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November and December reviews

12-13-21

I had to interrupt my previous reviews because of a horrible personal tragedy that I don’t really want to talk about. These are some more comics from Giant-Size Charlotte Mini-Con:

RICHIE RICH VAULTS OF MYSTERY #45 (Harvey, 1982) – I want to collect more Harvey comics; the trouble is that there are so many of them, and it’s hard to tell one from another. “The World’s Worst Weather”, uncredited: Richie and his robot maid Irona defeat a mad scientist, Dr. Blemish, who’s trying to use a weather-manipulating device to destroy Richie’s mansion. “Sunken Ship Mystery”: Richie’s evil cousin Reggie Van Dough tries to stop Richie from lifting a sunken ship. Both of these are entertaining adventure stories, if somewhat generic. The main stories are interspersed with one-page gag strips.

DETECTIVE COMICS #337 (DC, 1965) – “Deep-Freeze Menace!”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Carmine Infantino. Batman and Robin fight an unfrozen caveman, Klag, who mistakes Bruce Wayne for his enemy Brugg. I don’t know where the “unfrozen caveman” trope originated, but it was enough of a cliché that Saturday Night Live made fun of it. Like most Gardner Fox stories, this one has significnat SFF elements. Elongated Man: “Case of the 20-Grand Pay-Off!”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Carmine Infantino. Sue Dibny tries to figure out why Ralph is pretending that another woman is his wife. This story is unusual because it’s almost a Sue Dibny solo story, though it’s annoying that, as we eventually discover, Ralph replaced Sue with a lookalike to prevent her from endangering herself.

DOCTOR STRANGE #173 (Marvel, 1968) – “…While a World Awaits!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Gene Colan. This issue is mostly a big fight between Dr. Strange and Dormammu. The subplot is that a surgeon wants to hire Doc as a consultant. This issue’s plot is rather unoriginal, but Gene Colan’s artwork in the action scenes is brilliant. I think of him as a great artist of gritty urban stories, but he was also a great artist of supernatural horror, and Tom Palmer was his ideal inker.

STAR SLAMMERS #5 (IDW, 2014) – “The Minoan Agendas Chapter Two: The Empire!”, [W/A] Walt Simonson. A continuation of the story where a Star Slammer is trapped aboard a Minoan spaceship. Star Slammers is not as exciting or funny as some of Simonson’s other work, but it is fun, and his artwork is always brilliant.

THE SPECTRE #2 (DC, 1968) – “Die, Spectre – Again!”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Neal Adams. The Spectre and Mona battle a criminal magician, Dirk Rawley, and his “etheric double.” Like many Gardner Fox comics, including Detective Comics #337, this issue’s plot depends on a bunch of mystical, vaguely scientific-sounding nonsense. At the same time, it’s also a pretty standard superhero/detective story, while most later Spectre stories are in the horror genre. Of course the real appeal of this comic is Neal Adams’ thrilling artwork.

BATMAN #95 (DC, 2020) – “Joker War Part One,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Jorge Jimenez. The Joker has taken control of Wayne Manor and Wayne Enterprises, giving him access to all of Batman’s secrets, and we discover that he’s also anticipated Batman’s backup plan. I’ve gotten thoroughly sick of the Joker – more on that later, probably – and this is not my favorite issue, though it is quite scary.

TV STARS #1 (Marvel, 1978) – Captain Caveman: “The Shipping Magnate,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Dan Spiegle. Captain Caveman and his Teen Angels defeat a plot to steal ships. This is an exciting adventure story, much like Evanier and Spiegle’s Scooby-Doo stories. In fact, it’s essentially a Scooby-Doo with Captain Caveman substituted for Scooby. This issue also includes a Shake, Rattle and Roll story by Evanier and Owen Fitzgerald, and a Grape Ape story by Evanier and Frank Smith. In the latter story, a character goes to a restaurant that advertises “all you can eat for five dollars” and has a bowl of soup, and then the owner throws him out, saying “A bowl of soup is all you can eat for five bucks!” I believe Evanier reused this gag in an episode of Garfield and Friends.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #794 (Marvel, 2018) – “Threat Level: Red Part 1 – Last Chance,” [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Stuart Immonen. Norman Osborn’s agents steal the Zodiac Key from its vault, but Spidey and Mockingbird defeat Scorpio before he can reclaim it. However, it turns out the Zodiac Key plot was just a diversion, and what Norman was really after was the Carnage symbiote. I hate Norman Osborn even more than I hate the Joker.

SCOUT #17 (Eclipse, 1987) – “Key to the Hgihway,” [W/A] Tim Truman. This story is named after an old blues song. This issue, Scout and Monday the Eliminator travel west across the country, and Scout has a vision in which he fights a giant monster with help from Mr. Spook and the Chow Sol’jers. A Scout/Beanworld crossover is a bizarre idea, and yet it makes perfect sense in context. The Beans and their dialogue are drawn and lettered by Larry Marder himself. This issue also includes a seemingly unrelated story by Truman and John K. Snyder, which appears between the two parts of “Key to the Highway.”

X-MEN #48 (Marvel, 1968) – “Beware Computo, Commander of the Robot Hive!”, [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Don Heck & Werner Roth. Cyclops and Marvel Girl fight a giant robot named Computo, which, as we later learn, was built by Quasimodo. There’s also a five-page backup feature starring the Beast – more of a feature than a story, since it has no plot and is just a description of his powers. The best thing about this issue is the opening sequences where Jean is at a modeling shoot.

CURSE WORDS #20 (Image, 2019) – “Queen Margaret! Part Five,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. Wizord fights a giant Eiffel Tower and loses. Jacques Zacques causes chaos in the Hole World. Margaret finally recovers her memories and calls upon the tiger people to help Wizord out. At the convention I also bought the remaining four issues of this series, but I haven’t had time to read them yet.

DETECTIVE COMICS #425 (DC, 1972) – “The Stage is Set for Murder!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Irv Novick. Batman solves a murder mystery at a Shakespeare-in-the-park festival. The culprit is an actor who’s angry at the director’s departures from tradition. The director is named Del Sartre, after Jean-Paul Sartre, obviously, and perhaps Del Close. I don’t know if Del Close was already famous in 1972. This issue includes a Jason Bard backup story by Frank Robbins and Don Heck. It also has a brilliant cover by Bernie Wrightson, though the cover art only takes up about 75% of the cover, thanks to the gigantic logo and sidebar.

MICKEY MOUSE #220 (Gladstone, 1986) – “Mickey Mouse and the Seven Ghosts Chapter Two,” [W] Ted Osborne, [A] Floyd Gottfredson. Mickey, Donald and Goofy investigate a haunted house inhabited by seven alleged ghosts. The ghosts are rather humorous and are an obvious fraud, yet this story is still rather creepy and mysterious, since the reader can’t tell how or why the fraud is being maintained. This issue ends before the mystery is solved, and I really want to get issue 221 so that I can find out what was going on.

NEW MUTANTS #2 (Marvel, 2020) – “Space Jail,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Rod Reis. The New Mutants are on trial in space court. The lizard lawyer from Al Ewing’s Rocket Raccoon fails to get them off, but Cannonball and Smasher show up and get the team released to their custody. Then they’re sent to recruit Deathbird. The issue is narrated by Bobby, who Hickman depicts as an egomaniacal jerk. Hickman’s characterization is not his strongest suit – his characters tend to be one-notes – but he’s certainly better at characterization than some writers, cough cough Bendis. Rod Reis’s artwork in this issue resembles Sienkiewicz’s art from the classic era of this series.

RICHIE RICH & CASPER #13 (Harvey, 1976) – “The Return of Dr. Frankenspook,” [W] unknown, [A] Warren Kremer. Richie, Casper and Wendy encounter Dr. Frankenspook, a villain who terrorizes anyone who looks at him. To defeat him they have to combine their talents. Richie mistakenly thinks the whole story is a dream. The Harveyville Fun Times says that Richie Rich & Casper was a classic series and a good introduction to Harvey in general. That sounds like a fair assessment, and I will be looking for more issues of this series.

ROBIN, SON OF BATMAN #4 (DC, 2015) – “Year of Blood Part Four,” [W/A] Patrick Gleason. Damian, Nobody and Ducard fight Deathstroke and then discover a Lazarus Pit. Gleason’s writing and artwork here are both very entertaining. I want to collect more of this series. Besides being interesting in itself, it’s the basis of Tim Seeley’s current Robin series.

HEART THROBS #103 (DC, 1966) – “What About All Those Other Girls?”, [W] unknown, [A] Tony Abruzzo? Linda Waring is obsessed because her boyfriend had other girlfriends before her. Eventually he reminds her that she had other boyfriends too. Being jealous of a partner’s past relationships is an unfortunately timeless problem. “Here to Stay,” [W] unknown, [A] Werner Roth. An unnamed woman decides to give up on love, but then she changes her mind. This story is reprinted from 1960. “3 Girls – Their Lives – Their Loves,” [W] Barbara Friedlander, [A] Jay Scott Pike. This is part two of a long-running soap-opera-esque serial story. Its plot is complicated and lacks a central hook or theme, but the very idea of an ongoing story in a romance comic is unusual. A big thing British girls’ comics had that American ones lacked was continued stories.

More new comics from the previous trip to Heroes:

MADE IN KOREA #5 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Holt, [A] George Schall. Jesse is back in Korea but is continuing to have nightmares about shooting up her school. Also, she’s traumatized about not being able to grow up. There’s a subtext here about transgender identity, which does not become clear until next issue. Finally Jesse runs away and gets recaptured by people from Wook-Jin. By the time I read issue 6 I had forgotten what happened in this issue, but that’s not the creators’ fault.

ROBIN #7 (DC, 2021) – “The Final Four,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Gleb Melnikov. Damian realizes that Mother Soul is Ra’s al Ghul’s mom. Then he fights Flatline and kills her, to his own sorrow, and advances to the final round. This comic is a bit of a guilty pleasure, but it’s really fun.

INKBLOT #12 AND 13 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Rusty Gladd, [A] Emma Kubert. MOW. revisits the modern-day old lady and her granddaughter Eliza, from a previous issue. After an encounter with a badly drawn Lovecraftian creature, MOW., Eliza and Eliza’s friend get sucked into a portal to the source of all magic. This series continues to be very confusing because of the lack of any apparent order to the events. I was thinking that maybe the stories were told in the order in which they happened to the cat, but issue 13 ends with MOW. in the ruins of Archylon, and issue 14 begins with MOW. under the sea, and we’re not shown how he got from one place to the other. I lost my review of issue 12.

MY BAD #1 (Ahoy, 2021) – “Happy Birthday!”, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Peter Krause, etc. A bunch of rather silly superhero parody stories, written by Mark Russell and an unfamiliar name, Bryce Ingman. This issue is okay, but so far I don’t get the point of this series, and I haven’t gotten around to issue 2 yet (I probably will within the next couple days).

THE RUSH #1 (Vault, 2021) – “The Trail,” [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Nathan Gooden. In 1899, Nettie Bridger visits the Yukon Territory in search of her missing teenage son Caleb. She discovers that her son’s dead, and that a demon called the Pale was somehow responsible. This series is very frightening and appears to be historically accurate; in particular, Nettie’s writing feels like Victorian-era prose. It’s been a while since Si Spurrier’s last creator-owned series, and I’m glad he’s publishing another one.

THE BLUE FLAME #4 AND 5 (Vault, 2021) – “The Weight of Sorrow’s Gravity,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Adam Gorham. I lost my review of issue 4. This issue, the trial continues. Sam goes to a support group where some asshole yells at him. We start to see more connections between the two plotlines.

DARK BLOOD #4 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Latoya Morgan, [A] Moisés Hidalgo. The most memorable sequence in this issue is when the protagonist is captured by Nazi commandos during the war. At the end, he confronts the doctor who experimented on him. The annoying feature of this series is its use of three different simultaneous timelines. More on this when I get to issue 5.

MISTER MIRACLE: THE SOURCE OF FREEDOM #6 (DC, 2021) – “The Source of Freedom Part Six,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Fico Ossio. Shilo defeats N’vir Free, meets his parents, arranges a date with Denise, and unmasks in public. I liked the parts of this miniseries that were actually about Shilo, and I liked the art, but N’vir Free was an ineffective villain. The writer never explained why a child of Scott and Barda would so thoroughly corrupt her parents’ legacy.

SWAMP THING #9 (DC, 2021) – “Conduit Part 7,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. Harper Pilgrim shows Jennifer Reece the body of a previous Swamp Thing. Hedera, aka Jacob Kamei, attacks Pilgrim’s facility. Levi shows up at the end. I was kind of lukewarm about this series at first, and when I read issue 10, I had trouble remembering what issue 9 was about. But this is a high-quality series, and I’m glad it’s been given an extra six issues.

CAMPISI: THE DRAGON INCIDENT #3 (AfterShock, 2021) – “The Cyclops,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Marco Locati. Sonny strikes a deal with a rival crime family to surrender the Stray, but his boss refuses to accept the deal. Some troops try to kill the dragon, but obviously it doesn’t work. Not a very eventful issue.

AQUAMAN: THE BECOMING #2 (DC, 2021) – “Until Proven Innocent,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Diego Olortegui & Skylar Partridge. Mera helps Jackson escape from Atlantis. Mera herself is harassed by her political opponents. This is an exciting issue, and it includes some really cute Andy moments.

S.W.O.R.D. #9 (Marvel, 2021) – “Friends in High Places,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Jacopo Camagni. Ororo and the Imperial Guard fight a group of assassins sent to kill Xandra. There is a secret about these assassins that I didn’t realize when I read this issue; see my review of #10 below. On the last page, we discover that Wiz-Kid is a traitor.

 DAREDEVIL #91 (Marvel, 1972) – “Fear is the Key!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Gene Colan. Matt and Natasha apparently break up, and Matt discovers the identity of the new Mister Fear. This issue is reasonably well-written, but what makes it great is the artwork. As I stated in several previous reviews, Tom Palmer was the perfect inker for Gene Colan.

THE GOOD ASIAN #6 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Alexandre Tefenkgi. Edison Hark confronts Hui Long and discovers him to be Ivy Chen’s brother. Also, Hui Long’s face is horribly scarred. This is a genuinely excellent series, but its intricate plot makes it very difficult to read in single-issue form.

THE SILVER COIN #6 (Image, 2021) – “High Score,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Michael Walsh. In the early ‘90s, a little boy finds the coin and uses it to play Mortal Kombat – excuse me, “Horror Fighter 2x”. The coin makes him unbeatable at the game, but it also causes him to start killing people in real life, and finally he gets absorbed into the game. This comic gives me nice memories of the era when I started playing video games.

MS. TREE #25 (Renegade, 1985) – “Prisoner Cell Block Hell,” [W] Max Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. Ms. Tree is in the women’s prison, I’m not sure why, and one of her fellow prisoners is trying to asssassinate her. Not just one but several, in fact; however, the main culprit is a sweet little old lady whose son Ms. Tree killed. This issue includes an interesting mix of different female characters.

CEREBUS #56 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “Origin of the Wolveroach Part 3: The Mystic We,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This is one of the rarer back issues of Cerebus, because it’s a Wolverine parody. This issue, Cerebus and the Countess have a lot of relationship drama which ends in a breakup, and Cerebus has some telepathic conversations with Charles X. Claremont. The Countess is a fascinating character. She’s superficially similar to Astoria, but without Astoria’s desire for power.

BATMAN #115 (DC, 2021) – “Fear State Part 4,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Bengal & Jorge Jimenez. I don’t understand what this issue is about, but it has various plot threads involving Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, and Batman and Miracle Molly. It’s entertaining, though not very accessible to a new reader. I’ve been collecting a lot of back issues of James Tynion’s Batman, but I don’t want to add it to my pull list, because he’s about to leave the series.

GOOD LUCK #5 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matthew Erman, [A] Stefano Simeone. An incomprehensible conclusion to a series that never made any sense. I stand by my verdict that Good Luck was the worst Boom! comic of the past several years.

A THING CALLED TRUTH #1 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Iolanda Zanfardino, [A] Elisa Romboli. We begin with a Bonnie-and-Clyde-esque sequence in which two women drive over an opening drawbridge. Then we cut to a flashback in which one of the women, Mag, is cruelly cheated out of her job in medical research. Mag then falls asleep in her car, and wakes up to discover that another woman has stolen it and driven it from Germany to Italy, with her in it. The plot in this issue is somewhat implausible, but as we discover next issue, Mag’s medical research is really not what this series is about. A Thing Called Truth is entertaining and has cute artwork. The one problem is the rather awkward and unidiomatic translation from Italian. Awkward translations are a persistent problem with European comics published in English.

BLACK WIDOW #12 (Marvel, 2021) – “Die by the Blade Part 1 of 4,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Elena Casagrande. Natasha and her friends go to a suspicious charity auction where they fight some animal-themed enemies. Natasha encounters an old enemy of hers named the Living Blade. I don’t remember much about this issue. Like many other Kelly Thompson comics, Black Widow has a single title character but is really a team comic.

INFERNO #2 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Books of Destiny,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Stefano Caselli. Destiny is finally resurrected. Mystique manipulates the Quiet Council members into adding Destiny to the council, but then Colossus is voted onto the council too. Emma learns Moira’s secret. Some stuff happens with Orchis that I don’t remember. The best thing about this issue is the scene where Mystique manipulates the vote.

SEARCH FOR HU #1 AND 2 (AfterShock, 2021) – “You’ll Have to Change,” [W] Jon Tsuei & Steve Orlando, [A] Rubine. Aaron introduces himself to the Margolis crime family, and there’s a lot of shooting. This issue is again full of action movie cliches; there’s one panel where a guy is holding a pistol sideways. At least it was enjoyable enough that I was willing to try one more issue… but see my review of #3 below. I lost my review of issue 1.

HUMAN REMAINS #2 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Sally Cantirino. Just some more development of the plot and characters from issue 1, with no real surprises. This series has a really cool premise, though.

FRONTIERSMAN #2 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Patrick Kindlon, [A] Marco Ferrari. The Frontiersman is visited by a cosmic-powered superhero named Galaxie. After a fight scene, the Frontiersman agrees to help Galaxie reunite with his ex-girlfriend, since they have a child together… except it’s actually a solar system and Galaxie is its mother. It’s confusing. This issue is a surprising departure from issue 1, since it’s more about parenthood than environmental politics, but it’s an excellent issue anyway.

LAURA AND OTHER STORIES #1 (Ablaze, 2021) – “Songs” etc., [W/A] Guillem March. Guillem March’s artwork in this issue is beautiful, particularly his drawings of women, although the art is reproduced too small. I think the aspect ratio of the original pages was different from that of an American comic book. However, Laura’s plot is just a bunch of pointless relationship drama, and it’s not nearly as interesting from a narrative perspective as Karmen was. Like Karmen, Laura appears to be set in Palma de Mallorca.

OUT OF BODY #5 (AfterShock, 2021) – “The Unquiet Grave,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Inaki Miranda. Dr. Dan and Abi defeat August Fryne’s plot, but Dan gets stuck in the body of a dying man and becomes a ghost permanently. I really don’t remember much about this issue. I think Peter Milligan may have difficulty concluding stories in a way that’s satisfying and easy to understand.

WONDER GIRL #3 AND 4 (DC, 2021) – “Homecoming Part Four,” [W/A] Joëlle Jones, [A] Adriana Melo. After training with the centaur Chiron, Yara is summoned to Olympus to become Hera’s champion. So far this series has not quite fulfilled the promise of Future State: Wonder Woman. I lost my review of issue 3.

Next Heroes trip:

MAZEBOOK #3 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Will fails to find the entrance to the maze, locks himself out of his apartment, but spends the night (chastely) with his neighbor, who becomes a new love interest. Will then gets a tattoo of the maze, which allows him to get through a wall that was impenetrable before, and he finds himself inside the maze city, talking to a dog. This is a truly fascinating series.  

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #5 (DC, 2021) – “Who’s Got You?”, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] John Timms. Jon deals with some problems caused by Henry Bendix, then he and Jay have their first kiss. This was one of the more controversial comic books of the year, but it’s a very cute and sweet piece of work, and only humorless bigots would have a problem with it.

THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE #6 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Alvaro Martinez Bueno. Much of this issue consists of flashbacks to Reg’s history with Walter. Finally, Reg tells the other characters that he helped Walter design the house, but Walter kept taking away his memory. More importantly, Reg thinks that the world still exists, and that the group  can escape the house and save the world. But then Walter appears and makes everyone forget that Reg told them this. The Nice House on the Lake is a terrific series, even if some of Tynion’s other current works are still better.

SIX SIDEKICKS OF TRIGGER KEATON #6 (Image, 2021) – “Precinct Blues,” [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Chris Schweizer. The sidekicks discover that Luther Alazar killed Trigger Keaton. After some very funny action sequences, Luther offers to resurrect their careers if they let him go free. What happens next is a little ambiguous, but my impression is that they send Luther to jail anyway, and then Richard produces a new action show starring the five other sidekicks. Then they all learn that Laszlo Wells has been killed, creating a hook for a possible sequel. This was an incredibly funny comic and I hope there’ll be a second volume.

MAMO #5 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Sas Milledge. Jo agrees to become the new witch of Haresden, since she wanted to stay there anyway. Jo and Orla become an official couple, and Jo’s mom is healed. Mamo was a beautiful work, a perfect blend of dark fantasy and tender warmth. It was one of the best miniseries of the year.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #17 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcello Grassi. The devil character tries to get Ace to use the Zone’s Anything Machine to cure the plague right then and there, which would also mean the devil would defeat all the other zones. At least I think that’s what the offer is. It’s tempting, but instead Ace uses the Anything Machine to create a bunch of heroes to fight the devil. There are also some flashbacks to Ace’s past history. I assume next issue is the end of this storyline.

GROO MEETS TARZAN #4 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Tom Yeates. Groo and Tarzan team up to defeat the poachers. Mark finally rescues Sergio from the safari park. This was a fun miniseries, and I certainly enjoyed it more than Fray of the Gods or Play of the Gods. However, while the Mark-and-Sergio plot was funny, it had nothing at all to do with the Groo plot. The letters page says that the next miniseries will be called Gods Against Groo. I’m impressed that despite his age Sergio shows no signs of ever stopping.  

STRANGE ACADEMY #13 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. The kids leave the school and visit Marie Laveau’s tomb. Zoe tells her origin story, and we learn that a wish-granting creature called Gaslamp gave her more and more wishes until it killed her. Calvin learns the wrong lesson from this story and asks Zoe to introduce him to Gaslamp, so he can wish for his magic back. Back at school, the Imperator tricks Zoe into freeing him from prison, but that might actually be a good thing. I had forgotten that the Imperator was the villain from Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo’s Dr. Strange. The entire Strange Academy series is a spiritual sequel to that Dr. Strange run.

EAT THE RICH #4 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sarah Gailey, [A] Pius Bak. Joey gets addicted to human meat, but also develops a crush on the servant Petal. Joey sees Astor’s dad trying to murder a servant who wants to terminate her contract. When Joey tries to save the servant, Astor’s dad tries to kill her too, but just as Joey is trying to tell Astor, he proposes to her. Awkward. Eat the Rich would be the best horror comic of the year if it weren’t for Stray Dogs.

GETTING DIZZY #1 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Shea Fontana, [A] Celia Moscote. Fifteen-year-old Dizzy (short for Desideria) discovers a pair of magic roller skates that transform her into the magical Burb Defender, and she has to use her powers to defeat the Negatrixes, who feed on negative emotions. This comic is maybe a little too cute for its own good, but it’s funny, and it reminds me of Rainbow Brite or Strawberry Shortcake. Getting Dizzy is Shea Fontana’s first creator-owned comic. She previously worked on DC Super Hero Girls.

PRIMORDIAL #3 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. Donald and Yelena, Laika’s former caretaker, have to flee from a bunch of secret agents. Meanwhile, Laika and the two monkeys have some bizarre experiences in space. Andrea Sorrentino was already one of the top artists in monthly comics, but with Primordial he’s reaching even greater heights. The Laika and Donald sequences are drawn in totally different styles, and the Laika sequence includes some stunning images, especially the two-page splash with the monkey surrounded by fragmented images of alien creatures.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #78 (Marvel, 2021) – “Beyond Chapter Four,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Sara Pichelli. Ben fights Morbius and loses badly. MJ and Felicia try to convince Peter to wake up. Ben and Janine go on a date, but Kraven is watching them. This isn’t Kelly Thompson’s best comic, but at least it’s a new Spider-Man comic by a writer I like, and those have always been somewhat rare.

MY DATE WITH MONSTERS #1 (AfterShock, 2021) – “Monsters and True Love,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Andy MacDonald. Seven years ago, Risa and Sato Himura participated in an experiment that released dream monsters in the world. Sato was killed, and his and Risa’s daughter Machi witnessed her father’s death. As a result, everyone now has to take pills to avoid being killed by dream monsters. Machi is now a living conduit between the real world and the dream world, and if she dies, the infestation of the real world by monsters will get even worse. The funny consequence of this is that now that Risa is single, Machi’s monster bodyguard accompanies Risa on dates. My Date with Monsters’s premise is somewhat confusing, but it’s a nice blend of Tobin’s humorous and funny styles of writing, and I really like the design of Hethri.

CROSSOVER #9 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Geoff Shaw. The Powers detectives interview Ellie and Ryan’s dad. The interrogation scenes in this issue are an instantly recognizable parody of Bendis’s style of dialogue; there’s one double-page splash with about 24 interlocking word balloons. https://www.instagram.com/p/CWmLD0CFpbV/ At the end of the issue, the detectives discover that Scott Snyder has been murdered with a Batarang.

ROBIN & BATMAN #1 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. After Bruce Wayne grounds him, a young Dick Grayson sneaks out of the mansion and runs into Killer Croc, and Batman has to save him. Neither Bruce nor Dick is happy with this. Robin & Batman covers some rather familiar territory, but it has excellent artwork and strong characterization. Robin’s costume is the only thing in this comic that’s brightly colored; it contrasts with the muddy tones in which everything else is rendered.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #32 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Christopher Allen. Miles rescues Starling from Taskmaster, but he refuses to reveal who he was working for. The Beyond Corporation serves Miles a cease-and-desist notice telling him to stop calling himself Spider-Man. This story arc was not Saladin’s best.

SUPERGIRL: WOMAN OF TOMORROW #5 (DC, 2021) – “The Lake, the Trees and the Monsters,” [W] Tom King, [A] Bilquis Evely. Supergirl and Ruthye are marooned on a planet with a Kryptonite sun. Worse, the planet is full of monsters, and Ruthye has to keep them both alive until the sun goes down and Kara gets her powers back. This is an exciting, harrowing read. The problem with this issue’s premise is, if Kara’s powers work the way this issue suggests they do, then why doesn’t Superman lose his powers at night?

BOUNTIFUL GARDEN #3 (Mad Cave, 2021) – untitled, [W] Ivy Noelle Weir, [A] Kelly Williams. On the planet, the kids discover a mysterious temple, and also some disturbing clues about what happened to their spaceship’s sister ships. On the ship, the other kids are in deadly danger. Like Yasmeen or Shadow Doctor, Bountiful Garden is an excellent series that’s probaby going to go ignored because it’s from a minor publisher.

RADIO APOCALYPSE #1 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Ram V, [A] Anand RK. In a postapocalyptic world, horrible skinless monsters come out whenever the sun goes down. Two survivors try to get to a fortified town, with help from a radio station – a bit like Galaxy News Radio from Fallout 3 – but only one of them makes it there. The writing in this issue is a bit confusing, but Radio Apocalypse is yet another fascinating new series from Ram V. These same two creators were also responsible for Grafity’s Wall and Blue in Green, though I haven’t read the latter. Anand RK’s artwork looks chaotic, in an interesting way; everything in his panels looks as if it was cobbled together from junk.

At this point I had to go to Minneapolis for reasons I don’t want to discuss, but if you’re reading this at all, you probably also read my Facebook wall and so you know what I’m talking about. While I was in Minneapolis I brought some comic books to read, since reading was a nice distraction from what I was going through.

NO ONE LEFT TO FIGHT II #2 (Dark Horse, 2021) – “DAD Inc,” [W] Aubrey Sitterson, [A] Fico Ossio. Krysta, Vale and Timor visit Krysta’s dad, who’s a robot. I’m not sure how that works. Krysta, Timor and DAD go on a Fantastic Voyage-esque mission into Vale’s body. It doesn’t help, and Timor decides to visit a certain “witch,” against his wife’s wishes. Fico Ossio’s artwork and coloring in this issue are fantastic. I assume he started on this series after he was already done with Mister Miracle: The Source of Freedom.

BATMAN #101 (DC, 2020) – “After the Laughter!”, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Guillem March. In the aftermath of Joker War, Batman fights Grifter and has heart-to-heart talks with Catwoman and Lucius Fox. This is sort of a day-in-the-life issue. Guillem March’s art here isn’t nearly as good as in Karmen or even Laura.

CEREBUS #63 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “Mind Game IV,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus spends the entire issue drinking and ruminating on various things. Unlike in the other Mind Game stories, Suenteus Po does not appear. There’s something strange about the formatting of this issue. It looks as if all the pages are designed to form a single continuous image, but I can’t tell how they’re supposed to fit together.

MY LITTLE PONY GENERATIONS #2 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Casey Gilly, [A] Michela Cacciatore. The fake ponies cause further chaos at the School of Friendship. I’m willing to keep buying this series, but it doesn’t feel like a genuine pony comic, perhaps because neither of the creators has done any other pony comics. Also, it seems likely that IDW is about to lose all their Hasbro licenses, so this comic feels like a dead end.

WONDER WOMAN #781 (DC, 2021) – “Through a Glass Darkly Part One,” [W] Michael Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Marcio Takara. Diana talks with Etta Candy and threatens Dr. Psycho, then she and Deadman travel to Scandinavia to return Siegfried’s sword to his grave. Steve Brevor battles a zombie Wonder Woman impostor. This issue also includes a backup story set in Bana Mighdall, written by Vita Ayala. In this story, one of the new Bana Mighdall takes the name Yaa Asantewaa, after a historical Ashanti warrior queen.

AQUAMAN: THE BECOMING #3 (DC, 2021) – “Sheltered,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Scott Koblish. Jackon’s mysterious pursuer chases him from one abandoned superhero hideout to another. Finally, the pursuer tracks Jackson down and is revealed as his sister Delilah. There are also some scenes with Mera, Andy, and Jackson’s boyfriend. This series might be my favorite Brandon Thomas comic so far.

S.W.O.R.D. #10 (Marvel, 2021) – “Triple Threat,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Jacopo Camagni. Last issue we learned that Wiz-Kid was a double agent working for Gyrich, but this issue we learn that he’s a triple agent and his real boss is Agent Brand. Meanwhile, S.W.O.R.D. and the Imperial Guard fight the Lethal Legion. As I read this issue, I realized that just as the Imperial Guard are based on the Legion of Super-Heroes, the Lethal Legion are based on the Fatal Five. Half-Bot is Tharok, Electric Head is Validus, Mr. Eloquent is the Persuader, Orbis Extremis is the Emerald Empress, and Death Grip is Mano. I was not the first person to point this out.

SAVAGE HEARTS #5 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Aubrey Sitterson, [A] Jed Dougherty. The heroes defeat the villain and his giant bird monster, and the series ends with Bronwyn and Graow kissing. Savage Hearts was entertaining, but Graow’s creepy behavior toward Bronwyn was a serious weak point.

I AM BATMAN #3 (DC, 2021) – “Fear State,” [W] John Ridley, [A] Stephen Segovia & Christian Duce. The Seer’s troops lay siege to a Gotham police precinct, trying to rescue Morris Caulfield, the young man who killed Anarky. Batman saves the day, but the other villain, Tyler Arakdine, is assassinated. This series is still rather hard to understand without knowing the history behind these characters, but the Seer plot has fascinating paralels to current events in America.

REGARDING THE MATTER OF OSWALD’S BODY #1 (Boom!, 2021) – “October 55th,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Luca Casalanguida. In 1981, Lee Harvey Oswald’s body is exhumed. Then we flash back to early November 1963, when a mysterious government agency recruits four people for a secret mission: to find a person who looks just like Oswald. I don’t know quite what’s going on here, but it’s intriguing, though it doesn’t grab me as much as She Could Fly did.

NUBIA AND THE AMAZONS #2 (DC, 2021) – “Pride of a Lion,” [W] Stephanie Williams & Vita Ayala, [A] Alitha Martinez. The new Amazons get settled in, and we’re introduced to the Victors’ Circle, a secret Amazon fight club. Also, the Amazon Clio appears to be possessed by Medusa. This issue is not bad, but there’s nothing in it that’s as exciting as last issue’s scenes with Bia.

STILLWATER #11 (Image, 2021) – “The Drop,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón Pérez. A year after last issue, Galen is proving to be just as bad as the Judge. Laura returns to town determined to get her son back. Galen and the other kids are very creepy.

CANTO III: LIONHEARTED #3 AND 4 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. Canto negotiates with the Slavers, and the main Slaver reveals himself as the son of Bodil the hermit. The other clockwork people infiltrate the Shrouded Man’s city but gets caught. Canto looks like he’s about to confront the Shrouded Man’s army alone, but then the Slavers show up to help. Canto has only been around for a couple of years, but I’ve already lost track of who all the characters are; for example, I don’t remember anything about Bodil. I wish each issue would have a guide to the characters. I seem to have lost my review of issue 3.

CEREBUS #73 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1985) – “Fascination & Frustration,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Red Sophia leaves Cerebus, taking her mother with her. Even though Cerebus is better off without either of them, he decides to drink his sorrows away, but then the mysterious light appears and tells Cerebus that Jaka is in the Lower City. Cerebus sends Bear to get Jaka, but when he comes back with her, he tells Cerebus that she wanted to bring her husband too. Bear’s verbal tic of constantly saying “waddayacall” is less annoying when he only appears in a few panels of each issue.

REFRIGERATOR FULL OF HEADS #2 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] Rio Youers, [A] Tom Fowler. Cal and Arlene use the axe to cut the bikers’ heads off. One of the heads escapes, but Cal and Arlene torture the other two into telling them about thefts of Norse artifacts. It’s obvious Cal and Arlene are more than just ordinary vacationers, or else they wouldn’t have fought a shark and a biker gang within minutes of arriving at Brody Island. So far this series is okay, but Rio Youers is not the same caliber of writer as Joe Hill.

THE THING #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Next Big Thing Part 1,” [W] Walter Mosley, [A] Tom Reilly. Ben and Alicia are having relationship problems, so Ben subscribes to an extraterrestrial dating service. He matches with a woman named Mary, but then he gets attacked by Mary’s supervillain ex-boyfriend. It’s surprising both that Walter Mosley is writing comics at all, and that he’s writing this particular character. But Mosley shows a solid understanding of Ben’s character, and this issue is very fun. Tom Reilly’s art resembles that of Chris Samnee or David Aja.

MAW #3 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jude Ellison S. Doyle, [A] A.L. Kaplan. The rapists shoot Wendy while looking for Marion, but Marion turns into a monster and bites the head off one of the men. Maw is a very grim and disturbing horror comic, though I personally prefer Eat the Rich.

ORDINARY GODS #5 (Image, 2021) – “Advaya,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Joe Clark, [A] Felipe Watanabe. Christopher and his friends talk with the Trickster. The other gods try to decide what to do about Bri. This series is hard to follow, and it’s not as exciting as Radiant Black. I think all the dog adoption ads at the back of the issue are for the god that keeps reincarnating as a dog.

SNELSON: COMEDY IS DYING #4 (Ahoy, 2021) – “What’s the Deal with Wrist Injuries?”, [W] Paul Constant, [A] Fred Harper. Snelson discovers that one of his fellow alt-right comedians has committed suicide. He goes home, drinks himself into a stupor, and has a near-death experience, but wakes up to find himself alive. Snelson is the worst Ahoy comic and the only one that I regret buying. It had no real point or purpose, and nothing in particular to say.

EDGAR ALLAN POE’S SNIFTER OF DEATH #2 (Ahoy, 2021) – “Chess Player,” [W/A] Dean Motter. A poorly drawn and historically inaccurate story about the Mechanical Turk, the fake chess-playing robot. “Angle of the Odd,” [W] Holly Interlandi, [A] Greg Scott. A stupid metatextual story about how the artist can’t decide what kind of a Poe adaptation to create.

ETERNALS #7 (Marvel, 2021) – “Hail Thanos, Part 1,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Esad Ribić. Thanos and Druig manipulate the other Eternals into electing Thanos the Prime Eternal, then Thanos kills Druig. This series has some interesting ideas, as well as effective artwork, but it’s been kind of a disappointment.

HAPPY HOUR IN AMERICA #2 (Fantagraphics, 2021) – “The Mobbing Birds,” [W/A] Tim Lane. Steve McQueen spends ten pages wandering around a motel, and the rest of the issue is a detailed examination of the stunt from The Great Escape where Steve McQueen jumped a fence on a motorcycle. This issue suffers from a lack of actual story, but Tim Lane’s art is fascinating. He draws in the same vein as Wally Wood and Russ Heath and Rand Holmes. There are few if any currently active artists who draw like this.

NOT ALL ROBOTS #4 (AWA, 2021) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mike Deodato Jr. Robot/human relations deteriorate even further, and the issue ends with a violent riot. This issue contains some more of Mark Russell’s brilliant aphorisms, such as: “They’ve been running the show for years. They control the police. So why are they the ones stockpiling weapons? Why are they the ones who are so angry?… They imagined that their bosses’ power was their power, and now that they’ve been abandoned, they arm themselves because all they have is the illusion of that power.”

WITCHBLOOD #8 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matthew Erman, [A] Lisa Sterle. Yonna recruits a new ally, Hunger Child. With four vampires, she now has the ability to create the Philosopher’s Stone and defeat Paxton. Meanwhile, Paxton continues his scheming. I didn’t notice any musical puns in this issue.

At this point I returned to Charlotte and read some more comics from the convention:

EMPYRE #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Al Ewing & Dan Slott, [A] Valerio Schiti. The FF and the Avengers come to odds over the return of the Cotati and Hulkling’s assumption of the Skrull throne. A pointless fight begins, but then the Cotati declare that they’re the new rulers of the cosmos. I didn’t buy this comic when it came out because I don’t read crossover series. Like most crossover titles, Empyre #1 is just an excuse for a bunch of epic fight scenes, and it’s not up to the standard of either Slott or Ewing’s best work. But it’s a reasonably fun read.  

ICE CREAM MAN #4 (Image, 2018) – “Every Good Boy Does Fine,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. Father-to-be Joel attends the funeral of his old friend Chris. Chris’s father talks with Joel and urges him not to abandon his family. Meanwhile Chris is tormented in the afterlife. This issue has some heartfelt moments, though it’s not as clever as some other stories Prince has written.

DETECTIVE COMICS #937 (DC, 2016) – “Rise of the Batmen Part Four: The Great Escape,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Alvaro Martinez. I just realized that this issue has the same creative team as Nice House on the Lake. In this storyline, the Batcave has been taken over by a bunch of villains who are inspired by Batman himself. This is a fascinating and original premise. The only similar characters I can think of are the Sons of the Batman from Dark Knight Returns. At the end of the issue we discover that the Batmen are funded by Kate Kane’s dad. Like Kelly Thompson’s Black Widow, James Tynion’s Detective Comics is nominally about Batman but is really a team comic.

MADMAN COMICS #2 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “Deus Ex Machina,” [W/A] Mike Allred. Madman and his allies try to save the alien Mott from another alien who wants to marry him and then eat him. Madman meets Astroman, a robot created from Madman’s own brain waves. This is an exciting and wacky comic. Back in 1994, Mike Allred’s art was more detailed and less stylized than it is now. I think he started drawing in his mature style sometime around when he was drawing X-Force, and since then his artwork has hardly changed at all. I kind of prefer his artwork from this earlier, more experimental period.  

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #6 (Marvel, 2021) – “Same Time Next Week,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Marcio Takara. This issue is mostly told from Richard Rider’s perspective, and we see how he’s always felt that he’s personally responsible for everything, and he’s never been able to rely on other people. Also, there’s some development of Rich’s romance with Gamora. The issue ends with a tie-in to the Empyre crossover.

DREADSTAR #11 (Epic, 1984) – “Origin!”, [W/A] Jim Starlin. To be precise, this issue is Papal’s origin story. We see how he came from humble beginnings to become a cardinal of the Instrumentality, but on the way there, he lost the love of his life. Papal bears an obvious resemblance to Thanos (and Darkseid), but his tragic origins make him a substantially different character – though he’s just as much of a monster as Thanos. This is shown at the beginning of the issue when he murders eight hundred prisoners in cold blood. A visual high point of the issue is the scene where Papal makes contact with the twelve gods – and there are twelve of them, I counted.

FIRE POWER #12 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Chris Samnee. This double-sized issue is the conclusion to a story arc, so I couldn’t understand what was going on.  Chris Samnee’s artwork here is excellent and is the main reason to read this series. I’m not willing to add Fire Power to my pull list because, first, I’ve gotten disenchanted with Kirkman’s writing, and second, this series is a textbook example of cultural appropriation. I guess you could also say that Orphan and the Five Beasts is cultural appropriation, but in that series James Stokoe only reproduces the generic conventions of wuxia, without making any references to actual Chinese culture. Which may also be problematic, I don’t know.

RICHIE RICH VAULTS OF MYSTERY #47 (Harvey, 1982) – “Our Millions Are Missing,” uncredited. Richie and Cadbury defeat a plot by Dr. Blemish, the same villain from #45. This time he’s trying to suck money out of Richie’s cash storage pits. In the backup story, reprinted from Richie Rich #158, Richie and Irona battle a giant robot called Ultimo. This was the last issue of this series. An annoying thing about collecting Harvey comics is that they’re always uncredited, and usually the GCD doesn’t have credits for them either.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #230 (Dell, 1959) – “Black Wednesday,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Every year on Black Wednesday, Duckburg suffers from bad luck. Scrooge thinks it’s because of a cursed totem pole he brought back from Canada, but when Donald and the nephews try to return the totem pole to the Indians who created it, the Indians won’t take it back. But back in Duckburg, Scrooge has discovered that Black Wednesday’s “curse” is really caused by the mold fumes from his cash. This issue’s portrayal of Indians is somewhat ambivalent. Barks seems to have made an effort to depict Northwest Coast Indian clothing and architecture in an accurate way. The Indians are called “Chilly Boot,” perhaps in reference to the actual Chilliwack people from British Columbia. And yet Barks portrays the  Indians as backward and violent, and they speak in stereotypical dialogue. This issue also includes Scamp and Chip & Dale stories, as well as a Western-themed story by Paul Murry, which is adapted from a 1940 newspaper strip.

DETECTIVE COMICS #1002 (DC, 2019) – “Medieval,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Brad Walker. Batman fights a medieval-themed villain named Arkham Knight, except he doesn’t think of himself as a villain, but as a hero whose methods are incompatible with Batman’s. Also, Arkham Knight kidnaps Damian, so this issue includes some Damian solo scenes.

FANTASTIC FOUR #158 (Marvel, 1975) – “Invasion from the 5th (Count It, 5th) Dimension!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Rich Buckler. Quicksilver invades the Baxter Building, but he really just wants to enlist the FF’s aid against a villain named Xemu who’s conquered Attilan. This issue begins with some cute day-in-the-life scenes, but otherwise it’s rather generic.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #19 (Marvel, 2016) – “Before Dead No More Part Four: Change of Heart,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. Jay Jameson is dying, and Jonah wants Peter to convince Aunt May to use the New U company’s experimental treatment to save him. Peter’s spider-sense warns him that there’s something suspicious about New U, but he can’t tell Aunt May that. Jay tells Peter to go back to his apartment and pick up an old heirloom clock. While on his way back to the hospital as Spider-Man, Peter has to hang suspended between two buildings for an hour, in order to save a trapped construction worker. While hanging there, he decides to abandon his suspicions and ask Aunt May to use the New U treatment, and also he drops the clock. The issue ends with a silent page in which Peter arrives at the hospital only to discover tears on everyone’s faces, indicating that his indecision has cost Jay his life. The final panel shows the broken face of the clock: Jay’s time has run out. This is a very impressive piece of storytelling. A subtle thing about this issue is that it begins with a scene where Peter webs a criminal to the pavement, along with an innocent person who’s chasing him. This scene may seem irrelevant, but its function is to remind the reader that Peter’s webs last one hour, because it’s necessary to know that in order to understand the climactic scene.

FAIRLADY #1 AND 2 (Image, 2019) – “The Dead Fairman Mystery,” [W] Brian Schirmer, [A] Claudia Balboni. I liked the first issue of this series (which I must have lost my review of), but this second issue is just a clichéd private eye murder mystery, and the SFF setting is completely irrelevant to the plot. The story could have been transplanted to contemporary America without changing anything. That’s a problem because Fairlady’s setting is the most interesting thing about it. I’m not sorry I didn’t buy this comic when it came out.

EMPYRE #5 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Al Ewing & Dan Slott, [A] Valerio Schiti. In a flashback, we see Teddy and Billy’s impromptu wedding. Then the war with the Cotati continues. Again, this issue is a typical dumb crossover comic, but it’s fun. The wedding scene is obviously the highlight of the issue.

DAREDEVIL #8 (Marvel, 2019) – “No Devils, Only God Part 3,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Lalit Kumar Sharma. A bookstore owner invites Matt to have dinner with her family, but Matt soon realizes that her family are infamous criminals. One of them is Izzy Libris, who becomes a major character later in the run. Izzy tells an interesting story about how her mother became a crime boss. The dialogue in this issue is often awkward, as if the characters are lecturing the reader, and I get the sense that Chip Zdarsky took a while to really get used to writing Daredevil.

DOCTOR STRANGE #179 (Marvel, 1969) – “The Wondrous World of Dr. Strange!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Steve Ditko. This issue is a Dreaded Deadline Doom reprint of Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2. I was disappointed to discover that it’s not an original story, but ASM Annual #2 is a classic story by Ditko at the peak of his career, and I don’t remember having read it before. In this story, Spidey and Dr. Strange team up against a villain named Xandu and his two hypnotized thugs. This issue includes some excellent action sequences and some beautiful otherworldly landscapes. It was Ditko’s only story that starred both Spider-Man and Dr. Strange, although Doc made a cameo appearance in ASM Annual #1. (See https://www.cbr.com/spider-man-sinister-six-homage-marvel-universe-cast/.)

Next trip to Heroes:

ONCE & FUTURE #22 (Boom!, 2021) – “Monarchies in the UK Part 4,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. Duncan, Rose and Gran escape from Sir Yvain and his lion, then they go to Stratford to obtain weapons from Shakespeare’s armory. The nursing home is attacked by a giant. Yvain is one of the only Arthurian knights who’s based on a historical figure, the Welsh warrior Owain mab Urien.

HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER #2 (Boom!, 2021) – “The Butcher’s Mark Part Two,” [W] Tate Brombal, [A] Chris Shehan. In the present, Aaron and Jace are reunited. In the flashback, Jace transfers his allegiance from the Butcher Shop to the House of Slaughter, which requires him to free the monster from his stuffed animal and then recapture it. This series isn’t as good as Something is Killing the Children, but more stories set in the SIKTC universe are a good thing.

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #14 (Image, 2021) – “Deviation Three: Rocket Man,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] John J. Pearson. This is the third in a series of flashback issues by guest artists. In this issue, Oswald and the tinfoil hat guy interview an old man who tells them about Crowley and L. Ron Hubbard and their creation of the Scarlet Woman. Then the man’s young son asks to go with them, and we learn his name: Hawk Harrison. I haven’t heard of John J. Pearson before, but his painted artwork in this issue is excellent, especially the splash pages illustrating Harrison senior’s story. He draws in a similar style to Martin Simmonds.

BUCKHEAD #1 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Shobo, [A] George Kambadais. Toba Adekunle goes to a school in Buckhead, Washington where his teacher can’t pronounce his name properly (even  though it’s pronounced just like it’s spelled) and there’s a computer in the basement with a mysterious simulation game. And at night the people in town turn into motionless zombies, and all of this is somehow related to Toba’s parents’ archaeological discoveries in Benin City, Nigeria. Buckhead is an interesting YA comic, particularly because of its use of Nigerian cultural influences. The writer, Shobo, appears to be a Nigerian-American himself. The name Buckhead has nothing to do with the neighborhood in Atlanta where my former local comic store, Oxford Comics, is located.

JONNA AND THE UNPOSSIBLE MONSTERS #8 (Oni, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Chris Samnee, [W] Laura Samnee. Following the trail of a giant snail, Rainbow and Jonna fall into a cavern where they find some strange eggs. The eggs hatch to reveal some of the monsters we’ve already seen… and in the last egg is a tiny duplicate of Jonna! This is the most shocking moment in the series, and it helps explain why Jonna acts so weird.

SEA OF STARS #11 (Image, 2021) – “The Last Sundown,” [W] Jason Aaron & Dennis Hallum, [A] Stephen Green. Tzitizzimixl (good luck remembering how to spell that) confronts Gil, Kadyn and their friends, and after an epic struggle, the father and son save the day. Kadyn retains Quasarro’s powers, and Gil resumes his old job, with the monkey and Kyle for company. This was a very entertaining and touching series, although it took so long to come out that I had trouble keeping its plot straight.

BLACK HAMMER REBORN #6 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Malachi Ward & Matthew Sheean. In a flashback, Skulldigger defeats the evil Dr. Andromeda, then he and the good Dr. Andromeda talk about Anti-God’s plans. In the present, Lucy and Skulldigger fight the alternate Sherlock Frankenstein and lose on purpose, so that they can be imprisoned in the Spiral Asylum where Dr. Andromeda is being held. This issue and the previous one include Inspector Insector backup stories drawn by Rich Tommaso.

RADIANT BLACK #10 (Image, 2021) – “Existence,” [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Marcelo Costa. Marshall travels through the extradimensional realm of Existence to retrieve Nathan’s soul. This issue has the best artwork in the entire series. Marcelo Costa uses a wide toolbox of innovative coloring techniques and page layouts. There’s a two-page spread that’s formatted like a spiral, though it’s hard to tell what order to read it in. Another striking page is the one that’s colored entirely in flat blocks of yellow, orange, pink and black.  

CROSSOVER #10 (Image, 2021) – “I Hate This Whole Fucking Issue! Nothing Happens!”, [W] Donny Cates w/ Brian Michael Bendis, [A] Geoff Shaw w/ Michael Avon Oeming. This issue begins with a character named Pendleton dreaming of being disassembled into pencils, inks and colors. Then he gets up and goes to work investigating the comic book character mystery. Then Deena and Christian interview Brian Michael Bendis, in a scene guest-written and drawn by Bendis himself and Michael Avon Oeming, and at the end of the issue, Pendleton confronts Donny Cates himself. This issue is extremely metatextual, perhaps too much so for its own good, although it’s kind of funny when the Bendis character says “I’m not writing this! I didn’t write it!” and the reader knows that he (or rather, his real-world counterpart) did in fact write this panel. On the last page, Donny Cates looks a lot like Alan Moore. I assume this is intentional.

CHU #10 (Image, 2021) – “(She) Drunk History Part 5,” [W] John Layman, [A] Dan Boultwood. Saffron executes her plot to steal Sylvain Lesant’s painting, or rather she trades it for a Bic lighter, which, to Lesant, is magical. Saffron trades the painting to Don Bucatini for her and Ong Chu’s freedom, but the painting is worthless because it appears to be only one year old. Chu gets the gang back together for the next heist. This was a fun storyline and I’m looking forward to more Chu, even if it’s not as good as Chew.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #123 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Jodi Nishijima. All the other Turtles and their allies have made new friends, but Leonardo feels lonely, since his closest friendship was with his late father. Sheena and Casey introduce Leo to an underground mutant fight club. Meanwhile, Hob is still manipulating the kids, but Lita is starting to have misgivings about him. The best thing about this series is its affectionate characterization. In this issue the reader really sympathizes with Leonardo’s feelings of solitude.

FANTASTIC FOUR #38 (Marvel, 2021) – “Family Crisis,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Francesco Manna. The Wizard sues for custody of Bentley-23, and the FF have to appear for a custody hearing in front of the superpowered Judge Payne, with She-Hulk as their attorney. But the trial goes so badly that Judge Payne is on the verge of taking away not just Bentley, but all of the FF’s children. The court antics in this comic are kind of implausible, but it’s nice to see Dan Slott writing She-Hulk again. His She-Hulk run was where he emerged as a major writer. Judge Payne is an awesome new character.

THE UNBELIEVABLE UNTEENS #4 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Tyler Crook. The surviving Unteens finally agree to reunite to save Snapdragon, but all they can do is help Snapdragon and Jack Sabbath go into the afterlife together. Alexis and Carlos become a potential couple. This series was a really sweet tribute to Claremont’s X-Men. Lemire arouses the reader’s nostalgia for the ‘80s and ‘90s X-Men, but refuses to satisfy that nostalgia by letting the Unteens get back together. This effect is what Svetlana Boym called reflective nostalgia.

BLACK PANTHER #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Long Shadow Book One,” [W] John Ridley, [A] Juann Cabal. After fighting some aliens with the Avengers, T’Challa returns to Wakanda, where he’s clearly uncomfortable with his new role as a constitutional monarch. Meanwhile, two Wakandan sleeper agents, Jhai and Omolola, are attacked by some highly prepared assassins, and only Omolola survives. This new Black Panther series continues some of the themes of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Black Panther, but it seems to be much faster-paced than that series was.

ROBIN #8 (DC, 2021) – “Robin vs. Hawke! For the Last Time!”, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Gleb Melnikov & Max Dunbar. Connor wins the final round and kills Damian for the second time, but Connor’s “prize” is that he gets to be sacrificed to the demon in the Lazarus Pit. Connor and Damian team up against the demon. This is a fun issue.

HAWKEYE: KATE BISHOP #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Marieke Nijkamp, [A] Enid Balám. Kate has to leave Los Angeles when her sister Susan summons her to a mysterious resort in the Hamptons. Susan Bishop has appeared before, but only a couple times, and I had forgotten she existed. Marieke Nijkamp’s writing is quite funny, and a visual highlight of this issue is the two-page splash showing a bird’s-eye-view cutaway of the Resort Chapiteau. This series takes Kate in a new direction, but I like how it begins by acknowledging the continuity and supporting characters of Kelly Thompson’s Hawkeye and West Coast Avengers.

THE LAST SESSION #1 (Mad Cave, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jasmine Walls, [A] Dozerdraws. A bunch of queer young adults get together for the concluding session of their first campaign of Dungeons & Dragons, I mean Dice & Deathtraps. The second half of the issue shows their gaming session from the perspective of the characters. So far this series looks really cute, and it has an interesting and diverse cast of characters. I bought this comic partly because it’s drawn by a former Lumberjanes artist.

ANIMAL CASTLE #1 (Ablaze, 2021) – “Miss Bengalore,” [W] Xavier Dorison, [A] Felix Delep. As the title indicates, this series is Animal Farm set in a castle. The unseen President Silvio rules the other animals in the castle with an iron fist, stuffing himself and hiding behind his army of attack dogs, while the other animals are dying from starvation and overwork. When the animals get sick of this and try to invade the castle, their rebellion is brutally suppressed. According to the French Wikipedia, this series was inspired by Dorison’s disappointment with the unhappy ending of Animal Farm (if I understand correctly). Compared to Animal Farm, Dorison and Delep are less concerned with political allegory than with portraying the human (or animal) cost of dictatorship. The focal character in this issue is the castle’s cat, who just wants to protect and feed her two kittens. The creators powerfully depict her fear and suffering, and the last page, where the cat’s goose friend is hacked to pieces, is horrifying. Overall, Animal Castle is a tremendous piece of work, and I’m glad that Ablaze decided to make it available to American readers.

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL ANNUAL #1 (DC, 2021) – “Homecoming,”  [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Steve Pugh & Clayton Henry. We begin with a flashback to Superman’s rivalry with Lex Luthor, and then Jon wins a victory of his own over Luthor. I am not a fan of the post-Crisis Luthor, but this issue was extremely fun anyway. A highlight is the opening scene with Batman and Lois, where we learn that Batman always knocks rather than just showing up in Clark and Lois’s kitchen, because he once did that and saw something he shouldn’t have. Oh, also, Alfred arranges for Earl Grey tea to be delivered to any house Batman might visit.

INKBLOT #14 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Rusty Gladd, [A] Emma Kubert. This issue, MOW. gets involved in a war between mermaids and pirates. I still think Inkblot is fun, but its plot never seems to make any progress.

I went to another small local convention on December 12. I was feeling crummy that day, but I still managed to find some good stuff.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #54 (Marvel, 1967) – “The Tentacles and the Trap!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Romita. I was able to afford this because my copy’s cover is missing a giant chunk at the bottom. This issue’s splash page shows Otto Octavius standing at Aunt May’s door, with the shadow of Dr. Octopus extending behind him. Jon B. Cooke once saw me looking at this page in an Essential Spider-Man reprint volume, and remarked what a great page it was. The main plot of this issue is that Doc Ock hides out at Aunt May’s house, and this results in some amazing scenes – I especially like when Doc Ock is all sweetness and light while Aunt May is around, but as soon as he’s alone with Peter, his true ruthless nature is revealed. There’s also a great fight scene between Peter and Doc Ock’s men. I believe this issue is the first time Peter meets Robbie Robertson, who becomes his second surrogate father.

THIRTEEN #5 (Dell, 1963) – “Doodles” etc., [W/A] John Stanley. The best story this issue is “Heap of Trouble.” Evie’s crush Bob parks his car outside the house, and Val unknowingly calls it a “heap of junk” – which it is – and then tries to cover her mistake by create a literal heap of junk, so she can pretend that that was what she meant. Hilarity ensues. I doubt if my mother ever heard of this comic, but I think she would have loved it.

FOUR COLOR #1047 (Dell, 1960) – Gyro Gearloose: “The Gab-Muffler” etc., [W/A] Carl Barks. I chose this over several other Four Color issues featuring Gyro Gearloose. They were $5 each, so I only wanted to buy one. In this issue’s first story, Gyro invents a device that deadens sound, but it prevents him from telling Donald and the nephews that their house is on fire. This issue includes some brilliant gag humor. Because Gyro’s Helper is a silent character, Barks always shows him doing funny stuff that’s not mentioned in the dialogue. This issue includes three other stories that guest-star Scrooge, Grandma Duck and Gladstone. The sad thing about these Gyro stories is that if Gyro would just hire someone to help him market his inventions properly, he would be richer than Scrooge.

POWERS OF X #2 (Marvel, 2019) – “We Are Together Now, You and I,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] R.B. Silva. This issue provides some essential context for Hickman’s X-Men run. It explains Moira’s reincarnation powers and the reason why Orchis is such a threat. Of course it’s also full of Hickman’s typical diagrams and irrelevant infodumps. I didn’t buy this when it came out, because I didn’t predict it was actually going to be good, and I’m glad I was able to find it at a low price.

BATMAN #496 (DC, 1980) – “Murder on the Mystery Ship!”, [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Don Newton. Clayface, Basil Karlo, escapes from prison and sneaks aboard a ship where a horror film convention is being held. A murder mystery results. The real culprit is not Clayface but the convention director, John Carlinger (Carpenter?). A surprise in this issue is that Carlinger actually kills Basil Karlo, and he stays dead; he didn’t appear again until after Crisis. This is a fun story with quietly effective artwork. There’s also a Batgirl backup story.

THE GOON #39 (Dark Horse, 2012) – “Excelsior!”, [W/A] Eric Powell. Faced with declining sales, the Goon and Frankie reinvent themselves as superheroes, and as a result, this issue is full of very funny metatextual jokes. At one point, the Goon splits into multiple different-colored variants. This was a parody of Geoff Johns’s various Lantern Corps. On the letters page Powell complains about the dominance of superhero comics in the direct market. Coincidentally, 2012 was about the time when titles like Saga began to challenge that dominance, at least to some extent.

SERGEANT PRESTON OF THE YUKON #19 (Dell, 1956) – “Sergeant Preston and the Fiddler,” [W] Gaylord DuBois?, [A] Alberto Giolitti (the GCD doesn’t have credits for this issue, but DuBois and Giolitti were the regular creative team on this series). A pretty typical Dell Western comic, adapted from a TV show that started out as a radio drama. Its unusual aspect is that it’s set in the Yukon instead of the American West. So snowy weather is a common plot element, and the hero’s sidekick is a husky dog. There are three Sergeant Preston stories in this issue, plus a short story about wolves trapped in ice. Sergeant Preston wears something around his neck that looks like a noose. I couldn’t figure out what this thing was, but Travis Hedge Coke informs me that it’s a pistol lanyard.

TRANSFORMERS #74 (Marvel, 1991) – “The Void!”, [W] Simon Furman, [A] Andrew Wildman. Optimus Prime and Scorponok team up to fight some Transformers who are possessed by Unicron, and then Unicron himself appears. This was perhaps the first comic book I ever bought when it was new. I lost my original copy almost as soon as I got it, and it was a nostalgic delight to find a new copy. I still remember some of the lines of dialogue from it – like, I think this comic book was the first place I saw the words “candid” and “candor.” Unfortunately my current copy is in almost unreadable condition, with both the front and back covers detached, and I’d like to replace it.

THOR #188 (Marvel, 1971) – “The End of Infinity!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Buscema. Odin is possessed by Infinity, who is a stolen fragment of his own soul. Thor and the Asgardians have to prevent Odin from drawing the Odinsword and triggering Ragnarok. This era of Thor was plagued by repetitive and boring plots, but John Buscema’s art in this issue is brilliant. The late ‘60s and early ‘70s may have been the peak of his career.

WONDER WOMAN #42 (DC, 1990) – “The Silver Wing of Terror,” [W] George Pérez & Mindy Newell, [A] Chris Marrinan. By now we’ve all heard the bad news about Gentleman George. He’s not just the greatest superhero artist since Kirby, but also a wonderful man, and I wish him all the best. This issue Diana fights Silver Swan, who’s being abused and manipulated by a man named H.C. Armbruster. This character is a disturbing and plausible portrayal of an abusive boyfriend. More on that when I get to issue 43. This issue’s subplot is that Steve Trevor and Hermes go to a bar.

DAREDEVIL #68 (Marvel, 1970) – “Phoenix and the Fighter!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Gene Colan. I assume this issue is the first time Matt appeared in a boxing ring. But in order to get Matt into that situation, Roy has to introduce a lot of stupid narrative convolutions. Foggy, who was just elected DA, is threatened by a political radical named Kragg. Roy is careful not to tell the reader anything about Kragg’s politics or agenda. Kragg is trying to fund his plans, whatever they are, by rigging a boxing match, so Matt substitutes himself for the fighter Kragg is betting against. The boxing match is the centerpiece of this story, but again, the rest of the plot is pretty dumb. Again, the best thing about this issue is the artistic combination of Colan and Palmer.

YOUNG LOVE #101 (DC, 1972) – “Love Thief!”, [W] unknown, [A] Don Heck. Bette, a travel agent, falls for Alan, a client who’s already engaged to be married. It becomes obvious that Alan and his fiancee are incompatible, and he winds up with Bette instead. Do they still have travel agents? “The Wrong Bride!”, [W] Joe Gill, [A] Kurt Schaffenberger. Claire deliberately steals her friend Ellen’s fiancee Brad. After Claire and Brad are married, Ellen tells Brad that Claire married him for his money. Brad forgives Claire because he thinks she’s changed – even though the story offers no evidence of that. Claire’s behavior in this story is utterly atrocious and self-centered, and she gets rewarded for it. My headcanon is that after the story is over, Brad divorces Claire and begs Ellen for forgiveness. “Playing at Love!”, [W] unknown, [A] Tony DeZuñiga. Two understudies on the same TV show fall in love.

SKYWARD #3 (Image, 2018) – “My Low-G Life Part Three,” [W] Joe Henderson, [A] Lee Garbett. Skyward seems to take place in a world where gravity doesn’t work. In this issue the protagonist, Willa Fowler, visits her father’s old friend Roger Barrow, but he beats her up and demands to know where her father is. She has to escape Roger’s building and get back to her father. This issue’s plot was hard to follow, but the zero-gravity premise is fascinating, and the creators seem to have thought seriously about its implications; for instance, there’s a scene where some people empty a dumpster by putting the trash into an upward-pointing pipe. I really liked these creators’ latest series, Shadecraft, and I want to collect the rest of Skyward.

SUICIDE SQUAD #36 (DC, 1989) – “In Final Battle,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] John K. Snyder. The Suicide Squad conclude their battle with the Female Furies, but Waller’s niece Flo Crawley is killed in battle, and Waller refuses Darkseid’s offer to resurrect her. This is a depressing waste of a good character, but frequent character deaths were a recurring element of this series. Also, Jacob Finley (the good Dr. Light) convinces Arthur Light (the evil Dr. Light) to reinvent himself as a hero, but Jacob is really trying to trick Arthur into getting himself killed, and it works.

DETECTIVE COMICS #821 (DC, 2006) – “The Beautiful People,” [W] Paul Dini, [A] J.H. Williams III. Batman investigates a series of crimes against rich Gotham socialites. The culprit is a new villain named Facade. This issue is a simple detective story, though an effective one. It’s elevated to a classic because of J.H. Williams’s art. As usual, he uses multiple different drawing styles throughout the story, and he deploys a large number of innovative page layouts.

RICHIE RICH AND CASPER #29 (Harvey, 1979) – “A Touch of Magic,” [W] unknown, [A] Warren Kremer? The Harveyville Fun Times calls this the best Harvey title, although it also says that this issue was an “unqualified dud.” I will need to look for more issues of this series. In this issue Richie discovers a flying carpet, and he and Casper use it to travel back in time to the Arabian Nights era. Even if it’s a “dud,” this story is reasonably fun, though it relies on Orientalist stereotypes.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #218 (Dell, 1958) – “Noble Porpoises” (title from GCD), [W/A] Carl Barks. Donald tries to catch some porpoises and sell them to the aquarium. He succeeds, but only thanks to his incompetence. This story is reasonably funny. This issue also includes Scamp and Chip & Dale stories, and a Fallberg/Murry Mickey Mouse story set in the Andes. The latter story reminds me of Barks’s classic “Lost in the Andes,” though of course it’s not as good.

FLASH GORDON #3 (King, 1967) – “Lost in the Land of the Lizardmen,” [W] Bill Pearson, [A] Ric Estrada. Flash gets trapped among a tribe of lizardmen and their evil female ruler, who wants to be Ming’s consort. In the backup story, Flash teams up with the centaur magician Cazedessus against Ming and his gigantic champion Monolith. This issue suffers from not being drawn by Al Williamson or Reed Crandall, but the creators show a lot of respect for their source material. In the first story, one of the lizardmen says “Dnunia!!! Yeknom miws isutaw!!!”, i.e. “Monkey swim watusi” backwards.

INCREDIBLE HULK #143 (Marvel, 1971) – “Sanctuary!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Dick Ayers. On the run from the police, Bruce is given shelter by a mysterious benefactor who turns out to be Dr. Doom. Doom fakes the Hulk’s death and takes Bruce to Latveria, intending to steal the Hulk’s power for his own purposes. The Hulk’s supporting cast’s reactions to his supposed death are touching. It’s unfortunate that this issue isn’t drawn by Herb Trimpe, although it looks like it is, since it’s inked by John Severin.

MIDNIGHT, MASS #2 (Vertigo, 2002) – “The Edge of Civilization Part One,” [W] John Rozum, [A] Jesus Saiz. The Kadmons tell Jenny a story about a case where they investigated a monster infestation. This issue is funny and strange, but it has a subtle, understated style of humor, which may have limited its appeal. I also wasn’t too impressed with Jesus Saiz’s art.

More new comics:

CRUSH & LOBO #7 (DC, 2021) – “Hello, Dad!”, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Amancay Nahuelpan. We get to see some of what Lobo was doing while Crush was chasing him, and then Crush finds him and forcibly returns him to prison. But as soon as she gets to prison, she’s taken away for experimentation as a test subject. This series is a combination of Mariko Tamaki’s funny style, as seen in the two Double Trouble miniseries, with her central theme of female self-discovery.

ROBIN 2021 ANNUAL #1 (DC, 2021) – “Robin’s Strike File,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Roger Cruz. The first half of this issue is Flatline’s origin story, and then there are some short profiles of Robin’s other tournament opponents, and there’s a longer sequence about Ravager. Like the regular Robin series, this annual is very fun. I’m enjoying what Joshua Williamson is doing with Damian.

DAREDEVIL #36 (Marvel, 2021) – “Lockdown Part 6,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Manuel Garcia. This is really more of an epilogue than a concluding chapter. Matt and Elektra go skinny dipping together, Matt talks with Mr. Fantastic and the Kingpin, and then Wilson and Typhoid Mary are married. But on his honeymoon, Wilson realizes that someone has forced him to forget Daredevil’s secret identity. This development leads to the Devil’s Reign crossover event.

THE SILVER COIN #7 (Image, 2021) – “Tzompanco,” [W] Ram V, [A] Michael Walsh. A gambler, Lou Prado, wins the cursed coin from a Las Vegas slot machine, and uses it to win a lot of money. The casino’s boss invites Lou to his office, where he sacrifices Lou in the Aztec fashion, by pulling his heart out. The boss addresses the coin as “brother.” This issue makes effective use of Aztec imagery, though it could be seen as playing into stereotypes about Aztec culture.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #34 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Last of the Marvels Part 3,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Sergio Dávila. Carol escapes from a cage by reactivating her Binary powers, then she fights an evil clone of Mar-Vell. Phyla-Vell fights Vox Supreme. This issue was a quick and insubstantial read.

BLACK PANTHER LEGENDS #2 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tochi Onyebuchi, [A] Setor Fiadzigbey & Juan Galán. A retelling of T’Challa’s first encounter with Storm. In this version they’re both so young that their relationship doesn’t seem romantic at all. This issue references the Oromo conflict in Etihopia, which, sadly, has been going on since 1973, so this story is not anchored to a particular point in time.

DETECTIVE COMICS #822 (DC, 2006) – “E. Nigma, Consulting Detective,” [W] Paul Dini, [A] Don Kramer. The Riddler reinvents himself as a private detective and “solves” a murder mystery, but his solution is wrong, and Batman finds the real culprit. This issue’s plot was hard to understand, but I love the way Paul Dini writes the Riddler. In the first two Arkham video games he wrote my favorite version of this character ever.

DEVIL’S REIGN #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “Part 1,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Checchetto. Out of anger at being forced to forget Daredevil’s secret identity, the Kingpin – who is now the mayor of New York – declares that all superheroes are banned from his city. Unlike in Civil War, none of the superheroes agree with this action, and most of the issue shows various superheroes fighting the Kingpin’s troops. Meanwhile, Wilson tries to force the Purple Man to help him become president. The premise of this crossover series is kind of simple and also implausible – as the story itself points out, the Kingpin’s superhero ban creates all sort of conflicts with federal jurisdiction. But Zdarsky and Checchetto do a good job of depicting the peril that the superheroes find themselves in. A highlight of the issue is the scene where Jessica and Luke are furious at the Shocker for putting their child in danger.

SIR EDWARD GREY: ACHERON #1 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Mike Mignola. I bought this because it’s the first comic book Mike Mignola has drawn in some years. Mignola’s artwork is as beautiful and creepy as ever, but his style has barely changed at all since he created Hellboy, so this issue offers nothing new. Also, this comic’s plot makes no sense unless the reader is a Hellboy expert.

DIRTBAG RAPTURE #3 (Oni, 2021) – “I Think of Demons for You,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Kendall Goode. Kat agrees to help the demons because they offer her drugs, but she starts to change her mind when they take her to Belarus, the worst dictatorship in Europe. When Kat goes back into her own head to ask Hannah for advice, she finds Hannah and the other ghosts burying a bunch of angels and demons in a graveyard. This comic gets weirder with each issue, and that’s a good thing.

HUMAN TARGET #2 (DC, 2021) – “We Cry,” [W] Tom King, [A] Greg Smallwood. The Human Target’s next suspect is Ice, who Tom King writes as a very sweet, gentle woman, but with some dark secrets. Ice helps reduce Chance’s symptoms so he won’t die even sooner than scheduled. This issue’s plot is maybe more clever and convoluted than it needs to be, but it contains some excellent characterization. Greg Smallwood’s art and coloring are heavily reminiscent of Darwyn Cooke.

FANTASTIC FOUR: LIFE STORY #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “The ‘00s,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Sean Izaakse & Carlos Magno. Reed agrees to become Galactus’s herald in order to save the Earth, but Franklin substitutes himself for Reed and kills Galactus. Reed is left in a persistent vegetative state. Given how much Galactus has been built up over the last few issues, this conclusion is a bit of an anticlimax. By this point Franklin and his Wakandan wife have had two kids, but it’s disappointing that this series doesn’t include any more superhero descendants.

CAMPISI: THE DRAGON INCIDENT #4 (AfterShock, 2021) – “Favors,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Marco Locati. The other mobsters deliver Vinnie the Stray to Campisi, but he’s already dead, and the dragon wanted him alive. Campisi convinces the dragon to kill his own boss, Mr. Rossi, as a substitute, which is good because Mr. Rossi was an asshole. Then another mob boss asks Sonny for help dealing with a kraken. Campisi was pretty fun, and I wouldn’t mind if there was a sequel series. But hopefully the sequel, if any, will be drawn by a different artist, because Marco Locati’s art on this miniseries was sloppy and unfinished-looking.

SHANG-CHI #6 (Marvel, 2021) – “Shang-Chi vs. the Marvel Universe Finale,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Dike Ruan. Shang-Chi and his family fight Thor, Captain America and Iron Man, and Shang-Chi discovers that by using the Ten-Fist Sword, he can fight Thor on even terms. Except it’s not the Ten-Fist Sword at all, it’s the Cosmic Cube that Brother Sabre stole in issue 2. I must have misunderstood what happened in that issue – according to my review, it was Shang-Chi himself who stole the Cube. Shang-Chi surrenders Brother Sabre and the Cube to the Avengers, over the objections of his other siblings. “Shang-Chi vs. the Marvel Universe” was an overly formulaic story, but its conclusion in this issue is surprising.

WONDER GIRL #5 (DC, 2021) – “Homecoming Part Five,” [W] Joëlle Jones, [A] Adriana Melo. Yara refuses to become Hera’s champion, and is forced to flee from a horde of angry gods. Meanwhile, Cassie discovers the Esquecida, a secret third tribe of Amazons in the Brazilian rainforest (I should say the Brazilian Amazon, but that’s confusing). In Esquecida Cassie meets a character I haven’t seen in a while: Donna Troy. This issue’s lack of Joëlle Jones artwork is disappointing, but I like the design of the Esquecida’s city of Akahim.

HARDWARE SEASON ONE #3 (Milestone, 2021) – “Silent Partners,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Denys Cowan. Hardware flees to Singapore and finds shelter with Edwin Alva’s estranged colleague, Asher, but Alva tries to convince Asher to surrender Hardware. I’m not sure if this series is good enough to continue reading. It’s only mildly interesting. Also, I’m glad Denys Cowan is still getting work, but his artwork in this issue is too sloppy.

ONE-STAR SQUADRON #1 (DC, 2021) – “Herotunities,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Lieber. Red Tornado and Power Girl are running an employment service for washed-up superheroes. This issue has solid artwork and some funny jokes, but it feels mean-spirited. Also, I like both Power Girl and Red Tornado, and I feel like they deserve more dignitied treatment. I would say that Power Girl acts out of character in this issue, but she really doesn’t have a consistent character.

SWAMP THING #10 (DC, 2021) – “Conduit Part 2,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. Harper Pilgrim destroys his own building with Swampy and Hedera in it, then he goes to consult with Jason Woodrue. Swampy escapes with the help of the previous Swamp Thing, who’s named Vyasa, after the legendary sage who’s traditionally credited with writing the Mahabharata. I forgot to mention that issue 9 included some interesting material about this character’s history. https://www.reddit.com/r/DCcomics/comments/qlt3nw/comic_excerpt_colonialism_hindu_mythology/

KILLER QUEENS #4 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Claudia Balboni. A boring conclusion to a bad series. Claudia Balboni’s art in Killer Queens was severely lacking in detail, and David Booher’s plot never felt exciting. As a sexy adventure story, Killer Queens was inferior to Money Shot or Kim & Kim or even Worst Dudes. I don’t think it deserves a sequel.

DETECTIVE COMICS #1008 (DC, 2019) – “Greetings from Gotham,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Doug Mahnke. The Joker holds an amusement park hostage, and Batman has to listen to the Joker’s taunting for pages on end, while trying to find a way to defuse the Joker’s bomb. Until I actually saw the bomb, I couldn’t understand why Batman didn’t just beat the Joker up. This issue is a good example of why I hate Joker stories: the Joker is so horribly evil that I’m sick of reading about him, and because he always escapes to kill again, Batman’s refusal to kill him is a crime against humanity. Furthermore, there have been so many Joker stories that it’s become difficult to do anything original with the character.

BATMAN #338 (DC, 1981) – “This Sporting Death!”, [W] Gerry Conway & Roy Thomas, [A] Irv Novick. Batman fights a sports-themed villain named the Sportsman. We learn at the end that he was an unathletic child, and his father used an experimental treatment that made him a star athlete, but also made him terminally ill. The Sportsman is effectively the same character as the Sportsmaster, and I wondered why they didn’t just make him the Earth-1 version of the Sportsmaster. The likely reason is because there already was an Earth-1 Sportsmaster and Huntress, although they’re hard to distinguish from their Earth-2 versions. This issue includes a Robin backup story with art by Don Newton, in which Robin solves a murder mystery at Deadman’s circus.

MADE IN KOREA #6 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Holt, [A] George Schall. Jesse is about to be disassembled, but Chul steals her from the factory. Just as she’s about to be captured again, she projects her mind into an adult male robot body, and the new male Jesse returns to her parents in America. So this series ends up as a parable about transgender identity as well as transracial adoption. An earlier scene in this issue shows a robot brothel with multiple “options” for clients to sample, including a man, a woman, and a person with both breasts and a penis.

DARKHOLD: BLACK BOLT #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Memory Trap,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] David Cutler. Black Bolt wakes upon an Inhuman prison planet. He gradually remembers that he got here after he discovered Maximus’s plot to surgically alter himself and substitute himself for a member of the Attilan court. Black Bolt’s advisor, Telegar, arrives on the prison planet and reveals that Maximus did something else too: he hypnotized himself to think he was Black Bolt. And Telegar claims the protagonist of this issue is really Maximus, not Black Bolt. But the protagonist doesn’t know whether to believe him, so he’s not sure whether he’s Maximus or Black Bolt, or whether he can safely return to Attilan. This is a very clever story with a surprising twist ending.

FOUR COLOR #401 (Dell, 1952) – “Mickey Mouse and Goofy’s Mechanical Wizard!”, [W/A] Dick Moores. This issue is also counted as Mickey Mouse #25. Goofy somehow invents a sentient calculator robot, Charlie. While Charlie is inept at math, he can do lots of other stuff, including predict the future. Charlie is kidnapped by a phony fortuneteller, and Mickey and Goofy have to help him rescue himself. In the backup story, Mickey inherits a house from a dead uncle, but some crooks are using the house to store their treasure. This issue is entertaining, though Dick Moores was not Gottfredson. Moores is best known as Frank King’s successor on Gasoline Alley.

DARK BLOOD #5 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Latoya Morgan, [A] Moisés Hidalgo. In World War II, Avery narrowly escapes from the Nazis thanks to his comrade’s sacrifice, but just as he’s being recaptured, the prison camp is blown up by an Allied air strike. This explains how Avery got the burn scars on his back. After the war, Avery discovers he has telekinetic powers. In the present, Avery confronts Dr. Carlisle, whose experiments gave him his powers. Dr. Carlisle tells Avery that he was selected for the experiment because of his war wounds, and that the project was run by a Dr. Winston Marshall in Montgomery. Avery kidnaps Dr. Carlisle and heads to Montgomery, with the authorities following. This is an important and well-written series, but its narrative structure is problematic. It has at least four different time frames, and even with the captions explaining when each scene is taking place, it’s hard to figure out the order in which everything happened.

BLACK’S MYTH #5 (Ahoy, 2021) – “Chapter Five,” [W] Eric Palicki, [A] Wendell Cavalcanti. Strummer discovers that Rainsford Black was the real killer, and Chad punishes him by turning him into a vampire. Strummer and Ben set up their own detective agency. This was a really fun series, and I hope there’ll be more of it.

THE GOOD ASIAN #7 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Alexandre Tefenkgi. We discover that Hui Long, aka Silas, is Ivy Chen’s half-Asian brother, but after his Chinese father died, he was rejected by his white mother’s family. Silas burns Edison with lye, giving him the same burns Silas himself has. Victoria’s hired assassin shoots Silas and tries to kill Edison too, but Edison blows up the building they’re in. The most striking thing about this issue is the incredible depth of Silas’s self-hatred, as well as the incredible hatred he faces for being a living violation of racial boundaries. A key theme of this series is white Americans’ pathological hatred for people who are visibly different from them.

SEARCH FOR HU #3 (AfterShock, 2021) – “Goodbye Love, Goodbye,” [W] Jon Tsuei & Steve Orlando, [A] Rubine. Another implausible story full of gangster movie cliches. After reading this issue, I decided to drop Search for Hu from my pull list. I want to like it, because it explores the intriguing topic of intersectional Jewish and Chinese identities, but I can’t justify buying a comic as bad as this.

MY BAD #2 (Ahoy, 2021) – “The Salad of Truth” etc., [W] Mark Russell & Bryce Ingman, [A] Peter Krause. Some more superhero parodies, all of them connected by the character of the villainous Emperor King. This series is reasonably funny, but as with One-Star Squadron, its humor is kind of mean-spirited, and it feels like it’s not one of Mark Russell’s better works. Maybe he’s spreading himself too thin?

DECORUM #8 (Image, 2021) – “With Enemies Like These…” etc., [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Mike Huddleston. I forgot this series was still running. It’s been about eight months since issue 7. This issue, Neha and the egg creature escape from a bunch of other assassins. Neha’s mentor Imogen intervenes and saves her, and then Neha essentially becomes a god, or at least an emperor. It made more sense while I was reading it. Decorum is one Jonathan Hickman’s better creator-owned series, largely because of Mike Huddleston’s spectacular artwork. I love all the different artistic techniques and media he uses. I just noticed the bespectacled wine-drinking octopus on this issue’s cover.

A THING CALLED TRUTH #2 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Iolanda Zanfardino, [A] Elisa Romboli. The woman who stole Meg’s car is named Dorian Wildfang. After she discovered that she might have the same illness that killed her mother and her brother (who had the improbably awesome name Faust Wildfang), she decided to go and have a lot of adventures while she still could. Meg and Dorian decide to travel across Europe together. This wasn’t where I expected this series to go, but I’m willing to stick with it and see where it does go.

FRONTIERSMAN #3 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Patrick Kindlon, [A] Marco Ferrari. Ethan fights Trefoil, an antihero who, we eventually realize, is based on Captain America. But Trefoil represents the brutal reality of America, not its high-minded ideals, so he’s more like the Comedian, though the letters page says he’s inspired by Nuke from Daredevil: Born Again. In the end, Frontiersman seemingly beats Trefoil to death. Frontiersman is an unexpectedly brilliant series. While it’s yet another revisionist superhero comics, it has a surprising amount of thematic depth.

LAURA AND OTHER STORIES #2 (Ablaze, 2021) – “Time” etc., [W/A] Guillem March. Laura goes on a trip to Formentera. This issue has excellent artwork, but its story is just a bunch of boring relationship drama. I suppose I’ll keep reading this series, but I don’t enjoy it nearly as much as I enjoyed Karmen.

THE MARVELS #6 (Marvel, 2021) – “Reflections in a Lotus Garden,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Yildiray Cinar. This issue focuses on Lady Lotus, a faux-Golden Age villain who was in fact introduced in the 1970s Invaders series. We learn about her involvement with three other significant figures: Jacques Duquesne, the Swordsman; Monsieur Khrull, Mantis’s uncle; and Wong Daochu, an ancestor of Wong Chu from Iron Man’s first appearance. (Kurt said that this is not the same character as Wong Chu: https://community.cbr.com/showthread.php?149466-Kurt-Busiek-s-quot-The-Marvels-quot&p=5838295&viewfull=1#post5838295.) This issue is another example of Kurt’s mastery of Marvel continuity.

MARVEL VOICES: COMMUNIDADES #1 (Marvel, 2021) – various stories, [E] Lauren Amaro & Sarah Brunstad. I admire the idea behind this issue, but the stories in it are of uneven quality. Highlights include the one-page features with recipes for Latin American dishes, and Daniel José Older’s White Tiger story, which is based on the Young Lords’ historical “trash offensive.” I also liked the Miles Morales story where he publicly reveals that he’s Puerto Rican, and the Alex Segura’s flashback to Roberto da Costa’s origin. But the story about Reptil’s cousin is no better than the Reptil series that just ended, and “Latinx and Proud” is more of a tract than a story. In the America story, America and Amadeus go to a restaurant based on the actual  Albert’s in Washington Heights, and they eat mofongo, tostones, and (I think) fried yuca. I owe this information to Carrie Shanafelt.

INFERNO #3 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jonahtan Hickman, [A] R.B. Silva, Stefano Caselli & Valerio Schiti. It’s revealed that Doug and Warlock know all of the other mutants’ secrets. Moira is captured by Orchis, and we learn that Omega Sentinel is really important somehow. I enjoyed this issue, but now I can’t remember how it actually advanced the plot.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #24 (Marvel, 1972) – “Death in High Places!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Wayne Boring. The evil Dr. Mynde and his assistant Madame Synn kidnap Captain Marvel, in order to use him in their plot to overthrow the government. Dr. Mynde’s plot actually succeeds, but Mar-Vell causes him to shoot Madame Synn dead by accident, and Mynde goes nuts and shoots himself. This story is pretty dumb, and its plot requires Rick to act like an idiot and refuse to turn into Captain Marvel when he needs to do so. I was excited to find this issue because I thought it was part of Jim Starlin’s Captain Marvel saga, but Starlin didn’t start on Captain Marvel until issue 25. This series’ only connection to the Thanos saga is that Lou-Ann appears in it.

LASSIE #16 (Dell, 1954) – “Adrift on the Amazon,” [W] unknown, [A] John Lehti. Lassie and her current owners, Rocky and Gerry, are stuck on a floating island in the Amazon. These floating islands, or matupás, are a real thing, but I don’t know if this story is an accurate depiction of how they behave. In the second story, Lassie, Rockiy and Gerry discover a massive gold deposit, but then they lose track of it, which is a good thing because it would have destroyed the world economy. (Compare the Scrooge story “The Fabulous Philosopher’s Stone”.) In the last story, Lassie and her owners foil a plot to sabotage the construction of a road through the Mato Grosso jungle. This story is a good example of settler colonialism. It depicts the jungle road as an entirely positive development, ignoring its detrimental effects on the environment and the local indigenous people. Overall I didn’t like this issue as much as the later issues of Lassie.

MARVEL PRESENTS #11 (Marvel, 1977) – “At War with Arcturus!”, [W] Roger Stern, [A] Al Milgrom. Aleta’s father Ogord has kidnapped his own grandchildren, Starhawk and Aleta’s children. The Guardians defeat Ogord, but are unable to prevent the children from aging rapidly until they die. This is a rather brutal plot development, and I’m not sure why Rog decided to end this story in this way. In subsequent stories, Aleta hates Stakar because she blames him for the children’s death. Maybe that’s just as well, since Aleta and Stakar are more or less an incestuous couple. This is the first story I’ve read in a long time that featured the original Guardians, and it gave me nostalgic memories of the ‘90s Guardians series. That series was terrible, but when I was reading it, I was too young to know that.

POWERS OF X #3 (Marvel, 2019) – “This is What You Do,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] R.B. Silva. This story begins in the future, when the few surviving mutants are infiltrating Orchis’s citadel to figure out when Nimrod was created. Wolverine recovers this information, gives it to Moira, and then kills her, so she’ll retain that knowledge in her next incarnation. Inferno #3 seems like a direct sequel to this issue, and I think the character who’s with Nimrod in the beginning of Powers of X #3 is Omega Sentinel.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #19 (Marvel, 1976) – “Claws of the Cougar!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Sal Buscema. The Thing teams up with Tigra against the Cougar, aka Curt Ranklin, an enemy of the Cat People. The Cougar captures Ben and Greer, but his fiancee Sheila, a Cat Person herself, turns off the power to his containment devices, allowing Ben and Greer to defeat him. I don’t think the writer actually tells us why the power went off; we just have to assume Sheila did it. Almost every Tigra story in the ‘70s was about the Cat People. Later stories about this character have been less narrowly focused.

FOUR COLOR #907 (Dell, 1958) – “Brannigan’s Boots,” [W] Eric Freiwald & Robert Schaefer, [A] Alex Toth. I was shocked to discover who drew this issue. From looking at the art I thought it was Dan Spiegle. Toth’s art here is unusually detailed, with more lines than necessary, but I can recognize his standard narrative tricks, such as using something in the foreground as a frame for something else in the background (https://www.instagram.com/p/CXzRx_YPval/). Sugarfoot is adapted from a TV series about an inexperienced Western hero who’s studying to become a lawyer. Other than that gimmick, the stories in this issue are all standard Western material.

PHANTOM STRANGER #31 (DC, 1974) – “Sacred is the Monster Kang!”, [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Gerry Talaoc. In an unidentified Southeast Asian country, a rogue American officer helps a warlord take command of a monastery, where the monks have to constantly build and rebuild a maze to imprison a demon. When the American officer diverts the monks from their work, the Phantom Stranger has to intervene and defeat the demon. This story is weird, but at least it has good art. For the time, this story is unusually frank about illegal drugs. Black Orchid: “Island of Fear!”, [W] Sheldon Mayer, [A] Tony DeZuñiga. A cruel pirate lures some mining engineers to his remote island, then forces them to work for him while holding their wives hostage. Black Orchid saves the day. The art here is quite good. Black Orchid is a fascinating character who’s rarely been used to her full potential.

WONDER WOMAN #43 (DC, 1990) – “The Armageddon Aria,” [W] George Pérez & Mindy Newell, [A] Chris Marrinan. After a lot of fighting, Diana captures the Silver Swan (Valerie Beaudry) and tries to convince her that H.C. Armbruster doesn’t have her best interests at heart. Val refuses to believe her, and then Armbruster’s men recapture her. This story is a sadly plausible depiction of an abusive relationship. Armbruster is a horrible monster, yet Val insists, against all evidence, that he really loves her, and she returns to him on her own initiative. This reminds me of a lot of posts I’ve seen on r/relationships.

BATMAN #264 (DC, 1975) – “Death of a Daredevil,” [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Ernie Chan. “Devil” Dayre, a stunt motorcyclist, is kidnapped just before he’s supposed to jump across a canyon, and Batman has to substitute for him and perform the stunt in his place. This is a typical Denny O’Neil mystery story. The highlight of the issue is the end, where Batman tears down a poster saying “The world’s bravest daredevil!” There may be a sly reference here to a certain other comic book that Denny O’Neil would later write. It’s hard to read a story like this without thinking of Homer jumping Springfield Gorge.

MICKEY MOUSE #83 (Dell, 1962) – “Frontier Fiesta,” [W] unknown, [A] Paul Murry. While working as a secret agent, Mickey follows Black Pete’s trail to a town that’s holding a Western festival. Mickey participates in a reenacted stagecoach adventure, which becomes real when Pete uses it as cover for his escape. There’s another Mickey story about thefts at a circus, and a third story in which Mickey has to get rid of Morty and Ferdy’s beehive. This last one could easily be rewritten as a story about Donald and his nephews. In addition there’s a Little Bad Wolf story.

SCOUT: WAR SHAMAN #11 (Eclipse, 1989) – “Let’s Have a Party,” [W/A] Tim Truman. Scout and the kids attend “Dr. Portugal’s Traveling Mutation Show,” where they encounter Rosa Winter and her uneasy ally Redwire. Redwire reveals himself as Raymond Vaughn, a preexisting character who I don’t remember anything about, and Rosa has to shoot him to  save Scout. Unusualy, Scout’s younger son has some lines of dialogue in this issue. I had thought he was too young to talk.

DYNOMUTT #3 (Marvel, 1978) – “Mother Goose’s Nursery Crimes,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Paul Norris. Dynomutt and Blue Falcon fight a fairy-tale-themed criminal gang. This story is pretty dumb, but at least it has some funny dialogue. This issue also includes another short Dynomutt story by the same creators, and a three-page preview, by Evanier and Spiegle, of an upcoming Scooby-Doo issue.

THE GOON #4 (Dark Horse, 2003) – “The Sea Hag Demands a Mate!”, [W/A] Eric Powell. The Goon fights the Sea Hag, who’s stolen his naked pictures of Ingrid Bergman. While Eric Powell’s most obvious influences are Wrightson, Kevin Nowlan, Kelley Jones, etc., The Goon is also very indebted to Popeye, and this story feels like Powell’s tribute to E.C. Segar. Powell’s version of the Sea Hag is totally different from Segar’s, but there’s a character in this story who looks like an older Popeye. https://www.instagram.com/p/CXz_P6JMS1N/ “Beware the Beast’s Lust for Pie!”, [W] Eric Powell, [A] Kyle Hotz. A giant “skunk ape” rampages through town and wins a pie contest. This story is less interesting than the first one, and Kyle Hotz’s art style is unoriginal.

X OF SWORDS: CREATION #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Pepe Larraz. The forces of Arakko invade Saturnyne’s realm of Otherworld. To save her own realm, Saturnyne arranges a contest between Krakoa and Arakko, where the two sides compete to find ten magical swords and then wield them in a duel. When X of Swords was coming out, I disliked it and had trouble understanding it. This issue makes X of Swords somewhat more understandable, but it still isn’t as good as some of Hickman’s other X-Men material.

EXCELLENCE #1 (Image, 2019) – “Kill the Past,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Khary Randolph. In a world where only a small minority of people have magical powers, Spencer Dales is born into a powerful magic-using family. But as he grows up, his meager magical abilities make him an embarrassment to his father, and he barely passes the test that allows him to become a magician-in-training. Just after the test, his grandmother gets sick, and Spencer decides to break the magical fraternity’s rules and use a healing spell to save her. This is the best Brandon Thomas comic I’ve read. It has a fascinating premise, and it explores the theme of father-son relationships in an intriguing way. Excellence is also interesting because all the major characters are black, and while this issue never engages with racism explicitly, it still feels like it’s about blackness. In particular, the top magicians are called the Tenth, a term which recalls W.E.B. Du Bois’s Talented Tenth.

Next trip to Heroes, on December 24:

MAZEBOOK #4 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Will and his dog companion travel through the maze city. Against the dog’s advice, Will descends into a subway station where, inevitably, he meets a minotaur, because what is a labyrinth without a minotaur? This issue has a fascinating panel structure where all the panels are connected to each other either by threads or by gaps in the panel borders, so reading the comic feels like navigating the maze. There’s even one page where Will gets stuck at a T-intersection, and it’s not clear whether the reader should continue left or right.

ADVENTUREMAN #7 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Terry Dodson. The old Western superhero gives his guns to his grandson, telling him that when the guns start glowing, it’s a signal to pay attention. Claire discovers an abandoned subway station full of ghosts. The ghosts invade Claire’s house and steal one of her few remaining vials of the serum that gives her her powers. At the end, Claire and the cowboy finally meet. This is another very entertaining issue.

HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER #3 (Boom!, 2021) – “The Butcher’s Mark Part Three,” [W] Tate Brombal, [A] Chris Shehan. In the present, Jace and Aaron save a little girl whose parents have just been killed by an Oscuratype, and then they have sex. In the past, Jace and the other apprentices prepare for their first hunt. This series is still not as exciting as its parent series.

THE ME YOU LOVE IN THE DARK #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. This came out last month, but I forgot to get it. This issue the series takes a significantly darker turn, as the monster imprisons Ro in the house, forbidding her to leave and forcing her to paint constantly. It becomes clear that if Middlewest is about child abuse, The Me You Love in the Dark is about domestic abuse. The monster’s behavior toward Ro is that of a controlling, financially abusive boyfriend. At the end, Ro’s agent comes to the house to look for her, and the monster kills him. At this point I was unable to predict how this series would end, and I wondered if Ro would make it out alive.

RADIANT BLACK #11 (Image, 2021) – “Awake,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Joe Clark, [A] Marcelo Costa. Marshall wakes up from his coma to find that six weeks have passed, and Nathan has long since awakened from his coma. There’s a funny panel where Marshall is reading all the social media articles he missed out on. Then Marshall and Radiant Pink fight Doppler, who, it turns out, is only borrowing the alien technology from two other guys. Doppler is the first comic book character I know of who’s an adjunct instructor. She grades papers while sitting in her car, and she has to tell a student that she’s not a doctor or a professor. One of this comic’s writers must be familiar with academic labor issues. On page nine, the text under the Nicky’s Gyros sign is completely illegible, even with a magnifying glass.

NIGHTWING #87 (DC, 2021) – “Get Grayson,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo. I hadn’t planned to get this, but when I heard what it was, I asked Heroes to save me a copy. Nightwing #87 is a brilliant formal experiment. The entire issue is a single panel; the left side of each page connects to the right side of the previous page. Experiments like this have been tried before – the example that comes to mind is Promethea #32, and I think Alex Niño also did a story like this in 1984. But Nightwing #87 is a true Oulipian experiment because its plot is inspired by its formal constraint. The plot is that some crooks break into Nightwing’s apartment and steal his dog, so he has to chase them from west to east across Bludhaven. Another cool thing about this issue is that some pages depict multiple characters moving in different directions, so the reader has to read the same page twice in two directions. Overall, Nightwing #87 is one of the most memorable single issues of the year.

EAT THE RICH #5 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sarah Gailey, [A] Pius Bak. While Joey is trying to tell Astor what happened, Astor’s mom drugs her and she wakes up paralyzed. Astor proves to be just as evil as his parents, and when Joey tries to escape from him, he knocks her down. But then Petal shows up and kills Astor, which is just what he deserves. Then Petal reveals that the servants are just as addicted to human flesh as the masters – but that also leads to a solution, because there are more servants than masters. With Joey’s help, the staff revolt against their employers and enslave them, so that they can stay alive by eating their flesh. Also, Joey and Petal become a couple. This is a brilliant twist ending that leaves the reader feeling both thrilled and disgusted. It also explains why the comic is called Eat the Rich, even though it seemed like the rich were doing the eating, instead of being eaten. I didn’t like Sarah Gailey’s novel River of Teeth as much as I wanted to, but in Eat the Rich, it feels as if she’s fulfilled her promise.

STRANGE ACADEMY #14 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. The kids are having time travel lessons. Doyle travels ahead in time to a future where he’s turned evil, and he’s leading half of his classmates in a battle against the other half. After this experience, Doyle decides to leave the school. Meanwhile, Calvin meets Gaslamp, a really cool new villain. This is the first Marvel comic I’ve read that didn’t have a sticker for a free digital copy. I’m glad those stickers are gone, though it feels weird to read a new Marvel comic without removing the sticker.

MS. MARVEL: BEYOND THE LIMIT #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Samira Ahmed, [A] Andrés Genolet. Kamala visits her cousin Razia, a physicist at Chicago University (which is fictional – the real one is the University of Chicago). Someone robs Razia’s lab and tries to steal her time travel device. We don’t see the thief’s face, so in the tradition of time travel stories, it’s probably a future version of Kamala or Razia or someone else we would recognize. On returning home, Kamala somehow finds herself in a musical number from a Bollywood movie, and she meets Loki riding an elephant. I’m not familiar with this comic’s writer, and I was afraid it would suck, but this first issue is really entertaining. The movie Kamala’s parents are watching is Dil Se, which is from 1998, so it’s not an old movie to me, but it would be to Kamala. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWtz7xtj3w4.

DEFENDERS #4 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Lovers,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Javier Rodriguez. This issue’s focal character is Cloud. In this issue, the Defenders encounter the One-is-Four and its counterpart, the Four-Are-One, and they help the heroes of the Fourth Cosmos overcome their preoccupation with fighting each other. This issue feels like some sort of allegory for the development of the superhero genre. The four-faced Hulk is based on the four colors of CMYK printing, and the battling superheroes look like primitive versions of Marvel characters – for example, there’s a proto-Thor who has a hammer and whose head is a thundercloud. Finally the Defenders meet the conscience of the Fourth Cosmos, who looks like a Lichtenstein painting, and they head further backward to the Third Cosmos, but Cloud stays behind.

GETTING DIZZY #2 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Shea Fontana, [A] Celia Moscote. Dizzy tries to adjust to her new role as the Burb Defender and to learn to skate, but she can’t find any Negatrixes, and she sucks at skating. At the end of the issue she deals with both problems at once. My problem with this comic is that if Dizzy is a superhero, she’s a very minor one; her sphere of activity is limited to a single neighborhood. But I think this comic is really not about the Burb Defender or the Negatrixes; it’s really about Dizzy’s attempts to grow up and develop self-confidence, and the Burb Defender plot is just an allegory for that.  

KING CONAN #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “On Maggot-Infested Waves,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mahmud Asrar. Conan has conquered the kingdom of Aquilonia and has overcome many other challenges, including his greatest terror in life: fatherhood. But now an elderly Conan finds himself shipwrecked on a desolate island, where he has his first face-to-face meeting with his greatest enemy, Thoth-Amon. Thoth-Amon wants to kill Conan because he needs a king’s blood for a spell, but when he injures Conan and draws blood, Conan reveals that he’s no longer a king. (So who’s the king of Aquilonia now? We’ll see.) Just as Conan is about to kill Thoth-Amon, the sun goes down and a horde of zombies attacks. This is another exciting issue from a great Conan creative team. In particular, in this issue Mahmud Asrar shows that he may be the best Conan artist since John Buscema. Some of his full-page splashes are just stunning.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #124 (IDW, 2021) – “Missing,” [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Ken Garing. A silent issue in which the Turtles celebrate the holidays while looking for the missing weasels and mourning Master Splinter’s absence. The only line of dialogue is Shredder’s note informing the Turtles that the weasels are okay. I didn’t understand everything in this issue – in particular, I can’t remember who the white blue-eyed wolf character is – but overall this issue was very touching. In his editor’s note, Bobby Curnow says that this comic is about celebrating the holidays at a time when something is wrong, or when it feels like someone is missing. I can certainly sympathize with that.

THE ME YOU LOVE IN THE DARK #5 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. The monster forces Ro to keep painting and painting. Luckily Ro remembers that paint thinner is flammable. She burns the house down, presumably killing the monster, and manages to escape. It took a while for this series to reveal what it was really about, but considered in its entirety, it’s a powerful depiction of a woman experiencing domestic abuse (I think the specific term is “coercive control”) and then escaping from it. This series is a strong follow-up to Middlewest.  

BLACK HAMMER REBORN #7 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Malachi Ward & Michael Sheean. Colonel Weird and Talky Walky explore the Para-Zone and discover Anti-God in the middle of it. We learn that there are infinite Para-Zones, not just one, but I don’t see how one Para-Zone is any different from an infinity of them. At the end of the issue, Colonel Weird returns to where he was at the beginning. This issue doesn’t advance the plot very much.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #81 (Marvel, 2021) – “Beyond Chapter Seven,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Carlos Gómez. I read this issue right after seeing the No Way Home film. I did not particularly like that film, although that may be because I haven’t seen any of Tom Holland’s other Spider-Man movies, and I disliked his style of acting. Also, I just don’t watch very many movies in general. I have a short attention span and I prefer to read or play video games. Anyway, this issue Ben Reilly and Miles team up against a villain named Rhizome. They win, but Ben’s boss reprimands him for not telling Miles to change his name.

BOUNTIFUL GARDEN #4 (Mad Cave, 2021) – untitled, [W] Ivy Noelle Weir, [A] Kelly Williams. I told an employee at Heroes that I was enjoying this series, and she said she hadn’t heard of it. That supports my contention that this comic is likely to fly under people’s radar. This issue, the one surviving kid on the ship discovers that she’s trapped, and the kids on the planet are attacked by sentient plants. The text page at the end explains what’s been going on: the plant already ate everyone on the planet, and now it’s attracting space travelers to the planet, so it can eat them too. Creepy.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #33 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled,  [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Michele Bandini. I was going to read this issue before ASM #81, but it clearly happens after that issue. There should have been a note telling the reader this. In this issue, Miles shows Ganke the cease-and-desist letter, and then he and Shift invade the Assessor’s company’s plant.  This issue has a backup story by Saladin and Gustavo Duarte, in which Shift protects an Afghan immigrant’s gyro cart from some racist kids.

MY DATE WITH MONSTERS #2 (AfterShock, 2021) – “Bad Dates and a Good Dog,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Andy MacDonald. In my review of #1, I forgot to mention the plot thread where the army is trying to find Risa a new love interest. I can’t remember why, but in this issue Risa goes on a bunch of disastrous dates. Meanwhile, Machi narrowly escapes from a kabuki-masked dream monster. This latter character is extremely creepy and cute at once, partly because of her speech pattern; it says things like “Child, hello. Hello, child.”

S.W.O.R.D. #11 (Marvel, 2021) – “Final Frontier,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Jacopo Camagni. Manifold and Cable prevent the SWORD space station from crashing into Australia. Agent Brand murders Gyrich and reveals herself to be even more dangerous than him. Meanwhile, Storm defeats multiple instances of the Fatal Five at once, by depriving them of air pressure.

And now for the first time since late August, I have no comics waiting to be reviewed. This whole semester I had no time to write reviews, and then when I finally did have time, over Thanksgiving break, I was interrupted by the aforementioned tragedy that I don’t want to mention.  

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