrong side of the barrier when it closes. Rather ironic.

CHU #1 (Image, 2020) – “The First Course Part 1 of 5,” [W] John Layman, [A] Dan Boultwood. This Chew spinoff stars Tony’s sister Saffron, who, for as yet unexplained reasons, was not mentioned in the original Chew series. Also, she’s a criminal. Chu #1 is funny and very similar in tone to the original Chew, but Rob Guillory’s artwork is irreplaceable. Without Guillory and all the little details he included, Chu #1 is a much quicker read and is not as funny or clever as Chew was.

USAGI YOJIMBO #10 (Dark Horse, 2020) – “Mon,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Congratulations to Stan on a well-deserved Hall of Fame induction. This issue Usagi visits a town ruled by Lord Hikiji, and encounters hostility because he’s wearing the Mifune clan crest (mon). An old acquaintance betrays Usagi to a bunch of Hikiji’s soldiers. Usagi manages to kill the traitor and the soldiers, of course, but suffers a head injury and falls unconscious in an unmoored boat. Next issue’s cover shows Usagi back in his home village with Mariko. The high point of the issue is when the samurai order Usagi to remove the crests from his clothes, and Usagi replies “You will have to do it from my corpse.” His facial expression shows that he’s absolutely serious.

TARTARUS #4 (Image, 2020) – “Dogs of Tartarus,” [W] Johnnie Christmas, [A] Jack T. Cole. Tilde has to ransom her comrade Klinzu from her brother Mogen’s captivity. This story was confusing because it was hard to figure out what happened in the gap between issues, and also I’m having some difficulty keeping the characters straight. But this is an exciting comic, and jack T. Cole’s artwork is very imaginative and immersive.

WICKED THINGS #3 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Lottie starts working as an intern for the police. All they’ll let her do is make tea, but in her abundant spare time, she uncovers a crime wave that the police haven’t even noticed. Issues 1 and 2 were in the cozy mystery genre, but #3 is more of a police procedural, and there’s no mention of the attempted murder of the Japanese detective. Of course this issue is still just as funny as the previous two.

DIE #12 (Image, 2020) – “Hidden Role,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans. Angela looks for her daughter, Ash engages in political machinations, and at the end of the issue, Ash meets an unhappy H.G. Wells. This is a good issue, but this series always has a ton of different stuff going on at once, and it can be rather hard to follow.

On July 23 I received a shipment of about 75 comics, most of them priced under a dollar:

MIDAS FLESH #4 (Boom!, 2014) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Shelli Paroline & Branden Lamb. This is a Boom! Box title, but it has little in common with the other titles released under that imprint; it’s a SF comic, while most Boom! Box comics are modern-day slice-of-life or fantasy stories with strong queer elements. Midas Flesh is also Ryan North’s only comic book not published by Marvel, as far as I know. It’s about some space pirates who discover a planet that can change anything to gold, but the authoritarian Federation is trying to steal their discovery. This issue, the protagonists battle a Federation ship using an amputated finger from the Midas planet. This issue is grimmer and more violent than most of Ryan’s work, but it’s also quite funny, and one of the main characters is a dinosaur. I need to track down the other seven issues of this series.

DARK CLAW ADVENTURES #1 (Amalgam, 1997) – “Face to Face,” [W] Ty Templeton, [A] Rick Burchett. An “adaptation” of the nonexistent TV cartoon starring Dark Claw, the amalgam of Batman and Wolverine. Like all Amalgam comics, Dark Claw Adventures #1 is very funny and is full of clever Marvel and DC comics. However, in the decades since 1997, the DC animated style has become thoroughly integrated into the look of mainstream comics. Therefore, it’s hard to tell that Dark Claw Adventures #1 is supposed to be a cartoon adaptation rather than a normal DC or Marvel comic.

THUNDERBOLTS #156 (Marvel, 2011) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Kev Walker. Satana joins the Thunderbolts for a mission to Gothemwald Castle, which looks like something out of Hellboy. Meanwhile, Luke Cage and Mimi Gold interview candidates for the Thunderbolts’ understudy team, the Underbolts. The last candidate is Mr. Hyde, and the issue ends with him  gripping Mimi in one giant fist. As usual this is a very fun issue.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1.2 (Marvel, 2014) – “Learning to Crawl: Part Two,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Ramón Pérez. This is set around the time of Amazing Spider-Man vol. 1 #2, when Spidey first encountered the Chameleon. It guest-stars a new hero, Clash, who’s inspired to become a superhero by Spidey’s example. But when they finally meet, Clash realizes Spidey is a thrill-seeking glory hound. This is a fun issue. Others, notably Kurt Busiek, have already written new stories set in Spider-Man’s earliest years, but Dan Slott’s style is significantly different from Busiek’s.

THE BOGIE MAN: CHINATOON #1 (Tundra, 1993) – “Barefoot in the Pork,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Robin Smith. I guess this series was picked up by Tundra after the initial miniseries from Fat Man. This issue, Francis Clunie (the lunatic who thinks he’s Humphrey Bogart) escapes from the asylum and goes to Glasgow to investigate an imaginary criminal named Taiwan Lil. Meanwhile, some real criminals, probably the same ones from the last series, are targeting a local Chinese restaurant. This issue is at least as funny as the previous Bogie Man I read. For instance, when we first see Clunie in this issue, we discover that he’s escaped the asylum with no clothes on except a fedora. Given its subject matter, this comic could have been rather Orientalist, but Wagner mostly avoids engaging in Chinese stereotypes.

SOVEREIGN SEVEN #2 (DC, 1995) – “The Twelve Chairs,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Dwayne Turner. This was Claremont’s first new series after he was fired from X-Men. It wasn’t a huge success, and seems to have a rather mixed reputation today. This issue is not bad, but it has way too many characters, and it feels like a retread of Claremont’s later X-Men stories. Dwayne Turner’s art looks very similar to that of Jim Lee, and even the lettering is by Tom Orzechowski. Still, I’d be willing to collect more of this series, simply because I’m a big Claremont fan and I’m running out of Claremont comics I haven’t read. Early in this issue there’s an unofficial cameo appearance by Wolverine.

HIGHER EARTH #3 (Boom!, 2012) – untitled, [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Francesco Biagini. Heidi and Rex fight some dinosaurs and robots, and then they discover that the guys who have been chasing them are all alternate-Earth versions of Rex. I had thought this was a five-issue miniseries, but there were actually nine issues.

STAR TREK #14 (DC, 1990) – “The Return of the Worthy Part Two: Great Expectations,” [W] Peter David & Bill Mumy, [A] Gordon Purcell. Most of this issue is devoted to interactions between the Enterprise crew and the Worthy (i.e. the Robinson family), but there’s also a plot involving the Gorn, the planet of Karimea, and the Lamver device. I probably missed a lotof the humor in this issue because I’m not familiar with Lost in Space. Still, this comic is funny and has some excellent characterization. “The Return of the Worthy” is apparently considered one of the best Star Trek stories in comics form. I must have read this issue as a kid, because I remember the scene where one of the Worthy tries to seduce Chekov, and he turns her down. Of course, as a kid, I didn’t understand who the Worthy really were.

STRANGE ATTRACTORS #1 (Boom!, 2016) – “Tangles in the Tapestry,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Greg Scott. A Columbia grad student and an old professor try to test some dangerous ideas about chaos theory. I like that this comic is mostly about math, because math is underused as a source of inspiration for science fiction. However, I wish this comic was about something other than chaos theory. Chaos theory is already a cliché because of Jurassic Park, and I suspect that the popularized version of chaos theory has little to do with what actual chaos theorists study. Also, Charles Soule’s depiction of mathematical research in this comic just doesn’t feel accurate. I wish he’d chosen to focus on some other important area of math that’s less familiar to the general public – e.g. algebraic geometry or category theory. I’m not in any hurry to collect the rest of this miniseries.

THE GOON: OCCASION OF REVENGE #1 (Dark Horse, 2014) – “Occasion of Revenge Part 1,” [W/A] Eric Powell. This is issue 46 and it comes before Once Upon a Hard Time. Part of this issue is a rather misogynistic story about a femme fatale and the ghost of her dead lover. The rest of the issue depicts a fight between the Goon and a bunch of villains. As usual, Eric Powell’s artwork is excellent. His style is original, but reflects the influence of classic horror artists like Corben and Wrightson.

UFOLOGY #3 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV & Noah Yuenkel, [A] Matthew Fox. A science fiction story that’s set in a small town and involves some aliens with weird melting skin. Based on this issue I’m not quite sure what the point of this series is, but I’m interested in reading more of James Tynion’s work, and I’d like to find the other five issues of UFOlogy.

THUNDERBOLTS #157 – as above except [A] Kev Walker & Declan Shalvey. Mimi avoids being killed by Mr. Hyde. The Thunderbolts defeat Master Gothenwald despite his attempts to confront them with their worst fears. There’s a terrifying moment when Gothenwald makes Luke think that his baby is dead. The Thunderbolts’ next mission is to Najaf, Iraq, home to the world’s largest cemetery. As I’ve said before, Jeff Parker’s Thunderbolts is an extremely fun comic with lots of unique and weird characters, and it should be better known.

MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #73 (Marvel, 1991) – “Weapon X Chapter One,” [W/A] Barry Windsor-Smith. In part one of Weapon X, Wolverine is kidnapped by some scientists who perform cruel experiments on him. This series is of course a modern classic. The only other notable story in this issue is Shanna by Gerard Jones (now in prison for child pornography) and Paul Gulacy. This story is called “The Bush of Ghosts Part 6: A Dance of the Forest,” a reference to two classic works of Nigerian literature. However, the African people in the story are blatant stereotypes.

MURDER ME DEAD #2 (El Capitan, 2000) – untitled, [W/A] David Lapham. Still under suspicion of murdering his wife, Steven reunites with an old flame, Tara. But Tara has some secrets of her own. This is an intriguing issue.

GATECRASHER: RING OF FIRE #1 (Black Bull, 2000) – “Ring of Fire, Part 1,” [W] Mark Waid & Jimmy Palmiotti, [A] Amanda Conner. All Alec Wagner wants is to take his girlfriend to the prom. But he’s also a member of the superheroic Split-Second Squad, and before he can make it to prom, he has to go to another dimension and fight a bunch of giant bugs. Gatecrasher is an exciting comic that combines two of Amanda Conner’s great strengths: cheesecake art and hideous monsters. I think this comic was underappreciated because it was published by a small, short-lived publisher associated with the unpopular Wizard magazine.

AXEL PRESSBUTTON #4 (Eclipse, 1985) – various stories, [W] Steve Moore, [A] Steve Dillon. These stories are all reprinted from Warrior. In a story continued from last issue, Axel and Laser Eraser battle a villain named Zirk. In “Brides of the Sluzzgreep,” Axel is on a ship with a harem of beautiful women, but he ends up unintentionally killing them and their boyfriends. Until this story I didn’t quite understand the series’ central premise: Axel is impotent thanks to his cyborg modifications, but when his button is pressed, he experiences extreme pleasure and also flies into a violent rage. There are also two backup stories that don’t feature Axel. The last one, “The Poet and the Flowers” starring Ektryn, is notable for its harshly pessimistic tone. The poet in the title is an optimist who praises the gallantry of war, but in the end he gets eaten by a carnivorous plant.

MONSTRESS #29 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. Yet again I have to complain about this series’ impenetrable plot. The violence in this issue would be more powerful if I had any idea who the two sides are, or what they’re fighting about, or which side, if any, is in the right. Although maybe that’s the point, that both sides of the war are equally bad. This issue is full of more awful violence, including a brutal two-page sequence where we see various characters’ happy memories, juxtaposed with their pointless deaths in battle.

YASMEEN #1 (Scout, 2020) – untitled, [W] Saif A. Ahmed, [A] Fabiana Mascolo. A slice-of-life series about an Iraqi-American family. Half the issue takes place in 2014, when the protagonists were trapped in Mosul during its siege by ISIS. The other half is set in 2016, when the surviving family members have just arrived in Iowa. This series is potentially fascinating, and I think it’s an example of #OwnVoices representation. There are some points that could be explained better; for instance, one of the characters is murdered by ISIS troops because his name is Hussein, but non-Muslim readers probably won’t know why Hussein is a distinctively Shia name. Still, the murder scene is horrifying, especially when the ISIS troops justify their actions by claiming that Hussein was quoting false hadith. I’d like to continue reading this series if I can find it.

ARCHIE #635 (Archie, 2012) – “Occupy Riverdale,” [W] Alex Segura, [A] Gisele Lagace. This is one of Gisele Lagace’s few actual Archie comics, although her style is heavily Archie-influenced. This issue, a new character, Andy Martinez, leads an Occupy protest against Riverdale’s rich people, primarily consisting of Hiram Lodge. Conflict ensues when the mayor tries to shut the protest down. Alex Segura deserves credit for introducing real-world politics into a series which tends to be highly conservative. However, this issue’s ending is too simplistic and Pollyanna-ish. In the real world, it’s been eight years since Archie #635, and the problems that inspired the Occupy movement have only gotten worse.

THE PHANTOM #750 (Frew, 1982) – “The Betrothal,” [W] Lee Falk, [A] Wilson McCoy. 15 years ago, the five-year-old Prince Lioni of Llongo and Princess Wamba of Wambesi were engaged. Now Lioni is a college student living a modern lifestyle, and he’s fallen in love with someone else. When Lioni is summoned back to Llongo to marry Wamba, he refuses, nearly leading to war. This story is a ton of fun, and it’s less racist than one would expect. The Africans in the story are distinctive characters with different personalities. Lee Falk’s story acknowledges the conflict between traditional and modern lifestyles, even if his version of a traditional African society is mostly made up. The most problematic thing about this story is actually its fat-shaming; Princess Wamba is extremely fat, and in order to stop the war, the Phantom makes her lose weight fast so she’ll be more attractive to Lloni (though she marries someone else in the end).

SUPERMAN #102 (DC, 1995) – “Pulp Friction,” [W] Dan Jurgens, [A] Gil Kane with Joe Rubinstein. Jimmy Olsen tries to get a big scoop by arranging a battle between Superman and Arclight. Things don’t work out the way Jimmy wants, and the story ends with Jimmy quitting the Daily Planet. This issue’s plot is stupid, and Jimmy acts like such a brat that the reader can’t sympathize with him. At least Gil Kane’s art is good.

2000 AD #137 (IPC, 1979) – Dredd: “Death of a Judge,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ron Smith. This story’s title is a spoiler, but the twist is how the judge dies. When Judge Bryce’s partner and love interest is killed, Bryce tries to kill her murderer without due process, and Dredd has to kill Bryce to prevent him from breaking the law. Blackhawk: as above. Blackhawk and Urza make a failed attempt to escape the Director’s spaceship, and then the ship is attacked by space pirates. Belardinelli’s art was gradually improving. ABC Warriors: “Mad George,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. We meet a giant robot named George whose limbs are each controlled by a separate brain, so he walks like the protagonist of the video game Qwop. The ABC Warriors have to recruit George to fight a corporate army. Wolfie Smith: as above. We get some background information on the monstrous Wendigore. Bill Savage: as above except [A] Mike White. Bill and Bamber are back in Lnodon, where they’re fighting the Greater London Legion, led by the Hitler lookalike from prog 120.

NAMOR #22 (Marvel, 1992) – untitled, [W/A] John Byrne. Namor, Misty Knight and Colleen Wing visit the ruins of K’un L’un, where they encounter the H’ylthri from Iron Fist #2. Namor finds the body of Iron Fist, who had been believed dead since the last issue of Power Man & Iron Fist. Wolverine makes a cameo appearance at the end. For a ’90s Byrne comic, Namor #22 is not bad.

G.I. JOE: A REAL AMERICAN HERO – COMPLETE SILENCE (IDW, 2020) – “Silent Interlude,” [W/A] Larry Hama with Steve Leialoha. “Silent Interlude,” from G.I. Joe #21, is Larry Hama’s most famous work. It’s a completely silent story in which Snake Eyes and Scarlett escape from a Cobra base. “Silent Interlude” is based on the silent opening sequence from Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD #1, but it’s much longer. Larry Hama achieved an impressive feat of visual storytelling by telling such an exciting action story without using any words. Even more impressive, his storytelling is completely clear, and the reader never has to guess what’s going on. The original G.I. Joe #21 is beyond my budget, so I’m glad IDW published this reprint. Complete Silence also includes a 2008 story, “Silence Between Borders,” that fills in the gaps in the original “Silent Interlude,” but “Silence Between Borders” doesn’t add anything significant to the original.

THE PHANTOM #765 (Frew, 1983) – “The Ghost Pirates,” [W] Norman Worker, [A] Jaime Vallvé. Another relatively new story produced in Sweden. “The Ghost Pirates” is a flashback story set in Cornwall in 1785, depicting a battle between the 12th Phantom and the pirate Black Gull. It’s an entertaining story, and it feels more or less historically accurate. The Swedish comics produced by Team Fantomen are far better than any American Phantom comic books, except maybe the ones drawn by Don Newton. But I don’t think any of the Team Fantomen comics have been published in America.

2000 AD #139 (IPC, 1979) – Dredd: “The Great Plasteen Disaster!” [W] John Wagner, [A] John Cooper. Everything in the 22nd century is made of plasteen, but suddenly alien bacteria start eating all the plasteen. Dredd arrests the president of the company responsible for the bacteria, but this results in his death, since he has a plasteen heart. Blackhawk: as above. Blackhawk, Ursa and Zog fight a mind-controlling monster called a Soul-Sucker, and then their ship falls in a black hole. Belardinelli’s depiction of the black hole is rather impressive. ABC Warriors: as above. The Mess combines with Mad George to save the day. This was the last ABC Warriors story for several years. With the next prog their slot was taken over by The Stainless Steel Rat. Wolfie Smith: as above. The Wendigore causes more havoc. This series is very slow-paced. Bill Savage: as above. Bill defeats the Legion, and the floodwaters freeze, indicating that the polar ice caps are recovering. Bill Savage’s next chronological appearance was “Invasion!” in progs 1 to 51, but his next actual appearance wasn’t until 2004.

EZEQUIEL HIMES, ZOMBIE HUNTER #2 (Amigo, 2020) – “What I Mean by Revenge,” [W] Victor Santos, [A] Alberto Hernandez. Ezequiel fights some zombies, and we discover that his wife and son have become zombies themselves. It’s always a good thing when comics from Spain are translated into English, but Amigos could have picked a better one to start with, because Ezequiel Santos is an uninteresting work.

CANTO & THE CLOCKWORK FAIRIES #1 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. Canto and his Malorex companion save some fairies from an evil sorceress. This comic is pretty cute.

DECORUM #3 (Image, 2020) – “Take a Ride, Take a Trip,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Mike Huddleston. This is much less difficult than the first two issues because it focuses on just two characters – Imogen, the polite assassin, and her rude young protégé Neha Nori Sood. This issue Imogen gets Neha admitted to a school for assassins. Mike Huddleston’s artwork continues to be the highlight of this series. He can draw in a lot of different styles, and he makes effective use of photo collage.

LITTLE LULU #73 (Dell, 1954) – “Two is a Crowd” etc., [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. I bought a bunch of Little Lulus in June, but I stopped reading them because I ran out of space in my Dell/Gold Key box. I’ve now solved that problem (or rather, transferred the problem to a different box). Stories in this issue: “Two is a Crowd” – Tubby tries to cheat Lulu out of ten cents. “Wrong Number” – Lulu puts on a space suit, and Tubby thinks she’s an actual alien. “The Smokers” – the kids all get sick from puffing on Lulu’s dad’s cigar. “Breakfast in Bed” – Lulu gets Mr. Inch to cook breakfast for her mom. “Tubby’s Guest” – Tubby has a sleepover with his identical cousin Chubby. This issue doesn’t have a Poor Little Girl story. The back cover is a Wheaties ad starring Roy Campanella, whose Hall of Fame career would be prematurely ended by a car accident after just three more seasons.

JLA #53 (DC, 2001) – “It Takes a Thief,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Bryan Hitch. Six JLAers have had their superheroic and secret identities split off into different bodies, thanks to some sixth-dimensional villains. This is a relatively fun story, but somewhat hard to follow. It includes a scene where an entire city goes blind, like in José Saramago’s novel Blindness(which I’ve owned for many years but have not read). Bryan Hitch’s art is a good example of his widescreen style.

IRON MAN #299 (Marvel, 1993) – “The Doomsday Machine!”, [W] Len Kaminski, [A] Kevin Hopgood. Iron Man gets his ass kicked by Ultimo, and to save himself, Tony has to recruit a bunch of former wearers of the Iron Man armor. Iron Man was pretty bad after Michelinie and Layton left, but this issue isn’t terrible.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #402 (Marvel, 1995) – “Crossfire, Part One,” [W] J.M. Dematteis, [A] Mark Bagley. The Clone Saga was the lowest point of Spider-Man’s entire history, and while this issue is not the nadir of the Clone Saga, it’s still very bad. Spidey encounters Judas Traveller, a confusing villain whose powers and backstory were never made clear, and Traveller tries to bargain with him for Aunt May’s soul.

2000 AD #153 (IPC, 1980) – Robo-Hunter: “Day of the Droids!”, [W] John Wagner, [A] Ian Gibson. Someone has been replacing VIPs with robots, and Sam Slade has to solve the mystery while being driven nuts by his inept sidekick Hoagy. Dredd: “Blood of Satanus Part 2,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Ron Smith. Dredd fights a man who’s been turned into a monster by the blood of the dinosaur Satanus. Satanus is the son of Old One-Eye and the father of Golgotha; see the above review of prog 135. Fiends of the Eastern Front: “Part 2,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. In 1941, some German soldiers invade Russia alongside some mysterious Romanian allies. It soon becomes obvious that the Romanians are vampires. Carlos Ezquerra’s style is well-suited to a war comic. Blackhawk: as above. Inside the black hole, Blackhawk fights another man who’s been enslaved by the Soul-Sucker. At this point, Belardinelli’s linework is much crisper, and his backgrounds and alien creatures are much weirder. The V.C.’s: untitled, [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Cam Kennedy. A new series about soldiers in a war against the alien Geeks. Cam Kennedy’s artwork here is notable for its heavy spotting of blacks.

2000 AD #158 (IPC, 1980) – Robo-Hunter: as above. Sam Slade uses a giant wrecking droid to fight some enemies. Then Hoagy throws Sam a surprise party, and we meet Hoagy’s human parents. The V.C.’s: as above. A contingent of VCs go on a suicide mission to rescue some stranded comrades. Dredd: “The Judge Child Part 3,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ron Smith. This was one of the first major Dredd epics, and I think it was longer than any previous Dredd story, at 26 parts. Its overarching plot is that Dredd is searching for a child who’s been prophesied to be the next ruler of Mega-City One. This prog, Dredd is trying to recapture the Judge Child from Faro, a madman who’s “recreated ancient Egypt in the Cursed Earth.” Ron Smith’s establishing shot of Faro’s realm is amazing. Fiends of the Eastern Front: “Part 7,” as above. Two of the surviving German soldiers succeed in killing all the vampires except two. This story puts the reader in the uncomfortable position of sympathizing with Nazi soldiers. It would be just as well if the vampires did manage to kill all the soldiers. Blackhawk: “Warrior in Search of His Soul,” as above. Blackhawk and his allies encounter a robot from Betelgeuse. This story is a rare moment when Tharg’s universe crosses over with the universe of one of the strips. Usually Tharg seems to exist on a narrative level between the real world and the universes of the 2000 AD comics – that is, Tharg himself is fictional, but Judge Dredd and the other 2000 AD characters are fictional from Tharg’s perspective.

THE PHANTOM #766 (Frew, 1983) – “The Drummer of Timpenni,” [W] Lee Falk, [A] Sy Barry. The island of Timpenni (i.e. “timpani”) was home to an evil tribe that used hypnotic drums to capture and enslave the people of Bengali. The rest of Bengali finally destroyed Timpenni, but one last drummer of Timpenni survived and taught his craft to his son. Years later, that son uses his drums to try to conquer Bengali, but of course the Phantom defeats him. This story includes some impressive uses of sound effects (including a lot of drumbeats), but otherwise it’s not as fun as the other Lee Falk Phantom stories I’ve been reading.

DONALD DUCK #31 (Dell, 1953) – untitled (Vacation Work), [W] Carl Fallberg, [A] Jack Bradbury. This comic was included with the Little Lulus I bought. In the main story, Donald goes on vacation, but Scrooge tricks him into taking care of an old dilapidated mansion. this story is fairly entertaining, but Fallberg and Bradbury weren’t nearly as good as Barks. There are also a couple shorter stories by the same creative team. One of these stories is the first and only appearance of Donald’s cousin Botcho, an inept inventor.

LITTLE LULU #72 (Dell, 1954) – [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. “A Case of Green Toes”: Lulu uses a trick to prove that Tubby stole Mrs. Dingley’s pie. “Sandwich Boys”: Lulu tricks the boys into providing free advertising for an old lady’s restaurant, instead of for its competitor. “Queen of the Crows”: Lulu tells Alvin about how the Poor Little Girl turned Ol’ Witch Hazel into a scarecrow. John Stanley used the Poor Little Girl and Witch Hazel to tell stories that went beyond the limits of Lulu’s severely constrained world. “The Ball of String”: Gloria is rude to Tubby, as usual, so Tubby takes revenge by destroying Gloria’s vase.

ZAP COMIX #14 (Last Gasp, 1998) – various stories, [E] uncredited. This issue’s wraparound cover is one of S. Clay Wilson’s most impressive works, and it shows that he was capable of creating interesting artwork and not just his usual racist, sexist, hyperviolent crap. This issue includes a long Wilson story in several parts, starring Star-Eyed Stella, the Checkered Demon, and other characters. There are also some shorter works by Moscoso and Spain. The best part of the issue is at the end, when Crumb, Moscoso and Spain (together), and Paul Mavrides tell three different versions of how Mavrides became Zap’s first new contributor in 29 years.

WASTELAND #1 (DC, 1987) – “Foo Goo,” [W] John Ostrander & Del Close, [A] David Lloyd. This series was intended as both a revival of the old horror title and a vehicle for Del Close, who is best known as the founder of modern improv comedy. In comics, he also co-wrote many of the Munden’s Bar stories in Grimjack. “Foo Goo” is about people who deliberately kill themselves by eating fugu. Its depiction of fugu is highly inaccurate, probably on purpose. “R.A.B.,” drawn by William Messner-Loebs, is about an overpopulated dystopian future where parents can perform “retroactive abortions” by throwing their baby out a window. “Sewer Rat,” drawn by Don Simpson, depicts a hallucination, and is described as semi-autobiographical.

THE PHANTOM #776 (Frew, 1983) – “The Last Assignment,” [W] Norman Worker, [A] Bertil Wilhelmsson & Özcan Eralp. Sergeant Svenson is about to retire from the Jungle Patrol. Unsurprisingly, on his last day, his no-good brother kidnaps him and forces him to participate in a jewel theft. Svenson’s fiancee goes looking for him and helps the Phantom prove his innocence. This is another exciting issue. It’s the last of the Australian Phantom comics I ordered. I hope I can get more somehow.

LITTLE LULU #67 (Dell, 1954) – credits as above. “The Dolly’s Ghost” – Lulu fools the boys into thinking that they’re haunted by Lulu’s doll’s ghost. “Good Little Citizen” – Two mayoral candidates each hire Lulu to paint mustaches on the other candidate’s posters. As a result, a third, dark-horse candidate wins the election. “Gran’ma Jones” – Lulu masquerades as a notorious old female criminal. The actual Gran’ma Jones does not appear. “The Case of the Disappearing Drums” – Tubby, as the Spider, solves the theft of Alvin’s drum. Lulu’s dad is the  culprit. “Best-Dressed Boy” – Tubby goes to a party wearing a dog’s coat. “Ol’ Witch Hazel and the Trip to the Moon” – Lulu uses a pogo stick to beat Ol’ Witch Hazel at being the first person on the moon. This story predates Apollo 11 or even Sputnik. “Kite Flight” – Tubby and Chubby accidentally break up a counterfeiting ring while flying kites. This issue’s back cover is a Wheaties ad starring Hall of Fame wide receiver Tom Fears, who played so long ago that his position was still called “split end”.

2000 AD #159 (IPC, 1980) – Robo-Hunter: as above. Sam Slade goes to the police chief with evidence that people are being replaced by robots, only to learn that the police chief himself is a robot. The V.C.’s: as above. The V.C.’s continue their rescue mission. Dredd: “The Judge Child Part 4,” as above. Faro kills himself and the Judge Child, but Dredd discovers that Faro’s Judge Child is an impostor, and the real child was abducted by Faro’s subordinate Bunsen. Fiends of the Eastern Front: as above. One of the soldiers and one of the vampires are killed. The last soldier reaches relative safety, but the last vampire is still hunting him. Blackhawk: as above. Blackhawk finally makes it to the Soulsucker. By now Belardinelli’s draftsmanship had gotten really good. His depiction of the Soulsucker’s “hell at world’s end” is especially striking.

THE SPIRIT #33 (Kitchen Sink, 1987) – [W/A] Will Eisner. “The Springtime of Dolan” – Dolan almost marries Widow Walker, but doesn’t. “Barkarolle” – a criminal captures Ebony’s dog and trains it to steal purses. This story has some very nice lettering. Ebony, of course, is the worst thing about this great comic, and Eisner’s portrayal of him is really not defensible, even if he had some positive aspects. “The Thing” – an adaptation of Ambrose Bierce’s story of the same name. “Caramba, Crime Capital of the World” – the Spirit visits a fictional jungle country to hunt down Mr. Carrion. I have a bunch of other Kitchen Sink Spirit comics that I haven’t read. This series is the most cost-effective way to collect the postwar Spirit, although it’s in black and white.

INCREDIBLE HULK #314 (Marvel, 1985) – “Call of the Desert,” [W/A] John Byrne. In the first issue of Byrne’s short-lived run, Doc Samson tracks down the Hulk, but the Hulk has a vision in which he imagines himself fighting all his worst enemies. This issue’s plot is somewhat flimsy, but its art is excellent.

THE VISITOR: HOW & WHY HE STAYED #5 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola & Chris Roberson, [A] Paul Grist. Now widowed, the Visitor is captured and fatally wounded by villains. He stays alive long enough to meet Hellboy face to face for the first time and warn him about future threats. This miniseries is easily my favorite Hellboy comic not drawn by Mignola.

THRILLING MURDER COMICS #1 (San Francisco Comic Book Company, 1971) – various stories, [E] Gary Arlington. As its title suggests, this one-shot is unusually violent even compared to other underground comics. It’s mostly in black and white, but uses red to depict blood. It starts with Jim Osborne’s “Kid Kill!”, about a serial killer who targets pregnant women (and is named after the artist). In Bill Griffith’s “A Fine Way to Die,” the Toad murders his lover’s husband. There’s a pinup by S. Clay Wilson, a three-pager by Osborne, then Crumb’s “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” about a cultist who murders his female followers. Then a story by Kim Deitch in which a Cajun farmer murders a man who’s sodomizing his prize hen. The farmer’s wife looks like Daisy from Li’l Abner. Finally, Spain’s “In the Gloom of Night” is about a series of mob executions. This comic has an impressive line of talent, but is rather tough to read.

TRANSFORMERS #70 (Marvel, 1990) – “The Price of Life!”, [W] Simon Furman, [A] Andrew Wildman. Megatron and Ratchet’s bodies have merged. Optimus Prime refuses to kill Megatron to save Ratchet, and in response Kup challenges Prime’s leadership. Meanwhile, Grimlock tries to use a dangerous substance called nucleon to revive the other Dinobots. When I read Transformers as a kid, I didn’t realize how closely Furman’s writing style resembled that of 2000 AD.

2000 AD #179 (IPC, 1980) – Strontium Dog: “Death’s-Head,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny Alpha, Wulf and the Gronk search for a crook named Willy Blanko. Mean Arena: “The Southampton Sharks,” [W] Tom Tully, [A] John Richardson. This series is about the brutally violent game of “street football,” which is American football played across an entire city. I don’t recall having seen John Richardson’s art before, but he’s quite good. Dredd: “The Judge Child Part 24: Grunwald’s Kingdom,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. The Angel Gang (the same ones from the newspaper strips reprinted in prog 590) have kidnapped the Judge Child and are taking him to the realm of the robot Grunwald. Dredd pursues the Angel Gang and kills two of them. Meltdown Man: untitled, [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. One-eyed Nick Stone finds himself in an alien world where “Yujees,” or anthropomorphic animals, are enslaved by humans. Stone receives a message from the mysterious Yujee leader Kinita. Again, Belardinelli’s art here is really good, especially his establishing shot of the alien citadel. Comic Rock: “Killer Watt Part 2,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. This is the third appearance of Nemesis and Torquemada. Like the first appearance of these characters in prog 167, “Killer Watt” was an adaptation of a music album, but Nemesis and Torquemada were popular enough that their next appearance was in their own series.

LITTLE LULU #61 (Dell, 1953) – credits as above. “The Earwich” – Lulu and Alvin take a disastrous trip to the beach. Most Lulu stories are fairly plausible, but in this story Lulu and Alvin find themselves on  top of a whale. “The Spider and the Secret Six” – Mr. Moppet refuses to let Lulu jon the boys’ club because he thinks kids shouldn’t be in gangs. Some mysterious people come to visit Lulu’s dad. Lulu and Tubby capture them and tie them up, only to learn that they’re members of Mr. Moppet’s own childhood gang. “The Blackout Party” – Tubby throws a party, but the girls cleverly avoid participating in a game of spin-the-bottle, and they also eat all the cake. “The Hungry One” – Tubby pretends to be dying of hunger. His pretense is unmasked when Lulu offers him crackers and milk, and he gets up and leaves. “The Daredevil” – Lulu goes into a cave and captures two bats, but they’re the baseball kind of bats. “The Human Mudpie” – Lulu tells Alvin a story to convince him to take a bath. This is a rare Poor Little Girl story in which Ol’ Witch Hazel doesn’t appear. “The Shark in the Lake” – Tubby sabotages Wilbur and Gloria’s boat ride.

RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT! #17 (Gold Key, 1969) – “The Doom Flower,” [W] unknown, [A] Sal Trapani. A bunch of dumb stories with boring art. The last one is based on the real-life story of Amala and Kamala, two Bengali children who were allegedly raised by wolves. However, in the comic the older child returns to her wolf pack, while in real life she died of tuberculosis – if she even existed. According to Wikipedia, there’s only one source that attests to Amala and Kamala’s existence, and that source’s accuracy has been questioned.

WASTELAND #2 (DC, 1987) – [W] John Ostrander & Del Close. “That’s Entertainment,” [A] William Messner-Loebs: An autobio story. Del performs at a small Kansas town, and a local man threatens to shoot him, but instead shoots a reel of nitrate film and causes an explosion. “Ghengis Sings!!”, [A] George Freeman. A modern-day woman performs past-life regression and switches bodies with Genghis Khan. The results are tragic and hilarious. “Warning Signals,” [A] David Lloyd. A boy is referred to child protective services because his stepfather seems to be abusive. An investigation clears the stepfather of any wrongdoing, but the boy is telling the truth when he claims the stepfather is a werewolf, and “one month later the boy was dead.” Creepy.

TOTAL WAR #2 (Gold Key, 1965) – “Sneak Attack!” and “Breakthrough!”, [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Dan Adkins & Wally Wood. A multiracial team of American soldiers battles an invasion by unspecified foreigners. This comic has some excellent artwork, including some beautiful depictions of military hardware. However, its stories are very boring, and it has no characterization to speak of. The only character who has any distinctive traits is the Japanese soldier, because he’s a stereotype; he’s always spouting proverbs that he attributes to an ancestor. With issue 3 this series was renamed M.A.R.S. Patrol Total War.

BATMAN #464 (DC, 1991) – “Spirit of the Beast Part Three: Sacrifice,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. Bamtan fights an evil Native American chieftain named Two-Hearts. Like so many other comics, this issue shows an inability to tell one Native American nation from another. Two-Hearts seems to be Navajo, but his costume looks like something out of the children’s book Arrow to the Sun. And his grandfather, Black Wolf, draws his power from “Manitou,” an Algonquian word. Also, this story shows no sympathy for Two-Hearts and his people, except at the end, when Bruce Wayne decides to be a white savior and donate money to Native American causes. This issue includes previews of the upcoming Impact line of comics. Some of the Impact titles actually look pretty interesting.

ANIMAL MAN #60 (DC, 1993) – “Wildlife,” [W] Jamie Delano, [A] Russell Brown. Buddy escapes from an insane asylum and returns home, without any clothes. Meanwhile, Ellen and her mother have a frank discussion about Ellen’s marriage. This issue is pretty cute and has some good characterization. A couple elements from Delano’s run were used in Jeff Lemire’s run, including Ellen’s mother and Maxine’s nickname “Little Wing.”

DOCTOR SOLAR, MAN OF THE ATOM #8 (Gold Key, 1964) – “The Thought Controller,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Frank Bolle. Nuro causes Doctor Solar to suffer hallucinations so that he’ll waste his energy. Given that Doctor Solar’s powers were based on radiation, it’s a miracle that his supporting characters, Gail and Dr. Clarkson, didn’t get cancer. There’s also a short story about breeder reactors, which produce more fuel than they consume. As it turned out, breeder reactors never fulfilled their potential because uranium proved to be more abundant than was previously believed.

ALL-NEW X-FACTOR #10 (Marvel, 2014) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Carmine Di Giandomenico. On this issue’s title page, PAD mentions that his daughter has just gotten her master’s degree. In this issue Georgia Dakei is kidnapped by her supervillain father Memento Mori, and the X-Factor members have to rescue her. I ought to read more of PAD’s second X-Factor run. This issue demonstrates that he’s still an excellent writer, Spider-Man 2099 notwithstanding.

2000 AD #180 (IPC, 1980) – Strontium Dog: as above. Gronk acquires a living shadow companion. Johnny and Wulf defeat some of Willy’s minions, only to fall into an ambush by Willy himself, who has already dug Johnny’s grave. Meltdown Man: as above. Nick acquires two Yujee sidekicks, a cat and a dog. They escape the city but find thmeselves in “the vats.” Dredd: “The Judge Child Part 25,” as above. Junior Angel kills Dredd’s companion Old Joe Blind, but Dredd executes Junior. This story has another incredible splash page, depicting a volcanic eruption. Mean Arena: as above. Matt Tallon has seemingly murdered an opposing player, but his victim proves to be a robot. Tharg: “Tharg and the Thrill-Suckers,” [W] unknown, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Tharg stops an epidemic of thrill-sucking insects.

LITTLE LULU #78 (Dell, 1954) – credits as above. “Fiddlin’ Around” – Lulu breaks her dad’s pipe. Tubby tricks Mr. Moppet into forgiving Lulu. “Alvin’s Voice” – Tubby fools Lulu with ventriloquism, and they accidentally foil a bank robbery. “The Spider and the Million Cats” – Lulu’s father has some new squeaky shoes that attract stray cats because they sound like mice. The end of this story is enigmatic: Tubby is holding some unidentifiable object, and he says he’s going to leave it at Lulu’s door and ring the bell. I guess the thing he’s holding must be the remains of the shoes. “Ol’ Witch Hazel and the Iron Door” – the Poor Little Girl finds a cache of gold inside a mountain. “Big Fish” – Tubby tricks Wilbur’s dad by pretendiing to have caught a giant fish, but Wilbur’s dad turns the tables on Tubby.

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT: MARSHAL LAW TAKES MANHATTAN #1 (Epic, 1989) – untitled, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. Most of this story is set in an insane asylum where the patients are knock-offs of Marvel characters. For example, there’s a Reed Richards knockoff who’s always talking to his invisible wife, and a Lord of Valhalla who talks in faux-Elizabethan English. A new superhero, the Persecutor (i.e. the Punisher), tries to get into the asylum, but is rejected because he has no powers. Meanwhile, Marshal Law is assigned to hunt down the Persecutor. I don’t know what exactly to make of this comic. It has excellent art, it’s often hilarious, and it makes some serious arguments about the fascist and masochistic subtext of superhero comics. On the other hand, it enacts the same ultra-violence that it critiques; for instance, this issue ends with a splash page depicting the mutilated remains of the asylum inmates, after they’ve jumped out a window to their deaths. It feels like Mills and O’Neill are using this serise as an excuse to indulge in more violence, gore and sex than they could normally get away with.

New comics received yesterday, July 31:

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #7 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] Brian Michael Bendis, [A] Stephen Byrne. This is a very poorly written comic: it has no plot at all, not much characterization, and very awkward dialogue. And after seven issues, we still don’t even know all the characters’ names, even though they literally wear nametags. On the other hand, this issue has some adorable moments – like Triplicate Girl realizing that if all the Legionnaires voted for themselves as leader, she would win. Or Bouncing Boy eating all the things, or the Ranzz family reunion. I’m continuing to read this series because it has tremendous potential, but I wish Bendis would co-write it with someone who’s not totally incompetent.

X-MEN #10 (Marvel, 2020) – “Fire,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Leinil Francis Yu. Not a great way to restart the series after a four-month hiatus (or longer for me, since I forgot to order #9). This issue is an Empyre crossover in which Vulcan, Petra and Sway fight the Cotati. I have no idea who Petra and Sway even are, and it took me half the issue to figure out that the villains were Cotati.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #107 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell & Ronda Pattison, [A] Nelson Daniel. The Turtles investigate Lita’s disappearance, for which Baxter Stockman seems to be responsible. This issue is fun, but I wish Sophie Campbell was still writing and drawing this series herself. The best moment in the issue is Lita not being able to pronounce “environment.”

JOHN CONSTANTINE, HELLBLAZER #8 (DC, 2020) – “Britannia, Rule the Waves, Part 2,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A]  Aaron Campbell. Constantine reveals the rest of the fisherman and the mermaid’s story. Like a classic abuse victim, the mermaid tries to justify her boyfriend’s actions. Then she dies in childbirth – like salmon do after they spawn, as Constantine explains by means of an extended metaphor. Constantine feeds the fisherman to his own newborn half-fish children. This story was gruesome, but extremely powerful and clever.

ASCENDER #11 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Driller defeats the vampires, allowing Mila, Tesla and company to escape the planet. A very exciting issue.

BLACK MAGICK #12 (Image, 2020) – “Ascension I,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Nicola Scott. Nice to see this series again. Rowan attends a Beltane ritual, then solves a crime singlehandedly. Meanwhile, two of Rowan’s enemies have a lot of sex.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #18 (Marvel, 2020) – “Accused,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Cory Smith. An Empyre crossover in which Carol adjusts to her new role as the Supreme Accuser, and also meets her previously unknown half-sister. This issue demonstrates two of the problems with this series: Kelly’s Captain Marvel has no personality beyond being a strong female character, and Kelly hasn’t given Carol any supporting cast.

HEATHEN #11 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Natasha Alterici, [A] Ashley A. Woods. The pirates join the villagers to prepare for a battle, which the Valkyries stop from happening. This issue is a really quick read and is not very interesting. There’s not much reason to read this series if Alterici isn’t drawing it herself.

ARCIHE #713 (Archie, 2020) – “Archie and Katy Keene 4 of 4,” [W] Mariko Tamaki & Kevin Panetta, [A] Laura Braga. Katy Keene has a fashion show and then decides to stay in New York. As stated in previous reviews, “Archie and Katy Keene” has no plot at all and is mostly an excuse to show off Laura Braga’s costume designs.

FCBD THE WEIRN BOOKS (Yen Press, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Svetlana Chmakova. A preview of Chmakova’s new middle grade graphic novel, about students at a school for magic. The artwork in this comic is adorable, especially the depictions of the kids’ “astral” companions. I already have The Weirn Books, and now I look forward to reading it.

HAWKMAN #13 (DC, 1966) – “Quest of the Immortal Queen!”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Murphy Anderson. Because of Gardner Fox’s reputation as a canonical superhero writer, one tends to forget how weird his work is, and how much it owes to classic science fiction and fantasy. This issue, Hawkman is kidnapped by an immortal Valkyrie who lives in St. Martin’s Land, a hollow-earth realm mentioned in some medieval texts. She wants to make him her eighth husband, but first he has to prove his valor by stopping the flying ship Naglfar. Luckily, Hawkgirl saves Hawkman from committing bigamy. Hawkgirl was one of DC’s best female characters of the Silver Age, even though characterization was not Fox’s strong suit.

PLUNGE #5 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Stuart Immonen. The corporate stooge betrays the other humans to the aliens. The female crew member, Moriah, has to dive to open the hatch of the sunken submarine, in order to free the aliens’ queen. This issue is an excellent work of supernatural horror.

IRON MAN 2020 #5 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Pete Woods. Tony builds a new suit of holographic armor and uses it to defeat Arno. Unfortunately, the Extinction Event Entity that Arno was worried about actually exists, and at the end of the issue it finally appears. There’s one issue left.

STRANGE TALES #151 (Marvel, 1966) – Nick Fury: “Overkill!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby & Jim Steranko. Nick Fury defeats a bunch of Hydra agents, but then we learn that they let him win in order to trick him into activating the Overkill Horn. This story was Steranko’s first work for Marvel, though he only did finishes over Kirby layouts. Dr. Strange: “Umar Strikes!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Bill Everett. Mostly a summary of earlier Dr. Strange stories, told from Umar’s perspective.

2000 AD #181 (Fleetway, 1980) – Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny uses a “time-shrinker” to finally kill Willy Blanko. Ro-Jaws’ Robo Tales: “The Tidy-Up Droid,” [W] Gary Rice, [A] Dave Gibbons. A slob murders his wife, but is caught because of his cleaning robot. Dredd: “The Judge Child Part 26,” as above. The Judge Child kills Pa Angel. Dredd concludes from this that the Judge Child is too evil to rule Mega-City One, and decides to leave him behind and go back to town. That’s the end of this story, though there’s an epilogue in the next prog. Meltdown Man: as above. We’ve reached the Vats, where Yujees are executed after they’re no longer useful. Nick destroys the Vats, and a bull-headed vat worker joins his team. Tharg: “Tharg Strikes Back!”, [W] unknown, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Tharg stops the Dictators of Zrag from shutting down 2000 AD. This story is intended to explain why 2000 AD was not available at newsstands earlier in the year. I don’t know the real explanation for this.

LITTLE LULU #44 (Dell, 1952) – credits as above. “Mumps” – Lulu pretends to have mumps, but the pretense becomes real. “The Apple Watcher” – Lulu watches Mr. Joe’s fruit stand and tricks Tubby and the boys into staying away from it. “The Merry-Go-Roundup” – the Poor Little Girl befriends a lonely carousel pony. I think I’ve read all this issue’s stories before in a trade paperback collection, but this story is the only one I remember. “Riding the Pookle” – Tubby makes the West Side Boys think he’s swum through a giant pipe.