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Month and a half of reviews

3-27 

FUTURE STATE: SWAMP THING #2 (DC, 2021) – “Obsidian Sun Part Two,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. In order to save the world and reignite the sun, Swampy has to reabsorb his plant children. This is a sad conclusion to a very intriguing and well-written miniseries. I’m sorry that Ram V’s ongoing Swamp Thing series won’t be in this same continuity. By the way, based on my understanding of South Indian names,  I’m guessing that “Ram” is his only name and V stands for Venktesan, which is not his surname, but his father’s name. 

CEREBUS #40 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1982) – “Campaign,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus and Astoria go looking for votes. One elderly abbess promises him 15 electoral votes if he fires Astoria. Cerebus tries to convince a little boy to shake his hand, but the boy throws mud at him. This issue is one of the best depictions of electoral politics that I’ve seen in comics. 

YASMEEN #6 (Scout, 2021) – untitled, [W] Saif A. Ahmed, [A] Fabiana Mascolo. One of Yasmeen’s classmates falsely accuses her of being affiliated with ISIS. In response, Yasmeen explains how she survived a sniper attack and returned to her father, while her friend Noor was killed. The series ends with Yasmeen recovering from her trauma and being accepted by her classmates. Yasmeen was the most underrated comic of 2020. It’s a brutal and sensitive depiction of the effect of trauma on children, and it’s also a powerful critique of Trump’s Muslim ban, because it demonstrates how the biggest victims of ISIS are other Muslims. 

FAR SECTOR #8 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] N.K. Jemisin, [A] Jamal Campbell. Jo discovers the existence of a black market for human-made memes. That sets up issue 9, which I already read. Heroes didn’t put issue 8 in my file, but they were able to reorder it for me. 

2000 AD #326 (IPC, 1983) – Slade: “The Slaying of Slade Part 15,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. Slade predicts that Deller will try to rob an ancient Egypt exhibit, and sets a trap for him there. Skizz: untitled, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jim Baikie. The protagonists try to escape Birmingham, but Van Owen is on their trail. Dredd: “Cry of the Werewolf,” [W] Wagner & Grant, [A] Steve Dillon. Dredd chases an albino werewolf through the undercity. Time Twisters: “The Visitation,” [W] Jack Adrian, [A] Eric Bradbury. An astronaut somehow finds himself in Viking-age England. Rogue Trooper: “The Vid Vultures Part 4,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Brett Ewins. The vid-bot sacrifices itself to save Rogue. 

CEREBUS #41 – “Heroes,” as above. After more campaigning and some scenes with the Roach and the Regency Elf, Cerebus is exhausted and wants to go to bed. But then he learns that Lord Julius has rammed through a law that eliminates some of his safe electoral districts. The campaign continues. 

JOSIE #36 (Archie, 1968) – “Sock it to Who? .. (Whom?)”, [W] Frank Doyle, [A] Dan DeCarlo. Josie meets a hippie singer named Clyde Didit, who keeps trying to sing a song with the lyric “Sock it to me, baby,” but every time he sings it, someone hits him. The GCD says that Clyde was a redesigned version of a character from Archie’s Mad House. 

BARBIE FASHION #29 (Marvel, 1993) – “Itchin’ and a-Twitchin’” and “Modeling Mix-Up,” [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Dan Parent. Barbie and Skipper go for a walk in the woods, and Skipper gets a poison ivy rash. In the backup story, Ken mistakenly thinks he saw Barbie at the movies with another man. The letter column includes a letter from a fan who wants to know how to find back issues – which could be a sign of Barbie’s distribution problems, but on the other hand, I’ve seen similar letters in Marvel’s superhero comics. 

GENTLE BEN #2 (Dell, 1968) – “Bearnappers!”, [W] D.J. Arneson, [A] José Delbo. Two poachers steal Ben and sell him to a wild animal show. Mark recovers Ben, and the animal show owner forces the poachers to trap more animals for him, which is a good outcome for everyone but the animals, I guess. In the backup stories, Mark and Ben rescue a lost horse and help put out a swamp fire. 

CRIMSON FLOWER #1 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Matt Lesniewski. In Russia, a woman uses her job as a pharmaceutical seller as cover for her quest to kill her father’s murderers. This comic is most memorable for Matt Lesniewski’s gruesome and disturbing art, with its exaggerated renderings of body parts. 

FORBIDDEN WORLDS #97 (ACG, 1961) – “What Now, Little Man?”, [W] Richard Hughes, [A] John Forte. A stingy old man gets shrunk to tiny size and narrowly escapes being eaten by a cat. He returns to normal size and becomes more generous. This story’s title is a reference to a novel by Hans Fallada. “Warning of Danger,” uncredited. A precognitive Japanese man fails to predict the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. “The Case of the Curses,” [W] Hughes, [A] Forte. A series of inset stories about curses. 

2000 AD #327 (IPC, 1983) – Slade: as above. Deller robs the Egyptian exhibit. Stogie stows away inside one of the stolen items, but Deller finds him. Time Twisters: “The Startling Success of Sideways Scuttleton,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] John Higgins. The title character has the ability to travel between parallel realities, but he does it so many times that he can’t find his original reality anymore. Finally he reaches what looks like his home reality, but decides it’s only another alternate reality, because someone gives him a pound coin instead of a pound note. The joke here, which I didn’t understand until I looked it up, is that in April 1983 the UK replaced pound notes with pound coins. So Scuttleton actually did get back to his home world, he just din’t know it. Dredd: as above. Dredd is bitten by the werewolf, then he uses its recorded cry to summon all the other werewolves. Skizz: as above. The escape attempt continues, but Skizz’s chances of escape aren’t looking good. Skizz lies for the first time by telling Roxy that everything will be okay. Rogue Trooper: “Eye of the Traitor Part 1,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Cam Kennedy. The Traitor General murders some doctors and steals their medical robots. Rogue doesn’t appear in this story. 

2000 AD #328 – Slade: as above. Stogie escapes from Deller, but finds himself in space. Stogie is such an awful racist stereotype that he singlehandedly ruins any story in which he appears. Time Twisters: “The Absolutely True and Authentic Story Behind the Hitler Diaries,” [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Mike White. An MI6 agent uses a time machine to create forgeries of famous items like the Hitler diaries. This story was inspired by the Hitler diaries hoax from earlier in the same year. Dredd: as above. Prager rescues Dredd from the undercity, and he’s cured of being a werewolf. Skizz: as above. The people of Birmingham show up to prevent Van Owen from blocking Skizz’s escape, but Van Owen shoots the van’s tires out. Cornelius climbs out of the crashed van to confront Van Owen. I don’t have #329, but I’ve discovered that Skizz Book One actually has a happy ending, which I would not have expected based on the ominous ton of the later chapters. Rogue Trooper: as above. Two grave-robbers named Bland and Brass go looking for the Traitor General. 

STILLWATER #5 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramon K. Pérez. I still think of Chip Zdarsky as an artist, but he’s been far more prolific and perhaps more important as a writer. At the town meeting, the townspeople demand a vote of confidence in the Judge’s leadership, so the judge orders his soldiers to shoot everybody. I don’t see why the Judge’s enemies don’t just all leave the town, since they can’t die, and surely the Judge doesn’t have the manpower to stop all of them. Or will they die if they leave town? I forget. 

CEREBUS #43 – “Election Night,” as above. The issue begins with a eulogy for Gene Day. It seems like Gene Day’s death was a massive trauma for Sim, and I’d even speculate that Dave’s grief over Gene may have contributed to his mental health problems. In the story, Cerebus and Lord Julius listen to election returns while making plans for military action against each other. Finally the election ends in a dead heat. This is a thrilling story, but I’m glad I didn’t read it before the actual election. There’s a backup story by Michael T. Gilbert.

FEAR CASE #1 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. Kindt and Jenkins’s third collaboration is about two Secret Service agents who are trying to solve the agency’s oldest cold case, just before they retire. The case is about a mysterious briefcase with the property that if anyone opens it, they die, and it goes to the person they love most; but instead, they can give it to the person they hate most. I like this series better than Crimson Flower. This issue references Philip Verge from Bang!. 

2000 AD #614 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: “Helios Part 1,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] David A. Roach. Anderson solves a hostage crisis and then heads out to a nightclub. Meanwhile, a mad scientist performs brain experiments on a man named Walther. Future Shocks: “Horn of Plenty!”, [W] Kelvin Gosnell, [A] John Higgins. Reprinted from #248. A space explorer discovers a device that can replicate matter perfectly, but all it’s good for is making coffee. Swifty’s Return: untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Jamie Hewlett. In a sequel to “Sooner or Later,” Swifty and his pal Clinton go to a party in the 21st century, where there are doors opening to various places in the past. Milligan’s story is kind of silly, but Hewlett’s art, as usual, is incredible. Dredd: “Spock’s Mock Chocs,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Brendan McCarthy & Jamie Hewlett. Dredd apprehends a confectioner who’s been selling candy that causes insanity and death. Not a great plot, but the artwork is as incredible as you’d expect from these two creators, especially since the whole story is in color. Night Zero: untitled, [W] John Brosnan, [A] Kev Hopgood. Tanner prepares to confront Nemo, who killed Alanna several times. Future Shocks: untitled, [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Kev Walker. A trite ecological parable. 

FUTURE STATE: IMMORTAL WONDER WOMAN #1 (DC, 2021) – Wonder Woman: “Future State,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad, [A] Jen Bartel. In the far future, Diana fights Darkseid and tries to stave off the end of the universe. This story is well-drawn and exciting, but didn’t make a huge impact on me. Nubia: “Future State,” [W] L.L. McKinney, [A] Alitha Martinez. Nubia fights a blue-skinned villain, then asks her aunt Nancy (i.e. Anansi) for help solving some mysterious thefts. I preferred this to the main story, and I wish it was an ongoing feature. I especially like Nubia’s hair. L.L. McKinney is better known as a YA novelist and as the creator of the #PublishingPaidMe hashtag. 

LASSIE #41 (Dell, 1958) – “Thundering Hoofs,” [W] unknown, [A] Bob Forgione? Lassie and Timmy help rehabilitate an injured race horse, and then rescue it when it gets lost in a swamp. The second story from Gentle Ben #2 is also about a race horse that’s lost in a swamp. In the backup story, an older boy bullies Timmy into playing in a construction site. Inevitably, the boy falls off a bridge, and Lassie has to save him and Timmy from drowning. Both boys learn a valuable lesson about safety. This story has some pretty good characterization.  

2000 AD #615 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: as above. Anderson and her friend go to the club, but Walter shows up there too, and starts a violent rampage. One-shot: “Fast Forward,” [W] Hilary Robinson & Davy Francis, [A] John McCrea. A man travels back in time to commt a theft, but materializes in the air over a construction site, and entombs himself in cement. Swifty’s Return: as above. Swifty and Clinton find themselves in the antebellum South, where they’re imprisoned as escaped slaves. More brilliant art. Dredd: “Crazy Barry, Little Mo Part One,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Chris Weston. A judge named Barry murders a suspect under the influence of Mo, a little blue demon who Barry believes lives inside his head. Strontium Dog: “The Final Solution Part 8,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Simon Harrison. Sagan and the New Church start arresting people they don’t like. Meanwhile, Johnny and Middenface are still in jail. I mostly like Simon Harrison’s art, but he draws some very ugly faces. 

CEREBUS #45 – “Cerebus’s Six Crises, Crisis Number One: The Bureaucratic Rebellion,” as above. This issue and all the other issues until #50 are in sideways format. “Six Crises” is the title of a memoir by Nixon. In this chapter, Cerebus, now Prime Minister, invades a foreign to solve his cash flow problems, but the other country’s treasury proves to be empty. Also, Lord Julius sends Cerebus a box of exploding cigars. There’s a Neil the Horse backup story. 

BARBIE #32 (Marvel, 1993) – “Partyland” and “The Right Red,” [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Barb Rausch. Ken invites Barbie to a wedding reception, but Barbie accidentally attends three other parties instead, including a bar mitzvah. In the backup story, Skipper has a friend who’s so appearance-obsessed she can barely leave the house. Barb Rausch’s art this issue is quite good. She’s mostly forgotten today, but she was a gifted artist and an important advocate of comics for girls. 

MUDMAN #4 (Image, 2012) – “The Tide Turns,” [W/A] Paul Grist. Mudman fights a villain with water-controlling powers. As usual this issue is full of amazing visual storytelling, but its plot and characters are lacking in originality. 

SUPERFUCKERS FOREVER #1 (IDW, 2016) – “The Time Bubble,” [W/A] James Kochalka. An unfunny, offensive Legion of Super-Heroes parody that takes about five minutes to read. I’m starting to hate James Kochalka’s work. There’s a backup story by Jake Lawrence from Teen Dog. 

THE SPECTRE #11 (DC, 1993) – “The Deepest Cut,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Tom Mandrake. The Spectre fights Azmodus with help from Madame Xanadu, while Amy tries to escape being murdered by the Reaver. Quite an exciting issue. 

GREEN ARROW #49 (DC, 1991) – “The Last Lion,” [W] Mike Grell, [A] Rick Hoberg. Dinah contemplates dating someone other than Ollie, who’s been away for a long time now. Meanwhie, Ollie is traveling in East Africa, and he meets a Maasai man who tells him about how the Maasai people are losing their culture because of modernization. Ollie accompanies the Maasai man on a traditional lion hunt. The African language depicted in this comic is Swahili, not Maasai, but otherwise Grell’s treatment of Maasai people seems fairly respectful. 

CEREBUS #48 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “Cerebus’ Six Crises, Crisis Number Four: Upstairs/Downstairs,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus tries to invade New Sepra, but quickly becomes overwhelmed by events. Jaka persuades Cerebus to resign as prime minister and run off with her. Cerebus refuses and even slaps Jaka. Refusing Jaka’s offer is perhaps Cerebus’s worst mistake; later on in Church & State, he changes his mind and tries to get Jaka to run off with him, but by that time Jaka is married and pregnant. The backup story is the first appearance of Wolverine MacAlistaire. 

FAR SECTOR #10 (DC, 2021) – as above. Jo tries to shut down the meme sweatshop, but is arrested by the police, who are clearly in league with whoever’s running the sweatshop. Jo discovers that Marth is behind the sweatshop. The government interferes with the scheduled election and organizes a military coup. I bet I know what was on N.K. Jemisin’s mind when she wrote this story. The line “There are waiting lines down the block […] not all of us can afford to materialize and vote in person!” has an obvious relevance to current events, and probably future events too, given what’s going on in Georgia as I write this. 

2000 AD #616 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: as above. Anderson and her friend Corey stop Walther’s rampage, but he’s already killed some of the people his as-yet-unnamed controller was targeting. Night Zero: as above. Tanner solves Alanna’s murder, he and the latest Alanna clone become a couple, and Tanner arranges it so the perpetually-dark Zero City can have an hour of light each day. This story was a reasonably good hybrid of hard-boiled crime fiction and SF. It and its sequels were the only comics John Brosnan wrote. Swifty’s Return: as above. Swifty and Clinton escape the slaveholders, then travel to ancient Rome where they reenact the myth of Androcles and the lion. More great art hampered by an overly compressed plot. Dredd: as above. Barry passes a lie detector test by having Mo answer the questions for him. Weston’s art and coloring are beautiful. Future Shocks: “Still Life,” [W] David Anderson, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. A young man is cryogenically frozen, but in the future, he’s mistaken for a statue. Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny and Middenface escape from jail, and we meet Feral, an albino mutant who’s a refugee from Sagan’s church. 

FUTURE STATE: SUPERMAN VS. IMPERIOUS LEX #1 (DC, 2021) – “Superman vs. Imperious Lex Part 1,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Pugh. Lexor, the planet where Luthor is a hero, applies for United Planets membership. Luthor maintains his hold on Lexor’s people by employing them to build killer robots. Superman visits Lexor and tries to save his people, but they reject his help. Even then, the UP approves Lexor’s application, and Lois is chosen to lead Lexor’s UP transition team. This comic is good, if not Russell’s best. It’s great to see Lexor again, but sadly, Ardora, Luthor’s Lexorian girlfriend, does not appear; I guess she would have humanized Luthor too much. In this comic he’s an obvious stand-in for Trump. 

BATMAN: BLACK AND WHITE #2 (DC, 2021) – “The Unjust Judge,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. Batman fails to save an old black clergyman from a fire, and sits with him as he dies. This is a powerful story, but maybe a bit emotionally manipulative. “All Cats Are Grey,” [W/A] Sophie Campbell. In a silent story, Batman fights and then romances Catwoman, and their actions are mirrored by two cats, one black and one white. This is the best story in this series so far. Sophie Campbell draws beautiful cats, and her visual storytelling is strong enough that the lack of dialogue is no hindrance. “The Spill,” [W/A] Gabriel Hardman, [W] Corinna Bechko. Batman saves the Joker from drowning. I am so sick of reading stories about Batman’s refusal to kill the Joker. For that matter, I’m sick of the Joker. “Dual,” [W/A] Dustin Weaver. Batman has an aerial dogfight with his father’s ghost. Good art but a dumb story. “The Devil in the Detail,” [W/A] David Aja. I don’t remember what this story was about, but I like how it’s formatted like an old comic strip. 

SEA OF SORROWS #3 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Rich Douek, [A] Alex Cormack. The mermaids cause more chaos. I like Alex Cormack’s art, but otherwise this comic isn’t that great, and I would give up on it except that I’ve already ordered the remaining issues. 

SHANG-CHI #5 (Marvel, 2021) – “Brothers and Sisters Part 5,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Dike Ruan. Shang-Chi and Shi-Hua defeat Zheng Zu, but she refuses to accept his authority. Shang-Chi quits his job at the bakery and becomes the new Supreme Commander. This was the only good Shang-Chi comic not written by Doug Moench, and the first Marvel comic I’ve read that felt like an example of the wuxia genre. I’m glad it’s going to continue as an ongoing series. 

PSYCHODRAMA ILLUSTRATED #4 (Fantagraphics, 2021) – “Little Ones Part 2,” [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. Castor, the dude with the glasses, murders the refugee boy and another man, but then gets shot himself. The refugee girl continues wandering. A woman who looks like Fritz or Pepo makes a cameo appearance at the end. This miniseries is perhaps Beto’s first story that’s explicitly about current American politics, and it’s not a bad first effort in that direction. 

GRAPHIC FANTASY #1 (Image, 2021) – “Revenge!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen, plus other stories. A replica edition of the fan comic that introduced Savage Dragon. I wasn’t planning to buy this because of its inflated price tag, but Heroes included it in my file. “Revenge!” introduces Paul Dragon and his motherless daughter Angel, as well as prototype versions of other Savage Dragon characters. It’s an amateurish and derivative piece of work, and it’s only of interest to people who are even bigger Savage Dragon fans than I am. This issue also includes some even worse backup stories by other artists; it’s no wonder that none of these other creators eaver turned pro. 

EDGAR ALLAN POE’S SNIFTER OF BLOOD #4 (Ahoy, 2021) – “The Tell-Tale Heart,” [W] James Finn Garner, [A] Sandy Jarrell. The only notable thing about this version is that it’s in black and white, except that the victim’s blood is red. “Winston,” [W] Tyrone Finch, [A] Ryan Kelly. A man discovers that his model train village has come to life. 

KING IN BLACK: NAMOR #3 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Tide is Turned,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Benjamin Dewey. Namor, Dorma and Attuma get their asses kicked by the evil Swift Tide, and then they find that the Swift Tide has massacred Attuma’s people. Attuma acquires his iconic helmet. 

GRAPHIC FANTASY #2 (Image, 2021) – “Possessed,” [W/A] Erik Larsen. Thankfully this issue is by Larsen alone and doesn’t include any material by the other creators. Also it’s a bit cheaper. “Possessed” has some cute moments, but is still only interesting as a prototype for Erik’s professional work. I was going to say mature work, but Savage Dragon is anything but mature. 

MONSTRESS #31 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. Maika leaves Ravenna and prepares to confront the Warlord. I kind of wish this series would end soon. I feel obligated to read it, but I don’t enjoy it anymore, and it’s always one of the last comics I read every week. It’s unrelentingly grim and bleak, and its plot has never made any sense. 

I BREATHED A BODY #1 (AfterShock, 2021) – “An Unforeseen Innovation,” [W] Zac Thompson, [A] Andy MacDonald. Mylo Caliban is a bratty, confrontational social media celebrity. Anne is his brand manager. Mylo kills himself on livestream, and some kind of talking fungus grows from his corpse. I somewhat regret buying this series because it’s based on the same body horror aesthetic as Lonely Receiver, and I got sick of Lonely Receiver before it ended. 

CANTO II: THE HOLLOW MEN #5 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. Canto accepts the Shrouded Man’s heart and agrees to return it to him. Also, Canto breaks the curse on the hollow people. This story will continue in the next Canto miniseries. I don’t love Canto, but I’m still willing to read it. 

MAESTRO: WAR & PAX #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “Veni,” [W] Peter David, [A] Javier Pina. The Maestro fights Machine Man, and we’re reintroduced to the Pantheon, who have mostly been in limbo since Incredible Hulk #425. I hadn’t planned on ordering this series, and I’ve asked for it to be dropped from my pull list. 

BARBIE FASHION #30 (Marvel, 1993) – “Lucky’s Lucky Day” and other stories, [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Barb Rausch. Barbie rescues a lost dog and saves an old lady’s flower show. The letter column includes a letter from an 11-year-old girl who wants to lose weight. To their credit, the editors reply by telling the reader that it’s not healthy to try to look like Barbie. The best thing about this series is the Amanda Conner covers. 

MUDMAN #5 (Image, 2021) – “Friends and Family,” [W/A] Paul Grist. Mudman meets a creepy old lady with an axe, and his father tears up the picture of the mysterious woman, claiming that she’s evil. Again this issue is impeded by a lack of original ideas. 

CAPTAIN MARVEL #25 (Marvel, 2021) – “The New World Part Four,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Lee Garbett. The Enchantress reveals Ove’s origin. Carol escapes from captivity and gets her powers back. I’m starting to recognize Lee Garbett’s style of art. 

My next comic store trip was on February 22. This was the trip when I had a somewhat disappointing lunch at The Diamond.  

ONCE & FUTURE #16 (Boom!, 2021) – “Long Live the King,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. Duncan and Gran run from Lancelot, but encounter a dragon instead. Galahad shows up, only he’s a centaur now. There’s also a subplot with Rose and the government agent. 

SWEET TOOTH: THE RETURN #4 (DC, 2021) – untitlled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. In flashback, Father massacres an innocent family of hybrids so he can get inside the vault in Alaska. The elephant hybrid is revealed as Mel’s brother Earl. Father is one of Lemire’s more disturbing villains. He’s the kind of villain who has one goal in mind – reclaiming the surface world from the hybrids – and is willing to do anything at all to achieve it. 

SECOND COMING: ONLY BEGOTTEN SON #2 (Ahoy, 2021) – “The Ledge,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Leonard Kirk. Jesus goes to an evangelical amusement park, but no one recognizes him. On the way back, he saves a depressed man from committing suicide. Another good issue, if very similar to a typical issue of the previous series.  

ABBOTT 1973 #2 (Boom!, 2021) – “The Grip of Fear,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Sami Kivelä. Miss Henrietta dies. Elena’s sexist boss makes him accompany her to a fundraiser as his date, and then treats her like a waitress. Elena storms out and goes home to discover that someone has vandalized her house and kidnapped her girlfriend Amelia. Not quite as eventful as last issue, but still excellent. 

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #12 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcello Grassi. Charlotte convinces the children whose minds are powering Unity to rebel against Dr. Jain. This allows the Destiny Man to reduce Dr. Jain’s power enough that she has to let the protagonists leave Unity and proceed to the next sector. Finally we hear the rest of the message to Charlotte and Daniel, and then the protagonists meet a new Uncle Sam who’s dressed as a pirate. I liked this story arc even better than the first one; it had a much more compelling plot. The series resumes in June. 

FANTASTIC FOUR #29 (Marvel, 2021) – “Soul-Bound,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Zé Carlos. Johnny and Sky go on a date, and Johnny discovers that Sue is spying on him, and has also spied on his dates with his previous girlfriends. This part of the issue is fun, but the rest of the issue is wasted on a dumb fight scene that’s a tie-in with King in Black. 

ORCS! #1 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Christine Larsen. This issue begins with a silly and boring story about an orc heroine named Drod. Luckily it turns out that this is just an inset story which one of the characters in the frame story is telling to some children, and the rest of the issue is much better. Christine Larsen’s orcs are really entertaining; they’re raucous and rude, but well-intentioned. Also, the main plot of this issue is that the orcs fight some vicious squirrels. Christine Larsen’s last series, By Night, was disappointing, but this new series shows that she’s gifted at both writing and art. 

RADIANT BLACK #1 (Image, 2021) – “(Not So) Secret Origin,” [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Marcelo Costa. I first heard of Kyle Higgins because of his Twitter commentary on direct market issues. This new series looked really exciting to me, even though I’m not a fan of the Power Rangers franchise, which it’s based on. Marcelo Costa’s art and costume designs are extremely striking, but the weak link in this issue is the hero, Nathan. To quote my own Facebook post: “The protagonist of the comic is $38000 in debt and thinks he can clear his debt by becoming a crime novelist. He must have been getting very bad career advice, because I’m not a fiction writer and even I know that most published novelists can’t afford to quit their day jobs. Also, he decided to give up his writing career after he’d already found an agent to represent him — which meant he *was* making progress. It’s extremely hard for a fiction writer to get an agent.” Later we learn that the agent only wanted to see a sample chapter, and in four years he wasn’t even able to write that. Overall, Nathan seems like the kind of aimless, unmotivated twentysomething who pretends to be working toward a career, but is actually just a slacker. To be fair, some of this is intentional on Higgins’s part, and by issue 2, Nathan’s character has already evolved.  

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #114 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Sophie Campbell. The Turtles find Tokka and Rahzar, but the monsters only want to see Karai, who’s back at the dojo, and they turn violent. Also, Jennika and Raphael get in a fight. And there’s a subplot about a wizard from the future named Renet. As usual Sophie Campbell shows an incredible ability to draw all sorts of different people and anthropomorphic animals. I do think this series has quite a lot of characters, and it’s often unclear who they are or why they matter. 

BIRTHRIGHT #46 (Image, 2021) – “One Month Later,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. In flashback, we see the start of Mikey and Rya’s romance, and then their wedding. I don’t think any of this has been shown before. In the present, Mikey and Rya hunt down a monster left over from Lore’s invasion, then pick up the baby from daycare. This issue includes some cute moments as well as some beautifully drawn fight scenes. 

ETERNALS #2 (Marvel, 2021) – “Only Death is Eternal Part 2,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Esad Ribić. Ikaris fights Thanos, and then he and Druig and Sersi and Kingo Sunen try to figure out who the traitor is. There’s also a flashback sequence where Ikaris tells a boy to light a bonfire when a montser shows up, and then the bonfire is finally lit by the boy’s grandson. I thought at first that this sequence was just included to illustrate the series’ theme of immortality, but now I think that Toby Robson, the boy at the end of the issue, is a distant descendant of the boy in the bonfire story. I like how Esad Ribić letters his own sound effects.  

LAST WITCH #2 (Boom!, 2021) – “Black Annis,” [W] Conor McCreery, [A] V.V. Glass. Saoirse rescues Brahm from the witch, Black Annis, and returns home, only to find that her dad and the other villagers have died in a plague. The sole survivor is Nan, who’s also a witch, and she tells Saoirse that her quest is to defeat the Cailleach and the other witches. V.V. Glass’s faces are incredibly expressive, and their coloring is beautiful. They’re the best new talent of the year so far. 

I WALK WITH MONSTERS #3 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Sally Cantirino. In  flashback, Jacey’s father luckily dies just before he would have done whatever he was going to do to her. I’m not sure if Jacey or David was responsible. Jacey is placed with some caring foster parents, but is so traumatized that she runs away. In another flashback, we discover that David used to be an awful incel. In the present, Jacey and David prepare to assassinate the evil politician. This is a really good series, particularly because of its depiction of child abuse. 

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #23 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Carmen Carnero. Miles and Kamala team up to fight one of Knull’s dragons. This is pretty much a waste of an issue; it does nothing to advance Miles’s character arc. 

CHAMPIONS #4 (Marvel, 2021) – “On the Run with the X-Men,” [W] Eve L. Ewing, [A] Bob Quinn. I think Bob Quinn is the same artist as Bob Q. Cyclops can’t let the Champions into Krakoa, so instead he lets them hide out on a boat. Meanwhile, Viv talks with an old lady who’s a veteran of the civil rights movement. I didn’t see Wandavision, but I don’t think Viv appeared in it. That’s too bad because this character needs more exposure. 

HOLLOW HEART #1 (Vault, 2021) – “Tether,” [W] Paul Allor, [A] Paul Tucker. El is a monster trapped inside a cyborg battlesuit. His human assistant, Mateo, decides to risk his job in order to help El escape or die. This is a powerful premise, and there’s also a subplot about Mateo’s same-sex relationship.  

SCARENTHOOD #4 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Nick Roche. The parents find an old lady who knows where the Big Boy came from, and with her help, they’re able to rescue Scooper. Cormac almost kisses Jen, one of the other parents, but then Cormac’s wife appears out of nowhere. I’d really like to see a sequel to this miniseries, especially given that I still don’t understand where Cormac’s wife was. 

BARBALIEN: RED PLANET #4 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tate Brombal, [A] Gabriel Hernandez Walta. The highlight of this issue is that Mark tries to tell Miguel that he’s an alien, and Miguel thinks Mark is trying to say that he (Mark) has AIDS. It’s a poignant misunderstanding. The main event this issue is that Boaz finally finds Mark. 

FAMILY TREE #11 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Phil Hester. In the future, the army kidnaps Loretta (the mother) and uses her as bait so they can destroy Meg. The villain in this issue is reminiscent of Father from Sweet Tooth, but Family Tree is not nearly as interesting as Sweet Tooth or Gideon Falls. Partly this is because Phil Hester’s art is serviceable but not exciting. 

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #11 (Marvel, 2021) – “Here We Make Our Stand,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Juann Cabal. The Guardians prepare for their epic confrontation with the Olympian gods. This issue seems well-executed, but its plot is hard to understand since I haven’t read the entire series. Juann Cabal is one of a large number of Spanish artists at Marvel. Many of these artists are extremely talented but don’t seem to have much of a fan following, perhaps because they don’t go to American conventions, or because contemporary Marvel comics are so writer-driven. 

FUTURE STATE: IMMORTAL WONDER WOMAN #2 (DC, 2021) – as above. Superman sacrifices himself to destroy Darkseid, and Diana uses the Spectre’s power to start a new Big Bang. In the backup story, Nubia uses Oshun’s Crown to defeat Grail. I like how Future State included two different and equally interesting versions of Wonder Woman. I want to see more of this incarnation of Nubia. 

FUTURE STATE: AQUAMAN #1 (DC, 2021) – “The Confluence Part One,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Daniel Sampere. Aqualad (Jackson) and Aqualass (Andy) get trapped in another reality. This issue has some very good art and coloring, but its story isn’t that great. 

THE WRONG EARTH: NIGHT & DAY #2 (Ahoy, 2021) – “Night & Day, Chapter Two,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Jamal Igle. The two Dragonflies finally meet each other, and the contrast between their personalities is brilliant. Also, Number One carries out his plot against them.  

AMERICAN VAMPIRE 1976 #5 (DC, 2021) – “The Big Lie,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. The protagonists confront some ancient vampires inside the Matterhorn, and there’s a flashback explaining the origin of American vampires. I hope this is the last issue of this series that I’ll be getting. 

BLACK HAMMER: VISIONS #1 (Dark Horse, 2021) – ‘Transfer Student,” [W] Patton Oswalt, [A] Dean Kotz. This story is told from the viewpoint of two of Golden Gail’s elementary school classmates. Of course, since Gail doesn’t age, she has to keep leaving school and returning in a new identity, while her classmates get older. One of the girls eventually discovers that all the Gails are the same person, and Madame Dragonfly allows her to leave Rockwood. This comic is an obvious tribute to Ghost World, and it ends by quoting Aimee Mann’s song “Ghost World,” which was based on the comic. For a writer with limited fiction writing experience, Patton Oswalt is very good. I’m surprised to learn that the children in Rockwood can grow up; I assumed the humans in town were ageless, like the superheroes. 

SHADOW DOCTOR #1 (AfterShock, 2021) – “Family History,” [W] Peter Calloway, [A] Georges Jeanty. In 1931, Nathaniel Calloway gets a medical degree from the University of Illinois, only to discover that because he’s black, no hospital in Chicago will hire him. Nor will any bank give him a loan to open a private practice. Nathaniel is forced to apply to the only man in Chicago who will lend money to a black doctor: Al Capone. I was skeptical about this comic, but this first issue is really good. It purports to be the actual story of the author’s grandfather, and Peter Calloway tells that story very convincingly. The power of this issue comes from the matter-of-fact nature of the racism that Nathaniel faces; for example, the doorman at Capone’s hotel refuses to let him in because “we have standards to uphold.” 

PANTOMIME #4 (Mad Cave, 2021) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] David Stoll. Many years after #3, the kids are in college, but they still spend summers together and commit thefts. They decide to retire after one last summer of thefts. But then they discover that the Manager has tipped them off to the cops. I just bought #5 but haven’t read it yet. 

SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH VOL. 4 #5 (Archie, 2021) – “Something Wicked Part 5,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Veronica Fish & Andy Fish. Sabrina defeats Delia in a card game, then comes home to find her cousin Ambrose waiting for her with ann invitation to a witch academy. The issue ends with a next issue blurb, but it says “Next!?!?!,” so I’m not sure if there will be another issue. Archie has been publishing very few monthly comics lately. 

2000 AD #617 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: as above. We discover that the title character of the story arc, Helios, was responsible for Walthers’s killing spree. Tales from the Doghouse: “Maeve the Many-Armed,” [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Simon Jacob. A story about a multi-armed SD agent in a milieu based on ancient Ireland. All these Tales from the Doghouse stories are kind of dumb, and Simon Jacob’s art is rather ugly; he uses the same type of shading as Chris Weston, but his anatomy is much worse than Weston’s. Swifty’s Return: as above. Swifty and Clinton get back to the party. Again, this story has beautiful art but a silly plot. Dredd: as above. Barry and Mo cause some more mayhem. Dredd figures out that something is wrong with Barry. Future Shocks: “Computer Dating Agency,” [W] David Anderson, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. Two vampires start a dating agency. This story is mostly talking heads, which is a problem because Belardinelli was great at drawing monsters and cityscapes, but he wasn’t much good at drawing faces. Strontium Dog: as above. Jonny and Middenface are finally on their way to Milton Keynes. Feral continues his fight against the church. 

Here I again had to interrupt my reading of ‘80s 2000 ADs, because I received a shipment of much older 2000 ADs. This lot consisted of about 46 progs from #42 to #96, for a bargain price of under $100, and it even included all the banned issues, though I haven’t gotten to those yet. 

2000 AD #42 (IPC, 1977) – Dredd: “Luna 1,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ian Gibson. Dredd is appointed to serve as the judge-marshal of the moon colony. This is a very early story, so it heavily features Walter the Wobot, and Dredd’s character isn’t well-developed yet. Future Shocks: “Time Past,” [W] Martin Lock, [A] José Ferrer. A time traveler traps himself in the stone age. Invasion: “The Prince,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Mike Dorey. Bill Savage has to smuggle Crown Prince James out of Volgan-ruled Britain. Until I read this story, I didn’t realize the Volgans were Soviets, not aliens. Dan Dare: “Star Slayer,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Dave Gibbons. Dare leads an uprising against the Star Slayer Empire on the planet Drone. Gibbons is the best artist in this issue. MACH 1: “Death Ray,” [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Lozano (Leopoldo Sanchez) & Jaime Marzal Canos. MACH 1 destroys a Soviet doomsday device. In the Warren Companion,  David Roach says that Lozano was Leopoldo Sanchez, and that he used the name of his collaborator Nydia Lozano for unknown reasons. Harlem Heroes: “Inferno,” [W] Tom Tully, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. The Harlem Heroes sports team gets some new members and prepare for an aeroball game against the Sickles. This story is a lot like Mean Arena, except that I don’t understand the rules of aeroball.  

2000 AD #43 (IPC, 1977) – Dredd: “Showdown on Luna 1,” as above. Dredd has a gunfight with a “robo-slinger.” This story is a silly Wild West pastiche. Invasion: as above except [A] Carlos Pino. Savage and his allies fight some Volgans at a circus. Dan Dare: as above. Dare and his crew proceed to the next world in the Star Slayer empire: Grawl, a world of giant barbarians. MACH 1: “Mach Zero,” [W] Steve McManus, [A] Ramon Sola. We’re introduced to MACH 1’s prototype, MACH Zero, who’s a lot like the Hulk. Ramon Sola’s art resembles that of Neal Adams. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Sickles jump out to a quick lead against the Heroes. 

IMMORTAL HULK #43 (Marvel, 2021) – “We’re the Good Guys,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. This issue is infamous for a panel on page 3 that includes anti-Semitic imagery. Joe Bennett claims this was an accident, and Marvel seems to have chosen to believe him, unlike in the case of Ardian Syaf where the offensive imagery was undeniably intentional. I discussed both these incidents further in my paper at ICFA last weekend. Other than that, this issue the U-Foes finally catch up to Hulk, and Gamma Flight goes looking for Rick and the Leader. 

BLACK WIDOW #5 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Ties That Bind Part 5,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Elena Casagrande. Natasha manages to save her family from the fire, but she has to separate from them for their own safety. This was a powerful first story arc, and Elena Casagrande’s artwork is beautiful. 

2000 AD #45 (IPC, 1977) – Dredd: “22nd Century Futsie!”, [W] John Wagner, [A] Ian Gibson. A bureaucrat goes crazy from future shock, and Dredd has to save him from being assassinated by agents of CW Moonie, the crime boss of Luna-1. The Luna-1 saga was technically the first extended Dredd epic, predating The Cursed Earth, but it was mostly a series of short stories that all took place on the moon. And the Luna setting offered little narrative potential; “22nd Century Futsie,” for example, could just as easily have taken place in Mega-City One. Invasion: as above. Savage and his allies rob a bank. The muscular Rosa Volgaska takes command of the Volgans’ operations against Savage. Dan Dare: as above. We’re still on Grawl, where the Starslayer somehow causes Dare’s crew to turn against him. Future Shocks: “Killer Car,” [W] Robert Flynn, [A] Mike Dorey. An intelligent car turns evil and rebels against humans. Unusually, this story is set in the present day, and Tharg’s introduction even points out that this setting is unusual. I wonder if this story was originally intended for a different comic. MACH 1: as above. MACH 1 fights MACH 0. Inferno: as above. The Heroes viisit a mazelike casino to investigate a match-fixing plot. 

SAVAGE #1 (Valiant, 2021) – untitled, [W] Max Bemis, [A] Nathan Stockman. Like Bruce Jones or Mark Waid’s Ka-Zar, this series is about a Tarzan-esque character forced to live in the modern world. The twist is that Savage’s protagonist is also a YouTube star. In this issue he fights some giant monsters and then gets kidnapped by a mad scientist. I don’t remember why I ordered this comic. It’s not bad, but I mostly forgot about it by the time I read issue 2. 

2000 AD #46 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: as above. The Starslayer captures Dare’s crew, but Dare remains free by switching uniforms with one of the Starslayer’s men. From #46 to #58, the cover to each issue doubled as the first page of the Dan Dare story. Future Shocks: “Time Was,” [W] Martin Lock, [A] Ramon Sola. A time traveler sends his entire street back in time. MACH 1: as above. John Probe (MACH 1) thinks he’s saved MACH 0, but his evil boss Sharpe kills MACH 0 anyway. Dredd: “Meet Mr. Moonie,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ian Gibson. Dredd arrests CW Moonie, who has a giant head like Hector Hammond. Invasion: as above except [A] Mike Dorey. Savage and his team escape a Volgan attack while crossing from Scotland to England. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Heroes’ target, Cullen, sends some androids to attack them. I don’t especially like “Inferno,” though it does have some good artwork. 

S.W.O.R.D. #3 (Marvel, 2021) – “Everywhere Man,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Valerio Schiti et al. Eden Fesi, AKA Manifold, talks with two older Aboriginal men and tries to recruit Snarks to fight Knull. This issue seems like a respectful depiction of Aboriginal Australian culture. I especially like it when Eden says that one of the laws of Krakoa is “respect this sacred land,” and then Baz points out that they had to make it a law. But overall, SWORD is Al Ewing’s worst  current series. 

BARBIE FASHION #33 (Marvel, 1993) – “All That Jazz” etc., [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Mario Capaldi. This artist mostly worked in British girls’ comics, including Misty. His only American credits besides Barbie are Marvel’s Zorro and James Bond Jr. This issue, Barbie meets a young jazz musician who wants to be a rock musician instead. The young man’s parents are obviously based on Dizzy Gillespie and Sarah Vaughan. In the backup story, Barbie collects seashells for Skipper’s sick friend. I wonder if any of Skipper’s friends appeared in more than one issue. 

MUDMAN #6 (Image, 2013) – “This is a Test,” [W/A] Paul Grist. The dude in sunglasses trains Owen to use his powers. This was the last issue, and that’s just as well, because Mudman was a boring and unoriginal series. 

LITTLE ARCHIE #24 (Archie, 1962) – “The Gentle Way” etc., [W/A] Bob Bolling and Dexter Taylor. In the first story, Little Archie loses a judo tournament but then uses his judo skills to save his mother from being mugged. Judo must have been a fad in the early ‘60s, because it shows up in lots of comic books from that era. “One Quiet Night” is a slapstick story about Polly Cooper’s cat. The highlight of the issue is “Robots of Doom,” the first appearance of Mad Doctor Doom and Chester. It opens with a gorgeously moody establishing shot of Mad Dr. Doom’s mansion. In “The Chance of a Ghost,” Little Archie dreams he’s turned into a TV set. In “Makes the Eel Kneel,” Archie defeats an escaped criminal. This story is unusually violent for an Archie comic: the criminal shoots at Archie and actually hits him. These stories are all by Bolling, and there are two others by Dexter Taylor. 

2000 AD #47 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: as above. Dare captures the Dark Lord (that’s his name, not Star Slayer) and takes him aboard his ship. The Visible Man: untitled, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Carlos Trigo. Frank Hart is covered with radioiactive sludge in a traffic accident, and wakes up to discover that his skin and muscles have become transparent, leaving his skeleton and organs visible. Future Shocks: “Enemy Agent,” [W] Nick Tufnell, [A] John Cooper. A shapeshifting alien replaces the rulers of the US, USSR and UK with duplicates. Dredd: “Land Race,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Brian Bolland. A new area of the moon is opened for development, and Dredd has to apprehend some corrupt land speculators. Walter falls in wuv with another wobot. This story is still pretty dumb, but the art is the best yet in any of these early progs, especially the opening panel depicting the vehicles assembled for the land race. Invasion: as above. Savage and his team reach Liverpool and are joined by Georgia, who claims to be from the US south but is in fact a double agent for Rosa. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Hellcats (not Heroes, oops) defeat the droids, but Cullen gets killed, so the trail of the gambling syndicate goes cold. 

STILLWATER #6 (Image, 2021) – “1999,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón K. Pérez. In 1999, the brother of Stillwater citizen Mitch Derry is getting overly curious about Mitch’s whereabouts. The Judge sends Ted, a Stillwater resident, back into the outside world to deal with Mitch’s brother.  Ted assassinates Mitch’s brother, but is caught doing it by his old army buddy Kreegs, and has to bring Kreegs to Stillwater. We then pick the story up where we left it in issue 5.  

PENULTIMAN #5 (Ahoy, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Alan Robinson. Antepenultiman puts Penultiman on trial, and it comes out that Penultiman has an inferiority complex; thanks to his upbringing, he’s only happy when he feels worse than someone else. Antepenultiman and Penultiman decide to switch identities. This series was pretty good, but it’s not my favorite Ahoy comic. 

GREEN LANTERN SEASON TWO #11 (DC, 2021) – “Contest of Crowns,” [W] Grant Morrison,  [A] Liam Sharp. Hal visits Athmoora, the world where he’s a barbarian hero, and there’s also a confusing plot about the Golden Giants and Hector Hammond. This is yet another issue that’s impossible to understand, and also, Liam Sharp has jumped the Liam Shark. His computerized art looks amateurish, and he should stick to traditional art. 

CEREBUS #49 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “Cerebus’s Six Crises, Crisis No. 5: The Last Stand,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus collapses into an alcoholic stupor, while Iest fails to defend itself against a barbarian invasion. At the end of the issue, Cerebus realizes that the invaders are Conniptins and not Hsiffies, but I don’t know why this matters. The orientation of the panels changes repeatedly in this issue, perhaps to make the reader share Cerebus’s state of intoxication. This issue includes the conclusion of the first Journey story. 

2000 AD #48 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: as above. The Dark Lord escapes into the nuclear reactor of Dare’s ship, and summons his own fleet to attack Dare. Visible Man: as above. A doctor named Burnard wants to use Frank Hart as a test subject, but Hart escapes Burnard’s lab. Future Shocks: “Substitute,” [W] Robert Flynn, [A] Giorgi. An astronaut gets lost on the moon and is kidnapped and replaced by an alien. Giorgi has no other 2000 AD credits and I can’t find any information about them. Dredd: “The Oxygen Desert Part 1,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ian Gibson. After judging some petty disputes, Dredd goes outside the dome to apprehend a criminal named Butch Carmody, but gets stuck on the lunar surface without oxygen or transportation. Invasion: as above. Savage and his crew get on a ship headed for Canada. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Hellcats get some new cheerleaders who are secretly planning to betray them. 

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #426 (DC, 1987) – “From the Dregs,” [W] Marv Wolfman w/ John Byrne, [A] Jerry Ordway. In part 18 of Legends, an amnesiac Superman finds himself on Apokolips, where he leads the Hunger Dogs in a rebellion against Darkseid. But then we learn that Superman is an agent provocateur working for Amazing Grace (a New God of Apokolips, created by Byrne for this storyline). Legends was a stupid crossover, but Ordway’s art in this issue is quite good. 

BARBIE FASHION #34 (Marvel, 1993) – “The City Kitty” etc., [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Barb Rausch & Kathleen Webb. Barbie rescues a stray cat. In the second story, Barbie and Ken agree to help Ken’s grandparents stay in their house rather than move to a retirement home. Barb Rausch’s art is much better than Kathleen Webb’s. 

GREEN LANTERN #149 (DC, 1982) – “Death by Fire and Ice!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Joe Staton. Hal decides to quit the Green Lantern Corps, but first he has to save Abin Sur’s homeworld of Ungara from an ice age. Meanwhile, an unnamed bald alien is hunting Hal. Arisia guest-stars in this story and has some cute moments. The backup story, by Paul Kupperberg and Don Newton, is about a Wild West sheriff who briefly becomes Earth’s first Green Lantern. The claim that this character was Earth’s first GL is contradicted by both earlier and later continuity. https://www.cbr.com/green-lantern-earth/

2000 AD #49 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: as above. Dare and his crew prepare for their last stand against the Starslayer fleet. Future Shocks: “Fly Guy,” [W] Steve Moore, [A] José Luis Ferrer. Fly-like aliens invade Earth, but are decoyed into being eaten by giant Venus flytraps. Visible Man: as above except [A] Montero. I believe Montero’s first name is José Pérez Montero. Frank Hart tries to cover up his transparent skin with makeup, but it wears off while he’s trying to withdraw all his money from the bank. This chapter is really stupid. Dredd: “Oxygen Desert Part 2: Down and Out!”, [W] John Wagner, [A] Ian Gibson. Dredd survives the desert but pretends to retire in shame over his failure to catch Carmody. Dredd’s retirement turns out to have been a trap which he uses to capture Carmody. Invasion: as above except [A] Carlos Pino. Georgia kills Savage’s friend Silkie and frames another crewman for it. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Hellcats’ latest game continues, and the cheerleader Pearly prepares to assassinate John “Giant” Clay. 

HAHA #2 (Image, 2021) – “Rudolph on the Road to Funville,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Zoe Thorogood. In the past, a crazy woman kidnaps her own daughter and takes her to “Funville,” which proves to be a closed-down amusement park. In the present, the woman’s daughter becomes an exotic dancer. The disappointment when we reach Funville reminds me of the ending of Joyce’s “Araby.” This story is unrelated to issues 1 or 3, except that both #2 and #3 include the name J.C. Wilber. I don’t remember if #1 does as well. 

CEREBUS #52 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “Writing” and two other stories, [W/A] Dave Sim. I was going to wait to read this until I finished the High Society phone book, but I haven’t had time to read that book. This issue includes three short stories. “Writing” is a collection of Cerebus’s hilarious advice on politics. In “Elfguest,” Cerebus meets thinly disguised versions of Cutter and Skywise. I remember someone saying on Facebook that Cerebus and Elfquest seemed like very different works, but they appealed to the same audience simply because they were among the few adult-oriented black and white comic books of their time. In “Insecure Sinecure,” Cerebus meets Prince Silverspoon again and cleverly gets rid of him. There’s a Cutey Bunny backup story by Joshua Quagmire. 

DEADMAN #2 (DC, 1986) – “This Mortal Coil,” [W] Andy Helfer, [A] José Luis García López. David Roach has said that this series is one of JLGL’s greatest works. JLGL’s art in this issue is indeed fantastic. The plot is pretty typical Deadman material: Boston discovers that the League of Assassins is responsible for his brother Cleveland’s death, and goes hunting for the League’s Sensei. There’s also a flashback explaining the origin of Nanda Parbat. 

OMAC #6 (DC, 1975) – “The Body Bank!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. A crime cabal is kidnapping young people in order to transplant old people’s brains into their bodies. OMAC has to stop them. This issue includes some exciting action scenes set on board a subway train. 

2000 AD #50 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: as above. The Grawls, Minians and Drones – alien races  that Dare previously liberated from the Starslayer Empire – send a space fleet to rescue Dare. With the battle nearly won, Dare goes looking for the Dark Lord, but the Dark Lord finds him first and throws a deadly weapon at him. Visible Man: as above. Frank is reunited with his girlfriend, but she finds him as hideous as everyone else does. By this point, The Visible Man had become perhaps the silliest 2000 AD story I’ve read. Its premise is so absurd that I hope Mills didn’t mean for it to be taken seriously. Future Shocks: “The Guardian,” [W] Mike Cruden, [A] John Cooper. A boy’s overprotective robot babysitter leads him to his doom. This story looks like it ends on a cliffhanger, but it’s a one-parter, so I guess we have to assume the boy got killed by mutants. Dredd: “The First Lunar Olympics,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Brian Bolland. An incident at the Lunar Olympics threatens to lead to war between Luna-1 and the “Sov-Cities.” I think this was the first story to mention the Sovs, who would later become the villains in the Apocalypse War. Bolland’s art here is incredible, as usual. Invasion: as above except [A] Mike Dorey. The royal yacht shows up alongside Savage’s ship. Savage and his allies board the yacht only to find Rosa aboard, and Georgia reveals himself as a traitor. Harlem Heroes: as above. Louis Meyer saves Giant from being assassinated by Pearly. 

THE DEVIL’S RED BRIDE #5 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] John Bivens. Ketsuko defeats the main villainess, then tries to kill herself, but the sword won’t let her. This was an unimpressive series and I’m sorry I read the whole thing. 

COMMANDERS IN CRISIS #5 (Image, 2021) – “The Action of Separation,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Davide Tinto. I finally understand the title of this series: it’s a mashup of “commander in chief” and Crisis on Infinite Earths. The main event this issue is that America starts disintegrating from lack of empathy. As I have observed before, this series has too many high concepts and it feels disunified. I like the characterization and art, though. 

2000 AD #51 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: as above. Dare escapes the Star Lord’s attack, and the Star Lord is killed by his own missile. Visible Man: as above. Dr. Burnett recaptures Frank. Future Shocks: “Galactic Garbage,” [W] Richard Burton, [A] Trev Goring. A space garbageman unintentionally saves Earth from an alien invasion. Dredd: “Luna 1 War,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Brian Bolland. The “war” between Luna-1 and the Sovs is resolved by a single combat between Dredd and a Sov champion. The next time Dredd went to war with the Sovs, the casualties would be far higher. Also, Dredd stuffs a microphone in a reporter’s mouth. Invasion: as above. Nessie sacrifices herself to defeat Rosa, and Savage gets the Prince to Canada. Savage would reappear in a prequel, “Disaster 1990,” in 1979, and then not again until 2004. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Hellcats get a new recruit, Regal Eegle. By this point I still wasn’t enjoying Inferno, though maybe that’s because it was always the last story in each prog, and by the time I got to it, I wanted to be done with the prog. 

GREEN LANTERN #112 (DC, 1979) – “Starheart Connection!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Alex Saviuk. Hal, Ollie and Alan Scott team up against a villain named Zalaz who stole Alan’s Starheart. Alan Scott has never fit comfortably into Green Lantern continuity because he was created before the Green Lantern Corps was, and his origin is difficut to reconcile with later continuity. A funny moment in this issue is that at the end, Zalaz summons a woman who’s too beautiful to look at, and she always stands with her back to the reader. 

THE FOX #3 (Archie, 2015) – “The Devil You Know,” [W/A] Dean Haspiel, [W] Mark Waid. This issue’s cover has the blurb “ ‘Perfectly acceptable to new readers’ – Comics Alliance.” That sounds like damning with faint praise. However, this is a pretty fun issue anyway. The main interest of this issue and this entire Fox series was its depiction of the relationship between an older superhero and his newly adult son. 

CEREBUS #57 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “Suddenly, Sophia,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus wakes up from a drunken stupor to discover that he is now married to Red Sophia. This happened because of Adam Weisshaupt’s scheming, and as President, Weisshaupt has the sole power to dissolve Cerebus’s marriage, so Cerebus now has to do whatever Weisshaupt wants – including write cheesy romance novels. This is a hilarious issue. The backup story is the second appearance of Valentino’s normalman. 

THE MAPMAKER #1 (Scout, 2021) – untitled, [W] Ben Slabak, [A] Francesca Carita. A boring middle-grade story about pirates. This is the only issue of this series, as the story is continued in a graphic novel, but I have no desire to read that graphic novel. 

BLACK KNIGHT #1 (Marvel, 1955/2021) – “Theb Menace of Modred the Evil!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Joe Maneely. Sir Percy of Scandia is the laughingstock of King Arthur’s court, a useless fop who can’t fight. But in his alternate identity as the Black Knight, he protects Arthur from Modred and Morgan Le Fay. (In later Marvel continuity, the Arthurian Modred was renamed Mordred, and the name Modred was used for an unrelated character.) Sir Percy is a sort of hybrid of Prince Valiant and Clark Kent, though his story is also an example of the Fair Unknown/Bel Inconnu trope, in which a newcomer to Arthur’s court is ridiculed at first, usually by Sir Kay, before proving himself as a hero. In the backup story, “The Crusader,” a Saracen warrior discovers himself to be half-English and joins the First Crusade. Joe Maneely’s art is so similar to that of Steve Ditko that it would be easy to confuse the two artists. Maneely draws some great action sequences, though. 

TALES FROM THE HEART #3 (Slave Labor, 1988) – “Fits & Starts,” [W] Cindy Goff & Rafael Nieves, [A] Seitu Hayden. A Peace Corps volunteer arrives in a remote village in the Central African Republic. This issue is a pretty convincing depiction of the shock of arriving in a place with no modern conveniences. 

CEREBUS #59 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “Carroll E. King Reads,” etc. as above. This issue consists of a number of short vignettes. Cerebus gets an invitation to Jaka’s wedding and tears it up, and Weisshaupt talks with Bishop Powers about the selection of a new pope. At this point Cerebus seems to still be Prime Minister. Theres a backup story by Charles Treadwell, whose only other works seem to have been self-published. 

2000 AD #52 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: “Doppelganger,” [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Dave Gibbons. Dare discovers a coffin floating in space. Inside is a second, evil Dan Dare, and the duplicate convinces Dare’s crew that he’s the real Dare. Visible Man: as above. Frank stows away aboard a spaceship so he can escape from the human race. “Visible Man” was a ridiculous storyline, and Frank Hart didn’t appear again until a one-shot strip in 2012. Colony Earth: untitled, [W/A] Jim Watson. A cod-fishing boat stumbles on an alien invasion. Jim Watson was a veteran artist of war comics and TV adaptations, but Colony Earth was his only work for 2000 AD. His draftsmanship is very realistic and thrilling, and he uses Zip-a-Tone really well, but Colony Earth’s plot is boring. Dredd: “The Face-Change Crimes,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Brian Bolland. Some criminals rob a bank disguised as Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, then they disguise themselves again as the Marx Brothers. Dredd apprehends them despite their disguises. The list of names on page five includes many Easter eggs, like Morton Subotnik and Sydney Jordan. Future Shocks: “Solo Flip,” [W] Jack Adrian, [A] Brian Bolland. An astronaut goes crazy while in a flight simulator. Two Bolland stories in one issue is an embarrassment of riches. Harlem Heroes: as above. Regal Eegle rejoins the team, and Louis reanimates the android Pearly. 

LITTLE ARCHIE #98 (Archie, 1974) – “Hit and Run” etc., [W/A] Dexter Taylor. This issue was part of the same eBay lot as #24, reviewed above. I wouldn’t have bought it otherwise. In the first story, Archie rescues Betty from being run over by an illegal street racer. In one of the backup stories, Little Archie and Betty are somehow reading a comic book about the teenage Archie. Taylor doesn’t seem to care that this is logically impossible. 

BARBIE FASHION #36 (Marvel, 1993) – “Horbsing Around” etc., [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Barb Rausch. Skipper takes horse riding lessons, but she falls off the horse and it gets lost. The stories in this series often revolve around Skipper, perhaps because of the intrinsic difficulty of telling an interesting story about Barbie.  In the backup story, Skipper’s friend Courtney deals with acne. The letter column includes a letter from an 11-year-old girl who correctly observes that the main story in issue 26 was a glamorization of homelessness. 

UFOLOGY #2 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV & Noah Yuenkel, [A] Matthew Fox. I’m glad there are so many James Tynion comics for me to collect. I don’t quite get what’s going on in this issue, but it seems to be about a teenage girl who’s recovering from an encounter with an alien. Matthew Fox’s art looks kind of like that of Michael Dialynas. 

IRONJAW #4 (Atlas/Seaboard, 1975) – “And Who Will Forge the Jaw of Iron?”, [W] Larry Lieber, [A] Pablo Marcos. In a flashback, we learn how Ironjaw lost his jaw and had it replaced with a metal prosthetic. In the present, Ironjaw fights a dragon. This is a pretty mediocre barbarian comic, but at least Pablo Marcos’s art is good. Ironjaw was one of a handful of Atlas/Seaboard comics that survived until issue 4. 

FANTASTIC FOUR #221 (Marvel, 1980) – “Tower of Crystal… Dreams of Glass!”, [W/A] John Byrne. The FF fight some aliens who have been buried under the North Pole for centuries. This is a simple but effective story, an interesting preview of Byrne’s run as the regular FF writer/artist. Joe Sinnott’s inking is not well suited to Byrne’s intricate linework. 

BATMAN #565 (DC, 1999) – “Mosaic Part One,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Frank Teran. A No Man’s Land chapter in which the Bat-family fights Black Mask and his zombie army. There are also a ton of subplots. Frank Teran’s art is very gloomy and scratchy, reminding me a bit of Sienkiewicz. 

CAPTAIN MARVEL #62 (Marvel, 1979) – “Earth Skirmish,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Pat Broderick. Mar-Vell and Drax fight a villain named Stellarax who’s trying to take over Washington, DC. This is a fairly boring issue, and Doug Moench was unsuited to this series. This was the final issue of Captain Marvel volume 1. Mar-Vell’s story was continued in a new volume of Marvel Spotlight. 

VICTOR LAVALLE’S DESTROYER #6 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Dietrich Smith. Akai finally kills Frankenstein’s monster, then goes to watch a baseball game. The series ends with a speech about Chicago’s hidden history of racism. I’m very glad that Victor LaValle is going to be publishing more comics soon. 

2000 AD #53 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: as above. Dare kills the doppelganger after a fight involving some cargo buggies. Dare’s ship heads for the planet that the doppelganger came from. MACH 1: “Return to Sharpe,” [W] Roy Preston, [A] José Pérez Montero. Sharpe kidnaps Probe and sends him on yet another mission. Colony Earth: as above. Some scientists investigate the ruins left by the alien invaders on their first visit to Earth. Dredd: “The Killer Car,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ian Gibson. Dave Patton has a self-aware car named Elvis, but Elvis murders its owner and leads other cars on a rampage. Future Shocks: “On the Run,” [W] Robert Flynn, [A] Brett Ewins. A man fails to avert a prophecy of his death in a car accident. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Hellcats discover who built Pearly, then they prepare for a match against the Long Island Sharks. This issue includes a hyper-detailed blueprint of Walter, drawn by Kevin O’Neill. 

Next trip to Heroes was sometime in early March. On this trip I had a disappointing lunch at a food truck. 

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #15 (Boom!, 2021) – “A Game of Nowhere Part 5, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. Erica kills the monsters, Tommy accepts the blame for the killings, and then Erica renounces the House of Slaughter and leaves town with James. I can’t wait for the next story arc. 

STRAY DOGS #1 (Image, 2021) – “Good Girl,” [W] Tony Fleecs, [A] Trish Forstner. This new series by two My Little Pony artists is a big surprise. It starts out as a cute story about a little dog named Sophie who gets adopted into a new home with lots of other rescue dogs. But something has traumatized Sophie so much that she hides and pees on the floor. And then we realize what’s going on: Sophie’s new master abducted her after murdering her previous owner. And he may have done the same to all the other dogs’ masters. But they don’t remember, because dogs have short memories. And in the morning, Sophie has already forgotten what her master has done. The horrific twist in this comic is all the more shocking because the art is so cute. I’m not a dog person, but Trish Forstner draws adorable dogs, and she makes them all look very different. And Tony Fleecs writes the dogs in a very believable way. My favorite of the dogs is the giant one who just sleeps all the time. 

JONNA AND THE UNPOSSIBLE MONSTERS #1 (Oni, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Chris Samnee, [W] Laura Samnee. A spunky little girl uses her superhuman jumping ability to chase a giant monster – and vanishes. Later, her older sister visits a refugee camp to look for her. Not much happens in this issue, and I wish we’d seen more of Jonna, but Chris Samnee’s visual storytelling is incredible. When I saw the two-page splash with Jonna leaping over the monster’s head, I thought, “Only a great artist could have drawn this.” 

MAGNIFICENT MS. MARVEL #18 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Minkyu Jung. At the high school dance, Kamala reconciles with Zoe and then teams up with Amulet to fight Stormranger. And that’s the end of the most important Marvel series of the past decade. I really hope Marvel launches a new series with this character soon. 

BRZRKR #1 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Keanu Reeves & Matt Kindt, [A] Ron Garney. I was hesitant to buy this because it seemed super-overhyped, but I bought it anyway because it was a light week. BRZRKR is about an immortal warrior who was born 80,000 years ago and now fights for the US special forces, possibly against his will. BRZRKR has a very similar premise to The Old Guard, and so far nothing about it seems very original, but it’s good enough to keep buying for now. Ron Garney’s art is very effective. 

THE DREAMING: WAKING HOURS #8 (DC, 2021) – “The Faerie King, Part 1,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nick Robles. Heather, Ruin and Jophiel visit Faerie to save it from Nuala’s rule. Nuala has turned the place into a barren wasteland. Meanwhile, Daniel is worried about having let Ruin leave the Dreaming. This issue isn’t as good as the last one becausse of the lack of Javier Rodriguez art. 

SAVAGE DRAGON #257 (Image, 2021) – “The Dragon and the Thunder God!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Malcolm fights an insane, murderous Thor. In the fight, Thor accidentally kills his own son and blames Malcolm for it. Meanwhile, Paul proposes to Alex, but it’s not clear whether he’s serious. A pretty low-key issue. 

NOCTERRA #1 (Image, 2021) – Like BRZRKR, this is a high-profile comic but I felt skeptical about it. I have mixed feelings about Scott Snyder, and Tony Daniel seems like just a typical Image artist. However, Nocterra #1 is an interesting setup at least. Nocterra is set in a dystopian future where the sun has turned dark, and anyone who’s left in the dark turns into a monster. The protagonist, Sundog, agrees to escort an old man and a child to a legendary place of perpetual sunlight. But a mysterious dark man is hunting them, claiming the old man is to blame for destroying the sun. I really like Nocterra’s premise – the idea that the characters need to be constantly well-lit is an interessting narrative constraint, and it reminds me of Zork, where you need a light source to avoid being eaten by a grue. And Tony Daniel’s art isn’t bad. 

SWAMP THING #1 (DC, 2021) – “Becoming Part 1,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. A man named Levi Kamei travels from Delhi to New York and has visions of turning into Swamp Thing. Meanwhile, Swamp Thing encounters some kind of zombie dude in the Sonoran desert. I don’t quite get what’s going on here, and I don’t enjoy this issue as much as the previous miniseries, but I’ll keep reading and see where this story goes. 

POWER PACK #4 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Nico Leon. This issue is narrated by Jack, who Ryan North writes perfectly, depicting him as self-important and egotistical but secretly loving toward his siblings. This issue, the Wizard kicks the kids’ asses, and then Katie gets Wolverine to agree to be their mentor. Mr. and Mrs. Power have to pretend they don’t know who he is. My headcanon is that Jim and Margaret Power are fully aware their children are superheroes, and they have a secret agreement with all the superheroes to keep the kids safe. 

X-MEN #18 (Marvel, 2021) – “Inside the Vault,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Mahmud Asrar. We finally return to the team that went inside the Vault, I forget how many issues ago. They figt a bunch of unfamiliar villains. The problem with this series is that there are so many characters, and the storyline is so epic and expansive, that each issue can only offer a tiny snapshot of all that’s going on. But at least it’s more narratively satisfying than Bendis’s Legion was. 

KAIJU SCORE #4 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Showdown,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Rem Broo. Mujara defeats Ikattu, despite being a big underdog in the fight, and also kills the annoying man-bunned dude. Yay! I can’t remember the last time I’ve been so thrilled to see a character die. Marco and Michelle complete the heist successfully and then reunite for another job. This was a fun miniseries, but I still wish there had been more emphasis on the kaiju. 

CROSSOVER #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Geoff Shaw. The protagonists, now including Madman, travel to the museum of crossover artifacts – which looks suspiciously like the Hall of Justice. The artifacts inside the museum include the Cosmic Cube, the Ultimate Nullifier, Captain America’s shield, etc. And also a sword called Valofax, which previously appeared in God Country. I have the first volume of that series, but I haven’t read it yet. Crossover has been better than I expected. 

SKULLDIGGER & SKELETON BOY #6 (Black Hammer, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Tonci Zonjic. Skeleton Boy decides to stay with the policewoman and leave Skulldigger and Grimjim (i.e. Batman and the Joker) to their useless, never-ending struggle. This ending is a poignant comment on the repetitiveness of the Batman franchise. Tonci Zonjic’s artwork is amazing, and I love how the coloring in the closing sequence, where the boy comes home, is much brighter and cheerier than in the rest of the series. However, it’s a shame that this series had such massive delays. 

THE UNION #3 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Britannia Project, Part 3: There Shall Come a… Bulldog?”, [W] Paul Grist, [A] Andrea Di Vito. Selwyn forcibly reunites the team, inculding a new character called the Bulldog, and they travel to North Wales to investigate a rogue superhuman. The highlight of this issue is the revelation that the team member named Snakes is literally a bunch of snakes in human clothing. 

FUTURE STATE: LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #2 (DC, 2021) – “Future State Part Two,” [W] Brian Michael Bendis, [A] Riley Rossmo. Another incoherent, plotless mess with inconsistent characterization. Also, Riley Rossmo’s art is kind of ugly, though at least it’s distinctive. As I have often observed, Bendis is by far the worst Legion writer ever, and I can only hope that his train wreck of a run is finally over.  

HAPPY HOUR #4 (Ahoy, 2021) – “In Praise of Melancholia,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Michael Montenat. Kim and Jerry have sex, only to realize that they have to stop, because it’s making them too happy. After being forced to participate in a drug trial, they finally get to Landor Cohen’s commune, which is just as bad as the prison they escaped from. Happy Hour is much easier to understand than most of Peter Milligan’s work. 

NUCLEAR FAMILY #1 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Radio Nowhere,” [W] Stephanie Phillips, [A] Tony Shasteen. Tim McClean is car salesman, recently returned from the Korean War. His biggest problem is his teenage daughter’s smoking addiction… at least until his town gets blown up by a nuclear bomb, and he emerges from his bomb shelter only to be accosted by soldiers who think he’s a communist. This series has an interesting premise, and its depiction of ‘50s small-town America feels accurate. 

FEAR CASE #2 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. The two protagonists trace the progression of the briefcase through a series of owners. Notably, one of the case’s previous owners is a disgusting xenophobic racist, and the reader would have been happy to see him dead. 

GWENOM VS. CARNAGE #3 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Flaviano. An issue-long fight scene between Gwenom and Mary Jane/Carnage. This may be the final issue of Spider-Gwen or Ghost-Spider or Gwenom for now. Flaviano does a good job of imitating the style of Robbi Rodriguez. 

SPIDER-WOMAN #7 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Dennis Hopeless, [A] Javier Rodriguez. Jessica, wearing Porcupine’s costume, is kidnapped, but she escapes and hides out in the trunk of her captor’s car. There’s a clever two-page spread showing how Jess managed the escape. The car takes Jess to a village that seems to be populated solely by women and small children. This story arc is fascinating, and of course I love Rodriguez’s art. 

LO MEJOR DE KALIMAN #86 (Gaea, 1965/1989) – untitled (“La Araña Negra”), [W] Victor Fox, [A] Crisvel. I ordered this from eBay. It’s in an extremely small format and appears to be a colorized reprint of an older story. In it, Kaliman and his sidekick Solín visit Cairo where they encounter an archvillain named La Araña Negra, i.e. the Black Spider. The dialogue and artwork are rather mediocre. I got three other Kaliman comics in the same order, but I haven’t read them yet. The credits are from https://kaliman.fandom.com/wiki/La_Secta_de_la_Mano_Negra:_la_Historieta.

BATMAN #18 (DC, 2013) – “Resolve,” [W] Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV, [A] Andy Kubert & Alex Maleev. In the wake of Damian’s death, Batman goes nuts – or more nuts than usual – and drives himself into his work, until he almost gets killed trying to break up a dogfighting ring. He is saved by Harper Row, a new character who would later join the Bat-family as Bluebird. I liked this more than most of the New 52 Batman comics I’ve read. Batman, as usual, spends the issue acting like a jerk, but Harper’s concern for him is heartwarming. 

CAPTAIN MARVEL #26 (Marvel, 2021) – “The New World Conclusion,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Lee Garbett. Amora sacrifices her life to send Ove back in time. Then Jessica sacrifices her life to send Carol back to the present. And then Carol breaks up with Rhodey because he’s destined to have a child with another woman. This is a very stupid and anticlimactic ending —  not only did Carol fail to beat Ove, she’s also dumped her boyfriend for no good reason. I hope Kelly has a good reason for these weird plot developments. 

FUTURE STATE: SUPERMAN VS. IMPERIOUS LEX #2 (DC, 2021) – “Future State Part 2,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Pugh. Lois’s team discovers that Lexor has incredible mineral wealth (this reminds me of John Scalzi’s novel Fuzzy Nation), but Superman finds a way to make the same materials for free, leaving Lexor penniless. The people of Lexor still think Luthor is the best, because he flatters them instead of actually helping them – another obvious reference to Trump. Unlike most of the Future State miniseries, Superman vs. Imperious Lex is three issues, so this story isn’t over yet. 

2000 AD #54 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: as above. Dare lands on the planet and encounters six different versions of Bear. MACH 1: “The Dolphin Tapes,” [W] Steve McManus, [A] Jesus Redondo. John Probe is sent to foil a plot against a government-funded dolphin research project. Colony Earth: as above. The humans discover some ancient alien technology and then get attacked by an alien robot. This story has excellent art but a boring plot – for that matter, so does the Dan Dare serial in this issue. Dredd: as above. Elvis and the other cars go on a killing spree. Dredd kills the other cars with corrosive spray, but Elvis survives. Future Shocks: “Stasis,” [W] Charles Swift, [A] Jim McCarthy & Brett Ewins. A scientist creates a stasis field that stops time. Her boss turns it on, and it doesn’t work… except actually it does, because when the reader turns the page, the last four panels are all identical, all showing the boss saying that nothing’s happened. This is extremely clever. Harlem Heroes: as above. As the Hellcats are traveling to their match with the Sharks, their “hover-liner” sinks, but they escape. 

EROTIC WORLDS OF FRANK THORNE #1 (Fantagraphics, 1990) – “The Deathman’s Head,” [W/A] Frank Thorne. Frank Thorne just passsed away at a very advanced age. The main feature in this issue is a new Ghita story, which I honestly can’t remember if I’ve read or not. I have the Eros Complete Ghita volume, but I forget if “The Deadman’s Head” is in it. It’s possible that I did read it and forgot about it, because it’s very formulaic. The rest of the issue is filler material. 

TUROK, SON OF STONE #67 (Gold Key, 1969) – “Two Kinds of Terror,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Alberto Giolitti. Turok and Andar travel through a narrow opening and fiind themselves in a land where they’re gigantic, and everything else is small. Thanks to a magical drink, they themselves get shrunk to tiny size, and on returning to the main part of Lost Valley, they have to fight giant insects and people. This story is obviously inspired by Gulliver’s Travels and Alice in Wonderland, but it’s rather boring. 

MEASLES #6 (Fantagraphics, 2000) – “Venus,” [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. A two-pager where Venus finds a buffalo nickel. “Hector and Dexter,” [W/A] Joost Swarte. A bunch of cartoon characters try to publish a newspaper. This series is better known as “Coton et Piston.” Swarte’s Clear Line artwork is amazing, but his story is silly. I’d like to get the Fantagraphics collection of all Swarte’s comics, but it’s not cheap. The other stories in this issue are by Mario Hernandez and Steven Weissman, and I didn’t particularly like either of them. 

BATMAN #421 (DC, 1988) – “Elmore’s Lady,” [W] Jim Starlin, [A] Dick Giordano. Batman tracks down a serial killer, but doesn’t have enough evidence to arrest him – something that never stopped Batman before. The title refers to a homeless man who finds one of the killers’ victims in a dumpster. This issue is just okay. 

SPIDER-WOMAN #8 (Marvel, 2015) – as above. We realize that all the people in Moon’s Hollow are the abused spouses and children of supervillains. Jess agrees not to reveal their existence to the world, as long as they don’t break the law. Ben Urich spikes the story he planned to write about the village. This was a really cute storyline. 

SAVAGE DRAGON #18 (Image, 1995) – untitled, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Dragon fights the Fiend, who unfairly blames him for the death of her daughter Debbie Harris, even though it’s clear that the Fiend was an abusive mother to begin with. There are subplots about the Vicious Circle and about William, Alex and Peter. Even this early in its run, Savage Dragon already had a very complicated plot. 

BPRD: HELL ON EARTH #103 (Dark Horse, 2013) – “The Abyss of Time Part 1,” [W] Mike Mignola & Scott Allie, [A] James Harren. The BPRD discovers the headquarters of an eigteenth-century secret society. Inside is an ancient sword. When one of the BPRD agents picks it up, he’s transported to prehistoric times, and finds that he’s a member of a tribe that’s at war with zombies. James Harren’s art in this issue is very good.

2000 AD #55 (IPC, 1978) –  I already reviewed this in 2013 (https://ogresfeathers.wordpress.com/2013/08/20/more-reviews/#2kad55) but I didn’t understand the context, and I received another copy of it in my eBay order, so I’ll review it again. Dan Dare: as above. Dan Dare blows up the planet of doppelgangers, which is genocide, but the writer doesn’t seem to care. MACH 1: as above. John Probe goes after a kidnapped dolphin. Colony Earth: Hunter finally meets the aliens, who say that they claimed Earth as their colony, millions of years ago. Dredd: as above. Dredd sets a trap for Elvis, but it backfires. Future Shocks: “Space Bug,” [W] V. Wernham, [A] Ferrer. Some humans strike oil on an alien planet, and then some mosquito-like aliens also “strike oil” by landing on the hand of one of the humans. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Hellcats-Sharks game begins. 

CEREBUS #74 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1985) – “Acquired Tastes,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus is shocked to learn that Jaka is married, but demands to see her anyway, and they spend the whole issue talking. At the end, Cerebus takes off his robe and asks Jaka to run away with him. As previously noted, this is a reversal of issue 48 where it’s Jaka asking Cerebus to run off with her. 

FUTURE STATE: AQUAMAN #2 (DC, 2021) – “The Confluence Part Two,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Daniel Sampere. Six years after the last issue, Andy goes looking for a missing Jackson and rescues him from some glowing-faced villains. I wanted to like this miniseries, but this issue is confusing and only mildly fun. 

MAESTRO: WAR & PAX #2 (Marvel, 2021) – “Crossing the Rubicon,” [W] Peter David, [A] Javier Pina. The Pantheon team up with Dr. Doom. There’s a backup story where Prometheus dies. I hope this is the last issue of Maestro that I’ll be getting. 

BARBIE FASHION #41 (Marvel, 1994) – “April Fools,” [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Mary Wilshire. Skipper tris to pull an April Fool’s prank on Barbie. There’s also a metafictional backup story where the Barbie staff is told that the series is being cancelled. It includes appearances by Barbara Slate, Hildy Mesnik, Tom DeFalco, etc. The cancellation is an April Fool’s joke, but the series really did get cancelled less than a year later. 

NEXT MEN #2 (Dark Horse, 1992) – “Worldview,” [W/A] John Byrne. The Next Men escape from prison, and there are numerous references to Byrne’s collaborators like Stern and Ordway. I don’t know why I bother buying this comic, because I don’t like it all that much. 

SPACEMAN #3 (DC, 2012) – “Past 1,000,000,” [W] Brian Azzarello, [A] Eduardo Risso. I think the premise of this series is that some children are being raised to live in space, and one of them gets kidnapped. I don’t really care about the plot because I’m only interestd in this series for the artwork, which as usual is excellent. 

SCARLET TRACES: THE GREAT GAME #2 (Dark Horse, 2006) – untitled, [W] Ian Edginton, [A] D’Israeli. A journalist interviews a veteran of the War of the Worlds, and discovers that the British government has been misleading the people about a lot of things. This issue has a compelling plot and also the best artwork I’ve seen from D’Israeli. He draws some great steampunk architecture and technology, and his coloring is as vibrant as the coloring in French SF comics. 

MARVEL TEAM-UP #72 (Marvel, 1978) – “Crack of the Whip!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Jim Mooney. Spider-Man and Iron Man team up against Whiplash and the Wraith. This is a very generic comic, and the only interesting thing about it is its depiction of the Wraith’s relationship with his sister Jean DeWolff. 

FANTASTIC FOUR #157 (Marvel, 1975) – “And Now… the Endgame Cometh!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Rich Buckler. Dr. Doom disguises a Latverian peasant named Helena as Shalla-Bal so that he can force the Silver Surfer to serve him, and he drains the Surfer’s power and transfers it to his Doomsman robot. In an epilogue, we learn that Helena really was Shalla-Bal, and Doom himself didn’t know it. This story feels like a slightly altered rehash of the first Doom-Surfer story, from exactly a hundred issues earlier. 

HEAVY METAL #3.3 (28) (HM, 1979) – There’s too much material in this issue to mention all of it. Highlights include: Corben and Strnad’s adaptation of Sindbad. Denis Sire’s “The Great Trap,” an action story drawn in a style that reminds me a bit of Kaluta. “Stingaree: Eight Belles,” a superhero story by Gray Morrow. An incoherent piece of crap by Michael Hinge and Neal Adams. “Shelter” by Chantal Montellier, whose art is like Tardi’s but less skilled. “Telefield” by Sergio Macedo. According to one letter writer in this issue, Macedo was the only good artist left at Heavy Metal at this point; I disagree. Macedo was good, but there were other good ones. A prose story by John Pocsik, better known as Corben’s collaborator Simon Revelstroke. I need to collect more Heavy Metal because it’s a convenient way to read a lot of good European comics. 

IMAGINE #4 (Star*Reach, 1982) – “A Dream of Milk & Honey,” [W] Michael T. Gilbert. An old Jewish couple, significantly named Abraham and Sarah, try to colonize an alien planet. At the end, we learn that Sarah is pregnant despite being very old. I don’t know if Gilbert is Jewish, but this story has heavy Jewish themes. “The Summoning,” [W] Paul Levitz, [A] Steve Ditko. Three wizards each petition a god for power, but the god gives the power to a tree instead. Levitz’s writing is underwhelming, and Ditko’s art looks exactly like it did when he was drawing Dr. Strange, which is not necessarily a good thing. “The Awakening of Tamaki,” [W] Lee Marrs, [A] Masaichi Mukaide. A young woman in feudal Japan becomes a samurai. Mukaide was one of the first Japanese cartoonists to be published in America, but he was a fan artist, not a professional mangaka. My sense was that he wasn’t good enough to break into the manga industry, and he randomly happened to get published by Star*Reach instead. There’s also a four-page story by a young Dave Sim. 

BATMAN: BLACK & WHITE #3 (DC, 2021) – “The Cavalry,” [W] John Ridley, [A] Olivier Coipel. A young black Batman and Robin fight some racist henchmen. John Ridley seems to be an important emerging talent. I should have been reading his Other History of the DC Universe. The next two stories are by Bilquis Evely and Bengal, neither of whom has any previoius writing experience, and it shows.  “Unquiet Night,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Kelley Jones. Zatanna helps Batman’s ghost rest in peace. The last story is by Nick Dragotta, who also has no prior writing credits. However, his story is better than Evely’s or Bengal’s because it has minimal dialogue, and Dragotta’s artwork is gorgeous; he draws beautiful robots and monsters. 

CEREBUS #75 – “Terrible Analogies,” as above. Cerebus offers to dissolve Jaka’s marriage, which he can do since he’s the Pope, but Jaka reveals that she’s pregnant. Cerebus and Jaka bid a bittersweet farewell. This is one of the most emotionally affecting issues of Cerebus. 

ANT BOY #1 (SteelDragon, 1988) – “Ant Boy and the Scientist” and other stories, [W/A] Matt Feazell. A bunch of stories about a “superhero” who was raised by ants (after they killed his parents at a picnic) and who still thinks he’s an unusually large ant. It’s a pretty funny premise. The first story in this issue is original, and the others are repritned, mostly from Captain Confederacy. Feazell’s style in these stories is far more detailed than his usual stick-figure style. SteelDragon Press was Emma Bull and Will Shetterly, and this issue includes an ad for their books and those of their associated SF writers. 

BARBIE FASHION #42 (Marvel, 1994) – “Barbie in Fashion,” [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Mary Wilshire. A little girl gets lost in a museum exhibit of Barbie’s old costumes, and runs into the real Barbie. Later, Barbie mentions the girl in a speech at a gala event. Unusually, this story takes up the entire issue. 

2000 AD #56 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: “Waterworld,” [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Dave Gibbons. Dan Dare’s ship is ensnared by a giant sea monster. Dave Gibbons’s composition and draftsmanship are amazing, but Chris Lowder’s Dan Dare stories were consistently boring. I should note that in 2000 AD’s first couple years, Dan Dare was the series’ marquee character, but he was quickly replaced in that role by Dredd. Future Shocks: “Monkey,” [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Carlos? Magallanes. A ripoff of “A Sound of Thunder.” The artist is credited only as “Magullanes,” an obvious misspelling. Colony Earth: as above. The aliens start freezing the oceans to create a new ice age. Dredd: as above (though this chapter is called “Elvis” instead of “The Killer Car”). Dredd finally tricks Elvis by hosting a party for him, and kills him with the corrosive spray. MACH 1: as above (the writer is credited as Oniano but the GCD says this was a pseudonym for Steve McManus). Probe discovers that the missing secret agent Robert Peel has been turned into a man-fish, and that this was the purpose of the dolphin experiments. Harlem Heroes: as above. Half the Hellcats are incapacitated by an explosion. 

IMAGINARY FIENDS #5 (Vertigo, 2018) – “The Cat’s Paw,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Stephen Molnar. Melba’s partner fights the Fraidy Cat. We learn some new information about Melba’s history with Cameron Calle. I honestly didn’t understand this issue’s plot; in particular, I don’t get who Cameron is. This is the last issue of this series that I have. 

On March 15, I received my final DCBS shipment. They were waiting to send it until all my unshipped items arrived, but I asked them to just send it and cancel all the other outstanding items. Most of the comics in this shipment were Marvel comics that I ordered before the pandemic. 

RUNAWAYS #33 (Marvel, 2021) – “Come Away with Me Pt. II,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Andrés Genolet. Gib becomes a football star. Karolina has a mysterious illness. Wolverine arrives at the Hostel and tries to take Molly with him to Krakoa. Molly wears three different hats this issue (a duck hat, a panda hat and a koala hat); that may be a record. 

RUNAWAYS #34 – as above. The high point of this issue comes on page one, when Wolverine is carrying Molly on his back, and Molly jumps down and throws Wolverine over her back. Wolverine thinks Molly sent him a distress call asking him to be taken to Krakoa, but the distress call actually came from a different mutant. While looking for the mutant, the Runaways fight some monsters from the tar pits. Nico casts the spell “Get real!” and it produces surprising results. Now that Ms. Marvel and Squirrel Girl are gone, Runaways is my favorite Marvel title, but it’s at constant risk of cancellation. 

POWER PACK #3 (Marvel, 2021) – as above. This issue is narrated by Julie, and again, Ryan understands her perfectly. He also remembers that Julie got a new girlfriend during the brief Future Foundation series. This issue, the kids fight the Taskmaster, and then Agent Aether unmasks himself as the Wizard and drains their powers. 

THE UNION #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Flag Game,” as above. In this issue we meet Britain’s new superhero team, and then Britannia, the (never-before-mentioned) national superheroine of Britain, is killed by Knull’s symbiotes. As I’ve mentioned before, this is an obvious analogy to Brexit and its potential consequence of the dissolution of the United Kingdom. The TV commercial on the first page is drawn by Grist himself.

CHAMPIONS #3 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Eve Ewing, [A] Bob Quinn. The imprisoned kids start a rebellion. The fugitive Champions hide in a kid’s treehouse, but the CRADLE troops track them down even there. The X-Men show up to save the day. Eve Ewing’s characterization is brilliant, but Outlawed is a dumb storyline and a poor use of her talents. 

AMERICA CHAVEZ: MADE IN THE USA #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Kalinda Vázquez, [A] Carlos Gómez. The previous America Chavez series was a disaster. This new one is also by a writer who hasn’t written comics before, but it’s a lot better; it at least has a coherent plot, and beyond that, it feels touching and honest. In the present day, America and her girlfriend Ramone (from West Coast Avengers) fight some giant moles and save people from a burning building, and in a flashback, we see how America was adopted by the Santana family. 

ATLANTIS ATTACKS #5 (Marvel, 2021) – “Eye of the Storm Part 5,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Robert Gill & Ario Anindito. After some fighting, Mike Nguyen gets killed by a tsunami, and Mrs. Thrasapalat becomes a delegate to Pan’s new governing council. This was a really fun series, and I hope we get to see more of Pak’s version of the Agents of Atlas.

KING IN BLACK: NAMOR #4 (Marvel, 2021) – “Cold Currents,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Benjamin Dewey w/ Jonas Scharf. Attuma’s father dies, inspiring Attuma with a lifelong hatred for Atlantis, which explains why he’s a villain in the present day. The Swift Tide invades Atlantis. Ambrose, Dorma’s fish, reappears and coughs up the Unforgotten Stone. 

RAIN LIKE HAMMERS #2 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Brandon Graham. This issue has no obvious connection to the last one. A thief named (I think) Brik Blok infiltrates a city called  Sky Cradle and transfers his brain into the body of a servant. His goal is to rescue a woman named El from the center of the city. Sky Cradle’s technology includes fingerprint locks and food that’s so refined, only aristocrats can taste it. Rain Like Hammers is gorgeously drawn and full of clever, whimsical ideas. But I still feel guilty about supporting Graham’s work. 

MARVEL VOICES: LEGACY #1 (Marvel, 2021) – variious stories, [E] Sarah Brunstad & Will Moss. A collection of stories celebrating Black History Month. “Good Luck Girl” is the first comic by Tochi Onyebuchi, author of the novel Riot Baby, which I’m waiting to read until it’s out in paperback. Nnedi Okorafor and Chriscross’s “A Luta Continua” is about the #EndSARS movement in Nigeria. I think I mostly learned about #EndSARS from Okorafor’s Facebook posts. 

MONSTRESS #32 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. Maika finally confronts Tuya and the Warlord. Maika summons her grandmother’s spirit. As noted in previous reviews, reading Monstress has come to feel like a chore, but I feel obilgated to keep buying it. 

2000 AD #57 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: as above. The Eagle ship is nearly crushed by water pressure. Dare encounters some aquatic humanoid creatures. MACH 1: as above. Peel sacrifices himself to save Probe’s life, and all the villains end up dead. Colony Earth: as above. Hunter fights some aliens and then investigates a crashed alien saucer. Dredd: “The Oxygen Board,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Brian Bolland. Some criminals replace the moon’s oxygen with tranquilizer gas, allowing them to commit crimes while people are asleep. Ironically, the criminals themselves suffocate because they’ve forgotten to pay their oxygen bill. Brian Bolland is my pick for the greatest artist in the history of 2000 AD, though Carlos Ezquerra was probably more influential. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Hellcats finally win their game against the Sharks. 

CEREBUS #76 – “Varying Reasons of Assorted Depths,” as above. Cerebus visits Weisshaupt, who is on his deathbed. Weisshaupt tells Cerebus that there are two more aardvarks in Estarcion, but dies without identifying them (they’re much later revealed as Cirin and Suenteus Po). In the note and letters page, Dave discusses his visit to Heroes Con. This year’s Heroes Con was just cancelled, a sad but indisputably correct decision. 

MARVELS SNAPSHOTS: CIVIL WAR #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Program,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Ryan Kelly. This issue has Maria Hill on the cover, but its protagonist is Clyde Dobronski, a rank-and-file SHIELD agent. The other focal character is Yusef Abbas, AKA the Helper, an Arab-American superhero from Toledo. In flashbacks, we see how Dobronski’s high moral standards have harmed his career. During Civil War, Dobronski is reassigned to Toledo where he guards Abbas’s cell. Abbas mounts an escape attempt, and Dobronski finally realizes that he sympathizes far more with Abbas than with his tyrannical bosses. Dobronski helps Abbas and another young superhero escape, sacrificing his career and possibly his freedom but saving his soul. This is one of Saladin’s best single issues. 

UNIVERSAL WAR ONE: REVELATION #3 (Marvel, 2009) – “The Patriarch,” [W/A] Denis Bajram. This was originally published in France as an album. It’s a science fiction story involving time travel and a corporation that runs the entire world. This is the sixth in a series of six albums, so its plot is hard to understand. However, Denis Bajram’s plot seems very complicated and clever, he draws beautiful spaceships and futuristic architecture, and his coloring is excellent. There is an English-language hardcover edition of all six albums, and I ought to get it. 

U.S.AGENT #3 (Marvel, 2021) – “Election Day,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Georges Jeanty. This issue reintroduces Lemar Hoskins, formerly known as Bucky and then Battlestar. This character started out as an unintentional racist stereotype – a black man whose code name was a racial slur, and who served as a white man’s sidekick. Priest leans into this by depicting Lemar as a victim of internalized racism. And then Lemar is nearly beaten to death by the new USAgent, aka Saint, who is a much more self-confident and militant black man, but Priest implies that Saint’s attitude is no less problematic than Lemar’s. Also, there’s a plot thread about John Walker. 

ICE CREAM MAN #23 (Image, 2021) – “Late Night Splashes,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. I was reluctant to read this because it’s mostly text: the left-hand pages are mostly text, while the right-hand pages are splash pages. The comics pages show how Mack Benson, a talk show host, is critically injured by a guest’s Burmese python. The prose pages give us the background behind this tragedy, from the separate perspectives of Benson, his wife, his affair partner, his brother, and the animal trainer. This issue is an interesting experiment, and I like how the different stories gradually shed light on each other, but I don’t like it when comics include a lot of prose. 

MARVELS SNAPSHOT: CAPTAIN MARVEL #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “What’s Your Story?”, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Claire Roe. Quoting myself from Facebook: “Maybe I’m just being hypercritical, but the Ms. Marvel flashback in Marvels Snapshot: Captain Marvel is a severe misreading of Ms. Marvel #1. It gives the false impression that Kamala is ashamed of her culture.” A particular problem here is that Kamala says she feels pressured to “celebrate our holidays, not theirs.” G. Willow Wilson made it clear that Kamala loves celebrating Eid – and more broadly, that Kamala is a heroine because of her culture, not despite it. So Mark doesn’t seem to understand this character at all. I also said: “I also agree with this review here: https://www.gamesradar.com/captain-marvel-marvels…/ Jenni’s problem with her parents is that they don’t support her activism, but her activism is of a kind that’s completely uncontroversial among the kind of people who would be reading this comic. Like, she supports BLM and trans rights. As a result, it feels as if she’s fighting against a strawman.” The flashbacks about Carol Danvers’s dad are better writen, and more consistent with past stories, but overall, this issue is a disappointment. And this isn’t even the first time Mark has tried to be progressive but has been offensive instead; see also Strange Fruit and Champions #10. At this point, I think he just has some fundamental blind spots. 

VAGRANT QUEEN: A PLANET CALLED DOOM #6 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Jason Smith. It’s been a whole year since this miniseries began, and I’ve totally lost track of its plot. The main event is that Isaac has to sacrifice his chance of returning to Earth in order to defeat his older counterpart. I wonder if this will be Mags’s last monthly comic; her latest work is in trade paperback format. 

I BREATHED A BODY #2 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Cooperative Resilience,” [W] Zac Thompson, [A] Andy MacDonald. Mylo’s dead body is dissected on a livestream. Anne/Zoe becomes increasingly uncomfortable working for Mylo’s dad. This series is disgusting and disturbing, and I don’t particularly like it. I feel obliged to finish reading it now that I’ve started, but I’ll be hesitant to read Zac Thompson’s future work. 

CRIMSON FLOWER #2 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Matt Lesniewski. Rodion (I only know her name from the next issue blurb) hunts down some more suspects in her father’s murder, and there are a bunch of references to Russian folklore. Lesniewski draws really ugly faces, and hair that looks tentacles. This is on purpose, but it’s creepy.  

EDGAR ALLAN POE’S SNIFTER OF BLOOD #5 (Ahoy, 2021) – “The Adventure of the Three Narrators,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Greg Scott. A rather silly metatextual mashup of Poe and Sherlock Holmes. It’s funny because its silliness is so deadpan.  “Ms. Found in a Bottle,” [W] Kek-W, [A] Alberto Ponticelli. A hollow earth story, except it’s more like an onion earth composed of multiple concentric spheres. This is an interesting idea, but otherwise the story is incoherent. 

2000 AD #58 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: as above. Dare and his crew fight undersea monsters called Slurgs and Snappers. MACH 1: “Swamp Saga”, [W] Roy Preston, [A] John Cooper. John Probe encounters a family of homicidal maniacs in the Everglades. Colony Earth: as above. Hunter plots his assault on the saucer that’s melting the ice caps. Again, Jim Watson’s art is beautiful, but his plot is of no interest. Dredd: “Full Earth Crimes,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Brian Bolland & Ian Gibson. A “full earth” (like a full moon) causes a crime wave. The entire story is credited to Bolland, but it’s obvious that he only did the first two pages. The other four pages appear to be by Mike McMahon, though the 2000 AD website credits them to Ian Gibson. Future Shocks: “Juggernaut,” [W] Hunter Tremayne, [A] Garry Leach. A remote-controlled tank accidentally destroys its own controllers. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Hellcats visit the factory where Pearly was manufactured. This story has two beautiful panels, one depicting a “beehive jungle” and the other a giant garbage robot. 

CEREBUS #84 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1985) – “Chariot of the Queen, Chariot of the Lovers,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus has dinner with Michelle, an old associate of Weisshaupt’s, and she gives him Weisshaupt’s final message. Much of the issue focuses on the Roach and the henchmen Fleagle and Drew. All of them are dressed like Venom and are under the impression that they’re particpating in the “Secret Sacred Wars.” This is an obvious reference to Marvel’s Secret Wars. 

THE BULLETPROOF COFFIN #4 (Image, 2010) – “Red Wraith, Red Wraith, Red Wraith,” [W] David Hine, [A] Shaky Kane. Steve has a further series of surreal, metatextual adventures. Like Hine’s earlier work Strange Embrace, Bulletproof Coffin has a complicated plot with multiple levels of narration, but Bulletproof Coffin is even harder to follow than Strange Embrace was. The main appeal of this comic is Shaky Kane’s psychedelic/Kirbyesque art. 

RED THORN #4 (Vertigo, 2016) – “Castles Made of Sand,” [W] David Baillie, [A] Megan Hetrick. Isla and Thorn visit Morocco and meet a mute boy who knows every language. This series has too many concepts crammed into not enough space, and it lacks a coherent focus. I wish it had just been an urban fantasy set in Scotland. 

GRIMJACK #79 (First, 1991) – “Dragons in the Blood,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Flint Henry. I know of just two comics artists who have the exact same name, but with first name and surname reversed: Flint Henry and Henry Flint. This issue is set 200 years after Grimjack’s classic period, and stars James Twilley, the reincarnation of the deceased John Gaunt. It barely feels like Grimjack, and I have little interest in collecting this era of the series, even though I love Ostrander’s writing. The letters page includes an announcement that First was cancelling all its monthly titles. 

A small eBay order of two underground comics: 

THE MAN #1 (Print Mint, 1972) – untitled, [W/A] Vaughn Bodé. A series of vignettes about  a caveman, his stick, and his pet lizard. A fairly atypical work for Bodé since it includes no women or machinery. The art is cruder and more angular than his art usually was. 

NO DUCKS! #2 (Last Gasp, 1979) – various stories, [E] Tim Boxell. Highlights of this issue include a Star Wars parody by George Metzger, and a slapstick story about evolution by Hunt Emerson. Also Steve Leialoha’s parody of Moebius’s Airtight Garage. Other contributors include Boxell himself and Rich Larson. 

CEREBUS #85 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1985) – “Missing It for the World,” [W/A] Dave Sim. On his way back to the Upper City, Cerebus meets Mick and Keef, i.e. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Mick gives Cerebus his special blend of whiskey and codeine, causing Cerebus to go nuts. This is a pretty hilarious issue. However, by this time, Dave was starting to show his bad qualities. Less and less was happening in each issue of Cerebus, the plot was becoming unfocused, and there was less humor. 

YAHOO #3 (Fantagraphics, 1990) – “The Perfect Day,” [W/A] Joe Sacco. The first story in this issue is an autobiographical piece about Sacco’s annoying experiences working in a library. Then there’s a stream-of-consciousness story that appears to be about Sacco’s childhood in Malta. This story is tedious to read because each page is just a single image on the right, and a wall of text on the left. Also, one of the images is repeated on three different pages. Sacco’s style here is essentially the same as his mature style, with tons of detail and obsessive cross-hatching. It’s weird to read a Joe Sacco comic that’s not journalistic. 

2000 AD #59 (IPC, 1978) – Starting this issue the covers are just normal covers, and the Dan Dare stories no longer begin on the covers. Dan Dare: as above. Dare continues his fight with the Snappers and Slurgs. MACH 1: “Origins,” [W] Nick Landau & Roy Preston, [A] Lothano. While investigating his origin, John Probe is again kidnapped by Sharpe and meets his replacement, MACH 2. “Lothano” is otherwise unknown, but this name could be a misspelling of Lozano, i.e. Leopoldo Sanchez. Colony Earth: as above. Hunter and his allies attack the alien space station. Dredd: “Return to Mega-City,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Mike McMahon. Back on Earth, Dredd witnesses a number of crimes and ignores them all, but only because he hasn’t been sworn back in as a judge yet. After being sworn in, Dredd arrests all the criminals. Future Shocks: “Tin Can,” [W Mike Cruden, [A] José Luis Ferrer. In a postapocalyptic future, two people fight over a tin can that turns out to contain only worthless oil. Harlem Heroes: as above. The scientist who built Pearly has already been murdered, and the Hellcats have to fight the giant robot that killed him. 

JUNGLE ACTION #3 (Marvel, 1973) – Tharn: “Elephant Charge!”, [W] Don Rico, [A] Joe Maneely. Four stories reprinted from the ‘50s. The first one is an obvious Tarzan ripoff, only notable for being drawn by Maneely. The protagonist was originally named “Lo-Zar” and had blond hair, but to avoid confusion with Ka-Zar, he was renamed to Tharn and his hair was recolored red (http://www.toonopedia.com/lozar.htm). This issue also includes two jungle girl stories and a story about lions. All four stories are ’50s reprints. The other artists in the issue are Werner Roth, Jack Katz and Arthur Peddy. 

INCREDIBLE HULK #455 (Marvel, 1997) – “Waiting to X-Hale,” [W] Peter David, [A] Adam Kubert. The Hulk rampages through the X-Mansion, and there are subplots about Betty and Janis. The #440s and #450s were the low point of PAD’s run. As a kid, I dropped the series with #449, and I was right to do it. I still haven’t bothered to collect any of the issues from #450 to #465, except this one. 

FLIGHT PRIMER (Image, 2005) – “Maiden Voyage,” [W/A] Kazu Kibuishi. This FCBD comic was a preview of Flight, an anthology series that helped launch the careers of a lot of YA and middle grade cartoonists. Come to think of it, I should look at Flight for my research. In the first story, a boy and his dog build a plane, but it crashes the first time they fly it. This story includes some impressive art and coloring. There’s a backup story by Jake Parker, about a robot and a bird. 

SAN FRANCISCO COMIC BOOK #2 (Print Mint, 1970) – [E] Gary Arlington. Greg Irons’s “The Wall” is basically a prediction of Trump’s border wall. Kim Deitch’s “Hole Kloth Comics” is about androids that can impregnate women remotely. The longest story in the issue, a six-pager by Larry Welz, is a film noir parody about a narcotics agent. Other contributors to this issue are Rick Griffin, Willy Murphy, Robert Williams, Jim Osborne, Spain, Trina Robbins, R. Crumb, Dan O’Neill and S. Clay Wilson, but most of their contributions are very short. Still, that’s an impressive lineup of talent.  

CHEVAL NOIR #20 (Dark Horse, 1991) – [E] Mike Richardson. This issue begins with a chapter of Tardi’s Mummies on Parade. I have the Fantagraphics volume that contains this album, but I haven’t read it yet. The chapter from Cosey’s “Voyage to Italy” finally explains what this story is about: the little girl is a Vietnamese refugee, and Shirley is trying to keep her illegally, rather than surrender her to an aunt in a refugee camp. NBM later published this album in color under the title “In Search of Shirley.” Andreas’s “The Graveyard of Cathedrals” is poorly reproduced, but includes a stunning two-page splash depicting a literal graveyard of cathedrals. The highlight of the issue is Rosinski and Van Hamme’s “The Great Power of the Chninkel,” a fantasy story that reminds me a bit of Tolkien or Wally Wood. This issue also includes Phil Elliott’s “Post Apocalypse,” Cailleteau and Vatine’s “Fred and Bob,” and Marvano’s adaptation of The Forever War. 

CEREBUS #86 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1986) – “Flying Off the Handle at Oblique Angles,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Elrod shows up and starts babbling about the Secret Sacred Wars. The Roach climbs the wall to the Upper City, and Cerebus climbs after him. Weisshaupt’s ghost appears and warns Cerebus not to let the Roach reach the gold. The Black Tower begins to grow. I didn’t quite understand this issue. 

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #798 (Marvel, 2018) – “Go Down Swinging Part 2: The Rope-a-Dope,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Stuart Immonen. Peter tries to track down Phil Urich, who’s been kidnapped and, unknown to the reader, killed by Norman Osborn. Norman merges with Carnage and demands that Peter stop being Spider-Man, or Norman will kill everyone Peter loves. Compared to Slott’s earlier stories, this issue is just okay, and Norman Osborn is perhaps my least favorite Marvel villain. He ought to have stayed dead. 

TREASURE CHEST #18.16 (Geo. A. Pflaum, 1963) – “The Mystery of Shady Falls,” [W] Ruth Geller & Burton Geller, [A] Reed Crandall. A boring story, but with beautiful draftsmanship. There’s also a lesson on perspective by Frank Borth, a Chuck White story by Fran Matera, and a humor story by Eric St. Clair and Paul Eismann, with some truly hideous art. 

INVISIBLES #9 (DC, 1995) – “23: Things Fall Apart,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Jill Thompson. The number 23 refers to the 23rd hexagram in the I Ching. This issue, the Invisibles are trapped in their headquarters and a lot of enemy soldiers are coming for them. They escape by faking their own deaths and then disguising themselves as the enemy. Also, Jack kills a man for the first time and is traumatized. This issue is less difficult than I expected. 

BATMAN #35 (DC, 2018) – “The Rules of Engagement, Part 3,” [W] Tom King, [A] Joëlle Jones. Catwoman fights Talia, who believes Selina is unworthy of marrying Batman. Selina is totally overmatched, but manages to win Talia’s respect. The disturbing part is that Selina admits that she knows she’ll always come second to Batman’s war on crime. It’s a good thing she ended up not marrying him. This issue also includes some funny dialogue between Dick and Damian. 

VEIL #2 (Dark Horse, 2014) – untitled, [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Toni Fejzula. A black man tries to protect a mysterious teenage girl from the police, but fails. Also, a green-haired dude with glasses performs a magic ritual. The selling point of this comic is Toni Fejzula’s beautiful art, which looks more painted than drawn. 

2000 AD #61 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: “Nightmare Planet,” [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Brian Lewis. Dare lands on a weird planet where he encounters a giant version of the Mekon. Brian Lewis draws some beautifully weird creatures, but overall his art is a step down in quality from Dave Gibbons’s. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Hellcats play against the Virginia Vics. A man named Chubb resurrects a villain named Artie Gruber, who blames Giant for his death. Colony Earth: as above. Hunter destroys the alien flagship. “Even for 1978, [Colony Earth] appeared somewhat dated, leading to suspicions that it had actually been an inventory story created for an earlier title” (https://britishcomics.fandom.com/wiki/Colony_Earth). Dredd: “The Cursed Earth,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. This is a key turning point in Dredd’s history. It’s technically the second extended Dredd story, the first being “Luna,” but “Luna” was really just a collection of vignettes. “The Cursed Earth” is the first long Dredd story with a cohesive plot. It also massively expands Dredd’s universe by sending him outside Mega-City One. In chapter one, a pilot named Red informs Dredd of a plague that’s ravaging Mega-City Two. After Red himself dies of the plague, Dredd volunteers to cross the perilous Cursed Earth to bring medicine to the dying city. MACH 1: “The Final Encounter,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] José Pérez Montero. This story begins with John Probe’s funeral, and then a flashback depicts the start of his final mission. 

HEAVY METAL #1.11 (HM, 1978) – [E] Sean Kelly & Valerie Marchant. Again I’ll just mention the highlights. Corben’s Den chapter includes a character named Uluhtc, which is almost Cthulhu backwards. Victor Mora and Luis Garcia’s “The Winter of the Last Combat” is the same story that appeared in Vampirella under the title “The Wolves at War’s End,” and that was rated by David Roach as the second best Warren story ever. It’s about a soldier who returns from the Crusades to find Europe in the grip of the Black Death. Garcia’s scratchy artwork is beautiful, and Mora’s story is compelling, but unfortunately this issue only includes half the story. Denis Sire’s “Diabolical Planet” includes some nice machinery and cheesecake art. Druillet’s “Urm” is almost too beautiful and hyperdetailed to actually read. The centerfold of the issue is a gorgeous painting by Alex Niño. Moebius’s “Free Fall” is a wordless story about a man falling. This issue also includes stories by Macedo and Montellier and a chapter of Forest’s Barbarella. 

THE WITCHING HOUR #34 (DC, 1973) – “Dracula Had a Daughter,” [W] Carl Wessler, [A] Nestor Redondo. A woman is suspected of being a vampire, but the real vampire is her uncle. Wessler’s story is stupid, but Redondo’s art is beautiful. “Over My Dead Body,” [W] Wessler, [A] Ruben Yandoc. Frank Morrow accidentally photographs an escaped criminal. Morrow’s Haitian roommate uses a voodoo doll to kill the criminal and save Morrow.  “I Died Last Night,” [W] George Kashdan, [A] Rico Rival. A journalist nearly gets himself killed while trying to write an obituary. 

My next trip to Heroes was on March 25th. That day I had an excellent lunch at Lupie’s Café, but the whole day was overshadowed somewhat by the news of Marvel’s deal with Penguin Random House. I think this deal could have a lot of benefits, but my automatic reaction was to worry that it will mean the end of the direct market. That’s just how my mind works. 

ONCE & FUTURE #17 (Boom!, 2021) – “Long Live the King,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. Lancelot fights the dragon, and Rose gets it to befriend her. Galahad and Percival (Duncan) approach the Grail Castle, now joined by Jason Hempleworth, who we learn is an actual knight. I assume that means he’s going to be Sir Bors. (BTW, the guy who calls him “Sir Hempleworth” is mistaken; it should be “Sir Jason.”) This wasn’t the best recent issue, but I stil love this series. 

SWEET TOOTH: THE RETURN #5 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Gus and Earl start proceeding toward the exit to the overworld – which is exactly what Father wants them to do, since his goal is to have them spread the virus to the hybrids. This is a thrilling miniseries and I’m sorry it’s just six issues. Jeff Lemire may be the preeminent creator in direct market comics at the moment. 

ORPHAN AND THE FIVE BEASTS  #1 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] James Stokoe. Mo, a young martial arts expert, begins a mission to defeat the five beasts that are ravaging her valley. This comic’s plot is obviously inspired by thte wuxia genre, but its visual style is only vaguely Chinese and is simliar to that of Stokoe’s other work. Of course the appeal of this comic is that it’s another masterpiece by the finest draftsman currently working in American comics. Every page of this issue is a masterpiece packed with obsessive detail and visual creativity. This comic takes a while to read, like all Stokoe’s comics, but it’s worth it. 

STRAY DOGS #2 (Image, 2021) – “Stay,” as above. Rusty restores Sophie’s memory by having her smell her old master’s scarf. Rusty and Sophie investigate the room that their master won’t let them enter. In there, Sophie finds a picture of the master of one of the other dogs. Stray Dogs is one of the most believable portrayals of dogs that I’ve seen in comic book. Tony Fleecs seems to understand dog psychology very well. This comic is also surprisingly mature, given that its creators are best known for pony comics. 

STRANGE ACADEMY #9 (Marvel, 2021) – “Parents’ Day,” [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. Calvin has a nightmare about his evil foster parents, then wakes up to discover that it’s Parents’ Day. Luckily Doyle’s dad is not present. Doyle and Calvin explore the school’s treasure vault while the other kids and their parents play games. This issue has some really cute and funny moments. 

SPECTER INSPECTORS #2 (Boom!, 2021) – “The Library,” [W/A] Bowen McCurdy, [W] Kaitlyn Musto. The protagonists visit the library, where they encounter the ghost of a librarian named Agatha Birch. Specter Inspectors is another in a long line of excellent Boom! Box titles. The comic it reminds me of most is Misfit City, because of the small-town setting and the style of art. 

ETERNALS #3 (Marvel, 2021) – “Only Death is Eternal, Part 3,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Esad Ribic. The most impressive thing about this comic is the massive list of Deviant names. I’m guessing that these names were automatically generated, but they’re weird and brilliant. Also in this issue, Ikaris becomes Toby Robson’s bodyguard, and Druig discovers that the Polarian Eternals have ben murdered. 

USAGI YOJIMBO #17 (IDW, 2021) – “Tengu War! Part Two,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi and Sojobo are about to get killed by Guhin Tengu, but Sojobo’s wife Nozomi arrives and saves them. Usagi duels a bird tengu to prove his worthiness to fight alongside Sojobo. This issue is pretty average. 

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #95 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Thom Zahler, [A] Toni Kuusisto. After a very well-executed silent sequence, Pinkie and Cheese discover that the silence spell can be broken by laughter. Pinkie and Cheese talk about how their laughter is better together, a possible allusion to the child they’re going to have. This was a really cute story, and I just got the pun on “muffletta.”

SEA OF STARS #9 (Image, 2021) – “The People of the Broken Moon,” [W] Jason Aaron & Dennis Hallum, [A] Stephen Green. The Zzazteks offer to help Kadyn find his dad. Gil deliberately gets eaten by a giant leviathan. Kadyn uses the war club to summon his dad, but the “dad” who shows up is a monstrous dark man. I like this series a lot, but its plot has gotten hard to follow.  

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #115 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Sophie Campbell. The Turtles use a video call with Karai to calm Tokka and Rahzar down. Lita challenges Bebop and Rocksteady to a battle of the bands. Koya gets sick of the Turtles’ arguing and tells them to “harness your darkness.” This is such a cute and heartwarming comic, just like Sophie Campbell’s Jem was.  

WONDER WOMAN #770 (DC, 2021) – “Afterworlds Part 1,” [W] Michael W. Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Travis Moore. Diana somehow finds herself in Valhalla, fighting alongside Norse warriors. The squirrel Ratatosk asks Diana for help restoring Yggdrasil. There’s also a Young Diana backup story by Jordie Bellaire and Paulina Ganucheau, a highly underrated artist. I was a bit uncertain about reading this series, but I enjoyed this issue. 

BIRTHRIGHT #47 (Image, 2021) – “Two Months Later,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Mikey apprehends a mercenary who’s been selling stolen Terrenos artifacts. Mikey discovers that Brennan has been using his magic to hunt down other magicians on Earth, so his next goal is to find Brennan. Rya and the rest of the cast don’t appear, and we still haven’t seen Mikey’s parents since they got stuck in Terrenos. 

RADIANT BLACK #2 (Image, 2021) – “Better Off Red,” [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Marcelo Costa. This is an improvement on issue 1 because Nathan’s character actually evolves. Nathan’s dad forces Nathan to admit that he’s not making any money from his writing, and demands that Nathan get a job or move out. That’s correct parenting. Also, Nathan fights a costumed criminal who looks just like him, only red instead of black. 

ABBOTT 1973 #3 (Boom!, 2021) – “Mayors and Mafiosos,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Sami Kivelä. At my family’s Zoom seder, I got a chance to show this comic to my uncle who works as a journalist in Detroit. This issue Elena discovers that her girlfriend was kidnapped by gangsters. After fighting a spidery female magician, she asks for help from her previously unseen brother Elmer, a veteran and recovering drug addict. The issue ends with Elena and Elmer preparing to rescue Elena’s girlfriend from the gangsters’ hotel. 

THOR & LOKI: DOUBLE TROUBLE #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] GuriHiru. Loki tricks Thor into stealing a horn from Odin’s treasure vault. Loki blows the horn and summons the Midgard Serpent. I loved Spider-Man/Venom: Double Trouble, and this series is a logical follow-up to that one. I’m glad Marvel is still willing to publish fun and kid-friendly comics like this. 

BLACK KNIGHT: CURSE OF THE EBONY BLADE #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Sergio Dávila. Dane Whitman fights alongside the Avengers, but realizes that none of them take him seriously. Meanwhile, a history grad student visits Dane’s castle to interview him for her thesis. So far my favorite thing about this comic is the deliberately inauthentic medieval dialogue. 

BARBALIEN: RED PLANET #5 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tate Brombal, [A] Gabriel Hernández Walta. Boa Boaz takes Mark back to Mars, but Mark manages to get back, only to see a policewoman shoot Miguel. This is a really trite ending – even in America, it seems hard to accept that a cop would shoot an innocent man in the back in front of a huge crowd of witnesses. Miguel survives in the end; otherwise, this comic would be an example of the “bury your gays” trope. Besides having a weak ending, Barbalien was a pretty good miniseries. 

I WALK WITH MONSTERS #4 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Sally Cantirino. Jacey finally infiltrates the politican’s mansionn and discovers that he’s an enormous giant, or at least that’s how she perceives him. There are flashbacks depicting the origin of Jacey and David’s friendship. I was very confused by the scene on pages 12 to 14 where David sneaks inside a white building. I couldn’t tell whether this was taking place in the past or the present, or what its significance was. 

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #24 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Carmen Carnero. Miles has a new notebook – see my book Between Pen and Pixel for some comments on this style of composition book. Miles and Kamala go on a platonic date, but it’s interrupted when they have to save some slum dwellers from a collapsed buiding. Then they hunt down the building’s landlord. Back at home, Miles discovers that he’s been framed for kidnapping a scientist. I believe the scientist is Peter Parker. 

ORCS! #2 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Christine Larsen. The orcs return from the squirrel woods with a bag full of acorns and angry squirrels. The acorns turn out to be full of gold, but the chief exiles the members of the adventuring party because they used the squirrels to prank him. The exiled orcs come up with a plan to prevent their exile, and as a distraction, tey ask the old lady to tell another story about Drod. Orcs is an extremely fun series. 

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #12 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Time of Mercy is Past,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Juann Cabal. The Guardians fight a giant battle against the Asgardian gods. After winning, they reorganize the team with new costumes and new members. Juann Cabal is one of a large number of Spanish artists who have done excellent work for Marvel. If Warren had a “Spanish invasion” in the ‘70s, Marvel has been having a second Spanish invasion for at least a decade now, and it’s gone largely unnoticed by American fans. 

CHAMPIONS #5 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Eve L. Ewing, [A] Bob Quinn. Viv and Amadeus invade the prison for young heroes and collect some shocking footage. By putting this footage online, they successfully shame Senator Patrick into ending the worst parts of Kamala’s Law. That’s the end of Outlawed, but sadly it’s also the end of Eve Ewing’s run on this title. I’m going to continue reading it for now, but I don’t have nearly as much confidence in Danny Lore. 

PROCTOR VALLEY ROAD #1 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Grant Morrison & Alex Child, [A] Naomi Franquiz. In 1970, some girls are trying to save up eight dollars to attend a Janis Joplin concert. To get the money, they trick some boys into accompanying them on a tour of a supposedly haunted desert road. Except the road really is haunted, and the boys get eaten by a werewolf. This is an entertaining first issue, and I love Naomi Franquiz’s art. 

RESIDENT ALIEN: YOUR RIDE’S HERE #4 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. Harry discovers that Honey was kidnapped by her own father, and helps rescue her. This is almost a slice-of-life comic, without much of a narrative drive, but I like it anyway. 

KARMEN #1 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Guillem March. A woman in a skintight skeleton suit visits an apartment building and finds another woman, Catalina or Cata, lying in a bathtub. We gradually realize that Cata is dead, having committed suicide because her boyfriend left her, and the skeleton woman is taking her to the afterlife. I only bought this because it was a translation of a European comic, but I was really impressed with it. March’s draftsmanship and page layouts are beautiful, and his story is complex and intricate, demanding close reeading to figure out what’s going on. I’m excited to read more of this. 

SHADOW DOCTOR #2 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Ancestral Sin,” [W] Peter Calloway, [A] Georges Jeanty. In a flashback, we see how Nathaniel had to flee Alabama after sleeping (perhaps non-sexually) with a white woman, which would have gotten him murdered. Al Capone refuses to lend Nathaniel any money, but changes his mind after his mother says that Nathaniel reminds her of Capone’s father. But as Nathaniel is walking out of Capone’s nightclub with $1000 in his hand, the nightclub explodes. Shadow Doctor is the next These Savage Shores or Yasmeen: an important comic book which is probably going to get less attention than it deserves, because it’s from a new writer and an independent publisher. 

THE LAST WITCH #3 (Boom!, 2021) – “The Burning of Ballydoolin,” [W] Conor McCreery, [A] V.V. Glass. Saoirse fights the sea witch Bronagh and wins, but the town of Ballydoolin is burnt down in their battle. Brahm is nearly killed, but is saved by a herd of martens for some reason. A poignant moment in this issue is when Saoirse meets a little girl named Ciara in Ballydoolin, and then at the end of the issue, we don’t know if Ciara survived the fire. V.V. Glass’s art continues to be absolutely incredible. 

SAVAGE #2 (Valiant, 2021) – untitled, [W] Max Bemis, [A] Nathan Stockman. Savage escapes from the mad scientist and decides to abandon his social media career. This is far from the best comic I’m currently reading, but I like Max Bemis’s bitter, sardonic style of humor. 

IMMORTAL HULK #44 (Marvel, 2021) – “To Rule in Hell,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. Gyrich begins the issue by quoting his famous line from Avengers #181: “I’m the government, mister.” The U-Foes take turns attacking the Hulk, and X-Ray succeeds in killing him. Meanwhie, the Gamma Flight members find the Rick Jones/Leader creature.  

THE GOON #13 (Albatross, 2021) – “The Diabolical Dr. Alloy Returns to Rise Again… Once More!”, [W/A] Eric Powell. The Goon’s old enemy Dr. Alloy dies. The Goon, Frankie, and Lagarto Hombre visit Dr. Alloy’s castle and find it occupied by another Dr. Alloy from another dimension. This issue is an example of Powell’s vulgar, exaggerated humor, but unlike Ryan Browne, whose work has a similar sensibility, Powell is also a brilliant artist. 

HAHA #3 (Imaghe, 2021) – “Remi Says…”, [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Roger Langridge. A mime is unable to make a living at his profession, so he goes to the dump to collect scrap metal. There he discovers an abandoned robot. The robot becomes part of the mime’s act, until its mad-scientist creator reclaims it. The mime is killed trying to rescue the robot. Appropriately, this is a silent issue, and as we know thanks to Fred the Clown, Langridge is a master of silent storytelling. The only connection between issues 2 and 3 is the name J.C. Wilber. 

CATWOMAN #29 (DC, 2021) – “Bad Habits,” [W] Ram V, [A] Fernando Blanco. Selina breaks into the Riddler’s apartment and finds him about to be killed by a woman in a beehive suit. I like Ram V’s take on the Riddler, but so far his Catwoman run is not as exciting as Joelle Jones’s, though I’m still willing to keep reading it. 

S.W.O.R.D. #4 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Krakoan Sun,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Valerio Schiti. Mostly a long fight scene between the SWORD team members and Knull. I’m not convinced that this series is worth buying. The only thing I liked about this issue was the character Think Tank and the giant robot he creates. 

BATMAN: BLACK & WHITE #4 (DC, 2021) – “A Night in the Life of a Bat in Gotham,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Riley Rossmo. This story is about exactly what the title says. Riley Rossmo’s art is much more appropriate here than in Future State: Legion. “Davenport House,” [W/A] Karl Kerschl. This is my favorite story in the entire series so far because it reintroduces Maps Mizoguchi, and she’s Robin now. I wish DC would bring back Gotham Academy. “The Green Deal,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Nick Bradshaw. Bradshaw’s draftsmanship here is amazing, but otherwise this is just a standard Batman/Poison Ivy story. “Checkmate,” [W/A] Daniel Warren Johnson. Johnson’s story is nothing special, but his Paul Pope-esque artwork is impressive, and makes me want to read more of his work. “The Fool’s Journey,” [W] Becky Cloonan, [A] Terry Dodson. This story is most interesting for the cameo appearance by an infant Dick Grayson, long before his parents’ deaths. Speaking of Dodson, I wonder if Adventureman is coming back. 

BITTER ROOT #11 (Image, 2021) – “Legacy Part One,” [W] David F. Walker & Chuck Brown, [A] Sanford Greene. I have trouble keeping up with this series’ plot because of its large cast of characters and its irregular schedule. But it’s still an extremely important comic. Memorable moments in this issue include the party in Harlem, and the scene where Johnnie-Ray’s parents learn of their son’s death.  

THE WRONG EARTH: NIGHT & DAY #3 (Ahoy, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Jamal Igle. Number One monologues about how the two worlds split apart, and how he created the mirrors. Stinger is reunited with the two Dragonflies, but somehow he fails to recognize Dragonflyman. As usual this issue is very fun. 

BLACK HAMMER VISIONS #2 (Dark Horse, 2021) – “The Cabin of Horrors!”, [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Scott Kolins. A criminal kidnaps a young boy. The boy escapes into Madame Dragonfly’s Cabin of Horrors. The criminal follows him there and is killed by the house’s other inhabitants, while the boy turns into Kid Dragonfly. This is a gruesome, unscary and pointless horror story, and it makes me afraid that Johns’s upcoming series Geiger will be equally bad. 

PANTOMIME #5 (Mad Cave, 2021) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] David Stoll. The word pantomime is confusing because in America it refers to silent performance, but in Britain it refers to a type of musical comedy performed at Christmastime for an audience of children. This issue, the Manager forces the kids back into slavery, and one of them, Max, seems curiously willling to collaborate with him. Kestrel gets caught by the police during a heist, and the other kids, besides Max, come up with a plan to get him out and defeat the Manager. 

HAPPY HOUR #5 (Ahoy, 2021) – “The Swamp of Despond,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Michael Montenat. Kim and Jerry are tortured by happiness-sniffing Mexican coatis. Government agents make it to Landor Cohen’s commune, and they identify Kim as a double agent. Just one issue left. I was briefly worried that Ahoy was going to stop publishing comics, but they’ve just started announcing new titles again. 

COMMANDERS IN CRISIS #6 (Image, 2021) – “The Action of Confession,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Davide Tinto. The Crisis Command members finally go public with the information that this Earth is the last Earth in the multiverse. Also, we meet the Commanders in Crisis version of Aquaman. This series has the same flaw as Red Thorn – too many premises and no clear focus – but it’s better than Red Thorn. This issue has a cute cover by Joe Staton. 

WAY OUT STRIPS #2 (Tragedy Strikes, 1992) – “Sons of Sam” and other stories, [W/A] Carol Swain. Carol Swain’s comics typically make little sense on a narrative level, but they’re more about creating a mood than telling a story, kind of like some of Rick Geary’s work. I really like her smeared, smudged style of draftsmanship. 

THE BEQUEST #1 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Role Initiative,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Freddie E. Williams II. Part of this story is about a party in a Dungeons & Dragons adventure, but then they somehow get transported out of their own world and into present-day Chicago. Bequest has an interesting premise, but Freddie Williams’s art looks like something out of a ‘90s Image comic, and Bequest also has ugly lettering. 

GUNHAWKS #6 (Marvel, 1972) – “Death of a Gunhawk!”, [W] Gary Friedrich, [A] Dick Ayers. Gunhawks might have been Marvel’s last original Western title, besides more recent revivals like Rawhide Kid. This issue, one of the two protagonists, Kid Cassidy, is killed, and the other, Reno Jones, is unfairly blamed. The next issue was called just Reno Jones, Gunhawk, and thus became the second Marvel title to be named after a black character, after Hero for Hire. However, that was the last issue. Besides this historical footnote, “Death of a Gunhawk!” is a dumb, badly drawn story that relies on Native American stereotypes. Gunhawks #6 also includes a reprinted story with art by Ayers. 

2000 AD #62 (IPC, 1978) – “Death Planet,” [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Lopez (César López Vera). Some colonists leave Earth in a spaceship, but their ship crashlands on a dangerous planet. The two protagonists are Lorna Varn, the ship’s captain, and Richard Cory, the leader of the colonists, who may or may not be named after the poem. Harlem Heroes: as above. Artie Gruber comes back to life, and the Hellcats are drawn against his team, the Philadelphia Freaks. 2000 AD: “The Cursed Earth Chapter II: Into the Darkness,” as above. Dredd is given a mobile fortress for his trip through the Cursed Earth, and conscripts a criminal named Spikes Harvey Rotten to accompany him. Dan Dare: as above. Dare fights some monsters, then encounters what seems to be the boatman Charon. MACH 1: as above. John Probe rescues an alien named Frxxxszklds, aka Fred, from a UFO, but Fred contracts a deadly cold.

MINIMUM WAGE #2 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] Bob Fingerman. Rob goes on a couple dates with his new girlfriend and hangs out with his friends. I assume this series must have been good at one point, but this issue is not good. Rob is a boring character – his main character traits are that he likes popular culture, and that he just got divorced. There’s no reason why the reader should care about him. And his banter with his friends is extremely annoying. 

CEREBUS #87 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1986) – “Towers Analogous,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus and the Roach keep climbing. The Black Tower keeps growing ominously. Much of this issue, including its cover, is a parody of The Dark Knight Returns. 

DRYAD #9 (Oni, 2021) – untitled, [W] Kurtis Wiebe, [A] Justin Barcelo. Again, this issue has multiple separate storylines about the parents and the kids. The main plot revolves around someone or something called the Vihiri, but other than that, Ive lost track of what’s going on in this series. 

THUN’DA TALES #1 (Fantagraphics, 1987) – “King of the Lost Lands” and other stories, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Frank Frazetta. I always thought Al Williamson was the greatest draftsman in the history of American comic books, but I havent read much Frazetta, and he’s the one artist who could challenge Williamson for that title. This issue reprints Thun’da #1, the only comic book entirely drawn by Frazetta – the rest of Thun’da’s brief run was drawn by Bob Powell. Thun’da #1 is a treasure which is all the more precious for its uniqueness. The four stories in this issue are generic Tarzan pastiches and are full of casual racism, but Frazetta’s anatomy and compositions are magical. Every panel is like a miniature painting, and looking at these stories, I can see where Williamson and Mark Schultz and Dave Stevens got their inspiration. It’s a pity that there aren’t more Frazetta comics like this. 

THE SHADOW #9 (DC, 1975) – “The Nigt of the Falling Death!”, [W] Michael Uslan, [A] Frank Robbins. The Shadow defeats some smugglers who are concealing contraband in barrels that are being sent over Niagara Falls. At the time when this story was set, Niagara Falls was America’s premier honeymoon destination, and this issue includes a scene where the Shadow and Margo Lane have a fake wedding so that they have an excuse to go there. However, when Margo makes romantic overtures to the Shadow, he stonily ignores her. Frank Robbins was no Frazetta, but he was a gifted visual storyteller. 

SECRET SIX #3 (DC, 2006) – “The Darkest House,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Brad Walker. I bought this comic years ago but never read it. I should have, because it’s good. It’s more like Suicide Squad than Secret Six, in that it stars a cast of villains with unique personalities that interact weirdly with each other. The highlight of this issue is when, after betraying the team, Rag Doll says “Mercy. I can’t see how we shall remain friends after this. I really cannot.” 

ULTRAMEGA #1 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] James Harren. This was another heavily hyped series, mostly on the basis of James Harren’s artwork. While Ultramega’s artwork is good, it’s not good enough to justify a $7.99 price tag all by himself – whereas James Stokoe, for example, actually is that good. However, Ultramega #1 also has a surprisingly effective story. It’s a pastiche of Ultraman, but the Ultraman character and his two allies get killed fighting kaiju, and his wife drowns in the resulting flood, leaving an infant son. The story picks up some years later, now following the son, who seems to have inherited the father’s power. Ultramega #1 is an epic story, and I look forward to the next issue. 

GREEN LANTERN SEASON TWO #12 (DC, 2021) – “The Intelligence Engine,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. Like so many other Grant Morrison comics, this Green Lantern series was interesting at first, but descended into incoherence. Grant’s writing has reached a point where it can only be understood by Grant themself, if by anyone. I’m glad this series is over. This issue’s plot, to the extent that I can follow it, is that Hector Hammond invades Athmoora with an army of toys. 

NIGHT HUNTERS #2 (Floating World, 2021) – untitled, [W] Dave Baker, [A] Alexis Ziritt. This issue has some brilliant draftsmanship and even more brilliant coloring, but its story is hard to folow, and is less interesting than that of issue 1. My sense is that Dave Baker’s writing is not the equal of Alexis Ziritt’s art. 

TARTARUS #10 (Image, 2021) – ‘Threading the Infinite,” [W] Johnnie Christmas, [A] Andrew Krahnke. In trying to get back to Tartarus, Surka destroys all but a small supply of the Aima. The last of the Aima is now in the possession of Surka’s daughter, I think. At the end of the issue, Johnnie Christmas suggests that the series will shift to trade-paperback-only. The trend toward direct-to-trade publication is annoying to me because there are certain series I’ll read as single issues, but not as trades. Like, I bought the first volume of Spell on Whells as a miniseries, but I don’t feel motivated to buy the second volume as a trade. With the amount I spend on single issues, I’m hesitant to spend additional money on trades. But maybe this is just my own weakness. 

2000 AD #63 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: as above. The nightmare planet turns out to be ruled by superintelligent illusionists, and they make Dare forget about their existence. This chapter includes some nice quasi-abstract art. MACH 1: as above. Fred establishes relations between his planet and Earth, but Sharpe sets an ambush for Fred’s people. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth, Chapter 3: The Devil’s Lapdogs,” as above. Dredd visits a Cursed Earth village where, as punishment for stealing food, a young couple have been sentenced to be eaten by flying rats. I don’t quite get why the rats can fly. Death Planet: as above. Cory and Lorna fight some monsters. So far the most interesting thing about this story is the two protagonists’ struggles for authority. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Freaks and Hellcats prepare for their game. 

CEREBUS #88 – “Out with the In Crowd,” as above. The Roach reaches the top and attacks Thrunk futilely. Cerebus also arrives in the Upper City, and Astoria is unhappy to see him. Cerebus uses Weisshaupt’s cannons to destroy Thrunk. An awesome moment is when Cerebus demands that Thrunk admit that Cerebus is the true Tarim. When Thrunk does so, Cerebus says “Damn right” and fires the cannon. 

LUNA #2 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Maria Llovet. A lot of weird stuff happens at the commune, and the protagonist discovers an old spellbook. There’s not much plot in this issue, but Maria Llovet’s art is interestingly weird. I wonder if I should be reading her other series that’s published by Ablaze. 

REDNECK #15 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Lisandro Estherren. Mostly a bunch of conversations and sex scenes, with no action or violence. Lisandro Estherren’s art in this issue is only average, not nearly at the level of other Argentine artists like Leandro Fernandez or Eduardo Risso.  

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #522 (DC, 1995) – “City of Hope,” [W] Karl Kesel, [A] Stuart Immonen. After being destroyed by Luthor, Metropolis is rebuilt by a team of superheroes. Guest-stars in this issue include Maxima and the Warrior version of Guy Gardner. Karl Kesel is an underrated Superman writer. 

SECRET WARS 2099 #2 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Will Sliney. Most of PAD’s comics in the past decade have been kind of bad, but this one is especially bad. It has too many characters and plotlines, and none of them are of any interest.

INCREDIBLE HULK #249 (Marvel, 1979) – “Jack Frost Nipping at Your Soul!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Steve Ditko. The Hulk falls into an icy pit and finds himself in an ice kingdom ruled by Jack Frost, AKA Blizzard. This issue’s premise is coincidentally similar to that of Frozen, but otherwise it’s a boring issue. Bill Mantlo’s run was the worst era of the frist volume of Incredible Hulk. 

THE FROGMEN #8 (Dell, 1964) – “Sunken Jungle!”, [W] unknown, [A] Don Heck. The newly independent African country of Congeria builds a massive new dam, but a white man claims that the dam has flooded his valuable diamond mines. The government of Congeria hires the Frogmen to find proof that these alleged diamond mines don’t exist. Adventures ensue. This is a mildly clever story, and I’d be curious to know who wrote it. I assme it was inspired by the building of the Aswan High Dam in Egypt. 

WAKE VOL. 1 (NBM, 1998) – “Fire & Ash,” [W] Jean-David Morvan, [A] Philippe Buchet. I find it difficut to read BD albums because they’re intermediate in length between comic books and full-length graphic novels, so they confuse my usual reading habits. I think the best way to deal with this is just to start reading more BD albums, if I can find the time. Wake’s protagonist, Navee, is the only survivor of a spaceship crash, and has grown up on an alien planet with only her pet tiger for company. When some alien colonists invade the planet, Navee has to stop them from terraforming the planet beyond recognition. Wake is on the more lowbrow end of the French comics spectrum, but Buchet draws beautiful aliens and SF technology, and Morvan’s story is entertaining. Annoyingly, NBM chose to censor this book by drawing a black line across Navee’s bare breasts in every panel that she appears in. I understand why they had to do this, but I don’t like it. 

RED THORN #5 (Vertigo, 2016) – “In His Hands,” as above. This issue introduces even more new characters into a series that already had too many of them. This is the last issue of Red Thorn that I have, and I’m not in a hurry to collect the rest of the series. 

MOWGLI’S MIRROR (Big Planet/Retrofit, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Olivier Schrauwen. This is also a Franco-Belgian comic, but it could hardly be more different from Wake. In a rewriting of Kipling’s Jungle Book, a naked human man befriends an orangutan and her newborn baby. But then “Mowgli” causes the baby’s accidental death. And after he encounters various other animals, he meets the orangutan again, but her new mate drives him away. At the end, he apparently encounters another human for the first time. Mowgli’s Mirror is a challenging meditation on the difference, if any, between humans and animals. It’s illustrated in a variety of mixed-media styles, and includes some panels that look more like abstract art than normal comics. The coloring is also very striking; the only colors used are blue and orange. 

RAIN LIKE HAMMERS #3 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Brandon Graham. This is a direct sequel to issue 2. Brik Blok continues his quest, and there are also some scenes with El. Graham’s art ontinues to be stunning; a highlight is the two-page splash depicting the aristocratic quuarter of the city. 

CRIMSON FLOWER #3 (Dark Horse, 2021) – as above. Rodion finally finds the man who killed her father, but it looks like she’s going to be the killer’s next victim. Matt Lesniewski’s art continues to be really weird and distinctive. 

HEAD LOPPER #15 (Image, 2021) – “The Mines of Martan,” [W/A] Andrew MacLean. Head Lopper and his allies descend into the Mines of Martan, where they recover the keystone, the second object they were looking for. However, instead of returning the hammer and keystone to the king of Arnak Pluth, they decide to kill him. In exchange, Prince Tarf agrees to lead them to Mulgrid’s stair. I think the character of Christo in this issue is based on the late artist of the same name. 

TATTERED BANNERS #4 (Vertigo, 1999) – “The Mad God Laughing,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Mike McMahon. Curtis Banner finds himself in a strange w*rld where n* *ne can say the letter * and w*men carry their babies in gullet-p*uches. After some (enough of that now) futile escape attempts, Banner is forced to accept his new reality. This is a really weird comic, and I’m not sure it would be any less weird if I had read the first three issues.  But it’s intriguing. 

CEREBUS #89 – “Odd Transformations No. 3: Dead Friends,” as above. Cerebus has a dream where he sees Bran Mac Muffin, Weisshaupt and Thrunk, all now dead. Then he sees the Regency Elf, and he wakes up to find that his gold coins have merged into a sphere. This is a weird issue. 

2000 AD #64 (IPC, 1978) – MACH 1: as above. Sharpe is killed by his own men, and John Probe is himself killed saving Fred. This was John Probe’s last appearance, and his true identity was left a mystery. Dan Dare: “Ice Planet Part 1,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Dave Gibbons. Dare’s crew is trapped on a deadly ice planet. It’s nice that Dave Gibbons is back, as Brian Lewis was no replacment for him. Dredd: as above. Dredd uses a siren to lure the rats away from Deliverance, thus becoming the Pied Piper of the Cursed Earth. Death Planet: “Night of the Animals,” as above. The colonists find a water supply, but Cory nearly drowns while digging a trench. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Hellcats-Freaks game finally starts, and Gruber prepares to assassinate Giant. 

WARLORD #45 (DC, 1981) – “Nightmare in Vista-Vision,” [W/A] Mike Grell. Jennifer Morgan goes looking for her dad. Morgan saves some dwarf girls from being eaten by cyclopes, but somehow fails to think of shooting the cyclopes’ eyes out with his pistol. There’s also a an OMAC backup story by Mishkin, Cohn and LaRocque. 

THE JAM URBAN ADVENTURE #9 (Caliber, 1995) – untitled, [W/A] Bernie Mireault. A man babysits his niece and tells her a story about a murder in Alphabet Town. There’s also a backup story, drawn by Luc Giard with extremely thick spotting of blacks. I don’t know what exactly The Jam is about, but this issue was cute, and I’d like to read more of this series.  

WHERE’S IT AT, SUGAR KAT? #2 (Slave Labor, 2000) – “It’s a Weird, Weird Little World!”, [W] Ian Carney, [A] Woodrow Phoenix. A supermodel fights some “body fat vampires.” This issue looks promising, but it fails to establish a consistent tone or aesthetic, and it’s tedious to read. 

DONALD DUCK #1/368 (IDW, 2015) – “Shellfish Motives Part 1,” [W/A] Romano Scarpa. Donald gets a job working for Scrooge’s younger brother Gideon McDuck, a crusading journalist, and they try to solve some mysterious kidnappings of scientists. This story, originally from 1956, was Gideon’s first appearance. Barks never used him, thus Rosa didn’t either, and his existence is impossible to reconcile with Life & Times. When I saw that “Shellfish Motives” gave Scrooge a brother, my reaction was “Man, that’s such a continuity error.” However, “Shellfish Motives” is still an entertaining story, and I’m curious to see how it ends. One of the backup stories in this issue is drawn by Mau Heymans, who has an interesting style of draftsmanship. 

That’s it for now. Whew.