First reviews of 2022


This project began in 2013, so it is now in its tenth calendar year.

SKYWARD #7 (Image, 2018) – “Here There Be Dragonflies Part Two,” [W] Joe Henderson, [A] Lee Garbett. While escaping from a company called Barrow, the protagonist, Willa, is saved by some farmers who ride on giant insects. Then they discover that the farmers are employed by Barrow, the same people Willa is fleeing. According to Henderson’s note at the end, this story is based on the theory that the size of insects’ circulatory systems is limited by gravity, hence why insects are so small. Thus, if not for gravity, insects could grow to giant size. I just read that Joe Henderson is mostly a television writer and that he only does comics as a side gig.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #7 (Marvel, 2020) – “Let’s Talk Politics,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Marcio Takara. The Guardians attend a diplomatic conference in space, but the Snark delegate is murdered, and Marvel Boy finds the body and is accused of being the murderer. On the last page, Rocket Raccoon arrives, dressed like a detective and carrying a hip flask. This issue is a good example of Al Ewing in his humorous mode.

CURSE WORDS #23 (Image, 2019) – “Fairy Tale Ending Part Three,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. The war continues. Margaret finally reveals her backstory, and we learn why she can only shapeshift into animals. We are also reminded that Wizord used to be a real jerk. Sizzajee decides to outsmart Wizord by linking his life force to that of the Hole World, so that Wizord can’t kill Sizzajee without killing lots of innocent people. This series was building to a very exciting conclusion.

THE THREE MOUSEKETEERS #1 (DC, 1970) – various stories, [W/A] Sheldon Mayer. This  stories in this issue are reprinted from 1956. They’re pretty standard funny animal stories about three mice and their encounters with birds, cats, humans, etc. However, these stories are elevated above typical funny animal comics by Mayer’s brilliant visual storytelling and clever sense of humor. I’ve been feeling lukewarm about Mayer’s work lately, but this issue made me want to read more of his comics.

CHILDREN OF FIRE #2 (Fantagor, 1988) – untitled, [W/A] Richard Corben. Another chapter of the ongoing Den saga. This issue includes a lot of dialogue written in a substitution cipher. I painstakingly decoded all of this dialogue on my own, only to realize that all of it is already translated on the inside back cover. In the first backup story, “Necromancer,” a mercenary is escorting a nearly nude woman to her future husband, but she’s killed by an evil wizard. The second backup story, “Oteg,” is an adaptation of a Japanese folktale, though it takes place in a generic fantasy setting, and it’s line-drawn rather than painted. It’s a real shame that Corben’s Den saga is out of print and expensive. Dark Horse or IDW ought to publish a modern edition of it.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #18 (Marvel, 1973) – “Where Bursts the Bomb!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Gil Kane. This is one of the few issues of MTU where Spider-Man does not appear. Instead, it stars the Human Torch and the Hulk. The villain is Blastaar, who is a really fun character because he has no depth or complexity; he’s just a brutal, gleefully evil bruiser. Other than that I don’t remember much about this issue’s story, but Gil Kane’s art is excellent as usual.

HIGHER EARTH #9 (Boom!, 2013) – untitled, [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Francesco Biagini. I was unable to follow this issue’s plot because I haven’t read issues 4 through 8. Also, most of the characters in this comic seem to be alternate incarnations of a single man and woman. This comic is interesting, though, and I’d like to collect the rest of it.

MARVEL SPOTLIGHT #21 (Marvel, 1975) – “Mourning at Dawn!”, [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Sal Buscema. The Son of Satan encounters a series of menaces based on Tarot cards. This issue is highly bizarre and convoluted, as is typical for Gerber. Son of Satan was not among Gerber’s major works of the ‘70s, but it’s still interesting.

BATMAN #67 (DC, 2019) – “Knightmares Part 5: All the Way Down,” [W] Tom King, [A] Lee Weeks & Jorge Fornes. A mostly silent story in which Batman chases some guy in a mask. At the end, Batman takes off the guy’s mask and discovers that he’s the Joker. I don’t understand how this comic fits into the series’ plot, but Lee Weeks’s action sequences are excellent. He seems like a rather underrated artist.

MICKEY MOUSE #109 (Gold Key, 1966) – “The Mystery at Misty Gorge,” [W] Don Christensen, [A] Paul Murry & Dan Spiegle. This is a chapter of the short-lived and regrettable “Mickey Mouse, Super Secret Agent” era. All the Mickey Mouse and Goofy figures are drawn by Paul Murry, and everything else is drawn by Spiegle. In this story, some criminals kidnap a scientist and take her to King Solomon’s Mines in Africa, so she can help them use solar power to create artificial diamonds. Mickey and Goofy rescue the scientist from the crooks. This would actually be a pretty good secret agent comic if it didn’t have Mickey Mouse and Goofy in it. Dan Spiegle’s artwork is crisp and exciting, and the only real problem with this comic is the ridiculousness of putting Mickey and Goofy into a realistically drawn setting. The other annoying thing about this comic is that Mickey and Goofy locate the criminals’ hideout by just traveling all around Africa and asking people if they know a place called Misty Gorge. The writer of this story doesn’t seem to have understood that Africa is really, really big.

CURSE WORDS #24 (Image, 2019) – “Fairy Tale Ending Part Four,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. Wizord teleports the entire population of the Hole World back to Earth, so that he can kill Sizzajee without any collateral damage. Sizzajee murders Jacques Zacques in a fit of rage, then destroys the Hole World (in a cool fourth-wall-breaking moment) and teleports back to Earth. I was disappointed to realize that I don’t get to learn the end of the story yet, because there’s one issue after this, and I don’t have it. I will need to look for issue 25.

A MAN AMONG YE #2 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Stephanie Phillips, [A] Craig Cermak. A pirate story starring the historical pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read. This comic is forgettable, and I’m not sorry I didn’t buy it when it came out.

BASILISK #2 (Boom!, 2021) – “Blessings of the Chimera,” [W] Cullen Bunn, [A] Jonas Scharf. Another series that I declined to buy when it was published, because I’ve been underwhelmed by Cullen Bunn’s work. Basilisk seems to be about people who have basilisk-like powers involving all five senses, so there are some characters who can kill people by looking at them, others by tasting them, etc. Other than that, this issue’s plot is hard to follow, but it feels quite scary, and Jonas Scharf’s artwork is very disturbing and effective. Some of his pages are line-drawn and others are painted. I don’t plan on adding Basilisk to my pull list, but I would buy more back issues of it.

SUGAR & SPIKE #49 (DC, 1963) – “Sugar & Spike’s Halloween Adventure” etc., [W/A] Sheldon Mayer. I’ve been unimpressed by the last few Sugar & Spikes that I’ve read, and I’ve gotten the idea that Mayer was worse than Barks or John Stanley. But after reading Three Mouseketeers #1, I decided to give Mayer another chance, and this issue is really good. The first story is a typical example of a plot based on Sugar & Spike’s misunderstanding of the adult world, or in this case the world of older kids; they sneak out of the house on Halloween, and they think that some children in monster costumes are actual monsters. The next story is about Sugar’s Uncle Charley and his efforts to prove that Sugar and Spike can talk. Then there are two slapstick stories involving a window cord and a watch. Here, as in Three Mouseketeers #1, Mayer demonstrates a mastery of plot and visual storytelling.

DETECTIVE COMICS #824 (DC, 2006) – “Night of the Penguin,” [W] Paul Dini, [A] Don Kramer. Bruce Wayne visits the Penguin’s Iceberg Lounge and tries to find evidence of the Penguin’s criminal behavior. Instead he ends up fighting another crook named Mr. Zzz, whose gimmick is that he’s always asleep. This issue also includes a perhaps unnecessary appearance by Dini’s pet character, Zatanna. Paul Dini didn’t create the Iceberg Lounge, but he seems to have been responsible for making it a central element of Penguin stories. There’s a curious subplot in this issue where one of the guests at the Iceberg Lounge has a little yapping dog in her purse, and then the dog vanishes. I’m not sure what’s supposed to have happened to it. Addendum: Brian Cronin suggests that the dog was eaten by the leopard seals.

THE GOON #7 (Albatross, 2019) – “The Goon Snatches the Limburger Baby!”, [W] Eric Powell & Tom Sniegoski, [A] Brett Parson. A deliberately gross and vulgar parody of the kidnapping of the Limbergh baby. Funny but not especially susbtantial.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #43 (Marvel, 1976) – “Destroy! Destroy! Screams the Destroyer,” [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Al Milgrom. Captain Marvel battles Drax, who’s angry because Mar-Vell killed Thanos before Drax could do it. The narration describes Drax as an android. Brian Cronin (again) says that this was probably not a retcon but just imprecise language, since Drax has an artificial body. There’s also a subplot where Rick is seduced by a woman named Fawn, who would turn out to be a figment of his imagination. I met Al Milgrom briefly at the convention in November.

FANTASTIC FOUR #135 (Marvel, 1973) – “The Eternity Machine,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] John Buscema. Gregory Gideon, from issue 34, kidnaps the FF in order to drain their life force and use it to save him and his son from a terminal illness. He uses the Dragon Man as bait, since Sue (who was separated from Reed at this point) has a rapport with it. Gideon’s plan fails of course, but Reed and Sue remain separated. The art in this issue is better than the writing.

I LOVE YOU #94 (Charlton, 1971) – “Call Me Joe,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Don Perlin, etc. Four unimpressive romance stories. Two of them are by Spanish artists, Ernesto R. Garcia and Luis Avila, and their work is more interesting than that of the two American artists. The second story, drawn by Art Cappello, is about a cad named Terence who keeps calling his love interest “child.” On top of the last page of the story, a previous owner has written “This is dumb.” That’s a pretty fair judgment.

SECRET SIX #32 (DC, 2011) – “The Darkest House Part 2,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Jim Calafiore. The Secret Six go to Hell to retrieve a get-out-of-hell-free card. This story feels much darker and grimmer than other Secret Six stories I’ve read, and I didn’t fully appreciate its emotional impact, since I haven’t read most of the previous issues. This is still an enjoyable issue, though. See for someone else’s take.

RICHIE RICH CASH #13 (Harvey, 1976) – “Journey to a Hidden World”, uncredited. Richie and his girlfriend Gloria go for a picnic and find themselves in a lost world of dinosaurs and cavemen. At the end, Gloria is terrified by a mouse, even though she was just hanging out with a brontosaurus. There are also some backup stories starring Little Dot and Little Lotta.

LOVE & CAPES: IN THE TIME OF COVID #1 (Maerkle, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Thom Zahler. In 2020, Mark and Abby face the challenges of parenting their children and keeping their aging parents safe. This latest Love & Capes comic is the size of a small trade paperback, and was only available through Kickstarter. It’s a heart-rending reading experience because it has the usual tenderness and gentle humor of Love & Capes, but it also reminds me of the constant horror and hopelessness of 2020. The worst part of that year for me was the sense of fear that it would always be like this, that nothing would get any better. Now that the worst part of the pandemic is hopefully over, it’s still hard to think about that time. In any case, Thom Zahler accomplishes an impressive feat by being able to write about the pandemic in such an emotionally intelligent way.

AGE OF X-MAN: THE AMAZING NIGHTCRAWLER #4 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Juan Frigeri. Nightcrawler finally meets his genetic daughter Tenia, but then Meggan’s powers go haywire and she turns into Mystique. Although this story took place in an alternate continuity, it shows more understanding of Nightcrawler’s character than Simon Spurrier’s Way of X did, and it’s also more fun to read.

DAREDEVIL #12 (Marvel, 2019) – “Through Hell Part 2,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Checchetto. Matt tries to save Foggy and a person in a Daredevil suit from being kidnapped. He fails, and Elektra has to bail him out. Meanwhile, the Kingpin attends a meeting of rich power brokers. He tries to behave like he belongs there, but one of the other guests annoys Wilson so much that Wilson beats him to death and stuffs his body in a bathtub. And it’s hard to blame Wilson, because the guy was being a real jerk.

LASSIE #46 (Dell, 1959) – “The Deer Stealers,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Bob Fujitani. Timmy unknowingly takes a photo of some deer poachers, then has to escape from them and recover  his camera. In the backup story, Paul gets sick while out fishing during a storm, and Lassie and Timmy have to rescue him. Both of these are entertaining outdoor adventure stories.

THE FLASH #149 (DC, 1999) – “Chain Lightning Chapter Five: Whirlpool,” [W] Mark Waid & Brian Augustyn, [A] Paul Pelletier. Sadly, Brian Augustyn just passed away. In this issue Barry and Wally team up against a bunch of mind-controlled speedsters – including XS, one of my favorite Legionnaires, but she doesn’t get much dialogue. Wally has to avoid telling Barry about Barry’s impending death in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Wally’s anxiety about living up to Barry’s legacy is the central theme of Mark Waid’s Flash, and it’s nice to see Wally actually interacting with Barry as an adult.

LUCIFER #49 (DC, 2004) – “The Widow: Wire, Briar, Limber Lock II,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross & Ryan Kelly. Elaine Belloc and Mazikeen go on some kind of quest, and at the end they meet Mazikeen’s mother Lilith, who I guess hadn’t appeared in this series before. I want to like Lucifer but I’ve never been able to understand it.

SUGAR & SPIKE #27 (DC, 1960) – “Uncle Charley Tackles the Baby-Talk Mystery” etc., [W/A] Sheldon Mayer. Uncle Charley uses a microphone to try to prove that Sugar and Spike can talk, and their nemesis Little Arthur also makes a guest appearance. I don’t remember having read any Uncle Charley stories besides this one and the one in #49. I wonder if Mayer wrote him out of the series later. The next two stories are about a doll’s house, and a baby whose gender can’t be determined. In the last story, Sugar and Spike discover a Valentine’s Day gift from Spike’s mom, and they hide it in Sugar’s house. This may be the best of the stories because of its clever comedic plotting.

AQUAMAN #20 (DC, 1965) – “The Sea King’s Double Doom,” [W] unknown, [A] Nick Cardy. Aquaman meets his old mentor Kaltor, who has left Atlantis to go on a quest to kill a giant two-headed monster. Of course it turns out Kaltor is the monster, and Aquaman has to figure out how to destroy the creature without killing Kaltor. As usual in this era of Aquaman, one of the highlights of this story is Nick Cardy’s beautiful renditions of Mera. There’s also some hints of romance between Aqualad and Kaltor’s daughter Starene, but neither Kaltor nor Starene ever appeared again. Speaking of Aqualad and romance, I ought to try to find Aquaman #33, the first appearance of Tula.

CHIMICHANGA: THE SORROW OF THE WORLD’S WORST FACE #4 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W] Eric Powell, [A] Stephanie Buscema. A bunch of circus freaks try to save one of their number, a man whose face is totally covered wth hair, from an angry mob. This comic is reasonably fun, but it derives most of its humor from the stupidity of the townsfolk. Also, it’s the last issue of the miniseries, so it’s a little hard to follow.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #37 (Marvel, 2010) – “The Spider and the Shield!”, [W] Karl Kesel, [A] Paulo Siqueira. In their first meeting, Spider-Man and Captain America team up with the Sandman. At the end of the story we see that Cap’s encounter with Spider-Man has given him the idea of recruiting former villains into the Avengers. This is kind of a dumb retcon. “Make Mine Marvel!”, [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Pat Olliffe. This was the real reason I bought this issue. It’s a reunion of the creative team of Untold Tales of Spider-Man, a series I loved when it was coming out. In this story, a young Spidey visits the Marvel offices and meets Stan Lee. But the Marvel Bullpen gets ruined when the Human Top follows Spider-Man there, and Spidey realizes he can’t take the risk of informing the Marvel staff of his secret identity. This issue was a nice nostalgic tribute to a comic I remember fondly.

FOUR COLOR #914 (Dell, 1958) – “No Time for Sergeants,” [W] unknown, [A] Alex Toth. I bought this for a dollar at the November convention, and was pleasantly surprised that it was drawn by Alex Toth. But I was unpleasantly surprised to discover that it was missing eight pages. I ordered a replacement copy from eBay for about $14. No Time for Sergeants is a comedy about a hick from Georgia who gets drafted into the army and has a bunch of silly adventures, ending with his near-death in an atom bomb test. It’s not clear why Alex Toth was assigned this story, because it’s not a good use of his talents. It’s mostly verbal comedy, though there are a few fight scens, and at the end of the story Toth gets to draw some aviation sequences. Still, any comic by Alex Toth is worth reading. Incidentally, it seems like during his lifetime Toth’s notorious bad temper was accepted as an innocent quirk, but lately I’ve heard people talking more about how his meanness damaged his career and cost him friendships.

CEREBUS #213 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1996) – “Guys No. 13,” [W/A] Dave Sim & Gerhard. Bear’s old girlfriend Ziggy comes back for him, and the bar’s regulars start leaving one by one.  I have nothing particular to say about this issue.

ACTION COMICS #413 (DC, 1972) – “The Voodoo Doom of Superman,” [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Curt Swan. A villain named Dr. Mystir uses a voodoo doll to deprive Superman of his powers. Eventually we learn that Dr. Mystir is Brainiac. This is a rather silly and convoluted story, though the art is good. “The Man Who Destroyed Eclipso,” [W] Bob Haney, [A] Alex Toth. Bruce Gordon gets separated from Eclipso, but it’s not the real Eclipso, just “a split freak.” Also, Mona learns that Bruce is Eclipso’s secret identity. This story is a reprint from 1964, six years after Four Color #914. To me neither story looks much like Toth, at least not at first glance, and I couldn’t have identified either one as his work if I hadn’t already known. Metamorpho: “The 7 Sins of Simon Stagg,” [W] Bob Haney, [A] John Calnan. Metamorpho and his supporting characters are trapped in a replica of hell, built by an old enemy of Simon Stagg.  This story is continued from Metamorpho’s own series, which had been cancelled several years before.

IRON MAN #112 (Marvel, 1978) – “Moon Wars!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Keith Pollard. Iron Man teams up with the Knights of Wundagore against the Rigellian Colonizers. I guess Bill Mantlo was sort of an expert on space stories – he wrote Rom and Rocket Raccoon – but I’m not a fan of Mantlo, and I thought this issue was boring.

THE PHANTOM #971 (Frew, 1991) – “Attack of the Witchmen,” [W] Lee Falk, [A] Sy Barry. My friend Ian Gould sold me about 35 Frew Phantom comics for $100. This was a serious bargain because Australian Phantom comics are quite hard to find in America. Most eBay sellers who have these comics are located in Australia, so they charge exorbitant shipping costs. This particular issue, like the earlier Frew Phantoms in my collection, has a paper cover – the technical term for this is a self cover – and it reprints a 1990 sequence from the newspaper strip. In “Attack of the Witchmen,” a white doctor, Axel, sets up a clinic in the Bangalla jungle, but an evil native witch doctor tries to sabotage the hospital. Of course the Phantom saves the day. Sy Barry’s artwork is very exciting, and Lee Falk’s story is much less racist than you might think. At least he avoids the obvious trap of depicting all Africans as superstitious heathens who fear modern science. 

THE PHANTOM #998 (Frew, 1991) – “Redbeard… the Traitor,” [W] Claes Reimerthi, [A] George Olesen. This is reprinted from the Swedish Phantom comic. It’s credited to “Michael Tierres,” an anagram of the writer’s real name. It’s a flashback story set in the 17th century and starring the 6th Phantom. Shortly after the founding of the Phantom’s Jungle Patrol, one of its members betrays the Patrol to a villain named Salim Bey. The Phantom unfairly blames the patrol’s commander, a former pirate named Redbeard, and expels him from the patrol. Redbeard then joins Salim Bey. Of course the Phantom and Redbeard have arranged all of this in advance, in order to plant Redbeard in Salim Bey’s organization as a double agent, and Salim Bey is defeated. This is an exciting story, even if its ending is somewhat predictable, and I like George Olesen’s art. He kind of reminds me of Buscema inked by Ernie Chan. Despite his Swedish-sounding name, Olesen was American. He worked as a ghost artist on Sy Barry’s Phantom strips as early as 1962, but was not credited until the ‘90s.

THE PHANTOM #1020 (Frew, 1992) – “The Super-Jet Gang” and “The Weird Webs of Spidera,” [W] Lee Falk, [A] Sy Barry. Two daily strip sequences from 1967 and 1965. In the first story, the Phantom defeats a gang of skyjackers. In the second story, the Phantom saves some kidnapped explorers from a gang of spider-worshipping cannibals. Sy Barry’s art here is reproduced much larger than in issue 971, and it’s easier to appreciate his impressive spotting of blacks.

THE PHANTOM #1024 (Frew, 1992) – “Curse of the Granite God! Part 1,” [W] Scott Goodall, [A] Kari Leppänen. This issue and the next one, reviewed below, are my favorite Phantom comics I’ve read so far. Some fishermen discover a giant finger ( that proves to be attached to an enormous buried statue. The Phantom starts excavating the statue, but the villain Sidi Mohamed, whose gimmicks are a steel hand and a pet hawk, intercepts the news of the discovery. Sidi Mohamed tries to hijack the exhibition and steal the statue for himself, but the Phantom forces him to flee. The Phantom also discovers that inside the statue there’s a clue to the location of the lost treasure of Carthage. This story is narratively complete and exciting on its own, but it ends with two significant loose ends: Sidi Mohamed escaped, and we still don’t know how the statue indicates where the treasure is. After reading this issue, I couldn’t wait to read #1025, which luckily was also in Ian’s lot. Notably, this issue has a glossy cover instead of a self cover. A later letter column explains that Frew only used the self covers when a story was just 32 pages.

CEREBUS #214 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1997) – “Guys No. 14,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Bear leaves, and Cerebus has a dialogue in his head with his various alternate personalities. Mrs. Thatcher shows up and announces that the bar is closed because there’s no bartender, but Cerebus declares that he’s the new bartender. The art in this issue is sometimes lazy – there’s a two-page spread where the same panel is repeated 17 times – but the lettering is very elaborate, sometimes too much so for its own good.

KORAK, SON OF TARZAN #36 (Gold Key, 1970) – “Canyon of the Lost,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Dan Spiegle. After an evil ape knocks him unconscious, Korak is saved by the little daughter of a game warden. The ape returns and kidnaps the girl, and Korak has to follow and save her. This is a fairly exciting story, but what rubs me the wrong way is when one of the game warden’s black servants sacrifices his life to save his white employers. I don’t know if there’s a name for this narrative trope, but the classic example of it is Gunga Din.

SUGAR & SPIKE #76 (DC, 1968) – “The Blehh Strikes Thrice!”, [W/A] Sheldon Mayer. Sugar thinks Spike has the “blehh,” which causes everything he does to go wrong. Sugar’s dad’s boss, Mr. Cringe, comes for a visit, and thanks to Sugar & Spike’s antics, Mr. Cringe fires Sugar’s dad. Sugar and Spike stow away in Mr. Cringe’s car and accidentally save him from being kidnapped. Unlike the previous two Sugar & Spikes I read, this one is a single issue-length story, and as a result, Mayer has much more room to demonstrate his brilliant plotting.

THE PHANTOM #1025 (Frew, 1992) – “Curse of the Granite God! Part 2: The Hawk’s Revenge!”, [W] Scott Goodall, [A] Kari Leppänen. Melinda Soraya, the curator of the Morristown Museum, discovers the secret of the statue, but Sidi Mohamed reappears and kidnaps her. The Phantom rescues Soraya, and they find the lost ruins of Carthage, but Sidi Mohamed falls into a pool of quicksand along with the treasure. This is another thrilling adventure story, with excellent black-and-white art. Unusually for this era of comics, Soraya is Indian, but her Indian identity is not relevant to the story. In most American comics of the time, Indian characters only ever appeared in stories with an explicit Indian theme.   

POWER PACK #57 (Marvel, 1990) – “Fire,” [W] Michael Higgins, [A] Tom Morgan. A silly and overly complicated story that guest-stars Franklin Richards, Nova (Frankie Raye), and an alien called the Elan. Mike Higgins was the worst Power Pack writer, with the possible exception of Shon Bury, and the series was cancelled not too long after he took over.

THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERBOY #1 (DC, 1980) – “The Most Important Year of Superboy’s Life!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Kurt Schaffenberger. On Superboy’s 16th birthday, his parents tell him a flashback story about his eighth birthday, when he encountered two immortal aliens who wanted to die. The aliens offered to trade their immortality to Clark in exchange for his mortality, and Clark pretended to accept the offer, but actually refused it. And it turned out the aliens’ inability to die was just psychological. Clark was then mind-wiped to forget all about this, but in commemoration of this incident, his parents put an extra candle on his cake every year. This comic has cute artwork, but it displays one of Cary Bates’s characteristic flaws: his stories were always pointlessly complicated and confusing.

INCREDIBLE HULK #342 (DC, 1988) – “No Human Fears,” [W] Peter David, [A] Todd McFarlane. In an early chapter of Ground Zero, the gray Hulk battles the Leader’s henchman Half-Life. I first read this comic in 1996, in the Ground Zero trade paperback. I know the exact date because I bought that book when I was in Washington for the National Spelling Bee. What I most remember about this issue is the double-page splash that begins with Half-Life saying “Great Caesar fell!” Half-Life is an interesting character because of his pompousness and his habit of quoting Shakespeare, but PAD wisely avoided using him for more than a couple stories. Something I probably missed when I first read this story is that it ends with the revelation that Betty is pregnant. Todd McFarlane was actually quite an effective artist before he became more famous for feuding with Neil Gaiman and buying an overpriced baseball. By the way, I just heard that Peter David is suffering from kidney failure. I wish him all the best.

CEREBUS #215 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1997) – “Guys No. 15,” [W/A] Dave Sim w/ Gerhard. Cerebus has another long monologue, interrupted by visits from Mrs. Thatcher and Eddie Campbell. An ugly woman visits the bar and asks Cerebus to sleep with her. I’m not sure if this is supposed to be Joanne or not. Again, Sim’s lettering in this issue is beautiful but not always readable.

THE SAVAGE DRAGON/MARSHAL LAW #2 (Image, 1997) – untitled, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. This is really a Marshal Law comic guest-starring Savage Dragon and his supporting cast. It’s by the regular Marshal Law creative team, and I can’t tell what if anything Erik Larsen had to do with it. I’m going to file it under M instead of S. This miniseries’s plot is inspired by the movie Se7en, but it’s hard to tell, since Mills’s writing and O’Neill’s art are both extremely convoluted and hard to follow. If there’s one thing that characterizes Marshal Law besides violence and fascism, it’s excessive complication.

UNCLE SCROOGE #371 (Gemstone, 2007) – “How Green Was My Lettuce,” [W/A] Carl Barks. In order to protect his money from theft, Scrooge converts all of it into banknotes which he disguises as lettuce. But the Beagle Boys mistake the money for actual lettuce and steal it. Much confusion results. According to Don Rosa, the Money Bin doesn’t contain all of Scrooge’s money, just the part of it that has sentimental value. “How Green Was My Lettuce” is one of several Barks stories that seem to disprove this claim, because these stories give the impression that Scrooge has no money besides what’s in the bin. When this story was originally published, two pages were deleted to add more room for advertisements. Those pages were later rediscovered, but two panels were missing, and in this reprinting they’re replaced by new panels drawn by Don Rosa. You can actually tell which two panels they are. See Uncle Scrooge #371 also includes three European stories, the best of which is about Magica de Spell and the gloves of King Midas.

ACTION COMICS #529 (DC, 1982) – “I Have Two Eyes, But I Cannot See!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Curt Swan. Superman discovers that he’s unable to perceive natural disasters that are happening right in front of him. Lois has to act as his seeing-eye dog and tell him how to stop the disasters. Brainiac – who has just been reprogrammed to be good instead of evil –arrives and explains that Superman’s blindness was caused by Brainiac’s planet-destroyer. But the only way to reverse its effects is by turning Brainiac evil again. I think the best thing about this story is some cute Superman-Lois scenes. This issue also includes a bad Aquaman backup story.

SUPER-VILLAIN TEAM-UP #9 (Marvel, 1976) – “Pawns of Attuma!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Jim Shooter & Sal Trapani. This is a crossover with Avengers #154, and it includes an excessive number of subplots and guest-stars. One of the many characters in this issue is Rudolfo, the Latverian pretender from Astonishing Tales #1-3. Jim Shooter is credited with the art on this issue. I assume he just did breakdowns, as he did for his earliest Avengers stories.

SECRET SIX #3 (DC, 2015) – “The Nine Levels of Suburbia,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Dale Eaglesham. The Secret Six have some bizarre adventures in a suburban neighborhood. Most importantly, Catman apprehends a corrupt cop who’s been beating this dog. This comic is funny and entertaining, but I don’t know the context of its story.

REVIVAL #18 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Mike Norton. A lot of different scenes with no real central plot. Some notable developments are that Em confronts her late lover Aaron Weimar’s wife, and Dana yells at Cooper because she thinks he’s making up his story about the glowing man.

CEREBUS #216 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1997) – “Guys No. 16,” as above. Cerebus meets Joanne, whose only previous appearance was in a vision shown to him in issue 197. Cerebus has another long internal monologue, or multilogue since there are lots of voices involved, and then Joanne tries to seduce him. My impression is that Joanne lacks the depth of Jaka or Astoria or the Countess; she just seems like a sex object. This issue includes several pages of illustrated text dialogue formatted like a play script.

THE PHANTOM #1040 (Frew, 1993) – “The Drug Sharks,” [W] Nils Schröder, [A] Romano Felmang. The Phantom goes to Morristown to look for a jungle chief’s vanished nephew. He discovers that the nephew got involved with a drug smuggling ring. The Phantom defeats the drug smugglers, but in a poignant scene, he finds the nephew just in time to watch him die from a drug overdose. Romano Felmang’s art in this issue is really impressive. He’s Italian, and his art reminds me of some of the art I’ve seen in Dylan Dog. BTW, I still haven’t read any more of those Bonelli comics I bought a couple years ago. The reason why not is because I suck at reading Italian.

First Heroes trip of the year. IIRC, this time I ate at Bang Bang Burgers, and then afterward I went to Book Buyers to help them pack up, since their landlord is forcing them to move. Since 2020 I’ve had a routine of going to Heroes and then walking to Book Buyers, or vice versa, and I’m sad that I won’t be able to do that anymore.

ONCE & FUTURE #23 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. At the nursing home, the boy defeats the giant by invoking the story of Jack and the beanstalk. The fight between the Arthurs continues. Duncan, Brigitte and Rose go to Leicester to confront its namesake deity Leir, better known as Shakespeare’s King Lear. Leir’s transformation into Lear is an example of eugs’ abduction. hemerism, in which a god is reinterpreted as a real person. Or maybe it’s euhemerism in reverse, I’m not sure. 

STRAY DOGS: DOG DAYS #1 (Image, 2022) – “Dog Days Part 1,” [W] Tony Fleecs, [A] Trish Forstner. A sequel to the best miniseries of 2021. Dog Days consists of a series of vignettes, each starring one of the dogs from the original series. These stories take place before, during, and after the dogs’ abduction. I think the funniest one is “Other Henry,” about a dog who’s terrorized by his owners’ cat. But then when the Master murders the owners and steals the dog, the cat is heartbroken. In the original series, Imogene just sat around and did nothing, but Dog Days #1 reveals that before her owner was murdered, Imogene was super energetic and active. One thing I didn’t get when I read the first series is that the Master’s victims were all female; his modus operandi was to murder women and steal their dogs. What a terrifying premise.

MAZEBOOK #5 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Will confronts the minotaur. It forces him to relive the moment of Wendy’s death. Then the red thread reappears and leads him to Wendy herself, but she tells him that he can only reunite with her if he himself dies. Will lets Wendy go, and in a beautiful moment, she dissolves into a squiggle of red thread. Will returns the dog to his neighbor, and she and Will start a romance. Mazebook is a beautiful series, one of the best of Jeff Lemire’s many excellent solo works.

MANIFEST DESTINY #45 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. I’ve been reading this series for almost a decade, and I’m glad it’s finally going to be finished. This issue, the Corps of Discovery members become uneasy about the prospect of sacrificing little Pompey – especially Collins, who is a “warchild” himself. When York expresses his discontent, Clark cruelly reminds York that he’s a slave. Finally the expedition reaches the Pacific coast, where they’re greeted by the creepy Spanish ghost.

MS. MARVEL: BEYOND THE LIMIT #2 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Samira Ahmed, [A] Andrés Genolet. Kamala has a series of bizarre visions, and then someone else starts committing crimes while disguised as Ms. Marvel. Kamala confronts the criminal, who proves to be Kamala’s exact duplicate. This issue wasn’t quite as stunningly good as issue 1, but it was still good.

USAGI YOJIMBO #24 (IDW, 2022) – “Ransom Part Three,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi, Yukichi and Kitsune rescue Kiyoko, and Aoki betrays Boss Hasegawa. The boss gets his book back, but Kiyoko reveals that while he held her prisoner, she stole some records that are even more incriminating. This was a fun story arc.

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #15 (Image, 2022) – “Deviation Four: Point Pleasant,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] David Romero. Another guest-illustrated issue, focusing on the Mothman, a creature that supposedly appeared in Point Pleasant, West Virginia in 1966 and 1967. It’s associated with a mysterious smiling man named Indrid Cold. This issue consists of splash pages alternating with pages of textual narration, so it barely qualifies as a comic book.

NOCTERRA: BLACKTOP BILL SPECIAL #1 (Image, 2022) – “Blacktop Bill Origins,” [W] Scott Snyder & Tony Daniel, [A] Denys Cowan. The origin story of Blacktop Bill, who started out murdering other murderers, and then switched to murdering people who had been saved from disasters. This comic actually makes Blacktop Bill less scary, because his origin story is so ridiculous and exaggerated that it’s hard to take him seriously. Also, Denys Cowan’s art here is worse than Tony Daniel’s art on the regular series.

SAVAGE DRAGON #261 (Image, 2022) – “Into the Hornets’ Nest!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. The most notable moment in this issue is when Malcolm’s kids get vaccinated, but Tierra tells him that she’s “been doing [her] own research” and she refuses to “get the clot shot.” This series will never be a shining example of progressive politics, but at least Erik can be counted on to publicly support things like voting Democratic and getting vaccinated. Other than that, this issue includes more of the usual violence and sex. I must have lost my review of #260.

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #6 (DC, 2022) – “Beginnings,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] John Timms. Jon and Jay work together to destabilize Henry Bendix’s government. Jon discovers that Jay’s mother is still ailve. There’s also a cameo appearance by Robin. The Robin in this issue was originally supposed to be Tim, but in the published version it’s Damian. Apparently that was just a mistake by the artist. Superman, Son of Kal-El is perhaps the one DCU title that I’m most excited about now. Tom Taylor is just a really entertaining writer.

2000 AD #2221 (Rebellion, 2021) – I’ve been ordering 2000 AD every month but not getting it. I was surprised when on my last trip to Heroes, I found two different prog packs waiting for me. It seems that they’ve been arriving in America almost a year late. Dredd: “Who Killed Captain Cookies? Part One,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] P.J. Holden. Captain Cookies, a harmless local “superhero” who was loved by everyone in his neighborhood, is murdered. The case is low on the Justice Department’s priority list, so Cookies’s friend Noam, who is a monkey for some reason, decides to solve it himself. Slaine: “Dragontamer Part 9,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Leonardo Manco. Slaine fights the dragon Alban using his ultimate weapon, the Gae Bolg. Pat Mills comes up with an actual reason why the Gae Bolg has to be thrown with the foot, as stated in the myths of Cuchulain. Thistlebone: “Poisoned Roots Part One,” [W] T.C. Eglinton, [A] Simon Davis. The protagonist, Seema, is told about an incident involving a giant monstrous tree. Even though I’ve read this entire story by now, I’m not sure what it’s supposed to be about. Simon Davis’s painted art is very lavish, though. Proteus Vex: “The Shadow Chancellor Part 9,” [W] Mike Carroll, [A] Jake Lynch. This is a science fiction story of some kind, but I’m not sure what it’s about. I can’t even tell which character is Proteus Vex. Durham Red: “Served Cold 09,” [W] Alec Worley, Ben Willsher. Durham Red is trapped in a prison cell with a man who blames her for his daughter’s death.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #18 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcello Grassi. Ace invents a new song based on “Lala Mtoto Lala,” which appears to be a real Swahili-language lullaby. It looks like the good guys have won, but the devil boards their ship and kills Sam. Chang gets him to leave by throwing away the Anything Engine. Ace and Valentina kiss. The Destiny Man reappears and unmasks himself as Charlotte and Daniel’s brother Alexander, who was born after they both left America. The team gets dispersed across a lot of different places. As I write this summary, I realize that a ton of stuff happened this issue – maybe too much stuff?

FANTASTIC FOUR #39 (Marvel, 2022) – “Free Bentley,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Francesco Manna. After a lot of witnesses testify at the custody hearing, a surprise witness shows up: a man who claims that he’s the original Bentley Wittman, and that the Wizard who’s petitioning for custody of Bentley-23 is his clone. After “Bentley-Prime” proves his identity, the Wizard, horrified to discover himself to be a clone, flees the court and abandons his case. Then Bentley-23 reveals that he himself created Bentley-Prime was actually his own creation, and he (Bentley-23) renames himself the Wizard. Meanwhile, Slott continues to inflict pointless torture upon Johnny Storm.

NIGHTWING #86 (DC, 2021) – “Fear State Part 3,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo. The various Robins and Batgirls team up to fight a bunch of people in battlesuits. I don’t understand what this issue has to do with either #85 or #87, but it’s very exciting. Tom Taylor is perhaps the most purely entertaining writer in comics right now.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #35 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Last of the Marvels Part Four,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Sergio Dávila. Carol rescues the other former Marvels, and they prepare for their final battle against Vox Supreme. The Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy show up to assist the Marvels. This issue was mostly action sequences and was not very memorable.

BUCKHEAD #2 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Shobo, [A] George Kambadais. Tobo and his friends continue to investigate whatever is going on in this weird town. This issue is a predictable continuation of the story from #1.

THE HUMAN TARGET #3 (DC, 2022) – “That We Are Gone,” [W] Tom King, [A] Greg Smallwood. Guy Gardner beats up Christopher Chance, then Chance and Ice go to visit Booster Gold, who’s engaged in yet another get-rick-quick scheme. Guy continues to harass Chance until Chance gets someone to dress up as Hal Jordan and tell Guy to knock it off. Tom King is a severely inconsistent writer, but so far this series has been enjoyable.

DAREDEVIL: WOMAN WITHOUT FEAR #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Rafael De Latorre. Matt and Elektra sleep together, there are a bunch of flashbacks to Elektra’s past history, and then Kraven the Hunter appears at the end. This is essentially just another issue of Zdarsky’s Daredevil run, only with a new title. Zdarsky is perhaps the only writer besides Frank Miller who can write Elektra well.

2000 AD #2222 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Noam investigates Cookies’s death, with no help from Dredd. Tharg’s 3rillers: “Nakka of the S.T.A.R.S.,” [W] Roger Langridge, [A] Brendan McCarthy. Inspector Nakrosky and his robot sidekick Penny investigate a murder in rural Hampshire. The victim is a scientist who’s invented a cloning process. This comic is funny and visually appealing, as one would expect from its all-star creative team. Thistlebone: as above. Seema finds that a man named Malcolm may be behind the weird stuff that’s been going on, and in another sequence, we encounter Malcolm himself. Proteus Vex: as above. Proteus Vex reveals the origin of an alien race called the Silent, who were forbidden to talk about the destruction of their home planet. Durham Red: as above. Durham Red escapes from her prison cell.

CRUSH & LOBO #8 (DC, 2022) – “Robot Therapists Suck,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Amancay Nahuelpan. Crush and Lobo escape from prison and kill the evil warden. They go their separate ways. Crush decides to work freelance for the prison, so she can earn money to support her pet space lizards. No real lessons are learned. This was a fun miniseries.

ROBIN #9 (DC, 2022) – “Burn!”, [W] Josh Williamson, [A] Roger Cruz. The Lazarus Demon beats Damian senseless. Damian has a vision where Alfred’s ghost tells him that the first thing Bruce did to become Batman was ask for help. Damian rallies his fellow combatants to defeat the demon. Then Mother Soul teleports him into the past, where he encounters younger versions of Ra’s al Ghul, his wife and his mother.

INFERNO #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Death of Moira X,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Valerio Schiti & Stefano Caselli. Mystique and Destiny take away Moira’s powers, but Doug shows up and reminds them that they can’t kil her, because she’s a human now. The battle between the X-Men and Orchis ends in a stalemate. This was a fairly satisfying conclusion to Hickman’s FF run, but his public statements suggest that he’s somewhat disappointed with how it ended. Still, he’s easily the best X-Men writer since Grant Morrison, and he successfully revived a stagnant franchise.

FRONTIERSMAN #4 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Patrick Kindlon, [A] Marco Ferrari. Frontiersman’s next visitor is Bryn, an Amazon supervillain who can grow to giant size. They have a long talk, and the issue ends with them about to sleep together. This is another interesting issue, though Bryn seems like something of a sexist male fantasy.

DIRTBAG RAPTURE #4 (Oni, 2022) – “Now the Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Kendall Goode. After some fruitless negotiations with the angels and demons, Kat travels to the world beyond the afterlife, where she meets her own creator. He or it is a giant blue blob with lots of arms and mouths, who’s sitting on a couch playing video games. This series gets weirder and weirder each issue. A funny aside in this issue is the revelation that the current President is a serial arsonist.

THE LAST SESSION #2 (Mad Cave, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jasmine Walls, [A] Dozerdraws. The game continues, but some tension develops between the new group member, Cassandra, and the rest of the party. An interesting issue, but I don’t have anything new to say about it.

2000 AD #2223 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Noam discovers the murderer, Donny Zickberg, and uses a hallucinogen to drive him crazy. Dredd heads over to investigate the scene of Noam and Zickberg’s fight. Tharg’s 3rillers: as above. Nakrosky meets a potential subject, Lady Octavia. Then a robot priest tries to assassinate him. Thistlebone: as above. Seema learns about an event in 1984 when a young Malcolm encountered a plant monster during a Boy Scout field trip. The archaeologist, Mr. Robertson, discovers an ancient deer-bone mask. Proteus Vex: as above. This is the last chapter, which is good, because I don’t understand this story at all. Durham Red: as above. Durham Red is given the opportunity to escape, but chooses not to use it. This is also the concluding chapter.

THE THING #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Next Big Thing Part 3,” [W] Walter Mosley, [A] Tom Reilly. Ben and Amaryllis sleep together (how?!) and then the Champion of the Universe shows up for a rematch with Ben. This sequence is probably inspired by the classic Marvel Two-in-One Annual #7. We also get some hints that Bobby isn’t a normal kid. This series is really weird, yet it somehow seems to capture the essence of Ben Grimm.

AQUAMAN: THE BECOMING #4 (DC, 2022) – “Legacy,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Scott Koblish. Jackson meets Delilah’s adoptive mother, Meeka, and she, Delilah and Lucia tell Jackson conflicting stories about Xebel’s past history. Like Far Sector, this series uses an alien society as an analogy for contemporary American politics, but it does so in a more subtle way, and it’s not really about race.

HAWKEYE: KATE BISHOP #3 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Marieke Nijkamp, [A] Enid Balám. Kate fights off some Chapiteau staffers, she and Susan talk about their past with their asshole dad, and Kate realizes that the Circus of Crime is behind the resort. Kate fights Fifi, the Circus of Crime’s archer, and then encounters Pascale Tiboldt, who, based on her name, must be related to the Ringmaster.

STILLWATER #12 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón Pérez. Daniel and Laura execute their plan to get rid of Galen and take over Stillwater. It doesn’t go well, and Daniel is captured and burned at a stake, just beyond the town border. Laura saves his life by altering the map of the town, so that Daniel is inside the border again. This is the most brilliant plot twist in the entire series.

THE BLUE FLAME #6 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Adam Gorham. In a flashback, the Night Brigade saves a kidnapped child, and then we see Sam praising them to the alien jury as model examples of humanity. The prosecutor reveals that all the Night Brigade members had dark secrets in their past. There’s also an appearance by the Crimson Visage’s estranged father, an old Native American man. Meanwhile, Sam realizes that Marco was ratted out to the ICE by Bryan from the support group, in issue 5, and he finds Bryan and beats him half to death. The Blue Flame is a lower-profile series than She Could Fly, but it’s really just as good.

ECHOLANDS #5 (Image, 2022) – “Hope’s Crucible,” [W/A] J.H. Williams III, [W] W. Haden Blackman. The top halves of the pages depict the characters who are hiding out with the Metaphysicist. The bottom halves tell the story of Rabbit’s visit to a realm of Japanese giant robots – who are hiding out on an island so they don’t accidentally violate the First Law of Robotics. Hope sleeps with Cor, and Rabbit gets a robot to escort him away from the island, with the caveat that the robot can never return. As usual, this comic has better art than anything else on the stands (though see my review of Cursed Pirate Girl below), and the writing is better than I expected.

BYLINES IN BLOOD #1 (Aftershock, 2022) – “Dead and Gone,” [W] Erika Schultz & Van Jensen, [A] Aneke. I know Van Jensen from when we both worked at Georgia Tech, but I’m not sure if I’ve actually read any of his comics before. Bylines in Blood is about a former journalist Satya, a former journalist (like Van himself, I think) who investigates the murder of her old mentor. There are some light SF elements, and also some references to Satya’s Indian background. So far this is an interesting series.

BLACK WIDOW #13 (Marvel, 2022) – “Die by the Blade Part 1,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Rafael T. Pimentel. A flashback story depicting Natasha’s first encounter with the Blade, in Madripoor some time ago. This is perhaps the worst issue yet. It feels like a fill-in issue, and it doesn’t convince me that the Blade is a credible villain.

ICE CREAM MAN #27 (Image, 2022) – “The Morphometasis,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. In a reversal of Kafka’s Metamorphosis, a cockroach turns into a human. After a few days as a suburban husband and corporate employee, the cockroach, Greg, is murdered by a disgruntled coworker. The idea behind this comic is a little too obvious, but the execution is effective. I really like the cockroaches’ dialogue.

BATGIRLS #2 (DC, 2022) – “One Way or Another Part 2,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad, [A] Jorge Corona. The Batgirls fight some armored villains named after saints, then continue investigating the Saints and the mysterious Tutor. This comic is a lot of fun, and Jorge Corona is a surprisingly good superhero artist.

I AM BATMAN #5 (DC, 2022) – “Goodbye Gotham,” [W] John Ridley, [A] Christian Duce et al. Jace fights some armored guys wearing armor developed by his father. Finally Lucius Fox has a change of heart and remotely disables the suits, saving Jace’s life. Jace and Lucius reconcile. I want to like this series, but it’s really not grabbing me, and I think I’m going to drop it from my pull list.

MARVEL VOICES: HERITAGE #1 (Marvel, 2022) – [E] Sarah Brunstad. The only good story in this issue is the third one, “American Eagle: Not Dead Yet” by Steven Paul Judd and David Cutler. It’s a funny depiction of a washed-up old superhero who’s forced to confront a hostage situation. Of the other two stories, the first two are frankly awful. The fourth one, written by Rebecca Roanhorse, is just a tie-in to Phoenix Song: Echo. It’s also unfortunate that this comic is so much shorter than earlier Marvel Voices specials.  That suggests that Marvel could have made more of an effort to recruit indigenous creators.

INKBLOT #15 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Rusty Gladd, [A] Emma Kubert. The Seeker encounters the Grove Guardian, who is worried about the encroaching Void, and then she finds herself in the middle of a sea battle. I still think this series is funny because of the cat, but I’m losing patience with its confusing story structure and its lack of narrative progress.

HUMAN REMAINS #3 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Sally Cantirino. Jess tries to escape from her abusive boyfriend, but on the way, she runs over some guy with her car. Anjali’s cousin Trusha is attacked on the street by racists, who are subsequently eaten by a monster. This is a very cathartic moment. Anjali’s son is eaten by monsters, even though children his age are supposed to be immune. For a series that’s all about how people need to conceal their emotions in order to survive, Human Remains demands some very strong emotional responses. However, I have trouble remembering how all the protagonists are connected to each other.

APACHE DELIVERY SERVICE #1 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. Our protagonist is a Navajo man serving in Vietnam as an artillery spotter. His name is  not mentioned anywhere, but based on the next issue blurb, it’s either Ernie or Sobrat. He’s captured by an older man – I guess if the protagonist is Ernie, this man is Sobrat – who recruits him to find some buried Nazi gold. I’ve been underwhelmed by much of Kindt and Jenkins’s work, but I want to keep reading this series anyway. However, its main point seems to be Ernie (?)’s conflicting loyalties as an indigenous man fighting for a colonial government, and as far as I know, neither author is indigenous, so this is not an #OwnVoices narrative. The pun in the title is that Apache can mean either a Native American nation or a helicopter, though the protagonist is careful to point out that he’s not Navajo.

SHANG-CHI #7 (Marvel, 2022) – “Family of Origin Part One,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Dike Ruan. Shang-Chi’s mom tells him the retconned story of his birth, and then they’re attacked by Shang-Chi’s siblings, who are angry at him for betraying their other brother to the Avengers. And then Shang-Chi’s grandfather shows up. A funny moment in this issue is the comparison of a burrito to a giant egg roll. The furry headless creatures with multiple wings are hunduns. I believe this creature was introduced to American culture by the Shang-Chi movie, which I have not seen.

IMPOSSIBLE JONES #2 (Scout, 2022) – untitled, [W] Karl Kesel, [A] David Hahn. Impossible Jones escapes from the Tech-Arcana site and experiments with her new powers. At the end she’s confronted by a man named the Saint of Knives. In this issue it becomes clear that Impossible Jones is a female version of Plastic Man, both because of her criminal past and her powers. At one point she even says “Almost as if I’m made of rubber or plast—”

JOE HILL’S RAIN #1 (Image, 2022) – “Rain Part One,” [W] David Booher, [A] Zoe Thorogood. The protagonist, Honeysuckle, is about to move in with her lover Yolanda, but then, for no apparent reason, nails start to fall from the sky, and Yolanda is killed. I probably should have skipped this, both because I disliked David Booher’s last series, Killer Queens, and because comics based on Joe Hill stories are never as good as comics actually written by Joe Hill. (By the way, speaking of recent Dark Horse miniseries, I just realized I never got Worst Dudes #4 and #5. I wonder why not.) But this issue is good enough to make me continue with the series. The strongest point is Zoe Thorogood’s art. Her page layouts are creative and her people look very appealing.

2000 AD #2224 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Dredd kills Zonny, and Noam and his friends honor Captain Cookies’ memory by redesigning an old statue to resemble him. In a previous chapter we were told that this used to be a pro-democracy statue but that the judges made it unrecognizable. This Captain Cookies story was excellent; it was a rare injection of hope into a franchise that tends to be very bleak. Thistlebone: as above. More backstory about Malcolm Kinniburgh. Tharg’s 3rillers: as above.  Nakrosky and Penny apprehend Lady Octavia for the murder. Nakrosky reveals that Penny was destroyed on an earlier case, but he rebuilt her. I’d love to see more stories about these characters. Feral & Foe: “II Part One,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Richard Elson. A fantasy story about a D&D-esque adventuring party, including a wizard and a warrior who have been forced to switch bodies. Now they’re on a quest to find a necromancer who can revive their dead member. This story is okay, but it feels as if it’s trying too hard to be funny, and its plot is hard to understand without having read the previous story with these characters.

2000 AD #2225 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “A Penitent Man,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Tom Foster. Kyle Asher is a former judge who was exiled to Titan for twenty years. Now he’s back, in a horribly deformed state, and is trying to rebuild his life, but the SJS – the Judges’ internal affairs division – tell Dredd to stay away from him. An intriguing start. Thistlebone: as above. Seema interviews a murderer who both looks and talks like Alan Moore. Visions of Deadworld: “You Give Me Fever,” [W] Kek-W, [A] Dave Kendall. I don’t understand much about this story except that it’s about the Dark Judges. It has some attractive painted art. Terror Tales: “Half Life,” [W] John Tomlinson, [A] Anna Readman. A black-and-white horror story about a man who’s compelled to commit crimes due to a telepathic link to his deformed, bedridden twin brother. Feral & Foe: as above. The party fights a gang of bandits.

NOT ALL ROBOTS #5 (AWA, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mike Deodato Jr. For the crime of killing a robot in self-defense, the mother is exiled to the wasteland outside the bubble. Her kids decide to leave the bubble voluntarily and go look for her. They pick up a little boy who’s been orphaned, then they get ambushed by bandits, but Snowball the robot appears and saves the day. Eventually they find Mom, who’s trying to build a new society in the ruins of Bubble Orlando. This ending sort of resembles that of “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas.” Not All Robots was one of Mark Russell’s grimmest, most depressing works, but it was a powerful piece of writing.

ROBIN & BATMAN #3 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Dick beats one of Croc’s henchmen half to death, then at school the next day, he refuses a classmate’s offer of friendship. The classmate’s two friends are named after Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle ( Killer Croc ambushes Dick’s school and kidnaps Bruce, and to rescue him, Dick has to follow Croc to the circus where Dick’s parents were killed. Dick defeats Croc and saves Bruce, and the experience teaches him that he doesn’t have to be a younger Batman, he can be Robin instead. This was a truly excellent miniseries. I think it’s the definitive version of Robin’s origin.

HUMAN REMAINS #4 (Vault, 2022) – as above. General Ryan Sullivan recruits Anjali to help defeat the monsters, and they succeed in capturing a living specimen. But Sullivan has his own hidden agenda, since a monster has just eaten his dad, and the issue ends with him entering the monster’s cell and staring it down.

THE MARVELS #7 (Marvel, 2022) – “Communing with the Smoke,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Yildiray Cinar. The Golden Age Vision leads the Avengers into a battle with Lady Lotus. During the fight, the new Warbird accuses Lady Lotus of kidnapping her father. The thing I don’t like about this series is that Kurt’s prose is sometimes very awkward, and it’s gotten more so in recent years. But I’m still willing to read anything Kurt writes.

THE GOOD ASIAN #8 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Alexandre Tefenkgi. With Chinatown in a state of siege, Lucy Fan continues looking for Ivy Chen and eventually finds her accomplice, Holly Chao. After a tense confrontation, Lucy goes to see Edison Hark, who’s still alive but covered in bandages. My main problem with this series, as I have stated repeatedly, is that it’s very hard to remember who all the characters are.

ORDINARY GODS #6 (Image, 2022) – “God Spark,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Joe Clark, [A] Felipe Watanabe. The two teams of gods get into a big fight. This series has a lot of potential, but it’s been consistently confusing and lacking in direction, and I don’t know how much longer I’ll continue reading it.  

DEVIL’S REIGN #2 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Checchetto. The Kingpin continues taking over New York with his private army of supervillains. The fugitive superheroes decide that their alternative mayoral candidate should be not Tony Stark but Luke Cage. Meanwhile, Dr. Octopus uses Reed Richards’s interdimensional gate to recruit alternative versions of himself who are inhabiting the bodies of Wolverine, Hulk and Ghost Rider. The choice of these particular characters is an homage to the New Fantastic Four, with the original Doc Ock playing the role of Spider-Man.

CEREBUS #218 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1997) – “Guys No. 18,” [W/A] Dave Sim w/ Gerhard. Cerebus and Joanne go to another tavern for a date that ends rather badly. They go back home and have sex, then Cerebus has a bizarre dream. This issue also includes a transcript of a long conversation between Dave and Alan Moore about From Hell. This is fascinating to read, but also annoying because it’s eleven pages. And in order to read Alan’s comments, which are actually interesting, you have to wade through a lot of Dave’s usual bullshit. This entire interview can be found online at

DENNIS THE MENACE #13 (Marvel, 1982) – “Real Campy,” uncredited. Dennis and his dad go on a camping trip. There are also a couple of short backup stories. I read this because I was tired and it looked like a quick read, which it was; I finished it in a couple minutes. It’s written and drawn in the same style as the Fawcett Dennis comic books, but the lettering in the first story is hideous. I believe this was the last issue of this series, and also the last Dennis the Menace comic book from any publisher, though the comic itself includes no indication that it’s the last issue. I would be curious to know why Marvel published a Dennis the Menace comic in the first place, and why they stopped.

NO ONE LEFT TO FIGHT II #4 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Aubrey Sitterson, [A] Fico Ossio. Timor and Vale combine their powers, becoming Vamor, in order to defeat the Hierophant, who’s been following them around for the entire series. Timor and Vale prepare for their final battle. I still really like this series, even though I don’t know Dragon Ball well.

A THING CALLED TRUTH #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Iolanda Zanfardino, [A] Elisa Romboli. The girls go to Rome, where they bathe in the Trevi Fountain and then reenact the climactic scene from Gladiator in the Coliseum. Their next stop is Dorian’s home in Germany. This series is honestly pretty dumb, but I might as well finish reading it.

ONE-STAR SQUADRON #2 (DC, 2022) – “Rock Bottom,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Lieber. This issue focuses on Minuteman, who has 1/60th the power of Hourman, but who, like Hourman, is a drug addict. When he buys some bad Miraclo, his appearance at a children’s party turns disastrous. Then he goes to a comic convention where he has a table next to Mark Russell, but they throw him out for entering the VIP lounge without permission. Meanwhile, Power Girl stages a hostile takeover and overthrows Red Tornado as the CEO of Heroz4U. I frankly do not like this series at all. It’s mean-spirited and cruel, and it damages Red Tornado and Power Girl’s characters for no reason. I might as well finish reading it just because I’ve already started it.  

MONKEY MEAT #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Juni Ba. A creature called Thaddeus Lug tries to break its servitude to a company that sells monkey meat. This comic is confusing and difficult to follow, but also fascinating. It’s drawn in a style that resembles that of Jorge Corona but is even more radical. The artist is originally from Senegal, and I think this comic qualifies as Africanfuturism. This wasn’t my favorite comic this month, but it’sdefinitely fascinating. Now I kind of want to read the artist’s TKO graphic novel, Djeliya.

MY BAD #3 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Social Tedia” etc., [W] Mark Russell & Bryce Ingram, [A] Peter Krause. Another collection of pointless superhero satires. At least the tone of this series is gentle and harmless, rather than cruel and bitter, as in One-Star Squadron.

SWAMP THING: GREEN HELL #1 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Doug Mahnke.  Donald and his daughter Ronnie are living in a postapocalyptic world devastated by sea level rise, where they and their neighbors are the only known living humans. During a battle between Donald’s community and a gang of bandits, a murderous Swamp Thing emerges from the sea and starts killing people indiscriminately. To save the day, Ronnie and her elderly neighbor George have to go see a mysterious man living in a lighthouse. The man is John Constantine, and he resurrects the original Swamp Thing. This story is interesting, but kind of tedious to read, because the milieu is so grim and bleak. Also, I’m getting tired of the cliché where postapocalyptic settings are always full of bandits who demand tribute from innocent people. See this Quora answer for some problems with this trope:

2000 AD #2226 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Kyle’s apartment is vandalized. While reporting the crime to Dredd, he also tells Dredd about the SJS’s “Welcome Wagon” that harasses returnees from Titan. Thistlebone: as above. A chapter that barely advances the plot, as far as I can tell. Visions of Deadworld: “The Man Who Killed Mortis,” as above. A samurai (who, oddly, has a Chinese name, Sun Yi) tries to assassinate Judge Mortis and fails. Sun Yi looks a lot like Hammerstein, but this may just be a coincidence. Tharg’s 3rillers: “Chorus and the Ring,” [W] James Peaty, [A] Mike Collins. A music-themed ninja is ordered to recover the assassinated War-Pontiff’s ring, which symbolizes control of the “Chorus of Freedom.” This series isn’t nearly as interesting as “Nakka of the S.T.A.R.S.” Feral & Foe: as above. The heroes defeat the bandits and continue their quest for the necromancer.

CEREBUS #219 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1997) – “Guys No. 19,” as above. Cerebus has a dream where he marries Joanne. Then Joanne realizes Cerebus has been keeping a tally of the times they’ve slept together. Cerebus lies and says that it’s a tally of the days until he leaves, and Joanne gets angry and leaves Cerebus. In the epilogue, a mysterious man visits the bar and reveals himself as Jaka’s husband Rick. “Guys” was actually the best Cerebus story since “Jaka’s Story.” That is pretty faint praise, but in this story Dave succeeded to some extent in capturing the humor and wittiness of the series’ glory days. However, most people probably didn’t notice this because they’d already given up on Cerebus.

THE PHANTOM #1042 (Frew, 1993) – “The Uranium Wreck,” [W] Sverre Årnes, [A] Heiner Bade. This is another international production; the writer is Norwegian and is best known as a mystery novelist, and the artist is German. Heiner Bade’s art resembles Jim Aparo’s, especially on the splash page. In this issue, a villain, Muhamad Sariq, intentionally wrecks a ship containing uranium, so that he and his men can steal it. The ship sinks near a native village, and Sariq takes the village hostage and orders the local people to help him recover the uranium. The Phantom shows up and saves the day, with help from a little boy from the village. This is a thrilling adventure story, although Sariq is a trite depiction of an Islamic terrorist. I believe this is the last issue in my collection that has a self cover.

TOMB OF DRACULA #24 (Marvel, 1974) – “A Night for the Living… a Morning for the Dead!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Gene Colan. It’s strange to think that this comic is almost 50 years old. This issue, Dracula terrorizes the people of London, but one of his victims, an exotic dancer named Trudy, escapes and goes to Blade for help. Blade goes hunting for Dracula, fights him, and loses. There are subplots focusing on Taj and on Frank and Rachel. The most memorable scene in this issue is when Trudy comes to Blade’s apartment and finds him and his girlfriend Safron wearing the pants and shirt, respectively, from the same pair of pajamas. For the ‘70s, this was a daring reference to extramarital sex.

CEREBUS #220 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1997) – “Rick’s Story 1,” [W/A] Dave Sim with Gerhard. An issue-long conversation between Cerebus and Rick. It seems like Rick is a mouthpiece for Dave himself, but I can’t remember much of what he and Cerebus talk about. This issue includes the end of Dave and Alan’s interview. In this interview Alan mentions a couple of projects that were never realized, and perhaps never will be, given his recent public comments. More on that topic below.

2000 AD #2227 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Dredd collects information on the SJS Welcome Wagon, and also on the man who Kyle murdered twenty years ago. Kyle is attacked by ruffians, and then a judge comes to investigate and shoots Kyle. Thistlebone: as above. Avril wakes Seema up at night and leads her to a giant woman made of wood or deer bone. I have no idea what’s gong on in this series. Visions of Deadworld: “Leigh,” as above. Judges Leigh and Ava are in a secret lesbian relationship. Leigh is kidnapped and murdered. I’m not sure what this story has to do with anything, but offhand I can’t think of any other 2000 AD story that depicted a queer relationship. Tharg’s 3rillers: as above. The protagonist discovers that the tyrannical War-Pontiff Pius XLV is still alive. Fearl & Foe: as above. The protagonists reach the lair of Golgone the necromancer, but she takes them prisoner.

THE PHANTOM #1043 (Frew, 1993) – “White as Snow… Red as Blood,” [W] Lennart Moberg, [A] Romano Felmang (misspelled Fermang). The Phantom teams up with a police inspector named Nestor to investigate Morristown’s drug trade. The Phantom’s only clue is the name “Torsen,” which proves to be the name of a circus that’s just moved to town. While investigating the circus, the Phantom is forced to dress up as a clown and fight some other clowns. He eventually learns that the circus is a front for a drug ring run by Officer Nestor himself, which is obvious in retrospect, since Torsen is an anagram for Nestor. This issue has some exciting action sequences, but Felmang’s art is less impressive than in #1040.

IRON MAN #113 (Marvel, 1978) – “The Horn of the Unicorn!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Herb Trimpe. Tony shows off the new Stark International plant to the public, then Iron Man fights the Unicorn. The Unicorn is kind of a cool villain because he’s completely insane. Otherwise this is a boring issue.

DETECTIVE COMICS #630 (DC, 1991) – “And the Executioner Wore Stiletto Heels,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Jim Aparo. A weird story in which Batman pursues three different assassins, one of whom has two heads. The main villain, Stiletto, is also named Saul Calvino, perhaps after Italo Calvino. Like much of Milligan’s work, this story is overly confusing and hard to follow.

HARDWARE #12 (Milestone, 1994) – “No Harm Done,” [W] Dwayne McDuffie, [A] Rich Buckler. In the aftermath of some sort of crossover, Hardware teams up with a character named Harm, who looks as if he was designed by Rob Liefeld. Harm pretends to be a villain but is actually an undercover cop. I love the idea behind Hardware – a black Iron Man who’s cheated out of his inventions by his white mentor – but most of the Hardware stories I’ve read have been disappointing.

KANE #31 (Dancing Elephant, 2001) – “Killing the Hero!”, [W/A] Paul Grist. Kane encounters a bunch of crazy people who are all dressed up as the same superhero. This issue is funny and Grist’s storytelling is brilliant as usual, but his plot is a bit hard to follow. In particular, the flashback scenes are hard to distinguish from the present-day scenes.

DONALD DUCK ADVENTURES #4 (Disney, 1990) – “The Bees Have It!”, [W/A] William Van Horn. Donald thinks a gentleman should only eat honey for breakfast, but he can’t find any honey everywhere, so he tries to get it by means of a convoluted plot that requires him to dress up like a giant bee. I’ve heard Van Horn described as the other great successor to Barks, besides Rosa. However, unlike Rosa, Van Horn seems to be inspired more by Barks’s slapstick comedy stories than by his adventure stories. (Also, in my opinion Van Horn is not remotely as good as Rosa.) This issue also includes a Barks ten-pager that continues the bee theme: the nephews have a beehive sent to their house, and Donald causes mayhem while trying to get rid of it.

MAD ABOUT MILLIE #16 (Marvel, 1970) – “Chili Gets the Guy!” etc., [W] Stan Lee, [A] Stan Goldberg. A bunch of dumb teen comedy stories. Two of them are reprinted from Millie the Model #163, which I already have. These late issues of Millie the Model are really not worth owning.

INCREDIBLE HULK #341 (Marvel, 1988) – “The Savage Bull Doth Bear the Yoke!”, [W] Peter David, [A] Todd McFarlane. Another issue that I read long ago in trade paperback form. The Hulk encounters Man-Bull, who strongly resembles his own earlier self. I think this is the Man-Bull’s first appearance since he was introduced in the ‘70s. Later, after a meeting with Clay Quarterman’s brother (punningly named Alan), the Hulk has to save Man-Bull from an angry mob. Wizard Magazine used to really like this issue, but I don’t think it’s among PAD’s best single issues of the Hulk.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #148 (Dell, 1953) – “Turkey with All the Schemings,” [W/A] Carl Barks, etc. My copy of this issue is a “subscription variant.” It has a white patch at the lower left corner of the cover, on which the original owner’s mailing address is printed. The GCD includes listings for several other similar variants of WDC&S issues, ranging from #144 to #165. See for a bit more information. I wonder if any other Dell comics have these variants. Anyway, in this issue’s Barks story, after Donald does his Christmas shopping, he discovers he no longer has any money for a Christmas dinner. So he impersonates a South American oil tycoon in order to get Scrooge to take him out to dinner, but Scrooge doesn’t want to pay the bill any more than Donald does. This story introduces the Duke of Baloni, though he only appears in two panels. He was later used more extensively by other creators. WDC&S #148 also includes stories starring Little Bad Wolf, Pluto, Little Hiawatha, Grandma Duck, and Mickey Mouse. The Little Hiawatha story is very racist even for 1953. The Mickey story is a redrawn version of a daily strip sequence. The GCD credits this story to Bill Wright, but the original sequence may have been by Gottfredson.

2000 AD #2228 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Kyle Asher escapes from the SJS’s assassination attempt and goes to the sewage plant to hide out with his robot coworkers. The irony in this chapter is that the robots are much kinder to Asher than his fellow judges. Thistlebone: as above. Another chapter that’s mostly backstory and talking. The flashback sequences are all drawn in a cartoonish style. Slaine: “Dragontamer Part 10,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Leonardo Manco. This chapter was delayed for unexplained reasons, and was published seven issues after part 9. It depicts Slaine’s final battle with Brutus. According to several online sources, this is the final chapter of the entire Slaine saga. If so, that is a shame, because Slaine is probably my favorite 2000 AD feature. Tharg’s 3rillers: as above. The Sister defeats the Pope and takes his signet, thus becoming the new ruler of the Chorus. Feral & Foe: as above. The necromancer sends the party on a quest to obtain a cauldron.

WONDER WOMAN #29 (DC, 2009) – “Rise of the Olympian Part Four: A Changed World,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Aaron Lopresti. Diana battles the Cheetah, while Zeus fights a Polynesian deity. This is a confusing story with a ton of plot threads, and I didn’t quite understand it. There’s a backup story where Hippolyta visits Diana’s current lover, Tom Tresser, in the hospital.

SUPERBOY #49 (DC, 1998) – “Searching…,” [W] Barbara Kesel, [A] Georges Jeanty. Roxy Leech goes looking for Superboy and her father Rex Leech, both of whom have vanished without a trace. I was expecting to dislike this because it’s not by Karl Kesel, but it’s a surprisingly poignant issue, and it effectively sets up the return of the (Karl) Kesel-Grummett creative team in issue 50.

GRAYSON #17 (DC, 2016) – “You Can Take the Spy Out of the Shadow…”, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Carmine Di Giandomenico. My copy of this issue is the Neal Adams variant, with a cover based on the cover of Batman #237. I’d love to own an actual copy of Batman #237, but it’s not cheap. Grayson #17 guest-stars Grifter, Huntress, Checkmate, and the Grant Morrison version of Frankenstein’s monster, but other than that, I was unable to follow its plot.

MACHINE MAN #9 (Marvel, 1978) – “In Final Battle!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Machine Man spends most of the issue talking with his military superiors, and there’s no real action until the end. This was the final issue of the series, and Machine Man next appeared in Incredible Hulk #235-237, which were not by Kirby. It’s no surprise that the series was cancelled if every issue was as boring as this one. I suspect that this series was not among Kirby’s better comics of the late ‘70s.

ART OPS #8 (Vertigo, 2016) – “Painted Ladies: Part One of Popism,” [W] Shaun Simon, [A] Mike Allred & Matt Brundage. Some guy hires the protagonist, Reggie, to hunt down characters who have escaped from famous paintings. Mike Allred’s artwork in this issue is spectacular; this issue is full of homages to notable artists, and there’s one extended sequence where Reggie fights a giant painted octopus. However, Art Ops’s writing was consistently disappointing. Shaun Simon seems to have wanted to create an art version of The Unwritten, but I don’t think his writing ability was up to that task.   

TARZAN #213 (DC, 1972) – “Balu of the Great Apes,” [W/A] Joe Kubert. Prior to his first encounter with other humans, Tarzan fights another ape who thinks Tarzan is too interested in the ape’s new baby. Tarzan saves the baby from some leopards, thus getting back in the apes’ good graces, but he feels sad about not having a family of his own species. The backup story is an adaptation of the ERB story “Beyond the Farthest Star,” by Marv Wolfman and Dan Green. The latter was a pretty good penciler before he devoted himself exclusively to inking.

GREEN LANTERN #159 (DC, 1982) – “When Evil Stars Begin to Fall!”, [W] Mike W. Barr, [A] Keith Pollard. Hal Jordan battles Evil Star and his Starlings. This story is pretty bad. The backup story – about an aquatic Green Lantern who looks like a giant eye with tentacles – is not much better.

BATMAN #620 (DC, 2003) – “Broken City Part One,” [W] Brian Azzarello, [A] Eduardo Risso. A trite, overwrought attempt at noir fiction. As I have said before, Brian Azzarello is an awful writer who was successful only because he had the good luck of working with Eduardo Risso. Risso’s artwork is the only good thing about this issue, but it’s lazier and less detailed than most of his work.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #322 (Marvel, 1986) – “The Chasm,” [W] Mark Gruenwald, [A] Paul Neary. Cap and Flag-Smasher, the leader of ULTIMATUM, are stranded in the snow, and Cap has to save Flag-Smasher despite their completely opposite beliefs. In this issue Cap explicitly states that he’s never killed anyone before – that is, until last issue, when he was forced to shoot an ULTIMATUM agent to save some hostages. As Brian Cronin shows , the claim that Cap never killed anyone until Captain America #321 was a retcon – there were many earlier stories that showed Cap killing people – and this claim was subsequently forgotten.

2000 AD #2229 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Dredd and Kyle separately fight the SJS and their robo-judges. I hope I get the next prog pack soon, because I’m curious how this story ends. Thistlebone: as above. After more flashback sequences,  Malcolm finally contacts Seema and arranges to meet with her. This story has been going on too long. Visions of Deadworld: as above. Some Dark Judges invade a chemical processing plant. I still don’t know what this series is about. Future Shocks: “Regarding Henry,” [W] Mark McCann, [A] Glenn Fabry. A confusing one-shot story about a girl who’s subjected to hypnotic visions in order to cure her of bullying. It’s nice to see Glenn Fabry doing interior art again, but his artwork here is below the quality of his early work. Feral & Foe: as above. The party encounter a giant “woodgod” with tusks and antlers.

BIZARRE HEROES #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1990) – “Origins,” [W/A] Don Simpson. Last month, Don Simpson posted a 2020 letter from Alan Moore on his blog, in which Alan explains his decision to take his name off the Fantagraphics reprint of Pictopia. In my opinion, this episode was a discredit to both men. I understand that Alan is very disgruntled after a lifetime of mistreatment by the comics industry. But when he takes his name off his older work, it doesn’t benefit him, and it actively harms his former collaborators. People who might have bought the Pictopia book are not going to buy it because they don’t know it was written by Alan Moore. That does nobody any good. But for his part, Don Simpson shouldn’t have published Alan’s private correspondence to him. Anyway, all of that explains why I felt motivated to read a comic by Don Simpson. Bizarre Heroes #1 is hard to evaluate. It feels like a parody of John Byrne’s Next Men or DNAgents, but it also feels like a seriously intended tribute to Silver Age superhero comics, and I can’t tell whether I’m supposed to take it at face value. Compared to this comic, Madman does a far better job of toeing the line between parody and genuineness.

TARZAN #170 (Gold Key, 1967) – “Tarzan and the Native Boy,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Alberto Giolitti. Depressed at not having his own child, Tarzan kidnaps an African boy, but of course he has to give him back. This story feels like a sequel to the one from Tarzan #213, and that’s because it sort of is. “Balu of the Great Apes” was adapted from a chapter of ERB’s book Jungle Tales of Tarzan, and “Tarzan and the Native Boy” was adapted from a later chapter of the same book. The backup story in Tarzan #170, “A Jungle Joke,” is based on yet a third chapter of that book.

2000 AD #1299 (Rebellion, 2002) – Dredd: “Sin City Part 11,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Kev Walker. Dredd puts Sin City under quarantine, then blows it up. Thirteen: “Part 11,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Andy Clarke. Joe and Dak defeat the Pan Tot Sef conqueror woman, but decide not to pursue a relationship. Tor Cyan: “No Such Place Part 3,” [W] John Tomlinson, [A] Jock. Tor Cyan battles Rahab, then in a backup story, we see him, or possibly someone else, investigating Rogue Trooper’s grave on Nu-Earth. Each of the stories in this issue is the conclusion of its story arc.

THE PHANTOM #1045 (Frew, 1993) – “Marsh of the Endless Wind,” [W] Scott Goodall, [A] Jean-Yves Mitton. This is a sequel to #994. Some jungle dwellers discover a hot-air balloon containing a statue of the Phantom in its basket. The Phantom connects this discovery to an incident from the late 18th century, when the 13th Phantom encountered a tribe of tree-dwelling people and helped them build a balloon. Back in the present, the Phantom returns to the tree-dwellers’ village and helps save them from some crooks, who have enslaved the tree-dwellers and forced them to mine jewels. This is another exciting adventure-mystery story, similar to “Curse of the Granite God.” I wonder if Scott Goodall specialized in this sort of story.

DEVIL DINOSAUR #9 (Marvel, 1978) – “The Witch and the Warp,” [W/A] Jack Kirby. Devil Dinosaur is transported into the future, and Moon Boy has to get him back. This issue guest-stars the Hag and her son, who reappeared in the recent Reptil miniseries. This was the last issue of the series. Devil Dinosaur’s plots tended to be repetitive, perhaps because the protagonist had very limited ways of interacting with any other characters. It was a really fun premise, though, and it’s no surprise that so many other writers have tried to revive this character.

LUCIFER #2 (Vertigo, 2000) – “A Six Card Spread,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Chris Weston. The Basanos, the incarnations of the Tarot cards, cause a lot of havoc. Lucifer and Mazikeen go looking for them. This is only the second issue, and it’s already very hard to follow. However, Chris Weston’s art is excellent. In terms of the story, the high point of the issue is a brutal scene where a gay Indian boy is lured into an ambush by neo-Nazis.

PRISM STALKER #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Sloane Leong. The protagonist is taken to an academy on an alien world, where most of the other students are nonhumanoid aliens. Prism Stalker, like Brandon Graham’s Phantom, is fascinating because it’s full of truly bizarre alien creatures. I need to read the rest of this series.

On my next Heroes trip, I had lunch at Bang Bang Burgers yet again.

SAGA #55 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. This is perhaps the most important and eagerly awaited comic book of the year – it’s the return of the best series of the past decade. Some years after Marko’s death, Alanna is working as a drug dealer while raising Hazel and her adoptive brother, Prince Robot. Meanwhile, the Will encounters Gwendolyn again, and they make love in front of Marko’s skull. I don’t know why Saga was on hiatus for three years, but I’m overjoyed that it’s finally back.

STRAY DOGS: DOG DAYS #2 (Image, 2022) – multiple stories, [W] Tony Fleecs, [A] Trish Forstner. Another collection of vignettes about the dogs from the first series. Perhaps the best is the last one, about a three-legged dachshund whose murdered owner was a firefighter. The story ends poignantly with some of her fellow firefighters burning the Master’s house down. This issue includes an ad for Fleecs’s next series, Crosshares. This series doesn’t seem to have been announced anywhere else yet, but I’ll be looking forward to it.

ONCE & FUTURE #24 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. While the two Arthurs continue to fight, a third Arthur shows up. Duncan, Gran and Rose fail to liberate Leir/Lear, who has been too thoroughly taken over by his depiction in Shakespeare. Their next stop is the forest, where they meet Robin Hood. I’m surprised Robin Hood hasn’t shown up in this series already.

SEVEN SECRETS #13 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. Amon and Canto now have the ability to predict the future, and they use it to hunt down the other secret keepers. Meanwhile, Caspar experiments with his new flying abilities and has a serious talk with his mother, and we learn how a woman of Indian descent became the queen of England.

WE ONLY FIND THEM WHEN THEY’RE DEAD #10 (Boom!, 2022) – “A Conflict of Belief,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Simone Di Meo. Jason kills Ondine, and he and Marlyn complete their theft of God Malik. Bristow uses the god’s theft to further consolidate his power, and declares war between her cult and the inner worlds. The issue ends with a flashforward sequence that I don’t understand.

SHE-HULK #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Rogê Antônio. It sucks that Runaways was cancelled, but I’m glad we’re getting more Rainbow Rowell comics. This issue, Jen Walters has a pointless fight with Titania, then goes to work with Mallory Book, who has nothing for her to do. Janet Van Dyne sets Jen up in a nice new apartment, but Jen’s rest is interrupted by the sudden appearance of Jack of Hearts. I was unimpressed with this issue at first, but the second half, after the fight scene, was extremely fun.

STRANGE ACADEMY #15 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. Emily thinks Doyle has left the school, but then he shows up. At a magical defense class, Calvin demonstrates the new powers he’s gained from Gaslamp. But then his powers vanish, and in order to get more wishes from Gaslamp, he has to sell Gaslamp’s wishes to his classmates. This series is ending with #18 but will be relaunched.

BLACK HAMMER REBORN #8 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Malachi Ward & Matthew Sheean. This issue is narrated by Colonel Weird, so it’s deliberately confusing and its scenes are not in chronological order. Colonel Weird encounters a parliament of alternative versions of himself. Then Skulldigger asks Lucy to break him and Dr. Andromeda out of prison, so that they can kill Colonel Weird. There’s also another Inspector Insector backup story.

USAGI YOJIMBO #25 (IDW, 2022) – “Crossroads Part 1 of 2,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. I love this issue’s cover: in the background, Usagi and Yukichi are walking and talking, but in the foreground, we see the tip of a drawn sword. In part 1 of “Crossroads,” Usagi and Yukichi encounter a man who was killed by six bandits. They follow the bandits to a crossroads, but can’t tell which path the bandits took. There is an obvious reference here to a certain clichéd Robert Frost poem. Usagi takes one path and finds some more victims of the bandits. Yukichi takes the other path and finds something even worse: Keiko and her uncle Jei.

DEFENDERS #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “3rd Cosmos: The Hierophant,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Javier Rodriguez. The Defenders reach the Third Cosmos, where they find Carlo Zota, and nothing else except a battle between Existence and Nothingness. Zota kills the Masked Raider and unmasks him, only to discover that the Masked Raider is Zota’s own future self. Zota has to put on the Eternity Mask and use it to become the new incarnation of Existence. That’s the end of a truly fascinating series.

PRIMORDIAL #5 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. We skip ahead to 2024, when Europe is entirely under Communist rule. The two monkeys and the dog finally return to Earth, and a much older Yelena and her granddaughter prepare to meet them. But the animals’ spaceship is attacked by Soviet planes, and Able is shot, just as Yelena suffers a heart attack. The art in this issue is far more conventional than in earlier issues.

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #7 (DC, 2022) – “The Rising Part 1,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] John Timms. Jon meets the other members of Jay’s secret news organization. A giant crab creature emerges from the waters near Gamorra, and Jon and Jackson Hyde team up to convince it to leave peacefully. But the Gamorra Corps arrive and attack the monster, and it kills one of them. The giant monster is actually very cute.

HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER #4 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Butcher’s Mark Part Four,” [W] Tate Brombal, [A] Chris Shehan. In the past, Jessica makes an unsuccessful attempt to separate Aaron and Jace. Then Jace tells Aaron the origin of La Boucherie: it was founded in New Orleans by an enslaved boy from Haiti, and unlike the other monster slayer houses, it was a hereditary lineage. But then the Old Dragon decided to destroy La Boucherie out of pure professional jealousy. This continues a recurring theme of the series – that the House of Slaughter is just as awful as the monsters it fights. Back in the present, Jace shows Aaron some star symbols that point to “freedom.”

KING CONAN #2 (Marvel, 2022) – “A Barbarian Father’s Lament,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mahmud Asrar. In flashback, King Conan gets depressed because his son is growing up in peace and luxury, so he takes Conn to the Aquilonian border and tells him not to come back until he’s been to every country on the map. In the present, Conan offers Thoth-Amon a truce so they can both survive the night, but Thoth-Amon refuses Conan’s offer and stabs him in the leg. I’d be interested in reading more stories about Conan’s time as king of Aquilonia, or about Conn’s solo adventures.

GETTING DIZZY #3 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Shea Fontana, [A] Celia Moscote. Just before a major skating event, the town mayor shuts down the skate park. (Mayors doing things that grossly exceed their authority is a theme in this year’s comics; see also Devil’s Reign.) Dizzy discovers that she herself is possessed by Negatrixes. As I’ve written in a previous review, this series’ fantasy elements are hard to accept. I have trouble believing in a superhero whose sole responsibility is to defend some random suburb. I would like this series better if it was more obvious that the Burb Defender and the Negatrixes are just metaphors for Dizzy’s personal struggles.

ROBIN #10 (DC, 2022) – “Mother of the Demon,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Roger Cruz. This issue’s title is a reference to Ra’s al Ghul’s first appearance, “Daughter of the Demon.” In the ancient Middle East, Damian watches Ra’s’s mother die, then she comes back to life and attacks him. Then he wakes up back in the present, and Mother Soul tells him more of Ra’s’s origin. Then Ra’s himself shows up on the last page.

AQUAMAN: THE BECOMING #5 (DC, 2022) – “Hometown Hero,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Paul Pelletier & Diego Olortegui. Jackson talks with Delilah, then saves some kids from being killed in a clash between cops and terrorists. Jackson meets his boyfriend again. Delilah realizes that Meeka has been lying to her, and apologizes to her mother. But Meeka is already plotting a terrorist attack on the peace conference, which would result in Mera being killed. Jackson declares that Aquaman can save the day. I think I might actually like this series better than Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Aquaman.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #125 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Pablo Tunica. With the end of the MLP title, TMNT and Usagi Yojimbo are the only IDW comics I’m reading. I think IDW is in serious trouble, especially with the loss of their Hasbro licenses, and I hope they come up with some more comics to publish. TMNT #125 introduces the Punk Frogs, a bunch of assholes who burn down the Turtles’ dojo out of pure spite. It’s a shocking and infuriating moment. There’s also a subplot set on a planet of triceratops people. Idon’t see how this subplot is relevant to the main plot.  

MY DATE WITH MONSTERS #3 (IDW, 2022) – “The Fox Consultation,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Andy MacDonald. Machi has to have her head shaved to protect her from a magical attack. As a result she gets bullied at school, but also makes a new friend. Risa finally meets the general who’s trying to find her a boyfriend. Chub invades the Risa training facility and starts killing people. This issue is a bit hard to follow, but I love this series. Paul Tobin is a humor writer at heart, and even his horror series are very funny.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #34 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Michele Bandini & Luigi Zagaria. Miles and Shift invade the Assessor’s headquarters, which is full of doors, much like the Monsters, Inc. plant. The Assessor traumatizes Miles and Shift even further by making them watch recordings of the tortures he previously inflicted on them. Finally he himself shows up. I really hate the Assessor by now.

BATMAN: THE KNIGHT #1 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Carmine Di Giandomenico. This is yet another origin retelling, but it covers Bruce’s high school years, which have been neglected in earlier stories. In this issue the young Bruce goes to Hugo Strange for therapy, only to discover that Strange was scamming his patients, including Bruce’s sort-of girlfriend Dana Dunlop – who I think is a new character. As in Untold Legend of Batman, Bruce wants to be a cop, but gives up on that. Unlike in Untold Legend, the reason is because he discovers that Gotham’s cops are hopelessly corrupt. Much of this issue focuses on Alfred, and we see his frustration at Bruce’s anger management problems and his limited worldview. Overall, in this issue Chip Zdarsky achieves the difficult feat of retelling Batman’s origin in a new and interesting way.

ICE CREAM MAN #28 (Image, 2022) – “The Etymologist Rises,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. Brian Gartner, an etymologist, is obsessed with the power of language to shape reality. In an unspecified foreign country, he climbs up a mountain in order to meet with a hermit who knows “the very first word.” After a terrifying journey that results in his guide’s death, he meets the hermit, who tells him that the flowers he’s been eating are poisonous. Brian’s theories about language are really pretty naïve, and while this issue reminds me of Paul Auster’s City of Glass, it’s not as deep. But I particularly like the sequence where Brian imagines the world literally being made of words.

MARY JANE & BLACK CAT: BEYOND #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jed MacKay, [A] C.F. Villa. I can’t remember why I ordered this, but I wish I hadn’t. In this issue, the Hood holds the comatose Peter Parker hostage in order to force MJ and Felicia to recover his hood. In the first place, this is an idiotic premise. The Hood has no powers and is literally just a dude with a gun, and the writer doesn’t even try to explain why Felicia couldn’t just beat him up and take his gun. The sequence where MJ dresses up as Black Cat to help steal the bag is also very problematic. It seems to show MJ doing things she logically shouldn’t be able to do, like bungee-jumping off a building on a rope. Or maybe I’m just reading this scene wrong, because the storytelling is very confusing, and I’m not sure whether the character depicted in each panel is MJ or Felicia. But the biggest problem with this comic is the dialogue, which is annoying and grates on my nerves. I guess this is a one-shot, so I don’t need to drop it from my pull list, but I won’t plan on buying any further comics written by Jed MacKay.

MY LITTLE PONY: GENERATIONS #4 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Casey Gilly, [A] Michela Cacciatore. The Generation 1 ponies explain Grackle and Dyre’s origin. Grackle and Dyre continue to execute their plot, and the G1 ponies accompany the Mane Six to Ponyville to investigate. This issue was uncomfortable to read because the G1 ponies look too much like humans, and so they produce an uncanny valley effect. Otherwise, I liked this issue more than the first three, though that might be because Mary Jane & Black Cat #1 was such a terrible comic that MLP: Generations #4 seemed better by comparison. A running joke throughout this issue is that the G1 ponies keep making references to ‘80s pop culture. There are also some funny Opalescence moments.

WONDER WOMAN #783 (DC, 2022) – “Through a Glass Darkly Part Three,” [W] Michael Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Marcio Takara. Steve and Diana finally reunite, only to be attacked by the Shining Knight – but not Grant Morrison’s version of that character. Otherwise this issue is mostly a bunch of fight scenes. In the backup story, the Bana-Mighdall decide to volunteer to guard Doom’s Doorway.

DARK BLOOD #6 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Latoya Morgan, [A] Moisés Hidalgo. Avery escapes the police and fakes his own death. In the last pages, he becomes Martin Luther King Jr.’s bodyguard, and the implication is that in this timeline, he might later save MLK from assassination. Avery also informs his family that he’s still alive, and we learn that his daughter inherited his powers. This is an interesting series, but its confusing narrative structure, with three separate timelines, was more of a liability than an asset.

ROBINS #2 (DC, 2022) – “Being Robin, Part 2,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Baldemar Rivas. The five Robins go looking for the kidnapped criminals for their past, and they find them guarded by the Junior Supercriminals, a group of ineffective villain sidekicks. A series of flashback sequences depict how each of the kidnap victims was involved in a case that Batman used as a test, or “gauntlet,” for one of the Robins. The flashback to Jason Todd’s “gauntlet” is based on Batman #424, in which Jason was implied to have murdered a criminal who was going to get off scot-free because of diplomatic immunity.

CANTO III: LIONHEARTED #5 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. Most of this issue is taken up with epic battle between the armies of Canto and the Shrouded Man. In the middle of this, we also learn the origin of the three Furies.

THE SILVER COIN #8 (Image, 2022) – “Rising and Falling in America,” [W] Matthew Rosenberg, [A] Michael Walsh. In 1968, the coin has found its way into the office of a Wall Street banker. The banker’s janitor becomes possessed by the coin, goes insane, murders a bunch of people, and finally kills himself. The coin’s next owner is a disabled man who finds it on the street. This issue was not bad, although every issue of Silver Coin has essentially the same plot. I don’t know why I haven’t read more Matthew Rosenberg comics.

REGARDING THE MATTER OF OSWALD’S BODY #3 (Boom!, 2022) – “Switcharoo,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Luca Casalanguida. The protagonists are present when Oswald is shot by Jack Ruby, then they smuggle Sonny Germs’s body into the morgue, exchanging it for a Dr. Pepper case containing Oswald’s real body. And then when they’re driving away from doing that, the Dr. Pepper case opens and Oswald gets out, very much alive. I’m curious to see where this goes.

BOUNTIFUL GARDEN #5 (Mad Cave, 2022) – untitled, [W] Ivy Noelle Weir, [W] Kelly Williams. All but two of the kids get killed, and the two survivors fly away on their spaceship, but one of them is contaminated with the evil plant. This was an extremely dark, brutal series. That’s a surprise because of the young age of the cast and because its creator’s previous work was a YA graphic novel.

NUBIA AND THE AMAZONS #4 (DC, 2022) – “The Ties That Bind,” [W] Stephanie Williams & Vita Ayala, [A] Alitha Martinez & Darryl Banks. In a flashback, Nubia fights a manticore in Chicago. Back in the present, the Amazons finally decide to negotiate with Medusa. This series hasn’t been as good as I’d hoped, but I’m going to finish reading it.

ROBINS #3 (DC, 2022) – “Being Robin Part Three,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Baldemar Rivas. The Robins defeat the sidekicks, but the three kidnap victims are about to be gassed to death. Tim points out that the hostages deserve to die anyway – especially since one of them is the Obeah Man, who killed Tim’s mother – and he unsuccessfully tries to prevent Dick from saving them. We then learn that “Tim” is not himself but was replaced by the “first Robin” from the end of issue 1. 

THE HUMAN TARGET #4 (DC, 2022) – “To this Great Stage of Fools!”, [W] Tom King, [A] Greg Smallwood. Chance and Ice try to interview Blue Beetle. Instead of actually telling them anything, he spends hours and hours dragging them from one adventure to another. Finally we learn that Ted funded Booster’s business because of a request from J’onn. At the end of the issue, Chance and Ice finally sleep together, resolving three issues worth of obvious sexual tension.

BATMAN/CATWOMAN SPECIAL #1 (DC, 2022) – “Interlude,” [W] Tom King, [A] John Paul Leon et al. This comic was announced prior to John Paul Leon’s death, but after he died while working on it, it was expanded into a tribute to him. The main story in this issue is a series of vignettes from Selina Kyle’s life, starting with her birth and continuing with her marriage to Batman, motherhood, retirement, and death. It’s a sweet story which also contains a ton of cute cat moments. The issue also includes a reprinted story from Batman: Black and White, and a series of tributes to JPL by various other creators.

WONDER GIRL #7 (DC, 2022) – “Homecoming Part Seven,” [W] Joëlle Jones, [A] Leila del Duca. With the Amazons’ help, Yara fights the gods and finally convinces them to leave her alone. She departs in the company of the two other Wonder Girls. This story will be continued in Trial of the Amazons: Wonder Girl #1.

WITCHBLOOD #10 (Vault, 2022) – “The Mother of the World,” [W] Matthew Erman, [A] Lisa Sterle. Atlacoya sacrifices herself to kill Paxton. Her death creates a “Magnum Opus Tree” covered with fruits that bleed witchblood. The surviving witches get together again to investigate this phenomenon. This has been an entertaining series, and I hope it continues.

DEVIL’S REIGN #3 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Checchetto. Luke  starts his mayoral campaign. Jessica figures out that the Kingpin is working with the Purple Man, but when the heroes try to find evidence of this, they’re confronted with the Superior Four. At the end of the issue, Fisk’s goons apparently murder Foggy Nelson. This series is a lot better than a certain other current Marvel crossover series that will be reviewed below.

FRONTIERSMAN #5 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Patrick Kindlon, [A] Marco Ferrari. The issue begins with everyone reacting to Frontiersman’s on-camera sexual encounter with Brynhilde. Then Frontiersman is attacked by the villains who have been making cameo appearances throughout the series. This part of the issue felt pointless.

ARROWSMITH: BEHIND ENEMY LINES #1 (Image, 2022) – “In the Cold Morning Air,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Carlos Pacheco. This series has been on hiatus for a long, long time. The previous issue of Arrowsmith was published in 2004, by DC’s long-defunct Cliffhanger imprint. I read the original Arrowsmith miniseries when it came out, but I can’t remember anything about it. This issue reminds me that Arrowsmith is about an American fighting in a fantasy version of World War I, alongside his pet dragon and his troll friend Rocky. Arrowsmith: Behind Enemy Lines #1 is an impressive mix of historical fiction and high fantasy. It’s far less grim than more realistic WWI comics by Joe Colquhoun or Jacques Tardi, but that’s probably an unfair comparison. The high point of this issue is the scene where Arrowsmith defends Rocky from racist abuse by other human soldiers.

BOLERO #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Wyatt Kennedy, [A] Luciano Vecchio. Devyn Dagny is an aspiring tattoo artist, but her girlfriend leaves her, she can’t get her tattooing license, and she skips her best friend’s marriage proposal in order to hook up with some random dude. Just as Devyn is regretting the mess she’s made of her life, her hook-up shows her a way to project her mind into the body of her counterpart in an alternate reality. Who turns out to be male. There are things I like about this comic – especially the talking cat – but Devyn is such an unappealing character that it’s hard to feel sympathy for her. All of her problems are entirely her own fault. It’s also uncomfortable that this comic is lettered by Brandon Graham, especially because it deals with transgender themes, and Brandon Graham’s current state of disgrace is the result of his transphobic behavior.

ANIMAL CASTLE #2 (Ablaze, 2022) – untitled, [W] Xavier Dorison, [A] Felix Delep. We finally meet President Silvio, a giant bull whose hobby is drinking champagne from a bathtub. Silvio blames a certain sheep for the uprising at the end of last issue, and we soon see why: he’s been selling his own subjects’ meat in exchange for champagne and dog kibble. This is even worse than the scene in Animal Farm where Boxer is sold to the knacker’s. Back at the farm, a rat tells a subversive story about Bowser, and the dogs ambush him and tear him half to death. The cat protagonist saves the rat (though it looks for a minute like she’s eaten him) and nurses him back to health, and he gives her advice on resisting tyranny. Animal Castle is one of the best comics currently being published. It has an important political message which is delivered in a deeply emotionally affecting way.

BLACK PANTHER #3/200 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Long Shadow Book Three,” [W] John Ridley, [A] Juann Cabal w/ Ibrahim Moustafa. T’Challa fights some more assassins, then goes to visit his ex-wife Storm. “A Tall Tale of Tricks,” [W/A] Juni Ba. T’Challa runs an errand for a trickster deity named Saï-Saï. I don’t know if this is based on a real African folktale, but it feels like it is, and Juni Ba’s art is beautiful and distinctive. “The Wakandan,” [W] John Ridley, [A] German Peralta. The origin story of a new character named Tosin. This feels more like a summary than a story. By coincidence, New Masters #1 also includes a character called Tosin.

ETERNALS #9 (Marvel, 2022) – “Hail Thanos Part 3,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Esad Ribic & Guiu Vilanova. Thanos goes to Lemuria looking for Phaistos. Thena is forced to kill her Deviant lover. The characters from Eternals: Celestia are reintroduced into the story. Perhaps I’ve been excessively influenced by Charles Hatfield’s bad review, but I’m no longer enjoying this series, and I feel like Kieron is not giving it his full effort.

EDGAR ALLAN POE’S SNIFTER OF DEATH #4 (Ahoy, 2022) – “A Tale of the Great Plague,” [W/A] Rick Geary. A man hides out in the country to get away from a virus, only for a giant specimen of the virus to crash into his house. In classic Rick Geary style, this story doesn’t make logical sense, but it feels vaguely creepy and disturbing. The backup story is a dumb satire in which Ted Cruz (under a different name) runs for President despite being publicly revealed as a werewolf.

THE RUSH #3 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Trap,” [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Nathan Gooden. Mrs. Bridger investigates her son’s claim and discovers that someone has “salted” it, making it falsely appear to be full of gold. She also has a vision of a moose that weeps gold, and we’re introduced to a new character named Tsikamin, a First Nations man who delights in refuting Indian sterotypes.

MAW #5 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jude Ellison S. Doyle, [A] A.L. Kaplan. Marion is turned into an awful but strangely beautiful monster, and she and the other women gather together to eat some guy. Then they perform a ritual that summons a hungry cannibalistic goddess from the water. I have mixed feelings about this series. It’s a powerful depiction of sexual assault, but the solution it proposes for this problem is that women should turn into monsters and eat men, and this solution doesn’t seem to be offered with serious intent.

CURSED PIRATE GIRL: THE DEVIL’S CAVE #1 (Archaia, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeremy A. Bastian. This is a difficult comic. It’s one of the most beautiful, elaborate comic books I’ve ever read. Bastian’s draftsmanship is even denser than that of James Stokoe or J.H. Williams III; his pages look more like Old Master engravings than like most other comics. His page layouts are also extremely radical. Most of his pages don’t follow conventional panel structure, and the reader is challenged to figure out in which order to read them. The high point of all this is a gatefold page in the center of the comic that opens up to reveal a four-page splash. But this comic’s incredibly elaborate draftsmanship and storytelling also detract from its readability. There is a plot to this comic, but it’s tough to figure out what it is, especially when every page takes at least five minutes to read. Overall, I am amazed that Jeremy Bastian can create a comic like this, but I’m also glad he can’t do it on a monthly basis.

THE PHANTOM #1049 (Frew, 1993) – “Son of the Desert,” [W] Ulf Granberg, [A] Jamie Vallvé. This is a flashback story about the 11th Phantom, and as the editor’s note points out, it  conflicts with other accounts about when the 11th Phantom got married and who his wife was. According to this version, while the 11th Phantom and his new bride Renata are traveling to Bengali after their honeymoon, their ship is wrecked by pirates, and Renata is kidnapped and sold into slavery. After convalescing for several months due to his injuries from the shipwreck, the Phantom finally rescues Renata and discovers that she’s given birth to their son. This is the sexiest Phantom story I’ve read, though the sexiness is justified by the fact that the characters are newlyweds. It also includes some beautiful art, particularly the establishing shot of the castle where Renata is held. While this comic includes some trite Muslim villains, it also includes a character named Sulaim whose Muslim faith motivates him to save the Phantom.

PTERANO-MAN! #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1990) – untitled, [W/A] Don Simpson. Another faux-Silver Age superhero story about a pteranodon-themed superhero. As with Bizarre Heroes #1, it’s not clear how seriously the reader is supposed to take it. This issue also includes two backup stories, one of which stars Simpson’s signature character, Megaton Man.

CEREBUS #221 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1997) – “Rick’s Story 2,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus and Rick have a long conversation, part of which is depicted in an illustrated text sequence, and then they play Five Bar Gate. Joanne makes a cameo appearance at the end.

2000 AD #1321 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 2002) – Dredd: “Sniping,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ian Gibson. A sniper uses Dredd to commit “suicide by judge.” It’s weird seeing Ian Gibson’s artwork in color and on glossy paper. His artwork here seems old-fashioned. The Red Seas: “Under the Banner of King Death,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Steve Yeowell. I don’t understand this story at all, except that it’s about the devil. Asylum: “Part 9,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Boo Cook. A story set in outer space. Again, I have no idea what it’s about. Sinister Dexter: “The Off-Lode Experience Part 9,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Simon Davis. Some nice art, but yet again, I can’t follow it.

AVENGERS #303 (Marvel, 1989) – “Reckoning!”, [W] Ralph Macchio, [A] Rich Buckler. The East and West Coast Avengers team up to fight Super-Nova. This is an unmemorable issue, but what makes it interesting is the tension between Captain America and Mr. Fantastic, who was midway through his only stint as an Avenger. Mr. Fantastic is used to being the leader of his team, and he has a notorious habit of making and carrying out plans without explaining them to anyone. In this issue, Reed demonstrates all of these habits, and it makes Captain America very annoyed with him. Ralph Macchio may not be a great writer, but he does have a good understanding of the major Marvel characters.

AMERICAN SPLENDOR #9 (self-published, 1984) – “A Semi-Bummer Weekend” etc., [W] Harvey Pekar, [A] various. In this issue’s lead story, Harvey’s friend Jon comes to Cleveland for a visit, but Harvey fails to make plans for Saturday night and ends up going on a date and abandoning Jon. Another long story is “Free Ride,” illustrated by Dumm, in which Harvey befriends an older coworker who he then discovers to be a “Jewish bigot.” The high point of the issue is “Hypothetical Quandary,” one of Pekar’s finest stories. The panel with Harvey saying “If I lived a different life I could still write about it” is an iconic image, and so is the concluding panel: “Ah, fresh bread!” In a way this comic feels old-fashioned and nostalgic now; it’s like a window into a working-class America that no longer exists. One thing I notice about it, especially in “Free Ride,” is the characters’ extreme awareness of their immigrant roots. This sort of awareness seems less prominent now that most white Americans are so much more assimilated. As a side note, in this issue’s first story, Harvey watches the 1982 World Cup final on TV. It’s surprising that he was even aware the World Cup was going on, and it seems like he only watched it because he was with an Italian friend.

2000 AD #1322 (Rebellion, 2003) – Dredd: “Judge Dredd vs. Aliens: Incubus, Part 2,” [W] John Wagner & Andy Diggle, [A] Henry Flint. Dredd investigates an infestation of xenomorphs. This is not the first Dredd crossover story, but it’s the first one I know of that was published in 2000 AD. Part one appeared in the Prog 2003 special. (By the way, I once wondered what was the only issue of 2000 AD that was published in the same year. The answer is 2017.) Caballistics Inc.: “Going Undergruond Part 2,” [W] Gordon Reardon, [A] Dom Rennie. A black-and-white story about a paranormal infestation. Slaine: “Moloch II,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Clint Langley. Slaine fights a bunch of vampire demons. As is traditional for Slaine, this story includes some beautiful but gruesome painted art. Sinister Dexter: “Relode Part 1,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Ben Willsher. The protagonists return to their home reality, but 15 years before they left. Nikolai Dante: “Hell and High Water Part 2,” [W] Robbie Morrison, [A] John Burns. A shipwrecked Nikolai Dante is “rescued” by pirates. After defeating them, he meets two children whose mother has just been killed, and they claim their father is a kraken. Like Ian Gibson, John Burns is a classic British artist whose art is perhaps not well served by modern printing techniques.

THE PHANTOM #1052 (Frew, 1993) – “The Final Battle,” [W] Lennart Moberg, [A] Romano Felmang. While visiting America with Diana, the Phantom goes to Watertown, where he went to high school and college. Diana is kidnapped by the Phantom’s old athletic rival Bob Moore. Bob challenges the Phantom to an athletic contest with Diana as the prize. Of course, the Phantom wins, and the contest ends in Bob’s death. This is an exciting story, but it’s too bad that Diana spends the issue as a hostage.

FOUR COLOR #865 (Dell, 1957) – “Andy Burnett,” [W] unknown, [A] Bill Ziegler. In 1820, young Andy Burnett has promised his grandmother that he’ll go buy a farm in Missouri, but he really wants to explore the uncharted American West. This comic is adapted from a Disney TV miniseries. Its plot consists of a succession of cliches – a knife-throwing contest, an attack by hostile Indians, an exotic Mexican beauty. And the Four Color adaptation compresses six TV episodes into a single comic book, making it feel way too fast-paced. Overall, this is a pretty lousy comic. Bill Ziegler’s art looks kind of like Dan Spiegle’s, but I don’t think Ziegler was as good as Spiegle.

DETECTIVE COMICS #1038 (DC, 2021) – “The Neighborhood Part 5,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Viktor Bogdanovic. The Bat-family fights some bearded dude named Worth who’s angry about his daughter’s death. This comic has some okay characterization, but I’m not sure how it connects to any other Batman titles. There’s also a Penguin backup story by Meghan Fitzmartin and Karl Mostert.

THE MIGHTY ZODIAC #1 (Oni, 2016) – “Starfall Pat 1: The Shadows Have Ears,” [W] J. Torres, [A] Corin Howell. A fantasy story based on the Chinese Zodiac, with a cast of twelve characters representing the twelve zodiacal animals. The idea behind this series is interesting, but Corin Howell’s artwork is lacking in detail, and he’s not great at drawing animal faces. Also, there are too many characters, and it’s hard to tell them apart. And while this comic is inspired by Chinese culture, it otherwise feels like a generic American kids’ TV show.

SUPERMAN: AMERICAN ALIEN #1 (DC, 2016) – “Dove,” [W] Max Landis, [A] Nick Dragotta. Yet another retelling of Superman’s origin. It includes a poignant scene where Clark watches ET and is shocked to see humans persecuting an alien. And there’s a cute moment when Clark accidentally acquires a red cape. But it’s weird that Jonathan Kent looks just like Clark, even though they’re not related, and Martha also seems off-model. And it’s hard to read a Max Landis comic knowing that he’s an unrepentant sexual abuser.

INVADER ZIM FCBD (Oni, 2018) – “Floopsy Bloops Shmoopsy,” [W] Jhonen Vasquez, [A] Warren Wucinich. Invader Zim executes a successful plot to conquer the world, but he doesn’t realize it, because he’s been sitting on the couch watching a dumb kids’ TV show. Back in college I read Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and hated it, and I don’t like this comic any better. Jhonen Vasquez is good at appealing to goths, but I don’t think he’s especially talented. Also, this issue includes too many pages that are just repetitions of the same panel, with only minor differences.

Back to Heroes on Saturday, February 12:

SEVEN SECRETS #14 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. Caspar has a bizarre dream, then wakes up in Buckingham Palace. Caspar and Titus (is that his name?) have a romantic moment. BTW, it’s nice that there are so many current comics that depict male same-gender relationships in a really cute way. Canto assaults the lighthouse where all the other Keepers are staying. When Caspar arrives to save the day, Canto opens the briefcase containing the worst secret of all, whatever that is.

RADIANT BLACK #12 (Image, 2022) – “Pink,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Meghan Camarena, [A] French Carlomagno. Eva, aka @EvaPlayys, is a successful video game streamer. But when we see her off-camera, we discover that she’s barely eating, she has to deal with sponsors’ ridiculous demands, and she’s neglecting her girlfriend, who secretly thinks her job doesn’t matter. And then her microphone breaks, forcing her to stop streaming. While searching for a new microphone, Eva meets an old Best Buy technician. It initially seems as if he’s trying to get into her pants, but then he reveals himself as Radiant Orange, and he turns Eva into Radiant Pink. This is the second best issue yet, after #6, the one about the woman with a financially abusive boyfriend. “Pink” is a powerful deconstruction of the supposedly glamorous lifestyle of streaming. After reading this comic, I can’t see why anyone would want to stream video games for a living.

CROSSOVER #11 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Geoff Shaw. In a flashback, Donny Cates is interviewed by Agent Pendleton, and we learn that he’s being held captive until he writes an ending to his story. Deena Pilgrim and Christian Walker take the evil preacher to a baseball stadium, where he’s arranged to meet up with Negan from The Walking Dead. This is another very clever issue.  

THE GOON #14 (Albatross, 2022) – “That Kid with the Duck,” [W/A] Eric Powell. An Irish imp has cursed the Goon to never be able to eat a pork chop. Meanwhile, a kid with a stuffed duck summons a mummy to beat the Goon senseless. The imp summons a bog body to fight the mummy, and while the two creatures are beating each other up, the Goon take the imp to a meat-and-three restaurant in exchange for breaking the curse. But the kid and the mummy burn the restaurant down. The imp takes his revenge by wiping his ass with the kid’s duck. This is sort of a quintessential Goon story: it’s gruesome, nonsensical and vulgar, but it’s also a exciting and cleverly plotted, and it’s told in a completely deadpan style.

SABRETOOTH #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Adversary,” [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Leonard Kirk. Sabretooth is confined in a prison underneath Krakoa, where he can have visions of any experience he wants, but can never leave. He’s alone there until five other mutants are thrown into the prison with him. Victor LaValle uses this story as an occasion for a critique of prisons in general. As Charles Ellis pointed out on Facebook, the problem with this idea is that Sabretooth actually deserves to be in prison – not even as punishment, but in order to keep him from killing even more people than he already has. And by reminding the reader of how evil Sabretooth is, LaValle inadvertently makes him into an argument for the continued existence of prisons. Black Tom’s appearance in this issue may be a reference to LaValle’s novella The Ballad of Black Tom.

NOCTERRA #7 (Image, 2022) – “Pedal to the Medal,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Tony Daniel. Val, Emory and their new allies are looking for the path to Eos. But when they go to visit the Drive-In, the last place where the location of Eos might be hidden, they discover that almost everyone there has been killed by human shades. That means that the only remaining way to find Eos is to hunt down Blacktop Bill himself. The best moment in this issue is when two of the supporting characters fall into a river, and we think they’re going to be okay, but then a giant whale eats them.

MONKEY PRINCE #1 (DC, 2022) – “Enter the Monkey Part 1,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Bernard Chang. As a child, Marcus Sun witnesses Batman beating up his criminal parents. This experience leaves him traumatized, and his trauma makes him vulnerable to bullying. Years later, his school’s janitor, Mr. Zhu, tells him to face his fears by jumping into the pool. Marcus does so and finds himself in the realm of his real father: Sun Wukong, the Monkey King. And Mr. Zhu turns out to be Sun Wukong’s companion Zhu Bajie, better known in English as Pigsy. Marcus transforms into the Monkey Prince, but when he’s beating up one of his bullies, Batman and Robin intervene, and then Batman throws a boomerang at Marcus and somehow cuts his head off. Monkey Prince #1 is one of Gene Luen Yang’s best superhero comics to date. It has some obvious similarities to American Born Chinese, but it takes the Monkey King myth in a rather different direction. As a side note, the main bully in this issue is named Rizalino and calls himself “The Riz.” I’d like to beat this kid up.

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #8 (DC, 2022) – “The Rising Part 2,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Cian Tormey. Jon and Jackson manage to save the leviathan, but not before she kills someone. Even though the person’s death is entirely Henry Bendix’s fault, Jon still feels guilty. Bendix uses this incident as an excuse to debut his own team of superheroes who are under his total control. Jon agrees to join the Truth. Next issue is a crossover with Nightwing.

LAND OF THE LIVING GODS #1 (AfterShock, 2022) – “They’re Watching Us,” [W] Isaac Mogajane, [A] Santtos. This is one of four comics I bought this week that had an African creator, and that’s not counting Black Panther Legends #1, whose writer is a second-generation Nigerian-American. This mini-boom in African-produced comic books is exciting, and it’s a corrective to American comics’ history of stereotypical and racist depictions of Africa. Land of the Living Gods #1 stars Naledi, an albino girl living in a post-apocalyptic far-future Johannesburg, along with her dying mother and her pet superpowered plant. After Naledi’s mother dies, an old woman tells Naledi to visit the gods and tell them that the human race is dying. But on her way there, she’s kidnapped by a woman who wants to sell her to witches. This is an exciting debut issue. Naledi is an interesting protagonist, and her story is set in a milieu that’s been completely ignored by most American comics, other than some ‘80s stories about apartheid. Also, Santtos’s art is excellent. This issue contains some dialogue in Zulu, Xhosa and Sotho.  

2000 AD #2256 (Rebellion, 2021) – I was excited to receive another prog pack, but I was disappointed that it wasn’t the next one in order. The last prog pack I got ended with #2229, and the current one begins with #2256, so I’ve missed 26 issues. I don’t think this is Heroes’s fault; they tell me that they’ve been having consistent problems getting 2000 AD. I wonder what’s been going on. Anyway, #2256 is another young-adult-themed “Regened” issue. Cadet Dredd: “Full Throttle,” [W] Liam Johnson, [A] Ben Willsher. Dredd and Rico chase two criminals who have stolen a mo-pad. A pretty exciting story. Scooter & Jinx: untitled, [W] James Peaty, [A] Steve Roberts. An android “bone machine” and an anthropomorphic cat become friends. The art in this issue is very creative, with some excellent depictions of aliens, but the story is unconvincing. Enemy Earth: “The Bunker,” [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Luke Horsman. In a postapocalyptic world taken over by plants, a teenage boy is about to be killed by mutated plants. A giant robot battlesuit saves him but then tries to kill him. The suit opens to reveal an even younger child. I’d like to read more of this one. Time Twisters: “Temporal Tantrum,” [W] Colin Harvey, [A] Tom Newell. A social media influencer uses a time machine to make herself the “goddess of all time,” but she gets tired of the job, so she tells her underpaid intern to go back in time and stop her from time traveling. The intern uses the time machine to make herself the “goddess of all time.” I think this was the best story in the issue. Strontium Dug: “No Dogs,” [W] David Baillie, [A] Colin MacNeil. Middenface McNulty’s dog, who looks and talks like McNulty himself, solves a crime at a casino. Actually this might be the best story in the issue.

2000 AD #2257 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: “Tread Softly Part 1,” [W] Mike Carroll, [A] Simon Coleby. A man named Isaac dies from consuming bad “dream chips” that give him other people’s dreams. Dredd investigates his supplier, Rosewater Vale, who has a habit of killing everybody in sight when her operations go bad. Diaboliks: “London Calling Part One,” [W] Gordon Rennie, [A] Dom Reardon. This story stars Jake, last name not mentioned, who resembles John Constantine, and his partner Solomon Ravne. Jake goes to get his magical items back from safekeeping, only to find that they’ve been stolen by “a bunch of right arseholes called the Collection.” Scarlet Traces: “Storm Front Part 7,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] D’Israeli. The Jovians are trying to destroy Earth. I was surprised to see Scarlet Traces being published in 2000 AD, because I thought it originated as an American comic book series, but I guess it originated as a webcomic and was then reprinted in Judge Dredd Magazine. However, I believe that the second story arc, The Great Game, was only ever published by Dark Horse. Future Shocks: “Keyboard Warriors,” [W] Karl Stock, [A] Rob Richardson. Some humans use remote-controlled robots to take over an alien planet, but the aliens turn the tables on the humans by attacking them through their own radio waves. The Out: “Book Two Part Seven,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Simon Harrison. A woman attends a concert by Robert Lustre, who’s basically David Bowie. This story has some beautiful art and coloring, though it’s a bit garish. It reminds me a lot of “The Hyper-Historic Headbang!” from prog 322.

BATGIRLS #3 (DC, 2022) – “One Way or Another Part 3,” [W] Michael W. Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Jorge Corona. Babs goes to a concert where she runs into a rather creepy old flame. Steph and Cass fight the Tutor. Babs gets a booty call from Dick, but it’s really from Seer. I like this series a lot. The characterization and the artwork are both excellent.

BYLINES IN BLOOD #2 (AfterShock, 2022) – “Out of the Temple,” [W] Erica Schultz & Van Jensen, [A] Aneke. Satya goes to the mayor’s party and is shocked to see her parents there. When she leaves, the mayor’s goons beat her up. I didn’t like this issue as much as #1. It felt like a generic crime comic. I do like the art, though, especially the page where Satya’s friend is peacefully eating and looking at his phone, and then a car drives by outside the window and dumps Satya on the ground.

HAWKEYE: KATE BISHOP #4 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Marieke Nijkamp, [A] Enid Balám. Kate escapes from Mme. Ringleader and Fifi, but only after they’ve set the resort on fire. Kate and Susan prepare to head back to Bishop Manor to stop the villains from obtaining a Cosmic Cube fragment. This was a very quick read, but it was fun.

HUMAN REMAINS #5 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Sally Cantirino. After his sessions with the monster, General Sullivan finds himself compelled to kill people who are experiencing strong emotions. He decides to communicate telepathically with the monster, using two mediums named Paris and London – we don’t know which is which. Meanwhile, Jessica’s abusive boyfriend finds her in the hospital, but the hospital guards throw him out. Those guards should be given a raise. This is my favorite Peter Milligan comic in recent memory. Unlike most of his work, it has an entirely clear plot and I have no trouble understanding what’s going on.

DAREDEVIL: WOMAN WITHOUT FEAR #2 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Rafael De Latorre. Kraven fights Elektra, then kidnaps “Goldy,” whoever that is. I guess he appeared in issue 1. When Elektra finds Kraven again, she discovers that the Kingpin has deputized him. There are also a bunch of flashbacks, many of which depict Matt and Elektra having sex.

FANTASTIC FOUR: RECKONING WAR ALPHA #1 (Marvel, 2022) –“The Day of Reckoning,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Carlos Pacheco et al. The start of a crossover event in which the universe is invaded by the Reckoning, a race that were exiled from the cosmos after they took the Watchers’ technology and used it for evil purposes. I know that Dan Slott has a lot of detractors, but I generally like his writing. However, I hated this issue. The main problem is it’s too epic for its own good. The Reckoning are such a horrible, awful menace that the reader can’t take them seriously, because if they were really as bad as they seem, how could the superheroes beat them? Also, this issue begins with the moon blowing up, but all the superheroes act as if it’s no big deal. This is hard to swallow when I remember Legion of Super-Heroes vol. 4 #19, in which the destruction of the moon is depicted as a horrible, tragic catastrophe that claims the lives of several named characters. I also have trouble believing that the Reckoning’s domain consists of 90% of the universe. This issue does have some good dialogue, but other than that, it’s a big disappointment.

NO ONE LEFT TO FIGHT II #5 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Aubrey Sitterson, [A] Fico Ossio. Appropriately, the series ends with a giant fight scene. Vale and Timor fight each other at full strength, and at the end, Vale disappears. The last page says “To be continued?!”, suggesting that there might be a third miniseries. I hope so. In the meantime, this series makes me want to read more Dragon Ball.

NEW MASTERS #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Shobo Coker, [A] Shof Coker. In far-future Nigeria, a girl named Ola obtains some “obsidium” from an ancient ruin, then takes it to Eko City (possibly Lagos) to sell it. Then we meet Tosin, the governor of Eko City, and we learn about the all-powerful “Eye of Orunmila” that could cure Earth of its dependence on aliens. This is another extremely exciting debut issue. I love the Ola sequence, although I was less impressed by the Tosin sequence, and I had trouble seeing how the two scenes are related. Shof’s artwork is exciting, and Shobo’s story is deeply immersed in Nigerian culture. Some of the dialogue in the issue is in Nigerian Pidgin, and several of the names in the story, like Ase and Orunmila, are references to Yoruba religion.

BLACK PANTHER LEGENDS #3 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tochi Onyebuchi, [A] Fran Galán. T’Challa enters a tournament whose ruler will become the new king of Wakanda, and he wins. This was a very quick read, and it felt insubstantial.