2000 AD #410 (IPC, 1985) – Rogue Trooper: “Return of Rogue Trooper,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] José Ortiz. Rogue visits a new planet to look for the antigen that will restore Gunner, Helm and Bagman to their bodies. Ortiz’s art is pretty good. One-shot: “The Snicker Snack,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Jeff Anderson. A smuggler misplaces a valuable shapeshifting alien, and then eats it, mistaking it for a pie. Halo Jones: “Cat and Mouse,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Ian Gibson. A colony of intelligent rats orders Halo to dispose of their deceased brother and replace it with a new rat. Dredd: “The Hunters Club,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Cliff Robinson. The new recruit refuses to commit his assigned murder, so his partner kills him instead. The killer escapes. A funny line: “Oh no, that’s not him. The killer didn’t have a broken nose and blood all over his face.” This is after Dredd has already started interrogating the suspect. Future Shocks: “Long Division,” [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Isidro Mones. A general uses a “bio-mass divider” to repeatedly divide his soldiers in half, not realizing that the soldiers get smaller every time. HellTrekkers: untitled, [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Horacio Lalia. The caravan gets stuck at a sheer rock wall, and they have to lift the wagons over it with cables.
STARFIRE #7 (DC, 1977) – “Freedom Never Dies,” [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Mike Vosburg. Starfire infiltrates the tower of her enemy Lady Djinn. Nothing about this comic stands out in my memory. Englehart was this series’ third writer since issue 2. With #8, he was replaced by yet another writer, Tom DeFalco, but that was the last issue.
RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT #21 (Gold Key, 1970) – [W] unknown. “My Lady Death,” [A] Luis Dominguez. An Englishman falls in love with the ghost of a long-dead highwaywoman. This is the best-drawn story in the issue, though that’s not saying much. “The Living Phantom,” [A] Tom Gill. A house is haunted by a ghost that’s actually a living woman’s astral form. “The Ghost Drums of Rathmoy,” [A] Frank Bolle. The title drums are played by Irish soldiers who fought against Cromwell. “Voyage to Doom,” [A] Jack Sparling. A highly inaccurate retelling of the Scilly Islands naval disaster of 1707.
2000 AD #411 (IPC, 1985) – Halo Jones: “Memories Are Made of This,” as above. Halo accidentally discovers that her robot dog Toby killed her friend Brianna. Even worse, Toby knows that Halo knows. Sláine: “Time Killer,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Glenn Fabry. Slaine defends the Eternal Fortress from the alien Cythrons. This story seems more influenced by Moorcock than by Irish myths. As always, Glenn Fabry’s draftsmanship is insanely good. Dredd: “The Hunters Club,” as above except [A] Ron Smith. Dredd tracks down the killer from last issue, but the rest of the Hunters Club escapes. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue witnesses a battle between winged aliens, fighting for the Norts, and insectoid aliens, fighting for the Southers. The Nort aliens capture the only man on the planet who knows about the antigen. HellTrekkers: as above. The cable lift is completed, and then the relatives of the guy from #406 seek their revenge on the caravan’s leadership.
FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2020 (SPIDER-MAN/VENOM) (Marvel, 2020) – Spider-Man & Black Cat: “Moonlighting,” [W] Jed MacKay, [A] Patrick Gleason. Spidey and Black Cat fight the Vulture. Not bad but not great. Venom: untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Ryan Stegman. Mostly setup for an upcoming crossover or something.
MIDNIGHTER #1 (DC, 2015) – untitled, [W] Steve Orlando, [A] ACO. This comic has a lot of complicated and fascinating panel structures, but I don’t understand its plot.
FAMILY TREE #8 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Phil Hester. The creepy old grandpa dude gets killed, or so it seems. Yay! Good riddance! Meanwhile, some government agents try to cut down the little girl’s tree. This series isn’t that great, and I’m mostly still reading it because of inertia.
2000 AD #413 (IPC, 1985) – Halo Jones: “Hounded,” as above. In a tragic moment, Nobody sacrifices themself to save Halo from Toby, and Halo immediately forgets her: “Nobody died today.” Slaine: as above except [A] David Pugh. Slaine continues fighting the Cythrons. This was David Pugh’s first 2000 AD story. He mostly worked on other Fleetway titles. I don’t think he’s related to Steve Pugh. Dredd: “Spugbug,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Kim Raymond. As a party game, some people play pranks on random victims, one of which has fatal consequences. Dredd brings the partiers to justice. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue fights the winged aliens and learns the location of the antigen. HellTrekkers: as above. Some natives ambush the caravan by dropping rocks on it.
WEIRD FANTASY #2 (EC/Russ Cochran, 1950/1993) – “Cosmic Ray Bomb Explosion!”, [W/A] Al Feldstein. Two comic book writers (Feldstein and Bill Gaines) write a comic book story about a cosmic ray bomb. Unbeknownst to them, the U.S. government is developing a bomb just like the one in the story. The government lets the writers off with a warning, but the Soviets read the comic book too, and armageddon results. This is a funny piece of metafiction. “The Black Arts,” [W] Harry Harrison?, [A] Wally Wood. A creepy mousy man is in love with his librarian. He uses a love potion to make her fall in love with him, but instead it turns her into a werewolf. I like the last panel, where he’s reading a newspaper about the werewolf’s murders, not realizing that the werewolf’s claw is within striking distance of his head. “The Trap of Time!”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Jack Kamen. A man uses a time machine to try to prevent his wife’s death, but instead causes her death. “Atom Bomb Thief!”, [W/A] Harvey Kurtzman. A spy steals atom bomb plans from Oak Ridge, but is marooned in the ocean while trying to escape. He finally reaches land, but the land is Bikini Atoll, on the day of a nuclear test.
CONAN: DEATH COVERED IN GOLD #1 (Marvel, 1999) – “Golden Shadows,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] John Buscema. This was one of Marvel’s last Conan comics before they lost the license. I don’t think I ever heard of it until I discovered this issue at the Heroes sale. In this story, a young Conan visits the capital of Ophir where he meets an old prospector and his daughter. He accompanies them to their claim, but the prospector is killed by a giant albino worm. This issue is not bad, but it’s very similar to many other Roy Thomas Conan comics. It even includes an unnecessary guest appearance by Jenna, from Roy’s earliest stories.
ZERO ZERO #23 (Fantagraphics, 1988) – “La réserve de tetes,” [W/A] Henriette Valium. Bizarre absurdist illustrations coupled with defaced old portrait photos. This piece has no apparent story or plot, and is closer to fine art than comics. “Tired,” [W/A] Doug Allen. A mildly absurdist slapstick story about pizza delivery and auto repair. More accessible than most stories in Zero Zero. “Junk Rabbit,” [W/A] Mike Diana: Disturbing, brutal nonsense. I sympathize with that judge who sentenced him to never draw anything ever again. This issue also includes short pieces by P. Revess, Stephane Blanquet and Renee French.
THE UNEXPECTED #217 (DC, 1981) – “Dear Senator,” [W/A] Sheldon Mayer. Abraham Lincoln is rescued from his assassination and sent forward in time to 2265, where some future power brokers intend to use him as a puppet ruler. Lincoln foils their plot. This story is really weird, but not bad at all. It must have been one of the last stories Mayer ever drew. “Snow Woman,” [W] Tom Sciacca, [A] Fred Carrillo. A semi-accurate version of the Japanese myth of Yuki-Onna. “The Fiends in Fedoras,” [W] Dan Mishkin & Gary Cohn, [A] Dan Spiegle. Some alien invaders buy hats from a struggling hat store to conceal their deformed heads. The hat store owner tells his wife to “keep this under your hat.” “Bride of the Non-Man,” [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Vince Perez: A female space explorer is tricked into marrying a horribly deformed alien. Vince Perez’s art here is pretty good, but this story is his only credit in the GCD. I wonder if he was a pseudonym.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #673 (Marvel, 2012) – “Spider-Island Epilogue: The Naked City,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Stefano Caselli. All the people who were turned into spiders are now normal, except their clothes are gone. Mary Jane retains her spider-powers. Peter befriends a construction worker named Elio, but then Carlie breaks up with him. Dr. Strange tells Peter that it’s now possible again for people to learn his secret identity. The issue ends with the city of New York putting on a light display in honor of Peter. This issue has a ton of different plotlines, but it’s quite satisfying.
MONSTRESS #30 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. We start with a flashback to Maika and Tuya’s childhood, and then we go back to Ravenna, where the battle is winding up. I’ve given up on understanding the plot of this series, though I intend to keep reading it anyway.
GHOSTED IN L.A. #12 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] Sina Grace, [A] Siobhan Keenan. Ronnie moves into Rycroft Manor. Daphne discovers that Agi is her great-grandmother (unless she already knew that), and becomes the mansion’s new caretaker. Daphne changes her major to animation and uses “The Ghosts of Rycroft Manor” as her submission to the program. This was a fun series and I’m glad that it was completed in single-issue form, unlike some other Boom! series.
RAGNAROK: THE BREAKING OF HELHEIM #6 (IDW, 2020) – “The Valley of the Shadow of Death…!”, [W/A] Walt Simonson. The Einherjar sacrifice themselves so that Thor can escape from Helheim. The issue ends with a couple of hooks for future stories. As always, Uncle Walt’s artwork is incredible and epic.
2000 AD #503 (IPC, 1987) – Slaine: “Slaine the King,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Glenn Fabry. Slaine’s people are enslaved by the cruel Fomorian sea demons and their one-eyed ruler Balor. The current king, Ragall, decides to sacrifice himself so Slaine can replace him. Bad Company: untitled, [W[ Peter Milligan, [A] Brett Ewins. Bad Company are a group of weird soldiers who are fighting the alien Krool on the planet of Ararat. Their leader is the Frankenstein Monster-esque Kano. In this installment, some of the soldiers try to see what’s inside the black box Kano always carries, but Kano kills them. Dredd: “Varks,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Kevin O’Neill. Sigourney Bean’s sons are turned into monsters by alien germs. Dredd apprehends the monsters and commits the mother to an insane asylum. Kevin O’Neill’s art here is incredible; his monsters are unimaginably hideous, and his panels are full of hidden messages and gags. Nemesis: “Book Six,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Bryan Talbot. The samurai robot Hitaki dies, and Nemesis, Purity, and the surviving ABC Warriors try to save Termight from blowing up.
CAPTAIN MARVEL #19 (Marvel, 2020) – “Accused Part Two,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Cory Smith. Lauri-Ell hangs out with Carol’s cat, then fights some Cotati. Meanwhile, Carol discovers that Wastrel, the villain from Marvel Team-Up, has been up to something. The addition of Lauri-Ell helps to solve this series’ biggest problem: its lack of a supporting cast.
CAPTAIN MARVEL #20 (Marvel, 2020) – “Accused Part Three,” as above. Carol deputizes War Machine, Spider-Woman and Hazmat to help her fight Wastrel. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Trouble goes missing, and her mother asks Lauri-Ell to help find her. I don’t know why it took this long for Kelly to reintroduce Lieutenant Trouble.
IRON MAN 2020 #6 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Pete Woods. Arno leads Earth’s heroes in a successful battle against the Extinction Event Entity. But then we learn that there was no such entity in the first place: Arno is dying of a disease, and Tony had to project him into a holographic alternative reality to save his life. Tony resumes his role as Spider-Man. This was a pretty good miniseries, and it makes me want to go back and collect more of Slott’s Iron Man.
GHOST-SPIDER #10 (Marvel, 2020) – “When the Chips Are Down,” [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Ig Guara. We learn more about the evil Storms’ past, and then they successfully blackmail Gwen into leaving her planet. It’s disappointing how easily Gwen gives up, but I think Seanan said on Twitter that she plans to write more Ghost-Spider, so I’m hopeful that there will be a resolution to this storyline. I just bought one of Seanan’s novels written under her own name, rather than Mira Grant, and I look forward to reading it soon.
BLACK WIDOW #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Ties That Bind Part 1,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Elena Casagrande. After a mission, Black Widow falls out a window and vanishes. Three months later, Clint Barton sees her on a TV broadcast from San Francisco, and he and Winter Soldier go there to look for her. Black Widow has never had a really good solo series, but this debut issue is very promising. Kelly’s writing is entertaining and exciting, as usual, and Elena Casagrande’s art is the best I’ve seen from her.
JOHN CONSTANTINE, HELLBLAZER #9 (DC, 2020) – “The Favourite,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. This story revolves around a British royal (based on Prince Andrew) who has a passion for both horses and underage girls. Constantine discovers that the prince has been trying to breed a unicorn. When the unicorn is finally born, it proves to be a monster, and Constantine has to get the duke’s latest underage victim to calm it down so Constantine can kill it. Then Constantine uses the baby unicorn’s horn to save himself from being poisoned by a government spook. This is another brilliant one-shot story, and it is a real shame that DC isn’t allowing Si Spurrier to continue writing this series.
BLACK MAGICK #13 (Image, 2020) – “Ascension I (Part 002),” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Nicola Scott. Rowan takes a new female friend home to bed, but unluckily, her best friend, Alex, is on her way to see Rowan to talk about magic stuff. There are also some other subplots that I don’t quite understand.
CANTO II: THE HOLLOW MEN #1 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. Canto and the other clockwork people are living happily in New Arcana, but their clocks are slowing down, and Canto and his friends have to go on a quest to find the Shrouded Man. Canto kind of reminds me of Mouse Guard because of its combination of cuteness and deadly adventure. Canto and his companions are very hard to tell apart; they’re almost identical except for the color of their accessories.
BARBIE FASHION #1 (Marvel, 1991) – “Fall Fashion Issue,” [W] Lisa Trusiani, [A] Anna Maria Cool, plus other stories. This issue starts with a comedy-of-errors story in which Barbie is mistaken for a thief. There’s also a story where Skipper wears Barbie’s white sweater to school, then has to prevent it from getting dirty. Besides that there are several short featurettes. It seems like Barbie Fashion was distinguished from the main Barbie title because all the stories were about clothing, although I wonder how rigorously that distinction was maintained. I’ve mentioned before that Barbie is a problematic character because of the rule that she couldn’t make mistakes. My Little Pony has included lots of excellent stories about fashion, but these stories all revolve around Rarity making mistakes and learning lessons, because Rarity, unlike Barbie, is not perfect.
2000 AD #504 (IPC, 1987) – Slaine: as above. Niamh symbolically sacrifices Kai, her son by Slaine, so that he can train as a druid. Then their chariot crashes and they get attacked by a wolf. Niamh’s visual appearance is striking, with her short hair and heavy lipstick. Bad Company: as above. Bad Company discovers a ward where the Krool are experimenting on humans. Kano kills the humans to put them out of their misery. Dredd: “On the Superslab,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] John Higgins. Dredd fights some criminals operating on Mega-City One’s main highway. The punchline of the story is “You can’t carve up an artery without spilling a little blood.” Nemesis: “Book Six Epilogue,” as above. Thoth and Satanus hunt down Colonel John Chivington, the perpetrator of the Sand Creek Massacre, who, we learn, is an earlier incarnation of Torquemada. One-shot: “The Ark,” [W] Jamie Delano, [A] Dave Wyatt. The President and his cabinet emerge from suspended animation into a post-nuclear wasteland. We then discover that the rest of the world is perfectly fine, and the President was deceived into thinking there’d been a nuclear war; his bombs never went off.
ONLY A MATTER OF SPACE-TIME! (Random House, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Jeffrey Brown. A preview of an upcoming graphic novel about two kids at an astronaut camp in space. This comic is silly and fairly uninteresting. I loved Brown’s graphic novel A Matter of Life, and I wish he’d do more work in that vein, even if kids’ comics have become his primary focus.
ON THE STUMP #5 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Chuck Brown, [A] Prenzy. This made no sense to me even though I had just read issue 4 a week or two ago. I’m done with this series.
OWLY: THE WAY HOME (Scholastic, 2020) – “The Way Home,” [W/A] Andy Runton. A remake of the first Owly story, in which Owly meets Wormy. This version is in color and also includes word balloons and captions, whereas the original version was wordless. The addition of words is not an improvement; the lack of words was Owly’s main gimmick, and part of the fun of reading it was trying to interpret what was going on in the images.
PROTECTOR #5 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Simon Roy & Daniel Bensen, [A] Artyom Trakhanov. The cyborg locates the only other surviving cyborg. Artyom Trakhanov’s art in this issue is very striking and almost surrealistic at times, but Protector’s plot is very hard to follow. Protector is one of the few surviving examples of the Brandon Graham school of comics, a school which collapsed when Graham ruined his own career.
KING OF NOWHERE #4 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Tyler Jenkins. We get some background information on the origin of Nowhere. I don’t quite understand what’s going on in this series, or what its point is.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #696 (Marvel, 2012) – “Danger Zone Part Two: Key to the Kingdom,” [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. The Kingpin kidnaps Peter Parker and tries to trade him to Spider-Man in exchange for Horizon Labs’s secrets. There’s an obvious problem with that. Luckily, Max Modell shows up with Peter’s web-shooters and saves the day. I don’t know how Max hadn’t figured out Peter’s secret identity yet.
2000 AD #505 (IPC, 1987) – Slaine: as above. Slaine saves Niamh from the wolves – though she was already doing fine against them on her own – and then discovers he has a son. Niamh begins telling the story of Kai’s conception and birth. Bad Company: as above. Kano knowingly leads his men into a trap, and we get further evidence of his utter ruthlessness. Dredd: “Slick Dickens,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Steve Dillon. A handsome rogue, Slick Dickens, executes a jewel theft and kills a judge. But it turns out there is no Slick Dickens; he’s a purely literary creation, and his author, Truman Kaput – a fat, balding, bespectacled man – was merely acting out Slick’s crimes. Strontium Dog: “Bitch Part 1,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny Alpha meets the vampiric female bounty hunter Durham Red. This is Durham Red’s first appearance, and prog 505 is the closest thing I have to a key issue of 2000 AD.
GREEN VALLEY #1 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Max Landis, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. Some noble knights battle a horde of barbarians and return victorious, but that night, the barbarians invade their town and kill the knights’ lovers. In terms of tone, this comic is a weird combination of parody and grim realism. I’d potentially be interested in reading more Green Valley, but Max Landis is an alleged rapist and sexual abuser, and I don’t want to support his work.
HITMAN #32 (DC, 1998) – “Tommy’s Heroes Part Four,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] John McCrea. Tommy Monaghan and his friends involve themselves in a civil war in a fictional African country. I can’t stand Hitman in the first place, and this issue’s plot is based on tired African stereotypes.
HITMAN #1,000,000 (DC, 1998) – “To Hell with the Future,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] John McCrea. In the year 85,271, some nerdy kids summon Hitman from the past, but he turns out to be nothing like what they expected. They send him back and summon Etrigan the Demon, who sends them to hell. This is even worse than a typical issue of Hitman; it’s just a pointless, overly gruesome superhero parody.
KILLADELPHIA #7 (Image, 2020) – “Burn Baby Burn Part 1: Jupiter Rising,” [W] Rodney Barnes, [A] Jason Shawn Alexander. We start with a recap of John Adams’s past history, and then his former allies form a new plan to cause havoc in Philadelphia. I want to like this series, but I can’t.
STARTLING STORIES: BANNER #4 (Marvel, 2001) – “Banner Conclusion,” [W] Brian Azzarello, [A] Richard Corben. Doc Samson tries to kill Bruce Banner for good, but it doesn’t work. This issue is mostly devoted to a long conversation between Bruce and Samson, and it’s not the most effective use of Corben’s talents.
KING OF NOWHERE #5 (Boom!, 2020) – as above. We now know that the town’s sheriff has been keeping Nowhere’s people imprisoned there, but the people are fine with it. After a fight scene, Denis leaves Nowhere, but its inhabitants decide to remain, even though they can leave now. This series was kind of pointless.
BILLIONAIRE ISLAND #5 (Ahoy, 2020) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Pugh. I was never able to get issue 4; it came out while I was in the middle of switching from DCBS to Heroes. I will have to add it to my next online order. This issue, the protagonists finally manage to escape the island, and the main villain gets killed. This series has become even more relevant now than when it was initially published.
PLUNGE #6 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Stuart Immonen. Gage Carpenter sacrifices his life to destroy the last of the Lovecraftian monsters. Immonen’s artwork in this issue is very striking and horrific. I believe this is the last Hill House comic. Hill House was a successful but short-lived experiment.
2000 AD #510 (IPC, 1987) – Bad Company: as above. Bad Company link up with some surviving human troops and fight some “war zombies.” Future Shocks: “Prime Suspect!”, [W] Alex Stewart, [A] Dave Wyatt. The American and Soviet leaders are revealed to both be aliens, from different species. Strontium Dog: “Bitch Part 6,” as above. Johnny Alpha and Durham Red try to rescue a kidnapped Ronald Reagan. Grant and Ezquerra’s depiction of Reagan is hilarious. Dredd: “The Taxidermist,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Cam Kennedy. A human taxidermist (i.e. a taxidermist of humans) stuffs some mobsters who have been persecuting him, and manages to dispose of their bodies without being caught by Dredd. The Dead: untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. A man named Fludd lives on a future Earth where death has been conquered. But then Earth is invaded by demons, and Fludd has to die on purpose, so he can go to the land of the dead and stop the demons at their source. This series has some of Belardinelli’s most striking artwork; his depictions of demons and futuristic humans are mind-blowing. However, “The Dead”’s story makes little sense.
SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #1 (Marvel, 2013) – “Hero or Menace?”, [W] Dan Slott, [A] Ryan Stegman. In Peter Parker’s body, Doc Ock singlehandedly defeats the new Sinister Six, makes revolutionary discoveries at Horizon Labs, and romances Mary Jane. Doc Ock’s plot to be a superior Spider-Man is going well, but inside his head, Peter Parker’s personality is trying to escape. Superior Spider-Man is probably Dan Slott’s masterpiece, with the possible exception of Silver Surfer.
On September 19 I went back to Heroes. This was the day after Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, so I was not in a particularly good mood.
LUMBERJANES #73 (Boom!, 2020) – “Daylight Savor,” [W] Shannon Watters, [W/A] Kat Leyh. The summer is almost over, so each of the Lumberjanes decides to do the one thing she hasn’t done yet. For April, that means winning the only badge she’s missing: the badge for throwing a party. Meanwhile, Ripley, Jo and Jen return to the Land of Lost Objects so Ripley can reunite with her pet velociraptor, Jonesy. I’m sad this series is ending soon, but the trouble with summer is that it always ends sooner or later.
BIG GIRLS #2 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Jason Howard. Ember fights a Jack and then has a physical exam; meanwhile, we learn a bit more about the people who are trying to kill the Big Girls. The highlight of the issue is the two-page splash showing a bunch of men climbing like Lilliputians over Ember’s giant naked body.
THE DREAMING: WAKING HOURS #2 (Vertigo, 2020) – “The Bard and the Bard, Part Two,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nick Robles. Lindy is asked to decide which of the candidates is the real Shakespeare. Meanwhile, Jophiel and Ruin consult a sorceress, and Ruin explains how he got to the waking world. Also meanwhile, Daniel and Lucien investigate how Ruin escaped the Box of Nightmares. The Daniel scene is a good example of Nick Robles’s artistic versatility.
SEVEN SECRETS #2 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. Most of this issue is an extended flashback to Caspar’s upbringing and training. At the end, Caspar learns that his father’s been killed, and he tells us that “I don’t make it to the end.” This series continues to be quite entertaining. Caspar is a cute protagonist.
MONEY SHOT #8 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Sarah Beattie, [A] Rebekah Isaacs. This issue begins with a sadly plausible scene where two of President Kirk’s supporters watch a tape where he’s sodomizing a sheep, and rather than abandon him, they decide that bestiality is okay. Then we’re back to Cockaigne, where the Money Shot team have a bunch of sex but then find themselves being chased by space knights. Money Shot has become one of my favorite current monthly titles; it’s just extremely funny.
SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #10 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. The other Order agent tries to eliminate the people who know about the monsters, rather than the monsters themselves, which, coincidentally, have just attacked the school. A brutal moment in this issue is when the little girl sees one of the Oscuratypes and wets herself, just before it rips her in half. As I observed in my dissertation, the concept of a monster that can only be seen by children is a recurring fictional trope, appearing everywhere from Dragon Quest V to Monsters, Inc. to Goethe’s Erlkönig.
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #109 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Jodi Nishijima. A day-in-the-life issue that includes a lot of good characterization. The main event is that Jenny tries to recruit people to form a band. The issue ends with Jenny (?) being attacked by an octopus mutant.
FINGER GUNS #5 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Justin Richards, [A] Val Halvorson. Sadie’s finger is reattached, CPS investigates her father, and she and Wes reconcile. But because Sadie is a stupid idealistic teenager, she decides to get on a bus and run away. This ending is a little disappointing, and I wonder if the creators intend on doing a sequel.
WONDER WOMAN #760 (DC, 2020) – “What Have I Done?”, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Mikel Janín. Diana hangs out with her new roommate Emma, then fights some Para-Demons. Emma is an entertaining new character. I really like Mikel Janín’s draftsmanship.
CAPTAIN MARVEL #21 (Marvel, 2020) – “Accused Part Four,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Cory Smith. Carol and her fellow temporary Accusers fight some Cotati, and Lauri-Ell takes over as the main Accuser. Because this issue was mostly a big fight scene, it was less entertaining than the rest of the storyline.
WONDER WOMAN #761 (DC, 2020) – “Enemies and Allies,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Carlo Barberi. Diana discovers that her fight with the Para-Demons was a destructive halllucination, perhaps caused by a smartphone app that Max Lord invented. At the end of the issue, we discover that Emma is the daughter of whoever is behind the app. I’m guessing her father is Dr. Psycho. I forgot to get the next two issues.
X-MEN #12 (Marvel, 2020) – “Amenth,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Leinil Francis Yu. I don’t know why I didn’xt get issue 11. This issue, Apocalypse’s grandson Summoner tells a long story about the origin of Arakko, the counterpart of Krakoa. Summoner’s story is difficult to follow and seems disconnected from any of the existing prehistory of the Marvel Universe. Hickman has an annoying habit of creating long, convoluted backstories that don’t really matter.
BILL & TED ARE DOOMED #1 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Roger Langridge. Many years after Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, Bill and Ted are making no progress on writing the song that will unite the universe. So they decide to take the Wyld Stallyns on tour. I watched both Bill & Ted movies as a kid, but that was so long ago that I barely remember anything about them; however, Dorkin and Langridge do a good job of catching the reader up. And this comic is very fun. Evan Dorkin, of course, has prior history with this franchise, and Roger Langridge is comparable to P. Craig Russell as a creator of comics adaptations. He seems to have an uncanny ability to get into the spirit of the works he’s adapting.
ASH & THORN #5 (Ahoy, 2020) – untitled, [W] Mariah McCourt, [A] Soo Lee. Lottie, Sarah and Pickle defeat the giant many-eyed monster that’s eaten Peruvia. This series was well-intentioned but ultimately a bit disappointing.
STILLWATER #1 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón Pérez. Having just lost his job for shoving a coworker, young Daniel West is summoned to the town of Stillwater to receive an inheritance from a relative he’s never heard of. On arriving in Stillwater, Daniel and his friend Tony watch a boy kill himself and then come back to life, and then the local people rough them up and kidnap them. The sheriff explains that Stillwater is a town where nobody ever dies. Then he murders Tony and is about to do the same to Daniel, until Daniel’s previously unknown mother intervenes. This is another exciting new project from Chip Zdarsky. It feels eerie and funny at once. I look forward to issue 2.
2000 AD #512 (IPC, 1987) – Bad Company: as above. Bad Company fights the zombies alongside the human troops, but Kano declines to tell his human comrades the secret that Earth is dying. One of the human soldiers dies, and Danny only knows the deceased’s first name, so he buries him with the inscription “RIP Malcolm X.” Strontium Dog: “Bitch Part 8,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny and Durham Red continue looking for Reagan, who thinks his alien captors are Russians. This story is perhaps the funniest depiction of Reagan in any comic, including Captain America #344. Dredd: “The Beating Heart Part Two,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Steve Dillon. An obvious parody of Poe’s The Telltale Heart. The Dead: as above. Fludd encounters some aliens. This storyline includes some of Belardinelli’s weirdest and most grotesque creatures, as well as some impressive drawings of architecture; however, its plot makes no sense. Future Shocks: “Wrong Number,” [W] G. Bell, [A] Kevin Hopgood. A UFO spotter meets an alien that mistakenly traveled to 1987 instead of 11987. I can’t find any information about G. Bell, even his/her first name.
CONAN: BATTLE FOR THE SERPENT CROWN #5 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Luke Ross. Conan and Nyla defeat Imus Champion. This was a pretty fun miniseries. Saladin Ahmed has a solid understanding of Conan, and, as I’ve said before, he would be an ideal writer for the regular Conan title.
IMMORTAL HULK #37 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Keeper of the Door,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. The Leader manifests himself in the Below Place. Hulk and the Absorbing Man continue their fight. The Leader takes over Hulk’s body. I don’t quite understand what happened in this issue, though it was exciting.
SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL #5 (DC, 2017) – “Girl Furious,” [W] Cecil Castelucci, [A] Marley Zarcone. I stopped reading this series after #4, partly because the plot seemed to be going nowhere, although I kept buying it. This issue is just more high school drama combined with confusing Meta politics. The best things about this comic are Marley Zarcone’s appealing, weird artwork and Kelly Fitzpatrick’s coloring.
UNBELIEVABLE GWENPOOL #11 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Christopher Hastings, [A] Myisha Haynes. Gwenpool investigates an upstate New York village where everyone is undead. She ends up having to fight Blade. This comic isn’t terrible, but I should have given up on this series long before I actually did.
MARVELS SNAPSHOTS: X-MEN #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “And the Rest Will Follow,” [W] Jay Edidin, [A] Tom Reilly. I’ve known Jay Edidin for many years, but this is the first of his comics that I’ve read – it may even be the first he’s written. If so, it’s an impressive start. I have always hated Cyclops, and after reading this issue I still do, but Jay does a great job of showing why Scott is the way he is. He almost makes me sympathize with my least favorite X-Man, by demonstrating that Scott’s unemotional nature comes from his loveless childhood. Tom Reilly’s artwork is also quite good, reminding me of Chris Samnee.
BLACKWOOD: THE MOURNING AFTER #4 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Veronica Fish & Andy Fish. The kids manage to defeat Avery and the monster he summoned. This was another very enjoyable miniseries, and I hope there’s going to be a third one.
GIANT-SIZE X-MEN: STORM #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “Disintegration,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Russell Dauterman. Despite suffering from a terminal technoorganic virus infection, Storm helps Fantomex and some other characters invade The World. This issue has some brilliant artwork, but I don’t remember much about its story.
BUZZARD #1 (Dark Horse, 2010) – untitled, [W/A] Eric Powell. The first story in this Goon spin-off is about a gray-skinned, black-clad wanderer who may be Death. There’s also a backup story illustrated by Kyle Hotz. This comic is fairly similar in style to Hillbilly.
YASMEEN #2 (Scout, 2020) – untitled, [W] Saif A. Ahmed, [A] Fabiana Mascolo. In flashback, Yasmeen is sold to a creepy man who already has three other “wives.” In Iowa in 2016, we see Yasmeen reliving the trauma of her two years in captivity. This is a very powerful and realistic story. Because of its quality and its lack of critical attention, Yasmeen may be the next This Savage Shores.
2000 AD #513 (IPC, 1987) – Bad Company: as above. The soldiers walk through an “alcohol swamp” that makes them drunk. Flytrap’s carnivorous-plant arm starts to hurt. Strontium Dog: “Bitch Part 9,” as above. The hunt for Reagan continues. We’ve now learned that Reagan was kidnapped by aliens who are fighting for freedom from humans. Dredd: “The Comeback,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Garry Leach. Jaxon Prince, a mashup of Michael Jackson and Prince, is revived from suspended animation and puts on a concert, even though the suspended animation has left him insane. This story is very funny, and Garry Leach’s art is striking. The Dead: as above. Fludd encounters some extremely bizarre-looking demons with giant lips. As usual this installment’s plot is just an excuse for Belardinelli to draw whatever he can imagine.
THE BULLETPROOF COFFIN #1 (Image, 2010) – “The Eye Within the Eye,” [W] David Hine, [A] Shaky Kane. A garbage colllector discovers an old horror comic by Hine and Kane in a dead man’s apartment. Then he learns that the dead man was a vigilante named Coffin Fly. This comic is obviously very metatextual – it incorporates a fake pre-Code horror comic, although this comic is drawn in the same style as the main story. Otherwise it’s a pretty standard example of Shaky Kane’s style.
CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN #83 (DC, 1977) – “Seven Doorways to Destiny!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Keith Giffen. The Challs are fighting M’Nagalah, the Lovecraftian Great Old one from Swamp Thing #8. They learn that a professor named Alec Holland may be able to help them, so it’s time for a Challs-Swamp Thing team-up. Giffen’s art in this issue is reasonably good, but Conway’s story is boring. At this point in continuity, Alec had reverted back to a human being. This was of course retconned later, with the revelation that Alec was never human to begin with.
SEA OF THIEVES #3 (Titan, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Rhoald Marcellius. A bunch of fights between pirates, with entertaining dialogue. This was a fun series, even though it was an adaptation of a video game that I have no interest in.
SUE & TAI-CHAN FCBD (Kodansha, 2020) – “Here’s Tai-Chan!”, [W/A] Konami Kanata. A series of humor strips about a cat whose human acquires a new kitten. I’m a huge cat person, but this comic doesn’t appeal to me very much. Also, the single-issue format is not suited to manga.
MERCURY HEAT #9 (Avatar, 2016) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Nahuel Lopez. A Crossed crossover in which Mercury Heat’s protagonist fights a bunch of zombies. Mercury Heat isn’t terrible, but it’s clear that Kieron wasn’t putting the same effort into this series as his other major works, and Nahuel Lopez’s art is rather unappealing.
2000 AD #514 (IPC, 1987) – Bad Company: as above. The soldiers fight some vampire trees and some Krool soldiers. Meanwhile, Flytrap’s arm tries to eat him. Strontium Dog: “Bitch Part 10,” as above. An alien rebel nearly causes Johnny and Durham to drown, but they survive. Reagan doesn’t appear in this installment. Dredd: “The Genie,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Steve Dillon. A certain Garfield Brose discovers a genie’s lamp and wishes to be rich. Judge Dredd becomes suspicious when Brose becomes a billionaire for no reason, and Brose wastes his other two wishes trying to escape from Dredad. Then Dredd imprisons both Brose and the genie. This one is pretty funny. Future Shocks: “Fair Exchange,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Colin MacNeil. An art dealer becomes rich selling alien paintings that he later discovers to be offensive graffiti. The Dead: as above. More utterly ridiculous and beautiful art, but with a nonsensical plot. Fludd reaches the “light sphere” and is turned into a “limbowraith.”
A small DCBS shipment:
THE MAGNIFICENT MS. MARVEL #14 (Marvel, 2020) – “Outlawed,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Minkyu Jung. First issue since March. Kamala, in her hospital bed, has recurring dreams where she causes harm to her family and friends. Meanwhile, Kamala’s friends visit her in her comatose state. At the end of the issue she finally wakes up. This is a powerful and harrowing story. This series is ending with #18, but there have been hints that a revival is coming.
SABRINA: SOMETHING WICKED #3 (Archie, 2020) – “Something Wicked,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Veronica Fish & Andy Fish. Sabrina spies on her aunts invisibly, breaks up with Harvey, watches a horror movie with Jessa, and then encounters Ren with antlers growing out of his head. Another fun issue. I wonder what’s going on with Archie’s comic book publishing. There was a recent month when they didn’t solicit any comic books at all, and the main Archie title seems to be on hiatus.
TRUE BELIEVERS: X-MEN: SATURNYNE #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “In Support of Darwin” etc., [W] Dave Thorpe, [A] Alan Davis. This contains four Captain Britain stories from Marvel Super-Heroes #380-383. These stories and several others were previously reprinted in X-Men Archives Featuring Captain Britain #1, which I do not have. This is a pretty early version of Captain Britain; at this point his main supporting character was Jackdaw, who never appeared in U.S. comics, and the only other recurring character in these stories is Saturnyne. These stories are well-drawn, but not nearly as memorable as the later ones by Alan Moore or even Jamie Delano.
2000 AD #515 (IPC, 1987) – Bad Company: as above. The planet Ararat starts to blow up. Bad Company fights some more zombies, including Malcolm from #512. A dying Flytrap asks what’s in Kano’s black box, and Kano promises to tell him. Strontium Dog: “Bitch Part 11,” as above. Red tries to drink Johnny’s blood. Reagan’s captors put him in a coffin. Dredd: “The Shooting Party,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] John Cooper. Some hunters kidnap Dredd so they can play The Most Dangerous Game with him, but Dredd turns the tables on them, and they get eaten by their own piranhas. The Shooting Party seems unrelated to the Hunters Club. Future Shocks: “The Invisible Etchings of Salvador Dali,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] John Hicklenton. A surrealist story that turns out to be taking place in a dream. John Hicklenton’s style is already instantly recognizable. The Dead: as above. Fludd learns what it means to be a Limbowraith, and decides to return to Earth. More incredible art.
WELLINGTON #5 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Delilah S. Dawson & Aaron Mahnke, [A] Piotr Kowalski. Wellington fights the barghest but doesn’t quite manage to kill it, leaving room for a sequel. This series was frankly not good, and it makes me skeptical about reading more work by Dawson.
MS. TREE #31 (Renegade, 1985) – “The Other Cheek” parts 5 and 6, [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. Some criminals kidnap Mike Tree Jr and murder his grandmother. Ms. Tree accuses Dominique Muerta of being responsible, but Dominique denies responsibility and helps Ms. Tree find the real kidnapper, a corrupt senator. As usual this issue is a hard-hitting piece of crime fiction.
DAREDEVIL #240 (Marvel, 1987) – “The Face You Deserve,” [W] Ann Nocenti, [A] Louis Williams. This issue’s villain is Rotgut, an albino whose overprotective mother gave him an irrational fear of poisoning. Rotgut tries to poison the water in his apartment building. Daredevil sends some kids to warn the tenants not to drink the water, but one of the kids knowingly allows a mean neighbor to drink the water and die. This story is clearer and more readable than I expect from Ann Nocenti. Louis Williams had a very brief comics career, consisting of five issues of Daredevil plus about 16 other scattered works.
BATMAN #482 (DC, 1992) – “Vengeance of the Harpy,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Jim Aparo. Batman fights Iris Phelios, aka the Harpy, Maxie Zeus’s sidekick. A very average issue.
BLACK CLOUD #4 (Image, 2017) – “They needed to see the beast slain,” [W/A] Ivan Brandon, [W] Jason Latour. This issue begins with a scene with some cute talking cats, but otherwise I can’t make head or tail of its plot. Black Cloud was heavily hyped when it came out; however, I was never able to understand it, and I should have stopped buying it almost at once.
REAL SCIENCE ADVENTURES #5 (IDW, 2017) – “The Flying She-Devils: Raid on Marauder Island Part 5,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Lo Baker. The Flying She-Devils try to escape from their pursuers, I forget who they are. This story is okay, but Lo Baker’s art is very sloppy. There’s also a backup story with better art by Wook-Jin Clark.
WYND #2 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. On his deathbed, the king of Pipetown makes his son promise to persecute the Weirdbloods. Miss Molly plans Wynd and Oakley’s escape to Northport. The Bandaged Man persecutes Ash the gardener. Even though I read Wynd in the wrong order, it’s a great series with incredible worldbuilding and characterization, plus a very scary villain. More on Wynd later.
STAR #5 (Marvel, 2020) – “Birth of a Dragon Finale,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Javier Pina with Filipe Andrade. Star resolves her fight with the Black Order, then resumes her life as a villain. There are also some flashbacks to Star’s past, drawn in a very different style. I like Javier Pina’s art in this issue, but otherwise, this miniseries was disappointing.
BATMAN #17 (DC, 2013) – “The Punchline,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Greg Capullo. The Joker kidnaps the Bat-family and tries to make them eat their own severed faces. Thankfully it turns out that their faces are okay, but still, this issue is way too grim and disgusting, which is a pervasive problem with recent Batman comics.
GREEN LANTERN SEASON TWO #7 (DC, 2020) – “Ultrawarrior,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. Hal dies and becomes the Spectre, but then has to learn about the color spectrum before returning to life. As mentioned before, this series has been worse than Season One because its plot has no clear trajectory.
2000 AD #516 (IPC, 1987) – Bad Company: as above. Disappointingly, Flytrap dies before Kano can reveal his secret. Some human survivors join Bad Company for their assault on the Krool base. Strontium Dog: “Bitch Part 12,” as above. Some bounty hunters attack Johnny and Red, who turn the tables on them. Then Johnny and Red search for Reagan in the main Kaiak city. Dredd: “Navel Manoeuvres,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Jeff Anderson. Dredd investigates a crime occurring in the monastery of the Unseeing Eye, where the monks are both silent and blindfolded. This leads to all sorts of funny slapstick antics. Future Shocks: “Big Trouble for Blast Barclay,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Mike White. This story’s protagonists are obvious parodies of Flash Gordon, Dale and Zarkov. Some aliens run a smear operation to discredit them so that they (the aliens) can invade Earth. The Dead: as above. Fludd visits a world of “duplicants” who have three heads growing from one body.
HELLBOY IN HELL #6 (Dark Horse, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] Mike Mignola. Hellboy plays cards with some dead guy, and a lot of other stuff happens that I don’t understand. The artwork in this issue is terrific, but the plot is hard to follow if you’re not a Mignola expert.
SILVER SURFER #17 (Marvel, 1988) – “Resurrection!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Ron Lim. The Surfer and Reed and Sue Richards encounter the Elders of the Universe and the In-Betweener. This issue is exciting, but, like many of Englehart’s late-‘80s works, it’s way too convoluted and continuity-heavy for its own good.
THE FLASH #313 (DC, 1982) – “3-Way Fight for the Super-Simian!”, [W] Mike W. Barr, [A] Carmine Infantino. This issue’s splash page looks like a classic Carmine Infantino page from the ‘60s. Flash spends most of this issue fighting Gorilla Grodd and Psykon, a bald villain who somehow used to share a body with Grodd. At the end of the issue, it’s implied that Barry sleeps with Fiona Webb. There’s a Dr. Fate backup story by Gerber, Pasko and Giffen, with art that closely resembles that of Giffen’s Legion stories of the time.
THE UNBELIEVABLE GWENPOOL #7 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Christopher Hastings, [A] Gurihiru. Gwen fights some aliens and meets a new companion who’s a ghost, or something like that, I don’t really care.
2000 AD #517 (IPC, 1987) – Bad Company: as above. An unnamed narrator writes in Danny Franks’s diary about how Bad Company was killed fighting the Krool. However, Danny and Mac survive the battle. Afterward Danny finds the diary, and Mad Tommy Churchill reveals that he wrote it. Then he promises to explain everything. Strontium Dog: “Bitch Part 13,” as above. Reagan broadcasts a message. Johnny and Durham continue tracking him down but get caught in an animal stampede. Future Shocks: “The Star Warriors,” [W] Alan MacKenzie, [A] M.K. Williams. In 2187 AD, Earth creates a “super-warrior” to quell a revolt on Antares 7, but then they have to create an “ultra-warrior” to defeat the super-warrior, and so on. Dredd: “Night of the Ripper,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] José Ortiz. A mad scientist brings Jack the Ripper forward in time to Mega-City One, hoping to learn who he was. The Ripper kills the scientist and then gets blown up, rendering his body unidentifiable. At least now we know why he stopped killing people. Slaine: “Slaine the King,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Glenn Fabry. The Fomorians demand a tribute of women from Slaine’s tribe, but Slaine kills them. The Dead: as above. I can’t understand this installment’s plot, but it does include one absolutely stunning splash page.
BILLIONAIRE ISLAND #6 (Ahoy, 2020) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Pugh. The protagonists reveal that Aggrocorp corn is infected with a sterility virus, but no one really cares. However, the billionaire dog then decides to sell all his stock. This tanks the world economy to the point where no one is a billionaire anymore, and all of Billionaire Island’s residents are automatically evicted. This was a brilliant miniseries that sadly became more relevant as it went on.
SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #3 (Marvel, 2013) – “Everything You Know is Wrong,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Ryan Stegman. In a funny parody moment, JJJ puts up a “spider-signal” on top of the police station, but Spidey destroys it because it’s a target for his enemies. Then Spidey uses the spider-signal to defeat the Vulture. The Vulture uses children as henchmen, which is triggering to Otto because of his own history of being abused as a child. A good issue overall.
STAR-LORD #2 (Marvel, 2017) – “Earth-Lord,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Kris Anka. The same creative team as White Trees, but not as good. Peter Quill is put on trial and sentenced to community service, and then he teams up with Ms. Marvel.
THE UNBELIEVABLE GWENPOOL #10 (Marvel, 2017) – as above. Aren’t I done with this dumb series yet? This issue, Gwenpool creates an army of clones of herself in order to fight an alien invasion.
2000 AD #518 (IPC, 1987) – Bad Company: as above. Tommy explains his past history with Kano, and then he, Danny and Mac finally look inside the black box. At this point I was really curious about what was inside the box, and so I read prog 519 next issue immediately afterward. Strontium Dog: “Bitch Part 14,” as above. Johnny and Red survive the stampede, Johnny kisses Red, and then they reach the slaughterhouse where Reagan is being held. Future Shocks: “A Fistful of Neurons,” [W] Alex Stewart, [A] Dave D’Antiquis. A man uses a “dreamtape machine” to experience a Wild West adventure. D’Antiquis was not yet drawing in his two-tone style. Dredd: “The Interrogation,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Kim Raymond. Dredd is arrested for corruption, but refuses to confess to anything. The twist is that the accusation was part of a “random physical abuse test” which Dredd passed. Slaine: as above. As the new king, Slaine is symbolically married to the earth goddess. This chapter includes a thinly veiled on-panel depiction of sex, similar to the one in Marvel Presents #7. The Dead: as above. Fludd helps the humans defeat the demons, and tells them to “remember what happens when life becomes more important than living.”
2000 AD #519 (IPC, 1987) – Bad Company: as above. The box contains… a brain. Half of Kano’s brain was exchanged with half of a Krool’s brain, and that’s why all Kano wants to do is kill Krool. The Bad Company survivors leave the planet to search for the missing Kano. Now that I’ve read this chapter, I’d like to go back to Bad Company II, which didn’t make sense the first time around. But anyway, this is a powerful twist ending, and it helps explain why Bad Company is one of the best-liked 2000 AD strips. It’s also a gripping, unromantic war story. Strontium Dog: “Bitch Part 15,” as above. Johnny and Red rescue Reagan, but Johnny announces his intention to hold Reagan hostage until the humans leave Kaiak. Dredd: “The Blood Donor,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Brendan McCarthy. A man tries to escape from a mandatory blood donation, but while doing so he destroys a supply of blood, and is required to donate enough of his own blood to compensate for the loss. McCarthy’s coloring on this story’s splash page is incredible, but it’s a shame that the rest of the story isn’t in color. He also drew a beautiful cover for prog 517. Slaine: as above. Slaine is officially crowned king, and names Ukko his royal parasite, to be sacrificed along with him after his reign ends. The Dead: as above. A confusing ending to a beautifully drawn but incoherent story.
ICE CREAM MAN PRESENTS QUARANTINE COMIX SPECIAL #1 (Image, 2020) – six stories, [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo et al. A bunch of very short stories created during quarantine, six by the regular Ice Cream Man team, and five by other creators. The best story in the issue is probably Deniz Camp and Artyom Toplin’s “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin,” about a little girl staring out a window as tragic events transpire outside.
HEAD LOPPER #13 (Image, 2020) – “The Quest for Mulgrid’s Star, Chapter One: The Executioner,” [W/A] Andrew MacLean. Norgal defeats a giant crab/mushroom/jellyfish monster and recovers a key, which unlocks the gate to the legendary Mulgrid’s Stair. The path to the stair goes through the city of Arnak Pluth, where Norgal used to be the official executioner. The king of Arnak Pluth orders Norgal and his friends to recover a stolen hammer and keystone. So far this story is a lot more straightforward and easier to follow than the last one, and it’s full of MacLean’s usual bizarre monsters and funny dialogue.
IMMORTAL HULK #0 (Marvel, 2020) – “At Ground Zero,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Mattia De Iulis, plus reprinted material. Disappointingly this issue is mostly reprints, but the reprints are framed in such a way that they fit perfectly into Immortal Hulk’s narrative. After a framing sequence, the first reprinted story is Mantlo and Mignola’s “Monster” from Incredible Hulk #312. This is probably the most important modern Hulk story, though it’s now known to have been plagiarized from an unpublished graphic novel pitch by Barry Windsor-Smith. BWS’s finished and expanded version of that pitch is forthcoming from Fantagraphics in 2021, under the title Monsters. Anyway, “Monster” established that Bruce Banner suffers from dissociative identity disorder, and that the Hulk is the embodiment of his rage at his father, who abused him and murdered his mother. The second reprinted story is one I haven’t read before: “Grave Matters” by PAD and Adam Kubert from Incredible Hulk -1. Like all the -1 issues, it includes a gratuitous guest appearance by Stan Lee. It establishes that after getting out of a mental hospital, Brian Banner went to live with Bruce. Then Bruce confronts Brian at his mother Rebecca’s grave, as previously depicted in “Monster,” but PAD reveals that this scene ended with Bruce murdering his own father. In the last part of the new framing sequence, the Leader recruits Brian Banner’s ghost to his side. Despite being mostly old material, this issue is an impressive feat. Much like Saga of the Swamp Thing #33, it skillfully uses reprinted material to lay the foundation for new stories.
WE ARE HUMANOIDS, FEATURING THE INCAL FCBD 2020 (Humanoids, 2020) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Stephane Roux. This issue’s “new” story is just a plot summary of The Incal. The rest of the issue consists of random preview pages.
ZOO PATROL SQUAD: KINGDOM CAPER FCBD (Penguin Workshop, 2020) – “Kingdom Caper,” [W/A] Brett Bean. A preview of a kids’ graphic novel about anthropomorphic animals. Brett Bean’s art is quite good, resembling Derek Laufman’s art on Ruinworld, but otherwise this comic doesn’t appeal to me.
BLOODSHOT REBORN #6 (Valiant, 2015) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Butch Guice. Bloodshot and Magic have lunch, Bloodshot grosses Magic out with how much he eats, and then he and Magic have sex. And so do the two people who have been chasing them. This is a pretty fun issue. Jeff Lemire’s dialogue and his style of humor are subtle but effective.
FANTASTIC FOUR #196 (Marvel, 1978) – “Who in the World is the Invincible Man?”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Keith Pollard. Ben, Johnny and Sue are kidnapped by the Invincible Man, who, when we last saw him, was Johnny and Sue’s father Franklin. But now he’s Reed Richards in disguise, and he was sent by a mysterious man who proves to be Dr. Doom. This is an okay issue, but it’s too bad that George Pérez didn’t draw it.
SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON LOST IN SPACE #40 (Gold Key, 1970) – “Accident in Hyper-Space,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Dan Spiegle. As of issue 38 this comic was officially called “Space Family Robinson, Lost in Space on Space Station One.” In this issue the kids, Tim and Tam, visit a planet where they get shrunk to tiny size. They help the local aliens survive an earthquake, then return to their family’s ship, where the shrinking wears off. This issue is kind of boring.
SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #6 (Marvel, 2013) – “Joking Hazard,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Humberto Ramos. The Jester and Screwball pull a bunch of criminal pranks. Spidey tracks them down, but when they pull a prank on him too, he beats them half to death. This is unfortunate for him since the Avengers have just been discussing the possibility that something might be wrong with Spidey. Some of the subplots are that Peter/Doc Ock is trying to earn his PhD, and Anna Maria is being bullied for her size.
SUICIDE SQUAD #33 (DC, 1989) – “Into the Angry Planet,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] John K. Snyder III. Duchess recruits or kidnaps a bunch of other Suicide Squad members and leads them through a Boom Tube to Apokolips. The Apokolips storyline was a high point of this series, although Suicide Squad maintained such a consistent level of quality that it’s hard to identify any stories that stood out among the rest.
2000 AD #521 (IPC, 1987) – This issue has a slight format change: its cover is a full bleed, whereas earlier covers had a white border around the artwork. Anderson Psi Division: “Hour of the Wolf,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Barry Kitson. Anderson fights some telepaths in an abandoned factory and is shot. Kitson’s art style is already recognizable as his. Rogue Trooper: “Hit One,” [W] Simon Geller, [A] Steve Dillon. Rogue accepts a mission to assassinate the Nort general Yuan-Toh. Dredd: “What If Judges Did Ads?”, [W] Wagner & Grant, [A] various. A bunch of fake ads starring Dredd characters, drawn by five different artists. Nemesis: “Torquemada the God,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. Sister Sturn is obsessed with Torquemada. Like David with Bathsheba, Torquemada engineers Sister Sturn’s husband’s death so he can marry her. Kevin O’Neill’s draftsmanship and lettering in this story are brilliant, equal to anything in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Strontium Dog: “Bitch Part 17,” as above. Johnny and Red continue their journey with Reagan, and also they take a shower together.