Two (big) weeks of reviews

COPPERHEAD #9 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Jay Faerber, [A] Scott Godlewski. Sheriff Clara and her posse try to track down her missing partner. One of the posse is the same ne’er-do-well one-eyed dude that she arrested in issue 1, or else a relative of his. They eventually find him in the Bastion, a refuge for criminals. I had high expectations for this issue after reading #6 through #8, but it turned out to be a bit disappointing.

COPPERHEAD #10 (Image, 2015) – as above. Clara finally rescues her partner, Budroxifinicus or whatever, then returns to town to find that the mayor has been murdered. Again, this issue was disappointing.

I got my next shipment of new comics on Monday, March 18, right after I got back from ICAF. The highlight of ICAF for me was that I got to meet, and even be on a panel with, G. Willow Wilson herself. It was a thrill to finally meet someone whose work has inspired me so much. Unfortunately, by the time I got back, I was so exhausted that I found it hard to appreciate the comics I was reading.

Appropriately, the first comic I read this week was:

THE MAGNIFICENT MS. MARVEL #1 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Minkyu Jung. Saladin is the obvious choice to succeed Willow on Ms. Marvel, and this issue is a really promising start to his run. The main event is that Kamala’s dad finally learns her secret identity, and is not happy about it. Then Kamala fights some hybrid animal monsters, and the issue ends with her parents dissolving into goo. The most outstanding aspect of this issue is its humor. Saladin’s writing is very funny, in a related but distinct way as compared to Willow’s writing.

LAGUARDIA #4 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “Future Citizen,” [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Tana Ford. Future and Citizen are reconciled, and Future becomes a liaison to alien immigrants.  This issue is an understated but sweet conclusion to one of the best miniseries of the year. It continues this series’ central theme in which aliens are used as a metaphor for immigration and the blending of cultures.

ASSASSIN NATION #1 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Erica Henderson. Erica’s first creator-owned series is radically different from Squirrel Girl in terms of subject matter. It’s about an assassin who hires a bunch of other assassins to protect him from being assassinated himself. But this series has the same irreverent sense of humor as Squirrel Girl does, even though it’s intended for a much older audience. The central conceit of the series is that the assassins all compete to be #1 on the world assassin rankings. There’s lots of violence and death, but it’s not meant to be taken seriously.

RUNAWAYS #19 (Marvel, 2019) – “But You Can’t Hide Pt 1,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Andrés Genolet. Turns out it was Molly who asked to come along with Alex, and it’s because she thinks Alex can bring her parents back. Like Ripley in Lumberjanes, Molly is a more complex character than she appears to be; she has deep anxieties behind her façade of a happy child. The issue ends with the other Runaways tracking Molly and Alex down, but while this is a heartwarming moment, the story isn’t over yet. By the way, it’s a bit disappointing that Molly has been wearing the same hat for this entire storyline. I have this headcanon that one of Molly’s powers is the ability to conjure silly hats from thin air.

MY LITTLE PONY: NIGHTMARE KNIGHTS #5 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Tony Fleecs. The Nightmare Knights succeed in defeating Eris and freeing Daybreaker and Nightmare Moon, and it turns out that Capper’s apparent betrayal was indeed part of his plan. But they don’t succeed in turning the princesses back into Celestia and Luna; instead, they become the new evil rulers of this world. So the Nightmare Knights didn’t achieve much after all.  This was perhaps the grimmest pony comic yet, though it’s still kid-friendly. dr

SHURI #6 (Marvel, 2019) – “A Friend in Need Part One,” [W] Vita Ayala, [A] Paul Davidson. In the first issue of a fill-in storyline, Shuri teams up with Miles Morales to fight a new villain called Collision. Ms. Marvel appears at the end of the issue. Vita Ayala writes good dialogue, but her writing doesn’t excite me as much as Nnedi does. And the guest stars in this issue seem a bit gratuitous, although that may be unfair, since this series has already had a bunch of guest stars.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #42 (Marvel, 2019) – “Kang vs. Squirrel Girl of Three Eras!”, [W] Ryan North, [A] Naomi Franquiz, Derek Charm & Erica Henderson. Ryan’s 50th issue of Squirrel Girl is one of his best. In this issue Squirrel Girl fights Kang and (of course) wins, thanks to assistance from her future and past selves. This issue’s plot is brilliant. All the uses of time travel in the issue are consistent and make logical sense, and that testifies to Ryan’s technical virtuosity. It’s also fun to see three different versions of Doreen interacting, and as an added bonus, this issue has art from both major Squirrel Girl artists as well as a guest artist. As an added bonus besides that, this issue’s letters page contains annotations to Ryan and Erica’s first Squirrel Girl story.

RAT QUEENS #15 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kurtis J. Wiebe, [A] Owen Gieni. The Rat Queens defeat Braga’s brother and the other villains, and then Violet and Orc Dave decide to get married. This was a reasonable conclusion to Kurtis Wiebe’s run, but as usual with Rat Queens volume 2, it was nowhere near as good as any issue of the first volume.

WONDER WOMAN #66 (DC, 2019) – “Giants War Part 1,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Cary Nord. Diana teams up wth Giganta to battle a rampaging Titan – the mythological kind, not the superhero kind. Also, the three mythological creatures from #63 are now permanent fixtures in the series. Willow’s writing in this issue is very funny, and she writes some nice interactions between Diana and Giganta, although this series is still not at quite the same level as Ms. Marvel.

AGE OF CONAN: BÊLIT #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Lost Verses,” [W Tini Howard, [A] Kate Niemczyk. A young Bêlit’s father is going to train her to become a pirate queen, but things go badly wrong. She ends up having to mercy-kill him herself, before finding a pirate ship so she can gain revenge on his betrayers. This issue is okay, but nowhere near as fun as Raven: The Pirate Princess. And it seems kind of unnecessary, since Belit’s early years were already covered in Roy Thomas’s first Conan run.

CALAMITY KATE #1 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Corin Howell. I am going to have to create a new tab in my long boxes for “Visaggio, Magdalene, other than Kim & Kim.” This is at least her sixth different original series, counting Kim & Kim, and there are more coming. Calamity Kate is about a professional monster hunter, who, like many of Mags’s protagonists, is also kind of a train wreck as a person. As the series begins, she drops in on an old friend of hers, a widowed single mother, and immediately upends her life. This series has a really funny and touching setup, and I’m excited to read more of it.

WONDER TWINS #2 (DC, 2019)  -“Little Boxes,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Stephen Byrne. This issue is mostly a critique of the private prison industry. Like most of Russell’s politically oriented stories, it’s incisive and powerful while also being genuinely funny. But the highlight of this issue is the scene where Beast Boy is filming a “Hot Mess Fruity Pies” ad. It’s exactly like the old Hostess Fruit Pies ads, but with an added twist: the villain is Jack O’Bin, who wears French revolutionary clothing and has a jack o’lantern for a head. And when Beast Boy defeats him, he quotes Rousseau: “Man is born free, but is everywhere in chains.”

CATWOMAN #9 (DC, 2019) – “The Two-Step ChaChaCha,” [W] Ram V, [A] John Timms. In this one-shot fill-in issue, Selina executes an elaborate caper in order to steal back a stolen bracelet. This issue is funny and well-plotted, but not especially memorable.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #7 (DC, 2019) – “The Troubles I’ve Seen,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson & Dan Watters, [A] Domo Stanton. Speaking of troubles, I’m troubled that Dan Watters is co-writing this series, because I like Nalo’s work a lot more than his. This issue reintroduces the creepiest Sandman villain, The Corinthian. The sequence that introduces him initially seems like a pointless dream about people eating animal eyes, but as I read further, I slowly realized that the Corinthian was back. This slow realization was a really cool effect. House of Whispers #7 ends by introducing one of the most famous African deities: Kwaku Anansi. I look forward to seeing what Nalo does with this character.

X-23 #10 (Marvel, 2019) – “X-Assassin Part 4,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Diego Olortegui. It turns out that the assassin clones were built with an artificially shortened lifespan. The still-unnamed clone sacrifices her already-doomed life to kill her creator, Dr. Chandler. I already read this story once, when it was called Scud the Disposable Assassin. But X-23 #10 is a funny and sad issue, and it has a totally different tone from Scud.

BLACKBIRD #6 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Jen Bartel. I accidentally ordered two copies of this issue with two different covers. This issue, Nina finally confronts her mother, and it turns out that to save Nina’s life, Nina’s mother put some kind of curse on Marisa. So Nina’s mother is awful, and Nina decides to give up on her and join the Zon Cabal – because “Zon Cabal never called me crazy baby.” This series went in a very different direction than I expected, but it still makes sense as a coming-of-age tale, in which a young woman decides to throw off her mother’s yoke and start making her own choices.

OUTER DARKNESS #5 (Image, 2019) – “Each Other’s Throats Pt. 5: Planetfall,” [W] John Layman, [A] Afu Chan. I was really tired when I read this. Outer Darkness #5 begins with a horrifying scene of a little girl getting killed by an alien monster. Then we go back in time 125 years (?!) to the main story. Thanks to the demon’s sabotage, the Charon crashes on an ice planet, and when the crew tries to regroup afterward, the possessed Sato Shin starts murdering his crewmates. The fun part of this comic is how things keep getting worse and worse. The joke is that this series is basically Star Trek, except 1) the captain is terrible at his job, and 2) the major characters aren’t immune from bad consequences.

THE LONG CON #7 (Oni, 2019) – untitled, [W] Dylan Meconis & Ben Coleman, [A] E.A. Denich. The heroes are about to get shot by Skylarks fans, but are saved by an army of lady barbarian cosplayers. The franchise they’re from is an obvious reference to Xena. Then after further dangerous travels, the heroes end up in Hollywoodland. Again, I was too tired to enjoy this much, but it’s an excellent issue. There are some great one-panel scenes near the end, including a giant chess board where Loren can only move diagonally, and a “Women Wyverns in Comics” panel.

HOUSE AMOK #5 (IDW, 2019) – “We Dissolve,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Shawn McManus. Olivia and Dylan manage to save themselves, but their parents’ and brother’s fates are unclear, and the girls are traumatized for life. The series ends 24 years later with a much older Ollie showing up at Dylan’s door. This comic demands a sequel, because its conclusion doesn’t resolve much of anything.

HEAD LOPPER #11 (Image, 2019) – “Head Lopper and the Knights of Venora Part 3,” [W/A] Andrew MacLean. This issue finally shows us how Agatha lost her head. Of course it also advances the Knights of Venora plotline, but I had trouble following that part of the story, though this was likely due to my exhaustion.

BY NIGHT #9 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Christine Larsen. This issue is a flashback to the creation of the interdimensional portal. It’s colored in an old-fashioned style with Ben Day dots, and it even includes a parody version of a ‘90s Bullpen Bulletins page. It’s one of the better issues of the series, but that’s not saying much.

A few older comics:

INDESTRUCTIBLE HULK #2 (Marvel, 2013) – “Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Leinil Francis Yu. Bruce Banner has been effectively enslaved by SHIELD, or at least that’s what Tony Stark thinks, and he’s not happy. This is a somewhat inconsequential comic, but it’s entertaining and well-drawn. It includes a quotation from the SF writer Charles Yu.

THUNDERBOLTS #145 (Marvel, 2010) – “Field Test,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Kev Walker. A new team of Thunderbolts is sent on a fake training mission, followed by a real mission to hunt some rogue Asgardian trolls. Except it turns out one of the trolls is human. I bought this issue because it’s the debut of Troll, a cool-looking minor character, but it’s also a good comic in its own right. Jeff Parker is a consistently excellent writer, even though almost all of his assignments have been rather low-profile, and Kev Walker’s art is quite good.

BIRTHRIGHT #14 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Josh Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. I liked Birthright #1 enough that I was glad to realize I already had another issue of the same series. This issue is obviously tough to understand without having read #2 through #15, but it’s fun. The main thing I remember about it was the surprising realization that Mikey has a child on the way, although this was already revealed in an earlier issue.

SILK #5 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Robbie Thompson, [A] Veronica Fish. This series was never as good as Spider-Gwen, let alone Ms. Marvel or Squirrel Girl. This issue’s storyline is totally forgettable, and its plot is way too compressed; for instance, it wastes an entire page on an unimpressive splash panel of Black Cat knocking Silk out a window. I should have dropped this series sooner.

BATMAN #641 (DC, 2005) – “Family Reunion Conclusion: Face to Face,” [W] Judd Winick, [A] Doug Mahnke. I don’t understand the plot of this issue, but it ends with the revelation that Red Hood is Jason Todd. This issue is a good example of the problem with most modern Batman comics: it’s grim and gritty, excessively violent, and pessimistic, and it has no real point.

MAGNUS ROBOT FIGHTER #2 (Dynamite, 2014) – “Caught in the Correctional!”, [W] Fred Van Lente, [A] Cory Smith. This is at least the third different Magnus revival from as many different companies, and none of them have been truly successful. This is because the licensees are hard to work with, but also, I think, because Magnus has limited appeal today. The original Magnus series had minimal characterization, and its SF elements are badly dated. What made Magnus a classic was Russ Manning’s brilliant artwork, and none of the Magnus revivals were ever able to match that. Fred Van Lente’s Magnus at least has some interesting ideas, like Magnus being a twentieth-century schoolteacher who somehow finds himself in North Am, but Van Lente doesn’t do much with those ideas.

New comics received on March 22:

LUMBERJANES #60 (Boom!, 2019) – “The Life of the Party,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] AnneMarie Rogers. I was still pretty tired when I read this. Jo and her companions escape from the serpent and make it back to camp in time for the play. April saves Jo some embarrassment by declaring that it’s a surprise party for all the campers with summer birthdays, not just Jo. This was an effective concluding chapter, but I think April and Jo could have learned more than they did. April should have learned to stop throwing unwanted birthday parties for Jo, and Jo should have learned to stand up for herself.

INVISIBLE KINGDOM #1 (Image, 2019) – “Walking the Path Part One,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Christian Ward. A very exciting debut from an all-star creative team. Willow is one of the best writers in comic books right now, and Christian Ward is probably the single best artist. Considering the interests and talents of the two creators, it’s appropriate that this series is a space opera about religion. There are two protagonists – Vess, a new initiate to a religious order, and Grix, a space pilot – and while they don’t meet each other in this issue, they both seem to be involved in the same conspiracy. This issue is a bit of a low-key start, but this series looks fascinating.

MONSTRESS #21 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. Maika spends most of this issue talking to her dad, who seems like a real jerk. Also, we’re introduced to a bunch of new characters who are allied with Maika’s dad. I don’t remember much else about this issue.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #76 (IDW, 2019) – “Cosmos Act the 3rd: …And Far Too Many Stars Have Fell on Me…,” [W] Katie Cook, [A] Andy Price. The title is a song lyric. This issue, the two parties of ponies recover two of the remaining stars, and Cosmos decides to find the last one herself. This issue’s plot is fairly predictable, but as usual, Katie’s writing is very funny, and Andy’s art is spectacular. The highlight of the issue is the line “Canterlot! Canterlot! In short, there’s simply not a more congenial spot.”

RAINBOW BRITE #5 (Dynamite, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Xenia Pamfil. Wisp gets captured and sent to prison, where she meets the green Color Guard. Then the ultraviolet sprite goes and finds Willow. The issue ends on a cliffhanger, and so far there’s been no announcement as to whether this series will continue, or, if so, in what form. That’s a shame, because it’s only just getting interesting. This issue finally reintroduces Willow, which cures my biggest annoyance with the series.

GRUMBLE #5 (Ahoy, 2019) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Mike Norton. This issue is mostly a flashback showing what happened to Tala’s mother and grandfather. It seems like they’re all part of some demon species, and they’re being chased by something called a S’Taera, which has killed Tala’s grandfaher and abducted her mother. So Tala’s goal is to get her mother out of the S’Taera’s prison, but she has to replace her with someone else, which is what Eddie is for. This is an exciting issue, but Eddie’s absence from the flashback sequence is unfortunate. Early in the issue there’s a reference to the Jucy Lucy sandwich.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #3 (Marvel, 2019) – “Re-Entry Part 3,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Carmen Carnero. The war with Machus/Nuclear Man continues. It turns out that Som is Machus’s son. Rogue appears at the end of the issue. So far this series hasn’t made much of an impression on me.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #4 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Garrón. I forgot about this issue until I looked at it again while typing this sentence, but now that I look at it again, I remember that it’s quite good. Miles and his roommate and girlfriend decide to skip school to go see a hip hop exhibit, but the vice principal is trying to catch them playing hooky. So this issue is like one of the Little Lulu stories with Mr. McNabbem. It’s very funny, while also showing deep insight into the characters. The high point of the issue is the two-page sequence with the Family Circus-esque dotted lines.

BLACK BADGE #8 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. Two White Badge spies are spying on the individual Black Badges, but Willy turns the tables on them and kills them. This issue offers some interesting background information on the protagonists.

HIGH LEVEL #2 (Vertigo, 2019) – “Minnow,” [W] Rob Sheridan, [A] Barnaby Bagenda. This is a mild improvement over the last issue, because there are some cute interactions between the protagonist and the little girl. However, this comic is still not good enough to continue reading.

FARMHAND #6 (Image, 2019) – “ReCreation,” [W/A] Rob Guillory. I just got back from ICAF, where I met Rob Guillory, not for the first time, and watched him do an interview with my friend Qiana Whitted. The interview was enlightening; in particular, until Rob made it explicit, I didn’t get the joke that Farmhand is about “organic farming” in the sense of growing organs on a farm. I’m glad to have the series back, and I really appreciate Rob’s transparency about when each issue will come out. However, this issue was a bit of an interlude. It advances a bunch of ongoing plots, and it reveals that the organ seeds will only grow in response to Jedediah’s voice, but it didn’t have much else that was new.

MIDDLEWEST #5 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. This issue begins with a flashback to another shocking scene of child abuse. Abel’s mother sends him a new bicycle, but Dale smashes it out of pure spite. Then Abel confronts Bobby – I think that’s the girl’s name – and the old magician, who turns out to be Jebediah’s sister. The issue ends fairly happily, but we’re reminded that Dale is still hunting for his son.

SUPERB #18 (Lion Forge, 2019) – “Live Fast, Die Young,” [W] David F. Walker, [A] Alitha Martinez. Nothing particularly new here. The Cosmosis backup story in this issue is a parody of an anti-drug story, but it doesn’t seem all that funny even for readers who will get the joke.

BITTER ROOT #5 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] David F. Walker & Chuck Brown, [A] Sanford Greene. This issue is mostly a series of fight scenes. I’m really enjoying this series, but it’s hard to find anything to say about each issue. As with Bitch Planet, Bitter Root’s paratextual material is often just as interesting as its stories. This issue includes an essay by another of my fellow comics scholars, Stacey Robinson.

WEST COAST AVENGERS #9 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Gang Hyuk Lim. It turns out that Johnny and Ramone (I just got that joke) are Wakandans, and then Ramone gets metal skin powers. Also, Kate’s mom is a vampire. I wonder if Kelly is ever going to get to resolve the ongoing plotline about Kate’s mom. Both Hawkeye and this series got cancelled while that plotline was still going on.

DARK RED #1 (Aftershock, 2019) – “The Forgotten Man,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Corin Howell. This is another horror series set in the upper Midwest, but it has a much less interesting setup than Revival; it’s just a standard vampire story. Also, the protagonist is a hardcore Trump supporter, so sympathizing with him is out of the question. I’m not planning to read any more of this series.

AQUAMAN #46 (DC, 2019) – “Unspoken Water Part 4 of 5,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Robson Rocha. Aquaman and Caille fight Namma and win, but she comes back as a dragon. This issue is okay, but not especially memorable.

AMERICAN CARNAGE #5 (DC, 2019) – “War,” [W] Bryan Hill, [A] Leandro Fernandez. In general this is another excellent issue, but it contains one scene that drove me nuts. The black FBI agent character, Sheila, is talking to a Beto O’Rourke-esque politician, and she accuses him of only caring about white voters while taking black voters for granted. Then she tells him “People like you are why I vote Republican.” Now perhaps I shouldn’t comment on this because I’m not black, but the logic here makes no sense. She thinks Democrats are passively racist, so she prefers to vote for the party that’s actively racist? And the way this scene is written makes it seem like Bryan Hill agrees with Sheila. As I pointed out on Facebook, this is an example of the biggest problem with this series, which is that I don’t like any of the characters.

SPARROWHAWK #5 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Delilah S. Dawson, [A] Matías Basla. Of course, sometimes the whole point is that you aren’t supposed to like the characters. This issue, Artemisia kills the Unseelie Queen and takes her title, but her sister (?), Caroline, gets pulled into Faerie. And then the boar dude sends her on a mission to kill and replace Artemisia. I don’t know what we’re supposed to learn from this, if anything, but Sparrowhawk is a powerful work of dark fantasy.

THOR #11 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Eve of War,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Lee Garbett. A series of vignettes taking place right before War of the Realms. Frigga is the central character. This is an okay issue, but nothing special. I like how Thor’s favorite foods are mutton, oxtails and lamb shanks.

On March 24, I went to the latest Charlotte Comicon. This was the best convention I’ve attended since last Heroes Con, mostly because I felt genuinely excited. I came in determined to have fun and buy stuff, and I did. Here are some of my purchases:

IRON MAN #18 (Marvel, 1969) – “Even Heroes Die!”, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] George Tuska. This is probably the best run of Iron Man issues prior to Michelinie and JR Jr. This issue has a complicated plot in which Tony has been replaced by an LMD, while Madame Masque and Midas mistakenly think the real Tony is the impostor. Also, Tony and Madame Masque are developing feelings for each other. In the end, Tony puts on his old golden armor to defeat the impostor, but suffers a heart attack. It’s a confusing story, but Archie tells it effectively, and Tuska makes a reasonable effort to draw like Steranko.

TEEN TITANS #9 (DC, 1967) – “The Big Beach Rumble!”, [W] Bob Haney, [A] Irv Novick. Like many early Titans stories, this one shows the Titans addressing a problem specific to teens. It’s spring break, and the students from two rival universities are meeting on a beach to resolve their feud. The Titans defuse the fight by getting the students to work together to build a jetty, but that’s just the first half of the story. In the second half, the Titans and the students fight a dumb villain named Captain Tiger. (All of Haney’s Titans villains were dumb.) This issue is very fun, and it shows Haney’s interest in resolving tensions between adults and kids. Unfortunately, Nick Cardy just did the inks and not the pencils.

QUANTUM TEENS ARE GO #1 (Black Mask, 2017) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Eryk Donovan. Another Mags Visaggio series that I hadn’t been aware of. This series’ protagonists are a transgender high school girl and her boyfriend. The plot focuses on their hobby of stealing technology to create time travel devices. I need to look for the rest of this miniseries.

GREEN LANTERN #83 (DC, 1971) – “And a Child Shall Destroy Them!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Neal Adams. Black Canary takes a job at a private school, but it turns out to be run by a creep named Grandy, with the help of a little mute girl with psychic powers. This is neither the best nor the worst issue of this run. It has some touching moments, including the panel where Hal and Ollie are about to be killed by a bunch of kids, and Hal’s reunion with Carol at the end. But Grandy is not a great villain. Neal Adams’s artwork from 1971 looks much more contemporary than his artwork from 2019.

STRAY BULLETS #2 (El Capitán, 1995) – “Victimology,” [W/A] David Lapham. Another shocking tale of violence. In 1977, just after seeing Star Wars, a little girl named Ginny witnesses a murder. Her older sister warns her not to tell anyone, but because she can’t process her trauma, she attacks another child in school. On Halloween, the child’s friends beat Ginny and leave her for dead. Ginny’s descent from happiness to violence to victimhood, through no fault of her own, is painful to watch. Like other stories by Lapham, “Victimology” shows that Americans are never more than a heartbeat away from violence. Ginny doesn’t die in this issue, but survives to play a major role in the series; she’s also known as Virginia and Amy Racecar.

USAGI YOJIMBO #18 (Fantagraphics, 1989) – “The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy, Part VI: Storm Clouds Part,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. This issue begins with a nine-page vignette in which Usagi leaves Geishu, refusing an offer to enter Lord Noriyuki’s service, and encounters Gen on the road. The more interesting part is the second half. Ino was previously thought to be dead, but this issue he wakes up in a remote village. He saves the village from brigands and gains a love interest, but his pet tokage Spot gets killed. We see what happens to him next in “The Last Ino Story” from #38.

PREZ #2 (DC, 1973) – “Invasion of the Chessmen,” [W] Joe Simon, [A] Jerry Grandenetti. One of the most bizarre DC comics I’ve ever read. It focuses on a chess match between the American “Robby Fishhead” and the Soviet “Queen Errant.” The obvious inspiration for this is the 1972 Fischer-Spassky match, yet Bobby Fischer is mentioned as if he’s a different person from Fishhead. The issue also depicts bombings, living chessmen, counterfeit money, and a ton of other stuff. Its plot is impossible to summarize. It’s hard to know what to say about this comic, but it’s certainly a memorable comic.

MELODY: THE STORY OF A NUDE DANCER #5 (Kitchen Sink, 1995) – “Book Three: Dancer’s Debut – Balls,” [W] Sylvie Rancourt, [A] Jacques Boivin. This is a bit like Omaha because it’s a story about a nude dancer, set in a specific and identifiable city (Montreal). Unlike Omaha, it’s autobiographical. Unlike Omaha, it’s also rather slow and mundane. The most interesting part is when Melody and her boyfriend shoplift clothes because they can’t afford to pay for them. However, even if this issue was unexciting, I think this series is potentially fascinating, and I want to read more of it. I believe there’s also a Melody graphic novel which was drawn by Rancourt herself.

MARS #2 (First, 1984) – “Mars Attacks,” [W] Marc Hempel, [A] Mark Wheatley. Morgana and Teezy meet Fawn, and lots of other weird stuff happens. This comic has some interesting writing and art, but its plot makes no sense, and I’m not sure what it’s supposed to be about.

STINZ #4 (Fantagraphics, 1990) – “Sorting Things Out,” [W/A] Donna Barr. While at training camp, Stinz learns that his girlfriend Brüna is pregnant, so he has to rush back home for a shotgun wedding. He ends up having to fight both his own father and his future father-in-law, but true love wins in the end. This comic is hilarious and strangely heartwarming. I definitely like Stinz better than Desert Peach, but in this issue’s letters page, we’re told that Stinz is getting cancelled due to low sales. It did get revived later at another publisher.

BIRTHRIGHT #3 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. I bought a bunch of these at the convention, and it turns out that the series is still being published, so I can jump onto it with #36. In this issue’s flashback sequence, little Mikey and his friends battle some giant monsters, while in the present-day sequence, Mikey and Brennan escape from their parentts and go to look for one of the wizards from Terrenos.

AMAZING ADVENTURES #10 (Marvel, 1971) – “—In His Hand… the World!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Mike Sekowsky. Magneto uses a mind-controlled Black Bolt as his pawn, while the other Inhumans try to get Black Bolt back. This is an okay story, but not great. It was also the last Inhumans story in Amazing Adventures; the next issue starred the Beast. The last page says that this issue’s story will be continued in Avengers #95. It also says that “we’ll fill in the rough gaps between those two sagas at some later date,” but I don’t think that ever happened.

AVENGERS #23 (Marvel, 1965) – “Once an Avenger…,” [W] Stan Lee, [A] Don Heck. Cap quits the Avengers and becomes an itinerant boxer, just in time for the Avengers to be attacked by Kang. This is a classic Avengers story, but its art is unimpressive. Kang’s obsession with Ravonna is creepy and disturbing, though I guess that’s appropriate since he’s a villain.

SHOCK SUSPENSTORIES #11 (EC/Gemstone, 1953/1995) – four stories, [E] Al Feldstein. This issue includes two crime stories, a war story, and an SF story. The most interesting story in the issue is Wally Wood’s “In Gratitude…”.  A white Korean War veteran, Joey, returns home as a hero, but his comrade Hank returns in a coffin, having died saving Joey’s life. Joey’s parents refuse his request to have Hank buried in the local cemetery, because Hank was black. In a public speech, Joey castigates the townspeople for their racism. This story is powerful but also surprising. I knew about the famous story with the orange and blue robots, but I didn’t realize EC had published any other stories that directly addressed racism. The other three stories, including the SF story, are all about jealous spouses. In Johnny Craig’s “The Tryst,” an insanely overprotective husband murders a young boy who he thinks is his wife’s lover. Reed Crandall’s “The Space Suitors” is about an extramarital affair in space that results in three deaths. In Jack Kamen’s “Three’s a Crowd,” a different jealous husband murders his wife and best friend because he thinks they’re having an affair, but it turns out the wife was pregnant, and they were planning a surprise baby shower. I don’t blame the husband in this story for being suspicious, because the wife and best friend were acing really shady.

JOURNEY #2 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “The Forgotten,” [W/A] William Messner-Loebs. Wolverine MacAlistaire encounters an insane widow who thinks he’s her husband. It turns out she’s gone nuts because of the deaths of her husband and children. And MacAlistaire can’t stop having sexual fantasies about her. This issue is hilarious and creepy at once. It’s unrelated to the series’ ongoing plotline about Tecumseh’s war.

THE HORROR OF COLLIER COUNTY #1 (Dark Horse, 1999) – “Them,” [W/A] Rich Tommaso. This miniseries starts out as a slice of life story, about a single mother who moves with her child to her own mother’s house in Florida. But there’s also some kind of a horror plot, the nature of which is not clear yet. Much of Tommaso’s work is set in Florida, and he’s very good at capturing Florida’s hot, sticky, laid-back and ominous atmosphere. Compared to Tommaso’s later work, this issue’s art is more cartoony and less Clear Line, and it’s also in black and white. Until now I hadn’t read any Tommaso comics older than Dark Corridor, and I look forward to exploring more of his early work.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #2 (Marvel, 2015) – “Water Proof,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. Spider-Man and Prowler infiltrate an underwater Zodiac base. This is an entertaining Spider-Man story, but it’s nothing spectacular. I wonder if Slott’s best Spider-Man stories were from earlier in his run.

BATMAN #374 (DC, 1984) – “Pieces of Penguin!”, [W] Doug Moench, [A] Don Newton. The Penguin visits Gotham in order to steal the plans for an airborne defense system. Also, there are subplots involving Vicki Vale, Julia Pennyworth and Harvey Bullock. Doug Moench was not an especially good Batman writer, and Newton’s art is rendered unrecognizable by Alfredo Alcala’s inking. According to Wikipedia, Moench more or less created Bullock, but is not recognized as his creator because he borrowed the name from an earlier character introduced by Archie Goodwin. However, Moench’s version of Bullock is just a stupid comic relief character. Later writers would make him more interesting.

KORAK, SON OF TARZAN #4 (Gold Key, 1964) – “Wizard’s Gorge” and “Warrior from the Past,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Russ Manning. In this issue’s first story, Korak battles a fake witch doctor who is angry that white doctors are stealing his business. This story has beautiful art, but its treatment of African traditional healers is pretty embarrassing. In the backup story, Korak encounters a lost tribe of mammoth hunters, as well as some mammoths. This story has equally good art, and is less racist.

U.S.AVENGERS #2 (Marvel, 2017) – “$kullocracy Part Two,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Paco Medina. The USAvengers and a future Danielle Cage battle the Golden Skull. When I looked at this issue just now, it was so unfamiliar that I thought I hadn’t read it at all, and I had to examine it closely to make sure I had in fact read it. So I guess this wasn’t one of the more memorable issues of USAvengers.

ACTION COMICS #462 (DC, 1976) – “Super-War of Independence!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. Superman battles Karb-Brak, the pale white-skinned dude with orange hair and yellow and purple clothes. In a tie-in to America’s bicentennial celebration, Karb-Brak sends him back in time to 1776.  What’s more interesting is the backup story by ENB and Swan. It has a forgettable plot, but it’s a rare Krypto solo story.

BATMAN AND ROBIN ANNUAL #2 (DC, 2014) – “Batman and Robin: Week One,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Doug Mahnke & Pat Gleason. I need to collect more of this series because I really like how Peter Tomasi writes Damian. However, this issue is not that great, and it doesn’t justify its extra length. As the title indicates, it takes place at the start of Batman and Dick Grayson’s partnership, and the villain is called Tusk and has giant tusks. I think Tomasi is better at writing a bratty, sarcastic Robin than a cheerful Robin.

THE TWISTED TALES OF BRUCE JONES #1 (Eclipse, 1986) – five stories, [W/A] Bruce Jones. Bruce Jones is best known as a writer, but is also a professional-caliber artist. His art in this issue is impressive, although it’s heavily indebted to other artists like Roy Krenkel, Al Williamson and Jeff Jones. For example, the third story, “Stopped,” feels like an imitation of Jeff Jones’s Idyl and I’m Age. The plots are typical EC-style shock-ending SF and fantasy stories. They’re competent, but not as good as the stories in Alien Worlds or the original Twisted Tales. The last story, “Booba the Jungle Boy,” is an extremely stupid Tarzan parody.

DAREDEVIL #101 (Marvel, 1973) – “Vengeance in the Sky with Diamonds!”, [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Rich Buckler. In this issue Daredevil fights Angar the Screamer, one of the most dated villains in Marvel’s history. Angar has long hair and wears a hippie fringe vest and no shirt, and his power is to get people high on LSD. This issue might have been a classic if it’d been drawn by an artist who could have done justice to Angar’s powers. For example, Jim Starlin or Frank Brunner could have created some very compelling hallucinatory images. Sadly Rich Buckler is not up to this challenge, and his hallucinations are more silly than scary. Gerber’s story is all right, but not the best he was capable of.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #39 (Marvel, 1975) – “The Trial of the Watcher,” [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Al Milgrom. Mar-Vell and Rick visit the planet of the Watchers,  where Uatu is put on trial for his history of interfering with Earth. I had high expectations for this issue because it’s a cosmic story by Englehart, but it was disappointing. Al Milgrom does his best to draw like Jim Starlin, but he’s not Starlin. This issue is the first appearance of Aron the Watcher, who later became a Fantastic Four villain.

BATMAN #346 (DC, 1982) – “Half a Hero…”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Don Newton. Two-Face escapes prison and sets up shop in a literal halfway house, i.e. a house that’s half beautiful and half dilapidated. Meanwhile, the new mayor fires Commissioner Gordon. This issue is much better than #374 because its plot is less convoluted, and because Frank Chiaramonte’s inking doesn’t obscure Don Newton’s storytelling skill. The issue also includes a Catwoman story by Bruce Jones and Trevor von Eeden, but it suffers from extreme overwriting.

HERO FOR HIRE #3 (Marvel, 1972) – “Mark of the Mace!”, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] George Tuska. I just noticed that this is the same creative team as Iron Man #18. This issue, a villain named Gideon Mace (whose hand is also a mace) organizes an army of veterans who are angry at being ignored. But his Bonus Army scheme turns out to be just a distraction to allow him to rob banks. While its racial politics may be questionable, the early Hero for Hire always had a very gritty and realistic feel, as well as a compelling protagonist and a distinctive setting in pre-tourist Times Square.

BIRTHRIGHT #4 (Image, 2015) – as above. Mostly just a continuation of the plot from #3. A notable feature of this series is the fairly realistic relationship between Wendy and Aaron, Mikey and Brennan’s parents. Their marriage has been ruined by what happened to Mikey, and Aaron is mostly to blame, yet he and Wendy still have to co-parent their remaining child.

INCREDIBLE HULK #165 (Marvel, 1973) – “The Green-Skinned God!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Herb Trimpe. A very strange issue from the best run of Hulk stories between Stan Lee and Peter David. The Hulk has been kidnapped by a submarine captain named Omen (Nemo spelled backwards – I just noticed that). Omen and his crewmen have a bunch of grown children who have spent their entire lives under the sea in his submarine, and whose bodies are grossly distorted by water pressure. With the Hulk’s help, the children revolt against their parents and force Omen to take the ship to the surface, but as soon as they get out of the sub, they all die from the bends. There’s also a villain named Aquon the Man-Fish, which sounds like a Pokémon’s name. Overall, this is a weird but compelling issue.

LUCIFER #6 (Vertigo, 2019) – “A Long-Awaited Comeuppance,” [W] Dan Watters, [A] Max Fiumara. Another issue with some good dialogue, but a completely impenetrable plot. I’ve had enough of this series.

CRIMINAL #3 (Image, 2019) – “Bad Weekend Part Two,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. The Hal Crane saga continues. Ricky, Teeg Lawless’s son, helps Crane and Jacob look for Crane’s stolen art, but they can’t find the art they’re looking for. The secret is that the art isn’t missing. It’s a Star King (Flash Gordon) strip that was the direct cause of Archie Lewis (Alex Raymond)’s death, and Crane gave it to Jacob but forgot having done so. “Bad Weekend” is a poignant story about the brutal way the comics industry treats its living legends. On the letters page, Brubaker mentions that there was a famous real comics artist who had a habit of stealing artwork to pay gambling debts. I wonder who this was.

WIZARD BEACH #4 (Boom!, 2019) – “Long Distance Wizards” and other chapters, [W] Shaun Simon, [A] Conor Nolan. Hex watches the annual Running of the Jellyfish, then leaves the beach to return to his homeland. This series has a fairly standard plot, but its artwork and dialogue are excellent.

STRAY BULLETS #28 (El Capitán, 2002) – “The Prize,” [W/A] David Lapham. This issue has a complicated plot that revolves around an imprisoned woman named Beth. I’m honestly not sure what’s going on here.

Reviews for late February and early March

Other comics I read after I wrote the previous reviews:

ATOMIC ROBO: THE FLYING SHE-DEVILS OF THE PACIFIC #5 (Red 5, 2012) – untitled, [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. Robo and the Flying She-Devils defeat some Imperial Japanese soldiers, but at the cost of many of the She-Devils’ lives. This is a fun issue, and the She-Devils are really cool characters, but this isn’t my favorite Atomic Robo story.

INVADERS #2 (Marvel, 2019) – “War Ghosts Part II,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Carlos Magno. The art in this issue is pretty good, especially the Atlantean architecture and clothing. But the story doesn’t tell us anything new or interesting about the characters. It’s just another “Namor invades the surface world” story. I’ve already quit ordering this series.

LEGION OF SUPER–HEROES VOL. 4 #125 (DC, 2000) – “Extinction Event,” [W] Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, [A] Angel Unzueta. In the final issue of this volume, the Legion save the galaxy from the rift that’s destroying the stargates, but half the team is lost. This leads directly into Legion Lost. I have very mixed feelings about DnA’s Legion. It was skillfully written, but it didn’t feel like the Legion, primarily because they focused on a few characters (the three founders, Brainy and Jazmin) to the exclusion of all others. But at least their Legion was better than nothing, unlike the Legion/Bugs Bunny special. This issue may be the final appearance of Lori Morning; if so, good riddance.

DAREDEVIL #3 (Marvel, 2011) – “Sound and Fury,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Paolo Rivera. Matt battles Klaw, or rather a bunch of echoes of Klaw. That’s a really cool idea, and you can tell Mark has actually considered the implications of a man being made of solid sound. The artwork and the fight scenes in this issue are excellent. The depiction of legal procedure is not as good. Foggy Nelson is told his client, Jobrani, is hearing voices, which turn out to be Klaw. This makes Jobrani an “unreliable witness,” so Foggy drops him as a client and refuses to refer him to another lawyer. Then Jobrani can’t find another lawyer, so he has to represent himself in court, but Matt gets to coach him on how to do it. So this all seems rather contrived and inaccurate. And if Jobrani’s case is as much of a slam dunk as we’re told it is, then it’s not clear why the case even went to trial, rather than settling out of court.

TONGUES #1 (No Miracles, 2017) – “The Prisoner’s Dream” and other stories, [W/A] Anders Nilsen. An amazing comic. I haven’t read anything by Nilsen before, and I thought he was a minimalist, but his artwork and coloring in this issue are brilliant and highly detailed. The story is difficult but compelling. The issue begins with a conversation between a giant and a bird, who we soon realize are Prometheus and the vulture that eats his liver. The next segment is called ”Hercules” and depicts a boy walking through a desert. The last segment, “The Murderer,” depicts a Swahili-speaking girl who emerges out of a crashed vehicle in that same desert. It’s obvious that all these stories are connected, but I can’t tell how, or which comes first in chronological order. Apparently there’s a second issue of this. I need to look for it.

TWISTED SISTERS #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1994) – four stories, [E] Diane Noomin. The best of this issue’s four stories is Carol Tyler’s “Migrant Mother,” about a disastrous plane trip with a toddler. This story is affectionate and heartfelt, like all of Tyler’s work, but it’s also a sobering depiction of American society’s unfriendliness to parents and young children. Carol is exhausted and ill and can’t access her money or her diaper bag, and no one shows any willingness to help her. It’s funny, but it’s also not. The second best story is Mary Fleener’s survey of her experiences with surfing. It’s drawn in a mostly realistic style, with her trademark cubist style making only a few appearances. The other two stories, by Carel Moiseiwitsch and Fiona Smythe, are beautifully drawn but light on narrative.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #64 (Marvel, 1976) – “The Secret of Skull River!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Jim Starlin. This reprints the same story as True Believers: Conan – The Secret of Skull River. Amusingly, most of Conan and Nala’s sex scene is cut, probably because Conan #64 was Code-approved, and Savage Tales #5, in which the story originally appeared, is not. Also, Conan #64 is in color while Savage Tales #5 was black and white. However, the coloring is muddy and it makes the text hard to read.

NEW TALES OF OLD PALOMAR #1 (Fantagraphics, 2006) – “The Children of Palomar,” [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. I’m ashamed to say that I probably bought this when it came out, but I never read it until now. I have trouble motivating myself to read comics that are in larger-than-normal format. This week I tried to make a small dent in my stack of magazine-sized comics. New Tales of Old Palomar #1 includes two separate stories, both set before or just after the original “Heartbreak Soup.” The first of these is the origin of Tonantzín and Diana Villaseñor. In the second, Pipo saves Tonantzín and Diana from being blown up. These stories are in much the same style as the earliest Heartbreak Soup stories, and they include a lot of characters who hadn’t been seen in years, like Carmen, Heraclio and Chelo. So this issue is a nice piece of nostalgia.

NEW TALES OF OLD PALOMAR #2 (Fantagraphics, 2007) – “The Children of Palomar,” [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. This issue’s takes place long before “Heartbreak Soup,” when Gato, Manuel and their friends are still kids. The Palomar stories included magical realist elements from the beginning, but this issue is a departure from the other Palomar stories because it’s science fictional. While exploring outside town, Gato, Manuel and Pintor are kidnapped by weird blond-haired people in spacesuits, and they have visions of their future deaths. Chelo risks her own life to rescue them. We’re never told who the spacesuited people are, and the story leaves the reader feeling mystified. Notably, at the end of the issue, Pintor says, “At least Manuel and I die in Palomar and we get to become ghosts. Gato dies in the U.S.A. and that’s it.” That implies that people can only become ghosts if they die in Palomar. But I think Tonantzín is a counterexample to that; she appears as a ghost at the end of “Human Diastrophism,” and she didn’t die in Palomar.

INVINCIBLE #144 (Image, 2019) – “The End of All Things Part Twelve,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Ryan Ottley & Cory Walker. The final issue of Invincible reminds me why I liked it in the first place. The issue begins with Mark’s first meeting with Marky, the son conceived when Anissa raped him, and then we flash forward to a series of scenes from Mark’s future. Mark becomes a benevolent Viltrumite emperor, turning the empire into a force for good. Meanwhile, Marky becomes the new Invincible, but grows to resent his father’s absence. This issue is full of touching scenes that remind us of the series’ long history; a particular highlight is when Art Rosenbaum makes Marky’s costume. It also suggests a lot of intriguing stories that could have been told if Kirkman hadn’t decided to end the series. If Invincible had had more cute, entertaining issues like this, and less of the blood and gore and violence that dominated the series from the Viltrumite War onward, then I wouldn’t have quit reading it.

EX MACHINA #20 (DC, 2006) – “March of War Conclusion,” [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Tony Harris. I’m not sure what the plot of this issue is, but it seems quite well-written and well-drawn. However, this series has not aged nearly as well as Y: The Last Man, because it’s so tied to the Bush era and the aftermath of 9/11. This issue draws upon the then-current fear of Islamic terrorism, which now seems like far less of a threat than domestic terrorism. At one point in the issue, Mitchell tells a terrorist, “I’m not giving you the satisfaction of… of seventy-two virgins.” I don’t think BKV would write a line like that today.

GORILLA-MAN #3 (Marvel, 2010) – “The Serpent and the Hawk, Part 3,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Giancarlo Caracuzzo. I’ve had this comic for years without reading it, and I should have read it sooner, because it’s really fun. It’s an exciting adventure comic with a talking gorilla for a hero. The highlight of the issue is when Ken Hale refers to some female gorillas as “naked hotties.”

RAW #3 (Raw, 1981) – various stories, [E] Françoise Mouly & Art Spiegelman. Besides chapter two of Maus, the highlight of this issue is Muñoz and Sampayo’s “Mister Wilcox and Mister Conrad,” about an assassin who befriends his victim and then kills him for unexplained reasons. This story’s ending is predictable, but that only makes the killer’s actions more disturbing, and Muñoz’s art is brilliant. This is one of the “Joe’s Bar” stories, which, to my knowledge, were never published in English in collected form. Other artists in this issue are Charles Burns, Ever Meulen and Javier Mariscal. Mariscal’s silent story “Crash” is especially notable for how it exploits the giant tabloid size of the pages. It includes one of the physically largest two-page splashes I’ve ever seen.

U.S.AVENGERS #5 (Marvel, 2017) – “Meet the New Boss,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Paco Diaz. Unfortunately this issue is a Secret Empire crossover. In his interview with Roberto da Costa, Captain America acts really creepy and arrogant and overbearing, and it’s almost a relief to realize that this is the Hydra Cap and not the real thing. Also in this issue, Squirrel Girl fights Arthur Nagan, and there’s a scene with Cannonball and his wife Smasher and their son. I know Cannonball was created more than thirty years ago, but he still seems like a kid to me, and it’s strange to see him as a father.

STRANGE EMBRACE #4 (Image, 2007) – untitled, [W/A] David Hine. Anthony’s marriage to Sarah collapses, and Sarah starts getting suspiciously close to Anthony’s father. It’s strongly implied that Sarah becomes pregnant by her own father-in-law. Then Anthony’s father dies, after revealing that Anthony’s mother is still alive. There’s a backup story about a man who lives on rooftops.

STRANGE EMBRACE #5 – as above. The flashback to Anthony Corbeau’s youth ends with Sarah’s violent death, and then we return to Alex’s conversation with Sukumar. In another sequence of nested flashbacks, Alex finds Sarah’s diary and reads about how her marriage to Anthony was a cruel bait-and-switch; it was never consummated, because Anthony only cared about his African figurines. We’re getting closer to the heart of this creepy horror masterpiece, but this was the last issue I had. I need to get the other three as soon as I can.

MOTHER PANIC #3 (DC, 2017) – “A Work in Progress, Part 3,” [W] Jody Houser, [A] Tommy Lee Edwards. I wish I’d stopped ordering this series. This issue is just a thoroughly average superhero comic with nothing especially new about it. I think Jody Houser’s main strength is in writing optimistic, inspiring comics like Faith and Spider-Girls. A grim, gritty superhero comic set in Gotham City is not the best use of her talents.

SWEET TOOTH #18 (Vertigo, 2011) – “The Adventures of the Boy and the Big Man,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. This issue has a sideways format, and includes some pages of text written from Gus’s perspective. Jeff Lemire effectively depicts the perspective of a child with a bizarre upbringing. It’s clear that Gus’s understanding of the world is limited, but that he has strong feelings and values, and is not okay with some of Jepperd’s actions. The emotional high point of the issue is when Jepperd is about to kill a man, and Gus intervenes and shames Jepperd into letting the man go. Oh, and the issue ends with an adorable scene of Gus and his companions playing in the snow.

18 DAYS #5 (Graphic India, 2015) – “Vimana Wars,” [W] Gotham Chopra & Ashwin Pande, [A] Jeevan J. Kang. This issue covers the first day of the Kurukshetra war. The main event is a battle between Shalya and Krishna’s teenage son Abhimanyu. Shalya looks very creepy, and Abhimanyu is a cute kid. Other than that, this is a pretty boring comic.

ATOMIC ROBO: KNIGHTS OF THE GOLDEN CIRCLE #3 (Red 5, 2014) – untitled, [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. This is my least favorite Atomic Robo miniseries. I just don’t much like the Wild West setting. This issue, Robo, Doc Holliday and Bass Reeves fight some outlaws on a train.

ATOMIC ROBO: KNIGHTS OF THE GOLDEN CIRCLE #5 – as above. Robo and his companions fight some battlesuited Germans inside a flying zeppelin. The issue ends with Robo dying in battle, but he arranges to have his head preserved and sent to Tesladyne in 2014. And that brings us up to the beginning of Ring of Fire, which was when I started reading Atomic Robo consistently.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #189 (Marvel, 1979) – “Mayhem by Moonlight!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] John Byrne. This issue is most notable for a scene where Peter and Betty Brant are implied to have had sex off-panel. As far as I know, that had never happened before and would never happen again. Besides that, this is an unimpressive issue. The plot is that JJJ thinks John Jameson is dead, and is frantically searching for his killer, but it turns out John is alive and has been turned into a “mummified marauder.” Marv was a very poor Spider-Man writer, and although John Byrne was at the peak of his career in 1979, his artwork in this issue is ruined by Jim Mooney’s half-assed inking.

New comics received on March 8:

PAPER GIRLS #26 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. I think this is the last story arc. At the end of #25, the girls were all sent to different time periods. Erin finds herself in the present (i.e. 2019) or the near future. The other girls are sent to the ‘50s, the final days of Earth, and the slightly less far future. I have no idea how BKV can resolve all this series’s plot threads in just a few more issues, but I look forward to finding out.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #75 (IDW, 2019) – “Cosmos, Part 1: It Isn’t Me Doing This,” [W] Katie Cook, [A] Andy Price. With the recent announcement that the upcoming MLP:FIM season will be the final one, it seems likely that this will be the final milestone issue of the MLP:FIM comic. Therefore, it’s appropriate that this issue features the return of the best MLP writer and artist. And “Cosmos” is just as funny and as ambitious as their previous epic storylines. This issue introduces Cosmos, Discord’s even more powerful stalker/ex-girlfriend. Many years ago, Discord got rid of her by turning her into six jewels. But when Twilight finds one of the jewels, it possesses her and turns her into Cosmos, and she manipulates her friends into collecting the other five. It’s an impressive setup. Besides that, this issue is full of Katie and Andy’s trademark crowd scenes and Easter eggs and metatextual moments.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #4 (Marvel, 2019) – “The King in the Cage,” [W Jason Aaron, [A] Gerardo Zaffino. This artist is the son of the late Jorge Zaffino, who was a notable cartoonist in both Argentina and the U.S. This issue takes place just after Conan became king of Aquilonia, before his marriage to Zenobia. (Incidentally, I’ve never read the story of how Conan killed Numedides and seized his throne. That happened in de Camp and Carter’s Conan the Liberator, which was adapted in the #50s of Savage Sword of Conan.) Conan finds that kingship is tedious and oppressive, so he spends his nights hunting down and killing criminals, accompanied by a lion. While doing this, he disguises himself with a mask that looks suspiciously similar to the Punisher’s logo. This is my least favorite issue of this series so far, but it’s not bad.

GIANT DAYS #48 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] John Allison. Max Sarin’s artwork has become so central to this series that it looks weird when John Allison draws his own characters. This issue, the girls go to McGraw’s brother’s wedding, and a lot of drama ensues. The best part about this issue is how Esther and Daisy stay in a frog-themed hotel whose owner mistakes them for a lesbian couple.

THE GREEN LANTERN #5 (DC, 2019) – “Blackstar at Zenith,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. Hal goes through a bizarre ordeal to become a Blackstar. At the end of the issue, there’s a flashback where we learn that Hal is joining the Blackstars to hunt down a double agent, and then Hal, newly initiated into the Blackstars, is ordered to kill Adam Strange. This issue is a reasonably effective horror story, but it’s not as fun or interesting as the last few issues. At one point in the issue, Hal claims that Countess Belzebeth’s father was killed by Green Arrow. I don’t think anyone knows yet who her father was.

FEMALE FURIES #2 (DC, 2019) – “Nasty Woman,” [W] Cecil Castellucci, [A] Adriana Melo. Before I got Female Furies #2, I read a Facebook post by Corrina Lawson in which she harshly criticized this issue, pointing out that it’s potentially triggering to sexual assault survivors. I don’t know what I would have thought of the issue if I hadn’t read Corrina’s comments first, but now that I have read her take on it, I can’t read it any other way. This issue is one of the most disturbing comics DC has ever published. Aurelie is repeatedly raped by Willik, and there’s nothing she can do about it. She tells everyone that he’s raping her, but they don’t believe her; rather, they shame her for being weak, and act like the situation is her fault. As I type those sentences, I feel disgusted and angry all over again. And that’s aproblem. The thing is, I know that horrible situations like this happen in real life. Every day, women get raped and don’t report it, or they report it and aren’t believed. It’s important to document these things, so that people know they happen. However, I don’t believe that a superhero comic is the right place for such a brutal depiction of rape – especially not a superhero comic with bright coloring and Jack Kirby characters. Depicting rape in this context trivializes it, and also runs the risk of further traumatizing readers who have suffered similar things themselves. I think DC really should not have published this comic, at least not without alerting readers to its content. I certainly won’t be reading any more of this series, except issue 3, which I already ordered. I’m also surprised that Cecil Castellucci wrote this comic, because none of her other work includes any of this sort of content.

BLACK HAMMER ’45 #1 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ray Fawkes w/ Jeff Lemire, [A] Matt Kindt. I was disappointed to see that this was written by Ray Fawkes and not Jeff himself, because the last time I read a Ray Fawkes comic, I couldn’t make head or tail of it. But this issue is very clearly written and interesting. It’s more or less the Black Hammer version of Blackhawk, except the Blackhawk characters have some kind of bizarre, disturbing secret. It’s weird seeing Matt Kindt’s artwork on a comic he didn’t write, but he seems like an appropriate artist for this story.

RONIN ISLAND #1 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Giannis Milonogiannis. This new miniseries takes place on an island populated by refugees from all over East Asia, who fled there after some kind of apocalypse. The protagonists are a teenage boy and girl who have a fierce rivalry. Just after their coming of age ceremony, the island is invaded by the shogun of Japan, and then by some kind of zombies. This is a really fun debut issue, and this series looks like it’ll be a strong follow-up to Mech Cadet Yu. The protagonists of this series remind me of Team Avatar, and I think Greg Pak would be a good writer of Avatar comics.

MORNING IN AMERICA #1 (Oni, 2019) – “The Sick Sisters: One Week Before the End of the World,” [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Claudia Aguirre. Mags Visaggio’s latest creator-owned series stars a group of juvenile delinquent girls, and is set in Ohio’s Rust Belt in 1983. There’s a mysterious new factory in town, and kids keep disappearing, and no one knows why. It’s up to the Sick Sisters to investigate. I just realized that this series’s title is a reference to Reagan’s “New Morning in America.” This is a promising first issue, and it certainly has much better art than Vagrant Queen did.

DIE #4 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans. The party members arrive at Glass Town (a name derived from the Brontës’ juvenile writings), where they hang out in a bar. This is an entertaining issue, but much less substantial than #3.

ADVENTURES OF THE SUPER SONS #8 (DC, 2019) – “Jailhouse Rocked,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Carlo Barberi. Damian and Jon escape Takron-Galtos with the aid of Kid Joker and a cadet Green Lantern, Al-X. As usual, this is a really fun issue. The best part is that Al-X is 104 years old and has 67 siblings, but doesn’t know how long ten seconds is.

DOMINO: HOTSHOTS #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “Cold War Part 1,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] David Baldeón. Two scientists find an artifact that gives them the power of a Celestial. To deal with the threat, Domino forms a team consisting of her old teammates from the previous series, plus Black Widow and White Fox. (I don’t know if the latter is a new character or not.) I was on the fence about whether to order this series, but this issue is reasonably good.

SAUCER COUNTRY #12 (Vertigo, 2013) – “President’s Day,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Ryan Kelly. The Democratic presidential candidate discovers that her advisor, Professor Kidd, has been seeing visions of the Pioneer plaque aliens. The professor kills himself. Also, lots of other stuff happens that I didn’t quite understand. This series is just okay; as a science-fictional political drama, it’s inferior to Letter 44. The opening scene of this issue seems to take place in Minneapolis, because you can see the Foshay Tower and the AT&T Tower in Professor Kidd’s window.

THE DREAMING #7 (Vertigo, 2019) – “Love, Part 1,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Abigail Larson. My favorite issue yet. This issue focuses on Rose Walker, who has been cursed with a series of unfulfilling relationships, and her daughter Ivy, who she was pregnant with at the end of The Sandman. While visiting her dying mother, Rose meets another patient who I’m guessing is Lucien, and she tells him the story of Ivy’s romance with a young man who is obviously Daniel. This comic makes good use of a number of plot threads from The Sandman, and it’s also an interesting meditation on desire. It also includes an appearance from capital-D Desire. In this issue Daniel goes by a name that sounds like Olly Luckyjay. I had no idea what this name meant, so I asked Simon Spurrier on Twitter, and he was kind enough to reply and tell me to Google “Ole Lukøje.” It turns out that this was the name of Hans Christian Andersen’s version of the Sandman – and appropriately, that character also had a sibling named Death.

RED SONJA #2 (Dynamite, 2019) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mirko Colak. This comic still shows a total lack of knowledge of REH’s world, and its versions of Red Sonja and Shadizar are unrecognizable. In order to enjoy this comic, you have to pretend that it’s just a generic barbarian comic and that it’s not called Red Sonja. If you do that, then it becomes a clever and entertaining story about imperialism. I do think it’s odd that this comic is so unfaithful to its source material. One of the reasons Mark Russell’s earlier works have been so successful is that they show a deep knowledge of their sources (the Flintstones, the Lone Ranger, etc.), while also turning those sources into political allegories.

THE GIRL IN THE BAY #2 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “Time’s Malice,” [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Corin Howell. Katherine Sartori confronts her older self, but then the older self is murdered by Hugh Lansky. Meanwhile, the younger Katherine meets the ghost of a rock star named Winston Burton. As noted before, I have mixed feelings about J.M. DeMatteis’s creator-owned work, but so far this miniseries is very interesting.

UNNATURAL #8 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Mirka Andolfo. This issue includes some more plot twists, but I’ve realized that I’m just not interested in this series anymore, and I don’t care what happens to the characters. I’m not willing to stay with this comic for four more issues. I’ve cancelled my order of issue 9.

SUPERMAN/BATMAN “BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE DAY” SPECIAL EDITION 1 (DC, 2016) – “The World’s Finest,” [W] Jeph Loeb, [A] Ed McGuinness. This reprints Superman/Batman #1. Given my low regard for Jeph Loeb, I expected to dislike this comic, but it was surprisingly good. It’s a very simple but effective superhero story. It begins by establishing the central contrasts between Superman and Batman, and then throws them into a battle with Metallo. This issue is very fun and well-executed, and would be a good introduction to these characters for new readers.

IMAGE FIRSTS: BIRTHRIGHT #1 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Another comic that was much better than I expected. A little boy disappears in a forest, and his father is blamed for his murder, even though there’s no evidence. Then the boy reappears, except now he’s an adult, bearded, tattooed barbarian warrior. In a flashback, we see how he was transported to the fantasy world of Terrenos, where he became a hero. Except it turns out he’s not a hero, but an agent of a demon lord. I don’t think this is as good as Skyward or Die or early Rat Queens, but it seems like a well-done epic fantasy story, and I’d be interested in reading more of it.

COPPERHEAD #7 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Jay Faerber, [A] Scott Godlewski. Sheriff Clara goes on a date with a local schoolteacher, then takes him home to bed, but they’re interrupted by a home invasion. Meanwhile, Budroxifinicus is kidnapped by criminals. This is a fairly entertaining issue. See also the review of #6 below.

SOUTHERN CROSS #3 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Becky Cloonan, [A] Andy Belanger. Another painfully dull issue. I think I do understand this comic’s plot now, I just don’t care about it. Becky Cloonan’s dialogue is trite and wooden, and her characters are flat. Andy Belanger’s art is excellent, but it’s wasted on Cloonan’s story.

GIRL CRAZY #1 (Dark Horse, 1996) – “What’s Knittin’, Kitten?” and other chapters, [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. This issue introduces us to three protagonists, each approaching her 16th birthday. Kitten is an IRS agent in a gorilla suit, Maribel is a barbarian, and Gaby is a lawyer in the 1950s. They decide to team up to rescue their fourth teammate, Una, from prison. Like much of Gilbert’s later work, this comic is completely absurdist. It takes place in a world where time travel and giant monsters are taken for granted, and where the IRS resorts to supernatural means to collect taxes. But unlike Blubber, for example, this comic has an identifiable plot, and while its narrative premises are absurd, it applies those premises consistently. I want to read the other two issues of this miniseries.

MS. TREE #8 (Eclipse, 1984) – “The Cold Dish” chapters 9 and 10, [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. Ms. Tree rescues her kidnapped stepson Mike Jr, but the boy’s grandfather is killed in the process – which is not surprising, because that character doesn’t appear in later issues. This comic has a brutal, unpolished sensibility that really appeals to me, and Terry Beatty’s somewhat crude art is more appropriate than a slicker style of art would have been. This issue also includes some unpublished daily strips by Max Collins and veteran comic strip artist Ray Gotto.

SENSATION COMICS #13 (DC, 2015) – “Besties,” [W] Barbara Randall Kesel, [A] Irene Koh, Emma Vieceli & Laura Braga. This is really not good. The entire issue is devoted to a battle between Wonder Woman and Superwoman from Earth-3, with three young women for an audience. Each of its three chapters is by a different artist. Throughout the issue, Diana acts uncharacteristically arrogant, rude and prideful. She claims that she’s the best, and that she’s beaten everyone. She also says that she’d fight crime naked if it didn’t detract from her message. I have no idea what message the writer was trying to send by portraying Diana in this way. As a minor note, the writer also seems to think that “docced” is a word.

ELFQUEST: THE FINAL QUEST #12 (Dark Horse, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Wendy Pini, [W] Richard Pini. This isn’t the worst issue of this series, but it’s not particularly good either, and its story is difficult or impossible to follow. This series is strictly for hardcore fans, which I am not.

GEORGE PEREZ’S SIRENS #3 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] George Pérez. Another issue full of spectacular art by the greatest living superhero artist. Unfortunately, it also has an incoherent and confusing story, although as noted in my review of #2, the story is just an excuse. This issue does have an interesting metatextual sequence that’s framed as a comic book drawn by a character in the story. This sequence includes some pages reproduced from Gentleman George’s pencils.

THE NEW AVENGERS #3 (Marvel, 2015) – “The Dark Is Rising,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Gerardo Sandoval. This issue has the same irreverent sense of humor as USAvengers, and includes two characters, Sunspot and Squirrel Girl, who would later appear in that series. The reason I ordered this issue was because of Squirrel Girl, although she plays a fairly minor role in this issue. However, New Avengers is inferior to USAvengers because Gerardo Sandoval’s artwork is ugly and makes ineffective use of its obvious manga influences. This issue’s plot is that some Skrulls kidnap Hulkling so he can be their new emperor. There’s also a brief discussion of how Wiccan’s code name is offensive.

THE WEATHER MAN #4 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jody LeHeup, [A] Nathan Fox. I should have bailed on this series after issue 3. This issue is confusing, excessively violent, and pointless. The only thing this series has going for it is Nathan Fox’s art.

THE WEATHER MAN #5 – as above. Nathan Bright/Ian Black has been kidnapped by a talk show host, who subjects him to horrible tortures. The orange-haired woman in the white costume tries to rescue him, but she has to beat some villains first. The issue ends with the talk show host being sliced in half.

THE WEATHER MAN #6 – as above. More pointless violence and gore. The storyline ends on a cliffhanger, but I have no intention of reading the next story arc.

COPPERHEAD #6 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Jay Faerber, [A] Scott Godlewski. A low-key day-in-the-life issue that sets up the plotlines from #7 and #8. (I have unfortunately been reading this series in reverse order.) We also see that Clara’s son has been delivering food to a mysterious vagabond. This series feels like an attempt to capitalize on the success of Saga, but it’s an entertaining comic in its own right. I also ordered #9 and #10, and I will need to read those and then track down issues 11 through 16.

THE SANDMAN #16 (DC, 1990) – “Lost Hearts,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Mike Dringenberg. This issue leads directly into some of the plot threads from The Dreaming #7. I already read it a long time ago, but it was fun to revisit it in that context. In this issue, Unity sacrifices herself so Morpheus doesn’t have to kill Rose. Morpheus then figures out that Desire was Rose’s grandfather, and was trying to trick Morpheus into killing his own relative. This issue also includes Fiddler’s Green, one of the series’ best minor characters (or settings). Mike Dringenberg was perhaps the least successful of all the major artists on this series, but his art is somehow perfect for this storyline.

Two more weeks of reviews

New comics received on February 22:

LUMBERJANES #59 (Boom!, 2019) – “The Life of the Party,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] AnneMarie Rogers. The boating party finds Seafarin’ Karen, but her ship is in the clutches of a sea serpent, and when they try to get the ship free, the serpent eats them all. (Though of course they don’t die.) Meanwhile, preparations for the play are not going well. This was another fun issue, but other than the sea serpent, there was little in it that was new or surprising.

MONSTRESS #20 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. The Warlord and Tuya are unhappily married. Lots of other stuff happens that’s hard to understand, and at the end, Maika meets a man claiming to be her father. This issue was exciting, but confusing. I didn’t realize until just now that the “Baroness” who Corwin accuses of betraying Maika is none other than Tuya.

UNSTOPPABLE WASP #5 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] GuriHiru. Nadia’s friends try to snap her out of her manic episode, but it doesn’t work; she beats them up and retreats into her microworld. Understandably exasperated with Nadia and afraid for their own safety, most of the GIRL agents decide to leave Nadia alone for now and go take care of themselves. But Priya puts on a Wasp suit and goes to find Nadia, who is now in the depressive part of her cycle. She sees herself as the villain of her own story, and thinks that things are never going to get better. Priya talks Nadia out of a suicide attempt, and the issue ends with a cathartic group hug. Unstoppable Wasp #4 and #5 are probably the high point of Jeremy’s career so far. These two issues are a powerful and sympathetic portrayal of mental illness. I think the most powerful part of the story is Priya and Nadia’s heart-to-heart talk, but this entire story sets a benchmark for the representation of mental illness in superhero comics.

SHURI #5 (Marvel, 2019) – “The End of the Earth,” [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Leonardo Romero. This story’s title is a traditional epithet for Timbuktu, whose name used to be a byword for a remote and inaccessible place. I think I read that on Nnedi’s social media. This issue, Shuri and Iron Man have to deal with both the space bug and Moses Magnum. (I was surprised to learn that Moses Magnum is Ethiopian, but it seems that’s been true since his first appearance.) This is a really fun issue, and I’m starting to enjoy Shuri as much as LaGuardia. I especially like the scene in the library; it reminds the reader that far from being the middle of nowhere, Timbuktu used to be the “academic hub of the world.” A couple miscellaneous notes: I initially thought the headline in Wakandan script was in a real African script. For research purposes, I forced myself to watch R*****d M***r’s video about this issue, and it made me so mad I couldn’t see straight.

EXORSISTERS #5 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ian Boothby, [A] Gisèle Lagacé. Cate and Kate confront the encroaching First Shadow, and at the end of the issue they find themselves in heaven. This is a fun issue, but it’s nothing especially new.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #3 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Garrón. It’s weird to be reading this comic at the same time I’m playing the PS4 Spider-Man game, in which Rhino is a villain. This issue, Miles and Rhino rescue the kidnapped kids with the aid of Captain America, who Saladin writes perfectly. The kidnapper, Snatcher, turns out to be a typical “strong borders” dudebro. Also, there’s an appearance by Cap’s congressman, Marisol Hurtado-Montes, whose name sounds oddly similar to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

RAINBOW BRITE #4 (Dynamite, 2019) – untitled,  [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Xenia Pamfil. Wisp befriends Red Flare and gets a new costume that makes her look like a roller derby star. Also, Starlite the horse turns out to be a huge prima donna. Willow still doesn’t appear in this issue, though she at least gets mentioned. I continue to think that the color symbolism in this comic is unfortunate.

MIDDLEWEST #4 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. At the carnival, Abel and the fox don’t find Mystical Magdalena. But they do meet the series’ first major female character, as well as her robot companion. I don’t think her name has been mentioned yet. This was a fun issue.

CATWOMAN #8 (DC, 2019) – “Something Smells Fishy Part 2 of 2,” [W] Joëlle Jones, [A] Elena Casagrande. Selina beats up some woman and steals the reliquary she was guarding. It’s weird that this issue is labeled as 2 of 2, because it doesn’t feel like a conclusion to anything.

CODA #9 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. I guess this comic’s protagonist is named Hum, though I don’t recall that ever being mentioned in the actual comic. This issue, Hum has been robbed of his purpose in life, so he goes back to the bathtub mermaid lady to find something else to do. But it turns out that she’s in league with the giant that’s been pillaging all the towns, and she kidnaps him. I’m a little fuzzy on the specific details of the plot, but this has been a really enjoyable series, with fantastic art.

GRUMBLE #4 (Albatross, 2019) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Mike Norton. I’m starting to really enjoy this comic. It’s just so fun, and the comic interplay between Tala and Eddie is hilarious. This issue, they have a giant car chase with the Imp’s goons, and three green-skinned alien dudes are also hunting them. The best part of the issue is how Eddie’s car’s license plate keeps commenting on what’s going on. For example, when the car crashes through an outdoor market, the license plate says SORRY!

BLACK BADGE #7 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. The Black Badges discover that the White Badges are traitors. Then they win the field day competition, but their “reward” is a vacation, which prevents them from carrying out operations against the White Badges. This is a reasonably exciting issue. The line “Kenny – oh my god! You monsters!” is hilarious. The first page includes an erroneous reference to “fifteen Nobel Peace Prize-winning scientists.”

HOT LUNCH SPECIAL #5 (AfterShock, 2019) – “The Family Business,” [W] Eliot Rahal, [A] Jorge Fornés. The rivalry between the two crime families comes to a bloody conclusion, and the patriarch of the Khoury family sacrifices his life to save his children. This is an okay ending to the series, but it was just an average crime comic. It never did anything exciting with its rural Minnesota setting or its characters’ Lebanese background.

BITTER ROOT #4 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] David F. Walker, [A] Sanford Greene. This issue is mostly a bunch of fight scenes, but it also introduces a new type of monster called inzondo, which are to black people what jinoo are to white people. This issue includes an essay by my friend and fellow comics scholar Qiana Whitted.

SUPERB #17 (Lion Forge, 2019) – “Undisputed Truths,” [W] David F. Walker, [A] Alitha Martinez. The flashback scenes that begin every issue of this current storyline are better than the actual main story. This issue, Jonah’s Little League coach refuses to let him play, and his teammates also refuse to play in solidarity. In the main story, Jonah fights Cipher, and one of his teammates gets killed. I hope it’s the one who was being mean to him. The Cosmosis backup story is, as usual, a waste of space.

AQUAMAN #45 (DC, 2019) – “Unspoken Water Part 3 of 5,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Robson Rocha. I was thinking of dropping this comic. It was starting to remind me of Pretty Deadly, which I never much liked. But this issue is an improvement. The mythological account of Namma and Caille’s origins is quite effective; it feels like an actual myth. And Robson Rocha’s art is quite good. I’m going to give this a few more issues at least.

LUCIFER #5 (Vertigo, 2019) – “The Man Who Bested the Devil Not Once But Twice,” [W] Dan Watters, [A] Max Fiumara & Sebastian Fiumara. This issue introduces the folklore character of Stingy Jack, who tricked the devil into exempting him from hell, but couldn’t go to heaven either. As usual with this series, the individual pieces of its story are fascinating, but it’s impossible to tell how these pieces fit together. I’m only reading this series because DCBS’s package deal allows me to get it essentially for free.

THE LONE RANGER #5 (Dynamite, 2019) – “Trail of Blood,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Bob Q. The Lone Ranger and Tonto save the day by paying off all the evil ranchers’ gunmen, none of whom liked their employers much anyway. At the end, Tonto describes America as “a land forever busy building gateways and fences. And I can’t always tell which is which.” The reference to contemporary politics is obvious. This was another pretty good series, though perhaps not as good as Snagglepuss or Flintstones.

MARS ATTACKS #5 (Dynamite, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Chris Schweizer. Young Carbutt successfully reaches the military base with his Martian prisoner, and gets picked to lead a combat mission to Mars. So he’s following his father’s wishes, though only after his father is dead. This was a fun series. The opening sequence, where Carbutt is leading the Martian at gunpoint while battles rage in the background, includes some of Chris’s best art in this series.

HIGH LEVEL #1 (Vertigo, 2019) – “Chapter One: Onida,” [W] Rob Sheridan, [A] Barnaby Bagenda. A series set in a postapocalyptic world where a small population of privileged people enjoy a carefree life in High Level, while everyone else struggles to survive. The protagonist, Thirteen, has to take a refugee child back to High Level. This issue did not impress me. Its setup is not especially original, and Rob Sheridan’s dialogue is boring and trite. If this series doesn’t get better in a hurry, I’m going to stop ordering both it and Lucifer, and I’ll get the other Vertigo titles on an a la carte basis.

AMERICAN CARNAGE #4 (Vertigo, 2019) – “Animals,” [W] Bryan Hill, [A] Leandro Fernandez. Another difficult but brilliant issue. Jennifer finally gets fed up with Richard and throws him out of their car, and then the Obama mask dude apparently kills him. The next issue blurb makes it obvious that Richard isn’t dead, but I look forward to seeing how he survives. Meanwhile, Jennifer’s dad has trouble with one of his fellow white terrorists. Also, Richard tells Angel a touching fairy tale. This series reminds me of Southern Bastards because its plot is driven by the internal rivalries between two horrible criminals.

BLACK PANTHER #5 (Marvel, 1999) – “Lord of the Damned,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Vince Evans. This series is hard to follow, but I’m finally starting to understand it. This issue, T’Challa and Everett Ross battle Mephisto in hell, and T’Challa defeats Mephisto by calling on his ancestor’s souls. We also get some flashbacks to Klaw’s invasion of Wakanda and T’Chaka’s death.

ETHER: THE COPPER GOLEMS #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] David Rubín. Boone and his pals defeat a copper golem inside a volcano, then they head to a realm based on Egypt. I really enjoyed this issue, unlike the previous two. It just felt more fun somehow, and David Rubín’s art in this issue is spectacular. The highlight is a page where Boone and friends are riding a giant fish labeled “Sea Cab,” while Boone is commenting, “Wonderful, isn’t it? What the human imagination can come up with?” Rubín is a superstar in his native Spain, and he should be a superstar here too.

A-FORCE #10 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Paulo Siqueira & Joe Bennett. This series began very promisingly, but it soon petered out, and the only really memorable thing about it was Singularity. She plays a part in this final issue, but the plot is mostly about a town where the people have been turned into giant bug monsters. To save the town, Elsa Bloodstone lets herself be turned into a monster too – just like the woman in the first West Coast Avengers storyline who doesn’t want her transformation into a monster to be reversed. I don’t know if tis is a coincidence or not.

CAPTAIN KID #4 (AfterShock, 2017) – “He’ll Live,” [W] Mark Waid & Tom Peyer, [A] Brent Peeples. The main event this issue is that Captain Kid has to save his elderly father, who doesn’t know his secret identity. This scene is touching, but Captain Kid suffered from a lack of a clear direction or theme. It was sort of a dry run for the current Ahoy titles, which are much more coherent and focused.

LOVE ROMANCES #1 (Marvel, 2019) – four stories, [E] Mark Paniccia. A weird and perplexing comic. I guess this was intended as an homage to old Marvel romance comics, but it seems to lack a coherent focus. The first story, written by Gail, is a steampunk romance story that doesn’t make much logical sense. Next is a silent ghost story by two artists, including French cartoonist Margaux Motin, whose graphic memoir Plate Tectonics is forthcoming from Archaia. I didn’t quite understand this story either. Next is a Romeo-and-Juliet romance story with a gruesome twist ending, written by Dennis Hopeless (although it’s not totally clear which credits correspond to which story). The highlight of the issue is the last story, by Jon Adams, about two lovers who have themselves turned into robots. I haven’t heard of this creator before, but I liked this story enough that I’d be interested in reading more of his work.

SUKEBAN TURBO #4 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Sylvain Runberg, [A] Victor Santos. Sam publicly beats up the girl he slept with in an earlier issue, tanking his career. Meanwhile, Shelby becomes a big-time mob enforcer. This wasn’t the best comic ever, but it was well-crafted and entertaining.

ETHER: THE COPPER GOLEMS #4 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] David Rubín. Boone and Grandor defeat a giant Copper Golem by climbing inside it. Then, looking for the last portal, they meet the “Master Storyteller,” who sends each of them into a dream sequence. Each sequence is drawn in a different style. I love it when artists use multiple styles in the same story, and David Rubín does it very well here. I espsecially like Glum’s sequence, which uses a cartoony style.

ETHER: THE COPPER GOLEMS #5 (Dark Horse, 2018) – as above. Boone and friends close the last portal, but it turns out their enemy Lord Ubel has become the new Golden Blaze, and he exiles Boone from the Ether. Back on Earth, Boone discovers that one of his daughters has died and the other wants nothing to do with him, but she gives him some food he can eat in the Ether. So Boone doesn’t belong anywhere now. There’s going to be a third miniseries, The Disappearance of Violet Bell, but it hasn’t been solicited yet.

GO-BOTS #4 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Tom Scioli. This issue finally makes sense of the previous issue: it turns out this story is taking place far in the future, and humans have devolved into animals. There’s a sequence where some Go-Bots are trying to make humans transform or combine. When I read this comic, it didn’t stand out to me, but when it was shared out of context on Facebook, I realized how bizarre it was. But I’ve gotten used to the sheer insanity of Tom Scioli’s work. This issue also introduces the Rock Lords to the storyline.

THE CHRONICLES OF CORUM: THE KNIGHT OF THE SWORDS #1 (First, 1987) – untitled, [W] Mike Baron, [A] Mike Mignola. It’s been a long time since I read the book this is based on. To go off on a tangent, I bought that book at the old DreamHaven location in uptown Minneapolis. I used to love uptown Minneapolis because there were so many bookstores and comic book stores there, all in close proximity: the Comic Book College, the Nostalgia Zone, BookSmart, Magers & Quinn, the Calhoun Square Borders, and a bit further away, DreamHaven. Now all those stores except Magers & Quinn have either closed or moved elsewhere. It makes me sad to think how much harder it is today to find quality bookstores. Anyway, this is a fairly effective adaptation, though Mignola hadn’t yet developed his mature style. The Knight of the Swords is not one of Moorcock’s better works, and I never felt motivated to read the other five Corum novels.

SCALPED #27 (Vertigo, 2009) – “The Ballad of Baylis Earl Nitz: High Lonesome Part 3 of 5,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Francesco Francavilla. I just read a book that discusses Scalped, so I was able to understand this issue’s story, even though I’ve only read one other issue of the series. This issue focuses on the main antagonist, the FBI agent who is investigating the long-ago murders of his two colleagues (based on the real murders for which Leonard Peltier was convicted). Throughout the issue we see that Nitz is devoted to his colleagues’ memories above everything else, even his own family. At first it seems like he’s a noble and dedicated man, who cares about his fallen comrades to the point of obsession. But then we learn why Nitz worships Bayer and Berntson so much: because they corrupted him. When a criminal stabbed Nitz, Bayer and Berntson kidnapped the criminal so that Nitz could murder him. It’s a brutal shock ending to a powerful story, whose only fault is the artwork. Francesco Francavilla is a brilliant artist, but he’s not suited to a realistic crime story. I can clearly see how Scalped prefigures Southern Bastards, and I want to read more of Scalped.

U.S.AVENGERS #4 (Marvel, 2017) – “Here Be Monsters…”, [W] Al Ewing, [A] Paco Medina. The USAvengers battle American Kaiju. This issue is divided into several vignettes, each of which amusingly begins with a fake cover. The covers look exactly like actual Marvel covers, together with UPC codes and the Bonus Digital Content label. So this is an entire crossover within a single issue. The rest of the comic is fun too; it includes some cute examples of Deadpool’s fourth-wall breaking, and I love the concept of American Kaiju.

KINGS WATCH #5 (Dynamite, 2014) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Marc Laming. The King heroes defeat Ming’s invasion of Earth, at the cost of the Phantom’s life, and Lothar becomes the next Phantom. Turning Lothar into the Phantom is a clever way to counteract the racist, colonialist implications of both the Phantom and Mandrake. In general, this is an exciting adventure story. Jeff Parker may be the single most underrated writer in recent comics history. All of his stuff is excellent, and he never gets much credit for it.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2017: ALL AGES (Dark Horse, 2017) – Buffy in “No Need to Fear, the Slayer’s Here,” [W] Kel McDonald, [A] Yishan Li; and Plants vs. Zombies in “Unrest in the Old West,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Rachel Downing. This issue’s Buffy in High School story is mediocre. The Plants vs. Zombies story is painful to read. I suppose it would be appealing to kids who like silly humor. But I don’t see the point of writing a comic about a game with no storyline – and Paul Tobin has done this twice, since he also wrote the Angry Birds comic.

ASTONISHER #8 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “Nowhere Else to Go,” [W] Alex de Campi, [A] Pop Mhan & Al Barrionuevo. The protagonist takes over a satellite in order to defeat a villain’s plot. This issue’s writing is fairly clever, but I’ve never quite understood the premise of Astonisher. I think it’s about a superhero with dream-related powers and an overbearing stage mom.

NOBLE #3 (Lion Forge, 2017) – “Matter Over Mind,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Roger Robinson. This issue reminds me of Weapon X, in that it’s about a superhero who’s being experimented on. Other than that, I wasn’t sure what this comic was about, and the artist wastes a lot of space on unimpressive drawings of explosions.

ICE: CRITICAL MASS #1 (12 Gauge, 2014) – untitled, [W] Doug Wagner, [A] Daniel Hillyard. I bought this at Heroes Con because of its weird title, which I will explain momentarily. On its own, this comic is just an average cop story; nothing about it particularly stands out. What makes this comic noteworthy is that its title stands for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Back in 2014, ICE was not as controversial as it is now. That explains why it was possible for 12 Gauge to publish a comic about ICE without triggering a media frenzy. But even before the family separation controversy, ICE was notorious for deporting and detaining and generally mistreating people. Even in 2014, depicting ICE agents in a sympathetic and uncritical way, as this comic does, was rather offensive. The villains in this comic are human traffickers, not undocumented immigrants, so this comic isn’t as offensive as it could have been, but it’s still fundamentally flawed.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #5 (Marvel, 2016) – “Rise of the Alpha Flight Part Five,” [W] Michele Fazekas, [A] Tara Butters, [A] Kris Anka & Felipe Smith. I just now realized this issue was drawn by Kris Anka. Other than that, it’s a boring and forgettable comic. The main thing that killed Captain Marvel’s momentum (at least until the movie and the Kelly Thompson comic) was Civil War II, but this series certainly didn’t help reverse the character’s decline.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #6 (Marvel, 2016) – “Lonely at the Top: Part 1,” [W] Ruth Fletcher Gage & Christos Gage, [A] Kris Anka. I did realize that this issue was drawn by Kris Anka, and I perceived its art as being better than last issue’s. That shows the extent to which my aesthetic judgments are affected by my prior beliefs. This issue is better than #5, but only marginally, and it’s a Civil War II crossover.

My next comics shipment arrived on March 1. I was also grading that day, so I had limited energy for reading comics.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #42 (Image, 2019) – “The Truth Will Set You Free and/or Kill You,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. I’m sorry to hear that Jamie is having back problems. Lots of stuff happens this issue. Minerva finally explains her connection with Ananke: they’re the same entity, but every time a new generation of gods arises, Minerva splits off as a separate being. We also learn that the Great Darkness is being generated by a Frankenstein monster created by the 1831 Woden, so WicDiv: 1831 is actually an integral part of the plot. Also, Ananke kills Woden. Good riddance to bad rubbish. And Nergal/Baphomet sacrifices himself to revive Dionysus. This series is getting really exciting.

FANTASTIC FOUR #7 (Marvel, 2019) – “Four-Man Invasion,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Aaron Kuder. Doom manipulates the FF into helping them turn Galactus into an energy source. Then he sentences them to death. This issue’s plot is very clever; I especially like Reed turning his hand into a fake Ultimate Nullifier. And Victorious is an interesting new character. But the highlight of the issue is Franklin and Val getting out of bed and building a teleporter so they can help their parents.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #40 (Marvel, 2019) – “Bad Dream Part 3: All That We See or Seem,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Lunella, Dr. Strange and Sleepwalker investigate the Dream Dimension, and back in the waking world, Devil battles a giant multi-eyed dream monster. The highlight of the issue is when Doc puts Lunella to sleep by telling her his origin story, although I saw a preview of this scene before I read the issue.

AVANT-GUARDS #2 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Carly Usdin, [A] Noah Hayes. This issue focuses on Olivia, who executes an ultimately successful campaign to get Charlie to join the basketball team. This is a really fun series. Olivia’s energy and passion are infectious, and the other characters are cute too.

BLACK HAMMER: AGE OF DOOM #8 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “Stories to Astonish,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. Lucy finds herself in Spiral City, where nothing ever happens. So it’s the same as the previous Black Hammer series, except now the characters are stuck in Spral City rather than Black Hammer Farm. But the issue ends with Lucy finding Mr. Talky-Walky again. Meanwhile, Barbalien is stuck on Mars and is trying to get himself to Earth.

WONDER WOMAN #65 (DC, 2019) – “The Grudge, Part 2,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Jesús Merino. Dinah discovers that Nemesis is manipulating Veronica Cale instead of vice versa. Diana convinces Veronica of this by hugging her, a surprising but very in-character act. Aphrodite summons a giant flying swan so that she, Steve and Diana can find Veronica’s daughter, as well as Aphrodite’s own child, Hermaphroditus. I really like Willow’s portrayal of Diana, but her plots are too close to Greg Rucka’s, as I have noted before.

PRINCELESS: FIND YOURSELF #5 (Action Lab, 2019) – “Into the Woods of the Wolves,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Emily Martin. This issue is a landmark moment in the series, because Adrienne finally meets her mother and learns her mother’s origin story. It turns out that Adrienne’s mom was a werewolf, not a princess, and that she was always the Black Knight. And she’s been following Adrienne for the entire series. But just as Adrienne is finally getting over her resentment of her mother for abandoning her adventurer life, Adrienne realizes that her dad’s kingdom is at war with the elves. The timeline of this issue confused me because it seemed like Aveline/Danielle’s entire career as the Black Knight, plus the births of all her children, must have happened within 27 years. But on rereading, it looks like 27 years is the time she spent as a queen. That would be enough time to have eight children, the youngest of whom is a teenager.

PETER CANNON: THUNDERBOLT #2 (Dynamite, 2019) – “Watch, Part Two,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Caspar Wijngaard. The Watchmen influence in this issue is less obvious. But I LOLed at the panel where the Rorschach character vomits up a bunch of raspberries onto a yellow table, resulting in an image that looks just like the bloodstained smiley face from Watchmen. (Oh, and later this character says “never compromise, even in the face of….” before getting killed.) Next, Thunderbolt and his friends transport themselves into the alternate Thunderbolt world by inscribing themselves into a nine-panel grid. I’m not quite sure how this works, but it’s an amazing piece of metatext, and I love the line “This level of formalism is dangerous.” This is a fascinating series.

MAN-EATERS #6 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Chelsea Cain, [A] Kate Niemczyk. There’s a little bit of plot in this issue, and that’s an improvement, since previous issues had no plot at all. And the issue begins with a reference to “males with female sex organs.” However, this reference is more insulting than helpful. For the entire run of this series, Chelsea has ignored the perspectives of transgender fans, and she owes them an actual apology, not a token acknowledgement of their existence. This is the last issue of Man-Eaters that I’ll be reading. Véronique Emma Houxbois’s review effectively sums up the problems with this series, and offers the intriguing suggestion that these problems are the result of a lack of editing. http://www.comicosity.com/transmyscira-the-cat-eats-its-own-tail-in-man-eaters/

WEST COAST AVENGERS #8 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Gang Hyuk Lim. The Avengers infiltrate the Church of Sci… um, the Temple of the Shifting Sun, which turns out to be a hive of vampires. I think the best moment in this issue is the panel with the land shark drinking coffee. This is a fun issue, but I’m saddened to realize that this series is getting cancelled after two more issues.

ATOMIC ROBO: DAWN OF A NEW ERA #3 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. Jenkins, who was presumed dead, shows up alive, and Bernie encounters his subterranean lover Princess Nequa. This issue is a fairly straightforward continuation from last issue.

BLACK PANTHER #9 (Marvel, 2019) – “Book 2: The Gathering of My Name,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Kev Walker. T’Challa and Nakia invade an underground kingdom to rescue something called the Jengu. But the local ruler, Agwe, tells them that their boss, Jafari, is a traitor, and that the Jengu is actually a giant whale goddess that Jafari wants for himself. Kev Walker’s art in this issue is really good.

THE TERRIFICS #13 (DC, 2019) – “The Terrifics No More! Part Three,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Joe Bennett. Mr. Terrific meets an alternate-dimensional version of his wife, and the Terrifics reunite to save Michael and Paula from Java and the Dreadfuls. Besides Michael and Paula’s reunion, the highlight of this issue is Linnya’s first meeting with Plas’s son Luke. I LOLed at Luke’s embarrassed expression on seeing Tinya. I guess that’s why this series has no Ultra Boy character – because Luke is going to be Linnya’s love interest.

CAPTAIN MARVEL: BRAVER & MIGHTIER #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “Braver & Mightier,” [W] Jody Houser, [A] Simone Buonfantino. While Carol fights some aliens in space, two high school students try to think of a single question to ask her. The question they come up with – “What would you ask your younger self?” – is a bit anticlimactic, but besides that, this is a very well-written one-shot that effectively sums up Carol’s character. Also, as previously demonstrated in Faith Dreamside, Jody Houser is really good at writing teenagers.

SMOOTH CRIMINALS #4 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kurt Lustgarten & Kiwi Smith, [A] Leisha Riddel. More of the same plotlines from last issue: Brenda and Mia are plotting to steal the Net of Indra. Meanwhile, Mia’s mother is questioned as to why her daughter is still the same age she was in 1969. The main appeal of this series is the interplay between Brenda and Mia, who are the same age, but were born 30 years apart. I especially like the discussion of homophobia, which Mia doesn’t understand because she grew up in the era of free love. Oh, and also Brenda has a huge crush on Mia, to which Mia is oblivious.

THE FORGOTTEN QUEEN #1 (Valiant, 2019) – untitled, [W] Tini Howard, [A] Amilcar Pinna. This new series is about an immortal villainess. In flashbacks, we see her history with Cain and Abel and with Genghis Khan, and in the present day, another woman tries to revive her. This is a pretty good debut issue with some nice art, and the creators seem to have done some research on the Mongol Empire. (Except that at one point Genghis is called “khal,” not “khan.” This isn’t Game of Thrones.)

THE BOOKS OF MAGIC #5 (Vertigo, 2019) – “A Twist in the Narrative,” [W] Kat Howard, [A] Tom Fowler. Tim visits the Dreaming, meets Lucien and the new artificial-intelligence Dream, and comes back with a book. This was an entertaining issue, but this series continues to be very slow-paced.

HEX WIVES #5 (Vertigo, 2019) – “Cleaning House,” [W] Ben Blacker, [A] Mirka Andolfo. The best issue yet. The wives finally get a chance to talk and discuss their powers, despite the husbands’ best efforts at distraction. Finally the husbands drop the pretense of niceness and become violent, but it’s too late; the wives have succeeded in summoning the ancient crone who gave them their powers. The husbands in this series are just awful, with their domineering sexism which ultimately turns into aggressive violence. It’s going to be cathartic when they finally get their comeuppance. Also, there’s a scene with some talking cats, and Ben Blacker writes some really good cat dialogue. “Just tell her, then pick me up. No, pick me up first.” “I gotta get this water. Get it! Agh! Get, get, get!”

WIMMEN’S COMIX #7 (Last Gasp, 1976) – “Outlaws,” [E] Melinda Gebbie & Dot Butcher. This issue’s stories are about female outlaws, including but not limited to pirates and sex workers. One notable thing about Wimmen’s Comix, and perhaps about underground comics in general, was its non-hierarchical nature. This issue includes work by five major artists (Roberta Gregory, Melinda Gebbie, Joyce Farmer, Lee Marrs and Sharon Rudahl) and a lot of other artists I’ve never heard of. But the editors don’t draw any distinction between the stars and the unknown artists. There wasn’t an attempt to promote the star artists at the expense of the others, and I like that. As usual, the stories in this issue are of widely varying quality. The best is Lee Marrs’s “Moonshine Mama,” about an Appalachian grandmother who, in her younger days, was a moonshiner and then a union crusader. The other highlights are Roberta Gregory’s story about an encounter with homophobic police, and Joyce Farmer’s story about a sex worker, although the latter is hard to follow.

TRUE BELIEVERS: ANT-MAN AND THE WASP – ON THE TRAIL OF SPIDER-MAN #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “On the Trail of the Amazing Spider-Man!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Dick Ayers, and “A Voice in the Dark,” [W/A] Larry Lieber. Both these stories are from Tales to Astonish #57. The first one is a straightforward “superheroes fight then team up” story, in which Egghead manipulates Spidey into fighting Hank and Jan. The highlight of this story is how Spidey and Jan don’t like each other because spiders and wasps are natural enemies. “A Voice in the Dark” is mostly a Wasp solo story. It’s better than the first story, but unfortunately Jan doesn’t get to do much. She’s too weak to physically affect the villain in any way, so she defeats him by pretending to be the Invisible Girl. Adding insult to injury, Hank refuses to believe Jan when she says it was her and not Sue Storm who defeated the villain.

PUNKS NOT DEAD: LONDON CALLING #1 (IDW, 2019) – “…To the Zombies of Death,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Martin Simmonds. Sid and Fergie arrive in London and start tracking down Sid’s dad. I’m glad Punks Not Dead got a sequel, but Martin Simmonds’s art in this issue is a step down from his art in the first miniseries. There are some excellent individual pages, like the page where the woman attacks Sid and Fergie with her tentacles, but this issue’s art looks line-drawn rather than painted.

DAREDEVIL #2 (Marvel, 2019) – “Know Fear Part 2,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Checchetto. Matt tries to deal with the fallout from his apparent killing of a criminal. This issue is okay, but it feels too much like a retread of Miller or Bendis’s Daredevil. I’m going to stop ordering this series.

Reviews for most of February

2/22/19

A few comics I read after finishing the previous reviews:

THOR, GOD OF THUNDER #4 (Marvel, 2013) – “The God Butcher, Part Four: The Last God in Asgard,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Esad Ribic. Another chapter of Thor’s battle with Gorr the God Butcher. Gorr is kind of a boring villain, and the best part of this story is Shadrak, the God of wine and waterfalls, songs and somersaults, and probably other alliterative things. I didn’t get interested in Jason’s Thor until his Jane Foster saga, but I should go back and collect the rest of this run.

ENCOUNTER #2 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “Too Hot to Handle! Too Cold to Hold!”, [W] Art Baltazar & Franco, [W/A] Chris Giarrusso. Encounter, Kayla and Barko fight a flying shark that‘s half fire and half ice. A pretty average issue.

COPPERHEAD #8 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Jay Faerber, [A] Scott Godlewski. The alien partner dude is held hostage by some rebels. I didn’t quite understand the plot of this comic, but it’s reasonably fun. However, this series was never all that exciting, compared to some of the other stuff Image has been publishing.

SOUTHERN CROSS #2 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Becky Cloonan, [A] Andy Belanger. Andy Belanger’s art is excellent, but it’s wasted on a thoroughly boring story. I didn’t understand what was going on in this issue, and even if I had understood, I wouldn’t have cared.

GEORGE PÉREZ’S SIRENS #2 (Boom!, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] George Pérez. This comic has way too many characters and its plot makes no sense. But the plot is mostly just an excuse to allow Gentleman George to draw a lot of sexy action girls. On that level, this comic succeeds, and it’s full of brilliant page layouts and action sequences and technology. Unfortunately this series will probably be George’s last significant work.

PUNKS NOT DEAD #5 (IDW, 2018) – “Teenage Kicks Part Five,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Martin Simmonds. I forgot to read this when it came out. This is perhaps the most visually impressive issue of the series. This issue consists primarily of a flashback set in the Swinging London of the ‘60s, and the flashback scenes are drawn in several different styles. Most of the issue is in a line-drawn style rather than the painted style of the rest of the series. This issue suggests that Martin Simmonds is a major talent who isn’t getting enough attention.

On January 26, I went to Charlotte Mini Con. This was a pretty good convention, but not as exciting as the last two Charlotte Mini Cons. My main problem was that I ran out of time and energy before I ran out of money. By around 2 PM, I had to leave and go to lunch, but I felt like I could have stayed and bought more stuff. Here are some of the comics I bought:

TRILLIUM #1 (Vertigo, 2013) – “3797 – The Scientist” and “1921 – The Soldier,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. This issue has two stories that introduce our two protagonists: an archaeologist who was almost killed in World War I, and a future scientist who is one of the last survivors of a sentient plague. After you read one story, you flip the comic over to read the other story, which is upside down. The centerfold of the issue represents the point where the two characters meet, thanks to time travel. I now have the entire run of this title, and I just need to find the time to read it in order. Trillium represents a brilliant use of the comic book format, and it’s too bad I didn’t know about it when I wrote the book, although the book is long enough already.

USAGI YOJIMBO #4 (Fantagraphics, 1987) – “Samurai!” parts 7 and 8, [W/A] Stan Sakai. I was just telling someone that Usagi Yojimbo tends to be very light on continuity, and that when you do need to know about past events, Stan explains them. For example, the most important event in Usagi’s life is when Lord Mifune is betrayed and killed by Lord Hikiji, causing Usagi to become a ronin. The primary depiction of that event is in Usagi vol. 1 #4. Until now I had never read that issue, but I didn’t need to have read it in order to understand all the other stories that refer to it. Still, the actual scene of Lord Mifune’s death is quite powerful. Stan’s artwork in this issue is much more polished than in the earliest Usagi stories, and his depiction of the battle of Adachigahara is gorgeous, although Usagi’s head still has a funny shape.

FRANK #2 (Fantagraphics, 1997) – “Pushpaw” and other stories, [W/A] Jim Woodring. Frank meets Pushpaw, not to be confused with Pupshaw. At first Pupshaw pushes Pushpaw away. But then Frank and Pupshaw encounter a mysterious creature that gets bigger and bigger until it absorbs them into its skin. When all seems lost, Pushpaw bites the creature open and saves Frank and Pupshaw, and Frank, Pushpaw and Pupshaw become friends. There’s also a colorized story where Frank goes on a date, and a black-and-white story in which several identical Franks are playing cards. Just as I was reading this comic, I heard about B—l M—r’s ignorant, insulting rant about comics and Stan Lee. Frank #3 is all the proof I need that comics are a legitimate art form. It does things that would be impossible in any other medium. In particular, the scene where the creature devours Frank and Pupshaw is amazing. At first you think the designs on the creature’s skin are just drawings, and then they turn into a three-dimensional world. That shift from drawing to reality is an effect that only works in comics.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #127 (Marvel, 1973) – “The Dark Wings of Death!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Ross Andru. I’ve been playing the PS4 Spider-Man game, and playing that game feels just like reading a classic Spider-Man comic. It has web-slinging action, relationship drama, witty quips, and complex politics. So I wanted to read some classic Spider-Man comics, and ASM #127 qualifies. In this issue, Spidey is trying to find out why the Vulture is killing and abducting people. Meanwhile, Peter’s relationships with MJ and Harry are suffering, and Professor Warren wants to know why he’s been missing class.

LITTLE LULU #77 (Dell, 1954) – “Boomerang” and other stories, [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. I had this issue already, but my copy was in worse condition. Someone removed the upper right corner of the cover and replaced it with a drawing of their own. This issue’s best story is the first one, in which Tubby tries to trick Lulu into checking on an explosive scientific experiment. Other stories in this issue feature McNabbem and the West Side Guys, and there’s also a Witch Hazel story, as usual.

SUPERMAN #236 (DC, 1971) – “Planet of the Angels,” [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Curt Swan. This issue is an interruption in the Sand Superman saga. It’s a rather weird story where Superman gets enlisted in a war between literal angels and devils, except the devils turn out to be the good guys, and the angels are criminals. There is an obvious and heavy-handed political message here. Swan and Anderson are my favorite Superman art team; I love their artwork from this period. This issue also includes a backup story which is, again, an obvious and heavy-handed parable about environmentalism – its message is that hippies should try to save the environment instead of listening to music all the time.

OMAC #2 (DC, 1974) – “Blood-Brother Eye” (or “In the Era of the Super-Rich”), [W/A] Jack Kirby. A billionaire rents an entire city for a party, but the party is in fact a trap to destroy Project OMAC. Because of its depiction of super-rich people who can do whatever they want with no consequences, this comic has obvious relevance to our current political moment, although it doesn’t engage in a direct critique of capitalism.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #66 (Marvel, 1980) – “The Jade Tiger!”, [W] Mary Jo Duffy, [A] Kerry Gammill. Misty and Colleen fight Sabretooth and Constrictor, who were partners at the time, and Luke and Danny have to rescue them. Of course there are also various other subplots going on. This comic is very entertaining, but not as good as #71, to be reviewed below.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #6 (Marvel, 2016) – “The Dark Kingdom Part 1: Turnabout,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Matteo Buffagni. I want to try to collect Dan Slott’s entire run on Spider-Man. I probably should have been buying it when it came out, because I like Dan Slott’s other comics, and I’m a big Spider-Man fan. Also, one of the primary villains of the PS4 Spider-Man game is Mister Negative, who Slott co-created. In this issue, Peter visits Shanghai, and Mister Negative corrupts Cloak and Dagger, which results in the striking visual image of a white Cloak and a black Dagger.

LETTER 44 #4 (Oni, 2014) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Alberto Jiménez Albuquerque. I’ve been passively collecting this series, meaning that I buy issues of it whenever I see them for a dollar or less. I want to start collecting it more actively. This issue, the astronauts investigate the alien artifact, and the President discovers that his chief of staff is a traitor.

New comics received on 1/26, along with additional comics purchased at the con:

MONSTRESS #19 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. This is one of the best current ongoing titles, yet also one of the most difficult. It’s hard to know what to say about it. This issue begins with a flashback to Kippa’s birth, then Kippa is rescued from her kidnappers by a mysterious blue-skinned horned boy. Meanwhile, Maika and Corvin are searching for Kippa, and we see that Corvin is missing an eye.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #39 (Marvel, 2019) – “Bad Dream, Part Two: The Stranger,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. After a bunch of fights and dream sequences, Lunella encounters Sleepwalker, a dumb character who some people unaccountably feel nostalgic for. He takes her to see Dr. Strange. This has been a fun storyline so far, and I’m looking forward to the next issue.

THE AVANT-GUARDS #1 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Carly Usdin, [A] Noah Hayes. A new series by the writer of Hi-Fi Fight Club/Heavy Vinyl. The main thing I remember about that comic is its use of ‘90s nostalgia, and that theme is not present in The Avant-Guards. Instead, the main appeal of this new series is its strong characterization. It’s about a new student at an art school who gets recruited to join the women’s basketball team. This is a promising debut issue that arouses curiosity about the characters and makes me want to keep reading. Boom! Box has published at least three other sports comics already, including two that I loved (Fence and Slam!) and one that I disliked (Dodge City).

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #16 (Marvel, 2016) – “Before Dead No More Part One: Whatever the Cost,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. Jay Jameson is seriously ill, and a company called New U has a treatment that may cure him. But there’s something suspicious about the company, and meanwhile, the Jackal, the Lizard and Electro are involved in some kind of plot. This is a reasonably good comic, but it’s not at the same level as Roger Stern’s Spider-Man, though that’s an unfair standard.

HIGH HEAVEN #5 (Ahoy, 2019) – “Chapter Five,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Greg Scott. David finally gets to the real heaven, but is forced to work as a janitor, and he’s still missing his you-know-what. Meanwhile, Heather uncovers the mystery of L-Meat, though I still don’t quite understand what L-Meat actually does. That’s the end of the first story arc. I hope this series isn’t on hiatus for too long.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC 20/20 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Toni Kuusisto. This issue is part of a series of one-shots depicting IDW characters 20 years in the present or future. In this issue, the Mane Six go back in time meet their younger selves just after the latter have gotten their cutie marks. The interactions between the older and younger ponies are cute, but it would have been much more interesting to meet the Mane Six’s future selves than their past selves. Also, I don’t believe it’s already been 20 years since the ponies got their cutie marks.

SHURI #4 (Marvel, 2019) – “Timbuktu,” [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Leonardo Romero. We are introduced to the Egungun, a “pan-African alliance” created by T’Challa. Meanwhile, the space bug visits Timbuktu in Mali, and Moses Magnum, an old X-Men villain, happens to be there already. This is a fun series, and it’s definitely Nnedi’s best comic yet, other than LaGuardia. More than most other Black Panther stories, Shuri #4 connects Wakanda to the larger context of Africa. It also reminds the reader that Africa is a full of diverse and vibrant cultures.

MOTHER PANIC #1 (DC, 2017) – “A Work in Progress Part 1,” [W] Jody Houser, [A] Tommy Lee Edwards. I think I now have this entire series, but I’ve only read one issue of it. This is because I was ordering all the Young Animal titles. Even after reading this comic, I can’t remember much about it, except that it’s a superhero comic which is set in Gotham, and the protagonist’s mother is insane. I haven’t yet felt motivated to read any more of this series.

HAWKEYE #4 (Marvel, 2013) – “The Tape Part 1,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Javier Pulido. I think this was the only issue of this series that I didn’t have. I didn’t know I was missing it, because its cover looks identical to the cover of #5. This issue, Hawkeye goes looking for a tape that seems to show him committing an assassination. It’s a good issue, but not the best issue of this series.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #74 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Kate Sherron. This is a sequel to “Flutter Brutter,” which introduced Fluttershy’s ne’er-do-well brother Zephyr Breeze. That episode ended with Zephyr Breeze becoming a hairdresser, and in MLP:FIM #74, he goes to his first professional conference. This is at least the third MLP story that includes a fan convention, and it’s an old joke by now. Besides that, this is a pretty good issue, with some funny hair jokes.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS 20/20 #1 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Sina Grace, [A] Siobhan Keenan. This issue depicts the Holograms and Misfits twenty years in the future. Sadly it’s not written by Kelly Thompson but by Sina Grace, whose work I have never liked, and he doesn’t write these characters nearly as well as Kelly did. At least the artist deserves credit for being able to draw middle-aged women.

SEA HUNT #6 (Dell, 1960) – “Treasure of the Mayas” and other stories, [W] Eric Freiwald & Robert Schaefer, [A] Russ Manning. In this issue’s main story, Mike Nelson is hired to help recover an underwater Mayan treasure, but one of the other members of the expedition is trying to kill him and take the treasure for himself. This story is exciting and professionally written, and Manning’s artwork is spectacular. I also like the ending where the expedition leader thanks Mike on behalf of his country, Guatemala. This is a subtle reminder that the Mayan people didn’t go extinct or something; they’re the ancestors of the modern people of Guatemala and neighboring countries. There’s a backup story where Mike saves a town from a flood. Sea Hunt is a fascinating series that I didn’t know about until recently. Dark Horse or some other company ought to publish an archive of it.

EIGHTBALL #6 (Fantagraphics, 1991) – “Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron Part 6” and “The Doctor Infinity Story,” [W/A] Daniel Clowes. The main story in this issue is more surrealistic than Clowes’s later work, but it has the same mean-spirited, threatening, sordid atmosphere. It’s been a long time since I read anything by Clowes. I have a copy of Wilson, and I ought to get to it sooner or later. In the backup story, a character apparently based on Stan Lee gives a speech honoring a veteran comics creator, while in a series of flashbacks, we see how the Stan Lee character brutally exploited his employees. This story is an incisive piece of satire, but it’s lost some of its relevance now, when there’s been so much more discussion of the exploitative practices of the comics industry.

EXORSISTERS #4 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ian Boothby, [A] Gisèle Lagacé. This is an entertaining issue as usual, but I don’t remember much about it. Cate and Kate meet the archangel Gabriel, and we learn about something called the First Shadow.

GRUMBLE #3 (Albatross, 2019) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Mike Norton. Tala and Eddie try to steal Eddie’s car from a villain called the Imp, but it’s guarded by a dude with a giant cat head, who sort of resembles Blacksad. This issue is also fun, but it didn’t impress me as much as #4, to be reviewed below.

SUPERMAN #167 (DC, 1964) – “The Team of Luthor and Brainiac!”, [W] Edmond Hamilton, [A] Curt Swan. This is a landmark issue for several reasons. First, it’s Luthor’s first team-up with Brainiac. Second, it reveals that Brainiac is a computer and not a human. According to the letter column, this is because slightly before Brainiac was created in 1956, a scientist named Edmund Berkeley created a toy called Brainiac. To avoid a lawsuit, DC changed their Brainiac to be more like the toy, as well as giving Berkeley some free advertising. See https://www.cbr.com/comic-book-urban-legends-revealed-79/ for more information. Third, this story introduces Luthor’s future wife Ardora, though she’s called Tharla instead. Besides all that, this is an exciting story and a classic example of the Silver Age Superman.

SMOOTH CRIMINALS #3 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kurt Lusttgarten & Kiwi Smith, [A] Leisha Riddel. Mia and Brenda try to steal the Net of Indra. This is an okay issue, but I don’t remember much about it.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #17 (Marvel, 2016) – “Before Dead No More Part Two: Spark of Life,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] R.B. Silva. Peter hires Hobie Brown, the Prowler, to find out what’s going on with New U. Turns out New U and the Jackal’s mysterious plot are one and the same. Also, the Jackal creates a new Electro, who has a clever origin. She’s the clone of a woman who died when Electro kissed her, because his electric powers were going haywire, and she had metal lip piercings.

AQUAMAN #44 (DC, 2019) – “Unspoken Water Part 2 of 5,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Robson Rocha. In Atlantis, Mera is being pressured into choosing a new husband. Meanwhile, in order to find out what’s up with Caille, Aquaman consults a bunch of sea gods from different cultures. I have mixed feelings about this series. See the review of #45 below.

LUCIFER #2 (Trident, 1990) – “Lucifer the New King of Hell,” [W] Eddie Campbell, [A] Paul Grist. The new Lucifer heads to Earth. This series is full of fun mayhem, witty dialogue and excellent art, but this series is mostly just a footnote to the careers of its two creators.

YUMMY FUR #9 (Vortex, 1988) – “Returning to the Way Things Are,” [W/A] Chester Brown. Ed the Happy Clown is similar to Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron because it’s far more surreal and illogical than its creator’s later work. It’s also just disturbing. I find it hard to enjoy. This issue also includes a chapter of Chester’s New Testament adaptation. I don’t know if he ever finished that project, but if not, he ought to finish it and collect it as a single book. His version of Jesus is bizarre and strangely compelling.

MARS ATTACKS #4 (Dynamite, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Chris Schweizer. Spencer’s dad tragically sacrifices his life to save his son, but his sacrifice is not in vain, as Spencer discovers the one thing that can kill Martians. This has been a really fun series, and Chris’s art is amazing. I especially like the irony of the guy alerting the Martians by shouting “THEY’LL HEAR YOU!”

TRUE BELIEVERS: CONAN – THE SECRET OF SKULL RIVER #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Secret of Skull River!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Jim Starlin. This issue reprints the main story of Savage Tales #5. I have at least two other reprints of the story – Conan the Barbarian #64, and the first Savage Sword of Conan volume from Dark Horse – but I don’t think I’ve read either of those yet, so this story was new to me. It’s Jim Starlin’s only Conan story, and it’s from his most creative period. In this story, Conan finds himself in a village whose water has been poisoned by a sorcerer. After sleeping with the most attractive of the villagers, Naia, Conan kills the sorcerer. The punchline is that when the villagers offer him anything in the village he wants, Conan chooses a horse instead of Naia, saying that it’s “well worth riding twice.”

AMERICAN CARNAGE #3 (Vertigo, 2019) – “Fury,” [W] Bryan Hill, [A] Leandro Fernandez. Richard tries to avoid killing the black guy, but kills him anyway by accident. A man in an Obama mask arrives to clean up the mess, and ends up beating Richard senseless. Richard wakes up in Jennifer’s house to find a burning cross on her lawn. This series is just brutal. It’s full of characters who have no compassion for anyone, least of all themselves (Sheila, the FBI agent, insists on continuing to work despite being gravely ill). It’s a painful but important read.

LETTER 44 #5 (Oni, 2014) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Alberto Jiménez Albuquerque. I just realized that the title of this series refers to the letter the new President receives from his predecessor. This issue, the new President has his predecessor arrested, while also getting his corrupt chief of staff out of the way. Meanwhile, the astronauts encounter some weird crystalline aliens.

New comics received on January 31:

MS. MARVEL #37 (Marvel, 2019) – “After the Flood,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. As a result of Willow’s unfortunate health problems, this is the first issue in several months, and it’s also her next to last issue. I’m sorry this series is ending, of course, but at least Willow got to end it on her own terms, and Marvel has demonstrated that they’ll still be committed to Kamala after her creator leaves. This issue is a lighthearted romp, in which Kamala and her friends have all sorts of mishaps while babysitting Kamala’s baby nephew. Also, Sheikh Abdullah has a mild heart attack, and Aamir is hired to fill in for him.

THE QUANTUM AGE #6 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Wilfredo Torres. I was enthusiastic about this series at first, but this ending is really disappointing. The Quantum Leaguers can’t figure out how to beat Gravitus, so they decide to just give up and rebuild their civilization at the end of time. This violates the principle that Legionnaires never give up, no matter how hopeless the odds. Sadly, this is not in fact a Legion comic; it’s a Black Hammer title first and a Legion homage second. At least this series reminds me how much I love and miss the Legion.

THE UNSTOPPABLE WASP #4 (Marvel, 2019) – “Fix Everything,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] GuriHiru. In the aftermath of the AIM battle, Nadia has a manic episode. She stays up all night doing science, and when her friends come looking for her, she refuses their help and attacks them instead. I’ll have much more to say about this storyline when I get to issue 5, but this is a really important issue. It’s one of the most realistic depictions of mental illness in any superhero comic. It’s also a new step forward in maturity for this series. Until this issue, Jeremy had been writing Nadia as a happy, well-adjusted person who suffered from a terrible upbringing. This issue reveals that Nadia is far more complicated than that. Oh, also, there’s one panel where Priya and her visitors in the hospital are eating Indian food, and the food looks very accurate.

EXILES #12 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Rodriguez. The Exiles beat the rogue Watchers, then go on vacation. This issue has some of Javier’s best visual storytelling yet. There’s a sequence where each of the Exiles experiences their worst nightmare, and for each Exile, there’s a page where the panels are framed within that character’s body. Also, Wolvie’s worst nightmare is being trapped in the ‘90s X-Men cartoon. I am, of course, sad that this series is ending so soon. It was a brilliant, creative and funny comic, and apparently it was too good for the current market. But both of the creators are going to go on to do other great work.

WONDER WOMAN #63 (DC, 2019) – “The New World,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Emanuela Lupacchino. A pegasus, a minotaur and a satyr are causing havoc, and Diana has to help them adjust to the modern world. This is easily Willow’s best issue yet, because it’s the first issue that’s felt like a G. Willow Wilson comic. It’s funny and compassionate, and it shows sensitivity to cultural difference. Earlier issues of this run were more like retreads of Greg Rucka’s Wonder Woman. Ironically, this issue also reintroduces Ferdinand, a character created by Rucka, yet it still gives me the sense that Willow is emerging out of her predecessor’s shadow.

THE TERRIFICS #12 (DC, 2019) – “The Terrifics No More! Part 2,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Victor Bogdanovic. In this series the artists always have their names listed first. That is the standard in French comics but is unusual in American comics, and it’s classy of Jeff to give his collaborators top billing. This issue, Plas finally manages to bond with his son, Rex voluntarily transforms back into Metamorpho, and Linnya buys passage back to Earth. The Linnya segment of this story is very similar to Tinya Wazzo’s origin story from Secret Origins #42. I’m just sorry that Linnya hasn’t yet encountered a scruffy but handsome teenage felon from Rimbor.

MAN-EATERS #5 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Chelsea Cain, [A] Kate Niemczyk. I’m done with this series. In January, Chelsea Cain tweeted that “we won’t have gender equity until we all use the same pronouns,” and then when people pointed out that this was transphobic, she declined to apologize. She also tweeted that her spirit animal was a goat, and when told her this phrase is offensive to Native Americans, she did not reply . Actions like these are classic examples of white feminism in the pejorative sense. Chelsea presents herself as a radical feminist, but shows a notable lack of interest in the experiences of women who are different from her. I don’t want to keep supporting her work, not when there are other comics out there that are both feminist and intersectional. Even if Chelsea Cain hadn’t made those tweets, I’d be on the verge of dropping Man-Eaters anyway, because this is yet another issue in which nothing important happens.

SPARROWHAWK #4 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Delilah S. Dawson, [A] Matias Basla. Artemisia kills a bunch more things, and becomes more and more evil. This is a really creepy comic, almost closer to horror than fantasy. It’s a total stylistic departure from Delilah Dawson’s previous series, Ladycastle.

VAGRANT QUEEN #6 (Vault, 2018) – “The Bezoar of Kings,” [W] Magdalena Visaggio, [A] Jason Smith. Vault somehow forgot to solicit this issue through Diamond, but I was able to get it anyway. This issue, Eldaya kills Lazaro dead, but she can’t go back to her planet, because her people no longer want a queen. This was an entertaining series, but unfortunately it was nearly ruined by subpar art. I hope there’s a sequel, but I hope it’s drawn by someone else.

POWERS IN ACTION #1 (Action Lab, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Art Baltazar. There are no detailed credits on this comic, so I assume that Art did everything, and that Franco was not involved. This new kids’ comic introduces an original team of superheroes. It’s charming and well-intentioned, and has some clever jokes. Standout characters include Lynx, Ocelot and Enormus. So far I like this series better than some of Art’s earlier work, and I’m going to keep reading it.

WEST COAST AVENGERS #7 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. I forgot to order issue 6, and that must be why I had trouble connecting with this issue. The significant plot developments are that Madame Masque creates the West Coast Masters of Evil, and that Gwenpool gets a new pet shark-dog. Also, Derek Bishop appears on the last page.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #21 (Marvel, 2017) – “Live Another Day,” [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. This was the last of the ASM issues I bought at Charlotte Mini Con. I wish I’d bought even more. This issue is part of a crossover called Clone Conspiracy, and it doesn’t include Peter Parker. Instead it focuses on Kaine, who is trying to find a cure to the clone disease that’s killing him. Dan Slott is to be commended for doing something interesting with a character from the worst Spider-Man storyline ever (i.e. the clone saga).

SECTION ZERO #1 (Gorilla, 2000) – “There Is No Section Zero,” [W] Karl Kesel, [A] Tom Grummett. As Karl Kesel confirmed on Facebook, this issue includes the same story as the new Section Zero #1 that was just solicited in Previews, so I don’t need to order that issue. Section Zero is about a team of scientific explorers who investigate bizarre phenomena, and who officially don’t exist. It’s obviously inspired by Challengers of the Unknown, and as one would expect from this creative team, it’s very Kirbyesque. It’s a fun comic, and I’m glad that this series is being revived.

STRANGE EMBRACE #2 (Image, 2007) – untitled, [W/A] David Hine. The creepy albino kid, Alex, tells Sukumar his story. It turns out that as a child, Alex used his telepathic powers to torment his boarding school classmates by revealing their secrets. One of his classmates had such a shameful secret that he committed suicide rather than let it be revealed. We’re not told what this secret is, but it’s implied to involve sex. And from there, Alex gets even creepier; he kills his parents, and it’s suggested that that’s just the start of his crimes. Strange Embrace is a truly creepy and disturbing horror comic, with an impressively complex narrative, and I love David Hine’s art style.

THE BOOKS OF MAGIC #4 (Vertigo, 2019) – “Library Fines,” [W] Kat Howard, [A] Tom Fowler. Not much happens in this issue. Tim accidentally lets himself be seen using magic at school, then he decides to visit the Dreaming. I like this series, but its pacing is rather slow.

BATMAN #372 (DC, 1984) – “What Price, the Prize?”, [W] Doug Moench, [A] Don Newton. Unfortunately this issue is inked by Alfredo Alcala, so Don Newton’s distinctive style of linework is completely lost. In this issue, a villain named Dr. Fang tries to fix a championship boxing match, and when the champion refuses to throw the match, Dr. Fang has him killed. The champion happens to be a successful black man who is portrayed sympathetically, so his death is rather annoying. Probably the best thing about this issue is its realistic depiction of the boxing industry.

HEX WIVES #4 (DC, 2019) – “Butterfly Effects,” [W] Ben Blacker, [A] Mirka Andolfo. The husbands get even creepier and even more sexist, and the wives start to discover their powers. This is a weird and mildly disturbing series, but I like it.

STRANGE EMBRACE #3 (Image, 2007) – as above. Alex moves into Anthony Corbeau’s house and starts using his telepathy to retell Corbeau’s story. Here we enter a third level of embedded narrative, as we see how Corbeau became a collector of African art. The use of African art in this story is problematic, because it’s detached from its cultural context, and it’s depicted as frightening and primitive. But we’re also told that the statues and masks came frm the Belgian Congo, so they also create a connection to a historical genocide.

I bought the next two comics on a visit to the local 2nd & Charles:

THESE SAVAGE SHORES #2 (Vault, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ram V, [A] Sumit Kumar. This is such a fascinating series, because it convincingly brings to life a place and a historical period that are so unfamiliar to American readers. Along with Grumble, it may be the most underrated current comic book. In terms of plot, this issue mostly advances the plotlines from last issue, including the political drama between Mysore and Calicut, the European vampires, and the love affair between the vampire and the dancer. Readers unfamiliar with this history should know that: 1) Calicut (Kozhikode) is not the same as Calcutta (Kolkata), which is in a completely different part of India. 2) The history in this comic seems to be completely accurate. Hyder Ali was a real person, as was his more famous son Tipu Sultan, who appears in this issue as a child.

WIZARD BEACH #1 (Boom!, 2019) – “How Hexley Daggert Ragbottom Came to the Beach,” [W] Shaun Simon, [A] Conor Nolan. When this was first solicited, I decided not to buy it, but later I changed my mind. This series stars an uptight young wizard boy, Hexley, who goes to learn magic from his uncle Salazar. But it turns out Salazar is a lazy old beach bum. This is a pretty impressive debut issue. It has some effective worldbuilding and a lot of visual humor, and Hexley and Salazar are effective foils for each other. Oddly, the issue is divided into a series of short chapters.

INVINCIBLE #130 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Cory Walker. Robot takes over the entire world and creates a utopia, and there’s nothing Mark can do to stop him. Mark has no choice but to leave Earth again. If I hadn’t already quit ordering this series, I would have given up on it after this issue. I don’t read superhero comics because I like to see the bad guys win. Robot is a smug, heartless, loathsome monster, and when he gets rewarded for his evilness by taking over the Earth, it feels like an insult to the reader. If anyone is reading my reviews consistently, they may wonder why I continue buying back issues of Invincible, even though I think the series jumped the shark after issue 100. It’s mostly out of completionism, and because I feel a continuing sense of attachment to the characters.

THE WALKING DEAD #174 (Image, 2017) – “A Solitary Life,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Charlie Adlard. This issue focuses on Negan as he recovers his bat, which appears to be his personal talisman. This story would have had much more of an impact on me if I’d known anything about Negan. So far I’ve only read about the first twelve issues of The Walking Dead.

PETER CANNON: THUNDERBOLT #1 (Dynamite, 2019) – “Watch,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Caspar Wijngaard. A revival of a character created by the late Pete Morisi. At first I had no idea what was going on with this comic. It starts out as just a generic superhero comic in which Thunderbolt and his allies team up to fight an alien invasion. I finally got it when Thunderbolt realized that the invasion was a hoax, intended as “an external threat to bind a divided world together,” and that an other-dimensional Peter Cannon is responsible for it. To spell it out explicitly, this comic is an unauthorized sequel to Watchmen. It asks what would really have happened after Adrian Veidt’s alien invasion hoax. And the joke here is that Peter Cannon, of course, is the inspiration for Ozymandias. The Watchmen connection should have been obvious at once, because the first line of the comic is “It’s 35 minutes into the future.” But I didn’t see the significance of that line, and I was delighted when I understood this comic’s hidden purpose.

LONE RANGER #4 (Dynamite, 2019) – “Paid in Full,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Bob Q. The foot-eating Bat Lash-esque villain retells his origin, then apparently kills the Lone Ranger and Tonto. This is a fun issue, but it doesn’t offer anything new that wasn’t in the previous issues.

VICTOR LAVALLE’S DESTROYER #2 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Dietrich Smith. I just read Victor LaValle’s novel The Changeling, and I loved it. This comic has a similar theme of African-American parenthood, and I like it too. Most of the issue follows two federal agents as they look for a missing scientist. In the scientist’s lair they find a bunch of photos of her young son, and then we encounter the scientist herself and her son, an adorable kid wearing some kind of super-suit. I want to read the rest of this miniseries.

GO-BOTS #3 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Tom Scioli. This issue has no obvious connection to the last two issues. Instead, it follows some humans who are riding the Go-Bot space shuttle, Spay-C. (A bunch of Go-Bots had punny names like this; there were also Royal-T, Rest-Q, Cy-Kill, etc.) Its plot isn’t very logical or coherent, but this comic is mostly a showcase for Tom Scioli’s bizarre art. A Sorry! device plays a role in the story, and the Rock Lords show up at the end.

THE WORLD BELOW #3 (Dark Horse, 1999) – “The Spire!”, [W] Paul Chadwick, [A] Ron Randall. The Team of Six discover a living spire that projects all the way into the surface, and that attracts men by arousing their anger and ambition. This issue has an obvious sexual subtext: the interior of the spire is described as “dim, warm moist. The soft tissues lining it are curved and feminine.” As I’ve noted before, this series has some of Paul Chadwick’s best art, and it’s extremely underrated.

SUKEBAN TURBO #3 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Sylvain Runberg, [A] Victor Santos. A straightforward continuation of the previous issues. I think my favorite thing about this series is the way that Victor Santos uses the entire space of the page. Every page has a different layout, and his pages are more vertical than horizontal.

BATGIRL #28 (DC, 2018) – “Art of the Crime Part Three: Façade,” [W] Maighread Scott, [A] Paul Pelletier. My copy of this issue has a chromium cover for some reason. I suppose there’s some good stuff in this issue, but to me it’s just boring and lacking in interest. In the previous two Batgirl runs, there was something fascinating happening in nearly every panel, but Maighread Scott fails to arouse my interest in any way.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #71 (Marvel, 1981) – “The Mountain Comes to Manhattan”, [W] Mary Jo Duffy, [A] Kerry Gammill. An amazing issue. A bunch of villains, including a red-bearded dude called Montenegro, are hunting Luke because they think he has a valuable quarter. The significance of the quarter is not directly explained, but we soon realize that it has the power to disrupt electrical devices. There’s a hilarious sequence where Luke and Danny are wondering what was so special about that quarter, and in the background, a car fails to start, a neon sign short-circuits, and a boom box turns off. (See https://www.instagram.com/p/BtcvO2BHfP8/.) This sequence is an impressive piece of visual storytelling that demands some actual effort from the reader in order to be understood. And the whole premise, with Luke and Danny being harassed over a quarter, is hilarious.

SKYWARD #3 (Action Lab, 2013) – “The Sword and the Stones,” [W/A] Jeremy Dale. Before reading this, all I knew about Jeremy Dale was that he was very well-liked and that he died tragically young. This issue reveals part of the reason why he was well liked. It’s an epic fantasy comic with a number of interlocking plotlines. The main character seems to be a young boy whose parents have just been killed. The subject matter of this comic is rather heavy at times, but Jeremy Dale’s artwork and worldbuilding are charming and endearing. For example, one of the highlights of the comic is  the elf dude who’s accompanied by a giant white fluffy bird that’s bigger than he is. And the comic ends with the appearance of a troop of spear-wielding rabbits.

THE WILDS #5 (Black Mask, 2018) – untitled, [W] Vita Ayala, [A] Emily Pearson. Vita Ayala seems to be a rising star. But I’m not sure what this comic is about, except that it’s some kind of postapocalyptic narrative, and Emily Pearson’s art is very dull. At least Ayala’s dialogue is reasonably good.

HEART THROB SEASON TWO #5 (Oni, 2017) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Robert Wilson IV. Callie performs one last caper, then goes into the hospital for treatment, though the reader is led to think she’s turning herself in to the police. The series ends in such a way as to leave the door open for a sequel, but it’s also a satisfying ending on its own. Overall, Heart Throb is a fun series and an effective piece of ‘70s nostalgia.

STRAY BULLETS: SUNSHINE AND ROSES #34 (Image, 2018) – “I Am Your Friend,” [W/A] David Lapham. This issue’s protagonists are named Annie and Vic. They’re supposed to look for a missing child, and Vic thnks he’s saving the child’s mother from her abusive brother, but it turns out he’s actually beaten two junkies to death. I have no idea how this issue fits into the larger narrative of the series, but David Lapham is a brilliant visual storyteller.

SKYWARD #2 (Action Lab, 2013) – “Taking Flight,” [W/A] Jeremy Dale. I should have read this first, obviously. This issue shows how the boy becomes a fugitive. There’s also a weird-looking lizard-esque dragon and an army of equally weird-looking goblins. Jeremy Dale’s visual creativity and storytelling ability were impressive. I need to get the other seven issues of this series. It is of course a pity that there aren’t any more.

DENIZENS OF DEEP CITY #2 (Kitchen Sink, 1989) – untitled, [W/A] Doug Potter. A strange and captivating comic. Its plot has little obvious connection with that of issue 1. It has multiple subplots, one about a homeless drunk whose alcoholism prevents him from seeing his daughter, and another about some homeless kids who hang out on rooftops. I’m not sure what the point of this comic is, but I like it.

SHADOWLAND #1 (Fantagraphics, 1989) – “Young Ledicker” and “The Crafton Curse!”, [W/A] Kim Deitch. A major work by an important artist. Like all of Deitch’s major works, it has a deeply sordid, creepy atmosphere, and it’s full of references to silent animation and pre-WWII American popular culture. It takes place in 1902, and is thus one of the earliest chapters in Deitch’s ongoing saga. The plot is that the young Al Ledicker becomes involved in a bizarre plot to steal some money belonging to a Doc Crafton. There’s also a bomb plot, a botched hanging that results in decapitation, and some mysterious underground men. It feels like all of Deitch’s mature works take place in the same universe, and it would be nice if someone would publish a guide to how they’re all connected. At the convention I saw a copy of Corn-Fed Comics, one of Deitch’s earliest solo works, but it was beyond my price range.

INVINCIBLE #142 (Image, 2017) – “Robot War,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [W] Ryan Ottley. This issue partly makes up for the frustrations of issue 130. Rex/Robot tries to make a preemptive strike on Mark by kidnapping the Viltrumite children, but Mark organizes all the superheroes and adult Viltrumites and defeats Rex’s army. In the end, Mark reduces Rex to a disembodied brain, so that he can give advice but can’t do anything. That seems worse and less humane than just killing him, but oh well. The issue ends with Mark meeting Marky, the son conceived when Anissa raped him. (This of course is another example of the unfortunate Ursula Imada trope.)

SWEET TOOTH #20 (Vertigo, 2011) – “Endangered Species: Part One,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. The women encounter a creepy dude who lives in an underground bunker. Meanwhile, Sweet Tooth gets chased by a bear. I’d probably be enjoying this comic more if I was reading it in order, but I still haven’t found a copy of issue 1.

THE UNEXPECTED #3 (DC, 2018) – “Call of the Unknown: Part Three – The Devil’s Secrets,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Cary Nord. This issue also gives top billing to the artist, like The Terrifics was, so maybe that’s just something DC did for all the New Age of Heroes titles. Other than that, there’s nothing of any interest in this comic. Its plot makes no sense, and doesn’t seem worth making sense of.

THE UNEXPECTED #2 (DC, 2018) – as above except the subtitle is “Part Two – Grenade Tour.” This isn’t any better than issue 1.

New comics received on February 9:

LAGUARDIA #3 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “Roots,” [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Tana Ford. Finally we get the backstory of Future and Citizen’s marriage and separation. Future gives birth to the baby, after eating a piece of Letme Live. Citizen unexpectedly appears in the delivery room. This is another fantastic issue. LaGuardia is Nnedi’s best comic yet, and I’m sorry there’s just one issue left.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #3 (Marvel, 2019) – “Cimmerians Don’t Pray,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mahmud Asrar. Some villagers try to execute Conan by hanging him from a tree branch, but Conan is too heavy, and the branch breaks. Then the local priest tries to behead Conan with an axe, but there’s a raging thunderstorm going on, and you can guess what happens. This issue isn’t as great as #2, but it’s a witty and blackly humorous satire of religion, and the moment when the priest gets struck by lightning is awesome.

GIANT DAYS #47 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Daisy is about to take her driving test, despite being the worst driver ever. McGraw’s ne’er-do-well brother Frank comes to visit. Dean neglects to take care of his dog, which gets lost, and Esther has to find it. All these plot threads come together in the end. Daisy somehow passes the test, Dean rehomes the dog, and Frank cleans up his act. This was a fun issue.

THE GREEN LANTERN #4 (DC, 2019) – “The Cosmic Vampire’s Beautiful Daughter,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. On Twitter, Liam Sharp objected to the characterization of this comic as “weird” (https://twitter.com/LiamRSharp/status/1093549031253393408), but I think that’s an accurate term. This series has a creepy atmosphere and is full of bizarre and disturbing creatures. And that’s a good thing. For example, in the opening scene of #4, some giant ant people is negotiating with a blue-skinned woman who’s threatening to unleash a Sun-Eater on their planet. Some of the other ideas in this comic are weird in a non-horrific way; for example, we’re introduced to a new Green Lantern who’s a living sun. In terms of the plot, Hal spends most of the issue fighting the Blackstars, who are breeding Sun-Eaters, but then he gets summoned back to Oa to answer for killing the Dhorian last issue. And then Hal apparently decides to switch sides and join the Blackstars.

THE WRONG EARTH #6 (Ahoy, 2019) – untitled, [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Jamal Igle. On Earth-Omega, Dragonflyman deals with the corrupt cops by giving them an even bigger bribe. On Earth-Alpha, Dragonfly murders Chief Escargot and sets himself up as the new Number One. The overarching theme of this series is that each Dragonfly(man) is changing himself to suit his new world, and vice versa. You would expect that Dragonflyman would be corrupted by Earth-Omega, and that Dragonfly would be redeemed by Earth-Alpha. But actually the opposite is happening: Dragonflyman is redeeming the evil world, and Dragonfly is corrupting the good one. Overall, this is the best of the Ahoy titles (despite my sentimental attachment to Captain Ginger), and I look forward to the next season.

THESE SAVAGE SHORES #3 (Vault, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ram V, [A] Sumit Kumar. Hyder Ali and Bishan head off to war against the British Empire and the Nizam of Hyderabad, while Kori stays behind. Again, this war really happened and is known as the First Anglo-Mysore War. Bishan and Kori are a cute couple, though their romance is a bit creepy, since Bishan is thousands of years older than Kori and knew her as a child. The farewell letter he sends to her is written in Malayalam, as confirmed by a Facebook friend who knows Malayalam. Bishan makes an enigmatic reference to having “stood alongside the best of men” against his own brother. This makes me wonder if he’s a character from the Mahabharata.

DIE #3 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans. This is easily the best issue yet, and one of the best single issues Kieron has written. The first two issues of Die were just reasonably good, but with this issue Die becomes a major work, comparable to Journey into Mystery and WicDiv. This issue’s plot is that the party visits a plane based on World War I, except the English soldiers are also based on the hobbits from LOTR. Kieron makes the point that the hobbits are an “idealised working class” while the elves, who don’t appear in the issue, represent the ruling class. Yet Kieron also shows that this critique of LOTR doesn’t destroy its imaginative power. His portrayal of the hobbits, or Englanders, is heartbreaking, and he depicts Tolkien, who appears in the issue, as a complex and troubled man. Like Peter Cannon #1, this issue is also full of clever allusions, like “In a hole in the ground there died an Englander” and the intervention of the Eagles at the end. Kieron explains in the letter column that this story is his attempt to grapple with his “oedipal rage towards” Tolkien or his “process of forgiving Tolkien.” In other words, this story is an attempt to deal with anxiety of influence. It’s not only a brilliant idea, it’s also very heartfelt and powerful.

RED SONJA #1 (Dynamite, 2019) – “The Coronation,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mirko Colak. Red Sonja is crowned queen of Hyrkania, just in time for Hyrkania to be invaded by a Trump- or Putin-esque despot. Sadly, this is Mark Russell’s worst comic yet. It shows a notable lack of research: the Shadizar depicted in this story bears no resemblance to the usual depiction of Shadizar as a wicked city of thieves. And Russell’s Red Sonja doesn’t feel like Red Sonja. She could be any female barbarian character. I’m going to give this series just one more issue.

ARCHIE 1941 #5 (Archie, 2019) – untitled, [W] Brian Augustyn & Mark Waid, [A] Peter Krause. After Archie’s funeral, Veronica leaves her father, and Betty is about to leave town as well, but she meets Archie himself on the train. It turns out he was rescued from death by Tuaregs, and temporarily lost his memory. Archie’s return from death is kind of a contrived happy ending. I think it would have been more in keeping with the spirit of this series if Archie had actually died. Other than that, this was a satisfying miniseries that effectively evoked the World War II era. This comic claims that the Tuaregs hated the Germans as much as the Americans did, but I’m not convinced that’s actually true. Googling has failed to turn up any sources on the role of the Tuaregs in World War II, and I wonder if they may have been on the German side, since the French were their colonial oppressors.

ATOMIC ROBO: THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA #2 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. The indicia says The Dawn of a New Era, but the cover says Dawn of the New Era. This issue has four different plot threads: Vik and Lang’s date, Robo tutoring Alan, the three new apprentices, and Bernie’s underground adventure. It ends with the reappearance of the vampires from the vampire dimension.

ADVENTURES OF THE SUPER SONS #7 (DC, 2019) – “Noir Town,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Carlo Barberi. Damian executes a plan to rescue Jon and get off Takron-Galtos. This is a reasonably fun issue, but as mentioned in a previous review, this series feels like a dead end or a lame duck, because DC has already given up on this version of Jon. I notice that DC is using Legion-related concepts (Sun-Eaters, Bgztl, and Takron-Galtos) in three different current series, but they still haven’t announced a new Legion title.

THE DREAMING #6 (DC, 2019) – “Judgment,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Bilquis Evely. Dora and Merv defeat Judge Gallows by summoning the weird giant heap of cubes. It turns out to be a newborn artificial intelligence, which becomes the new Lord of Dreams. Also, Abel gets to kill Cain for once. There are a lot of fascinating ideas in this issue.

DAREDEVIL #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “Know Fear, Part 1,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Checchetto. I’ve been unimpressed with Chip’s writing lately, and I’ve already decided to stop ordering Invaders, because the first issue of that series did nothing for me. But this is not a bad first issue. It explores Matt’s Catholic heritage and his propensity for violence in some interesting ways. It reminds me a bit of Daredevil #191. The main thing I don’t like about this issue is that it seems out of character for Matt to sleep with a woman right after meeting her.

X-23 #9 (Marvel, 2019) – “X-Assassin Part 3,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Diego Olortegui. This is almost an entire issue full of Gabby acting cute. I love Gabby, but this series’s pacing is a bit slow, which is the biggest problem with Mariko’s writing. This issue has one two-page spread that’s brilliant but also kind of unreadable. It consists of a grid of 40 panels, with longer panels on the top and the left side, and, overlaid over all of that, a giant borderless image of Laura fighing robots. It’s a beautiful effect, but the individual panels in the 40-panel grid are mostly obscured.

UNNATURAL #7 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Mirka Andolfo. Johanna Draper Carlson criticized this series because of its exploitative depictions of women, and I’m not sure she’s wrong. But this is supposed to be an erotic cheesecake comic. My bigger problem with Unnatural is that it’s not very well written and its plot is not especially interesting. I’m going to stick with it, but only because I’m already past the halfway mark.

FEMALE FURIES #1 (DC, 2019) – “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Bleeding,” [W] Cecil Castellucci, [A] Andrea Melo. This series is very much in the same vein as King and Gerads’s Mister Miracle, in that it combines Kirby’s cosmic characters with a very mundane situation from everyday life. In particular, this story is about the discrimination that Granny Goodness faces as a woman in the workplace, except her workplace is the slave pits and war rooms of Apokolips. It’s a strong premise, and Castellucci develops it effectively. My main concern is that it seems wrong to depict Granny Goodness sympathetically. I hope that as this series goes on, it will show how Granny ended up internalizing and reproducing the sexist structures she labored under.

BLACK AF: DEVIL’S DYE #2 (Black Mask 2019) – untitled, [W] Vita Ayala w/ Kwanza Osajyefo, [A] Liana Kangas. Like Wilds, this comic has some reasonably good dialogue, but suffers from very ugly artwork. The artist’s linework is constantly fragmented and interrupted for no obvious reason. I feel like I need to be reading Black, but so far none of the Black series have impressed me very much.

THE GIRL IN THE BAY #1 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “Time’s Knife,” [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Corin Howell. In 1969, a young woman is stabbed to death and thrown into Sheepshead Bay. When she wakes up, it’s fifty years later. I have lukewarm feelings about some of J.M. DeMatteis’s work, but this miniseries has an interesting premise, and it effectively contrasts the ‘60s and the 2010s. It’s like Smooth Criminals, but in a much darker vein.

G.I. JOE: SIERRA MUERTE #1 (IDW, 2019) – “Sierra Muerte,” [W/A] Michel Fiffe. Not counting Transformers vs. G.I. Joe, this is the first new G.I. Joe comic I’ve bought since 1994. G.I. Joe was one of the first comic books I ever read regularly, but I gave up on it when I was in junior high. Maybe I should go back and collect the rest of Larry Hama’s run, but I’ve never felt sufficiently motivated to do so. Unfortunately, Sierra Muerte is Michel Fiffe’s least impressive comic yet. It’s just a typical G.I. Joe story, and it’s drawn in a conventional style, with none of the graphic mixed-media fireworks that make Michel’s work fascinating to me. I’m going to give this series a few more issues, but so far it’s not grabbing me.

LETTER 44 #6 (Oni, 2014) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Alberto Jiménez Albuquerque. The main event this issue is that baby Astra is born. Also, the new President has a tense confrontation with the old President. I believe this is the last unread issue of Letter 44 that I had.

UNCLE SCROOGE #1/405 (IDW, 2015) – “Gigabeagle: King of the Robot Robbers,” [W] Rodolfo Cimino, [A] Romano Scarpa. I usually don’t like European Disney comics, but Romano Scarpa is one of the few European Disney artists I do like. His work is visually impressive and effectively evokes the spirit of Barks. In this issue’s main story, the Beagle Boys create a giant robot and send it to steal the Money Bin. In the backup story, also by Scarpa, a thief steals Scrooge’s coat because there’s a treasure map sewn into the lining.

STRAY BULLETS #15 (El Capitán, 1998) – “Sex and Violence,” [W/A] David Lapham. In 1984, teenage Virginia runs away from home and hides in a friend’s basement. While there, she discovers her friend’s mother having a series of affairs. Finally, the friend’s father comes home and finds his wife and her lover together, and they also discover Virginia in the basement. Things almost get violent until Virginia’s big sister and guardian, Beth, shows up to diffuse the situation. This is an entertaining and well-crafted issue that also depicts the ‘80s realistically, though I guess at the time, 1984 was in the very recent past. I found this issue in my suitcase after I returned from a quick trip to Florida. I must have bought it at Charlotte Mini Con and then forgotten to unload it.

ETHER: THE COPPER GOLEMS #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] David Rubín. Investigating some leaks from the Aether into the Earth, Boone and his companions investigate the realm of Roman mythology. That means it’s full of Capitoline wolves and baby Romuluses and Remuses. Boone saves the day by giving the local sorceress, Agrippa, a riddle to solve. It’s one of those grid-based logic puzzles, and I didn’t bother trying to solve it myself, but I assume there’s enough information provided to enable the reader to solve it. David Rubín’s art in this issue is brilliant, as usual, but I wasn’t too impressed by the story. However, see the review of #3 below.

ENCOUNTER #4 (Lion Forge, 2018) – untitled, [W] Art Baltazar & Franco, [W/A] Chris Giarrusso. While out camping, Encounter and Barko meet  two space bounty hunters, one of whom turns out to be an old friend of Kayla’s. This leads to the best line in the entire series: “After I moved to California, I got work waiting tables, some office temping… One thing led to another and I became an intergalactic bounty hunter.”

TRUE BELIEVERS: ANT-MAN AND THE WASP – THE BIRTH OF GIANT-MAN #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Return of the Ant-Man” and “The Birth of Giant-Man!”, [W] Stan Lee & Larry Lieber, [A] Jack Kirby. This issue reprints two stories from Tales to Astonish #35 and #49. The first story is from the earliest period of the Marvel universe, when their superhero comics were stylistically similar to their monster comics. By the time of the second story, in which Hank appears as Giant-Man for the first time, the Silver Age Marvel style is better developed. This story introduces the Living Eraser, one of Marvel’s coolest villains who only ever appeared a few times. It’s also notable for its outrageous sexism, even for a Silver Age comic. Hank’s treatment of Jan is borderline abusive. He tells her at one point “You’re just in love with the idea of being in love! Now button those ruby lips until we finish the job!”

NEW LIEUTENANTS OF METAL #2 (Image, 2018) – “Victim of Changes,” [W] Joe Casey, [A] Ulises Farinas. Ulises’s art is spectacular, but I wish he would work with a better writer. I don’t especially like either his writing or Joe Casey’s writing. Also, the main story in this issue is very short, and the issue ends with fourteen pages of Joe Casey’s reflections on his career. I have no interest in Casey’s recollections, and I didn’t bother reading any of this material.

INJECTION #4 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Declan Shalvey. This is better than an average Warren Ellis comic. I’m not sure what it’s about exactly, but it includes some interesting reflections on the pace of change and how it accelerates or decelerates throughout history. It poss the idea that in the issue, the pace of change will slow down and things will get boring and that this is not good. I’d be interested in reading more of this series.

DONALD DUCK #275 (Gladstone, 1989) – “Webfooted Wrangler,” [W/A] Carl Barks. In this issue’s first story, Donald tries to become a cowboy, but fails spectacularly at all the skills involved in being a cowboy. It’s a funny piece of slapstick. In the backup story, by Walt Kelly, Donald has a dream where he’s transported into the world of Pinocchio. This story seems to assume that the reader has seen Pinocchio and remembers its plot well.

ELRIC: THE WHITE WOLF #1 (Titan, 2018) – untitled, [W] Julien Blondel, [A] Julien Telo & Robin Recht. This is an adaptation of the second part of The Sailor on the Seas of Fate. I haven’t read that book in a long long time, and what I remember about it is mostly the first part, where Elric meets Corum, Hawkmoon and Erekosë. This adaptation is visually spectacular, with lush artwork and coloring. The artists’ version of Elric looks scary and very different from normal humans, and they draw Stormbringer as an enormous greatsword, whereas I usually imagine it as more of a rapier. Along with P. Craig Russell’s Stormbringer, this may be the best comics adaptation of Moorcock.

BATMAN/THE MAXX: ARKHAM DREAMS #1 (IDW/DC, 2018) – “The Outback,” [W/A] Sam Kieth. I bought this entire miniseries, but didn’t read any of it. I’m trying not to do that anymore, and so far this year, I’ve read almost every new comic I’ve bought.  Sam Kieth’s artwork on this issue is amazing and unique, but his writing is not good. It’s cliched and boring. I think his work is better when he collaborates with a dialogue writer, like Bill Messner-Loebs.

I received more new comics on February 18. This was a stressful week and I wasn’t able to enjoy my comics as much as they deserved.

MS. MARVEL #38 (Marvel, 2019) – “Boss Rush,” [W] G. Willow Wilson et al, [A] Nico Leon et al. In Willow’s final issue, a flying sloth pulls Kamala through a wormhole to a video game dimension, where she has to fight a bunch of bosses. Each boss encounter is handled by a different writer and artist, and each boss turns out to be one of Kamala’s friends. I’m guessing that the anthology format was necessary because of Willow’s health issues, but whether or not that’s true, this issue is a nice ending to her run. Congratulations to Willow on the completion of the most important Marvel comic of the decade, a series that transformed the genre of superhero comics.

RUNAWAYS #18 (Marvel, 2019) – “That Was Yesterday Pt. 6,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. Gert saves the day by using the time machine to send Bo and Rim into the future. But the Doombot appears to be dead. Gib is stuck in the present, so I guess he’s a Runaway now, except that he needs to eat souls to live. Alex leaves the team before they get the chance to kick him out, but on the last page, he hears an unidentified voice asking “Can I come with you?” Unfortunately this is Kris Anka’s last issue. He did an amazing job. His depiction of Old Lace was a particular highlight.

OH S#!T IT’S KIM & KIM #5 (Black Mask, 2019) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. After a lot of shenanigans, the Kims recover the film, but in the process they piss off El Scorcho and damage their relationship. The last page reveals that the film is not the original song “Heaven is a Place on Earth”; it’s a video from before Kim Q’s transition, in which her father is listening to her play that song. This is a poignant ending which reveals that even though Furious Quatro is a complete shit, Kim Q still deeply yearns for his approval. This title would be a good candidate for the Eisner for Best Limited Series.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #41 (Marvel, 2019) – “Pop Quiz,” [W] Ryan North, [A] Naomi Franquiz. Peter Parker and Nancy Whitehead are kidnapped by a new villain called Ms. Quizzler, whose gimmick is obvious from her name. This is an entertaining done-in-one issue, but I still think Ryan’s prose style is sometimes condescending to the reader. Though maybe I only think that because I’m far older than this series’ target audience. Also, this issue would have been better if Ms. Quizzler’s riddles had taken some actual effort to solve. I know Ryan is capable of constructing difficult riddles.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #2 (Marvel, 2019) – “Re-Entry Part 2,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Carmen Carnero. In the dystopian version of Roosevelt Island, Kelly teams up with some other female superheroes to battle Makhizmo, the living embodiment of toxic masculinity. I liked this better than issue 1, and I think Kelly is the perfect writer for Ms. Marvel, but I still feel that this series isn’t as exciting as it could be.

WONDER TWINS #1 (DC, 2019) – “It Gets Weirder,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Stephen Byrne. A much better debut than Red Sonja #1. Zan and Jayna are immigrants from the planet Exxor, which is pretty straitlaced except that when it thunders, everyone goes crazy with lust. They have to navigate high school, while also performing monitor duty at the Hall of Justice. This is perhaps Mark Russell’s first series that’s not overtly political, and it shows that he’s not just a one-trick pony who can only write political allegories. Zan and Jayna are cute characters, and Russell’s attitude toward them is gently mocking but not mean-spirited.

WONDER WOMAN #64 (DC, 2019) – “The Grudge,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Jesus Merino. Veronica Cale summons Nemesis, the god of vengeance, to make Diana look like a public menace, and it works. This was worse than #63, but better than the issues before that. I like the way Willow writes Diana. “What a sad fate to be pampered in your sickbed by the daughter of the queen of the Amazons” is a nicely sarcastic line, and Jesus Merino pairs it with the perfect facial expression. I still think Veronica Cale is an unsuccessful attempt to give Diana an archenemy.

GIDEON FALLS #11 (Image, 2019) – “Did I Find You or Did You Find Me?”, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. This is the most visually impressive issue of this series yet, and that’s saying a lot. It’s a quick read, but that’s because almost every page is part of a two-page splash with a unique page layout. Andrea Sorrentino really goes for broke this issue; he deconstructs the space of the page in ways that are unheard of in mainstream comics. This series deserves serious Eisner consideration. To briefly summarize the plot, in this issue Daniel and the priest encounter the real Norton Sinclair, and then they switch places, each finding himself in the other’s reality.

BLACKBIRD #5 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Jen Bartel. Nina has a tense confrontation with Marisa, during which she summons a horde of cats and then turns them into giant monsters. Nina joins the Zon Cabal. Then she discovers she actually died in the earthquake. This is an excellent issue, and the series’s plot threads are coming together nicely.

IRONHEART #3 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Eve L. Ewing, [A] Luciano Vecchio. Riri fights Midnight’s Fire, a villain from New Warriors. I had totally forgotten about this character. Otherwse there’s nothing radically new in this issue, but this series has been riveting so far. Eve Ewing’s portrayal of Riri’s experience seems very authentic.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #6 (Vertigo, 2019) – “Open the Unusual Door,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson & Dan Watters, [A] Domo Stanton. I wonder why Dan Watters co-wrote this issue. On the subject of non-English scripts (see the above review of These Savage Shores #3), this issue includes a sentence in Hmong. This issue, Shakpana is defeated, but his victims don’t get their souls back. Meanwhile, we learn Uncle Monday’s origin, which is deeply immersed in African and African-American history. Uncle Monday’s origin story shows that House of Whispers is a still-rare example of a comic that draws upon Black Atlantic culture.

RAT QUEENS #14 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kurtis J. Wiebe, [A] Owen Gieni. After a bunch of fight scenes, we discover that the villains have Orc Dave’s son, and that one of them is Braga’s brother Broog. Kurtis Wiebe has announced that he’s leaving this series and that Ryan Ferrier is the new writer. I think that’s actually a good thing. This series hasn’t been truly enjoyable for a long time, and maybe it should have been cancelled after the accusations against Roc Upchurch became public. I will try Ryan Ferrier’s Rat Queens, though. I’ve had mixed feelings about his work so far, but at least he can’t do a significantly worse job than Wiebe has been doing.

MR. & MRS. X #8 (Marvel, 2019) – “Gambit & Rogue Forever Part 2 of 4,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Oscar Bazaldua. Mojo transports Rogue and Gambit into a bunch of different stories from different genres. But in each story, Gambit is trying to steal something called the Star Soul, and Rogue kills him by accident. Also, Spiral keeps showing up. This story arc is hilarious, with all its references to generic cliches, but it’s also a sensitive exploration of the difficulties and anxieties of a new marriage.

THE LONG CON #6 (Oni, 2019) – untitled, [W] Dylan Meconis & Ben Coleman, [A] E.A. Denich. We finally get to see how the catastrophe happened and how Loren survived. Also, we see some of the history of the Skylarks franchise, and Meconis and Coleman give us a very negative depiction of Gene Roddenberry. The writing this issue is very clever; I like how the catastrophe in the Skylarks series coincides with the one in the series’ “real” world.

SEX DEATH REVOLUTION #3 (Black Mask, 2019) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Kasia Witerscheim. This is the series about the woman whose memories are getting selectively edited. I missed issue 2, and it’s been a while since I read issue 1, so it was very hard to tell what was going on in this issue. At least it seems like this series is an interesting examination of trans issues.

THOR #10 (Marvel, 2019) – “A Boy and His All-Father,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mike Del Mundo. This issue investigates Thor and Odin’s relationship with perhaps unprecedented depth. Jason Aaron suggests that Odin is an uncaring and sometimes abusive father, and that Thor has spent his entire immortal life chasing his father’s approval. This is not a new take on the characters, it only makes explicit an aspect of their relationship that was mostly just implied before. Depressingly, this issue does not end with a reconciliation between Thor and Odin. Instead we get the sense that Odin is too much of an old asshole to change his ways. Mike Del Mundo’s art also deserves special mention. I really like the page where the panels are framed within Thor’s hammer.

WIZARD BEACH #3 (Boom!, 2019) – “A Slug at Midnight” and other chapters, [W] Shaun Simon, [A] Conor Nolan. More of the same sort of thing as issue 1. There’s some kind of conspiracy against Uncle Salazar. A girl likes Hex, but he’s too oblivious to realize it. As noted above, this series is funny and well-drawn, and it has some nice worldbuilding. I especially like the page with pictures of wizards from different regions.

OUTER DARKNESS #4 (Image, 2019) – “Each Other’s Throats, Part 4: Elox,” [W] John Layman, [A] Afu Chan. We learn that Chief Navigator Elox used to be a god, and not the nice kind of god either, before he was betrayed and depowered. The first officer ignores the captain’s orders and rescues a cryogenically frozen spaceman, but it turns out he’s possessed by a demon, and all hell breaks loose. Also, everyone on the ship hates the captain, with good reason. This is an entertaining series and a fun parody of Star Trek.

INVINCIBLE #131 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Cory Walker. Two of the Viltrumite children try to kidnap Terra. That’s literally the entire issue.

BY NIGHT #8 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Christine Larsen. The best thing in this issue is the three adjacent businesses named Porn Palace, Pawn Palace and Prawn Palace. Otherwise, this is another boring issue. It’s difficult to pinpoint why By Night is so much less interesting than Giant Days or Bad Machinery. Perhaps because By Night is a limited series, its lack of a strong overarching plot is a more severe flaw than if it were an ongoing.

IMPOSSIBLE INCORPORATED #4 (IDW, 2018) – “The Everything and the Nothing!”, [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Mike Cavallaro. This series has gotten less interesting as it’s gone on. It has too many ideas for its own good, and it can’t explore any of those ideas in enough detail. It would have been better if DeMatteis had focused more strictly on Number’s relationship with her father and brother, although there is some of that in this issue. I do like the idea of Number finding herself in a black-and-white world of nothing.

GODDESS MODE #3 (Vertigo, 2019) – “Inheritance,” [W] Zoe Quinn, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. I was too tired to enjoy this issue as much as it deserved. (For that matter, I’m pretty tired now. It’s a constant condition in February.) This is an excellent series so far, but nothing particularly stands out about this issue.

DICK TRACY: DEAD OR ALIVE #4 (IDW, 2018) – “Dick Tracy Unbeatable,” [W] Lee Allred & Mike Allred, [A] Rich Tommaso. As expected, Tracy defeats all the villains and returns to the police force, now assisted by a new team of Crime-Stoppers. This series was not quite to my taste because of its high level of violence and Tracy’s sadistic attitude toward his enemies. However, those things are very consistent with Chester Gould’s original version of the character, and the Allreds and Tommaso obviously know Dick Tracy very well. Just about everything in this series comes straight from the comic strip. As usual, Tommaso’s design is excellent; I especially like the giant Moon Maid sign.

CRIMINAL #2 (Image, 2019) – “Bad Weekend,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. This issue has no obvious connection to issue 1. Instead, it’s about Hal Crane, a cantankerous old comic book artist, and his assistant/handler Jacob. Hal Crane is a composite figure: he looks like Gil Kane, but his name recalls Hal Foster and Roy Crane, and he resembles Alex Toth because of his work in TV animation and his short temper. This issue’s story is a sordid and hopefully exaggerated tale of corruption and art theft. I know there were lots of rumors about people in the comics industry being connected to the mob, but I don’t think Ed is seriously suggesting that anyone in comics was as much of a criminal as Hal Crane.

ELRIC: THE WHITE WOLF #2 (Titan, 2018) – untitled, [W] Julien Blondel & Jean-Luc Cano, [A] Julien Telo. This concludes the story from last issue. It looks like Titan has published a couple other Elric adaptations from this same series. I definitely want to track those down, and I hope there are more forthcoming. On the back cover, Michael Moorcock is quoted as calling this “the best graphic adaptation of the story,” and it’s certainly the best comics adaptation of Elric, besides P. Craig Russell’s Stormbringer.

INVINCIBLE #140 (Image, 2017) – “The End of All Things Part Eight,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Ryan Ottley. Mark battles Thragg, the series’ worst villain besides Robot, inside a sun. After one of the most gruesome fight scenes in the entire series, Mark finally kills Thragg, and barely survives himself thanks to Al’s intervention. Mark’s internal montage while fighting Thragg is quite powerful, but it contrasts oddly with the grim bloodiness of the fight scene.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES/BUGS BUNNY SPECIAL #1 (DC, 2017) – “The Impostor Superboy!”, [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Tom Grummett. This is one of the three worst Legion comics ever published. Reading it made me furious. The main problem with this comic is that Sam Humphries’s approach to the Legion is to make fun of it. He makes all kinds of metatextual jokes about the Legion’s tangled continuity, repetitive plots, etc. Number one, making fun of the Legion is flogging a dead horse. What is even the pint of mocking a comic that’s no longer published? Number two, Legion fans like me are desperate for new Legion stories, and it’s especially insulting that when DC finally does throw us a bone and publish a Legion comic, it’s an unfunny parody. The final annoyance is that this issue has a backup story, but it’s just a retelling of the main story in a different style. Shame on whoever decided to publish this piece of crap.

BETTY BOOP #3 (Dynamite, 2016) – “Quit Buggin’ Me,” [W] Roger Langridge, [A] Gisèle Lagacé. I didn’t realize this comic was drawn by Gisèle Lagacé, or if I did realize that, I didn’t know who she was. This issue, the villains launch yet another plot to take over Betty’s grandpa’s house. There’s a subplot about a waitress who’s trying to impress a record producer, even though she’s a terrible singer. Overall, this is a terrific comic. It perfectly captures the spirit of the Fleischer brothers’ cartoons, and it even includes a bunch of song lyrics that are written with correct metre.

BETTY BOOP #4 (Dynamite, 2017) – “Mephistopheles Metamorphosis!”, as above. A fantastic conclusion to the series. Betty and Grandpa are tricked into selling the house to Lenny Lizardlips, and it turns out he was posing as Betty’s boss, Scat Skellington, for the entire series. Luckily, Betty and her friends save the day, and Betty becomes Skellington’s new regular singer. After reading Birth of an Industry, I find it hard to enjoy this series innocently. But if you can temporarily ignore the questionable racial politics of this series’ source material, then it’s yet another brilliant work by Roger Langridge, with excellent artwork by Lagacé.

INVINCIBLE #139 (Image, 2017) – “The End of All Things Part Seven,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Ryan Ottley. I should have read this before #140. This issue explains how Mark and Thragg ended up inside a star, but it’s mostly just a series of fight scenes.#

First reviews of 2019

(This post has been edited to add some more reviews I wrote but then misplaced.)

This project is now in its seventh year (2013 to 2019).

GREEN LANTERN: THE ANIMATED SERIES #0 (DC, 2012) – “True Colors,” [W] Art Baltazar & Franco, [A] Dario Brizuela. Hal and Kilowog fight a bunch of Red Lanterns. This comic is a series of dumb fight scenes, with no narrative complexity and no surprises.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2018 (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN/GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY) #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Nick Spencer, [A] Ryan Ottley. Peter and Randy Robertson look for an apartment, then they fight Rhino and Boomerang, then it turns out Boomerang is their new roommate. I’ve gotten sick of Nick Spencer’s writing, and this comic doesn’t do anything to make me want to read his Spider-Man run. The other “story” in this issue is a boring and confusing recap of some recent Guardians of the Galaxy stories. This piece was a very odd choice for an FCBD comic; it seems unlikely to appeal to anyone at all.

HUNT FOR WOLVERINE: CLAWS OF A KILLER #4 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Butch Guice & Mark Chater. Another boring issue with none of the things that make Mariko’s comics interesting. I shouldn’t have ordered this miniseries. Note to self: avoid buying Marvel comics that are part of dumb crossovers, just because of who the writer is. Crossover stories tend to prevent writers from doing their best work.

ETERNITY GIRL #6 (DC, 2018) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Sonny Liew. I didn’t read this sooner because the previous few issues were confusing, and I couldn’t figure out what was going on in this series. But this issue is fascinating. It’s an extended meditation on change and multiplicity, as demonstrated by the stunning pages that show multiple versions of the same character at once. It also explicitly draws the connection between shapeshifting and transgender identity, because we learn that Caroline’s therapist Dani is transgender. This was a really powerful series, and perhaps Mags’s strongest work yet.

New comics received on January 7:

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Life & Death of Conan, Part 1: The Weird of the Crimson King,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mahmud Asrar. Marvel’s first Conan comic since 2000 is an exciting start to a new era. This issue takes place in two different time periods, in Conan’s teenage years and in his old age, and the plot revolves around some creepy sorcerers who pursue Conan throughout his life. Jason Aaron really gets Conan. His Conan is somewhat similar to Thor in his lust for wine and women, but unlike Thor, Conan is not a hero, just a man with an iron will and a boundless appetite. More about Jason’s take on Conan later. Mahmud Asrar is a very effective Conan artist. His style reminds me a lot of Kevin Nowlan’s.

RUNAWAYS #17 (Marvel, 2019) – “That Was Yesterday Part 5,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. This series has always been somewhat dark, but this storyline has been even darker than usual. Gib decides to switch sides and help the Runaways defeat Bo and Rim, but Alex, as usual, betrays his teammates and decides to sacrifice Victor anyway. (Does he know that cutting Victor’s throat is useless? I don’t know.) The only really cute scene this issue is the panel where Old Lace, Molly and the cat are sleeping on top of each other.

PRINCELESS VOL. 7: FIND YOURSELF #3 (Action Lab, 2019) – “My Sister’s House,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Emily Martin. The sphinx asks Adrienne a riddle: “What is freedom?” Adrienne meets her brother-in-law. Kira doesn’t die. This was a good issue, but it was overshadowed by issue 4, especially by that issue’s ending. See below.

CROWDED #6 (Image, 2019) – “I Can’t Die in L.A.”, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Ro Stein. Charlotte and Vita escape Trotter’s poorly planned death trap and get safe passage out of LA, and also we learn that the campaign against her has been backed by bots. And that’s the end of the first story arc. Crowded is easily Chris Sebela’s best comic so far, and I hope we get more of it soon.

RAINBOW BRITE #3 (Dynamite, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Brittney Williams. Rainbow Brite gets a new, giant dog, and then encounters a handsome prince, or a royal guard at least. This is still a really fun comic, but I continue to be puzzled that Willow hasn’t appeared since issue 1. Given the obvious connection between the names Willow and Wisp, I expected they would both be protagonists.

GIANT DAYS #46 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. The girls investigate a theft at the comic book store. This is a pretty good issue and a reasonably funny satire of comic book culture, but it’s nothing truly original.

WONDER WOMAN #61 (DC, 2019) – “The Just War Part IV,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Xermanico. This issue mostly continues the story from last issue. It does heavily feature DC’s version of Aphrodite, a character who, as far as I know, has only made cameo appearances before. Also, in this issue it becomes clear that Diana and Steve are a couple. I really don’t like Steve as Diana’s boyfriend; I preferred George Pérez’s depiction of him as a much older father figure.

CODA #8 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. This comic’s plot is mostly clear now. Serka has some kind of a curse that basically turns her into the Hulk, and also she was somehow created by the people who caused the magical apocalypse. But actually it’s more like the curse is her natural state, so she doesn’t actually want to be free of it. And therefore her marriage with the nameless hero is doomed. I was having trouble getting into this series, but now I really like it. The red and black two-page splash that shows Serka fighting a bunch of other monsters is perhaps the artistic highlight of this series, and that’s high praise.

MR. & MRS. X #7 (Marvel, 2019) – “Gambit and Rogue Forever, Part One,” [W] Kelly Thmpson, [A] Oscar Bazaldua. Mojo is one of Marvel’s funniest villains, and Kelly writes him pretty well. It looks like in this storyline Mojo will be inserting Rogue and Gambit (or Longshot) into stories from a series of different genres. This issue, they appear in a gangster movie and then a Gothic romance. As usual for this series, the heart of this story is Gambit and Rogue’s relationship, which Kelly writes extremely well.

THE TERRIFICS #11 (DC, 2019) – “The Terrifics No More! Part 1,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Viktor Bogdanovic. The Terrifics are now free to live their own lives, yet none of them are happy. Plastic Man’s estranged wife and child want nothing to do with him, Rex doesn’t know what to do now that he’s depowered, and Linnya is back under her mother’s thumb. As a longtime Phantom Girl fan, I love the Linnya sequence. The depiction of Bgztl as an aristocratic, snooty world is very consistent with earlier appearances of this planet. This scene is also another example of how Linnya Wazzo is the exact same character as Tinya Wazzo – which is not a bad thing; I just wish they’d named her Tinya. All she needs now is a boyfriend who’s a criminal with a stubbly beard and a heart of gold. Along with The Quantum Age, The Terrifics is one of two current series in which Jeff Lemire is using concepts derived from the Legion. There are rumors that DC will finally be reviving the Legion soon, but the catch is that it’ll probably be written by Bendis. I fervently hope that someone else will be writing it instead, and Lemire would be an ideal choice.

TRUE BELIEVERS: CONAN THE BARBARIAN #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Coming of Conan!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Barry (Windsor-)Smith. This is a replica of Marvel’s original Conan #1. I read this issue long ago in The Essential Conan, and I wasn’t impressed with it, but on rereading it, I like it a lot more. It introduces a lot of familiar Conan tropes, including savage battles, a creepy old sorcerer, and an alluring wench with a dark secret. It also foreshadows Conan’s future, since there’s a scene where he foresees himself becoming king of Aquilonia. BWS was still developing his unique style at this point, but the fundamentals of his art are very strong. I just wish I could afford the original version of this issue. I have every issue of Conan from #25 to #116, but it will be hard to extend my run back any further than that, because #24 is a key issue.

HEX WIVES #3 (Vertigo, 2019) – “Sleeping on the Gaslight,” [W] Ben Blacker, [A] Mirka Andolfo. I didn’t realize this before, but the protagonists in this series don’t know that they’re reincarnated witches, and the point of this opening storyline is that they’re discovering their powers and identities. This serie has been good so far; it’s a critique of ‘50s sexism, just like Lady Killer, but it’s not as lighthearted. The high point of this issue is the silent nine-panel page depicting one of the wives getting ready in the morning. It shows how much work she has to do just to appear natural.

ARCHIE 1941 #4 (Archie, 2019) – “Into the Fire,” [W] Brian Augustyn & Mark Waid, [A] Peter Krause. Archie heads into battle, but the enemy surrenders without firing a shot. Sadly, he next finds himself at the Battle of Kasserine Pass. Meanwhile, Betty and Veronica heal their rift, and we learn that Pop’s son died in the Spanish Civil War. This series is impressive because of its emotion and its historical accuracy.

<BOOKS OF MAGIC #3 (DC, 2019) – “In Memoriam,” [W] Kat Howard, [A] Tom Fowler. Tim summons a herd of sheep to keep himself awake. The school holds a memorial service for the teacher who was killed last issue by Tim’s mentor. Tim’s owl appears at the end of the issue. I guess this series takes place in a different continuity from the previous version of Books of Magic, because Hedwig’s origin is different. This is an enjoyable series, but so far the storytelling is very compressed.

UNNATURAL #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Mirka Andolfo. Ignoring my usual rule, I’ve kept buying this even though I wasn’t reading it, because of my interest in European comics. (The same is also true of Infinity 8.) This issue, Leslie goes on a date with a pig dude, but just as he’s kissing her, she has a vision of her wolf lover, and decides to end the date. And then the story takes a series of very surprising turns. The pig dude tries to kidnap Leslie. She escapes, but falls unconscious and has a vision in which a creature in a wolf mask is sacrificing her. And then she’s accused of murdering her roommate Trish. So what started out as an erotic funny animal romance comic is now also a supernatural noir thriller. So far, Unnatural is maybe too unsubtle, but the plot is intriguing, and Mirka Andolfo’s art is excellent.

UNNATURAL #4 – as above. Things get even weirder. Leslie has a vision where her wolf lover is killing her. Then her gay friend Derek reveals that some people have been spying on her dreams and have kidnapped his boyfriend. And then the wolf dude shows up for real.

IRON MAN #96 (Marvel, 1977) – “Only a Friend Can Save Them,” [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] George Tuska. Iron Man battles Ultimo alongside Jasper Stillwell, who had been believed dead. Mantlo has a good handle on Stillwell’s weird style of talking. Meanwhile, Michael O’Brien becomes the new Guardsman in order to avenge his brother. This period of Iron Man was kind of intriguing, but not particularly good, and it includes a bunch of characters, like Michael O’Brien and Marianne Rogers, who are now forgotten.

UNNATURAL #5 – as above. My copy of this issue has a variant cover by Liberatore. This issue, Leslie escapes town and is told the backstory behind the series. The wolf dude is the descendant of an ancient albino wolf demon with blue blood, and Leslie is connected to him because she has blue blood too. This series is still developing the themes of sexual identity and heteronormativity that dominated the first two issues; however, those themes have now been overshadowed by the fantasy plot.

UNNATURAL #6 – as above except the date is 2019. This series mostly just develops the plots from the last couple issues, but we additionally learn that Jones, the pig dude from #3, is part of the anti-albino conspiracy. The two-page flashback sequence in this issue is drawn in a different style from the rest of the series, with no solid outlines, and it’s one of the artistic high points of the series.

SWEET XVI #6 (Marvel, 1991) – “The Party,” [W/A] Barbara Slate. I read this because I was about to interview Barbara Slate for an upcoming ICAF paper. This issue is the epic conclusion to the series. Cornelia holds her sweet sixteen party, which the entire series was leading up to. Cornelia’s party dress was designed by a reader, just like how Bill Woggon’s Katy Keene wore clothes that were based on reader submissions. But Cornelia’s love interest, Antony, can’t get there because he’s trying to find her the perfect gift. Antony eventually does show up after the party’s over, and he gives Cornelia the gift she really wants: a kiss.

SWEET XVI #2 (Marvel, 1991) – “Cornelia’s Sweet XVI Present,” [W/A] Barbara Slate. This issue sets up some of the plotlines that were resolved in issue 2, including Cornelia’s sweet sixteen dress and Antony’s desire to kiss her. In my interview with Barbara Slate, I’ve learned a lot of interesting information about this series, but I hope to publish that information elsewhere.

TV STARS #2 (Marvel, 1978) – “The Great Cole Slaw Conspiracy,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Jack Manning, plus other stories. Like Sweet XVI, Marvel’s short-lived Hanna-Barbera imprint is largely forgotten today because it doesn’t fit into the standard narrative of Marvel’s history. Marvel’s Hanna-Barbera and Star imprints are also unusual because they mostly used former Archie and Gold Key creators, rather than Marvel regulars. This issue has two short stories written by Evanier, but neither of them is all that memorable. The first one has a running joke about cole slaw, and the second one stars Undercover Elephant. The third story is drawn by Dan Spiegle, but is unfortunately not written by Evanier.

VAMPS #1 (Vertigo, 1994) – “Freedom,” [W] Elaine Lee, [A] William Simpson. An erotic fantasy series about a gang of female vampires who are all slaves to the same male vampire, until they kill him and go off on their own. I’m not usually a fan of contemporary vampire stories, but this first issue is very entertaining. It’s sexy, violent, and reasonably feminst. I want to read more of this series as well as its sequel miniseries.

Next, I read some comics that I bought several years ago:

OUR FIGHTING FORCES #176 (DC, 1977) – “The Loser is a Teen-Ager!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] George Evans. This is only the second issue of this series that I‘ve read since mid-2013. I don’t have much interest in DC’s war comics. I suppose I should look for the issues with Sam Glanzman’s USS Stevens stories, but I’m not even all that excited to read those stories. After reading Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat, it’s hard to read DC’s war comics, with their much more romanticized and unrealistic depiction of war. In this issue’s main story, an orphaned teenage boy joins the Rebels. This story is not suited to George Evans’s talents because it doesn’t include any planes. The backup story is drawn by ER Cruz, who I’ve always liked. I think he was the first Filipino artist whose artwork I saw, in Conan #261 and #262. It’s about a soldier who’s about to be court-martialed for desertion, until he dies saving the men who are taking him to be tried.

TOM STRONG AND THE ROBOTS OF DOOM #5 (Wildstorm, 2010) – “Two Tribes,” [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Chris Sprouse. It makes me feel nostalgic to read a new Tom Strong story by Chris Sprouse, but other than that, this issue is boring and confusing. The only thing I like about it is the scene where Tom interacts with younger versions of himself and Dhalua.

UNCANNY X-MEN #9 (Marvel, 2012) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Carlos Pacheco. This is the kind of comic that gets forgotten almost as soon as it’s published, because it’s part of a dumb crossover (Avengers vs. X-Men). Also, it’s almost entirely devoted to advancing plots that were probably abandoned by the next writer. There are some well-written scenes in this issue, and Xemnu the Titan, Marvel’s fluffiest villain, makes a cameo appearance, but overall this comic is of little interest.

DETECTIVE COMICS #731 (DC, 1999) – “Fear of Faith Part Four: Be Not Afraid,” [W] Devin Grayson, [A] Dale Eaglesham. Another comic that was destined to be forgotten almost at once. It’s part of a huge crossover, No Man’s Land, so it makes no sense out of context, and it’s also not particularly well written. Notably, this issue focuses more on Huntress than Batman.

BALTIMORE: THE CURSE BELLS #2 (Dark Horse, 2011) – “The Curse Bells,” [W] Mike Mignola & Christopher Golden, [A] Ben Steinbeck. I don’t remember why I bought this comic. There was a time when I wanted to collect all the Mignolaverse titles, but I quickly gave up on that. This issue is just a standard example of the Mignola formula; it has Nazis, occult rituals, and grim undead-fighting heroes.

WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN #37 (Marvel, 2013) – “Battle of the Atom, Part 5,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. This issue is an example of the intrinsic problem with crossover stories: they interrupt the plot of each series that participates in the crossover, and they merge all the participating titles into one mega-title, stripping each of those series of what makes it unique. This issue is a Wolverine and the X-Men comic in name only. It’s entirely focused on the battle between the old and young versions of the original X-Men. Jason Aaron’s staple characters, like Idie and Broo, only make token appearances. His characteristic style of humor, which was the best thing about Wolverine and the X-Men, is totally absent. As a result, even though I loved WATXM, I had no interest in reading this issue when I bought it, and I didn’t get around to it until five years later.

B.P.R.D.: PLAGUE OF FROGS #3 (Dark Horse, 2004) – “Plague of Frogs, Part 3,” [W] Mike Mignola, [A] Guy Davis. This is better than a typical Mignola comic thanks to some excellent art by the underrated Guy Davis. The villain with a mushroom-shaped head is especially striking. But this comic’s story is forgettable.

New comics received on January 11:

CAPTAIN MARVEL #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “Re-Entry,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Carmen Carnero. I have mixed feelings about this. I love Kelly’s writing, but this issue seemed too simple and lacking in complexity. The dialogue, in particular, just felt ordinary. This was a good issue, it just wasn’t as good as I expect from Kelly. But maybe I was overly tired when I read this – I had just started teaching the day before.

LAGUARDIA #2 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “The Travel Ban,” [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Tana Ford. Future and her alien friends go to a protest against a travel ban on Africa, and they help to save three African immigrants who have been detained. This issue is obviously inspired by Trump’s travel ban, but there’s not a simple one-to-one correspondence between the real-world travel ban and Nnedi’s fictional version of it. America has banned immigrants from Africa because Africa is where the aliens are, and so white Americans’ fear of aliens becomes confusingly intertwined with our fear of humans of color. As with last issue, Nnedi’s prose and Tana Ford’s artwork are excellent; Tana Ford is very skilled at depicting weird-looking aliens. Also, I love the names Payment and Laundry.

THE GREEN LANTERN #3 (DC, 2019) – “Slave Lords of the Stars,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. A member of Kanjar Ro’s species tries to auction off Earth to some villains. (Why is this character not named Kanjar Ro, I wonder?) The winner of the auction is the Shepherd, a villain who coincidentally looks just like the Old Testament God. The scene where Hal arrests God, and then hits him with a boxing glove, is one of the funniest things Grant has ever written. It’s better than the “don’t f*** with God” scene in Savage Dragon. The issue ends with Hal apparently executing the Kanjar Ro-esque character.

THE WRONG EARTH #5 (Ahoy, 2019) – “The Wrong Earth Chapter Five,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Jamal Igle. It turns out I forgot to order issue 3, so now I know why issue 4 was a bit confusing. This issue, Dragonflyman enlists Jordan, a henchman of the Joker character, as his new partner, while Dragonfly tries to keep Stinger from going nuts. (Note, Dragonflyman is the campy one, Dragonfly is the grim one.) It’s interesting how as the series goes on, each of the two Dragonflies is slowly adapting to his new world. The backup story in this issue is a waste of space; it’s just a standard grim-and-gritty superhero story, and it misses the point of this series.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #40 (Marvel, 2019) – “Invaders… from Another World!”, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. It turns out that Skrull Girl (I just thought of that name), a.k.a. Gillian, is a refugee from Skrull society, which this issue depicts as a grim, militaristic dystopia. I don’t know if this is consistent with past depictions of the Skrull society, because I can’t think of another story where we get to see that society from an insider’s perspective. Tony and Doreen come up with a plan to stop the other Skrulls from finding Gillian, and then Doreen reveals that she’s still alive. This is a very fun issue, and it’s full of cute shapeshifting gags.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #2 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Garron. Miles teams up with the Rhino to fight Tombstone, who is kidnapping children and forcing them to commit crimes. I liked this better than issue 1, though that may be due to greater familiarity with the character. It’s a well-written and exciting Spider-Man story. Rhino is written much more sympathetically than usual.

BLACKBIRD #4 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Jen Bartel. Nina has an unhappy reunion with her mother, then decides to grow up and start taking matters into her own hands. I really like this series, especially the art, but like Unnatural, it’s taking a different direction than I expected. I thought there would be more focus on Nina’s psychology, rather than on the magic system and magical politics.

DIE #2 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen. This issue is mostly a series of fight scenes and introductions to the characters. Kieron’s essay at the end of the essay provides a lot of fascinating information about the characters’ powers and how their powers relate to their respective dice. However, it might have been better to deliver this information in the comic itself, rather than in the ancillary material.

HOUSE AMOK #4 (IDW, 2019) – “Waiting for the End of the World,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Shawn McManus. Dylan tries to escape her awful insane family, whose delusions keep getting worse and more internally inconsistent. The issue ends with the bus being chased by police. This series has just one more issue to go.

MOTH & WHISPER #5 (AfterShock, 2019) – “Parental Guidance,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Jen Hickman. Niki defeats Wolfe and transfers control of his operation to the Non Grata, and that’s the end of the series. I’m surprised this series is over already because it seemed to have a lot of unexplored storytelling potential.

ADVENTURES OF THE SUPER SONS #6 (DC, 2019) – “Tomorrow Sometimes Dies,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Scott Godlewski. Jon and Damian encounter Space Ranger and Hukka. In a cool Legion reference, the issue ends with Jon and Damian being taken to Takron-Galtos. There are some funny scenes in this issue, especially Damian’s hunting monologue on page one. The trouble with this series is that it’s been overtaken by events in the main Superman titles; it seems like Bendis has already increased Jon’s age to 17. So this version of Jon Kent seems to have already been rendered obsolete.

ATOMIC ROBO: DAWN OF A NEW ERA #1 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. The new Atomic Robo miniseries has several concurrent plot threads: Bernard goes back to the underworld to look for the subterranean creature he fell in love with (if I’m remembering correctly), Robo teaches his AI, and the Tesladyne team welcomes some new apprentices. I like the scene where Vikram and Lang are trying to leave on vacation, and Elizabeth runs in and says there’s an emergency. I also like this exchange betweeen Robo and his AI: “If all history is a myth, then how can I know what is true?” “You can’t. But you can read a lot of history and always ask yourself: who benefits from telling this version?”

THOR #9 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Woman with the Vibranium Gun,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mike del Mundo. A spotlight on Roz Solomon, who has become one of Jason’s pet characters. Roz becomes an agent of Wakanda rather than SHIELD, and investigates the Frost Giants and Dario Agger. I like how Roz actually isn’t all that sorry about the Frost Giants she killed. She’s a pretty impressive character.

FAITH DREAMSIDE #4 (Valiant, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] M.J. Kim. Faith, Dr. Mirage and Monica Jim escape from hell. This is a fun issue, but nothing all that surprising. The highlight of the issue is the tiny snake demon saying “Don’t demean me with petting!”

ARCHIE MEETS BATMAN ’66 #6 (DC, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker & Michael Moreci, [A] Dan Parent. The good guys win, with the aid of Pureheart the Powerful and the other superhero versions of Archie characters. This was a fun series, but it was very formulaic, and I’m not sorry it’s over. I mentioned it in class yesterday as an example of crossover fanfic, although of course it’s not fanfic.

OUTER DARKNESS #3 (Image, 2019) – “Away Team,” [W] John Layman, [A] Afu Chan. This series seems clearly intended as a dark, gritty version of Star Trek. This issue, some redshirts encounter some hostile aliens and get killed, but it’s okay because they can be resurrected. I like how the “mathematicians” on the ship are responsible for rescuing the dead crew members’ souls.

X-23 #8 (Marvel, 2019) – “X-Assassin Part 2,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Diego Olortegui. Laura and Gabby rescue the clone and bring her/it back to the X-Mansion. Gabby brings the clone some cookies. This was a quick and fun read.

CRIMINAL #1 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. This latest Criminal series is just called Criminal, and it again focuses on Teeg Lawless, who has become one of the central characters in the series. Teeg’s son Ricky steals jewelry from an old man who turns out to be a friend of the local crime boss, and Teeg has to come up with $25,000 to repay his son’s debt. And then he realizes that his dead partner had been hiding part of the proceeds from their crimes. The last page reveals that Teeg is going to be shot dead within a year. Brubaker and Phillips’s work is perhaps somewhat formulaic, but it’s a very effective formula.

BITTER ROOT #3 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] David F. Walker & Chuck Brown, [A] Sanford Greene. This issue just continues the plotlines from last issue. I’d like to see more of the girl Sangerye who wants to be a jinoo hunter, but she hasn’t gotten much panel time. This issue introduces a new character (I think) who has a pack of adorable goblin-dog-robot guards.

BY NIGHT #7 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Christine Larsen. This series is more than half over, and I’m still not sure what it’s about. I’m going to finish reading it, but it’s failed to develop the kind of distinctive identity that Giant Days has. This issue, the two protagonists rescue Barney from the mob or whatever, and they fight a giant monster that looks like a cross between a cat and a chicken.

BULLY WARS #5 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Aaron Conley. Rufus wins the Bully Wars and decides to abolish bullying in his school. I’m obviously not the target audience for this series, but it was Skottie’s weakest work yet, and I could probably have skipped it.

SPIDER-GWEN: GHOST SPIDER #4 (Marvel, 2019) – “Like Stars from the Sky,” [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Rosi Kämpe & Takeshi Miyazawa. Gwen attends funerals for two characters I’ve never heard of before. I suppose this issue is well written, but this entire series has been meaningless for readers who aren’t following Spider-Geddon. Spider-Girls was just as closely tied to Spider-Geddon, but it made more sense on its own, and its characters were more interesting. I’m done with this series.

EUTHANAUTS #5 (IDW, 2019) – “Ashes to Ashes,” [W] Tini Howard, [A] Nick Robles. This issue is very well drawn and includes some interesting meditations on death, but this series’ plot never made sense to me, and that wasn’t for lack of trying. I’m glad this is the last issue.

DOMINO #10 (Marvel, 2019) – “Ivory Tower,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] David Baldeón et al. I’ve been buying this series but only reading it intermittently, which means I should probably not bother with the follow-up series, Domino Hotshots, but I might as well give that a try. This issue, Gail rescues Longshot from I’m not sure who.

THE DREAMING #5 (DC, 2019) – “The Balance,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Bilquis Evely. We see part of Dora’s origin, and we get a flashback to Daniel leaving the Dreaming, perhaps for good. Meanwhile, the other good guys make an unsuccesful attempt to overthrow Judge Gallows. This is a fun issue; it was certainly a lot better than the previous five comics I reviewed. It was nice to see Morpheus again, if only in a flashback.

LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: THE TEMPEST #3 (Top Shelf, 2019) – “Dawn is But Dark’s Endeavor,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Kevin O’Neill. This issue comes with 3D glasses for the Blazing World segment, but I promptly misplaced them. I’m starting to get a general idea of what’s going on in this series, but I’m not sure it’s worth the trouble of untangling all the references and plotlines. I just read the original novella The Blazing World, and I didn’t enjoy it very much.

Next I read some comics that I had bought a year or two before:

MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS: PINK #2 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Brenden Fletcher & Kelly Thompson, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. I quit reading this series after the first issue, but it’s better than I gave it credit for. I still think the premise of the Power Rangers franchise is really dumb. I thought it was dumb even when I was a kid, and I haven’t changed my mind. However, Brenden and Kelly’s characterization is excellent, and they write some exciting action scenes. This issue reminds me of Kelly’s Nancy Drew.

BLACK CANARY #12 (DC, 2016) – “Rock & Roll Suicide,” [W] Brenden Fletcher, [A] Annie Wu & Sandy Jarrell. This is the last issue. It consists of a series of flash-forwards to progressively later periods of Black Canary’s life. Then when she’s on her deathbed, we realize that all these flash-forwards are visions that were somehow caused by Ditto, and Dinah returns to the present and defeats the Big Bad, Ravanahatha. This was a well-done issue, but this series never really fulfilled its potential.

MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS: PINK #3 – as above except that Tini Howard is credited with the script. Nothing to add here that I didn’t say about issue 2.

18 DAYS #8 (Graphic India, 2016) – “Arjuna’s Hunt,” [W] Sharad Devarajan, Gotham Chopra & Ashwin Pande, [A] Saumin Patel. A flashback to the origin of Arjuna and Duryodhana’s rivalry. This series is interesting, but only because the Mahabharata itself is interesting, and because I have limited familiarity with it. If I knew more about this comic’s source material, I doubt I would find anything new or exciting in this adaptation.

THE DISCIPLINE #1 (Image, 2016) – “Venus and the Satyr,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Leandro Fernandez. Melissa, an unsatisfied trophy wife, encounters a creepily seductive man who turns out to be some sort of fish monster. They also fight a satyr. There are numerous references to Goya’s paintings. Leandro Fernandez’s artwork in this series is brilliant, as usual, but I have concerns about this comic’s plot.

THE DISCIPLINE #2 – as above except the title is “Naked Shame.” It turns out Orlando is a member of something called the Discipline, and they’re at war with creatures called Stalkers, including the satyr from last issue. My problem with this series is that Orlando is a seriously creepy, disturbing character, a borderline rapist. He seems just as bad as his enemies, if not worse. Also, the BDSM content in this series does not appeal to me. It almost feels as if this comic was intended for 50 Shades of Gray fans.

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE #2 (IDW, 2016) – “The Baby Berrykin Baking Challenge,” [W] Georgia Ball, [A] Amy Mebberson. This comic is inoffensive enough, but it’s way too cute for its own good. It lacks the self-awareness of the MLP franchise. I’m glad I quit reading this after two issues.

IMAGINARY FRIENDS #1 (Vertigo, 2018) – “The Cat’s Paw Part 1,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Stephen Molnar. Like Revival, this is a horror comic set in the rural Upper Midwest. The protagonist is a young woman imprisoned for a murder that was actually committed by a rogue imaginary friend. Oh, and it turns out that imaginary friends are actually “interdimensional mental parasites.” So this series has the same premise as Imagine Agents, except it’s horror rather than humor. I don’t think this series is as promising as Revival, but I kind of regret that I didn’t stick with it. One thing that struck me in this issue is that the protagonist and her childhood friend are from Cannon Falls, Minnesota, and the friend is worried about having to go to school with rich, cool kids from the bigger towns of Faribault and Owatonna. I grew up in Minneapolis (technically St. Louis Park), and to me, Faribault and Owatonna were the middle of nowhere.

GRUMPY CAT & GARFIELD #3 (Dynamite, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Steve Uy. The two title characters somehow have their personalities reversed so they become cheerful and sunny. Mark Evanier is a better Garfield writer than Jim Davis himself, so this is an entertaining comic, even though it’s based on a stupid Internet fad.

SCOUT PRESENTS: THE MALL #0 FCBD (Scout, 2018) – “The Mall,” [W] Don Handfield & James Haick III, [A] Rafael Loureiro. Like Paper Girls, The Mall is based on ‘80s nostalgia, but the similarity ends there. The Mall is full of cliches, its plot is implausible, and its dialogue is wooden. I’m glad I didn’t pay for it.

New comics received on January 17:

LUMBERJANES #58 (Boom!, 2019) – “The Life of the Party,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] AnneMarie Rogers. Another fantastic issue of what is still the best current monthly comic. April plans a live-action play for Jo’s birthday, while Barney and Molly try to keep Jo away from camp while April is preparing. But it turns out Jo realizes April is planning a surprise party, and is trying to miss it on purpose, because she hates April’s parties. At the end of the issue, the boating party encounters the selkies from much earlier in the series, who have somehow lost their captain, Seafarin’ Karen. (This is effectively set up earlier in the issue by a casual mention of Seafarin’ Karen.) Overall, this is a thrilling story which demonstrates how thoroughly Watters and Leyh have developed their characters. As I mentioned before, AnneMarie Rogers’s linework looks strange and rather crude, but she does a great job with facial expressions.

CAPTAIN GINGER #4 (Ahoy, 2019) – “Chapter Four,” [W] Stuart Moore, [A] June Brigman. Ginger and Mittens escape the space station thanks to Deena, who stowed away. On the way back Mittens sings a song which expresses his father’s personal philosophy: “Killin’ mice, killin’ rats, killin’ helpless creatures.” This is one of the funniest moments in the series, and it’s funny because that’s the kind of song a cat actually would sing. Meanwhile, one of the kittens is transformed into a hyperevolved super-kitten, like the Star Child in 2001. So it has cosmic awareness, but it’s also obsessed with mice. The super-kitten creates a habitat where the cats can live comfortably, and then flies away. The issue and the first storyline end with Science Cat receiving a message from a group of space dogs. This was a fun conclusion to the first story. I hope the series comes back soon.

FANTASTIC FOUR #6 (Marvel, 2019) – “Herald of Doom” part one, [W] Dan Slott, [A] Aaron Kuder. I wasn’t excited about yet another Dr. Doom story, but at least this story is well-written and well-drawn, and Dan Slott came up with a take on Doom that hasn’t been done yet. This time Doom is the hero, fighting to save Latveria from Galactus – though it turns out he attracted Galactus to Earth to begin with. We’re also introduced to Victorious, Doom’s new prodigy, who is kind of like Kristoff Vernard but not exactly. Dan Slott’s FF has been really fun so far, and he’s achieved the hardest task for any FF writer: telling stories that don’t feel like rehashes.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #2 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Savage Border,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mahmud Asrar. Jason Aaron’s Conan is similar to Roy Thomas or Kurt Busiek’s Conan, but Jason emphasizes Conan’s sense of humor more than either of his predecessors did. My favorite thing in this issue is the caption on page three: “Conan swore he would claim the heads of seventeen Picts in honor of his fallen comrades. One of whom had been a dog.” This is kind of the same sort of humor as Jason’s Thor, but Jason also understands that Conan is a very different character from Thor. He’s brutal, grim, and distrustful of civilized people, but he’s also a loyal ally and an inspiring leader. In this issue, Conan is captured by a tribe of Picts, who hate Cimmerians, but wins their loyalty and leads them in a fight against pack-hunting snakes. I don’t remember if the Picts have appeared in any story before, but in this issue they seem more like Amazonian natives, whereas the real-life Picts were proto-Scots.

PRINCELESS VOL. 7: FIND YOURSELF #4 (Action Lab, 2019) – “The Legend of the Black Knight,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Emily Martin. For most of this issue, the images depict Adrienne’s fight with the Black Knight, while the captions retell the Black Knight’s origin, but without revealing their name or gender. This makes it kind of obvious that the Black Knight is female, but what I didn’t expect was that she would turn out to be Adrienne’s mother! That’s perhaps the biggest surprise in this series yet. I’m excited to see what happens next.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #41 (Image, 2019) – “The Difficult Sophomore Album,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. The gods rescue Lucifer, Inanna and Mimir, and build new bodies for them. Cass apparently solves the mystery of the Great Darkness. Not a bad issue.

WONDER WOMAN #62 (DC, 2019) – “The Just War Finale,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Xermanico. Diana brokers a peace deal which requires the Amazons to leave Durovnia. This was a pretty good issue, but this entire storyline has felt excessively tethered to previous writers’ continuity. Hopefully now that it’s over, Willow can explore more of her own ideas.

BABYTEETH #14 (Aftershock, 2019) – “Heck,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. The protagonists meet Satan, who, perhaps not surprisingly, enjoys eating cat soup. And he claims that the baby’s actual father is God. This was a pretty funny issue, but I think this series, and Donny Cates’s work in general, was overhyped.

IRONHEART #2 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Eve Ewing, [A] Luciano Vecchio. Another excellent issue. Eve discovers that some villain has been forcing kids to steal phones, apparently for the purpose of doxxing politicians. And one of his victims is Daija, who was Riri’s mentor when she was in high school. This is actually quite a plausible plot, and it’s made even more powerful by Eve Ewing’s skill at characterization and dialogue, as well as Luciano Vecchio’s effective facial expressions. Ironheart may be Marvel’s best debut series since Exiles.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #5 (Vertigo, 2019) – “Rumors of Glory,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson, [A] Dan Watters. Shakpana keeps spreading chaos, while the good guys try to stop him, and it turns out that the one little girl may have saved the world by stealing his book. One thing I like about this series is its immersion in West African mythology, which has rarely been depicted in American comics except in the most superficial way. For example, one caption says that Shakpana’s real name is Sopona, but that to avoid drawing his attention, he’s usually called Shakpana or Babalu Aye. I’d heard of Babalu Aye before (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_the_Lukumi_Babalu_Aye_v._City_of_Hialeah) but I was surprised to learn that he was the same deity as Shakpana.

ISOLA #6 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Brenden Fletcher, [W/A] Karl Kerschl, [A] Msassyk. It’s nice to see this series again; it’s been a while. As usual, this comic’s artwork is beyond gorgeous. Karl Kerschl should get an Eisner nomination for Best Artist. However, perhaps Isola’s major flaw is its slow pace. Not much happens in this issue except that Rook infiltrates an army camp to steal supplies, and a young soldier sees her talking with Olwyn.

MY LITTLE PONY: NIGHTMARE KNIGHTS #4 (IDW, 20;19) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Tony Fleecs. We learn Eris’s origin. Luna and Tempest Shadow convince Daybreaker that she’s actually Princess Celestia, turning her good. Capper appears to betray his teammates, showing a cat’s typical loyalty, though it seems like it wasn’t a real betrayal. This has been a really good series, though it’s one of the darkest pony stories yet.

ISOLA PROLOGUE (Image, 2019) – “Isola Prologue,” [W] Brenden Fletcher, [W/A] Karl Kerschl, [A] Msassyk. This 50-cent comic is a collection of the Isola preview stories that appeared as backups in Motor Crush. I’ve read these stories before, but I’d forgotten about them, and they didn’t make much sense on their own before I read the full Isola series. So it was nice to have a chance to revisit this material.

ENCOUNTER #10 (Lion Forge, 2019) – untitled, [W] Art Baltazar & Franco, [W/A] Chris Giarrusso. Encounter and Kayla defeat Plagnor Zox (sp?) by making him realize he’s killed his own siblings, and the series ends. This is a surprisingly grim ending. This series was entertaining, but it wasn’t that great.

SUPERB #16 (Lion Forge, 2019) – “The Uncertainty of It All,” [W] David F. Walker, [A] Alitha Martinez. The issue begins with a flashback to Jonah learning to read, then the fight scene from last issue continues. The “leader” of Jonah’s team continues to act like a petulant little kid, endangering his own leadership position. The Cosmosis backup story in this issue is pointless.

BLACK BADGE #6 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. This issue begins with a series of pages colored mostly in pink and blue, detailing the origin of the Pink Badges. I thought Kindt was going to then go on and give us the origin of the other scout troupes, using other colors to distinguish between each of the stories. That would have been really cool, but it didn’t happen. Instead, the rest of the issue is devoted to the fight between the Pink and Black Badges. Also, we learn that one of the Black Badges is a girl. I’m surprised by this “revelation” because I thought we were already supposed to know she was a girl.

INVADERS #1 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Carlos Magno & Butch Guice. Namor is going nuts and trying to destroy the surface world again, and his old Invaders teammates have to save him. To be honest, I thought this comic was a bit tedious, and I’m not all that invested in any of the characters. I’ll give this series a few more issues, but I’m not committed to it yet.

MIDDLEWEST #3 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. This series’ two themes – child abuse and Wizard of Oz-style fantasy – start to come together, as the abusive father, Dale, goes looking for his son. Meanwhile, Abel continues his quest, passing through a covered bridge and defeating a troll. The worldbuilding in this series is pretty effective; I like the idea that all covered bridges in the Middlewest have resident trolls. However, I think the worldbuilding would be even better if Skottie were drawing this comic himself.

CATWOMAN #7 (DC, 2019) – “Something Smells Fishy,” [W] Joëlle Jones, [A] Elena Casagrande & Fernando Blanco. The Penguin comes to Catwoman’s town. I’m disappointed that Joëlle Jones has already stopped doing the artwork, but this was an excellent issue anyway. The opening sequence is a good example of visual storytelling. On pages one to three, we see Selina at a jewelry store, watching the jeweler examine some earrings. Then on pages four and five we see her walking away from the jewelry store wearing the same earrings, while three police cars speed in the other direction. The reader is left to imagine what happened in between. Also, the Penguin’s name is never mentioned in this issue, yet the reader can immediately tell that it’s him. Sadly, this issue only includes one panel that depicts a cat, and it’s hard to tell that it’s even a cat.

GIDEON FALLS #10 (Image, 2019) – “The Hypostatic Union,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. We finally get the backstory behind the Black Barn. It turns out that in the 1880s, a serial killer used a black barn as a hideout, and his name was… Norton Sinclair. Then, after some pages with really bizarre layouts, Norton and the priest finally encounter each other. This series reminds me of Trillium because of its unusual page layouts, and also because its plot involves a meeting between two people from separate worlds. Gideon Falls is certainly Jeff’s most experimental comic since Trillium.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #19 (Marvel, 1972) – “Hawks from the Sea!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Barry (Windsor-)Smith. Conan accompanies Prince Yezdigerd in besieging Makkalet to recover the Living Tarim. I’ve read this issue before as part of the Essential Conan, but I hadn’t read it in color. And this issue reads much better in color, because its second half was reproduced directly from BWS’s pencils. According to the letters page, this is because the inker, Dan Adkins, was unable to finish in time. Printing directly from pencils was an unusual experiment, and it did not succeed. The art in the second half of the issue is ugly and difficult to parse. Other than that, this is an excellent Conan story, and it shows how much BWS’s style had evolved in the two years since #1.

GODDESS MODE #2 (Vertigo, 2019) – “Reality 101 Failure,” [W] Zoë Quinn, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. Cassandra encounters some other Oracles, or MMORPG players with special Internet powers. This issue is further proof that DC’s decision to hire Zoë Quinn was not just a publicity stunt; she is in fact a brilliant writer. Her worldbuilding is fascinating and plausible, and she shows a deep understanding of Internet culture and computer technology.

BLACK PANTHER #8 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Gathering of My Name,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Kev Walker. T’Challa is supposed to steal some vibranium from an enemy flagship, but after meeting the slaves who are being held hostage on the ship, including a cute little kid, he can’t resist also stealing the entire ship. This was a pretty good issue. I love the image of the kid wearing a Black Panther mask, and Kev Walker’s art is very impressive.

DICK TRACY: DEAD OR ALIVE #3 (IDW, 2019) – “Tracy Underground,” [W] Lee Allred & Mike Allred, [A] Rich Tommaso. On the run from the law, Tracy encounters Brilliant Smith, who sets him up with some crimefighting equipment. The radio that functions by quantum entanglement is a typical Allred touch. This series is quite well-executed, but it’s becoming a bit tiresome, and Tracy is kind of unsympathetic.

SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #124 (Marvel, 1987) – “When Strikes the Octopus!”, [W] Roger McKenzie, [A] Greg LaRocque. I just started playing the recent Spider-Man video game, and it made me want to read some Spider-Man comics. This issue satisfied my Spider-Man craving, but it’s not all that good. It’s just a standard Dr. Octopus story, in which Spidey battles Doc Ock to stop him from destroying the city with a nuclear reactor.

SPIDER-WOMAN #12 (Marvel, 1979) – “The Last Tale of the Brothers Grimm!”, [W] Mark Gruenwald, [A] Carmine Infantino. A weird and fairly pointless issue that has nothing to do with Spider-Man at all. Jessica Drew is kidnapped by two minor villains, the Brothers Grimm, and their mother, and after a lot of backstory, it turns out that the Brothers Grimm are actually robots. I previously encountered the Brothers Grimm as members of the Night Shift, a team of minor villains many of whom first appeared in Spider-Woman.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #193 (Marvel, 1979) – “The Wings of the Fearsome Fly!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Keith Pollard. Spidey fights the Fly, a minor villain who I believe was later killed by Scourge. Also, as Peter Parker, he gets fired from the Daily Bugle, and then Ned Leeds punches him. Meanwhile, the Burglar subplot that culminated in issue 200 is going on in the background. This issue is okay, but Marv Wolfman was worse than any previous Spider-Man writer.

SISTERHOOD OF STEEL #4 (Marvel/Epic, 1985) – “The Girls’ Night Out!”, [W] Christy Marx, [A] Mike Vosburg. This is surprisingly good. It’s kind of like Conan, but from the perspective of the female warriors who he keeps meeting. This issue focuses on two junior members of an all-female military company, as they collect their pay and go out drinking. Notably, it shows a woman having casual sex and enjoying it, and such a depiction was unusual in commercial comics at the time. Christy Marx is best known as the creator of Jem, but her only other comics work that I’m familiar with is her unsuccessful New 52 Amethyst series.

SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #6 (Marvel, 1977) – “The Power to Purge!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Ross Andru. A Dreaded Deadline Doom reprint of Marvel Team-Up #3, which I already reviewed for this blog. There are a couple new pages, but they contain nothing of interest.

CREATURES ON THE LOOSE #33 (Marvel, 1975) – “Deathgame!”, [W] David Kraft, [A] George Pérez. Gentleman George Pérez, the greatest superhero artist besides Kirby, just announced his retirement due to health issues. I’m grateful to him for all the pleasure he’s given me, and I wish him all the best. This very early work does not reflect his true abilities, because Klaus Janson’s inking is utterly unsuited to George’s style. Also, the plot is boring and forgettable. It’s a Man-Wolf story, but I can’t remember much else about it.

STELLAR #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Bret Blevins. I did read issue 1 of this series, but I can’t remember anything about it, and this issue doesn’t include a recap. So I couldn’t tell what was going on here, except that Stellar was fighting some people and having a flashback about her friend Umbra. I was right to give up on this series after one issue.

SOUTHERN CROSS #4 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Becky Cloonan, [A] Andy Belanger. I had to check my “Master List of Comics Reviewed” to make sure I’d read the first issue of this, because I couldn’t remember anything about it at all. I was confusing it with Invisible Republic, another series I bailed on after the first issue. It turns out that according to my review, Southern Cross #1 had such a boring plot that I couldn’t remember anything about it even immediately after I read it, and that’s true of issue 4. Nothing much happens in this issue at all. That’s too bad, because the issue does contain some excellent artwork and some radically unusual page layouts.

AVENGERS #1 (Marvel, 2012) – “Wake the World,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Jerome Opeña. Jonathan Hickman’s take on the Avengers is essentially a continuation of his Fantastic Four run, and is drawn in a similar style. However, as I previously argued with respect to Jason Aaron’s Avengers, an Avengers comic needs to have more than just epic cosmic superhero stories. It also needs to have characterization, and for that you need characters like Hawkeye and Vision and Wanda, as well as the big three of Cap, Thor and Iron Man. This issue has no character interaction to speak of, so it fails for the same reason Jason Aaron’s Avengers did. As far as I recall, Hickman’s Avengers was never a huge success and didn’t have nearly as big an impact as his Fantastic Four, and since FF, his career has gone downhill.

WORLDS’ FINEST #9 (DC, 2013) – “Raid,” [W] Paul Levitz, [A] George Pérez, Cafu & Yildiray Cinar. This series is notable for containing some of George’s last art on an ongoing comic. Unfortunately, he only drew eight pages of this issue, and Paul’s writing is not nearly good enough to carry the rest of the issue.

Final review post of 2018

New comics received on December 10:

LAGUARDIA #1 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Homecoming,” [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Tana Ford. This is Nnedi Okorafor’s best comic yet, and it shows that she, like Saladin Ahmed and G. Willow Wilson, has succeeded in making the transition from prose SFF to comics. The only caveat is that it takes place in the same universe as her novels Lagoon and Binti, and I would have had a harder time understanding this comic if I hadn’t read Lagoon. The basic premise is that Nigeria, and specifically Lagos, has become a gateway to Earth for all kinds of alien species. The protagonist, a pregnant woman named Future, is traveling from Lagos to New York, and is also smuggling in a (literal) illegal alien. This comic makes effective use of SF tropes to investigate the topic of immigration. It also has really nice art; Tana Ford has the rare talent of drawing aliens that really look alien. I especially like the scene where some green flower-like aliens get out of a plane, and in the next panel, we discover that they’re the size of human feet. In addition, this is perhaps the first comic book I’ve ever read that includes Nigerian English. On YouTube, some Comicgate troll made a video criticizing this comic as racist. He singled out the scene where Future is going through security and a little white girl pulls on her dreadlocks, saying that this would never happen in real life. The irony is that on Facebook, Nnedi Okorafor said that this scene was based on personal experience.

THE WRONG EARTH #4 (Ahoy, 2018) – “The Wrong Earth Chapter Four,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Jamal Igle. This was a bit less impressive than the first three issues, but only by a small margin. The highlight of the issue is when the Harley Quinn character decides she’s had enough of the Joker character. This is still one of the best superhero parodies I’ve ever read, and I’m glad to see that it’s actually gaining readers.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #40 (Image, 2018) – “For a Certain Value of ‘Okay,’” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. In a horrifying twist, Baal decides to sacrifice the entire crowd at the O2 Arena to defeat the Great Darkness. I’m not sure if we even know yet what the Great Darkness is. There are now five issues of WicDiv remaining. I’m glad it’s ending soon, because it’s not getting any easier to understand.

CROWDED #5 (Image, 2018) – “Too Many People,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Ro Stein. Trotter leads Vita and Charlie into an ambush. This issue is more of the same hilarious mayhem as usual. The high point of the issue is probably “Swipe for 30 more minutes of vintage Los Angeles skies.”

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #38 (Marvel, 2018) – “Bad Dream, Part One: A Nightmare on Yancy Street,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Lunella has a series of nightmares. It turns out that a little boy (possibly a reference to Little Nemo) and his “cloud chimera” are responsible. I expect that capital-N Nightmare and Sleepwalker are going to appear later in this story. This was a really fun issue, and this storyline is promising. Funny moments in this issue include Lunella’s bedroom and her awkward sleeping position, and the Moloid and the giant-eyed lobster in the school basement.

GIANT DAYS: WHERE WOMEN GLOW AND MEN PLUNDER #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] John Allison. Ed Gemmell goes to Australia to visit his girlfriend Nina. While there, he has to foil a plot to steal Australia’s longest snag, i.e. sausage. This is even more hilarious than an average issue of Giant Days. I have no idea if John Allison’s portrayal of Australia is accurate, but it feels accurate. And I think this is the first time John has drawn Giant Days since its webcomic days. He has a distinctive and weird style, and it’s fun to see his visual take on his own characters.

BLACKBIRD #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Jen Bartel. Nina gets better acquainted with Clint, the white-haired paragon dude, and then her mother shows up out of nowhere. It looks like Clint will be the primary love interest in this series.

ADVENTURES OF THE SUPER SONS #5 (DC, 018) – “Deus Ex Machina,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Carlo Barberi. Jon and Damian meet their older, fatter selves, as well as their future children. This issue has some poignant moments, but it’s weird to see Jon already thinking about fatherhood at his age.

DIE #1 (Image, 2018) – “The Party,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans. Kieron’s next major work is about some kids who play a game of Dungeons & Dragons, during which they perform actual magic and transport themselves into the world of the game. And then two years later, all of them come back… except one. The series then picks up 25 years later, when the kids are all adults. Their lives have been ruined by their two years in the fantasy world, and they’re under a geas not to talk about anything that happened there. And then they’re summoned back to that world. As Kieron points out in his editorial, this comic is inspired by the ‘80s Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, but it also draws upon the moral panic over D&D from the same period. And then there’s the extra element of adults revisiting their childhood traumas. This promises to be a complicated and fascinating work, though I don’t like Stephanie Hans’s art as much as I like Jamie McKelvie’s.

WEST COAST AVENGERS #5 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. The Avengers fight with a funny new villain named Gridlock who controls cars. Then they’re summoned to a spooky abandoned amusement park, but it turns out to be a plot by Madame Masque. Kate’s mother shows up at the end of the issue. This story is the latest chapter in Kelly’s ongoing epic about Madame Masque and Kate’s parents, which was left unfinished when Hawkeye was cancelled. Indeed, this West Coast Avengers series is really just Kelly’s Hawkeye series under another name, and that’s not a bad thing.

MOTH & WHISPER #4 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Hidden Assets,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Jen Hickman. Niki escapes from Wolfe’s factory and then encounters his parents’ old friend, The Mole. This is another strong issue, but it seems odd that Niki is so quick to trust The Mole.

SMOOTH CRIMINALS #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kurt Lustgarden & Kristen “Kiwi” Smith, [A] Leisha Riddel. This new Boom! Box series is by the same writers as Misfit City, a fun and highly underrated series. Smooth Criminals is set in 1999, and stars a hacker and community college student who encounters a time-traveling criminal from the ‘60s. This issue is fun so far, but unlike Misfit City, it doesn’t have an obvious hook or theme, and I’m not sure where it’s going.

BORDER TOWN #4 (DC, 2018) – “The Extra-Hard Setting,” [W] Eric Esquivel, [A] Ramon Villalobos. Instead of reviewing this comic, I will say that I’m shocked and disappointed by the news about Eric Esquivel, and that I’m grateful to Cynthia Nagle for having the courage to publicly denounce him. Besides being horrified by Esquivel’s behavior, I’m also sorry that Border Town, which seemed like a genuinely progressive and important comic, is now permanently tainted. What DC should do is launch another similar comic that deals with border and immigration policy, written by another writer who has personal knowledge of these topics, but who is not a sexual predator. As for Esquivel, Border Town #4 should be his last comic book.

WELCOME TO WANDERLAND #3 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jackie Ball, [A] Maddi Gonzales. Riot and Lark encounter the Walt Disney character, and have some relationship problems. There’s a lot of fun stuff in this issue, but maybe that’s not entirely a good thing. This comic has too much going on, and it seems like resolving the entire plot in one issue may be difficult.

SNOTGIRL #12 (Image, 2018) – “Heat Wave,” [W] Bryan Lee O’Malley, [A] Leslie Hung. Now here’s another series that has too much going on and that lacks a clear plot. But Snotgirl is an ongoing, so it’s not under any pressure to finish its story. And it has such a strong visual style that I don’t mind being confused about the plot and characters sometimes. The main event this issue is that Lottie’s sister Rosie shows up unannounced, and promptly establishes herself in Lottie’s house and acts like it’s her house. Rosie is just horrible, but in a totally realistic and plausible way. Thanks to reading r/relationships, I know what Lottie should do: she should throw Rosie the hell out, and call the police if Rosie refuses to leave. But Lottie doesn’t have the strength of will to do that, because she’s spent her life letting Rosie push her around.

THE GREEN LANTERN #2 (DC, 2018) – “Darkness Visible,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. A cabal of super-villains kidnaps Evil Star because they need his Starband as part of their plot. And at the end of the issue, Hal discovers that Earth has been stolen. What’s most notable about this issue is the alienness of the alien characters. Rot Lop Fan appears at the start of the issue, and then later, we’re introduced to a new Green Lantern whose head is a volcano. Even when we meet Trilla-Tru, a Xudarian, we’re reminded that she’s an avian whose diet consists of seeds and bugs. And these characters spend half the issue interrogating an alien spider. In general, this is an enjoyable series so far, and it’s mostly free of Grant’s worst tendencies.

GRUMBLE #1 (Albatross, 2018) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Mike Norton. I ordered this because Rafer Roberts was the writer of Modern Fantasy, which was really good. This series is also set in a fantasy world, but one which is less fantastic and closer to our world. In keeping wth Mike Norton’s less cartoony style compared to that of Kristen Gudsnuk, there are fewer inside jokes and sight gags. The plot is about a young woman who’s just been orphaned and is involved in some kind of mob plot. And then she meets an old friend of her mother’s, who promptly gets turned into a dog that walks on its hind legs. Also, the series is set in Baltimore, and although I’ve never been to Baltimore, I get the sense that the writer and artist know the city very well. So far I don’t love this series as much as Modern Fantasy, but it’s interesting.

BLACK AF: DEVIL’S DYE #1 (Black Mask, 2018) – untitled, [W] Vita Ayala & Kwanza Osajyefo, [A] Liana Kangas. This new series in the Black franchise is about a new drug that’s devastating the community of superpowered black people. The art in this issue is… not my favorite, but the story is much more interesting than that of Black AF: Widows and Orphans. My favorite moment is the line “You’d think that we’d learn – it’s not that we ain’t trying. It’s that no matter what we do, it’s never enough.” I haven’t been super-impressed by any of the previus comics in this universe, but I’m willing to keep reading this latest series.

NAMELESS #2 (Image, 2015) – “The Double Headed Horror at the Door,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Chris Burnham. I accidentally read this after #3. This issue explains how the astronauts get to the Xibalba asteroid in the first place, and why their suits are covered with magical symbols. Also, it turns out that while they were exploring the asteroid, the astronauts back on their ship were all going nuts and killing each other. I think my favorite thing about this series is Chris Burnham’s spectacular, epic art. He really is at least comparable to Frank Quitely.

INFINITY WARS: INFINITY WARPS #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Kamala Kang,” [W] Chris Hastings, [A] Kev Walker. I bought this because of the Punisher/Power Pack mashup story by Cullen Bunn and Garry Brown. This story has a brilliant premise – it’s like Archie/Punisher, but even more incongruous – and it’s drawn in a dark, gritty style. But it’s not as funny as it could be, and it’s not worth the entire price of the issue. None of the other stories in the issue are of interest to me.

LODGER #2 (IDW, 2018) – “Empathy for the Devil,” [W/A] David Lapham, [W] Maria Lapham. Issue 1 of this series was the first Black Crown comic that I didn’t order, because I didn’t think I’d like David Lapham. Then for some reason I changed my mind and ordered #2, and in the meantime, I also discovered that I do like David Lapham. I’m not quite sure what the premise of Lodger is, but it resembles Stray Bullets #1 in that it’s brutally violent, and the violence erupts out of nowhere. There’s a scene in this issue where a woman holds an entire bar hostage, and then when a man asks her if she’s all right, she yells “Who said you could talk to me” and kicks his chair over. And he hits the back of his head on a table and apparently dies. That’s the kind of thing that happens in David Lapham’s comics. Lodger is also very simliar to Stray Bullets in terms of art style; most pages have 2×4 grids. I do think that if I had more experience with Lapham’s work, I might think that this comic was repetitive. But if I had read more of his other work, I’d also be able to tell how Lodger is different from his other comics, so it’s a wash.

ARCHIE MEETS BATMAN ’66 #5 (Archie, 2018) – “The Batman of Riverdale, Part 5: To Fight Another Day,” [W] Jeff Parker & Michael Moreci, [A] Dan Parent. This is a fun comic, but it’s exactly the same thing as the last four issues. Perhaps six issues was too many.

NAMELESS #4 (Image, 2015) – “Dark House,” as above. The two surviving astronauts reach the center of Xibalba, where they start having weird visions. At this point Nameless loses its narrative coherence, although the art is still really good. This issue also makes me suspect that this comic was based on 2001: A Space Odyssey.

NAMELESS #5 – “Star of Fear,” as above. Like so many other Grant Morrison comics, this issue is impossible to understand. It’s not even clear which of the events in this issue are “really” happening, and which are just visions that the protagonists are having. Understanding this comic would require multiple readings, and even then it wouldn’t completely make sense. I didn’t order #6, and I’m not entirely sorry about that.

THE DREAMING #4 (DC, 2018) – “Eternity,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Bilquis Evely. Judge Gallows tyrannizes the other inhabitants of the Dreaming. To save the day, Dora and Lucian head off to Destruction’s vacant realm. I still feel lukewarm about this comic, but this issue was reasonably good.

NAMOR: THE BEST DEFENSE #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Carlos Magno. This is part of a crossover in which the Defenders will reunite. This issue is an oversized Namor solo story, with some nice Kubert-esque artwork, but a pretty average story. I should stop automatically buying every Marvel comic written by Chip.

BULLY WARS #4 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Aaron Conley. Rufus fights a bunch of other bullies, while Spencer tries to save himself from the same bullies. And there’s a lot of gross-out humor. Bully Wars is fun and clever enough that I’m going to keep reading it, but it’s fairly low on my list of my favorite current comics, which is why it was one of the last comics I read this week.

UMBRELLA ACADEMY: HOTEL OBLIVION #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Violence,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Gabriel Bá. Yet another issue that looks pretty, but makes no sense at all. This is the last issue of this series that I’ll be reading.

18 DAYS #2 (Graphic India, 2015) – “The White Flag,” [W] Grant Morrison, Gotham Chopra & Sharad Devarajan, [A] Jeevan Kang. An adaptation of the scene from the Mahabharata where the Pandavas ask Bhishma and Drona for their blessing on the eve of battle. This is an interesting story, but only because I’m not familiar with it already. I get the sense that the adaptation doesn’t add much to the original. Also, 18 Days reads like a webcomic or iPad comic converted to print form – every panel is rectangular in shape, and most panels are the width of the page – and I suspect that Grant Morrison had very little actual involvement with it.

THE FOX #5 (Archie, 2015) – “I, Superhero,” [W/A] Dean Haspiel, [W] Mark Waid. When this came out, it was hailed as a throwback to classic superhero comics, but I don’t think it’s all that great. It has a grim, serious style of writing that contrasts oddly with its cartoony art.

GIANT-SIZE LITTLE MARVEL #4 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Skottie Young. Another great issue. Zachary and Zoe decide they don’t want to join either team, and they end up getting recruited into the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Part of the fun of this comic is seeing Skottie Young’s kid versions of all the Marvel heroes and villains.

SPIDEY #2 (Marvel, 2016) – “Enter the Sandman,” [W] Robbie Thompson, [A] Nick Bradshaw. This has pretty good art, but a stupid, infantile story. As early as page seven, the reader can already figure out how Spidey is going to defeat the Sandman. This series is a massive drop down in quality from the previous kid-focused Spider-Man series, Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man, which showed much more respect for the reader’s intelligence.

New comics received on December 15. I don’t know how I managed to read 10 comic books that day, because I also had to finish grading, and I attended a friend’s birthday party on top of that.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #39 (Marvel, 2018) – “Where’s Tony?”, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. It turns out there’s only one Skrull, and she’s the cutest Skrull ever. And she claims that she kidnapped Tony because otherwise the entire planet will be doomed. Also, there’s a lot more (presumably) accurate computer science. This has been a really fun storyline.

CAPTAIN GINGER #3 (Ahoy, 2018) – “Captain Ginger, Chapter Three,” [W] Stuart Moore, [A] June Brigman. Captain Ginger and Mittens search for the source of the signal, while also bickering a lot. Meanwhile, we get some clues as to how the cats became intelligent. On Facebook, I ranked Captain Ginger at #1 on my list of the best cat comics of the year, although Harley Quinn #55, to be reviewed below, gave it a run for its money.

THE QUANTUM AGE #5 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Wilfredo Torres. Sadly, Colonel Weird is not willing to send the Leaguers back in time, but he does convince Talky Walky to release Archive. And thus, Supergirl and Brainiac 5 are finally reunited. Other than that really cute moment, this issue is not so much a Legion homage as a chapter in the ongoing Black Hammer saga. I’m disappointed about that, but it’s not Jeff’s fault that his priorities for this series are different from mine. I just miss the Legion, dammit.

THE UNSTOPPABLE WASP #3 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] GuriHiru. The two Wasps and the agents of GIRL battle the AIM agents, including Finesse. As a former Avengers Academy reader, I’m kind of sorry to see Finesse as a villain, but I have to admit she’s suited to that role. This issue reminds me a lot of the issue of Princeless: Raven with the pirate ship battle. Here, as in that issue, Jeremy uses a fight scene as an opportunity to develop his characters and illustrate their personalities. This is something that most writers don’t do, and as a result, the fight scenes are usually the least interesting part of a superhero comic.

GIANT DAYS #45 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Ed and Nina almost break up because of Nina’s alcoholism. This issue is hilarious, as usual, but it’s also a poignant depiction of alcoholism and British drinking culture. It helps to have read Where Women Glow and Men Plunder before reading this issue, because then you realize that Nina’s account of what happened in Australia is edited to make Ed look more heroic than he really was.

WONDER WOMAN #60 (DC, 2018) – “The Just War Part III,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Cary Nord. I forgot to order issue 59. Most of this issue is devoted to a fight between Diana and Ares. I’m still not all that impressed with this series; it feels like any other Wonder Woman comic. I’m still waiting for Willow to impose her personal stamp on Wonder Woman.

MY LITTLE PONY: NIGHTMARE KNIGHTS #3 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Tony Fleecs. The Nightmare Knights infiltrate the casino. There were some funny moments in this issue, like the kitten version of Capper playing with a ball of yarn. But when I read this comic, I was too tired to fully enjoy it.

MR. & MRS. X #6 (Marvel, 2018) – “King & Queen,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] David Lopez. This is probably the best issue yet. Remy and Rogue’s housewarming party is full of hilarious moments, lke when Laura and Bobby casually observe Remy falling off the roof. Also, the three cats make numerous appearances. The issue ends with Rogue and Gambit being kidnapped by Mojo. An impressive thing about Mr. & Mrs. X is its unromanticized portrayal of marriage: Rogue and Gambit obviously love each other, but their marriage isn’t some perfect perpetual honeymoon.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Garrón. I barely remember anything about that issue, but that’s not because it wasn’t good. I must have been dead tired when I read it. Looking at this issue again, I think it’s an effective Spider-Man story. It combines superheroic action with relationship drama, and it shows Miles’s struggle to balance his superhero career and his real life. At the time I read this comic I wasn’t familiar with Miles Morales’s character, but now that I’ve seen into the Spider-Verse, I’m excited to read more stories about Miles.

BY NIGHT #6 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Christine Larsen. The male protagonist, Barney, gets involved in some kind of mob plot. This series has gotten off to a slow start, and it only has six more issues to go. I fear that it may never be as good as Giant Days or Bad Machinery.

On December 16, I went to the latest Charlotte Comic Con. This was a disappointing convention, but that’s partly because I was really tired after spending the previous day grading. I didn’t have the mental energy to make intelligent purchasing decisions. I did get some good stuff, including:

THIRTEEN #18 (Gold Key, 1966) – “Battle of the Sisses” and other stories, [W/A] John Stanley. This is such a brilliant comic. As I’ve mentioned before, John Stanley was an absolute master of comic timing, and he had a knack for putting his characters in bizarre situations. In this issue’s first story, Val is frustrated with Evie for spending hours in the bathroom. So she sneaks into Billy’s house through the window, so that she can telephone her own house and make Evie leave the bathroom to answer the phone. And she gets stuck halfway through the window. (https://www.instagram.com/p/BrdkBKincYl/) It’s a ridiculous situation that also feels totally plausible. The other standout story in this issue is the one where Val is wrongly suspected of stealing a wig.

SCOOBY-DOO #1 (Marvel, 1977) – “Three Phantoms Too Many,” [W] Bill Ziegler, [A] Dan Spiegle. Evanier/Spiegle Scooby-Doos are tough to find, so I was willing to pay $3 for this one, even though it only has a six-pager by that creative team. The Evanier/Spiegle story, “The Horrible Hound Sound,” is about a rock musician who makes fake ghost noises to keep fans away from his studio. There’s also a Dynomutt three-pager written by Evanier. The other non-Evanier story in the issue is just average.

WONDER WOMAN #185 (DC, 1969) – “Them!”, [W/A] Mike Sekowsky. Diana Prince adopts a girl named Cathy who ran away from home and was enslaved by some crooks. This is a weird and clumsily written comic, and it has some moments of unintentional (?) homoeroticism – Diana gives Cathy a bath, and then later we see that they’ve been sharing a bed. (https://www.instagram.com/p/Brd5ja1HAFW/) Yet this comic has a lot of energy and vitality to it. The reader gets the sense that Mike Sekowsky cares about Wonder Woman, and that he was at least trying to depict contemporary young people accurately, even though he was over 40 at the time. (See also the Harvey #2 review below.) By contrast, for most of the period between Marston’s death and the Diana Prince era, Wonder Woman had been written by a writer who actively hated the character, and that writer’s stories were terrible and didn’t respect the reader’s intelligence – as we will see in another review below. For those reasons, even if the no-costume Wonder Woman stories seem embarrassing today, they were a massive improvement over the previous era of Wonder Woman stories.

BUCKY O’HARE #2 (Continuity, 1991) – untitled, [W] Larry Hama, [A] Michael Golden. Bucky and his crewmates find their way into Willy DuWitt’s human universe. This series doesn’t take itself very seriously, but Michael Golden’s art is brilliant. He’s equally good at depicting anthropomorphic animals and spaceship battles. Bucky O’Hare is probably the only good comic published by Continuity.

FLEX MENTALLO #4 (DC, 1996) – “After the ‘Fact,’ Part Four: We Are All UFOs,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Frank Quitely. I already have the trade paperback of this series, but I haven’t read it yet. I prefer not to read comics in trade format when they’re available in single issue format. (Indeed, even if I’ve already read a comic in trade paperback form, I still prefer to get th single issues. See the below review of Watchmen #3.) So Flex Mentallo #4 was new to me. This is a very difficult comic, and I suspect it would only be a bit less difficult if I’d read the first three issues. But it has some brilliant art and writing. The point of this series seems to be that Flex Mentallo is the true principle of heroism, which is not the same as the model of heroism presented in most superhero comics. I hope I can find the first three issues.

GREEN LANTERN #79 (DC, 1970) – “Ulysses Star is Still Alive!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Neal Adams. I paid $5 for this. I’ve already read it thanks to the ‘80s GL/GA reprint series, but again, I prefer to own the original issues. I now have four out of thirteen issues of Neal and Denny’s Green Lantern, although I’m missing the key issues #76, #85 and #87. “Ulysses Star is Still Alive!” has spectacular art; it still looks fresh and modern today, almost forty years later. However, its story is kind of embarrasing today because it’s a white savior narrative, in which Ollie convinces some Native Americans to recover their proud warrior spirit. And it’s stupid how a conflict over Native American rights is resolved by a fistfight between two white dudes. At least Denny tried to depict Native Americans sympathetically, at a time when cowboys-and-Indians stories were still common. And the closing sequence, where Hal and Ollie’s fight is juxtaposed with a Norman Mailer quotation, is genuinely powerful. As a nitpick, this issue’s cover depicts the Native Americans as using both totem poles and feather headdresses. There is no Native American nation that historically used both of those things.

DEATH RATTLE #2 (Kitchen Sink, 1973) – “Foreshadow,” [W/A] John Pound, plus other stories. To my surprise, there was one dealer at the convention who had some underground comics. But all of them were beyond my price range except this one, which was $5. This Death Rattle series is distinct from the ‘80s series with the same name and publisher. This issue’s first story is John Pound’s postapocalyptic SF story “Foreshadow,” which is effectively an EC story – there’s nothing in it that would have been inappropriate in an EC comic. Next is a partly wordless story by Tim Boxell that has some pretty art, but an incomprehensible plot. There’s also “A Normal Event on the New York Subway” by Mike Olshan and Mike Vosburg, in which a man has a bizarre vision while on the subway. Mike Olshan only has one other writing credit in the GCD. Overall, this is a pretty average underground comic.

STINZ #2 (Fantagraphics, 1989) – “Breaking to Harness,” [W/A] Donna Barr. Stinz begins his army training, and it doesn’t go well. He can’t eat meat, he has to be issued a pair of pants even though he can’t wear them, and so on. And his drill instructor hates him. This issue is both funny and touching; it illustrates what life would actually be like for a centaur in a human world. Even Stinz’s tyrannical drill sergeant is a somewhat sympathetic character.

HAUNT OF FEAR #7 (EC, 1951/1994) – “Room for One More!”, [W] Al Feldstein, [A] Graham Ingels, plus other stories. This issue’s lead story is amazing. A young man has an obsessive desire to be buried in his family’s mausoleum, alongside his late parents. But there’s only one vacant spot in the mausoleum, and he has three older cousins. Following typical EC logic, he kills his cousins and disposes of their bodies. And then the three dead cousins rise from their graves, kill him, and bury themselves in the vacant spot in the mausoleum. Graham Ingels depicts all of this with his usual ghastliness. The other three stories, drawn by Jack Davis, Jack Kamen, and Johnny Craig, are not quite as memorable. The Davis story is about a man who always carries a basket on his shoulder and who seems to have two distinct personalities. It was not hard to figure out that he was using the basket to conceal his extra head.

SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON #13 (Gold Key, 1965) – “The Pit of Doom,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Dan Spiegle. The family visit a planet where the local humans are terrorized by shapeshifting amoebas. This is an enjoyable SF story with some nice Dan Spiegle art, though it’s nothing all that great.

SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND LOIS LANE #93 (DC, 1969) – “The Superman-Wonder Woman Team!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Irv Novick. I bought this because it’s one of the few appearances of the no-costume Wonder Woman outside her own title. But ironically, this comic demonstrates why Kanigher’s Wonder Woman was so awful, and why Sekowsky’s Wonder Woman was so much better. The premise of this issue is that since Diana Prince now has no powers, Lois thinks Diana is no longer her rival for Superman’s affections, but instead Diana and Superman fall in love and decide to get married. The trouble with this issue is that it ignores all of Diana’s character development in her own series, except for her lack of powers. It’s just another silly love triangle story. Kanigher could write this kind of story in his sleep, and probably did. Also, Kanigher shows no interest in Diana’s own feelings for Superman. We never get a sense of whether she even likes him. It’s as if Superman’s relationship with Wonder Woman is totally one-sided. It turns out that this is because she’s actually not Diana, but a Phantom Zone prisoner masquerading as Diana. However, this plot twist seems like an excuse to allow Kanigher to ignore Diana’s feelings. Overall, this story is an insult to both Wonder Woman’s character and the reader’s intelligence.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #4 (DC, 2018) – “Dip Me in the Healing Stream,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson, [A] Domo Stanton. The Cotard delusion keeps spreading in New Orleans, while Erzulie scrambles to fix things. This is still my favorite current Sandman title, but this issue was mostly the same thing as the last few issues.

MARS #3 (First, 1984) – “Transformation,” [W] Mark Wheatley, [A] Marc Hempel. Morgana encounters her old crewmate Milos, then goes to bed and has a bizarre dream about a living city. According to the Slings & Arrows Guide, this series lacks “even the pretense of linear narrative,” and that seems fair, but it’s a fun comic anyway.

BLACK HAMMER: CTHU-LOUISE (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Cthu-Louise,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Emi Lenox. This one-shot focuses on a character we previously met in the Sherlock Frankenstein miniseries. Lemire and Lenox’s depiction of Cthu-Louise is brutal. Both her parents abuse her, and thanks to her bizarre appearance, she’s relentlessly bullied in school. When she finally snaps and sacrifices her bullies to her grandfather Cthulhu, the reader is actually happy for her.

THIRTEEN #20 (Gold Key, 1966) – “Right? Right!”, [W/A] John Stanley. Another excellent issue, though its impact on me was lessened because I had just read another issue of Thirteen. John Stanley’s stories are mostly free of topical references or explicit feminism, but this issue includes a story where Val looks at the moon and thinks “How exciting that soon there’ll be men on it! Guess it’ll be a while before they put a girl on it, though.” (And she was right.) There’s also a story where Billy saves Val from being crushed by a rock, and for a minute, they actually seem like a real couple, rather than two kids who like to torment each other.

GODDESS MODE #1 (Vertigo, 2018) – “Out of Sync,” [W] Zoe Quinn, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. I was apprehensive about this comic because Zoe Quinn is another writer with no previous comics experience. But Goddess Mode turns out to be excellent. It takes place in a dystopian world where everyday life is dominated by an MMORPG called Azoth. (So it’s a bit like Ready Player One, but without the toxic masculinity.) Then Azoth unaccountably goes offline, and the protagonist, Cass Price, has to figure out what’s going on. This comic benefits from Zoe Quinn’s personal knowledge of gaming and Internet culture. Like Crowded, it depicts a world where everything is monetized: there’s an adfor water with “50% less cholera* ,” and Cass needs “augments” to breathe the air in her apartment. And her apartment is full of ads that she has to pay a fee to turn off. This is a future that’s only slightly exaggerated relative to the real world. Zoe Quinn also shows a sharp understanding of Cass Price’s psychology, reminding us that she (Zoe) initially became famous for a game about mental health. The following lines are especially powerful: “The only person who has ever felt like home hasn’t opened his eyes since I was a kid… And yeah, maybe I never figured out how to be a person after that.” Also, Robbi Rodriguez is an ideal artist for this story. This is an exciting series, and as an added bonus, it’s going to be equally annoying to both Gamergaters and Comicsgaters.

SPIDER-GIRLS #3 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] Andrés Genolet. Another issue full of adorably awful spiders and cute character interactions. Annie, with her burning desire to help, is the heart of this series. It’s too bad that this is the last issue. I would eagerly read an ongoing series about these characters, or even just Annie.

LONE RANGER #3 (Dynamite, 2018) – “Deal with the Devil,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Bob Q. The Lone Ranger and Tonto start a cattle stampede, then rebrand all the cattle so their owners can’t tell which cattle are whose. Also, we’re introduced to a new villain who is kind of like Bat Lash, except he’s a cannibal. Not a bad issue, though less memorable than #2.

BITTER ROOT #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] David F. Walker & Chuck Brown, [A] Sanford Greene. One of the Sangeryes prevents a lynching, and we learn that white people turn into jinoos when they kill black people. That’s a fascinating premise. Meanwhile, the giant dude, Berg, gets infected and turns into a goblin or something. Because of his combination of huge size and intellectual language, this character reminds me of the big blue dude from ClanDestine. The young female Sangerye from last issue doesn’t appear in this one.

X-23 #7 (Marvel, 2018) – “X-Assassin Part 1,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Diego Olortegui. Let me just point out something I’ve been noticing lately: Marvel has been hiring a lot of international artists, mostly from Spain or Latin America, but few of these artists ever get to do a really long run on a series. And they rarely get promoted as stars. Marvel seems to treat them like interchangeable parts. Juann Cabal is a really good artist, and I’d be curious to know why he’s no longer drawing X-23. I’d also like it if the comics press put more emphasis on Marvel and DC’s artists as well as their writers. Anyway, this issue Gabby waits in a long line for gelato, and then she and Laura fight an assassin who turns out to look just like them. This is an okay issue. I like the description of Hank McCoy as “regal.”

HARVEY #2 (Marvel, 1970) – “Playing Post Office!” and other stories, [W] Stan Lee, [A] uncredited (possibly Stan Goldberg). This would be just another average Archie knockoff if not for the fact that it’s written by Stan Lee. The dialogue is all in Stan’s recognizable style, and the second story, “It’s Only Money, Honey!”, is notable because of its contemporary relevance. The Archie character, Harvey, needs money for a ticket to a “Jefferson Zeppelin” concert. After he goes through all sorts of hijinks to get the money, he discovers it’s a free concert. The name “Jefferson Zeppelin” (Jefferson Airplane + Led Zeppelin) and the free concert show that Stan was paying attention to the counterculture of the time. This was part of his brilliance. Even though he was approaching forty years old when he co-created the Marvel Universe, he was able to connect with readers who were half his age or less, because he knew what sort of things they cared about. You also see this in his Spider-Man comics that were about drugs or campus protests. As someone suggested when I made these observations on Facebook, Stan may have had only a shallow knowledge of contemporary youth culture, acquired by watching TV. But even then, most other comics writers at the time had no knowledge of youth culture at all.

FELIX THE CAT #16 (Dell, 1950) – multiple stories, [W/A] Otto Messmer (?). I think this is the oldest comic book in my collection. It’s in such poor condition that I hesitate even to take it out of its bag. This comic is uncredited, but it’s in the exact same style as Otto Messmer’s classic Felix cartoons, and when I posted one page of it on Facebook, Mark Newgarden identified that page as Messmer’s work. Like the Felix cartoon series, this comic consists of various adventure stories with no continuity between them. There’s none of the self-reflexivity of the cartoon (Felix doesn’t remove his tail, or play with ? and ! marks), but the overall art style is very two-dimensional, and the gags are very similar to those in the cartoon. For example, there’s one story where Felix dives underwater for some pearls, and encounters an octopus that resembles the one in Comicalamities, which is discussed in my dissertation. In general, this is a fascinating comic, and I’m proud to have it. Maybe I should get the IDW hardcover collection of Messmer’s Felix comic books.

CRIME SUSPENSTORIES #7 (EC, 1951/1994) – multiple stories, [E] Al Feldstein. A collection of excellent stories. In Johnny Craig’s “Hatchet-Killer,” a woman murders her housekeeper, mistaking her for an axe murderer. This is a pretty impressive story of fear and paranoia, but the shock ending, where we learn that the axe murderer is already dead, is underwhelming. I thought the woman’s husband was going to be the murderer. Next is a Jack Kamen story which uses the typical EC trope of a woman conspiring with her lover to kill her rich husband. Jack Davis’s “Phonies” is a clever stry about one thief manipulating another into opening a safe. Maybe the best story in the issue is Graham Ingels’s “Horror Under the Big-Top!”, in which an acrobat and a human cannonball murder each other.

JOURNEY #12 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “Hidden Spirits,” [W/A] William Messner-Loebs. Wolverine gets knocked off his canoe and has to run to the next bend in the river to get back on it. Meanwhile at the fort, an Indian domestic servant pretends to be servile and docile, but then we learn that she’s a spy for Tecumseh. As I have probably said before, one fascinating thing about this series is its depiction of the diversity and complexity of Native American culture. There’s also a backup story by someone named Jim Miller.

BLACKHAWK #269 (DC, 1984) – “Changes,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Dan Spiegle. I haven’t really gotten into this series, even though I love all the other Evanier-Spiegle collaborations. Probably the reason is that I don’t like war comics. But Blackhawk is not a typical example of that genre. It has the same witty dialogue and clever plots as Evanier’s other comics, without the gritty realism of most DC war comics This issue, Blackhawk is trapped in Nazi Germany, but escapes by hiding in a coffin that has to be shipped out of the country at once. This is a clever plot twist that’s set up very early in the issue. Meanwhile, the other Blackhawks have a new leader who is obviously some kind of spy.

SMOOTH CRIMINALS #2 (Boom!, 2018) – as above. It turns out Mia didn’t travel through time, she was cryogenically frozen. Also, her nemesis, Hatch Leonard, is still alive. This is a fun comic and a nice piece of ‘90s nostalgia, but I’m still not sure what its point is.

FANTASTIC FOUR WEDDING SPECIAL #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “(Invisible) Girls Gone Wild, [W] Gail Simone, [A] Laura Braga, and “Father Figure,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Mark Buckingham. This issue’s first story depicts Alicia Masters’s bachelorette party. It’s very similar to Incredible Hulk #417, except for the cute ending, where Alicia and her friends help their chauffeur celebrate his wedding anniversary. The backup story is much more clever. Ben visits the Puppet Master in prison to ask for his blessing, and gets it, but there’s a twist at the end that’s so brilliant I don’t want to spoil it. The Braille text at the end just says “father figure.” It took me several minutes to figure that out, even with the Braille alphabet in front of me.

JINGLE BELLE: THE HOMEMADES’ TALE (IDW, 2018) – “The Homemades’ Tale,” [W] Paul Dini, [A] Nicoletta Baldari. Jingle Belle encounters the Queen of Toys, who collects all the toys that children throw away because they prefer their shiny new Christmas presents. It turns out the Queen herself is an animate doll that was created to resemble Jingle Belle. This is a really cute story, and it’s drawn in a style that resembles a child’s crayon drawing.

SPIDER-GWEN: GHOST SPIDER #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Spider-Geddon Part Three: Better Sorry than Safe,” [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Rosi Kämpe. This is maybe a little better than last issue, but it still feels like just a generic superhero comic. I don’t think I’m going to keep reading this series.

RED SONJA/TARZAN #6 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Gail Simone, [A] Walter Geovani. Sonja and Tarzan finally defeat Eson Duul and kill him dead. Good riddance. This was a pretty good miniseries – certainly much better than Conan/Red Sonja.

OUTER DARKNESS #2 (Image, 2018) – “Each Other’s Throats Pt. 2: Red Alert,” [W] John Layman, [A] Afu Chan. Captain Joshua Rigg subjects his crew to a dangerous, unnecessary ordeal, just to see how they’ll react under pressure. His officer, Baxter, gives him a good whack, which he totally deserves. Also, there’s a scene where all the surfaces on the ship’s bridge are covered with eyes. I previously said that Outer Darkness “feels like a gritty and unromantic version of Star Wars, with a very diverse cast,” but I actually meant Star Trek, specifically The Next Generation. It almost seems like a grotesque parody of that series.

TALES OF ORDINARY MADNESS #1 (Dark Horse, 1992) – “Paranoid,” [W] Malcolm Bourne, [A] Mike Allred. This comic’s writer, Malcolm Bourne, is better known as a letterhack, but his day job is as a psychiatrist, and this comic is clearly based on his professional experience. This issue is a (presumably) very realistic depiction of a man suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. This comic is from so early in Mike Allred’s career that he was still signing his name M. Dalton Allred. But he draws this issue in much the same style as the early issues of Madman, and that style is perfectly suited to the task of illustrating the protagonist’s paranoid delusions.

RENEGADE ROMANCE #1 (Renegade, 1987) – multiple stories, [E] Deni Loubert. This series was an unsuccessful but well-intentioned effort to revive the romance comics genre. This issue is impressive because of the diverse range of work it includes. It begins with “Art Lovers,” one of very few comics stories written by Jackie Estrada. It’s about a gallery owner who has an affair with a married artist. I haven’t heard of the artist, Steven Sullivan, but there’s some nice inking by Al Williamson. Next is Mario Hernandez’s “Waiting for You,” about a wife who may be having an affair with a man named Julio – coincidentally or not, the same name as the protagonist of a different Mario Hernandez’s comic, Julio’s Day. Angela Bocage’s “How Did You Guys Meet” is just one page, but it’s cute. Cynthia Martin’s “Noë” is about a woman whose husband is obsessed with his dead first wife. A curious note about this story is that the lettering is credited to “Raoul Gato,” but is done in Tom Orzechowski’s style. On Facebook, Tom confirmed that “Raoul Gato” was him, either alone or with Lois Buhalis, and that he had a cat named Raoul, but he couldn’t remember why he used the pseudonym. The artistic highlight of the issue is Mary Wilshire’s “Artheart,” about a romance between an artist and a gallery patron. It’s drawn in delicate and evocative graytones. Mary Wilshire had a long career in commercial comics, but she also drew some stories in this painterly style, and I’d like to track down more of them. Next, Trina Robbins’s “Red Love” is an adaptation of a Russian Marxist novel by Alexandra Kollontai. Krystine Kryttre’s “My, What a Big Ass I Have” is a raucous and visually inventive creation myth, and Bob Rozakis and Stephen DiStefano’s “Love is a Balloon” is a cute depiction of how relationships evolve with age. Overall, this is a really strong anthology comic, and it’s a shame that there was only one other issue.

WEREWOLF BY NIGHT #3 (Marvel, 1972) – “The Mystery of the Mad Monk!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Mike Ploog. This issue has a dumb plot in which Jack Russell battles Aelfric the Mad Monk. The relevance of this story to later continuity is that Aelfric wrote the Darkhold, although according to later retcons, he only reassembled it. However, though the story in this issue is not great, the artwork is. Mike Ploog is really good at drawing werewolves, and there’s one horrifying panel showing a policeman’s flesh melting off his skull. This panel wouldn’t be out of place in a Basil Wolverton comic.

HEAD LOPPER #10 (Image, 2018) – “Head Lopper and the Knights of Venora,” [W/A] Andrew MacLean. The city of Venora is besieged by a huge army of goblins. The giant egg that towers over the city finally hatches, but it turns out the creature inside it is dead. Meanwhile, Norgal sits in a tavern drinking instead of fighting alongside the defenders, and I’m not sure why. This issue has an impressively epic scope.

HELLBOY WINTER SPECIAL 2018 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Happy New Year, Ava Galluci,” [W] Mike Mignola, [A] Ben Stenbeck, plus other stories. I haven’t heard of Ben Stenbeck before, but he’s not bad. His story is about a long-undead English gentleman who was cursed by a witch. Both the gentleman and the witch end up getting turned into frogs. Then there’s a story by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, which draws upon the Bulgarian tradition of costumed dancers called kukeri. Finally, there’s a gangster story by Tonci Zonjic. This is a pretty good issue, if not spectacular.

BLACK PANTHER #7 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Gathering of My Name Part One,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Kev Walker. This issue begins by introducing Killmonger’s adorable little daughter, Zenzi. Then there’s a sequence where Nakia infiltrates a casino planet in disguise and kidnaps an imperial Wakandan noble. Like “Avengers of the New World,” this story is developing very slowly, but I think it’ll reward the reader’s patience.

SILVER SURFER: THE BEST DEFENSE #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Best Defense,” [W/A] Jason Latour. Offhand I can’t think of another comic that’s both written and drawn by Jason Latour. In this issue, the Surfer visits a planet of truly horrible scumbags. The planet is about to be destroyed by the Driver, a creature similar to Galactus but worse, and everyone on the planet is trying to profit off the situation. The Surfer meets a girl who’s slightly less bad than all the other people, and tries to save her. This issue is an impressive display of Jason’s talent at boh art and writing, though I wish he was drawing more Southern Bastards instead.

New comics received on December 21:

LUMBERJANES #57 (Boom!, 2018) – “The Life of the Party” part one, [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] AnneMarie Rogers. The art in this issue looks extremely crude at first, but the artist’s storytelling is strong, and she draws good facial expressions. In this new story, it’s Jo’s birthday today, and April wants to throw the best birthday party ever. But she needs help. Specifically, in order to distract Jo while she plans, April needs Mal to distract Jo by helping going out on a boat with her – despite Mal’s well-known fear of water. Of course, things promptly go wrong. And of course, things promptly go wrong when Mal and Jo leave their emergency flare and liferaft behind. The best moment of this issue is when April pulls out a laserdisc, which none of the other girls recognize, and then a sasquatch accidentally breaks it in half. But more broadly, this story is effective because it draws on what we already know about the characters. This story only works because we already know that April and Jo are lifelong best friends, and that Mal is terrified of water.

RUNAWAYS #16 (Marvel, 2018) – “That Was Yesterday Pt. 4,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. All the Marvel comics this week have covers with a “Stan Lee 1922-2018” banner instead of a logo, and the first four interior pages of each comic are blank except for a picture of Stan. I guess it’s a touching tribute, but it’s also kind of annoying and unsightly. It’s hard to distinguish any of these comics from each other. As for Runaways #16, Nico’s “Jolly holiday!” spell is one of the funniest and cutest moments in the series. I especially love the scene where everyone gets socks, including Old Lace, Gib, and the cat. Unfortunately, Alex spends the whole issue acting like the loathsome manipulative jerk he is.

EXILES #11 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Rodríguez. It sucks that this series is cancelled. It was easily the best new Marvel title of the year. At least I know that both creators will go on to other things. This issue, the Exiles battle another team of Exiles, including a Captain America Hulk and a skeleton Thor (similar to the one from Simonson’s Ragnarok). Wolvie saves the day by being cute, as usual, and then the Exiles decide to head to the moon to fight… I’m not sure who.

PRINCELESS VOL. 7: FIND YOURSELF #2 (Action Lab, 2018) – “Find Yourself Part 2,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Emily Martin. Adrienne’s brother and his companions try to escape from Valmar, while Adrienne meets her older sister… and her new brother-in-law. This issue is still a bit confusing, but I bought the Make Yourself Part 2 trade paperback and read it, so now at least I’m caught up. The high point of the issue is the page where Adrienne has a nightmare about being forced to wear a chainmail bikini.

HARLEY QUINN #56 (DC, 2018) – “Pettergate,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mirka Andolfo. This is the second best cat comic of the year, after Captain Ginger. There are cats on almost every page. Lots of them. And they do things like steal wallets and accept money for hot dogs. On top of that, this issue is also a Gamergate parody. (The plot is that Harley Quinn has to adopt out a large number of cats, but she becomes the target of a group of jerks who think that only men should sell pets.) Some people have complained that this issue’s message about Gamergate/Comicsgate is too obvious and unsubtle, and I sympathize with that – although there are some more subtle jokes, like the acronym of “Mike’s Rent-an-Animal.” However, I think that this comic is still an effective rebuttal Comicsgate, if only because, first, it has the official sanction of DC, and second, because it’s by a writer who is not himself a Comicsgate target. Mark Russell didn’t need to make a statement about Comicsgate, but he did, and that’s important. Also, the line “They’re worse than evil. They’re nostalgic” is a perfect summary of the whole mess. As a footnote, I don’t think Mr. Katz’s first name is mentioned in the issue, but the solicitation stated that his first name is Ferrell.

EXORSISTERS #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ian Boothby, [A] Gisèle Lagacé. Cate and Kate save a soul from hell, then they’re contacted by Kate’s ex-boyfriend Buzz, who’s been turned into a fly. (BTW, I’m not sure which of Kate and Cate is which.) In a flashback, we learn why Buzz is a fly, then he tells Cate and Kate that he needs their help to save hell from an even worse evil. And then angels start falling from the sky. This is a really entertaining series, and it makes me want to read Gisèle Lagacé’s other work, especially Ménage à 3.

HIGH HEAVEN #4 (Ahoy, 2018) – “Chapter Four,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Greg Scott. This issue reveals the origin of the mediocre heaven. Due to God’s overly high standards, not enough people were getting into heaven. So heaven’s rulers decided to admit a billion people who didn’t meet the standards, and to give them “a heaven no better than they deserve.” And the door to this heaven is L-Meat, a substance that represents inadequacy and disappointment. I’m still not sure how exactly the mediocre heaven and L-Meat are connected, but both these concepts are fascinating.

MIDDLEWEST #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. Abel is chased by some villains, but is rescued by an old wizard dude. Also Abel discovers that he has a cursed birthmark on his chest that glows when he’s mad. So Abel sets off to look for Magdalena, the only person who can cure his curse. This issue is rather different from #1: Abel’s abusive father doesn’t appear, and instead the focus is on the fantasy world of the series. I do think that Jorge Corona is a worse artist than Skottie. The skeleton crow dude in this issue is terrifying, and there’s one striking depiction of livestock with ingrown faces. But otherwise, most of the characters and scenes in this issue would have looked better if Skottie had drawn them himself.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #73 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Thom Zahler, [A] Toni Kuusisto. Fluttershy discovers a cursed amulet that causes her to take on the characteristics of any animal she meets. This leads to some hilarious moments. Pinkie Pie visits Fluttershy and finds her napping, and then Fluttershy acts rude and aloof toward Pinkie. Later we realize that Fluttershy has acquired the traits of a cat. On the next page, Fluttershy flies past an owl, and then she says “Who? Who is that?” and turns her head around 180 degrees. There’s also a cute/scary subplot where Fluttershy rehabilitates a baby timber wolf. Toni Kuusisto is a pretty good animal artist.

SPARROWHAWK #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Delilah Dawson, [A] Matías Basla. Artemisia meets a giant talking boar that’s being chased by the Wild Hunt. She almost gets killed by the Wild Hunt too, but defeats them by exploiting faeries’ weakness to salt and sugar. This is a really weird series, but in a good way. The faeries in this series are simultaneously adorable and deadly, and that’s exactly how faeries should be depicted.

CATWOMAN #6 (DC, 2018) – “Copycats Finale,” [W/A] Joëlle Jones. Again there are no cats at all in this issue, but it’s a fairly exciting conclusion to the opening storyline. This has been an enjoyable series.

RAT QUEENS #13 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kurtis J. Wiebe, [A] Owen Gieni. The newly deified Dee meets Bilford Bogin, the same Bilford Bogin that all the characters in the series swear by. It turns out he’s the smidgen god of empathy and compassion. Meanwhile, the other Rat Queens are in truly dire straits, so Betty prays to Bilford Bogin, but Dee comes to help instead. This series is finally good again, but I’m still not enjoying it as much as when it was new.

AQUAMAN #43 (DC, 2018) – “Unspoken Water Part 1,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Robson Rocha. In this new storyline, Aquaman has lost his memory and is stranded in a remote fishing village. I was looking forward to this series, but so far I’m not super impressed. I had trouble figuring out what was happening and which names referred to which characters. In its overall tone, this issue reminds me of Pretty Deadly, and I didn’t like Pretty Deadly. Perhaps Kelly Sue’s writing just rubs me the wrong way. I will keep reading this series for now, though.

SHURI #3 (Marvel, 2018) – “Groot Boom,” [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Leonardo Romero. It’s really fun to see Nnedi writing Rocket Raccoon and Groot. It does feel a bit like a cheat when Groot gets to use intelligible language, although we have heard Groot’s thoughts before, on the alternate cover to All-New X-Men #23. This issue’s plot is that a giant space bug is trying to destroy Rocket and Groot’s ship. The bug is pretty cute, and it reminds me of the various weird creatures whose pictures Nnedi posts on social media.

AMERICAN CARNAGE #2 (Vertigo, 2018) – “Fire,” [W] Bryan Hill, [A] Leandro Fernandez. Richard begins his initiation into the white supremacist cult, but his plan hits a snag when he’s asked to participate in a lynching. Bryan Hill just announced his retirement from comics. I hope he finishes this series first, because it’s a very realistic and hard-hitting treatment of white male terrorism.

BEASTS OF BURDEN: WISE DOGS AND ELDRITCH MEN #4 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin, [A] Benjamin Dewey. The Wise Dogs defeat the terrorists as well as a giant Lovecraftian monster, with the aid of the salamander from a previous issue. Based on a Twitter thread last month, it seems like Evan and Jill Thompson’s working relationship has deteriorated, so this could be the last Beasts of Burden comic for a while. That would be a shame.

SEASON’S BEATINGS #1 (Marvel, 2018) – multiple connected stories, [W] Jason Latour, [A] various. This is sort of a Deadpool Christmas special, but with inset stories starring other characters. It has some good art and some funny moments, but the humor feels too forced. For example, there’s an unfunny running joke about how no one likes X-Force anymore.

THOR #8 (Marvel, 2018) – “Prison of Angels,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mike Del Mundo. Thor is held captive in heaven, but escapes with help from Angela. This is an okay issue, though not the best. Marvel’s version of heaven is quite terrifying. Mike Del Mundo’s art seems blurrier and less polished than it used to be.

ENCOUNTER #9 (Lion Forge, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Chris Giarrusso, [W] Art Baltazar & Franco. We learn more of Encounter’s origin story, then he and his friends battle Plagnor Zok, a villain from his home planet. Also, it turns out that Champion is not Kayla’s uncle, but Kayla herself. Most of the issue takes place in the Aw Yeah Comics store, and there are comic books lying around wth titles like ZIP, STOP IT and BLAH.

GIDEON FALLS #9 (Image, 2018) – “The Transfiguration,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. This issue has no unusual page layouts, but it advances the plot significantly. It looks like this series’ two plot threads are about to merge.

SUPERB #15 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “Face Your Fear,” [W] David F. Walker, [A] Alitha Martinez. Alitha’s artwork looks quite different this issue, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the coloring. This issue begins with a touching scene where Jonah’s parents are told that their as-yet-unborn baby has Down syndrome, and they refuse to even consider any options other than keeping him. Which makes it especially painful when one of Jonah’s new teammates insults and abuses him for his disabililty. This issue’s Cosmosis backup story is kind of a waste of space.

BLACK BADGE #5 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. The competition between Badge groups continues. The highlight of this issue is the scene where Kenny explains how he became a Black Badge, and his narration doesn’t match what’s shown in the panels.

KLAUS AND THE CRYING SNOWMAN #1 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Dan Mora. Klaus confronts an invasion by comet-dwelling aliens, with the aid of a snowman. It turns out that the snowman is the reincarnation of a man who died in a car crash after cheating on his wife. Unable to defeat the aliens in battle, Klaus instead uses time travel to convince them not to invade Earth. This was a fun comic, and Dan Mora’s art is getting really impressive.

GRUMBLE #2 (Albatross, 2018) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Mike Norton. Tala (the girl) and Eddie (the pug) meet an old witch, but then they’re pursued by a creature that looks like a duck’s skeleton. This is a pretty good issue, though I’m still not enjoying this series as much as Modern Fantasy.

IMPOSSIBLE INCORPORATED #3 (IDW, 2018) – “Extermination!”, [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Mike Cavallaro. Number decides to release some imprisoned Celestial-like alien gods so they can help her find her father. Then she decides not to do it because she’s had another idea, but she ends up releasing the gods by accident anyway. This series is a pretty good Kirby homage, but as I suggested in my review of #2, it may be too cosmic for its own good. It may also have too many things going on at once.

SUKEBAN TURBO #2 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sylvain Runberg, [A] Victor Santos. This comic is very well-crafted, but it’s a fairly unsurprising continuation of the plots from last issue.

SWAMP THING #10 (DC, 1974) – “The Man Who Would Not Die!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Bernie Wrightson. Len and Bernie’s last issue is one of their best. This is the one where Anton Arcane comes back and tries to enslave Swampy, but then he says the words “slave” and “master” one too many times, and some dead slaves rise from their graves and drag him and his minions to hell. Bernie’s art in this issue is utterly spectacular. His Swamp Thing is a hulking monster, and Arcane and his Un-Men are misshapen mockeries of nature. Bernie’s use of shadows and highlights make his art look three-dimensional, despite the flat coloring. A weird discovery I made when reading this issue is that the old black woman is named Auntie De Luvian (antediluvian). In all the reprints of this issue, her name is changed to Auntie Bellum (antebellum). I guess this change was made because Auntie Bellum is a better joke, but then why was that name not used to begin with? Sadly, most of the people who could have answered this question are now dead.

LAFF-A-LYMPICS #2 (Marvel, 1978) – “Trouble at the Track Meet,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Owen Fitzgerald. This must be the same Owen Fitzgerald who drew Dennis the Menace, but his art on this issue is in a totally different style. This series is about an athletic competition between different Hanna-Barbera characters. It’s an excellent read because of Evanier’s funny dialogue and his complicated but clever plot. A new character in this issue, Roger Rankle, is a sportscaster with sleepy eyes and a giant nose, who has an overly critical view of everything. I’m guessing this character is based on Howard Cosell.

INFIDEL #4 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Aaron Campbell. This series has appeared on a lot of year-end best comics lists. Based on this issue, the acclaim seems justifiable. Infidel has some terrifying art and coloring, and a diverse and intriguing cast of characters. I should start ordering it.

GHOST RIDER #13 (Marvel, 1975) – “You’ve Got a Second Chance, Johnny Blaze!”, [W] Tony Isabella, [A] George Tuska. Johnny Blaze moves to Hollywood, fights the Trapster, and falls in love at first sight with Karen Page. This is a very mediocre comic. I don’t think Ghost Rider has ever been particularly good. There’s a funny moment where Johnny calculates that if it takes him two days to bike to LA, he’ll only have to eat at McDonald’s six times.

WATCHMEN #3 (DC, 1986) – “The Judge of All the Earth,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Dave Gibbons. I’ve already read this multiple times in trade paperback form, and I just bought it for completism’s sake and because it was cheap. When I returned to Watchmen #3 after not having read it for several years, the main thing that struck me about it was its extremely tight, deliberate construction. Every panel and every line of dialogue in this comic is significant. There are no purely random or accidental details. For example, throughout Watchmen Alan uses non-diegetic caption boxes, where the voice in the caption box is not located in the same place that’s depicted in the image. But in all these cases, there’s a subtle thematic connection between the caption box and the image. For example, on page 7 there’s a panel where the Gordian Knot man is coming to fix Dan Dreiberg’s lock, and in the caption box Janey Slater is saying “Some things, once they’re busted, they can’t ever be fixed.” Similarly, every time there’s a dialogue box from the Black Freighter comic, it’s some kind of ironic comment on the main story. Dave’s panels are full of incidental details that are somehow significant, and there are all these subtle but unimportant things happening in the background. For example, the man with the “end is nigh” sign turns out to be Rorschach, and the business with the Gordian Knot lock company ends up being an essential plot point. No other comic I’ve ever read exhibits this sort of tight control over its creation of meaning. You don’t even see it in Alan’s other major works.

WONDER WOMAN #223 (DC, 1976) – “Welcome Back to Life… Steve Trevor!”, [W] Martin Pasko, [A] José Delbo. Reading this comic immediately after reading Watchmen seems blasphemous somehow, but while Wonder Woman #223 is clearly no Watchmen, it’s interesting anyway. After the end of the no-costume era (which was blamed, perhaps unfairly, on Gloria Steinem), Robert Kanigher took over Wonder Woman and immediately reversed all the changes Mike Sekowsky and Denny O’Neil had made. Kanigher restored Diana’s powers, killed off I Ching, and even removed Diana’s memories of her Diana Prince period. In Wonder Woman #223, Martin Pasko reverses another of Sekowsky’s changes by bringing back Steve Trevor. But he also tries to undo some of the damage Kanigher did, by restoring Diana’s lost memories. In general, Pasko, unlike Kanigher, seems to have actually cared about Wonder Woman, and therefore his Wonder Woman was one of the better pre-Pérez takes on the character.

SPIDER-MAN TEAM-UP #7 (Marvel, 1997) – “Old Scores,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Sal Buscema. Spider-Man teams up with the Thunderbolts against some old villains known as the Enclave. This issue demonstrates Kurt’s encyclopedic continuity knowledge and his mastery at writing both Spider-Man and the Thunderbolts. However, as I’ve said before, Thunderbolts is not my favorite Busiek comic. None of the Thunderbolts are fully sympathetic characters, and their constant intrigues and backstabbing are interesting but somewhat repetitive.

INCREDIBLE SCIENCE FICTION #10 (EC, 1955/1995 – various stories, [E] Al Feldstein. This issue is written by Joe Simon’s brother-in-law Jack Oleck, rather than by Feldstein himself. Therefore, the stories are mediocre, although there’s some amazing art. The first story, “Fallen Idol,” has pretty good art by Joe Orlando, who I’m not very familiar with. It’s about some postapocalyptic humans who worship a mechanism that turns out to be a washing machine. The impact of this story is lessened because the machine doesn’t look like any washing machine I’ve ever seen, and I had to use Google to find out what it was supposed to be. “Food for Thought” has perhaps the best Al Williamson art I’ve seen in an EC comic, but again the story, about an intelligent alien tree, is unimpressive. The other two stories are by Bernie Krigstein and Jack Davis, but the Krigstein story has none of his trademark innovative panel structures.

LUCIFER #3 (Vertigo, 2018) – “The Annulment of Heaven and Hell,” [W] Dan Watters, [A] Max Fiumara & Sebastien Fiumara. This issue guest-stars William Blake, and Dan Watters seems to have more than a casual knowledge of Blake’s life and work. For example, we see Blake having a copyright dispute with his fellow engraver Thomas Stothard. That really did happen. (I’ve absorbed some knowledge about Blake by osmosis because my graduate advisor, Don Ault, is a Blakean, and I hope to actually read some Blake soon, but I haven’t had the time yet.) Unfortunately, this Lucifer series still makes no sense to me at all. I still can’t understand what’s going on in any of the individual plot threads, let alone how they all fit together. I’m only still reading this series because I’m getting it as part of a package deal.

GREEN LANTERN #101 (DC, 1978) – “The Big Braintrust Boom!”, [W] Frank McGinty, [A] Alex Saviuk. As noted on the first page, this is an inventory story whch was used because Denny O’Neil missed his deadline. Frank McGinty has no other credits in the GCD, and I can’t find any information about him at all. That makes me suspect that he might be a pseudonym for some other writer. Another reason I suspect this is because Green Lantern #101 feels like the work of an experienced writer, rather than a total novice. It’s a well-plotted and well-dialogued story in which Hal and Ollie stop Hector Hammond’s plan to use a phony religion as a vehicle for world domination. Hector Hammond’s cult may have been based on the Church of Scientology.

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #21 (Marvel, 2010) – “Stark Disassembled Part 2: Digging in the Dirt,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Salvador Larroca. While Tony Stark lies in a coma, his friends, including Thor and two Captain Americas, execute his complicated plan to restore his brain. The plan requires Thor to channel power from Mjolnir through Captain America’s shield into Iron Man’s repulsor chestplate. That’s kind of a fun way to combine the weapons of three primary Avengers. This issue also includes a poignant scene where Pepper Potts observes that her feelings and needs always get neglected in favor of Tony’s.

SWEET TOOTH #13 (Vertigo, 2010) – “Animal Armies Part One,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. A pretty normal issue. Tommy Jepperd and some new allies of his infiltrate a city controlled by animal people. Meanwhile, Gus is still languishing in the research facility.

ASTRO CITY #1 (Image, 1995) – “In Dreams,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Brent Anderson. I started reading Astro City with the first ongoing series, so I didn’t get the original miniseries when it came out. I did get the Life in the Big City trade paperback later, so I’ve read “In Dreams” before, but again, I decided to buy Astro City vol. 1 #1 for completism’s sake. “In Dreams” introduces Samaritan, Astro City’s version of Superman, and shows us his overburdened lifestyle and his inability to ever truly enjoy flying. It’s a powerful story, but somewhat bleak and depressing, like most of the first six Astro City stories. Over the years, we’ve learned a lot more about Samaritan’s character, beyond what was shown in his first appearance.

LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN VOL. 4: THE TEMPEST #2 (Top Shelf, 2018) – “To an Age of Giants, Adieu,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Kevin O’Neill. I’m glad that Alan and Kevin are going to wind this series down, because it’s starting to collapse under its own weight. LOEG has so much continuity and mythology behind it that it’s become impossible to follow. I didn’t understand issue 1, and I understand issue 2 even less. The Tempest #2 has some very clever individual scenes. However, it’s like a puzzle where the individual pieces are pretty to look at, but you can’t tell how to fit them together.

INCREDIBLES 2: CRISIS IN MID-LIFE AND OTHER STORIES #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Crisis in Mid-Life! Part 3,” [W] Christos Gage, [A] GuriHiru. I don’t like this comic at all. It just feels like a generic superhero comic, and it’s too wholesome and sweet for its own good. I’m not quite sure what it was that made The Incredibles such a great movie, but whatever it was, it’s absent from this comic.

THE WEATHER MAN #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jody Leheup, [A] Nathan Fox. I should have stopped ordering this series. This issue has some effective artwork that reminds me of Robbi Rodriguez’s art, but there’s nothing very innovative or exciting about its story, and the protagonist is not sympathetic.

ANIMOSITY: EVOLUTION #7 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Lex Machina: Part 2,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Eric Gapstur. Another series I continued getting for much longer than I should have. As I’ve argued before, Animosity’s premise, while interesting, is logically unsustainable, and Marguerite Bennett fails to exploit that premise to its full potential. This issue, like most issues of Animosity: Evolution, contains a lot of political intrigue and not much else.

DETECTIVE COMICS #585 (DC, 1988) – “The Ratcatcher,” [W] Alan Grant & John Wagner, [A] Norm Breyfogle. This is the Ratcatcher’s first appearance, and he is a seriously creepy new villain. He wears a breathing apparatus, hangs out in a sewer, and is always surrounded by rats. Grant, Wagner and Breyfogle’s Batman was the first run of Batman comics I ever read, so I tend to take them for granted, but they were really good.

INCREDIBLE HULK #609 (Marvel, 2010) – “Perfection,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Paul Pelletier. This issue could have been called “For the Hulk Who Has Everything,” because it includes a sequence where Bruce has a vision of his perfect life. In the vision, he’s no longer the Hulk, and he and Betty have two children. Other than that sequence, this issue is forgettable. It’s part of the World War Hulks crossover, so it’s too complicated and has too many characters and plot threads.

BLACK PANTHER #172 (Marvel, 2018) – “Avengers of the New World Part 13,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Leonard Kirk. The Wakandans have to fight the Adversary, who is explicitly identified as the same Adversary from Fall of the Mutants. They win by exploiting the fact that Storm is a literal goddess. Then T’Challa and Ororo have an intimate moment. “Avengers of the New World” went on far too long, and I think the inclusion of the Adversary was superfluous.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #212 (DC, 1983) – “We Are the War-Kohn – and Our Destiny is to Conquer!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Rich Buckler & Paris Cullins. This issue concludes a three-part story in which the Justice League fight a bunch of aliens. According to the GCD, it was originally intended for an issue of All-New Collectors’ Edition. This issue has an impressively epic scope and includes some weird-looking creatures, but other than that, it’s mediocre. Rich Buckler drew this issue in a style that imitates that of George Pérez.

SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #166 (Marvel, 1990) – “The Deadly Lads from Liverpool,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Sal Buscema. Gerry is a highly experienced and skillful Spider-Man writer, but this issue suffers because half of it takes place in England. Gerry doesn’t seem to know anything about England beyond the usual cliches, and he uses as many of those as he has room for. For example, we hear “mate,” “two bob,” “lorry,” “What’s all this then?”, and “rawther,” and we see Scotland Yard, a bobby, and a double-decker bus.

I got new comics on December 28, but it was a very small shipment of only five comics, all of which I read immediately:

FANTASTIC FOUR #5 (Marvel, 2019) – three stories, [W] Dan Slott, [A] Aaron Kuder, Mike Allred & Adam Hughes. A fairly satisfying wedding issue with lots of cute moments. It’s not all that different from any other superhero wedding story, but it’s good. Notable things in this issue include the Baxter Building being bigger on the inside, and Thundra joining the bachelor party.

MAN-EATERS #4 (Image, 2018) – “Cat Fight: A Boys’ Guide to Dangerous Cats,” [W] Chelsea Cain, [A] Lia Miternique. This is not a comic book at all but rather a fake magazine, which represents itself as an actual magazine existing within Man Eaters’ universe. I’m of two minds about this. On one hand, this issue is a brilliant experiment in materiality and design. On the other hand, when I read a comic book, I want it to be a comic book, not a magazine or a prose novel or anything else. On top of that, Man-Eaters already suffers from a complete lack of plot – its storyline has made almost no progress at all in three issues – and as a result, it seems especially inappropriate to publish an issue that doesn’t advance the plot at all. As some people suggested on my Facebook, the magazine experiment might have been more successful if it had only lasted half the issue, or if it had been an FCBD comic rather than a full issue. Overall, I was excited about Man-Eaters at first, but it has two crippling problems – its white-feminist attitude and its lack of plot – and either of those problems would be an independent reason to give up on it. It’s too late to cancel my orders of Man-Eaters #5 and #6, but if #5 isn’t an improvement, then I’m done with this comic.

MARS ATTACKS #3 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Chris Schweizer. In the midst of all the destruction and carnage, the son and the father have a heart-to-heart talk about why their relationship went wrong. This is another fun issue.

GO-BOTS #2 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Tom Scioli. Basically the same sort of thing as last issue. See my review of Go-Bots #1 for more opinions. One thing I like about this series is that the Go-Bots have very ugly and clunky designs, but Scioli kind of embraces that, and his art seems to shows us how robots really would look if they were designed like the Go-Bots.

ENCOUNTER #8 (Lion Forge, 2018) – as above. This issue introduces Plagnor Zok and reveals that Champion is Kayla. I have no idea why I received #9 after #8.

Since there were so few new comics this week, I took advantage of the opportunity to read some comics I bought earlier but didn’t read. I mentioned above how in 2015 and 2016, I was ordering a lot of new comics and not reading them. But I continued doing that right up until this year, if not to the same extent. It wasn’t until a few months ago that I started making an active effort to read every new comic I got every week.

DOMINO #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Like a Sword Made of Flesh,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] David Baldeón. Domino visits Shang Chi for help getting her good luck powers back. Meanwhile, we meet a new character who has bad luck in exact proportion to Domino’s good luck. This is a fun comic, but all of Gail’s Marvel comics feel like Deadpool comics to me, and indeed Deadpool appears in this issue.

RISE OF THE BLACK PANTHER #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Power Show,” [W] Evan Narcisse, [A] Javier Pina & Edgar Salazar. While searching for his evil half-brother Jakarra, T’Challa encounters Storm. This issue is okay, but not great. It’s annoying how much T’Challa and Storm’s relationship has been retconned. First they barely knew each other, then they had a short affair, and now it’s as if they were star-crossed lovers from birth.

ASTONISHER #7 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “It’s All in the Mind,” [W] Alex de Campi, [A] Al Barrionuevo. This series is about a hero with some kind of dream powers. I can’t follow the plot, but Alex de Campi’s dialogue and characterization are quite good. I quit ordering this series because I wasn’t reading it, but now I kind of wish I had been reading it.

JAMES BOND: VARGR FCBD 2018 #1 (Dynamite, 2018) – “VARGR,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Jason Masters. I am not a James Bond fan, perhaps because I think Bond is an amoral sociopath. Therefore, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this FCBD comic. Warren Ellis’s action sequences are quite good, and his characterization of Bond is funny and believable. I especially like Bond’s annoyance that thanks to Parliamentary action, he’s no longer exempt from the ban on carrying guns within the UK, and he has to travel to his next mission unarmed.

BOMBSHELLS UNITED #4 (DC, 2017) – “American Soil Part 7” and “Part 8,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] David Hahn and Pasquale Qualano. I had been reading a lot of Marguerite Bennett comics, but I’ve given up on her. I just can’t get into her writing, and I think that may be because her work has fundamental flaws and is heavier on flash than substance. For example, DC Comics Bombshells is set during World War II, but it makes no attempt at historical accuracy and is instead based on 21st-century progressive values. In this issue, a character says “I don’t know how to make you believe that you should care about other people.” This is an important progressive maxim, but it’s also an anachronism in this context, and it seems to have been dropped into this story without a sufficient excuse. More broadly, DC Comics Bombshells’s characters are hard to tell apart, and its story seems rather aimless.

ANIMOSITY: THE RISE #3 (AfterShock, 2017) – “The Resistance,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Juan Doe. See my review of Animosity: Evolution #7 above. Nothing new here.

ANIMOSITY: EVOLUTION #2 (AfterShock, 2017) – “Four Sisters,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Eric Gapstur. I have been very negative about this series lately, so I was surprised when I actually liked this issue. It focuses on four mice who arrive in the City in the Sea and are almost tricked into being eaten by a snake. This issue is reasonably fun to read, and unlike most issues of Animosity, it’s sensitive to the differences between species. Also, one of the mice is named Septicemia.

GRASS KINGS #5 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. This issue is an extended fight scene, but I’m not sure who’s fighting or why. This series wasn’t nearly as interesting as Black Badge currently is.

GREAT LAKES AVENGERS #7 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Zac Gorman, [A] Will Robson. The GLA defeat Dr. Nod, but then Deadpool shows up and tells them they no longer have the rights to the Avengers name, and that’s the end of the series. This was a pretty fun miniseries. Its style of humor was much more sarcastic and mean-spirited, compared to other Marvel humor comics.

SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP #25 (Marvel, 2017) – “Ghosts Are Not Healthy for Dogs and Other Living Things,” [W] Sholly Fisch, [A] Dario Brizuela. The Scooby Gang investigates some ghosts that are haunting a town founded by hippies. It turns out the Psycho-Pirate is the culprit. The guest stars are the ‘70s versions of Green Lantern and Green Arrow. This issue is entertaining enough on its own, and it’s full of funny in-jokes aimed at readers who are familiar with hippie culture and the O’Neil-Adams GL/GA. For example, Ollie keeps saying “hideous moral cancer,” and the title of the issue is a parody of a hippie slogan.

UNBELIEVABLE GWENPOOL #14 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Christopher Hastings, [A] Myisha Haynes. Not an impressive comic. This issue guest-stars Hawkeye (Kate) and Ghost Rider (Robbie), but Hastings does not have a good handle on Kate’s personality. This series was never very good, and I should have quit ordering it long before it was cancelled.

CAPTAIN KID #3 (AfterShock, 2016) – “Grow Up, Be Young,” [W] Mark Waid & Tom Peyer, [A] Wilfredo Torres. Reading this comic is disorienting because it looks exactly like Quantum Age. In hindsight, Captain Kid was a preview of Tom Peyer’s recent career revival with High Heaven and Wrong Earth, but it’s not as good as either of those titles. This issue has too much going on at once, and the interesting new idea, about a late-middle-age superhero who has the power to turn into a teenage boy, is lost in the shuffle.

BETTY BOOP #2 (Dynamite, 2016) – “Members Only,” [W] Roger Langridge, [A] Gisèle Lagacé. Betty, Ko-Ko and Bimbo have to evict some ghosts from Betty’s grampy’s house. This comic brilliantly captures the weirdness, melancholy and raucous humor of the Fleischer cartoons. However, now that I’ve read Nicholas Sammond’s Birth of an Industry: Blackface Minstrelsy and the Rise of American Animation, I’ll never be able to look at old cartoons the same way. Roger Langridge may not know, for example, that Bimbo’s white gloves are a classic minstrel trope – I certainly didn’t know that until I read Sammond’s book – but now that I do know it, I can’t forget it.

DETECTIVE COMICS #621 (DC, 1990) – “Rite of Passage Part Four: Trial by Fire,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. This is the story where the Obeah Man kills Tim Drake’s mother. It’s a very effective Batman story, but it suffers from very questionable politics. The entire story takes place in Haiti, which, as the writer is obviously aware, is one of the poorest countries in the world. At the time of this story, Haiti was just emerging from a brutal dictatorship. But Batman never bothered to intervene in Haiti until a Haitian supervillain kidnapped a rich white American couple. So when I see Batman beating up the Obeah Man’s minions, I can’t avoid thinking that these minions are desperately poor people who are doing whatever they can to survive, and that Batman could have done a lot to prevent them from becoming criminals in the first place. As Bruce Wayne, he could have paid off a big chunk of Haiti’s foreign debt all by himself. Of course when you read superhero comics, you have to ignore objections like this. But when a superhero comic takes place in a country like Haiti, it becomes hard to suspend disbelief and to avoid wondering why superheroes can’t do more to improve the world.

I read the following comics just after midnight on December 31st, but I’m still going to count them toward my total for 2018:

BATMAN ’66 #19 (DC, 2015) – “The Villain of Vapor Street,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Leonardo Romero. Batman and Robin battle a villain who masquerades as a Victorian schoolteacher. This comic is funny, but it has the same jokes as every other issue of Batman ’66. This series quickly became repetitive, and I should have stopped ordering it.

ANGELA: ASGARD’S ASSASSIN #3 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen & Marguerite Bennett, [A] Phil Jimenez & Stephanie Hans. This was better than I expected, perhaps because Marguerite Bennett only wrote part of it. There’s one really cool plot point: Angela goes to hell to retrieve Heimdall’s bride’s wedding dress because, for reasons of modesty, is the only thing Heimdall can’t see through! However, Phil Jimenez’s artwork in this issue is too busy and complicated.

ANNIHILATOR #5 (Legendary, 2015) – untitled, [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Frazer Irving. Yet another Morrison comic that has brilliant artwork – by the highly underrated Frazer Irving – but a plot that makes no sense at all. I couldn’t even say what this series is about, except that it has something to do with a Cthulhu-esque creature called Oorga. For some reason I only ordered the last three issues of this series.

COPPERHEAD #1 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Jay Faerber, [A] Scott Godlewski. A science-fictional Western, starring a single mother who arrives in a remote alien frontier town to become the new sherif, excuse me, sheriff (there’s a running joke about the spelling of that word). Copperhead was never among Image’s best titles, but it was entertaining and well-drawn, with impressively weird aliens. I do think that it’s not science-fictional enough: the aliens just act like weird-looking humans, and you could turn this comic into a regular non-SF Western by just making cosmetic changes.

MORNING GLORIES #40 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Nick Spencer, [A] Joe Eisma. Ian’s father Oliver visits the kids’ class and gives a guest lecture about the nature of reality. This is an okay comic, but as I’ve pointed out before, it’s hard to care about this series when you know about its eventual fate. Just ten issues after #40, Nick Spencer abandoned Morning Glories, leaving all its intriguing plot threads unresolved. And I don’t think he’s even admitted that the series is dead; he’s still holding out the false hope that it might come back someday.

SAUCER COUNTRY #2 (Vertigo, 2012) – “Run Part Two,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Ryan Kelly. The Presidential candidate wrestles with the trauma of her alien abduction, which, as we soon learn, included an anal probe. A recurring plot point in this issue is that in Saucer Country’s universe, all the old alien abduction cliches, like anal probing and flying saucers, are actually true. There was an explanation for this, but I forget what the explanation was.

INHUMAN #3 (Marvel, 2014) – “They Fall,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Joe Madureira. The Inhuman Professor X (i.e. Medusa) battles the Inhuman Magneto (i.e. Lash). This is an okay comic, but nothing great. I was surprised to see who drew it. Joe Mad was the ultimate flash-in-the-pan/flavor-of-the-month artist: he achieved superstardom based on a tiny handful of comics, then vanished from the industry.

HOWTOONS: REIGNITION #3 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Fred Van Lente, [A] Tom Fowler. This was one of the first comics I ordered from DCBS but didn’t read. I should have, because it’s a really entertaining all-ages comic that also includes recipes for building stuff. I no longer enjoy Fred Van Lente’s writing, but this was a fun series.

And that’s the end of 2018. I read 1801 comics this year, by far my largest total ever. The reason I was able to read so many comics was that first, I bought a lot of comics, both old and new. Charlotte has multiple comic conventions a year, as well as other random comics sales. Second, especially toward the end of the year, I actively tried to read every new comic I got every week.

About 90 reviews

12-18-18

New comics received on November 23:

LUMBERJANES #56 (Boom!, 2018) – “Follow Your Art” (conclusion), [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Dozerdraws. A satisfying conclusion to an excellent storyline. The girls defeat Tammy Tickles by acting all hyperactive and distracting her. This leads to several amazing moments, including “Hands up top!” “That means stop!” and Tromatikos being hit by a five-ton cat. Oh, and Tromatikos loses because non-archival glue can’t handle stress. At the climactic moment in this issue, Jen calls the girls “preteens” even though they seem to be 12 at the youngest; see Fantastic Four #4 for the opposite error.

WEST COAST AVENGERS #4 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Stefano Caselli. The Avengers defeat Brodok and save all the monster women, except one who sensibly chooses to remain a dragon. Kate spends most of the issue as a giant hawk. The reality-show element of this series was heavily hyped in the initial publicity, but it’s really not all that big a deal; it’s just an excuse for the characters to occasionally address the reader directly.

MIDDLEWEST #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. Skottie’s first non-humorous creator-owned work is also probably his best-written comic yet. It has some fantasy trappings, including a talking fox and a giant storm monster, and I expect its fantasy elements will become more prominent soon. But the emotional core of this issue is its brutal depiction of child abuse. The protagonist’s single father is a horrible uncaring bastard who punishes his son harshly and provides no positive reinforcement. This issue should come with a warning label for younger readers: “If your parents treat you like the father in this book, tell someone at school.”

EXORSISTERS #2 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ian Boothby, [A] Gisèle Lagacé. This issue gives us Kate and Cate’s origin story. As I expected, they’re more or less the same person: Kate is Cate’s soul, which, thanks to their mother’s unfortunate deal with the devil, is now a separate entity. Exorsisters is a hilarious comic; it has the subject matter of a horror comic, but it’s written and drawn in the style of an Archie comic (whereas Afterlife with Archie is the other way around).

HIGH HEAVEN #3 (Ahoy, 2018) – “Chapter Three,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Greg Scott. There’s some good dialogue in this issue, including David’s comment to Ben: “So much in common. Both killed by you.” But this issue doesn’t advance the plot very much. We learn that L-Meat is bad news, but we already knew that.

MY LITTLE PONY: NIGHTMARE KNIGHTS #2 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Tony Fleecs. Luna recruits a team consisting of herself, Capper, Tempest Shadow, Stygian, and Trixie, and they head off to infiltrate Eris’s casino. I don’t remember this issue very well because I read #3 before writing this review, but this is a fun issue, and it continues this series’ theme of former villains seeking to redeem themselves.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #37 (Marvel, 2018) – “Ice Age,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Gustavo Duarte. A Christmas story in which Lunella has to fill in for Santa Claus. It’s cute, as usual, but has a cliched ending where Lunella has to give Eduardo the toy she really wants. Gustavo Duarte’s guest artwork is very good, reminding me of Jay Fosgitt.

BLACK HAMMER: AGE OF DOOM #7 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Rich Tommaso. In the conclusion of the Limbo two-parter, Colonel Weird gets outside his fictional universe and encounters his creator, Jeff Lemire himself. It’s not much of an encounter because Jeff is only shown from the neck down, but this scene is another callback to Grant Morrison’s Animal Man. I can’t recognize any of the other faceless creators who are standing next to Jeff. This two-parter was not bad, but it felt like an interruption in the main storyline, and maybe it could have been a one-shot special instead of two issues of the main series.

SHURI #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Baobab Tree,” [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Leonardo Romero. This is perhaps the first Marvel comic ever that includes no male characters at all, besides Rocket Raccoon and Groot in the last panel. (On Facebook, I asked if there were any earlier Marvel comics with no male characters, and no one could come up with one.) Otherwise, this was a pretty good issue, though very similar to #1. Nnedi Okorafor is becoming an excellent comics writer –  see the review of LaGuardia #1 below – and Leonardo Romero’s art is beautiful.

THE LONG CON #5 (Oni, 2018) – “Now Entering Capetown,” [W] Dylan Meconis & Ben Coleman, [A] Ed Dench. The protagonists reach the part of the convention that’s been taken over by superhero cosplayers, and we meet Helvetica Caslon, the comics editor. Her first and last names are both fonts. As expected, this issue is full of self-referential jokes, even more so than the rest of the series.

MR. & MRS. X #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Love & Marriage, Part Five,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Oscar Bazaldua. The protagonists defeat the Imperial Guard, Gambit and Rogue have a heart-to-heart talk, and perhaps most importantly, we meet Gambit’s three cats, Oliver, Lucifer and Figaro. See the review of #6 below for more on this series.

SUKEBAN TURBO #1 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Sylvain Runberg, [A] Victor Santos. This is a translation of a French comic, but one that was originally published in the American format. If I’m reading https://www.bedetheque.com/BD-Sukeban-Turbo-296462.html correctly, Sukeban Turbo was the first original comic created for the Glénat Comics imprint, which mostly consists of translations of American comics like Letter 44 and Sex Criminals. So unlike with most French comics published in comic book format, the artwork doesn’t suffer from being reduced to a smaller format and a different aspect ratio. However, Victor Santos’s artwork still employs the complex page layouts characteristic of BD. Sylvain Runberg is a very successful writer, and this comic seems well-written. It’s about two childhood friends who grow up to become a pop star and a gangster. I’m glad this series exists because French commercial comics tend to be higher-quality than comparable American comics, but I much prefer the comic book format to the album format.

MARS ATTACKS #2 (Dynamite, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Chris Schweizer. The Carbutts encounter a group of fellow survivors, who try to resist the Martians and are all killed, except for a dog. This issue is full of fun mayhem and carnage, and this series continues to be very well executed.

AMERICAN CARNAGE #1 (Vertigo, 2018) – “Freedom,” [W] Bryan Hill, [A] Leandro Fernandez. I enjoyed this when I read it, but I had to look through it again to remember what it was about. Oh, right – this comic is about a convicted felon who gets hired to infiltrate a domestic terrorist group. This series is important because it addresses white male terrorism, a far bigger threat to America than Islamic terrorism. Leandro Fernandez’s art is as brilliant in this series as in The Old Guard. He deserves to be as big a star as his countryman Eduardo Risso.

ATOMIC ROBO: GREATEST HITS #1 (IDW, 2018) – “The Trial of Doctor Dinosaur” and “The Centralia Job,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. This $1 comic includes two stories that, according to the blurb at the end, have never been printed in comic book form before. That’s not strictly true because “The Centralia Job” previously appeared in the 2014 Atomic Robo & Friends FCBD issue, and I already read it there. But “The Trial of Doctor Dinosaur,” originally called “The Trial of Atomic Robo,” was only published digitally and in trades. Like every Dr. Dinosaur appearance, this story is a laugh riot. They ought to bring Dr. Dinosaur back and give him his own series.

REAL SCIENCE ADVENTURES: THE NICODEMUS JOB #5 (IDW, 2018) – “The Nicodemus Job Part 5,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Meredith McClaren. This is an exciting conclusion to the series, though there are no huge surprises. It would be fun to see these characters again, but it might be even better if Brian Clevinger wrote some other Real Science Adventures series set in other historical periods.

LUCIFER #2 (Vertigo, 2018) – “Of Red Death and Ginger Tomcats,” [W] Dan Watters, [A] Max Fiumara. This comic is still very hard to understand, with multiple plotlines that are all confusing on their own and that have no apparent connection to each other. Still, I enjoyed this issue more than the last one. It draws heavily on literary references, including “The Masque of the Red Death” and The Tempest. I wouldn’t buy this series on its own, but I’m willing to keep reading it as long as it’s included in DCBS’s package deal, where you get all the Vertigo comics at a discount if you buy all of them.

GO-BOTS #1 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Tom Scioli. An adaptation of the poor man’s alternative to the Transformers. I’ve met Tom Scioli at a lot of conventions, and I find his work fascinating, but difficult, which is why I still haven’t read most of GI Joe and Transformers. His work reminds me of the Japanese heta-uma aesthetic (or rather, the things I’ve read about that aesthetic) because it looks extremely raw and unpolished, like something a schoolkid drew. And at conventions I’ve seen him drawing on graph paper or other low-quality paper. On each page of Go-Bots you can actually see the grain of the paper Tom drew on, unless it’s a paper veneer. Yet his work is very fundamentally sound; it reveals an extreme level of detail and composition. This issue’s story is also very strange. It’s about a world where Go-Bots are basically slaves, except the villain, Cy-Kill, and his rebels, so it seems like we’re supposed to sympathize with the villain and not the hero. This is a fascinating comic, and it made me want to go back and read more of Tom’s work.

GØDLAND #35 (Image, 2011) – “The Maximum Secret,” [W] Joe Casey, [A] Tom Scioli. This earlier Scioli comic is drawn in a far more polished style, with computer coloring and white paper, but paradoxically that makes his work less appealing. The rawness of his style vanishes, and instead what you notice about his work is how much it resembles Kirby. Which I guess was the point, because this comic is a deliberate Kirbyesque pastiche. In particular, it resembles his late work like Eternals or Captain Victory, and like those comics, it has a convoluted and nonsensical plot. Gødland shows that Tom Scioli is a brilliant Kirby imitator, but Go-Bots shows that he’s also more than that.

At this point I realized that I have a ton of interesting comics that I ordered from DCBS several years ago and never read. Back in 2015 and 2016, I was ordering a lot of new comics, and I didn’t make an effort to read all the comics I was getting, so I ended up with a substantial backlog. (This may be because I was only getting new comics every other week, and after I’d read all the best comics from my new stack, I lost interest in reading the less exciting ones. In contrast, this past year I’ve been trying to read every new comic I get every week.) So I decided to start reading some of the comics from that backlog, starting with:

THE HUMANS #9 (Image, 2015) – “The Human Code Part 1,” [W] Keenan Marshall Keller, [A] Tom Neely. The Humans plan their final assault on the police, which will end with most of them getting killed. This series is an effective evocation of ‘70s radicalism and biker culture, and as I’ve pointed out before, it reminds me a lot of Spain’s comics. But it’s pretty much the same thing every issue, so maybe it’s just as well that this series only lasted ten issues.

HOT LUNCH SPECIAL #4 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Traders,” [W] Eliot Rahal, [A] Jorge Fornes. The protagonists head to Milwaukee for a meatpacking convention, and more violence and intrigue ensues. I’m losing interest in this series because it’s becoming just a generic crime comic. It doesn’t evoke the local color of the upper Midwest as powerfully as Revival did.

TRANSFORMERS VS. G.I. JOE #7 (IDW, 2015) – untitled, [W] John Barber, [A] Tom Scioli. This series is drawn in the same style as Go-Bots, and the artwork and writing are similarly bizarre. Most of this issue focuses on Scarlett, who, thanks to Dr. Mindbinder, is experiencing a delusion where she’s married with two children and GI Joe doesn’t exist. The other plotline involves a battle between GI Joe and the Transformers and a giant Scorponok. The visual highlight of the issue is a two-page splash in which Scorponok is the size of an entire city. The only thing I don’t like about this comic is the digital lettering. In Go-Bots, Tom does his own lettering, and it suits his style much better.

GIANT-SIZE LITTLE MARVEL: AVX #3 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Skottie Young. In this Secret Wars spinoff, the Avengers and X-Men are children, and they’re each trying to recruit two new kids in town, Zachary and Zoe. This comic has the same basic idea as Tiny Titans, except it’s just better. Whereas Tiny Titans is sometimes too cute and wholesome for its own good, Skottie’s humor is just a little bit raucous and irrelevant (less so here than in Bully Wars or I Hate Fairyland), and his art is incredible; there are visual gags everywhere. Among the comics I bought in 2015 and didn’t read, this was one of the best.

GOD HATES ASTRONAUTS #10 (Image, 2018) – “Cosmic Apocalypse,” [W/A] Ryan Browne. I gave up on this series because I didn’t much like its absurdist style of humor. Browne was just trying to be weird for weirdness’s sake, and his stories had no real point and didn’t go anywhere. This issue does little to change my opinion of the series. It’s the conclusion of a story where the two protagonists’ baby is kidnapped by aliens who are based on video game consoles. This issue has some funny jokes that are directed at gamers of my generation, but otherwise there’s not much substance to it.

SAVAGE DRAGON #80 (Image, 2000) – “The Lurkers Beneath Lake Fear!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Fleeing from Cyberface’s minions, Dragon dives underwater only to encounter a giant sea monster. Dragon spends most of the issue underwater, and Erik creates a powerful sense of danger and claustrophobia, because Dragon can’t breathe underwater and he rapidly becomes desperate for air. The issue ends with him passing out. Otherwise, this is a pretty standard issue from the “This Savage World” era.

SUGAR & SPIKE #88 (DC, 1970) – “Little Arthur Strikes Again!” and “Eggs Sunny-Side Down!”, [W/A] Sheldon Mayer. In this issue’s first story, Spike learns a grown-up word – “bigdumdum” – and causes mayhem by saying it at the wrong moments. In the second story, Sugar and Spike visit a museum where they cause further mayhem. I still don’t like this series as much as Little Lulu or Little Archie, but Shelly Mayer’s comic timing was very good.

DOOM PATROL #30 (DC, 1989) – “Going Underground,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Richard Case. Cliff Steele tries to save a comatose Jane by entering her unconscious mind. This issue is the origin of the idea that Jane’s unconscious takes the form of a subway system, as we saw in the current Doom Patrol series. At the end, Jane finally confronts the memory of her father’s abuse, but Cliff gets stuck inside her mind. This is a good issue, and it may be Grant’s most powerful depiction of Jane’s abuse and trauma.

MORNING GLORIES #45 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Nick Spencer, [A] Joe Eisma. Much of this issue is a flashback to Jade’s past. Jade’s mother died in a car accident, and Jade revived her, but her mother became delusional and thought Jade was the devil. Jade’s rejection by her mother is kind of heartwrenching. However, this issue feels kind of pointless because the series went on permanent hiatus after just five more issues, leaving many plot threads unresolved.

FEATHERS #4 (Archaia, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Jorge Corona. I can finally finish this series now that I’ve acquired issue 3, which I missed when it came out. This issue, Feathers finally makes it into the walled city, but discovers that the White Guide is just a statue. This seems like a really important revelation, but it’s been so long since I read issues 1 and 2 that I don’t remember what the White Guide is.

TINY TITANS: RETURN TO THE TREEHOUSE #2 (DC, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] Art Baltazar, [W] Franco. The same as every other issue of this miniseries. This issue took longer to read than usual because I had to decode Blue Beetle’s scarab’s dialogue.

DOCTOR SPEKTOR: MASTER OF THE OCCULT #1 (Dynamite, 2014) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Neil Edwards. Reviving Dr. Spektor was an odd idea because unlike Magnus, Turok or Dr. Solar, Dr. Spektor had never been revived before, and had not appeared in a new story since 1977. That means the only people who know about this character are readers of the original ‘70s series. And even though I have read the original Dr. Spektor comic, I couldn’t really get into Mark Waid’s version. The main attractions of the old Dr. Spektor comic are, first, Jesse Santos’s artwork, and second, the relationship between Adam Spektor and Lakota Rainwater. This issue doesn’t have either of those – I guess either Mark was saving Lakota for later, or else she’s too much of an ethnic stereotype to be reused. Dr. Spektor himself isn’t much of a character, so Mark has to invent a personality for him out of whole cloth. He chooses to turn Spektor into Dr. Strange with Tony Stark’s personality, and that’s not as interesting as it sounds.

TITANS/LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES: UNIVERSE ABLAZE #1 (DC, 2000) – untitled, [W] Dan Jurgens, [A] Phil Jimenez. This could have been a classic, like X-Men/Teen Titans. Unfortunately it’s written by Dan Jurgens, whose only qualification is that he wrote a short-lived and unsuccessful Titans comic, and he fails to create any excitement or to provide any interesting characterization. This issue is most memorable for the series of creepy and disturbing scenes in which Roy Harper tries to seduce Luornu Durgo. Oh, also, Jurgens missed an opportunity for a hilarious scene: he could have had Starfire kiss any of the Legionnaires so she could learn Interlac, but he seemingly forgot she has that power.

BONANZA #33 (Gold Key, 1969) – “The Mesteñera” and other stories, [W] unknown (Paul S. Newman?), [A] Tom Gill. See https://ogresfeathers.wordpress.com/2016/04/24/reviews-for-most-of-march/#omen1 for an explanation of where I got this comic. What I don’t say in that review is that that ICFA trip was a low point in my life, because I thought I was going to have no job for the following school year. Anyway, this comic is surprisingly good. In the first story, protagonists Ben and Joe encounter a little mesteñera, or wild mustang herder, named Sarita, and they help save her father from being wrongfully executed. See https://www.instagram.com/p/BqwEyoxHxIy/ for a poignant moment from this story. The other stories in this issue aren’t quite as good.

EUTHANAUTS #4 (Black Crown, 2018) – “Spacewalk,” [W] Tini Howard, [A] Nick Robles. I’m finally starting to understand this comic’s plot, but I still don’t like it as much as Assassinistas. But Nick Robles’s art is very trippy and bizarre.

RUINWORLD #5 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Derek Laufman. The heroes defeat the villain and manage to escape with some gold. This series was entertaining, but not great. Derek Laufman still doesn’t seem to have found his own distinctive style.

DICK TRACY: DEAD OR ALIVE #2 (IDW, 2018) – “Tracy Unwarranted,” [W] Lee Allred & Mike Allred, [A] Rich Tommaso. Tracy discovers that police corruption is just as much of a threat as his rogues gallery is. This issue was quite similar to the last one. The highlight was Tracy’s Captain Haddock disguise.

BLACK BADGE #4 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. After the end of their previous mission, the Black Badge campers are sent to participate in a competition against three other teams of secret agent campers. This series is already getting a little stale, so I’m glad the campers are doing something other than going on another secret agent mission. This issue implies that Black Badge and Grass Kings take place in the same universe, and that makes me want to go back and finish reading Grass Kings.

BLACK AF: WIDOWS AND ORPHANS #4 (Black Mask, 2018) – untitled, [W] Kwanza Osajyefo 3, [A] Tim Smith. The interesting idea here is that the black superheroes, or some of them, are all children of a single superpowered couple. Other than that, this is just a rather generic superhero comic.

GOD HATES ASTRONAUTS #7 (Image, 2015) – “Cosmic Apocalypse” part ??, [W/A] Ryan Browne. The gimmick this issue is that it’s narrated by Ryan Browne’s collaborator, Charles Soule. Besides that, I have nothing new to say about this issue; see the review of #10 above.

CAPTAIN MARVEL AND THE CAROL CORPS #2 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick & Kelly Thompson, [A] David Lopez. Despite this issue’s impressive lineup of talent, it’s not all that interesting. TBH, neither were most of the Secret Wars spinoff miniseries. It’s hard to care very much about this version of Captain Marvel when you know she’s only going to exist for a few more issues.

GIANT-SIZE LITTLE MARVEL: AVX #2 (Marvel, 2015) – as above. I read this issue out of order. It follows the same formula as issue 3, but it’s an excellent formula.

New comics received on December 1:

FANTASTIC FOUR #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Irreplaceable,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Stefano Caselli & Nico Leon. After no new FF for a month, we get two in three weeks. This issue the FF make it back to regular Earth, but the Future Foundation kids decide to continue exploring the multiverse. I really like the Future Foundation characters, but I guess writing them out of the series is a reasonable way to maintain a manageable cast size. Back on Earth, the FF fight the Wrecking Crew and a new replacement FF team, and then they move into a new headquarters, 4 Yancy Street. An annoying moment in this issue is when Val describes herself as a teenager. There is no way that can be true. The last time Val’s age was mentioned, she was only 3, and that was only about 5 in-universe years ago. I prefer to just assume Val was speaking imprecisely, just like Jen, in Lumberjanes #56, did not literally mean that all the girls were preteens. Of course the underlying problem is that the ages of Franklin, Val and the Power kids are impossible to reconcile with each other.

PRINCELESS VOL. 7: FIND YOURSELF #1 (Action Lab, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Emily Martin. This is the first new non-Raven Princeless comic in over a year. Incidentally, Jeremy confirmed on Twitter that the second half of Princeless: Make Yourself was only published digitally and in the “Make Yourself Part 2” trade paperback. I’ll have to order that. It looks like Raven: The Pirate Princess was cancelled, and that’s a shame, but I prefer the regular Princeless series. This issue Adrienne acts like a brat and gets in a pointless fight with Sparky, then fights a giant sand monster and loses. Also there’s a subplot involving all the other characters who are searching for Adrienne.

FENCE #12 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] C.S. Pacat, [A] Johanna the Mad. Nicholas and Eugene both get to be alternates – which is a slight anticlimax – and they’re initiated into the fencing fraternity. And that’s the last issue. It’s just as well that this series is becoming trade paperback only, because it will read much better in that format.

OH S#!T IT’S KIM & KIM #4 (Black Mask, 2018) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. The Kims start a prison riot and escape, but on the way out they run into Saar and Columbus, who are basically male versions of themselves (like how Ray and Doyle are the male versions of Maggie and Hopey). This is a hilarious and thrilling issue. The highlight is the gang of “Disco Kids,” whose leader introduces himself with “You can tell by the way I hold this mace, I’m a violent man.”

HEROES IN CRISIS #3 (DC, 2018) – “Master of the Lagoon,” [W] Tom King, [A] Lee Weeks & Clay Mann. This was already the worst comic of the year, and it gets worse with each issue. This issue Wally is tormented by memories of Linda, Iris and Jae. I guess they’re not actually dead, they just don’t exist in this universe, but that’s almost worse. And it seems that the method of therapy in Sanctuary is to force patients to confront their worst fears continuously. Actual psychiatrists have pointed out what a terrible idea this is. I didn’t order issue 4, so I’m glad that #3 is the last issue I have to read. I do have to give credit to Tom King for vetoing the Poison Ivy variant cover for #7. See my forthcoming article in the Journal of Fandom Studies for a discussion of other similar cover-related controversies.

MAN-EATERS #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Chelsea Cain, [A] Kate Niemczyk. Not a whole lot happens in this issue, except that we get to meet some of Chelsea Cain’s signature corgis. This series still hasn’t made any effort to address its obvious problems with gender essentialism and transphobia.

IRONHEART #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Eve Ewing, [A] Kevin Libranda & Luciano Vecchio. When Eve Ewing was announced as the writer of this series, Comicgaters griped that she was a “diversity hire” who was unqualified for her job. They said she was hired only because she’s a black woman, even though she had no previous comics writing experience. Of course, what the Comicsgaters were really angry about was that they didn’t get hired to write for Marvel, and a black woman did. The argument about her lack of experience was disingenuous; as Neil Gaiman pointed out, he didn’t have any comics experience either when he was hired to write Black Orchid. The further irony is that Ironheart #1 is an extremely well-written comic. It’s a thrilling superhero story which also has a serious message: Riri’s observation that she wasn’t supposed to be alive, let alone at MIT, is very powerful. I also like how Marvel currently has three different black girl scientist characters (Riri, Lunella and a supporting character in Unstoppable Wasp), and they all have very different personalities.

HOUSE AMOK #3 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Shawn McManus. Dylan tries to get Ollie to realize that their parents aren’t normal, but it backfires severely. This is a creepy series and a powerful depiction of child abuse and mental illness. The really scary part is that for all the reader knows, the parents’ delusions might actually be real – maybe there is a “global conspiracy to overwrite our reality” or whatever.

THE TERRIFICS #10 (DC, 2018) – “Tom Strong & The Terrifics Part Four,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Viktor Bogdanovic. The Strongs and Terrifics defeat Doc Dread, but in doing so they sever their connection to the dark multiverse. So they have no further reason to stay together, and they break up, leaving Linnya alone. This has been a fun series.

FAITH DREAMSIDE #3 (Valiant, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] MJ Kim. In search of Monica’s soul, Faith and Dr. Mirage travel to the afterlife, where they encounter bizarre things like living flowers and a dragon car. Also, Faith meets her clone who died in a previous story. This is another fun series, and Jody Houser is a very underrated writer; see the reviews of Spider-Girls below.

KIM REAPER: VAMPIRE ISLAND #4 (Oni, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Sarah Graley. Becca and Tyler travel to the afterlife, which is quite different from the afterlife in Faith Dreamside, to rescue Kim. But it turns out Kim has already reconciled with the Grim Reaper, and Kim and Becca repair their relationship. This was a really cute series, and I hope we’ll see more of these characters soon. It’s nice that Scholastic has recognized Sarah Graley’s talent by hiring her to do a graphic novel.

CODA #7 (Boom!, 2018) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. Mr. Nameless and Serka execute a plan to kill the pilot of the Gog, but it turns out there is no pilot and the Gog is piloting itself. But Mr. Nameless manages to steal enough akker to make the potion to heal Serka, even though it’s not at all clear whether he should use it. I don’t think we know yet what the potion does. This is a dense and difficult series, but it may have the best art of any of Si Spurrier’s comics, and that’s saying a lot.

HEX WIVES #2 (Vertigo, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ben Blacker, [A] Mirka Andolfo. More of the same thing as last issue. The one particularly notable moment in this issue is when Isadora’s husband tells her that he’s a terrible husband. Thanks to r/relationships, I’ve learned that this is a common thing that bad romantic partners do. It’s a backhanded way of fishing for affirmation; the point is to get the wife to reply, no, of course you’re not a terrible husband.

ARCHIE 1941 #3 (Archie, 2018) – “Home & Away,” [W] Brian Augustyn & Mark Waid, [A] Peter Krause. The title is appropriate because this issue depicts how the Riverdale citizens’ lives are torn apart by the war, both in training camp and on the home front. An especially poignant moment is when Chuck Clayton almost gets lynched, and Moose saves him. Also, we learn that Archie’s unit is going to be deployed to North Africa.

SPIDER-GWEN: GHOST SPIDER #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Spider-Geddon Part 2: The Ballad of Gwen Stacy,” [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Rosi Kämpe. I can’t pinpoint just why, but this issue fell flat for me. It had a lot of plot and characterization, but it felt like just a by-the-numbers superhero comic, and it wasn’t nearly as exciting or original as the Seanan McGuire novel I read. Perhaps the problem is that all the current Spider-Man titles are too heavily tied into the Spider-Geddon crossover. After reading this issue, I decided to give up on this series.

SPIDER-GIRLS #2 (Marvel, 2018) – “Spider-Geddon,” [W] Jody Houser, [A] Andrés Genolet. I had the exact opposite reaction to this issue. Jody Houser does a great job of writing this series’ three protagonists. The emotional heart of Spider-Girls is Annie May, who’s been raised as a future Spider-Woman and is desperate to prove herself. This character, like Monica Jim in Faith Dreamside, shows that Jody Houser is really good at writing teen girls. Also this issue has some adorably awful spider-monsters. It’s too bad that Spider-Girls is just three issues and Spider-Gwen is an ongoing, and not the other way around.

BOOKS OF MAGIC #2 (Vertigo, 2018) – “Unreliable Narrators,” [W] Kat Howard, [A] Tom Fowler. I liked this better than #1. It feels like Kat Howard fundamentally understands Tim’s character: he’s a young boy who’s well-intentioned and serious, but also super awkward. This issue, Tim tries to revive his mother, but it doesn’t go well.

BLACK PANTHER #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Many Thousands Gone” part 5, [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Daniel Acuña. Some time has passed since last issue, and T’Challa and his allies are hiding on some rock somewhere. Nakia convinces T’Challa to man up and resume the mantle of the Black Panther. As mentioned in my review of #4, I was ready to drop this series, but with this issue I feel that this series has a purpose and is going somewhere, so I’m going to stick with it.

BLACK PANTHER #6 (Marvel, 2018) – “Many Thousands Gone” part 6, [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Jen Bartel. This isn’t Jen Bartel’s first work for Marvel, but it’s a sign of her growing reputation. This issue we move away from T’Challa and his allies to focus on N’Jadaka, the Big Bad of this storyline, and we learn how N’Jadaka and Bast corrupted each other. This was another good issue, and it confirms my decision to keep reading Black Panther.

LUCIFER #3 (Vertigo, 2016) – “Cold Heaven Part Three: Mothers of All,” [W] Holly Black, [A] Lee Garbett. I started reading this when it came out, but gave up after one issue. This issue’s main story is not all that great. But it has a very effective subplot about an adopted Haitian girl who’s abused by her racist, fundamentalist adoptive parents and siblings. This issue could be a case study on the perils of transracial adoption. At the end of the issue, one of the siblings gets killed, and the reader is not sorry at all.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #10 (Marvel, 2018) – “Being Fantastic,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramon Perez. I’m not sure what Ramon Perez’s art actually looks like, because they seem to keep hiring him to imitate other artists or to draw in a house style. This issue is the conclusion to the Mad Thinker storyline, and it includes a scene where Ben and Johnny say the L-word to each other. Besides that, it’s not very notable.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #11 (Marvel, 2018) – “Past Tense,” as above. This issue takes place after the current Fantastic Four series begins, so the core premise of this MTIO series – that Ben and Johnny are searching for Reed, Sue and the kids – is now moot. Instead, this issue is a team-up between Ben and Reed. It offers some mildly interesting insights into Ben and Reed’s relationship, but that relationship has ben explored very heavily in many other comics.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #12 (Marvel, 2018) – “Family,” as above. The other half of the FF, Sue and Johnny, team up to fight the Mole Man, and the Rachna Koul subplot is resolved. There are also appearances by the rest of the FF, including Val, who is drawn to look much too old. And so ends a disappointing series.

REVIVAL #4 (Image, 2012) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Mike Norton. May Tao gets involved in some kind of intrigue, Dana and Ibrahim have a heart-to-heart talk, and various other subplots happen. The high point of this issue is the panel where Ibrahim says he’s “spent the last eleven years putting up with assumptions that people like my nice, sweet parents are secretly plotting the downfall of this country.”

THE BOOKS OF MAGIC #44 (Vertigo, 1998) – “The End: Slave of Heavens Prologue,” [W] John Ney Rieber, [A] Peter Gross. Angels and demons are at war. Tim gives up his magic so the rest of the world can have it. Also, Tim tells off a Hindu goddess. I’m really not sure what’s going on in this issue.

ROY ROGERS’ TRIGGER #10 (Dell, 1953) – “Killer Cat” and “Trigger Turns Detective,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Till Goodan. This comic is incomplete, though I knew that when I bought it – it was in the quarter box at the Nostalgia Zone in Minneapolis. Even if it was complete, it would be a pretty forgettable comic; it’s just a generic Western story.

IMAGE FIRSTS: WYTCHES #1 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Jock. A teenage girl has some sort of traumatic event in her past, which left her mother crippled. She moves to a new school where a bully tries to rape her, but gets eaten by a tree instead. Also, there’s some business about children being pledged to witches. There are some powerful moments in this issue, but I’ve decided I don’t like Scott Snyder’s writing. His dialogue just sounds wrong, and his stories seem heavier on flash than substance.

TRANSFORMERS VS. G.I. JOE #9 (IDW, 2015) – “Stick to Your Guns – Spotlight: Destro,” [W/A] Tom Scioli. This issue is credited to Tom alone, without John Barber. It consists of the origin story of the Destro family. According to this story, the Destro mask was made from the face of a hibernating Transformer. Also, the Destros are Scottish, so this issue is full of rather inaccurate Scottish English. Otherwise, this is a standard example of Tom’s style. See the above reviews of Transformers vs. G.I. Joe #7 and Go-Bots #1 for further comments.

FEATHERS #5 (Archaia, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Jorge Corona. Poe learns the truth about his origin, but I don’t understand what that truth is. Bianca runs away from home and gets captured by the red dude, and Poe goes looking for her. Which sets the stage for:

FEATHERS #6 (Archaia, 2015) – as above. The Captain dude steals Poe’s feathers, leaving him looking disturbingly naked. Poe and Bianca defeat the Captain and save the day, setting the stage for the breaking of the barriers between the city and the slums. There’s a hook for a sequel miniseries at the end. Overall, Feathers was a pretty good series, but not spectacular. I think my favorite thing about Feathers is Poe’s visual appearance.

CONAN/RED SONJA #4 (Dark Horse, 2015) – “The Age of Death,” [W] Gail Simone & Jim Zub, [A] Randy Green. Conan and Sonja fight Thoth-Amon and win. This was not that great of an issue, especially not compared to Red Sonja/Tarzan.

THE UNWRITTEN #6 (Vertigo, 2009) – “Inside Man Part One,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. This may be the earliest issue I hadn’t read yet. This issue, Tommy is sent to prison, coincidentally in Roncesvalles where Roland was killed, and Lizzie goes looking for him. This issue has some interesting design elements: there’s a scene where Lizzie communicates with someone else through the text of a book, and there’s a page made up entirely of fake Internet news stories.

HELLBOY AND THE BPRD 1952 #2 (Dark Horse, 2015) – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola & John Arcudi, [A] Alex Maleev. I don’t think I’ve read an Alex Maleev comic since he was drawing Daredevil, so this issue was a bit nostalgic. Otherwise it’s a pretty standard Hellboy story, in which Hellboy and the BPRD visit Brazil and encounter a murderous monkey-like demon.

CONAN/RED SONJA #2 (Dark Horse, 2015) – “The Age of Adventure,” [W] Gail Simone & Jim Zub, [A] Dan Panosian. Red Sonja encounters Conan and Bêlit during their Black Corsairs period. I was going to say that this is the only story I know of in which Red Sonja meets Bêlit, but it turns out that this already happened in Conan the Barbarian #67, and that issue was much better than this one. The other Black Corsairs rarely appear in this issue, and when we do see them, they look racially ambiguous rather than being obviously black. Maybe the idea of two white people commanding a black crew was considered too embarrassing.

BACCHUS #3 (Eddie Campbell, 1995) – “King Bacchus Part 2: It’s D.T. and the Screaming Habdabs,” [W/A] Eddie Campbell. Bacchus vanishes into William Hogarth’s Beer Street painting. Nothing much else happens, but this story is fun anyway. There’s also a chapter of “Immortality Isn’t Forever,” but I’ve already read the trade paperback of that story.

BACCHUS #4 – as above except the title is “King Bacchus Part 3: Beer Street Ain’t What It Used to Be.” Bacchus is chased through a bunch of paintings by his old nemesis, the puritanical Mr. Dry. The story ends with Bacchus finding himself inside American Gothic. Meanwhile, the other people in the bar create a new grim-and-gritty version of Bacchus.

STRAY BULLETS #1 (El Capitán, 1995) – “The Look of Love,” [W/A] David Lapham. I’ve acquired a few David Lapham comics, but I think this is the first one I’ve actually read, and I’m seriously impressed. This opening story is about an older man, Frank, and a younger man, Joey, who seems to be intellectually disabled. They’re trying to get rid of a body for some reason, but they keep making dumb mistakes which result in other people seeing the body, and they then have to kill those people too. The issue ends with Joey killing Frank. One reason this series is impressive is because it’s a crime comic with an indie comics sensibility. David Lapham’s art is black-and-white and hand-lettered, and reminds me a lot of Jaime Hernandez’s art, both because of his spotting of blacks and because every page uses a 2×4 grid. The other impressive thing about this comic is its brutal depiction of violence, but more on that later.

MURDER ME DEAD #4 (El Capitán, 2001) – “Murder Me Dead Chapter Four,” [W/A] David Lapham. This issue is difficult to understand out of context, but it seems to be about a woman who’s two-timing two men, and she murders one of them, then gets the other one to take the blame. Like Stray Bullets #1 – and Lodger #2, to reviewed later – this issue includes a scene of brutal violence that erupts out of nowhere. In Stray Bullets #1, Joey is able to kill so many people because he has easy access to guns; by contrast, in Murder Me Dead #4, the murder is committed with a knife. But the common theme seems to be that wherever you are in America, you’re never far away from murder. BTW, I should point out that each page of this issue has four panel tiers, but some tiers have more or less than two panels.

CRIMINAL: THE SINNERS #1 (Icon, 2009) – “The Sinners Part One,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. This issue’s protagonist, the hitman Tracy Lawless, previously appeared in several other Criminal story arcs. The premise of this storyline is that Tracy has to track down some people who are killing his fellow criminals, in exchange for being able to abandon his murderous lifestyle. Criminal is a very different crime comic from Stray Bullets. It’s much slicker and more polished, which is both good and bad.

WILD’S END: THE ENEMY WITHIN #2 (Boom!, 2015) – “Friend or Foe,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] I.N.J. Culbard. This series is perhaps the prime example of the poor buying decisions I made in 2015. I ordered this entire miniseries, but didn’t read any of it. I’m not sure what was the logic behind this; I guess maybe I thought that if I had the entire series, I would feel obligated to read it, but it didn’t work that way. My current thinking is that if I’ve gotten seriously behind on a comic, I might as well quit reading it. Anyway, this miniseries is a cross between The War of the Worlds and The Wind in the Willows (perhaps this idea was inspired by the similarity of those two titles), in which Martians invade a version of Britain where all the people have animal heads. As this issue begins, the British army is holding a bunch of people captive because they witnessed the start of a Martian invasion. The detainees try to escape, but are betrayed by the detainee Susan’s despicable ex-husband, and another of them is shot.

WILD’S END: THE ENEMY WITHIN #3 – as above except the title is “Into the Unknown.” This issue only advances the plot a little bit. It ends with the army discovering that there are far more Martian ships than they realized. When I implied in the previous review that I shouldn’t have been ordering this series, that doesn’t imply that it’s a bad comic. It’s actually quite good. Abnett’s story is exciting and historically plausible, except for the Martians, and Culbard is a skilled animal artist. I especially like the squirrel character with the giant eyes.

WILD’S END: THE ENEMY WITHIN #4 – as above except the title is “Curiosity.” The army awakens one of the Martian tripods, with deadly results. Meanwhile, the detainees Susan and Peter manage to get to a town.

CASANOVA: AVARITIA #3 (Icon, 2012) – “The Width of a Circle,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Gabriel Bá. I bought this years ago, but didn’t read it, because I thought I had read it already in a different format. It seems I was wrong about that; there have been four volumes of Casanova so far, and Avaritia is the one I haven’t read. The art in this issue is beautiful, but as with the latest Casanova miniseries, the story makes very little sense.

GOLD KEY SPOTLIGHT #9 (Gold Key, 1977) – “Where Prowls the Devil Shark,” [W] Don Glut, [A] Dan Spiegle. This is the last appearance of Tragg and the Sky Gods, one of Glut and Santos’s three original series from the ‘70s, along with Dagar and Dr. Spektor. Tragg and the Sky Gods is about an encounter between cavemen and aliens. This issue doesn’t exactly resolve the stories of Tragg and his alien counterpart Ferenk, but it does give them a satisfying ending. It also has an unusual narrative structure by Gold Key standards: for eleven consecutive pages, the top 2/3 of each page are devoted to the main story, but the bottom tier of panels follows the story of the eponymous devil shark. Finally the two narrative threads merge when the shark attacks the alien woman Keera.

NAMELESS #3 (Image, 2015) – “Into the Burrows,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Chris Burnham. I ordered the first five issues of this series, but only read the first issue, and I couldn’t make head or tail of it. I expected that this issue would be a similar exercise in frustration, and I was surprised when it actually made sense and was also quite exciting. Nameless is about a team of astronauts who are trying to use magic to deflect an asteroid, Xibalba, that’s going to hit Earth. Except it turns out Xibalba is some kind of alien megastructure. Besides being surprisingly well-written, Nameless #3 has excellent art. Chris Burnham’s style reminds me a lot of Frank Quitely’s.

GOD IS DEAD #2 (Avatar, 2013) – “God is Dead Chapter Two,” [W] Jonathan Hickman & Mike DiCosta, [A] Di Amorim. The premise of this series is that a bunch of gods from different pantheons all return to Earth at once, and promptly go to war. The problem with this premise is that gods are supposed to gain power from their believers, and right now the Hindu gods have billions of worshippers, while the Greek and Norse gods have almost none. So if a war of pantheons really did happen in real life, it would be no contest. Oh, also, this series only seems to include a few token African gods, even though the Yoruba deities, for example, have lots of worshippers today. In terms of craftsmanship, God is Dead has some acceptable writing, but the artwork is at the level of a ‘90s Image comic.

DISNEY PRINCESSES FCBD 2018 (Joe Books, 2018) – various single-page strips, [W/A] various. This is the dumbest comic I’ve read all year. It’s just a bunch of gag strips about the Little Mermaid characters, and none of the strips are even remotely funny. This comic is intended for very young children, but even for that audience, there are better comics available.

WILD’S END: THE ENEMY WITHIN #5 (Boom!, 2016) – as above except the title is “Shoot to Kill.” Fawkes the poacher, perhaps the most sympathetic character in the series, gets killed saving his friends. I read this and the next two comics by flashlight in a freezing, pitch-dark apartment, because the power was out thanks to a snowstorm. This was the third blackout this semester, and also the worst. The power company was giving me no updates on when power would be restored. And unlike during the previous blackout, I couldn’t go to the nearby Panera or Starbucks, because they were closed. At least the blackout was a good opportunity to get some reading done.

WILD’S END: THE ENEMY WITHIN #6 – as above except the title is “National Security.” A disappointing and anticlimactic conclusion to what had been a pretty good series. The army gets wiped out by the Martians, and when Susan and Peter try to spread the news of the invasion, they find that the Martians have already destroyed the town they were staying in. And that’s the end. I guess there’s a third volume, but it was only published as a trade paperback, and I’m in no hurry to get that book, though I would buy it if I happened to find it for a low price.

THE LAST AMERICAN #4 (Epic, 1991) – “Oh, Say, Does That Star-Spangled Banner Yet Wave?”, [W] Alan Grant & John Wagner, [A] Mike McMahon. Ulysses finds evidence that some people may have survived the nuclear war, but he loses track of them. And he decides that he shouldn’t look for them, because the violent America that he represents should die with him. This is a fairly satisfying ending – which itself is a surprise, because I had trouble imagining any way that this series could end.