Categories
Uncategorized

Two months of reviews

4-2-22

>ARCHIE: LOVE & HEARTBREAK SPECIAL #1 (Archie, 2022) – “Bughead in The Best Things in Life Are Free,” [W/A] Thomas Pitilli, etc. Three romantic stories featuring various unusual pairings of Archie characters, all set in a carnival. This comic was okay, but I barely remember anything about it. I’m disappointed that Archie has only been publishing one-shots and digests, and has seemingly moved away from ongoing series or even miniseries.

BUCKHEAD #3 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Shobo, [A] George Kambadais. The kids continue investigating the mysterious stuff going on in town. This is a pretty standard young adult adventure comic. The only really interesting thing about this issue is the backstory, which is about a war between the Orisha and the Ajogun. I had never heard of the Ajogun before, but Google research suggests that they’re an authentic element of Yoruba religion, and that Shobo’s account of them in this issue is accurate.

THING #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Next Big Thing Part 4,” [W] Walter Mosley, [A] Tom Reilly. Ben, Amaryllis and Bobby travel to the Blue Area of the moon, where Ben gets mortally wounded by a robot, but is then healed. And then he’s attacked by Terrax, the Faceless One and a new villain called Berserker. This is another very fun issue. For someone who’s never written comics or fantastic fiction before, Walter Mosley is really good at it.

ECHOLANDS #6 (Image, 2022) – “Hope’s Crucible,” [W/A] J.H. Williams III, [W] W. Haden Blackman. The party leaves the Oracle and heads for Horror Hill, taking along Romulus, the treacherous Kirbyesque guy. At Horror Hill they fight a giant horde of zombies, and then King Vaslav addresses Rosa as his queen and gives her a crown. As usual, the artwork in this issue is superior to anything else in current comics.

2000 AD #2258 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “Tread Softly, Part 2,” [W] Mike Carroll, [A] Simon Coleby. Dredd and another judge apprehend a drug dealer, and we discover that the point of the entire case was for the other judge to evaluate Dredd. Diaboliks: “London Calling Part Two,” [W] Gordon Rennie, [A] Dom Reardon. Jake and Ravne invade Karswell House to get Jake’s stuff back. Ravne encounters an old enemy of his from Nazi Germany. Dexter: “Bulletopia Chapter 7: Lordy Jordy, King of Everything, Part One,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Tazio Bettin. What a title. Dexter and his allies fight a bunch of dinosaurs in a sewer. I’m not sure why this is just Dexter and not Sinister Dexter. Scarlet Traces: “Storm Front Part 8,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] D’Israeli. A space battle between humans and Jovians. The Out: “Book 2 Part 8,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Mark Harrison. The protagonist continues her talk with the David Bowie stand-in. This story has easily the best art in the issue.

MY LITTLE PONY: GENERATIONS #5 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Casey Gilly, [A] Michela Cacciatore. The two generations of ponies defeat the s’monies and make piece with Grackle and Dyre. This comic was better than some of the earlier issues, but this whole series has felt like an irrelevant afterthought, given that Hasbro is winding down this version of the MLP franchise.

I AM BATMAN #6 (DC, 2022) – “Empire State of Mind Part 1,” [W] John Ridley, [A] Ken Lashley. Jace moves to New York and starts a new crimefighting career. At this point I decided to give up on this series. I’ve never been able to follow its plot, and I don’t think it’s all that interesting anyway. I will not be getting issue 7.

APACHE DELIVERY SERVICE #2 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. The best thing about this issue is the revelation that the protagonist’s lack of a name was deliberate. His name is in fact Ernie Nez, and he’s Navajo, not Apache. His namelessness was meant to indicate his comrades’ lack of knowledge about him. Also, Ernie and Sobrat go looking for the Japanese gold and fall into a trap.

SHANG-CHI #8 (Marvel, 2022) – “Family of Origin Finale,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Dike Ruan. Shang-Chi and the other Five Weapons fight off Chieftain Xin’s attack, and we get more backstory about Xin and Zheng Zu. Xin kidnaps Shang-Chi’s mom and takes her back to Qilin Island. The other day there was a small debate on my Facebook wall about how Simu Liu, the actor who played Shang-Chi, refuses to sign old Master of Kung Fu comics. I personally love Master of Kung Fu, but those comics were created entirely by white people, and they showed no authentic knowledge of Chinese culture. And you can see this by contrasting those comics with the current Shang-Chi series.

NEWBURN #3 (Image, 2022) – “We’ve All Lost Men,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jacob Phillips. Newburn and Emily solve a series of murders of mobsters. Then the police tell Newburn they want to hire him. This series is generally quite good, but it doesn’t excite me as much as some of Zdarsky’s other work, perhaps because I’m not a huge fan of crime fiction.

2000 AD #2259 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “The Musical! Part 1,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Chris Weston.  Sensitive Klegg, a terrifying but poetic crocodilian alien, is recruited to star as Judge Dredd in a musical. This is a very funny story, and I hope I eventually get prog 2260 so I can see how it ends. Also, Chris Weston’s art is still excellent. Diaboliks: as above. Ravne is teleported back in time to World War II. Dexter: as above. The protagonists find the man who’s been breeding the dinosaurs. Scarlet Traces: as above. This chapter makes no sense to me, but D’Israeli draws some really weird aliens. The Out: as above. The protagonist, Cyd, has a vision of her daughter. Then the Bowie dude’s planet is attacked by aliens.

ONE-STAR SQUADRON #3 (DC, 2022) – “Room and Board,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Lieber. Jack O’Lantern, a Heroz4U employee, allows some shipwreck victims to drown because he gets invited to a Halloween party. As a result, Superman decides to withdraw the “Hall of Justice”’s endorsement of Heroz4U, and the company’s board asks Red Tornado to come and see them. Reddy thinks he’s being fired, but instead the board members (a bunch of horrible sociopathic techbros) tell him to fire half the office staff, including Power Girl. This issue makes some effort to portray Red Tornado in a sympathetic way, making up for his unappealing depiction in the first two issues. However, this whole series is still very grim and mean-spirited, and I’m not enjoying it much.

MONKEY MEAT #2 (Image, 2022) – “Haricot,” [W/A] Juni Ba. A college dropout gets a job at Monkey Meat Island, where he gets possessed by a god inhabiting a can of soda. Haricot has a giant fight with Thaddeus Lug, and then he gets recruited to lead Monkey Meat Island’s army. This issue has some fascinating art, but I was not captivated by its story.

DEVIL’S REIGN #4 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Checchetto. The heroes break out of prison, and Kingpin uses the Purple Man’s power to remember Daredevil’s secret identity. This series is better written than most crossover titles.

X-CELLENT #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “New Blood, New World Part 1,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Mike Allred. The new X-Statix, featuring U-Go Girl’s daughter and Tike Alicar’s son, battles Zeitgeist and his X-Cellent team. At the end of the issue, Vivisector is mortally wounded. X-Cellent isn’t bad, but it’s a revival of a classic old series, and those are never as good as the original.

GEIGER 80-PAGE GIANT #1 (Image, 2022) – “Who Is Redcoat?”, [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Bryan Hitch, etc. A series of stories about various characters in the Geiger universe. These stories offer an impressive variety of art styles and topics, and they do a reasonable job of expanding the scope of Geiger’s universe. My favorite of the stories is the one about how Geiger got his two-headed wolf-dog. In this story, the book Geiger is putting back on his shelf is Naguib Mahfouz’s Palace Walk.

THE MARVELS #8 (Marvel, 2022) – “Almost Positive,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Yildiray Cinar. The heroes invade Siancong but are captured. We learn the origin of the new Warbird, who is half Wakandan and half Shi’ar. The heroes escape from prison and discover a mysterious door. The Marvels is okay but it’s not among my favorite of Busiek’s works.

FANTASTIC FOUR: LIFE STORY #6 (Marvel, 2022) – “The ‘10s,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Sean Izaakse et al. Dr. Doom executes his ultimate plan for world domination, but Reed manages to break out of his coma and save the world. This series did not give me what I was hoping for. In particular, since the FF has a strong family theme, I wish there had been more second- or third-generation FF members. But in this universe there’s no Valeria, and we never learn anything about Franklin’s family.

A THING CALLED TRUTH #4 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Iolanda Zanfardino, [A] Elisa Romboli. The two women visit Madrid, where they do a bunch of dumb stuff, and then their next stop is Paris. I honestly don’t like this series at all. It’s an insubstantial piece of romantic comedy, with a trite message about enjoying your life and ignoring silly rules (even if those rules are there for everyone’s safety). I only read issue 5 because I had already ordered it.

DARK RED: WHERE ROADS LEAD #1 (AfterShock, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Corin Howell. A vampire rescues an old army buddy from demonic possession. This story also references Papa Legba and the devil-at-the-crossroads myth. This comic is reasonably good, and it makes me want to go back and read the rest of the original Dark Red series. Tim Seeley is an underrated writer.

SUICIDE SQUAD: BLAZE #1 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Aaron Campbell. This comic has the same premise as Strikeforce: Morituri – a bunch of people are given superpowers that will kill them in short order. The only twist is that the people with the lethal superpowers are criminals, not heroes. Besides that, this comic is a litany of pointless violence, with a cast of unsympathetic psychopaths. It may be Simon Spurrier’s worst comic to date, and that’s a shame because Spurrier and Campbell seemed like an excellent creative team. I won’t be getting the next issue.

2000 AD #1323 (Rebellion, 2003) – Dredd: “Aliens: Incubus Part 3,” [W] John Wagner & Andy Diggle, [A] Henry Flint. Dredd and the other judges fight some xenomorphs. Henry Flint’s art here is similar to Ezquerra’s. Caballistics Inc: “Going Underground Part 3,” [W] Gordon Rennie, [A] Dom Reardon. Some people fight a bunch of zombies in a sewer. Sinister Dexter: “Relode Part 2,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Ben Willsher. The protagonists are stranded 15 years in the past, and there’s a funny running joke where they’re trying to avoid causing a “Sound of Thunder” situation, so they can’t eat anything. Nikolai Dante: “Hell and High Water Part 3,” [W] Robbie Morrison, [A] John Burns. Dante plays with the two orphaned kids and then saves them from some sea monsters. John Burns’s art is beautiful, though it looks odd when printed on modern glossy paper. Slaine: “Moloch III,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Clint Langley. Slaine battles and defeats Balor, but his next opponent is Balor’s pal Moloch. Clint Langley’s art looks like the cover art for a heavy metal album.

KILL OR BE KILLED #10 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Lily stalks Dylan, and meanwhile Dylan has a tense encounter with Kira, and then sees a painting of his father’s that depicts the same demon as in his visions. The only issue of this series that I’m still missing is issue 1.

LETTER 44 #7 (Oni, 2014) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Joëlle Jones. A flashback story showing what the characters were doing before they were recruited for the space mission. Notably, Charlotte almost gets killed by Brazilian indigenous people, discovers she’s pregnant, wins the Nobel Prize, and then loses the baby.

CEREBUS #222 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1997) – “Rick’s Story 3,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This issue has some beautiful artwork, depicting Rick’s supernatural visions, but it has no particular plot. There’s a long letter at the end from some antifeminist asshole.

WELCOME BACK #5 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Claire Roe. The protagonist of this issue is a little girl who’s the reincarnation of a soldier in a war between immortals. Welcome Back has a somewhat similar premise to Ordinary Gods, but I like Welcome Back a lot better, at least based on the two issues of it that I’ve read.

GROO: PLAY OF THE GODS #3 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. The conquistadors try to convince Groo to lead their crusading army, and meanwhile a lot of new gods show up in heaven. There’s a running joke where one of the new gods keeps saying “I am Otid, god of repetition!” Ahax and Taranto also appear in this issue. Overall this comic is much better than some of the other recent Groo miniseries, and I regret that I didn’t read it when I first got it. There’s a running joke where one of the new gods keeps saying “I am Otid, god of repetition!”

STEVEN UNIVERSE #8 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Melanie Gillman, [A] Katy Farina. Steven and the Crystal Gems encounter a giant monster in a corn maze. I want to like this franchise, but I haven’t been able to get into it.

RINGSIDE #11 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Nick Barber. An unmemorable crime comic about professional wrestling, with artwork that’s so loose it seems unprofessional. I should have given up on this series after just one or two issues. Ironically, the reason I didn’t was because I was just buying it and not reading it, and I somehow felt obligated to keep buying it.

REVIVAL #15 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Mike Norton. A lot of different subplots, with no real central theme. Much of what happens in this issue is the result of Aaron Weiner’s death. I have no sympathy for him at all, because he was a college instructor who was sleeping with a student (a theme that also appears in Luke Healy’s How to Survive in the North).

2000 AD #1325 (Rebellion, 2003) – Dredd: as above. A bunch of Judges get killed fighting xenomorphs. Two of the characters in this story are named Millar and Brubaker. Caballistics Inc: as above. The protagonists discover a mystical bomb underneath London. This chapter reminds me a bit of the chapter of From Hell with the tour of London. Dante: as above. Dante and the kids are kidnapped by a pirate queen, and Dante defeats the pirate queen’s champion by kicking him in the face. More beautiful art. I like Nikolai Dante; his impish expression in the last panel perfectly sums him up. Sinister Dexter: as above. The protagonists get back to their own time with the help of their past selves. Slaine: as above. Slaine’s wife Niamh is r***d and murdered by Moloch. This is a brutal scene to read, and it seems to have caused some understandable controversy at the time. https://forums.2000ad.com/index.php?topic=3957.45 Niamh later reappeared in the series in various reincarnated forms. 

GROO: PLAY OF THE GODS #4 – as above. Groo gets the native people to build a temple for the colonialist priests, but they dedicate the temple to Groo himself, rather than to the priests’ god Diothos. There’s a running joke where one of the new gods keeps saying “I am Otid, god of repetition!” Since people are worshipping Groo now, Groo himself ascends to heaven with the other gods, which means the gods in heaven are now stuck with him. Also, Groo manages to sink Ahax’s ship again. There’s a running joke where one of the new gods keeps saying “I am Otid, god of repetition!”

RINGSIDE #12 (Image, 2017) – as above. More of the same thing as last issue. I don’t think I’d have enjoyed this series even if I cared about professional wrestling. I do intend to read Daniel Warren Johnson’s new series Do the Powerbomb, but that comic’s art is more interesting.

2000 AD #1326 (Rebellion, 2003) – Dredd: as above. The xenomorphs invade a maternity ward. Slaine: as above. After Niamh’s funeral, Slaine resigns as high king so he can seek revenge on Moloch. Slaine finds Moloch and stops him from sacrificing some children, and the story ends with Slaine and Moloch falling off a cliff together. This chapter is unusually long at ten pages. Caballistics: as above. Ravne defuses the bomb, and then some old guy in Israel sees him on TV and recognizes him as a Nazi. Dante: as above. Dante sleeps with the pirate queen, but meanwhile, her lieutenant, the one who Slaine kicked in the face, drugs the children and threatens to kill them.

CEREBUS #223 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1997) – as above. Rick has more religious visions and flirts with Joanne, while Cerebus gets increasingly more annoyed with him. This is yet another issue in which nothing happens at all.

STEVEN UNIVERSE #7 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Grace Kraft, [A] Meg Omac. Steven and the Crystal Gems go on a fishing trip and encounter a sea monster. I don’t think this series ever had the narrative complexity of IDW’s My Little Pony comics. Perhaps one reason why Steven Universe appeals to me less than MLP is because its episodes are only 11 minutes.

DEMONIC #1 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Niko Walter. Police officer Scott Graves has a young daughter who is dying of a rare disease. Scott is also possessed by a demon, and the demon offers to heal Scott’s daughter if Scott kills a bunch of people on the demon’s behalf. Like most of Sebela’s work, this series has a fascinating premise, and I want to read more of it. In his author’s note Sebela recommends Junji Ito’s Uzumaki. I need to read that sooner or later.

THE PHANTOM #1056 (Frew, 1993) – “Kukailomoko – The Destroyer of the Earth,” parts 2 and 3, [W] Sverre Årnes, [A] Carlos Cruz. The 11th Phantom and his friend Pedro are trapped in Kahoolawe, where the Phantom has to protect the local people from being conquered by King Aladai, the father of Kamehameha the Great. In the second chapter, the Phantom sails to Spanish California and protects some mission Indians from pirates. In both chapters the Phantom scares his enemies by masquerading as a god. Carlos Cruz’s black-and-white artwork is very appealing, and reminiscent of Jim Aparo’s work. The history in this story is only sort of accurate; there was a Hawaiian chief named Alapa’i, not Aladai, and he was Kamehameha’s great-uncle, not his father.

2000 AD #1327 (Rebellion, 2003) – Dredd: as above. The judges try to track down a criminal named Futsie who is responsible for the alien plague. Bec & Kawl: “Enlightenment,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Steve Roberts. Bec and Kawl summon a green monkey god so it can tell them the “universal truth,” but they don’t learn anything useful. This series may have been Simon Spurrier’s first major work. The VC’s: “Look on the Bright Side,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Anthony Williams. I’m not sure what this series is about, but it was the most notable contribution to 2000 AD by Garry Leach, who sadly just passed away. Terror Tales: “The Statue Garden,” [W] Gary Wilkinson, [A] Dom Reardon. An art lover goes looking for a sculptor, who, in an unsurprising twist, turns out to be a gorgon. Dante: as above. This chapter focuses on Dante’s mother. John Burns is quite effective at drawing aging women.

FOUR COLOR #727 (Dell, 1956) – The Nature of Things: “The Giraffe” and two other stories, [W] unknown, [A] Jesse Marsh. Three educational vignettes about giraffes, camels and elephants. Jesse Marsh was a skilled artist of wildlife, but this comic is pretty boring, and it includes some patronizing depictions of African and Asian people.

CEREBUS #224 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1997) – “Rick’s Story 5,” as above. Yet another issue with beautiful artwork but no plot at all. The main event is that Rick has a giant bump on his head, and then Cerebus and Joanne argue about a bar rag. I can’t imagine why anyone would have enjoyed this story.

DETECTIVE COMICS #826 (DC, 2007) – “Slayride,” [W] Paul Dini, [A] Don Kramer. Tim Drake is forced to ride in the passenger seat of the Joker’s car as the Joker runs over helpless people. As I have said before, I am thoroughly sick of the Joker, and I would be thrilled if DC vowed to never publish another story about him. All modern Joker stories are ultimately about how the Batman is unable to stop the Joker from murdering people, and where is the fun in reading about that? What saves this issue is that it also includes some cute scenes where Tim is talking with Dick Grayson about Batman. I like Dick Grayson’s role as the big brother to the other Robins.

FAKER #1 (Vertigo, 2007) – untitled, [W] Mike Carey, [A] Jock. Protagonist Jessie, a student at Minnesota University at St. Cloud, seduces her professor into giving her a better grade, then blackmails him. Then some guy climbs up the college clock tower and threatens to jump, claiming that he’s not real. Since this is a Vertigo comic, I assume there’s some kind of supernatural element to it, but I can’t tell what it is. I suppose I’d buy the other issues of this series if I found them for a low price, but there are lots of other Mike Carey comics that are more interesting than this one. Minnesota University at St. Cloud is fake, though there is a real St. Cloud State University.

PRISM STALKER #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Sloane Leong. The protagonist continues her studies in company with a bizarre group of other aliens. This series is very reminiscent of Brandon Graham’s Prophet, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Like Graham and Roy, Leong is very good at depicting weird nonhuman aliens. I need to get around to reading the rest of this series.

EXCELLENCE #3 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Khary Randolph. Spencer deals with the fallout from issue 1, when he misused his powers to save his dying great-grandmother. This issue also seems to suggest that the job of the black magicians is to protect white people, and this has some deliberately disturbing implications. I think this series is still going on now – issue 12 came out in January – and I would consider adding it to my pull list, if I could get caught up on the back issues.

WILDC.A.T.S #22 (Image, 1995) – untitled, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Kevin Maguire. Half of the team arrives on Khera but quickly discovers that it’s not the paradise they expected. There’s also a subplot with the half of the team that’s still on Earth, but I don’t understand what’s going on with them. I haven’t read an Alan Moore comic in a while, and I sometimes forget how brilliant his dialogue and pacing are. Also, Kevin Maguire was capable of realizing Alan’s artistic intentions, unlike some of the other artists Alan worked with at Image.

MARVEL ADVENTURES: AVENGERS #9 (Marvel, 2007) – “A Not-So-Beautiful Mind,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Juan Santacruz. MODOC (not MODOK because the last letter stands for Conquest, not Killing) turns all the other Avengers into MODOCs. However, instead of using their new mental powers for evil, they use them to defeat Attuma and the Leader. This issue is fun, although somehow I’ve never found MODOK to be as funny as he’s supposed to be. One of Attuma’s monsters is named after C.B. Cebulski.

ART OPS #10 (Vertigo, 2016) – “Children: Part Three of Popism,” [W] Shaun Simon, [A] Matt Brundage. Reggie and Mona’s child is abducted at birth, and a lot of other stuff happens that I don’t understand. This series wanted to be an art version of The Unwritten, but Shaun Simon is not as skilled a writer as Mike Carey, and he never managed to realize this series’ potential. The only thing Art Ops really had going for it was Mike Allred, and Matt Brundage’s artwork in this issue is a pale imitation of Allred’s.

Next trip to Heroes:

SAGA #56 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Pia Guerra. Hazel has to go on a mission for some asshole with deer antlers, while King Robot is looking for vengeance for his son’s death. Also there are a lot of random cute moments, like Hazel discovering what a guitar is. One of the fun parts of this series is watching Hazel evolve from a newborn infant into a child with a distinct personality. It’s wonderful to finally be getting more Saga, after such a long wait.

SUPERMASSIVE #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Kyle Higgins, Ryan Parrott & Mat Groom, [A] Francesco Manna et al. In the first Radiant Black spinoff, Marshall teams up with two new heroes, Rogue Sun and Inferno Girl Red. The strange thing about this comic is that it’s a crossover between Radiant Black and two other series that hadn’t been published yet. But Supermassive is extremely fun, especially because of the interactions between the three protagonists. Two memorable moments are Inferno Girl Red misunderstanding the name Waffle House, and Rogue Sun saying that he has experience with giant monsters because he’s been married twice. The artwork in this comic is very exciting, and there’s a surprise foldout four-page splash during the decisive fight scene. I’m not sure just how the Radiant Black universe is supposed to be different from all the other superhero universes, but Supermassive is an exciting introduction to that universe.

MS. MARVEL: BEYOND THE LIMIT #3 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Samira Ahmed, [A] Andres Genolet. Kamala gets acquainted with Qarin, a shapeshifter from an alternate univesre. But at the end of the issue Qarin accuses Kamala of killing the Ms. Marvel of Qarin’s own universe. This issue has a lot of funny moments. Samira Ahmed sometimes seems to imply that Kamala is diabetic; if she’s not, she certainly seems to get hungry a lot.

STEP BY BLOODY STEP #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. This creative team’s second collaboration, after Coda, is an entirely silent comic. (There is some dialogue, but it’s written in illegible symbols.) It begins with a little girl waking up in the palm of a giant robot. The robot carries the girl through a series of strange landscapes, until they reach a farm. Here the girl befriends the child of the farmers, but then the robot carries her away, and opens its helmet to reveal that it has a woman’s head. At the end, some creepy blue-skinned people arrive at the farm looking for the girl and the robot. Matías Bergara’s art here is even better than in Coda. His creatures and landscapes are stunningly creative. And he achieves the rare feat of telling an intelligible story with no dialogue.

PRIMORDIAL #6 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. The alien ship finally returns to Earth, and Yelena is reunited with Laika. This ending feels kind of flimsy. The real point of this issue is not the story, but Andrea Sorrentino’s stunning page layouts and his depictions of the alien ship. However, I would still have liked to know more about what happens after the aliens show up. Jeff Lemire has a tendency to end his stories at the most emotional moment, without providing an epilogue or a “what happened next”.

ORPHAN AND THE FIVE BEASTS #4 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] James Stokoe. Orphan defeats the autocannibalistic chef, whose final act is to fall into his pot and cook himself. It’s interesting to compare this comic to Fire Power. They’re both inspired by the wuxia genre, but Orphan and the Five Beasts feels far less culturally appropriative. Of course it also has a completely different artistic style. I can’t say that either Stokoe or Samnee is a better artist than the other, because they have such different intentions. This series was announced as only lasting four issues, but issue 4 doesn’t say that it’s the final issue, and by the end of #4, only three of the beasts have been defeated. I hope there will be a second season of this series, though given Stokoe’s extremely labor-intensive style, I don’t expect it any time soon.

HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER #5 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Butcher’s Mark Part 5,” [W] Tate Brombal, [A] Chris Shehan. In the present, Jace reveals that he’s been raising children who were orphaned by monsters, rather than delivering them to the Order of St. George. In the past, Aaron stops Jace from assassinating the Old Dragon. I’ve never enjoyed this series as much as Something is Killing the Children, but it’s still good, and it effectively fleshes out the SIKTC universe.

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #16 (Image, 2022) – “Deviation 5: Free Love,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Alison Sampson. In San Francisco in 1968, Lee Harvey Oswald shares sex and drugs with a mysterious woman, who turns out to be the woman with X eyes. She tells Oswald that the counterculture is just an attempt to distract America from revolutionary change, and that it was created by the same entities who killed JFK and RFK and Martin Luther King Jr. Appropriately, this comic is drawn and colored in a psychedelic style. I’m not familiar with this artist, but she was an excellent choice for this story.

USAGI YOJIMBO #26 (IDW, 2022) – “Crossroads Part Two,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Jei somehow decides to let Yukichi go, and he reaches Usagi in time to help him defeat the six bandits. One of the bandits survives, but not for long, because he escapes Usagi and Yukichi only to run into Jei. Whenever Jei shows up, I always expect that Stan is planning some kind of epic final confrontation between him and Usagi, but so far that has not happened. I don’t recall if Jei appears in the epic “final” Usagi story, Senso.

NIGHTWING #88 (DC, 2022) – “Get Grayson Part 2,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo. Blockbuster’s minions try to assassinate Dick Grayson, but his fellow Titans save him – including Starfire, to my delight. The splash page where Dick shouts ‘Titans together!” is an epic moment. Nightwing is easily the best current DC title, if you don’t count Nice House on the Lake. This issue’s first page may be inspired by Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #35 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Michele Bandini & Luigi Zagaria. Miles and Shift finally confront the Assessor, and also Quantum, who I don’t remember. They discover an interdimensional portal, which Miles decides to use to find Uncle Aaron. This series is quite fun, but the last few issues have been entirely composed action sequences, and I wish there’d be more focus on Miles’s private life.

MY DATE WITH MONSTERS #4 (AfterShock, 2022) – “The Dog is Fine,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Andy MacDonald. Risa and Croak travel through the dream world to the Risa Training Facility, where one of the surviving soldiers fails to recognize Rise and tries to shoot her. Meanwhile, Machi goes on a date with a cute boy. Like much of Paul Tobin’s best work, this series strikes a delicate balance between adorable and horrible.

BLACK HAMMER REBORN #9 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Caitlin Yarsky. Lucy discovers that the real villain is the evil version of her father, the previous Black Hammer. This series hasn’t been quite as exciting as the original Black Hammer series or Age of Doom, though it’s still fun. This issue does not have an Inspector Insector backup story.

KING CONAN #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Princess of Golden Ruin,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mahmud Asrar. This comic was widely criticized because it introduces a villain who’s an evil, hypersexualized version of Pocahontas. Many people called out this depiction as being offensive to Pocahontas’s Native Americans; see https://bleedingcool.com/comics/marvel-comics-alters-art-for-king-conan-2-after-pocahontas-criticism/. I honestly didn’t see anything wrong with this comic when I first read it, but that just indicates my own blind spots as a non-indigenous person. I do understand what’s wrong with this comic now, though that doesn’t matter, because it’s not up to me to decide whether this comic is offensive or not.  Jason Aaron has since apologized for this comic, and has donated the money he received for it to an indigenous women’s charity, and future printings of this story will be heavily edited.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #126 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Pablo Tunica. The Turtles confront the Punk Frogs, and they also encounter a mad scientist named Jasper Barlow. Meanwhile there’s a subplot that takes place on the alien planet. This story arc has been disappointing so far. I’m not sure why any of the stuff happening on the alien planet is relevant to the Turtles.

FANTASTIC FOUR #40 (Marvel, 2022) – “Every World on Fire,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Rachael Stott. This is the worst issue of this entire volume. It’s full of so many shocking plot twists and epic cosmic moments that none of them have any impact. Like, the moon literally blew up last issue, and it doesn’t even seem to matter because there’s other stuff going on that’s even more shocking. (And besides, the moon will obviously be back to normal after this story is over.) I don’t know why Dan Slott thought this story was a good idea, and I hope it will be over soon.

DIRTBAG RAPTURE #5 (Oni, 2022) – “The Day I Tried to Live,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Kendall Goode. God turns out to be totally unhelpful, but Kat and her ghost friends succeed in defeating both the angels and demons anyway, and Kat returns to her former life of escorting ghosts to their final rest. This was an extremely strange series, but that’s kind of the point.

AQUAMAN: THE BECOMING #6 (DC, 2022) – “Before & After,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Serg Acuña & Diego Olortegui. Jackson and his relatives stop the terrorist attack on the peace conference and save the day, but Jackson’s mom is seriously hurt. People start calling Jackson “Aquaman,” but he’s not able to enjoy it much. This was a fun miniseries and it effectively set up the next ongoing.

ROBIN #11 (DC, 2022) – “Field Trip,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Gleb Melnikov (misspelled Melkinov in the credits). Various loose ends from the previous storyline are tied up, and Damian and Flatline kiss. Damian returns to Gotham to use some Lazarus resin on Alfred’s grave. Flatline seems to have replaced Nobody as Damian’s romantic interest.

STRANGE ACADEMY #16 (Marvel, 2022) – “Winter Formal,” [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. Brother Voodoo expels Calvin from school for selling drugs. Doyle invites Emily to the dance, but when Emily discovers Calvin sulking, she chooses to comfort him rather than go to the dance, and Doyle is heartbroken at being stood up. This is an effective piece of drama because all of the three main characters’ actions are understandable, and consistent with their character. None of them acted with truly evil intentions – not even Calvin, because although he was endangering his fellow students, he did so because he thought it was his only way to be included. Yet their actions lead to Calvin’s expulsion from school and the possible end of Doyle and Emily’s romance.

NIGHTWING #89 (DC, 2022) – In a really cute opening sequence, Dick rescues and comforts young Jon Kent after he gets lost. This is another example of Dick’s role as an older brother to younger heroes. In the present, Dick and Jon team up again to solve a series of murders of superheroes. One of the victims is Risk from Dan Jurgens’s Teen Titans, but that was a very forgettable series, and I don’t really care that Taylor got rid of Risk for dramatic effect. This story is a crossover with Superman, Son of Kal-El, and indeed, the continuity of the two titles is tied together so tightly that this almost seems like an issue of Superman and not Nightwing. I don’t mind this either, though, since I was already reading Superman, Son of Kal-El anyway.  

AQUAMEN #1 (DC, 2022) – “Sins of the Father,” [W] Chuck Brown & Brandon Thomas, [A] Sami Basri. The two Aquamen team up to defend the United Nations from Ocean Master, and Black Manta unexpectedly appears to help the Aquamen. Meanwhile, Atlantean sleeper agents start reactivating. This is a fun first issue.  

BATMAN: THE KNIGHT #2 (DC, 2022) – “The Knight Part 2,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Carmine DiGiandomenico. In Paris, Bruce becomes an apprentice to a cat burglar named Lucie. Bruce kisses Lucie while she’s bandaging his wounds, but she quickly shuts that down. I think we’re meant to see her as a precursor to Catwoman. Meanwhile, Paris’s great detective, Henri Ducard, investigates a series of murders. I have now learned that Ducard is a recurring character dating back to the ‘80s, and that he’s the grandfather of Nobody from Robin, Son of Batman. I must have enjoyed this issue when I read it, but when I read #3, I didn’t remember anything about #2.

WONDER WOMAN #784 (DC, 2022) – “Through a Glass Darkly Finale,” [W] Michael Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Marcio Takara. Diana defeats the mirror dude, who turns out to be Siggy’s ghost – and that explains why he’s a new character and is not just called Mirror Master. Dr. Psycho rescues one of the glass Wonder Woman duplicates. There’s a backup story that leads into Trial of the Amazons. This was an unmemorable issue.

GETTING DIZZY #4 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Shea Fontana, [A] Celia Moscote. Dizzy defeats the Negatrixes and saves the day. I suppose this series was all right, but it was very simplistic even for a kids’ comic. Come to think of it, Getting Dizzy’s premise is problematic because it implies that bad feelings as being the result of monsters, rather than genuine disagreements and incompatibilities between people. Also, Getting Dizzy may be the lowest-impact superhero comic I’ve ever read. What I mean by that is, all the villains are trying to do is make people angry, and Burb Defender is not defending the entire universe or even the entire country, but just a single neighborhood. So Getting Dizzy fails to give the sense that anything important is at stake.

HEATHEN #1 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Natasha Alterici. I regret buying this because it’s not a new comic, but just an expensive prestige-format reprint of Heathen #1, which is already in my collection. I wish Vault had communicated this more clearly.

HUMAN TARGET #5 (DC, 2022) – “This is a Good Block,” [W] Tom King, [A] Greg Smallwood. This issue is extremely confusing because it’s narrated as a series of visions in Chance’s mind, and the order of these visions is unclear. I suppose the point of this narrative structure is to illustrate the essential strangeness of J’onn J’onzz, who is the focal character in this issue, but to me it was just mystifying. We finally do learn that J’onn was responsible for the poison, and also that he was sleeping with Fire, which I didn’t even realize until I read a review of this issue (https://dccomicsnews.com/2022/03/19/review-the-human-target-5/). Also this issue includes a Titanian telepath named Emra, but she’s explicitly not Saturn Girl.

RADIO APOCALYPSE #2 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Ram V, [A] Anand RK. This issue has some very interesting and distinctive art, but I had trouble understanding its plot, mostly because of the amount of time that’s passed since issue 1. That’s a consistent problem with some Vault comics – the other one I’m thinking of is Giga – they come out so infrequently that their plots become hard to follow.

SHANG-CHI #9 (Marvel, 2022) – “Blood and Monsters Part One,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Marcus To. In Hawaii, Shang-Chi and his friends fight some self-cloning monsters called taotie. The taotie is a genuine Chinese mythological creature. It’s mentioned in the Shan Hai Jing (Classic of Mountains and Seas) as one of the four malevolent animals, along with the hundun, previously seen in this comic, and the more obscure taowu and qiongqi. Otherwise, this is a fairly forgettable issue.

REFRIGERATOR FULL OF HEADS #4 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Rio Youers, [A] Tom Fowler. More backstory on the four Norse mythological weapons, together with more ridiculous and gory mayhem. Unlike its predecessor, this series relies on shock and gruesomeoness rather than genuine fear or realistic characterization, and that makes it a lot less effective. I might as well finish reading it though.

CANTO III: LIONHEARTED #6 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] David Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. Canto finally defeats the Furies, and the series ends by setting up the next miniseries, Tales of the Unnamed World. I like Canto, but I wish I understood its plot better. One reason I want to keep reading it is because IDW is publishing so few comic books these days.

CRASHPAD #1 (Fantagraphics, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Gary Panter. Gary Panter is one of the most important living cartoonists in America, but his comics are quite hard to find, and his art style is difficult and lacking in popular appeal. Therefore his influence seems to have been mostly indirect; his own work may be less prominent than the work of the cartoonists he inspired. Crashpad #1 is about a bunch of anthropomorphic animal hippies who have a bizarre drug trip and encounter a bigoted cop. It makes more sense than some of the other Panter comics I’ve read, and it displays some incredible draftsmanship. I guess one of Panter’s skills is his stylistic versatility, and his art in this issue doesn’t really have the scratchy, blocky style that I associate with him. However, this comic’s subject matter feels outdated.

HARDWARE SEASON ONE #4 (DC, 2022) – “Reprisals,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Denys Cowan. Hardware’s friends blow the whistle on Edwin Alva’s crimes, and Edwin responds by trying to assassinate them. This series has been a disappointment, partly because it’s been coming out so infrequently, and also because Denys Cowan’s art is unpleasant-looking.

REGARDING THE MATTER OF OSWALD’S BODY #4 (Boom!, 2022) – “Changing the World,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Luca Casalaguida. Oswald spends half the issue delivering a long, annoying monologue, until finally Rose decides she’s had enough of listening to him talk, and she shoots him dead. This is a cathartic moment; by that point in the issue, I was so sick of Oswald that I’d probably have shot him too. Then the protagonists bury Oswald and prepare for their escape.

SILVER COIN #9 (DC, 2022) – “The Dancer,” [W] Vita Ayala, [A] Michael Walsh. The coin’s new owner is a corrupt cop who’s in debt to the mob. A little black girl witnesses him trying to burn down a building to pay his debt. While trying to kill the girl, he instead saves her and is publicly celebrated as a hero. His efforts to murder the girl are unsuccessful, and the next time he tries to commit another act of arson, his own unwilling henchmen lock him inside the building. He dies and is posthumously revealed as a villain. His police chief inherits the coin from him. The “hero cop” (who I don’t think has a name) is the most disgusting character in this entire series. He’s literally willing to murder a child in order to conceal his own crimes, and on top of that, he’s a vile racist.

IRON FIST #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Alyssa Wong, [A] Michael YG. The new Iron Fist is Lin Lie, formerly known as Swordmaster, who appeared in the series of that name and also in one of Si Spurrier’s Black Knight comics. Lin Lie meets Danny Rand, and then we learn that after his sword was shattered (in a comic I didn’t read), Lin Lie washed ashore in K’un L’un and was rescued by a local woman named Mei Min. Now his hands hurt and his chi is disrupted, and also Mei Min’s dad seems to be possessed by some kind of demon. Like the new Shang-Chi, this series is informed by actual Chinese culture rather than by the ‘70s kung fu craze, and it feels culturally accurate. I wonder what Michael YG’s name stands for – I assume those are initials, because I’ve never heard of “Yg” as a surname.

BRZRKR #7 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Keanu Reeves & Matt Kindt, [A] Ron Garney. Unute works with a scientist named Caldwell to locate historical artifacts that he’s encountered over the course of his life. We get the interesting suggestion that Unute himself is responsible for keeping civilization alive by spreading technology.

THE KILLER: AFFAIRS OF THE STATE #1 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matz, [A] Luc Jacamon. The Killer is hired to kill a certain Nabil Jebbouri, who poses as a champion of immigrant communities but is actually a crimelord. This series is not a great work of art, and its protagonist is deliberately impossible to sympathize with. But The Killer is well-executed, and I think Jacamon’s art has improved since earlier volumes of this series. I do think it’s problematic that the villain appears to be a North African or Middle Eastern immigrant to France. That feels like a stereotype.

THE LAST SESSION #3 (Mad Cave, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jasmine Walls, [A] Dozerdraws. We begin with a flashback depicting Walter’s tense relationship to his overprotective parents, and then there’s another campaign session. Cassandra figures out the solution to the adventure, but none of the other party members are willing to listen to her. A reasonably fun issue.

UNTIL MY KNUCKLES BLEED #1 (Behemoth, 2022) – “Extremely Damaged Part 1,” [W/A] Victor Santos. Gabin, aka Damager, was an ultraviolent superhero in the ‘90s. Now he works as a bouncer in a strip club, protecting human-trafficked Eastern European girls from their clients. This series has a fascinating premise, and Santos captures a sense of ‘90s nostalgia by imitating the styles of Liefeld and Frank Miller (specifically Sin City). However, the ending of this series was disappointing. More on that below.

IMPOSSIBLE JONES #3 (Scout, 2022) – untitled, [W] Karl Kesel, [A] David Hahn. Jones fights a villain called the Saint of Knives. Two superheroes rescue her and mistakenly assume she’s a superhero herself, and she decides not to correct them. Meanwhile, her roommate is kidnapped by a villain named Homewrecker. I liked issue 4 better than this one. I was in a pretty bad mood when I read some of these comics; I may explain that more later.

THE RUSH #4 (Vault, 2022) – “The Crime,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Nathan Gooden. Nettie and her pals fight a terrifying half-spider, half-man creature. When she defeats him with the help of the marshal, he claims her son is alive, just before being attacked by a terrifying harpy. While the harpy and spider are fighting, the humans are attacked by a terrifying glowing-eyed moose. This series is a very effective piece of horror, but I find it hard to read because it’s so bleak and cheerless.

ARROWSMITH: BEHIND ENEMY LINES #2 (Image, 2022) – “Shadows Over the Land,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Carlos Pacheco. Fletcher is in a prison camp in occupied Europe. He’s interrogated by some terrifying priests, and then witnesses a flying duel between a British pilot and the Arrowsmith version of the Red Baron. Arrowsmith has never been my favorite Busiek comic, but reading it after an 18-year hiatus makes me feel nostalgic.

EDGAR ALLAN POE’S SNIFTER OF DEATH #5 (Ahoy, 2022) – “A Pound of Flesh,” [W] Kirk Vanderbeek, [A] Jon Proctor. A man drives his friend to suicide by borrowing money from him and refusing to pay it back. The friend’s ghost drives the man insane. This story is pretty dumb. The backup story is by the same writer and has an even flimsier plot, but Shane Oakley’s psychedelic artwork is impressive.

ANIMAL CASTLE #3 (Ablaze, 2022) – untitled, [W] Xavier Dorison, [A] Felix Delep. This is always one of the last new comics I read, because it’s brilliant, but also heartbreaking and difficult to endure. This issue, the animals start fighting back against Silvio and the dogs by painting graffiti pictures of flowers. Silvio is of course angry about this, but it gives the people hope, which is itself a victory. When one reads this comic right now, it’s hard not to compare Silvio to Putin, and hopefully they will both suffer similar downfalls.

BOLERO #2 (Image, 2022) – “Boys and Girls Like Me and You,” [W] Wyatt Kennedy, [A] Luana Vecchio. Devyn travels through a bunch of different alternate realities. I like the art in this issue, but Devyn is an unappealing protagonist, and I feel like this comic is somehow tainted by its association with Brandon Graham. I still haven’t felt motivated to read issue 3.

NUBIA AND THE AMAZONS #5 (DC, 2022) – “A Champion’s Last Quest,” [W] Stephanie Williams & Vita Ayala, [A] Alitha Martinez. Nubia defeats and saves Nubia, and the issue ends with a tie-in to Trial of the Amazons. I really didn’t much like this miniseries, and yet I felt obligated to order the first issue of the new Nubia series.

MY BAD #4 (Ahoy, 2022) – “My Life, My Creed” and other stories, [W] Mark Russell & Bryce Ingram, [A] Peter Krause. The Chandelier prepares for his final confrontation with Emperor King, who has befriended Rush Hour. This whole series has been silly, pointless, and only occasionally funny. One of the good jokes this issue is a lion character named Lion L. Richie.

MARVEL VOICES: LEGACY #1 (Marvel, 2022) – various stories, [E] Sarah Brunstad. Like most of the Marvel Voices specials, this one is a mixed bag. I really like the Moon Girl and Shuri stories, particularly since the latter has art by Natacha Bustos. However, Cody Ziglar’s one-page stories are annoying pieces of filler that are worse than ad pages. The Ninki Nanka, from the Shuri story, seems to be a real West African mythological creature.

SUPERGIRL, WOMAN OF TOMORROW #8 (DC, 2022) – “Ruthye, Supergirl, and Krem of the Yellow Hills,” [W] Tom King, [A] Bilquis Evely. I’m tired so I’ll just quote my own Facebook post: “Like so many other Tom King comics, Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow has an anticlimactic, bait-and-switch ending that is difficult to reconcile with the rest of the series. Tom King needs to learn to end stories in a straightforward and satisfying way, rather than always trying to fool the reader and outsmart himself. In this case, the twist is that Krypto was never sick at all. Kara just told Ruthye they needed to find Krem to cure Krypto, so that she could stop Ruthye from killing Krem. That’s an extremely manipulative thing for Kara to do, and I don’t understand what it accomplished. Also, it’s obvious that Ruthye was never going to kill Krem, because that would violate the moral code of superhero comics. So it’s annoying that Tom King spent the whole series making the reader *want* Ruthye to kill Krem. It’s just a deliberate deferral of satisfaction. This is the same reason I’m sick of reading about the Joker — because Joker stories always make us *wish* Batman would kill the Joker, but that wish can never be granted.” After I wrote all that, I read the last page, where Ruthye claims that Supergirl killed Krem herself, but we can’t tell if Ruthye is telling the truth or not. That doesn’t make the ending any more satisfying.

2000 AD #1328 (Rebellion, 2003) – Dredd: “Vs. Aliens: Incubus, Part 8,” [W] John Wagner & Andy Diggle, [A] Henry Flint. A villain named Mr. Bones tells Futsie how he brought the xenomorphs to earth, then he feeds Futsie to the xenomorphs, and we see that the alienshave laid a whole bunch of eggs. Bec & Kawl: “Eeevil.com Part 1,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Steve Roberts. While surfing the Internet, Kawl is abducted by a sentient cybernetic spider. Before Kawl can do anything about it, some men in black come to the door and shoot her. This series is always very funny. The VCs: “Shotgun,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Anthony Williams. I didn’t understand this story. Dante: “Hell and High Water Part 8,” [W] Robbie Morrison, [A] John Burns. Nikolai convinces his mother to help him defeat Lord Murakami, and then joins his mother’s crew. I’m not sure what happened to the two kids.

BLACK WIDOW #14 (Marvel, 2022) – “Die by the Blade Part 3,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Elena Casagrande. Natasha and her team fight the Living Blade and his employers, and the Blade seemingly cuts Natasha’s arm off. We’ve just learned that this series has been cancelled. That’s too bad, because it had some excellent art, and it was certainly the best Black Widow solo series.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #36 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Last of the Marvels Part 5,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Sergio Dávila. Carol and a bunch of other heroes team up to beat Vox Supreme. This issue was a predictable conclusion to a rather boring story arc. At one point in the issue, Carol tells Lauri-Ell to summon Spectrum, Iron Man, Moondragon, Star-Lord and Black Panther, but she never tells Star-Lord or Black Panther to do anything.

FOUR COLOR #744 (Dell, 1956) – Little Beaver: “The Howling Cavern” and other stories, [W] unknown, [A] Dan Spiegle? This was part of a small eBay order containing four ‘50s Western comics. Little Beaver is an adventure comic starring a small Navajo boy. The three stories in the issue are fairly standard Dell material, and this would be a reasonably entertaining comic if not for the fact that Little Beaver’s dialogue is appallingly racist. His first speech balloon is “Aiee! Sound-um like evil spirits back in haunted canyon!” and he keeps talking in this sort of “Tonto Talk,” as TVTRopes calls it, throughout the issue. It’s possible that he talks like this because he’s a child, not because he’s Indian, because the adult Indians in the comic sometimes speak in more intelligible English. But it’s still really annoying to read this sort of dialogue. It’s particularly nonsensical that this comic shows Navajo people speaking in pidgin to each other, because the whole point of pidgin and creole languages is to enable communication between people who don’t share a common language. Also, I don’t know if this comic’s depiction of Navajo people is accurate, but I rather doubt it.

THE PHANTOM #1057 (Frew, 1993) – “Wanted: For Murder!”, [W] Idar Pettersen, [A] Stefan Nagy. This is sort of a stealth Phantom/Punsiher crossover. In Morristown, a man wearing the Phantom’s costume is going on a killing spree, shooting criminals dead with assault weapons. The actual Phantom is accused of the killings, but President Luaga gives him a one-week grace period, and the Phantom apprehends the impostor. The fake Phantom proves to be a policeman named Charlie McClane whose family was murdered by criminals. Again, I assume this character is an intentional reference to the Punisher. Stefan Nagy’s black-and-white art in this issue is appealing, though some pages are printed poorly.

THE FLASH #143 (DC, 1998) – “Like Wildfire,” [W] Mark Waid & Brian Augustyn, [A] Pop Mhan. Wally goes hunting for Cobalt Blue, but Cobalt Blue traps Wally inside Barry Allen’s tombstone, and then reveals himself as Malcolm Thawne, Barry’s unknown twin brother. Also, Wally is single because Linda Park has somehow been erased from history. Wally’s future daughter, Iris, makes a brief cameo appearance. None of Mark’s subsequent Flash runs have been as good as his first one, but this issue is okay.

CEREBUS #225 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1997) – “Rick’s Story 6,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This is perhaps the single most tedious comic book in my entire collection. Reading it is an extremely frustrating chore. The main reason is because this issue includes several pages of the phony Bible that Rick writes based on his misinterpretation of Cerebus’s doctrine. These “Bible” pages are printed in tiny text, with faux-sixteenth-century spelling, and their content is vapid (example: “And three of the stooles of The Barre wre vpon Cerebvses right hande, and three of the stooles of The Barre wre vpon Cerebvsesleft hande”). One particular page includes three whole columns of this nonsense (https://www.instagram.com/p/Ca3mTiKuXM2/). On top of all that, this issue again has no plot at all, and the letter column includes yet another letter that’s an awful piece of misogyny.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #24 (Marvel, 1977) – “Does Anyone Remember… the Hijacker!?”, [W] Bill Mantlo & Jim Shooter, [A] Sal Buscema. The Thing and Black Goliath battle a dumb villain named the Hijacker. This character was introduced in a very early Ant-Man story in 1963, but MTIO #24 was his first appearance since then, and he was subsequently murdered by the Scourge of the Underworld. He later returned in Dark Reign along with a bunch of other Scourge victims, which is unfortunate since Gruenwald’s whole purpose for creating Scourge was to get rid of a bunch of dumb old villains. Anyway, other than that, MTIO #24 is a boring issue and there’s not much to say about it.

WONDER WOMAN #248 (DC, 1990) – “Fang and Claw,” [W] George Pérez, [A] Jill Thompson. Diana and Donna Troy battle Circe, with the aid of Anna and Theo, two lovers who Circe transformed into a werecat and a centaur. Anna and Theo both get killed in the end, and the twist is that Theo was originally a horse, not a man – though I didn’t understand this point at first. The issue ends with some cute moments between Donna and Diana, and also Vanessa befriends Cindy, the daughter of Donna’s adoptive mother Fay Stacey Evans. Again I wasn’t sure who Cindy was at first – she appears in New Teen Titans #38, one of my favorite comics ever, but almost nowhere else. In post-Crisis continuity, this story was Diana and Donna’s first team-up. Donna’s continuity was a horrible mess from the start, and it was broken beyond repair by Crisis. The basic problem was that because of Crisis, it no longer made sense for Donna to be Wonder Woman’s younger sidekick, and DC never managed to redefine her as a character who was independent of Wonder Woman.

SUE AND SALLY SMITH, FLYING NURSES #51 (Charlton, 1963) – “The Surgeon Had to Die,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Joe Sinnott, etc. Like so many other Charlton comics, this series took over the numbering of a previous series, My Secret Life. (Charlton did this because the postal rates were higher for new series than for existing ones.) “Flying nurses” in this context refers to nurses who reach their patients by parachuting in from a plane. I bought this comic because it looked stupid, and it is, but at least it’s not totally incoherent. The first story, about a hillbilly who’s suspicious of modern medicine, is actually kind of poignant.

DAREDEVIL #70 (Marvel, 1970) – “The Tribune,” [W] Gary Friedrich, [A] Gene Colan. Matt fights the Tribune, an ultraconservative villain who tries to frame young protesters as terrorists. This is one of Marvel’s most politically charged comics of this era – the Tribune is kind of like Sam Bullitt from Spider-Man #91-92, but is even more starkly depicted as a Nixonite, pro-war, conservative reactionary. Friedrich shows obvious sympathy for the protesters, depicting them as idealistic youths who are scapegoated for not blindly obeying their elders. Gene Colan’s art, of course, is beautiful. At one point in the issue, one of the protesters says that the Tribune can’t convict them “because our hair is long.” There’s a nearly identical line from Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” which came out the following year. I doubt if there’s any direct connection between these two texts; the idea of being oppressed because of long hair must have been a common meme at the time.

STRAIGHT ARROW #6 (Magazine Enterprises, 1950) – various stories, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Fred Meagher. This is from the same order as Four Color #744. It’s based on a radio program about a half-Comanche rancher who has a superhero secret identity. The stories in this issue are pretty average, but Fred Meagher’s artwork is beautiful. If I didn’t know otherwise, I’d have guessed this issue was drawn by John Severin or even Frazetta. Fred Meagher left the comics industry only a few years later, and is now totally forgotten, which is a shame. Straight Arrow #6 seems less offensive than Four Color #744 in terms of its representation of Native Americans. However, it does seem rather inaccurate. The first story suggests that Comanche warriors are better at hand-to-hand than mounted combat, and that they don’t know how to use lances. My understanding is that this is completely backwards; in fact, in the 19th century the Comanches were considered the best horsemen in the world.

2000 AD #1329 (Rebellion, 2003) – Dredd: as above. The judges keep looking for the aliens, and Mr. Bones prepares to blow up the Hall of Justice. Bec & Kawl: as above. The Men in Black robots have an early example of a conversation conducted entirely in emoji. Bec’s friend Norm arrives with a bunch of fellow geeks. They travel into cyberspace and are confronted by the “Arch-Geek” – who I think is Bill Gates – piloting a giant robot. The VC’s: as above. Another chapter that doesn’t make much sense, though there is a funny bit about a game of rock-paper-scissors with unusual rules. Tales of Telguuth: “The Black Arts of Strixlan Nort,” [W] Steve Moore, [A] Jon Haward. Strixlan Nort is a wizard who can summon demons by drawing them. He uses this talent to defeat an evil warlock. Atavar II: “Part 1,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Richard Elson. A science fiction story starring weird nonhumanoid aliens.  

HERCULES UNBOUND #9 (DC, 1977) – “Finale,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] Walt Simonson & Bob Layton. Hercules and his friends try to prevent a nuclear war, but in doing so, they cause the nuclear war that occurred in 1986, in the series’ backstory. This series was never all that impressive.

Next Heroes trip:

THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE #7 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Álvaro Martínez Bueno. I’m very glad this is back. Part of this issue focuses on Norm, formerly Norah, who Walter imprisoned behind a mirror, just like he did with Reg. Meanwhile, the other protagonists decide to build their own houses. The most annoying thing about this series is the difficulty of remembering all the characters, and it’s very helpful that this issue includes a character guide on the last page.

SEVEN SECRETS #15 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. The sixth case opens to reveal a demon baby. Caspar’s love interest Titus is tragically killed fighting the traitors. Caspar’s mom tells him that his case is useless because he himself is the seventh secret. It might be nice if this series was less fast-paced, so we would have more time to get to know the characters. But I love it anyway, and if I could vote for the Eisners right now, I’d vote for Tom Taylor as Best Writer.

CROSSOVER #12 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates w/ Robert Kirkman, [A] Geoff Shaw w/ Phil Hester. On Facebook I wrote, “This is a super self-indulgent, masturbatory, by-fans-for-fans comic, and that’s why it’s so funny.” The jokes in this comic don’t make sense unless you’re a hardcore comics fan, but if you are, they’re hilarious. The issue begins with a ten-page sequence written by Robert Kirkman, in which Kirkman is murdered by his own creation, Negan. Hester draws this sequence in a style that parodies the ultra-violent artwork of Invincible and Walking Dead. Meanwhile, Donny Cates stabs his interrogator with the spiky tail of a word balloon. (The use of word balloons as material objects is an old trope that goes back to Felix the Cat cartoons, and I discuss it extensively in my dissertation.) Also, Cates shaves his beard off “between panels. The Alan Moore thing was just confusing people.” Given that Image has been making genuine efforts to reach out to new readers, I think it’s okay that they’re also publishing a comic like Crossover, which is exclusively meant for people who already read comics.

SHE-HULK #2 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Rogê Antônio. Jen nurses Jack of Hearts back to health, but some villain is looking for him. Not a whole lot happens in this issue, and it’s unfortunate that this series is tied to current Marvel continuity. One reason Rainbow Rowell’s Runaways was so good was because it had limited ties to the rest of the Marvel Universe.

LITTLE MONSTERS #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. A postapocalyptic world is populated only by a gang of vampire children, who spend their nights doing the same things over and over again. At the end of the issue, things finally change when they encounter an adult human. I was in a bad mood when I read this comic, so I didn’t enjoy it as much as I ought to have, but it seems like another effective piece of work by Lemire and Nguyen.

ADVENTUREMAN #8 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Terry Dodson. Not a whole lot happens in this issue, though it’s fun anyway. Claire’s sisters stage an “adventurevention” for her, and the plots about the ghosts and the Crossdraw Kid are further developed.

STRANGE ACADEMY #17 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. While Brother Voodoo is confronting Gaslamp, Doyle starts a big fight with Iric in the cafeteria. Brother Voodoo returns to the school to find that all the students have left. This is another fun issue of an excellent team superhero comic.

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #9 (DC, 2022) – “World’s Finest Sons Part 2 of 2,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo. This is effectively an extra issue of Nightwing, just as Nightwing #89 was an extra issue of Superman, Son of Kal-El. This sort of tight connection between two series is sometimes annoying, but in this case I don’t mind because I’m reading both series already. Jon and Dick’s interactions in this issue are adorable, and I love the line “We could ask this guy, but I mean, he headbutted Superman, so he’s clearly not the cleverest.”

ROGUE SUN #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Ryan Parrott, [A] Abel. We already met Rogue Sun in Supermassive, but this ongoing series instead focuses on his son (Rogue Son?), Dylan, who, unlike most teenage superheroes, is a bully and an asshole. Perhaps this is because his father Marcus, the Rogue Sun from Supermassive, left his mother to start a new family. When Marcus, the Rogue Sun from Supermassive, dies in a car accident, Dylan is surprised to discover that he’s inherited his father’s superpowers, but the catch is that he’s also possessed by his father’s spirit. Rogue Sun has a vaguely similar premise to Firestorm – a young superhero with an older man inside his head – but what makes Rogue Sun unique is Dylan’s unpleasant personality and his vexed relationship with his father.

MONKEY PRINCE #2 (DC, 2022) – “Enter the Monkey Part 2,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Bernard Chang. (Notably, in the credit box, the creators’ names are written in both English and Chinese.) Zhu Baijie saves Marcus from Batman and Damian, and the Penguin turns into a qi-eating vampire. This issue is fun, but it’s a predictable continuation of last issue. The name Marcus Shugel-Shen suggests that he’s both Chinese and Jewish.

RADIANT RED #1 (Image, 2022) – “Brave New World,” [W] Cherish Chen, [A] David Lafuente. This new series stars Satomi, the same character from Radiant Black #6. Unfortunately she’s still robbing banks in order to cope with her asshole boyfriend’s gambling habit. Some dude tries to blackmail her into working for him, or else he’ll harm her sister’s family. Meanwhile, a journalist seems to have uncovered her connection to Nathan. Radiant Black #6 was perhaps the best issue of that series so far, and I’m glad that Satomi has gotten her own series.

HUMAN REMAINS #6 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Sally Cantirino. Anjali visits a community of survivalists who have discovered a fungus that repels the monsters, and there’s also some minor progress on the other subplots. This is Peter Milligan’s best series in recent years, partly because its plot is easy to follow.

BATGIRLS #4 (DC, 2022) – “One Way or Another Part 4,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael Conrad, [A] Jorge Corona. The Batgirls capture the Tutor and deliver him to Charles Dante, who reveals himself as the villain Spellbinder. Jorge Corona’s artwork in this series is perhaps the best of his career so far.

COPRA #42 (Copra, 2022) – “Games on Display,” [W/A] Michel Fiffe. Changó, Yasuda and Wir fight a bunch of villains in order to prevent some dude from being assassinated. Vincent reassembles Rax’s helmet, but Rax comes back for it. The individual issues of Copra are very expensive, but I’m willing to buy them in order to support an independent creator, and also because they’re beautiful artifacts, in terms of both their art and their publication design.  

ROBINS #4 (DC, 2022) – “Being Robin Part 4,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Baldemar Rivas. The Robins, except Tim, all chase after Anarky and end up in the same place. Batman discovers that the Escape Artist, Cormac Dodge, is somehow involved in what’s been happening to the Robins. Tim realizes that the original Robin has manipulated him into executing her plot. This issue is interesting, but its plot is tough to follow.

NOCTERRA #8 (Image, 2022) – “Pedal to the Metal,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Tony Daniel. The team tracks down Blacktop Bill, who agrees to team up with them in order to find the location of Eos. Given how Snyder has been bending over backwards to convince us that Blacktop Bill is the worst villain ever, it’s annoying that he’s now being presented as a lesser evil than whatever the Big Bad is.

NEW MASTERS #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Shobo Coker, [A] Shof Coker. There are two plot threads focusing on the technicians, Sulesh and Persio, and their daughter, Ola. This issue the parents turn down a job from a criminal, and then they discover that their most recent project has been sabotaged. Some things that make this series fascinating are Shof Coker’s art, the Africanfuturist setting, and the constant references to Nigerian culture. For example, this issue we see the characters eating efo and akara. I have had the former but not the latter. I think I might propose a paper on Africanfuturist comics for this year’s Worldcon.  

THE WRONG EARTH: TRAPPED ON TEEN PLANET #1 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Trapped on Teen Planet,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Walter Geovani & Bill Morrison. This is the first of several Wrong Earth one-shots by guest creators. This issue, Dragonfly, Stinger and Deuce find themselves in the Wrong Earth version of Riverdale. This comic is pretty hilarious. I forget if either Gail or Bill Morrison has ever written an actual Archie comic, but they’re both very good at parodying Archie.

FANTASTIC FOUR #41 (Marvel, 2022) – “Will You Watch as Our Universe Burns?”, [W] Dan Slott, [A] Rachael Stott. Another issue full of pointless fight scenes and unconvincing attempts at epic grandeur. Also, Johnny returns to the Unparalleled’s world and discovers that Sky now has a new boyfriend, Citadel. But given the way that Sky’s world works, Citadel should have had another fiancee already, so what happened to her? Anyway, I hope this dumb story arc ends soon, and I wish Slott would stop torturing Johnny Storm.

DAREDEVIL: WOMAN WITHOUT FEAR #3 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Rafael De Latorre. Elektra fights Kraven and wins, then encounters her old handler, Aka. Goldy tells Elektra that Matt has been murdered, though I find that hard to believe. I think that this is the last issue and that the series will continue with a new Daredevil #1.

BUCKHEAD #4 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Shobo Coker, [A] George Kambadais. The kids invade the school at night. Toba has a vision where his father helps him retrieve a sword from the ruins of the palace of Benin. Buckhead is not nearly as interesting as New Masters because its African elements feel like cosmetic trappings on a generic adventure story. Because of its Nigerian setting and entirely African cast, New Masters feels less like a typical science fiction comic. BTW, the modern Benin City is in Nigeria, not Benin. The reason is because Benin is named after the Bight of Benin, which is itself named after the city and historical kingdom of that name. The country of Benin used to be called Dahomey, but that name was changed in 1975, perhaps because the kingdom of Dahomey only included part of Benin’s current territory.

APACHE DELIVERY SERVICE #3 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. The issue begins with a myth explaining the origin of Van Cat village, where the gold is hidden. The people of Van Cat capture Ernie and Sobrat, but Sobrat escapes by killing some visiting hippies. This series seems kind of insubstantial, and I wonder if just one more issue will be enough to resolve anything.

THE BLUE FLAME #7 (Vault, 2022) – “Divine Intervention,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Adam Gorham. While Mateo languishes in an ICE lockup, Sam is arrested for beating up the guy who betrayed Mateo. Dee pays Sam’s bail, but then throws him out of her house, and Sam winds up in a homeless shelter. Meanwhile, the alien trial continues, though it now seems as though it’s entirely occurring in Sam’s head. This is an excellent series, but I wish it would come out more often – see my previous complaint about Radio Apocalypse.

THE THING #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Next Big Thing Part 5,” [W] Walter Mosley, [A] Tom Reilly. After some fight scenes, Dr. Doom arrives in the Blue Area and explains his plot to save his mother by destroying Death herself. Then we learn that Amaryllis is Death, while Bobby is a juvenile Watcher. This series is weird and wacky, and that’s why I love it.

WHAT IF….? MILES MORALES #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “What If Miles Morales Became Captain America?”, [W] Cody Ziglar, [A] Paco Medina. The answer is that nothing especially interesting would happen. Also, the big reveal in this issue is that the Prowler is Uncle Aaron. How is that a surprise? I’m going to avoid buying any further comics written by Cody Ziglar.

RADIO SPACEMAN #1 (Dark Horse, 2022) – “Mission to Numa 4,” [W] Mike Mignola, [A] Greg Hinkle. A radio-operated astronaut tries to save a female astronaut from being sacrificed to a Lovecraftian monster. I might not have bought this if there had been more offerings from Dark Horse this month, but it’s not bad. It has the same aesthetic as Hellboy, without being tethered to Hellboy continuity.

LOVE & ROCKETS #11 (Fantagraphics, 2022) – various stories, [W/A] Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez. The Jaime stories in this issue are mostly about Maggie’s vexed relationship to Tonta. At the end we learn that Vivian, the Frogmouth, is about to marry Ignacio Dominguez. I forget who that is, but he must be related to Ray. The most interesting of the Beto stories are the ones that take place at a comic convention. In “Weird, Weird World” there’s a funny metatextual moment when Rosario asks Venus if comics about comics are dumb. Two pages later we see Harley Yee signing autographs. The next time I see Harley Yee at a comic convention, I want to ask him if Beto meant anything specific by this.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #91 (Marvel, 2022) – “What Lurks Behind Door Z?”, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Sara Pichelli & Fran Galán. In the depths of the Beyond Corporation, Peter and the Daughters of the Dragon fight a bunch of weird creatures, including a fanged housecat-like creature that can clone itself, and a chicken with boxing gloves. Then ”Door Z” opens to reveal the Lizard, grown to giant size. This is an entertaining issue, and I’m sorry that I have to stop buying Spider-Man soon because the new writer is Zeb Wells, who I don’t like.

X-MEN LEGENDS #12 (Marvel, 2022) – “Start Again,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Scot Eaton. In a story set between X-Men #227 and Excalibur #1, Kurt and Kitty fight the Harriers in order to stop Mystique from killing Forge. It’s too bad that Alan Davis only drew the cover of this issue and not the interior. Otherwise, this comic is a nice piece of nostalgia, with all sorts of connections to X-Men continuity. It’s especially poignant seeing Kurt and Kitty’s despair over the presumed death of the X-Men. And Claremont derives dramatic irony from the fact that the reader knows Mystique is Kurt’s mother, but that Kurt himself doesn’t know this.

BLACK PANTHER #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Long Shadow Book Four,” [W] John Ridley, [A] Juann Cabal. T’Challa comes to suspect Omolola of betraying him. They fight, and then Shuri and Hunter show up. This feels like a waste of an issue.

RED ROOM: TRIGGER WARNINGS #1 (Fantagraphics, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Ed Piskor. This issue has three separate stories depicted on separate panel tiers. The middle tier is another series of Red Room torture shows. The top tier is printed in color, unlike the rest of the series so far, and focuses on Brianna, the daughter of the cop/serial killer/Red Room performer Davis Fairfield. On a visit to Davis’s lakehouse, Brianna and her friend gradually figure out that Davis is involved in something illegal, and when they get home, they find that Davis has been arrested for downloading Red Room videos. This is the most suspenseful part of the comic; I was expecting Brianna and her friend to be killed at any moment. The bottom tier is about Davis himself, as he tries to remain in the good graces of the Red Room management while avoiding the law. I should mention here that Piskor and Jim Rugg were widely criticized because Rugg’s variant cover for Trigger Warnings #3 was based on Maus. Rugg, Piskor and Fantagraphics pulled the cover almost as soon as it became public. I don’t want to disagree with the critiques of the cover, but I do suspect that this controversy was fueled by the fact that Maus has been all over the news lately.

DEVIL’S REIGN #5 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Checchetto. After a series of fight scenes, the Purple Man turns a crowd of people into zombies. Meanwhile, the Kingpin beats Matt Murdock to death, or at least it seems to be Matt Murdock. This issue was competent but not spectacular.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #92 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson & Jed MacKay, [A] Fran Galán et al. Behind Door Z, Peter, Misty and Colleen find Morbius. Ben Reilly has a vision where he’s being eaten by carnivorous sandwiches. Kelly Thompson would be an ideal Spider-Man writer if she was given sole creative control of the franchise. Though really, Kelly Thompson would be an ideal writer of almost any superhero comic.

SABRETOOTH #2 (Marvel, 2022) – “Know Your Enemy,” [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Leonard Kirk. Sabretooth gets to know his new cellmates, and he develops a plan to escape. So far this comic is my least favorite Victor LaValle work. As mentioned in my review of #1, this comic’s critique of prisons falls flat because the protagonist is a man who should be in prison.

NUBIA AND THE AMAZONS #6 (DC, 2020) – “Trial of the Amazons Part 2,” [W] Stephanie Williams & Vita Ayala, [A] Alitha Martinez. The first half of the issue depicts Hippolyta’s funeral, and then the Amazons prepare for the contest. This issue is not really about Nubia at all, and it should maybe have been published under the title of Trial of the Amazons. Overall this miniseries was less interesting than I’d hoped.

SPIDER-GWEN: GWENVERSE #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Jodi Nishijima. Gwen’s life continues to suck, and she’s still having adventures in the multiverse, against her father’s wishes. But on her latest attempt to visit Earth-616, Gwen gets stuck in the wrong universe, and meanwhile, a new, very strange Sinister Six is pursuing her. It’s hard to remember what exactly happened in this issue, but it’s a fun issue.

WOMEN OF MARVEL #1 (Marvel, 2022) – [E] Sarah Brunstad. This is effectively a Marvel’s Voices comic, though it doesn’t have Voices in its title. It begins with a story by Mirka Andolfo that introduces an intriguing new heroine, Patty Prue. I don’t generally like Mirka Andolfo’s writing, but I liked this story. The highlight of the issue is the Squirrel Girl/Black Widow team-up written by Charlie Jane Anders. Like most of the other Marvel Voices comics, this issue also includes some less interesting material. I should note here that in the Squirrel Girl story, the Mad Thinker refers to himself as the Mad Thinker. This is a common mistake. He just calls himself the Thinker. It’s everyone else who thinks he’s mad.

HAWKEYE: KATE BISHOP #5 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Marieke Nikjamp, [A] Enid Balam. With the aid of America Chavez and Cassie Lang, Kate and Susan invade the Bishop  mansion and recover the Cosmic Cube fragment. This was a fun miniseries that was reminiscent of both Young Avengers and Kelly Thompson’s Hawkeye.

NEWBURN #4 (Image, 2022) – “Bring Some Heat,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jacob Phillips. Newburn is forcibly “hired” by the Police Benevolent Association of New York City, which, as Zdarsky observes, is the one union that makes other unions look bad. The police want Newburn to solve a gang killing. Newburn finds a way to resolve the killing without earning the enmity of all the gangs, and also discovers that the person who hired him has been embezzling union funds. This issue is fun because it confronts Newburn with a seemingly intractable problem, and yet he manages to solve it with his life and reputation intact.

A THING CALLED TRUTH #5 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Iolanda Zanfardino, [A] Elisa Romboli. Dorian and Magdalene break up, but then Magdalene runs through an airport in search of Dorian, somehow managing not to get arrested, and they finally kiss. This series was frankly awful. It was a stupid piece of romantic comedy, with no attempt at realism or serious consequences, and I don’t know why Image chose to translate it when there are so many other better European comics.

SUPERGIRL, WOMAN OF TOMORROW #7 (DC, 2022) – “Hope, Help, and Compassion,” [W] Tom King, [A] Bilquis Evely. I forgot to buy this until after issue 8 came out. I honestly could have done without it, but I wanted to have a complete set of the series. In this issue, Supergirl fights a bunch of pirates while Comet the Super-Horse tries to keep Ruthie from killing Krem.

MONKEY MEAT #3 (Image, 2022) –“Troll!”, [W/A] Juni Ba. This issue starts with a framing sequence in which a homeless man named Karl tells Lug a fairy tale. In the fairy tale, a boy is abducted by fairies, and then as an adult, he volunteers to take a package across a bridge guarded by a troll. The troll refuses to let any “living thing” cross the bridge, so the boy finds a way to kill himself and still cross the bridge. Then he rescues another child who was replaced by a changeling, and that child herself makes an appearance after Karl finishes the story. This was the best issue of Monkey Meat yet. I love Juni Ba’s artwork, but the first two issues didn’t  tell a complete, satisfying story, and this one did.

ONE-STAR SQUADRON #4 (DC, 2022) – “One Downsize Fits All,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Lieber. Reddy announces that he has to fire half the staff, but then he decides that he can’t do it, and he’s going to tell his bosses so. Just as Reddy is about to tell off the company’s owners, they reveal that they’ve found a buyer for the company. Reddy returns to the Heroz4U office only to find it on fire. I disliked this series at first, but the last couple issues have been better because they depict Reddy as a more sympathetic character – although Russell’s portrayal of Power Girl is still wildly contrary out of keeping with her character. If nothing else, One-Star Squadron is a lot better than My Bad. One-Star Squadron seems to be influenced by Glengarry Glen Ross. The owners of Heroz4U are like “Mitch and Murray,” in that they sit in their office downtown and do nothing, while sending flunkies to communicate their decrees to their employees.

ETERNALS #10 (Marvel, 2022) – “Hail, Thanos, Part 4,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Esad Ribic. A team of Eternals tries to rescue the child Starbrand from the Avengers’ headquarters. Meanwhile, Thanos confronts his resurrected mother Sui-San. I’ve been displeased with this series ever since I read Charles Hatfield’s negative review of it, but maybe I’m allowing myself to be too influenced by his opinion. I did enjoy the most recent one-shot; see my review of it below.

THE GOOD ASIAN #9 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Alexandre Tefenkgi. Edison Hark escapes an assassination attempt, then he takes off his bandage and reveals his new face, and he prepares to confront Victoria. I’ve completely lost track of this series’ plot, and I’m glad there’s just one more issue.

Older comics:

2000 AD #1330 (Rebellion, 2003) – Dredd: as above. The judges fight a giant infestation of aliens. Bec & Kawl: as above. Bec and Kawl defeat the Bill Gates character. This storyline was very fun, although its depiction of the Internet is somewhat dated now. The VCs: as above. I still don’t know what this storyline is about. Tales of Telguuth: “Pagrok the Infallible Part 1,” [W] Steve Moore, [A] Jon Haward. Some parents hire a wizard to find their kidnapped daughter. The wizard, Pagrok, discovers that the daughter has been arrested for stealing and is about to be sacrificed to a lightning deity. Jon Haward’s art is creative and full of weird details. Atavar II: as above. Again this story makes no sense.

2000 AD #1453 (Rebellion, 2005) – Dredd: “Mandroid,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Kev Walker. Sergeant Nate Slaughterhouse suffers severe battle wounds and returns to Mega-City One as a “mandroid,” with almost no human body parts remaining. Dredd only appears in the last panel of the chapter. Savage: “Out of Order Book Two,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Charlie Adlard. A revival of one of the oldest 2000 AD characters. In this chapter, Savage saves his niece Jan from being killed in a guerrilla attack against the Volgans. Based on reading Wikipedia, I think the protagonist in this chapter is Bill Savage, disguised as his dead brother Jack. Leatherjack: “Chapter 4,” [W] John Smith, [A] Paul Marshall. Like much of John Smith’s work, this story has beautiful, evocative dialogue, but an impenetrable plot. Breathing Space: “Part 3,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] L. Campbell. This story takes place in the Judge Dredd universe, but I’m not sure what it’s about. Robo-Hunter: “Stim! Part 4,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. Sam Slade’s granddaughter, Samantha, escapes an assassination attempt. Like John Burns’s art in Nikolai Dante, Ian Gibson’s art here is beautiful, but looks weird when printed on glossy paper. It’s unfortunate that this story includes an appearance by Stogie, perhaps the most offensive character ever to appear in 2000 AD.

DETECTIVE COMICS #433 (DC, 1973) – “The Killer in the Smog!”, [W] Frank Robbins, [A] Dick Dillin. Someone is murdering people by strangling them with a scarf. There are three suspects. Batman eventually figures out that all three of them are guilty. Like in Strangers on a Train, they each agreed to kill the intended victim of one of the others, so that their motives would be hard to figure out. In the backup story, by Robbins and Heck, someone frames Jason Bard for trying to assassinate a senator.

CEREBUS #226 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1998) – “Rick’s Story 7,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This issue includes more text from Rick’s fake Bible, and it’s only a little less tedious to read than #225 was. Also, yet again, literally nothing happens in the entire issue. Reading Rick’s Story, I find it hard to remember that Cerebus used to have exciting and clever plots. Instead of a letter’s page, this issue has an essay by Sim called “Mama’s Boy,” but I didn’t bother to read it.

KANE #24 (Dancing Elephant, 1999) – “Meyer Culpa,” [W/A] Paul Grist. This issue is an interesting storytelling experiment. It has two parallel plot threads. In one of them, Kane and his partner interrogate a man named Meyer who’s suspected of robbing the bank where he works. In the other sequence, we see how the bank robbery happened: Meyer actually did try to rob his own bank, but a gang of criminals was robbing it at the same time. Meyer drugged them and escaped with the money, but was caught by the police. When the police go on to catch the real criminals, they falslely think Meyer is a hero. Meyer himself is a colorless, dull man, so he never says anything in the entire issue, and the flashback sequences from his perspective are completely silent.  

ROBIN, SON OF BATMAN #9 (DC, 2016) – “Better Angels,” [W/A] Patrick Gleason. This issue begins with a poignant scene where Damian watches as a child falls from a piece of playground equipment, but is caught by his parents. Then there are some action sequences that I don’t understand, and then Damian introduces Goliath to his pet dog, cat and cow. I like this issue, but it’s hard to understand without having read the whole series in order.

UNCANNY X-MEN #278 (Marvel, 1991) – “The Battle of Muir Isle,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Paul Smith. This was Claremont’s second to last issue before he was unceremoniously fired. It consists of a number of separate plot threads, most of which somehow involve the Shadow King. It’s a shame that Claremont was fired, because in his final year on the series, he was writing better stories than he had in years. And he had additional stories in mind that he was never able to tell, and if he told them now, they wouldn’t have the same impact. Paul Smith’s artwork in this issue is hard to recognize as his, perhaps because of Hilary Barta’s inking.

THE MAXX #6 (Image, 1993) – untitled, [W/A] Sam Kieth, [W] William Messner-Loebs. The main event this issue is that Maxx fights Savage Dragon’s enemy Mako. There are also some scenes set in the Outback, and these scenes include some beautiful painted illustrations that seem to be inspired by Frazetta.  

ID #1 (Fantagraphics, 1990) – untitled, [W/A] R. Crumb. This comic consists mostly of sketches of women, with just a few pages of actual comics. Crumb’s draftsmanship is beautiful, but his depictions of women are sexist and misogynistic. Throughout the issue he presents women as sex toys rather than people. It’s no wonder if younger cartoonists no longer see him as an influence.

RINGSIDE #7 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Nick Barber. Another boring crime comic with ugly art. At least the art is less crude-looking than in subsequent issues.  

BLACK PANTHER AND THE CREW #5 (Marvel, 2017) – “We Are the Streets Part 5: Down These Mean Streets,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Butch Guice et al. Manifold and some other superheroes fight some armored “Americops.” I never particularly liked this series. With the exception of Shuri, the spinoffs from Coates’s Black Panther were unimpressive.

THE PHANTOM #1075 (Frew, 1994) – “Carlyle’s Good Mark,” [W] Lee Falk, [A] Wilson McCoy. A reprint of a 1958 daily strip continuity. This story contains the first full explanation of the Phantom’s “good mark,” which he uses to designate people worthy of his protection. Tony Carlyle is the descendant of a man who received the good mark. He’s kidnapped while visiting the Bangalla jungle on his honeymoon, and his wife takes advantage of the good mark to save him. This is an exciting and narratively sophisticated story. A notable scene is when a tribal chief wants to let Tony free rather than execute him, but he doesn’t dare, because he’s afraid that the young men of the village would perceive him as weak. The Phantom has to find a way for the chief to let Tony go while saving face. There’s a running joke where a drummer keeps sending the wrong message on the tom-tom.

CEREBUS #227 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1998) – “Rick’s Story 8,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Yet another issue with excellent art and lettering, but a total lack of plot. The letters page includes the second part of Sim’s Mama’s Boy essay. Again, I couldn’t be bothered to read this.

LOVE & ROCKETS #39 (Fantagraphics, 1992) – three stories, [W/A] Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez. I would eventually like to assemble a complete run of this series, though it’s not a high priority, since I already have most of its content. This issue includes chapter 11 of Poison River and the final chapters of Wigwam Bam and Love & Rockets X. Wigwam Bam is a classic, but I never quite understood Poison River. Love & Rockets X is the only major story from the original L&R run that I haven’t read. It’s not included in the Locas hardcover. The chapter in this issue is fascinating, and I want to track down the rest of the story. It looks like both Poison River and Love & Rockets X are reprinted in the volume Beyond Palomar.

2000 AD #1454 (Rebellion, 2005) – Dredd: “Mandroid Part 2,” as above. Slaughterhouse can’t find a job, his neighbor tries to get him to join a protection racket, and someone kidnaps his wife. Savage: as above. Savage rescues Jan again, and plots to assassinate the Volgan president on his visit to Britain. Leatherjack: as above. Again I can’t tell what’s going on here. Breathing Space: as above. Or here either. Robo-Hunter: as above. Samantha Slade fights some kind of robot dinosaur.

UNCLE SCROOGE #88 (Gold Key, 1970) – “The Unsafe Safe,” [W/A] Carl Barks. This is reprinted from issue 38. Scrooge’s scientists create an unbreakable variety of glass, and Scrooge uses it as the door for his vault. Magica de Spell discovers that the cry of a bird called the “Tanganyika yeeker” can break the glass. Despite Scrooge’s best efforts, Magica succeeds in using a yeeker to steal Scrooge’s Old Number One dime, and she is only defeated because her stun ray runs out of batteries. I wonder if this was Barks’s only story in which he used both the Beagle Boys and Magica.  

CURSE WORDS SPRING SPECIAL (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. This flashback story begins with Margaret’s birth. Ruby Stitch manages to hide her pregnancy from an oblivious Sizzajee, but as soon as Margaret is born, Clearboy discovers her existence and kidnaps her. Sizzajee kills Ruby Stitch and Wizord, then revives them with no knowledge of their child’s existence, and curses them to never be happy. It’s a rather heartwrenching story, despite Browne and Soule’s humorous approach.

WONDER WOMAN #39 (DC, 1990) – “Poisoned Souls,” [W] George Pérez & Mindy Newell, [A] Chris Marrinan. The peace summit on Themyscira turns disastrous as everyone starts fighting everyone else, because Menalippe’s golden apples have been replaced by Eris’s apples of discord. There’s also a subplot with Hermes and Steve Trevor.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #149 (Dell, 1953) – untitled (“Flip Decision”), [W/A] Carl Barks. A quack professor converts Donald to the philosophy of “flipism,” where he makes decisions by flipping a coin. Which is also one of Two-Face’s gimmicks, but I suspect that this is just a coincidence. Anyway, this story is most notable for introducing Daisy’s nephews April, May and June, although they only appear in three panels and are unnamed. The Mickey Mouse story in this issue is a reprint of a Gottfredson newspaper strip sequence in which Mickey becomes the master of a genie. This issue also contains the usual filler material, including a Little Hiawatha strip that’s even more offensive than Four Color #744.

FORBIDDEN WORLDS #141 (ACG, 1966) – “Phantom Revenge!”, [W] Richard Hughes, [A] Bob Jenney. In this issue’s first story, two criminals are apprehended by the ghosts of a young couple who were murdered a hundred years previously. The fun part is how the ghosts’ dialogue is the same in the present-day sequence as in the flashback sequence depicting their murder. Next is a rather trite mummy story, and then an adventure of Magicman. The latter character was one of ACG’s few superheroes, although he’s really more of a superhero parody.

HELLBLAZER #25 (DC, 1990) – “Early Warning,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] David Lloyd. Constantine visits a town that has been ruined by Thatcherism, and is trying to restore its civic pride by reviving an ancient masking festival. But some local mad scientist is driving the townspeople insane by bombarding their brains with microwaves. This issue is a brilliant meditation on nationalism and Thatcherite economics, and David Lloyd’s art is beautifully moody. The story meant to appear in Hellblazer #25 was “Hold Me,” perhaps the best Hellblazer story ever, but yet “Early Warning” isn’t that much worse than “Hold Me.”

CAPTAIN AMERICA #6 (Marvel, 2019) – “Winter in America Part VI,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Leinil Francis Yu. A boring, slow-paced story that focuses on Alexander Lukin and his wife Alexa. Cap himself doesn’t appear until late in the issue. I should have given up on this series after just a couple issues, but I kept reading it out of a misplaced sense of obligation.

THE PHANTOM #1131 (Frew, 1996) – “The Search for Byron,” [W] Jim Shepherd, [A] Glenn Ford. The Phantom travels to Burma to rescue an old friend, an aviator named Byron whose plane crashed in the jungle. In rescuing him, the Phantom also solves the real-life mystery of the disappearance of Charles Kingsford Smith, Australia’s greatest aviator. “The Search for Byron” is the first Phantom story I’ve read that was an original Australian production. Glenn Ford’s artwork is not nearly at the same level as the art in the Swedish-produced Phantom comics, but Jim Shepherd’s writing shows his love for the Phantom franchise.

CEREBUS #228 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1998) – “Rick’s Story,” [W] Dave Sim. Finally something actually happens: Rick tells Cerebus that they’ll only meet once more, then leaves the bar. I don’t know if they ever did meet, or, if so, under what circumstances. Then Cerebus tries to decide if he should leave too.

2000 AD #1461 (Rebellion, 2005) – Dredd: “Mandroid Part 9,” as above. Dredd fights Slaughterhouse, who I guess has become a vigilante since part 2. The Red Seas: “Underworld Part 2,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Steve Yeowell. In the 17th century, some dude leads a party of criminals to a Mithraic temple buried under London. There they find Isaac Newton, some years after his alleged death. This story mentions that there are a lot of underground rivers below London, and this appears to be true. Leatherjack: “Chapter 12,” as above except [A] Paul Marshall. I still can’t tell what this is about. Sinister Dexter: “…And Death Shall Have No Dumb Minions Part 3,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Simon Davis. Sinister and Dexter fight a giant robot. Simon Davis’s painted art is beautiful. Dredd: “Burned Out Part 1,” [W] Gordon Rennie, [A] Carl Critchlow. Dredd requests help from a former judge who’s lost all four limbs in the line of duty. This story continues into Megazine #238. I’m not sure why this issue has two Dredd stories.

MIND MGMT #20 (Dark Horse, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. A flashback story about a group of assassins disguised as a circus freakshow. I must have read this issue in digital form while doing research for my book, but I don’t remember much about it. I’m looking forward to the just-announced new MIND MGMT series with art by various star artists.

BIRTHRIGHT #26 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. This initially seems to be a flashback to Mikey’s failed attempt to defeat Lore, just prior to the beginning of the series. Then we discover it’s really a vision Mikey is having, because Samael has imprisoned him in a coffin in order to try to probe his memories. I miss this series.

BATMAN #484 (DC, 1992) – “Warpaint,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Jim Aparo. Black Mask leads an arson campaign against Bruce Wayne’s buildings. This must be one of Black Mask’s earlier appearances, but otherwise it’s not very interesting, and I’ve never cared much for Black Mask.

HELLBLAZER #68 (DC, 1993) – “Down All the Days,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Steve Dillon. Down All the Days is the title of a famous Irish novel by Christy Brown, but the Pogues borrowed it as a line in the song “Rainy Night in Soho,” and later as the title of a separate song. Ennis’s title could be a reference to any or all of these. This issue, Constantine has somehow become a homeless alcoholic, making him an easy target for a gang of vampires who are killing homeless people. This issue is a brutal and seemingly realistic depiction of life on the streets of London.

POWER MAN #27 (Marvel, 1975) – “Just a Guy Named X!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] George Pérez. Luke Cage fights a superpowered, intellectually disabled ex-boxer and his manager/caretaker. Eventually the boxer kills the manager by accident and is taken to a mental hospital. This is a  more poignant story than I expected from Mantlo, but Perez’s art is seriously hampered by Al McWilliams’s lifeless inking.

BATWOMAN #6 (DC, 2012) – “Drown the World Part One,” [W] J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman, [A] Amy Reeder. I’m not sure what this issue is about, and I don’t really care. Amy Reeder’s art in this issue is adequate, but a comic written by J.H. Williams is only worth reading if he also draws it. At least that was the case for his earlier work. Echolands is better written than Batwoman was, but I still might not read it if someone else drew it.

TOTALLY AWESOME HULK #9 (2016) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Mike Del Mundo. In a Civil War II crossover, Amadeus Cho is confronted by a bunch of other superheroes while he’s in mourning for Bruce Banner. This issue is kind of boring, and Mike Del Mundo’s talent is wasted on such a generic superhero story. Totally Awesome Hulk was an interesting series, but it was completely overshadowed by the next Hulk series, Immortal Hulk.

On March 27 I went to the Charlotte Comic Con. Also, between the convention and my previous Heroes trip, I went to ICFA in Orlando. This was my first in-person conference in two years, and my first trip anywhere other than Minneapolis since the pandemic. It seriously helped to restore my motivation and break me out of the slump I’ve been in. I did not buy any comic books during the trip, though I did win one graphic novel in the ICFA auction. Anyway, here are some of the things I bought at the convention:

THRILLING ADVENTURE STORIES #2 (Atlas/Seaboard, 1975) – [E] Jeff Rovin. This was a massive bargain at just $5. The Atlas/Seaboard issue of Comic Book Artist calls this the best comic the company ever published, and I have no doubt this is correct. It has such a high level of talent that it’s almost like an extra issue of Blazing Combat – and indeed it resembles a classic Warren comic, both in format and in its lineup of creators. It starts with Goodwin and Simonson’s “Temple of the Spider,” a Japanese samurai/yokai story. Besides greatly resembling Manhunter, this comic shows that Goodwin and Simonson had some actual acquaintance with Japanese visual culture and mythology. I wonder what their specific inspiration for this story was. The weak link in the issue is “The Kromag Saga,” a dumb caveman story drawn by Jack Sparling. But next is “Tough Cop” by John Albano and Russ Heath, about an old cop who defeats some assassins from his wheelchair. Heath’s artwork here is incredibly realistic and thrilling, if not quite at the same level of detail as his masterpiece “Give and Take.” He was an incredible draftsman and storyteller, and a pioneer in the use of photo reference for comic art. Steve Mitchell and John Severin’s “Town Tamer” is another beautifully drawn war story, though not so well written. And the most notable story in the issue is “A Job Well Done” by Alex Toth and Richard Meyers. Again, the plot, about an honest cop in a corrupt near-future society, is a bit disappointing, but Toth’s visual storytelling is unparalleled. I’ve been looking for this comic for twenty years, ever since I read that Comic Book Artist magazine in 2001, and it was worth the hype.

CEREBUS #31 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1981) – “Chasing Cootie,” [W/A] Dave Sim. The bad issues of Cerebus are so bad that they make me forget how good the good ones are. This issue is Astoria’s second appearance, and her first in the actual series – she was introduced in a new story added to the third Swords of Cerebus reprint volume. In this issue Astoria explains her history with Artemis/Moonroach, and then Moonroach assassinates Cerebus’s business partner. Also, the Regency Elf laughs at Cerebus, but he doesn’t appear to be able to perceive her. This issue includes a flashback scene in which Moonroach r*pes Astoria, but it’s basically glossed over, whereas the other r*pe scene later in the series is given much more emphasis.

LITTLE ARCHIE #13 (Archie, 1960) – “A Spotty Story” etc., [W/A] Bob Bolling and Dexter Taylor. There are a ton of stories in this issue, but the most important one is “The Flash,” Bolling’s first realistic adventure story. In this story Archie’s dad takes Little Archie camping, and Archie keeps begging his dad to take a photo of him. Archie’s dad never manages to take the photo, but Archie uses his dad’s camera’s flashbulb to save himself from a hungry wolf. I have probably said before that Bolling is perhaps the greatest artist of outdoor adventure stories, and he was good at it from the start. Ironically, one of the Dexter Taylor stories in this issue blatantly contradicts “The Flash,” by suggesting that Archie and his dad are so terrified of the outdoors that they can only camp in their own backyard. There are four other Bolling stories in this issue, all of them in a more humorous style, and some much lesser material by Taylor.

WONDER WOMAN #199 (DC, 1972) – “Tribunal of Fear!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Don Heck. I usually won’t pay more than about $6 for a single comic, but paid $15 for this without even thinking about it, because it has my favorite cover ever. This cover and that of #200 are the only superhero works by Jeffrey Catherine Jones, then known as Jeff Jones. The composition and rendering of #199’s cover are both utterly astonishing, and the subtle linework is even better appreciated in hard copy than in reproductions. Predictably, the interior story is far less memorable than the cover, though it’s kind of interesting. Its plot is that Diana and Jonny Double have to save Fellows Dill, a stand-in for Larry Flynt or Hugh Hefner, from being assassinated by a KKK-esque group of right-wing terrorists.

SKULL #3 (Last Gasp, 1971) – “Tales of the Leather Nun,” [W/A] Dave Sheridan, etc. I think this was priced at $8, but I bargained it down to $6. I bought it from a seller who had a truly impressive selection of underground and alternative comics. The first story in Skull #3, by Dave Sheridan, is underwhelming, but the other three stories are by three of the greatest horror artists in underground comics: Jack Jackson, Richard Corben, and Greg Irons. They all have rather silly and sexually exploitative plots, but they’re gorgeously drawn. Perhaps the funniest one is the Jaxon story, in which a barbarian fights his way through a horde of zombies, and we think he’s trying to stop a beautiful maiden from being married to a “deaf-mute, syphilitic leper,” but he’s really just trying to get to the bathroom. The barbarian in this story wears a helmet identical to the one that Conan wore at the time.

UNCLE SCROOGE #46 (Gold Key, 1963) – “Lost Beneath the Sea,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Scrooge decides to buy Mount Everest, the Taj Mahal and Hong Kong. That makes no sense at all, but these purchases don’t play any role in the plot; they’re just an excuse to get Scrooge to go to sea while carrying  the Old Number One Dime for good luck. Though I do wonder how much the Taj Mahal is valued at for insurance purposes. Anyway, Scrooge loses the dime at sea and instantly starts suffering from bad luck, and he discovers that it’s been recovered by Martians who are trying to recover iron from sunken ships. That doesn’t make sense either; the reason Mars is red is because it’s full of iron, so why would Martians need to go to Earth for iron? But this is a thrilling adventure story anyway. This issue also includes two other Barks stories,  one starring Gyro Gearloose, and another where Scrooge outsmarts himself while trying to test his nephews’ honesty.

SHOCK SUSPENSTORIES #15 (EC, 1954/1996) – “Raw Deal,” [W] Otto Binder, [A] Jack Kamen. Gregg Bolton and his wife were been lost at sea, and only Gregg survived. Now Gregg keeps shouting “I hate her!” After being given a truth serum, he reveals that after his wife died, he was starving to death, so he did the only thing he could do to survive. And he’s not saying “I hate her,” he’s saying… well, you can figure it out. This is a genuine classic, and the best story in the issue. “The Confidant,” [W] Al Feldstein, [A] Wally Wood. A man visits a small town in order to visit his son, who is being pursued by a lynch mob after murdering his girlfriend. The man visits his son, but refuses to reveal the son’s current whereabouts, and the mob murders him. Afterward, they open his jacket to reveal a priest’s collar – which explains why he couldn’t tell them anything. There have been actual cases of priests being killed for refusing to reveal information they learned in the confessional, but it seems like in this case, the mob would have let the priest alone if he’d told them who he was. “For Cryin’ Out Loud!”, [W] Otto Binder, [A] Reed Crandall. An escaped criminal murders a woman, then thinks that everyone he sees suspects him of it, until he finally confesses. What he doesn’t realize is that everyone is reacting to the scratches his victim left on his face. This is the least impressive story in the issue. “Well Trained,” [W] Carl Wessler, [A] George Evans. Mike Ferris murders policeman Tom Gibson’s wife. Ferris is caught, and Gibson torments him by telling him gruesome details of the death that awaits him in the electric chair. Eventually the murderer escapes but runs onto a train track, and Gibson never finds out whether he died from being hit by the train or from being electrocuted by the third rail. Really, someone should have gotten a restraining order against Gibson to stop him from harrassing Ferris.  

SERGIO ARAGONÉS FUNNIES #2 (Bongo, 2011) – “A Somewhat Familiar Story” etc., [W/A] Sergio Aragonés. I somehow failed to buy this when it came out, and I’m glad I’ve finally found it. This issue starts with a King Kong parody, whose twist ending is that King Kong is a child, and his parents come to New York and rescue him. “My First Peso” is an autobiographical story about how Sergio earned his first money by doing his classmates’ art homework for them. In “Kira and the Beauty Contest,” a humanoid alien dreams of appearing in beauty contests on Earth, but the twist is that she turns out to be giant-sized relative to Earth people. This was a great series and I wish it had lasted more than six issues.

STAR-SPANGLED WAR STORIES #144 (DC, 1969) – “Death Takes No Holiday!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Neal Adams. Enemy Ace defeats a squadron of Allied pilots who dress up in  skeleton suits, but at the cost of the life of a fellow pilot. Unusually, this story is pencilled by Neal Adams and inked by Kubert. This was their first collaboration, and their styles are quite well suited to each other. Enemy Ace may be the best American war comic not published by EC.

BIJOU #8 (Krupp, 1973) – “Geek Brothers!”, [W/A] Jay Lynch, etc. I bought this from the same dealer as Skull #3. It’s the first issue of Bijou I have. On the inside front cover is an editorial denouncing the Supreme Court’s Miller decision, which put an end to the underground comics market by allowing local communities to set their own standards for obscenity. Therefore, this is one of the last true underground comics. The gimmick in this issue is that it consists of stories in which one underground cartoonist parodies another. For example, the first story is Jay Lynch’s parody of Gilbert Shelton’s Freak Brothers. Other stories in the issue are by Bill Stout (parodying Skip Williamson), Williamson (parodying Crumb), Denis Kitchen (Dan Clyne), Pat Daley (Bodé), Crumb (Lynch), Griffith (Deitch), Deitch (Griffith), Justin Green (S. Clay Wilson), Willy Murphy (Spiegelman), and Jay Kinney (Trina and Spain). This is a fascinating comic, though the parody aspect makes it a little disappointing. The Pat Daley story is funny because it suggests that Bodé’s Cheech Wizard is Pogo in disguise.

SUICIDE SQUAD #53 (DC, 1991) – “The Dragon’s Hoard Part 1: Dead Earnest,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Geof Isherwood. After this latest convention, I now have all but two issues of Suicide Squad. However, one of the two that I’m missing is #23, which will be the hardest to find. In #53, Waller accepts a mission to recover some guns hidden in Cambodia. I believe this is some kind of double-cross on Waller’s part, as the person who hid the guns is obviously Captain Boomerang in disguise. This issue is good, but not spectacular.

CEREBUS #36 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1982) – “The Night Before,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This issue consists entirely of a conversation between Cerebus and Jaka, but unlike many later Cerebus stories, “The Night Before” feels substantial. At this point Dave hadn’t yet suffered the curse of decompressed storytelling, and he still knew how to write dialogue that both sounds realistic and advances the plot. This issue has a backup story by Bill Loebs about Benjamin Franklin’s afterlife.

NIGHTWING ANNUAL #1 (DC, 2022) – “Blood Brothers, “[W] Tom Taylor, [A] Cian Tormey & Daniel HDR. This was the only back issue of Tom Taylor’s Nightwing that I could find at the convention. I think I missed at least six issues before I started reading it. This annual includes a present-day team-up between Nightwing and Red Hood, plus a backup sequence depicting Dick Grayson’s first meeting and first adventure with Jason Todd. This story again emphasizes Dick’s big-brother role, even referring to him and Jason as “brothers” in its title and its last line. It also helps me sympathize with Jason, who I’ve always hated.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #668 (Marvel, 2011) – “Spider-Island Part 2: Peter Parker, the Unspectacular Spider-Man,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Humberto Ramos. Peter leads a bunch of spider-powered people into battle, taking advantage of the fact that everyone has spider-powers, so he’s at no risk of revealing his secret identity. This is a pretty average Slott issue, but it includes a lot of fun moments, such as Peter having to pretend to be amazed at meeting Reed Richards.

INCOGNITO #1 (Icon, 2008) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. This series stars Zack Overkill, a former supervillain who’s now in the witness protection program. Just like Mr. Incredible, he’s having trouble coping with his non-super life, and also his supposedly dead twin brother Xander may still be alive. Incognito is a superhero comic but is drawn in the same style as Criminal, making it a somewhat odd reading experience. As a note to myself, I have all six issues of this miniseries, and I have already read issue 2. I will have to reread it before I get to #3.

GROO THE WANDERER #112 (Marvel, 1994) – “Rufferto Avenged,” [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. A king orders a chemist to make a poison to murder the king’s wife, and the chemist tests the poison on Rufferto. Groo discovers Rufferto’s dead body and goes on a rampage, looking for the person who did it. Everyone in town blames whoever they hate most, and finally someone blames the king, who sends Groo to the chemist. But the chemist reveals that the poison didn’t actually kill Rufferto, it just made him appear dead for 12 hours – and it had the same effect on the queen. In the end, both Groo and the queen wake up in perfect health, but everyone in town now knows that their neighbors want them dead. This issue is a brilliant piece of storytelling. Perhaps the funniest part is the scene where Sergio himself leans out a window and tells Groo “My editor killed your dog!”

VAULT OF HORROR #6 (EC, 1950/1993) – “Terror on the Moors!”, [W/A] Johnny Craig. Jim Ryan visits an old mansion and ends up fighting the owner’s son, a horrible flesh-eating ghoul. “Baby… It’s Cold Inside!”, [W] Al Feldstein, [A] Graham Ingels. An old man insists on having his apartment kept at a freezing temperature. Eventually we discover that the man is already dead, but has stayed alive by freeezing himself – until the air conditioning fails. This story is an unannounced adaptation – or, more bluntly, a ripoff – of Lovecraft’s “Cool Air.” “The Beast of the Full Moon!”, [W] Bill Gaines, [A] Jack Davis. We are led to believe that Tom Kellogg’s brother is a werewolf, but the real werewolf is Tom’s fiancee June. “Vodooo Horror!”, [W] Al Feldstein, [A] Jack Kamen. Basically the same premise as The Picture of Dorian Gray, except with a voodoo doll instead of a painting.

UNCLE SCROOGE ADVENTURES #42 (Gladstone, 1997) – “Treasure of Marco Polo,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Scrooge orders a giant jade elephant from the Southeast Asian country of Unsteadystan, but only the elephant’s tail arrives, together with a stowaway named Soy Bheen. Soy Bheen offers to return with Scrooge to Unsteadystan and help him find the rest of the elephant, if Scrooge can protect Soy Bheen from the general Wahn Beeg Rhat. Eventually we discover that Soy Bheen is really Prince Char Ming, the legitimate heir to the throne of Unsteadystan, and Scrooge helps him recover his treasure and his throne. This story is unusual for Barks because of its political subtext. The political situation in Unsteadystan is clearly based on contemporary events in Vietnam, and Unsteadystan’s traditional architecture and clothing are drawn to resemble those of Vietnam.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #2 (Marvel, 2014) – untitled, [W] Dan Slott, [A] Humberto Ramos. After recovering from his possession by Dr. Octopus, Peter has to get his old life back together. Among other things, he reunites with Johnny Storm, punches Captain America (because Cap knew he had been taken over by Doc Ock, but didn’t tell anyone), and needs Anna Maria’s assistance to get his pants off. That doesn’t mean what it sounds like. Also, Peter battles Electro, and then decides to build a supervillain prison. This is a fun issue.

MICKEY MOUSE #248 (Gladstone, 1989) – “The Land of Long Ago,” [W/A] Floyd Gottfredson, [W] Merrill De Maris. Mickey, Goofy and Professor Dustibones are stuck in the past, where they have to avoid being killed by cavemen before they can get back to their own time. Gottfredson was a storytelling genius, though I don’t like him as much as Barks. A consistent problem with Mickey Mouse stories, in whatever medium, is that Mickey has no personality other than being courageous and good-natured. I suppose this is also a problem with Tintin, but Tintin has a more interesting supporting cast.

SHOCK SUSPENSTORIES #13 (EC/Gladstone,  1954/1995) – [W] Al Feldstein. “Only Skin-Deep,” [A] Jack Kamen. After a bad car accident, Bob Sickles wakes up in hospital with amnesia and a bandaged face. Gloria Anders tells Bob that she conspired with him to help kill her husband Charles, who died in the same car accident that caused Bob’s amnesia. But then “Bob” injures his head and regains his memory, and he realizes he’s actually Charles, and it was Bob who died in the accident. This twist is rather predictable. “Blood-Brothers,” [A] Wally Wood. One of EC’s occasional anti-racist stories. Sid, a disgusting racist, discovers that his neighbor Henry is part black, so he harasses Henry and eventually drives him to suicide. Afterward, the local doctor reveals that when Sid was a child, his life was saved by a black man, so Sid has as much “negro blood” as Henry did. “Upon Reflection,” [A] Reed  Crandall. After killing an opponent in the ring, a boxer mistakenly believes he’s become a werewolf. “Squeeze Play,” [W] Frank Frazetta. Harry murders his girlfriend upon discovering that she’s pregnant (though this is left for the reader to figure out). While he’s trying to escape, some girls lure him out into the water and then abandon him, and he drowns. “Squeeze Play” doesn’t have much of a plot, but it’s the highlight of the issue because of Frazetta’s spectacular artwork. His anatomy and draftsmanship and composition are unequaled. I keep saying that Al Williamson is the best draftsman in the history of American comic books, but Frazetta is his one possible rival.

FIRE POWER #1 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Chris Samnee. This comic is actually redundant because it’s the second printing, and the first printing was an FCBD edition, which I already have. I’m not sure if this second printing includes any new content. An Anyway, Fire Power has beautiful art, but it’s also deeply problematic because it’s a wuxia story by two white creators, neither of whom seems to have any deep knowledge of East Asian culture. For instance, comic mentions names like “Chou Feng” and “Ling Zan,” but to Kirkman and Samnee those are just meaningless sounds. In the bonus material at the end, Kirkman writes that “Ling’s original name was Zuan, which, I believe, is pronounced ‘Shu-Ahn’… I decided to go with something that read phonetically, so we wouldn’t have to spend years correcting the pronunciation.” Why is Kirkman writing a comic about Chinese people if he isn’t even sure how their names are pronounced? Why doesn’t he trust readers to pronounce Chinese names correctly? This whole comic just seems like a bad idea.

CEREBUS #83 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1985) – “Touch Not the Priestess,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Michelle tells Cerebus a long story about her relationship with Weisshaupt, and also tells Cerebus how to use a dustpan. Then she reveals that everything she told him before, presumably in #53, was false. This issue is another long talkfest, but it’s interesting. At the back of the issue is a petition asking Marvel to return Kirby’s artwork.

BATMAN #106 (DC, 2021) – “The Cowardly Lot Part 1,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Jorge Jimenez. This issue includes a bunch of different subplots, and seems to lack a central theme. The basic point is that Gotham is being terrorized by clowns and the “Unsanity Collective,” and Gotham’s problems are about to get worse because the Scarecrow is preparing some kind of plot. I want to like James Tynion’s Batman, but its plot is hard to follow.

IMMORTAL HULK #14 (Marvel, 2019) – “We Only Meet at Funerals,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Kyle Hotz. The first half of the issue depicts Thunderbolt Ross’s funeral, or rather his latest funeral. Then Bruce visits Betty, but just as they’re reconciling, Bushwacker apparently shoots Betty dead. I like how this comic depicts the other characters’ ambivalent reactions to Ross’s death.  

UNCLE SCROOGE #303 (Gladstone, 1997) – “Rocks to Riches,” [W/A] Carl Barks. This issue’s inside cover includes an editorial explaining Gladstone’s decision to switch from glossy to switch covers. I actually almost prefer the self covers. This issue begins with a ten-pager in which Donald buys a rock tumbler, and there’s a Beagle Boys/Gyro Gearloose backup story by Tony Strobl.

SKYBOUND X #2 (Image, 2021) – “Rick Grimes 2020 Chapter 2,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Ryan Ottley, etc. The lead story in this issue is a typical piece of Kirkmanian ultraviolence, but this issue also includes new Birthright and Stillwater stories, plus a Machine Boy story by Tri Vuong and Irma Kniivila. If there was a regular series starring the latter character, I’d buy it. I’m not sorry I skipped buying Skybound X when it came out, because I suspect it will be easy to find the whole series.

THE RING OF THE NIBELUNG VOL. 3 #3 (Dark Horse, 2001) – “Siegfried Part Three,” [W/A] P. Craig Russell. This issue begins with Wotan’s meeting with Erda. I’m guessing this scene is based on the Völuspá from the Poetic Edda. Then Wotan tries to stop Siegfried from approaching Brunhilde’s mountaintop, but Siegfried breaks his staff, and Wotan doesn’t appear again in the cycle. Afterward, Siegfried awakens Brunhilde, and they sing a love duet. PCR’s Ring adaptation is probably his greatest solo work, and it makes me want to actually watch or listen to the entire Ring Cycle.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #4 (Marvel, 2020) – “We’re not friends,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Juann Cabal. A team of Guardians tries to protect Gnawbarque, from Ewing’s Rocket Raccoon series, from being assassinated by Rocket. Meanwhile, Moondragon is attacked by her old nemesis, the Dragon of the Moon. This issue is confusing, but very fun. I especially like the robot waiter whose head is a cocktail shaker.

KING’S WATCH #4 (Dynamite, 2014) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Marc Laming. The various King Features heroes try to fight Ming’s invasion of Earth. These Dynamite King comics were a lot of fun, though it’s weird returning to American Phantom comic books after having gained a deeper knowledge of the character.

I went back to Heroes on March 31. This was a rather stressful day as I had to take my cat to the vet.

SAGA #57 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. A flashback shows how Alanna had her wings amputated. The Will shows Marko’s head to King Robot. There are more tensions between Alanna and the crooks she’s working with. The best moment in this issue is when The Will says “This little reunion act is a cheap stunt and it’s gonna get us both killed,” and Lying Cat just purrs, indicating that The Will is telling the truth.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #21 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Road to Tribulation Part 1,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. A girl named Gabi is the only survivor after her family are killed by oscuratypes. A policeman named Carter tries to get her to safety, but she runs away, and Erica finds her. This is just an introductory issue, rather than a complete story of its own.

ASTRO CITY: THAT WAS THEN… SPECIAL #1 (Image, 2022) – “That Was Then…”, [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Brent Anderson. After yet another hiatus, Astro City is back again, at the same publisher where it started out in 1995. This issue focuses on a teenage superhero team, the Jayhawks, as they try to enjoy their last summer before adulthood. This sequence reminds me a lot of Tales of the New Teen Titans, but because it’s set in 1969, the Jayhawks are more similar to the original Teen Titans. The issue ends with Samaritan musing about the stagnation of contemporary superheroes, and then the ghosts of the Jayhawks appear. The whole story has a wistful air of anticipatory nostalgia – that is, the feeling of missing something that’s not quite gone yet.

NIGHTWING #90 (DC, 2002) – “Get Grayson Act 3,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Gerardo Borges. Someone blows up Dick’s building, and he’s rescued by his best friend, Wally West. The best thing about this issue is Dick’s interactions with Wally. There are even some cute moments with Linda, Jai and Iris. I haven’t read any new Flash comics in over a decade, and I kind of miss all these characters. Gerardo Borges’s art is a reasonable substitute for Bruno Redondo’s.

RADIANT BLACK #13 (Image, 2022) – “Accel,” [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Marcelo Costa. Marshall starts doing YouTube ads for money, but some asshole supervillain blows up the businesses Marshall is advertising. Marshall catches the guy, but he’s completely unrepentant and promises that next time he’ll target everything Marshall cares about, and Marshall apparently kills him. I hope the guy is really dead, because he deserves it. Also, there’s a sad scene where Marshall’s mother acts resentful of him for leaving his dog with her.

MS. MARVEL: BEYOND THE LIMIT #4 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Samira Ahmed, [A] Andrés Genolet. Qarin explains why she believes Kamala destroyed her utopian world and killed Marvel-ji, Qarin’s dimension’s version of Ms. Marvel. Incidentally, “ji” is a title of respect, similar to the Japanese “san,” so it kind of is an appropriate translation of Ms. Marvel. Nadia Pym makes a guest appearance, and there’s a reference to balushahi, or Pakistani donuts. I have never had these.

USAGI YOJIMBO #27 (IDW, 2022) – “A Ghost Story,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi and Yukichi meet an old monk who tells them the story of Midori, a servant girl whose master murdered her after she became pregnant by him. Then Usagi and Yukichi meet another servant girl, Shizuye, who’s in a similar predicament, and he and Yukichi save her from being murdered by her master’s jealous wife. The wife is apparently killed by Midori’s ghost. The twist is that the monk who told Usagi and Yukichi the story is also a ghost. The annoying part of this story is, Shizuye’s boss cheats on his wife with a much younger girl, gets her pregnant out of wedlock, and suffers no consequences at all. Meanwhile, the boss’s wife is depicted as a jealous hag.

STEP BY BLOODY STEP #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. Girl and Giant travel through a series of strange landscapes, but finally their pursuers catch up to them. Giant is forced to kill some enemy troops, to Girl’s terror. The farmer from last issue saves Girl’s life and is punished for it. Again, Matías Bergara’s art is utterly stunning.

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #17 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Jorge Fornes. This issue establishes that the moon landing was indeed a hoax. It also shows how Lee Harvey Oswald replaced Frank Capra as the head of the Department of Truth. Jorge Fornes’s art is much more subdued and unadventurous than that of most of this series’ artists.

BLACK HAMMER REBORN #10 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Caitlin Yarsky. Lucy decides to go with the evil version of her dad, since he promises he can bring her family back. But soon she figures out that this was a bad decision. Meanwhile, Inspector Insector and Lucy’s son find themselves on Black Hammer Farm, where they meet Abraham Slam. This issue is intriguing, though I still think this series has been a bit disappointing.  

WE HAVE DEMONS #1 (Dark Horse, 2022) – “The Nyeclops,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Greg Capullo. After her father’s death, Lam discovers that he was a super-exorcist who used the holy power of “Halo” to fight demons powered by “Horn.” Lam’s father’s partner, a demon named Gus, saves her from some other demons, one of which is disguised as a pregnant woman. So far We Have Demons doesn’t seem to be as deep or as well-written as Something is Killing the Children or other horror titles, but it does have an interesting premise, and Greg Capullo’s art is impressively gory.

SEASON OF THE BRUJA #1 (Oni, 2022) – untitled, [W] Aaron Durán, [A] Sara Soler. This comic is also about exorcism, but it’s deeply rooted in Mexican culture, and it has more of a YA style of art. Sara Soler draws some impressively cute and weird creatures. I think the most interesting part of the story is the relationship between the protagonist and her grandmother. Overall this is a really interesting debut issue, and I’m glad that it’s being published in comic book format, or else I might not have read it.

LAND OF THE LIVING GODS #2 (AfterShock, 2022) – “Give Them a Show,” [W] Isaac Mogajane, [A] Santtos. There’s an opening sequence taking place in the town of Serepa, which is ruled by a witch, and then Naledi herself is taken to Serepa by her kidnapper. This series is a bit slow-paced, but I’m excited about this series anyway. I like how the dialogue includes words in multiple different South African languages.

ROBIN #12 (DC, 2022) – “”Demon vs. Detective,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Roger Cruz. Damian returns to Gotham and battles his own clone in front of Albert Pennyworth’s grave. Damian throws away the Lazarus serum rather than resurrect Albert in a cursed state. Damian leaves with Talia, and then we learn that Ra’s al Ghul is dying. This issue’s conclusion leads into Shadow War Alpha #1, which I don’t intend to read.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #36 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Christopher Miller. This is one of several recent Marvel comics that were printed on an inferior grade of paper – a paper stock that’s very thin and has a rough feel. I hate this paper and I hope Marvel doesn’t use it again. This issue Miles and Shift begin their trip through the multiverse in search of Uncle Aaron, and their first stop is a Wild-West-themed dimension, where they encounter the Western-themed Black Panther from Exiles. They also visit the worlds of Spider-Ham and Marvel Zombies, until at the end they encounter Ultimatum. I loved Saladin’s Exiles series, and I appreciate this issue’s callback to it.

ROGUE SUN #2 (Image, 2022) – “Hunter’s Moon,” [W] Ryan Parrott, [A] Abel. Marcus’s ghost helps Dylan fight a vampire/werewolf villain, and Dylan also gets to know his dad and his newly found stepsiblings. Marcus tells Dylan that he gave him the Rogue Sun powers because he suspected it would make Dylan a target, and “I couldn’t do that to Aurie and Brock,” i.e. his “real” children. This decision shows that Marcus is a terrible man, and for that matter, Dylan is pretty terrible himself, but the interesting thing about this series will be seeing how their characters develop.

AQUAMEN #2 (DC, 2022) – “Raging Waters,” [W] Chuck Brown & Brandon Thomas, [A] Sami Basri. Arthur and Black Manta investigate a series of murders, while Jackson, unwilling to team up with his dad, conducts his own investigation of the same crimes. It was just revealed that this series was downgraded from an ongoing to a six-issue miniseries. That’s too bad  because I was enjoying it.

IMMORTAL X-MEN #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Left Hand,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Lucas Werneck. This issue focuses on Mr. Sinister and his attempts to manipulate the Quiet Council. Mr. Sinister is a gleefully evil bastard, and it’s fun to read about him. Kieron’s superhero comics have been a mixed bag; it often seems as if he doesn’t care about them as much as he cares about his creator-owned work. This issue is interesting, though.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #127 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Pablo Tunica. Donatello accepts Dr. Barlow’s offer to fix his shell, even though the Turtles suspect Dr. Barlow has ulterior motives. While Donatello and Barlow are occupied, Alopex sneaks into Barlow’s lab and finds Venus de Milo, the original female Turtle, with all four limbs missing. There’s also some further development of the alien baby plotline, but that subplot has been going on for three or four issues now, and I still have no idea why it matters.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #37 (Marvel, 2022) – “(B)road Trip,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Julius Ohta. Carol, Monica and the new Binary team up and fight the Snats of the Nine Lives, and then Carol and her friends take Binary dancing. The issue where the Snats first appeared was the best issue of this entire series, and I’m delighted that the Snats are back. I’m particularly glad that Kelly doesn’t explain anything about the Snats or their shirtless witch-hatted riders, because they’re funnier if they’re unexplained. Binary is a cute character, but she seems very similar to Singularity from A-Force.

SLUMBER #1 (Image, 2022) – “Dream Eater,” [W] Tyler Burton Smith, [A] Vanessa Cardinali. Our protagonist, Stetson, is a “dream eater” who kills her clients’ recurring nightmares for a fee. Slumber is hardly the first comic about dreams becoming real, but it has an original take on that premise, and Vanessa Cardinali is quite good at drawing bizarre dream creatures.

MY DATE WITH MONSTERS #5 (AfterShock, 2022) – “The Man of My Dreams,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Andy MacDonald. Risa teams up with Genka, the one man from the Risa Training Facility who doesn’t know who she is, and they finally manage to defeat Chub. Somehow this also cures Risa’s curse, and the series ends by implying that Risa and Genka will become couple. I don’t quite understand the ending of this issue, but overall this series was excellent.

WONDER WOMAN #785 (DC, 2022) – “Trial of the Amazons Part 3,” [W] Michael Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Rosi Kämpe. This issue consists mostly of conversations between various Amazons, and at the end, Diana decides to enter the trial, not on behalf of any tribe “but for all Amazons.” Perhaps the highlight of this story is the appearance by Diana’s favorite kanga, Jumpa. This issue also has a Young Diana backup. Like the previous Young Diana backups, this story has a boring plot, but very cute art by Paulina Ganucheau.

ROBINS #5 (DC, 2022) – “Being Robin,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Baldemar Rivas. The four Robins, besides Tim, try to escape from the Escape Artist’s hypnotic gauntlet. I’m confused by this issue’s plot, but I love the sequence where Batman fights a grue. As an interactive fiction fan, I’m delighted by this reference. Baldemar Rivas doesn’t imagine grues the same way I do, but that’s kind of the whole point of grues – that we don’t and can’t know what they look like.

REGARDING THE MATTER OF OSWALD’S BODY #5 (Boom!, 2022) – “Nobody Wins,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Luca Casalanguida. The protagonists have a violent showdown with government troops, and only Rose survives to preserve the knowledge of how Oswald died. I don’t like this series as much as She Could Fly or Blue Flame, but it was an impressive achievement, perhaps most of all because of its historical verisimilitude.

SHANG-CHI #10 (Marvel, 2022) – “Blood and Monsters Part Two,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Marcus To. Shang-Chi and his family rescue Shi-Hua and Takeshi, and then they head to the dimension of Ta Lo. This comic is printed on the same horrible paper as Miles Morales #36.

RECKONING WAR: TRIAL OF THE WATCHER #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “What If the Watcher Had Never Interfered?”, [W] Dan Slott, [A] Javier Rodriguez. This is really an issue of What If?, and I almost want to file it with that series. In this issue, some other Watchers torture Uatu by forcing him to view an alternate reality where he didn’t help the FF fight Galactus. To his horror, Uatu learns that in that reality, the FF beat Galactus anyway, and though they all suffer awful injuries in the process, they go on to turn Earth into a utopia. This issue’s plot is extremely clever, although given that it’s drawn by Javier Rodriguez, it would still have been worth reading even if it was as badly written as the last few issues of FF.

SILVER COIN #10 (Image, 2022) – “Covenant: Abomination,” [W/A] Michael Walsh. Some girl tries to exorcise the spirit that’s trapped inside the coin, and also she befriends a raccoon. This issue is tough to follow because I don’t remember the details of the coin’s origin. Also, I don’t care much about the story behind the coin; I’m more interested in seeing how the coin drives people to do awful things.

UNTIL MY KNUCKLES BLEED #2 (Behemoth, 2022) – “Extremely Damaged Part 2,” [W/A] Victor Santos. Gabin does his job by protecting one of the girls from some overly handsy clients, but his boss chews him out. Then Gabin goes to work to find the club empty and the girls missing. In order to rescue them, Gabin has to fight his way through a horde of criminals. This is another effective issue.

REFRIGERATOR FULL OF HEADS #5 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Rio Youers, [A] Tom Fowler. Arlene prepares for her final confrontation with the villains. As stated in my review of #4, this series is vastly inferior to Basketful of Heads. It relies entirely on cheap shock value and gore, and the creators aren’t even able to deliver those affects successfully. The sight of a living, severed shark’s head attached to the hood of a truck should be more terrifying than it is in this comic.

HEATHEN #2 (Vault, 2017/2022) – untitled, [W/A] Natasha Alterici. The two wolves who are chasing the sun and moon have a conversation, and then Aydis rescues Brynhild, but the other Valkyries kidnap her. After this issue I realize that this series is a sort of lesbian gender-swapped version of Wagner’s Siegfried. The main sellling point of this issue, and this series in general, is Alterici’s unique style of half-drawn, half-painted art.

TRIAL OF THE AMAZONS: WONDER GIRL #1 (DC, 2022) – “Trial of the Amazons Part 4,” [W/A] Joëlle Jones. Yara Flor and the other Amazons of Esquecida travel to Themyscira for the contest, and the issue ends at the same point as Wonder Woman #785 did. This issue includes some of Joëlle Jones’s most impressive page layouts yet, as well as her typically excellent draftspersonship.

THE LAST SESSION #4 (Mad Cave, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jasmine Walls, [A] Dozerdraws. Outside the game, the other group members figure out that their resentment of Cassandra is misplaced, since she’s the only one of them who’s figured out the plot of the adventure. Inside the game, the party finally reaches the lich’s chamber, only to discover that he isn’t doing anything wrong, and the lord who hired them just wanted them to steal the lich’s stuff. With this issue, Last Session’s story finally becomes interesting.

FIRE POWER #2 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Chris Samnee. This issue begins with a beautiful action sequence where Owen fights a ninja in his house at night, but neither of them makes any noise. Samnee communicates their total silence to the reader by showing that Owen’s wife and children remain asleep throughout the entire fight, and they only wake up when the dog barks. The intruder reveals himself as Owen’s old frenemy Ma Guang. Again, Fire Power is mostly interesting as a vehicle for Chris Samnee’s storytelling. He may be the best visual storyteller currently working in comic books. However, as noted above, Fire Power is also a blatant example of cultural appropriation.  

UNCANNY X-MEN #445 (Marvel, 2004) – “The End of History Part 1,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Alan Davis. Wolverine and Nightcrawler cope with their involvement in a young mutant’s accidental death. Later, Kurt and Ororo have a conversation that feels kind of like sexual foreplay, and knowing Claremont, I’m not sure he didn’t intend it as such. At the end of the issue, Alan Davis reintroduces one of his classic creations, the Fury. I should track down the rest of this run, because you can never have too many comics by either Claremont or Davis.

UNTIL MY KNUCKLES BLEED #3 (Behemoth, 2022) – “Extremely Damaged Part 3,” [W/A] Victor Santos. Gabin fights an unequal battle against a much more powerful opponent, Mourning Blade, but manages to defeat him and save the girls. The series ends on a surprisingly happy note. This happy ending feels unrealistic, and it also violates the conventions of the film noir genre to which this series seems to belong. Otherwise, this was an entertaining series.

ROBIN, SON OF BATMAN #3 (DC, 2015) – “Year of Blood Part Three,” [W/A] Patrick Gleason. Damian fights Nobody, and she knocks his tooth out, but hilariously, it turns out it was a baby tooth. There’s also a lot more plot that I don’t understand. I really ought to read this series in order.

BYLINES IN BLOOD #3 (AfterShock, 2022) – “No One,” [W] Erica Schultz & Van Jensen, [A] Aneke. Someone murders the mayor while disguised as Satya. The police surprisingly believe Satya’s claim that it wasn’t her, but the tabloids have already published a picture of Satya standing over the mayor’s corpse. The coolest thing about this issue is the opening dream sequence that’s formatted like an old Dick Tracy strip.

IRON FIST #2 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Alyssa Wong, [A] Michael YG & Sean Chen. Lin Lie and Mei Min fight some zombies and then some bullies. Sparrow Yu-Ti teaches Lin Lie to use his sword even though he has crippling pain in his hands. This series is an example of disability representation as well as Asian representation. Lin Lie’s hand injuries are especially disabling because his previous superhero identity was based on swordsmanship. This issue also includes a subplot where Danny Rand and his friends are trying to figure out who the new Iron Fist is.

UNCLE SCROOGE #302 (Gladstone, 1965/1997) – “Monkey Business,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Scrooge makes a bad investment in some toy monkeys that make a horrible noise. Scrooge has the idea of selling the monkeys to “King Jambok of Siambodia,” so he can use them to drive off the birds that are destroying his country’s rice paddies. While in Siambodia, Scrooge also saves the country from a foreign invasion from “Upper Malaria.” Like “The Treasure of Marco Polo,” this story is inspired by contemporary news events in Southeast Asia. Uncle Scrooge #302 also includes two Beagle Boys stories by Tony Strobl. It’s worth noting that “Monkey Business” first appeared in Walt Disney’s Comics & Stories #297. I usually avoid buying Gold Key Disney comics because I assume they only contain reprinted material, but it looks like the early Gold Key issues of WDC&S often included new Barks stories. I should start collecting those issues.

WONDER WOMAN #254 (DC, 1979) – “The Angle in the Stars,” [W] Jack C. Harris, [A] José Delbo. The Angle Man steals a space shuttle and seals it inside a force field that’s impenetrable to Wonder Woman. The Angle Man should be an interesting villain, since his gimmick is committing crimes with unusual “angles.” But he can only be as clever as his writer is, and in this issue his plot is both stupid (if Wonder Woman can’t rescue the shuttle, then why can’t Superman do it instead?) and poorly explained (how does the force field work?). Also, there’s an unnecessary additional plot twist in which most of the characters in the issue are possessed by Olympian villains.

GROO #2 (Image, 1995) – “The Aquelarre,” [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. A witch hires Groo to accompany her to a witches’ convention. Of course, Arba and Dakarba are also attending the same convention. Fearing a witches’ war, Arba, Dakarba and the other witches test their powers by turning Groo, Rufferto and a sheep into duplicates of each other. The story soon becomes deliberately confusing, as there are multiple different Groos and Ruffertos running around, and it’s hard to remember which are the originals. “Aquelarre” is a real Spanish word, derived from the Basque word “akelarre,” meaning a gathering of witches. I can’t claim I never learned anything from comic books.

NEWBURN #5 (Image, 2022) – “Luck Ran Out,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jacob Phillips. Newburn finds himself in prison, with a man named Sal as his cellmate. We eventually learn that Newburn had himself sent to prison on purpose, so he could find out whether Sal was responsible for the death of a fellow Mafioso. This is a very clever issue. Also, it has a new backup story which is better than the previous one.

GHOST CAGE #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Nick Dragotta. This is one of the most mangaesque American comics I’ve ever seen. If I didn’t know otherwise, I might have guessed the artist was named Otomo and not Dragotta. But Dragotta shows a real understanding of the manga aesthetic, and his draftsmanship is beautiful. Ghost Cage’s plot is somewhat hard to follow, but it appears to be about a lowly corporate employee who has to escort a robotic superhero through a series of floors, each representing a different form of energy (coal, water, etc.).

CEREBUS #112/113 (Aardvark/Vanaheim, 1988) – “Square One,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This is a single issue that counts as both #112 and #113. This seems like a copout on Sim’s part, though IIRC, in Cerebus #0 he complains about how much work it was to put together. Cerebus #112/113 is a mostly silent story in which Cerebus returns to Earth to discover that the Cirinists have conquered Iest in his absence. Cerebus contemplates Red Sophia’s discarded bikini and Bran Mac Muffin’s corpse, then heads to a bar, where he hears a man complain about the Cirinist conquest. This issue is an impressive piece of visual storytelling; the first half feels quite sad and mournful.

SWAMP THING #11 (DC, 2022) “Jericho’s Rose Part 1,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. Jennifer Reece asks Tefé for help finding Swamp Thing. I don’t know what Tefé’s past history is in this continuity, but she’s an adult, not a child. Jason Woodrue resurrects a man named Mr. Pilgrim. And Jack Hawksmoor discovers that something is wrong with Detroit – well, no shit, Sherlock.

IMPOSSIBLE JONES #4 (Scout, 2022) – untitled, [W] Karl Kesel, [A] David Hahn. Jones saves James from Homewrecker, then as an added bonus, she discovers there’s a finder’s fee for the necklace she recovered. Of course superheroes aren’t supposed to accept rewards, but Jones  isn’t really a superhero. This was a fun series, very much in the spirit of Jack Cole’s Plastic Man, and I hope there will be more of it.

STILLWATER: THE ESCAPE #1 (Image, 2022) – “The Prisoner,” [W/A] Jason Loo, etc. This  one-shot consists of three stories about people who escaped from Stillwater, together with a new framing sequence by Zdarsky and Perez. I think the best one is the third, about a married couple who leave Stillwater in order to reinvigorate their marriage. Andrew Wheeler and Soo Lee’s story about gay Stillwater natives is also rather poignant. Overall the message of this issue is that immortality isn’t much fun because it means nothing ever changes.

MY BAD #5 (Ahoy, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell & Bryce Ingman, [A] Peter Krause. Emperor King finally reveals that he sent Chandelier the salad shooter in order to figure out his secret identity. This series was frankly pointless and stupid. It wasn’t on the same level as Mark Russell’s previous work, and I suspect this is the fault of his co-writer.

ETERNALS: THE HERETIC #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Thanos’s Grandfather,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Ryan Bodenheim & Edgar Salazar. RIP Ryan Bodenheim. Sad news. This issue Thanos meets his great-uncle Uranos, who is somehow even worse than Thanos himself, and Uranos tells Thanos the story of his revolt against the Eternals. This issue is actually kind of fascinating, and it makes me think that I may have been judging this series too harshly.

EDGAR ALLAN POE’S SNIFTER OF DEATH #6 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Putting the D in DC,” [W] Brian Schirmer, [A] Ryan Kelly. In the first story, Death is elected President. This story is rather silly and illogical. The backup story, a parody of social media written by Paul Constant, is a little better.

THE X-CELLENT #2 (Marvel, 2022) – “New Blood, New World Part 2,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Mike Allred. The X-Cellent continue their conflict with the X-Statix – I forget which is which – and we also meet Pood, the evil version of Doop. This comic is okay, but it feels kind of outdated. The fact that Edie’s daughter is already an adult is evidence of just how long it’s been since the original X-Statix. I’ve been reading Doop dialogue for twenty years, and I still need to consult a Doop translator every time he appears in a comic.

BATMAN: THE KNIGHT #3 (DC, 2022) – “The Knight Part 3,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Carmine Di Giandomenico. Bruce solves the series of killings, but only after his incompetence causes Henri Ducard to get shot. The serial killer is revealed to be an orphan who’s killing other orphans who are happier than him. The parallelism with Bruce himself is obvious. Bruce calls Alfred and tells him “I love you,” which is a really cute moment.

THE KILLER: AFFAIRS OF THE STATE #2 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matz, [A] Luc Jacamon. The Killer assassinates Nabil Jebbouri, and also makes some depressing observations about the current state of the world. This series is very cold and emotionally uninvolving, but it’s a quality European comic, so I basically have to read it.

JOE HILL’S RAIN #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] David Booher, [A] Zoe Thorogood. I skipped issue 2 of this series, but maybe I shouldn’t have. This issue, the protagonists travel through a ravaged wasteland until they encounter a cop, but an escaped prisoner murders the cop and kidnaps Honeysuckle. The relationship between Honeysuckle and Templeton is really cute, and I think it’s the best thing about this comic.

MARVELS #9 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Forgotten War,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Yildiray Cinar. Lady Lotus’s nurse, Hana, remembers the history of the Siancong war, in which the Avengers were directly involved. That raises an obvious question – if this war was such a big deal, why was it never depicted in any other comic book? – and Busiek answers that question by revealing that Lady Lotus’s power caused all the superheroes to forget all but the most vague details of the war.

CAPTAIN VICTORY AND THE GALACTIC RANGERS #10 (DC, 1983) – “The Voice!!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. I don’t understand this comic’s plot at all, but it does include some striking visual images. This issue also includes a backup story by Tim Conrad about a Dust Bowl-era rainmaker. I forget if I mentioned this before, but the last time I was at Comic-Con, I shook Mike Royer’s hand, and I thought, “I just shook the hand that inked Jack Kirby.”

ARROWSMITH: BEHIND ENEMY LINES #3 (Image, 2022) – “A Long Way from Home,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Carlos Pacheco. Fletcher’s contact, Guy, breaks them both out of the POW camp, at the cost of the lives of the other POWs. Fletcher takes refuge at a farm, where he sleeps with a local girl, even though he has a girlfriend back in Columbia. I’ve been kind of unenthusiastic about this series, but this issue is interesting, and Carlos Pacheco’s art is beautiful. On Facebook, Lawrence Watt-Evans mentioned that he wrote some of the backstory of this series.

BOLERO #3 (Image, 2022) – “Chapter 3 (1 Hop Left),” [W] Wyatt Kennedy, [A] Luana Vecchio. Devin finally discovers a world where she wants to stay, but her alcoholism returns, and she discovers that her boyfriend William has also been hopping between dimensions. This issue has some impressive characterization, but it’s hard to remember who any of the characters are. However, the biggest problem with Bolero is Brandon Graham’s involvement. He drew the backup story in this issue, and I initially thought he wrote it as well. He’s such an unpleasant person that anything he works on feels somehow insincere and dishonest.

ANIMAL CASTLE #4 (Ablaze, 2022) – “Winter Daisies,” [W] Xavier Dorison, [A] Felix Delep. In winter, Silvio and the dogs force the animals to collect wood for the fire, then surrender it and buy it back. The animals decide to practice nonviolent resistance by refusing to pay for the wood, even if it means they have to freeze. Instead they shelter in the barn. But the dogs burn the barn down, and to add insult to injury, they refuse to let the animals near the fire because they didn’t pay for the wood. Reading this comic makes me furious at the blatant, horrible injustice of Silvio’s rule. The logic of totalitarianism is, yes, we’re horribly oppressive and unfair, but we have all the guns, so what are you going to do about it? The next-issue blurb suggests that these events are going to force the animals to reconsider their commitment to nonviolence, and I kind of hope so, because I want to see Silvio die.  

HUMAN TARGET #6 (DC, 2022) – “It Were a Delicate Stratagem,” [W] Tom King, [A] Greg Smallwood. Guy finds Ice and Chance sleeping together and is about to beat Ice. She freezes him, and then Chance murders him by punching his head and shattering it. Of course, the words “one punch” are used. I’ve gotten sick of DC’s constant attempts at reviving the Giffen-DeMatteis Justice League: that series was a classic, but in reviving it again and again, DC is flogging a dead horse. However, the “one punch” reference in Human Target #6 is funny and appropriate.

X-MEN UNLIMITED: LATITUDE #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Latitude,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Declan Shalvey. This originated as a digital comic, and you can tell. It’s full of pages that consist of just a few panels, often with only minor differences between them. As a result, though this comic feels thick, it’s actually a very quick read, and I don’t think it benefits from being published in print. In terms of its plot, the best thing about it is the running joke about Wolverine’s love for beer.

HULK: GRAND DESIGN – MONSTER #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Jim Rugg. Compared to X-Men and Fantastic Four: Grand Design, this comic is disappointing. It feels like just a series of plot summaries, and it lacks any organizing theme. It also suffers from a lack of a consistent aesthetic. Jim Rugg makes some attempts at innovative page layouts and techniques – there’s even a page that’s based on My Favorite Thing is Monsters. But there’s no sense of an overarching artistic vision, as there was in Piskor and Scioli’s Grand Design comics. Part of the trouble is that the first 300 issues of Incredible Hulk don’t constitute any kind of a coherent or logical narrative. But one reason X-Men: Grand Design worked so well is because Piskor managed to show how all the classic X-Men stories were logically connected, and Rugg makes no attempt to do the same for the Hulk.

CEREBUS #115 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1988) – “Jaka’s Story Book 1: Pogrom’s Progress,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus walks into a bar and tries to pay for a drink with a gold coin, only to learn that the coin is worth more than the bar itself, since the Cirinists have confiscated all the gold in Iest. Jaka walks into the same bar, and she tells Cerebus that she miscarried her baby, which we later learn to be false. Jaka’s Story was the last good Cerebus story, and this issue is an interesting introduction to it.

2000 AD #1585 (Rebellion, 2008) – Dredd: “Road Stop Part 4,” [W] Gordon Rennie, [A] Dave Taylor. Dredd visits a truck stop inhabited by a giant orange monster. I didn’t understand this chapter. Dave Taylor is not to be confused with Dave Cooper, although their art styles are vaguely similar. Savage: “The Guv’nor Part 9,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Patrick Goddard. Savage tries to prevent an assassin named Steak Knife from murdering some children on the steps of St. Paul’s. Dead Eyes: “Part Nine,” [W] John Smith, [A] Lee Carter. This story is about Neanderthals who are celebrating a fertility ritual at Stonehenge, but I can’t be more specific about it than that. Lee Carter’s painted art is interesting, but it’s printed too dark. The Ten-Seconders: “Make Believe Part 8,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Ben Oliver. No idea what this is about. It includes a quotation from the prologue of Paradise Lost, so while I was reading it, I distracted myself by seeing how much of that passage I could remember. I think I can get up to “Above all temples the upright heart and pure” before I have to remind myself what comes next. Dead Signal: “Part Five,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] P.J. Holden. Some mohawked guy in glasses has a vision where he’s in a mental hospital. Unusually for 2000 AD, four of the five pages of this chapter are splash pages.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #5 (Marvel, 2020) – “I’m in your head,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Juann Cabal. The Guardians assassinate Gnawbarque, and meanwhile Moondragon fights a mental battle with the Dragon of the Moon. The Moondragon scenes in this issue include some innovative page layouts.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #16.1 (Marvel, 2015) – “Spiral Part One,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Carlo Barberi. This issue is really more about Wraith, aka Yuri Watanabe, than Spidey. After judge lets off Tombstone scot-free because of a defective search warrant, Yuri tries to prove that the judge is on Tombstone’s payroll. I probably wouldn’t have bought this if I’d realized it wasn’t written by Slott, but it’s not bad. Conway shows understanding of court procedure, and Yuri’s obsessiveness over Tombstone is disturbing. I’m not even sure the judge did anything wrong by letting him go, if the evidence against him was improperly obtained.

STAR-SPANGLED WAR STORIES #143 (DC, 1969) – “The Devil’s General,” [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Joe Kubert. Enemy Ace is forced to include an old general’s son, Werner, in his Jagdstaffel. When Werner is predictably killed in battle, the general punishes Enemy Ace by sending him and his men on suicide missions. Then Enemy Ace discovers Werner is still alive, and he rescues him from the castle where he’s imprisoned, thanks to his new invention: a parachute. (See https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/8ovqqr/did_pilots_in_ww1_use_parachutes/ for why World War I pilots didn’t use parachutes.) This story is unusual in that it shows Enemy Ace having adventures on the ground as well as in the air. Kubert’s artwork in this issue is stunning, and it looks just as fresh and modern today as when it was published.

THE PHANTOM #1189 (Frew, 1998) – “The Devil’s Anvil,” [W] Donne Avenell, [A] Carlos Cruz. In the time of an earlier Phantom, a jungle tribesman named Looni discovers a stone that attracts lightning. He uses the stone to become a powerful witch doctor and to conquer neighboring villages. Finally the Phantom defeats Looni by stealing the stone and throwing it into the lake, just before the Phantom himself would have been struck by lightning. That explains the origin of the most famous “old jungle saying”: “When the Phantom moves, lightning stands still.” This was Donne Avenell’s last Phantom story, and was published after his death.

2000 AD #1586 (Rebellion, 2008) – Dredd: as above. We learn the origin of “Mother,” the giant orange monster. Savage: as above. Savage defeats Steak Knife, but is unable to prevent an airship crash and the execution of some hostages. Savage confronts a Volgan general in a bar and shoots him dead. Dead Eyes: as above. Some evil general tries to destroy Stonehenge to get rid of the Neanderthals. Dead Signal: as above. The mohawked guy has a vision where he drives his motorcycle into a skyscraper and shoots a bunch of people. The Ten-Seconders: as above. I still have no idea what this is about.

WEIRD SCIENCE-FANTASY #1 (EC, 1953/1992) – [W] Al Feldstein. “The Children,” [A] Wally Wood. Ellen and David Greyson are among the colonists on an alien planet, but their child and all the other children born in the colony are abducted at birth to be raised communally. Eventually, Ellen and the other mothers force the colony government to let them see their children, and we discover that the kids are all hideously deformed, but their parents love them anyway. The payoff panel, showing the mutated kids, is just horrific. “Fish Story,” [A] Al Williamson. Some aquatic aliens use a captured human spaceship to escape their dying planet and travel to Earth, with the intention of conquering it. However, it turns out the aliens are adapted to live in fresh water, so they die when they land their spaceship in the ocean. Besides Williamson’s gorgeous draftsmanship, the best thing about this story is how the aliens don’t understand the difference between atmosphere and water. “The Flying Machine,” [A] Bernie Krigstein. This is based on a Bradbury story. I know that story quite well, and it’s powerful, but also kind of Sinophobic. Krigstein’s adaptation is not very interesting in terms of page layout or storytelling, but he does succeed in making his settings and characters look Chinese. “Fair Trade,” [A] Joe Orlando. In the future, Manhattan Island is a radioactive wasteland. Some advanced humans come to Earth from an alien planet and purchase the island from the nearby primitive humans, in exchange for a string of beads. This is an obvious reference to the legend that Manhattan Island was bought for a string of beads, but that legend is not true.

BATMAN #599 (DC, 2002) – “From the Inside-Out,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Scott McDaniel. Bruce Wayne is in prison for the murder of Vesper Fairchild, and has to defend himself from his fellow prisoners without revealing that he’s Batman. This is a boring story with unappealing art. It’s clear that at this point, Brubaker was still developing as a writer. This story is also full of the usual prison cliches – gangs, casual violence, and guards who are easily bribed. My guess is that most of these  cliches are not actually true, and that the real horror of prison life is just that it’s boring.

MOCKINGBIRD #6 (Marvel, 2016) – “The Daily Blowhole,” [W] Chelsea Cain, [A] Kate Niemczyk. Mockingbird investigates a crime on a cruise ship. The last Chelsea Cain comic I read was Man-Eaters, which is both awful and extremely problematic, so I was surprised at how funny this issue was. As someone pointed out during the controversy over Man-Eaters, Chelsea Cain is a much better writer when she’s working with an editor.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s