February and March 2023 reviews


ZOOT! #2 (Fantagraphics, 1993) – various stories, [W/A] Roger Langridge, [W] Andrew Langridge. A collection of short humor strips. They’re quite funny, but I don’t remember much about any of them in particular. One notable story is about a man who’s obsessed with a writer named Derek Seals. There’s a cameo appearance by the man from issue 1 whose car was destroyed because of bureaucracy.

PIRATE CORP$ #5 (Slave Labor, 1992) – “The Young and the Aimless,” [W/A] Evan Dorkin. Halby whines about his ex-girlfriend Elsie, then he, Tigger, and Renensco go downtown, and Halby gets arrested for stealing hot dogs and punching a cop. At this point, Dorkin had moved away from the generic space opera of the Eternity issues of Pirate Corp$, and he was developing more of an original style. This issue includes a Milk & Cheese backup story.

MS. TREE #29 (Renegade, 1985) – “The Other Cheek,” [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. After being released from a mental hospital, Ms. Tree swears off violence and goes on psychiatric medication. But this doesn’t last long. In the second story, which is narrated by Mike Jr, Ms. Tree, her son, and her partners are targeted by assassins. Mike Jr. is forced to shoot the assassins dead, and Ms. Tree claims responsibility for the shooting so that Mike won’t be implicated. In this issue Ms. Tree tries to act kind and gentle, and it really doesn’t suit her. I prefer her as a mean, violent badass.

WORLD’S WORST COMICS AWARDS #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1990) – “World’s Worst Comics Awards,” [W] James Schumeister, [A] Rich Larson. A phony awards show dedicated to satirizing the worst comics of past and present. This issue includes some hilarious stuff, like a sidebar called “When Did Superboy Lose His Virginity?” (the answer is DC Super Stars #12) and a list of Steve Ditko names. I don’t know who James Schumeister is, but he’s a funny writer. My only problem with this issue is that I don’t share the creators’ disdain for Roy Thomas’s dialogue. 

HECTIC PLANET #6 (Slave Labor, 1993) – “24 Hours a Day,” [W/A] Evan Dorkin. This was the first issue originally published under the title Hectic Planet instead of Pirate Corp$. It was also the final issue. The only subsequent Hectic Planet story was the three-parter from Dark Horse Presents #118-120, later reprinted as The Bummer Trilogy. In Hectic Planet #6, Haley and Renensco languish in jail for a day, then eventually they get released and have a fight. This is a funny issue. The best part might be the scene where two of the jail inmates are arguing very loudly about the purpose of art. However, Hectic Planet has too many characters, and when Evan lost interest in telling space opera stories, Hectic Planet’s science-fictional setting became irrelevant to its plot. It’s probably just as well that he abandoned Hectic Planet and moved on to other series. 

GRIFFITH OBSERVATORY #1 (Rip Off, 1979) – “…Under Observation,” [W/A] Bill Griffith. A collection of one-page strips that are satires of various contemporary phenomena. The strips are linked by a framing sequence in which Griffy and Mr. The Toad are spying on people through a telescope. Griffith’s work tends to be quite absurdist and lacking in narrative content. But it’s interesting anyway, partly because of the contrast between his sober, detailed style and his absurdist characters and settings.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #7 (Marvel, 2016) – “The Dark Kingdom Part 2: Opposing Forces,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Matteo Buffagni. Mr. Negative enslaves Cloak and Dagger and uses them as pawns against Parker industries. He also reverses their colors, turning Cloak white and Dagger black. That seems like an obvious idea, and I’m surprised it hadn’t happened before. Also, Liz Allan and Norman Osborn encounter Regent, the villain from Renew Your Vows.

SUPERMAN #331 (DC, 1979) – “Lockup at 20,000 Feet!”, [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Curt Swan. In order to impress his old flame Lana Lang, a man named Carl Draper builds an inescapable prison for supervillains. But Lana still isn’t impressed, and Draper goes crazy and becomes a supervillain himself, under the name of the Master Jailer. We’re meant to think that the Master Jailer is Draper’s assistant, but that’s an obvious red herring. This story is interesting in that it revolves around Lana Lang’s relationships with Lois, Superman and Draper. However, Pasko writes Lois and Lana in a somewhat sexist way; when they have a conversation early in the issue, they just act catty to each other.

HATE #29 (Fantagraphics, 1998) – “The Single Life,” [W/A] Peter Bagge. Buddy goes on a series of disastrous dates, and ends up sleeping with an intense, intimidating woman named  Nicole. Buddy also runs into his old girlfriend Lisa, who will eventually become his wife, but she plays a minor role in this issue. I keep forgetting how laugh-out-loud funny Hate is, and it’s nice to be reminded.

MARVEL ADVENTURES: FANTASTIC FOUR #40 (Marvel, 2008) – There are two stories in this issue, one about Reed and Sue, and another about Ben and Johnny. “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste,” [W] Chris Eliopoulos, [A] Scott Koblish. The Mad Thinker steals Reed Richards’s brain patterns, so the Thinker becomes even more intelligent, while Reed becomes stupid. Of course Reed saves the day anyway. “The Image is the Thing,” [W] Joe Caramagna, [A] Matteo Lolli. A little kid plays with Reed’s lab equipment and causes a disaster, which the Thing has to clean up. This is much better than the first story.

ACTION GIRL COMICS #5 (Slave Labor, 1995) – “Godzilla,” [W/A] Patty Leidy, etc. A number of short and frankly amateurish stories, mostly by creators I’ve never heard of. Rebecca Dart’s “The Woman Who Was a Bird” is interesting because it draws upon Bahamian folklore, but her art is rather poor, and she leaves half of each panel blank. The only artist in this issue whose art looks fully professional is Jen Sorensen, and her story is just a two-pager. However, Action Girl Comics does deserve credit for trying to create a space for female comics readers, at a time when the direct market was even more hostile to girls and women than it is now.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE: SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST #5 (Vertigo, 2011) – “Survival of the Fittest Conclusion,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Sean Murphy. I don’t understand this issue’s plot at all. Sean Murphy’s artwork is pretty good, but his architecture, machinery, and page layouts are less impressive than in The Wake.

INCREDIBLE HULK #198 (Marvel, 1976) – “The Shangri-La Syndrome!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Sal Buscema. The Collector abducts the Hulk and the Man-Thing and locks them up in his zoo. Bruce discovers that one of his fellow captives is a young woman who’s forced to tell the Collector an endless series of stories. This character is obviously Shahrazad from the Arabian Nights, though her name isn’t mentioned. I wonder if Saladin Ahmed read this issue before he wrote his own version of the Arabian Nights in Exiles #9-10. Anyway, the Hulk leads the Collector’s captives in a revolt, and they escape the Collector’s ship, only to die of old age as soon as they’re free from the Collector’s life-sustaining technology. But they don’t mind, since they’d rather die free than live in captivity.

Y: THE LAST MAN #35 (Vertigo, 2005) – “Girl on Girl Conclusion,” [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Goran Sudzuka. Yorick and his companions are involved in a sea battle between a submarine and a yacht. The captain of the yacht, Kilina, apparently sacrifices herself, though the body is not found. I don’t remember anything about this issue, but looking through it again, I notice where Kilina tells Yorick “It figures. An entire planet of women, and the one guy gets to be the  lead.” That’s the fundamental problem with this series.

KAMANDI #18 (DC, 1974) – “The Eater!!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Kamandi teams up with some “gopher people,” actually subterranean humans, and they steal supplies from gorillas and then battle a giant worm, the “eater” of the title. Kamandi solves both problems, the worm and the gorillas, by getting the worm to attack the gorillas. This issue includes some impressive action sequences. 

PIRATE CORP$ #2 (Slave Labor, 1989) – “Truth and Goal!”, [W/A] Evan Dorkin. Halby and his friends go to a horribly violent hockey game, in which one of the Pirate Corp$ members, Ron Chitin, is playing as a goalie. After the game is over, Vroom Socko, a character who later got his own one-shot, tries to murder Ron. This is a fun issue full of entertaining mayhem. As noted above, one problem with Pirate Corp$ is that there are too many characters and most of them are irrelevant. I feel like most of the characters could have been dispensed with, except for Halby and Renensco.

KEN PARKER SPECIALE #2 (Bonelli, 1996) – “Ai tempi del Pony Express,” [W] Giancarlo Berardi, [A] Ivo Milazzo. A few years ago I bought a collection of Italian comics, but I only read a couple of them, because I don’t know Italian. Thanks to Google Translate I’m now able to read these comics much more easily, though this is the only other one I’ve read so far. At the moment I’m more interested in reading Franco-Belgian comics. Ken Parker is a Western series. This issue is a flashback to the protagonist’s youth in a remote Western town. After he nearly gets caught sleeping with a married woman, he has to escape town by enlisting in the Pony Express. He then gets caught up in a plot to murder a prospector and steal his claim. Ivo Milazzo is one of the most respected artists of Italian comics, and his black-and-white artwork in this issue is amazing, reminding me of Pratt or Toth. His action sequences are particular highlights, such as the scene early in the issue where Ken is trying to break a high-spirited horse.

DEN #8 (Fantagor, 1989) – “Shuffled Seeds Scattered,” [W/A] Richard Corben. Kil, who may or may not be Kath, competes in an obstacle race against a giant blue guy. More than half the issue is devoted to backup stories. In “The Cure,” written and drawn by Bruce Jones, a werewolf tries to kill a woman, but she turns into a tentacled sea monster and turns the tables on him. I previously read this story in The Razor’s Edge #1, which I reviewed last year (though when I wrote that review, I mistakenly thought I had read “The Cure” before). In “Such Pretty Little Toes,” two boys are captured by a hermit who cuts off people’s body parts, but then the hermit gets killed by a monster whose toe he had cut off. This is sort of a twist on the old Tailypo folktale. Finally, “Damsel in Dragon Dress” is a parodic fantasy story, reprinted from Grim Wit #2.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #215 (DC, 1983) – “Into the Microcosmos Part 3: The Bigger They Are…”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Don Heck. In a microscopic world, the Atom is enslaved by the local tyrant, and the JLA have to team up with an army of warrior women to defeat the tyrant. This is part three of a four-parter. This story is more interesting than it looks, and it’s a rare example of a DC story set in a microverse. Marvel’s microverses are much more fully developed, and they include recurring characters like Psycho-Man and Jarella.

CEREBUS #125 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1989) – “Jaka’s Story 12,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Oscar and Withers get in an argument, and then Lord Julius shows up, wearing a dress, and he and Oscar have a funny conversation. I think this character was a like-a-look rather than the real Lord Julius, but still, this is one of Lord Julius’s last substantial appearances in the series. His gradual disappearance was one of the signs that Cerebus was going downhill.

CATWOMAN #16 (DC, 2003) – “Relentless Part 5,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Cameron Stewart. Long ago, Selina Kyle abandoned her friend Sylvie when a heist went bad. Now Sylvie and Black Mask have teamed up and kidnapped Holly and Maggie. In the end, Holly is forced to kill Sylvie, and Maggie becomes catatonic, if she wasn’t already. Then Seilna kisses Slam Bradley. Sylvie is a compelling villain, because you can understand why she despises Selina for abandoning her, and yet her subsequent actions show that she’s a horrible sociopath.

GRENDEL #1 (Comico, 1986) – “Devil in Response,” [W] Matt Wagner, [A] Arnold Pander & Jacob Pander. This is the first issue of the ongoing Grendel series, but it was preceded by an earlier three-issue miniseries (or short-lived ongoing series), as well as a backup feature in Mage. This issue stars Christine Spar, the biographer of the first Grendel, Hunter Rose. After her young son is kidnapped by a vampire kabuki dancer, she becomes the second Grendel in order to rescue him – which, tragically, she would fail to do. I’m not sure if Matt Wagner actually knew anything about kabuki, and the Pander brothers’ art is kind of boring. Christine Spar looks like the woman on the cover of Duran Duran’s Rio album, but the Pander brothers are less talented than Patrick Nagel. Still, Grendel is an interesting concept, and I’m curious to read more Grendel comics. My copy of this issue is signed by Matt Wagner, though I don’t think I’ve ever met him.

GENTLE BEN #4 (Dell, 1968) – “The Derelict” etc., [W] D.J. Arneson, [A] Carl Pfeufer. In the main story, Mark and his pet bear Ben get trapped on a derelict houseboat. In the second story, Mark is falsely accused of stealing money, and in the third story, he and Ben teach a young poacher to change his ways. These Gentle Ben comics are not terrible, but they’re mostly worth owning because of the silliness of their premise. They’re a lot like Dell’s Lassie comics, but with a bear instead of a dog.

2000 AD #1823 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd: “Black Kisses,” [W] T.C. Eglington, [A] Karl Richardson. Dredd and a new recruit, Vinson, try to find the origin of a sexually transmitted disease that leaves its victims covered with kiss marks. In the last panel, Dredd relieves Vinson of his badge because Vinson has a kiss mark on his own chin, indicating that he was sleeping with one of the suspects. Savage: “Rise Like Lions Part 12,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Patrick Goddard. In the last chapter of Book 8, Bill Savage and his allies fight a Volgan army. Throughout this story, Patrick Goddard’s black-and-white art is very realistic and gritty. Past Imperfect: “Rocket de la Revolución,” [W] Montynero, [A] Simon Fraser. Alejandro is a native of Cuba, which seems to be a communist utopia. Alejandro discovers that Cuba was nuked in the Cuban Missile Crisis, and since then, the entire country has been stuck in a time loop. He decides to forget this knowledge. Red Seas:”Fire Across the Deep Part 12,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Steve Yeowell. A giant two-headed dog fights a giant demon. Not sure what’s supposed to be happening here.

FIRE POWER #18 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Chris Samnee. After a lot of fight scenes, the white-bearded villain reappears on top of a giant dragon. The dragon is kind of reminiscent of some of the creatures in Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters. The only reason I read Fire Power is because of Chris Samnee’s art. I don’t understand Fire Power’s plot, and to the extent that I do understand it, I don’t care, because it’s just a rehash of old kung fu cliches. It’s also annoying how Kirkman seems to have done no research at all into Chinese culture.

SECRET MESSAGES #3 (NBM, 2001) – “The Silent Invasion: Abductions 3,” [W] Larry Hancock, [A] Michael Cherkas. This comic is part of the Silent Invasion saga, and is reprinted from an earlier comic book, Silent Invasion: Abductions, which ended after one issue. In 1965, detective Phil Housley (perhaps named after a Hockey Hall of Famer) investigates some reports of alien abductions. I’m not in love with Michael Cherkas’s art or lettering, but he and Hancock succeed in evoking the atmosphere of ‘60s America. I should read more Silent Invasion.

SKYWARD #10 (Image, 2019) – “Here There Be Dragonflies Part 5,” [W] Joe Henderson, [A] Lee Garbett. Willa breaks Roger Barrow out of Lucas’s base, then sends Edison off on a dragonfly, while she prepares to head to Kansas City on foot. At the end of the issue, we see a mysterious person observing Willa. We later learn that this is Willa’s mother. I only need issues 1, 2, 13 and 14 to finish my run of Skyward.

On February 4, I went to Charlotte Mini-Con at the Grady Cole Center. This was kind of a disappointing convention. First, I was in an awful mood that morning, and second, I don’t like the Grady Cole Center. It’s a tiny and unappealing venue, and it doesn’t allow you to leave and come back. It has significantly less floor space than the hotel ballroom where they hold the Charlotte Comic Con. The 2021 Mini-Con was at the convention center downtown, and I like that venue much better, but I assume it’s also much more expensive.

Some of the comics I bought:

CAPTAIN AMERICA #159 (DC, 1973) – “Turning Point!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Sal Buscema. This was one of the only Englehart Cap issues I was missing. This issue, Cap is jailed on suspicion of being a crimelord called the Cowled Commander, then after he escapes, he and the Falcon fight the actual Cowled Commander and his minions. The Commander proves to be Brian Muldoon, the same police chief who arrested Cap. There’s some good dialogue in this issue, but it’s not one of the highlights of Englehart’s run.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #81 (DC, 1969) – “But Bork Can Hurt You!”, [W] Bob Haney, [A] Neal Adams. This issue’s odd title makes sense if you look at the cover, where it’s prefaced by “You can’t hurt Bork.” In this issue Batman and the Flash team up against an invulnerable villain named Bork. A notable plot point is that before coming to Gotham, Bork was the leader of a mercenary army in an unspecified “new African nation.” In 1969, most countries in Africa were newly independent. Neal Adams’s artwork in this issue has some old-fashioned touches, but still looks so modern and dynamic that it wouldn’t be out of place in a contemporary comic. Bork later became one of the stars of Kurt Busiek’s Power Company, and was perhaps my favorite character in that series.

STRANGE TALES #145 (Marvel, 1966) – Fury: “Lo! The Eggs Shall Hatch!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby & Don Heck. Fury and Sitwell battle the Druid, later known as Dredmund (the) Druid. This story is okay, but the pre-Steranko SHIELD stories were never all that great. Dr. Strange: “To Catch a Magician!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Steve Ditko. Mister Rasputin, a descendant of Grigory Rasputin, tries to incapacitate Dr. Strange and steal his magic. This story is rather formulaic, and Mister Rasputin hardly ever appeared again, but of course Ditko’s artwork is spectacular.

BIJOU FUNNIES #4 (Kitchen Sink, 1970) – [E] Jay Lynch? Bijou has a notably smaller format than other underground comics. It seems like it was largely a vehicle for Jay Lynch and Skip Williamson, with contributions by a rotating roster of other cartoonists, though Crumb also contributed to every issue. Stories in this issue include Nard ‘n’ Pat by Jay Lynch, Pro Junior by Crumb, Snappy Sammy Smoot by Skip Williamson, and stories by Kim Deitch, Jay Kinney and Justin Green. I think the Pro Junior story is the most memorable, but it’s also an example of Crumb’s typical fetishistic tendencies.

SAVAGE LOVE #1 (Bear Bones, 1994) – “My First Time,” [W] Dan Savage, [A] Ellen Forney, etc. A collection of stories adapted from Dan Savage’s Savage Love sex advice column. The longest story, drawn by Ellen Forney, is an account of a young man’s first gay sex experiences. The other stories are drawn by Mark Lang, Jay Stephens and James Sturm. I’ve loved Savage Love ever since I read it in Minneapolis’s City Pages, and adapting it into a comic was a brilliant idea. Too bad the comic only lasted two issues.

THE FLASH #778 (DC, 2022) – “Vengeance is Mine! Part 2,” [W] Jeremy Adams, [A] Fernando Pasarin & Matt Ryan. While sneaking out at night, Irey and Maxine Baker get kidnappped by Mammoth and Shimmer. Then Jai gets captured too when he tries to rescue them. I like the idea of Irey and Maxine being friends; it’s rare for superheroes to have children who know each other. In fact, that’s the main thing I like about Jeremy Adams’s Flash: its emphasis on the Flashes’ family relationships. There’s also a second plotline where Wally teams up with Amethyst and the Justice League Dark against Dark Opal. It is pretty cool to see Amethyst and Dark Opal in a non-Amethyst title, but otherwise this plotline is the less interesting of the two.

TOTAL WAR #1 (Gold Key, 1965) – “Target: America,” [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Wally Wood. Every country in the world is simultaneously invaded by mysterious terrorists, and the three members of MARS Patrol – Joe Striker, Russ Stacey and Ken Hiro – lead America’s resistance effort. Wally Wood’s art in this issue is incredible. He draws some beautiful machinery and combat scenes and costumes. Total War is lacking in characterization, but its plot is a compelling vision of a post-WWII nightmare scenario. Total War is also notable for having a multiracial cast of characters. There’s a scene in this issue where Joe Striker, a black man, commands a squad of white soldiers. Such a scene would have been radical in 1965. Total War’s title changed to M.A.R.S. Patrol with issue 3. That was also the last issue drawn by Woody, and without him, the quality of the series went way down.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #5 (Marvel, 1972) – “A Passion of the Mind!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Gil Kane. In their first meeting ever (or at least it says so in the issue itself), Spider-Man and the Vision team up against the Puppet Master and an alien robot. This is a formulaic team-up story, but it includes some well-drawn action scenes.

G.I. JOE #111 (Marvel, 1991) – “Probe and Feint!”, [W] Larry Hama, [A] John Statema. This issue has nostalgia value for me because the issue after it, #112, is one of the first comic books I can remember owning. “Probe and Feint!” is part of the Benzheen story arc, a barely fictionaliezd version of the first Gulf War, which was going on at the same time. This issue is a collection of action sequences and political squabbling between the G.I. Joes and the Emir of Benzheen. It also deals with the aftermath of issue 109, when seven Joes were killed (there were probably more named characters killed in that one issue than in the 108 previous issues). Reading this comic feels nostalgic for me, but also a bit embarrassing. Some of the dialogue has aged poorly, and John Statema’s artwork is rather ugly.

THE MUPPETS #3 (Marvel, 2012) – “The Four Seasons: Fall,” [W/A] Roger Langridge. The Muppets’ doorman, Pops, has reached mandatory retirement age. The other Muppets concoct a cockamamie plot to steal and replace his birth certificate, so he can keep his job. The problem is solved when Pops discovers that he’s five years younger than he had thought (and there’s a complicated reason why, but I don’t want to explain it). As usual this issue also includes a number of short gag sequences. Given Langridge’s skill at both short gag strips and longer narratives, the Muppets, with its variety show format, is ideally suited to him. I just learned that Dr. Teeth is based on Dr. John. I should have realized that myself.

NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS #1 (3-D Zone, 1988) – “No Business Like Show Business,” [W/A] Kim Deitch. While digging through Jason Hamlin’s boxes, I was surprised to discover a Kim Deitch comic I had never heard of. This comic was published by Ray Zone, the king of 3-D comics, but is not in 3D. Its unusual gimmick is that each page is a splash page with a decorated border. This issue’s story is narrated by Toby, a pig who’s used in an act in Dr. Ledicker’s act; he’s made to dive off a tower into a bucket of water. Eventually Toby figures out that he’s too big to do the dive anymore, and that he’s going to be butchered, so he decides to go out in a blaze of glory. This story is part of the ongoing Waldo saga, though Waldo only makes a cameo appearance in it. It was reprinted in Fantagraphics’s 2006 Shadowland volume.

THE FLASH #782 (DC, 2022) – “Plans,” [W] Jeremy Adams, [A] Fernando Pasarin. Wally and the new Kid Flash, Wallace “Ace” West, capture Girder and take him to Iron Heights prison. They also realize that the prison warden is corrupt. I think this is the same warden who deputizes the Rogues Gallery in issue 788. Meanwhile, Linda discovers that she has super-speed powers. Ace West was introduced as the New 52 version of Wally West, but when the original Wally West was reintroduced, Ace was retconned into being a different character.

FOUR COLOR #588 (Dell, 1954) – “King Richard and the Crusaders,” [W] unknown, [A] Matt Baker. This is probably the only comic in my collection that includes non-reprinted artwork by Matt Baker. King Richard and the Crusaders is adapted from a movie of the same name, which is itself adapted from Walter Scott’s novel The Talisman. That novel, set during the Third Crusade, is largely responsible for the modern view of Saladin as a noble hero who had the bad luck of being on the “wrong” side. I also wonder if Saladin is the inspiration for other pagan heroes like Malory’s Sir Palomides. The comic’s plot focuses on the rivalry between two of Richard the Lionheart’s subordinates, the noble Sir Kenneth and the evil Sir Giles, as well as the love triangle between Sir Kenneth, his love interest Edith, and Saladin. Matt Baker is most famous as a romance and good girl artist, and his depictions of Edith are particularly breathtaking. He also draws some exciting fight scenes and jousts.

VELVET #7 (Image, 2014) – “The Secret Lives of Dead Men Part 2,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Steve Epting. Two other agents, Colt and Roberts, try to track Velvet down. In the end they realize she’s already in London. Velvet herself appears in this issue only in flashbacks. I think I’d enjoy this series more if I had the time to read the whole thing in order.

WEIRD MYSTERY TALES #14 (DC, 1974) – I’ve heard that this series was better than most of DC’s other horror and mystery titles, but I haven’t read much of it. “Blind Child’s Bluff!”, [W] Steve Skeates, [A] Ruben Yandoc. In a typical EC plotline, a blind orphaned girl’s stepmother conspires with her new lover to murder the girl and steal her inheritance. But the girl’s ghost saves her and murders the stepmother and the lover. Ruben Yandoc, aka Rubeny, was an excellent draftsman, though his facial expressions, at least in this story, are a bit ugly. “The Price,” [W] E. Nelson Bridwell, [A] Alfredo Alcala. An adaptation of John Russell’s 1916 short story “The Price of the Head.” A poor, alcoholic white sailor, Pellett, is nursed back to health by a native Solomon Islander, Karaki. The twist ending is that Karaki saved Pellett’s life in order to cut his head off and smoke it, since Pellett has red hair, and a red-haired smoked head is particularly prestigious. It’s too bad that this story takes such a racist turn, because Alcala’s art is incredible. His linework was unbelievably beautiful, and his talents were wasted as an inker. “Flight into Fright,” [W] George Kashdan, [A] Ernie Chan. Some stupid young people go on a trip to Transylvania and are turned into Dracula’s slaves. As far as I know, I am not related to George Kashdan.

I ordered the following comic from eBay:

COOCHY COOTY MEN’S COMICS #1 (Industrial Realities, 1970) – various stories, [W/A] Robert Williams. This is the only comic book consisting entirely of Robert Williams art. (Other cartoonists who only released one solo comic book include Frank Frazetta, Dori Seda, Alison Bechdel, Victor Moscoso, and possibly Sharon Rudahl.) Williams was by far the best draftsman among the underground artists. His art is so painstakingly detailed and perfectly executed that it’s no surprise he left comics for studio art. He has a particular skill for drawing reflective surfaces, and his linework and even his lettering are gorgeous to look at. Because of the super-high quality of his art, this comic is a time-consuming read, but it’s worth it. The longest story in this issue is “The Gorilla Women of the Third Reich,” in which Williams’s recurring character, Coochy Cooty, is captured by Nazi Amazons. The rest of the issue consists of short sequences, most of which have very little narrative content.

THE FOX AND THE CROW #99 (DC, 1966) – “Gnome, Sweet Gnome!”, [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Win Mortimer. This story introduces Shaughnessy the leprechaun and Schnitzel the gnome. Also there’s an appearance by Napoleon’s ghost. In my copy, a couple of panels have been cut out for some reason – they don’t seem like very interesting panels. The rest of the issue consists of typically formulaic Fox and Crow stories. I don’t quite get why The Fox and the Crow lasted so much longer than the other funny animal comics, when it wasn’t any better. However, it is a shame that neitiher The Fox and the Crow nor Stanley and His Monster has been properly collected.

JOURNEY #5 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “Fitzhugh Lives in the Woods,” [W/A] William Messner-Loebs. Wolverine MacAlistaire meets some British loyalists, and then they encounter Fitzhugh, a super-violent feral child. In the backup story, MacAlistaire gets caught in a dust storm and finds himself hanging upside down from a tree.

TOR #4 (DC, 1975) – untitled [“Black Valley”] and “Killer-Man,” [W/A] Joe Kubert. Both these stories are reprinted from the 1954 St. John’s Tor series. Thus, Kubert’s art looks somewhat cruder and less confident than in the DC comics he was drawing at the same time. In the first story, Tor saves a little girl from being sacrificed to spirits, but discovers that these “spirits” are just women, because in this place the men and women live separately and hate each other. Tor rescues the girl from a sabretooth tiger, and the women, impressed with his courage, decide to live with the men again. In the backup story, Tor defeats a crippled man who’s been dropping rocks on people.

BATMAN #97 (DC, 2020) – “The Joker War Part 3,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Jorge Jimenez. A pretty typical Joker story, except that it also guest-stars Punchline and Clownhunter. At the end, Batman has a vision of Alfred’s ghost. I have often stated my distaste for the Joker, and I don’t like Tynion’s Batman as much as his Detective Comics, since his Detective Comics was more of a team comic than a Batman solo title.

ACTION COMICS #783 (DC, 2001) – “The Choice,” [W] Joe Kelly, [A] Brandon Badeaux. In the midst of a global crisis, Batman seeks out four villains – Stone Emperor, Scorch, Ocean Master and Major Disaster – and tries to convince them to use their powers to help. Three of them refuse to help, but Major Disaster agrees. I didn’t under stand what the global crisis was, until I realized that this comic was published just after 9/11. In that context, this comic is fairly poignant.

DOOMSDAY #1 (Charlton, 1975) – “Doomsday Minus Two,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] John Byrne. Three astronauts, a man and two women, are in space when the entire world is obliterated in a nuclear war. On returning to Earth, they acquire a fourth teammate, an unfrozen caveman named Kuno. Doomsday +1 is a generic post-apocalypse story, with wooden characterization. There’s a love triangle between the three astronauts, but otherwise they’re all interchangeable, and Kuno is the only distinctive character. However, Doomsday +1 is worth reading anyway because it’s one of John Byrne’s major early works.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #612 (Marvel, 2011) – “The Trial of Captain America Part 2,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Butch Guice. Bucky Barnes turns himself in for the crimes he committed while under Soviet mind control. While in jail awaiting trial, he meets his lawyer Bernie Rosenthal, an old character from the ‘80s. Meanwhile, the Falcon goes looking for Dr. Faustus, and there’s also a subplot about Master Man. I’ve always assumed Dr. Faustus was based on Sigmund Freud, but  I don’t know if that’s really the case.

TEEN TITANS ACADEMY #4 (DC, 2021) – “X Marks the Spot!”, [W] Tim Sheridan, [A] Steve Lieber. Three members of Teen Titans Academy – Chupacabra, Bratgirl and Megabat – try to figure out the identity of their mysterious teammate Red X. This is a funny and cute teen superhero comic. It reminds me of Avengers Academy or Strange Academy. I want to collect the rest of this series.

CATWOMAN #10 (DC, 2002) – “Joy Ride,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Brad Rader. Selina Kyle’s old friend Rebecca Robinson is about to be executed for murder, though all she did was steal a car that, unknown to her, had a dead body in the trunk. Selina breaks Rebecca out of prison and sets her up with a new false identity, and in flashbacks, we see the history of Selina and Rebecca’s relationship, and the reason why Selina feels indebted to her. This is a well-done single-issue story. Brad Rader was a good artist, though he was overshadowed by the other artists on this Catwoman run, Darwyn Cooke and Cameron Stewart.

THUNDERBOLTS #139 (Marvel, 2010) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Miguel Sepulveda. The Thunderbolts battle the Agents of Atlas. The Thunderbolts team in this issue includes almost none of the characters from later in Parker’s run, other than Ghost. The rest of the team consists of nobodies like Mr. X and Headman. Therefore, in this issue the Thunderbolts are less interesting than the Agents of Atlas, who are much better developed characters.

WEIRDO #12 (1993) – [E] R. Crumb. This issue is billed as a “Special Loser Issue” focusing on Rory Hayes and Ken Weiner. I had never heard of Ken Weiner before, but it seems that he’s also known as Ken Avidor and he’s a friend of Peter Bagge, and this issue includes a funny story where Weiner and Bagge argue about art. As for Rory Hayes, Weirdo #12 contains a tribute to him by Bill Griffith, followed by an original nine-page story by him. Hayes died ten years before this issue was published, so I wonder why it took so long for this story to see the light. Rory Hayes is one of the strangest artists in the history of comics. His work is profoundly disturbing, and I can’t say I like it. Like Jim Woodring, he drew cute things, but in a sinister way. Besides the Hayes- and Weiner-related material, this issue also includes Crumb’s “Mode O’Day and Her Pals,” a rather sexist story about a stuck-up woman.

SUPERMAN/BATMAN #24 (DC, 2006) – “With a Vengeance! Chapter 5: The Price of Our Sins,” [W] Jeph Loeb, [A] Ed McGuinness. I bought this because of the cover, which depicts gender-swapped versions of Superman, Batman and Supergirl. This is a fun and attractively drawn issue, though the gender-swapped superheroes play a minor role in it. Also, this issue includes a male Big Barda and a female Mr. Miracle. That’s kind of pointless, since Mr. Miracle and Barda are already an inversion of standard gender stereotypes. A funny detail in this issue is that Batwoman’s giant penny has a picture of a woman, rather than Queen Victoria. This gender-reversed Earth is known as Earth-11, and it appeared in a few other stories.

DAREDEVIL #129 (Marvel, 1976) – “Man-Bull in a China Town!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Bob Brown. Daredevil tries to defend Man-Bull from murder charges, but Man-Bull is convicted anyway. He escapes, and then a villain named Matador sends him to Chinatown to steal a bull statue. It’s a coincidence that this bull statue looks like the famous Wall Street bronze bull, which was not installed until 1989. There’s also a subplot where John and Robert Kennedy are discovered alive. I have no idea what was the explanation for this. 

REAL GIRL #2 (Fantagraphics, 1991) – [E] Angela Bocage. This is billed as “The Sex Comik for all genders and orientations.” For me the highlight of this issue is “Heat Loss” by Reed Waller and Kate Worley. As far as I know, this is their only work that’s about humans rather than anthropomorphic animals. It’s a cute and tender story about two lovers who remember the sexy times they had on a camping trip in the Boundary Waters (so this story, like Omaha, appears to be set in Minnesota). Other contributors to this issue include Mario Hernandez, Trina Robbins, and Phoebe Gloeckner, and my copy is signed by the latter. There were nine issues of Real Girl, but it seems like a very hard series to find, and maybe it deserves an omnibus edition like the ones for Wimmen’s Comix and Tits & Clits.

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR #5 (Dark Horse, 1994) – untitled, [W/A] Frank Miller. Having just been shot multiple times, Dwight convalesces in a brothel, while some cops try to track him down because of his murder of Damien Lord. I don’t understand this issue’s plot, and I also think this issue is an example of Miller’s typical sexism. All the female characters in this issue are sex workers, and Miller always seems to depict sex workers as incarnations of the “hooker with a heart of gold” stereotype – rather than actual people with their own histories and personalities, as in Omaha or Melody. (I should note that TVTropes says that Miller’s sex workers are not an example of this stereotype.) 

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #264 (Dell, 1962) – “Master Wrecker,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Donald discovers he has a talent for knocking buildings down with a wrecking ball, and is publicly celebrated for it. But when Donald is hired to knock down an old shack at 168 Plush Avenue, he instead knocks down the Top Brass Club at 768 Plush Avenue. It turns out a gnat landed on the sheet of paper with the address and caused Donald to misread a 1 as a 7. And that explains why Donald’s mastery of demolition is never mentioned again. The only other good story in this issue is a Mickey Mouse adventure story by Fallberg and Murry, in which Mickey and Goofy go looking for El Dorado, and two crooks stow away on their plane.

FIRE POWER #21 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Chris Samnee. Another issue with good fight scenes and draftsmanship, but trite plotting and characterization. For Kirkman, the Chinese references in this series are just names that don’t mean anything in particluar. He has no knowledge of the actual history or cultural associations of Chinese dragons, for example, and he must have chosen the name “Chen Zul” just because it sounded good. Compare Monkey Prince, for example, which is based on insider knowledge of Chinese culture.

BATMAN #98 (DC, 2020) – “Joker War Part 4,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Jorge Jimenez. This is better than #97, because it begins with a touching scene in which Bruce has a hallucinatory conversation with Alfred, and Alfred restores Bruce’s motivation. Alfred’s importance in Bruce and Dick’s lives has become even more evident since his death.

Next Heroes trip:

MIRACLEMAN: THE SILVER AGE #4 (Marvel, 2023) – “An Alien Walks Among Us,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Mark Buckingham. A boy attends a service of Miracleman worshippers, which is interrupted by Phon Mooda the Warpsmith. Then Phon Mooda visits the Black Warpsmiths and reports on her uneasiness with Miracleman’s utopia. I know we’ve seen the Black Warpsmiths before, but I forget where. The centerpiece of the issue is Dicky Dauntless’s interview with Mister Master, who is obviously based on Alan Moore, even more so than last issue. He tells Dicky how he got everything he wanted, and was then “left with one simple question: Now what?” and so he retired to his hermitage. Sadly the main story ends there, and the rest of the issue is a reprint of Young Nastyman’s first appearance from 1954. I’m sad that there are only a couple more issues of this series, because it’s just so thrilling to finally read more of a story that’s been on hiatus for thirty years. I imagine that I would feel the same way if The Winds of Winter came out, although I have very low expectations for that book.

SAGA #61 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. Gwendolyn has a dream where Marco proposes to her, then wakes up in bed with The Will. Sophie asks Gwen if she’s happy, and Gwen says nothing. The next panel is a close-up of Lying Cat, suggesting that Gwen refused to answer because if she had said yes, Lying Cat would have contradicted her. Alana and the kids go begging for money, and a woman named Vitch tells Alana that she can bring Marco back to life. Also, Petrichor makes a cameo appearance.

MANIFEST DESTINY #48 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. While the other characters are arguing about whether to sacrifice the baby, Collins solves the problem by committing suicide on the altar, since he’s a warchild too. The demon eats Maldonado’s spirit and vanishes. Back at home, Clark goes back on his offer to free York, and Lewis commits suicide. Sadly, both of these things may have happened in real life, though some people believe that York was freed and went to live with the Crow Indians, or that Lewis died by murder and not suicide. Many years later, Jensen’s spirit appears to the architect Eero Saarinen – just as Maldonado’s spirit appeared earlier – and convinces Saarinen to build the Gateway Arch. This issue is a powerful ending to the series. It refuses to offer any easy solutions, and leaves the reader with a sense that American history is irredeemably tainted. And I guess by saying that, I’m violating Florida’s anti-woke law.

SAVAGE DRAGON #263 (Image, 2023) – “The Murderous Menace of Mako!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. At Horridus’s funeral, Jeremiah Youngblood, who looks a lot like Cable, invites Malcolm to form a new superhero team in California. Then, while Malcolm and his family are hanging out on the beach, they’re attacked by Mako. Malcolm’s son Jackson goes missing and is replaced by another boy who looks like him, but is not him. This is the first new issue of Savage Dragon in quite a while. At this point Savage Dragon’s audience must consist mostly of Erik himself and longtime readers like me, but I guess there are enough such fans that the series is still profitable.

RADIANT BLACK #21 (Image, 2023) – “Blackmail,” [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Marcelo Costa & Eduardo Ferigato. Marshall and Nathan agree to work for the government – oddly enough, the government agency involved is the U.S. Postal Service. Then they apprehend Shift and deliver him into government custody. Shift seems to be the breakout character in this franchise —  he’s appeared in quite a number of other Massiveverse titles.

ONCE UPON A TIME AT THE END OF THE WORLD #3 (Boom!, 2023) – “The Ways of the Strayed,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Alexandre Tefenkgi. This issue is mostly setup. Mezzy and Maceo continue to teach each other, then Maceo sneaks off alone at night, and is promptly captured by the survivalist cultists that Mezzy escaped from. We will see much more of these characters next issue.

BEHOLD, BEHEMOTH #3 (Boom!, 2023) – untitled, [W] Tate Brombal, [A] Nick Robles. In the present-day time frame, Kavita tells Greyson about the origin of the Behemoth, which is always tethered to a shepherd (Greyson) and a scourge (Wren). This infodump sequence includes some beautiful splash pages. In the future time frame, the Behemoth continues to cause havoc. This issue is less exciting than the first two.

LITTLE MONSTERS #10 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. In a flashback, we learn the following: Romie can’t speak because their throat was cut. Or else  because of the associated trauma. The humans were all killed in a nuclear war. The adult vampires have all died, because vampires age very slowly, but they do age – unless they never drink human blood. And the elder vampires tried to ensure that the vampire kids would never drink blood, and would thus remain immortal. But now some of the kids have drunk blood, so their immortality is lost, as indicated in the last panel where Romie draws an infinity symbol and then tears it in half.

THE FLASH #792 (DC, 2023) – “The One-Minute War Part 3: Impulse Buy,” [W] Jeremy Adams, [A] Roger Cruz. While Barry mourns Iris’s death, Bart and Ace go on a reconaissance mission into the villains’ lair, and they rescue a young boy whose name isn’t revealed yet. Bart and Ace’s interactions are very entertaining. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a good Bart Allen story, but Adams seems to have gotten Bart’s personality right.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #3 (Marvel, 2023) – “Sign Up,” [W] Jordan Ifueko, [A] Alba Glez. After rescuing Devil, Lunella tries to figure out how Olivia’s mind control technology works. Eventually Lunella discovers that Olivia is collecting people’s DNA through a technology app. Olivia mind-controls Tasha, the girl with hair powers, and forces her to straighten her hair. This has been an excellent miniseries.

HELL TO PAY #3 (Image, 2023) – “The Shrouded College Part 1,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Will Sliney. This issue’s first page shows how the Qurrakh led to the Industrial Revolution. Then Sebastian and Maia go hunting for the man who’s making counterfeit Qurrakh, with assistance from two other agents of the Shrouded College. They manage to destroy some of the Qurrakh, but Sebastian is captured. Issue 4 isn’t coming out until April.

BLOOD TREE #1 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Maxim Šimić. I read issue 2 just before writing this review, and prior to reading issue 2, I had to reread issue 1, because I forgot what it was about. However, now that I’ve refreshed my memory, I can say that I liked this issue. Detective Dario Azzaro and his partner Maria Diaz investigate a series of murders in which the victims have angel wings attached to their bodies. I associate Peter Tomasi with the Super Sons, and Blood Tree is much darker than Tomasi’s superhero work. However, there are some cute scenes where Dario interacts with his wife, children and parents, and these scenes keep the comic from becoming too grim.

MONKEY PRINCE #11 (DC, 2023) – “The Monkey King and I Part 3,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Bernard Chang, Marcus finally meets his “father,” Sun Wukong the Monkey King – their actual relationship is made clear in the next issue. The Monkey King gives Marcus a vision of his birth, and teaches him to master the hair-into-clones power. I really like the depiction of Sun Wukong in this issue. Compared to Yang’s previous version of this character in American Born Chinese, this Sun Wukong is much more formidable and scary, and less of a figure of fun.

ROGUE SUN #10 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Ryan Parrott, [A] Marco Renna. Dylan meets the ghost of Caleb Hawthorne, aka Knight Sun, the first holder of the Sun Stone. After some more high school drama, Dylan learns that a demon called Mourningstar is searching for a magical quill. Dylan and Caleb have to travel to an extradimensional “Aviary” to obtain the quill. Also there’s a subplot about the villain from last issue, the one who blames Dylan for his father’s injuries. This was a reasonably good issue, but I had to reread it to remind myself what happened in it.

WHERE MONSTERS LIE #1 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Piotr Kowalski.  This series is set in the gated community of Wilmhurst, home to eight murderous supervillains. A boy named Linus is captured by one of the villains but manages to escape, and he tells his story to Special Agent Connor Hayes, whose mission is to capture the villains. This is an interesting setup, and it reminds me of a previous Starks series, Assassin Nation, because of its gory but humorous premise. This series may have been inspired by Sandman #14, the issue with the serial killer convention, given that one of the villains quotes the line from that issue about not shitting where you eat.

SPACE JOB #1 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W] David A. Goodman, [A] Álvaro Sarraseca. Danny Sheridan arrives on the spaceship S.S. George W. Bush as its new first officer, only to learn that the ship is a poorly run shitshow. And when he sits down in the first officer’s chair, he’s struck dead at once. Things only get worse from there. This comic is a very funny parody of Star Trek. It goes in a different direction from Outer Darkness, which was also a Star Trek parody. In Outer Darkness, the trouble was that the universe was brutal and terrifying. In Space Job, the universe itself seems to be fine, and the trouble is that the captain and the ship’s crew are completely incompetent.

MY LITTLE PONY: CLASSICS REMASTERED – LITTLE FILLIES #4 (IDW, 2023) – untitled, [W] Megan Brown, [A] Jenna Ayoub. This issue wraps up all the dangling plot threads, but stops before Meg, Jo or Amy get married. Instead the emphasis of the plot is on Jo’s career as an author. As Discord admits, “we’ve completely lost the thread of the narrative at this point. I hope none of our readers expected things to adhere too closely to the original work.” This was perhaps the most metatextual of all the My Little Pony comics. It’s full of fourth-wall-breaking moments, and its humor requires the reader to be familiar with both MLP and Little Women. I’m going to mention this miniseries in my revised version of my book chapter on My Little Pony comics. 

FAMILY TIME #3 (Ablaze, 2023) – untitled, [W] Lily Windom & Robert Windom, [A] Asiah Fulmore. I didn’t bother to buy issue 2, but I had already ordered issue 3, and it was in my file at Heroes, so I decided I might as well buy it. Family Time is not unreadable, but it’s nothing special either. I wish Ablaze would stick to translating European comics, instead of publishing original material.

DAMN THEM ALL #4 (Boom!, 2023) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Charlie Adlard. I was nearly asleep when I read this, and I don’t remember much about it. Ellie and her allies confront the villain Theo Bolster, and Ellie exorcises the demon Andromalus by telling it to fuck off. This somehow results in Bolster’s defeat, but nothing is really resolved. The most obvious gimmick of Damn Them All is that it’s an unannounced sequel to Hellblazer, but another cool thing about it is its use of medieval and Renaissance demonology. I’m glad it’s been promoted to an ongoing series.

DAREDEVIL #8 (Marvel, 2023) – “The Red Fist Saga Part 8,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Checchetto. Daredevil fights the Punisher and his pet dragon, Cole rescues Bullet’s son Lance, and the other superheroes decide that “Daredevil needs to be stopped.” This is another underwhelming chapter of the Red Fist Saga. I’m still willing to read this series, but it’s not as good as the previous volume of Daredevil.

JUNKYARD JOE #4 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Gary Frank. Muddy talks with Emily, then introduces Joe to the local VA director. Then the other robot dudes arrive at Muddy’s house looking for Junkyard Joe, and that’s pretty ominous, because earlier in the issue, we’ve been shown that these guys are willing to commit murder to find Joe. I think Junkyard Joe might actually be Geoff Johns’s finest achievement, though that’s not saying much, because I actively hate much of his earlier works. If it’s not his best work, then at least it’s his first comic that feels like a serious artistic effort, rather than a grim-and-gritty rehash of Silver Age comics. I wonder how Johns and Frank got permission to reproduce the Peanuts comic on the first page.

RADIANT PINK #2 (Image, 2023) – “Eva and Kelly’s Complicated Adventure,” [W] Meghan Camarena & Melissa Flores, [A] Emma Kubert. Eva and Kelly visit some alternate dimensions, and in one of them, they climb aboard a cat spaceship. Radiant Pink isn’t the worst Massiveverse title – that would be Dead Lucky – but it’s not quite fulfilling its potential. Also, the artwork in this issue is very crude, and on the two pages right after Kelly and Eva leave the slime planet, the art doesn’t even look professional. A nicer way to say this is that Emma Kubert’s sketchy, crude style is acceptable when she’s writing her own material, but this style does not fit the slick aesthetic of the Massiveverse.

MONARCH #1 (Image, 2023) – “Stranger from Above Part 1: The Truth Within,” [W] Rodney Barnes, [A] Alex Lins. I don’t like Rodney Barnes’s series Killadelphia, but I saw a good review of Monarch #1, so I bought it on impulse. Monarch begins by depicting some kids in Compton on a normal school day, but then the sky turns pink, and their neighborhood is attacked by alien robots that kill all the adults. So this is a postapocalyptic story from an urban black perspective – although I guess that’s not a new idea, since that description could also apply to Parable of the Sower. Still, Monarch seems interesting enough, and I’m going to continue reading it for now.

POISON IVY #9 (DC, 2023) – untitled, [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Marcio Takara. Harley visits Seattle, and she and Ivy spend an idyllic few days together before Harley returns to Gotham. This is a cute issue. Wilson’s version of Harley is much more understated and calm than some other writers’ versions, but I like the page where Harley is looking for her cell phone, and she pulls a rubber duck and a gavel out of her purse. I don’t know Seattle well enough to identify all the locations in this issue, but I do recognize the Pike Place Market. I’ve been to Seattle three times in the past decade, and I’ve been to the Pike Place Market and the Fantagraphics store on each of those visits.

BATMAN #132 (DC, 2023) – “The Bat-Man of Gotham Part 2,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Mike Hawthorne. Bruce encounters the alternate-universe versions of Catwoman, Joker, and Punchline. After his battle with Punchline and Selina does not go well, he decides it’s time to become Batman again. Mike Hawthorne’s art is a drop in quality from Jorge Jimenez’s art in the previous storyline. I think the main problem is the coloring, which adds a lot of shades and textures that aren’t in the pencils or inking. Somehow I don’t like this effect. In the backup story, Mr. Terrific and Tim Drake use an alternate-dimensional toy created by Toyman to try to locate Bruce.

ALL AGAINST ALL #3 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Alex Paknadel, [A] Caspar Wijngaard. We begin with a flashback to V’lmann’s birth. The disembodied B’tay possesses a wolf and a crocodile, and begins to forget his own identity. We now realize that the aliens in this series are just heads with tentacles, and they need to attach themselves to an external body in order to do anything. V’lmann travels to Earth (?) to look for her dad. B’tay and Cov’n prepare to dissect Helpless, but he manages to escape because the gravity in the ship (?) is weaker than he’s used to. At this point I can finally tell the characters apart, and I think this series’s plot and artwork are both fascinating. Because of its painted quality, Caspar Winjgaard’s artwork in All Against All is more exciting than his art in Thunderbolt or Angelic.

DEAD SEAS #2 (IDW, 2023) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Nick Brokenshire. The ship’s crew uses one of the convicts as bait to recapture the runaway ghost. The ship’s doctor lets some pirates on the ship in order to secretly sell them some of the barrels the ship is carrying. I assume the barrels are full of the ectoplasm that the ship is extracting from the ghosts. When the shipowner’s daughter stumbles across the pirates, shots are fired, causing a barrel to explode and blow a hole in the ship. I forgot this issue’s plot by the time I read issue 2, but despite that, Dead Seas is a clever and grim piece of horror. It makes effective use of its setting aboard a ship, and Nick Brokenshire draws some very creepy ghosts.

HEXWARE #2 (Image, 2023) – “The King’s Dinner,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Zulema Scotto Lavina. Jesi/Which-Where acquires a sidekick, an urchin named Ron or Basement Boy. Then she has to save him from a hairy demon. Lots of other stuff happens that I don’t remember. Much like West of Sundown, Hexware suffers from excessive complexity. Its plot has too many themes, and it lacks a clear central premise. But at least Hexware has a clear protagonist, Which-Where, while West of Sundown’s main problem is its overly large ensemble cast. I like Zulema Scotto Lavina’s art. She kind of reminds me of Todd Nauck or Humberto Ramos.

HUMAN TARGET #11 (DC, 2023) – “Kill Kill Kill Kill,” [W] Tom King, [A] Greg Smallwood. Chance and Ice spend Chance’s last day together, and I think Chance realizes that Ice was responsible for the poison. This seems like a logical solution, but this series has been going on so long that I’ve stopped caring whodunit. I’ve also lost confidence in Tom King, and I don’t think I’m going to bother reading his Wonder Woman run. If not for Greg Smallwood’s art, I might have given up on Human Target.

SECRET INVASION #4 (Marvel, 2023) – “We Got Her,” [W] Ryan North, [A] Francesco Mobili. Maria murders all of Tony’s Skrull agents, then interrogates another captured Skrull. When Iron Man comes looking for Maria, she deploys the War Machine armor against him. The Skrull, Dani, captures Maria and takes her to her own Skrull faction. I really hope Maria somehow faked murdering the Skrulls, because it seems like an inexcusable act.

SINS OF SINISTER #1 (Marvel, 2023) – “Everything is Sinister,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Lucas Werneck et al. In a series of flashforwards, Sinister takes over the Quiet Council and goes on to dominate the entire universe. Things go well for Sinister at first, but after ten years, he decides he’s not happy with how things are going, and he decides to kill a Moira clone and reset the timeline. But he discovers that someone’s stolen his lab, with the Moira clones still in it. I suppose this issue is an example of Dr. Manhattan’s maxim that “nothing ever ends,” because it shows that even after Sinister conquers the world, he still has to live in the world he conquered, and he’s not happy with it. Other than that, though, I’m not impressed with this issue. It’s obvious that the events of Sins of Sinister #1 are going to be erased from continuity by the time the crossover ends, and therefore none of these events have any impact.

SANDMAN UNIVERSE: DEAD BOY DETECTIVES #2 (DC, 2023) – “Who Says?” etc., [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Jeff Stokely. The kids hunt through Dom and Tanya’s stuff, trying to  solve the mystery and possibly bring Dom back. Also, Charles and Tanya develop a crush on each other. This series includes some effective characterization, but what’s most interesting about it is its depiction of Thai culture and mythology. Thai food is very well known in America, but most Americans know nothing about Thai people other than their food. For more on that point, see this article.

TRAVELING TO MARS #3 (Ablaze, 2023) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Roberto “Dakar” Meli. Roy spends most of the issue ruminating, but on the last page, there’s finally a significant plot development: Roy gets a message from his ex-wife. I guessed that the message was going to be that Roy had a child he didn’t know about, but my guess was wrong. Just before that, there’s a scene where Roy and the two robots watch a movie, and I wonder if this is an homage to Mystery Science Theater 3000.

SILVER SURFER: GHOST LIGHT #1 (Marvel, 2023) – untitled, [W] John Jennings, [A] Valentine De Landro. I know John Jennings casually, but I’ve read few if any of his comics. Instead of the Surfer himself, Ghost Light #1 focuses on young Toni Brooks and her family. They’ve just moved to a small town to live in a house inherited from Toni’s uncle Al, who died under unexplained circumstances. When Toni and her brother Josh go poking around in Al’s shack, they somehow awaken a mysterious green glowing man, and they also do something that summons the Silver Surfer, who describes Al as a “hero and trusted friend.” Ghost Light #1 is a touching and nuanced depiction of black family relationships. The center of its story is not the Surfer plot, but Toni’s difficult adjustment to her new living situation. And I’m curious to learn just how Al and the Surfer knew each other. 

STORM AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF MUTANTS #1 (Marvel, 2023) – “Storm’s Seven,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Paco Medina. This series is the Sins of Sinister version of X-Men Red. In this issue, Storm, Wiz-Kid, Cable and some other characters go looking for Sinister’s lab, and at the end, Destiny is contacted by an old man with a spade symbol on his forehead. I’m probably supposed to recognize the old man, but I don’t. This issue is just average.

KNOW YOUR STATION #3 (Boom!, 2023) – untitled, [W] Sarah Gailey, [A] Liana Kangas. Elise and another character continue to investigate the murders. Know Your Station is not nearly as spectacular as Eat the Rich. First, I’ve never liked Liana Kangas’s art style. Second, Know Your Station has the same satirical edge and dark humor as Eat the Rich, but it lacks the latter series’s sense of imminent danger. The murders in Know Your Station just feel gory, rather than genuinely frightening. And Know Your Station’s villains are mostly off-panel, so I don’t hate them as much as I hated the rich people in Eat the Rich. A cute thing in this issue is the stack of pro-capitalist books by authors like “Elon Walton III.”

AVENGERS: WAR ACROSS TIME #2 (Marvel, 2023) – “War Across Time Chapter Two,” [W] Paul Levitz, [A] Alan Davis. The Avengers invade the Baxter Building and battle Sindri, the dwarf who forged Thor’s hammer. Also, Patsy Walker makes a cameo appearance, though I thought she was Jean Grey at first. War Across Time is a well-executed pastiche of Silver Age Marvel, but it doesn’t do anything very original. However, it’s still worth reading because it’s a unique collaboration between two legends of superhero comics. 

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #136 (IDW, 2023) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Fero Pe. Another issue full of pointless fight scenes and plot developments that I don’t care about. I’m tempted to just drop this series until The Armageddon Game is over, but I want to support IDW, and they’re not publishing much else besides TMNT.

BULLS OF BEACON HILL #1 (Aftershock, 2023) – “Devil’s Child,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Andy Macdonald. Christopher Boldt, a successful surgeon, is about to run for Boston’s city council.  But it’s an open secret that Christopher is really the son of Orin Paige, Boston’s worst crimelord. And Orin does not want Christopher on the city council, first because Christopher might expose Orin’s crimes, and second because Orin despises Christopher for being gay. The issue ends with Christopher and his boyfriend being attacked by a corrupt cop in Orin’s service. Bulls of Beacon Hill has a fascinating premise, and there’s some moral ambiguity in Christopher’s position, since he partly owes his success to his horrible father. Bulls of Beacon Hill is the only Aftershock comic I’m reading at the moment. I hope Aftershock can recover from its financial problems.

STATIC: SHADOWS OF DAKOTA #1 (DC, 2023) – “Heroes and Myths,” [W/A] Nikolas Draper-Ivey, [W] Vita Ayala. There’s nothing here of any interest at all. This is just a generic superhero comic, with no significant characterization and no surprising plot twists. I love the original Static series because of its endearing and realistically depicted characters, so this issue is a big disappointment. I won’t be buying issue 2.

MINOR THREATS #4 (Dark Horse, 2023) – “The Straight Line,” [W] Patton Oswalt & Jordan Blum, [A] Scott Hepburn. The villains finally confront Stickman, and the lovable old guy is revealed as the traitor among them. Frankie kills Stickman with a hammer, then she also has to kill Insomniac (i.e. Batman) in self-defense. Brain Tease claims sole responsibility for the killings, and Frankie regains custody of her daughter and becomes the city’s new crimelord or superheroine or both. I thought the first three issues of Minor Threats were kind of boring, but now I think I wasn’t giving enough credit, because issue 4 is a very satisfying conclusion. Also, I was so disappointed by Static: Shadows of Dakota #1 that in comparison, Minor Threats #1 felt like a masterpiece.

MY BAD VOL. 2 #3 (Ahoy, 2023) – “The Inescapable Grasp of Justice,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Peter Krause. The pizza murderer is finally captured, and so the series’ main plot is over already, even though there are several issues to go. The writers even point this out in the inside front cover of issue 4. Also there are a couple backup stories written by Bryce Ingram. I didn’t much like My Bad volume 1, but I think now I’m starting to get the joke. Basically the joke is just that all the characters are stupid.

LEGION OF X #10 (Marvel, 2023) – “Among Us Stalk the Sentinels,” [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Netho Diaz. Kurt fights Margali, and she extracts the “Hopesword” from his body, and various other things happen. I can never figure out just what’s going on in this series, and this issue is no exception to that. I’m also disappointed that Amanda Sefton does not appear in this series. Nightcrawler has something in common with Jerome K. Jerome Bloche, whose comic I will be reviewing later: they both have a girlfriend who’s a flight attendant.

PINK LEMONADE #5 (Oni, 2023) – untitled, [W/A] Nick Cagnetti. In the afterlife, Pink speaks to O.J. Bot and discovers that he was created by an uncredited black cartoonist, not by Zavi Xarad. Then O.J. Bot sacrifices its life to resurrect Pink. Nick Cagnetti’s normal art style is already fascinating, but in this issue he draws in a variety of other styles: he imitates Tezuka, ‘80s video games, claymation, and early Disney. He’s an impressive artist who deserves more recognition.

INFERNO GIRL RED #1 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Mat Groom, [A] Erica D’Urso. Many years ago, reporter Ana Costa recounted the adventures of the superheroine Inferno Girl Red. Now, Ana’s daughter Cássia is accepted to a prestigious high school in the fictional Apex City. Then the entire school gets transported to an alternate dimension, and Cássia has to save the day by becoming the new Inferno Girl Red. Cássia is a very cute, wholesome protagonist, and her relationship with her mother is adorable. Also, Inferno Girl Red’s debut scene is exciting.

DOCTOR STRANGE: FALL SUNRISE #3 (Marvel, 2023) – “Within the Body My Body is Not,” [W/A] Tradd Moore. This issue’s plot makes no logical sense, and I’m not sure if it’s supposed to. On the other hand, this issue, like the previous two issues, contains the most detailed and visually stunning artwork in any recent Marvel comic. Tradd Moore has somehow developed into a major talent. I just read a review that says that when you read Druillet, you’re really reading an art book, and the story is secondary and often incomprehensible. The same can be said of Fall Sunrise.

HARROWER #1 (Boom!, 2023) – untitled, [W] Justin Jordan, [A] Brahm Revel. I like Justin Jordan personally, but I’ve had trouble connecting with his comics. Harrower is about a small town with a history of serial killers, a history which is now repeating itself. My favorite thing about this issue is the realistic and witty dialogue. I plan to continue reading this series.

SPY SUPERB #2 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. Having accidentally killed a squad of assassins, Jay tries to behave like he thinks a spy should behave. Then he encounters an actual spy, and they both get targeted by an asssasin. This series is a funny re-envisioning of Matt Kindt’s more typical spy stories.

AVENGERS #8 FACSIMILE (Marvel, 1964/2023) – “Kang, the Conqueror!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. A reprint of Kang’s first appearance. At this point there wasn’t a whole lot to distinguish Kang from any other Lee and Kirby villain, and the one thing that surprised me about this issue is that Kang is explicitly stated to be the same man as Rama-Tut.

SABRETOOTH AND THE EXILES #3 (Marvel, 2023) – “Station Three,” [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Leonard Kirk. Sabretooth’s team frees the mutants held captive at Station Three, and a disaster is narrowly averted when Orphan Maker’s armor begins to leak. This is perhaps the only comic in which Nanny and Orphan Maker are interesting characters, rather than a pair of running jokes. Otherwise, Sabretooth and the Exiles is far below the level of Victor LaValle’s other work, and I’m losing my motivation to read it.

Another comic ordered from eBay:

WIMMEN’S COMIX #10 (Last Gasp, 1985) – [E] Joyce Farmer. This is labeled as the “Politically Correct International Fetish Issue.” In Virginia L. Small’s “The Feeling is Mutual: Wild Kingdom,” some anthropomorphic lions capture and tag a human male and kidnap his child. This story is a funny satire on hunting. It’s Virginia Small’s only credit in the GCD. Sharon Rudahl’s “Zog Nit Keyn Mol” juxtaposes an old Yiddish song, written by a captive in the Warsaw Ghetto, with a depiction of a modern Jewish woman and her Holocaust survivor grandmother. This story is a touching reflection on the continuity of Jewish history. Joyce Farmer’s “Fetus Fetish Funnies” is probably the high point of the issue. It’s a nearly wordless story in which almost every panel is set in a different year. It depicts the history of a family across 120 years and seven generations. In most of the generations the women are subjected to sexual abuse and unwanted pregnancy. The story begins with a quotation by an opponent of abortion, and ends with the caption “etc.,” suggesting that the struggle for reproductive freedom is ongoing. Cecilia Capuana’s “Modemorphose” is reprinted from the French comic Ah! Nana, and its art style resembles that of Nicole Claveloux. Other artists in this issue include Carel Moiseiwitsch, Mary Fleener, Diane Noomin, Roberta Gregory, Dori Seda, Lee Binswanger, and Krystine Kryttre.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #6 (Marvel, 2012) – “Powerless Part 1,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Alan Davis. Cap has a dream where he loses his powers and gets beaten up by Batroc the Leaper. Hawkeye tries to distract Cap from his dreams by going on a mission with him, but on the mission, Cap encounters the Madbomb from Kirby’s ‘70s Cap run, and it causes him to lose his powers for real. This comic’s story is reasonably good, but I’m willing to read anything with Alan Davis art.

DETECTIVE COMICS #1004 (DC, 2023) – “Medieval: Secrets & Lies,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Brad Walker. This comic is the origin story of Astrid Arkham, aka the Arkham Knight. Her Astrid’s parents both worked at Arkham, and she was born during a riot at the asylum, with the Joker and Harley Quinn as midwives. At the moment of Astrid’s birth, her mother, Ingrid, was killed by a stray batarang. Astrid was effectively raised by Arkham’s supervillains, and grew up blaming Batman for her mother’s death. I’m sure it wasn’t Batman who killed Ingrid, but I don’t know if they ever revealed who really did it. My problem with Astrid is that she was born when Bruce Wayne was already Batman, and she seems to be around twenty years old now, and it’s hard to accept that Batman’s career has lasted that long. Astrid seems to have been created as a replacement for the titular villain of the Arkham Knight video game. I never played that game, though I loved the Arkham Asylum and Arkham City games.

SPIROU: LE JOURNAL D’UN INGÉNU (Dupuis, 2008) – [W/A] Emile Bravo. In France, Spirou is comparable in popularity to Tintin or Asterix, though he’s almost unknown in America. This album was part of the series “Le Spirou de…”, consisting of one-off Spirou albums by various notable creators. Most Spirou stories, or at least the ones I’ve read, are lighthearted adventure stories with no reference to real-world politics. Thus, the gimmick of Le journal d’un ingénu is that it situates Spirou within the historical circumstances in which he was created. Much of its poignancy comes from the contrast between the lighthearted, naïve protagonist (the English translation of the title is “Journal of a Naïve Young Man”) and the horrible historical traumas in which he embroils himself. Spirou first appeared in 1938, and Le journal d’un ingénu takes place one year later, when Europe is in imminent danger of war. Spirou finds himself thrown into the midst of the brewing crisis when he develops a crush on a young girl, who turns out to be a Jewish spy working for the Comintern. Also, his hotel turns out to be the site for peace negotiations between Germany and Poland. In the climax, Spirou nearly prevents World War II by coming up with a peaceful revolution to the Danzig Crisis, but his pet squirrel Spip intentionally ruins everything by chewing through the hotel’s phone lines. Also, Spirou meets his future partner Fantasio, who serves as comic relief. Overall, this is an extremely well-executed, funny and poignant comic, and it deservedly earned lots of acclaim in Europe and was a contender for the Fauve d’Or. I suspect that this story would have been even more meaningful if I was more familiar with the classic Spirou series.

PHILEMON: CAST AWAY ON THE LETTER A (Toon Books, 1968/2014) – [W/A] Fred. Farm boy Philémon and his donkey fall down an old well and find themselves in an absurdist world, located on the letter “A” in the Atlantic Ocean. Philémon is one of the absolute classics of French comics, probably because of its whimsical, surrealistic story and art. As a scholar of materiality, I love the idea that the letters “Atlantic” on the map of the Atlantic Ocean could actually have a physical existence. However, this first Philémon album suffers from being extremely short – only about 30 pages. That’s not enough space for any substantial plot or worldbuilding. The French edition of this album is a bit longer because it includes some additional short stories, but Toon Books decided not to include this material, perhaps to avoid confusing their readers. I also have the second Philemon album that Toon Books released, but I haven’t read it yet. There are 16 albums in total.

Another comic I ordered on eBay:

HUP #3 (Last Gasp, 1989) – “The Story o’ My Life!” etc., [W/A] Robert Crumb. A woman with a big butt pushes Crumb around in a stroller, and then Crumb gets out of the stroller and has sex with the woman. This is a typical example of Crumb’s gruesome, disturbing, fetishistic tendencies. When I read a story like this, it makes me understand why younger generations of cartoonists have disavowed him. Crumb’s adaptation of Sartre’s “Nausea” is much much better. It uses creepy artwork and lettering, together with shakily drawn diagonal panel borders, to convey a sense of the protagonist’s growing anxiety. “Point the Finger” includes some panels that went viral several decades later, because it’s Crumb’s satire on a young Donald Trump. The story has one ending where Trump humiliates Crumb, and a second, more optimistic ending where Crumb has Trump arrested, then sleeps with his two female companions. Crumb is forced to admit that the first, pessimistic ending was more realistic. The issue ends with a Mr. Natural story which is another exercise in sexism and fetishism.

CEREBUS #135 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1990) – “Jaka’s Story 22,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Mrs. Thatcher bullies Jaka into accepting responsibility for Pud’s death. It seems that in issue 130, Pud was murdered by Cirinists because he hired Jaka as a dancer. This issue is very emotionally intense, but it also suffes from too much decompression. If Sim had left out all the illustrated-text flashbacks, he could have finished Jaka’s Story in far fewer chapters. 

Starting again on March 21 after returning from ICFA:

2000 AD #1824 (IDW, 2013) – Dredd: “Cypher Part 1,” [W] Mike Carroll, [A] Inaki Miranda. Dredd prevents an assassination attempt on a visiting Sov dignitary, and chases down the assassin. Dandridge: “The Copper Conspiracy Part 1,” [W] Alec Worley, [A] Warren Pleece. A story about a ghost who looks kind of like Nikolai Dante, but has mind contorl powers. 3rillers: “Survival Geeks Part 1,” [W] Gordon Rennie & Emma Beeby, [A] Neil Googe. A young woman wakes up in bed with a nerd, and on trying to leave the house, she discovers she’s been transported to another dimension. Then she gets abducted by an armored demon riding a dragon. This is very funny, and I like Neil Googe’s art style. Stickleback: “Number of the Beast Part 1,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] D’Israeli. In a steampunk world, Stickleback, so called because of all the things sticking out of his back, is resurrected. D’Israeli draws this story in a black-and-white painted style that looks completely unlike any of his other work. I especially like how he avoids the use of solid outlines, and instead uses differences in color to separate one thing from another. This effect reminds me of Alberto Breccia’s late work.

DAREDEVIL #142 (Marvel, 1976) – “The Concrete Jungle!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Bob Brown. Bullseye shoots Daredevil from a crossbow into the river, but Nova saves Matt from drowning. By no coincidence, Wolfman was writing Nova at the time. Then Matt fights Cobra and Mr. Hyde, who are trying to steal Bill Rotsler’s collection of rare books. The most noteworthy thing about this issue is its guest appearance by Bill Rotsler and his writing partner Sharman DiVono. Rotsler was an SF writer and a Hugo-winning fan artist, as well as the fan GoH at the 1973 Worldcon.

KONG THE UNTAMED #3 (DC, 1975) – “The Caves of Doom,” [W] Jack Oleck & Gerry Conway, [A] Alfredo Alcala. Kong and his older friend Gurat have a return encounter with the people who killed Kong’s mother Gurat. Kong the Untamed is a fairly generic caveman story, but it has some excellent art, and it would be worth reprinting.

SWORD OF SORCERY #3 (DC, 1973) – “Betrayal!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Howard Chaykin w/ Ronn Sutton. Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser’s ship is sunk by pirates, who are intent on capturing a princess. With a wizard’s assistance Fafhrd and the Mouser recapture the princess and kill the pirate captain, only to discover that the princess and the captain were lovers. This is an enjoyable sword and sorcery story. Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser have been adapted into comics a couple times, but they haven’t had as much longevity in comics form as Conan or Elric.

WILDC.A.T.S #29 (Image, 1996) – “Fire from Heaven Chapter 7,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Travis Charest & Ryan Benjamin. This issue is tied to a stupid crossover, in which WildC.A.T.s was the only good comic involved. Therefore, the plot of WildC.A.T.s #29 makes no sense, but its dialogue is brilliant. One of the two artists in this issue is much better than the other, and I assume the better artist is Travis Charest.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #22 (Marvel, 2004) – “Second Coming,” [W] Peter David, [A] Aaron Lopresti. In the future, Genis discovers that he’s remembered as a villain. In the past, Moondragon fights the Magus. This issue’s plot is way too complicated, and Peter David himself realizes this: in the summary at the beginning of the issue, PAD includes a paragraph that’s written in the style of a soap opera recap, and that references events and characters who aren’t mentioned anywhere else.

KOSHCHEI THE DEATHLESS #1 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola, [A] Ben Stenbeck. The origin story of the Hellboy villain Koshchei. This story is creepy and whimsical, and Stenbeck does a good job of imitating Mignola’s style. But otherwise this is no different from any other Hellboyverse comic, and I’m not even sure why I have this issue.

EX MACHINA #26 (Vertigo, 2007) – “Power Down Chapter 1,” [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Tony Harris. We start with a flashback to September 11, and then Mitchell proposes rebuilding the towers exactly as they were. A mysterious man in a diving suit causes New York’s power to go out, and Mitchell realizes he’s lost his own powers too. Like Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina feels somewhat dated now, but it’s impressive how Vaughan has continually evolved as a writer and has managed to stay at the top of the industry.

HOUSE OF SECRETS #6 (Vertigo, 1997) – “Meeting,” [W] Steven T. Seagle, [A] Duncan Fegredo. A man named Tony goes to an AA meeting, but then runs away in embarrassment, and his wife Angela finds him at the House of Secrets. Tony tells Angela about being tried by the Court of Secrets, but he neglects to tell her that he began drinking because of childhood sexual abuse by a priest. The story ends on an ambiguous note. This issue is an effective depiction of alcoholism and sexual trauma, but its fantastic elements are kind of tacked-on.

BLACKHAWK #248 (DC, 1976) – “Vengeance is Mine! … Sayeth the Cyborg,” [W] David A. Kraft, [A] James Sherman. This issue includes some effective artwork, especially the splash panel that shows a giant missile taking off. However, DAK’s story is pointless. This Blackhawk run was a revival after the series was cancelled in 1968, but the revival only lasted seven issues before being cancelled again. Blackhawk was revived again by Evanier and Spiegle in 1982, and lasted much longer.

FANTASTIC FOUR #367 (Marvel, 1992) – “By Reed… Betrayed!”, [W] Tom DeFalco, [A] Paul Ryan. In an Infinity War crossover, the Thing fights his own Magus-created duplicate. This is a pretty dumb comic, and it’s full of guest appearances by characters in hideous ‘90s costumes. But at least DeFalco and Ryan’s FF felt like the FF, unlike Englehart’s run, which I will be discussing later.

INCORRUPTIBLE #20 (Boom!, 2011) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Marcio Takara. Max Damage is held captive by villains, but his partner Jailbait saves him. However, she also learns about a horrible crime he committed in the past. I feel lukewarm about this series. It’s okay, but it’s not truly compelling. Marcio Takara’s artwork has improved tremendously since 2011.

KINGSWAY WEST #1 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Mirko Colak. A fantasy Western story set in a world where California is ruled by Chinese people. A Chinese lawman, Kingsway Law, marries a Mexican woman and tries to retire, but some of his old associates come looking for him and kidnap his wife. Kingsway West has a fascinating premise which is based on the shared history of Chinese- and Mexican-Americans. Unfortunately it was cancelled after just four issues. A cool thing I noticed in this issue is that on page one, Washington state is labeled “Murrieta Territory,” perhaps after Joaquin Murrieta, an outlaw who may have been the inspiration for Zorro.

JOURNEY #9 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “Near Spring” etc., [W/A] William Messner-Loebs. MacAlistaire and Crawfish Martin go hunting, they get attacked by a bison, and then Crawfish falls under the ice. Part of this sequence is narrated by their dog. Meanwhile there’s a subplot set in Fort Miami. I don’t know how historically accurate Journey is, but it’s a very believable  depiction of frontier life in the early 19th century, and it’s also extremely funny.

2000 AD #1825 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd: as above. Dredd chases down the Sov assassin, who proves to be a cyborg. The Judges discover that the cyborg was hired by the Sov envoy  who seemed to be his target, and his real target was Judge Hershey. Dandridge: as above. Dandridge is kidnapped by some planes shaped like fat people. In exchange for being rescued, he has to track down a certain dagger. 3rillers: as above. The girl, Sam, discovers that her kidnapping was part of some other geek’s fantasy scenario. Her hook-up, Simon, arrives to rescue her. Again this story is very funny. Stickleback: as above. Stickleback is hired to prevent a revolt by “sorries,” or saurian hominids, who have become an oppressed race of  slaves. Then he goes to see his son. The artwork in this story is so fascinating that I don’t care much about the plot. Zombo: “Planet Zombo Part 1,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Henry Flint. Zombo is resurrected in order to defeat an insane president. I don’t know the context behind this story, but it seems extremely fun. The president speaks in unintelligible Kirby dialogue such as “In strange eras – against ‘killer-dillers’ beyond the limits of imagination – the ‘war-cries’ of previous eras no longer hold their function!” I wonder how many readers understood what this dialogue was making fun of.

MOTHER PANIC #7 (DC, 2017) – “Victim Complex Part 1,” [W] Jody Houser, [A] John Paul Leon. I still have no idea what this series is about, and its plot and characters are of no interest at all. I wish I’d given up buying this series after the first couple issues.

ACTION COMICS #503 (DC, 1980) – “A Save in Time!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. Superman encounters an alien creature called Null-O that looks like a vacuum cleaner, and there’s also a subplot about Lana Lang and a psychic named Kolzer. I forgot about this story as soon as I finished reading it.

SHE-WOLF #3 (Image, 2016) – “Ancient Incantations”, [W/A] Rich Tommaso. Most of this issue is the origin story of a werewolf. This part of the issue is drawn in a different style from the framing sequence. This issue has some excellent artwork and publication design, but I couldn’t follow its plot.

EX MACHINA #28 (DC, 2007) – “Power Down Part 3,” as above. In a flashback, Mitchell and Kremlin do a training exercise. In the present, a bald, bearded terrrorist kidnaps Kremlin and Mitchell’s mother and invites Mitchell to a rendezvous. It’s an obvious trap, and Mitchell’s powers aren’t working, so he comes with a gun instead. I believe that I have the next issue, but have not read it yet.

ERMA JAGUAR V1 (Catalan, 1988/1990) – untitled, [W/A] Alex Varenne. A very strange and disturbing work. The title character, a tall, short-haired blonde, picks up a naïve young woman named Charlotte and her boyfriend Arthur. Erma and Arthur go off together, and Erma comes back alone. We’re not told what happened to Arthur. Then Erma and Charlotte have a series of erotic and violent adventures, ending with a party in an old mansion. When Erma wakes up, it seems as if the whole thing was a dream, and Charlotte reappears as Erma’s maid. Varenne draws some very sexy women, and his spotting of blacks is beautiful. But this album has an eerie, threatening mood, and the sex scenes it depicts are unsavory and sordid. It makes for a strange but memorable reading experience. Catalan also translated the second album of Erma Jaguar, as well as a collection of Varenne’s short stories. Erma Jaguar volume 3 has not been translated, and neither has Varenne’s other major work, Ardeur.

CAPTAIN VICTORY AND THE GALACTIC RANGERS #12 (Pacific, 1983) – “Origin ‘2’”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. The art in this issue is very striking, but Kirby’s pencils are poorly served by Mike Thibodeaux’s crude inking. As usual with Kirby’s Pacific comics, this issue’s story doesn’t make much sense. Also, Captain Victory’s vehicle is a ripoff of Orion’s Astro-Harness. This issue includes a backup story written by Bruce Jones, with excellent artwork by Kent Williams, in a style that resembles that of Jeffrey Catherine Jones.

THE BATMAN ADVENTURES #34 (DC, 1995) – “In Memoriam,” [W] Kelley Puckett, [A] Mike Parobeck. Hugo Strange suffers from disabling migraines while trying  to build a machine that can remove and store memories. Meanwhile, Batman and Catwoman go through some  relationship problems. In the climax, Catwoman destroys Strange’s memory machine, and we learn that Strange was trying to remove his own memory of witnessing this son’s murder. This explains both why Strange is having migraines, and why he keeps talking to a person named David who we can’t see. This issue is confusing, demanding some effort from the reader, and I had to read a summary of it in order to remind myself of its plot. But this is also a very poignant story. It continues into issues 35 and 36, which were the last two issues of this series.

WONDER WART-HOG AND THE BATTLE OF THE TITANS #1 (Rip Off, 1985) – “The Battle of the Titans!!!”, [W/A] Gilbert Shelton with Tony Bell and Joe E. Brown. This is reprinted from five issues of Rip Off Comix, which explains why it’s so long. In this story, Wonder Wart-Hog encounters three other versions of himself: the caveman Piltdown Pig, the evil Paranoid Punkpig, and the Hog from the Future. And of course lots of wacky stuff happens. This comic is funny, but its length is rather tedious, and I don’t like Wonder Wart-Hog as much as the Freak Brothers.

2000 AD #1826 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd: “Suicide Watch,” [W] Gordon Rennie & Emma Beeby, [A] Paul Davidson. Mega-City One is troubled by a suicide cult. I don’t remember anything about this story. Dandridge: as above. Dandridge goes looking for the dagger and finds the severed head of his friend Shelley. 3rillers: as above. Sam escapes from the dark lord and the dragon, but is still stuck with the three geeks in their dimension-traveling house. They find themselves in a world ruled by cannibalistic amazons. Survival Geeks was well-liked enough that it graduated from 3Rillers to become an ongoing feature. It last appeared in 2020. Stickleback: as above. Stickleback tries and fails to get custody of his son. More stunning artwork. Zombos: as above. The Sc4rabs, i.e. the Beatles, return, and Zombo wakes up.  

BIJOU FUNNIES #6 (Kitchen Sink, 1971) – [E] Jay Lynch? This was in the same order as Hup #3. My copy is in such awful condition that when I read it, my biggest concern was making sure it didn’t fall apart. As a result, none of the stories in it stand out in my memory. Creators in this issue include Lynch, Skip Williamson, Crumb, and Justin Green.

IT’S SCIENCE WITH DR. RADIUM #1 (Slave Labor, 1986) – “The King of the Kings,” [W/A] Scott Saavedra. Dr. Radium and his assistant Roy travel back in time to the 20th century to look for some Elvis-impersonating aliens. They and the aliens both go to San Francisco instead of Memphis, and to make matters worse, there’s an Elvis convention in town. This comic was funny, but only to a moderate degree.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #103 (Dark Horse, 1995) – [E] Bob Schreck. I probably bought this issue because of the One-Trick Rip-Off chapter by Paul Pope, but it’s not understandable on its own, though it has some good draftsmanship. There’s also a pinup by Kirby, inked by Mike Royer. None of the other strips in this issue are of any interest.

RAGMAN: CRY OF THE DEAD #6 (DC, 1994) – “Cheval Blanc!!”, [W] Elaine Lee, [A] Gabriel Morrissette. The other day I saw a student reading an issue of this miniseries at the university cafeteria. I wonder why he was reading that comic in particular. Anyway, this issue is the conclusion of a story that tries to connect Ragman to voodoo mythology. It doesn’t make sense out of context. Ragman is a fascinating character, but besides his original creators, Kanigher and Kubert, no one else has been able to take advantage of his potential. Speaking of voodoo mythology, I saw Nalo Hopkinson at ICAF, and I finally got a chance to tell her how much I enjoyed House of Whispers.  

GHOST SHIP #1 (Alternative, 1996) – untitled, [W/A] Jon Lewis. There are two stories in this issue, one about pirates, and another about a frog talking to a strange creature consisting mostly of a head. This comic could have been interesting, but it’s ruined by incompetent visual storytelling. It’s frequently impossible to determine the correct order in which to read the panels, and I don’t think that’s deliberate. Also, the second and longer story has no plot to speak of.

Next Heroes trip:

NIGHTWING #101 (DC, 2023) – “Rise of the Underworld,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Travis Moore. Neron goes looking for the soul of Olivia Desmond, Blockbuster’s daughter, who was introduced in issue 98. Luckily, Olivia is under the protection of Dick and the Titans. In a related development, the body of the king of Vlatava is found in the ruins of Titans Tower. When Dick goes to see the body, a Vlatavan investigator knocks him unconscious and shapeshifts into a duplicate of him. There’s also a backup story written by C.S. Pacat from Fence. I am eagerly looking forward to Tom Taylor’s Titans series. Kory appears on just a few pages of this issue, but those pages are enough to show that Taylor understands her personality, unlike so many other writers.

SAGA #62 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W/A] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. The best evidence for how much I enjoy Nightwing is that I’m willing to read it before Saga. The only other comic that took precedence over Saga was Lumberjanes. This issue, Alana rejects Vitch’s offer to revive Marko, because she doesn’t believe it’s possible. Then Alana discovers that D. Oswald Heist’s writing is no longer compatible with contemporary values, since Heist uses the R-word. Finally, Gale horrifically murders Ginny and her family. This last scene is a shocking, brutal moment that establishes Gale as perhaps the most disgusting character in the series. I can’t wait for him to die, and I hope his death will be very painful.

EIGHT BILLION GENIES #7 (Boom!, 2023) – “The First Eight Decades,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. Too much stuff happens to summarize it all. Most of the issue takes place in year 21, when the Idea Man launches his final assault, and then finally gets his comeuppance. Ting-Shu and Robbie finally meet. Then the series skips ahead in time to year 80, when most of the main characters have died of old age, so I’m not sure what next issue will be about. Eight Billion Genies is perhaps Charles Soule’s finest work.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #29 (Boom!, 2023) – “The Girl and the Hurricane Part 4,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. Erica escapes from the police station and finally finds a way to start turning the situation in her favor. Most of the issue is set at the House of Slaughter, where the Old Dragon basically tells Cecilia to let Erica kill Cutter, and then kill Erica herself. Cecilia sets off to do that. This conversation shows, again, that both the Old Dragon and Cecilia are complete sociopaths who care about nothing but increasing their own power.

ONCE UPON A TIME AT THE END OF THE WORLD #4 (Boom!, 2023) – “The Wild, the Woke, and the Wasteland Rangers,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Alexandre Tefenkgi. This issue focuses on the Wasteland Rangers, the brutal Boy-Scouts-based cult in which Mezzy was raised. We start with a flashback in which Mezzy’s best friend and love interest, Jennie, is driven to suicide by the Rangers’ abuse. There’s also a funny and creepy page where we see all the Wasteland Rangers’ merit badges, in things like snitching, manhunting, and not masturbating. The Wasteland Rangers are kind of like the Lumberjanes, except with exactly opposite values. In the present, the Rangers torture Maceo and force him to compete in the “Apocalympics,” while Mezzy continues to look for him.

SHE-HULK #10 (Marvel, 2023) – untitled, [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. Jack has to leave Earth because his containment suit was destroyed. In his absence, Jen throws herself into her work and is comforted by Patsy. Then Jack returns, but in fully powered form. This series sometimes seems to be more about Jack of Hearts than Jen, but this issue, for example, is not really about him, it’s more about how Jen copes with his disappearance and sudden return. Romantic relationships are a major theme of Rowell’s work, as seen in her novel Landline, and Jack’s inclusion in the series allows Rowell to explore that theme.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #23 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcello Grassi. Again this issue is hard to summarize because it has such a dense plot. Some of the heroes finally reach the leader of the History Zone, a head in a jar on top of a robot dog’s body. I don’t know if this character has a name. The other heroes are finally about to learn the biggest secret in America’s history, but they’re interrupted before they can learn it. I hope next issue will provide some clarity as to just what’s going on here.

STRANGE ACADEMY: FINALS #4 (Marvel, 2023) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. The kids have their final exam, which requires them to survive in Limbo for an hour. Then they have to protect New Orleans from a hurricane. Emily finally loses all her allies from the school, but she finds a new ally in Dormammu, and she leads his army in an invasion of New Orleans. It’s odd how Emily has taken such a complete face-heel turn – her descent into villainy happened in the first place because she did something nice, but now she’s become thoroughly evil.

GROO: GODS AGAINST GROO #3 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. The armies of Tlaxpan and Mexahuapan go to war, while back in the other continent, Kayli is thrown into her dad’s prison cell. My favorite moment in this issue is when Groo is listing his favorite foods, including “putrid pelts in dung water” (a callback to Groo Meets Tarzan) and “one piece of asparagus.”

FANTASTIC FOUR #4 (Marvel, 2023) – “The Baxter Initiative,” [W] Ryan North, [A] Iban Coello. A flashback story that finally reveals why everyone hates the FF now. Due to a Negative Zone invasion, Reed was forced to send the Baxter Building a year into the future, along with all the people in and around it. That seemed like a good solution to Reed, but it meant that all those people were forced to be absent from the world for a full year, missing a year of their loved ones’ lives. After all the recent anti-superhero hysteria (see Devil’s Reign), that was the last straw, and the FF were exiled from New York. Back in the present, the FF are finally reunited. In the flashback sequence, Franklin and Val seem to be children of about the same age, even though they should be adults now. Marvel has again given up on trying to determine how old Franklin and Val are.

THE WASP #2 (Marvel, 2023) – untitled, [W] Al Ewing, [A] Kasia Nie. Jan and Nadia go looking for the alien creature that killed Jan’s dad, and they fight an army of androids wearing Jan’s old costumes. Again, the main appeal of this issue is its detailed depiction of Jan and Nadia.

LOCAL MAN #1 (Image, 2023) – “Heartland,” [W/A] Tim Seeley & Tony Fleecs. Crossjack, a failed superhero, is forced to return home to live with his parents. And he has to walk ten miles to get to their house, because the only Uber driver in town refuses to pick him up. When he goes out to a bar, he gets assaulted by an old supervillain, and then when he defends himself, his former superhero teammates serve an injunction against him for violating the terms of his contract termination. And then someone murders the supervillain. Local Man is a fascinating exploration of the legacy of ‘90s Image comics, and it also draws upon Tim Seeley’s central theme of rural Midwestern life. This issue includes a flipbook backup story drawn in a parody of the ‘90s Image house style.

HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER #12 (Boom!, 2023) – “The Butcher’s Return Part 2,” [W] Tate Brombal, [A] Antonio Fuso. While Jace is trying to save the other kids, one of them, a boy named Sunny, is kidnapped by House of Slaughter agents. They use him as bait to attract some monsters and kill them. Then they take Sunny, now thoroughly traumatized, to the Butcher Shop, i.e. the former House of Boucher. The focus of this issue is on Jace’s desire to protect the kids, and his inability to save Sunny. Protecting children is also the theme of Tate Brombal’s other current series, Behold Behemoth.

BLACK CLOAK #2 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Meredith McClaren. Phaedra continues to investigate Freyal’s murder, she meets with a human who’s next in line for the throne after Freyal’s death, and then she decides to somehow see what Freyal can tell her himself. This series has some cute and intriguing writing and art, but its plot and setting are very complicated, and I’m sometimes confused as to what’s going on.

BLUE BOOK #1 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Avon Oeming. In 1961, an African-American husband and wife, Barney and Betty Hill, drive home from Montreal to New Hampshire. On the way they’re chased by an alien spaceship. There’s also a backup story with art by Klaus Janson (pencils as well as inks). Sadly this is the worst James Tynion comic I’ve read lately. Nothing really happens in the main story. Barney is a civil rights worker, so he could be an interesting character, but in this issue he doesn’t do or say anything of interest. I hope issue 2 will be an improvement.

SUPERMAN #1 (DC, 2023) – “Voices in Your Head,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Jamal Campbell. Superman captures Live Wire, Lois Lane takes Perry White’s old job, and Lex Luthor gives Superman his entire company. Superman is forced to accept this unwanted gift because if he doesn’t, the company will be dissolved and all its employees will be put out of work. If I were Clark, I wouldn’t believe that without talking to a corporate lawyer. I have trouble accepting that such a legal arrangement could actually work. In general this seems like a good start to the new era of Superman, but Superman, Son of Kal-El will be much missed.

RESIDENT ALIEN: THE BOOK OF LOVE #4 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. The two main plots, about the mobster and the burglary, are finally resolved. Then Asta discovers that she’s pregnant, even though she believed that she and Harry were unable to interbreed. This ending makes me excited for the next miniseries, The Book of Life, which has not been announced yet.

KAYA #5 (Image, 2023) – “Kaya and the Lizard-Riders Chapter 5,” [W/A] Wes Craig. We learn that when lizard people shed their skin, they’re considered different people. The fish people try to force Seth to marry their princess and give up his adventuring life. When Jin reveals that he already knew about Seth’s arranged marriage, Jin and Kaya get in a fight, and Jin runs away. While Seth and Kaya are looking for him, they’re captured by some monsters, and the issue ends with a two-page splash depicting the hideous “poison lands”. The best thing about Kaya is Wes Craig’s fascinating and unique art style, but the series is also worth reading because of its complex depiction of the three main characters’ relationships.

DAMN THEM ALL #5 (Boom!, 2023) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Charlie Adlard. A continuation of the same story as last issue. Ellie finds the man who killed Frankie’s wife, but his demon protects him from being harmed by magic, so she kills him by throwng a hammer in his face. Ellie summons Alfie’s spirit and asks him who killed him, and he claims to have killed himself. Damn Them All is brilliant, but also often quite hard to follow. I keep forgetting who all the villains and supporting characters are.

BATGIRLS #15 (DC, 2023) – “Dead Wrong,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad, [A] Neil Googe. (The same Neil Googe who drew Survival Geeks and ‘Splorers in 2000 AD.) Cassie finds Steph and her father Cluemaster, but Cluemaster shoots Steph dead. Luckily Cassie stole some Lazarus serum last issue, and she uses it to revive Steph. I was pretty sure Steph wasn’t going to stay dead.

JUNKYARD JOE #5 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Gary Frank. Muddy and Joe return home to find that the villains are holding the kids hostage. Joe manages to escape with the kids, but Muddy is hit on the head. Joe and the kids escape into the snowy wood, with the killers following. At the end of the issue, we’re told that the Junkyard Joe project had to be shut down because the robot killed everybody it met – although if Joe really is planning to kill everyone he meets, he’s not in any hurry to do it. I still think Junkyard Joe might be Geoff Johns’s best work ever.

PETER PARKER & MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MEN DOUBLE TROUBLE #4 (Marvel, 2023) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki & Vita Ayala, [A] GuriHiru. Peter and Miles capture Thanos in the pocket-universe can, then they shoot the can into space, where it’s picked up by the Collector.  This is another very fun issue. Notable moments include: After the cleaning crew has finally cleaned up the mess from the villain convention, Thanos, Peter and Miles run through the building and make an even worse mess, and one of the cleaners says “This is my villain origin story!” The AIM agent who was Thanos’s handler is thrilled to receive a signed photograph from him. Items in the Collector’s collection include Jeff the land shark, Alligator Loki, and a pair of boxer shorts.

SPIDER-MAN #5 (Marvel, 2023) – “It’s a Spectacular Life,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Mark Bagley. In a flashback sequence, we see how history has been revised so that Peter never becomes Spider-Man, and instead Cindy Moon is bitten by the radioactive spider. Peter is shot by the burgler and is left disabled, but both May and Ben survive. Peter then becomes Spider-Man/Silk’s assistant and pursues a career with Oscorp. At the end of the issue, Peter gets a message saying “help.” This issue is a digression from the main storyline, but it’s an effective use of the “It’s a Wonderful Life” story structure. As an example of Dan Slott’s mastery of continuity, this issue includes a cameo appearance by Jason Ionello from Untold Tales of Spider-Man.

MONICA RAMBEAU: PHOTON #3 (Marvel, 2023) – untitled, [W] Eve L. Ewing, [A] Ivan Fiorelli & Luca Maresca. Monica discovers that her world isn’t internally consistent: she’s been told that her mother is dead, yet when she calls her childhood home, her mother answers the phone. Monica discovers that the shifts in reality are being caused by the Stone of Hala. Then she traces the stone to its origin with a race of alien relic-keepers, and she saves the aliens from extinction. Back on Earth, Monica is told that she herself has broken the universe. The scene with the aliens is fairly touching.

SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER 2 #7 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Jody LeHeup, [A] Nil Vendrell. Shirtless and Silva finally defeat Ursa Major, and Shirtless’s mother returns to his life. This is a  predictable but satisfying conclusion. Shirtless Bear-Fighter is kind of a one-joke comic, and it’s impressive that the creators have managed to keep it interesting for this long. I wonder if they have enough ideas for a third miniseries.

ACTION JOURNALISM #5 (Oni, 2023) – “We Are the Champions,” [W] Erik Skillman, [A] Miklós Felvidéki. We learn that the Volunteer is an intelligent meme, a superhero that anyone can become if they believe in him. The villain, an evil general, intended to use the Volunteer to create superhuman armies, but the original Volunteer escaped their control. Kate gives an inspiring speech (ending in “They are the eggmen, but we are the walrus”) that causes the entire city’s population to turn into Volunteers. As a result, the city is saved and the villain is defeated, but now everyone in town is a superhero. So maybe this comic is an unannounced prequel to Top 10. This was a really fun miniseries, and I hope I’m not the only person who was reading it.

IMMORTAL SERGEANT #2 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Joe Kelly, [A] J.M. Ken Niimura. We are introduced to Sergeant Jim’s son Michael and his daughter-in-law Val. Michael and Val go to visit Jim, and Jim subjects Michael to severe verbal abuse in front of Michael’s wife and children. A nice moment in this issue is the two-page splash where Jim completely dwarfs Michael. However, it quickly becomes clear that Jim was and still is an abusive father, and that Michael, despite being an adult and a father himself, is terrified of him. And Val hates her father-in-law, and with good reason. I don’t understand why they’re willing to expose not only themselves, but also their children, to this awful old ogre. Also, as Brett Schenker pointed out on Facebook, it’s not clear what the point of this comic is. I’m willing to keep reading it, but only because it’s the follow-up to the classic I Kill Giants.

WONDER WOMAN #796 (DC, 2023) – “Before the Storm Finale,” [W] Michael W. Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Amancay Nahuelpan. Diana and her allies fight Eros, and Hera is revealed to be collaborating with the wizard Shazam. This issue is just okay. We’ve now learned that Conrad and Cloonan are going to be replaced on this series by Tom King. Conrad and Cloonan have been doing a great job, but perhaps this series could use a new writer. However, I’ve had enough of Tom King (see my review of Human Target #12 below), and I’m going to drop Wonder Woman when he takes it over.

EVE: CHILDREN OF THE MOON #5 (Boom!, 2023) – untitled, [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Jo Mi-Gyeong. The two Eves save the day by proving that they have people depending on them, just like Selene and Endymion do. The story ends peacefully, and the second Eve goes off to have adventures with Akai, while the first Eve decides to see how the rest of the world is getting along. So maybe there’s a third miniseries coming. At ICFA I was on a panel with Constance Bailey from Georgia State, who has taught Destroyer before, and I was able to inform her that Destroyer and Eve are set in the same universe.

I HATE FAIRYLAND V2 #4 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Brett Bean. Gert decides to take a bath, but she mistakenly goes to the Lake of Sacrifice instead of the Lake of Eternal Life, and she gets eaten by a giant fish. While inside the fish, Gert has a vision of sleeping with a handsome man, but then her sidekicks rescue her, and we discover that Gert created the “man” herself out of rotten flesh. The fish dies from being infected with Gert’s filth, and Gert continues on her quest, but the Blue Fairy comes along and brings Gert’s “lover” to life. Brett Bean is an effective artist for this series because he shares Skottie Young’s skill at gross-out humor.

GODFELL #1 (Vault, 2023) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Ben Hennessy. Some time ago, God died, and his body fell onto the land of Kerethim. As a result Kerethim was plunged into a massive war. Now the war is over, and the protagonist, a soldier named Zanzi, is ready to return home to her family. Her commander announces that the war isn’t really over, and there’s one more campaign left. Zanzi decides to desert from her army and go home anyway. On the way she acquires an unwanted companion, a young woman named Neth, and the issue ends as they start their journey through the giant corpse of God. Godfell has some interesting worldbuilding, and it tells a compelling story about what happens to soldiers when the war ends. I’m not in love with Ben Hennessy’s art, though. The idea of a giant divine corpse reminds me of We Only Find Them When They’re Dead, of course, but also James Morrow’s novel Towing Jehovah.

MOSELY #2 (Boom!, 2023) – “Belly of the Beast,” [W] Rob Guillory, [A] Sam Lotfi. Mosely “liberates” some people from their enslavement to virtual reality, but the people are thoroughly ungrateful, since virtual reality is much better than their actual lives. Then Mosely goes to see his estranged wife, who lives in a survivalist compound. There’s a backup story which is both written and drawn by Guillory. Mosely is an interesting character, but Mosely (the series) still isn’t as compelling as Chew or Farmhand.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #129 facsimile (Marvel, 1974/2023) – “The Punisher Strikes Twice!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Ross Andru. I’m not sure whether or not I’ve read this story before. This, of course, is the Punisher’s first appearance. From the start, he’s depicted as an ambiguous and troubling character, a villain with heroic motives. Perhaps this is why Gerry Conway hates the appropriation of the Punisher’s symbol by the far right, or by cops or soldiers. Conway never meant for the Punisher to be an admirable figure. This issue includes some excellent action sequences, as well as some nice characterization. At this point Peter was still recovering from Gwen’s death, and a poignant moment is when he puts on a false smile before entering the Daily Bugle offices. This facsimile edition is recolored in a very garish style that makes it look quite different from original comics of this era.

THE DEAD LUCKY #6 (Image, 2023) – “There’s No Shame in Surrender,” [W] Melissa Flores, [A] French Carlomagno. This issue is mostly a giant fight scene. At the end, Bibi agrees to work for Morrow in exchange for full amnesty for the Salvation Gang. She’s willing to accept this awful deal so she can defeat Morrow from the inside. I certainly hope this is the last issue of Dead Lucky, but if there’s a second story arc, I’m not going to bother reading it. There are worse things than not having a complete Massiveverse collection.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #137 (IDW, 2023) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Fero Pe. Yet another tedious Armageddon Game crossover. I’m tempted to just drop this series for now, and to start reading it again when Armageddon Game ends. The things I liked about this series – its strong characterization and its diverse ensemble cast – have completely fallen by the wayside.

GRIM #8 (Boom!, 2023) – “Into the Void,” [W] Stephanie Phillips, [A] Flaviano. Jess’s mom escapes from prison. Her old boss, Adria, claims that it’s Jess’s fault that no one is dying, and she sends the other Grim Reapers to hunt down Jess. Then Jess meets three women who look like the three fates, and one of them says “You can’t kill what is not living,” which is very close to Judge Death’s catchphrase “You cannot kill what does not live!” I had been feeling lukewarm about Grim, but I really like its style of art and coloring, and Jess is an enjoyable protagonist.

ICE CREAM MAN #34 (Image, 2023) – “Two Tramps,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. This issue’s title may be a reference to Robert Frost’s poem “Two Tramps in Mud Time,” which I find problematic because of its elitist, classist depiction of the two migrant workers. Anyway, this issue is about two hobos riding the rails. One of them is killed by a creature from an urban legend, but the other one captures some sunlight in a bottle, and the story ends on a happier note than most issues of Ice Cream Man. This is a well-constructed short story. According to an article I found, traditional hobos have become uncommon because of better railroad security, and because traditional train cars have been replaced by sealed shipping containers.

SPECS #4 (Boom!, 2023) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Chris Shehan. Ted is cleared of the murder charges, but he and his family are forced to move away. Kenny confesses his love to Ted, who does not share Kenny’s feelings, but they remain friends. In a flashforward sequence, Kenny speaks at Ted’s funeral, and we learn that Ted became a well-respected sports coach before dying of a stroke. The series ends with some far-future kids finding the spectacles. Specs was pretty good, and it proves that David M. Booher can write other things besides Canto. However, I hope there won’t be a sequel miniseries about the next people who find the glasses, because that would be too similar to Silver Coin.  

RADIANT PINK #3 (Image, 2023) – “The World’s Worst Love Story,” [W] Meghan Camarena & Melissa Flores, [A] Emma Kubert. Eva and Kelly travel through some more alternate universes, and they meet the giant four-eyed cat again. This issue has some cute artwork, but it completely loses track of Eva’s character arc. The original Radiant Pink story was compelling because it illustrated the toxic nature of the streamer lifestyle. I want to read more about how Eva balances her superhero career with her job, not about Eva’s journeys through weird alien worlds. Also, I still think Emma Kubert’s art is inappropriate for the Massiveverse.

IMMORAL X-MEN #1 (Marvel, 2023) – “The Bond Age,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Lan Medina. Mr. Sinister fights Emma Frost and continues to search for his missing lab. This whole crossover feels like a waste of time, because we can already see how the status quo is going to be restored at the end. Also, I’m getting bored with Mr. Sinister and his cartoonish villainy.

ART BRUT #3 (Image, 2016/2023) – untitled, [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. Our hero travels inside Edvard Munch’s The Scream, and there’s a backup story about American Gothic. It’s a little annoying that this series only involves the most famous, cliched paintings, but otherwise Art Brut is another effective work by Prince and Morazzo.

SUPERMAN: SPACE AGE #3 (DC, 2023) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mike Allred. Pa Kent dies of old age. Batman is forced to sacrifice his life to defeat the Joker, and as a result, Luthor  takes control of Wayne Enterprises. But Luthor’s victory is worthless because the entire universe is about to be destroyed in Crisis on Infinite Earths. Superman is unable to save the universe, but he resurrects the human race on another planet. This ending is an anticlimax, and it’s also too close to what happens in FF: Life Story, where Reed spends the whole series trying to prevent the end of the world. The only difference this time is that Superman fails where Reed succeeded. Besides the ineffective ending, Superman: Space Age was an excellent miniseries overall.

DANGER STREET #3 (DC, 2023) – “Metamorpho,” [W] Tom King, [A] Jorge Fornes. All the separate plotlines continue, but nothing truly significant happens. I can’t tell where Danger Street’s plot is going, but maybe that’s okay. Regardless of where it’s going, Danger Street gives Tom King an opportunity to write about a large cast of weird characters, and maybe that’s enough. I especially like the contrast between Danger Street’s mundane setting and its strange protagonists. The series has the same aesthetic as the scene in Ambush Bug where Darkseid is eating at McDonald’s.

IMAGE! 30TH ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY #10 (Image, 2023) – [E] Eric Stephenson? “Lucky Coin” by John Layman and Jok is a preview of both a new upcoming series, In Hell We Fight, and the third story arc of Silver Coin. There’s also a preview of the next Bitter Root story arc, though this preview is more a series of pinups than an actual story. Simon Roy’s “The Ansible” includes perhaps his best art yet. I thought at first that it was drawn by Chris Schweizer, and that counts as praise. The other stories in this issue are the same as usual. Fletcher and Henderson’s “Red Stitches” has been a huge disappointment. I don’t understand it at all, and I don’t have the patience to read all ten chapters in order, so as to see what I’ve been missing.

HEXWARE #3 (Image, 2023) – “The Drowning Hymn,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Zulema Scotto Lavina. Which-Where fights a green-skinned horned man wearing a tiger-skin cloak. Hexware has some interesting themes, but it’s still too complicated and I can’t make sense of it.

EARTHDIVERS #5 (IDW, 2023) – “Can You See the Indian?”, [W] Stephen Graham Jones, [A] Davide Gianfelice. Another confusing issue. The guy in the past starts killing people and tearing up the ships’ sails, but he hasn’t gotten to Columbus yet. And who knows what’s going on with the people in the future. Rather than writing this series by himself, Stephen Graham Jones should have co-written it with someone who had more comics experience.

BULLS OF BEACON HILL #2 (Aftershock, 2023) – “Beyond the Realms of Death,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Andy Macdonald. In a flashback to Christopher’s childhood, Orin catches Christopher “playing doctor” with a male friend, and Orin is furious. In the present, Orin’s goons try to convince Chris to quit the race, but Chris beats them up brutally. Chris’s boyfriend, Bill, is understandably terrified by this and decides to leave Chris. This is another strong issue.

INFERNO GIRL RED #2 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Mat Groom, [A] Erica D’Urso. Cássia battles a series of villains and monsters, with her mother coaching her. In the climax, another villain kidnaps Ana. This is another entertaining issue, though it’s still too long; this miniseries should have been split up into four issues instead of three. As before, the best part of this series is Cássia’s relationship with Ana. Cássia loves her mother, but sometimes chafes at Ana’s smothering presence.

DEAD SEAS #3 (IDW, 2023) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Nick Brokenshire. Things go from bad to worse, as the ghosts get free, the ship catches  fire, and then the power goes out, causing the ship to turn straight into a giant wave. Dead Seas continues to be a very scary piece of horror, though this issue just continues the existing plot without adding anything new.

MY BAD VOL. 2 #4 (Ahoy, 2023) – “Home Sweet Home,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Peter Krause. As noted in my review of #3, this issue begins by acknowledging that the pizza killer plot is already over, “so there’s really nothing you need to know.” The “heroes” spend this issue preparing for an imminent alien invasion. It just occurred to me that Mark Russell may be the new Steve Gerber. Russell certainly has Gerber’s talent for blending poignancy and profundity with random weirdness.

[LES INNOMABLES V1]: AVENTURE EN JAUNE (Glénat, 1986) – [W] Yann Le Pennetier, [A] Didier Conrad. I bought this at the Fantagraphics store in about 2013. This series has a complicated textual history. The title on my copy is just Aventure en Jaune, but it became the first album of the series Les Innommables. Then there was a new edition of the series where Aventure en Jaune instead became the second album. And there’s also a zeroth album, which was never published on its own. On top of that, the sixth album, Alix-Noni-Tengu, exists in two versions, one with a happy ending and another with an unhappy ending, which is canonical. Anyway, Les Innomables is set in Hong Kong in 1949. Its protagonists are three American deserters, Mac, Tim and Tony. When they save a Chinese sex worker named Alix from being drowned, the three deserters get involved in a complex plot involving a villain named Colonel Lychee, and Mac’s girlfriend, Roseau Fleuri, is murdered as a result. Meanwhile, the entire city of Hong Kong is preparing for a Red Chinese invasion, which in real life never happened. Les Innommables is a fascinating but difficult work, not only because I’m reading it in French, but also because of its multi-layered and complex plot. Also, this album is full of stereotypical depictions of black and Chinese people. Despite all that, this is a really interesting work, and I would really like to read the rest of the series. Of course there are lots of other French comics I also want to read…

NOW #12 (Fantagraphics, 2023) – [E] Eric Reynolds. This is quite long, but its length is deceptive because many of the stories in it are abstract, and so they can be read very quickly. The highlight of this issue for me is one of the more representational stories, Noah Van Sciver’s “Mellow Mutt,” about when he was a child and was misinformed about what Jurassic Park was. I also liked Tim Lane’s “Li’l Stevie,” which seems to be part of his ongoing Steve McQueen saga, and is drawn in the style of antique comic strips. Kayla E.’s “Precious Rubbish” is a combination of old comics pages, from Harvey comics or Matt Baker’s Canteen Kate, with preexisting texts from the Bible or elsewhere. Kayla E. was at Heroes Con last year, and I looked through some of the stuff she had at her table. Her style is really interesting, but she has yet to publish a major work. The book version of Precious Rubbish is supposedly forthcoming from Fantagraphics next year. One of the other artists in this issue, François Vigneault, is also the letterer for Pink Lemonade.

FIRST ISSUE SPECIAL #2 (DC, 1975) – “The Green Team,” [W] Joe Simon, [A] Jerry Grandenetti. The Green Team are three extremely rich young boys who have decided to spend their money on worthy causes. A fourth boy, Abdul Smith (who is black, unlike the first three), wants to join the Green Team, but he can’t because he doesn’t have enough money. But he deposits $5.00 in the bank and is mistakenly credited with $500,000. Before the bank discovers the error, he invests the $500,000 to invest in stocks and earns $1.5 million dollars, so he’s allowed to join the team. This issue includes some interesting splash pages by Grandenetti, who was a devoted disciple of Eisner, but it’s one of the dumbest DC comics of the ‘70s. It has a boring premise which is executed in a ridiculous, implausible way. DC somehow decided that these characters were worthy of an ongoing series, but that series was cancelled before it was published. Two issues were completed and were only ever published as part of Cancelled Comic Cavalcade – and by the way, that’s a comic that deserves a reprint. The Green Team’s next appearance wasn’t until the 2013 series The Movement.

BILLIONAIRE ISLAND: CULT OF DOGS #3 (Ahoy, 2023) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Pugh. In the opening sequence, an old couple’s house is repossessed, and the couple put all their stuff in their car and drive away… straight into the ocean. Then the guy on the island finally manages to escape with Business Dog, but his plane is shut down. We also meet some people who are living in an abandoned mall. I still don’t think this series’s premise makes sense. If only one person had any money, and everyone else was broke, then surely all the other people would invent some alternative currency that they could use to buy stuff.

SABRETOOTH AND THE EXILES #4 (Marvel, 2023) – “Station Four,” [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Leonard Kirk. Sabretooth and his team head toward the station where all the kidnapped mutant babies are kept, but on the way there, Sabretooth is captured by his son Graydon Creed. This series has been a big disappointment. It has some interesting themes, but LaValle has no chance to explore those themes because he’s too busy with getting all the plot points out of the way.

SWAMP THING: GREEN HELL #2 (DC, 2023) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Doug Mahnke.  It’s been more than a year since issue 1, and I’ve completely forgotten what that issue was about. Luckily issue 2 makes sense on its own. Swampy tries to protect the man and the little girl from the forces of the Green, but he’s fighting an uphill battle, because he’s lost his power to generate new bodies. And then the forces of the Black and the Red also get involved. To save the day, Constantine and Deadman have to go looking for Animal Woman, i.e. Maxine Baker.

PINK LEMONADE #6 (Oni, 2023) – untitled, [W] Nick Cagnetti. Pink Lemonade hosts a free concert and movie premiere, in direct competition with Zavi Xarad’s “official” movie premiere. To Zavi’s embarrassment, his own star, Starla Swanson, admits that she’s not the real Pink Lemonade. Then Pink tells everyone about how Zavi screwed over Smithee McClarence. The series ends happily. This was a very fun comic, and I hope it got the attention it deserved. Oni’s comic books tend to get insufficient publicity.

NIGHTCRAWLERS #1 (Marvel, 2023) – “Voices of Fire,” [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Paco Medina. Kurt now leads a team consisting of other superheroes with Nightcrawler genes. Their goal is to collect mystical artifacts in order to acquire enough power to break into Sinister’s lab. Again, it’s hard to care about any of these Sins of Sinister chapters, because I already know that nothing that happens in these stories is going to remain in continuity.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC 10TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION #1 (IDW, 2023) – “Written by Spike,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Andy Price. Most of this issue is a reprint of MLP: FIM #1. I bought this issue – at a rather exorbitant price – because it also contains a new story available nowhere else, and this story is directly relevant to my research. In “Written by Spike,” Spike is established as being the in-universe writer of the My Little Pony comics, and a fanboy asks him why the My Little Pony comics are incompatible with the show’s continuity. He gives several examples of this, including the inconsistent depiction of King Sombra. In response, Spike points out that he was writig the comics as the show was still going on, and someone else says that the comics are “party canon” rather than actual canon. I will have more to say about this topic elsewhere.

WHIZ COMICS #2 facsimile (DC, 1940/2023) – “Captain Marvel,” [W] Bill Parker, [A] C.C. Beck. Captain Marvel’s origin is a classic scene which is repeated almost verbatim in every later retelling of it. All the classic elements are there from the start, like the Seven Deadly Enemies of Man, or the giant block hanging over Shazam’s head. In the second half of the story, Captain Marvel defeats Sivana for the first time. This issue also includes such other features as Ibis the Invincible, Spy Smasher and Golden Arrow. The latter character is a sort of hybrid of Green Arrow and Li’l Abner. There’s also a story about an adventurer named Dan Dare, not to be confused with the much more famous British character created a decade later.

Y: THE LAST MAN #36 (DC, 2005) – “Boy Loses Girl,” [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Pia Guerra. This issue focuses on Yorick’s lost girlfriend Beth. It consists of a series of sequences from Beth’s perspective, narrated out of chronological order. At the end, Beth wakes up somewhere in the Australian desert and says “Yorick.” A rather offensive moment in this issue is where Beth is talking to some Aboriginal Australians, and one of them says “ ‘Magic’ is just nonsense we made up to keep the children occupied and the whites scared… the dreamtime is over.” Another Aboriginal woman does disagree with her. But Vaughan lets the first woman have the last word, and that creates the impression that he’s casually dismissing Aboriginal people’s spirituality.

FRENCH ICE #3 (Renegade, 1987) – “The Club” etc., [W/A] Jean-Marc Lelong. A series of stories about Carmen Cru, a hideous old battleaxe who maintains her independence despite her extreme age, and who has no patience for all the people who try to “help” her. Carmen Cru is a very distinctive character, and Lelong’s draftsmanship is beautiful. However, Carmen Cru’s stories employ a very French style of humor, and they also probably lose a lot in translation. As a major contributor to Fluide Glacial, Lelong represents a tradition of French comics which is completely unknown to American readers. All of this means that Carmen Cru was a strange choice of a comic to translate into English. As proof of that, I’ve probably owned French Ice #3 for at least a decade, and I didn’t get around to reading it until just now.

CONGO BILL #1 (Vertigo, 1999) – “The Message,” [W] Scott Cunningham, [A] Danijel Zezelj. I probably bought this because Danijel Zezelj is a well-known European artist. However, Congo Bill #1 is blatantly racist, or at least that was my impression on first reading. It’s set in the Congo during the Second Congo War, and it reproduces all the stock African stereotypes. It depicts Congolese people as ignorant savages who believe in fetishism and who enjoy monkey meat, especially the penis. The protagonist, a black American, observes the ugliness of Kinshasa and says “This is hell. Can’t blame Satan, though. Blame the locals – black faces from sea to shinin’ sea. This is their land, and they still can’t control it.” It’s a character saying this, not the author, but there are no authentic Congolese voices in the issue that could contradict him. (BTW, I assume Scott Cunningham is neither black nor Congolese, though I can’t find much information about him.) When dealing with a character like Congo Bill who has deeply racist and colonialist origins, it’s important to be sensitive. It is possible for a white creator to write an anti-racist story about a character who originated as a racist stereotype. As proof of this, see Animal Man #13, where Grant Morrison turns B’Wana Beast into an anti-apartheid freedom fighter. But Cunningham and Zezelj seem to have instead chosen to just lean into the racist stereotypes behind Congo Bill.

THE FLASH #765 (DC, 2020) – “Finish Line,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Howard Porter. In the last issue of Joshua Williamson’s run, Barry has his final confrontation with Reverse Flash, and then he attends a barbecue with the rest of the Flash family. Wally is absent because he’s missing, and Barry promises to find him. Until just recently, I hadn’t read the Flash since Mark Waid’s last run, and one reason is because I just don’t care about Barry. I grew up reading Mark Waid’s original Flash run, and to me Wally has always been the Flash, while Barry seems like a boring and generic character.

DOCTOR STRANGE: FALL SUNRISE #4 (Marvel, 2023) – “A Faith for All and None,” [W/A] Tradd Moore. Again this issue’s story makes no sense at all, but its artwork is stunning. Tradd Moore’s draftsmanship and page layouts are maybe a little less radical than in earlier issues, but Fall Sunrise is still the best-drawn Marvel comic in the last few years. Tradd Moore was just added to the Heroes Con guest list, and I look forward to telling him how beautiful Fall Sunrise was.

MARVEL VOICES: WAKANDA FOREVER #1 (Marvel, 2023) – [E] Will Moss. This issue’s first story is a boring waste of space. The second story is a bit better, in that it situates Wakanda in the context of the Italian conquest of Ethiopia. It’s one of the few occasions where Wakanda assists other African nations, although the assistance is unofficial. Then there are a couple more boring stories, one of which is based on a folktale about Anansi. “The Last Black Panther” is the best story in the issue by far, since it’s by Juni Ba. In the paper I just gave at ICFA, I cited Juni Ba’s work as a standout example of Africanfuturism in comics. Most Black Panther comics are Afrofuturist, which is not the same thing.

FRENCH ICE #6 (Renegade, 1987) – as above. More stories in the same style and format as those in issue 3. In this issue’s last story, Carmen Cru looks at her photo album, and we see that she’s always been hideous. This is the last issue of French Ice in my collection, but somehow the series made it to issue 13.

ANNA & FROGA/PIPPI LONGSTOCKING COLOR SPECIAL #1 (Drawn & Quarterly, 2013) – multiple stories, [W/A] Anouk Ricard and Ingrid Vang Nyman. Half of this FCBD comic consists of Anna & Froga stories by Anouk Ricard. These stories are drawn in a style resembling children’s drawings, and they seem aimed at small children. The other half of the issue consists of Ingrid Vang Nyman’s Pippi Longstocking comics from the ‘50s. Her writing seems to be in a similar vein to Astrid Lindgren’s original works, but her dialogue is unfunny, and her art style is bizarre and, in my opinion, rather ugly.

THE LEGEND OF LUTHER STRODE #4 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Justin Jordan, [A] Tradd Moore. Another issue full of frenetic violence and gore. Tradd Moore’s art here is not bad, but it’s not spectacular either. He’s grown tremendously as an artist over the past decade.

DIAL H #10 (DC, 2013) – “On the Side of the Angels,” [W] China Miéville, [A] Alberto Ponticelli. Another issue with some mildly interesting character concepts, but no clear plot or theme. The only notable plot twist is that one of the dials is meant to be used to dial SIDE, for sidekick, instead of HERO. I previously said that Stephen Graham Jones would have been better off working with a more experienced comics writer, and that’s also true of Miéville.

2000 AD #1814 (Rebellion, 2013) – After reading #1826, I realized I had skipped a bunch of earlier issues, so I went back and started reading those issues. I do have prog 1827, and I’ll get to it later. Dredd: “Heller’s Last Stand Part 2,” [W] Robbie Morrison, [A] Peter Doherty. This is th one about the corrupt judge. In this one, Dredd deliberately gives Heller an opportunity to shoot him, and reveals that he knows Heller is corrupt. Red Seas: “Fire Across the Deep Part 3,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Steve Yeowell. The heroes encounter some of the biblical giants in the earth. Savage: “Rise Like Lions  Part 3,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Patrick Goddard. This issue begins with a spectacular two-page splash depicting an army of Hammersteins. Then Savage  decides to lead the resistance against the Volgans, and the chapter ends with him saying the title of this story arc. Ampney Crucis: “The Entropy Tango Part 3,” [W] Edginton, [A] Simon Davis. Ampney meets the Martian investigator, and also a giant creature with an axolotl’s head. The title “The Entropy Tango” comes from a 1987 Jerry Cornelius novel by Michael Moorcock, which suggests that Ampney is an example of the Cornelius archetype. Strontium Dog: “The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha Chapter 3: Mutant Spring,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny gets Sir Pelham Grenville to admit on national TV that he’s been  sterilizing people on purpose. Ezquerra’s art in this story is not his best, and it’s made worse by inappropriate coloring.

LASER ERASER & PRESSBUTTON #2 (Eclipse, 1985) – “Sins of the Flesh,” [W] Steve Moore, [A] David Lloyd. Axel and Mysta investigate a compound made of synthetic flesh, where eyes and nipples are constantly appearing on the walls. Also they encounter Zirk, who reproduces into eight copies of itself. The backup story is “Twilight World” by Steve Moore and Jim Baikie. It’s a shame that there isn’t a complete reprint of all the Pressbutton stories, both British and American.  

Y: THE LAST MAN #37 (Vertigo, 2005) – “Paper Dolls Chapter 1,” [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Pia Guerra. A reporter investigates rumors that there’s still a man alive somewhere. Yorick and Agent 355 are now aboard a submarine, but they disembark in Sydney to look for Beth. Yorick disguises himself by wearing a burqa that covers his face. That makes no logical sense, because in my understanding the burqa is only supposed to be worn in front of men, and the premise of this series is that Yorick is the only man left. I remember that other characters in this series were previously shown wearing the burqa, and I wonder if BKV ever explained this. Anyway, Yorick discovers a message left for Beth by someone named Margo, but then the aforementioned journalist unmasks him and photographs him naked.

BATMAN #33 (DC, 2014) – “Zero Year: Savage City,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Greg Capullo. Batman fights the Riddler, though, appropriately, it’s less a fight than a riddle contest. Then Batman is forced to electrocute himself to defeat the Riddler’s plot and stop Gotham from being nuked. Alfred arrives in time to rescue Bruce, and later Bruce imagines himself marrying Julie Madison, but instead decides to devote himself to being Batman full-time. This was a happier, more positive story than I expect from Snyder.

FUTURE FIGHT FIRSTS: LUNA SNOW #1 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Alyssa Wong, [A] Gang Hyuk Lim. Luna Snow is a superstar K-pop singer, but she also has superpowers, and she has to use them to defeat a villain that invades her concert. This is just an okay story, though it does suggest the writer has some knowledge of the K-pop industry. This issue includes a Future Avengers backup story with art by Alé Garza and Cory Hamscher. Until now I didn’t realize that Luna Snow debuted in a mobile game and only later appeared in comics.

GREEN ARROW #38 (DC, 1990) – “The Black Arrow Saga Part 4: Hunters and Killers,” [W] Mike Grell, [A] Mark Jones. Ollie, Eddie Fyers and Shado team up, and they confront the people who  framed Ollie for trying to blow up the Panama Canal. The villains try to justify the frame-up by saying that the government needed an excuse to increase troop levels in Panama, even though Bush’s invasion of Panama was unpopular. I remember when America invaded Panama, though I was only seven years old at the time, and I didn’t really understand what was going on. At the end of the issue, Ollie declines to kill the main villain in cold blood, but Eddie does it instead. Grell has confirmed that Eddie Fyers’s appearance was modeled on Archie Goodwin.

MOEBIUS’ AIRTIGHT GARAGE: THE ELSEWHERE PRINCE #1 (Epic, 1990) – “The Jouk,” [W] Moebius & R.J.M. Lofficer. This series was published in both English and French at nearly the same time. In this issue, a party of soldiers passes through a village, and one of the villagers, a young artist, follows the soldiers and tags along with them. Then all the soldiers are killed in a fight with an insect (the “jouk” of the title), except the youngest one. Eric Shanower has a rather different style from Moebius, but his art is very detailed and Clear-Line-esque, so it makes sense for him to illustrate an Airtight Garage spinoff. However, the idea of an Airtight Garage spinoff is kind of silly, since the original Airtight Garage has no real plot or worldbuilding to speak of.

THE OTHER SIDE #1 (Vertigo, 2006) – “If You’re Lucky, You’ll Only Get Killed,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Cameron Stewart. In his first major work, Jason Aaron tells two parallel stories about an American and a Vietnamese soldier. Since this is a Vertigo story, there are also some horror themes. Jason Aaron deserves credit for trying to tell this story from the Vietnamese perspective, unlike so many Americans who write about the Vietnam War. (Viet Thanh Nguyen has complained about the American media’s tendency to focus only on the American perspective on the Vietnam War.) However, Vo Binh Dai, the Vietnamese protagonist, feels like a trite character. I don’t think Jason Aaron had enough cultural knowledge or experience to write in the voice of a Vietnamese man.

FIGHTIN’ ARMY #91 (Charlton, 1970) – “Too Little Time,” [W] Willi Franz, [A] Sam Glanzman. Willy Schultz and an Italian partisan, Elena, hide out in a farmhouse, only to discover that the farmers hate the partisans as much as they hate the Nazis. Willy manages to save himself and Elena despite being betrayed by the farmer and his wife, and he restrains himself from killing the two of them. This story is a gripping and realistic depiction of the hardship and moral ambiguity of war. “The Lonely War of Willy Schultz”  was one of the few great comics Charlton published, and Dark Horse is to be praised for bringing it back into print. The other stories in this issue are of no importance, though one of them is drawn by Pat Boyette under the pseudonym Sam Swell.

JEROME K. JEROME BLOCHE VOL. 1: THE SHADOW KILLER (IDW, 1985/2017) – [W] Pierre Makyo & Serge Le Tendre, [A] Alain Dodier. Jerome K. Jerome Bloche (named after the English author Jerome K. Jerome) is a naive aspiring detective whose hobby is listening to recordings of police sirens. And somehow he (like Nightcrawler) has a beautiful girlfriend who works as a flight attendant. This issue he investigates a series of mysterious killings. Dodier’s artwork in this album is moody and super-realistic, but what really stands out to me about this book is its protagonist. Jerome is so adorably naïve that it’s no wonder Babette loves him. IDW also published the second volume in this series, and there are at least 26 more albums that are only available in French.

LITTLE ARCHIE #150 (Archie, 1980) – “The Sail Car,” [W/A] Dexter Taylor, etc. The Dexter Taylor stories in this issue are boring as usual, but the first one is interesting in that it mentions the 1979 oil crisis. The reason I bought this issue is the new Bob Bolling story “Winning Ways.” In this story Veronica follows Archie all over town, and he ignores her and tries to drive her away – until she saves him from a gang of bullies. This story is another example of Bolling’s mastery of short-form storytelling. I continue to think it’s a travesty that no one has published a complete collection of Bolling’s Little Archie stories. They could even do it in a few thematic volumes – one volume for outdoor stories, another one for school stories, and a third for stories starring the Mad Dr. Doom and Chester.

BATMAN #107 (DC, 2021) – “The Cowardly Lot Part 2,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Jorge Jimenez. Another chapter of the Ghost-Maker/Clownhunter saga. This issue has good artwork and a large ensemble cast, but there’s not much to distinguish one issue of this storyline from another. This issue also includes a Ghost-Maker backup story with art by Ricardo Lopez Ortiz.

CHEVAL NOIR #13 (Dark Horse, 1990) – [E] Terry Nantier, Randy Lofficer & Jean-Marc Lofficer? This issue includes chapters of some excellent European comics, including Andreas’s Rork, Schuiten and Peeters’s The Tower, Rosinski and Van Hamme’s The Great Power of the Chninkel, Cosey’s Voyage to Italy, and Tardi’s Roach Killer. There’s also a short story, “Adrift,” by Richard Forgues, who I haven’t heard of. He draws in a style resembling that of Pratt or Comès. He seems to have mostly worked for American comics, and it’s possible that “Adrift” is an original story and not a reprint. The problem with Cheval Noir #13 is that it’s entirely in black and white. For most of the stories this isn’t a problem, but The Great Power of the Chninkel, in particular, is nearly unreadable without color. And that’s a shame because Cheval Noir was the only place where this series was ever published in English. Cheval Noir seems to have focused on the type of stories that appeared in Casterman’s À Suivre magazine, although I don’t know if there was any direct connection between the two magazines.

2000 AD #1813 (Rebellion, 2013) – Another issue I skipped by mistake. Dredd: “Heller’s Last Stand Part 1,” [W] Robbie Morrison, [A] Peter Doherty. Here we see why Heller is trying to kill Dredd: because he’s fallen in love with a sex worker, and some sex workers have kidnapped her and threatened to kill her unless Heller kills Dredd. Savage: as above. The British establishment decides to launch an offensive against the Volgans. Savage promises not to get involved personally, because his life is too valuable, but in #1814 we see that this promise was a lie. Ampney Crucis: as above. Crucis finds a woolly mammoth in the barn, then he’s summoned to meet with the Martian ambassador, which he mishears as the Mauritanian ambassador. Red Seas: as above. No idea what this story is about. Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny escapes from some pursuing government troops, taking Pelham Grenville with him.

SWAMP THING #149 (DC, 1994) – “The Root of All Evil,” [W] Mark Millar, [A] Phil Hester. All I can remember about this issue is that Sargon the Sorcerer appears in it, or maybe it’s not Sargon himself but someone else inhabiting his body. Also, there’s an old man who looks like Odin. Not a particularly notable issue.  

IN HIS STEPS (Fleming H. Revell, 1977) – “In His Steps,” [W/A] Al Hartley. An adaptation of In His Steps, the novel that popularized the slogan “What Would Jesus Do?” The original novel is from 1896, but Hartley’s adaptation is set in contemporary America. This issue’s plot and characterization are very basic. It’s mostly about how the WWJD slogan inspires people to clean up their lives, and also to close down strip clubs and dive bars, though in my opinion those things are perfectly fine. In His Steps is not a great comic, but at least it’s not blatantly offensive, as was the last Spire Christian Comic I read, The Hiding Place.  

ADVENTURE COMICS #431 (DC, 1974) – “The Wrath of… the Spectre,” [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Jim Aparo. I already had this issue, but my copy was missing some story pages. Fleisher and Aparo’s first Spectre story is the beginning of an absolutely classic one, although I think their best story may be the one where the guy gets turned to wood and sawed into pieces. The backup story, “Is a Snerl Human?” by Sheldon Mayer and Alex Toth, is also a classic. Snerls are pink furry aliens who have been enslaved by humans. After they free themselves from slavery, we learn that the answer to the title question is, sadly, yes – because the Snerls proceed to enslave the humans just as brutally as they themselves were enslaved.

FEARLESS DEFENDERS #6 (Marvel, 2013) – untitled, [W] Cullen Bunn, [A] Will Sliney. Some superheroines get possessed by evil Valkyries and fight some other superheroines. The word “shieldmaidens” is used far too many times. I like the idea behind this series, but I haven’t read any Cullen Bunn comics that I really liked.

HOUSE OF YANG #6 (Charlton, 1976) – “The Shogun of Karu Island,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Warren Sattler. One of Yang’s ancestors travels to a fictitious Japanese island and is held as a slave, and I don’t remember what else happens. This comic’s writing and art are boring, and it shows no knowledge of either Chinese or Japanese culture. I don’t think this story could have been set in any period of Japanese history, because it includes samurai, but also modern ships and clothing. House of Yang was most notable for including the work of Sanho Kim, the first artist to draw in an East Asian style for American comic books. He didn’t draw this issue, but he’s discussed on the letters page. The editor acknowledges that Kim had insider knowledge of the stories he was drawing, but also kind of implies that Kim had access to some sort of mystical Asian essence: “When he draws China, he captures the spirit of the land and its people.”

BLACK WIDOW #2 (Marvel, 2014) – untitled, [W] Nathan Edmondson, [A] Phil Noto. This issue has some striking painted art, but a trite story. Of the four Black Widow ongoing series since 2014, this was probably the worst, though I haven’t read the 2010 volume. Nathan Edmondson is a notorious predator, and his career seems to have ended as a result; he has no GCD credits after 2016.

FABULOUS FURRY FREAK BROTHERS #5 (Rip Off, 1988) – “Grass Roots” et al., [W/A] Gilbert Shelton. This issue begins with a Fat Freddy’s Cat story, and then there are some Freak Brothers one-pagers. Throughout the issue, Fat Freddy’s Cat strips appear at the bottom of each page (though confusingly, this sort of feature is called a “topper” strip). The bulk of the issue consists of a long story, “Grass Roots.” Due to some bizarre circumstances, the Freak Brothers’ house burns down, but they’re left with two pounds of pure cocaine. They sell most of the cocaine and use it to buy some land and move to the country. The land they’ve bought looks beautiful at first, but that’s because they’re high on cocaine when they first see it. When they come down, they realize it’s a desolate wilderness. Then they discover some gold, triggering a massive gold rush. Soon the Freak Brothers realize there was no gold at all, and then their parcel of land is wiped out by a flash flood. This issue is a classic piece of countercultural humor, but it’s a very lengthy read, and the Fat Freddy’s Cat strips are printed  so small that they’re hard to read.

HATE #1 (Fantagraphics, 1990) – “My Pad and Welcome to It,” [W] Buddy Bradley. Buddy introduces the reader to his new apartment and his roommates, and he explains what happened to him after the end of Neat Stuff. I’ve read this story before, but that was a long time ago. There’s also a backup story where Gary Groth and Kim Thompson (RIP) help Bagge develop ideas for his new comic.

LASER ERASER & PRESSBUTTON #4 (Eclipse, 1986) – “Death,” [W] Steve Moore, [A] Mike Collins. Pressbutton and Mysta go on a mission against some raiders who are terrorizing a frontier planet. This story is somewhat poignant, because Pressbutton and Mysta’s clients are a group of pitiful old women, but otherwise it’s forgettable. This issue has another Twilight World backup story.

2000 AD #1815 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd: as above. Heller shows Dredd’s badge to the gangster as “proof” that he killed Dredd, but the gangster doesn’t believe him, and he and Heller shoot each other. Then Heller’s lover reveals that she was working with the gangster, and Dredd, who is obviously not dead, has to shoot her. Heller asks Dredd to remove his painfully tight boots, then dies. Savage: as above. The fight against the Volgans continues, but Heller is unknowingly caught in a sniper’s crosshairs. Ampney Crucis: as above. Crucis saves the Martian ambassador from being assassinated by a “Babbagist.” Red Seas: as above. More stuff I don’t understand. Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny shoots Pelham Grenville dead, and the humans and mutants prepare for war.

B.P.R.D.: HELL ON EARTH #112 (Dark Horse, 2013) – “Lake of Fire Part 3,” [W] Mike Mignola & John Arcudi, [A] Tyler Crook. I’ve given up on collecting this series because I can’t tell one issue from another. I don’t remember anything about this issue, even after looking through it.

THE BEEF #4 (Image, 2018) – “Cowboys & Indians,” [W] Richard Starkings & Tyler Shainline, [A] Shaky Kane. The issue begins with an account of the horrors of factory farming. Then the Beef fights a villain in a top hat, and Mahatma Gandhi appears at the end of the issue. The Beef’s story is not particularly compelling, but it’s worth reading anyway because of Shaky Kane’s striking artwork and design.

MOTHER PANIC: GOTHAM A.D. #3 (DC, 2018) – “Different Bat Channel Part 3,” [W] Jody Houser, [A] Ibrahim Moustafa. Another series where there’s nothing to distinguish one issue from another. I can’t remember anything specific about this issue. It has a Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn backup story, drawn by Paulina Ganucheau, but this story is just a three-pager and it has no real plot.

THE BEEF #5 (Image, 2018) – “Peace Meal,” as above. Gandhi gives us some more information on factory farming. Then the Beef’s enemies slice him up and turn him into hamburgers, but his meat contaminates the food supply, causing other people to turn into human beef cattle. The most interesting thing about this issue is the text feature at the end that explains how the cover image was created.

SECRET SIX #9 (DC, 2016) – “The White Gate, the Black Sun,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Tom Derenick. This issue begins with Aquaman fighting Catman at the bottom of the ocean. I guess the overarching plot is that the Secret Six are looking for a series of alabaster columns, and the next column is in a remote New England town. When the Secret Six go there, they find that the column is guarded by M’Nagalah from Swamp Thing v1 #8. M’Nagalah’s appearance is a clever throwback to a classic story.

THE LEGACY OF LUTHER STRODE #4 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Justin Jordan, [A] Tradd Moore. Luther and Petra investigate a ruin in the desert, and they learn the history of Petra, an immortal woman. This issue has far less blood and guts than a typical Luther Strode comic, and it also has some effective draftsmanship and coloring, though Moore’s art is still not nearly as good here as in Fall Sunrise.

WE ALL WISH FOR DEADLY FORCE #1 (Retrofit/Big Planet, 2016) – various stories, [W/A] Leela Corman. A collection of previously published stories. Some of these stories are about Corman’s reactions to her baby daughter’s tragic death. This same story is told from her husband Tom Hart’s perspective in his book Rosalie Lightning. Other stories are about Corman’s memories of her Jewish heritage, her passion for Eurovision, and modern life in Egypt. One of the Egypt stories presents Egypt’s current president, Sisi, as a refreshing antidote to Mubarak and Morsi. This story seems unfortunate now that Sisi has established himself as an even worse dictator than Morsi. Combined, these stories demonstrate great power and stylistic versatility. I really should read Corman’s graphic novel Unterzakhn.

GERONIMO STILTON AND THE SMURFS FCBD 2011 (Papercutz, 2011) – “Dinosaurs in Action,” [W] Andrea Denegri, [A] Giuseppe Facciotto? (There are multiple people credited with the art, and I’m not sure which one is the penciler.) A trite, insipid story about anthropomorphic cats and mice, drawn in a similar style to an Italian Disney comic. This issue also includes a Smurfs backup story by Peyo.

VILLAINS UNITED #5 (DC, 2005) – “Victims of Aggression,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Dale Eaglesham. The new Secret Six fight a number of other villains, and Cheshire claims to be pregnant by Catman. Then she reveals that she’s betrayed the Secret Six to the Society, and that was why she wanted Catman to impregnate her – because the Society was holding her child hostage, and she wanted a replacement child. One fun part of this issue is identifying all the minor villains in the splash page at the end.

DC COMICS PRESENTS #22 (DC, 1980) – “Plight of the Human Comet,” [W] Mike W. Barr, [A] Dick Dillin. Superman and Captain Comet fight a comet-powered villain named Starstriker. Captain Comet is a boring and generic character, and Barr does nothing to make him interesting. His main claim to fame is that he was one of the few superheroes created between the end of the Golden Age and the beginning of the Silver Age, and that explains his appearance in the last issue of James Robinson and Paul Smith’s The Golden Age.

BIJOU FUNNIES #5 (Kitchen Sink, 1970) – [E] Jay Lynch? As with issue 6, my copy of this issue is difficult to read, because its cover is about to split in half. Most of the stories in this issue are by either Jay Lynch or Skip Williamson. The exceptions are a hard-boiled detective story by Jim Osborne, and a Little Lulu parody by Justin Green.

DETECTIVE COMICS #1040 (DC, 2021) – “The Weekender,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Dan Mora. Bruce Wayne finds himself in jail. His drunk cellmate tells a story of an encounter with Batman and the Joker, and at the end of this story, the cellmate claims to know that Bruce is really Batman. Meanwhile, the Penguin and some other villains form a group called the Jury that’s supposed to kill Batman. Until I checked, I thought the Jury was the name of the guy on the last page. In the backup story, written by Dan Watters, Batman visits Kirk Langstrom’s grave. I like Kirk Langstrom, and it’s sad how according to this story, he hit rock bottom and then died.

DOCTOR WHO: THE ELEVENTH DOCTOR YEAR TWO #6 (Titan, 2016) – “The One Part 1,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Simon Fraser. I don’t understand most of this issue, but at the end of it, the Doctor and his companions go to Shada. This planet is the namesake of a TV episode that was meant to have aired in 1980, but wasn’t completed until 2017. One of the companions in this issue is Abslom Daak, the Dalek Killer, a character who was created by Steve Moore and Steve Dillon, and who made a cameo appearance in an Axel Pressbutton story.

2000 AD #1816 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd: “Sealed,” [W] Mike Carroll, [A] John M. Burns. While chasing some looters, Dredd discovers a young boy whose parents were obsessive neat freaks. As a result, they raised their son in a bubble, with no exposure to the outside world. Savage: as above. The sniper misses and hits the guy next to Savage. Then Savage’s allies sing a Russian folk song – since the Volgans are obviously supposed to be Russians – but Savage rebukes them, saying, “They’re not humans. They’re Volgs.” This line makes Savage even more unsympathetic than he already was. Ampney Crucis: as above. Ampney helps chase down the Babbagist assassin. Red Seas: as above. Another extended fight scene. Strontium Dog: as above. Due to Johnny’s revelations about the sterility poison, riots erupt all over the country.

ARCHIE #252 (Archie, 1976) – “Retirement Blues,” [W] Frank Doyle, [A] Harry Lucey, etc. Archie tries to do his father’s chores for him, with disastrous results. This is a rare example of a classic-period Archie story where Archie is depicted as a clumsy klutz, as he was in his earliest appearances. There are several other stories, none of them especially notable.

HEPCATS #4 (Double Diamond, 1990) – “Into the Pavilions,” [W/A] Martin Wagner. The other characters visit Erica in the hospital, and then there’s a flashback scene where they go shopping at the mall. As I’ve probably said before, Martin Wagner was as toxic and egotistical as his inspiration, Dave Sim, but he lacked Sim’s work ethic.

On my next Heroes trip, there were only 30 comics in my file, which, for me, is a very small number.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN: JON KENT #1 (DC, 2023) – “Countdown to Injustice Chapter 1: Into the Multiverse,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Clayton Henry. While trying to prevent some satellites from falling on Earth, Jon meets an extradimensional Superman named Val-Zod. We then learn that Ultraman is killing every version of Kal-El he can find. This issue is okay, but I liked Superman, Son of Kal-El better, and I’m disappointed that this series is just a miniseries and not an ongoing.

RADIANT BLACK #22 (Image, 2023) – “L.A.”, [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Eduardo Ferigato & Zé Carlos. Nathan visits Los Angeles to meet with some producers about a new TV project. Nathan discovers that in order to proceed with the project, he’ll have to work with his old friend Brayden Fox. This is a problem because by this point in the story, we’ve learned that Brayden is a talentless hack who’s built his entire career on stealing Nathan’s ideas. Nathan decides to go back home, but at the airport, he meets a producer who really does want to work with him, and he decides “Fuck, I need to move back to L.A.” This issue is a powerful demonstration of the dishonest, backstabbing culture of Hollywood. I wonder if it’s based on personal experience. In particular, Brayden is perhaps the most loathsome character in the whole series, other than Radiant Red’s boyfriend. Brayden made me think, “What’s even the point of having superpowers if you can’t use them to kill somebody every so often?”

I HATE THIS PLACE #6 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Artyom Topilin. Trudy and Gabby hire two new farmhands, just in time to deal with an attack by an army of spiders. (One of the farmhands uses “say less” to mean “I agree,” which I don’t understand.) That evening, the farm is invaded by an even worse menace: Trudy’s father, Joe. In a flashback, we see that Trudy’s father is a murderous cult leader and that Trudy barely managed to escape from him alive. As with Gale in Saga, I am eagerly looking forward to Joe’s death. At the end of the issue, the cabin is attacked by an army of zombies, led by the main villain from the previous storyline. I do have to wonder why Trudy never made an anonymous police report against her father. After all, she did witness him murdering two people.

PHANTOM ROAD #1 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Gabriel Hernandez Walta. A truck driver and his passenger are attacked by an army of zombies. I like the idea of a comic focusing on truck drivers, because I know very little about this lifestyle. But there’s not enough narrative content in this issue to determine what this series is going to be about.

SAVAGE DRAGON #264 (Image, 2023) – “The Book of Paul!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. This is Paul Dragon’s origin story. It’s based on Larsen’s memories of the unpublished comics he created as a child. Some of Paul’s origin is familiar from the reprints of Graphic Fantasy #1 and #2. “The Book of Paul!” doesn’t quite work as a story because it’s written like a plot summary, and I still think Paul is a less interesting character than Malcolm.

SPIDER-MAN #6 (Marvel, 2023) – “The Once and Future Queen,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Mark Bagley. I believe Slott and Bagley are the most prolific Spider-Man writer and artist ever, if you don’t count the daily strip, and even if you do. In this issue we’re back to the main plot of End of the Spider-Verse. After a lot of fighting, Silk slashes Morlun with the magic dagger, and that somehow causes all of reality to reset. A funny moment in this issue is when Silk disguises herself as Spinstress and tries to sing a song. I also like how Peter Palmer, Spiderman is colored with Ben Day dots.

THE FLASH #793 (DC, 2023) – “The One-Minute War Part 4: Thunder in Your Heart,” [W] Jeremy Adams, [A] Roger Cruz. Irey and Jesse Quick strike up an adorable friendship. In this continuity Jesse is still married to Rick Tyler, but there’s no evidence that they have a child.  Wally appears to sacrifice his life so that the other Flashes can get inside the villains’ base. We now know that Jeremy Adams will be replaced by Simon Spurrier after issue 800. I’m very disappointed that Adams’s Flash run is ending just as I’m getting into it. I love Si Spurrier’s writing, but I don’t think he’s an appropriate writer for the Flash, and I’m not sure if I want to continue reading the series after he takes over. At least Adams will be writing Green Lantern instead.

WHERE MONSTERS LIE #2 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Piotr Kowalski. In a flashback, we see how Connor Hayes, the super-cop, was orphaned by the eight villains. Now his purpose in life is to hunt down those same villains. In the present, Connor leads an army of police into Wilmhurst, but all the cops get killed instantly. Maybe he should have brought the army instead, or at least some better-armed cops.

MONKEY PRINCE #12 (DC, 2023) – “The Monkey King and I Part 4,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Bernard Chang. Marcus masters the hair-into-clones discipline, but forgets which of him is real and which are the clones. To regain his sense of identity and also save the day, Marcus has to realize that he himself is not the actual son of the Monkey Prince, but a clone created from the Monkey Prince’s hair. Then Marcus returns to his existing lifestyle of moving around with his parents, and the series is over. I really liked Monkey Prince, and I’m sorry it didn’t last longer. Marcus’s character arc is still incomplete, in that he surely realizes his parents are criminals, but he’s still dependent on them.

FANTASTIC FOUR #5 (Marvel, 2023) – “Up to Scratch,” [W] Ryan North, [A] Ivan Fiorelli. During a battle with Nicholas Scratch and Salem’s Seven, the FF get rotated through the fourth dimension. This means that their bodies are the wrong handedness relative to the rest of the world, so they can’t eat any food. To save themselves, they have to travel to the Dark Dimension and rotate themselves back. But on the last page, we see that some of the bacteria from the Dark Dimension has made it back to earth, and this has apocalyptic implications. This is a clever story. The idea of reversing a person’s chirality was previously used in Roger Zelazny’s novel Doorways in the Sand, and, even before that, in James Blish’s Star Trek novel Spock Must Die!

THE FLASH #794 (DC, 2023) – “The One-Minute War Part 5: Thunder in Her Heart,” [W] Jeremy Adams, [A] Roger Cruz. With the other Flashes absent, Irey has to singlehandedly defend her brother Jai and some other superheroes. I think the reason they can’t defend themselves is because the events of this series are happening at superspeed, so from the speedsters’ perspective, all the characters who aren’t speedsters are moving at a glacial pace. That would explain the title of this story arc. Irey saves the day, but learns that her father has been killed. It seems unlikely to me that Wally really is dead.

FEARLESS DAWN #4 (Asylum, 2010) – untitled, [W/A] Steve Mannion. Fearless Dawn battles a zombie army. Also, a girl is shot in the head, but survives because she had no brain to begin with, and goes on to marry Brad Pitt. This comic has a silly plot, but is worth reading anyway because of Steve Mannion’s gorgeous art. He deserves to be working for a better publisher than Asylum.

ROGUE SUN #11 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Ryan Parrott, [A] Abel. Dylan misses his prom because he’s busy gaining information in the Aviary. The Aviary scenes are all presented in landscape format, which makes them tedious to read. Caleb tells Dylan a story about how Caleb, like Dylan, yearned for but never received his father’s approval. Then the villain Hellbent – who is also seeking his father’s approval – invades the prom at Dylan’s school.

BLOOD TREE #2 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Maxim Šimić. Dario investigates another murder, and figures out that all the people with wings are the innocent family members of criminals. So by giving them wings, the killer is symbolically sending them to heaven. The next day, Dario interrupts his priest at church in order to ask him about a clue. Then he walks out of a family barbecue while following up on that clue. The main point of interest in this issue is the conflict between Dario’s family obligations and his rather gruesome job.

BATMAN #133 (DC, 2023) – “The Bat-Man of Gotham Part 3,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Mike Hawthorne. Bruce fights a series of awful villains, and also meets this universe’s version of Alfred. This storyline is much less exciting than the last one, both because of the lack of Jorge Jimenez art, and because the alternate Gotham is so unrelentingly bleak and grim. The backup story, where Tim Drake battles the Toyman, is perhaps more entertaining than the lead story.

POISON IVY #10 (DC, 2023) – untitled, [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Marcio Takara. Ivy and Janet visit a retreat led by a health guru, Gwendolyn Caltrope. Ivy soon realizes that the guests at the retreat are being given poisonous hallucinogenic mushrooms, and that the mushrooms have already escaped into the wild. Having worked at Whole Foods for a summer in high school, I am rather skeptical of things like juice cleanses and outdoor yoga and raw foodism, and this issue is an effective satire on that sort of lifestyle.

WHITE SAVIOR #2 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W/A] Eric Nguyen, [W] Scott Burman. The main plot point in this issue is that Nathan Garin reveals himself to be an impersonator, not the real Nathan Garin, and then he gets killed. But the humor in this issue is more important than the plot. And I’m not sure how I feel about White Savior’s style of humor. It’s often way too obvious and unsubtle, like on the page where the creators talk to each other about not wanting to ruin the artwork with unnecessary narration. I still think I like this series, but I’m not 100 percent sure.

ORDINARY GODS #10 (Image, 2023) – “What It Takes,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Joe Clark, [A] Daniel HDR. I finally know what HDR stands for – it’s in his Lambiek Comiclopedia entry. Half of this issue is a flashback scene in which a murdered black woman’s ghost speaks to a young priest, telling him to be a hero for justice rather than peace. The priest’s name is Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili, and the reader is expected to know that he grew up to become Joseph Stalin. Back in the present, the good gods prepare to unlock the God Machine, but they’re prevented by the evil gods.

SPACE JOB #2 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W] David A. Goodman, [A] Álvaro Sarraseca. The captain, whose name I forget, tries to get a new first officer, but his preferred candidate (whose name I can’t figure out) refuses because the ship’s first officers keep dying. Meanwhile, Rick McIntyre’s marriage is falling apart because he’s not Rick, but an alien duplicate. Space Job and White Savior seem like very similar series – they both debuted the same month, from the same publisher, and they’re both four-issue miniseries with two-word titles – but I like Space Job better.

STONEHEART #1 (Image, 2023) – untitled, [W/A] Emma Kubert. The issue begins with a black-and-white flashback sequence. In the rest of the issue, which is in color, a young woman named Shayde Whisper travels to a new town to work as a blacksmith’s apprentice, but she encounters a werewolf and an evil sorcerer. This comic is reasonably cute and entertaining, but I have problems with Emma Kubert’s art. Her art style is so sketchy that it seems unfinished. Perhaps she ought to work with an inker.

HUMAN TARGET #12 (DC, 2023) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Greg Smallwood. For this series’s entire run I’ve been wondering how Chance was going to save himself, and the answer is he doesn’t. He dies from the poison, Fire and Ice escape accountability for murdering him, and then Ice kills Luthor, successfully this time. At least I think that’s what happens, but the ending is ambiguous enough that I might be wrong. In any case, this is a stupid and anticlimactic ending that makes the entire series feel pointless, and for Tom King, that’s par for the course. Tom King has written some excellent comics – specifically, Vision and Mister Miracle – but he seems completely incapable of ending a story in a satisfying way. In future will be very hesitant to read his work.

THE GIMMICK #1 (Ahoy, 2023) – “The Gimmick,” [W] Joanne Starer, [A] Elena Gogou. This series is nominally about professional wrestling, but it has nothing in common with Do a Powerbomb. Our protagonist, Shane, murders an opponent in the ring, apparently because he developed superstrength without being aware of it. The opponent deserved to die for being a racist, but Shane is forced to flee into Mexico. Shane’s wife and baby go looking for him, and so does the daughter of his victim, who was Hispanic but pretended to be a Nazi. This is another solid debut issue from Ahoy.

SILVER SURFER: GHOST LIGHT #2 (Marvel, 2023) – “Darkness,” [W] John Jennings, [A] Valentine Di Landro. The Surfer tells us that Al Harper sacrificed his life to save Earth from the Stranger, as depicted in Silver Surfer vol. 1 #5. I haven’t read that story, but I assume Jennings’s recap is accurate. Al’s mother nearly dies of shock when she sees her son alive again, but recovers. Al gives himself a new superhero costume, just in time to fight some alien leeches, but the leeches have already infected Al’s young niece and nephew. This is another strong issue, and it provides a logical explanation for Al’s connection to the Surfer.

I read most of the following comics while on the plane ride back from ICFA:

TRAVELING TO MARS #4 (Ablaze, 2023) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Roberto “Dakar” Meli. Roy’s ex-wife’s announcement is that she’s not his ex-wife, but an impostor representing the Trubond Paste and Seal Company, and Roy’s ex-wife will be killed unless he claims Mars in the name of her sponsors. Roy defuses the ship’s self-destruct device so that his employers can’t kill him, and then he learns that the woman was lying about having kidnapped his ex-wife, so we’re back to the status quo. Also there’s a mention of Olber’s paradox.

BATMAN: ONE BAD DAY – CATWOMAN #1 (DC, 2023) – “No Small Scores,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Jamie McKelvie. When Catwoman was a child, her mother was forced to sell a valuable brooch at an exorbitantly low price, because she was told it was a forgery. In the present, Catwoman discovers the same brooch being exhibited at a museum as if it were authentic, so of course she decides to steal it. We gradually discover that the brooch was indeed a forgery, but it was created by a new villain called the Forger. Wilson and McKelvie are an all-star team, and this comic lives up to its creators. The Forger is an intriguing new villain, and the creators have an excellent understanding of Catwoman. McKelvie makes her look and act like a cat in human form. Also, whenever we see Catwoman’s apartment in this issue, it’s full of cats, as it should be.

CLEAR #1 (Dark Horse, 2023) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Francis Manapul. A science fiction series set in a dystopian future where everyone uses “veils” to make the world look prettier than it is. Veils are a sort of variation on wearable technology, as depicted in Vernor Vinge’s novel Rainbows End. The first half of the issue, up to the point where the protagonist discovers his dead wife’s final message, is very tightly plotted and exciting (although the lunatic asylum joke is stupid). However, the issue continues for a long time after that, to the  point where it becomes tedious. I think this comic should maybe have been split into two separate issues. A cool trick in the artwork is that Manapul sometimes draws part of a panel as if it were being viewed through a veil, so that the entire panel depicts a single scene, but in more than one style.

SANDMAN UNIVERSE: DEAD BOY DETECTIVES #3 (DC, 2023) – “Little Golden Boys” etc., [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Jeff Stokely. This issue’s first chapter’s title refers to an amulet made of a mummified fetus. I wonder if this is related to the Cambodian kun krak talisman that appears in Warren Ellis’s Fell. This issue, the kids continue their investigation, lots of scary stuff happens as usual, and we learn that Melvin was murdered by other children in a hate crime. There’s also a flashback about a boy named Pim, but I can’t figure out who Pim is or why he’s relevant to the story. As demonstrated in The Good Asian, Pornsak Pichetshote’s major flaw is his unclear plotting.

NEW MUTANTS: LETHAL LEGION #1 (Marvel, 2023) – “Vampire Heist,” [W] Charlie Jane Anders, [A] Enid Balám. Despite the new title, this is a straightforward continuation of the previous New Mutants story arc. Some of the characterization in this issue is really good, especially Shela’s line “You can’t erase the bad things that happened. All you can do is make them part of a bigger story.” On the other hand, Anders’s Wolfsbane doesn’t feel like Wolfsbane to me, and she doesn’t speak in her traditional Scottish accent. Like Sabretooth and the Exiles, New Mutants feels disconnected from X-Men continuity, though that may not be a bad thing, since I’m not enjoying the current X-men storyline.

KNOW YOUR STATION #4 (Boom!, 2023) – untitled, [W] Sarah Gailey, [A] Liana Kangas. Elise takes another dose of drugs and then meets up with her coworkers, but none of these coworkers have had any development at all, and I can’t remember their names. Then there are some more murders. Know Your Station has too many unnecessary characters, and it also has overcomplicated plot. As a result, the basic point of this comic gets lost in the shuffle. What this series should be about is how rich people have ruined Earth and then abandoned it, accompanied by a few poor people who are no better than slaves. But Gailey fails to put enough emphasis on her critique of economic inequality, and instead, Know Your Station is mostly an uninteresting murder mystery. My favorite thing in this issue is the sequence that  visually depicts the effects of Blue.

NIGHTCRAWLERS #2 (Marvel, 2023) – “The Apostate,” [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Andrea Di Vito. The original Nightcrawler, now horribly mutated, is rediscovered, and the Nightcrawlers figure out that Mother Righteous has been manipulating them. Maybe it’s time I stopped reading Si Spurrier’s Nightcrawler stories, because they have some good aspects, but they’re also very confusing and unfocused.

GIRL #1 (Vertigo, 1996) – “My Life as a Social Engineer” etc., [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Duncan Fegredo. Girl is set in the fictional English town of Bollockstown. The protagonist, fifteen-year-old Simone Cundy, lives in a slum with her violent, barely literate family. When Simone’s parents find her suicide note, they barely care. (Simone doesn’t commit suicide, though.) Simone’s dad kills the family dog and throws it out the window, and while burying the dog, Simone saves a girl from being raped. Then she discovers that the other girl is her exact duplicate, only with blonde hair. It’s not clear yet where Girl’s plot is going, but it’s a hilarious satire of lower-class English life. Milligan makes it clear that Simone’s family’s awful predicament is partly their own fault, but it’s also partly the fault of the government for not caring about the poor – at one point in the issue, we see that Bollockstown’s sewer system has been privatized.

JUPITER’S LEGACY 2 #5 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mark Millar, [A] Frank Quitely. I don’t know what this issue is about, but it’s more enjoyable than a typical Millar comic, mostly because of Quitely’s beautiful art. This issue ends on a positive note, with the superhero community restored to power and respectability. However, the next miniseries after this one is called Jupiter’s Requiem, suggesting that things are about to take a darker turn.

CAMELOT 3000 #5 (DC, 1983) – “The Tale of Morgan Le Fay!”, [W] Mike W. Barr, [A] Brian Bolland. Sir Kay subjects Sir Tristram to transphobic bullying. Morgan Le Fay explains her origin. Guinevere and Lancelot start their old affair again, so Arthur decides to coerce Guinevere into marrying her, in order to be able to punish her for adultery. Brian Bolland was clearly not capable of maintaining a monthly schedule, and Camelot 3000 was not up to his usual level of draftsmanship, but his compositions are excellent. I usually dislike Barr’s writing, but this issue was not bad. However, Barr still had only a surface-level understanding of Arthurian mythology. I’ve already cited Once and Future as a far more insightful take on Arthurian myth, but I also just read Nicola Griffith’s novel Spear, which is another very clever and original reimagining of those same myths. At ICFA I got the chance to talk to Nicola Griffith about that book.

JEREMIAH: BIRDS OF PREY #1 (Malibu, 1979/1991) – untitled, [W/A] Hermann. It turns out this comic is redundant because I already have the 1982 Fantagraphics edition of this album, and that Fantagraphics book is in color. Also, Dark Horse published an omnibus edition of the first three Jeremiah albums, and it included all of the Jeremiah albums that Malibu published. Maybe I should order that omnibus volume… oh, but it goes for $300 on eBay. It would probably be cheaper to get the original French editions. Anyway, Jeremiah is a post-apocalyptic Western story in which a young man tries to hunt down the wealthy raiders who have destroyed his village. Jeremiah has an interesting setup, and Hermann’s draftsmanship is beautiful and hyperdetailed, but it suffers from being reproduced in black and white.

BIRDS OF PREY #49 (DC, 2003) – “The Chaotic Code Part 3: Family Matters,” [W] Terry Moore, [A] Amanda Conner. I have no idea what this issue’s plot is about, and I don’t care, because the plot is just an excuse for Amanda Conner to draw sexy women. She does that quite well in this issue, but her draftsmanship is less refined and intricate than in her recent work.

AZTEC ACE #14 (Eclipse, 1985) – “The Cleopatra Exchange,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Mike Harris et al. Aztec Ace is perhaps the most confusing comic book of the 1980s, but this issue is a fairly straightforward story, in which Caza and his sidekicks try to make sure that Mark Antony and Cleopatra’s deaths occur as recorded in history. Dan Day is less well-known than his brother Gene, but his pencils and Nestor Redondo’s inks were essential to Aztec Ace’s visual aesthetic, and without them, this issue barely looks like Aztec Ace.

1602: WITCH HUNTER ANGELA #1 (Marvel, 2015) – “In Which Something Wicked This Way Comes,” [W] Marguerite Bennett w/ Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans w/ Marguerite Sauvage.  In one sequence, Angela assassinates King James I. In another sequence, Angela and Serah hunt down Bucky Barnes, and they also encounter the Enchantress. Marvel 1602 was a good idea, but Gaiman’s original miniseries wasn’t even that great, and none of the spinoffs by other writers have been much good at all. 1602: Witch Hunter Angela #1 does have some excellent artwork.

FANTASTIC FOUR #309 (Marvel, 1987) – “Danger on the Air!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] John Buscema. Steve Englehart was one of the worst FF writers ever, if not the very worst. His FF was confusing and incoherent, and it barely felt like the FF. It was hampered by dumb villains like Fasaud, and by an overemphasis on peripheral characters like Crystal and Sharon Ventura, rather than Reed and Sue. This issue, Ben and Sharon travel to a fictional Arab country to investigate Fasaud’s threat, and Shary is offended by having to cover her face and legs. (I believe that in at least some Arab countries, female tourists are not required to cover up.) Meanwhile, Alicia plans an intimate dinner with Johnny, but due to his complete lack of emotional intelligence, Johnny invites his old girlfriend Crystal to join them. And they start making passive-aggressive comments to each other, to the point where Johnny gets uncomfortable. This scene is excruciating to read, and it decreases the reader’s respect for all three of the characters involved.

THE ATOM #25 (DC, 1966) – “The Man in the Ion Mask!” and “The Spy Who Went Out for the Gold!”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Gil Kane. The first story is about an ionic-powered criminal, and the second story is about a Communist country’s plot to destroy the West by paying its national debt in irradiated gold. I usually think of Gardner Fox as a straitlaced, serious writer, so I was surprised at the amount of humor in these stories. The captions in this issue are full of jokes and asides directed at the reader. For example, when Ray thinks about what to do if he’s there when the ion-masked man attempts another robbery, the caption says “Is Ray kidding? If that doesn’t happen – poof! There goes our story!” These jokes make this issue much more fun than a typical Fox comic. As expectd, The Atom #25 also includes some excellent art.

THUNDERBOLTS #27 (Marvel, 1999) – “Flight Plans,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Mark Bagley. The Thunderbolts fight Angel (wearing the Angel costume, but with blue skin), and meanwhile, San Francisco is terrorized by flying looters. We discover at the end of the issue that the people are flying because of Graviton. The thing that annoys me about Thunderbolts is its constant emphasis on the team’s internal politics. This emphasis exists mostly because of Moonstone, one of the most manipulative and power-hungry characters in any Marvel comic. But I can’t deny that Busiek’s characterization of Moonstone is very effective.

SUPERMAN FAMILY #216 (DC, 1982) – “Victory is Only 5,000 Centuries Away!”, [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Win Mortimer, etc. In the first story, Supergirl changes places with her far-future counterpart, whose costume looks really cool. The Mr. and Mrs. Superman story, written by E. Nelson Bridwell, is insultingly silly, and the Superbaby story by Rozakis and Calnan isn’t much better. The Lois Lane story, by Tamsyn O’Flynn and Bob Oksner, is interesting because of its depiction of a newspaper office. Superman comics of this era are a nostalgic reminder of a time when the newspaper industry was thriving, unlike now, when it’s on its last legs. Tamsyn O’Flynn was a noted letterhack, but she only worked as a comics writer for two or three years. The Jimmy Olsen story revolves around an unpopular comic strip called Zonker’s World. I assumed that this was a mean-spirited reference to Doonesbury, but the story’s writer, Paul Kupperberg, stated on Facebook that he just made up the name Zonker. The creator of Zonker’s World appears in the story, and he doesn’t look like Garry Trudeau.

VILLAINS UNITED #6 (DC, 2005) – “At the End of All Things,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Dale Eaglesham. The Secret Six have their final confrontation with the Society. Luthor is revealed as Mockingbird, and we learn that he chose each of the Secret Six’s members because each of  them could defend him from a particular villain or category of villains. Parademon sacrifices his life to save the rest of the team, and in the epilogue, Catman and Deadshot decide to get the band back together. This miniseries led into an ongoing Secret Six title.  

2000 AD #1817 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd: “Closet,” [W/A] Rob Williams, [A] Mike Dowling. “Closet” focuses on Taylor Cook, a young gay man. His father rejects him for being gay, and then dies in the Day of Chaos. Significantly, the direct cause of Taylor’s death is Judge Fear: ”Fear took away his life.” Taylor later starts attending a gay club where people dress up as Judges and pretend to arrest each other. Inevitably, the actual Judge Dredd raids the club and arrests all the customers for impersonating Judges, but Taylor doesn’t mind: “I can do five years… then I’m out.” When it came out, this story caused a media furor because people thought that Dredd himself was going to be outed as gay. Althoguh that doesn’t happen, “Closet” is perhaps the first story that acknowledges that Dredd is a queer sex symbol, and it does so in a sensitive and powerful way. It’s the best Dredd story I’ve read lately. Savage: as #1816 above. The fight on the bridge continues, and the Volgans shoot a dying British soldier in cold blood. Ampney Crucis: as above. Ampney meets with the Prime Minister and is then taken to Bletchley Park, where he’s shown two computers named Gog and Magog. Red Seas: as above. Another pointless fight scene. Strontium Dog: as above. The mutant rebellion explodes into open warfare.

MICHEL VAILLANT VOL. 31 (Dargaud, 1977) – “Les jeunes loups,” [W/A] Jean Graton. I bought this at Dreamhaven some years ago. It’s an installment of a long-running series about a Formula 1 driver. I haven’t read any of the previous volumes, but that’s not really a problem, because this issue focuses mostly on a group of new characters. The “young wolves” of the title are the drivers in Formula 2 and 3 and Formula Europe, who are aiming at a place in Formula 1 for the next season. The story focuses on two of these characters in particular. Serge Mauduit is a brilliant driver, but he’s hampered by his fragile ego and his love of the night life. Eventually, he shows up for a race while drunk and is prevented from starting, after which he repents and reforms his ways. The other focal character, Alfredo Fabri, is financed by an uncle who appears to be a mafioso. Terrified of his uncle’s wrath if he loses, Fabri wins his last race by committing a rule violation. He’s disqualified, but in an ironic twist, his uncle is proud of him, and he uses his massive wealth to get Fabri a place in Formula 1 anyway! The nominal main characters, Michel Vaillant and his British teammate/rival Steve Warson, play a subordinate role. Overall this is a really fun read. Graton draws some thrilling auto racing sequences (and he somehow got permission to use the names and logos of actual F1 sponsors), but he’s also very good at characterization, and this album is less about the actual races than about the personalities of the drivers.

GIRL #2 (Vertigo, 1996) – as above. Simone dresses up as her blonde duplicate and gets a boy to take her virginity. With her father in a coma (having fallen on to a spiked railing at the end of issue 1), Simone has to deliver her unmarried sister’s baby, fathered by the sister’s abusive boyfriend. Simone promptly drops the baby on its head and thinks she’s killed it, but the “good” news is that the baby was already dead from being strangled in the womb. Finally, Simone is arrested for the murder of the man who tried to rape her duplicate in issue 1. I think the joke of this series is that it’s an extreme but plausible exaggeration of the squalor of British lower-class life. I forgot to mention that Duncan Fegredo is an excellent artist.

THUNDERDOGS #1 (Rip Off, 1981) – untitled, [W/A] Hunt Emerson. I was hesitant to read this because of its great length and Hunt Emerson’s heavily detailed style. This comic is a somewhat difficult read, but it’s worth it. It starts out as a satire on American militarism, but it gets much weirder than that. The prtoagonist, Major Mongrel, gets flattened into two dimensions, while his soldiers remain three-dimensional. So there are some pages where Major Mongrel is on the “surface” of the page, while his soldiers are standing on top of him. I don’t recall ever seeing this effect before. There’s also a sequence where another character leads Major Mongrel into the wooden framework behind the pages. I find it hard to get into Hunt Emerson, both because of his style and because his work has been published in so many different and obscure venues. But now I want to read more of his stuff.

INCREDIBLE HULK #94 (Marvel, 2006) – “Planet Hulk: Exile Part III,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Carlo Pagulayan et al. The Hulk and his friends fight in some arena battles, and the Hulk saves the arena from being bombed into oblivion by the Red King. At the end of the issue, the Hulk and his companions decide to become Warbound, that is, they become sworn brothers in combat.

OUR ARMY AT WAR #288 (DC, 1976) – “Defend – or Destroy!”, [W] Bob Kanigher, [A] John Lehti. Easy Company encounters a British soldier who is the last survivor of his unit, and has gone insane. He sacrifices his life to help Easy Company defend a bridge. The backup story, drawn by Golden Age veteran Norman Maurer, is about Medal of Honor winner Edouard Izac. Izac’s story is fascinating: his ship was sunk by a German U-Boat, and was taken prisoner aboard the boat. Unknown to the boat’s crew, Izac understood German, so he was able to learn lots of information about German naval operations. He decided to escape back to Allied territory so he could pass on this information to his superiors, and after several failed attempts, he finally made it to Switzerland. He later served six terms in Congress, and when he died at age 98, he was the last living Medal of Honor recipient from World War I. To return to the comic, I’m not familiar with either of the artist in this issue, but they’re both quite good.

2000 AD #1819 (Rebellion, 2013) – I already read issue 1818 when I first bought this lot of 2000 ADs. Dredd: “Save Him,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] James Harren. Dredd narrowly avoids being assassinated by a telepathic veteran of the Day of Chaos. James Harren gets a chance to show off his talent for drawing monsters. Savage: as above. The battle continues, but the cavalry – the Hammersteins – fail to arrive, because their path leads them through some valuable real estate, which their programming prevents them from destroying. Ampney Crucis: as above. Crucis tracks down the Babbagist assassin’s address, and then there’s a scene set in Limehouse that I don’t understand. Red Seas: as above. Another chapter that makes no sense. Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny sends out the women and children from the besieged city of Milton Keynes, and admits to having killed Pelham Grenville. The government claims that Grenville was coerced into admitting to the sterilization plot. The siege continues.

KUNCKLES THE MALEVOLENT NUN #2 (Fantagraphics, 1991) – untitled, [W/A] Roger Langridge & Cornelius Stone. A bizarre story that’s set in hell and involves Satan, Jesus Christ, and a nun who’s almost as ugly as Carmen Cru. I’m not sure just what’s happening in this comic, but it’s wacky and it’s got great art. Cornelius Stone is a well-known New Zealand cartoonist, but I’m not sure just what he’s published.

GATECRASHER #3 (Black Bull, 2000) – “Power to the Puppet,” [W] Mark Waid & Jimmy Palmiotti, [A] Amanda Conner. This comic is actually older than Birds of Prey #3, but its artwork is far superior. Conner draws with much more detail. This issue is mostly about the protagonist’s rivalry with his teammate Trystan, who blames Alec for the loss of his girlfriend Teah in an alternate dimension. Black Bull was the comics imprint of Wizard Entertainment, and I believe this issue’s story includes a photo of Gareb Shamus.

STRAY BULLETS: KILLERS #1 (Image, 2014) – “No Take-Backs,” [W/A] David Lapham. Young Eli Goldburg likes to hide out in the car when his dad goes to the strip club. One day, Eli’s dad is about to get a lapdance when he realizes that the stripper is Eli’s babysitter, Caroline. Mr. Goldburg flees in terror, and it’s implied that he then murders Caroline, though this is hard to determine because of Lapham’s elliptical style of storytelling. Eli tells this to Spanish Scott, the bouncer at the club. Then Eli tries to take back what he said (hence the title), but it’s too late, and Spanish Scott murders Eli’s father in revenge. This issue also shows how Eli is viciously bullied by his “friends,” and how he’s parentified into caring for his baby sister. This issue is a good example of Lapham’s storytelling virtuosity. See here for a more detailed analysis.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #75 (DC, 1993) – “Sovay,” [W] Charles de Lint, [A] Charles Vess. I may have bought this issue because of the first story, but I’ve already read it in an issue of The Book of Ballads and Sagas. It’s an adaptation of a ballad about a woman who dresses up as a highwayman to test her lover’s faithfulness. The other notable story in the issue is a chapter of Moebius and Jodorowsky’s Madwoman of the Sacred Heart. It’s an interesting story, but I’d prefer to read it in its complete form, and in color. The third story is “The Chairman” by  Charles Moore and Andrew Robinson.

YOKO TSUNO VOL. 3 (Comcat, 1973/1989) – “Vulcan’s Forge,” [W/A] Roger Leloup. This was published as “The Adventures of Yoko, Vic and Paul, volume 1.” Comcat made the odd choice not to translate the first two albums, even though Vulcan’s Forge references events in those books. Also, Vic and Paul don’t deserve to be included in the series’ title: in this album they’re just Yoko’s sidekicks, and they were sidelined even further as the series went on. The plot of this album is that Yoko teams up with an old ally, a blue-skinned Vinean alien named Kani, to prevent the Earth from being blown up from within. The first notable thing about this album is that Yoko is an awesome protagonist. She’s brave to the point of foolhardiness, and she’s willing to fight and to do physical stunts, but she’s also a caring friend. Second, Leloup’s artwork is beautiful, particularly his drawings of underground caverns and machinery. He was an assistant to Hergé, and you can see how he inherited Hergé’s skill at detailed renderings of backgrounds. This album is also an effective piece of science fiction. I can’t tell if all the geological information in this book is accurate, but it seems accurate to me. Finally, this book’s ending is a surprise. At the end, the villain is hanging from a piece of debris over a lava pit, and one of the other Vineans decides to drop him in the lava and kill him, rather than try to save him. That wouldn’t have happened in a Code-approved comic.

THE FLASH #79 (DC, 2019) – “Death and the Speed Force,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Rafa Sandoval. Part of a storyline in which the Speed Force is challenged by three other forces. This premise is not exciting to me, because I think the Speed Force is a silly and poorly defined idea to begin with. The only thing I liked in this issue is the scene where Golden Glider is teaching some kids to ice skate.

EL DIABLO #2 (DC, 2001) – untitled, [W] Brian Azzarello, [A] Danijel Zezelj. I must have bought this comic because of the art, but perhaps I’ve been unfair to Brian Azzarello, because his writing in this issue is actually good. El Diablo #2 is a compelling piece of Western horror, and Zezelj’s dark, moody art complements the grimness of the writing.