June/July 2022 reviews


2000 AD #2239 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: “Removal Man Part 4,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Colin MacNeil. Dredd saves the busload of old people and brings Bick to justice. Aquila: “The Rivers of Hades 1.2,” [W] Gordon Rennie, [A] Patrick Goddard. The dead people take over a ship. The eponymous protagonist of this story, a Nubian gladiator with no soul, is more or less the same character as Blackhawk from Tornado. Department K: “Cosmic Chaos Part 6,” [W] Rory McConville, [A] Dan Cornwell. We meet the aliens who were inhabiting the purple inverted pyramid that was hunting the locust. Then Blackcurrant, the purple Department K member, enters the pyramid and confronts the aliens. Skip Tracer: “Eden Part 3,” [W] James Peaty, [A] Paul Marshall. In a flashback, Nolan Blake sleeps with a woman named Hastings. In the present, Hastings shows up again, accompanied by a baby who is obviously Nolan’s. Chimpsky’s Law: “The Talented Mr. Chimpsky Part 6,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] P.J. Holden. Amanda Jepperson tries to leave all her money to Chimpsky, since she sees him, rather than her brainless descendants, as her real heir. But Chimpsky runs away and gets in a fight with the mandrill dude. The two Chimpsky stories, this one and the one with Captain Cookies, are perhaps the best 2000 AD stories in the last couple years.

JOE HILL’S RAIN #5 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] David Booher, [A] Zoe Thorogood. Honeysuckle figures out that Templeton’s mother, Ursula, was responsible for the rain of nails. Then Ursula gets killed saving Templeton’s life, Honeysuckle discovers a possible way to stop the rain, and she and Templeton walk off into the sunset. This ending seems contrived and excessively simple. I had assumed that Rain was similar to The Walking Dead, in that the causes of the disaster didn’t matter, and what did matter was the relationships between the characters. So it’s a surprise that the plot gets tied off in such a neat way.

IMMORTAL X-MEN #2 (Marvel, 2022) – “Here Comes the Harvest,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Lucas Werneck. Angry at being rejected from the Quiet Council, Selene summons a giant monster to attack Krakoa. Hope assassinates Selene so that she can be resurrected on Krakoa and be forced to get rid of the monster. This wasn’t the most notable issue.

THE FOX: FAMILY VALUES #1 (Archie, 2022) – “Mid-Life Pisces,” [W/A] Dean Haspiel. As the title indicates, the Fox confronts a mid-life crisis and impostor syndrome. There’s also another original story by Vito Delsante and Richard Ortiz, and a reprint of the Alex Toth story from Black Hood #2, a comic I already own. Dean Haspiel’s Fox is okay, but it’s never been a favorite of mine, and I could have skipped this issue.

THE WRONG EARTH: PURPLE #1 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Purple,” [W] Stuart Moore, Fred Harper. On Earth-Kappa, a villain, obviously based on Prince, tries to convince the local version of Dragonfly to be a better corporate citizen. This issue has less of an obvious theme than the last two Wrong Earth one-shots, although Stuart Moore claims it’s a commentary on the “greed is good” mentality of the ‘80s. This issue’s theme of madness-inducing architecture is reminiscent of Mister X.

THE BLUE FLAME #8 (Vault, 2022) – “Beyond the Cosmic Horizon,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Adam Gorham. Dee is confined to bed rest and is unable to work, while Mateo is still stuck in ICE prison, and Sam is languishing in a homeless shelter. The reporter, Gordon, convinces Sam to man up and stop letting Dee bear the entire weight of the world on her shoulders. Dee’s situation is kind of heartbreaking – this woman is about to give birth but is unable to take maternity leave, and on top of that, her boyfriend is in prison, and she’s also supporting her lazy bum of a brother. Sadly all of these things have been normalized in America. Meanwhile, in the other plotline, the Blue Flame travels to the edge of the universe, and his lawyer follows him. I’m increasingly starting to think that none of the outer-space stuff is “really” happening.

2000 AD #2240 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “Now That’s What I Call Justice! Part 1,” [W] John Wagner, [A] John Higgins. A group called Justice Watch is producing pirate broadcasts in which they rank the most brutal arrests performed by Judges. Meanwhile, someone is murdering Judges, and a convict named Gort has just gotten out of prison and is seeking revenge. This story’s title is a funny reference to Now That’s What I Call Music. Aquila: as above. The protagonists continue their journey through the underworld, and the villain, Lady Cruciata, appeals to Dis Pater – the Roman version of Hades – for assistance against them. Department K: as above. The remaining Department K members travel through the locust’s corpse until they’re confronted by the two aliens from last issue. Skip Tracer: as above. Blake and Pamela Hastings are attacked by some goons, and the baby, Eden, uses her psychic powers to start an earthquake and defeat them. An assassin named Nimrod is dispatched to hunt down Blake and Pamela. Chimpsky’s Law: as above. Chimpsky almost kills Burdell the mandrill, but discovers that Burdell was just protecting his family. Chimpsky decides to return to Earth and use Jepperson’s money to improve Mega-City One.

BLIND ALLEY #1 (Behemoth, 2022) – “A History,” [W/A] Irra. A man named Jesus, who seems to be some kind of common criminal, returns to his hometown of Sevilla. I bought this because it’s a Spanish comic and it seems to have been well-received in Spain. However, this first issue is lacking a clear plot or theme.

BOLERO #5 (Image, 2022) – “20 Years Later” etc., [W] Wyatt Kennedy, [A] Luana Vecchio. After a lot of confusing stuff I don’t understand, Devyn gets her life back together. Overall I did not enjoy this series. In the first place, it felt like a Brandon Graham comic, even though he didn’t literally write or draw it. In the second place, I only understood the plot of the first issue, and from the second issue onward, I was completely lost.

RED ROOM: TRIGGER WARNINGS #3 (Fantagraphics, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Ed Piskor. This issue is partially inspired by the real-life phenomenon where people own millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrency, but are unable to access that currency because they’ve forgotten their password. The most famous example of this is the case of Stefan Thomas, who lost the password to a USB drive containing $321 million in bitcoin, and had only two more chances to guess the password before the drive encrypted itself irreversibly. In Red Room: Trigger Warnings #3, a certain Mr. Lansdale acquires a drive that holds $400 million in bitcoin (by murdering the owner. Lansdale takes the drive to Pitcairn Island so that Satoshi Nakamoto – named after the pseudonymous inventor of bitcoin – can unlock it for him. But Nakamoto has turned Pitcairn Island into an inbred cult society based on human sacrifice. So this issue is an example of Red Room’s unique combination of digital culture with gruesome schlock horror. I talked to Ed Piskor at Heroes Con (more on this later) and we discussed this story a bit.

G.I.L.T. #2 (Aftershock, 2022) – untitled, [W] Alisa Kwitney, [A] Mauricet. Hildy and Trista travel back in time to 1973, but while trying to stop Hildy from screwing up her life, they transport an entire Pan Am plane into 2017. The surprising thing in this issue is that Trista is 53, meaning she belongs to the same generation as Alisa Kwitney herself. I had had the impression that she was a lot younger.

BATMAN: THE KNIGHT #5 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Carmine Di Giandomenico. Bruce and Anton train with a KGB spy, and they compete to steal a book from the American embassy in Russia. This issue has some clever plot twists, especially how Bruce wins the competition with Anton by stealing the book out of Anton’s pocket. However, there’s not much about this issue that stands out in my mind.

ETERNALS #12 (Marvel, 2022) – “Hail Thanos, Finale,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Esad Ribic. Thanos gets the codes to the Machine, but discovers that the Machine can’t recognize him. Then he tries to use the Machine to blow up the world, but Druig has already put in a fail-safe so that that won’t work. Druig is elected the new Prime Eternal, and decides that the mutants on Krakoa all count as “excess deviation.” This was an entertaining conclusion. I like the Avengers appearances in this storyline, because the Avengers and the Eternals are utterly unable to understand each other.

THE X-CELLENT #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “New Blood, New World Part 3,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Mike Allred. The conflict between the X-Cellent and the new X-Statix continues. I don’t remember much about this issue in particular, and this whole series feels like an unoriginal rehash of the original X-Statix series. This issue includes a character named Uno who has somehow become a giant disembodied eye, and is angry at the world as a result. This premise appears to be borrowed from a Far Side cartoon about a man named Mr. Pembrose.

THE MARVELS #10 (Marvel, 2022) – “A Journey into the Mystery,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Yildiray Cinar. Beyond the doors, the heroes travel through a strange wasteland until they find a comic book shop filled with classic Marvel comics. Its proprietor is Threadneedle, who’s been making sporadic appearances throughout the series. This entire series has been kind of weird and rambling, and I’m not sorry it’s almost over.

2000 AD #2241 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Justice Watch claims responsibility for the murders of more judges, but Dredd begins to suspect that some of the Judges are being murdered by a copycat. Meanwhile, Gort assassinates an elderly Judge, Elrik. Skip Tracer: as above. Nolan and Pamela have a conversation about how people are going to pursue them because of the baby. This scene illustrates how Skip Tracer is kind of similar to Saga, in that it’s about two new parents who are in the grip of forces beyond their control. Then Nimrod shows up at Pamela’s house and kidnaps the baby. Department K: as above. It’s revealed that the aliens – the Valox – are trying to use the dead Locust to destroy the multiverse, but Blackcurrant arrives to save the day. Sinister: “Bulletopia Chapter Five: Its Own Devices, Part 1,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Steve Yeowell. Sinister and Tracy Weld wake up and are confronted by a rogue AI. I’ve never understood Sinister Dexter’s continuity, but this chapter has a funny exchange: “Nice tatts.” “You too. You said tatts, right?” “Yeah, but what’s a vowel between friends?” Aquila: as above. The protagonists get transportation from some minotaurs or centaurs, but then the villainess arrives and summons Cronus the titan.

2000 AD #2242 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Dredd investigates Erlik’s murder, and not much else happens. Skip Tracer: as above. Nimrod kills Pamela, leaving Nolan a single parent. This is an annoying piece of fridging, and it also ends the resemblance between Skip Tracer and Saga. Department K: as above. The Department K agents fight the Valox. Sinister: as above. The AI orders Sinister and Tracy to assassinate Dexter and two others, including Carrie Hosanna. Aquila: as above. Aquila defeats Cronus and opens the passage into Tartarus.

A few older comics:

CEREBUS #244 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1999) – “Going Home 13,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This is barely a comic at all. Half the pages are excerpts from F. Stop Kennedy’s “novel” Singularity, which is really a rambling philosophical monologue, and the other pages are surrealistic illustrations. Dave is frankly a terrible prose writer. His writing is histrionic and exaggerated, and it seems intended to insult the reader, and to prove that Dave is smarter than the reader is.  What Dave is good at is writing dialogue, and it’s regrettable that the later years of Cerebus have so much narrative prose and so few interesting character interactions.

THE PHANTOM #1385 (Frew, 2004) – “The Mysterious Commander,” [W] Lennart Moberg, [A] Bob McLeod. A man named Doe is captured by the Jungle Patrol after robbing a bank. When he gets out of prison many years later, he seeks revenge on his accomplice Simon, who he blames for his capture. We eventually realize that Simon is long dead, because a deceitful Jungle Patrol member, Wallace, killed him and stole the loot from the bank robbery. A loyal  Jungle Patrol officer, Weeks, helps the Phantom capture Wallace, and also finally learns his commander’s secret identity. This issue is a clever mystery story with a bunch of well-developed characters. At Heroes Con, I talked to Alex Saviuk about his work on Egmont’s Phantom comics. He was surprised that there was someone at the show who had read those comics. Bob McLeod was at Heroes Con, but I forgot that he had also worked on the Phantom, or I would have talked to him about the Phantom too. Maybe he’ll be back next year.

HEAVY METAL #2.5 (HM, 1978) – [E] Sean Kelly & Valerie Marchant. This issue includes chapters of Corben and Strnad’s Sindbad, Moebius’s Airtight Garage, Claveloux and Zha’s Off Season, and Druillet’s Lone Sloane, all of which I’m familiar with already. Some other features: Gray Morrow’s Orion is an interesting sword-and-sorcery strip, though it’s hampered by too much text. Jaime Brocal Remohi’s “The Horror of G’zalth.” is more or less a Conan story. Barbarians seem to have been Brocal Remohi’s favorite genre. ( Dick Lupoff’s prose story “Nebogipfel at the End of Time” is a rewriting of The Time Machine. The name Nebogipfel comes from H.G. Wells’s prototype version of that novel. Ted Benoit’s “The Sweet Smell of Science” is a surrealistic story drawn in a Moebius-esque style. I thought at first that this story was by some other artist named Benoit, because Ted Benoit was a Clear Line artist, and “Sweet Smell of Science” is not drawn in a Clear Line style at all. Tom Sutton’s “Croatoan” is an adaptation of a Harlan Ellison story. It’s inked by Alfredo Alcala in his usual overpowering style.

THUNDERBOLTS #150 (Marvel, 2011) – “Old Scores,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Kev Walker. The Avengers visit The Raft and accompany the Thunderbolts on a mission. But the Ghost interferes with Man-Thing’s teleportation, and the Avengers and Thunderbolts travel to an alternate dimension, where they get in a big fight. This issue is full of great moments. When Thor meets Troll, he offers to make her a Valkyrie, but she responds by biting his finger. Ghost almost kills Iron Man, but then Tony reveals that he’s no longer a corporate CEO, and since Ghost’s entire motivation is his anti-corporate beliefs, he lets Tony go. On entering the alternate dimension, the Avengers meet a talking frog, but sadly, when the frog goes back through the portal, it turns into a normal frog, then gets squashed. Bonus features in this issue include a recap of the Thunderbolts’ entire history, and a complete reprint of Thunderbolts #1. While at Heroes Con, I talked to Michel Fiffe and discovered that he wasn’t familiar with Jeff Parker’s Thunderbolts. I recommended it to him, since I like it for the same reasons I like Suicide Squad.

FANTASTIC FOUR #329 (Marvel, 1989) – “Bad Dream Part 2: …And You Can’t Wake Up!”, [W] Steve Englehart (as John Harkness), [A] Rich Buckler. The Fantastic Four and Shary reenact the FF’s first battle with the Mole Man, but it soon becomes clear that these aren’t the real FF, but clones created by Aron the Watcher. The funny part is how the FF clones behave exactly like the FF behaved in the earliest Lee-Kirby stories, but in the context of the ‘80s, Reed’s chauvinism and Sue’s uselessness are hints that these characters are clones, not the originals. This issue was much less convoluted than some of Englehart’s other FF stories.

SUPERMAN #341 (DC, 1979) – “The Man Who Could Cause Catastrophe!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Curt Swan. Major Disaster tries to forcibly transfer his disaster-causing power to Superman. Major Disaster’s power is kind of similar to that of the Legion supporting character Calamity King. “The Man Who Could Cancel Catastrophe!”, [W] Wein, [A] Swan. I just noticed the parallelism of those two titles. In this story, the con man J. Wilbur Wolfingham, based on W.C. Fields (and named after J. Wellington Wimpy?), sells fake amulets that are supposed to prevent disasters.

BATMAN ’66 #24 (DC, 2015) – “Diamond Disaster,” [W] Ray Fawkes, [A] Jon Bogdanove. Batman and Robin fight Marsha, Queen of Diamonds. Ray Fawkes lacks the sense of humor of this series’ main writer, Jeff Parker, and so “Diamond Disaster” feels like a pointless generic story.

SECRET SIX #6 (DC, 2015) – “Whippings and Apologies,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Tom Derenick. The Secret Six fight the Riddler and his henchmen. This issue is okay, I guess, but I don’t remember anything about it, and Gail doesn’t do anything interesting with the Riddler. As I have probably said before, the Riddler is my favorite Batman villain, but few if any comic book writers have done him justice. My favorite Riddler story in a comic book is “When is a Door” from Secret Origins Special #1, but I think the best version of the character is the one in the Arkham games.

CAPTAIN MARVEL AND THE CAROL CORPS #3 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick & Kelly Thompson, [A] David Lopez. Carol and her fellow pilots plan their escape attempt, but a squadron of Thors comes after them. I just noticed that this miniseries is written by both DeConnick and Thompson, so it serves as a kind of transition between their runs. DeConnick and Thompson are two of the three major Carol Danvers writers, along with Claremont.

HEAVY METAL #5.3 (HM, 1981) – [E] Leonard Mogel. This issue starts with an intriguing interview with Corben, and then there’s a chapter of Bloodstar, a heavily expanded adaptation of REH’s “The Valley of the Worm.” This story was adapted more literally by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane in Supernatural Thrillers #3. A highlight of this chapter is the giant blind worm monster on the last page. Other things in this issue include: * A chapter of Enki Bilal’s Nikopol, which I read a long time ago and have mostly forgotten. * A preview of Steranko’s last major work, Outland. Steranko was at Heroes Con, but I have no interest in meeting him. * Guido Crepax’s Valentina. I’d love to read more of this, but Fantagraphics’s Complete Crepax volumes are super-expensive. * Chaykin’s Cody Starbuck. At Heroes Con, someone told me that Starbuck was the inspiration for Han Solo, and I can believe that.

CEREBUS #249 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1999) – “Going Home 18,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus and Kennedy travel along the river and listen to a Cirinist sermon. This issue includes some beautiful scenery, but not much of a plot.

THE PHANTOM #1392 (Frew, 2004) – “The Courier,” [W] Claes Reimerthi, [A] Alex Saviuk. The young Phantom goes back to his old high school in America, looking for Diana. He discovers that she’s gone to Bermuda for a swimming competition, so he follows her there and saves her from being framed for smuggling cash out of Cuba. But when Phantom finally meets Diana in his Kit Walker identity, she gets mad at him for standing her up on a date, and says she never wants to see him again. Of course we know that they’re going to get married. See my previous note about Alex Saviuk. His artwork in this issue is very effective. There’s one particularly nice panel where he depicts Diana diving by combining multiple images of her in the same panel, a technique that Gil Kane often used.

FABLES #77 (Vertigo, 2008) – “Life in a Headless Empire: Chapter 1 of The Dark Ages,” [W] Bill Willingham, [A] Mark Buckingham. A bunch of vignettes depicting how various characters are reacting to the end of the war with the Adversary. One of this issue’s plot threads introduces two characters based on Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. I hate Bill Willingham so much that I can’t really enjoy his writing, but I do have to grudgingly admit that he writes very good dialogue.

2000 AD #1839 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd: “Wastelands Part 3,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Dave Taylor. This story seems to be about a gang war, but I can’t recall anything about it. Defoe: “The Damned Part 4,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Leigh Gallagher. Defoe fights an army of zombies. Anderson: “One in Ten Part 7,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Anderson apprehends some guy who’s been selling people as meat. Sinister Dexter: “Witless Protection Part 4: In Plain Shite,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] John M. Burns. Dexter assassinates some criminals. This story is partly painted and partly line-drawn, and Burns sometimes uses both methods within the same panel. The Ten-Seconders: “Godsend Part 1,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Edmund Bagwell. This series is about a war between humans and superpowered alien gods. The title refers to the amount of time that people tend to live after they meet a god.

CEREBUS #281 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 2002) – “Latter Days 16: And It Came to Passe,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Most of this issue is a conversation between Cerebus and Woody Allen, formatted as a typewritten play script with illustrations. There are also a few pages from Woody Allen’s journal, formatted as handwritten journal entries with illustrations. There are only a couple pages of actual comics. The content of the conversation and the journal entries is confusing and impenetrable. Cerebus tries to draw a distinction between God and “Yoowhoo,” but I don’t know why I should care. This was the last of the 100-plus issues of Cerebus that I ordered in December 2020. At this point, I’m going to continue filling in the gaps in my run of Cerebus #1 to 200, but I don’t want to buy any more issues from after that point, unless they’re extremely cheap. I kind of want to read #300, but that’s it. The issues from the later years of Cerebus are mostly not worth the time they take to read.

LUKE CAGE #166 (Marvel, 2017) – “Caged! Part 1,” [W] David F. Walker, [A] Guillermo Sanna. While traveling back home from the previous storyline, Luke stops in a small town, where he’s arrested by the Ringmaster’s minions and thrown in prison. Superheroes being harassed in a small town is kind of a cliché – I think I first encountered it in Green Lantern vol. 2 #76 – although scenes like this are much scarier when the superhero involved is black. Other than that, this comic is pretty boring.

BRITANNIA: LOST EAGLES OF ROME #4 (Valiant, 2018) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Robert Gill. Antonius recovers the lost legionary eagles and brings them back to Rome, only to discover that the chief Vestal Virgin wanted him to fail to find the eagles, so that the emperor, Nero, would be embarrassed. This series feels like a well-researched recreation of ancient Rome.

SUPERBOY #123 (DC, 1965) – “There is No Superboy,” [W] Otto Binder, [A] George Papp. Superboy visits the neighboring town of Gulchdale, which is used as a hideout by criminals, since it’s outside the jurisdiction where the criminals committed their crimes. (Because I guess there’s no such thing as interstate extradition.) Superboy tricks the criminals into committing crimes so that they can be arrested in Gulchdale, and he arrests so many of them that Gulchdale has to build a new jail, which I guess is a good thing somehow. “When Krypto Was Sold,” [W] Edmond Hamilton, [A] George Papp. Superboy sellls Krypto to a rich boy, Ronnie, in order to cure Ronnie’s annoying behavior. “The Curse of the Superboy Mummy!”, [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Curt Swan. Superboy and Lana excavate a pair of mummies who resemble them exactly, and are almost killed by the mummies’ curse. This issue includes the line “O mighty Isis,” which coincidentally was the catchphrase of the TV superhero Isis, created a decade later.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #702 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Leonardo Romero w/ Rod Reis & Howard Chaykin. Jack Rogers excavates Captain America’s shield, but while doing so, he accidentally frees the Red Skull. There are also two flashback sequences, drawn by Reis and Chaykin. Mark Waid’s third Captain America run was by far the worst of the three.

I went back to Heroes on June 3, I think. My dad was visiting me that weekend, and he came with me. I read some of the comics while we were driving to Asheville the next day.

SAGA #59 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. Gale murders some poor guy with six eyes on stalks. Alana parts ways with Bombazine and the creepy drug dealer. Squire declares his love for Hazel. Besides the Gale scene, this issue was less intense than usual.

ONCE & FUTURE #26 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Kings Are Dead,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. Brigitte concocts a plan to make it rain Lethe water all over England, so that everyone forgets about Otherworld. But this plan requires them to wait until next Christmas, and it will fail if Robin Hood declares his loyalty to a true king. Inconveniently, on December 24, a sword in a stone appears outside London, inscribed “Whoever draws this sword shall be the rightful king of England.” This issue skips over a year’s worth of Duncan and Rose’s adventures, and there’s a funny page summarizing some of the adventures we didn’t get to read about.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #23 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Road to Tribulation Part 3,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. We meet Big Gary, a sick old man who’s Erica’s mole within the House of Slaughter. Sheriff Thomas interrogates Erica. An Order of St. George agent, Ms. Cutter, arrives in America, and the first thing she does is murder an annoying xenophobic woman. Then she and Cecilia Slaughter head off to hunt Erica down. Cutter’s victim is awful enough that I don’t feel sorry for her, but this scene illustrates how the Order are no better than the monsters they hunt. In fact, they’re worse, since the Oscuratypes are just non-sentient animals, while the Order are morally responsible for their own actions.

ADVENTUREMAN #9 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Terry Dodson. Claire and the Crossdraw Kid go ice skating, and the ghosts revive an old villain named Johnny Caspar. This series comes out much too sporadically, but it’s very sweet and warm and funny.

NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE #9 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Alvaro Martinez Bueno. The houseguests start building their own buildings. They also figure out that they can’t be physically harmed, even by acupuncture, though I kind of thought they already knew that. Norah tries to communicate with the other houseguests by writing messages in the condensation on their windows. There’s a lot of stuff in this issue, but no particularly shocking developments.

LITTLE MONSTERS #4 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. A flashback reveals the origin of the two creepy twins, Ray and Ronnie. The human girl leads the vampire kids to her campsite, where the kids start massacring the other humans. But then one of the humans cuts Ronnie’s head off. Ronnie deserves it, but this is a shocking moment anyway.

THE CLOSET #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Gavin Fullerton. Thom, his wife Maggie, and their four-year-old son Jamie are about to move to a new house, even though their marriage is collapsing because Thom is an alcoholic and a terrible father. Little Jamie is terrified of the monsters in his closet, and the second half of the issue is a dream sequence in which Jamie sees one of the monsters. This issue is an example of James Tynion’s ability to write really creepy horror stories. This story, like The Turn of the Screw, is even creepier because the protagonist is a child. The Closet was first published on Tynion’s Substack, and I’m glad it’s available in print.

KING CONAN #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Ballad of Thoth-Amon of the Ring,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mahmud Asrar. Just before reading this issue, I finished reading the first of Del Rey’s three collections of Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories. I’ve read hundreds of Conan comics, but I’d never read much of REH before, and I had the impression that he was a terrible writer. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I really like REH’s Conan, and that Roy Thomas’s Conan comics are quite faithful to the original stories. King Conan #5 begins with the origin story of Thoth-Amon, who first appeared in the very first Conan story, “The Phoenix on the Sword.” Then he and Conan escape the island and prepare for their last stand against Princess Prima.

STEP BY BLOODY STEP #4 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. Girl travels across a desert, hauling Giant’s severed hand, until she reaches a mysterious stone wheel. Girl uses Giant’s hand to activate the wheel. She has a vision that seems to show what would have happened if she hadn’t abandoned Giant last issue. Then Girl puts on Giant’s armor, another baby girl is created, and Girl, now Giant, trudges off carrying the baby. So I guess now she has to try again to do whatever she was supposed to do. This series was mysterious, compelling, and beautifully drawn, and it may be Si Spurrier’s best work before, although I’ve also said that about other works of his.

The next comic I read was 2000 AD #2247, but then I discovered I read it out of order, so I will review it after I review #2246.

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #18 (Image, 2022) – “War Games,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Martin Simmonds. Just after the end of the Cold War, Oswald meets Grigori Petrov, his Soviet counterpart. There are a couple historical figures named Grigori Petrov, but I don’t know if this one is based on any of them. Then Petrov is contacted by Martin Barker, head of Black Hat, who may be named after a British comics scholar. Back in the present, Cole tries to go on a date with his husband, but they’re interrupted by Oswald. Cole and Oswald go to the Smithsonian, where they find Petrov’s corpse, lying next to the moon landing vehicle. Cole is a somewhat weak protagonist, who passively observes and listens without doing much, and this issue gives him some important character development. As always, Martin Simmonds’s art is stunning. I especially like the Pizzagate page.

RADIANT RED #3 (Image, 2022) – “Great Expectations,” [W] Cherish Chen, [A] David Lafuente. Radiant Red and Shift prepare for a heist, and Shift makes a pass at her. Satomi’s boyfriend Owen is in rehab for his gaming addiction. The journalist, Alicia, asks Satomi what she knows about Radiant Red. This issue is interesting but has no really big plot advancements.

ROBIN #14 (DC, 2022) – “Shadow War Part 7,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Roger Cruz. On Facebook, some artist criticized this issue’s cover, but I forget who the artist was. This issue is a crossover tie-in, and most of it is of no interest to me. Many of the pages don’t include Robin at all, or if they do, he only appears in a couple panels. The only parts that are relevant to Robin are his conversation with Bruce about Alfred’s death, and his discovery that Respawn is dead.

STILLWATER #13 (Image, 2022) – “Some Sort of Miracle,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramon K. Perez. The characters all deal with the fallout from Laura expanding the map’s borders. Unfortunately, Galen figures out that if Laura can redraw the map, he can too – and that by conquering neighboring towns, the people of Stillwater can break the monotony of their immortal lives. I look forward to seeing what happens next.

FOX AND HARE #1 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jon Tsuei, [A] Stacey Lee. This comic has been cancelled and resolicited at least twice, and so it wasn’t in my file, and I had to buy it off the shelf. Fox and Hare is a near-future cyberpunk story set in Mazu Bay, which is based on either Malaysia or Singapore – the word “lah” on the first page is a giveaway. Fox and Hare’s setting is very distinctive and interesting, though so far there’s nothing super-original about the plot.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #38 (Marvel, 2022) – “Trials Part One,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Juan Frigeri & Alvaro López. Binary travels around town having adventures, including a fight with an unexplained kaiju. Meanwhile, Carol Danvers visits an alien planet, fights a giant monster, and then has a vision of Agatha Harkness. This is a pretty cute issue, and it includes four different cats.

2000 AD #2243 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as #2242 above. Dredd arrests the leaders of Justice Watch, but Gort is still at large. Skip Tracer: as above. Nolan has a vision where Pamela is still alive and Eden is fifteen years old. Then he wakes up to find himself held captive by a villain, Colonel Fanshaw, who interrogates him about Eden. Department K: as above. Afua absorbs the Locust’s power and uses it to defeat the Valox. Dexter: “Bulletopia Chapter 6: Somewhere Beyond the Sea, Part 1,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Tazio Bettin. Dexter, Hosanna and another character travel through the sewers until they meet a pirate, Alura Bates. Aquila: as above. The protagonists travel through the frozen city of Cocytus.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #38 (Marvel, 2022) – “Empire of the Spider Part 1,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Christopher Allen. Miles and Shift travel to an alternate reality where Selim rules Brooklyn and no one can leave. The twist is that in this reality, Peter Parker is still alive. This issue was okay, but I miss Miles’s supporting cast. BTW, What If? Miles Morales #4 was in my file, but it got such awful reviews that I didn’t buy it.

ROGUE SUN #4 (Image, 2022) – “A Sour Note,” [W] Ryan Parrott, [A] Abel. Dylan’s mother discovers he’s been cheating at school, but Dylan is utterly unrepentant. This scene makes me very angry at Dylan, since I teach writing for a living. Then Dylan and his dad fight Demonika, the villain who was released last issue, and it’s revealed that Dylan’s mom also has superpowers.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #129 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [W] Tony Gregori. The Turtles fight the Punk Frogs. Shredder helps Donatello escape from Jasper Barlow and rescue Venus. The dinosaur girl’s spaceship crashes to Earth, thus finally connecting the main plot with the subplot. This storyline has been disappointing, and I wish Sophie Campbell would return to doing the artwork.

MY LITTLE PONY #1 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Celeste Bronfman, [A] Amy Mebberson. This reboot of the MLP franchise takes place many years after Friendship is Magic, and stars a new group of ponies who are looking for the Unity Crystals. At the end, one of the ponies discovers the ruins of Canterlot. I’m going to keep reading this series for now, but I doubt it could possibly be as good as MLP: FIM. I was glad to see that at least one future issue will be drawn by Andy Price, who I spoke with at Heroes Con.

LEGION OF X #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Do What Thou Wilt,” [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Jan Bazaldua. Kurt creates a team of misfit X-Men inside Legion’s mind, hence the title “Legion of X” has a double meaning. Way of X was kind of disappointing, and so far I’m not super excited about Legion of X either, though it does have its moments. I especially like the character Forget-Me-Not, who nobody can remember. I really wish Si Spurrier was writing a different Big Two  series whose title begins with “Legion of.” For that matter, I wish anybody besides Brian Michael Bendis was writing that series.

2000 AD #2244 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Dredd identifies the connection between Gort’s victims, and discovers that he himself is Gort’s next target. This whole story is a sequel to the classic “Letter from a Democrat” from #460, which I have not read. Skip Tracer: as above. Nolan has a vision where an older version of Eden is protecting him. Dexter: as above. Dexter and the pirates agree to an alliance against the rogue AI, and Sinister comes looking for Dexter. Terror Tales: “The Way of the World,” [W] John Tomlinson, [A] Smudge. This might be 2000 AD’s first story about the pandemic. Except in this story, the pandemic causes people to turn into werewolves, and when they return to the office after lockdown, they start eating their coworkers. Aquila: as above. The protagonists meet some dead evildoers, including Nero. The villainess’s name, Lady Cruciata, is finally mentioned. As I wrote in a recent Facebook post, I sometimes have trouble remembering the names of characters in comics. In fiction, characters’ names are constantly mentioned in the narration, but in comics, this is not the case. Characters in comics are distingushed from each other by their visual appearances, not by their names.

AQUAMEN #4 (DC, 2022) – “Scavenged,” [W] Chuck Brown & Brandon Thomas, [A] Sami Basri. Jackson fights the Scavenger, The Atlantean sleeper agents try to blow up the United Nations. It’s hard to care about this version of Aquaman when I know that it’s only going to last two more issues. Chuck Brown was at Heroes Con, but I didn’t talk to him.

NAUGHTY LIST #2 (AfterShock, 2022) – “The Track,” [W] Nick Santora, [A] Lee Ferguson. Santa visits a reindeer racing track to look for leads on who stole his list. Eventually he learns that he has to go to New York. We are also told that Santa has the power to give people visions of their best Christmas memories. An interesting thing about this issue is the hints that Naughty List’s world is not quite the same as ours. For example, reindeer racing does exist in real life, but only in Scandinavia, and it’s not like horse racing. The jockeys don’t sit on the reindeer, but instead ride behind it in sleds or on skis.

THE RUSH #6 (Vault, 2022) – “The Wake,” [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Nathan Gooden. Nettie has to kill her son to put him out of his misery. Then she helps a pregnant demon give birth, which somehow destroys all the other villains. The series ends by making a point about how parents sacrifice everything for their children. The Rush is a powerful horror story, but its plot is quite confusing. Also, this is a nitpicky point, but the cover design, with the giant logo and the grayish bar on the left, is, very ugly.

PSYCHODRAMA ILLUSTRATED #5 (Fantagraphics, 2022) – “Return to Mystery,” [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. Another series of confusing stories about Fritz and her family. It’s often hard to tell whether this comic’s scenes are taking place in the “real” world, or in one of Fritz’s films. I talked to Harley Yee at Heroes Con and told him that Beto had used his name in an issue of Love & Rockets. He had not been aware of this, and he said he didn’t know Beto well. I wonder if maybe Beto was confusing Harley Yee with Hartley Lin.

NEWBURN #7 (Image, 2022) – “Getting Away with Murder,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jacob Phillips. Newburn investigates the murder of a yakuza boss. While doing so, he discovers that the Russian mobster Alexei has ratted out Emily to the Albano mob, since Emily was involved in the death of an Albano family member, as depicted last issue. Emily happens to be visiting Sydney’s police precinct when the Albanos order a hit on her, and to save Emily, Sydney has to arrest her for murder. Newburn is a really impressive series, and I don’t know why I’m not more excited about it.

2000 AD #2245 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Gort tries to assassinate Dredd, but Dredd kills him. The “Now That’s What I Call Justice” countdown ends with Dredd’s nuclear destruction of East-Meg One. Skip Tracer: as above. Nimrod causes the other prisoners to go carzy and escape, then assassinates Colonel Fanshawe, but just as Nimrod is about to kidnap Eden, Nolan wakes up with his powers intact. Dexter: as above. Sinister and Tracy fight Dexter and his allies in a sea battle. Terror Tales: “The Torturer’s Apprentice,” [W] Paul Starkey, [A] James Newell. Maria Grant finds a book in which people’s names are signed in red. She finds out that these people have all sold their souls to the devil, and she makes each person pay her to burn the page with that person’s name. But the last person on the list is the devil himself, and he claims Maria’s soul. Aquila: as above. Aquila is saved by the shades of his fellow revolted slaves, who lead him to their commander, Spartacus. When I read this story, I didn’t know anything about Spartacus except for the famous “I’m Spartacus” scene.

HARDWARE SEASON ONE #6 (Milestone, 2022) – “What You Deserve,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Denys Cowan. After fighting a villain who can duplicate himself, Hardware brings Edwin Alva to justice. This series was hampered by unappealing art and chronic lateness, and if there is a Season Two, I’m not going to read it.

WE HAVE DEMONS #3 (Dark Horse, 2022) – “Burn It Down” etc., [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Greg Capullo. Lam and Gus manage to fight off a horde of demons and recover a Halo meteorite, even though the demons disguise themselves as Lam and Gus’s loved ones. This was an excellent miniseries, but I wonder why it was only three issues. I hope there’s a sequel.

2000 AD #2246 (Rebellion, 2021) – A “Regened” issue intended for younger readers. Cadet Dredd: “The Block with No Name,” [W] Liam Johnson, [A] Duane Redhead. Dredd infiltrates a group of homeless teens who are living in an old block that’s about to be demolished. The kids in this story are really cute. One of them looks like a cross between the Top and Matter-Eater Lad. Mayflies: “The Way Forward,” [W] Michael Carroll, [A] Simon Coleby. A group of escaped Genetic Infantrypeople flee from both the Norts and the Southers. This story is drawn and colored in the same style as a typical 2000 AD story, whereas most of the Regened stories are much brighter and clearer-looking. ‘Splorers: untitled, [W] Gordon Rennie & Emma Beeby, [A] Neil Googe. The adventures of two young children whose parents are interdimensional explorers. Future Shocks: “Trash Culture,” [W] Karl Stock, [A] Steve Roberts. A scavenger looks for treasure on the “Great Debris Plain.” The best part of this story is the protagonist’s digital device, which communicates in emojis. Chopper: “Chopper Don’t Surf,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Nick Roche. An early adventure of Marlon Shakespeare, aka Chopper. This character did not die at the end of Song of the Surfer; he survived and appeared in several other stories.

2000 AD #2247 (Rebellion, 2021) – As noted above, I read this issue earlier, but in the wrong order. Dredd: “The House on Bleaker Street Part 1,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Nick Percival. Some criminals kidnap a baby and hide out in an alleged haunted house. Dredd goes in there after them. This story is narrated by the house itself. Skip Tracer: as above. Nolan and Nimrod fight to a standstill. Meanwhile Eden wakes up. Dexter: as above. While trying to escape the pirate ship, Dexter confronts Sinister and shoots him. Then Klinks, a character I don’t know, appears to rescue Dexter. Tharg’s 3rillers: “The Mask of La Verna Part 1,” [W] Robert Murphy, [A] Stephen Austin. A thief named Genadi Chakarov acquires the mask of the Roman goddess of thieves, Laverna, and uses it to summon Laverna herself. Adelphi, an Oracle or “god whisperer,” has to recover the mask. Jaegir: “The Path of Kali Part 1,” [W] Gordon Rennie, [A] Simon Coleby. I’m not quite sure what this story is about, but it’s set in the Rogue Trooper universe.

SWAMP THING #13 (DC, 2022) – “Machination,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. Swampy and Jack Hawksmoor defeat the monster that’s possessed the city of Detroit. Trinity, a living incarnation of the atomic bomb tests, starts causing havoc. Hal Jordan makes a cameo appearance at the end.

IMAGE! 30TH ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY #2 (Image, 2022) – [E] Eric Stephenson? I didn’t  particularly like any of the stories in this issue, even the one by Brenden Fletcher and Erica Henderson. My sense is that because each issue contains so many different stories, the individual chapters of the stories are all too short to build any narrative momentum.

BLOOD STAINED TEETH #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Christian Ward, [A] Patric Reynolds. Atticus Sloane tracks down one of the “sips” he created, a boxer named Duke Ellis. Blood Stained Teeth’s premise is uninteresting, and the name “sip” for second-generation vampires is really annoying. I’m going to drop this series from my pull list.

ARROWSMITH: BEHIND ENEMY LINES #5 (Image, 2022) – “Trollhome,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Carlos Pacheco. Fletcher and Guy reach the realm of the trolls, and Guy explains the history behind the Peace of Charlemagne. I forgot to mention that the SFF writer Lawrence Watt-Evans wrote some of the backstory for Celeste. Fletcher and Guy get a clue to the fairy princess’s location, but when they leave the Trollhome, the werewolves from last issue are waiting for them.

DEVIL’S REIGN OMEGA #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Fall and Rise,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Rafael De Latorre. All the heroes gather for Matt Murdock’s funeral, though we all know it’s really Mike. Luke Cage discovers that the law against vigilantism is still in effect. This story leads into Zdarsky’s new Daredevil series. There are also two uninteresting backup stories.

LAND OF THE LIVING GODS #4 (AfterShock, 2022) – “We All Deserve to Live,” [W] Isaac Mogajane, [A] Santtos. Naledi’s cellmate Lutho tells her about his birth as the child of a Living God. Kaelo saves Naledi from having her hand amputated. The trouble with this series is that it feels like a generic sword-and-sorcery story, only with African names. I can’t say whether New Masters is a more genuinely African narrative, if there is such a thing, but New Masters at least has a more original plot and characters.

ICE CREAM MAN #30 (Image, 2022) – “Experimental Storytelling,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. Two people enroll in a clinical trial testing the effects of a hallucinogenic drug. One of the participants, Kenneth Molloy, thinks he’s been given a placebo, but he discovers otherwise when he starts going crazy. Then we discover that the experimenter is himself the subject in another trial, and it’s being run by Dr. Naik, who was first introduced  as the other subject of the original trial. The fascinating part about this issue is the interaction between the multiple levels of its narrative. I like how Dr. Naik initially seems to be a character in the lowest level of the narrative, and then turns out to be controlling the entire story. I’m not sure if this issue is any more experimental than other issues of Ice Cream Man.

THE KILLER: AFFAIRS OF THE STATE #4 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matz, [A] Luc Jacamon. The antagonist, Mathurin, figures out that there’s a spy in his organization, so he gathers his suspects together and kills all of them, including the Killer’s ally Adil. Besides that, the most notable thing in this issue is the Killer’s meditation on genocides and public executions and how they have and haven’t changed over time.

RINGSIDE #8 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Nick Barber. As usual, this issue is uninteresting, and it can be read very quickly, because the art is minimalistic and frankly crude.

LEGENDS OF THE DC UNIVERSE 80-PAGE GIANT #1 (DC, 1998) – “Detour,” [W] John Francis Moore, [A] Paul Guinan. In this issue’s framing sequence, Rip Hunter takes Chronos (Walker Gabriel) on a tour of various episodes in DC Universe history. Each of the scenes Walker witnesses is a separate story by a separate creative team. Unfortunately, these stories all appear to be old inventory material, and none of them are much good. The artists include Steve Ditko and Dave Gibbons, but Ditko’s pencils are incompatible with Kevin Nowlan’s inking, and Gibbons’s Doom Patrol story is hampered by its Silver Age page layouts and by Sal Buscema’s inks. The only interesting story in the issue is the one about the New Teen Titans, which is written by Wolfman and Perez and drawn by Phil Jimenez; however, even this story is just a rehash of older comics.

BATMAN #39 (DC, 2015) – “Endgame Part Five,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Greg Capullo. Batman fights the Court of Owls, trying to find something called Dionesium, but he discovers that the Dionesium is actually implanted in the Joker’s spine. I have mixed feelings about Scott Snyder’s Batman; it’s very epic and dramatic, but sometimes it goes too far and becomes histrionic. More on this later. I might have gotten more out of this story if I’d read it after Batman #8 and #9, reviewed below. 

2000 AD #2248 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Dredd and another Judge, Tenza, enter the house and fight a bunch of zombies. The main villain, who is also a former Judge, kidnaps the baby. Skip Tracer: as above. Eden somehow ages herself into a teenager and defeats Nimrod. Then one of Fanshaw’s soldiers pulls a gun on Blake. Dexter: as above. Dexter and his allies manage to escape, but a badly injured Sinister emerges from the ocean, saying “No more Mr. Nice Guy.” Tharg’s 3rillers: as above. Genadi hunts down an old enemy, Chessington, but Adelphi comes to the rescue. Jaegir: as above. Jaegir discovers someone or something called Kali. I don’t understand this series.

HELLBLAZER #57 (DC, 1992) – “Mortal Clay,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Steve Dillon. Chas’s uncle Tom dies suddenly. After the funeral, Constantine and Chas find some men stealing the body. They follow the men’s trail and discover a facility where a company is using human corpses to test ballistics. This issue has no supernatural elements at all, but Ennis and Dillon make the reader feel fury and horror at what the company is doing. I particularly like pages two and three, where we see some scenes from the lives of the people whose bodies are being desecrated. As brief as these panels are, they remind the reader that these corpses used to be human beings, and that they deserve better than to be shot at and blown up.

TWISTED TALES #2 (Pacific, 1983) – [W] Bruce Jones. “Over His Head,” [A] Mike Ploog. A lonely, unattractive man falls in love with a beautiful “woman,” who turns out to be a doll that he’s keeping in an aquarium. This story makes good use of Mike Ploog’s ability to draw sexy women and underwater scenes. “Nightwatch,” [A] Ken Steacy. An army of soldiers fight an endless, pointless war against giant rats. The twist is that the “soldiers” are toy soldiers, belonging to a little boy who treats them sadistically. This twist was pretty obvious to me because there was a similar depiction of toy soldiers in Toy Story, ten years later. “Infant Terrible,” [A] Val Mayerik. A poor teenage girl’s aborted baby turns into a swamp monster. This story was kind of hard to follow, though I think I may have missed a page on my first reading. “Speed Demons,” [A] Rand Holmes. Two teenagers have sex in the back of a taxi cab, while paying the driver to go faster and faster. Eventually the driver crashes and gets killed, but the two teenagers survive and flag down another taxi. I think this was Rand Holmes’s first story for a non-underground comic.

SUGAR & SPIKE #84 (DC, 1969) – “Bernie the Brain’s Biggest Blunder!”, [W/A] Sheldon Mayer. Bernie the Brain creates a robot that turns evil and starts turning people into robots. Bernie teams up with Sugar and Spike to defeat the robot. This is one of the most farfetched Sugar & Spike stories, but it’s entertaining.

SPIDER-WOMAN #47 (Marvel, 1982) – “Twisted,” [W] Ann Nocenti, [A] Brian Postman. Spider-Woman battles Daddy Longlegs, a frustrated young black dancer who’s been mutated to have absurdly long limbs. I probably wouldn’t have bought this issue if I’d realized it wasn’t written by Claremont, but I have to admit that Daddy Longlegs is an intriguing character, depsite his ludicrous appearance. Ann Nocenti is underrated as a creator of villains; a bunch of characters in Copra are based on villains from her Daredevil run.

THE FLASH #110 (DC, 1996) – “Dead Heat Fourth Lap: Cut to the Quick,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Oscar Jimenez. Wally and Jesse Quick battle Savitar and Lady Flash. This issue is mostly fight scenes with little character interaction, and Savitar is a boring villain. After Dead Heat he rarely appeared again.

FLEX MENTALLO #3 (Vertigo, 1996) – “After the ‘Fact’ Part 3: Dig the Vacuum,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Frank Quitely. My copy of this issue appears to be signed by both Morrison and Quitely, even though I don’t recall ever meeting Quitely, and I only met Morrison once, a long time ago. Like so many other later Morrison comics, Flex Mentallo #3 feels fascinating, but it doesn’t make any sense on its own. Sooner or later I need to read the entire series in order.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #212 (Marvel, 1993) – “To Live as Gods… To Die as Men,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Rafael Kayanan.  Conan and Valeria encounter a tribe of black people, and Conan has to convince the tribe’s witch-man to accept them. The interplay between Conan and Valeria in this story is quite funny, though at times Conan engages in blatant sexual harassment of Valeria. Rafael Kayanan’s draftsmanship imitates the style of Barry Windsor-Smith, since this story arc is a sequel to Red Nails. “The Blood of Bel,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Ernie Chan. Conan teams up with the priestess Suva Marsa to defend her city from the conqueror Nhuzemdar. Conan and Suva Marsa sleep together on the eve of battle, but then she gets killed, though Conan avenges her death.

MASTER OF KUNG FU #24 (Marvel, 1975) – “Massacre Along the Amazon!”, [W] Doug Moench, [A] Al Milgrom et al. Shang-Chi gets involved in a battle between Fu Manchu and a Nazi terrorist. The latter is presented as a greater evil than even Fu Manchu. This issue is pretty average. The four credited pencilers also include Walt Simonson and Jim Starlin, both of whom I met at Heroes Con. I watched Walt do some sketches, and got my picture taken with him.

MUNDEN’S BAR #1 (First, 1988) – [E] Rick Oliver. An anthology of stories by different creative teams, each set in Munden’s Bar from Grimjack. The first story, by Steve Moncuse, feels like a plug for his series Fish Police. The next story is a lot better; it’s by Mike Baron and Steve Rude, and guest-stars Clonezone from Nexus. There’s a funny ending where we think Clonezone has eaten some musical insects, but in fact he’s kidnapped them. Another highlight is “Doppelganger” by Ostrander and Ordway, which has a theme of palindromes and mirror reversals; the main characters are named Lewel, Otto, Ada and Sykys. But perhaps the best thing in the issue is “Mother’s Calling,” which has gorgeous artwork by Brian Bolland.

THUNDERBOLTS #151 (Marvel, 2011) – “Ghost Story,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Kev Walker. The Ghost tells Moonstone his origin story. The Ghost, whose real name is blacked out every time it appears, was a brilliant programmer and engineer, but his company ruthlessly exploited him, even hiring a woman to seduce him in order to keep him motivated. After discovering what was going on, the Ghost went nuts, murdered his former bosses, and became an anticorporate terrorists. This issue succeeds in deepening our knowledge of one of Marvel’s creepiest villains, without dispelling his fundamental mystery.

2000 AD #2249 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Dredd defeats the evil Judge and saves the baby, and we’re shown how the events of this story stemmed from Necropolis. Tharg’s 3rillers: as above. Adelphi manipulates Genadi into being killed by his own Laverna mask. The story ends with a hook that leaves open the possibility of further Adelphi stories. Skip Tracer: as above. Nolan escapes with Eden, and we realize that he’s been telling this story to a slightly older Eden. She falls asleep as Nolan looks at a picture of Pamela. This was an enjoyable story, but I wish Pamela hadn’t been fridged. Terror Tales: “The Thing in Cell 4,” [W] John Tomlinson, [A] Silvia Califano. I don’t quite understand this one, not even after giving it a cursory reread. It has something to do with a creature that can give people visions of their own deaths. Jaegir: as above. I still don’t know what this story is about, but thankfully this is its last chapter.

MYSTERIES OF LOVE IN SPACE #1 (DC, 2019) – [E] Alex Antone & Dave Wielgosz. A series of science-fiction-themed love stories. In James Tynion and Jesus Merino’s “An Apokoliptian Love Story,” two lovers, Markus and Saraqel, try to resist Darkseid and his mnions, but they’re captured, and Markus is revealed as Darkseid himself. Paradoxically, this experience turns Saraqel into an even more effective Female Fury. “Old Scars and Fresh Wounds,” by Kyle Higgins and Cian Tormey, begins with Kilowog going on a blind date, but it’s not really a love story; it’s more about Kilowog’s attempt to cope with the destruction of his planet. Saladin Ahmed and Max Dunbar’s Bizarro story is cute but forgettable. Cecil Castellucci and Elena Casagrande’s Starfire/Green Lantern story is annoying because it implies that Starfire doesn’t understand the idea of true love. That was certainly not true of the original version of the character. There are also stories about Space Cabbie and Crush, and a reprint of an old Adam Strange story.

THE PHANTOM #1396 (Frew, 2004) – “The Lethal Trap,” [W] Claes Reimerthi, [A] Kari Leppanen. This story takes place shortly after #1392. Diana Palmer is still pissed at Kit Walker. Meanwhile Diana’s uncle, the police superintendent, is trying to wipe out organized crime in Watertown, and the local criminals are not happy about it. The Phantom helps defeat the criminals and save the Palmers, and Kit reconciles with Diana, though, in Lois Lane fashion, she still isn’t sure whether she loves Kit or the Phantom.

BATMAN #453 (DC, 1990) – “Dark Knight, Dark City Part II,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Kieron Dwyer. Batman tries to rescue some abducted babies from the Riddler, who is behaving in an unusually cruel and sadistic manner. A flashback depicts the history of the demonic ritual that the Riddler is trying to perform. “Dark Knight, Dark City” is one of the best Riddler stories in comic book form, although that’s kind of sad, because it’s not at the same level as the best Joker or Two-Face or Penguin stories. As I mentioned above, the Riddler has rarely been written in a way that fulfills his potential.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #6 (Marvel, 1973) – “…As Those Who Will Not See!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Gil Kane. Spider-Man and the Thing team up against the Puppet Master and the Mad Thinker. This issue has some great art, but it’s most notable for revealing Alicia’s origin story. Conway reveals that Alicia’s father, Jacob Reiss, was Philip Masters’s scientific collaborator. Because of his unrequited love for Jacob’s wife, Philip caused an explosion that killed Jacob and blinded Alicia. I believe all of this was new information at the time.

SLOW DEATH #5 (Last Gasp, 1973) – “Last Gasp,” [W] Tom Veitch, [A] Greg Irons. Possessed by an alien entity, Shuggahoo, Ron Turner prints the latest issue of Slow Death with a subliminal Zipatone pattern that will cause the readers to become possessed by Shuggahoo as well. Veitch and Irons try to stop Turner’s plot, but it’s too late – in fact, the comic printed with the subliminal pattern is the same one we’re reading right now. Oops. The next story, by Charles Dallas, is kind of ugly, but Rand Holmes’s “Museum Piece” is a beautiful reimagining of Wally Wood’s EC stories. Richard Corben’s “Melton’s Big Game,” about a hunter who gets killed by his own prey, includes some more excellent art.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #214 (Marvel, 1993) – “The Reign of Thulandra Thuu,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Ernie Chan. This story is set just after Conan usurps the crown of Aquilonia from Numedides. Thulandra Thuu, Numedides’s court wizard, seemingly drowns Conan and imitates Conan’s appearance, then returns to Tarantia and reigns as a tyrant. Of course, Conan comes back and defeats the wizard. This issue’s backup feature is a collection of concept art and plot treatments for an unfinished 1930s Conan film. This feature is a joke – the plot treatments are fake, and the art was created specifically for this issue by Sandy Plunkett – but it’s a funny and plausible joke.

WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #273 (DC, 1981) – “In the Citadel of the Weapon Master,” [W] Cary Burkett, [A] Adrian Gonzales. The stories in this issue are all average at best. Perhaps the highlight of the issue is the E-Man story by Pasko and Staton, which is sort of a preview of their run on E-Man. The Captain Marvel story has some nice artwork by Don Newton.

2000 AD #2250 (Rebellion, 2021) – All the stories in this issue are new. Dredd: “The Hard Way Part 1,” [W] Rob Williams & Arthur Wyatt, [A] Jake Lynch. A villainess called The Reine Rouge hires a number of other villains to assassinate a judge named Maitland. The most interesting of these villains is “Qaganon the Living Meme,” who’s the living incarnation of QAnon. Diaboliks: “Arrivederci Roma,” [W] Gordon Rennie, [A] Antonio Fuso. Ravne and Jenny try to steal some item from a secret Vatican gathering. This story is in black and white, but Antonio Fuso’s art is less minimal than that of Dom Reardon. Scarlet Traces: “Storm Front Part 1,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] D’Israeli. A Venusian, Ahron, has a vision where he returns home. He wakes up to find that he and his human companion, Iykarus, are on a spaceship traveling to Jupiter to appeal for the Jovians’ help against Mars. Besides D’Israeli’s gorgeous art and coloring, the memorable thing about this story is Iykarus’s shock when he realizes the ship no longer has enough fuel to return to Earth, and he can’t see his wife and child again. Anderson: “Be Psi-ing You,” [W] Maura McHugh, [A] Lee Carter. This story is a one-shot, and I don’t understand it. Pandora Perfect: “Mystery Moon Part 1,” [W] Roger Langridge, [A] Brett Parson. Pandora Perkins and her robot companion Gort are professional thieves. Zebediah Juggs, aka Bartleby Spugg, president of a sausage farm, hires them to steal the Wonga Diamond. As the summary indicates, this is a humor story. Future Shocks: “The Guardian & the Godchild,” [W/A] Chris Weston. A shaggy dog story where the pun is that a samurai adopts a baby alien insect, becoming “Lone Wolf and Grub.” The Out: “Book Two Part 1,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Mark Harrison. Cyd Finlea travels to “the Out,” a sort of extra-dimensional milieu, to look for other surviving humans. As in later chapters, Mark Harrison’s art and coloring are spectacular.

BLACK WIDOW #7 (Marvel, 2016) – “No More Secrets,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Chris Samnee. A flashback depicts Natasha’s first assassination mission, when she was a young child. In the present, Natasha goes looking for more victims of the Red Room. Chris Samnee’s artwork here is excellent as always, but Mark Waid writes this series like a generic espionage comic, and Brubaker and Epting’s Velvet is a better Black Widow story in the spy genre. Conversely, Kelly Thompson’s Black Widow was far more entertaining than Mark’s was.

INCREDIBLE HULK #334 (Marvel, 1987) – “Grave Circumstances,” [W] Peter David, [A] Todd McFarlane. This is one of the only PAD Hulk comics I haven’t read. This issue Bruce finds Betty having an affair with a sleazy Hispanic stereotype named Ramon – though we’re explicitly told that Betty and Ramon didn’t sleep together.  Then the Hulk fights Half-Life, who PAD later used much more dramatically in issue 342. At this point in the series, PAD was still a pretty inexperienced writer and was still feeling the character out.

SAVAGE TALES #4 (Marvel, 1974) – “Night of the Dark God,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Gil Kane & Neal Adams. Conan returns home to his village in Cimmeria and discovers that his childhood sweetheart, Mala, has been kidnapped by Vanir. Conan pursues and defeats the Vanir, but Mala commits suicide to avoid a forced marriage. That’s a pretty sad ending. The combination of Kane and Adams is fascinating but strange; it’s hard to tell which of them did what. This issue also includes a reprinted Crusader story drawn by Joe Maneely, and then a black-and-white reprint of “The Dweller in the Dark” from Conan the Barbarian #12. Some of the panels in this story were censored for nudity, but BWS cut out and kept the original versions of the panels. The GCD says that the Savage Tales reprinting of the story includes the original, uncensored panels, but the original panels can be seen at, and they don’t look like the ones in Savage Tales #4. That site says that the uncensored panels were printed for the first time in Comic Book Artist magazine.

THE PHANTOM #1447 (Frew, 2006) – “Black Fagin,” [W] Claes Reimerthi (as Michael Tierres), [A] Kari Leppanen. In Morristown’s slum of Shedtown, a man named Black Fagin (referencing Oliver Twist) is leading a gang of child thieves. The Phantom discovers that the project to clean up Shedtown has been delayed due to institutional corruption among Morristown’s business elite. With the aid of one of the child thieves, Joshua, the Phantom brings both Black Fagin and the corrupt businessmen to justice. Perhaps the best part of this story is Joshua, who is both adorable and courageous. Also, Reimerthi and Leppanen make the reader share the Phantom’s distress at the plight of the residents of Shedtown.

BATMAN #343 (DC, 1982) – “A Dagger So Deadly,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Gene Colan. Batman fights a villain named Dagger, whose motivation is that his family’s knife business is declining. This villain rarely if ever appeared again. In a subplot, Poison Ivy tries to force the Wayne corporation to sell off all its stock. There’s also a Robin backup story by Conway and Trevor von Eeden.

CHEVAL NOIR #43 (Dark Horse, 1993) – [E] Jennie Bricker. By this point Cheval Noir had abandoned its original mandate of reprinting quality European comics. The only European story in this issue is Cailleteau and Vatine’s Stan Pulsar. There’s also Suburban Nightmares by Cherkas and Hancock, Demon by Masashi Tanaka, and Randy the Skeleton by Aidan Potts and Ian Carney. The Tanaka story is very short and is not reflective of this artist’s strengths, but the other two stories are at least interesting. I bought a couple Cherkas and Hancock comics at Heroes Con, but have not read them yet.

SPIDER-WOMAN #46 (Marvel, 1982) – “Yakuza,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Steve Leialoha. Jess is kidnapped by a yakuza boss, Ieyasu “Sam” Imura, but he turns out to be a benevolent type, and Jess helps him prevent a gang war between the Kingpin and General Nguyen Ngoc Coy. General Coy’s appearance is a tie-in to New Mutants. This issue is not bad, though it’s an example of Claremont’s typical Orientalist depiction of Japan. I don’t know if it’s plausible that a modern Japanese person would have the same personal name as Tokugawa Ieyasu. Chris Claremont was at Heroes Con, but I didn’t get to talk to him because his line was too long.

ACTIONVERSE #0 (Action Lab, 2015) – “The Savage Maxim,” [W] Vito Delsante & Jamal Igle, [A] Ray-Anthony Height & Sean Izaakse. A crossover between a number of different Action Lab characters, including Molly Danger and Midnight Tiger. The writers assume the reader is already familiar with these characters, and they don’t do much to introduce them. The only really interesting character is Molly. Action Lab’s superhero universe could have been exciting, but it never really went anywhere.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #4 (Marvel, 2016) – “Rise of the Alpha Flight Part 4,” [W] Michele Fazekas & Tara Butters, [A] Kris Anka & Felipe Smith. Kris Anka’s art in this issue is excellent, but Fazekas and Butters’s story is of no interest. This was the worst Captain Marvel series in recent memory.

TEEN TITANS #13 (DC, 2004) – “Beast Boys and Girls Part 1: Concrete Jungle,” [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Tom Grummett. Children in San Francisco start developing the same powers as Beast Boy, while Gar loses his own powers. Meanwhile, Raven and Impulse get tattoos, but Impulse’s tattoo wears off at once because of his high metabolism. When this series was originally coming out, I hated it because of its lack of focus on the older Titans, but on its own merits, this issue is not so bad. This issue implies that Gar is nineteen years old at most. I have trouble believing that.

THE RING OF THE NIBELUNG #1 (DC, 1989) – “The Rhinegold,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Gil Kane. This is Roy Thomas’s second adaptation of Wagner’s Ring cycle, following Thor #294 to #300. This first issue covers the entire first opera, Das Rheingold. Overall, Thomas and Kane’s Ring adaptation is inferior to P. Craig Russell’s version because Thomas and Kane only care about adapting the story, and they make no attempt to also depict the music, as PCR does. However, Thomas and Kane’s version is still interesting. Kane’s art is very striking, though he depicts the gods as if they were superheroes. He also makes it obvious that Alberich is a blatant anti-Semitic stereotype.

RADIOACTIVE MAN #412 (Bongo, 1994) – “In ze Clutches of Dr. Crab!”, [W] Steve Vance, [A] Bill Morrison. Dr. Crab seemingly kills Radioactive Man, but he comes back. This comic is a funny superhero parody, but nothing about it is unusually striking or clever. Bill Morrison was at Heroes Con, but I couldn’t think of anything to talk to him about. I did buy an issue of his original series for Bongo, Roswell.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #15/172 (Dark Horse, 2012) – [E] Mike Richardson. This anthology is daunting to read because it’s 88 pages. Frankly,I could have done without some of those pages, and even the best stories in this issue would have read better in collected form. The best thing in the issue is probably the chapter of Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder. There’s also a chapter of Tony Puryear and Erika Alexander’s Concrete Park, a series I should read more of. And there’s a Nexus story, but I’ve completely lost interest in Nexus because of Mike Baron’s toxicity. Other creators in this issue include Kelly Sue DeConnick, Phil Noto, Doc Shaner, Sam Kieth, and David Chelsea.

SECRET SIX #2 (DC, 2008) – “Unhinged Part Two: The Way of the Traitor,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Nicola Scott. Batman fights Catman, and the other Secret Six members escape from prison. This issue has lots of funny dialogue, but I don’t understand how it fits into the series’ overall plot.

MARVEL FANFARE #14 (Marvel, 1984) – “Dangerous Vision,” [W] Roger McKenzie, [A] Rick Leonardi. The Mad Thinker and Klaw kidnap the Vision and manipulate him into attacking the Fantastic Four. This must have originated as an inventory story, and it reads like one. I’m not clear on where it fits into continuity. The beginning of the story implies that Wanda has left Vizh, but they were still a couple until 1989. This issue includes a Quicksilver/Inhumans backup story by Jo Duffy and Alan Weiss.

HITMAN #38 (DC, 1999) – “Dead Man’s Land Part Two,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] John McCrea. Tommy and his friends fight a bunch of vampires. I still hate this series. It’s just a bunch of violence and immature low humor.

2000 AD #2251 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: “The Hard Way Part 2,” as above. Dredd fights a bunch of assassins in a highway tunnel, and then the villains flood the tunnel. Diaboliks: as above. The protagonists win an auction for a book called the Codex Infamia, but the “book” is in fact a little girl. Scarlet Traces: as above. Ahron and Iykarus meet the Jovians and learn about the Martians’ past atrocities. The Jovians refuse to help them, but Iykarus tries to convince them otherwise. Pandora Perfect: as above. Pandora and Gort steal the Wonga Diamond. The Out: as above. Cyd Finlea attends the funeral of a space-dwelling human, and meets his alien widow. 

CAPTAIN AMERICA #704 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Leonardo Romero. Jack Rogers teams up with the Red Skull to fight the Kree, and then he beats the Red Skull and saves his son. This issue takes a jingoistic, uncritical view of America, which is very hard to support after recent events. Also, Waid keeps using the Red Skull, but he never manages to make him an interesting character. Waid’s Red Skull is just a generic evil mastermind.

THE SANDMAN #4 (DC, 1989) – “A Hope in Hell,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Sam Kieth & Mike Dringenberg. A classic story in which Morpheus travels to Hell to reclaim his helmet from a demon. This issue is most important for introducing Lucifer Morningstar, but it also has the memorable scene where Morpheus wins the duel with Choronzon by saying “I am hope.” Other notable scenes in this issue are Squatterbloat’s “there’s one at the door” speech, and Morpheus’s encounter with Nada, whose story would be told in issue 9. Elizabeth Sandifer told me that in the Absolute Sandman reprinting of this story, Morpheus’s skin was colored brown during this scene, which causes the reader to read the scene differently.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #8 (Marvel, 2019) – “Captain of Nothing Part II,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Adam Kubert. Yet another boring issue with no significant plot developments. TNC’s editor should have told him to include more story beats in each issue.

L.E.G.I.O.N. ’92 #39 (DC, 1992) – “Payback Time!”, [W] Alan Grant, [A] Barry Kitson. The L.E.G.I.O.N. defeats Max G’odd, who is eaten by his own pets, and Dox declares “L.E.G.I.O.N. lives again!” Dox confronts his ex-girlfriend Ig’nea, G’odd’s daughter, but we don’t see what happens to her afterward. He must have let her go, because she comes back about a year later and causes a lot of havoc.

ATOMIC ROBO: DOGS OF WAR #5 (Red 5, 2008) – “It’s a Lovely Day Tomorrow,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. Some Nazis try to use Atomic Robo to power a giant weather cannon. Despite losing his legs, Robo escapes and defeats the Nazis with the assistance of a Scottish commando, James “Scottie” Milligan. The best thing about this issue is Scottie’s exaggerated Scots dialogue. For example, while hauling Robo’s legless body around, he says “Whitever they’re gee’in you fer tea, oof, tell them tae put a wee bit less stanes in it.” (That is, “tell them to stop putting rocks in your dinner,” i.e. “you weigh too much.”)

BLACK CLOUD #10 (Image, 2018) – “I’m going to finally finish what I started,” [W/A] Ivan Brandon, [W] Jason Latour. Just as confusing and incoherent as every other issue of this comic. Jason Latour was at Heroes Con. I didn’t speak to him, and I was surprised he was willing to show his face there, now that we know what he did at previous Heroes Cons.

BARBIE #46 (Marvel, 1994) – “Trailblazers,” [W] Lisa Trusiani & Angelo DeCesare, [A] Win Mortimer & Mary Wilshire. Barbie and her friends go camping and then visit a “pioneer fair.” This story is a good example of the intrinsic flaws with Marvel’s Barbie comics. First, it has no conflict and no plot. Second, it glosses over important issues – specifically, the fact that American “pioneers” were not the first people on the land they were occupying. This issue perpetuates the myth that Western pioneers were settling on unexplored, virgin country, when in fact they were stealing that country from its indigenous population. This issue’s only reference to Native Americans occurs in one page where Christie puts on a generic Native American outfit and says “Native Americans played a part in pioneer life too, Barbie!” That’s only true in a vapid sense; it’s like saying that Anglo-Saxons played a part in the Norman Conquest. (I can think of an even more appropriate comparison, but I won’t say it.) The problem here is that Barbie comics were incapable of dealing with serious issues, even in a child-appropriate way.

BIRTHRIGHT #25 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. After a fight with Mastema, Kallista kidnaps Brennan. Meanwhile, Rya gives birth to her and Mikey’s daughter, but Mikey’s mom won’t let him near the baby because she doesn’t trust him. This must be one of the better childbirth scenes in a non-realistic comic. 

1602: WITCH HUNTER ANGELA #3 (Marvel, 2015) – “In Which Hearts Rend and Heads Roll,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Stephanie Hans. I don’t quite understand what’s happening in this issue, but it’s less bad than I’ve come to expect from this writer. Some of the artwork in this issue is by Frazer Irving. It’s surprisingly hard to tell which pages are by which artist; Hans and Irving are more similar than I realized.

TOTALLY AWESOME HULK #11 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Mahmud Asrar. Amadeus Cho is trying to take revenge on Hawkeye for killing Bruce Banner. Black Panther tracks Amadeus down, but Amadeus abandons the fight and travels to Austin, where he saves his sister Maddy from a crab-monster. But the monster beats Amadeus up and abducts a baby. Mahmud Asrar is a pretty good Hulk artist.

SCOOBY-DOO, WHERE ARE YOU? #76 (DC, 2017) – “Ghost Writers,” [W] Sholly Fisch, [A] Scott Jeralds. Two literary-themed stories. In the first one, a fake ghost tries to steal some Shakespeare and Poe manuscripts; in the backup story, a fake ghost steals the dust jackets from a collection of classic first-edition novels. Both these stories demonstrate a certain lack of research. There aren’t any original manuscripts of any Shakespeare plays, with the sole possible exception of Sir Thomas More, and that manuscript is in the British Library. And hardcover books didn’t have dust jackets until the 1820s, although maybe the books in the second story are all later than that.

FLASH #95 (DC, 1994) – “Terminal Velocity Mach One: The Dead Yet Live,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Salvador Larroca. I read this when it came out, but I didn’t buy it, I got it from the library, and I haven’t reread it in years. This issue, Wally returns from the Speed Force dimension, but with the terrifying knowledge that if he runs too fast, he’ll lose his humanity. Meanwhile, Kobra is plotting to conquer Keystone City. There’s an infamous moment in this issue where Bart kisses a woman on the street. This is both creepy and inconsistent with the way Bart’s character evolved; in later appearances, he never showed any sexual interest in women. There is some evidence that the version of Bart on the Young Justice TV show is gay. On page 6 of this issue, Salvador Larroca uses four slightly different versions of the same panel, with Bart, Iris, Linda and Jay sitting around worrying. This is a terrible page, but it would have been a great page if Bart had been sitting in a different place in each panel.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #190 (DC, 1981) – “Our Friends, Our Enemies,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Rich Buckler. Half the JLA battles Starro, who has taken control of the other half of the team, including Superman. This issue isn’t bad, but Brian Bolland’s beautiful cover, showing the entire JLA with stars on their faces, is better than anything in the interior of the issue. One of the best cosplays I saw at Heroes Con was a man with a Starro star on his face.

BLACK WIDOW #8 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled [No More Secrets Part 2], [W] Mark Waid, [A] Chris Samnee. One of the Red Room girls goes on a field trip to the White House, intending to assassinate the President. Natasha tracks the girl down and has to stop her from completing her mission, but without letting her be harmed. This issue has some excellent action sequences and is much more exciting than issue 7.

JON SABLE, FREELANCE #21 (First, 1985) – “Widowmaker,” [W/A] Mike Grell. Jon Sable has been shot by a cop, who, unlike most cops who shoot people, is very sorry about it. In the hospital, Jon discovers that Paul, one of his pentathlon opponents from the 1972 Olympics was murdered by his own wife, Carla. Jon leaves the hospital against medical advice and stalks the woman, until he causes her to become paralyzed in a riding accident. Sable’s behavior toward Carla is very disturbing, even if it’s justified. Perhaps the best scene in this issue is Jon and Myke’s conversation where Jon admits that he’s still traumatized over his family’s death. Mike Grell was at Heroes Con, and I went to his panel. TBH I only went to the panel because I was tired and wanted to get off the floor, but it was quite interesting.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #7 (Marvel, 2019) – “Captain of Nothing Part 1,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Adam Kubert. Steve turns himself in for Thunderbolt Ross’s murder, and Winter Soldier fights some villains in an attempt to find out who really killed Ross. Like most of TNC’s comics, this issue is a talkfest. As I mentioned in an earlier review, TNC is fundamentally an essayist. In an essay, it’s fine if the writer rambles a lot and doesn’t come to a definite conclusion; indeed, often that’s the whole point. But in a superhero comic, there needs to be a clear plot and a lot of exciting action. Dialogue is important – indeed, it can be more important than fight scenes – but it should serve the plot and characters. But in TNC’s comics, the dialogue exists for its own sake, and it just goes around in circles and leads nowhere. That would be fine in some kinds of comics, but not in Captain America.

SPECTRO #1 (AfterShock, 2022) – four stories, [W/A] Juan Doe. Four short stories on science-fictional and horror thmes. Perhaps the best is the one where Pluto is voted out of the order of planets, but in revenge, Pluto murders the other planets. There’s also a story where a rich man insists on climbing Olympus Mons on Mars, even though he’s already died.

BACCHUS #31 (Eddie Campbell, 1997) – “Ye Gods! Your Fate is in Their Hands,” [W/A] Eddie Campbell with Marcus Moore & Pete Mullins. Bacchus visits heaven, where Joe Theseus is reigning as God. Next is “Staring at the Sun,” in which Simpson explains how Hephaestus created two eyes that embody Empedocles’s principles of love and strife. Finally there’s an early Alec story. I think I’ve read at least two of these stories before in other reprinted forms.

THE SANDMAN #6 (DC, 1989) – “24 Hours,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Mike Dringenberg. Dr. Destiny visits a diner, where he uses the other patrons as playthings, then eventually murders them. This is probably the scariest issue of the series, with the possible exception of the one with the serial killer convention, and I’ve always been hesitant to reread it. What makes it particularly hard to read is that Dr. Destiny’s victims are all given distinctive personalities. After this issue, Gaiman moved more in the direction of fantasy than that of horror. For more on this point see:

MOTHERLANDS #6 (Vertigo, 2018) – “Six,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Rachael Stott. The protagonist’s mother dies and is buried next to her (the mother’s) clone, whose tombstone reads “beloved mother.” Other than that I don’t understand this issue’s plot. Motherlands was probably the worst of Si Spurrier’s recent miniseries.

2000 AD #1840 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd: “Wastelands Part 4,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Dave Taylor. Dredd fights a pair of assassins. Defoe: “The Damned Part 5,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Leigh Gallagher. Defoe disguises himself as a zombie in order to try to assassinate their controller. Sinister Dexter: “Witless Protection Pt. 5: In Plain Shite,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] John M. Burns. This chapter is just a long gunfight, but Burns’s half-painted, half-line-drawn art is excellent. Age of the Wolf: “Wolfworld Part 1,” [W] Alec Worley, [A] Jon Davis-Hunt. A story about a war between werewolves and humans. The Ten-Seconders: “Godsend Part 2,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Edmund Bagwell. I don’t understand this one.

VELVET #15 (Image, 2016) – “The Man Who Stole the World Part 5,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Steve Epting. In a flashback sequence, Velvet is killed in a fiery car crash. Of course her death is faked, and she comes back, confronts her enemies, and murders them. In his note at the end of the issue, Brubaker promises that more Velvet comics are coming, but so far this promise remains unfulfilled. This issue mostly makes sense even out of context, and Velvet is what Waid and Samnee’s Black Widow should have been. It’s powerful and realistic-seeming, and it has the feel of a classic spy novel.

SCARLET TRACES: THE GREAT GAME #1 (Dark Horse, 2006) – untitled, [W] Ian Edginton, [A] D’Israeli. This issue is set in an alternate version of WWII-era London, where the UK government has used the War of the Worlds against Mars as a pretext to establish a fascist dictatorship. This issue focuses on Lotte, a reporter, and Bernie, her gay Jewish publisher, as they try to investigate the suspicious destruction of the BBC. Finally, Bernie is murdered by fascist thugs, but a man named Robert Autumn appears to rescue Lotte. This issue probably has the best art I’ve seen from D’Israeli. His coloring is the same as in recent Scarlet Traces stories, but his draftsmanship is far more detailed, and his renderings of cities and vehicles are amazing. I particularly like how all the vehicles have six insectoid legs, instead of wheels.

WONDER WOMAN #64 (DC, 1992) – “The Heart of the City,” [W] Bill Messner-Loebs, [A] Jill Thompson. Diana apprehends a crook who’s kidnapped his toddler daughter, and saves both the crook and the girl from getting killed. This is an exciting and touching story, though it lacks the cosmic, mythic scope of most Wonder Woman comics. Bill Messner-Loebs tended to write superheroes who were very human. I think perhaps his Wonder Woman run is underrated because it’s expensive and difficult to collect, thanks to the low print runs and the Brian Bolland covers.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #54 (Marvel, 1978) – “The Big Bang Theory,” [W] Scott Edelman, [A] George Tuska. Mar-Vell fights Nitro, while Rick Jones tries to cope with life without Mar-Vell. The Rick Jones scenes in this issue are more entertaining than the Mar-Vell scenes. This issue’s last page and the last panel of the previous page were redrawn by Dave Cockrum, because Tuska’s original panels showed Mar-Vell fighting Wonder Man, but the editor decided to remove that character from the story. Edelman no longer remembers why. The original last page can be seen here:

OUR ARMY AT WAR #262 (DC, 1973) – “The Return!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Russ Heath. Sgt. Rock returns to Easy Company after being thought dead, only to discover that the company has a new sergeant, Decker. We soon discover that Decker is a far less effective leader than Rock – because, as we later learn, he blames himself for getting his previous unit killed – and Decker gets killed attacking a German-held building. Russ Heath’s art in this story is amazing. On Facebook, Brian Cronin asked who was the best war comic artist besides Joe Kubert, and most people named Heath. He was unequalled in his ability to draw realistic-looking military equipment, and he was equally good at drawing people. This issue includes a USS Stevens backup story by Sam Glanzman, which is a wordless montage of images of dead soldiers and civilians killed in war. It ends with the title: “Where Have All the Heroes Gone?”

MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #10 (Marvel, 1989) – Wolverine:“Save the Tiger Chapter 10: The Resolution,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] John Buscema. Wolverine helps Jessan Hoan, aka Tyger Tiger, become the new crimelord of Madripoor. Claremont implies that Tyger Tiger is going to become a major love interest for Wolverine. She went on to appear often in Wolverine’s solo series, but I either haven’t read those stories, or I don’t remember them. Man-Thing: “Elements of Terror,” [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Tom Sutton. Sutton’s art here includes some very effective body horror, although it’s not well served by the coloring. Machine Man: “Meets the FF,” [W/A] Steve Ditko, [W] Mike Rockwitz. A standard example of Ditko’s later work. Colossus: “God’s Country Part 1,” [W] Ann Nocenti, [A] Rick Leonardi. An unsubtle, heavy-handed examination of the differences between the USSR and America.

CURSE WORDS SUMMER SWIMSUIT SPECIAL #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Joe Quinones. Sizzajee and his minions go to the beach to have some fun. Wizord and Ruby Stitch take the opportunity to go off and have sex, but inconveniently, Ruby Stitch realizes at once that she’s pregnant. This is a fun issue, as usual, but Joe Quinones’s art is below his normal level. His linework seems to lack its usual crispness.

GREEN ARROW #23 (DC, 1989) – “Blood of the Dragon Part 3: KIA,” [W] Mike Grell, [A] Dan Jurgens. Ollie and Shado try to rescue her (or in fact, their) child from the yakuza. Black Canary doesn’t appear in this issue, and that’s too bad; whenever she was absent from this series, she was much missed. This issue’s splash page shows a Chinese dragon lurking under the pool Ollie and Shado are drinking from. This is appropriate because in Chinese culture, dragons are strongly associated with water.

Y: THE LAST MAN #38 (DC, 2005) – “Paper Dolls Chapter 2,” [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Pia Guerra. Yorick and Agent 355 try to prevent the news of Yorick’s existence from becoming public. Agent 355 falls out a window while fighting a woman who knows where Beth is. This issue also includes an interesting discussion about women in politics. An Australian woman says that in her country, female politicians are accused of being lesbians if they don’t have children, and if they do, they’re accused of being unfit to serve. Australia later did have a female prime minister, Julia Gillard, but she faced a ton of misogynistic opposition.

TOTALLY AWESOME HULK #12 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Mahmud Asrar. The crab monster is unmasked as Christian Sung, an asshole who wants to increase his own  powers by making Amadeus angry and feeding off of Amadeus’s gamma radiation. Amadeus defeats Christian and saves the baby, but Maddie is pissed at him for his repeated failure to manage his anger. Afterward, Amadeus tracks down Clint Barton but doesn’t kill him. This series was not bad, though it was totally overshadowed by Immortal Hulk.

LOVE FIGHTS #6 (Oni, 2003) – untitled, [W/A] Andi Watson. A combination of superheroes, romance, and metatextual commentary on the comics industry. This issue suffers from an excess of “inside baseball”. It’s full of stuff that only makes sense to people who already read comics, even though its art style and its romantic themes make it potentially appealing to people who aren’t already comics fans. I’m not sure if I like Andi Watson’s charming but minimalistic art style.

JAMES BOND 007: A SILENT ARMAGEDDON #2 (Dark Horse, 1993) – “A Silent Armageddon,” [W] Simon Jowett, [A] John M. Burns. This comic’s plot revolves around a little girl who’s a computer genius. I’m not a big James Bond fan, but this comic is interesting because it shows him in a tender, fatherly role, while he usually seems to be an unemotional robot. The main attraction of this comic for me is John M. Burns’s art. Here he uses more linework than painting, and his coloring is less lush than in his recent 2000 AD work. His art is still impressive, though.

SPIDER-WOMAN #10 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Dennis Hopeless, [A] Javier Rodriguez & Veronica Fish. In this Civil War II crossover, Jess goes on a bunch of missions at the prompting of Ulysses. There’s a funny scene where Jess apprehends a pet-eating slime monster in its apartment, and then an even funnier scene about an elderly antique store owner with reality-warping powers. The best part of this latter scene is how the woman’s cats react to their house being swallowed by a black hole. At the end of the issue, Jess learns that Hawkeye has killed Bruce Banner. This scene is also funny because of Jess’s delayed reaction. Jess finds out while she’s on the phone with Carol Danvers, who has already heard. Carol keeps trying to tell Jess that it’s not a good time to talk, but Jess won’t let her get a word in edgewise, and then Jess turns around and sees the news on the TV.

THE BATMAN ADVENTURES #31 (DC, 1995) – “Anarky,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Dev Madan. Robin saves Gotham’s power brokers, including Bruce Wayne, from being executed by Anarky. This issue is effectively a Robin solo story, since Batman only appears in it as Bruce Wayne, and spends the entire issue in captivity. It’s not clear whether the writer agrees with Anarky’s politics or not. When Anarky accuses his other three victims of various crimes, Bruce Wayne points out that they also give a lot of money to charity. Anarky replies that their charity contributions are just a fig leaf to salvage their conscience, and Bruce doesn’t reply.

TALES OF THE BEANWORLD #15 (Eclipse, 1989) – “Jump’n Beanish!”, [W/A] Larry Marder. Proffy tries and fails to teleport to Dreamishness’s dimension, like Beanish does. Meanwhile, the Chow Sol’jers can’t find any accessible Chow, but Mr. Spook finds a clever solution to the problem. At the end of the issue, Beanish realizes that the hearts that surround Dreamishness are the same ones that appear when Hoi Polloi are suffering from sprout-butt fever. There’s also a backup story about the Goofy Jerks.

L.E.G.I.O.N. ’90 #15 (DC, 1990) – “Nightmares,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Barry Kitson. Garryn Bek uses the Emerald Eye to turn himself into a god. Lobo infiltrates Dagon-Ra’s gang. Pulsar Stargrave kidnaps the infant Lyrissa Mallor and ages her to adulthood. This issue goes far beyond passing the Bechdel Test: it includes a scene where four different female characters (Stealth, Phase, Strata and Lydea Mallor) talk about things other than men. Not only that, these characters all have entirely different personalities.

QUEEN & COUNTRY #8 (Oni, 2002 ) – “Crystal Ball Part 1,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Leandro Fernandez. Tara and the other Minders capture a laptop from an al-Qaeda terrorist, and then there’s some wrangling about which intelligence agencies have rights to the laptop. Meanwhile, another terrorist turns himself in to the US embassy in Cairo. I thought I had read this issue before, but I was wrong; I started collecting this series with issue 9. Leandro Fernandez’s artwork here is already impressive, but by the time of Old Guard, he had gotten even better.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #703 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Leonardo Romero. Jack Rogers begs the Cosmic-Cube-powered Red Skull to save his child. There’s also an inset sequence drawn by Alan Davis. This is another bad issue of a bad storyline. This story’s main redeeming quality was Leonardo Romero’s art.

RISE OF THE BLACK PANTHER #6 (Marvel, 2018) – “Underground Spiritual Game,” [W] Evan Narcisse, [A] Javier Pina. Mostly a long fight scene between T’Challa and Killmonger. There’s not much in this issue that’s new or original, and this whole miniseries was underwhelming.

ASTRO CITY #5 (Image, 1995) – “Reconaissance,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Brent Anderson. I’ve read this issue before, but not for a long time. Mr. Bridwell, a reclusive old man, is secretly an agent of a warlike alien race, later named as the Enelsians. Both names are references to E. Nelson Bridwell. Mr. Bridwell’s job is to send his bosses a message telling them to invade Earth, but he can’t decide whether to do so or not, because he begins to appreciate the inherent nobility of humans. The surprise in this issue is that in the end, Bridwell does send the signal, whereas in a classic Marvel or DC comic, he would have decided not to. In rereading this issue, I realize I remembered it wrong. I thought that the reason Bridwell gave up on humankind was because of his encounter with Crackerjack, a sexist, showboating hero who takes credit for others’ achievements. Crackerjack is indeed depicted as an asshole. But what actually destroys Bridwell’s faith in humanity is that Crackerjack accidentally reveals himself to be Bridwell’s neighbor Eugene Wallace, and then their other neighbors – a bunch of annoying old ladies – pretend that they knew Wallace was Crackerjack all along. And Bridwell is disgusted at their hypocrisy, because earlier in the issue, he heard these same women gossiping about how Eugene couldn’t hold down a job and was probably gay. The Enelsians reappeared in the Confession story arc, where they carried out their planned invasion of Earth.  

SUICIDE SQUAD: DANGEROUS ALLIES #3 (DC, 2008) – “Allies,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Javier Pina. Amanda Waller assembles a new Suicide Squad team that includes Rick Flag, who’s somehow not dead. This issue is well-written, but it lacks the character interaction that made the original Suicide Squad such a classic. Also, at this point Ostrander wasn’t able to use some of his classic Suicide Squad characters. There’s a sad moment at the end where we learn that Captain Boomerang is dead, although he’s been replaced by his son.

BLACK LIGHTNING #4 (DC, 1977) – “Beware the Cyclotronic Man,” [W] Tony Isabella, [A] Trevor von Eeden. Black Lightning rescues Jimmy Olsen from a villain called the Cyclotronic Man, but then Superman shows up to save Jimmy, mistakenly thinking Black Lightning is trying to kill him. This is a pretty mediocre comic.

FUTURE IMPERFECT #5 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Greg Land. The Maestro puts on the Destroyer armor and uses it to kill Dr. Doom and become the ruler of the world. But then Rick Jones reveals that the Maestro is just having a vision, and the Maestro reverts to an elderly Bruce Banner. So basically this issue has the same ending as Superman Annual #11. Future Imperfect seems to be PAD’s personal favorite among his Hulk stories, and he’s revisited it many times. But none of the revised versions have been as good as the original, because PAD has declined as a writer.

CONVERGENCE: NEW TEEN TITANS #2 (DC, 2015) – “Game of Heroes,” [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Nicola Scott. The classic Titans fight to save their personal chunk of Battleworld. Also, Dick and Kory resolve their crumbling marriage, and Jericho officially comes out as gay. The scene where Jericho comes out is slightly ambiguous; he does so by making the ASL sign for “gay.” This issue contains a notable piece of fanservice: in the third-to-last panel, Kory has her hand on Dick’s butt.

AIRBOY-MR. MONSTER SPECIAL #1 (Eclipse, 1987) – “The Café at the Edge of the World,” [W/A] Michael T. Gilbert w/ Mark Pacella. Golden Age cartoonist Everett Coleman – presumably based on Bill Everett and Jack Cole – has gained the power to summon his own creations into existence by drawing them. One of Coleman’s creations, Black Axis, tries to convince Everett to commit suicide, but Mr. Monster, the Heap, and Airboy team up to save Everett. In a public Facebook post, MTG said that he wrote this story as a Mr. Monster/Heap crossover, but his editor ordered him to include Airboy as well. He did so reluctantly, but never worked for Eclipse again. MTG recently restored this story to its original form, and plans to publish it soon.

VELVET #4 (Image, 2014) – “Before the Living End Part 4,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Steve Epting. Velvet visits the Carnival of Fools in Monaco, where she rescues an old enemy and lover named Roman. Afterward, Roman casuallly mentions that Mockingbird, Velvet’s husband, has been killed. This is another excellent issue.

DETECTIVE COMICS #571 (DC, 1987) – “Fear for Sale,” [W] Mike W. Barr, [A] Alan Davis. The Scarecrow creates a drug that causes people to lose their inhibitions and to endanger their own lives recklessly. Batman gets infected with the drug, and Robin (Jason) tries to defeat the Scarecrow himself, but gets captured. Batman overcomes the drug’s influence and saves Robin, by “replacing the fears the drug nullified with a different fear” – namely, the fear of Robin’s death. That’s a pretty ironic ending, given what happened to Jason just a year later. Mike W. Barr’s writing tends to be boring and humorless, and the best thing about this issue is Alan Davis’s adorable depiction of Jason. According to the imaginary tombstone at the end of the issue, Jason is only twelve years old at most.

DAREDEVIL #82 (Marvel, 1971) – “Now Send… the Scorpion,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Gene Colan. The Scorpion kidnaps Black Widow and her chauffeur Ivan, and Matt has to save them. Meanwhile, Karen is torn between her love for Matt and for her agent Phil, and Foggy is being blackmailed by someone called the Assassin. I think Conway and Colan’s Daredevil run was the best era of Daredevil prior to Frank Miller’s arrival.

MIRACLEMAN #11 (Eclipse, 1987) – “Olympus Chapter One: Cronos,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] John Totleben. I’ve read this before, but not for a long time. In this issue, Miracleman is contacted by two Qys aliens. In the process of kicking his ass, they learn he has a child, and they head off to look for Liz and baby Winter. Then Avril Lear shows up to save the day, appearing as Miraclewoman for the first time. This issue also includes a Laser Eraser and Pressbutton backup story.

JOJO’S BIZARRE ADVENTURE FCBD 2015 EDITION (Viz, 2015) – “Phantom Blood,” [W/A] Hirohiko Araki. This FCBD comic includes chapters of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and Yu-Gi-Oh. I’d be interested in trying both of these comics, but neither of these chapters tells a complete story on its own.

SPIDER-MAN 2099 #2 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Will Sliney. Miguel wakes up from a coma to discover that his girlfriend is dead. He doesn’t appear in costume until the very end of the issue. Neither the second nor the third volumes of Spider-Man 2099 were any good, and I shouldn’t have bothered buying either of them.

I went back to Heroes on June 19. This was a pretty light week, because some of the comics that were supposed to arrive that week were delayed, and I didn’t get them until July 3.

TWIG #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Kyle Strahm. With the Pathsayer dead, Twig has to figure out for himself how to operate the Pathsayer’s quest-granting machine. In using the machine, Twig figures out where to take his gem, but also drains the power from the gem, and he has to visit the “Nektarmancer” to learn how to recharge the gem. The Nektarmancer tells Twig to go and collect three plot coupons, one of which is on the moon. He also reveals that this is the last gem that has to be placed, and afterward, the world will enter into a new era of harmony. This comic’s characters and setting are absolutely amazing. Each panel is full of weird creatures and devices and architectural or geographical features. I especially love the Pathsayer’s Rube Goldberg/Dr. Seuss device, and the village of faceless glowing-eyed people with bird-shaped hats. These things all feel intriguing and mysterious, even though they’re not relevant to the story. I also like how Twig’s world feels weird and alien, but in a gentle, non-threatening way. I’ve never seen The Dark Crystal, but I feel like Twig must be like The Dark Crystal. Skottie Young was at Heroes Con, but there was always a long line at his table. I did manage to see him briefly and tell him how much I like Twig.    

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #12 (DC, 2022) – “Insiders,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Cian Tormey. Nightwing plants a bug in Luthor’s office, allowing him, Jon and Jay to listen to a conversation  in which Luthor and Bendix mention a plot involving a senator. Jon and Jay confront the senator and expose the plot, but the senator turns into a giant tentacled monster. Jay defeats the monster by phasing inside it and removing Bendix’s control device, but in the process, he reveals his own secret identity.

FARMHAND #18 (Image, 2022) – “Allergy Season,” [W/A] Rob Guillory. Riley tries to draw a comic, but finds that it’s harder than it looks. Tree (the preacher) and Mae battle two of Thorne’s agents. Zeke and Mae’s marriage continues to deteriorate. Monica Thorne asks Jed for his late wife Anna’s body. He responds by spitting in her face, but she decides to take the body anyway.

SAVAGE DRAGON #262 (Image, 2022) – “Scorched Earth!”, [W/A] Erik Larson. Malcolm and Paul fight some Vicious Circle villains. Horridus dies of COVID due to refusing the vaccine. Afterward, her doctors try to cure patients of COVID by injecting themselves with Dragon’s blood, but they only succeed in killing themselves and their patients. This issue was a bit disappointing after such a long hiatus; it’s only the second new issue this year. I still think Erik is easily going to reach a higher issue number than Dave Sim did, and he’s going to do it without going completely nuts.

DO A POWERBOMB #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Daniel Warren Johnson. Yua Steelrose is both a successful professional wrestler, and a mother to a young daughter. But at the peak of her career, she suffers a fatal injury in the ring. Ten years later, Yua’s daughter Lona is trying to become a wrestler herself, but her father interferes with her career and prevents her from finding a trainer, not wanting Lona to suffer her mother’s fate. But then a necromancer recruits Lona for an other-dimensional wrestling tournament, where if she wins, she can resurrect her mother. I haven’t read Daniel Warren Johnson’s comics before, but I became interested in him when he was nominated for several Eisners. This issue is a great  introduction to his work. His style reminds me of Paul Pope, and his characters are believable and sympathetic. He was at Heroes Con, but I didn’t meet him, and I couldn’t find any back issues of his previous series, Murder Falcon and Extremity.

SANDMAN PRESENTS: NIGHTMARE COUNTRY #3 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Lisandro Estherren. Agony and Ecstasy burn down Madison Flynn’s apartment. She flees to her friend Robbie, who is visiting his lover, a Republican billionaire. There’s an inset sequence with art by Francesco Francavilla. So far this series has been a bit disappointing. It’s not as exciting as James Tynion’s other current titles.

JUSTICE WARRIORS #1 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Bubble City,” [W] Matt Bors, [A] Ben Clarkson. A political satire about cops who only protect the privileged residents of a bubble city, while terrorizing everyone else. This comic is funny, but has some problems with pacing, and it feels as if Bors isn’t entirely sure what tone he’s going for. I believe that Bors is mostly a political cartoonist and that Justice Warriors is his first extended work of fiction.

GRIM #2 (Boom!, 2022) – “The End,” [W] Stephanie Phillips, [A] Flaviano. In Mexico, a giant Grim Reaper starts killing people to “balance the ledger.” In the underworld, Jess gets suspended from her job as a reaper, and she tries to figure out the secrets behind her suspension. This series’s premise is very compelling. Stephanie Phillips was at Heroes Con, but I didn’t get to see her. I was surprised to realize that until now, I’ve been confusing Stephanie Phillips with Stephanie Williams. They are two different people.

BUNNY MASK: THE HOLLOW INSIDE #2 (AfterShock, 2022) – “The Hollow Inside,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Andrea Mutti. Bee discovers she has no memories of her childhood. Bunny Mask murders some jerk who’s blackmailing a woman with revenge porn photos. This issue is entertaining, but it barely advances the plot. I met Andrea Mutti briefly at Heroes Con.

2000 AD #2252 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as #2251 above. Dredd fights the Sentientoid, an octopus-esque Soviet robot. Qaganon hypnotizes Dredd’s fellow Judges into turning against him. Diaboliks: as above. We are shown that the Vatican has an entire library of children who are being used as living repositories of information. Scarlet Traces: as above. The Jovians agree to fight the Martians. Pandora Perfect: as above. Pandora discovers that the diamond she stole was a fake, and she gets sentenced to prison. Meanwhile, Spugg steals Gort and starts cloning him. The Out: as above. Cyd Finlea meets some more humans.

ORCS: THE CURSE #1 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Christine Larsen. I’m very glad to see this series again. In this new miniseries, an evil wizard tries to enlist the orcs in his service, but the orcs refuse to do so unless they’re paid. Angry, the wizard turns his anthropomorphic crows into a giant crow monster, which he sends to attack the orcs. With the aid of a couple of crows who escaped the transformation, the orcs defeat the wizard. This issue is as fun as the last miniseries was, and the orcs are still their raucous, vulgar selves.

WONDER WOMAN #788 (DC, 2022) – “The Villainy of Our Fears Part 2,” [W] Michael Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Emanuela Lupacchino. While Diana is visiting the Hall of Justice, Dr. Psycho stages a men’s-rights protest which turns into a terrorist attack. Psycho blames Diana for causing the attack herself. At the end of the issue, a “classic” Wonder Woman villain, the Duke of Deception, is reintroduced. I put “classic” in quotation marks because I don’t know if this character ever appeared in any good stories. I like how the writers are using Dr. Psycho to directly confront the topics of toxic masculinity and MRA-ism.

POISON IVY #1 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Marcio Takara. Poison Ivy travels around the country causing ecological catastrophe. Harley Quinn makes a cameo appearance in a flashback. This series doesn’t seem relevant to the typical themes of G. Willow Wilson’s work, but this issue does include some interesting meditations about ecology and the impact of humans on the world.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY: DESTINY MAN ONE-SHOT (Image, 2022) – “Destiny Man,” [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcello Grassi. In #18, we learned that the Destiny Man is Charlotte and Daniel’s unknown brother, Alexander. This issue explains how Alexander was born, as a sort of backup plan in case something went wrong with Charlotte and Daniel, and how he became the ruler of the Destiny Zone. Project Aurora plays a key role in this issue, but I’m still not entirely sure what Aurora is.

SEASON OF THE BRUJA #3 (Oni, 2022) – untitled, [W] Aaron Durán, [A] Sara Soler. A creepy old priest plots Althalia’s assassination in the name of Hernán Cortés. Althalia tries and fails to contact her grandmother’s spirit. Not much happens in this issue, but Season of the Bruja has been excellent so far. Season of the Bruja is yet another excellent series that is probably not getting the publicity it deserves. BTW, I hope everything is okay with Oni. It’s distressing that they’ve fired their two top executives.

JURASSIC LEAGUE #2 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Juan Gedeon, [W] Daniel Warren Johnson. Dinosaur Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman battle dinosaur Bizarro and Atrocitus. We also meet a proto-human version of Robin. This issue is entertaining, but the joke isn’t as funny the second time around.

BATGIRLS #7 (DC, 2022) – “Bad Reputation Part 1,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. The Batgirls allow Seer to be kidnapped by the Saints, so they can track her and follow her to the Saints’ lair. They follow Seer’s trail to the Iceberg Lounge, and Babs and Dick go there on a date. Babs and Dick are such a cute couple, both in this series and in Nightwing, that I almost forget I’m a lifetime Dick/Kory shipper. This issue has the same excellent character interaction as in the previous storyline, but Jorge Corona’s art is much missed. Robbi Rodriguez was the subject of #MeToo allegations, but it appears that his career has survived.  

MONKEY PRINCE #5 (DC, 2022) – “Big Stick Energy,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Bernard Chang. Marcus moves to Amnesty Bay and fights Shellestriah, the daughter of the King of the Trench, who I assume is an Aquaman villain. Aquaman himself is not in this issue, but Black Manta is. A problem with Gene Luen Yang’s Shang-Chi is its overreliance on guest stars, and I fear Monkey Prince will have the same problem. I like how Yang is taking advantage of the terrifying monsters that are characteristic of Chinese folklore.

X-MEN RED #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “Loss,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Stefano Caselli. Tarn almost beats Vulcan for a seat on the Great Ring. But Roberto is sitting in the audience next to Isca, whose power is that she can never lose, and he says to Isca “I bet you Tarn wins.” Of course he loses that bet. This is a brilliant moment. I also like the scene where Magneto laments his inability to revive his oldest daughter, Anya.

ARCHIE & FRIENDS SUMMER LOVIN’ #1 (Archie, 2022) – “Carnival Love,” [W] Tee Franklin, [A] Dan Parent. This story introduces Eliza Han, Archie’s first disabled protagonist. It’s just five pages, and it’s not much of a story. This is the first Tee Franklin comic I’ve read in a while. Her promising career was derailed by revelations of her rude behavior toward the artists she was working with. Dan Parent was at Heroes Con, but I didn’t talk to him. “Windsurfing Woes,” [W] Tom DeFalco, [A] Pat Kennedy & Tim Kennedy. This takes up most of the issue. It starts out as a typical Archie story, whose plot is that Veronica gets a crush on a windsurfer, Biff Logun. The atypical twist ending is that Biff turns out to be gay. Tom DeFalco was supposed to be at Heroes Con, but cancelled. This was disappointing to me because I wanted to ask him about Marvel’s Star imprint.

2000 AD #2253 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. The battle continues, and we meet another of the assassins, a giant female alien named Keeper Hag. Qaganon’s dialogue in this chapter is very funny; the memes he promulgates include TimeCube and sovereign citizen theory. Diaboliks: as above. The protagonists try to rescue the codex-children from the Vatican. Pandora Perfect: as above. Pandora escapes from prison and looks for Gort. She discovers Gort and his clones working in Spugg’s “sausage mine.” Scarlet Traces: as above. The Martians and Jovians go to war. The Out: as above. During a stopover on Cyd’s trip, her bag is stolen by crooks. It’s rather awkward that Pandora Perfect and Cyd Finlea both have a bag of holding. I didn’t notice this fact myself; I think it was pointed out in the letter column of one of these progs.

QUESTS ASIDE #2 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Brian Schirmer, [A] Elena Gogou. Barrow receives another offer to sell his pub, but he decides he can’t, because it’s his home and his family. There’s a subplot about the relationship problems of two of the bar employees, one of whom is a skeleton. The best part about this issue is the “Adventurers Anonymous” support group.

HULKLING & WICCAN #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Possibilities,” [W] Josh Trujillo, [A] Jodi Nishijima. Wiccan and Hulkling are unhappy with their long-distance marriage. Agatha Harkness causes each of them to have a vision where he’s married to someone else. Teddy and Billy manage to see through the visions and reaffirm their love for each other. This issue is okay, but I’m not a particular fan of either of these characters. This comic was originally published as a digital “Infinity Comic.” Marvel did a good job of converting it to print form without damaging the quality of the art. It’s easy to screw this up – an example is Dark Horse’s print version of Dorkin, Dyer and Humiston’s Calla Cthulhu, where the size of the lettering was inconsistent from one panel to another.

ASTRONAUT DOWN #1 (AfterShock, 2022) – “Did I Overcook the Chicken?”, [W] James Patrick, [A] Rubine. The world is about to be destroyed by runaway quantum-mechanical mutations. Three astronauts are selected for “Mission Politzer,” which is somehow intended to save the world by sending the astronauts into an alternate reality. I don’t understand how all of this works. James Patrick does a good job of depicting the three astronauts’ very different personalities and motivations. Another theme of this issue, as conveyed in the emails appearing after the story, is that the quantum mutation tragedy was caused by humanity’s lack of will to do anything to stop it.

SKYBOUND PRESENTS AFTERSCHOOL #1 (Image, 2022) – “Spineless,” [W] Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead, [A] Greg Hinkle. A high school girl discovers that her dog is a sentient alien. She helps send him home, through a disgusting process that requires her to dissect some animals. This experience gives her the confidence she needs to become her class valedictorian, but as she’s giving her valedictorian speech, Earth is invaded by aliens from the dog’s planet. Benson and Moorhead haven’t written comics before, but this is a creditable professional debut. “Spineless” is an effective combination of humor and gruesome body horror.

DOGS OF LONDON #2 (AfterShock, 2022) – “Who Let the Dogs Out,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Artecida. In a flashback, we see that when Frank and the other Dogs were inmates in a borstal – that is, a juvenile detention center – they were subjects in an unethical scientific study that killed one of their fellow inmates. Another later flashback shows that when Frank’s girlfriend became pregnant, she was murdered by her own brother, a member of a rival gang. Back in the present, the government takes custody of the exhumed bodies of the three dead Dogs. Terry tries to destroy the bodies by blowing up the hospital where they were taken, but the bodies come back to life. I’m fascinated to see what happens next.

BLOOD SYNDICATE SEASON ONE #2 (Milestone, 2022) – “Where I’m From,” [W] Geoffrey Thorne, [A] Chriscross. This issue is disappointing because it focuses almost entirely on Wise Son, and the other future Blood Syndicate members play only a minor role. At this point, we’ve hardly seen any of the team members yet, and if the series continues at this pace, the first season is going to end before the team is assembled. Maybe the highlight of this issue is the scene where Holocaust takes control of Dakota’s gangs by murdering all his rivals. Thorne’s version of Holocaust is terrifying.

THE MARVELS #11 (Marvel, 2022) – “A Journey into Mystery,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Yildiray Cinar. In Threadneedle’s comic book store, the superheroes discover a comic book that explains how the nation of Siancong started out as a person. This whole series has been very strange, and this issue is the strangest of all. I’m still not sure what the point of this series is.

BLIND ALLEY #2 (Behemoth, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Irra. This comic has a rambling plot that goes nowhere – or maybe it just seems that way because of the incompetent translation. As an example of how this comic is translated, when one character sneezes, another character says “Jesus, Maria and Jose.” Then the following exchange ensues: “Do you know what used to happen to people who sneezed and didn’t say those words?” “What are you talking about?” “God blows your head off.” “Then… if your head explodes, world hunger ends!” Not only is this awkward and unidiomatic English, but the last line is a non sequitur. Also, Blind Alley’s smaller-than-normal format is annoying. I’m going to give up on this series.

2000 AD #2254 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Dredd convinces his robot judge allies to overcome Qaganon’s influence and help him fight the Keeper Hag. Diaboliks: as above. The protagonists make it to the Choir of Codices, where the children are held. Pandora Perfect: as above. Pandora identifies the real Gort among all the clones, and then Gort tells her that the sausage planet is alive. A funny moment in this chapter is when Pandora tries to find the real Gort by singing a song, in order to see which of the robots sings along – but it doesn’t work, because they all sing along. Scarlet Traces: as above. The Jovian-Martian battle continues. The Out: as above. Cyd gets her bag back.

LEGION OF X #2 (Marvel, 2022) – “Let Us Prey,” [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Jan Bazaldua. Kurt’s Legion fights a “skinjacker,” a villain who can control people’s bodies. This issue is okay, but I’m still not super-impressed with Si Spurrier’s X-Men comics.

AQUAMAN: ANDROMEDA #1 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Ram V, [A] Christian Ward. The main character in this issue is not Aquaman himself but marine biologist Yvette Verne, a member of the crew of a submarine on a mysterious underwater mission. Like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which inspired Yvette’s name, Aquaman: Andromeda’s main theme is the majestic weirdness and mystery of the sea. This theme is conveyed in large part by Christian Ward’s moody art and coloring. Ward’s skill with color is the reason he’s one of the best artists in the industry. This issue also includes a scene where Aquaman meets an old woman, and they greet each other with “amgiichxizax” and “aang.” According to Google, these words come from the Aleut language, which is native to Alaska and Kamchatka. Indigenous culture is also a major theme in Ram V’s Swamp Thing.

THE SPECIALIST V1 (Catalan, 1982/1987) – “Full Moon in Dendera,” [W/A] Magnus. I’d like to make an active effort to get through my backlog of European comics albums. Magnus is an important Italian cartoonist, but this volume of The Specialist is one of his only works available in English. This volume has such a compressed and economical narrative that it’s often hard to follow, and it demands active effort from the reader. It’s very interesting, though, and it demonstrates Magnus’s mastery of black-and-white art. This volume is an espionage thriller, but with a strong theme of Egyptian mythology, and its combination of realistic adventure with mysticism reminds me of Corto Maltese.

TARZAN #79 (Dell, 1956) – “The Black Cloaks,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Jesse Marsh. Tarzan  saves some monkeys who were enslaved by black baboons. In the second story, “Buto Takes a Vow,” Tarzan helps an African man hunt down an elephant. There’s also a Brothers of the Spear story by a young Russ Manning. His draftsmanship here is kind of crude and scratchy, without his usual slickness of line.

BATMAN #396 (DC, 1986) – “Box-Office Smash,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Tom Mandrake. Batman and his allies hunt down the Film Freak. Doug Moench is not my favorite Batman writer, but this issue was much better than I expected. Moench does lots of funny stuff with the Film Freak’s gimmick of patterning his crimes after classic films. For example, Film Freak knows what the police are going to do because he’s been watching them from the window across the street, like in Rear Window.

THE FADE OUT #2 (Image, 2014) – “The Death of Me,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. At Valeria Sommers’s funeral, Charlie reveals to the reader that he’s been suffering from writer’s block for years, and all his scripts are written by his blacklisted, alcoholic friend Gil. Lots of other stuff happens, but that’s the main thing I remember. The Fade Out is a fascinating mystery comic which also demonstrates deep knowledge of the classic Hollywood era – or the end of it; at one point in this comic, there’s a reference to the 1948 court decision that ended the old studio system.  

CAMELOT 3000 #8 (DC, 1983) – “Judas Knight,” [W] Mike W. Barr, [A] Brian Bolland. Arthur proves that Sir Kay betrayed the Round Table, even though I think it was really Tristan who did that. This series’s version of Tristan is an early example of a transgender comic book character, though perhaps not an example of positive transgender representation. Tristan was a man in his first life, then was reborn as a woman, and is willing to do anything to become a man again. Anyway, Camelot 3000 is a disappointing series because first, Mike W. Barr is a boring and humorless writer, and he only had a casual knowledge of Arthurian myth. Second, the main selling point of the comic was Brian Bolland’s art, but under the constraints of a monthly schedule, he was not able to do his best work.

FUTURE IMPERFECT #4 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Greg Land. The Maestro goes looking for Ulik, who eventually leads him to Rick Jones. This is another average issue. I do think Ulik is a fun villain who doesn’t appear often enough.

COMPANIONS OF THE DUSK VOL. 1 (Catalan, 1984/1991) – “The Spell of the Misty Forest,” [W/A] François Bourgeon. François Bourgeon is a major BD artist, whose specialty is historical fiction, but this is his only work available in English. Companions of the Dusk is set in 1350 and follows the adventures of a knight and a peasant boy and girl, all of them refugees from the Hundred Years’ War. While traveling through the countryside, they have a dream where they’re captured by goblins and forced to go on a quest. Bourgeon’s artwork is incredibly lush and detailed; his characters are realistic, if rather unsympathetic; and he conveys the brutal horror of medieval warfare. The highlight of the book is the goblin scene. Bourgeon’s fairies look sexy and alluring, but also tawdry and threatening, and the translator makes a noble effort to translate their rhyming dialogue. I want to read the other two volumes of this series, and also Bourgeon’s masterwork Les Passagers du Vent, but I’ll have to look for the French editions.

2000 AD #2255 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Dredd defeats the Keeper Hag, but can’t save Atlantis from being destroyed by flooding. Judge Maitland vows revenge on the Red Queen. Diaboliks: as above. The protagonists save the codex-children. Pandora Perfect: as above. Spugg gets eaten by the sausage planet, and Pandora reveals that she has the real Wonga Diamond. This story was funny, but I didn’t like it as much as Nakka of the S.TA.R.S. Scarlet Traces: as above. Ahron and Iykarus are saved by a certain Captain Skellern, and Iykarus is reunited with his wife and newborn daughter. The Out: as above. Cyd meets some more humans, the last of whom is a recluse who refuses to open the door to her.

DENNIS THE MENACE BONUS MAGAZINE SERIES #123 (Fawcett, 1973) – “Oh Christmas Tree, Ow! Christmas Tree,” uncredited. Four stories with Christmas themes. In the first one, Dennis causes his dad to pay way too much money for a Christmas tree. In the second story, Dennis’s mom tries to hide his Christmas presents, but Dennis finds them anyway. I have nothing in particular to say about these stories, but they’re funny.

SPIDER-WOMAN #8 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Dennis Hopeless, [A] Javier Rodriguez. Jess fights Tiger Shark and a giant octopus, while talking on the phone with Roger about child care. This issue doesn’t have a super-exciting plot, but it’s extremely well-drawn. Javier  Rodriguez’s is so good with panel compositions and page layouts, that he can take even a fairly generic superhero fight scene and turn it into a masterpiece of comics storytelling. I especially like the establishing shot of Tiger Shark’s apartment, and the scene where the octopus falls through the roof of a fancy apartment while the occupants are having dinner.

MOTHER PANIC #9 (DC, 2017) – “Victim Complex Part 3,” [W] Jody Houser, [A] Tommy Lee Edwards. I’m not sure what this comic is about, and honestly the best thing in it is the John Workman lettering. I should have given up on this series after the first issue.

THE WOODS #7 (Boom!, 2014) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. This issue’s focal character is Ben, the big black kid. In the flashback sequence, we see that Ben is gay but has a homophobic father, and he manipulates Kayla into pretending to be his girlfriend. Back in the present, there’s a chase sequence where the kids flee from a horde of multi-armed monkeys.

LOBSTER JOHNSON: THE IRON PROMETHEUS #4 (Dark Horse, 2007) – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola, [A] Jason Armstrong. Lobster Johnson fights some kind of supernatural menace. I feel like if you’ve read one of these Hellboy spinoffs, you’ve read them all. They all have the same basic mood and aesthetic, regardless of who is drawing them, and it’s hard to tell them apart. (An exception is The Visitor: How and Why He Stayed.)

JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS #6 (Archie, 2017) – untitled, [W] Cameron DeOrdio & Marguerite Bennett, [A] Audrey Mok. Alexander Cabot imprisons the Pussycats in his Antarctic lair. The major problem with this comic is that Marguerite Bennett’s dialogue tries too hard to be witty. Just about every single line is some kind of a quip. But some of the quips are funny. At one point in the comic, one of the Pussycats addresses a polar bear as “Iorek,” and then later, the polar bears all suddenly have armor on, with no explanation of where the armor came from.

RINGSIDE #9 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Nick Barber. Nothing new to say about this comic. As a wrestling-focused comic book, Ringside is vastly inferior to Do a Powerbomb.

STEVEN UNIVERSE #3 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Melanie Gillman, [A] Katy Farina. Mayor Dewey holds a “food truck rally,” but it doesn’t go well, I’m not sure why. Then he holds a “community picnic” and it succeeds. This is a cute comic, but I don’t quite get the point of it, and I still can’t get into Steven Universe. I think that the Cartoon Network aesthetic is just not for me.

I went to Heroes Con from June 24 to 26. The convention was unfortunately overshadowed by Friday morning’s horrifying news that I don’t want to talk about. Other than that, it was perhaps the most fun time I’ve had since 2019. I met lots of old friends, plus some new ones. I bought a ton of comics, and I moderated two panels. I thought that the censorship panel was a particular success because of the timeliness of the topic, and the audience really seemed to get into it.

My comics purchases were a little disappointing compared to past years, but that’s because I was mostly going for quantity over quality. I bought a lot of comics for 25 or 50 cents, but I didn’t buy a whole lot of big-ticket items. I do think I need to be willing to spend more money on individual back issues. Here are some of the comics I bought:

AVENGERS #46 (Marvel, 1967) – “The Agony and the Anthill!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] John Buscema. The Whirlwind – making his first appearance under that name, rather than as the Human Top – seeks revenge on Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne. This was the most expensive back issue I bought at Heroes Con, at $10. I bought it right at the end of the show, when I was running low on money and wanted to buy something a little more expensive. This issue is full of fun character interactions, which are the main thing I’m looking for in an Avengers story. Roy Thomas was at the con, but only for one day, and I didn’t get to talk to him.

SOLO AVENGERS #14 (Marvel, 1989) – “When the Widow Calls!”, [W] Tom DeFalco, [A] Al Milgrom. I must have seen this comic hundreds of times, but I never bothered to buy it until now, because it looks completely uninteresting. And indeed the first story is pretty bad. However, the backup story, “Court Costs!”, is a hidden gem: a She-Hulk story by Chris Claremont and Alan Davis. In this story, Jen Walters is trying her first case before the Supreme Court, but she keeps getting interrupted by Titania, who demands that Jen come outside the court and fight her. This story is very funny, and Alan Davis’s art is beautiful. I especially like how he depicts the gradual deterioration of Jen’s hair and clothing. It’s too bad that this story is about the Supreme Court, because I’m not feeling very fond of the Supreme Court right now, but let’s not talk about that.

NIGHTWING #81 (DC, 2021) – “Leaping Into the Light Part 4,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo. At the convention I looked everywhere for the Tom Taylor Nightwings I was missing, but I was only able to find two of them. In this issue Dick fights Heartless – who reappears in the latest issue – while trying to save a bunch of children. Meanwhile, Boss Zucco’s daughter is elected mayor of Blüdhaven, but when Dick confronts her, she claims that her real father is John Grayson, and that she’s Dick’s sister. Bruno Redondo’s art in this series is amazing. Nightwing elevated him from a nobody to a superstar.

SCOOBY-DOO MYSTERY COMICS #22 (Gold Key, 1973) – “The Gypsy’s Curse,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Dan Spiegle. This was one of my better finds at the con, because Evanier/Spiegle Scooby comics are very rare, I’m not quite sure why. This issue’s stories are about a phony g*ps* curse and a phony volcano god. Evanier’s writing in both stories is very witty. In the first story this issue, an innocent man is hypnotized into believing he’s a werewolf by the use of a “sleep-teacher… like people use to learn foreign languages!” It turns out that sleep-teaching doesn’t really work. I always thought it did work, but only because of a Garfield episode where Jon Arbuckle learns Spanish by listening to tapes in his sleep. And who wrote that episode? Mark Evanier.

THE WOODS #1 (Boom!, 2014) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. The students and staff of Bay Point Preparatory High School in Milwaukee are somehow transported to a terrifying alternate reality. The adults have no idea what to do, but one of the students, the sociopathic Adrian, decides he knows how to save everyone, and he leads his classmates on a quest. The Woods appears to be inspired by Kazuo Umezu’s The Drifting Classroom, but it’s a fascinating comic in its own right, and it’s a precursor to this creative team’s other great work, Wynd.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #159 (Marvel, 1976) – “Arm-in-Arm-in-Arm-in-Arm-in-Arm-in-Arm with Doctor Octopus,” [W] Len Wein, [A] Ross Andru. This issue has one of the funniest story titles in the history of Marvel Comics. The story itself is not bad either: Spider-Man teams up with Dr. Octopus to save Aunt May from Hammerhead. Wein and Andru were an underrated Spider-Man creative team.

HOUSE OF X #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “The House That Xavier Built,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Pepe Larraz. Certainly the most important X-Men comic since Grant Morrison’s run. House of X and Powers of X revitalized the X-Men after a long period of creative and sales stagnation, making X-Men Marvel’s flagship title again. In this issue Magneto gives a presentation about Krakoa to some ambassadors, thus introducing the new version of Krakoa to the reader as well. I don’t think the resurrections are mentioned yet. Meanwhile, Hickman also introduces Orchis, who will become the X-Men’s major antagonists.

2000 AD #423 (IPC, 1985) – My favorite dealer at Heroes Con is Jason Hamlin, who always has a lot of fascinating alternative and underground comics and magazines that nobody else has. This year he also had a box of old 2000 AD’s, and he gave me a nice deal on some of them. All these issues were from the #400s, which are perhaps my favorite period of the series. Anderson: untitled (Four Dark Judges), [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Cliff Robinson. Anderson fights the Dark Judges. Slaine: “The Time Killer,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] David Pugh. Slaine fights the alien Cythrons and their minions. This Slaine story is unusual because of its science-fictional plot. As the series evolved, Mills mostly abandoned science fiction in favor of fantasy and Irish mythology. David Pugh draws some detailed fight scenes and some  gruesome monsters, though his draftsmanship is a bit ugly. Dredd: “99 Red,” [W] Wagner & Grant, [A] Ian Kennedy. A Judge goes crazy, and Dredd is forced to apprehend him. Rogue Trooper: “Antigen of Horst,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] José Ortiz. Rogue Trooper looks for an antigen that can restore his three comrades to their bodies. This story has the best art in the issue. Strontium Dog: “Big Bust of 49,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny and Wulf compete with another bounty hunter, Darkus, for the bounty on a criminal. This story includes a brilliant Dickensian pun: “You don’t have to die, Darkus.” “All die sometime, Stront dog – Darkus is willin’!”

SPACE USAGI #3 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “White Star Rising Part 3,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Space Usagi helps the Shirohoshi clan win their war with the Kajitori, but Usagi’s love, Tomoeh, is killed in battle. This was the only issue of Space Usagi that I was missing. This issue is both exciting and sad. It’s also full of clever puns. Early in the issue there’s the line “Sub-Terminal 54 – where are you?”, a reference to the TV show Car 54, Where Are You? Later, Usagi tells [/p9Tomoeh “I love you,” and she replies “I know, silly” (like Leia to Han). Space Usagi later did get a happy ending. At the end of Usagi Yojimbo: Senso #6, we see that he’s married to a woman named Mariko, who hadn’t appeared before, and that she’s pregnant.

BLAST-OFF #1 (Harvey, 1965) – “Lunar Goliaths,” [W/A] Jack Kirby, etc. The stories in this issue were originally intended for Race for the Moon #4, which was supposed to be published in 1958, but was cancelled. Race for the Moon presented the unusual combination of pencils by Kirby with inks by EC artists, including Reed Crandall, Al Williamson and Angelo Torres. It’s a strange combination, but it works very well, and Kirby’s (and possibly Simon’s) writing is unexpectedly intelligent and exciting. One of the stories in the issue, “The Space Court,” even has pencils by Williamson, and another one, “The Little Earth,” is penciled by Crandall and inked by Williamson. Overall this issue is a hidden gem, especially given that Race for the Moon itself is probably beyond my price range.

VOYAGE TO THE DEEP #1 (Dell, 1962) – “Voyage to the Deep,” [W] Lionel Ziprin?, [A] Sam Glanzman. A submarine crew tries to stop the Soviets from detonating a nuclear bomb in the Mariana Trench and knocking the Earth out of orbit. I bought this just because it was a Dell comic and it was only $2. I was delighted to discover that it was drawn by Sam Glanzman. I was even more delighted to realize that it’s obviously written by the same writer as Kona, Monarch of Monster Isle. It has that writer’s typical histrionic and philosophical style. A high point of the issue is the extended sequence where Admiral Leigh imagines New York being flooded, and the writer goes into great detail about all the neighborhoods and landmarks that would be destroyed. This scene goes on for eight whole pages. There is a theory that this unknown writer was Lionel Ziprin, a New York beatnik poet and kabbalist. I’ve always been skeptical of that, but on the back cover of Voyage to the Deep #1, there’s a text piece about how the Book of the Angel Raziel, a medieval kabbalistic text, might allow mankind to rebuild Noah’s Ark. This is the strongest evidence I’ve yet seen for the claim that Ziprin was the anonymous Kona writer.

CEREBUS #65 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “Anything Done for the First Time Unleashes a Demon,” [W/A] Dave Sim. At Heroes Con I was able to fill in most of the remaining holes in my Cerebus run. In less than two years I’ve assembled almost a complete run of Cerebus #25 to #230, and I think that’s as much Cerebus as I need. Bishop Powers tries to get Archbishop Posey to tell Cerebus some bad news, but Cerebus intimidates Posey into submission. Then Cerebus addresses the people of Iest and orders them to give him all their gold. This issue shows Cerebus at his peak. He manipulates Archbishop Posey and the people of Iest in a beautifully cynical way.

TANK GIRL: THE ODYSSEY #1 (Vertigo, 1995) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Jamie Hewlett. I was glad to find this because comics with Jamie Hewlett art are very elusive. Hewlett’s art here is perhaps not as spectacular as in his Deadline stories, but this comic is still a lot of fun, and unlike the early Tank Girl, it has a coherent (though surrealistic) plot. A highlight of this comic is all the references to Joyce’s Ulysses, such as “Tank Girl eats with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowl and anything else that’s put in front of her.”

LOCKE & KEY: CLOCKWORKS #3 (IDW, 2011) – “The Tamers of the Tempest,” [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. Thanks to the TV show, back issues of Locke & Key have become hard to find, and I’m always delighted when I do find them. In this issue, Tyler and Kinsey use the Timeshift Key to observe past events in the house’s history, ending with a visit to their father’s high school days. Rendell and his friends have a lot of relationship drama, and then Rendell decides that the friends should have one last adventure with the keys, because as soon as they graduate from high school, they’re going to forget that the keys exist. Unfortunately, Rendell’s idea is a recipe for disaster, since one of his friends is Dodge.

SEA HUNT #10 (Dell, 1961) – “Pirates’ Holiday,” [W] Eric Freiwald & Robert Schaefer, [A] Russ Manning. In the first story, a simulated hunt for pirate treasure turns real. In the second story, an old enemy of Mike Nelson’s escapes from prison and seeks revenge. Sea Hunt isn’t an all-time classic like Magnus, but it’s full of great Russ Manning artwork. He was especially good at drawing underwater combat.  

TALES OF SUSPENSE #69 (Marvel, 1965) – Iron Man: “If I Must Die, Let It Be with Honor!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Don Heck. Tony fights the Titanium Man, a villain who embodies Americans’ anxieties about Russian communists. Meanwhile, the love triangle between Tony, Happy and Pepper continues. I think this run of Tales of Suspense was the best Iron Man run prior to Michelinie and Romita Jr. Captain America: “Midnight at Greymoor Castle,” [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers. Cap tries to save Bucky, who is a prisoner in Greymoor Castle. This story isn’t as exciting as later Cap stories in this series.

SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #7 (Marvel, 2013) – “Troubled Mind, Part 1: Right-Hand Man,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Humberto Ramos. Doc Ock, in Spidey’s body, fights Cardiac and nearly kills him, unaware that Cardiac is committing thefts not for selfish reasons but to save his patients. The Avengers summon Spidey/Doc Ock and ask him what the hell is going on, and Doc Ock fights them too. Superior Spider-Man is fascinating because of Otto’s character arc: he starts out as a selfish, vengeful, power-hungry villain, but through Peter’s influence, he gradually evolves into a good man.

BATMAN #8 (DC, 2012) – “Attack on Wayne Manor,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Greg Capullo. Bruce Wayne defends the Batcave from the Court of Owls’s Talons. In a backup story, by Snyder, Tynion and Rafael Albuquerque, the Court of Owls hunts down Gotham’s leading citizens. I still find it hard to get into Scott Snyder’s Batman, but it was probably the best New 52 launch title, besides Animal Man.

THE FLASH #121 (DC, 1961) – “The Trickster Strikes Back!”, [W] John Broome, [A] Carmine Infantino. This is by far the oldest Flash comic in my collection. This issue’s first story is an early appearance of the Trickster. I generally think Silver Age DC is inferior to Silver Age Marvel because of Silver Age DC’s lack of characterization. However, the Trickster is a really fun villain, and Carmine Infantino’s artwork is dynamic and exciting. The backup story, “Secret of the Stolen Blueprint!” by Broome and Infantino, is not as exciting; it’s mostly about Barry getting a timid man to propose to his girlfriend. In this issue’s letter column, a fan, Tom Batiuk, mentions that he practices his own art by imitating Infantino’s drawings, and the editor promises to send him the original art for an entire Flash story so that he can study it. This is an example of how comics publishers used to treat original art as if it had no value. At least Batiuk put the art to good use, because he grew up to be the artist of the successful comic strip Funky Winterbean. Later in the letter column, the editor promises to send a different fan the original art for another Infantino story.

THE SPIRIT #43 (Kitchen Sink, 1949/1988) – “Dolan Walks a Beat” etc., [W/A] Will Eisner. At the con I bought a bunch of Kitchen Sink Spirit comics. I was surprised to realize that the editorial material in some of these issues was written by Tom Heintjes, who I know from past Heroes Cons. I talked to him during the con, and he told me how he prepared these columns with the assistance of Eisner himself and his brother. The first three stories in The Spirit #43 are a trilogy, in which Dolan deputizes the Spirit as an agent of the police force, but the Spirit then discovers that this new role is too limiting, and he returns to his old hideout under Wildwood Cemetery. The last story, “Hamid Jebru,” is the most interesting to me. It’s an Orientalist fantasy in which the Spirit and a criminal, Hamid Jebru, race each other to find a treasure hidden in the Egyptian desert. A long time ago I saw an isolated sequence from this story – the scene that ends “I found what I had been seeking… the crypt of Alakkan… and Hamid Jebru!” I forget where I saw this, but it was presented out of context, and I’ve always wanted to read the full story it came from. Now I have.

THUNDERBOLTS #165 (Marvel, 2012) – “Golden Age Thunderbolts Part 3: The Fiery Death from Above”!, [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Kev Walker. Having traveled back in time to World War II, the Thunderbolts team up with Captain America and fight Baron Zemo. As always, what makes this comic work is the characters’ bizarre personalities and the ways that these personalities clash with each other. I especially like Troll, and I think it’s because of her that I first got into this series.

FIRE POWER #16 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Chris Samnee. I’m not willing to buy new issues of Fire Power, because I think it’s a piece of Orientalist cultural appropriation, but I do buy the back issues when I find them in cheap boxes. Fire Power #16 has a typical trite kung fu plot, and the main reason to read it is because of Chris Samnee’s excellent visual storytelling. In the letter column, Kirkman claims that he’s “doing what I can to broaden the spectrum of hero characters,” even though he’s a “dumb white guy.” But precisely because Kirkman is a white man, he doesn’t have the cultural sensitivity to write about Chinese or Chinese-American people in the way that Gene Luen Yang or Alyssa Wong can. As a result, although Fire Power is better drawn than the current versions of Shang-Chi or Iron Fist, it’s not as interesting.

LASER ERASER AND PRESSBUTTON #1 (Eclipse, 1985) – “The Depths of Depravity,” [W] Steve Moore, [A] Steve Dillon. I think I now have the entire run of this miniseries. Steve Moore obviously tends to be overshadowed by his Warrior colleague, Alan Moore, but he was a fine writer in his own right. In this issue, Laser Eraser and Pressbutton are hired by a community of ultra-repressed Puritans, and their mission is to rescue a member of the community from a planet devoted to sexual debauchery. In the backup story, Laser Eraser goes on a solo mission on an all-female world. The other backup story, “Twilight World” by Steve Moore and Jim Baikie, is a short story in the same vein as 2000 AD’s Future Shocks. It’s reprinted from an issue of Warrior.

AMAR CHITRA KATHA #15 (Amar Chitra Katha, 1970) – “Rama,” [W] uncredited (Anant Pai?), [A] Pratap Mullick. I bought this from a dealer who also had several other ACK comics, including an issue of Tinkle. They were all $3, so I only bought one of them. This comic provides a basic summary of the Ramayana, adapted from the early modern version by Tulsidas. For me as a non-Hindu, this comic is useful because it gives an overview of the entire legend, and I only know bits and pieces of it. And indeed, the original purpose of ACK was to teach Indian children about their cultural heritage. Pratap Mullick’s pencils are kind of loose, but his artwork effectively enables the reader to imagine the visual environment of ancient India.

NIGHTWING #84 (DC, 2021) – “Fear State Part 1 of 3,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. Nightwing teams up with Batman to fight the Magistrate’s robots, who are brutally enforcing a city-wide curfew. Dick’s interactions with Babs and Bruce in this issue are very well written. A highlight of this series is Tom Taylor’s development of Dick’s various relationships. I also love the scene where Dick brings his dog to Clancy’s apartment, and Clancy’s children grab the dog out of Dick’s hands, before Dick even realizes what’s happened.

STRANGEHAVEN #4 (Abiogenesis, 1996) – “Flying/Just Good Friends/The Fish People,” [W/A] Gary Spencer Millidge. Alex looks for a map of the immediate area, but can’t find one, and lots of other weird stuff happens. Strangehaven is an intelligent, literate, tender, and weird depiction of rural England, and it’s one of the more underrated comics of its time. I hope it gets finished someday.  

STUMPTOWN #2 (Oni, 2012) – “The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case Part 2,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Matthew Southworth. Dex begins to suspect that her client is using her guitar case to smuggle drugs. Then Dex returns home and discovers that her brother’s caretaker is playing the stolen guitar Dex has been looking for. At the con I also got the next two issues, and I think those were almost the only issues of Stumptown I was missing. I love Stumptown, partly because it’s so much less grim than most of Rucka’s work, and its adventures are on a much smaller scale.

THIRTEEN GOING ON EIGHTEEN #21 (Dell, 1967) – “Where There’s Smoke” etc., [W/A] John Stanley. A series of short stories about teenage relationship drama. As with Little Lulu, all the issues of this series are very similar, but they’re all worth reading because of John Stanley’s incredible ability to create funny situations. Perhaps the best story in this issue is the one where Val keeps falling asleep while talking to Judy on the phone.

VAMPIRELLA #76 (Warren, 1978) – “Curse of the Pasha’s Princess,” [W] Bill DuBay, [A] José Gonzalez. A silly but exciting and well-drawn piece of Orientalist fantasy. Vampirella fights the vengeful ghost of a pasha’s wife, and discovers that the ghost’s motivation was that she was jealous of all the pasha’s other wives. “Gravity Field,” [W] Bob Toomey, [A] Pepe Moreno. An Irish revolutionary tries to take over a spaceship, and then it turns out he and the rest of the ship’s crew were being manipulated by a sentient black hole. “The Games of Sharn,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Ramon Torrents. An alien in human form has to play a deadly game to save the people of Earth. This one is pretty weird. “Swift Sculpture,” [W] Bob Toomey, [A] Val Mayerik. A barbarian woman and her pet wolf go on a quest to find a dragon. I wonder if this story’s title is a reference to Theodore Sturgeon’s story “Slow Sculpture.” “Time for a Change,” [W] Nicola Cuti, [A] Alex Niño. An alien kills a spaceship’s entire crew except for one woman. The alien tries to convince the woman to become its lover, rather than kill him and spend the next three years alone, until her relief crew arrives. The woman doesn’t take the offer. Cuti’s story is pretty average, but Niño’s page layouts are brilliant. There are no panel borders in the entire story; each page is a single big image, and the word balloons tell the reader in what order to read it. Niño’s Warren stories were probably the high point of his career. “The Haunted,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Russ Heath. Roland spends his whole life trying to prove he’s as brave as his brother Michael, a decorated veteran. Finally, Roland goes insane after spending the night in a haunted house. Afterward, Michael appears and reveals that his bravery was a sham, and he never went to war at all. Jones and Heath were a great team, and this is the best story in the issue.

DETECTIVE COMICS #936 (DC, 2016) – “Rise of the Batmen Part 3: Army of Shadows,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Alvaro Martinez Bueno. Batman recruits allies to deal with the Batmen, a gang of terrorists who imitate Batman himself. But one of the allies is Jacob Kane, and he turns out to be leading the Batmen himself. The characterization in this issue is excellent. Tynion’s Detective Comics is more a team book than a solo Batman title, and just like the current Batgirls and Nightwing, it depends on the interaction between the various Bat-people. The main focus of this issue is on Kate Kane’s troubled relationship with her dad.  

MUPPETS #4 (Marvel, 2012) – “The Four Seasons: Winter,” [W/A] Roger Langridge. A Christmas-themed story. Miss Piggy tries to bait Kermit into getting her an engagement ring as a Secret Santa gift, but instead he gives her a pair of gloves. There are also a ton of other subplots. Roger Langridge’s Muppets stories are a perfect expression of his comic genius.

FOUR COLOR #1197 (Dell, 1961) – The Aquanauts: “Sea Search” and “The Deep Six,” [W] unknown, [A] Dan Spiegle. I’m willing to buy just about any issue of Four Color, because even if they’re not good, they’re interesting and fun to own. The Aquanauts, the TV show adapted in this issue, was pretty much the same show as Sea Hunt, though I don’t know if there was any connection between the two. Four Color #1197 includes some effective undersea action sequences, though Dan Spiegle wasn’t as good at that as Russ Manning. However, this issue is ruined by some awful sexism. “Sea Search” is a taming-of-the-shrew story in which Drake Andrews, the protagonist, is hired to babysit Lynn, a spoiled, reckless heiress. After Drake saves Lynn from being killed by a manta ray, Lynn tells her fiancee that she just has one adventure left: “It’s called marriage! And I’m going to spend my time where a woman belongs… in the kitchen!” If I tried to write an intentional parody of ‘50s chauvinism, it would probably be less sexist than that.

THE GOON #40 (Dark Horse, 2012) – “Prohibition, or the End of Sexy Times,” [W/A] Eric Powell. A parody of stock car racing and its origins in Prohibition-era bootlegging. The Goon and Franky set up an illegal moonshine business, but they end up having to compete in an auto race against their rival bootleggers, and the loser of the race is going to be dragged down to hell by a demon. This sequence is also a parody of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” The art in the third chapter of the story is based on Big Daddy Roth’s Rat Fink. Like Hitman, The Goon is heavily reliant on low humor, but Powell is funnier than Ennis, and he’s a better artist than McCrea.  

AIRBOY #1 (Eclipse, 1986) – “On Wings of Song,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Tim Truman. When David Nelson Sr is killed in a terrorist attack, his son Davy discovers that his father was the World War II superhero Airboy, and Davy becomes the new Airboy. This comic’s gimmick was that the issues were just 16 pages long, but in exchange they cost 50 cents. The main reason I’ve hesitated to collect Airboy is because of my dislike of Chuck Dixon, but Airboy was a well-done and exciting series, and it kind of reminds me of Jonny Quest.

CUD COMICS #1 (Dark Horse, 1995) – Eno and Plum: “You Can Bank on It,” [W/A] Terry LaBan. Eno, a twentysomething slacker, needs a job. He discovers he’s surprisingly good at donating sperm, but his career ends when he meets someone who’s even better at it. This story is quite funny, despite being an obvious male sex fantasy. (Well, sort of – Eno is so busy donating sperm that he loses interest in sex with his girlfriend Plum.) This issue also includes “Mickey Pimple, Teen Adventurer,” a funny Terry and the Pirates parody, though it contains some unfortunate Orientalism. There are various other features, some of which are about Eno and Plum’s cat. In general, Terry LaBan was an underrated and funny artist, a sort of stylistic heir of Gilbert Shelton, and I look forward to reading more of his work.

LONE RANGER #58 (Dell, 1953) – “The Smiling Caballero,” [W] Paul S. Newman and Tom Gill. The Lone Ranger battles a Mexican bandit. Juan Lopez, the eponymous smiling caballero, is a rather stereotypical character, but he’s fun because he’s gleefully, unrepentantly evil. In the second story, by the same team, the Lone Ranger and Tonto cure an Apache chief’s son’s illness and prevent a war between the Apache and the whites. The trouble with all these Dell Lone Ranger comics is their racist depiction of Tonto, but the Young Hawk backup stories compensate for this somewhat. In this issue’s Young Hawk story, Young Hawk and Little Buck help some Northwest Coast Indians steal some canoes from their rivals. The nice thing about Young Hawk is that unlike most old comics, it shows awareness of the cultural differences between Native American nations. Young Hawk and Little Buck visit lots of different indigenous groups, and these groups live in different environments and have different material cultures.

BATMAN: THE DETECTIVE #1 (DC, 2021) – “The Detective Part 1,” [W] Andy Kubert, [A] Tom Taylor. In this counterpart series to The Knight, Batman visits England, where he teams up with Knight and Squire against the Gentleman Ghost and a bunch of terrorists in white Batman costumes. This is the companion series to The Knight, and I think it might be even better than The Knight. Maybe I should be buying the current issues of The Detective.

SPACE RIDERS: VORTEX OF DARKNESS #1 (Black Mask, 2019) – untitled, [W] Carlos Giffoni, [A] Alexis Ziritt. I bought this directly from Alexis Ziritt at the con. He not only signed it, but he was unable to make change, so he was kind enough to just let me take it and then pay for it later when I had exact change. This issue is a blend of science fiction with psychedelia and Mexican mysticism. Alexis Ziritt’s art and coloring are stunning; he turns every page into a panorama of weird colors and bizarre people and settings. His artwork kind of reminds me of murals or album covers. It’s too bad his comics have mostly been published by small presses. I’ve always had trouble finding Space Riders comics because of Black Mask’s poor distribution. I wish some bigger publisher would give Ziritt a more prominent platform for his talent.

HERE COME THE BIG PEOPLE #1 (Event, 1997) – untitled, [W] Trace Beaulieu, [A] Amanda Conner. Trace Beaulieu is best known as a TV writer, and this one-shot was his only work in comics. That’s probably a good thing, because Here Come the Big People is a disturbing, uncomfortable story in which the human race is conquered by a horde of giant pink maternal robots. The explicit point of this story is that all adults desire to be infantilized. The reason I bought this comic was because of Amanda Conner’s art. At this point her linework wasn’t as slick as it later became, but her art is still super impressive, and her panels are filled with entertaining chicken fat.

JOSIE #26 (Archie, 1967) – “The Minstrel Mechanic” etc., [W] Frank Doyle, [A] Dan DeCarlo. A bunch of typical Archie stories. Some of them have mild musical themes, but this was before Josie evolved into Josie and the Pussycats. Dan DeCarlo’s art is appealing, but I can’t quite tell him apart from any other Archie artist. Though maybe that’s because he was the artist who defined the Archie style in the first place.

AXA #1 (Eclipse, 1987) – “The Adopted,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Enrique Badía Romero. In a post-apocalyptic world, scantily clad heroine Axa and her boyfriend Mark save some children from raiders. There’s also a poignant scene where Axa reveals that she can’t have her own children because she’s a clone. Axa originated as a comic strip in The Sun, but this comic book version was created for the American market, and Wikipedia says that the American version was toned down to be a lot less sexy. Still, Axa #1 is a reasonably entertaining comic. The original strip was reprinted in a series of books from Ken Pierce, and I would buy those if I saw them.

HARVEY HITS #49 (Harvey, 1961) – “Two-Gun Titan” etc, [W] unknown, [A] Warren Kremer. This was the first comic book that starred Stumbo the Giant. Some of the stories in it were reprinted from Hot Stuff. All these stories are humor strips where the humor mostly comes from Stumbo’s size. The best thing about this comic is how Stumbo’s massive height allows Warren Kremer to experiment with unusual page layouts.

SKYWARD #8 (Image, 2018) – “Here There Be Dragonflies Part 3,” [W] Joe Henderson, [A] Lee Garbett. Willa, the protagonist, visits a meatpacking plant and discovers that she’s been eating bug meat all her life. Then she talks with a potential romantic interest, and at the end of the issue, she discovers that the people running the plant have kidnapped her enemy, Barrow. One thing I like about Skyward is its realistic worldbuilding. It feels as if Henderson and Garbett have really thought about how a world without gravity would work. For example, the beds have straps on them to prevent the occupants from floating out of them.

SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #14 (Marvel, 2013) – “A Blind Eye,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Humberto Ramos. Doc Ock/Spidey uses his robots to demolish Shadowland, the Kingpin’s Hell’s Kitchen base. Doc thus earns a taste of true heroism. This issue’s focal characters are a man and his young son, who are bystanders to the fight between Doc Ock and the Kingpin. A funny moment in this issue is when the Kingpin fakes his own death by murdering an underli4wng who looks like him.

SCOOBY-DOO #8 (Marvel, 1978) – “The Phantom of Youth,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Dan Spiegle. The Scooby gang goes looking for the Fountain of Youth. Unusually, it turns out that the Fountain of Youth is real rather than a hoax, but the Scooby gang destroys it to prevent its power from being misused. This is another very fun issue. Due to a printing error, pages 1 and 30 of this comic were transposed, so the title of the main story seems to be “The Shadow Knows” but is in fact “The Phantom of Youth.”

BATMAN #9 (DC, 2012) – “Night of the Owls,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Greg Capullo. The battle with the Talons continues, and the temperature in the cave starts dropping to an unsafe level. Batman manages to beat the Talons with the help of the bats in his cave. An awesome moment in this issue is when the dinosaur statue comes to life and stomps on the Talons. At the end of the issue, Bruce goes looking for the Talons’ last target, Lincoln March, and finds him dying, because the Owls have gotten to him already. It would later be revealed that March is in fact the leader of the Court of Owls.

2000 AD #424 (IPC, 1985) – Anderson: as #423 above. Anderson destroys Judge Fear, and the other Dark Judges retreat. Slaine: as above. Slaine meets the Cythrons’ leader, the Guledig, who is just a giant head with three arms growing out of it. Ewww. Future Shocks: “The Mousetrap!”, [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. An insane man believes that mice are plotting to overthrow the human race. This turns out to be true. Dredd: “Midnight Surfer,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Cam Kennedy. Chopper practices for the upcoming Supersurf 7. This is a pretty basic Chopper story, but it’s exciting. It’s really a Chopper solo story in which Dredd has a minimal role. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue gets a lead on a man named Moho who knows where the antigen is, but he doesn’t know that Moho is a collaborator with the Norts. Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny and Wulf defeat Xen, who has possessed Middenface McNulty. I love Middenface’s use of Scots dialect. At the end of this issue, Middenface mentions he has a wife, but I think she was later retconned away. He also says he has a “wee but and ben,” which I thought meant a son and a daughter, but actually a “but and ben” is a two-room house.

KAFKA #2 (Renegade, 1987) – “Monday,” [W] Steven T. Seagle, [A] Stefano Gaudiano. I was skeptical about buying this, but it was only 25 cents, and it was by two notable creators. However, Kafka #2 has an indecipherable plot, and although Gaudiano’s storytelling is reasonably good, his draftsmanship is very crude. Nothing about this comic is particularly Kafkaesque.

DOCTOR WHO CLASSICS #4 (IDW, 2009) – “Nemesis of the Daleks Part 4,” [W] Richard Starkings, [A] John Tomlinson, etc. Three stories starring the Seventh Doctor, reprinted from Doctor Who Magazine #155-158 (1989-90). The best is Paul Cornell and John Freeman’s “Stairway to Heaven,” about a cruel “artist” who creates a living art exhibit of creatures who hatch from eggs, build the next step on a stairway, and then jump off the stairway to their deaths. The first story guest-stars Abslom Daak, Dalek Killer, who was created by Steve Moore and Steve Dillon. Marvel tried to spin off Abslom Daak into his own non-licensed title, but never did.

EERIE #87 (Warren, 1977) – Rook: “A Chinese Fortune Cookie or Bad, Bad Granny Gadget,” [W] Bill DuBay, [A] Luis Bermejo. Bishop Dane and the Rook’s robots fight Granny Gadget, an old lady who blames Rook for her roboticist husband’s death. The Rook himself doesn’t appear in this story. Luis Bermejo was an unshowy but excellent artist. Scallywag: “The Black Demon’s Sword,” [W] Budd Lewis, [A] José Ortiz. In Japan, an American, Hickey J. Lubus, fights some ninjas and samurai who are looking for “the Screaming God.” This story must take place sometime between the 1854 reopening of Japan and the Meiji Restoration, which abolished the samurai class. “Years & Mind Forever,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Richard Corben. A time travel story that reads like a prototype for Rip in Time. It ends with the human race being rendered extinct by a time paradox. Corben’s depictions of dinosaurs and sexy people are beautiful. Gaffer: “Second Wish,” [W] Roger McKenzie, [A] Leo Duranoña. Gaffer is an old black man who somehow has three wishes. In this story he uses the second wish to help a young black girl who’s pregnant with an alien baby. This might be the best-written story in the issue. I especially like the full-page depiction of the glories of the baby’s father’s planet. Leo Duranoña’s art is kind of gruesome, but he was a skilled artist. “The Incredible Illusions of Ira Israel,” [W] McKenzie, [A] Leopoldo Sanchez. A German-Expressionist-themed story about two magicians who are secretly werewolves. Hunter 3: “What Price Oblivion,” [W] Jim Stenstrum, [A] Alex Niño. The third incarnation of Hunter fights some evil frogs. As in Vampirella #76, Niño’s page layouts are utterly stunning. This story is printed sideways, and  each two-page splash is meant to be read as a single giant page. This story’s combination of lizards and diminutive sexy women makes me wonder if Niño had been reading Vaughn Bodē. Joe Brancatelli’s column in this issue mentions how a certain DC war comic was cancelled because it was only selling 100,000 copies – which, nowadays, would have made it a bestseller. In hindsight, this column includes lots of red flags pointing to DC’s coming collapse.

FOUR COLOR #1336 (Dell, 1962) – untitled, [W] Ken Fitch, [A] Frank Bolle (w/ Mike Sekowsky?). In an adaptation of Leonard Starr’s Mary Perkins strip, Mary Perkins helps produce an unknown author’s play which is based on newly discovered Shakespearean documents. This is an exciting story that vividly depicts the process of getting a play produced. Frank Bolle was Leonard Starr’s assistant on On Stage, and in this issue he beautifully imitates Starr’s lush, detailed style. Oddly, Frank Bolle worked for both World Over, a Jewish comic, and Treasure Chest, a Catholic comic.

AVENGERS #18 (Marvel, 2019) – “Crisis on Ten Realms,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Ed McGuinness. In a War of the Realms crossover, the Squadron Supreme battle frost giants, but then we learn that Phil Coulson is holding the Squadron Supreme captive, and their adventures are occurring inside their own heads. I started reading Jason Aaron’s Avengers when it came out, but didn’t much like it. However, this issue is not an Avengers story at all, but a very funny Justice League parody. I like how in this issue, Stanley Stewart, the Squadron Supreme version of the Flash, is named Blur. I guess they finally noticed the unfortunate connotations of the name Whizzer.

ROBIN, SON OF BATMAN #7 (DC, 2016) – “Fight the Nightmare,” [W] Patrick Gleason & Ray Fawkes, [A] Scott McDaniel. In a Robin War crossover, Damian and a bunch of other Robins fight the Court of Owls. Lincoln March, who I last saw in Batman #8, appears at the end. There’s a character in this issue who looks kind of like Maps Mizoguchi, but it’s not her. I believe this was Patrick Gleason’s last issue of Robin, Son of Batman, and I think I can skip collecting the remaining issues.

RICHIE RICH & CASPER #8 (Harvey, 1975) – “Dr. Frankenspook,” [W] unknown, [A] Warren Kremer. Richie and Casper team up against Dr. Frankenspook, who, as the name suggests, is a hybrid of a ghost and Dr. Frankenstein. This character appeared twice more in this series, including in #13, which I already read. Warren Kremer’s art in this story is very exciting. Throughout this issue, Richie thinks the whole story is a dream. I think Richie believed that all of his encounters with Casper were dreams. I guess this was a way of separating Richie’s more “realistic” milieu from Casper’s supernatural one, but Richie’s stories were already pretty farfetched to begin with.

THE WALKING DEAD #135 (Image, 2014) – “Face to Face,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Charlie Adlard. I’m not in love with this series, but I’m willing to buy back issues of it if they’re cheap. This issue is exciting, though. Maggie interrogates a little girl who’s been traveling around wearing zombie skin. Carl befriends the girl, but meanwhile, some of the other people in Maggie’s community decide they’ve had enough of her leadership. This issue demonstrates Kirkman’s greatest skill: his ability to write about difficult moral dilemmas and political conflicts.

INNER CITY ROMANCE #1 (Last Gasp, 1972) – “Choices,” [W/A] Guy Colwell. This was one of the only underground comics I was able to find at the con. In this story, two black men, Marvin and James, and a white man, Paddy, are released from prison. Marvin goes straight back to his old life of pimping and drug abuse, but James decides he wants something more. He meets a woman with an Angela Davis hairdo, who tells him he needs to reform Marvin’s destructive ways. On the last page, James goes back to see Marvin and Paddy, and he imagines two possible futures: one where he falls back into drug-fueled debauchery, and another where he shoots Marvin, Paddy and their lovers dead. The story ends there. This is an utterly fascinating comic, a vivid depiction of the Bay Area in the ‘70s. Guy Colwell was white, but he was one of the few underground cartoonists, along with Spain, who seriously tried to be antiracist. His work is an antidote to Crumb’s blatant racism, and someone ought to write about him. In the scenes where Marvin and Paddy are on drugs, Colwell’s art becomes very surrealistic, and he uses a technique that’s sort of a precursor to Mary Fleener’s use of cubism. The beginning of this comic includes a quotation of Bob Dylan’s “George Jackson,” a song which is relevant to the comic’s theme of black radicalism, since it’s about a Black Panther who was shot while escaping from prison.

SHAMAN’S TEARS #1 (Image, 1993) – “Warcry,” [W/A] Mike Grell. This series was mentioned during Grell’s panel at Heroes Con, so I thought I might as well read it. Shaman’s Tears stars Joshua Brand, a Lakota man who, like Manuel Santana in Scout, becomes the champion of his people. There’s also a subplot in which the US government creates genetically engineered monsters. Grell’s depictions of Sioux religion are very detailed, to the point where I wonder if they’re based on some kind of insider knowledge. He himself is not indigenous, but in his panel, he said he was working with people who were. Grell’s page layouts in this issue are even more experimental than in his earlier work.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #31 (Marvel, 1974) – “For a Few Fists More!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Jim Mooney. Spider-Man and Iron Fist battle Drom the Backwards Man, a character who never appeared again. At the end of the issue, Drom ages in reverse until he vanishes, and Spidey forgets all about him. This issue is nothing spectacular, but it’s fun.

PLANETOID: PRAXIS #5 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Ken Garing. Onica and her daughter have a fight, then a team of Planetoid natives tries to destroy the Heliocor plant. This was a fun miniseries. I think I almost have a complete run of Planetoid now.

CEREBUS #91 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1986) – “Talking to Tarim,” [W/A] Dave Sim. A mysterious white glowing thing tells Cerebus that in order to complete the Final Ascension, he needs to ascend to the top of the Black Tower with a pure gold sphere. This information is essential for understanding what happens later in Church & State and then in Mothers & Daughters. Cerebus isn’t sure why he should want to make the Final Ascension, but he decides to do it so that nobody else can. Then the white light returns Cerebus to the Regency Hotel, where Lord Julius and Bishop Powers have some news for him. As we learn next issue, the news is that the Lion of Serrea has been killed, and Cerebus is now the only Pope. The backup story, “The Applicant,” is by Colleen Doran, with inks by Dave, and is based on Doran’s experience of being sexually harassed by an industry bigwig. This story was intended for Cerebus Jam #2, which was never published.

DETECTIVE COMICS #938 (DC, 2016) – “Rise of the Batmen Part 4: Enemy at the Gates,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Alvaro Martinez (Bueno). This issue begins with a flashback, drawn by Al Barrionuevo, in which the young Kate Kane runs away from school to her mother’s grave. When her father finds her, she tells him that she wants to be a soldier like him. In the present, the Bat-family continues their fight with the Batmen. A highlight of this issue is when Cass comes out of an elevator and is confronted by a whole squad of Batmen, and then when we see her again, all the Batmen are lying on the ground unconscious, and Cass just says “Hi.” This reminds me of the scene in X-Men #168 where Lockheed eats an entire nest full of alien eggs.

LOCKE & KEY: CLOCKWORKS #6 (IDW, 2012) – “Curtain,” [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. Dodge kills Rendell’s classmate Mark, takes the Crown of Shadows, and tries to open the Black Door, but Rendell and his friends manage to defeat and kill Dodge. However, Dodge has already created a failsafe which can return him to life. This story leads into Locke & Key: Omega, the end of the Dodge saga. I don’t understand the fishhook at the end.

GREEN LANTERN #94 (DC, 1977) – “Lure for an Assassin!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Mike Grell. Hal collapses mysteriously, and John Stewart has to take him to Oa. This issue is John Stewart’s second appearance in this title, though his actual second appearance was Justice League of America #110 (thanks to Dan Larkin for that information). Then Ollie goes to chase down some crooks, but Dinah goes after him and gets captured. I read Green Lantern #95 years ago, when I was in high school, but I never understood why Ollie had a clean-shaven face in that issue. #94 explains that he shaved his beard and mustache off as a disguise.

Next trip to Heroes, on Sunday, July 3:

SEVEN SECRETS #18 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. We finally learn that Caspar is a god, and the seven secrets represent his seven separated attributes. Caspar defeats the demon that’s been possessing Amon, then Caspar’s divine self separates itself back into the seven secrets, allowing Caspar to live his normal life. This is a cute ending to a very enjoyable series. I hope Tom Taylor does some more creator-owned work soon.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #24 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. The issue starts with another attack by a new type of monster. Gabi revisits her home, gets scratched by an angry cat, and talks to Erica’s octopus doll. Erica talks to the woman who saved Gabi. Ms. Cutter plots against Erica. This issue again shows us that the House of Slaughter are more worried about maintaining their own secrecy than about killing monsters. The Old Dragon says that Erica “would risk Order secrets to protect a single child.” Isn’t that worth the risk? Well, no, because it “endanger[s] the dozens our order saves every day around the world.” But we haven’t seen the Order actually doing that. All they seem to care about is protecting their secrets, just for the sake of doing so. (And anyway, “dozens” sounds a bit underwhelming. I know I’ve heard of a principle that organizations often to care more about their own continuity and success than about their stated goals. I might be thinking of Jerry Pournelle’s iron law of bureaucracy.

EIGHT BILLION GENIES #2 (Image, 2022) – “The First Eight Hours,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. The bar owner reveals that he’s a super-prepared survivalist who has a huge stash of stuff. The black father wishes for his wife to come back. The Chinese husband wishes to be prepared for his journey across town. Outside the bar, the world starts blowing up. At the end of the issue, Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker and Jim Morrison walk into the bar. So far, this series is successfully exploiting the fascinating potential of its premise. I like how the genies all resemble the people they’re attached to. This issue includes a couple references to Soule’s earlier works. The president is the same one from Letter 44, and I think also from Curse Words. And in the bathroom there’s a sign that says Sizzajee.

NIGHTWING #93 (DC, 2022) – “The Battle for Blüdhaven’s Heart Part 2,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo. Blockbuster throws Heartless out a window, Nightwing flees from the police, and then Dick Grayson publicly exposes the police as being responsible for the vandalism of Haven. This is another great issue of the best current superhero comic. My favorite moment in this issue is when Dick accidentally uses the L-word to Babs (not “lesbians”, the other one) and then they both do a double take.

RADIANT BLACK #15 (Image, 2022) – “Unauthorized,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Alec Siegel, [A] Eduardo Ferigato w/ Marcelo Costa. Radiant Black has become so famous that they’re making a movie about him, right in his hometown of Lockport. Marshall is not happy about this and tries to interfere with the movie shoot, but when he realizes that Will Friedle (a real actor) is going to play him, he changes his mind. Meanwhile, Nathan finds himself gradually being frozen out of Marshall’s superhero life, even though Nathan is still somehow having visions of Existence. This issue does something I’ve never seen before: it includes a poster for the “Radiant Black vs. Blaze” movie, and the poster has a QR code, which links to an animated Radiant Black cartoon. Yes, this comic comes with its own animated cartoon, and the cartoon expands the narrative of the comic. That’s a good example of transmedia storytelling.

I HATE THIS PLACE #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Artyom Toplin. Gabrielle and Trudy go to a fortune teller, but every card she draws from her tarot deck is the Death card. “Adrian” does all sorts of suspicious stuff, including not remembering that he’s using the name Adrian. At night, the farm is invaded by ghosts, and one of the farmhands, Ramon, is killed. Gabrielle and Tracy hire a “ghost hunter” with the dubious name of Dante Howitzer. I Hate This Place is an excellent horror comic. I spoke to Kyle Starks briefly at Heroes Con.

JONNA AND THE UNPOSSIBLE MONSTERS #10 (Oni, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Chris Samnee, [W] Laura Samnee. Jonna saves Rainbow from being crushed between two monsters, and then they discover a giant egg. Just as the egg cracks open, five more monsters show up, and Jonna and Rainbow have to retreat inside the egg. This issue has some beautiful visual storytelling, but it’s a very quick read, as is often the case with this series.

MILES MORALES & MOON GIRL #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Have You Seen This Dinosaur?”, [W] Mohale Mashigo, [A] Ig Guara. When Devil Dinosaur mysteriously vanishes, Lunella tracks him to Brooklyn. She enrolls at Brooklyn Visions Academy so she can follow Devil’s trail, and she ends up fighting alongside Miles Morales against Taskmaster. In this comic Mashigo and Guara come up with a logical way for Miles and Lunella to team up, and their interactions are well-written and entertaining. I’m glad Lunella is back, even if only for a series of one-shots.

WE ONLY FIND THEM WHEN THEY’RE DEAD #11 (Boom!, 2022) – “What is Alive?”, [W] Al Ewing, [A] Simone Di Meo. Jason Hauer and a new character, Dr. Lucy Agyei, create an artificial intelligence called Thierry-9. Thierry-9 is made from Georges Malik’s heart, so he has Malik’s memories. Lucy’s hope is that Thierry-9 can remember how Malik became a god, so that other people can replicate Malik’s achievement. The next step is for Thierry to repeat Malik’s last mission. At the end of the issue Thierry has a vision of someone who I think is Paula, the villain of the first storyline. This is another exciting story arc, but I wish this series would have a list of characters, or even a family tree of the Maliks. I can never remember which character is which.

SHE-HULK #4 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Luca Maresca. This is probably my favorite current Marvel title, and that’s not good, because I don’t like it nearly as much as Rowell’s Runaways. Marvel is going through a mild slump at the moment, or else I’m not reading the best Marvel titles. This issue, Jen and Titania meet up for a recreational fight, Jen meets with a bunch of superhero clients, and then Jen and Jack of Hearts go on a sort-of date.

A CALCULATED MAN #1 (AfterShock, 2022) – “Kill Them All,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Alberto (Jimenez) Albuquerque. A crime comic about a crook with uncanny mathematical abilities. This is an interesting debut issue, but it’s tough to write a work of popular fiction about math, because mathematical research is very difficult to explain to a popular audience. The title character, Jack Beans, is really good at arithmetic and calculation, but that’s not the main thing that professional mathematicians do. (I should admit here that I have a casual interest in math, and that I kind of regret that I stopped studying math after high school.) Early in this issue, we’re told that Jack can “prove the existence of three differently-sized infinities by use of the continuum hypothesis.” Gordon Arsenoff tells me that this is easy to do even without the continuum hypothesis.

ROGUE SUN #5 (Image, 2022) – “Making a Murderer,” [W] Ryan Parrott, [A] Abel & Simone Ragazzoni. I think I should have realized this at the end of issue 4, but this issue makes it clear that it was Dylan’s mother who murdered his father. And he frankly deserved it. In a series of flashbacks, we see that Marcus callously dumped Gwen when Dylan was a baby. Then he showed up fifteen years later and told Gwen that he was going to be in Marcus’s life whether Gwen liked it or not, and he said, “I’m a superhero. If I want to see my son, how are you going to stop me?” Given that Marcus literally threatened Gwen and her child, I can’t blame her for killing him. Marcus is a rare example of a superhero who’s just a complete and utter prick – he’s as bad as some of the people I read about on Am I The Asshole? In terms of the present-day plot, not much happens in this issue, except that Marcus’s fight with Demonika continues.

NEWBURN #8 (Image, 2022) – “They Know Me,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jacob Phillips. Newburn manages to save Emily and also appease both the yakuza and the Albanos, by getting the man who killed the yakuza boss to take the fall for killing Mario Albano. When a police detective objects to letting Sydney’s actual murderer go free, Newburn tells the detective “You work for me. And I run this town.” I hadn’t realized this before, but it’s true. Afterward, the Albanos discover that it was really Sydney who killed Saburo, and they take their well-deserved vengeance on him. This was my favorite Newburn story so far, and it makes me realize that Newburn is a crime comic of the same caliber as Criminal.

NOCTERRA #11 (Image, 2022) – “Pedal to the Medal 1/5,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Greg Capullo. Bill forces Adam to reveal the location of Eos, then kills him. Val sacrifices herself so the rest of the team can escape, so I guess Piper is the new protagonist. The surviving protagonists head to Eos, even though the villains are also on the way there. At the end of the issue, Val emerges from the water, transformed into a Shade.

ALBATROSS EXPLODING FUNNYBOOKS #1 (Albatross, 2022) – “Terror Toilet” etc., [W/A] Eric Powell. An anthology of four different stories by Powell, starring his creations The Goon, Hillbilly, Lester of the Lesser Gods, and La Diabla. All these stories are very funny, and taken together, they demonstrate Powell’s stylistic range. Lester of the Lesser Gods is perhaps the highlight because of its deadpan humor. This anthology format allows Powell to write all four of these series at once, rather than just concentrating on one of them at a time. I do wonder how frequently he can publish an entire 48-page comic.

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #19 (Image, 2022) – “The Man with the Movie Camera,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Martin Simmonds. Cole’s marriage to Matty is starting to collapse. While Cole is off on another trip with Rudy, a Black Hat agent approaches Matty in a bar and shows him a film of when Cole murdered the two Washington Post reporters. This issue forces me to question my assumption that the Department of Truth are the good guys. If the House of Slaughter are evil, then why not the Department of Truth as well? After reading the Black Hat agent’s speech, about how people should have the right to decide what reality they live in, I’m beginning to sympathize with Black Hat.

PUBLIC DOMAIN #1 (Image, 2022) – “Weren’t We the Bad Guys?”, [W/A] Chip Zdarsky. I think this is Chip Zdarsky’s first major project as both writer and artist, if you don’t count his early small-press work. He’s been focusing on writing lately, and it’s nice to see his art again. I forgot about all the hidden messages and Easter eggs he hides in his artwork. Public Domain is a fictionalized version of the history of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The Kirby character is Syd Dallas, the artist who created Domain, the world’s greatest superhero. The Stan Lee character is Jerry Jasper, who got all the credit for Domain, and who has a much nastier personality than Stan did. After Jasper’s assistant Tanya meets Dallas at the premiere of the Domain movie, she goes looking through Jasper’s archives – and finds proof that Dallas is the legal owner of Domain. This comic portrays the entertainment business very realistically. One thing I noticed is that the director of Domain movie thanks Singular Studios (i.e. Marvel) for “letting me play with their toys.” That’s a standard cliché, but one that I haven’t seen in a comic before. But Public Domain is more than just a metatextual, by-fans-for-fans comic, because it’s also about the personalities involved in the struggle over Domain. The focal character is not Syd but his son Miles, who’s been living in the shadow of his famous father.

RADIANT RED #4 (Image, 2022) – “Things Fall Apart,” [W] Cherish Chen, [A] David Lafuente. Satomi has some unpleasant confrontations with the reporter and her boyfriend. Then she and Shift pull off a successful heist, but Shift double-crosses her. The pivotal scene in this issue is when Owen tells Satomi that she’s turning into a “bank-robbing monster,” and that she’s refusing to do anything to stop her descent into villainy. I was all ready to get angry at Owen here, but he’s actually right. As awful as Owen is, he’s at least trying to cure his gambling addiction, while Satomi refuses to fix her problem of what a letter writer calls “toxic responsibility.” On the letters page, Cherish Chen makes the intriguing suggestion that Satomi’s habit of excessive self-sacrifice derives from her Asian diasporic background.

ROBIN #15 (DC, 2022) – “Parent Trap,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Roger Cruz. Okay, here’s  one that doesn’t require a long review. Talia escapes from the DEO’s custody, and she and Bruce get into a fight about which of them Damian will stay with. Damian breaks up the fight and begs them to leave each other alone and let him remain on his own. This is a remarkably mature decision. Afterward, Damian goes back to Lazarus Island, where Mr. Death Man appears and reports that Flatline has gone on a killing spree.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: SYMBOL OF TRUTH #2 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tochi Onyebuchi, [A] R.B. Silva. I didn’t like this nearly as much as issue 1. There’s not much politics or character interaction, and there’s also an unnecessary Deadpool guest appearance, as if Sam isn’t interesting enough on his own. It’s worth noting that this issue has a legacy number, and the latest issue of Sentinel of Liberty does not, so I guess Symbol of Truth is considered the primary Captain America title.

BLACK PANTHER #6 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Long Shadow Book 6,” [W] John Ridley, [A] Stefano Landini. This issue is mostly a bunch of action sequences. At the end, T’Challa and Storm have a serious conversation, but John Ridley’s version of Storm doesn’t feel right. It’s not just that he violates the rule that Storm never uses contractions, because many other writers also break that rule. His Storm just sounds wrong to me. In general, this series has been disappointing, and I’m going to drop it from my pull list.

THE BEST ARCHIE COMIC EVER #1 (Archie, 2022) – “Once We Were Heroes!”, [W] Fred Van Lente, [A] Tim Seeley. The Pureheart the Powerful story in this issue is my favorite Fred Van Lente story in a long time. It’s clever and funny. I especially love the homage to the “Spider-Man pointing” meme. The Jughead/Conan parody is also funny. However, I’ve gotten tired of all these Archie one-shots. I wish they would go back to doing continuing stories, but they seem to be losing interest in the direct market – and no wonder, since they must be making a lot more money from digests.  I didn’t bother ordering their latest one-shot, Chilling Adventures Presents Weirder Mysteries.

THE WARD #1 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Andres Ponce. I didn’t order this, but I saw a preview of issue 2 and it looked intriguing, so I bought issue 1 off the shelf. The Ward is about Nat Reeves, a nurse and single mother who works at a hospital for supernatural creatures. So kind of like Wolff & Byrd, but with doctors instead of lawyers. Nat is a compelling and three-dimensional protagonist, Cavan Scott’s writing demonstrates at least some medical knowledge, and Andres Ponce makes the hospital’s supernatural patients look scary and weird.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #130 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Pablo Tunica. The Turtles escape from Dr. Barlow and meet Seri, the triceratops girl. Venus befriends a shark mutant named Bludgeon. Leonardo talks to Oroku Saki. One of the Punk Frogs acts kind of sympathetic, but the rest are still assholes. This storyline has been disappointing. There’s too much focus on the dinosaur planet plot, and not enough character interaction.

BRZRKR #9 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Keanu Reeves & Matt Kindt, [A] Ron Garney. Unute has a vision of his father, then he turns into a giant egg, and then the egg hatches and Unute comes out and starts killing people. This series is only average, but I am kind of curious to see how it ends.

KAIJU SCORE: STEAL FROM THE GODS #3 (AfterShock, 2022) – “Off the Rails,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Rem Broo. Carlito is killed off-panel in a rather anticlimactic way. Then Michelle’s team travels inside Prodathu’s corpse to collect the shipwreck it ate, but their Russian contact betrays them and deliberately wakes up the monster, endangering the entire world. A pretty fun issue.

MY LITTLE PONY #2 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Celeste Bronfman, [A] Amy Mebberson. In the ruins of Canterlot, the five ponies meet an elderly Discord, who tells them about his plan to get rid of magic completely. I still don’t like this series as much as FIM, mostly because I’m not familiar with the new protagonists – indeed, I can barely tell them apart or remember their names. But at least this comic feels like a My Little Pony comic. I especially like the running joke where Discord’s pet opossum, Reginald Fursome, keeps “speaking” by holding up signs.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #39 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Alberto Foche. Miles talks with Peter, then they fight Mindspinner, who previously appeared (in a different dimension) as one of the Assessor’s clones. Shift meets a potential love interest, Johnetta. I like how Shift has a personality of his own, despite being nonverbal. He could maybe be read as a depiction of a nonverbal autistic person. At the end, Miles discovers that Uncle Aaron is being used to power Selim’s machines.

BLOOD-STAINED TEETH #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Christian Ward, [A] Patric Reynolds. I liked this better than the last two issues; it’s fairly exciting, and it includes fewer uses of the word “sip.” But I still haven’t changed my mind about dropping this series.

SLUMBER #4 (Image, 2022) – “Swan Song,” [W] Tyler Burton Smith, [A] Vanessa Cardinali. Stetson discovers that “Valkira” is an impostor, and goes looking for the real Valkira, only to discover that she’s still in Stetson’s office. This issue is full of fun weirdness. I especially like the scene where Stetson opens her closet and reveals a bunch of strange things, including a disembodied talking head named Gary. However, it’s hard to tell the characters in this comic apart. In particular, this issue includes two brown-haired women in glasses, and I thought at first that they were the same.

COPRA #43 (Copra, 2022) – “I Must Not Think Good Thoughts,” [W/A] Michel Fiffe. Three Copra agents fight the Asesinos. Meanwhile, “Shade” visits “Dr. Strange” and recovers his helmet, which is possessed by “Clea.” The full-page splash showing Clea, merged with the helmet, is the best of this issue’s many brilliant images. At the end of the issue, we meet some new characters (new to me at least), two of whom are based on Hawkgirl and Count Vertigo. As I mentioned, I talked to Michel Fiffe at Heroes Con, and he mentioned how some of the characters are based on multiple inspirations. For example, Xenia is based on both Clea and Enchantress (June Moone).

SINS OF THE BLACK FLAMINGO #1 (Image, 2022) – “Love is a Stranger,” [W] Andrew Wheeler, [A] Travis Moore. Sebastian Harlow, aka the Black Flamingo, a flamboyant gentleman thief. A Mr. and Mrs. Steinem hire him to steal a clay tablet from an exhibit of Nazi memorabilia. It turns out that the tablet is used to activate a golem made by Mr. Steinem’s grandfather. On his next heist, the Black Flamingo discovers an imprisoned angel. I enjoyed Another Castle, which was the last Andrew Wheeler comic I read, but Sins of the Black Flamingo is even better. It’s an entertaining crime/fantasy comic, and it also has a strong queer and progressive angle.

WEST OF SUNDOWN #3 (AfterShock, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Aaron Campbell, [A] Jim Terry. When Dooley and Constance return to town, all hell breaks loose, with a bunch of different enemies all showing up at once. This issue is a bit hard to follow because of the large number of characters, but it’s fun. I met Aaron Campbell at Heroes Con, but I forgot he was co-writing this series.

IRON FIST #4 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Alyssa Wong, [A] Michael YG. Iron Fist battles Fat Cobra and Bride of Nine Spiders, who were introduced in Immortal Iron Fist. Danny Rand and Luke Cage make a cameo appearance as they travel to Lin Lie’s town. Lin Lie wakes up to find his brother and nemesis, Lin Feng, demanding the shards of the sword back. (This character’s name is Lin Feng, not Feng Gege; “gege” just means big brother.) This issue is a quick read, but it’s fun. I like how one of the page layouts is based on the yin-yang symbol.

DUO #2 (Milestone, 2022) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Khoi Pham. Kelly and David try to adjust to having to share a body with each other. Also, they fight a bunch of drones. The premise of two minds occupying a single body has been done before – Mar-Vell, Firestorm and Dr. Mirage all come to mind – but Duo is unique because of its deep exploration of what it would actually be like to share a body with your lover.

NAUGHTY LIST #3 (AfterShock, 2022) – “Roshambo,” [W] Nick Santora, [A] Lee Ferguson. Santa goes looking for Roshambo, the only known troll-human hybrid. I feel sorry for this character; he’s an unrepentant villain, but only because he was exiled from both his ancestral species. Incidentally, we learn that all of Santa’s reindeer are female, and that he doesn’t really use the chimney.

LONESOME HUNTERS #1 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Tyler Crook. Howard, a very old man, obtained a magic sword in his youth. A century later, Howard’s young neighbor Lupe steals a pocket watch from her uncle, which the uncle previously stole from someone else. The watch somehow summons a magical magpie that eats the uncle’s brain, and Lupe appeals to Howard for help. I had low expectations for this series, because I think it’s the first thing Tyler Crook has written. I only bought it because I didn’t see much else of any interest in Dark Horse’s solicitations. But I was pleasantly surprised by this comic. It’s a creepy horror story with two intriguing and completely dissimilar protagonists. I especially like the magpies, which are an inherently creepy type of bird, and this comic even quotes the famous magpie-counting rhyme (one for sorrow, two for joy, etc.).

BATMAN #102 (DC, 2021) – “Ghost Stories Part 1,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Carlo Pagulayan. Batman fights Ghost-Maker and Clownhunter, who are not the same person. This comic is okay, but it lacks the strong supporting cast of Tynion’s Detective Comics. The highlight of this issue is when Harley Quinn goes looking for an apartment and asks if the landlord is okay with hyenas.

2000 AD #426 (IPC, 1985) – Strontium Dog: “Slavers of Drule,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny and Wulf accept a mission to save some kidnapped children from alien slavers. Slaine: as above. Slaine fights some more Cythron agents, then learns he has to fight an invincible “type three battle-orgot.” Dredd: as above. Chopper successfully evades the judges, and now feels ready for Supersurf 7. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue kills Moho, but not before getting a lead on the location of the antigen. Anderson: as above. Anderson continues her battle with the Dark Judges. Although this issue isn’t as slick and polished as recent 2000 AD comics, it has a vitality and novelty that the current 2000 AD lacks. Also, back in the ‘80s, the artists were better at exploiting the massive size of the tabloid page.

SPIDER-GWEN: GWENVERSE #3 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Jodi Nishijima. The four Gwens go looking for Iron Gwen, the adopted child of Howard Stark. She seems to exist in the same timeline as the Captain America version of Gwen. The issue ends by introducing the Gwen version of Ms. Marvel. This series has basically the same premise as What If? Miles Morales – what if Gwen/Miles were all the other Marvel heroes? But Gwenverse is executing that premise more effectively, and without engaging in blatant racism.

EXTERMINATOR #1 (Boom!, 2012) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Jeffrey Edwards. I hadn’t heard of this comic until I saw it in the cheap boxes at Heroes Con. It tells two parallel stories about Nox (i.e. Batman) and Red Reaper (i.e. the Joker). One of the storylines is set in the past and is a fairly standard superhero story. The other storyline takes place after a global apocalypse. At this point, Nox and Red Reaper have teamed up, and Red Reaper keeps trying to get Nox to abandon his vow against killing, in order to protect himself against the monsters that are taking over the world. This comic isn’t quite as interesting as some of Spurrier’s later work, but I did buy several other issues of it at Heroes Con, and I’m curious to see how its plot evolves.

RESIDENT ALIEN: THE SAM HAIN MYSTERY #3 (Dark Horse, 2015) – untitled, [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. Harry talks with an old woman, who eventually confesses to the murder of her abusive husband. Harry decides not to tell anyone about the murder. We also discover that the woman’s little great-granddaughter can see that Harry is an alien. Resident Alien actually reminds me a bit of Strangehaven because it’s a tender, affectionate depiction of a small town. It’s kind of a cozy mystery series, except with an alien.

FOUR COLOR #675 (Dell, 1956) – Steve Donovan, Western Marshal: “Showdown,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Everett Raymond Kinstler. In an adaptation of a Western TV show, a U.S. marshal brings law to a lawless Wild West town. I was amazed to see who drew this comic. Everett Kinstler worked in comics in the ‘40s and ‘50s, but left comics to become a portrait painter, and went on to paint eight U.S. Presidents as well as countless other celebrities. I’ve never read any of his comics work before. This issue reveals him to be a master of storytelling and composition. He draws beautiful action sequences, and he makes great use of negative space. He even includes his name in a few panels, circumventing Dell comics’s lack of credits. I’d love to read more Kinstler comics. It would be nice if someone would publish a collection of his work. Kinstler is one of a number of Golden Age cartoonists who are universally acclaimed, but who have fallen into obscurity because their work is not easily accessible. Other artists in this category include Lou Fine, Mort Meskin, L.B. Cole, and Mac Raboy.

AQUAMEN #5 (DC, 2022) – “All Points,” [W] Chuck Brown & Brandon Thomas, [A] Sami Basri. Mera and Jackson try to construct a “broadcast tower” to break the Atlantean sleeper agents’ mind control, while Aquaman and Black Manta fight the sleeper agents. I’ve lost interest in this series, since it’s ending after one more issue, but I might as well finish reading it.

CREEPY #85 (Warren, 1977) – “Like Icarus Falling,” [W] Roger McKenzie, [A] Leopoldo Sanchez. Two vampires have a centuries-long rivalry, which finally ends with their deaths, after the rest of the world has been wiped out in an apocalypse. “Hide and Go Mad,” [W] Budd Lewis, [A] Carmine Infantino. A famous actor searches for yetis in the Himalayas. He finds a yeti, kills it, and wears its skin, but it appears to be a dream, because his guards find him dead, having ripped off his own skin before freezing to death. Unusually, the inker on this story is Walt Simonson. “The Thing in the Well,” [W] McKenzie, [A] Leo Duranoña. Ten-year-old Nancy’s stepfather kills her mother and throws the body in a well. When Nancy starts investigating the well, the stepfather kills her too, but then the mother returns to life and kills the stepfather. Duranoña’s art here is very creepy, especially in the panels where we’re looking up from the bottom of the well. “Orem Ain’t Got No Head Cheese!”, [W] Bill DuBay, [A] José Ortiz. This is one of the most disgusting comics I’ve ever read in my life. A man and his girlfriend are walking in the woods. Aron, who’s dying of brain cancer, is walking in the woods with his girlfriend. A pair of cannibalistic, incestuous hillbillies, Orem and “Honey Gal,” murder Aron and his girlfriend, planning to eat their bodies. When they find Aron’s brain tumor, they throw it away in their trash pit. The tumor comes to life and tries to sleep with Honey Gal before slithering off toward civilization. This story is tasteless and gruesome, combining body horror, cannibalism and incest. It’s also hilarious, and it’s easily the highlight of this issue. “The Terrible Turnip of Turpin County,” [W] Roger McKenzie, [A] Martin Salvador. A sentient alien turnip creates a horde of turnip zombies. Martin Salvador was the most restrained and realistic of Warren’s Spanish artists. “A Way in the Woods,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Luis Bermejo. A pilot crashlands in the Canadian wilderness, where he falls in love with a woman who turns out to be a werewolf. He becomes a werewolf too.

THE WRONG EARTH: CONFIDENCE MEN #1 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Confidence Men,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Leonard Kirk. On Earth-Alpha, Stinger loses his confidence, and Dragonflyman  disguises himself as a villain in order to restore Stinger’s courage. On Earth-Omega, Stinger becomes overconfident, and Dragonfly pretends to be a villain in order to teach Stinger to follow orders. This is the best story Mark Waid has written lately. It has a very clever plot, and it clearly illustrates the differences between the two Dragonflies.

LAND OF THE LIVING GODS #5 (AfterShock, 2022) – “Tell Them Everything,” [W] Isaac Mogajane, [A] Santtos. Naledi defeats Shandu and resumes her quest for the Land of the Living Gods. This series was disappointing because it’s just a generic fantasy, and it doesn’t seriously engage with South African culture, except for the names and the South African vocabulary. Buckhead had a similar problem, but at least that series’s plot was based on genuine Yoruba traditions.

ARROWSMITH: BEHIND ENEMY LINES #6 (Image, 2022) – “Wizardry and Warlords,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Carlos Pacheco. Guy teaches Fletcher that he has actual magical powers, and then the two of them head for the mountain where Frederick Barbarossa is buried. We begin to suspect that Barbarossa is in fact the evil Blood Emperor. At this point, the series is going on hiatus because both Kurt and Carlos have been suffering from health problems. I wish them all the best. I’ve waited almost two decades for more Arrowsmith, and I can wait a little longer for the rest of this story.

THE VARIANTS #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Gail Simone, [A] Phil Noto. Jessica Jones has to confront her traumatic memories of being kidnapped by the Purple Man. When she comes home from a pretrial hearing for another of the Purple Man’s victims, she finds another version of herself in her apartment, wearing Captain America’s costume. This is an intriguing start.

CANTO: TALES OF THE UNNAMED WORLD #1 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. While Canto and his companions are crossing a bridge, a catlike creature refuses to let them pass until they tell him a story he hasn’t heard before. Canto’s two companions each tell a story, but the creature already knows both of them. The two stories are illustrated by Liana Kangas and Jorge Corona. I don’t understand why anyone likes Liana Kangas’s art, but Jorge Corona’s story is excellent. This issue is a nice break from the typical Canto formula.