Final reviews of 2021


AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #82 (Marvel, 2021) – “Beyond Chapter Eight,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Jorge Fornés. Peter wakes up in hospital, but then Mary Jane has to save him from a cannibalistic nurse. Jorge Fornés draws this issue in the same vein as Chris Samnee or David Aja. I just saw that the new Spider-Man creative team is Zeb Wells and John Romita Jr. That’s too bad because I have no interest in Zeb Wells’s writing.

BATGIRLS #1 (DC, 2021) – “One Way or Another Part 1 of 6,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad, [A] Jorge Corona. The title characters are Babs, Steph and Cass. In this issue they move into a new neighborhood and encounter a criminal gang called the Saints. I wasn’t sure whether to read this series or not, but I’m glad I did. The writers capture the three main characters’ personalities very well, and they do a good job of distinguishing them from each other. I especially like Cass, with her extremely clipped speech. I haven’t read many other stories with this character. Jorge Corona’s art is very cluttered and complicated, but in a good way, and the coloring in this issue is excellent. I especially like the Tutor’s graffiti.

PRIMORDIAL #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. Most of this issue is devoted to the two monkeys and the dog, but in the other subplot, Donald and Yelena get shot. At the end, the three animals find themselves floating in space in 2024. Andrea Sorrentino has become one of the finest artists in the industry. His page compositions in this issue are stunning.

BRZRKR #6 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Keanu Reeves & Matt Kindt, [A] Ron Garney. Unute’s combat team is wiped out in an ambush, and Unute has to carry his sole (barely) surviving comrade to safety. This issue is effective in a grim and gruesome way, but I’m not enjoying this series all that much.

BLACK PANTHER #2 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Long Shadow Book Two,” [W] John Ridley, [A] Juann Cabal. T’Challa recalls some of his other sleeper agents, including Kimura, who has a husband and child. T’Challa and Kimura are ambushed by the same people who killed Jhai. Then they make another attempt at T’Challa at the end of the issue. This series is exciting, certainly more so than Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Black Panther was.

HAWKEYE: KATE BISHOP #2 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Marieke Nijkamp, [A] Enid Balám. Kate solves a little girl’s kidnapping, but discovers that lots of other weird stuff is going on at Resort Chapiteau. Kate and her sister are attacked by “mind-controlled zombie guests.” Another entertaining and funny issue.

REFRIGERATOR FULL OF HEADS #3 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] Rio Youers, [A] Tom Fowler. The local sheriff tries to intimidate Cal and Arlene, and they have to cut his head off. We learn that Cal and Arlene are Department of Defense agents and are not really married. Some crooks kidnap June, the protagonist of the previous series, and bring her to the mayor’s house, where they tell her about their plan to collect four Norse mythological artifacts. This miniseries is less effective than Basketful of Heads, because it’s so farfetched and over-the-top that it’s not scary. It’s still readable, though.

THE THING #2 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Next Big Thing Part 2,” [W] Walter Mosley, [A] Tom Reilly. Ben’s new love interest, Amaryllis is kidnapped by her superpowered ex-boyfriend, Brusque. Ben and a boy named Bobby Spector go looking for her, and they discover a colony of people living underground – not the Morlocks, a different group of sewer dwellers. Brusque is killed, and Ben, Bobby and Amaryllis escape. This series is bizarre, but it’s impressive that Walter Mosley, who is known for prose fiction in a fairly realistic mode, was able to write such an entertaining superhero story.

SNELSON: COMEDY IS DYING #5 (Ahoy, 2021) – “What’s the Deal with Comedy?”, [W] Paul Constant, [A] Fred Harper. Snelson is visited by a younger comedian who’s also a victim of cancel culture. Snelson helps him build a career. This is an okay conclusion, but I still stand by my claim that Snelson is the worst Ahoy comic yet. It has no real point, and it encourages us to sympathize with a morally bankrupt man.

NUBIA AND THE AMAZONS #3 (DC, 2021) – “What is Truth,” [W] Stephanie Williams, [A] Vita Ayala. Medusa continues possessing various Amazons. This series is readable, and I want to support it, but I don’t like it as much as Wonder Woman or Wonder Girl.

ROBINS #1 (DC, 2021) – “Being Robin Part One,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Baldemar Rivas. I suppose this is the male version of Batgirls, although one character, Steph, appears in both series. In this issue the five Robins – Dick, Jason, Tim, Steph and Damian – encounter a bunch of villains who are connected to their past histories. On the last page we learn that the true villain is a crazy-looking woman who claims to be the very first Robin. As with Batgirls #1, I was unsure whether to buy this issue, but it was worth getting, because it’s very fun to see these five characters interact.

ECHOLANDS #4 (DC, 2021) – “Hope’s Crucible,” [W/A] J.H. Williams III, [W] W. Haden Blackman. Romulus fights the Wizard’s forces, while the other protagonists drown in the ocean and wake up in the home of the Metaphysicist – the turbaned alien character who appears on the last page of each issue. J.H. Williams’s art continues to be better than anyone else’s, although his story leaves something to be desired.

WITCHBLOOD #9 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matthew Erman, [A] Lisa Sterle. The first half of this issue is the origin story of Paxton and his brother Samson. Then the vampires confront Paxton, and in the last panel, Atlacoya stabs both herself and Paxton with one blade. This issue instructs the reader to play “Paint It Black Medley” by War and Eric Burdon while reading the fight scene. Thanks to Spotify this is easy to do.

UNCANNY X-MEN #124 (Marvel, 1979) – “He Only Laughs When I Hurt!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] John Byrne. This was a very kind Christmas gift from Dan Yezbick. Because I had corresponded with him before about buying comics, he knew this was one of the few Claremont-Byrne issues I was missing. This issue is the end of the first Arcade story, and it’s mostly action scenes, but Claremont and Byrne were among the all-time masters of superhero action scenes. The emotional centerpiece of the issue is when Peter, as the Proletarian, is about to kill Scott and Ororo, and they convince him to come to his senses.

NEWBURN #2 (Image, 2021) – “Everything I Told You Was True,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jacob Phillips. Newburn and Emily investigate a case of arson, which turns out to have been committed by ordinary Chinatown citizens who were trying to rebel against the Triad. The Triad kills the people responsible for the arson, and Emily feels guilty for her complicity in this. There’s a backup story written by Nadia Shammas, about two Arab-American brothers.

THE RUSH #2 (Vault, 2021) – “The Claim,” [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Nathan Gooden. Nettie visits her son’s claim, kills a man who’s illegally occupying it, and then encounters a giant glowing-eyed moose. Back in Brokenhoof, Nettie tries to get a lawyer to go back to Dawson to investigate the claim, but as soon as the lawyer leaves town, he’s killed by a giant glowing-eyed man with crow wings. I don’t quite get what’s going on in this series, but it’s very creepy, and it also has Spurrier’s characteristic dark humor.

WONDER WOMAN #782 (DC, 2021) – “Through a Glass Darkly Part Two,” [W] Michael W. Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Marcio Takara. Diana and Deadman’s plane is attacked by Wonder Woman clones made of glass. Diana makes it to Sigurd’s grave and returns his sword, but then Washington DC is attacked by more fake Wonder Women. We’re told that a villain called the Image-Maker is behind all this. Also, Diana, Steve and Etta have some relationship drama. The issue ends with a Trial of the Amazons preview story.

NO ONE LEFT TO FIGHT II #3 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Aubrey Sitterson, [A] Fico Ossio. The three protagonists visit Mistress Riellda. She tries to cure Vâle by reawakening his inner anger, but he decides he would rather die than be consumed by rage. This issue is okay, but it’s less visually stunning than other issues of this series.

I AM BATMAN #4 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] John Ridley, [A] Stephen Segovia. Jace finds Simon Saint dead, and is then ambushed by a person in a battlesuit. I like the characterization in this series, but I’ve had consistent difficulty following its plot.

Resuming on 1/27:

MY LITTLE PONY GENERATIONS #3 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Casey Gilly, [A] Michela Cacciatore. The evil pony teachers cause further havoc. Zecora creates a portal that the Mane Six use to travel to another dimension, where they meet an earlier generation of ponies. This series still feels like an afterthought, not a real IDW pony comic. It’s now official that IDW has lost the GI Joe and Transformers licenses, but they still seem to have the My Little Pony license. I wonder if they intend to do anything further with it.

WONDER GIRL #6 (DC, 2021) – “Homecoming Part Six,” [W] Joëlle Jones, [A] Leila del Duca. Yara is imprisoned in Tartarus, but managess to escape. Meanwhile, the Brazilian Amazons and the other Wonder Women are looking for her. This series is ending prematurely after the next issue, but it seems like Jones’s intended conclusion will appear as part of the Trial of the Amazons crossover.

MAW #4 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jude Ellison S. Doyle, [A] A.L. Kaplan. Marion kills the other rapists, but is about to spare the last one, who’s the son of the commune’s owner. However, she shows up herself and shoots her own son dead. The commune women prepare to perform a ritual that will kill all men. This series is very creepy and hard-hitting, but I’m not sure which of its characters we’re supposed to sympathize with, if any.

SUPERGIRL: WOMAN OF TOMORROW #6 (DC, 2021) – “Home, Family, and Refuge,” [W] Tom King, [A] Bilquis Evely. This issue retells Kara’s Silver Age origin, in which she and the people of Argo City escaped the destruction of Krypton, but then the soil of their city turned into anti-Kryptonite, causing Kara’s mother to die of radiation poisoning. Kara saved some of Argo City’s population by covering the ground with lead sheeting, but the sheeting was destroyed by a cosmic storm, and Kara was the only one who escaped. In the Silver Age, Kara was depicted as having escaped unscathed from all of these traumas. Conversely, Tom King tries to make us feel how horrible all these events were. And I don’t think it really works, because number one, Kara’s origin story is so traumatic it feels almost ridiculous, and second, none of these traumas seems to have had any permanent effect on Kara’s character.

REGARDING THE MATTER OF OSWALD’S BODY #2 (Boom!, 2021) – “Sonny Germs,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Luca Casalanguida. The protagonists kidnap a man who looks just like Lee Harvey Oswald, but when he tries to escape, they accidentally kill him. Then they hear that the President has just been shot. By now it’s clear that the protagonists are unknowingly involved in a conspiracy to murder President Kennedy, but I don’t quite understand how the conspiracy is supposed to work.

EDGAR ALLAN POE’S SNIFTER OF DEATH #3 (Ahoy, 2021) – “Edgar Allan Poe’s Gore of Frankenstein,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Greg Scott. A Frankenstein-Mummy-Werewolf mashup story. I don’t remember much about it. “Annabel Leech,” [W] Bryce Abood, [A] Rick Geary. A woman has a bizarre skin disease. She gets two different doctors to treat it, each ignorant of the other. This story is a good example of Rick Geary’s gruesome style of humor.

ETERNALS #8 (Marvel, 2021) – “Hail Thanos, Part 2,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Esad Ribic. Some of the Eternals visit Lemuria, where they meet Thena and her Deviant lover. Thanos kills Druig. I’m continuing to read this series out of a sense of obligation, but it’s not among Kieron’s best works, and I feel like he could be putting more effort into it.

ROBIN & BATMAN #2 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Dick meets the Justice League and the Titans, and he and the other Titans have a fun time fighting the Royal Flush Gang. But then we discover that Dick was spying on the Titans on Batman’s behalf. This issue is both cute and disturbing. As usual, Dustin Nguyen is really good at drawing young people.

Older comics:

CAREER GIRL ROMANCES #24 (Charlton, 1964) – “The Cover Girl and the Clown” etc., [W] Joe Gill, [A] Bill Montes. Three boring and unimaginatively drawn romance stories, all of them starring career women. This series was previously called Three Nurses. My general sense is that Charlton romance comics were on a lower plane of quality than DC or Marvel or ACG romance comics. Of course the same can be said of Charlton comics in any other genre.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #20 (Marvel, 2016) – “Spider-Man’s Superior,” [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. Having just captured Spider-Man, Doc Ock explains how he came back to life. After Superior Spider-Man his mind was trapped in an Octobot, but with the aid of a digitized version of Anna Maria, he recovered his own body and restored his mind to it. This issue is a fun tribute to Superior Spider-Man, which was probably the high point of Slott’s tenure on this series.

RICHIE RICH & JACKIE JOKERS #38 (Harvey, 1980) – “Juggle Madness” and other uncredited stories. Jackie Jokers is a professional comedian, and his stories tend to focus on his efforts to strike it rich, since he’s too proud to accept charity from his friend Richie. One of the stories in this issue is a parody of the then-current TV show Taxi. According to the GCD, every issue of this series included a parody story of this type.

CURSE WORDS #21 (Image, 2019) – “Fairy Tale Ending, Part One,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. A newly repowered Ruby Stitch tries to save Wizord from Jacques Zacques, but a villain named Clearboy intervenes. I forget if Clearboy has ever appeared before. Wizord and Ruby Stitch regain their memories, then they realize they have to return to the Hole World to find Margaret. As its title indicates, this is the final storyline of the series.

WONDER WOMAN #265 (DC, 1980) – “Land of the Scaled Gods,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] José Delbo. Diana Prince is a crew member on a Space Shuttle flight that goes off course and lands in a cave full of dinosaurs. There she meets a paleontologist named Donald Gregory Lute. I’m guessing that this character is based on Don Glut, thanks to the name, the interest in dinosaurs, and the USC affiliation, but I can’t prove this. At the end, Diana and Lute meet the rulers of the cave: some aliens called the Scaled Gods. This may be a reference to Glut’s series Tragg and the Sky Gods. There’s also a Wonder Girl backup story by E. Nelson Bridwell and Ric Estrada, in which Donna investigates the apparent murder of Mr. Jupiter.

SPIDER-WOMAN #3 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Dennis Hopeless, [A] Javier Rodriguez. In the second or third chapter of the maternity ward story, Jessica retrieves the Skrull prince who the villains are looking for, but then she goes into labor. Besides being a lot of fun, this issue includes some spectacular examples of Javier Rodriguez’s visual imagination. There are some beautiful splash pages showing the bizarre things Jessica encounters as she travels through the alien maternity hospital.

DETECTIVE COMICS #1032 (DC, 2021) – “Head Wounds,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Brad Walker. Batman fights Damian, then they team up to look for Hush, who’s kidnapped the rest of the Bat-family. There’s a subplot about a character named Chris Nakano who refuses a prosthetic eye when he learns Bruce Wayne is paying for it. The Damian scenes are the best thing about this issue.

DETECTIVE COMICS #342 (DC, 1965) – “The Midnight Raid of the Robin Gang!”, [W] John Broome, [A] Sheldon Moldoff. A villain recruits some juvenile delinquents to commit crimes while dressed as Robin. This story is not especially interesting or memorable. Elongated Man: “The Bandits and the Baroness!”, [W] John Broome, [A] Carmine Infantino. Ralph and Sue Dibny visit a hotel on vacation and discover that the last six guests are all named Ralph Dibny. Nose-twitching ensues. This story is much funnier and more entertaining than the first story.

CEREBUS #81 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1985) – “Becoming Synonymous with Something Indescribable,” [W/A] Dave Sim. The Roach tries to recruit Cerebus into the Secret Sacred Wars, and we find that he’s already forced Fleagle and Drew to participate in this delusion. Then Cerebus encounters a mysterious floating light and vanishes. At this point in the series, Dave’s parodies of contemporary comics were still very funny, though later they became much less so.

CRIMINAL 10TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL #1 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. A very young Tracy Lawless accompanies his father Teeg on a visit to a small rural town. Tracy is left alone all day while Teeg is off doing God knows what. Tracy befriends a little girl his age, and has some innocent childhood fun for perhaps the first time in his life. But we eventually learn that Teeg came to this town to kill some guy who was a liability to his boss, along with the guy’s innocent girlfriend. Tracy’s story is interspersed with pages from the comic book he’s reading, which is based on Marvel’s ‘70s horror comics. This is a heartbreaking story. Criminal tends to present Teeg as a sympathetic character, making us forget that he was not only a murderer, but a horrible father who denied his children any kind of normal life. It’s just painful to see how Tracy thinks it’s normal to not go to school, and to avoid talking to anyone other than his father, in case they remember him. It’s only Tracy’s ignorance and his unjustified loyalty to his father that prevents him from realizing how cruel his upbringing is. And these childhood experiences must have shaped Tracy’s personality as an adult, as depicted elsewhere in the series.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #578 (Marvel, 2009) – “Unscheduled Stop Part 1,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Marcos Martin. Peter gets on a subway train which is derailed by an explosion. It’s revealed that the train was bombed because it was carrying the jurors in an upcoming Maggia trial. As if the explosion wasn’t bad enough, the Shocker is sent to finish the jurors off. Spidey saves the jurors and the other passengers with the help of a mysterious old man. On the last page, the old man introduces himself as J. Jonah Jameson, Senior. So this issue is the first appearance of that character. Marcos Martin’s artwork in this issue is incredible. He may be the best Spider-Man artist of the past couple decades.

FOUR COLOR #1031 (Dell, 1959) – Fury: “The Night in Ghost Town” and “The Three-Toed Killer,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Tom Gill. Fury is an adaptation of a TV show about a rancher’s young son, Joey, and his favorite horse. In this issue’s first story, Joey, his friend Pee Wee, and Fury capture some crooks who are hiding out in an abandoned town. In the second story, Joey and Fury help hunt down a dangerous mountain lion. The best thing about this issue is Tom Gill’s art. He was one of the most notable comics artists who specialized in drawing horses. However, he seems to have learned horse anatomy from a book, not by studying actual horses.

MICKEY AND DONALD #4 (Gladstone, 1988) – “The Man of Tomorrow Chapter II,” [W] Bill Walsh, [A] Floyd Gottfredson. Mickey has an adventure with Eega Beeva, an advanced human from the year 2447. This is the weirdest Gottfredson story I’ve read. Eega Beeva is just a really strange character. He went on to become a fixture in European Disney comics. This issue also includes a ten-pager by Barks, in which Donald enters an auto race and performs disastrously.

RICHIE RICH AND… #1 (Harvey, 1987) – “The Monster Vine!”, uncredited. This series was just called RICHIE RICH AND… On each issue’s cover, AND… would be followed by the name of that issue’s guest star, which, this time around, is Professor Keenbean. In this issue’s main story, Keenbean creates a living plant that goes out of control. In the backup story, he creates a time machine that speeds up time for himself and Richie. See Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #31 for a much deeper exploration of this premise.

CURSE WORDS #22 (Image, 2019) – “Fairy Tale Ending Part Two,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. In order to acquire the power to return to the Hole World, Wizord steals children’s belief in Santa Claus. Wizord and Ruby Stitch arrive in the Hole World, where war is raging between Sizzajee and the tigers. Wizord-as-Santa-Claus is a really cool image.

SPOOK HOUSE #1 (Albatross, 2016) – “Spook House,” [W/A] Eric Powell. A haunted house story that’s a blend of funny, scary and disgusting. “The Frog Monster from Under the Sink,” [W] Eric Powell, [A] Steve Mannion. A little boy fights a frog monster. This story ends so abruptly that it made me wonder if my copy of the comic was missing a page. The last story, also by Powell alone, is a parody of Hellraiser.

ROBIN, SON OF BATMAN #6 (DC, 2016) – “Year of Blood Part 6,” [W/A] Patrick Gleason. A flashback reveals how Damian acquired Goliath as a pet. Damian escapes from Talia, says goodbye to Maya, and returns to Gotham. This whole storyline is very cute.

That’s the end of my reviews for 2021. I read at least 1976 comics this year. The actual number is probably higher, since I lost some reviews when my computer was destroyed. Even then, this number is lower than in 2019 or 2020, but far higher than in any year before that.