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July and August 2021 reviews

8/12/2021

I read the following comics before my next trip to Heroes. Some of these reviews may be in the wrong order.

2000 AD #622 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: “Helios Part 9,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] David A. Roach. Anderson finally defeats Helios in a psychic battle. Medivac 318: untitled, [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Nigel Dobbyn. Verity’s ambulance crashlands on the planet, and then she and the pilot are attacked by a giant alien. Dredd: “On Meeting Your Enemy,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Barry Kitson. A Japanese assassin kills a robot duplicate of Dredd as practice for fighting the real thing. This strip is full of Orientalist imagery. Zippy Couriers: untitled, [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Graham Higgins. Shauna is interviewed for a TV show on women in business. This is a pretty funny one. Future Shocks: “Dead-Line!”, [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Ron Smith. Hilary Robinson sends Tharg a script that contains a bizarre alien creature. Daily Dredd: “Guide to Mega-City Law,” [W] Wagner & Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. More strips about Mega-City One’s laws and traditions.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #187 (Dell, 1956) – untitled [“Searching for a Successor”], [W/A] Carl Barks. In order to see which of them should be his successor, Scrooge asks Donald to run a mattress factory, and Gladstone to move a house from one mountain to another. I believe Barks did at least one other story where Donald and Gladstone competed to be Scrooge’s heir. This issue also includes Little Bad Wolf and Pluto stories, and the Mickey Mouse story is a chapter of Fallberg and Murry’s “The Phantom Railroad.”

FOUR COLOR #843 (Dell, 1957) – “The First Americans,” [W] unknown, [A] Jesse March. This is less blatantly racist than Four Color #610, but it’s just as offensive, only in a less obvious way. It claims to be a factual portrayal of Native American history, but it portrays Native Americans in a patronizing way, and from a perspective of superiorty. It gives the impression that Native Americans were inferior and uncivilized and that they no longer exist. Also, though it sometimes acknowledges that Native Americans were and are extremely diverse, it just as often describes “the Indian” (or “the red man,” eww) as if “he” was a single monolithic culture. Jesse Marsh’s art in this issue is excellent, but that hardly seems to matter.  

S.W.O.R.D. #6 (Marvel, 2021) – “This is What Comes Next,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Valerio Schiti. Storm speaks to a congress of alien representatives and tells them that as a result of the Hellfire Gala story, the mutants have colonized Mars. Wanda has a talk with Magneto, who is her father as far as I’m concerned, regardless of any retcons. S.W.O.R.D. is a well-written series, but it doesn’t really have its own plot or cast of characters. It just seems like a vehicle for stories about random characters from the X-Men franchise.

CEREBUS #183 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1994) – “Endgame,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This issue’s Cerebus segment consists entirely of a silent fight scene between Cerebus and Cirin. It’s bloody and violent, but it doesn’t advance the narrative at all. The Victor Davis segment is just a bunch of schizophrenic word salad that couldn’t possibly make sense to anyone but Dave. There’s also a preview of Strange Attractors.

SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND LOIS LANE #132 (DC, 1973) – “The Second Superman!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] John Rosenberger. Superman tries to set Lois up with a man named Phil Karnes, but he kills himself in an attempt to give himself superpowers. This is another early example of a story about computerized dating (see my review of Creepy #22), and it’s also a typical example of Cary Bates’s cruelty to his characters. There are two backup stories, one starring Zatanna, and another that introduces a new character, a black reporter named Melba Manton. She appeared a few more times, but her last appearance was in 1978.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE #12 (DC, 2011) – “Savage Frontier,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Danijel Zezelj. In 1919, Skinner Sweet confronts some old enemies who are reenacting his life story from the Wild West era. This issue is pretty good, and it makes sense out of context, unlike most American Vampire comics.

DETECTIVE COMICS #642 (DC, 1992) – “The Return of Scarface Part 2: Gleeding Hearts,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Jim Aparo. Scarface terrorizes Gotham, and meanwhile, Vicki Vale dumps Bruce Wayne and then gets shot in a drive-by. As a kid I didn’t realize how heavily Scarface was inspired by old gangster films.

THE FOX #4 (Archie, 2015) – “The Snoring Corpse,” [W/A] Dean Haspiel, [W] Mark Waid. The Fox fights a villain named The Gasser who resembles the Golden Age Sandman. Then he and his wife team up to save their kidnapped son, Ghost Fox. This series was well-executed, but I was never quite able to get into.

CLARENCE #2 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] Liz Prince, [A] Evan Palmer. Clarence’s class has to go to a movie instead of a water park for a field trip, and mayhem ensues. This comic is funnier than I expected, but it’s too childish for me.

THE VAGABOND OF LIMBO #6 (Dargaud, 1980) – “What is Reality, Papa?”, [W] Christian Godard, [A] Julio Ribera. The Vagabond of Limbo is a science fiction series starring Axel Moonshine and his annoying kid companion Musky. Axel travels around the universe searching for a woman named Chimeer who he saw in a dream. In this album, Axel and Musky’s quest leads them to a Hollywood film studio, and the characters in the films start to turn real. This series won an Angouleme award in 1976. Julio Ribera’s artwork in this album is pretty exciting, and Christian Godard’s writing is funny; the hostile relationship between Axel and Musky is good for a lot of laughs. However, I’m not in a huge hurry to read the rest of this series. Only one other Vagabond of Limbo album has been translated into English.  

2000 AD #623 (Fleeetway, 1989) – Medivac 318: as above. Verity tries to talk the alien out of attacking, but it stings and poisons her pilot. Tales from the Doghouse: “ ‘Sting’ Ray,” [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Simon Jacob. A Strontium Dog is kidnapped by two crooks named Cockles and Mussles, a reference to the song “Molly Malone.”  Dredd: “Banana City,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Will Simpson. Dredd travels to Latin America to look for a criminal. This story has some nice painted art, and is not as blatantly offensive as some of Wagner’s other stories with Hispanic themes. Future Shocks: “Reunion,” [W] Nicholas Barber, [A] Ron Smith. A man boasts to his friends about how great his life is, but then we learn that the man is a ghost, and he shows up every year to tell these same lies. Future Shocks: untitled, [W] Jim Campbell, [A] Chris Weston. A man travels to an alternate reality to look for his dead wife. This story has beautiful art.

CEREBUS #184 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1994) – untitled, [W/A] Dave Sim. As Cerebus and Cirin continue to fight, the throne room colllapses around them. The Victor Davis segment is another load of pointless incomprehensible crap, with a guest appearance by Rick Veitch. There’s a letter from a man whose wife left him, taking the baby, because he lent £3,000 to his parents and never got it back. Good for her. The issue ends with a preview of Steve Bissette’s Tyrant.

GROO: PLAY OF THE GODS #2 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. At Taranto’s suggestion, Ahax tows Groo and Rufferto in a boat behind his ship, allowing them all to safely reach the new land of Mexahuapan safely. The people of Mexahuapan are not impressed with the Iberzans or their god. Meanwhile, the pantheon becomes overcrowded with Mexahuapan’s native gods, such Gogee, god of uncertanity (maybe) and Lopi, god of things that start with L.

EPIC ILLUSTRATED #22 (Marvel, 1984) – [E] Archie Goodwin. The highlight of this issue is Claremont and Bolton’s Marada the She-Wolf, an exciting sword-and-sorcery story with beautiful art and two intriguing female protagonists. I also have some unread issues of The Black Dragon, by this same creative team, and somehow I’ve never felt motivated to read them. There’s also a preview of Bernie Wrightson’s Frankenstein, and a story by Laurie Sutton and Charles Vess about subterranean bat creatures. And there’s a story by Goodwin and Phil Hale, which is interesting, except the artwork is often indecipherable because it’s printed too dark. The other stories in the issue are unworthy of note.

OVER THE GARDEN WALL #1 (Boom!, 2016) – “Dreamland Memories,” [W/A] Jim Campbell w/ Danielle Burgos. A little boy helps some gnomes resolve their conflict with a giant cat that resembles the earliest version of Felix the Cat. “Homeland,” [W] Amalia Levari, [A] Cara McGee. A girl goes looking for her missing father. This comic is actually pretty cute, but I’m not fond of its Cartoon Network aesthetic.

ART OPS #7 (Vertigo, 2016) – “Modern Love Part Two,” [W] Shaun Simon, [A] Eduardo Risso. At some point ini the past, the main character’s pregnant mother and her friends travel to Tangier to solve a crime involving fashion. This comic has some excellent art, especially the interiors and the graffiti in the Tangier scene. However, Art Ops’s story never lived up to its potential.

SCOOBY-DOO, WHERE ARE YOU? #69 (DC, 2016) – “Hoodrinked,” [W] Derek Fridolfs, [A] Walter Carzon. The gang investigates a mystery at a roller derby game, and Daphne and Velma have to participate in the game themselves. “Fright Ride,” [W] John Rozum, [A] Fabio Laguna. The gang solves a mystery where the paintings at an art gallery keep changing. Fabio Laguna is best known for drawing two issues of Wolverine that were full of blatant swipes. https://www.cbr.com/knowledge-waits-the-two-most-swipe-filled-issues-of-wolverine-ever/

STRAYER #4 (AfterShock, 2016) – untitled, [W] Justin Jordan, [A] Juan Gedeon. The protagonist fights an army of giant four-armed tiger people. This is an entertaining comic, but Juan Gedeon’s art is severely starved of details.

STEVEN UNIVERSE AND THE CRYSTAL GEMS #3 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, [W] Josceline Fenton, [A] Chrystin Garland. Steven and the Gems investigate the Glass Ghost. A very quick and insubstantial read.

CEREBUS #185 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1994) – “Check,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cirin’s throne flies off into space with Cerebus and Cirin on it. The Victor Davis segment is longer than the Cerebus segment, and includes some rather offensive material; for example, Dave refers to “Alan Moore’s wife” without giving her a name. (This was his first wife, Phyllis, not Melinda Gebbie, but you can’t tell because Dave doesn’t name her.) There’s also another Tyrant preview.

CEREBUS #186 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1994) – “Mate,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This is a good candidate for the worst comic book in my collection, if it even counts as a comic book, since the Cerebus story is just five pages. The rest of the issue is a rant about how men are Light, women are Void, and “Merged Permanence” is an impossible dream. It’s a pile of sexist MRA garbage that doesn’t deserve a response. Perhaps the most offensive part is when Dave says that not all women are incapable of thinking rationally – there are exceptions, like his collaborators Colleen Doran and Teri Wood. I suppose Dave actually thought this was a compliment. Cerebus #186 is perhaps the greatest self-own in comics history. On the strength of its first 100 or so issues, Cerebus used to be considered one of the great comics of his time. But largely because of issue 186, Dave destroyed his reputation, drove away all but his most hardcore fans, and removed himself from the comics canon. And it was entirely his own fault. All he had to do to prevent it was keep his toxic opinions to himself, but I guess he was too rational and full of Male Light for that.

2000 AD #624 (Fleetway, 1989) – Medivac 318: as above. Verity and her two dying patients are rescued, and Verity applies to become an ambulance pilot herself. That’s the end of the first storyline. Verity is a likeable protagonist. Tales from the Doghouse: as above. Sting Ray captures Cockles and Musses, and the last line of the story is “I took Cockles and Mussles alive, alive-o.” Tales from the Doghouse is a terrible strip, but that joke almost justifies its existence. Dredd: as above. We learn that Dredd’s target is Barry Kurten from “Crazy Barry and Little Mo,” and we witness Barry’s brutal treatment of suspects. Future Shocks: “Just Between Ourselves,” [W] Andrew Donkin & Neal Brand, [A] Josep Gual. A man goes to help an old professor friend, but ends up killing him, only to discover that the professor has made multiple clones of himself. Rogue Trooper: “Cinnabar Part 1,” [W] John Smith, [A] Steve Dillon & Kev Walker. Helm, Gunnar and Bagman go looking for Rogue and find him crucified next to a sign that reads DESERTER.

BATMAN #258 (DC, 1974) – “Threat of the Two-Headed Coin,” [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Irv Novick. I’m reluctant to read these 100-page specials because they’re so long, they contain a lot of bad reprinted stories, and they’re often in such poor condition that they’re in danger of falling apart before I finish them. The only new thing in this issue is a fairly mediocre Two-Face story. Reprints include a Fox-Moldoff story about crimes themed after the Seven Wonders of the World, and Finger and Moldoff’s “The Guardian of 100 Cities!” In the latter story, Batman fights a gang in a field filled with replicas of various cities, discarded from old movie sets. That’s a pretty cool idea.

My next Heroes trip was on July 19. This was not a fun day, because earlier that week, my cat suffered a severe medical emergency that required an overnight hospital stay. I think he’s fine now, but it was scary. On this trip I had lunch at Bang Bang Burgers.

WYND #8 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. The faerie capture Wynd and his companions. A faerie girl – the daughter of the faerie who was killed earlier – tells Wynd the origin of Essernel. The vampires and faeries statred out as a single race, the Winged Ones, but then they split into two tribes and went to war. The clear implication is that Wynd is the last of the Winged Ones. Michael Dialynas’s mural-esque artwork in the flashback sequence is very impressive.

RUNAWAYS #37 (Marvel, 2021) – “Come Away with Me Part 6,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Andrés Genolet. Mostly a silent issue. We finally learn how Gib is feeding himself: the cat and its cat friends are bringing him sacrifices. The two Gerts finally confront each other. The issue ends with two Majesdanians coming to Earth in search of Karolina.

SEVEN SECRETS #10 (Boom!, 2021) – “Keep Calm and Carry a Big Scepter,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. We don’t get to see why Sigurd is still alive. Caspar and Eva infiltrate Buckingham Palace and confront the queen, but she turns out to be Eva’s friend, and also she appears to be of South Asian descent. And then she helps Sigurd and Eva kidnap the prime minister, who happens to look a lot like Boris Johnson. So Seven Secrets is one of two current Boom! comics that include unfavorable depictions of BoJo. He’s probably appeared in more comic books than any prime minister since Thatcher.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #99 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Thom Zahler, [A] Robin Easter. Marble Pie gets accepted to a super-exclusive college – so exclusive that it’s run by former comic book editors. Pinkie Pie is too sad about her departure to throw her a goodbye party, so Cheese Sandwich helps her do it. This is a cute issue, and I’m sad that we’re not going to see the progression of Pinkie and Cheese’s romance.

MAMO #1 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Sas Milledge. In the rural village of Haresden, teenage Jo Manalo asks the local witch, Orla, to help cure her sick mother. Orla denies being the witch, but ends up helping out anyway, and Orla and Jo have to confront a terrifying witch in Jo’s attic. This is yet another really promising debut issue from Boom! Sas Milledge’s characterization, worldbuilding, art and coloring are all excellent. Her art reminds me of Emma Rios, except without whatever it is that annoys me about Emma Rios. Jo and Orla are interestingly different characters, and Orla’s cat is really cute. There are subtle hints that Jo’s family are of Filipino descent, though this series does not appear to be set in the real world.  

THE SIX SIDEKICKS OF TRIGGER KEATON #2 (Image, 2021) – “Sidecar,” [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Chris Schweizer. Trigger’s will is read, and we learn that he arranged for his own excrement to be sent to various enemies of his. These enemies all show up at the reading of the will, and one of the sidekicks, Tad Haycroft, has to lead a car chase to get away from them. Then some giant Samoan dudes beat up the sidekicks and tell them to stop investigating the murder. This is perhaps the most fun comic being published at the moment.  

EVE #3 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Jo Mi-Gyeong. Eve meets a colony of children. One of the children escorts Eve to a train that will take her further on her journey – even though he knows he won’t be able to go back. Because of the plague, leaving the colony is an automatic death sentence. Wexler, the teddy bear, follows Eve and massacres the other children. When the train arrives in Chicago, Eve is met by a girl who looks identical to her. This issue is very dark and grim, and in his note at the end, Victor LaValle justifies this by quoting an editor who said that “the best place for the tough subjects is in the world of Young Adult Literature.”

NOCTERRA #5 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Tony Daniel. Val and Emory make it to the Refuge. It seems like a paradise, but Emory is unwilling to stay there. And he’s right to be suspicious of the Refuge, because its owner, Tiberius, is about to betray them to Bootstrap Bill. Also, there’s an overarching plot about a war between beings of light and darkness.

ORDINARY GODS #1 (Image, 2021) – “As the World Turns,” [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Felipe Watanabe. 22-year-old Christopher still lives at home with his parents and doesn’t have much of a goal in life. After Christopher has a series of weird encounters with a cult that believes in reincarnation, his little sister kills his parents and tries to kill him too. Christopher is saved by a man who tells him that he’s the reincarnation of the Luminary, one of the thirteen gods. This is an intriguing premise, but I couldn’t remember anything about this comic until I looked at it again to write this review. So far it’s not as compelling as Radiant Black.

BUNNY MASK #2 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Secrets from the Cave,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Andrea Mutti. Bunny Mask kills some jerk who’s about to kidnap his own daughter. Tyler starts to fall in love with Bee, despite their age gap. Then Tyler realizes he can hear people’s thoughts. And then while Tyler is staying over at Bee’s place (in the guest room), some hitmen break in, looking for Bee’s roommate. Bunny Mask might be Paul Tobin’s best non-humorous work. It’s creepy, it has strong characterization, and it makes me curious to read more.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #100 (IDW, 2021) – “The Knights of Harmony,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Andy Price & Brenda Hickey. It’s hard to believe that a comic book about pastel-colored ponies, aimed at little girls, has reached issue 100. Sadly it’s going to end soon after that. This issue we visit the bird kingdom, Ornithia, and it initially looks as if this issue is going to go the same way as the stories with the cats and the zebras. But then we meet Ceridwen, “Princess of Cunabula and one of the new Knights of Harmony,” and she announces her plans to invade Equestria. This is an epic story, as a 100th issue should be, and it’s full of great art and Easter eggs – for example, there’s a priest who says “Mawwiage is wot bwings us togedah today!”  

SAVAGE HEARTS #1 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Aubrey Sitterson, [A] Jed Dougherty. Another debut issue that I don’t remember very well. (Then again, I had to reread Mamo #1 before I read issue 2, because I couldn’t recall what Mamo was about.) Graow, who is like Tarzan except with horns, falls in love with Bronwyn, a barbarian woman who enters his valley on a quest. They fight a bunch of weird creatures, and we learn that Bronwyn’s lover was killed by the same evil wizard who is the object of her quest. This comic is entertaining, and Jed Dougherty reminds me of Art Adams or Nick Bradshaw; like them, he’s equally skilled at drawing monsters and sexy women. But Graow’s creepy behavior toward Bronwyn is the sort of thing that’s not funny anymore. It’s not harmless flirting, but rather sexual harassment.

ORCS! #6 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Christine Larsen. The orcs enter the dungeon, fight a giant plant monster, and recover Drod’s sword. With this treasure in hand, they’re able to convince their chieftain to let them back into the cave. Orcs was a super-fun miniseries and I really hope we get more of it soon.

THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE #2 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Alvaro Martinez Bueno. The protagonists explore the house while trying to either face or avoid their grief over the end of the world. This series has a fascinating premise and excellent artwork – I especially like the title page, even if it’s used again in issue 3. James Tynion is clearly the top writer in monthly comics at the moment, and he was a shoo-in for the Eisner for Best Writer. I just hope he continues writing his creator-owned comic books after he starts working for Substack.

THE WORST DUDES #2 (Dark Horse, 2021) – “Unverified Number,” [W] Aubrey Sitterson, [A] Tony Gregori. Sam and Bang recruit Zephyr Monsoon’s ex-husband, Caligula, and they visit a diminutive crimelord named Bugsy who might know where Zephyr is. This issue is funny but not extremely memorable. I think the best line is “My… my Bang is name.”

SPIDER-MAN: SPIDER’S SHADOW #4 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Pasqual Ferry. The symbiote takes over the entire Baxter Building. Reed, MJ and Johnny sneak inside the building, but when they get inside, they discover that Venom has already possessed Reed, and he releases a lot of other symbiotes who take over the other superheroes’ bodies. Spider’s Shadow is one of the best What If? stories ever, because first, it has a top-tier creative team, and second, it’s written like a real superhero comic, while most other What if?s are written like plot summaries.

SKYBOUND X #1 (Image, 2021) – “Rick Grimes 2000 Chapter 1,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Ryan Ottley. This issue’s first story is a retelling of The Walking Dead, except with superheroes. It includes a scene where Michonne gets the top half of her head ripped off. It’s a good reminder that Robert Kirkman is a severly flawed writer and that his work relies too much on gore and shock value. The reason I bought this issue was for the Ultramega and Manifest Destiny stories. The Ultramega story is a forgettable flashback, but the Manifest Destiny story is told from the viewpoint of Dawhogg, one of the series’ most memorable guest stars, and it’s drawn in a cartoon style. It also has a plot that reminds me of Native American folklore. This issue also includes a Clementine story by Tillie Walden, probably the most talented young cartoonist in America.

HOLLOW HEART #5 (Vault, 2021) – “Universal Monster,” [W] Paul Allor, [A] Paul Tucker. El goes on a rampage and then gets captured again. This series has been disappointing, and I wish I hadn’t ordered it.

JENNY ZERO #3 (Dark Horse, 2021) – “Little Reminders,” [W] Dave Dwonch & Brockton McKinney, [A] Magenta King. Most of the issue is a flashback to Jenny’s training, and then she turns into a giant kaiju. This is another disappointing series. Jenny is a mildly intriguing protagonist because of her self-destructive tendencies, but Jenny Zero’s plot is pointless, and the whole series relies on tired Japanese stereotypes.

THOR & LOKI: DOUBLE TROUBLE #4 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] GuriHiru. Thor and Loki team up with their female counterparts, have some silly adventures, and finally get back to Asgard. This was an extremely fun miniseries, just like its predecessor, and I wish Marvel would do more comics like this. The highlight of the issue is the following exchange between the two Thors: “How do you find it, being Thor?” “Glorious. How do you find it?” “Glorious as well, obviously.”

CRUSH & LOBO #2 (DC, 2021) – “I’m Fine! aka Travel Mugs are Very Useful in Space,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Amancay Nahuelpan. On the way to visit her dad in prison, Crush has some flashbacks to her recently ended relationship, and she also fights a creature that looks like Krang from TMNT. I wish Crush were even more like Lobo, because she seems too similar to all of Mariko Tamaki’s other protagonists. But otherwise this series is very fun.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #119 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Nelson Daniel. The Turtles and their allies participate in a rally against Hob, but it erupts into violence. Meanwhile, Lita and the weasels get kidnapped while protecting a non-mutant woman named Lola. Another strong issue.

NINJAK #1 (Valiant, 2021) – “Daylight Part 1,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Javier Pulido. I didn’t order this, but I bought it off the shelf because I like both these creators. Ninjak #1 is a fairly typical secret agent story, with Jeff Parker’s usual strong plotting and dialogue, but Javier Pulido’s art is amazing. His panel structures and compositions remind me of Steranko, while his linework and coloring are in an exaggerated Clear Line style. The combined effect of this is very striking, even more so than in his She-Hulk run. I definitely plan on ordering the rest of this series.

DIE #18 (Image, 2021) – “Lines & Veils,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans. In a flashback, we see why Ash blames themself for getting Matt trapped in Die. The characters keep descending until they find a crypt with Sol’s diary. This is of course a reference to the scene with the Book of Mazarbul in LOTR, and the diary ends “they’re not coming” instead of “they are coming.” And then the issue ends with the party encountering a giant fiery monster. Like WicDiv, Die gets more complicated and difficult the longer it goes on, but it’s clearly a major work.

BLACK’S MYTH #1 (Ahoy, 2021) – untitled, [W] Eric Palicki, [A] Wendell Cavalcanti. Strummer is a private detective and also a werewolf, and her partner Ben is a djinn. A man hires them to recover some bullets that were cast from Judas’s thirty pieces of silver. This issue has some striking black-and-white artwork, and its plot seems exciting and well-researched; I’ve never heard of a church grim before. But after reading this issue I couldn’t remember much about it.

GEIGER #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Gary Frank. While fleeing from the King, Tariq and the kids encounter some organ pirates. This was a forgettable issue, but Geiger has been much better than I expected from Geoff Johns.

THE SILVER COIN #4 (Image, 2021) – “2467,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Michael Walsh. In a dystopian future, the lucky people live inside a city while the unlucky ones live in the wasteland outside. A criminal from outside the city discovers the silver coin in some old ruins.  I really don’t understand this issue.

HAHA #6 (Image, 2021) – “Happy Hank the Very Happy Clown,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo & Chris O’Halloran. Happy Hank is yet another unsuccessful clown. He suffers from schizophrenia, which causes him to see imaginary crimes and disasters everywhere. Then he shoots himself. This issue includes references to Ice Cream Man, specifically the “Save Jerry” story. W. Maxwell Prince is a very effective writer of short horror stories. But Haha was less an actual miniseries than an anthology of single issues with a common theme and with occasional connections.

CHALLENGE OF THE SUPER SONS #4 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Max Raynor. Damian and Jon save Rora from Vandal Savage, and then they use VR technology to rescue Cyborg. This is a fun issue, but this series is kind of formulaic; the scenes where Damian and Jon rescue the other superheroes are all very similar. When I started reading Challenge of the Super Sons, I didn’t even know it was a digital-first series. That’s anecdotal evidence that DC’s print and digital comics are serving two separate audiences.

IMMORTAL HULK #48 (Marvel, 2021) – “Hiding Places,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett.After making love, Hulk and Betty talk about their relationship. Then Betty runs off, and Hulk decides to head to the Below-Place to find Bruce. This issue includes a lot of nostalgic flashbacks to older Hulk comics, notably the reconciliation scene from Ground Zero.

BEASTS OF BURDEN: OCCUPIED TERRITORY #4 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin & Sarah Dyer, [A] Benjamin Dewey. The dogs finally confront the main villain: a spider kami who was traumatized by the atomic bombings, and swore vengeance on all humans. The Shiba Inus convince the spider to withhold judgment untli 300 years from now. This was another fun installment of Beasts of Burden, but I hope that there will be another miniseries soon, and that Jill Thompson will draw it.

CANTO III: LIONHEARTED #1 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. Aulaura tries to save Bodil the hermit from the Fury, but he dies. Aulaura and Canto decide to join forces with the Slavers, and they go to Bodil’s old hideout to look for the Slavers’ location. I enjoy this series, but its plot is hard to remember.

BLACK HAMMER VISIONS #6 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Cullen Bunn, [A] Malachi Ward & Matthew Sheean. In a flashback, while Cthu-Lou’s wife is pregnant with Cthu-Louise, Cthu-Lou’s Great Old One master summons him to build a “Great Machine.” Cthu-Lou sabotages the machine, but his wife gives him no credit for it, and he returns to his squalid life. Sheean and Ward’s art in this issue is reminiscent of Corben, but Cullen Bunn’s story doesn’t tell us much that we didn’t know from Cthu-Lou’s previous appearances.

SWAMP THING #5 (DC, 2021) – “Survivor Bomb,” [W] Ram V, [A] John McCrea. Swampy helps John Constantine defuse an unexploded bomb from WWII that’s turning English people into fascists. This was perhaps the best issue yet, but it’s a lot like Si Spurrier’s Hellblazer. The Nazis really did build concentration camps on the island of Alderney, after the island’s entire population was evacuated.

WAY OF X #4 (Marvel, 2021) – “Heirs and Graces,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Bob Quinn. Kurt gets Dust to help terraform Mars, then prevents Cortez from murdering Gorgon – not the Gorgon from the Inhumans. Meanwhile, Legion confronts his father, Professor X. This wasn’t as bad as issue 3, but it wasn’t very good either.

THE WRONG EARTH: NIGHT & DAY #5 (Ahoy, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Jamal Igle. Dragonfly and Dragonflyman meet their evil counterpart, Man-Dragonfly, though they don’t realize at first that he’s evil. He has a device that can shatter all the mirrors in every reality; that becomes important next issue. Also, Lady Dragonfly teams up with one of the alternate versions of Stinger. By this point I had lost track of the series’ plot, though I was able to figure it out again after reading issue 6.

CHAINED TO THE GRAVE #5 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Andy Eschenbach & Brian Level, [A] Kate Sherron. After an epic fight, the hero defeats the villains and gets killed again, but the last page reveals that his skeleton is still alive. I liked the idea behind this series, and I especially like the artwork. But the series’ plot never made sense. There were too many villains, and I never figured out what they were up to.

THE GOOD ASIAN #3 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Alexandre Tefenkgi. We begin with a history of Chinese immigration to America, then Edison goes on a date that doubles as an investigation of Holly’s murder. But his date, Lucy, learns that he’s a snitch and punches him. There are some really powerful moments in this issue, but The Good Asian’s plot is very hard to follow. I keep forgetting who all the characters are, or how they’re connected to each other.

COMMANDERS IN CRISIS #10 (Image, 2021) – “The Action of Scrutiny,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Davide Tinto. The entire world descends into chaos. Nina finally confronts the main villain, Executrix, who’s also her alternate self. This is another series that’s too hard to follow and has way too many characters. Its ideas are perhaps stronger than its execution.

KARMEN #5 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Guillem March. Two of Karmen’s seniors debate about what’s going on with her and Cata. Then the power in Cata’s apartment goes out, and as a result Cata’s roommate finds her in the bathtub and saves her life. Cata reconciles with her boyfriend, and also recovers the wedding ring of the man from issue 3. Karmen was a masterpiece, with spectacular artwork and coloring and a touching plot. I’m glad that Ablaze is going to publish another of Guillem March’s solo works.

OUT OF BODY #2 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Fear of Dying,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Inaki Miranda. In the astral plane, Dan the dying man meets Abi the psychic. Also he discovers that a nurse is committing necrophilia with his body, though I guess it’s not necrophilia if he’s not all the way dead. Meanwhile, it seems like the villain of the series is Dorian Gray.

INKBLOT #10 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Rusty Gladd, [A] Emma Kubert. MOW. leads an elf girl into a cave, where she encounters a one-eyed sorcerer. This series’ plot is deliberately confusing because the stories aren’t told in chronological order. They all seem to involve the members of the Seeker’s family, but the Seeker has so many siblings that I can’t remember them all, and I can’t figure out what order the issues take place in. However, the real reason to read Inkblot is because of the cat.

WONDER GIRL #2 (DC, 2021) – “Homecoming Part Two,” [W/A] Joëlle Jones, [A] Adriana Melo. Yara is saved from drowning, various Amazon tribes go looking for her, and Eros falls in love with her. This issue wasn’t as exciting as the previous Yara Flor stories.

MOUSE GUARD: THE OWLHEN CAREGIVER #1 (Boom!, 2021) – “The Tales of: The Owlhen Caregiver, Piper the Listener, and the Wild Wolf,” [W/A] David Petersen. Three short stories: one about an owl and a mouse’s friendship, another about a mouse who listens to different animals’ language, and one about a wolf hunt that ends tragically. My favorite of the three is “Piper the Listener,” because of its plausible attempt to imagine how different animals would talk, but all three stories are touching. David Petersen’s art style is fascinating and not particularly like that of any other artist. I would read more Mouse Guard if it wasn’t published in such an awkward format.

ORCS IN SPACE #1 & 2 (Oni, 2021) – untitled, [W] Justin Roiland et al., [A] Francois Vigneault. A bunch of orcs take over a spaceship, obviously based on the Enterprise, and then their ship gets attacked by evil space rats. This series’ jokes aren’t particularly funny, and its art style doesn’t appeal to me. I was willing to give it one more issue, but after reading issue 3, I asked to have this series removed from my pull list.

WEREWOLF BY NIGHT #32 FACSIMILE EDITION (Marvel, 2021) – “The Stalker Called Moon Knight,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Don Perlin. Last issue, the Werewolf nearly killed Jack Russell’s friend Buck Cowan, who was trying to save a little girl in a blizzard. When Jack gets back to civilization, Moon Knight, in his first appearance, tries to kidnap Jack and deliver him to “the Committee.” This issue isn’t terrible, but Werewolf by Night was not one of Marvel’s better series from this period.

WONDER WOMAN #775 (DC, 2021) – “Afterworlds Part 6,” [W] Michael W. Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Andy MacDonald. Wonder Woman and Deadman visit a cemetery world and play a riddle game with its keeper. Then there’s a scene in Olympus. As usual, the Young Diana backup story has cute art but a boring plot.

HELM GREYCASTLE #3 (Image, 2021) – “Dear Your Holiness,” [W] Henry Barajas, [A] Rahmat M. Handoko. The party members travel into a dream world to rescue Coyote. I like the idea of a crossover between Aztecs and Dungeons & Dragons, but Helm Greycastle is yet another series with a confusing plot and too many characters. Also, this issue’s story is only 18 pages, and the rest of the issue is an RPG module. This “bonus” feature is of no interest to me, and yet I feel obligated to read it. I wish it had been published somewhere else.

2000 AD #625 (Fleetway, 1989) – Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue remembers his romance with Venus. The soldiers who are searching for him encounter a dying man. One-off: “Ideas,” [W] Jim Campbell, [A] Paul Marshall. Comic book writer Alex Fenland (based on Alan Moore?) invites a woman to his apartment and feeds her to his monster, who actually writes his scripts. Tales from the Doghouse: “Froggy Natterjack,” [W] Stewart Edwards, [A] Mick Austin. An alien shapeshifter hides out in a wax museum. He’s caught when he shapeshifts into a beetle instead of a Beatle. Dredd: as above. Dredd finally kills Barry and Mo. The bigger plot about Banana City’s tyrannical police force is left unresolved. Future Shocks: “A Body Like Dwain Death’s”, [W] David Anderson, [A] Ron Smith. An extended Charles Atlas parody. I wonder if Gene Kannenberg knows about it. One-off: “The Hit,” [W] Larry Watson, [A] Dave D’Antiquis. A hitman assassinates his own future self. Overall this prog was rather unimpressive. 

A DISTANT SOIL #28 (Image, 1999) – untitled, [W/A] Colleen Doran. This issue is just a series of arguments and reconciliations between various characters. I had been avoiding this series because first, its plot is too complicated and makes no sense. (Rieken, Seren and the Avatar are all different names for the same character.) and second, Colleen’s drawings are rather creepy. She makes her characters look impossibly cute. But the plot really doesn’t matter all that much, because it’s just an excuse for relationship drama. And the overly cute characters become more acceptable if you think of A Distant Soil as an American version of shojo manga. This issue also includes an illustrated prose short story by Ellen Kushner. I enjoy Ellen Kushner’s writing, but I hate it when comic books include prose stories.

ACTION COMICS #437 (DC, 1974) – “Magic is Bustin’ Out All Over!”, [W] Elliot S! Maggin, [A] Dick Dillin, etc. Batman and Green Arrow team up against Effron, the villain from World’s Finest #210. His goal is to steal the Viking village of Valhalla, from Action Comics #260. Superman and Green Arrow defeat him by disguising Kandor as Valhalla. Reprints in this issue include a Sea Devils story with excellent Russ Heath artwork, a Doll Man story by Reed Crandall, a one-shot from My Greatest Adventure, and stories starring Adam Strange and Trail Boss Matt Savage.

THE LEGEND OF KAMUI #3 (Viz, 1987) – “Red Medusa Part 1,” [W/A] Sanpei Shirato. A ninja goes fishing while having flashbacks to a swordfight. Shirato’s art here is very similar to Goseki Kojima’s art in Lone Wolf and Cub. I’ve heard that Shirato’s work had significant Marxist themes, but it’s hard to tell that from such a brief sampling. Unfortunately, though this was a 21-volume series, only two volumes have been published in book form in English.

LIFE WITH ARCHIE #18 (Archie, 2012) – The two stories in this issue are part of a crossover with each other. Archie Marries Veronica: “Progress’s Price Part 6,” [W] Paul Kupperberg, [A] Fernando Ruiz. Archie and his friends are trapped in a caved-in mine. In a flashback, we see that they got there after Archie met his counterpart from Archie Marries Betty. Archie Marries Betty: [W] Paul Kupperberg, [A] Pat Kennedy & Tim Kennedy. Veronica is locked up in a holding cell after a plane crash. On beinig released, she realizes she’s actually in the Archie Marries Betty universe. Then we cut back to the two Archies, who manage to escape from the cave. This comic was a quick and fun read, but it was nothing extraordinary.

2000 AD #640 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: “Triad Part 6,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Arthur Ranson. Anderson tries to protect the two psychic little girls from a nightmare monster. Medivac 318: untitled, [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Nigel Dobbyn. Verity helps rescue a cat-like Arcturan alien, then gets her own ambulance. Dredd: “The Amazing Ant-Man,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Dredd hunts down a scientist who’s been breeding giant carnivorous ants. On seeing the ants, Dredd utters the amazing line “GIANT ANTS ON DOPE!” Appropriately, the scientist is named Henry Pymm, and his favorite ant is Adam, i.e. Adam Ant. Survivor: untitled, [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Ron Smith. A talking panther tries to escape from a zoo. Strontium Dog: “The Final Solution Part 19,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Simon Harrison. Sagan captures Johnny and reveals himself as Johnny’s half-brother, the son of the anti-mutant bigot Kreelman.

AMBUSH BUG NOTHING SPECIAL #1 (DC, 1992) – “The Book of Jobs” and other vignettes, [W/A] Keith Giffen et al., [W] Robert Loren Fleming. A series of surrealistic short stories, all focusing on Ambush Bug’s attempt to become the main character of a DC title. My old friend Jonathan Bogart loved this comic, and I can sort of see why, because it’s very surreal and metatextual. It’s full of fake ads and bonus features, parodies of other comics, etc. It even includes a short Legionnaires story drawn by Chris Sprouse. However, while this comic was innovative, it was also somewhat tedious and unfunny.

ELFQUEST: NEW BLOOD SUMMER SPECIAL #1 (WaRP, 1992) – “The Price of a Soul,” [W/A] John Byrne, etc. This issue’s main story is about Two-Edge’s screwed-up relationship with Winnowill. It’s full of Byrne’s usual needless cruelty to his own characters. Then there’s a Hansel-and-Gretel story co-written by Terry Beatty, and a troll story written by Nat Gertler. I’m not sure I’ve ever read an actual comic by him before. Other creators in this issue include Barry Blair (ick) and Lea Hernandez.

ECHO OF FUTUREPAST #5 (Continuity, 1985) – “Mudwogs,” [W/A] Arthur Suydam, etc. Suydam’s Mudwogs story is about a grossly fat lady. Suydam draws in a distinctive style that has echoes of Corben, Frazetta and Sam Kieth. There’s also a Bucky O’Hare story by Hama and Golden, and a chapter of Carlos Gimenez’s “Hom,” which is interesting but not at all representative of Gimenez’s work. This story is an adaptation of Brian W. Aldiss’s novel Hothouse, but this is not mentioned in Echo of Futurepast #5. This issue also includes a werewolf story by Neal Adams. Like all of Neal’s post-‘70s work, it’s incoherently written but well-drawn, though it shows a lack of stylistic evolution.

SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND LOIS LANE #95 (DC, 1969) – “Lois Lane’s Super-Brain!”, [W] Robert Bernstein, [A] Kurt Schaffenberger. A collection of reprint stories with the theme “The Strange Lives of Lois Lane!” All of these stories are typical Silver Age sexist crap. The worst one is the lead story. Lois uses a “brain bank” device to make herself super-intelligent, but it causes her to grow a giant bald head. After Superman restores Lois’s normal appearance and intelligence, Lois thinks: “Any girl would prefer her own pretty face to having a super-brain… if she’s really smart!” To reinforce this point that women don’t need to be intelligent, the “brain bank” works by downloading information from the world’s greatest scientists, all of whom are white men. In another story, Lois tries to catch a serial poisoner without Superman’s help, but it turns out the “poisoner” is really Perry White playing a trick on her, because Superman already captured the real prisoner. As with Wonder Woman, DC was so afraid of Lois Lane’s potential as a feminist symbol, that they did everything they could to turn her into a figure of humiliation.

THE UNEXPECTED #192 (DC, 1979) – “A Killer Cold and Clammy,” [W] George Kashdan, [A] E.R. Cruz. Starting with issue #189, The Unexpected became a giant-size series and absorbed three other titles: Doorway into Nightmare, The Witching Hour and House of Secrets. All of these were among DC’s lower-tier titles, used as a farm system for artists who weren’t ready to draw superhero comics. The Unexpected #192 includes art by E.R. Cruz, Ruben Yandoc, Fred Carrillo and Irwin Hasen, as well as one page by Kaluta, but the nine stories in the issue are all thoroughly boring and unscary.

IZOMBIE #26 (Vertigo, 2012) – “The End Part Two,” [W] Chris Roberson, [A] Mike Allred. The various characters prepare for an invasion by a Lovecraftian monster. iZombie is not one of Mike Allred’s better works, although maybe I’d like it better if I’d started reading it from the beginning.

JUSTICE LEAGUE AMERICA ANNUAL #5 (DC, 1991) – “Tomorrow’s League Today!”, [W/A] Keith Giffen, [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Steve Carr. In a chapter of Armageddon 2001, Waverider  visits the Justice League in disguise and has glimpses of their future. Each Justice Leaguer’s future is depicted in a sequence by a different artist. The future scenes connect to each other  in interesting ways, and overall this is a funny comic, though I’ve read so much of Giffen and DeMatteis’s Justice League that it’s no longer very exciting to me.

DUCKTALES #9 (Gladstone, 1989) – “The Oil Pirates,” [W] Frank Ridgway, [A] Jamie Diaz Studio. Scrooge and friends try to stop the Beagle Boys from stealing oil from Scrooge’s rigs. DuckTales is weird to me because it’s a blend of Barksian characters and themes with non-Barks characters like Webby, Launchpad and Mrs. Beakley. This issue also includes Barks’s “Billions in the Hole,” which I’ve already read, and a second DuckTales story, in which Launchpad and the nephews investigate a mystery involving classic airplanes.

MARVEL SUPER-HEROES #19 (Marvel, 1968) – “My Father, My Enemy!”, [W] Arnold Drake & Steve Parkhouse, [A] George Tuska. Ka-Zar tries to stop his brother, the Plunderer, from getting his hands on a cache of deadly anti-metal. The story has a touching ending where a dying old man tries to leave Ka-Zar a message saying that Ka-Zar’s father was a peaceful man, not a villain like Ka-Zar thought. But the Plunderer erases the message before Ka-Zar can get to it. This story was Steve Parkhouse’s first professional credit. He’s probably most famous for drawing The Bojeffries Saga and Resident Alien. This issue also includes some interesting Golden Age reprints, with art by Carl Burgos, Bill Everett and Joe Maneely.

CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED #157 (Gilberton, 1960) – “Lives of the Hunted,” [W] Alfred Sundel, [A] Norman Nodel. A series of adaptatons of animal stories by Ernest Thompson Seton. The longest one is about a ram who lives in the Kootenay region of British Columbia, and the (human) hunter who pursues and eventually kills him. These stories are amusing but forgettable.

2000 AD #641 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: as above. Anderson examines the two girls’ minds and finds a reference to Orlok, a villain who first appeared in the story “Block Mania.” Moon Runners: “Old Acquaintance,” [W] Alan McKenzie, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. I didn’t understand this one, and it has no clear connection to the previous Moon Runners story. It includes a page that’s just black panels with no art. Zippy Couriers: “The Seachers Part 1,” [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Graham Higgins. Remember the story where Shauna’s partner Genghis ate an intelligent alien, thinking it was a donut? Well, in this story the alien’s parents abduct Genghis in order to get their child back. Dredd: “The Great U-Front Disaster,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Chris Weston. A four-year-old boy invents a heating device for his dad’s underwear. It catches fire, resulting in an accident that kills nineteen people. Despite the massive death toll, this story is meant to be funny, and it is. Survivor: as above. Henry the panther tries to escape the cage, but can’t. Strontium Dog: as above. Middenface goes looking for Johnny, who’s trapped in an alternate dimension.

HEAVY METAL #6.3 (HM, 1982) – [E] Julie Simmons-Lynch. These actually have issue numbers, but they only appear in the ads for back issues. This issue starts with an obituary for Philip K. Dick, and then there’s the following: The Incal. Corben’s Den II. Den is perhaps Corben’s masterpiece, and it’s a shame that it hasn’t been completely collected. A half-page strip by a young Ben Katchor. “At the Middle of Cymbiola,” one of Schuiten’s earlier works. A preview of Blade Runner. “Concorde” by Caza, an artist I’m not familiar with. Luis García’s Nova 2, a beautifully drawn sequence based on the last scene of Psycho. A gallery of H.R. Giger art. “The Voyage of Those Forgotten” (AKA The Cruise of Lost Souls) by Bilal and Christin. Also some Druillet and Fernando Fernandez.

ELFQUEST: NEW BLOOD SUMMER SPECIAL 1993 (WaRP, 1993) – “Eclipse of the Heart,” [W] Andy Mangels, [A] Brandon McKinney, etc. This issue’s lead story is a folktale about the origin of the sun and the two moons. The most notable thing in this issue is “Naming Day,” written by Kurt Busiek and his wife Ann, about how Treestump got his name. There’s also a funny story by Nat Gertler, about things not to do when writing Elfquest stories (for instance, don’t mess with Nonna and Adar).

TYRANT #3 (SpiderBaby, 1995) – untitled, [W/A] Steve Bissette. A hyperdetailed depiction of the baby T-Rex’s emergence from its egg. This comic has some stunning artwork that recalls Bissette’s Swamp Thing, especially “Rite of Spring,” and Steve must have done a ton of research on dinosaur embryo development. However, Tyrant’s premise is not very interesting to me, and its scope was perhaps overambitious; the protagonist doesn’t even get born until the third issue, and the series was supposed to cover its entire life.

CEREBUS #188 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1994) – “Mothers & Daughters 38,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Finally we’re done with the Victor Davis essays, thank God, and this issue has a full-length Cerebus story again. But all that happens in the story is that Cerebus and Cirin go from beating each other up to arguing over which of them deserves the throne. In the letter column, Dave doubles down on his misogynistic crap. There’s also a preview of David Zapanta’s Hairbat. This series had six self-published issues and then one issue published by Slave Labor.

BALTIMORE: DR. LESKOVAR’S REMEDY #2 (Dark Horse, 2012) – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola & Christopher Golden, [A] Ben Stenbeck. Another Hellboy spinoff that I shouldn’t have bought because it makes no sense on its own. At least Ben Stenbeck draws some creepy-looking crab monsters. His art reminds me of that of Corben or Kevin Nowlan.

LOKI, AGENT OF ASGARD #17 (Marvel, 2015) – “Out the Gate You Go and Never Stop,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Lee Garbett. Loki and Verity are trapped in some sort of empty blank world, but Loki escapes by drawing a “Next Issue” blurb. Ironically, this is the last issue. This series’s potential was wasted because it had a confusing, directionless plot and it introduced too many different Lokis. But Al Ewing would go on to bigger and better things.

HELLBLAZER #216 (Vertigo, 2006) – “Empathy is the Enemy Chapter 1 of 7,” [W] Denise Mina, [A] Leonardo Manco. Denise Mina is better known as a crime novelist. This issue was her first published comic; she went on to write twelve more issues of Hellblazer and some graphic novels. In this issue, a man approaches Constantine in a bar and tells him a lengthy sob story that takes up the entire issue. This comic isn’t terrible, but it doesn’t make me want to read the rest of this story arc.

NOWHERE MEN #2 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Eric Stephenson, [A] Nate Bellegarde. Another incomprehensible story about rock star scientists. This series was nominated for an Eisner, but it’s hard to see why. I do like its graphic design and its clever fake ads and text features.

2000 AD #644 (Fleetway, 1989) – Moon Runners: as above. Cara Ogilvy-Nash’s husband turns into a Jabba the Hutt creature and tries to kill her. This story made little sense, although at least the monstrous creature was a good use of Belardinelli’s talents. Dredd: “Cardboard City Part Two,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Cam Kennedy. Dredd investigates some terrorist attacks on a tent city, and also he encounters his old housekeeper Mad Maria, now a derelict. Future Shocks: “Identity Crisis!”, [W] Nicholas Barber, [A] Glyn Dillon. A newscaster reports that a shapeshifting alien is trying to destroy the city. Everyone becomes paranoid and starts suspecting their neighbors of being the alien, until the city descends into civil war. It turns out the newscaster herself is the alien. This is a good one. Survivor: as above. Henry escapes onto a space shuttle, and that’s the end of the story. Henry previously appeared in Mean Team. Fervent & Lobe: “The Issigri Variations 3: The Carny,” [W] John Smith (as “The Grim Brothers”), [A] Mike Hadley. Two dead guys visit a fortuneteller for help retreiving the soul of a person named Laibach. As usual for John Smith, this story has some brilliant prose but is difficult to understand. Anderson: as above. Anderson defeats Orlok, but the girls have to be taken away from their mother and sent to psi school.

VAMPIRELLA #60 (Warren, 1977) – “The Return of the Blood Red Queen,” [W] Bill DuBay, [A] José Gonzalez. Pendragon is kidnapped by some crooks, and while searching for him, Vampi is herself kidnapped by her old enemy, the Blood Red Queen of Hearts. “He Who Laughs Last… Laughs Best”, [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Carmine Infantino. Two rich men play a series of deadly pranks on each other, ending with the apparent suicide of one of the men. This is a clever story, but it has too many plot twists in too little space. “Riding Shotgun,” [W] Gerry Boudreau, A] Luis Bermejo. At a truck stop, a trucker encounters a sex worker who’s actually a succubus. He manages to escape death at her hands. “Wish You Were Here,” [W] Bill DuBay, [A] José Ortiz. An obvious parody of Adam Strange, with the twist that the Zeta Beam no longer works because of atmospheric pollution. Also, Earth has become a dystopia where science fiction is illegal, so the kids no longer understand the appeal of Adam Strange’s adventures. This story is interesting, but it perhaps tries to do too much at once. “Fallen Angel,” [W] Bill DuBay, [A] Esteban Maroto. An adaptation of The Little Mermaid. DuBay’s story doesn’t add anything to the original fairy tale, but Maroto’s art is gorgeous.

ASTRONAUTS IN TROUBLE #4 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Larry Young, [A] Matt Smith. Some guy tries to hijack a spacecraft as it’s launching. Matt Smith’s art in this issue is good. Larry Young’s writing is mildly exciting, but his dialogue is trite.

CEREBUS #189 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1994) – “Mothers & Daughters 39,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus and Cirin continue arguing, then an invisible barrier appears and separates them. The letter column includes some effective critiques of issue 186, but unfortunately, Dave chooses to print his response as a column on the outer edges of each of the letters pages. What is this, the Talmud? And Dave’s response is just as awful as the original essay was. This issue includes a preview of Paul Pope’s THB.

INSUFFERABLE #5 (IDW, 2015) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Peter Krause. The superhero Nocturnus and his former sidekick Galahad separately investigate the same crime. They encounter a villain who’s strapped a bunch of babies to himself as human shields. Insufferable was a digital-first comic, and it shows. In the digital format, each page was published in landscape format. In the print comic, each page of the print comic consists of two of those landscape-format pages, and therefore has a giant horizontal gap in the middle. Also, the lettering in the print comic is the wrong size. As I argue in my book, it is possible to convert digital comics to print (or vice versa) in an intelligent way, but it demands extra effort.

CONCRETE: STRANGE ARMOR #2 (Dark Horse, 1998) – untitled, [W/A] Paul Chadwick. Concrete makes contact with the government, and they put him in prison and experiment on him. But he also meets the love of his life, Maureen Vonnegut. Maureen helps Concrete develop a plan to get his freedom back. This is a touching story, and Paul Chadwick’s artwork is incredble. He might be the greatest American follower of Moebius.

Y: THE LAST MAN #52 (Vertigo, 2007) – “Motherland Conclusion,” [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Pia Guerra. Yorick has been kidnapped by Allison Mann’s father, but he escapes. Agent 355 and another woman begin or continue a romantic relationship. Beth is in Paris searching for Yorick. I’ve seen some recent social media conversations about this series, and I get the sense that its reputation is declining. It was groundbreaking for its time, but even though it ended less than 15 years ago, it now seems gender-essentialist. Also, it makes the problematic choice to focus on a male protagonist even though he’s literally the only man in the world.

DREADSTAR #16 (Marvel, 1984) – “The Test,” [W/A] Jim Starlin. Having absorbed the power of his sword into his body, Dreadstar fights two villains named Infra Red and Ultra Violet. I’ve been reading Dreadstar off and on for years, but I’m finally getting interested in it. It has to be Jim Starlin’s best work from after the 1970s, besides Death of Captain Marvel. It has much the same style of draftsmanship and dialogue as his Warlock or Captain Marvel.

CURSE WORDS #18 (Image, 2018) – “Queen Margaret! Part Three,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. Margaret changes back to her koala form. Jacques Zacques ccontinues his plot for vengeance on Wizord. Margaret heads to Australia to meet her alleged boyfriend. This is one series I wish I hadn’t quit buying.

LETTER 44 #10 (Oni, 2014) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Alberto Jimenez Albuquerque. The ship tries to repel an alien assault. In Afghanistan, the American base is blown up by a nuclear bomb. This scene is kind of tough to read now, in light of what’s currently happening in Afghanistan. Also, the humans send the aliens a copy of D*n*ld Tr*mp’s Art of the Deal, in order to show that humans are an intelligent species, even though that book is stronger evidence of the exact opposite.

2000 AD #645 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: “The Prophet Part 1,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] David Roach. Anderson encounters what appears to be an insane combat robot. This comic’s first page includes a reference to Bill Sienkiewicz’s comic Stray Toasters. Night Zero: “Beyond Zero,” [W] John Brosnan, [A] Kev Hopgood. Tanner tries to defend a city of feminists from an invading army of misogynists. This story has some nice artwork with good spotting of blacks, but it has nothing to do with the previous Night Zero story arc. Strontium Dog: “The Final Solution Part 20,” as above. The refugees in the alternate dimension are attacked by a giant bat-winged monster. Dredd: as above. Dredd apprehends the people who are terrorizing Cardboard City, then “arrests” Mad Maria in order to force her into a rehab clinic. The story ends with the line “That’s how you solve a problem like Maria.” Future Shocks: “Birthday Greetings,” [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. A young man receives a letter congratulating him on his 100th birthday, then he has several narrow escapes from death. Thinking he’s destined to live to 100, he runs in front of a truck on purpose and gets killed. In heaven, he learns that the letter was supposed to be sent to another man with a similar name. This plot could have used a little more thought: why would heaven be sending messages to people on their 100th birthday? The plot would have made more sense if the false message had come in a dream. Fervent & Lobe: as above. Excellent artwork and prose, but  the plot makes no sense.

VAMPIRELLA #63 (Warren, 1977) – All the stories in this issue are reprints, although olny some of them are tagged as such in the GCD. “Vampirella and the Sultan’s Revenge!”, [W] Mike Butterworth, [A] José González. Droga, an old enemy of Vampirella, is now married to an Arab sultan, and she tries to use her new power to revenge herself on Vampi. This story is well-drawn, except for a few pages that are badly printed from pencils, but it’s super Orientalist. And it ends with Droga being subjected to force-feeding, “Jenifer,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Bernie Wrightson. A ghastly woman drives a series of men insane. This is one of the greatest Warren stories of all, and it has its own entry in Paul Gravett’s 1001 Comics book. I can’t recall if I’ve read it before. Its fame is well deserved: Jenifer’s deformed face is a horrifying spectacle, and Jones and Wrightson effectively convey the protagonist’s self-destructive obsession with her. “Ground Round,” [W] Roger McKenzie, [A] Rafael Auraleon. A butcher murders his shrewish wife and serves her flesh to his customers. She comes back from the dead and does the same thing to him. “As Ye Sow”: see my review of Creepy #79. “The Parable of the Hermits of Glastonbury Tor,” [W] Gerry Boudreau, [A] Luis Bermejo. A scholar goes looking for the treasure of Glastonbury Abbey, and ends up trapped in a marriage to an immortal woman. When he tries to leave the abbey, she erases him from existence. I wish this story had tried harder to seem Arthurian. “The Professional,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Zesar. A professional con man seduces and then blackmails a bunch of married women, only to discover that one of the women is an even better manipulator than he is. “Wings of Vengeance,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Esteban Maroto. A young prince falls in love with his father’s new young bride. When the father finds out, he murders her and disfigures his son. The son tells his story to some birds, and the birds kill his father. This story has echoes of the myth of Hippolytus and Phaedra.

CEREBUS #190 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1995) – “Mothers & Daughters 40,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This issue begins with a long-ass essay about the Spirits of Independence tour. The Cerebus story is mostly a flashback to Cerebus’s traumatic childhood, a period that I don’t know much about. The preview in this issue is of Stephen Blue’s Red River.

CONCRETE: STRANGE ARMOR #4 (Dark Horse, 1998) – as above. Concrete appears in some TV commercials, then gets tricked into appearing at a child’s birthday party. Then he saves a bunch of trapped miners from a mine, but fails to save all of them. This story includes redrawn and rewritten versions of at least two older Concrete stories. The birthday party sequence is based on the very first Concrete story from Dark Horse Presents #1, and the sequence about the trapped miners is a remake of the original Concrete #1.

SILVER STAR #2 (Pacific, 1983) – “Darius Drumm,” [W/A] Jack Kirby. In a flashback, we learn about the origin of Darius Drumm, the Darkseid to Silver Star’s Orion. This comic has some excellent art, but it feels like a less original version of New Gods. This issue also includes Ditko’s “The Mocker,” which is a typical example of his late style, except that for some reason it has between twelve and sixteen panels per page.

RINGSIDE #4 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Nick Barber. A crime comic bout professional wrestling. I regret that I kept ordering this series, even though I never much liked it and stopped reading it after issue 3.

WARLORD #19 (DC, 1979) – “Wolves of the Steppes,” [W/A] Mike Grell. While searching for their son, Morgan and Tara are captured by steppe barbarians and thrown into a bear pit. Machiste and Mariah show up and save them. This was a quick and reasonably fun read.  

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #59 (Dark Horse, 1992) – “Sin City,” [W/A] Frank Miller. Marv escapes from a prison cell and kills some goons who are chasing him. This story is a bit hard to follow, but its composition and draftsmanship are wildly innovative. This issue also includes a tedious story about reptilian aliens, by Anthony Smith and Eric Vincent, and a one-page song adaptation by Rick Geary.

REDNECK #9 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Lisandro Estherren. Two feuding clans of redneck vampires have a big fight. This is another comic I wish I hadn’t bought. Lisandro Estherren’s artwork is good, but not good enough to carry this comic all on its own, and Donny Cates’s plot is uninteresting.

MYSTERYMEN #4 (Dark Horse, 19990 – “The Yellow Rider’s Last Big Score…”, [W] Bob Burden, [A] Chris McLoughlin. At a comics convention, an old supervillain, the Tennessee Thunderbird, tells a reporter a story about a crime he was involved in. As a younger man, the Thunderbird and his partners stole some mysterious vials, killing a bunch of people in the process. The Thunderbird’s partner, the Yellow Rider, opened the vial and died horribly as a result. The creepy part is that the Thunderbird shows no remorse about his involvement in these events. This issue is entertaining, and unlike Flaming Carrot, it follows typical narrative logic and is not surrealistic.

REID FLEMING, WORLD’S TOUGHEST MILKMAN #2 (Eclipse, 1987) – “Rogue to Riches Chapter 2,” [W/A] David Boswell. Reid Fleming causes a ton of bizarre mayhem and eventually loses his job. Though it was published by Eclipse, Reid Fleming feels like something out of Raw; it reminds me of the work of Spiegelman or Bill Griffith or Drew Friedman. Perhaps this is because of Boswell’s invocation of mid-century American culture, or his heaviily detailed cross-hatching style, or both.

ANGEL LOVE #4 (DC, 1986) – “Chemistry,” [W/A] Barbara Slate with John Wm. Lopez. Angel can’t decide whether or not to date her new crush, Mike London. This issue is funny, if you appreciate Angel Love’s sensibility, which I do.

CEREBUS #194 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1995) – “Mothers & Daughters 44,” [W/A] Dave Sim. In a flashback, we learn how Cirin’s ally, Serna, usurped Cirin’s position and eventually assassinated and replaced her. So the character we know as Cirin was really Serna all along. As often happens in this series, Cirin/Serna is more sympathetic than Dave may have wanted her to be. For example, we’re told that Serna assassinated a bunch of men who beat their wives. That sounds fine to me. Instead of a letter column, this issue includes two long essays by Dave, one about comics distribution and another about pedagogy. And there’s a preview of B.C. Boyer’s Hilly Rose.

2000 AD #646 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: as above. Anderson encounters the “robot” again and discovers that it’s really a man named Bill Zinkywink. Future Shocks: “You Need Friends,” [W] Larry Watson, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. A man is bothered by imaginary people following him. A psychiatrist tells him how to stop seeing them. He follows the psychiatrist’s advice, and the psychiatrist vanishes too, because the man is the only person in the world who’s still alive. Fervent & Lobe: as above. Another chapter that makes little sense, though it does include a beautiful, Bosch- or Bruegel-esque full-page depiction of hell. Dredd: “Over the Top,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Vanyo. A reporter publicly criticizes Dredd for abusing his powers. To my surprise, the reporter only gets six months in jail. Night Zero: as above. Tanner smuggles himself aboard the misogynists’  airship, but gets captured. Strontium Dog: as above. McNulty continues his search for Johnny.

STAR WARS #9 (Marvel, 1977) – “Showdown on a Wasteland World!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Howard Chaykin. Han and Chewie assist in a rebellion on a planet called Aduba-3. The writing and art in this issue are both underwhelming, and the new characters don’t feel like Star Wars characters. The most memorable thing in this issue is the scene where Leia is pining after the missing Luke. At this point the comic’s creators must not have known Luke and Leia were siblings.

CONCRETE: THINK LIKE A MOUNTAIN #3 (Dark Horse, 1996) – “Arms and Boxes,” [W/A] Paul Chadwick. Having just gotten involved in an attempt to sabotage logging equipment, Concrete jumps into the water of Puget Sound and has to walk back to civilization. This issue includes some stunning depictions of nature, as well as a meditation on octopus intelligence.

RINGSIDE #5 (Image, 2016) – as above. The younger protagonist gets his contract renewed, while the older protagonist contemplates the impending end of his career. In another sequence set at a later time, the older protagonist gets beaten up. Until I even read this issue, I didn’t even realize that the characters in the two storylines were the same.

FOUR COLOR #1012 (Dell, 1959) – “Last Train from Gun Hill,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Tom Gill. Matt Morgan’s Indian wife is cruelly murdered. Following the killer’s trail, he goes to the town of Gun Hill, where he discovers that the killer is the son of his old partner Craig Belden, now a wealthy rancher. Craig tries to prevent Matt from leaving town with his son, and drama ensues. This comic was based on a movie, but, according to the GCD, “with some of the violence and all of the sexual situations of the original deleted.”

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #16 (Dark Horse, 2015) – “Dream Gang Act 3 Chapter 3,” [W/A] Brendan McCarthy, etc. The standout features in this issue are Brendan McCarthy’s Dream Gang and Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder. Besides that, there’s a somewhat interesting superhero story by Shawn Aldridge, who I haven’t heard of, and also Semiautomagic byAlex de Campi and Jerry Ordway.

CEREBUS #198 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1995) – “Mothers & Daughters 48,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This issue starts with yet another of Dave’s essays, an open letter to Steve Geppi. In the story, Cerebus’s creator Dave castigates him on his cruel treatment of Jaka, and there’s an extended reference to the injury-to-the-eye motif. This issue is significantly better than most of the last  Bill’s wife, who’s been forced to pretend to be a machine. Then Bill comes home and Anderson kills him. David Roach’s art in this story arc is quite good. Future Shocks: “Brogan’s Last Ride,” [W] Ian Rimmer, [A] Simon Coleby. A prisoner escapes from his cell, but his “escape” is really just part of his execution. Fervent & Lobe: as above. Nothing new to say about this. Dredd: “A Monkey’s Tale,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Paul Marshall. A paralyzed man tries to use his pet monkey to bait Dredd into killing him. But Dredd ends up killing the monkey instead, leaving the man stuck in his useless body. Night Zero: as above. Tanner’s fellow prisoner Adoria escapes from prison. Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny is badly hurt fighting the monster, and one of his fellow prisoners is killed.

THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN #1 (DC, 2001) – untitled, [W/A] Frank Miller. This series has such a bad reputation that I never bothered to read it before, but I got this issue last year for just a dollar. This first issue is barely about Batman at all; it focuses on how Batman and his allies rescue various superheroes who have been forced to work for the government. The US government in this series is far more tyrannical than the one depicted in the original DKR. Miller’s artwork in this comic is embarrassing. His draftsmanship is crude and his page layouts are unoriginal, even compared to his Sin City stories from just a few years earlier. Back in 2001, Miller was still seen as a major contemporary creator, but DK2 #1 made it obvious that he had jumped the shark.

TUKI: SAVE THE HUMANS #4 (Cartoon Books, 2016) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Smith. Tuki and the kids continue their quest. Tuki is sort of interesting, but not nearly as much so as Bone or Shazam: Monster Society of Evil, and it’s too slow-paced for a monthly comic. It’s kind of puzzling that Jeff chose to publish it in comic book form when he’d had such massive success with the graphic novel format.

STEVEN UNIVERSE #5 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Grace Kraft, [A] Meg Omac. Steven’s pet pink lion gets in a lot of mischief. This comic is better than the Steven Universe and the Crystal Gems miniseries, but I still shouldn’t have bought it. Unlike, say, the Jem or TMNT comics, it’s not worth reading unless you’re already a fan.

ARCADE #5 (Print Mint, 1976) – [E] Bill Griffith & Art Spiegelman. This comic has an incredible lineup of talent: Crumb, Griffith, Deitch, Noomin, George DiCaprio (Leonardo’s father), Michael McMillan, Rory Hayes, Justin Green, Spiegelman, M.K. Brown, Spain, and Aline Kominsky. As those names indicate, Arcade was a series that bridged the gap between the Zap and Raw generations. The Deitch story is a historically inaccurate account of the Turk, the fake chess-playing robot. The Spiegelman story is a collage of unrelated panels. This issue’s letter column includes one letter criticizing Curt McDowell’s story “Mommy’s Song” as racist. The editors respond by disclaiming responsibility for the content of the story.

SAUCER STATE #1 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Ryan Kelly. This is the sequel to Saucer Country. Arcadia Alvarado is now President, but Earth is about to be invaded by flying saucers. Also, Arcadia dreams of having an alien baby. I don’t like Saucer Country/State as much as Letter 44 or Department of Truth, but it’s worth reading.

LETTER 44 #28 (Oni, 2016) – as above. This issue is a flashback to the construction of the spaceship that made contact with the aliens. The government manipulates Manesh into joining the Clarke’s crew, since no one else understands the computer systems he’s designed. Meanwhile, they fake an accident that causes Kyoko Takahashi to lose her medical license, just so she’ll have a reason to serve aboard the Clarke rather than stay on Earth. That’s pretty cruel.

BLACK CLOUD #7 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jason Latour & Ivan Brandon, [A] Greg Hinkle. Yet another issue that makes no sense. I wish I had given up on this series after the first issue.  

NIGHT’S DOMINION SEASON TWO #1 (Oni, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Ted Naifeh. A mildly grim sword-and-sorcery comic. I don’t know why I wasn’t more enthusiastic about this series, since I generally like Ted Naifeh’s work. Oni’s output has drastically decreased over the past year or two. I wish they would publish more comic books.

VAMPIRELLA #70 (Warren, 1978) – “Ghostly Granny Gearloose,” [W] Bill DuBay, [A] Gonzalo Mayo. Vampi is kidnapped by an old lady who makes robots, as a gift for the lady’s grandson. The twist is that the grandson is also a robot. Gonzalo Mayo was a very underrated artist. “Mask of U’Gin,” [W] Nicola Cuti & Gerry Boudreau, [A] José Ortiz. A person in an African mask is going around killing people. The culprit turns out to be an old antique shop owner who’s trying to create a ghost bride for her dead son. The son’s fiancee murders the old lady, but then the son comes back to life and murders the fiancee. This story draws upon some unfortunate African stereotypes, but José Ortiz’s spotting of blacks is beautiful. “Swamp Lovers,” [W] Bill DuBay, [A] Leo Duranona. A mentally ill swamp-dwelling hick falls in love with a beautiful woman who’s actually an awful monster. Duranona’s linework is very detailed. “Reality Twice Removed,” [W]  Gerry Boudreau, [A] Ramon Torrents. A husband and wife prepare to go out while listening to a series of horrifying news stories. Ramon Torrents is another underrated artist. The woman in this story wears a dress with a complicated flower design, and Torrents has to draw it again in every panel in which the woman appears. “The Terrible Exorcism of Agdriennes Pompereau!”, [W] Luis Vigil & Bill DuBay, [A] Rafael Auraleon. A ripoff of The Exorcist, except it takes place in France in 1914, and the demon is really an alien. This story has some more gorgeous art.

2000 AD #653 (Fleetway, 1989) – Rogue Trooper: “The War Machine,” [W] Dave Gibbons, [A] Will Simpson. A long fight scene with no real story, but beautiful painted artwork. This was the story that introduced Friday, the new version of Rogue Trooper. The Dead Man: untitled, [W] John Wagner, [A] John Ridgway. A boy and a zombie fight some primitive cavemen. I’m not sure what this story is about. (After writing this review, I discovered it was an unannounced prequel to the Dredd epic Necropolis.) Dredd: “Young Giant Part 3,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Cadet Giant is the son of Judge Giant and the grandson of John Giant from Harlem Heroes. In this chapter he’s forced to shoot a man, then he gets a lead on the crooks who killed his mother. Zenith: “The Best Laid Plans” (Phase III Part 12), [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. Zenith and his allies have to blow up the world they’re currently on, so that the Lloigor’s host bodies will be killed, but someone has to stay on that world to detonate the bomb. Slaine: “The Horned God Volume II Part 4,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Simon Bisley. Slaine’s pet dragon, the Knucker, is killed fighting a “dragon-ghost” conjured by Medb. The Horned God is probably the peak of both the Slaine franchise and Simon Bisley’s career. Bisley’s artwork is stunningly epic and three-dimensional, and his colors are vivid.

HEAVY METAL #2.8 (HM, 1978) – [E] Sean Kelly & Valerie Marchant. This issue includes: Sindbad by Corben and Strnad. Moebius’s “Hit Man,” a rather absurdist crime comic. Gray Morrow’s Orion. Bilal and Dionnet’s Exterminator 17, drawn in a style that greatly resembles Moebius’s. Druillet’s Gail. Zha and Claveloux’s “Off Season.” I already read the first half of this story in Heavy Metal #2.7. I think NYRB is going to reprint their Claveloux collection in paperback, and I ought to get it. Paul Kirchner’s “Tarot,” a story framed around tarot cards. Another short early work by Ben Katchor. A blatant ripoff of Vaughn Bodé by Bob Aull.

CEREBUS #199 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1995) – “Mothers & Daughters 49,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus, now wearing an eyepatch, finishes his conversation with Dave. As with so many other late issues of Cerebus, this issue has gorgeous art and lettering but a vapid plot. Dave’s artwork improved as his mental health declined. The backup feature was supposed to be Kiss & Tell by Patricia Breen and Robert Wertz, but they broke up while the issue was going to press, so instead Dave ended up printing a four-page collaboration between the two artists, and then four pages of each artist’s solo work.

A DECADE OF DARK HORSE #1 (Dark Horse, 1996) – “Daddy’s Little Girl,” [W/A] Frank Miller. The Sin City story is probably the reason I bought this issue, but I already read this story when it was reprinted in Tales to Offend #1. There’s also a Predator story with nice art by Igor Kordey, and a Grendel story by Matt Wagner. I like Matt Wagner’s art, but there doesn’t seem to be very much of it; most of his Grendel comics were illustrated by less talented artists.

CLASSIC STAR WARS: THE EARLY ADVENTURES #5 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “Princess Leia, Imperial Servant,” [W/A] Russ Manning. A series of newspaper strips in which Princess Leia has a solo adventure. Russ Manning writes and draws Leia quite well, but his style isn’t well suited to Star Trek. Also, his artwork in this issue is reproduced too large, and the panels are chopped up and rearranged.

RINGSIDE #6 (Image, 2016) – as above. Danny, the older protagonist (the younger one is Teddy) is hired as a full-time trainer of new wrestlers. But his evil boss has some kind of hidden agenda. I still don’t think this series was very good, although this issue at least made more sense than some of the earlier ones did.  

SCOOBY-DOO, WHERE ARE YOU? #75 (DC, 2017) – “Swords of Sorcery,” [W] Sholly Fisch, [A] Walter Carzon. Daphne teams up with the actress who plays Zorna the Warrior Woman (i.e. Xena). “Hot Time in the Old Temple Tonight,” [W] Frank Strom, [A] Leo Batic. The kids solve a mystery involving an old Mesoamerican temple. There’s one panel in this story that’s formatted like a maze, but I don’t think the maze is solvable; it’s not clear where the start and end points are.

GROO: FRAY OF THE GODS #3 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragones, [W] Mark Evanier. A king named Cuffi is trying to increase his power by making everyone pray to the “Star God” – perhaps this is a reference to the pharaoh Akhenaten – and he tries to manipulate Groo into helping him. I remember being underwhelmed by the earlier issues of this miniseries, and that must be why I didn’t read this issue until now.

LOONEY TUNES #234 (DC, 2017) – “Five-Card Porky,” [W] Sholly Fisch, [A] Robert Pope. Three dumb, forgettable stories. I only bought this comic because DCBS was offering it as part of a package deal. At the time, Looney Tunes may have been DC’s highest-numbered title.

I went to Heroes again on August 2. The restaurant I wanted to visit that day turned out to only be open for dinner, so I ate at Fuel Pizza instead.

BERMUDA #1 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] John Layman, [A] Nick Bradshaw. This was initially announced before the pandemic, and I wonder why it took so long to come out, but I’m glad it did. In Bermuda, a wealthy inventor’s two children are stranded on an island filled with giant monsters, where they’re rescued by a redheaded adventuress. Like his stylistic father Art Adams, Nick Bradshaw is extremely talented at drawing giant monsters and sexy women; this series is basically Bradshaw’s Monkeyman & O’Brien. A particular highlight is Bermuda’s realistic-looking pet giant chameleon. This comic also has some mild steampunk elements, particularly in the scene set in the kids’ hometown. This series will be a lot of fun.

SAVE YOURSELF #2 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Bones Leonard, [A] Kelly Matthews & Nicole Matthews. The aliens explain what’s going on: Mia is the sibling of the Lovely Trio, but the Lovely Trio are preying on planets that aren’t part of the galactic federation. Gigi manages to convince Mia to violate the prime directive and help fight the Lovely Trio. Then Shawn gets kidnapped by a monster. This series is a funny revisionist take on the Powerpuff Girls, and it’s also very entertaining.

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #11 (Image, 2021) – “A Hunter’s Diary Part 2,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Martin Simmonds. Hawk tells Cole how Bigfoot is connected to the history of Western imperialism and exploitation. This series has included a lot of fascinating meditations like this, explaining why people believe conspiracy theories and how these theories relate to larger themes in history. Then Cole and Hawk find Bigfoot, and the old man finally sees it in person just before they shoot it, so now he can live his few remaining years in peace. The handwritten diary pages in this issue and the previous one are rather difficult to read, but they look just like real diary pages.

SECOND COMING: ONLY BEGOTTEN SON #3 (Ahoy, 2021) – “Relics,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Richard Pace. In a flashback, we see how the Crusaders sold fake relics when they discovered that the fabled treasures of Jerusalem didn’t exist. In the present, some rich jerk tries to convince Jesus to work for him, and Jesus obviously declines, but the guy’s intern becomes Jesus’s first disciple. This issue is excellent, but this series has been very slow to come out.

MONEY SHOT #13 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Sarah Beattie, [A] Caroline Leigh Layne. Half the team gets kidnapped by alien trophy hunters. The other half of the team joins forces with the alien sex trafficking victims, but they’re about to be attacked by the guy who enslaved the aliens. This was an entertaining issue, but I don’t remember much about it.

MANY DEATHS OF LAILA STARR #4 (Boom!, 2021) – “Conversations with God,” [W] Ram V, [A] Filipe Andrade. Laila meets the spirit of Mumbai’s only remaining Chinese temple. Then she meets the thirty-year-old Darius, who is finally figuring out who Laila is. And he’s pissed at her for taking his wife and leaving him a single father. Meanwhile, the temple’s caretaker dies, and the temple itself is destroyed in a flood. This issue is a touching meditation on death, though its themes require some effort to unpack. There really is a single Chinese temple in Mumbai, and it really is a relic of the city’s vanishing Chinese immigrant population (https://www.thebetterindia.com/66112/chinese-kwan-kung-temple-mazagaon-mumbai/) . This part of the issue is an interesting investigation of Mumbai’s ethnic diversity.

ETERNALS #6 (Marvel, 2021) – “Only Death is Eternal, Finale,” W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Esad Ribić. Ikaris is killed fighting Thanos. The machine reactivates, and Ikaris comes back to life, but Toby Robson dies. The twist ending is that the Eternals’ “immortality” is achieved at the cost of human lives. It looks like the next issue of this series is coming in November, and the upcoming Eternals: Celestia #1 is just a one-shot, not a reboot.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #14 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcello Grassi. Valentina destroys the malfunctioning superhero robots by convincing them that she’s a mind-controlling supervillain. There’s a moral here about stories and how they can be used to control minds – a theme also explored in much of Kieron Gillen’s work.

FANTASTIC FOUR #34 (Marvel, 2021) – “Bride of Doom Final Chapter: The Sacred Vow of Victor Von Doom,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] R.B. Silva. The FF escape Latveria, but Doom overloads Johnny’s powers so that he can’t flame off. It serves Johnny right, since his behavior throughout this storyline has been shameful. Also, Doom tells Zora to “never show your face to me again,” and Zora complies by putting on a mask similar to Doom’s.

USAGI YOJIMBO #21 (IDW, 2021) – “Yukichi Part 2,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi discovers that Yukichi is his cousin. Yukichi beats the leader of the other sword school in a duel, and Usagi has to kill the guy when he tries to attack Yukichi from behind. Yukichi delivers the swords to his master’s heir, Daido, who turns out to be a money-grubber with low standards of quality. Yukichi declines Daido’s offer of employment and decides to wander around with Usagi for a while. This was a pretty fun story.

CHU #6 (Image, 2021) – “(She) Drunk History Part 1 of 5,” [W] John Layman, [A] Dan Boultwood. Saffron gets out of prison with lots of new abilities. A certain Mr. Ortolan hires her to recover some very old wine from a shipwreck. She kills him and presumably decides to recover the wine for herself. A promising start to the second story arc.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #28 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Clone Saga Conclusion,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Carmen Carnero. Miles has his final confrontation with Selim. Shift shows up to help, Selim gets killed, and Miles rescues Billie. Miles addresses Shift as his new brother.  This was a touching conclusion.

GROO MEETS TARZAN #1 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragones, [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Tom Yeates. This is the first new Groo comic in some time. As with Groo Meets Conan, it has three separate plot threads: one about Groo, one about Tarzan, and one about Mark and Sergio. The Mark/Sergio plot is the funniest and most memorable. It begins at the (fictional) 2020 San Diego Comic-Con, and there’s aspectacular splash page with hundreds of Easter eggs, rangnig from Matt Groening and Scott Shaw to Ranbow and Mighty Magnor. And there’s a running joke where people keep confusing Sergio with Antonio Prohias.

BLACK HAMMER REBORN #2 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Caitlin Yarsky. Lucy’s daughter Rose  and her friend sneak into some kind of bizarre place full of flying sharks. Skulldigger rescues them. There’s also a flashback to a previous encounter between Lucy, Skulldigger and Dr. Robinson, formerly known as Dr. Star. This issue was interesting, but I’m not sure where this plot is going.

SHADECRAFT #5 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Joe Henderson, [A] Lee Garbett. Zadie and her mom break Ricky out of the insane asylum, and Ricky wakes up from his coma. This was a really entertaining story arc, and I hope we get more Shadecraft soon.

GOOD LUCK #2 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matthew Erman, [A] Stefano Simeone. The kids encounter a luck god named Cassiopeia, and then they seemingly get killed, though I’m sure they’re fine. I like the art in this series, but the writing is disappointing so far. I’m still not sure what Good Luck’s premise is supposed to be.

SUPERGIRL: WOMAN OF TOMORROW #2 (DC, 2021) – “Wounded, Stranded and Impotent,” [W] Tom King, [A] Bilquis Evely. In pursuit of Krem, Supergirl and Ruthye ride a train across outer space. We eventually learn that Supergirl needs to find Krem so she can get a sample of the poison he used on Krypto. This is another very enjoyable issue, and I especially like Ruthye’s narration; her prose style is deliberately wordy and old-fashioned.

WONDER WOMAN #776 (DC, 2021) – “Afterworlds Part 7,” [W] Michael W. Conrad, [W/A] Becky Cloonan, [A] Jill Thompson. In the realm of Elfhame, Diana and SIgurd rescue some kidnapped children and get a lead on Janus’s next destination. Ratatosk spends most of the issue in the form of a little boy, and is even cuter in that form than as a squirrel. Jill Thompson’s painted artwork in this issue is stunning. She was a perfect choice to draw a story set in Faerie. Not the same Faerie as in The Dreaming, by the way, but it makes sense that the DCU has more than one faerie realm.

ASCENDER #17 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. All the characters converge on Dirishu-6. Mother kicks Tim’s ass, but Tim summons the giant apocalyptic robots to help him. I assume next issue is the conclusion.

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #1 (DC, 2021) – “Truth, Justice, and a Better World,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] John Timms. “A better world” is better than “the American way.” I bought this because I really like Jon Kent, and this issue is an effective introduction to Jon as an adult Superman. In the flashback sequence, Lois looks unusually glamorous for a woman in childbirth.

On August 1st I went to another Charlotte Comicon. This was a really enjoyable convention. I brought about $200 and spent almost all of it.

AVENGERS #66 (Marvel, 1969) – “Betrayal!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Barry Windsor-Smith. This issue is the first appearance of adamantium. While the Avengers are performing experiments on adamantium, the Vision vanishes, then returns and attacks the Avengers. We then discover that he’s under the control of Ultron, who’s used the adamantium to build himself an indestructible new body. BWS’s art in this issue is excellent, though he seems to be trying to imitate Buscema.

CEREBUS #27 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1981) – “The Kidnapping of an Aardvark,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Fleagle and Drew McGrew kidnap Cerebus, but he turns the tables on them and enlists them in his service, and then fakes his own kidnapping so he can collect a ransom from Lord Julius. Then when the ransom is delivered, Fleagle and Drew double-cross Cerebus so they can collect it themselves. It’s all rather confusing, but in a funny way. This issue may also have introduced the card game Diamondback, which Cerebus plays with Fleagle and Drew while waiting for the ransom.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #148 (Marvel, 1975) – “Jackal, Jackal… Who’s Got the Jackal?”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Ross Andru. Spider-Man battles the Tarantula and the Jackal, who, in the last panel, is unmasked as Miles Warren. This issue also introduces Miles’s assistant Anthony Serba, though he only appears in flashback. Peter describes him as “one of those pathetic guys – the kind who devote themselves entirely to their work, to the exclusion of everything else,” which hits kind of close to home. At one point it was stated that Anthony Serba was Spider-Man’s clone, but that was later retconned away.

MIRACLEMAN #16 (Eclipse, 1989) – “Book II Chapter 6: Olympus,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] John Totleben. I already have the Marvel reprint of this issue, but now I also have the real thing. Miracleman #16 is perhaps the standout issue of the series, even more so than #15, because it depicts how Miracleman transforms the world into a utopia. It’s like Squadron Supreme and The Authority combined, all in the space of one issue. But there are hints that Miracleman’s utopia isn’t all that great: he and his superhero companions seem rather frivolous, especially the dog, and Liz refuses Miracleman’s offer of a superhuman body. The fissures in Miracleman’s new world will be the subject of The Silver Age and The Dark Age, if those stories ever get completed (I hear they’re being held up by disputes over the ownership of the Warpsmiths). This issue is full of classic moments, such as Miracleman’s devastating takedown of Margaret Thatcher.  

MY LITTLE PONY/TRANSFORMERS: FRIENDSHIP IN DISGUISE #4 (IDW, 2021) – I somehow failed to get this when it came out. “Strength in Numbers,” [W] Ian Flynn, [A] Sara Pitre-Durocher. The Apple family battles the Insecticons at Sweet Apple Acres. “Finale,” [W] James Asmus, [A] Tony Fleecs. The final battle between the Autobots and Decepticons and their respective pony allies. This miniseries was okay, but the regular pony comics are better.

IRON MAN #24 (Marvel,1970) – “My Son…  the Minotaur!”, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Johnny Craig. Tony and Jasper Sitwell are grieving over their respective love interests, Janice Cord and Whitney Frost. But Whitney/Madame Masque isn’t dead, she’s been kidnapped by an old man as a bride for his son, a mutant minotaur. Tony rescues Whitney, and the minotaur and his dad are killed. Besides Stan Lee, Archie Goodwin was the best Iron Man writer until David Michelinie arrived.

FLAMING CARROT COMICS #1 (Image, 2004) – “Flaming Carrot Goes PC!”, [W/A] Bob Burden. The Flaming Carrot invites multiple woman on a date on the same night, and also he fights some pygmies and a zombie. This is the sort of absurdist nonsense I expect from Bob Burden. The issue’s title gives the impression that it’s a satire of political correctness, but it’s really not. I like how Bob Burden draws the highlights on the Flaming Carrot’s head.

CREEPY #58 (Warren, 1973) – “Change… into Something Comfortable,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Richard Corben. A werewolf escapes from a carnival of other monsters, but they trick him into attending a Halloween party, where they kill and eat him. Great art but not much of a story. “An Excuse for Violence,” [W] Don McGregor, [A] Adolfo Usero (credited as “Adolpho Abellan,” his maternal surname). Some vampire murders on a college campus result in a near race riot. This story has some really clumsy and heavy-handed racial politics, including one use of the N-word, and it ends by giving the impression that black people are complicit in racial unrest. “Shriek Well Before Dying!”, [W] W. Eaton, [A] José Bea. A scoundrel tries to steal a young girl’s money, but ends up getting killed. I can’t find any information about W. Eaton, not even what the W stands for. “Soul and Shadow,” [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Reed Crandall. An adventurer visits a dungeon where he acquire a jewel called the “Soul of Shalimar,” and also meets a cute scantily clad girl. But the girl is really the jewel’s immortal guardian, and she leads the adventurer to his death. Crandall’s art here is beautiful. “The Waking Nightmare!”, [W] Don McGregor, [A] Isidro Mones. A virus causes people to act like they’re addicted to drugs. As usual, Don McGregor writes far more text than necessary, and his text distracts the reader from Mones’s dark, moody art.

THE PHANTOM #67 (Charlton, 1975) – ‘Triumph of Evil!”, [W] Joe Gill, [A] Don Newton. A flashback story showing how the previous Phantom died fighting Nazis, and how he was succeeded by his son, Kit Reed. Joe Gill’s story is better than his usual mediocre work, and Don Newton’s art is terrific. Don Newton’s Phantom comics were probably the best Phantom comic books created for the American market.

CURSE WORDS #11 (Image, 2018) – “The Hole Damn World Part One,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. Wizord is still trying to free Margaret from prison, and meanwhile lots of weird stuff is happening on the Hole World. This is a good issue, but nothing about it stands out.

AVENGERS #119 (Marvel, 1974) – “Night of the Collector,” [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Bob Brown. This was one of the only issues I was missing between #100 and #200. After returning from the Avengers-Defenders War, the Avengers head off to Rutland, Vermont for the Halloween parade. But parade host Tom Fagan has been kidnapped by the Collector, who’s using the parade as an excuse to add the Avengers to his collection. Also, there’s some relationship drama between Mantis and Swordsman, and some Easter eggs. The man with a wife named Jane on page 18 is clearly supposed to be a real person, but I don’t know who.  It would be nice if Marvel and DC could collaboratively publish a collection of all the Rutland, Vermont stories.

CEREBUS #54 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “The Origin of the Wolveroach,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This issue is more expensive than most Cerebus back issues because it’s a Wolverine parody. In this issue the Countess explains Artemis’s origin, and Weisshaupt tries to convince Cerebus to become Prime Minister again. The backup story is “Night of the Living Teddy Bears” by Greg Wadsworth.

HEAVY METAL #3.2 (HM, 1978) – [E] Sean Kelly & Valerie Marchand. One of my notable purchases at the August convention was eight issues of Heavy Metal for $3 each. This issue begins with Corben and Strnad’s adaptation of the framing sequence of the Arabian Nights. Then there’s the following: A preview of McGregor and Gulacy’s Sabre. Mezieres’s one-pager “Colonization,” one of his few non-Valerian works. Moench and Nino’s adaptation of Sturgeon’s More than Human. Denis Sire’s Report V1. Another blatant Bode ripoff by Bob Aull. Voss’s Heilman, Forest’s Barbarella, and Montellier’s 1996.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #548 (Marvel, 2008) – “Blood Ties,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Steve McNiven. Mr. Negative assassinates some Maggia bosses, using a poison that targets their genetic markers, and kidnaps their wives and children. In order to save the last hostage, Peter has to give Mr. Negative a sample of his own blood, so Mr. Negative can make a poison that will kill Peter’s own relatives. Which is not as bad as it sounds since Peter has no living blood relatives – Aunt May is only related to him by marriage. This was the end of the first story arc of the Brand New Day era.

MY LOVE #9 (Marvel, 1970) – “I Loved You Once – Remember?”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Gene Colan. Jackie breaks off her engagement with Gary, but then she realizes she really does love him, and they get engaged again. “Someday He’ll Come Along!”, [W] unknown, [A] Dick Giordano or Vince Colletta. A reprint from 1960. A secretary falls in love with her boss, but she can’t date him due to company rules. But then she gets promoted to an executive, so that rule doesn’t apply anymore. Also, her coworkers are a bunch of jealous catty jerks who shame her for not dating anyone besides her boss. “A Teen-Ager Can Also Love!”, [W] unknown, [A] Vince Colletta. Another reprint. A girl falls in love with a singer, and then ends up marrying him after he loses his voice. This one is pretty farfetched.

WATCHMEN #4 (DC, 1986) – “Watchmaker,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Dave Gibbons. Dr. Manhattan’s origin story, told in a series of discontinuous flashbacks. I know this story very well, but it’s worth revisiting. Quoting my own post on Facebook: “One of the less commonly mentioned innovative things about Watchmen is its near-total lack of motion lines or emanata. Every action scene in the book is depicted as a frozen moment or a series of frozen moments. There are occasional uses of motion lines or multiple images in the book, like when Adrian Veidt moves his hand to catch the bullet, but they’re the exception rather than the rule. This contributes to Watchmen’s “cinematic” aesthetic.”

SCOUT: WAR SHAMAN #7 (Eclipse, 1988) – “Wooly Bully Part 3: The Hunter,” [W/A] Tim Truman. Rosa Winter leads an assault on Scout’s hideout: an ammo dump inside an ancient cliff dwelling. Scout’s kids get separated from their dad, the younger boy uses his psychic powers to kill a man who’s trying to kidnap them, and then a mysterious mustachioed man offers to lead the kids to safety. This issue also continues the adaptation of the Apache Monster Slayer myth.

IMMORTAL HULK #15 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Holy or the Broken,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. The title must be a reference to Hallelujah, since at one point in this issue we see a copy of Songs of Leonard Cohen in Doc Samson’s office. This issue starts with some flashbacks to after Doc Samson’s recent resurrection. Then Samson fights the Hulk, and then they reconcile and discover that Rick Jones’s grave is empty.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #138 (Dell, 1952) – untitled (Statuesque Spendthrifts), [W/A] Carl Barks. Scrooge and the Maharajah of Howduyustan compete to build the biggest possible statue of Cornelius Coot, the founder of Duckburg. In the process the Maharajah loses all his money. I assume this is the Maharajah’s first appearance and the first reference to Cornelius Coot. This issue also includes Li’l Bad Wolf and Grandma Duck stories, and a Mickey Mouse story that’s not by Paul Murry.

LONE RANGER #43 (Dell, 1952) – “Before the Firing Squad,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Tom Gill. An unscrupulous Indian agent tries to start a war between Sioux Indians and the government, so he can sell the Indians’ land. The Lone Ranger and Tonto foil this plot. The Indians in this story are the good guys, but they’re depicted in a stereotypical way. In the backup story, Young Hawk and Little Buck find themselves in Tenochtitlan during the Spanish conquest. This is the first Young Hawk story I’ve seen that includes any reference to white people. I assumed that these stories all took place before European contact. In this story, several characters travel all the way from the Rio Grande to the Valley of Mexico in an implausibly short time.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #583 (Marvel, 2009) – “Firewalled,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Mike McKone. Spider-Man saves Harry and Normie Osborn and Liz Allan from a vengeful Molten Man. This is an entertaining issue with good dialogue and characterization, although I’ve never much liked Mike McKone’s art.

MICKEY MOUSE #108 (Gold Key, 1966) – “Aircraft Carrier at Two O’Clock High,” [W] Don R. Christensen, [A] Paul Murry & Dan Spiegle. I’d never heard of this comic until I saw it at the convention, and it was so weird that I had to buy it. Mickey Mouse #107 to 109 constituted the brief Mickey Mouse, Super Secret Agent run. These stories were set in the real world, with entirely human casts except for Mickey and Goofy themselves, and they depicted Mickey and Goofy as secret agents working for “Police International.” The images of Mickey and Goofy were drawn by Paul Murry, and the rest of the art was done by Dan Spiegle in a realistic style. “Aircraft Carrier at Two O’Clock High” is a pretty bad secret agent story, and while Spiegle’s art is quite good, it’s really weird seeing Mickey and Goofy interacting with realistically drawn human characters and settings. And unlike, say, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, this story is played completely straight, and no one seems to think it’s odd that Police International hired a cartoon dog and mouse. This issue is a failed experiment, but it’s worth owning just because it’s weird.

WATCHMEN #6 (DC, 1986) – “The Abyss Gazes Also,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Dave Gibbons. One of the finest individual comic books ever published in America. Rorschach’s famous origin story is about as dark as Watchmen gets, especially the concluding line “We are alone. There is nothing else.” Which is later qualified by the epigraph of issue 9: “As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” Even Alan Moore has rarely if ever written anything else as bleak as this. Part of the genius of Watchmen is how you notice something new every time you reread it. On this latest reading of Watchmen #6, I noticed that as the issue goes on, Malcolm gets increasingly addicted to pain pills.

GROO: MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD #1 (Dark Horse, 2000) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. Pipil Khan is on his deathbed, and he decides that he will be succeeded by whichever of his three sons can bring him Groo’s head. Meanwhile, an unscrupulous newspaper publisher decides to sell papers by printing fake stories about Groo. This is a pretty good issue, though it’s a standard example of the Groo formula.

CEREBUS #58 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “All Lined Up,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus’s mother-in-law drives him crazy. Cerebus and Red Sophia have a pillow talk, and then the dying Pope summons Cerebus for a conversation. But then the pope is assassinated on the orders of the Lion of Serrea, just after Cerebus says “something fell.” Whenever this phrase occurs in Cerebus, something awful happens, but I can’t remember any other instances of it offhand. There’s a backup story by Mike Bannon about how to get a letter printed in Cerebus.

INCREDIBLE HULK #121 (Marvel, 1969) – “Within the Swamp, There Stirs… a Glob!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Herb Trimpe. In the Everglades the Hulk encounters the Glob, a dead man whose corpse was turned into an animate mound of muck. The Glob is very similar to Man-Thing and Swamp-Thing, both of whom debuted two years later, and also to Theodore Sturgeon’s It. Thomas acknowledges this influence at the end of the issue when Ross tells Talbot to “stop flapping around like a landed sturgeon.” Another character with a similar origin is Solomon Grundy. I can’t remember if the Glob was mentioned in Jon B. Cooke’s Swampmen book, to which I contributed; if not, it should have been.

DREADSTAR #17 (Epic, 1985) – “Revenge,” [W/A] Jim Starlin. About half  this issue is a flashback narrated by the telepath Willow. She reveals that after her mother disappeared, she was sexually abused by her widowed father, who looks a bit like Vanth Dreadstar. Now Willow has a hopeless crush on Vanth. Then Willow discovers that her dad is running an Instrumentality death camp – and that he’s living with her mother, who’s been lobotomized. That’s pretty traumatic. So Willow returns to Vanth’s ship determined to punish her father and rescue her mother.

FOUR COLOR #1226 (Dell, 1961) – “Nikki, Wild Dog of the North,” [W] Eric Freiwald & Robert Schafer, [A] Sparky Moore. In the Canadian wilderness, Nikki, a malemute pup, gets separated from his owner, and a bear cub gets caught on Nikki’s leash. Nikki and the bear have a bunch of adventures until Nikki is finally reunited with his owner. This is an unambitious and forgettable comic, but at least it’s cute. Like many other issues of Four Color, Nikki was adapted from a Disney movie.

CREEPY #62 (Warren, 1974) – “The Black Cat,” [W/A] Bernie Wrightson. An adaptation of Poe’s story in which a man is driven insane by his wife’s cat. Wrightson’s artwork in this story is absolutely incredible; his draftsmanship and compositions are unsurpassed. Every panel is a small masterpiece, particularly the half-page panel where the husband splits his wife’s head with an axe, and the concluding depiction of the wife’s corpse. “Buffaloed,” [W] Larry Herndon, [A] John Severin. A buffalo hunter is killed by an old Indian who can turn into a buffalo. Severin’s art here is pretty good. “Firetrap,” [W] Jack Butterworth, [A] Vicente Alcazar. An old slumlord is murdered by his own tenants. Kind of a nice wish fulfillment story. “Judas,” [W] Rich Margopoulos, [A] Richard Corben. An astronaut sells out the human race to conquering aliens and becomes the aliens’ leader. But the joke is on him, because he’s already dying of radiation exposure. This story is printed in a special color section. “Survivor or Savior!”, [W] Steve Skeates, [A] Gonzalo Mayo. A man travels back in time from a dystopian future world in an attempt to change history. Gonzalo Mayo’s art in this story is quite good, and he makes the female protagonist (oddly namde Chester) look very sexy. “The Maze,” [W] Steve Skeates, [A] Leo Summers. A man is captured by hideous sewer-dwellers and becomes their new king. This is the worst-drawn story in the issue. “The Demon Within!”, [W] Skeates, [A] Isidro Mones. A woman is about to jump off a building after a life of horrible bad luck. Her husband tries to save her, but falls off the building himself. Overall this was an excellent issue of Creepy.

MY LOVE #36 (Marvel, 1975) – All the stories in this issue are reprints, and the series was cancelled after just three more issues. “My Song and My Sorrow!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Buscema. Kitt breaks up with her boyfriend because he doesn’t approve of her obsession with music. Kitt later becomes a successful musician herself, and finds a better boyfriend. This story is more progressive than I’d have expected; I thought she was going to end up with the first guy again. “Fanny Falls in Love!”, [W] unknown, [A] Don Heck. Fanny follows her friend’s bad dating advice (about playing hard to get) and almost ruins her relationship with her boyfriend. Eventually she learns the error of her ways, and she and her boyfriend get married. “Yours Alone!”, [W] unknown, [A] Jay Scott Pike. Nan is in love with her first boyfriend, Johnny, but unknown to her, he’s also dating other girls. She decides to date other boys, and ends up marrying one of them. Someone should publish a collection of Jay Scott Pike’s romance comics. He deserves to be remembered for more than just the Dolphin issue of Showcase.

More new comics:

DARK BLOOD #1 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Latoya Morgan, [A] Walt Barna. In Alabama in 1955, a white man threatens to kill a black army veteran for not being subservient enough. The black man saves himself using telekinetic powers, and the white man gets hit by a car and killed, which is no better than he deserves. This is a terrifying scene; it makes me wonder how many other encounters like this have happened in real life, with even worse consequences. The white man believes he’s entitled to do anything he wants to the white man, including killing him for no reason at all, and under the laws and customs of American society, it’s not clear that he’s wrong In the series’ other plot thread, the same serviceman is caught in a plane crash during World War II. I’m not sure just where this series is going. The captions in this issue refer to “the variance,” but we don’t yet know what that means.

RADIANT BLACK #7 (Image, 20210 – “Red,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Cherish Chen, [A] Darko Lafuente. This is Radiant Red’s origini story. Satomi and her boyfriend Owen seem to have an idyllic relationship, but Owen’s about to lose their house because of his compulsive gambling. When Satomi visits the bank to apply for a loan, she discovers that Owen has also forged her signature and drained her bank account, including her savings for school. Satomi confronts Owen about this, and Owen acts all pitiful and pathetic. But Satomi has just gotten her Radiant Red powers, so she robs a bank to get the money to save their house. This issue is an infuriating depiction of financial abuse and of what Reddit calls “setting yourself on fire to keep someone else warm.” Owen is an utterly worthless man, a gambler and a criminal who ruins Satomi’s life, commits serious crimes against her, and then evades responsibility for his actions by appealing to Satomi’s pity. Satomi should have reported him to the police, but instead she becomes a criminal herself for his sake. No matter what Owen does, Satomi not only forgives him, but ruins her own life on his behalf. It makes me furious to think that there really are men like this, and that they succeed in taking advantage of women.

MY LITTLE PONY/TRANSFORMERS; THE MAGIC OF CYBERTRON #4 (IDW, 2021) – “The Mightiest Dinobot,” [W] Ian Flynn, [A] Casey W. Collier. Spike and Smolder team up with Grimlock against Superion, a big Autobot composed of five smaller ones. Spike defeats Superion by getting its component parts to disagree with each other. “Finale,” [W] James Asmus, [A] Jack Lawrence. The final showdown between the good guys and Sombra/Scorponok. During this story the Mane Six become Transformers themselves, but we never get to see what Fluttershy can turn into. It is pretty awesome that Pinkie Pie can turn into a party cannon. The end of this story suggests that if there’s a third MLP/Transformers miniseries, its villains will be the Quintessons.

WITCHBLOOD #5 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matthew Erman, [A] Lisa Sterle. The witches visit the town of Sargasso, which is being drowned by a dead witch’s octopus familiar. This issue wasn’t as exciting as the last few issues.

STRANGE ADVENTURES #11 (DC, 2021) – “Another Job to Do,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads & Evan “Doc” Shaner. In flashback, Adam and Alanna team up with some giant owl creatures to defeat the last Pykkts on Rann. In the present, Adam and Alanna get in a big fight because of Adam’s attempt to betray Earth to the Pykkts. It ends with Alanna apparently shooting Adam with his own gun. To quote my own Facebook post: “I don’t know what Tom King’s original plans were for Strange Adventures, but it’s gone completely off the rails. I can’t believe the Pykkts are really so dangerous that Superman and Batman can’t save Alanna from them. Or that the Pykkts are completely evil — if that’s true, then why did Adam and Alanna try so hard to prevent Mr. Terrific from reading their language? Strange Adventures’s plot doesn’t even seem internally consistent. Also, Tom King has done even more damage to Adam and Alanna’s characters than Alan Moore did.”

SHADOW DOCTOR #5 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Now, Now, Very Now,” [W] Peter Calloway, [A] Georges Jeanty. Capone’s men barge in on Nathaniel while he’s sleeping with a white woman. That relates the title of the issue, which comes from Othello: “Even now, now, very now, an old black ram is tupping your white ewe.” Then another mobster tries to get Nathaniel to sabotage the cures he’s providing to Capone’s men. It’s quite a moral dilemma, but Nathaniel’s mind is made up for him when Capone asks what his girlfriend’s name is, and is relieved that she’s not Italian: “Can you imagine, a good Italian girl with a n*****?” Nathaniel goes straight to Eliot Ness to inform on Capone, and that’s the end of the series. This ending is rather abrupt; I’d have liked to know what happened to Nathaniel after that. Still, this is one of the best underrated comics of the year. I hope we see more of this writer.

MADE IN KOREA #3 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Holt, [A] George Schall. Chul tries to convince Jesse’s parents to give her back, and they refuse, but this only makes Jesse even more confused. Jesse helps her two “friends” raid a government armory, and they prepare to shoot up their school. This series is very cute but also surprisingly disturbing. I hope Jesse and her parents are going to be okay.

CEREBUS #66 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “The Thrill of Agony and the Victory of Defeat,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This issue includes the notorious scene where Cerebus throws a baby into a crowd. This was pretty controversial at the time, but it was actually far less offensive than the rape scene later in the series, let alone issue 186. Also, Cerebus, who is now the pope, declares that Tarim will destroy the world in two weeks unless eeveryone gives Cerebus their gold. Later, Cerebus and Posey encounter a mysterious floating light. This issue includes a preview of Spaced by Tom Stazer and John Williams, as well as some photos of Dave with a much younger Shelton Drum.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #591 (Marvel, 2009) – “Face Front Part 1: Together Again for the First Time,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Barry Kitson. Reed Richards hires Peter to accompany him and the FF to the Macroverse, a world that they visited together on a previous occasion. (That previous trip is depcited here for the first time; it wasn’t shown in any other comic.) Time in the Macroverse passes far faster than in the normal Marvel Universe, so on arriving there, the FF discover that the local society has completely changed, and also the FF and Spidey are worshipped as gods. Also, Johnny Storm realizes that he used to know Spidey’s secret identity, and that he’s been mindwiped into forgetting it. In this issue we can already see Dan Slott’s excellent understanding of how to write the FF.

DAREDEVIL #32 (Marvel, 2021) – “Lockdown Part 2,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Mike Hawthorne. Bullseye is killing people at random, but on the last page we discover that there’s not just one Bullseye, there are a bunch of them. Meanwhile, the prison warden sends some people to assassinate Matt, but of course they don’t succeed.

Early in August I went to Minneapolis to visit my parents. It was my first trip out of townsince January 2020. While in Minneapolis I went to Dreamhaven Books, a store I first visited more than twenty years ago, when they were in a different neighborhood. During last year’s George Floyd protests, someone tried to burn the store down, but luckily they failed. At the store I took a selfie with the actual book that was used in the arson attempt (https://www.instagram.com/p/CSSYnYZrIJl/). I also bought some comics:

CEREBUS #60 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “Sophia,” [W/A] Dave Sim. That’s actually just the title of the first vignette in the issue. There are several others that focus on other characters, including Sophia’s mom, the Regency Elf, and Theresa. The backup story is “Scratch” by an uncredited creator.

KANE #15 (Dancing Elephant, 1997) – “Stripes,” [W/A] Paul Grist. A rather complicated story about a cop named Max Anderson and his complicity in the crimes of his former partner Manny Tate. There’s also another plot thread where Kane and his partner are investigating some shootings. As usual, the best things about this issue are Paul Grist’s brilliant draftsmanship and page layouts.

A DISTANT SOIL #18 (Image, 1997) – “Ascension Part VI,” [W/A] Colleen Doran. Another issue that’s full of relationship drama. The main event this issue is that Rieken/Seren has just slept with Bast while mindlinked to Liana, and Liana was an unwilling spectator for the whole thing. Also, Rieken and Bast are part of a love triangle whose third corner is D’mer.

2000 AD #1643 (Rebellion, 2009) – I bought this and the following issue at Dreamhaven. These were only the second and third issues of 2000 AD that I’ve bought in person. All the other 300-plus progs in my collection were ordered online. Dredd: “High Spirits,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Dave Taylor. Dredd hunts an alien creature named Symberline. Dave Talyor’s artwork is very bizarre. Bob Byrne’s Twisted Tales: untitled, [W/A] Bob Byrne. A silent story in which a pregnant astronaut has an encounter with an octopus alien. Cradlegrave: untitled, [W] John Smith, [A] Edmund Bagwell. Some kind of horror story in a contemporary setting. There’s one really gruesome panel depicting a woman who’s turned into a sluglike creature. Sinister Dexter: “Wish You Were Here,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Anthony Williams & Rob Taylor. The two title characters get in a gunfight in a supermarket. Defoe: “Queen of the Zombies Part 4,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Leigh Gallagher. A horror story set in 17th-century England. This story has some striking black-and-white art.

More new comics:

BABYTEETH #19 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Father’s Daughter,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. Heather realizes that her mom is raising Satan’s kids in order to offer them to Satan. Heather shoots her mom dead, then gets killed herself. I no longer care very much about this series, and I’m only still reading it because I already started it.  

INFINITE FRONTIER #3 (DC, 2021) – “Infinite Incorporated,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Paul Pelletier et al. A bunch of confusing nonsense. I don’t remember ordering this, and I’m not sure why it was in my pull box. Heroes also put the next issue in my pull box, but I told them I didn’t want it.

BRZRKR #4 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Keanu Reeves & Matt Kindt, [A] Ron Garney. In the flashback, while Unute is away at war, his home village is overrun and his mother is killed. In the present, Unute’s interviewer, Diana, promises to finally tell him the truth. I wonder where this story is going.

MARVEL ACTION SPIDER-MAN #4 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sarah Graley & Stef Purenins, [A] Arianna Florean. Spidey encounters Screwball, who of course is none other than the social-media-obsessed girl from last issue. Meanwhile, Otto Octavius is almost ready to make his debut as Dr. Octopus. This series has been quite fun.

THE BLUE FLAME #3 (Vault, 2021) – “Weather Systems Failure,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Adam Gorham. Seven months after last issue, Sam is being a real jerk to his sister, who is forced to take care of him while she herself is heavily pregnant. Meanwhile, the other Sam continues his adventure in space. The version of Sam in the Milwaukee sequence is still trying to make a case for humanity, and he mentions the name Yarix. So we can tell that he remembers the events of the series’ other plot thread, but we don’t know whether that plot thread really happened, or whether Sam imagined it.

S.W.O.R.D. #7 (Marvel, 2021) – “Full Spectrum Diplomacy,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Stefano Caselli. In an installment of the Last Annihilation crossover, the SWORD characters team up with Hulkling against an invasion of Mindless Ones. Meanwhile, Storm has dinner with Dr. Doom. This issue isn’t bad, but it could have been an issue of Guardians of the Galaxy, except for the Storm/Dr. Doom sequence.

COMPASS #2 (Image, 2021) – “The Cauldron of Eternal Life,” [W] Robert McKenzie & David Walker, [A] Justin Greenwood. Shahidah discovers a sect of druids who are guarding the Cauldron of Arawn. This cauldron appears in a bunch of Welsh myths, notably the second branch of the Mabinogi, and was borrowed by Lloyd Alexander for the Chronicles of Prydain. Meanwhile, Hua is also searching for the same cauldron. The characters in this series are uninteresting, but I like how it draws upon lots of different medieval cultures.

MISTER MIRACLE: THE SOURCE OF FREEDOM #3 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] Brandon Easton, [A] Fico Ossio. Shilo defeats N’Vir Free in a fight, but then fights her again and loses. Meanwhile, Shilo’s manager tracks down Oberon, who claims to know what N’Vir’s goal is. This wasn’t the most interesting issue. It’s weird how Mother Box’s captions are in a font that looks like Leroy lettering.

SHADOW SERVICE #10 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Corin Howell. The demons instigate a riot at Westminster Abbey during the national Easter Sunday service. This issue was marginally more interesting than the last few, but if Shadow Service continues after this issue, I don’t plan on reading any more of it.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #30 (Marvel, 20210 – “Strange Magic Finale,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jacopo Camagni. Carol accidentally lets the Enchantress know that Ove is her future son. Carol fights Ove again, Rhodey shows up to help her, and Carol tricks Ove into drinking a potion that neutralizes his magic. There’s a backup story where Kamala Khan introduces Carol to some people who Carol unknowingly helped. It’s a bit of a sappy story, but it’s cute.

BLACK KNIGHT: CURSE OF THE EBONY BLADE #5 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Sergio Davila. Dane reveals that Jacks is his daughter, and is therefore capable of using the Ebony Blade. Jacks and Elsa defeat Mordred. Dane comes back to life, and he and Elsa decide to share the Black Knight identity. This series is okay, but I like Spurrier’s creator-owned work better than his Marvel work.

REPTIL #3 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Terry Blas, [A] Enid Balam. Reptil and his siblings fight Megalith, who turns out to be the Hag’s son. This series is preachy and overwritten, and Terry Blas’s version of Reptil has little in common with Christos Gage’s version. It feels as if Reptil was chosen as this series’ protagonist simply because he was a male Latino character who Marvel already owned. If this series didn’t have just one issue to go, I would drop it.

PROJECT: PATRON #4 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Experiments and Extinction,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Patrick Piazzalunga. The Luthor character announces his plan to use Woe to hold the world hostage. The Patron’s pilots decide to fight Woe by piloting the Patron collaboratively, rather than one at a time. I assume that issue 5 will be the conclusion.

BLACK WIDOW #9 (Marvel, 2021) – “I Am the Black Widow Part 3,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Elena Casagrande & Rafael De Latorre. Natasha and her allies prepare for their final confrontation with Apogee. Like many of Kelly Thompson’s solo series, Black Widow has turned into a team comic.

SUPERMAN AND THE AUTHORITY #1 (DC, 2021) – “All Our Tomorrows,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Mikel Janin. Superman asks Manchester Black for help saving the world. As in most Grant Morrison comics, there’s also lots of random weird stuff in this issue, like Kryptonian thought-beasts and John F. Kennedy. The Authority themselves don’t appear in this issue, or if they do, I didn’t notice.

ROBIN #4 (DC, 2021) – “Way of the Demon,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Jorge Corona. Damian spends some quality time with his grandfather Ra’s al Ghul, and then the other Robins show up to take him home. This series has been entertaining, though not spectacular.

HOME #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Julio Anta, [A] Anna Wieszczyk. Juan leaves his apartment to play soccer with some other kids, and some Karen calls the ICE agents on him. (As pointed out by the Comics Swipes Facebook page, this character is visually based on BBQ Becky.) Juan’s aunt summons his superpowered adult cousins to come rescue him. This series portrays ICE agents as bloodthirsty racists, and I can’t disagree with this portrayal.

2000 AD #1818 (Rebellion, 2013) – This was part of yet another lot that I ordered on eBay. I haven’t read any of the other issues in that lot, because I’m still working my way through some older 2000 ADs. Dredd: “Witch’s Promise,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] David Roach. Dredd gets involved in a battle between two rival witches. In a throwback to the story “Loonie’s Moon” in prog 192, this story shows advertisements being projected onto the moon. David Roach’s art looks better in black and white than in color. Savage: “Rise Like Lions Part 7,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Patrick Goddard. Savage leads the defense of London against a Volgan invasion. Patrick Goddard’s artwork looks like something out of this series’ early period. Ampney Crucis: “The Entropy Tango Part 7,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Simon Davis. Some kind of steampunk story. I don’t understand the plot, but Simon Davis’s painted art is excellent. The Red Seas: “Fire Across the Deep Part 7,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Steve Yeowell. I don’t understand this one either, except that it’s about a battle where Satan is commanding one of the armies. Strontium Dog: “Life and Death of Johnny Alpha Chapter 3: Mutant Spring,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny defends Milton Keynes’s mutant ghetto against an invasion.  

MODERN FRANKENSTEIN #4 (Heavy Metal, 2021) – untitled, [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Emma Vieceli. James continues to act like a creep; he makes fun of Elizabeth’s mother’s religion, and then he assassinates a woman who’s trying to expose his criminal activities. But Elizabeth continues to drink his Kool-Aid, until she discovers that he’s planning to experiment on their unborn child. This has been an entertaining horror comic.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #16 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Last Annihilation,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Juan Frigeri. Dormammu summons an army of Mindless Ones and sends them to attack the Skrull homeworld. This is part of a crossover with SWORD #7, and I wish I’d known I was supposed to read this issue before that one. As noted earlier, Al Ewing’s SWORD and Guardians of the Galaxy are hard to tell apart.

THE OLD GUARD: TALES THROUGH TIME #4 (Image, 2021) – “How to Make a Ghost Town,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Steve Lieber. Andromache falls in love with a black man named Achilles, but while she’s out of town fighting, Achilles is lynched by his white neighbors. Andromache comes back home and kills everybody in town. The answer to the title is “first you take a town, then fill it with ghosts.” “Love Letters,” [W] David F. Walker, [A] Matthew Clark. During the Civil War, an immortal saves some black people who are being held hostage by white soldiers.

HEAD LOPPER #16 (Image, 2021) – “Of Climbing and Falling,” [W/A] Andrew MacLean. Nergal and friends climb Mulgrid’s Stair and are given a list of the immortals that Nergal is supposed to kill. Then they go back to Martan, there’s a massive battle that ends with the evil king’s death, and the elf prince Tarf joins Nergal’s party. This was an excellent issue of Head Lopper, and I liked this story much better than the last one.

PROCTOR VALLEY ROAD #5 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Alex Child & Grant Morrison, [A] Naomi Franquiz. The girls finally defeat the Landlady and rescue the missing boys, and then they attend the Janis Joplin concert, as was their original goal. This series was not Grant Morrison’s worst, but it wasn’t their best either.

SHANG-CHI #3 (Marvel, 2021) – “Shang-Chi vs. the Marvel Universe Part 3,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Dike Ruan. Shang-Chi and his sidekicks travel to Ireland to look for another of the Five Weapons, Zhilan. Wolverine is also looking for Zhilan in order to bring her back to Krakoa. Fighting ensues. This is an okay issue, but this current storyline is too reliant on guest stars.

CATWOMAN #33 (DC, 2021) – “Desolation Land Part 1,” [W] Ram V, [A] Fernando Blanco. Alleytown is engulfed in rioting. Selina intervenes in the riots with the aid of a bunch of supervillains. At the end, Batman shows up to save Catwoman from drowning. I’m not enjoying Catwoman all that much, and I think it might be time to drop it.

GAMMA FLIGHT #2 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Al Ewing & Crystal Fraser, [A] Lan Medina. This issue is mostly a big fight scene. At the end, we learn that the Abomination was responsible for creating Stockpile.

KANE #16 (Dancing Elephant, 1997) – “Stripes Part Two” and “Chains,” [W/A] Paul Grist. More of the same confusing plot from last issue. The highlight of this issue is that during a carnival, the clown Mr. Floppsie Whoppsie locks himself in a chest so he can escape from it. But then the carnival is invaded by a sniper, everyone forgets about Floppsie, and on the back cover, we see that he’s still inside the chest.

TOMAHAWK #134 (DC, 1971) – Tomahawk: “The Rusty Ranger,” [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Frank Thorne.  Long after retirement, Tomahawk gets back in the saddle to fight a gang of criminals, which turns out to be led by an old companion of his. Firehair: “Contest,” [W/A] Joe Kubert. Tomahawk defends a Mandan village from a raid by drunk white soldiers. As in other Firehair stories, Kubert’s sympathies are with the Indians and not the white troops.

2000 AD #654 (Fleetway, 1989) – Chopper: “Song of the Surfer Part 1,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Colin MacNeil. After his old Aboriginal friend passes away, Chopper (from Dredd in Oz) decides to leave the outback and compete in the next Supersurf. Zenith: “Phase II 13: Children’s Hour,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. Tammy and Tiger Tom, whoever they are, set off the bomb to destroy the Lloigor. The name Lloigor comes from a Weird Tales story by August Derleth and Mark Schorer. Dredd: “Young Giant Part Four,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Dredd and Giant close in on Giant’s mother’s killer. The Dead Man: untitled, [W] John Wagner, [A] John Ridgway. I still don’t understand this one, but it includes some black people who talk in a stereotypical speech pattern.Slaine: “The Horned God Volume II Part 5,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Simon Bisley. A primitive creature called the Avanc invades the city of Falias. This chapter is very reminiscent of Beowulf, with Avanc as Grendel.

TALES FROM THE HEART #2 (Entropy, 1987) – “Later in the Daze,” [W] Cindy Goff & Rafael Nieves, [A] Seitu Hayden. Cathy Grant (i.e. Cindy Goff herself) starts her stint as a Peace Corps worker in a remote part of the Central African Republic. This story makes the CAR look like a really boring place that I wouldn’t want to visit, but I like how the characters depict the volunteers as naïve newcomers, rather than white saviors.

ARCHIE GIANT SERIES #479 (Archie, 1979) – “Power Struggle,” [W] Frank Doyle, [A] Dan DeCarlo, etc. In my closet at my parents’ house, there are a bunch of comic books that I acquired in high school, but never bothered to read. Most of these are early ‘90s junk, or freebies I got at conventions. I left these comics behind when I moved the rest of my collection out of that house, but on my latest visit to Minneapolis, I brought a few of them back with me, including this Archie Giant Series. Its theme is “Sabrina’s Christmas Magic.” It’s not very good, but at least it’s a quick read.

FLEENER #2 (Zongo, 1996) – “The Wisdom of the Canapés,” [W/A] Mary Fleener. A talking knife, Mr. Switch, runs an expensive restaurant with his employees: an eggplant, a tomato and a fish. Switch just has to work one more day before he goes on vacation, so of course all sorts of mayhem happens, ending with a gas explosion that destroys the restaurant. Fleener’s art and storytelling here are excellent, but I was hoping for more of her trademark use of cubism to express heightened emotional states.

HEPCATS #3 (Antarctic, 1997)-  “Snowblind Chapter 1: The Paviliions of Memory,” [W/A] Martin Wagner. This is originally from eight years earlier, which might explain why it feels amateurish. Martin Wagner’s draftsmanship is very detailed, but his story is just a bunch of boring slice-of-life stuff. Martin Wagner was as toxic and arrogant as Dave Sim, but he lacked Sim’s endurance or work ethic, and he never managed to fulfill his ambitious plans for Hepcats. This issue includes a guest list for the 1997 Heroes Con.

2000 AD #691 (Fleetway, 1990) – Dredd: “Necropolis 18,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Cadet Giant and three other young judges rescue a wounded Anderson. Meanwhile, Dredd and former Chief Judge McGruder head back to town. McGruder looks like a man, but is in fact a woman with a beard. Harlem Heroes: untitled, [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Steve Dillon. The Harlem Heroes try to escape from an airport. This story has no apparent connection to the previous version of Harlem Heroes, and it’s not very good either. Slaine: “The Horned God Vol. III Part 4,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Simon Bisley. The land of Tir na nOg is flooding, and Slaine has to muster his armies for the final battle with the Lord Weird Slough Feg. By custom, Slaine has to execute the last person to arrive at the muster, which turns out to be his wife Niamh, and the chapter ends as he’s about to behead her. Again, Simon Bisley’s art here is perhaps his best ever. Medivac 318: “Arcturus Part 9,” [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Nigel Dobbyn. Verity’s crew tries to rescue a captured catlike alien. Dry Run: untitled, [W] Tise Vahimagi, [A] Kev Hopgood. Some sort of a borin postapocalyptic story. Tise Vahimagi was Welsh, though his name sounds Finnish.

VELVET #3 (Image, 2014) – “Before the Living End Part Three,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Steve Epting. Velvet heads to Communist-era Belgrade to kidnap/rescue Marina, the mistress of her quarry, X-14. Velvet finds Marina, but then Marina double-crosses her. This is a very well-crafted spy story. I still wonder if Velvet started out as a rejected pitch for Black Widow. In a 2013 CBR interview about Velvet, Brubaker says that part of his inspiration for Velvet was that “Black Widow was almost always more interesting to write than any character she was in a book with.” https://www.cbr.com/ed-brubaker-sets-loose-velvet/

BATMAN #83 (DC, 2020) – “City of Bane Part 3,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mikel Janin. This issue begins by quoting Longfellow’s “The Children’s Hour,” a really stupid poem. Then for some reason Alfred sacrifices himself on Batman’s behalf, and most of the issue consists of Alfred’s farewell letter to Bruce. At the end, Batman confronts the resurrected Thomas Wayne.

WONDER WOMAN #113 (DC, 1996) – “Are You Out of Your Minds?”, [W/A] John Byrne. Cassie Sandsmark, the new Wonder Woman, fights a villain called Decay. Then she babysits for Sugar and Spike. There are cute moments in this issue, but Byrne writes way too much dialogue, and his art isn’t as good as it used to be.

BARBIE #45 (Marvel, 1994) – “Practice Makes Perfect,” [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Barb Rausch. Skipper plays in an important baseball game, but she’s saddled with an apathetic teammate who just happens to be the mayor’s daughter. There actually is an interesting conflict in this issue, since the mayor threatens to fire Barbie as the coach if she doesn’t let his daughter start, but the conflict resolves itself with no real drama. This series could have been called Skipper instead of Barbie because most of the stories revolve around Skipper. This is because Skipper was allowed to make mistakes and have disagreements, and Barbie wasn’t.

KATY KEENE #21 (Archie, 1987) – “The Surprise,” [W] Susan S. Berkley, [A] John S. Lucas. A bunch of pretty boring stories, with the gimmick that all the characters’ costumes are designed by readers. This is the only Katy Keene comic I’ve read, unless you count Vicki Valentine, which is a Katy Keene fan comic. In the advice column, a girl complains that a classmate is discriminating against her because she’s Korean, and the columnist correctly instructs her to tell an adult.

FLEENER #3 (Zongo, 1999) – “The Wisdom of the Canapés in ‘Along Come Folk!’”, [W/A] Mary Fleener. While waiting for his restaurant to be rebuilt, Switch goes on vacation to Appalachia. There he meets a tribe of hillbillies with bizarre deformed features, and also, the hotel where he’s staying is haunted. This is the last issue of Fleener, and it ends on a cliffhanger that was never resolved. I would have liked to know what happened next.

2000 AD #692 (Fleetway, 1990) – Dredd: as above. The kids manage to save Anderson’s life, and Dredd and McGruder link up with them. Harlem Heroes: as above. More boring action sequences. Mike Fleisher was not really suited to 2000 AD. Slaine: as above. To the dismay of some of his allies, Slaine decides to abolish the sacrificial custom and not sacrifice anyone. Then Slaine asks Medb for assistance against Slough Feg, and there are some beautiful illustrations depicting Medb’s backstory. Medb is named after a legendary queen of Connacht who is one of the world’s greatest mythological villains. Slough Feg’s dialogue is written to sound like ancient Irish poetry. Medivac 318: as above. More of the rescue attempt. I like Medvac 318 but I don’t understand this story arc. Dry Run: as above. Again I don’t know what’s going on here.

ARCHIE GIANT SERIES #218 (Archie, 1974) – “Silent Night?”, [W/A] Al Hartley. A bunch of holiday-themed stories, some of them with explicit Christian elements. The Christian proselytizing in these stories is probably due to Al Hartley’s influence. One of the stories, “The Last Christmas,” is a rather sad ghost story about a little boy who died on Christmas Eve. I suspect this story may be by Bob Bolling, but I can’t confirm or deny this.

CEREBUS #67 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “Day of Greatness / Age of Consent,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This issue is tedious to read because it contaiins some very long captions in cursive. Cerebus continues extorting the people of Iest out of their money, while Boobah follows him around and transcribes everything he says, although it’s hinted that Cerebus is making the transcript himself. There are also some scenes with Sophia, Weisshaupt and other characters.

HEROES REBORN: YOUNG SQUADRON #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “Truth at All Costs,” [W] Jim Zub, [A] Steven Cummings. I declined to order this when it came out, since I don’t much like Jim Zub’s writing, but I bought it from a cheap box at the latest convention. I was right not to pay full price for it. This issue introduces the Heroes Reborn versions of Miles Morales, Kamala Khan and Sam Alexander. It’s not very good, and it includes an unnecessary Deadpool appearance.

BARBIE #48 (Marvel, 1994) – “The Fire That Never Went Out,” [W] Trina Robbins, [A] Mario Capaldi. Barbie and Skipper visit an old English castle that has a custom of never letting the fire go out. They discover that the reason for the custom is because in the 17th century, the owners hid their treasure under the fireplace so Cromwell’s troops wouldn’t get it. There’s also another story where Barbie helps reunite two long-separated lovers. This issue is okay but not thrilling.

ROBIN, SON OF BATMAN #2 (DC, 2015) – “Year of Blood,” [W/A] Patrick Gleason. We begin with a flashback to Damian’s training with Talia. Then Damian and his giant dragon-bat Goliath fight a giant Mesoamerican stone monster with the aid of Nobody. This is a really fun issue, though its plot is hard to understand at first. Patrick Gleason is Damian Wayne’s defining artist.

SCOUT: WAR SHAMAN #16 (Eclipse, 1989) – “One Last Ride on the Wall of Death,” [W/A] Tim Truman. I believe the title is an indirect reference to a Richard and Linda Thompson song.  Scout finally gets killed in a confrontation with Rosa Winter, but his two sons survive. His older son is adopted by some sort of priest, and his younger son finds and puts on his bandanna. This is a reasonably satisfying conclusion to the series. There’s also a backup story written by Beau Smith.

ACTION COMICS #776 (DC, 2001) – “Return to Krypton Part Four: Escape from Krypton,” [W] Joe Kelly, [A] Kano. Superman teams up with his father Jor-El against General Zod. I didn’t understand this issue, though it probably would have been a touching story if I knew the context.

I went back to Heroes on August 14 for FCBD, and also to pick up my new comics. On this trip I had lunch at Bang Bang Burgers.

WYND #9 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. Oakley tries to convince Wynd to run away, but he refuses. After a lot of talk between various characters,  the vampires invade the faerie city, and Wynd’s love interest, Thorn, is apparently killed. Wynd has become one of my favorite current comics.

RUNAWAYS #38 (Marvel, 2021) – “Come Away with Me Pt. IV,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Andres Genolet. Chase goes into the future with the older Gert, and Karolina returns to Majesdane for healing. On the last two pages, we see Alex Wilder again, and then Xavin appears for the first time in Rowell’s run. These pages indicate that Rowell had further plans for the series, but sadly those plans will not be realized, because this is the last issue. Runaways was my favorite remaining Marvel title after Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel ended, and I’m sad it’s gone.

THE ME YOU LOVE IN THE DARK #1 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. A new series from the creators of Middlewest. A young artist, Ro Meadows, buys a new house where she tries to work on paintings for her upcoming show, but she finds herself unable to get any work done. Also, the house is haunted. Young and Corona’s depiction of artist’s block is convincing, but otherwise I’m not sure where this series is going.  

SEVEN SECRETS #11 (Boom!, 2021) – untitlde, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. Part of the team heads to Switzerland, where Canto (the masked guy) betrays his teammates and gives the briefcase to Amon. Caspar and Eva finish with the Queen and Boris Johnson and head to Thailand. Seven Secrets is lacking in serious themes or social commentary, but it’s very entertaining.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #18 (Image, 2021) – “Me and My Monster Part Three,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. We meet Gary Slaughter, who runs the House of Slaughter’s training grounds, and Erica heads into his barn for her test. Gary is dismayed to realize that Erica has been sent to fight a super-powerful oscuratype, rather than a weak one, because she’s going to be killed. Of course we know already that Erica survives.

THE UNBELIEVABLE UNTEENS #1 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Tyler Crook. This is the Black Hammer version of X-Men, but it actually starts with a framing sequence about a comic book artist, Jane Ito. This sequence is obviously based on the writer and artist’s actual experiences, and it shows how Jane’s job is precarious and not very lucrative. After attending a convention, she buys some ramen for dinner and then stays up late drawing. Oh, and then she’s visited by a talking corpse, who tells her that she’s really a character in her own comic. The pages from Jane’s comic are depicted with much brighter coloring than the rest of the issue.

MAMO #2 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Sas Milledge. Jo and Orla have breakfast with Jo’s family, then head out to track down the witch Mamo. This is another beautiful issue with gorgeous art and coloring. A particular highlight is the breakfast scene. The characters are eating tuyo, or dried fish with rice and vinegar, which I guess is a common Filipino dish. Mamo’s Filipino cultural influences are easy to miss if you don’t know they’re there.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #101 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Toni Kuusisto. The Knights of Harmony invade Canterlot, and the Mane Six and the Pillars lead the defense. This is all leading up to the epic season finale in #102, which, sadly, is also the last issue.

THE SIX SIDEKICKS OF TRIGGER KEATON #3 (Image, 2021) – “Spaceboat 3030,” [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Chris Schweizer. The other sidekicks meet Buffy Sainte-Marie, Keaton’s only female sidekick, and then she beats up a bunch of guys despite being super drunk. This is another hilarious issue. Kyle Starks’s dialogue is hilarious, especially the things Buffy says when she gets drunk: “Yay I dids it I wons.”

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #29 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Clone Saga Fallout,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Chris Allen. Whlie still recovering from the traumatic events of the previous storyline, Miles has to write an essay for an essay contest. He decides to use his experiences as Spider-Man as inspiration. Also, Miles reconciles with Ganke, who’s already broken up with Barbara, and he gets a new costume.

EVE #4 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Jo Mi-Gyeong. In a conversation with her doppelganger, Eve learns that she’s one of six clones, all of them created in order to recover the seed vault. Our Eve has skills that the previous one doesn’t, suggesting that she might actually succeed – but if she fails, there are no more chances. This series has been extremely grim, but this issue does include a cute hair-braiding scene.

THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE #3 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Alvaro Martinez Bueno. Sam, the photographer, tries to unravel the mystery of the statues surrounding the house. Then he decides that the statues are meaningless, and that Walter just created the statues in order to give his friends something to do. What Sam fails to discover is that his and Walter’s mutual friend, Reg, is held captive in the building at the end of the statues’ trail. This was a fascinating issue. It makes me very curious to learn more about the house’s mysteries.

STILLWATER #9 (Image, 2021) – “A Messy Life,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramon Perez. Daniel meets the other Stillwater kids, including one who’s stuck as a newborn baby. Then the two plotlines from the last two issues converge: Ted’s old Marine comrades supplant him and the Judge in their control of the city, and the kids apparently choose to side with the Marines and against Daniel and Tanya. This is a very gripping and intense story.

GEIGER #5 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Gary Frank. The kids and Geiger are taken to an underground complex that houses the remnants of the United States. But while there, the boy, Henry, is diagnosed with leukemia, and by law, he has to be executed. Geiger is not willing to tolerate that, and he prepares to rescue Henry, but the government activates a robot to track Geiger down. I’m still enjoying this series more than I expected to.  

BUNNY MASK #3 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Stab It a Little,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Andrea Mutti. Tyler and Bee manage to avoid being killed in a home invasion, then Tyler and the sheriff share their stories about the Snitch. The bunny-masked creature continues to cause mayhem. I don’t have as much to say about this issue as about the last two, but this is a really good horror comic.

DEFENDERS #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “Eighth Cosmos: The Magician,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Javier Rodriguez. The Masked Raider, from Marvel Comics #1000 and #1001, asks Dr. Strange to form a new Defenders team. Strange summons the Silver Surfer, the Harpy, and Cloud, and they head back in time to the previous universe, where the planet of Taa is about to be destroyed by Omnimax. Ewing and Rodriguez are Marvel’s best current writer and artist, and this series lives up to its creative team. Ewing’s plot is interesting, and Rodriguez’s page layouts are spectacular. I just wish this was an ongoing and not a miniseries.

NOT ALL ROBOTS #1 (AWA, 2021) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mike Deodato Jr. In a grim postapocalyptic future, robots are doing all the work, and humans are an endangered species. While robots are necessary for society to exist, they’re also terrifyingly prone to violence. As the title of this comic indicates, it uses robot/human relations as an analogy for male-female relations. The robots in this comic reproduce all the classic stereotypes about men – like, because the robots are the breadwinners, their human housemates are supposed to forgive their abuse and emotional unavailability. Not All Robots is yet another of Mark Russell’s clever satires.

SNELSON: COMEDY IS DYING #1 (Ahoy, 2021) – “What’s the Deal with Road Trips?”, [W] Paul Constant, [A] Fred Harper. An old comedian goes on tour with some younger ones. Just after being told he might have cancer, he decides to start reusing all his old material that’s no longer considered politically correct. This series has an interesting premise about the intersection of comedy and cancel culture, but Snelson #1 wastes a lot of space on irrelevant material, including a gratuitous sex scene.

BATMAN AND ROBIN AND HOWARD/AMETHYST: PRINCESS OF GEMWORLD SPECIAL EDITOIN FLIPBOOK (FCBD) 1 (DC ,2021) – Amethyst: untitled, [W] Shannon Hale & Dean Hale, [A] Asiah Fulmore. Princess Amethyst is exiled to Earth with her caretaker Citrina so she can attend middle school. This is DC’s third Amethyst revival in the past decade, not counting the YouTube series, and it’s not the same as any previous take on the character, but it’s fun. I especially like all of Amethyst’s little brother’s misconceptions about Earth. Batman and Robin and Howard: untitled, [W/A] Jeffrey Brown. Bruce Wayne forces Damian to attend middle school. Jeffrey Brown started out as an autobio cartoonist, but thanks to the success of his Darth Vader and Son, he’s pivoted to doing graphic novels for kids. I don’t want to suggest that kids’ comics are less valuable than adult comics – the whole point of my current project is to argue the exact opposite – but I like Jeffrey Brown’s kids’ comics far less than his autobio comics, and I wish he would do more stuff like A Matter of Life.

ALLERGIC (Scholastic, 2021) – untitled, [W] Megan Wagner Lloyd, [A] Michelle Mee Nuter. Middle schooler Maggie has always wanted a dog, but when she finally gets one, she discovers she’s severely allergic to fur. Allergic looks like yet another triumph for Scholastic. Lloyd and Nutter succeed in conveying Maggie’s disappointment at not being able to get a dog, as well as her feelings of loneliness as the oldest child.

BITTER ROOT #15 (Image, 2021) – “Legacy Part Five,” [W] David F. Walker & Chuck Brown, [A] Sanford Greene. There are a number of scenes depicting the Sangeryes’ battle against the Jinoo in 1926, and then we jump ahead to 1939, when the Sangeryes raid a German death camp. This is the last issue of this storyline, but not of Bitter Root as a whole, which is good because there’s no reason the series needs to end here. This issue includes an essay by my friend Rebecca Wanzo, in which she touches on the arguments of her book The Content of Our Caricature.

SPIDER-MAN: SPIDER’S SHADOW #5 (Marvel, 2021) – “Finale,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Pasqual Ferry. The symbiote is defeated, but at the cost of Reed Richards’s life. Spidey is invited to join the FF to replace him. This is a powerful conclusion. In most What If? stories, characters die at the drop of a hat, but Reed’s death in this issue has a real impact. This miniseries was one of the best What If?s ever.

WONDER WOMAN #777 (DC, 2021) – “Afterworlds Part 8,” [W]  Michael W. Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Emanuela Lupacchino. Diana and Deadman visit a gender-swapped parallel world, and Diana fights her male equivalent Wonder Man, a villainous MRA. I’m surprised DC is allowed to use the name Wonder Man. See https://www.cbr.com/avengers-wonder-man-dc-marvel-lawsuit-threaten/, plus the other article linked at the bottom, for more on the history of the name Wonder Man. Anyway, it’s too bad that we don’t get to see any more of this Earth besides its superheroes. I’d like to know more about the kind of world that could produce a female Superman and Batman.

THE GOOD ASIAN #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Alexandre Tefenkgi. Edison and Frankie find Donnie Yan’s body, then they fight a man wearing a mask, who turns out to be white and not Asian, and Frankie gets his throat cut. That means America’s Chinatowns are about to explode in race riots. This issue includes more fascinating information about the history of Chinese immigration to America. I’d never heard of the Chinese Six Companies before.

THE DREAMING: WAKING HOURS #12 (DC, 2021) – “The Faerie King Finale,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nick Robles. After the Faerie plot is resolved, Dream comes to collect Ruin. Heather rebuffs him by beginning to recite Roderick Burgess’s spell from Sandman #1. Appropriately, one of the things Heather doesn’t say is “I give you a name, and the name is lost.” And they all live happily ever after. A copy of Shakespeare’s Tempest appears on the last page, a throwback to Sandman #75. Sadly this is the last issue. I wonder what G. Willow Wilson will write next.

FANTASTIC FOUR: LIFE STORY #3 (Marvel, 2021) – “The ‘80s,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Sean Izaakse. Reed and a scientist named Jose Santini collaborate on Reagan’s SDI system. Dr. Santini is in fact the Mad Thinker (and he calls himself that, which is a mistake – he’s supposed to just call himself the Thinker), and his SDI system leads to a near nuclear war between the US and the USSR. Johnny sacrifices his life to destroy the last nuclear missile. Meanwhile, Reed and Sue’s divorce is finalized. So far there’s no Valeria in this continuity. I was hoping she would be Sue and Namor’s child.

HARDWARE SEASON ONE #1 (Milestone, 2021) – “Angry Black Man,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Denys Cowan. This is disappointing; it’s basically the same plot as the original Hardware #1, and it also doesn’t make much sense if you haven’t read Milestone Returns #0, unless you’re already familiar with the Milestone universe. I’m going to continue reading this series for now, but I hope it improves.

TEEN TITANS: BEAST BOY LOVES RAVEN SPECIAL EDITION (FCBD) #1 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] Kami Garcia, [A] Gabriel Picolo. While on the run from Trigon, Raven travels to Memphis where she runs into Beast Boy. This is a promising start, and it makes me kind of want to read the graphic novel it’s excerpted from. Gar and Raven seem like a strange romantic pairing to me, but I guess they were often depicted as a potential couple in the cartoons. See https://www.ign.com/articles/teen-titans-team-on-finally-making-beast-boy-raven-a-couple for more on this.

ARCHIE: PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE FUN! FCBD EDITION #1 (Archie, 20210 – “Crisis on the Riverdale Earths,” [W] Bill Golliher, [A] Pat Kennedy & Tim Kennedy. Archie teams up with a bunch of his alternate-dimensional counterparts against the Mad Dr. Doom and Chester. This was a tedious story, although it’s fun to see Mad Dr. Doom again. “Happy Archieversary!”, [W] Angelo DeCesare, [A] Pat Kennedy & Tim Kennedy. An even more boring story.

RENT-A-(REALLY SHY!)-GIRLFRIEND #1 (Kodansha, 20210 – untitled, [W/A] Reiji Miyajima. A shy girl goes to a bakery to order a donut. A 26-page preview of a manga is too short to form any opinions about it, but this manga didn’t impress me too much. There’s also an even shorter preview of a different series.

JENNY ZERO #4 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Dave Dwonch & Brockton McKinney, [A] Magenta King. Jenny fights a giant robot, and the series ends on a cliffhanger that suggests a possible sequel. Jenny Zero was a frankly bad miniseries, and I regret ordering it.

CRUSH & LOBO #3 (DC, 2021) – “Painful Childhood or Whatever,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Amancay Nahuelpan. Crush visits Lobo in prison, but he tricks the prison’s computers into thinking he’s Crush and she’s him, so Crush languishes in prison while Lobo strolls out. A funny subplot in this issue is the praying mantis inmate whose mom ate his dad’s head. Later in the issue, his own head is eaten by his son.

ZOM 100: BUCKET LIST OF THE DEAD FCBD 2021 EDITION – untitled, [W] Haro Aso, [A] Kotaro Takata. When Japan is overtaken by a zombie apocalypse, a salaryman decides it’s the perfect time to do everything he always wanted to do. This issue also includes a preview of Demon Slayer, a manga I already wanted to read.

SCHOOL FOR EXTRATERRESTRIAL GIRLS FCBD (Papercutz, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Jamie Noguchi. Some girls from the namesake school head to their new home at the School for Extraterrestrial Boys. Jeremy Whitley is one of my favorite current writers, but I haven’t read the first volume of this series. This FCBD issue gives sufficient context to allow me to understand what’s going on, and it makes me want to read both volumes. I don’t like the artwork in this comic as much as the art in Princeless, but Jeremy writes it in a similar style to Princeless or Unstoppable Wasp.

INKBLOT #11 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Rusty Gladd, [A] Emma Kubert. This story takes place even earlier than #5, at the very start of the Seeker’s family’s lives, even earlier than issue 5. At this point the youngest, Inos, is a toddler, and thanks to MOW.’s meddling, his older brother has to save him from a giant snow dinosaur. Meanwhile, MOW. spends the entire issue chasing an insect.

CAMPISI: THE DRAGON INCIDENT #1 (Aftershock, 2021) – “A Fuggin’ Dragon,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Marco Locati. Like Kaiju Score, Campisi is a gangster story set in a world where giant monsters are a normal part of life. Except the monsters in this series are dragons instead of kaiju. Sonny Campisi is a mob enforcer for the neighborhood of Green Village. While Sonny is dealing with some mob drama, a dragon appears in the neighborhood and demands that the people surrender a certain Franceso [sic] Moretti, a descendant of the dragon’s ancient enemy. This looks like another fun series. This issue ends with a fourth-grader’s report on the history of dragons.

BATMAN SPECIAL EDITION (FCBD) #1 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Jorge Jimenez. I don’t understand this story, and it’s a dead letter anyway, since Tynion is leaving Batman. This issue also has a preview of I Am Batman, a series I decided not to read – because it was a sequel to Next Batman: Second Son, which I was equally unable to understand.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2021: AVENGERS/HULK #1 (Marvel, 2021) – Avengers: “The Tower at the Center of Everything,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Iban Coello. A preview of an epic story with a multiversal scope. Jason Aaron’s Avengers has never felt like the Avengers to me. Hulk: “Ignition,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Ryan Ottley. The Hulk fights MODOK. I fear that Donny Cates’s Hulk will be a massive step down in quality from Al Ewing’s Hulk.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2021: SPIDER-MAN/VENOM #1 (Marvel, 2021) – Spider-Man: “Test-Drive,” [W] Zeb Wells, [A] Patrick Gleason. Ben Reilly gets a new Spider-Man costume. I do plan to read the new post-Nick-Spencer Spider-Man, but only the issues written by Kelly Thompson. Venom: “Like Father, Like Son,” [W] Ram V & Al Ewing, [A] Bryan Hitch. Not very interesting, despite the all-star creative team.

SUICIDE SQUID SPECIAL EDITION (FCBD) #1 (DC, 2021) – Suicide Squad: untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Scott Kolins. A King Shark solo story. It’s only average, but it’s smart of DC to capitalize on King Shark’s current popularity. Joker: untitled, [W] Brian Azzarello, [A] Alex Maleev. I have no interest in Azzarello’s writing, but this story’s artwork is a nostalgic reminder of Maleev’s work on Daredevil.

ORDINARY GODS #2 (Image, 2021) – “Black Light,” [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Felipe Watanabe. Christopher wakes up on a private island, where some of the other gods’ incarnations tell him about the series’ backstory. There’s also a flashback to the battle of Tsaritsyn (later Stalingrad, then Volgograd) during the Russian Civil War. I keep forgetting what this series is about, but I like how the dog is also a divine incarnation.  

COPRA #41 (Copra, 2021) – “Nurture Apparatus” and “Tresser Who?”, [W/A] Michel Fiffe. The members of Copra deal with the aftermath of the Ochizon battle, and there’s also a monologue by Tresser, i.e. Nemesis. This issue has some beautiful coloring that appears to be in paint or colored pencil.

THE WORST DUDES #3 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Aubrey Sitterson, [A] Tony Gregori. The protagonists continue following Zephyr Monsoon’s trail, and they encounter some cop fetishists and some robots in caveman clothing (which reminds me of the Caveman Robot guys who used to attend Comic-Con). The Worst Dudes has a similar style of humor to Curse Words or Grumble, though I’m not sure it’s as good as either of them.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #31 (Marvel, 2021) – “Vacation, All I Never Wanted,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. Carol and Rhodey are leaving for a vacation, but then Lauri-Ell appears and summons them to Throneworld II to fight a giant sludge monster. Afterward, Carol and Rhodey have to spend 72 hours in quarantine, which they enjoy just as much as the vacation they’d been going to take. On the last page we see that the sludge monster was created by an unidentified villain.

IMMORTAL HULK #49 (Marvel, 2021) – “All Ye Who Enter Here,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. This issue consists entirely of full-page splashes with narrative captions in Jackie’s voice. Jackie’s perspective is interesting because she’s not used to characters like the Avengers or the FF; she perceives them the way a normal person would. The plot is that the Hulk and his companions invade the Baxter Building and convince the FF to let Hulk take a portal to the Realm Below. The Hulk is going to go through the portal alone, but Jackie follows him. In terms of literary quality, Immortal Hulk is the best Marvel comic of at least the past decade, and it’s a shame that it has to end.

THE SILVER COIN #5 (Image, 2021) – “Covenant,” [W/A] Michael Walsh. In colonial New England, witch hunter Cotton Dudley sentences Rebekah Goode to be hanged for witchcraft. As Rebekah dies, she realizes that her friend accepted a coin as payment for informing her, and she pronounces a curse on the coin. That explains where the coin came from. This story is just a little trite, but it’s not bad for a writer who’s better known as an artist. Until reading this issue I didn’t realize that Michael Walsh was the primary creator of this series.

BLACK’S MYTH #2 (Ahoy, 2021) – untitled, [W] Eric Palicki, [A] Wendell Cavalcanti. Strummer sleeps with a female client, then she and Ben go to Rainsford Black’s mansion and meet his servants, the Minotaur and Galatea. And we get some clues to why two of Rainsford’s thirty silver bullets are missing. (The photo on page 5, panel 5 shows 29 bullets, not 28; this must be an error in the art.) I liked this issue, although I had to reread issue 1 in order to understand it. A funny moment is when the minotaur hits his horns on the doorframe.

ON TYRANNY #1 (Ten Speed, 2021) – untitled, [W] Timothy Snyder, [A] Nora Krug. An adaptation of a nonfiction book. This comic includes so much text that Torsten Adair called it “not really comics” (https://www.comicsbeat.com/free-comic-book-day-2021-silver-teen-titles/). The artwork is more illustrative than narrative. It is an interesting book, though, and there are places where the images are used quite effectively – especially on the last page, which quotes Vaclav Havel’s question about what happens if no one plays the game.

DAREDEVIL #33 (Marvel, 2021) – “Lockdown Part 3,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Checchetto. We start with an explanation of where all the Bullseye clones came from. Then Elektra fights the Bullesyes until Spider-Man and Iron Man show up to save her. Meanwhile, Matt leads a revolt and takes over the prison. It’s too bad that Chip Zdarsky’s Daredevil run is ending just as I’m getting into it.

2000 AD #693 (Fleetway, 1990) – Dredd: “Necropolis Part 20,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Anderson explains that to stop the Sisters of Death, the progenitors of the Dark Judges, Dredd has to kill the psi-judge Kit Agee. Harlem Heroes: untitled, [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Simon Jacob. The Heroes take off in a plane, but the engine catches on fire. Slaine: “The Horned God Volume III Part 6,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Simon Bisley. Slaine and Slough Feg’s armies engage in an epic battle. Slough Feg captures Slaine and prepares to kill him. This chapter has some more stunning art, including a half-page image of Slaine on horseback that recalls Frazetta’s Death Dealer. Medivac 318: “Arcturus Part 11,” [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Nigel Dobbyn. Verity helps rescue the captured cat dude from Arcturus. Dry Run: “Part 6,” [W] Tise Vahimagi, [A] Kev Hopgood. I still don’t understand what this storyline is about.

CANTO III: LIONHEARTED #2 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. After fighting a giant mechanical kraken, Canto and Aulaura meet a dwarf named Iggle, and he gives them some clues to the slavers’ location. Iggle is a cute character.

THE WRONG EARTH: NIGHT & DAY #6 (Ahoy, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Jamal Igle. By this point I think I finally get which Dragonfly is which. Just as the Dragonflies are about to return to their respective Earths, Man-Dragonfly’s partner Nightsting destroys all the mirrors, and all the characters are stuck on the worlds where they currently are. This has interseting consequences for both Earths Alpha and Omega. This ending implies that a fourth Wrong Earth series is forthcoming.

COMMANDERS IN CRISIS #11 (Image, 2021) – “The Action of Desperation,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Davide Tinto. The heroes continue fighting the Extinction Society, until the Originator casts the spell “omnisapienteleunification,’ causing everyone on earth to form a uni-mind. That leaves just one more issue. At the Comics Studies Society conference last month, Christy Knopf from SUNY Cortland gave a paper about Commanders in Crisis. I only caught the tail end of that paper, and I’m curious to see what she said.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY: SPACE PIRATE CAPTAIN HARLOCK (Ablaze, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Jérôme Alquié. A French adaptation of a classic Japanese comic. Its plot is convoluted and its artwork is busy, but it is pretty intriguing. However, I would rather read the original Captain Harlock manga (of which I already have the first volume), rather than this adaptation. The character of Professor Reiji in this comic is based on Leiji Matsumoto himself.

CHALLENGE OF THE SUPER SONS #5 (DC, 2021) – “What’s Kraken?”, [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Max Raynor & Evan Stanley. The kids save Aquaman, but then they discover that they themselves are the next heroes on the scroll. In a flashback, we see how the kids allied themselves with Rora. The artwork in the flashback sequence is better than in the main story. This series is a bit formulaic, and I wish it was narrated in chronological order (that is, in the order in which Jon and Damian experienced the events).

DUNGEON FCBD 2021 (NBM, 2021) – untitled, [W] Joann Sfar & Lewis Trondheim, [A] Boulet. A preview of the new seventh volume of Donjon Zenith. I haven’t read Dungeon since NBM first published it in English, back in 2002 and 2003. I do have a few volumes of it, but  I haven’t read them. Returning to it now gives me some nice memories. The plot of this installment is that Herbert, Marvin and Isis (who’s pregnant) have to find a magic artifact to save the dungeon. Also, Marvin meets a new love interest.

RED ROOM: THE ANTISOCIAL NETWORK #3 (Fantagraphics, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Ed Piskor. Hacker Levee Turks has just gotten out of prison, where he was imprisoned for creating the encryption software that made the Red Rooms possible, though it was really his wife Rita who created it. Levee and Rita are horrified to discover what their software is being used for. This story was inspired by the actual case of the darknet market Silk Road. Piskor’s artwork in this issue is, well, number one, it’s extremely gross, but number two, it’s heavily influenced by Liefeld. It’s ironic how Liefeld’s own artwork has not evolved at all since the ‘80s, yet he’s inspired artists like Piskor who have taken his style in new directions.

SWAMP THING #6 (DC, 2021) – “In My Infancy,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. The Suicide Squad travels to Kaziranga to track down Levi Kamei, who’s visiting his brother and his father, a tribal council member. This issue made me wonder if Levi is supposed to be from an indigenous Northeast Indian tribe. That’s what the term “tribal council” suggests, and the actual Kaziranga is partly in the Karbi Anglong autonomous area of Assam. Also, Northeast Indian tribal people are often Christian, which would explain the names Jacob and Levi, and the surname Kamei seems to be associated with Naga people.

ORCS IN SPACE #3 (Oni, 2021) – untitled, [W] Justin Roiland et al, [A] François Vigneault. The orcs manage to defeat the rats, even though they spend the entire issue tied to each other. This series doesn’t appeal to me at all, and this is the last issue I’ll be getting.

2000 AD #694 (Fleetway, 1990) – Dredd: as above. Dredd and the cadets steal a ship and head to Kit’s apartment. Harlem Heroes: as above. The plane crashes, and the character who’s piloting it gets blown up, but the others survive. Slaine: as above. Slaine kills Slough Feg with his last-resort weapon, the Gae Bolg, which is also the ultimate weapon of Cu Chulainn. In a gruesome half-page panel, Slough Feg is eaten by “the bloody maggot, Crom Cruach.” Tir na nOg sinks under the sea. Medivac 318: as above. Verity and her partner are given a slap-on-the-wrist “punishment” for stealing their own ambulance. Dry Run: as above. I still don’t understand this series.

THE DEMON #10 (DC, 1973) – “The Thing That Screams,” [W/A] Jack Kirby. This story is an obvious reference to The Phantom of the Opera. Actor Farley Fairfax was cursed by the witch Galatea, giving him a hideous face. Becoming the Phantom of the Sewers, Farley kidnaps Galatea’s lookalike, Glenda Mark, and the Demon uses Glenda as a conduit to summon Galatea’s spirit so she can restore Farley’s face. But as soon as he gets his face back, Farley dies of shock. I’m writing this on what would have been Kirby’s 104th birthday.

2000 AD #695 (Fleetway, 1990) – Dredd: as above. Dredd kills Kit, and the Sisters are returned to their own dimension. Harlem Heroes: as above. One of the Heroes goes nuts and runs into enemy fire. Slaine: as above. In the framing sequence, the elderly Ukko – who is narrating this story – almost dies, but he manages to continue. Ukko explains that the goddess Danu destroyed Tir na nOg because she doesn’t like cities. Medb summons a dragon to avenge Slough Feg’s death against Slaine. Chronos Carnival: “The Caverns of Colony Five Part 1,” [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Ron Smith. A woman, a man in a wheelchair, and a dragon descend into  a cavern. This was Hilary Robinson’s last story arc for 2000 AD. Dry Run: as above. More of the same.

FLAMING CARROT COMICS #23 (Dark Horse, 1989) – “…It All Happened So Fast!”, [W/A] Bob Burden. The Carrot leads some Trekkers and Whovians against an alien invasion force. This comic doesn’t make much sense, but it’s not supposed to.

CREATURES ON THE LOOSE #37 (Marvel, 1975) – “Moonbound,” [W] David A. Kraft, [A] George Pérez. The Man-Wolf has some sort of adventure on a space station, while back on Earth, his father, JJJ, is trying to save him. This was the final issue, and it ended on a cliffhanger,  but the rest of this storyline appeared in Marvel Premiere #45 and #46. George Pérez’s layouts and compositions are beautiful, but his draftsmanship is ruined by Fred Kida’s inking.

IRON MAN #122 (Marvel, 1979) – “Journey!”, [W] David Michelinie, [A] Carmine Infantino. I read this years ago as part of the Power of Iron Man trade paperback, but I don’t remember it well, because it’s easily the worst of the issues included in that book. It’s just a boring origin recap. By the way, I used to have Iron Man #128, but I gave it away after I got the trade paperback. I regret doing that, because it’s become a key issue.

DETECTIVE COMICS #541 (DC, 1984) – “C-C-Cold!”, [W] Doug Moench, [A] Gene Colan. The Penguin travels to Antarctica to sell military secrets to the Russians. Batman follows him there and gets stranded with no way back, but the Russians are kind enough to transport him back to civilization. This is a pretty dumb story that doesn’t represent the best work of either creator. The Green Arrow backup story has good art by Shawn McManus.

SAVAGE DRAGON #46 (Image, 1998) – untitled, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Dragon fights Hercules and other demigods, until All-God, the incarnation of the elder gods, makes them break it up. Dragon fails to rescue his old girlfriend Debbie from the gods. Meanwhile, She-Dragon fights Volcanic, and Freak Force has a membership shakeup. Sadly, Beast Boy and Feezle get thrown off the team.

BATMAN #513 (DC, 1994) – “Double Deuce,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Mike Gustovich. Dick Grayson and Tim Drake, the new Batman and the old Robin, fight Two-Face. Dick and Tim’s dialogue in this issue is pretty good. Harvey Bullock was a regular cast member in the series at this point, but it’s notable that he appears in this issue, since Moench created him back in the ‘80s. And I just learned that he’s not Bullock’s official creator. Archie Goodwin created an unrelated character with the same name in 1974, and this is now considered Bullock’s first appearance.

MARVEL ADVENTURES: HULK #14 (Marvel, 2008) – “Small Doubts,” [W] Peter David, [A] Juan Santacruz. The Hulk and Rick Jones travel to a microworld where they fight the Plastic Man. This isn’t nearly as good as any typical issue of PAD’s original Hulk run.

DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS #17 (DC, 2016) – “Uprising Part 1,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Sandy Jarrell & Mirka Andolfo. I expected to hate this comic, especially since it’s about an uprising in the Berlin Ghetto. That seems like an inappropriate topic for entertainment. But this issue turned out to actually be good. While the superheroines are fighting the Axis, a preteen girl named Miriam keeps the younger children quiet by telling them stories of Biblical Jewish heroines. She repeats the heroines’ names – Shiphrah, Huldah, Abigail, Zipporah, Asenath, and Miriam – and turns into Mary (or Miri) Marvel! This is a delightful twist that effectively transplants Shazam into a Jewish cultural context, turning Mary Marvel into a Jewish feminist symbol.

SAVAGE DRAGON #73 (Image, 2000) – untitled, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Dragon goes looking for some kidnapped superpowered children. He finds that Darklord has been keeping them captive in a Covenant of the Sword base, along with some women that he’s using to breed clones. Also, in a funny scene, Dragon leaves Sgt. Marvel a letter to be opened in case he doesn’t return in three days. Sgt. Marvel opens the letter as soon as Dragon leaves, and finds that it begins “You prick – I knew you couldn’t wait three days.” This issue led into the continuity reboot in issue 75. After that point, Savage Dragon’s continuity became so confusing that I doubt if Erik himself understands it.

SUICIDE SQUAD #57 (DC, 1991) – “The Dragon’s Hoard Part V: Dragon’s Blood,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Geof Isherwood. A lot of different characters are all looking for an old cache of Viet Cong weapons. Eventually Deadshot destroys the weapons, and later, Captain Boomerang is very happy to learn that Amanda Waller has suffered non-fatal but severe injuries. Earlier in the issue, Digger executes a master stroke. While he and the Thinker are being held captive, Digger tells Oracle to activate the Thinker’s powers for five minutes – long enough for the Thinker to free them, but not long enough for him to take his revenge on Digger afterward.

2000 AD #696 (Fleetway, 1990) – Dredd: as above. Now that the Sisters are gone, the Judges converge on the four Dark Judges. Harlem Heroes: as above. The character who went crazy is saved from killing herself. The Heroes discover a plane they can use to escape. Slaine: as above. Medb summons demons to attack Slaine and his army. Slaine recites a lover’s charm to the goddess Danu, who responds by putting Slaine into a warp spasm. The charm that Slaine uses is “SATOR AREPO TENET OPERA ROTAS”, which is a word square – if the words are arranged in a 5×5 grid, then they read the same both vertically and horizontally. The so-called “Sator square” dates back to ancient times, having been found in the ruins of Pompeii, but the meaning of the words is disputed; the word AREPO appears nowhere else. “Chronos Carnival”: as above. The three characters discover a frozen ape that promises to fulfill their desires, including allowing the paraplegic man to walk again. He decides to take the offer. Dry Run: as above. I have nothing to say about this.  

DAREDEVIL #242 (Marvel, 1987) – “Caviar Killer,” [W] Ann Nocenti, [A] Keith Pollard. Factory worker Joe murders his super-rich boss, then goes on to murder a bunch of other rich people. An unscrupulous Daily Bugle reporter decides to give Joe a platform for his crusade against the rich, rather than turn him into the cops. When Daredevil shows up to arrest Joe, he has to fight his way through a crowd of Joe’s supporters, and he gets pilloried by the media as an agent of the rich elite. I like the politics behind this comic, but the problem with Ann Nocenti’s writing is that she’s too heavy-handed and unsubtle,  and this issue is a great example of that. The original murder victim is such a caricature of an rich fat cat that the reader doesn’t believe in him. He literally eats caviar in front of Joe. See Eat the Rich #1 for a much more plausible critique of the idle rich.

ACTION COMICS #432 (DC, 1974) – “Target of the Toymen!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. The Toyman comes out of retirement to help Superman defeat a younger crook who’s using his name. There’s also a Human Target backup story by Len Wein and Dick Giordano. I admit I prefer the art in the backup story to the art in the main story, even though the main story is by the Swanderson team. 

FANTASTIC FOUR #230 (Marvel, 1981) – “Firefrost and the Ebon Seeker,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Bill Sienkiewicz. The FF fight the Ebon Seeker, a bargain-basement version of Galactus. They win, but get stuck in the Negative Zone. As I have written before, Doug Moench was the worst FF writer ever. He was good at writing gritty street-level crime and action stories, not epic cosmic adventures.

JLA #23 (DC, 1998) – “Conquerors,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Howard Porter. The JLA defeat Starro with the aid of Daniel, the incarnation of Dream. This was the story that established Starro as one of DC’s most powerful villains. There are moments in this issue where Starro is depicted as a positively Lovecraftian menace. Aquaman describes it as “oceans beyond space and time… gravity sewers… older than time.” At the end of the issue, Daniel puts Starro in a treasure chest that already contains Azazel, the Corinthian’s skull, and a bottle that presumably contains the city of Baghdad.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #139 (Marvel, 139) – “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime!”, [W] Cary Burkett, [A] Brian Postman. Nick Fury’s former SHIELD teammate Dino Manelli gets engaged to a young starlet, Julie Winston, but a Maggia boss sends a Dreadnought robot to kidnap her. Not surprisingly, Julie turns out to be complicit in her own kidnapping. This issue is okay, but nowhere near the level of J.M. DeMatteis’s earlier run on this series.

ADVENTURE COMICS #455 (DC, 1978) – Superboy: “I Can’t Go Home Again,” [W] Bob Rozakis, [A] Juan Ortiz. Luthor convinces Superboy that the entire town of Smallville has turned into kryptonite. A bad story by a bad creative team. The Aqualad backup story, by Paul Kupperberg and Carl Potts, is a little bit better. Carl Potts could have been a good artist, but was mostly an editor. This run of Superboy stories  was mercifully short, and was followed by a brief run of Dollar Comics-sized issues.  

KA-ZAR #1 (Marvel, 1974) – “Return to the Savage Land!”, [W] Mike Friedrich, [A] Paul Reinman. On returning from New York to the Savage Land, Ka-Zar is kidnapped by the wizard Malgato, whose sidekick is Ka-Zar’s old enemy Maa-Gor. On the last page of this issue, Ka-Zar and Shanna meet for the first time. They didn’t become a couple until the first issue of the next Ka-Zar series. See https://www.cbr.com/ka-zar-shanna-she-devil-romance-off-panel/. Paul Reinman draws this issue in a style that’s very similar to Gil Kane’s.

BARBIE #47 (Marvel, 1994) – “Doing the Right Thing,” [W] Lisa Trusiani & Angelo DeCesare, Anne-Marie Cool. Skipper wants to drop out of school and become Barbie’s assistant. But she changes her mind when she meets a cute boy at a car wash, and then discovers that he’s illiterate. Just as Barbie Fashion #26 romanticizes homelessness, this story romanticizes adult illiteracy. The writers make no attempt to explain why Adam is illiterate. Why couldn’t he finish school? Was it because of poverty, a learning disability, or what? Barbie comics did not invite the reader to ask such questions. Instead, it seems as if Adam just happened to not learn how to read, for no particular reason. IDW’s Jem comics included a much better depiction of an illiterate adult.

2000 AD #697 (Fleetway, 1990) – Dredd: as above. The Dark Judges are finally defeated, and Judge Death falls off a building. This is the last chapter of Necropolis that I have. It’s an excellent Dredd epic. Harlem Heroes: as above. More pointless action sequences. Slaine survives his battle with Medb, and he and his people travel to a new land. One of Ukko’s attendants tries to mesmerize a girl by saying SATOR AREPO TENET OPERA ROTAS, but only gets a slap in return. Chronos Carnival: as above. Neil’s acceptance of the wish results in mayhem. Ron Smith’s art in this chapter is very striking and detailed. Dry Run: as above. Of the stories in this issue, this is one of them.

TRUTH: RED, WHITE AND BLACK #7 (Marvel, 2003) – “The Blackvine,” [W] Robert Morales, [A] Kyle Baker. Cap confronts the man who was responsible for Isaiah’s suffering, and discovers that the Super-Soldier Serum was the result of an eugenics project. Cap visits Isaiah’s wife and grandchildren. We learn that Isaiah was jailed for 17 years for stealing Cap’s costume, and after being released, he suffered sterility and mental deterioration. But he did get photographed with many famous black leaders, including Morales and Baker themselves. Cap returns Isaiah’s costume to him. Truth’s conclusion is pessimistic but sadly plausible. Overall, Truth: Red, White and Black was one of the most important Marvel comics of the 2000s, because it was one of Marvel’s first serious attempts to engage with their own racist legacy. It’s a pity that Morales wrote so few other comics.

BATMAN #607 (DC, 2002) – “Death-Wish for Two Conclusion,” [W] Ed Brubaker & Geoff Johns, [A] Scott McDaniel. Batman is trying to prevent Deadshot from assassinating David Cain, but Cain doesn’t want the help and would be happy to be assassinated. This was only an okay issue, and Scott McDaniel’s art is too cartoony for this sort of Batman story.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #49 (Marvel, 1976) – “Madness is All in the Mind!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Sal Buscema. Spidey, Iron Man and Jean DeWolff battle the Wraith, who is in fact Jean’s brother Brian. Jean also has to contend with her sexist father. This issue is better than an average Bill Mantlo comic, but perhaps its best part is the simple yet striking cover by John Romita.

DENNIS THE MENACE BONUS MAGAZINE SERIES #193 (Fawcett, 1979) – “Saint Santa” and other stories, [W/A] unknown. A bunch of Christmas-themed stories. In one of them, Dennis meets the Dutch Sinterklaas and his sidekick Zwarte Piet. Unsurprisingly there’s no mention of Zwarte Piet’s racist associations. This issue has some mild Christian overtones, but they’re not nearly as obvious as in Archie Giant Series #218.  

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #591 (Marvel, 2009) – “Face Front Part 2: ‘Nuff Said!”, [W] Dan Slott, [A] Barry Kitson w/ Jesse Delperdang & Dale Eaglesham. Spidey and the FF manage to resolve the conflict between the Dregan and Kort people. Spidey reveals his secret identity to the FF. Meanwhile, a series of cutscenes, drawn by a different artist, show us what’s been happening on Earth while the FF and Spidey were in the Macroverse. When they get back to Earth, they discover that two months have passed and that JJJ has just been elected mayor of New York.

SECRET WARS 2099 #4 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Will Sliney. A crossover story starring all the 2099 characters. This comic makes little sense and is not well written.

BARBIE #44 (Marvel, 1994) – “African Adventure,” [W] Lisa Trusiani & Angelo DeCesare, [A] Barb Rausch. Barbie and Skipper travel to Niger, where they help a Wodaabe girl find her nomadic family. Later, they visit a chimpanzee park in (the country then called) Zaire. When I saw that this issue took place in Africa, I was expecting it to be terrible. I was pleasantly surprised that the creators seem to have made a genuine effort to depict Niger and the Wodaabe people accurately. However, as usual for this series, they dance around difficult topics. We see that people in Niger use mules for transportation and that they have to get water from faraway wells, but we’re not invited to consider the historical reasons for such poverty and underdevelopment.

SECRET WARS 2099 #5 (Marvel, 2015) – as above. More of the same. I shouldn’t have bought this. Peter David is no longer the writer he used to be.

R.E.B.E.L.S. ’95 #8 (DC, 1995) – “Money,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Derec Aucoin. The infant Lyrl Dox leads half of the former LEGION against the other half, including his own father, Vril Dox. This issue is okay, but it’s not as funny or exciting as the L.E.G.I.O.N. series.

2000 AD #792 (Fleetway, 1992) – Dredd: “Judgment Day Part 10,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Peter Doherty. Dredd and Hershey fight an army of zombies and are nearly overwhelmed, but McGruder rescues them. Kola Kommandos: untitled, [W] Steve Parkhouse, [A] Anthony Williams. The Okay Kola Korporation’s 200th anniversary gala is invaded by a blue-skinned white-haired terrorist. Zenith: “Phase IV Part 1: Starting Over,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. Zenith watches a TV program about himself, then goes to see St. John. Dragon Tales: “Enter the Dragon,” [W] Frances Lynn, [A] José Casanovas Jr. An evil king and queen are destroyed by a dragon. Casanovas’s art in this story is beautiful; he powerfully conveys the king and queen’s greed and decadence, and he makese great use of color. Future Shocks: “We Come in Peace,” [W/A] Tim Bollard. A young boy saves an alien’s life, but the alien turns out to be less peaceful than it claims. Robo-Hunter: “Return to Verdus Prologue,” [W] Mark Millar, [A] José Casanovas Jr. The very first Robo-Hunter story is retold, but from the perspective of the robots of Verdus, for whom Slade is a villain. Then we see that Sam Slade is being held in prison on Verdus.

CEREBUS #70 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1985) – “Same as It Ever Was,” [W/A] Dave Sim. In her final publisher’s note, Deni Loubert announces that she’s starting Renegade Press and taking all the non-Cerebus titles with her. The Regency Elf leads Cerebus on a long trip back to the Regency Hotel, then she tells Cerebus to stop doing what he’s doing, but she refuses to say what it is that Cerebus is doing. The Regency Elf is one of the most fun characters in the series.

FOUR COLOR #855 (Dell, 1957) – “Apache Dowry” and “Kingdom of Terror,” [W] Otto Binder, [A] Howard Purcell. This is based on a TV show that was itself based on a movie. It stars Indian agent Tom Jeffords and his friend, the Apache chief Cochise. The film Broken Arrow was noted for its sympathetic portrayal of Native Americans, at least by 1950s standards, and “Apache Dowry” depicts the Apache in a fairly positive light. Its plot is that a young Apache man steals two horses as a bride price for his girlfriend, and Tom and Cochise have to collaborate to prevent violence while respecting both Apache and American laws. The Apaches in this story are portrayed in a far less stereotypical way, compared to Indians in other Dell Western comics. In the backup story, Tom and Cochise rescue some slaves from an Arizona plantation where slavery is still legal, since it’s still governed by the terms of its original Mexican land grant. (https://www.instagram.com/p/CTDYhznrj6e/) There is no historical basis for this at all.

DC ESSENTIALS: BATMAN AND ROBIN #1 (DC, 2016) – “Born to Kill,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Patrick Gleason. A reprint of the first issue of the 2011 Batman and Robin series. Bruce and Damian visit the spot where Bruce’s parents were killed, then they stop a theft of nuclear materials from a research reactor. We’re also introduced to a new villain, Nobody.

I went back to Heroes today, August 28. This time I had lunch at the Workman’s Friend.

ONCE & FUTURE #19 (Boom!, 2021) – “Monarchies in the UK,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. As Britain descends into chaos, Duncan, Rose and Gran narrowly escape from some fairies, who are depicted as utterly terrifying insectoid monsters. Meanwhile, Arthur confronts a rival king. I’m not sure if we’ve seen this other king before or not. The highlight of this issue is when Gran says that Rose’s parents can take care of themselves, and Rose says “They’re retired academics! They really can’t!”

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #19 (Boom!, 2021) – “Me and My Monster Part Four,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. Aaron is bullied by two other boys named Tybalt and Paris. All three of these names are from Shakespeare, and the Shakespearean characters by these names all came to bad ends. Meanwhile, the Oscuratype shows Erica a false memory of her parents’ deaths, but she sees through the illusion and defeats it. The full-page depiction of Octo’s true form is very striking.

BERMUDA #2 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] John Layman, [A] Nick Bradshaw. Bobby runs away to the nearest human settlement, which is full of pirates. Bermuda has to save Bobby from being impressed onto a ship. Meanwhile, the Mers prepare to sacrifice Andi in order to open a portal to the outside world. Nick Bradshaw’s draftsmanship in this issue is spectacular. We’ve already seen that he can draw giant monsters and sexy girls, but he’s equally good at drawing pirates.

STRANGE ACADEMY #12 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. This is one of the last of the fun, kid-oriented Marvel titles. This issue, we realize that Duncan’s coat is Mr. Misery, the villain from Aaron and Bachalo’s Dr. Strange. The kids defeat Mr. Misery by giving it more angst than it can handle.

JONNA AND THE UNPOSSIBLE MONSTERS #5 (Oni, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Chris Samnee, [W] Laura Samnee. A man tricks Jonna and Rainbow into following him, then imprisons Jonna in a cage and forces her to fight a monster in an arena. The monster in this issue isn’t quite as impressive as the ones earlier in the series, but this issue is faster-paced than the last few.

ASCENDER #18 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Tim and Mother’s conflict is resolved by the intervention of Effie, aka Queen Between, who’s both magic and science at once. Effie absorbs all the magic and science energy and returns it to the galaxy. Effie and Mia are finally reunited. Tim is about to die, but saves himself by downloading his brain into Kanto. And they all live happily after. This was a powerful and heartwarming conclusion to the entire Descender/Ascender epic.

MADE IN KOREA #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Holt, [A] George Schall. The two evil kids start shooting up the school. Once Jesse realizes what they’re doing, she saves the surviving students and kills both the shooters. But she’s so traumatized by all this that she accepts Chul’s offer to return to Korea. This series is a nice combination of cute and grim.

EAT THE RICH #1 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sarah Gailey, [A] Pius Bak. It’s going to be even harder to distinguish between Sarah Gailey and Sarah Graley, now that they’re both doing comics. College student Astor invites his new girlfriend Joey to a party at his parents’ beach house. We realize at once that Astor’s parents are offensively rich, and that Joey is out of her element among them. It’s obvious that Joey needs to turn around and leave, regardless of the consequences. And that’s before we discover the twist, which is that Astor’s parents and their friends are slaughtering and eating their own servants. This is one of the scariest horror comics in recent memory, and that’s because it’s so believable. I suspect that real ultra-rich people are just like the ones in this comic, besides the cannibalism. Eat the Rich #1 is a terrifying comic, and an impressive start to Sarah Gailey’s comics career.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #120 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Jodi Nishijima. The Turtles defeat the rioters and pursue them to Hob’s place, where Lita and the weasels are being held captive. Meanwhile, Hob has a standoff with his rebellious partner Ray. Raphael and Hob beat each other up, and Hob finds himself facing a horde of angry mutants. This is an exciting issue.

SAVE YOURSELF #3 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Bones Leopard, [A] Kelly Matthews & Nichole Matthews. Gigi and Mia try to rescue Shawn from the Lovely Trio, but the Trio’s ship gets blown up with Shawn and Gigi still on it. The little blue alien in this issue is pretty cute.

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