June and early July 2021 reviews

I went to Heroes on June 7. That day I had brunch at The Workman’s Friend. I had the boxty benedict, which was fairly good.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #16 (Boom!, 2021) – “Me and My Monster Part 1,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. As this flashback story begins, a House of Slaughter agent named Jessica has just rescued the child Erica from a monster that killed her parents and best friend. Jessica has imprisoned the monster in Erica’s octopus doll. The House of Slaughter orders Jessica to kill Erica too, but instead she takes Erica home with her, despite knowing that Erica is going to be subjected to awful bullying. This was a good start to the storyline, and it shows that the House of Slaughter is just as terrible an institution as I’d suspected.

THE GODDAMNED: THE VIRGIN BRIDES #5 (Image, 2021) – “What Therefore God Hath Joined Together,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] R.M. Guera. Jael rescues Sharri with help from the serpent, then Sharri kills the old prioress by making her marry God. But Jael is mortally wounded, and has a symbolic wedding with Jael before dying herself. Later, Jael joins up with Cain. This was a gripping miniseries with spectacular art, and I hope there’ll be a third volume of Goddamned someday, though R.M. Guera must be a rather slow artist.

MANIFEST DESTINY #43 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. This is the first issue in well over a year, and I’m glad that this series is going to be completed. In this issue the Corps of Discovery climb up a giant cliff, suffering numerous casualties due to some horrible rock monsters. A funny moment is when Sacagawea complains that everyone else is climbing too slow, and Lewis replies that they’re all carrying extra weight, and he has a dog on his back. Then we cut back to Sacagawea, who has a baby on her back.

MADE IN KOREA #1 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Holt, [A] George Schall. Wook-Jin Industries (named after the cartoonist Wook-Jin Clark?) makes artificial robot children, or “proxies,” for infertile parents. It’s hinted that the entire world is suffering from an infertility plague. Chul, a Wook-Jin employee, makes some mysterious alterations to a proxy that’s being shipped to Texas. The proxy, named Jesse, reads an entire room full of books in one night. This is a really interesting story about adoption and posthumanism, and it’s based on the writer’s own experience as a transracial adoptee from Korea ( I like how George Schall’s artwork uses a veneer that looks like fingerprints.

ABBOTT 1973 #5 (Boom! 2021) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Sami Kivelä. Abbott defeats the bad guys, and Detroit elects its first black mayor. But Abbott herself ends up worse off than before. She gets fired from her job – though it was inevitable anyway, since her boss was a sexist asshole. (As noted in my review of #1, the subplot with Abbott’s boss is a good example of how intersectionality works.) And Abbott’s girlfriend leaves her because she’s understandably sick of being a target for magical villains. Meanwhile, Detroit is about to face yet another magical conspiracy. The ending to this miniseries was very inconclusive, suggesting that there’ll be a third volume of Abbott sometime soon.

ASCENDER #15 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. A flashback issue showing how Tim became the avatar of both magic and science, which are the two opposing forces of the universe. This magic-versus-science plot is reminiscent of the Legion of Super-Heroes storyline “The Magic Wars.”

MONEY SHOT #11 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Sarah Beattie, [A] Caroline Leigh Layne. I’m thrilled that this series is back, though Caroline Leigh Layne is a far less impressive artist than Rebekah Isaacs. Former team member Bree is replaced by Dr. Yasemin Blanco, and the team visits a planet that has a plant that can supposedly cure climate change. After some sexy adventures, the team learns that the drug is actually just a narcotic, but that it provides hope for the future.

BITTER ROOT #13 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] David F. Walker & Chuck Brown, [A] Sanford Greene. Blink unites the various magical families of New York against the demons, while trying to adjust to her new role’s family head. Dr. Sylvester reappears at the end. We still don’t know what it was that Enoch discovered just before he was killed. Sanford Greene’s art in this issue is amazing, especially the two-page splash with Blink’s speech. My problem with this comic is that there are too many characters, and it’s hard to remember who they all are, or how they’re related.

SPECTER INSPECTORS #4 (Boom!, 2021) – “The Well,” [W/A] Bowen McCurdy, [W] Kaitlyn Musto. The team meets the ghost of a cute little boy, and he directs them to an old diary that explains part of the plot. But it doesn’t mention the demon’s name. Then Astrid deliberately gets herself kidnapped by the main villain, so she can open the barrier that’s keeping her friends in Cape Grace. I really like this miniseries, but by the time I read issue 5, I had mostly forgotten issue 4.

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #9 (Image, 2021) – “The Denver Working,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Martin Simmonds. In a flashback, we learn how Hawk was responsible for Cole’s childhood delusions about Satanic ritual abuse. Hawk makes a big long speech about how magic works; he references Aleister Crowley and Madame Blavatsky and tulpas and a lot of other stuff. His explanation of magic is scarily plausible. As usual, Martin Simmonds’s artwork in this issue is extremely unusual and creative. Hawk’s long speech could have been boring, but Simmonds’s artwork makes it fascinating and evocative, kind of like Daniel’s speech at the beginning of Paul Auster’s City of Glass.

THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE #1 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Alvaro Martinez Bueno. A group of twenty- and thirtysomethings, most of them unknown to each other, are gathered at a lake house in Wisconsin. The only thing they have in common is that they’re all friends with a man named Walter. Just as they’re getting to know each other… the  world suddenly ends. Someone tweets “I just watched Anderson Cooper burn to death on live television.” Walter explains that everyone on Earth is going to die except the people in the lake house. And… that’s it. This was a powerful debut issue. The Twitter feed detailing the end of the world is chilling; I think Twitter would look exactly like that if the world really did end. One of the Tweets is from Cole Turner from Department of Truth. I’m not familiar with Alvaro Martinez Bueno, but his art is quite good. I voted for Tynion for the Eisner for Best Writer.

X-MEN #20 (Marvel, 2021) – “Lost Love,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Francesco Mobili. On the Orchis Forge, Dr. Alia Gregor tries to resurrect her dead son by programming his personality into Nimrod. Mystique returns to the Orchis Forge in an attempt to assassinate Nimrod, in exchange for Destiny being resurrected. Mystique she succeeds in killing Nimrod’s body that contains Dr. Gregor’s son, but Nimrod survives in another body. So Mystique only ends up making the situation worse, and Professor X and Magneto refuse to bring Destiny back. It’s now clear that they never meant to do so, and that they were just dangling her as a carrot in order to control Mystique. I think this is the last issue of this volume of X-Men. The new writer is Gerry Duggan, who I don’t like.

NOCTERRA #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Tony Daniel. In a flashback to Val (Sundog) and Emory’s childhood, we see how they were saved from being trapped in their house by monsters. Val and Bailey arrive in Tipton, but it’s already been taken over by monsters, so they head to the next safe spot. Nocterra is a much more enjoyable horror comic than American Vampire.

CRUSH & LOBO #1 (DC, 2021) – “Crush is the Best Girlfriend Ever. Shut Up,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Amancay Nahuelpan. Crush is Lobo’s daughter, and she takes after her father. Her girlfriend, Katie, is a normal teenage human. Katie breaks up with Crush after Crush ruins her birthday party. Red Arrow, aka Oliver Queen’s sister Emiko, convinces Crush to visit her dad in prison. This is a fun debut issue, but I feel like Crush should be even more ridiculous and over-the-top than she is.

FAMILY TREE #12 (Image, 2021) – unttiled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Phil Hester. Josh and Meg finally defeat the psychotic soldier lady. In the last panel, we discover that their baby has a twig growing out of her hand, implying that the humans and plants have merged. This whole series felt like a less successful rehash of Sweet Tooth. It was Lemire’s second least impressive solo work, after Berserker Unbound.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #98 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Celeste Bronfman, [A] Akeem S. Roberts. When Celeste and Luna were children, their dolls were kidnapped by a terrifying kraken. In the present, the sisters confront the kraken again and discover that it wasn’t really evil. This was a generic story that could have been published at any point in the entire run of the series. It didn’t need to be part of Season Ten in particular.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #26 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Clone Saga,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Carmen Carnero. The clones beat up Miles until Peter arrives to save the day, then the clones escape. Miles and Ganke reconcile. Miles finds a lab where more clones are being made, and destroys it, but the clones find him there and capture him. An exciting issue, though #25 was more memorable.

BEASTS OF BURDEN: OCCUPIED TERRITORY #3 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin & Sarah Dyer, [A] Benjamin Dewey. Emrys and Mullins meet the grand councli of yokai, but they’re not interested in helping defeat the demons. Then Emrys, Mullins and the two Shiba Inus get attacked by more demons, and Mullins is seemingly killed, though he appears on the cover of the next issue. The best part about this issue is the introduction of the council members, including kitsune, tanuki, kappa, etc. As far as I can tell, this series feels like a respectful depiction of Japanese mythology.

SAVAGE DRAGON #259 (Image, 2021) – “Welcome to North Force!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Malcolm joins the North Force, Canada’s homegrown superhero team, and they fight some alien stone men, but then Malcolm refuses to accompany North Force in a mission to the stone men’s home planet. Unfortunately, Heroes also put North Force #1 in my file even though it’s the same content as Savage Dragon #259.

THE WORST DUDES #1 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Aubrey Sitterson, [A] Tony Gregori. The mortal hitman Sam Sugar is hired by the Eternal Empress – the goddess Hera, more or less – to kidnap her husband’s illegitimate daughter. But Sam has to bring along the Empress’s pampered brat of a son. After reading this comic I found it hard to recall just what it was about. But it’s well executed, and it reminds me of Curse Words because of its raucous sense of humor and its deliberate confusion of genres.

2000 AD #2217 (Rebellion, 2021) – I’ve been ordering 2000 AD from Previews every month, but the June prog pack was the first one I’ve received. It seems like these progs are actually from February. Dredd: “Naked City,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Dan Cornwell. Judge Moe has a psychic power that causes her to see everybody naked. She uses this power to save Dredd from a criminal. Also she sees more of Dredd than she wanted to. This is a very funny one-shot story that feels like it could have appeared in any era of 2000 AD, except that in earlier decades it wouldn’t have gotten past the censors. Durham Red: “Served Cold 06,” [W] Alec Worley, [A] Ben Willsher. Durham Red tracks down some criminals in a blizzard. I don’t understand this story. Proteus Vex: “The Shadow Chancellor Part Six,” [W] Mike Carroll, [A] Jake Lynch. Some kind of science fiction story with an entirely alien cast. I don’t understand this one either. Slaine: “Dragontamer Part 6,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Leonardo Manco. The new king of Britain, Brutus, is cracking down on Shoggeys, who are alien lycanthropes. Slaine saves some shoggeys from being hanged. The Britons’ prejudice against Shoggeys is obviously a reference to real-world prejudice. Leonardo Manco’s art is very impressive. Hershey: “The Brutal Part 6,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Simon Fraser. Former Chief Judge Hershey tracks down criminals at a boxing tournament in South America. In this story Simon Fraser makes really effective use of flat color.

MISTER MIRACLE: THE SOURCE OF FREEDOM #1 (DC, 2021) – “The Source of Freedom Part One,” [W] Brandon Easton, [A] Fico Ossio. Mister Miracle is the world’s greatest escape artist, but no one knows he’s really a black man, Shilo Norman. He asks a firefighter named Denise Dorman on a date, but she’s not impressed with him. And then he’s attacked by N’Vir Free, the daughter of Scott and Barda. This was a pretty good debut issue. An impressive moment is when Shilo complains about the racism he faces, and his agent Vito claims he can sympathize because he’s half Jewish and half Italian. This of course is based on actual stuff white people say.

COPRA #40 (Copra, 2021) – “The Ochizon Saga,” [W/A] Michel Fiffe. I no longer need to order this directly from the creator, because Heroes can get it from him for me. In #40, Copra finally defeats the Ochizon parents, and then the Deadshot character shoots and kills them both. This issue includes some more of Fiffe’s beautiful and visually radical action sequences.

IMMORTAL HULK #47 (Marvel, 2021) – “Chaotic Terrain,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. An issue-long fight scene with the Avengers on one side, and Hulk, Betty and Gamma Flight on the other. In the end, She-Hulk has to switch sides and help the Hulks escape. On the last page, Hulk and Betty share a creepy-looking kiss that reminds me of

INKBLOT #9 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Rusty Gladd, [A] Emma Kubert. In the middle of the war between the two sisters, two little goblins get caught in a fight between giants. As usual, MOW. interferes with them and helps them escape. It’s confusing trying to figure out how all the storylines in this comic are connected to each other. But it also doesn’t matter, since the whole point of the comic is the cat.

SHADOW DOCTOR #4 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Do No Harm,” [W] Peter Calloway, [A] Georges Jeanty. Nathaniel is forced to continue treating Capone’s goons, which makes him an accomplice to their crimes. Meanwhile he’s having no luck establishing his own medical practice, because his black neighbors are distrustful of modern medicine: “For two hundred years the only medicine they… no, we knew was the kinid that either got you back in the fields or got you dead.” This is a very powerful scene, and it reminds me of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, which is also about a minority population that has an understandable fear of modern medicine. But then a little boy comes to Nathaniel for help with his dying sister, and he saves her. This convinces the other local black people that he can be trusted, and they show up at his door in droves. That’s a touching moment.

REPTIL #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Terry Blas, [A] Enid Balám. Following the events of Outlawed, Reptil goes back home to Los Angeles to live with his family. A supervillain attacks him and demands his amulet, in exchange for information about his parents. This comic feels like an effective piece of OwnVoices writing about Latinx culture, and it also has some subtle trans representation. The main thing I remember from this issue is the tacos de canasta, because I’ve never had that.

SHADECRAFT #3 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Joe Henderson, [A] Lee Garbett. The counselor, Angela, claims that she’s a government agent whose job is to teach Zadie to use her powers. In the next issue we’re going to learn that this is false. Zadie goes to a carnival to stalk her crush, and ends up fighting more shadow creatures. Angela tells Zadie that the shadow Ricky isn’t really her brother. This series has been much better than I expected. Zadie and Ricky (if that’s really who he is) are very cute characters. A funny moment in this issue is when Zadie doesn’t know what “wax on, wax off” means.

ROBIN #2 (DC, 2021) – “Wake Up!”, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Gleb Melnikov. Robin wakes up from being dead and is introduced to his opponents, including Connor Hawke and Flatline. The latter character first appeared early this year in Detective Comics #1034, by the same creative team as this issue. Ravager agrees to train Damian, and there’s another short excerpt from the manga Damian was reading. This comic is a fairly light piece of entertainment, but it’s fun, and I like Damian a lot.

HELM GREYCASTLE #2 (Image, 2021) – “Meet Me in Mictlan,” [W] Henry Barajas, [A] Rahmat M. Handoko. The adventurers continue their quest to rescue the dragon child from the Aztecs, and we meet a Spanish priest named Francsico Lopez de Gomara. Gómara was a real 16th-century historian of the Americas, but he never went to America himself. This series seems a bit confused about what it’s doing, and I could do without the RPG modules at the end of each issue. But its depiction of precolonial Mesoamerica is fascinating.

THE BLUE FLAME #1 (Vault, 2021) – “Tears of the Geodynamo,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Adam Gorham. In one of this comic’s plotlines, the Blue Flame is a Green Lantern-esque space superhero, and he meets some aliens who are trying to decide whether to destroy the Earth. In the other plotline, the Blue Flame is a boiler technician from Milwaukee who moonlights as a local superhero. But while he and his teammates are appearing at an auto show, they become victims of a mass shooting. I don’t understand yet where this comic is going. I can only hope it’ll be more like She Could Fly than like Everything.

BLACK WIDOW #7 (Marvel, 2021) – “I Am the Black Widow Part 1,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Elena Casagrande. Natasha and Yelena train Lucy, and Natasha recruits Anya Corazon, aka  Spider-Girl, to help her infiltrate Apogee’s cult. They kidnap one of Apogee’s recriuts, but he liquefies in front of their eyes, traumatizing Lucy. Elena Casagrande’s art in this series has been consistently amazing.

JENNY ZERO #2 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Dave Dwonch & Brockton McKinney, [A] Magenta King. Jenny turns into a kaiju and fights another kaiju, and there are some flashbacks to her earlier life. This comic has fairly good art, but it’s not all that good, and it’s culturally appropriative.  I might as well finsih fiinish it since there are just two issues left. Otherwise I’d drop it.

THE OLD GUARD: TALES THROUGH TIME #3 (Image, 2021) – “Bonsai Shokunin,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Valentine DeLandro. Noriko assassinates an old Japanese man who used to be a warrior for the shogun. This story was forgettable, and I confused it in my memory with the Mongol invasion subplot from Eternals #4.  “Strong Medicine,” [W] Eric Trautmann, [A] Mike Henderson. In the Old West, some criminals take a doctor hostage and try to make him heal their comrade, even though he’s beyond help already. One of the immortals shows up and kills the criminals. This was better than the first story, despite having less famous creators.

NUCLEAR FAMILY #4 (AfterShock, 2021) – “Till We Find the Spark,” [W] Stephanie Phillips, [A] Tony Shasteen. The family and Roger escape from a zombie and head to Roger’s house, but the governor finds them there. This miniseries has suffered from too much decompression; not much of anything happened this issue.

STRANGE ADVENTURES #10 (DC, 2021) – “You Rule Supreme,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads & Evan “Doc” Shaner. The following is quoted from my own Facebook post. From the comments at

“Honestly this seems like a major pull back from just an unambiguous “Adam Strange is a war criminal for the same mundane reasons real people are war criminals”, here he’s only acting like a war criminal as a cover, its not the “real” him, and while sacrificing Earth to save Rann is pretty bad, it’s also very comic book bad. Going from war criminal to alien collaborator is a pretty big downgrade in terms of villainy. This also seems to center the Pykkts as villains once more, and also have them literally asking Adam Strange to commit war crimes against them (as part of his cover) which is… not a great look, in terms of the inescapable war in the Middle East allegory of all this.”

I agree. The ending of #10 is ridiculous and I hope it wasn’t Tom King’s original intent. Also, if Adam really was trying to make himself appear to be a war criminal, why did he try so hard to stonewall Mr. Terrific’s investigation? It seems easier to believe that Adam really *was* a war criminal and that the ending of #10 is just a clumsy retcon.

MY LITTLE PONY/TRANSFORMERS: THE MAGIC OF CYBERTRON #2 (IDW, 2021) – “Stunt Flying,” [W] Ian Flynn, [A] Priscilla Tramontano. Rainbow Dash and the Wonderbolts use a sonic rainboom to defeat some mind-controlled Decepticons. “One-Trick Pony,” [W] Sam Maggs, [A] Trish Forstner. Applejack teams up with a Wild West-themed Decepticon named Wildwheel. I tend to dislike Sam Maggs’s writing, but this story was rather funny.

HEROES REBORN #4 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Most Hated Man in the Heavens,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] James Stokoe. An insane Dr. Spectrum fights Rocket Raccoon and Ego the Living Planet. I don’t know anything about this crossover, but I bought this issue because of James Stokoe’s art. As usual his draftsmanship is better than anything else in current monthly comics. His depictions of aliens and Lovecraftian cancer-beasts are stunningly detailed and imaginative. There’s also a backup story about the infant Starbrand.

HOLLOW HEART #4 (Vault, 2021) – “Safe House,” [W] Paul Allor, [A] Paul Tucker. The big revelation this issue is that Mateo’s kidnapping of El was a sham; he’s still working for the company, and he “kidnapped” El to teach him new skills. This is a nice plot twist, but Hollow Heart is even more decompressed than Nuclear Family.

HAHA #5 (Image, 2021) – “Pound Foolish Makes a Casserole,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Gabriel Hernandez Walta. An elderly female clown lives a lonely existence in her house. A young boy’s friends dare him to sneak into her house. The boy and the old lady end up becoming friends. This is a very cute story. W. Maxwell Prince is mostly a horror writer, but e can also appeal to other emotions besides fear.  

THE NEXT BATMAN: SECOND SON #2 (DC, 2021) – “Second Son Part 2,” [W] John Ridley, [A] Travel Foreman. The new Batman hunts down the Ratcatcher, and there’s a lot more family drama. This issue has good artwork and character interactions, but I didn’t feel sufficiently interested in this series to buy issue 3. I’ve just been buying this series off the shelf rather than adding it to my pull list; that’s another perk of going to a brick-and-mortar store instead of using a mail-order service.

OUT OF BODY #1 (AfterShock, 2021) – “Giving Up the Ghost,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Inaki Miranda. Dan Collins wakes up in a coma after being mugged. Then he’s contacted by a young girl who has the power to talk to spirits. Peter Milligan has written a huge number of miniseries, but each of them has its own unique concept, and this series looks like another interesting entry in his canon.

2000 AD #2218 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: “Health & Happiness,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Simon Coleby. Harry Dump is a health nut, but thanks to an accidental encounter with Dredd, he loses both legs and goes bankrupt from medical bills. Harry goes nuts, tries to assassinate Dredd, and is sent to prison. Meanwhile, Dredd discovers that Harry’s insurance company was a fraud scheme that was working with a gang of “organ-leggers.” (I first encountered the idea of organ-leggers in Punisher 2099 #1, which was written by Pat Mills.) This story is eerily plausible, and Williams and Coleby succeed in making the reader feel Harry Dump’s pain. Durham Red: as above. I like the art in this series, but I don’t understand the plot. The alien character Roswell seems to be based on Nien Numb from Star Wars. Proteus Vex: as above. I still can’t follow this story at all. Slaine: as above. Slaine sneaks into Brutus’s palace, and there’s a subplot about Brutus’s relationships with his sons. Hershey: as above. Again, I don’t know what’s going on here, but the artwork and coloring are excellent.  

THE AMAZON #2 (Comico, 1989) – untitled, [W] Steven T. Seagle, [A] Tim Sale. This is the original series, not the recolored 2009 reprint. In this issue Malcolm the journalist makes it to the Jatapu village and finally encounters Robertson, the Amazon. This comic is a blatant white savior narrative, but it’s exciting. An unusual aspect of this series is that Malcolm has two different sets of caption boxes, one representing the article he writes, the other representing his actual thoughts, and often these sets of captions contrast with each other in ironic ways.

SOCK MONKEY VOL. 1 #2 (Dark Horse, 1998) – untitled, [W/A] Tony Millionaire. Uncle Gabby finds a shrunken head from Borneo, and he and Drinky Crow decide to take him home aboard a sailing ship. Then they discover the head isn’t really from Borneo. The language the head speaks looks kind of like Quechua, but it could just be gibberish. Sock Monkey has great art,  but its style of humor seems repetitive.

TARZAN: THE BECKONING #1 (Malibu, 1992) – “Love and Rage,” [W/A] Tom Yeates, [W] Henning Kure. In San Francisco, Tarzan tries to track down people who are importing illegal ivory into Chinatown, while Jane advocates for ivory bans. Tom Yeates’s art here is beautiful, and this issue is notable for giving Jane a much more proactive role than she usually has. This comic does include some uncomfortable depictions of both African and Chinese people.

BRIT #2 (Image, 2003) – “Cold Death,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Tony Moore. Brit, an elderly superhero in an undershirt, has numerous adventures while he and his ex-stripper wife await their baby’s birth. This comic is reasonably fun, but it has a very similar style of storytelling and dialogue to Invincible, and indeed Brit was later incorporated into the Invincible universe.

ECHO OF FUTUREPAST #3 (Continuity, 1984) – ‘Bucky O’Hare,” [W] Larry Hama, [A] Michael Golden. The highlight of this issue is the Bucky O’Hare story. There’s also a Frankenstein story by Neal Adams. Like all of Neal’s solo work, it has beautiful art but totally incoherent writing. Carlos Gimenez’s “Hom” is a bizarre Corben-esque fantasy story that has little in common with anything else I’ve read by this artist. Jean Teulé’s “Virus” looks interesting, but is damaged by awful recoloring. Teulé seems like a really important and unusual artist, and it’s unfortunate that none of his major works have been published in English. Suydam’s “Mudwogs” looks a lot like Sam Kieth’s work, though the relationship of influence is probably the other way around.

NIGHT MUSIC #7 (Eclipse, 1988) – “Red Dog,” W/A] P. Craig Russell. This issue is also labeled as Red Dog #1. In an adaptation of Kipling’s Jungle Book, Mowgli leads his pack of wolves in a war with a pack of dholes, or Indian wild dogs. PCR’s artwork here is beautiful, as ever, but Kipling’s pseudo-Oriental prose style is very annoying. (For example: “I have seen all the dead seasons and the great trees and the old elephants and the rocks that were bare and sharp-pointed ere the moss grew. Art thou still alive, manling?”)

COMMANDERS IN CRISIS #9 (Image, 2021) – “The Action of Escalation,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Davide Tinto. This issue introduces a new character named Dr. Dracula, but otherwise it’s just an escalation of the same plotlines from the last few issues.

2000 AD #2219 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: “Against the Clock,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Patrick Goddard. Meg Plankhurst is trying to make a living as a delivery girl on a flying skateboard, even though she’s a single mom and she has to take her baby with her. She narrowly avoids missing her delivery time after Dredd stops her to check her safe parenting permit. There’s not much of a story here, but Meg is a cute character. Slaine: as above. Slaine frees Alban, Brutus’s monstrous son, from the prison where Brutus keeps him. There’s an impressive splash page where we see what Alban really looks like. Proteus Vex: as above. Again I don’t understand this story, but there’s a black-clad character who has a really cool-looking costume. Durham Red: as above. Nothing new to say about this. Hershey: as above. This seems like an interesting conclusion to the current story arc, but I don’t know what that story arc is about.

2000 AD #76 (IPC, 1978) – Robo-Hunter: “Verdus,” [W] John Wagner, [A] José Luis Ferrer & Ian Gibson. This is a key issue since it’s the first appearance of Sam Slade. In this first story it’s obvious that he’s supposed to be a parody of film noir detectives like Sam Spade. He captures a malfunctioning robot, then discovers that its owner, the sexy Mrs. Winters, is also a robot. We then learn that this was all a test, and because he passed, he gets hired to save the planet of Verdus, which has been taken over by robots. The spaceship in this story is a ripoff of a Star Destroyer from Star Wars. Hoagy and Stogie aren’t present yet, which is good, although there’s a character in the story who speaks in an offensive fake Chinese accent. Dan Dare: “Mutiny,” [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Dave Gibbons. Fleeing his mutinying crew, Dare hides in a shuttlecraft, but his crazy crewman Gunnar steals it and flies awy with Dare in it. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth Chapter 16: Black Sabbath!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. Satanus causes a lot of hilarious and thrilling mayhem. Tweak saves Dredd, and Satanus wanders off to parts unknown. Ant Wars: untitled, [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Alfonso Azpiri. Villa and Anteater prepare for the ants’ invasion of Rio.

MONSTRESS #34 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. Maika merges with Zinn to fiight the Ancient Wolf Queen. Maika gets a cool new costume. There’s some impressive artwork and coloring in this issue, but by this point I was getting very tired of Monstress. I will have more to say about Monstress below.

SHADOW SERVICE #8 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, A] Corin Howell. Gina is tortured by some sort of mgaical villain. I’ve completely lost track of this series’ plot, I’m no longer enjoying it, and I’m going to drop it.

JON SABLE, FREELANCE: ASHES OF EDEN #5 (IDW, 2010) – untitled, [W/A] Mike Grell. Sable and Maggie the Cat team up to stop an Iraqi terrorist’s plot to blow up Manhattan. The terrorist, Bashira, is presented as a somewhat sympathetic figure – the term “ashes of Eden” is her description of her homeland – but Sable kills her anyway. Grell’s art has barely evolved since the ‘80s, and this issue includes some ugly computerized weather effects.

SATELLITE SAM #2 (Image, 2013) – “The Dirt Nap,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Howard Chaykin. Star actor Satellite Sam has been assassinated, and his impotent, alcoholic son has to deal with the aftermath of his death. This feels more like a classic Chaykin comic than Chaykin’s recent solo works do. Its Hollywood setting and its cast of corrupt businessmen and dishonest women are very reminiscent of a series like American Flagg or Time2. I also think Chaykin’s art looks very nice in black and white.

SAVAGE DRAGON #166 (Image, 2010) – “Emperor Dragon Part 4: Holocaust,” [W/A] Erik Larsen. Angel and Mr. Glum make a failed attempt to stop Dragon/Kurr from taking over Earth. It’s nice to see Mr. Glum again. Ordway and Gordon’s Wildstar also makes a cameo appearance.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE #3 (DC, 2010) – “Rough Cut,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. This story is set in Los Angeles in 1925, though I’m not sure just what it’s about. A cool moment in this story is when a vampire is staked to death by a cactus, since cactus thorns count as wood. “Blood Vengeance,” [W] Stephen King, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. A flashback story in which a vampire invades a small Colorado town in 1909.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2015 PERFECT SQUARE PRESENTS POKÉMON (Viz, 2015) – “Pokemon X·Y, Vol. 1,” [W] Satoshi Yamamoto, [A] Hidenori Kusaka. A reclusive young Pokémon trainer has to be coerced to leave his room. There’s nothing here to make me want to read any more of this manga. This FCBD comic also includes chapters from a couple other Pokémon manga.

IZNOGOUD V1 (Cinebook, 1967) – “The Wicked Wiles of Iznogoud,” [W] René Goscinny, [A] Jean Tabary. I have a huge backlog of French BD albums, and I decided it was time to start reading them. I’m going to count them as comic books rather than books, which I keep track of separately. Iznogoud (rhymes with “he’s no good”), the evil vizier to Caliph Haroun Al-Plassid. Iznogoud’s goal and catchphrase is “I want to be caliph instead of the caliph!” This Iznogoud album consists of several stories, all of which have the same formula: Iznogoud discovers some magical item or spell, and he and his sidekick Wa’at Alahf (“what a laugh”) try to use it to overthrow the caliph, but it backfires horribly. Despite their formulaic nature and their obvious reliance on Orientalist stereotypes, these stories are very funny. Their humor often relies on sophisticated puns and wordplay, which the uncredited translators do a good job of imitating in English. Standout stories in this album include “The Time Machine,” where the artist, Tabary, makes a cameo appearance, and “Chop and Change,” about a cup that causes the last two people who drank from it to switch bodies. It quickly becomes very hard to keep track of whose mind is in which body.

2000 AD #2220 (Rebellion, 2021) – This is an extra-sized “Regened” issue, intended for young readers. Cadet Dredd: “Suboptimal,” [W] Arthur Wyatt, [A] Davide Tinto. The young Dredd and his senior partner, Cadet Quinn, have to find some missing kids. They discover that the kids were enslaved by a sentient shopping mall. Dredd and Quinn free the kids, and they return home, where they’re enslaved by their televisions instead. Quinn is an excellent foil for Dredd. Action Pack: “The Radyar Recovery,” [W]  Mike Carroll, [A] Luke Horsman. A salvage team rescues a spaceship that was lost 40,000 years ago, and they recruit the spaceship’s surviving crew member to join their team. We also learn that the members of the Action Pack are enslaved to their employers, and they’re released after completing a certain number of missoins, but they don’t know how long that will take. Viva Forever: “Comstock,” [W] David Baillie, [A] Anna Morozova. Super-thief Viva Forever, with help from an imitator of hers, steals a hard drive containing the entire Internet. Future Shocks: “Geno Firenzo’s Big Comeback,” [W] Karl Stock, [A] Silvia Califano. Geeno Firenzo, “the greatest of the emotional influencers,” has disappeared, and none of his fans can remember what happened during the last three months. Two of his young fans have to solve the mystery by tracking down the social network creator Cornelius Zugg. Mayflies: “Precious Cargo,” [W] Mike Carroll, [A] Simon Coleby. In the Rogue Trooper universe, some “mayflies” – military clones with a short life expectancy – escape from the Nort army and head off on their own. Overall this is an exciting issue that succeeds in appealing to young readers without insulting their intelligence. Its bright, primary color scheme marks it as different from a typical prog.

THE MARVELS #2 (Marvel, 2021) – “Strands and Patterns Stuff,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Yildiray Cinar. A bunch of separate plot threads mostly involving Kevin Schumer, who we learn is the Tinkerer’s nephew. I really hope Kevin Schumer is not named after Arlen Schumer. As I noted before, this series is a lot like Astro City, but it lacks the personal touch of Astro City because it’s not about Kurt’s own characters.

THE MODERN FRANKENSTEIN #2 (Heavy Metal, 2021) – untitled, [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Emma Vieceli. Elizabeth continues working with James, and also sleeps with him. There’s not a whole lot here that wasn’t in issue 1, but the sex scenes are quite sexy.

CEREBUS #42 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1982) – “Campaign’s End,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus and his team travel around Iest collecting votes, while Cerebus conspires to make Astoria think she has more power over him than she really does. This isn’t my favorite chapter of High Society, but it’s good. There’s a backup story by Michael T. Gilbert, about a little boy who correctly suspects his parents are monsters.

WITCHBLOOD #3 (Vault, 2021) – “The Darkness in the Sheds of Town,” [W] Matthew Erman, [A] Lisa Sterle. Yonna goes to consult a witch with eye-based magic, and then she gets in a three-way fight with two other witches and the Hounds of Love. This comic is a little hard to follow, but it’s very funny and exciting. I especially like the sound effects such as “what a reveal” and “majestic impressive amazing.” I also like all the musical references. This comic has a somewhat similar aesthetic to Kim & Kim, and Matthew Erman’s writing style reminds me of Magdalene Visaggio’s.

BATMAN: BLACK & WHITE #6 (DC, 2021) – “The Second Signal,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Khary Randolph. Some black kids in “The Hill,” Gotham’s slum neigborhood, build their own Bat-Signal, so they can summon Batman to deal with the Mad Hatter’s attacks on their community. This was a very touching story. “The Abyss,” [W/A] Elsa Charretier, [A] Pierrick Colinet. Three people all witness the same encounter between Batman and Man-Bat, but they all interpret it differently. This story has some nice Darwyn Cooke-esque art, but Pierrick Colinet is a completely incompetent writer. “Opening Moves,” [W/A] Nick Derington. Batman fights some chess-themed supervillains, and fails to convince their youngest member to come away with him. This was another cute story. “Like Monsters of the Deep,” [W] John Arcudi, [A] James Harren. Batman uses Clayface as a decoy to catch a criminal, but Clayface gets too deeply absorbed in his role. Clayface’s dialogue is full of Shakespeare quotations, and James Harren makes him look beautiful and gruesome. “A Thousand Words,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] John Romita Jr. A dying photographer thinks back on all the photos he’s taken of Batman. This is another good one, though I seem to recall disliking it, and I’m not sure why.

DRYAD #10 (Oni, 2021) – untitled, [W] Kurtis Wiebe, [A] Justin Barcelo. The city starts to collapse as giant trees erupt through the ground, and Yale apparently gets killed. I’ve lost track of Dryad’s plot.

2000 AD #77 (IPC, 1978) – This is the third of the four banned progs. Robo-Hunter: as above. On the way to Verdus, Sam and his pilot are de-aged 35 years. Slade becomes 25 again and his pilot becomes a one-year-old baby. That’s the origin of Kidd. Dan Dare: as above. Dare makes it back to the ship, but thanks to gunfire from Gunnar, he gets trapped in sealing gel. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth Chapter 17: Giants Aren’t Gentlemen!”, [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Brian Bolland. The chapter title is a P.G. Wodehouse reference. Dredd encounters a mad scientist resembling Colonel Sanders, who’s created replicas of the Green Giant, Planters’s Mr. Peanut, Alka-Seltzer’s Speedy, the Michelin Man, and other advertising mascots. All of these characters were used without permission, which is why this story was banned from reprinting. That’s unfortunate because this story has amazing Bolland artwork, and its parodies of corporate mascots are quite funny. Future Shocks: “The Ultimate Warrior,” [W] Chris Stevens, [A] Pierre Frisano. The warrior Karnok goes on a quest to defeat the android Reaper of Death. The twist ending is that Karnok himself is an android. Ant Wars: as above. The ants invade Rio by using a carnival float as cover.

SWAMP THING #4 (DC, 2021) – “My Green Amaranthine Part 4,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. Jennifer Reece talks with Jason Woodrue. Alec Holland tells Levi about the Green. There’s one impressive page with some visual quotations from old Swamp Thing comics. The Suicide Squad appears at the end of the issue. I’m still finding it hard to get into this series, and I’m not sure what it’s supposed to be about.

THE SURVIVOR V1 (Catalan, 1985) – untitled, [W/A] Paul Gillon. This artist was heavily influenced by American master draftsmen like Al Williamson and Stan Drake, and he in turn was a major influence on David Roach. His draftsmanship in this album is stunning. The protagonist, Aube Albespy, spends most of the book naked, and Gillon makes her look very sexy, but he also draws beautiful machinery and architecture. The Survivor takes place in a near-future France where most of the population has been killed in a nuclear catastrophe. Only Aube survived because she was diving in a cave. Aube eventually finds another survivor, an astronaut who was in space during the catastrophe, and falls in love with him. (Y: The Last Man also includes astronauts who survived the apocalypse by not being on Earth when it happened, but this similarity is probably a coincidence.) But Aube’s jealous companion murders the astronaut. The second album of this series was also translated into English, but it’s hard to find.

CEREBUS #44 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1982) – “The Deciding Vote,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus and Lord Julius’s goat are exactly tied, and a curmudgeonly old farmer has to decide which candidate will get the last undecided seat from his remote mountain district and will thus become Prime Minister. After locking up Astoria and the Roach in a shed ful of moonshine, the old man makes his decision, but Cerebus has to get back to town in order to learn what that decision was. And of course the bridge back to Iest is out and won’t be fixed for a week. But Cerebus accidentally learns that the old man voted for him, and he’s the new Prime Minister – not that it will do him any good. This is one of the best Cerebus stories I’ve read; it has some amazing dialogue and comic timing. This issue also includes a Neil the Horse backup story.

2000 AD #78 (IPC, 1978) – This is the fourth and last banned prog. Robo-Hunter: as above. Slade and Kidd finally arrive at Verdus, where the robots throw him and Kidd into prison with all the other humans on the planet. The robots refer to Sam as a “sim,” the meaning of which we don’t know yet. Future Shocks: “Nothing on Earth!”, [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Pierre Frisano. Earth is contacted by some horrible-looking aliens. The humans promptly kill them, only to learn that the aliens were actually good, and were trying to warn them of the imminent arrival of some cute but evil aliens. Dan Dare: as above. The lead mutineer, Haskins, steals Dare’s uniform and escapes from the ship. But he’s promptly captured by Gunnar, who mistakes him for Dare and kills him, before being killed himself. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth Chapter 18: Soul Food,” as above. Dredd helps Dr. Gribbon (Colonel Sanders)’s creations rebel against their creators. Dr. Gribbon and the corporate mascot characters are all killed. This story has some more terrific Bolland art. Ant Wars: as above. The ants take over Rio, and Villa and Anteater’s new task is to kill the queen.

CLEAN ROOM #4 (Vertigo, 2016) – “Turn That Frown Upside Down,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Jon Davis-Hunt. In a flashback, we see how the creepy cult leader, Astrid, recruited a scientist named Dr. Hagen. In the present, she has an interview with an ancient demon, and the other protagonist, Chloe, is contacted by a different demon. Jon Davis-Hunt draws in a classic superhero style, but his art is surprisingly well suited to the horror genre.

2000 AD #79 (IPC, 1978) – as above except [A] Ian Gibson. Slade and Kidd are tortured by the robots, but Kidd gets them out of their cell. Ian Gibson’s artwork is extremely detailed, and his spotting of blacks is impressive. Dan Dare: “The Doomsday Machine,” [W] Roy Preston, [A] Trevor Goring & Garry Leach. Dare’s ship is captured by a giant alien vessel. Goring and Leach’s art isn’t as immediately appealing as Gibbons’s, but it includes some impressive visual effects. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth Chapter 19: Loser’s Leap,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Mike McMahon. Dredd and his crew arrive in Las Vegas, where everyone is gambling-mad. The local corrupt judges sentence Dredd to be thrown off a building for interfering with their gambling schemes. Mike McMahon’s art is exciting and full of chicken fat, though some of the fine detail is lost due to poor printing. Ant Wars: as above except [A] José Luis Ferrer. Villa and Anteater destroy the ants with help from the Brazilian navy, but some of the ants’ eggs survive, so this dumb story isn’t over yet.

ACHILLE TALON V30 (Dargaud, 1982) – “Achille Talon a un groz nez Ah! Ah! Ah!”, [W/A] Michel Greg. This is the first untranslated French comic I’ve read in a long time. My French is pretty rusty, and this comic took a while to finish. Achille Talon (meaning “Achilles’ heel”) is a self-important French gentleman with a huge nose. This album consists mostly of short stories, ranging from a single tier of panels to a few pages, mostly focusing on Achille Talon’s misadventures and his Homer-and-Flanders-esque relationship with his neighbor Hilarion Lefuneste. There are also some metatextual jokes where Achille visits the offices of the magazines where his stories are published. In the longest sequence of stories, Achille campaigns for president of France. Greg draws in the humorous “Marcinelle school” style that was pioneered by Franquin.

2000 AD #80 (IPC, 1978) – Robo-Hunter: as above. Slade and Kidd run from the robots and discover some friendly robot appliances. Ant Wars: as above except [A] Alfonso Azpiri again. Villa and Anteater are recovering in hospital when they learn of renewed ant attacks in the pampas of Argentina. They travel to Argentina and are captured by some gauchos. Amusingly, the ants’ first victims are two stereotypical Scottish men who were returning from the World Cup. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth Chapter 20: The God Judge!”, as above. Spikes saves Dredd, and he participates in the Vegas judges’ annual competition and becomes their new God-Judge. Future Shocks: “Breaking Out,” [W] Jan Garczynski, [A] Carlos Pino. A criminal escapes from a prison on the moon of Titan, but his escape is in fact a drug-induced fantasy. Dan Dare: as above. The alien ship is full of murderous cannibals as well as one sane human, a space prospector named Jebby. This story’s first panel contains several Easter eggs including the USS Enterprise, the robot from Metropolis, and Dan Dare’s original spaceship Anastasia.

CLEAN ROOM #5 (Vertigo, 2016) – “All the Wrong Places,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Jon Davis-Hunt. Astrid forces the actress Chrissy Delacorte to work for her, under threat of having her career destroyed. This is a creepy scene that destroys any sympathy the reader had for Astrid, if the reader had any sympathy for her to begin with. In another disturbing scene, a demon warns Chloe that she’s about to be attacked by an assassin called the Surgeon.

ELFQUEST: THE FINAL QUEST #10 (Dark Horse, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Wendy Pini, [W] Richard Pini. The dying Angrif Djun launches his last and biggest fleet, there’s more drama between Rayek and Winnowill, and lots of other stuff happens that doesn’t seem to matter. I did not like this Elfquest series at all.

COYOTE #4 (Marvel, 1984) – “How Coyote Drank His Djinn,” [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Chas Truog. The djinn/gin pun also appears in Midnight’s Children, which Steve Englehart could plausibly have read by 1984. Like most Englehart comics, Coyote #4 has a super-confusing plot that doesn’t make much sense, and also a bit of bizarre sex. The character Lizette in this issue seems very similar to Firebird from West Coast Avengers.

REVIVAL #9 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Mike Norton. The Check brothers execute some kind of plot to smuggle stolen Reviver parts, and Cooper and Dana accidentally stumble upon the brothers as they’re dissecting a corpse. This is a very typical issue of Revival.

SLAINE THE BERSERKER #3 (Quality, 1987) – “Sky Chariots,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. This reprints the Slaine stories from 2000 AD #355-360, in which Slaine becomes Slough Throt’s bodyguard and rides on his cloud curragh. These are good stories – I’ve read three of them in their original form – but Quality’s 2000 AD reprints are some of the worst reprint comics I’ve ever seen. Mike McMahon’s artwork is reprinted too small, rearranged to fit the American page format, and saddled with horrible coloring. Besides being garish and hideous, the coloring makes it hard to see the fine details of McMahon’s art. The result of all this is a comic that bears little resemblance to its original version.

CLEAN ROOM #6 (Vertigo, 2016) – “The Surgeon Walks,” as above. A flashback reveals that Chloe’s boyfriend Philip killed himself because Astrid showed him something horrible, but we don’t get to see what it was. The Surgeon – a demon in the form of a sweet-looking old man – appears and nearly kills Chloe, but Astrid calls and convinces the Surgeon to leave. This is perhaps my favorite of Gail’s solo comics, because it’s such a creepy piece of horror. But it’s unfortunate that Astrid is such an unsympathetic character. She does actually have a good cause – she wants to defeat the aliens or demons or whatever they are – but her methods are so awful that the reader hates her more than the demons.

BADGER #22 (First, 1987) – “Range War,” [W] Mike Baron, [A] Bill Reinhold. The Badger gets involved in a feud between two appliance salesmen, one who pretends to be a vampire and another who acts like a stereotypical Irishman. I read this story around the same time that I read George Pelecanos’s A Firing Offense, which is also about corrupt appliance salesmen. This issue also has a Clonezone backup story. The Badger is a funny comic, but I’m not fery interested in collecting it because Mike Baron is such a toxic person.

CEREBUS #47 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “Crisis Number Three: Balances,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus deals with a bunch of simultaneous crises, and the Roach acts as his hired muscle and does some illegal stuf on his behalf. The issue ends with Cerebus discovering that the army approaching Iest is not Bran Mak Morn’s long-awaited army, but an invasion force. The backup story is part two of Sech and Cherkas’s “The Missing Schoolgirl.”

TRIDENT #2 (Trident, 1989) – [E] Martin Skidmore. The most notable stories in this issue are the two I’ve already read: Morrison and Grist’s St. Swithin’s Day, and Eddie Campbell’s Bacchus. Rereading this chapter of St. Swithin’s Day, I’m surprised to realize that the protagonist openly admits he’s going to London to assassinate Margaret Thatcher. I remembered that as being a surprise plot twist. Another interesting story is Dominic Regan’s “Dom Zombi,” in which a sorcerer tries to resurrect Morrissey. Other creators in this issue include Mike Collins, D’Israeli and Nigel Kitching.

2000 AD #81 (IPC, 1978) – Robo-Hunter: as above. Slade has some weird dreams, and then the robot appliances decide to go with him to see SJI, the first robot that came to Verdus. This chapter has a lot of impressive artwork. Ant Wars: as above. Villa and Anteater barely survive an ant attack, and then they encounter some rebel guerillas. Argentina had a ot of guerrilla groups in the ‘70s, though Wikipedia claims that the government exaggerated the threat the guerrillas posed. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth Chapter 21: Tweak’s Story!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Brian Bolland. Tweak tells Dredd and Spikes that he exiled himself from his home planet in order to prevent humans from learning about his planet’s priceless mineral resources. This is a really cute story, and of course Bolland’s art is incredible. Tweak is visually based on a tamandua, an anteater native to Central and South America. Dan Dare: as above. Dare meets another human who shows him that the cannibals worship three human bodies frozen in ice. Future Shocks: “What Hit Tunguska?”, [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Pierre Frisano. Some time travelers try to find out what caused the 1908 Tunguska explosion, but they end up causing it themselves.

NIGHT MUSIC #1 (Eclipse, 1984) – “Breakdown on the Starship Remembrance,” [W/A] P. Craig Russell. Lieutenant Jordon Alexander becomes an astronaut because he’s a fan of Flash Gordon and EC comics. He discovers that actual space travel is much less romantic. There are two alternate endings. This story includes some beautiful artwork, including some amazing alien cityscapes. However, unlike most of PCR’s later work, it suffers from severe overwriting. There are two short backup stories, one which is an adaptation of the first movement of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, and another which appears to be reproduced directly from pencils.

BUCK GODOT, ZAP GUN FOR HIRE #2 (Palliard, 1993) – “The Gallimaufry Part 2,” [W/A] Phil Foglio. Palliard Press was Greg Ketter from Dreamhaven Books in Minneapolis. I hadn’t realized that he used to publish his own comics. Much like Captain Confederacy, Buck Godot seems aimed more at SF fans than at comics fans. Buck Godot #2 is set in Gallimaufry Station, a meeting point for thousands of alien species. The eponymous protagonist is a giant-sized human who grew up in high gravity. In this issue Buck helps foil another human’s plot to sell classified information. This comic is quite funny, if sometimes hard to follow, and its art includes a lot of chicken fat.

TUKI: SAVE THE HUMANS #2 (Cartoon Books, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Smith. Tuki is “the story of the first human to leave Africa.” In this issue, Tuki saves a little boy from a sabretooth tiger, and then they work together to outwit a giant gorilla. Tuki was originally published as a webcomic, which explains its weird sideways page format and its decompressed storytelling. It’s not surprising that Tuki was less successful than Bone or even Rasl, since it was only available as a webcomic and a self-published comic book, and not as a graphic novel. Only four issues of Tuki were ever published, but earlier this year Jeff Smith launched a Kickstarter to publish it as two graphic novels.

ONE FOR ONE: BPRD HELL ON EARTH; NEW WORLD #1 (Dark Horse, 2014) – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola & John Arcudi, [A] Guy Davis. Abe Sapien investigates a Bigfoot sighting in the forests of British Columbia. I haven’t been impressed with any of the BPRD comics I’ve read, and this comic continues that trend.

STEVEN UNIVERSE AND THE CRYSTAL GEMS #4 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, [WW] Josceline Fenton, [A] Chrystin Garland. Steven and the Crystal Gems fight some sort of glass monster. I shouldn’t have ordered this comic. I watched the first few episodes of Steven Universe once, but I wasn’t able to get into it.

PRETTY DEADLY #10 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Emma Rios. I think this is the end of the War/World War I storyline. Perhaps my hatred of this series is exaggerated. The final scene where the grandmother dies is rather touching, and Emma Rios’s page layouts are often very creative. But I hate the way she draws faces, and I’ve never understood Pretty Deadly’s plot or how its protagonists are connected to each other.

CLEAN ROOM #7 (Vertigo, 2016) – “High Way to Hell,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Jon Davis-Hunt. In flashback, Astrid meets a girl named Anika Wells who’s also encountered the demons. In the present, we meet Anika again, only the left half of her body is withered, and she wants to die. Also, a detective named Avil Demakos interviews Chloe, and Astrid meets the Surgeon.

LUNA THE VAMPIRE #2 (IDW, 2016) – “Promotion” and other stories, [W/A] Yasmin Sheikh. Luna works at a store called Gröm, attends a fan convention, goes to her mother’s dinner party, etc. This comic is drawn in a Cartoon Network-esque style that does not appeal to me.

My next Heroes trip was on June 21. That day I had an excellent lunch at Euro Grill & Café. I ordered the cevaps sandwich. Sanford Greene was doing a signing at Heroes that day, but there was a long line for him, and I was too tired to wait.  

WYND #7 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. The vampires sink the ship when it’s almost at shore. All the named characters survive, but just barely, and Wynd has to fly off alone to get help. The two giant birds appear and keep him from falling asleep in mid-flight, but then they deliver him into the hands of a fairy who blames him for his mother’s death. Meanwhile, the vampires pick up Wynd’s friends’ trail. This issue reminds us that the villains in this cocmiic are really awful; they’re just totally unredeemable monsters.

SEVEN SECRETS #9 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. The heroes hide out in a remote castle in France. Meanwhile, the villains, who we’ve barely seen so far, have some internal disputes. At the end, Eva becomes the keeper of all the remaining secrets, one of which is that Sigurd is somehow still alive. This was the quietest, least action-packed issue yet.

SAVE YOURSELF #1 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Bones Leopard, [A] Kelly Matthews & Nichole Matthews. While working as a barista, shy, bespectacled Gigi has a meet-cute moment with a pink-haired muscular person. Then she gets trapped in a fight between the Lovely Trio – adult versions of the Powerpuff girls – and some giant lizards. We soon learn that the Lovely trio are evil, and Gigi’s crush, Mia, is one of the lizards they were fighting, and they’re “an agent of the Cosmic Federation,” apparently sent to deal with the evil superheroines. I never watched Powerpuff Girls, but this series is terrific anyway. It has a simiilar aesthetic and a similar art style to Zodiac Starforce or Another Castle. It’s notable that this comic includes two different transgender or nonbinary characters whose gender presentations are very different.

EVE #2 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Jo Mi-Gyeong. Early in this issue there’s a great line about how the difference between ideal and actual behavior is about eight billion lives. Eve and the teddy bear sail through the flooded ruins of Manhattan, where they encounter some zombies and then some human survivors. This series is just as funny and gripping as Destroyer, but less complicated, though that’s not a bad thing.

RADIANT BLACK #5 (Image, 2021) – “Aftermath,” [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Eduardo Ferigato w/ Marcelo Costa. Nathan is alive, but he’s not well. Marshall  hunts down Radiant Red and beats her up. Then we meet Radiant Yellow and Radiant Pink, and a masked hooded entity appears to challenge all of them. This issue is mostly drawn by a different artist from the first four, but I barely noticed, perhaps because the most important thing about Radiant Black’s art is the costume designs.

SIX SIDEKICKS OF TRIGGER KEATON #1 (Image, 2021) – “Marshal Art,” [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Chris Schweizer. Trigger Keaton, an awful action movie actor who nobody liked, has been murdered. His six former onscreen sidekicks have to figure out who killed him, even though they themselves have better motives than anyone else. This is a very funny comic, similar in tone to this creative team’s Mars Attacks miniseries, but with an original premise. The creators do a great job of making Trigger Keaton a character you love to hate. Chris Schweizer’s art is detailed and expressive. I love the scene where the mortician says that Trigger looks the same in death as in life, and then the next panel shows Trigger looking horrific.

STRANGE ACADEMY #11 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. Someone has shattered Toth into tiny pieces. Luckily he can be reassembled, but while that’s going on, Howard the Duck investigates who did it. Eventually we learn that a single piece of Toth is missing, and Calvin has it. When the other kids confront Calvin, he turns into a giant multi-eyed monster. In addition to the hilarious Howard scenes, a highlight of this issue is the appearance by Toth’s parents, an ice queen and a Man-Thing. I guess that explains why he doesn’t talk. This series was not in Marvel’s latest solicitations, but they did just announce a Strange Academy one-shot that ties into the Death of Dr. Strange event. I hope there will be more Strange Academy after that.

ORCS! #5 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Christine Larsen. The orcs spend most of their money on new equipment from the dwarves, and while they’re trying it on, they have some interesting conversations that reveal more about their characters. Then the orcs encounter a party of elf adventurers, and then a mysterious fog leads them to an ominous-looking temple. While waiting for the fog to go away, they pass the time by listening to another story about Drod.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #117 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Sophie Campbell. Jennika’s band gives their performance, and Bebop and Rocksteady give up the battle without even bothering to play. This is a bit of an anticlimax. Sophie represents the band’s music in much the same way as she depicted music in Jem and the Holograms, and one of the Turtles even makes an explicit reference to that franchise. The older Lita returns to the future, and after some loose ends are wrapped up, the issue ends with the revelation that Shredder is still alive.

USAGI YOJIMBO #20 (IDW, 2021) – “Yukichi Part One,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi meets Yukichi, a young rabbit ronin who looks a lot like him. In a flashback, we learn that Usagi has met Yukichi before, when Yukichi foolishly refused to introduce Usagi to his sensei, Itsuki. Usagi cut a twig in half and asked Yukichi to show it to his master as a token of introduction. Yukichi failed to recognize the proficiency with which Usagi cut the twig, and by the time he went to look for Usagi again, he was gone. (This reminds me of Vasari’s story about Giotto drawing a perfect circle freehand.) Now Itsuki is dead, and Usagi agrees to help him deliver Itsuki’s swords to his school’s next master, but some students from a rival school try to steal the swords. Yukichi is an intriguing and cute new character.

LITTLE ARCHIE #20 (Archie, 1961) – “The Long Walk” and other stories, [W/A] Bob Bolling. This is perhaps the most expensive back issues I’ve bought, at $22.47 with shipping, but it’s worth it. “The Long Walk” is Bob Bolling’s undisputed masterpiece. Betty is jealous that Archie keeps walking home from school with Veronica, so she asks Archie to walk her home the next day. Archie plays a cruel trick on Betty by taking her on a “shortcut” through quicksand, hornets’ nests, barbed wire, etc. When they get home, Betty is humiliated and dirty, but Archie has a change of heart and apologizes to Betty, as well as giving her a lock of his hair. Betty pastes the hair in her scrapbook, then curls up in bed with an expression of absolute bliss. This is a moment of peak emotional intensity; it perfectly sums up Betty’s love for Archie. This story also includes some interesting formal devices. It’s narrated in verse by three of Betty’s toys. Archie and Betty’s walk through the woods is depicted in a sideways splash page formatted like a map. It looks a lot like the Family Circus’s dotted-line Sunday strips. “The Long Walk” is a genuine masterpiece of the art of comics, and it’s a shame that it’s not more widely available. Bolling’s other stories in this issue are “Plesiosaur,” in which Archie encounters a prehistoric monster; “The Strange Case of Crawford Crab”; and “Buzzin’ Cousin.” There are also some stories by Dexter Taylor, who does a reasonable imitation of Bolling.   

BLACK HAMMER VISIONS #5 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Leonardo Romero. Skulldigger has a series of encounters with Bijou, his version of Catwoman. Except Bijou likes dogs instead of cats, and she’s motivated by her hatred of the evil billionaire Andres Venger. The last time they meet, Bijou is cruelly murdered by Grimjim. This is a simple but touching story, with brilliant art by a very underrated artist.

THE MANY DEATHS OF LAILA STARR #3 (Boom!, 2021) – “Up in Smoke,” [W] Ram V, [A] Filipe Andrade. The teenage Darius and his friends Zaffar and Danika discover an abandoned building where they hang out and do graffiti. This is a connection to Ram V’s previous work Grafity’s Wall. Darius and Zaffar have a falling out over their mutual passion for Danika. Then the building is destroyed in sectarian riots, and Zaffar is killed. Darius tells all this to Laila at a party in an apartment building. That same night, the building is destroyed by fire, and Laila is the only casualty. The riots that cause Zaffar’s death are triggered when “someone set a train on fire. Someone made an incendiary speech. Some wanted a temple built. Others wanted an edifice torn down.” This could be a reference to the 1992 Mumbai riots triggered by the destruction of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, but I don’t know if that fits the series’ timeline. Either way, I appreciate that Ram V doesn’t make this reference explicit. He respects his readers’ intelligence by assuming that they either know about Indian culture, or are willing to educate themselves about it.

BIRTHRIGHT #50 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Mikey confronts Kallista, who commits suicide (I think), thus wrapping up the final loose end. Five years later, Mikey and Rya, who’s pregnant with a son, are playing with Mya in the park. Mya gets lost, but just when we think that Mikey’s history is repeating itself, her parents find her. This is a sweet and satisfying conclusion to a very fun series.

FANTASTIC FOUR #33 (Marvel, 2021) – “Bride of Doom Part 2: Royal Wedding,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] R.B. Silva w/ Luca Maresca. At the wedding, everything seems to be going well until Zora stops the ceremony and admits that she slept with Johnny. Then everything goes to hell in a handbasket. This issue was rather predictable.

STILLWATER #8 (Image, 2021) – “All the Time in the World,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón K. Pérez. In a flashback, small-town policewoman Tanya tries to figure out why Stillwater never sends any prisoners to the state prison. Sheriff Mike tries to assassinate her, as is Stillwater’s usual policy, but he takes pity on her when he discovers that she’s lost her child and been diagnosed with cancer. She arrives in Stillwater, where she becomes the new sheriff. Then we return to the present day, and Ted shoots Tanya and steals her sheriff’s badge. Daniel isn’t in this issue.

FAR SECTOR #12 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] N.K. Jemisin, [A] Jamal Campbell. Jo uses her remaining power to defuse the violence, and she makes a speech about how “without justice, we [police] were just hired thugs for the people in power.” As at many earlier points in this series, Jo is really talking about contemporary America. Jo remains in the City Enduring and continues her relationship with Syz, and the series ends with the Green Lantern oath. Like all of Jemisin’s work, Far Sector was challenging and sometimes confusing, but also very important. I hope she writes more comics.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #27 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Clone Saga,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Carmen Carnero. The clones reveal their origin, which is connected to the Assessor from earlier in this series. Miles convinces one of the clones, Shift, to let him go, then Miles rushes to the hospital to protect his mother from Mindspinner. But meanwhile, Selim pretends to be Miles so that he can kidnap Miles’s baby sister from right out of her father’s arms. The last page, where Selim holds the baby and promises to keep her safe, is super creepy.

THE GOOD ASIAN #2 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Alexandre Tefenkgi. Edison Hark continues to investigate Ivy Chen’s kidnapping. His investigations lead him to a nightclub with Asian performers, but while there, he witnesses an assassination. Victoria Carroway, Edison’s racist foster sister, reveals that Mason Carroway knew something about Edison’s mother’s murder. This issue ends with some fascinating historical information about Chinese exclusion, Angel Island, and the “chop suey circuit.”

BABYTEETH #18 (AfterShock, 2021) – “Temple,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. Sadie’s mom reveals that she’s hiding some other demon children in the Mormon temple. The Ritters hold a funeral for Sadie’s dad. This series has been on hiatus for so long that it already feels a ltitle outdated, but I might as welll finish reading it since there are only a few issues left.

WONDER WOMAN #773 (DC, 2021) – “Afterworlds Part 4,” [W] Michael Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Travis Moore. Diana finally confronts the Valkyries in their castle, but Thor and the Asgardians have followed her there. The Asgardian conflict is finally resolved, Yggdrasil is saved, and Thor declares that it’s Thirsty Thorsday… heh. After spending the night with Sigurd, Diana heads off to Olympus to find out what’s happened to the gods. Ratatoskr goes with her. In the Young Diana backup, an old witch named Magala gives Diana some lost manuscripts. I love Paulina Ganucheau’s art, but Jordie Bellaire’s writing leaves much to be desired.

COMPASS #1 (Image, 2021) – “The Cauldron of Eternal Life,” [W] Robert Mackenzie & David Walker, [A] Justin Greenwood. This appears to be a different David Walker from the one who writes Bitter Root. In the year 1242, a young Muslim thief infiltrates a Welsh castle, where she encounters assassins sent by a Chinese former ally. This issue is a bit formulaic so far, but Compass’s concept is interesting. As explained in the essay at the end, this series is an adventure conquest that’s inspired by the social disruptions causued by the Crusades and the Mongol conquest. Its plotline illustrates how even in medieval times, the Western and Eastern worlds were heavily interconnected. I initially assumed that the character of Ednyfed Fychan was made up, but he was a real person, and Powys Fadog was a real kingdom. The authors seem to have done their research.

PROJECT: PATRON #3 (AfterShock, 2021) – “Revenge and Resurrection,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Patrick Piazzalunga. The Patron fights Mechatron, who looks like an EVA unit from Neon Genesis Evangelion, but claims to be the messiah. The Luthor character brings back the Doomsday character from the moon. Otherwise there’s not a lot here that’s new.

SILVER COIN #3 (Image, 2021) – “Death Rattle,” [W] Ed Brisson, [A] Michael Walsh. Let me just quote my own Facebook post: “I liked the first two issues of Silver Coin, but issue 3 was a pointless, plotless piece of torture porn. Ed Brisson is an awful writer.”

GEIGER #3 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Gary Frank. In a flashback, the King opens up Geiger’s vault and discovers that Geiger’s family is dead. He finds this funny. Geiger burns the hell out of his face, but somehow refrains from just killing him. In the present, Geiger adopts the two orphaned kids. I like this better than Geoff Johns’s DC comics because it’s an original concept, so he’s not doing damage to other people’s characters. Also, the King is a pretty loathsome villain.

SPIDER-MAN: SPIDER’S SHADOW #3 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Pasqual Ferry. Peter/Venom kills the entire Sinister Six except JJJ, who discovers his secret identity and helps him escape. There’s a funny reference to Eddie Brock as “Brock-Ock.” Peter finally escapes from the symbiote, but he discovers that his secret identity was revealed when the Kingpin died. Meanwhile, the Venom symbiote has returned to the Baxter Building and released a bunch of other symbiotes. The awful stuff that happens in this miniseries is genuinely impactful, even though none of it is in continuity.

BRZRKR #3 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Keanu Reeves & Matt Kindt, [A] Ron Garney. The berserker, Unute, is only two years old but is already full grown (a common mythological trope), and he’s conquering all the neighboring tribes on behalf of his power-mad father. There’s only a brief scene set in the present day. This comic is better than I expected, given that Keanu Reeves has almost no prior writing experience. I assume Matt Kindt is doing most of the actual writing.

BUNNY MASK #1 (AfterShock, 2021) – “The Chipping of the Teeth,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Andrea Mutti. Bee Foster is being raised by her abusive, schizophrenic father Bee, who believes that a creature called “the snitch” is talking to him. When some CPS agents come to investigate why Bee’s not at school, Leo murders one of them and imprisons the other, Tyler Severin, in a cave. In the cave Tyler encounters a mysterious bunny-masked girl, then wakes up to find that he’s been rescued. 14 years later, Tyler visits an art gallery full of art depicting the same bunny-masked creature. He discovers that the artist is none other than Bee Foster. Meanwhile, some policemen return to Leo Foster’s old house and discover the cave… which contains Bee Foster’s corpse. This is a very creepy and intriguing comic. Paul Tobin is best known as a writer of kid-oriented comics, but he’s also very good at horror.

SUPERGIRL: WOMAN OF TOMORROW #1 (DC, 2021) – “Men, Women, and Dogs,”, [W] Tom King, [A] Bilquis Evely. On an alien planet, teenage Ruthye’s father is killed by a villain named Krem. Ruthye heads off on a quest for vengeance. She goes to a bar and tries to hire a bounty hunter, but he slaps her and steals the sword. Luckily for her, Supergirl is drinking at the same bar, and she agrees to accompany Ruthye on her quest. Unluckily, when they find Krym, he flies away in the spaceship that Supergirl used to reach the planet. Also, the planet has a red sun. King and Evely succeed in creating a world that seems much like Earth, yet subtly different – there are unexplained references to things like “six-legged monogryphs” and the deity Crying Anne. And Ruthye and Supergirl are interestingly different characters. I liked Bilquis Evely’s art on The Dreaming, and I’m glad she’s getting bigger assignments.

WITCHBLOOD #1 (Vault, 2021) – “You’ll Have to Go Sideways,” [W] Matthew Erman, [A] Lisa Sterle. The title is a song by the Soft Boys. This issue begins by introducing the witch Yonna D’Arc, whose spells are references to songs. She gets in a fight with a bounty hunter who hunts witches, but then they both get attacked by the Hounds of Love, a group of vampires who are hunting for witches’ blood. After reading this issue I understand this series better, and I really like its coloring and its sense of humor.

CHALLENGE OF THE SUPER SONS #3 (DC, 2021) – “Little Wonders,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Jorge Corona & Max Raynor. In the past, Felix Faust’s apprentice Rora gives Jon and Damian the ancient scroll, which predicts Faust and Vandal Savage’s plots against superheroes. In the present, Jon and Damian use the scroll to save Hawkgirl, then they find Rora, but Savage is holding her hostage. This comic is very fun, but the two artists’ styles clash with each other.

KARMEN #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Guillem March. Cata overhears a conversation that reveals that her crush wasn’t really cheating on her, and she committed suicide for no reason. (Though it’s debatable whether there’s ever a reason.) Cata tries to confront her boyfriend Xisco, and the issue ends with them standing across from each other, but he’s unable to see her. Luckily that’s not the ending because there’s one more issue. Meanwhile, Karmen gets chewed out by her boss.

PROCTOR VALLEY ROAD #3 (Image, 2021) – “Here We Fucking Go Again,” [W] Grant Morrison & Alex Child, [A] Naomi Franquiz. The girls become persona non grata in their town. They go looking for clues, encounter some ghosts, and nearly get killed in a fire. After a final encounter with an old Native American woman, they decide that their friendship is over. Like many other Grant Morrison comics, Proctor Valley is getting harder to follow as it goes on.

DIE #17 (Image, 2021) – “Total Party Kill,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans. The party meet HP Lovecraft, and they realize that Lovecraft’s stories were based on visions of people playing Die in the future. The dice are non-Euclidean shapes. The party descend further and find a giant stockpile of the souls of other RPG players. Eventually they find a door that goes further down, and they open it by saying “friend.” One of the essays at the end of the issue is about Nordic LARP, which I’ve never heard of.

HOME #3 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Julio Anta, [A] Anna Wieszczyk. Juan’s mom arrives in Guatemala. Gladys helps Juan practice his powers in the park – a very common superhero trope – but they’re immediately attacked by ICE agents. As I’ve noted before, this comic is very unsubtle, but its topic is not one which calls for subtlety. Julio Anta presents the ICE agents as pure evil, and I think this is accurate.

2000 AD #1291 (Rebellion, 2002) – This was part of an eBay purchase, but I haven’t read any of the other progs from that lot yet. I’m trying to read my progs in numerical order. This prog is in a different format from any of the others I’ve read; it’s taller and thinner. Dredd: “Sin City Part 3,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Kev Walker. Sin City is a floating offshore casino. Judge Prees goes there to investigate who beat up his brother, who was an employee there. Dredd only appears briefly in this chapter. Kev Walker’s art is excellent. Sinister Dexter: “Croak Part 2,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Mark Pingriff. This is some kind of blend of the crime and horror genres, but I’m not sure what it’s about, or who the title character is. Thirteen: untitled (Part 3), [W] Mike Carey, [A] Andy Clarke. Joe Bulmer is attacked by some kind of boneless zombie, but is saved by a mysterious woman in black. Then some fake cops try to chase him, but a telepathic woman named Raksha saves him. Bec & Kawl: “And the Mystical Mentalist Menace Part 2,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Steve Roberts. The two eponymous protagonists, a man and a woman, fight a giant pink tentacled monster. I’m not sure what this series is about, but it’s funny and it reminds me a bit of Spurrier’s later work. Judge Death: “My Name is Death Part 3,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Frazer Irving. This is the only black-and-white strip in this prog. In this chapter Judge Death fights some judges inside a dormitory.

LUNA #5 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Maria Llovet. Luna and the blue god defeat Lux, have some weird mystical sex, and turn into constellations. This was an interesting miniseries with some radical artwork, but I’m not sure I want to read Llovet’s future work.

NIGHT HUNTERS #4 (Floating World, 2021) – untitled, [W] Dave Baker, [A] Alexis Ziritt. I couldn’t follow this comic’s plot, and Alexis Ziritt’s atrwork isn’t as exciting as in Space Riders. Ziritt is a terrific and underrated artist, but I wish he would work with a better writer.

AMAR CHITRA KATHA #503 (India Book House, 1971) – “The Sons of Rama,” [W] Anant Pai?, [A] Pratap Mulick. When I go to Heroes I often also visit a nearby used bookstore, Book Buyers. On my last visit I was excited to find two issues of Amar Chitra Katha. These are educational comics about Indian mythology and history. They’re very popular in India but are not easy to find in America, or if they are, I don’t know where to get them. I only have two others in my collection. This issue is based on Bhavabhuti’s Uttararamacharita (translated as Rama’s Last Act), which is itself based on the end of Valmiki’s Ramayana. Rama has rescued his wife Sita from Ravana, but his people demand that he exile her because she’s lived with another man, and she complies. In exile she gives birth to two sons, Luv and Kush, who grow up not knowing that their mother is Rama’s wife. Twelve years later Rama encounters Luv and Kush again while performing a horse sacrifice, which will establish him as the greatest of kings. Luv and Kush defeat Rama’s entire army, and Rama finally realizes that they’re his sons. But Sita asks the earth to swallow her as proof of her chastity, and it does. Rama’s abandonment of his wife is a rather problematic moment in Indian mythology, and this comic’s creators at least try to convey Rama’s ambivalent feelings about this decision, although (from my non-Indian perspective) I’m not sure they succeed. Pratap Mullick’s draftsmanship is kind of loose, but he succeeds in conveying the look of ancient India.

I BREATHED A BODY #5 (AfterShock, 2021) – “Into the Underland,” [W] Zac Thompson, [A] Andy MacDonald. Lots of bizarre stuff happens that I don’t understand, and Gelbacut/The First American/Mylo takes over the world. This series was easier to follow than Lonely Receiver, but it too eventually descended into incoherence. I don’t especially like Zac Thompson’s writing style, and I think I’m going to skip his Ka-Zar series.  

AMAR CHITRA KATHA #626 (India Book House, 1970) – “The Pandava Princes,” [W] B.R. Bhagwat, [A] Subhash Tendle. This is an adaptation of the early part of the Mahabharata. It depicts the youthful rivalry between the Pandavas and Kauravas, which culminates in the Kauravas’ attempt to burn the Pandavas alive in a palace. Then the Pandavas all marry the same woman, Draupadi – it’s a long story – and the issue ends with Krishna killing Shishupala at Yudhisthira’s inaugural sacrifice. This comic is less enjoyable than #503 because it covers more territory and has less of a central theme, and also Subhash Tendle is a less skilled draftsman than Pratap Mulick.

CATWOMAN #32 (DC, 2021) – “Everything You Know About Selina Kyle,” [W] Ram V, [A] Evan Cagle. A bunch of characters tell stories about Selina, each of which reveals a different facet of their personality. This is probably my least favorite Ram V comic, but I’m not quite ready to quit reading it yet.

2000 AD #83 (IPC, 1978) – Robo-Hunter: “Verdus,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ian Gibson. Sam and Kidd find SJI after some difficulty. This chapter again showcases Ian Gibson’s incredible skill at drawing robots and machinery. Dan Dare: “The Doomsday Machine,” [W] Nick Landau & Roy Preston, [A] Trevor Goring & Garry Leach. A human survivor, “Kid,” leads Dare and his crew through the ship, but Bear is killed fighting a giant sloth bear or something. The supporting characters in these Dan Dare strips were all expendable because they weren’t part of Dare’s classic supporting cast. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth Chapter 23: Legion of the Damned!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. Dredd and friends are almost at Mega-City Two, but they’re attacked by robots left over from the Battle of Armageddon in the year 2071. McMahon draws some stunning-looking robots, though of course in a very different style from Gibson. Ant Wars: untitled, [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Alfonso Azpiri. Villa and Anteater make it to the command center where the Latin American generals are assembled. They learn that there’s no more of the pesticide that made the giant ants, so all they need to do is defeat the existing ants. This issue also includes a Future Shock.

ULTRAMEGA #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] James Harren. Noah has an out-of-body experience where a creature with an eye for a head leads him to Atum Ultramega, the creator of all the Ultramega. But Atum is already dead. Despite that, Noah is able to merge with the eye-headed dude and defeat the kaiju that are terrorizing the humans. Noah returns to human form, minus his right head, but then his dead father’s severed head crashes to Earth and speaks to him. This comic is really weird, as that summary suggests, and it includes some very effective body horror.

2000 AD #84 (IPC, 1978) – Robo-Hunter: as above. Sam convinces SJI that he’s not a simulated human, but a real human who has the authority to command the robots. Robo- Hunter went on hiatus here and resumed in prog 100. Dredd: “The Last Meal,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Brett Ewins. This is only half a page, but it’s the most notable thing in this prog. It’s an apology strip that was published to avoid a lawsuit over the portrayal of the Green Giant in progs 77 and 78. In this strip, Dredd and Spikes eat some Green Giant food and meet the real Green Giant, who’s much nicer than the fake one they met before. Dan Dare: as above. Kid and Dare’s crew reach the ship’s original crew’s quarters, and discover that the ship was built by the Golden Ones, who seem to be angels. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth Chapter 24: Dredd’s Last Stand!”, [W] John Wagner, [A] Mike McMahon. Dredd, Spikes and Tweak fight the Legion of the damned, and Spikes is killed defending his comrades. More beautiful artwork here. Ant Wars: as above. Villa gets caught in the ants’ main nest.

CEREBUS #53 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “The Countess & the Aardvark,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus comes to stay at the Countess’s estate while writing his memoirs, and they have some interesting conversations. The Countess is kind of like Astoria without the lust for power. At the end of the issue, their solitude is invaded by the countess’s uncle, who is none other than the Roach. The backup story, by Don Goodrum, is a stupid parody of “The Raven” where the raven is replaced by Reagan. Goodrum’s jokes aren’t funny, and his verse doesn’t scan. The letters page includes an introduction by Dave where he addresses criticisms of the ending of High Society.

MADMAN COMICS #3 (Dark Horse, 1993) – “Horror on the High Seas,” [W/A] Mike Allred. After a weird adventure with Astroman and other robots, Madman and Joe go for a working vacation aboard a cruise ship. But the ship’s purser is murdered, and Madman and Joe are blamed. I’ve already read the next part of this storyline, but I forget who the culprit was.

NEXUS #64 (First, 1990) – “Seat of Power,” [W] Mike Baron, [A] Tony Akins. The new Nexus, Stan, accepts Tyrone’s invitation to found the University of Ylum. Vooper and Crocus get in a fight over who gets to manage Mezz’s band. Brother Lathe, Nexus’s uncle and an Elvonic religious fanatic, plots to infiltrate the new university. The Elvonics are one of the worst things about Nexus. They’re an obvious stand-in for Muslim fundamentalists, and they embody the racist stereotype in which Muslims are intolerant terrorists who hate our freedoms.

IMAGE FIRSTS: FATALE #1 (Image, 2012) – “Death Chases Me,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. At his godfather Dominic Raines’s funeral, Nicolas Lash meets a mysterious woman named Josephine. Then while Nicolas is at Dominic’s house, Josephine saves him from an attack by gunmen, but he loses his leg. Then we cut to 1956, where Josephine – looking the same as in 2011 – is a corrupt cop’s kept woman, and another cop, Hank, is obsessed with her even though he has a wife and a child on the way. I read one of the trade paperbacks of Fatale and didn’t like it, but I should give Fatale another chance, now that I’m more used to Brubaker and Phillips.

JONNY QUEST SPECIAL #1 (Comico, 1988) – “Three Trapped Tigers,” [W] Arthur Byron Cover, [A] Richard Howell. The title is a reference to a novel by Guillermo Cabrera Infante. The Quest family encounters Benton’s long-lost grandfather, who’s traveled into an alternate dimension and fallen in love with a cat-girl. This is a pretty stupid story, and it’s not even close to the level of quality of the regular Jonny Quest comic.

BUCK GODOT #3 (Palliard, 1994) – “The Gallimaufry Part 3,” as above. A bunch of alien races go to war over the Winslow, a small lizard that’s inexplicably worshipped as a god. Eventually the humans get blamed for stealing the Winslow. Buck Godot is very fun, but it has so much stuff going on that it becomes cumbersome to read.

COMIC BOOK GUY #4 (Bongo, 2010) – “The Death of Comic Book Guy! Part 4,” [W] Ian Boothby, [A] John Delaney. The Comic Book Guy is dead, and Marge is running his shop instead. This comic’s plot is mostly an excuse for gags, including lots of comic book fan in-jokes. For example, the Comic Book Guy’s secret origin is a hybrid of the origin stories of Green Arrow and Luthor.

FUTURAMA #49 (Bongo, 2010) – “Dummy Up!”, [W] Ian Boothby, [A] Mike Kazaleh. Leela goes to yoga to destress. Bender becomes a ventriloquist, using a doll that looks like Fry, but the doll goes insane and tries to kill Fry. This comic is reasonably funny, but it doesn’t have a central plot or theme. I started watching the entire run of Futurama once, but I never finished.

2000 AD #85 (IPC, 1978) – Dare: as above except [A] Dave Gibbons. The last Golden One, who looks a lot like Tharg, reveals his backstory. Dare escapes the ship but is left to drift alone in space. Dan Dare didn’t return until prog 100. Future Shock: “The Fourth Wall,” [W] Mike Cruden, [A] John Cooper. A little boy is killed by an overly realistic TV set. Dredd: “The ursed Earth Final Chapter: Death Crawl!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. Dredd makes it to Mega-City Two, and Tweak returns to his home planet. Thus ends the first truly great Judge Dredd story. Tweak’s only other appearance was in a one-shot story in Judge Dredd Megazine. Ant Wars: “In the Hall of the Mountain Queen!”, [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Jesús Peña. Villa and Anteater sacrifice themselves to destroy the queen ant, and that’s the end of this stupid story. It’s notable that Anteater never got an actual name, and we never learned anything about him or his tribe. Future Shocks: “Poacher,” [W] Barry Clements, [A] Jesus Redondo. A poacher accidentally prevents an alien invasion. This plot is reminiscent of old pre-superhero Marvel comics.

2000 AD #86 (IPC, 1978) – This is another key issue: the first issue of the merged 2000 AD and Starlord, and the first appearance of Strontium Dog or Ro-Busters in 2000 AD. Dredd: “Crime and Punishment,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Brian Bolland. Dredd returns to Mega-City One as a hero, but Judge Caligula frames Dredd for murdering a paparazzo. Dredd is exiled to Luna. This is Judge Caligula’s first appearance and is also a lead-in to the next major Dredd epic, The Day the Law Died. Bolland’s artwork is of course brilliant. Ro-Busters: “Death on the Orient Express!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Dave Gibbons. Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein rescue some people who are trapped in a cave-in, but there are ten people and only enough oxygen for nine, so Ro-Jaws has to decide which person will die. At this point Hammerstein has a one-eyed inhuman-looking head instead of his familiar human face. Flesh: “Book II,” [W] Geoffrey Miller, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. This first story serves as a reintroduction to the Flesh series, which was last seen in prog 19. Belardinelli draws some incredible technology and prehistoric monsters. Strontium Dog: “The Galaxy Killers,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny Alpha, Wulf and Gronk capture a man named Ratface, but then they themselves are captured by a giant alien warship. Overall, this prog was a major step up in quality from the last few. The replacement of Ant Wars and Dan Dare with Strontium Dog, Ro-Busters and Flesh is a huge upgrade.

CEREBUS #174 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1993) – “Mothers & Daughters 24,” [W/A] Dave Sim. At this point I had finished reading all the good Cerebus comics I had (besides one that I forgot about), and so I went back to reading the bad ones. This issue Astoria and Cerebus finally arrive at Cirin’s palace, and we discover that the black-cloaked hourglass-wearing figure is Suenteus Po. In the letter column, Daniel Livingstone from Glasgow writes a letter that makes some very coherent responses to Dave’s fearmongering about feminist censorship. Dave’s reply is: “Having searched the text of your letter for anything resembling a coherent point (as opposed to misguided male-feminist rhetoric) and come up empty, I find I have nothing to say.” Dave is such a fucking troll.

CLEAN ROOM #10 (Vertigo, 2016) – “The Last Breath of an Exile,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Jon Davis-Hunt. Astrid talks to the purple-haired woman, Ms. Capone, who rightly calls Astrid out on her whininess and entitlement. Chloe encounters an awful creep who smiles constantly. The Surgeon confronts Duncan, a character I don’t recognize, and threatens to turn Duncan’s lover into a horrifying human-horse hybrid, as the Surgeon already did to someone else. This was the last issue of Clean Room that I had. I should have kept on reading it, because it’s a very scary horror comic, and as I already said, it may have been Gail’s best solo series.

LETTER 44 #30 (Oni, 2017) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Alberto Jimenez Albuquerque. President Blades makes a speech announcing that the world is about to be destroyed by aliens. To me this seems like a terrible decision. If the world was going to end tomorrow, I’d be much happier not knowing. Meanwhile, Colonel Overholt sacrifices himself to defend the rest of the crew.

PLANET OF VAMPIRES #3 (Atlas, 1975) – “The Blood Plague!”, [W] John Albano, [A] Russ Heath. Russ Heath’s artwork in this issue is excellent, though it’s wasted on a silly story. Protagonists Chris Galland and Craig invade a skyscraper full of vampires, where their wives are held captive. Craig discovers that his wife, Brenda, is already dead. Craig and Brenda are black, so this counts as an example of the trope that TVTropes calls “Black Dude Dies First.” Though Chris’s wife Elissa also dies at the end of the issue. This was the last issue of Planet of Vampires.

GROO: PLAY OF THE GODS #1 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. Groo and Rufferto visit the kingdom of Iberza, where the local powers-that-be are very worried about an influx of immigrants bringing their foreign gods. As is often the case with Groo, this plotline is inspired by real-world politics. The kingdom decides to deport the immigrants to a newly discovered continent, and Groo himself boards the immigrants’ ship, thinking it’s going to take him to the world’s best cheese dip. Of course, the captain of the ship is Ahax. This is the most recent Groo comic to date, but the Groo Meets Tarzan miniseries was just solicited.  

STEVEN UNIVERSE #6 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Grace Kraft, [A] Rii Abrego. Amethyst and Pearl compete in professional wrestling as a tag team. I shouldn’t have ordered this comic.

AIR #9 (Vertigo, 2009) – “Mass Transit,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] M.K. Perker. At the Amsterdam airport, Blythe helps reunite a husband and wife who were separated in the Bosnian war. There are also a bunch of secret agent hijinks that are relevant to the overall plot. The husband-wife reunion in this issue is very touching, but Air was not at the same level as Willow’s other comics or prose works, thanks to its less focused plot.

CEREBUS #175 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1992) – “Book Three: Reads,” [W/] Dave Sim. Quoting myself agin: “Having finished reading all the good issues of Cerebus I had, I just read Cerebus #175. Good Lord. To call this comic drivel would be an insult to drivel. Now that I’m familiar with the good period of Cerebus, I can see how bad the bad period was.” To be more specific, at least half of this issue is a minimally illustrated prose story about the writer Victor Reid, a stand-in for Sim, who wants to do some more adventurous work but is being pressured to do more of the commercial work that made him famous. This Victor Reid story is written in awful purple prose, it’s full of pointless in-jokes about the direct market, and it makes the reader hate Victor for his pompousness and entitlement. Quoting myself again: “Also, this issue’s backup story by Colin Upton is a grossly offensive piece of white fragility, about a man who goes crazy because of reverse sexism… The Colin Upton story is about a man who gets made fun of by some straw feminists, and so he decides that he hates being blamed for sexism, and he wishes he was black or female so people would acknowledge his anger, and no amount of allyship is ever enough (this last one is true). And then he threatens and yells at his girlfriend in public. And the reader is supposed to sympathize with this whiny sexist asshole.” If published today, this story would be dismissed as red-pill incel bullshit. I should say that at least it’s well-drawn.

ICON #5 (Milestone, 1993) – “May We Bang You?”, [W] Dwayne McDuffie, [A] M.D. Bright. I was inspired to read this after reading Rebecca Wanzo’s brilliant Eisner-nominated book The Content of Our Caricature. This issue, Icon fights Blood Syndicate, but the real point of the comic is the two scenes with Rocket. She tells her grandmother that she’s pregnant, and her grandmother refuses to help if Rocket has the baby, since she already raised Rocket’s mother and Rocket herself. Then Rocket tells Noble, the baby’s father, about the pregnancy. Noble says “How do you know it was me?”  and Rocket punches him and repeats that line back to him. Compare the similar scene in Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones, which I also read recently. My problem with Rocket is that in 1993, she was not only the best African-American teen superheroine in comics, but almost the only one. Therefore, it seemed like by making her an unwed teen mother, McDuffie was playing into a common stereotype about black girls. However, Rebecca Wanzo’s whole argument in her book is that the deliberate invocation of stereotypes can be a useful political strategy.

COLIN UPTON’S AUTHORIZED BIG BLACK THING #1 (Starhead, 1994) – “The Big Black thing of Doom!” and other stories, [W/A] Colin Upton. I read this because I wanted to see if it was as bad as Upton’s strip in Cerebus #175. Thankfully it’s not. This comic seems to be a collection of earlier minicomics. Some of them are slice-of-life stories about life in British Columbia, while the longest one, “Hotxha the Albanian,” is an Asterix parody about a village of Albanians who escaped the 1945 Communist takeover. The characters in this story are blatant stereotypes, but the story is quite funny. Throughout the issue Upton’s draftsmanship is good and his writing is insightful. I’d be curious to read more of his work, again assuming it’s not like that Cerebus backup story.

ICON #8 (Milestone, 1993) – “Entelechy,” [W] Dwayne McDuffie, [A] M.D. Bright. I have a PhD and I still can’t ever remember what the word entelechy means. Britannica defines it as “that which realizes or makes actual what is otherwise merely potential.” This issue Icon tells Rocket his origin story, Noble tells Rocket’s mother that he’s the father of Rocket’s child, and Rocket encounters Holocaust. This issue includes a funny line that’s quoted in Rebecca Wanzo’s book: “I think I just figured out how a black man can be a conservative Republican – you’re from outer space!” The political difference between Icon and Rocket was the driving force of Icon’s plot. BTW, the comic is called Icon, but Rocket was the actual protagonist. The current revival series is called Icon and Rocket. I’m not reading that series because it’s written by Reginald Hudlin.  

CEREBUS #176 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1993) – “Po,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Mike Prosserman (a hybrid of Dark Horse executives Mike Richardson and Jerry Prosser) offers Victor a 2000-crown advance, making him instantly wealthy, but Victor fails to write anything. As in #175, the Victor Reid section is a load of crap and is extremely cumbersome to read. That’s unfortunate because, for the first time in a long time, this issue’s Cerebus section is actually interesting. Suenteus Po begins explaining why he’s brought Cerebus, Cirin and Astoria together.

CHEW #17 (Image, 2011) – “Flambé 2 of 5,” [W] John Layman, [A] Rob Guillory. Tony and Colby investigate a deadly food fight at Olive’s school. They discover that a nerdy student named Pilaf caused the fight, by cooking a recipe that made people insane. Colby defeats Pilaf, but he’s already sent his recipe to a space station, apparently causing the space station to be destroyed. This plot thread is part of the alien invasion subplot that wasn’t resolved until the very end of the series. A highlight of this issue is Colby teasing Olive about Peter being her boyfriend.

WINTERWORLD #2 (Eclipse, 1988) – untitled, [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Jorge Zaffino. Scully visits a nomadic tribe and enlists their aid in raiding the greenhouse city from issue 1. Jorge Zaffino’s artwork here is good, but not as impressive as in #1, and it would have been much better without color.

2000 AD #87 (IPC, 1978) – Dredd: “Outlaw,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Brian Bolland & Dave Gibbons. Dredd escapes from the ship taking him to Titan. Judge Cal decides to use a clone of Dredd to track down the original. A clue to Judge Cal’s personality is that he has a picture of Hitler on his wall. Also, he’s named after Caligula. Ro-Busters: as above. The human survivors’ robots testify to whether their masters should live or die. One of the robots reveals that his master is an abusive father. When the master tries to kill his son, the robot kills him, thus solving the dilemma of which of the ten people should die. The other nine are rescued. This story wrongly claims that the first law of robotics is to tell the truth. Flesh: as above. A one-handed crook named Claw Carver stashes his loot in a nothosaur’s nest, killing the nothosaur’s babies in the process. Then he boards a ship that’s hunting Big Hungry, a giant nothosaur who happens to be the father of the babies. Belardinelli’s monsters, technology, and weather effects are beautiful, though he’s not great at drawing people. Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny and friends are abducted by warrior aliens known as Wolrogs.

CHEVAL NOIR #9 (Dark Horse, 1990) – Now here are some comics that would have been better with color. Marvano’s Forever War adaptation has some very nice artwork, but adds nothing to Joe Haldeman’s original novel. Indeed, with its slick renderings of military technology, it seems to glorify war, whereas Haldeman’s book is heavily antiwar. Andreas’s Coutoo is written and drawn in a very strange style. I’m curious to read more of Andreas because he has such a unique and weird aesthetic. The highlight of the issue is the first chapter of Schuiten and Peeters’s The Tower. This chapter introduces Giovanni, a plus-sized man who, for unknown reasons, is the custodian of a particular level of a giant crumbling old tower. After not hearing from anyone else for months, he decides to descend the tower and find out why he’s been abandoned. The Tower is the story that first got me interested in Schuiten’s work – I’m a sucker for stories about gigantic edifices – but I’ve never read the whole thing. IDW is supposed to be publishing a new edition of it later this year. Druillet and Lob’s Delirius has extremely complicated art and also a coherent story, unlike some of Druillet’s solo work. The issue also includes an Eyeball Kid chapter by Campbell and Ilya.

VELVET #12 (Image, 2015) – “The Man Who Stole the World Part Two,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Steve Epting. Superspy Velvet tries to turn the tables on the men who are chasing her. Brubaker’s plot is reasonably exciting; a notable moment is when Velvet sleeps with a male spy in order to feed him false information. Steve Epting’s artwork is as thrilling as when he was drawing Brubaker’s Captain America. Velvet feels a lot like Black Widow, and it could almost be turned into a Black Widow comic just by changing some names.

ROGUE TROOPER: THE FINAL WARRIOR #5 (Fleetway/Quality, 1992) – “The Saharan Ice-Belt War,” [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Simon Coleby. This reprints Rogue Trooper stories from the #730s or 740s of 2000 AD. These stories aren’t especially good, but they’re reprinted much more faithfully than the material in Slaine the Berserker #3. Instead of being chopped up to fit the American page size, the pages are shrunk down to fit the width of the comic book page. This results in a lot of white space at the top and bottom of the page, but that’s an acceptable tradeoff. Also, the paper quality in this reprint is much better than in Slaine the Berserker. This issue also includes a one-shot backup story with art by Chris Weston.

RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT! #60 (Gold Key, 1976) – “The Hidden Face,” [W] unknown, [A] John Celardo, etc. A bunch of stupid and unscary ghost stories with boring art. Even calling them “stories” is giving them too much credit.

CEREBUS #177 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1993) – “Revelations,” [W/A] Dave Sim. After spending months wasting money and doing no writing, Victor Reid has to go in and see his editor Karen Potts (Karen Berger + Carl Potts), but she keeps him waiting all day. Again, this story is infuriating because Victor Reid is a loathsome character and Sim’s prose is excruciating to read. The Cerebus story in this issue consists of a fascinating discussion between the four major characters. It’s just a pity that it only lasts seven pages, far less than half the issue. This issue includes a letter from my Facebook friend Mikel Norwitz. There’s also a letter from a certain D— E—, who expresses antifeminist sentiments just as vile as Dave’s own, and who seems to have become an MRA activist.

CEREBUS #178 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1994) – “Changes,” as above. Victor Reid meets with Karen Potts’s assistant Carl Berger, who tells him the obvious truth that his current work is not commercially viable. Victor is forced to create new work in the same style as his earlier Palnu Trilogy. Oh, boo hoo. God forbid he should give his audience what they want, or realize that the world doesn’t owe him a living. Victor also has to accept illustrations by M. Zulli, who he hates. I wonder what Dave’s problem with Michael Zulli was. This issue has ten pages of Cerebus content, which is actually more than last issue. Suenteus Po chews out Cirin, Astoria and Cerebus, and tells Cerebus that he’s never going to be happy even if he gets what he thinks he wants. Then he leaves.

SCOUT: WAR SHAMAN #3 (Eclipse, 1988) – “Proud Mary! Part 1,” [W/A] Tim Truman. Scout and the kids board Captain Mary’s ship, the Empress Jones, which is transporting some of Doody’s followers. Scout and Mary sleep together, then the ship is attacked by Captain “Atuma” Yuma. The issue ends with the first part of Truman’s adaptation of the Apache myth of White-Painted Woman.

2000 AD #88 (IPC, 1978) – Dredd: “Bring Me the Head of Judge Dredd!”, [W] John Wagner, [A] Brendan McCarthy & Brett Ewins. Dredd realizes that the real murderer must have been a robot made to look like him. Dredd finds the robot, defeats it, and delivers its head to the chief judge. McCarthy’s art is excellent but, as usual, would have been better in color. Ro-Busters: “Yesterday’s Hero!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. A flashback story in which Hammerstein fights the Volgans alongside a bunch of human soldiers who hate robots. Eventually all the soldiers are killed except for one sergeant, who’s gone blind and doesn’t realize Hammerstein is a robot. Kevin O’Neill’s art here is a bit crude, but has an insane level of detail. Flesh: as above. Claw Carver joins the Atlantis station’s crew and saves the station’s controller from being eaten by a shark. As a reward, Claw is given access to a ship that he can use to recover his stashed gold. Strontium Dog: as above. The Volgans force Johnny and Wulf to fight each other to the death. This is not the last story where Johnny and Wulf are manipulated into fighting each other; see also “The Killing” in progs 350 to 359. This issue also includes a Future Shock by Belardinelli, which ends with a beautiful splash page depicting a corpse.

EPIC ILLUSTRATED #2 (Marvel, 1980) – [E] Archie Goodwin. In grad school I bought a bunch of old Epic Illustrateds at a book sale, and I still haven’t read most of them. I bought this one at the Concord convention in May. This issue begins with Roy Thomas and Tim Conrad’s adaptation of REH’s Almuric. Conrad was sort of a bargain-basement version of BWS or Pérez or Corben. Bissette and Veitch’s “Monkey See” is about an intelligent monkey who turns out to have a fish tail. Starlin’s Metamorphosis Odyssey is perhaps the most notable story in the issue, though it’s hard to follow without having read the previous issue. P. Craig Russell’s “Siegfried and the Dragon” is his first attempt at an adaptation of Wagner’s Ring. He would return to this material many years later. Delany and Chaykin’s “Seven Moons’ Light Casts Complex Shadows” has excellent art but is impossible to follow. Goodwin and Robert Wakelin’s “Tarn’s World” is a dumb fantasy story with an “it was all a dream” ending. Other creators in this issue include Druillet, Vicente Alcazar and Ernie Colón. Overall, there’s interesting stuff in this magazine, but it feels like an inferior imitation of Heavy Metal.

CEREBUS #179 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1994) – “Insights,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This issue has just three pages of Victor Reid, thank God. Plus three pages of illustrations. Astoria makes the shocking revelation that Cerebus has both male and female genitalia. Then she explains some of her machinations from previous issues, and ends by saying that power is just an illusion. Announcing her intentions to live a quiet life from now on, she leaves Cerebus and Cirin to each other. This was probably the best Cerebus story since Jaka’s Story. At this point the story finally seems to be making progress, after at least thirty issues in which it went nowhere. This issue’s letter column includes more misogynistic MRA bullshit.

THE MAXX #3 (Image, 1993) – untitled, [W/A] Sam Kieth, [W] Bill Messner-Loebs. The Maxx has some weird adventures in both the Outback and the real world. The Maxx was the first good Image comic, and I think it was also Sam Kieth’s best work. As I’ve observed before, he’s not a very good writer, and he benefits greatly from working with an experienced writer like Loebs.

INFIDEL #5 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Aaron Campbell. This comic begins with some white people saying incredibly racist things about their POC neighbors, and then there’s a bunch of scary horror stuff that I don’t understand. Infidel seems like an excellent comic, but I ought to collect it all and then read it in order.

2000 AD #89 (IPC, 1978) – “The Day the Law Died,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Mike McMahon. Judge Cal has the Chief Judge assassinated, thus becoming Chief Judge himself. Then he has Dredd shot in the head. Also he orders one of his subordinates to go to work in nothing but a helmet, boots and boxer shorts. When I read some of the later chapters of The Day the Law Died, I thought it was an unimpressive story, but it becomes much better when you compare it to the earliest Dredd stories. Judge Cal is a pretty scary villain because Mega-City One’s legal structure allows him to escape any accountability. Ro-Busters: “Baptism of Fire!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike Dorey. The blind sergeant realizes Hammerstein is a robot, but grows to like him. Sadly, Hammerstein has to shoot him so he won’t be captured. Because of Mike Dorey’s artwork, this story looks like something out of Warlord or Battle. Flesh: as above. Carver recruits his ship captain, Svensson, as an accomplice in his crimes. Belardinelli’s full-color center spread is amazing. Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny and Wulf both survive, of course, and then the evil Sergeant Kark leads them in an assault on the alien Sandorians.

THE HUMANS #5 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Keenan Marshall Keller, [A Tom Neely. While the Humans are smuggling drugs, a rival gang tries to hijack their shipment, and an exciting and bloody fight ensues. This comic is a lot of fun and it feels historically accurate, but its issues tend to blur together, and none of its characters are sympathetic.

MOTHERLANDS #4 (Vertigo, 2018) – “Four,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Rachael Stott & Pete Woods. Motherlands is probably my least favorite Si Spurrier comic, thanks to its unimpressive art and convoluted plot. This comic was confusing to begin with, and it’s been three years since I read the previous issue, so I wasn’t able to follow its plot. But the most interesting thing about it is the interplay between the protagonist and her toxic mother. Honestly, the protagonist should have ceased contact with her mother years ago.

IZOMBIE #25 (Vertigo, 2012) – “The End Part One,” [W] Chris Roberson, [A] Mike Allred. The protagonists fight a Lovecraftian demon called Xitalu. iZombie’s plot is not very interesting to me. The only reason to read it is the Mike Allred art, and that may not be a good enough reason, since there are lots of other Allred comics.

BPRD: HELL ON EARTH – THE LONG DEATH #2 (Dark Horse, 2012) – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola & John Arcudi, [A] James Harren. This is issue 88. It mostly focuses on Johann Kraus, the guy who looks like he has a light bulb for a head. He and his teammates battle some gruesome monsters somewhere in the Canadian Arctic. James Harren’s artwork is impressive, though not as much so as in Ultramega.

TUKI: SAVE THE HUMANS #3 (Cartoon Books, 2015) – “Enter Kwarell,” [W/A] Jeff Smith. Tuki and the boy defeat the gorilla and join up with the boy’s two sisters. This comic suffers from too much narrative decompression, and would probably read better as a graphic novel.

EPIC ILLUSTRATED #21 (Marvel, 1983) – [E] Archie Goodwin. Pepe Moreno’s “Generation Zero” has a mediocre story, but some surprisingly good art. I’m not very familiar with this artist. Charles Vess’s “Age of the Dragon” has excellent draftsmanship but no real plot. The highlight of the issue is Kaluta’s “Sunstroke,” a lighthearted fantasy story about hot-air balloonists. Most of the other stories in this issue are pretty bad, and a big chunk of the issue is devoted to Ken Steacy’s “The Sacred and the Profane,” which I dislike because of its pomposity and its ugly draftsmanship.

2000 AD #90 (IPC, 1978) – This was the last issue from the shipiment I received in February. Dredd: “The Tyrant’s Grip!”, as above. Judge Cal appoints a goldfish as deputy chief justice, just as Caligula made his horse a consul. He also captures Dredd and is about to execute him, but Judge Giant saves Dredd. Ro-Busters: “Wheels of Terror!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. In another flashback, Hammerstein leads an assault on a giant Volgan tank. O’Neill’s art is excellent, though he’s still not drawing in his mature style yet. Flesh: as above. After an unsuccessful attempt to kill Big Hungry, Claw usurps command of his ship from Svenson. Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny and friends meet the head Sandorian scientist, and he gives them a plan for defeating the Wolrogs.

Now back to some later progs:

2000 AD #618 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: “Helios Part 5,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] David Roach. Helios assassinates another of his targets. Anderson’s partner interviews Sachs, Helios’s last enemy. Zippy Couriers: “Supermarket,” [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Graham Higgins. Shauna and her talking cat go shopping and play a prank on a mean old woman. This story is pretty cute. Tales from the Doghouse: “Maeve the Many-Armed,” [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Simon Jacob. The art in this story is so hideous that I don’t care about the writing. Dredd: “Crazy Barry, Little Mo Part Four,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Chris Weston. Dredd finally confronts Barry/Mo, but he gets away. We learn that Barry developed a split personality when he witnessed his parents’ murder at the age of four. Strontium Dog: “The Final Solution Part 11,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Simon Harrison. Johnny and Middenface are finally on their way to Earth. Sagan and his New Church prepare to send a bunch of mutants through a dimensional portal.

CEREBUS #180 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1994) – “First Blood,” [W/A] Dave Sim. The Victor Reid segment this issue is only one page. The Cerebus story is just a long fight scene between Cerebus and Cirin. There’s a letter from Pete Coogan that mentions the third annual Comic Arts Conference. There’s also the first of several previews of Rick Veitch’s Rare Bit Fiends.

MOTHERLANDS #5 (Vertigo, 2018) – “Five,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Rachael Stott. The big revelation this issue is that the mother is already dead, and that the character who we thought was her, was actually her clone. I think I have the last issue of this miniseries, but I haven’t gotten to it yet.

CRUDE #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Garry Brown. The bereaved father continues exploring the oil rig, and learns that his son was a member of the local rebel organization. This comic is very bleak and depressing, both on a visual and a narrative level, and it doesn’t appeal to me at all.

MY HERO ACADEMIA/RWBY 2018 FCBD EDITION (Viz, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Kohei Horikoshi and Shirow Miwa. Two excerpts from two different ongoing manga series. I read the first volume of My Hero Academia and didn’t like it, and this comic doesn’t change my opinion of it.

CEREBUS #134 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1990) – “Jaka’s Story 21,” [W/A] Dave Sim. An Umbridge-esque old lady tries to convince Jaka that dancing is wrong, but Jaka refuses to agree with her, and sticks out her tongue at her when she leaves. There’s also a flashback to when Lord Julius threw a party for Jaka’s twelfth birthday. Jaka’s Story was perhaps the last time Cerebus was good before it permanently jumped the shark.

CHEVAL NOIR #14 (Dark Horse, 1991) – [E] Mike Richardson. We begin with more Forever War by Marvano. On this comic, see the previous review. Cosey’s Voyage in Italy alternates between scenes set in Vietnam and America. Rosinski and Van Hamme’s Great Power of the Chninkel introduces a new character named Bom-Bom. It’s a shame this was never published in book format in English. It reminds me a lot of Woody’s Wizard King. Schuiten and Peeters’s The Tower is the final chapter, and includes some color pages. Giovanni finally makes it to the bottom, where he somehow ends up Fighting in a french army, but one of his fellow soldiers is his girlfriend Milena. Tardi and Legrand’s Roach Killer is also the final chapter, but it’s printed so dark that it’s hard to understand.

BLACK CLOUD #9 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ivan Brandon, [A] Saumin Patel. Another incomprehensible issue of an awful series.

My next Heroes trip was on July 6. On this trip I had a full English breakfast at the new location of Big Ben English Pub.

STRAY DOGS #5 (Image, 2021) – “Bad Dog,” [W] Tony Fleecs, [A] Trish Forstner. The Master and the dogs start fighting to the death. Already mortally wounded, Earl sacrifices his life by running into traffic and causing a crash, so that other humans will discover what’s going on. The Master finally keels over dead, and the dogs lead a police dog to his stash of bodies. Four months later, Sophie and Rusty, now with new, good owners, play with each other at a dog park, and it’s not clear if they remember each other. The sequel miniseries, Stray Dogs: Dog Days, is coming soon. I think Stray Dogs was the best miniseries of 2021. It was a unique blend of cuteness and terrifying horror. However, I would be hesitant to recommend it to anyone who’s a dog person.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #17 (Boom!, 2021) – “Me and My Monster Part Two,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. Erica and her new “brother” Aaron get over their mutual hatred, but Erica is about to face a difficult test before she can join the Order of St. George. We also learn that the Order’s secretiveness is because their founder, St. George himself, made every Order member swear not to reveal the monsters’ existence. But that doesn’t really explain anything. Little Erica is extremely cute, but also mean, as she points out.

WE ONLY FIND THEM WHEN THEY’RE DEAD #7 (Boom!, 2021) – “In the End,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Simone Di Meo. In flashback, Jason Hauer, Malik’s last surviving crew member, is imprisoned and tortured by the colonial authorities. Then he’s kidnapped by the god worshippers, who don’t care about his welfare and just want to use him to further their agenda. Marilyn gets Jason to agree to help her kidnap Malik, in exchange for a dishonest promise not to hurt anyone. Then Marilyn goes and hurts a bunch of people. This was a gripping and powerful issue, even if it didn’t include any of Simone Di Meo’s sense-of-wonder-inducing space scenes. This issue makes me feel very sorry for Jason; as punishment for some questionable decisions in his youth, he spent his entire life as a political football.

ETERNALS #5 (Marvel, 2021) – “Only Death is Eternal, Part 5,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Esad Ribic. Sersi recruits the Forgotten One, aka Gilgamesh, and they go looking for Thanos and Druig. But Phastos, the Eternal version of Hephaestus, is loyal to Thanos, and he turns the tables on the other Eternals. Meanwhile Sprite is babysitting Toby Robson. This issue was entertaining but a bit hard to follow, and it didn’t tell us much that  we didn’t already know.

JONNA AND THE UNPOSSIBLE MONSTERS #4 (Oni, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Chris Samnee, [W] Laura Samnee. Jonna and her new friends Gor and Nomi fight a giant dragon. As before, this issue has brilliant artwork, but its story is too decompressed.

MANIFEST DESTINY #44 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. The Corps meets Sacagawea’s brother Cameahwait and his band, but it’s not an entirely happy reunion. This meeting was an actual historical occurrence. Clark leaves Toussaint Charbonneau to the mercy of Cameahwait’s band. Then Lewis gives a clear explanation of the series’ overarching plot: the demon Navath created the arches, and to destroy them and get rid of Navath, they have to sacrifice a child of two warring nations. That child is, of course, Sacagawea’s baby.

SHADECRAFT #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Joe Henderson, [A] Lee Garbett. Zadie surrenders her shadow to Angela, and Ricky is sent to a hospital. But then Zadie and her mom start arguing, and they both create shadows. As a result it comes out that Zadie’s mom also has shadow powers, and she’s been running from the government all her life, and now they’ve found her. So now Ashley and her parents have to rescue Ricky from the government base where he’s being held. This was an excellent issue.   

BLACK HAMMER REBORN #1 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Caitlin Yarsky. It’s 2016, twenty years after the last miniseries, and Lucy Weber, the former Black Hammer,  is now a suburban mom to two bratty kids. Amanda, the cop from the Skulldigger miniseries, shows Lucy evidence that her husband is cheating on her. Also, something has emerged from the Para-Zone. This is a promising start to the new Black Hammer miniseries. It has some obvious similarities to the first Incredibles movie, but is much darker. This issue confirms that Dr. Star is now known as Dr. Andromeda; it seems that DC thought the name Dr. Star was too close to Starman.

SEA OF STARS #10 (Image, 2021) – “The People of the Broken Moon,” [W] Jason Aaron & Dennis Hallum, [A] Stephen Green. We begin with Quasarro’s origin story, then Gil and Kadyn are reunited, but Gil has already been corrupted by the Devil King. Gil rejects the Devil King’s influence but seemingly gets killed. Then the space whale appears, and we realize it’s Quasarro, only he’s been corrupted by the Devil King too. There’s one issue left.

THE DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #10 (Image, 2021) – “A Hunter’s Diary,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Martin Simmonds. Evan is an elderly hunter whose father was obsessed with finding Bigfoot, to the point that he destroyed his marriage and eventualy killed himself. Now Evan has inherited his father’s obsession. Part of the issue consists of a handwritten, water-stained letter from Evan to his own son. Meanwhile, Hawk and Cole are also looking for Bigfoot, and Hawk explains why no one will ever find him. This was another great issue. As I read it, I found myself getting very angry at Evan’s father for ruining not only his own life, but his family’s lives, in pursuit of his insane Bigfoot obsession.

MADE IN KOREA #2 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Holt, [A] George Schell. Jesse reads all the books in her parents’ house, then insists on enrolling in school so she can socialize with other kids. She has to go to high school since there are no children her age anymore. A hilarious moment is when Jesse wakes up her parents before dawn, saying “I am ready whenever you are, Mom!” At school Jesse makes some new friends, but they may be bad influences on her, because the issue ends with them showing her their shed full of weaponized tools. Meanwhile, Chul gets fired from Wook-Jin and travels to America to look for Jesse.

ASCENDER #16 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. On Dirishu-6, Tim and Mother prepare for their decisive confrontation. Andy and Ellie head to Dirishu-6 so they can participate too. A nice nostalgic moment in this issue is when we hear “Driller’s a real killer!” for the first time in a whlie.

GIGA #4 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Alex Paknadel, [A] John Lê. Lots of stuff happens this issue, but it’s all quite difficult to follow because this series has been coming out so sporadically. Aiko pistol-whips Evan and goes off with Laurel, the leader of the Order is assassinated, and we finally get some scenes from the Dusters’ perspective. Also, the dead Transformers are either blowing up or coming back to life.

CROSSOVER #7 (Image, 2021) – “Zdarsky and I,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Phil Hester. That’s not the real title, but this issue reminds me of Borges’s “Borges and I” because of its musings on the relationship between the real man Steve Murray and the pseudonym Chip Zdarsky. This issue is guest-written by Chip Zdarksy, and also stars him, or rather his component in the Crossover universe. Now that comic books no longer exist, Steve Murray lacks a job or a professional identity. But then he’s contacted by the version of Chip that appeared in Sex Criminals #14 (the issue with the metatextual conversation between Zdarsky and Fraction). Chip sacrifices himself to save Steve, and Steve asks Deena Pilgrim and Christian Walker, from Powers, to help him avenge the murder. This is one of the most fascinating and clever comic books of the year. Besides resembling “Borges and I,” it’s also Zdarsky’s version of Animal Man #26.

BITTER ROOT #14 (Image, 2021) – “Legacy Part Four,” [W] David F. Walker & Chuck Brown, [A] Sanford Greene. More escalation of the plotlines from last issue. More stunning art by Sanford Greene, including some brilliant splash pages. A notable moment is when Ma Etta has a vision of a pantheon of gods that look Kirbyesque and African at once. Sanford Greene sort of flirted with Afrofuturism in his Luke Cage run, but now he’s become the preeminent Afrofuturist artist in monthly comics. This essay includes text pieces by Sheree Renee Thomas and John Jennings.

MONEY SHOT #12 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Sarah Beattie, [A] Caroline Leigh Layne. After a lot of shenanigans, Annie and Omar find themselves getting chased by an alien hunter while investigating an alien sex trafficking ring. Also, Omar gets “twitterpated” to an alien deer with super strong pheromones, and Christine’s cat gets some great lines, the best of which is “Snf. Snf. Human male. Been here before. Slept often. Good feet for lying on. Good toes for biting.”

SPECTER INSPECTORS #5 (Boom!, 2021) – “The Ritual,” [W/A] Bowen McCurdy, [W] Kaitlyn Musto. The town’s immortal, evil mayor forces the demon to leave Astrid and submit to him. Just as the demon is about to eat them, Astrid and Noa have an idea: since they can’t find the demon’s original name, they give it a new name, “Found.” On the symbolism of this moment, see The renamed Found goes away, Astrid and Noa admit their love for each other, and the team gets a broadcasting deal. This was a really cute miniseries and I hope there will be a sequel.

GOOD LUCK #1 (Boom!, 2021) – “Safe & Sound,” [W] Matthew Erman, [A] Stefano Simeone. Thirty years ago, Little Kentucky, Ohio was invaded by celestial avatars of good and bad luck. Now, Artie and his fellow Unfortunates – people with ultimate bad luck – are the only ones wo can enter the “Kismet Zone” that Little Kentucky has turned into. Much of this issue depicts Artie and his teammates doing a training exercise. I really want to like this comic, but I don’t quite understand its premise. Why is it such a big deal that the Unfortunates have no luck at all? Why does that make them uniquely equipped to survive in the Kismet Zone? I don’t get it. Also, this comic lacks the immediate appeal of Witchblood, although Stefano Simeone’s art is really good.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #13 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcelo Grassi. Our next story arc is set in the zone of Possibility, which represents the American entertainment industry. We begin with a sea battle between Uncle Sam’s ship and another ship full of film noir characters. Meanwhile there’s a flashback to Valentina’s childhood when she escaped from a riot in Buenos Aires, and then in the present, she finds herself on an island full of superheroes, including her childhood favorite Captain Flag. Undiscovered Country is not supposed to be a superhero comic, but superheroes are within its scope since they’re an important part of the American national imaginary.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #118 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Nelson Daniel. We learn that Oroku Saki, the former Shredder, has been secretly helping the Turtles. April discovers that Baxter Stockman has been smuggling Slithery eggs into Mutant Town. April narrowly escapes a pack of monsters, but is branded as a fugitive. This is another fun issue, though it’s too bad Sophie Campbell can’t draw every story arc of this series.

MARVEL ACTION: SPIDER-MAN #3 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sarah Graley & Stef Purenins, [A] Phillip Murphy. Peter and Sammie, a social-media-obsessed classmate, get partnered together for drama class. Their theater director is none other than Mysterio, and he gets jealous of Sammie’s follower count and tries to steal her cell phone. Peter defeats him, of course. Based on the next-issue blurb, I assume Sammie is going to turn into Screwball, the social media villain from Dan Slott’s run.

WAY OF X #3 (Marvel, 2021) – “Make More Mutants,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Bob Quinn. Mercury and Loa try to have sex mentally since they’re incompatible physically, but the results are awful. Kurt discovers that Stacy X has been giving out contraceptives, and is also running an orphanage for unwanted mutant babies. Anna Peppard, a huge Nightcrawler fan, absolutely hated this issue, and I can see why. Anna has extensively documented how Kurt is the most sex-positive X-Men, yet here he’s shaming people for having non-procreative sex. Also, the abandoned babies are a bizarre plot twist that seems to have been introduced just for shock value. And the whole reason Kurt is angry at both these things is because they violate the rule “make more mutants.” That rule is illogical considering that the mutants who already exist are immortal. When immortal beings reproduce indiscriminately, that’s how you get severe overpopulation. I wasn’t as furious at this issue as Anna was, but it was pretty pointless, and it damages Kurt’s character for no reason.  

NUCLEAR FAMILY #5 (AfterShock, 2021) – “Sound Salvation,” [W] Stephanie Phillips, [A] Tony Shasteen. By remembering back to his Korean War days, Tim realizes that he went ahead in time by doing something with his radio. He returns to his house and is able to reverse what he did and go back in time. This miniseries was kind of pointless and slow-paced, and I could have done without reading it.

FANTASTIC FOUR: LIFE STORY #2 (Marvel, 2021) – “The ‘70s,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Sean Izaakse. As the ‘70s advance, Sue’s feminist consciousness grows, but Reed increasingly shuts her out of the FF after she becomes a mother. Meanwhile, Reed meets Dr. Doom, who convinces him to help unite the planet against Galactus, except what Doom really wants is to rule the world himself. In the end, Sue divorces Reed and moves in with Namor. As mentioned in my review of #1, this comic has some unacceptable breaks from continuity, and perhaps the biggest one is that Reed didn’t know Doom in college. If Doom doesn’t have an irrational hatred for Reed, then he’s not Dr. Doom at all. What I do like about this comic is its emphasis on Sue’s historically sexist portrayal. Reed’s attitude toward Sue throughout this issue is essentially the same as in the infamous “Lincoln’s mother” speech in FF #11. Except the situation in FF: Life Story #2 is even worse, because Sue has to stay home and watch Franklin rather than go on missions, and the one time Reed tries to raise his own child, he gives up immediately. Surprisingly, this comic makes me realize that the classic FF was less sexist than it could have been. In the actual comics, Sue did not have to stay home with her kid because she and Reed hired Agatha Harkness as a full-time nanny. Sue was probably the first superheroine who continued her career after becoming a mother. And that’s actually feminist, because an important tenet of feminism is that women should have access to childcare.

DAREDEVIL #31 (Marvel, 2021) – “Lockdown Part 1,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Mike Hawthorne. Bullseye starts shooting people in broad daylight, Matt tells the prison warden that he knows the warden is trying to kill him, and Alice refuses Elektra’s attempts to reach out to her. This issue is mostly a predictable continuation of last issue.

MY LITTLE PONY/TRANSFORMERS II #3 (IDW, 2021) – “Sick Beats,” [W/A] Tony Fleecs. This may be the first story that Tony Fleecs both wrote and drew. With aid from the Young Six, Octavia and DJ P0N-3 fight Soundwave, the music-themed Decepticon. DJ P0N-3 never speaks in this story, though she had a few lines of dialogue in earlier pony comics. “The Beauty of Cybertron,” [W] James Asmus, [A] Prascilla Tramontano. Ratchet teams up with Rarity. James Asmus’s stories for this series have been significantly less interesting than the stories written by pony writers.

THE OLD GUARD: TALES THROUGH TIME #3 (Image, 2021) – “Passchendaele,” [W] Brian Michael Bendis, [A] Michael Avon Oeming. An old Italian chef meets an immortal who saved him during World War I. The only thing I liked about this series is the ‘70s décor of the chef’s restaurant. “Locus Solitudinis,” [W] Robert Mackenzie & Dave Walker, [A] Justin Greenwood. During the first moon landing, the immortals bring a murderous cop to justice. Part of this story takes place in Eagan, Minnesota, whose speech team was a national powerhouse when I was in high school.

BLACK WIDOW #8 (Marvel, 2021) – “I am the Black Widow Part 2 of 4, “[W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Elena Casagrande & Rafael De Latorre. Natasha and her colleagues infiltrate the Olio cult, but the issue ends with Yelena suffering a potentially fatal electric shock. Part of the issue takes place at a playground where Natasha sees a little boy who looks just like her lost child. Natasha’s grief over her son is a major theme throughout the past few issues. Elena Casagrande’s art is far better than Rafael De Latorre’s, and it’s too bad Casagrande didn’t draw the whole issue.

THE DREAMING: WAKING HOURS #11 (DC, 2021) – “The Faerie King, Part 4,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nick Robles w/ M.K. Perker. Mostly a predictable continuation of last issue. There’s one notable scene where the broom-faced villains try to defeat Heather After by deadnaming her, and Heather turns the tables on them by giving them a name instead, “and the name is lost” – which is a quotation from Sandman #1.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #29 (Marvel, 2021) – “Strange Magic Part 2,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jacopo Camagni. In order to get the Enchantress to teach her magic, Carol has to retrieve the “Heart of the Serpent” from an underwater cavern guarded by giant snakes. This issue wasn’t as entertining as the last two.

MISTER MIRACLE: THE SOURCE OF FREEDOM #2 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Fico Ossio. Shilo fights N’Vir Free, and it becomes clear that Shilo has never heard of Scott Free or Barda before. Shilo is publicly revealed as a black man, generating intense controversy. Luckily he hasn’t lost his chance with Denise Dorman. This was a fun issue, but by the time I read it, I had forgotten what happened in issue 1.

MONSTRESS #35 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. The main event this issue is that Maika’s dad fights a three-eyed orange-haired woman. I’ve finally decided to give up on this series. I haven’t been enjoying it for a long time, if ever, and I’ve never understood its plot. And it doesn’t show any signs of ending anytime soon. I was only still reading it out of a sense of obligation, and that’s not a sufficient reason.

WONDER WOMAN #774 (DC, 2021) – “Afterworlds Part 5,” [W] Michael Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Andy MacDonald. Diana finally gets to Olympus, but all the gods are dead or missing except Janus, who’s not even a Greek god. And only one half of Janus is there. The other half, the evil female one, has separated herself and has acquired the deadly God Scraper blade. Diana’s next stop is the Graveyard of the Gods. So far I don’t like this story arc as much as I liked the Asgard story, but it’s still interesting. In the backup story, young Diana learns of a piece of history that was deliberately concealed from her.

CANTO & THE CITY OF GHOSTS #3 (IDW, 2021) – “Escape the Beast,” [W] David M. Booher, [A] Sebastian Piriz. Canto and the witch cut off Ferro’s horn, thus winning freedom and a new set of legs for Fra and Ba. The next miniseries is Canto III: Lionhearted.

THE BLUE FLAME #2 (Vault, 2021) – “The Celestial Bargain,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Adam Gorham. The Blue Flame’s sister learns that her brother was one of the five vigilantes killed in last issue’s shooting. Except he’s not quite dead yet. Meanwhile, in space, the other version of the Blue Flame has to prevent humanity from destruction by answering a question: what can’t humans live without? I still can’t figure out where this series is going.

ROBIN #3 (DC, 2021) – “New Friends,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Gleb Melnikov. The Ravager gives Damian what might be his hardest task ever: he has to make a friend. Surprisingly, Damian forges a bond with Connor Hawke based on their shared daddy issues. Then Damian and Connor team up and fight some League of Shadows agents, and Damian falls off a cliff and is rescued by his grandfather, Ra’s al Ghul. This is another fun issue.

SHANG-CHI #2 (Marvel, 2021) – “Shang-Chi vs. the Marvel Universe Part 2,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Dike Ruan. Shang-Chi attends an auction where some criminals are bidding on a Cosmic Cube. Shang-Chi teams up with Cap to defeat the criminals, but steals the Cube for himself. This issue is okay, but the plot of this storyline – Shang-Chi fights other Marvel heroes one at a time – is kind of stupid.

WITCHBLOOD #4 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matthew Erman, [A] Lisa Sterle. Yonna defeats the vampires by casting the spell “This Magic Moment.” Then she reveals the big secret: the witch queen Esmeralda is an alien, the witches are their elder progeny, and the vampires are her younger progeny who are trying to steal their older siblings’ blood. Yonna teams up with Texas Red and the witch hunter Atla to fight the vampires.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #15 (Marvel, 2021) – “Hope You Survive the Experience,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Juan Frigeri. Some of the Guardians go to the SWORD station, where Nova arrests Magneto for killing Mister One and Mister Two, all the way back in Captain America Annual #5. This is a nice reference to old continuity. Meanwhile, Ego the Living Planet’s black shell opens, and Dormammu is inside. I wonder if this is related to Doyle Dormammu in Strange Academy.

The next comic was part of an eBay order of some very old Dell Western comics:

FOUR COLOR #741 (Dell, 1956) – “The Fastest Gun Alive,” [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Bob Jenney or Al McWilliams. An adaptation of a long-forgotten Western movie. George Temple has spent his entire life trying to evade his reputation of being a skilled gunfighter, because every time people find out how good he is, they demand to fight him. After a final confrontation with some desperadoes, George fakes his own death so he and his wife can live in peace. This is a reasonably well-written comic, but it seems super implausible. Western movies tend to depict quick-draw gunfights as an everyday occurrence, but there are only a few documented cases where they happened in real life.

REPTIL #2 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Terry Blas, [A] Enid Balam. Humberto and his cousins travel to Dinosaur World to consult with the Hag, who gave Humberto his powers. This comic includes some effective Latinx and queer representation, but its writing is too wordy and preachy, and I’d consider dropping it if it wasn’t a four-issue miniseries.

SHADOW SERVICE #9 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Corin Howell. This issue starts with a flashback to Elizabethan England, in which John Dee appears. Then, in the present, all the heroes confront some kind of awful demon. This comic has a confusing plot and no clear premise, and I would drop it execpt that there’s just one issue left.

RED ROOM #2 (Fantagraphics, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Ed Piskor. This issue’s story is unrelated to that of #1; instead, it’s about a different Red Room. This Red Room employs a certain Dr. Daniels to perform plastic surgery on its victims, so that they won’t be recognizable. Dr. Daniels is chained to his bed, and if he tries to injure or kill himself, his family will be murdered. The issue ends with an extremely gruesome torture sequence. The villains in this comic are hard to believe because they’re so cartoonishly evil. I don’t believe there are real people who are this effective at committing evil deeds with total impunity, and who are also this sadistic about it. As Hannah Arendt wrote, real evil tends to be more banal. But exaggeratedly awful villains are a hallmark of the exploitation genre.

THE BEQUEST #4 (AfterShock, 2021) – “For the Greater Chaotic Good,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Freddie E. Williams II. At the start of the issue we learn why the warrior is called Warlock: his parents were great wizards who intended him to follow in their footsteps, but he disappointed them. The War Party manages to defeat the villains’ assault on the NSA. The old dragon dude sends them back to Tangea before dying of wounds. Then Warlock punches his own mother, and he and his teammates are punished by being sent back to Chicago, which was just what they wanted. The Bequest was a really entertaining series, but also had a serious theme of white supremacist extremism. It was Tim Seeley’s best work since Revival, other than Money Shot.

GAMMA FLIGHT #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Al Ewing & Crystal Fraser, [A] Lan Medina. The Gamma Flight crew travels to Austin to help out a gamma mutate named Stockpile. But they fail to rescue her, and her creator, Skaar, comes back for her. A notable moment in this issue is when Doc Samson – currently trapped in Sasquatch’s body – says he can sympathize with Charlene, a transgender woman, because their bodies both feel unnatural to them. And Charlene is offended by this comparison.

MARVEL VOICES: PRIDE #1 (Marvel, 2021) – [E] Sarah Brunstad. A series of vignettes about LGBTQ characters, with an all-star cast of creators, many of whom are themselves queer and/or trans. Overall this is an entertaining and cute comic, but the weird part is that it ends with a partial reprint of Alpha Flight #106. This comic is important because it’s the first Marvel comic in which a character is confirmed to be gay. But it’s also one of the worst Marvel comics ever; it trivializes the issues of queer identity and AIDS by reducing them to a fight between two muscular dudes. On top of that, it was written by Scott Lobdell, who has a history of sexism and racism. It would have been better if Marvel had avoided reprinting it, so that people would be unable to see how bad it was.

MODERN FRANKENSTEIN #3 (Heavy Metal, 2021) – untitled, [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Emma Vieceli. James and Elizabeth kidnap MRA activist Adrian Trak, who I think is based on J** R*g*n, so they can perform unethical experiments on him. Adrian Trak goes nuts and kills a bunch of people, and then Elizabeth has to kill him. Yay! Then Elizabeth discovers she’s pregnant. Unfortunately this plot twist was spoiled by the cover to a future issue.

CHAINED TO THE GRAVE #4 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Andy Eschenbach & Brian Level, [A] Kate Sherron. The villains chase the heroes, and one of Beau’s alligators dies while helping the women and children escape. Roy prepares for his final showdown with his four enemies. This issue is entertaining and well-drawn. The main problem with this comic is that there are too many villains, and I have no idea who they are or what they want.

BLACK KNIGHT: CURSE OF THE EBONY BLADE #4 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Sergio Dávila. Mordred stabs Dane through the chest, then melts down all the Ebony items into the Ebony Crown. This series suffers from being too similar to Once & Future, and it’s not as good as Si Spurrier’s creator-owned work.

MARVELS #3 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Monster Belt,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Yildiray Cinar. 17 years ago, the young Reed Richards and Ben Grimm accompany an expedition to Siancong, which is located in the tropical monster belt. This is the first issue of Marvels that I’ve really enjoyed, because it makes me realize why Kurt is qualified to write this series: he’s a master of continuity. He’s familiar with every Marvel comic ever published, and he’s able to integrate all these stories into a coherent framework. This issue he even revives Carlo Strang(e), a character whose only previous appearance was in Tales of Suspense #41. A cute touch in this issue is that the child Johnny Storm looks exactly like his future nephew Franklin.

CREEPY #14 (Warren, 1967) – This was part of an order from Atomic Avenue. I haven’t yet read most of the other comics from that order, because I’ve been trying to finish my new comics first. Creepy #14 was one of the last issues of the series’ classic period, which ended after #17. [W] Archie Goodwin unless specified. “Where Sorcery Lives!”, [A] Steve Ditko. A barbarian warrior defeats an evil sorcerer with the help of her daughter. This story has the best Ditko artwork I’ve seen in a long time.”Art of Horror,” [A] Jerry Grandenetti. Horror writer Langley Duncroft tries to play a prank on two younger people by bringing them to a haunted house, but the house really is haunted, and it causes Duncroft’s death. Grandenetti is remembered as an Eisner clone, but he was also an excellent horror artist. “Snakes Alive!”, [W] Clark Dimond & John Benson, [A] Hector Castellon. A music-themed story which is by far the worst thing in the issue. “The Beckoning Beyond!”, [A] Dan Adkins. A dimensional travel experiment goes horribly wrong. Adkins’s artwork is excellent, if rather similar to that of Wally Wood. “Piece by Piece,” [A] Joe Orlando. A riff on the Frankenstein movies, with more excellent artwork. “Castle Carrion,” [A] Reed Crandall. I confused this with “Where Sorcery Lives” because it has basically the same plot. The difference is that in this one, the sorcerer’s daughter dies as soon as she leaves the castle. Reed Crandall’s art is moody and super-detailed. “Curse of the Vampire,” [A] Neal Adams. A doctor tries to save an innocent young woman from being executed as a vampire. In the end, we learn that the real vampire is not the woman but the doctor himself. I know I’ve seen the last panel of this story before, but I don’t recall if I’ve read the whole thing. Overall this is an ultra-high-quality comic. It reaches the same heights of horror, humor and artistic brilliance as EC’s New Trend line did.  

THE CISCO KID #33 (Dell, 1956) – “Bad Medicine” and other stories, [W] unknown, [A] Bob Jenney. In the main story, the Cisco Kid and his sidekick Pancho save a traveling doctor from being murdered by his former driver. In the backup story, they find some loot hidden in an old schoolhouse. Bob Jenney’s artwork is unspectacular but highly competent, and so are the uncredited writer’s plotting and scripting. Pancho is a highly offensive Mexican stereotype. The Cisco Kid himself may be a more positive portrayal of a Mexican character, although I’m not sure whether he’s supposed to be Mexican.

HOWTOONS REIGNITION #5 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Fred Van Lente, [A] Tom Fowler. The two kids succeed in reuniting the warring cultures of the Stormbreakers and Orphans. Then their parents find them. And then we learn that the entire series was a game the two kids were playing, and none of it really happened. This is an insulting ending that leaves the reader feeling as if nothing else in the series mattered. The issue ends with an essay by Dr. Saul Griffith that makes him sound like a crackpot: “In the future, we’ll arrive in style on electric skateboards and ziplines.”

NOWHERE MEN #5 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Eric Stephenson, [A] Nate Bellegarde. The only thing I understand about this comic is that it takes place in a world where scientists are media superstars. This comic feels like an inferior attempt to imitate The Manhattan Projects. Also, it contains several text features that draw attention away from the story.

BRAVEST WARRIORS #28 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] Kate Leth, [A] Ian McGinty. The Bravest Warriors use a Voltron-esque battlesuit to fight a giant tentacled monster. I’ve read a bunch of issues of this series, and I still have no idea who the Bravest Warriors are, or what their mission is. I don’t even know the characters’ names. There’s also a stupid backup story where Chris can’t decide what to eat for lunch.

ABE SAPIEN #18 (Dark Horse, 2014) – “A Darkness So Great,” [W] Mike Mignola & Scott Allie, [A] Max Fiumara. This issue’s first page is drawn by R. Sikoryak in a classic EC style. The main plot is that Abe Sapien and some of his friends go on a shopping trip to the destroyed town of Harlingen. At this point in continuity, most of Texas has fallen victim to some kind of apocalypse. My main problem with the Mignolaverse titles is that you can’t understand any of them unless you read all of them.

2000 AD #619 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: “Helios Part 6,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] David Roach. Sachs’s robot butler tries to assassinate him, but Anderson and her partner save him. Medivac 318: untitled, [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Nigel Dobyn. Outer-space nurse Verity McKinnon is stranded on an alien planet with a patient who can only say “no.” While waiting for an ambulance to pick her up, she realizes something is about to attack her. This was the first Medivac 318 strip, though it’s hard to tell. According to, Hilary Robinson later quit working for 2000 AD because she owned Medivac 318, but another writer was going to be assigned to write it. Dredd: “Lockin’ Up the House (Cube Mix)”, [W] Alan Grant, [A] Dougie Braithwaite. Dredd breaks up a giant house party and arrests all the guests, because no one is allowed to have fun unless the judges say they can. Strontium Dog: “The Final Solution Part 12,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Simon Harrison. Sagan sends the mutants through a portal to an alternate world, claiming it’s for their own good. Given the title of this storyline, the analogy to the Nazi gas chambers is obviously deliberate. Daily Dredd: “A Guide to Mega-City Law Part 1,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. A series of newspaper strip reprints that depict the unfair and cruel nature of Mega-City One’s laws.

CEREBUS #181 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1994) – “Page,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This issue’s Cerebus segment consists entirely of Cerebus’s fight with Cirin. In the text segment, Victor Reid is replaced by Viktor Davis, who is even worse. He’s an even more transparent proxy for Dave himself, and Dave’s prose somehow manages to be more purple than it already was. And there’s another Rare Bit Fiends preview. This comic is unappealing to me because it’s based on dreams, and thus it lacks any narrative logic.

FANBOY #4 (DC, 1999) – “Our Fanboy at War,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Sergio Aragones et al. Finster the fanboy is put on trial because his comic book store sold illicit material to minors. Dr. Joseph Zensie, i.e. Fredric Wertham, is called as a witness for the prosecution, but instead ends up making the case for the defense. Parts of the story are illustrated by Jordi Bernet, Marie Severin and Russ Heath, so this issue includes three creators who are in the Hall of Fame, and two (Evanier and Bernet) who deserve to be. I initially assumed this comic was based on the Friendly Frank’s incident, and so it kind of felt like it was flogging a dead horse, since that lawsuit happened over a decade before. However, there have been other similar cases since then, including the case of Castillo v. Texas in 1999, although that one seems to have happened after Fanboy #4 was published.

THE KILLER #10 (Archaia, 2009) – “A Deadly Soul Part Two,” [W] Matz, [A] Luc Jacamon. This is the second half of the fifth album in a series, so it doesn’t make sense on its own. My favorite thing about The Killer is the coloring. Its plot isn’t all that gripping, and its main character is deliberately unsympathetic.

2000 AD #620 (Fleetway, 1989) – This prog has a printing error where some of the black areas are gray instead. Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny and Middenface finally make it back to Earth and confront Feral Jackson. Medivac 318: as above. Verity kills a harmless endangered giant spider, thinking it’s an enemy alien. The ambulance finally shows up. Dredd: “Breakdown on 9th Street,” [W] John Wagner, [A] John Higgins. Two suburbanites take a wrong turn, and their car breaks down in a part of town that’s so bad, their insurance refuses to send a car to pick them up. Anderson: “Helios Part 7,” as above. Anderson probes Sachs’s memory and learns that Helios died of unknown causes after claiming to have created an unspecified wonderful invention. Daily Dredd: as above. More stories about Mega-City One’s unfair legal system.

CEREBUS #182 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1994) – “Eyes,” [W/A] Dave Sim. The fight continues, and Cirin cuts off Cerebus’s left ear, something which I didn’t realize had happened until it was mentioned in the Viktor Davis section. The Viktor Davis story includes unflattering depictions of Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore. The letter column includes Mikel Norwitz’s reply to the offensive letter from #177. There’s also another Rare Bit Fiends backup story. After a few issues that were actually good for once, Cerebus was descending into crappiness again.

ANT-MAN ANNUAL #1 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Nick Spencer, [A] Ramon Rosanas. Hank Pym and Scott Lang team up against Ant-Man. The issue also introduces Raz Malhotra, the new Giant-Man. I hate Nick Spencer’s writing, and this issue demonstrates why. Almost every single line of dialogue between Hank and Scott is a pun or a piece of witty banter, and there’s no sense of genuine emotion or passion.

LOBSTER JOHNSON: A CHAIN FORGED IN LIFE #nn (Dark Horse, 2015) – “A Chain Forged in Life,” [W] Mike Mignola & John Arcudi, [A] Troy Nixey. The first page of this issue is drawn by Kevin Nowlan, and because I didn’t realize this at first, I thought for the rest of the issue that Troy Nixey’s art looked a lot like Kevin Nowlan’s. Otherwise, this issue is a crime story in which Lobster Johnson saves a Santa Claus impersonator who’s been kidnapped by gangsters.

CREEPY #22 (Warren, 1968) – [E] Bill Parente. By this point, Archie Goodwin and all the good artists had left, and it would be a while before the magazine got good again. “Home is Where,” [W] Ron Parker, [A] Pat Boyette. A plotless mess with some okay art. “Monster Rally!”, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Angelo Torres. A reprint from #4. Doctor Habeas kidnaps a ghoul, a vampire, and various other monsters in order to use them to distill the secret of immortality. Just as he succeeds in doing so, the local villagers storm his castle and burn it down. The only thing that survives the fire is an infant who will grow up to become Uncle Creepy. I think I’ve read this story before, but it’s worth revisiting. Angelo Torres’s artwork is terrific. “No Fear!”, [W] Bill Parente, [A] Tom Sutton. Four young boys discover a vampire living in their local cemetery, and they plot to kill him. The twist ending is that the boys are grave-robbing ghouls, and they killed the vampire to get rid of a competitor. Bill Parente’s story is okay, and Tom Sutton’s artwork has moments of genuine brilliance. “Strange Expedition,” [W] Bill Parente, [A] Ernie Colón. Some astronauts become the first men on the moon, but one of them is in fact a werewolf. Not as good as the previous story. “The Judge’s House!”, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Reed Crandall. Reprinted from #5. In an adaptation of a Bram Stoker story, a student moves into the former residence of a notorious judge (presumably based on Judge Jeffreys) who loved hanging people. The judge hangs the student. Crandall’s artwork is full of beautiful detail. “Perfect Match,” [W] Ron Parker, [A] Sal Trapani. Another awful story, though it’s notable as an early example of a story about computerized dating service. The first such service was started in 1964.

FOUR COLOR #610 (Dell, 1955) – “Drum Beat,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Bob Correa. This is one of the most offensive comics I’ve ever read. It’s an adaptation of a movie about the Modoc War of 1872-1873. The protagonist, Johnny MacKay, is supposed to make peace between the Modoc Indians and the American settlers, but he finds it difficult because the Modoc leader, Captain Jack, is a bloodthirsty warmonger. The comic’s portrayal of the Modocs is both racist and historically inaccurate. The comic makes it seem like Captain Jack just wanted to steal land from the Americans. This is of course bullshit, since it was his own land he was fighting for, and is original grievance was that his people were forced onto a reservation alongside their traditional enemies, the Klamath. Also, far from being a warmonger, Captain Jack was mocked by his own allies for being too willing to negotiate with the whites. The comic ignores all of that and presents the Modoc as savage villains, except for the few good ones, i.e. the ones who are okay with being thrown off their own land and subjected to genocide. The scary thing about this comic’s racism is that it’s not at all unusual; Drum Beat was just one of hundreds of media texts that promoted this narrative of Indians as cruel savages. See for more information on the film Drum Beat and the actual history behind it. I should point out that Bob Correa’s art in this comic is quite good, although I suspect that his visual depictions of Modoc people are not accurate.

BLACK CLOUD #5 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jason Aaron & Ivan Brandon, [A] Greg Hinkle. This is a pretty bad comic, although at least it’s well-intentioned and inoffensive, which is nice after the trash fire that was Four Color #610. I still have never understood what the hell Black Cloud was supposed to be about.

THE MAXX #10 (Image, 1994) – “Spring Cleaning,” [W/A] Sam Kieth, [W] Bill Messner-Loebs. Mostly a flashback story about Julie’s childhood, when she encountered Mr. Gone as her family friend Uncle Artie. “Uncle” was just a nickname and should not be taken to imply that Julie and Sarah are cousins. Also, Julie found a dead bunny but didn’t realize it was dead, and her parents didn’t tell her, which led to an erosion of her trust in them. The flashback sequence includes some radical artistic techniques; in some panels, Julie is represented by her childhood drawings of herself.

BATMAN #478 (DC, 1992) – “A Gotham Tale Part 2: Venging Spirits,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Cam Kennedy. This is the story where three people, including Batman, are trapped in a bank vault with only enough air for two people. In part two, Batman reveals that Dr. Morris Eagleton is the real Gargoyle, and he murdered Miss Creighton’s father and framed him as the Gargoyle. The doctor turns into the Gargoyle again, Batman defeats him, and then the vault is opened and Batman reveals that he set the whole thing up as a sting operation. This conculsion is a bit disappointing, and part two doesn’t contain any references to the Canterbury Tales, as part one did. John Wagner’s Batman has a similar speech pattern to Judge Dredd.

BRAVEST WARRIORS #34 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] Kate Leth, [A] Ian McGinty. The Bravest Warriors try to save Plum’s home planet from being eaten by a space shark, but it eats their ship instead. There’s also a backup story written and drawn by Kat Leyh, where some of the team members are trying to visit Beardi Gras (Mardi Gras with beards) but they end up at Bear­di Gras instead.

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