January 2021 reviews


This project is now in its ninth year, having begun in 2013. 

2000 AD #317 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: “The Slaying of Slade, Part 6,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. Slade returns to earth and witnesses his battle with the God-Droid in prog 174. He realizes that the man who sent the Teeny-Meks was there. Time Twisters: “D.R. and Quinch Have Fun on Earth!”, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Alan Davis. In their first appearance, D.R. and Quinch get revenge on their dean by manipulating the entire history of Earth, so that the continents spell out a message accusing him of embezzlement. I’ve read this story before, but it’s nice to own its original version. Dredd: “The Stupid Gun! Part 2,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. The criminal with the Stupid Gun boards a train, which goes out of control. Rogue Trooper: “Bio-Wire!”, [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Cam Kennedy. Rogue meets a soldier whose squad was wiped out by living barbed wire. Skizz: untitled, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jim Baikie. Van Owen and his men interrogate Skizz. Skizz’s internal monologue in this chapter is very lyrical and beautiful. 

CEREBUS #148 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1991) – “Melmoth Nine,” [W/A] Dave Sim. I’m going to go back to just calling this series Cerebus. I don’t think “The Aardvark” is part of the official title. In his note, Sim discusses how he resents Oscar Wilde for his lack of productivity. In the main story, Oscar finally dies with Reggie and Robert at his side. There are letters about feminism and Quebec separatism. There’s also a terrible 24-hour “comic” that has so little artwork it’s barely a comic. 

CEREBUS #149 – “Melmoth Ten,” as above. In his note, Dave discusses how being a comics fan is like being gay, in that both groups have their own secret language, they both conceal themselves, and they’re both defined by something that they feel makes them special, but that they’re also ashamed of. This is a highly offensive comparison, but it also helps us understand how comics fans think of themselves. I need to return to this later. The main story is about Oscar’s funeral. Dave also reproduces some pages from Reginald Turner and Robert Ross’s letters, which he quoted extensively, and he includes handwritten annotations that show how he altered the quotations. That’s the end of the Oscar Wilde part of Melmoth, and I’m glad it’s over because it was rather tiresome.  

CEREBUS #150 – “Melmoth Eleven,” as above. Dave apologizes to Michael Moorcock for printing a letter falsely attributed to him. Cerebus wakes from his stupor to hear some Cirinists discussing how they executed Jaka, and kills the Cirinists in a fit of rage – finally some action! In a flashback, Cerebus is told that Cirinists are all telepathically connected. The letter column includes some rebuttals to a letter from “M’Oak.” I haven’t read this letter, but the responses indicate that M’Oak was trying to jutsify rape. The backup feature is a photocomic by Ivan Brunetti. 

2000 AD #318 (IPC, 1983) – Slade: as above. Slade revisits a robot war that his past self fought in. Rogue Trooper: “Milli-Com Memories Part 1,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Cam Kennedy. While delirious from injury, Rogue starts talking about secrets from Milil-Com that Gunnar, Helm and Bagman aren’t supposed to know. Dredd: as above. Dredd stops the tram and causes the villain to shoot himself with the Stupid Gun. Skizz: as above. Van Owen tries to teach Skizz  English. Roxy argues with her parents and is bullied at school. Time Twisters: “Going Native,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Mike White. A time-traveling modern human becomes the ancestor of the Cro-Magnon race. This is an unoriginal plot, but Alan’s prose style makes this story far better than a typical installment of Time Twisters. 

GIDEON FALLS #25 (Image, 2020) – “The End,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. The final issue is extra-sized and includes a bunch of spectacular page designs. The five protagonists realize that the Black Barn was created to contain the giant spider monster, which was the product of the original Norton Sinclair’s experiments. Daniel goes back in time and destroys Norton’s machine. He wakes up seemingly happy and reunited with Clara, but then pulls out a shard of the Black Barn. This was a truly excellent series. When it started, Daniel’s facemask just seemed like a creepy affectation; the mask has a different meaning now. 

KING IN BLACK: NAMOR #2 (Marvel, 2020) – “Swift & Sure,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Benjamin Dewey. Young Namor and his allies defeat a Great Old One, but then the Swift Tide get possessed by symbiotes. Another entertaining issue.  I miss Kurt’s writing, especially Astro City.

CEREBUS #151 – “Mothers & Daughters 1,” as above. Dave discusses his upcoming US tour. “Mothers and Daughters” begins by quoting Robert Graves’s adaptation of the Song of Amergin; this poem was also the source of the poem about Eirias in Susan Cooper’s Silver on the Tree. The rest of the issue consists of a lot of scenes with little apparent connection. Cirin throws away a lot of heretical books. The Judge convinces the god of death – who appeared in this form in a very early issue – that he’s not really death, and the god vanishes. Lord Julius has problems with Cirin’s gender equality rules. The Pigts’ Cerebus idol, which was broken in another early issue, recreates itself. A lot of these scenes didn’t make any sense to me until I reread the first phone book. There are a ton of letters, and three one-page backup strips. 

CHEW #16 (Image, 2010) – “Flambé 1 of 5,” [W] John Layman, [A] Rob Guillory. Tony and Valenzano go looking for a “voresophist” who gets smarter the more he eats. Much of the issue takes place at a derelict chicken restaurant. I wonder when Farmhand is coming back. Or Chu. 

BATMAN #519 (DC, 1995) – “Black Spider: Web of Scars,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Kelley Jones. Batman goes looking for Black Mask. Commissioner Gordon is pissed that he’s been replaced as police commissioner by his wife, so he goes around making an ass of himself. The scene on the cover, with Black Spider trying to drown Batman, does not seem to appear in the issue, and Black Spider is barely in the issue at all. Kelley Jones’s art here is too cartoony for me. 

ELRIC: SAILOR ON THE SEAS OF FATE #2 (First, 1985) – “Chapter IV,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Michael T. Gilbert & George Freeman. An adaptation of the first half of Elric, Corum, Hawkmoon and Erekosë’s battle with Agak and Gagak. This is one of my favorite Elric stories because it’s a crossover with two of Moorcock’s other series. The same story is told from Hawkmoon’s perspective in The Quest for Tanelorn, though disappointingly, it does not appear in any of the Corum books. Conversely, the Voilodion Ghagnasdiak sequence appears in the Elric book The Vanishing Tower and the Corum book The King of the Swords, but Hawkmoon isn’t present for it. Anyway, Gilbert and Freeman do an excellent job of capturing the indescribable weirdness of Agak and Gagak’s lair. 

SUPERMAN #208 (DC, 1968) – “The Case of the Collared Crime-Fighter!”, [W] Frank Robbins, [A] Curt Swan. Some crooks make Superman wear a collar that allows them to track his movements. I just read Umberto Eco’s “The Myth of Superman” for a critical theory reading group, and Eco discusses how Superman often fights anonymous mobsters rather than addressing any real problems. The backup story is a reprint from 1959, in which Superman encounters a mayor who thinks it’s Superman’s fault that he wasn’t adopted as a child. This story is really stupid. 

MADMAN COMICS #6 (Dark Horse, 1995) – “Big Guy a Go-Go,” [W/A] Mike Allred, [W] Frank Miller. Madman encounters Big Guy from Miller and Darrow’s Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot. This character also crossed over with Martha Washington. I think Big Guy made more appearances in crossovers than in his own series, which only lasted two issues. This may be because first, Big Guy’s series was published in an awkward large format, and second, Geof Darrow is a rather slow artist. 

CEREBUS #152 – “Mothers & Daughters 2,” as above. Cerebus fights more Cirinists, while the local men cheer him on. There are vignettes depicting the Black Blossom Lotus, from another early issue, and two coins that revolve around each other. I don’t understand why the coins are significant. Throughout Flight, the first part of Mothers & Daughters, there are all these suggestions that some kind of giant catastrophe is coming, but these hints don’t really lead to anything, unless it’s the fall of the Black Tower in Women. The letter column includes a very offensive letter by Thom E. Lake, who expresses views that would get him labeled as an incel or MRA today. 

SWAMP THING #8 (Vertigo, 2004) – “Missing Links,” [W] Will Pfeifer, [A] Richard Corben. A villain named Dekker tries to play The Most Dangerous Game with Swampy, while Tefe deals with bullying. This comic is worth reading mostly for Corben’s art. 

EXCALIBUR #6 (Marvel, 2020) – “Verse VI: Watch the Throne,” [W] Tini Howard, [A] Marcus To. The main plot of this issue is that Betsy, the new Captain Britain, fights Morgan le Fay. This sequence is unappealing because it’s just a standard fight scene, and there’s nothing particularly British about it. All the major Captain Britain and Excalibur writers have actually been British. Come to think of it, Simon Spurrier would be a good writer for this series. Later there’s a scene where Rogue tells Gambit that she doesn’t want children. They should have talked about this before getting married. Also, near the end of Mr. and Mrs. X, it was hinted that Gambit did want kids, and Rogue seemed open to the idea. 

SUPERMAN #69 (DC, 1992) – “Killing is Serious Business!”, [W] Dan Jurgens, [A] Peter Krause. Some terrorists named the Sons of Liberty kidnap Lana Lang in order to coerce Pete Ross into assassinating a witness at a congressional hearing. We’re never told what the Sons of Liberty’s goals are, but a bigger problem is that Pete is so scared of them, he can’t tell Superman that Lana has been kidnapped. Like, Pete turns down multiple chances to tell Superman what’s going on. Why does Pete think Superman wouldn’t be capable of saving Lana? 

SUICIDE SQUAD #39 (DC, 1990) – “Dead Issue,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Luke McDonnell. The Suicide Squad is shut down thanks to scandalous news leaked by the Loa, a group of Haitian villains. This allows the Loa to execute their plot to turn America’s children into berserk zombies, but Waller organizes an unauthorized mission to assassinate the Loa. The mission is successful, but Waller is caught and sent to jail. An excellent issue as usual. 

LASSIE #40 (Dell, 1958) – “Heart of a Dog” and “Forest Guardian,” [W] unknown, [A] Bob Forgione? The child welfare agency wants to take Timmy away from the farm where he’s been living, but a young couple buy the farm and adopt him, and Timmy’s foster brother Jeff gives Lassie to Timmy. This parallels a similar plot development in the Lassie TV show, where Jeff was replaced by Timmy as Lassie’s human companion. Lassie is so strongly associated with Timmy in the popular imagination, that I was surprised to realize she wasn’t always Timmy’s dog. Anyway, in the comic, the unknown writer does a great job of depicting Timmy’s emotional turmoil. In the backup story, Lassie and Timmy help catch a poacher.  

YELLOW DOG #24 (Print Mint, 1973) – various stories, [E] unknown. An unimpressive underground comic. The only major artists included are Howard Cruse, who did a two-pager, and Greg Irons, who drew the back cover. Of the other artists included, the only name I recognize is Tim Boxell. 

CEREBUS #153 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1991) – “Mothers & Daughters 3,” as above. Cerebus exhorts the men of Iest to fight back against the Cirinists. Some men attack the Cirinists and get slaughtered. There’s an inexplicable scene where a nude model sees a tiny Cerebus. There are a ton of letters, one of which mentions Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find, and a preview of A Distant Soil. 

2000 AD #319 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: as above. Slade relives an episode from his service in the Great Robot War. Time Twisters: “The Impossible Murder!”, [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. A man and his brother use time machines to murder each other. Dredd: “Condo Part 1,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Dredd investigates a series of terrorist attacks on space habitats. Skizz: as above. Cornelius Cardew reacts violently to reporters asking him about Skizz. Meanwhile, Van Owen continues to torture Skizz, and Roxy prepares a rescue mission. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue reveals how he saved Gunnar from being rejected from active duty. 

ACTION COMICS #656 (DC, 1990) – “Going to Blaze’s Part One of Three,” [W] Roger Stern, [A] Bob McLeod. Jimmy Olsen and Jerry White have been shot by gunmen. The Black Racer comes for Jimmy, and Superman follows him to Blaze’s realm. The Black Racer doesn’t really fit with the rather serious tone of this Superman run, because he’s a character who’s difficult to depict in a plausible way. 

SHANG-CHI #4 (Marvel, 2020) – “Brothers and Sisters Part 4,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Dike Ruan. Shang-Chi consults the spirit of his uncle Zheng Yi. There’s a running joke about Clif Bars. Again, this series feels genuinely inspired by Chinese culture, in a way that Doug Moench’s MOKF never did. 

IMAGINARY FIENDS #4 (Vertigo, 2018) – “The Cat’s Paw Part 4,”  [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Stephen Molnar. The Fraidy Cat tries to enslave Melba Li. Polly Peachpit fights Charlie Chokecherry, with the landlady’s baby son trapped between them. This is an effective horror comic, but compared to Something is Killing the Children, it’s much less subtle and it relies more on actually showing the reader the monsters. 

DETECTIVE COMICS #670 (DC, 1994) – “Cold Cases,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Barry Kitson. A frozen body is found in the harbor. Of course it’s Mr. Freeze, and he revives while in the morgue. Montoya and a medical examiner are trapped in the police station with him, but Montoya helps Azrael/Batman defeat him. Mr. Freeze is depicted in this issue as a fairly generic villain. The modern depiction of this character, as a tragic figure whose goal is to resurrect his wife, was introduced in the ‘90s cartoon episode “Heart of Ice.” That came out two years before ‘Tec #670, but the new version of Mr. Freeze may not have made it into the comic yet. 

SUICIDE SQUAD #51 (DC, 1991) – “Fractured Image,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Luke McDonnell. Floyd Lawton hunts down Marc Pilar, a common criminal who stole the Deadshot suit. Floyd defeats and kills Marc, but declines to take the costume back. There are also a lot of subplots. Nightshade kisses Nemesis, and the new Thinker tries to kill Waller but fails. 

LETTER 44 #11 (Oni, 2014) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Alberto Jimenez Albuquerque. The new president repeals DADT, only to get impeached. The spacecraft starts to deteroriate, and Astra becomes critically ill. Letter 44 is one of the more detailed depictions of the presidency in American comics. It would be interesting to compare it to the actual Obama and Trump administrations. 

CEREBUS #154 – “Mothers & Daughters 4,” as above except the year is 1992. Cerebus starts flying through the air, I don’t understand how or why. Normalroach, based on Valentino’s Normalman, turns into Punisheroach. The Roach character is Sim’s vehicle for making fun of other comics. There are a bunch of letters about rape, and some photos of fan/running joke Connie Lingus. 

RED THORN #2 (Vertigo, 2016) – “Glasgow Kiss Chapter Two: Rebel of the Underground,” [W] David Baillie, [A] Meghan Hetrick. This issue is radically different in tone from #1; it goes from urban fantasy to epic fantasy. Isla visits Redcap Keep, fights some redcaps, and then meets the title character himself, a naked red-haired demigod. This comic is still interesting and it shows extensive knowledge of Scottish folklore, but I liked the first issue better. 

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #147 (Dell, 1952) – untitled (“A Charitable Chore”), [W/A] Carl Barks. Donald volunteers to host a poor person for Thanksgiving, but inevitably, the “poor” person turns out to be Gladstone. Donald runs away to Florida to escape from Gladstone, but it doesn’t work. Several of the other stories are also Thanksgiving-themed, including the first of the two Mickey Mouse stories. The other one, “The Miracle Master” by Merrill De Maris and Bill Wright, is a redrawn version of an old daily strip sequence, according to the GCD. There’s also a Little Hiawatha strip which is appallingly racist. The back cover is a Wheaties ad depicting NFL Hall of Famer Bob Waterfield. This was so long ago that Waterfield is depicted kicking a field goal as well as throwing passes. 

CEREBUS #156 – “Mothers & Daughters 6: Mind Games V,” as above. The first four chapters of Mind Games were scattered throughout the run. Dave’s note discusses his national tour, which included a stop at the Million Year Picnic in Boston, a store I’ve visited a few times. Cerebus travels through space and has an argument with someone who claims to be Suenteus Po – a name used by many different characters in this series. There are cameo appearances by the Judge, K’cor, the Pigts, and the Regency Elf. Behind the scenes, Punisheroach battles the Cirinist army. Much of this issue made no sense to me. The backup story is a rather whiny autobiographical comic about a trip to Varanasi. 

EDGAR ALLAN POE’S SNIFTER OF BLOOD #3 (Ahoy, 2020) – “The Mystery of Marie Roget,” [W] Rachel Pollack, [A] Alan Robinson. Poe tells the story of Marie Roget to his long-suffering wife. This must be the first new comic by Rachel Pollack in quite a long time. “The Cask of Amontillado – Rediscovered!”, [W] Shaun Manning, [A] Greg Scott. In the future, after Poe’s works have been lost, his descendant tries to rewrite The Cask of Amontillado without having read the original. 

CEREBUS #157 – “Mothers & Daughters 7: Mind Game VI,” as above. Dave describes his visits to St. Louis and Los Angeles. Cerebus reaches the Eighth Sphere, where a voice tells him about his happiest moments – including his first sight of the Great Wall of Tsi, and waking up in Jaka’s arms. Cerebus has a vision of his reelection as Prime Minister, but realizes it’s fake. The voice gives a speech about desire, and then Cerebus finds himself in front of a giant chessboard. There’s another shockingly offensive letter, this one by Larry Dudock, and Dave has an equally offensive response: “I only debate feminism these days with women who can argue sequentially and rationally and who don’t change the subject when I’m winning.” What a troll. 

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #31 (Marvel, 1977) – “My Sweetheart – My Killer!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Ron Wilson. Ben fights Alicia, who’s been turned into a human spider by Hydra agents. Spider-Woman also guest-stars. The McGuffin of the plot is a hidden Nazi treasure. 

ASTONISHING TALES #15 (Marvel, 1972) – “…And Who Will Call Him Savage?”, [W] Mike Friedrich, [A] Gil Kane. In New York, Ka-Zar fights some drug dealers and tries to prevent a sick old scientist from being kidnapped. The predictable twist is that the scientist is the mother of one of the drug dealers. This issue has excellent art, and its story isn’t terrible. 

ICE CREAM MAN #22 (Image, 2020) – “Advent Calendar,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. A simple story about a pregnant teenage girl getting an abortion. The horror part is that she keeps having nightmares about talking ducks. Also, the story is structured as an Advent calendar. Each page is set on a different day, from November 30 to Christmas, and begins with a gift. As the issue goes on, the gifts get weird and creepy. 

HEART THROBS #92 (DC, 1964) – This was from an eBay lot of five old romance comics. All [W] unknown. “Don’t Speak to Me of Love!”, [A] John Rosenberger. Felice’s friend Andrea steals all her boyfriends, until finally one of them rejects Andrea’s advances. What I don’t get is why Felice feels obligated to remain friends with this toxic person. John Rosenberger is a highly underrated artist. “The Edge of Love,” [A] Win Mortimer? Kathy goes to see her boyfriend Lee, but instead falls in love with Quint. The story acknowledges that Quint’s behavior is creepy, but he gets rewarded for it. “The Nights That Never Ended!”, [A] Tony Abruzzo. Poor secretary Michele falls in love with Dean, her boss’s playboy son. Dean’s stepmother lies to Michele and tells her that Dean has been killed. Dean shows up alive the next day. 

CANTO II: THE HOLLOW MEN #4 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. Canto meets two legless giants who ride in a cart. Then he meets the princess, and she tells him that to defeat the Shrouded Man, he’ll have to sacrifice himself. I don’t get how this issue connects with the previous one. 

CEREBUS #158 – “Mothers & Daughters 8,” as above. Dave describes his visits to Denver and Chicago. Behind the chessboard is Suenteus Po, who claims that there are three aardvarks: himself, Cerebus, and Cirin. Po gives a long speech about his previous incarnations. The Pigts prepare for an invasion. Cirin punishes Mrs. Copps (based on a Canadian politician) for trying to interfere with her ascension.

MONSTRESS: TALK-STORIES #2 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. Maika tells a story about a time in her childhood when she went fishing with a merboy friend, just before starting her military training. This issue is cute, but through its contrast with most issues of Monstress, it reminds me how bleak and depressing this series is. 

JINNY HEX SPECIAL #1 (DC, 2020) – “A Man Walks into a Garage…”, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Gleb Melnikov. A distant descendant of Jonah Hex is persecuted by an ancient villain. This is a fun one-shot story, but it seems inconsistent with DC’s current creative direction, to the extent that DC has a direction.  

U.S.AGENT #2 (Marvel, 2020) – “American Zealot Chapter 2: Homeland,” [W] Priest, [A] Georges Jeanty. In flashback, we learn how John Walker’s sister Kate seemingly died in a fire. John goes to Ephraim, WV to help Kate, now a SHIELD agent, with her mission, but the people of Ephraim mistake John for Captain America – ironically, since John started his career as a replacement for Cap. As usual with Priest, this issue is hard to follow. 

GIRLS’ ROMANCES #110 (DC, 1965) – all [W] unknown. “My Secret Love!”, [A] Mike Sekowsky. Lita and Jud are in love, but he ignores her in public. It proves to be a simple misunderstanding. “Shadow of Love!”, [A] Sekowsky. Paula’s sister Amy dies of unspecified causes. Paula visits Amy’s fiance, Nicolas, and falls in love with him. Refreshingly, Paula realizes he only wants her as a replacement for her sister, and she leaves him. “Love is a Boy Named Joey!”, [A] John Rosenberger. (This story, like the other Rosenberger story above, has also been credited to Jay Scott Pike.) Trudy and Joey become childhood best friends when Trudy nurses Joey through an illness. When they’re teenagers, Joey continues to see Trudy as a surrogate mother, so she fakes an accident so that he can save her and see himself as her protector. This is some pretty weird logic, but it works because the writer decides it does. Again, Rosenberger’s (or Pike’s) art is excellent. 

CEREBUS #159 – “Mothers & Daughters 9,” as above. Dave describes his visits to Miami and Madison. Cerebus finds himself in Imesh, where K’cor shows him a vision of a goddess. Cerebus perceives the goddess as Astoria. Back Eighth Sphere, Suenteus Po continues his story. Cirin arranges a meeting with Astoria. Punisheroach meets Elrod. The letter column includes a complaint about a store in Winnipeg. 

2000 AD #320 (IPC, 1983) – Slade: as above. Slade discovers that a scientist named Deller has cloned him without his knowledge. Deller was also responsible for the Teeny Meks that killed Slade. Time Twisters: “Ring Road,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jesus Redondo. A woman escapes from prison and is picked up by a driver. She murders the driver and starts driving along an  endless road. As she drives, time progresses from 1935 to the end of the universe, then back to 1935 again. Finally the woman, now old, stops to pick up a hitchhiker: her younger self, who is about to kill her. A nicely surreal story. Dredd: “Condo Part 2,” as above. Dredd tries to save another space condo from being destroyed, but it starts drifting into the sun. Skizz: as above. Roxy convinces Loz and Cornelius to help her rescue Skizz. Meanwhile, one of Van Owen’s goons tries to remove Skizz’s suit and is fatally electrocuted. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue reveals that Venus Blue Genes was in love with him and not Helm. 

U.S.AVENGERS #6 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Cavalry Stayed Home,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Paco Medina. Sam fights some aliens alongside the Guardians of the Galaxy. 3Dr. Faustus and Hydra try to mind-control the others USAvengers. Good art and coloring, but a forgettable plot. 

ACTION COMICS #506 (DC, 1980) – “The Children’s Exodus from Earth!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. Superman tries to save some children from being abducted by Jorlan, a hairy alien Pied Piper. In a typically convoluted Batesian plot twist, we learn that Jorlan was created by a Kryptonian scientist in a failed attempt to save Krypton’s children from their planet’s destruction. 

PHANTOM FORCE #0 (Genesis West, 1994) – untitled, [W/A] Jack Kirby & Michael Thibodeaux. This was the final series Kirby worked on before his death. This issue has seven or eight pages by Kirby, and the rest is by Thibodeaux. Kirby’s concepts feel like rehashes of his earlier work, and overall this comic is only of interest for historical reasons. Confusingly, issue 0 was published between issues 1 and 2, published by Image, and issues 3 through 8, from Genesis West. 

COPRA #38 (Copra, 2020) – “The Ochizon Saga,” [W/A] Michel Fiffe. Like Eric Shanower and Thom Zahler, Michel Fiffe has moved to a trade-paperback-only model, but is still self-publishing individual issues of Copra on a limited basis. Fiffe published Copra #38 and #39 through his Etsy store, though I also saw them on the stands at Heroes. Copra #38 is a beautiful artifact, with very thick covers and paper and vibrant coloring, and it justifies its $6 cover price. The entire issue is a fight scene involving Copra and the Ochizon agents. As always, Fiffe’s artwork is brilliant, with all sorts of unusual drawing techniques. 

WONDER WOMAN #71 (DC, 1993) – “Home Again,” [W] William Messner-Loebs, [A] Paris Cullins. This is the only issue of Messner-Loebs’s Wonder Woman that I have. These comics are quite hard to find, and I believe there are two reasons for this. The first is the beautiful Brian Bolland covers. The second is that DC was contractually obligated to publish a Wonder Woman comic, but no one was buying it, so each issue had a low print run. Wonder Woman #71 is the conclusion of a story where Diana saves some alien women from slavery. At the end, Diana is reunited with Julia Kapatelis, who had given up on seeing her surrogate daughter again. This issue is unexpectedly good, and I hope I can find more issues from this run. 

CEREBUS #160 – “Mothers & Daughters 10,” as above. Dave describes his trip to Kansas City and Minneapolis, where he appeared at Dreamhaven and the Comic Book College. I think I had already started visiting the Comic Book College by that time, but I was too young to read Cerebus. Dreamhaven may still have been in its old location at the time, on the other side of Uptown from where it later moved. Archbishop Posey is beaten to death in prison, and Suenteus Po reports his death to Cerebus before continuing his history. Some masked guy tries to assassinate Lord Julius, and there are various other subplots. Dave has an additional note where he discusses the Diamond Seminar, which sounds like an earlier version of ComicsPro, and also mentions Heroes Con. In the letter column, Dave expresses some more chauvinistic opinions about women. There are also some letters about the Rodney King riots. 

ACTION COMICS #473 (DC, 1977) – “The Great Phantom Peril!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. The Phantom Zone villains terrorize Metropolis until Superman finds a way to send them back to the Phantom Zone. Faora – who is written as a caricature of a radical feminist – ends up trapped in the Zone with a man who thinks she’s his dead wife. A problem with this story is that at this point in continuity, Mon-El was also in the Phantom Zone, but he’s nowhere to be seen in this issue.

SAUCER COUNTRY #3 (Vertigo, 2012) – “Run Part Three,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Ryan Kelly. Professor Joshua Kidd joins the governor’s presidential campaign, and there’s a subplot about an alien abductee named Michael. This is just a very strange series. 

BATMAN #449 (DC, 1990) – “The Penguin Affair III: Winged Vengeance,” [W] Marv Wolfman & Alan Grant, [A] Mark (D.) Bright. When I read this, I didn’t realize I also had the other two parts of this story. The Penguin has kidnapped an actress, mistaking her for the character she plays. Oswald is also trying to sell his bird-controlling technology to other evil people. Batman saves the day, but the Penguin’s unwilling ally, Harold, escapes. Harold would later return and become a regular cast member. 

CAPTAIN MARVEL #20 (Marvel, 2004) – “Terra Incognita,” [W] Peter David, [A] Aaron Lopresti. Genis travels to the far future and meets Ely, his son by Songbird. Back in the present, Marlo and Moondragon have a compromising moment. I don’t know if Mockingbird had been outed as a lesbian by this point. This comic is okay, but I’ve never liked PAD’s Captain Marvel as much as his Hulk or Young Justice. 

AMERICAN VAMPIRE: LORD OF NIGHTMARES #4 (Vertigo, 2012) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Just as confusing as American Vampire 1976, which I’m removing from my pull list. I ordered Scott Snyder’s new series Nocterra, and I hope I don’t regret it. 

The next comics were from my first Heroes trip of the year. From here on, all new comics are dated 2021. 

SWEET TOOTH: THE RETURN #3 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. The elephant dude helps Gus II and Penny escape from prison. Father prepares for an assault on the surface world. Gus and Penny discover a lab full of other Gus clones. I wish this series was longer than six issues. 

BIG GIRLS #6 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Jason Howard. Tannik tries to kill everyone, but a Jack appears and bites his head off. A preserve is created so that boys in danger of becoming Jacks can grow up in peace. This was a really good debut story. I hope there’s going to be a second story arc. 

USAGI YOJIMBO #16 (IDW, 2021) – “Tengu War! Part One,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi offers his aid to Sojobo (the name of the tengu) against some lesser demons. So far I don’t like this story as much as the previous one, but it’s nice to revisit the more fantastic side of Usagi’s universe. 

THE DREAMING: WAKING HOURS #6 (DC, 2021) – “Intermezzo, Part 1,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Javier Rodriguez. Heather After (introduced in #2) goes out dancing, but runs into Puck, who cuts her with a cursed knife that inflicts unstoppable bleeding. After asking John Constantine for advice, Heather casts a spell to summon help, and it brings her Matthew the Raven and Goldie. Besides Christian Ward, Javier Rodriguez is the best artist currently doing monthly comics. His page layouts, draftsmanship and coloring are all amazing. A  particular highlight of this issue is the club sequence. After some research, I think the name the bouncer was going to call Heather was “sh*m*l*”. See

ETERNALS #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Esad Ribic. Ikaris and Sprite are revived from sleep. Sprite is now female. They fight a rogue Deviant, then encounter Thanos. Kieron does a great job of imagining what it would be like to be immortal, and his Eternals feel Kirbyesque and Kieronesque at once. I love the line “Humans keep on mistaking us for gods for some reason. It annoys the gods enormously.” I also love the list of all 100 Eternals at the beginning. I assume some of these are new characters, but the new names feel consistent with the existing ones. 

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #93 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Mary Kenney, [A] Trish Forstner. I don’t recognize either of these creators’ names. Scootaloo’s parents come back to Ponyville to hang out with their daughter, but they don’t realize that Scootaloo doesn’t like the same things they like. Trish Forstner’s art is very expressive, but this issue’s plot is nothing new. 

SEVEN SECRETS #6 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. The fight doesn’t go well. Tajana sacrifices herself so the other seekers can escape, by going into an alternate dimension hidden inside one of the briefcases. Seven Secrets is mostly an action comic and has little substance beyond that, but it’s fun anyway. 

SAVAGE DRAGON #256 (DC, 2021) – “Jaws of Death!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. At the store I was warned that this issue has a printing error, but I bought it anyway. Malcolm comes home from the hospital, thankfully with his memory intact. Paul fights Mako, not realizing it’s a different and scarier Mako than the one he knows, and gets his arm torn off. Also, Erik addresses the widespread criticism of Savage Dragon’s pornographic tendencies by leaning into it. He has Maxine literally say “Savage Dragon is a porn comic now,” and then later there’s a rather graphic sex scene. At least it’s not quite as bad as the scenes that have caused me to stop reading the comic on at least one occasion. 

THE WRONG EARTH: NIGHT & DAY #1 (Ahoy, 2021) – “Night & Day Chapter One,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Jamal Igle. The two Dragonflies are adjusting to their respective worlds, until they discover that they can use mirrors to get back to their home worlds, and the issue ends as they confront each other. The central joke in this comic is getting a bit old, but it’s still an entertaining comic. A funny moment this issue is when Dragonflyman survives being shot point-blank by using “ultra-sticky dragonfly paper.”  

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #22 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Natacha Bustos. Miles’s dad changes his name to “Jeff” instead of “Jefferson Davis.” I support this decision; Bendis made an inexplicable mistake by giving him that name in the first place. Jeff even gestures to this by saying that the name is tainted, and he doesn’t know what his parents were thinking. Then Miles and Starling fight a giant mummy, he tells her his secret identity, and she kisses him. 

THE LAST WITCH #1 (Boom!, 2021) – “The Tower in the Woods,” [W] Conor McCreery, [A] V.V. Glass. I’m glad Boom! Box is launching some new titles now that Lumberjanes is done. Twelve-year-old Saoirse wants to leave her village and have adventures, but she’s stuck with an overprotective widowed father and an annoying little brother. Finally Saoirse and her brother Brahm leave their village and explore the local witch’s tower, but Brahm mysteriously vanishes. I was skeptical about McCreery’s writing because I didn’t much like Kill Shakespeare, but this issue is fairly well-written. V.V. Glass’ art, however, is phenomenal. Their characters are really cute, and they’ve mastered the Disney style. The little brother and the dying mother (in flashback) are particular highlights. Glass could probably make a lot more money in animation than in comics. 

HAPPY HOUR #3 (Ahoy, 2021) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Michael Montenat. Kim comes back to pick Jerry up, but while driving through a small town, they get kidnapped by the “joy police.” In a subplot, we learn that Landor Cohen’s unhappiness cult is just as scary as the happiness cult. 

SHADOW SERVICE #5 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Corin Howell. The artist dude turns into a giant monster and gets shot. This is a confusing issue and I don’t remember much about it. This series has a ton of stuff all going on at once. 

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #10 (Marvel, 2021) – “I Think I Had This Album,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Juann Cabal. Peter Quill comes back from wherever he’s been, just in time to help the Guardians fight Knull’s invasion. But now the Guardians have to fight some angry Olympian gods. This was just an average issue. 

INKBLOT #5 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Rusty Gladd, [A] Emma Kubert. MOW. goes back to the earliest days of the Seeker and her family. The Seeker’s youngest brother, Inos, decides to keep MOW. safe or else the Seeker will dissect it. I’ve decided that MOW. is the cat’s name. 

FUTURE STATE: WONDER WOMAN #1 (DC, 2021) – “Hell to Pay,” [W/A] Joëlle Jones. A new Wonder Woman, Yara Flor, goes to the underworld with the assistance of an indigenous Brazilian deity, who manifests as a little girl riding a wild pig. This is a pretty fun issue, especially the scene where Yara enters the gate to the underworld, which looks like an airport. (I actually miss airports.) Joëlle Jones’s art is as gorgeous as it always is. I especially like Yara’s facial expressions; she looks as if she’s constantly enthusiastic. 

MARVEL ACTION AVENGERS #3 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Katie Cook, [A] Butch Mapa. Captain Marvel has to help Dr. Strange retrieve his Cloak of Levitation, which was stolen from White Rabbit. As one would expect from Katie, this is a hilarious issue. The cloak (which is sort of alive) and Carol’s cat/flerken are adorable, and there’s a perfectly timed running joke about snickerdoodle cookies. Also this story intersects with the last two issues. 

PANTOMIME #3 (Mad Cave, 2021) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] David Stoll. The kids successfully execute a clever plot to free themselves from the Manager, and it seems like they’ve earned a happy ending. But eight years later, we see one of the kids in a police station, writing a confession. This is a really intriguing series. 

IMMORTAL HULK #42 (Marvel, 2021) – “A Game of Consequences,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] various. Jackie McGee gets some bad news from her horrible boss, and then discovers that she has a gamma mutation that causes her to Hulk out when she feels the need to know something. That’s brilliant, since she’s a journalist. Meanwhile, Gyrich hires the U-Foes. Issue 43 was not in my file when I went to pick it up. I wonder if Heroes decided not to sell it until they get the corrected copies. (Context:

COMMANDERS IN CRISIS #4 (Image, 2021) – “The Action of Manipulation,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Davide Tinto. A group of anti-empathic villains named the Extinction Society are revealed as the culprits in the death of empathy. We also learn that the world where the series is located is the world where evil is good – in other words, Earth-3. This comic’s plot feels like a metaphor about the current political crisis, but it’s too broad and unspecific a metaphor to really work. I still like this comic, but I also still think it’s overambitious. 

S.W.O.R.D. #2 (Marvel, 2020) – “In the Dark,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Valerio Schiti. A random assortment of X-Men fight the symbiotes. This was a forgettable comic and nothing about it stands out to me. I still intend to keep reading this series because it’s Al Ewing. 

FUTURE STATE: SWAMP THING #1 (DC, 2021) – “Obsidian Sun,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. In a postapocalyptic future world, Swamp Thing leads a party of other plant people in search of the last surviving humans. Before writing this review I had trouble remembering anything about this comic. However, it’s actually very intriguing. I especially like Swampy’s meditations on the process of growing his own children. 

GIRLS’ LOVE STORIES #57 (DC, 1958) – all credits unknown unless specified. “Guest at His Wedding”: Russ is cruel enough to invite his ex-girlfriend Peg to his wedding. While there, Peg falls in love with another man. “Too Dangerous for Love!”: Alicia tries to set up her asshole boss Kevin and her sister Terry, but Kevin starts dating other women besides Terry. Thankfully,  Kevin ends up with neither Terry nor Alicia. In these stories it’s always an unexpected pleasure when the man is a jerk, and he doesn’t end up with the female protagonist. “Exit Happiness!”, [A] John Forte. An actress falls in love with an actor, but he’s just using her for his career. At least he repents in the end. “Picture of Heartbreak!”: Bette loves Dana, but he doesn’t know he exists. Notably, the two female characters in the story are named Bette and Veronica. 

CEREBUS #161 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1992) – “Mothers & Daughters 12,” [W/A] Dave Sim. A dead guy visits Cerebus; I think this is Brad but I’m not sure. Suenteus Po continues lecturing to Cerebus. Something strange happens with the sphere Cirin is building. There’s also a preview sequence consisting of twelve pages from Bone #3. For my current research, it’s important to note that Bone was previewed in Cerebus. 

2000 AD #321 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: as above. Slade witnesses the childhood and adolescence of his clone Sam Scumm. Time Twisters: “I Could Do That,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Mike White. A scientist invents a time machine, but is plagued by future time travelers coming back in time to visit him. There’s a framing sequence where a journalist witnesses these events and sends Tharg the story we just read. Dredd: as above. The condo falls into the sun, though some of its inhabitants escape. Back on earth, Dredd proves that an architect caused the sabotage, leading to half a million deaths, because he was bitter at losing the competition to build the condos. Skizz: as above. Roxy, Loz and Cornelius get some people from the pool hall to spring Skizz. Meanwhile, Skizz tells Van Owen that his people have the power to snuff out suns. Compare Top Ten, where Smax tells Robin that the highest class of superpowered beings are the ones who can snuff or ignite suns. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue reveals that Gunnar inadvertently caused the deaths of some “genetic rejects.” 

CROSSOVER #3 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Geoff Shaw. We start with an obvious reference to Watchmen. Then Ellie (short for Ellipses…) and Ava meet the Paybacks, from an earlier series by the same creators. I have an issue of that series, so I went digging for it, but I found something else I wanted to read first: 

WOLVERINE #11 (Marvel, 2014) – “Killable Part 4 of 6,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Alan Davis. Wolverine and Kitty Pryde fight some Hand ninjas in a mall somewhere in Canada. This issue has some interesting dialogue between Logan and Kitty; notably, Kitty tells Logan that she’s not his child, or a child at all. But the primary appeal of this issue is the artwork. 

THE PAYBACKS #1 (Dark Horse, 2015) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates & Eliot Rahal. The Paybacks are a “super-repo team.” They repossess the equipment of bankrupt superheroes, and they force the superheroes to work for them until the equipment is paid for. This issue, one of the Paybacks’ targets is Doctor Blaqk, who looks suspiciously like Dr. Strange. There are some funny jokes in this issue, such as the Liefeldian character named Bloodpouch. But this series’ premise seems rather limited. As stated in Crossover #3, Paybacks was cancelled because no one read it. 

DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE SORCERERS SUPREME #9 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Robbie Thompson, [A] Javier Rodriguez. Doc, Howard the Duck, and the rest of the team are trapped inside an old book. This results in some great page designs and metatextual jokes. Like, Howard complains about being attacked by the letter E. They escape from the book and fight a creepy monster made of hands. As always, Rodriguez’s art is incredible. 

DETECTIVE COMICS #662 (DC, 1993) – “Burning Questions,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Graham Nolan. This issue has a stunning cover by Sam Kieth. Batman fights the pyromaniac Firefly, while the Riddler is hunted by his former henchmen. I read this issue as a kid, but I don’t remember it well. Chuck Dixon writes the Riddler as an unimpressive character whose riddling is the result of OCD, rather than of a desire to prove his intelligence. 

THE UNION #2 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Britannia Project Part Two: Making Waves,” [W] Paul Grist, [A] Andrea Di Vito. Issue 1 is still on order from DCBS, and it hasn’t arrived yet. The Union are a team of superheroes representing all four nations of the UK, but their leader, Britannia, has been murdered. Union Jack replaces her, and the team fights some of Knull’s symbiotes. Afterward, they try to disband, but Union Jack finds that he’s contractually obligated to serve as the team leader. This entire comic seems like a metaphor for Brexit and its potential to cause the breakup of the UK. A memorable line is when the Choir, the Welsh team member, tells Union Jack that he can’t represent her because he doesn’t know where Merthyr Tydfil is. Paul Grist is British himself, and this issue shows far more knowledge of British culture than Excalibur #6 did. 

PENULTIMAN #4 (Ahoy, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Alan Robinson. Penultiman tries to make himself more positive, but only ends up damaging his reputation further. Antepenultiman builds his own robot, Preantepenultiman, to help him understand his creator better. Preantepenultiman suggests that Antepenultiman should visit Penultiman’s parents. Those names are really annoying.  

CAPTAIN AMERICA #117 FACSIMILE EDITION (Marvel, 2021) – “The Coming of… The Falcon!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Gene Colan. The Red Skull has used the Cosmic Cube to switch bodies with Cap. BTW, the Red Skull’s whole problem is lack of imagination: he’s had the Cosmic Cube on at least three occasions, but all he ever thinks to do with it is torment Cap. Anyway, Cap in the Skull’s body has to fight the Skull’s minions, while the Skull in Cap’s body fawns for the media. Then Cap disguises himself and meets the Falcon, whose first appearance this is. Gene Colan’s art in this issue is beautiful, especially the splash page with Cap/Skull lying on a couch talking to reporters. 

COPRA #39 (Copra, 2020) – “The Ochizon Saga,” [W/A] Michel Fiffe. Another issue-long fight scene. Again, Fiffe’s art is incredible, and this comic is a beautiful artifact. 

HAHA #1 (Image, 2021) – “Bartleby Rejects the Premise,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Vanesa del Rey. A clown goes to work and discovers that the amusement park is closing. His coworker robs him on his way out, and then he goes to the bank to deposit his last paycheck (which the robber missed), only for the bank to also be robbed. He tries to stop the robbery and gets shot in the head, and then things get even weirder; he stops the robbery and returns home, where he perceives his family as balloon animals. This issue is a riff on Batman: The Killing Joke, but I expect the next issue will go in a rather different direction compared to that book. Prince’s depiction of the clown’s chronic bad luck is quite compelling. 

RED THORN #3 (Vertigo, 2016) – “My Beloved Monster,” [W] David Baillie, [A] Meghan Hetrick. Thorn goes looking for a villain named Beluthacadros, while Isla goes to Glasgow in the company of two orcs. This comic suffers from a certain lack of direction. 

CEREBUS #162 – “Mothers & Daughters 12,” as above. Dave describes his visits to Indianapolis, Detroit, Toronto and Atlanta. He mentions three stories I’ve been to: The Beguiling, Oxford Comics in Atlanta, and Dave’s Comics in Detroit, which is unfortunately gone. Cerebus goes back to Earth, and Punisheroach loses his virginity to a sex worker. That’s the end of Mothers & Daughters Part 1: Flight, a confusing and aimless story. There’s a long essay, “The Last Waltz,” in which Dave calls out Gary Groth for his elitism. Dave particularly complains that Gary didn’t know whether Sandman was any good. Most of the letters are about Dave’s tour stops. 

SUPERMAN #326 (DC, 1978) – “A Million Dollars a Minute!”, [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Curt Swan. Superman is mind-controlled into signing a contract that obliges him to reveal his secret identity on TV. The TV-themed villain Blackrock is responsible, or rather the TV executives who created Blackrock. Superman defeats Blackrock and ensures that the TV channel goes off the air, so that no one actually sess him unmask himself. This issue is better than the Cary Bates Superman comics I reviewed earlier. 

GEN13 BOOTLEG #1 (Image, 1996) – “Lindquist’s Fault Part 1,” [W] Mark Farmer, [A] Alan Davis. The Gen13 members travel through a dimensional portal to look for some missing children. Each of them ends up in a separate reality. The most interesting sequence is the one where Fairchild is the leader of a team of preteen superheroes. As always, Alan Davis’s art is beautiful. 

AVENGERS #288 (Marvel, 1988) – “Heavy Metal!”, [W] Ralph Macchio, [A] John Buscema. This issue features one of the worst Avengers lineups ever: Captain Marvel (Monica), She-Hulk, Namor, Black Knight and Dr. Druid. This issue, they fight Machine Man, the Super-Adaptoid, and a Kree Sentry. The only redeeming quality of this issue is Buscema’s art. 

HEAVY METAL #5.10 (HM, 1982) – [E] Julie Simmons-Lynch. There’s way too much stuff in this issue to describe it all. Notable features include: Jim Steranko’s Outland, which indicates the direction he might have taken if he’d stayed in comics. Paul Gillon’s “Mademoiselle My Wife,” a comedy about a married couple who have never met. This seems to be based on some sort of old French play, but the twist is that the characters are robots instead of humans. Gillon’s art is a lot like Al Williamson’s. A series of “Happy Future” segments by various French creators, including a lot of artists who draw in a very similar style to Moebius. Other contributors to this issue include Segrelles, Druillet, Corben, and Jeff Jones.

STRIP #11 (Marvel UK, 1990) – [E] Dan Abnett. This series was a short-lived anthology for mature readers. This issue’s main features are a reprint of part of Marshal Law #6 (an American comic by British creators), and a translation of part of the fifth Thorgal album. I need to read Thorgal, although the Cinebook reprints are censored and the albums are published out of order. 

SKULL #4 (Last Gasp, 1972) – “The Hound,” [W/A] Jack Jackson. A very creepy adaptation of a Lovecraft story. Jaxon’s lettering is hard to read. “The Hairy Claw of Tolen,” [W/A] Charles Dallas. A horror story about a mutant child, narrated in hillbilly dialect. Dallas’s art looks a lot like Spain’s. There are also two more Lovecraft adaptations, drawn by Michael Smith and Herb Arnold. I’ve read far more comics adaptations of Lovecraft than actual works by Lovecraft. 

CEREBUS #163 – “Mothers & Daughters 13,” [W/A] Dave Sim. The start of Book Two: Women. Starting in this issue, there are occasional text pages in which Astoria and Cirin describe their contrasting philosophies. Cirinism and Kevilism both seem like different versions of straw feminism. Astoria prepares for her summit with Cirin, Cerebus returns to earth, and Punisheroach romances his “girlfriend.” As my Facebook friend Kian S. Bergstrom pointed out, Sim’s art was growing more and more beautiful as the series went on, at the same time that Sim himself descended into madness. 

TWISTED TALES #4 (Pacific, 1983) – [W] Bruce Jones. “The Well,” [A] John Bolton. A newlywed husband climbs down a well and is killed by a monster that lives down there. His widow follows him down there and kills the monster, but only after it makes her “pregnant” with its young. “Nick of Time,” [A] Don Lomax. Two wives conspire to frame one of their husbands for murdering the other wife’s husband. Kind of confusing. “The Secret Place,” [A] Jones. A mute boy befriends a stranded alien. 

CHEVAL NOIR #35 (Dark Horse, 1992) – “In Search of Peter Pan,” [W/A] Cosey. A man takes up residence in an Alpine village that’s about to be destroyed by avalanches. The other longer story is “The Birthday” by Cossu and Jamsin, about a man who doesn’t realize he’s dead. This issue includes shorter pieces by Moebius, Rick Geary, and Phil Elliott. 

THE AUTHORITY #20 (WildStorm, 2001) – “Earth Inferno Four of Four,” [W] Mark Millar, [A] Frank Quitely. Some smug asshole steals the Doctor’s powers for a day. As with every other issue of this run, Quitely’s art is beautiful art, but Millar’s writing is rage-inducingly offensive. I don’t know why I keep buying these. 

DONALD DUCK #272 (Gladstone, 1989) – “A Safe Place,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Donald discovers that he owns a valuable stock certificate. He puts it in a safe to protect it from robbers, but then forgets the combination to the safe, just as his offer to sell the stock is about to expire. In a backup story, Donald and Gladstone discover that they’ve both booked the same cabin for their vacation, so they have to split it down the middle. 

THE BOOKS OF MAGIC #13 (Vertigo, 1995) – “Small Glass Worlds Part 1: Transparent Lies,” [W] John Ney Rieber, [A] Peter Gross. Tim and Molly go on a date, only to run into Auberon and Titania. Auberon claims that Tim isn’t Titania’s son. There’s a subplot about Marya. Tim and Molly’s tentative relationship may be the best thing about this series. 

AVENGERS #225 (Marvel, 1982) – “The Fall of Avalon,” [W] Steven Grant, [A] Greg LaRocque. The Avengers are summoned to Avalon to battle the Fomor alongside the Black Knight. The villains in this issue are named after obscure characters from Irish mythology, but otherwise they’re just generic villains. This issue certainly does not have the same Irish mythological flavor as Sláine does. 

ZERO ZERO #21 (Fantagraphics, 1997) – “The Search for Smilin’ Ed,” [W/A] Kim Deitch. In part one, Deitch unsuccessfully tries to track down a kids’ show host named Smilin’ Ed. In part two, Waldo takes over as narrator, and he gradually reveals Smilin’ Ed’s bizarre secrets. The rest of the story is serialized in issues #22 and #24-27. “The Search for Smilin’ Ed” is rather similar to Stuff of Dreams/Alias the Cat, both in its themes and its structure – specifically how it begins as a seemingly true story about Deitch himself, then gets stranger and stranger. But still, this is a major work of Deitch. It was rather hard to find until it was reprinted as a graphic novel in 2010. 

YASMEEN #5 (Scout, 2021) – untitled, [W] Saif A. Ahmed, [A] Fabiana Mascolo. In flashback, Yasmeen finally escapes from her captors. In the present, her classmate Mira makes an unsuccessful suicide attempt, and she beats up a boy who calls her an “ISIS bitch.” I didn’t completely understand this issue because I missed at least one previous issue. Still, Yasmeen may be the most underrated comic of 2020. 

SUICIDE SQUAD #54 (DC, 1991) – “The Dragon’s Hoard Part II: Divine Wind,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Geof Isherwood. The Suicide Squad accepts a private contract to retrieve a cache of guns from Cambodia. While the Squad is on the mission, their client is murdered, and his successor tries to terminate the contract. This issue is good, but not especially notable. 

CEREBUS #164 – “Mothers & Daughters 14,” as above. Cerebus talks with an unnamed old man who’s being held captive by the Cirinists. The man says some grossly offensive things, like “women r*pe men’s minds the way men r*pe women’s bodies.” There’s no reason to think Sim doesn’t believe this nonsense. The Roach turns into Swoon, a parody of Sandman, and Elrod becomes his sister, a parody of Death. (There was an earlier issue where Death appeared in one panel as a joke, but I forget which one.) The Pigt men all get killed in an ill-fated invasion attempt, and the women seem to be better off without them. There’s a long-ass letter by M’Oak, thankfully not about r*pe, and also a lot of letters about direct-market matters. 

KING IN BLACK: GWENOM VS. CARNAGE #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Flaviano. Gwenom returns to her home reality and fights some symbiotes. Mary Jane turns into Carnage. Not bad, but also not especially memorable. 

HEAVY METAL #6.5 (HM, 1982) – [E] Julie Simmons-Lynch. “Freak Show” by Bruce Jones and Wrightson is unimpressive by Wrightson’s standards. Christin and Bilal’s “The Voyage of Those Forgotten,” later translated as The Cruise of Lost Souls, is an early work that’s not in Bilal’s signature painted style. Manara and Silverio Pisu’s “The Ape” is a sexy version of the Sun Wukong legend. “Right Smack in the Middle of the Cold War” has beautiful Clear Line art by Jean-Louis Floch, not to be confused with his more famous brother Jean-Claude Floc’h. Nicole Claveloux’s “The Story of the Flaxen-Haired Princess […]” is a fairy tale with beautiful art that resembles Renaissance engravings. Other artists in the issue include Caza, Corben (Den II), Jeff Jones, Moebius (The Incal), Fernando Fernandez (Zora), and Druillet (Yragael). I haven’t seen Fernandez’s work before, and it’s impressive. However, Druillet’s art is so epic and hyper-detailed as to barely be readable. 

MINIATURE JESUS #2 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W/A] Ted McKeever. This is much wider than a normal comic book, but the same height, and I think it will fit in a drawerbox. It consists of a confusing story about a priest who encounters a series of visions that challenge his faith. McKeever’s style of linework is very unusual and unique, but I suspect his comics are an acquired taste. 

TWISTED TALES #5 (Pacific, 1983) – [W] Bruce Jones. “Terminated,” [A] Richard Corben. A leper is killed by a terrified mob, but his corpse falls into their water supply. “Scritch… Scritch… Scritch,” [A] Bill Wray. A man is driven to suicide by annoying noises no one else can hear. It turns out his dentist had hidden a radio receiver in his tooth, intending to drive the man crazy and steal his wife. “Majority of One,” [A] Val Mayerik. A werewolf is hunted by a mob. He finds refuge with a woman whose baby is also a werewolf. The mob kills all three of them. The twist ending is that the man and woman were being persecuted because they’re not full-time werewolves, and everybody else is. “Banjo Lessons,” [A] Rand Holmes. A man is on death row for murdering his three best friends. In flashbacks, we learn that all three of the friends had tortured, murdered and eaten a black dog named Banjo. We subsequently realize that the depiction of Banjo as a dog was the result of unreliable narration, and he was actually a black man. This issue begins with a long editorial by April Campbell in which she clarifies tat the story is not meant to endorse racism. This should be pretty obvious. I do think that the story sensationalizes racism, but that’s a different matter. 

DRYAD #8 (Oni, 2021) – untitled, [W] Kurtis Wiebe, [A] Justin Barcelo. Yale confronts his estranged brother Lou. The kids go looking for their origins and get arrested along with their new friends. I’m starting to lose track of this series’s plot.

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR #6 (Dark Horse, 1994) – untitled, [W/A] Frank Miller. I don’t quite understand this comic’s plot, but it seems like a lot of macho BS, and Miller’s word balloons contain way too much text. Also, his art is entirely black and white with no shading. My impression is that Miller jumped the shark after Daredevil: The Man Without Fear.  

CEREBUS #165 – “Mothers & Daughters 15,” as above. Dave describes his visits to Portland and New York. Cirin talks with her assistants (two of whom are named after Germaine Greer and Andrea Dworkin) about Cerebus and the golden sphere. Swoon and Elrod do some target practice. There are also some letters about the love triangle between Rob Lavender, Larry Young (not sure if this is Larry Young the cartoonist) and Nicole Rodney. I don’t know if this is a running joke or what, but it seems rather creepy how all these men were discussing Nicole’s relationships in public. 

NEW MUTANTS #81 (Marvel, 1989) – “Faith,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Louis Williams. This appears to be an inventory story. It’s set between #35 and #36 (according to the GCD) and focuses on Magma’s first meeting with Hercules. Magma is initially disappointed by Herc’s lack of resemblance to her god, but after they have an adventure together, Amara learns to respect Herc. Amara is the most underdeveloped character in this series, besides maybe Karma, and this issue helps remedy her lack of characterization. 

BATMAN #448 (DC, 1990) – “The Penguin Affair I: Pawns,” [W] Marv Wolfman & Alan Grant, [A] Jim Aparo. The Penguin uses mind-controlled birds to kidnap a soap opera actress, who he mistakes for her character. We’ve already seen how this story ends. Jim Aparo’s art in this issue is far from his best. I was not able to solve the chess problem on page 18, but it looks like Batman’s solution (Rc2+) is correct. At one point in this issue, the Penguin says “Alfred Hitchcock, eat your heart out,” alluding to the obvious resemblance between The Penguin Affair and Hitchcock’s The Birds.  

IRON MAN #159 (Marvel, 1982) – “When Strikes Diablo,” [W] Roger McKenzie, [A] Paul Smith. Stark International hires a janitor, Al Bido, only he has no references and HR has no record of hiring him. Also he’s an expert in chemical engineering. Under hypnosis, Al Bido realizes that he’s Diablo, and he fights Iron Man and loses. This is a pretty average issue, but the art is very attractive. It’s been a while since I’ve read a Paul Smith comic. 

SUPERMAN #344 (DC, 1980) – “The Monsters Are Among Us!”, [W] Paul Levitz & Len Wein, [A] Curt Swan. Clark Kent attends a seance by Cassandra Craft, who previously appeared in the Phantom Stranger series. Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster appear, intent on claiming Cassandra’s soul, and Superman has to save her. This issue is confusing to a reader who hasn’t encountered Cassandra before. I didn’t even realize she was a preexisting character until after I read it. 

BEST BUY COMICS #nn (Last Gasp, 1979) – various stories, [W/A] Robert Crumb with Aline Kominsky-Crumb. This one-shot consists of stories that appeared in CoEvolution Quarterly, an environmentalist magazine that was spun off from the Whole Earth Catalog, as well as one story that was rejected from that magazine. “R. Crumb’s Modern Dance Workshop” is a typical example of Crumb’s leg and butt fetishism. “Space Day Symposium” is Crumb’s report on a private aerospace industry event. He was the furthest thing possible from the target audience for this event, and his disdain for it is very clear. “The Goose and the Gander Were Talking One Night” may be his greatest story; it has a mature sensibility that’s lacking in most of his work. “The Nerds” is about two guys discussinng religion. There are various other short pieces, and then the rejected story is a collaboration between Robert and Aline, about their visit to the Whole Earth Jamboree. Perhaps it was rejected for its flippant attitude toward this event. 

EDDY CURRENT #3 (Mad Dog, 1987) – “8:00 AM,” [W/A] Ted McKeever. If I recall correctly, this series had a constraint where every issue covered one hour. I don’t understand this issue’s plot, but it has the same unusual style of draftsmanship as Miniature Jesus, and its plot is far more interesting. 

CHEVAL NOIR #41 (Dark Horse, 1993) – “Demon,” [W/A] Masashi Tanaka. A rather generic story about an ogre that terrorizes the Japanese court. Tanaka later became world-famous for his wordless dinosaur manga Gon. This issue also includes “Stan Pulsar” by Cailleteau and Vatine, better known for Aquablue, as well as some short pieces by Moebius, Geary, Phil Elliott and Nicole Hollander. By this point in its run, Cheval Noir had drifted away from its original focus on French comics. 

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #91 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “The Wolves of Saint August 4 of 4,” [W/A] Mike Mignola. Hellboy fights and defeats a werewolf. Mike Mignola’s art here is, of course, beautiful and deeply moody. This issue also includes Bob Schreck’s eulogy for Doug Wildey. This issue also includes a crime story by Robbie Morrison and Frank Quitely, as well as a story by Jim Alexander and Rob McCallum, who’s quite good at drawing robots. 

MUDMAN #1 (Image, 2012) – “Mudman,” [W/A] Paul Grist. This was Grist’s most recent creator-owned title. It’s set in the coastal English town of Burnbridge-on-Sea, and it stars Owen Craig, a schoolboy who discovers a suit that gives him mud powers. Grist’s draftsmanship and storytelling in this issue are brilliantly economical, but Mudman’s story didn’t grab me. 

CEREBUS #166 – “Mothers & Daughters 16,” as above except it’s now 1993. Dave discusses his visits to Cleveland and Denver. Cerebus has a lot of weird dreams. The Black Tower reappears and falls onto the Regency Hotel. The letter column includes short letters by Gary Groth and Shelton Drum, and a long one by Martin Wagner. Dave also includes the transcript of his speech to the Diamond Seminar, and there’s a four-page backup story by someone I haven’t heard of. 

FEARLESS DAWN: THE RETURN OF OLD NUMBER SEVEN! (Albatross, 2021) – “The Return of Old Number 7,” [W/A] Steve Mannion. I bought this on impulse at Heroes because I liked the art style. It’s about an adventuress and her Frankenstein-monster companion. Steve Mannion’s draftsmanship is really good; he draws cute women, scary monsters, and exciting action scenes. This comic reminds me a bit of Tank Girl, which is also published by Albatross. There are lots of other Fearless Dawn comics, but they were mostly pubilshed by even smaller companies than Albatross, and are hard to find. 

SEA OF SORROWS #2 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Rich Douek, [A] Alex Cormack. More undersea horror and scary mermaids. Again, the best thing about this comic is Alex Cormack’s dark, creepy art.

MUDMAN #2 (Image, 2012) – “The Perfect Getaway,” [W/A] Paul Grist. Owen saves his father from crooks, and the crooks get stuck in mud. Owen meets a mysterious woman. I think the best thing about Mudman’s story is its highly distinctive setting. 

AMERICAN VAMPIRE 1976 #4 (DC, 2021) – “Answered Prayers,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. The protagonists go looking for the text of George Washington’s pact with some kind of vampire council. We also meet Mimiteh, a Native American vampire, although she was introduced last issue. I’ve had enough of this series, and I’m not going to finish it. 

YOUNG LOVE #71 (DC, 1968) – “Tall, Dark and Married!”, [W] unknown, [A] John Rosenberger? Arlene falls in love with (and/or is sexually harassed by) her boss Neil, even though he’s married. He eventually reveals that he’s not married; he keeps a fake photo of his wife on his desk to deter “husband-hunters.” “Come to My Arms,” [W] unknown, [A] Mike Sekowsky. Adam falls in love with Joan, who’s passing through Adam’s city while looking for her lover Bill. Joan ends up with Bill and not Adam. Another example of a story that doesn’t end in a happily-ever-after, at least not for Adam. “Life and Loves of Lisa St. Claire,” [W] Jack Miller?, [A] Jay Scott Pike. Part of an ongoing story which began in issue 68. In this chapter, Lisa, a wealthy but lonely heiress, becomes the patron of a (literal) starving artist. Pike uses some unusual page layouts in this story, including a star-shaped panel. See for more on the continuing stories in DC’s romance titles. 

2000 AD #322 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: as above. Sam Slade and Sam Scumm become two souls in the same body. One-shot: “The Hyper-Historic Headbang!”, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Alan Davis. In 5019 AD, a heavy metal band plays a concert that involves time travel to various historical catastrophes. This story has no real plot, but Davis’s art is beautiful. Quinch makes a cameo appearance at the bottom of page two. Dredd: “Day of the Werewolf Part 1,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Steve Dillon. A werewolf terrorizes Mega-City One. This may be the first appearance of the “total relaxation inducer” that allows Judges to get a full night’s sleep in ten minutes. Skizz: as above. Roxy and her friends execute an elaborate plot to steal Skizz back. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue wakes up, defeats some Norts, and convinces Gunnar, Helm and Bagman that his confessions about them were false, though they were in fact true. 

DEVIL’S RED BRIDE #4 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] John Bivens. The conspirators try to take revenge on Lord Kamimura, only to discover that he died, and his palanquin actually contains his wife and young son. I’m giving up on this series too. 

LONELY RECEIVER #5 (AfterShock, 2021) – “A Life: Weave the Wind. I Have No Ghosts,” [W] Zac Thompson, [A] Jen Hickman. I didn’t understand this issue at all. I liked issues 2 and 3 of this series, but the other three were incomprehensible. 

GETTING IT TOGETHER #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Sina Grace, [W] Omar Spahi, [A] Jenny D. Fine. Lauren overcomes her anxiety and prepares for her first solo concert. Sina Grace takes over as the artist with page 7 of this issue, and while his art isn’t spectacular, it’s a tremendous improvement over Jenny Fine’s art. On Sina’s pages, it’s actually possible to distinguish one character from another. (In comics, it’s essential that the characters don’t look too similar. They aren’t being constantly referenced by their names, as in prose fiction, so the reader needs to be able to identify them by their visual appearances.)  

CEREBUS #168 – “Mothers & Daughters 18,” as above. Dave’s note consists of technical advice about comics art. Astoria has a dream about her father and Artemis (her name for the Roach character), then wakes up to find herself in the midst of a crisis. Cirin has a dream about Swoon. There are long letters by Charles Brownstein and Jim Ottaviani, and a preview of Nabiel Kanan’s Exit. The actual Cerebus story only takes up half the issue. 

ACTION COMICS #467 (DC, 1977) – “Stop It, Superman – You’re Wrecking the World!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Curt Swan. Superman tries to stop a civil war in the fictional Balkan country of Borotavia. In revenge, a Borotavian scientist finds a way to steal Superman’s energy and use it to cause natural disasters. There’s a backup story in which Krypto encounters Mr. Mxyzptlk. 

SPIDER-WOMAN #6 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Dennis Hopeless, [A] Javier Rodriguez. Jessica tries to track down a villain who’s been kidnapping the children of various minor supervillains. Javier Rodriguez’s draftsmanship in this issue is excellent, but his page designs are unadventurous. 

UNCLE SCROOGE #12 (Dell, 1956) – “The Golden Fleecing,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Scrooge wants clothing made out of gold, but the only way to get it is to find the legendary Golden Fleece. To get it, Scrooge and his nephews have to travel to ancient Colchis and battle the Larkies (rather than Harpies) and a dragon. This is one of Barks’s most thrilling adventure stories. The Larkies are great villains, and the plot has an epic scope, thanks in part to its length: it takes up the entire issue. 

UNCLE SCROOGE #33 (Dell, 1961) – “Billions in the Hole,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Scrooge builds a miniaturizing machine, but then he drops his #1 Dime in an ant hole. To make things worse, the Beagle Boys steal the Atom Subtracter and use it to shrink the Money Bin, and the ants steal that too. This is another masterpiece by the finest storyteller in the history of American comics. The ducks, the Beagle Boys and the ant get into all sorts of fun adventures, and the ending is satisfying, with Scrooge admitting that he needs to spend a dime on an exterminator – but “not this dime.” I love the panel with the ants sitting at a long dining table, with leaves as plates. This issue also includes two more Barks stories: a four-page Gyro Gearloose story and a ten-page Scrooge story, “Bongo on the Congo.” The latter story takes place in Africa and includes some questionable depictions of African people, but it’s not as awful as “Voodoo Hoodoo,” since it mostly focuses on Scrooge’s efforts to get Donald interested in the family  business. This story references the Mau Mau conflict in Kenya. 

CEREBUS #169 – “Mothers & Daughters 19,” as above. Dave gives some more technical advice. Jaka dreams about reading her own story. Cirin and Astoria dream about each other. There’s a two-page text sequence in which an old woman complains about how feminism is ruining families. There are two letter columns, the normal one and another one about the Cerebus ’93 campaign. The issue also includes a preview of Understanding Comics. By this point, Dave almost seemed to be more devoted to promoting Cerebus than writing or drawing it. The promotional material was starting to crowd out the actual Cerebus content. The series was clearly heading downhill by this point, though it didn’t fall off a cliff until #186. 

GENTLE BEN #1 (Dell, 1968) – “Lost!” and other stories, [W] D.J. Arneson, [A] Henry Scarpelli. I saw this on eBay at a low price and had to bid on it, because it’s such a silly premise. Gentle Ben is about a little boy and his pet… bear. Gentle Ben was not just a gag on the Simpsons ( but a real TV show. In this issue’s first story, Mark Wedloe and Ben the bear go looking for a lost child in the Everglades. In the other two stories, they fight a poacher and rescue a pilot from a crash landing. So the plots are kind of similar to those of the Lassie comic, except with a bear instead of a dog. DJ Arneson’s writing is not bad at all, though. 

UNCLE SCROOGE #31 (Dell, 1960) – “All at Sea,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Scrooge sells some rubber mills and trees to a newly independent country, but they pay him in gold, and he has to collect it in person by boat. The Beagle Boys find out that Scrooge is about to transport $1 billion in gold by sea, so of course they decide to steal it. Huey, Dewey and Louie bring some rats with them on the boat, and the rats end up saving the day. This is a very clever story, though not quite as classic as the last two Barks stories that I read. This issue includes a short Gyro story and a Scrooge nine-pager, “Two-Way Luck,” in which Scrooge enters a contest to find the biggest emerald. 

CEREBUS #170 – “Mothers & Daughters 20,” as above. More dream sequences. Cirin tells General Greer that she’s been acting like a man, and General Greer agrees with her. When Cirin wakes up fully, she has General Greer executed for this treasonous act. The letter column is shorter than usual; instead, Dave includes his address to Pro Con. By this time, Dave was starting to become like Stan Lee or George R.R. Martin, in that he was more interested in promoting his brand than in doing the thing that earned him his reputation. 

THE SUPERANNUATED MAN #2 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] Ted McKeever. This comic takes place in a society where humans coexist with anthropomorphic animals, but beyond that, I don’t understand its plot. It’s drawn in the same style as Miniature Jesus. 

UNCANNY X-MEN #271 (Marvel, 1990) – “Flashpoint!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Jim Lee. The X-Men and the New Mutants battle the Genoshan Magistrates, while Moira debates the Genegineer on live TV. I read this story in trade paperback form when I was a kid. Revisiting it now, I realize how amazing Jim Lee’s art is. He draws beautiful machinery and anatomy, and he’s internalized the manga style of storytelling: he uses motion lines and diagonal panel borders, and each page has a different layout. 

2000 AD #323 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: as above. Sam Slade/Scumm has to serve a sentence in a “time stretcher” that artificially ages him, but intead he turns it into a time machine and travels to Brit-Cit in the future. Tharg: “The Lethal Laziness of Lobelia Loam,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Rafael Boluda. This story is uncredited, but you can tell it’s by Moore just because of the intricacy of the writing, and it’s included in collections of Moore’s Future Shocks. Tharg’s little nephews are making a big mess, so he reads them a poem about a lazy woman who throws all her trash in a time portal to March 12, 1994. When that date rolls around, the trash comes back and buries Lobelia. Dredd: as above. Dredd shoots and kills one of the werewolves. He discovers that the werewolf was Bram, a judge who was exiled to the Undercity upon retirement. Skizz: as above. Roxy and her friends rescue Skizz. This chapter is very skillfully plotted. At the end, a guard tells Van Owen that he’s going to Gretna Green to marry a stuffed animal, and it kind of makes sense in context. Rogue Trooper: “The Vid-Vultures Part 1,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Brett Ewins. Rogue is harassed by a flying news-robot. 

SAVAGE DRAGON #27 (Image, 1996) – “Will You Marry Me?”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Rapture asks Dragon to marry her. Dragon has nightmarish visions of baby Dragons and Raptures, and finally decide to reject her proposal. His decision was the result of a reader vote, which was 266 to 258 against Dragon saying yes. Rapture then reveals that she’s pregnant. In an example of just how long this series is going on, Rapture’s just-conceived fetus is now the series’ protagonist, and is a father himself. Page 5 of this issue could have appeared in Erik’s Spider-Man run with minimal changes; it shows a red-haired woman waking up and asking “Peter, are you here?” 

WARLORD #11 (DC, 1978) – “Flashback,” [W/A] Mike Grell. As the title indicates, this issue is a flashback explaining how Morgan arrived in Skartaris. It doesn’t feel particularly new or original, and there’s a reason why not. As I learned when I checked the GCD, almost the entire issue is reprinted from First Issue Special #8, which I’ve already read. There is no indication of this in the issue itself, and readers who already owned First Issue Special #8 must have thought that Warlord #8 was a ripoff. 

MILLIE THE MODEL #128 (Marvel, 1965) – “Millie is Engaged,” [W] Stan Lee, [A] Stan Goldberg. My copy of this issue is missing two story pages, probably because those pages had fashion illustrations on their reverse sides, but I was able to find the missing pages online. Millie accepts Clicker’s marriage proposal, but is sad because she doesn’t want to give up modeling, and she thinks Clicker will want her to be a housewife. Millie tells Clicker this, and he comes up with a brilliant solution: she can marry him later, after she’s ready to give up  her career! Why couldn’t Millie have married Clicker and kept her career? Apparently because Stan Lee was unable to imagine the idea of a married woman continuing to work. Stan wrote a lot of blatantly sexist stories in the ’60s, but this one is pretty bad even for him. Other than that, it actually uses a similar style of characterization as the Marvel superhero titles. I must have known, at some level, that Stan drew upon his experience with romance comics when writing superhero comics, but that becomes especially clear from reading a comic like this one. 

MILLIE THE MODEL #163 (Marvel, 1968) – “The Model and the Mutt!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Stan Goldberg or Sol Brodsky. There was a copy of this issue in my mother’s old bedroom at my grandparents’ house; it either belonged to my mother or one of my aunts. So I’ve read this comic before and I remember it well. Sometime between #128 and #163, Millie completely changed format and became a humor comic instead of a realistic romance comic. Millie #163 is drawn in an Archie-esque style, and it consists of several short stories, mostly about Millie’s rivalry with Chili. I just realized that those names were chosen because they rhyme. BTW, Chili’s last name is Storm, but oddly, no writer has ever established that she’s related to Sue and Johnny Storm. This issue is signed “Stan Lee & Solly B,” i.e. Sol Brodsky, but the GCD says it was drawn by Stan Goldberg. The GCD entry for Millie #158 explains: “Although the story is signed “Solly B.” Stan Goldberg has stated that he pencilled some Millie’s under Brodsky’s name when he was working for Archie.” This may have been because Stan didn’t like his artists to work for other publishers. 

CEREBUS #171 – “Mothers & Daughters 21,” as above. Dave tells a story about how Russ Heath had to draw an entire story in one weekend. I once met Russ Heath (RIP) and told him I admired his story “Give and Take,” and he told me it had taken forever to draw. Cerebus and Astoria dream about each other, then Cerebus (who’s been drinking in a tavern for the past several issues) has visions of the Regency Elf and of his younger self. A black-clad figure stalks the streets of Iest; I think this is supposed to be Death. The real one, not the one from Sandman. This issue also reprints Caliber publisher Gary Reed’s guide to self-publishing. There’s a letter claiming that Nicole Rodney’s claims about her relationship with Rob Lavender were contradictory, and Dave agrees with this. Again, it’s really creepy how all these guys were discussing Nicole and Rob’s relationship. She’d have been justified in sending Dave a cease and desist letter, though he would have used it as an excuse for further harassment. 

SHOWCASE #70 (DC, 1967) – Leave It to Binky: “Duel Shiners” and other stories, [W] unknown, [A] Bob Oksner. A bunch of silly teen humor stories, all reprinted from 1950s issues of Leave It to Binky. That series had ended in 1958, but after this tryout in Showcase, DC restarted the series in 1968, initially using reprinted material. Binky was then cancelled in 1971 and was revived again in 1977, but only for one issue. 

YOUNG LOVE #49 (DC, 1965) – “Give Me Something to Remember You By!”,  [W] Jack Miller, [A] John Rosenberger. Marge has a romance with Wade while on summer vacation. When the summer is over, he promises to bring her something to remember him by. Then he comes to see her in person: the “something” he brought is himself. “Your Man is Mine!”, [W] Lee Goldsmith, [A] Werner Roth. Pat’s sister Clea steals all her boyfriends. Finally Clea gets married, but her husband dies. She tries to steal Clea’s current boyfriend, but this time it doesn’t work. Compare “Don’t Speak to Me of Love!” in Heart Throbs #92. “Someone – Hear My Heart!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] John Romita. Part of an ongoing storyline about a nurse named Mary Robin. She falls in love with a surgeon, but has to decide whether she’s a nurse or a woman – as if she can’t be both. At least this story isn’t quite as bad as Millie #128. It’s weird reading a John Romita comic that wasn’t published by Marvel and that includes no action sequences. 

CEREBUS #172 – “Mothers & Daughters 22,” as above. Cirin orders Astoria to surrender. Astoria tries to organize her followers to defend themselves, but one of her own followers accuses her of betraying her own philosophy of shared decision-making. Astoria is perhaps the best character in the entire series, and the Astoria-Cirin conflict is the only part of Mothers & Daughters that’s actually interesting. I wish Dave had focused on that, instead of wasting so many pages on Swoon and Elrod and Suenteus Po and various pointless subplots. There’s a letter where John Davis from Capital Comics objects to some of Dave’s statements. 

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #24 (Marvel, 2010) – “Stark: Disassembled Part 5; …..,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Salvador Larroca. An unconscious Tony has a vision where he encounters lots of dead people from his past. Pepper Potts and Maria Hill try to save Tony from being killed by the Ghost. This issue’s cover says “Eisner Award Winner: Best New Series.” A rebooted Iron Man title hardly seems like an appropriate recipient of that award, even if it was technically eligible.

Going to bed now. Will finish tomorrow. 

2000 AD #324 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: as above. Slade is stuck in the time machine, and even though it’s broad daylight and lots of people are passing by, not a single person will help him escape. This chapter is pretty funny. Time Twisters: “The Time Machine,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jesus Redondo. Harry Bentley uses a time machine to revisit various moments from his life. We finally learn that he’s just jumped off a bridge, and the “time machine” is his life flashing before his eyes as he drowns. Very powerful. Dredd: as above. The werewolves cause even more mayhem. Skizz: as above. Roxy reunites with Skizz and they plan to escape Birmingham, but Van Owen is still hunting for them. Rogue Trooper: “The Vid-Vultures Part 2,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Brett Ewins. By floating above Rogue, the video robot gives away his position to the Norts.  

INCREDIBLE HULK #266 (Marvel, 1981) – “Devolution!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Sal Buscema. The High Evolutionary wants to die, but his armor won’t let him commit suicide, so he tries to force the Hulk to kill him by turning Betty and Rick into apes. The High Evolutionary is an interesting villain because he’s not really a villain at all; he has good intentions and is kind to his creations.  

BARBIE FASHION #25 (Marvel, 1993) – “Secret Admirer” and other stories, [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Mary Wilshire. I won a bunch of these on eBay. They’re all in rather low grade. Tara has a secret admirer, but it’s not who she thinks it is. In the second story, Skipper helps Kelly deal with her parents’ marital problems. The last story provides some practical advice on hair care. All the letters are from girls aged 7 to 11. 

MUDMAN #3 (Image, 2012) – “All the Things We Leave Behind,” [W/A] Paul Grist. Mudman explores the attic where he found his costume, and discovers a floating robot that tries to kill him and his best friend. On the inside front cover, Grist explains why Jack Staff went on infinite hiatus. It’s too bad Jack Staff ended, because honestly it was better than Mudman. There’s just not enough to distinguish Mudman from any other superhero comic. 

CEREBUS #173 – “Mothers & Daughters 23,” as above. Cerebus decides he’s the champion of men against the scourge of women. As others have noted, it’s hard to reconcile Sim’s extreme misogyny with the existence of characters like Jaka and Astoria. Then he starts flying again. Astoria plans to immolate herself with her followers, but instead leaves the house alone. The Roach turns into a bunch of different parodies of ‘90s comics. There’s a preview of Teri Sue Wood’s Wandering Star, a series I want to read more of. 

2000 AD #325 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: as above. Hoagy finally rescues Sam from the chair, and Sam is reunited with Hoagy and Stogie. It is very annoying to see Stogie again, after having been free of him for five or ten progs. Future Shocks: “Eureka!”, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Mike White. Some space travelers go looking for aliens. The “alien” they discover is a viral idea that spreads from each of them to the people of earth. Tharg ends the story before the alien idea can infect the reader too. What a brilliant premise. Dredd: as above. Dredd goes to the Undercity to look for the source of the werewolves. In the ruins of Times Square, he discovers an albino werewolf being tortured by robots. I’m not sure if this was before or after Times Square changed from a red light district to a tourist trap. Skizz: as above. Roxy insists on seeing her parents before she leaves town. They aren’t happy with her. Cornelius Cardew has an epic moment: he throws a chair through a window, points to the stars, and says “There’s nothing more important than that! Not even pipe-fitting!” Meanwhile, Van Owen discovers people won’t defer to him in England the way they do in South Africa. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue defeats the Norts despite the vid-vulture’s interference. 

BARBIE FASHION #26 (Marvel, 1993) – “The Volunteers” and “Ski Shopping Spree,” as above. Skipper volunteers at a homeless shelter. This story’s depiction of homelessness is very sanitized; the homeless people look like regular middle-class people, and the story makes no attempt to explain why they became homeless. In the backup story, Ken tries to decide what ski clothing to buy for Barbie. The trouble with Barbie as a protagonist is that she’s not really a character. She has no backstory or motivation, she never encounters serious problems, and she’s literally perfect. That’s by design: she was created as a fashion doll, not a character in a narrative. Most issues of Barbie Fashion, including this one, contain letters about how the reader’s mother or grandmother also played with Barbie dolls. 

I went back to Heroes on Friday, February 5: 

ONCE & FUTURE #15 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. Mary-Nimue-Elaine confronts Rose. Duncan and Gran figure out how Galahad was conceived: Mary trapped herself in a boiling cauldron so that Lancelot would appear and rescue her. Like everything else in Once & Future, this is an accurate description of Arthurian myth. Lancelot manifests as a suit of armor filled with water and fish, appropriately since he was raised underwater. Mary tries to shoot Rose, but she’s saved by a government agent, though this may be a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire. Much of the pleasure of this series comes from recognizing the Arthurian legends that Kieron is adapting; however, this may make it difficult for readers who aren’t familiar with Arthurian literature. 

FANTASTIC FOUR #28 (Marvel, 2021) – “All the Ways Your Universe Ends,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] R.B. Silva. Reed sends the Griever to the end of the universe, but only after she’s subjected the FF to their most likely deaths. Reed’s most likely death is being killed by Ben. The Silver Surfer guest-stars in this issue, and I love how Silva and colorist Jesus Aburtov make his skin reflective instead of opaque. The Griever says that Ben’s four guardians are Reed, Sue, Ben, and… Dragon Man, rather than Johnny. That kind of makes sense. Jim and Margaret Power, Agatha Harkness and Jarvis could also count as Franklin’s guardians. 

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #5 (Image, 2021) – “The Shadow Play,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Martin Simmonds. Ruby visits the Denver airport, which is the locus of an obscure conspiracy theory. Cole meets a man named Martin Barker (named after the comics historian?), who tries to convert him to the Black Hat side. According to Barker, the Department of Truth was designed to “reshape the postwar world with America as its center.” Department of Truth is probably the best new comic of 2020. 

ABBOTT 1973 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Sami Kivelä. Detroit is about to elect a new mayor, while Elena Abbott has to deal with a misogynistic new newspaper owner. Here we see an example of intersectionality: Elena simultaneously faces racism from white people, and sexism from a black man. Oh, and also, Elena is being hunted by ghosts, one of which is possessing her elderly friend Henrietta. One reason I love Abbott is that it shows me a different side of Detroit than the one I know. As a kid I went to Detroit every year to visit my grandparents, but they lived in West Bloomfield and Bloomfield Hills, and I rarely saw other parts of the city. I didn’t even know there was a Palmer Park near downtown. 

STRANGE ACADEMY #7 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. Emily wakes from a coma to find Doyle dead. In flashback, we see that Dr. Strange revived Emily by appeailng to Hoggoth, and that Hoggoth has also been consuming all the magical debt Strange has accumulated from running the school. Emily wants to get Dormammu to revive his son, but Strange forces her to accept Doyle’s death. She kisses his corpse goodbye… and he comes back to life. Awwww. 

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #14 (Boom!, 2021) – “A Game of Nowhere Part Four”, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. Erica’s monster manifests its true form: a fairy growing out of a carnivorous plant. Erica, James and Bian figure out how the monsters came into existence. The townspeople try to save themselves from the Order of St. George, who are far worse than the monsters they hunt. This may be my second favorite current series after Once & Future. Too bad it’s going on hiatus. 

WE ONLY FIND THEM WHEN THEY’RE DEAD #5 (Boom!, 2021) – “Look, And You Find Them,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Simone Di Meo. In flashback, we learn why Paula hates Georges. The family history here is confusing; it would have been clearer if I had read the series at one sitting. A bunch of other gods collect the newly dead god’s body. Then nine years later, we see that Georges himself has become a god – at least that’s my reading, though I didn’t get it until I reread the comic just now. This series is a great piece of science fiction, and I hope there’s more of it. 

SPECTER INSPECTORS #1 (Boom!, 2021) – “Welcome to Cape Grace,” [W/A] Bowen McCurdy, [W] Kaitlyn Musto. Recent college graduates Noa, Ko and Astrid, plus teenage Gus, have a YouTube show on paranormal phenomena. In their last episode they captured a disembodied voice on camera. For their next episode they visit Cape Grace, the most haunted town in America. While exploring a creepy old house, Astrid tells Noa that she faked the disembodied voice. Then Astrid gets possessed by a real demon, and they can’t leave Cape Grace until they learn the demon’s name. This is a really promising debut issue, and I’m excited for this series. 

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #94 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Thom Zahler, [A] Toni Kuusisto. Pinkie Pie recruits Cheese Sandwich to help plan the Festival of the Two Sisters, but she soon becomes more interested in Cheese than her job. Just as Pinkie is about to confess her feelings to Cheese, all the sound in Ponyville disappears. I was very skeptical when I learned that Pinkie was going to marry Cheese, because she seems completely devoid of any romantic interest. But Thom succeeds in convincing me that Pinkie and Cheese are attracted to each other, and their interactions in this issue are really cute. I especially like the scene where Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Rarity and Fluttershy get off the train, and Pinkie ignores them because she’s waiting for Cheese. It’s worth noting that Cheese Sandwich can appear more frequently in the comic than on the show, since there’s no need to pay Weird Al Yankovic for voice acting. 

THE DREAMING: WAKING HOURS #7 (DC, 2021) – “Intermezzo Part 2,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Javier Rodriguez. By the time I read this, I had forgotten the plot of #6. Ruin and her friends go looking for Heather, and they run into Matthew and Goldie. There’s a beautiful page showing how one of the other characters perceives Ruin and Zophiel. Heather summons Auberon, and he tells her that Nuala dethroned him and Titania. 

I ordered a bunch more Cerebus comics, plus a few other comics: 

CEREBUS #26 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1981) – “High Society,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus arrives in Iest, the principal setting for most of the run, and discovers that everyone wants his attention because he’s an envoy of Lord Julius. Cerebus gets a free room at the Regency Hotel and makes ridiculous demands on the staff – four bottles of wine from different years “and for dessert, any fruit that’s out of season.” The staff meet his requests with no complaints. Cerebus tries to get into a bar fight, but can’t even do that because the Iest government has assigned him a security detail. This is actually the best issue of Cerebus I’ve read so far. It’s extremely funny, it has great dialogue, and it puts a spotlight on Cerebus’s irritable personality. 

CEREBUS #32 – “Alliance,” as above. Astoria offers Cerebus a business proposition, which essentially means that Astoria makes Cerebus rich, without Cerebus having to do anything. The Regency Elf gets jealous of Cerebus and Astoria’s closeness and tries to frame Cerebus for possessing illegal drugs. Astoria throws the drugs in the fire before they’re discovered, but this causes her to get high and attempt to make love to Cerebus. The Roach barges in on them. Another great issue. Cerebus and Astoria are excellent foils for each other. 

X-MEN #17 (Marvel, 2021) – “Empty Nest,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Brett Booth. A team of X-Men travel to the Shi’ar homeworld to protect Xandra from an anti-colonial conspiracy. Brett Booth’s style of art is outdated, but his art in this issue isn’t too bad. An annoying moment in this issue is when Sam says he’s “babysitting” his own child. 

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #113 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Sophie Campbell. A future version of Lita comes back in time and tries to get Jenny to start a band, or else there will be terrible consequences. And she calls Donatello “dad.” Also, there’s some more development of the election plotline. I actually didn’t realize that Sophie drew this issue herself. 

FUTURE STATE: LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #1 (DC, 2021) – “Future State Part One,” [W] Brian Michael Bendis, [A] Riley Rossmo. An unspecified amount of time after the previous series, the Legion reforms after having disbanded. Unlike the other Future State titles, Future State: LSH has the same characters as the series it’s replacing. Also, it suffers from the same crippling flaws as the main Legion series, including a severe lack of plot or characterization. I shoudn’t have ordered it. 

TARTARUS #9 (Image, 2021) – “Ash and Oath,” [W] Johnnie Christmas, [A] Andrew Krahnke. Hisa, who now has two sick children, visits a dying Svantoo. He reveals that Surka has been collecting Aima and could use it to cure Hisa’s kids. Hisa has to break her oath of nonviolence to protect her kids from rebels. The same rebels (I think) descend on Surka’s tower intending to destroy it. I like this storyline, but it’s hard to follow. 

STRANGE ACADEMY #8 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. Dead Girl counsels Doyle on his return from death. I’m delighted to see this character again. Some of the students go on a field trip with the Guardians of the Galaxy, while the others practice the Images of Ikonn with Agatha Harkness. Something speaks to Emily from behind a door and tells her to let it out. Also, Emily has a horned, winged black cat, and it’s incredibly cute. Strange Academy is a far better teen superhero team comic than the current Legion title. Speaking of which… 

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #12 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] Brian Michael Bendis, [A] Ryan Sook. The Legion fights Rogol Zaar, a pointless villain, as well as Mordru. They win and then have a party. And thus ends the worst Legion series ever published. Bendis’s stories were essentially plotless, and his characters were barely distinguishable from each other. Ryan Sook’s excellent artwork was wasted on Bendis’s (non-)stories. There have been other bad Legion writers in the past, but none of them can match Bendis for sustained incompetence. 

CEREBUS #33 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1981) – “Friction,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus argues with the Roach and Astoria. The Regency Elf writes graffiti accusing Cerebus of peeing in the sink. Astoria teaches Cerebus the difference between inferring and implying. This issue and #32 both contain very poorly drawn backup strips by Brent Alan Richardson. 

MARVEL ACTION CHILLERS #4 (Marvel, 2021) – “Marvel Action’s Tome of Iron Dracula,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Gretel Lusky. All the heroes from the last three issues battle Dracula and the book of Shuma-Gorath. This was a super-fun series and Jeremy must have loved writing it. I’m sorry it was just four issues.  

KING IN BLACK: BLACK KNIGHT #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Jesús Saiz. Dane Whitman teams up with Aero and Swordmaster against Knull’s dragons. This is a one-shot, but it leads into an upcoming series by the same writer. Si Spurrier writes Dane Whitman as a fundamentally flawed man, which seems like a reasonable take. I love how the story is narrated in pseudo-medieval English, and we eventually learn that Dane is writing the captions himself. Spurrier also writes Aero and Swordmaster quite well, emphasizing their cultural differences from Dane. 

COLONEL WEIRD: COSMAGOG #4 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Tyler Crook. This issue’s cover is a reference to The Little Prince. Colonel Weird has some more strange visions, and finally realizes that Talky Walky has been beside him unseen for the entire series. This series was really weird, but I like this conclusion. 

BARBIE FASHION #27 (Marvel, 1993) – “Role Model” and other stories, [W] Trina Robbins, [A] Anna-Maria B. Cool. Skipper’s friend Jennifer is anorexic, so Barbie teaches her how to eat a healthy diet. This story responds to a common critique of Barbie, i.e. that she gives girls an unhealthy body image. In the backup story, Barbie helps  an old woman find her aunt’s hidden treasure and keep her house. There’s another letter from a girl whose mother was also a Barbie fan. 

LUNA #1 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Maria Llovet. In the late ‘60s, a young woman joins a creepy cult and has sex with its leader, who deliberately cuts her with a knife. I was skeptical about this series, but this debut issue has some excellent psychedelic art, and I’m curious to see where this plot is going. 

CHAINED TO THE GRAVE #1 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Andy Eschenbach & Brian Level, [A] Kate Sherron. In the Old West, Roy Mason emerges from his grave as a zombie, with one hand chained to his tombstone. Roy immediately becomes embroiled in a complicated plot that combines the fantasy and Western genres. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this comic, but this debut issue is a really fun adventure story. Kate Sherron’s style resembles that of Kate Beaton or John Allison. 

CEREBUS #37 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1982) – “It’s Showtime!”, as above. Cerebus attends Petuniacon, a parody of a comic convention. No one wants to see him at first, but then he starts signing autographs and drawing trees, and suddenly everyone wants one of his sketches. The unnamed artist from #25 also shows up. I assume this character is a parody of someone, but I don’t know who. There’s a backup story by Bill (Messner-)Loebs about Benjamin Franklin in hell. It’s drawn and written in the same style as Journey. 

FUTURE STATE: WONDER WOMAN #2 (DC, 2021) – “Hell to Pay Part Two,” [W/A] Joëlle Jones. Yara confronts Hades and Persephone and gets their permission to try to rescue her fellow Amazon Potira. However, Potira gets stuck in the underworld and Yara can’t save her. This was a really fun two-parter, and I’d like to see more of this version of Wonder Woman. 

RAIN LIKE HAMMERS #1 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Brandon Graham. Eugene lives in the Elephant City, which travels through a toxic wasteland. His main pleasures are eating and watching broadcasts. Then Eugene’s boring life is interrupted when his city crashes. I feel ashamed of buying this because, while I love Brandon Graham’s art, he’s a toxic person, and his career should have been over after he released his “diss track.” I only ordered this comic because the offerings in that issue of Previews were rather slim. I do have to admit that Rain Like Hammers is a compelling piece of SF, with some fascinating art. 

INKBLOT #6 (Image, 2021) – as above. The Seeker traps MOW. (by putting out a box, then turning around), and starts experimenting on it. For perhaps the first time in the series, we get to see MOW.’s mouth. The Seeker accidentally transports herself and MOW. back to her darkest moment, when her little brother Inos died. This may have been the cutest issue yet. 

STRANGE ADVENTURES #8 (DC, 2021) – “It could’ve been worse,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads & Evan “Doc” Shaner. The issue starts with some fight scenes, which are confusing because it’s not clear whether they’re flashbacks or present-day scenes. A Pykkt tells Batman and Mr. Terrific that Adam committed genocide against the Pykkts. This is more evidence for what I’ve suspected for a while now: that Adam and Alanna were on the wrong side of the Pykkt war. In flashback, Adam murders a Pykkt prisoner and then takes Aleea camping. I fear that this trip will end in Aleea’s death.  

KAIJU SCORE #3 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Chums,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Rem Broo. The characters figure out a way to use Mujara to steal the safe, but then Pierson, the one with the man-bun, murders Palmiero in cold blood. Then the two kaiju face off. This is a fun series, but I hate all the protagonists. In particular, Pierson is so infuriating that I can’t understand why he’s still alive, when he’s surrounded by people with guns.  

THE WOODS #14 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. The kids are having an election, only some of them are so awful that I can’t see why anyone would want to be their leader. One of the kids, Barry, dies by either murder or suicide. I don’t really understand this issue, and I can’t keep the characters straight. I need to start rereading this series from the beginning. 

CEREBUS #38 – “Petuniacon… Day Two,” as above. Cerebus appears on a panel with Elrod, Lord Julius and K’cor, who all have hilarious and wildly contrasting personalities. All the convention attendees are obsessed with Elrod, so Cerebus challenges him to a duel. It’s a foregone conclusion that Cerebus will win, but Astoria stops the duel and tells Cerebus that she has a coalition of people who want to make Cerebus prime minister. And she explains why this would be a good thing. A key part of Cerebus’s character development is how he outgrows his initial obsession with food, women and drink and sets his sights on higher goals. This issue includes another Ben Franklin strip by Loebs. 

BARBIE FASHION #28 (Marvel, 1993) – “The Heart of Art,” [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Anna-Maria B. Cool. Barbie helps a friend submit some paintings to an art gallery, but throughh a mix-up, the gallery exhibits Barbie’s work instead. This issue is a mildly funny satire of the art world. 

BARBALIEN: RED PLANET #3 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tate Brombal & Jeff Lemire, [A] Gabriel Hernandez Walta. Mark Markz fights Boa Boaz. We meet Dr. Day (the reverse of Night Nurse), a superpowered black woman who treats AIDS patients. Mark and Miguel spend the night together. On the first page of this issue, Dr. Day calls a woman named Dolores Cooper refuses to speak to her dying gay son, but later in the issue, Mrs. Cooper calls Dr. Day back, after her son has died. This is a nicely subtle piece of plotting. 

CEREBUS #39 – “Petuniacon Day Three,” as above. Cerebus meets an old politician named Blakely, who tries to figure out what Lord Julius is doing. The Roach fights two criminals. We don’t actually get to the Petuniacon site in this issue. There’s a backup story that feels like a ripoff of Wally Wood’s fantasy comics. After reading these last six issues of Cerebus, I finally get the appeal of this series. Melmoth, Filght and Women are minor curiosities, but High Society is a masterpiece, with hilarious dialogue and characterization and fast-moving plots. For readers who started reading Cerebus with High Society or earlier, it must have been awful to watch the slow decline of the comic and of Dave’s mental health.