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July and August 2022 reviews

8-18-2022

I need to start writing reviews because I’m running out of room to store comics waiting to be reviewed.

THE WALKING DEAD #150 (Image, 2016) – “Betrayed,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Charlie Adlard. Some people try to assassinate Rick Grimes, but he survives, and then uses the incident to create support for his proposed anti-zombie army. The scene at the end, where the crowd chants Rick’s name, is disturbing because it suggests that Rick is becoming some kind of fascist leader.

2000 AD #444 (IPC, 1985) – Nemesis: “Book Five,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Bryan Talbot. A crossover story that guest-stars the ABC Warriors and Satanus the dinosaur. Rogue Trooper: untitled, [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] José Ortiz. Rogue is led before a firing squad, but the execution is called off because the Norts have surrendered, ending the war. But in the last panel, we see that a common enemy is targeting both the Norts and the Southers. Dredd: “Love Story,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. A woman named Bella Bagley falls in love with Dredd, but of course he’s incapable of returning her feelings, and the story ends with Bella being sent to prison. Bella lives in “Erich Segal Block,” named after the author. of Love Story. This is a classic one-shot Dredd story. Alan Grant sadly passed away in July. Mean Team: untitled, [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. A sports-themed story that’s hampered by Belardinelli’s limited ability to draw people. Future Shocks: “Mind How You Go!”, [W] Oleh Stepaniuk, [A] Geoff Senior. A precognitive man places too much trust in his own visions, and dies as a result.

X-MEN RED #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “Three Short Stories About Death,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Stefano Caselli. Isca debates Magneto, Storm attends a space council where she learns of Xandra’s death, and Sunspot and Rockslide discuss Santo’s death. I don’t remember much of anything about this issue.

MARVEL VOICES: PRIDE #1 (Marvel, 2022) – [E] Sarah Brunstad. The best story in this issue is “Permanent Sleepover” by Charlie Jane Anders, Ro Stein and Ted Brandt, starring two new LGBTQ characters. This story makes me sort of want to read the upcoming New Mutants run by this same creative team. “Permanent Sleepover” also connects to the story in this issue by Grace Freud, “Scott” and “Henderson,” about a support group for trans superheroes.  As usual with these Marvel Voices specials, the other stories are a mixed bag. Amusingly, Marvel commissioned a story for Marvel Voices: Heritage #1 that had to be pulled because it starred Werehawk, a character who Marvel never owned – he’s from Dave Cockrum’s creator-owned Futurians. The Werehawk story has now been released online, and it’s better than any of the stories that did appear in the issue it was commissioned for. 

THE SILVER COIN #11 (Image, 2022) – “The Diner,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Walsh. An aging, disgruntled waitress is given the coin by a customer. She wishes for her restaurant to be full of customers. What unsurprisingly happens is that the restaurant is mobbed by crazy people who can’t stop eating, and in the end the customers and the staff all kill and eat each other. The original customer returns and reclaims the coin. This issue is a gruesome but effective piece of horror.

SABRETOOTH #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “There and Back Again,” [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Leonard Kirk. I think the only interesting thing in this issue is Nekra talking about eating Hoppin’ John with her grandparents. This series is vastly inferior to Destroyer or Eve, yet I still feel obliged to read it because it’s Victor LaValle. And for the same reason I also feel obliged to read the new Sabretooth and the Exiles series that was just announced.

IMMORTAL X-MEN #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “The New Testament of Irene Adler,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Lucas Werneck. This issue’s POV character is Destiny, and it may well be the best story about this character ever. Kieron makes us feel the bitter irony of Destiny’s powers: she can see the future, but she can’t change it. This issue also includes a funny reference to the classic first page of Uncanny X-Men #168. I think Immortal X-Men is the best of the X-Men comics I’m currently following.

BLACK ADAM #1 (DC, 2022) – “Theogony Book One: The Sandbox,” [W] (Christopher) Priest, [A] Rafa Sandoval. The two focal characters in this issue are Black Adam, the ruler of Kahndaq, and Malik Adam White, a young doctor who’s Black Adam’s descendant and heir. Sometime after reading this issue, I realized that I don’t really like Priest’s writing. His stories are always structured in a deliberately confusing way, and I don’t think it’s worth the effort to untangle them. Even before reading issue 2, I decided to drop this series.

G.I.L.T. #3 (Ahoy, 2022) – untitled, [W] Alisa Kwitney, [A] Mauricet. This series is very difficult to follow because of its time travel plot, and because it contains multiple, different-looking versions of the same characters. I think the best thing in this issue is the scene with Dorothy Parker and the dead pigeon, though I’m not sure who the “C.W.” character is.

IMAGE! 30TH ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY #3 (Image, 2022) – [W/A] various. The best story in this issue is the Rumble one-shot by John Arcudi and James Harren. Rumble is a funny character with a distinctive speech pattern, and Harren’s art is striking, as usual. Of the continuing serials, the only one I really like is Shift, because it’s a Radiant Black tie-in. Most of the other serialized stories are too short to have any impact, and it’s hard to remember what happened in the previous installment of each serial. In particular, I want to like the story by Brenden Fletcher and Erica Henderson, but I’m not even sure what it’s about.

SWAMP THING #14 (DC, 2022) – “The Alien Idea,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. Swampy and Green Lantern team up against an alien invasion and the Parliament of Gears. This issue includes some very impressive page designs that remind me of classic Swamp Thing pages by Bissette and Veitch.

NORSE MYTHOLOGY III #5 (Dark Horse, 2022) – “Ragnarok: The Final Destiny of the Gods,” [W/A] P. Craig Russell (though Neil Gaiman is the credited writer since he wrote the source material). I’m not sure why this was in my file at Heroes. I didn’t much like Gaiman’s Norse Mythology. It was just a rehash of the Prose Edda, and so this adaptation is just a rehash of a rehash. PCR’s artwork here is effective, but it’s not much different from anything else he’s done in recent decades.

GHOST CAGE #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Nick Dragotta, [W] Caleb Goellner. Sam, Doyle and Blair defeat the evil old dude and save the world. There’s nothing very surprising in this issue, but overall this was a fun comic that showed a deep understanding of the manga aesthetic. 

THE KILLER: AFFAIRS OF THE STATE #5 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matz, [A] Luc Jacamon. The Killer and his allies plot the mayor’s assassination, while the two cops try to track the assassins down. In France, the three albums of Le Tueur – Affaires d’État is considered a separate series from the original thirteen albums of Le Tueur. However, the two series have the same style of art and writing.

RED ROOM: TRIGGER WARNINGS #4 (Fantagraphics, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Ed Piskor. The federal government runs a sting operation to capture Red Room patrons, one of whom is a parody of Mr. Rogers. Like many previous Red Room stories, this issue is based on a real occurrence. As usual this issue includes lots of lovingly rendered body horror scenes.

BATMAN: THE KNIGHT #6 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Carmine Di Giandomenico. Bruce and Anton travel to the Canadian wilderness to train with Luka Jango, a retired sniper. During this training, Bruce forms his twin resolutions to never use guns or kill anyone. Luka realizes that Anton is a budding supervillain and tries to kill him, but Bruce stops Luka, and Anton kills Luka instead. Batman: The Knight is my least favorite of Chip Zdarsky’s current comics, but it’s not bad.

THE X-CELLENT #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “New Blood, New World Part 4,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Mike Allred. My favorite thing in this issue is the budding relationship between Edie Sawyer’s daughter and Tike Alicar’s son. These two are among the few sympathetic characters in this series. Besides being dated, X-Cellent is frustrating because so many of its protagonists are narcissistic jerks.

Older comics:

AIRBOY #9 (Eclipse, 1986) – “Body Count!”, [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Stan Woch. Valkyrie and Hirota try to rescue Davy from some ninjas, and also there’s a werewolf involved. In a backup story, American airman Link Thorne is held captive in communist China. Despite my loathing for Chuck Dixon, I want to collect more Airboy because it’s a fun series, and also because it ties in with other Eclipse comics.

BATMAN #105 (DC, 2021) – “Ghost Stories Part 4,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Carlo Pagulayan et al. Batman stops Clownhunter from killing Harley Quinn, then fights Ghost-Maker. The high point of this issue is Harley’s speech, in which she apologizes for Clownhunter’s parents’ deaths, but tries to show that she’s changed.

NIGHTWING #80 (DC, 2021) – “Leaping Into the Light Part 3,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo. I ordered this on eBay, and it was the first new comic I acquired after moving into my new apartment. This issue, Nightwing is accused of murder and goes looking for the real murderer, Heartless, who makes his first full appearance this issue. But Heartless traps Dick and Damian on a burning pier with a bunch of children. This issue is full of beautiful art. I still need several other issues of this run, but they’re hard to find on eBay.

SKYWARD #12 (Image, 2019) – “Fix the World Part 2,” [W] Joe Henderson, [A] Lee Garbett. This issue focuses on Lilly, Willa Fowler’s mother, and explains where Lilly has been for Willa’s entire lifetime. After gravity was turned off, Lilly went to Crystal Springs, an underground city built by her husband, and has been there ever since, cut off from the outside world. When Lilly accidentally discovers that her daughter is still alive, she violates her own rules by going outside the city to look for Willa, but then she and Willa go back to Crystal Springs and get trapped inside. This is a well-written issue and it’s a nice break from the series’ regular storyline.

DIE!DIE!DIE! #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Scott M. Gimple. An offensive, gruesome, implausible load of crap, with an uninteresting plot about three assassins who are brothers. A comic in which Kirkman indulges his worst tendencies. I’m glad I didn’t buy this when it came out, and I don’t intend to read any more of it.

MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #7 (Marvel, 1988) – “Save the Tiger Part 7: Things Get Worse!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] John Buscema. In Madripoor, Wolverine helps Tyger Tiger fight a gang war. Buscema’s art here is quite good, though Klaus Janson is a poor inker for him. Man-Thing: “Elements of Terror Chapter 7: Boxes,” [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Tom Sutton. A plot that may have been inspired by the Iran-Contra scandal, coupled with extremely effective artwork that invokes both cosmic horror and body horror. Tom Sutton had some weaknesses as an artist, but he was great at drawing horrific creatures and settings. On his Substack, Tom Brevoort described an unpleasant encounter he had with Gerber, and some people on Facebook said that Gerber was temperamental and difficult to work with. I find this surprising, because to me, Gerber is a hero. But maybe I have a romanticized image of him. Master of Kung Fu: “Crossing Lines VII: Hooks,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Tom Grindberg. Very similar to the old MOKF series, but with worse art. Sub-Mariner: “From Sea to Deadly Sea,” [W/A] Steve Ditko. A boring example of Ditko’s late work. Hollis Bright only has seven credits in the GCD, all of which are either Sub-Mariner stories, or stories by Ditko, or both. I can’t find any biographical information about him or her. Addendum: I asked Rob Imes, who’s an expert on Ditko, and he says that Hollis Bright is Terry Kavanagh’s wife.

DETECTIVE COMICS #940 (DC, 2016) – “Rise of the Batmen Part 7: The Red Badge of Courage,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Eddy Barrows. Despite being defeated, Jacob Kane continues to be an unrepentant, smug bastard, and Kate finally knocks him unconscious. Tim Drake sacrifices his life to stop Kane’s drone army from destroying Gotham. This sets up a poignant scene in which Batman confronts a grieving Stephanie. But of course Tim’s not really dead, and the end of the issue reveals that he was rescued and imprisoned by a mysterious figure. Tim’s captor was later named as Mr. Oz, who was in fact Jor-El.

MIRACLEMAN #20 (Eclipse, 1991) – “Winter’s Tale,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Mark Buckingham. I’ve read this before, but I didn’t own the original issue until now. This issue focuses on a woman named Rachel; her daughter Mist, conceived with Miracleman’s donated sperm; her widowed boyfriend Jack; and his young son Glenn. There’s also an inset story about Winter’s adventures in space. On rereading this issue, I realize how dark it is. Little Glenn is adorable, but Rachel’s story is rather grim. She hoped that having a child would cure her lack of emotion, but Mist doesn’t need any parenting, and is such an uncanny child (in the Freudian sense) that she’s difficult to love. For example, she ruins Rachel and Jack’s relationship by offhandedly informing Rachel that Jack is having an affair. On this reading I also listened to the two songs quoted in this issue, “Sophisticated Boom Boom” by the Shangri-Las and “All Grown Up” by the Dixie Cups. The latter song is highly relevant to the story’s themes.

DENNIS THE MENACE #41 (Fawcett, 1960) – various stories, [W] Fred Toole, [A] Al Wiseman. A much more straightforward comic about small children. This issue’s stories mostly have a winter theme. In the first one, Dennis convinces his dad to take him and his friends sledding.

BATMAN: DARK VICTORY #4 (DC, 2000) – untitled, [W] Jeph Loeb, [A] Tim Sale. Batman descends into the sewers to look for Solomon Grundy, who can lead him to Harvey Dent. For a long time I’ve had a very negative impression of Jeph Loeb’s writing, and I avoided reading his prestige-format series with Tim Sale. But this issue was a revelation. Tim Sale’s visual storytelling is amazing. He uses unexpected camera angles and page layouts to add excitement to action sequences that could have been boring. Gregory Wright’s coloring complements Sale’s artwork perfectly. Jeph Loeb’s story is not bad either, though I’m not sure what it’s about. I will try to track down the various other miniseries by this creative team.

FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD SPIDER-MAN #4 (Marvel, 2019) – “Mother of Exiles Part 4,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Juann Cabal. A Spider-Man story written by Tom Taylor seems almost too good to be true. In this issue, Spidey and Johnny Storm save some subterranean children from their vengeful grandfather. This issue lacks the narrative depth of Tom Taylor’s Nightwing or Superman, but it’s very fun, and Juann Cabal is an excellent artist. I especially like the scene where Spidey dodges gunfire while saving a cat.

STAR TREK #2 (DC, 1989) – “The Sentence,” [W] Peter David, [A] James Fry. The Klingons put a bounty on Kirk’s head, while Kirk confronts the fanatical alien Nasgul. A weakness of PAD’s Star Trek run was its reliance on original characters who never appeared anywhere else in the franchise, such as R.J. Blaise and Ensign Fouton. Still, PAD is easily the best writer of Star Trek comics, at least as far as I know. CBR has twice listed Star Trek Annual #3, PAD’s story about Scotty’s late wife, as the best Star Trek comic ever. On the first page of this issue, Jor-El makes an Easter egg appearance. 

CRIMINAL: THE SINNERS #2 (Marvel, 2009) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Tracy Lawless investigates some murders on behalf of his boss, Mr. Hyde. This was one of the only Criminal comics I was missing. It’s been a while since I read the rest of The Sinners, and  issue 2 doesn’t make much sense on its own.

RUMBLE #17 (Image, 2019) – “Belly of Hell” and “Deceitful Above All Things,” [W] John Arcudi, [A] Andrew MacLean & James Harren. I bought this because it’s a crossover between Rumble and Head Lopper. The crossover makes sense because the two series’ protagonists, Rathraq and Nergal, are both sword-wielding monster slayers. In this issue they encounter each other while trapped inside the belly of a giant beast. The interactions between the two characters are amusing, and the contrast between the two artists’ styles is striking; it’s very strange to see Nergal drawn by anyone other than MacLean. I want to read more of Rumble.

SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #15 (Marvel, 2013) – “Run, Goblin, Run! Part 1: The Tinkerer’s Apprentice,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Humberto Ramos. Phil Urich, the current Hobgoblin, goes on a crime spree so that he can pay Roderick Kingsley for the rights to the Kingpin name. There are also some subplots about Tyler Stone, the Wraith, and various other characters. This is an average issue of Superior Spider-Man.

Next trip to Heroes. This was so long ago now that I don’t remember these comics very well.

SAGA #60 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Pia Guerra. Gale interrogates Marko’s mother, Hazel and Squire Robot have a heart-to-heart talk, and then the family goes home only to find their rocket tree on fire. The high point of this issue is the scene at the restaurant that’s based on Chuck E. Cheese. I don’t know why that place is supposed to stop being fun when you’re an adult.

ONCE & FUTURE #27 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Kings Are Dead,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. The heroes defend the sword in the stone, with Sir Hempleworth’s assistance – which is an error, he should be called Sir Jason, not Sir Hempleworth. Galahad finally achieves the Grail with Lancelot’s help, but dies as a result. This issue is just setup for the more dramatic events next issue.

TWIG #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Kyle Strahm. A monster kidnaps Twig and Splat, but they escape. Then they find the Horned Beast, whose heart is one of the items Twig needs. The trouble is that the Horned Beast is really cute, and it’s also still alive and still actively using its heart. This is one of the best miniseries of the year, mostly due to its adorable and weird art. I also like Twig’s rather nonchalant attitude to all the strange things he encounters.

EIGHT BILLION GENIES #3 (Image, 2022) – “The First Eight Days,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. Maybe the funniest part about this issue is Hemingway acting like a jerk, but then he, Dorothy Parker and Jim Morrison all disappear, because the people who wished them into existence are dead. Wang kills the man who was trying to blackmail him, and his wife is revealed to be pregnant. The little boy wishes to become a superhero, then joins up with some other people who made the same wish (this was also the premise of a much older comic, The Good Guys). This is another of the best miniseries of 2022.

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #13 (DC, 2022) – “Dreams and Nightmares,” [W] Nicole Maines and Tom Taylor, [A] Clayton Henry. Nicole Maines is the actress who plays Nia Nal, or Dreamer, who makes her first appearance in mainstream DC continuity in this issue. Dreamer, like Phantom Girl from The Terrifics, is a 21st-century version of a Legion of Super-Heroes character, though unlike Nura Nal, Nia is transgender. Much of this issue is taken up with Nia’s vision of the deaths of the Justice League, and as a result, this issue does little to advance the series’ plot.

STRANGE ACADEMY #18 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. Brother Voodoo tries to forcibly take back the kids, who are hiding out in Dr. Strange’s old mansion. The kids decide to hide out in the Dark Dimension instead. This is the last issue of the current run. Strange Academy is the most fun comic Marvel is currently publishing, and I hope it doesn’t just disappear after the upcoming Finals miniseries. Speaking of Dr. Strange’s mansion, I met Chris Bachalo at Heroes Con, and I asked him what was up with the talking snakes in Dr. Strange’s foyer. He said they’re just snakes that happen to talk. I think it’s funnier if they’re unexplained.

THE CLOSET #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Gavin Fullerton. Thom spends with the night with an old friend, who gives him a stern lecture about how he’s ruining his marriage. We also learn that Thom was having an affair, which may be new information. Jamie has another nightmare about the closet monster. This is yet another of the year’s best miniseries. More on The Closet below.

BATMAN #125 (DC, 2022) – “Failsafe Part One,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jorge Jimenez. A dying Penguin puts a bounty on anyone who has over $5 million in inherited wealth. This is a surprisingly progressive idea, but it seems out of character for the Penguin, who has never shown any socialist tendencies before. At the end of the story, a robot named Failsafe activates inside the Batcave. In the backup story, Catwoman tries to track down the Penguin’s illegitimate children. This is the first new issue of Batman that I’ve bought in a very long time – the last one may have been the final chapter of Hush – and it was worth buying. Jorge Jimenez, in particular, has developed into a top-tier aritst.

FLAVOR GIRLS #1 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Loïc Locatelli-Kournwsky. In a post-apocalyptic world, Earth is protected by three flavor-themed magical girl superheroines. The protagonist, Sara, develops pineapple powers and becomes the fourth Flavor Girl. This seems like a pretty average magical girl comic, but I really like the theme of flavor superpowers. It reminds me of a viral Tumblr post showing the Lady of Shallot (sic) and her fellow Ladies of Onion, Garlic and Chives.

LITTLE MONSTERS #5 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. In a flashback, we see that Yui became a vampire after surviving the atom bombing of Hiroshima. The guy who killed the one twin escapes, but returns to capture the surviving twin. Besides that, this issue is mostly dialogue.

BATGIRLS #8 (DC, 2022) – “Bad Reputation Part 2,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. The Batgirls and Nightwing team up to defeat the Saints. Also there’s a new villain who’s a Quebeçoise sword swallower. This issue has some really fun dialogue and character interactions. 

NEW MASTERS #5 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Shobo Coker, [A] Shof Coker. Ola gets a tour of the Star Pilot Temple, and she discovers that the Eye of Orunmila is evidence of alien contact by the ancient people of Ife. The rest of the family finally confronts Governor Tosin. The old mobster/magnate, Ojumah, decides to besiege the temple to get the Eye back. New Masters is the best of the recent group of Africanfuturist comics, because it’s not just a conventional comic with a cosmetic African setting. Rather, Nigerian culture and mythology are the heart of its story.

THE TIGER’S TONGUE #1 (Mad Cave, 2022) – untitled, [W] Olivia Stephens, [A] Diansakhu Banton-Perry. This is an example of an Africanfuturist comic that’s less successful than New Masters. The Tiger’s Tongue is set in a fantasy kingdom, where two twin princesses are forced to fight each other to decide which of them wil inherit their kingdom’s mystical link to tigers. This comic’s fantasy setting is entirely generic and is not based on any particular African culture. Which I guess is not necessarily a bad thing – lots of fantasy stories are based on generic European cultures – but it’s not all that interesting to me. And Tiger’s Tongue’s plot and characters are only mildly interesting. I’m going to give up on this series.

DOGS OF LONDON #3 (Aftershock, 2022) – “Three Poisonings, One Funeral and a Ripped Off Nose,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Artecida. We find out more about just how the three undead Dogs died. Meanwhile, the revived Dogs rampage through London. And since they’ve been dead for several decades, they’re shocked by the current state of society, and in particular by the open acceptance of gay people. This is one of Peter Milligan’s better recent works.

WEST OF SUNDOWN #4 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Aaron Campbell, [A] Jim Terry. After a lot of mayhem, an undead horse demon tells Constance and Dooley that the cult leader, Herzog Jung, is trying to breach the veil between light and darkness. And Constance has to stop him, or Jung will become an even worse demon. I like this series, but its plot is very convoluted.

SEASON OF THE BRUJA #4 (Oni, 2022) – untitled, [W] Aaron Durán, [A] Sara Soler. Loquita, the ceramic cat, tries to get Althalia to perform a human sacrifice, but she refuses. Instead, Althalia summons a demon and sacrifices it, allowing her to reach the underworld. This was a pretty quick read. Season of the Bruja is this year’s equivalent of These Savage Shores or Yasmeen or Shadow Doctor – an excellent under-the-radar comic that deserves more publicity. I’m kind of surprised that Oni is still announcing new comics.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #19 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcello Grassi. Half the team gets sent back in time to the day of Paul Revere’s ride. The other half, including Janet and Chang Enlou, are sent forward in time to V-Day, when the Destiny Man declares “victory over everything.” He also accuses Janet and Chang of being enemies of America. This new storyline is an interesting variation on the series’ formula. Each previous storyline begins with the team finding themselves in a new region of America, but this time the team is split between two different regions.

BLACK PANTHER #7 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Long Shadow Book 7,” [W] John Ridley, [A] Stefano Landini. Wakanda continues to descend into civil war. This is going to be my last issue of this series. Ridley’s Black Panther is much faster-paced than Ta-Nehisi Coates’s run, but it offers nothing new. Its major theme – the conflict between royal and democratic authority – is a theme that’s already been explored in almost every other important Black Panther comic. Black Panther ought to be one of Marvel’s flagship titles, but none of the series’ recent writers has been able to replicate the excitement created by the movie.

MIND MGMT BOOTLEG #1 (Dark Horse, 2022) – “What Can You Do?”, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Farel Dalrymple. A Tanzanian boy, one of the survivors of the Zanzibar disaster, is recruited into the new MIND MGMT, but it’s not the same one as at the end of the previous series, because his first mission is to kill Meru Marlowe. I’ve been lukewarm about some of Matt Kindt’s recent work, but this issue has the same brilliant use of paratext as the original series, and I love Farel Dalrymple’s draftsmanship. One fairly obvious thing I noticed is that in the ad on the inside back cover, the blue words spell out “This is an actual game, order now.”

DAREDEVIL #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Red Fist Saga Part 1,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Checchetto, and “The Island,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Rafael De Latorre. Matt reveals his secret identity to Spider-Man, then tries to leave New York, but he’s stopped by Robert “Goldy” Goldman, who claims to be Matt’s guardian angel. In the backup story, Elektra meets Stick on an island disputed between China and Russia. I still don’t quite understand the whole business with Matt and Mike Murdock. It’s annoying that this series was renumbered, since it still has the same creative team. At least there’s a legacy number on the cover. I just wish Marvel had started using legacy numbering much sooner.

KING CONAN #6 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Boy in the Tree,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mahmud Asrar. Conan escapes from Thoth-Amon and Princess Prima and heads across the ocean to unknown lands. Thus ends Marvel’s second run of Conan comics, which didn’t last nearly as long as the first. Jason Aaron was the third important Conan comics writer, after Roy Thomas and Kurt Busiek, but I kind of think that his Conan was too domesticated and too much of a typical superhero. Mahmud Asrar’s artwork in this issue is beautiful.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #39 (Marvel, 2022) – “Trials Part Two,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Juan Frigeri & Alvaro Lopez. In a dream, Carol is put on trial for her crimes against magic. In waking life, Carol slays a giant dragon, then discovers its orphaned baby. Back on Earth, Binary and Jessica Drew fight some zombies, then Lauri-El accuses Binary of abducting Carol. One of the jurors in Carol’s trial is Alriac, the king of the Snatmen. I love the Snats and Snatmen, but as with the aforementioned talking snakes, they’re funnier if we don’t know too much about them.

THE WARD #2 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Francis Ponce. Nat has to assist an underground troll woman with a difficult childbirth, while preventing some sewer workers from finding out what’s going on. In Nat’s absence, her coworker Luis causes a banshee’s death through a preventable error, and Nat then discovers that Luis is stealing drugs from the pharmacy for his own use. The Luis scenes remind me of Atul Gawande’s writings about medical errors, and overall this series gives the impression that Cavan Scott knows something about medicine. I did not like his previous creator-owned series, Shadow Service, but The Ward is much more interesting.

SLUMBER #5 (Image, 2022) – “The Edwardian,” [W] Tyler Burton Smith, [A] Vanessa Cardinali. Stetson goes inside Ed’s head to look for Valkira – I don’t quite recall who Ed is. But when Stetson finds Valkira, the creature takes the form of the daughter that Stetson abandoned. A funny scene in this issue is when in order to be granted access to Ed’s dreams, Stetson has to pay a price of “one ceramic diaper gnome.”

POISON IVY #2 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Marcio Takara. At a truck stop in Montana, Ivy meets another woman who’s also running from the law. Ivy also meditates on climate change and on why she’s not a vegetarian. I love how the truck stop is run by a turbaned man who makes biryani and gulab jamun. This is less farfetched than you’d think; see here. I used to think I didn’t like biryani, but now I’ve developed a passion for it.

ASTRONAUT DOWN #2 (AfterShock, 2022) – “Overshoot,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Rubine. Douglas finds himself in a pre-apocalyptic alternate world, but he can’t remember his mission. Back in his home reality, the apocalypse is getting even worse. This series is interesting, but it’s less accessible than Campisi or Kaiju Score.

SABRETOOTH #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Magnificent Eight,” [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Leonard Kirk. Sabretooth sails away from Krakoa in a boat, accompanied by lots of other villains, including Nanny and Orphan Maker. This just feels like a generic X-Men comic, rather than a work of Victor LaValle. I hope this series gets more interesting.

IMMORTAL X-MEN #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “Diamonds Are Forever,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Michele Bandini. This issue focuses on Emma Frost, a horribly unsympathetic character, perhaps even more so than her boyfriend Cyclops.  This issue doesn’t make me like Emma, but it does emphasize some of her positive qualities, including her strength of will and her devotion to her students. Her central tragedy is the death of the Hellions, although I don’t think that incident is mentioned in this issue. In this issue there’s also some more development of the Mr. Sinister plot.

QUESTS ASIDE #3 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Brian Schirmer, [A] Elena Gogou. Barrow trains a new employee, then he fights some arsonists who he thinks were sent by an evil wizard, but they reveal that they were really sent by the king. The good thing about this series is that Barrow is a complex and multifaceted character. But other than that, Quests Aside is not grabbing me, and I’m going to finish it only because I already started it.

LEGION OF X #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “We’re All Mad Here,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Jan Bazaldua. Kurt and his friends continue to hunt for the skinjacker. This is another series that I’m not super-impressed with, but at least it’s written in Si Spurrier’s distinctive voice, with his usual grim sense of humor.

ORDINARY GODS #7 (Image, 2022) – “Pentecost,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Joe Clark, [A] Felipe Watanabe. One of the “good” gods reveals that she’s worse than the bad gods, and is planning to destroy the earth so the gods can get back to their home dimension. This is an interesting plot twist, but so far, Ordinary Gods has been the least interesting of Kyle Higgins’s current titles. I actually thought it had been cancelled, and was surprised to see it again.

WONDER WOMAN #789 (DC, 2022) – “The Villainy of Our Fears Part 3,” [W] Michael Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Emanuela Lupacchino & Eduardo Pansica. Dr. Psycho continues promoting his MRA agenda, and manipulates Siegfried into fighting Diana. Etta is kidnapped by Professor Calculus, a revived Golden Age villain, not to be confused with the similarly named character from Tintin. Dr. Psycho is an effective satire of contemporary misogynist culture. This issue has yet another well-drawn but badly-written Young Diana backup story.

MONKEY PRINCE #6 (DC, 2022) – “Big Stick Energy Part 2,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Bernard Chang. We begin with a brief summary of the original Journey to the West, and then Marcus fights a giant crab creature. We also get to see the Dragontown neighborhood of Atlantis, which is a really cool idea. And the dragons are playing xiangqi. At the end of the issue, Sun Wukong himself wakes up in the Phantom Zone. One thing I like about this series is that it draws upon the strangeness of Chinese mythology, including its extensive repertoire of weird and disturbing creatures.

DEADBOX #3 (Vault, 2022) – “Gunz,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Benjamin Tiesma. This issue is mostly about America’s toxic gun culture. It includes a mass shooting, and a movie that’s a gun-themed version of Cars. Also, the protagonist encounters lots of judgmental attitudes from her neighbors. Deadbox is a brutal send-up of the awfulness of rural America. The problem with it is that, like so many other Vault comics, it’s coming out at a glacial pace. Deadbox #3 is the first new issue in over six months. Vault is having serious issues with lateness. There’s at least one Vault series (Giga) whose final issue was never released at all in comic book form. Instead, it was only published in the trade paperback. I have complained about this practice before, because it’s an insult to people who faithfully bought the single issues. 

ABSOLUTION #1 (AWA, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Mike Deodato Jr. Not to be confused with Sacrament, another new Peter Milligan comic whose title is a religious term. Absolution is a science fiction title starring Nina, a professional assassin, who has to compete against other assassins or else she’ll be killed. I guess this is an intriguing setup, but after reading this issue I had trouble remembering anything about it. I liked Sacrament #1 better (see my review of it below), though that may just be due to recency bias.

JUSTICE WARRIORS #2 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Awareness Month,” [W] Matt Bors, [A] Ben Clarkson. The city is plunged into famine and riots when people start investing in bread. Justice Warriors includes some good ideas, I suppose. The idea of speculating on bread is a funny satire of the NFT craze. However, Justice Warriors suffers from a lack of a clear protagonist or a unifying theme. I think that Matt Bors is used to writing in very short formats, and has not yet figured out how to tell an extended story. I just realized that this comic’s title is a pun on Social Justice Warriors.

THE X-CELLENT #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “New Blood, New World Part 5,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Mike Allred. A blogger named Toodle Pip investigates Zeitgeist and Mirror Girl. Zeitgeist executes a plot to use the Book of the Vishanti to turn himself into a god. I still have the same complaints about this series as always – it’s dated, and even its heroes are unsympathetic. But X-Cellent is far from the worst comic I’m currently reading.

Older comics, mostly from Heroes Con:

SPIDER-WOMAN #9 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Dennis Hopeless, [A] Javier Rodriguez. Jess, Ben Urich and Porcupine go on a road trip where they have a bunch of funny adventures, and then get captured by a Western-themed supervillain. This isn’t one of the better stories by these creators, but this run of Spider-Woman is quite good. It was one of Javier Rodriguez’s earlier major works, and it helped salvage Dennis Hopeless’s reputation after the debacle of Avengers Arena.

G.I. JOE FRONTLINE #1 (Image, 2002) – “The Mission That Never Was, 1: One If by Land,” [W] Larry Hama, [A] Dan Jurgens. The Joes go on a mission to deliver a mysterious package cross-country, and there’s a subplot about Dr. Mindbender. This is a pretty average G.I. Joe comic. Congratulations to Larry Hama on a well-deserved Hall of Fame induction. I met him at Heroes Con and jokingly asked him if he was one of those Marvel guys, in reference to his Facebook post about a driver who tried to pitch a comic idea to him.

BATMAN #116 (DC, 2022) – “Fear State Part 5,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Jorge Jimenez. Batman and his allies fight Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, and Peace-Keeper 01, a character whose name I had to look up. This comic seems exciting, but I have difficulty understanding James Tynion’s Batman because of the complexity of the plot, and because I’ve been reading it out of order. This issue includes an excellent Batgirls backup story by the same creators as the ongoing series.

THUNDERBOLTS #166 (Marvel, 2012) – “The Ripper Tour,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Declan Shalvey. The time-displaced Thunderbolts find themselves in London in 1888, and of course, Mr. Hyde becomes Jack the Ripper. The other Thunderbolts have to team up with Inspector Abberline to recapture him. This issue seems well-researched, and it also gives me nostalgic memories of From Hell. Declan Shalvey’s art throughout the issue is colored in a grim, gloomy style that’s a contrast to this series’ usual color palette.

SAVAGE DRAGON #97 (Image, 2002) – “Enter: She-Dragon,” [W/A] Erik Larsen. While looking for Rock and Janey’s abducted child, Dragon encounters the Savage World version of She-Dragon. Dragon still misses Jennifer and Angel, so he travels back to the world he originally came from. A problem with this story arc, and Savage Dragon in general, is that all the alternate worlds are impossible to keep straight. I can’t remember which worlds are which, or which characters come from which worlds, and I doubt if anyone else can either, even Erik himself.

WONDER WOMAN #248 (DC, 1978) – “The Crypt of the Dark Commander,” [W] Jack C. Harris, [A] José Delbo. A crazy army officer resurrects an evil demon that’s been dead for a million years. How this demon came to be buried underneath New York City is not clear to me. This is no better than any other mid-‘70s Wonder Woman story. The most interesting thing about it is Diana’s conversation with Morgan Tracy’s receptionist. The backup story is Tales of the Amazons by Bob Toomey and Maurice Whitman, two creators I associate with companies other than DC.

AIRBOY #16 (Eclipse, 1987) – “Caribbean Rampage Part 2,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Stan Woch. The Airfighters raid a Caribbean island in pursuit of a villain who killed Skywolf’s mother, or tried to. The drug smuggler at the beginning of this issue looks like Harold Hedd. This is a normal-sized comic, with a 13-page Airboy story and a Skywolf backup story, so it seems that by this point, Airboy had abandoned its original gimmick of a lower price in exchange for fewer pages. In the backup story, Skywolf fights the Ku Klux Klan. It’s ironic that Chuck Dixon depicts the KKK as villains, when he himself is no better than them, since he collaborates with V*x D*y.

CHIMICHANGA #1 (Alabtross, 2010) – untitled, [W/A] Eric Powell. Lula, a bearded girl who works in a circus, discovers an egg that hatches into a monster. She names the monster Chimichanga after her favorite food. This comic is okay, but it’s not as interesting as Eric Powell’s other works.

ARCHIE #206 (Archie, 1971) – various stories, [W] Frank Doyle, [A] Harry Lucey. The best story in this issue is the one where Mr. Weatherbee and Mrs. Grundy drive Archie crazy by confusing him about whether or not they want him to look inside a certain room. We never find out what, if anything, is inside the room. Another of the stories makes fun of overly long coats. Looking at Harry Lucey’s art in this issue, I can sort of see why he was such an influence on Jaime Hernandez. My copy of this issue is missing half of the first page.

BATMAN/JUDGE DREDD: JUDGMENT ON GOTHAM #1 (DC, 1991) – untitled, [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Simon Bisley. Judge Death and Mean Machine Angel use a “dimension belt” to travel to the DC Universe, where they team up with Scarecrow. Dredd and Anderson have to team up with Batman to defeat the villains. This comic has some excellent artwork and dialogue, and there’s a funny moment that’s an obvious tribute to the ”gaze into the fist of Dredd” panel. The problem with this comic is that it wastes too much space on the supporting characters like Anderson and Judge Death. I’d have liked to see a lot more actual interaction between Batman and Dredd, who have personalities that clash in fascinating ways. 

DETECTIVE COMICS #591 (DC, 1988) – “Aborigine!”, [W] Alan Grant & John Wagner, [A] Norm Breyfogle. Umbaluru, an old Australian Aboriginal shaman, travels to Gotham to recover his people’s stolen relics. In the process, he kills some of the people who stole them, including a tycoon named Kerry Rollo. (I wondered if this character was based on Kerry Packer, but it may be a coincidence.) I was afraid this story would be very offensive, but it’s actually quite anti-colonial. Although Umbaluru is technically the villain of the story, Wagner and Grant avoid presenting him as savage or barbaric, and they show clear sympathy for him. Even Batman admits at the end of the issue that Umbaluru was justified in killing the thieves, and Batman has to oppose him only because Batman “can make no allowances for righteous murder.” It’s too bad that Umbaluru never appeared again.

SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #18 (Marvel, 2013) – “Smack to the Future,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Ryan Stegman. Peter teams up with Spider-Man 2099, who’s gone back in time in search of his own ancestor, Tiberius Stone. As usual this was a fun issue, and this storyline was the only time that Marvel 2099 continuity has been successfully incorporated into the current Marvel universe. I look forward to Dan Slott’s new Spider-Man run, even though the end of his Fantastic Four run was disastrous.

UFOLOGY #6 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV & Noah Yuenkel, [A] Matthew Fox. This is the final issue of a miniseries, so I don’t really understand it, but it seems interesting. And Matthew Fox’s art has the same sort of weirdness as Michael Dialynas’s art in The Woods. I didn’t really get into James Tynion until Something is Killing the Children, but he has an extensive body of earlier creator-owned work, and I want to collect all of it.

LAND OF NOD #3 (Dark Horse, 1998) – untitled, [W/A] Jay Stephens. A new version of Jetcat is introduced, and is revealed to be the daughter of the original Jetcat and Space Ape. This plot twist is a little creepy. The new Jetcat is born because her parents are literally the only people in their world, and she grows up having no contact with anyone else, but Stephens doesn’t seem interested in the disturbing implications of any of this. Like other contemporaries of his, such as Mike Allred and Steven Weissman, Jay Stephens made comics that looked childish but were not necessarily aimed at actual children. However, Stephens had far less longevity than Allred, and seeems to be forgotten now.

MS. TREE #16 (Renegade, 1985) – “Runaway Chapter One,” [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. Ms. Tree is contacted by two parents whose teenage daughter has run away, and she has to tell them that there’s no way she can find the girl. Ironically, Ms. Tree then discovers that her own adopted son, Mike Jr, has also run away, and she has to track him down. See below for the other chapters of this story. “Runaway” was not the only ‘80s comic about the phenomenon of runaway teenagers; the other example that comes to mind is New Teen Titans #27-28. There seems to have been a lot of concern at the time about teens running away. I never seem to hear about this problem anymore, though that doesn’t mean it’s no longer a problem.

CEREBUS #114 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1988) – “Jaka’s Story Prologue,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Jaka recalls her earliest memories, while in the present, she gets annoyed with Rick for his general uselessness. Here and throughout Jaka’s Story, the flashback scenes are narrated in illustrated text. Jaka’s Story may be the point where the series jumped the shark, because it established the pattern where every issue only contained a tiny bit of plot. However, Jaka’s Story was still better than Melmoth or most of the stories after it.

SHADOWS ON THE GRAVE #6 (Dark Horse, 2017) – “The Grifter!” etc., [W/A] Richard Corben. I bought three issues of this series at Heroes Con, but I haven’t read the others yet. I’m not sure why I didn’t order this series when it was coming out. In “The Grifter,” a traveling con man visits a town where everyone mistakes him for “Mr. Parrish,” and the townspeople offer him unlimited food and sex. The catch is that they then go on to sacrifice him in exchange for divine protection. The next story, “Trapped,” is about a fur trapper who’s killed by a female were-creature, and “Birthday” is about a man whose therapist makes him remember that at the age of eight, he murdered his own grandmother. The issue ends with a chapter of “Denaeus,” Corben’s final Den story. I’m glad that Dark Horse has finally announced a collection of Den: Neverwhere, and I hope they go on to reprint the rest of Corben’s work.

BATMAN #12 (DC, 2012) – “Ghost in the Machine,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Becky Cloonan. This is apparently the first issue of Batman drawn by a female artist. It details Batman’s first encounter with Harper Row, later known as Bluebird. After Batman saves Harper and her brother from being beaten by homophobic classmates, Harper returns the favor by improving Batman’s surveillance network. While doing so, she realizes Batman is in danger, and she saves him from Tiger Shark. This may be my favorite Scott Snyder Batman story so far. Harper is a cute character, and the way she helps and then rescues Batman is very clever.

STANLEY AND HIS MONSTER #110 (DC, 1968) – “Carnival Caper,” [W] Howard Post, [A] Bob Oksner. Stanley’s babysitter takes him to the carinval, but the monster and the leprechauns cause a lot of havoc. There are two backup stories, one about summer camp, the other about a babysitter. The artists on these are Henry Scarpelli and Win Mortimer. The second backup story is a satire of contemporary folk rock.

FATALE #9 (Image, 2012) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. In Hollywood in the 1970s, Josephine plots against some kind of satanic cult. I don’t remember much about this issue.

SUPERMAN #168 (DC, 2001) – “With This Ring…”, [W] Jeph Loeb, [A] Ed McGuinness. Batman and Lois team up to investigate President Luthor’s hidden agenda, but Superman is obligated to stop them, since he has to protect the President. This issue is extremely fun, and it makes me want to read more comics by these creators. Neither Clark, Lois nor Batman is in the wrong; their conflict comes from their incompatible allegiances. Ed McGuinness’s visaul storytelling is excellent, despite the cartoony way he draws people, and I love how the coloring gets much darker and more monochrome in the Batman sequences.

At this point I went to the Comics Studies Society conference in East Lansing, Michigan, my first comics studies conference since 2019. It was a great time. The following comic was in the grab bag that was given out at the conference:

THE PHANTOM #1 (Moonstone, 2003) – untitled, [W] Ben Raab, [A] Pat Quinn. This comic feels more accurate to Lee Falk’s original mythos, compared to earlier American Phantom comics. It has elements like Mawitaan (formerly Morristown) and the Jungle Patrol. However, Ben Raab’s writing lacks the energy or cleverness of the Swedish-produced Phantom comics that I’ve been reading.

Other older comics:

VELVET #5 (Image, 2014) – “Before the Living End Part Five,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Steve Epting. This comic is mostly a flashback to Velvet’s past history, ending with the night she killed her husband Richard Donovan, wrongly believing him to be a traitor. This comic has excellent writing and art, but its plot is hard to follow because of the multiple time frames.

WAR BEARS #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Margaret Atwood, [W/A] Ken Steacy. I had no idea what to expect from this one. I don’t associate Margaret Atwood with stories about fighting bears. In fact this comic is primarily about the wartime Canadian comics industry, and the war bears appear in some inset sequences that are drawn to look like wartime Canadian White comics. I learned about these comics when I went to TCAF, but I haven’t read any of them yet. War Bears #2 seems like a well-researched depiction of wartime Toronto, and it includes a powerful sequence where one of the protagonists learns of his brother’s death in battle. I’m not quite sure what the point of this comic is, but I’m willing to read more of it. 

LASSIE #23 (Dell, 1955) – “The Treasure of Lima” etc., [W] unknown, [A] Ralph Mayo. Three stories set in South America. These stories aren’t bad, but they’re nothing special. At this point in the series, Lassie was owned by a couple named Rocky and Gerry. These characters were created specifically for the comics. Lassie is now associated in the popular imagination with Timmy, but the “boy and his dog” theme was not introduced into the comics until after the TV show began in 1954, and the first boy who owned Lassie was Jeff, not Timmy.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #200 (Marvel, 1976) – “Dawn’s Early Light!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. In the conclusion to the Madbomb storyline, Cap and his allies invade the Taurey estate and defeat William Taurey, the would-be dictator of America. It took me a while to figure out that Taurey is pronounced “Tory,” because he wants to return America to British domination. Kirby’s Captain America was unpopular at the time because it was an extreme departure from Englehart’s run, but this issue is probably the high point of his time on the series. It’s exciting and inspirational, and it’s a nice tribute to America’s bicentennial. 

STRANGEHAVEN #8 (Abiogenesis, 1997) – “Japanese Robot” etc., [W/A] Gary Spencer Millidge. The centerpiece of this issue is a flashback scene that explains why Strangehaven celebrates Christmas on August 10. The reason is because in 1910, a local child was dying, but wanted one last Christmas before he died, and so for his sake, Christmas was moved up four months. This is a cute and sad scene. Besides that, this issue is full of other interesting random incidents.

DETECTIVE COMICS #966 (DC, 2017) – “A Lonely Place of Living Chapter 2,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Eddy Barrows. Tim Drake meets his future self, who’s become the new Batman, and they team up against Doomsday. We soon learn that the future Tim is so badly traumatized that he’s become a control freak, and he decides to kill Batwoman so that his own future can’t come to pass. This issue is both fun and disturbing.

SUICIDE RISK #1 (Boom!, 2013) – “Getting a Bit Short on Heroes,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Elena Casagrande. A cop fights and kills a bunch of supervillains. Then he tries to track down the people who are selling the drug that gave the villains their powers. This is an interesting setup, but I’ve read a few of the later issues of Suicide Risk, and I don’t see how they’re connected to this issue.

QUEEN & COUNTRY #4 (Oni, 2001) – untitled (“Operation Broken Ground, Part 4”), [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Steve Rolston. Tara and her fellow Minders capture some Russian spies, only to watch, unable to do anything, as the spies are set free for political reasons. I really liked this story when I read it in trade paperback form, back in 2002. However, I’ve forgotten most of the details of this storyline – the main thing I remember about it is the moment in issue 1 where Paul says that Tara doesn’t have any family. And Steve Rolston’s art here is unimpressive, compared to that of some of the other artists on this series.

ACTION COMICS #904 (DC, 2011) – “Reign of the Doomsdays Finale,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Axel Gimenez & Ronan Cliquet. Superman and some other superheroes fight a bunch of Doomsdays, and the issue ends with a cute scene where Clark and Lois go on a date. This was the final issue of Action Comics before the New 52, but besides that date scene, it’s not a very interesting issue.

STUMPTOWN #3 (Dark Horse, 2012) – “The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case Part 3,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Matthew Southworth. Dex finds the guitar, but also discovers that someone was using the guitar’s case to smuggle drugs, without the knowledge of its owner. At the end of the issue, Dex finds the drug dealers and pulls a gun on them. There’s also a cute moment where Dex yells at her brother Ansel, then apologizes to him. Dex and Ansel’s relationship is the emotional heart of this series.

(The next comic waiting to be reviewed was Prowler #2, but I have no recollection of having read it, so I’m going to put it back.)

SUPERMAN #137 (DC , 1998) – “The Mutation War,” [W] Dan Jurgens, [A] Paul Ryan. This was part of the storyline unofficially known as “The Dominus Effect,” in which each of the four Superman titles was set in a separate reality. The realities in the other three titles were based on the Silver, Golden and Bronze Ages, but Superman #136-139 star Klar Ken T5477, the 30th-century Superman. In this issue he teams up with his timeline’s version of the other Justice Leaguers. Klar Ken is a Silver Age character – his first appearance is reviewed below – and so  this comic has a Silver Age sensibility.

STUMPTOWN #4 (Oni, 2012) – as above. The thieves flee from Dex, and most of the issue is devoted to a car chase, which ends when Dex and Mim drive over a drawbridge. Most of the car chase sequence is depicted with sideways-formatted pages. This issue is exciting, but it feels a bit anticlimactic, and it’s a much quicker read than the first three issues.

FOUR COLOR #959 (Dell, 1958) – “The Little People’s Christmas” etc., [W/A] Walt Scott. I bought this at the Curious Bookshop in East Lansing, during my CSS trip. This store had an impressive selection of other old comics, but most of them were a little too expensive. The stories in this issue are reprinted from Walt Scott’s comic strip The Little People, about some forest-dwelling creatures who can talk to animals. These stories are excessively cute and saccharine, but Walt Scott’s artwork is very charming. His style is similar to that of Walt Kelly, and Don Markstein suggests that The Little People was based on Kelly’s version of The Brownies. Walt Scott died in 1969 and is now totally forgotten, but perhaps he deserves more attention.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1.4 (Marvel, 2014) – “Learning to Crawl Part 4,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Ramón Pérez. At the start of his career, Spider-Man battles a sound-themed villain named Clayton Cole, aka Clash. This story shows a detailed understanding of the early Lee-Ditko Spider-Man comics, and Ramón Pérez draws this issue in a Ditkoesque style. Although this comic is entertaining, I think there have been too many stories set during Spider-Man’s earliest days – there was this storyline, Untold Tales of Spider-Man, Amazing Fantasy #16-18, and I don’t know what else. At some point, it becomes implausible that so many things could have happened to Peter during the intervals between the early issues of ASM. Also, Clash’s costume looks too modern to have been created in 1963.

LOVE FANTASY, JACQUES BOIVIN’S #1 (Renegade, 1987) – “Check-Out Girl,” [W] Mike Baron, [A] Jacques Boivin, etc. I bought this at Heroes Con some years ago, but I only read it now because I saw a post about it on social media. I can’t find that post now. The stories in Love Fantasy #1 are all drawn by Jacques Boivin, a Quebecois artist who was most notable for his adaptation of Sylvie Rancourt’s Melody. The first story is about a man who asks out a female cashier at the grocery store She says no, but then when she sees him at his workplace, where he’s a banker, she agrees to a date with him, and they sleep together. This story has rather creepy implications, and in my opinion, men should never hit on women while they’re working. The second story, “The Perfect Guy,” is written by Katherine Collins (under her old name) and is much better. It’s a cute slice-of-life story about a single mom who’s trying to balance parenting, work, and trying to date again. “Royal Con Interlude,” written by Mark Shainblum with additional art by Gabriel Morrissette, is another rather creepy story, about a male comic book artist who’s obsessed with superheroines. This story might be interesting to reread because of its depiction of women in ‘80s comics fandom.

BLACKHAWK #253 (DC, 1982) – “The Private War of Hendrickson,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Dan Spiegle. Hendrickson, the oldest of the Blackhawks, is losing his teammates confidence, especially when he starts siphoning gas out of captured planes’ gas tanks – there’s a funny scene where Hendrickson siphons gas and then spits it out. Also, he keeps writing letters to his wife, even though she’s dead. We finally learn that there is a method to Hendrickson’s madness. By inspecting the planes’ gas tanks, he finds a hidden Nazi base. And he knows his wife is dead, but he writes to her to keep his morale up. This issue is touching, but I still don’t like Blackhawk as much as this creative team’s other work, and I’m not sure why not. 

THE JAM #2 (Slave Labor, 1990) – untitled, [W/A] Bernie Mireault. Much of this issue takes place at a music gig, and there’s also a subplot about an insane Muslim supervillain. I really like this series’ overall sensibility, including its detailed Canadian setting and its unique style of draftsmanship. However, I still don’t understand just what The Jam is about.

TALES OF THE BEANWORLD #8 (Eclipse, 1987) – “Deep Down; Down Deep!”, [W/A] Larry Marder. The Goofy Service Jerks interfere with one of Beanish’s sessions with Dreamishness. Then Gran’Ma’Pa is struck by lightning, and the Jerks reappear and announce that a gift is coming. This leads into the appearance of the Pod’l’pool Cuties, who are introduced next issue. This issue is entertaining, but it doesn’t add very much to the Beanworld mythos.

FIRE POWER #17 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Chris Samnee. The protagonist fights the Serpent, who emerged from captivity last issue. As I have observed before, Fire Power is culturally appropriative. Also, its story isn’t very interesting. The main reason to read it is because of Chris Samnee’s mastery of visual storytelling. This issue is full of well-choreographed action sequences.

SAVAGE DRAGON #61 (Image, 1999) – untitled, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Dragon and Freak Force defeat Brainiape, an ape with Hitler’s brain. In a hilarious moment, the brain tries to run away on its little legs. Then Barbaric takes Dragon to a bachelor party, which is crashed by Dragon’s ex-girlfriend Rapture. Dragon and Jennifer’s wedding took place in the following issue, but was never completed because Jennifer was replaced by an impostor, and then killed. Dragon finally married a different version of Jennifer, from an alternate dimension, in issue 104. See my previous comments about this series’ convoluted continuity.

THOR #335 (Marvel, 1983) – “Runequest’s End,” [W] Alan Zelenetz, [A] Mark D. Bright. Thor, Sif and Keith Kincaid go on a quest for the Possessor’s Runestaff, which may be named after the similar artifact from Michael Moorcock’s Hawkmoon series. This is a generic issue, with no interesting characterization or plot twists, and it barely feels like a Thor comic. After one more issue, Alan Zelenetz was replaced by Walt Simonson, whose Thor run was perhaps the greatest Marvel comic of the ‘80s. Thor #336 and #337 probably represent the greatest increase in quality from one issue to another in Marvel’s history.

THE FADE OUT #5 (Image, 2015) – “The Broken Ones,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Gil and his coworkers travel to Ojai for some filming, and a lot of drama happens. In particular, an old producer, Al Kamp, ties an actress to a tree and tries to photograph her. This issue is exciting, though also confusing because it’s hard to distinguish between flashbacks and present-day sequences. 

BLACK PANTHER ANNUAL #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Back in Black,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Mike Perkins, etc. This annual consists of three stories by past Black Panther writers. The trouble is that I don’t much like any of these writers. As noted elsewhere in these reviews, I find Priest’s writing to be overly confusing. Don McGregor is the worst overwriter in the history of comic books, and Reggie Hudlin is just bad. As a result, reading this issue was a chore. The Hudlin story is especially annoying because it’s about a utopian future with no conflict.

REDNECK #11 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Lisandro Estherren. I couldn’t follow this issue. It’s another chapter of the series’ boring plot about a feud between vampire families.

BLACK CLOUD #6 (Image, 2017) – “Hearts and Minds, Zelda,” [W] Ivan Brandon w/ Jason Latour, [A] Paul Reinwand. This issue at least sort of explains what this series is about: the protagonist has the ability to access an alternate world where ideas live. But that idea was done much more effectively in Sandman and Promethea. Other than that, this is another bad issue of an unreadable comic. I checked the Goodreads reviews for this comic, and it looks like I’m not the only person who couldn’t understand it.

WHAT IF? #15 (Marvel, 1979) – “What If Someone Else Had Become Nova?”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] various. This issue consists of three stories in which three different people become Nova. In the first story, drawn by Walt Simonson, the new Nova is a police officer’s widow. ‘In the second story, drawn by Carmine Infantnio, it’s a homeless man. In the third story, drawn by Ross Andru, it’s Peter Parker. I don’t care much about Nova, but all three of these stories are more interesting than I expected, and it’s worth noting that this issue’s writer and all three of its artists are Hall of Famers. I’m actually going to discuss Nova in my classes this semester, because I’m having my students read Dale Jacobs’s article on comics and literacy sponsorship.

THUNDERBOLTS #20 (Marvel, 1998) – “Decisions Part 1: Turning Point,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Mark Bagley. This is one of my less preferred Busiek titles, largely because most issues are talkfests, and there are things about Kurt’s style of dialogue that annoy me. Or maybe my problem with the original Thunderbolts is that I don’t especially like any of the characters. Or maybe the trouble is that I was once given a bunch of issues of Fabian Nicieza’s Thunderbolts for free, and I found them to be just average. Anyway, in this issue the Thunderbolts fight the Crismson Cowl’s new Masters of Evil, and then they’re rescued by Dreadknight. When they can’t decide on a new leader, Dreadknight reappears and reveals himself to be Hawkeye. After Kurt left the series, Fabian revealed that the Crimson Cowl was Justin Hammer’s daughter Justine, but Kurt wanted her to be Hank Pym’s former lab assistant Alice Nugent. According to a comment here, the reason for the change was just that Kurt left the series before he could reveal the Crimson Cowl’s identity.

NEXUS #62 (First, 1989) – “Rip Boom!”, [W] Mike Baron, [A] Greg Guler. Stan, Horatio and Sundra fight a giant cyborg that looks like a fat man. This issue is not very interesting, and it alludes to Mike Baron’s conservative politics, in that Stan mentions that he wrote a book called “Reagan, the Last Liberal.” Though I’m not sure just how this reference is to be interpreted. It’s hard for me to read anything by Mike Baron now, because he’s such an unpleasant person. This issue includes a Judah the Hammer backup story by Ian Carney and Steve Epting, but Judah only appears at the very end.

SUPERMAN #187 (DC, 2002) – “Ending Battle Part 5: After School Special,” [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Pascual Ferry. While searching for Manchester Black, Superman has to fight his way through a horde of other villains. Pascual Ferry’s art in this issue is exciting, but it’s annoying how on the splash page, the background is blurred out to the point of invisibility. Like, the artist went to all the effort to draw that background, and then the colorist just blurred it? Other than that, this is just an average issue.

BATMAN #470 (DC, 1991) – “Of Gods and Men,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. In a War of the Gods crossover, Batman seeks to recover a stolen Themysciran goblet from Maxie Zeus. This issue is notable because it guest-stars a supporting character from George Perez’s Wonder Woman, Ed Indelicato.

I went back to Heroes after a three-week absence, so there was a huge stack of comics waiting for me. There were also three 2000 AD prog packs, but I left those in my file, intending to buy them on the next trip.

ONCE AND FUTURE #28 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Kings Are Dead,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. The battle continues, and Gran blows up an undead Winston Churchill with a rocket launcher. Duncan and the Merry Men play King Lear backwards, releasing the original Lir. But just as the heroes are executing their plan, the Green Knight reappears and cuts Rose in half. This of course is not what’s supposed to happen. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the Green Knight swings at Gawain twice and misses, and then the third time he wounds Gawain lightly on the neck. I’m excited to see what happens next.

NIGHTWING #94 (DC, 2022) – “The Battle for Blüdhaven’s Heart Part 3,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Geraldo Borges. Dick participates in a sting operation that leads to the arrest of Blüdhaven’s police commissioner. Mayor Zucco chooses Maggie Sawyer as the new commissioner. Blockbuster tells the mayor that Electrocutioner is the mole in their organization, but this proves to be a trap: as soon as the mayor calls Dick to tell him about this, Electrocutioner zaps her. Blockbuster is a scary villain, though as others have noted, he’s very similar to the Kingpin. Geraldo Borges is an adequate fill-in artist for Bruno Redondo.

TWIG #4 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Kyle Strahm. The Horned Beast agrees to sacrifice itself for Twig, but Twig doesn’t have the heart ot kill it. The next item they need is the song of the Boxed Loxs, but in order to get that, they need to unlock the Boxed Loxs’s box, and that seems rather unsafe. Twig does manage to get the song, and his next destination is the moon; however, he’s become pessimistic about his chances of succeeding. I still absolutely love this series. In this issue, I especially like the image of a mysterious creature in a locked box, and it’s almost disappointing when we see what’s inside the box.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #25 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Road to Tribulation Part 5,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. Gabi takes Erica’s stuffed octopus and goes looking for more monsters, and Erica and Riqui have to save her. Meanwhile, Ms. Cutter cruelly murders Big Gary. Yet again we see that the Order of St. George is far worse than the monsters they’re killing. The British woman kills Big Gary in cold blood, just out of sadism. There’s no way this can be justified by the Order of St. George’s mission, even if you believe their bullshit claims about how many lives they’ve saved. A funny line in this issue is “Do not listen to the octopus. It is going to get you killed.”

DO A POWERBOMB #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Daniel Warren Johnson. The alien dude, Necro, tells Lona that he’s holding the tournament because he loves pro wrestling – although he doesn’t realize that pro wrestling is fake. Lona needs a partner to enter the tournament, and she recruits Cobrasun, because he wants to resurrect Lona’s mother as much as Lona does. But the twist ending is that Cobrasun, who killed Lona’s mother, is really her father. This is just about a perfect comic book. The action sequences are exciting, the dialogue is funny and convincing, and the linework is beautiful. I really want to read some of Johnson’s   earlier work.

PUBLIC DOMAIN #2 (Image, 2022) – “The Usual Spot,” [W/A] Chip Zdarsky. The two brothers can’t agree on whether to fight for ownership of The Domain, the father is too old to care, but the mother surprisingly wants to pursue the lawsuit. Her reaction is perhaps the most interesting. She spent the best years of her life caring for Miles and David while Syd slaved over his drawing board, and she wants him to have something to show for it. Miles gets himself thrown out of the Singular (i.e. Marvel) offices when he unwisely reveals that his father has a claim to own The Domain. Then we learn that Miles is so invested in this case because he’s in some kind of trouble. This series is fascinating, especially because of the depth of its characterization. The four members of the Dallas family are all very different, and their differences drive the plot. And the art is full of Chip Zdarsky’s trademark hidden messages.

RADIANT BLACK #16 (Image, 2022) – “Ambush,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Joe Clark, [A] Marcelo Costa. While Radiant Black is performing at a high school basketball game, he’s ambushed by Shift and several other villains. Shift offers Marshall a business deal, which Marshall obviously turns down. The villains almost kill Marshall, but Existence saves him. This issue is entertaining, but not as groundbreaking as earlier issues of the series.

WE ONLY FIND THEM WHEN THEY’RE DEAD #12 (Boom!, 2022) – “That’s the Rule,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Simone Di Meo. We begin with a flashback to the past history of the pilot, Dane Kahoe, and in the process we learn about what’s happened since the second storyline. Dane and Thierry-9 arrive at Malik’s Flight, but a Malikist army has preceded them there, led by Newdawn Bristow, daughter of Honorhim. This series is an excellent piece of space opera, but it’s hard to keep all the characters straight, and it’s also hard to remember the series’ internal timeline. Each sequence is given a date, but these dates are no help when I can’t even remember what year it’s currently supposed to be.

THE CLOSET #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Gavin Fullerton. At a gas station, Thom meets an old man and vents to him about his marital problems. In this conversation, Thom reveals that he himself is the closet monster. He hid some photographs of his affair partner in Jamie’s closet, and while looking for those photos, he woke Jamie up, thus inspiring Jamie’s recurrent monster dreams. This scene is also interesting because of the old man. He initially seems like an example of the Magic Negro trope, but at the end of the conversation, we learn that he has his own story: he’s suffering from cancer, and Thom doesn’t know this because he was too self-centered to ask. Afterward, Thom and Jamie finally arrive in Portland, but he and Maggie instantly get in a fight when Maggie realizes that Thom has lost Jamie’s suitcase. Jamie goes to his room and retreats into the closet. The Closet is a small masterpiece. It seems like a supernatural horror story, but it’s really about something even worse than monsters: a horrible father who destroys his family through his own weakness.

I HATE THIS PLACE #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Artyom Topilin. (Not Toplin, I was spelling it wrong before.) Gabrielle, Trudy and Dante Howitzer fight a pack of monstrous four-legged spiders. Then they encounter a giant man with antlers. Like much of Starks’s work, I Hate This Place is effective because it blends comedy with horror.

FARMHAND #19 (Image, 2022) – “Momma’s Bones,” [W/A] Rob Guillory. Monica Thorne’s servants, including Abigail and Riley, try to dig up Anna’s grave. (Anna’s headstone shows her date of birth as 1985, which seems far too late.) The villains succeed in exhuming the coffin, but it’s empty. This issue is mostly a long action sequence, and I don’t recall much about it.

USAGI YOJIMBO #29 (IDW, 2022) – “The Secret of the Green Dragon Part One,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. While traveling, Usagi and Yukichi meet a courier who is immediately murdered by Komori ninja. Oddly, the ninja take only the courier’s jewel box, leaving behind the jewels in it. Usagi and Yukichi head to Merchant Awase’s shop so they can deliver him the jewels, along with the green dragon from last issue. But someone has already killed Merchant Awase and destroyed all the boxes in his store. The mystery is solved when Chizu shows up and explains that the jewel box contains a document that incriminates Lord Hikiji. But now Usagi, Yukichi and Chizu have to take the message to the capital, while themselves being pursued by the Komori ninja. This is a fascinating start to a new storyline.

BUNNY MASK: THE HOLLOW INSIDE #3 (Aftershock, 2022) – “Space for Small Things,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Andrea Mutti. Bunny Mask tells Bee that she actually died in the cave, hence her lack of memories after that point. The Hollow and the Snitch both harass Tyler some more. Not a whole lot happens in this issue, and looking back on my previous reviews, I see that I had the same complaint about the first two issues. This miniseries has some fascinating characterization, but it’s not nearly as fast-paced as the first miniseries.

LITTLE MONSTERS #6 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. In the opening scene, we see just how long the vampires have been around: the entire city is covered with Romie’s childish graffiti. This scene is a skillful use of the series’ limited color palette. Then the kids divide into two sides, based on whether they’re willing to kill humans. At CSS, I heard someone say that Jeff Lemire was putting out too much material. I suppose you could say that, but his work is consistently high in quality, with a few exceptions like Berserker Unbound.

HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER #7 (Boom!, 2022) – “Scarlet Part 2,” [W] Sam Johns w/ James Tynion IV, [A] Letizia Cadonici. This issue begins with a story about a woman who lost seven children in a flood. Sadly, this is a true story (source). Then the protagonist meditates on what happens when you tie a string to an ant. This issue is evocative, but it doesn’t develop the plot at all.

RADIANT RED #5 (Image, 2022) – “Crime and Punishment,” [W] Cherish Chen, [A] David Lafuente. Satomi manages to escape from Shift and his boss Margo, but her house is destroyed in the process. Satomi finally dumps Owen, then turns herself into the police. This was an excellent miniseries; it turned one of Radiant Black’s best supporting characters into an equally effective protagonist. At times in this series it seemed like Satomi and Owen’s character arcs were going in opposite directions, with Owen redeeming himself while Satomi descended into villainy, but by the end of this issue Satomi has also started her path to redemption. I’d like to know what happens to her next.

DARK SPACES: WILDFIRE #1 (IDW, 2022) – “The Trap,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Hayden Sherman. Ruby Ma Ning, or “Ma,” is the leader of a team of female convict firefighters. While her team is fighting a fire, one of them reveals that her former employer’s house, containing a fortune in cryptocurrency, is in the path of the fire. Ma has to decide if the risk of stealing the crypto is justified by the potential change it could bring to her team’s lives, and eventually she decides the answer is yes. But in a flashforward sequence, we learn that Ma and her entire team are going to be murdered. This is a spectacular debut issue. The basic idea of a comic about inmate firefighters is already fascinating. The idea of prisoners fighting fires is a basic paradox, since these people are horribly exploited: they risk their lives in exchange for almost no pay (although I’ve heard that prisoners still prefer firefighting to other types of prison labor). The heist storyline makes this series even more exciting, but what’s really impressive about it is Hayden Sherman’s art. His draftsmanship is detailed and attractive – I particularly like how he draws faces – and his page layouts are both innovative and dramatic. This series was already optioned for TV, and no wonder.

ROGUE SUN #6 (Image, 2022) – “Family Matters,” [W] Ryan Parrott, [A] Abel. Dylan’s mom forces him to choose between her and his dad, and he grudgingly chooses his dad, taking his mom to be imprisoned in a crystal. This is a deliberately unsatisfying outcome because Dylan’s dad is to blame for his mom’s villainy, and after the fight, Dylan refuses any further help from Marcus and goes to live with his stepmother. Also, Dylan gives up his habit of bullying. Dylan’s character arc in this storyline is fascinating. At the beginning of this series, he’s on the path to becoming as bad as his father. It’s only through encountering Marcus’s ghost, and discovering what an awful man Marcus was, that Dylan learns better.

BATMAN #126 (DC, 2022) – “Failsafe Part Two,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jorge Jimenez. Batman and the Bat-family fight Failsafe, which appears to be an unstoppable robot that Bruce created without knowing he was doing so. At the end, Damian is confronted by what seems to be an evil Batman in a  purple and red costume. Failsafe reminds me of the Fury from Alan Moore’s Captain Marvel, because it seems totally unstoppable. Nightwing makes a cameo appearance in this issue, and steals the show as usual. In the backup story, Catwoman attends the reading of the Penguin’s will, in which the Penguin leaves his estate to two previously unknown children.

THE NEW CHAMPION OF SHAZAM #1 (DC, 2022) – “The New Adventures of Someone Else,” [W] Josie Campbell, [A] Evan “Doc” Shaner. Doc Shaner’s artwork in this issue is beautiful as ever. His work is impressive because he’s good at just about everything, especially facial expressions and action sequences. However, Josie Campbell’s prose style in this issue was annoying, to the point where it became hard for me to concentrate on the art. The Beat liked this comic better than I did, and perhaps I was judging it too harshly. Flipping through it again, I do like the scene with the talking rabbit, and I think Mary Marvel is an excellent character who needs far more exposure.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #40 (Marvel, 2022) – “Empire of the Spider Part III,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Alberto Foche. Miles’s battle with Selim continues, and the shield around Brooklyn is deactivated. Saladin is leaving this series after two more issues. That may not be a bad thing, because it seems as if he’s running out of ideas. I believe this is the only comic book he’s currently writing, and I wonder what he’ll do next. Maybe now he’ll have time to finish the sequel to Throne of the Crescent Moon. I still think of him as primarily a prose writer, but the bulk of his work has been in comics.

SANDMAN UNIVERSE: NIGHTMARE COUNTRY #4 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Lisandro Estherren. Bill shows Madison his vault, which includes a complete run of Chaste, the magazine published by the Bogeyman impostor from Sandman #14. This is a nice throwback to a classic story. Agony and Ecstasy arrive at Bill’s place, and Bill betrays Madison to them, but then the Corinthian comes to crash the party. This is my least favorite of James Tynion’s current comics, but it’s not bad.

POISON IVY #3 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Marcio Takara. Ivy helps a woman do some gardening, then continues on her itinerary, after an encounter with a monster that may have been sent by Jason Woodrue. The woman Ivy helps is another compelling supporting character, much like the fugitive from issue 2.

GOLDEN RAGE #1 (Image, 2022) – “Chaos,” [W] Chrissy Williams, [A] Lauren Knight. A young women finds herself on an island full of old women, who, despite their politeness and affection for cats, are also extremely dangerous. It seems that the women were all exiled to the island because they were post-menopausal, although I didn’t get that until I read this review. Then the island is attacked by “Red Hats.” I love the idea of a comic about action grandmas, and that idea is well-executed here. Across most types of popular narrative, elderly female protagonists are very rare unless they’re witches, so a comic like this one is very welcome.

THE DEAD LUCKY #1 (Image, 2022) – “It’s Not the Good That Die Young,” [W] Melissa Flores, [A] French Carlomagno. Bibi Lopez-Yang, a veteran of Chinese and Mexican descent, is now living in San Francisco, which is under the control of an oppressive megacorporation called Morrow. This corporation is also trying to push out Bibi’s parents from their restaurant. Morrow claims that their protection is necessary, or else San Francisco will be taken over by the “Salvation Gang.” Also, Bibi has some kind of superpowers, and she’s haunted by the ghosts of her dead comrades. This series has several fascinating premises. As a female veteran and an intersectional minority, Bibi is a unique protagonist, and this series also seems like a logical extrapolation from the current state of San Francisco. I understand that San Francisco has already been taken over by tech companies to the point where it’s unrecognizable and unaffordable. I think this series is a Radiant Black spinoff, but it has little to do with any of the other titles in that franchise.

DEFENDERS BEYOND #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Malkuth: The Neutral Zone” (if that’s supposed to be the title), [W] Al Ewing, [A] Javier Rodriguez. The late Doctor Strange’s final spell summons a new team of Defenders, among whom the only recurring character from the previous miniseries is Taaia. The other new Defenders are Blue Marvel, Loki, America Chavez, and Tigra, a character who I really like, since I’m a cat person. Eternity sends the new Defenders outside their current universe so they can fight a threat to the universe itself. That threat proves to be the Beyonder. I spoiled this for myself by looking at the last page of the issue – which I did because the cover of the issue tells you that there’s a spoiler on the last page – but it’s a clever plot twist. As in the previous Defenders miniseries, Al Ewing’s writing is witty, and Javier Rodriguez’s artwork, especially his page layouts, is phenomenal. I wonder why this miniseries doesn’t have a legacy number. There have been about ten different series with “Defenders” in the title, and I don’t think any of them have had legacy numbering. (Update: John Jackson Miller points out that the only titles that have legacy numbers are the ones that were renumbered during the 2017 Marvel Legacy event.)

SHE-HULK #5 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Luca Maresca. Jen fights a mentally disabled man who’s obsessed with Jack of Hearts, and then she and Jack go on a date. At the end, we discover that the man’s caretaker is in fact his wife. I wonder what the story is there. These two characters remind me of Ajax and Atalanta from the Pantheon, but surely they can’t be them. I could have sworn I read that Rainbow Rowell was going to write another Marvel comic, but perhaps I was mistaken.

SKYBOUND PRESENTS: AFTERSCHOOL #2 (Image, 2022) – “The Storkening,” [W] Kate Herron & Briony Redman, [A] Leila Leiz. An exciting horror story based on a ridiculous premise. High schooler Leah discovers that she’s pregnant. According to a myth, when a girl gets pregnant but doesn’t want to keep it, she’s hunted by a monstrous stork. Since this is a horror comic, the myth proves to be true, and Leah has to save herself from the stork in order to end her pregnancy. As noted at the beginning and end of the issue, after this story was written, it became far more relevant than its writers had intended. In light of the Supreme Court’s recent abominable decision, the idea of a monster that forces girls to bear unwanted children no longer seems quite so farfetched.

ORCS: THE CURSE #2 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Christine Larsen. We start with another Drod story, then Zamma (the old hag) brews a potion, but Bog drinks it, and it causes every female orc to be irresistibly attracted to him. Zamma and her daughter and grandchild have to work with the dwarves to break the curse. After the curse is broken, it seeks out the evil wizard from last issue. A nice moment in this issue is when the curse recognizes the trans male ninja orc as a man, not a woman. Also, this issue deepens Zamma’s character by showing that she used to be the chief of the tribe, but she got her people killed.

SINS OF THE BLACK FLAMINGO #2 (Image, 2022) – “Miracle of Love,” [W] Andrew Wheeler, [A] Travis Moore. Black Flamingo tries to rescue the angel from his kidnapper, Mr. Scar, but Mr. Scar is invulnerable to Sebastian’s magical tricks, and he shoots Sebastian dead, or so it seems. This issue didn’t make as big an impression on me as issue 1, but I liked it. I particularly like the party scene where Sebastian meets some old acquaintances, including a ghost in a BDSM suit.

On August 7 I went to another Charlotte Comicon. At this convention I tried to look for older back issues, because I felt that at Heroes Con I had mostly been buying recent back issues. I also resolved to try to spend all the money I’d brought, and to be more willing to pay $5 or more for individual comics. I was very pleased with the comics I got, such as:

AVENGERS #34 (Marvel, 1966) – “The Living Laser!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Don Heck. In his first appearance, the Living Laser tries to kidnap the Wasp so he can win her away from Hank Pym. I think this series got better when Roy Thomas and John Buscema took over, but this is a fun issue anyway. Don Heck’s art is quite impressive, especially his spotting of blacks and his depictions of the Living Laser’s machinery. His reputation has suffered because he wasn’t Kirby or Ditko or Buscema, but he wasn’t bad either. A minor continuity note is that the Living Laser’s fiancee, who appears in this issue, is named Lucy Barton, but it’s never been suggested that she’s related to Clint Barton.

BATMAN #243 (DC, 1972) – “The Lazarus Pit!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Neal Adams. A classic, though not as much of one as “The Demon Lives Again!” in the next issue. In this issue, Batman fights a martial artist named Ling, then he goes looking for Ra’s al Ghul. A memorable scene is when Batman grabs Talia by the wrist, and then Molly Post whacks him from behind with her skis. Molly Post was an intriguing character who only appeared in this storyline, and some writer brings him back. The high point of this issue is the final scene, where Ra’s al Ghul rises from the Lazarus Pit after having been dead (BTW I don’t think we’re ever told how he died). The panel with the line “A mirthless, insane joy glittering in his eyes!” is unforgettable.

SHOWCASE #64 (DC, 1966) – “The Ghost of Ace Chance!”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Murphy Anderson. Jim Corrigan’s body is possessed by the ghost of a dead gambler, and the Spectre has to go on a mystical adventure to get his body back. This issue is full of the sort of fantastic weirdness that Gardner Fox liked; there’s one scene where the Spectre fights a group of red-robed alchemists armed with the ring of Gyges and the trident of Paracelsus. Gardner Fox is remembered as a superhero writer, but he was also an SFF writer, and that influence shows up all across his comics work. I’d be curious to read his prose work, such as Kothar, Barbarian Swordsman. As for the art in this issue, Murphy Anderson is not well remembered as a Spectre artist, but his art here is enjoyable.

LITTLE ARCHIE #37 (Archie, 1966) – “Ski-Bee” etc., [W/A] Bob Bolling. Sadly this issue includes just one Bob Bolling story, and it’s a minor work. The plot is that Archie keeps coming to school late because he always takes the scenic route, and then when he tries to come to school on time, he makes Mr. Weatherbee late as well. The other stories are all by Dexter Taylor, including the cover story, in which Chic Cooper is trying to push a stalled car off of train tracks.

THOR #145 (Marvel, 1967) – “Abandoned on Earth!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. Odin removes Thor’s powers and leaves him stranded on Earth, and then Thor is forced to work for the Circus of Crime as their new strongman. As is often the case with Lee and Kirby’s Thor, this story is full of gorgeous art, but its plot is trite. In the Tales of Asgard backup story, the Warriors Three help Prince Alibar liberate Hogun’s homeland, Zanadu, from the tyrant Mogul. Alibar and Zanadu are loosely based on the Arabian Nights, but the influence is so subtle that I just thought Zanadu was a generic Oriental setting.

SUGAR & SPIKE #94 (DC, 1971) – “The Mixed-Up Mix-Up”, [W/A] Sheldon Mayer. This issue introduces Raymond, who I believe was the series’ first and only black character. Its cover looks racist, but is actually not, at least to the extent that I can judge this. The point of the joke is not that Raymond is black, but that Spike and Raymond are obviously different. In the story that introduces Raymond, Sugar’s mother picks up Raymond from a bus stop, mistaking him for her nephew, and chaos ensues. This story is kind of problematic because it seems as if the adults can’t tell Raymond apart from Sugar or Spike. That’s a mild sort of colorblind racism: it’s not racist to notice that people have different skin tones. Though I guess the joke is that adults can only recognize babies by their clothing. Other than that, Raymond and his mother are entirely non-stereotypical characters (though, again, I can’t judge that). Mayer grew up long before the civil rights era, and he deserves some credit for engaging with race in a respectful way.

YOUNG LOVE #31 ((Prize, 1962) – “Go Fight Your Heart!”, [W] unknown, [A] Dick Ayers w/ Joe Simon. This is the only Prize or Crestwood comic in my collection. It’s a standard example of the romance comics format. Two of the stories are particularly worth mentioning. In “Hello, Darling – Goodbye!”, a truck stop waitress has two suitors, her boring boss and a romantic truck driver. In the end she learns that the truck driver is romancing lots of other women in other truck stops, and she marries her boss instead. In “High Hopes,” Audrey marries Alec, who claims to be a writer, but has never sold anything and is unwilling to work. Audrey works herself to the bone to support him, until finally she demands that he get a real job, and he walks out on her. Afterward, Audrey edits Alec’s novel until it’s publishable, and they reconcile. The story ends by suggesting that Audrey and Alec’s marriage, like Alec’s novel, is salvageable, but it also suggests that Audrey was right to stay married to Alec, and I vehemently disagree. Alec is a lazy, toxic jerk who refuses to work because he thinks it’s beneath him, and he owes his entire career to his wife’s support and emotional labor. There are lots of men who act like him, and very few of them ever achieve anything.

THE FLASH #175 (DC, 1967) – “The Race to the End of the Universe!”, [W] E. Nelson Bridwell, [A] Ross Andru. Some aliens force Superman and the Flash to compete in a race across the universe. After a series of wild plot twists, we learn that the “aliens” are really Reverse Flash and Abra Kadabra, and the race ends inconclusively; from different angles it looks like each of the two heroes crossed the finish line first. This issue’s plot is far too convoluted, but all of the Superman-Flash races were classic stories. Though in my opinion the Flash should always be faster than Superman. Otherwise, the Flash would have no powers that Superman doesn’t have.

THE WOODS #16 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. I bought a lot of these at the convention. The Woods is difficult to read out of order because of the complexity of the plot and the huge number of characters and plot elements. Besides that, it’s a fascinating series. In this issue, two of the high school kids run for mayor of the human town.

FOUR COLOR #739 (Dell, 1956) – “Luke Short’s Bounty Guns,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Mort Drucker. As usual I was looking for Four Colors at the convention, but this was the only one I could find at a price I was willing to pay. Unusually, this issue is adapted from a novel, not a film or a TV show. I had never heard of Luke Short before, but Wikipedia says that he was a popular Western novelist and that nine of his novels were filmed. Bounty Guns, which was not filmed, is about a bounty hunter who’s hired to figure out which of two feuding clans, the Bollings and the Shields, was responsible for the murder of a gold prospector. The twist is that neither of the clans was responsible; instead it was the bounty hunter’s own client, who hired him as part of a plot to steal the prospector’s claim. This is a reasonably entertaining Western story, and Mort Drucker was a skilled Western artist, though he’s now remembered exclusively for his Mad Magazine work.

TEEN TITANS #29 (DC, 1970) – “Captives!”, [W] Steve Skeates, [A] Nick Cardy. The Titans team up with Hawk and Dove against Ocean Master and some aliens. This issue’s plot is mostly driven by Hawk and Dove’s conflicts over pacifism. Nick Cardy’s art is incredible, as always, though I wish this issue had featured Wonder Girl more prominently. I used to see Steve Skeates’s posts on Facebook often, but I haven’t heard from him in years. However, just before writing this review, I saw a public Facebook post which showed that he’s alive and safe.

SGT. FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOS #7 (Marvel, 1964) – “The Court-Martial of Sgt. Fury!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. Fury is court-martialed for refusing an order to attack a German ammo depot. Afterward, he develops amnesia and can’t remember why he refused the order. In the end Fury gets his memory back and vindicates himself. This is a really fun issue. Despite being a war comic, it reads just like a Marvel superhero comic, and its central mystery is intriguing. A surprising moment in this issue is when Dum Dum Dugan reads a letter from his mother-in-law. I hadn’t even realized he was married. It seems that his distaste for his mother-in-law was a running joke, but his wife never appeared until Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 (1989), where she was promptly killed. Dum Dum also has at least one grandson, but we don’t know how many children he has, let alone their names or genders.

BLOOD ON THE MOON #1 (Last Gasp, 1978) – untitled, [W/A] Jack Jackson. This was the third part of Jack Jackson’s Comanche Moon trilogy, a historical narrative about Cynthia Ann Parker and her son Quanah. This issue chronicles the Comanche’s brave but doomed resistance against the United States, which ended with their confinement to a reservation. Jaxon’s artwork is gorgeous, blending John Severin’s style with the underground aesthetic, and his narrative is well-researched. He also shows clear sympathy with the Comanches and Kiowas, unlike in his later work Lost Cause, which was rather racist. (Jaxon claimed he was just trying to write it from the Confefderate perspective, but that’s no excuse.) My complaint is that this comic relies too much on caption boxes for narration, and it sometimes feels like an illustrated prose history. One thing that makes this comic enjoyable is Jaxon’s relatable, down-to-earth portrayal of the Comanche people, whose dialogue is written in the style of 1970s Americans. But I wish this comic had had more characterization and less narration.

SUPERMAN #181 (DC, 1965) – “The Super-Scoops of Morna Vine!”, [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Curt Swan. The Daily Planet hires a new female reporter who’s able to get scoops that Lois and Clark can’t, but her secret is that she’s getting the scoops using a destroyed Superman robot that her father repaired. This story is typical Weisingerian nonsense. “The Superman of 2965!”, [W] Edmond Hamilton, [A] Curt Swan. This story is much more interesting because it’s the first appearance of Klar Ken T5477, who reappears in Superman v2 #137. Klar Ken is very similar to Clark Kent, but the idea of a generational lineage of Supermen is really interesting, and has not been explored sufficiently. I first encountered Klar Ken in a fanfic written by DarkMark and the late Dannell Lites, and I assumed he was created for that fanfic. Until reading Superman #137, I didn’t realize he was an actual DC character. There are some obvious contradictions between the 30th century as depicted in Klar Ken’s stories and in the Legion of Super-Heroes stories, and part of the purpose of Dannell Lites’s fanfic was to explain those contradictions.

MY LOVE #7 (Marvel, 1970) – “Did I Make the Wrong Choice?”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Buscema. Socialite Valerie Van Dyne decides to marry a poor piano teacher, despite her family’s disdain. This is a boring story, but Big John’s artwork is beautiful. Valerie Van Dyne of  course has the same name and social background as Janet Van Dyne. Probably Stan just forgot he’d already used the name Van Dyne elsewhere, but the name itself must have been inspired by the surnames of New York’s Dutch aristocracy, such as Vanderbilt, Van Cortlandt and Van Rensselaer. The other stories in this issue are reprints with updated art.

THIRTEEN GOING ON EIGHTEEN #16 (Dell, 1965) – “Welcome Home,” [W/A] John Stanley. “Thirteen Going on Eighteen number sixteen” is a funny issue number. This issue is full of early teenage drama. In the first story, Val worries that Billy hasn’t called her immediately upon come from vacation. In the second story, Judy misinforms Val that she’s seen Billy with another girl at the beach, and so on. Like Little Lulu, Thirteen Going on Eighteen has the same formula in every issue, but it’s a formula that works well.

DARK KNIGHTS OF STEEL #2 (DC, 2022) – “Distant Thunder,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Jasmine Putri. A medieval-themed Elseworlds version of the DC Universe. This particular issue focuses on the Black Lightning character and his family. This issue is written in Tom Taylor’s usual thrilling style. I should have been reading this series from the beginning, but I think it’s too late to start reading it now, and I’ll just try to collect all the back issues.

JONNY QUEST #29 (Comico, 1988) – “Kings of the West Part Two,” [W] William Messner-Loebs, [A] Marc Hempel et al. An adventure story about a feud between two Old West theme parks. This issue’s plot is so complicated that I had to reread issue 28 to have any hope of understanding it, and even then I was confused. Besides that, this is a good issue of an excellent series. This issue has a couple funny moments involving Race Bannon: there’s one scene where a lizard crawls all over his face, and another scene where a man breaks a chair over Race’s head, with no effect on Race at all.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #17 (Marvel, 1969) – “And a Child Shall Lead You!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Gil Kane. This is an important issue because it’s the one where Mar-Vell becomes linked to Rick through the nega-bands, so that when one of them is on Earth, the other is in the Negative Zone. Throughout the early part of this series, Captain Marvel’s status quo was constantly in flux, and he never had a consistent premise or identity. By introducing Rick into the series, Roy finally found a version of the character that worked, and it’s this version of Mar-Vell that’s best remembered. In hindsight it seems as though Mar-Vell and Rick always shared a body, even though that idea was not part of Mar-Vell’s original conception. In addition, Gil Kane’s page layouts, action sequences and draftsmanship in this issue are amazing.

G.I. JOE #3 (Marvel, 1982) – “The Trojan Gambit,” [W] Larry Hama, [A] Herb Trimpe. In the bowels of the Pit, a captured Cobra robot comes to life and tries to escape into the outside world, so that it can broadcast the Pit’s location to Cobra. On the above-ground level of the Pit, Hawk is hosting the “chaplain’s assistants’ social tea,” and he has to prevent any of the guests from noticing that something strange is going on below. This is a masterfully crafted story. Larry Hama creates lots of suspense about whether the Joes will be able to destroy the robot and keep their location secret, and the above-ground scenes are great for comic relief. The guests at the tea party keep hearing strange noises and smelling strange smells, and Hawk and Scarlett, who are attending the party, have to keep coming up with excuses. In the end, the underground and above-ground plots intersect when the last of the robot’s drones makes it all the way into the room where the party is held, and Scarlett stomps on it.

(The next comic I read was Thor #188, but then I discovered that I’d already read that issue last year.)

KAMANDI #30 (DC, 1975) – “UFO. The Wildest Trip Ever!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Some aliens abduct Kamandi and Ben Boxer and take them to a graveyard full of human artifacts. This issue doesn’t have much of a plot, and its lack of intelligent animals is unfortunate, but as usual Kirby’s artwork is spectacular. Kamandi was perhaps the most fun series from the later part of Kirby’s career.

VELVET #10 (Image, 2015) – “The Secret Lives of Dead Men,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. While on a train, Velvet escapes from some police who are trying to arrest her, but then she falls into a further trap. This issue includes some thrilling action sequences, but this series’ overall plot is very hard to understand. After I collect all of Velvet, I’d like to reread the whole series in a couple sittings, if I ever have the time. On the letters page, Brubaker shows his good taste by recommending Tim Powers’s novel Declare.

BATMAN #92 (DC, 2020) – “Their Dark Designs Part 7,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Guillem March. This issue is the second full appearance of Punchline, and my copy is a variant edition where the cover is a portrait of Punchline. As often with James Tynion’s Batman, this comic’s plot is very convoluted and confusing. It includes one plotline where the Riddler turns Gotham into a giant crossword puzzle, and another plotline where Catwoman and Harley Quinn fight the Underbroker.

DOCTOR SOLAR, MAN OF THE ATOM #6 (Gold Key, 1963) – “The Impostor,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Frank Bolle. Solar’s archemeny Nuro kidnaps Gail and replaces her with a superpowered shapeshifting android. Of course Solar saves the day. This is a fairly entertaining comic, but Paul S. Newman was not really a superhero writer. He was more suited to realistic adventure stories. I tend to assume that “Doctor Solar” is Doctor Solar’s superhero codename, but his superhero name is actually “Man of the Atom.” Doctor Philip Solar (later changed to Raymond Solar) is his secret identity. This was changed in the Valiant series, where his superhero identity was Solar, and his real name was Phil Seleski.

THE JACKAROO #2 (Eternity, 1990) – “Attack of the Killer Barnacle!”, [W/A] Gary Chaloner. A gritty urban superhero comic set in both Sydney and the Australian countryside. I like this comic because of both its skillful art and its local specificity. The comic includes a glossary of the Australian slang that the characters use, and I was able to use Google Maps to locate the precise area of Sydney where this issue takes place. There’s a backup story by Chaloner and another Australian artist, Greg Gates.

DOCTOR WHO #11 (Marvel, 1985) – “The Deal,” [W] Steve Parkhouse, [A] Dave Gibbons, etc. A series of stories reprinted from Doctor Who Weekly. The first two stories are about the Fourth Doctor. The last two are about Abslom Daak, and their creative team is Steve Moore and David Lloyd. This comic is worth reading not just because I’m interested in Doctor Who, but because the creators are all notable veterans of British comics. I want to become more of a Doctor Who fan, but as with other franchises like Star Trek and Conan, I find it eaiser to get into Doctor Who through comics than through its original medium. This issue includes an interview with Terrance Dicks in which he expresses skepticism about the possibility of the Doctor being played by a woman. That eventually did happen, but not until more than thirty years later.

BLACKHAWK #200 (DC, 1964) – “Queen Killer Shark,” [W] Dave Wood, [A] Dick Dillin. A villain named Killer Shark turns Lady Blackhawk into Queen Killer Shark. Rather than a war comic, this issue is a Silver Age superhero comic, and not a very good one. It does include a funny scene where a cat goes insane. In this issue’s backup story, drawn by Dillin and written by either Ed Herron or my near namesake George Kashdan, Blackhawk has to bring in a German prisoner, but it becomes unclear which is the captor and which is the captive. This story is better than the main story.

BIG MAN PLANS #1 (Image, 2015) – “Hang In There,” [W/A] Eric Powell, [W] Tim Wiesch. Our protagonist is known only as Big Man, which is ironic since he’s a little person. After a deprived upbringing and a stint in Vietnam clearing out tunnels, he returns to America to “rage and get respect.” Like most of Eric Powell’s work, this comic is both brutal and funny, but it leans more toward brutal than funny. I had never heard of this series until I found this issue in a dollar box at Charlotte Comicon, and now I want to read the rest of it.

INCREDIBLE HULK #197 (Marvel, 1976) – “…And Man-Thing Makes Three!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Sal Buscema. I bought this mostly because of the Bernie Wrightson cover. This cover may have been his only published illustration of Man-Thing. In the actual comic, the Hulk visits the Florida Everglades and encounters both Man-Thing and the Collector, who’s trying to recapture the Glob from issue 121. Wikipedia says that the Glob was Marvel’s version of the Heap, so this issue is a rare example of a crossover between two members of the swamp-monster family of characters.

More new comics:

HAWK THE SLAYER #1 (Rebellion,2022) – “Watch for Me in the Night,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Henry Flint. This series was originally published in the American format as a supplement to Judge Dredd Megazine. It’s an adaptation of a 1980 sword-and-sorcery film. I’m disappointed that this is an adaptation rather than an original story. Garth Ennis’s writing here is neither his best nor his worst, but the main attraction of this comic is Henry Flint’s detailed and gruesome art.

ROBIN #16 (DC, 2022) – “Lazarus Secrets,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Roger Cruz. Damian teams up with the Japanese Batman to look for Flatline, who, according to Lord Death Man, is going around killing people. The issue ends with Lord Death Man and Mother Soul kissing. Early in this issue, Damian hugs someone. I think he’s softening up a bit. A funny scene later in the issue is when Godzilla appears to be invading Tokyo. It seems that this is an illustration of an actual Godzilla head sculpture in Shinjuku.

SURVIVAL STREET #1 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Asmus & Jim Festante, [A] Abylay Kussainov. In a near-future America, a group of muppets and their human allies lead a resistance campaign against the corporations that dominate the government. This comic is of course based on Sesame Street. The combination of muppets and dystopia is a hilarious idea, and the creators execute it very well. I especially like the scene where the muppets’ stealth mission is ruined when the Sundae Fiend (i.e. Cookie Monster) smells ice cream and goes crazy. This series is somewhat comparable to Justice Warriors, but it’s funnier, and its satire has a clearer target. Abylay Kussainov is from Kazakhstan, and I think he’s the first Central Asian cartoonist I’ve ever heard of.

STILLWATER #14 (Image, 2022) – “An Appointment,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón Pérez. Galen and his cronies invade the cneighboring town of Coldwater and take it over without firing a shot. But then the situation changes when the “Three” – Daniel, Laura, and I forget who the third is – return to town. The letter column says that this is the final story arc. Ramón Pérez’s art in Stillwater looks very different from his art in Amazing Spider-Man #1.4, reviewed above. He seems to be able to draw in lots of different styles.

THE LONESOME HUNTERS #2 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Tyler Crook. After some action sequences, Howard and Lupe flee to the house of an old friend of Howard’s. This issue is lighter on plot than #1, but it’s still very exciting. The magpies are very creepy, though they’re also kind of cute.

SKYBOUND X #25 (Image, 2022) – [E] Sean Mackiewicz et al. This comic is inspired by the 1994 “Images of Tomorrow” event, when Image published the 25th issues of Stormwatch, Supreme, Bloodstrike and Brigade, even though those issues were more than a year in the future (and the latter two titles were cancelled before they ever reached #25). Thus, Skybound X #25 is a preview of four Skybound titles that are launching next year. Battle Beast is typical ultraviolent Kirkman nonsense, but the next two stories are interesting. Dark Ride, by the same creators as Birthright, is a horror story set in a theme park. Chroma, much like Attack on Titan, is about an embattled human population living in a walled city for protection against monsters. The catch is that the humans are monochromatic, and they believe that colors are dangerous. I plan on reading both these series when they come out. The fourth new series is Scurry. I really want to like it because it’s about squirrels, but Mac Smith’s painted art is unappealing, and his animals don’t have much personality.

SHANG-CHI AND THE TEN RINGS #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Absolute Power,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Marcus To. Shang-Chi plays miniature golf with his new girlfriend, but has to rush home quickly when multiple criminal organizations try to steal the Ten Rings. This comic is identical in style to the previous Shang-Chi series, so I don’t know why they had to renumber it. I’ve been filing this series under “M” for Master of Kung Fu, but maybe instead I should file Master of Kung Fu under S, because every issue of  MOKF had the phrase “The Hands of Shang-Chi” on its cover.

 A CALCULATED MAN #2 (Aftershock, 2022) – “You People Are Weird,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Alberto (Jimenez) Albuquerque. Jack Beans uses his calculation skills to execute a heist and romance a woman. A Calculated Man is an entertaining crime comic, but it’s not really about math. Jack Beans, like Amadeus Cho, is a master of calculation, but that’s not what professional mathematicians do. Mathematicians are not necessarily “good at math” in the sense in which most people would use that phrase; instead, they use logic and abstraction to prove theorems. This does not mean that A Calculated Man is a bad comic, it’s just not what I hoped it would be.

G.I. JOE #4 (Marvel, 1982) – “Operation: Wingfield!”, [W] Larry Hama, [A] Herb Trimpe. Some G.I. Joes invade a camp of extremely well-funded paramilitary terrorists. This issue isn’t as perfectly crafted as #3, but it’s still good. It’s especially poignant when the terrorists’ own followers begin to abandon him, because he’s endangering their families. The terrorists’ leader, Wingfield, doesn’t seem to have a clear ideology; he just seems convinced that civilization is going to collapse. Still, Larry Hama was prescient in being worried about terrorist militias as early as 1982. My sense is that this problem didn’t become truly prominent until the early 1990s, with the Ruby Ridge and Waco incidents.

DETECTIVE COMICS #1044 (DC, 2021) – “Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Part 2,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Dan Mora. Batman has to save Mayor Nakano, who hates him, from both a cave-in and an infestation of flesh-eating insects. Meanwhile, Batwoman battles the replacement mayor, “Nero XIX.” The Batwoman sequence is especially striking because almost the only colors used are black and red. The backup story, by Stephanie Phillips and David Lapham, is about the redevelopment of Arkham Tower.

BATMAN #112 (DC, 2021) – “Fear State Part 1,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Jorge Jimenez. Tech genius Simon Saint creates a squad of armored “Peacekeepers” in order to “save” Gotham, but he’s made the mistake of allying with the Scarecrow, who has his own agenda. Meanwhile, Poison Ivy has created an underground jungle. The Bat-Family has to resolve all these crises. After reading this issue, I finally sort of understand Fear State. A poignant moment in this story is the panel where a pregnant woman is boarding up her windows while her toddler son reaches for her. This issue includes a Clownhunter backup story by Brandon Thomas and Jason Howard.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #17 (Marvel, 2006) – “League of Losers Part 3,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Paco Medina. A confusing story about a group of time-traveling superheroes, including some obscure ones like Terror, Inc. This issue has some interesting bits of characterization, but I wish it had followed the usual Marvel Team-Up format of single-issue stories with just two or three protagonists. Marvel Team-Up is another series that should have a legacy number.

NAUGHTY LIST #4 (Aftershock, 2022) – “Queens,” [W] Nick Santora, [A] Lee Ferguson. This issue is full of toilet humor and insufferable macho dialogue. It’s so annoying and offensive that it destroyed whatever good will I had for this series. Luckily this is the last issue for now, or else I would have dropped this series from my pull list at once. This issue ends on a cliffhanger, but I don’t care what happens next.

MY LITTLE PONY #3 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Robin Easter. The new group of ponies go looking for a stolen dog. This comic is okay, but so far I’m not nearly as excited about this series as about MLP: FIM. I can’t tell any of the protagonists apart, because none of them seem to have distinctive personalities or gimmicks, as the Mane Six did.

KAIJU SCORE: STEAL FROM THE GODS #4 (Aftershock, 2022) – “Seeing It Through,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Rem Broo. Michelle is forced to wake up the good kaiju deity so it can deal with the bad one. The heist ends successfully, and then Michelle joins an international council of thieves. This series is a fun, quick read, and I’d like to see a third Kaiju Score miniseries, but I still wish we would learn more about the kaiju and their impact on normal life.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #131 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Pablo Tunica. Shredder trains the Turtles in mystical arts, and they each have a bizarre dream. I don’t understand how this issue fits into the current storyline, or whether it’s a flashback or a present-day sequence. My interest in this series has been dropping, particularly given how long it’s been since Sophie Campbell drew an entire issue herself.

JURASSIC LEAGUE #3 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Juan Gedeon & Daniel Warren Johnson, [A] Rafa Garres. The new artist this issue is much worse than Juan Gedeon. His linework is so loose and crude that it seems incompetent. As for the plot, this issue is just a series of fight sequences. The novelty of Jurassic League’s premise is wearing off.

SIN CITY: LOST, LONELY & LETHAL #1 (Dark Horse, 1996) – “Fat Man and Little Boy” etc., [W/A] Frank Miller. This one-shot includes three short stories. The first two are so short that they’re barely stories at all. The third one, “Blue Eyes,” is better. In this story, a man is hunted by a hitman for no apparent reason. While fleeing, he runs into his old girlfriend, who takes him to bed and then kills him. The twist is that she’s training to become a professional assassin, and to do so, she had to pass a test by killing the love of her life.

THE WALKING DEAD #137 (Image, 2015) – “A Future Uncertain,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Charlie Adlard. Carl continues negotiating with Lydia until he gets her out of prison. She licks his empty eye socket – ewww! – and then sleeps with him. Meanwhile, Maggie’s political opponent invites her to negotiate, then poisons her. I’ve been unimpressed with most of the recent Kirkman comics I’ve read, but this Walking Dead storyline is fascinating because of the depth of its characterization and politics. It validates my decision to keep buying Walking Dead back issues when I come across them.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: SYMBOL OF TRUTH #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “Homeland Part 3,” [W] Tochi Onyebuchi, [A] Zé Carlos & R.B. Silva. Like the last issue, this issue is hampered by an unnecessary and annoying Deadpool guest appearance. I frankly hate Deadpool and have no interest in reading about him. Also, the inclusion of Deadpool is a pointless gimmick meant to drive sales, as if Cap on his own isn’t interesting enough to make people buy this comic. The second half of this issue is better; it focuses more on the new Falcon and border politics.

LOVE ROMANCES #63 (Marvel, 1957) – “We’re Engaged!”, [W/A] unknown, etc. This is the oldest Marvel comic in my collection, and the only one whose indicia says Timely instead of Marvel. The first story in this issue is annoying. Sally and Tommy are engaged, but he has to stop seeing her because he’s going to night school for two months. Sally then discovers that Tommy isn’t really going to the school he said he was attending, but her mother convinces her to have faith in him. After two months, Tommy tells Sally that he had to lie to her because he was going to a “secret government school.” That’s utter nonsense; if he couldn’t tell her what school he was going to, he could have just said so. This story teaches that a woman should believe her boyfriend even when he’s obviously lying. The other stories in this issue are fairly typical romance comics material. The known artists in this issue are John Tartaglione, Jay Scott Pike (who deserves a collection of his work) and Ann Brewster. John Tartaglione’s story includes a panel where a character’s eyes are out of alignment.

 SKYWARD #9 (Image, 2018) – “Here There Be Dragonflies Part 4,” [W] Joe Henderson, [A] Lee Garbett. Willa and Lucas share some romantic moments, but then Willa discovers that the farmers are planning to attack Chicago and cause lots of civilian deaths. Willa decides that she has to stop this plot by freeing her worst enemy, Roger Barrow. Skyward is even better than Shadecraft, which was already quite good.

BATMAN #118 (DC, 2022) – “The Abyss Part 1: Now It’s a Party!”, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Jorge Molina & Mikel Janin. This was given out for free at Charlotte Comicon. Fear State is now over, and everyone is partying. Batman intervenes when a villain-themed party at Gotham’s Billionaires’ Club is invaded by a real villain. There’s a cute moment when a little girl dressed as Punchline asks Batman for an autograph, and he ”signs” a piece of paper with the Bat-Signal. Afterward, Batman discovers that the members of Batman Inc. have been arrested for murdering a villain called Abyss. While visiting Badhnesia to investigate, Batman encounters Luthor.

MS. TREE #17 (Renegade, 1985) – “Runaway Part 3,” [W] Max Allan Collins & Terry Beatty. Ms. Tree follows Mike Jr’s trail to an unnamed Southern town, where she teams up with a Glenn Harwood, a local cop turned social worker. Ms. Tree and Glenn have some romantic sparks, but Glenn is repelled by Ms. Tree’s violent behavior. They discover that Mike Jr was kidnapped by the school’s janitor, who intended to rape and then murder him. Ms. Tree rescues Mike Jr, then murders the janitor in cold blood.

MAN OF STEEL #4 (DC, 1986) – “Enemy Mine…”, [W/A] John Byrne. I believe that Byrne’s redesign of Superman, which began in this miniseries, was ultimately a step backward for the character. However, Man of Steel and Byrne’s subsequent Superman stories were considered classics at one time, and I’m kind of surprised that I didn’t have a complete run of Man of Steel already. This issue, Superman meets Lex Luthor for the first time, and Luthor tests Superman’s powers by having him fight some (stereotypical) South American terrorists, even though Luthor’s own security staff could have handled the terrorists themselves. As a result, Superman arrests Luthor for reckless endangerment, establishing their lifelong enmity. Oddly, by the end of this issue Luthor still has a full head of hair. I think the pre-Crisis mad scientist Luthor was a far better character than the post-Crisis Luthor, who was just another Kingpin type. The old Luthor had a certain nobility, as demonstrated in stories like “The Einstein Connection” or the Lexor stories, while the newer Luthor was an egomaniacal monster. His most memorable story may be “Metropolis 900 Mi.” from Superman #9, in which he ruins a woman’s life just for his own amusement.

THE GOON #28 (Dark Horse, 2008) – untitled, [W/A] Eric Powell. This issue has a funny credit line: “Zombies provided by Jethro and Earl Zombie Wranglerin’ Inc. and The Adopt-A-Zombie Foundation.” In this issue the Goon plots against a fellow mobster named Labrizio. This issue’s plot is not very interesting, but it’s full of gruesome creatures and funny moments, like the two-page spread where the Goon punches a mule in the face.

SUPERMAN/BATMAN #4 (DC, 2004) – “The World’s Finest Part 4: Battle On,” [W] Jeph Loeb, [A] Ed McGuinness. Superman and Batman are trying to save the world from I’m not sure what, but to do so, they have to fight their way through a bunch of other superheroes, led by Major Force on behalf of President Luthor. This issue is disappointing. The story is unoriginal, and Ed McGuinness’s art is far less exciting or creative than in Superman #168.

PLANET TERRY #2 (Marvel, 1986) – “The Saga of Princess Ugly,” [W] Lennie Herman, [A] Warren Kremer. On an alien planet, Terry rescues Princess (shudder) Ugly from Vermin the Vile. The predictable twist is that Princess Ugly is in fact beautiful. Afterward, Terry discovers that his parents’ spaceship is on the same planet. One thing these Star comics have that actual  Harvey comics don’t have is continuity. Most of Harvey’s stories lasted just one issue at most, but the Star titles had plots that evolved from one issue to another.

HAWK THE SLAYER #2 (Rebellion, 2022) – “The Last of Their Kind,” as above. The heroes go looking for Hawk’s evil brother, who was supposed to be dead but isn’t. This series isn’t actively bad, unlike some Garth Ennis comics, but I’m not sure I’m motivated enough to continue reading it.

BLINK #1 (Oni, 2022) – “Lost Footage,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Hayden Sherman. As a child, Wren Booker was found wandering in the street covered with blood, unable to explain what had happened to her. As an adult, while working as a freelance journalist, Wren discovers a clue that might help her understand her past. The trail of clues leads Wren and her  boyfriend Joel to an abandoned building infested with ghouls. This is a really impressive first issue, though when writing this review, I had to remind myself what it was about. Hayden Sherman’s artwork isn’t as stunning here as in Dark Spaces: Wildfire; his linework seems much less crisp.

MONSTROUS: BOOK OF THE DEAD #2 (Source Point, 2022) – untitled, [W] Greg Wright, [A] A. Shay Hahn. This was in my file at Heroes, but I have no idea why. It’s some kind of light fantasy/horror story about mummies. This comic is better than I expected, but it’s not good enough to justify buying any other issues.

ELLE(S) #1 (Ablaze, 2022) – untitled, [W] Kid Toussaint, [A] Aveline Stokart. This seems like a typical slice-of-life high school story, but the twist is that the protagonist, Elle, has multiple personalities, and when each personality takes over, her hair color changes. This comic’s artwork is in an unappealing painted style, but its plotting and characterization seem pretty good. I’m mostly interested in reading it because it’s a French comic. The most striking scene in this issue is when Elle comes home and wants to do homework, but her mother guilts her into helping set the house up so the mother can give a presentation to some clients. That’s pretty terrible parenting: a child’s schoolwork should take precedence over giving a parent unpaid assistance with work.

SPIDER-GWEN: GWENVERSE #4 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Jodi Nishijima. The next version of Gwen is based on Captain Marvel, but she has to sacrifice herself to save the world. This brings about the dystopian future that the Gwens are trying to prevent. This series is very fun, but its plot is hopelessly complicated and confusing.

ICE CREAM MAN #31 (Image, 2022) – “A Scale (Sort of a Poem)”, [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. Warren Williamson. This issue chronicles the life of a man named Warren Williamson, from his daughter’s birth to his own death. Warren narrates the first half of the issue, and his daughter Blossom narrates the second half. Unlike many issues of this series, “A Scale” is tender and warm, though it includes some horrific moments. It shows that W. Maxwell Prince is capable of other emotional affects besides depressing bleakness.  Warren’s book is called “The Etymologist Ascends,” which is almost the title of issue 28. I don’t know if it’s worthwhile to try to tease out the connections between issues of this series.

X-MEN RED #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Hour of Uranos,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Stefano Caselli. In an A.X.E. crossover, Thanos’s great-uncle Uranos invades Arakko. A.X.E. is based on plot elements from Kieron Gillen’s Eternals, so X-Men Red #5 feels more similar to Gillen’s Eternals than to earlier issues of X-Men Red.

GRIM #3 (Boom!, 2022) – “Null & Void,” [W] Stephanie Phillips, [A] Flaviano. The three main characters are trapped in an interdimensional void. They escape, but are chased by a creature called The End. The bearded guy delays it so Jess and the David Bowie lookalike dude can escape. This series is okay, but it’s not as interesting as Boom!’s other flagship titles. The issue begins with a scene set in Mesopotamia in 500 BCE, but it shows people speaking Sumerian. The Sumerian language died out over a thousand years prior to that date, but it continued to be used as a liturgical language afterward, so I guess this scene isn’t totally implausible.  

FOX AND HARE #2 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jon Tsuei, [A] Stacey Lee. I guess it’s only been two months since issue 1, but I’ve already forgotten what happened in that issue. Vault has had severe problems with lateness. Most egregiously, Radio Apocalypse has had only one issue published since November 2021, and Vault just announced that it’s on indefinite hiatus. They really need to do what other publishers do, and not solicit a new series or story arc until the whole thing is complete. Anyway, the best thing about Fox and Hare is its distinctive Malaysian or Singaporean setting, but other than that it seems like a standard adventure comic.

TALES OF SUSPENSE #57 (Marvel, 1964/2022) – “Hawkeye, the Marksman!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Don Heck. Hawkeye, a circus marksman, is jealous that Tony Stark is more famous than him. He decides to become a superpowered criminal, and then he gets recruited by the Black Widow, whose first appearance was in #52. So in his first appearance Hawkeye was just another generic villain. Just like Living Laser in Avengers #34, he becomes a villain out of pure jealousy. He didn’t become a truly classic character until he joined the Avengers. This issue also includes a Watcher backup story by Larry Lieber, in which the Watcher breaks his policy of nonintervention in order to save a planet from an alien invasion. He’s willing to do this because the planet is his own homeworld.

IMMORTAL X-MEN #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “Meditations on the X,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Michele Bandini. This is another A.X.E. crossover, but it also fits into Immortal X-Men’s usual plot structure, in which every issue is a spotlight on a different character. This issue focuses on Exodus and his worship of the Phoenix. A funny moment is when Exodus, who was born in the 12th century, reawakens in modern times and is shocked by vernacular Masses and toilet paper. Exodus’s medieval origin was first revealed in Black Knight: Exodus #1 in 1996, although it seems this origin was not a retcon, since he never had any other origin before that. See here for a detailed history of this character. In this issue’s modern-day plot, the Quiet Council tries to resist an invasion by the Uni-Mind.

THE SILVER COIN #12 (Image, 2022) – “’Til Dawn,” [W] Stephanie Phillips, [A] Michael Walsh. In World War II, some American soldiers are trying to defend a position against German troops. One of the soldiers, Patrick Hart, is given the coin by a captured German soldier, just before the soldier gets shot. Patrick overcomes his fear of killing and wipes out an entire German unit, only to realize that the “Germans” he was killing are his own men. This issue is a successful depiction of the brutality of war.

RINGSIDE #14 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Nick Barber. I don’t know or care what this issue’s plot is about, and again its art is terrible. I can’t think of another published cartoonist in recent memory who draws as poorly as Nick Barber. If you’re going to draw in an extremely minimal style, you have to compensate by being a brilliant visual storyteller, like Alex Toth. But Nick Barber isn’t a sufficiently gifted storyteller to make up for his incompetent draftsmanship.

ANT-MAN #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Alone Against the Ant-Agonists!”, [W] Al Ewing, [A] Tom Reilly. Most of this issue is a flashback sequence in which Ant-Man (i.e. Hank) and the Wasp fight the Time Master. This sequence is written and drawn in the style of the earliest Ant-Man stories, Afterward, another Ant-Man recruits Hank to aid him in protecting the “world of tomorrow.” There’s a framing sequence in which the reader is given instructions for enjoying a “MRVL ™ narrative experience ™”. This is a very funny and exciting issue, and Tom Reilly is an underrated artist. His aesthetic resembles that of David Aja or Chris Samnee or the early Mazzucchelli. Another funny moment in this issue is when the ants spell out HLEP instead of HELP, because English is their second language.

IMAGE! 30TH ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY #4 (Image, 2022) – [W/A] various. Yet again, none of the stories in this issue are really effective. Even if they’re interesting, it’s impossible to remember all their plots from one issue to another. The one story that really stands out to me is Wes Craig’s Kaya, and that’s just because of the cute style of art. I was, however, excited to see that Casanova and Jack Staff will appear in issue 8.

MIND MGMT: BOOTLEG #2 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Matt Lesniewski. The boy from last issue recruits some more people into the new MIND MGMT. Meanwhile, Meru comes looking for an old enemy of hers, whose name I don’t recall. This issue is fairly light on plot, but Matt Lesniewski’s artwork is beautiful and detailed, though also gruesome. He draws people as if they were made of rubber hoses.  

THE WRONG EARTH: MEAT #1 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Meat,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Greg Scott. Another issue consisting of two intertwined stories, each about one of the two Dragonflies. Both are about Dragonfly and Stinger’s relationship, and in both, the theme is that Dragonfly(man) has to symbolically “kill” Stinger, or has already done so. This issue is another good illustration of the differences between the two Dragonflies, but because of that, it doesn’t explore any new territory. I’d like to see more stories where Dragonfly and Dragonflyman actually interact.

THE VARIANTS #2 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Gail Simone, [A] Phil Noto. Jessica Jones is another character who deserves a legacy number, although her series have had at least three different titles – Alias, Jessica Jones, and now The Variants. In this issue Jessica has a conversation with Tigra, whose appearances are always a delight, and then a second Jessica Jones Purple Man invades her house and threatens her child. Also, Jessica has a vision of the Purple Man. At the end of the issue, a third Jessica Jones appears, wearing the Jewel costume. It seems like at least half of Jessica’s stories are about the Purple Man and the trauma he caused her, and I wonder if this theme is crowding out other types of stories that could be told about her.

DUO #3 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Khoi Pham. David and Kelly discover that they can both control David’s body. Then they encounter a group of immortals called the Immutables. The business with the Immutables seems irrelevant to the theme of this series. I’m reading this comic because of David and Kelly’s relationship. I don’t see what that has to do with immortals with self-repairing cells.

SACRAMENT #1 (AWA, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Marcelo Frusin. Father Vass is a Catholic priest in a far future where humanity has expanded onto multiple planets, and religion is strictly outlawed. Vass is very good at exorcising demons, but the trouble is that he’s lost his faith in his religion. This series is a compelling examination of religion in a science fiction context. I liked it a lot better than Absolution #1, although I felt more positive about Absolution after I read issue 2; see below.

AQUAMEN #6 (DC, 2022) – “Moments of Silence,” [W] Brandon Thomas & Chuck Brown, [A] Max Raynor. Lots of stuff happens in this issue, but all of it becomes irrelevant after the Justice League, including Aquaman, is reported dead. I liked these creators’ take on Aquaman at first, but DC withdrew their support for this version of Aquaman after just a couple issues, and the miniseries subsequently became an irrelevant lame duck.

CANTO: TALES OF THE UNNAMED WORLD #2 (IDW, 2022) – “My Friend” and “The Trickster and the Farm Boy,” [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker & Shawn Daley. The Malorex tells its story, which is cute and sad, though hard to follow because there’s no dialogue. But the Bard (whose name is Ragno) knows that story already, so next Canto takes his turn. The story Canto tells is the story of the encounter he’s having with Ragno right now, and Ragno doesn’t know that story, because its end hasn’t happened yet. Thus Ragno has to let Canto and his party cross the bridge. This is a clever conclusion to the miniseries.

SWAMP THING #15 (DC, 2022) – “Armageddon Part 1,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. The combined Swamp Thing/Green Lantern creature convinces Jacob to give them its aid against the Parliament of Gears. But the Parliament refuses to listen to them, so Swampy summons Trinity to explain why the Parliament should end the war. I like how the gears have creepy-looking faces.

2000 AD #2267 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “The Dead Chief Judges’ Society,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Rob Richardson. A criminal has visions of all the dead Chief Judges from earlier in the series. I only recognize a couple of these characters. And the visions appear to be real, because the criminal knows things that only the dead judges could have known. This seems like foreshadowing for a future story. Proteus Vex: “Desire Paths Part 6,” [W] Mike Carroll, [A] Jake Lynch. Vex is captured by a member of his own species, named Melody Pen Naday. The Order: “Fantastic Voyage Part 6,” [W] Kek-W, [A] John Burns. The protagonists find themselves on an island, where they’re attacked by an army of “shadow things.” Kingmaker: “Falls the Shadow Part 6,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Leigh Gallagher. Crixus and Yarrow fight a hopeless battle, and then their old enemy Ablard reappears with an army. Saphir: “Liaisons Dangereuses Part 3,” [W] Kek-W, [A] David Roach. Inspector Mucha continues his search for the kidnapped baby. David Roach’s draftsmanship here is beautiful.

LEGION OF X #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “Pillow Talk,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Jan Bazaldua. The most exciting development in this issue is that Kurt and Weaponless Zsen sleep together. Kurt is a very sexy character, as Anna Peppard has shown, and this series had seemed almost shy about exploring Kurt’s sexuality. Besides that, this issue includes some further development of the skinjacker plot.

BLACK ADAM #2 (DC, 2022) – “Theogony Book Two,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Rafa Sandoval. Malik White becomes Black Adam’s successor, White Adam. At this point I decided that I just don’t like Priest’s style of writing, and I don’t care what happens in this series. I’ve removed it from my pull list.

BLOOD SYNDICATE SEASON ONE #3 (DC, 2022) – “Fort Apache, Dakota,” [W] Geoffrey Thorne, [A] Tom Raney & Chriscross. Various Blood Syndicate members team up to resist Holocaust’s attempt to take over the city. I think the best thing about this series is that Holocaust is a terrifying villain. There’s also a funny moment in this issue when one of the characters suggests calling the police, and the other characters pause for one panel, then burst out laughing. The problem is that it’s impossible to remember all the protagonists’ real names and codenames, particularly when none of them have costumes yet. I wish this series had a character guide on the inside front or back cover.

THE KILLER: AFFAIRS OF THE STATE #6 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matz, [A] Luc Jacamon. The Killer assassinates the mayor and escapes from the police, and the series ends with his meditations on how the human race never outgrows its lust for violence. These philosophical meditations are why The Killer is more than just another crime comic. It is a well-crafted piece of entertainment, but it’s also a pessimistic critique of modern European society.

SUPERMAN: SPACE AGE #1 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mike Allred. It took me a while to read this because it’s really long. In this Elseworlds story, Kal-El’s rocket crashes on Earth just after World War II, so Superman’s early career occurs against the backdrop of Kennedy’s assassination, the Cold War, and the civil rights movement. Superman’s debut occurs when he has to stop Luthor from causing a nuclear war. By the end of the issue, Batman and the other Justice Leaguers have also appeared. Russell’s story is very lengthy, but powerful and well-crafted. Though Russell is mostly a satirical writer, he writes a truly heroic and idealistic Superman. Mike Allred’s Silver Age-style art is perfect for this series’ time period, and he seems to have made a real effort at historical accuracy.

G.I.L.T. #4 (Ahoy, 2022) – untitled, [W] Alisa Kwitney, [A] Mauricet. This series gets more confusing with every issue. I’ve given up on trying to figure out the plot, or to remember which character is which. Alisa Kwitney’s style of writing reminds me somehow of earlier feminist comics, such as Naughty Bits or Pudge, Girl Blimp, but other than that, I find it hard to form an opinion on G.I.L.T. It’s just weird.

AQUAMAN: ANDROMEDA #2 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Ram V, [A] Christian Ward. Aquaman saves the crew from their initial encounter with the alien vessel, but rather than leaving well enough alone, they continue to search the vessel. Black Manta infiltrates the submarine, and a series of flashbacks reveal the traumatic histories of the submarine’s crew. One of the crew members, Murthy, is from India, and his flashback scene is reminiscent of Many Deaths of Laila Starr. Overall, Aquaman: Andromeda is a very compelling series, and the larger page format allows Christian Ward to demonstrate his mastery of color and composition.

2000 AD #2268 (Rebellion, 2022) – I just noticed that there are hidden messages in the copyright notices of each issue. Dredd: “Extraordinary Deaths,” [W] T.C. Eglington, [A] Silvia Califano. A data analyst amuses herself by causing people to die in ironic ways, until Dredd catches her. The Order: as above. The heroes fight a giant shadow monster and its zombie servants. Saphir: as above. Inspector Mucha fights an alien army, and the baby’s kidnapper tries to get the baby to imprint on him. This issue includes a gorgeous two-page spread depicting a surreal space battle. Terror Tales: “Roots,” [W/A] P.J. Holden. A drug addict’s mother turns him into a living plant. Proteus Vex: as above. Vex escapes from Agent Naday.

Here I decided to start reading some older comics that I’ve had for a while:

SANDMAN #7 (DC, 1989) – “Sound and Fury,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Mike Dringenberg. Morpheus baits Dr. Destiny into following him into the Dreaming. There Dr. Destiny destroys the ruby, thinking this will kill Morpheus, but it has the opposite effect: Morpheus absorbs the power he had offloaded into the ruby, allowing him to beat Dr. Destiny effortlessly. This issue is an epic conclusion to the first storyline, but it stands out less strongly in my mind than the issues before and after it. Until I reread this issue, I had trouble remembering what had happened in it, whereas I remember “The Sound of Her Wings” very well.

KILL OR BE KILLED #5 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Dylan shoots some dude in a bathroom, then the rest of the issue is a flashback sequence that shows why and how Dylan did it. Dylan’s victim, Barry Jameston, is a corporate criminal who destroyed his clients’ investments, causing some of them to commit suicide, and got off with a slap-on-the-wrist sentence. So it’s hard to blame Dylan for bringing him to justice. Sean Phillips’s artwork in this issue is excellent as usual, and he makes good use of photo reference.

2000 AD #2269 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “5 in the Cubes,” [W] Arthur Wyatt, [A] Nicolo Assirelli. Dredd takes some teenagers on a tour of the cubes. While he’s there, a rogue Judge kidnaps one of the teens and kills him by aging him 500 years. Dredd sentences the judge to the same amount of time in the cubes. Terror Tales: “Foreclosure,” [W] John Tomlinson, [A] Anna Morozova. A woman stops making payments on her ocular implants. The collection agency deactivates her eyes, then sends a drone to repossess the implants, by cutting them out of her eyes. The details of this repossession are left to the reader’s imagination. Anna Morozova’s style is very similar to that of Joelle Jones. Saphir: as above. The baby is rescued, and he imprints on Inspector Mucha instead of the villain. This was a cute story with gorgeous artwork. The Order: as above. Ben Franklin is badly hurt. His allies take him aboard their ship and leave, but the “shadow-kraken” follows the ship. Proteus Vex: as above. Vex meets a giant lava-dwelling alien named Tsellest.

2000 AD #2270 – This is an extra-sized 45th anniversary issue. Dredd: “The Citadel Part 1,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Dan Cornwell. A priest visits the cubes to grant absolution to Winterton, a prisoner who’s about to be executed. Winterton’s mouth is gagged, but the priest is horrified by this treatment and removes the gag, and Winterton begins to explain how he learned a hidden secret about Dredd. Proteus Vex: as above. Vex’s pursuers arrive where Tsellest is. We learn that Tsellest’s race has been exterminating all other alien races that evolved inside stars, and that Vex’s race has concealed the existence of many other such species. Indigo Prime: “Whatever Happened to Mickey Challis?”, [W] Kek-W, [A] Lee Carter. I don’t understand this story, though it seems interesting; it’s about memes and living narratives, and it mentions Baudrillard at one point. Tyranny Rex appears at the end. This story seems to be a lead-in to a new Indigo Prime story, but that story has not been published yet as far as I know. Kingmaker: as above. Ablard, Crixis and Yarrow join forces against the aliens. Tharg: “Stars on 45,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Robin Smith. Three of Tharg’s robots go back in time and borrow a lot of characters from earlier in 2000 AD’s history, and these characters all join Tharg in performing a song. But when the robots return the borrowed characters to their own times, they put them all back in the wrong places. This is easily the highlight of the issue. It’s a hilarious story and a cute tribute to 2000 AD’s long history. It includes imitations of the styles of many 2000 AD artists, as well as two different parodies of the famous “gaze into the fist of Dredd” panel. The Order: as above. The ship gets absorbed by the Shadow-Kraken. Brink: “Mercury Retrograde,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] I.N.J. Culbard. On an outer space habitat, a husband-and-wife team of journalists investigate a conflict between the habitat’s management and its labor unions.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #9 (Marvel, 2019) – “Captain of Nothing Part III,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Adam Kubert. Another boring issue in which very little happens. Cap’s allies talk about rescuing him from the Myrmidon (a name which makes no sense – a Myrmidon is a person, not a place), but don’t actually do it. Also, Cap is involved in a prison riot.

ACTION COMICS #487 (DC, 1978) – “Super-Origin of Microwave Man!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. Superman meets Lewis Padgett, an old man who had a brief supervillain career in the 1930s, under the name Microwave Man, before being abducted by aliens. Padgett asks the aliens to restore his youth so he can become Microwave Man again. The name Lewis Padgett comes from a pseudonym used by the science fiction writers Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore. There’s also a character in this issue named Mrs. Anson Durgom, which looks like an acronym for something, but I don’t know what. Microwave Man appears for the second and last time in issue 488, which I read so long ago that I can’t remember anything about it. This issue also includes a boring Atom backup story by Bob Rozakis and Alex Saviuk.

MOTHER PANIC: GOTHAM A.D. #2 (DC, 2018) – “Different Bat Channel Part 2,” [W] Jody Houser, [A] Ibrahim Moustafa. Mother Panic tries to rescue her mother from Arkham Asylum. This was by far the worst of the Young Animal titles, and frankly the best thing about this issue is John Workman’s lettering. Besides Faith, I haven’t read much by Jody Houser that I liked.

LUCIFER #2 (DC, 2016) – “Cold Heaven Part Two: Lady Lucifer,” [W] Holly Black, [A] Lee Garbett. Lucifer investigates God’s murder, and there’s a subplot about a depressed woman who hates her sister, and who is being targeted by Azazel. Mazikeen appears at the end of the issue, and is somehow able to speak coherently. I didn’t like this series when it was coming out, but this issue is not bad.

HARLEY QUINN #28 (DC, 2016) – “Shriek Now, and Forever Hold Your Piece,” [W] Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti, [A] John Timms. Harley teams up with Red Tool, an obvious Deadpool parody. His gimmick is that his word balloons are shaped like tools. I hate Deadpool, and while I don’t hate Harley Quinn, I do think that she’s overexposed in the same way as Deadpool is. Therefore, this issue was not my favorite.

AVENGERS #292 (Marvel, 1988) – “The Dragon in the Sea!”, [W] Walt Simonson, [A] John Buscema. The Avengers hunt down Namor’s wife Marrina, who has turned into a giant kaiju. Dr. Druid, probably the worst Avenger ever, tries to undermine Captain Marvel’s leadership, and Kang meets a group of his own alternate-dimensional duplicates. This issue is beautifully inked by Tom Palmer over Buscema’s loose pencils. Sadly we just lost Tom Palmer. He was one of the greatest inkers in comics history, and certainly the best inker for Colan, Buscema or Adams. The one time I can recall meeting him, he seemed like a kind and gentlemanly man.

SECRET SIX #2 (DC, 2015) – “Down the Rabbit Hole,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Ken Lashley. In a flashback, some sadistic asshole imprisons Cat-Man in a cage for twelve months. These scenes are just infuriating. In the present, the Secret Six are imprisoned in a box until they reveal the secret, whatever that is. Ken Lashley’s art in this issue is rather crude and unappealing.

LAZARUS #18 (Image, 2015) – “Poison Part Two,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Michael Lark. Forever Carlyle leads a team of soldiers on an assault on another company’s facility, and meanwhile, a young doctor is brought in to save the Carlyle family patriarch. Despite this series’ all-star creative team and its consistently high level of craft, I hated it. Lazarus’s world is a grim, humorless, loveless dystopia, and its characters are all complete sociopathic monsters. If every single character in this comic died at the same time, I’d be thrilled. The only sympathetic character is Lazarus herself, and she never manages to figure out that her family is exploiting her. This means that it’s hard to care about the interfamily politics that make up much of Lazarus’s plot, because all the family members are equally loathsome.

TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE #50 (IDW, 2016) – “The Dying of the Light,” [W] James Roberts, [A] Alex Milne. I stopped reading this series because I couldn’t follow its plot. There are far too many characters, and I can’t remember who most of them are. This series seems to assume that the reader is familiar with IDW’s entire Transformers continuity. For me, this made it hard to appreciate the brilliance of James Roberts’s dialogue and plotting. I never read #50 because it’s a double-sized issue, and that meant I couldn’t read the issues after it either. However, when I finally did force myself to read #50, I enjoyed it. As noted, James Roberts is a great dialogue writer, and this issue includes a surprising plot twist where Getaway strands Megatron, Rodimus Prime and other characters on the Necrobots’ planet, leaving them no way to return to the Lost Light. #50 also includes a backup story about the Lost Light’s bar.

HEAVY METAL #2.10 (1979) – [E] Sean Kelly & Valerie Marchand. I can’t review everything in this issue individually, but here are some of the highlights: Corben and Strnad’s Arabian Nights. A story by Chaland that looks nothing like his usual Clear Line artwork. Two stories by Bilal, Exterminator 17 and The Planet of No Return. Lulea by Arthur Suydam. The Temple of Karvul by Paul Kirchner, perhaps his only comic I’ve ever read that wasn’t The Bus. There’s also some lesser material, including a boring prose story with illustrations by Gil Kane.

ACTION COMICS #534 (DC, 1982) – “Two for the Death of One!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Curt Swan. Superman travels back in time to medieval Britain, where he fights Lord Satanis and Syrene. It’s hard to tell whether or not these are the same characters as Lord Satanus and Blaze. This issue also includes an Air-Wave story by Rozakis and Saviuk, which, like every Air-Wave story I’ve read, is a waste of space.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #700 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Chris Samnee. In a future America, Cap reconquers the country from a tyrant, then tries to run the entire country singlehandedly while also fighting a war. He proves to be unsuited to the task, because evidently he’s never heard of delegating responsibility. So Cap decides to travel back in time to the past and prevent his current timeline from coming into existence in the first place. This issue, like this entire run of Captain America, is disappointing. Waid’s third Cap run relied upon a very vague, unreflective type of American patriotism, and its message seemed to be that the American dream, whatever that might mean, is a solution to any problem at all. This philosophy reminds me of Bobby Jindal’s infamous “Americans can do anything” speech. This issue includes a backup story with new dialogue by Waid, placed over panels taken from old Captain America stories by Kirby. The GCD has a complete list of the sources of each panel.

FIRE FROM HEAVEN #1 (Image, 1996) – “Gamorra Rising,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Ryan Benjamin. An introduction to a Wildstorm Universe crossover event. Alan Moore’s dialogue in this issue is fantastic, but this issue has way too many characters and not much of a plot, and it’s not one of Alan’s better Image comics. BTW, I just read a very offensive article about Superman, Son of Kal-El, written by a notorious troll whose last name means “of the rice.” This article implies that Tom Taylor invented the name Gamorra as a reference to Gomorrah, but he did not, as proved by the title of Fire from Heaven #1.

TRANSFORMERS VS G.I. JOE #3 (IDW, 2014) – “Funeral for a Friend,” [W/A] Tom Scioli, [W] John Barber. The G.I. Joes stage a funeral for Hawk, but in fact Hawk isn’t dead, and the funeral is a trap. As always with this series, this issue is full of radical page layouts and lettering, and its writing is histrionic to the point of self-parody. Perhaps John Barber was responsible for this writing style, because Tom Scioli’s later work is written in a much more restrained style.

JLA #41 (DC, 2000) – “World War Three Part 6: Mageddon,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Howard Porter. In order to defeat the world-destroying cosmic entity Mageddon, the JLA has to transform the entire human race into superheroes. This issue is about as epic and Kirbyesque as any JLA story ever. It’s a satisfying conclusion to Grant’s classic JLA run, and it’s probably just as well that they left the series after this issue, because it’s hard to imagine how they could have topped World War Three.

LAZARUS #19 (Image, 2015) – as #18 above. Forever is seemingly killed by the enemy, but comes back to life, and there’s some more family politics that I don’t care about. This issue’s main story ends on the left-hand side of the centerfold. The second half of the issue consists of an extended letter column and a preview of Black Magick #1. Black Magick was a much better series than Lazarus, and I wish it would come back.

ALIEN WORLDS #9 (Eclipse, 1985) – “10 Devils,” [W] David Carren, [A] Bo Hampton, etc. Bruce Jones only wrote one of the four stories in this issue: “The Maiden and the Dragon,” drawn by Bo Hampton. This is by far the best of the four. It’s a sarcastic twist on the fairy-tale pattern where the two older siblings (or three in this case) both fail at a task, while the youngest sibling succeeds. Two of the stories in this issue are written by David Carren, who’s mostly a TV and film writer. These stories appear to be his only published comics, except for one story in Twisted Tales, and neither of them is much good. The fourth story in Alien Worlds #9 is both written and drawn by Frank Brunner, and it has attractive art but a vapid plot.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #66 (Marvel, 1980) – “The Serpent Crown Affair Part 3: A Congress of Crowns!”, [W] Mark Gruenwald & Ralph Macchio, [A] Jerry Bingham & Gene Day. Thing, Stingray, and Scarlet Witch battle Roxxon president Hugh Jones, who’s wearing the Serpent Crown and has a mind-controlled army consisting of everyone else who’s worn the crown. This story is all right, but what really makes it impressive is the way that Mark synthesizes all of the earlier Serpent Crown stories into a coherent narrative. One of the earliest comic books I ever owned (if it counts as a comic book) was Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Update ’89 #7. By reading Set’s entry in that comic, I learned the entire history of the Serpent Crown up to that time, long before I read the actual comics that the crown appeared in. (Edit: This comic is a duplicate, but I will allow this review to stand.)  

SUICIDE SQUAD #23 (DC, 1989) – “Weird War Tales,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Luke McDonnell. I ordered this on eBay. It was the only issue of the series I was missing except for the final issue, #66. Suicide Squad #23 is the hardest issue of the series to find because it’s Barbara Gordon’s first appearance as Oracle. The Oracle “appearance” is just a single panel, and it consists only of a computer voice introducing itself as Oracle. There’s no indication yet that Oracle is even a person rather than a computer program, so this single panel hardly seems to justify this comic’s high price. Much of this issue is devoted to a fight scene where the Suicide Squad team up with the Rocket Reds against the Okaarans. Also, Amanda Waller has imaginary conversations with the various people he’s pissed at, and Captain Boomerang returns to Australia and tries to pass himself off as a national hero. But the local people think he’s an embarrassment to his country, and they throw him off a dock.

AMAR CHITRA KATHA #502 (India Book House, 1971/2007) – “Hanuman,” [W] Anant Pai, [A] Ram Waeerkar. Oddly, I found this comic on the used book shelf at a local black-owned bookstore that specializes in African-American literature. There is also a large Indian community in my neighborhood, and there were several other Indian-themed books on the same shelf, none of which I bought. ACK #502 tells the story of the Ramayana from the perspective of Hanuman, the monkey god. This comic is entertaining and also educational, because as a non-Hindu, I only had a vague idea of Hanuman’s story. ACK was created to teach Indian children about their culture, but it’s also useful for readers from other cultures.  

SENSATIONAL SHE-HULK #18 (Marvel, 1990) – “The Dentist in the Iron Mask!”, [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Tom Artis. Jen battles Dr. Doom, not the famous one but a distant relative who’s a dentist. There’s also a subplot where Jen resists the advances of a coworker named Brent. This issue is laugh-out-loud funny. I had forgotten that Gerber is a genuinely skilled writer, and was not just notable for his weirdness. Also, I like Jen’s relationship with Weezie, the former Blonde Phantom, and I wonder why this latter character hasn’t been used in more recent She-Hulk runs.  

ART OPS #6 (Vertigo, 2016) – “Modern Love Part 1,” [W] Shaun Simon, [A] Eduardo Risso. In the ’70s, the Art Ops members have to force a monstrous creature back into the painting it came from. Mike Allred couldn’t save this series from Shaun Simon’s writing, and neither could Eduardo Risso. Also, Risso’s art in this issue is not his best. We don’t even see the creature from the painting until page eight, but prior to that point, it’s not clear that its appearance is supposed to be a surprise.

TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE #51 (IDW, 2016) – “The Dying of the Light Part 2: The Sun in Flight,” as above. The Autobots trapped on the Necrobot’s planet are about to be attacked by the Decepticon Justice Division. They have the opportunity to escape, but they discover that there are some organic lifeforms held in stasis in the Necrobot’s base. Megatron decides to stay behind to defend the organics, and the rest of the crew agrees with him. This issue feels very tense and suspenseful. At the end, two Autobots arrive to join the defenders. One of them is Ratchet, and I don’t recognize the other.

2000 AD #445 (IPC, 1985) – Nemesis: ”Book Five,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Bryan Talbot. Nemesis, Torquemada, and the ABC Warriors defeat some enemies and then prepare to search for Nemesis’s son. This chapter has some really gruesome imagery. Rogue Trooper: “Return to Milli-Com,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] José Ortiz. The Norts and Southers meet for a summit, and violence is barely avoided. Dredd: “The Lemming Syndrome!”, [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. The residents of Flakey Foont Block (an obvious Crumb reference) start jumping off the building for no apparent reason. A funny moment occurs when two residents are watching people fall past their window: “Hey! There’s Mum!” “Never! She’s up on 96 visiting Betty – oh, you’re right! There’s Betty now!” At the end, a Judge makes the depressing suggestion that the suicides are the result of universal unemployment and boredom. Mean Team: untitled, [W] Wagner & Grant, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. The Mean Team escape from whoever is pursuing them. Strontium Dog: “Max Bubba,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. While pursuing a man named Max Bubba, Johnny and Wulf are staked out on the ground and left to die. As they lie there, they start talking about when they first met. Wulf really did die for good at the end of this storyline.

STAR TREK #4 (DC, 1990) – “Repercussions,” [W] Peter David, [A] James Fry. The Klingons and the Nazgul are bickering over which of them gets to kill Kirk, while the Federation is increasingly tired of Kirk’s loose-cannon behavior. Rather than court-martial Kirk, the Federation assigns him a protocol officer. This officer is R.J. Blaise, the best new character from PAD’s Star Trek comics, who makes her debut in this issue. This issue also includes a scene where Scotty and Uhura decide that they’re not romantically interested in each other. This scene is meant as a response to a scene in Star Trek V that implied that these characters were a possible couple. If I’ve ever seen Star Trek V, it was so long ago that I can’t remember anything about it, but it’s always been reviled by the fan community. And Scotty and Uhura seem like a terrible pairing to me.

TOMB OF DRACULA #4 (Marvel, 1972) – “Through a Mirror Darkly!”, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Gene Colan. An elderly former model named Isla Strangway gets Dracula to turn her into a vampire. Frank and Rachel kill Isla, but Taj apparently sacrifices himself to kill Dracula. Colan and Palmer’s art in this issue is beautiful, and this is one of the better-written issues of ToD from before Wolfman took over. This issue includes a scene where Taj uses the sign of the cross to repel Dracula. This is odd because Taj’s name and Indian origin, plus the fact that he wears a turban, all strongly suggest that he’s either a Hindu or a Sikh. According to Uncanny X-Men #159, the cross can only repel Dracula if used by someone who believes in Jesus, although of course that issue was published many years after this one.

VIGILANTE #17 (DC, 1985) – “Father’s Day,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jim Baikie. Spousal abuser Carl Linnaker gets out of prison and promptly murders his wife, then goes in pursuit of his young daughter, who managed to escape. The daughter finds refuge with some two workers, but Carl finds her and murders one of the sex workers, and Vigilante has to team up with the other one to track Carl down. This two-parter is one of Alan’s lesser-known works for DC, but Carl is perhaps the single most loathsome character he ever created. This man is an utter monster of misogyny and violence, and when he gets killed in issue 18, it’s a relief. Also, Jim Baikie’s art here is excellent. He collaborated with Alan Moore on at least four different comics – the others were Skizz, Deathblow: Byblows and First American.

DETECTIVE COMICS #764 (DC, 2002) – “Hearts,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Shawn Martinborough. Sasha Bordeaux gets disgusted with Bruce Wayne and Vesper Fairchild’s romance. Meanwhile, Maggie Sawyer replaces Harvey Bullock as the leader of Gotham’s Major Crimes unit. Shawn Martinborough is one of the worst artists in the history of this series. His draftsmanship is competent, but his faces look weird and lifeless, and his art is too reliant on weird color schemes. The Josie Mac backup story, by Judd Winick and Cliff Chiang, may be better than the main story. Cliff Chiang’s style was not yet well developed in 2002, but he was still better than Martinborough. And Josie Mac has a really cool superpower where she can communicate with inanimate objects. She locates a lost child by finding one sock out of a mismatched pair, because it wants to be together with its matching sock.

PROPHET: EARTH WAR #4 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Brandon Graham & Simon Roy, [A] various. This issue is full of gorgeous and weird artwork, but its story makes no sense at all. This Prophet run was always more appealing for its weirdness than for the coherence of its narrative.

TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE #52 (IDW, 2016) – “The Dying of the Light Part 3: Your Fierce Tears,” as above. Megatron negotiates with Tarn, the leader of the DJD, but Overlord stops Tarn from killing Megatron. There are also a lot of character interactions that I didn’t understand because I don’t know who these characters are.

2000 AD #449 (IPC, 1985) – Strontium Dog: as above. In a flashback, Johnny, Wulf and some Vikings go on a voyage in order to stop Ragnarok. Slaine: “The Tomb of Terror,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] David Pugh. Slaine and some allies travel through a dungeon filled with Orgots. Each chapter of “The Tomb of Terror” was accompanied by a section of a role-playing game module based on it. Dredd: “The Lurker,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. A vagrant finds a discarded briefcase that he believes contains ten million creds. It actually contains radioactive material that gives off ten million rads, and when he opens the case, he dies in horrifying fashion. Rogue Trooper: as above. The aliens destroy the Nort-Souther peace treaty, and Rogue has to go back to war.

TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED #1 (DC, 2006) – Spectre: “The Cold Hand of Vengeance!”, [W] David Lapham, [A] Eric Battle. The new Spectre, Crispus Allen, investigates the murder of a slumlord. This story arc is so excessively grim and hard-boiled that it feels like a self-parody. The reason to own this comic is the backup story, “Dr. Thirteen: Architecture and Mortality” by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang. This story is the only Brian Azzarello comic that I really like. It’s a witty exploration of DC’s tangled continuity. And it includes some of Cliff Chiang’s earliest artwork in his mature style.

SANDMAN #14 (DC, 1990) – “Collectors,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Mike Dringenberg. This is the one with the serial killer convention. It’s one of the grimmest, most frightening issues of the series, right up there with “24 Hours.” It begins with Gilbert’s gruesome version of the Little Red Riding Hood story, and it only gets grimmer from there. But it also has its funny moments – like the madman who proclaims that he’s God, while sitting at a table and speaking into a microphone. There are some characters in this issue who never appear anywhere else – like Fun Land and Nimrod – yet they’re depicted with such loving detail that we almost sympathize with their madness. Also, this whole story is a spot-on parody of fan culture. This is the one issue of “Doll’s House” that I remember best, along with “Tales in the Sand” and “Men of Good Fortune.”

BATMAN #270 (DC, 1975) – “The Menace of the Fiery Heads!”, [W] David V. Reed, [A] Ernie Chua. A fairly conventional murder mystery. The most realistic part is that the murderer is discovered to be a recently paroled criminal, but Commissioner Gordon was never informed of his parole, because “they changed the system upstate… and it’s been taking much longer…” At the end of the issue, Batman tells some kids that Joe Namath is going to be the guest speaker at their event, and they all cheer. Joe Namath was near the end of his career at the time. He must have been a huge star at the time, but his reputation has declined since then. I always thought that David V. Reed’s real name was David Vern, and the SF Encyclopedia agrees with this, but Wikipedia says his real surname was Levine.

SUPERMAN #406 (DC, 1985) – “The Fight for the Right to Be Superman!”, [W] Paul Kupperberg, [A] Irv Novick. Moe Ramboe, an old professional wrestler, used the name “Superman” before Superman did. Somehow Ramboe siphons powers from Superman and uses those powers to compete against Superman in a wrestling match. Ramboe’s costume is a clever variation on Superman’s. The backup story, “Can You Stump Superman?”, is a lot more interesting. At a charity event, Superman challenges the crowd by telling them that one person in the crowd is doing something Superman can’t do. After Superman foils a plot by some crooks, we learn that the thing he can’t do is smoke, and the person who’s doing it is Perry White.

RENEGADE ROMANCE #2 (Renegade, 1988) – [E] Deni Loubert and/or Trina Robbins. A collection of romantic stories. Deni Loubert and Steve Leialoha’s “Forever is a Long Long Time” is about her aunt’s marriage to a jazz musician. Colleen Doran’s “Eugène” includes a guest appearance by Oscar from Rose of Versailles. I wonder how Colleen was able to access that comic in 1988. I believe that it wasn’t completely translated into English until a few years ago, though there was an earlier partial translation. Trina’s “Red Love” is the conclusion of her adaptation of a novel by Alexandra Kollontai. Jackie Estrada and Barb Rausch’s “Daydreams” is about a woman who spends her entire life pining away for a boyfriend who left her. Barb Rausch’s here is super-detailed. It’s a pity that she’s been largely forgotten since her death. In Dave Hine’s “True Romance,” a bunch of Londoners have varying reactions to a copy of an American romance comic. Rozakis and DeStefano’s “Wedding Day” takes place at a wedding and explores the thoughts of the already-married couples in attendance. Overall this is a really interesting comic, and it even reminds me at times of Wimmen’s Comix. I wish there had been more than two issues of Renegade Romance.

DEFENDERS #6 (Marvel, 2001) – “Rumble in the Sky,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Erik Larsen. Humorously, this issue is narrated by the stupid version of the Hulk. The plot is that the Defenders fight Bi-Beast in Red Raven’s floating island city. This comic offers the same sort of entertainment and excitement as a classic Silver Age Marvel comic. I think I heard that this Defenders series was cancelled after just 12 issues because it was insufficiently grim and excessively fun for contemporary tastes.

 MS. TREE #18 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1985) – “Muerta Means Death Chapter One: Homecoming” etc., [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. Glenn rejects Ms. Tree’s romantic advances, and she returns to her hometown with Mike Jr. By the way, I just realized I’m not sure what city Ms. Tree lives in. Anyway, then Dan Green reappears, now wearing his trademark hook, and promptly goes to take revenge on Dominic Muerta.

My next Heroes trip was on August 21. This will also be my last visit to Heroes until after Worldcon.

NIGHTWING #95 (DC, 2022) – “The Battle for Blüdhaven’s Heart Part 4,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo. Dick saves Mayor Zucco from assassination, but the former police commissioner, who was the prime witness against Blockbuster, is murdered by Blockbuster’s troops. Dick and Maggie Sawyer organize four simultaneous operations against Blockbuster, successfully bringing about the downfall of his organization. Just as Dick seems to have won, Blockbuster holds a child hostage in the burning Haven library, and with no hesitation, Dick surrenders to Blockbuster in exchange for the child’s safety. Blockbuster beats the crap out of Dick and then unmasks him. So I guess now Dick has no choice but to kill Blockbuster to preserve his secret identity? But of course he’s too good to do that. Dick’s willing surrender is an example of how he’s the most truly heroic superhero in any current superhero comic. This issue includes a possible Easter Egg reference to Josep Toutain.

EIGHT BILLION GENIES #4 (Image, 2022) – “The First Eight Weeks,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. 12-year-old Robbie joins the group of other people who wished to be superheroes, but all they do is fight people who wished to be supervillains. When the leader of Robbie’s group dies, he reveals with his last words that he was only eleven. This is the most poignant moment in the series so far. Also, we learn that the bartender is the last remaining genie from the previous time the genies granted everyone wishes. He says that whenever there are about eight billion people in the world, the genies show up to reduce the population. (Which makes me wonder, when have there ever been eight billion people before now? The bartender’s reference to “the last world” implies that there was another world or universe before the current one.)

DO A POWERBOMB #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Daniel Warren Johnson. The tournament begins, and Lona and Cobrasun barely win their first match, against a team of two orangutans. Their next opponents are the “Knights of Rhyne,” but it’s obvious that their opponents in the final will be FYSO, which stands for Fuck Your Stupid Opinions. This is another excellent issue, but I wish the other wrestling teams had been even weirder. Besides the orangutans and another team consisting of two robots, most of the tournament entrants are normal humans.

DARK SPACES: WILDFIRE #2 (Image, 2022) – “Ignition,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Hayden Sherman. Ma decides to carry out the heist. Her team makes it to the rich dude’s house and retrieves the crypto, but then they discover a dead body in the wine cellar. This is another excellent issue. I especially like the scene where the women dress up in the homeowner’s clothes and drink his liquor.

MS. MARVEL & WOLVERINE #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] Zé Carlos. A Krakoan tree in Central Park is attacked by an army of mechanical insects, and Kamala has to team up with Wolverine and the X-Men to stop them. This comic should have been called Ms. Marvel and the X-Men, since there are other X-Men in it besides Wolverine, and Storm in particular is essential to the resolution of the plot. It was fun seeing Kamala interact with Wolverine again, but I felt as if there was something missing from this story, and after reading Ms. Marvel & Moon Knight #1, I figured out what it was. See below.

SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER 2 #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jody Leheup, [A] Nil Vendrell. Shirtless Bear-Fighter behaves like a complete jerk, until he gets fired from his bear-fighting organization, the Fuzz. Meanwhile, the Hillbilly Warlock announces that the cosmic entity Ursa Major is returning to Earth. Shirtless Bear-Fighter is kind of a one-joke comic, but it’s a funny joke, and this comic is entertaining.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #20 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcelo Grassi. After reliving Paul Revere’s ride several times, Charlotte and Valentina meet Uncle Sam. He shoots them, and they reawaken on December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy. Chang, Janet and Ace meet some foreign agents, who reveal that Chang and Janet were responsible for America winning World War IV. One of the agents says that she slipped a phone into Chang’s pocket on an earlier page of the issue. If you reread, you do see that she appeared on an earlier page, but you can’t see her putting anything in Chang’s pocket.  

USAGI YOJIMBO #30 (IDW, 2022) – “The Secret of the Green Dragon Part Two,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi, Yukichi and Chizu manage to escape the Komori ninja with the help of some of Chizu’s old allies. As Usagi and company travel to the capital through heavy snow, they’re attacked by more Komori ninja. All their horses get killed, and one of the attackers escapes to come back with more ninja. I assume Usagi isn’t going to make it to the shogun with the document that incriminates Lord Hikiji, because then the series’ overarching plot would end. I was confused by the man at the right of page 4, panel 2, but now I get it: this man is a slave of the Komori ninja, so he foreshadows what’s about to happen to the bandit.

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #14 (DC, 2022) – “Siege of Gamorra,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Cian Tormey. Jon, Jay and some Gamorran teen superheroes plan their assault on Bendix, with unexpected help from Damian. Jon gives Jay a Legion flight ring. BTW, how nice would it be if Tom Taylor was writing the Legion? Then the Legion would be readable again. Not only have I not been buying the current JLA vs LSH title, I haven’t even bothered to flip through it in the store. At the end of the issue, Jon and Jay make it into Gamorra’s prison, where they’re confronted by Jay’s mother.

2000 AD #2271 (Rebellion, 2022) – On my latest Heroes trip I bought the three prog packs that I declined to buy on the previous trip. I still haven’t finished reading all these progs. Dredd: “The Citadel 02,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Dan Cornwell. In a flashback to the Apocalypse War, Dredd organizes a posse of judges to fight the Sovs. One of the judges is mortally wounded, and Dredd asks the dying judge to sacrifice himself to cover Dredd’s party’s escape. In this moment Dredd almost seems tender. Proteus Vex: “Desire Paths Part 10,” [W] Mike Carroll, [A] Jake Lynch. Tsellest decides to get rid of everyone who knows about the Scorchers’ genocidal nature, but Vex escapes from Tsellest’s planet. I still don’t understand  what Proteus Vex is about, but this story’s plot makes a bit more sense in retrospect. The Order: “Fantastic Voyage Part 10,” [W] Kek-W, [A] John Burns. The fight with the Shadow-Kraken continues, while the tiny Paul Bunyan creature fights a smaller version of the Shadow-Kraken inside Ben Franklin’s body. Kingmaker: “Falls the Shadow Part 8,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Leigh Gallagher. Crixus and allies decide to take the fight to the aliens. Brink: “Mercury Retrograde Part 2,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] I.N.J. Culbard. Just some boring discussions of outer-space labor politics. I don’t understand why I should care about any of this stuff, and this series is confusing because of the large number of unexplained acronyms and abbreviations – HSD, Gentau, etc.

LOVE EVERLASTING #1 (Image, 2022) – “Meant to Be” etc., [W] Tom King, [A] Elsa Charretier. In the first story, set sometime in the ‘40s or ‘50s, Joan Peterson falls in love with her boss George. In the second story, set in the ‘60s, the same Joan Peterson falls in love with a hippie musician, but she’s troubled by recollections of her previous lover George. The third story is set in the Old West, but Joan can still remember the previous two stories somehow. This series is a clever parody of romance comics, and I’m curious to find out the explanation for its narrative structure, although I’m afraid that this series will be disappointing, like so many of Tom King’s other works. More on that point later. I do think it’s unfortunate that there are so many parodies of romance comic books, but that hardly anyone has tried to revive the classic romance comic format in a non-ironic way. However, that format would be unlikely to succeed today for a large number of reasons, including its lack of continuity: most classic romance comics had multiple self-contained stories in each issue.

AVENGERS AND MOON GIRL #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mohale Mashigo, [A] Dio Neves et al. Lunella travels to Wakanda and teams up with Shuri and Captain Marvel to look for Devil Dinosaur on the moon. She finds that he’s been captured by the High Evolutionary, but the Evolutionary gets away with Devil. Like Ms. Marvel and Wolverine, this comic has a misleading title, though it’s misleading for the opposite reason: that comic should have been called Ms. Marvel and the X-Men, and this one should have been called Captain Marvel and Moon Girl. Otherwise, this comic is entertaining and goofy in the same way that the original Moon Girl title was.

THE WARD #3 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Andres Ponce. While rescuing people from a collapsing building, Nat gets stuck under some rubble, and Luis has to take his illegal troll supplements to save her. When Nat wakes up, she discovers that her leg is injured, she’s left her child unsupervised, and Luis is stuck in troll form. Even without the fantasy elements, this issue would have been memorable for its harrowing depiction of overworked medical staff and the mistakes they cause. Again I get the impression that this series is drawing upon personal knowledge, though I can’t find any evidence that Cavan Scott has ever worked in the medical field.

THE SILVER COIN #13 (Image, 2022) – “Threshold,” [W] Johnnie Christmas, [A] Michael Walsh. Karena and Brett are having a baby, but Brett denies paternity. Later, while arguing with Brett over a pay phone, Karena finds the silver coin in her change. Then her unborn baby talks to her and announces its plans to take over the world. To defeat its plot, Karena has to stab her own wrist with scissors so she can drop the coin. The baby is born safely, but it and all the other babies born that night have eyes that look like the coin. And significantly, that night is December 31, 1999. Also, Brett gets killed, which is good because he’s an asshole. This issue includes some really gruesome body horror.

SEASON OF THE BRUJA #5 (Oni, 2022) – untitled, [W] Aaron Durán, [A] Sara Soler. Althalia manages to rescue her grandmother from Mictlan, but then she discovers that the ceramic frog is missing, which means Abuelita is really dead. Althalia has to say goodbye to her grandmother. I had to reread the rest of the series in order to figure out what was going on in this issue, but after I did that, I found this issue to be a satisfying conclusion. I hope there’s a sequel to Season of the Bruja, although I wonder if Oni Press will survive long enough to publish it.

BATGIRLS #9 (DC, 2022) – “Bat Girl Summer,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad, [A] Neil Googe. The Batgirls fight KGBeast, and then they discover that their creepy neighbor Mr. Greene has been murdered. Also, they discover a mysterious coded note. This is obviously a book cipher, where each set of three numbers refers to a page, line, and word from a specific book, and the book is probably the edition of Poe that Cass is given by Mr. Dhaliwal earlier in the issue. However, I can’t break the cipher without having access to that edition of Poe. Cass’s    newfound interest in books is really cute. This issue looks visually similar to the earlier issues of the series, despite Neil Googe’s very different style of draftsmanship compared to Jorge Corona, and I believe the reason is because the colorist, Rico Renzi, has been using the same color scheme throughout the series.

THE DEADLIEST BOUQUET #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Erica Schultz. Florist Jasmine Hawthorn has been murdered. Her three daughters, Poppy, Rose and Violet, have to overcome their difficulties and solve the murder. This series is entertaining because of the clashing personalities of the three sisters, and I also like its flower theme.

TRVE KVLT #1 (IDW, 2022) – “You Got Time to Lean, You Got Time to Clean,” [W] Scott Bryan Wilson, [A] Liana Kangas. Our protagonist is an insufferable jerk who thinks he’s a big deal because he manages a fast food restaurant. One day he decides to augment his income by robbing the nearby stores. While doing so, he steals a package from an armored truck, not knowing that the package is the property of a Satanic cult. The funniest moment in this issue is when the guy robs a comic book store, but doesn’t bother to take any of the old comic books, because he believes the owner’s lie that the comics aren’t worth anything. I have never seen the appeal of Liana Kangas’s artwork.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #40 (Marvel, 2022) – “Trials Part Three,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Alvaro Lopez & Juan Frigeri. Carol’s trial continues, and she tries to avoid killing the orphaned baby dragon. Eventually she solves that problem and discovers that she’s been in the Bar with No Doors all along. Back on Earth, the Enchantress kidnaps Lieutenant Trouble. The best part about this issue is the panel where Alriac, King of the Snatmen is eating Snat Corn.

2000 AD #2272 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Dredd’s team continues their journey to the Citadel, whatever that is. Throughout this story Dredd is depicted as a ruthless but efficient military commander. Proteus Vex: as above. Vex and Agent Naday continue their escape. The Order: as above. The shadow creatures from “The Gulf” try to recruit Ben Franklin to their side. His comrade, whose name I don’t remember, saves him but gets lost at sea. That’s the end of this story arc. Kingmaker: as above. A corporate representative, Von Bek (a Moorcockian name), tells Crixus that he now owns his planet and is obligated to mine its reserves of “quintessence.” Brink: as above. Another chapter in which nothing interesting happens.

TIGER’S TONGUE #2 (Mad Cave, 2022) – untitled, [W] Olivia Stephens, [A] Diansakhu Banton-Perry. The two sisters compete in the first of several trials. This comic is not terrible, but neither is it good enough to continue reading. Again, I’m disappointed at the generic nature of Tiger’s Tongue’s African setting. I was hoping that this comic would be more Africanfuturist, and that it would engage with some particular African culture.

JURASSIC LEAGUE #4 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Juan Gedeon, [W] Daniel Warren Johnson, [A] Jon Mikel. More of the same stuff as last issue, but at least the quality of the artwork is much higher.

2000 AD #2273 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Dredd and his team continue to fight their way to the Citadel. By this point, this was my favorite story in each prog. Kingmaker: as above. This chapter is mostly a conversation between Crixus and Ablard. Proteus Vex: as above. Vex and Naday continue to evade pursuit. Fiends of the Eastern Front: “1963 Part 1,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Tiernen Trevallion. In 1963, while flying over the Soviet Union, an American spy pilot is killed by spiders. The Americans receive intelligence on this from a Soviet necromancer who wants to defect. This version of Fiends of the Eastern Front is a Cold War espionage story, while the original version from 1980 was a war story. Brink: as above. More pointless nonsense, except that at the end of the story, we witness the unions performing a strange mystic ritual.

SLUMBER #6 (Image, 2022) – “Waking Life,” [W] Tyler Burton Smith, [A] Vanessa Cardinali. There’s a flashback to Valkira’s origin, and then Stetson kills Valkira, but Valkira comes back to life and joins her dream detective agency. I don’t quite understand this ending. Slumber was interesting, but it’s not among the top tier of recent Image comics.

WONDER WOMAN #790 (DC, 2022) – “The Villainy of Our Fears Finale,” [W] Michael W. Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Emanuela Lupacchino et al. Diana’s mirror duplicate sacrifices herself to save Diana from Dr. Psycho, and then Diana kicks Dr. Psycho’s ass. Dr. Psycho is depicted here as not just a horrible MRA, but also a domestic abuser. He insults and controls the mirror-girl (who he calls “sweetheart,” but she in fact has no name), even though he’s dependent on her protection. It’s a cathartic and sad moment when she breaks his control, only to die immediately. I disliked this issue’s Young Diana story less than I usually do. Antiope’s manipulation of Diana is eerily convincing, and Hippolyta plays right into Antiope’s hands by trying to tear Diana away from Antiope.

HEART EYES #1 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Dennis Hopeless, [A] Victor Ibáñez. In a postapocalyptic world filled with me, a wandering girl is rescued by a group of survivors. This comic has some interesting artwork and characterization, but a severe lack of setup or worldbuilding. We don’t get enough background information, and it’s not clear to me just what caused the catastrophe, or what makes the monsters show up. By contrast, Human Remains is a fairly similar comic to this one, but in Human Remains, the way the monsters worked was clear from the start.

MS. MARVEL AND MOON KNIGHT #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] Ibraim Roberson. Kamala teams up with Moon Knight, a character I’ve never cared about, against the same menace from the previous one-shot. After reading this issue I realized what was the problem with Jody Houser’s Ms. Marvel: there’s no supporting cast, and we never see Kamala in her civilian identity. Kamala is interesting not because of her powers, but because of her connection to her family, friends, and community. Because Ms. Marvel and Moon Knight includes none of those things, it’s just a generic superhero comic.

DAREDEVIL #2 (650) (Marvel, 2022) – “The Red Fist Saga Part 2,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Chechetto, et al. While fighting with Matt, Goldy claims that he was secretly responsible for every major development in Matt’s life. I prefer to believe that these are not actual retcons, and that Goldy is just lying to Matt. Goldy is certainly not a reliable source, and he’s also a smug, self-righteous asshole. Various pages of this issue are drawn by classic Daredevil artists of the past, including Alex Maleev, Chris Samnee and John Romita Jr. However, it’s annoying that there’s no indication of which pages are by which guest artists. This issue includes a backup story by Ann Nocenti and Zdarsky, which is impossible to understand because of its overly compressed plot. There are also some strips by Chris Giarrusso, who I strongly dislike, and a gallery of all 650 Daredevil covers.

ORDINARY GODS #8 (Image, 2022) – “Ordinary Dogs,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Joe Clark, [A] Felipe Watanabe. The dog, Gracie, singlehandedly rescues the other good guys from the evil old blonde lady. By the way, I don’t think the villain’s name is mentioned anywhere in this issue, and I wish this series had a character guide. There’s no possible way I can remember all the gods’ names. Anyway, then the gods discover that they have one key to the God Machine, and the other key is in Shanghai.

BLACK ADAM #3 (DC, 2022) – “Whom the Gods Would Destroy: Theogony Book 3,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Rafa Sandoval. Black Adam fights Ereshkigal and the Bull of Heaven. I like this series’s use of Mesopotamian mythology, but by this point I had already decided that this issue would be my last.

2000 AD #2274 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. The team travels through the sewers to the Citadel, and Dredd continues to assert his absolute authority. Again, this is easily the best story in the issue. Kingmaker: as above. Crixus decides to destroy the quintessence mining rigs, much to Von Bek’s annoyance. Proteus Vex: as above. This chapter is mostly about the aliens who look like giant legless dolls. I’m not sure if these are the same race as Proteus Vex or not. Mercifully, this is the last chapter of this story arc.  Fiends of the Eastern Front: as above. A vampire and a voodoo sorcerer team up to investigate the disappearance of the pilot. BTW, each of the progs after #2270 includes a page that summarizes some notable past issues of 2000 AD. Brink: as above. This is another boring chapter, and it includes an annoying number of blacked-out curse words.

2000 AD #2275 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Dredd’s team, now much reduced, finally makes it into the Citadel. Kingmaker: as above. Ichnar the Wraith-King comes back to life, and the quintessence company arrives with a giant spaceship. This is the  end of this story arc. Intestinauts: “The Bowel Impactors Part 1,” [W] Arthur Wyatt, [A] Pye Watt. The Intestinauts are intelligent robots designed to clear harmful materials out of a spaceport’s sewers. While performing their mission, they come across a giant fatberg. This story is a breath of fresh air (though that phrase might not be appropriate, given the subject matter) after a bunch of rather boring progs. Intestinauts’s story is hilariously disgusting, and Pye Watt’s art and coloring are very vivid. Fiends: as above. The defecting necromancer is not who he claims to be, and he cuts the vampire’s head off. The voodoo sorcerer comes across Baba Yaga’s hut. Brink: as above. Yet another boring chapter.

DUO #4 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Khoi Pham. This issue sort of explains why the Immutables are relevant to the plot, and it also includes more of interactions between David and Kelly. That’s good because those interactions are the main reason to read this comic. Still, this series is underwhelming and it’s not Greg Pak’s best work.

BLOOD SYNDICATE SEASON ONE #4 (DC, 2022) – “4 the Hard Way,” [W] Geoffrey Thorne, [A] Chriscross & Sean Damien Hill. Holocaust declares himself the king of Paris Island, and we’re introduced to a couple new Blood Syndicate members, Brickhouse and Third Rail. This is another disappointing series. Holocaust is an impressive villain, but he takes up too much of this issue, and there’s not enough room to explore all the other characters. To be fair, when I checked this issue again, I realized I was overestimating the number of pages that were devoted to Holocaust.

ABSOLUTION #2 (AWA, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Mike Deodato Jr. Nina assassinates a bunch of mobsters, but gets low ratings for it, and it’s revealed that some of her victims were undeserving of death. Meanwhile, Nina gets a message from a woman, “Magicah,” whose employer is r*p*ng her, and this gives her a new idea about who she should target. This issue is much more captivating than issue 1, mostly due to Magicah’s frustrating plight, and it makes me excited about this series.

JUSTICE WARRIORS #3 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Keep It Peaceful,” [W] Matt Bors, [A] Ben Clarkson. The price of bread crashes, the Prince dude decides to drop money out of the sky, a cop is killed by a mob, and a zodiac-sign-obsessed gang makes its appearance. This series still seems unable to decide what it’s about or what it’s making fun of. It has no coherent plot or theme. I’m continuing to read it only because I’m an Ahoy completist, and because I like Matt Bors’s political cartoons.

FLAVOR GIRLS #2 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Loïc Locatelli-Kournwsky. A complex story that’s full of characterization and worldbuilding. There’s also a backup story that’s an adaptation of a Japanese horror film. And we learn that all the girls’ powers are based on fruit flavors. I do wonder how this series’ plot can be wrapped up in just one more issue, but other than that, it’s quite a fun comic.

BATMAN: ONE BAD DAY – THE RIDDLER #1 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. I hated this comic. It’s the latest in a series of disappointing efforts from Tom King, who is quickly squandering the goodwill he built up with The Vision and Mister Miracle. The overall problem with these One Bad Day one-shots is that each of them is a different Batman villain’s version of The Killing Joke, but The Killing Joke itself was a mistake, and DC ought to pretend that it never happened. The problem with this comic in particular is that it wastes the potential of the Riddler’s character. The Riddler is my favorite Batman villain because he’s the living embodiment of mysteries and questions. He ought to be written as a brilliant puzzlemaster, and as a puzzle himself. But instead Tom King chooses to turn him into just a worse version of the Joker. In his depiction, the Riddler knows everything about everyone, he can kill anybody for any reason, and Batman can’t stop him without killing him. As this review points out, it’s implausible that the RIddler is so omnipotent and omniscient. Also, when a villain is this powerful, it becomes impossible to tell interesting stories about him, and so this issue ends with Batman killing the Riddler, because there’s no other way it can end. The trouble with the Riddler is that only a few writers can write him properly, and Tom King is not one of those writers.

BATMAN: THE KNIGHT #8 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Carmine Di Giandomenico. Bruce trains with an academic named Daniel Captio, hoping that Dr. Captio can help him overcome his moral constraints. After an encounter with Anton and an agent of Ra’s al Ghul, Bruce decides that he can’t give up his morality. Bruce and Anton go off to meet Ra’s for the first time. (Addendum: According to my collection database, I did buy Batman: The Knight #7, but somehow I never read it. Maybe I misplaced it.)

QUESTS ASIDE #4 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Brian Schirmer, [A] Elena Gogou. I guess there’s some reasonably good characterization in this issue, but its jokes aren’t funny, and I don’t care about any of its characters. I think there’s just one more issue, or else I would give up on this series. I just realized that Brian Schrimer wrote Fairlady, which I also  disliked, and I’m going to avoid his work from now on.

2000 AD #2276 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. As they fight through the Citadel, Dredd and his team inexplicably run into an exact duplicate of Dredd. Hope: “In the Shadows,” [W] Guy Adams, [A] Jimmy Broxton. A murder mystery set on a Hollywood movie set. Jimmy Broxton is an excellent artist, with impressive mixed-media technique and a black-and-white art style that reminds me of Sean Phillips or David Roach. Intestinauts: as above. The Intestinauts encounter their enemies, the Bowel Impactors. This chapter includes an utterly spectacular two-page spread depicting the landscape of the sewers. Fiends: as above. The vampire and the sorcerer both wake up in Baba Yaga’s house, and the vampire releases its astral form. This is the most Hellboy-esque 2000 AD story I’ve ever seen. Brink: as above. There’s still nothing here of any interest.

Older comics:

THE PROWLER #2 (Eclipse, 1987) – “Blood and Evil,” [W] Tim Truman, [A] John K. Snyder III. An elderly superhero teams up with a young sidekick against a creepy eternal life cult. This is perhaps not Tim Truman’s best work of the ‘80s, but it’s interesting. There’s also a backup story, co-written by Michael H. Price and drawn by Graham Nolan, that takes place  during the Prowler’s 1940s career (although the cover says that this story is set in the 1930s).

TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE #53 (IDW, 2016) – “The Dying of the Light Part 4: At Close of Day,” [W] James Roberts, [A] Alex Milne. The besieged Autobots prepare for the final battle against the DJD. There’s a poignant moment in this issue where six of the Autobots swear eternal friendship with each other. Also, Minimus Ambus and Dominus Ambus become the new Ultra Magnus.

LOCKE & KEY: HEAD GAMES #5 (IDW, 2009) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. I’ve had this comic in my to-be-read boxes for a long time, but I thought I’d already read it, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I hadn’t. In this issue Dodge uses the head key and the teleportation key to cause all sorts of havoc, and he also seduces Kinsey.

TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE #54 (IDW, 2016) – “The Dying of the Light Part 5: Rage, Rage,” as above. The Autobots gain super powers using a “spark spasm,” but the new powers don’t last long. Megatron discovers that “fool’s energon” is just a placebo, and this somehow motivates him to join the battle in person. He defeats a bunch of the enemy singlehandedly, but then his cannon is destroyed, and Tarn and Overlord appear to shoot him dead. By this point I was enjoying this series a lot, despite my incomplete understanding of its plot.

VAMPIRELLA #5 (Dynamite, 2016) – untitled, [W] Kate Leth, [A] Eman Casallos. This issue is mostly an action sequence where Vampi fights some monstrous blonde lady. The context for this fight is not explained, and overall this issue isn’t interesting at all.

PROPHET: EARTH WAR #5 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Brandon Graham & Simon Roy, [A] various. This issue includes some scenes with Glory. These scenes were supposed to have been drawn by Sophie Campbell, but she was unable to, and Brandon Graham drew them himself. As usual, this issue’s plot makes no sense.

ART OPS #9 (Vertigo, 2016) – “Popism Part 2: The Neighborhood of Dads,” [W] Shaun Simon, [A] Matt Brundage. This is another poorly written issue, and it isn’t even drawn by Mike Allred or Eduardo Risso, as earlier issues were. This comic wants to be Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol, but Shaun Simon is a far less skillful writer than Morrison. The villains of this storyline are a group of stereotypical suburban dads. They claim Fredric Wertham as one of their members, although Wertham himself had no children, as far as I can tell.

SECRETS OF LOVE AND MARRIAGE #24 (Charlton, 1961) – “There’s Always Tomorrow,” [W] Joe Gill?, [A] Joe Sinnott, etc. A collection of four boring, predictable stories with lifeless art. Charlton’s romance comics were of such low quality that I often don’t bother to buy them, even if they’re very cheap.

SUPERMAN #38 (DC, 1989) – “Unnatural Disaster,” [W/A] Jerry Ordway. Emil Hamilton tries to cure Jimmy Olsen of a mysterious disease, but instead exchanges him for an ancient creature called Husque. This character and his sister Tehra were introduced in Adventures of Superman #443. Also, Superman searches fruitlessly for Brainiac, then saves some people from a tidal wave. This issue’s plot is rather odd, but it includes some very striking artwork, especially the two-page splash depicting the tidal wave.

EERIE TALES #12 (I.W., 1964) – “The Werewolf of Warsham Manor!”, [W] unknown, [A] Moe Marcus. This comic is an unauthorized reprint of Eerie #1, published by Avon in 1951. It consists of four horror stories, three of which are boring, overwritten, and poorly drawn. The fourth story, “The Subway Horror!”, drawn by Fred Kida, is head and shoulders above the other three. It has a funny plot about a henpecked husband (or an abused husband, as we would now say) who tries and fails to kill his wife, and Kida’s visual storytelling is exciitng and Eisner-esque. This story was first published in Eerie Comics #1, a 1947 one-shot (the 1951 series did not have “comics” in its title), and Fantagraphics liked it enough to include it in the 2010 book Four Color Fear.

SUGAR & SPIKE #98 (DC, 1971) – “Sugar & Spike Meet a Real Halloween Goblin!”, [W/A] Sheldon Mayer. Two of the stories in this issue are reprints from earlier in the series, but the other two, both guest-starring Bernie the Brain, are original. The better of the two new stories is “Who Fooled the Fooler?” In this story, a scammer tries to sell a fake “youth and beauty box” to Spike’s dad’s company, but Sugar and Spike accidentally foil this scheme. This was the last issue of the series, though there is no indication of this in the issue itself. Mayer continued to create new Sugar & Spike for foreign markets, There was an issue 99, but it was published in 1992, after Sheldon Mayer’s death.

TARZAN: THE BECKONING #5 (Malibu, 1993) – “Into the Web,” [W] Henning Kure, [W/A] Tom Yeates. Tarzan has a flashback involving an encounter with an immortal witch doctor, and Jane has an adventure in a hidden valley. This issue has some exciting artwork, though its plot is not very impressive. It seems like the point of this issue is to explain Tarzan and Jane’s unnatural lifespan.

2000 AD #2277 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. The two Dredds argue with each other, then flee from the Sovs’ pursuit. Brink: as above. The journalist dude talks with an old union member who takes him into the underworks below the city. This chapter is a bit more interesting than the earlier ones.  Hope: as above. A detective, Mallory Hope, is hired to solve last issue’s murder, in exchange for information about his missing wife. Intestinauts: as above. The Intestinauts meet some intelligent microbes known as “Tummy Pals,” and then they fight the Bowel Impactors again. The art in this storyline continues to be brilliant. Fiends: as above. The three main characters escape from Baba Yaga’s hut.

TOTALLY AWESOME HULK #7 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Alan Davis. As usual, Bruce Banner wakes up lost and naked in the middle of nowhere, but this time he can’t turn into the Hulk. Luckily Amadeus Cho shows up and rescues him. Now that he can’t Hulk out, Bruce goes around endangering his life on purpose, until Tony Stark comes to collect him. Alan Davis is a favorite of mine, and I’m not sure why I didn’t read this comic much sooner.

BLACK WIDOW #9 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Chris Samnee. In an isolated cabin, Natasha and Bucky fight another super-spy, the Recluse. This issue has a pretty boring plot, but Chris Samnee’s action sequences are thrilling. Chris Samnee is an excellent artist who’s had the bad luck to work on a bunch of poorly written comics, such as Fire Power and this Black Widow series.

TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE #55 (IDW, 2016) – untitled, [W] James Roberts, [A] Alex Milne. Tarn’s true identity is revealed to be Glitch, but I don’t know the significance of this. Some time-traveling Autobots appear out of nowhere. Megatron uses black hole powers to defeat the DJD in a somewhat anticlimactic way. Then Rung and Nightbeat travel to the inside of Necroworld, which is a mirror of the surface of Cybertron, and they accidentally trigger a planet-destroying bomb.

SUPERMAN #346 (DC, 1980) – “Superman’s Streak of Bad Luck!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Curt Swan. While moonlighting at the Daily Planet, Superman investigates a new game show on which celebrity guests compete to lose their money. This game show seems to be based on The Price is Right. In his investigation, Superman keeps suffering from bad luck. He discovers that the bad luck is being caused by Professor Amos Fortune, whose appearance in this story is surprising because he’s mostly a Justice League villain. I wonder if Amos Fortune was named after the Newbery Medal-winning novel Amos Fortune, Free Man.

ART & BEAUTY #3 (Fantagraphics, 2016) – untitled, [W/A] Robert Crumb. This is a very disturbing comic – although it’s not really a comic at all, but a collection of illustrations with commentary. It consists of Crumb’s drawings of various women, some from photographs and some from life. Crumb’s draftsmanship is beautiful as always, but throughout the issue he shows no interest in the women as people. He discusses them only as collections of surfaces and volumes. What’s even worse is that some of the women are drawn from “candid” photos. In other words, Crumb photographed them himself without their consent, or allowed other people to do so, and then he redrew these photographs and exhibited these drawings in a gallery. So Crumb appropriates these women’s images in a very unfair and creepy way, and then he tries to justify this act by including a lot of pseudo-intellectual quotations and meditations about art. I don’t think Crumb cares about art, at least at this point in his career. I think his alleged artistic intentions, at least in this comic, are just an excuse for gratifying his fetish for thighs and asses, and it’s dishonest of him to pretend otherwise.  

2000 AD #2278 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Dredd and his surviving teammates escape into the sewers. Dredd throws his clone into the water, where the clone is eaten by a sea monster. Back in the present, Winterton asks to whisper something in the priest’s ear, then grabs the priest’s ear with his teeth. Hope: as above. Hope interviews the director of the film on which an actor was murdered. Then Hope starts to choke to death while talking on the phone. One of the minor characters in this chapter appears to be named after Jesus Blasco. Intestinauts: as above. The Intestinauts and Tummy Pals defeat the Bowel Impactors. This was a very fun story. Fiends: as above. This story’s resemblance to Hellboy grows even greater, as the last panel shows Baba Yaga talking with Rasputin. Brink: as above. The journalist and the old dude discuss the superstitions associated with the habitat’s underworks.

FORBIDDEN WORLDS #125 (ACG, 1964) – “Magicman!”, [W] Richard Hughes, [A] Pete Costanza. This story introduces Magicman, perhaps ACG’s only real superhero. Magicman is the son of the legendary wizard Cagliostro, and thus he’s immortal and has rather ill-defined powers. In the present day, he saves an American senator from being captured by the Viet Cong. This story’s positive portrayal of the Vietnam War is unusual, though Don Markstein says that at this time, the war wasn’t as unpopular as it soon became. (BTW, Markstein himself has a letter in this issue.) Later in its run, Magicman abandoned its Vietnam setting and became more of a parody. This issue also contains two self-contained stories. One of them, drawn by Kurt Schaffenberger, is an allegedly true story about a banker’s mysterious disappearance, and the other, drawn by George Wilhelms, is about some microscopic creatures who enlarge themselves and try to invade Earth. The concept of a microverse is most familiar from Marvel’s stories with the Micronauts, Jarella and Psycho-Man, but Marvel’s first microverse was introduced in 1943. I wonder what was the first story to include a microscopic civilization.

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR #3 (Dark Horse, 1994) – untitled, [W/A] Frank Miller. Dwight and Marv get in a bar fight. Then Dwight goes looking for a woman named Ava, but after he kills Ava’s husband or boyfriend, Ava shoots him. Frank Miller’s artwork in this series was considered revolutionary at the time, but I’m not sure whether I agree.

CEREBUS #137 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1990) – “Like-a-Looks,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Three or four of Lord Julius’s duplicates try to decide which of them, if any, is the real one. This issue is full of the sort of brilliant humor that used to be one of Cerebus’s key selling points. By this point in its run, Cerebus was rarely funny anymore, and as a result it was less readable. Also, after this two-parter Lord Julius mostly vanished from the series, and that was a pity because he was one of its most fascinating characters. This issue’s cover says “Jaka’s Story Epilogue 1,” but “Like-a-Looks” has little to do with “Jaka’s Story.” This issue’s backup feature is a preview of Brat Pack #1.

PROPHET: EARTH WAR #6 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Brandon Graham & Simon Roy, [A] various. This issue doesn’t feel like any kind of conclusion to Brandon Graham’s Prophet run. And for some reason it ends with a long series of single-panel flashbacks and flashforwards, none of which have any apparent connection to each other. And thus we finally come to the end of this stack.