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Final reviews of 2020

12-31-2020

Finally this awful year is almost over. 

LA DIABLA #1 (Albatross, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Eric Powell. Some kidnappers tell contradictory stories of the origin of an antiheroine named La Diabla, and then La Diabla herself shows up and kills them and frees their victim. This is a fun comic and a good example of Powell’s style. It leads into the graphic novel Lords of Misery. 

LONELY RECEIVER #3 (Aftershock, 2020) – “A Month: Getting Lost in Your Eye,” [W] Zac Thompson, [A] Jen Hickman. Catrin dates Hazel, who she thinks is Rhion. It goes well at first, but then Hazel finds out Catrin is genetically altered. A fight results, and Catrin kills Rhion. Welp. This series began as SF but is now closer to horror. 

PANTOMIME #1 (Mad Cave, 2020) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] David Stoll. Out of the new publisher Mad Cave’s comics, Pantomime is the only one that interests me. Pantomime may be the first comic I’ve read that lists a diversity reader in the credits. It’s about a group of kids at a school for the deaf, who discover that they can get away with stealing stuff. Unfortunately, they steal from a much more experienced criminal, and he demands that they pay him back. Chris Sebela is really good at coming up with unique premises, and Pantomime is another fascinating idea. 

2000 AD #607 (Fleetway, 1988) – Anderson: “Contact Part 1,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Mark Farmer.  Anderson investigates a giant ailen spaceship. Daily Dredd: “Bride of Death Part 2,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. Judge Death invades the set of a movie about his own wedding. Moon Runners: untitled, [W] Steve Parkhouse & Alan McKenzie, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. The dangling plot threads are wrapped up, and we learn why women aren’t allowed in space. This series returned for one more story, in progs 641-644, and then was never seen again. Dredd: “Tyger, Tyger…,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Chris Weston. A man kidnaps a dentist – actually a dental systems programmer – to treat his pet sabertooth tiger. Chaos results. Chris Weston’s art on the two color pages is gorgeous. Night Zero: untitled, [W] John Brosnan, [A] Kev Hopgood. Tanner saves his client from some more criminals. Nemesis: “Deathbringer,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] John Hicklenton. Torquemada fights Nemesis using a hedge trimmer (there were no chainsaws available). Fascinating art but a confusing story. 

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #91 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Andy Price. Zecora and friends have a bunch of adventures that (in the light of next issue) are rather similar to the events of the first episode of the TV show. Also, there’s a song, which is easily the highlight of the issue, and it ends with Zecora and her friends wearing KISS costumes and makeup. At the end of the issue, the zebras enter an old temple where they’re surprised to find the Tree of Harmony. One of the fun things about reading Andy’s comics is spotting each issue’s appearance by the Observer from Fringe. 

MARVEL ACTION: AVENGERS #2 (Marvel, 2020) – “Career Day!”, [W] Katie Cook, [A] Butch Mapa. Captain America and Squirrel Girl visit a kindergarten class for a career event, only to discover that one of the school’s teachers is Paste Pot Pete. This is a super fun and cute comic, and I can tell that Katie had a lot of fun writing it. 

INKBLOT #3 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Rusty Gladd, [A] Emma Kubert. The cat dives into Loch Ness, swims with Nessie (who ever heard of a cat liking water?), and emerges in another world. Here, the cat and Nessie get involved in a battle between two of the divine siblings. This is another entertaining issue, albeit somewhat insubstantial.

2000 AD #609 (Fleetway, 1988) – Anderson: as above. Anderson successfully leads the aliens to Earth, and prevents Dredd from starting a  war with them. Future Shocks: untitled, [W] Larry Watson, [A] José Ortiz. A man is awakened from cryogenic sleep only to discover that Earth is in the grip of nuclear winter. Hap Hazzard: “Life,” [W/A] Steve Dillon. Two young men spend four pages having a rambling conversation. There’s no actual plot. This series is more like Love & Rockets or Wired World than a typical 2000 AD comic. Dredd: “Our Man in Hondo,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Colin MacNeil. Dredd investigates some crimes in future Tokyo. This series illustrates John Wagner’s worst flaw as a writer, his reliance on tired ethnic stereotypes. “Our Man in Hondo” includes a geisha, dialogue in broken English, and lettering that looks like kanji. Night Zero: as above. Tanner’s client Allana comes back to life, he saves her from another assassination attempt, but then they’re attacked by men wearing knights’ helmets. This story includes a minor character who may be transgender. Future Shocks: untitled, [W] John Tomlinson, [A] Simon Jacob. A man named Bernard Lardinelil (i.e. Belardinelli) dies of overeating, but persuades Death to spare him so that he can market unhealthy food to other people, causing even more deaths. 

CAPTAIN MARVEL #23 (Marvel, 2020) – “The New World Part Two,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Lee Garbett. Ove, who’s been killing the surviving heroes, invites Carol and her allies to join him in his home. On the way there, Carol learns some more history about how this future came into existence. At the end of the issue we learn that Ove is Namor’s son, and his home is New Atlantis. 

THE WOODS #9 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. The kids adjust to the community of New London, but they learn that they’ll effectively be prisoners there. Meanwhile, Adrian is shown some flashbacks to New London’s origins. As in Wynd, Dialynas’s worldbuilding is amazing. He’s especially good at drawing weird animals. 

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #24 (Marvel, 2017) – “Night of the Jackals,” [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. The new Jackal, Ben Reilly, fights Dr. Octopus (or a clone thereof?) and then the original Jackal. The Clone Conspiracy wasn’t Slott’s best storyline, though of course it was far better than the Clone Saga. 

DETECTIVE COMICS #613 (DC, 1990) – “Trash,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. A young boy discovers that the mob is plotting to take over his father’s trash collection company. Batman foils the plot, and the head mobster is sucked into a trash compactor, but the boy is killed. The issue ends with the boy’s essay on how the planet is filling up with trash. This is a rather poignant issue, and it reminds me of Derf Backderf’s Trashed. 

BACCHUS #14 (Eddie Campbell, 1996) – “King Bacchus Part 13,” [W/A] Eddie Campbell. The police invade the bar, and then the whole place explodes because of a bomb in the men’s room. Bacchus is hauled off to prison. This issue also reprints two stories from Doing the Islands with Bacchus, including the “red is the cup and deep is the wine” story, which I’ve read at least twice before.  

THE HORROR OF COLLIER COUNTY #3 (Dark Horse, 1999) – untitled, [W/A] Rich Tommaso. Fran and Mel escape from a terrifying poodle, but then some zombies try to break into their house. With this issue we start to see why this series has “horror” in its title. In this issue Fran and Mel listen to the Cocteau Twins, who I just discovered myself. This issue’s front and back covers and its inside covers all double as story pages. I assume that was also the case with issues 1 and 2, but I don’t remember.  

FATIMA: THE BLOOD SPINNERS #4 (Dark Horse, 2012) – untitled, [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. A lot of Beto’s typical body horror, combined with attractive heroines. I didn’t understand this issue’s plot at all. I’ve read a few of the earlier issues of this series, but I don’t remember much about them. 

AMERICAN VAMPIRE #26 (Vertigo, 2012) – “The Nocturnes, Part 1 of 2,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Roger Cruz. In 1954, a black doo-wop band is hired to perform in a small Alabama town, only to discover that this particular town has a habit of hiring black performers in order to murder them. Also, vampires. This issue’s plot is fairly gripping, but first, it feels like racism porn – like, it tries to shock the reader with how awful the South was in the old days. And it does so by inventing an atrocity that never really happened, as if the real Jim Crow South wasn’t bad enough. Second, did Snyder know about the Green Book, or the African-American press? If multiple black musicians really had gone to Midway, Alabama and not returned, the African-American musical community would have quickly learned to avoid that town. 

2000 AD #611 (Fleetway, 1989) – Zippy Couriers: untitled, [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Graham Higgins. Shauna is hired to deliver some cakes, but one of the cakes is alive, and Shauna’s sister’s boyfriend accidentally eats it. Walter the Wobot: “Eisner Block,” [W] Gary Rice, [A] Brendan McCarthy. This is reprinted from the 1981 annual. As its title indicates, it’s a tribute to The Spirt. It starts with a splash panel of a building shaped like the word Walter, and it has an Eisner-esque film noir plot: Walter gets stuck in an elevator with multiple residents of the same building, all of whom are plotting against each other. This story is a minor classic: it’s both funny, and faithful to the Eisner aesthetic. Dredd: as above. More Orientalist crap. Thankfully this is the last chapter. Night Zero: as above. Tanner and Allana descend into the sewers to meet a contact. Future Shocks: “Writers’ Block!”, [W] Mike Collins, [A] Simon Jacob. 2000 AD writer Gavin Alton (Alan Grant?) can’t think of any story ideas, but he ignores the alien invasion happening outside his window.   

BATMAN #477 (DC, 1992) – “A Gotham Tale Part 1: Gargoyles,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Cam Kennedy. Batman tries to prevent the theft of St. Thomas Becket’s shrine from a Gotham museum. Instead, he gets trapped in a vault with two other people, with only enough air for two of them. To pass the time, Batman and his fellow prisoners tell each other the stories of their encounters with the Gotham Gargoyle. This is a fascinating setup, loosely based on the Canterbury Tales. Cam Kennedy’s art in this issue is not nearly as crisp or dynamic as in his 2000 AD work. 

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #174 (Dell, 1955) – untitled (“Ice Boat to Beaver Island”), [W/A] Carl Barks. My copy of this issue is incomplete, but the Barks and Mickey Mouse stories are intact, and those are the only ones I care about. In the Barks story, Donald has to use an ice boat to deliver mail to a remote island in a frozen lake. Thanks to the nephews’ sabotage, Donald destroys both his boat and the island’s post office. In the Mickey story, Mickey and Goofy try to defend a remote mining railroad from sabotage. This entire story arc was reprinted in the 2015 WDC&S 75th anniversary special. 

BLOODSHOT FCBD 2019 (Valiant, 2019) – “Bloodshot (2019) Prelude,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Tomás Giorello. Just some boring action sequences. This Bloodshot series seems far less interesting than the one by Jeff Lemire. This issue also includes a preview of Fallen World by Dan Abnett and Juan José Ryp. 

ACTION COMICS #438 (DC, 1974) – “A Monster Named Lois Lane!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. Thanks to the combination of an alien artifact and a bad cold, Lois turns into a female Hulk. This story has pretty good art but a generic plot. There’s also an Atom backup story, by Pasko and Dillin, in which a villain traps the Atom on an answering machine tape. This is much more cleverly written than the main story.

FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #7 (DC, 2018) – Birdman in “The Light Ahead,” [W] Phil Hester, [A] Steve Rude. The Dude is still one of the finest artists in the industry, and this issue is full of smooth draftsmanship, exciting action sequences, and dynamic compositions. However, its story is boring and hard to follow. 

TOTALLY AWESOME HULK #18 (Marvel, 2017) – “Big Apple Showdown: Conclusion,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Mahmud Asrar. The Protectors – including Amadeus, Shang-Chi, Silk and Kamala Khan – fight a bunch of aliens. This issue is something of a prototype for the New Agents of Atlas, but otherwise it’s just average. 

AVENGERS #38 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Fly That Laid a Billion Maggots,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Ed McGuinness. This was in my pull box for some reason.  I don’t remember ordering it. It’s about a war between Khonshu and Mephisto. It has some nice moments, but I gave up on this series very early on, and this issue doesn’t make me want to start reading it again. I still think Jason Aaron’s Avengers doesn’t feel like an Avengers comic. 

SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL #6 (DC, 2017) – “Homecoming,” [W] Cecil Castellucci, [A] Marley Zarcone. Loma finally gets rid of Megan, whoever that was, and establishes a new life on Earth. As usual with this series, Marley Zarcone’s art style is fascinating, but Cecil Castellucci’s story is boring and confusing. 

hu untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Nahuel Lopez. Luiza fights some zombies and kills their creator, Vika Cox. This issue has a somewhat clever plot: Luiza defeats Cox by getting the zombies to perceive all normal humans as Cox and therefore to refrain from attacking them, except that they see Cox himself as a bunny. However, Kieron seems to have put far less effort into this comic as his other work, and Nahuel Lopez’s art is basically pornographic. 

AMERICAN VAMPIRE 1976 #2 (DC, 2020) – “The Stuff of Legends,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. The main characters steal something or other from a train, and there are a bunch of other subplots. I honestly have no idea what’s going on in this miniseries, and I don’t think I’m going to finish reading it. 

RESIDENT ALIEN: YOUR RIDE’S HERE #1 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. This is Martian Manhunter without the superhero elements: it’s about an alien who lives incognito in a small Washington town. I think the overall plot of this miniseries is that someone is coming from the alien’s home planet to pick him up. But this first issue has a very quiet plot, in which we’re introduced to the people of the town, and not much actually happens. I’m mostly interested in this series because it’s by two veteran British creators. Parkhouse’s art is understated but quite effective. 

GETTING IT TOGETHER #2 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Sina Grace & Omar Spahi, [A] Jenny D. Fine. The female protagonist gets a lead on a possible recording deal, but her bandmates are not interested. Meanwhile, the male protagonist gets really drunk. This series is full of entertaining relationship drama, but it’s impossible to keep all the characters straight, partly because the artist doesn’t do enough to make them look different from each other.  

PRETTY VIOLENT #11 (Image, 20200 – untitled, [W/A] Derek Hunter, [W] Jason Young. Another issue full of pointless mayhem, with a plot I can’t follow. I think this is the last issue, but if there are any more issues, I won’t be buying them. 

U.S.AGENT #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “American Zealot Chapter One: Legend,” [W] Priest, [A] Georges Jeanty. This issue begins in a dying West Virginia town where Virago (Amazon) has set up a hub. Then we flash back to Mount Vernon, NY, where USAgent, John Walker, is kidnapping pizza delivery drivers for some reason. In typical Priest fashion, this issue is narrated out of chronological order and its plot is tough to decipher. But it looks like Priest is using USAgent to tell a story about American nationalism and masculinity, and John Walker is well suited to this role, since he’s always been the embodiment of the ugly American. A new character in this issue is an old Japanese man named Morrie Watanabe. Dave van Domelen confirmed with Priest that this name is a reference to two Marvel veterans, Morrie Kuramoto and Irv Watanabe.

DRYAD #6 (Oni, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kurtis Wiebe, [A] Justin Barcelo. I missed issue 5. This issue, the twins (Grif and Rana) recover from a coma. Then their parents reveal that Grif and Rana started their lives as test subjects in a laboratory belonging to Yale’s father, until Yale and Morgan rescued/kidnapped them. Which means Yale and Morgan are adopted. 

BANG! #5 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Wilfredo Torres. I missed issue 4, but it must have introduced another fictional super-spy, like the first three issues did. Now there are four different super-spies, and in this issue they confront their creator, Philip Verve (i.e. Philip K. Dick) and destroy the books in which he recorded their origins. This series was okay, but perhaps too similar to Kindt’s earlier work. 

SERA AND THE ROYAL STARS #9 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jon Tsuei, [A] Audrey Mok. Sera is reunited with her mother, and then she agrees to wield some sort of evil sword. I always have trouble understanding what’s going on in this series. 

GREEN LANTERN SEASON TWO #9 (DC, 2020) – “The Wedding of the Trillenium!”, [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. Hal and Trilla-Tru visit a planet where two scions of two superheroic families are about to get married, like in the Twilight of the Superheroes proposal. There’s also a second plot, of unclear relation to the first, in which Hal and Star Sapphire fight a giant golden dude. This series has completely lost me, and at this point I’m just buying it out of a sense of obligation. Also, Liam Sharp’s use of computer artwork is not effective at all. This comic looks like something out of the early ‘90s. 

THE ATOMICS #4 (AAA Pop, 2000) – “Fusion,” [W/A] Mike Allred. The Atomics fight a beatnik zombie and a giant fly-headed creature. Then one of the Atomics, Zapman, reveals that he comes from 17 years in the future, and in his species, the females eat the males after mating. Then the fly-headed creature joins the Atomics. This is a pretty fun comic. 

CHASE #6 (DC, 1998) – “Girls’ Day Out,” [W] D. Curtis Johnson, [A] J.H. Williams III. This issue’s cover is an homage to Norman Rockwell’s Freedom from Want. Other covers based on this image are JSA #54 and Fantastic Four #564. This issue, Chase and her sister Terry hang out together, but when they get stuck in the elevator, Chase tells Terry their father’s  backstory. It seems their father was a minor superhero who was murdered by a villain. Terry is traumatized by this knowledge, but seems to forgive Chase for revealing it. I’m not surprised that this issue has spectacular art, but its story is also quite good. 

SHADE THE CHANGING MAN #32 (DC, 1993) – “Ernest and Jim,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Colleen Doran. While in the Area of Madness, Slade meets Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce. This issue has some kind of plot involving Slade’s relations with Meta, but it’s mostly interesting for its depiction of Hemingway and Joyce. Milligan seems quite well acquainted with both writers’ lives and works. My late grad school professor Brandon Kershner was a Joyce scholar, and I think he’d have found this comic amusing. 

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #23 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Moment You Know,” as #24 above. Gwen Stacy’s clone tries to convince Peter to go along with the Jackal’s plots, and she and Peter have a very difficult conversation. Then the Jackal sends a bunch of villain clones to attack Peter, and Gwen’s clone starts to degenerate. This issue is better than #24. It’s interesting seeing Peter interact with the original version of Gwen. 

BTW it’s 2021 now. Good riddance to the worst year of my life. 

Back to Heroes on November 27: 

LUMBERJANES #75 (Boom!, 2020) – “Daylight Savor Part 3,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Brooklyn Allen & Kanesha C. Bryant. The girls get everyone into the camp safely, including Jo, and Diane visits Olympus to seek divine assistance. Mal and Molly share a tender moment, but then Molly turns herself into a deer so she can protect the forest. This is the last issue of the regular series, but the story continues in the End of Summer special. A nice moment in this issue is when April tries to run outside the camp to look for Jo, and it takes all three other girls, plus a giant stone golem, to hold her back. That’s how strong April is. 

ONCE & FUTURE #13 (Boom!, 2020) – “The Parliament of Magpies,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. Now that Lumberjanes is done (sob), this is my current favorite series. This issue, the heroes follow the villains’ trail to a pub called the Lancelot Arms. This turns out to be a hangout of nationalist racists, but just as they’re beating Duncan up, a green knight walks in and asks to play a game. One thing I love about this series is how it constantly surprises me by introducing new medieval texts – in this case, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  

POWER PACK #1 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Nico Leon. This comic was supposed to have come out months ago, and I’m glad it finally showed up. This issue is narrated by Katie, who, as usual, is the most adorable character ever. Katie’s older siblings stop her from revealing their secret identities to their parents (oddly, this is the same premise as in the first issue of Marc Sumerak’s Power Pack revival, and North even acknowledges this). Then they fight and defeat the Bogeyman, only to be arrested by CRADLE agents. I’m a huge Power Pack fan, and Ryan North clearly loves these characters too, and understands them very well. 

USAGI YOJIMBO #14 (IDW, 2020) – “The Return Part Four,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. The cavalry finally arrives, in the form of Katsuichi and Jotaro, and with their aid, Usagi and Kenichi save the village. This is a slight anticlimax, but it’s great seeing Jotaro again. Then Usagi goes off to see his “other teacher,” but we don’t know who that is yet. Although this issue was a bit less exciting than the last three, “The Return” is my favorite Usagi story in years. 

BIG GIRLS #4 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Jason Howard. In a flashback, we learn that Joanna Gulliver, the white-haired villainess, was married to High Marshal Tannik, but he killed their son, who was turning into a Jack. In the present, Ember tries to quit, but Tannik reveals that she’s the last Big Girl. Then Joanna shows up with an entire army of Big Girls. This is a fun and exciting series, especially given Howard’s lack of prior writing experience. 

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #12 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. By interviewing Bian, Erica learns that James inadvertently created the first Oscuratype by pretending that it existed. But something else was also needed to create the monster, and we don’t know what that is yet. Then the other members of the Order of St. George arrive in Archer’s Peak, and that’s not a good thing. 

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #11 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] Brian Michael Bendis, [A] Ryan Sook. Bendis is the worst Legion writer ever – far worse than Gerry Conway, who held that title until now. I have already complained that Bendis’s characterization is vapid and that his plots are totally incoherent. On top of that, he just blatantly makes things up without considering their implications. Like, this issue we learn that Colossal Boy’s people are born adult. How the hell does that work? And Triplicate Girl doesn’t dream… actually that one was established in Legionnaires #24, but that issue gives an actual reason for it. Oh, and Mon-El has three children, but their mother is nowhere to be seen, and Bendis seems to have forgotten whether Mon is dating Shadow Lass or Phantom Girl. This series is not in DC’s March solicitations, and that may be a good thing. I’d almost prefer no Legion comic at all, rather than a Legion comic that’s an aimless, plotless mess. 

FANTASTIC FOUR #26 (Marvel, 2020) – “One Stop from Everywhere,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] R.B. Silva. Val goes through the dimensional portal to visit her boyfriend Arboro, only to learn that he already has a lot of other girlfriends. The Future Foundation kids return to Earth. Aliens from Franklin’s alternate dimensions start coming through the Forever Gate, fleeing from the Griever. But this issue’s most notable event is that Professor X reveals that Franklin isn’t a mutant. This is such a massive retcon that I suspect there must be some extra-textual reason behind it, perhaps related to movie rights – maybe Marvel wants to make sure that the FF are part of the MCU and not the X-Men franchise. But that’s just a guess. 

CHU #5 (Image, 2020) – “The First Course Part 5 of 5,” [W] John Layman, [A] Dan Boultwood. After a lot of mayhem, Tony arrests Saffron, and she’s sent to prison for three years. But while in prison she eats the exact same food as her cellmates, causing her to learn all their abilities, so now she’s an even more dangerous criminal. That’s the end of the first story arc. 

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #3 (Image, 2020) – “Black and White,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Martin Simmonds. This issue is about Sandy Hook truthers, some of the most vile conspiracy theorists of all. Cole and his partner investigate a woman who’s become convinced that her son didn’t die in a school shooting, but was a “crisis actor.” Cole and his partner succeed in recovering the woman’s “evidence” that her son is still alive, but it’s not clear if they did her any favors. This issue is often uncomfortably close to the current headlines (more on that in my forthcoming review of #4), but it’s one of the best new series of the year. Also, Tynion gives Martin Simmonds ample opportunities to show off his artistic brilliance. This issue includes some brilliant splash pages. 

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #10 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. The Destiny Man’s attack on Unity continues. Ace and Valentina discover that Unity is powered by a network of children’s disembodied brains. This is a good issue, but I had forgotten about it by the time I read issue 9. 

SAVAGE DRAGON #254 (Image, 2020) – “Vicious Circle Triumphant!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Dart and the Vicious Circle massacre a bunch of people, then they fight Malcolm and injure him badly. Meanwhile, Angel is marrying Frank, Amy wants to marry her tiger friend, and I don’t understand what’s going on with Paul Dragon. 

BARBALIEN: RED PLANET #1 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tate Brombal w/ Jeff Lemire, [A] Gabriel Hernandez Walta. Mark Markz, the Black Hammer version of J’onn J’onzz, is a cop in Spiral City during the 1980s AIDS crisis. Mark saves his activist friend Miguel from committing suicide, and then follows Miguel to a secret gay bar. Meanwhile, the Martian bounty hunter Boa Boaz is looking for Mark. This is, IIRC, the second Black Hammer series not written by Jeff Lemire, and so far it’s a lot better than Black Hammer ’45. 

X-MEN #15 (Marvel, 2020) – “X of Swords Chapter 20,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Mahmud Asrar. Apocalypse fights his wife, Annihilation, formerly known as Genesis. The Quiet Council debate whether to invade Arakko and rescue Nathan. This issue is better than the last three, but it presupposes knowledge of X of Swords’s plot. 

IMMORTAL HULK #40 (Marvel, 2020) – “So Here’s the Thing,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. Henry Peter Gyrich tries to imprison the Hulk, but the Hulk escapes and falls off the Alpha Flight space station. Upon landing on Earth, he’s met by Ben Grimm, hence the story title. Not a very notable issue.

LOVE & ROCKETS #9 (Fantagraphics, 2020) – various stories, [W] Gilbert Hernandez & Jaime Hernandez. Beto’s “Loss” starts with a flashback to Doralis’s childhood in Palomar, then we visit the present-day Doralis, who is suffering from cancer. Jaime’s “Eche Meve Dis” (eight, nine, ten) is about Tonta, the annoying girl who’s been stalking Maggie and Ray. In Beto’s “Sad Girl in Palomar”, Killer (whose real name is Doralis, a source of some confusion) visits Palomar and becomes the new owner of Luba’s hammer. Jaime’s “Animus” is a science fiction story. One thing I love about Love & Rockets is its sense of deep history. Beto’s stories in this issue include reference to other stories he published almost forty years ago. 

MARVEL ACTION: CHILLERS #2 (IDW, 2020) – “Little Red Fighting Hood,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Gretel Lusky & Bill Underwood. Elsa Bloodstone fights Captain America, who’s been transformed into a werewolf, just like in a certain infamous ’90s storyline. There’s also a framing sequence starring Dr. Strange and Ironheart. This issue is entertaining, but it’s mostly a long fight scene. 

KAIJU SCORE #1 (AfterShock, 2020) – “Rattlesnake in the Bag,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Rem Broo. Four criminals make a plot to steal valuable art from a south Florida museum. The twist is that the plot requires them to get a kaiju to attack south Florida. This comic is a unique blend of the thriller and kaiju genres, but the problem is that there’s too much “score” and not enough “kaiju.” I like the idea of a world where kaiju are an accepted part of life, and there are watches and warnings for kaiju attacks, just like tornadoes. But I’d like to know more about the kaiju and their effects on society, and instead, this comic mostly focuses on the criminals and their heist. Rem Broo’s art resembles that of James Stokoe, except without the obsessive linework. 

MAESTRO #4 (Marvel, 2020) – “Symphony in a Gamma Key Part Four: Minuet,” [W] Peter David, [A] Germán Peralta. Hulk gets Vapor of the U-Foes to kill Hercules, then Hulk kills Vapor. This miniseries is just okay, and I could have skipped it. 

DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS #26 (DC, 2017) – “The Illusion of Death,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Mirka Andolfo et al. Raven reveals her origin, then she, Harley, and Ivy rescue some people from a circus. Supergirl tries to stop a train from being blown up. I hate this series, and I only read this issue in order to remove it from my to-be-read boxes. 

COLONEL WEIRD: COSMAGOG #2 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Tyler Crook. Another patchwork of scenes from different parts of Colonel Weird’s life. I like this series’ non-chronological narrative structure; it mimics Colonel Weird’s own constant state of confusion and disorientation. 

STILLWATER #3 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón Perez. Danny meets more of the people in town, then he exhumes his mother. This issue is much less intense than the last two. 

COMMANDERS IN CRISIS #2 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Davide Tinto. The heroes investigate the murder of empathy. I like this series so far, but it has a lot of different premises at once, and it’s not clear which of them is the core premise. It’s about heroes who 1) all come from different worlds, where 2) each of them was President, and 3) they’re trying to restore empathy to America. I hope Orlando is able to unite all these elements into a coherent narrative. 

BLACK MAGICK #16 (Image, 2020) – “Ascension I Part 005,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Nicola Scott. The white-suited villain tries to mess with Rowan’s mind, and Rowan deliberately crashes her bike to escape her. I still can’t follow this series’ plot, but I remember thinking that Rowan’s real problem is her own self-destructive behavior. This is also the case with other Rucka protagonists, most notably Tara Chace. 

SEA OF SORROWS #1 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Rich Douek, [A] Alex Cormack. Shortly after World War I, some suspicious characters dive into a sunken submarine looking for gold, but they encounter a creepy-looking mermaid. So far this is an interesting horror comic, and I like Cormack’s dark, gloomy renderings of underwater scenes, but I’m ambivalent on whether to continue reading this series.  

DIE #15 (Image, 2020) – “PvP,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans. Ash and Isabelle fight Matt, who is invading Angria. Eventually Matt decides not to kill Ash and Izzy, I’m not sure why not. Then they all prepare to descend into a dungeon that leads to the core of Die. 

SHANG-CHI #3 (Marvel, 2020) – “Brothers and Sisters Part 3,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Dike Ruan. We start with a flashback to the Boxer Rebellion, the subject of Yang’s earlier work Boxers & Saints. Then Shang-Chi’s dad’s ghost shows him a map to Shang-Chi’s uncle’s shrine. Shang-Chi escapes the House of the Deadly Hand and looks for the shrine, but his “brothers” and “sisters” follow him. I like how this series feels like an actual example of the wuxia genre, rather than a pastiche of ‘70s American kung fu TV shows. 

SABRINA: SOMETHING WICKED #4 (Archie, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Veronica Fish & Andy Fish. Sabrina fixes Radka and Ren, but ruins her relationship with Harvey. Sabrina, Radka and Ren go off to look for the twins’ childhood home, but they find Delia there, and she takes them captive. It was fairly obvious that Delia was going to turn evil. 

THE WALKING DEAD #157 (Image, 2016) – “The Whisperer War Part 1 of 6,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Charlie Adlard. Negan comes to visit Rick, and then Rick and his allies prepare to fight the Whisperers, whoever they are. It’s really not worthwhile to read scattered issues of this series, especially not from so late in the run. Without knowledge of all 156 previous issues, TWD #157 doesn’t make sense. 

2000 AD #612 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: “Beyond the Void,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Mick Austin. Judge Death is summoned back to life by a holy man who lives in a bricked-up cell. Future Shocks: “The Keepsake,” [W] Nicholas Barber, [A] Kev Walker. A time traveler falls lin love with Lisa del Giocondo. He has to dump her to avoid changing the course of history, but he goes back in time and steals her portrtait, not realizing it’s the Mona Lisa. Tales from the Doghouse: “Chameleon,” [W] Stewart Edwards, [A] Simon Jacob. A pointless story whose twist ending is that a bounty hunter named “Billy the Kid” is a goat. I like Simon Jacob’s linework, but his anatomy is very ugly. Dredd: “Return of the Spider Woman,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Will Simpson. The spider woman from Prog 604 returns to Mega-City One to stalk her husband and children. Tanner finds the guy who’s targeting Allana, but then he kills Allana, though I assume she’s coming back. Walter’s Robo-Tale: “Shok!”, [W] Steve McManus, [W/A] Kevin O’Neill. In another reprint from the 1981 annual, an artist buys a deactivated war robot, but it comes to life and tries to kill her. As usual, O’Neill’s art here is amazing. Fleetway filed a successful lawsuit against the producers of the film Hardware for plagiarizing this story. 

2000 AD #613 (Fleetway, 1989) – Night Zero: as above. Tanner beats up Leroy, who I think is his client, and then he picks up another of Allana’s clones. Anderson: as above. Anderson kills the monk who summoned Judge Death, thus preventing Death from manifesting in physical form. Future Shocks: “At Twilight’s Last Gleaming,” [W] John Tomlinson, [A] Stephen Baskerville. An actor is haunted by Rod Serling. Dredd: “That Sweet Stuff,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Vanyo. Dredd arrests a man named Billiam Wurrows for buying illegal sugar. Tales from the Doghouse: “Spud O’Riley,” as above. Another dumb story that ends with a dumb pun: “I guess Spud finally had his chips.” Zippy Couriers: “Butch,” [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Graham Higgins. A client refuses to pay Shauna for a job, but gives her a talking cat instead. I’d say that’s a fair deal. 

GRUMBLE: MEMPHIS AND BEYOND THE INFINITE #5 (Albatross, 2020) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Mike Norton. Tala saves her mother, but inevitably, Eddie gets stuck in prison instead. The issue ends with the words “End of part one.” I really hope there’s a part two, because Grumble is a fun and unique series and I love it. 

TRUE BELIEVERS: KING IN BLACK – VALKYRIE #1 (Marvel, 1970/2020) – “Come On In… The Revolution’s Fine!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] John Buscema (from Avengers #83). It’s not a good sign when a reprinted comic begins with the disclaimer “This comic is presented as originally created. It contains outdated depictions.” In her first appearance, the Valkyrie convinces the female Avengers to become the Lady Liberators and help her end male supremacy. But the Valkyrie turns out to be the Enchantress in disguise, and the ladies rejoin the Avengers and defeat her. The female Avengers’ legitimate complaints (e.g. Black Widow constantly being rejected from the Avengers, or Medusa’s submissive relationship with Black Bolt) are dismissed as mere “women’s lib bull.” This story is an offensive caricature in feminism, and even in 1970, readers must have realized that. The Valkyrie in this story is an impostor, but Thomas introduced a new version of the character in Hulk #142 the following year. This issue’s main fight scene takes place in Rutland, Vermont, and there are guest appearances by Roy himself, his then-wife Jean, and Tom Fagan. 

I ordered 2000 AD #301 to #328 on eBay for $72, which works out to $2.50 per issue, a pretty good deal. They arrived on December 1. 

2000 AD #301 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: “Play It Again, Sam Part 10,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. Sam Slade has been hired by Iron Aggie, a robot Margaret Thatcher, to infiltrate the anti-robot Human League. (Her Home Secretary is a robot Oswald Mosley.) The Human League, in turn, sends Slade to assassinate Iron Aggie. Also, it’s National Song Year, so this story includes a song to the tune of Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah. The worst part about Sam Slade is his talking cigarette Stogie, who is yet another of Wagner’s tired ethnic stereotypes. Time Twisters: “Revenge of the Guinea-Pig,” [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Kim Raymond. A convict is forced to serve as a test subject for an experimental “time compressor.” It causes him to live fifty years in one minute, and he uses that time to take revenge on the experimenters. Compare Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #31. Dredd: “Shanty Town Part 2,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. Dredd tries to clear out a slum on the outside of Mega-City One, but two of its inhabitants, Mad Mox and Girth, are unwilling to leave. Harry Twenty on the High Rock: untitled, [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Alan Davis. Harry Twenty is falsely imprisoned for twenty years (hence his surname) in an orbital prison. In this story he and some other prisoners get back to Earth and fights a mutated shark, but then Harry learns that one of his companions is an android from the prison. It’s hard to tell that Alan Davis drew this story. Rogue Trooper: “Fort Neuro Part II,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Brett Ewins. Rogue watches a disco dance competition for some reason. This story mentions Sister Sledge and ABBA. This prog also includes some reprinted “micro-pages” from prog 1, as do the next few progs. The reader was supposed to cut out these pages and assemble them into a booklet. 

2000 AD #302 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: as above. Sam assassinates Iron Aggie, wrongly thinking she’s an impostor. There are two songs to the tune of “Land of Hope and Glory” and “The Wanderer.” The Pioneers: untitled, [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Jesus Redondo. A pioneer from 1850 finds himself in contemporary America. This could have been labeled as a Time Twisters story, but is not, perhaps because it was a replacement for this prog’s Rogue Trooper chapter. Dredd: as above. Dredd fights Mad Mox and Girth. Harry Twenty: as above. The robot takes Harry back to prison, where he meets an old ally, Big Red One. This story looks more like Alan Davis. Time Twisters: “Dr. Dale’s Diary,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Rafael Boluda. A time-traveling scientist causes the extinction of the dinosaurs by giving them the flu. 

I WALK WITH MONSTERS #1 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Sally Cantirino. This is one of the launch titles from Vault’s new horror imprint, Nightfall. The protagonist, Jacey, teams up with her werewolf partner, David, to hunt down killers of children. In a flashback, we learn that Jacey was raised by a horrible abusive father who either trafficked or murdred children. And Jacey’s dad sold her brother to a certain politician who, as we learn on the last page, is now running for president. I Walk with Monsters #1 is an exciting debut issue. It’s a terrifying story of child abuse and crime, and it explores darker territory than any other Paul Cornell comic I’ve read. 

MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #158 (Marvel, 1994) – ClanDestine: “Scare Tactics,” [W/A] Alan Davis. This is the first apperance of ClanDestine. In this story, the family engages in a training session, and the adults try and fail to dissuade Rory and Pandora from becoming superheroes. The other three stories in this issue are awful, although one of them is written by Chris Cooper, and another is drawn by Cary Nord. 

SHADOW SERVICE #4 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Corin Howell. Gina helps defeat the demon from last issue. Then she goes looking for Gideon Quill, who was last seen at an up-and-coming artist’s exhibit. On investigating the artist, Gina encounters more demons. There’s also a flashback in which Gina’s fellow Shadow Service member, Darryl Coyle, is cursed with insatiable hunger. I like this series, but it’s hard to remember much about it from one issue to another. 

DEADSHOT #3 (DC, 1988) – “Victims,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Luke McDonnell. Deadshot’s psychiatrist tries to track down his mother. Floyd himself tries to rescue his son from kidnappers, but the boy is killed. Floyd blames his mother for this, and decides to hunt her down. I need to read this entire miniseries at one sitting. … Okay, after typing that, I went back and reread issues 1 and 2. Returning to issue 3, I see how the pedophile kidnapper Wes and his brother are doubles of Floyd and his own dead brother Edward. 

IMAGINARY FIENDS #2 (Vertigo, 2018) – “The Cat’s Paw,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Stephen Molnar. Melba Li, her partner and her imaginary friend go looking for some missing children. On the last page, we find that the children have been kidnapped by an imaginary fiend that manifests as a giant hairless cat, and it’s nursing the children like kittens. Ewww. This series is kind of halfway between Imagine Agents and Something is Killing the Children. 

ACTION COMICS #493 (DC, 1979) – “The Metropolis-UFO Connection!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. Jimmy gets sick with 24-hour flu and gives Clark Kent his signal watch. Superman uses the watch to defeat an alien invasion. A rather boring issue. 

CRUDE #4 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Garry Brown. Piotr discovers that his son, Kiril, was a leader of Blackstone’s underground labor movement. I still don’t like this series much, and I’m not sorry I quit buying it. 

DETECTIVE COMICS #691 (DC, 1995) – “Will It Go ‘Round in Circles,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Staz Johnson. Batman and Robin defeat Spellbinder’s gang, but he himself escapes. At Neron’s prompting (this issue is an Underworld Unleashed tie-in), Spellbinder’s girlfriend murders him and assumes his identity. This is just an okay issue, but it does a good job of reviving a dumb old villain. 

CREEPY #79 (Warren, 1976): “As Ye Sow,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Luis Bermejo. A zombie woman falls in love with a human man. Her family forces them to produce babies for the family to eat. Ewww. “Kui,” [W/A] Alex Toth. An explorer and his girlfriend discover an ancient Fijian temple and get trapped inside. Not much of a plot, but Toth’s visual storytelling is incredible, as always. The splash page, depicting an ancient relief sculpture, is especially stunning. “The Super-Abnormal Phenomena Survival Kit!”, [W] Jim Stenstrum, [A] John Severin. A hilarious story about survival techniques for people who encounter horror movie plots. A highlight is the panel where a one-eyed monster tells a boy “We just ate your mailman, kid.” “The Shadow of the Axe!”, [W] Dave Sim (misspelled Sims), [A] Russ Heath. A little boy discovers that his father is an axe murderer. He murders his father and escapes blame. This story is an early example of Sim’s plotting ability, and Heath’s art is some of his best. “Visitation at Pliny Marsh,” [W] Gerry Boudreau, [A] Martin Salvador. A woman kills her husband with her lover’s aid (a standard EC plot) and dump the corpse in the swamp. Many years later, an alien lands in the swamp and accidentally revives the corpse, causing the murderers to face poetic justice. “The Pit in the Living Room Floor!”, [W] Budd Lewis, [A] Joaquin Blasquez. A man finds a bottomless pit in his floor. He climbs down it only to find himself back in the living room. Blasquez’s art is a good example of the scratchy style that David Roach calls the Spanish “new look.” Overall, this comic is an incredible collection of talent on both the writing and art sides. The only reason I haven’t been reading more Warren comics is that they’re really long. 

2000 AD #303 (IPC, 1983) – Robo-Hunter: as above. Oswald Modroid (Mosley) is revealed as the secret leader of the Human League, and he rounds up all the humans in Brit-Cit. song in this prog is to the tune of “House of the Rising Sun.” Harry Twenty: as above. Harry leads an effort to overthrow the warden of High Rock. This series’s plot is pretty bad, but its art is starting to remind me of ClanDestine or DR & Quinch. Dredd: as above. Dredd defeats the villains and sends the people of Shanty Town to live on food farms in the Cursed Earth. Time Twisters: “I, D.H. Rosencrantz, Wrote Shakespeare!”, [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Eric Bradbury. The title character goes back in time and discovers that Shakespeare never existed, so he “writes” Shakespeare’s plays from memory. This same plot twist appears in Tim Powers’s The Anubis Gates, published the same year, in which a similar time loop is responsible for William Ashbless’s poems. Rogue Trooper: “Fort Neuro Part 12,” as in #301 above. Rogue is reunited with his two “robe-runners,” Roger and Pierre, and they   encounter a robot Napoleon. This story arc is pretty dumb. 

THE WOODS #10 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. The characters from New London try to help the kids escape from being enslaved, we meet some cute dragons, and New London is attacked by an army of green-eyed people, apparently from the black city on the other side of the world. This comic is hard to summarize.

JOHN CONSTANTINE, HELLBLAZER #12 (DC, 2020) – “This Sceptered Isle, Conclusion,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Aaron Campbell. The old Constantine’s plot is to steal the young Constantine’s soul while it’s still free of guilt. But this plot is foiled when the younger Constantine forces Noah to kill Tommy, and then realizes that Noah is his own illegitimate son. So Constantine’s soul is “so rotten I can’t even give it away.” The moral is that with magic “the price is always higher than the prize.” This was an incredible series, and I’m glad that Si Spurrier is now working at Marvel, since DC didn’t appreciate his talent. 

DEATH RATTLE #16 (Kitchen Sink, 1986) – “Bulto: Rabago’s Reign,” [W/A] Jaxon. A villain named Rabago takes over Presidio San Saba and enslaves the local Indians. This story includes some quite scary imagery. “Spacehawk,” [W/A] Basil Wolverton. In a reprinted story, Spacehawk defeats a tyrant with the aid of a friend whose brain has been implanted into a giant dinosaur. I read the Wolverton in Space collection back in high school, and I loved Wolverton’s draftsmanship, but I didn’t quite get how weird his plots are. “Annie,” [W] John Holland, [A] Ron Wilber. A boy sees the ghost of his sister, who died due to their parents’ negligence, and she convinces him to join her in death. This story isn’t up to Death Rattle’s usual standard.

STRAY BULLETS #11 (El Capitán, 1996) – “The Supportive Friend,” [W/A] David Lapham. In 1983, Beth and her friend Nina go to the beach and meet a man and woman who claim to be famous actors. Unusually, this story includes no violence. I don’t get how it fits into Beth’s life story. The difficulty with reading Stray Bullets is understanding how all the stories and characters are related, though this can also be an advantage, as with Criminal. 

KORAK, SON OF TARZAN #10 (Gold Key, 1965) – “When the Rhino Charged,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Russ Manning. Korak meets a white female doctor who works with some benevolent tribespeople. This tribe is attacked by a more warlike one, and Korak defeats the attackers by projecting a film of a charging rhino. This story has obvious racist implications but is exciting and well-drawn. In the backup story, “The Pit,” Korak saves a dead chief’s wives and daughters from being buried alive with him. 

SUPERBOY #163 (DC, 1970) – “Reform School Rebel!”, [W] Frank Robbins, [A] Bob Brown. Clark’s high school classmate is sent to a cruel reform school run by the mob. Superboy uncovers the school’s corruption. In the backup story, reprinted from 1956, Superboy convinces two stupid criminals that they’ve created a superpowered Superboy robot. 

MADMAN COMICS #4 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “Waning of the Weird,” [W/A] Mike Allred. Madman investigates a murder mystery aboard a cruise ship. His archenemy Monstadt proves to be responsible. This story is less weird than a typical Madman comic, though it does get very weird at the end, when Monstadt summons a multi-eyed demon. Also, the demon says Madman is “one of the Four.” I don’t recall if we ever found out what the Four were. 

CAPTAIN AMERICA #269 (Marvel, 1982) – “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste!”, [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Mike Zeck. Cap teams up with Team America, and they fight the Mad Thinker, who has created a town full of robot duplicates of famous historical geniuses. The Team America part of this issue is really, really stupid, but there’s a nice scene at the start of the issue where Cap has breakfast with his neighbors. Roger McKenzie and Roger Stern introduced Bernie Rosenthal, Anna Kappelbaum and Josh Cooper to make up for Steve Rogers’s lack of a supporting cast, and DeMatteis used these characters too, but later writers abandoned them. 

UNCANNY X-MEN #242 (Marvel, 1989) – “Burn!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Marc Silvestri. The X-Men are reunited with Jean Grey, just in time to fight N’astirh, which I’ve never known how to pronounce. This issue is full of terrific character interactions, although Inferno as a crossover was kind of dumb and was only necessary because of meddling by other writers. As I understand it, Claremont intended to write Scott and Maddie out of the series after #201, and all the hints that Maddie was a resurrected Jean Grey were supposed to be red herrings. But then Marvel decided to bring Jean back, and in X-Factor, Bob Layton had Scott leave his wife and child for her. This decision stained Scott’s character permanently. It also turned Maddie into a loose end that had to be resolved somehow, and that was the motivation behind Inferno. 

2000 AD #304 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: as above. Oswald Modroid claims that all Brit-Cit’s humans are Human League members, and sends them all to concentration camps. Kidd organizes the real Human League to resist Modroid. Songs: “Summer Holiday” and “I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside.” Harry Twenty: as above. The Warden barricades himself in his office, and Harry Twenty goes outside the station to reach him. Dredd: “Prezzel Logic,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. A criminal tries to manipulate Dredd into breaking his own laws. Tharg: “Tharg and the Mice!”, [W] uncredited, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Tharg battles an infestation of mice. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue fights the robot Napoleon.

SUPERMAN #343 (DC, 1980) – ‘The Last Days of Metropolis!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Curt Swan. An ancient Roman magician, Moximus, predicts the destruction of Pompeii, but, like Jor-El, he is not believed. He travels into the future, where he predicts that Superman will destroy Metropolis with a rocket. This time around his prediction is misleading. The story ends with a hint that Moximus will appear again in a Batman comic, but he never did. 

DETECTIVE COMICS #538 (DC, 1984) – “Clothes Make the Cat(Man)”, [W] Doug Moench, [A] Gene Colan. A criminal steals Cat-Man’s costume, which he thinks gives him nine lives. He proceeds to lose most of those lives fighting Batman. Moench and Colan’s Detective Comics run did not represent either creator’s best work. There’s also a backup story where Green Arrow witnesses John Lennon’s assassination, though Lennon is not named or shown. 

MS. TREE #48 (Renegade, 1988) – “Murder Cruise,” [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. Ms. Tree and Mike Mist solve a murder mystery aboard a cruise ship. Ms. Tree kills one of the murderers by shoving him from the roof of a tower. This issue also includes a reprinted Johnny Dynamite strip.

FANTASTIC FOUR #198 (Marvel, 1978) – “Invasion!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Keith Pollard. Dr. Doom prepares to abdicate Latveria’s throne in favor of his son… wait, Doom has a son? Reed assists with Zorba’s rebellion against Doom. This issue caused a serious continuity problem. At the top of page 15, Doom has his mask off in the presence of Sue, Ben and Johnny. Yet in issue #236, Sue sees Doom’s unmasked face and reacts as if she’d never seen it before. In the letter column of issue 241, the editor explained that the FF just didn’t see Doom’s face in #198, “whatever may have seemed to be happening in the pictures otherwise.” See https://www.cbr.com/the-abandoned-an-forsaked-the-fantastic-four-and-dooms-true-face/

2000 AD #305 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: as above. Sam, Hoagy and Stogie plot to escape the concentration camp. Song parodies include “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” and “We Gotta Get Out of This Place.” Harry Twenty: as above. The Warden kills Big Red One and summons reinforcement spaceships from Earth. Dredd: “Trapper Hag Part One,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Steve Dillon. An alien bounty hunter visits Mega-City One in search of some criminals who are wanted on an alien planet. Dredd tries to prevent the alien from capturing the criminals. Time Twisters: “The 200 Years’ War,” [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Mike White. The world has been at war for 200 years, and no one knows why. A man is sent back in time to when the war began. He accidentally triggers a nuclear exchange between the US and USSR, resulting in the same war he sought to avoid. Rogue Trooper: as above. More robot-Napoleon nonsense. “Fort Neuro” is a very tiresome story arc. 

FANTASTIC FOUR #199 (Marvel, 1978) – “The Son of Doctor Doom!”, as above. The uprising begins. Doom’s “son” is revealed to actually be his clone, who has all the FF’s powers, but is good rather than evil. Doom fights and kills his son. He blames Reed for “making” him do this, and the stage is set for an epic battle. 

TARTARUS #7 (Image, 2020) – “A Prison in Paradise,” [WJ Johnnie Christmas, [A] Andrew Krahnke. Surka and Hisa arrive in the utopian city of Auria. An old wizard, Svantoo, breaks the chain tethering Surka to Hisa. Surka causes a lot of violence, and summons the “sky raiders” who attacked Auria in the past. I really like this series, but its plot is quite hard to follow. A substance called “aima” is a major plot point in this issue, but I don’t get what that is. 

TREES #3 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Jason Howard. This is the first Warren Ellis comic I’ve read since the #MeToo accusations against him. I think his public persona is so deeply embedded into his writing that it’s not possible to “separate the art from the artist,” and I feel uncomfortable reading his existing work, let alone his future work. This issue of Trees has one story arc about an Italian professor, and another about a young Chinese man. Neither story has much to do with the namesake trees. 

MARSHAL LAW: SECRET TRIBUNAL #1 (Dark Horse, 1993) – untitled, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. A members of the League of Heroes (Legion of Super-Heroes) is murdered by an alien, like the one from the Alien franchise. Marshal Law teams up with the Secret Tribunal, a team of Image-esque violent “heroes,” to investigate. Kevin O’Neill’s artwork and lettering in this comic are gorgeous; every page is full of chicken fat. But the parody in this comic is somewhat incoherent. Like, in the League’s boys’ dorm, there’s a sign saying HANDS ABOVE COVERS / DRY DREAMS, but the League’s space station is shaped like a penis. It’s not clear what the actual target of Mills’s satire is. And the Secret Tribunal are hard to distinguish from real Image characters. 

(Starting again on January 11, after a break for MLA and an attempted coup) 

ROYALS #10 (Marvel, 2018) – “We Could Steal Time,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Javier Rodriguez. The Royals fight some cosmic entities called the Progenitors. I don’t quite get this comic’s plot, but its main attraction is Javier Rodriguez’s art. Some of his page layouts in this issue are breathtaking. 

YOU LOOK LIKE DEATH: TALES FROM THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY #3 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Gerard Way & Shaun Simon, [A] I.N.J. Culbard. I don’t know why this was in my file – I don’t think I ordered it. This issue’s plot is incomprehensible, and I certainly don’t plan to buy any more of this minseries. I do want to read the original Umbrella Academy miniseries, but its individual issues are very expensive. 

MARVEL VOICES: INDIGENOUS VOICES #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Watcher,” [W/A] Jeffrey Veregge, etc. The best part of this one-shot is the three-page framing sequence, drawn in a Northwest Coast style. The rest of the issue is unimpressive. My favorite of the three stories is the one with Dani Moonstar and Rahne Sinclair, but only because I already love these characters. 

2000 AD #306 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: as above. Sam and Kidd escape the concentration camp, and Sam decides to try to resurrect Iron Aggie. The song parody is “Green Door.” Harry Twenty: as above. The inmates shoot down the invading ships and get Earth to agree to not launch any more, but there’s a nuclear-equipped satellite that’s already been launched, and Earth sends it to blow up the prison. Dredd: as above. Trapper Hag finds his target and teleports away. Dredd follows him to his spaceship. Time Twisters: “The Perfect Crime,” [W] Jack Adrian, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. A time traveler steals gold from the Titanic just before it sinks, intending to avoid a time paradox. But in the process he accidentally kills his own great-grandfather and triggers the paradox he meant to prevent. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue fights Robo- Napoleon’s Old Guard and heads to the “Lim-ee” sector of the fort. 

2000 AD #307 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: as above. Sam revives Iron Aggie, who defeats Oswald Modroid and, at Sam’s request, declares an end to National Song Year. Song parodies: “Old-Fashioned Girl” and “My Way.” Time Twisters: “Rogan’s Run,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. A future criminal uses a time travel device to escape to the past, where he cause the Great Fire of London, then kills Louis XVI and gets executed in his place. Dredd: as above. Dredd beats up Trapper Hag and arrests him. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue teams up with some stereotypical British soldiers, and gets his helmet back. Harry Twenty: as above. Harry saves the High Rock from being nuked. The Warden gets himself killed. The prison inmates have 20 years worth of supplies and are now free to roam around space. 

2000 AD #308 (IPC, 1983) – Now here’s the good stuff. Skizz – untitled, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jim Baikie. This is one of the few major Alan Moore works I haven’t read. Part one of Skizz introduces an alien space traveler who crashlands on Earth, begs his computer not to kill him, and finds himself in Birmingham. Alan’s prose style is, as usual, incredible, and he and Baikie powerfully convey Skizz’s alien perspective. Time Twisters: “The Reversible Man,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Mike White. A man lives his life in reverse, starting with his death from a heart attack, and ending with his birth. Alan used this same idea many years later in The Spirit: The New Adventures #1. Dredd: “The Prankster,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Dredd outsmarts a malicious practical joker. Tharg: “Invasion of the Thrill-Snatchers Part 1,” [W] uncredited, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. Some alien “dictators” are infested with Greater Spotted Thrill-Suckers, so they make a deal to send the thrill-suckers to Earth instead. The Thrill-Suckers land on Earth near “Jadwan House” in Kentish Town – a reference to Jadwin House, where the Marvel UK offices were located at the time. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue gets Helm and Bagman back, and his enemy, Admiral Torpitz, orders a strike. 

THE AUTHORITY #22 (Wildstorm, 2001) – “Brave New World One of Four,” [W] Mark Millar, [A] Frank Quitely. Another issue full of offensive, sexist, racist, ultraviolent crap. The worst part is the villain Seth, an infuriating caricature of an American hillbilly. At least Frank Quitely’s art is good. 

MS. MARVEL #18 (Marvel, 1978) – “The St. Valentine’s Day/Avengers Massacre!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Jim Mooney. This was $15 with shipping, perhaps the most I’ve ever spent on any single back issue. But it was a Holy Grail of mine, a comic I’ve been seeking for years, and $15 is an extreme bargain; it was only that cheap because it’s a low-grade copy. Ms. Marvel #18 is expensive because it’s the first full appearance of Mystique. Besides that, it’s mostly a long fight scene, in which Carol and the Avengers battle a villain named Centurion. But even if the actual comic is a bit anticlimactic, Ms. Marvel #18 is perhaps the last great Bronze Age Marvel comic that I had never read, and I’m glad I finally own it. 

2000 AD #309 (IPC, 1983) – Skizz: as above. Skizz is terrified by the things he sees on Earth, including a highway and a bar fight. He finally crawls into a shed and collapses. Time Twisters: “Einstein,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] John Higgins. Some aliens visit a depopulated, postapocalyptic Earth and resurrect some notable humans, including two versions of Einstein. The two Einsteins deduce that they’re in an alien zoo and lead a successful revolt against the aliens. Dredd: “The Starborn Thing Part 1,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. A UFO lands in the Cursed Earth and creates a magnetic field that causes the mountains to come to life. Then the UFO opens and a slimy alien creature emerges. Tharg: as above. The thrill-suckers fight the microbes on Tharg’s skin. This story is really dumb, though Belardinelli draws some beautifully weird creatures. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue fights some giant robots. “Fort Neuro” continues to be boring and stupid, though I like Cam Kennedy’s art. 

SLOW DEATH #2 (Last Gasp, 1970) – Like Death Rattle, this underground comic was effectively Weird Fantasy with more sex and violence. “The Sex Evulsors of Technicus,” [W/A] Dave Sheridan. Some ugly aliens use women’s orgasms as a source of energy. This story is of course completely tasteless, but Sheridan’s art is quite energetic. “The Secret,” [W/A] Jaxon. Some humans discover a planet whose original inhabitants turned into humanoid insects. This story is in the same vein as Bulto from Death Rattle. “Routine,” [W/A] Jim Osborne. Some spacemen visit a dead earth. Osborne’s art reminds me of Bodé and his lettering reminds me of Wolverton. “How Howie Made It in the Real World,” [W/A] Richard Corben. An attractive young couple visit the beach, only to discover that their handsome young bodies are just plastic shells covering their real, withered forms. RIP Richard Corben, a great and unique artist. 

EDGAR ALLAN POE’S SNIFTER OF BLOOD #2 (Ahoy, 2020) – “To Hell Comes a Guest,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Peter Snejbjerg. A sequel to the story about breakfast cereal mascots in #2 of the previous volume. This sequel is just as funny as the first story. “A Tipple of Amontillado,” [W] Devin Grayson, [A] Chris Giarrusso. An even grosser alternative ending to The Cask of Amontillado.  

USAGI YOJIMBO: THE WANDERER’S ROAD #1 (IDW, 2020) – “The Tower,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. I wasn’t planning to buy this, because it’s a reprint series, but the store pulled it for me anyway. In a colorized reprint of Usagi Yojimbo vol. 1 #7, Usagi climbs a watchtower to rescue a tokage from an angry innkeeper, and chaos ensues. The juxtaposition between Stan’s ‘80s style and Ronda Pattison’s modern coloring is kind of strange.

ICE CREAM MAN #21 (Image, 2020) – “The Big Sweet,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. A detective investigates a series of disappearances of ice cream men. As the reader already knows from page one, they’re being murdered by a cult. This issue’s panel structure and color scheme are an obvious tribute to Watchmen, and it’s full of Watchmen references – e.g. a man climbing into an apartment through the window, and an “End Is Nigh” sign.  

DETECTIVE COMICS #663 (DC, 1993) – “No Rest for the Wicked,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Graham Nolan. This issue has perhaps Kelley Jones’s greatest cover: a closeup of a drowning Batman with his head covered in rats. In part ten of Knightfall, Batman saves the mayor from drowning in a flooded sewer. Then he fights three minor villains and returns to the Batcave exhausted, only to find Bane there already. 

MONSTRESS: TALK-STORIES #1 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. Kippa tells the story of the best thing she ever ate. While in a refugee camp, Kippa and her sister Perri made some delicious fried rice, only to be scolded by their mother for drawing attention from their fellow refugees. This is a powerful story, but it’s extremely bleak and depressing. Its depiction of hunger and famine is almost as harrowing as the similar scenes in Barefoot Gen. 

THE DEVIL’S RED BRIDE #2 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] John Bivens. More of the same stuff as last issue, with no real surprises. This series isn’t as good as Girner’s earlier works. 

X-RAY ROBOT #4 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Mike Allred. I still don’t know what the hell is going on in this series, but this issue has some excellent art. It also includes a brief cameo appearance by Madman. 

SLOW DEATH #3 (Last Gasp, 1971) – “Dumb Story”, [W/A] Richard Corben. Some primitive aliens lead an idyllic life of constant sex. Humans land on their planet and “civilize” them, resulting in their extinction. A grimmer version of Avatar or The Word for World is Forest. “The Harbinger,” [W/A] Jim Osborne. A wordless story about an angel, dedicated to Lynd Ward. “Gene Shuffle,” [W/A] Jaxon. In a postapocalyptic future, two mutants fall in love and have a child. Ironically, the mutants look like normal people, while all the other humans are horribly deformed. The mutant parents are relieved to discover that their son is normal, i.e. hideous, rather than mutated like them. “Heirs of Earth,” [W/A] Corben. A two-pager starring a character who looks like Den. “The Sleeping Continent,” [W/A] Larry Welz. A postapocalyptic sword-and-sorcery story. Welz used the spelling “Urth” before Gene Wolfe did. 

2000 AD #310 (IPC, 1983) – Tharg: as above. The thrill-suckers penetrate to Tharg’s brain, which is one of those stunning, indescribable scenes that Belardinelli is so good at. Time Twisters: “Chrono-Cops,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Dave Gibbons. One of Alan’s best early short works, about two cops who travel through time to solve a mystery, crossing their own timelines repeatedly. The scene of the cops meeting their past/future selves in the lobby recurs over and over, each time acquiring additional meanings. My friend Elizabeth Sandifer has published a detailed analysis of this story (https://rb.gy/jc49ef). Dredd: as above. The ailen infects Dredd, forcing him to shoot his fellow Judges. Rogue Trooper: as above. In the 19th and thankfully last part of this awful series, Rogue recaptures the fort. Skizz: as above. The series’ second protagonist, the schoolgirl Roxy, is introduced, and she finds Skizz in the shed. 

BATMAN #458 (DC, 1990) – “Night Monsters,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. Harold, a mute, deformed engineering genius, is wrongly suspected of kidnapping a little girl. Batman saves Harold from an angry mob and takes him to the Batcave, where he would become the Batmobile’s full-time mechanic. This isn’t Harold’s first appearance, but it is his debut as a regular supporting cast member. He may have been introduced as a way of explaining how Batman maintained all his vehicles and gadgets, though that’s a problem that didn’t really need a solution. See https://comicsalliance.com/ask-chris-266-batman-mechanic-harold/. Also in this issue, Commissioner Gordon rekindles his old affair with Sarah Essen.  

CHAMBER OF CHILLS #4 (Marvel, 1973) – “The Opener of the Crypt!”, [W] John Jakes, [A] Frank Brunner. In a pastiche of The Cask of Amontillado, Montresor’s modern-day descendant, Paul Montré, finds Fortunato’s corpse, and Fortunato’s corpse traps Montré in the tomb his ancestor built. Brunner’s art here is very spooky. “Pawn of the Demon,” [W] Steve Skeates, [A] Jay Scott Pike. One of Pike’s very few later works outside the romance genre. A shipwreck victim is enslaved by telepathic ants, and turns into an ant himself. “The Demon from Beyond!”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Howard Chaykin. An adventurer saves a woman from being sacrificed to a demon. 

SECRETS OF SINISTER HOUSE #14 (DC, 1973) – “The Man and the Snake,” [W] E. Nelson Bridwell, [A] Alfredo Alcala. An adaptation of an Ambrose Bierce story about snake charming. As usual, Alcala’s draftsmanship is incredible. “The Roommate,” [W] Fred Wolfe, [A] Mike Sekowsky. David’s girlfriend Priscilla has a roommate who, as the reader can easily tell, is a vampire (https://www.instagram.com/p/CI4iXZ_Be3Q/). The vampire kills Priscilla, but David kills her. “The Glass Nightmare,” [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Alfredo Alcala. An old man makes some beautiful snow globes. A thief murders the man and tries to steal the globes, only to find himself trapped in one of them. More gorgeous art. 

BIRTHRIGHT #23 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andres Genolet. Kylen is revealed as a villain and attacks Mastema, who is trying to free Mikey from the Nevermind. With Rya about to go into labor, Wendy has to use Rya’s sword to defend them both. On the last page, Mikey and Rya are finally reunited. 

SILVER STAR #4 (Pacific, 1983) – “The Super-Normals: Are They God’s or Satan’s Children?”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Silver Star encounters Big Masai, a black superhero with size-changing powers. This story includes some impressive depictions of New York slums, and thus it reminds me of Kirby’s classic “Street Code.” There’s also a backup story written by Richard Kyle, with impressive art by Kirby inker D. Bruce Berry. 

Next trip to Heroes: 

LUMBERJANES: END OF SUMMER #1 (Boom!, 2020) – “End of Summer Part 4,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Brooklyn Allen, Alexa Bosy & Kanesha C. Bryant. Ripley summons the Kitten Holy. The girls defeat the Grey with the power of friendship, as embodied by their badges. But summer is over now, and Molly is especially sad to return home to her awful stepmother. In a touching conclusion, the other girls give Molly a present, and she opens it to find Bubbles. So she gets to take something back from the camp to her normal life. So ends the best kids’ comic book since Bone. I’m sad this series is over, but 75 issues plus multiple spinoffs is a great run for a comic that’s not aimed at the direct market audience. I hope Ross Richie is telling the truth when he says there are further plans for this franchise. My main regret is that we never got to see the world outside the camp. If Miss Qiunzella’s is such a feminist utopia, what kind of larger society could have produced it? 

ONCE & FUTURE #14 (Boom!, 2020) – “Long Live the King,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. Rose beheads the Green Knight, who, predictably, picks up his head and tells Rose/Gawain to meet him in a year. A dying racist says that Elaine is looking for a cauldron, presumably the one from the Mabinogi. Elaine appears in Rose’s house and points a gun at her. This is an excellent issue, and it shows that Gillen has expert knowledge of the Gawain myth and of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I like how he emphasizes the poem’s Christmas themes. 

SECOND COMING: ONLY BEGOTTEN SON #1 (Ahoy, 2020) – “Last Night on Zirconia,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Richard Pace. Most of this issue is a flashback to Sunstar’s origin story, which is identical to Superman’s. A hilarious moment is when Sunstar’s dad explains why the rocket is only big enough for a child: because he had to build it on a government scientist’s salary. Russell draws obvious parallels between Zirconia (Krypton)’s fate and the climate crisis. Sunstar, Sheila and Jesus only appear on the last two pages. 

SWEET TOOTH: THE RETURN #2 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Gus II and his new friend Penny are recaptured. It becomes clear that all the characters in the series are normal humans, hiding underground from the virus that killed all the other humans. Gus’ father created him in order to send him aboveground and infect him with another virus, so a to kill the hybrids that now dominate the world. On the last page, an elephant-headed hybrid appears outside Gus’s cell. 

USAGI YOJIMBO #15 (IDW, 2020) – “Sojobo,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi visits his “other teacher”: Sojobo, the tengu from Usagi v3 #65, which happens to be the first Usagi comic I read. In a flashback, we learn how Sojobo defeated a young Usagi in a duel and claimed ownership of Usagi’s hand. Back in the present, Usagi finds Sojobo unconscious and surrounded by dead ratlike creatures. 

WE ONLY FIND THEM WHEN THEY’RE DEAD #4 (Boom!, 2020) – “The Glorious Quest,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Simone Di Meo. In order to save Malik from Paula, the Vihaan has to cut the goddess’s throat. Also, we now know that Paula blames Malik for killing her family. 

THE MAGNIFICENT MS. MARVEL #17 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Minkyu Jung. Kamala defeats Brett the tech bro, aka Monopoly, and convinces Dum Dum Dugan to stop hounding her. Zoe doesn’t apologize for snitching. Stormranger is coming back. 

THE DREAMING: WAKING HOURS #5 (DC, 2020) – “The Bard and the Bard, Finale,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nick Robles. Lindy decides there’s no real Shakespeare, because our perception of Shakespeare is always shaped by our modern circumstances. To me as a literary scholar, that seems like a very sensible claim. Morpheus forgives Ruin, and the first story arc is over. 

BIG GIRLS #5 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Jason Howard. Joanna and her sons assault the city. Ember reaches out to one of the Jacks and convinces it to turn around. Meanwhile, Gulliver’s assistant Martin tries to fight Tannik, and gets turned into a big man, rather than a Jack. 

SEVEN SECRETS #5 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. The entire Order retreats to a hidden mountain fortress. This proves to be a stupid decision as the Seekers follow them there and begin a siege. This series is a really exciting adventure story. 

FANTASTIC FOUR #27 (Marvel, 2020) – “Borrowed Armor,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] R.B. Silva et al. 4 Yancy Street fills up with weird-looking aliens. Reed gives Franklin a spare suit of Iron Man armor, like when Ben Grimm lost his powers and wore a Thing suit. Reed tries to destroy the Griever by sacrificing Yancy Street, but it doesn’t work. This issue includes some good pieces of characterization: Mr. Sheckerberg complaining to Reed about all the mishegas, and Val reuniting with Bentley. 

GIGA #2 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Alex Paknadel, [A] John Lê. The authorities interrogate Evan and separate him from his unlicensed AI. An investigation reveals that the dead Giga was killed by the Dusters. I didn’t understand all of this issue’s plot, but I still think this series is fascinating; it’s the one Vault comic I’m most excited about. 

STRANGE ACADEMY #6 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. The kids follow Calvin’s trail and battle the Hollow. They manage to win, thanks to help from their instructors, but Doyle Dormammu is apparently killed. 

STRANGE ADVENTURES #7 (DC, 2020) – “It Should Happen to Everybody,” [W] Tom King, [A] Doc Shaner & Mitch Gerads. In the flashback, Adam goes on some kind of weird drug trip. I don’t quite understand how this issue is related to the main plot, and this issue doesn’t tell us anything new about the Pykkts and what they want. 

PENULTIMAN #3 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Alan Robinson. Penultiman tries to think more positively, but he only ends up damaging his own reputation even further. I don’t know why I never got issue 2. 

SCARENTHOOD #2 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Nick Roche, [A] Chris O’Halloran. While taking Scooper home, Cormac gets lost in the woods and has to abandon Scooper’s stroller. He and the other adults go back for it but are chased away by a black devil dog. Cormac misses a phone call from his still-unseen wife. One thing I like about this series is its authentic-seeming depiction of small-town Ireland. 

HAPPY HOUR #2 (Ahoy, 2020) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Michael Montenat. Jerry and Kim fight their way out of the asylum and steal a clown car. Jerry insists on a detour to see his dying grandmother, who, of course, is supposed to be happy she’s dying. While Jerry is with his grandmother, Kim drives off, leaving him behind. This comic is much clearer than most of Milligan’s recent work. 

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #21 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Ultimatum Saga, Conclusion,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Marcello Ferreira. Uncle Aaron sacrifices his ilfe to defeat Ultimatum. Miles is left devastated. It’s a sad moment, even though Uncle Aaron’s story was never going to have a happy ending. 

MARVEL ACTION CHILLERS #3 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Gretel Lusky & Bowen McCurdy. In the flashback sequence, Nadia van Dyne battles Venom with minimal assistance from Spider-Man. It’s great to see Jeremy writing Nadia again, and he even includes cameo appearances from some of Nadia’s fellow Agents of G.I.R.L. 

SAVAGE DRAGON #255 (Image, 2020) – “The Empty Grave,” [W/A] Erik Larsen. Dart is shockingly killed by the police. Given Erik’s willingness to kill off characters, I won’t be surprised if Dart actually stays dead. Paul Dragon visits Dimension X and finds Jennifer’s body, and we also see an unexplained baby Dragon. Malcolm is still in the hospital, regenerating his brain. I’m kind of worried for him. 

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #112 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Jodi Nishijima. Mona goes to a support group for mutants, but it degenerates into a brawl between supporters and opponents of Hob. A frog mutant attacks Michelangelo and poisons him. The Turtles decide to hold an election and nominate Sally for mayor. 

JUNKWAFFEL #2 (Last Gasp, 1972) – “Tubs” and other stories, [W/A] Vaughn Bodé. I won three issues of Junkwaffel on eBay, and I accidentally read #2 before #1. “Tubs” is about time travelers who go back in time to hunt for meat to relieve a famine. “The Rudolf” is about an unsuccessful rebellion against a dystopian future society. Both these stories look as if they’re reproduced from pencils. “Cobalt 60,” which has much better print quality, is a sort of Western story about a wandering warrior in a postapocalyptic future. Bodé only did this one story with Cobalt 60, but his son revived the character after Bodé’s death. This issue also includes some Cheech Wizard strips, reproduced sideways, and an anti-war story, War Lizard. My overall judgment on this comic is that Bodé was an incredible draftsman, but not the best writer. His comics are absurdly heavy on text, and he had trouble writing a coherent plot. 

CROSSOVER #2 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Geoff Shaw. This comic begins with the murder of Brian K. Vaughn (sp), but otherwise it feels less like a masturbatory celebration of fandom than issue 1 did. This issue, the protagonist plots to rescue the inmates in Denver’s prison for non-super supporting cast members, and the little girl demonstrates some frightening superpowers. 

FAR SECTOR #9 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] N.K. Jemisin, [A] Jamal Campbell. Somehow I forgot to get issue 8. This issue, Jo investigates a secret sweatshop where people are being forced to produce memes for the consumption of the @. 

2000 AD #311 (IPC, 1983) – Tharg: as above. The Thrill-Suckers put the entire world to sleep, including Tharg himself. Tharg’s bumbling assistant Burt has to wake him up. This story has some beautiful art, but all these Thrill-Suckers stories are idiotic, and I wonder if anyone actually liked them. Rogue Trooper: “Major Magnum Prologue,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Brett Ewins. Rogue evades a homing missile attack, then learns that there’s another G.I. on Nu-Earth. Time Twisters: “Joy Riders,” [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Jesus Redondo. A future cop apprehends some time-traveling juvenile delinquents. Dredd: as above. The parasite forces Dredd to invade a mutant settlement. One-shot: “What a Load of Rubbish!”, [W] Alan Grant, [A] Eric Bradbury. People from the future use the year 1999 as a dumping ground for trash from even further in the future. Skizz: Roxy befriends Skizz, and they learn each other’s names.  

BARBALIEN: RED PLANET #2 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tate Brombal w/ Jeff Lemire, [A] Gabriel Hernandez Walta. Mark has a great time at the gay bar, until it’s raided by the police. Mark goes home with Miguel, but nothing happens. The next day, Miguel’s friend Rafael attacks the police. Meanwhile, the Martian bounty hunter finds Mark and fires a gun at him. This series is a powerful depiction of LGBTQ history. 

HUMAN DRAMA #1 (Print Mint, 1978) – untitled stories, [W/A] various. I bid on a bunch of cheap underground comics from the same seller, but I only won three of them, including this, which I had never heard of before. It’s a collection of untitled, unrelated stories by a wide range of talent. The most notable pieces in the issue are the ones by Spain and Greg Irons. There’s also a story by Alan Weiss, who rarely did underground comics. 

LOCKE & KEY/THE SANDMAN #0 (DC, 2020) – “Open the Moon,” [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez, etc. A reprint comic intended as a prequel to the Locke & Key/Sandman crossover. The first half of the issue reprints the Eisner-nominated 2011 one-shot Locke & Key: Guide to the Known Keys. This one-shot begins with the story “Open the Moon,” in which Chamberlin Locke takes his dying son Ian to the moon and leaves him there. This is a very sad and tender story. Much of it is drawn in a style that’s an homage to Little Nemo. There’s also “Guide to the Known Keys,” a series of vignettes describing each of the keys that had appeared up to that point. The rest of Locke & Key/Sandman #0 is a reprint of Sandman #1, which I’ve read before. 

INKBLOT #4 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Rusty Gladd, [A] Emma Kubert. In a society resembling ancient Egypt, a sorcerer tries to make a bargain with a giant sphinx, but the sphinx attacks him. The cat either saves the day, or screws everything up, or both. At the end of the issue, the Seeker figures out that the cat can travel in time. Can we start calling the cat “Mow”? 

AMETHYST #6 (DC, 2020) – “Out on Top,” [W/A] Amy Reeder. Amy defeats Dark Opal and frees her parents, at the cost of destroying all the amethyst gems. Amy’s parents turn out to be stuck-up jerks. Amy is elected princess of the houseless people. I wish this was an ongoing series, but DC clearly doesn’t care about… I’ll stop there before I get depressed.

SLOW DEATH #4 (Last Gasp, 1972) – “Eyes of the Beholder,” [W/A] George Metzger. While on drugs, a man “discovers” that his political leaders are robots. He assassinates a politician, then gets trampled by a robot mob. “Ecotopia 2001,” [W] Tom Veitch, [A] Greg Irons. This story is set in an idyllic, utopian society, only it’s a utopia because everyone is immortal and the birth rate is zero. Two policemen discover some people who have been illegally reproducing, and the offenders and their children are executed. Paolo Bacigalupi’s story “Pop Squad” has a similar premise. “The Awakening,” [W/A] Richard Corben. A mostly plotless story about a man awakening from cryogenic sleep. “Mangle, Robot Mangler,” [W/A] Richard Corben. A parody of Magnus, drawn in a much cartoonier style than the previous story. “Homesick,” [W/A] Jaxon. A normal human is the supervisor of an outer space colony of mutants. When a ship finally arrives from Earth to relieve him, he learns that all the people on Earth are mutants too. This story could be set in the same universe as “Gene Shuffle” from issue 3. 

2000 AD #312 (IPC, 1983) – Robo-Hunter: “The Slaying of Slade Part 1,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. An army of Teeny-Meks invades the Tower of London and steals the crown jewels. Tharg: as above. Tharg wakes up, defeats the Thrill-Suckers, and takes revenge on the dictators of Zrag. Dredd: as above. The parasite leaves Dredd’s body, and Dredd destroys it, but the story’s not over yet. Rogue Trooper: “Major Magnum Part 1,” as above. Some enemy troops are auctioning off a pistol containing the biochip of a G.I. Rogue recovers the pistol and discovers that the soldier in it is now his commanding officer. Skizz: as above. Roxy can’t find any food Skizz can eat. Meanwhile, Skizz’s presence is discoveredby a sinister government agent, Van Owen, whose speech pattern implies that he’s from South Africa. 

LONELY RECEIVER #4 (Aftershock, 2020) – “A Year: A Fertilizing Destructive Event,” [W] Zac Thompson, [A] Jen Hickman. No one realizes Hazel is dead. Catrin gets a new modification that allows her to immerse her full body in cyberspace. From that point, this issue becomes illogical and impenetrable, although it includes some impressive psychedelic images. 

CAPTAIN MARVEL #24 (Marvel, 2020) – “The New World Part Three,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Lee Garbett. Ove is revealed as the son of Namor and the Enchantress, and of course his utopian new Atlantis is just a façade, and he’s actually evil. Ove forces a mind-controlled Luke Cage to beat Carol senseless and tie her up. 

WONDER WOMAN #768 (DC, 2020) – “Long Live the Queen,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Rafa Sandoval. I should have told Heroes to take this series off my pull list, but it’s ending soon anyway. This issue, Diana fights Deathstroke, and Liar Liar escapes from an insane asylum. Mariko seems more interested in Liar Liar than in Diana herself. That’s a common pattern: most writers don’t know how to write Wonder Woman, so they focus on her supporting cast instead. 

On December 21 I received an order consisting of over 100 issues of Cerebus, plus some other stuff. I had decided not to buy any more single issues of Cerebus, but I changed my mind because they were so cheap. Most of the Cerebuses were under a dollar, and some of them were effectively free, insofar as they allowed me to qualify for free shipping. Also, the Cerebus phone books don’t include the covers, editorials, letter columns, and bonus features. And those paratextual materials are very important, because Cerebus’s lettercols and editorials are essentially an entire history of the comics industry in the ‘80s and ‘90s. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #23 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1980) – “The Beguiling,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This story must have given its name to the legendary Toronto comic book store. Injured and caught in a snowstorm, Cerebus finds shelter in a girls’ school and protects it from some marauding soldiers, although the girls are quite good at protecting themselves. This issue includes a George Metzger-drawn ad for a Vancouver comic store. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #50 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “Crisis No. 6: Denouement,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This is the last chapter of High Society, which is considered Sim’s first great work. I have the High Society phone book but have not read it yet. The entire issue is formatted horizontally. Its plot is hard to understand without the context of the prior 24 issues, but what seems to happen is that Prime Minister Cerebus confronts his ally Astoria and learns that his administration’s military support has collapsed. Cerebus is forced to resign and return to his wandering life. There’s a backup story by Jim Valentino, depicting his reaction to John Lennon’s then-recent assassination. The letters page mentions Dave’s visit to a Minneapolis convention where Kara Dalkey did a radio play adaptation of Cerebus #6. 

EIGHTBALL #9 (Fantagraphics, 1992) – “Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron” etc., [W/A] Daniel Clowes. An absurdist, neurotic story, probably influenced by Chester Brown’s Ed the Happy Clown, now that I think of it. A notable moment is when some people attack the protagonist for no reason and steal his clothes, and then a policeman drives by and gives him new clothes. In an installment of “Young Dan Pussey,” Dan meets a fine artist who’s gotten rich by doing parodies of comics art – a younger and more vulgar Roy Lichtenstein. The artist’s gallery owner offers to exhibit Dan’s work too, but his offer turns out to not be serious. This story is a bitter parody of the fine art scene. There are also a few one- and two-pagers in the issue. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #61 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “Stormy Weather” and other vignettes, [W/A] Dave Sim. In an early chapter of Church & State, Cerebus ponders how to deal with his poiltical rival Adam Weisshaupt. Then Weisshaupt gives Cerebus a demonstration of his new toy: a cannon. The bonus feature is a Flaming Carrot story by Bob Burden. The letters page includes a letter from Marvel’s law firm objecting to the Wolveroach character, and a confession by a fan who’s been stealing Cerebus comics from the store. The house ad on the back cover has a list of the nine different distributors that carried Cerebus at the time. 

FOUR COLOR #722 (Dell, 1956) – Johnny Mack Brown: “The Silent Men,” [W] unknown, [A] Nicholas Firfires. Johnny defeats a gang of cattle thieves. “The Good Samaritan,”  [W] unknown, [A] Nat Edson. Johnny, now wearing a different shirt, recovers some stolen money intended for the building of a schoolhouse. These stories are both quite generic, but they’re competently done. The Johnny Mack Brown character is named after a Western film star who was also a Hall of Fame college football player for Alabama. Johnny Mack Brown is not to be confused with Mack Brown, who coached Texas to the 2005 college football national championship. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #68 – “Another Thing Coming,” as above. Cerebus is now the pope, and has convinced his followers to give him all their gold. He kicks an old man off a roof, thus demonstrating that “one less mouth to feed is one less mouth to feed.” Cerebus collapses from illness, and wakes up to find Weisshaupt pointing a row of cannons at his treasure house. The backup story is “The Jade Princess” by Larry Hancock and Michael Cherkas. I haven’t read any of Cherkas’s work before, and I like his linework. The letters page includes some angry letters about #66, in which Cerebus killed a baby. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #69 – “Ignore It, It’s Just Another Reality,” as above. Finally two consecutive issues. Weisshaupt sends some men to demand Cerebus’s gold, but Cerebus convinces them to denounce Weisshaupt, declaring that anyone who follows his orders wil die. Then the men commit suicide. Weisshaupt orders the cannons to be fired, but no one is willing to obey his orders anymore, and he suffers a fatal heart attack. Cerebus has a vision of a floating light, then hears a voice summoning him to the Regency Hotel. This is a fascinating issue that provides an interesting insight into how power works. The backup story is part two of The Jade Princess. The letters include multiple guesses as to Gerhard’s last name, as well as some inside jokes about a female fan named Connie Lingus. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #72 – “Time Passes and Life Manoeuvres,” as above except it’s now 1985. Deni Loubert’s name no longer appears in this issue’s masthead. The “Notes from the Publisher” states the current story arc’s title, “Church and State,” for the first time. In the main story, Lord Julius is manipulated into becoming the new President. Meanwhile, Cerebus orders his followers to conquer the Red Marches. It seems like Cerebus is achieving his dream, where everything happens as he wants it to, but Red Sophia is skeptical. Cerebus has a vision of gold coins forming a sphere. There are more letters about Connie Lingus. 

CLONE CONSPIRACY #1 (Marvel, 2016) – “Dead No More Part One: The Land of the Living,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Jim Cheung. We begin with the funeral of Jay Jameson, perhaps the first Spider-Man character to die of natural causes, although JJJ still finds a way to make Peter feel responsible for Jay’s death. Peter tries to figure out why he was suspicious about the experimental treatment that was offered Jay. This trail leads Peter to a scientific facility where he encounters Miles Warren and two people he beileved dead: Otto Octavius and Gwen Stacy. There’s also a backup story, by Slott and Ron Frenz, in which Gwen narrates her own death and her revival as a clone. Frenz’s art is nicely nostalgic because his linework resembles Gil Kane’s. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #71 – “Hovering Below the Fray,” as above. I read this out of order. In his note, Dave refuses to say anything about Deni’s departure, and also debunks a rumor about Cerebus moving to Marvel. In the story, Bishop Powers chooses Lord Julius as Weisshaupt’s successor. Cerebus’s assistant, Brad, gives Cerebus the idea of using his followers as an invasion force. Also, he describes the history of some of Cerebus’s coins. The backup story is “Demlins” by Jim Bricker, a satire on Reagan. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #80 – “Causality Casualty,” as above. Cerebus talks with Red Sophia through a hole in the wall. Then a giant two-story tall creature, resembling the Thing but claiming to be the Living Tarim, appears and demands Cerebus’s gold. As Cerebus is fleeing the creature, Brad stabs himself to death. Cerebus falls all the way to the Lower City. The letter column consists of an exchange between Dave and Neal Adams about contracts. I don’t know the context behind this discussion. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #82 – “Talking Heads,” as above. Now in some other dimension, Cerebus witnesses an argument between the wizards Thrunk and Henrot (Frank Thorne). The giant Tarim gives orders, and a man who resembles Archie Goodwin serves as his mouthpiece. Astoria talks with her ex-husband Lord Julius and explains that they divorced because he didn’t support her feminist policies – feminism will become a major concern of the series soon. Cerebus encounters a three-headed creature named “Fred, Ethel, and the little fellow with the hair,” except Fred and Ethel look like Man-Thing and Swamp Thing. Cerebus sneezes, his nose grows very long, and then he vanishes. Instead of a letter column there are some photos of Dave and Gerhard’s trip to Gainesville, Florida, long before it became a center of comics culture (Don Ault didn’t move there until 1997). 

AVENGERS #22 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Exorcism at Avengers Mountain,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Stefano Caselli. Robbie Reyes, Ghost Rider, tries to destroy his cursed car, but fails. Blade calls in Daimon Hellstrom to help Robbie exorcise the car. Daimon sends Robbie into some hell-realm where a second Ghost Rider challenges him to a race. This comic isn’t bad but it still doesn’t feel like an Avengers comic. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #95 – “Odd Transformation 4,” as above except the date is 1987. Dave’s note is about how Chaykin, Miller, Moore and Wolfman were boycotting DC due to the controversy over ratings. All of them except Moore would later work for DC again. In the story, Cerebus dreams that he’s walking through a sewer while covered in chains; this perhaps references X-Men #133 and Spider-Man #33. Then Cerebus wakes up in the prison cell where he’s just raped Astoria, and declares that he and Astoria are divorced. He falls asleep again and has a dream where he surveys an incomplete giant statue of himself, then pushes Astoria off a building, except she’s dressed like Red Sophia. 

MERMAID #nn (Alternative, 1998) – untitled, [W/A] James Kochalka. Magic Boy (Kochalka), his wife, their robot son, and their cat are vacationing at the beach. The robot sees a mermaid and runs away from his parents to work for it. The parents barely seem to care about their son’s disappearance, but they do find him again. Kochalka is good at what he does, but I don’t much like his work because it’s way too cutesy and saccharine. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #98 – “The Trial,” as above. Cerebus puts Astoria on trial before himself, Bishop Powers and Archbishop Posey. Astoria tells the story of how she killed some man – the previous pope maybe – without knowing who he was. Cerebus asks Astoria Pilate’s question: “What is truth?” Dave’s note discusses how he gave up smoking pot.

ACTION COMICS #699 (DC, 1994) – “Eye of the Hurricane,” [W] Roger Stern, [A] Norman Felchle. Luthor has besieged Metropolis and gotten Lois fired for writing libelous articles. Superman chases the Parasite, who stole some of his powers, but can’t find him. The Planet staff moves to a new office and tries to figure out how the false articles were pubilshed under Lois’s name. “The Fall of Metropolis” was kind of an anticlimax; it was overshadowed by the storiees before and after it, including Reign of the Supermen and The Death of Clark Kent. Norman Felchle had a pretty short career; his last GCD credits are from 1998. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #102 – “The Final Ascension,” as above. Dave’s note mentions “Definition of mixed emotions”: his ex-wife accepting his Kirby Award. This issue describes how Cerebus climbs the Black Tower as it breaks from its moorings and rises toward the moon. The entire issue is narrated in blocks of mixed-case text, a device that Dave would rely on more and more as the series went on. The direction of reading changes with each page, forcing the reader to keep rotating the comic to keep reading. The letter column includes the most remarkable letter I’ve seen in this series: Trina Robbins’s letter in which she explains why the rape scene in #94 was not offensive and was justified by the story (though of course she doesn’t condone Cerebus’s actions). All the other letters are also from female readers, and most of them are about the rape scene or about feminism in general. In 1987, Dave still had a lot of credibility with feminist readers, and Cerebus was still unusual in having a number of complex and well-developed female characters. It was only later that Dave became infamous for his misogyny.  

DARK SHADOWS #11 (Gold Key, 1971) – “The Thirteenth Star,” [W] D.J. Arneson, [A] Joe Certa. The Collins family is cursed by a golem that reappears at regular intervals to kill them. The golem reappears and steals the grave soil that the vampire Barnabas Collins needs to keep himself alive. Barnabas projects himself into the future era when the golem will appear next, so that he can follow it and find the soil. I don’t know anything about the Dark Shadows franchise, though I have a colleague who’s a big fan of it; however, this issue is an impressive piece of Gothic horror, and it’s much better than I expected. D.J. Arneson is best known for creating Lobo (the cowboy, not the alien), the first black character to star in a comic book. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #103 – “Mass with Substance,” as above. Dave’s note proposes that AIDS and lung cancer were both caused by radiation. I guess that would have sounded more plausible then than it does now. This issue is entirely wordless. Cerebus climbs the Black Tower, carrying a gold sphere, and then a statue of Weisshaupt’s head falls on his foot. 

IMMORTAL HULK #41 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Man Downstairs,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. The Thing beats up the Hulk, taking revenge for Hulk’s disruption of his honeymoon. But Hulk is clearly in no condition to resist, and Ben ends up treating him to hot dogs. This is a cute issue. I love the cover, with a waitress looking the Hulk straight in the eye. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #105 – “Couple Capable,” as above. Dave’s note is a story about Bob Burden. Cerebus encounters Fred-and-Ethel again, and they take his gold sphere and accuse him of throwing a baby off the roof. Cerebus corrects them: he threw the baby off the front steps, it was the old man who he threw off the roof. Nonetheless, Fred-and-Ethel traps Cerebus under their giant hand, but then a voice from off-panel says “Now then.” Instead of a letter column there’s a piece of stream-of-conscious narration written by Bob Burden.  

IT AIN’T ME BABE (Last Gasp, 1970) – This is one of the most important American comic books ever. It’s the first underground comic produced entirely by women, and all of today’s comics and graphic novels by female creators, from Fun Home to Lumberjanes, are indebted to it. Stories include: “Oma,” [W/A] Willy Mendes. A psychedelic fairy tale in which a woman defeats a giant snake and saves her baby. “Lavender,” [W/A] Trina Robbins. A sorceress’s pet sphinx saves her from being deceived by a male adventurer. “Breaking Out,” [W] “The It Ain’t Me Babe Basement Collective,” [A] Carole. Supergirl, Little Lulu, Petunia Pig, Juliet Jones and other characters rebel against their male oppressors. Carole’s last name is unknown; according to Trina on Facebook, it was common at the time for women in the movement to only use their first names.  “I Remember Telluria,” [W/A] Trina Robbins. A modern-day woman undergoes past-life regression and remembers her past life as a priestess in a matriarchal society.  

STILLWATER #4 (Image, 2020) – “They Gave Him Power,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón K. Perez. In a flashback sequence, we learn how the Judge took dictatorial control over Stillwater, and how Laura smuggled Tommy out of town. Also, we realize that Tommy was stuck at the age of 18 months for about five years, though as an adult, he certainly doesn’t act more mature than his physical age. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #107 – “Walking on the Moon Seven,” as above except it’s now 1988. Cerebus descends to the surface of the moon and meets the Judge, based on Lou Jacobi’s character from the film Little Murders. (I only knew this because of Dave’s note “With apologies to Jules Feiffer and Lou Jacobi.” Feiffer wrote the film.) The Judge is also, of course, a reference to Uatu the Watcher. He tells Cerebus a bunch of stuff, most notably that Cerebus will never succeed in conquering the world. Instead of Dave’s note, there’s a letter from Bill Schanes at Diamond, complaining about Dave’s decision not to sell the High Society phone book throuogh Diamond. In response, Schanes threatens to stop carrying Aardvark-Vanaheim’s other title, Puma Blues. Dave’s angry, defiant response appears at the end of the issue, replacing the letter column. For me as a comics historian, Cerebus’s paratextual materials are often just as interesting as the actual comic. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #108 – “Extrusion Intrusion,” as above. In his note, Dave angrily rejects an offer to write an article for Amazing Heroes’s issue dedicated to Superman’s 50th anniverary. Dave explains that he’s angry over DC’s exploitation of Siegel and Shuster. In the story, the Judge tells Cerebus about the conquests of the original Suenteus Po. Then the Judge gives a speech about how religion is a scam. Instead of a letter column, there’s a parodic response to a hostile letter from a Georgia fan. 

2000 AD #313 (IPC, 1983) – Robo-Hunter: as above. While trying to prevent the Teeeny-Meks’ next theft, Slade is apparently killed. Time Twisters: “The Avenging Kong Meets Laurel and Hardy,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Mike White. Time-traveling filmmakers send a robot woman warrior into the past in order to film her fighting people. The filmmakers themselves are killed by other filmmakers from further in the future. Dredd: as above. Dredd realizes he’s pregnant with the parasite’s baby. His fellow judges operate on him and remove it. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue meets some other Souther soldiers, and the Major starts giving them cruel orders and punishing them unfairly. Skizz: as above. Roxy buys baby food for Skizz, causing the store clerk to think Roxy is a teen mother. We meet Roxy’s friends Loz and Cornelius. The latter has been driven crazy by prolonged unemployment, and his catch phrase is “I’ve got my pride.” 

LOCKE & KEY: IN PALE BATTALIONS GO #3 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. The Lockes use the various keys to defeat the invading Nazis. This results in perhaps the funniest line of dialogue of the year: “Help! Help! I am being eaten by stuffed animals!” According to a German-speaking Facebook friend, the word translated as “eaten” here is used for a predator devouring its prey, and not for a human eating food. Sadly, it’s too  late to save Fiona, the Locke children’s mother. Chamberlin tells Jack “I wish we were burying you instead,” and Jack takes him seriously and commits suicide, though Chamberlin stops him from also destroying the keys. Rather a grim story. 

BILL AND TED ARE DOOMED #4 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Roger Langridge. The rest of the family saves Bill, Ted and Death from being killed by metal fans and trolls. The series’ larger plot, about Bill and Ted’s quest to write the perfect song, is not resolved, because that’s what the new film is about. This was a fun series by two great creators. 

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #502 (DC, 1993) – “Boy Meets Girl,” [W] Karl Kesel, [A] Tom Grummett. In an early chapter of Reign of the Supermen, Superboy meets Supergirl, and he and Lex compete to see who can treat her more chauvinistically. Also, Superboy signs excluisve contracts with two different news organizations, and Rex and Roxy Leech appear for the first time. I read this when it came out, and parts of it were familiar to me. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #109 – “Abhorring Vacuums,” as above. Dave’s note is a meditation on the work of Jules Feiffer. The Judge tells Cerebus about the origin of the universe. This issue consists mostly of black or white panels, with very little actual artwork. 

ALL GIRL THRILLS #1 (Print Mint, 1971) – I’d never heard of this before, but it was included in the same eBay lot as It Ain’t Me Babe. “Wiley Willy’s Realm of Karma Comix,” [W/A] Willy Mendes. A story about talking horses, with heavily psychedelic art. “Fatima and the Lion,” [W/A] Trina Robbins. A wizard kidnaps a woman and turns her lover into a lion, or so we’re led to think. The woman uses a magic crown to turn herself back into a lion, since she was a lioness in the first place, and she and her lover eat the wizard. “Speed Queen,” [W/A] Trina Robbins. A female aviator has an adventure involving Jimi Hendrix and Rudolph Valentino. Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin both died just before this comic came out, and the inside front cover is a tribute to Joplin. This comic also includes some artwork by an otherwise unknown artist named Jewel. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #132 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1989) – “Jaka’s Story 19,” [W/A] Dave Sim w/ Gerhard. Jaka talks to her old nurse, who’s in the prison cell next to her, and there are some more flashbacks to Jaka’s past. This issue’s letter column is four pages, with no replies from Dave. The letter columns got longer and longer as the series went on. 

PANTOMIME #2 (Mad Cave, 2020) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] David Stoll. The kids do a bunch of thefts for the Manager, but even after they pay off their debt to him, he refuses to release them from his service. The kids decide it’s time to turn the tables on their boss. This is an entertaining crime comic. 

JUNKWAFFEL #1 (Print Mint, 1971) – various stories, [W/A] Vaughn Bodé. “Tubs” part one explains why the future people are going back in time to look for food. “Machines” is a series of illustrated descriptions of futuristic weaponry. It’s barely a comic at all, and is cumbersome to read. It’s followed by a few different stories that show the weaponry in operation. As with issue 2, Junkwaffel #1 is more notable for its art than its writing. I4 would be nice if someone, ideally Fantagraphics, would publish a collection of all Bodé’s comics, since his work is scattered across lots of different publications and is mostly out of print. 

2000 AD #314 (IPC, 1983) – Robo-Hunter: as above. Slade learns that the Teeny-Meks are controlled by a deformed man who he doesn’t recognize, but who claims to have met him before. Then Slade gets killed. A Tharg Special Thriller: “Mr. Macabre,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. Josiah Skutcheon sells his soul to the demon Balaak. The title character defeats Balaak and saves Skutcheon’s soul, only to claim it for himself. Dredd: as above. The mutants who were infected by the parasite all turn into parasites themselves. Dredd incinerates all the parasites, but his own “baby” remains alive in an incubator. I don’t know if it ever appeared again. Rogue Trooper: as above. Major Magnam leads his men on an assault on a heavily defended Nort fortress. Also, he learns that Rogue is a deserter, and threatens to shoot him. Skizz: as above. Roxy is mocked at school. Skizz can’t eat the baby food and begins to starve to death. Roxy calls Loz and Cornelius for help. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #133 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1989) – “Jaka’s Story 13,” [W/A] Dave Sim & Gerhard. In the note, Dave explains why the price of the comic is increasing. A Cirinist takes Jaka’s nurse Ada off to be executed. A flashback depicts how a young Jaka got into contact with Lord Julius. Jaka is apparently moved to a much nicer cell, where a fictionalized version of Mrs. Thatcher offers to help her. The backup story is a preview of Jeff Nicholson’s Through the Habitrails. 

NIGHT HUNTERS #1 (Floating World, 2020) – untitled, [W] Dave Baker, [A] Alexis Zirtt. A science fiction story set in a dystopian future version of Caracas. Baker’s writing provides a harrowing depiction of Caracas’s squalor and crime, but he has some trouble making the story flow smoothly. I bought this comic for Alexis Zirtt’s art, and his draftsmanship and coloring are stunning. I wish I’d bought more of his work when I had the chance, because Space Riders is not easy to find. 

BLACK WIDOW #4 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Ties That Bind Part 4,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Elena Casagrande & Jordie Bellaire. I forgot to get issue 3. Natasha rescues her “husband” and “son” from Hydra agents, and we learn that Stevie was created from her and James’s DNA, it’s not clear why or by whom. Another Hydra agent fires a missile at Natasha’s house and sets it on fire. The art in the main sequence is much better than the art in the flashback sequence, though the contrast in the two artists’ styles is interesting. 

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #515 (DC, 1994) – “Massacre in Metropolis!”, [W/A] Barry Kitson, [W] Karl Kesel. Superman fights an alien named Massacre, and there’s a subplot where some “riot grrls” are trying to loot musical instruments from the ruins left by Luthor’s attack on Metropolis. I may have read this, via the library, when it came out, but I don’t remember it.  

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #141 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1990) – “Melmoth Two,” as above. Dave’s note explains his disagreement with Scott McCloud on the subject of creators’ rights. At this point in the story, Cerebus is traumatized because he thinks Jaka has been executed, and all he can do is sit and stare, clutching Jaka’s doll. He gives a gold coin to Dino, an inn owner, in exchange for free room and board for life. This is a great deal for Dino because Cirin has confiscated all the gold in town, so the value of gold is hyperinflated, and Dino proceeds to use the interest on the coin to pay for renovations to the bar. However, Melmoth is mostly about the final days of Oscar Wilde, introduced in the previous story. Much of the  story is narrated with quotations from the diaries of Wilde’s friend Robert Ross. The letter column includes a lot of debate about Jaka’s abortion, and there’s a letter from future comics scholar Chris Gavaler. The backup feature is a preview of Scott McCloud’s 24-hour comic. 

KING IN BLACK: IMMORTAL HULK #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “Black Christmas,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Aaron Kuder. In a wordless story, the child Hulk fights a Venom symbiote. Hulk turns into Joe Fixit and defeats Venom by outsmarting it. Specifically, he triggers Venom’s vulnerability to sound by playing Greg Lake’s “I Believe in Father Christmas.” This is a real song that I hadn’t heard of before. Afterward, Joe turns back into the child Hulk in a toy store, so Hulk can have the happy Christmas his abusive father denied him. This is a really cute ending. 

COMMANDERS IN CRISIS #3 (Image, 2020) – “The Action of Interrogation,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Davide Tinto. Frontier goes on a date with Simon, the man who was linked to the spirit of empathy and then murdered. The other heroes investigate Simon’s murder and eventually find his mother, who draws a gun on them. 

CATWOMAN #28 (DC, 2020) – “High Noon in Alleytown,” [W] Ram V, [A] Fernando Blanco. Catwoman defeats a bunch of rival criminals, a man in glasses and a top hat threatens her, and Poison Ivy makes a cameo appearance at the end. This series is okay, but I’m not sure it’s good enough to keep reading.  

AMERICAN VAMPIRE 1976 #3 (DC, 2020) – “Beneath the Greenhouse…”, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. Some of the protagonists look for a way to kill Dracula, and then they encounter the first Native American vampire. The other protagonists try to escape the train. This series is really not worth reading unless one is already a fan. 

RESIDENT ALIEN: YOUR RIDE’S HERE #2 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. One of the characters, a middle-aged black woman, is assaulted by a man who may be looking for the alien protagonist. Otherwise this issue is mostly small talk. The best thing about this series is Steve Parkhouse’s art. 

KING IN BLACK: NAMOR #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “In the Depths,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Benjamin Dewey with Jonas Scharf. A young Namor, Dorma and Attuma join forces with a team of new  undersea superheroes. This comic is really fun, and it also turns Dorma from a boring damsel-in-distress into a genuinely fun character. I love her pet fish. Benjamin Dewey’s art is also quite creative. 

GETTING IT TOGETHER #3 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Sina Grace, [W] Omar Spahi, [A] Jenny D. Fine. A lot more fun relationship drama, though I can’t summarize it because I can’t remember the characters’ names or relationships. The flashback scene is interesting because it subtly hints at Lauren’s Persian-American background: her mother decides to make ghormeh sabzi for dinner. Sina Grace is Persian-American himself. 

THE DEVIL’S RED BRIDE #3 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] John Bivens. The protagonists travel through a cursed temple and encounter an evil monk. This series is not especially interesting, and I’m leaning toward dropping it. 

BATMAN: BLACK AND WHITE #1 (DC, 2020) – “The Demon’s Fist,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Tradd Moore. The tale of a lowly flunky of Ra’s al Ghul whose job is to just hit Batman once. Tradd Moore’s art here is the best I’ve seen from him. “Weight,” [W/A] J.H. Williams III. Not much of a plot, but incredible art. I love how Williams includes visual quotations of a bunch of past Batman artists. “First Flight,” [W] Paul Dini, [A] Andy Kubert. Batman and Talia fight some ninja man-bats. A straightforward but entertaining story. “Sisyphus,” [W/A] Emma Rios. I don’t know why, but I can’t stand Emma Rios’s art. Something about her style just grates on me. “Metamorphosis,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Greg Smallwood. Batman rescues a woman from Killer Croc, only she was actually happy with him. An effective depiction of Stockholm syndrome. 

GREEN LANTERN SEASON TWO #10 (DC, 2020) – “Multi-Crisis on Infinite Earths,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. The most impenetrable and confusing issue yet. In a common pattern for Morrison, the longer this series goes on, the less I understand it. I’m glad there are just two issues left. 

DRYAD #7 (Oni, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kurtis Wiebe, [A] Justin Barcelo. The kids are unhappy to learn they’re adopted, but they find some new friends. The parents continue searching for information on the kids’ origins. I like this series, but it’s not one of my favorites.  

DECORUM #6 (Image, 2020) – “Work Less, Make More,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Mike Huddleston. Neha and her fellow assassins are hired to recover a certain egg, in exchange for an entire planet made of diamond. Also there are some irrelevant subplots and background materials. Mike Huddleston has an impressive ability to draw in multiple different styles. 

HEAD LOPPER #14 (Image, 2020) – “The Gorgon,” [W/A] Andrew Maclean. The heroes arrive in Arnak Pluth and sit down to dinner, only to be attacked by red-cloaked assassins. Then they go to the Temple of Medusa and recover the Arnakian Hammer. The food that’s served to Head Lopper’s party looks really good. 

PSYCHODRAMA ILLUSTRATED #3 (Fantagraphics, 2020) – “Little Ones,” [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. Two runaway children visit a town called Lagrimas, where the people are bitterly divided over Trump’s border wall. This is a rare example of a Gilbert Hernandez comic that comments on contemporary US politics, and he shows a keen understanding of people’s conflicted feelings about the border. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #142 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1991) – “Melmoth Three,” as above. Cerebus encounters Mick and Keef, based on Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Oscar is still lucid but continues to decline. The backup feature is Sim’s 24-hour comic “Bigger Blacker Kiss,” about a newly pregnant woman in a singles bar. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #143 – “Melmoth Four,” as above. Robert Ross speaks to Wilde for the last time, and there’s a horrifying depiction of Wilde’s face infested by maggots. The backup story, “Poison” by Darryl Cunningham, is about a businessman who poisons the world and then gets poisoned himself. As is often the case with Cerebus, there are a lot of letters, but none of them are especially notable. 

2000 AD #315 (IPC, 1983) – Robo-Hunter: as above. Slade dies, and an ”official courier” drive him to the pearly gates. Time Twisters: “The Big Clock,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Eric Bradbury. Tharg takes the reader on a tour of the facility where time is produced. I already read this story in prog 590, where it was reprinted. Dredd: “King of the Road,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. An idiot goes on a rampage because he didn’t realize he had to keep his new car fueled, and it ran out of fuel. Dredd arrests him. Skizz: as above. Loz points out the fact that Skizz’s plot is very similar to tat of E.T. Van Owen and his men barge into Roxy’s house and kidnap Skizz. Cornelius goes berserk and beats up Van Owen’s men until they tranquilize him. Rogue Trooper: as above. Gunnar saves Rogue from Magnam, and Rogue removes Magnam’s biochip and sends him back to Milli-Com. 

2000 AD #316 (IPC, 1983) – Robo-Hunter: as above. Slade is refused entry to heaven because there’s still a Samuel C. Slade living on earth. Slade’s new mission is to find this other version of himself. Skizz: as above. We learn that Cornelius’s full name is Cornelius Cardew, a reference to an experimental composer who had recently died. Van Owen interrogates Roxy and releases her to her parents, who had been on vacation. One-shot: “Dr. Dibworthy’s Disappointing Day,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Alan Langford. A scientist experiments with traveling back in time and changing the past. He thinks he hasn’t changed anything, but the art shows that he has caused massive changes to the world – he just doesn’t realize it, because his own memories are also affected. Eventually he prevents the Big Bang and causes the universe to disappear. The fun part of reading this story is noticing all the subtle changes to Dr. Dibworthy’s lab, such as the transformations of the Home Sweet Home sign and the bust of Voltaire. This story is also a good example of humor that results from incongruities between the writing and art: the text says “nothing happened,” but the art shows that all sorts of things have happened. Dredd: “The Stupid Gun! Part 1,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. A scientist invents a gun that makes people stupid. His teenage intern shoots him with the gun, then uses it on his own parents. Then some criminals steal the gun. Dredd investigates. Time Twisters: “T.C. Spudd’s First Case,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Jim Eldridge. A sentient potato hunts down humans who eat potatoes. Rogue Trooper: “Bigfoot,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Cam Kennedy. Some Nort soldiers try to find a poison that can hurt Rogue, but an unseen cryptid monster hunts down the soldiers before they can complete their mission. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #144 – “Melmoth Five,” as above. Dave’s note includes a sexist diatribe against publicly funded daycare. Cerebus imagines he sees Astoria. Oscar’s other friend Reggie Turner writes a letter to Robert Ross about Oscar’s worsening illness. Cerebus dreams about the Black Tower, then asks his waitress for a raw potato. There are several letters complaining about Dave’s antifeminism, one of which is by cartoonist Pat McEown. The backup feature is a minicomic by David Lee Ingersoll. 

THOR #606 (Marvel, 2010) – “Latverian Prometheus,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Billy Tan. Dr. Doom puts on the Destroyer armor and fights Thor. Balder goes looking for Kelda’s stolen heart. This issue is adequate, but Kieron’s Thor was not one of his better works, and he didn’t seem to be putting his full effort into it. 

A CORBEN SPECIAL #1 (Pacific, 1984) – “The Fall of the House of Usher,” [W/A] Richard Corben. An adaptation of Poe’s story of the same name. I’ve never actually read this story, so I can’t judge the faithfulness or creativity of Corben’s adaptation, but his artwork is fantastic. Corben adapted this same story again in 2013, and it would be interesting to compare the two versions.

Last trip to Heroes of the year: 

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #92 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Andy Price. Zecora and her five friends use the Harmony Tree to become the new Elements of Harmony. With their new powers they easily defeat the Grootslang. Applejack writes a “Dear Princess Twilight” letter. An unidentified character tells a “commander” that the Desert Temple has been “activated.” This was a fun start to Season 10.

POWER PACK #2 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Nico Leon. This issue is narrated by Alex. Based on Franklin’s and Val’s current ages, Alex should be over 30 now, but Ryan wisely ignores that. A new superhero named Agent Aether offers to serve as Power Pack’s mentor, and he suggests they should use their powers to create cheap electricity. I was afraid that the speech about electricity was just Ryan going off on a weird tangent, but it actually does have a narrative function. It turns out “Agent Aether” is the Wizard, and the Bogeyman was an illusion he created as part of his plot against Power Pack. Again, the characterization in this issue is very good. 

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #13 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. This has become one of my favorite current series. The Order of St. George starts killing people, and it’s obvious by now that they care much more about maintaining their secrecy than about their mission of killling monsters. (Perhaps this is a veiled critique of American police.) Erica flees with James and Bian, then tries to end the monster threat by summoning the true form of her monster doll. 

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #11 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. The protagonists decide to keep walking the spiral, instead of staying in Unity. Dr. Jain is not happy with this, and reveals that she’s trapped the team in neuro-space, without their knowledge. We still don’t know the content of the parents’ message. I’m not always enthusiastic about reading this comic, but it’s really well done. 

SEA OF STARS #8 (Image, 2020) – “The People of the Broken Moon,” [W] Jason Aaron & Dennis Hallum, [A] Stephen Green. Kadyn finds the hammer again, and Dalla takes him to a space village of exiles. Kadyn makes a new friend his own age, and we learn that Dalla had a child who died of unrevealed causes. Gil continues looking for his son. 

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #4 (Image, 2020) – “The Eyes in the Walls,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Martin Simmonds. Two reporters are shown evidence that all the events in American history since 1963 were engineered by the “deep state.” F or example, Obama really was born in Kenya, and Vince Foster was murdered. In short, the Q theory is true. Oswald offers some theories as to why people would believe all this bullshit. Then, at Oswald’s orders, Cole kills the reporters before they can spread this information. This issue hits almost too close to home, since a week after I read it, QAnon supporters tried to overthrow the American government. But precisely because of its relevance to our current political moment, Department of Truth is a really important comic. 

COLONEL WEIRD: COSMAGOG #3 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Tyler Crook. Another issue with a deliberately nonsensical narrative structure. The main thing we learn from this issue is that that one cave painting is really important. 

TARTARUS #8 (Image, 2020) – “In the Lands of Milk and Honey,” [W] Johnnie Christmas, [A] Jack T. Cole. Surka and Svantoo steal the Sky Raiders’ ship so that Surka can go to the Sky Raiders’ homeland. She makes the raiders build her a fleet of warships, which she uses to conquer a bunch of other planets. By accident, she kills everyone on her home planet, Queen-Meridian. Surka finally returns to Auria, but by now, there’s a rebellion brewing against her rule. I didn’t understand this issue until after I looked back at issue 7.  

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #9 (Marvel, 2020) – “I shall make you a Star-Lord,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Juann Cabal. Peter Quill spends 144 years living with a nomadic tribe, and falls in love with a woman named Aradia. Then he returns to the Guardians. I didn’t quite understadn this issue. 

FAMILY TREE #10 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Phil Hester. In the present, Josh tries to protect his family from government troops. In the past, Josh meets his future wife Sarah and her father, who promptly gets shot by the same government troops. 

X-MEN #16 (Marvel, 2020) – “Sworded Out,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Phil Noto. In the aftermath of X of Swords, Krakoa and Arakko are unwilling to reunite. Also, Arakko’s native mutants aren’t sure they want to ally with the X-Men. Meanwhile, Scott and Jean decide to hold an election for who should be on the official X-Men team. Oh, and Doug Ramsey is married now. This issue was much more interesting than the last few, since it doesn’t assume too much familiarity with X of Swords. 

KAIJU SCORE #2 (AfterShock, 2020) – “Too Many Mullet Fish,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Rem Broo. Everything that can go wrong with the heist does go wrong: Gina the safecracker is an impostor, and two kaiju show up, rather than one. This issue is exciting, but I still wish there was more “kaiju” and less “score.” 

SCARENTHOOD #3 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Nick Roche, [A] Chris O’Halloran. The other parents deduce that Cormac has killed his wife and buried her in the backyard, but in fact it’s his dog that’s buried there. Only the dog’s grave is empty. Cormac gets a gambling-addicted priest to hold an exorcism, which causes Scooper’s “Big Boy” to show up. This series is a successful mixture of humor and horror. 

I WALK WITH MONSTERS #2 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Sally Cantirino. In a flashback, Jacey tells a teacher about her father’s abuse, and the teacher is totally helpful. Then Jacey meets a dog which is probably her future partner, and decides to runs away from home just before her twelfth birthday, when her dad is going to do God-knows-what to her. Jacey’s dad is an utterly terrifying character. Not much happens in the present-day storyline.

USAGI YOJIMBO: WANDERER’S ROAD #2 (IDW, 2020) – “A Mother’s Love,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. In a story reprinted from vol. 1 #8, Usagi meets a sweet old lady whose son has become a cruel mob boss. The woman asks Usagi to kill her son for her, but he refuses, so she kills him herself. This is one of Stan’s saddest stories, though I previously complained that it was manipulative. https://ogresfeathers.wordpress.com/2017/03/16/reviews-for-first-half-of-march/#uy8

KING-SIZE CONAN #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “Aftermath – and a Beginning,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Steve McNiven. A prequel to Conan #1, bridging the gap from the siege of Venarium to Conan’s first comics appearance. McNiven draws this story in a style similar to that of the early BWS. “In the City of Thieves,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Pete Woods. Two wizards try to hire Conan to guard them while they summon a demon. Conan refuses, due to his well-known fear of sorcery. The wizards’ summoning attempt is fatal to them, and Conan loots their gold and jewels. This story takes place right before “The Tower of the Elephant.” I like how Marvel got the two best Conan comics writers to work on this issue. “Die by the Sword,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Roberto de La Torre. Conan kills a woman warrior and then watches her daughter also die. This story is pretty grim, and it’s weird that Claremont wrote it, since he’s only written one previous Conan story (not counting his stories with Kulan Gath). The other two stories in this issue aren’t worth mentioning. 

WONDER WOMAN #769 (DC, 2020) – “Liar Liar Returns,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Steve Pugh. Diana finally gets Liar Liar to come to her senses, then takes her to Paradise Island. Again, this issue is more about Liar Liar than Diana herself. 

MAESTRO #5 (Marvel, 2020) – “Symphony in a Gamma Key Part Five: Rondo,” [W] Peter David, [A] Germán Peralta. Hulk defeats Hercules for good and becomes the ruler of the world, but at the cost of Rick’s friendship. This series wasn’t really worth buying, and I don’t plan to read the sequel, War & Pax. 

RESIDENT ALIEN: YOUR RIDE’S HERE #3 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. Brad and Amanda get married, but someone kidnaps Amanda’s daughter. This comic’s SF elements are extremely understated. I don’t know why no one can tell that the protagonist is an alien, since he looks like an alien to the reader. 

CEREBUS THE AARDVARK #146 – “Melmoth Seven,” as above. Oscar continues to decline. Archbishop Posey goes looking for Cerebus, but is captured by Cirinists; we later learn that he died in prison. There are a bunch of letters about abortion and overpopulation. I feel obligated to read all the letters or at least skim them, but they’re often very tiresome. The backup story is Richard Corben’s “Tales of the Diamond: Blood Birth,” an unsuccessful experiment with computer art. 

That’s it for 2020. I read 2,237 comics this year, only 25 fewer than in 2019. That’s impressive given all the… stuff… that happened in 2020. Of these, 171 were issues of 2000 AD. 

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