Final review post of 2022


Time to write the last set of reviews for 2022, even though it’s already 2023:

RADIANT PINK #1 (Image, 2022) – “Meet Cute/Horrible,” [W] Meghan Camarena & Melissa Flores, [A] Emma Kubert. Radiant Pink, or Eva, was previously seen in issue 12, where she was was killing herself because of her unsustainable livestreaming job. In this issue, we see that Eva’s friend Maddie is helping Eva maintain her secret identity, and also making sure Eva sleeps and eats. But Maddie is actually collaborating with a villain, and at the end of the issue she conspires to trap them both on an alien planet. Eva is a compelling character because her passion for her job is the reason why she’s so good at it – and yet this very passion causes her to neglect her own health.

FIRE POWER #4 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Chris Samnee. The protagonist and his wife go on a date, and we learn that she’s still jealous of his relationship with his childhood love interest, but then the restaurant gets invaded by villains. The interesting part of this issue is the main characters’ family dynamics. This comic feels like a realistic portrait of a strained marriage. However, the main plot of Fire Power is still a stupid piece of cultural appropriation, and this comic still wouldn’t be worth reading if not for Chris Samnee’s art.

DETECTIVE COMICS #978 (DC, 2018) – “Batmen Eternal Part 3,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Javier Fernandez. The Batman family fights a group of villains called the Colony, who are somehow associated with Jacob Kane, and Kate Kane takes sides with her father, even though he’s still an awful man. Other than that I’m not sure what this comic is about.

POISON IVY #7 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Atagun Ilhan. Ivy goes to work for a fracking company in Montana, run by a certain Beatrice Crawley. She discovers that Crawley is using Jason Woodrue’s formulas to create some awful monsters. Crawley is an interesting villain because of her moral ambiguity. She’s obviously evil, yet she makes a convincing case that she had to do it in order to succeed as a female CEO in a sexist world. She’s a good demonstration of how the Lean In mentality is actually anti-feminist. The guest artist, Atagun Ilhan, is a significant step down from Marcio Takara. Ilhan is good at drawing plants and monsters, which must be why he got this job, but he’s not good at drawing realistic female faces.

GOLDEN RAGE #5 (Image, 2022) – “Funeral,” [W] Chrissy Williams, [A] Lauren Knight. Rosie and the protagonist (whose name I can’t remember) leave the island in the boat, but then they decide to turn around and build a better society on the island. This miniseries was a big disappointment. The writer was more interested in making old-lady jokes than in exploring the implications of her premise. Golden Rage could have been another Bitch Planet, but it wasn’t.

GOTHAM CITY YEAR ONE #3 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Phil Hester. After some investigation, Slam finds baby Helen’s dead body. This issue is less objectionable than the rest of the series. A poignant scene occurs when Slam hears a baby crying and thinks he’s found Helen’s kidnapper, only to discover that the “kidnapper” is an innocent man, and the cries are coming from the man’s own child. Since the man is black, this scene shows that Slam is guilty of the same prejudices as all the other white people in the series. However, this issue was not enough to keep me from giving up on this series. See my review of #4 below.

SECRET INVASION #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Full of Surprises,” [W] Ryan North, [A] Francesco Mobili. Working freelance for Maria Hill, Nick Fury investigates a report of a dead man who was allegedly a Skrull. Fury discovers that the man’s wife and children were all Skrulls. Then we learn that the “Fury” who’s telling this story to Maria Hill is himself a Skrull, part of a much larger Skrull conspiracy. This issue is probably an improvement on the original Secret Invasion, because Ryan North really digs deep into what might happen if anyone could potentially be a Skrull. The scene at the beginning with the dead man is powerful: his wife is happy that her husband’s dead, because she’s convinced himself that her husband’s body is that of a Skrull, and therefore her real husband must still be alive somewhere. (Of course we don’t know yet that the woman is a Skrull herself.)

FAMILY TIME #1 (Ablaze, 2022) – untitled, [W] Lily Windom & Robert Windom, [A] Asiah Fulmore. An American family visits rural Ireland, where they get sent back in time to the remote past. This comic is reasonably well done, but when I saw issue 2 on the shelf, I had to think seriously about whether to buy it or not. And I decided that if I was that unsure, I had better not buy it. The first issue just didn’t do enough to arouse my interest.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #25 (Marvel, 2007) – “The Death of the Dream Part 1,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Steve Epting. This is the one where Sharon Carter is manipulated into assassinating Cap. At the time this issue came out, I had stopped reading this series, and I thought Cap’s death was a stupid publicity stunt. At the tail end of the Bush years, it also felt like a sign that America was finished. In hindsight, both Captain America and the nation of America had far worse times ahead. Like all of Brubaker and Epting’s Cap run, this issue is very well-crafted, but the entire issue is just setup for the climactic moment of Cap’s death.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #134 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Fero Pe. There’s some good characterization in this issue, but the overall plot is hard to understand since I’m not reading the Armageddon Game crossover series. This series has been in a slump for quite a while.

BATMAN: DARK VICTORY #10 (DC, 2000) – untitled, [W] Jeph Loeb, [A] Tim Sale. Bruce and some Gotham police fight Two-Face and Mr. Freeze in the sewers, and Dick Grayson, not yet Robin, goes on an investigation. Tim Sale’s lettering and colors create a very striking, moody effect, and even a month after reading this comic, I still remember the panel where Gordon discovers the hanged corpse of one of his fellow cops. I need to collect more of Loeb and Sale’s collaborations.

THE VARIANTS #5 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Gail Simone, [A] Phil Noto. Jessica finally defeats all the evil duplicates. This was a pretty fun series. It was a touching exploration of Jessica’s character and relationships, and I like all the alternate Jessicas, especially the Vision Jessica who engages her “regret subroutine.”

ALL AGAINST ALL #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Alex Paknadel, [A] Caspar Wijngaard. This is based on the Predator franchise, which I’m not familiar with. It seems to be about some alien hunters who travel to a postapocalyptic Earth and encounter a primitive human, who proves to be a much more formidable opponent than they expected. What’s really impressive about this comic is Caspar Wijngaard’s art. I think I’ve only encountered him before on Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt, but his art here is even better. He draws some weird-looking aliens and savage animals, and his coloring and linework are striking. I didn’t have this on my pull list, but I’ve added it.

THE ROADIE #3 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Fran Galán. The father and daughter do some bonding. We learn about Joe’s penny, which serves as the locus of his power – I had forgotten all about this by the time I read issue 4. And then of course the demons show up and start hunting Joe and Shelby again.

KAYA #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Wes Craig. The protagonists spend the issue hunting a horrible two-headed monster. This issue has some beautiful artwork, especially the splash page where we first see the Magron. However, so far Kaya’s writing is less successful than its art.

SPIDER-MAN #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “End of the Spider-Verse Part 3: Spinning Out of Control,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Mark Bagley. After a long series of action sequences, most of the Spider-Men (and others) get corrupted, and Spider-Gwen stabs Peter with a magical dagger, causing him to vanish from existence. Again the most fun part of this issue is Spinstress, who continues to sing even after she turns evil.

STILLWATER #16 (Image, 2022) – “For Eternity,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón K. Pérez. This issue finally gives us Stillwater’s origin story. In 1842, a woman named Clara has triplet sons, but she loses one of them at birth, and another in the Civil War. To protect her surviving son, she performs a ritual that makes everyone in Stillwater immune to death. But it backfires horribly, and Clara buries herself in the ground, which causes the immortality curse to end. She wakes up again in 1985 and creates the Stillwater we know today. Some of this didn’t make sense to me until after I read issue 17. This issue confused me because  it shows a Civil War battle taking place in Stillwater, and I somehow thought Stillwater was in Maine, where there weren’t any Civil War battles. I thought I remembered a scene where some people in Bangor or Lewiston were talking about Stillwater. Maybe I was thinking of a similar scene in Stephen King’s Needful Things.

HEXWARE #1 (Image, 2022) – “The Puppet Tree,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Zulema Scotto Lavina. Hexware is set in a dystopian future world where the richer you are, the further you live from the ground. The android protagonist, Which-Where, is the servant to a rich family, and when the family’s daughter, Jesminder, is murdered, Which-Where summons some kind of demon to get revenge. This comic is an interesting blend of cyberpunk and dark fantasy, but I don’t think that’s an original idea; it was done before in Shadowrun. Also, I had trouble figuring out just what was going on in this issue.

THE BLUE FLAME #10 (Vault, 2022) – “How Do You Plea?”, [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Adam Gorham. Sam calls himself up to testify, and a verdict is finally reached. We don’t get any clear answers as to what the verdict was, or whether the trial was real to begin with, but the series ends with Sam’s baby niece finally being born. Christopher Cantwell is an inconsistent writer, but Blue Flame was his best work since She Could Fly.

DAREDEVIL #6 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Red Fist Saga Part 6,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Rafael De Latorre. Daredevil tries to integrate his prisoners into the Fist, with assistance from Doc Samson. There’s a somewhat touching scene where Daredevil talks to Bullet, although I  don’t know this character’s history. Meanwhile, Elektra tries to assassinate the President. I don’t like this volume of Daredevil as much as the previous volume. Its plot isn’t quite as exciting. Why should I care about the conflict between the Hand and the Fist?

300 #2 (Dark Horse, 1998) – “Fury,” [W/A] Frank Miller. At the last convention I bought all the issues of this series except for #1. 300 is unquestionably a beautiful comic, full of striking visual compositions. However, it’s also a morally repugnant work, and it represents the point where Frank Miller went completely off the deep end. I will have more to say later about 300’s sexism and homophobia, but in this issue, it’s also notable how Miller distorts the historical record. In this issue Leonidas has to apply to the ephors, a group of deformed old men, for permission to lead his army against the Spartans. After asking their oracle for a prophecy, the ephors refuse this permission because the Carneia festival is still going on, and so Leonidas has to go to Thermopylae with just his personal guard of 300 Spartans, not his entire army. Then we learn that the ephors made this decision after receiving a bribe from the Persians. There is no historical evidence that the ephors were bribed in this way. All Herodotus says is that “the Carneia was in their way, but once they had completed the festival, they intended to leave a garrison at Sparta and march out in full force with all speed.” So the purpose of the scene with the ephors is just to show how Leonidas is noble and courageous, unlike the dishonest, ugly old ephors. And their ugliness is significant because in this series’ ideology, manliness is the greatest virtue, and ugly men are less manly.

EARTHDIVERS #3 (IDW, 2022) – “Kill Columbus Part 3: Yellow Woman,” [W] Stephen Graham Jones, [A] Davide Gianfelice. This issue takes place almost entirely in the future timeframe, rather than in 1492. That’s a problem because we still don’t understand just what the hell is going on in this future timeline. Who are the future characters, and what are they trying to do? Why is their world post-apocalyptic? How does their time machine work? None of this has been explained to my satisfaction. While I was reading issue 4, it occurred to me that Earthdivers would have been much better if the future timeline was entirely omitted, and if the entire story took place in 1492. This is the same problem I have with the Assassin’s  Creed series, where the Desmond sequences are just a distraction from the real game.

BATGIRLS 2022 ANNUAL (DC, 2022) – “Vice Versa Part 1 of 2,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. Steph and Cass get their bodies switched, in Freaky Friday fashion. This is inconvenient because Steph, in Cass’s body, is then kidnapped by Cass’s mother Lady Shiva, while Cass, in Steph’s body, is kidnapped by Steph’s father, Cluemaster.  This story is continued in the next regular issue of Batgirls, and there’s no backup story, which makes me wonder why this was an annual and not a normal issue. It’s nice to see Robbi Rodriguez’s art again.

SO BUTTONS #12 (self-published, 2022) – various stories, [W/A] Jonathan Bayliss. I ordered this directly from Bayliss because Paul Gravett promoted it on his Facebook page, and I was impressed by its roster of artists, including Jesse Lonergan, Carol Tyler and Noah Van Sciver. This comic is a collection of short anecdotes from Jonathan Bayliss’s life, each drawn by a different artist. The exception is that the Carol Tyler story is an unpublished one-pager which is not about Bayliss. The stories in this issue are funny and charming, in kind of the same vein as True Story, Swear to God, and I like the diversity of artistic styles. I’d be willing to read more of this comic, and I’m glad to see that self-published comic books are not a completely dead format yet.

X-MEN RED #9 (Marvel, 2022) – “Return of the King,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Stefano Caselli. The resurrected Vulcan invades an intergalactic peace summit and beats everyone up, until Storm arrives to confront him. Al Ewing’s Guardians of the Galaxy, S.W.O.R.D. and X-Men Red are all really a single long series, with Storm as its dominant character.

IMMORTAL X-MEN #9 (Marvel, 2022) – “The X Lives of Moira VI,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Lucas Werneck. Mr. Sinister has created a clone of Moira, with Moira’s power to reset the timeline. He uses it to make repeated attempts to assassinate the Quiet Council, but keeps failing to assassinate Hope, who is his primary target. Finally he does manage to kill Hope, but Kitty Pryde has figured out what’s going on, and she leads the rest of the council against him. This issue’s POV character is Kitty, but the story isn’t really about her; she just acts as the narrator. I’d have liked to see more of Kieron’s take on Kitty.

ABSOLUTION #5 (AWA, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Mike Deodato Jr. Nina overcomes the child killer and tortures him to death,  to the great delight of her audience, but she still hasn’t quite reached absolution. She finds another criminal to assassinate, only to discover that he wants her to kill him. She decides to wash her hands of the whole situation, and allows her timer to expire, accepting her own death. This ending is disappointing because it does nothing to change the dystopian Absolution system. In this series Milligan seems to be critiquing how the media appeals to people’s lowest desires, but he offers no solutions to that problem.

ORCS: THE CURSE #4 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Christine Larsen. The orcs and their allies finally team up and defeat the wizard and his curse. This is an entertaining conclusion to the miniseries, though it doesn’t leave much room for another sequel.

NOCTERRA: VAL SPECIAL #1 (Image, 2022) – “The First Ferryman,” [W] Scott Snyder & Tony Daniel, [A] Francis Manapul. In a flashback, Val and her mentor Raleigh Royce visit a place called Denton which turns out to be full of cannibals. Val escapes, but Raleigh is killed. In the present, Val finds Diggs, who betrayed her and Raleigh to the people of Denton, and takes him hostage. (This summary is courtesy of this review.) This is an okay issue, but it doesn’t advance the series’ plot.

NIGHT OF THE GHOUL #3 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Francesco Francavilla. The twist ending is that the people running the asylum are actually the good guys, and it’s the old film director who’s trying to resurrect the Ghoul. Orson survives and defeats the old man, only to be captured by the ghoul cult, and in typical horror fashion, the series ends with the suggestion that the ghoul has only been defeated temporarily. This was a very gruesome and creepy piece of horror, but Francesco Francavilla’s art was more conventional and less exciting than earlier in his career.

THE DEAD LUCKY #4 (Image, 2022) – “They Sit Like Scars,” [W] Melissa Flores, [A] French Carlomagno. After a bunch of random stuff happens, Bibi decides to ally herself with the Salvation Gang, since she and the gang have a common enemy in the Morrow corporation. The Dead Lucky is my least favorite Massiveverse title because of its lack of an overarching theme, or rather because it has too many themes at once, and they don’t fit well with each other.

NEW MUTANTS #32 (Marvel, 2022) – “Swap Out,” [W] Charlie Jane Anders, [A] Alberto Albuquerque. In order to escape from the U-Men, Escapade has to stretch her powers beyond safe limits. Then she finds herself on the rooftop where she foresaw herself killing Morgan. This series is passionately written, but I’m not in love with it. I think the best part about it is the Young Shela & Morgan segments, which are drawn by Ro Stein and Ted Brandt. BTW, it seems like Ro Stein and Ted Brandt are almost a single creator, since they only ever work with each other.

MY BAD VOL 2 #1 (Ahoy, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Peter Krause. A year after the previous miniseries ended, a murderer disguised as a pizza delivery man is going around killing people whose names resemble those of superheroes (e.g. “Mort Spidderman”). I was disappointed with the first volume of My Bad, so I was surprised at how much I liked this sequel. The pizza murders provide an intriguing plot hook that turns this series into more than just a collection of silly superhero parodies. Also, the pizza murderer seems like an homage to Steve Gerber’s Elf with a Gun. They both have the same modus operandi of knocking on people’s doors and then shooting them dead.

SECRET INVASION #2 (Marvel, 2022) – “All I Need to Do is Kill It,” [W] Ryan North, [A] Francesco Mobili. Maria Hill develops a blood test that can distinguish between Skrulls and humans. She makes all the Avengers take the blood test, and Black Widow fails it and is revealed as a Skrull. But then we discover that Tony Stark is also a Skrull, and that he somehow outsmarted the blood test (in issue 3 we find out how). The blood test scene reminds me of Mira Grant’s Newsflesh novels, where constant blood testing is accepted as a fact of life.

HEART EYES #4 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Dennis Hopeless, [A] Víctor Ibáñez. The other protagonist saves Lupe, only to realize that she’s really the monsters’ queen, not their victim. I think this series is mostly interesting for Víctor Ibáñez’s depictions of monsters. Its plot and characterization aren’t all that great, especially now that we know its protagonist is a murderer.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #4 (Marvel, 1968) – “The Alien and the Amphibian!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Gene Colan. I bought this at the December Charlotte Comic Con, only to discover that my copy was missing several pages. I ordered another copy on eBay to replace it. The centerpiece of this issue is Mar-Vell’s fight with Namor. I forget what the pretext for the fight is, and at this early point, there wasn’t much to distinguish Mar-Vell from any other Marvel hero. Gene Colan’s fight scenes in this issue are not bad, but his draftsmanship is ruined by the inker who must not be named.  

REVIVAL #1 (Image, 2012) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Mike Norton. I already had this issue, but only as an Image Firsts reprint. In fact, my current copy of this issue is also a reprint, but at least it doesn’t have the Image Firsts trade dress, and that’s good enough for me. See here for my previous review of Revival #1, to which I have nothing to add.

AGE OF BRONZE #1 (Image, 1998) – untitled, [W/A] Eric Shanower. Young Paris is a poor herdsman, content to raise his famous white bull and make love to his girlfriend Oenone. But then the bull is confiscated by servants of Priam, king of Troy, to be offered as a prize in some upcoming games, and Paris decides to go to Troy and win the games, so he can get the bull back. This is an inconvenience to Paris’s parents, since Paris’s real father is Priam himself, and if Paris goes to Troy, he’ll never come back. I’ve read this story before in trade paperback form. On rereading it, I notice how Shanower decided to begin his epic story in a very humble, low-key way – the first three panels of the issue show Paris being awakened from a nap when his cow licks him. This is kind of like how LOTR begins with some quiet scenes in the Shire.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #62 (Dark Horse, 1992) – “Sin City Episode 13,” [W/A] Frank Miller. Unlike any other issue of DHP that I’ve read, this issue consists of just one story: the last chapter of the first Sin City storyline. In this issue, Marv teams up with Wendy, the sister of his dead lover Goldie, and they finally take their revenge on Goldie’s killer, Kevin. Then Marv confronts Cardinal Roark, who was an accomplice to Kevin’s crimes. But after Marv kills Roark, he’s coerced into confessing to all of Kevin’s murders, under the threat that his own mother will be murdered if he doesn’t. The story ends with Marv’s execution. Sin City was probably Miller’s last great work, but it’s so grim as to be emotionally manipulative. Miller expects us to believe that Sin City is completely corrupt, to the point that everyone is too terrified to try to challenge its corrupt power structures. This was also how Miller depicted Gotham City in Batman: Year One, or New York in Daredevil: Born Again. But each of those stories ended on a hopeful note, because there were people who were willing to fight to change things. In Sin City, the heroes aren’t much better than the villains – in “Episode 13,” Marv takes a sadistic joy in torturing Kevin and Roark to death. And all Marv achieves in the end is revenge, not justice or change. I don’t enjoy reading stories that are this dark and hopeless.

HOUSE OF X #3 (Marvel, 2019) – “Once More Unto the Breach,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Pepe Larraz. Emma springs Sabretooth from prison, the X-Men attack the Orchis base, and we get an explanation of Orchis’s endgame and the hierarchy of different types of Sentinels. Jonathan Hickman seems to have a passion for organizing and classifying and numbering things. This issue also includes a key to the Krakoan script.

BATMAN #104 (DC, 2021) – “Ghost Stories Part 3,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Ryan Benjamin et al. A flashback explains the origin of Ghost-Maker, who is the same character as Anton from Batman: The Knight. This was revealed in Batman: The Knight #9, but I didn’t notice. In the present, Clownhunter has kidnapped Batman and Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy and Spoiler search for them.

TRANSMETROPOLITAN #4 (DC, 1997) – “On the Stump,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Darick Robertson. Spider hires Channon Yarrow, a former stripper, as his new assistant, and they try to get an interview with the corrupt President, who Spider calls the Beast. Spider finally  confronts the Beast in the bathroom, and in a famous scene, he shoots the Beast with a “bowel disruptor.” This results in the line “Help! The President’s shat himself!” Transmetropolitan is a very funny and clever comic, but Warren Ellis’s entire body of work has been tainted by the #MeToo allegations against him. His work has a cynical, grim sensibility, a sort of “fuck your feelings” attitude, and his protagonists tend to be anoral jerks. And now we know that Ellis exhibits this same amoral, uncaring attitude in his dealings with other people.

FOUR COLOR #1245 (Dell, 1962) – Sherlock Holmes: “The Derelict Ship” and “The Cunning Assassin,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Bob Fujitani. This series is billed as “The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” but both stories are in the same style as Arthur Conan Doyle’s original prose stories. In the first story, a ship owner hires Holmes to investigate the disappearance of his cargo. The predictable twist is that the ship owner stole the cargo himself, and hired Holmes to try to cover it up. In the backup story, Holmes saves a visiting Indian prince from being assassinated by anarchists. This story is less satisfying than the first one because it’s not a mystery. Bob Fujitani is a forgotten artist, but he was a very skilled draftsman.

MIRACLEMAN #18 (Eclipse, 1990) – “Skin Deep,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Mark Buckingham. A lonely man has an affair with Miraclewoman, and she helps reawaken his interest in the world. In the backup story, we see how Kid Miracleman has become a fashion icon for rebellious youth. I’ve read both these stories before, and neither of them is among my favorite stories from this run. This issue’s letter column includes some fascinating responses to Miracleman #16.

SKYWARD #5 (Image, 2018) – “My Low-G Life Part 5,” [W] Joe Henderson, [A Lee Garbett. Willa saves her dad (Nathan) from the giant floating thunderstorm, but thanks to Roger Barrow’s meddling, Willa’s dad has to sacrifice himself in order to get her back to the ground. This scene would have had a greater impact if I didn’t already know that Nathan was going to survive.

BIRTHRIGHT #31 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan.  In a flashback story told by Kallista to Brennan, we see how Lore tried to teach Mastema to be a wizard, but Mastema killed all her teachers. Also, Mastema was given Kallista as a pet. This issue is full of brutal moments.

RUMBLE #3 (Image, 2018) – “Soul Without Pity Part III: Minds in Ferment,” [W] John Arcudi, [A] David Rubín. I don’t quite understand this issue’s plot, but the most memorable scene is when a man in a red hat hijacks a town meeting in order to campaign against monsters. David Rubín’s art is the main selling point of this issue. He successfully combines monstrosity and cuteness (one of the main characters in this issue is a little orange-and-white-striped tentacled blob).

GHOST RIDER #7 (Marvel, 1974) – “…And Lose HIs Own Soul!”, [W] Tony Isabella, [A] Jim Mooney. Johnny Blaze battles the Zodiac member Aquarius, who’s bargained with the devil to obtain the powers of all twelve Zodiac members for a year. Over the course of the fight, Aquarius uses all twelve Zodiac members’ powers. The devil decides that this counts as a year, and drags Aquarius to hell. I reread the issue carefully, and I think the number of powers he’s shown using is less than twelve. I’ve never collected Ghost Rider actively because I don’t think it was ever all that good, although it had a long run. My copy of this issue is in extremely low grade.

EUGENIC #2 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Eryk Donovan. In a dystopian future, hideous-looking “Numans” are now the dominant species, and regular humans are confined to a ghetto. The humans’ only hope for social advancement is to take a test which, if they pass, will entitle them to have their genes used by the Numans. The protagonist, Bekk, discovers that even the test is fake, and the humans who pass it are put into test tubes. Bekk broadcasts this information and foments a rebellion against the Numans, but is killed before she can see if it succeeds. This is a very grim, bleak story, and the Numans look terrifying. Eugenic was part of a trilogy of three series, with Memetic and Cognetic, but I don’t know if the three series’ plots are connected.

THE WAKE #6 (Vertigo, 2014) – “The Wake Part Two,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Sean Murphy. Many years after the first story arc, most of America is now flooded, and a cruel dictatorship rules what little of it remains. Our protagonist, Leeward, discovers a radio signal coming from underwater, but while she’s listening to it, she’s arrested by government troops. As they’re dragging her off, the voice on the radio says that she’s Lee Archer, the protagonist of the first volume, and that she’s still alive and knows how to save the world. This series has an interesting plot (though its ending is anticlimactic, see below), but the best thing about it is Sean Murphy’s striking renderings of technology and cityscapes. He makes the reader feel immersed in a different world. I particularly like his panel compositions and camera angles, which make the page seem vaster than it really is.

STARSLAYER #7 (First, 1983) – “A Case of Do or Die!’, [W] Mike Grell, [A] Lenin Delsol. This was the first issue published by First rather than Pacific. After a flashback, Torin Mac Quillon and Tamara go on a new adventure. Starslayer was more important for its backup features (Groo, Rocketeer and Grimjack) than for its main stories, and the quality of the main stories went way down when Lenin Delsol replaced Grell as the artist.

AZTEK, THE ULTIMATE MAN #2 (DC, 1996) – “Too Many Crooks,” [W] Grant Morrison & Mark Millar, [A] N. Steven Harris. Aztek and Kyle Rayner team up against Major Force, who murdered Kyle’s first girlfriend. I guess Aztek didn’t really have any high concept or premise; perhaps it was just supposed to be a reaction against the hyperviolent superhero comics of the time. The best part of this issue is Aztek’s application for federal registration as a superhero, which takes up the last two pages and is full of funny jokes, like “Have you been bitten by anything radioactive? (yes/no)”

JULIUS CORENTIN ACQUEFACQUES T.5 (Delcourt, 2004) – La 2,333^e Dimension, [W/A] Marc-Antoine Mathieu. This series is probably the most advanced example of metatext in the comics medium. Each volume is a very deep exploration of the formal properties of comics. In this volume, the eponymous protagonist discovers that the system of linear perspective has stopped working, and his world is stuck between two and three dimensions. To fix the problem, he has to travel into the third dimension. When he reaches the third dimension, the reader has to put on a pair of 3D glasses, which are included, to continue reading. This comic predates The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier, which also included 3D glasses as a similar narrative gimmick. Also, Jules discovers that his world is just one of many worlds, and the other “worlds” include an earlier album of his own series, as well as Trondheim’s La Mouche and Schuiten and Peeters’s Fever in Urbicand. The latter book was a major influence on Mathieu because of its focus on metatext and architecture. Julius Corentin is a very, very important work, and any scholarly account of the use of metatext in comics would be incomplete without it. If I’d had easier access to these books when I was writing my own first book, I might have written about them. The trouble is that none of these books have been translated into English, and some of them have unusual features, like pop-up pages, that would make them expensive to publish in physical form.  

THE WAKE #7 (Vertigo, 2014) – “The Wake Part Three,” as above (though that title is misleading since issue 5 wasn’t part one). Leeward and her mentor Pub are now galley slaves aboard an ocean liner. A villain, Marlow, promises to kill not only the two of them, but also everyone else who might know about Leeward’s signal. After this sequence, I was furious at Marlow, and I was very disappointed that he’s still alive after issue 10. Before Marlow can kill Leeward, a giant Mer capsizes Leeward’s ship and eats her, and inside its mouth, she meets some human pirates. Again, this issue is full of spectacular renderings of landscapes, vehicles and creatures.  

THE SANDMAN #13 (DC, 1989) – “Men of Good Fortune,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Michael Zulli. This is the issue that introduces Hob Gadling. I think it was the first issue that was set in the past, unless “Tales in the Sand” counts. I know this story very well, but it was still worth revisiting. On rereading, I notice that when Gadling went into the printing trade, his partner was William Caxton, the first English printer. It’s also interesting to notice how the inn’s architecture and décor change with each century, even though it remains in the same place, and how Morpheus and Hob dress in period-appropriate clothes. The most powerful moment of the issue is in 1689, when Hob is at his lowest ebb, and Morpheus asks him whether he still wants to live, and he pauses for two panels before saying “Are you crazy? Death is a mug’s game. I got so much to live for.”

MEGATON MAN #7 (Kitchen Sink, 1985) – “No Bad Guy Shall Escape My Patrol!”, [W/A] Don Simpson. This issue is mostly a series of parodies of various other comics – Elfquest, Green Lantern and Green Arrow (including a reference to the “black skins” page), and the Spirit, specifically P’Gell. Stella Starlight and the other Ann Arbor characters don’t appear in this issue, and as a result it’s not very interesting. Megaton Man, like certain issues of Cerebus, is not going to age well, because its jokes are only funny to readers who are familiar with all the things it’s parodying. This issue also includes a Border Worlds story which is composed mostly of talking heads. I just saw that Fantagraphics was going to publish a print version of the never-published 1963 Annual. That’s exciting, though I can’t imagine how they got permission to do it.

THE SPIRIT #42 (Kitchen Sink, 1949/1988) – four stories, [W/A] Will Eisner. “The Vernal Equinox” is a cute and cleverly plotted story where some criminals try to recover some loot from under a dam. “Foul Play” is an acknowledged classic, in which a man falsely believes he’s going to be accused of murder. There’s one brilliant sequence in which the man decides he’s worrying about nothing, and then the phone rings. The sound effect RING takes up most of the middle tier of the page, and it causes the man’s entire body to tense up in shock. “A Pot of Gold” is about a female leprechaun and a group of three villains, including Mr. Carrion. “Introducing Lovely Looie” is a parody of the wrestler Gorgeous George, who was a pivotal figure in the history of both television and professional wrestling, although he’s barely remembered today.

HOUSE OF MYSTERY #294 (DC, 1981) – “The Darkness!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Carmine Infantino. A rich man is afraid of the darkness because of a voodoo curse. His assistant murders him, only to be claimed by the curse himself. Very boring art. “Old Haunts,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Tom Yeates. Jud Hershel, the sole inhabitant of a creepy old house, meets a young woman named Gretchen who claims she’s a ghost. Gretchen says that she committed suicide when she found her husband cheating. The twist ending is that, first, it was Gretchen who was cheating, and second, she’s still alive, and Jud is a ghost. This is a far better story than I expected from this era of House of Mystery. “Congratulations, Mr. Bates – It’s a Warlock!”, [W] Paul Kupperberg, [A] George Tuska. A new father tries to get a court order to prevent his newborn son from being raised as a warlock. However, the baby is already intent on becoming a warlock, and he turns his father into a teddy bear.

JONAH HEX: RIDERS OF THE WORM AND SUCH #3 (Vertigo, 1995) – “Big Worm,” [W] Joe R. Lansdale, [A] Tim Truman. We finally find out why the ranch is named after Oscar Wilde: because the owner met Oscar Wilde on his lecture tour of America. Oscar Wilde really did visit Texas on a lecture tour, although I can’t find any proof that he gave a lecture in Austin, as stated in this issue. Also, the origin of the worm creatures is explained.

MS. TREE #22 (Renegade, 1985) – “Right to Die Chapter One: Death Factory,” [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. Ms. Tree is facing murder charges and her license is suspended, but of course she gets involved in a case anyway, when an old associate of her husband’s asks for her help in blowing up an abortion clinic. Obviously Ms. Tree refuses to do this, and when she investigates the would-be arsonist’s house, he knocks her unconscious. Sadly this story is just as relevant now as 28 years ago.

UMBRELLA ACADEMY: HOTEL OBLIVION #5 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “Free,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Gabriel Bá. I still don’t understand this series. I can at least recognize some of the characters now, but this issue has way too many characters, and I have no idea who they are or how they’re connected. The most enjoyable thing about this issue is Gabriel Bá’s artwork, which is reminiscent of Mignola’s but also quite different, especially in terms of coloring.

GROO #9 (Image, 1995) – “Arfetto,” [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. Groo and Rufferto encounter Rufferto’s long-lost brother Arfetto. The two dogs look completely  identical, so as one would expect, the two of them get mistaken for each other. Groo takes Arfetto on his adventures, while Rufferto is imprisoned for offenses that were in fact committed by Arfetto. After the mix-up is resolved, there’s a hint that we’re going to see Arfetto again, but I don’t think he ever appeared again. No one in the story seems to notice that Rufferto has a jeweled collar and Arfetto doesn’t.  

THE WAKE #8 (Vertigo, 2014) – as above. The pirates prove to be friendly, and Leeward tells them about Lee’s message. But the government troops – “the Arm” – have implanted a tracking device in Lee, and they lead an assault on the pirates. Not much to say about this issue.

THE WAKE #9 (Vertigo, 2014) – as above. Long after issue 8, Leeward and the pirates get to the source of the signal. In a flashback sequence, Leeward alludes to a lot of other adventures that happened between issues 8 and 9, none of which are narrated in detail. This sequence suggests that Snyder had more stories he wanted to tell in this milieu, but that he only had ten issues to work with. By comparison, in his current series Nocterra and Undiscovered Country, Snyder is free to make his story as long as he wants. Anyway, the Arm troops arrive just as Leeward is decoding the signal, and the issue ends as Leeward encounters Lee’s ghost.

THE WAKE #10 (Vertigo, 2014) – as above. Lee reveals to Leeward that the mers are the original inhabitants of Earth, and that humans are a shapeshifting invasive species. Marlow kills the evil President, though he unfortunately survives himself, and the series ends happily. This ending is kind of a disappointing anticlimax. In the final reveal, so much information is dumped at once that it’s hard to understand it all. Overall, I think the best thing about The Wake is Sean Murphy’s spectacular artwork. As a story, it’s not awful, but it doesn’t have the same impact as Snyder’s later work.

SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF STEEL #24 (1993) – “Impact!”, [W] Louise Simonson, [A] Jon Bogdanove. I only have a few issues of Man of Steel, while I have lots of ‘90s issues of Superman, Adventures of Superman and Action Comics. Man of Steel felt like the least important Superman title. I read this issue when it came out, though I never owned it, and I remember it quite well, especially the sequence where Graham grows absurdly fat and yells “hammer slammer!” That sequence has always creeped me out.

EXTREMITY #6 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Daniel Warren Johnson. In a battle between the Paznina and the Roto, Thea chooses to save Rollo rather than pursuing the enemy. When Thea tells Jerome that she won’t kill her own brother, Jerome slaps her, further proving that his singleminded desire for revenge has turned him into a heartless monster. Jerome is an example of what Yeats meant when he said “Too long a sacrifice / can make a stone of the heart.” After this scene, Hobbie sacrifices himself so Thea and Rollo can escape, but their vehicle is shot down.

SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #24 (Marvel, 2014) – “Darkest Hours Part 3: Dark Embrace” (title only appears in the trade paperback reprint), [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Humberto Ramos. Doc Ock/Spidey merges with the Venom symbiote and becomes the Superior Venom, though he still calls himself “I”, not “we”. Peter/Otto, Anna Maria and Aunt May have some relationship drama, and there are some other scenes with the various Goblin characters. This is just an average issue with no truly memorable moments.

JONAH HEX: RIDERS OF THE WORM AND SUCH #4 (Vertigo, 1995) – “Autumns of Our Discontent,” [W] Joe R. Lansdale, [A] Tim Truman. Jonah sleeps with Hildy, the Autumn brothers visit Big Worm, the good guys sing a song about hunting worms – regrettably we don’t know the tune to the song – and then the Autumn brothers invade the farm. This series is much more humor-oriented than any other Jonah Hex comic I’ve read, and its humor is often very sexual and scatological.

300 #3 (Dark Horse, 1998) – “Glory,” [W/A] Frank Miller. The Spartans prepare for battle, and Leonidas rejects the assistance of Ephialtes, a gruesome deformed misfit. As noted in my review of #2, in this series, a character’s physical fitness is directly proportional to his manhood. As we know, Leonidas’s rejection of Ephialtes will come back to bite him in the ass, as Ephialtes will betray the Spartans to the Persians. When a Persian ambassdaor says that the Persians’ arrows will blot out the sun, a Spartan replies “Then we’ll fight in the shade.” Unlike some things in 300, this line is historically accurate; it’s quoted by both Herodotus and Plutarch. This series’ letter columns are rather depressing, because the letters are uniformly positive, and they ignore the series’ toxic politics.

SGT. ROCK #396 (DC, 1985) – “A Piece of Rag… a Hank of Hair!” and “The Pied Piper of Peril!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Russ Heath. Two reprinted stories, from Our Army at War #208 and #215, both focusing on children. In the first story, Easy Company encounters an abandoned child, and they almost get killed when some Nazis take the girl hostage. In the second story, a Nazi officer manipulates some children into trying to assassinate Rock and his men, by threatening to kill the children’s fathers if they disobey him. This is a far better story, since the Nazi is a plausible and frightening villain. Russ Heath’s artwork in both stories is brilliant. It occurs to me that all of Sgt. Rock’s stories must have taken place in a very limited span of time, since the European Theater of World War II was only active from 1944 to 1945.

THE EXTREMIST #4 (DC, 1993) – “January, Nineteen Ninety-Four,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Ted McKeever.  Jack and Judy’s neighbor Tony listens to their audio tapes and becomes obsessed with the Extremist and the Order, to such an extent that his wife leaves him. At last Tony finds Judy, and she kills him, apparently at his own desire, and disappears with Patrick. Along with Enigma, The Extremist was one of Milligan’s best works of the ‘90s. It’s a disturbing examination of the connection between sex and violence.

Next trip to Heroes:

NIGHTWING #99 (DC, 2022) – “Power Vacuum Part 3,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo & Gerardo Borges. Having gotten out of prison, Tony Zucco visits “the Hold,” a mysterious underground bank, to retrieve a jewel called the Eye of Kahndaq. Dick follows Tony, defeats his minions Double Dare, and brings him to justice. Dick also learns that he himself has some property in the Hold’s keeping. Also, Heartless launches his plot to take over Gotham. The climactic two-page spread, where Dick is pursuing Double Dare through the Hold, is impressive, but it’s hard to read it in the correct order.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #27 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Girl and the Hurricane Part 2,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. This is not so much a new storyline as a continuation of the previous one. We see some of the history of Randi’s family, and Cutter captures the Duplicitype and intentionally feeds a little boy to it, in order to turn it into a  duplicate of Erica. After reading issue #28, I realize the true horror of what Cutter does here.   She’s an agent of the Order of St. George, whose whole reason for existing is to protect children from being killed by monsters. Yet in this issue Cutter murders a child by feeding it to the Duplicitype, just for the sake of making Erica look bad.

GROO: GODS AGAINST GROO #1 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. At the end of Play of the Gods, the people of the new continent began to worship Groo as a god, causing a divine version of Groo to manifest in heaven. Now the divine Groo is driving the other gods crazy. Meanwhile the human Groo is lost at sea, but he manages to make it back to the new continent, just as Queen Isaisa is sending an invasion fleet there. Also there are subplots involving Taranto, the Sage, and the Minstrel and Kayli. Sergio is now 85, yet his artwork is as detailed and hilarious as ever, and he continues to challenge himself creatively.   

WYND: THE THRONE IN THE SKY #5 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. The good humans reach Strawberry’s lair, but are too late to save Wynd from being abducted by the vampire lady. When Oakley tries to defend Wynd, the vampire woman cuts his hand off. Wynd’s parents appear briefly on the last page. This miniseries ends on a very grim note – and by the way, James Tynion’s stories tend to be very grim in general, though The Backstagers is a notable exception. It’s going to be tough waiting for the next miniseries. During his fight with the vampire woman, Wynd asks “I don’t understand why you won’t just leave us alone! We’re only kids! We just want to live!” This is the basic question of this series. All the kids want is to be left alone to grow up in peace, yet all three factions – the humans, vampires and faeries – are constantly pursuing Wynd in order to take advantage of him for their own purposes. It’s infuriating. And I have the same question about certain factions within real-world America – like, it’s okay if people want to be homophobic or transphobic in private, but do they have to impose their bigotry on the rest of us? Why won’t they just leave us alone?

KROMA #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Lorenzo De Felici. Zet really is dead, but Kroma manages to escape from the city. In the woods, she encounters an old man dressed like a bird, and he tells her how he’s able to manipulate the color-sensing demons by changing the color of their necks. But when Kroma goes to sleep in the old man’s house, she wakes up to find him about to cut her eyes out with a knife. I don’t know if I’ve ever read a comic that uses color as intelligently as Kroma does. In this series, color is not just a decorative element, but the very basis of the narrative. Unfortunately Heroes did not have Kroma #3 available due to a computer error, and I’ve had to order it on eBay.

RADIANT BLACK #20 (Image, 2022) – “A Giant Goddamn Robot,” [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Marcelo Costa. Radiants Black and Pink fight a giant robot, and Pink breaks Red out of prison so she can help. I’m glad Satomi’s story arc is continuing, even though her miniseries is over. Besides that, this was one of the less notable issues of the series.

VANISH #4 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Ryan Stegman. While Oliver is fighting another of the superheroes/Death Eaters, Halcyon battles Deacon Dust and murders him in gruesome fashion. Then, in a very creepy moment, he appears outside Oliver’s window while Oliver’s wife is at home.  

BONE ORCHARD: TEN THOUSAND BLACK FEATHERS #4 (Image, 2022) – utitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. The police blame Trish for killing both Jackie and Casey Dubois (the murder suspect from last issue),  but while Trish is in custody, a crow monster invades the police station and kills everyone but her. Trish goes back to Jackie’s basement, the only place she feels safe, and she’s transported into some kind of postapocalyptic wasteland. There’s some more graffiti which appears to be a list of deities, including the Badb, an Irish crow goddess.  

HELL TO PAY #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Will Sliney. The issue starts with a flashback to 17th-century Amsterdam, where the modern system of finance got started. Sebastian and Maia are unable to get out of their debt to the Shrouded College, so they have to keep looking for coins. Their next stop is a private prison in Mexico, whose owner has been selling convicts’ souls to the devil. Then we learn that their ally, the Penitent, is really Alexander the Great. This series has some very complex and ambitious worldbuilding, but it avoids straying too far from Sebastian and Maia’s storyline.

JONNA AND THE UNPOSSIBLE MONSTERS #12 (Oni, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Chris Samnee, [W] Laura Samnee. Jonna battles the biggest monster and saves her father and sister, but in an epilogue sequence, we see that Jonna herself has been turned into a statue. But then the statue’s stone covering falls off, and Jonna returns to her family. This series was endearing and beautifully drawn, though its narrative was a little too decompressed.

RESIDENT ALIEN: THE BOOK OF LOVE #2 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. Harry and his girlfriend decide to move in together, and there are a lot of other subplots. Because Harry’s alien nature is not relevant to its plot, The Book of Love is less of a science fiction story than a slice-of-life story. It’s just a warm, tender depiction of some normal people and their developing relationships.

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #18 (DC, 2022) – “Kal-El Returns Chapter 6: Security,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Cian Tormey & Ruairí Coleman. The JLA rebuild Ma and Pa Kent’s house. Jon battles a new villain named Red Sin, who somehow manages to turn off Jon’s powers, but Jon survives thanks to a failsafe device that Brainiac 5 built for him. By the way, Tom Taylor would be an absolutely perfect Legion writer, if DC would just give up on their failed experiment of having Bendis write the Legion. Jay Nakamura is curiously absent from this issue, but I don’t think it’s because something happened to him; rather, this issue focuses mostly on Jon’s relationship with his father. I’m really going to miss this series, although the upcoming Jon Kent miniseries will be some consolation.  

MONICA RAMBEAU: PHOTON #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Eve Ewing, [A] Luca Maresca w/ Ivan Fiorelli. Monica Rambeau teams up with Spider-Man and Dr. Strange to fight a new villain called Hinge. Yelena Rosario, from Ewing’s Marvel Team-Up run, prophesies that Monica will destroy the universe. Monica and her father commisserate about Monica’s ne’er-do-well cousin. I’m glad to see Eve Ewing writing for Marvel again. This series doesn’t make as much of an immediate impression as her Ironheart run did, but it includes some strong characterization. As I read this issue, it occurred to me that Monica Rambeau may have been the first African-American superhero who did not come from the ghetto or from a broken home. In her first appearance, Monica had a comfortable job as a harbor patrol captain, and she had two parents who were still alive and married. At a time when most black superheroes came from a background of poverty and oppression, as is still often the case today, Monica helped to expand the range of options available for depicting black people in comics.

BATGIRLS #13 (DC, 2022) – “Vice Versa Part 2,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad, [A] Jonathan Case. Cass and Steph are still stuck in each others’ bodies. Zatanna makes a guest appearance and helps figure out that a villain named Madame Zodiac is responsible for the body swap, and Madame Zodiac returns Cass and Steph to their own bodies. Cass and her mother part from each other peacefully, but Steph is still in her father’s clutches. Madame Zodiac is not a new character, but I can’t remember her at all.

SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER 2 #5 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jody Leheup, [A] Nil Vendrell. The bears have now enslaved humankind. Shirtless’s mother has an unsatisfying encounter with his father Ursa Major. Some of the other characters travel to the netherworld to look for Shirtless’s soul, but after a funny scene with the Self-Care Bears – a parody of the Care Bears – they fail to accomplish anything. This issue is full of funny bear jokes.

COPRA #44 (self-published, 2022) – “Reckoning Device,” [W/A] Michel Fiffe. The Copra team goes hunting for Compota, the Count Vertigo character. There’s also a backup story that’s a sweet tribute to Michel Fiffe’s dog, who recently passed away. Copra is extremely expensive at $10 an issue, but I’m willing to keep buying it because of its super-high level of artwork and publication design, and because of my sentimental affection for the periodical comic book format.  

ROGUE SUN #9 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Ryan Parrott, [A] Marco Renna. At the beginning of this issue, Dylan can’t find his sun stone anywhere, and it turns up between the cushions of the couch where he sits while playing video games. This is an extremely typical teenage boy moment, although we later learn that his brother and sister stole the sun stone and lied about finding it in the couch. Dylan asks his love interest to prom, but learns that she has a new boyfriend. Then Dylan fights the villain from last issue, the petty criminal’s son, and suffers a humiliating defeat that leaves him badly wounded. Finally, Dylan’s brother and sister use the sun stone to summon their father’s ghost, but the ghost that appears is a different man entirely.

I HATE FAIRYLAND VOL. 2 #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Brett Bean. The “villionaire,” Wiggins, sends Gert and a talking rat companion to Fairyland, but they find  themselves in hell instead, and it takes them many years to escape. Brett Bean’s artwork here is very similar to Skottie Young’s art in the original series.

EVE: CHILDREN OF THE MOON #3 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Jo Mi-Gyeong. The two Eves flee from Selene and Endymion, and they manage to convince Selene to switch sides. Then, in a shocking twist, Akai from Victor LaValle’s Destroyer shows up. I think this is the first indication that Eve and Destroyer take place in the same universe.  A  number of academics have either taught or written about Destroyer, and I hope these people will realize that it’s connected to Eve.

MY LITTLE PONY: CLASSICS REIMAGINED #2 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Megan Brown, [A] Jenna Ayoub. The adaptation of Little Women continues. Rarity/Amy burns Rainbow Dash/Jo’s manuscript, then nearly drowns in a frozen pond. This series is notable for its large number of metatextual references. On the very first page, Discord points to where Applejack is obviously hiding, and says that he sees a poorly concealed plot device. By the way, I just saw the MLP tenth anniversary special at the store, and I didn’t buy it, since it has no new content except for a four-page story. However, I admit that I read the new story, and it’s a very funny postscript to the past ten years of the series. I especially like the explicit acknowledgement that some of the continuity of the comics was contradicted by later events in the TV show.

DARK WEB: MS. MARVEL #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Sabir Pirzada, [A] Francesco Mortarino. Kamala gets an internship at Oscorp, where she encounters a new potential love interest, Arjun, and an old villain, the Inventor. This issue is far better than Jody Houser’s Moon Knight specials, because it focuses on Kamala’s supporting cast and her ethnic and religious identity, all of which was entirely absent from Jody Houser’s stories. I have no idea what the Dark Web crossover is about, but this issue made sense anyway.

TRAVELING TO MARS #2 (Ablaze, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Roberto “Dakar” Meli. This issue begins with a retelling of an Irish myth, in which several princes are competing for a kingship, and they decide that the first of them to touch the soil of Ireland will be the king. One of the princes wins the race by cutting off his own hand and throwing it from his ship to the shore. In Russell’s retelling, the successful prince is named Erimhon, but according to Wikipedia, there are other versions where the hand-thrower is Niall of the Nine Hostages, or an anonymous O’Neill chieftain. Anyway, other than that, this is a wasted issue in which noting interesting happens.

SPECS #2 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Chris Shehan. Ted wishes that Skunk hadn’t disappeared, and for a while everyone forgets about him. But then the wish seems to wear off, and everyone remembers Skunk existed. Just after throwing a no-hitter, Ted is arrested for Skunk’s murder. Even though he really is sort of responsible, it’s obvious that he’s being targeted because he’s the only black kid in town.  

TRVE KVLT #5 (IDW, 2022) – “Unauthorized Discounts,” [W] Scott Bryan Wilson, [A] Liana Kangas. The good guys manage to escape from Satan, but Satan is now free to walk the Earth. This comic was stupid, and I wish I’d given up on it after issue 2. The only joke in the series was that Marty and Alison took their fast food jobs much too seriously, and the whole series was devoted to repeating that joke. A comic can survive for quite a long time with just a single joke (examples include Krazy Kat, Spy vs. Spy, and Groo), but only if the joke is funny to begin with.

DARK RIDE #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Samhain visits his daughter, who is in the hospital after slicing her own wrists. Samhain and Halloween meet with their father. Summer, the sister of Owen from issue #1, sneaks into the park to look for clues to her brother’s disappearance. It seems now that Owen was a decoy protagonist, and this series is really about the Dante family. All the main characters in this series, besides Arthur, are named for seasons or holidays – Summer’s full name is Summer Seasons.

DEAD SEAS #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Nick Brokenshire. Dead Seas’s world is similar to contemporary America, except that ghosts exist. Our protagonists are prison laborers working on a ship that processes ghosts into ectoplasm, which has medical uses. The processing has to be done at sea, since ghosts can’t cross moving water. But when the prisoners try to collect ectoplasm from the captured ghosts, they (the prisoners) go insane. Therefore, the remaining prisoners decide to take over the ship. This series has a pretty interesting premise, and Nick Brokenshire’s art is quite good. I’ve seen his work before on the first volume of Amelia Cole, but he’s gotten better since then.

JUNKYARD JOE #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Gary Frank. Junkyard Joe settles into Muddy Davis’s house, but appears to be suffering from PTSD. Meanwhile, the Munn kids are subjected to racism and bullying at school, especially the middle daughter, Emily, who has artistic inclinations. The scene with Emily’s first day at school is brutal to read, and it makes me furious at Sam Munn for moving his children to a shithole rural town with no other people of color. I have serious problems with most of Geoff Johns’s work, and I think he’s had an awful influence on DC Comics. However, Junkyard Joe shows that he can be a very strong writer when he wants to be. The three central characters – Muddy, Joe, and Emily – are all very powerfully depicted. In terms of the art, I much preferred the style Gary Frank used on Incredible Hulk to the style he uses now. His art on the Hulk was elegantly simple, but later he started drawing with much more detailed linework. He’s been using that style at least since his 2003 Supreme Power run, and I don’t like it nearly as much.

WONDER WOMAN #794 (DC, 2022) – “Before the Storm Part 1,” [W] Michael W. Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Emanuela Lupacchino. Diana and Siggy investigate the milk conspiracy and discover that the god Eros is involved in it somehow. Also, Yara Flor appears at the end. There’s also a Young Diana backup story, which I hope will be the last such story for a while. I love Paulina Ganucheau’s art, but I wish she were working with a better writer than Jordie Bellaire. Oddly, this issue is printed on newsprint, which I thought was more expensive than glossy paper.

DANGER STREET #1 (DC, 2022) – “Atlas the Great,” [W] Tom King, [A] Jorge Fornés. This series is a tribute to the 1975-1976 series First Issue Special, which consisted of thirteen one-shot stories, each starring a new character or a new take on an old character. Over the course of Danger Street #1, all thirteen protagonists from First Issue Special either appear on-panel or are mentioned. I still have deep doubts about Tom King’s work, but this issue is actually fun. The stars of First Issue Special included some familiar characters like Metamorpho and Dr. Fate and the New Gods, but also some ridiculous characters like the Green Team and the Dingbats of Danger Street. Tom King has set himself the task of combining all these characters into a single coherent story, and it’ll be interesting to see how and if he can do it. BTW, one of the First Issue Special characters is Mikaal Tomas, who played a significant role in James Robinson’s Starman, but I expect that Tom King will be ignoring anything that happened to him after his debut.

HIGHBALL #4 (IDW, 2022) – “Revelations Per Second Part One,” [W] Stuart Moore, [A] Fred Harper. Highball, his friend Chuck, and a new character named Rekkt lead a conspiracy against the Mentoks. I barely remember anything about this issue, and it seemed unusually short.

NAMOR: CONQUERED SHORES #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “Monsters of the Past,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Pasqual Ferry. Namor discovers a colony of humans who are able to reproduce. This is a grim and boring series, and Pasqual Ferry’s art is good, but not good enough to independently justify reading this comic. I should have dropped this series after the first or second issue, and I’m going to rectify that error now.

SABRETOOTH AND THE EXILES #2 (Marvel, 2022) – “Chimera Protocols,” [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Leonard Kirk. Sabretooth and his team investigate the Orchis base. I feel obligated to read this comic, but I’m not enjoying it. Its plot feels directionless, and its characters are not grabbing me, although I suppose Nanny and Orphan Maker are kind of an interesting duo.

BILLIONAIRE ISLAND: CULT OF DOGS #2 (Ahoy, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Pugh. Two different teams of mercenaries go hunting for Business Dog, but they only succeed in killing each other, as well as the dog’s butler. Also, Mark Russell tells a story about how Peter the Great showed his dinner guests a dissected corpse. I can’t find any source for this story, although it does appear that Peter the Great was interested in anatomy.

ART BRUT #1 (Image, 2016/2022) – “The Winking Woman,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. This series is a revised version of these creators’ first series, The Electric Sublime, published by IDW in 2016. I have one issue of Electric Sublime, but I haven’t read it yet. It will be interesting to compare it to Art Brut. In this first issue, the Mona Lisa inexplicably closes her left eye, and a mental patient, Arthur Brut, is summoned to investigate. Art Brut reminds me a lot of Art Ops, but so far it’s much, much better than Art Ops. Maxwell Prince seems to have more than a casual knowledge of art and the art-historical profession. And the “sublime” in the series’ original title is accurate, because Art Brut demonstrates how art can inspire terror.

BRZRKR #11 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Keanu Reeves & Matt Kindt, [A] Ron Garney. Unute fights some kind of a giant bird entity, and then he loses his immortality. This series is thoroughly average, and I kind of regret that I started reading it to begin with.

THE DEADLIEST BOUQUET #5 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Erica Schultz, [A] Carola Borelli. In a flashback we learn that it was Rose who murdered Jasmine, having mistaken her own mother for an intruder. Rose didn’t tell the police because Jasmine’s house was full of incriminating evidence. Violet throws a knife at Rose and cuts her throat. She claims this was an accident, but it’s not entirely clear. Violet is imprisoned for Rose’s murder, and the only sister left alive and out of prison is Poppy. Given that this series is set in 1998, it would make logical sense to do a sequel with Poppy’s children. I do think Deadliest Bouquet could have explored the characters’ traumatic histories in greater depth.

GRIM #6 (Boom!, 2022) – “Devils & Dust,” [W] Stephanie Phillips, [A] Flaviano. Jess attends a music festival in Vegas, where a strange red symbol begins to appear on people’s heads. I don’t understand this issue, and I’m not sure how it’s connected to the previous storyline. I do like Grim’s artwork and coloring.

LOVE EVERLASTING #5 (Image, 2022) – “Trapped by Love,” [W] Tom King, [A] Elsa Charretier. Joan talks with Penny Page, who gives dating advice. In their conversation, which takes place alternately in the 1970s and the Victorian era, we discover that Joan’s mother is responsible for all the weird stuff that’s been happening. It seems that Joan’s mother is trying to force her to accept a conventional version of romantic love. So at least we finally have a partial answer to what’s been going on in this series, although I’m not sure if it’s a very interesting answer.

LEGION OF X #8 (Marvel, 2022) – “Family Ties,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Metho Diaz. Kurt and Jackie Chopra, the new Black Knight, battle a hyper-mutated Archangel. At the end of the issue, we learn that Kurt and Warren’s mutations were both caused by Kurt’s stepmother, Margali Szardos. I hope this means Margali’s daughter Amanda Sefton is also going to appear in this series, because I like Amanda, and she never gets enough exposure. It’s nice to see Jackie Chopra again. Her reappearance shows that Spurrier has created his own small corner of the Marvel Universe.

ICE CREAM MAN #33 (Image, 2022) – “The Kind of Story I Want to Write,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. This issue tells two parallel stories, the kind of story that the author (not necessarily Prince himself) wants to write, and the kind that he does write. The former story is happy and cheerful and is colored in bright tones, while the latter story is grim and horrific and is colored in shades of grey. The former story ends with the protagonist, Brad, helping to lift a car off an injured man, while the latter ends with Brad being crushed to death under the same car. Like many previous issues of Ice Cream Man, this issue is a creative narrative experiment.

GINSENG ROOTS #11 (Uncivilized, 2022) – “Red Thread,” [W/A] Craig Thompson. Craig and his brother visit China, where they tour some ginseng farms. This issue is full of gorgeous art,  although the linework feels a bit less gorgeous and evocative than in Thompson’s earliest work. As a travel diary, this issue is fascinating. Thompson shows some detailed knowledge of Chinese culture, and he visits places in China that most tourists wouldn’t get to see. Because of its focus on travel, this issue reminds me of Carnet de Voyage, which may be my favorite work by Thompson.

A VICIOUS CIRCLE BOOK 1 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mattson Tomlin, [A] Lee Bermejo. In the civil-rights-era South, a black man, Shawn Thacker, is keeping another man locked up in his basement for some reason. The prisoner gets free and murders Shawn’s wife and son. Then Shawn finds himself in a dystopian future, and we learn what’s going on: Shawn was sent into the past to destroy a doomsday device, while his enemy was sent to the same past time period to activate the same machine. The issue ends with Shawn in the prehistoric era. Lee Bermejo’s artwork in this issue is extremely skillful. He draws this issue in two very different styles: the past sequence is black-and-white and is drawn in photorealistic painted art, while the future sequence is in color and is drawn in a cel-shaded style. In a two-page splash at the end where the hero and villain are chasing each other through different time frames, Bermejo uses eight other different styles in as many panels. I do think that Bermejo’s art is a bit too photorealistic, and in particular, his characters’ veins are too prominent. Also, A Vicious Circle’s plot is too similar to that of the Terminator franchise.

OUR ARMY AT WAR #293 (DC, 1976) – “It Figures!”, [W] Bob Kanigher, [A] Frank Redondo. Rock goes on a spy mission with some British commissioned officers. The officers all think they’re too good to work with a mere sergeant, but Rock saves them all because of his superior practical expertise. This story is kind of dumb, although it’s clever how Rock avoids the Nazis’ traps. The backup story, “Between the Pages” by Sam Glanzman, is far better than the main story. “Between the Pages” is just a collection of a sailor’s drawings, with no real plot, but it has a lyrical and wistful feeling to it.

REVOLVER #3 (Renegade, 1986) – “The Expert,” [W/A] Steve Ditko. This story is poorly written and confusing, in that it’s hard to even figure out which names correspond to which characters. It’s also printed sideways, which is annoying. But Ditko’s art is very striking, with lots of weird abstract design elements. This story was originally published in a different form in Questar, a science fiction magazine that included some occasional comics content. The backup story, “The Icarus Assignment” by Rich Margopoulos and Tom Mandrake, reads like a piece of student work.

JONAH HEX: RIDERS OF THE WORM AND SUCH #5 (Vertigo, 1995) – “Cataclysm in Worm Town,” [W] Joe R. Lansdale, [A] Tim Truman. The heroes travel to the worms’ underground lair, where they finally defeat both the worms and the Autumn brothers. Truman’s art in this issue is vivid and gruesome, and Lansdale’s writing is both exciting and very funny. Overall this was a strange but brilliant series. Maybe I should read some of Lansdale’s prose fiction.

JOE THE BARBARIAN #5 (Vertigo, 2010) – “From Never to Always,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Sean Murphy. I finally understand what this comic is about: Joe is diabetic and is in a hypoglycemic coma, and he needs to get to the fridge downstairs to get some soda, so he can raise his blood sugar. All the supernatural events in the comic are hallucinations caused by Joe’s coma. It would be nice if any of this had been mentioned anywhere in any of the later issues. I guess the plot was explained in issue 1, but I read issue 1 so long ago that I can’t remember it. In this issue Joe continues his quest and fights a monstrous dog. Sean Murphy’s artwork in Joe the Barbarian is okay, but not nearly as good ash is art in The Wake.

TONY STARK: IRON MAN #6 (Marvel, 2018) – “Stark Realities Part One: The Rollout,” [W] Dan Slott & Jeremy Whitley, [A] Valerio Schiti. The new Stark corporation has created an addicting VR technology called the eScape, but it’s suffering from some kind of sabotage, and at the end of the issue we learn that the Controller is responsible. This is an exciting issue with an interesting supporting cast, and I like Valerio Schiti’s renderings of the eScape, especially the kid-focused Retro Arcadia.

SPIROU & FANTASIO T.5 (Cinebook, 1954/2013) – The Marsupilami Thieves, [W/A] André Franquin. I was going to read Emile Bravo’s Spirou: Le Journal d’un ingénu, but I decided I wanted to read another regular Spirou album first. I’ve only read one previous Spirou album, Z is for Zorglub, which at the time was the only one available in English. In Europe, Spirou is comparable in population to Tintin or Asterix. But in America, if anyone’s heard of Spirou, it’s only because his supporting character, Marsupilami, was spun off into a 1993 TV cartoon. The Marsupilami Thieves is the second album in which Marsupilami appears. It begins with a sequence in which Spirou and Fantasio try and fail to stop the Marsupilami stolen from the zoo. The theft sequence is the highlight of the album because of its brilliant choreography and comic timing. Afterward, Spirou and Fantasio have to chase the stolen Marsupilami all over Europe. Along with Hergé, Franquin is one of the two master artists of Franco-Belgian comics, and the two artists represent two opposing styles – respectively, the “clear line” and the “school of Marcinelle.” According to Wikipedia, the Marcinelle style is characterized by caricatural art, big noses, and round word balloons. As part of my effort to learn more about Franco-Belgian comics, I need to read more work by Franquin and his contemporaries and protégés.

TONY STARK: IRON MAN #11 (Marvel, 2019) – “Stark Realities Part Six: End of Service,” [W] Dan Slott & Jim Zub, [A] Valerio Schiti. The Controller acquires superhuman powers thanks to his subversion of the eScape. Tony defeats him, but learns that he’s not the real Tony Stark but a copy. The issue ends with conversations between three couples: Tony’s mom and Andy Bhang, Machine Man and Jocasta, and Tony and Janet Van Dyne. Also, there’s a talking cat. I am not a huge Iron Man fan, for reasons discussed in other reviews, but I want to read more of Dan Slott’s Iron Man.

GROO #10 (Image, 1995) – “The Sinkers,” [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. A port town is blockaded by pirates, but a man named Hundes (Spanish for “you sink”) boards the pirate ship and sinks it for a fee, despite Groo’s attempts to interfere. Then the same ship reappears, intact, at the next port town, and Hundes sinks it again. Of course, Hundes is in league with the pirates, and they’re using hydraulic pumps to refloat the ship every time it sinks. But then Groo boards the ship and sinks it for real, in such a way that the pumps won’t prevent it. This issue is a funny variation on the trope where Groo sinks every ship he boards. Groo is such a proficient ship-sinker that even when he boards a ship that’s supposed to sink,  he can sink it even more.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: RENEW YOUR VOWS #5 (Marvel, 2015) – “I’ll Always Be There for You,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Adam Kubert. Peter, MJ and Annie team up to defeat Regent and save the world, and Peter manages to beat Regent without killing him. This is one of the better Secret Wars crossover titles. It feels like an actual addition to Spider-Man’s mythos, not just an interruption to normal continuity.

BIRTHRIGHT #32 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. In the present, some shamans amputate Rya’s injured wings. I forget if she ever got her wings back. In a flashback, the young Mikey and Rya are traveling with Rook and a princess, Zoshana, who is Mikey’s intended bride. Rook is kidnapped by “hex hellions”, leaving the kids alone. Back in the present, Brendan’s face turns into a glowing mask. I don’t remember what happens to Zoshana, but I assume she must have died, because I don’t recall her appearing in the present-day sequences.

DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE SORCERERS SUPREME #8 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Robbie Thompson, [A] Javier Rodriguez. Doc and his allies battle a very disturbing-looking monster whose entire body is made of hands. The monster’s origin is revealed in a beautiful two-page splash which is colored entirely in purple, white and blue. I don’t know how to describe the artistic technique that Rodriguez uses here, but it’s striking. The heroes seemingly defeat the monster by crumpling it up into a ball, but then it abducts them into its own world. This series is not badly written, but I’m interested in it because of Rodriguez’s art.

WELCOME BACK #3 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Claire Roe. I didn’t quite understand this issue’s plot. I do like this series, though. Welcome Back has a similar premise to Ordinary Gods, but I think Welcome Back executes its premise more effectively.

AVENGERS #312 (Marvel, 1989) – “Has the Whole World Gone Mad?”, [W] John Byrne, [A] Paul Ryan. In an Acts of Vengeance crossover, the Avengers battle Freedom Force, a.k.a. the second Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. This issue is most notable for including what may be the first meeting between Magneto and the Red Skull. Since Magneto is a Holocaust survivor and the Red Skull is a Nazi, they almost fight each other before being separated. In Captain America #367, a later chapter of Acts of Vengeance, Magneto got his revenge on the Red Skull by throwing him in an inescapable prison – though of course the Skull did escape. According to this page, “Mark Gruenwald was upset about how other writers in the “Acts of Vengeance” events had written these two as working together with no hint of their core ideological conflict, and wrote this issue [i.e. Captain America #367] to correct this oversight.”  

ADVENTURE COMICS #458 (DC, 1978) – “The Superboy Who Wasn’t,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] Joe Staton. A demagogue named Lester Wallace leads a campaign of bigotry against Superboy, on the grounds that Superboy is an alien. I’m guessing that Lester Wallace is named after the segregationists Lester Maddox and George Wallace. After discovering that he was being manipulated by Phantom Zone villains, Wallace projects himself into the Phantom Zone. This is better than a typical Silver/Bronze Age Superboy story because it has an actual political message. There’s also an Eclipso backup story by Len Wein and Joe Orlando. In the first panel of this story, the name “Eclipso” is spelled out by fallen rubble, possibly as an homage to Will Eisner’s Spirit title pages. This was the last issue of Adventure Comics before it converted to the Dollar Comics format.

GRAYSON #15 (DC, 2016) – “Robin War Part 2: The Originals,” [W] Tom King & Tim Seeley, [A] Mikel Janín. Dick trains an army of new Robins, but then gets them arrested on purpose, under the reasoning that they’ll be safer in jail than out. This plot twist is really stupid, because this sort of deliberate betrayal is unworthy of the Dick Grayson I know. This issue’s artwork is notable because of the huge number of different faces and costumes that Mikel Janín has to draw. This Grayson series was well liked at the time, but it wasn’t nearly as good as the current Nightwing series.

EXTREMITY #7 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Daniel Warren Johnson. Stranded in the wilderness after last issue, Thea and Rollo are taken to a refugee colony run by Mother Dierdre, who presided over Thea’s initiation ceremony in issue 3 (if I recall correctly). But the Paznina have been following Thea and Rollo, and they prepare for their assault. Meanwhile, Jerome gives Thea up for dead.

STARSTRUCK #2 (IDW, 2009) – “Change is in the Heir,” [W] Elaine Lee, [A] Michael Wm. Kaluta. Kalif Bajar is attacked by an army of lovestruck androids, and Mary Medea goes off on a mission, just as her baby sister is about to be born. At this point it’s already been foreshadowed that Mary is going to die. In the backup story, the Galactic Girl Guides build a robot. I think I finally understand Starstruck’s plot, at least sort of. I wonder if Kaluta’s art style on this series was influenced by that of Moebius.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #154 (DC, 1978) – “I’ll Kill You in My Dreams!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Dick Dillin. The JLAers attend the opening of a new Gotham City hotel, but when they go to bed in the hotel, they all have nightmares in which their powers go wrong. The next day, all the nightmares come true. This is because Dr. Destiny is using his materioptikon to cause the JLAers’ dreams to become real – not that this is a surprise, because it’s spoiled on the cover. BTW, that cover is by Kaluta, though I wouldn’t have known it without the signature. ThAlso, the way that Dr. Destiny uses the materioptikon in this issue helps explain the later retcon where the materioptikon was really the Sandman’s ruby. In this issue the creators are careful to show that Iris and Barry are sharing a room, but that Ray and Jean, as well as Ollie and Dinah, are sleeping separately. Six years later, when Dick and Kory were shown sharing a bed in New Teen Titans vol. 2 #1, it caused major controversy.

THE MIGHTY MAGNOR #5 (Malibu, 1993) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. Magnor encounters an alien woman who mistakes him for a real superhero. Also there are a lot of funny gags and Easter eggs, including a Groo statue. Magnor is probably a better superhero parody than Megaton Man.

JOE THE BARBARIAN #6 (Vertigo, 2010) – “Our Lady in Mourning,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Sean Murphy. Joe continues his quest, despite the Queen of Playtown’s efforts to convince him to stop. The army of Playtown is composed of Joe’s action figures, who include Batman, Luthor, Mr. Freeze, Catwoman, and recolored versions of several characters DC doesn’t own, such as He-Man, Storm Shadow and Optimus Prime. This issue kind of reminds me of my childhood delight in playing with action figures.

That was the last comic I read in 2022. I read a few comics after midnight on December 31, but I’m going to include them on my list for 2023. My final total for the year was 2246 comic books, my second highest total ever. My record was 2262 in 2019.   

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