2000 AD #1595 (Rebellion, 2008) – Dredd: “The Edgar Case Part 7,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Patrick Goddard. Dredd arrests a fellow judge who conspired to murder a criminal. I didn’t quite understand this one. Defoe: “Brethren of the Night Part 7,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Leigh Gallagher. Defoe investigates some murders of linkboys – that is, boys who carried lights at night to guide pedestrians, before there was artifical light. Linkboys really did exist. The Vort: “Part Seven,” [W] Simon Spurrier (as G. Powell), [A] D’Israeli. I don’t understand this, but it has some evocative prose and beautiful art and coloring. Sinister Dexter: “The Importance of Fleeing Ernest Part 1,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Anthony Williams. Someone tries to assassinate Sinister and Dexter. Nikolai Dante: “Amerika Part 7,” [W] Robbie Morrison, [A] Simon Fraser. Nikolai and his latest girlfriend fight a bunch of cyborgs. Nikolai is a somewhat similar character to Jerry Cornelius, though he tends to be flamboyant where Jerry is cool and aloof.
CAPTAIN MARVEL AND THE CAROL CORPS #4 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick & Kelly Thompson, [A] Laura Braga w/ Paolo Pantalena. In Kelly Sue’s final Captain Marvel story, the Battleworld version of Carol finally gets a chance to fly above the skies. This story emphasizes the central theme of Kelly Sue’s Captain Marvel run: the thrill of flight. I’m actually not sure Kelly Sue DeConnick is a better Captain Marvel writer than Kelly Thompson, but she (the former) essentially recreated the character.
Next trip to Heroes:
SEVEN SECRETS #16 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. The heroes travel into Faerie, and Caspar reunites with the fairies who raised him. But then Amon invades Faerie, turns into a god, and cuts Caspar’s head off. Oops. I’ve come to realize that Seven Secrets isn’t quite as good as Nightwing, but Seven Secrets is still extremely fun.
SANDMAN UNIVERSE: NIGHTMARE COUNTRY #1 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Lisandro Estherren & Yanick Paquette. A young woman named Madison Flynn is having disturbing dreams. In these dreams she sees the “Smiling Man,” a creature with mouths for eyes. This earns her the attention of the Corinthian. It’s annoying to me that the Corinthian has become such a breakout character, because there are more interesting characters in the Sandman mythos. But James Tynion is a brilliant horror writer, and this comic is quite creepy. Lisandro Estherren’s artwork in this issue is significantly better than in Redneck.
LITTLE MONSTERS #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. The injured man reveals that there are other human survivors nearby. One of the child vampires drinks the man’s blood and discovers that human blood is far tastier than animal blood. Then a human girl shows up and shoots one of the vampires with an arrow. The children in this comic are extremely creepy, especially the bowl-haired twins. Dustin Nguyen is very good at drawing realistic kids, as he previously demonstrated in Batman: Li’l Gotham and Descender.
SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #10 (DC, 2022) – “Reputation,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Cian Tormey. Lex Luthor publicly denounces Jonathan, and then when Jon tries to save some people from a disaster, they fear him more than the disaster. However, Lois proves that Luthor’s accusations are false. Then Jon comes out to his mother, and of course she accepts him, saying “I love every single part of you.” As Brian Cronin mentioned on Facebook, Jon and Lois are perhaps the most positive example of a mother/child relationship in all of superhero comics. The issue ends with Batman warning Jon not to trust Jay.
RADIANT RED #2 (Image, 2022) – “The Crucible,” [W] Cherish Chen, [A] David Lafuente. Satomi/Radiant Red goes to the rendezvous and is ambushed by a villain named Shift. Then Shift’s employer, Margo, stops the fight and offers Satomi a job. This was not as memorable as the previous two stories starring this character.
IMAGE! 30TH ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY #1 (Image, 2022) – [E] Eric Stephenson? This issue includes a lot of different stories, but many of them were forgettable, and they’re all too short to give us much of an idea of where they’re going. I think the most promising story is “Like Red Stitches in Blood” by Brenden Fletcher and Erica Henderson. There’s also a story that explains the origin of Shift, the villain from Radiant Black and Radiant Red.
WEST OF SUNDOWN #1 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Aaron Campbell, [A] Jim Terry. During the Civil War, a poor Irish soldier, Dooley O’Shaughnessy, becomes the servant of a vampire, Constance Der Abend. She takes him to New York, where they live in luxury until vampire hunters burn down their house, destroying Constance’s coffins full of her native soil. Now Dooley has to take Constance across America to her homeland, somewhere on the west coast. This is an exciting first issue, and it seems historically accurate.
SHE-HULK #3 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Rogê Antônio. Jen reunites with Awesome Andy and tries to help Jack of Hearts adjust to being alive again. This series should almost be called She-Hulk and Jack of Hearts, not just She-Hulk. But Rainbow’s dialogue in this series is excellent, as always. And I like how she includes characters from Dan Slott’s run, which is probably the high point in She-Hulk’s history.
NOCTERRA #9 (Image, 2022) – “Pedal to the Metal 1/3,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Tony Daniel. The protagonists continue their journey to Luna, and Blacktop Bill tries to convince Piper to betray her allies. This issue doesn’t advance the plot very much.
2000 AD #2260 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: “The Musical Part 2,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Chris Weston. Klegg puts on his musical, but we discover that the musical was funded by a villain named Enormo Overdrive III, and he wants to use it as an opportunity to assassinate Dredd. This story is hilarious, and it’s full of references to classic Dredd stories. Notably, the first page depicts actors dressed as the Green Giant, the Michelin Man, and other characters from the four banned progs. Diaboliks: “London Calling Part Four,” [W] Gordon Rennie, [A] Dom Reardon. Solomon Ravne accomplishes his mission, but a villain prophesies an ominous fate for him. Dom Reardon’s style is much looser and less detailed than that of other 2000 AD artists, and his stories are always in black and white. I wonder if Rebellion keeps giving him work because he’s cheaper than other artists. Or maybe he’s just faster. Dexter: “Lordy Jordy, King of Everything,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Tazio Bettin. Dexter and his companions try to escape from a horde of dinosaurs. Scarlet Traces: “Storm Front Part 10,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] D’Israeli. I don’t know what’s going on here, but D’Israeli’s art and coloring are beautiful. The Out: “Book Two Part 10,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Mark Harrison. The protagonist lands on a planet that’s about to be attacked by the Tankinar. Mark Harrison’s art here is gorgeous, and makes brilliant use of digital imagery and color.
HUMAN REMAINS #7 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Sally Cantirino. Anjali manages to escape the hippie commune with the fungus. The preacher plans to hold a public prayer meeting, but his lover publicly accuses him of lying to her, and is killed by a monster. Jess’s abusive partner McStay finally tracks her down, but a monster intervenes and kills him, but, as we learn next issue, it spares her. McStay is a sadly realistic portrayal of a domestic abuser.
X-MEN RED #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Broken Land,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Stefano Caselli. Storm, Sunspot, Magneto and Agent Brand develop a plan to turn Arakko into a functioning society by giving it its own team of X-Men. This series is a sort of continuation of Al Ewing’s S.T.O.R.M., but with its focus shifted from space to Arakko.
BATGIRLS #5 (DC, 2022) – “One Way or Another Part 5,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael Conrad, [A] Jorge Corona. Cass and Steph fight the Saints, then look for clues in Arkham Asylum. Spellbinder invades Babs’s headquarters and knocks her unconscious. This issue is fun, and again, Jorge Corona’s art here is better than anything he’s done before.
MONKEY PRINCE #3 (DC, 2022) – “Enter the Monkey Part 3,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Bernard Chang. Marcus discovers that his love interest is The Riz’s sister, then he has to save The Riz from being interrogated by Robin. Marcus then discovers that his parents have been abducted by the Penguin. This series makes me want to actually read Journey to the West, but the revised edition of the Anthony C. Yu translation is very expensive.
DEVIL’S REIGN #6 (DC, 2022) – “Conclusion,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Checchetto. The heroes finally defeat the Kingpin and the Purple Man, but Matt lets the Kingpin live, and Butch rescues him from prison. Some other crimelords offer to make the Kingpin the president, but he refuses the offer, then literally sails off into the sunset with Typhoid Mary. Devil’s Reign was better than a typical crossover series because it had a non-trivial amount of characterization.
NEW MASTERS #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Shobo Coker, [A] Shof Coker. The protagonists accept a contract to steal the Eye of Orunmila. They pull off the heist during an event at the Jovian Embassy, where Governor Tosin is declaring Earth’s independence from Jupiter. The heist appears to be successful, but then the thieves are pursued by Tosin’s troops. This is a fun issue, and I’m no longer confused about how this series’ plot threads fit together. I would like to write about this series at some point, but I have higher priorities right now.
THE THING #6 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Next Big Thing Conclusion,” [W] Walter Mosley, [A] Tom Reilly. Ben helps Alicia escape the realm of the dead, with unexpected assistance from Dr. Doom. Ben and Alicia reconcile. This was an extremely fun series, all the more so considering the writer’s lack of prior comics experience. In fact, it’s one of the best Thing solo comics I can think of.
WONDER WOMAN #786 (DC, 2022) – “Trial of the Amazons, Part 5,” [W/A] Becky Cloonan, [W] Michael W. Conrad, [A] Rosi Kämpe. The four champions find themselves in a labyrinth beyond Doom’s Doorway, where they fight Echidna. I’m not a huge fan of this crossover, but at least it’ll be over soon. This issue also includes a Young Diana backup story. I love the art in these backup stories, but I can’t say the same about the writing.
2000 AD #2261 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Enormo Overdrive III’s plot fails, but Klegg’s producer dies saving Klegg from a sniper, and Klegg himself is arrested for “using a judge’s image for commercial enterprise without proper authorisation.” This is a very funny story, and Klegg is one of the few truly admirable characters in the Dredd universe. The Out: as above. Cyd escapes the Tankinar attack by jumping into her own bag, which works like a bag of holding, or Drywall from Scud. Scarlet Traces: as above. The story arc ends with the discovery of the “lost Martian homeworld.” Dexter: as above. One of Dexter’s companions declares herself the “empress of the synthosaurs” and gives Dexter’s group an hour to escape the dinosaur lair.
BLACK PANTHER #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Long Shadow Book Five,” [W] John Rudley, [A] Juann Cabal w/ Stefano Landini. T’Challa is put under house arrest, but escapes, and is pursued by the Hatut Zeraze. Shuri and Omolola try to help him out. This is a very unimpressive issue. It’s an overly quick read, and it depicts T’Challa in an unsympathetic way.
FANTASTIC FOUR #42 (Marvel, 2022) – “Protocol Zero,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Rachael Stott. For some stupid reason, Reed lets Ben think that Alicia and the kids have been killed, and Ben almost beats Reed to death before the truth is revealed. Also, there are other plot developments that hardly seem to matter. I’m tempted to say that this series has jumped the shark, except I still hold out hope that after this awful Reckoning War story is over, Slott will start telling interesting stories again.
2000 AD #2262 (Rebellion, 2022) – This is a 100-page “mega-special.” Dredd: “Trinity,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Richard Elson. Thanks to a dimensional portal, the comic book Dredd teams up with the versions of Dredd from the 1995 and 2012 films. This is a brilliant and funny idea, though a lot of the jokes in this story went over my head, since I haven’t seen either of the films. Most of the jokes have to do with the differences between the comics version of Dredd and the two movie versions. The Fall of Deadworld: “Jessica,” [W] Kek-W, [A] Dave Kendall. A woman is pursued by a zombie heavy metal band. The musicians sing as they try to kill her. This story is funny, though I don’t understand its premise. Kingmaker: “Falls the Shadow,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Leigh Gallagher. Crixus the orc and Yarrow the elf defeat their wizard mentor Ablard, who is possessed by the evil Wraith-King, but the Wraith-King’s essence escapes. This story was tough to understand at first, and I wondered if it was a sequel to something else, but it’s not. Dexter: “Bulletopia Chapter 8: Hosanna,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Tazio Bettin. I don’t know where the first seven parts appeared. In this part, Dexter is looking for medication for his companion Hosanna, and he fights Weld, a former friend who’s been turned into a cyborg assassin. The Order: “Fantastic Voyage,” [W] Kek-W, [A] John Burns. A steampunk story starring Benjamin Franklin and various fictional contemporaries of his. John Burns’s art here looks more line-drawn and less painted than in his Nikolai Dante story. I was surprised to realize that he’s not only still alive but still working, at the age of 84. Tales of Mega-City One: “Christmas Comes to Devil’s Island,” [W] Karl Stock, [A] James Newell. Devil’s Island is a prison located on an artificial island in the middle of several highways. A Judge infiltrates the prison in order to apprehend an inmate who’s somehow still committing murders on the outside. In an epilogue, we learn that the Judge was the young Dredd. The Out: as above. Cyd explores the inside of the bag, until the bag throws her out, claiming that she’s contaminated. Proteus Vex: “Desire Paths Part One,” [W] Mike Carroll, [A] Jake Lynch. Just as incomprehensible as every other Proteus Vex story I’ve read. This issue also includes an interview with Doug Church, the art director for the first few issues of 2000 AD.
G.I.L.T. #1 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Chapter One,” [W] Alisa Kwitney, [A] Mauricet. In 1973, Hildy Winters is about to get married. Almost fifty years later, Trista Lefever arrives at Hildy’s apartment to start a job as her home care assistant. Then Trista discovers a time portal in Hildy’s apartment that sends them both back to 1973. This comic is fascinating because of how it explores the generational differences between its two protagonists.
FUN WITH LITTLE ARCHIE AND FRIENDS SPECIAL #1 (Archie, 2022) – “Critter Junction,” [W] Shannon Watters, [A] Erin Hunting, etc. This is a reasonably well-done kids’ comic, but it has nothing in common with Bob Bolling’s classic Little Archie. It’s annoying how Archie has completely ignored Bolling’s legacy. He was one of the great creators of adventure stories in the history of American comics, and yet his work is mostly out of print, and no other Archie creator has tried to follow in his footsteps.
KAIJU SCORE: STEAL FROM THE GODS #1 (AfterShock, 2022) – “The Sweet Spot,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Rem Broo. Michelle, one of the two survivors from the first Kaiju Score series, is trying to maintain a low profile. So when an old man tries to hire her to recover a treasure from inside the body of an ancient kaiju deity, she refuses. But then another criminal puts out a hit on her, and she’s forced to accept the old man’s contract. This is a fun issue, but I still have the same complaint as about Campisi and the original Kaiju Score: I want to learn more about the world of these series, where giant monsters are an accepted part of modern life.
WHAT IF…? MILES MORALES #2 (Marvel, 2022) – “What If Miles Morales Became Wolverine?”, [W] John Ridley, [A] Farid Karami. In this continuity, Miles is Wolverine, Uncle Aaron is Sabretooth, and Ganke is Professor X. This issue is better than the last one, but still not nearly as interesting as Miles’s regular series.
RADIO SPACEMAN #2 (Dark Horse, 2022) – “Mission to Numa 4,” [W] Mike Mignola, [A] Greg Hinkle. Radio Spaceman helps save the astronaut from a vampire and a bunch of giant monsters. This comic is entertaining and creepy, but it’s essentially just a Hellboy comic without the continuity baggage.
ETERNALS #11 (Marvel, 2022) – “Hail Thanos Part 5,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Guiu Vilanova. Some of the Eternals fight the Avengers, while others prevent a town from being destroyed. Meanwhile, Thanos and Druig travel into Mentor’s consciousness. A funny moment in this issue is Kingo pretending to be the Obsidian Liege of the Mort-o-Verse. However, Guiu Vilanova’s art is a big step down in quality from Esad Ribic’s art.
HEATHEN #3 (Vault, 2017/2022) – untitled, [W/A] Natasha Alterici. Aydis finds herself in the Valkyries’ castle, where she learns that she’s not the first mortal to rescue Brynhild. At this point my Heathen collection is complete. I realize now that this comic has a pretty interesting plot, while before I was mostly interested in it because of Natasha Alterici’s art.
2000 AD #2263 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “Working Girl Part 1,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Patrick Goddard. Mona Plankhurst, the sky courier/single mom from #2219, is forced to accept an illegal contract from a creep named Sharksey. I liked the story that introduced this character, and it’s nice to see her again. Proteus Vex: as above. Vex fights a bunch of criminal clones. This story is starting to make more sense than it did before, but I still couldn’t explain what it’s about. The Order: as above. The crew arrives at the island of the dead. Kingmaker: as above. The story pivots from fantasy to science fiction, as we discover that the Wraith-King has traveled into space and allied with some hostile aliens. The Out: as above. Cyd turns into a Tankinar war body and is compelled to kill everyone she sees.
BLACK WIDOW #15 (Marvel, 2022) – “Die by the Blade Part 4,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Elena Casagrande. Natasha and her friends defeat the Living Blade, and Natasha accepts the loss of her family. It’s too bad this series was over. It was the best Black Widow comic ever, with the possible exception of her earliest solo stories in Amazing Adventures.
BUCKHEAD #5 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Shobo Coker, [A] George Kambadais. A predictable conclusion: the kids defeat the evil Yoruba deity, and Toba adjusts to his new life. This series was disappointing because it didn’t lean hard enough into its Yoruba mythological background, and other than that, it was just a standard kids’ comic.
APACHE DELIVERY SERVICE #4 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. Ernie finds the gold, but Sobrat follows him to it. Ernie escapes and calls in an air strike on the treasure site, which both gets rid of Sobrat, and ensures that no one else will bother the native people who are guarding the gold. Which makes me realize that this comic is sort of about cross-cultural solidarity between indigenous people. The series ends with Ernie back at home, fishing. I liked Apache Delivery Service, but like several of Kindt’s other recent works, it was too short to fully develop its themes.
2000 AD #2264 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Mona, Sharksey and the other couriers are pursued by Judges, and Sharksey reveals that all the couriers are wired with bombs. Mona is a powerful depiction of a woman who’s forced to do dangerous and illegal things for the sake of her child, because Mega-City One’s society gives her no other option. Incidentally, Mona’s child’s father is never mentioned at all. Proteus Vex: as above. I still don’t understand this one. The Order: as above. This chapter focuses on Cassiopeia, a young woman born into slavery. Kingmaker: as above. The space people refuse to ally with the Wraith-King, so he kills them. The Out: as above. Cyd’s daughter tells her to use the Warbody to destroy the other Tankinar. By doing so, Cyd survives the invasion, but then she’s imprisoned.
2000 AD #2265 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. All the other couriers get killed, and Sharksey tells Mona that he’s the only one who’s carrying the real merchandise. Proteus Vex: as above. Vex negotiates with a creature called Tiorn. The Order: as above. The protagonists all survive, but then they’re attacked by a pack of flying whales. Kingmaker: as above. The Wraith-King takes over the space fleet and invades the surface, and we see Crixus and Yarrow again, after they were absent from the last chapter. Saphir: “Liaisons Dangereuses Part 1,” [W] Kek-W, [A] David Roach. In a fantasy version of fin-de-siecle Paris, a detective, Inspector Mucha, discovers that he’s unknowingly fathered a child with an alien. I don’t know what the title Saphir refers to, as it doesn’t seem to be the name of any character.
THE WRONG EARTH: FAME & FORTUNE #1 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Fame & Fortune,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Michael Montenat. Two parallel stories in which the two versions of Dragonfly(man) each invest in building a new stadium. In both realities, the stadium is built as ‘cheaply as possible, and it collapses during its opening game, but Dragonfly(man) manages to dodge any blame. Ultimately there’s no difference between the two Dragonflies except their optimistic and pessimistic attitudes, and I guess that’s the point. This story is very clever, although it’s inconsistent with previous Wrong Earth stories because it portrays both Dragonflies as evil and unscrupulous. I might accept this characterization in the case of Dragonfly, but Tom Peyer has depicted Dragonflyman as a good man with no ulterior motives.
JOE HILL’S RAIN #4 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] David Booher, [A] Zoe Thorogood. Honeysuckle escapes from the convict and eventually makes it back to Templeton. Rain is a pretty standard postapocalyptic story, but the characterization of the two central characters is very effective, and I like Zoe Thorogood’s art.
ONE-STAR SQUADRON #5 (DC, 2022) – “Things Lost in the Fire,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Lieber. Red Tornado investigates the fire and Gangbuster’s death. Eventually he figures out that Minuteman was responsible, but instead of turning him in, Reddy gives Minuteman some money and lets him escape. At first I thought this series was bitter and cruel, and it is, but it also has some heart to it. On a separate matter, I think I voted for Not All Robots for the Eisner for Best Humor Publication, because it was the only nominee I read. However, I don’t think of Not All Robots as a humor comic. It’s funny, but in a very bleak way.
ROCKSTAR AND SOFTBOY #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Sina Grace. A slice-of-life story with mild fantasy elements, in which two gay roommates try to throw a party, but they have to deal with a literal party animal. This comic is full of twentysomething relationship drama, which has become less interesting to me as I’ve gotten older. But it’s funny and heartfelt, and it has a cute talking cat.
STATICS #1 (Fantagraphics, 2022) – “Gravity Gal! Zappy! Meteorite Mite!” etc., [W/A] Jeffrey Lewis. I couldn’t remember why I ordered this, but the reason is because it was published by Fantagraphics. This issue contains several different stories, the best of which is “Stories My Dad Tells,” about the author’s father’s sea voyages in the ‘60s. Jeffrey Lewis’s art is very detailed, with effective spotting of blacks. I’d like to read his other solo series, Fuff, though I’m not sure where I could get it.
MIDNIGHT ROSE #1 (AfterShock, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jim Starlin, [A] Nikkol Jelenic. Midnight Rose uses her plant-based powers to kill a bunch of men. Later she settles down with a rich husband, and ultimately dies of old age, but four younger versions of her sprout from her grave. Midnight Rose is very similar to Poison Ivy, but the differences between the two characters are substantial enough that this comic isn’t just a Poison Ivy story. Overall, Midnight Rose isn’t the best, but it’s better than much of Starlin’s other later work.
RED ROOM: TRIGGER WARNINGS #2 (Fantagraphics, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Ed Piskor. Teenage criminal Richie and his pregnant girlfriend Jan discover that they can make even more money from making Red Room videos than from dealing drugs. Their narration heavily implies that the story is going to end with Richie and Jan’s well-deserved deaths. But what in fact happens is that Richie and Jan frame their rivals Donnie and Brenda for their crimes, and it’s Donnie and Brenda who die, while Richie and Jan escape the country and get off scot-free. And their son is going to grow up to be like them. This story is a sort of guilty wish-fulfillment fantasy: the two protagonists’ crimes are repulsive, yet because they’re the protagonists, I can’t help but sympathize with them, and I feel sort of relieved when they survive. It just occurred to me that the protagonists’ names, Ricky Corbeau and Jan Strand, are references to Richard Corben and Jan Strnad.
MONKEY MEAT #4 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Juni Ba. Astou, Monkey Meat’s most devoted fan, has to save a man who’s been possessed by dead souls. As a result, she discovers that the Monkey Meat company is responsible for massacring the “Oompa” tribe, obviously named after the Oompa-Loompas. This issue has some very impressive art, but I’m getting a little bored with stories about how evil the Monkey Meat corporation is.
THE RUSH #5 (Vault, 2022) – “The Thaw” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Nathan Gooden. Nettie tries to seduce the Inspector, but he reveals to her that while he can’t stake a mining claim himself, he’s been getting very rich off all the other men’s mining claims. Also, he’s discovered that Nettie killed her husband. Then he leaves Nettie to be killed by a winged bat-thing… which calls her “momma.” The Rush is a very scary horror comic, though its plot is a bit confusing. For example, I’m not entirely sure that the man Nettie killed was her husband.
2000 AD #2266 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Mona completes the mission, and Sharksey is killed, and good riddance. But now Mona has to work for something called the “Masque of the Twenty-Three Faces,” or her father will be killed. I hope we see this character again soon. Proteus Vex: as above. Vex and Ko Andrum escape from the creatures they’ve been negotiating with. The Order: as above. The flying whales aren’t as bad as they seem. The chapter ends with a rain of debris from the future. Kingmaker: as above. Crixus and Yarrow fight the Wraith-King. Saphir: as above. Mucha learns how his child was conceived. Then the child is kidnapped, even though Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was trying to protect it.
WONDER WOMAN HISTORIA: THE AMAZONS #1 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Phil Jimenez. In ancient times, the goddesses create thirty immortal Amazons, divided into six tribes. Later, Hippolyta, a widowed midwife’s assistant, is forced to expose an unwanted newborn girl. Instead she runs away with the child, but while looking for it, she’s captured by slavers. Then the Amazons appear and kill the slavers and free her, and Hippolyta follows them. This comic has a gripping and original narrative, but it especially deserves praise because it’s the finest work of Phil Jimenez’s career. He’s always been in the shadow of George Pérez (RIP), but this comic shows that he’s evolved his own style. His page layouts are stunning, his art is full of gorgeous detail, and he put massive thought and effort into creating an original design for each Amazon tribe. This comic was nominated for three Eisner awards, and while I didn’t vote for it in any of those categories, the nominations were deserved.
SUICIDE SQUAD #56 (DC, 1991) – “The Dragon’s Hoard Part V: Dragon’s Teeth,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Geof Isherwood. Another chapter of the story about the stolen weapons. This issue is full of great characterization, but nothing about it particularly stands out.
CEREBUS #104 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1987) – “Earnest Nonsense,” [W/A] Dave Sim with Bob Burden. During his trip to the moon, Cerebus encounters the Flaming Carrot, who’s drawn by Bob Burden in each panel in which he appears. Cerebus and the Flaming Carrot’s interactions are quite funny, since nothing the Carrot says makes any sense. I ought to look for more Flaming Carrot comics.
HAUNT OF FEAR #22 (EC, 1953/1998) – [W] Al Feldstein. “Wish You Were Here,” [A] Graham Ingels. An adaptation of “The Monkey’s Paw,” with the twist that the protagonists, a bankrupt husband and wife, have read the original Monkey’s Paw story. Despite that, they make awful wishes. As a result, the husband dies, but comes back to life with his blood replaced by formaldehyde, and is unable to die again even when the wife chops him to pieces. Ewww. “Chess-Mate,” [A] George Evans. An old man is a world-class chessplayer, but refuses to ever remove his hat. Finally, circumstances force him to take it off, and we discover that his hat is concealing the severed head of his conjoined twin brother. Which is why he was so good at chess – because he had two brains. “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” [A] Jack Kamen. A stupid fairy tale parody that would have been more at home in Mad than Haunt of Fear. “Model Nephew,” [A] Jack Davis. Ne’er-do-well Sidney murders his uncle, a retired sailor who builds ships in a bottle, but then finds himself trapped in one of those ships.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #6 (Marvel, 2014) – untitled, [W] Dan Slott, [A] Humberto Ramos. Black Cat and Electro kidnap Sajani Jaffrey. Spider-Man and Silk rescue her, while trying to ignore their animalistic attraction to each other. The story seems to end happily, but on the last page, we learn that Sajani has already given Felicia a plan to destroy Parker Industries.
SKYBOUND X #5 (Image, 2021) – [E] Sean Mackiewicz. The highlight of this issue is a new Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton story that stars Darwin, yet another of Keaton’s co-stars. As usual, Keaton gets angry at Darwin and tries to beat him up. What’s not usual is that Darwin is a chimpanzee. This issue also introduces C.O.D.E. (Combat Orb Defense Engines), a new solo series by Jason Howard.
WONDER WOMAN HISTORIA: THE AMAZONS #2 (DC, 2022) – as above except [A] Gene Ha. This issue isn’t nearly as gorgeous and striking as #1, but that may not be a bad thing, because #1 took forever to read. The simpler art style of #2 makes it easier to concentrate on the story, in which Hippolyta joins up with some other women freed from slavery by the Amazons. Then Hippolyta finds the Amazons again and convinces them to allow her and the other enslaved women to join them.
2000 AD #1617 (Rebellion, 2009) – Dredd: “The Ecstasy Part 1,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Paul Marshall. On the Day of the Dead, a seemingly immortal gunman shoots a bunch of criminals. Greysuit: “The Old Man of the Mountains Part 2,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] John Higgins. This seems like a Punisher story, except that it involves something called “primals.” Other than that I don’t understand it. Marauder: “Part 2,” [W] Robbie Morrison, [A] Richard Elson. An expelled former cadet Judge gets into a conflict with a corrupt Judge. Red Seas: “Signs and Portents Part 2,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Steve Yeowell. Some sailors are marooned on an island inhabited by fish creatures. Strontium Dog: “Blood Moon Part 2,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra & Hector Ezquerra. I believe this is a flashback story starring the young Johnny Alpha.
WONDER WOMAN #236 (DC, 1977) – “Armageddon Day,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] José Delbo. In order to save Steve Trevor, Wonder Woman has to fight a Nazi villain named Armageddon. Dr. Mid-Nite makes a cameo appearance. This is a rather boring issue.
ROBIN, SON OF BATMAN #5 (DC, 2015) – “Year of Blood Part 5,” [W/A] Patrick Gleason. Damien and Nobody fight Talia and the Lu’un Darga. The Sons of Batman – a group of grotesque Batman clones created by Ra’s – sacrifice their lives to save Damian. Nothing about this issue stands out in my memory.
2000 AD #1642 (Rebellion, 2009) – Dredd: “High Spirits Part 3,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Dave Taylor. Exorcist judge Lamia helps Dredd investigate some supernatural murders. Dave Taylor also drew the truck stop story in the #1580s. Sinister Dexter: “Wish You Were Here Part 1,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Anthony Williams & Rob Taylor. I don’t understand this story, though there’s one page that includes cameo appearances from a large number of other 2000 AD charactersm like Slaine and Rogue Trooper. Cradlegrave: “Part 10,” [W] John Smith, [A] Edmund Bagwell. Some sort of grotesque urban horror story. Defoe: “Queen of the Zombies Part 3,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Leigh Gallagher. Defoe hunts some zombies in London’s sewers. There’s one scene where an Irish woman fights a Cromwellian soldier.
BATMAN #406 (DC, 1987) – “Year One Chapter 3: Black Dawn,” [W] Frank Miller, [A] David Mazzucchelli. Batman escapes from a trap set by the police, Selina Kyle becomes Catwoman, and Commissioner Gordon has an emotional affair with Sarah Essen. Things that occur to me on rereading this story: 1. In the few brief Catwoman scenes in this story, Miller and Mazzucchelli effectively created the modern version of this character. 2. Selina’s cats are adorable. And she has about eleven of them. 3. Despite his otherwise heroic behavior throughout this story, Gordon’s affair with Sarah is reprehensible.
UNCLE SCROOGE #69 (Gold Key, 1967) – “The Cattle King,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Scrooge tries to teach his nephews to be cattle ranchers, but they have to contend with a gang of rustlers led by a certain McViper. This was the last issue-length story that Barks both wrote and drew, although the last one to be published was “The Doom Diamond.” “The Cattle King” has some funny gags, but is lacking in depth or originality.
CEREBUS #129 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1989) – “Jaka’s Story 16,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Jaka has some relationship drama with Rick and Oscar Wilde, and there’s a flashback sequence in which a younger Jaka meets an unimpressive potential fiancé. Not a whole lot happens in this issue, and I wonder if the series had already started to take a downward turn at this point.
VAULT OF HORROR #15 (EC, 1996) – “Two of a Kind!”, [W/A] Johnny Craig. Actress Willow Dree falls in love with her co-star Brad Phillips. It quickly becomes obvious that Willow is a vampire, but the further twist is that Brad is a flesh-eating ghoul. When they get snowbound in a cabin, neither can bear to eat the other, so Willow drinks her own blood, while Brad eats his own flesh. Ewww. But also awww. “Craft in Concrete!”, [W] Al Feldstein, [A] Jack Davis. Four corrupt city councilmen conspire to design a new road so that it passes by their own properties. But one of the councilmen insists that some bodies be exhumed so that the road can pass through the cemetery he owns, and then when the councilmen are driving down the road, the bodies come back to life and take their revenge. Jack Davis was really good at drawing rotting corpses. “Half-Way Horrible!”, [W] Feldstein, [A] Sid Check. Basically Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, except that the Jekyll character tries to get rid of Hyde by hiring a voodoo priest to destroy the ”evil half” of his self. The result is that the left half of his body dies. “Hook, Like, and Stinker!”, [W] Feldstein?, [A] Graham Ingels. Bernice and Stanley have been a couple for fifteen years, but Stanley refuses to marry Bernice because he cares more about his fishing trips. Finally Bernice discovers that when Stanley claims he’s going fishing, he’s actually cheating on her. She gets her revenge by killing him and mounting him on the wall like a fish. This and “Two of a Kind “are the best stories in the issue.
At this point I tried to read some of my backlog of Warren magazines, starting with:
EERIE #57 (Warren, 1974) – Spook: “Stridespider Sponge-Rot,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Esteban Maroto. In his debut appearance, the Spook, Warren’s zombie hero, battles his old lover Sarena. As discussed at https://www.angelfire.com/zine2/warrenverse/Spook.html, the Spook was Warren’s equivalent to Marvel’s Simon Garth. “Hunter,” [W] Bill DuBay, [A] Paul Neary. In the last chapter of his first story, Demian Hunter battles his father, the evil wizard Ofphal, but is unable to force himself to kill him, and Ofphal kills Hunter instead. Hunter came back to life a few issues later. Paul Neary is an underrated artist. “Hide from the Hacker!”, [W] Steve Skeates, [A] Tom Sutton. An overconfident Victorian detective tries to track down a murderer, but himself becomes the murderer’s victim. “Child,” [W] Greg Potter, [A] Richard Corben. A variation on Frankenstein in which the widowed Dr. Clervel (presumably named after Clerval from Frankenstein) creates a monster to replace his never-born son. Unlike the original Frankenstein monster, Child loves his father, and when Clervel is murdered, Child takes a brutal revenge. This is the only color story in the issue, and Corben’s coloring is gorgeous. “The Terror of Foley Mansion!”, [W] Carl Wessler, [A] José Gual. An average haunted house story, but with some excellent art. Doctor Archeus: “A Switch in Time…,” [W] Gerry Boudreau, [A] Isidro Mones. A Victorian criminal systematically murders the members of the jury that condemns them to death. Each murder is based on the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” This is a very creepy story, with moody and realistic artwork.
STANLEY AND HIS MONSTER #3 (DC, 1993) – “Parental Discretion,” [W/A] Phil Foglio. Stanley’s monster causes a great deal of problems for Stanley’s parents, and finally gets abducted to hell. This is a very funny issue, although Phil Foglio’s artwork is kind of sloppy. At one point in the issue Stanley’s mother receives a package from DreamHaven books in Minneapolis. The address on the package is the address of DreamHaven’s old Dinkytown location.
SHERIFF OF BABYLON #12 (DC, 2017) – “Jim from Ops,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. In American-controlled Baghdad, three characters conspire to assassinate a traitor. This comic has many of the flaws of Tom King’s later work: it takes itself too seriously, its plot makes no sense out of context, and King’s dialogue is annoyingly reminiscent of Bendis’s.
FANTASTIC FOUR #317 (Marvel, 1988) – “Last Kiss,” [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Keith Pollard. This comic’s main plot is a sequel to Comet Man, a series that no one remembers. Englehart did not create Comet Man, so I’m not sure why he bothered to revive him, but it seems to have been for the sake of continuity. Here, as throughout his FF run, Englehart is more interested in tying together various continuity threads than in telling an effective FF story. Also, there’s some relationship drama between Johnny, Alicia and Crystal. This issue includes a really disturbing scene where Thing and She-Thing appear to be having sex.
CEREBUS #191 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1995) – “Mothers & Daughters 41,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus yells at Tarim, then falls into the Great Red Spot on Jupiter. There’s also a preview of Jason Lutes’s Jar of Fools.
DONALD DUCK AND MICKEY MOUSE #7 (Gladstone, 1966) – Donald: “Donald’s Bay Lot,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Donald buys an oceanside cabin from a crooked realtor. Various slapstick adventures result, until Donald sells the cabin back for a profit. Donald & Mickey: “On the Ball,” [W] Dave Rawson, [A] Daniel Branca. Donald, Mickey and Professor Dustibones travel back in time to an ancient Southeast Asian empire, where they have to rescue the rightful queen from a warlord. Not bad for a European Disney story.
VAMPIRELLA #75 (Warren, 1978) – “The Blob Beast of Blighter’s Bog,” [W] Bill DuBay, [A] José González. Vampi fights an old film producer who turns out to be an alien. “Peter, Peter,” [W] Gerry Souter, [A] Leo Duranona. Peter Marley, an immigrant to colonial America, has a rare talent for woodcarving. But when his wealthy clients all refuse to help him save his sick wife, he uses his talent to take supernatural revenge on them, and then to kill himself in a gruesome way. “Sasquatch Love,” [W] Cary Bates, [A] José Ortiz. Sort of like Crumb’s “Whiteman Meets Bigfoot,” but with a more tragic ending. “Business is Booming,” [W] Bob Black, [A] Isidro Mones. A coroner is tired of doing boring autopsies, so he murders his shrewish wife, then a bunch of other people, but eventually his victims return to life and kill him. This issue includes a much more gruesome variation on the scene in Fritz Lang’s M where the killer encounters Elsie Beckmann while she’s playing with her ball, and then the ball rolls away, while Elsie is nowhere to be seen. In Mones’s version, we see the young victim’s head rolling on the ground, rather than the ball. “A Matter of Principle,” [W] Budd Lewis & Len Wein, [A] Alfonso Azpiri. A gruesome post-apocalyptic story about cannibals.
SPACE CIRCUS #1 (Dark Horse, 2000) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. A space-traveling circus crashlands on Earth, and a young boy sneaks aboard the circus’s ship. This is not one of Sergio and Mark’s best works. It’s only mildly funny, and Sergio’s alien designs are gruesome-looking.
STAR-SPANGLED WAR STORIES #176 (DC, 1973) – “Target: The Unknown Soldier,” [W] Frank Robbins, [A] Jack Sparling. The Nazis try to trap the Unknown Soldier by creating a disguised secret agent of their own. “Charge!”, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Frank Thorne. A retelling of the Civil War Battle of Franklin, which ended in horrible disaster for the Confederate army. I think I liked this story better than the first one.
MIRACLEMAN: APOCRYPHA #3 (Eclipse, 1992) – “Waiting on a Star,” [W] Steve Moore, [A] Alex Ross. Some kids make wishes on a falling star. But the “star” is really a misfiring rocket, whose pilot deliberately refuses Miracleman’s help. This story is a reiteration of the series’ recurring theme of humans not wanting to become obsolete. We see this theme, for example, in Miracleman #16, when Liz refuses Miracleman’s offer to make her a superheroine. “A Bright and Sunny Day,” [W] Fred Schiller, [A] Val Mayerik. Young Miracleman meets a scientist who’s living life at an accelerated pace. After Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #31, every other story on this theme feels disappointing. “Gospel,” [W] Steven Grant, [A] Darick Robertson. An isolationist cult worships Johnny Bates and hates Miracleman. This story is not to be confused with “Prodigal” in issue 2, which is also about isolationist cultists. Miracleman: Apocrypha #3 also includes framing sequences by Gaiman and Buckingham.
OVER THE GARDEN WALL #2 (Boom!, 2015) – “The Tale of Fred the Horse,” [W] Pat McHale, [A] Jim Campbell. Fred the horse explains how a ghost caused him to be falsely accused as a criminal. This comic is funny, though I shouldn’t have ordered this series in the first place.
POWER COMPANY #5 (DC, 2002) – “Shadows Linger,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Tom Grummett. This title may be borrowed from a Glen Cook novel. In this issue Bork and Sapphire look for an apartment (as I recently had to do; see below), and DePaul encounters Asano Nitobe and Christine St. Clair, from Goodwin and Simonson’s Manhunter saga. This may have been the only issue of Power Company I hadn’t read.
CITY OF SILENCE #1 (Image, 2000) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Gary Erskine. Since the #MeToo stories about Warren Ellis broke in 2020, I have been very hesitant to read any comics by him. City of Silence is kind of like Transmetropolitan, in that it’s a satirical, sort-of-cyberpunk SF comic set in a fairly near future. However, it doesn’t have a clear premise, and it depends heavily on shock value and deliberate edginess. Now that we know what we know about Ellis, his attitude of “I’m cooler than you are” has become difficult to believe in.
X-MEN: CHILDREN OF THE ATOM #4 (Marvel, 2000) – “Child’s Play,” [W] Joe Casey, [A] Paul Smith & Michael Ryan. A retelling of the X-Men’s origin, taking place slightly before X-Men #1. The main attraction of this series was Steve Rude’s art in the earlier issues. Paul Smith is an excellent artist in his own right, but here, as in Nexus, his art feels like an inferior substitute for the Dude’s art, and Michael Ryan is far worse than either of them. Also, Joe Casey’s dialogue is very annoying, and his depiction of Cyclops, in particular, seems out of character.
2000 AD #1644 (Rebellion, 2009) – Dredd: “Rehab Part 1,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Karl Richardson. Dredd apprehends a genocidal murderer named Rage Hard, but then someone abducts him from his cell, along with fifteen other criminals. Red Seas: “The Chimes at Midnight Part 1,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Steve Yeowell. The members of the “Brotherhood of the Book” prepare for a confrontation with Lucifer, but one of them, Sir Isaac Newton, disagrees with his brothers’ approach and prepares to battle Lucifer on his own. Cradlegrave: as above. A typical John Smith story, with beautiful prose but an incomprehensible plot. Sinister Dexter: as above. Dexter and Sinister visit a cyborg surgeon named Bonehinge in order to save someone they accidentally shot. Bonehinge reminds me of some of Ian Gibson’s robots from early Robo-Hunter stories. Defoe: as above. Defoe heads to “Nonsuch House” to prepare for a confrontation with a villain named Prussian Blue.
CEREBUS #229 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1998) – “Rick’s Story 10,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus tries to leave the bar, and then Dave himself comes in as a customer. Dave tells Cerebus “You might be surprised at who you’re driving crazy – staying in one place this long, I mean.” The accompanying image shows the corner boxes for issues 201 through 228. This scene shows a surprising amount of self-awareness on Dave’s part: he did in fact realize how boring “Guys” and “Rick’s Story” were. The trouble is that he didn’t care. His later work could be called masturbatory, in that he wasn’t interested in whether anyone was enjoying it.
EERIE #60 (Warren, 1974) – I’ve owned two copies of this issue, but the first copy was missing its entire color section. Thus I bought another copy, at a much higher price, but didn’t get around to reading it until now. Night of the Jackass: “24 Hours of Hell!”, [W] Bruce Bezaire, [A] José Ortiz. The guests in a hotel are besieged by an army of “jackasses” – people who’ve taken a drug that makes them go berserk for 24 hours, and then die. Only two of the guests survive, and one of them loses his newlywed wife. “Nightfall,” [W] Bill DuBay, [A] Bernie Wrightson. A little boy – named Nemo in an obvious reference to the classic comic strip – thinks there are monsters in his bedroom, but his parents don’t believe him. Of course the monsters are in fact real. Wrightson’s art here isn’t his absolute best, but the monsters look scary, and he draws some impressive drapery and shadows. Exterminator One: untitled, [W] Bill DuBay, [A] Paul Neary. A cyborg assassin is forced to murder his own daughter. Again I’m impressed with Paul Neary’s art, though he’s the least flashy of the artists in this issue. Child: “Childhood’s End,” [W] Budd Lewis, [A] Richard Corben. Child discovers an alien space probe, but then a human boy finds it and gets infected with alien spores. Child saves the boy, but is chased away by an angry mob. This is the best story in the issue, and Corben’s art and coloring are gorgeous, though some of his pages have way too many panels. “The Man Hunters,” [W] Gerry Boudreau, [A] Wally Wood. A female astronaut’s husband has his brain transplanted into an alien body. Woody draws some sexy women and some realistic-looking technology, but his aliens are unconvincing. “The Unholy Creation,” [W] Steve Skeates, [A] Leopoldo Sanchez. Just before Jason Boswell’s wedding, Dr. Schwartz kidnaps him and turns him into a Frankenstein monster. Boswell takes his revenge on the doctor, but is now stuck in a monstrous body. Dr. Archaeus: “Interlude,” [W] Gerry Boudreau, [A] Isidro Mones. Dr. Archaeus assassinates Miles Sanford, the detective who’s been trying to bring him to justice.
THE PHANTOM #1223 (Frew, 1999) – This issue is a 76-page special. “Mystery of the Crypt,” [W] Claes Reimerthi, [A] Joan Boix. In 1790, Chris, the future 13th Phantom, spends the summer with his friend Billy at Billy’s uncle’s vicarage. But then Chris and Billy discover a treasure hidden in the vicarage, and the Phantom has to stop the uncle from killing them to protect the treasure. This is an exciting adventure story. Also, as I recently realized, one of the narrative advantages of the Phantom is that there’s a lineage of Phantoms stretching back to the 16th century, and they’re all indistinguishable from each other. So it’s possible to tell a Phantom story set in 1790 without violating continuity, whereas this wouldn’t be possible with Batman, unless the story was labeled as an Elseworlds. “The Dakk Pirates,” [W] Lee Falk, [A] George Olesen. The Phantom visits Dakk, a small country that sponsors pirates, and forces its ruler to stop the piracy. “Hzz and Hrz,” [W] Lee Falk, [A] Sy Barry. The Phantom’s caveman friend Hzz goes crazy and runs off. The Phantom pursues Hzz and discovers he was searching for a female of his species, who is of course named Hrz.
CEREBUS #230 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1998) – “Rick’s Story 11,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Jaka walks into the bar, and she and Cerebus talk a lot and sleep together. Compared to the awful issues that preceded it, this issue is almost enjoyable, since Jaka is more interesting than most of the characters in Guys and Rick’s Story. Come to think of it, the only significant female character in either storyline is Joanne, who is a blatant sexist stereotype.
FOUR COLOR #413 (Dell, 1952) – “Robin Hood,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Morris Gollub & Jon Small. An adaptation of Disney’s 1952 Robin Hood film, which is far less well remembered today than the 1938 version starring Errol Flynn. Four Color #413 hits all the standard Robin Hood cliches, but it contains one scene I haven’t seen elsewhere, in which Robin steals the Sheriff’s gold and uses it to pay King Richard’s ransom. Here as elsewhere in the Robin Hood legend, King Richard I is depicted as a great patriot and King John as a villain. In fact Richard I, though he was a great soldier, hardly spent any time in England, while John was a better ruler than he gets credit for. An unusual feature of Four Color #413 is that it’s lettered in mixed case, rather than all upper case, and in a style that looks like italic type.
DONALD DUCK #301 (Gladstone, 1997) – Donald: “The Smugsnorkle Squatty,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Donald buys an expensive purebred dog, but the dog can’t do anything except retrieve game, and when he tries to do that, he almost destroys Donald’s house with dynamite. In the end, Donald trades the dog for the nephews’ pet mutt. This issue also includes some Donald Duck strips from 1939, all of which are generic gag strips, and a short backup story by Tony Strobl.
CREEPY #76 (Warren, 1975) – “Goodbye, Mr. Lincoln,” [W] Bill DuBay, [A] José Ortiz. Mrs. Russell’s young son Daniel is the latest reincarnation of Abraham Lincoln, Matthew Collins, and John F. Kennedy. If one of those names doesn’t sound familiar, it’s because Matthew Collins, a Reconstruction-era black leader, is a fictional character. Bill DuBay created him because he needed someone whose life spanned the period between Lincoln’s death and Kennedy’s birth. Anyway, before Daniel can grow up to become an even greater leader than his previous incarnations, he’s killed by demons. “Ensnared,” [W] Rich Margopoulos, [A] Alex Toth. This should be the high point of the issue, but it’s one of the worst Toth stories I’ve read. Three of its six pages have more text and negative space than actual artwork. Also, Toth didn’t do the lettering himself. He produced at least two alternate versions of this story’s title page, . They can be seen at http://pangolinbasement.blogspot.com/2014/10/toth-alex-toth-kitchen-sink-1995.html, and I think they’re both better than the version that was published. “A Flash of Lightning,” [W] Gerry Boudreau, [A] John Severin. A drifter gets a job working on a ranch, but we soon discover that he’s a vampire, and that he’s fallen in love with the farmer’s daughter. The farmer kills the drifter, but the daughter is already pregnant by him. “My Monster… My Dad,” [W] Jan Strnad, [A] Martin Salvador. An unnamed white single mother marries a black man as her second husband. The woman’s young son, Robert, is infected by his grandmother’s vicious racism, and in the end Robert murders his new stepfather. This story makes me feel uncomfortable. I guess it’s supposed to be a condemnation of racism, but neither Robert nor the grandmother face any consequences (because the story ends right after the murder), and this story depicts their racist attitudes so vividly that it almost seems to endorse those attitudes. “In Darkness It Shall End,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Vicente Alcazar. A fairly conventional Victorian vampire story, except it has an epilogue set in modern times, when the vampire comes back to life. Alcazar’s art is a beautiful example of the scratchy, photorealistic Spanish style. “The Imp of the Perverse,” [W] Rich Margopoulos, [A] Luis Bermejo. An adaptation of a Poe story. The ”perverse” here refers to the human tendency to do things simply because one knows one shouldn’t do them. The protagonist’s perversity leads him to kill his uncle, but then confess to the murder in public, resulting in his execution.
THE PHANTOM #1236 (Frew, 1999) – “The Gold Buddha,” [W] Claes Reimerthi, [A] Carlos Cruz. The Phantom’s friend Chou Chan, a Chinese detective, has vanished, and the Phantom teams up with Chou’s daughter to look for him. They discover that Chou was kidnapped while investigating some Japanese criminals, and the criminals are trying to recover a gold Buddha statue that the Japanese army stole from the Philippines during the war. The Phantom gets the statue back, but the main criminal is killed by some ninjas before the Phantom can apprehend him, and the story ends by suggesting that the ninjas want to kill the Phantom too. Claes Reimerthi was a very good writer of adventure stories.
2000 AD #1646 (Rebellion, 2009) – Dredd: as above. We discover that the criminals were abducted by Judges from a utopian alternate universe, and these Judges are more interested in rehabilitation than strict justice. Red Seas: as above. Newton goes looking for his ally, Augustus, but discovers that Augustus was kidnapped by a mad scientist who dismembers people to make his clockwork robots. Sinister Dexter: as above. We’re introduced to some criminals with punny names, as well as Carrie Hosanna, who appears in recent progs. Future Shocks: “Sanctuary,” [W] Michael Carroll, [A] John Cooper. In an overpopulated dystopian world, a scientist creates some robots that are programmed to kill everyone over the age of 21. But he writes < instead of > in his code, with the result that the robots kill everyone under that age. Defoe: as above. At Nonsuch House, Robert Hooke shows off his clockwork monsters. As far as I know, Defoe and Red Seas are not in the same continuity, but they seem to have lots of themes in common.
KOBRA #4 (DC, 1976) – “Brother’s Keeper – Brother’s Killer,” [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Pat Gabriele. Kobra teams up with some aliens, but Kobra’s brother Jason Burr foils their plot. This is a very unimpressive comic. Wikipedia quotes Pasko as saying “I wrote all of Kobra with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek—it was a preposterous exercise dumped in my lap,” and it’s not hard to believe that.
GREEN LANTERN #154 (DC, 1982) – “Rotten to the Corps,” [W] Mike W. Barr, [A] Joe Staton. While visiting sector 2813, Hal meets a fellow Green Lantern, Dalor, who’s set himself up as the local people’s god. Hal becomes indignant with Dalor’s actions and beats him up, and the Guardians summon them both for a trial. I know there are other stories about Green Lanterns being worshipped as gods, but I’m not sure if this was the first one. “A Matter of Snow,” [W] Paul Kupperberg, [A] Paris Cullins. A surprisingly grim story in which some cute, gentle aliens are murdered by more hostile aliens. The Green Lantern in this story is Medphyll.
CAPTAIN AMERICA #701 (Marvel, 2018) – “Promised Land Part 1,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Leonardo Romero w/ Adam Hughes & J.G. Jones. In a seemingly utopian future, Steve Rogers’s descendant Jackson tries to steal the Super-Soldier formula in order to save his dying son. But Jackson is caught and branded as a criminal. There are also two inset sequences drawn by Romero and Jones. The art in this issue is excellent, but none of Waid’s subsequent Captain America runs have been anywhere near as good as his first one, from 1995 and 1996.
FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #11 (DC, 2018) – “Godhood’s Beginning,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Aaron Lopresti. Last issue, Dorno, the child member of the Herculoids, was turned into a god by a creature called Animan. This issue, Dorno discovers that Animan himself is a child (compare Fantastic Four #7 and the Star Trek episode “The Squire of Gothos”), and Animan’s parents help Dorno resurrect his dead family and become a kid again. This story is all right, but it’s among the less impressive Future Quest stories.
REDNECK #12 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Lisandro Estherren. A bunch of gruesome fight scenes between rival vampires. This comic’s story doesn’t make sense on its own, and Lisandro Estherren’s art is far looser and less impressive than in Sandman Universe: Nightmare Country.
STAR-SPANGLED WAR STORIES #142 (DC, 1969) – “Vengeance is a Harpy!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Joe Kubert. Enemy Ace defeats and kills the Hangman, a British pilot, in a dogfight, even though the Hangman and his sister previously helped Von Hammer. The Hangman’s sister, Denise, reinvents herself as the Harpy and tries to avenge her brother’s death, and Enemy Ace has to prevent either of them being killed. Enemy Ace may have been Kubert’s masterwork. His page layouts are beautiful, and his writing is a gripping depiction of the insane logic of war. You can also see in this issue how Kubert influenced Neal Adams. In particular, the last panel on page 8, with the ghostly image of Denise’s face, reminds me of a similar depiction of Ra’s al Ghul in Batman #232.
CREEPY #78 (Warren, 1975) – “The Horseman,” [W] Bruce Bezaire, [A] Miguel Quesada. During World War I, a peaceful centaur rescues a Canadian soldier, but is forced to battle the German soldiers who come looking for the Canadian. I believe Bruce Bezaire himself was from Windsor, Canada, and this is his second story I’ve read that had a Canadian theme. “Unreal!”, [W/A] Alex Toth. In 1926, a silent film star turns out to be a robot. “Unreal” has a thin plot, but it’s far better than “Ensnared” because it has less wasted space and better visual storytelling, and is lettered by Toth himself in his distinctive style. “Creeps,” [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] John Severin. Lester Finch thinks everyone he sees is a creep, and he starts killing all the creeps he sees, including his own mother. Finally he sees his own reflection, realizes he’s a creep too, and kills himself. Severin’s art here is detailed and immersive, with effective cross-hatching and placement of shadows. I should also have praised his art in #76. “Lord of Lazarus Castle,” [W] Gerry Boudreau & Carl Wessler, [A] Jorge Moliterni. Geoffrey and Katrina use their inherited castle as bait to attract victims, who they murder and sell to Malcolm, a cannibal. But then Geoffrey runs out of victims, and Malcolm kills Katrina instead. This story is by Jorge Moliterni, an Argentine artist, but is mistakenly credited to Claude Moliterni, a French writer and editor. I have a BD album written by this other Moliterni, but have not read it yet. “The Nature of the Beast,” [W] Budd Lewis, [A] Martin Salvador. A modern man is bothered by memories of his past life as a caveman, and kills himself to escape those memories. Martin Salvador’ art is extremely skilled, though more subtle than that of the other artists in the issue. “God of Fear,” [W] Jeff Rovin, [A] Vicente Alcazar. A Smithsonian archaeologist is possessed by an ancient Algonquin Indian demon called Uturuncu. Alcazar’s artwork is incredible, with beautiful shading and mixed-media techniques, but the Native American references in this story are all made-up. “Uturuncu” is the name of a volcano in Bolivia, nowhere near the territory of any Algonquian people.
CEREBUS #231 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1998) – “Epilogue,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Bear and two other characters from “Guys” return to the bar. Cerebus and Jaka finally leave the bar, meaning that after 31 issues of stagnation, the plot is maybe going somewhere again. This issue includes a “Mama’s Boy” essay that I don’t think I bothered to read.
2000 AD #1683 (Rebellion, 2010) – Dredd: “The Talented Mayor Ambrose Part 10,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Colin MacNeil. P.J. Maybe has disguised himself as Mega-City One’s mayor Ambrose. He disguises his sexbot Inga as former Chief Judge Hershey, and sends her to assassinate the present Chief Judge. Damnation Station: “The Sun Always Shines Part 2,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Boo Cook. Some people are marooned on an alien planet, where they fight some armadillo-like aliens. Boo Cook’s art looks highly three-dimensional. Ichabod Azrael: “The Grievous Journey of Ichabod Azrael Part 7,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Dom Reardon. I’m not sure what this story’s premise is, but it appears to be a combination of the steampunk and Western genres. Zombo: “Zombo’s 11 Part Nine,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Henry Flint. A gruesome but humorous zombie story. Again, I don’t understand its premise. Nikolai Dante: “Heroes Be Damned,” [W] Robbie Morrison, [A] Simon Fraser. This chapter is mostly about a villain named Dmitri. I don’t think Nikolai appears in it.
I went back to Heroes on May 7, for the first in-person Free Comic Book Day event in three years. It was a fun time, though I was extremely stressed that entire week because I was searching for a new apartment. I did find one, and I’m feeling much less anxious now. Also, the Concord Comic Con was on the same day as FCBD, and I didn’t feel up to attending both, so I skipped the convention.
SAGA #58 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Pia Guerra. The deer-headed creep threatens to reveal Bombazine’s secrets to Alanna. Meanwhile, Alanna meets a cute wolf-headed guy, but her romantic interest in him vanishes when she discovers he’s not a reader. Finally, Director Croze orders Special Agent Gale to murder not only Hazel, but everyone she knows, including Petrichor and Ghus. I don’t remember either Corze or Gale. I wonder where this series’s overarching plot is going. The overall narrative of the war and the hatred between the two sides seems to have been lost, as the series has been more focused on Hazel’s early childhood.
ONCE & FUTURE #25 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Wasteland,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. Duncan, Brigitte and Rose join Robin Hood’s Merry Men, and Brigitte suggests that “Robin is the part of Britain that gets miffed at kings.” Robin Hood is often portrayed as a loyal follower of King Richard I, but my friend Valerie Johnson tells me that Richard is a later accretion to the Robin Hood myth, and that the only king mentioned in the earliest ballads is named Edward. Also in this issue, a steampunk version of Arthur appears, and time speeds up so that the Green Knight reappears earlier than expected. And there’s a reference to Eliot’s The Waste Land.
SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #22 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Road to Tribulation Part 2,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. Gabi runs away from Erica, and then Erica gets arrested while trying to investigate Gabi’s house. Meanwhile, two scary House of Slaughter agents are looking for Erica. This issue felt more substantial than #21. I voted for this series for the Eisner for Best Continuing Series, although my favorite current series is Once & Future (well, and Saga).
NIGHTWING #91 (DC, 2022) – “Get Grayson Part 4,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Geraldo Borges. Dick and Wally fight KGBeast, and then an assassin named La Agente Fúnebre. (“Fúnebre” is the correct Spanish spelling; in French it’s “funèbre”.) The interactions between Dick and Wally in this issue are beautifully written. Taylor makes it clear that they’re lifelong best friends who know each other inside and out. Again, Geraldo Borges is an adequate replacement for Bruno Redondo.
FARMHAND #16 (Image, 2022) – “Fallow Earth,” [W/A] Rob Guillory. I’m very glad this series has returned. This issue is much darker than earlier issues. By this point, Monica Thorne’s plant hybrids have taken over the town, and the few intact humans are hiding out in a hotel. The main plot event is that Abigail and Riley go to visit their grandfather without their parents’ permission, Ezekiel yells at them, and then we see that Abigail is possessed by Monica Thorne.
RADIANT BLACK #14 (Image, 2022) – “Retaliation,” [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Marcelo Costa & Eduardo Ferigato. We learn that Accel unfortunately survived last issue, and Nathan and Marshalll get into an argument. Then some “crypto bros” start selling NFTs of Radiant Black’s skull, and Marshall goes and destroys their operation. Nathan and Marshall reconcile, but a fireman finds a drone camera in the ruins of the crypto bros’ hideout. I’m not sure why this is significant.
THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE #8 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Alvaro Martínez Bueno. The protagonists start designing their own buildings. Ryan, the artist, discovers yet another hidden inhabitant of the house. Not much happens in this issue, but there’s some good characterization, although it’s hard to remember all the characters, even with the guide page at the end of the issue. I voted for Tynion as Best Writer in the Eisners.
TWIG #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Kyle Strahm. An adorable blue-furred creature takes a new job as a “placeling,” who goes on quests at the direction of a “pathsayer.” But Twig soon discovers that his pathsayer has been murdered. This is a gorgeous and cute comic, full of weird, interesting creatures and settings, though its plot doesn’t really begin until the last page.
JONNA AND THE UNPOSSIBLE MONSTERS #9 (Oni, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Chris Samnee, [A] Laura Samnee. The issue begins with a flashback scene that appears to show Jonna’s egg crashing on Earth (or whatever planet this is) from space. Then Jonna and Nomi escape from underground, and Gor and Nomi find them. As usual this issue is a quick read, though Chris Samnee’s storytelling is impeccable. There was also a Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters FCBD comic, but it was just a reprint of the first issue.
LITTLE MONSTERS #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. The issue begins with the origin story of Billy, one of the younger child vampires. The human girl finds her dad dead, then discovers that Romie is a vampire. The other vampire kids start drinking the dad’s blood. This comic is mostly in black and white, but the adult human’s blood is colored red.
MS. MARVEL: BEYOND THE LIMIT #5 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Samira Ahmed, [A] Andrés Genolet. Kamala defeats Qarin by borrowing energy from her future selves, and the series ends happily. Also, we get a rational explanation for the Bollywood scene earlier in the series. This comic was fun, but other than the Bollywood references, it wasn’t as good as Kamala’s ongoing titles. I’m glad there are some Ms. Marvel one-shots coming, but I wish she would get her own series again.
MANIFEST DESTINY #46 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. The demon Navath emerges from the last arch, but rather than allow little Pompey to be sacrificed, York grabs the baby and runs off. Then Jensen appears out of nowhere and shoots York from behind. I have to admit I can’t remember who Jensen is or why he hates York. There are two issues left.
BONE ORCHARD #1 FCBD 2022 (Image, 2022) – “Shadow Eater,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. A writer goes to a house by a lake to try to work, and also to escape from his collapsing marriage. Because this is a horror comic, a mysterious masked creature kills the writer and assumes his identity. This story is short but frightening, and Andrea Sorrentino’s art is creepy and powerful, though not as radical as in his last two collaborations with Lemire.
BUNNY MASK TALES #1 (AfterShock, 2022) – “They Were Sickness,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Andrea Mutti. Bunny Mask shows her “gratitude” to Tyler by bringing him the corpses of various dead evildoers. “The Hole Where I Watch My Neighbor,” [W] Tobin, [A] Roberta Ingranata. Tyler’s neighbor drills a hole through their shared wall for voyeuristic purposes, but the hole starts working strangely: first it shows him other parts of the apartment than the room with the hole, then it allows him to see Tyler and Bee wherever they are, and then it shows him the cave. Finally Bunny Mask tells the neighbor that something is watching him through the hole, and the neighbor vanishes mysteriously. This issue ends with a preview of the new Bunny Mask miniseries.
ROBIN #13 (DC, 2022) – “Shadow War Part Four,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Roger Cruz. This issue contains some fun interactions between Damian and Bruce, but it’s a crossover issue, so its plot is mostly irrelevant to Damian. The main plot development that does matter to Damian is that he discovers that Deathstroke’s young partner, the new Ravager, is his (Damian’s) clone.
BEST OF 2000 AD FCBD 2022 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “Hard Talk,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] V.V. Glass. A talk show host repeatedly accuses Dredd of being soft on crime, until Dredd arrests him for spitting when he talks. This story is very funny, and it’s surprising to see who drew it. I only know V.V. Glass from The Last Witch, a comic that has nothing in common with Dredd. This issue also includes a Future Shock by Chris Burnham, about some flat-earthers who discover that the earth is hollow, and some classic reprints, including “Terror Tube,” the first appearance of Nemesis and Torquemada.
STEP BY BLOODY STEP #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. Let’s call our protagonists Girl and Giant. A prince invites Girl, who now seems to be teenaged, to his floating city, and she goes with him, leaving Giant behind. Then the city is attacked by a huge army of orcs, and Other Girl, from issue 1, is shot with an arrow while fleeing from them. Giant tries to rescue Girl but gets blown up. This is a beautiful comic, and it has a surprisingly complex plot, given its lack of legible dialogue.
MONKEY PRINCE #4 (DC, 2022) – “Enter the Monkey Part 4,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Bernard Chang. Marcus, Damian and Pigsy rescue Marcus’s parents from the monsterized Penguin, but then Marcus’s family has to move again, to a place called Amnesty Bay. I think this was the setting of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Aquaman run. This first storyline was rather basic, but entertaining. Along with Shang-Chi and Iron Fist, Monkey Prince is one of several current Marvel and DC titles that are heavily inspired by Chinese mythology and folklore. I may have more to say about that later.
NEVERLANDERS #1 (Razorbill, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Jon Sommariva. This comic initially seems like a slice-of-life story about a gang of runaway children living in a junkyard. Then we realize it’s a Peter Pan adaptation: the newest member of the gang has a fairy companion, and they take the other children with them to Neverland. This plot twist should have been obvious given the title of the comic, but it surprised me. Neverlanders isn’t as instantly gripping as Tom Taylor’s other current titles, but it’s interesting, and Jon Sommariva’s art is very expressive. I would consider buying the graphic novel that this comic is excerpted from.
AQUAMEN #3 (DC, 2022) – “Shadow of the Bat,” [W] Chuck Brown & Brandon Thomas, [A] Max Raynor. The Aquamen and Black Manta end up in Gotham City somehow. This series is entertaining, but it feels pointless, as DC has already decided to abandon this take on Aquaman.
ROGUE SUN #3 (Image, 2022) – “The Crystal Menagerie,” [W] Ryan Parrott, [A] Abel. We meet Dotty Perrine, who keeps each of Rogue Sun’s defeated enemies imprisoned inside a diamond. That’s a really cool idea. Then a young girl, who looks a lot like Marcus’s daughter, frees one of the villains from its diamond. Meanwhile, Marcus suspects that his younger son, Brock, caused his death, but he and Dylan learn that Brock was only trying to bring his dad back to life.
DOCTOR WHO: FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2022 (Titan, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] Roberta Ingranata (who also drew the second story in Bunny Mask Tales). In 1962, the Fugitive Doctor meets some Earth children whose “toys” turn out to be resource-harvesting aliens. The Doctor decides they like Earth, and a year later, their next incarnation, the First Doctor, returns to Earth with his companion Susan. This is an insubstantial but fun story. I’ve never been able to get into Doctor Who, but I might start watching it when the new series begins.
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #128 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Sophie Campbell, [A] Pablo Tunica. I’m not sure which parts of this issue are drawn by Sophie Campbell, but I’m guessing it’s just the flashbacks. This issue, we find out what Barlow has been doing to Venus de Milo, and the dinosaur girl finally leaves her planet.
SEASON OF THE BRUJA #2 (Oni, 2022) – untitled, [W] Aaron Durán, [A] Sara Soler. Althalia discovers that her grandmother isn’t dead for good, and meanwhile, some evil clergymen are conspiring against her. This comic is entertaining, and its artwork is heavily influenced by Mexican art, particularly the designs of the two living figurines. This issue includes a number of references that I had to look up. The song on page one is “La calabaza” by La Arrolladora Banda El Limón. “Wishram” is a Native American tribe from Oregon that does or did speak a Chinookan language. “Estrellas con pollo” is chicken soup with pasta stars. The place where the two priests meet is an outdoor shrine in Portland known as The Grotto.
TEX IN THE LAND OF THE SEMINOLES FCBD (Epicenter, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mauro Boselli, [A] Michele Rubini. In the Florida swamps, Tex, who is posing as Ben Walker, has to avoid being killed by either the American army or the Seminoles. This comic has an exciting story and excellent black-and-white art, and its depiction of the Seminoles seems accurate. It’s interesting how the Seminoles tell Tex/Ben that they accept runaways, but only if they’re black. I don’t know if that was actually true. The trouble with this comic is that the translation is just awful. It’s even more unidiomatic than Joe Johnson’s translations for NBM, which I have often complained about. Epicenter is doing a good thing by publishing Bonelli comics in English, but I suspect that these comics have a very limited audience, since most American readers have no idea what they are. Also, Bonelli is publishing these comics at a rather high price point. When Dark Horse published some Bonelli comics in the late ’90s, they were closer in price to regular American comics (and even then, nobody bought them or understood what they were).
SPIDER-GWEN: GWENVERSE #2 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Jodi Nishijima. Spider-Gwen and Thorgwen meet Gwen Rogers and also Wolvergwen, who is an adorable little ball of rage. We also see the origin of Iron Gwen. This comic is full of entertaining dialogue, though its plot is so convoluted that it’s best not to try to understand it.
BLACK HAMMER REBORN #11 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Caitlin Yarsky. Elliot and Rose discover that the new version of Black Hammer Farm is located in the real world, the one where I’m living right now. I don’t know how that works exactly, since but it’s a cool twist. Then Inspector Insector shows up, followed by a police car.
FREE COMIC BOOK DAY: TRESE: LAST SEEN AFTER MIDNIGHT (Ablaze, 2022) – “Last Seen After Midnight,” [W] Budjette Tan, [A] KaJo Baldisimo. Alexandra Trese is a Manila detective who can contact Filipino spirits. This issue, she solves the case of a woman who was abducted by human traffickers and murdered. Trese is the most famous contemporary Filipino comic, and I’ve already ordered the first volume of it. This FCBD issue makes me even more excited to read more Trese. This comic is moody, exciting, and deeply rooted in Filipino culture and folklore. BTW, one of the creatures Trese summons is Santelmo, i.e. St. Elmo’s Fire. This creature seems to be the result of syncretism between Filipino and Spanish culture. See https://www.esquiremag.ph/long-reads/features/santelmo-origin-trese-a00293-20210614-lfrm.
MAX MEOW: CAT ON THE STREET COMICS SPECTACULAR (Random House, 2022) – “Cake Mistake,” [W/A] John Gallagher. Two very simple stories about a pair of cat superheroes. I suppose this comic is cute, but it has little to interest an adult reader.
GALAXY: THE PRETTIEST STAR FCBD SPECIAL EDITION 2022 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jadzia Axelrod, [A] Jess Taylor. A preview of a graphic novel about Taylor, a high school boy, who is actually Galaxy, an alien princess. This comic is a good example of transgender representation, and Jess Taylor’s painted art is beautiful. As with some of these other FCBD comics, I’d be interested in reading the full graphic novel, but I’m not in any rush to go and buy it. Jadzia Axelrod is herself trans, and she named herself after Dax from DS9, who is also transgender. https://epgn.com/2020/05/06/jadzia-axelrod-comic-genius/
FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2022: ALL AGES (Dark Horse, 2022) – ATLA: “Aang’s Unfreezing Day,” [W] Kelly Leigh Miller, [A] Diana Sim w/ Christianne Gillenardo-Goudreau. A stupid non-story drawn in a chibi style. I call it a non-story because it ends with a “to be continued” before its plot is resolved. It’s not remotely as good as Yang and GuriHiru’s Avatar comics. Korra: “Beach Wars,” [W/A] Meredith McClaren. An elderly Katara and Toph have a conversation on the beach. This story is pretty cute.
DARK CRISIS #0 FCBD SPECIAL EDITION 2022 (DC, 2022) – “Who Are the Justice League?”, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Jim Cheung. After the Justice League vanishes, Wally Wood fights Clayface and then talks with a young boy about starting a new Justice League. The highlight of this story is pages 2 and 3, where Jim Cheung draws a bunch of different versions of the JLA in period-approriate styles. There’s also a preview of Dark Crisis #1, which I don’t plan to read.
THE LAST SESSION #5 (Mad Cave, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jasmine Walls, [A] Dozerdraws. The party resolve their differences with Cassandra, and then their characters finish the campaign by defeating the evil nobleman who hired them. This was a fun miniseries.
ROBINS #6 (DC, 2022) – “Being Robin Part 6,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Baldemar Rivas. Bruce reveals that the “first Robin,” Jenny Wren, is in fact the zeroth Robin. She preceded Dick as Batman’s partner, but then Batman abandoned her when she killed a criminal. The Robins team up with Batman to defeat Jenny Wren and the Escape Artist. This was also an entertaining miniseries. Tim Seeley succeeded in distinguishing the five Robins from each other, and in making them interact in interesting ways.
ENEMIES FREE PREVIEW (Yen, 2022) – “Enemies,” [W/A] Svetlana Chmakova. In the latest Berrybrook Middle School book, rivals Felicity Teale and Joseph Koh compete against each other to make a business plan. This comic seems very similar to the first three books in the series (the fourth was a do-it-yourself guide). I presented a paper on Chmakova at the 2022 MLA convention.
DOG MAN AND FRIENDS SUPER COMIC TEASER (Scholastic, 2022) – three stories, [W/A] Dav Pilkey. This contains previews of three of Dav Pilkey’s kids’ comics series, Captain Underpants, Dog Man and Cat Kid, the first of which is illustrated prose rather than comics. Dav Pilkey’s work is important, and I need to address it somehow in my research, but I don’t personally like it. BTW, I’m going to file this under “Captain Underpants” because that’s the first name listed on the cover.
BLOOD STAINED TEETH #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Christian Ward, [A] Patric Reynolds. The premise of this story is that there are two kinds of vampires: First Borns can turn normal humans into Sips, but Sips can’t turn anyone. One First Born, Atticus Sloane, is ordered to kill all the people he turned into Sips. My biggest problem with this series is that the word “Sip” is extremely annoying. Otherwise, this comic is just average, and I liked Tommy Gun Wizards better.
CLEMENTINE #1 FREE COMIC BOOK DAY (Image, 2022) – “Clementine,” [W/A] Tillie Walden. Clementine, from the Telltale Walking Dead games, meets a survivor who builds her a new prosthetic leg. I’m not a huge Walking Dead fan, and I wasn’t planning to buy the Clementine graphic novels, but this preview actually makes me want to read them. Tillie Walden is the best young cartoonist in America, and her work here is very powerful and emotionally subtle. This issue also includes a preview of Irma Kniivila and Tri Vuong’s Everyday Hero Machine Boy. This comic is super cute, and I would certainly order it if it was a comic book, but I’m more reluctant to buy graphic novels. The last story, Mairghread Scott and Pablo Tunica’s “Sea Serpent’s Heir,” has some detailed and immersive art, but it’s the worst of the three.
DISNEY MASTERS: DONALD DUCK & CO. FCBD 2022 SPECIAL EDITION (Fantagraphics, 2022) – Donald: “Sore Losers,” [W/A] William Van Horn. Donald has recurring dreams about being given money by Scrooge. Van Horn is a skilled imitator of Barks, but he’s no Don Rosa, and he doesn’t seem interested in telling adventure stories, only humor stories. This issue also contains some unimpressive stories about Super Goof, Donald and Fethry, and Li’l Bad Wolf.
BLACK PANTHER LEGENDS #4 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tochi Onyebuchi, [A] Enid Balám & Ramón F. Bachs. A boring and unoriginal rehash of Fantastic Four #52. I think it’s because of this comic that I felt reluctant to read Captain America: Symbol of Truth #1, which is also written by Onyebuchi. (But that comic was better than I expected. See below.)
NAUGHTY LIST #1 (AfterShock, 2022) – “A Strange Man in the Woods,” [W] Nick Santora, [A] Lee Ferguson. A flashback depicts how a medieval Belgian peasant turned into Santa Claus. In the modern day, someone steals Santa’s naughty list and uses it to take vigilante justice on criminals. But when innocent children get killed as a result of this, Santa realizes he needs to intervene. This comic is obviously reminiscent of Klaus, and Santora and Ferguson’s art and writing are not at the same level as Morrison and Mora’s. However, Naughty List presents a significantly different take on Santa Claus from Klaus, and it’s interesting enough to be worth reading.
SLUMBER #2 (Image, 2022) – “Shadowplay,” [W] Tyler Burton Smith, [A] Vanessa Cardinali. Detective Finch investigates Stetson, under the guise of coming to her as a client. Stetson discovers that Finch has seen a certain dream creature named Valkira, and she goes looking for Valkira in Stetson’s dreams. The best line in this issue is “Don’t worry about the ostrich. Ignore the ostrich.”
LAND OF THE LIVING GODS #3 (AfterShock, 2022) – “None of This is Normal,” [W] Isaac Mogajane, [A] Santtos. Kaelo sells Naledi to a slave dealer, but then has second thoughts, and is appalled to discover that the dealer has sold Naledi to the witch for sacrifice. Meanwhile, in prison, Naledi meets Lutho, who was sacrificed in the last issue but came back to life. I like this series, though it’s not as impressive as another Africanfuturist comic, New Masters.
CAPTAIN AMERICA #0 (Marvel, 2022) – “Future Proof,” [W] Tochi Onyebuchi, Jackson Lanzing & Collin Kelly, [A] Mattia De Iulis. A preview of the two upcoming Captain America titles – one starring Steve Rogers and written by Lanzing and Kelly, and another starring Sam Wilson and written by Onyebuchi. This is an exciting comic with impressive painted art, but I’m only interested in reading the Sam Wilson series and not the Steve Rogers series.
WE HAVE DEMONS #2 (Dark Horse, 2022) – “Tough Mother” and other chapters, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Greg Capullo. Gus reveals his origin, then he and Lam and their allies fight some demons aboard their plane. This may be a reference to Snakes on a Plane. When the team gets to a safehouse, Lam’s dad’s corpse is possessed by demons. This is a fun series with impressive worldbuilding, but it deserves more than three issues.
ICE CREAM MAN #29 (Image, 2022) – “Living Will,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. A man named Will Parson dies at only 37, and the story is structured as a list of his bequests in his will. The pun on Will and will is perhaps too obvious to mention. This is a powerful story, but Ice Cream Man is just unrelentingly bleak, to the point of monotony.
SHANG-CHI #11 (Marvel, 2022) – “Blood and Monsters Part Three,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Marcus To. Shang-Chi is imprisoned in Ta Lo, but his father appears to him and tells him to escape and steal the Jade Emperor’s ten bracelets. These bracelets appear to be the same as the Mandarin’s rings, though unlike the Mandarin’s original rings, they go on the arms and not the fingers, and they don’t have ten different powers. This may be a retcon introduced in order to harmonize the comics with the movies.
BRZRKR #8 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Keanu Reeves & Matt Kindt, [A] Ron Garney. I don’t quite understand this issue. Unute somehow vanishes, but his handlers develop a way of tracking him and making clones of him.
NEWBURN #6 (Image, 2022) – “My Lucky Night,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jacob Phillips. In 2006, a young Emily forms a lifelong resolution to be a detective. In 2016, she goes to police academy, but accidentally kills a fellow cadet in a fight, with another cop, Sydney, as the only witness. In 2022, Sydney is in debt to a Russian mobster, Alexei. He discovers that Emily has left the police academy and become Newburn’s partner, and he sells Alexei Emily’s secret. A significant theme of this story is Emily’s sense of divided loyalty, as a black woman and an aspiring cop.
QUESTS ASIDE #1 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Brian Schirmer, [A] Elena Gogou. In a Dungeons & Dragons-esque fantasy world, Barrow and King Durk were adventuring partners, but Barrow retired from adventuring and opened an inn, Quests Aside. But then the king tells Barrow that the inn has to be converted to a barracks in thirty days. This is a fun comic, but I found its plot extremely hard to understand. There are a ton of characters, none of whom are introduced properly. By the end of the issue I mostly understood what was going on, but I fear that issue 2 will be just as confusing.
ONE-STAR SQUADRON #6 (DC, 2022) – “Aftermaths and Long Divisions,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Lieber. Reddy falsely reports Terry (Minuteman) to have died, but then discovers that Terry is alive and has cleaned himself up. Reddy realizes that he really is a hero, despite his own doubts. I disliked this series at first, but by its end, it was very subtle and emotionally affecting. However, I still think Russell wrote Power Girl in a completely out-of-character way.
THE YEAR OF VALIANT FCBD 2022 SPECIAL (Valiant, 2022) – Bloodshot: “Instead,” [W] Deniz Camp, [A] Jon Davis-Hunt, plus other stories. A collection of previews of upcoming Valiant titles. The only one that I’d even consider buying is Jeff Parker’s Ninjak. The Archer & Armstrong preview is funny, but I consider Archer and Armstrong to be Barry Windsor-Smith’s characters, and I’m not interested in reading another writer’s version of them. Archer and Armstrong are more or less the same characters as Aram and Axus from Freebooters. Sadly there’s no chance of Freebooters ever being completed.
BATMAN: THE KNIGHT #4 (DC, 2022) – “The Knight Part 4,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Carmine Di Giandomenico. Bruce becomes a student at a dojo atop Paektu Mountain in Korea. Oddly the leader of the dojo, Kirigi, is Japanese and not Korean. Zdarsky tries to offer a plausible reason for this, but probably the real reason is that Kirigi was created in 1989, by a writer who couldn’t tell Japanese and Korean names apart. Also, I suspect Kirigi’s name was borrowed from Frank Miller’s Daredevil. Anyway, Bruce discovers that Kirigi is training members of the League of Assassins, and he has to team up with his fellow student Anton to escape the dojo with his life. I think Anton is the future Night-Slayer, another ‘80s character.
FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2022: GENERAL (Dark Horse, 2022) – Stranger Things: “Creature Feature,” [W] Michael Moreci, [A] Pius Bak. I have no knowledge of Stranger Things, so I’m not sure what this story was about. Resident Alien: “The Ghost,” [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. Harry visits an old lady, Myrtle, whose house appears to be haunted. The “ghost” is in fact an undocumented immigrant who’s been hiding out in Myrtle’s attic, and Myrtle allows him to stay there for free and declines to press charges. This story is kind of heartwarming.
THE INCAL UNIVERSE: FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2022 (Humanoids, 2022) – [E] Mark Waid & Jake Thomas. A summary of the original Incal epic, followed by previews of upcoming titles set in the same universe. The only one of these that I’d consider reading is the one that’s written by Mark Russell. Otherwise, while I love the original Incal, and also Metabarons, I don’t have much interest in reading Incal Universe stories that aren’t by either Moebius or Jodorowsky.
TRIAL OF THE AMAZONS: WONDER GIRL #2 (DC, 2022) – “Trial of the Amazons Part 6,” [W/A] Joëlle Jones, [A] Adriana Melo. In another tedious chapter of Trial of the Amazons, Wonder Girl (Cassie) proves that Artemis murdered Hippolyta. This comic doesn’t have enough Yara Flor or enough Joëlle Jones artwork, and it’s not very interesting.
REFRIGERATOR FULL OF HEADS #6 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Rio Youers, [A] Tom Fowler. The villain turns into a snake and gets eaten by the shark. One of the heads survives, creating a plot hook for a sequel. If there is a third XXX Full of Heads miniseries, I’m probably going to skip it unless it’s written by Joe Hill.
IT WON’T ALWAYS BE LIKE THIS FCBD (Ten Speed, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Malaka Ghraib. A graphic memoir in which the author spends the summer at an Egyptian resort with her dad and her new stepmother Hala. Ghraib’s story is intriguing, and I like the interactions between her and her stepmother. However, Ghraib’s drawing is very underwhelming. Her artwork tells the story successfully, but is uninteresting to look at. I do believe it’s not necessary to be a virtuousic draftsperson in order to create comics, and I’ve published a comic myself despite having no drawing ability. But I do wonder if Ghraib might have been better off working with an artistic collaborator.
HARDWARE SEASON ONE #5 (Milestone, 2022) – “Barrage,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Denys Cowan. Edwin Alva continues trying to kill Hardware. This series is frankly boring, and I think I’m going to quit reading it. There’s a two-page spread at the end of this issue that consists of 18 panels, 17 of which are exactly the same. There is rarely a good reason for this sort of artistic laziness.
BYLINES IN BLOOD #4 (AfterShock, 2022) – “The Hidden King,” [W] Erika Schultz & Van Jensen, [A] Aneke. Satya finally solves the murder, and then a young man asks her to help his brother out of trouble. This miniseries was entertaining, but it didn’t make much of an impression on me.
NUBIA: CORONATION SPECIAL #1 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Stephanie Williams & Vita Ayala, [A] Marguerite Sauvage et al. This issue has a framing sequence by Marguerite Sauvage, with inset sequences by Colleen Doran, Darryl Banks, Jill Thompson and Alitha Martinez. The best of the sequences is the one that’s set in the ‘70s, where Nubia saves a woman from a predator, but is herself arrested by racist police. The Jill Thompson sequence has beautiful painted art, but a dumb plot. Overall I’ve been unimpressed with these Nubia comics, and I feel like the authors are telling us that Nubia is a great heroine, but not showing us what’s so great about her. I think I’m going to skip reading Nubia, Queen of the Amazons.
SWAMP THING #12 (DC, 2022) – “Jericho’s Rose,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. Harper Wallace Pilgrim – or the entity possessing his corpse – creates a new Parliament of Gears, the counterpart to the existing elemental parliaments. Levi Kamei comes back to life and sleeps with Jennifer. I generally like this series, but I don’t understand who the villains are, or what they’re trying to accomplish.
DOGS OF LONDON #1 (AfterShock, 2022) – “The Dog’s Bollocks,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Artecida. Contrary to the impression given by its cover, this comic is not about anthropomorphic dogs – at least not yet. The “Dogs of London” are London gangsters Frank Babbs and Terry Larkin and their three friends. The Dogs get involved in a gang war with the Quinn family. For reasons not yet revealed, Frank and Terry kill their three friends and bury them We then cut to 2010, when Frank is now Sir Frank and lives in a mansion, and his son is an aspiring Tory MP (bleccch). Then Frank learns that the bodies of the other three Dogs have been exhumed, in intact condition and still appearing to be in their twenties. I like this setup, particularly because of the way it bridges two time periods, and I’m curious to see where this story goes.
SABRETOOTH #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “Whisper Campaign,” [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Leonard Kirk. Sabretooth has discovered that he and his fellow prisoners can manifest in psychic form on the surface of Krakoa, and the prisoners use this ability to prepare their escape. This comic is okay, but it’s nowhere near as good as Destroyer or Eve.
THE BEST ARCHIE COMIC EVER #0 FCBD EDITION #0 (Archie, 2022) – [E] Jamie Lee Rotante. This comic consists mostly of excerpts from other Archie comics, with an original framing sequence. This makes it rather confusing. I read the sequence with Jughead and Betty at the carnival, and I was like, wait, I’ve read this before. I actually went and checked my boxes to see whether I already had a copy of this comic. I discovered that that sequence was reprinted from the Archie Love & Heartbreak special, which came out earlier this year. This comic is likely to be even more confusing to new readers. It would have been better if Archie had just published an FCBD comic consisting of new material.
PRIMOS FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2022 (AWA, 2022) – untitled, [W] Al Madrigal, [A] Carlo Barberi. This is my least favorite of this year’s FCBD comics. Primos draws upon Mexican culture and mythology, but only as cosmetic trappings. It’s just a standard superhero story in which the characters happen to be dressed in Mesoamerican costumes. Madrigal’s letter explains how he wanted this comic to be a positive example of Latino representation, but Season of the Bruja is doing a much better job of that. I do like how this comic includes two versions of the same story, one in English and one in Spanish.
HULK: GRAND DESIGN – MADNESS #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Jim Rugg. This issue covers Incredible Hulk #300 to #467, with a very brief epilogue covering everything that’s happened since. This was easily the worst of the Grand Design titles. In X-Men: Grand Design, Ed Piskor took many decades of X-Men stories and showed how they all formed a single narrative. But Jim Rugg doesn’t need to do that for the Hulk, because Al Ewing already did it in Immortal Hulk, and anyway Rugg doesn’t even try. Hulk: Grand Design is just a plot summary, with no indication of how the events in the Hulk’s life are logically connected. Meanwhile, Fantastic Four: Grand Design was interesting because of the ways its story diverged from the continuity we know, but Rugg doesn’t add anything original to the Hulk’s narrative. As a result, for a reader who’s already read PAD’s Hulk run, Hulk: Grand Design offers nothing new. At least it has some good art.
FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2022: MARVEL’S VOICES #1 (Marvel, 2022) – Moon Girl: “Time is on Your Side,” [W] Nadia Shammas, [A] Luciano Vecchio. A cute story where Lunella meets her own elderly future self. This is the only original story in the issue. The others are all reprinted from earlier Marvel’s Voices specials.
ANIMAL CASTLE #5 (Ablaze, 2022) – untitled, [W] Xavier Dorison, [A] Félix Delep. The standoff over the wood continues. Finally Silvio realizes that if he doesn’t relent, all the animals will die. But to save face, he blames the head dog, No. 1, for everything, and he gives No. 1 to the animals so they can tear him apart. As the narrator comments, this is a win for Silvio, and “victory was further away than ever.” Animal Castle is one of the best comic books currently being published by anyone, and it deserves to get a bunch of Eisner nominations next year. However, it’s so depressing and harsh that it’s always one of the last comics I read.
GHOST CAGE #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Nick Dragotta. Doyle finally realizes that the Ohm CEO, Karloff, is manipulating her, and she and Sam team up with Karloff’s daughter against him. I read this comic when I was quite tired, and there were probably things in it than I missed, but I’m still impressed by Dragotta’s mastery of the manga style. I like how the incarnation of wind power is named Quixote.
FRONTIERSMAN LOCK-UP SPECIAL #1 (Image, 2022) – “Professional Courtesy,” [W] Patrick Kindlon, [A] Nicolò Assirelli. After the events of the previous series, Frontiersman is in jail. A superhero named Free Will tries to free him and his fellow inmates by turning them intangible. But Frontiersman doesn’t want to be freed, so he knocks Free Will unconscious and gets stuck in an intangible state. His lawyers, including a superhero named the Public Defender, have to rescue him. This is an entertaining issue, and it also shows some knowledge of the law. The scenes with the lawyers are vaguely reminiscent of Wolff & Byrd.
THE GOOD ASIAN #10 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Alexandre Tefenkgi. Edison finally figures out that Victoria killed Ivy Chen, or whoever the original victim was, and that Mason killed Edison’s mother. Edison gives Mason and Victoria’s confessions to a reporter, on the condition that they only be made public if Mason stops investing in Chinatown. The series ends by using chop suey as a metaphor for Chinese-American identity. Good Asian was an exciting detective comic and a groundbreaking exploration of Chinese-American identity, but it was hampered by a plot that was impossible to follow.
ARROWSMITH: BEHIND ENEMY LINES #4 (Image, 2022) – “North and West,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Carlos Pacheco. Guy reveals to Fletcher what their mission is: they’re trying to rescue a kidnapped faerie princess, so the faeries will allow the Allies to use their territory for teleportation. Also, Guy himself is the illegitimate son of the king of Albion. But some horrible werewolves are on Guy and Fletcher’s trail. Guy is an intriguing new character.
MONKEY MEAT #5 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Juni Ba. A creature called Golo starts consuming all the monkey meat it can find. The Monkey Meat Corporation creates a robot to fihght Golo, and the island is devastated by the battle between them. At the end of the issue, we discover that the whole story was set in a hypothetical future. I liked this series, especially because of Juni Ba’s unique art style, but his sense of humor is very grim.
THE KILLER: AFFAIRS OF THE STATE #3 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matz, [A] Luc Jacamon. The mayor, Marchand, tries to use the ongoing gangwar to increase his own political standing, and the Killer considers killing the mayor himself. A nice moment in this issue is when two groups of characters – the Killer and his companion, and the two detectives investigating the murders – walk right past each other without recognizing each other.
BOLERO #4 (Image, 2022) – “Etoile et toi: In her own words,” [W] Wyatt Kennedy, [A] Luana Vecchio. This issue is told from the perspective of Devyn’s best friend Natasha. Bolero has some very cute artwork and characterization, but to me it feels like a Brandon Graham comic; it has not only Graham’s lettering, but also his style of dialogue. And that’s probably why I’m not enjoying Bolero as much as I could be: because I’ve soured on Brandon Graham.
CEREBUS #233 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1998) – “Going Home 2,” [W/A] Dave Sim. While traveling to Sand Hills Creek, Cerebus and Jaka run into one of Lord Julius’s like-a-looks in a bar. This is the best issue of Cerebus in a long long time; it actually has some plot and some witty dialogue, and it reminds me of when the series was good. Of course, after literally a hundred issues of complete crap, one good issue is not enough to redeem the series. On the inside front cover, Dave goes on a rant about child-proof cigarette lighters, which he sees as stupid idea. Dave is wrong here, as he usually is. Of course young children shouldn’t be around cigarette lighters in the first place, but the point of making cigarette lighters childproof is that children inevitably will get access to them.
THE PHANTOM #1267 (Frew, 2000) – “The Black Queen,” [W] Terrence Longstreet, [A] Romano Felmang. “Terrence Longstreet” is a collective pseudonym for three Team Fantomen writers, Jens Hansegård, Ken Ikonen, and Kim McLaughlin. In 1591, Queen Helena of Carpatia is kidnapped by her evil sister Ilinca. Just as Ilinca is about to be crowned the new queen, the Phantom appears, leads a peasant rebellion against Ilinca, and defeats Ilinca’s consort in a duel, thus returning Helena to the throne. This is a fun adventure story, and it’s another example of how Phantom stories can take place in a wide range of historical settings.
2000 AD #1645 (Rebellion, 2009) – I read this one in the wrong order. Dredd: as in #1644 above. A deep-cover Judge, Trebeck, gets sent to prison on purpose so he can be abducted by whoever is abducting judges. This chapter begins with a very funny scene where Trebeck starts a riot at a “competitive politeness” match, by arguing over whether “scone” is pronounced “scone” or “scone” (i.e. the two pronunciations are spelled the same). Red Seas: as above. Newton goes looking for Chevalier Augustus and finds that he’s disappeared. Sinister Dexter: as above. Bonehinge performs surgery on the patient, who reveals that “Isobel” is being held captive by “the Mover.” Terror Tales: “Counts as One Choice,” [W/A] Chris Weston. 2000 AD reader Vaz Nerdiman joins the Black Hole Book Club, i.e. the Science Fiction Book Club. But then he goes into debt to the book club and is unable to cancel his membership, and his soul is taken as collateral. This story is a funny piece of metafiction. Defoe: as above. Defoe goes to a party at Nonsuch House. Meanwhile, a bunch of zombies escape from their cells.
EERIE #90 (Warren, 1977) – The first four stories in this issue are all based on the cover, by Richard Corben, which shows a scantily clad woman sitting on a blue alligator-like monster. Confusingly, this same cover was used for Creepy #132, which also reprinted the Corben story from Eerie #90. “Carrion,” [W] Gerry Boudreau, [A] Gonzalo Mayo. A somewhat humorous fantasy story in which the woman and the monster fight an evil wizard, and in the end, the woman has to eat the monster to survive. “The Show Must Go On!”, [W] Roger McKenzie, [A] Leo Duranona. In this story the girl and the monster are the sole remaining employees of a carnival. This is the worst of the four stories inspired by the cover, because its plot is stupid, and because Leo Duranona is no good at drawing aliens. This story mentions a drink called “plevitz,” i.e. Paul Levitz. “A Woman Scorned,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Richard Corben. Easily the best of the four. Here the woman, Pamela, has the power to manipulate reality. But after her boyfriend cheated on her, she wished that the world would go away, and it did. Now the monster is unsuccessfully trying to get her to bring the world back. Corben’s art and coloring here are incredible. “The Fianchetto Affair,” [W] Bob Toomey, [A] José Ortiz. Man-eating alien monsters have taken over the earth. One of them, Dr. Shike, falls in love with a human, Lucinda, who’s being raised for meat, but his attempt to free her is unsuccessful, and the story ends with him eating her. This one is rather disgusting. The last story in the issue is not connected to the cover. The Rook: “Edge Surfers,” [W] Bill DuBay, [A] Alex Niño. This is perhaps the most beautiful Alex Niño story I’ve ever seen. Every page of this story is a sideways double-page splash, and Nino takes advantage of this massive amount of space by creating radical page layouts and detailed renderings of aliens. “Edge Surfers”’s writing takes a back seat to its artwork, but the story does have a coherent plot, in which the Rook makes peace between two alien races at the edge of the universe. Alex Niño is a masterful artist, and it’s a shame that he’s rarely worked with writers who were capable of taking advantage of his talent.
SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON LOST IN SPACE #24 (Gold Key, 1967) – “The Savage Earth,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Dan Spiegle. The family travels to prehistoric Earth, where they visit Atlantis before its collapse. This issue’s backup story, by the same creator, includes an engineer named Scotty who speaks in a vaguely Scottish accent. It’s possible that this character was inspired by Scotty from Star Trek, but it’s also possible that both characters were inspired by a history of stereotypical depictions of engineers as Scottish. The reason for the stereotype is because Scotland was on the cutting edge of the Industrial Revolution.
THE MAXX #7 (Image, 1994) – “Maxx vs. Pitt,” [W/A] Sam Kieth, [W] William Messner-Loebs. The Maxx encounters Pitt, Image’s other version of the Hulk, in the Outback. In the real world, Mr. Gone, disguised as a clay brick, asks Sarah to smuggle him into Julie’s apartment. This issue includes some beautiful painted depictions of Outback monsters.
CEREBUS #235 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1998) – “Going Home 4,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Sadly this is another issue where not much happens. Cerebus spends most of the issue watching Jaka sleep and wondering how he can clean her clothes for her. This issue includes some elaborate page layouts, but also a lot of pages that consist of at least 50% negative space. If every issue of Cerebus had included as much narrative content as a typical chapter of “High Society,” then Cerebus would have been the most massive epic ever created in comics form. Instead, Sim chose to create dozens of issues like this one, in which nothing happens at all.
THE PHANTOM #1266 (Frew, 2000) – “Fight Evil! Conclusion,” [W] Claes Reimerthi, [A] Romano Felmang. The Phantom teams up with policewoman Joanne Fitzgerald to solve some murders in Morristown. The culprit proves to be a rejected applicant to the Jungle Patrol. The murderer was angry because he was unable to follow in the footsteps of his father, a patrolman killed in the line of duty. Joanne Fitzgerald is an effective partner for the Phantom, perhaps more so than Diana, who is not really an action heroine.
2000 AD #1684 (Rebellion, 2010) – Dredd: “The Talented Mayor Ambrose Part 11,” as #1683 above. Dredd kills Inga the robot, then discovers that it’s got Mayor Ambrose’s DNA on it. Damnation Station: as above. The humans defeat the armadillo aliens. Zombo: as above. Again, this story is very gruesome, but I don’t understand what it’s about. Ichabod Azrael: as above. I guess the plot here is that Ichabod is dead, but he’s trying to come back to life. Dom Reardon’s art style in this story, as elsewhere, is far less detailed than that of other 2000 AD artists, and some of his pages have a ton of empty space. Again it seems as if Rebellion was trying to save money by hiring him. Nikolai Dante: as above. We begin with a flashback in which Dante sleeps with a woman named Jena. Ten years later, Nikolai duels Jena’s new boyfriend, Dmitri, and Dmitri causes Nikolai to explode or something.
LOVE & ROCKETS #10 (Fantagraphics, 2021) – [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez & Jaime Hernandez. I forgot to read this when it came out. The Beto stories in this issue are mostly about Fritz’s daughter Rosy. As an example of my lack of familiarity with Beto’s recent work, I was like, wait, isn’t Fritz’s daughter Venus? But no, Venus is Fritz’s niece. Also, I forgot Doralis had died of cancer. In the Jaime stories, Tonta is initially afraid of Maggie, but eventually she encounters Maggie at the beach and discovers that she’s not so bad.
EERIE #82 (Warren, 1977) – “The Man Whom Time Forgot!”, [W] Bill DuBay, [A] Luis Bermejo. This is the first appearance of The Rook, who became Warren’s most notable continuing character other than Vampirella. This story begins in media res, as Restin Dane – known as Rook because he travels through time in a machine shaped like a chess rook – has just returned from a time trip to 1874. With him is his great-great-grandfather, later named as Bishop Dane. Then Rook goes even further back in time to the battle of the Alamo, where he tries to rescue an earlier ancestor, Parrish Dane. Rook fails to save Parrish, but does save a young boy who later grows up to be Bishop. This is an entertaining story, but it’s tough to remember which of Rook’s ancestors is which. Tombspawn: “The Game is Afoot,” [W] Gerry Boudreau, [A] Carmine Infantino. A weird SFF story that I couldn’t quite follow. The first page is formatted like a board game. Scallywag: “Castle of the Assassin,” [W] Budd Lewis, [A] José Ortiz. An old Irish sea captain fights some ninjas. Besides Maroto, José Ortiz was perhaps the best of Warren’s Spanish artists. He was a master of black-and-white art, particularly spotting of blacks. However, Budd Lewis shows very limited knowledge of ninjas; he seems to have thought they were a clan or an ethnic group, not a profession. “The Pea Green Boat,” [W] Budd Lewis, [A] Leopoldo Sanchez. In a postapocalyptic world, two friends try to investigate some sunken World War II ships for canned food. They’re interrupted by raiders (of the type that always appear in postapocalyptic stories) who demand the food for themselves. One of the friends kills the raiders using the cannon of a tank that was in one of the sunken ships. An obvious question here is, would the cannon still be able to fire after being submerged for so many years?
WONDER WOMAN #194 (DC, 1971) – “The Prisoner,” [W/A] Mike Sekowsky. This story is an obvious gender-swapped version of The Prisoner of Zenda, and it even says on page two that it’s adapted from a story by Anthony Hope. Diana goes to visit the small European country of Paldonia, and discovers that she looks exactly like the country’s princess, Fabiola. When Fabiola is kidnapped by a would-be usurper, Diana has to substitute for her, which is a bit inconvenient because Fabiola is about to get married. This is a fun story from the best Wonder Woman run between those of Marston and Pérez.
DENNIS THE MENACE GIANT #75 (Fawcett, 1969) – [W/A] unknown. A collection of Christmas stories, with a common theme of maintaining the Christmas spirit all year round. Oddly, these stories seem to take place over two different Christmases, but Dennis doesn’t get any older. This comic’s indicia just says DENNIS THE MENACE MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU with no issue number.
HATE #25 (Fantagraphics, 1996) – “It Had to Happen,” [W/A] Peter Bagge w/ Jim Blanchard. Early in this issue there’s a scene where Buddy and Jay are very rude to their customers. This reminded me of a similar scene in Eltingville Club #1, and I had to pause writing this review in order to write a paragraph about that scene for my book manuscript. Anyway, the main event this issue is that Buddy’s girlfriend Lisa goes out and never comes back, and Buddy tries to track her down, greatly inconveniencing Jay in the process. When Buddy does find Lisa, she makes it clear that they’re broken up. That didn’t stick, because a few issues later they got married.
ACTION COMICS #512 (DC, 1980) – “Luthor’s Day of Reckoning!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. Lex Luthor has reformed and has gotten engaged to a bald woman named Angela. But we soon discover that it’s all part of a complex plot. Luthor has hypnotized himself into thinking he’s reformed, and he’s created a clone of the real Angela, who’s died of an illness. The point of all this was to trick Superman into kissing the bride at Luthor and Angela’s wedding. This story is stupidly convoluted, and also very cruel. The last panel shows Luthor with tears streaming down his face, and I suspect that Cary Bates actually enjoyed inflicting this sort of psychological torture on his characters. This issue includes an Air-Wave backup story.
CAPTAIN AMERICA #10 (Marvel, 2019) – “Captain of Nothing Part IV,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Adam Kubert. Cap fights Baron Strucker in prison. Cap’s ruminations in this issue are somewhat interesting, but TNC’s Captain America run, like his Black Panther run, was crippled by overly slow pacing. I think that he’s an essayist at heart and not a fiction writer, and he doesn’t have a fiction writer’s sense of narrative momentum or rhythm.
CEREBUS #236 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1998) – “Going Home 5,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Another issue in which something happens! Jaka goes shopping for clothes, then she attends a party where everyone treats her like a celebrity, while Cerebus goes off alone to drink. After the party, Jaka discovers that there are loyalists who are willing to launch a rebellion on her behalf. Again, Cerebus would have been better if every issue had included this much content. And also if Dave hadn’t gone nuts. This issue’s letter page includes another one of his typical misogynistic rants. Early in this issue, Cerebus casually mentions “where Iest used to be.” This is a disturbing example of the series’ descent into narrative incoherence. Until this point I didn’t even realize that Iest, the setting of more than 100 earlier issues, had been destroyed. And I don’t think it’s ever explained just when, why or how this happened.
THE PHANTOM #1355 (Frew, 2003) – “Hostage of the Singh Pirates,” [W] Ulf Granberg, [A] Jaime Vallve. In a reprinted story from the ‘70s, Diana is kidnapped by the Phantom’s archenemies, the Singh Pirates. The Phantom has to invade the pirates’ underwater base to rescue her. Jaime Vallve’s art style reminds me of that of Don Newton or Alan Davis, and he was really good at drawing underwater action.
2000 AD #1685 (Rebellion, 2010) – Dredd: as above. Dredd and Hershey look for evidence against Ambrose/PJ Maybe. Savage: “Crims Part 1,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Patrick Goddard. Savage browbeats some guy into giving him access codes to a sewer, then shoots him. We learn that Savage’s goal is to destroy a particle accelerator underneath London. Then he shoots the guy. Nikolai Dante: “A Farewell to Arms,” [W] Robbie Morrison, [A] Simon Fraser. Nikolai has a bunch of bizarre dreams or visions, then wakes up in a field hospital. Ichabod Azrael: as above. Ichabod Azrael meets an old man who looks like Odin.
DENNIS THE MENACE BONUS MAGAZINE SERIES #91 (Fawcett, 1971) – “Hearing Things” etc., [W] Fred Toole, [A] Al Wiseman. A large number of stories, all reprinted from Dennis the Menace #34, #39 and #40. I’ve read at least one of these issues, so I’ve already seen the story where Dennis meets Gina for the first time. Of the stories I haven’t read before, the best is the one where Dennis’s dad thinks he needs to replace his entire duct system, because the heat isn’t working, but the real problem is that Dennis’s teddy bear is stuck in the pipes. And Dennis keeps trying to tell his dad this, but Henry won’t listen. There’s another story where Dennis is babysat by two teenage girls who talk to him in jive talk. This must have been cringeworthy even when first published in 1960.
LUKE CAGE #5 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] David F. Walker, [A] Nelson Blake II. The end of a boring story about Noah Burstein. This Luke Cage series was far worse than its predecessor, Power Man & Iron Fist, because it had neither an interesting supporting cast, nor Sanford Greene artwork. This series was cancelled after five more issues.
NIGHT’S DOMINION SEASON TWO #2 (Oni, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Ted Naifeh. I stopped reading this series after the first issue or two, so I couldn’t follow this issue’s plot. I wish I’d been reading Night’s Dominion more regularly.
AQUAMAN #46 (DC, 1998) – “Fish Tartarus,” [W] Peter David, [A] Jim Calafiore. The title is a silly pun on “fish tartare.” Aquaman intentionally dies and goes to Tartarus to resurrect the dead Poseidon, so he can deal with his son Triton, who’s been terrorizing Atlantis. By this point PAD’s Aquaman was running out of steam, but this issue isn’t bad.
WARLORD #18 (DC, 1979) – “Bloodmoon,” [W/A] Mike Grell. Morgan and Tara are abducted by some aliens, from the planet of Alces Shirasi, who travel in a spaceship that looks like a red moon. “Alces Shirasi” sounds like an acronym for something, but Googling shows that it’s the scientific name for a subspecies of moose. Morgan gets de-evolved into a minotaur, but he and Tara escape and continue looking for their son.
G.I. JOE #36 (Marvel, 1985) – “All the Ships at Sea,” [W] Larry Hama, [A] Rod Whigham. This issue intercuts between several sequences: two sea battles (or parts of the same battle) between Cobra and GI Joe, and Cobra’s attempt to kidnap Snake Eyes and Scarlett. This issue is pretty exciting, because Larry knows how to edit the sequences together so as to create maximum tension. The most memorable scene in the issue is the one where the Joes keep getting the Cobra gunners to point their guns in the wrong direction.
BACCHUS #12 (Eddie Campbell, 1996) – “King Bacchus Part 11: Proportion and Perspective,” [W/A] Eddie Campbell. Collage announces her pregnancy, and a prospective bridegroom gets dropped out a window. Then there are two older stories, both of which I’ve previously read in Deadface: Doing the Islands with Bacchus #2, and then an interesting text essay about the difficulties of printing comics in Australia.
CEREBUS #243 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1999) – “Going Home 12,” [W/A] Dave Sim. While sailing on a riverboat, Cerebus and Jaka meet F. Stop Kennedy, a.k.a. F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Cerebus has visions of Rick baptizing people. This is a fairly boring issue.
2000 AD #1686 (Rebellion, 2010) – Dredd: as above except [A] Mike Collins. Dredd figures out that PJ Maybe impersonated Mayor Ambrose by exchanging his own DNA records with Ambrose’s. That’s the end of this story arc. Savage: as above. Savage attends the funeral of a crook named Tommy Cleever. Damnation Station: “A Bone to Be Chewed Part 1,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Simon Davis. A French-speaking, white-bearded sea captain fights a giant monstrous shark. I have no idea how this story connects to the previous Damnation Station story, with the armadillo aliens. Ichabod Azrael: as above. The old man can’t be Odin because he has two eyes. Each of the previous couple chapters had just one color panel, but this chapter has 2/3 of a page worth of color.
THE PHANTOM #1363 (Frew, 2003) – “The Treasure in Ronda,” [W] Per-Erik Hedman, [A] Carlos Cruz. The 17th Phantom visits the town of Ronda in southern Spain. There he meets young Rosa, her boyfriend Juan, and Juan’s mother Mercedes. Rosa and Mercedes are the last heirs to a treasure buried by the Moors on their expulsion from Spain. Juan is an aspiring bullfighter, and in order to browbeat Mercedes into revealing the treasure’s location, a villain forces Juan to fight four bulls at once. The Phantom saves Juan and helps locate the treasure. He receives Juan’s bullfighting suit as a memento, and centuries later, Diana wears the suit and looks very attractive in it. Ronda is a real town in Andalusia, and this story, like most historical Phantom stories, feels historically accurate. According to Lambiek, Carlos Cruz himself was from this area of Spain.
DARK HORSE MAVERICK 2000 (Dark Horse, 2000) – [E] Diana Schulz. A collection of short stories by an all-star lineup of artists. In “Mercy” by Frank Miller, a drunk driver hits a deer, killing his passenger and fatally injuring himself and the deer. A hunter comes and shoots the deer to put it out of its misery, but on seeing the driver’s open bottle, the hunter spits on the driver and leaves him to his fate. The highlight of the issue is a new Concrete story, “Family Night,” in which Concrete and Larry get into a car accident, and while looking for help, Concrete saves an abused woman from being shot by her husband. Then later on, Concrete talks to his friend Burke Klugelhorn about how “families are overrated.” Afterward Concrete goes home to Larry and Maureen, and it’s subtly implied that these people are Concrete’s found family. Other stories in the issue are by Scott Morse, Stan Sakai (a two-pager about a trip to Norway), Jason Pearson, Brian Ralph and Dylan Horrocks. The latter’s story is an adaptation of the Middle English poem “Western Wind.”
POWER MAN & IRON FIST #103 (Marvel, 1984) – “Doombringer,” [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Greg LaRocque. Luke and Danny try to protect two rival Middle Eastern diplomats from being assassinated. This comic is okay, but it’s full of Arab stereotypes. The highlight of the issue is when Misty and Colleen, on a visit to the country of one of the diplomats, find a doll belonging to a child who was killed in a terrorist attack.
INCREDIBLE SCIENCE FICTION #11 (EC, 1956/1995) – This reprints Incredible Science Fiction #33, the last comic book EC published. “Big Moment,” [W] Jack Oleck, [A] Wally Wood. In a postapocalyptic future, all the animals and plants have grown really big, while humans have stayed the same size. The few surviving humans discover that in fact everything else has stayed the same, and humans have gotten smaller. This is a dumb story, though it has good artwork. “Kaleidoscope,” [W] Oleck, [A] Jack Davis. Humans have been enslaved by Venusians. An old man builds a spaceship and uses it to fly through the shield the Venusians have built around Earth, but then we see that the old man is just imagining his escape. “One Way Hero,” [W] Oleck, [A] Bernie Krigstein. Would-be astronaut Johnny Sawyer tells another astronaut about how he wanted to be an astronaut like his big brother Mart, but instead he (Johnny) became marooned on Mars forever, because on his first space voyage, he discovers that the immensity of space causes him to go crazy. Johnny doesn’t realize that the person to whom he’s telling this story is Mart himself, who has suffered the exact same fate. I wouldn’t have guessed this story was by Krigstein, because it includes none of his trademark page layouts. “An Eye for an Eye,” [W] unknown, [A] Angelo Torres. Jo-Sep and Lita think they’re the only non-mutated humans in the world. After Lita is killed, Jo-Sep finds some people who he believes to be other normal humans, but he discovers that they have gills, and they kill him. When Jo-Sep dies, we learn that he had a third eye on the back of his neck. This story did not appear in the original version of Incredible Science Fiction #33 because it was rejected by the Code. After some cursory research I’m still not sure why it was rejected, but I’m guessing it was because the main characters are half-naked. Instead, Gaines decided to reprint “Judgment Day” from Weird Fantasy #18. That led to the famous phone call where Code administrator Charles Murphy declared that the last panel of “Judgment Day” had to be changed to a white man, thus rendering the story meaningless. Gaines and Feldstein both refused to do that, and Murphy “compromised” by telling them to just take off the beads of sweat, and Gaines and Feldstein both shouted “Fuck you!”
CLASSIC STAR WARS #6 (Dark Horse, 1993) – untitled, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Al Williamson. This issue consists of reprinted newspaper strips. Luke says goodbye to his love interest Tanith Shire, a character who only appeared in these strips. Then the Millennium Falcon gets trapped in a spaceship graveyard. Al Williamson’s draftsmanship in these sequences is beautiful, but the panels are all chopped up and rearranged, making it impossible to appreciate Williamson’s storytelling.
ONI DOUBLE FEATURE #11 (Oni, 1999) – This issue’s inside front cover has a new Usagi Yojimbo strip. Blue Monday: “Sherlockette,” [W/A] Chynna Clugston-Major. Bleu Finnegan is falsely accused of stealing the school mascot’s head, and she has to prove who really did it. This story is inspired by the Buster Keaton film Sherlock Jr, which I have not seen. “Drive-By Part 2,” [W] Steven T. Seagle, [A] Jan Solheim. A white male photographer visits a black neighborhood and browbeats a black woman until she lets him photograph her. Afterward, the man is killed in a drive-by shooting. It seems to me that this story is trying to be anti-racist, but is in fact racist. The white man blatantly harasses and patronizes the black woman, and he intrudes himself into a black space, as the woman herself points out. I read the previous chapter of the story and discovered that a month ago, the man witnessed the woman being beaten, but refused to intervene. So I guess by trying to photograph her, he thinks he’s helping her somehow, but he’s really just indulging his white savior complex. Chapter 1 of the story depicts the man’s girlfriend as a blatant racist, but he himself is no better. It’s not clear whether the creators intend to endorse his behavior, but they endorse it anyway by making him the protagonist. At least Jan Solheim’s art is interesting; his style recalls that of Jason or Mark Beyer.
CAPTAIN AMERICA #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Winter in America Part 4,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Leinil Francis Yu. Steve Rogers tries to rescue Sharon Carter, who’s being held in prison in Alberia. This is another boring issue. To expand on my earlier review of #10, TNC’s stories tend to be slow, meditative, and more concerned with ideas than action. All of those things are advantages in a nonfiction essay, but are fatal flaws in a superhero comic.
DOMINO #7 (Marvel, 2018) – “Soldier of Fortune Part 1,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] David Baldeon. A Wakandan woman hires Domino and her companions to retrieve a box from somewhere in far northern Europe. To recover the box, Domino and friends have to fight through a horde of vampires. They open the box and find Michael Morbius inside. This comic is funny, but like much of Gail’s writing, it feels like it lacks depth or sincerity. But at least it’s a lot more fun than Captain America #4.
Next trip to Heroes, on Sunday, May 22:
NIGHTWING #92 (DC, 2022) – “The Battle for Blüdhaven’s Heart,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo. This issue begins with a flashback sequence in which a teenaged Dick Grayson intervenes in a riot, against Batman’s orders, and is injured. Alfred prevents Bruce from punishing Dick. The brilliant thing about this sequence is that it’s colored in an old-fashioned flat style, with lots of visible halftone dots (https://www.instagram.com/p/Cd3oenhraEk/). When we return to the present-day sequence, the color palette is totally different, and this creates the sense of a sharp distinction. Then in the present, Dick prevents Alfred’s memorial park from being destroyed by rioters. The two-page splash with Dick thinking “I leap in” is just a stunning moment. Overall, Nightwing is the best current comic set in either the DC or Marvel universes, and it would be a worthy recipient of the Eisner for Best Continuing Series, though I didn’t vote for it in that category. Its main problem is that the main villain, Blockbuster, is identical to the Kingpin.
CROSSOVER #13 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Geoff Shaw. The assembled superheroes combine to defeat Negan, but Donny Cates is mortally wounded, thus literalizing the metaphor of the death of the author. With his last breath, Cates realizes that comics are created by artists, not writers, and so what Ellie and Ryan need to do next is “kill Geoff Shaw.”
GRIM #1 (Boom!, 2022) – “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” [W] Stephanie Phillips, [A] Flaviano. Bryan Andrews is killed in a car accident, and a Grim Reaper, Jessica Harrow, collects his soul. But Bryan steals Jessica’s scythe and returns to the world of the living, and when Jessica goes looking for him, she discovers that she can be seen by mortals. I wasn’t super impressed with Stephanie Williams’s writing in either Nuclear Family or Nubia, but Grim has an intriguing premise, and Flaviano’s art style is quite distinctive, thanks in large part to Rico Renzi’s moody coloring. This comic reminds me of Grim Fandango. I’ve never finished that game, but I want to return to it soon.
HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER #6 (Boom!, 2022) – “Scarlet Part One,” [W] Sam Johns, [A] Letizia Cadonici. I groaned when I saw the name “Johns” on this comic’s cover, but to my relief, it’s not Geoff Johns. In this new story, there’s a rash of unexplained eye injuries at a summer camp. Edwin, a House of Slaughter agent who draws monsters as a hobby, visits the camp to investigate. So far I’m not sure what to think about this story.
FARMHAND #17 (Image, 2022) – “The Bridge,” [W/A] Rob Guillory. Ezekiel has developed an “inhibitor” that can protect Jacob’s patients against Monica Thorne’s influence, but a lot of the patients refuse to take it for ideological reasons. Gee, could that be a metaphor for some real-world event that’s happened since the last Farmhand storyline? The last patient Ezekiel is supposed to contact is Jacob Roy, but he was killed in the previous storyline, and now his young daughter is infected with the plague. Afterward, Thorne’s agent, Joe Thibodeaux, blackmails Ezekiel by threatening to reveal that Ezekiel cheated on his wife while she was pregnant. Then Monica herself tells Ezekiel “You are the seed.” Issue 16 was mostly devoted to reestablishing the premise of the series, but issue 17 significantly advances the plot.
EIGHT BILLION GENIES #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. For no apparent reason, every person on Earth acquires a personal genie that can grant one wish for them. In St. Clair Shores, Michigan, a bar owner is smart enough to wish “that no wish made outside this bar can affect the bar or anyone or anything inside it.” So the bar is safe, but outside, all sorts of ridiculous chaos is going on. This is a fascinating setup, and this series feels like a worthy successor to Curse Words.
SEVEN SECRETS #17 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. Usually Seven Secrets is one of the first comics I read, but this week I was more excited about Nightwing, and I didn’t want to read two Tom Taylor comics in a row. This issue, two of Caspar’s allies reveal themselves as Ching Shih (the pirate queen) and Alexander the Great, and they sacrifice their lives so that Caspar can come back to life as a god.
BLACK HAMMER REBORN #12 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Caitlin Yarsky. Skulldigger becomes Spacedigger. Colonel Weird takes Lucy to the new Black Hammer Farm, and she decides to stay there with her kids. Anti-God returns. This was the least exciting of the three main Black Hammer series, and it feels like just a prologue to the forthcoming Black Hammer: The End.
USAGI YOJIMBO #28 (Dark Horse, 2022) – “The Long Road,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi and Yukichi encounter an art dealer who’s being attacked by bandits. They fail to save the dealer, but they decide to guard his apprentice so he can deliver the jade statue that the dealer was carrying. But Usagi discovers that the apprentice is in league with the bandits. The bandits kill the apprentice, Usagi and Yukichi kill the bandits, and then Usagi proposes that he and Yukichi should keep the statue for themselves. Yukichi recoils at this idea, and Usagi reveals that he was just testing Yukichi. This was an entertaining story, but I got the feeling that Usagi and Yukichi’s behavior was just a little dishonest. In particular, it’s a bit creepy when they force the apprentice to let them accompany him, even if he does later turn out to be a traitor.
2000 AD #2234 (Rebellion, 2021) – There were five prog packs waiting for me at Heroes last week, but I decided to just buy two of them and save the other three for next time. I’ve been getting these prog packs out of order, so the two that I bought were much earlier than the ones I got in February. I still haven’t received progs #2230 to #2233. Dredd: “Adios, Rowdy Yates,” [W/A] Chris Weston. Rowdy Yates Block, where Dredd used to live with Walter and Maria, is being demolished. A sniper tries to stop the demolition, but Dredd gets rid of him, and the sniper is crushed by a statue of Rowdy Yates. A joke in this story is that no one knows who Rowdy Yates was. Neither did I, but it seems that he was Clint Eastwood’s character on Rawhide. Mechastopheles: “The Hunting Party Part 1,” [W] Gordon Rennie & Lawrence Rennie, [A] Boo Cook. I have no idea what this story is about. Department K: “Cosmic Chaos Part 1,” [W] Rory McConville, [A] Dan Cornwell. Department K is the division of the Judges that deals with extradimensional affairs. This issue, a starfish-like alien begs them to help save his home dimension from “dark and sinister forces.” Feral & Foe II: “Part Ten,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Richard Elson. This is the one about the adventuring party whose minds are in the wrong bodies. This issue, the witch Golgone reveals that Phaeton Gyre’s body was the host for Haggart Morn, an even greater villain. Chimpsky’s Law: “The Talented Mr. Chimpsky Part 1,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] P.J. Holden. Chimp detective Noam Chimpsky is hired to solve a murder mystery among the Jepperson family, who are responsible for creating Chimpsky’s race of intelligent apes. Noam Chimpsky was also the hero of the Captain Cookies story in progs 2221-224. There was also a real ape named Nim Chimpsky. Both names, of course, are references to Noam Chomsky.
SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #11 (DC, 2022) – “The Right Path,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Cian Tormey. Jon and Pa Kent try to calm Batman’s suspicions about Jay. Jon realizes that Bendix put a bomb inside Lachlan, who Jon brought to the Justice League satellite in an earlier issue. (though Lachlan’s name wasn’t mentioned before), and Jon has to team up with Flash and Atom to save both Lachlan and the JLA. This issue is full of entertaining interactions between characters, including Nightwing, who makes a cameo appearance.
BUNNY MASK: THE HOLLOW INSIDE #1 (AfterShock, 2022) – “Something is Missing,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Andrea Mutti. Tyler is still having visions of Bunny Mask, he still has unresolved sexual tensions with Bee, and Bunny Mask is still killing people. This is mostly an introductory issue, and it includes few major plot developments.
NOCTERRA #10 (Image, 2022) – “Pedal to the Metal 1/4,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Tony Daniel. The team infiltrates the Luna facility, where Blacktop Bill was created. They find the location of Eos, but then they’re attacked by William, who’s even worse than Bill. Adam tries to save the protagonists by shutting off the power to Luna, even though that exposes them to being eaten by giant shark shades. This issue is more exciting than #9 was.
NEW MASTERS #4 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Shobo Coker, [A] Shof Coker. Ola’s family are captured by Tosin’s agents, who want the data that the family stole last issue. Ola and her uncle manage to escape from their ship, and they’re rescued by the Star Pilots who guard the Temple of Benin. I don’t know if the pilots or the temple are based on anything in particular. I assume that Benin here refers to Benin City in Nigeria, not the country of Benin. In real life, Benin City is about 200 miles from Lagos.
SANDMAN UNIVERSE: NIGHTMARE COUNTRY #2 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Lisandro Estherren. Madison and the Corinthian visit Lucien’s library in the Dreaming. Then two creepy-looking villains set fire to Madison’s apartment. This comic’s description of Lucien’s library is very evocative, but in general, this series isn’t quite as interesting as Tynion’s other titles. But he has been setting an extremely high standard.
HUMAN REMAINS #8 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Sally Cantirino. Predictably, Reverend Hays’s outdoor prayer meeting leads to a massive monster attack, but Anjali takes the Oregon fungus and survives contact with the monsters, proving that the fungus works. Six months later, the widespread adoption of the fungus has allowed life to return to normal, but there are some people who’d rather be eaten by monsters than take the cure. The analogy to the COVID vaccine becomes obvious at this point, but it comes as a surprise because up until now, Human Remains didn’t seem to be about COVID at all. Overall, Human Remains was Peter Milligan’s best miniseries in I don’t know how long.
DUO #1 (DC, 2022) – “Part One,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Khoi Pham. Scientists and lovers Kelly Vu and David Kim have developed a nanotech process that allows for telepathic connections between people. The “Healerist” corporation refuses to fund their project, but offers to buy it for a billion dollars. When Kelly and David refuse, Healerist sets fire to their apartment. David wakes up to find that Kelly was killed in the fire, and the nanotech saved him by using material from her body to repair his. But then David realizes he can see Kelly in his mind. This is a fascinating new comic, though its premise is a cross between Firestorm and Dr. Mirage. There’s no particular reason why it has to be a Milestone title and not a DC title. I notice that the surnames Vu and Kim are Vietnamese and Korean, respectively, and those are also the ethnicities of Pham and Pak themselves (again in that order).
I HATE THIS PLACE #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Artyom Toplin. In a prologue, a criminal shoots two other criminals. Later, Gabrielle and her partner Trudy move onto a cattle ranch that Gabrielle inherited from her aunt Marilyn. They soon discover that the ranch is rather unusual, and they find a videotape in which Marilyn tells them that they can never leave, and also the house is extremely haunted. Also, one of their farmhands is the same criminal from the prologue. I Hate This Place #1 is a scary horror comic, but the cute interplay between Gabby and Trudy keeps it from being too oppressive.
JURASSIC LEAGUE #1 (DC, 2022) – “The Jurassic League!”, [W/A] Juan Gedeon, [W] Daniel Warren Johnson. The Justice League, but with dinosaurs. This is a super-fun premise, and Gedeon and Johnson succeed in exploiting its potential for humor and awesomeness. This is the first of Johnson’s comics that I can recall reading, but he was nominated for a bunch of Eisners.
2000 AD #2235 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: “Brief Encounter,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Dylan Teague. Dredd arrests a bunch of criminals, then makes them wait hours to be processed. While waiting, two of the criminals fall in love. But when the bus finally arrives to take them to prison, they’re separated, and they realize they don’t know each other’s names. This story’s title is a reference to an old British movie about a similarly doomed romance. Ken Niemand is a very clever writer, and I hope he gets hired to write comics for the American market, as so many other 2000 AD writers have done. Mechastopheles: as above. Still no idea what this story is about. Department K: as above. The Department K agents travel to the dimension of the alien, Trill, and are attacked by an army of sharp-toothed armored aliens. Feral & Foe II: as above. Golgone tries to destroy Haggart Morn’s spirit, but discovers that the spirit possessing Phaeton Gyre was not Morn, because Morn is already possessing Krod, the orc-like protagonist. Chimpsky’s Law: as above. We meet the Jeppersons, who are all examples of various stereotypes, and the mandrill who bosses around their chimp servants. Then more Jeppersons get murdered.
BATGIRLS #6 (DC, 2022) – “One Way or Another Part 6,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad, [A] Jorge Corona. The Batgirls defeat Spellbinder and Tutor, and we’re made to think that Steph was killed, but really it was just the car, Bondo, that was destroyed. On the last page, a woman with giant green spectacles asks for the Batgirls’ help. This whole storyline was excellent, but it’s too bad Jorge Corona won’t be back next issue. I hope to see his art again soon.
KAIJU SCORE: STEAL FROM THE GODS #2 (AfterShock, 2022) – “Whatever It Takes,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Rem Broo. Michelle and her allies prepare to travel down the kaiju god’s throat, while also dodging Carlito’s hired assassins. Then we learn that Javier, Michelle’s current employer, is planning to betray her. This is a fun crime comic, and Michelle is a compelling protagonist. Because I like her, it scares me when she keeps getting into worse and worse predicaments. However, this comic still has too much “score” and not enough “kaiju.”
WEST OF SUNDOWN #2 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Aaron Campbell, [A] Jim Terry. In a flashback, we see how Constance – originally Rosa – became a vampire at birth, when her father accidentally killed her mother. Constance and Dooley reach Constance’s home soil in New Mexico, but it’s already occupied by a scary cult. This series is an impressive example of the rare genre of historical horror, and it could be one of Tim Seeley’s best series.
2000 AD #2236 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “Removal Man Part One,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Colin MacNeil. Bick Bickford, an assassin, is trying to earn enough money to buy a new robot body for his dying wife. Bick takes out a contract to assassinate a man who Judge Dredd is about to arrest, but he allows himself to be seen by a young boy. Mechastopheles: as above. This chapter features a giant octopus and a giant robot. I still don’t know what this story’s premise is. Department K: as above. The Department K agents discover that there’s a rift in Trill’s dimension, caused by an interdimensional “locust,” i.e. a super-powerful alien. And the locust has somehow been killed by something even more powerful. Chimpsky’s Law: as above. There are a bunch more murders, and after Chimpsky saves another ape from being blown out an airlock along with two of the Jeppersons, Chimpsky himself becomes the prime suspect. This is one of the more entertaining 2000 AD stories of 2021. Feral & Foe II: as above. The other two protagonists are forced to kill Krod/Morn, who has already dealt with Golgone. So now the protagonists are heroes, but they’re broke and jobless.
FANTASTIC FOUR #43 (Marvel, 2022) – “Knight After Knight,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Rachael Stott. If this hadn’t been in my subscription folder, I wouldn’t have bought it. Reckoning War is the worst story Dan Slott has ever written. It lacks a clear premise, it’s too convoluted, and it’s so cosmic that the reader can’t take it seriously, because all of its plot developments (including the destruction of the moon) will inevitably be reversed as soon as it ends. In this issue, Slott digs the hole even deeper by including a panel where the Cormorant, a villain introduced in #25, defeats Squirrel Girl. This is a very lazy way of “selling” a new villain. Slott is saying: How powerful is the Cormorant? So powerful he did what Thanos, Dr. Doom and Galactus couldn’t: he beat Squirrel Girl! Also, after all the character development that Doreen got in her own series, it’s frustrating to see her used as cannon fodder. Dan Slott is responsible for Doreen’s popularity, but that doesn’t make it appropriate for him to treat her in this way. Since the next story after Reckoning War will be written by a guest writer, I think I’m just going to stop reading this series after this issue. I’ll start reading it again when Slott comes back, in the hope that he’ll remember how to write good comics.
SLUMBER #3 (Image, 2022) – “Under the Skin,” [W] Tyler Burton Smith, [A] Vanessa Cardinali. A flashback reveals that Stetson is looking for Valkira because Valkira abducted her daughter Lyla. Then Stetson finally locates Valkira inside Finch’s head, but Finch pulls a gun on Stetson, claiming that Valkira is his brother. The dream sequences in this comic seem very accurate; they have the irrational, associational logic of actual dreams.
WONDER WOMAN #787 (DC, 2022) – “The Villainy of Our Fears Part I,” [W] Michael W. Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Emanuela Lupacchino. The writers’ names are given in the opposite order here as in Batgirls. This issue Diana fights Altium; Diana hangs out with Siggy, Etta and Steve; and Dr. Psycho organizes a new Villainy Incorporated. I’m glad that that boring crossover is over, so that we can get back to stories about Diana.
KING CONAN #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “Conan vs. Conan,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mahmud Asrar. In a flashback, Conan fights his son Conn, then Conn reveals that he cares much more about the business of monarchical rule than Conan does, and Conan abdicates in Conn’s favor. The fight between the hero and his son is a common epic motif, appearing in the stories of Rustam and Cuchulain, as well as the German Hildebrandslied. The outcome of Conan and Conn’s fight also reminds me of Tennyson’s “Ulysses,” in which Odysseus leaves his kingdom to his more practical-minded son, then goes off to have some more adventures. Meanwhile, in the present-day sequence, Princess Matoaka is now named Princess Prima and is wearing much more clothing. It was clearly necessary to redesign and rename this character, but I do think it’s jarring that her sudden change of name and appearance is not mentioned either in the story or the letters page. On the other hand, when this story is reprinted, it will seem as if Princess Prima was always called that.
IRON FIST #3 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Alyssa Wong, [A] Michael YG & Sean Chen. Lin Lie’s big brother, Lin Feng, is possessed by the evil deity Chiyou. I only know that name from the Persona games. Meanwhile, Lin Lie embeds the Sword of Fu-Xi even deeper into his hands, so that he can fight the demon that was posing Mei Min’s dad. Then Lin Lie and friends travel to a tomb guarded by the Tribe of Nü-Wa. This comic, like Monkey Prince and Shang-Chi, is impressive because it draws heavily upon Chinese mythology and folklore. Fuxi and Nüwa are actual Chinese deities, and are often considered to be two of the Three Sovereigns, the mythological earliest rulers of China, although some sources don’t include Nüwa among the three. When she is included, the third sovereign is usually Shennong.
SHANG-CHI #12 (Marvel, 2022) – “Blood and Monsters Finale,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Marcus To. Chieftain Xin steals six of the ten rings. Shang-Chi pursues him and gets the six rings back, but then has to resist being corrupted by his father’s influence as he’s using them. Shang-Chi defeats Xin and returns the Ten Rings to the Jade Emperor, and the Five Weapons disperse. But then the Ten Rings appear to Shang-Chi again, thus setting the stage for the next miniseries.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: SYMBOL OF TRUTH #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Homeland Part 1,” [W] Tochi Onyebuchi, [A] R.B. Silva. I was hesitant to read this because I’ve been unimpressed by Onyebuchi’s Black Panther Legends. But this issue is really impressive. It begins with an exciting action scene in which Sam teams up with the new Falcon, but the real highlight is Sam’s not-a-date with Misty Knight. The dialogue here is realistic, and touches on some deep issues. I especially like the moment where Sam criticizes people who want to leave America for Wakanda. Hunter/White Wolf appears at the end of the issue, suggesting that Wakanda will have a significant role in this storyline.
WHAT IF…? MILES MORALES #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “What If Miles Morales Became the Hulk?”, [W] Anthony Piper, [A] Edgar Salazar. Easily the best issue of the series so far. It has entertaining dialogue and characterization, and it offers a logical way that the scenario in the title could have happened. It also stresses the basic similarity between Miles and Peter: they both suffered a foundational trauma involving an uncle, although “our” Miles’s uncle was not killed by a criminal, but became a criminal himself. A funny moment in this issue is when Miles Hulks out after stepping on a Lego.
2000 AD #2237 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Bickford kills the boy who saw him shoot Manning, but an entire busload of tourists witnesses Bickford’s murder of the boy. So now I can guess where this storyline is going: the number of people Bickford needs to kill will keep escalating. Mechastopheles: as above. Again, no idea what’s going on here. Department K: as above. The team travels inside the locust’s body. Skip Tracer: “Eden Part One,” [W] James Peaty, [A] Paul Marshall. Based on the title, this story must be about a bounty hunter, but other than that I don’t understand it. Chimpsky’s Law: as above. Chimpsky figures out that the space mansion’s AI was involved in all but one of the murders, but the Jeppersons insist on believing Chimpsky himself is the killer. Chimpsky escapes from the mandrill, but decides to continue solving the crime, even though he would be totally justified in leaving the Jeppersons to their fate.
X-MEN RED #2 (Marvel, 2022) – “Man on Fire,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Stefano Caselli. Vulcan goes insane, thinking that his dead friends Petra and Sway are with him. An Arakko village is attacked by alien Progenitors, and Agent Brand and Storm’s groups team up to defeat the aliens. Afterward, Storm beats Vulcan in a fight, but Agent Brand convinces Vulcan to join the Arakko council.
2000 AD #2238 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Bick prepares to assassinate the busload of elderly people who witnessed his previous murder. Meanwhile, Dredd begins to close in on Bick. One of the pseudonyms Bick uses in this story is Upton O’Good, i.e. “up to no good.” Aquila: “The Rivers of Hades Book One: Part 1,” [W] Gordon Rennie, [A] Patrick Goddard. Three Greek or Roman soldiers travel to Hades, despite still being alive, for reasons that I don’t understand. I guess some of these stories would make more sense if I would read the explanatory blurbs at the start of each prog. I don’t know why I never do that. Department K: as above. Afua has a vision of the locust’s death, and a giant living pyramid appears in the sky. Afua is probably not named after Afua Richardson; the name is a common one in Ghana, given to girls born on Friday. Skip Tracer: as above. Nolan Blake, aka Skip Tracer, meets his latest client, but the client leads him into a trap. Chimpsky’s Law: as above. Chimpsky discovers that the entity he thought was the ship’s AI is actually Amanda Jepperson, the original creator of the evolved apes. And besides killing her relatives, she decides to subject Chimpsky to some kind of surgery.
BLOOD SYNDICATE SEASON ONE #1 (DC/Milestone, 2022) – “Across 220th St.,” [W] Geoffrey Thorne, [A] Chriscross. A soldier returns from Sadaqah (i.e. Iraq) to Dakota, which, in the wake of Icon and Rocket’s cleanup of the local criminals, is now being terrorized by Holocaust. The soldier joins a group of people who are hiding out from criminals in a firehouse, but Holocaust’s minions come and shoot the place up. I don’t like the new Hardware at all, but so far this new Blood Syndicate is a lot more interesting. Besides Holocaust, this issue introduces four future Blood Syndicate members: Fade (Carlos), Flashback (Sarah), Tech-9 (Rolando) and Wise Son (Hannibal). As in the original series, Fade appears to be gay. I wonder why there’s not a new Static series.
MARVEL’S VOICES: IDENTITY #1 (Marvel, 2022) – [E] Darren Shan. The biggest name in this issue is Pornsak Pichetshote, but his Jimmy Woo/Shang-Chi story doesn’t meet my expectations of him. I do like how it raises the issue of divisions between Chinese-Americans and Chinese people from China. The highlight of the issue is the story where Ms. Marvel meets Kamran again, and he tries to seduce her for selfish reasons, again. The Mantis story is confusing to me since I’m not familiar with her recent history. The Wong story is cute, but it feels like a series of random incidents, not a story.