November and December 2022 reviews


2000 AD #1846 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd: ”Bender Part 2,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ben Willsher. Al Lock reveals that he killed his own father, and his partner Bender continues engaging in police brutality. Defoe: “The Damned Part 11,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Leigh Gallagher. Defoe and Faust fight atop the mast of the ship, and Defoe wins and throws Faust into the ocean. The Ten-Seconders: “Godsend Part 8,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Edmund Bagwell. Another chapter that makes no sense. Age of the Wolf: “Wolfworld Part 7,” [W] Alec Worley, [A] Jon Davis-Hunt. The one-eyed lady turns into a werewolf while looking for their daughter, and the evil wolves show the daughter the tree-city of Yggdrasil. Slaine: “Book of Scars Part 3,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mick McMahon. A flashback to the “Sky Chariots” story where Slaine was assisting one evil drune against another. Lots of great dialogue here, such as “I will cut out your windpipe because your conversation is not pleasing to me!”

MERCURY HEAT #4 (Avatar, 2015) – “The Long, Slow Dawn,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Nahuel Lopez. A serise of flashbacks shows that Luiza went to Mercury because her “personality classification” made her unemployable on Earth. In the present, Luiza escapes from Mercury’s freezing surface and discovers a plot to destroy the planet’s human settlements. Mercury Heat is interesting, though it feels like Kieron wasn’t as committed to it as to his higher-profile creator-owned work. However, the problem with this series, as well as other Avatar comics, is the low standards of artwork. Avatar comics always look like they’re pornographic, even when they’re not.

PROVIDENCE #7 (Avatar, 2016) – “The Picture”, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jacen Burrows. Robert returns to Boston in the middle of riots caused by the 1919 police strike. This strike really did happen, and then-governor Calvin Coolidge’s hardline reaction to it helped him become President. Escaping from the riots, Robert visits the photographer Ronald Pitman, who shows Robert his paintings of gruesome subterranean ghouls. One of these ghouls, King George, appears and speaks to Robert, though Robert has his back turned and assumes that the visitation is not real. Robert leaves Pitman and visits the writer Randall Carver. I still haven’t read any more of this series, because, again, the annotations at the end of each issue are very difficult to get through.

SIMPSONS COMICS #70 (Bongo, 2002) – “Greek to Me,” [W] Ian Boothby, [A] John Costanza. A series of parodies of Greek myths. The backup feature is a series of parodies of Aesop’s fables. This comic is funny, but it doesn’t make me feel motivated to read more Simpsons comics – other than the Treehouse of Horror specials, which are very hard to find.

STARTLING STORIES: BANNER #3 (Marvel, 2001) – untitled, [W] Brian Azzarello, [A] Richard Corben. This comic’s artwork is excellent, with lots of Corben’s trademark body horror. However, Corben’s art is wasted on Azzarello’s pointless, stupid plot. Early in this issue, Bruce Banner visits a gas station, and we see that two criminals have held the place up and taken a woman hostage. Neither the criminals nor the hostage ever appear again, either in this issue or in the next one, and it’s unclear why Azzarello introduced them at all. This issue is more evidence that Azzarello was never a good writer. He got lots of high-profile assignments because people mistakenly thought it was him, not Eduardo Risso, who was responsible for the success of 100 Bullets.

JOE THE BARBARIAN #4 (Vertigo, 2010) – “Inventoria,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Sean Murphy. I think I have this entire miniseries, but I’ve never felt motivated to finish reading it, because I have no idea what it’s about. It seems to be a grim-and-gritty version of Toy Story. Grant Morrison’s work is always very confusing, but most of his miniseries are easier to follow than this one. Sean Murphy’s art here is good, but not as stunning as in The Wake.

GREEN ARROW #75 (DC, 1993) – “Auld Acquaintance,” [W] Mike Grell, [A] Rick Hoberg. This was the comic book that I’d had for the longest time without reading it. At a New Year’s Eve party, Dinah witnesses Ollie kissing another woman named Marianne. Then the party is crashed by Shado, who is trying to save Ollie from a yakuza assassin. While trying to hide the injured Ollie, Marianne, Dinah and Shado have a long conversation about him. Then we learn that the assassin is Roy Harper, making his first appearance in this entire volume. The yakuza are holding his daughter Lian hostage to force him to kill Ollie, but Ollie helps him turn the tables on them and rescue Lian. Afterward, Dinah breaks up with Ollie, having decided that she’s sick of sharing him with other women. I already have over half of this volume of Green Arrow, and I’d like to have a complete run of it someday, but it’s not high on my priority list.

BOX OFFICE POISON COLOR COMICS #1 (IDW, 1996/2017) – untitled, [W/A] Alex Robinson. A color reprint of the first issue of Box Office Poison, in which we meet most of the key characters. Box Office Poison feels a bit dated now, especially its depiction of bookstores, but it’s a charming slice-of-life comic. However, its artwork was not meant to be seen in color, and the colorization obscures some important details. As an artist Alex Robinson was heavily indebted to Dave Sim, though he’s developed a more independent style in later work. The back of the issue includes some interesting commentary. In particular, Sherman’s bedroom has a weird layout with nonfunctional doors near the ceiling, and in the commentary, Robinson says he can’t remember why he designed the room like that.

PERHAPANAUTS #4 (Dark Horse, 2006) – “Night of the Aswang!”, [W] Todd DeZago, [A] Craig Rousseau. Some superheroic monsters encounter an aswang, a creature from Filipino mythology. Speaking of Filipino mythology, I have the first volume of Trese, and I ought to read it soon. Anyway, Perhapanauts has an interesting style of art and coloring, but it feels too similar to Hellboy.

TRANSFORMERS VS. G.I. JOE #2 (IDW, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] Tom Scioli, [W] John Barber. This issue consists mostly of combat scenes. Unlike later issues of the series, it has a conventional plot with limited weirdness, and so the main appeal of this issue is Tom Scioli’s art. I think Transformers vs. G.I. Joe was the first series where he developed his own unique sensibility, rather than just imitating Kirby’s style. In particular, in Transformers vs. G.I. Joe, he stopped trying to draw in a slick, professional way, and instead embraced a deliberately crude style of linework.

SKYWARD #15 (Image, 2019) – “Fix the World Part 5,” [W] Joe Henderson, [A] Lee Garbett. In the final issue of the series, Willa convinces the underground city of Crystal Springs to accept Barrow and his marauders as citizens, and she and her love interest (Lucas?) confess their mutual attraction. I still have a bunch more issues of this series to collect, but this ending is very sweet, and Joe Henderson is an excellent writer. I wish he would write more comic books – either a sequel to Shadecraft, or soemthing else. Also, I’ve grown fond of Lee Garbett’s art style.

MOTHER PANIC #6 (DC, 2017) – “Broken Things Part 3,” [W] Jody Houser, [A] Shawn Crystal. I don’t understand what happens in this comic, and I don’t care. The only interesting thing about Mother Panic is the main character’s conflicted relationship with her mother, and even that’s not very interesting.

While looking through my boxes of unread comics, I discovered two that I bought earlier this year, but misplaced without reading them. One of them was Marvels #12, which I had completely forgotten about – until I rediscovered my copy of it, I didn’t realize I hadn’t read it. The other was Batman: The Knight #7, and I did know that I hadn’t read this issue (see my review of issue 8), so I’m glad I found it.  

THE MARVELS #12 (Marvel, 2022) – “What Happens Now,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Yildiray Cinar. Threadneedle shows up to resolve the situation with the incarnation of Siancong, and the two of them walk off into the sunset. This was a really strange miniseries. It felt almost more like a fairy tale than a superhero story. Like many of Kurt’s other recent comics, The Marvels is weird, but in a whimsical instead of an eerie way. They makes the reader think “Hmm, that’s strange, I wonder what it might mean,” but without threatening the reader’s sense of ontological security, as horror or dark fantasy tends to do.

BATMAN: THE KNIGHT #7 (DC, 2022) – “The Knight Part 7,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Carmine Di Giandomenico. Bruce trains in magic with John Zatara, and of course he also meets his childhood friend Zatanna. The three of them team up to exorcise a demon. Bruce’s friendship with Zatanna is an important addition to his character. I believe Paul Dini was responsible for the idea that they knew each other as children. This idea was first introduced in the animated TV show (which I never watched, BTW, but the news about Kevin Conroy is very sad), and then incorporated into the comics in Detective Comics #833.

FOUR COLOR #976 (Dell, 1959) – “Gypsy Warning,” [W] unknown, [A] Alex Toth. Zorro helps Captain Garcia foil a plot to replace all of Los Angeles’s gunpowder with charcoal. This issue has a complicated and exciting plot, and of course Alex Toth’s artwork is absolutely impeccable. His Zorro run was one of his greatest works, although I would say that his masterpiece was Bravo for Adventure. A notable element of Toth’s Zorro is the bumbling Captain Garcia, who seeks to capture Zorro, but would be helpless without him. William Nericcio published an article about Toth’s Zorro which is available here.

COYOTE #15 (Marvel, 1985) – “The Left Stuff!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Chas Truog. My copy of this issue is signed by Chas Truog, though I think the signature was already there when I bought it, because I don’t recall ever meeting him. This issue’s main plot revolves around a summit between Reagan and Gorbachev in Moscow, and much of the issue is narrated from the perspective of a KGB agent named Braditov. There’s also a cameo appearance by Scorpio Rose, and there’s another plot involving a villain who’s missing one-quarter of his skull. Coyote was even more hopelessly convoluted than most of Englehart’s ‘80s work, and it’s mostly interesting because of its animalistic protagonist.

THE JUNGLE TWINS #18 (Whitman, 1982) – “Royal Warriors,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Paul Norris. This is the last issue of the series, and was published seven years after issue 17. It consists of a reprint of issue 1. By 1982, Whitman’s comics were no longer sold separately, but only as part of bagged packages of three comics each, and these packages were distributed not in newsstands but in toy stores and other unconventional venues. Some of these “pre-pack comics” are very rare and valuable, but mostly just the ones published in late 1980, I guess because they had poor distribution. As for the actual content of Jungle Twins #1, it’s pretty conventional jungle-adventure material. This issue is the origin story of the two protagonists, a pair of white youths who were raised by a lost African tribe after their parents were killed in a plane crash.  

TANK GIRL 2 #1 (Dark Horse, 1993) – various stories, [W] Alan Martin, [A] Jamie Hewlett. This was an eBay purchase. I believe that all the stories in this and the previous miniseries were reprinted from Deadline, and so these Dark Horse comics are probably not the best way to obtain this material. Perhaps the best way to read Tank Girl would be in the three Color Classics volumes. The original stories were black and white, but Jamie Hewlett’s artwork really benefits from color. Anyway, Tank Girl has a fairly incoherent plot, but it’s more notable for its anarchic punk aesthetic – as Lisa Fernandes wrote, “The ultimate “point” of Tank Girl is brashness and impoliteness, with a cheeky and wild sense of humor.” The other “point” is Jamie Hewlett’s spectacular art. His pages are full of fascinating detail, and their layouts are often radically unconventional. He should be recognized as a major comics artist, but I think he’s mostly known today for his involvement in Gorillaz.

WEIRD WAR TALES #123 (DC, 1983) – “Captain Spaceman Will Be Waiting!”, [W] Dan Mishkin & Gary Cohn, [A] Rich Buckler. In this issue’s lead story, the memory of a dead Flash Gordon-esque hero inspires his fans to resist an alien invasion. I interviewed Dan Mishkin over the phone for my research on Amethyst, but I finally met him in person at CSS in East Lansing. It was great to meet him face to face. This issue’s second story, by Robert Kanigher and Ric Estrada, is a silly and inaccurate retelling of the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs. In the last story, by Howard Post and Jerome K. Moore, a young Nazi rejects the Christian religion, only to be crushed by a statue of Moses with the Ten Commandments.

HUMAN TARGET #1 (DC, 2000/2010) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Edvin Biukovic. This is a “What’s Next” reprint, intended for readers of Watchmen who want to know what else to read. The 2000 Human Target miniseries had the same premise as other versions of the character: Christopher Chance makes a living by impersonating people who are about to be killed. In this issue, his client is a black preacher who’s on a crusade against crack. There’s also a subplot where someone else is impersonating Chance himself. The best part of this comic is Edvin Biukovic’s art. HIs draftsmanship is very clear and crisp, and his visual compositions are exciting. Sadly this was one of his last works. His early death was a great loss, though his fellow Croatian artists, like Goran Parlov and Tonci Zonjic, have carried on his legacy.

GRASS KINGS #7 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. The protagonist (Bruce?) investigates a long-ago murder. I still don’t understand Grass Kings’s plot, and I’m not sure it’s worth trying to understand.

STINZ #3 (Fantagraphics, 1989) – “Breaking In,” [W/A] Donna Barr. Stinz excels in his military drills, despite being constantly targeted for abuse by his drill sergeant. Finally, Stinz comes up with a way to accomplish a task that seems impossible for a centaur: climbing over a vertical wall. Actually he jumps straight over it. Stinz is a really cute series with lots of historical detail, and I need to read more of it. I sometimes feel reluctant to read it because of its very ornate art and lettering, but that’s not fair.  

THE WAKE #5 (Vertigo, 2013) – “The Source” etc., [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Sean Murphy. A creature invades the undersea installation. While the protagonists are trying to escape to the surface, they discover that other creatures have invaded the surface world. Shockingly, the protagonists don’t make it out alive; they all drown, and the creatures go on to destroy the surface world. Then the story resumes many years later, with a new protagonist named Leeward. This shift to a new cast and setting, halfway through a ten-issue miniseries, is a stunning twist, and it makes me want to read the other five issues ASAP. However, my copy of issue 6 is buried somewhere in my boxes of unread comics, and I haven’t found it yet.

APACHE SKIES #3 (Marvel, 2002) – “Trust,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Leonardo Manco. Apache Skies is not to be confused with Desperadoes, another Western comic published around the same time. This issue stars the Rawhide Kid and Rosa, the new Apache Kid and the widow of the old one. After meeting Lozen, the historical Apache woman warrior, they try to rescue some Apache children from being kidnapped by a priest. That’s as far as I can follow the plot. Apache Skies reminds me a bit of Grimjack and Scout. Leonardo Manco’s painted art in this issue is kind of stiff-looking, and not as effective as his more recent work in 2000 AD.

TREASURE CHEST #23.5 (431) (Pflaum, 1967) – “Search and Rescue is Their Business,” [W] Helen L. Gillum, [A] Pete Hironaka. That artist’s last name made me do a double take. According to his obituary, he was a Japanese-American who grew up in California and was interned during World War II, but he spent most of his career in Ohio. Someone needs to document the history of Japanese-American comics creators of earlier generations. Others who come to mind are Ben Oda, Irv Watanabe and Morrie Kuramoto. Anyway, his story in this issue is a nonfiction piece about the Coast Guard. Then there’s another nonfiction story about a missionary in St. Louis; a mystery story with art by Frank Borth; and a chapter of Matt Christopher and Fran Matera’s Chuck White. Every issue of Treasure Chest that I’ve read has included a Chuck White story. It’s a reasonably exciting and well-drawn adventure story, and it’s the main reason to read Treasure Chest.

CLAW THE UNCONQUERED #5 (DC, 1976) – “Grimstone Quest,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] Ernie Chan. A wizard hires Claw and his swashbuckler sidekick Ghilkyn to retrieve two eyes from a statue, in exchange for the magical Grimstone. The quest requires them to save a woman from a giant crustacean monster, but after they defeat the monster, the woman duplicates herself and attacks them. They kill her and retrieve the eyes, but when the wizard looks into them, he goes insane, like Mastermind in X-Men #134. Claw is not unreadable, but it’s a second-rate Conan ripoff.

DETECTIVE COMICS #661 (DC, 1993) – “City on Fire,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Graham Nolan. Batman fights Firefly in an abandoned amusement park, but the villain gets away. Tim Drake convinces Batman to accept some help for once, and he tracks down Firefly’s next target while Batman is busy with other Arkham escapees. I must checked this issue out of the library when it was published, but all I remember about it is the Firefly scene. Knightfall is still the only Firefly story I’ve ever read, as far as I know. This issue also includes a scene with the quack psychiatrist who wrote the book “I’m Sane and So Are You.”

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #605 (Gladstone, 1996) – “Pachyderm Up Your Troubles,” [W/A] William Van Horn. The story in this issue that interested me most was the first chapter of Gottfredson’s “Mickey Mouse Outwits the Phantom Blot.” This story is perhaps the best demonstration of Gottfredson’s mastery of storytelling. The plot takes all sorts of unexpected twists – for instance, in part two, Mickey tries to steal a camera from a little girl, and he has a good reason for it. The Phantom Blot is a scary and enigmatic villain, and his deathtraps for Mickey are as cunning and Goldberg-esque as any of the traps devised by Dick Tracy’s villains. There’s one scene in part one where the Blot ties Mickey to a table with a gun pointing at him. The gun’s trigger is tied to a dead fish… and there’s also a cat in the room, so Mickey has to escape before the cat gets hungry and pulls the fish down! The reason I don’t like Gottfredson as much as Barks is because Gottfredson’s characterization is less interesting. Mickey’s only notable character traits are that he’s courageous and well-intentioned, and he has no real flaws. This issue also includes part two of Rosa’s “Universal Solvent,” a story I’ve already read, and a Barks story in which Gyro Gearloose makes everything in Duckburg work by automation. There’s also a Van Horn story where Donald and the nephews try to return a stolen elephant, and the rest of the issue consists of filler material.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #441 (DC, 1987) – “The Tiny Terror of Tinseltown,” [W] John Byrne, [A] Jerry Ordway. Superman meets Mr. Mxyzptlk again, but this time, getting him to say his name backwards is not enough to get rid of him; instead, Superman has to make him paint his face blue. Byrne must have felt that the classic Mxyzptlk stories were too formulaic, and so he (i.e. Byrne) decided that Mxy would impose a different challenge on Superman every time. This change to the character did not stick, because I can’t think of any other Mxyzptlk stories where he didn’t play the “name game,” as Wikipedia calls it.

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #11 (LGY #578) (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Brian Michael Bendis, [A] Mike Deodato Jr. I bought this mistakenly thinking it was written by Matt Fraction. Since 1996, the major Marvel titles have been relaunched and renumbered so many times that it’s hard to figure out which volume any given issue belongs to. For instance, there have been three different comics called Invincible Iron Man #11. This problem is especially acute in the case of Amazing Spider-Man, where it’s hard to distinguish the 2014 volume from the 2015 volume. I had to resolve this problem by creating my own chart of all the volumes of all the major Marvel and DC titles, together with their respective legacy numbers. Anyway, this particular Invincible Iron Man #11 is an early Ironheart appearance, and it has less of Bendis’s annoying dialogue than usual, but it’s still not much good.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #607 (Gladstone, 1997) – “Number 401,” [W/A] William Van Horn, etc. I ordered this on eBay because it contains the final chapter of the Phantom Blot story. In this segment the Phantom Blot puts Mickey into another deathtrap and escapes with the camera, but Mickey escapes the trap and chases down the Blot’s plane. Then we finally learn why the camera was important: it contained the chemical formula for a cheaper alternative to radium. This is a thrilling conclusion to a great story. The secret of the camera is a bit disappointing, but whatever was in the camera, it couldn’t possibly have lived up to the hype that Gottfredson built up around it – that’s why we never learn what’s in the briefcase in Pulp Fiction. The other important story in this issue is the first chapter of Don Rosa’s “The Once and Future Duck.” This is one of the only Rosa stories I haven’t read, because its only American printings were in WDCAS #607-609 and in Fantagraphics’s Don Rosa Library.  I already read #609, and I just ordered #608, but I haven’t read it yet. “The Once and Future Duck” is Rosa’s retelling of the Arthurian legends. He tries to depict King Arthur in a historically accurate way, as a poor, scruffy barbarian chief. This is in contrast with “The Quest for Kalevala,” where he establishes that the magical legends in the Kalevala are actually real. This issue also includes “Maple Sugar Time,” a story drawn by Daan Jippes based on an unpublished Barks script, in which the ducks compete to see who can produce the most maple syrup. The other notable feature in WDCAS #607 is Bob Foster’s illustrated set of instructions for aspiring Disney comics artists. (Added later: A different Disney artist, Carson Van Osten, claimed the “Comic Strip Artist’s Kit” was his work, and I’m thinking it probably is by Van Osten, not Foster, because I can’t find any only evidence for Foster’s authorship other than WDCAS #607 itself.)

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #11 (Marvel, 2016) – “Scorpio Rising Part 3: Signs from Above,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. Spidey and Mockingbird battle Scorpio for control of the Zodiac Key. Spidey “wins” by forcing Scorpio to travel one year into the future. At the end, we discover that Dr. Octopus’s mind is residing inside the Living Brain. This issue is entertaining, but Scorpio Rising is not one of Slott’s best storylines.

WEIRD WESTERN TALES #24 (DC, 1974) – “The Point Pyrrhus Aftermath! Part 1: Blind Man’s Buff,” [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Noly Panaligan. Jonah Hex is residing in a small town while recovering from temporary blindness, but Hex’s old enemies keep coming to town to try to kill him. The townspeople get tired of that and force him to leave, with a Shakespearean actor as his guide. But some of Hex’s enemies are still chasing him, and the actor sacrifices his life to save Jonah. In a poignant moment, he recites Hamlet’s soliloquy as he dies. Noly Panaligan is one of the lesser-known Filipino artists, but his art in this issue is very exciting and detailed.

DETECTIVE COMICS #846 (DC, 2008) – “Heart of Hush Part 1: First Families of Gotham,” [W] Paul Dini, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Seth Mnookin just wrote an article analyzing the crippling flaws of the original Hush story. I completely agree with him that Hush’s plot was a load of nonsense and that Hush was a lousy villain. In “Heart of Hush,” Paul Dini has the difficult task of turning Hush into an interesting character, and I’m not sure he quite succeeds. The best thing in Detective Comics #846 is not Hush but the new character Doctor Aesop, who commits crimes based on Aesop’s fables.

SUICIDE SQUAD #59 (DC, 1991) – “Legerdemain Part 1: Forces in Motion,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Geof Isherwood. Superman discovers that the Suicide Squad are trying to either capture or kill President Marlo of Qurac before he can stand trial. Batman is also investigating the Suicide Squad, and while doing so, he meets Barbara Gordon in her Oracle identity for perhaps the first time. Batman, Superman and Aquaman all meet and compare notes on the Squad, thus justifying this issue’s memorable cover, which shows the three Justice Leaguers standing next to each other. John Ostrander would have been a great Batman writer, and it’s a shame that he rarely got to write Batman.

2000 AD #1847 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd: as above. Bender and Lock continue their investigation into illegal drugs. Defoe: as above. Defoe bids Tomazine farewell, then decides to give up spying or fighting zombies, and the story arc ends with an enigmatic image that I don’t understand. The Ten-Seconders: as above. More nonsense that I don’t understand. Age of the Wolf: as above. The werewolves reveal their plot to use lunar energy to destroy the human race, but before they can execute it, Keira challenges the lead villain, Sigrid, to a duel. Slaine: “The Book of Scars Part 4: Elsewhere,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Glenn Fabry. Slaine fights a group of faerie women who are trying to seduce and kill him. I don’t know where this story fits into Slaine’s continuity. Interior art by Glenn Fabry is always a treat.

GRENDEL: BLACK, WHITE & RED #3 (Dark Horse, 1999) – various stories, [W] Matt Wagner, [A] various. A collection of short stories by different artists, in the same vein as Batman: Black and White – except that as the title indicates, the only color used is red. I’ve never understood the premise of Grendel, so I was unable to follow any of these stories. The most memorable one is the one that’s narrated by the editor of Hunter Rose’s novels. The artist for this one is Stan Shaw, who I’m not familiar with. Of the other artists in this issue, the best are Mike Allred and Guy Davis. The latter artist’s work in this issue is very impressive, and his bodies and faces look more photorealistic than usual. In his other comics, like Sandman Mystery Theatre, his art is  very detailed and moody, but the tradeoff is that his bodies and faces look weird.

MOTHER PANIC: GOTHAM AD #1 (DC, 2018) – “Different Bat Channel,” [W] Jody Houser, [A] Ibrahim Moustafa. Another boring issue of a bad series. Mother Panic is set in Gotham, but it’s a Young Animal title, not a title produced by the Batman office, so it has no meaningful links to Batman continuity.

UNCANNY X-MEN #462 (Marvel, 2005) – “Season of the Witch,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Alan Davis. This issue is a House of M crossover, but it mostly takes place in Otherworld, where Captain Britain and Meggan have to fight two old enemies, James Jaspers and Saturnyne. This issue is a nice throwback to Claremont and Davis’s classic Captain Britain and Excalibur stories, but it’s most notable for introducing X-COM, Saturnyne’s male versions of the female X-Men. This scene is an entertaining example of Claremont’s playfulness with gender.

RICHIE RICH VAULTS OF MYSTERY #31 (Harvey, 1979) – “Much Closer Encounters of the Udda Kind” etc., [W/A] unknown. In two separate stories, Richie Rich fights a mind-controlling alien robot and a mad scientist with a light bulb for a head. Compared to other Richie Rich titles, Vaults of Mystery seemed to focus more on adventure stories. The two stories in this issue are entertaining enough, but not on the same level as other kids’ adventure comics, e.g. Uncle Scrooge or Little Archie.  

PIRATE CORP$ #2 (Eternity, 1987) – “The Source of Strife,” [W/A] Evan Dorkin. This was Dorkin’s first major series, and it shows. At this point in his career he was still maturing as both a writer and an artist. “The Source of Strife” is a science fiction adventure story in a comic vein, but it fails to be either exciting or funny. Dorkin uses far fewer panels per page in this issue than in his mature work, and he seems to be trying to draw like John Byrne. He does include some of the Easter eggs and hidden messages that are a key feature of his work.

AIR #2 (Vertigo, 2008) – “Letters from Lost Countries Part 2,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] M.K. Perker. The protagonist, Blythe, tries to find the inaccessible country of Narimar. Air has a very different aesthetic from anything else. G. Willow Wilson has written, but it does draw upon her interest in South Asian and Islamic culture. I ought to try to finish my run of Air, because it’s one of the only G. Willow Wilson comics that I haven’t read in its entirety.

TREASURE CHEST #19.9 (355) (Pflaum, 1964) – “The Return of the Enchanted Flivver,” [W] Frank T. Moss, [A] Frank Borth, etc. This issue’s lead story stars Henrietta, a semi-intelligent flying car. Henrietta first appeared in this series in 1960, four years before Ian Fleming published his book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It’s even been suggested that Fleming was inspired by Henrietta, though I don’t know how he would have read Treasure Chest comics. This issue’s next story is about a bishop who negotiated with Japan in 1941 to try to prevent World War II. That sounded like nonsense to me, but it really did happen. Japan’s prime minister at the start of 1941, Fumimaro Konoe, wanted to prevent the war, although of course he failed. The next story is about the building of Mount Rushmore. As one would expect, this story is written from a white perspective and maskes no mention of the Lakota people who traditionally own that land. This issue also includes the usual Chuck White chapter.

ALIEN WORLDS #1 (Eclipse, 1988) – “Phony Express” etc., [W] Bruce Jones, [A] various. After  Jones’s anthology series Alien Worlds ended in 1985, Eclipse tried to revive it as a semiannual prestige format series, but only this one issue was ever published. Alien Worlds #1 includes six stories by different artists, all of which are horror or SF stories in the classic EC style. The best of the six is the first one, in which a man takes a job as a mailman to support his wife, but after going through mortal perils in order to deliver a single letter, he discovers that the letter is from his wife to her affair partner. The last scene, where the man tries to decide whether to kill his wife, is reminiscent of Jones’s classic Warren stories. Another good one is “Boots and Jackets,” drawn by Eric Shanower, in which two old enemies decide to spend their waning years together. Some of the other stories are kind of silly.

MEGATON MAN #4 (Kitchen Sink, 1985) – “News of the World,” [W/A] Don Simpson. The first half of the issue focuses on Megaton Man himself, as he “works” at a newspaper job – though his stories are actually written by his government contacts – and then encounters Wall-Man, a funny parody of Spider-Man. At the end of the issue, Stella Starlight, the Sue Storm character, registers for classes at the University of Michigan. I have mixed feelings about this series. Stella Starlight is an intriguing, well-rounded character, and the plot thread about her life in Ann Arbor is quite compelling. But the superhero parody parts of Megaton Man are outdated and only somewhat funny.

I went back to Heroes after three weeks:

STRANGE ACADEMY: FINALS #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. We begin with a summary of the events of the previous storyline, then Calvin gets dragged off by Gaslamp, and the two conflicting groups of students prepare for their confrontation. In the previous storyline, Emily was the most conscientious and caring of the kids; the start of the present conflict was when she stood up Doyle in order to comfort Calvin. So it’s rather shocking that in this issue, she turns into an obsessive, controlling villain.

THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE #11 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Alvaro Martínez Bueno. The houseguests deal with the aftermath of Naya’s death, and in a somewhat implausible twist, we learn that her death was part of Walter’s plan. He and Norah were trying to manipulate the other characters, only Norah didn’t know that, because Walter kept erasing her memories. What I don’t know is what Walter’s goal is. Norah says “We need to know there’s no going home… but we need to feel like we’re doing it without your help.” But why does Walter want all of this to happen? I guess we’ll see.

DO A POWERBOMB! #6 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Daniel Warren Johnson. A series of flashbacks explains how Cobrasun and Yua became a couple. Frank and Maggie, the two members of FYSO, kill each other, so Lona and Cobrasun win the tournament by default. But then the necromancer reveals that he doesn’t have enough power to resurrect Yua, so in order to get her back, Lona and Cobrasun have to fight one last match – against God. This series gets more epic with each issue.

RADIANT BLACK #19 (Image, 2022) – “Radiant^2,” [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Marcelo Costa. Nathan and Marshall have their first adventure with their new shared powers, and then Marshall and Radiant Pink go to Brazil to fight an alien invasion, while Nathan visits Satomi in prison. The prison sequence is a satisfying coda to the Radiant Red miniseries. I especially like the line “How is prison? It’s awful, Nathan. Prison is awful.” At least she finally divorced her asshole husband.

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #17 (DC, 2022) – “Kal-El Returns Chapter Four: Unguarded,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Cian Tormey. Most of this issue is narrated by Clark. His meditations about Jon are very touching, but the emotional heart of the issue is when Jon formally “comes out” to his father. Jon’s sexual orientation is already public knowledge, but Clark’s final speech to Jon, ending “I will always, always be your father,” is a beautiful moment. I love this series, and I’m sorry that it’s ending because DC has other plans for these characters. Tom Taylor is writing a new series starring Jon, but it’s just a miniseries.

WE ONLY FIND THEM WHEN THEY’RE DEAD #14 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Present and the Past,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Simone Di Meo. We begin with Newdawn/Odessa Bristow’s origin story. She was the product of a political marriage between Honorhim Bristow and the governor of Delta Pavonis, but when Delta Pavonis was attacked by the Inner Worlds, Bristow refused to honor their alliance. Leaving Odessa’s mother to die, he took Odessa into his custody, groomed her as his heir, and gave her a new name. All of this underscores what a monster Bristow was, and no matter how bad Odessa/Newdawn is, at least she’s better than her dad. We then learn that Odessa is responsible for Thierry’s creation, and she and Thierry escape Malik’s Flight and fly into the realm of the gods. This is the next to last issue.

NIGHT OF THE GHOUL #2 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Francesco Francavilla. In the movie, Johnny discovers that Kurt is the victim of an ancient corpse-eating cult. In the “real-life” sequence, it becomes clear that Dr. Skeen’s asylum is run by the same cult. Inman is thrown out of the asylum, but insists on going back in, leaving his young son Orson alone and in deadly danger – clearly this man is not a father-of-the-year candidate. And we also learn that Orson’s mother is terminally ill. While trying to get help, Orson is lost in a cavern full of monsters. Meanwhile Inman tracks down the last part of Merrit’s film. This comic is difficult to summarize, but the convergence of the main story and the story-within-the-story is an impressive feat of narration, and the ghouls are terrifying. The one thing I don’t like about this comic is that Francesco Francavilla’s page layouts and compositions are much more conventional than in his earlier work, though his coloring is excellent. In particular, at the end of the comic, it must be significant that the folder of patient histories is the same purple color as the growths in the cave.

SHE-HULK #7 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Luca Maresca. Jen’s latest clients are Victor Mancha and his Doombot friend. It’s nice to see some characters from Rainbow’s Runaways series again, although I’m still sad that that series was cancelled. Then Jen meets April and Mark, who appeared briefly in an earlier issue, and Mark beats Jen up.

VANISH #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Ryan Stegman. In a flashback, we see that on September 11, 2001, the Dumbledore character saved one of the twin towers but not the other one. (See also Ex Machina.) Then we meet the Ron character, Deacon Dust, who is now a professional stage magician, and the Hermione/Ginny character, who is Oliver’s wife. This issue is entertaining, but it lacks the novelty of issue 1, now that we know what’s going on. Harry Potter presents a difficult ethical quandary because on one hand, it had a massive impact on all of popular culture, so it’s a natural source of inspiration for any creator who grew up in the ’90s and 2000s. On the other hand, due to its creator’s subsequent actions, Harry Potter is now permanently tainted. Maybe Vanish could be read as an attempt to deal with that problem.

FANTASTIC FOUR #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Last Town on the Left,” [W] Ryan North, [A] Iban Coello. Ben and Alicia find themselves in a small town where nothing’s changed since the 1940s, and no one knows who Ben is. Then they realize that the town is trapped in a Groundhog-Day-esque time loop, because one inhabitant of the town unknowingly has superpowers, and when his girlfriend dumps him, he keeps wishing to “do it over again.” Ben and Alicia convince him to stop making this wish and to break the time loop, and in a two-page sequence, we see the next six decades of the man’s life, including his marriage to a different woman. This is a very sweet and satisfying story. The Groundhog Day influence is obvious, but it also reminds me of an earlier classic FF story, “Terror in a Tiny Town” from #236. The key problem that confronts any FF writer is how to avoid repeating what’s already been done, and Ryan North’s solution is to tell smaller, more human-scale stories. I look forward to seeing what he does with the other FF members. At the end of this issue, we learn that there’s a giant hole where the Baxter Building was, and it’s Reed’s fault somehow.

EARTHDIVERS #2 (IDW, 2022) – “Kill Columbus Part 2: The Storm,” [W] Stephen Graham Jones, [A] Davide Gianfelice. “Kill Columbus” is not actually part of the indicia title. This issue just offers some more development of both the present and past plotlines, with no major plot twists. SGJ seems to have done a lot of research into Columbus’s voyage, and his depictions of his Native American protagonists feel accurate. The problem with Earthdivers is the lack of setup. I still don’t feel I understand who these characters are, or why or how they’re trying to change the past, or what the characters who are still in the future are trying to accomplish. In a prose novel, all of this information could have been provided in an infodump, but that’s not as easy to do in a comic.

THE NEW CHAMPION OF SHAZAM! #3 (DC, 2022) – “Don’t Read the Comments!”, [W] Josie Campbell, [A] Evan “Doc” Shaner. Mary becomes a victim of online trolling, then she meets Dudley, aka Uncle Marvel, who tells her that lots of homeless people have vanished lately, only no one has noticed. Then Mary fights a villain who’s like a living comment section, in that he repeats back to her all the mean things that people are saying about her online. Mary finally figures out that her biology teacher, Dr. G., is responsible for the disappearances, only her little sister Darla has figured this out too, and is determined to confront Dr. G. herself. I’m pretty sure that Dr. G is Georgia Sivana. I hated this series at first, but my opinion on it has changed for the better.

HELL TO PAY #1 (Image, 2022) – “The Shrouded College Book 1,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Will Sliney. Our protagonists, Sebastian and Maia, are in debt to the “Shrouded College,” and they have to pay it back by collecting 317 demonic coins. They finally recover what they think is the last coin, only to discover that there are more coins they didn’t know about. And they have to get them all back soon, because Maia is pregnant, which is a violation of their deal with the College. This comic is a really impressive feat of worldbuilding. I like the suggestion that the coins are responsible for every financial crisis from the tulip bubble onward, or that the demons in hell have names like “Lord Six-Percent-Year-over-Year Growth.” The note at the end suggests that this is the first of seven planned Shrouded College miniseries, and it seems like the ideas in Hell to Pay are deep enough to support such an ambitious plan.

DARK RIDE #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. This issue is not nearly as long as issue 1, and is mostly about the internal conflicts within the Dante family. There are some cute moments with Dante’s son Sam and his daughter Autumn, followed by a terrifying moment when Autumn cuts herself. Andrei Bressan is a very gifted draftsman and designer, and his depictions of Devil Land are very effective.

LITTLE MONSTERS #7 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. The two factions of vampire kids continue their conflict. A flashback shows that Romie has been concealing something from the other kids, and at the end of the issue, Romie leads some of the other kids into a crypt containing the bodies of the adult vampires. Other than that, this issue doesn’t tell us anything new.

DAMN THEM ALL #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Charlie Adlard. Ellie Hawthorne is the only relative of the late Alfie Hawthorne, England’s greatest magician. At the start of the series, Alfie’s funeral is invaded by a demon. When Ellie investigates where the demon came from, she discovers that there’s been some major upheaval in hell, and all the demons are now enslaved to humans, and they actually want to be exorcised. Damn Them All falls into the category of creator-owned comics that are thinly disguised sequels to their creator’s earlier works done for hire. (I guess the earliest example of this was Destroyer Duck.) Alfie Hawthorne is an obvious stand-in for John Constantine, and this series is essentially “what if Constantine died and his niece Gemma took over his job?” Simon Spurrier’s John Constantine: Hellblazer was a masterpiece, and it’s nice to see him arol’writing another Constantine-adjacent story, even if it’s not official. I also like the detailed worldbuilding Spurrier has done for his version of hell.

BATGIRLS #12 (DC, 2022) – “Bat Girl Summer Conclusion,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael Conrad, [A] Neil Googe. The Riddler gives the Batgirls a clue that helps them track down the real murderer, a sociopath named “Mr. Fun.” He also hints to Steph that her father, Cluemaster, is still alive. And for some reason Cass flies through the city clinging to Killer Moth. This was a fun storyline, and I like Cloonan and Conrad’s version of the Riddler; almost everything he says in this comic is a riddle. The disappointing part of this issue is that Maps Mizoguchi doesn’t appear in it.

KAYA #2 (Image, 2022) – “Kaya & the Lizard-Riders Chapter Two,” [W/A] Wes Craig. Kaya and her love interest, the lizard prince Seth, go on a boar hunt, there’s a lot of interpersonal drama, and then at the end of the issue, we see some cows that seem to have been killed by a vampire. I really like the art and coloring in this series; the characters are very cute, the settings are immervsive, and there’s an impressive number of panels per page. Perhaps this is why the characters are so cute –because the panels are so small, and so the characters themselves are depicted at a small size. However, I’m not quite convinced by Kaya’s storyline, and I find it hard to see how a human and a lizard can be a couple.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #43 (Marvel, 2022) – “Revenge of the Brood Part 1,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Sergio Dávila. Carol and Rhodey’s date is interrupted by a distress message from Rogue. Carol teams up with a group of X-Men to respond to the distress call, and they find that Rogue has been turned into a Brood. This issue brings back nostalgic memories of Claremont’s stories that featured both Carol and the Brood, but it’s not as exciting as the last storyline was.

NEW MUTANTS #31 (Marvel, 2022) – “Fate & Consequences,” [W] Charlie Jane Anders, [A] Alberto Albuquerque et al. This issue stars a new New Mutants team, all of whose members are LGBTQ. The two focal characters are Shela and Morgan from Marvel’s Voices: Pride #1. The other key character is Martha, the former No-Girl, who’s adjusting to having a body again after being just a disembodied brain. At a public appearance, the new New Mutants are kidnapped by the U-Men, a group of anti-mutant bigots. It seems dubious that the U-Men were able to kidnap the kids in broad daylight, right in front of a Krakoa gate. Other than that, this issue is reasonably good. I enjoy Charlie Jane Anders’s novels, and I’m hoping her style will translate well to comics.

WONDER WOMAN #793 (DC, 2022) – “Walk Among Us,” [W] Michael W. Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Emanuela Lupacchino. Wonder Woman, Batman and the newly returned Superman have a reunion in the old JLA Watchtower, and they fight the Imperium, who appear to be the same characters as the Hyperclan from Grant Morrison’s first JLA storyline. I don’t know why the Hyperclan were renamed; maybe they’re not compatible with the current DC Universe’s version of Mars. This is one of Conrad and Cloonan’s better WW stories, because they show a keen understanding of the three Trinity members and the relationships between them. A nice touch is Diana’s discovery of J’onn’s hidden stash of Oreos behind a wall.

SPIDER-MAN #2 (Marvel, 2022) – “End of the Spider-Verse Part Two: The Last Spider-Man Standing,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Mark Bagley. Peter and Morlun escape to Earth-616 Beta, which, humorously, is colored with Ben Day dots. There they team up with some other Spider-people, including Spinstress from Edge of Spider-Verse #4. Spinstress’s lyrics don’t always scan, but I love her anyway.

OLD DOG #2 (Image, 2022) – “Extraction,” [W/A] Declan Shalvey. Lynch rescues a spy from an undisclosed location, only for Lynch’s daughter to kill the spy; it seems that Lynch and his daughter were given different orders. Also, Lynch’s old friend Frankie gives him some mysterious photos. The plot twist, with the daughter killing the spy, is surprising, but otherwise this issue wasn’t as exciting as #1. It was just a typical spy story with limited SF elements.

SURVIVAL STREET #4 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Asmus & Jim Festante, [A] Abylay Kussainov. The government-controlled media leads a propaganda campaign against all puppets. But the Cookie Monster character gives false information about the other protagonists’ location, and when the government sends troops into the abandoned amusement park where the puppets are hiding, the troops walk into a death trap. After this horrible spectacle, the public finally starts to turn against the government. Survival Street was not just a funny Sesame Street parody, but also a powerful piece of satire.

BEHOLD, BEHEMOTH #1 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tate Brombal, [A] Nick Robles. Our protagonist is Greyson, a child protective services investigator who was himself abused as a child. Shortly after his brother’s death, Greyson visits a group home for children and discovers a silent little girl, Wren, who seems to have been beaten. That same night, the home is crushed by a tree, and Wren is the only survivor. It becomes evident that Wren has the power to cause disasters. The story then resumes many years later, when Greyson and Wren are traveling together through a post-apocalyptic world. Tate Brombal’s story arc on House of Slaughter was just okay, but Behold, Behemoth #1 is a very sensitive take on child abuse, and its two protagonists are fascinating. Also, Nick Robles’s art and coloring are gorgeous, especially in the dream sequences.

DOGS OF LONDON #4 (Aftershock, 2022) – “Gravediggers Arms,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Artecida. Frank recruits some old criminal allies and goes to the rendezvous with the revenants, who have kidnapped Frank’s son. (Since the son is a Tory politician, Frank ought to have let the revenants keep him.) Frank succeeds in killing the revenants, and as their bodies burn, he thinks that his upbringing left the Dogs no choice but to become criminals. Dogs of London is another excellent miniseries, maintaining the high standard that Milligan set with Human Remains.

BLINK #4 (Oni, 2022) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Hayden Sherman. Wren and the Static fight their way to the window that leads out of the building, and it’s hinted that one of the Static is Wren’s father or mother. Wren finally confronts Oz, who created the Static and Signal. Hayden Sherman’s page layouts in this comic are brilliant, though his art in Dark Spaces: Wildfire is even better.

SINS OF THE BLACK FLAMINGO #5 (Image, 2022) – “There Must Be an Angel,” [W] Andrew Wheeler, [A] Travis Moore. Sebastian finally confronts Thorndike Scar, who apparently kills Sebastian with the devil’s tooth. But Sebastian has managed to give the angel Ezekiel a fragment of the tooth (by concealing it in his mouth and then kissing Ezekiel), and Ezekiel uses the tooth to free himself and kill Scar. Ezekiel vanishes, and Sebastian, Abel and Ofelia live happily ever after. This comic was cleverly plotted, sexy, and intense, and I hope it will return, as promised on the last page.

BATMAN #129 (DC, 2022) – “Failsafe Part 5,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jorge Jimenez. Failsafe chases Batman to Atlantis, then the JLA Watchtower (which appears in two comics this month). Then Batman forcibly teleports Failsafe to the Hall of Justice while staying at the Watchtower himself, but Batman’s plans go wrong, and he’s stuck floating in space with no spaceship to save him. As noted before, Failsafe reminds me of the Fury because it’s an implacable robotic monster. This issue is also a bit like X-Men #143. The backup story is another chapter of “I Am a Gun,” which appears to depict the origin of the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh.

X-MEN RED #8 (Marvel, 2022) – “Mission to the Unknown,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Madibek Musibekov. This artist is from Kazakhstan, like Abylay Kussainov. During a peace conference on Arakko, Cable discovers that Abigail Brand is working with Orchis and the Progenitors, and he organizes a team of X-Men to counter Brand’s plot. But then we learn that Brand has another powerful ally: Vulcan. This issue is effectively a continuation of Ewing’s S.W.O.R.D. and Guardians of the Galaxy. Blackjack O’Hare, who makes a cameo appearance at the beginning, looks like a ripoff of Bucky O’Hare. In fact, Blackjack was introduced in 1976, long before Bucky. However, Bucky was first created in 1977 or 1978, for a DC title that was never published because of the DC implosion. And Bill Mantlo, Blackjack’s creator, was a known plagiarist, so if he somehow saw the early designs for Bucky, it’s possible that he decided to rip them off. I wonder if anyone’s asked Larry Hama or Michael Golden about the relationship between these characters.

THE RETURN OF CHILLING ADVENTURES IN SORCERY #1 (Archie, 2022) – “Blood Moon Lilith,” [W] Eliot Rahal, [A] Vincenzo Federici. Another issue full of unfrightening, unsatisfying non-stories. With the sole exception of Chilling Adventures of Salem #1, every Archie comic this year has been a severe disappointment. These one-shots are an embarrassment to Archie’s legacy. If they can’t be bothered to do any better than this, then instead of pretending to be committed to the direct market, they should just stop publishing direct-market comics entirely.

HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER #10 (Boom!, 2022) – “Scarlet Part 5,” [W] Sam Johns, [A] Letizia Cadonici. Something finally does happen in this issue, unlike in issues 7 through 9. However, I can’t understand what happens or why. There’s a concluding scene in the House of Slaughter, but this scene does nothing to advance the overall plot of the franchise. Overall, “Scarlet” was just a complete waste of space, and I hope it will be Sam Johns’s last work for the Slaughterverse.

MY LITTLE PONY: CLASSICS REIMAGINED #1 (IDW, 2022) – “Little Fillies,” [W] Megan Brown, [A] Jenna Ayoub. A retelling of Little Women, with Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy and Rarity as Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. It’s really nice to see these characters again, after the cancellation of MLP: FIM, and this issue is extremely funny. Rainbow Dash seems initially like an odd choice for Jo, but it makes sense given Rainbow Dash’s interest in literature. Applejack is “played” by Laurie, which is appropriate since Jo and Laurie are frequently shipped with each other, just like Rainbow Dash and Applejack. Fluttershy is also a sadly appropriate casting choice for Beth; if there’s one pony who I’d expect to get sick and die a pathetic death, it’s Fluttershy. Oh, and the Civil War is reimagined as a war between cats and dogs. If IDW continues this series, an obvious choice for the next story arc would be Bridle and Prejudice.

ACTION JOURNALISM #2 (Oni, 2022) – “Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Science!”, [W] Eric Skillman, [A] Miklos Felvideki. Kate attends a conference of mad scientists, where she has to find a way to defuse an out-of-control anti-gravity device. This is another fun issue, but it’s not really about journalism, like issue 1 was; Kate doesn’t use her journalism skills to save the day. This issue has a backup story drawn by Max Sarin. I’m glad Oni hired Hunter Gorinson as editor-in-chief, because that suggests that they intend to continue publishing comics. Previously it was unclear if that was the case.

VARIANTS #4 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Gail Simone, [A] Phil Noto. Jessica defeats Purple Man’s influence with the help of Professor X, but afterward Jessica realizes that her pink-haired duplicate is the real villain. And then the pink-haired Jessica summons an army of other evil Jessicas from other realities. Jessica’s defeat of the Purple Man is a powerful moment, but I wonder how many times she’ll have to beat him before he stops coming back.

ASTRONAUT DOWN #4 (Aftershock, 2022) – “The Parade,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Rubine. Douglas wakes up in a world where his mission worked. In this world he’s a hero, and his wife is still alive, and she doesn’t care that he’s not her husband. It seems like a happy ending, but Douglas still feels guilty about accepting it. At the end of the issue, he’s told that his own reality might still be saved. The cool twist in this issue is that Douglas’s superiors realized that their mission might save other alternate realities but not their own. This idea makes perfect sense, given how alternate realities work, but I wouldn’t have thought of it myself. Astronaut Down is by far the grimmest of James Patrick’s three series.

The following comics were from an Atomic Avenue order, my first order from that website in a while:

2000 AD #382 (IPC, 1984) – Strontium Dog: “Outlaw Part 20,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Wulf, Middenface and Gronk try to save Johnny from some kind of trap. Halo Jones: “Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety-Jig,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Ian Gibson. Halo and Rodice return home from shopping to discover that their roommate Brinna has been murdered. This is a brutal moment, and what’s worse, we will later learn that Halo’s robot dog Toby was the murderer. Dredd: “Dredd Angel Part 6,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. Dredd teams up with Mean Machine Angel to rescue some Judge fetuses. Mean Machine is one of Dredd’s best recurring villains, though that’s not saying much; in my opinion the only real classic Dredd villain is Judge Death. Rogue Trooper: “Death Valley Part 3,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Cam Kennedy. Rogue teams up with some Norts against a common enemy. Ace Trucking Co: “On the Dangle 5,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. To avoid criminal charges, Ace has to rescue an alien who resembles Miss Piggy. I again note that I hate this series because of Ace’s annoying dialogue.

VAMPIRELLA #54 (Warren, 1976) – “The Day the Music Died,” [W] Gerry Boudreau, [A] Gonzalo Mayo. A very complicated story involving an evil crystal ball, a death cult, and a musician named Paul Daltrey (Paul McCartney + Roger Daltrey?). These Vampirella stories are typically okay, but not great. The characters are only mildly interesting, and neither Vampi nor her friends have much of a character arc. This issue has just one backup story, though it’s a good one: Strnad and Corben’s “Bowser,” about a little boy with a monstrous pet. This story feels familiar, but I’m not sure where I could have read it. Perhaps I’ve read a different story with a similar theme.

BATMAN #9 (DC, 2016) – “I Am Suicide Part 1,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mikel Janin. This issue’s main plot seems to be about Bane, but he himself just appears briefly, and most of the issue is devoted to Batman’s visit to Arkham Asylum. This issue includes a scene with an Arkham inmate whose name is unknown, but she looks like Saturn Girl, and she breathes on a glass pane and draws a Legion logo in the fog. This mystery was explained in Doomsday Clock, which I don’t ever want to read, even if it has Legion connections.

WONDER WOMAN #99 (DC, 1995) – “The Rest of the Story,” [W] William Messner-Loebs, [A] Mike Deodato Jr. This issue has several different plots, all of which lead into the conclusion of Loebs’s run in issue 100. There’s one uncomfortable moment where Diana harshly rebukes her own mother, I’m not sure why. The best scene in the issue is when Julia Kapatelis is undergoing physical therapy and realizes she can feel her injured legs again. Mike Deodato’s art in this issue is an example of the worst excesses of ‘90s comics art. His women are scantily clad and unrealistically posed, and he draws a monster that’s covered in bulging veins. He’s become a better artist in his later career, though I still don’t love his work.

THE BLACK MAN’S GUIDE TO GETTING PULLED OVER (Microcosm, 2021) – untitled, [W] Johnny Parker II, [A] Felipe Horas. This comic’s subject matter is sadly relevant, and Parker succeeds in conveying the fear that black people experience when being pulled over, as well as the basic unfairness of the police’s treatment of black people. The problem is that this comic is only 20 pages, and the artwork is rather minimal. Otherwise, this is an effective use of comics to address a serious social problem.

POISON IVY #6 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Marcio Takara & Brian Level. Ivy fights and defeats Woodrue, then sends a letter to Harley, and we see Harley reading it. This issue, like #5, is less engaging than the rest of the series, because it’s just a long fight scene. Brian Level’s art in the fight scene is not bad, but I’ve seen better depictions of monstrous plants.

PINK LEMONADE #2 (Oni, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Nick Cagnetti. An alien film producer called Barzibelly Jr manipulates Pink Lemonade into signing a contract to appear in a movie. In the movie, Pink Lemonade hs has to fight a retired superhero named Ron Randall. Eventually Barzibelly Jr is dragged back to his home planet by his parents. This plot device is borrowed from either Fantastic Four #24 or the Star Trek episode “The Squire of Gothos”.  Pink Lemonade is an excellent series, although it’s very reminiscent of Madman, due to both the art style and the protagonist’s naïve personality.

MONKEY PRINCE #8 (DC, 2022) – “Big Stick Energy Part 4,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Bernard Chang. Marcus finally gains control of Ruyi Jingu Bang and uses it to defeat the Trench. In the splash page when Marcus smashes the villain with the stick, I believe that the giant Chinese characters say Ruyi Jingu Bang. After the adventure, Marcus’s parents decide to move to Metropolis. Monkey Prince is a very fun series, and I’m glad that this character is going to play a bigger role in the DC universe.

TWO GRAVES #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Genevieve Valentine, [A] Ming Doyle. An incoherent mess of a comic. The first half of the issue, in which a young woman and a supernatural creature take revenge on a murderer, is fairly clear. But then the rest of the issue consists of pseudo-profound bullshit about the myth of Persephone and the death of stars, and we’re never told who the characters are or what they’re doing. This comic seems kind of like Pretty Deadly, only with even less of a plot – and I hate Pretty Deadly. I asked Heroes to take this series off my pull list.

MY LITTLE PONY #6 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Celeste Bronfman, [A] Amy Mebberson. The ponies explore Canterlot and discover Fluttershy’s cabin, and there’s a flashback with Fluttershy and Discord. I’m vaguely curious about what happened to the Mane Six and Discord after MLP: FIM ended, but I still don’t care about any of these new ponies.  

2000 AD #388 (Rebellion, 1984) – Nemesis: “Book Four,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. Such sad news about Kevin O’Neill. He was a great talent. I was lucky enough to meet him at Comic-Con once. In this story, Nemesis and Torquemada arrive on an alien planet whose society is based on pre-WWI Britain. Of course O’Neill depicts this setting in obsessive detail. Helltrekkers: untitled, [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Horacio Lalla. I believe this is the same Helltrekkers story that I’ve read parts of before. In this chapter, some of the Trekkers cause a preventable tragedy. Rogue Trooper: “To the Ends of Nu Earth Part 2,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Cam Kennedy. Rogue continues his search for the Traitor General. Dredd: “Error of Judgment,” [W] Wagner & Grant, [A] Ron Smith. Dredd uses city funds to purchase a new body for a little girl who’s been reduced to a disembodied brain. But the girl is horrified with her new body, and she commits suicide. Then Dredd punches a bureaucrat who questions the money spent on the girl. Because of all this, Dredd has to have a psychiatric evaluation to see if he can continue as a judge. Ace: “Strike,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. Ace’s employees go on strike. See my previous comments on Ace Trucking Co.; I have nothing to add.

LOVE EVERLASTING #4 (Image, 2022) – “Nothing Left But Love,” [W] Tom King, [A] Elsa Charretier. The new version of Joan is a singer in WWI France who entertains soldiers. She befriends one particular soldier, Dane, and their affair continues as every other member of Dane’s unit is killed in action. This is a powerful and grim war story, but I have no idea what it has to do with the rest of the series. Has Tom King given up on telling a continuing story, or explaining what’s going on with all these Joans? I guess we’ll see.

THE ROADIE #2 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Fran Galán. Joe saves Shelby from being killed by zombies, and is shocked to discover the difference between his and Shelby’s musical tastes. This is fun, but so far I don’t like it as much as West of Sundown. I wish this issue had fewer subplots and more Joe and Shelby. Ike Zimmerman, who is mentioned briefly in this issue, was a real person. Unlike Robert Johnson, he lived long enough that he could have been rediscovered in the ‘60s, but his music was never recorded.

GOLDEN RAGE #4 (Image, 2022) – “Art,” [W] Chrissy Williams, [A] Lauren Knight. Some of the ladies put on a theater performance, and then some of the other ladies reveal that they’ve built a boat to escape the island. This is a boring issue. The key problem with Golden Rage is that the island itself is less interesting to me than the larger society that produced it. If this society exiles infertile women to an inaccessible island, then what must women’s lives be like on the mainland? In contrast, Bitch Planet had a very similar premise to Golden Rage, but it showed us both the prison planet and the world below.

TRAVELING TO MARS #1 (Ablaze, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Roberto “Dakar” Meli. Valuable natural gas has been discovered under Mars’s surface, and the entire world agrees that whoever steps on Mars first can claim the entire planet. An unnamed company chooses Roy Livingston, a chronic ne’er-do-well, to make a solo trip to Mars in order to stake its claim. Roy is chosen because he has a rare cancer whose progress will be temporarily stopped by weightlessness. This is a really clever premise, and I’m curious to see what twists it takes.

SKYBOUND PRESENTS AFTERSCHOOL #4 (Image, 2022) – “The Club,” [W] Leon Hendrix III, [A] Eric Zawadzki. In a mashup of Dead Poets Society and Fight Club, a high school teacher organizes a student club that quickly turns into a fascist terror squad. At the end, the teacher tries to disband the club, but the club members reject his authority and murder him. This issue is a creepy depiction of how fascism starts, but it also feels unoriginal, and its ending is no surprise.

IMAGE! 30TH ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY #7 (Image, 2022) – [E] Eric Stephenson? To my disappointment, this issue does not include a chapter of The Pro. I guess the Pro story last issue was just a one-shot. Instead, this issue includes a new Wytches story by Scott Snyder and Jock. There’s also the first chapter of “Closer” by Kieron Gillen and Steve Lieber, about a woman who’s the incarnation of the song “Close to You”: for instance, birds suddenly appear every time she’s near. Most of the other stories in this issue are no better nor worse than in issue 6. I now realize that Dutch is an actual preexisting character, not a newly created parody of ‘90s Image comics.

2000 AD #389 (Rebellion, 1984) – Dredd: “A Case for Treatment,” as above. Dredd has a mental health exam in which he has to relive his earlier life. The cause of his lapses in judgment is unclear, so to cure him, he has to go on what will be his toughest mission since the Apocalypse War. Nemesis: as above. Torquemada meets some rebels who want to modernize the Goth society, and then Nemesis and Torquemada prepare for their duel. The shift in art styles since last issue is jarring, but Bryan Talbot draws excellent London scenes. Helltrekkers: as above. The Helltrekkers fight some tyrannosaurs. I don’t know if the dinosaurs in this story were part of the same continuity as Old One-Eye and its relatives. Ace: as above. Ace makes a delivery to a diseased planet, but it still leaves him in debt to his own crew. Rogue Trooper: as above. The Traitor General explains what he’s been doing since his last appearance.

HUMAN TARGET #8 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Greg Smallwood. Rocket Red kidnaps and tortures Chance, correctly suspecting Chance of Guy’s murder. Chance convinces Rocket Red that Guy is still alive, and then beats his up. I thought at first that Chance’s attack on Rocket Red was unjustified, but Mordechai Luchins pointed out that he does this as revenge, since Rocket Red had previously lifted him into the air and dropped him. I like the characterization of Rocket Red in this issue, but this series is getting repetitive, and I think it could have been shorter. A further problem with this issue is that it includes untranslated Cyrillic text, so I had to download a translation app to finish reading it.

SPECS #1 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Chris Shehan. In 1987, young friends Kenny Holcomb and Ted Reynolds face homophobia and racism respectively. Kenny orders some magical glasses from an ad in a comic book, and discovers that the glasses really do have the power to grant wishes. When the local bully, “Skunk,” threatens Kenny with a knife, Ted puts on the glasses and says “I wish you’d leave Kenny alone,” and Skunk vanishes. 35 years later he’s still missing. This isn’t the most exciting current Boom title, but it’s a complicated and intriguing take on queer identity and nostalgia.

ANTIOCH #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Patrick Kindlon, [A] Marco Ferrari. In prison, Antioch and Frontiersman fight some of their fellow prisoners. So far this series feels less deep than Frontiersman. Antioch seems like just a Namor clone. I wish this series was still called Frontiersman, so I could keep filing the two series together – I have switched to filing all my comics in strict alphabetical order, with a few exceptions like Ascender.

HEART EYES #3 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Dennis Hopeless, [A] Victor Ibáñez. Lupe goes out shopping in an abandoned grocery store, where she meets an old lady, but the monsters kill the old lady, ignoring Lupe’s halfhearted efforts to save her. Then Lupe meets two abandoned children who are hiding out in a bus, but while the children are trying to make Lupe leave, the area is struck by an atomic bomb. After reading this issue, I lost my sympathy for Lupe. She knows her monsters are deadly to everyone but her, and she’s too naïve or stupid to care. I do like Victor Ibáñez’s depictions of the monsters. It’s fascinating how we can’t even distinguish between one monster and another; rather, it’s as if Lupe is surrounded by an aura of monstrosity.

ABSOLUTION #4 (AWA, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Mike Deodato Jr. Nina and Ann’s next target is a serial killer named Andrew Roth. They seem to have found him, but it proves to be a trap set by one of Nina’s own fans. A nice trick with this series is that Nina’s audience’s reactions parallel those of the comic’s actual reader: the reader wants Nina to kill Andrew as much as the audience within the comic does.

SABRETOOTH AND THE EXILES #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “X-Isle,” [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Leonard Kirk. Sabretooth and his team arrive at an island where they find a mass grave full of mutant bodies. I don’t quite remember or understand what happens in this issue. So far this series seems more exciting than the previous volume of Sabretooth, but only barely.

BLOOD SYNDICATE SEASON ONE #6 (DC, 2022) – “Run This Town,” [W] Geoffrey Thorne, [A] ChrisCross. The Blood Syndicate beats Holocaust by using teamwork to overcome his superior power. If the previous issues of the series had been more like this one, I would have been less frustrated with this comic. Unlike the writers of the original Blood Syndicate, Thorne doesn’t seem to understand how to write a team comic without giving undue exposure to a single character. (The absolute master of this craft was Paul Levitz.) This series focused way too much on Holocaust and not enough on anyone else.

DETECTIVE COMICS #38 facsimile (DC, 1940/2022) – “Robin, the Boy Wonder,” [W] Bill Finger, [A] Bob Kane. In Robin’s first appearance, the essential aspects of his character are already well developed. The familiar origin story, in which Dick’s acrobat parents are murdered by Boss Zucco, is presented for the first time, and Robin is depicted as a cheerful, friendly foil to the dark, grim Batman. Robin even seems to make Batman himself more Robin-like; at a couple points in the story, Batman is shown smiling and cracking jokes. I honestly can’t remember any of the other stories in the issue, although a couple of them have recognizable protagonists: the Crimson Avenger and Slam Bradley.

MINOR THREATS #3 (Dark Horse, 2022) – “Clinical Empathy,” [W] Patton Oswalt & Jordan Blum, [A] Scott Hepburn. This comic has some interesting artwork and character concepts. I particularly like the two-page splash where the heroes hallucinate that they’re walking on top of an original art page. However, Minor Threats suffers from a lack of originality or thematic unity – in other words, there’s nothing in particular to distinguish it from any other superhero parody title – and that makes it hard for me to want to read it.

BILLIONAIRE ISLAND: CULT OF DOGS #1 (Ahoy, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Pugh. Thanks to the events of the previous miniseries, almost the entire world is now broke, and civil society has collapsed. The only remaining millionaires are senile Mr. Canto – who, like Stan Lee, is under the control of a creepy young handler – and Business Dog, who no one has seen in years. Our protagonist, journalist Shelly Bly, is searching for Business Dog, but so is everyone else. This comic is another example of Mark Russell’s gift for clever and plausible satire, though I find it hard to believe that the entire world could go broke at once. I’m not sure that economics works like that.

JUSTICE WARRIORS #5 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Assault on the Precinct!”, [W] Matt Bors, [A] Ben Clarkson. The Libra plotline continues. This is probably the worst Ahoy comic yet – it’s even worse than Snelson. Its plot and characters are unconvincing, and it lacks a central object or target for its satire; it makes fun of many things at once, but the things it satirizes have little in common with each other.

GOTHAM CITY: YEAR ONE #2 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Phil Hester. Slam Bradley hands over some ransom money in exchange for the baby’s location, but the baby is not at the specified location. Richard Bruce Wayne decides that this is somehow Slam’s fault, and threatens Slam with a gun. Slam does what the reader has wanted him to do all issue and gives Richard a good sock in the face. This is a cathartic moment because Slam has spent two whole issues getting insulted, beaten up, and ordered around, just for accepting an envelope that was handed to him. TBH, I’m tempted to give up on this series just because I’m sick of seeing Slam take all this abuse.

LEGION OF X #7 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Hand That Mocked Them, and the Heart That Fed,” [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Metho Diaz. Nightcrawler and his team encounter the Phalanx, and then Kurt discovers that (Arch)angel has been mutated into a monstrous form. I feel obligated to keep reading this series because I love both Nightcrawler and Si Spurrier; however, the combination of the two is less effective than either of them alone. Spurrier just doesn’t seem to have a clear direction in mind for this series, and his plots are hard to understand.

NEW YORK NINJA SUPER SPECIAL #1 (Floating World, 2022) – “…But I Want Them Dead,” [W/A] Charles Forsman. This is an adaptation of a movie which I haven’t seen and don’t plan to see, simply because I hardly ever watch movies at all. If I did watch movies, I’d consider watching New York Ninja, just because of its fascinating story. New York Ninja was supposed to be released in the 1980s, but although several hours of footage were shot, the film was never finished. The surviving footage went unreleased until the film company Vinegar Syndrome purchased it by accident. Vinegar Syndrome then decided to recreate the original movie, even though the footage was unedited and the audio track and screenplay did not survive. In essence, they had to reconstruct the film based on nothing but the footage itself. Forsman’s comics adaptation is a sequel to this reconstructed version of New York Ninja, and it’s less interesting as a comic than New York Ninja probably was as a film. Forsman’s comic is a nice piece of ‘80s nostalgia, but there’s nothing innovative about it, and it’s hard to understand without having seen the film.

2000 AD #390 (IPC, 1984) – Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue flees from the Traitor General’s surgical robots. Nemesis: as above. Nemesis destroys Torquemada’s host body, but Torquemada survives by taking over a new body. The first panel on the third page includes depictions of many celebrities, including David Bowie, Groucho Marx, Marilyn Monroe, and possibly Liza Minnelli. Dredd: “The Wally Squad Part 1,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Brett Ewins. Dredd teams up with the “Wally Squad,” a team of bizarre lunatics, to stop an illegal arms deal. The “arms” in this case are literal arms, the kind that come in left or right varieties. Ace: as above. Ace plays a trick on his rebellious crew by convincing them to make a delivery of worms to a planet where (at least according to Ace) worms are a delicacy. Helltrekkers: as above. The wagons are caught in a flood.

BATMAN #31 (DC, 2017) – “The War of Jokes and Riddles Part 5,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mikel Janín. Batman and various other villains team up against both the Riddler and the Joker. I’m steadily getting fed up with Tom King, but I like his Batman because he doesn’t try too hard to be clever or to outsmart himself. Mikel Janín’s art in this issue is very striking and dramatic.

TUROK, SON OF STONE #74 (Gold Key, 1971) – “Island of the Doomed,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Alberto Giolitti. A tribe of turtle-riding people kidnap Turok and Andar and imprison them on an island as a sacrifice to their god. On the island, Turok and Andar meet the turtle people’s exiled former chief. They all escape together, and the chief is restored to his former position. This issue is boring, but at least it doesn’t strictly follow the Turok formula, which I will describe below.

THE WOODS #22 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. This issue is mostly focused on Karen and Sanami’s relationship, and there’s also some political drama. My problem with The Woods is that I can never make sense of the plot or the characters’ relationships. I still have several more issues of this series, but I haven’t read them yet. Maybe I should wait to read them until I fill in the gaps in my run, so that I can read the whole series in order. I’m currently missing #3, #11-13, #15, #17-21, and all but one issue after #25.

MURDER #1 (Renegade, 1986) – “The Big Man,” [W/A] Steve Ditko, etc. This is also considered issue 10 of Revolver, though this is not indicated anywhere in the comic itself. Revolver and its associated titles were anthologies that focused on Steve Ditko’s work and were edited by his longtime collaborator Robin Snyder. According to Rob Imes, “The Big Man” was intended for Charlton’s 1985 revival of Tales of the Mysterious Traveler. It reads like a typical example of Ditko’s moralizing. Brad Foster’s illustrated text story “The Queen of Hairy Flies” has some very detailed drawing, but it includes way too much text, and moreover, the text is in a tiny font, and it’s all just trite Lovecraftian purple prose. Rich Margopoulos and Dan Day’s “Eleonora” is an adaptation of a Poe story. Dan Day’s art resembles that of his brother Gene Day. Probably the high point of the issue is Alex Toth’s one-pager “Face Up to It.”

2000 AD #393 (IPC, 1984) – Stainless Steel Rat: “For President,” [W] Kelvin Gosnell, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Slippery Jim DiGriz and his wife Angelina are hired to solve a murder. I read the first Stainless Steel Rat novel and was turned off by its sexism, but this adaptation makes me want to continue reading the series. Dredd: “City of the Damned,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Steve Dillon. Dredd and Anderson travel ahead in time to the year 2120 to investigate a prophecy of disaster. This is the beginning of a major Dredd epic. Nemesis: as above. Nemesis and Torquemada scheme against each other while riding a train. On the last page, Hammerstein and two other robots are about to be executed by Ro-Jaws. Ace: as above. On reaching the worm-eating planet, Ace’s crew discovers that the people there don’t eat worms, they worship them. Oops. Helltrekkers: as above. Just as the trekkers are erupting into factional violence, they discover that some of their number are suffering from a deadly contagious disease.

BATMAN #473 (DC, 1992) – “Into the Idiot Zone,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Norm Breyfogle. In part three of the Idiot Root crossover, Batman battles some sort of sentient psychoactive drug. In the central sequence of the issue, Batman takes the drug himself and is transported into the “idiot zone”. This scene contains some of Norm Breyfogle’s weirdest, most psychedelic art ever, and its weirdness is intensified by Todd Klein’s unusual lettering.

WEIRD WESTERN TALES #49 (DC, 1978) – Scalphunter: “The Belle,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Dick Ayers. A Confederate judge, Jeremiah Halleck, hires Scalphunter to protect his fortune in jewels from being stolen by outlaws. The outlaws succeed in killing Halleck, but Scalphunter escapes with the jewels and Halleck’s young wife, who claims that her husband was abusive. After Scalphunter reaches safety with the wife, he realizes that it was her who betrayed her husband to the outlaws, and he takes the jewels and throws them in a river. In the backup story, by Roger McKenzie and Howard Chaykin, a female vigilante named Cinnamon seeks revenge on her father’s killer. This story is inked by Danny Bulanadi, who sadly just passed away.

GRENDEL: DEVIL CHILD #1 (Dark Horse, 1999) – untitled, [W] Diana Schutz, [A] Tim Sale. This issue stars Stacy Palumbo, the adoptive daughter of the first Grendel, Hunter Rose. This issue begins after Hunter’s death, which was partly Stacy’s fault. Stacy is now in an institution, and her therapist grooms her and manipulates her into marrying him, but Stacy kills him too. I still don’t understand the premise of Grendel, but this issue is fairly powerful. Tim Sale was a master storyteller whose style resembled Argentine, Spanish or Italian comics more than American comics. I don’t know if I’ve read a comic written by Diana Schutz before. I think of her as an editor and journalist, rather than a creator.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #38 (Marvel, 2008) – “The Man Who Bought America Part Two,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Steve Epting. This takes place during the period when Steve Rogers was dead. The Winter Soldier is now the new Captain America, and in one of this issue’s plotlines, he and Falcon fight Arnim Zola. In the other plotline, Sharon discovers that the Grand Director, aka the fake 1950s Cap, has come back to life. The Grand Director’s previous appearance was in the same 1970s story where Sharon herself was killed off. I read Brubaker and Epting’s Captain America while it was coming out, but I eventually gave up on it because it was getting boring. However, it was a very solid and competent run, and Steve Epting’s art was thrilling and dramatic, making great use of photo reference.

MEGATON MAN #9 (Kitchen Sink, 1986) – “It’s Another Me! But Is He Friend or Foe?”, [W/A] Don Simpson. Megaton Man fights various other counterparts of himself, and also discovers that Stella Starlight is pregnant with his love child. In addition, there are some parodies of Elfquest and Doonesbury, and the issue includes a Border Worlds backup story. I think that in Megaton Man, Don Simpson might have been trying to follow a similar trajectory to Cerebus (whose creator, Dave Sim, is his near namesake). Megaton Man started out as a superhero parody, but gradually became more serious. However, Simpson never abandoned his primary focus on Megaton Man’s parody aspects, even when they started to get tired, and his attempts at more serious storytelling were not as successful as Sim’s.

MOTHER PANIC: GOTHAM AD #6 (DC, 2018) – “Different Bat Channel Part 6,” [W] Jody Houser, [A] Ibrahim Moustafa. Again, I don’t understand this comic’s plot, and I don’t care enough to try to understand it. The most interesting thing about this issue is that it contains several pages that are printed very blurrily. This issue includes a Mr. Freeze appearance, as well as some characters in Robin costumes, but it still doesn’t feel like it belongs to the Batman universe.

MY DOG IVY #1 (Uncivilized, 2019) – various vignettes, [W/A] Gabrielle Bell. A series of diary comics that cover the time Gabrielle Bell spent in Minneapolis, pet-sitting for Tom Kaczynski and his partner Nikki. This comic doesn’t focus very much on its Minneapolis setting, but it did include a scene set at the Mall of America. Also, while at the beach, Gabrielle encounters a woman with two heads. I thought this was an exercise in surrealism at first, but there really are two women in Minneapolis who appear to be a single body with two heads. As usual, Gabrielle Bell’s writing has impressive psychological depth, and her art is appealing because of her effective spotting of blacks.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #10 (Marvel, 2012) – “Powerless Part 5,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Alan Davis. The Falcon goes crazy due to the effects of the Madbomb, while Cap recovers from being infected with a virus by Machinesmith. At the end of the issue, Cap exhibits some strange behavior, like saying that the news is all lies. Maybe he was hit by the Madbomb too. This issue has a forgettable story, but is worth reading for Alan Davis’s art. Sadly, now that we’ve lost George Perez, Alan Davis may be my favorite living mainstream comics artist.

JONAH HEX #3 (DC, 1977) – “The Fugitive!”, [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] José Luis García-López. While fleeing from a posse of gunmen, Hex hides in the house of an old blind pacifist. Inconveniently, some other gunmen show up and try to burn the house down, because their employer wants to mine for turquoises on the old man’s land. The situation is further complicated when the old man’s daughter arrives home and discovers that Hex is a dangerous fugitive. Jonah manages to save the old man and the daughter, but is badly hurt. This is another classic Jonah Hex story.

AVENGERS FOREVER #10 (Marvel, 1999) – “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow…”, [W] Kurt Busiek & Roger Stern, [A] Carlos Pacheco. RIP Carlos Pacheco, a great artist who deserved a longer career. I read some of this series while it was coming out, but I gave up on it because of its hopelessly complicated, convoluted plot. It seems like Kurt and Sterno were trying to reconcile every single tangled plot thread in the entire Marvel Universe, and as a result, this series became impenetrable even to an expert reader, which I already was at that time. (Come to think of it, you might make a similar claim about The Marvels.) This issue complicates the plot even further by reintroducing the Time Keepers or Time Twisters, who I vaguely remember from What If? vol. 2 #39, one of the first comic books I owned. I might as well try to complete my run of Avengers Forever, but I’m in no hurry to do so.  

LUKE CAGE #169 (Marvel, 2018) – “Caged!”, [W] David F. Walker, [A] Guillermo Sanna. Cage and some other unjustly imprisoned convicts are trapped in a cave-in, thanks to the schemes of the Ringmaster. Cage saves everyone and defeats the Ringmaster. This issue was boring, though at least it didn’t take long to read. Its opening scene is an obvious and banal reference to Amazing Spider-Man #33.

TARZAN FAMILY #65 (DC, 1976) – “Deadlier Than the Male!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] James Sherman. Korak has an adventure with a young female giantess, Raynaa. This character reminds me of Glumdalclitch from Gulliver’s Travels, but otherwise this story is of little interest. At this point in writing this review, I fell down a rabbit hole and started reading about deans and cathedral chapters and canons, since Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels, was also the dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. Anyway, the other stories in this issue are reprinted from Tarzan #207 and Korak #51 and #52. On the last page it says that the next issue was going to include an adaptation of The Swords of Mars, but that adaptation was never published, and issue 66 was the last issue of Tarzan Family. The GCD says that ERB Inc withdrew their licenses from DC because they planned to publish their own Tarzan comics, but they must have reconsidered, because Marvel subsequently acquired the ERB licenses and published their own Tarzan and John Carter comics.

EXTREMITY #1 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Daniel Warren Johnson. Because I was enjoying Do a Powerbomb so much, I ordered Extremity #1-8 on Facebook. Extremity is set in a science-fictional world of islands floating in the sky. This issue’s focal character, Thea, used to be a talented artist before her family’s enemies, the Paznina, amputated Thea’s right hand, as well as murdering her mother. Now Thea, her father Jerome, and her brother Rollo are seeking revenge on the Paznina. In this issue, they capture a Paznina agent, Asmund, and Jerome tells Rollo to cut Asmund’s hands off. When Rollo refuses, Thea starts chopping Asmund’s fingers off, one by one. The title Extremity refers both to Thea’s missing hand, and the extreme measures Jerome and his children take in pursuit of vengeance. Extremity is a powerful and brutal depiction of vengeance, and of how the pursuit thereof can cause people to abandon their morals. The three major characters are all fully realized, though the worldbuilding is somewhat minimal. Extremity has a very different vibe from Do a Powerbomb, but they do both have a shared concern with the spectacular nature of violence.

EERIE #119 (Warren, 1981) – Zud Kamish: “Accept No Substitute,” [W] Jim Stenstrum, [A] E.R. Cruz. A very bizarre story about a Flash Gordon-esque space hero who prevents a robot civil war, and then gets served with a claim for increased alimony for his ex-wife. This story is mostly humorous in nature, and I’m not sure it’s suited to E.R. Cruz’s talents. I like his art, but he drew some very wooden faces, and he was better at fantasy than science fiction. “Sindy Starfire,” [W] Rich Margopoulos, [A] Ruben Yandoc. An Western story, with cosmetic science fiction trappings, in which a young woman seeks revenge on her family’s murderers.  This one feels like an excuse to draw a lot of T&A. Haggarth: “Eyes of the Dead!”, [W/A] Victor de la Fuente. This artist was one of Spain’s greatest adventure cartoonists, though Haggarth was first published in À Suivre in France. In this chapter, the title character, the warrior Haggarth, has been killed, while another young man has gone blind. A wizard solves both problems at once by transferring the young man’s mind into Haggarth’s body. De la Fuente’s draftsmanship and spotting of blacks are stunning, but I need to read more of his work to understand why he’s so well respected. I ordered a Spanish edition of his masterpiece, Haxtur, but I haven’t read it yet.

2000 AD #394 (IPC, 1984) – Stainless Steel Rat: as above. Jim and Angelina visit the planet Paraiso Aqui and discover that it’s suffering under tyrannical rule. They’re deported from the planet, but they resolve to return. Nemesis: as above. Hammersmith is reprieved from execution and is instead hired to assassinate the Goth version of Queen Victoria. Future Shocks: “Medusa!”, [W] Peter Milligan, [A]  Cliff Robinson. A human’s mind is swapped with that of an alien. Cliff Robinson’s art looks very similar to Brian Bolland’s. If I hadn’t known otherwise, I’d have thought this story was by Bolland. Dredd: as above. Dredd and Anderson investigate the sector house on Hill Street, a.k.a. Hell Street, which is infested with blue-skinned ghouls. This is a pun on the title of the TV show Hill Street Blues. Ace: as above. Ace’s crew are imprisoned and put on trial for eating sacred worms. They’re let off with a warning, but Ace gets them into even deeper trouble by dumping a load of worms into the courtroom. Helltrekkers: as above. The plague continues, and some dinosaurs stalk the caravan.

DUTCH TREAT #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1977) – [E] Denis Kitchen? This is a collection of translated work from the Dutch underground comic Tante Leny. Dutch Treat may be the first American comic to include the work of Joost Swarte, but he’s far from the only good artist in the issue. Other featured artists include Peter Pontiac, Evert Geradts and Marc Smeets. Although some of this work is tedious, the sheer diversity of the artists’ approaches is impressive. Peter Pontiac’s art shows the influence of Spain (the cartoonist, not the country), while Harry Buckinx’s art is hyperdetailed and reminds me of Old Master prints. Evert Geradts’s work is interesting because it seems like an underground version of Barks’s duck comics. In fact, one of his stories in this issue is a tribute to Barks, because the protagonist, Sailears, finds himself transported into Barks’s first Donald Duck story. The plot of the story is that “Donald becomes a photographer and takes shots of three ghastly disasters. But the nephews took all the rolls out because Donald wouldn’t help them do the dishes!” I don’t think there really is any Barks story like that, but the explanation may be that as the story continues, Sailears changes what happens in the story, causing it to never be published. In summation, Dutch Treat is an important comic that offers a rare window into a comics tradition that’s mostly inaccessible to Anglophone readers. Speaking of Swarte, I wish I’d bought Fantagraphics’s collection of his work, Is That All There Is?, when it came out. It’s worth about a hundred dollars now.

TWISTED TALES #7 (Pacific, 1984) – [W] Bruce Jones. “Holly’s Hobby,” [A] John Bolton. A policeman investigates a sweet old lady who’s been chopping off people’s heads and stuffing them. At the end, we realize that she’s already done this to the policeman too, and his voice is coming from a tape recorder. This is an effective piece of gross-out horror. “Hooked!”, [A] Bill Wray. A single mother seduces a fisherman, then feeds him to her monstrous child. This story is disgusting too, but it provokes disgust by its gruesome art rather than by the reader’s intellectual realization of what’s going on. “Sasquatch,” [A] Ian Akin & Brian Garvey. I’ve rarely if ever seen either of these artists mentioned without the other. This story is a complicated murder mystery involving sasquatches, but it’s not clear whether the sasquatches are real, or part of a lie that one character tells another. At the end, we discover that when one of the characters was stranded on a snowy mountain, he survived by eating a human head, rather than a dead raccoon, as he had claimed. This is an unnecessary extra plot twist that renders the story tasteless. “Shut-In,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Tanino Liberatore. A disabled man visualizes himself murdering his teenage babysitter and her boyfriend. At the end we realize that this only happened in his head. I want to read the complete version of Ranxerox, aka Ranx, the best-known work by this artist, but it’s surprisingly expensive.

CODENAME: KNOCKOUT #6 (Vertigo, 2001) – “Arms (and Legs) for Hostages Part II,” [W] Robert Rodi, [A] Amanda Conner. A convoluted espionage-suspense story centered on the alleged kidnapping of the daughters of an African politician. This issue seems like mostly an excuse for a bunch of cheesecake art.  It’s also full of African stereotypes. Amanda Conner, like George Pérez, has a masterful ability to draw women in a sexy but non-exploitative way – though it’s possible that because she’s a woman, her art seems less exploitative than it is.

BATMAN #462 (DC, 1991) – “Spirit of the Beast Part 1: To Live and Die in California,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. Batman investigates a series of murders of collectors of Native American artifacts. This issue has a very similar premise to Detective Comics #591, except that it’s about Native Americans rather than Aboriginal Australians. The problem is that the Native Americans in “Spirit of the Beast” are not treated with the same level of sensitivity as Umbaluru in “Aborigine!” The one Native American character in this issue,  unnamed here but later identified as Black Wolf, doesn’t seem to be a member of any particular nation, and the issue’s visual imagery is an indiscriminate blend of different Natve American visual cultures. I get the impression that Alan Grant’s knowledge of Native Americans was based on media portrayals rather than actual research.

CAPTAIN VICTORY AND THE GALACTIC RANGERS #9 (Pacific, 1983) – “God’s Many Mansions!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. I was completely unable to follow this issue’s plot. I’m not sure if it’s just a completely inarticulate and nonsensical comic, or if it just seems that way because I don’t understand its premise. But even if this comic’s plot does make logical sense, Kirby makes no attempt to explain it to a new reader. His artwork includes some striking imagery, but it seems too loose and crude compared to his classic style. This issue contains a short backup story providing some additional background, just as some of Kirby’s Fourth World comics did.

JONAH HEX #36 (DC, 1980) – “Return to Fort Charlotte,” [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Dick Ayers. Just as in Weird Western Tales #24, Jonah Hex is thrown out of the town where he’s staying, accompanied by one other person. In this case, Jonah’s companion is a sex worker, who Fleischer portrays in a plausible and sympathetic way. Despite being a “fallen woman,” she has her pride, and she’s caring and compassionate to Jonah. After being expelled from town, she and Jonah are kidnapped by some of Jonah’s old enemies, who imprison him in the same fort that he formerly escaped from. And, again as in Weird Western Tales #24, Jonah’s companion has to sacrifice herself to save his life. I think I liked this comic better before I noticed how familiar its plot was, but it’s pretty good anyway.

CEREBUS #128 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1989) – “Jaka’s Story 15,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Jaka wakes up and finds Fred (i.e. Cerebus) missing, then she and Rick have sex, then Rick goes to visit Oscar Wilde, then Oscar watches Jaka dancing through a window. I think Cerebus was already on its downward trajectory at this point. Sim was already letting entire issues go by without anything happening, and he had already lost sight of the overall plot.

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #27 (Marvel, 2010) – “Stark Resilient Part 3: This is What We Do,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Salvador Larroca. Pepper tries to convince Tony to build her another Rescue suit, and then Tony rehires Bambi Arbogast, one of the best supporting characters from the Michelinie-Layton era. Afterward, Tony and Rhodey fight a terrorist attack on Tokyo. Matt Fraction was an important writer because he redefined Tony’s personality to bring it more into line with Robert Downey Jr’s film portrayal of the character. Until then, Tony hadn’t had much of a personality at all.

THE ORDER #3 (Marvel, 2002) – “Ultimatum: Avengers!”, [W] Kurt Busiek & Jo Duffy, [A] Matt Haley w/ Luke Ross. The evil Defenders fight the real Avengers, while the good Defenders recruit the female versions of the big four: She-Hulk, Clea, and Namorita. But why are they doing this, and where are they going to find the female version of the Silver Surfer? Those questions are this issue’s cliffhanger. The thing I don’t like about this series is the character of Papa Hagg, although I suppose he’s not necessarily an offensive stereotype. I just bought a couple more issues of this miniseries today, so now I’m only missing two.

EXTREMITY #2 – as above. We start with a flashback to Thea’s amputation and her mother’s death. Then the protagonists (known as the Roto clan) discover a superpowered sentient robot, and it singlehandedly defeats a giant purple monster. We’re also introduced to the Paznina queen, Nim, and her daughter, who is missing her nose thanks to the Roto’s actions – in fact, it was in revenge for this that Nim cut Thea’s hand off.

2000 AD #416 (IPC, 1985) – Anderson: “Four Dark Judges,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Brett Ewins. While rescuing a kidnapped baby, Anderson discovers that Judge Death has regained his physical form. Slaine: “The Time Killer,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] David Pugh. Myrddin, who I assume is based on Merlin, convinces Slaine to kill the Cythron agent Elfric. To do so, Slaine has to travel forward in time to the Battle of Clontarf, where Brian Boru ended the Viking domination of Ireland. David Pugh is a good artist, but he’s not on the level of Slaine’s other artists. Dredd: “Sunday Night Fever,” [W] Wagner & Grant, [A] Cam Kennedy. On Sunday night, people across Mega-City One are going nuts because they can’t take the prospect of antoher week of unemployment. A bunch of people chain themselves together and threaten to jump off a tower, and when one of them jumps off, Dredd saves him, but not the other seven people he’s chained to. We are then told that a woman named Ruby Foulclough is about to cause 15,000 deaths. Rogue Trooper: “Return of Rogue Trooper,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] José Ortiz. At sea, Rogue encounters a monster that looks a lot like a Xenomorph. José Ortiz is one of the few artists who worked for both 2000 AD and Warren. Strontium Dog: “Big Bust of 49,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny, Wulf and Middenface team up to participate in a mass raid on criminals. The date of this story is “the 9th of Morknmndy,” i.e. Mork and Mindy.

ELRIC: THE MAKING OF A SORCERER #3 (DC, 2006) – “The Third Dream: The South Wind’s Soul,” [W] Michael Moorcock, [A] Walt Simonson. A young Elric is mentally projected into the consciousness of an ancestor of his. In this vision, he has to defeat a usurper to his throne by accepting aid from the Chaos Lord Arioch, and by using an evil black sword. All of this parallels the later career of the “real” Elric. I don’t know why I didn’t read this when it came out, because I was already a fan of both Moorcock and Simonson at that time. And the combination of the two produces very impressive results. Moorcock seems to have actually written this comic himself, and it feels like a classic Elric story. And Simonson has the visual imagination necessary to realize Moorcock’s bizarre and baroque visions. It is odd that DC published this comic, considering that it didn’t resemble anything else they were doing, and that they never published any other Moorcock adaptations that I can recall.

SHANGHAI RED #5 (Image, 2018) – “Wave of Mutilation,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Joshua Hixson. Red finally locates the last of her targets, Bunco Kelly, but he locks himself behind an impenetrable door, and Red’s pursuers are closing in on her. Red has to flee for her life and abandon Kelly. Instead she goes into partnership with a group of female pirates. Thankfully Sebela offers some closure to Red’s story: in the epilogue, set fourteen years later, Red finds Kelly again and kills him. Shanghai Red is probably the grimmest series Sebela has written. It’s also remarkable for its accurate depiction of Portland.

TUROK, SON OF STONE #69 (Gold Key, 1970) – “The Painted Mystery,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Alberto Giolitti. Turok and Andar discover a cave painting of a buffalo, an animal they’ve never seen in Lost Valley, which suggests that there may be a way out of the valley. Investigating further, they discover a buffalo horn monument and a tribe whose chief wears a buffalo robe. Turok and Andar eventually learn where these items came from, but it doesn’t help them escape the valley. This issue is a good example of the repetitiveness of the Turok formula. The typical Turok plot is that Turok and Andar discover a possible exit from Lost Valley, then they have some adventures while investigating it, and in the end they discover  that the exit is unusable. This formula is annoying because it promises narrative closure, but can never deliver it: if Turok and Andar ever did find the exit from Lost Valley, the series would be over. Not every Turok story uses this formula, but it’s common enough that it makes me unmotivated to read Turok.

ETERNALS #10 (Marvel, 1977) – “Mother!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Eson the Celestial invades the Deviants’ city, while Zuras prepares to call all the Eternals together. Other than Sersi and the Celestials themselves, Kirby’s Eternals introduced few memorable characters or concepts. Kieron Gillen is one of the only writers who’s made productive use of Kirby’s Eternals milieu. Still, Eternals has a far more coherent and exciting plot than Captain Victory.

POWER MAN #28 (Marvel, 1975) – “The Man Who Killed Jiminy Cricket!”, [W] Don McGregor, [A] George Tuska. Besides Brian Michael Bendis, Don McGregor may be the single writer who annoys me the most. His comics all have an excessive amount of captions, and these captions are both poorly written and unnecessary to the story. Usually all these captions do is offer ironic commentary on the events of the plot. A random example from this issue is “The wide sidewalks wait to receive his body. Before the new workday, the bright red that gives blood its vibrant message of life will have turned a dull brown!” If you went through Power Man #28, or most other McGregor comics, and removed every single caption box, the story would still make sense, and it would also be far more entertaining. As for its actual content, Power Man #28 is a murder mystery in which the McGuffin is a shipment of carcinogenic drugs.  

HEAVY METAL #3.8 (1979) – [E] Ted White. Noteworthy stories in this issue include but are not limited to the following. Caza’s “Suburban Scenes: Welcome to Cityville 2”: A young hippie moves into a new apartment complex that’s actually a prison. Serge Clerc’s “After the Fall”: Some Western agents invade a snowbound Russian spy base, only to discover that the Russians’ attractive female agent is a robot, and she’s wired to explode. Serge Clerc is a noted Clear Line artist, so it’s odd that this story is in black and white. Corben’s “Rowlf”: a gorgeous story, but I’m not sure what it’s about. Trina’s “Pau Pele Pau Mano”: A Hawaiian princess tries to prove that the volcano goddess Pele is not real, but ends up proving the opposite. This story is based on actual events, though Trina gets some of the details wrong, and in real life it was Christianity that triumphed over native religion, not vice versa. I would guess that Trina got the idea for this story from Steve Leialoha, who is Native Hawaiian. Other artists in this issue include Moebius, Luc Cornillon and Arthur Suydam.

IRON MAN #35 (Marvel, 1971) – “Revenge!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Don Heck. In a sequel to Steranko’s Nick Fury, Tony and Nick battle Zodiac. I don’t know if the Scorpio in this story was supposed to be Jake Fury or not. Scorpio’s true identity seems to have been retconned a few times. I don’t remember much about this story because my copy is missing most of its spine, and when reading it, I was mostly worried about finishing it before it fell apart.

EXTREMITY #3 (Image, 2017) – as above. The issue starts with a flashback to Thea’s initiation rite. Then the Roto set a trap for the Paznina general Brynjar, and after they capture him, Thea reluctantly executes him. The robot, Shiloh, is horrified by his violent behavior in the battle with Brynjar, and Rollo has to stop Shiloh from committing suicide. Extremity #2 and #3 are both full of striking action sequences and gruesome depictions of violence, and they continue the series’ central theme of how the desire for revenge leads to the loss of humanity.

2000 AD #418 (Rebellion, 1985) – Anderson: as above. Anderson travels to Deadworld to seek the Dark Judges. This chapter begins with a striking splash panel depicting a tower made of faces and limbs. Slaine: as above. The battle of Clontarf continues, and Slaine kills Elfric, but is wounded himself. Back in the past, Myrddin is betrayed by an ally who proves to be Slough Feg in disguise. While reading this story I realized that I’ve never actually read the Irish Mythological Cycle, which is the basis for much of Slaine’s backstory. I don’t know of any easily available translation of these texts. Dredd: as above. Ruby Foulclough releases lethal “rodentine” gas across the city. This issue is full of gruesome panels in which people are exposed to rodentine and are instantly turned to skeletons. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue and his three companions fight some land crabs. Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny and his sidekicks hunt down an energy vampire.

HOUSE OF MYSTERY #166 (DC, 1967) – Dial H for Hero: “The King of the Curses!”, [W] Dave Wood, [A] Jim Mooney. A scientist invents a machine that brings legendary creatures to life. Robby Reed has to use his H dial to defeat the creatures. One of the heroes Robby turns into is a Native American stereotype. Based on the evidence of this story, the various Dial H for Hero revival series were far more creative and innovative than the original. Martian Manhunter: “Vulture’s Crime Goliaths!”, [W] Jack Miller, [A] Joe Certa. J’onn J’onzz and his sidekick Zook fight some boring criminals. J’onn’s various solo strips have never been as exciting as his adventures with the JLA.

LUBA #5 (Fantagraphics, 2000) – “Kisses for Pipo,” [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. I’ve been unimpressed by most of Beto’s recent work, and it’s caused me to kind of forget what a great artist he is. This issue is a nice reminder. By 2000, Beto had introduced Fritz, Petra and Venus into his series, but they hadn’t taken it over completely, and he was still maintaining his primary focus on Luba’s family. This issue includes a funny and scary vignette where Luba’s young children Socorro and Joselito steal her car. Another point of emphasis is the love triangle between Pipo, Gato and Guadalupe. I miss all these characters and I wish Beto would return to them more often.

SUPERMAN/ALIENS #1 (DC, 1995) – untitled, [W/A] Dan Jurgens, [A] Kevin Nowlan. Superman discovers a Kryptonian city floating in space. We gradually realize that this must be Argo City, and its sole surviving inhabitant is Kara Zor-El. And – predictably given the title of the series – the city is infested by xenomorphs. I believe it was this series that catapulted Kevin Nowlan to stardom, although he only did finished pencils over Jurgens’s layouts. His draftsmanship in this issue is beautiful and distinctive. Dan Jurgens is a very limited writer, but writing Superman is the one thing he does best. I have the other two issues of this miniseries, but I haven’t gotten to them yet.

THE RETURN OF MEGATON MAN #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1988) – “Megaton Man Returns!”, [W/A] Don Simpson. A large part of this issue is devoted to Trent Phloog’s interactions with his roommates in Ann Arbor. Because of that, this issue is deeper and more compelling than the last couple Megaton Man comics I read. The most prominent subplot in this issue is about the Golden Age Megaton Man.

ELRIC #3 (Pacific, 1983) – untitled, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] P. Craig Russell & Michael T. Gilbert. In an adaptation of an early chapter of Elric of Melniboné, Yyrkoon tries to drown Elric, but Elric survives thanks to divine intervention from the sea god Straasha. Elric returns home in time to stop Yyrkoon from claiming the throne, but Yyrkoon escapes from Melniboné and kidnaps Elric’s fiancee Cymoril. This comic does not reach the artistic heights of PCR’s later adaptation of Stormbringer – see below – but he and MTG do an excellent job of bringing Moorcock’s world to life.

TUROK, SON OF STONE #39 (Gold Key, 1964) – “Mortal Combat,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Giovanni Ticci. Turok and Andar are kidnapped by two opposing tribes, and they’re forced to fight each other to determine which tribe is superior. This issue is much better than the last two Turoks I read. There are two reasons why. First, “Mortal Combat” doesn’t follow the standard Turok formula: it makes no mention of a possible escape route from Lost Valley. Second, Giovanni Ticci is a more exciting aritst than the series’ usual artist, Alberto Giolitti. Ticci’s renderings of dinosaurs and cavemen are very striking, and he draws impressive action scenes. I’d never heard of him before, but he seems to be best known as one of the primary artists for Tex.

On Black Friday, I went to a sale at Rebel Base Comics & Toys. I bought a lot of comics – perhaps too many – at a dollar each. Some of them were:

WHOA, NELLIE! #2 (Fantagraphics, 1996) – untitled, [W/A] Jaime Hernandez. This was my best find at the sale. Whoa, Nellie! is Jaime’s most sustained exploration of female wrestling, a topic that comes up throughout Love & Rockets. It largely feels like an excuse for him to draw female bodies, and the climax of the issue is a silent scene depicting a wrestling match. I wish I remembered how this story fit into Locas continuity. Whoa, Nellie! and Penny Century are Jaime’s only major solo works besides Love & Rockets itself. By contrast, Gilbert has released all sorts of solo titles, both within and outside the Luba/Fritz universe. This difference is probably because Beto’s style is less labor-intensive.

SUICIDE SQUAD #66 (DC, 1992) – “And Be a Villain!”, [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Geof Isherwood & Robert Campanella. This was the only issue of Suicide Squad that I was missing. I now have a complete run. In this issue the Squad finish their mission against Guedhe, and then Amanda Waller announces that she’s sick of sending people to their deaths, and she’s decided to disband the Suicide Squad. In exchange, she’s offered the presidency of the nation of Diabloverde. In the series’ concluding scene, Count Vertigo decides he doesn’t want Deadshot to shoot him dead, after all. Suicide Squad was one of the great superhero comics of the ‘80s, and I’m sorry there’s no more of it to read.

JONNY QUEST #30 (Comico, 1988) – “The Invisible Monster,” [W] William Messner-Loebs, [A] Marc Hempel & Mark Wheatley. In an adaptation of a TV episode, the Quest family investigates the disappearance of a scientist friend of Dr. Benton Quest. They discover that the scientist was killed by an invisible monster he created, and they have to find a way to get rid of the monster. This is a pretty basic Jonny Quest story, but it’s exciting, and the one-eyed yellow creature is a striking visual image. This was the last issue of Jonny Quest that I was missing.   

DIRECTORY TO A NONEXISTENT UNIVERSE #1 (Eclipse, 1987) – various vignettes, [W/A] Kerry Callen. I love Kerry Callen’s Super Antics cartoons, but I’m not sure if I had any of his comic books in my collection until now. This one-shot begins with a series of Marvel Handbook-style entries about various unimpressive superheroes. Then there’s a short story in which some of these heroes team up. This comic is a very funny piece of superhero parody, displaying Callen’s typical brilliant sense of humor. I think my favorite of the directory entries is for Mark Smith, a completely normal person.

NEW YORK: YEAR ZERO #1 (Eclipse, 1988) – untitled, [W] Ricardo Barreiro, [A] Juan Zanotto. A human army is evacuated from Venus after fighting a losing war with the native Venusians. Our protagonist, Brian Chester, is refused a seat on the evacuation ship, but manages to get aboard the ship anyway through trickery. When he gets back to Earth, he discovers that he’s earned nothing from his military service, and he now has to survive in New York, which is as bad a war zone as Venus. New York: Year Zero is perhaps one of the best Argentine comics in English translation. Juan Zanotto’s art is fantastic, especially his spotting of blacks and his rendering of weapons and vehicles, and Barreiro’s story is hard-hitting. An especially striking moment is when the Earth army opens fire upon their own allies to prevent them from boarding the evacuation shuttle, since there’s a deliberate shortage of seats. This comic is an example of a classic national comics tradition that’s still mostly inaccessible to American readers.

MICHAEL MOORCOCK’S MULTIVERSE #1 (DC, 1997) – “Moonbeams and Roses Part 1: The Mathematics of Smoke,” [W] Michael Moorcock, [A] Walt Simonson. This series’s main story reunites the creators of Elric: The Making of a Sorcerer. Moonbeams and Roses begins with a monologue by Moorcock himself, but then it quickly becomes very confusing. I think this whole series is going to be hard to understand until I read Blood: A Southern Fantasy and its sequels. At least this issue makes more sense than later issues did. Early in the story, there’s a reference to “the Berber knight Tarak-al-Tan-al-Oorn” – that is, Tanelorn. Another character in the story is named Captain Buggerly Otherly. I don’t want to mention why that name stuck out to me. The backup stories are The Metatemporal Detective and Duke Elric. The latter story mentions the Silverskin, which also appears in the Moonbeams and Roses story.

AXEL PRESSBUTTON #1 (Eclipse, 1984) – untitled, [W] Steve Moore, [A] Steve Dillon. Pressbutton and Mysta Mystralis (Laser Eraser) carry out a contract killing, but then they discover that they’ve been set up, and their contract was phony. They’re also being targeted by a bloblike alien, Zirk, who’s obsessed with Mysta’s “suppleness.” And we learn about Mysta’s tragic origin as a clone of a murdered warrior woman. Zirk stars in the backup story, which is drawn by Brian Bolland. This series suffers by comparison to the other comics that appeared in Warrior, but it’s well worth reading in its own right.

AQUAMAN: SWORD OF ATLANTIS #42 (DC, 2006) – “Deep Down,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Butch Guice. The new Arthur Curry, who swears he’s not Aquaman, is seduced by a mermaid who resembles Mera. Then he, King Shark, and the Dweller in the Depths arrive at an island city built by Jimmy Lockhart, with the Sea Devils as his private security. At the end of the issue, Arthur is contacted by the ghost of Vulko. Sword of Atlantis was a very weird chapter in Aquaman’s history, and I’m still not sure who the new young non-Aquaman was.

MS. TREE #43 (Renegade, 1987) – “Coming of Rage Chapter 3: Collision Course,” [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. Some criminals kidnap Michael Tree Jr, then one of the kidnappers “betrays” his colleagues and informs Ms. Tree that Dominique Muerta was responsible for the kidnapping. This “betrayal” is fake, because the criminals have also kidnapped Dominique Muerta’s daughter and told her that Ms. Tree was responsible, and their real plan is to get the two women to kill each other. Indeed, Ms. Tree goes looking for Dominique Muerta, but after a brief fight, they both realize that they’ve been duped. By this point in the series’ run, the Ms. Tree stories were just twelve pages, and the other half of the issue was a reprint of Pete Morisi’s Johnny Dynamite. This must have been extremely annoying to readers at the time, but the silver lining is that Johnny Dynamite may have been the best hard-boiled detective comic ever published in America, besides Ms. Tree itself. It’s extremely grim and it’s full of poetic prose. In this installment, Johnny saves his love interest Judy from a corrupt hospital.

WONDER WOMAN #74 (DC, 1993) – “Greatness Calls!”, [W] William Messner-Loebs, [A] Lee Moder. Diana saves a policewoman from being murdered by a criminal, but the policewoman is not happy about it. Then Diana takes a job with a creepy private eye named Micah Rains, and their first client is an even creepier man named Brian who’s used his computer skills to give himself superpowers. Before Diana can resolve this situation, Bos”ton’s aspiring new superhero, the White Magician, intervenes and severely injures Brian. This is a pretty weird comic. Diana’s adventures in this issue seem too petty to be worthy of her notice. I don’t think Bill Loebs was a natural superhero writer; his two major works in this genre, Wonder Woman and Flash, often don’t feel like superhero comics at all. But the weirdness of Loebs’s Wonder Woman may also be due to a lack of editorial oversight. At that time, DC was publishing Wonder Woman comics because their contract with the Marston estate required them to do so, and I don’t think they cared much about what was in those comics.

MS. TREE #44 (Renegade, 1988) – “Coming of Rage Chapter 4: Victim of Circumstance,” [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. Ms. Tree and Dominique Muerta trick the kidnappers into revealing themselves, then they kill all three kidnappers, which seems excessive given how incompetent these guys were. They also realize that Mike Jr and Lisa Muerta are a couple. This plotline is continued in Ms. Tree Quarterly #7, reviewed above. In the Johnny Dynamite backup story, Johnny’s latest love interest gets killed through her involvement in a corrupt anti-crime campaign. I don’t know what happened to his girlfriend Judy from the story reprinted in #43.

HOTSPUR #1 (Eclipse, 1987) – “We’re Not in Cincinnati Anymore,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Karl Waller. A swashbuckling stage actor gets transported into a sword-and-sorcery fantasy world, where he’s pursued by women who want to sleep with him. Hotspur isn’t as exploitative as this description sounds. It feels kind of like Jon Sable or Nightcrawler. The art includes some funny details, like a sign for the Church of Tarim, Scientist. I don’t know anything about Karl Waller, but he only did the first issue of Hotspur. The other two were by Ben Dunn. I’m not familiar with Dunn’s work, but I have a bad impression of him.  

NEW YORK: YEAR ZERO #2 – as above. This isn’t as beautiful as issue 1 because it’s set in New York, not Venus, so the settings are less impressive, though Zanotto does create some impressive depictions of a giant “coffin hotel.” In this issue Brian buys a gun and accidentally saves a wealthy woman from being assassinated.

ACTION COMICS #890 (DC, 2010) – “The Black Ring Part 1,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Pete Woods. I’ve seen a preview of this issue before; it’s the one where Luthor fires an employee “with references and rumors so he never works in this business again.” Even for Luthor that’s unnecessarily cruel. And Luthor goes on to assassinate the fired employee, and for some reason his companion, Lois Lane, is okay with these actions. Lois’s unusually tolerant attitude toward Luthor is explained when we realize she’s a robot. This issue does work reasonably well as an exploration of Luthor’s egotism and desire for power, but I don’t much like the modern corrupt-businessman version of Luthor. I much prefer the Silver Age Luthor, who was a vengeance-obsessed mad scientist, but was capable of altruistic behavior at times.

ELRIC: THE SAILOR ON THE SEAS OF FATE #1 (First, 1985) – untitled, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Michael T. Gilbert & George Freeman. This is an adaptation of one of my favorite episodes in the Elric saga: the one where Elric teams up with Corum, Hawkmoon and Erekosë, three other incarnations of the Eternal Champion, against Agak and Gagak. Crossovers like this one are very common in comic books, but much less so in prose fiction. When I read this part of Sailor on the Seas of Fate for the first time, it made me realize that Elric’s story was not self-contained but was part of a much larger tapestry. A notable moment that’s adapted in this issue is when Otto Blendker describes his adventure with a race of blue-skinned hermaphrodites. This is just a throwaway line, but it creates the sense that each of the Eternal Champions’ 20 sidekicks has his own story, even though most of those stories will never be told. As far as the quality of the adaptation goes, MTG and George Freeman do quite a good job, and they make all the characters look as if they came from separate worlds.

HOUSE OF SECRETS #1 (Vertigo, 1996) – “Foundation Part 1,” [W] Steven T. Seagle, [A] Teddy Kristiansen. A teenage girl runs away from Portland to Seattle. There she squats in a mysterious old house, and in the basement of the house, she witnesses a dead woman being put on trial by a supernatural jury because of her dark secrets. I was not especially impressed with this issue. Teddy Kristiansen’s artwork is very grim and moody, but Steven T. Seagle’s writing goes beyond grimness to the point where it becomes maudlin and melodramatic.

AGENT X #2 (Marvel, 2002) – “Dead Man’s Switch Part 2,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] UDON. Agent X and the immediately previous Deadpool run were Gail’s first major work for superhero comics, and they’re the only Deadpool comics I really like. Perhaps this is because Agent X’s humor is understated and tasteful and not too over-the-top, while most other Deadpool comics are the exact opposite. In this issue, Agent X and Sandi participate in a competition where they’re supposed to steal the Punisher’s guns in exchange for a bounty. However, the Punisher turns the tables on them and kills the criminals who are offering the bounty.

TOMB OF DRACULA #17 (Marvel, 1974) – “Death Rides the Rails!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Gene Colan. Searching for Dracula, Frank and Rachel travel to Transylvania by train, not knowing that Dracula is already aboard the same train. The train’s other passengers include two mysterious criminals who turn out to be agents of Doctor Sun. This issue includes some exciting action scenes, but its best moment is when a little boy threatens Dracula with a toy gun. I already have this issue in a black-and-white reprinted form, but there is no substitute for owning the original. It’s too bad that my copy is missing the Marvel Value Stamp, together with part of the story page on the other side.

AIRBOY #25 (Eclipse, 1987) – “A Walk Along the Russian River,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Tom Yeates. Airboy and the Heap meet a man named Tom Lynch, who is planning to protest illegal sewage dumping in the Russian River, by depositing a load of fertilizer on the steps of the Santa Rosa city hall. Tom Lynch is a real person and he really did do this stunt in 1985, as explained in the text feature at the end of Airboy #25. The Heap, as depicted in this issue, is more or less identical to Man-Thing. This issue includes a Skywolf backup story by Dixon and Graham Nolan.

WINTERWORLD #3 (Eclipse, 1988) – untitled, [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Jorge Zaffino. After a lengthy action sequence, the protagonists escape from the converted sports arena where they’re being held. This series has an intriguing postapocalyptic setting, but it’s primarily worth reading for Jorge Zaffino’s art. He has a very distinctive and appealing style of linework, and his compositions and spotting of blacks are beautiful. However, Winterworld would actually have been better if it were black and white, like most Argentine comics. It’s too bad that none of Zaffino’s Argentine work is available in America. At the sale I bought another Zaffino comic, Seven Block, but I haven’t read it yet.

Next trip to Heroes, on December 18:

NIGHTWING #98 (DC, 2022) – “A Nite to Remember,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. Nightwing meets his personal fifth-dimensional imp, Nite-Mite, and reluctantly teams up with him to save Blockbuster’s daughter from being dragged off to hell. (Back in Underworld Unleashed, Blockbuster sold his soul to Neron, but later he bought his soul back in exchange for his daughter’s soul, because of course he did.) This is probably the best issue of Nightwing other than #87, the one with the single issue-long panel. ”A Nite to Remember” is hilarious, but it also demonstrates why Nightwing is truly heroic. My favorite line in this issue is when Nite-Mite admits that he’s a Dick/Kory shipper, as I am. Another nice moment is when Nite-Mite creates a T-shirt that parodies the famous panel with Batman slapping Robin.

MIRACLEMAN: THE SILVER AGE #2 (Marvel, 2022) – “When Titans Clash!”, [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Mark Buckingham. The resurrected Dicky Dauntless, Young Miracleman, has difficulty coping with his new celebrity status. Miracleman tries to ease his anxieties by seducing him, but Dicky, with his ‘50s morality, is horribly offended by this, and he punches Miracleman through a wall and flees Olympus. The poignancy of this issue comes from Dicky’s naivete and old-fashioned morality – he even prays before going to bed. But in the kiss scene, Dicky’s righteousness turns into intolerance and, perhaps, internalized homophobia – though Miracleman probably shouldn’t have tried to kiss him. Miracleman #24 had a tiny print run and may be even harder to find than #15, so I’m glad I finally own a reprint of it. The reason this series took so long to come out was because Buckingham insisted on redrawing the whole thing. His original pages are preserved at the end of the issue. I haven’t gone through them in detail, but I do notice a couple differences between the original and redrawn versions. In the new version, the man who introduces Johnny is completely redesigned, and the kiss panel is redrawn so we can actually see both Dicky and Miracleman’s faces, since same-sex kisses are no longer considered socially unacceptable. (See also the “kiss of death” scene in Strikeforce: Morituri #14, which was carefully composed to avoid directly showing two women kissing, even though they were doing so in a non-sexual context.)

WYND: THE THRONE IN THE SKY #4 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. Strawberry the giant seems well-intentioned enough, but the problem is that he intends to keep Wynd and company safe for about five years. It makes sense that such a big, long-lived creature would think of five years as an insignificant amount of time, though of course Wynd and his friends don’t agree. The next day, Strawberry tells Wynd his own version of the origin of the fairies and vampires. And speaking of vampires, we haven’t seen them in this miniseries yet, but they’re still chasing Wynd’s party, and at the end of the issue, they arrive at Strawberry’s lair.

EIGHT BILLION GENIES #6 (Image, 2022) – “The First Eight Years,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. Daisy, Brian and Alex spend seven years preparing for their audition for Fun City, a magical place where only talented people can enter. Despite their best efforts, they fail the audition because Fun City’s auditioners are a pack of gatekeeping assholes. But they’ll still let anyone in who has a genie. So Brian uses his wish to place Alex’s wish under the control of the three of them together, and that’s enough to get them all into the city. Meanwhile, Son Man is still under the Idea Man’s control, and Wang and Lifeng’s child is almost old enough to use her own wish.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #26 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Girl and the Hurricane Part 1,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. Erica recovers from her injuries at Riqui’s house on an Indian reservation. Cutter arrives in the area and tells Sheriff Thomas that Erica is responsible for the killings. The more I read this series, the more I hate the Order of St. George. If they devoted half the time to killing monsters that they devote to hunting down their own members, there’d be a lot fewer monsters. And Cutter is easily the worst House of Slaughter agent we’ve seen yet.

SHE-HULK #8 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. This issue is Mark and April’s origin story. We learn that they tried to give themselves Hulk and She-Hulk’s powers, but their experiment failed, and Mark became a raging brute, while April’s body grew tiny and her head grew huge. Now they want to achieve their original goal by stealing She-Hulk’s gamma radiation. This issue is a narratively satisfying one-shot story, but I wish it had included more of Jen herself.

DARK SPACES: WILDFIRE #5 (IDW, 2022) – “Decay,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Hayden Sherman. Brooks explains what her plot was, and she manages to convince the other four firefighters to take them with her, rather than killing her. But on their way out of the house, the women discover that the fire has changed course and is about to destroy their base camp. Ma decides to warn the other firefighters at base camp rather than escaping, and Zinn, Saw and Ramos accompany her, at the cost of letting Brooks escape. Afterward, Ma’s plan is to tell the truth about what happened (mostly) and to inform the authorities to arrest Brooks. This is a satisfying ending, though it feels a bit too happy; after the flashforward in issue 1, I expected all the protagonists to get killed. Overall, Dark Spaces: Wildfire is my favorite Scott Snyder comic so far. It’s both visually and narratively stunning. I hope IDW is developing more creator-owned projects like this.

I HATE FAIRYLAND #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Brett Bean. Gert is finding it impossible to cope with life in the real world, but then a billionaire techbro asks her to return to Fairyland to rescue his young son. In terms of my critical assessment of this comic, let me quote my own Facebook post: “Skottie Young’s recent works, specifically Middlewest and The Me You Love in the Dark, have represented a major step forward for him. Instead of just silly humor, they’re serious works of fantasy and psychological horror. They show that he’s becoming a multifaceted creator. The new I Hate Fairyland, on the other hand, is just a bunch of stupid humor and excessive violence, in the exact same style as the original I Hate Fairyland. It’s in awful taste, and it breaks no new ground creatively. And that’s what makes it brilliant.”

ONCE UPON A TIME AT THE END OF THE WORLD #1 (Boom!, 2022) – “Love in the Wasteland Chapter 1: The Tower in the Sea,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Alexandre Tefenkgi. In the wake of an unspecified world-ending catastrophe, a young girl, Ezmerelda, rows a boat through a flooded city until she finds a still-standing tower. Inside is a boy her age, Maceo, who has turned the tower into his personal playground. Maceo had been happy with his solitary life in his tower, but after meeting Ezmeralda, he decides to leave the tower and follow her. Many years later, a much older Maceo, now known as Mace, is tortured by cannibals, and we also learn that he built the “Golgonooza,” a name borrowed from William Blake. I don’t know quite what to think about this series, but I really like the relationship between the two main characters.

VANISH #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Ryan Stegman. Vanish fights a pair of fraternal twin Hollow members (i.e. Death Eaters) who are posing as superheroes. Eventually he kills them both and takes their magic. Meanwhile, Deacon Dust is confronted by Halcyon, another Hollow member who’s basically Superman. Donny Cates’s work has been something of a mixed bag, but so far Vanish is maintaining the same level of quality as Crossover.

BONE ORCHARD: TEN THOUSAND BLACK FEATHERS #3 (Image, 2022) – “The Night Approaches,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. In a flashback, Jack and Trish go to a bar, where Jack ditches Trish to hang out with a man who’s much too old for her. Jack disappears for a while, and when Trish finds her again, something awful has happened to her, but we don’t find out what. Then Trish kisses Jack, but Jack rebuffs her and runs off again. In the present, Trish interviews the man Jack met that night, who subsequently became the prime suspect in Jack’s murder. Then Trish finds the man’s mutilated corpse, next to a mysterious inscription. I think the inscription is in Icelandic or Old Norse, but Google Translate can’t decipher it. A nice touch in this issue is that in the flashback scene, Trish is rendered in Sorrentino’s line-drawn style, while Jack is drawn in his other style, with large areas of shadow and almost no clear outlines. The line-drawn style seems to be associated with Trish’s childhood and with her and Jack’s fantasy world.

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #22 (Image, 2022) – “Happy Face,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Martin Simmonds. Matty is stalked by Department of Truth agents, and when Cole asks Ruby if he’ll have to kill Matty, she refuses to answer. Cole realizes that Black Hat is winning, and the only way to stop them is to do the unthinkable but obvious thing: tell the truth. At the end of the issue, Oswald reveals himself to Cole. I’m glad that the plot has gone in this direction, because I was starting to think that the Department of Truth was worse than Black Hat. Early in the issue, one of Matty’s stalkers is reading a book called Passport to Magonia, an actual UFO book written by Jacques Vallée.

EVE: CHILDREN OF THE MOON #2 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Jo Mi-Gyeong. This issue is mostly a flashback that explains why Selene and Endymion – the leaders of the Portage, Michigan outpost – are so terrified of Eve and Wexler. Back in the present, their confrontation with the two Eves and Wexler erupts into violence. Selene and Endymion are both named for moon-related deities, as explained in the issue.

IMMORTAL X-MEN #8 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Curious Case of Dr. Essex and Mr. Sinister,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Michele Bandini. The POV character this issue is Mystique. The issue begins with a flashback to 1943, when Mystique and Destiny investigate Mr. Sinister’s Black Womb Project. The name Sullivan is mentioned as one of the families whose DNA is manipulating, but I can’t think of any X-Men characters named Sullivan. The bulk of the issue is a flashback to Mystique and Destiny’s first meeting with Mr. Sinister, in London in 1895. This sequence is an obvious Sherlock Holmes pastiche, and a pretty good one.

SHANG-CHI AND THE TEN RINGS #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “Game of Rings Part 2,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Marcus To. Shang-Chi frees Leiko from the worm monster, and she deliberately loses the game. Shang-Chi makes the final cut to three participants, but Shen Kuei betrays him. The centerpiece of this issue is a flashback to the origin of Jinzha and Muzha, the two brothers who organized the tournament. Jinzha, Muzha and their brother Nezha are actual Chinese deities. Perhaps the most notable version of their story is the 16th-century novel Fengshen Yanyi, aka The Investiture of the Gods. This book is available in English, but only in an abridged edition that’s difficult to find.

KROMA #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Lorenzo De Felici. In a fantasy world, the remnants of the human race all live in one city, where they hide from the “King of Colors” and his monster lizards. The lizards can’t see white or black, so everything in the city is painted gray, and the citizens believe that color is deadly. The protagonist, Zet, is in training for the city’s leadership, but his faith is shaken when he meets a young girl, Kroma, with opposite-colored eyes. Zet succumbs to Kroma’s influence and visits her in prison, but on the last page of the issue, someone stabs Zet with a spear. Kroma is fascinating because of how it makes color the core of its narrative. As explained in the author’s note, De Felici broke into the industry as a colorist, and he wanted to tell a story that was about color, but in a practical rather than a symbolic sense. Offhand I can’t think of any other comic that uses color in this way, and I look forward to reading more Kroma.

SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER 2 #4 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jody Leheup, [A] Nil Vendrell. In prison, Shirtless experiences all the typical prison-story cliches, except with bears. Ursa Major’s plot is revealed, and Shirtless’s clone names himself Pantsless Shirtless Bear-Fighter-Fighter. Finally, Ursa Major returns to earth in person. Besides the name of Shirtless’s clone, the funniest thing in this issue is when Shirtless’s beard is shaved off, and then it grows back within one panel.

DEFENDERS BEYOND #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “Kether: The House of Ideas,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Javier Rodriguez. In the House of Ideas, the Defenders meet the actual God – not the one who looks like Jack Kirby, but a different incarnation. Loki has the chance to free himself from the Marvel Universe entirely, but chooses not to. These two Defenders miniseries were an artistic tour de force, a chance for Javier Rodriguez to show off his incredible artistic talent. They were also a sort of Divine Comedy for the Marvel Universe, in the sense that they explored its overarching structure in both time and space, just as Dante defined the structure of heaven, hell and purgatory.

DAREDEVIL #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Red Fist Saga Part 5,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Rafael De Latorre. Matt and Elektra stage a breakout at the Myrmidon prison in order to recruit some new members of the Hand. There’s a brief appearance by Stegron, a very funny villain, and then Matt fights USAgent and kicks his ass. In just a few pages, Zdarsky succeeds in reminding me why I hate USAgent so much – he’s an utter asshole and an arch-conservative. Chip’s Daredevil is well-written and well-drawn, but it tends to vanish from my memory after I read it.

RESIDENT ALIEN: THE BOOK OF LOVE #1 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. Harry and his new girlfriend Asta explore their relationship, and there are lots of other slice-of-life vignettes. There’s also a subplot about the men in black who are following Harry. I don’t understand much of the plot of this issue, but Resident Alien is a cute slice-of-life comic. I wonder why I never see any back issues of it in dollar boxes.

THE DEADLIEST BOUQUET #4 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Erica Schultz, [A] Carola Borelli. This issue just provides some incremental development of all the ongoing plotlines, and at the end, one of the daughters realizes she knows what happened to their mother. This series could use a character guide like Nice House on the Lake has, because I know all three of the daughters have flower names, but I can never remember which flower corresponds to which daughter.

CRASHING #3 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matthew Klein, [A] Morgan Beem. Rose’s world comes crashing down around her. We discover that in addition to being a drug addict, she married Don under false pretenses. He was at the ceremony visiting his sister’s grave, but it was Rose herself who caused the car accident that killed Allison. After a confrontation with the primary villain, Don vanishes, and the superhero registration act passes with overwhelming support. My main reaction to this issue is that Rose is the most unsympathetic protagonist ever: a liar and a drug addict who killed her own husband’s sister and never told him. I know she’s under a lot of pressure, but that’s no excuse. I’ve totally lost my sympathy for her, and I won’t be sad if she dies.

WEST OF SUNDOWN #6 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Aaron Campbell, [A] Jim Terry. Most of this issue is spent establishing the new status quo as of the end of the last story arc. The new story arc is going to focus on Dr. Moreau, who made a cameo appearance at the end of issue 5. West of Sundown is an excellent series, but it’s another comic that could use a character guide.

IMAGE! 30TH ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY #8 (Image, 2022) – [E] Eric Stephenson? A new story in this issue is W0rldtr33 by James Tynion IV and Fernando Blanco, but so far I can’t tell what it’s about. In the “Close to You” story, the Marigold character discovers that she can cause stars to fall from the sky, all the girls follow her around, etc. I missed some of the jokes in this story at first because I only knew the first verse of that song. And then we learn that this whole thing is part of a plot by her creepy ex. The other highlight of the issue is a revival of Paul Grist’s Jack Staff. It’s great to see this comic again, and Grist’s art works perfectly in black and white. Oh, and there’s also a new chapter of Casanova. In the Gehenna story, the second page includes a cameo appearance by the cast of Family Guy.

ACTION JOURNALISM #3 (Oni, 2022) – “Kate Kelly is a %@$*# Embarrassment to Journalism!”, [W] Eric Skillman, [A] Miklos Felvideki. Kate and her professional rival Isaac, a he-man Steve Lombard type, are transported into an epic-fantasy world. In this other world, Isaac gets duped into trying to kill a dragon that consumes stories, but Kate saves him, and also offers the dragon a tape recorder containing all her previous stories, thus giving the dragon a way to satisfy its hunger. This was another excellent issue, and unlike issue 2, Kate has to use her journalism skills to save the day. A funny moment in this issue is when Kate helps a cyclops find its giant contact lens.

PINK LEMONADE #3 (Oni, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Nick Cagnetti. Pink Lemonade goes to the opening of a mysterious art gallery, but the event is crashed by the film producer, Zavi Xarad, and the actress he’s cast as Pink Lemonade in his movie. Throughout the issue we keep seeing a mysterious man in a green trenchcoat, and he proves to be Bam Wammi, the fired former director from Xarad’s movie. Pink Lemonade continues to be very derivative of Madman, but it’s full of brilliant designs and action sequences, and it’s a lot of fun. I especially like the scenes set in the Escheresque upper floors of the art gallery. Late in the issue, the two hecklers who say “stop talking and fight” are Beavis and Butt-Head.

JUNKYARD JOE #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Gary Frank. Many years after issue 1, Muddy Davis has just retired from his job as a comic strip artist, and his wife has died. We also meet his new neighbors, who are obviously important. Then Muddy is shocked when Junkyard Joe arrives on his doorstep – how did it take the robot fifty years to get to America from Vietnam? And there are some other robots following Joe. This is Geoff Johns’s best comic in many years, though that’s a rather low bar.  

HUMAN TARGET #9 (DC, 2022) – “And When I Have Stol’n Upon These Sons-in-Law,” [W] Tom King, [A] Greg Smallwood. Chance spends the entire issue waiting for Batman to show up, and he even punches out some man in a diner who he thinks is Batman, only to discover that it’s not him. The punch scene is a reference to the famous “one punch” moment in Justice League. I’m getting pretty tired of this series, and I think it could have been half as long. Why do all of Tom King’s comics have to be twelve issues?

HIGHBALL #3 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Battle in the F***king Trees,” [W] Stuart Moore, [A] Fred Harper. Highball visits the home planet of the bird woman from #1, to return her remains. After a somewhat boring adventure, he accepts his coworker’s offer to participate in a conspiracy against the Mentok. This issue wasn’t as entertaining as the last one.

NAMOR: CONQUERED SHORES #2 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Pasqual Ferry. Namor encounters Machine Man and the Golden Age Human Torch. This issue is frankly rather boring, and I’m not sure it’s worth continuing to read this series, although Pasqual Ferry’s artwork is very solid.

G.I. JOE #300 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Larry Hama, [A] S.L. Gallant. I bought this on a whim because it’s Larry Hama’s final G.I. Joe comic for IDW. The most impressive thing about this issue is the wraparound cover, which depicts hundreds of different G.I. Joe and Cobra characters. The amount of work that went into this cover is indicated by the fact that two different people are credited with doing research for it. The story in the issue is a bit hard to follow, but it revolves around the return of Snake Eyes, who’s been dead for some time. This issue ends with a cliffhanger rather than a satisfying resolution, suggesting that Larry hopes to continue writing G.I. Joe for whichever publisher picks up the license next.

FANTASTIC FOUR #52 facsimile (Marvel, 1966/2022) – “The Black Panther!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. Fantastic Four #48 to #52 are probably the greatest five consecutive issues in the history of comic books. These five issues contain the original Galactus saga, “This Man… This Monster!”, and the debut of the Black Panther. In T’Challa’s first appearance, the emphasis is mostly on Wakanda’s incredible level of technological advancement. T’Challa plays the role of an antagonist rather than a hero, and he’s a very effective one; he almost manages to defeat the entire FF singlehandedly.

SACRAMENT #4 (AWA, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Marcelo Frusin. Vass discovers some clues to the origin of the demon, and Rais is subjected to the anti-faith treatment, but then shows up to help Vass. The creepiest thing about this series is that the demon has a truly demonic personality. It always knows exactly what to say to humiliate and torment Vass.

THE BUNCH’S POWER PAK COMICS #2 (Kitchen Sink, 1981) – “Why the Bunch Can’t Draw” etc., [W/A] Aline Kominsky-Crumb. I read this after hearing the sad news that we just lost the Bunch. I never met her, but after reading her work, it’s hard not to feel a personal connection to her. She’s infamous for her allegedly “bad” draftsmanship and her self-deprecating attitude thereto, but her art is only “bad” in the sense that it doesn’t conform to standard aesthetic canons, and that it makes the reader uncomfortable. A visual highlight of this issue is the back cover, which shows a cross-section of food traveling through Aline’s pregnant body. This image creates an effect of Bakhtinian grotesquerie. Her work also stands out to me for its representation of a midcenutry Jewish lifestyle (and accent). I’m an almost totally assimilated Jew, but the Bunch’s work still feels familiar to me. The stories in this issue include one about some people she knew in childhood, and a couple others about her solo vacation in America without Crumb. One of the stories in this issue, “Of What Use is a Bunch?”, was reprinted in Fantagraphics’s Best Comics of the Decade.

JUSTICE WARRIORS #6 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Punks Stand a Chance!”, [W] Matt Bors, [A] Ben Clarkson. An unsatisfying conclusion to an unenjoyable comic. This was a huge disappointment considering Matt Bors’s track record of quality political cartooning. It was also the worst Ahoy comic yet, and it makes me question my policy of buying everything Ahoy publishes.

TRVE KVLT #4 (IDW, 2022) – “There’s No One I’d Rather Be Incinerated and Sent to Hell With than You,” [W] Scott Bryan Wilson, [A] Liana Kangas. The two protagonists confront Satan, while their coworker goes looking for them. I kind of liked the first issue of Trve Kvlt, but subsequent issues have been boring and unfunny.

THE FLY #4 (Archie, 1983) – “Dejavu,” [W] Rich Buckler, [A] Steve Ditko. The Fly fights some boring villains, and also discovers that his love interest, the former Fly Girl, has moved on from him. The problem with late-period Ditko is that his style was effectively stagnant. His ‘80s work is hard to tell apart from his ‘60s work, and he kept drawing the same stuff over and over. Someone once told me that you can identify a Ditko story because he never updated his photo reference files, so his costumes and settings always look as if they were stuck in the ‘50s and ‘60s. This issue has a Jaguar backup story by Chas Ward and Vicatan, an underrated Filipino artist.

INCREDIBLE HULK #310 (Marvel, 1985) – “Banner Redux,” [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Bret Blevins. Glow, Goblin and Guardian lead the mindless Hulk through Bruce Banner’s past memories, thus helping to set up for issue 312, perhaps the most important Hulk comic ever. Then the Hulk saves a yellow-skinned woman from being sacrificed, but he turns back to Banner just as the woman is about to sacrifice him. I hate Bill Mantlo’s writing, and I have very few issues of his Hulk run, but I would read more Mantlo Hulks if I could find them at cheap prices.

DEMON KNIGHTS #10 (DC, 2012) – “The Once and Always King,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Diógenes Neves. The cast fights a “pirate sea serpent” – really – and then they travel toward the ruins of Camelot. This issue is rather insubstantial, but Demon Knights was one of the more interesting New 52 titles. It combined a variety of different DC barbarian, horror and fantasy characters in an interesting way.

CASPER GHOSTLAND #78 (Harvey, 1974) – “The Mysterious G*ps* Girl,” [W/A] uncredited. Casper meets a g*ps* girl who’s being pursued by aliens from Uranus. This is a silly comic with a typical nonsensical Harvey plot.

THE SPECTRE #13 (DC, 1993) – “Righteousness,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Tom Mandrake. This issue has a glow-in-the-dark cover, but the glow-in-the-dark effect seems to have worn off. “Righteousness” begins with Amy’s funeral, and then the Spectre visits Vlatava, Count Vertigo’s homeland, which functions here as a stand-in for Bosnia. After witnessing a terrorist attack on innocent children, the Spectre determines that the entire nation is guilty, so he kills Vlatava’s entire population. Somehow this act of literal genocide was mostly forgotten after this series ended. Count Vertigo himself, a recurring character from Suicide Squad, reappears in this issue, and there’s also a scene with Father Richard Creamer, perhaps the best depiction of an honest clergyman in any mainstream comic. The Spectre was John Ostrander’s best work for DC other than Suicide Squad, and I need to collect it more heavily, especially now that I’ve finished my Suicide Squad run.

RAZOR’S EDGE #1 (Innovation, 1993) – four stories, [W/A] Bruce Jones. The four stories in this issue are all reprints, but they’re all reprinted from Fantagor comics that are not easy to find, so Innovation did a service to readers by collecting them. It looks like I’ve read three of these stories before, though I don’t remember them well. The best of these is “Targets,” in which a woman assassinates her husband’s mistress. But it turns out that the husband was also planning to murder his mistress, and he kills the wife instead due to mistaken identity. The one story that’s new to me is “Watching You,” in which a disgusting criminal abducts a woman’s young daughter in order to get her to sleep with him. But the woman has a telepathic bond with the daughter, and she convinces the daughter to shoot the rapist dead.

THE EXTREMIST #2 (Vertigo, 1993) – “June, Nineteen Ninety-Three,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Ted McKeever. This issue explains how the protagonist’s husband became the Extremist in the first place. Then he tries to quit, but is murdered first. This really should have been issue 1, because #2 barely makes sense without having read #1 first. The Extremist is one of Milligan’s best miniseries. For its time, it’s a very frank examination of alternative sexualities. One interesting line in this issue is. “What gross clumsiness to shove the world’s population into two categories, into two sexes! There are more than two sexes… There aren’t even three or four sexes. There are as many sexes as there are people in the world.” It’s the villain who says this, but he’s not wrong. I have this entire miniseries now, but I haven’t read #4 yet, and I can’t find my copy of it.

ARCHIE #151 (Archie, 1964) – “Not Guilty” etc., [W] Frank Doyle et al., [A] Harry Lucey. The best story in this issue is the one where Archie fools his friends with a trick light bulb, and eventually causes Mr. Lodge to electrocute himself. This issue reminds me why Harry Lucey was such a huge influence on Jaime Hernandez. The Archie house style is based on the work of Dan DeCarlo, but Lucey drew quite differently from DeCarlo. Lucey’s faces and body types were more realistic, and he drew with great economy of line, much like Jaime does.

AIRBOY #17 (Eclipse, 1987) – “The 3rd Mission,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Bo Hampton. Back in World War II, a third atomic bomb was scheduled to be dropped on Moscow (or so this comic claims), but the plane carrying the bomb vanished and was never seen again. Now the plane reappears at the worst possible time. There’s also a Skywolf backup story, set in Guatemala in the 1950s.

STAR-SPANGLED WAR STORIES #190 (DC, 1975) – “Project: Omega,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] Gerry Talaoc. The Unknown Soldier investigates a Nazi plot to turn gorillas into super-soldiers. This story isn’t as funny as that summary makes it sound, but Talaoc’s draftsmanship is quite good. In the backup story, by Jack Oleck and Ruben Yandoc, a soldier finds comfort in the presence of a stray dog, but when the dog runs away, he loses all hope and gets himself killed. The story ends with the dog mourning over the soldier’s corpse.

NEW YORK: YEAR ZERO #3 (Eclipse, 1988) – as #2 above. Brian is hired as Delphina’s bodyguard and lover, but then has to defend her from an attack by a rival gang. When her father is kllled in the attack, Brian has to lead a revenge mission. Again, this issue is impressively drawn, but I liked issue 1 better.

THOR #249 (Marvel, 1976) – “The Throne and the Fury!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] John Buscema. Odin’s evil advisor Igron tries to convince Odin to draw the Odinsword and trigger Ragnarok. This issue has some excellent artwork, but its plot is a retread of any number of earlier Thor stories where Odin goes nuts. The only surprising twist in this issue is the revelation at the end: that “Odin” is not Odin at all, but the Mangog in disguise.

THE DREAMING #2 (Vertigo, 1996) – “The Goldie Factor Part Two,” [W] Terry LaBan, [A] Peter Snejbjerg. Goldie has been kidnapped by a creepy limbless man, later revealed to be the Biblical serpent. Following Goldie’s trail, Cain and Abel visit a café patronized by Greek mythological creatures. Then they follow Goldie through various other locations in the Dreaming, such as a socialist workers’ paradise, an environmentalist ecotopia, and Davy Jones’s Locker. This issue is quite funny and whimsical.

JSA #22 (DC, 2001) – “Lost Friends,” [W] David S. Goyer & Geoff Johns, [A] Rags Morales & Buzz. This issue has two parallel plotlines, located on the top and bottom halves of each page. On the top halves, most of the JSA go looking for the missing Hawkgirl. On the bottom halves,  On the bottom halves, Jay Garrick has an adventure in 19th-dynasty Egypt, where he meets Nabu and Teth-Adam, the future Dr. Fate and Black Adam. This storyline functions partly as an attempt to fix Hawkman’s indecipherable continuity. Geoff Johns’s JSA was better than most of his later work, perhaps because he had a co-writer who toned down his more excessive tendencies.

LUKE CAGE #168 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] David F. Walker, [A] Guillermo Sanna. Luke Cage has become a mind-controlled pawn of the Ringmaster, and he and some of the Ringmaster’s other victims get trapped in a caved-in mine tunnel. This Luke Cage run was far less entertaining than the Power Man & Iron Fist run that preceded it. Guillermo Sanna’s art in this issue is very loose and lacking in detail, much like Lisandro Estherren’s art in Redneck.

VALIANT ICONS SNEAK PREVIEW (2017) – [W/A] various. Three previews of then-upcoming Valiant titles. The only one of these titles that’s of interest to me is Jeff Lemire’s Bloodshot: Salvation.

G.I. JOE #150 (Marvel, 1994) – “Slam Dance in the Cyber-Castle!”, [W] Larry Hama, [A] Phil Gosier. I had a subscription to G.I. Joe in 1993 and 1994, but it expired with #148. By that time I had decided that G.I. Joe was too immature for me, at my advanced age of eleven, so I never read the rest of the Marvel run. This issue’s cover promises “the battle you demanded… Snake-Eyes vs. Cobra Commander!”, but that battle only occupies a few pages, and the rest of the issue is mostly filled up with conventional fight scenes. A curious plot element in this issue is that Cobra Commander has some sort of anti-ninja technology. How would this technology be able to distinguish between ninjas and non-ninjas?

GHOSTS #94 (DC, 1980) – “The Banshee Bride of Ballybrooke,” [W] Mimai Kin, [A] Win Mortimer. I want to collect more of these DC mystery titles, but the problem is that they’re not very good. This issue consists of four unfrightening ghost stories, mostly by undistinguished creative teams. The only artist in this issue who I like is Don Newton. The curious thing about this issue is that two of the stories are credited to a writer named Mimai Kin. This writer’s only GCD credits are seven stories published by DC in 1980 and 1981, mostly in Ghosts. Their name sounds like a pseudonym, but I can’t find any information about them. Jack C. Harris edited this issue, so I tagged him on Facebook and asked him who Mimai Kin was. He confirmed that Mimai Kin was a pseudonym, but he couldn’t remember who they really were.

EXTREMITY #4 (Image, 2017) – as #3 above. The Roto family visits the grave of Thea’s mother Bala, and then their next target is Dag, who Jerome blames for Bala’s death. After defeating both Dag and his wife Jessica, Jerome discovers that Dag has built a doomsday device that can kill the entire Paznina clan, though at great cost. Jerome wants to use Shiloh’s battery to power the device, but Rollo is not willing to let his robotic friend be sacrificed on the altar of vengeance. Rollo and Shiloh flee, while Thea decides to remain with her father. Rollo’s abandonment of his family is a powerful moment. Dag’s and Jessica’s steeds, a giant mantis and a giant spider, are really cool-looking.

2000 AD #420 (Rebellion, 1985) – Anderson: as #418 above. Anderson discovers that the Dark Judges have duped her into helping them return to Mega-City One. Brett Ewins’s art in this story is very striking. Slaine: “The Time Killer,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Glenn Fabry. Slaine meets some el (i.e. fairy) women and resists their attempt to seduce and then kill him. This chapter is homaged in 2000 AD #1847, which I read earlier this year. Glenn Fabry is a far better artist than David Pugh. Dredd: “Aftermath Ron Reagan,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. This story references the Anderson story in the same issue, but the two stories are only tangentially related. In the aftermath of the Dark Judges’ attack on Ron Reagan block, the victims’ bodies are searched for evidence of crimes, and as a result, Dredd apprehends a young criminal who’s posing as an old man. One-shot: “Breathless,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Brendan McCarthy. This story doesn’t meet the usual standards of either of these creators. Strontium Dog: as above. Middenface McNulty entertains some captured criminals by teaching them the song “I Belong to Glasgow.” This is a real song.

DESPERADOES: QUIET OF THE GRAVE #3 (Wildstorm, 2001) – “Spider Spawns a Web,” [W] Jeff Mariotte, [A] John Severin. A Western story with a confusing plot consisting of multiple overlapping threads (hence the title of this issue, I guess). I didn’t understand this issue’s story, and John Severin’s art here is not his best. He was about eighty years old at the time, and while his linework is beautiful, his backgrounds are often lacking in detail.

LUKE CAGE #167 (Marvel, 2018) – as #168 above. Another boring issue that provides only minimal plot development and that takes just a few minutes to read. This whole storyline could have been compressed into two or three issues at most.

CREEPY #11 (Dark Horse, 2013) – [E] Sierra Hahn & Brendan Wright. This is not the original Creepy, but a revival version, published in standard comic book format. Unfortunately, the best story in this issue is a reprint: “Eye of the Beholder” by Archie Goodwin and Johnny Craig, from Eerie #2. It’s about a man who doesn’t realize his wife is a living corpse. This story’s artistic standards are so high that the new material in Creepy #11 looks bad by comparison. The best new story in the issue is probably the one by Gilbert Hernandez, but even this one is just a standard piece of body horror.

REVOLVER #1 (Renegade, 1985) – “Star Guider,” [W] Jack C. Harris, [A] Steve Ditko. The main feature in this issue is a pair of stories starring an outer-space travel guide. However, the clear highlight of the issue is “Starlad” by Bill DuBay and Vicatan. In this story, a dying little boy asks his doctor why a superhero hasn’t saved him, and the doctor convinces the boy that both of them, the doctor and the boy, already are superheroes. This story is extremely sweet and sad, in the same way as “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man.” It uses the same style of upper-case typographic lettering that Warren used in its later years, and I wonder if it was intended for a Warren publication. The other story in this issue is by Rich Margopoulos and Tom Mandrake, whose art style was not yet well developed.

HEAVY METAL #6.10 (1983) – [E] Julie Simmons-Lynch. The front matter in this issue includes an interview with Samuel R. Delany. In this interview he recommends a science fiction writer I hadn’t heard of, Craig Strete. Noteworthy stories in this issue include: “The Ape” by Manara. The first chapter of Crepax’s “The Man from Harlem.” Druillet’s “Yragael,” which, like most of Druillet’s work, has spectacular visual imagery but not much of a plot. “Freak Show” by Bruce Jones and Bernie Wrightson, a disgusting horror story. Charles Burns’s “Robot Love” starring El Borbah. Burns was one of the only artists who worked for both Raw and Heavy Metal. In addition, “Den II” by Corben, and “Mudwogs” by Suydam.

2000 AD #421 (IPC, 1985) – Anderson: as above. The Dark Judges rampage through Mega-City One, and Chief Judge MacGruder reprimands Anderson and implies that she’s going to be sent to Titan. Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny and Wulf go looking for Xen the Brainwraith, and McNulty teaches the captives another Scottish music hall song, “A Wee Deoch an Doris.” Dredd: “Thirteenth Assessment,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. A young judge cadet is forced to sentence his own mother to eighteen years in prison for gang activity. This story is adequately summarized by its last line: “Any cadet that can put his mother away for eighteen has the makings of a damn fine judge.” Slaine: as above. Slaine and his sidekick Murdach fight Elfric again. This story includes some more beautiful Fabry art. There’s one stunning half-page panel where Slaine jumps right over Elfric’s steed.

EXTREMITY #5 – as above. Thea tortures Dag to get him to reveal a password, and her one-eyed friend Hobbie gives her a lecture about how her mother would barely recognize her now. After getting the information he was after, Jerome murders Dag and Jessica in cold blood. At this point, I’ve not only lost all sympathy for Jerome, I think he’s worse than his archenemy Nim. We’ve seen Nim do some cruel things, but they pale in comparison to the murders Jerome has committed or threatened to commit. At the end of the issue, Jerome looks at Thea’s left-handed drawing of his wife, and we get the sense that he’s not sure she’d approve of his actions in her name.

SWORD MASTER #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “Sword in the Tomb,” [W] Shuizhu, [A] Gunji. This comic stars Lin Lie, who later became the new Iron Fist. This issue’s first story is drawn in a manga or manhua style, and focuses on Lie’s attempt to find his missing father. This story is readable, though it doesn’t make me feel compelled to read the rest of the series. There’s also a backup story, by Greg Pak and Ario Anindito, in which Lie trains with Shang Chi.

STANLEY AND HIS MONSTER #1 (DC, 1993) – “How to Build a Tree Fort,” [W/A] Phil Foglio. A revival of a classic old humor series. In his parents’ attic, Stanley discovers a copy of “The Heterodyne Boys Big Book of Fun,” which contains instructions for how to build all sorts of stuff. The name Heterodyne is a reference to Foglio’s Girl Genius series. The running joke in  Stanley and HIs Monster #1 is that all the adults in the issue have fond memories of the Heterodyne book, but none of them still have a copy of it. At the end, after Stanley uses the book to build a tree fort, we discover that its original owner was his mother, not his father. This is related to Foglio’s interest in girl engineers, on which see Rachel Dean-Ruzicka’s chapter in this book. Easter eggs in this issue include a TV show that’s a parody of Star Trek: The Next Generation (with the joke that Picard is inclined toward surrendering because he’s French), and a cameo appearance by Renfrew from DC’s Jerry Lewis comics. Renfrew, like Stanley and his monster, was co-created by Arnold Drake.

TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED #7 (DC, 2007) – “The End… the Beginning… the End,” [W] David Lapham, [A] Eric Battle. David Lapham’s Spectre story in this series is perhaps the only truly bad thing he’s written. It’s a litany of gratuitous violence and horror. It begins “Kids killing friends to find out if their blood is red or blue. Mothers boiling their babies,” and that’s indicative of its overall tone. Unlike in Lapham’s solo work, there’s no higher purpose to any of this violence and horror, other than to disgust the reader. By contrast, the Dr. Thirteen backups in this series are perhaps the only good things Brian Azzarello has written, other than his collaborations with Eduardo Risso. This issue’s Dr. Thirteen story is notable for an appearance by the four Architects, who are disguised versions of Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, and Mark Waid (according to this).

SECRET SIX #11 (DC, 2009) – “Depths Part Two: Amazons Unleashed,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Nicola Scott. This is part of the story where the Secret Six are enslaved and forced to work in an underground island prison. This is my favorite of Gail’s Secret Six stories, and I think it’s one of her best works in general. In this issue, we learn that the villains’ plot is to turn the island into a prison for all the felons in the whole world. As usual there’s lots of great character interaction, and there are guest appearances by Artemis and Wonder Woman.

GIANT-SIZE FANTASTIC FOUR #6 (Marvel, 1968/1975) – “Let There Be… Life!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. This is a reprint of Fantastic Four Annual #6, which includes the debut of Annihilus and the birth of Franklin Richards. I’m sure I have at least one other reprint of this story in my collection, but it’s worth reading again. This story includes some fantastic starscapes and fight scenes, and it feels very high-stakes because the FF are fighting for Sue and her unborn child’s life. The portrayal of the Negative Zone in this story seems inconsistent with issue 51. In that story, Earth was positively charged, which was why the Thing impostor died on contact with it. But in this story, Lee gives the impression that the positively charged planet is just some other random planet. This issue also reprints the “Questions and Answers About the FF” feature from FF Annual #1. According to this feature, Sue’s hobbies are “fashions, cooking, cosmetics, and reading romantic novels.” Oddly, Sue is  rarely if ever shown doing any of these things, except maybe the first one. This list of hobbies is just an example of how Sue used to have no personality at all other than being female.

FANTASTIC FOUR: 1, 2, 3, 4 #2 (Marvel, 2001) – “Staring at the Fish Tank,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Jae Lee. I’ve had this entire miniseries for a long time, but never felt motivated to read it. I don’t know why not, because it’s quite fascinating, if rather weird and difficult: its plot doesn’t become clear until the last issue. In this issue, Sue spends most of the issue talking to Alicia about her ambivalent feelings toward Namor, and then at the end Namor shows up at Sue’s door, and Sue says “Oh God, I… I’m married.”

CREEPY #4 (Dark Horse, 2010) – [E] Shawna Gore. This issue includes a rare example of new work by Michael Wm. Kaluta: a story about an old lady who turns people into dolls. The other stories in this issue are okay at best, though the one by Nicola Cuti and Hilary Barta is kind of funny. Both Creepy #4 and #11 contain stories by Dan Braun. I had never heard of him before, but it appears that his Warren revivals for Dark Horse were his only work in comics. The reprinted story in this issue is “Wardrobe of Monsters” by Otto Binder and Gray Morrow, from Creepy #2. They could have chosen a better story to reprint. I haven’t read Creepy #2, but I suspect that “Wardrobe of Monsters” wasn’t even the best story in that issue.

JOE THE BARBARIAN #3 (Vertigo, 2010) – “The Dying Boy,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Sean Murphy. This comic includes some exciting art, especially the page where Joe’s boat arrives at an underground city. But I still don’t understand Joe the Barbarian’s plot at all. It feels like a mashup of Toy Story with Morrison’s Seven Soldiers: Klarion, but other than that, I’m mystified as to what’s going on or why we should care.  

FANTASTIC FOUR: 1, 2, 3, 4 #3 (Marvel, 2001) – “Darkness and the Mole Man,” as above. Early in this issue, there’s a swipe from the Nick Fury story in Strange Tales #167, specifically the panel that introduces Dr. Doom’s Prime Mover. The various FF members deal with their individual crises: Sue tries to rebuff Namor’s advances, Ben tries to overcome the loss of an arm, and the Mole Man seduces Alicia. The issue ends with a classic moment, when Doom tells Reed all the awful things he’s done to the FF, and then asks “What have you been doing?” and Ben replies “Well, Victor… I’ve been thinking.”  

HAWKMOON: THE MAD GOD’S AMULET #4 (First, 1987) – untitled, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Rafael Kayanan. I was hesitant to read this because it’s an adaptation of a Moorcock novel that I haven’t read yet. However, there are no real spoilers here; all that happens is that Hawkmoon and his allies try to break the siege of the Kamarg, and Hawkmoon marries Yisselda. Kayanan’s artwork is just okay, and neither he nor Conway do much to evoke Moorcock’s aesthetic.

FANTASTIC FOUR: 1, 2, 3, 4 #4 (Marvel, 2002) –  “Prime Mover,” as above. The issue begins with a flashback in which Dr. Doom doesn’t really exist, but is in fact Reed’s own split personality. But then Reed realizes ths is not the case, and he and his teammates overcome Doom’s brainwashing and save the day. FF: 1, 2, 3, 4 is a very successful FF story, even though (or because) it doesn’t introduce anything new to the series. It instead focuses entirely on classic plot points, like Reed and Doom’s rivalry or Sue’s infatuation with Namor, but it makes these old plot points seem new again. Its major flaw is Morrison’s typical confusing plotting.

GREEN ARROW #64 (DC, 1992) – “The Hunt for the Red Dragon,” [W] Mike Grell, [A] Rick Hoberg. Ollie spends most of this issue searching for Shadō yet again. Ollie and Shadō’s relationship was always rather frustrating – she raped him to produce a child, and then he spent the rest of Grell’s run chasing her around. This issue suggests that Shadō might mean something in Japanese, since the suffix “dō” means a figurative “way” or path, but I don’t know if “sha” means anything.

X-FACTOR ANNUAL #5 (Marvel, 1990) – “Act of Faith,” [W] Louise Simonson, [A] Jon Bogdanove. This is part two of Days of Future Present, though it takes place after Part 3, which was New Mutants Annual #6. Days of Future Present was an overly complicated mcrossover, and X-Factor was the worst of the four titles involved in it. I’ve never much liked the pre-PAD X-Factor; it was a title that only existed because of editorial meddling, and it brought together five characters who really didn’t have much in common. The most notable scene in X-Factor Annual #5 is when the resurrected Jean Grey meets her “daughter” Rachel Summers for the first time, and neither of them reacts well to the other. In the backup story, “Tribute the First,” by PAD and Dave Ross, Jean visits her own grave, and she meets an old lady who survived the Holocaust. This story includes a panel where the old lady shows Jean her concentration camp tattoos. These tattoos used to be a very common trope in both real and fictional stories about the Holocaust. I’m not sure I ever met anyone who had them, but as a kid, I was always aware that there were many living people who had survived the Holocaust. Sadly, it would be hard to tell a story like “Tribute the First” nowadays because there are so few remaining Holocaust survivors.

STAR TREK #15 (DC, 1991) – “The Return of the Worthy Part 3: Tomorrow Never Knows,” [W] Peter David & Bill Mumy, [A] Gordon Purcell. The Worthy discover that the planet of Karimea has been depopulated, which leaves them with no reason to exist. Kirk and Captain Styles of the Exeter (the one who failed to catch the stolen Enterprise in Star Trek III) conspire to give the Worthy a new mission: since they’re not bound by the Prime Directive, they can intervene in crises where the Federation is unable to act. The Worthy storyline is an affectionate tribute to two classic SF franchises, Star Trek and Lost in Space. In case the reader doesn’t realize who the Worthy were, the words LOST IN SPACE appear on the cover, upside down and photo-reversed inside the red pool at the bottom. On Facebook, the cover artist, Jerome K. Moore, pointed out that the words LOST IN SPACE also appear again on the rocks beside the pool, and the empty red area at the center of the cover is shaped like the Jupiter 2 spaceship.

SHADE THE CHANGING MAN #14 (DC, 1991) – “The Santa Fe Trial,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Bryan Talbot. In Santa Fe, a man called the Godfather of Guilt is sentencing people to ironic punishments. Shade meets a woman named Tiffany Wallace who eventually reveals that the Godfather is her abusive husband. It further comes out that the Godfather is already dead, because Tiffany killed him in self-defense. This is a well-plotted story, but it’s unfortunate that the issue ends by suggesting that Tiffany should feel guilty for killing her husband. Given his history of physical abuse, she ought to feel pride instead of guilt for having killed him. Bryan Talbot’s artwork here is underwhelming because of Mark Pennington’s lifeless inks.

SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON LOST IN SPACE #45 (Gold Key, 1975) – “Planet of Monsters,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Dan Spiegle. The Robinsons help a lost alien child return to his family. This comic is always entertaining and inoffensive, though never much more than that. As I’ve explained before, this comic was not based on the Lost in Space TV show; it’s more correct to say that the TV show was a ripoff of the comic.

ELRIC: THE BALANCE LOST #7 (Boom!, 2012) – untitled, [W] Chris Roberson, [A] Francesco Biagini. Of the various Elric comics, this is one of the only ones that was neither written by Moorcock himself, nor based on an existing Moorcock novel. Instead it tells an original story starring Elric and various other Eternal Champions. This issue is mostly devoted to a battle between the forces of Chaos and Order, but Francesco Biagini creates some gruesome renderings of Chaos creatures, and there’s one cool moment where Elric and Grayson Beck both strike the exact same pose.

LE DÉMON DE MIDI (Dargaud, 1996) – [W/A] Florence Cestac. I’m choosing to list this as a comic book because of its fairly short length. I bought this book on eBay during the pandemic, and I tried to read it once, but quickly gave up because of my rather poor French. Then I recently realized that the iPhone version of Google Translate has a function where you can hold a foreign-language text up to the camera and have it automatically translated. This function has obvious applications for reading comics, and by using it, I was able to finish Le Démon de Midi in just a couple sittings. The quality of the translation is very poor, but I don’t care; I’m just using it to get a basic idea of what the French text says. The only remaining problem is that Cestac uses a lot of idioms whose meaning is not conveyed by a literal translation, and Google Translate was no help with that. The next book I want to read in this way is Marc-Antoine Mathieu’s Julius Corentin Acquefacques vol. 5, but I haven’t had time yet. Anyway, as for Le Démon de Midi itself, it’s a very funny and realistic account of a marriage torn apart by the husband’s extramarital affair. The whole thing is presented as if it’s an anthropological or zoological account of human behavior, and the husband and wife don’t seem to have names; they’re not so much individual characters as examples of generic types. Cestac shows a deep, ironic understanding of female psychology, reminding me of Claire Bretécher or Roz Chast. Cestac draws in a cartoony style reminiscent of Franquin or Uderzo, and indeed, the French Wikipedia says that Franquin’s Gaston Lagaffe is one of her major influences. She notably draws all her characters with huge noses. This childish-seeming style contrasts oddly with the highly adult subject matter of the comic. It’s too bad that Cestac is unknown in America. Le Démon de Midi was published into English, under the title The Midlife Crisis, but that translation is only available in digital form.

ELRIC: STORMBRINGER #2 (Dark Horse, 1997) – untitled, [W/A] P. Craig Russell. This is by far the best comics adaptation of Moorcock. By the time he got around to adapting Stormbringer, PCR was at the height of his powers, and he summons all his visual imagination and graphic skill to bring Moorcock’s stories to life. In this issue, Elric teams up with the enigmatic Sepiriz to recover his kidnapped wife. PCR gives Sepiriz a striking visual appearance, with dark purple skin covered in orange tattoos. Afterward, Elric unsuccessfully tries to unite the human kingdoms in opposition to the conqueror Jagreen Lern. From this last scene, I especially remember the contemptuous line “Ships and men!” (implying that the southern kingdoms will not only refuse to resist Jagreen Lern, but will actively join his conquests).

NAMOR #25 (Marvel, 1992) – untitled, [W/A] John Byrne. Namor and Namorita are kidnapped by the H’ylthri, the plant creatures from K’un L’un, and boy, that’s a tough word to spell. There’s also a pointless Wolverine guest appearance. It’s odd that Wolverine doesn’t appear on this issue’s cover, even though he was Marvel’s biggest sales draw, but he does appear on the cover of the previous issue. Much of this issue consists of a flashback sequence that retcons the events of the last few issues of Power Man and Iron Fist. In particular, Byrne establishes that several of the characters from this series were really Master Khan in disguise. The point of this retcon is to establish a plausible way to bring Iron Fist back to life, since he was killed at the end of PM&IF. As Brian Cronin explains here, that series’ editor, Denny O’Neil, decided to kill off Iron Fist due to spite at the series’ cancellation. So it makes sense that Byrne wanted to bring Iron Fist back, but he did so in a rather clunky way, and in a completely unrelated series. As a result, this issue feels like an example of Byrne’s tendency toward unnecessary retcons that cause more problems than they solve. See here for further information on this retcon.

IRON MAN #6 (Marvel, 1998) – “In Deep,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Patrick Zircher. Tony and Black Widow team up for a spy mission, but Tony finds himself trapped in an Australian prison without access to his armor. This issue is okay, but nothing great. I started reading this  series when it came out, but I gave up on it because it was just not all that interesting, even though Kurt’s Avengers and Astro City were among my favorite comics at the time. The main problem with Kurt’s Iron Man, I now realize, is Tony’s lack of personality. Prior to the films, Tony tended to be written as an unemotional cold fish, and it was often suggested that his fragile health made him incapable of happiness. David Michelinie wrote Tony with more zest and vigor, but the modern version of Tony – a humorous, awkward, disconcerting man – was inspired by Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal of the character in the films.

KAMANDI #33 (DC, 1975) – “Blood and Fire!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. The tigers and the gorillas  fight a battle at sea, and Kamandi and Doctor Canus create a new character who is subsequently identified as Pyra. This is a fun issue, but with nothing truly unique about it. Kamandi may have been Kirby’s last unequivocally great work.

TALES OF TOAD #3 (Cartoonists Co-Op, 1973) – “A Fool’s Paradise” etc., [W/A] Bill Griffith. This was an eBay purchase. This issue consists of several different stories by Griffith, some of which feature characters who would later appear in the Zippy newspaper strip, like Zippy, Griffy, and Mr. The Toad. These stories are more or less pure absurdism with little narrative logic, but they express a sense of nostalgia for a type of American culture that was already dying at that time, and is now thoroughly dead. I get the same feeling from reading the work of David Boswell, Drew Friedman and Bob Burden. Griffith’s artwork is also notable for its extremely detailed draftsmanship. He draws like a classic comic strip artist, such as Frank King or Harold Gray, and this makes his absurdist surrealism even more absurd and surreal.  Griffith is notable as one of the only recent creators who’s worked in both comic strips and comic books. I’m mostly used to seeing his work in a daily strip format, and it’s kind of jarring to see him doing entire stories.

ACTION GIRL COMICS #17 (Slave Labor, 1999) – Blue Monday: “Cuntageously Yours,” [W] Chynna Clugston-Major. A high schooler tries to get a date for a dance, but it doesn’t go well. The next story is a one-pager by Mari Schaal, better known as MariNaomi. It’s a crudely drawn and rather pointless piece of work, but I was delighted to realize it was her. The last story is “Go-Go Girl Racer” by Elizabeth Watasin and Eela Lavin, about some girls who enter an auto race. Action Girl must have had a very small readership, but it was a notable precursor of today’s girl-oriented comics, and I ought to look for more of it.

ELRIC: STORMBRINGER #7 (Dark Horse, 1997) – as above. This issue adapts the end of Elric’s saga, including his final battle with the Chaos Lords and Jagreen Lern, his destruction of the world, and his death by the agency of his own sword. PCR does full justice to the epic power of these moments. He draws a really stark contrast between the Lords of Chaos and Law – the Lords of Law are depicted with straight lines and gentle curves, while the Lords of Chaos are gibbering horrors, and it’s hard to see where one ends and another begins. When Elric tortures Jagreen Lern to death, we don’t see what Elric does to him, but we do see a bunch of “snikt” sound effects and then a bunch of chopped-off body parts, and that makes the scene even more gruesome. The final moments of the issue, including the final page where Stormbringer streaks off into the sky, are drawn in an almost abstract way, and when Stormbringer finally appears in its true form, it looks more evil than the Lords of Chaos  themselves. Overall, this miniseries is a striking piece of work that demonstrates PCR’s ability to capture the essence of the works he adapts.

AVENGERS #309 (Marvel, 1989) – “To Find Olympia!”, [W]  John Byrne, [A] Paul Ryan. This issue is mostly a series of boring fight scenes, with no notable characterization. There’s also a subplot with the Great Lakes Avengers, but due to Byrne’s lack of a sense of humor, this subplot is not funny. The GLA didn’t become interesting until Dan Slott revived them in their own miniseries.

BATMAN: ODYSSEY #1 (DC, 2010) – untitled, [W/A] Neal Adams. I don’t even know how to express the awfulness of this comic. On the second page, Batman is shown carrying a gun, in violation of one of his most cherished rules. Neal makes no attempt to explain why Batman would do such a thing. That is symbolic of this comic’s complete lack of coherence. There are two major plots in this issue, one taking place in a flashback and another in the present, but there is no connection between the two plots, and neither of them has any logic behind it. Neal’s Batman acts wildly out of character; besides telling a gun, he constantly smiles and cracks jokes. Man-Bat appears in the issue, but it’s not clear why. The artwork in this comic is okay, but it’s hardly at the same level as Neal’s ‘70s work. I recall reading that DC published this comic out of courtesy to Neal: they were willing to publish anything he did, even if it was utter nonsense, which it was. I understand DC’s willingness to cater to a legendary creator, but they really did Neal no favors by publishing this pile of crap. Rather, by doing so, they allowed Neal to embarrass himself and to tarnish his own legacy. It would have been better if they’d paid him not to publish it.

DETECTIVE COMICS #963 (DC, 2017) – “Utopia,” [W] James Tynion IV & Christopher Sebela, [A] Carmen Carnero. This issue begins with a cute flashback about Tim and Steph’s romance, but the bulk of the issue is about Steph’s battle with Anarky. There’s also a subplot about Batman and Clayface. This is just an average issue, but at least it has a coherent and logical plot, which makes it infinitely better than Batman: Odyssey.

THE FRANKENSTEIN MONSTER #17 (Marvel, 1975) – “A Phoenix Berserk,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Val Mayerik. Frankenstein’s monster gains the ability to speak, if rather ungrammatically, and he uses his newfound speech to express his feelings of loneliness and confusion. Also there are some rather pointless subplots. Val Mayerik was a talented artist, but his artwork in this issue is stiff and boring. The main problem with this comic is that the Frankenstein monster is a redundant character, since he has the same personality as the Hulk. Did Marvel really need another super-strong, barely articulate monster who just wanted to be left alone?

HEROBEAR AND THE KID: SAVING TIME #1 (Boom!, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] Mike Kunkel. Young Tyler discovers that his butler/adoptive father, Henry, is really Father Time, and Tyler has to protect him for the span of New Year’s Day, when Henry transforms into Baby New Year. I dislike this series because it feels like an adult’s idea of a kids’ comic. It appeals to nostalgia for the idyllic wonder of childhood, when actual childhood, as Bill Watterson understood, is not idyllic at all. However, Saving Time is better than other Herobear and the Kid stories because it mostly focuses on the plot, and it includes a limited amount of nostalgia.

TOMB OF DRACULA #20 (Marvel, 1974) – “The Coming of Doctor Sun,” [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Gene Colan. Trapped in the snow, Dracula is captured by Doctor Sun’s minions, and we finally see Doctor Sun for the first time and discover that he’s a disembodied brain. Also, Clifton Graves, the villain from the earliest issues, shows up again, and Rachel tells Frank about her tragic past. This story arc is a powerful climax to the first year of the series. Doctor Sun later reappeared in Nova. That seems odd, given that Tomb of Dracula and Nova have nothing in common, but it makes more sense when you remember that Marv Wolfman also wrote Nova.

NEXUS #71 (First, 1990) – “Breaking the Fusion Barrier,” [W] Mike Baron, [A] Mark Heike. Up to now, Stan has been assassinating criminals on his own initiative, without any orders from the Merk. Now he tries to find the Merk so he can get fusion power and a list of criminals to kill. In the end, Stan is contacted by some evil heads known as the Bad Brains. Meanwhile, Tyrone tries to encourage tourism to Ylum, which requires him to disassociate himself from Stan. This is just an average issue. The artists on the later part of First’s Nexus run, like Mark Heike and Greg Guler, were not in the same class as Steve Rude or Paul Smith. I just saw that Dark Horse is planning to publish a new Nexus trade paperback written by Baron. That is a severe mistake, and I hope they reconsider. Mike Baron is a blight on the industry, and no one should be doing business with him. Not even Steve Rude is willing to work with him anymore.

AVENGERS ACADEMY 80-PAGE GIANT #1 (Marvel, 2011) – untitled, [W] Paul Tobin, [A] David Baldeon. I bought this many years ago, but never bothered to read it because it’s 80 pages. According to this, it was intended as an annual crossover, and then as a three-issue miniseries, but was finally published as a one-shot. In this issue, the Avengers Academy kids (minus Hazmat and Mettle) team up with the Young Allies, consisting of Spider-Girl, Firestar and Toro – the latter is a new character, not the Human Torch’s sidekick – and they fight a  villain who’s later revealed as Arcade. This comic is entertaining, but it didn’t need to be 80 pages long.

AZTEK: THE ULTIMATE MAN #9 (DC, 1997) – “The Power and the Glory,” [W] Mark Millar & Grant Morrison, [A] N. Steven Harris. This is one of Morrison (and Millar)’s weirder and more enigmatic works. Aztek lacked a clear plot or premise, and I never understood why he was supposed to be any different from hundreds of other DC heroes. In this issue, Aztek fights the Parasite, but it remains unclear just why we should care about Aztek. It’s no wonder this series only lasted ten issues.

FANBOY #3 (DC, 1999) – untitled, [W] Mark Evanier, [W/A] Sergio Aragones et al. Finster goes to work at the comic book store, just as it’s being targeted by an anti-obscenity crusade. There are some inset sequences with guest art by Bill Sienkiewicz and Brent Anderson, and then Finster himself is arrested for selling an obscene comic book to a minor. I was going to say that this plot was outdated, because there were real incidents where comic book store employees were arrested for obscenity, but these incidents mostly happened in the ‘80s. However, the CBLDF website mentions another such case that happened in 1995, and another that happened after Fanboy #3 itself was published, so this sort of comics censorship was still a problem in 1999. Comics censorship is an even bigger problem now, but its current targets are graphic novels rather than comic books.

THE LEGEND OF LUTHER STRODE #2 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Justin Jordan, [A] Tradd Moore. Luther Strode and Petra Dobrev get in a huge fight. I feel guilty that I don’t like this series more than I do, because Justin Jordan is a nice guy, and I want to support his work. However, Luther Strode’s style of disgusting, over-the-top violence does not appeal to me.

SUPERBOY #24 (DC, 1981) – “Blind Boy’s Bluff!”, [W] E. Nelson Bridwell, [A] Kurt Schaffenberger. Thanks to red kryptonite, Superboy goes blind, but only when he’s not wearing his glasses, and he has to find a way to defeat a criminal without revealing his secret identity. This is essentially a Silver Age story, despite being published in the Bronze Age, and it has the Silver Age Superboy’s typical lack of characterization or realism. In the backup story, by Bob Rozakis and John Calnan, Superbaby encounters some aliens who think his toy ray gun is a source of massive power (when the actual power source is Superbaby himself).

NIGHT FORCE #3 (DC, 1982) – “The Summoning Chapter 3: Journey,” [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Gene Colan. On this issue’s cover, Colan cleverly juxtaposes the moon with a boat so that they look like a skull. Night Force had the same creative team as Tomb of Dracula, and belonged to the same genre, but it wasn’t as successful. Its characters were never as memorable as Frank, Rachel and the rest, and it didn’t have Dracula as a unifying focus. The best scene in this issue is when a little boy attends his mother’s funeral and doesn’t understand what’s going on, but the rest of the issue had no effect on me.

WHAT IF? #45 (Marvel, 1984) – “What If the Hulk Went Berserk?”, [W] Peter B. Gillis, [A] Ron Wilson. What If? #42 and #44 are perhaps the two best What If? stories ever, but #45, despite having the same writer, is not on the same level. The main problem is that this story lacks a clear point of departure from the mainstream Marvel Universe. The only difference between this Hulk and the main one is that the Hulk has a telepathic rapport with Rick Jones. And at the end of the issue, the Hulk kills Iron Man and is then killed by Thor. Other than that, this could have just been an issue of the regular Hulk series, and it wouldn’t have been a ery good issue of that series.

JONAH HEX: RIDERS OF THE WORM AND SUCH #2 (Vertigo, 1995) – “Wilde’s West,” [W] Joe R. Lansdale, [A] Tim Truman. Jonah and his young companion, known only as “The Kid,” visit an Old West theme park whose owner seems to be Oscar Wilde himself. Lansdale and Truman’s take on Jonah Hex is different from the classic Michael Fleischer version, not just because of its supernatural aspects, but also because of its humor. Throughout this issue, Jonah and the Kid act as a comedy team. For instance, when they’re asked if they’ve been walking, they crack jokes about how they take turns riding on each other’s backs. This amount of humor is kind of unexpected, but I think it’s consistent with the spirit of the series. This issue includes a cameo appearance by its inker, Sam Glanzman.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #194 (DC, 1983) – “Trade Heroes – and Win!”, [W] Mike W. Barr, [A] Carmine Infantino. Batman and the Flash fight each other’s villains, but unfortunately those villains are a pair of total nonentities, Dr. Double X and the Rainbow Raider. The latter character’s ability to use color to evoke emotions is kind of funny (though I wonder which emotion corresponds to the color indigo). Other than that, this is a waste ofa n issue.

Q2: THE RETURN OF QUANTUM AND WOODY #4 (Valiant, 2015) – “Manhunt” etc., [W] Christopher Priest, [A] M.D. Bright. I’ve decided that Priest’s writing does not appeal to me. My favorite series of his is still Quantum & Woody, but even this series still suffers from his habit of confusing narration. This issue does have some funny dialogue.

Next trip to Heroes, on December 10:

DO A POWERBOMB #7 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Daniel Warren Johnson. Lona and Cobrasun wrestle God, and despite making a valiant effort, they inevitably lose. God rewards Lona by restoring a forgotten memory of her mother, and then on the last page, we see that Yua was in the crowd watching the match. This ending is a bit anticlimactic, but touching, and overall Do a Powerbomb was one of the best miniseries of the year.

FANTASTIC FOUR #2 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Night of Doom,” [W] Ryan North, [A] Iban Coello. Following Reed’s still-unexplained destruction of the Baxter Building, Reed and Sue visit a small town where they get attacked by an army of Doombots. In fact, everyone in town is a Doombot, but they appear normal when in the presence of an old woman named Mary. It eventually emerges that Mary once treated Dr. Doom kindly, and in response he created an army of Doombots to protect her. And then when Mary died, one of the Doombots continued “protecting” her by taking on her appearance. Reed and Sue reprogram the Doombots so they’re not dangerous to anyone, and then leave them to continue their simulated lives. This issue is similar to #1, in that it focuses on just two of the FF, and it sets up an intriguing mystery and then solves that mystery in a clever way.

STRANGE ACADEMY: FINALS #2 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. Zoe and some of the other kids from Emily’s faction return to the school, and there’s a funny cleaning montage. Then the kids sneak out of school and try to save Calvin from Gaslamp. This is another very entertaining issue.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #22 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcello Grassi. Charlotte and Valentina realize that Aurora keeps sending them to historical moments where America defeated foreign invasions. Taking advantage of this knowledge, they escape the cycle of reincarnations and meet Henri Levant, a disembodied head in a centaur body. Meanwhile, in the future, Ace tracks down a much older version of Valentina, and she tells him that in this reality, Ace himself was murdered by Janet and Chang.

NIGHTWING 2022 ANNUAL #1 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Eduardo Pansica. This is the origin story of Heartless, aka Shelton Lyle,. We learn that he’s the opposite of Dick Grayson, in that he’s an utter sociopath who only feels emotions when he sees people die. And the first time Heartless discovered this was when, as a child, he witnessed the deaths of Dick’s parents. Heartless’s mentor is his butler Gerald Chamberlain, a dark mirror of Alfred – though actually this character is not Gerard Chamberlain, but an unnamed man who killed the real Chamberlain and assumed identity. With Gerard’s aid, Shelton killed his own parents before embarking on a supervillain career. This story also includes a reprise of the bullying Bscene from Nightwing #78, from Shelton’s perspective. There are two backup stories by other writers: one which depicts Haley the dog’s daydreams, and another where Jon Kent trains with Dick. This last story is written by C.S. Pacat, an expert at writing about relationships between men.

BEHOLD, BEHEMOTH #2 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tate Brombal, [A] Nick Robles. This issue starts with a heartbreaking scene where a cute little animal is killed by a hawk. In the postapocalyptic timeline, Greyson and Wren visit a human settlement, but Wren is unable to prevent her powers from flaring up. Then in the past timeline, just after Greyson rescues Wren from the collapsed house, his partner says “The behemoth got you too, didn’t it?” This issue didn’t impress me as much as #1 did.

KNOW YOUR STATION #1 (Boom!, 2022) – “A Hub for the Future,” [W] Sarah Gailey, [A] Liana Kangas. In a dystopian future, the world’s richest and most evil people have abandoned Earth for a floating space station, and the job of the protagonist, Elise, is to babysit them. Elise teams up with a policewoman to investigate the murder of one of the rich people, a private prison magnate. But then the policewoman is murdered, and Elise becomes the prime suspect. Know Your Station is a spiritual sequel to Eat the Rich, and it looks like it will be just as powerful as that series was.

DAMN THEM ALL #2 (Boom1, 2022) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Charlie Adlard. Is it Simon Spurrier or Si Spurrier? He uses both names. This issue begins by introducing Dora Lafon, an old lover of Alfie Hawthorne (i.e. Constantine). She used to be a police detective, until she prevented a school shooting by talking the shooter into committing suicide. For this (in my opinion) heroic act, Dora was hounded out of the police force. While investigating Alfie’s murder, Dora and Ellie meet Carlin, who kind of reminds me of the sidekick from Spurrier’s Hellblazer run, and the demon Pruflas, who reminds me of Alan Moore.

ROGUE SUN #8 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Ryan Parrott, [A] Abel. Dylan is now living with his dad’s other family, and they’re finally subjecting him to some discipline. In his superheroic identity, Dylan fights some petty criminals and hurts one of them badly. Then a supernatural identity contacts the criminal’s son and offers him superpowers so he can take revenge on Dylan. This issue didn’t make much of an impression on me.  

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Sign Up,” [W] Jordan Ifueko, [A] Alba Glez. After the events of the three Moon Girl one-shots, Lunella’s parents have figured out her secret identity – it sure took them long enough – and they forbid her from being a superhero. Instead, Lunella organizes a roller derby team, but in their first match, their opponents turn into zombies and attack them. Then Lunella discovers that one of her teammates is a Kree agent who wants to conquer the Earth. This is perhaps the best-written Moon Girl comic yet. It feels deeper and more substantial than either the regular series or the one-shots. An interesting new piece of information is that Lunella’s mother works as a prison counselor, and her father works in the disease unit of a hospital, so she has a family tradition of heroism. This issue includes a couple interesting cultural references. Lunella’s mother calls her “pikney,” a word commonly used in West African and Caribbean pidgin, and there’s a sign advertising Kanekalon, a brand of hair extensions.

On December 12, I went to the latest Charlotte Comic Con. This was another very fun convention, and I could have stayed longer than I did if I hadn’t been starving. I wish the restaurant in the convention hotel was open on Sundays, so I could eat and come back. Some of the comics I bought:

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #132 (Marvel, 1974) – “The Master Plan of the Molten Man!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] John Romita. This cost $5 and was in low grade, so I initially passed on it, but then I changed my mind and bought it anyway. I’m glad I did. This issue reintroduces the Molten Man and Liz Allan, neither of whom had appeared since Steve Ditko’s run. Peter’s reunion with Liz is a cute moment, and Romita’s action sequences are beautiful as always. I don’t know why Romita drew this issue, rather than Gil Kane or Ross Andru. It was the last time he drew a full issue of this series, although he did short vignettes in #365 and #500. At the end of the issue, Peter gets radiation sickness from the radioactive rocks that the Molten Man had been trying to steal. That doesn’t really make sense when Peter’s own powers are entirely based on radiation.  

BLAZING COMBAT #2 (Warren, 1966) – [W] Archie Goodwin. Easily my best finds at the convention were low-grade copies of Blazing Combat #2 and #3 for $7 each. I already had Blazing Combat #4, but I’ve been looking for the other three issues for decades, and I never expected to find them. Blazing Combat is probably the best American war comic ever published, other than Frontline Combat and Two-Fisted Tales, and it feels like a continuation of the latter two series; it has many of the same artists, and even the same letterer. The lineup of talent in this issue is absolutely stunning – most of the artists in this issue are in the Hall of Fame, along with Goodwin, who was both the writer and the editor. On top of that, this comic is gorgeously printed, so as to bring out the true beauty of the art. The stories are: “Landscape,” [A] Joe Orlando. The Vietnam War is narrated from the viewpoint of an old farmer who loses his family, his farm and finally his life. Anti-war stories like this helped to get the magazine banned from Army base exchanges, leading to its early cancellation. “Saratoga,” [A] Reed Crandall. An account of the battle of Saratoga, in which Horatio Gates almost led the Americans to defeat, until, ironically enough, Benedict Arnold saved the day. Crandall’s art here is stunningly detailed. “Mig Alley,” [A] Al McWilliams. In the Korean War, a pilot’s record of success ironically gets him killed. You can tell how great this comic is if the worst artist in it is Al McWilliams – and his artwork here is very good. “Face to Face!”, [A] Orlando. In the Spanish-American War, a young soldier has visions of military glory, but when he’s forced to beat a Spanish soldier to death with a rock, he discovers that war isn’t as glorious as he thought. “Kasserine Pass!”, [A] Angelo Torres. An account of the American defeat in the eponymous battle, with some beautiful inking by Al Williamson. The title of this story is lettered in the same style as the titles of Kurtzman’s war stories. “Lone Hawk,” [A] Alex Toth. A biography of Canadian WWI ace Billy Bishop, who was less famous than Guynemer, the Red Baron, Lufbery, etc., but who, unlike any of them, survived the war. Toth was a brilliant aviation artist. “Holding Action,” [A] John Severin. In the Korean War, an American soldier starts out as a coward, but becomes such a fanatic that he won’t leave his trench after the armistice is declared.

STRANGE TALES #119 (Marvel, 1964) – I thought this was $5, but it was $10. I decided that I still wanted it even at that price. Right next to it there was a copy of Amazing Spider-Man #49 at the same price, but it was in very low grade, and I skipped it. Human Torch: “The Torch Goes Wild!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Dick Ayers. The Human Torch is publicly smeared by the Rabble-Rouser, who reminds me a lot of the Hate-Monger. The GCD notes that the Rabble-Rouser uses the same type of tank here as the Hate-Monger used in FF #21. Dr. Strange: “Beyond the Purple Veil!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Steve Ditko. Two thieves try to steal a purple gem from Dr. Strange, but are sucked into the “Purple Dimension” inside the gem, and Strange has to save them from Aggamon, the ruler of that dimension. Aggamon looks kind of like Tim Boo Ba from one of Ditko’s pre-superhero stories. At one point in this story, Dr. Strange swears by “Mormammu.” A couple pages later he mentions Dormammu, so the spelling Mormammu may just have been a typo. In reprints of this story, Mormammu is emended to Dormammu.

UMBRELLA ACADEMY: APOCALYPSE SUITE #3 (Dark Horse, 2007) – “Dr. Terminal’s Answer,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Gabriel Bá. This was $4, which was kind of a bargain, since this series’ back issue prices have been driven up by the Netflix show. I’ve never quite understood Umbrella Academy, and I still don’t, but this issue at least makes more sense than later Umbrella Academy comics. Gabriel Bá’s artwork is very impressive, though heavily influenced by Mignola.

FOUR COLOR #1041 (Dell, 1959) – “Valley of the Amazon” and “Test Dive,” [W] Robert Schaefer & Eric Freiwald, [A] Alex Toth. When I saw this comic at an affordable price, I looked inside it (with the vendor’s permission, obviously) to see if it was drawn by Russ Manning. I could tell it wasn’t, but then I was like, wait, this could be Alex Toth, and I checked the GCD and discovered my guess was correct. Unfortunately this isn’t Alex Toth’s best work. I agree with this writer’s assessment that Toth’s art here “falls far short of his usual standards.” His storytelling is effective, but his draftsmanship is loose and undetailed. As a historical note, Schaefer and Freiwald wrote some good comics, including Magnus, but they spent most of their careers writing for TV.  

AMAZING ADVENTURES #9 (Marvel, 1971) – “…And the Madness of Magneto!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Mike Sekowsky. This issue has a striking cover with a black background. In this story the Inhumans battle Magneto, who has kidnapped Black Bolt in order to use him as the commander of a mutant army. Conway writes Magneto as just a generic supervillain, which is what he was at the time. It was Claremont who turned him into a more complex and sympathetic character, such as by giving him a background as a Holocaust survivor. Magneto’s monologues in this issue seem to imply that Inhumans are mutants. This is funny because for much of the 2010s, Marvel’s position was the exact opposite. In both the films and the comics, they used Inhumans as a replacement for mutants since they didn’t own the film rights to the X-Men. As a final note, it’s weird seeing Mike Sekowsky drawing Marvel superheroes.

STARSTRUCK #1 (IDW, 2009) – various stories, [W] Elaine Lee, [A] Michael Wm. Kaluta. I now have a mostly complete run of the IDW Starstruck reprints. These are the ideal way to obtain this material, because they’re attractively formatted and they contain the entire run of the series. I’ve always found Starstruck to be very confusing, and this issue does little to clear up my confusion. In the first story in this issue, a female clone is created and sent to live with an outer space business magnate and his family. In the backup story, three young friends get recruited into the Galactic Girl Guides. For me, the Galactic Girl Guides stories in Starstruck were always more memorable than the main stories.

BATMAN #404 (DC, 1987) – “Year One Chapter One: Who I Am How I Come to Be,” [W] Frank Miller, [A] David Mazzucchelli. I now have all four issues of Year One, which, it goes without saying, is one of the best Batman stories ever. It also goes without saying that Mazzucchelli’s art is spectacular. This issue’s centerpiece is the “I shall become a bat” moment, but its most memorable scenes are primarily about Gordon, not Bruce. I particularly remember Flass’s brutal, unjustified beating of a black youth, and Gordon’s interview wth the sleazy, corrupt commissioner. Unfortunately, Gordon’s struggle with the police is also a dick-measuring contest; when Gordon beats up Flass, the point is to illustrate what a manly man Gordon is. Frank Miller’s comics often seem to degenerate into struggles over who’s a manlier man. The ultimate example of this is 300, and here I should  mention that I bought 300 #2-5 at the convention but haven’t read them yet.

MARVEL PREMIERE #2 (Marvel, 1972) – Warlock: “The Hounds of Helios!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Gil Kane. In his second appearance in his own series, Warlock meets some rebellious teenagers, and they give him the first name Adam. The main plot is that Warlock fights some of the Man-Beast’s evolved animals, but this issue focuses primarily on the four teenagers’ rebellion against their parents.  At the end, Warlock forces the kids’ fathers to understand the kids’ perspective by making the fathers see through the eyes of oppressed people in Vietnam, Biafra, and the American ghetto. Roy Thomas was a fairly apolitical writer and he lacked O’Neil, Englehart or Gerber’s deep sympathy with the youth movement, but this issue is a valiant effort at “relevance.” Gil Kane’s art, of course, is excellent. This issue includes a reprinted Jimmy Woo/Yellow Claw backup story from the ‘50s. In this reprint, Jimmy Woo’s boss, who was originally named Phil Kane, is clumsily redrawn to turn him into Nick Fury.

GROO THE WANDERER #113 (Marvel, 1994) – “Three Wishes for Groo,” [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. I now have all but six issues of Marvel’s Groo run, although one of the issues I’m missing is #120, which must be the hardest one to find. In this issue Groo receives three wishes from a genie, and uses the first wish to pray for rain. That works out so well that Groo also uses the other two wishes for rain, but predictably, the results of the second and third wishes are disastrous. Two of the towns in this issue are named Sequia and Aguas, meaning “drought” and “waters”.

BLAZING COMBAT #3 (Warren, 1966) – [W] Archie Goodwin unless indicated. “Special Forces!”, [W] Jerry Grandenetti (though credited to Joe Orlando). A depiction of a typical day of combat in the Vietnam War. “Foragers,” [A] Reed Crandall. During Sherman’s March, a cruel, drunken Union soldier threatens an old man who’s defending his house. Eventually the soldier’s own subordinate shoots him to save the old man’s life. This story feels uncomfortably pro-Confederate, though its main theme is that cruelty to civilians is wrong. “U-Boat,” [A] Gene Colan. An American sailor thinks the Nazis are better at warfare than his own side is, but it doesn’t save him from being killed by a Nazi submarine crew. Gene Colan’s art here is gorgeous, especially with this issue’s high print quality. “Survival,” [A] Alex Toth. In a postapocalyptic world, a man kills some other people who were stealing his food, and is shocked to discover that one of them was a woman. “The Battle of Britain!”, [W] Wally Wood, [A] Dan Adkins (credited to Wally Wood). Through one pilot’s experiences, we learn that the aerial Battle of Britain appeared to be a losing effort, but was actually successful. Whether Woody or Adkins did the art, it’s very detailed and realistic. “Water Hole!”, [A] Gray Morrow. An account of a battle between American soldiers and Apache Indians. This story’s effectiveness is decreased because I sympathize with the Indians more than the Americans. “Souvenirs!”, [A] John Severin. Some Marines discover the dead body of another Marine who appears to have heroically sacrificed himself to warn his comrades of an ambush. In a flashback, we learn that the dead man was not a hero; rather, he got killed because of his ghoulish habit of collecting gold filings from corpses. Overall, the best stories in this issue were the ones by Toth, Wood and Adkins, and Severin, but the quality of the entire issue is extremely high.

DAREDEVIL #88 (Marvel, 1972) – “Call Him Killgrave!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Gene Colan. I believe this is the second appearance of the Purple Man, after Daredevil #4. Oddly he is shown here not with purple skin, but with the same color of skin as the other Caucasian characters. In his early appearances, Killgrave was a very minor villain; it wasn’t until Bendis’s Alias series that he became a major character. This issue has a subplot where Black Widow is hanging out with a mysterious man named Danny French, and there’s a flashback explaining how she and Ivan met. Gene Colan’s art here is excellent, and is beautifully inked by Tom Palmer.

INCREDIBLE HULK #158 (Marvel, 1972) – “Frenzy on a Far-Away World!”, [W] Roy Thomas & Steve Gerber, [A] Herb Trimpe. The Hulk and Rhino find themselves on Counter-Earth, where they get involved in a battle between two different factions of New Men. The highlight of this issue is Hulk’s encounter with the Counter-Earth version of Bruce Banner and Betty Ross, who are married with a young son. This scene gives us a poignant vision of a world where Bruce Banner is actually happy. At the end of this issue, the primary version of Betty Ross marries Glenn Talbot. Their marriage has largely been forgotten today, but it lasted until Glenn’s death in issue 260. This issue is scripted by Steve Gerber, but there’s nothing specifically Gerber-esque about it. Adam Warlock makes a brief cameo appearance.

SKYWARD #4 (Image, 2018) – “My Low-G Life Part 4,” [W] Joe Henderson, [A] Lee Garbett. Willa’s dad has a plan to fix the world, but he’s afraid to go outside, so Willa knocks him unconscious and packs him in a duffel bag. Then she discovers that her boyfriend Edison was kidnapped. At the end of the issue there’s a thunderstorm, which doesn’t seem like such a bad thing, except that without gravity, the storm takes the form of a giant blob of water floating in the air. This is a very striking visual image.

UNCLE SCROOGE #62 (Gold Key, 1966) – “The Queen of the Wild Dog Pack,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Scrooge and his nephews go to Australia, where a pack of dingoes are stealing Scrooge’s sheep. (This is just one of 26 alphabetically ordered problems that Scrooge is facing at the same time, “in twenty-five countries and Zanzibar,” but the other 25 problems are never resolved. Zanzibar is mentioned because at the time there was no country starting with Z. At the time, Zambia was called Northern Rhodesia, Zimbabwe was called Rhodesia, Zaire was called the Republic of the Congo.) The ducks discover that the wolf pack is led by a feral teenage girl, and Huey, Dewey and Louie capture her by using the music of Tweedy Teentwirp, Britain’s singing idol. This story could be seen as sexist – there’s a derogatory reference to women drivers, and the feral girl is intentionally drawn to look ugly. It’s a fun story, though. Tweedy Teentwirp represents one of Barks’s few attempts to engage with contemporary pop culture.  

BIRTHRIGHT #30 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. At the convention I got most of the issues of Birthright that I was missing. In this issue Mikey finally breaks the influence of the Nevermind, and the baby is named as Mya.

THE WOODS #3 (Boom!, 2014) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. The gym teacher, Coach Clay, takes control of the school and imprisons one of the students, Maria, for disagreeing with him. Typical fascist gym teacher behavior. Meanwhile, the five students who escaped the school have to flee from a giant green bear. Then they discover what looks like the pyramid of Chichen Itza, but they don’t realize that three more bears are following them. According to my database, I do have issue 4, but if I do, I can’t find it anywhere. I may have to pause reading The Woods until I either find or replace it.

BATMAN #342 (DC, 1981) – “Requiem for a Hero,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Irv Novick. Batman spends the issue chasing the Man-Bat, and eventually manages to give him an antidote to his bat-transformation, but the antidote doesn’t work, and Man-Bat escapes. There’s a touching scene in this issue where Francine Langstrom explains how Kirk turned into the Man-Bat this time. Kirk is a touching character because of his bonds with his family. He’s kind of like Curt Connors, except that even in his monstrous form, he’s not genuinely evil. This issue has subplots involving Dr. Thirteen, Rupert Thorne, and Poison Ivy, and there’s a Robin backup story by Conway and Trevor Von Eeden, in which Dick is crucified by red-robed cultists.

THIRTEEN GOING ON EIGHTEEN #27 (Dell, 1967) – “Strange Girl” etc., [W/A] John Stanley. An issue consisting of many short gag stories. Perhaps the best one is the first, in which Billy sees a strange girl in Val’s house, not realizing it’s Val herself with a new hairdo. This series is always very funny, but it’s hard to review, since every issue is just a repetition of the same formula.

VELVET #6 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Steve Epting. Velvet returns to London and tries to figure out which of her superiors was responsible for betraying her. What originally attracted me to Steve Epting’s art was his thrilling action sequences, and Velvet seems like a poor fit for his talents, since it’s more focused on espionage and skulduggery than action. However, it does give him an opportunity to draw some very realistic and moody urban settings.

LITTLE MONSTERS #8 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. A flashback reveals the origin of Victoria, who became a vampire in Victorian London, after she was fired from domestic service and left homeless. In the present, the good kids barricade themselves in the Elder’s crypt, while the bad kids try to force them to come out with the human girl, Laura. The three kids’ descent into monstrosity is really terrifying. They’re willing to go to any lengths to drink Laura’s blood, and they don’t see her as a person, but as a resource that the other vampires are hoarding.

HULK #7 (Marvel, 2008) – “What Happens in Vegas,” [W] Jeph Loeb, [A] Art Adams. In Las Vegas, the grey Hulk fights an army of Wendigos. Art Adams’s renderings of monsters and beautiful women are spectacular. Thanks to his labor-intensive style, he hardly ever does any actual comic art anymore, so when he does, it’s a rare treat. Unfortunately his story is just half the issue. “Hell Hath No Fury…”, [W] Jeph Loeb, [A] Frank Cho. She-Hulk, Valkyrie and Thundra fight the Red Hulk. Frank Cho is a very talented artist, though he’s currently squandering his talent by trolling feminist fans. In this story he does the one thing he’s best at: he draws sexy and powerful women.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #44 (Marvel, 2022) – “Revenge of the Brood Part 2,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Sergio Dávila. Carol and her teammates fight the Brood-possessed Rogue and are eventually forced to kill her. This is not as bad as it sounds, since she can be resurrected on Krakoa, but it’s still a sad moment. Then Carol and her team are captured by the Brood. Sergio Dávila’s art here is really not that much worse than Frank Cho’s art on the previous comic. That’s one problem with Cho: he seems to think he’s a better artist than anyone else, but in fact there are lots of other artists who have a similar level of talent to Cho, and who don’t have the baggage of being anti-feminist trolls.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #151 (Marvel, 1972) – “Panic on Park Avenue,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Sal Buscema. Cap fights the Scorpion and Mr. Hyde, who he mistakenly believed to be dead. This issue is fun, but it feels like a generic Cap story. A couple issues later, Steve Englehart took over the series and elevated it to a new height of quality and political relevance.

BATMAN #130 (DC, 2022) – “Failsafe Finale,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jorge Jimenez. Implausibly enough, Batman manages to fall all the way to Earth without burning up in reentry, and he lands right next to Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. Then Batman defeats Failsafe by giving it a sense of compassion, but the story ends with Batman being apparently blown up in an explosion. The high point of this story is when Batman says “This thing is designed to defeat Batman. But it doesn’t stand a chance… against Batman and Robin.” This issue also includes the final chapter of Zur-En-Arrh’s origin story. At one point in this story, Zur-En-Arrh says “Killing the Joker saves people!” and Batman replies “Where does it end?” Zur-En-Arrh answers “When everyone has been saved,” but that’s the wrong answer. The answer is that Batman doesn’t need to kill the Riddler or Two-Face or anyone else, but that he has a moral obligation to kill the Joker in particular, and when he lets the Joker live, he’s sacrificing thousands of lives for the sake of his own conscience. If I never read another story where Batman has the opportunity to kill the Joker but lets him live, it’ll be too soon.  

MONKEY PRINCE #9 (DC, 2022) – “The Monkey King and I, Part 1 of 4,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Bernard Chang. The family moves to Metropolis. Marcus’s mother gets killed while invading a Lexcorp building, but it’s okay, because Marcus’s grandfather, Gerard, has the ability to save her life. Then Marcus fights Supergirl, and we realize that Marcus’s grandfather is the Ultra-Humanite. I spoiled this for myself a bit early, when I Googled the name “Gerard Shugel”. Marcus’s attitude toward his parents is kind of weird; he must know that they’re career criminals, yet he allows them to constantly uproot his life. Probably he’s just so used to moving every few months, that he doesn’t realize it’s not normal.

PETER PARKER & MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MEN DOUBLE TROUBLE #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki & Vita Ayala, [A] Gurihiru. On “Take Your Sidekick to Work Day,” Peter takes Miles to his warehouse of captured supervillain equipment, and miles has to capture a horde of fanged “furry puffy things.” Then Miles gets sucked inside a mysterious pink and purple container. So far, the third Double Trouble miniseries is just as funny and entertaining as the first two.

BRIAR #2 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Witch Which Witches Not,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Germán García. Briar Rose and the spider girl are captured by witches, and they gain a third companion, who may be transgender. This issue is slightly better than issue 1, but it’s still not good. Overall, this comic feels as if it’s composed of a bunch of unrelated ideas that don’t fit together properly. Cantwell doesn’t seem to know what sort of world this is, or what kind of aesthetic effect he’s aiming for. It’s also not clear just what Briar is supposed to be about or where its plot is going, and Briar Rose’s dialogue, in particualr, is annoying to read. I don’t think it’s worth waiting to see if this series will get any better, and I’ve removed it from my pull list.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: SYMBOL OF TRUTH #7 (Marvel, 2022) – “Pax Mohannda Part 2,” [W] Tochi Onyebuchi, [A] Ig Guara. Cap and Ian Rogers, the new Nomad, invade Mohannda, and the Falcon wakes up in a monstrous form. This issue was a very quick read.

MY LITTLE PONY #7 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Stephanie Williams, [A] Robin Easter. Hitch is supposed to set up his DJ booth, but his friends keep distracting him by asking him to do stuff for them. Finally Hitch finds that his friends have already set up his booth for him. This is a very shallow and simple story, and the reader is driven nuts by Hitch’s inability to say no to anyone.