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July and August 2021 reviews

8/12/2021

I read the following comics before my next trip to Heroes. Some of these reviews may be in the wrong order.

2000 AD #622 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: “Helios Part 9,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] David A. Roach. Anderson finally defeats Helios in a psychic battle. Medivac 318: untitled, [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Nigel Dobbyn. Verity’s ambulance crashlands on the planet, and then she and the pilot are attacked by a giant alien. Dredd: “On Meeting Your Enemy,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Barry Kitson. A Japanese assassin kills a robot duplicate of Dredd as practice for fighting the real thing. This strip is full of Orientalist imagery. Zippy Couriers: untitled, [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Graham Higgins. Shauna is interviewed for a TV show on women in business. This is a pretty funny one. Future Shocks: “Dead-Line!”, [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Ron Smith. Hilary Robinson sends Tharg a script that contains a bizarre alien creature. Daily Dredd: “Guide to Mega-City Law,” [W] Wagner & Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. More strips about Mega-City One’s laws and traditions.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #187 (Dell, 1956) – untitled [“Searching for a Successor”], [W/A] Carl Barks. In order to see which of them should be his successor, Scrooge asks Donald to run a mattress factory, and Gladstone to move a house from one mountain to another. I believe Barks did at least one other story where Donald and Gladstone competed to be Scrooge’s heir. This issue also includes Little Bad Wolf and Pluto stories, and the Mickey Mouse story is a chapter of Fallberg and Murry’s “The Phantom Railroad.”

FOUR COLOR #843 (Dell, 1957) – “The First Americans,” [W] unknown, [A] Jesse March. This is less blatantly racist than Four Color #610, but it’s just as offensive, only in a less obvious way. It claims to be a factual portrayal of Native American history, but it portrays Native Americans in a patronizing way, and from a perspective of superiorty. It gives the impression that Native Americans were inferior and uncivilized and that they no longer exist. Also, though it sometimes acknowledges that Native Americans were and are extremely diverse, it just as often describes “the Indian” (or “the red man,” eww) as if “he” was a single monolithic culture. Jesse Marsh’s art in this issue is excellent, but that hardly seems to matter.  

S.W.O.R.D. #6 (Marvel, 2021) – “This is What Comes Next,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Valerio Schiti. Storm speaks to a congress of alien representatives and tells them that as a result of the Hellfire Gala story, the mutants have colonized Mars. Wanda has a talk with Magneto, who is her father as far as I’m concerned, regardless of any retcons. S.W.O.R.D. is a well-written series, but it doesn’t really have its own plot or cast of characters. It just seems like a vehicle for stories about random characters from the X-Men franchise.

CEREBUS #183 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1994) – “Endgame,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This issue’s Cerebus segment consists entirely of a silent fight scene between Cerebus and Cirin. It’s bloody and violent, but it doesn’t advance the narrative at all. The Victor Davis segment is just a bunch of schizophrenic word salad that couldn’t possibly make sense to anyone but Dave. There’s also a preview of Strange Attractors.

SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND LOIS LANE #132 (DC, 1973) – “The Second Superman!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] John Rosenberger. Superman tries to set Lois up with a man named Phil Karnes, but he kills himself in an attempt to give himself superpowers. This is another early example of a story about computerized dating (see my review of Creepy #22), and it’s also a typical example of Cary Bates’s cruelty to his characters. There are two backup stories, one starring Zatanna, and another that introduces a new character, a black reporter named Melba Manton. She appeared a few more times, but her last appearance was in 1978.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE #12 (DC, 2011) – “Savage Frontier,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Danijel Zezelj. In 1919, Skinner Sweet confronts some old enemies who are reenacting his life story from the Wild West era. This issue is pretty good, and it makes sense out of context, unlike most American Vampire comics.

DETECTIVE COMICS #642 (DC, 1992) – “The Return of Scarface Part 2: Gleeding Hearts,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Jim Aparo. Scarface terrorizes Gotham, and meanwhile, Vicki Vale dumps Bruce Wayne and then gets shot in a drive-by. As a kid I didn’t realize how heavily Scarface was inspired by old gangster films.

THE FOX #4 (Archie, 2015) – “The Snoring Corpse,” [W/A] Dean Haspiel, [W] Mark Waid. The Fox fights a villain named The Gasser who resembles the Golden Age Sandman. Then he and his wife team up to save their kidnapped son, Ghost Fox. This series was well-executed, but I was never quite able to get into.

CLARENCE #2 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] Liz Prince, [A] Evan Palmer. Clarence’s class has to go to a movie instead of a water park for a field trip, and mayhem ensues. This comic is funnier than I expected, but it’s too childish for me.

THE VAGABOND OF LIMBO #6 (Dargaud, 1980) – “What is Reality, Papa?”, [W] Christian Godard, [A] Julio Ribera. The Vagabond of Limbo is a science fiction series starring Axel Moonshine and his annoying kid companion Musky. Axel travels around the universe searching for a woman named Chimeer who he saw in a dream. In this album, Axel and Musky’s quest leads them to a Hollywood film studio, and the characters in the films start to turn real. This series won an Angouleme award in 1976. Julio Ribera’s artwork in this album is pretty exciting, and Christian Godard’s writing is funny; the hostile relationship between Axel and Musky is good for a lot of laughs. However, I’m not in a huge hurry to read the rest of this series. Only one other Vagabond of Limbo album has been translated into English.  

2000 AD #623 (Fleeetway, 1989) – Medivac 318: as above. Verity tries to talk the alien out of attacking, but it stings and poisons her pilot. Tales from the Doghouse: “ ‘Sting’ Ray,” [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Simon Jacob. A Strontium Dog is kidnapped by two crooks named Cockles and Mussles, a reference to the song “Molly Malone.”  Dredd: “Banana City,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Will Simpson. Dredd travels to Latin America to look for a criminal. This story has some nice painted art, and is not as blatantly offensive as some of Wagner’s other stories with Hispanic themes. Future Shocks: “Reunion,” [W] Nicholas Barber, [A] Ron Smith. A man boasts to his friends about how great his life is, but then we learn that the man is a ghost, and he shows up every year to tell these same lies. Future Shocks: untitled, [W] Jim Campbell, [A] Chris Weston. A man travels to an alternate reality to look for his dead wife. This story has beautiful art.

CEREBUS #184 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1994) – untitled, [W/A] Dave Sim. As Cerebus and Cirin continue to fight, the throne room colllapses around them. The Victor Davis segment is another load of pointless incomprehensible crap, with a guest appearance by Rick Veitch. There’s a letter from a man whose wife left him, taking the baby, because he lent £3,000 to his parents and never got it back. Good for her. The issue ends with a preview of Steve Bissette’s Tyrant.

GROO: PLAY OF THE GODS #2 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. At Taranto’s suggestion, Ahax tows Groo and Rufferto in a boat behind his ship, allowing them all to safely reach the new land of Mexahuapan safely. The people of Mexahuapan are not impressed with the Iberzans or their god. Meanwhile, the pantheon becomes overcrowded with Mexahuapan’s native gods, such Gogee, god of uncertanity (maybe) and Lopi, god of things that start with L.

EPIC ILLUSTRATED #22 (Marvel, 1984) – [E] Archie Goodwin. The highlight of this issue is Claremont and Bolton’s Marada the She-Wolf, an exciting sword-and-sorcery story with beautiful art and two intriguing female protagonists. I also have some unread issues of The Black Dragon, by this same creative team, and somehow I’ve never felt motivated to read them. There’s also a preview of Bernie Wrightson’s Frankenstein, and a story by Laurie Sutton and Charles Vess about subterranean bat creatures. And there’s a story by Goodwin and Phil Hale, which is interesting, except the artwork is often indecipherable because it’s printed too dark. The other stories in the issue are unworthy of note.

OVER THE GARDEN WALL #1 (Boom!, 2016) – “Dreamland Memories,” [W/A] Jim Campbell w/ Danielle Burgos. A little boy helps some gnomes resolve their conflict with a giant cat that resembles the earliest version of Felix the Cat. “Homeland,” [W] Amalia Levari, [A] Cara McGee. A girl goes looking for her missing father. This comic is actually pretty cute, but I’m not fond of its Cartoon Network aesthetic.

ART OPS #7 (Vertigo, 2016) – “Modern Love Part Two,” [W] Shaun Simon, [A] Eduardo Risso. At some point ini the past, the main character’s pregnant mother and her friends travel to Tangier to solve a crime involving fashion. This comic has some excellent art, especially the interiors and the graffiti in the Tangier scene. However, Art Ops’s story never lived up to its potential.

SCOOBY-DOO, WHERE ARE YOU? #69 (DC, 2016) – “Hoodrinked,” [W] Derek Fridolfs, [A] Walter Carzon. The gang investigates a mystery at a roller derby game, and Daphne and Velma have to participate in the game themselves. “Fright Ride,” [W] John Rozum, [A] Fabio Laguna. The gang solves a mystery where the paintings at an art gallery keep changing. Fabio Laguna is best known for drawing two issues of Wolverine that were full of blatant swipes. https://www.cbr.com/knowledge-waits-the-two-most-swipe-filled-issues-of-wolverine-ever/

STRAYER #4 (AfterShock, 2016) – untitled, [W] Justin Jordan, [A] Juan Gedeon. The protagonist fights an army of giant four-armed tiger people. This is an entertaining comic, but Juan Gedeon’s art is severely starved of details.

STEVEN UNIVERSE AND THE CRYSTAL GEMS #3 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, [W] Josceline Fenton, [A] Chrystin Garland. Steven and the Gems investigate the Glass Ghost. A very quick and insubstantial read.

CEREBUS #185 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1994) – “Check,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cirin’s throne flies off into space with Cerebus and Cirin on it. The Victor Davis segment is longer than the Cerebus segment, and includes some rather offensive material; for example, Dave refers to “Alan Moore’s wife” without giving her a name. (This was his first wife, Phyllis, not Melinda Gebbie, but you can’t tell because Dave doesn’t name her.) There’s also another Tyrant preview.

CEREBUS #186 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1994) – “Mate,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This is a good candidate for the worst comic book in my collection, if it even counts as a comic book, since the Cerebus story is just five pages. The rest of the issue is a rant about how men are Light, women are Void, and “Merged Permanence” is an impossible dream. It’s a pile of sexist MRA garbage that doesn’t deserve a response. Perhaps the most offensive part is when Dave says that not all women are incapable of thinking rationally – there are exceptions, like his collaborators Colleen Doran and Teri Wood. I suppose Dave actually thought this was a compliment. Cerebus #186 is perhaps the greatest self-own in comics history. On the strength of its first 100 or so issues, Cerebus used to be considered one of the great comics of his time. But largely because of issue 186, Dave destroyed his reputation, drove away all but his most hardcore fans, and removed himself from the comics canon. And it was entirely his own fault. All he had to do to prevent it was keep his toxic opinions to himself, but I guess he was too rational and full of Male Light for that.

2000 AD #624 (Fleetway, 1989) – Medivac 318: as above. Verity and her two dying patients are rescued, and Verity applies to become an ambulance pilot herself. That’s the end of the first storyline. Verity is a likeable protagonist. Tales from the Doghouse: as above. Sting Ray captures Cockles and Musses, and the last line of the story is “I took Cockles and Mussles alive, alive-o.” Tales from the Doghouse is a terrible strip, but that joke almost justifies its existence. Dredd: as above. We learn that Dredd’s target is Barry Kurten from “Crazy Barry and Little Mo,” and we witness Barry’s brutal treatment of suspects. Future Shocks: “Just Between Ourselves,” [W] Andrew Donkin & Neal Brand, [A] Josep Gual. A man goes to help an old professor friend, but ends up killing him, only to discover that the professor has made multiple clones of himself. Rogue Trooper: “Cinnabar Part 1,” [W] John Smith, [A] Steve Dillon & Kev Walker. Helm, Gunnar and Bagman go looking for Rogue and find him crucified next to a sign that reads DESERTER.

BATMAN #258 (DC, 1974) – “Threat of the Two-Headed Coin,” [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Irv Novick. I’m reluctant to read these 100-page specials because they’re so long, they contain a lot of bad reprinted stories, and they’re often in such poor condition that they’re in danger of falling apart before I finish them. The only new thing in this issue is a fairly mediocre Two-Face story. Reprints include a Fox-Moldoff story about crimes themed after the Seven Wonders of the World, and Finger and Moldoff’s “The Guardian of 100 Cities!” In the latter story, Batman fights a gang in a field filled with replicas of various cities, discarded from old movie sets. That’s a pretty cool idea.

My next Heroes trip was on July 19. This was not a fun day, because earlier that week, my cat suffered a severe medical emergency that required an overnight hospital stay. I think he’s fine now, but it was scary. On this trip I had lunch at Bang Bang Burgers.

WYND #8 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. The faerie capture Wynd and his companions. A faerie girl – the daughter of the faerie who was killed earlier – tells Wynd the origin of Essernel. The vampires and faeries statred out as a single race, the Winged Ones, but then they split into two tribes and went to war. The clear implication is that Wynd is the last of the Winged Ones. Michael Dialynas’s mural-esque artwork in the flashback sequence is very impressive.

RUNAWAYS #37 (Marvel, 2021) – “Come Away with Me Part 6,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Andrés Genolet. Mostly a silent issue. We finally learn how Gib is feeding himself: the cat and its cat friends are bringing him sacrifices. The two Gerts finally confront each other. The issue ends with two Majesdanians coming to Earth in search of Karolina.

SEVEN SECRETS #10 (Boom!, 2021) – “Keep Calm and Carry a Big Scepter,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. We don’t get to see why Sigurd is still alive. Caspar and Eva infiltrate Buckingham Palace and confront the queen, but she turns out to be Eva’s friend, and also she appears to be of South Asian descent. And then she helps Sigurd and Eva kidnap the prime minister, who happens to look a lot like Boris Johnson. So Seven Secrets is one of two current Boom! comics that include unfavorable depictions of BoJo. He’s probably appeared in more comic books than any prime minister since Thatcher.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #99 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Thom Zahler, [A] Robin Easter. Marble Pie gets accepted to a super-exclusive college – so exclusive that it’s run by former comic book editors. Pinkie Pie is too sad about her departure to throw her a goodbye party, so Cheese Sandwich helps her do it. This is a cute issue, and I’m sad that we’re not going to see the progression of Pinkie and Cheese’s romance.

MAMO #1 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Sas Milledge. In the rural village of Haresden, teenage Jo Manalo asks the local witch, Orla, to help cure her sick mother. Orla denies being the witch, but ends up helping out anyway, and Orla and Jo have to confront a terrifying witch in Jo’s attic. This is yet another really promising debut issue from Boom! Sas Milledge’s characterization, worldbuilding, art and coloring are all excellent. Her art reminds me of Emma Rios, except without whatever it is that annoys me about Emma Rios. Jo and Orla are interestingly different characters, and Orla’s cat is really cute. There are subtle hints that Jo’s family are of Filipino descent, though this series does not appear to be set in the real world.  

THE SIX SIDEKICKS OF TRIGGER KEATON #2 (Image, 2021) – “Sidecar,” [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Chris Schweizer. Trigger’s will is read, and we learn that he arranged for his own excrement to be sent to various enemies of his. These enemies all show up at the reading of the will, and one of the sidekicks, Tad Haycroft, has to lead a car chase to get away from them. Then some giant Samoan dudes beat up the sidekicks and tell them to stop investigating the murder. This is perhaps the most fun comic being published at the moment.  

EVE #3 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Jo Mi-Gyeong. Eve meets a colony of children. One of the children escorts Eve to a train that will take her further on her journey – even though he knows he won’t be able to go back. Because of the plague, leaving the colony is an automatic death sentence. Wexler, the teddy bear, follows Eve and massacres the other children. When the train arrives in Chicago, Eve is met by a girl who looks identical to her. This issue is very dark and grim, and in his note at the end, Victor LaValle justifies this by quoting an editor who said that “the best place for the tough subjects is in the world of Young Adult Literature.”

NOCTERRA #5 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Tony Daniel. Val and Emory make it to the Refuge. It seems like a paradise, but Emory is unwilling to stay there. And he’s right to be suspicious of the Refuge, because its owner, Tiberius, is about to betray them to Bootstrap Bill. Also, there’s an overarching plot about a war between beings of light and darkness.

ORDINARY GODS #1 (Image, 2021) – “As the World Turns,” [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Felipe Watanabe. 22-year-old Christopher still lives at home with his parents and doesn’t have much of a goal in life. After Christopher has a series of weird encounters with a cult that believes in reincarnation, his little sister kills his parents and tries to kill him too. Christopher is saved by a man who tells him that he’s the reincarnation of the Luminary, one of the thirteen gods. This is an intriguing premise, but I couldn’t remember anything about this comic until I looked at it again to write this review. So far it’s not as compelling as Radiant Black.

BUNNY MASK #2 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Secrets from the Cave,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Andrea Mutti. Bunny Mask kills some jerk who’s about to kidnap his own daughter. Tyler starts to fall in love with Bee, despite their age gap. Then Tyler realizes he can hear people’s thoughts. And then while Tyler is staying over at Bee’s place (in the guest room), some hitmen break in, looking for Bee’s roommate. Bunny Mask might be Paul Tobin’s best non-humorous work. It’s creepy, it has strong characterization, and it makes me curious to read more.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #100 (IDW, 2021) – “The Knights of Harmony,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Andy Price & Brenda Hickey. It’s hard to believe that a comic book about pastel-colored ponies, aimed at little girls, has reached issue 100. Sadly it’s going to end soon after that. This issue we visit the bird kingdom, Ornithia, and it initially looks as if this issue is going to go the same way as the stories with the cats and the zebras. But then we meet Ceridwen, “Princess of Cunabula and one of the new Knights of Harmony,” and she announces her plans to invade Equestria. This is an epic story, as a 100th issue should be, and it’s full of great art and Easter eggs – for example, there’s a priest who says “Mawwiage is wot bwings us togedah today!”  

SAVAGE HEARTS #1 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Aubrey Sitterson, [A] Jed Dougherty. Another debut issue that I don’t remember very well. (Then again, I had to reread Mamo #1 before I read issue 2, because I couldn’t recall what Mamo was about.) Graow, who is like Tarzan except with horns, falls in love with Bronwyn, a barbarian woman who enters his valley on a quest. They fight a bunch of weird creatures, and we learn that Bronwyn’s lover was killed by the same evil wizard who is the object of her quest. This comic is entertaining, and Jed Dougherty reminds me of Art Adams or Nick Bradshaw; like them, he’s equally skilled at drawing monsters and sexy women. But Graow’s creepy behavior toward Bronwyn is the sort of thing that’s not funny anymore. It’s not harmless flirting, but rather sexual harassment.

ORCS! #6 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Christine Larsen. The orcs enter the dungeon, fight a giant plant monster, and recover Drod’s sword. With this treasure in hand, they’re able to convince their chieftain to let them back into the cave. Orcs was a super-fun miniseries and I really hope we get more of it soon.

THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE #2 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Alvaro Martinez Bueno. The protagonists explore the house while trying to either face or avoid their grief over the end of the world. This series has a fascinating premise and excellent artwork – I especially like the title page, even if it’s used again in issue 3. James Tynion is clearly the top writer in monthly comics at the moment, and he was a shoo-in for the Eisner for Best Writer. I just hope he continues writing his creator-owned comic books after he starts working for Substack.

THE WORST DUDES #2 (Dark Horse, 2021) – “Unverified Number,” [W] Aubrey Sitterson, [A] Tony Gregori. Sam and Bang recruit Zephyr Monsoon’s ex-husband, Caligula, and they visit a diminutive crimelord named Bugsy who might know where Zephyr is. This issue is funny but not extremely memorable. I think the best line is “My… my Bang is name.”

SPIDER-MAN: SPIDER’S SHADOW #4 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Pasqual Ferry. The symbiote takes over the entire Baxter Building. Reed, MJ and Johnny sneak inside the building, but when they get inside, they discover that Venom has already possessed Reed, and he releases a lot of other symbiotes who take over the other superheroes’ bodies. Spider’s Shadow is one of the best What If? stories ever, because first, it has a top-tier creative team, and second, it’s written like a real superhero comic, while most other What if?s are written like plot summaries.

SKYBOUND X #1 (Image, 2021) – “Rick Grimes 2000 Chapter 1,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Ryan Ottley. This issue’s first story is a retelling of The Walking Dead, except with superheroes. It includes a scene where Michonne gets the top half of her head ripped off. It’s a good reminder that Robert Kirkman is a severly flawed writer and that his work relies too much on gore and shock value. The reason I bought this issue was for the Ultramega and Manifest Destiny stories. The Ultramega story is a forgettable flashback, but the Manifest Destiny story is told from the viewpoint of Dawhogg, one of the series’ most memorable guest stars, and it’s drawn in a cartoon style. It also has a plot that reminds me of Native American folklore. This issue also includes a Clementine story by Tillie Walden, probably the most talented young cartoonist in America.

HOLLOW HEART #5 (Vault, 2021) – “Universal Monster,” [W] Paul Allor, [A] Paul Tucker. El goes on a rampage and then gets captured again. This series has been disappointing, and I wish I hadn’t ordered it.

JENNY ZERO #3 (Dark Horse, 2021) – “Little Reminders,” [W] Dave Dwonch & Brockton McKinney, [A] Magenta King. Most of the issue is a flashback to Jenny’s training, and then she turns into a giant kaiju. This is another disappointing series. Jenny is a mildly intriguing protagonist because of her self-destructive tendencies, but Jenny Zero’s plot is pointless, and the whole series relies on tired Japanese stereotypes.

THOR & LOKI: DOUBLE TROUBLE #4 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] GuriHiru. Thor and Loki team up with their female counterparts, have some silly adventures, and finally get back to Asgard. This was an extremely fun miniseries, just like its predecessor, and I wish Marvel would do more comics like this. The highlight of the issue is the following exchange between the two Thors: “How do you find it, being Thor?” “Glorious. How do you find it?” “Glorious as well, obviously.”

CRUSH & LOBO #2 (DC, 2021) – “I’m Fine! aka Travel Mugs are Very Useful in Space,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Amancay Nahuelpan. On the way to visit her dad in prison, Crush has some flashbacks to her recently ended relationship, and she also fights a creature that looks like Krang from TMNT. I wish Crush were even more like Lobo, because she seems too similar to all of Mariko Tamaki’s other protagonists. But otherwise this series is very fun.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #119 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Nelson Daniel. The Turtles and their allies participate in a rally against Hob, but it erupts into violence. Meanwhile, Lita and the weasels get kidnapped while protecting a non-mutant woman named Lola. Another strong issue.

NINJAK #1 (Valiant, 2021) – “Daylight Part 1,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Javier Pulido. I didn’t order this, but I bought it off the shelf because I like both these creators. Ninjak #1 is a fairly typical secret agent story, with Jeff Parker’s usual strong plotting and dialogue, but Javier Pulido’s art is amazing. His panel structures and compositions remind me of Steranko, while his linework and coloring are in an exaggerated Clear Line style. The combined effect of this is very striking, even more so than in his She-Hulk run. I definitely plan on ordering the rest of this series.

DIE #18 (Image, 2021) – “Lines & Veils,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans. In a flashback, we see why Ash blames themself for getting Matt trapped in Die. The characters keep descending until they find a crypt with Sol’s diary. This is of course a reference to the scene with the Book of Mazarbul in LOTR, and the diary ends “they’re not coming” instead of “they are coming.” And then the issue ends with the party encountering a giant fiery monster. Like WicDiv, Die gets more complicated and difficult the longer it goes on, but it’s clearly a major work.

BLACK’S MYTH #1 (Ahoy, 2021) – untitled, [W] Eric Palicki, [A] Wendell Cavalcanti. Strummer is a private detective and also a werewolf, and her partner Ben is a djinn. A man hires them to recover some bullets that were cast from Judas’s thirty pieces of silver. This issue has some striking black-and-white artwork, and its plot seems exciting and well-researched; I’ve never heard of a church grim before. But after reading this issue I couldn’t remember much about it.

GEIGER #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Gary Frank. While fleeing from the King, Tariq and the kids encounter some organ pirates. This was a forgettable issue, but Geiger has been much better than I expected from Geoff Johns.

THE SILVER COIN #4 (Image, 2021) – “2467,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Michael Walsh. In a dystopian future, the lucky people live inside a city while the unlucky ones live in the wasteland outside. A criminal from outside the city discovers the silver coin in some old ruins.  I really don’t understand this issue.

HAHA #6 (Image, 2021) – “Happy Hank the Very Happy Clown,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo & Chris O’Halloran. Happy Hank is yet another unsuccessful clown. He suffers from schizophrenia, which causes him to see imaginary crimes and disasters everywhere. Then he shoots himself. This issue includes references to Ice Cream Man, specifically the “Save Jerry” story. W. Maxwell Prince is a very effective writer of short horror stories. But Haha was less an actual miniseries than an anthology of single issues with a common theme and with occasional connections.

CHALLENGE OF THE SUPER SONS #4 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Max Raynor. Damian and Jon save Rora from Vandal Savage, and then they use VR technology to rescue Cyborg. This is a fun issue, but this series is kind of formulaic; the scenes where Damian and Jon rescue the other superheroes are all very similar. When I started reading Challenge of the Super Sons, I didn’t even know it was a digital-first series. That’s anecdotal evidence that DC’s print and digital comics are serving two separate audiences.

IMMORTAL HULK #48 (Marvel, 2021) – “Hiding Places,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett.After making love, Hulk and Betty talk about their relationship. Then Betty runs off, and Hulk decides to head to the Below-Place to find Bruce. This issue includes a lot of nostalgic flashbacks to older Hulk comics, notably the reconciliation scene from Ground Zero.

BEASTS OF BURDEN: OCCUPIED TERRITORY #4 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin & Sarah Dyer, [A] Benjamin Dewey. The dogs finally confront the main villain: a spider kami who was traumatized by the atomic bombings, and swore vengeance on all humans. The Shiba Inus convince the spider to withhold judgment untli 300 years from now. This was another fun installment of Beasts of Burden, but I hope that there will be another miniseries soon, and that Jill Thompson will draw it.

CANTO III: LIONHEARTED #1 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. Aulaura tries to save Bodil the hermit from the Fury, but he dies. Aulaura and Canto decide to join forces with the Slavers, and they go to Bodil’s old hideout to look for the Slavers’ location. I enjoy this series, but its plot is hard to remember.

BLACK HAMMER VISIONS #6 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Cullen Bunn, [A] Malachi Ward & Matthew Sheean. In a flashback, while Cthu-Lou’s wife is pregnant with Cthu-Louise, Cthu-Lou’s Great Old One master summons him to build a “Great Machine.” Cthu-Lou sabotages the machine, but his wife gives him no credit for it, and he returns to his squalid life. Sheean and Ward’s art in this issue is reminiscent of Corben, but Cullen Bunn’s story doesn’t tell us much that we didn’t know from Cthu-Lou’s previous appearances.

SWAMP THING #5 (DC, 2021) – “Survivor Bomb,” [W] Ram V, [A] John McCrea. Swampy helps John Constantine defuse an unexploded bomb from WWII that’s turning English people into fascists. This was perhaps the best issue yet, but it’s a lot like Si Spurrier’s Hellblazer. The Nazis really did build concentration camps on the island of Alderney, after the island’s entire population was evacuated.

WAY OF X #4 (Marvel, 2021) – “Heirs and Graces,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Bob Quinn. Kurt gets Dust to help terraform Mars, then prevents Cortez from murdering Gorgon – not the Gorgon from the Inhumans. Meanwhile, Legion confronts his father, Professor X. This wasn’t as bad as issue 3, but it wasn’t very good either.

THE WRONG EARTH: NIGHT & DAY #5 (Ahoy, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Jamal Igle. Dragonfly and Dragonflyman meet their evil counterpart, Man-Dragonfly, though they don’t realize at first that he’s evil. He has a device that can shatter all the mirrors in every reality; that becomes important next issue. Also, Lady Dragonfly teams up with one of the alternate versions of Stinger. By this point I had lost track of the series’ plot, though I was able to figure it out again after reading issue 6.

CHAINED TO THE GRAVE #5 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Andy Eschenbach & Brian Level, [A] Kate Sherron. After an epic fight, the hero defeats the villains and gets killed again, but the last page reveals that his skeleton is still alive. I liked the idea behind this series, and I especially like the artwork. But the series’ plot never made sense. There were too many villains, and I never figured out what they were up to.

THE GOOD ASIAN #3 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Alexandre Tefenkgi. We begin with a history of Chinese immigration to America, then Edison goes on a date that doubles as an investigation of Holly’s murder. But his date, Lucy, learns that he’s a snitch and punches him. There are some really powerful moments in this issue, but The Good Asian’s plot is very hard to follow. I keep forgetting who all the characters are, or how they’re connected to each other.

COMMANDERS IN CRISIS #10 (Image, 2021) – “The Action of Scrutiny,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Davide Tinto. The entire world descends into chaos. Nina finally confronts the main villain, Executrix, who’s also her alternate self. This is another series that’s too hard to follow and has way too many characters. Its ideas are perhaps stronger than its execution.

KARMEN #5 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Guillem March. Two of Karmen’s seniors debate about what’s going on with her and Cata. Then the power in Cata’s apartment goes out, and as a result Cata’s roommate finds her in the bathtub and saves her life. Cata reconciles with her boyfriend, and also recovers the wedding ring of the man from issue 3. Karmen was a masterpiece, with spectacular artwork and coloring and a touching plot. I’m glad that Ablaze is going to publish another of Guillem March’s solo works.

OUT OF BODY #2 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Fear of Dying,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Inaki Miranda. In the astral plane, Dan the dying man meets Abi the psychic. Also he discovers that a nurse is committing necrophilia with his body, though I guess it’s not necrophilia if he’s not all the way dead. Meanwhile, it seems like the villain of the series is Dorian Gray.

INKBLOT #10 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Rusty Gladd, [A] Emma Kubert. MOW. leads an elf girl into a cave, where she encounters a one-eyed sorcerer. This series’ plot is deliberately confusing because the stories aren’t told in chronological order. They all seem to involve the members of the Seeker’s family, but the Seeker has so many siblings that I can’t remember them all, and I can’t figure out what order the issues take place in. However, the real reason to read Inkblot is because of the cat.

WONDER GIRL #2 (DC, 2021) – “Homecoming Part Two,” [W/A] Joëlle Jones, [A] Adriana Melo. Yara is saved from drowning, various Amazon tribes go looking for her, and Eros falls in love with her. This issue wasn’t as exciting as the previous Yara Flor stories.

MOUSE GUARD: THE OWLHEN CAREGIVER #1 (Boom!, 2021) – “The Tales of: The Owlhen Caregiver, Piper the Listener, and the Wild Wolf,” [W/A] David Petersen. Three short stories: one about an owl and a mouse’s friendship, another about a mouse who listens to different animals’ language, and one about a wolf hunt that ends tragically. My favorite of the three is “Piper the Listener,” because of its plausible attempt to imagine how different animals would talk, but all three stories are touching. David Petersen’s art style is fascinating and not particularly like that of any other artist. I would read more Mouse Guard if it wasn’t published in such an awkward format.

ORCS IN SPACE #1 & 2 (Oni, 2021) – untitled, [W] Justin Roiland et al., [A] Francois Vigneault. A bunch of orcs take over a spaceship, obviously based on the Enterprise, and then their ship gets attacked by evil space rats. This series’ jokes aren’t particularly funny, and its art style doesn’t appeal to me. I was willing to give it one more issue, but after reading issue 3, I asked to have this series removed from my pull list.

WEREWOLF BY NIGHT #32 FACSIMILE EDITION (Marvel, 2021) – “The Stalker Called Moon Knight,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Don Perlin. Last issue, the Werewolf nearly killed Jack Russell’s friend Buck Cowan, who was trying to save a little girl in a blizzard. When Jack gets back to civilization, Moon Knight, in his first appearance, tries to kidnap Jack and deliver him to “the Committee.” This issue isn’t terrible, but Werewolf by Night was not one of Marvel’s better series from this period.

WONDER WOMAN #775 (DC, 2021) – “Afterworlds Part 6,” [W] Michael W. Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Andy MacDonald. Wonder Woman and Deadman visit a cemetery world and play a riddle game with its keeper. Then there’s a scene in Olympus. As usual, the Young Diana backup story has cute art but a boring plot.

HELM GREYCASTLE #3 (Image, 2021) – “Dear Your Holiness,” [W] Henry Barajas, [A] Rahmat M. Handoko. The party members travel into a dream world to rescue Coyote. I like the idea of a crossover between Aztecs and Dungeons & Dragons, but Helm Greycastle is yet another series with a confusing plot and too many characters. Also, this issue’s story is only 18 pages, and the rest of the issue is an RPG module. This “bonus” feature is of no interest to me, and yet I feel obligated to read it. I wish it had been published somewhere else.

2000 AD #625 (Fleetway, 1989) – Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue remembers his romance with Venus. The soldiers who are searching for him encounter a dying man. One-off: “Ideas,” [W] Jim Campbell, [A] Paul Marshall. Comic book writer Alex Fenland (based on Alan Moore?) invites a woman to his apartment and feeds her to his monster, who actually writes his scripts. Tales from the Doghouse: “Froggy Natterjack,” [W] Stewart Edwards, [A] Mick Austin. An alien shapeshifter hides out in a wax museum. He’s caught when he shapeshifts into a beetle instead of a Beatle. Dredd: as above. Dredd finally kills Barry and Mo. The bigger plot about Banana City’s tyrannical police force is left unresolved. Future Shocks: “A Body Like Dwain Death’s”, [W] David Anderson, [A] Ron Smith. An extended Charles Atlas parody. I wonder if Gene Kannenberg knows about it. One-off: “The Hit,” [W] Larry Watson, [A] Dave D’Antiquis. A hitman assassinates his own future self. Overall this prog was rather unimpressive. 

A DISTANT SOIL #28 (Image, 1999) – untitled, [W/A] Colleen Doran. This issue is just a series of arguments and reconciliations between various characters. I had been avoiding this series because first, its plot is too complicated and makes no sense. (Rieken, Seren and the Avatar are all different names for the same character.) and second, Colleen’s drawings are rather creepy. She makes her characters look impossibly cute. But the plot really doesn’t matter all that much, because it’s just an excuse for relationship drama. And the overly cute characters become more acceptable if you think of A Distant Soil as an American version of shojo manga. This issue also includes an illustrated prose short story by Ellen Kushner. I enjoy Ellen Kushner’s writing, but I hate it when comic books include prose stories.

ACTION COMICS #437 (DC, 1974) – “Magic is Bustin’ Out All Over!”, [W] Elliot S! Maggin, [A] Dick Dillin, etc. Batman and Green Arrow team up against Effron, the villain from World’s Finest #210. His goal is to steal the Viking village of Valhalla, from Action Comics #260. Superman and Green Arrow defeat him by disguising Kandor as Valhalla. Reprints in this issue include a Sea Devils story with excellent Russ Heath artwork, a Doll Man story by Reed Crandall, a one-shot from My Greatest Adventure, and stories starring Adam Strange and Trail Boss Matt Savage.

THE LEGEND OF KAMUI #3 (Viz, 1987) – “Red Medusa Part 1,” [W/A] Sanpei Shirato. A ninja goes fishing while having flashbacks to a swordfight. Shirato’s art here is very similar to Goseki Kojima’s art in Lone Wolf and Cub. I’ve heard that Shirato’s work had significant Marxist themes, but it’s hard to tell that from such a brief sampling. Unfortunately, though this was a 21-volume series, only two volumes have been published in book form in English.

LIFE WITH ARCHIE #18 (Archie, 2012) – The two stories in this issue are part of a crossover with each other. Archie Marries Veronica: “Progress’s Price Part 6,” [W] Paul Kupperberg, [A] Fernando Ruiz. Archie and his friends are trapped in a caved-in mine. In a flashback, we see that they got there after Archie met his counterpart from Archie Marries Betty. Archie Marries Betty: [W] Paul Kupperberg, [A] Pat Kennedy & Tim Kennedy. Veronica is locked up in a holding cell after a plane crash. On beinig released, she realizes she’s actually in the Archie Marries Betty universe. Then we cut back to the two Archies, who manage to escape from the cave. This comic was a quick and fun read, but it was nothing extraordinary.

2000 AD #640 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: “Triad Part 6,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Arthur Ranson. Anderson tries to protect the two psychic little girls from a nightmare monster. Medivac 318: untitled, [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Nigel Dobbyn. Verity helps rescue a cat-like Arcturan alien, then gets her own ambulance. Dredd: “The Amazing Ant-Man,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Dredd hunts down a scientist who’s been breeding giant carnivorous ants. On seeing the ants, Dredd utters the amazing line “GIANT ANTS ON DOPE!” Appropriately, the scientist is named Henry Pymm, and his favorite ant is Adam, i.e. Adam Ant. Survivor: untitled, [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Ron Smith. A talking panther tries to escape from a zoo. Strontium Dog: “The Final Solution Part 19,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Simon Harrison. Sagan captures Johnny and reveals himself as Johnny’s half-brother, the son of the anti-mutant bigot Kreelman.

AMBUSH BUG NOTHING SPECIAL #1 (DC, 1992) – “The Book of Jobs” and other vignettes, [W/A] Keith Giffen et al., [W] Robert Loren Fleming. A series of surrealistic short stories, all focusing on Ambush Bug’s attempt to become the main character of a DC title. My old friend Jonathan Bogart loved this comic, and I can sort of see why, because it’s very surreal and metatextual. It’s full of fake ads and bonus features, parodies of other comics, etc. It even includes a short Legionnaires story drawn by Chris Sprouse. However, while this comic was innovative, it was also somewhat tedious and unfunny.

ELFQUEST: NEW BLOOD SUMMER SPECIAL #1 (WaRP, 1992) – “The Price of a Soul,” [W/A] John Byrne, etc. This issue’s main story is about Two-Edge’s screwed-up relationship with Winnowill. It’s full of Byrne’s usual needless cruelty to his own characters. Then there’s a Hansel-and-Gretel story co-written by Terry Beatty, and a troll story written by Nat Gertler. I’m not sure I’ve ever read an actual comic by him before. Other creators in this issue include Barry Blair (ick) and Lea Hernandez.

ECHO OF FUTUREPAST #5 (Continuity, 1985) – “Mudwogs,” [W/A] Arthur Suydam, etc. Suydam’s Mudwogs story is about a grossly fat lady. Suydam draws in a distinctive style that has echoes of Corben, Frazetta and Sam Kieth. There’s also a Bucky O’Hare story by Hama and Golden, and a chapter of Carlos Gimenez’s “Hom,” which is interesting but not at all representative of Gimenez’s work. This story is an adaptation of Brian W. Aldiss’s novel Hothouse, but this is not mentioned in Echo of Futurepast #5. This issue also includes a werewolf story by Neal Adams. Like all of Neal’s post-‘70s work, it’s incoherently written but well-drawn, though it shows a lack of stylistic evolution.

SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND LOIS LANE #95 (DC, 1969) – “Lois Lane’s Super-Brain!”, [W] Robert Bernstein, [A] Kurt Schaffenberger. A collection of reprint stories with the theme “The Strange Lives of Lois Lane!” All of these stories are typical Silver Age sexist crap. The worst one is the lead story. Lois uses a “brain bank” device to make herself super-intelligent, but it causes her to grow a giant bald head. After Superman restores Lois’s normal appearance and intelligence, Lois thinks: “Any girl would prefer her own pretty face to having a super-brain… if she’s really smart!” To reinforce this point that women don’t need to be intelligent, the “brain bank” works by downloading information from the world’s greatest scientists, all of whom are white men. In another story, Lois tries to catch a serial poisoner without Superman’s help, but it turns out the “poisoner” is really Perry White playing a trick on her, because Superman already captured the real prisoner. As with Wonder Woman, DC was so afraid of Lois Lane’s potential as a feminist symbol, that they did everything they could to turn her into a figure of humiliation.

THE UNEXPECTED #192 (DC, 1979) – “A Killer Cold and Clammy,” [W] George Kashdan, [A] E.R. Cruz. Starting with issue #189, The Unexpected became a giant-size series and absorbed three other titles: Doorway into Nightmare, The Witching Hour and House of Secrets. All of these were among DC’s lower-tier titles, used as a farm system for artists who weren’t ready to draw superhero comics. The Unexpected #192 includes art by E.R. Cruz, Ruben Yandoc, Fred Carrillo and Irwin Hasen, as well as one page by Kaluta, but the nine stories in the issue are all thoroughly boring and unscary.

IZOMBIE #26 (Vertigo, 2012) – “The End Part Two,” [W] Chris Roberson, [A] Mike Allred. The various characters prepare for an invasion by a Lovecraftian monster. iZombie is not one of Mike Allred’s better works, although maybe I’d like it better if I’d started reading it from the beginning.

JUSTICE LEAGUE AMERICA ANNUAL #5 (DC, 1991) – “Tomorrow’s League Today!”, [W/A] Keith Giffen, [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Steve Carr. In a chapter of Armageddon 2001, Waverider  visits the Justice League in disguise and has glimpses of their future. Each Justice Leaguer’s future is depicted in a sequence by a different artist. The future scenes connect to each other  in interesting ways, and overall this is a funny comic, though I’ve read so much of Giffen and DeMatteis’s Justice League that it’s no longer very exciting to me.

DUCKTALES #9 (Gladstone, 1989) – “The Oil Pirates,” [W] Frank Ridgway, [A] Jamie Diaz Studio. Scrooge and friends try to stop the Beagle Boys from stealing oil from Scrooge’s rigs. DuckTales is weird to me because it’s a blend of Barksian characters and themes with non-Barks characters like Webby, Launchpad and Mrs. Beakley. This issue also includes Barks’s “Billions in the Hole,” which I’ve already read, and a second DuckTales story, in which Launchpad and the nephews investigate a mystery involving classic airplanes.

MARVEL SUPER-HEROES #19 (Marvel, 1968) – “My Father, My Enemy!”, [W] Arnold Drake & Steve Parkhouse, [A] George Tuska. Ka-Zar tries to stop his brother, the Plunderer, from getting his hands on a cache of deadly anti-metal. The story has a touching ending where a dying old man tries to leave Ka-Zar a message saying that Ka-Zar’s father was a peaceful man, not a villain like Ka-Zar thought. But the Plunderer erases the message before Ka-Zar can get to it. This story was Steve Parkhouse’s first professional credit. He’s probably most famous for drawing The Bojeffries Saga and Resident Alien. This issue also includes some interesting Golden Age reprints, with art by Carl Burgos, Bill Everett and Joe Maneely.

CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED #157 (Gilberton, 1960) – “Lives of the Hunted,” [W] Alfred Sundel, [A] Norman Nodel. A series of adaptatons of animal stories by Ernest Thompson Seton. The longest one is about a ram who lives in the Kootenay region of British Columbia, and the (human) hunter who pursues and eventually kills him. These stories are amusing but forgettable.

2000 AD #641 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: as above. Anderson examines the two girls’ minds and finds a reference to Orlok, a villain who first appeared in the story “Block Mania.” Moon Runners: “Old Acquaintance,” [W] Alan McKenzie, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. I didn’t understand this one, and it has no clear connection to the previous Moon Runners story. It includes a page that’s just black panels with no art. Zippy Couriers: “The Seachers Part 1,” [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Graham Higgins. Remember the story where Shauna’s partner Genghis ate an intelligent alien, thinking it was a donut? Well, in this story the alien’s parents abduct Genghis in order to get their child back. Dredd: “The Great U-Front Disaster,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Chris Weston. A four-year-old boy invents a heating device for his dad’s underwear. It catches fire, resulting in an accident that kills nineteen people. Despite the massive death toll, this story is meant to be funny, and it is. Survivor: as above. Henry the panther tries to escape the cage, but can’t. Strontium Dog: as above. Middenface goes looking for Johnny, who’s trapped in an alternate dimension.

HEAVY METAL #6.3 (HM, 1982) – [E] Julie Simmons-Lynch. These actually have issue numbers, but they only appear in the ads for back issues. This issue starts with an obituary for Philip K. Dick, and then there’s the following: The Incal. Corben’s Den II. Den is perhaps Corben’s masterpiece, and it’s a shame that it hasn’t been completely collected. A half-page strip by a young Ben Katchor. “At the Middle of Cymbiola,” one of Schuiten’s earlier works. A preview of Blade Runner. “Concorde” by Caza, an artist I’m not familiar with. Luis García’s Nova 2, a beautifully drawn sequence based on the last scene of Psycho. A gallery of H.R. Giger art. “The Voyage of Those Forgotten” (AKA The Cruise of Lost Souls) by Bilal and Christin. Also some Druillet and Fernando Fernandez.

ELFQUEST: NEW BLOOD SUMMER SPECIAL 1993 (WaRP, 1993) – “Eclipse of the Heart,” [W] Andy Mangels, [A] Brandon McKinney, etc. This issue’s lead story is a folktale about the origin of the sun and the two moons. The most notable thing in this issue is “Naming Day,” written by Kurt Busiek and his wife Ann, about how Treestump got his name. There’s also a funny story by Nat Gertler, about things not to do when writing Elfquest stories (for instance, don’t mess with Nonna and Adar).

TYRANT #3 (SpiderBaby, 1995) – untitled, [W/A] Steve Bissette. A hyperdetailed depiction of the baby T-Rex’s emergence from its egg. This comic has some stunning artwork that recalls Bissette’s Swamp Thing, especially “Rite of Spring,” and Steve must have done a ton of research on dinosaur embryo development. However, Tyrant’s premise is not very interesting to me, and its scope was perhaps overambitious; the protagonist doesn’t even get born until the third issue, and the series was supposed to cover its entire life.

CEREBUS #188 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1994) – “Mothers & Daughters 38,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Finally we’re done with the Victor Davis essays, thank God, and this issue has a full-length Cerebus story again. But all that happens in the story is that Cerebus and Cirin go from beating each other up to arguing over which of them deserves the throne. In the letter column, Dave doubles down on his misogynistic crap. There’s also a preview of David Zapanta’s Hairbat. This series had six self-published issues and then one issue published by Slave Labor.

BALTIMORE: DR. LESKOVAR’S REMEDY #2 (Dark Horse, 2012) – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola & Christopher Golden, [A] Ben Stenbeck. Another Hellboy spinoff that I shouldn’t have bought because it makes no sense on its own. At least Ben Stenbeck draws some creepy-looking crab monsters. His art reminds me of that of Corben or Kevin Nowlan.

LOKI, AGENT OF ASGARD #17 (Marvel, 2015) – “Out the Gate You Go and Never Stop,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Lee Garbett. Loki and Verity are trapped in some sort of empty blank world, but Loki escapes by drawing a “Next Issue” blurb. Ironically, this is the last issue. This series’s potential was wasted because it had a confusing, directionless plot and it introduced too many different Lokis. But Al Ewing would go on to bigger and better things.

HELLBLAZER #216 (Vertigo, 2006) – “Empathy is the Enemy Chapter 1 of 7,” [W] Denise Mina, [A] Leonardo Manco. Denise Mina is better known as a crime novelist. This issue was her first published comic; she went on to write twelve more issues of Hellblazer and some graphic novels. In this issue, a man approaches Constantine in a bar and tells him a lengthy sob story that takes up the entire issue. This comic isn’t terrible, but it doesn’t make me want to read the rest of this story arc.

NOWHERE MEN #2 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Eric Stephenson, [A] Nate Bellegarde. Another incomprehensible story about rock star scientists. This series was nominated for an Eisner, but it’s hard to see why. I do like its graphic design and its clever fake ads and text features.

2000 AD #644 (Fleetway, 1989) – Moon Runners: as above. Cara Ogilvy-Nash’s husband turns into a Jabba the Hutt creature and tries to kill her. This story made little sense, although at least the monstrous creature was a good use of Belardinelli’s talents. Dredd: “Cardboard City Part Two,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Cam Kennedy. Dredd investigates some terrorist attacks on a tent city, and also he encounters his old housekeeper Mad Maria, now a derelict. Future Shocks: “Identity Crisis!”, [W] Nicholas Barber, [A] Glyn Dillon. A newscaster reports that a shapeshifting alien is trying to destroy the city. Everyone becomes paranoid and starts suspecting their neighbors of being the alien, until the city descends into civil war. It turns out the newscaster herself is the alien. This is a good one. Survivor: as above. Henry escapes onto a space shuttle, and that’s the end of the story. Henry previously appeared in Mean Team. Fervent & Lobe: “The Issigri Variations 3: The Carny,” [W] John Smith (as “The Grim Brothers”), [A] Mike Hadley. Two dead guys visit a fortuneteller for help retreiving the soul of a person named Laibach. As usual for John Smith, this story has some brilliant prose but is difficult to understand. Anderson: as above. Anderson defeats Orlok, but the girls have to be taken away from their mother and sent to psi school.

VAMPIRELLA #60 (Warren, 1977) – “The Return of the Blood Red Queen,” [W] Bill DuBay, [A] José Gonzalez. Pendragon is kidnapped by some crooks, and while searching for him, Vampi is herself kidnapped by her old enemy, the Blood Red Queen of Hearts. “He Who Laughs Last… Laughs Best”, [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Carmine Infantino. Two rich men play a series of deadly pranks on each other, ending with the apparent suicide of one of the men. This is a clever story, but it has too many plot twists in too little space. “Riding Shotgun,” [W] Gerry Boudreau, A] Luis Bermejo. At a truck stop, a trucker encounters a sex worker who’s actually a succubus. He manages to escape death at her hands. “Wish You Were Here,” [W] Bill DuBay, [A] José Ortiz. An obvious parody of Adam Strange, with the twist that the Zeta Beam no longer works because of atmospheric pollution. Also, Earth has become a dystopia where science fiction is illegal, so the kids no longer understand the appeal of Adam Strange’s adventures. This story is interesting, but it perhaps tries to do too much at once. “Fallen Angel,” [W] Bill DuBay, [A] Esteban Maroto. An adaptation of The Little Mermaid. DuBay’s story doesn’t add anything to the original fairy tale, but Maroto’s art is gorgeous.

ASTRONAUTS IN TROUBLE #4 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Larry Young, [A] Matt Smith. Some guy tries to hijack a spacecraft as it’s launching. Matt Smith’s art in this issue is good. Larry Young’s writing is mildly exciting, but his dialogue is trite.

CEREBUS #189 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1994) – “Mothers & Daughters 39,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus and Cirin continue arguing, then an invisible barrier appears and separates them. The letter column includes some effective critiques of issue 186, but unfortunately, Dave chooses to print his response as a column on the outer edges of each of the letters pages. What is this, the Talmud? And Dave’s response is just as awful as the original essay was. This issue includes a preview of Paul Pope’s THB.

INSUFFERABLE #5 (IDW, 2015) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Peter Krause. The superhero Nocturnus and his former sidekick Galahad separately investigate the same crime. They encounter a villain who’s strapped a bunch of babies to himself as human shields. Insufferable was a digital-first comic, and it shows. In the digital format, each page was published in landscape format. In the print comic, each page of the print comic consists of two of those landscape-format pages, and therefore has a giant horizontal gap in the middle. Also, the lettering in the print comic is the wrong size. As I argue in my book, it is possible to convert digital comics to print (or vice versa) in an intelligent way, but it demands extra effort.

CONCRETE: STRANGE ARMOR #2 (Dark Horse, 1998) – untitled, [W/A] Paul Chadwick. Concrete makes contact with the government, and they put him in prison and experiment on him. But he also meets the love of his life, Maureen Vonnegut. Maureen helps Concrete develop a plan to get his freedom back. This is a touching story, and Paul Chadwick’s artwork is incredble. He might be the greatest American follower of Moebius.

Y: THE LAST MAN #52 (Vertigo, 2007) – “Motherland Conclusion,” [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Pia Guerra. Yorick has been kidnapped by Allison Mann’s father, but he escapes. Agent 355 and another woman begin or continue a romantic relationship. Beth is in Paris searching for Yorick. I’ve seen some recent social media conversations about this series, and I get the sense that its reputation is declining. It was groundbreaking for its time, but even though it ended less than 15 years ago, it now seems gender-essentialist. Also, it makes the problematic choice to focus on a male protagonist even though he’s literally the only man in the world.

DREADSTAR #16 (Marvel, 1984) – “The Test,” [W/A] Jim Starlin. Having absorbed the power of his sword into his body, Dreadstar fights two villains named Infra Red and Ultra Violet. I’ve been reading Dreadstar off and on for years, but I’m finally getting interested in it. It has to be Jim Starlin’s best work from after the 1970s, besides Death of Captain Marvel. It has much the same style of draftsmanship and dialogue as his Warlock or Captain Marvel.

CURSE WORDS #18 (Image, 2018) – “Queen Margaret! Part Three,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. Margaret changes back to her koala form. Jacques Zacques ccontinues his plot for vengeance on Wizord. Margaret heads to Australia to meet her alleged boyfriend. This is one series I wish I hadn’t quit buying.

LETTER 44 #10 (Oni, 2014) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Alberto Jimenez Albuquerque. The ship tries to repel an alien assault. In Afghanistan, the American base is blown up by a nuclear bomb. This scene is kind of tough to read now, in light of what’s currently happening in Afghanistan. Also, the humans send the aliens a copy of D*n*ld Tr*mp’s Art of the Deal, in order to show that humans are an intelligent species, even though that book is stronger evidence of the exact opposite.

2000 AD #645 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: “The Prophet Part 1,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] David Roach. Anderson encounters what appears to be an insane combat robot. This comic’s first page includes a reference to Bill Sienkiewicz’s comic Stray Toasters. Night Zero: “Beyond Zero,” [W] John Brosnan, [A] Kev Hopgood. Tanner tries to defend a city of feminists from an invading army of misogynists. This story has some nice artwork with good spotting of blacks, but it has nothing to do with the previous Night Zero story arc. Strontium Dog: “The Final Solution Part 20,” as above. The refugees in the alternate dimension are attacked by a giant bat-winged monster. Dredd: as above. Dredd apprehends the people who are terrorizing Cardboard City, then “arrests” Mad Maria in order to force her into a rehab clinic. The story ends with the line “That’s how you solve a problem like Maria.” Future Shocks: “Birthday Greetings,” [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. A young man receives a letter congratulating him on his 100th birthday, then he has several narrow escapes from death. Thinking he’s destined to live to 100, he runs in front of a truck on purpose and gets killed. In heaven, he learns that the letter was supposed to be sent to another man with a similar name. This plot could have used a little more thought: why would heaven be sending messages to people on their 100th birthday? The plot would have made more sense if the false message had come in a dream. Fervent & Lobe: as above. Excellent artwork and prose, but  the plot makes no sense.

VAMPIRELLA #63 (Warren, 1977) – All the stories in this issue are reprints, although olny some of them are tagged as such in the GCD. “Vampirella and the Sultan’s Revenge!”, [W] Mike Butterworth, [A] José González. Droga, an old enemy of Vampirella, is now married to an Arab sultan, and she tries to use her new power to revenge herself on Vampi. This story is well-drawn, except for a few pages that are badly printed from pencils, but it’s super Orientalist. And it ends with Droga being subjected to force-feeding, “Jenifer,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Bernie Wrightson. A ghastly woman drives a series of men insane. This is one of the greatest Warren stories of all, and it has its own entry in Paul Gravett’s 1001 Comics book. I can’t recall if I’ve read it before. Its fame is well deserved: Jenifer’s deformed face is a horrifying spectacle, and Jones and Wrightson effectively convey the protagonist’s self-destructive obsession with her. “Ground Round,” [W] Roger McKenzie, [A] Rafael Auraleon. A butcher murders his shrewish wife and serves her flesh to his customers. She comes back from the dead and does the same thing to him. “As Ye Sow”: see my review of Creepy #79. “The Parable of the Hermits of Glastonbury Tor,” [W] Gerry Boudreau, [A] Luis Bermejo. A scholar goes looking for the treasure of Glastonbury Abbey, and ends up trapped in a marriage to an immortal woman. When he tries to leave the abbey, she erases him from existence. I wish this story had tried harder to seem Arthurian. “The Professional,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Zesar. A professional con man seduces and then blackmails a bunch of married women, only to discover that one of the women is an even better manipulator than he is. “Wings of Vengeance,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Esteban Maroto. A young prince falls in love with his father’s new young bride. When the father finds out, he murders her and disfigures his son. The son tells his story to some birds, and the birds kill his father. This story has echoes of the myth of Hippolytus and Phaedra.

CEREBUS #190 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1995) – “Mothers & Daughters 40,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This issue begins with a long-ass essay about the Spirits of Independence tour. The Cerebus story is mostly a flashback to Cerebus’s traumatic childhood, a period that I don’t know much about. The preview in this issue is of Stephen Blue’s Red River.

CONCRETE: STRANGE ARMOR #4 (Dark Horse, 1998) – as above. Concrete appears in some TV commercials, then gets tricked into appearing at a child’s birthday party. Then he saves a bunch of trapped miners from a mine, but fails to save all of them. This story includes redrawn and rewritten versions of at least two older Concrete stories. The birthday party sequence is based on the very first Concrete story from Dark Horse Presents #1, and the sequence about the trapped miners is a remake of the original Concrete #1.

SILVER STAR #2 (Pacific, 1983) – “Darius Drumm,” [W/A] Jack Kirby. In a flashback, we learn about the origin of Darius Drumm, the Darkseid to Silver Star’s Orion. This comic has some excellent art, but it feels like a less original version of New Gods. This issue also includes Ditko’s “The Mocker,” which is a typical example of his late style, except that for some reason it has between twelve and sixteen panels per page.

RINGSIDE #4 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Nick Barber. A crime comic bout professional wrestling. I regret that I kept ordering this series, even though I never much liked it and stopped reading it after issue 3.

WARLORD #19 (DC, 1979) – “Wolves of the Steppes,” [W/A] Mike Grell. While searching for their son, Morgan and Tara are captured by steppe barbarians and thrown into a bear pit. Machiste and Mariah show up and save them. This was a quick and reasonably fun read.  

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #59 (Dark Horse, 1992) – “Sin City,” [W/A] Frank Miller. Marv escapes from a prison cell and kills some goons who are chasing him. This story is a bit hard to follow, but its composition and draftsmanship are wildly innovative. This issue also includes a tedious story about reptilian aliens, by Anthony Smith and Eric Vincent, and a one-page song adaptation by Rick Geary.

REDNECK #9 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Lisandro Estherren. Two feuding clans of redneck vampires have a big fight. This is another comic I wish I hadn’t bought. Lisandro Estherren’s artwork is good, but not good enough to carry this comic all on its own, and Donny Cates’s plot is uninteresting.

MYSTERYMEN #4 (Dark Horse, 19990 – “The Yellow Rider’s Last Big Score…”, [W] Bob Burden, [A] Chris McLoughlin. At a comics convention, an old supervillain, the Tennessee Thunderbird, tells a reporter a story about a crime he was involved in. As a younger man, the Thunderbird and his partners stole some mysterious vials, killing a bunch of people in the process. The Thunderbird’s partner, the Yellow Rider, opened the vial and died horribly as a result. The creepy part is that the Thunderbird shows no remorse about his involvement in these events. This issue is entertaining, and unlike Flaming Carrot, it follows typical narrative logic and is not surrealistic.

REID FLEMING, WORLD’S TOUGHEST MILKMAN #2 (Eclipse, 1987) – “Rogue to Riches Chapter 2,” [W/A] David Boswell. Reid Fleming causes a ton of bizarre mayhem and eventually loses his job. Though it was published by Eclipse, Reid Fleming feels like something out of Raw; it reminds me of the work of Spiegelman or Bill Griffith or Drew Friedman. Perhaps this is because of Boswell’s invocation of mid-century American culture, or his heaviily detailed cross-hatching style, or both.

ANGEL LOVE #4 (DC, 1986) – “Chemistry,” [W/A] Barbara Slate with John Wm. Lopez. Angel can’t decide whether or not to date her new crush, Mike London. This issue is funny, if you appreciate Angel Love’s sensibility, which I do.

CEREBUS #194 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1995) – “Mothers & Daughters 44,” [W/A] Dave Sim. In a flashback, we learn how Cirin’s ally, Serna, usurped Cirin’s position and eventually assassinated and replaced her. So the character we know as Cirin was really Serna all along. As often happens in this series, Cirin/Serna is more sympathetic than Dave may have wanted her to be. For example, we’re told that Serna assassinated a bunch of men who beat their wives. That sounds fine to me. Instead of a letter column, this issue includes two long essays by Dave, one about comics distribution and another about pedagogy. And there’s a preview of B.C. Boyer’s Hilly Rose.

2000 AD #646 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: as above. Anderson encounters the “robot” again and discovers that it’s really a man named Bill Zinkywink. Future Shocks: “You Need Friends,” [W] Larry Watson, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. A man is bothered by imaginary people following him. A psychiatrist tells him how to stop seeing them. He follows the psychiatrist’s advice, and the psychiatrist vanishes too, because the man is the only person in the world who’s still alive. Fervent & Lobe: as above. Another chapter that makes little sense, though it does include a beautiful, Bosch- or Bruegel-esque full-page depiction of hell. Dredd: “Over the Top,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Vanyo. A reporter publicly criticizes Dredd for abusing his powers. To my surprise, the reporter only gets six months in jail. Night Zero: as above. Tanner smuggles himself aboard the misogynists’  airship, but gets captured. Strontium Dog: as above. McNulty continues his search for Johnny.

STAR WARS #9 (Marvel, 1977) – “Showdown on a Wasteland World!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Howard Chaykin. Han and Chewie assist in a rebellion on a planet called Aduba-3. The writing and art in this issue are both underwhelming, and the new characters don’t feel like Star Wars characters. The most memorable thing in this issue is the scene where Leia is pining after the missing Luke. At this point the comic’s creators must not have known Luke and Leia were siblings.

CONCRETE: THINK LIKE A MOUNTAIN #3 (Dark Horse, 1996) – “Arms and Boxes,” [W/A] Paul Chadwick. Having just gotten involved in an attempt to sabotage logging equipment, Concrete jumps into the water of Puget Sound and has to walk back to civilization. This issue includes some stunning depictions of nature, as well as a meditation on octopus intelligence.

RINGSIDE #5 (Image, 2016) – as above. The younger protagonist gets his contract renewed, while the older protagonist contemplates the impending end of his career. In another sequence set at a later time, the older protagonist gets beaten up. Until I even read this issue, I didn’t even realize that the characters in the two storylines were the same.

FOUR COLOR #1012 (Dell, 1959) – “Last Train from Gun Hill,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Tom Gill. Matt Morgan’s Indian wife is cruelly murdered. Following the killer’s trail, he goes to the town of Gun Hill, where he discovers that the killer is the son of his old partner Craig Belden, now a wealthy rancher. Craig tries to prevent Matt from leaving town with his son, and drama ensues. This comic was based on a movie, but, according to the GCD, “with some of the violence and all of the sexual situations of the original deleted.”

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #16 (Dark Horse, 2015) – “Dream Gang Act 3 Chapter 3,” [W/A] Brendan McCarthy, etc. The standout features in this issue are Brendan McCarthy’s Dream Gang and Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder. Besides that, there’s a somewhat interesting superhero story by Shawn Aldridge, who I haven’t heard of, and also Semiautomagic byAlex de Campi and Jerry Ordway.

CEREBUS #198 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1995) – “Mothers & Daughters 48,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This issue starts with yet another of Dave’s essays, an open letter to Steve Geppi. In the story, Cerebus’s creator Dave castigates him on his cruel treatment of Jaka, and there’s an extended reference to the injury-to-the-eye motif. This issue is significantly better than most of the last  Bill’s wife, who’s been forced to pretend to be a machine. Then Bill comes home and Anderson kills him. David Roach’s art in this story arc is quite good. Future Shocks: “Brogan’s Last Ride,” [W] Ian Rimmer, [A] Simon Coleby. A prisoner escapes from his cell, but his “escape” is really just part of his execution. Fervent & Lobe: as above. Nothing new to say about this. Dredd: “A Monkey’s Tale,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Paul Marshall. A paralyzed man tries to use his pet monkey to bait Dredd into killing him. But Dredd ends up killing the monkey instead, leaving the man stuck in his useless body. Night Zero: as above. Tanner’s fellow prisoner Adoria escapes from prison. Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny is badly hurt fighting the monster, and one of his fellow prisoners is killed.

THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES AGAIN #1 (DC, 2001) – untitled, [W/A] Frank Miller. This series has such a bad reputation that I never bothered to read it before, but I got this issue last year for just a dollar. This first issue is barely about Batman at all; it focuses on how Batman and his allies rescue various superheroes who have been forced to work for the government. The US government in this series is far more tyrannical than the one depicted in the original DKR. Miller’s artwork in this comic is embarrassing. His draftsmanship is crude and his page layouts are unoriginal, even compared to his Sin City stories from just a few years earlier. Back in 2001, Miller was still seen as a major contemporary creator, but DK2 #1 made it obvious that he had jumped the shark.

TUKI: SAVE THE HUMANS #4 (Cartoon Books, 2016) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Smith. Tuki and the kids continue their quest. Tuki is sort of interesting, but not nearly as much so as Bone or Shazam: Monster Society of Evil, and it’s too slow-paced for a monthly comic. It’s kind of puzzling that Jeff chose to publish it in comic book form when he’d had such massive success with the graphic novel format.

STEVEN UNIVERSE #5 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Grace Kraft, [A] Meg Omac. Steven’s pet pink lion gets in a lot of mischief. This comic is better than the Steven Universe and the Crystal Gems miniseries, but I still shouldn’t have bought it. Unlike, say, the Jem or TMNT comics, it’s not worth reading unless you’re already a fan.

ARCADE #5 (Print Mint, 1976) – [E] Bill Griffith & Art Spiegelman. This comic has an incredible lineup of talent: Crumb, Griffith, Deitch, Noomin, George DiCaprio (Leonardo’s father), Michael McMillan, Rory Hayes, Justin Green, Spiegelman, M.K. Brown, Spain, and Aline Kominsky. As those names indicate, Arcade was a series that bridged the gap between the Zap and Raw generations. The Deitch story is a historically inaccurate account of the Turk, the fake chess-playing robot. The Spiegelman story is a collage of unrelated panels. This issue’s letter column includes one letter criticizing Curt McDowell’s story “Mommy’s Song” as racist. The editors respond by disclaiming responsibility for the content of the story.

SAUCER STATE #1 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Ryan Kelly. This is the sequel to Saucer Country. Arcadia Alvarado is now President, but Earth is about to be invaded by flying saucers. Also, Arcadia dreams of having an alien baby. I don’t like Saucer Country/State as much as Letter 44 or Department of Truth, but it’s worth reading.

LETTER 44 #28 (Oni, 2016) – as above. This issue is a flashback to the construction of the spaceship that made contact with the aliens. The government manipulates Manesh into joining the Clarke’s crew, since no one else understands the computer systems he’s designed. Meanwhile, they fake an accident that causes Kyoko Takahashi to lose her medical license, just so she’ll have a reason to serve aboard the Clarke rather than stay on Earth. That’s pretty cruel.

BLACK CLOUD #7 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jason Latour & Ivan Brandon, [A] Greg Hinkle. Yet another issue that makes no sense. I wish I had given up on this series after the first issue.  

NIGHT’S DOMINION SEASON TWO #1 (Oni, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Ted Naifeh. A mildly grim sword-and-sorcery comic. I don’t know why I wasn’t more enthusiastic about this series, since I generally like Ted Naifeh’s work. Oni’s output has drastically decreased over the past year or two. I wish they would publish more comic books.

VAMPIRELLA #70 (Warren, 1978) – “Ghostly Granny Gearloose,” [W] Bill DuBay, [A] Gonzalo Mayo. Vampi is kidnapped by an old lady who makes robots, as a gift for the lady’s grandson. The twist is that the grandson is also a robot. Gonzalo Mayo was a very underrated artist. “Mask of U’Gin,” [W] Nicola Cuti & Gerry Boudreau, [A] José Ortiz. A person in an African mask is going around killing people. The culprit turns out to be an old antique shop owner who’s trying to create a ghost bride for her dead son. The son’s fiancee murders the old lady, but then the son comes back to life and murders the fiancee. This story draws upon some unfortunate African stereotypes, but José Ortiz’s spotting of blacks is beautiful. “Swamp Lovers,” [W] Bill DuBay, [A] Leo Duranona. A mentally ill swamp-dwelling hick falls in love with a beautiful woman who’s actually an awful monster. Duranona’s linework is very detailed. “Reality Twice Removed,” [W]  Gerry Boudreau, [A] Ramon Torrents. A husband and wife prepare to go out while listening to a series of horrifying news stories. Ramon Torrents is another underrated artist. The woman in this story wears a dress with a complicated flower design, and Torrents has to draw it again in every panel in which the woman appears. “The Terrible Exorcism of Agdriennes Pompereau!”, [W] Luis Vigil & Bill DuBay, [A] Rafael Auraleon. A ripoff of The Exorcist, except it takes place in France in 1914, and the demon is really an alien. This story has some more gorgeous art.

2000 AD #653 (Fleetway, 1989) – Rogue Trooper: “The War Machine,” [W] Dave Gibbons, [A] Will Simpson. A long fight scene with no real story, but beautiful painted artwork. This was the story that introduced Friday, the new version of Rogue Trooper. The Dead Man: untitled, [W] John Wagner, [A] John Ridgway. A boy and a zombie fight some primitive cavemen. I’m not sure what this story is about. (After writing this review, I discovered it was an unannounced prequel to the Dredd epic Necropolis.) Dredd: “Young Giant Part 3,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Cadet Giant is the son of Judge Giant and the grandson of John Giant from Harlem Heroes. In this chapter he’s forced to shoot a man, then he gets a lead on the crooks who killed his mother. Zenith: “The Best Laid Plans” (Phase III Part 12), [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. Zenith and his allies have to blow up the world they’re currently on, so that the Lloigor’s host bodies will be killed, but someone has to stay on that world to detonate the bomb. Slaine: “The Horned God Volume II Part 4,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Simon Bisley. Slaine’s pet dragon, the Knucker, is killed fighting a “dragon-ghost” conjured by Medb. The Horned God is probably the peak of both the Slaine franchise and Simon Bisley’s career. Bisley’s artwork is stunningly epic and three-dimensional, and his colors are vivid.

HEAVY METAL #2.8 (HM, 1978) – [E] Sean Kelly & Valerie Marchant. This issue includes: Sindbad by Corben and Strnad. Moebius’s “Hit Man,” a rather absurdist crime comic. Gray Morrow’s Orion. Bilal and Dionnet’s Exterminator 17, drawn in a style that greatly resembles Moebius’s. Druillet’s Gail. Zha and Claveloux’s “Off Season.” I already read the first half of this story in Heavy Metal #2.7. I think NYRB is going to reprint their Claveloux collection in paperback, and I ought to get it. Paul Kirchner’s “Tarot,” a story framed around tarot cards. Another short early work by Ben Katchor. A blatant ripoff of Vaughn Bodé by Bob Aull.

CEREBUS #199 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1995) – “Mothers & Daughters 49,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus, now wearing an eyepatch, finishes his conversation with Dave. As with so many other late issues of Cerebus, this issue has gorgeous art and lettering but a vapid plot. Dave’s artwork improved as his mental health declined. The backup feature was supposed to be Kiss & Tell by Patricia Breen and Robert Wertz, but they broke up while the issue was going to press, so instead Dave ended up printing a four-page collaboration between the two artists, and then four pages of each artist’s solo work.

A DECADE OF DARK HORSE #1 (Dark Horse, 1996) – “Daddy’s Little Girl,” [W/A] Frank Miller. The Sin City story is probably the reason I bought this issue, but I already read this story when it was reprinted in Tales to Offend #1. There’s also a Predator story with nice art by Igor Kordey, and a Grendel story by Matt Wagner. I like Matt Wagner’s art, but there doesn’t seem to be very much of it; most of his Grendel comics were illustrated by less talented artists.

CLASSIC STAR WARS: THE EARLY ADVENTURES #5 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “Princess Leia, Imperial Servant,” [W/A] Russ Manning. A series of newspaper strips in which Princess Leia has a solo adventure. Russ Manning writes and draws Leia quite well, but his style isn’t well suited to Star Trek. Also, his artwork in this issue is reproduced too large, and the panels are chopped up and rearranged.

RINGSIDE #6 (Image, 2016) – as above. Danny, the older protagonist (the younger one is Teddy) is hired as a full-time trainer of new wrestlers. But his evil boss has some kind of hidden agenda. I still don’t think this series was very good, although this issue at least made more sense than some of the earlier ones did.  

SCOOBY-DOO, WHERE ARE YOU? #75 (DC, 2017) – “Swords of Sorcery,” [W] Sholly Fisch, [A] Walter Carzon. Daphne teams up with the actress who plays Zorna the Warrior Woman (i.e. Xena). “Hot Time in the Old Temple Tonight,” [W] Frank Strom, [A] Leo Batic. The kids solve a mystery involving an old Mesoamerican temple. There’s one panel in this story that’s formatted like a maze, but I don’t think the maze is solvable; it’s not clear where the start and end points are.

GROO: FRAY OF THE GODS #3 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragones, [W] Mark Evanier. A king named Cuffi is trying to increase his power by making everyone pray to the “Star God” – perhaps this is a reference to the pharaoh Akhenaten – and he tries to manipulate Groo into helping him. I remember being underwhelmed by the earlier issues of this miniseries, and that must be why I didn’t read this issue until now.

LOONEY TUNES #234 (DC, 2017) – “Five-Card Porky,” [W] Sholly Fisch, [A] Robert Pope. Three dumb, forgettable stories. I only bought this comic because DCBS was offering it as part of a package deal. At the time, Looney Tunes may have been DC’s highest-numbered title.

I went to Heroes again on August 2. The restaurant I wanted to visit that day turned out to only be open for dinner, so I ate at Fuel Pizza instead.

BERMUDA #1 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] John Layman, [A] Nick Bradshaw. This was initially announced before the pandemic, and I wonder why it took so long to come out, but I’m glad it did. In Bermuda, a wealthy inventor’s two children are stranded on an island filled with giant monsters, where they’re rescued by a redheaded adventuress. Like his stylistic father Art Adams, Nick Bradshaw is extremely talented at drawing giant monsters and sexy women; this series is basically Bradshaw’s Monkeyman & O’Brien. A particular highlight is Bermuda’s realistic-looking pet giant chameleon. This comic also has some mild steampunk elements, particularly in the scene set in the kids’ hometown. This series will be a lot of fun.

SAVE YOURSELF #2 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Bones Leonard, [A] Kelly Matthews & Nicole Matthews. The aliens explain what’s going on: Mia is the sibling of the Lovely Trio, but the Lovely Trio are preying on planets that aren’t part of the galactic federation. Gigi manages to convince Mia to violate the prime directive and help fight the Lovely Trio. Then Shawn gets kidnapped by a monster. This series is a funny revisionist take on the Powerpuff Girls, and it’s also very entertaining.

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #11 (Image, 2021) – “A Hunter’s Diary Part 2,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Martin Simmonds. Hawk tells Cole how Bigfoot is connected to the history of Western imperialism and exploitation. This series has included a lot of fascinating meditations like this, explaining why people believe conspiracy theories and how these theories relate to larger themes in history. Then Cole and Hawk find Bigfoot, and the old man finally sees it in person just before they shoot it, so now he can live his few remaining years in peace. The handwritten diary pages in this issue and the previous one are rather difficult to read, but they look just like real diary pages.

SECOND COMING: ONLY BEGOTTEN SON #3 (Ahoy, 2021) – “Relics,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Richard Pace. In a flashback, we see how the Crusaders sold fake relics when they discovered that the fabled treasures of Jerusalem didn’t exist. In the present, some rich jerk tries to convince Jesus to work for him, and Jesus obviously declines, but the guy’s intern becomes Jesus’s first disciple. This issue is excellent, but this series has been very slow to come out.

MONEY SHOT #13 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Sarah Beattie, [A] Caroline Leigh Layne. Half the team gets kidnapped by alien trophy hunters. The other half of the team joins forces with the alien sex trafficking victims, but they’re about to be attacked by the guy who enslaved the aliens. This was an entertaining issue, but I don’t remember much about it.

MANY DEATHS OF LAILA STARR #4 (Boom!, 2021) – “Conversations with God,” [W] Ram V, [A] Filipe Andrade. Laila meets the spirit of Mumbai’s only remaining Chinese temple. Then she meets the thirty-year-old Darius, who is finally figuring out who Laila is. And he’s pissed at her for taking his wife and leaving him a single father. Meanwhile, the temple’s caretaker dies, and the temple itself is destroyed in a flood. This issue is a touching meditation on death, though its themes require some effort to unpack. There really is a single Chinese temple in Mumbai, and it really is a relic of the city’s vanishing Chinese immigrant population (https://www.thebetterindia.com/66112/chinese-kwan-kung-temple-mazagaon-mumbai/) . This part of the issue is an interesting investigation of Mumbai’s ethnic diversity.

ETERNALS #6 (Marvel, 2021) – “Only Death is Eternal, Finale,” W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Esad Ribić. Ikaris is killed fighting Thanos. The machine reactivates, and Ikaris comes back to life, but Toby Robson dies. The twist ending is that the Eternals’ “immortality” is achieved at the cost of human lives. It looks like the next issue of this series is coming in November, and the upcoming Eternals: Celestia #1 is just a one-shot, not a reboot.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #14 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcello Grassi. Valentina destroys the malfunctioning superhero robots by convincing them that she’s a mind-controlling supervillain. There’s a moral here about stories and how they can be used to control minds – a theme also explored in much of Kieron Gillen’s work.

FANTASTIC FOUR #34 (Marvel, 2021) – “Bride of Doom Final Chapter: The Sacred Vow of Victor Von Doom,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] R.B. Silva. The FF escape Latveria, but Doom overloads Johnny’s powers so that he can’t flame off. It serves Johnny right, since his behavior throughout this storyline has been shameful. Also, Doom tells Zora to “never show your face to me again,” and Zora complies by putting on a mask similar to Doom’s.

USAGI YOJIMBO #21 (IDW, 2021) – “Yukichi Part 2,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi discovers that Yukichi is his cousin. Yukichi beats the leader of the other sword school in a duel, and Usagi has to kill the guy when he tries to attack Yukichi from behind. Yukichi delivers the swords to his master’s heir, Daido, who turns out to be a money-grubber with low standards of quality. Yukichi declines Daido’s offer of employment and decides to wander around with Usagi for a while. This was a pretty fun story.

CHU #6 (Image, 2021) – “(She) Drunk History Part 1 of 5,” [W] John Layman, [A] Dan Boultwood. Saffron gets out of prison with lots of new abilities. A certain Mr. Ortolan hires her to recover some very old wine from a shipwreck. She kills him and presumably decides to recover the wine for herself. A promising start to the second story arc.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #28 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Clone Saga Conclusion,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Carmen Carnero. Miles has his final confrontation with Selim. Shift shows up to help, Selim gets killed, and Miles rescues Billie. Miles addresses Shift as his new brother.  This was a touching conclusion.

GROO MEETS TARZAN #1 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragones, [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Tom Yeates. This is the first new Groo comic in some time. As with Groo Meets Conan, it has three separate plot threads: one about Groo, one about Tarzan, and one about Mark and Sergio. The Mark/Sergio plot is the funniest and most memorable. It begins at the (fictional) 2020 San Diego Comic-Con, and there’s aspectacular splash page with hundreds of Easter eggs, rangnig from Matt Groening and Scott Shaw to Ranbow and Mighty Magnor. And there’s a running joke where people keep confusing Sergio with Antonio Prohias.

BLACK HAMMER REBORN #2 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Caitlin Yarsky. Lucy’s daughter Rose  and her friend sneak into some kind of bizarre place full of flying sharks. Skulldigger rescues them. There’s also a flashback to a previous encounter between Lucy, Skulldigger and Dr. Robinson, formerly known as Dr. Star. This issue was interesting, but I’m not sure where this plot is going.

SHADECRAFT #5 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Joe Henderson, [A] Lee Garbett. Zadie and her mom break Ricky out of the insane asylum, and Ricky wakes up from his coma. This was a really entertaining story arc, and I hope we get more Shadecraft soon.

GOOD LUCK #2 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matthew Erman, [A] Stefano Simeone. The kids encounter a luck god named Cassiopeia, and then they seemingly get killed, though I’m sure they’re fine. I like the art in this series, but the writing is disappointing so far. I’m still not sure what Good Luck’s premise is supposed to be.

SUPERGIRL: WOMAN OF TOMORROW #2 (DC, 2021) – “Wounded, Stranded and Impotent,” [W] Tom King, [A] Bilquis Evely. In pursuit of Krem, Supergirl and Ruthye ride a train across outer space. We eventually learn that Supergirl needs to find Krem so she can get a sample of the poison he used on Krypto. This is another very enjoyable issue, and I especially like Ruthye’s narration; her prose style is deliberately wordy and old-fashioned.

WONDER WOMAN #776 (DC, 2021) – “Afterworlds Part 7,” [W] Michael W. Conrad, [W/A] Becky Cloonan, [A] Jill Thompson. In the realm of Elfhame, Diana and SIgurd rescue some kidnapped children and get a lead on Janus’s next destination. Ratatosk spends most of the issue in the form of a little boy, and is even cuter in that form than as a squirrel. Jill Thompson’s painted artwork in this issue is stunning. She was a perfect choice to draw a story set in Faerie. Not the same Faerie as in The Dreaming, by the way, but it makes sense that the DCU has more than one faerie realm.

ASCENDER #17 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. All the characters converge on Dirishu-6. Mother kicks Tim’s ass, but Tim summons the giant apocalyptic robots to help him. I assume next issue is the conclusion.

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #1 (DC, 2021) – “Truth, Justice, and a Better World,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] John Timms. “A better world” is better than “the American way.” I bought this because I really like Jon Kent, and this issue is an effective introduction to Jon as an adult Superman. In the flashback sequence, Lois looks unusually glamorous for a woman in childbirth.

On August 1st I went to another Charlotte Comicon. This was a really enjoyable convention. I brought about $200 and spent almost all of it.

AVENGERS #66 (Marvel, 1969) – “Betrayal!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Barry Windsor-Smith. This issue is the first appearance of adamantium. While the Avengers are performing experiments on adamantium, the Vision vanishes, then returns and attacks the Avengers. We then discover that he’s under the control of Ultron, who’s used the adamantium to build himself an indestructible new body. BWS’s art in this issue is excellent, though he seems to be trying to imitate Buscema.

CEREBUS #27 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1981) – “The Kidnapping of an Aardvark,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Fleagle and Drew McGrew kidnap Cerebus, but he turns the tables on them and enlists them in his service, and then fakes his own kidnapping so he can collect a ransom from Lord Julius. Then when the ransom is delivered, Fleagle and Drew double-cross Cerebus so they can collect it themselves. It’s all rather confusing, but in a funny way. This issue may also have introduced the card game Diamondback, which Cerebus plays with Fleagle and Drew while waiting for the ransom.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #148 (Marvel, 1975) – “Jackal, Jackal… Who’s Got the Jackal?”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Ross Andru. Spider-Man battles the Tarantula and the Jackal, who, in the last panel, is unmasked as Miles Warren. This issue also introduces Miles’s assistant Anthony Serba, though he only appears in flashback. Peter describes him as “one of those pathetic guys – the kind who devote themselves entirely to their work, to the exclusion of everything else,” which hits kind of close to home. At one point it was stated that Anthony Serba was Spider-Man’s clone, but that was later retconned away.

MIRACLEMAN #16 (Eclipse, 1989) – “Book II Chapter 6: Olympus,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] John Totleben. I already have the Marvel reprint of this issue, but now I also have the real thing. Miracleman #16 is perhaps the standout issue of the series, even more so than #15, because it depicts how Miracleman transforms the world into a utopia. It’s like Squadron Supreme and The Authority combined, all in the space of one issue. But there are hints that Miracleman’s utopia isn’t all that great: he and his superhero companions seem rather frivolous, especially the dog, and Liz refuses Miracleman’s offer of a superhuman body. The fissures in Miracleman’s new world will be the subject of The Silver Age and The Dark Age, if those stories ever get completed (I hear they’re being held up by disputes over the ownership of the Warpsmiths). This issue is full of classic moments, such as Miracleman’s devastating takedown of Margaret Thatcher.  

MY LITTLE PONY/TRANSFORMERS: FRIENDSHIP IN DISGUISE #4 (IDW, 2021) – I somehow failed to get this when it came out. “Strength in Numbers,” [W] Ian Flynn, [A] Sara Pitre-Durocher. The Apple family battles the Insecticons at Sweet Apple Acres. “Finale,” [W] James Asmus, [A] Tony Fleecs. The final battle between the Autobots and Decepticons and their respective pony allies. This miniseries was okay, but the regular pony comics are better.

IRON MAN #24 (Marvel,1970) – “My Son…  the Minotaur!”, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Johnny Craig. Tony and Jasper Sitwell are grieving over their respective love interests, Janice Cord and Whitney Frost. But Whitney/Madame Masque isn’t dead, she’s been kidnapped by an old man as a bride for his son, a mutant minotaur. Tony rescues Whitney, and the minotaur and his dad are killed. Besides Stan Lee, Archie Goodwin was the best Iron Man writer until David Michelinie arrived.

FLAMING CARROT COMICS #1 (Image, 2004) – “Flaming Carrot Goes PC!”, [W/A] Bob Burden. The Flaming Carrot invites multiple woman on a date on the same night, and also he fights some pygmies and a zombie. This is the sort of absurdist nonsense I expect from Bob Burden. The issue’s title gives the impression that it’s a satire of political correctness, but it’s really not. I like how Bob Burden draws the highlights on the Flaming Carrot’s head.

CREEPY #58 (Warren, 1973) – “Change… into Something Comfortable,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Richard Corben. A werewolf escapes from a carnival of other monsters, but they trick him into attending a Halloween party, where they kill and eat him. Great art but not much of a story. “An Excuse for Violence,” [W] Don McGregor, [A] Adolfo Usero (credited as “Adolpho Abellan,” his maternal surname). Some vampire murders on a college campus result in a near race riot. This story has some really clumsy and heavy-handed racial politics, including one use of the N-word, and it ends by giving the impression that black people are complicit in racial unrest. “Shriek Well Before Dying!”, [W] W. Eaton, [A] José Bea. A scoundrel tries to steal a young girl’s money, but ends up getting killed. I can’t find any information about W. Eaton, not even what the W stands for. “Soul and Shadow,” [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Reed Crandall. An adventurer visits a dungeon where he acquire a jewel called the “Soul of Shalimar,” and also meets a cute scantily clad girl. But the girl is really the jewel’s immortal guardian, and she leads the adventurer to his death. Crandall’s art here is beautiful. “The Waking Nightmare!”, [W] Don McGregor, [A] Isidro Mones. A virus causes people to act like they’re addicted to drugs. As usual, Don McGregor writes far more text than necessary, and his text distracts the reader from Mones’s dark, moody art.

THE PHANTOM #67 (Charlton, 1975) – ‘Triumph of Evil!”, [W] Joe Gill, [A] Don Newton. A flashback story showing how the previous Phantom died fighting Nazis, and how he was succeeded by his son, Kit Reed. Joe Gill’s story is better than his usual mediocre work, and Don Newton’s art is terrific. Don Newton’s Phantom comics were probably the best Phantom comic books created for the American market.

CURSE WORDS #11 (Image, 2018) – “The Hole Damn World Part One,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. Wizord is still trying to free Margaret from prison, and meanwhile lots of weird stuff is happening on the Hole World. This is a good issue, but nothing about it stands out.

AVENGERS #119 (Marvel, 1974) – “Night of the Collector,” [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Bob Brown. This was one of the only issues I was missing between #100 and #200. After returning from the Avengers-Defenders War, the Avengers head off to Rutland, Vermont for the Halloween parade. But parade host Tom Fagan has been kidnapped by the Collector, who’s using the parade as an excuse to add the Avengers to his collection. Also, there’s some relationship drama between Mantis and Swordsman, and some Easter eggs. The man with a wife named Jane on page 18 is clearly supposed to be a real person, but I don’t know who.  It would be nice if Marvel and DC could collaboratively publish a collection of all the Rutland, Vermont stories.

CEREBUS #54 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “The Origin of the Wolveroach,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This issue is more expensive than most Cerebus back issues because it’s a Wolverine parody. In this issue the Countess explains Artemis’s origin, and Weisshaupt tries to convince Cerebus to become Prime Minister again. The backup story is “Night of the Living Teddy Bears” by Greg Wadsworth.

HEAVY METAL #3.2 (HM, 1978) – [E] Sean Kelly & Valerie Marchand. One of my notable purchases at the August convention was eight issues of Heavy Metal for $3 each. This issue begins with Corben and Strnad’s adaptation of the framing sequence of the Arabian Nights. Then there’s the following: A preview of McGregor and Gulacy’s Sabre. Mezieres’s one-pager “Colonization,” one of his few non-Valerian works. Moench and Nino’s adaptation of Sturgeon’s More than Human. Denis Sire’s Report V1. Another blatant Bode ripoff by Bob Aull. Voss’s Heilman, Forest’s Barbarella, and Montellier’s 1996.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #548 (Marvel, 2008) – “Blood Ties,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Steve McNiven. Mr. Negative assassinates some Maggia bosses, using a poison that targets their genetic markers, and kidnaps their wives and children. In order to save the last hostage, Peter has to give Mr. Negative a sample of his own blood, so Mr. Negative can make a poison that will kill Peter’s own relatives. Which is not as bad as it sounds since Peter has no living blood relatives – Aunt May is only related to him by marriage. This was the end of the first story arc of the Brand New Day era.

MY LOVE #9 (Marvel, 1970) – “I Loved You Once – Remember?”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Gene Colan. Jackie breaks off her engagement with Gary, but then she realizes she really does love him, and they get engaged again. “Someday He’ll Come Along!”, [W] unknown, [A] Dick Giordano or Vince Colletta. A reprint from 1960. A secretary falls in love with her boss, but she can’t date him due to company rules. But then she gets promoted to an executive, so that rule doesn’t apply anymore. Also, her coworkers are a bunch of jealous catty jerks who shame her for not dating anyone besides her boss. “A Teen-Ager Can Also Love!”, [W] unknown, [A] Vince Colletta. Another reprint. A girl falls in love with a singer, and then ends up marrying him after he loses his voice. This one is pretty farfetched.

WATCHMEN #4 (DC, 1986) – “Watchmaker,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Dave Gibbons. Dr. Manhattan’s origin story, told in a series of discontinuous flashbacks. I know this story very well, but it’s worth revisiting. Quoting my own post on Facebook: “One of the less commonly mentioned innovative things about Watchmen is its near-total lack of motion lines or emanata. Every action scene in the book is depicted as a frozen moment or a series of frozen moments. There are occasional uses of motion lines or multiple images in the book, like when Adrian Veidt moves his hand to catch the bullet, but they’re the exception rather than the rule. This contributes to Watchmen’s “cinematic” aesthetic.”

SCOUT: WAR SHAMAN #7 (Eclipse, 1988) – “Wooly Bully Part 3: The Hunter,” [W/A] Tim Truman. Rosa Winter leads an assault on Scout’s hideout: an ammo dump inside an ancient cliff dwelling. Scout’s kids get separated from their dad, the younger boy uses his psychic powers to kill a man who’s trying to kidnap them, and then a mysterious mustachioed man offers to lead the kids to safety. This issue also continues the adaptation of the Apache Monster Slayer myth.

IMMORTAL HULK #15 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Holy or the Broken,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. The title must be a reference to Hallelujah, since at one point in this issue we see a copy of Songs of Leonard Cohen in Doc Samson’s office. This issue starts with some flashbacks to after Doc Samson’s recent resurrection. Then Samson fights the Hulk, and then they reconcile and discover that Rick Jones’s grave is empty.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #138 (Dell, 1952) – untitled (Statuesque Spendthrifts), [W/A] Carl Barks. Scrooge and the Maharajah of Howduyustan compete to build the biggest possible statue of Cornelius Coot, the founder of Duckburg. In the process the Maharajah loses all his money. I assume this is the Maharajah’s first appearance and the first reference to Cornelius Coot. This issue also includes Li’l Bad Wolf and Grandma Duck stories, and a Mickey Mouse story that’s not by Paul Murry.

LONE RANGER #43 (Dell, 1952) – “Before the Firing Squad,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Tom Gill. An unscrupulous Indian agent tries to start a war between Sioux Indians and the government, so he can sell the Indians’ land. The Lone Ranger and Tonto foil this plot. The Indians in this story are the good guys, but they’re depicted in a stereotypical way. In the backup story, Young Hawk and Little Buck find themselves in Tenochtitlan during the Spanish conquest. This is the first Young Hawk story I’ve seen that includes any reference to white people. I assumed that these stories all took place before European contact. In this story, several characters travel all the way from the Rio Grande to the Valley of Mexico in an implausibly short time.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #583 (Marvel, 2009) – “Firewalled,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Mike McKone. Spider-Man saves Harry and Normie Osborn and Liz Allan from a vengeful Molten Man. This is an entertaining issue with good dialogue and characterization, although I’ve never much liked Mike McKone’s art.

MICKEY MOUSE #108 (Gold Key, 1966) – “Aircraft Carrier at Two O’Clock High,” [W] Don R. Christensen, [A] Paul Murry & Dan Spiegle. I’d never heard of this comic until I saw it at the convention, and it was so weird that I had to buy it. Mickey Mouse #107 to 109 constituted the brief Mickey Mouse, Super Secret Agent run. These stories were set in the real world, with entirely human casts except for Mickey and Goofy themselves, and they depicted Mickey and Goofy as secret agents working for “Police International.” The images of Mickey and Goofy were drawn by Paul Murry, and the rest of the art was done by Dan Spiegle in a realistic style. “Aircraft Carrier at Two O’Clock High” is a pretty bad secret agent story, and while Spiegle’s art is quite good, it’s really weird seeing Mickey and Goofy interacting with realistically drawn human characters and settings. And unlike, say, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, this story is played completely straight, and no one seems to think it’s odd that Police International hired a cartoon dog and mouse. This issue is a failed experiment, but it’s worth owning just because it’s weird.

WATCHMEN #6 (DC, 1986) – “The Abyss Gazes Also,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Dave Gibbons. One of the finest individual comic books ever published in America. Rorschach’s famous origin story is about as dark as Watchmen gets, especially the concluding line “We are alone. There is nothing else.” Which is later qualified by the epigraph of issue 9: “As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” Even Alan Moore has rarely if ever written anything else as bleak as this. Part of the genius of Watchmen is how you notice something new every time you reread it. On this latest reading of Watchmen #6, I noticed that as the issue goes on, Malcolm gets increasingly addicted to pain pills.

GROO: MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD #1 (Dark Horse, 2000) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. Pipil Khan is on his deathbed, and he decides that he will be succeeded by whichever of his three sons can bring him Groo’s head. Meanwhile, an unscrupulous newspaper publisher decides to sell papers by printing fake stories about Groo. This is a pretty good issue, though it’s a standard example of the Groo formula.

CEREBUS #58 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “All Lined Up,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus’s mother-in-law drives him crazy. Cerebus and Red Sophia have a pillow talk, and then the dying Pope summons Cerebus for a conversation. But then the pope is assassinated on the orders of the Lion of Serrea, just after Cerebus says “something fell.” Whenever this phrase occurs in Cerebus, something awful happens, but I can’t remember any other instances of it offhand. There’s a backup story by Mike Bannon about how to get a letter printed in Cerebus.

INCREDIBLE HULK #121 (Marvel, 1969) – “Within the Swamp, There Stirs… a Glob!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Herb Trimpe. In the Everglades the Hulk encounters the Glob, a dead man whose corpse was turned into an animate mound of muck. The Glob is very similar to Man-Thing and Swamp-Thing, both of whom debuted two years later, and also to Theodore Sturgeon’s It. Thomas acknowledges this influence at the end of the issue when Ross tells Talbot to “stop flapping around like a landed sturgeon.” Another character with a similar origin is Solomon Grundy. I can’t remember if the Glob was mentioned in Jon B. Cooke’s Swampmen book, to which I contributed; if not, it should have been.

DREADSTAR #17 (Epic, 1985) – “Revenge,” [W/A] Jim Starlin. About half  this issue is a flashback narrated by the telepath Willow. She reveals that after her mother disappeared, she was sexually abused by her widowed father, who looks a bit like Vanth Dreadstar. Now Willow has a hopeless crush on Vanth. Then Willow discovers that her dad is running an Instrumentality death camp – and that he’s living with her mother, who’s been lobotomized. That’s pretty traumatic. So Willow returns to Vanth’s ship determined to punish her father and rescue her mother.

FOUR COLOR #1226 (Dell, 1961) – “Nikki, Wild Dog of the North,” [W] Eric Freiwald & Robert Schafer, [A] Sparky Moore. In the Canadian wilderness, Nikki, a malemute pup, gets separated from his owner, and a bear cub gets caught on Nikki’s leash. Nikki and the bear have a bunch of adventures until Nikki is finally reunited with his owner. This is an unambitious and forgettable comic, but at least it’s cute. Like many other issues of Four Color, Nikki was adapted from a Disney movie.

CREEPY #62 (Warren, 1974) – “The Black Cat,” [W/A] Bernie Wrightson. An adaptation of Poe’s story in which a man is driven insane by his wife’s cat. Wrightson’s artwork in this story is absolutely incredible; his draftsmanship and compositions are unsurpassed. Every panel is a small masterpiece, particularly the half-page panel where the husband splits his wife’s head with an axe, and the concluding depiction of the wife’s corpse. “Buffaloed,” [W] Larry Herndon, [A] John Severin. A buffalo hunter is killed by an old Indian who can turn into a buffalo. Severin’s art here is pretty good. “Firetrap,” [W] Jack Butterworth, [A] Vicente Alcazar. An old slumlord is murdered by his own tenants. Kind of a nice wish fulfillment story. “Judas,” [W] Rich Margopoulos, [A] Richard Corben. An astronaut sells out the human race to conquering aliens and becomes the aliens’ leader. But the joke is on him, because he’s already dying of radiation exposure. This story is printed in a special color section. “Survivor or Savior!”, [W] Steve Skeates, [A] Gonzalo Mayo. A man travels back in time from a dystopian future world in an attempt to change history. Gonzalo Mayo’s art in this story is quite good, and he makes the female protagonist (oddly namde Chester) look very sexy. “The Maze,” [W] Steve Skeates, [A] Leo Summers. A man is captured by hideous sewer-dwellers and becomes their new king. This is the worst-drawn story in the issue. “The Demon Within!”, [W] Skeates, [A] Isidro Mones. A woman is about to jump off a building after a life of horrible bad luck. Her husband tries to save her, but falls off the building himself. Overall this was an excellent issue of Creepy.

MY LOVE #36 (Marvel, 1975) – All the stories in this issue are reprints, and the series was cancelled after just three more issues. “My Song and My Sorrow!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Buscema. Kitt breaks up with her boyfriend because he doesn’t approve of her obsession with music. Kitt later becomes a successful musician herself, and finds a better boyfriend. This story is more progressive than I’d have expected; I thought she was going to end up with the first guy again. “Fanny Falls in Love!”, [W] unknown, [A] Don Heck. Fanny follows her friend’s bad dating advice (about playing hard to get) and almost ruins her relationship with her boyfriend. Eventually she learns the error of her ways, and she and her boyfriend get married. “Yours Alone!”, [W] unknown, [A] Jay Scott Pike. Nan is in love with her first boyfriend, Johnny, but unknown to her, he’s also dating other girls. She decides to date other boys, and ends up marrying one of them. Someone should publish a collection of Jay Scott Pike’s romance comics. He deserves to be remembered for more than just the Dolphin issue of Showcase.

More new comics:

DARK BLOOD #1 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Latoya Morgan, [A] Walt Barna. In Alabama in 1955, a white man threatens to kill a black army veteran for not being subservient enough. The black man saves himself using telekinetic powers, and the white man gets hit by a car and killed, which is no better than he deserves. This is a terrifying scene; it makes me wonder how many other encounters like this have happened in real life, with even worse consequences. The white man believes he’s entitled to do anything he wants to the white man, including killing him for no reason at all, and under the laws and customs of American society, it’s not clear that he’s wrong In the series’ other plot thread, the same serviceman is caught in a plane crash during World War II. I’m not sure just where this series is going. The captions in this issue refer to “the variance,” but we don’t yet know what that means.

RADIANT BLACK #7 (Image, 20210 – “Red,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Cherish Chen, [A] Darko Lafuente. This is Radiant Red’s origini story. Satomi and her boyfriend Owen seem to have an idyllic relationship, but Owen’s about to lose their house because of his compulsive gambling. When Satomi visits the bank to apply for a loan, she discovers that Owen has also forged her signature and drained her bank account, including her savings for school. Satomi confronts Owen about this, and Owen acts all pitiful and pathetic. But Satomi has just gotten her Radiant Red powers, so she robs a bank to get the money to save their house. This issue is an infuriating depiction of financial abuse and of what Reddit calls “setting yourself on fire to keep someone else warm.” Owen is an utterly worthless man, a gambler and a criminal who ruins Satomi’s life, commits serious crimes against her, and then evades responsibility for his actions by appealing to Satomi’s pity. Satomi should have reported him to the police, but instead she becomes a criminal herself for his sake. No matter what Owen does, Satomi not only forgives him, but ruins her own life on his behalf. It makes me furious to think that there really are men like this, and that they succeed in taking advantage of women.

MY LITTLE PONY/TRANSFORMERS; THE MAGIC OF CYBERTRON #4 (IDW, 2021) – “The Mightiest Dinobot,” [W] Ian Flynn, [A] Casey W. Collier. Spike and Smolder team up with Grimlock against Superion, a big Autobot composed of five smaller ones. Spike defeats Superion by getting its component parts to disagree with each other. “Finale,” [W] James Asmus, [A] Jack Lawrence. The final showdown between the good guys and Sombra/Scorponok. During this story the Mane Six become Transformers themselves, but we never get to see what Fluttershy can turn into. It is pretty awesome that Pinkie Pie can turn into a party cannon. The end of this story suggests that if there’s a third MLP/Transformers miniseries, its villains will be the Quintessons.

WITCHBLOOD #5 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matthew Erman, [A] Lisa Sterle. The witches visit the town of Sargasso, which is being drowned by a dead witch’s octopus familiar. This issue wasn’t as exciting as the last few issues.

STRANGE ADVENTURES #11 (DC, 2021) – “Another Job to Do,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads & Evan “Doc” Shaner. In flashback, Adam and Alanna team up with some giant owl creatures to defeat the last Pykkts on Rann. In the present, Adam and Alanna get in a big fight because of Adam’s attempt to betray Earth to the Pykkts. It ends with Alanna apparently shooting Adam with his own gun. To quote my own Facebook post: “I don’t know what Tom King’s original plans were for Strange Adventures, but it’s gone completely off the rails. I can’t believe the Pykkts are really so dangerous that Superman and Batman can’t save Alanna from them. Or that the Pykkts are completely evil — if that’s true, then why did Adam and Alanna try so hard to prevent Mr. Terrific from reading their language? Strange Adventures’s plot doesn’t even seem internally consistent. Also, Tom King has done even more damage to Adam and Alanna’s characters than Alan Moore did.”

SHADOW DOCTOR #5 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Now, Now, Very Now,” [W] Peter Calloway, [A] Georges Jeanty. Capone’s men barge in on Nathaniel while he’s sleeping with a white woman. That relates the title of the issue, which comes from Othello: “Even now, now, very now, an old black ram is tupping your white ewe.” Then another mobster tries to get Nathaniel to sabotage the cures he’s providing to Capone’s men. It’s quite a moral dilemma, but Nathaniel’s mind is made up for him when Capone asks what his girlfriend’s name is, and is relieved that she’s not Italian: “Can you imagine, a good Italian girl with a n*****?” Nathaniel goes straight to Eliot Ness to inform on Capone, and that’s the end of the series. This ending is rather abrupt; I’d have liked to know what happened to Nathaniel after that. Still, this is one of the best underrated comics of the year. I hope we see more of this writer.

MADE IN KOREA #3 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Holt, [A] George Schall. Chul tries to convince Jesse’s parents to give her back, and they refuse, but this only makes Jesse even more confused. Jesse helps her two “friends” raid a government armory, and they prepare to shoot up their school. This series is very cute but also surprisingly disturbing. I hope Jesse and her parents are going to be okay.

CEREBUS #66 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “The Thrill of Agony and the Victory of Defeat,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This issue includes the notorious scene where Cerebus throws a baby into a crowd. This was pretty controversial at the time, but it was actually far less offensive than the rape scene later in the series, let alone issue 186. Also, Cerebus, who is now the pope, declares that Tarim will destroy the world in two weeks unless eeveryone gives Cerebus their gold. Later, Cerebus and Posey encounter a mysterious floating light. This issue includes a preview of Spaced by Tom Stazer and John Williams, as well as some photos of Dave with a much younger Shelton Drum.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #591 (Marvel, 2009) – “Face Front Part 1: Together Again for the First Time,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Barry Kitson. Reed Richards hires Peter to accompany him and the FF to the Macroverse, a world that they visited together on a previous occasion. (That previous trip is depcited here for the first time; it wasn’t shown in any other comic.) Time in the Macroverse passes far faster than in the normal Marvel Universe, so on arriving there, the FF discover that the local society has completely changed, and also the FF and Spidey are worshipped as gods. Also, Johnny Storm realizes that he used to know Spidey’s secret identity, and that he’s been mindwiped into forgetting it. In this issue we can already see Dan Slott’s excellent understanding of how to write the FF.

DAREDEVIL #32 (Marvel, 2021) – “Lockdown Part 2,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Mike Hawthorne. Bullseye is killing people at random, but on the last page we discover that there’s not just one Bullseye, there are a bunch of them. Meanwhile, the prison warden sends some people to assassinate Matt, but of course they don’t succeed.

Early in August I went to Minneapolis to visit my parents. It was my first trip out of townsince January 2020. While in Minneapolis I went to Dreamhaven Books, a store I first visited more than twenty years ago, when they were in a different neighborhood. During last year’s George Floyd protests, someone tried to burn the store down, but luckily they failed. At the store I took a selfie with the actual book that was used in the arson attempt (https://www.instagram.com/p/CSSYnYZrIJl/). I also bought some comics:

CEREBUS #60 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “Sophia,” [W/A] Dave Sim. That’s actually just the title of the first vignette in the issue. There are several others that focus on other characters, including Sophia’s mom, the Regency Elf, and Theresa. The backup story is “Scratch” by an uncredited creator.

KANE #15 (Dancing Elephant, 1997) – “Stripes,” [W/A] Paul Grist. A rather complicated story about a cop named Max Anderson and his complicity in the crimes of his former partner Manny Tate. There’s also another plot thread where Kane and his partner are investigating some shootings. As usual, the best things about this issue are Paul Grist’s brilliant draftsmanship and page layouts.

A DISTANT SOIL #18 (Image, 1997) – “Ascension Part VI,” [W/A] Colleen Doran. Another issue that’s full of relationship drama. The main event this issue is that Rieken/Seren has just slept with Bast while mindlinked to Liana, and Liana was an unwilling spectator for the whole thing. Also, Rieken and Bast are part of a love triangle whose third corner is D’mer.

2000 AD #1643 (Rebellion, 2009) – I bought this and the following issue at Dreamhaven. These were only the second and third issues of 2000 AD that I’ve bought in person. All the other 300-plus progs in my collection were ordered online. Dredd: “High Spirits,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Dave Taylor. Dredd hunts an alien creature named Symberline. Dave Talyor’s artwork is very bizarre. Bob Byrne’s Twisted Tales: untitled, [W/A] Bob Byrne. A silent story in which a pregnant astronaut has an encounter with an octopus alien. Cradlegrave: untitled, [W] John Smith, [A] Edmund Bagwell. Some kind of horror story in a contemporary setting. There’s one really gruesome panel depicting a woman who’s turned into a sluglike creature. Sinister Dexter: “Wish You Were Here,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Anthony Williams & Rob Taylor. The two title characters get in a gunfight in a supermarket. Defoe: “Queen of the Zombies Part 4,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Leigh Gallagher. A horror story set in 17th-century England. This story has some striking black-and-white art.

More new comics:

BABYTEETH #19 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Father’s Daughter,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. Heather realizes that her mom is raising Satan’s kids in order to offer them to Satan. Heather shoots her mom dead, then gets killed herself. I no longer care very much about this series, and I’m only still reading it because I already started it.  

INFINITE FRONTIER #3 (DC, 2021) – “Infinite Incorporated,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Paul Pelletier et al. A bunch of confusing nonsense. I don’t remember ordering this, and I’m not sure why it was in my pull box. Heroes also put the next issue in my pull box, but I told them I didn’t want it.

BRZRKR #4 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Keanu Reeves & Matt Kindt, [A] Ron Garney. In the flashback, while Unute is away at war, his home village is overrun and his mother is killed. In the present, Unute’s interviewer, Diana, promises to finally tell him the truth. I wonder where this story is going.

MARVEL ACTION SPIDER-MAN #4 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sarah Graley & Stef Purenins, [A] Arianna Florean. Spidey encounters Screwball, who of course is none other than the social-media-obsessed girl from last issue. Meanwhile, Otto Octavius is almost ready to make his debut as Dr. Octopus. This series has been quite fun.

THE BLUE FLAME #3 (Vault, 2021) – “Weather Systems Failure,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Adam Gorham. Seven months after last issue, Sam is being a real jerk to his sister, who is forced to take care of him while she herself is heavily pregnant. Meanwhile, the other Sam continues his adventure in space. The version of Sam in the Milwaukee sequence is still trying to make a case for humanity, and he mentions the name Yarix. So we can tell that he remembers the events of the series’ other plot thread, but we don’t know whether that plot thread really happened, or whether Sam imagined it.

S.W.O.R.D. #7 (Marvel, 2021) – “Full Spectrum Diplomacy,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Stefano Caselli. In an installment of the Last Annihilation crossover, the SWORD characters team up with Hulkling against an invasion of Mindless Ones. Meanwhile, Storm has dinner with Dr. Doom. This issue isn’t bad, but it could have been an issue of Guardians of the Galaxy, except for the Storm/Dr. Doom sequence.

COMPASS #2 (Image, 2021) – “The Cauldron of Eternal Life,” [W] Robert McKenzie & David Walker, [A] Justin Greenwood. Shahidah discovers a sect of druids who are guarding the Cauldron of Arawn. This cauldron appears in a bunch of Welsh myths, notably the second branch of the Mabinogi, and was borrowed by Lloyd Alexander for the Chronicles of Prydain. Meanwhile, Hua is also searching for the same cauldron. The characters in this series are uninteresting, but I like how it draws upon lots of different medieval cultures.

MISTER MIRACLE: THE SOURCE OF FREEDOM #3 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] Brandon Easton, [A] Fico Ossio. Shilo defeats N’Vir Free in a fight, but then fights her again and loses. Meanwhile, Shilo’s manager tracks down Oberon, who claims to know what N’Vir’s goal is. This wasn’t the most interesting issue. It’s weird how Mother Box’s captions are in a font that looks like Leroy lettering.

SHADOW SERVICE #10 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Corin Howell. The demons instigate a riot at Westminster Abbey during the national Easter Sunday service. This issue was marginally more interesting than the last few, but if Shadow Service continues after this issue, I don’t plan on reading any more of it.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #30 (Marvel, 20210 – “Strange Magic Finale,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jacopo Camagni. Carol accidentally lets the Enchantress know that Ove is her future son. Carol fights Ove again, Rhodey shows up to help her, and Carol tricks Ove into drinking a potion that neutralizes his magic. There’s a backup story where Kamala Khan introduces Carol to some people who Carol unknowingly helped. It’s a bit of a sappy story, but it’s cute.

BLACK KNIGHT: CURSE OF THE EBONY BLADE #5 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Sergio Davila. Dane reveals that Jacks is his daughter, and is therefore capable of using the Ebony Blade. Jacks and Elsa defeat Mordred. Dane comes back to life, and he and Elsa decide to share the Black Knight identity. This series is okay, but I like Spurrier’s creator-owned work better than his Marvel work.

REPTIL #3 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Terry Blas, [A] Enid Balam. Reptil and his siblings fight Megalith, who turns out to be the Hag’s son. This series is preachy and overwritten, and Terry Blas’s version of Reptil has little in common with Christos Gage’s version. It feels as if Reptil was chosen as this series’ protagonist simply because he was a male Latino character who Marvel already owned. If this series didn’t have just one issue to go, I would drop it.

PROJECT: PATRON #4 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Experiments and Extinction,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Patrick Piazzalunga. The Luthor character announces his plan to use Woe to hold the world hostage. The Patron’s pilots decide to fight Woe by piloting the Patron collaboratively, rather than one at a time. I assume that issue 5 will be the conclusion.

BLACK WIDOW #9 (Marvel, 2021) – “I Am the Black Widow Part 3,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Elena Casagrande & Rafael De Latorre. Natasha and her allies prepare for their final confrontation with Apogee. Like many of Kelly Thompson’s solo series, Black Widow has turned into a team comic.

SUPERMAN AND THE AUTHORITY #1 (DC, 2021) – “All Our Tomorrows,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Mikel Janin. Superman asks Manchester Black for help saving the world. As in most Grant Morrison comics, there’s also lots of random weird stuff in this issue, like Kryptonian thought-beasts and John F. Kennedy. The Authority themselves don’t appear in this issue, or if they do, I didn’t notice.

ROBIN #4 (DC, 2021) – “Way of the Demon,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Jorge Corona. Damian spends some quality time with his grandfather Ra’s al Ghul, and then the other Robins show up to take him home. This series has been entertaining, though not spectacular.

HOME #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Julio Anta, [A] Anna Wieszczyk. Juan leaves his apartment to play soccer with some other kids, and some Karen calls the ICE agents on him. (As pointed out by the Comics Swipes Facebook page, this character is visually based on BBQ Becky.) Juan’s aunt summons his superpowered adult cousins to come rescue him. This series portrays ICE agents as bloodthirsty racists, and I can’t disagree with this portrayal.

2000 AD #1818 (Rebellion, 2013) – This was part of yet another lot that I ordered on eBay. I haven’t read any of the other issues in that lot, because I’m still working my way through some older 2000 ADs. Dredd: “Witch’s Promise,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] David Roach. Dredd gets involved in a battle between two rival witches. In a throwback to the story “Loonie’s Moon” in prog 192, this story shows advertisements being projected onto the moon. David Roach’s art looks better in black and white than in color. Savage: “Rise Like Lions Part 7,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Patrick Goddard. Savage leads the defense of London against a Volgan invasion. Patrick Goddard’s artwork looks like something out of this series’ early period. Ampney Crucis: “The Entropy Tango Part 7,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Simon Davis. Some kind of steampunk story. I don’t understand the plot, but Simon Davis’s painted art is excellent. The Red Seas: “Fire Across the Deep Part 7,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Steve Yeowell. I don’t understand this one either, except that it’s about a battle where Satan is commanding one of the armies. Strontium Dog: “Life and Death of Johnny Alpha Chapter 3: Mutant Spring,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny defends Milton Keynes’s mutant ghetto against an invasion.  

MODERN FRANKENSTEIN #4 (Heavy Metal, 2021) – untitled, [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Emma Vieceli. James continues to act like a creep; he makes fun of Elizabeth’s mother’s religion, and then he assassinates a woman who’s trying to expose his criminal activities. But Elizabeth continues to drink his Kool-Aid, until she discovers that he’s planning to experiment on their unborn child. This has been an entertaining horror comic.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #16 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Last Annihilation,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Juan Frigeri. Dormammu summons an army of Mindless Ones and sends them to attack the Skrull homeworld. This is part of a crossover with SWORD #7, and I wish I’d known I was supposed to read this issue before that one. As noted earlier, Al Ewing’s SWORD and Guardians of the Galaxy are hard to tell apart.

THE OLD GUARD: TALES THROUGH TIME #4 (Image, 2021) – “How to Make a Ghost Town,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Steve Lieber. Andromache falls in love with a black man named Achilles, but while she’s out of town fighting, Achilles is lynched by his white neighbors. Andromache comes back home and kills everybody in town. The answer to the title is “first you take a town, then fill it with ghosts.” “Love Letters,” [W] David F. Walker, [A] Matthew Clark. During the Civil War, an immortal saves some black people who are being held hostage by white soldiers.

HEAD LOPPER #16 (Image, 2021) – “Of Climbing and Falling,” [W/A] Andrew MacLean. Nergal and friends climb Mulgrid’s Stair and are given a list of the immortals that Nergal is supposed to kill. Then they go back to Martan, there’s a massive battle that ends with the evil king’s death, and the elf prince Tarf joins Nergal’s party. This was an excellent issue of Head Lopper, and I liked this story much better than the last one.

PROCTOR VALLEY ROAD #5 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Alex Child & Grant Morrison, [A] Naomi Franquiz. The girls finally defeat the Landlady and rescue the missing boys, and then they attend the Janis Joplin concert, as was their original goal. This series was not Grant Morrison’s worst, but it wasn’t their best either.

SHANG-CHI #3 (Marvel, 2021) – “Shang-Chi vs. the Marvel Universe Part 3,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Dike Ruan. Shang-Chi and his sidekicks travel to Ireland to look for another of the Five Weapons, Zhilan. Wolverine is also looking for Zhilan in order to bring her back to Krakoa. Fighting ensues. This is an okay issue, but this current storyline is too reliant on guest stars.

CATWOMAN #33 (DC, 2021) – “Desolation Land Part 1,” [W] Ram V, [A] Fernando Blanco. Alleytown is engulfed in rioting. Selina intervenes in the riots with the aid of a bunch of supervillains. At the end, Batman shows up to save Catwoman from drowning. I’m not enjoying Catwoman all that much, and I think it might be time to drop it.

GAMMA FLIGHT #2 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Al Ewing & Crystal Fraser, [A] Lan Medina. This issue is mostly a big fight scene. At the end, we learn that the Abomination was responsible for creating Stockpile.

KANE #16 (Dancing Elephant, 1997) – “Stripes Part Two” and “Chains,” [W/A] Paul Grist. More of the same confusing plot from last issue. The highlight of this issue is that during a carnival, the clown Mr. Floppsie Whoppsie locks himself in a chest so he can escape from it. But then the carnival is invaded by a sniper, everyone forgets about Floppsie, and on the back cover, we see that he’s still inside the chest.

TOMAHAWK #134 (DC, 1971) – Tomahawk: “The Rusty Ranger,” [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Frank Thorne.  Long after retirement, Tomahawk gets back in the saddle to fight a gang of criminals, which turns out to be led by an old companion of his. Firehair: “Contest,” [W/A] Joe Kubert. Tomahawk defends a Mandan village from a raid by drunk white soldiers. As in other Firehair stories, Kubert’s sympathies are with the Indians and not the white troops.

2000 AD #654 (Fleetway, 1989) – Chopper: “Song of the Surfer Part 1,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Colin MacNeil. After his old Aboriginal friend passes away, Chopper (from Dredd in Oz) decides to leave the outback and compete in the next Supersurf. Zenith: “Phase II 13: Children’s Hour,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. Tammy and Tiger Tom, whoever they are, set off the bomb to destroy the Lloigor. The name Lloigor comes from a Weird Tales story by August Derleth and Mark Schorer. Dredd: “Young Giant Part Four,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Dredd and Giant close in on Giant’s mother’s killer. The Dead Man: untitled, [W] John Wagner, [A] John Ridgway. I still don’t understand this one, but it includes some black people who talk in a stereotypical speech pattern.Slaine: “The Horned God Volume II Part 5,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Simon Bisley. A primitive creature called the Avanc invades the city of Falias. This chapter is very reminiscent of Beowulf, with Avanc as Grendel.

TALES FROM THE HEART #2 (Entropy, 1987) – “Later in the Daze,” [W] Cindy Goff & Rafael Nieves, [A] Seitu Hayden. Cathy Grant (i.e. Cindy Goff herself) starts her stint as a Peace Corps worker in a remote part of the Central African Republic. This story makes the CAR look like a really boring place that I wouldn’t want to visit, but I like how the characters depict the volunteers as naïve newcomers, rather than white saviors.

ARCHIE GIANT SERIES #479 (Archie, 1979) – “Power Struggle,” [W] Frank Doyle, [A] Dan DeCarlo, etc. In my closet at my parents’ house, there are a bunch of comic books that I acquired in high school, but never bothered to read. Most of these are early ‘90s junk, or freebies I got at conventions. I left these comics behind when I moved the rest of my collection out of that house, but on my latest visit to Minneapolis, I brought a few of them back with me, including this Archie Giant Series. Its theme is “Sabrina’s Christmas Magic.” It’s not very good, but at least it’s a quick read.

FLEENER #2 (Zongo, 1996) – “The Wisdom of the Canapés,” [W/A] Mary Fleener. A talking knife, Mr. Switch, runs an expensive restaurant with his employees: an eggplant, a tomato and a fish. Switch just has to work one more day before he goes on vacation, so of course all sorts of mayhem happens, ending with a gas explosion that destroys the restaurant. Fleener’s art and storytelling here are excellent, but I was hoping for more of her trademark use of cubism to express heightened emotional states.

HEPCATS #3 (Antarctic, 1997)-  “Snowblind Chapter 1: The Paviliions of Memory,” [W/A] Martin Wagner. This is originally from eight years earlier, which might explain why it feels amateurish. Martin Wagner’s draftsmanship is very detailed, but his story is just a bunch of boring slice-of-life stuff. Martin Wagner was as toxic and arrogant as Dave Sim, but he lacked Sim’s endurance or work ethic, and he never managed to fulfill his ambitious plans for Hepcats. This issue includes a guest list for the 1997 Heroes Con.

2000 AD #691 (Fleetway, 1990) – Dredd: “Necropolis 18,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Cadet Giant and three other young judges rescue a wounded Anderson. Meanwhile, Dredd and former Chief Judge McGruder head back to town. McGruder looks like a man, but is in fact a woman with a beard. Harlem Heroes: untitled, [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Steve Dillon. The Harlem Heroes try to escape from an airport. This story has no apparent connection to the previous version of Harlem Heroes, and it’s not very good either. Slaine: “The Horned God Vol. III Part 4,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Simon Bisley. The land of Tir na nOg is flooding, and Slaine has to muster his armies for the final battle with the Lord Weird Slough Feg. By custom, Slaine has to execute the last person to arrive at the muster, which turns out to be his wife Niamh, and the chapter ends as he’s about to behead her. Again, Simon Bisley’s art here is perhaps his best ever. Medivac 318: “Arcturus Part 9,” [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Nigel Dobbyn. Verity’s crew tries to rescue a captured catlike alien. Dry Run: untitled, [W] Tise Vahimagi, [A] Kev Hopgood. Some sort of a borin postapocalyptic story. Tise Vahimagi was Welsh, though his name sounds Finnish.

VELVET #3 (Image, 2014) – “Before the Living End Part Three,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Steve Epting. Velvet heads to Communist-era Belgrade to kidnap/rescue Marina, the mistress of her quarry, X-14. Velvet finds Marina, but then Marina double-crosses her. This is a very well-crafted spy story. I still wonder if Velvet started out as a rejected pitch for Black Widow. In a 2013 CBR interview about Velvet, Brubaker says that part of his inspiration for Velvet was that “Black Widow was almost always more interesting to write than any character she was in a book with.” https://www.cbr.com/ed-brubaker-sets-loose-velvet/

BATMAN #83 (DC, 2020) – “City of Bane Part 3,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mikel Janin. This issue begins by quoting Longfellow’s “The Children’s Hour,” a really stupid poem. Then for some reason Alfred sacrifices himself on Batman’s behalf, and most of the issue consists of Alfred’s farewell letter to Bruce. At the end, Batman confronts the resurrected Thomas Wayne.

WONDER WOMAN #113 (DC, 1996) – “Are You Out of Your Minds?”, [W/A] John Byrne. Cassie Sandsmark, the new Wonder Woman, fights a villain called Decay. Then she babysits for Sugar and Spike. There are cute moments in this issue, but Byrne writes way too much dialogue, and his art isn’t as good as it used to be.

BARBIE #45 (Marvel, 1994) – “Practice Makes Perfect,” [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Barb Rausch. Skipper plays in an important baseball game, but she’s saddled with an apathetic teammate who just happens to be the mayor’s daughter. There actually is an interesting conflict in this issue, since the mayor threatens to fire Barbie as the coach if she doesn’t let his daughter start, but the conflict resolves itself with no real drama. This series could have been called Skipper instead of Barbie because most of the stories revolve around Skipper. This is because Skipper was allowed to make mistakes and have disagreements, and Barbie wasn’t.

KATY KEENE #21 (Archie, 1987) – “The Surprise,” [W] Susan S. Berkley, [A] John S. Lucas. A bunch of pretty boring stories, with the gimmick that all the characters’ costumes are designed by readers. This is the only Katy Keene comic I’ve read, unless you count Vicki Valentine, which is a Katy Keene fan comic. In the advice column, a girl complains that a classmate is discriminating against her because she’s Korean, and the columnist correctly instructs her to tell an adult.

FLEENER #3 (Zongo, 1999) – “The Wisdom of the Canapés in ‘Along Come Folk!’”, [W/A] Mary Fleener. While waiting for his restaurant to be rebuilt, Switch goes on vacation to Appalachia. There he meets a tribe of hillbillies with bizarre deformed features, and also, the hotel where he’s staying is haunted. This is the last issue of Fleener, and it ends on a cliffhanger that was never resolved. I would have liked to know what happened next.

2000 AD #692 (Fleetway, 1990) – Dredd: as above. The kids manage to save Anderson’s life, and Dredd and McGruder link up with them. Harlem Heroes: as above. More boring action sequences. Mike Fleisher was not really suited to 2000 AD. Slaine: as above. To the dismay of some of his allies, Slaine decides to abolish the sacrificial custom and not sacrifice anyone. Then Slaine asks Medb for assistance against Slough Feg, and there are some beautiful illustrations depicting Medb’s backstory. Medb is named after a legendary queen of Connacht who is one of the world’s greatest mythological villains. Slough Feg’s dialogue is written to sound like ancient Irish poetry. Medivac 318: as above. More of the rescue attempt. I like Medvac 318 but I don’t understand this story arc. Dry Run: as above. Again I don’t know what’s going on here.

ARCHIE GIANT SERIES #218 (Archie, 1974) – “Silent Night?”, [W/A] Al Hartley. A bunch of holiday-themed stories, some of them with explicit Christian elements. The Christian proselytizing in these stories is probably due to Al Hartley’s influence. One of the stories, “The Last Christmas,” is a rather sad ghost story about a little boy who died on Christmas Eve. I suspect this story may be by Bob Bolling, but I can’t confirm or deny this.

CEREBUS #67 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “Day of Greatness / Age of Consent,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This issue is tedious to read because it contaiins some very long captions in cursive. Cerebus continues extorting the people of Iest out of their money, while Boobah follows him around and transcribes everything he says, although it’s hinted that Cerebus is making the transcript himself. There are also some scenes with Sophia, Weisshaupt and other characters.

HEROES REBORN: YOUNG SQUADRON #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “Truth at All Costs,” [W] Jim Zub, [A] Steven Cummings. I declined to order this when it came out, since I don’t much like Jim Zub’s writing, but I bought it from a cheap box at the latest convention. I was right not to pay full price for it. This issue introduces the Heroes Reborn versions of Miles Morales, Kamala Khan and Sam Alexander. It’s not very good, and it includes an unnecessary Deadpool appearance.

BARBIE #48 (Marvel, 1994) – “The Fire That Never Went Out,” [W] Trina Robbins, [A] Mario Capaldi. Barbie and Skipper visit an old English castle that has a custom of never letting the fire go out. They discover that the reason for the custom is because in the 17th century, the owners hid their treasure under the fireplace so Cromwell’s troops wouldn’t get it. There’s also another story where Barbie helps reunite two long-separated lovers. This issue is okay but not thrilling.

ROBIN, SON OF BATMAN #2 (DC, 2015) – “Year of Blood,” [W/A] Patrick Gleason. We begin with a flashback to Damian’s training with Talia. Then Damian and his giant dragon-bat Goliath fight a giant Mesoamerican stone monster with the aid of Nobody. This is a really fun issue, though its plot is hard to understand at first. Patrick Gleason is Damian Wayne’s defining artist.

SCOUT: WAR SHAMAN #16 (Eclipse, 1989) – “One Last Ride on the Wall of Death,” [W/A] Tim Truman. I believe the title is an indirect reference to a Richard and Linda Thompson song.  Scout finally gets killed in a confrontation with Rosa Winter, but his two sons survive. His older son is adopted by some sort of priest, and his younger son finds and puts on his bandanna. This is a reasonably satisfying conclusion to the series. There’s also a backup story written by Beau Smith.

ACTION COMICS #776 (DC, 2001) – “Return to Krypton Part Four: Escape from Krypton,” [W] Joe Kelly, [A] Kano. Superman teams up with his father Jor-El against General Zod. I didn’t understand this issue, though it probably would have been a touching story if I knew the context.

I went back to Heroes on August 14 for FCBD, and also to pick up my new comics. On this trip I had lunch at Bang Bang Burgers.

WYND #9 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. Oakley tries to convince Wynd to run away, but he refuses. After a lot of talk between various characters,  the vampires invade the faerie city, and Wynd’s love interest, Thorn, is apparently killed. Wynd has become one of my favorite current comics.

RUNAWAYS #38 (Marvel, 2021) – “Come Away with Me Pt. IV,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Andres Genolet. Chase goes into the future with the older Gert, and Karolina returns to Majesdane for healing. On the last two pages, we see Alex Wilder again, and then Xavin appears for the first time in Rowell’s run. These pages indicate that Rowell had further plans for the series, but sadly those plans will not be realized, because this is the last issue. Runaways was my favorite remaining Marvel title after Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel ended, and I’m sad it’s gone.

THE ME YOU LOVE IN THE DARK #1 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. A new series from the creators of Middlewest. A young artist, Ro Meadows, buys a new house where she tries to work on paintings for her upcoming show, but she finds herself unable to get any work done. Also, the house is haunted. Young and Corona’s depiction of artist’s block is convincing, but otherwise I’m not sure where this series is going.  

SEVEN SECRETS #11 (Boom!, 2021) – untitlde, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. Part of the team heads to Switzerland, where Canto (the masked guy) betrays his teammates and gives the briefcase to Amon. Caspar and Eva finish with the Queen and Boris Johnson and head to Thailand. Seven Secrets is lacking in serious themes or social commentary, but it’s very entertaining.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #18 (Image, 2021) – “Me and My Monster Part Three,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. We meet Gary Slaughter, who runs the House of Slaughter’s training grounds, and Erica heads into his barn for her test. Gary is dismayed to realize that Erica has been sent to fight a super-powerful oscuratype, rather than a weak one, because she’s going to be killed. Of course we know already that Erica survives.

THE UNBELIEVABLE UNTEENS #1 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Tyler Crook. This is the Black Hammer version of X-Men, but it actually starts with a framing sequence about a comic book artist, Jane Ito. This sequence is obviously based on the writer and artist’s actual experiences, and it shows how Jane’s job is precarious and not very lucrative. After attending a convention, she buys some ramen for dinner and then stays up late drawing. Oh, and then she’s visited by a talking corpse, who tells her that she’s really a character in her own comic. The pages from Jane’s comic are depicted with much brighter coloring than the rest of the issue.

MAMO #2 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Sas Milledge. Jo and Orla have breakfast with Jo’s family, then head out to track down the witch Mamo. This is another beautiful issue with gorgeous art and coloring. A particular highlight is the breakfast scene. The characters are eating tuyo, or dried fish with rice and vinegar, which I guess is a common Filipino dish. Mamo’s Filipino cultural influences are easy to miss if you don’t know they’re there.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #101 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Toni Kuusisto. The Knights of Harmony invade Canterlot, and the Mane Six and the Pillars lead the defense. This is all leading up to the epic season finale in #102, which, sadly, is also the last issue.

THE SIX SIDEKICKS OF TRIGGER KEATON #3 (Image, 2021) – “Spaceboat 3030,” [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Chris Schweizer. The other sidekicks meet Buffy Sainte-Marie, Keaton’s only female sidekick, and then she beats up a bunch of guys despite being super drunk. This is another hilarious issue. Kyle Starks’s dialogue is hilarious, especially the things Buffy says when she gets drunk: “Yay I dids it I wons.”

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #29 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Clone Saga Fallout,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Chris Allen. Whlie still recovering from the traumatic events of the previous storyline, Miles has to write an essay for an essay contest. He decides to use his experiences as Spider-Man as inspiration. Also, Miles reconciles with Ganke, who’s already broken up with Barbara, and he gets a new costume.

EVE #4 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Jo Mi-Gyeong. In a conversation with her doppelganger, Eve learns that she’s one of six clones, all of them created in order to recover the seed vault. Our Eve has skills that the previous one doesn’t, suggesting that she might actually succeed – but if she fails, there are no more chances. This series has been extremely grim, but this issue does include a cute hair-braiding scene.

THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE #3 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Alvaro Martinez Bueno. Sam, the photographer, tries to unravel the mystery of the statues surrounding the house. Then he decides that the statues are meaningless, and that Walter just created the statues in order to give his friends something to do. What Sam fails to discover is that his and Walter’s mutual friend, Reg, is held captive in the building at the end of the statues’ trail. This was a fascinating issue. It makes me very curious to learn more about the house’s mysteries.

STILLWATER #9 (Image, 2021) – “A Messy Life,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramon Perez. Daniel meets the other Stillwater kids, including one who’s stuck as a newborn baby. Then the two plotlines from the last two issues converge: Ted’s old Marine comrades supplant him and the Judge in their control of the city, and the kids apparently choose to side with the Marines and against Daniel and Tanya. This is a very gripping and intense story.

GEIGER #5 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Gary Frank. The kids and Geiger are taken to an underground complex that houses the remnants of the United States. But while there, the boy, Henry, is diagnosed with leukemia, and by law, he has to be executed. Geiger is not willing to tolerate that, and he prepares to rescue Henry, but the government activates a robot to track Geiger down. I’m still enjoying this series more than I expected to.  

BUNNY MASK #3 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Stab It a Little,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Andrea Mutti. Tyler and Bee manage to avoid being killed in a home invasion, then Tyler and the sheriff share their stories about the Snitch. The bunny-masked creature continues to cause mayhem. I don’t have as much to say about this issue as about the last two, but this is a really good horror comic.

DEFENDERS #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “Eighth Cosmos: The Magician,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Javier Rodriguez. The Masked Raider, from Marvel Comics #1000 and #1001, asks Dr. Strange to form a new Defenders team. Strange summons the Silver Surfer, the Harpy, and Cloud, and they head back in time to the previous universe, where the planet of Taa is about to be destroyed by Omnimax. Ewing and Rodriguez are Marvel’s best current writer and artist, and this series lives up to its creative team. Ewing’s plot is interesting, and Rodriguez’s page layouts are spectacular. I just wish this was an ongoing and not a miniseries.

NOT ALL ROBOTS #1 (AWA, 2021) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mike Deodato Jr. In a grim postapocalyptic future, robots are doing all the work, and humans are an endangered species. While robots are necessary for society to exist, they’re also terrifyingly prone to violence. As the title of this comic indicates, it uses robot/human relations as an analogy for male-female relations. The robots in this comic reproduce all the classic stereotypes about men – like, because the robots are the breadwinners, their human housemates are supposed to forgive their abuse and emotional unavailability. Not All Robots is yet another of Mark Russell’s clever satires.

SNELSON: COMEDY IS DYING #1 (Ahoy, 2021) – “What’s the Deal with Road Trips?”, [W] Paul Constant, [A] Fred Harper. An old comedian goes on tour with some younger ones. Just after being told he might have cancer, he decides to start reusing all his old material that’s no longer considered politically correct. This series has an interesting premise about the intersection of comedy and cancel culture, but Snelson #1 wastes a lot of space on irrelevant material, including a gratuitous sex scene.

BATMAN AND ROBIN AND HOWARD/AMETHYST: PRINCESS OF GEMWORLD SPECIAL EDITOIN FLIPBOOK (FCBD) 1 (DC ,2021) – Amethyst: untitled, [W] Shannon Hale & Dean Hale, [A] Asiah Fulmore. Princess Amethyst is exiled to Earth with her caretaker Citrina so she can attend middle school. This is DC’s third Amethyst revival in the past decade, not counting the YouTube series, and it’s not the same as any previous take on the character, but it’s fun. I especially like all of Amethyst’s little brother’s misconceptions about Earth. Batman and Robin and Howard: untitled, [W/A] Jeffrey Brown. Bruce Wayne forces Damian to attend middle school. Jeffrey Brown started out as an autobio cartoonist, but thanks to the success of his Darth Vader and Son, he’s pivoted to doing graphic novels for kids. I don’t want to suggest that kids’ comics are less valuable than adult comics – the whole point of my current project is to argue the exact opposite – but I like Jeffrey Brown’s kids’ comics far less than his autobio comics, and I wish he would do more stuff like A Matter of Life.

ALLERGIC (Scholastic, 2021) – untitled, [W] Megan Wagner Lloyd, [A] Michelle Mee Nuter. Middle schooler Maggie has always wanted a dog, but when she finally gets one, she discovers she’s severely allergic to fur. Allergic looks like yet another triumph for Scholastic. Lloyd and Nutter succeed in conveying Maggie’s disappointment at not being able to get a dog, as well as her feelings of loneliness as the oldest child.

BITTER ROOT #15 (Image, 2021) – “Legacy Part Five,” [W] David F. Walker & Chuck Brown, [A] Sanford Greene. There are a number of scenes depicting the Sangeryes’ battle against the Jinoo in 1926, and then we jump ahead to 1939, when the Sangeryes raid a German death camp. This is the last issue of this storyline, but not of Bitter Root as a whole, which is good because there’s no reason the series needs to end here. This issue includes an essay by my friend Rebecca Wanzo, in which she touches on the arguments of her book The Content of Our Caricature.

SPIDER-MAN: SPIDER’S SHADOW #5 (Marvel, 2021) – “Finale,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Pasqual Ferry. The symbiote is defeated, but at the cost of Reed Richards’s life. Spidey is invited to join the FF to replace him. This is a powerful conclusion. In most What If? stories, characters die at the drop of a hat, but Reed’s death in this issue has a real impact. This miniseries was one of the best What If?s ever.

WONDER WOMAN #777 (DC, 2021) – “Afterworlds Part 8,” [W]  Michael W. Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Emanuela Lupacchino. Diana and Deadman visit a gender-swapped parallel world, and Diana fights her male equivalent Wonder Man, a villainous MRA. I’m surprised DC is allowed to use the name Wonder Man. See https://www.cbr.com/avengers-wonder-man-dc-marvel-lawsuit-threaten/, plus the other article linked at the bottom, for more on the history of the name Wonder Man. Anyway, it’s too bad that we don’t get to see any more of this Earth besides its superheroes. I’d like to know more about the kind of world that could produce a female Superman and Batman.

THE GOOD ASIAN #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Alexandre Tefenkgi. Edison and Frankie find Donnie Yan’s body, then they fight a man wearing a mask, who turns out to be white and not Asian, and Frankie gets his throat cut. That means America’s Chinatowns are about to explode in race riots. This issue includes more fascinating information about the history of Chinese immigration to America. I’d never heard of the Chinese Six Companies before.

THE DREAMING: WAKING HOURS #12 (DC, 2021) – “The Faerie King Finale,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nick Robles. After the Faerie plot is resolved, Dream comes to collect Ruin. Heather rebuffs him by beginning to recite Roderick Burgess’s spell from Sandman #1. Appropriately, one of the things Heather doesn’t say is “I give you a name, and the name is lost.” And they all live happily ever after. A copy of Shakespeare’s Tempest appears on the last page, a throwback to Sandman #75. Sadly this is the last issue. I wonder what G. Willow Wilson will write next.

FANTASTIC FOUR: LIFE STORY #3 (Marvel, 2021) – “The ‘80s,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Sean Izaakse. Reed and a scientist named Jose Santini collaborate on Reagan’s SDI system. Dr. Santini is in fact the Mad Thinker (and he calls himself that, which is a mistake – he’s supposed to just call himself the Thinker), and his SDI system leads to a near nuclear war between the US and the USSR. Johnny sacrifices his life to destroy the last nuclear missile. Meanwhile, Reed and Sue’s divorce is finalized. So far there’s no Valeria in this continuity. I was hoping she would be Sue and Namor’s child.

HARDWARE SEASON ONE #1 (Milestone, 2021) – “Angry Black Man,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Denys Cowan. This is disappointing; it’s basically the same plot as the original Hardware #1, and it also doesn’t make much sense if you haven’t read Milestone Returns #0, unless you’re already familiar with the Milestone universe. I’m going to continue reading this series for now, but I hope it improves.

TEEN TITANS: BEAST BOY LOVES RAVEN SPECIAL EDITION (FCBD) #1 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] Kami Garcia, [A] Gabriel Picolo. While on the run from Trigon, Raven travels to Memphis where she runs into Beast Boy. This is a promising start, and it makes me kind of want to read the graphic novel it’s excerpted from. Gar and Raven seem like a strange romantic pairing to me, but I guess they were often depicted as a potential couple in the cartoons. See https://www.ign.com/articles/teen-titans-team-on-finally-making-beast-boy-raven-a-couple for more on this.

ARCHIE: PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE FUN! FCBD EDITION #1 (Archie, 20210 – “Crisis on the Riverdale Earths,” [W] Bill Golliher, [A] Pat Kennedy & Tim Kennedy. Archie teams up with a bunch of his alternate-dimensional counterparts against the Mad Dr. Doom and Chester. This was a tedious story, although it’s fun to see Mad Dr. Doom again. “Happy Archieversary!”, [W] Angelo DeCesare, [A] Pat Kennedy & Tim Kennedy. An even more boring story.

RENT-A-(REALLY SHY!)-GIRLFRIEND #1 (Kodansha, 20210 – untitled, [W/A] Reiji Miyajima. A shy girl goes to a bakery to order a donut. A 26-page preview of a manga is too short to form any opinions about it, but this manga didn’t impress me too much. There’s also an even shorter preview of a different series.

JENNY ZERO #4 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Dave Dwonch & Brockton McKinney, [A] Magenta King. Jenny fights a giant robot, and the series ends on a cliffhanger that suggests a possible sequel. Jenny Zero was a frankly bad miniseries, and I regret ordering it.

CRUSH & LOBO #3 (DC, 2021) – “Painful Childhood or Whatever,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Amancay Nahuelpan. Crush visits Lobo in prison, but he tricks the prison’s computers into thinking he’s Crush and she’s him, so Crush languishes in prison while Lobo strolls out. A funny subplot in this issue is the praying mantis inmate whose mom ate his dad’s head. Later in the issue, his own head is eaten by his son.

ZOM 100: BUCKET LIST OF THE DEAD FCBD 2021 EDITION – untitled, [W] Haro Aso, [A] Kotaro Takata. When Japan is overtaken by a zombie apocalypse, a salaryman decides it’s the perfect time to do everything he always wanted to do. This issue also includes a preview of Demon Slayer, a manga I already wanted to read.

SCHOOL FOR EXTRATERRESTRIAL GIRLS FCBD (Papercutz, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Jamie Noguchi. Some girls from the namesake school head to their new home at the School for Extraterrestrial Boys. Jeremy Whitley is one of my favorite current writers, but I haven’t read the first volume of this series. This FCBD issue gives sufficient context to allow me to understand what’s going on, and it makes me want to read both volumes. I don’t like the artwork in this comic as much as the art in Princeless, but Jeremy writes it in a similar style to Princeless or Unstoppable Wasp.

INKBLOT #11 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Rusty Gladd, [A] Emma Kubert. This story takes place even earlier than #5, at the very start of the Seeker’s family’s lives, even earlier than issue 5. At this point the youngest, Inos, is a toddler, and thanks to MOW.’s meddling, his older brother has to save him from a giant snow dinosaur. Meanwhile, MOW. spends the entire issue chasing an insect.

CAMPISI: THE DRAGON INCIDENT #1 (Aftershock, 2021) – “A Fuggin’ Dragon,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Marco Locati. Like Kaiju Score, Campisi is a gangster story set in a world where giant monsters are a normal part of life. Except the monsters in this series are dragons instead of kaiju. Sonny Campisi is a mob enforcer for the neighborhood of Green Village. While Sonny is dealing with some mob drama, a dragon appears in the neighborhood and demands that the people surrender a certain Franceso [sic] Moretti, a descendant of the dragon’s ancient enemy. This looks like another fun series. This issue ends with a fourth-grader’s report on the history of dragons.

BATMAN SPECIAL EDITION (FCBD) #1 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Jorge Jimenez. I don’t understand this story, and it’s a dead letter anyway, since Tynion is leaving Batman. This issue also has a preview of I Am Batman, a series I decided not to read – because it was a sequel to Next Batman: Second Son, which I was equally unable to understand.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2021: AVENGERS/HULK #1 (Marvel, 2021) – Avengers: “The Tower at the Center of Everything,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Iban Coello. A preview of an epic story with a multiversal scope. Jason Aaron’s Avengers has never felt like the Avengers to me. Hulk: “Ignition,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Ryan Ottley. The Hulk fights MODOK. I fear that Donny Cates’s Hulk will be a massive step down in quality from Al Ewing’s Hulk.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2021: SPIDER-MAN/VENOM #1 (Marvel, 2021) – Spider-Man: “Test-Drive,” [W] Zeb Wells, [A] Patrick Gleason. Ben Reilly gets a new Spider-Man costume. I do plan to read the new post-Nick-Spencer Spider-Man, but only the issues written by Kelly Thompson. Venom: “Like Father, Like Son,” [W] Ram V & Al Ewing, [A] Bryan Hitch. Not very interesting, despite the all-star creative team.

SUICIDE SQUID SPECIAL EDITION (FCBD) #1 (DC, 2021) – Suicide Squad: untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Scott Kolins. A King Shark solo story. It’s only average, but it’s smart of DC to capitalize on King Shark’s current popularity. Joker: untitled, [W] Brian Azzarello, [A] Alex Maleev. I have no interest in Azzarello’s writing, but this story’s artwork is a nostalgic reminder of Maleev’s work on Daredevil.

ORDINARY GODS #2 (Image, 2021) – “Black Light,” [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Felipe Watanabe. Christopher wakes up on a private island, where some of the other gods’ incarnations tell him about the series’ backstory. There’s also a flashback to the battle of Tsaritsyn (later Stalingrad, then Volgograd) during the Russian Civil War. I keep forgetting what this series is about, but I like how the dog is also a divine incarnation.  

COPRA #41 (Copra, 2021) – “Nurture Apparatus” and “Tresser Who?”, [W/A] Michel Fiffe. The members of Copra deal with the aftermath of the Ochizon battle, and there’s also a monologue by Tresser, i.e. Nemesis. This issue has some beautiful coloring that appears to be in paint or colored pencil.

THE WORST DUDES #3 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Aubrey Sitterson, [A] Tony Gregori. The protagonists continue following Zephyr Monsoon’s trail, and they encounter some cop fetishists and some robots in caveman clothing (which reminds me of the Caveman Robot guys who used to attend Comic-Con). The Worst Dudes has a similar style of humor to Curse Words or Grumble, though I’m not sure it’s as good as either of them.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #31 (Marvel, 2021) – “Vacation, All I Never Wanted,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. Carol and Rhodey are leaving for a vacation, but then Lauri-Ell appears and summons them to Throneworld II to fight a giant sludge monster. Afterward, Carol and Rhodey have to spend 72 hours in quarantine, which they enjoy just as much as the vacation they’d been going to take. On the last page we see that the sludge monster was created by an unidentified villain.

IMMORTAL HULK #49 (Marvel, 2021) – “All Ye Who Enter Here,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. This issue consists entirely of full-page splashes with narrative captions in Jackie’s voice. Jackie’s perspective is interesting because she’s not used to characters like the Avengers or the FF; she perceives them the way a normal person would. The plot is that the Hulk and his companions invade the Baxter Building and convince the FF to let Hulk take a portal to the Realm Below. The Hulk is going to go through the portal alone, but Jackie follows him. In terms of literary quality, Immortal Hulk is the best Marvel comic of at least the past decade, and it’s a shame that it has to end.

THE SILVER COIN #5 (Image, 2021) – “Covenant,” [W/A] Michael Walsh. In colonial New England, witch hunter Cotton Dudley sentences Rebekah Goode to be hanged for witchcraft. As Rebekah dies, she realizes that her friend accepted a coin as payment for informing her, and she pronounces a curse on the coin. That explains where the coin came from. This story is just a little trite, but it’s not bad for a writer who’s better known as an artist. Until reading this issue I didn’t realize that Michael Walsh was the primary creator of this series.

BLACK’S MYTH #2 (Ahoy, 2021) – untitled, [W] Eric Palicki, [A] Wendell Cavalcanti. Strummer sleeps with a female client, then she and Ben go to Rainsford Black’s mansion and meet his servants, the Minotaur and Galatea. And we get some clues to why two of Rainsford’s thirty silver bullets are missing. (The photo on page 5, panel 5 shows 29 bullets, not 28; this must be an error in the art.) I liked this issue, although I had to reread issue 1 in order to understand it. A funny moment is when the minotaur hits his horns on the doorframe.

ON TYRANNY #1 (Ten Speed, 2021) – untitled, [W] Timothy Snyder, [A] Nora Krug. An adaptation of a nonfiction book. This comic includes so much text that Torsten Adair called it “not really comics” (https://www.comicsbeat.com/free-comic-book-day-2021-silver-teen-titles/). The artwork is more illustrative than narrative. It is an interesting book, though, and there are places where the images are used quite effectively – especially on the last page, which quotes Vaclav Havel’s question about what happens if no one plays the game.

DAREDEVIL #33 (Marvel, 2021) – “Lockdown Part 3,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Checchetto. We start with an explanation of where all the Bullseye clones came from. Then Elektra fights the Bullesyes until Spider-Man and Iron Man show up to save her. Meanwhile, Matt leads a revolt and takes over the prison. It’s too bad that Chip Zdarsky’s Daredevil run is ending just as I’m getting into it.

2000 AD #693 (Fleetway, 1990) – Dredd: “Necropolis Part 20,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Anderson explains that to stop the Sisters of Death, the progenitors of the Dark Judges, Dredd has to kill the psi-judge Kit Agee. Harlem Heroes: untitled, [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Simon Jacob. The Heroes take off in a plane, but the engine catches on fire. Slaine: “The Horned God Volume III Part 6,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Simon Bisley. Slaine and Slough Feg’s armies engage in an epic battle. Slough Feg captures Slaine and prepares to kill him. This chapter has some more stunning art, including a half-page image of Slaine on horseback that recalls Frazetta’s Death Dealer. Medivac 318: “Arcturus Part 11,” [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Nigel Dobbyn. Verity helps rescue the captured cat dude from Arcturus. Dry Run: “Part 6,” [W] Tise Vahimagi, [A] Kev Hopgood. I still don’t understand what this storyline is about.

CANTO III: LIONHEARTED #2 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. After fighting a giant mechanical kraken, Canto and Aulaura meet a dwarf named Iggle, and he gives them some clues to the slavers’ location. Iggle is a cute character.

THE WRONG EARTH: NIGHT & DAY #6 (Ahoy, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Jamal Igle. By this point I think I finally get which Dragonfly is which. Just as the Dragonflies are about to return to their respective Earths, Man-Dragonfly’s partner Nightsting destroys all the mirrors, and all the characters are stuck on the worlds where they currently are. This has interseting consequences for both Earths Alpha and Omega. This ending implies that a fourth Wrong Earth series is forthcoming.

COMMANDERS IN CRISIS #11 (Image, 2021) – “The Action of Desperation,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Davide Tinto. The heroes continue fighting the Extinction Society, until the Originator casts the spell “omnisapienteleunification,’ causing everyone on earth to form a uni-mind. That leaves just one more issue. At the Comics Studies Society conference last month, Christy Knopf from SUNY Cortland gave a paper about Commanders in Crisis. I only caught the tail end of that paper, and I’m curious to see what she said.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY: SPACE PIRATE CAPTAIN HARLOCK (Ablaze, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Jérôme Alquié. A French adaptation of a classic Japanese comic. Its plot is convoluted and its artwork is busy, but it is pretty intriguing. However, I would rather read the original Captain Harlock manga (of which I already have the first volume), rather than this adaptation. The character of Professor Reiji in this comic is based on Leiji Matsumoto himself.

CHALLENGE OF THE SUPER SONS #5 (DC, 2021) – “What’s Kraken?”, [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Max Raynor & Evan Stanley. The kids save Aquaman, but then they discover that they themselves are the next heroes on the scroll. In a flashback, we see how the kids allied themselves with Rora. The artwork in the flashback sequence is better than in the main story. This series is a bit formulaic, and I wish it was narrated in chronological order (that is, in the order in which Jon and Damian experienced the events).

DUNGEON FCBD 2021 (NBM, 2021) – untitled, [W] Joann Sfar & Lewis Trondheim, [A] Boulet. A preview of the new seventh volume of Donjon Zenith. I haven’t read Dungeon since NBM first published it in English, back in 2002 and 2003. I do have a few volumes of it, but  I haven’t read them. Returning to it now gives me some nice memories. The plot of this installment is that Herbert, Marvin and Isis (who’s pregnant) have to find a magic artifact to save the dungeon. Also, Marvin meets a new love interest.

RED ROOM: THE ANTISOCIAL NETWORK #3 (Fantagraphics, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Ed Piskor. Hacker Levee Turks has just gotten out of prison, where he was imprisoned for creating the encryption software that made the Red Rooms possible, though it was really his wife Rita who created it. Levee and Rita are horrified to discover what their software is being used for. This story was inspired by the actual case of the darknet market Silk Road. Piskor’s artwork in this issue is, well, number one, it’s extremely gross, but number two, it’s heavily influenced by Liefeld. It’s ironic how Liefeld’s own artwork has not evolved at all since the ‘80s, yet he’s inspired artists like Piskor who have taken his style in new directions.

SWAMP THING #6 (DC, 2021) – “In My Infancy,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. The Suicide Squad travels to Kaziranga to track down Levi Kamei, who’s visiting his brother and his father, a tribal council member. This issue made me wonder if Levi is supposed to be from an indigenous Northeast Indian tribe. That’s what the term “tribal council” suggests, and the actual Kaziranga is partly in the Karbi Anglong autonomous area of Assam. Also, Northeast Indian tribal people are often Christian, which would explain the names Jacob and Levi, and the surname Kamei seems to be associated with Naga people.

ORCS IN SPACE #3 (Oni, 2021) – untitled, [W] Justin Roiland et al, [A] François Vigneault. The orcs manage to defeat the rats, even though they spend the entire issue tied to each other. This series doesn’t appeal to me at all, and this is the last issue I’ll be getting.

2000 AD #694 (Fleetway, 1990) – Dredd: as above. Dredd and the cadets steal a ship and head to Kit’s apartment. Harlem Heroes: as above. The plane crashes, and the character who’s piloting it gets blown up, but the others survive. Slaine: as above. Slaine kills Slough Feg with his last-resort weapon, the Gae Bolg, which is also the ultimate weapon of Cu Chulainn. In a gruesome half-page panel, Slough Feg is eaten by “the bloody maggot, Crom Cruach.” Tir na nOg sinks under the sea. Medivac 318: as above. Verity and her partner are given a slap-on-the-wrist “punishment” for stealing their own ambulance. Dry Run: as above. I still don’t understand this series.

THE DEMON #10 (DC, 1973) – “The Thing That Screams,” [W/A] Jack Kirby. This story is an obvious reference to The Phantom of the Opera. Actor Farley Fairfax was cursed by the witch Galatea, giving him a hideous face. Becoming the Phantom of the Sewers, Farley kidnaps Galatea’s lookalike, Glenda Mark, and the Demon uses Glenda as a conduit to summon Galatea’s spirit so she can restore Farley’s face. But as soon as he gets his face back, Farley dies of shock. I’m writing this on what would have been Kirby’s 104th birthday.

2000 AD #695 (Fleetway, 1990) – Dredd: as above. Dredd kills Kit, and the Sisters are returned to their own dimension. Harlem Heroes: as above. One of the Heroes goes nuts and runs into enemy fire. Slaine: as above. In the framing sequence, the elderly Ukko – who is narrating this story – almost dies, but he manages to continue. Ukko explains that the goddess Danu destroyed Tir na nOg because she doesn’t like cities. Medb summons a dragon to avenge Slough Feg’s death against Slaine. Chronos Carnival: “The Caverns of Colony Five Part 1,” [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Ron Smith. A woman, a man in a wheelchair, and a dragon descend into  a cavern. This was Hilary Robinson’s last story arc for 2000 AD. Dry Run: as above. More of the same.

FLAMING CARROT COMICS #23 (Dark Horse, 1989) – “…It All Happened So Fast!”, [W/A] Bob Burden. The Carrot leads some Trekkers and Whovians against an alien invasion force. This comic doesn’t make much sense, but it’s not supposed to.

CREATURES ON THE LOOSE #37 (Marvel, 1975) – “Moonbound,” [W] David A. Kraft, [A] George Pérez. The Man-Wolf has some sort of adventure on a space station, while back on Earth, his father, JJJ, is trying to save him. This was the final issue, and it ended on a cliffhanger,  but the rest of this storyline appeared in Marvel Premiere #45 and #46. George Pérez’s layouts and compositions are beautiful, but his draftsmanship is ruined by Fred Kida’s inking.

IRON MAN #122 (Marvel, 1979) – “Journey!”, [W] David Michelinie, [A] Carmine Infantino. I read this years ago as part of the Power of Iron Man trade paperback, but I don’t remember it well, because it’s easily the worst of the issues included in that book. It’s just a boring origin recap. By the way, I used to have Iron Man #128, but I gave it away after I got the trade paperback. I regret doing that, because it’s become a key issue.

DETECTIVE COMICS #541 (DC, 1984) – “C-C-Cold!”, [W] Doug Moench, [A] Gene Colan. The Penguin travels to Antarctica to sell military secrets to the Russians. Batman follows him there and gets stranded with no way back, but the Russians are kind enough to transport him back to civilization. This is a pretty dumb story that doesn’t represent the best work of either creator. The Green Arrow backup story has good art by Shawn McManus.

SAVAGE DRAGON #46 (Image, 1998) – untitled, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Dragon fights Hercules and other demigods, until All-God, the incarnation of the elder gods, makes them break it up. Dragon fails to rescue his old girlfriend Debbie from the gods. Meanwhile, She-Dragon fights Volcanic, and Freak Force has a membership shakeup. Sadly, Beast Boy and Feezle get thrown off the team.

BATMAN #513 (DC, 1994) – “Double Deuce,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Mike Gustovich. Dick Grayson and Tim Drake, the new Batman and the old Robin, fight Two-Face. Dick and Tim’s dialogue in this issue is pretty good. Harvey Bullock was a regular cast member in the series at this point, but it’s notable that he appears in this issue, since Moench created him back in the ‘80s. And I just learned that he’s not Bullock’s official creator. Archie Goodwin created an unrelated character with the same name in 1974, and this is now considered Bullock’s first appearance.

MARVEL ADVENTURES: HULK #14 (Marvel, 2008) – “Small Doubts,” [W] Peter David, [A] Juan Santacruz. The Hulk and Rick Jones travel to a microworld where they fight the Plastic Man. This isn’t nearly as good as any typical issue of PAD’s original Hulk run.

DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS #17 (DC, 2016) – “Uprising Part 1,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Sandy Jarrell & Mirka Andolfo. I expected to hate this comic, especially since it’s about an uprising in the Berlin Ghetto. That seems like an inappropriate topic for entertainment. But this issue turned out to actually be good. While the superheroines are fighting the Axis, a preteen girl named Miriam keeps the younger children quiet by telling them stories of Biblical Jewish heroines. She repeats the heroines’ names – Shiphrah, Huldah, Abigail, Zipporah, Asenath, and Miriam – and turns into Mary (or Miri) Marvel! This is a delightful twist that effectively transplants Shazam into a Jewish cultural context, turning Mary Marvel into a Jewish feminist symbol.

SAVAGE DRAGON #73 (Image, 2000) – untitled, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Dragon goes looking for some kidnapped superpowered children. He finds that Darklord has been keeping them captive in a Covenant of the Sword base, along with some women that he’s using to breed clones. Also, in a funny scene, Dragon leaves Sgt. Marvel a letter to be opened in case he doesn’t return in three days. Sgt. Marvel opens the letter as soon as Dragon leaves, and finds that it begins “You prick – I knew you couldn’t wait three days.” This issue led into the continuity reboot in issue 75. After that point, Savage Dragon’s continuity became so confusing that I doubt if Erik himself understands it.

SUICIDE SQUAD #57 (DC, 1991) – “The Dragon’s Hoard Part V: Dragon’s Blood,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Geof Isherwood. A lot of different characters are all looking for an old cache of Viet Cong weapons. Eventually Deadshot destroys the weapons, and later, Captain Boomerang is very happy to learn that Amanda Waller has suffered non-fatal but severe injuries. Earlier in the issue, Digger executes a master stroke. While he and the Thinker are being held captive, Digger tells Oracle to activate the Thinker’s powers for five minutes – long enough for the Thinker to free them, but not long enough for him to take his revenge on Digger afterward.

2000 AD #696 (Fleetway, 1990) – Dredd: as above. Now that the Sisters are gone, the Judges converge on the four Dark Judges. Harlem Heroes: as above. The character who went crazy is saved from killing herself. The Heroes discover a plane they can use to escape. Slaine: as above. Medb summons demons to attack Slaine and his army. Slaine recites a lover’s charm to the goddess Danu, who responds by putting Slaine into a warp spasm. The charm that Slaine uses is “SATOR AREPO TENET OPERA ROTAS”, which is a word square – if the words are arranged in a 5×5 grid, then they read the same both vertically and horizontally. The so-called “Sator square” dates back to ancient times, having been found in the ruins of Pompeii, but the meaning of the words is disputed; the word AREPO appears nowhere else. “Chronos Carnival”: as above. The three characters discover a frozen ape that promises to fulfill their desires, including allowing the paraplegic man to walk again. He decides to take the offer. Dry Run: as above. I have nothing to say about this.  

DAREDEVIL #242 (Marvel, 1987) – “Caviar Killer,” [W] Ann Nocenti, [A] Keith Pollard. Factory worker Joe murders his super-rich boss, then goes on to murder a bunch of other rich people. An unscrupulous Daily Bugle reporter decides to give Joe a platform for his crusade against the rich, rather than turn him into the cops. When Daredevil shows up to arrest Joe, he has to fight his way through a crowd of Joe’s supporters, and he gets pilloried by the media as an agent of the rich elite. I like the politics behind this comic, but the problem with Ann Nocenti’s writing is that she’s too heavy-handed and unsubtle,  and this issue is a great example of that. The original murder victim is such a caricature of an rich fat cat that the reader doesn’t believe in him. He literally eats caviar in front of Joe. See Eat the Rich #1 for a much more plausible critique of the idle rich.

ACTION COMICS #432 (DC, 1974) – “Target of the Toymen!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. The Toyman comes out of retirement to help Superman defeat a younger crook who’s using his name. There’s also a Human Target backup story by Len Wein and Dick Giordano. I admit I prefer the art in the backup story to the art in the main story, even though the main story is by the Swanderson team. 

FANTASTIC FOUR #230 (Marvel, 1981) – “Firefrost and the Ebon Seeker,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Bill Sienkiewicz. The FF fight the Ebon Seeker, a bargain-basement version of Galactus. They win, but get stuck in the Negative Zone. As I have written before, Doug Moench was the worst FF writer ever. He was good at writing gritty street-level crime and action stories, not epic cosmic adventures.

JLA #23 (DC, 1998) – “Conquerors,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Howard Porter. The JLA defeat Starro with the aid of Daniel, the incarnation of Dream. This was the story that established Starro as one of DC’s most powerful villains. There are moments in this issue where Starro is depicted as a positively Lovecraftian menace. Aquaman describes it as “oceans beyond space and time… gravity sewers… older than time.” At the end of the issue, Daniel puts Starro in a treasure chest that already contains Azazel, the Corinthian’s skull, and a bottle that presumably contains the city of Baghdad.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #139 (Marvel, 139) – “Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime!”, [W] Cary Burkett, [A] Brian Postman. Nick Fury’s former SHIELD teammate Dino Manelli gets engaged to a young starlet, Julie Winston, but a Maggia boss sends a Dreadnought robot to kidnap her. Not surprisingly, Julie turns out to be complicit in her own kidnapping. This issue is okay, but nowhere near the level of J.M. DeMatteis’s earlier run on this series.

ADVENTURE COMICS #455 (DC, 1978) – Superboy: “I Can’t Go Home Again,” [W] Bob Rozakis, [A] Juan Ortiz. Luthor convinces Superboy that the entire town of Smallville has turned into kryptonite. A bad story by a bad creative team. The Aqualad backup story, by Paul Kupperberg and Carl Potts, is a little bit better. Carl Potts could have been a good artist, but was mostly an editor. This run of Superboy stories  was mercifully short, and was followed by a brief run of Dollar Comics-sized issues.  

KA-ZAR #1 (Marvel, 1974) – “Return to the Savage Land!”, [W] Mike Friedrich, [A] Paul Reinman. On returning from New York to the Savage Land, Ka-Zar is kidnapped by the wizard Malgato, whose sidekick is Ka-Zar’s old enemy Maa-Gor. On the last page of this issue, Ka-Zar and Shanna meet for the first time. They didn’t become a couple until the first issue of the next Ka-Zar series. See https://www.cbr.com/ka-zar-shanna-she-devil-romance-off-panel/. Paul Reinman draws this issue in a style that’s very similar to Gil Kane’s.

BARBIE #47 (Marvel, 1994) – “Doing the Right Thing,” [W] Lisa Trusiani & Angelo DeCesare, Anne-Marie Cool. Skipper wants to drop out of school and become Barbie’s assistant. But she changes her mind when she meets a cute boy at a car wash, and then discovers that he’s illiterate. Just as Barbie Fashion #26 romanticizes homelessness, this story romanticizes adult illiteracy. The writers make no attempt to explain why Adam is illiterate. Why couldn’t he finish school? Was it because of poverty, a learning disability, or what? Barbie comics did not invite the reader to ask such questions. Instead, it seems as if Adam just happened to not learn how to read, for no particular reason. IDW’s Jem comics included a much better depiction of an illiterate adult.

2000 AD #697 (Fleetway, 1990) – Dredd: as above. The Dark Judges are finally defeated, and Judge Death falls off a building. This is the last chapter of Necropolis that I have. It’s an excellent Dredd epic. Harlem Heroes: as above. More pointless action sequences. Slaine survives his battle with Medb, and he and his people travel to a new land. One of Ukko’s attendants tries to mesmerize a girl by saying SATOR AREPO TENET OPERA ROTAS, but only gets a slap in return. Chronos Carnival: as above. Neil’s acceptance of the wish results in mayhem. Ron Smith’s art in this chapter is very striking and detailed. Dry Run: as above. Of the stories in this issue, this is one of them.

TRUTH: RED, WHITE AND BLACK #7 (Marvel, 2003) – “The Blackvine,” [W] Robert Morales, [A] Kyle Baker. Cap confronts the man who was responsible for Isaiah’s suffering, and discovers that the Super-Soldier Serum was the result of an eugenics project. Cap visits Isaiah’s wife and grandchildren. We learn that Isaiah was jailed for 17 years for stealing Cap’s costume, and after being released, he suffered sterility and mental deterioration. But he did get photographed with many famous black leaders, including Morales and Baker themselves. Cap returns Isaiah’s costume to him. Truth’s conclusion is pessimistic but sadly plausible. Overall, Truth: Red, White and Black was one of the most important Marvel comics of the 2000s, because it was one of Marvel’s first serious attempts to engage with their own racist legacy. It’s a pity that Morales wrote so few other comics.

BATMAN #607 (DC, 2002) – “Death-Wish for Two Conclusion,” [W] Ed Brubaker & Geoff Johns, [A] Scott McDaniel. Batman is trying to prevent Deadshot from assassinating David Cain, but Cain doesn’t want the help and would be happy to be assassinated. This was only an okay issue, and Scott McDaniel’s art is too cartoony for this sort of Batman story.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #49 (Marvel, 1976) – “Madness is All in the Mind!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Sal Buscema. Spidey, Iron Man and Jean DeWolff battle the Wraith, who is in fact Jean’s brother Brian. Jean also has to contend with her sexist father. This issue is better than an average Bill Mantlo comic, but perhaps its best part is the simple yet striking cover by John Romita.

DENNIS THE MENACE BONUS MAGAZINE SERIES #193 (Fawcett, 1979) – “Saint Santa” and other stories, [W/A] unknown. A bunch of Christmas-themed stories. In one of them, Dennis meets the Dutch Sinterklaas and his sidekick Zwarte Piet. Unsurprisingly there’s no mention of Zwarte Piet’s racist associations. This issue has some mild Christian overtones, but they’re not nearly as obvious as in Archie Giant Series #218.  

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #591 (Marvel, 2009) – “Face Front Part 2: ‘Nuff Said!”, [W] Dan Slott, [A] Barry Kitson w/ Jesse Delperdang & Dale Eaglesham. Spidey and the FF manage to resolve the conflict between the Dregan and Kort people. Spidey reveals his secret identity to the FF. Meanwhile, a series of cutscenes, drawn by a different artist, show us what’s been happening on Earth while the FF and Spidey were in the Macroverse. When they get back to Earth, they discover that two months have passed and that JJJ has just been elected mayor of New York.

SECRET WARS 2099 #4 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Will Sliney. A crossover story starring all the 2099 characters. This comic makes little sense and is not well written.

BARBIE #44 (Marvel, 1994) – “African Adventure,” [W] Lisa Trusiani & Angelo DeCesare, [A] Barb Rausch. Barbie and Skipper travel to Niger, where they help a Wodaabe girl find her nomadic family. Later, they visit a chimpanzee park in (the country then called) Zaire. When I saw that this issue took place in Africa, I was expecting it to be terrible. I was pleasantly surprised that the creators seem to have made a genuine effort to depict Niger and the Wodaabe people accurately. However, as usual for this series, they dance around difficult topics. We see that people in Niger use mules for transportation and that they have to get water from faraway wells, but we’re not invited to consider the historical reasons for such poverty and underdevelopment.

SECRET WARS 2099 #5 (Marvel, 2015) – as above. More of the same. I shouldn’t have bought this. Peter David is no longer the writer he used to be.

R.E.B.E.L.S. ’95 #8 (DC, 1995) – “Money,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Derec Aucoin. The infant Lyrl Dox leads half of the former LEGION against the other half, including his own father, Vril Dox. This issue is okay, but it’s not as funny or exciting as the L.E.G.I.O.N. series.

2000 AD #792 (Fleetway, 1992) – Dredd: “Judgment Day Part 10,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Peter Doherty. Dredd and Hershey fight an army of zombies and are nearly overwhelmed, but McGruder rescues them. Kola Kommandos: untitled, [W] Steve Parkhouse, [A] Anthony Williams. The Okay Kola Korporation’s 200th anniversary gala is invaded by a blue-skinned white-haired terrorist. Zenith: “Phase IV Part 1: Starting Over,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. Zenith watches a TV program about himself, then goes to see St. John. Dragon Tales: “Enter the Dragon,” [W] Frances Lynn, [A] José Casanovas Jr. An evil king and queen are destroyed by a dragon. Casanovas’s art in this story is beautiful; he powerfully conveys the king and queen’s greed and decadence, and he makese great use of color. Future Shocks: “We Come in Peace,” [W/A] Tim Bollard. A young boy saves an alien’s life, but the alien turns out to be less peaceful than it claims. Robo-Hunter: “Return to Verdus Prologue,” [W] Mark Millar, [A] José Casanovas Jr. The very first Robo-Hunter story is retold, but from the perspective of the robots of Verdus, for whom Slade is a villain. Then we see that Sam Slade is being held in prison on Verdus.

CEREBUS #70 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1985) – “Same as It Ever Was,” [W/A] Dave Sim. In her final publisher’s note, Deni Loubert announces that she’s starting Renegade Press and taking all the non-Cerebus titles with her. The Regency Elf leads Cerebus on a long trip back to the Regency Hotel, then she tells Cerebus to stop doing what he’s doing, but she refuses to say what it is that Cerebus is doing. The Regency Elf is one of the most fun characters in the series.

FOUR COLOR #855 (Dell, 1957) – “Apache Dowry” and “Kingdom of Terror,” [W] Otto Binder, [A] Howard Purcell. This is based on a TV show that was itself based on a movie. It stars Indian agent Tom Jeffords and his friend, the Apache chief Cochise. The film Broken Arrow was noted for its sympathetic portrayal of Native Americans, at least by 1950s standards, and “Apache Dowry” depicts the Apache in a fairly positive light. Its plot is that a young Apache man steals two horses as a bride price for his girlfriend, and Tom and Cochise have to collaborate to prevent violence while respecting both Apache and American laws. The Apaches in this story are portrayed in a far less stereotypical way, compared to Indians in other Dell Western comics. In the backup story, Tom and Cochise rescue some slaves from an Arizona plantation where slavery is still legal, since it’s still governed by the terms of its original Mexican land grant. (https://www.instagram.com/p/CTDYhznrj6e/) There is no historical basis for this at all.

DC ESSENTIALS: BATMAN AND ROBIN #1 (DC, 2016) – “Born to Kill,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Patrick Gleason. A reprint of the first issue of the 2011 Batman and Robin series. Bruce and Damian visit the spot where Bruce’s parents were killed, then they stop a theft of nuclear materials from a research reactor. We’re also introduced to a new villain, Nobody.

I went back to Heroes today, August 28. This time I had lunch at the Workman’s Friend.

ONCE & FUTURE #19 (Boom!, 2021) – “Monarchies in the UK,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. As Britain descends into chaos, Duncan, Rose and Gran narrowly escape from some fairies, who are depicted as utterly terrifying insectoid monsters. Meanwhile, Arthur confronts a rival king. I’m not sure if we’ve seen this other king before or not. The highlight of this issue is when Gran says that Rose’s parents can take care of themselves, and Rose says “They’re retired academics! They really can’t!”

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #19 (Boom!, 2021) – “Me and My Monster Part Four,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. Aaron is bullied by two other boys named Tybalt and Paris. All three of these names are from Shakespeare, and the Shakespearean characters by these names all came to bad ends. Meanwhile, the Oscuratype shows Erica a false memory of her parents’ deaths, but she sees through the illusion and defeats it. The full-page depiction of Octo’s true form is very striking.

BERMUDA #2 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] John Layman, [A] Nick Bradshaw. Bobby runs away to the nearest human settlement, which is full of pirates. Bermuda has to save Bobby from being impressed onto a ship. Meanwhile, the Mers prepare to sacrifice Andi in order to open a portal to the outside world. Nick Bradshaw’s draftsmanship in this issue is spectacular. We’ve already seen that he can draw giant monsters and sexy girls, but he’s equally good at drawing pirates.

STRANGE ACADEMY #12 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. This is one of the last of the fun, kid-oriented Marvel titles. This issue, we realize that Duncan’s coat is Mr. Misery, the villain from Aaron and Bachalo’s Dr. Strange. The kids defeat Mr. Misery by giving it more angst than it can handle.

JONNA AND THE UNPOSSIBLE MONSTERS #5 (Oni, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Chris Samnee, [W] Laura Samnee. A man tricks Jonna and Rainbow into following him, then imprisons Jonna in a cage and forces her to fight a monster in an arena. The monster in this issue isn’t quite as impressive as the ones earlier in the series, but this issue is faster-paced than the last few.

ASCENDER #18 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Tim and Mother’s conflict is resolved by the intervention of Effie, aka Queen Between, who’s both magic and science at once. Effie absorbs all the magic and science energy and returns it to the galaxy. Effie and Mia are finally reunited. Tim is about to die, but saves himself by downloading his brain into Kanto. And they all live happily after. This was a powerful and heartwarming conclusion to the entire Descender/Ascender epic.

MADE IN KOREA #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Holt, [A] George Schall. The two evil kids start shooting up the school. Once Jesse realizes what they’re doing, she saves the surviving students and kills both the shooters. But she’s so traumatized by all this that she accepts Chul’s offer to return to Korea. This series is a nice combination of cute and grim.

EAT THE RICH #1 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sarah Gailey, [A] Pius Bak. It’s going to be even harder to distinguish between Sarah Gailey and Sarah Graley, now that they’re both doing comics. College student Astor invites his new girlfriend Joey to a party at his parents’ beach house. We realize at once that Astor’s parents are offensively rich, and that Joey is out of her element among them. It’s obvious that Joey needs to turn around and leave, regardless of the consequences. And that’s before we discover the twist, which is that Astor’s parents and their friends are slaughtering and eating their own servants. This is one of the scariest horror comics in recent memory, and that’s because it’s so believable. I suspect that real ultra-rich people are just like the ones in this comic, besides the cannibalism. Eat the Rich #1 is a terrifying comic, and an impressive start to Sarah Gailey’s comics career.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #120 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Jodi Nishijima. The Turtles defeat the rioters and pursue them to Hob’s place, where Lita and the weasels are being held captive. Meanwhile, Hob has a standoff with his rebellious partner Ray. Raphael and Hob beat each other up, and Hob finds himself facing a horde of angry mutants. This is an exciting issue.

SAVE YOURSELF #3 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Bones Leopard, [A] Kelly Matthews & Nichole Matthews. Gigi and Mia try to rescue Shawn from the Lovely Trio, but the Trio’s ship gets blown up with Shawn and Gigi still on it. The little blue alien in this issue is pretty cute.

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OLYMPIC SPORTS RANKED BY HOW MUCH I ENJOY WATCHING THEM AT THE OLYMPICS

TOP TIER

1. Badminton
2. Table tennis
3. Track cycling
4. Rugby sevens
5. Handball
6. Water polo
7. Indoor voleyball
8. Track and field
9. Triathlon

SECOND TIER

10. Road cycling
11. Mountain bike
12. BMX racing
13. Surfing
14. Beach volleyball
15. Skateboarding
16. BMX freestyle
17. Gymnastics
18. Wrestling
19. Trampoline
20. Swimming
21. Canoe slalom
22. Eventing
23. Weightlifting
24. Fencing
25. Archery
26. Women’s soccer
27. Basketball
28. Sport climbing

THIRD TIER

29. Field hockey
30. Judo
31. Diving
32. Karate
33. Softball
34. Canoe sprint
35. Shotgun shooting
36. Jumping
37. Synchronized swimming
38. Modern pentathlon
39. Rhythmic gymnastics
40. Sailing
41. Tennis

BOTTOM TIER

42. Taekwondo
43. Dressage
44. 3×3 basketball
45. Boxing
46. Rifle and pistol shooting
47. Men’s soccer
48. Baseball
49. Golf

Note that this is a ranking of how much I enjoy watching these sports at the Olympics. I love watching baseball, but the Olympic baseball tournament isn’t worth watching because it doesn’t include MLB players. 

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June and early July 2021 reviews

I went to Heroes on June 7. That day I had brunch at The Workman’s Friend. I had the boxty benedict, which was fairly good.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #16 (Boom!, 2021) – “Me and My Monster Part 1,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. As this flashback story begins, a House of Slaughter agent named Jessica has just rescued the child Erica from a monster that killed her parents and best friend. Jessica has imprisoned the monster in Erica’s octopus doll. The House of Slaughter orders Jessica to kill Erica too, but instead she takes Erica home with her, despite knowing that Erica is going to be subjected to awful bullying. This was a good start to the storyline, and it shows that the House of Slaughter is just as terrible an institution as I’d suspected.

THE GODDAMNED: THE VIRGIN BRIDES #5 (Image, 2021) – “What Therefore God Hath Joined Together,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] R.M. Guera. Jael rescues Sharri with help from the serpent, then Sharri kills the old prioress by making her marry God. But Jael is mortally wounded, and has a symbolic wedding with Jael before dying herself. Later, Jael joins up with Cain. This was a gripping miniseries with spectacular art, and I hope there’ll be a third volume of Goddamned someday, though R.M. Guera must be a rather slow artist.

MANIFEST DESTINY #43 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. This is the first issue in well over a year, and I’m glad that this series is going to be completed. In this issue the Corps of Discovery climb up a giant cliff, suffering numerous casualties due to some horrible rock monsters. A funny moment is when Sacagawea complains that everyone else is climbing too slow, and Lewis replies that they’re all carrying extra weight, and he has a dog on his back. Then we cut back to Sacagawea, who has a baby on her back.

MADE IN KOREA #1 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Holt, [A] George Schall. Wook-Jin Industries (named after the cartoonist Wook-Jin Clark?) makes artificial robot children, or “proxies,” for infertile parents. It’s hinted that the entire world is suffering from an infertility plague. Chul, a Wook-Jin employee, makes some mysterious alterations to a proxy that’s being shipped to Texas. The proxy, named Jesse, reads an entire room full of books in one night. This is a really interesting story about adoption and posthumanism, and it’s based on the writer’s own experience as a transracial adoptee from Korea (https://www.comicsbeat.com/interview-process-brave-new-world-jeremy-holt-george-schall-on-made-in-korea/). I like how George Schall’s artwork uses a veneer that looks like fingerprints.

ABBOTT 1973 #5 (Boom! 2021) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Sami Kivelä. Abbott defeats the bad guys, and Detroit elects its first black mayor. But Abbott herself ends up worse off than before. She gets fired from her job – though it was inevitable anyway, since her boss was a sexist asshole. (As noted in my review of #1, the subplot with Abbott’s boss is a good example of how intersectionality works.) And Abbott’s girlfriend leaves her because she’s understandably sick of being a target for magical villains. Meanwhile, Detroit is about to face yet another magical conspiracy. The ending to this miniseries was very inconclusive, suggesting that there’ll be a third volume of Abbott sometime soon.

ASCENDER #15 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. A flashback issue showing how Tim became the avatar of both magic and science, which are the two opposing forces of the universe. This magic-versus-science plot is reminiscent of the Legion of Super-Heroes storyline “The Magic Wars.”

MONEY SHOT #11 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Sarah Beattie, [A] Caroline Leigh Layne. I’m thrilled that this series is back, though Caroline Leigh Layne is a far less impressive artist than Rebekah Isaacs. Former team member Bree is replaced by Dr. Yasemin Blanco, and the team visits a planet that has a plant that can supposedly cure climate change. After some sexy adventures, the team learns that the drug is actually just a narcotic, but that it provides hope for the future.

BITTER ROOT #13 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] David F. Walker & Chuck Brown, [A] Sanford Greene. Blink unites the various magical families of New York against the demons, while trying to adjust to her new role’s family head. Dr. Sylvester reappears at the end. We still don’t know what it was that Enoch discovered just before he was killed. Sanford Greene’s art in this issue is amazing, especially the two-page splash with Blink’s speech. My problem with this comic is that there are too many characters, and it’s hard to remember who they all are, or how they’re related.

SPECTER INSPECTORS #4 (Boom!, 2021) – “The Well,” [W/A] Bowen McCurdy, [W] Kaitlyn Musto. The team meets the ghost of a cute little boy, and he directs them to an old diary that explains part of the plot. But it doesn’t mention the demon’s name. Then Astrid deliberately gets herself kidnapped by the main villain, so she can open the barrier that’s keeping her friends in Cape Grace. I really like this miniseries, but by the time I read issue 5, I had mostly forgotten issue 4.

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #9 (Image, 2021) – “The Denver Working,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Martin Simmonds. In a flashback, we learn how Hawk was responsible for Cole’s childhood delusions about Satanic ritual abuse. Hawk makes a big long speech about how magic works; he references Aleister Crowley and Madame Blavatsky and tulpas and a lot of other stuff. His explanation of magic is scarily plausible. As usual, Martin Simmonds’s artwork in this issue is extremely unusual and creative. Hawk’s long speech could have been boring, but Simmonds’s artwork makes it fascinating and evocative, kind of like Daniel’s speech at the beginning of Paul Auster’s City of Glass.

THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE #1 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Alvaro Martinez Bueno. A group of twenty- and thirtysomethings, most of them unknown to each other, are gathered at a lake house in Wisconsin. The only thing they have in common is that they’re all friends with a man named Walter. Just as they’re getting to know each other… the  world suddenly ends. Someone tweets “I just watched Anderson Cooper burn to death on live television.” Walter explains that everyone on Earth is going to die except the people in the lake house. And… that’s it. This was a powerful debut issue. The Twitter feed detailing the end of the world is chilling; I think Twitter would look exactly like that if the world really did end. One of the Tweets is from Cole Turner from Department of Truth. I’m not familiar with Alvaro Martinez Bueno, but his art is quite good. I voted for Tynion for the Eisner for Best Writer.

X-MEN #20 (Marvel, 2021) – “Lost Love,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Francesco Mobili. On the Orchis Forge, Dr. Alia Gregor tries to resurrect her dead son by programming his personality into Nimrod. Mystique returns to the Orchis Forge in an attempt to assassinate Nimrod, in exchange for Destiny being resurrected. Mystique she succeeds in killing Nimrod’s body that contains Dr. Gregor’s son, but Nimrod survives in another body. So Mystique only ends up making the situation worse, and Professor X and Magneto refuse to bring Destiny back. It’s now clear that they never meant to do so, and that they were just dangling her as a carrot in order to control Mystique. I think this is the last issue of this volume of X-Men. The new writer is Gerry Duggan, who I don’t like.

NOCTERRA #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Tony Daniel. In a flashback to Val (Sundog) and Emory’s childhood, we see how they were saved from being trapped in their house by monsters. Val and Bailey arrive in Tipton, but it’s already been taken over by monsters, so they head to the next safe spot. Nocterra is a much more enjoyable horror comic than American Vampire.

CRUSH & LOBO #1 (DC, 2021) – “Crush is the Best Girlfriend Ever. Shut Up,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Amancay Nahuelpan. Crush is Lobo’s daughter, and she takes after her father. Her girlfriend, Katie, is a normal teenage human. Katie breaks up with Crush after Crush ruins her birthday party. Red Arrow, aka Oliver Queen’s sister Emiko, convinces Crush to visit her dad in prison. This is a fun debut issue, but I feel like Crush should be even more ridiculous and over-the-top than she is.

FAMILY TREE #12 (Image, 2021) – unttiled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Phil Hester. Josh and Meg finally defeat the psychotic soldier lady. In the last panel, we discover that their baby has a twig growing out of her hand, implying that the humans and plants have merged. This whole series felt like a less successful rehash of Sweet Tooth. It was Lemire’s second least impressive solo work, after Berserker Unbound.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #98 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Celeste Bronfman, [A] Akeem S. Roberts. When Celeste and Luna were children, their dolls were kidnapped by a terrifying kraken. In the present, the sisters confront the kraken again and discover that it wasn’t really evil. This was a generic story that could have been published at any point in the entire run of the series. It didn’t need to be part of Season Ten in particular.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #26 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Clone Saga,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Carmen Carnero. The clones beat up Miles until Peter arrives to save the day, then the clones escape. Miles and Ganke reconcile. Miles finds a lab where more clones are being made, and destroys it, but the clones find him there and capture him. An exciting issue, though #25 was more memorable.

BEASTS OF BURDEN: OCCUPIED TERRITORY #3 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin & Sarah Dyer, [A] Benjamin Dewey. Emrys and Mullins meet the grand councli of yokai, but they’re not interested in helping defeat the demons. Then Emrys, Mullins and the two Shiba Inus get attacked by more demons, and Mullins is seemingly killed, though he appears on the cover of the next issue. The best part about this issue is the introduction of the council members, including kitsune, tanuki, kappa, etc. As far as I can tell, this series feels like a respectful depiction of Japanese mythology.

SAVAGE DRAGON #259 (Image, 2021) – “Welcome to North Force!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Malcolm joins the North Force, Canada’s homegrown superhero team, and they fight some alien stone men, but then Malcolm refuses to accompany North Force in a mission to the stone men’s home planet. Unfortunately, Heroes also put North Force #1 in my file even though it’s the same content as Savage Dragon #259.

THE WORST DUDES #1 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Aubrey Sitterson, [A] Tony Gregori. The mortal hitman Sam Sugar is hired by the Eternal Empress – the goddess Hera, more or less – to kidnap her husband’s illegitimate daughter. But Sam has to bring along the Empress’s pampered brat of a son. After reading this comic I found it hard to recall just what it was about. But it’s well executed, and it reminds me of Curse Words because of its raucous sense of humor and its deliberate confusion of genres.

2000 AD #2217 (Rebellion, 2021) – I’ve been ordering 2000 AD from Previews every month, but the June prog pack was the first one I’ve received. It seems like these progs are actually from February. Dredd: “Naked City,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Dan Cornwell. Judge Moe has a psychic power that causes her to see everybody naked. She uses this power to save Dredd from a criminal. Also she sees more of Dredd than she wanted to. This is a very funny one-shot story that feels like it could have appeared in any era of 2000 AD, except that in earlier decades it wouldn’t have gotten past the censors. Durham Red: “Served Cold 06,” [W] Alec Worley, [A] Ben Willsher. Durham Red tracks down some criminals in a blizzard. I don’t understand this story. Proteus Vex: “The Shadow Chancellor Part Six,” [W] Mike Carroll, [A] Jake Lynch. Some kind of science fiction story with an entirely alien cast. I don’t understand this one either. Slaine: “Dragontamer Part 6,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Leonardo Manco. The new king of Britain, Brutus, is cracking down on Shoggeys, who are alien lycanthropes. Slaine saves some shoggeys from being hanged. The Britons’ prejudice against Shoggeys is obviously a reference to real-world prejudice. Leonardo Manco’s art is very impressive. Hershey: “The Brutal Part 6,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Simon Fraser. Former Chief Judge Hershey tracks down criminals at a boxing tournament in South America. In this story Simon Fraser makes really effective use of flat color.

MISTER MIRACLE: THE SOURCE OF FREEDOM #1 (DC, 2021) – “The Source of Freedom Part One,” [W] Brandon Easton, [A] Fico Ossio. Mister Miracle is the world’s greatest escape artist, but no one knows he’s really a black man, Shilo Norman. He asks a firefighter named Denise Dorman on a date, but she’s not impressed with him. And then he’s attacked by N’Vir Free, the daughter of Scott and Barda. This was a pretty good debut issue. An impressive moment is when Shilo complains about the racism he faces, and his agent Vito claims he can sympathize because he’s half Jewish and half Italian. This of course is based on actual stuff white people say.

COPRA #40 (Copra, 2021) – “The Ochizon Saga,” [W/A] Michel Fiffe. I no longer need to order this directly from the creator, because Heroes can get it from him for me. In #40, Copra finally defeats the Ochizon parents, and then the Deadshot character shoots and kills them both. This issue includes some more of Fiffe’s beautiful and visually radical action sequences.

IMMORTAL HULK #47 (Marvel, 2021) – “Chaotic Terrain,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. An issue-long fight scene with the Avengers on one side, and Hulk, Betty and Gamma Flight on the other. In the end, She-Hulk has to switch sides and help the Hulks escape. On the last page, Hulk and Betty share a creepy-looking kiss that reminds me of https://www.gunnerkrigg.com/?p=946.

INKBLOT #9 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Rusty Gladd, [A] Emma Kubert. In the middle of the war between the two sisters, two little goblins get caught in a fight between giants. As usual, MOW. interferes with them and helps them escape. It’s confusing trying to figure out how all the storylines in this comic are connected to each other. But it also doesn’t matter, since the whole point of the comic is the cat.

SHADOW DOCTOR #4 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Do No Harm,” [W] Peter Calloway, [A] Georges Jeanty. Nathaniel is forced to continue treating Capone’s goons, which makes him an accomplice to their crimes. Meanwhile he’s having no luck establishing his own medical practice, because his black neighbors are distrustful of modern medicine: “For two hundred years the only medicine they… no, we knew was the kinid that either got you back in the fields or got you dead.” This is a very powerful scene, and it reminds me of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, which is also about a minority population that has an understandable fear of modern medicine. But then a little boy comes to Nathaniel for help with his dying sister, and he saves her. This convinces the other local black people that he can be trusted, and they show up at his door in droves. That’s a touching moment.

REPTIL #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Terry Blas, [A] Enid Balám. Following the events of Outlawed, Reptil goes back home to Los Angeles to live with his family. A supervillain attacks him and demands his amulet, in exchange for information about his parents. This comic feels like an effective piece of OwnVoices writing about Latinx culture, and it also has some subtle trans representation. The main thing I remember from this issue is the tacos de canasta, because I’ve never had that.

SHADECRAFT #3 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Joe Henderson, [A] Lee Garbett. The counselor, Angela, claims that she’s a government agent whose job is to teach Zadie to use her powers. In the next issue we’re going to learn that this is false. Zadie goes to a carnival to stalk her crush, and ends up fighting more shadow creatures. Angela tells Zadie that the shadow Ricky isn’t really her brother. This series has been much better than I expected. Zadie and Ricky (if that’s really who he is) are very cute characters. A funny moment in this issue is when Zadie doesn’t know what “wax on, wax off” means.

ROBIN #2 (DC, 2021) – “Wake Up!”, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Gleb Melnikov. Robin wakes up from being dead and is introduced to his opponents, including Connor Hawke and Flatline. The latter character first appeared early this year in Detective Comics #1034, by the same creative team as this issue. Ravager agrees to train Damian, and there’s another short excerpt from the manga Damian was reading. This comic is a fairly light piece of entertainment, but it’s fun, and I like Damian a lot.

HELM GREYCASTLE #2 (Image, 2021) – “Meet Me in Mictlan,” [W] Henry Barajas, [A] Rahmat M. Handoko. The adventurers continue their quest to rescue the dragon child from the Aztecs, and we meet a Spanish priest named Francsico Lopez de Gomara. Gómara was a real 16th-century historian of the Americas, but he never went to America himself. This series seems a bit confused about what it’s doing, and I could do without the RPG modules at the end of each issue. But its depiction of precolonial Mesoamerica is fascinating.

THE BLUE FLAME #1 (Vault, 2021) – “Tears of the Geodynamo,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Adam Gorham. In one of this comic’s plotlines, the Blue Flame is a Green Lantern-esque space superhero, and he meets some aliens who are trying to decide whether to destroy the Earth. In the other plotline, the Blue Flame is a boiler technician from Milwaukee who moonlights as a local superhero. But while he and his teammates are appearing at an auto show, they become victims of a mass shooting. I don’t understand yet where this comic is going. I can only hope it’ll be more like She Could Fly than like Everything.

BLACK WIDOW #7 (Marvel, 2021) – “I Am the Black Widow Part 1,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Elena Casagrande. Natasha and Yelena train Lucy, and Natasha recruits Anya Corazon, aka  Spider-Girl, to help her infiltrate Apogee’s cult. They kidnap one of Apogee’s recriuts, but he liquefies in front of their eyes, traumatizing Lucy. Elena Casagrande’s art in this series has been consistently amazing.

JENNY ZERO #2 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Dave Dwonch & Brockton McKinney, [A] Magenta King. Jenny turns into a kaiju and fights another kaiju, and there are some flashbacks to her earlier life. This comic has fairly good art, but it’s not all that good, and it’s culturally appropriative.  I might as well finsih fiinish it since there are just two issues left. Otherwise I’d drop it.

THE OLD GUARD: TALES THROUGH TIME #3 (Image, 2021) – “Bonsai Shokunin,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Valentine DeLandro. Noriko assassinates an old Japanese man who used to be a warrior for the shogun. This story was forgettable, and I confused it in my memory with the Mongol invasion subplot from Eternals #4.  “Strong Medicine,” [W] Eric Trautmann, [A] Mike Henderson. In the Old West, some criminals take a doctor hostage and try to make him heal their comrade, even though he’s beyond help already. One of the immortals shows up and kills the criminals. This was better than the first story, despite having less famous creators.

NUCLEAR FAMILY #4 (AfterShock, 2021) – “Till We Find the Spark,” [W] Stephanie Phillips, [A] Tony Shasteen. The family and Roger escape from a zombie and head to Roger’s house, but the governor finds them there. This miniseries has suffered from too much decompression; not much of anything happened this issue.

STRANGE ADVENTURES #10 (DC, 2021) – “You Rule Supreme,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads & Evan “Doc” Shaner. The following is quoted from my own Facebook post. From the comments at https://scans-daily.dreamwidth.org/9244092.html:

“Honestly this seems like a major pull back from just an unambiguous “Adam Strange is a war criminal for the same mundane reasons real people are war criminals”, here he’s only acting like a war criminal as a cover, its not the “real” him, and while sacrificing Earth to save Rann is pretty bad, it’s also very comic book bad. Going from war criminal to alien collaborator is a pretty big downgrade in terms of villainy. This also seems to center the Pykkts as villains once more, and also have them literally asking Adam Strange to commit war crimes against them (as part of his cover) which is… not a great look, in terms of the inescapable war in the Middle East allegory of all this.”

I agree. The ending of #10 is ridiculous and I hope it wasn’t Tom King’s original intent. Also, if Adam really was trying to make himself appear to be a war criminal, why did he try so hard to stonewall Mr. Terrific’s investigation? It seems easier to believe that Adam really *was* a war criminal and that the ending of #10 is just a clumsy retcon.

MY LITTLE PONY/TRANSFORMERS: THE MAGIC OF CYBERTRON #2 (IDW, 2021) – “Stunt Flying,” [W] Ian Flynn, [A] Priscilla Tramontano. Rainbow Dash and the Wonderbolts use a sonic rainboom to defeat some mind-controlled Decepticons. “One-Trick Pony,” [W] Sam Maggs, [A] Trish Forstner. Applejack teams up with a Wild West-themed Decepticon named Wildwheel. I tend to dislike Sam Maggs’s writing, but this story was rather funny.

HEROES REBORN #4 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Most Hated Man in the Heavens,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] James Stokoe. An insane Dr. Spectrum fights Rocket Raccoon and Ego the Living Planet. I don’t know anything about this crossover, but I bought this issue because of James Stokoe’s art. As usual his draftsmanship is better than anything else in current monthly comics. His depictions of aliens and Lovecraftian cancer-beasts are stunningly detailed and imaginative. There’s also a backup story about the infant Starbrand.

HOLLOW HEART #4 (Vault, 2021) – “Safe House,” [W] Paul Allor, [A] Paul Tucker. The big revelation this issue is that Mateo’s kidnapping of El was a sham; he’s still working for the company, and he “kidnapped” El to teach him new skills. This is a nice plot twist, but Hollow Heart is even more decompressed than Nuclear Family.

HAHA #5 (Image, 2021) – “Pound Foolish Makes a Casserole,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Gabriel Hernandez Walta. An elderly female clown lives a lonely existence in her house. A young boy’s friends dare him to sneak into her house. The boy and the old lady end up becoming friends. This is a very cute story. W. Maxwell Prince is mostly a horror writer, but e can also appeal to other emotions besides fear.  

THE NEXT BATMAN: SECOND SON #2 (DC, 2021) – “Second Son Part 2,” [W] John Ridley, [A] Travel Foreman. The new Batman hunts down the Ratcatcher, and there’s a lot more family drama. This issue has good artwork and character interactions, but I didn’t feel sufficiently interested in this series to buy issue 3. I’ve just been buying this series off the shelf rather than adding it to my pull list; that’s another perk of going to a brick-and-mortar store instead of using a mail-order service.

OUT OF BODY #1 (AfterShock, 2021) – “Giving Up the Ghost,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Inaki Miranda. Dan Collins wakes up in a coma after being mugged. Then he’s contacted by a young girl who has the power to talk to spirits. Peter Milligan has written a huge number of miniseries, but each of them has its own unique concept, and this series looks like another interesting entry in his canon.

2000 AD #2218 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: “Health & Happiness,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Simon Coleby. Harry Dump is a health nut, but thanks to an accidental encounter with Dredd, he loses both legs and goes bankrupt from medical bills. Harry goes nuts, tries to assassinate Dredd, and is sent to prison. Meanwhile, Dredd discovers that Harry’s insurance company was a fraud scheme that was working with a gang of “organ-leggers.” (I first encountered the idea of organ-leggers in Punisher 2099 #1, which was written by Pat Mills.) This story is eerily plausible, and Williams and Coleby succeed in making the reader feel Harry Dump’s pain. Durham Red: as above. I like the art in this series, but I don’t understand the plot. The alien character Roswell seems to be based on Nien Numb from Star Wars. Proteus Vex: as above. I still can’t follow this story at all. Slaine: as above. Slaine sneaks into Brutus’s palace, and there’s a subplot about Brutus’s relationships with his sons. Hershey: as above. Again, I don’t know what’s going on here, but the artwork and coloring are excellent.  

THE AMAZON #2 (Comico, 1989) – untitled, [W] Steven T. Seagle, [A] Tim Sale. This is the original series, not the recolored 2009 reprint. In this issue Malcolm the journalist makes it to the Jatapu village and finally encounters Robertson, the Amazon. This comic is a blatant white savior narrative, but it’s exciting. An unusual aspect of this series is that Malcolm has two different sets of caption boxes, one representing the article he writes, the other representing his actual thoughts, and often these sets of captions contrast with each other in ironic ways.

SOCK MONKEY VOL. 1 #2 (Dark Horse, 1998) – untitled, [W/A] Tony Millionaire. Uncle Gabby finds a shrunken head from Borneo, and he and Drinky Crow decide to take him home aboard a sailing ship. Then they discover the head isn’t really from Borneo. The language the head speaks looks kind of like Quechua, but it could just be gibberish. Sock Monkey has great art,  but its style of humor seems repetitive.

TARZAN: THE BECKONING #1 (Malibu, 1992) – “Love and Rage,” [W/A] Tom Yeates, [W] Henning Kure. In San Francisco, Tarzan tries to track down people who are importing illegal ivory into Chinatown, while Jane advocates for ivory bans. Tom Yeates’s art here is beautiful, and this issue is notable for giving Jane a much more proactive role than she usually has. This comic does include some uncomfortable depictions of both African and Chinese people.

BRIT #2 (Image, 2003) – “Cold Death,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Tony Moore. Brit, an elderly superhero in an undershirt, has numerous adventures while he and his ex-stripper wife await their baby’s birth. This comic is reasonably fun, but it has a very similar style of storytelling and dialogue to Invincible, and indeed Brit was later incorporated into the Invincible universe.

ECHO OF FUTUREPAST #3 (Continuity, 1984) – ‘Bucky O’Hare,” [W] Larry Hama, [A] Michael Golden. The highlight of this issue is the Bucky O’Hare story. There’s also a Frankenstein story by Neal Adams. Like all of Neal’s solo work, it has beautiful art but totally incoherent writing. Carlos Gimenez’s “Hom” is a bizarre Corben-esque fantasy story that has little in common with anything else I’ve read by this artist. Jean Teulé’s “Virus” looks interesting, but is damaged by awful recoloring. Teulé seems like a really important and unusual artist, and it’s unfortunate that none of his major works have been published in English. Suydam’s “Mudwogs” looks a lot like Sam Kieth’s work, though the relationship of influence is probably the other way around.

NIGHT MUSIC #7 (Eclipse, 1988) – “Red Dog,” W/A] P. Craig Russell. This issue is also labeled as Red Dog #1. In an adaptation of Kipling’s Jungle Book, Mowgli leads his pack of wolves in a war with a pack of dholes, or Indian wild dogs. PCR’s artwork here is beautiful, as ever, but Kipling’s pseudo-Oriental prose style is very annoying. (For example: “I have seen all the dead seasons and the great trees and the old elephants and the rocks that were bare and sharp-pointed ere the moss grew. Art thou still alive, manling?”)

COMMANDERS IN CRISIS #9 (Image, 2021) – “The Action of Escalation,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Davide Tinto. This issue introduces a new character named Dr. Dracula, but otherwise it’s just an escalation of the same plotlines from the last few issues.

2000 AD #2219 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: “Against the Clock,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Patrick Goddard. Meg Plankhurst is trying to make a living as a delivery girl on a flying skateboard, even though she’s a single mom and she has to take her baby with her. She narrowly avoids missing her delivery time after Dredd stops her to check her safe parenting permit. There’s not much of a story here, but Meg is a cute character. Slaine: as above. Slaine frees Alban, Brutus’s monstrous son, from the prison where Brutus keeps him. There’s an impressive splash page where we see what Alban really looks like. Proteus Vex: as above. Again I don’t understand this story, but there’s a black-clad character who has a really cool-looking costume. Durham Red: as above. Nothing new to say about this. Hershey: as above. This seems like an interesting conclusion to the current story arc, but I don’t know what that story arc is about.

2000 AD #76 (IPC, 1978) – Robo-Hunter: “Verdus,” [W] John Wagner, [A] José Luis Ferrer & Ian Gibson. This is a key issue since it’s the first appearance of Sam Slade. In this first story it’s obvious that he’s supposed to be a parody of film noir detectives like Sam Spade. He captures a malfunctioning robot, then discovers that its owner, the sexy Mrs. Winters, is also a robot. We then learn that this was all a test, and because he passed, he gets hired to save the planet of Verdus, which has been taken over by robots. The spaceship in this story is a ripoff of a Star Destroyer from Star Wars. Hoagy and Stogie aren’t present yet, which is good, although there’s a character in the story who speaks in an offensive fake Chinese accent. Dan Dare: “Mutiny,” [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Dave Gibbons. Fleeing his mutinying crew, Dare hides in a shuttlecraft, but his crazy crewman Gunnar steals it and flies awy with Dare in it. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth Chapter 16: Black Sabbath!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. Satanus causes a lot of hilarious and thrilling mayhem. Tweak saves Dredd, and Satanus wanders off to parts unknown. Ant Wars: untitled, [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Alfonso Azpiri. Villa and Anteater prepare for the ants’ invasion of Rio.

MONSTRESS #34 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. Maika merges with Zinn to fiight the Ancient Wolf Queen. Maika gets a cool new costume. There’s some impressive artwork and coloring in this issue, but by this point I was getting very tired of Monstress. I will have more to say about Monstress below.

SHADOW SERVICE #8 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, A] Corin Howell. Gina is tortured by some sort of mgaical villain. I’ve completely lost track of this series’ plot, I’m no longer enjoying it, and I’m going to drop it.

JON SABLE, FREELANCE: ASHES OF EDEN #5 (IDW, 2010) – untitled, [W/A] Mike Grell. Sable and Maggie the Cat team up to stop an Iraqi terrorist’s plot to blow up Manhattan. The terrorist, Bashira, is presented as a somewhat sympathetic figure – the term “ashes of Eden” is her description of her homeland – but Sable kills her anyway. Grell’s art has barely evolved since the ‘80s, and this issue includes some ugly computerized weather effects.

SATELLITE SAM #2 (Image, 2013) – “The Dirt Nap,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Howard Chaykin. Star actor Satellite Sam has been assassinated, and his impotent, alcoholic son has to deal with the aftermath of his death. This feels more like a classic Chaykin comic than Chaykin’s recent solo works do. Its Hollywood setting and its cast of corrupt businessmen and dishonest women are very reminiscent of a series like American Flagg or Time2. I also think Chaykin’s art looks very nice in black and white.

SAVAGE DRAGON #166 (Image, 2010) – “Emperor Dragon Part 4: Holocaust,” [W/A] Erik Larsen. Angel and Mr. Glum make a failed attempt to stop Dragon/Kurr from taking over Earth. It’s nice to see Mr. Glum again. Ordway and Gordon’s Wildstar also makes a cameo appearance.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE #3 (DC, 2010) – “Rough Cut,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. This story is set in Los Angeles in 1925, though I’m not sure just what it’s about. A cool moment in this story is when a vampire is staked to death by a cactus, since cactus thorns count as wood. “Blood Vengeance,” [W] Stephen King, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. A flashback story in which a vampire invades a small Colorado town in 1909.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2015 PERFECT SQUARE PRESENTS POKÉMON (Viz, 2015) – “Pokemon X·Y, Vol. 1,” [W] Satoshi Yamamoto, [A] Hidenori Kusaka. A reclusive young Pokémon trainer has to be coerced to leave his room. There’s nothing here to make me want to read any more of this manga. This FCBD comic also includes chapters from a couple other Pokémon manga.

IZNOGOUD V1 (Cinebook, 1967) – “The Wicked Wiles of Iznogoud,” [W] René Goscinny, [A] Jean Tabary. I have a huge backlog of French BD albums, and I decided it was time to start reading them. I’m going to count them as comic books rather than books, which I keep track of separately. Iznogoud (rhymes with “he’s no good”), the evil vizier to Caliph Haroun Al-Plassid. Iznogoud’s goal and catchphrase is “I want to be caliph instead of the caliph!” This Iznogoud album consists of several stories, all of which have the same formula: Iznogoud discovers some magical item or spell, and he and his sidekick Wa’at Alahf (“what a laugh”) try to use it to overthrow the caliph, but it backfires horribly. Despite their formulaic nature and their obvious reliance on Orientalist stereotypes, these stories are very funny. Their humor often relies on sophisticated puns and wordplay, which the uncredited translators do a good job of imitating in English. Standout stories in this album include “The Time Machine,” where the artist, Tabary, makes a cameo appearance, and “Chop and Change,” about a cup that causes the last two people who drank from it to switch bodies. It quickly becomes very hard to keep track of whose mind is in which body.

2000 AD #2220 (Rebellion, 2021) – This is an extra-sized “Regened” issue, intended for young readers. Cadet Dredd: “Suboptimal,” [W] Arthur Wyatt, [A] Davide Tinto. The young Dredd and his senior partner, Cadet Quinn, have to find some missing kids. They discover that the kids were enslaved by a sentient shopping mall. Dredd and Quinn free the kids, and they return home, where they’re enslaved by their televisions instead. Quinn is an excellent foil for Dredd. Action Pack: “The Radyar Recovery,” [W]  Mike Carroll, [A] Luke Horsman. A salvage team rescues a spaceship that was lost 40,000 years ago, and they recruit the spaceship’s surviving crew member to join their team. We also learn that the members of the Action Pack are enslaved to their employers, and they’re released after completing a certain number of missoins, but they don’t know how long that will take. Viva Forever: “Comstock,” [W] David Baillie, [A] Anna Morozova. Super-thief Viva Forever, with help from an imitator of hers, steals a hard drive containing the entire Internet. Future Shocks: “Geno Firenzo’s Big Comeback,” [W] Karl Stock, [A] Silvia Califano. Geeno Firenzo, “the greatest of the emotional influencers,” has disappeared, and none of his fans can remember what happened during the last three months. Two of his young fans have to solve the mystery by tracking down the social network creator Cornelius Zugg. Mayflies: “Precious Cargo,” [W] Mike Carroll, [A] Simon Coleby. In the Rogue Trooper universe, some “mayflies” – military clones with a short life expectancy – escape from the Nort army and head off on their own. Overall this is an exciting issue that succeeds in appealing to young readers without insulting their intelligence. Its bright, primary color scheme marks it as different from a typical prog.

THE MARVELS #2 (Marvel, 2021) – “Strands and Patterns Stuff,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Yildiray Cinar. A bunch of separate plot threads mostly involving Kevin Schumer, who we learn is the Tinkerer’s nephew. I really hope Kevin Schumer is not named after Arlen Schumer. As I noted before, this series is a lot like Astro City, but it lacks the personal touch of Astro City because it’s not about Kurt’s own characters.

THE MODERN FRANKENSTEIN #2 (Heavy Metal, 2021) – untitled, [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Emma Vieceli. Elizabeth continues working with James, and also sleeps with him. There’s not a whole lot here that wasn’t in issue 1, but the sex scenes are quite sexy.

CEREBUS #42 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1982) – “Campaign’s End,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus and his team travel around Iest collecting votes, while Cerebus conspires to make Astoria think she has more power over him than she really does. This isn’t my favorite chapter of High Society, but it’s good. There’s a backup story by Michael T. Gilbert, about a little boy who correctly suspects his parents are monsters.

WITCHBLOOD #3 (Vault, 2021) – “The Darkness in the Sheds of Town,” [W] Matthew Erman, [A] Lisa Sterle. Yonna goes to consult a witch with eye-based magic, and then she gets in a three-way fight with two other witches and the Hounds of Love. This comic is a little hard to follow, but it’s very funny and exciting. I especially like the sound effects such as “what a reveal” and “majestic impressive amazing.” I also like all the musical references. This comic has a somewhat similar aesthetic to Kim & Kim, and Matthew Erman’s writing style reminds me of Magdalene Visaggio’s.

BATMAN: BLACK & WHITE #6 (DC, 2021) – “The Second Signal,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Khary Randolph. Some black kids in “The Hill,” Gotham’s slum neigborhood, build their own Bat-Signal, so they can summon Batman to deal with the Mad Hatter’s attacks on their community. This was a very touching story. “The Abyss,” [W/A] Elsa Charretier, [A] Pierrick Colinet. Three people all witness the same encounter between Batman and Man-Bat, but they all interpret it differently. This story has some nice Darwyn Cooke-esque art, but Pierrick Colinet is a completely incompetent writer. “Opening Moves,” [W/A] Nick Derington. Batman fights some chess-themed supervillains, and fails to convince their youngest member to come away with him. This was another cute story. “Like Monsters of the Deep,” [W] John Arcudi, [A] James Harren. Batman uses Clayface as a decoy to catch a criminal, but Clayface gets too deeply absorbed in his role. Clayface’s dialogue is full of Shakespeare quotations, and James Harren makes him look beautiful and gruesome. “A Thousand Words,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] John Romita Jr. A dying photographer thinks back on all the photos he’s taken of Batman. This is another good one, though I seem to recall disliking it, and I’m not sure why.

DRYAD #10 (Oni, 2021) – untitled, [W] Kurtis Wiebe, [A] Justin Barcelo. The city starts to collapse as giant trees erupt through the ground, and Yale apparently gets killed. I’ve lost track of Dryad’s plot.

2000 AD #77 (IPC, 1978) – This is the third of the four banned progs. Robo-Hunter: as above. On the way to Verdus, Sam and his pilot are de-aged 35 years. Slade becomes 25 again and his pilot becomes a one-year-old baby. That’s the origin of Kidd. Dan Dare: as above. Dare makes it back to the ship, but thanks to gunfire from Gunnar, he gets trapped in sealing gel. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth Chapter 17: Giants Aren’t Gentlemen!”, [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Brian Bolland. The chapter title is a P.G. Wodehouse reference. Dredd encounters a mad scientist resembling Colonel Sanders, who’s created replicas of the Green Giant, Planters’s Mr. Peanut, Alka-Seltzer’s Speedy, the Michelin Man, and other advertising mascots. All of these characters were used without permission, which is why this story was banned from reprinting. That’s unfortunate because this story has amazing Bolland artwork, and its parodies of corporate mascots are quite funny. Future Shocks: “The Ultimate Warrior,” [W] Chris Stevens, [A] Pierre Frisano. The warrior Karnok goes on a quest to defeat the android Reaper of Death. The twist ending is that Karnok himself is an android. Ant Wars: as above. The ants invade Rio by using a carnival float as cover.

SWAMP THING #4 (DC, 2021) – “My Green Amaranthine Part 4,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. Jennifer Reece talks with Jason Woodrue. Alec Holland tells Levi about the Green. There’s one impressive page with some visual quotations from old Swamp Thing comics. The Suicide Squad appears at the end of the issue. I’m still finding it hard to get into this series, and I’m not sure what it’s supposed to be about.

THE SURVIVOR V1 (Catalan, 1985) – untitled, [W/A] Paul Gillon. This artist was heavily influenced by American master draftsmen like Al Williamson and Stan Drake, and he in turn was a major influence on David Roach. His draftsmanship in this album is stunning. The protagonist, Aube Albespy, spends most of the book naked, and Gillon makes her look very sexy, but he also draws beautiful machinery and architecture. The Survivor takes place in a near-future France where most of the population has been killed in a nuclear catastrophe. Only Aube survived because she was diving in a cave. Aube eventually finds another survivor, an astronaut who was in space during the catastrophe, and falls in love with him. (Y: The Last Man also includes astronauts who survived the apocalypse by not being on Earth when it happened, but this similarity is probably a coincidence.) But Aube’s jealous companion murders the astronaut. The second album of this series was also translated into English, but it’s hard to find.

CEREBUS #44 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1982) – “The Deciding Vote,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus and Lord Julius’s goat are exactly tied, and a curmudgeonly old farmer has to decide which candidate will get the last undecided seat from his remote mountain district and will thus become Prime Minister. After locking up Astoria and the Roach in a shed ful of moonshine, the old man makes his decision, but Cerebus has to get back to town in order to learn what that decision was. And of course the bridge back to Iest is out and won’t be fixed for a week. But Cerebus accidentally learns that the old man voted for him, and he’s the new Prime Minister – not that it will do him any good. This is one of the best Cerebus stories I’ve read; it has some amazing dialogue and comic timing. This issue also includes a Neil the Horse backup story.

2000 AD #78 (IPC, 1978) – This is the fourth and last banned prog. Robo-Hunter: as above. Slade and Kidd finally arrive at Verdus, where the robots throw him and Kidd into prison with all the other humans on the planet. The robots refer to Sam as a “sim,” the meaning of which we don’t know yet. Future Shocks: “Nothing on Earth!”, [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Pierre Frisano. Earth is contacted by some horrible-looking aliens. The humans promptly kill them, only to learn that the aliens were actually good, and were trying to warn them of the imminent arrival of some cute but evil aliens. Dan Dare: as above. The lead mutineer, Haskins, steals Dare’s uniform and escapes from the ship. But he’s promptly captured by Gunnar, who mistakes him for Dare and kills him, before being killed himself. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth Chapter 18: Soul Food,” as above. Dredd helps Dr. Gribbon (Colonel Sanders)’s creations rebel against their creators. Dr. Gribbon and the corporate mascot characters are all killed. This story has some more terrific Bolland art. Ant Wars: as above. The ants take over Rio, and Villa and Anteater’s new task is to kill the queen.

CLEAN ROOM #4 (Vertigo, 2016) – “Turn That Frown Upside Down,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Jon Davis-Hunt. In a flashback, we see how the creepy cult leader, Astrid, recruited a scientist named Dr. Hagen. In the present, she has an interview with an ancient demon, and the other protagonist, Chloe, is contacted by a different demon. Jon Davis-Hunt draws in a classic superhero style, but his art is surprisingly well suited to the horror genre.

2000 AD #79 (IPC, 1978) – as above except [A] Ian Gibson. Slade and Kidd are tortured by the robots, but Kidd gets them out of their cell. Ian Gibson’s artwork is extremely detailed, and his spotting of blacks is impressive. Dan Dare: “The Doomsday Machine,” [W] Roy Preston, [A] Trevor Goring & Garry Leach. Dare’s ship is captured by a giant alien vessel. Goring and Leach’s art isn’t as immediately appealing as Gibbons’s, but it includes some impressive visual effects. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth Chapter 19: Loser’s Leap,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Mike McMahon. Dredd and his crew arrive in Las Vegas, where everyone is gambling-mad. The local corrupt judges sentence Dredd to be thrown off a building for interfering with their gambling schemes. Mike McMahon’s art is exciting and full of chicken fat, though some of the fine detail is lost due to poor printing. Ant Wars: as above except [A] José Luis Ferrer. Villa and Anteater destroy the ants with help from the Brazilian navy, but some of the ants’ eggs survive, so this dumb story isn’t over yet.

ACHILLE TALON V30 (Dargaud, 1982) – “Achille Talon a un groz nez Ah! Ah! Ah!”, [W/A] Michel Greg. This is the first untranslated French comic I’ve read in a long time. My French is pretty rusty, and this comic took a while to finish. Achille Talon (meaning “Achilles’ heel”) is a self-important French gentleman with a huge nose. This album consists mostly of short stories, ranging from a single tier of panels to a few pages, mostly focusing on Achille Talon’s misadventures and his Homer-and-Flanders-esque relationship with his neighbor Hilarion Lefuneste. There are also some metatextual jokes where Achille visits the offices of the magazines where his stories are published. In the longest sequence of stories, Achille campaigns for president of France. Greg draws in the humorous “Marcinelle school” style that was pioneered by Franquin.

2000 AD #80 (IPC, 1978) – Robo-Hunter: as above. Slade and Kidd run from the robots and discover some friendly robot appliances. Ant Wars: as above except [A] Alfonso Azpiri again. Villa and Anteater are recovering in hospital when they learn of renewed ant attacks in the pampas of Argentina. They travel to Argentina and are captured by some gauchos. Amusingly, the ants’ first victims are two stereotypical Scottish men who were returning from the World Cup. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth Chapter 20: The God Judge!”, as above. Spikes saves Dredd, and he participates in the Vegas judges’ annual competition and becomes their new God-Judge. Future Shocks: “Breaking Out,” [W] Jan Garczynski, [A] Carlos Pino. A criminal escapes from a prison on the moon of Titan, but his escape is in fact a drug-induced fantasy. Dan Dare: as above. The alien ship is full of murderous cannibals as well as one sane human, a space prospector named Jebby. This story’s first panel contains several Easter eggs including the USS Enterprise, the robot from Metropolis, and Dan Dare’s original spaceship Anastasia.

CLEAN ROOM #5 (Vertigo, 2016) – “All the Wrong Places,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Jon Davis-Hunt. Astrid forces the actress Chrissy Delacorte to work for her, under threat of having her career destroyed. This is a creepy scene that destroys any sympathy the reader had for Astrid, if the reader had any sympathy for her to begin with. In another disturbing scene, a demon warns Chloe that she’s about to be attacked by an assassin called the Surgeon.

ELFQUEST: THE FINAL QUEST #10 (Dark Horse, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Wendy Pini, [W] Richard Pini. The dying Angrif Djun launches his last and biggest fleet, there’s more drama between Rayek and Winnowill, and lots of other stuff happens that doesn’t seem to matter. I did not like this Elfquest series at all.

COYOTE #4 (Marvel, 1984) – “How Coyote Drank His Djinn,” [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Chas Truog. The djinn/gin pun also appears in Midnight’s Children, which Steve Englehart could plausibly have read by 1984. Like most Englehart comics, Coyote #4 has a super-confusing plot that doesn’t make much sense, and also a bit of bizarre sex. The character Lizette in this issue seems very similar to Firebird from West Coast Avengers.

REVIVAL #9 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Mike Norton. The Check brothers execute some kind of plot to smuggle stolen Reviver parts, and Cooper and Dana accidentally stumble upon the brothers as they’re dissecting a corpse. This is a very typical issue of Revival.

SLAINE THE BERSERKER #3 (Quality, 1987) – “Sky Chariots,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. This reprints the Slaine stories from 2000 AD #355-360, in which Slaine becomes Slough Throt’s bodyguard and rides on his cloud curragh. These are good stories – I’ve read three of them in their original form – but Quality’s 2000 AD reprints are some of the worst reprint comics I’ve ever seen. Mike McMahon’s artwork is reprinted too small, rearranged to fit the American page format, and saddled with horrible coloring. Besides being garish and hideous, the coloring makes it hard to see the fine details of McMahon’s art. The result of all this is a comic that bears little resemblance to its original version.

CLEAN ROOM #6 (Vertigo, 2016) – “The Surgeon Walks,” as above. A flashback reveals that Chloe’s boyfriend Philip killed himself because Astrid showed him something horrible, but we don’t get to see what it was. The Surgeon – a demon in the form of a sweet-looking old man – appears and nearly kills Chloe, but Astrid calls and convinces the Surgeon to leave. This is perhaps my favorite of Gail’s solo comics, because it’s such a creepy piece of horror. But it’s unfortunate that Astrid is such an unsympathetic character. She does actually have a good cause – she wants to defeat the aliens or demons or whatever they are – but her methods are so awful that the reader hates her more than the demons.

BADGER #22 (First, 1987) – “Range War,” [W] Mike Baron, [A] Bill Reinhold. The Badger gets involved in a feud between two appliance salesmen, one who pretends to be a vampire and another who acts like a stereotypical Irishman. I read this story around the same time that I read George Pelecanos’s A Firing Offense, which is also about corrupt appliance salesmen. This issue also has a Clonezone backup story. The Badger is a funny comic, but I’m not fery interested in collecting it because Mike Baron is such a toxic person.

CEREBUS #47 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “Crisis Number Three: Balances,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus deals with a bunch of simultaneous crises, and the Roach acts as his hired muscle and does some illegal stuf on his behalf. The issue ends with Cerebus discovering that the army approaching Iest is not Bran Mak Morn’s long-awaited army, but an invasion force. The backup story is part two of Sech and Cherkas’s “The Missing Schoolgirl.”

TRIDENT #2 (Trident, 1989) – [E] Martin Skidmore. The most notable stories in this issue are the two I’ve already read: Morrison and Grist’s St. Swithin’s Day, and Eddie Campbell’s Bacchus. Rereading this chapter of St. Swithin’s Day, I’m surprised to realize that the protagonist openly admits he’s going to London to assassinate Margaret Thatcher. I remembered that as being a surprise plot twist. Another interesting story is Dominic Regan’s “Dom Zombi,” in which a sorcerer tries to resurrect Morrissey. Other creators in this issue include Mike Collins, D’Israeli and Nigel Kitching.

2000 AD #81 (IPC, 1978) – Robo-Hunter: as above. Slade has some weird dreams, and then the robot appliances decide to go with him to see SJI, the first robot that came to Verdus. This chapter has a lot of impressive artwork. Ant Wars: as above. Villa and Anteater barely survive an ant attack, and then they encounter some rebel guerillas. Argentina had a ot of guerrilla groups in the ‘70s, though Wikipedia claims that the government exaggerated the threat the guerrillas posed. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth Chapter 21: Tweak’s Story!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Brian Bolland. Tweak tells Dredd and Spikes that he exiled himself from his home planet in order to prevent humans from learning about his planet’s priceless mineral resources. This is a really cute story, and of course Bolland’s art is incredible. Tweak is visually based on a tamandua, an anteater native to Central and South America. Dan Dare: as above. Dare meets another human who shows him that the cannibals worship three human bodies frozen in ice. Future Shocks: “What Hit Tunguska?”, [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Pierre Frisano. Some time travelers try to find out what caused the 1908 Tunguska explosion, but they end up causing it themselves.

NIGHT MUSIC #1 (Eclipse, 1984) – “Breakdown on the Starship Remembrance,” [W/A] P. Craig Russell. Lieutenant Jordon Alexander becomes an astronaut because he’s a fan of Flash Gordon and EC comics. He discovers that actual space travel is much less romantic. There are two alternate endings. This story includes some beautiful artwork, including some amazing alien cityscapes. However, unlike most of PCR’s later work, it suffers from severe overwriting. There are two short backup stories, one which is an adaptation of the first movement of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, and another which appears to be reproduced directly from pencils.

BUCK GODOT, ZAP GUN FOR HIRE #2 (Palliard, 1993) – “The Gallimaufry Part 2,” [W/A] Phil Foglio. Palliard Press was Greg Ketter from Dreamhaven Books in Minneapolis. I hadn’t realized that he used to publish his own comics. Much like Captain Confederacy, Buck Godot seems aimed more at SF fans than at comics fans. Buck Godot #2 is set in Gallimaufry Station, a meeting point for thousands of alien species. The eponymous protagonist is a giant-sized human who grew up in high gravity. In this issue Buck helps foil another human’s plot to sell classified information. This comic is quite funny, if sometimes hard to follow, and its art includes a lot of chicken fat.

TUKI: SAVE THE HUMANS #2 (Cartoon Books, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Smith. Tuki is “the story of the first human to leave Africa.” In this issue, Tuki saves a little boy from a sabretooth tiger, and then they work together to outwit a giant gorilla. Tuki was originally published as a webcomic, which explains its weird sideways page format and its decompressed storytelling. It’s not surprising that Tuki was less successful than Bone or even Rasl, since it was only available as a webcomic and a self-published comic book, and not as a graphic novel. Only four issues of Tuki were ever published, but earlier this year Jeff Smith launched a Kickstarter to publish it as two graphic novels.

ONE FOR ONE: BPRD HELL ON EARTH; NEW WORLD #1 (Dark Horse, 2014) – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola & John Arcudi, [A] Guy Davis. Abe Sapien investigates a Bigfoot sighting in the forests of British Columbia. I haven’t been impressed with any of the BPRD comics I’ve read, and this comic continues that trend.

STEVEN UNIVERSE AND THE CRYSTAL GEMS #4 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, [WW] Josceline Fenton, [A] Chrystin Garland. Steven and the Crystal Gems fight some sort of glass monster. I shouldn’t have ordered this comic. I watched the first few episodes of Steven Universe once, but I wasn’t able to get into it.

PRETTY DEADLY #10 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Emma Rios. I think this is the end of the War/World War I storyline. Perhaps my hatred of this series is exaggerated. The final scene where the grandmother dies is rather touching, and Emma Rios’s page layouts are often very creative. But I hate the way she draws faces, and I’ve never understood Pretty Deadly’s plot or how its protagonists are connected to each other.

CLEAN ROOM #7 (Vertigo, 2016) – “High Way to Hell,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Jon Davis-Hunt. In flashback, Astrid meets a girl named Anika Wells who’s also encountered the demons. In the present, we meet Anika again, only the left half of her body is withered, and she wants to die. Also, a detective named Avil Demakos interviews Chloe, and Astrid meets the Surgeon.

LUNA THE VAMPIRE #2 (IDW, 2016) – “Promotion” and other stories, [W/A] Yasmin Sheikh. Luna works at a store called Gröm, attends a fan convention, goes to her mother’s dinner party, etc. This comic is drawn in a Cartoon Network-esque style that does not appeal to me.

My next Heroes trip was on June 21. That day I had an excellent lunch at Euro Grill & Café. I ordered the cevaps sandwich. Sanford Greene was doing a signing at Heroes that day, but there was a long line for him, and I was too tired to wait.  

WYND #7 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. The vampires sink the ship when it’s almost at shore. All the named characters survive, but just barely, and Wynd has to fly off alone to get help. The two giant birds appear and keep him from falling asleep in mid-flight, but then they deliver him into the hands of a fairy who blames him for his mother’s death. Meanwhile, the vampires pick up Wynd’s friends’ trail. This issue reminds us that the villains in this cocmiic are really awful; they’re just totally unredeemable monsters.

SEVEN SECRETS #9 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. The heroes hide out in a remote castle in France. Meanwhile, the villains, who we’ve barely seen so far, have some internal disputes. At the end, Eva becomes the keeper of all the remaining secrets, one of which is that Sigurd is somehow still alive. This was the quietest, least action-packed issue yet.

SAVE YOURSELF #1 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Bones Leopard, [A] Kelly Matthews & Nichole Matthews. While working as a barista, shy, bespectacled Gigi has a meet-cute moment with a pink-haired muscular person. Then she gets trapped in a fight between the Lovely Trio – adult versions of the Powerpuff girls – and some giant lizards. We soon learn that the Lovely trio are evil, and Gigi’s crush, Mia, is one of the lizards they were fighting, and they’re “an agent of the Cosmic Federation,” apparently sent to deal with the evil superheroines. I never watched Powerpuff Girls, but this series is terrific anyway. It has a simiilar aesthetic and a similar art style to Zodiac Starforce or Another Castle. It’s notable that this comic includes two different transgender or nonbinary characters whose gender presentations are very different.

EVE #2 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Jo Mi-Gyeong. Early in this issue there’s a great line about how the difference between ideal and actual behavior is about eight billion lives. https://www.instagram.com/p/CQUK6S9B2qG/ Eve and the teddy bear sail through the flooded ruins of Manhattan, where they encounter some zombies and then some human survivors. This series is just as funny and gripping as Destroyer, but less complicated, though that’s not a bad thing.

RADIANT BLACK #5 (Image, 2021) – “Aftermath,” [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Eduardo Ferigato w/ Marcelo Costa. Nathan is alive, but he’s not well. Marshall  hunts down Radiant Red and beats her up. Then we meet Radiant Yellow and Radiant Pink, and a masked hooded entity appears to challenge all of them. This issue is mostly drawn by a different artist from the first four, but I barely noticed, perhaps because the most important thing about Radiant Black’s art is the costume designs.

SIX SIDEKICKS OF TRIGGER KEATON #1 (Image, 2021) – “Marshal Art,” [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Chris Schweizer. Trigger Keaton, an awful action movie actor who nobody liked, has been murdered. His six former onscreen sidekicks have to figure out who killed him, even though they themselves have better motives than anyone else. This is a very funny comic, similar in tone to this creative team’s Mars Attacks miniseries, but with an original premise. The creators do a great job of making Trigger Keaton a character you love to hate. Chris Schweizer’s art is detailed and expressive. I love the scene where the mortician says that Trigger looks the same in death as in life, and then the next panel shows Trigger looking horrific. https://www.instagram.com/p/CQUXeZNhfhv/

STRANGE ACADEMY #11 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. Someone has shattered Toth into tiny pieces. Luckily he can be reassembled, but while that’s going on, Howard the Duck investigates who did it. Eventually we learn that a single piece of Toth is missing, and Calvin has it. When the other kids confront Calvin, he turns into a giant multi-eyed monster. In addition to the hilarious Howard scenes, a highlight of this issue is the appearance by Toth’s parents, an ice queen and a Man-Thing. I guess that explains why he doesn’t talk. This series was not in Marvel’s latest solicitations, but they did just announce a Strange Academy one-shot that ties into the Death of Dr. Strange event. I hope there will be more Strange Academy after that.

ORCS! #5 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Christine Larsen. The orcs spend most of their money on new equipment from the dwarves, and while they’re trying it on, they have some interesting conversations that reveal more about their characters. Then the orcs encounter a party of elf adventurers, and then a mysterious fog leads them to an ominous-looking temple. While waiting for the fog to go away, they pass the time by listening to another story about Drod.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #117 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Sophie Campbell. Jennika’s band gives their performance, and Bebop and Rocksteady give up the battle without even bothering to play. This is a bit of an anticlimax. Sophie represents the band’s music in much the same way as she depicted music in Jem and the Holograms, and one of the Turtles even makes an explicit reference to that franchise. The older Lita returns to the future, and after some loose ends are wrapped up, the issue ends with the revelation that Shredder is still alive.

USAGI YOJIMBO #20 (IDW, 2021) – “Yukichi Part One,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi meets Yukichi, a young rabbit ronin who looks a lot like him. In a flashback, we learn that Usagi has met Yukichi before, when Yukichi foolishly refused to introduce Usagi to his sensei, Itsuki. Usagi cut a twig in half and asked Yukichi to show it to his master as a token of introduction. Yukichi failed to recognize the proficiency with which Usagi cut the twig, and by the time he went to look for Usagi again, he was gone. (This reminds me of Vasari’s story about Giotto drawing a perfect circle freehand.) Now Itsuki is dead, and Usagi agrees to help him deliver Itsuki’s swords to his school’s next master, but some students from a rival school try to steal the swords. Yukichi is an intriguing and cute new character.

LITTLE ARCHIE #20 (Archie, 1961) – “The Long Walk” and other stories, [W/A] Bob Bolling. This is perhaps the most expensive back issues I’ve bought, at $22.47 with shipping, but it’s worth it. “The Long Walk” is Bob Bolling’s undisputed masterpiece. Betty is jealous that Archie keeps walking home from school with Veronica, so she asks Archie to walk her home the next day. Archie plays a cruel trick on Betty by taking her on a “shortcut” through quicksand, hornets’ nests, barbed wire, etc. When they get home, Betty is humiliated and dirty, but Archie has a change of heart and apologizes to Betty, as well as giving her a lock of his hair. Betty pastes the hair in her scrapbook, then curls up in bed with an expression of absolute bliss. This is a moment of peak emotional intensity; it perfectly sums up Betty’s love for Archie. This story also includes some interesting formal devices. It’s narrated in verse by three of Betty’s toys. Archie and Betty’s walk through the woods is depicted in a sideways splash page formatted like a map. https://ogresfeathers.files.wordpress.com/2021/07/6e909-thelongwalk6.jpg It looks a lot like the Family Circus’s dotted-line Sunday strips. “The Long Walk” is a genuine masterpiece of the art of comics, and it’s a shame that it’s not more widely available. Bolling’s other stories in this issue are “Plesiosaur,” in which Archie encounters a prehistoric monster; “The Strange Case of Crawford Crab”; and “Buzzin’ Cousin.” There are also some stories by Dexter Taylor, who does a reasonable imitation of Bolling.   

BLACK HAMMER VISIONS #5 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Leonardo Romero. Skulldigger has a series of encounters with Bijou, his version of Catwoman. Except Bijou likes dogs instead of cats, and she’s motivated by her hatred of the evil billionaire Andres Venger. The last time they meet, Bijou is cruelly murdered by Grimjim. This is a simple but touching story, with brilliant art by a very underrated artist.

THE MANY DEATHS OF LAILA STARR #3 (Boom!, 2021) – “Up in Smoke,” [W] Ram V, [A] Filipe Andrade. The teenage Darius and his friends Zaffar and Danika discover an abandoned building where they hang out and do graffiti. This is a connection to Ram V’s previous work Grafity’s Wall. Darius and Zaffar have a falling out over their mutual passion for Danika. Then the building is destroyed in sectarian riots, and Zaffar is killed. Darius tells all this to Laila at a party in an apartment building. That same night, the building is destroyed by fire, and Laila is the only casualty. The riots that cause Zaffar’s death are triggered when “someone set a train on fire. Someone made an incendiary speech. Some wanted a temple built. Others wanted an edifice torn down.” This could be a reference to the 1992 Mumbai riots triggered by the destruction of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, but I don’t know if that fits the series’ timeline. Either way, I appreciate that Ram V doesn’t make this reference explicit. He respects his readers’ intelligence by assuming that they either know about Indian culture, or are willing to educate themselves about it.

BIRTHRIGHT #50 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Mikey confronts Kallista, who commits suicide (I think), thus wrapping up the final loose end. Five years later, Mikey and Rya, who’s pregnant with a son, are playing with Mya in the park. Mya gets lost, but just when we think that Mikey’s history is repeating itself, her parents find her. This is a sweet and satisfying conclusion to a very fun series.

FANTASTIC FOUR #33 (Marvel, 2021) – “Bride of Doom Part 2: Royal Wedding,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] R.B. Silva w/ Luca Maresca. At the wedding, everything seems to be going well until Zora stops the ceremony and admits that she slept with Johnny. Then everything goes to hell in a handbasket. This issue was rather predictable.

STILLWATER #8 (Image, 2021) – “All the Time in the World,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón K. Pérez. In a flashback, small-town policewoman Tanya tries to figure out why Stillwater never sends any prisoners to the state prison. Sheriff Mike tries to assassinate her, as is Stillwater’s usual policy, but he takes pity on her when he discovers that she’s lost her child and been diagnosed with cancer. She arrives in Stillwater, where she becomes the new sheriff. Then we return to the present day, and Ted shoots Tanya and steals her sheriff’s badge. Daniel isn’t in this issue.

FAR SECTOR #12 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] N.K. Jemisin, [A] Jamal Campbell. Jo uses her remaining power to defuse the violence, and she makes a speech about how “without justice, we [police] were just hired thugs for the people in power.” As at many earlier points in this series, Jo is really talking about contemporary America. Jo remains in the City Enduring and continues her relationship with Syz, and the series ends with the Green Lantern oath. Like all of Jemisin’s work, Far Sector was challenging and sometimes confusing, but also very important. I hope she writes more comics.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #27 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Clone Saga,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Carmen Carnero. The clones reveal their origin, which is connected to the Assessor from earlier in this series. Miles convinces one of the clones, Shift, to let him go, then Miles rushes to the hospital to protect his mother from Mindspinner. But meanwhile, Selim pretends to be Miles so that he can kidnap Miles’s baby sister from right out of her father’s arms. The last page, where Selim holds the baby and promises to keep her safe, is super creepy.

THE GOOD ASIAN #2 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Alexandre Tefenkgi. Edison Hark continues to investigate Ivy Chen’s kidnapping. His investigations lead him to a nightclub with Asian performers, but while there, he witnesses an assassination. Victoria Carroway, Edison’s racist foster sister, reveals that Mason Carroway knew something about Edison’s mother’s murder. This issue ends with some fascinating historical information about Chinese exclusion, Angel Island, and the “chop suey circuit.”

BABYTEETH #18 (AfterShock, 2021) – “Temple,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. Sadie’s mom reveals that she’s hiding some other demon children in the Mormon temple. The Ritters hold a funeral for Sadie’s dad. This series has been on hiatus for so long that it already feels a ltitle outdated, but I might as welll finish reading it since there are only a few issues left.

WONDER WOMAN #773 (DC, 2021) – “Afterworlds Part 4,” [W] Michael Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Travis Moore. Diana finally confronts the Valkyries in their castle, but Thor and the Asgardians have followed her there. The Asgardian conflict is finally resolved, Yggdrasil is saved, and Thor declares that it’s Thirsty Thorsday… heh. After spending the night with Sigurd, Diana heads off to Olympus to find out what’s happened to the gods. Ratatoskr goes with her. In the Young Diana backup, an old witch named Magala gives Diana some lost manuscripts. I love Paulina Ganucheau’s art, but Jordie Bellaire’s writing leaves much to be desired.

COMPASS #1 (Image, 2021) – “The Cauldron of Eternal Life,” [W] Robert Mackenzie & David Walker, [A] Justin Greenwood. This appears to be a different David Walker from the one who writes Bitter Root. In the year 1242, a young Muslim thief infiltrates a Welsh castle, where she encounters assassins sent by a Chinese former ally. This issue is a bit formulaic so far, but Compass’s concept is interesting. As explained in the essay at the end, this series is an adventure conquest that’s inspired by the social disruptions causued by the Crusades and the Mongol conquest. Its plotline illustrates how even in medieval times, the Western and Eastern worlds were heavily interconnected. I initially assumed that the character of Ednyfed Fychan was made up, but he was a real person, and Powys Fadog was a real kingdom. The authors seem to have done their research.

PROJECT: PATRON #3 (AfterShock, 2021) – “Revenge and Resurrection,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Patrick Piazzalunga. The Patron fights Mechatron, who looks like an EVA unit from Neon Genesis Evangelion, but claims to be the messiah. The Luthor character brings back the Doomsday character from the moon. Otherwise there’s not a lot here that’s new.

SILVER COIN #3 (Image, 2021) – “Death Rattle,” [W] Ed Brisson, [A] Michael Walsh. Let me just quote my own Facebook post: “I liked the first two issues of Silver Coin, but issue 3 was a pointless, plotless piece of torture porn. Ed Brisson is an awful writer.”

GEIGER #3 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Gary Frank. In a flashback, the King opens up Geiger’s vault and discovers that Geiger’s family is dead. He finds this funny. Geiger burns the hell out of his face, but somehow refrains from just killing him. In the present, Geiger adopts the two orphaned kids. I like this better than Geoff Johns’s DC comics because it’s an original concept, so he’s not doing damage to other people’s characters. Also, the King is a pretty loathsome villain.

SPIDER-MAN: SPIDER’S SHADOW #3 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Pasqual Ferry. Peter/Venom kills the entire Sinister Six except JJJ, who discovers his secret identity and helps him escape. There’s a funny reference to Eddie Brock as “Brock-Ock.” Peter finally escapes from the symbiote, but he discovers that his secret identity was revealed when the Kingpin died. Meanwhile, the Venom symbiote has returned to the Baxter Building and released a bunch of other symbiotes. The awful stuff that happens in this miniseries is genuinely impactful, even though none of it is in continuity.

BRZRKR #3 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Keanu Reeves & Matt Kindt, [A] Ron Garney. The berserker, Unute, is only two years old but is already full grown (a common mythological trope), and he’s conquering all the neighboring tribes on behalf of his power-mad father. There’s only a brief scene set in the present day. This comic is better than I expected, given that Keanu Reeves has almost no prior writing experience. I assume Matt Kindt is doing most of the actual writing.

BUNNY MASK #1 (AfterShock, 2021) – “The Chipping of the Teeth,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Andrea Mutti. Bee Foster is being raised by her abusive, schizophrenic father Bee, who believes that a creature called “the snitch” is talking to him. When some CPS agents come to investigate why Bee’s not at school, Leo murders one of them and imprisons the other, Tyler Severin, in a cave. In the cave Tyler encounters a mysterious bunny-masked girl, then wakes up to find that he’s been rescued. 14 years later, Tyler visits an art gallery full of art depicting the same bunny-masked creature. He discovers that the artist is none other than Bee Foster. Meanwhile, some policemen return to Leo Foster’s old house and discover the cave… which contains Bee Foster’s corpse. This is a very creepy and intriguing comic. Paul Tobin is best known as a writer of kid-oriented comics, but he’s also very good at horror.

SUPERGIRL: WOMAN OF TOMORROW #1 (DC, 2021) – “Men, Women, and Dogs,”, [W] Tom King, [A] Bilquis Evely. On an alien planet, teenage Ruthye’s father is killed by a villain named Krem. Ruthye heads off on a quest for vengeance. She goes to a bar and tries to hire a bounty hunter, but he slaps her and steals the sword. Luckily for her, Supergirl is drinking at the same bar, and she agrees to accompany Ruthye on her quest. Unluckily, when they find Krym, he flies away in the spaceship that Supergirl used to reach the planet. Also, the planet has a red sun. King and Evely succeed in creating a world that seems much like Earth, yet subtly different – there are unexplained references to things like “six-legged monogryphs” and the deity Crying Anne. And Ruthye and Supergirl are interestingly different characters. I liked Bilquis Evely’s art on The Dreaming, and I’m glad she’s getting bigger assignments.

WITCHBLOOD #1 (Vault, 2021) – “You’ll Have to Go Sideways,” [W] Matthew Erman, [A] Lisa Sterle. The title is a song by the Soft Boys. This issue begins by introducing the witch Yonna D’Arc, whose spells are references to songs. She gets in a fight with a bounty hunter who hunts witches, but then they both get attacked by the Hounds of Love, a group of vampires who are hunting for witches’ blood. After reading this issue I understand this series better, and I really like its coloring and its sense of humor.

CHALLENGE OF THE SUPER SONS #3 (DC, 2021) – “Little Wonders,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Jorge Corona & Max Raynor. In the past, Felix Faust’s apprentice Rora gives Jon and Damian the ancient scroll, which predicts Faust and Vandal Savage’s plots against superheroes. In the present, Jon and Damian use the scroll to save Hawkgirl, then they find Rora, but Savage is holding her hostage. This comic is very fun, but the two artists’ styles clash with each other.

KARMEN #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Guillem March. Cata overhears a conversation that reveals that her crush wasn’t really cheating on her, and she committed suicide for no reason. (Though it’s debatable whether there’s ever a reason.) Cata tries to confront her boyfriend Xisco, and the issue ends with them standing across from each other, but he’s unable to see her. Luckily that’s not the ending because there’s one more issue. Meanwhile, Karmen gets chewed out by her boss.

PROCTOR VALLEY ROAD #3 (Image, 2021) – “Here We Fucking Go Again,” [W] Grant Morrison & Alex Child, [A] Naomi Franquiz. The girls become persona non grata in their town. They go looking for clues, encounter some ghosts, and nearly get killed in a fire. After a final encounter with an old Native American woman, they decide that their friendship is over. Like many other Grant Morrison comics, Proctor Valley is getting harder to follow as it goes on.

DIE #17 (Image, 2021) – “Total Party Kill,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans. The party meet HP Lovecraft, and they realize that Lovecraft’s stories were based on visions of people playing Die in the future. The dice are non-Euclidean shapes. The party descend further and find a giant stockpile of the souls of other RPG players. Eventually they find a door that goes further down, and they open it by saying “friend.” One of the essays at the end of the issue is about Nordic LARP, which I’ve never heard of.

HOME #3 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Julio Anta, [A] Anna Wieszczyk. Juan’s mom arrives in Guatemala. Gladys helps Juan practice his powers in the park – a very common superhero trope – but they’re immediately attacked by ICE agents. As I’ve noted before, this comic is very unsubtle, but its topic is not one which calls for subtlety. Julio Anta presents the ICE agents as pure evil, and I think this is accurate.

2000 AD #1291 (Rebellion, 2002) – This was part of an eBay purchase, but I haven’t read any of the other progs from that lot yet. I’m trying to read my progs in numerical order. This prog is in a different format from any of the others I’ve read; it’s taller and thinner. Dredd: “Sin City Part 3,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Kev Walker. Sin City is a floating offshore casino. Judge Prees goes there to investigate who beat up his brother, who was an employee there. Dredd only appears briefly in this chapter. Kev Walker’s art is excellent. Sinister Dexter: “Croak Part 2,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Mark Pingriff. This is some kind of blend of the crime and horror genres, but I’m not sure what it’s about, or who the title character is. Thirteen: untitled (Part 3), [W] Mike Carey, [A] Andy Clarke. Joe Bulmer is attacked by some kind of boneless zombie, but is saved by a mysterious woman in black. Then some fake cops try to chase him, but a telepathic woman named Raksha saves him. Bec & Kawl: “And the Mystical Mentalist Menace Part 2,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Steve Roberts. The two eponymous protagonists, a man and a woman, fight a giant pink tentacled monster. I’m not sure what this series is about, but it’s funny and it reminds me a bit of Spurrier’s later work. Judge Death: “My Name is Death Part 3,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Frazer Irving. This is the only black-and-white strip in this prog. In this chapter Judge Death fights some judges inside a dormitory.

LUNA #5 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Maria Llovet. Luna and the blue god defeat Lux, have some weird mystical sex, and turn into constellations. This was an interesting miniseries with some radical artwork, but I’m not sure I want to read Llovet’s future work.

NIGHT HUNTERS #4 (Floating World, 2021) – untitled, [W] Dave Baker, [A] Alexis Ziritt. I couldn’t follow this comic’s plot, and Alexis Ziritt’s atrwork isn’t as exciting as in Space Riders. Ziritt is a terrific and underrated artist, but I wish he would work with a better writer.

AMAR CHITRA KATHA #503 (India Book House, 1971) – “The Sons of Rama,” [W] Anant Pai?, [A] Pratap Mulick. When I go to Heroes I often also visit a nearby used bookstore, Book Buyers. On my last visit I was excited to find two issues of Amar Chitra Katha. These are educational comics about Indian mythology and history. They’re very popular in India but are not easy to find in America, or if they are, I don’t know where to get them. I only have two others in my collection. This issue is based on Bhavabhuti’s Uttararamacharita (translated as Rama’s Last Act), which is itself based on the end of Valmiki’s Ramayana. Rama has rescued his wife Sita from Ravana, but his people demand that he exile her because she’s lived with another man, and she complies. In exile she gives birth to two sons, Luv and Kush, who grow up not knowing that their mother is Rama’s wife. Twelve years later Rama encounters Luv and Kush again while performing a horse sacrifice, which will establish him as the greatest of kings. Luv and Kush defeat Rama’s entire army, and Rama finally realizes that they’re his sons. But Sita asks the earth to swallow her as proof of her chastity, and it does. Rama’s abandonment of his wife is a rather problematic moment in Indian mythology, and this comic’s creators at least try to convey Rama’s ambivalent feelings about this decision, although (from my non-Indian perspective) I’m not sure they succeed. Pratap Mullick’s draftsmanship is kind of loose, but he succeeds in conveying the look of ancient India.

I BREATHED A BODY #5 (AfterShock, 2021) – “Into the Underland,” [W] Zac Thompson, [A] Andy MacDonald. Lots of bizarre stuff happens that I don’t understand, and Gelbacut/The First American/Mylo takes over the world. This series was easier to follow than Lonely Receiver, but it too eventually descended into incoherence. I don’t especially like Zac Thompson’s writing style, and I think I’m going to skip his Ka-Zar series.  

AMAR CHITRA KATHA #626 (India Book House, 1970) – “The Pandava Princes,” [W] B.R. Bhagwat, [A] Subhash Tendle. This is an adaptation of the early part of the Mahabharata. It depicts the youthful rivalry between the Pandavas and Kauravas, which culminates in the Kauravas’ attempt to burn the Pandavas alive in a palace. Then the Pandavas all marry the same woman, Draupadi – it’s a long story – and the issue ends with Krishna killing Shishupala at Yudhisthira’s inaugural sacrifice. This comic is less enjoyable than #503 because it covers more territory and has less of a central theme, and also Subhash Tendle is a less skilled draftsman than Pratap Mulick.

CATWOMAN #32 (DC, 2021) – “Everything You Know About Selina Kyle,” [W] Ram V, [A] Evan Cagle. A bunch of characters tell stories about Selina, each of which reveals a different facet of their personality. This is probably my least favorite Ram V comic, but I’m not quite ready to quit reading it yet.

2000 AD #83 (IPC, 1978) – Robo-Hunter: “Verdus,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ian Gibson. Sam and Kidd find SJI after some difficulty. This chapter again showcases Ian Gibson’s incredible skill at drawing robots and machinery. Dan Dare: “The Doomsday Machine,” [W] Nick Landau & Roy Preston, [A] Trevor Goring & Garry Leach. A human survivor, “Kid,” leads Dare and his crew through the ship, but Bear is killed fighting a giant sloth bear or something. The supporting characters in these Dan Dare strips were all expendable because they weren’t part of Dare’s classic supporting cast. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth Chapter 23: Legion of the Damned!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. Dredd and friends are almost at Mega-City Two, but they’re attacked by robots left over from the Battle of Armageddon in the year 2071. McMahon draws some stunning-looking robots, though of course in a very different style from Gibson. Ant Wars: untitled, [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Alfonso Azpiri. Villa and Anteater make it to the command center where the Latin American generals are assembled. They learn that there’s no more of the pesticide that made the giant ants, so all they need to do is defeat the existing ants. This issue also includes a Future Shock.

ULTRAMEGA #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] James Harren. Noah has an out-of-body experience where a creature with an eye for a head leads him to Atum Ultramega, the creator of all the Ultramega. But Atum is already dead. Despite that, Noah is able to merge with the eye-headed dude and defeat the kaiju that are terrorizing the humans. Noah returns to human form, minus his right head, but then his dead father’s severed head crashes to Earth and speaks to him. This comic is really weird, as that summary suggests, and it includes some very effective body horror.

2000 AD #84 (IPC, 1978) – Robo-Hunter: as above. Sam convinces SJI that he’s not a simulated human, but a real human who has the authority to command the robots. Robo- Hunter went on hiatus here and resumed in prog 100. Dredd: “The Last Meal,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Brett Ewins. This is only half a page, but it’s the most notable thing in this prog. It’s an apology strip that was published to avoid a lawsuit over the portrayal of the Green Giant in progs 77 and 78. In this strip, Dredd and Spikes eat some Green Giant food and meet the real Green Giant, who’s much nicer than the fake one they met before. Dan Dare: as above. Kid and Dare’s crew reach the ship’s original crew’s quarters, and discover that the ship was built by the Golden Ones, who seem to be angels. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth Chapter 24: Dredd’s Last Stand!”, [W] John Wagner, [A] Mike McMahon. Dredd, Spikes and Tweak fight the Legion of the damned, and Spikes is killed defending his comrades. More beautiful artwork here. Ant Wars: as above. Villa gets caught in the ants’ main nest.

CEREBUS #53 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “The Countess & the Aardvark,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus comes to stay at the Countess’s estate while writing his memoirs, and they have some interesting conversations. The Countess is kind of like Astoria without the lust for power. At the end of the issue, their solitude is invaded by the countess’s uncle, who is none other than the Roach. The backup story, by Don Goodrum, is a stupid parody of “The Raven” where the raven is replaced by Reagan. Goodrum’s jokes aren’t funny, and his verse doesn’t scan. The letters page includes an introduction by Dave where he addresses criticisms of the ending of High Society.

MADMAN COMICS #3 (Dark Horse, 1993) – “Horror on the High Seas,” [W/A] Mike Allred. After a weird adventure with Astroman and other robots, Madman and Joe go for a working vacation aboard a cruise ship. But the ship’s purser is murdered, and Madman and Joe are blamed. I’ve already read the next part of this storyline, but I forget who the culprit was.

NEXUS #64 (First, 1990) – “Seat of Power,” [W] Mike Baron, [A] Tony Akins. The new Nexus, Stan, accepts Tyrone’s invitation to found the University of Ylum. Vooper and Crocus get in a fight over who gets to manage Mezz’s band. Brother Lathe, Nexus’s uncle and an Elvonic religious fanatic, plots to infiltrate the new university. The Elvonics are one of the worst things about Nexus. They’re an obvious stand-in for Muslim fundamentalists, and they embody the racist stereotype in which Muslims are intolerant terrorists who hate our freedoms.

IMAGE FIRSTS: FATALE #1 (Image, 2012) – “Death Chases Me,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. At his godfather Dominic Raines’s funeral, Nicolas Lash meets a mysterious woman named Josephine. Then while Nicolas is at Dominic’s house, Josephine saves him from an attack by gunmen, but he loses his leg. Then we cut to 1956, where Josephine – looking the same as in 2011 – is a corrupt cop’s kept woman, and another cop, Hank, is obsessed with her even though he has a wife and a child on the way. I read one of the trade paperbacks of Fatale and didn’t like it, but I should give Fatale another chance, now that I’m more used to Brubaker and Phillips.

JONNY QUEST SPECIAL #1 (Comico, 1988) – “Three Trapped Tigers,” [W] Arthur Byron Cover, [A] Richard Howell. The title is a reference to a novel by Guillermo Cabrera Infante. The Quest family encounters Benton’s long-lost grandfather, who’s traveled into an alternate dimension and fallen in love with a cat-girl. This is a pretty stupid story, and it’s not even close to the level of quality of the regular Jonny Quest comic.

BUCK GODOT #3 (Palliard, 1994) – “The Gallimaufry Part 3,” as above. A bunch of alien races go to war over the Winslow, a small lizard that’s inexplicably worshipped as a god. Eventually the humans get blamed for stealing the Winslow. Buck Godot is very fun, but it has so much stuff going on that it becomes cumbersome to read.

COMIC BOOK GUY #4 (Bongo, 2010) – “The Death of Comic Book Guy! Part 4,” [W] Ian Boothby, [A] John Delaney. The Comic Book Guy is dead, and Marge is running his shop instead. This comic’s plot is mostly an excuse for gags, including lots of comic book fan in-jokes. For example, the Comic Book Guy’s secret origin is a hybrid of the origin stories of Green Arrow and Luthor.

FUTURAMA #49 (Bongo, 2010) – “Dummy Up!”, [W] Ian Boothby, [A] Mike Kazaleh. Leela goes to yoga to destress. Bender becomes a ventriloquist, using a doll that looks like Fry, but the doll goes insane and tries to kill Fry. This comic is reasonably funny, but it doesn’t have a central plot or theme. I started watching the entire run of Futurama once, but I never finished.

2000 AD #85 (IPC, 1978) – Dare: as above except [A] Dave Gibbons. The last Golden One, who looks a lot like Tharg, reveals his backstory. Dare escapes the ship but is left to drift alone in space. Dan Dare didn’t return until prog 100. Future Shock: “The Fourth Wall,” [W] Mike Cruden, [A] John Cooper. A little boy is killed by an overly realistic TV set. Dredd: “The ursed Earth Final Chapter: Death Crawl!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. Dredd makes it to Mega-City Two, and Tweak returns to his home planet. Thus ends the first truly great Judge Dredd story. Tweak’s only other appearance was in a one-shot story in Judge Dredd Megazine. Ant Wars: “In the Hall of the Mountain Queen!”, [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Jesús Peña. Villa and Anteater sacrifice themselves to destroy the queen ant, and that’s the end of this stupid story. It’s notable that Anteater never got an actual name, and we never learned anything about him or his tribe. Future Shocks: “Poacher,” [W] Barry Clements, [A] Jesus Redondo. A poacher accidentally prevents an alien invasion. This plot is reminiscent of old pre-superhero Marvel comics.

2000 AD #86 (IPC, 1978) – This is another key issue: the first issue of the merged 2000 AD and Starlord, and the first appearance of Strontium Dog or Ro-Busters in 2000 AD. Dredd: “Crime and Punishment,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Brian Bolland. Dredd returns to Mega-City One as a hero, but Judge Caligula frames Dredd for murdering a paparazzo. Dredd is exiled to Luna. This is Judge Caligula’s first appearance and is also a lead-in to the next major Dredd epic, The Day the Law Died. Bolland’s artwork is of course brilliant. Ro-Busters: “Death on the Orient Express!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Dave Gibbons. Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein rescue some people who are trapped in a cave-in, but there are ten people and only enough oxygen for nine, so Ro-Jaws has to decide which person will die. At this point Hammerstein has a one-eyed inhuman-looking head instead of his familiar human face. Flesh: “Book II,” [W] Geoffrey Miller, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. This first story serves as a reintroduction to the Flesh series, which was last seen in prog 19. Belardinelli draws some incredible technology and prehistoric monsters. Strontium Dog: “The Galaxy Killers,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny Alpha, Wulf and Gronk capture a man named Ratface, but then they themselves are captured by a giant alien warship. Overall, this prog was a major step up in quality from the last few. The replacement of Ant Wars and Dan Dare with Strontium Dog, Ro-Busters and Flesh is a huge upgrade.

CEREBUS #174 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1993) – “Mothers & Daughters 24,” [W/A] Dave Sim. At this point I had finished reading all the good Cerebus comics I had (besides one that I forgot about), and so I went back to reading the bad ones. This issue Astoria and Cerebus finally arrive at Cirin’s palace, and we discover that the black-cloaked hourglass-wearing figure is Suenteus Po. In the letter column, Daniel Livingstone from Glasgow writes a letter that makes some very coherent responses to Dave’s fearmongering about feminist censorship. Dave’s reply is: “Having searched the text of your letter for anything resembling a coherent point (as opposed to misguided male-feminist rhetoric) and come up empty, I find I have nothing to say.” Dave is such a fucking troll.

CLEAN ROOM #10 (Vertigo, 2016) – “The Last Breath of an Exile,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Jon Davis-Hunt. Astrid talks to the purple-haired woman, Ms. Capone, who rightly calls Astrid out on her whininess and entitlement. Chloe encounters an awful creep who smiles constantly. The Surgeon confronts Duncan, a character I don’t recognize, and threatens to turn Duncan’s lover into a horrifying human-horse hybrid, as the Surgeon already did to someone else. This was the last issue of Clean Room that I had. I should have kept on reading it, because it’s a very scary horror comic, and as I already said, it may have been Gail’s best solo series.

LETTER 44 #30 (Oni, 2017) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Alberto Jimenez Albuquerque. President Blades makes a speech announcing that the world is about to be destroyed by aliens. To me this seems like a terrible decision. If the world was going to end tomorrow, I’d be much happier not knowing. Meanwhile, Colonel Overholt sacrifices himself to defend the rest of the crew.

PLANET OF VAMPIRES #3 (Atlas, 1975) – “The Blood Plague!”, [W] John Albano, [A] Russ Heath. Russ Heath’s artwork in this issue is excellent, though it’s wasted on a silly story. Protagonists Chris Galland and Craig invade a skyscraper full of vampires, where their wives are held captive. Craig discovers that his wife, Brenda, is already dead. Craig and Brenda are black, so this counts as an example of the trope that TVTropes calls “Black Dude Dies First.” Though Chris’s wife Elissa also dies at the end of the issue. This was the last issue of Planet of Vampires.

GROO: PLAY OF THE GODS #1 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. Groo and Rufferto visit the kingdom of Iberza, where the local powers-that-be are very worried about an influx of immigrants bringing their foreign gods. As is often the case with Groo, this plotline is inspired by real-world politics. The kingdom decides to deport the immigrants to a newly discovered continent, and Groo himself boards the immigrants’ ship, thinking it’s going to take him to the world’s best cheese dip. Of course, the captain of the ship is Ahax. This is the most recent Groo comic to date, but the Groo Meets Tarzan miniseries was just solicited.  

STEVEN UNIVERSE #6 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Grace Kraft, [A] Rii Abrego. Amethyst and Pearl compete in professional wrestling as a tag team. I shouldn’t have ordered this comic.

AIR #9 (Vertigo, 2009) – “Mass Transit,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] M.K. Perker. At the Amsterdam airport, Blythe helps reunite a husband and wife who were separated in the Bosnian war. There are also a bunch of secret agent hijinks that are relevant to the overall plot. The husband-wife reunion in this issue is very touching, but Air was not at the same level as Willow’s other comics or prose works, thanks to its less focused plot.

CEREBUS #175 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1992) – “Book Three: Reads,” [W/] Dave Sim. Quoting myself agin: “Having finished reading all the good issues of Cerebus I had, I just read Cerebus #175. Good Lord. To call this comic drivel would be an insult to drivel. Now that I’m familiar with the good period of Cerebus, I can see how bad the bad period was.” To be more specific, at least half of this issue is a minimally illustrated prose story about the writer Victor Reid, a stand-in for Sim, who wants to do some more adventurous work but is being pressured to do more of the commercial work that made him famous. This Victor Reid story is written in awful purple prose, it’s full of pointless in-jokes about the direct market, and it makes the reader hate Victor for his pompousness and entitlement. Quoting myself again: “Also, this issue’s backup story by Colin Upton is a grossly offensive piece of white fragility, about a man who goes crazy because of reverse sexism… The Colin Upton story is about a man who gets made fun of by some straw feminists, and so he decides that he hates being blamed for sexism, and he wishes he was black or female so people would acknowledge his anger, and no amount of allyship is ever enough (this last one is true). And then he threatens and yells at his girlfriend in public. And the reader is supposed to sympathize with this whiny sexist asshole.” If published today, this story would be dismissed as red-pill incel bullshit. I should say that at least it’s well-drawn.

ICON #5 (Milestone, 1993) – “May We Bang You?”, [W] Dwayne McDuffie, [A] M.D. Bright. I was inspired to read this after reading Rebecca Wanzo’s brilliant Eisner-nominated book The Content of Our Caricature. This issue, Icon fights Blood Syndicate, but the real point of the comic is the two scenes with Rocket. She tells her grandmother that she’s pregnant, and her grandmother refuses to help if Rocket has the baby, since she already raised Rocket’s mother and Rocket herself. Then Rocket tells Noble, the baby’s father, about the pregnancy. Noble says “How do you know it was me?”  and Rocket punches him and repeats that line back to him. Compare the similar scene in Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones, which I also read recently. My problem with Rocket is that in 1993, she was not only the best African-American teen superheroine in comics, but almost the only one. Therefore, it seemed like by making her an unwed teen mother, McDuffie was playing into a common stereotype about black girls. However, Rebecca Wanzo’s whole argument in her book is that the deliberate invocation of stereotypes can be a useful political strategy.

COLIN UPTON’S AUTHORIZED BIG BLACK THING #1 (Starhead, 1994) – “The Big Black thing of Doom!” and other stories, [W/A] Colin Upton. I read this because I wanted to see if it was as bad as Upton’s strip in Cerebus #175. Thankfully it’s not. This comic seems to be a collection of earlier minicomics. Some of them are slice-of-life stories about life in British Columbia, while the longest one, “Hotxha the Albanian,” is an Asterix parody about a village of Albanians who escaped the 1945 Communist takeover. The characters in this story are blatant stereotypes, but the story is quite funny. Throughout the issue Upton’s draftsmanship is good and his writing is insightful. I’d be curious to read more of his work, again assuming it’s not like that Cerebus backup story.

ICON #8 (Milestone, 1993) – “Entelechy,” [W] Dwayne McDuffie, [A] M.D. Bright. I have a PhD and I still can’t ever remember what the word entelechy means. Britannica defines it as “that which realizes or makes actual what is otherwise merely potential.” This issue Icon tells Rocket his origin story, Noble tells Rocket’s mother that he’s the father of Rocket’s child, and Rocket encounters Holocaust. This issue includes a funny line that’s quoted in Rebecca Wanzo’s book: “I think I just figured out how a black man can be a conservative Republican – you’re from outer space!” The political difference between Icon and Rocket was the driving force of Icon’s plot. BTW, the comic is called Icon, but Rocket was the actual protagonist. The current revival series is called Icon and Rocket. I’m not reading that series because it’s written by Reginald Hudlin.  

CEREBUS #176 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1993) – “Po,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Mike Prosserman (a hybrid of Dark Horse executives Mike Richardson and Jerry Prosser) offers Victor a 2000-crown advance, making him instantly wealthy, but Victor fails to write anything. As in #175, the Victor Reid section is a load of crap and is extremely cumbersome to read. That’s unfortunate because, for the first time in a long time, this issue’s Cerebus section is actually interesting. Suenteus Po begins explaining why he’s brought Cerebus, Cirin and Astoria together.

CHEW #17 (Image, 2011) – “Flambé 2 of 5,” [W] John Layman, [A] Rob Guillory. Tony and Colby investigate a deadly food fight at Olive’s school. They discover that a nerdy student named Pilaf caused the fight, by cooking a recipe that made people insane. Colby defeats Pilaf, but he’s already sent his recipe to a space station, apparently causing the space station to be destroyed. This plot thread is part of the alien invasion subplot that wasn’t resolved until the very end of the series. A highlight of this issue is Colby teasing Olive about Peter being her boyfriend.

WINTERWORLD #2 (Eclipse, 1988) – untitled, [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Jorge Zaffino. Scully visits a nomadic tribe and enlists their aid in raiding the greenhouse city from issue 1. Jorge Zaffino’s artwork here is good, but not as impressive as in #1, and it would have been much better without color.

2000 AD #87 (IPC, 1978) – Dredd: “Outlaw,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Brian Bolland & Dave Gibbons. Dredd escapes from the ship taking him to Titan. Judge Cal decides to use a clone of Dredd to track down the original. A clue to Judge Cal’s personality is that he has a picture of Hitler on his wall. https://www.instagram.com/p/CQtxDWbBJv8/ Also, he’s named after Caligula. Ro-Busters: as above. The human survivors’ robots testify to whether their masters should live or die. One of the robots reveals that his master is an abusive father. When the master tries to kill his son, the robot kills him, thus solving the dilemma of which of the ten people should die. The other nine are rescued. This story wrongly claims that the first law of robotics is to tell the truth. Flesh: as above. A one-handed crook named Claw Carver stashes his loot in a nothosaur’s nest, killing the nothosaur’s babies in the process. Then he boards a ship that’s hunting Big Hungry, a giant nothosaur who happens to be the father of the babies. Belardinelli’s monsters, technology, and weather effects are beautiful, though he’s not great at drawing people. Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny and friends are abducted by warrior aliens known as Wolrogs.

CHEVAL NOIR #9 (Dark Horse, 1990) – Now here are some comics that would have been better with color. Marvano’s Forever War adaptation has some very nice artwork, but adds nothing to Joe Haldeman’s original novel. Indeed, with its slick renderings of military technology, it seems to glorify war, whereas Haldeman’s book is heavily antiwar. Andreas’s Coutoo is written and drawn in a very strange style. I’m curious to read more of Andreas because he has such a unique and weird aesthetic. The highlight of the issue is the first chapter of Schuiten and Peeters’s The Tower. This chapter introduces Giovanni, a plus-sized man who, for unknown reasons, is the custodian of a particular level of a giant crumbling old tower. After not hearing from anyone else for months, he decides to descend the tower and find out why he’s been abandoned. The Tower is the story that first got me interested in Schuiten’s work – I’m a sucker for stories about gigantic edifices – but I’ve never read the whole thing. IDW is supposed to be publishing a new edition of it later this year. Druillet and Lob’s Delirius has extremely complicated art and also a coherent story, unlike some of Druillet’s solo work. The issue also includes an Eyeball Kid chapter by Campbell and Ilya.

VELVET #12 (Image, 2015) – “The Man Who Stole the World Part Two,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Steve Epting. Superspy Velvet tries to turn the tables on the men who are chasing her. Brubaker’s plot is reasonably exciting; a notable moment is when Velvet sleeps with a male spy in order to feed him false information. Steve Epting’s artwork is as thrilling as when he was drawing Brubaker’s Captain America. Velvet feels a lot like Black Widow, and it could almost be turned into a Black Widow comic just by changing some names.

ROGUE TROOPER: THE FINAL WARRIOR #5 (Fleetway/Quality, 1992) – “The Saharan Ice-Belt War,” [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Simon Coleby. This reprints Rogue Trooper stories from the #730s or 740s of 2000 AD. These stories aren’t especially good, but they’re reprinted much more faithfully than the material in Slaine the Berserker #3. Instead of being chopped up to fit the American page size, the pages are shrunk down to fit the width of the comic book page. This results in a lot of white space at the top and bottom of the page, but that’s an acceptable tradeoff. Also, the paper quality in this reprint is much better than in Slaine the Berserker. This issue also includes a one-shot backup story with art by Chris Weston.

RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT! #60 (Gold Key, 1976) – “The Hidden Face,” [W] unknown, [A] John Celardo, etc. A bunch of stupid and unscary ghost stories with boring art. Even calling them “stories” is giving them too much credit.

CEREBUS #177 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1993) – “Revelations,” [W/A] Dave Sim. After spending months wasting money and doing no writing, Victor Reid has to go in and see his editor Karen Potts (Karen Berger + Carl Potts), but she keeps him waiting all day. Again, this story is infuriating because Victor Reid is a loathsome character and Sim’s prose is excruciating to read. The Cerebus story in this issue consists of a fascinating discussion between the four major characters. It’s just a pity that it only lasts seven pages, far less than half the issue. This issue includes a letter from my Facebook friend Mikel Norwitz. There’s also a letter from a certain D— E—, who expresses antifeminist sentiments just as vile as Dave’s own, and who seems to have become an MRA activist.

CEREBUS #178 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1994) – “Changes,” as above. Victor Reid meets with Karen Potts’s assistant Carl Berger, who tells him the obvious truth that his current work is not commercially viable. Victor is forced to create new work in the same style as his earlier Palnu Trilogy. Oh, boo hoo. God forbid he should give his audience what they want, or realize that the world doesn’t owe him a living. Victor also has to accept illustrations by M. Zulli, who he hates. I wonder what Dave’s problem with Michael Zulli was. This issue has ten pages of Cerebus content, which is actually more than last issue. Suenteus Po chews out Cirin, Astoria and Cerebus, and tells Cerebus that he’s never going to be happy even if he gets what he thinks he wants. Then he leaves.

SCOUT: WAR SHAMAN #3 (Eclipse, 1988) – “Proud Mary! Part 1,” [W/A] Tim Truman. Scout and the kids board Captain Mary’s ship, the Empress Jones, which is transporting some of Doody’s followers. Scout and Mary sleep together, then the ship is attacked by Captain “Atuma” Yuma. The issue ends with the first part of Truman’s adaptation of the Apache myth of White-Painted Woman.

2000 AD #88 (IPC, 1978) – Dredd: “Bring Me the Head of Judge Dredd!”, [W] John Wagner, [A] Brendan McCarthy & Brett Ewins. Dredd realizes that the real murderer must have been a robot made to look like him. Dredd finds the robot, defeats it, and delivers its head to the chief judge. McCarthy’s art is excellent but, as usual, would have been better in color. Ro-Busters: “Yesterday’s Hero!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. A flashback story in which Hammerstein fights the Volgans alongside a bunch of human soldiers who hate robots. Eventually all the soldiers are killed except for one sergeant, who’s gone blind and doesn’t realize Hammerstein is a robot. Kevin O’Neill’s art here is a bit crude, but has an insane level of detail. Flesh: as above. Claw Carver joins the Atlantis station’s crew and saves the station’s controller from being eaten by a shark. As a reward, Claw is given access to a ship that he can use to recover his stashed gold. Strontium Dog: as above. The Volgans force Johnny and Wulf to fight each other to the death. This is not the last story where Johnny and Wulf are manipulated into fighting each other; see also “The Killing” in progs 350 to 359. This issue also includes a Future Shock by Belardinelli, which ends with a beautiful splash page depicting a corpse.

EPIC ILLUSTRATED #2 (Marvel, 1980) – [E] Archie Goodwin. In grad school I bought a bunch of old Epic Illustrateds at a book sale, and I still haven’t read most of them. I bought this one at the Concord convention in May. This issue begins with Roy Thomas and Tim Conrad’s adaptation of REH’s Almuric. Conrad was sort of a bargain-basement version of BWS or Pérez or Corben. Bissette and Veitch’s “Monkey See” is about an intelligent monkey who turns out to have a fish tail. Starlin’s Metamorphosis Odyssey is perhaps the most notable story in the issue, though it’s hard to follow without having read the previous issue. P. Craig Russell’s “Siegfried and the Dragon” is his first attempt at an adaptation of Wagner’s Ring. He would return to this material many years later. Delany and Chaykin’s “Seven Moons’ Light Casts Complex Shadows” has excellent art but is impossible to follow. Goodwin and Robert Wakelin’s “Tarn’s World” is a dumb fantasy story with an “it was all a dream” ending. Other creators in this issue include Druillet, Vicente Alcazar and Ernie Colón. Overall, there’s interesting stuff in this magazine, but it feels like an inferior imitation of Heavy Metal.

CEREBUS #179 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1994) – “Insights,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This issue has just three pages of Victor Reid, thank God. Plus three pages of illustrations. Astoria makes the shocking revelation that Cerebus has both male and female genitalia. Then she explains some of her machinations from previous issues, and ends by saying that power is just an illusion. Announcing her intentions to live a quiet life from now on, she leaves Cerebus and Cirin to each other. This was probably the best Cerebus story since Jaka’s Story. At this point the story finally seems to be making progress, after at least thirty issues in which it went nowhere. This issue’s letter column includes more misogynistic MRA bullshit.

THE MAXX #3 (Image, 1993) – untitled, [W/A] Sam Kieth, [W] Bill Messner-Loebs. The Maxx has some weird adventures in both the Outback and the real world. The Maxx was the first good Image comic, and I think it was also Sam Kieth’s best work. As I’ve observed before, he’s not a very good writer, and he benefits greatly from working with an experienced writer like Loebs.

INFIDEL #5 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Aaron Campbell. This comic begins with some white people saying incredibly racist things about their POC neighbors, and then there’s a bunch of scary horror stuff that I don’t understand. Infidel seems like an excellent comic, but I ought to collect it all and then read it in order.

2000 AD #89 (IPC, 1978) – “The Day the Law Died,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Mike McMahon. Judge Cal has the Chief Judge assassinated, thus becoming Chief Judge himself. Then he has Dredd shot in the head. Also he orders one of his subordinates to go to work in nothing but a helmet, boots and boxer shorts. When I read some of the later chapters of The Day the Law Died, I thought it was an unimpressive story, but it becomes much better when you compare it to the earliest Dredd stories. Judge Cal is a pretty scary villain because Mega-City One’s legal structure allows him to escape any accountability. Ro-Busters: “Baptism of Fire!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike Dorey. The blind sergeant realizes Hammerstein is a robot, but grows to like him. Sadly, Hammerstein has to shoot him so he won’t be captured. Because of Mike Dorey’s artwork, this story looks like something out of Warlord or Battle. Flesh: as above. Carver recruits his ship captain, Svensson, as an accomplice in his crimes. Belardinelli’s full-color center spread is amazing. Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny and Wulf both survive, of course, and then the evil Sergeant Kark leads them in an assault on the alien Sandorians.

THE HUMANS #5 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Keenan Marshall Keller, [A Tom Neely. While the Humans are smuggling drugs, a rival gang tries to hijack their shipment, and an exciting and bloody fight ensues. This comic is a lot of fun and it feels historically accurate, but its issues tend to blur together, and none of its characters are sympathetic.

MOTHERLANDS #4 (Vertigo, 2018) – “Four,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Rachael Stott & Pete Woods. Motherlands is probably my least favorite Si Spurrier comic, thanks to its unimpressive art and convoluted plot. This comic was confusing to begin with, and it’s been three years since I read the previous issue, so I wasn’t able to follow its plot. But the most interesting thing about it is the interplay between the protagonist and her toxic mother. Honestly, the protagonist should have ceased contact with her mother years ago.

IZOMBIE #25 (Vertigo, 2012) – “The End Part One,” [W] Chris Roberson, [A] Mike Allred. The protagonists fight a Lovecraftian demon called Xitalu. iZombie’s plot is not very interesting to me. The only reason to read it is the Mike Allred art, and that may not be a good enough reason, since there are lots of other Allred comics.

BPRD: HELL ON EARTH – THE LONG DEATH #2 (Dark Horse, 2012) – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola & John Arcudi, [A] James Harren. This is issue 88. It mostly focuses on Johann Kraus, the guy who looks like he has a light bulb for a head. He and his teammates battle some gruesome monsters somewhere in the Canadian Arctic. James Harren’s artwork is impressive, though not as much so as in Ultramega.

TUKI: SAVE THE HUMANS #3 (Cartoon Books, 2015) – “Enter Kwarell,” [W/A] Jeff Smith. Tuki and the boy defeat the gorilla and join up with the boy’s two sisters. This comic suffers from too much narrative decompression, and would probably read better as a graphic novel.

EPIC ILLUSTRATED #21 (Marvel, 1983) – [E] Archie Goodwin. Pepe Moreno’s “Generation Zero” has a mediocre story, but some surprisingly good art. I’m not very familiar with this artist. Charles Vess’s “Age of the Dragon” has excellent draftsmanship but no real plot. The highlight of the issue is Kaluta’s “Sunstroke,” a lighthearted fantasy story about hot-air balloonists. Most of the other stories in this issue are pretty bad, and a big chunk of the issue is devoted to Ken Steacy’s “The Sacred and the Profane,” which I dislike because of its pomposity and its ugly draftsmanship.

2000 AD #90 (IPC, 1978) – This was the last issue from the shipiment I received in February. Dredd: “The Tyrant’s Grip!”, as above. Judge Cal appoints a goldfish as deputy chief justice, just as Caligula made his horse a consul. He also captures Dredd and is about to execute him, but Judge Giant saves Dredd. Ro-Busters: “Wheels of Terror!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. In another flashback, Hammerstein leads an assault on a giant Volgan tank. O’Neill’s art is excellent, though he’s still not drawing in his mature style yet. Flesh: as above. After an unsuccessful attempt to kill Big Hungry, Claw usurps command of his ship from Svenson. Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny and friends meet the head Sandorian scientist, and he gives them a plan for defeating the Wolrogs.

Now back to some later progs:

2000 AD #618 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: “Helios Part 5,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] David Roach. Helios assassinates another of his targets. Anderson’s partner interviews Sachs, Helios’s last enemy. Zippy Couriers: “Supermarket,” [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Graham Higgins. Shauna and her talking cat go shopping and play a prank on a mean old woman. This story is pretty cute. Tales from the Doghouse: “Maeve the Many-Armed,” [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Simon Jacob. The art in this story is so hideous that I don’t care about the writing. Dredd: “Crazy Barry, Little Mo Part Four,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Chris Weston. Dredd finally confronts Barry/Mo, but he gets away. We learn that Barry developed a split personality when he witnessed his parents’ murder at the age of four. Strontium Dog: “The Final Solution Part 11,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Simon Harrison. Johnny and Middenface are finally on their way to Earth. Sagan and his New Church prepare to send a bunch of mutants through a dimensional portal.

CEREBUS #180 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1994) – “First Blood,” [W/A] Dave Sim. The Victor Reid segment this issue is only one page. The Cerebus story is just a long fight scene between Cerebus and Cirin. There’s a letter from Pete Coogan that mentions the third annual Comic Arts Conference. There’s also the first of several previews of Rick Veitch’s Rare Bit Fiends.

MOTHERLANDS #5 (Vertigo, 2018) – “Five,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Rachael Stott. The big revelation this issue is that the mother is already dead, and that the character who we thought was her, was actually her clone. I think I have the last issue of this miniseries, but I haven’t gotten to it yet.

CRUDE #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Garry Brown. The bereaved father continues exploring the oil rig, and learns that his son was a member of the local rebel organization. This comic is very bleak and depressing, both on a visual and a narrative level, and it doesn’t appeal to me at all.

MY HERO ACADEMIA/RWBY 2018 FCBD EDITION (Viz, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Kohei Horikoshi and Shirow Miwa. Two excerpts from two different ongoing manga series. I read the first volume of My Hero Academia and didn’t like it, and this comic doesn’t change my opinion of it.

CEREBUS #134 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1990) – “Jaka’s Story 21,” [W/A] Dave Sim. An Umbridge-esque old lady tries to convince Jaka that dancing is wrong, but Jaka refuses to agree with her, and sticks out her tongue at her when she leaves. There’s also a flashback to when Lord Julius threw a party for Jaka’s twelfth birthday. Jaka’s Story was perhaps the last time Cerebus was good before it permanently jumped the shark.

CHEVAL NOIR #14 (Dark Horse, 1991) – [E] Mike Richardson. We begin with more Forever War by Marvano. On this comic, see the previous review. Cosey’s Voyage in Italy alternates between scenes set in Vietnam and America. Rosinski and Van Hamme’s Great Power of the Chninkel introduces a new character named Bom-Bom. It’s a shame this was never published in book format in English. It reminds me a lot of Woody’s Wizard King. Schuiten and Peeters’s The Tower is the final chapter, and includes some color pages. Giovanni finally makes it to the bottom, where he somehow ends up Fighting in a french army, but one of his fellow soldiers is his girlfriend Milena. Tardi and Legrand’s Roach Killer is also the final chapter, but it’s printed so dark that it’s hard to understand.

BLACK CLOUD #9 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Ivan Brandon, [A] Saumin Patel. Another incomprehensible issue of an awful series.

My next Heroes trip was on July 6. On this trip I had a full English breakfast at the new location of Big Ben English Pub.

STRAY DOGS #5 (Image, 2021) – “Bad Dog,” [W] Tony Fleecs, [A] Trish Forstner. The Master and the dogs start fighting to the death. Already mortally wounded, Earl sacrifices his life by running into traffic and causing a crash, so that other humans will discover what’s going on. The Master finally keels over dead, and the dogs lead a police dog to his stash of bodies. Four months later, Sophie and Rusty, now with new, good owners, play with each other at a dog park, and it’s not clear if they remember each other. The sequel miniseries, Stray Dogs: Dog Days, is coming soon. I think Stray Dogs was the best miniseries of 2021. It was a unique blend of cuteness and terrifying horror. However, I would be hesitant to recommend it to anyone who’s a dog person.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #17 (Boom!, 2021) – “Me and My Monster Part Two,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. Erica and her new “brother” Aaron get over their mutual hatred, but Erica is about to face a difficult test before she can join the Order of St. George. We also learn that the Order’s secretiveness is because their founder, St. George himself, made every Order member swear not to reveal the monsters’ existence. But that doesn’t really explain anything. Little Erica is extremely cute, but also mean, as she points out.

WE ONLY FIND THEM WHEN THEY’RE DEAD #7 (Boom!, 2021) – “In the End,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Simone Di Meo. In flashback, Jason Hauer, Malik’s last surviving crew member, is imprisoned and tortured by the colonial authorities. Then he’s kidnapped by the god worshippers, who don’t care about his welfare and just want to use him to further their agenda. Marilyn gets Jason to agree to help her kidnap Malik, in exchange for a dishonest promise not to hurt anyone. Then Marilyn goes and hurts a bunch of people. This was a gripping and powerful issue, even if it didn’t include any of Simone Di Meo’s sense-of-wonder-inducing space scenes. This issue makes me feel very sorry for Jason; as punishment for some questionable decisions in his youth, he spent his entire life as a political football.

ETERNALS #5 (Marvel, 2021) – “Only Death is Eternal, Part 5,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Esad Ribic. Sersi recruits the Forgotten One, aka Gilgamesh, and they go looking for Thanos and Druig. But Phastos, the Eternal version of Hephaestus, is loyal to Thanos, and he turns the tables on the other Eternals. Meanwhile Sprite is babysitting Toby Robson. This issue was entertaining but a bit hard to follow, and it didn’t tell us much that  we didn’t already know.

JONNA AND THE UNPOSSIBLE MONSTERS #4 (Oni, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Chris Samnee, [W] Laura Samnee. Jonna and her new friends Gor and Nomi fight a giant dragon. As before, this issue has brilliant artwork, but its story is too decompressed.

MANIFEST DESTINY #44 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. The Corps meets Sacagawea’s brother Cameahwait and his band, but it’s not an entirely happy reunion. This meeting was an actual historical occurrence. Clark leaves Toussaint Charbonneau to the mercy of Cameahwait’s band. Then Lewis gives a clear explanation of the series’ overarching plot: the demon Navath created the arches, and to destroy them and get rid of Navath, they have to sacrifice a child of two warring nations. That child is, of course, Sacagawea’s baby.

SHADECRAFT #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Joe Henderson, [A] Lee Garbett. Zadie surrenders her shadow to Angela, and Ricky is sent to a hospital. But then Zadie and her mom start arguing, and they both create shadows. As a result it comes out that Zadie’s mom also has shadow powers, and she’s been running from the government all her life, and now they’ve found her. So now Ashley and her parents have to rescue Ricky from the government base where he’s being held. This was an excellent issue.   

BLACK HAMMER REBORN #1 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Caitlin Yarsky. It’s 2016, twenty years after the last miniseries, and Lucy Weber, the former Black Hammer,  is now a suburban mom to two bratty kids. Amanda, the cop from the Skulldigger miniseries, shows Lucy evidence that her husband is cheating on her. Also, something has emerged from the Para-Zone. This is a promising start to the new Black Hammer miniseries. It has some obvious similarities to the first Incredibles movie, but is much darker. This issue confirms that Dr. Star is now known as Dr. Andromeda; it seems that DC thought the name Dr. Star was too close to Starman.

SEA OF STARS #10 (Image, 2021) – “The People of the Broken Moon,” [W] Jason Aaron & Dennis Hallum, [A] Stephen Green. We begin with Quasarro’s origin story, then Gil and Kadyn are reunited, but Gil has already been corrupted by the Devil King. Gil rejects the Devil King’s influence but seemingly gets killed. Then the space whale appears, and we realize it’s Quasarro, only he’s been corrupted by the Devil King too. There’s one issue left.

THE DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #10 (Image, 2021) – “A Hunter’s Diary,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Martin Simmonds. Evan is an elderly hunter whose father was obsessed with finding Bigfoot, to the point that he destroyed his marriage and eventualy killed himself. Now Evan has inherited his father’s obsession. Part of the issue consists of a handwritten, water-stained letter from Evan to his own son. Meanwhile, Hawk and Cole are also looking for Bigfoot, and Hawk explains why no one will ever find him. This was another great issue. As I read it, I found myself getting very angry at Evan’s father for ruining not only his own life, but his family’s lives, in pursuit of his insane Bigfoot obsession.

MADE IN KOREA #2 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Holt, [A] George Schell. Jesse reads all the books in her parents’ house, then insists on enrolling in school so she can socialize with other kids. She has to go to high school since there are no children her age anymore. A hilarious moment is when Jesse wakes up her parents before dawn, saying “I am ready whenever you are, Mom!” At school Jesse makes some new friends, but they may be bad influences on her, because the issue ends with them showing her their shed full of weaponized tools. Meanwhile, Chul gets fired from Wook-Jin and travels to America to look for Jesse.

ASCENDER #16 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. On Dirishu-6, Tim and Mother prepare for their decisive confrontation. Andy and Ellie head to Dirishu-6 so they can participate too. A nice nostalgic moment in this issue is when we hear “Driller’s a real killer!” for the first time in a whlie.

GIGA #4 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Alex Paknadel, [A] John Lê. Lots of stuff happens this issue, but it’s all quite difficult to follow because this series has been coming out so sporadically. Aiko pistol-whips Evan and goes off with Laurel, the leader of the Order is assassinated, and we finally get some scenes from the Dusters’ perspective. Also, the dead Transformers are either blowing up or coming back to life.

CROSSOVER #7 (Image, 2021) – “Zdarsky and I,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Phil Hester. That’s not the real title, but this issue reminds me of Borges’s “Borges and I” because of its musings on the relationship between the real man Steve Murray and the pseudonym Chip Zdarsky. This issue is guest-written by Chip Zdarksy, and also stars him, or rather his component in the Crossover universe. Now that comic books no longer exist, Steve Murray lacks a job or a professional identity. But then he’s contacted by the version of Chip that appeared in Sex Criminals #14 (the issue with the metatextual conversation between Zdarsky and Fraction). Chip sacrifices himself to save Steve, and Steve asks Deena Pilgrim and Christian Walker, from Powers, to help him avenge the murder. This is one of the most fascinating and clever comic books of the year. Besides resembling “Borges and I,” it’s also Zdarsky’s version of Animal Man #26.

BITTER ROOT #14 (Image, 2021) – “Legacy Part Four,” [W] David F. Walker & Chuck Brown, [A] Sanford Greene. More escalation of the plotlines from last issue. More stunning art by Sanford Greene, including some brilliant splash pages. A notable moment is when Ma Etta has a vision of a pantheon of gods that look Kirbyesque and African at once. Sanford Greene sort of flirted with Afrofuturism in his Luke Cage run, but now he’s become the preeminent Afrofuturist artist in monthly comics. This essay includes text pieces by Sheree Renee Thomas and John Jennings.

MONEY SHOT #12 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Sarah Beattie, [A] Caroline Leigh Layne. After a lot of shenanigans, Annie and Omar find themselves getting chased by an alien hunter while investigating an alien sex trafficking ring. Also, Omar gets “twitterpated” to an alien deer with super strong pheromones, and Christine’s cat gets some great lines, the best of which is “Snf. Snf. Human male. Been here before. Slept often. Good feet for lying on. Good toes for biting.”

SPECTER INSPECTORS #5 (Boom!, 2021) – “The Ritual,” [W/A] Bowen McCurdy, [W] Kaitlyn Musto. The town’s immortal, evil mayor forces the demon to leave Astrid and submit to him. Just as the demon is about to eat them, Astrid and Noa have an idea: since they can’t find the demon’s original name, they give it a new name, “Found.” On the symbolism of this moment, see https://butwhythopodcast.com/2021/06/30/specter-inspectors-and-naming-your-queerness/. The renamed Found goes away, Astrid and Noa admit their love for each other, and the team gets a broadcasting deal. This was a really cute miniseries and I hope there will be a sequel.

GOOD LUCK #1 (Boom!, 2021) – “Safe & Sound,” [W] Matthew Erman, [A] Stefano Simeone. Thirty years ago, Little Kentucky, Ohio was invaded by celestial avatars of good and bad luck. Now, Artie and his fellow Unfortunates – people with ultimate bad luck – are the only ones wo can enter the “Kismet Zone” that Little Kentucky has turned into. Much of this issue depicts Artie and his teammates doing a training exercise. I really want to like this comic, but I don’t quite understand its premise. Why is it such a big deal that the Unfortunates have no luck at all? Why does that make them uniquely equipped to survive in the Kismet Zone? I don’t get it. Also, this comic lacks the immediate appeal of Witchblood, although Stefano Simeone’s art is really good.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #13 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcelo Grassi. Our next story arc is set in the zone of Possibility, which represents the American entertainment industry. We begin with a sea battle between Uncle Sam’s ship and another ship full of film noir characters. Meanwhile there’s a flashback to Valentina’s childhood when she escaped from a riot in Buenos Aires, and then in the present, she finds herself on an island full of superheroes, including her childhood favorite Captain Flag. Undiscovered Country is not supposed to be a superhero comic, but superheroes are within its scope since they’re an important part of the American national imaginary.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #118 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Nelson Daniel. We learn that Oroku Saki, the former Shredder, has been secretly helping the Turtles. April discovers that Baxter Stockman has been smuggling Slithery eggs into Mutant Town. April narrowly escapes a pack of monsters, but is branded as a fugitive. This is another fun issue, though it’s too bad Sophie Campbell can’t draw every story arc of this series.

MARVEL ACTION: SPIDER-MAN #3 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sarah Graley & Stef Purenins, [A] Phillip Murphy. Peter and Sammie, a social-media-obsessed classmate, get partnered together for drama class. Their theater director is none other than Mysterio, and he gets jealous of Sammie’s follower count and tries to steal her cell phone. Peter defeats him, of course. Based on the next-issue blurb, I assume Sammie is going to turn into Screwball, the social media villain from Dan Slott’s run.

WAY OF X #3 (Marvel, 2021) – “Make More Mutants,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Bob Quinn. Mercury and Loa try to have sex mentally since they’re incompatible physically, but the results are awful. Kurt discovers that Stacy X has been giving out contraceptives, and is also running an orphanage for unwanted mutant babies. Anna Peppard, a huge Nightcrawler fan, absolutely hated this issue, and I can see why. Anna has extensively documented how Kurt is the most sex-positive X-Men, yet here he’s shaming people for having non-procreative sex. Also, the abandoned babies are a bizarre plot twist that seems to have been introduced just for shock value. And the whole reason Kurt is angry at both these things is because they violate the rule “make more mutants.” That rule is illogical considering that the mutants who already exist are immortal. When immortal beings reproduce indiscriminately, that’s how you get severe overpopulation. I wasn’t as furious at this issue as Anna was, but it was pretty pointless, and it damages Kurt’s character for no reason.  

NUCLEAR FAMILY #5 (AfterShock, 2021) – “Sound Salvation,” [W] Stephanie Phillips, [A] Tony Shasteen. By remembering back to his Korean War days, Tim realizes that he went ahead in time by doing something with his radio. He returns to his house and is able to reverse what he did and go back in time. This miniseries was kind of pointless and slow-paced, and I could have done without reading it.

FANTASTIC FOUR: LIFE STORY #2 (Marvel, 2021) – “The ‘70s,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Sean Izaakse. As the ‘70s advance, Sue’s feminist consciousness grows, but Reed increasingly shuts her out of the FF after she becomes a mother. Meanwhile, Reed meets Dr. Doom, who convinces him to help unite the planet against Galactus, except what Doom really wants is to rule the world himself. In the end, Sue divorces Reed and moves in with Namor. As mentioned in my review of #1, this comic has some unacceptable breaks from continuity, and perhaps the biggest one is that Reed didn’t know Doom in college. If Doom doesn’t have an irrational hatred for Reed, then he’s not Dr. Doom at all. What I do like about this comic is its emphasis on Sue’s historically sexist portrayal. Reed’s attitude toward Sue throughout this issue is essentially the same as in the infamous “Lincoln’s mother” speech in FF #11. Except the situation in FF: Life Story #2 is even worse, because Sue has to stay home and watch Franklin rather than go on missions, and the one time Reed tries to raise his own child, he gives up immediately. Surprisingly, this comic makes me realize that the classic FF was less sexist than it could have been. In the actual comics, Sue did not have to stay home with her kid because she and Reed hired Agatha Harkness as a full-time nanny. Sue was probably the first superheroine who continued her career after becoming a mother. And that’s actually feminist, because an important tenet of feminism is that women should have access to childcare.

DAREDEVIL #31 (Marvel, 2021) – “Lockdown Part 1,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Mike Hawthorne. Bullseye starts shooting people in broad daylight, Matt tells the prison warden that he knows the warden is trying to kill him, and Alice refuses Elektra’s attempts to reach out to her. This issue is mostly a predictable continuation of last issue.

MY LITTLE PONY/TRANSFORMERS II #3 (IDW, 2021) – “Sick Beats,” [W/A] Tony Fleecs. This may be the first story that Tony Fleecs both wrote and drew. With aid from the Young Six, Octavia and DJ P0N-3 fight Soundwave, the music-themed Decepticon. DJ P0N-3 never speaks in this story, though she had a few lines of dialogue in earlier pony comics. “The Beauty of Cybertron,” [W] James Asmus, [A] Prascilla Tramontano. Ratchet teams up with Rarity. James Asmus’s stories for this series have been significantly less interesting than the stories written by pony writers.

THE OLD GUARD: TALES THROUGH TIME #3 (Image, 2021) – “Passchendaele,” [W] Brian Michael Bendis, [A] Michael Avon Oeming. An old Italian chef meets an immortal who saved him during World War I. The only thing I liked about this series is the ‘70s décor of the chef’s restaurant. “Locus Solitudinis,” [W] Robert Mackenzie & Dave Walker, [A] Justin Greenwood. During the first moon landing, the immortals bring a murderous cop to justice. Part of this story takes place in Eagan, Minnesota, whose speech team was a national powerhouse when I was in high school.

BLACK WIDOW #8 (Marvel, 2021) – “I am the Black Widow Part 2 of 4, “[W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Elena Casagrande & Rafael De Latorre. Natasha and her colleagues infiltrate the Olio cult, but the issue ends with Yelena suffering a potentially fatal electric shock. Part of the issue takes place at a playground where Natasha sees a little boy who looks just like her lost child. Natasha’s grief over her son is a major theme throughout the past few issues. Elena Casagrande’s art is far better than Rafael De Latorre’s, and it’s too bad Casagrande didn’t draw the whole issue.

THE DREAMING: WAKING HOURS #11 (DC, 2021) – “The Faerie King, Part 4,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nick Robles w/ M.K. Perker. Mostly a predictable continuation of last issue. There’s one notable scene where the broom-faced villains try to defeat Heather After by deadnaming her, and Heather turns the tables on them by giving them a name instead, “and the name is lost” – which is a quotation from Sandman #1.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #29 (Marvel, 2021) – “Strange Magic Part 2,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jacopo Camagni. In order to get the Enchantress to teach her magic, Carol has to retrieve the “Heart of the Serpent” from an underwater cavern guarded by giant snakes. This issue wasn’t as entertining as the last two.

MISTER MIRACLE: THE SOURCE OF FREEDOM #2 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Fico Ossio. Shilo fights N’Vir Free, and it becomes clear that Shilo has never heard of Scott Free or Barda before. Shilo is publicly revealed as a black man, generating intense controversy. Luckily he hasn’t lost his chance with Denise Dorman. This was a fun issue, but by the time I read it, I had forgotten what happened in issue 1.

MONSTRESS #35 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. The main event this issue is that Maika’s dad fights a three-eyed orange-haired woman. I’ve finally decided to give up on this series. I haven’t been enjoying it for a long time, if ever, and I’ve never understood its plot. And it doesn’t show any signs of ending anytime soon. I was only still reading it out of a sense of obligation, and that’s not a sufficient reason.

WONDER WOMAN #774 (DC, 2021) – “Afterworlds Part 5,” [W] Michael Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Andy MacDonald. Diana finally gets to Olympus, but all the gods are dead or missing except Janus, who’s not even a Greek god. And only one half of Janus is there. The other half, the evil female one, has separated herself and has acquired the deadly God Scraper blade. Diana’s next stop is the Graveyard of the Gods. So far I don’t like this story arc as much as I liked the Asgard story, but it’s still interesting. In the backup story, young Diana learns of a piece of history that was deliberately concealed from her.

CANTO & THE CITY OF GHOSTS #3 (IDW, 2021) – “Escape the Beast,” [W] David M. Booher, [A] Sebastian Piriz. Canto and the witch cut off Ferro’s horn, thus winning freedom and a new set of legs for Fra and Ba. The next miniseries is Canto III: Lionhearted.

THE BLUE FLAME #2 (Vault, 2021) – “The Celestial Bargain,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Adam Gorham. The Blue Flame’s sister learns that her brother was one of the five vigilantes killed in last issue’s shooting. Except he’s not quite dead yet. Meanwhile, in space, the other version of the Blue Flame has to prevent humanity from destruction by answering a question: what can’t humans live without? I still can’t figure out where this series is going.

ROBIN #3 (DC, 2021) – “New Friends,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Gleb Melnikov. The Ravager gives Damian what might be his hardest task ever: he has to make a friend. Surprisingly, Damian forges a bond with Connor Hawke based on their shared daddy issues. Then Damian and Connor team up and fight some League of Shadows agents, and Damian falls off a cliff and is rescued by his grandfather, Ra’s al Ghul. This is another fun issue.

SHANG-CHI #2 (Marvel, 2021) – “Shang-Chi vs. the Marvel Universe Part 2,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Dike Ruan. Shang-Chi attends an auction where some criminals are bidding on a Cosmic Cube. Shang-Chi teams up with Cap to defeat the criminals, but steals the Cube for himself. This issue is okay, but the plot of this storyline – Shang-Chi fights other Marvel heroes one at a time – is kind of stupid.

WITCHBLOOD #4 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matthew Erman, [A] Lisa Sterle. Yonna defeats the vampires by casting the spell “This Magic Moment.” Then she reveals the big secret: the witch queen Esmeralda is an alien, the witches are their elder progeny, and the vampires are her younger progeny who are trying to steal their older siblings’ blood. Yonna teams up with Texas Red and the witch hunter Atla to fight the vampires.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #15 (Marvel, 2021) – “Hope You Survive the Experience,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Juan Frigeri. Some of the Guardians go to the SWORD station, where Nova arrests Magneto for killing Mister One and Mister Two, all the way back in Captain America Annual #5. This is a nice reference to old continuity. Meanwhile, Ego the Living Planet’s black shell opens, and Dormammu is inside. I wonder if this is related to Doyle Dormammu in Strange Academy.

The next comic was part of an eBay order of some very old Dell Western comics:

FOUR COLOR #741 (Dell, 1956) – “The Fastest Gun Alive,” [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Bob Jenney or Al McWilliams. An adaptation of a long-forgotten Western movie. George Temple has spent his entire life trying to evade his reputation of being a skilled gunfighter, because every time people find out how good he is, they demand to fight him. After a final confrontation with some desperadoes, George fakes his own death so he and his wife can live in peace. This is a reasonably well-written comic, but it seems super implausible. Western movies tend to depict quick-draw gunfights as an everyday occurrence, but there are only a few documented cases where they happened in real life.

REPTIL #2 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Terry Blas, [A] Enid Balam. Humberto and his cousins travel to Dinosaur World to consult with the Hag, who gave Humberto his powers. This comic includes some effective Latinx and queer representation, but its writing is too wordy and preachy, and I’d consider dropping it if it wasn’t a four-issue miniseries.

SHADOW SERVICE #9 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Corin Howell. This issue starts with a flashback to Elizabethan England, in which John Dee appears. Then, in the present, all the heroes confront some kind of awful demon. This comic has a confusing plot and no clear premise, and I would drop it execpt that there’s just one issue left.

RED ROOM #2 (Fantagraphics, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Ed Piskor. This issue’s story is unrelated to that of #1; instead, it’s about a different Red Room. This Red Room employs a certain Dr. Daniels to perform plastic surgery on its victims, so that they won’t be recognizable. Dr. Daniels is chained to his bed, and if he tries to injure or kill himself, his family will be murdered. The issue ends with an extremely gruesome torture sequence. The villains in this comic are hard to believe because they’re so cartoonishly evil. I don’t believe there are real people who are this effective at committing evil deeds with total impunity, and who are also this sadistic about it. As Hannah Arendt wrote, real evil tends to be more banal. But exaggeratedly awful villains are a hallmark of the exploitation genre.

THE BEQUEST #4 (AfterShock, 2021) – “For the Greater Chaotic Good,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Freddie E. Williams II. At the start of the issue we learn why the warrior is called Warlock: his parents were great wizards who intended him to follow in their footsteps, but he disappointed them. The War Party manages to defeat the villains’ assault on the NSA. The old dragon dude sends them back to Tangea before dying of wounds. Then Warlock punches his own mother, and he and his teammates are punished by being sent back to Chicago, which was just what they wanted. The Bequest was a really entertaining series, but also had a serious theme of white supremacist extremism. It was Tim Seeley’s best work since Revival, other than Money Shot.

GAMMA FLIGHT #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Al Ewing & Crystal Fraser, [A] Lan Medina. The Gamma Flight crew travels to Austin to help out a gamma mutate named Stockpile. But they fail to rescue her, and her creator, Skaar, comes back for her. A notable moment in this issue is when Doc Samson – currently trapped in Sasquatch’s body – says he can sympathize with Charlene, a transgender woman, because their bodies both feel unnatural to them. And Charlene is offended by this comparison.

MARVEL VOICES: PRIDE #1 (Marvel, 2021) – [E] Sarah Brunstad. A series of vignettes about LGBTQ characters, with an all-star cast of creators, many of whom are themselves queer and/or trans. Overall this is an entertaining and cute comic, but the weird part is that it ends with a partial reprint of Alpha Flight #106. This comic is important because it’s the first Marvel comic in which a character is confirmed to be gay. But it’s also one of the worst Marvel comics ever; it trivializes the issues of queer identity and AIDS by reducing them to a fight between two muscular dudes. On top of that, it was written by Scott Lobdell, who has a history of sexism and racism. It would have been better if Marvel had avoided reprinting it, so that people would be unable to see how bad it was.

MODERN FRANKENSTEIN #3 (Heavy Metal, 2021) – untitled, [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Emma Vieceli. James and Elizabeth kidnap MRA activist Adrian Trak, who I think is based on J** R*g*n, so they can perform unethical experiments on him. Adrian Trak goes nuts and kills a bunch of people, and then Elizabeth has to kill him. Yay! Then Elizabeth discovers she’s pregnant. Unfortunately this plot twist was spoiled by the cover to a future issue.

CHAINED TO THE GRAVE #4 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Andy Eschenbach & Brian Level, [A] Kate Sherron. The villains chase the heroes, and one of Beau’s alligators dies while helping the women and children escape. Roy prepares for his final showdown with his four enemies. This issue is entertaining and well-drawn. The main problem with this comic is that there are too many villains, and I have no idea who they are or what they want.

BLACK KNIGHT: CURSE OF THE EBONY BLADE #4 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Sergio Dávila. Mordred stabs Dane through the chest, then melts down all the Ebony items into the Ebony Crown. This series suffers from being too similar to Once & Future, and it’s not as good as Si Spurrier’s creator-owned work.

MARVELS #3 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Monster Belt,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Yildiray Cinar. 17 years ago, the young Reed Richards and Ben Grimm accompany an expedition to Siancong, which is located in the tropical monster belt. This is the first issue of Marvels that I’ve really enjoyed, because it makes me realize why Kurt is qualified to write this series: he’s a master of continuity. He’s familiar with every Marvel comic ever published, and he’s able to integrate all these stories into a coherent framework. This issue he even revives Carlo Strang(e), a character whose only previous appearance was in Tales of Suspense #41. A cute touch in this issue is that the child Johnny Storm looks exactly like his future nephew Franklin.

CREEPY #14 (Warren, 1967) – This was part of an order from Atomic Avenue. I haven’t yet read most of the other comics from that order, because I’ve been trying to finish my new comics first. Creepy #14 was one of the last issues of the series’ classic period, which ended after #17. [W] Archie Goodwin unless specified. “Where Sorcery Lives!”, [A] Steve Ditko. A barbarian warrior defeats an evil sorcerer with the help of her daughter. This story has the best Ditko artwork I’ve seen in a long time.”Art of Horror,” [A] Jerry Grandenetti. Horror writer Langley Duncroft tries to play a prank on two younger people by bringing them to a haunted house, but the house really is haunted, and it causes Duncroft’s death. Grandenetti is remembered as an Eisner clone, but he was also an excellent horror artist. “Snakes Alive!”, [W] Clark Dimond & John Benson, [A] Hector Castellon. A music-themed story which is by far the worst thing in the issue. “The Beckoning Beyond!”, [A] Dan Adkins. A dimensional travel experiment goes horribly wrong. Adkins’s artwork is excellent, if rather similar to that of Wally Wood. “Piece by Piece,” [A] Joe Orlando. A riff on the Frankenstein movies, with more excellent artwork. “Castle Carrion,” [A] Reed Crandall. I confused this with “Where Sorcery Lives” because it has basically the same plot. The difference is that in this one, the sorcerer’s daughter dies as soon as she leaves the castle. Reed Crandall’s art is moody and super-detailed. “Curse of the Vampire,” [A] Neal Adams. A doctor tries to save an innocent young woman from being executed as a vampire. In the end, we learn that the real vampire is not the woman but the doctor himself. I know I’ve seen the last panel of this story before, but I don’t recall if I’ve read the whole thing. Overall this is an ultra-high-quality comic. It reaches the same heights of horror, humor and artistic brilliance as EC’s New Trend line did.  

THE CISCO KID #33 (Dell, 1956) – “Bad Medicine” and other stories, [W] unknown, [A] Bob Jenney. In the main story, the Cisco Kid and his sidekick Pancho save a traveling doctor from being murdered by his former driver. In the backup story, they find some loot hidden in an old schoolhouse. Bob Jenney’s artwork is unspectacular but highly competent, and so are the uncredited writer’s plotting and scripting. Pancho is a highly offensive Mexican stereotype. The Cisco Kid himself may be a more positive portrayal of a Mexican character, although I’m not sure whether he’s supposed to be Mexican.

HOWTOONS REIGNITION #5 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Fred Van Lente, [A] Tom Fowler. The two kids succeed in reuniting the warring cultures of the Stormbreakers and Orphans. Then their parents find them. And then we learn that the entire series was a game the two kids were playing, and none of it really happened. This is an insulting ending that leaves the reader feeling as if nothing else in the series mattered. The issue ends with an essay by Dr. Saul Griffith that makes him sound like a crackpot: “In the future, we’ll arrive in style on electric skateboards and ziplines.”

NOWHERE MEN #5 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Eric Stephenson, [A] Nate Bellegarde. The only thing I understand about this comic is that it takes place in a world where scientists are media superstars. This comic feels like an inferior attempt to imitate The Manhattan Projects. Also, it contains several text features that draw attention away from the story.

BRAVEST WARRIORS #28 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] Kate Leth, [A] Ian McGinty. The Bravest Warriors use a Voltron-esque battlesuit to fight a giant tentacled monster. I’ve read a bunch of issues of this series, and I still have no idea who the Bravest Warriors are, or what their mission is. I don’t even know the characters’ names. There’s also a stupid backup story where Chris can’t decide what to eat for lunch.

ABE SAPIEN #18 (Dark Horse, 2014) – “A Darkness So Great,” [W] Mike Mignola & Scott Allie, [A] Max Fiumara. This issue’s first page is drawn by R. Sikoryak in a classic EC style. The main plot is that Abe Sapien and some of his friends go on a shopping trip to the destroyed town of Harlingen. At this point in continuity, most of Texas has fallen victim to some kind of apocalypse. My main problem with the Mignolaverse titles is that you can’t understand any of them unless you read all of them.

2000 AD #619 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: “Helios Part 6,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] David Roach. Sachs’s robot butler tries to assassinate him, but Anderson and her partner save him. Medivac 318: untitled, [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Nigel Dobyn. Outer-space nurse Verity McKinnon is stranded on an alien planet with a patient who can only say “no.” While waiting for an ambulance to pick her up, she realizes something is about to attack her. This was the first Medivac 318 strip, though it’s hard to tell. According to https://britishcomics.fandom.com/wiki/Medivac_318, Hilary Robinson later quit working for 2000 AD because she owned Medivac 318, but another writer was going to be assigned to write it. Dredd: “Lockin’ Up the House (Cube Mix)”, [W] Alan Grant, [A] Dougie Braithwaite. Dredd breaks up a giant house party and arrests all the guests, because no one is allowed to have fun unless the judges say they can. Strontium Dog: “The Final Solution Part 12,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Simon Harrison. Sagan sends the mutants through a portal to an alternate world, claiming it’s for their own good. Given the title of this storyline, the analogy to the Nazi gas chambers is obviously deliberate. Daily Dredd: “A Guide to Mega-City Law Part 1,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. A series of newspaper strip reprints that depict the unfair and cruel nature of Mega-City One’s laws.

CEREBUS #181 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1994) – “Page,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This issue’s Cerebus segment consists entirely of Cerebus’s fight with Cirin. In the text segment, Victor Reid is replaced by Viktor Davis, who is even worse. He’s an even more transparent proxy for Dave himself, and Dave’s prose somehow manages to be more purple than it already was. And there’s another Rare Bit Fiends preview. This comic is unappealing to me because it’s based on dreams, and thus it lacks any narrative logic.

FANBOY #4 (DC, 1999) – “Our Fanboy at War,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Sergio Aragones et al. Finster the fanboy is put on trial because his comic book store sold illicit material to minors. Dr. Joseph Zensie, i.e. Fredric Wertham, is called as a witness for the prosecution, but instead ends up making the case for the defense. Parts of the story are illustrated by Jordi Bernet, Marie Severin and Russ Heath, so this issue includes three creators who are in the Hall of Fame, and two (Evanier and Bernet) who deserve to be. I initially assumed this comic was based on the Friendly Frank’s incident, and so it kind of felt like it was flogging a dead horse, since that lawsuit happened over a decade before. However, there have been other similar cases since then, including the case of Castillo v. Texas in 1999, although that one seems to have happened after Fanboy #4 was published.

THE KILLER #10 (Archaia, 2009) – “A Deadly Soul Part Two,” [W] Matz, [A] Luc Jacamon. This is the second half of the fifth album in a series, so it doesn’t make sense on its own. My favorite thing about The Killer is the coloring. Its plot isn’t all that gripping, and its main character is deliberately unsympathetic.

2000 AD #620 (Fleetway, 1989) – This prog has a printing error where some of the black areas are gray instead. Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny and Middenface finally make it back to Earth and confront Feral Jackson. Medivac 318: as above. Verity kills a harmless endangered giant spider, thinking it’s an enemy alien. The ambulance finally shows up. Dredd: “Breakdown on 9th Street,” [W] John Wagner, [A] John Higgins. Two suburbanites take a wrong turn, and their car breaks down in a part of town that’s so bad, their insurance refuses to send a car to pick them up. Anderson: “Helios Part 7,” as above. Anderson probes Sachs’s memory and learns that Helios died of unknown causes after claiming to have created an unspecified wonderful invention. Daily Dredd: as above. More stories about Mega-City One’s unfair legal system.

CEREBUS #182 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1994) – “Eyes,” [W/A] Dave Sim. The fight continues, and Cirin cuts off Cerebus’s left ear, something which I didn’t realize had happened until it was mentioned in the Viktor Davis section. The Viktor Davis story includes unflattering depictions of Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore. The letter column includes Mikel Norwitz’s reply to the offensive letter from #177. There’s also another Rare Bit Fiends backup story. After a few issues that were actually good for once, Cerebus was descending into crappiness again.

ANT-MAN ANNUAL #1 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Nick Spencer, [A] Ramon Rosanas. Hank Pym and Scott Lang team up against Ant-Man. The issue also introduces Raz Malhotra, the new Giant-Man. I hate Nick Spencer’s writing, and this issue demonstrates why. Almost every single line of dialogue between Hank and Scott is a pun or a piece of witty banter, and there’s no sense of genuine emotion or passion.

LOBSTER JOHNSON: A CHAIN FORGED IN LIFE #nn (Dark Horse, 2015) – “A Chain Forged in Life,” [W] Mike Mignola & John Arcudi, [A] Troy Nixey. The first page of this issue is drawn by Kevin Nowlan, and because I didn’t realize this at first, I thought for the rest of the issue that Troy Nixey’s art looked a lot like Kevin Nowlan’s. Otherwise, this issue is a crime story in which Lobster Johnson saves a Santa Claus impersonator who’s been kidnapped by gangsters.

CREEPY #22 (Warren, 1968) – [E] Bill Parente. By this point, Archie Goodwin and all the good artists had left, and it would be a while before the magazine got good again. “Home is Where,” [W] Ron Parker, [A] Pat Boyette. A plotless mess with some okay art. “Monster Rally!”, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Angelo Torres. A reprint from #4. Doctor Habeas kidnaps a ghoul, a vampire, and various other monsters in order to use them to distill the secret of immortality. Just as he succeeds in doing so, the local villagers storm his castle and burn it down. The only thing that survives the fire is an infant who will grow up to become Uncle Creepy. I think I’ve read this story before, but it’s worth revisiting. Angelo Torres’s artwork is terrific. “No Fear!”, [W] Bill Parente, [A] Tom Sutton. Four young boys discover a vampire living in their local cemetery, and they plot to kill him. The twist ending is that the boys are grave-robbing ghouls, and they killed the vampire to get rid of a competitor. Bill Parente’s story is okay, and Tom Sutton’s artwork has moments of genuine brilliance. “Strange Expedition,” [W] Bill Parente, [A] Ernie Colón. Some astronauts become the first men on the moon, but one of them is in fact a werewolf. Not as good as the previous story. “The Judge’s House!”, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Reed Crandall. Reprinted from #5. In an adaptation of a Bram Stoker story, a student moves into the former residence of a notorious judge (presumably based on Judge Jeffreys) who loved hanging people. The judge hangs the student. Crandall’s artwork is full of beautiful detail. “Perfect Match,” [W] Ron Parker, [A] Sal Trapani. Another awful story, though it’s notable as an early example of a story about computerized dating service. The first such service was started in 1964.

FOUR COLOR #610 (Dell, 1955) – “Drum Beat,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Bob Correa. This is one of the most offensive comics I’ve ever read. It’s an adaptation of a movie about the Modoc War of 1872-1873. The protagonist, Johnny MacKay, is supposed to make peace between the Modoc Indians and the American settlers, but he finds it difficult because the Modoc leader, Captain Jack, is a bloodthirsty warmonger. The comic’s portrayal of the Modocs is both racist and historically inaccurate. The comic makes it seem like Captain Jack just wanted to steal land from the Americans. This is of course bullshit, since it was his own land he was fighting for, and is original grievance was that his people were forced onto a reservation alongside their traditional enemies, the Klamath. Also, far from being a warmonger, Captain Jack was mocked by his own allies for being too willing to negotiate with the whites. The comic ignores all of that and presents the Modoc as savage villains, except for the few good ones, i.e. the ones who are okay with being thrown off their own land and subjected to genocide. The scary thing about this comic’s racism is that it’s not at all unusual; Drum Beat was just one of hundreds of media texts that promoted this narrative of Indians as cruel savages. See http://jeffarnoldblog.blogspot.com/2010/06/drum-beat-warner-bros-1954.html for more information on the film Drum Beat and the actual history behind it. I should point out that Bob Correa’s art in this comic is quite good, although I suspect that his visual depictions of Modoc people are not accurate.

BLACK CLOUD #5 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jason Aaron & Ivan Brandon, [A] Greg Hinkle. This is a pretty bad comic, although at least it’s well-intentioned and inoffensive, which is nice after the trash fire that was Four Color #610. I still have never understood what the hell Black Cloud was supposed to be about.

THE MAXX #10 (Image, 1994) – “Spring Cleaning,” [W/A] Sam Kieth, [W] Bill Messner-Loebs. Mostly a flashback story about Julie’s childhood, when she encountered Mr. Gone as her family friend Uncle Artie. “Uncle” was just a nickname and should not be taken to imply that Julie and Sarah are cousins. Also, Julie found a dead bunny but didn’t realize it was dead, and her parents didn’t tell her, which led to an erosion of her trust in them. The flashback sequence includes some radical artistic techniques; in some panels, Julie is represented by her childhood drawings of herself.

BATMAN #478 (DC, 1992) – “A Gotham Tale Part 2: Venging Spirits,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Cam Kennedy. This is the story where three people, including Batman, are trapped in a bank vault with only enough air for two people. In part two, Batman reveals that Dr. Morris Eagleton is the real Gargoyle, and he murdered Miss Creighton’s father and framed him as the Gargoyle. The doctor turns into the Gargoyle again, Batman defeats him, and then the vault is opened and Batman reveals that he set the whole thing up as a sting operation. This conculsion is a bit disappointing, and part two doesn’t contain any references to the Canterbury Tales, as part one did. John Wagner’s Batman has a similar speech pattern to Judge Dredd.

BRAVEST WARRIORS #34 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] Kate Leth, [A] Ian McGinty. The Bravest Warriors try to save Plum’s home planet from being eaten by a space shark, but it eats their ship instead. There’s also a backup story written and drawn by Kat Leyh, where some of the team members are trying to visit Beardi Gras (Mardi Gras with beards) but they end up at Bear­di Gras instead.

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Eisner votes for 2021

Best Short Story
  • Don’t know

Best Single Issue
  • Hedra, by Jesse Lonergan (Image)

Best Continuing Series
  • The Department of Truth, by James Tynion IV and Martin Simmonds (Image)

Best Limited Series
  • Far Sector, by N. K. Jemisin and Jamal Campbell (DC)

Best New Series
  • The Department of Truth, by James Tynion IV and Martin Simmonds (Image)

Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 8)
  • Don’t know

Best Publication for Kids (ages 9-12)
  • Mister Invincible: Local Hero, by Pascal Jousselin (Magnetic Press)

Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17)
  • When Stars are Scattered, by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed (Dial Books)

Best Humor Publication
  • The Complete Fante Bukowski, by Noah Van Sciver (Fantagraphics)

Best Anthology
  • Now, edited by Eric Reynolds (Fantagraphics)

Best Reality-Based Work
  • Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio, by Derf Backderf (Abrams)

Best Graphic Memoir
  • When Stars Are Scattered, by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed (Dial Books)

Best Graphic Album—New
  • Don’t know

Best Graphic Album—Reprint
  • Fante Bukowski: The Complete Works, by Noah Van Sciver (Fantagraphics)

Best Adaptation from Another Medium
  • Superman Smashes the Klan, adapted by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru (DC)

(But what is this adapted from?)


Best U.S. Edition of International Material
  • The Winter of the Cartoonist, by Paco Roca, translation by Erica Mena (Fantagraphics)

Though I haven’t read any of these


Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia
  • A Journal Of My Father, by Jiro Taniguchi, translation by Kumar Sivasubramanian (Fanfare/Ponent Mon)

Or these either


Best Archival Collection/Project—Strips 
  • The Flapper Queens: Women Cartoonists of the Jazz Age, edited by Trina Robbins (Fantagraphics)

Best Archival Collection/Project—Comic Books
  • Corto Maltese: The Ballad of the Salty Sea, by Hugo Pratt, translation by Dean Mullaney and Simone Castaldi (EuroComics/IDW)

Best Writer
  • James Tynion IV, Something Is Killing the Children, Wynd (BOOM! Studios); Batman (DC); The Department of Truth (Image); Razorblades (Tiny Onion)

Best Writer/Artist
  • Trung Le Nguyen, The Magic Fish (RH Graphic/RH Children’s Books)

Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team
  • Sanford Greene, Bitter Root (Image)

Best Painter/Multimedia Artist (interior art)
  • Anand RK/John Pearson, Blue in Green (Image)

I didn’t read this, but he also did Grafity’s Wall


Best Cover Artist
  • Simone Di Meo, We Only Find Them When They’re Dead (BOOM! Studio)

Best Coloring
  • Matt Wilson, Undiscovered Country (Image); Fire Power (Image/Skybound); Thor (Marvel)

Best Lettering
  • Stan Sakai, Usagi Yojimbo (IDW)

Best Comics-Related Journalism/Periodical

Best Comics-Related Book
  • Masters of British Comic Art, by David Roach (2000AD)

Though I haven’t read any of these


Best Academic/Scholarly Work
  • The Content of Our Caricature: African American Comic Art and Political Belonging, by Rebecca Wanzo (New York University Press)

Kleefeld’s book is also deserving


Best Publication Design
  • The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist, designed by Adrian Tomine and Tracy Huron (Drawn & Quarterly)

Best Digital Comic
  • Don’t know

Best Webcomic
  • Don’t know
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April and May 2021 reviews

WARLORD #62 (DC, 1982) – “Cry Wolf!”, [W] Mike Grell, [A] Jan Duursema. Morgan and Tara go on a hunt as a distraction from Tara’s flirtation with the court minstrel. They meet a werewolf named Rostov. Morgan and Tara were a dysfunctional couple who only stayed together because of an unintended pregnancy. This makes them much more realistic than  most couples in Code-approved comics. 

COPPERHEAD #2 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Jay Faerber, [A] Scott Godlewski. Clara investigates a murder, while Zeke and another boy get lost at night. The best thing about this issue is the plausible way Faerber writes the two children.  

L.E.G.I.O.N. ’92 #40 (DC, 1992) – “Costs,” [W/A] Barry Kitson. The LEGION investigates the murder of a teenage girl, and discovers that it has severe political ramifications. Meanwhile, Garryn Bek and Captain Comet’s romantic rivalry almost turns violent, and Phase gets pissed at Dox’s leadership. This series is fascinating because of its complex characterization and inter-team politics. It’s almost like Suicide Squad in that way. This issue is inked by Robin Smith, a British artist who was never successful in America. 

BLACK CLOUD #8 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jason Latour & Ivan Brandon, [A] Greg Hinkle. Another issue with good artwork, design and coloring, but no discernible plot. I suspect that Jason Latour had little to do with this series, and that his name was only used for publicity value. 

BATMAN #631 (DC, 2004) – “War Games Act 1 Part 8: Last Stand at Alamo High,” [W] Bill Willingham, [A] Kinsun. This artist is from Malaysia and his full name is Kinsun Loh. This issue, the Bat-family teams up to rescue some teenagers who are being held hostage in a high school. I have such distaste for Bill Willingham’s politics and his public behavior that it’s hard for me to enjoy his comics, but this is a well-written issue.  

THE DEMON WARRIOR #4 (Eastern Comics, 1988) – untitled, [W/A] Lee Jae-Hak. A Chinese warrior is sent to assassinate an old martial artist, but it’s actually a trap designed to catch both of them. This is a pretty standard example of the wuxia genre, drawn in a typical East Asian style. It’s hard to find any English-language information about this comic. From what I can tell, Lee Jae-Hak was a well-known artist in this genre, but I’m not sure why this particular work was selected for translation. 

MERCURY HEAT #3 (Avatar, 2015) – “The Long, Slow Dawn,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Omar Francia. Luiza investigates a murder on Mercury, where everyone has to wear a giant robot suit just to survive the heat. Hence the series title, I guess. Kieron, like Kim Stanley Robinson in 2312, has thought seriously about the problems of survival on Mercury, but otherwise this is a forgettable comic. 

MANY GHOSTS OF DR. GRAVES #67 (Charlton, 1981) – These stories are all reprints. “Share & Share Alike,” [W] Joe Gill?, [A] Pete Morisi: In Death Valley, a miner murders his partner but then dies of thirst. “Verdict from the Grave,” [W] Gill?, [A] Steve Ditko: An old woman and her granddaughter visit their ancestral village and reveal the secret behind the grandmother’s exile. Ditko includes a depiction of Dr. Graves on every page. “The One That Got Away,” [W] Gill?, [A] Fred Himes: A murderer escapes into a swamp and switches bodies with the old hermit who lives there. This story has the most impressive artwork in the issue. Himes’s style of draftsmanship is unusual and creepy. 

DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS #15 (DC, 2016) – “Ghost Stories,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Laura Braga, Mirka Andolfo & Sandy Jarrell. One segment about Aquaman and Mera, and two other segments set in Berlin. I hate this series because its plot never goes anywhere and its characters are barely distinguishable from each other. 

OVER THE GARDEN WALL #4 (Boom!, 2016) – “Dreamland Memories,” [W/A] Jim Campbell, and “Homeland,” [W] Amalia Levari, [A] Cara McGee. This series was an adaptation of a Cartoon Network series, about two brothers dventring in a fairytale world. I regret buying this comic because I never saw the TV series and don’t intend to. However, this comic is not bad. I especially like the second story, about a reclusive girl who meets a wandering musician she used to know as a child. Cara McGee also drew Dodge City. 

On April 8 I went back to Heroes. On this trip I had a shepherd’s pie at the Workman’s Friend. It was good but somewhat bland. 

RUNAWAYS #35 (Marvel, 2021) – “Come Away with Me Part IV,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Andres Genolet. Wolverine and Pixie convince the mutant girl, Jodi, to accompany them back to Krakoa. Nico tells Karolina about the evil magician inside her staff, Karolina demands that Nico stop using the staff, and Nico refuses. We see Chase kissing an older version of Gert. This was an unmemorable issue, but I’m glad this series is stil being published; it’s my favorite current Marvel title, and I feel like it’s in constant danger of cancellation. 

SEVEN SECRETS #7 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. In the underworld, Caspar strays from the path and discovers the two elves that raised him. This issue is fully within the fantasy genre, whereas the first six issues were closer to action movies. 

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #6 (Image, 2021) – “Deviation One: Apocrypha,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Elsa Charretier. In the first of two fill-in issues, a younger Lee Harvey Oswald reads a manuscript from 1000 AD in which a monk investigates and then assassinates an old witch. The witch is the last descendant of the last Roman emperor, and she tells the monk that Charlemagne never existed, and that the church added 300 years to the calendar for propaganda purposes; it’s actually 700 AD, not 1000. Also, the witch is an early member of the Illuminati. The monk’s story doesn’t feel like a real piece of medieval literature, but it’s fascinating anyway. The Charlemagne conspiracy theory may be based on Anatoly Fomenko’s  New Chronology. Elsa Charretier’s art style is a major departure from Martin Simmonds’s, but it fits this issue’s subject matter. 

SAVAGE DRAGON #258 (Image, 2021) – “A Walk on the Wild Side,” [W/A] Erik Larsen. Malcolm beats up Thor, and then Amy sneaks out of the house and has an adventure with her tiger friend Walter. The Amy/Walter sequence is incredibly cute, and it reminds me of my favorite issue of Savage Dragon, the one with the Candyman. Amy and Walter are somewhat reminiscent of Angel and Mr. Glum, but Walter is totally benevolent, though reckless. 

NOCTERRA #2 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Tony Daniel. We start with a flashback to Sundog’s parents’ deaths, then the old man explains how he supposedly killed the sun, and the villain, Blacktop Bill, catches up to them. This series is very exciting, in much the same way that Undiscovered Country is exciting. 

THE SILVER COIN #1 (Image, 2021) – “The Ticket,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Michael Walsh. This new series is an anthology of loosely related stories about a cursed coin. In #1, a musician discovers the coin and uses it to propel himself to stardom. But he loses his friends as a result, and dies by spontaneously combusting on stage. This was a pretty good issue, but when I read #2, I couldn’t remember what this series was about. 

THE DREAMING: WAKING HOURS #9 (DC, 2021) – “The Faerie King, Part 2,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nick Robles w/ M.K. Perker. In a flashback, we see that Heather After is descended from Roderick Burgess; I forget if we knew this before. Jophiel encounters Oberon. Ruin and Heather manage to free themselves from being hypnotized, and they finally meet Nuala, but she hardly seems confident in her role as queen. Again this was not the most memorable issue. 

GIGA #3 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Alex Paknadel, [A] John Lê. It’s been so long since issue 2 that I’ve forgotten what happened in it. Lots of stuff happens in this issue, but not much that’s very notable. Evan thinks Laurel, his robot daughter, has been killed, and appeals to the Giga for divine intervention, but then we learn that Evan’s friend Aiko has already fixed Laurel. 

GEIGER #1 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Gary Frank. Tariq Geiger is caught in a nuclear explosion while stopping his neighbors from stealing his family’s bomb shelter. Twenty years later, Geiger, now with radiation superpowers, is still guarding the bomb shelter with his family inside, while the postapocalyptic world is ruled by an insane Joffrey-esque child king. I was very skeptical about this series because although I like Geoff Johns’s Flash, JSA and Stargirl, I hate his more recent writing. But my main problem with his writing is that it’s too violent and cruel for the DC Universe, and I’m hoping that now that he’s working on a creation of his own, his style will feel more appropriate to his subject matter. 

X-MEN #19 (Marvel, 2021) – “Out of the Vault,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Mahmud Asrar. Darwin, Synch and X-23 spend multiple lifetimes in the Vault, fighting opponents who constantly level up. This feels like a lame-duck series now that I know Gerry Duggan is taking over for Hickman. When Hickman leaves this series I’m going to drop it. 

SHADECRAFT #1 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Joe Henderson, [A] Lee Garbett. Teenage Zadie Lu discovers that she’s being pursued by creepy shadows. And she already had enough to worry about, since her brother Ricky has been in a coma for a year. But these problems are related, because as the shadows are about to engulf Zadie, Ricky emerges from them. I didn’t read Skyward, the previous series by this creative team, but I like this debut issue. A particular highlight of this issue is Zadie’s resentful feelings toward Ricky. I especially like when Zadie’s mother scolds Zadie for joking about Ricky, because she (the mother) has to check him every hour and wash him. This scene feels like a realistic depiction of how family relationships are affected by a child’s illness. 

MARVEL ACTION SPIDER-MAN #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sarah Graley & Stef Purenins, [A] Philip Murphy. I can’t remember if I read the last Marvel Action Spider-Man series, but this one is a total reboot. In this continity, Peter goes to the Oscorp Charter School of Technology, and his principal and gym teacher are Otto Octavius and Mac Gargan. As in Kim Reaper, Sarah Graley’s writing is extremely cute, and Philip Murphy’s style reminds me of Jay Fosgitt. 

BEASTS OF BURDEN: OCCUPIED TERRITORY #1 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin & Sarah Dyer, [A] Benjamin Dewey. In a flashback story, Emrys and his human master visit Japan  in 1947. Emrys teams up with a local dog, who he names Mullins after the comic strip Moon Mullins, and they investigate some magical murders. The issue ends as Mullins is being attacked by a yokai that consists of a disembodied head with tentacles. This is a solid issue of Beasts of Burden, but for the first time ever, Beasts of Burden is not my favorite current horror comic about talking dogs – that would be Stray Dogs. 

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #7 (Image, 2021) – “Deviation Two: Foil,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Tyler Boss. Doc Hynes, the guy with the tinfoil hat, tells a Department of Truth agent his theories about the Men in Black. That night Doc Hynes is contacted by an actual Man in Black, who is extremely creepy, but as always with this series, it’s not clear whether the Man in Black is real or not. These two issues were a bit disappointing, but it’s good that we got some additional Department of Truth content while Martin Simmonds was taking a break. 

AMERICA CHAVEZ: MADE IN THE USA #2 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Kalinda Vazquez, [A] Carlos Gomez. We get more flashbacks to America’s origin, and she visits her estranged adoptive family in Washington Heights. I liked this issue, but after #3, I gave up on this series; see below for why. 

YASMEEN #4 (Scout, 2020) – untitled, [W] Saif A. Ahmed, [A] Fabiana Mascolo. Yasmeen goes to a high school party, where she discovers some boys photographing her friend while she’s passed out. Yasmeen and her mother spend all night tracking down and destroying all the copies of the photo. Meanwhile, the flashback to Yasmeen’s kidnapping contninues, and there are some scenes about Yasmeen’s decision not to wear the hijab. As I’ve said before, this was the best low-profile comic of 2020, and I hope Saif A. Ahmed gets some bigger assignments. 

THE LAST WITCH #4 (Boom!, 2021) – “The Trickster,” [W] Conor McCreery, [A] V.V. Glass. Saoirse meets Hugh, a teenage half-faerie adventurer, and he joins her on her search for the wind witch. Hugh, like all the other characters in this series, looks like a stereotypical Disney character – though I can’t think which one exactly. But V.V. Glass’s brilliance is their ability to imitate the Disney style while also integrating it with their own style of depicing magic and Irish folklore. 

INKBLOT #7 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Rusty Gladd, [A] Emma Kubert. A teenage witch, Eliza, throws a party, even though her grandmother thinks she should be indoors reading spellbooks. The party is interrupted by a giant monster with eyes all over its body. As usual, MOW. both helps to cause the problem, and saves the day in the end. 

SENSATIONAL WONDER WOMAN #2 (DC, 2021) – “Better Nature,” [W] Andrea Shea, [A] Bruno Redondo. Diana and Artemis fight against Mongul in a tournament. I don’t know why this comic was in my file, but I’ve asked to have it removed from my pull list, because this issue was boring. 

THE UNION #4 (Marvel, 2021) – “Doc Croc Bites Back!”, [W] Paul Grist, [A] Andrea Di Vito. Britannia’s archenemy, Doc Croc, breaks into the Tower of London. Despite the Union’s resistance, Doc Croc reaches the chamber that contains the Empire Stone – the source of the British Empire’s power – but Steve Darwin has already stolen the stone. Unfortunately this issue includes no funny Snakes moments. 

HEAVY METAL #7.1 (HM, 1983) – This issue’s opening section includes a short strip by Howard Cruse that’s a review of the latest Doonesbury volume. Among the longer stories in this issue are: A chapter of Elaine Lee and Kaluta’s Starstruck. Francisco Navarro and José Sauri’s rather sexy adaptation of the Odyssey. “Power to the People” by Angus McKie, a photorealistic story in which some hippies try to take over the airwaves. Guido Crepax’s crime story “The Man from Harlem.” Installments of “The Town That Didn’t Exist” by Bilal and Christin, “The Ape” by Manara, and “Zora” by Fernando Fernandez. Moebius’s “The Twinkle in Fildegar’s Eye,” a translation of the French album Tueur de monde. According to http://moebiusodyssey.space/book/tueur-de-monde/, this story was a preview of the style he uesd in The World of Edena. It seems like the original album had just one panel on each page, but the Heavy Metal reprint has multiple panels per page. 

On April 11 I went to the local Charlotte Comicon, my first comic convention since Charlotte Minicon in January 2020. It was thrilling to finally be at a convention again. One nice thing they did was to separate the comic book and toy dealers into different rooms. There weren’t a whole lot of cheap boxes, and I ended up not spending all the money I brought, but I got some good stuff: 

FOUR COLOR #1095 (Dell, 1960) – “Cave of the Winds” etc., [W/A] Carl Barks. This was the second of four issues of Four Color devoted to Gyro Gearloose. It includes four short stories written and drawn by Barks. In “Cave of the Winds,” Gyro helps Scrooge retrieve some saving bonds from the “Aeolian Mountains,” where Scrooge hid them from the Beagle Boys. In “Mixed-Up Mixer,” Gyro builds a dam on Grandma Duck’s farm. In “The Madball Pitcher” Gyro helps out a baseball team by inventing a bat that can’t miss, but then the oppoisng team forces him to invent a ball that can’t be hit. In “The Bear Tamer” Gyro helps Gladstone catch a bear. A highlight of all these stories is the silent antics of Gyro’s Helper. 

FANTASTIC FOUR #37 (Marvel, 1965) – “Behold! A Distant Star!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. As the wedding approaches, Sue wants revenge on the Skrulls for killing her father. The FF travel to the Skrulls’ galaxy, where they help foil Morrat’s plot to overthrow Emperor Dorrek, and Sue saves Princess Annele from being killed along with Morrat. In gratitude, Dorrek promises that  the Skrulls won’t invade Earth again. Visual highlights of this issue include a full-page photo collage of Skrull space, and the fuzzy creatures that the FF encounter on an alien planet. Throughout this issue the Skrulls are colored yellow. I assume this is an error, but it reminds the reader how in this era, aliens were often stand-ins for the “Yellow Peril.” 

FLASH GORDON #8 (King, 1967) – “Flash Gordon and the Elders’ Deathtrap!”, [W] Bill Pearson, [A] Reed Crandall. Flash, Dale and Zarkov visit a lost continent of Mongo, where a dying race of “Elders” tyrannize over the kangaroo-like “Proles.” This story has a bit of an anti-colonial subtext. Reed Crandall was not as flashy as Al Williamson, but his storytelling and composition in this issue are superb. This issue also includes the last part of a five-part Secret Agent X-9 backup story. As of 2021, this five-parter was the only original Secret Agent X-9 story ever produced for American comic books. 

TEEN TITANS #8 (DC, 1967) – “A Killer Called Honey Bun,” [W] Bob Haney, [A] Irv Novick. The Titans visit a small town where a foreign exchange student is are accused of sabotaging Honey Bun, the “automated jungle fighter machine” produced at the local defense plant. The student is implied to be from East Germany. The Titans clear Hans’s name and unmask the real spy. The moral of this story is that xenophobia is bad, but that seems rather ironic since Honey Bun is presumably being designed to fight in Vietnam. 

SUBVERT COMICS #2 (Rip Off, 1972) – two untitled Trashman stories, [W/A] Spain Rodriguez. In the first story, Trashman saves the world from a lab-grown bubonic plague virus engineered by bloated fat cats, at the cost of a little girl’s life. In an example of Spain’s Marxist politics, he tells us that the virus is “specially geared to the diet pattterns of lower socio-economic groups.”  In the second story, Trashman helps white and black workers overcome their mutual prejudice and unite against their real oppressors. Spain’s writing is sometimes hard to follow, but his artwork is brilliant. This issue shows a heavy Steranko influence. 

HERBIE #3 (ACG, 1964) – “Herbie and the Loch Ness Monster,” [W] Richard Hughes, [A] Ogden Whitney. Herbie visits his grandfather, who looks just like him, and then he saves England from a two-headed Loch Ness Monster. The queen makes Herbie a duke and asks him if she’s prettier than Lady Bird Johnson. That’s the same queen who’s still reigning as I write this, more than 55 years later. In the backup story, Herbie stops a scheme to embezzle charity funds, and helps his dad get elected to the local chamber of commerce. 

AQUAMAN #30 (DC, 1966) – “The Death of Aquaman,” [W] Bob Haney, [A] Nick Cardy. Aquaman is killed fighting Mongo, the ruler of the evil city of Necrus. Of course the Aquaman who died is a duplicate, and the real Aquaman turns up alive and saves the day. Mera spends the whole issue toting Aquababy around, but she does get to contribute to the fight. Nick Cardy’s artwork here is up to his usual high standards. 

LOCKE & KEY: GRINDHOUSE #1 (IDW, 2012) – “Grindhouse,” [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. This issue is a tribute to EC comics and to B-movie crime films, and is lettered in a Leroy lettering font. Some criminals invade Keyhouse so they can hide out there to wait for their getaway boat, and to pass the time, they decide to rape Mary and Jean Locke. The Lockes use the keys to kill all the criminals but one, who gets permanently turned into a woman. He reacts to this by shouting “J’AI GRANDI SEINS!”, which I believe is incorrect French, but it’s funny. This issue also includes Rodriguez’s blueprints for the house. 

SUPERNATURAL THRILLERS #1 (Marvel, 1972) – “It,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Marie Severin. An adaptation of the Theodore Sturgeon story that inspired both Man-Thing and Swamp Thing. It’s a bit odd that Marvel didn’t adapt “It” until after they had already created Man-Thing. I transcribed the entire text of “It” for Jon B. Cooke’s Swampmen anthology, but I don’t remember it well, and it was nice to revisit it. Marie Severin’s visual adaptation of the story is quite good. I don’t know if she ever got to draw an actual Man-Thing story.

LASSIE #60 (Dell, 1960) – “The Highwater Robbery” and “The Blizzard’s Prey,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Bob Fujitani. Lassie and Timmy stop some burglars from looting some houses during a flood. In the backup story, Timmy’s uncle is injured during a blizzard. Timmy and Paul Martin go to get the doctor, but the car crashes and they get caught in the blizzard themselves. Lassie saves the day. These stories are both fairly exciting. 

CAPTAIN MARVEL #16 (Marvel, 1969) – “Behind the Mask of Zo!”, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Don Heck. Captain Marvel fights the Kree god Tam-Bor. Then the Kree traitors Ronan and Zarek tell Mar-Vell that Zo, the god who allegedly gave Mar-Vell his powers, never actually existed; rather, Ronan and Zarek invented Zo as part of a plot againts the Supreme Intelligence. For the confusing history of Zo, see https://www.cbr.com/captain-mar-vell-god-zo/. Mar-Vell defeats Ronan and Zarek, and the Supreme Intelligence rewards him with the first version of his iconic red and blue costume. 

FELIX THE CAT #75 (Harvey, 1956) – “Throwing the Bull!” etc., [W/A] Otto Messmer and/or Joe Oriolo. A series of interrelated short stories on the theme of bullfighting. This issue is full of offensive Mexican stereotypes, but it has the same playful, metatextual humor as Messmer’s original Felix cartoons, which are also very problematic. On Facebook, Mark Newgarden and Craig Yoe suggested that Messmer and Oriolo both worked on this comic. 

UNCLE SCROOGE #27 (Dell, 1959) – “The Money Champ,” [W/A] Carl Barks. I’ve read this before, possibly while taking Don Ault’s graduate seminar. Speaking of which, I’ll be on a panel on Sunday, May 30 devoted to Don’s legacy (though that panel will probably have happened already by the time I publish this). “The Money Champ” is one of only three Barks stories featuring Flintheart Glomgold, and I remember Don mentioning how Barks reminds the reader who Glomgold is, on the assumption that the reader hasn’t necessarily read “The Second-Richest Duck.” Just like in that previous story, in “The Money Champ” Scrooge and Glomgold compete to decide which one has more money, and Scrooge wins despite Glomgold’s cheating. There are two backup stories, one starring Gyro Gearloose, and another where Scrooge competes in a yacht race. 

MARVEL TEAM-UP #4 (Marvel, 1972) – “And Then – the X-Men!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Gil Kane. Morbius kidnaps a scientist, Spider-Man is wrongly blamed for it, and the X-Men (except Beast) fight Spidey and then team up to fight Morbius. This issue is reasonably good, but it’s mostly notable because it’s Kane’s only full-length X-Men story, as far as I know. It ends with Spidey kissing Jean Grey, another thing that never happened again. 

SAVAGE DRAGON #228 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Erik Larsen. This issue includes some of the tasteless, offensive sex scenes that caused me to drop this series, but it also includes some cute scenes centering on Malcolm and Maxine’s adaptation to life in Canada. In this issue Malcolm gets a vasectomy, but just two issues later we learn that it didn’t work and Maxine is pregnant again. 

THE FOX AND THE CROW #101 (DC, 1967) – Stanley and His Monster in “The Dognappers,” [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Win Mortimer. By this time Stanley and his monster had taken over the lead slot in the comic, and with #109 the series was renamed after them, before being cancelled with #112. In thiis story Stanley enters himself and his monster in a contest for the best photo of a child with a dog. Through a series of shenanigans, Stanley saves a rich girl’s dog from being kidnapped. There are also some Fox and Crow backup stories that feel dated even for 1968. 

THE GOON #8 (Dark Horse, 2004) – “The Vampire Dame Had to Die!”, [W/A] Eric Powell. The Goon saves Frankie from being mesmerized by a female vampire. The vampire’s attempts to seduce the Goon are unsuccessful because he’s already too screwed up. I used to think the Goon was just a silly humor comic, and it is, but it’s also more than that because Eric Powell’s art is extremely good. I like how he somehow depicts the vampire as unnaturally bright. 

LOCKE & KEY #2 (IDW, 2008) – “Welcome to Lovecraft Chapter Two,” [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. Bode explores Keyhouse and discovers a well whose echo can talk to him. The entity in the well is the primary villain of the series, Dodge, and she manipulates Bode into helping her free Sam Lesser from prison. I already have this issue in trade paperback form, but I’m glad I found an original copy because Locke & Key back issues tend to be quite costly. 

PLANETOID #2 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Ken Garing. Silas climbs up a giant slab, on top of which he meets Onica for the first time, and she tells him the origin of the colony. Then Silas defeats some Ono Mao robots and is hailed as the lord of Ozender’s tribe. I have now read every issue of this miniseries. 

MILLIE THE MODEL #202 (Marvel, 1973) – “The Lady and the Monster!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Stan Goldberg. The three stories in this issue are all reprinted from Mad About Millie #4 from 1969, suggesting that this title was on its last legs. It was cancelled with #207. The stories are all in the same humor format as #163, which I reviewed earlier this year. All three stories are pretty generic, and the third one, “Here Comes Cousin Cuddles,” relies on fat-shaming for its humor. 

ROYAL ROY #1 (Marvel, 1985) – “The Mystery of the Missing Crown,” [W] Lennie Herman, [A] Warren Kremer. Royal Roy, the young heir to the throne of Cashelot, has to find the missing royal crown before he can be crowned as prince. Harvey sued Marvel over Royal Roy’s obvious similarities to Richie Rich, leading to the series’ cancellation with issue 6. Not only are the characters themselves very similar, but Royal Roy is written and drawn in the exact same style as Richie Rich, which is no surpries since Warren Kremer created both characters, and Lennie Herman was a veteran Archie writer. According to Mark Arnold, Herman died before this comic was published, of (presumably) a heart attack while playing racquetball. Royal Roy is just as charming as a classic Harvey comic, and it makes me want to read more Richie Rich, though there are so many Richie Rich comics that it’s hard to tell which ones I should look for. 

FOUR COLOR #1350 (Dell, 1962) – “Comanche,” [W] unknown, [A] Nat Edson. This was the second to last issue; the last was numbered #1354, but #1351 to #1353 were never published. It’s an adaptation of the 1958 film Tonka. It’s about Comanche, the horse that was the only survivor of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, and his white and Indian owners. This comic is competently executed, but it relies on noble-savage stereotypes, and it takes a both-sides approach to the Native American genocide. 

LONE RANGER #54 (Dell, 1952) – “Bandits in Uniform,” [W] unknown, [A] Tom Gill. My old friend “Lone Ranger” from the CBR forums was a collector of this series, and this issue’s cover was his favorite. It shows a man iding behind a door, waiting to whack the Lone Ranger wih his pistol butt. In this issue’s first story, New Mexico has just become part of the USA, and a corupt government tax collector tries to execute an innocent Mexican landowner under color of law. In the second story, the Lone Ranger helps a sheriff defeat an outlaw who’s defying his authority. Both these stories depict Tonto in a stereotypical, racist way. At least there’s a Young Hawk backup story, which is much more sympathetic to Native Americans, although it inaccurately depicts California Native Americans wearing feather headdresses and using wampum. Someone ought to publish an archival collection of Young Hawk. 

DAREDEVIL #35 (Marvel, 1967) – “Daredevil Dies First!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Gene Colan. The Trapster disguises himself as Daredevil to get revenge on the Fantastic Four. This issue has some well-drawn action sequenecs, but the Trapster was the dumbest Marvel villain of the ‘60s, and also this issue is from the period when Matt Murdock was pretending to be Mike Murdock. I understand that Chip Zdarsky has introduced a retcon where there really was a Mike Murdock. 

SPACE RIDERS: VORTEX OF DARKNESS #3 (Black Mask, 2021) – untitled, [W] Carlos Giffoni, [A] Alexis Ziritt. This comic is published sporadically and is hard to find, so it’s always nice when I can find an issue of it. I don’t know what’s going on in this comic, except that the villain is named Maria Lionza, but Ziritt’s artwork and coloring are spectacular. I love his distinctive, punk-inspired use of flat coloring. 

SECRET SIX #5 (DC, 2009) – “Twilight of Sorrow,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Nicola Scott. Some villain kidnaps Bane and throws a giant pile of bricks at him, one by one. The other Secret Six members can’t rescue him because they’ve all been poisoned. Bane is the focal character in this issue, and Gail almost makes me sympathize with him. 

CROSSOVER #5 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Geoff Shaw. Ellie uses Valofax to fight her way into the compound where the superheroes are imprisoned. This was the least interesting issue yet. 

FAR SECTOR #11 (DC, 2021) – “In order to rise from its own ahes a phoenix first must burn,” [W] N.K. Jemisin, [A] Jamal Campbell. The referendum is interrupted by an alien invasion. We discover that the sabotage of the referendum was part of Councilor Glory’s coup attempt. The City Enduring descends into civil war, and Jo has to save the day with just 20% of her ring power left. One thing I love about Jemisin’s work is how it always seems ilke her stories are allegories for contemporary American politics, yet never in a crude or obvious way; there’s never a one-to-one fit between Jemisin’s stories and the real events that inspire them. 

STRANGE ADVENTURES #9 (DC, 2021) – “The Whole World’s Looking,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads & Doc Shaner. Mr. Terrific’s report implicates Adam Strange in war crimes. In a flashback, Adam executes a plan that involves burying a lot of Pykkts alive. On Scans_Daily I saw that issue 10 includes an unexpected and anticlimactic plot twist, but I haven’t gotten that issue yet. 

GUNHAWK #7 (Marvel, 1973) – “Rodeo Doom-Day!”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Dick Ayers. As noted in my review of Gunhawks #6, this issue is the first Marvel comic named after a black character, other than Hero for Hire. The indicia title is just Gunhawk, but the cover title is Reno Jones, the Gunhawk. This issue is better than #6, but it includes some questionable racial representation. Throughout the issue, Reno Jones is insulted, cheated, and unfairly condemned to death by white people. At the end, he says that he’d kill all the white people if he could, but then he corrects himself, saying that only some white people are bad apples. The story ends on a cliffhanger, and the next-issue blurb says that the plot would be resolved in Western Team-Up, but that series only ran for one issue, which consisted only of reprints. Reno Jones didn’t appear again until the 2000 miniseries Blaze of Glory. Gunhawks #7 ends with a reprinted story drawn by Matt Baker. 

SHANNA THE SHE-DEVIL #1 (Marvel, 1973) – “The Sahara Connection!”, [W] Carole Seuling, [A] Ross Andru. This was one of three series that Marvel launched simultaneously in order to cash in on the feminist movement. Like the others (The Cat and Night Nurse), Shanna was written by a woman writer who had no prior experience. Carole Seuling was known to Marvel because she was married to Phil Seuling, the founder of the direct market. Shanna #1 is a trite example of the jungle girl genre. The African people in the comic are called Fulani, but their clothing looks nothing like traditional Fulani clothing as depicted in photos I found on Google. 

IMMORTAL HULK #45 (Marvel, 2021) – “Ready or Not,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. Lots of typically weird stuff happens, and eventually Joe Fixit turns into the Red Hulk and confronts the U-Foes. At the beginning of the issue a character drinks a beer labeled “St. Peter David.”  

HEAVY METAL #2.3 (1978) – [E] Sean Kelly & Valerie Marchant. Corben and Strnad’s “The Last Voyage of Sindbad” is rather Orientalist, but it has beautiful art. It’s also rather sexually frank; Sindbad decides to go on another voyage because he’s suffering from erectile dysfunction. Picotto’s “Q Claf 1” has beautiful art, reminding me of Kaluta, but awful lettering. Very little information is available on Picotto, and I couldn’t find his first name. Gray Morrow’s “Orion” is an ERB-esque adventure story drawn in a similar style to Edge of Chaos. Alain Voss’s “Heilman” is about a punk rocker who fights a duel with Jim Morrison (I think) and then Elvis. Druillet’s “Gail,” like all his work, is spectacularly drawn but has a vapid plot. Moench and Niño’s adaptation of Sturgeon’s More than Human is more a heavily illustrated prose story than a comic. Serge Bihannic and Druillet’s “The Mage Acrylic” has some more brilliant art, by Bihannic, not Druillet. Serge Bihannic is at least as enigmatic a figure as Picotto, but at least we know his full name. This issue ends with chapters of Forest’s Barbarella and Montellier’s 1996. 

CAPTAIN MARVEL #27 (Marvel, 2021) – “Mistakes Were Made,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] David Lopez. To cheer up Carol after her breakup with Rhodey, Jessica Drew teams up with her to fight some “snats,” i.e. giant cats with snake tails. Then Carol has some disastrous speed dates, fights the snats again, and finally has a one-night stand with Dr. Strange. This is Kelly’s best issue of Captain Marvel. It’s full of hilarious moments – I keep remembering the panel where the shirtless wizard dude says “Captain Marvel! When you mess with one Snat of the Nine Lives, you mess with all nine!” What makes this even funnier is that we’re never told where the snats came from or what their goal is. Also, Kelly’s characterization in this issue is touching and believable, and David Lopez’s art is excellent. Maybe Kelly is finally finding her own original approach to Captain Marvel. 

SWAMP THING #2 (DC, 2021) – “Becoming Part 2,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. Levi continues having weird dreams, and weird stuff continues to happen in the Sonoran desert. This series still isn’t as good as Future State: Swamp Thing. 

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #35 (DC, 1965) – “Battle Against the Bodiless Uniforms,” [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Mike Sekowsky. Due to a plot by Abnegazar, Rath and Ghast, the JLA have to fight their own animated costumes, as well as five villains: the Pied Piper, the Mask, Dagon, Killer Moth and Dr. Polaris. The Mask was a Golden Age Wonder Woman villain, but Dagon never appeared anywhere else, although JLA #35 falsely suggests that he’s a preexisting Aquaman villain. Like most of Fox’s JLA run, JLA #35 has an overly complicated plot and a total lack of characterization. 

THUNDERBOLTS #144 (Marvel, 2010) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Kev Walker. Luke Cage accepts leadership of a new Thunderbolts team that includes Juggernaut, Tombstone, Moonstone, Ghost, etc. On the new Thunderbolts’ first mission, Baron Zemo tries to convince them to follow him instead of Luke. This wasn’t Parker’s first issue of Thunderbolts, but it’s the debut of his distinctive new version of the team. 

PROJECT PATRON #1 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Men of Circuits and Steel,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Patrick Piazzalunga. It’s been thirty years since the Patron (i.e. Superman) was killed by Woe (i.e. Doomsday) and then miraculously returned to life. What the public doesn’t know is that the Patron really did die in that fight, and the current Patron is a robot operated by a team of human volunteers. But at the end of the issue, the team’s leader, Commander Kone, is murdered. Project: Patron has a brilliant premise, and it’s a nice tribute to the Death of Superman story arc, though I’m shocked to reailze that it really has been almost 30 years since Superman #75 . 

TARZAN #39 (Dell, 1952) – “Tarzan and the Men of Monga,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Jesse Marsh. Tarzan rescues his friend Jo-Rah’s sister from some evil cliff dwellers. In a backup story by the same creators, Tarzan defends the lost city of Athne from some Arab slavers. I’ve read other Tarzan stories by Jesse Marsh, but most of them were from near the end of his run. Earlier in his career he was much better, and his art looked less dated. I especially like the page in this issue where Tarzan travels through snowy mountains and encounters a snow leopard. This issue includes a Brothers of the Spear backup story drawn by Russ Manning, but his artwork is unrecognizable as his; it’s not slick or streamlined, and it’s full of unnecessary detail and linework. I wonder how long it took before he developed his classic style. 

UNCLE SCROOGE #35 (Dell, 1961) – “The Golden Nugget Boat,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Gladstone finds a miniature boat carved out of a single Alaskan gold nugget. This inspires Scrooge to go back to Alasa for the first time in decades, and while there, he enters a “sourdough contest” and finds a gold nugget big enough to carve into an actual boat. I’ve never read this story before, and it’s a good one, though perhaps not among Barks’s absolute best works. The high point of the story is when Scrooge insists on continuing to dig despite severe obstacles, including freezing cold, a swarm of gnats, and a pack of wolves trying to eat him. There’s also a Gyro Gearloose backup story, “Fast Away Castaway.” 

SHADOW SERVICE #6 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Corin Howell. I think the plot of this issue is that the Shadow Service agents are chasing the original protagonist of the series, but at this point I’ve lost track of Shadow Service’s plot. This issue also includes some flashbacks to the war in Afghanistan. 

HOLLOW HEART #2 (Vault, 2021) – Mateo starts implementing his plot to free El. I like the idea of this series, and Mateo is an effective character, but each issue is an extremely quick read. 

USAGENT #4 (Marvel, 2021) – “Patriot Games,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Georges Jeanty. This issue stars with a scene where John Walker intervenes in a protest over military testing on Vieques island. I forget if we’ve seen this scene before. Otherwise, this is a typical Priest comic, with a series of plotlines whose chronological relationship is hard to untangle. 

COMMANDERS IN CRISIS #7 (Image, 2021) – “The Action of Confession,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Davide Tinto. The people of Earth are skeptical about the Crisis Command’s revelations from last issue. Thunder Woman takes Frontier to the Lightning World, which is like the Immateria from Promethea. A new character named the American Dreamer appears. I’m still skeptical about this series, but I like this issue’s focus on “how newness enters the world,” as Salman Rushdie puts it. 

THE UNWRITTEN #23 (Vertigo, 2011) – “Leviathan 5,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. Tom Taylor is trapped inside a whale along with Jonah, Sindbad, Pinocchio, Baron Munchausen, and other literary characters who were eaten by whales. Tom escapes by realizing that the whale is actually Hobbes’s Leviathan. There’s an impressive double-page splash which reveals that the whale is made of human bodies, like the king in Leviathan’s famous frontispiece. According to https://su.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1091773/FULLTEXT01.pdf, the unnamed Scotsman in this issue is from Kipling’s Just So Stories.

FUTURE STATE: SUPERMAN VS. IMPERIOUS LEX #3 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Pugh. The people of Lexor continue to support Lex even though he’s run their economy into the ground, but finally Lex’s robots start massacring the Lexorians and Superman has to save them. In the end, Lex is left with his pet robot X-99 as his only follower, even though he previously blamed X-99 for all Lexor’s problems. This series is Mark Russell’s most pointed satire of Trump. Russell understands the reason for Trump’s continued appeal. The people who supported Trump can’t admit to themselves that he’s a failure, because they’ve invested too much of their identity in him, so paradoxically, the more pathetic Trump becomes, the more firmly his supporters follow him. 

NUCLEAR FAMILY #2 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Bad Transmission,” [W] Stephanie Phillips, [A] Tony Shasteen. The McCleans are taken through the ruins of Milwaukee to an underground city, which is introduced in a striking two-page splash. Tim McClean is told that it’s 1968, not 1958. So where was he for the last ten years? This series is okay but it’s not my favoritet Aftershock title.  

FEAR CASE #3 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. Mitchum loses track of his partner Winters, and when he goes to look for him, some guys beat him up. When he wakes up, some guy gives him the briefcase, which is covered in shadows. Tyler Jenkins’s artwork for this series is very moody and grim. 

EDGAR ALLAN POE’S SNIFTER OF BLOOD #6 (Ahoy, 2021) – “Edgar Allan Poe’s Mask of the Red Death,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Alan Robinson. A superhero parody of “The Masque of the Red Death.” For reasons I don’t understand, most of this story is in black and white, even though Poe’s original story pays so much attention to color. “Bon-Bon,” [W] Robert Jeschonek, [A] Greg Scott. The devil comes for Rufus Wilmot Griswold, a critic who insulted Poe’s work and slandered his character. Griswold was a real person and he really did try to ruin Poe’s reputation after Poe died. 

DECORUM #7 (Image, 2021) – “And the Egg That Broke a World,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Mike Huddleston. Neha Nori Sood finds the egg, but it’s alive, and she doesn’t want to return it to the Church of the Singularity. This issue has some stunningly creative artwork, including a bizarre giant-toed creature getting a pedicure, and a deity that looks like a mass of Kirby crackle.

I BREATHED A BODY #3 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Bad Debt Symbiosis,” [W] Zac Thompson, [A] Andy Macdonald. Mylo’s ghost (?) appears to Zoe/Anne and tells her to find his “Taustus” pendant. Mylo’s social media fans start following his example by committing suicide. This series is compelling, but it may be too gruesome and disturbing for my tastes. I’m not sure I want to read Zac Thompson’s next series. 

SEA OF SORROWS #4 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Rich Douek, [A] Alex Cormack. Thanks to the siren’s influence, the people on the ship start killing each other. This series has some really striking and atmospheric art, but its plot is too decompressed, and its characters are impossible to tell apart. I could have skipped reading this series.

AGE OF X-MAN: THE AMAZING NIGHTCRAWLER #1 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Juan Frigeri. In an alternate world with no sexual reproduction, Kurt Wagner and Meggan are famous TV stars, but they break their society’s rules by having sex. This issue is an interesting exploration of Kurt’s character and his relationship with Meggan, a relationship which never went anywhere in the standard Marvel universe, because Meggan was already in a romance with Brian. My colleague Anna Peppard has written at length about the panel in Excalibur #4 where Kurt and Meggan almost kiss. https://themiddlespaces.com/2021/05/11/excalibur-4/

CEREBUS #90 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1986) – “Five,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus’s head has turned into a golden sphere. Lord Julius starts charging people money to see the Living Tarim. Bishop Powers arives with the news hat the Lion of Serrea has been assassinated, and Cerebus is now the sole Pope. This issue includes some very funny scenes. 

2000 AD #65 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: “Ice World,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Dave Gibbons. Dare is strapped on an ice planet with some crewmen, one of whom has a habit of telling annoying jokes. Death Planet: untitled, [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Cesar Lopez Vera. The colonists find some rideable kangaroo-like creatures, and  Lorna threatens to shoot Cory. Inferno: “Philadelphia Freaks vs Harlem Hellcats,” [W] Tom Tully, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. Hale Eegle is killed and Cindy enters the game to replace him. Her line “I’m Cindy – try me!” is a reference to a notorious airline ad campaign. https://jezebel.com/how-flight-attendants-organized-against-their-bosses-to-1830282960 The cover of Plop! #6 is another reference to this same ad slogan. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth, Chapter 5: The Mutie Mountains,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Brian Bolland. A mutant leader has added his face to Mount Rushmore, which already seems to have had Carter’s face on it. In a fight with the mutants, Dredd knocks Carter’s teeth out. Mach Zero: “Cousin George,” [W] Steve McManus, [A] Ramon Sola. Mach Zero ruins the daredevil Cousin George’s escape artist performance. Mach Zero is essentially the Hulk, except that his goal is not to be left alone, but to find his missing son. 

SUPERIOR SHOWCASE #2 (AdHouse, 2007) – “A Long Strange Trip,” [W/A] Maris Wicks. A little girl hurts her knee, and her white blood cells are depicted as superheroes fighting villainous germs. “Shadowsmen,” [W/A] Farel Dalrymple. A short story that fit into the Wrenchies-It Will All Hurt-Proxima Centauri universe. Like most of Farel’s work, it’s beautifully drawn but hard to follow. “Big Mail Day,” [W/A] Joey Weiser. A slice-of-life story about office workers who are actually superheroes. Joey Weiser’s style is very simple and appealing. 

THE AMAZON #1 (Dark Horse, 2009) – “Spirit of the Amazon,” [W] Steven T. Seagle, [A] Tim Sale. A recolored version of a comic published by Comico in 1989. There are no warrior women in this comic. Rather, it’s about a journalist who visits Manaus, in the Brazilian Amazon, to investigate rumors of an indigenous superhero who’s fighting the logging companies. Tim Sale’s art looks more Italian or Argentine than American comics, and it evokes the atmosphere of the jungle and the city of Manaus. Seagle’s story is interesting, if somewhat trite. 

AGE OF X-MAN: THE AMAZING NIGHTCRAWLER #3 – as above. Kurt meets Mystique, who shows him a picture of his unknown four-year-old daughter, Tenia Jean. She’s super cute. Kurt and Megan go looking for her. This is another fascinating issue, and I want to read the rest of this series. 

CEREBUS #92 – “Audacious Tenacity Tenacious Audacity,” as above. Now awake again, Cerebus encounters two characters based on Bill Marks, the publisher of Vortex Comics, and Seth. They offer to paint a picture of him. I wouldn’t have known the Seth character was based on Seth if Dave hadn’t said so in his note. At this point Seth was still only known as the artist on Mister X, and he probably hadn’t adopted his habit of wearing old-fashioned clothing. 

Next Heroes trip was on Thursday, April 22. On this trip I had lunch at Midwood Smokehouse. 

SWEET TOOTH: THE RETURN #6 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. The people revolt against Father, who tries to spring his trump card by revealing that the elephant is infected with the virus. But the two nannies tell him that they never infected Gus with the virus to begin with. The underground dwellers emerge onto the surface. This is a touching conclusion to the miniseries, but I’m sorry we never got to see what the surface world is like now. 

JONNA AND THE UNPOSSIBLE MONSTERS #2 (Oni, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Chris Samnee, [W] Laura Samnee. Rainbow watches some monsters fight, then finally finds Jonna. We learn that Jonna is Rainbow’s adoptive sister. The artwork in this series is incredible, but the storytelling is rather decompressed. Luckily Oni just solicited a fifth issue of this series, so the Samnees will get the chance to develop Rainbow and Jonna’s story in more depth. 

THE MANY DEATHS OF LAILA STARR #1 (Boom!, 2021) – “Once Upon a Falling Starr,” [W] Ram V, [A] Filipe Andrade. In Mumbai, the wealthy Mrs. Shah gives birth to a son. In heaven, Brahma, the chief of the gods, gives the goddess of death her pink slip, because Mrs. Shah’s baby, Darius, is going to invent immortality. Death incarnates on Earth as a woman named Laila Starr. Laila is going to kill the newborn Darius, but loses her nerve and then gets killed. She reincarnates Mumbai several years later, when Darius is no longer an infant. This series is a fascinating synthesis of Hindu mythology and modern Indian life. Ram V knows Mumbai very well, as seen in Grafity’s Wall, and he makes me feel like I’m there. His depiction of the Hindu gods seems rather tongue in cheek; he depicts heaven as an office building. I have trouble understanding what Hindus believe about their gods. I wrote on Facebok: “In Western culture, the Hindu gods are often presented as a group of distinctly different gods with a clear hierarchy among them, like the Greek or Norse pantheons. [Here I was specifically thinkig of Zelazny’s Lord of Light.] Based on my very limited knowledge of Hinduism, my impression is that this analogy is not accurate, and that Hindus do not think of their gods in this way. Rather, Hindus believe that the various gods are different forms of the same god, or different aspects under which God can be worshipped. Maybe this is actually why I find Hinduism hard to understand — because I assume it’s like Western polytheistic religions, when it’s really not.” 

STRAY DOGS #3 (Image, 2021) – “Lie Down,” [W] Tony Fleecs, [A] Trish Forstner. The dogs discover something strange buried under the porch, and Victor, the dachshund, realizes that Master abducted him from the fire department. Now convinced that Master is a killer, the dogs try to call 911, but of course it doesn’t work because they can’t speak human language. And one of the dogs, Earl, is still loyal to Master, so Earl alerts Master, and Master takes Victor outside and shoots him. This is a shocking moment, but it’s nothing compared to what happens in issue 4. 

LOCKE & KEY/THE SANDMAN: HELL & GONE #1 (IDW, 2021) – “Hell & Gone,” [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. A dying Chamberlin Locke is tormented by the memory of his son Jack. Mary Locke travels to England to bargain with Roderick Burgess for an audience with Morpheus, in the hope that he can save Chamberlin from madness and Jack from hell. Jean befriends Roderick’s son and gives him the Anywhere Key so he can escape his abusive father. (Considering how sympathetic Alex is in this issue, it’s sad that he’s going to come to a bad end, as shown in Sandman #1.) In exchange, Alex gives Mary Morpheus’s helm, and she falls asleep and visits the Dreaming, where the Corinthian is tyrannizing over the other inhabitants. This is a fun first issue that connects Sandman to Locke & Key in a plausible way. And Gabriel Rodriguez’s depiction of the Dreaming is beautiful. 

WAY OF X #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “Playing Make Believe,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Bob Quinn. Nightcrawler, the most religiously inclined X-Man, visits various other inhabitants of Krakoa and is troubled by their lack of spirituality. The text features suggest that Kurt is going to found a new mutant religion. Other spotlighted characters in this issue are Magneto, Dr. Nemesis, Pixie, and a new character named Lost. I’m excited about this series because I love both Nightcrawler and Si Spurrier’s writing. 

USAGI YOJIMBO #18 (Dark Horse, 2021) – “Tengu War! Part Three,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi helps Sojobo defeat the Guhin Tengu, but Sojobo’s wife is killed, as is Buichi, the tengu who Usagi dueled last issue. I didn’t like this storyline as much as the previous one, but it is nice to revisit the supernatural side of Usagi’s world.

POWER PACK #5 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Nico Leon. The kids trick the Wizard into giving back their powers, allowing them to defeat him, and the previous status quo is restored. Squirrel Girl makes a cameo appearance. This was an extremely fun miniseries, but I’m sorry it’s not an ongoing. 

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #96 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Tony Fleecs. Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, Discord and Trixie accompany Capper to his hometown of Abyssinia. They discover that King Meowmeow has banned magic from his kingdom, and he imprisons the ponies (well, the ponies and other creatures) for violating the ban. Casper’s old friend Chummer breaks them out of prison. I feel like this comic could have had even more cat jokes, but it’s entertaining anyway. The monocle-wearing cat Admiral Fluffington is an awesome new character.  

RADIANT BLACK #3 (Image, 2021) – “Writing Day,” [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Marcelo Costa. Nathan finally gets some traction on his writing, but then he falls asleep and has a nightmare where his superhero identity murders him. Not a whole lot happens in this issue, but it feels like a more accurate description of fiction writing than issue 1 was. 

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #116 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Sophie Campbell. Jenny recruits musicians for her new band, and they prepare for their battle with Bebop and Rocksteady. TMNT has become one of my favorite current series. Like the Jem and the Holograms comic, it feels very sweet and tender, and it has lots of fascinating characters who often disagree with each other, but who are rarely evil or malicious.

HOME #1 (Image, 2021) – “The Icebox,” [W] Julio Anta, [A] Anita Wieszczyk. A young widow and her son emigrate illegally from Guatemala to Texas, but are shocked when instead of being welcomed into their new country, they’re thrown in a holding cell. Then the boy is separated from his mother and thrown in a cell, but his superpowers activate, and he blows a hole in the cell and escapes. Home is a very blunt and unsubtle treatment of undocumented migration, but that’s not inappropriate since Trump’s family separation policy was an inexcusable crime against humanity. While Home is not the most polished work, it’s an important comic, and it puts a human face on people who are too often stereotyped as subhuman criminals. 

FANTASTIC FOUR #30 (Marvel, 2021) – “Friends & Enemies,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Zé Carlos. This issue is yet another King in Black crossover, and it consists mostly of pointless fight scenes. At least there are some touching character interactions at the end. 

CHALLENGE OF THE SUPER SONS #1 (DC, 2021) – “Doom on the Horizon,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Max Raynor. A mysterious purple-robed woman named Rora shows Jon and Damian the Doom Scroll, which reveals the names of superheroes who are fated to die unless in an hour unless the boys save them. The catch is that if the victims are alerted to their impending deaths, an innocent person will die instead. So Jon and Damian’s first task is to save the Flash from being killed by lightning, without tipping him off. It’s really nice to see this series again. I’m glad the DC universe still has room for a fun comic like Super Sons. 

CAPTAIN MARVEL #28 (Marvel, 2021) – “Strange Magic Part 1 of 3,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jacopo Camagni. Despite her awkward sexual encounter with Dr. Strange last issue, Carol has to consult him again to find out how to beat Ove. Doc takes Carol to the Bar with No Doors. This issue isn’t as great as #27, but it’s very fun. It feels like a tribute to Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo’s Dr. Strange. A particular highlight is the appearance by the two irreverent talking snakes from that series. Like the Snats of the Nine Lives, the snakes are completely unexplained, and it’s funnier that way. 

ETERNALS #4 (Marvel, 2021) – “Only Death I Eternal Part 4,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Esad Ribic. Druig and Kingo Sunen investigate the murders, and then they fight Thanos. There’s also a flashback where Druig tries to manipulate Kingo into assassinating the Mongol general Subutai, thus altering the course of history. Druig mentions that the Mongol conquests ended anyway because the supreme khan Ogedei died, and the Mongol generals all had to return home to elect his successor. An interesting footnote here is that Ogedei’s death was the result of severe alcoholism. There is a whole academic paper about this: https://www.jstor.org/stable/43193426?seq=1

SPECTER INSPECTORS #3 (Boom!, 2021) – “The Museum,” [W] Bowen McCurdy, [A] Kaitlyn Musto. The characters visit the town museum. They start to perceive it differently based on its appearance in different time periods. Their dual perceptions allow them to find the clue to where to go next, but then they have to escape some masked, robed cultists. Also, there’s a ton of relationship drama. This is a really well-done series that reminds me of Misfit City, as noted previously, and also Gotham Academy. 

I WALK WITH MONSTERS #5 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Sally Cantirino. The politician manipulates Jacey into not killing him. Jacey is so mad at herself that she almost takes her rage out on Paul. But she comes up with another idea for how to get her revenge. The scene where the politician sweet-talks Jacey is rather disturbing. 

ORPHAN AND THE FIVE BEASTS #2 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] James Stokoe. Orphan Mo fights Thunderthighs and seemingly kills him by bisecting him at the waist. In a shocking twist that seems very appropriate to the wuxia genre, Thunderthighs’ legs are able to survive independently of his torso, and Mo has to fight and kill him a second time. She takes over leadership of his bandits, and they proceed to fight the next beast. We’re halfway through the series and there are still two beasts left, so I don’t know how Stokoe can finish his story in just two more issues. As usual, Stokoe’s art is spectacularly detailed and creative, and his action sequences are thrilling, although these two things work against each other somewhat: I can’t read the action sequences quickly because I have to stop to admire the draftsmanship. 

ORCS! #3 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Christine Larsen. The exiled and starving orcs are kidnapped by trolls. The kid saves the day by letting sunlight into the trolls’ house, causing them to turn to stone, just like in The Hobbit. Then the orcs eat some psychedelic mushrooms and wake up to find themselves covered in gnomes. This is another really fun issue. 

PANTOMIME #6 (Mad Cave, 2021) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] David Stoll. While executing their last job, the kids deliberately get themselves captured by the police. The other four kids all inform on Max and get him sent to prison, while they get off scot-free. Also, they set a booby trap that results in the Manager’s death. This conclusion is morally ambiguous; it seems like a happy ending, yet Sebela also suggests that the kids unfairly escaped culpability for Max’s crimes, and that they’re going to go on to commit further crimes. 

BIRTHRIGHT #48 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Mikey finally finds Brennan, and they team up and fight a giant glowing monster. Brennan reveals that he knows how to rescue their parents from Terrenos, but at a high cost. I never have anything to say about the individual issues of this series. 

ULTRAMEGA #2 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] James Harren. Some years after #1, the Kaiju Klansmen are terrorizing the normal humans, forcing them to survive on insufficient rations. Noah, the original Ultraman character’s son, tries to fight the kaiju using a remote-controlled robot, but the kaiju refuses to give the humans any food at all unless they reveal Noah’s identity, and Noah’s elderly friend Odis callously sells Noah out. This is a gripping comic with excellent artwork, but Harren is not the same caliber of artist as Stokoe, and I think Ultramega’s price tag is a bit inflated. 

THOR & LOKI: DOUBLE TROUBLE #2 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Gurihiru. Thor and Loki fight the Midgard serpent until its mohter comes for it (but wait, I thought the Midgard Serpent’s mother was Loki). Odin is pissed at them for trashing Asgard, and forces them to clean up. Loki reveals that he also stole an orb from Odin’s vault, but when he tries to use the orb, he and Thor fall into an abyss. I saw someone say that the last page of this issue is a perfect encapsulation of Thor and Loki’s relationship. While they’re falling, Thor says “This is all your fault” and Loki says “I maintain no responsibility.”

USAGI YOJIMBO #19 (IDW, 2021) – “The Master of Hishima,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. The first three pages of this issue look strange because they’re inked by someone named Randy Clute.  Usagi agrees to take some lizards to a mysterious recluse who lives on Hebishima, meaning Snake Island. The recluse proves to be an old retainer of Lord Hikiji. He dueled Usagi while Usagi was hiding Lord Mifune’s head, but he lost the duel when he was distracted by a snake, so now he’s a follower of the kami of snakes. And as we then learn, he himself is now made of snakes. Usagi manages to defeat him and escape, but the last panel suggests that Mr. Snake Island is still alive and will return. This was an entertaining and very scary story; the revelation of the snake dude’s true appearance is an especially shocking moment. However, it seems like an improbable number of things happened to Usagi while he was transporting Lord Mifune’s head. 

BLACK HAMMER VISIONS #3 (Dark Horse, 2021) – “Uncle Slam,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Johnnie Christmas. Abraham Slam is displeased to learn that the government has given his secret identity to a new, violent young superhero. Abe fights the new Slam and loses, but the new Slam is then shot and killed. This issue has some powerful moments – particularly the scene of Slam’s funeral – but it also feels like yet another unnecessary critique of ‘90s comics. 

HEAVY METAL #2.7 (HM, 1978) – [E] as above. Corben and Strnad’s Sindbad sequel continues, with more brilliant art and coloring. Bilal’s “Exterminator 17” is a rare example of his black and white art. It looks rather Moebius-esque, because of the style of linework and the random diegetic lettering. This story has been collected in an English volume, in color, which is still in print. Denis Sire’s “The Great Trap” is well-drawn but full of gratuitous T&A. Zha and Claveloux’s “Off-Season” is a bizarre piece of surrealims, drawn in a style that looks somewhat like children’s book art. I ought to get the NYRB collection of Claveloux’s stories. Chaykin’s adaptation of Delany’s “Empire” has nice draftsmanship, but very boring panel structures, with just two or three horizontal or vertical panels per page. “Empire” was an original graphic novel and is not to be confused with Delany’s short story “Empire Star.” This issue also includes chapters of Morrow’s Orion, Moebius’s Airtight Garage, Druillet’s Gail, and Voss’s Heilman. 

WOMEN OF MARVEL #1 (Marvel, 2021) – various stories, [E] Sarah Brunstad. This issue starts with an essay by Louise Simonson about the changing gender dynamics of Marvel’s readers. The stories in this anthology are very short, and none of them particularly stands out, I suppose my favorite is the one-pager where Hela uses her hellhound as a weighted blanket. What’s impressive about this issue is the depth of talent involved – Mariko Tamaki, Naomi Franquiz, Sophie Campbell, Natasha Alterici, etc. This also suggests how Marvel has evolved. Marvel has published lots of female-themed one-shots and miniseries, like Marvel Divas, Her-oes, and Girl Comics, but in the past, these comics were often borderline sexist and were sometimes written and drawn by men. Marvel didn’t have the talent pool to publish a comic solely authored by women. But now, Marvel has such a deep bench of female creators that a completely female-authored anthology title hardly even seems noteworthy.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #13 (Marvel, 2021) – “We’re Super Heroes,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Juan Frigeri. Half the Guardians fight an invasion of Progenitors, while the other half investigate a sacrificial cult. Dr. Doom appears at the end. This comic is okay, but it’s not Immortal Hulk or We Only Find Them When They’re Dead. 

WONDER WOMAN #771 (DC, 2021) – “Afterworlds Part 2,” [W] Michael Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Travis Moore. Diana discovers Dr. Psycho’s mind control scheme. Then Nidhogg offers her the key to Fortress Valkyrie in exchange for the egg of the eagle atop Yggdrasil. On the way up Yggdrasil, Diana meets Odin. I’m not familiar with either of these writers, and I’m surprised how much I’m enjoying their Wonder Woman. The version of Ratatosk in this series is essentially the same as the one in Ragnarok. This issue also has a backup story drawn by Paulina Ganucheau. 

JENNY ZERO #1 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Dave Dwonch & Brockton McKinney, [A] Magenta King. Jenny Zero is a member of the Action Science Police, who defend Japan against kaiju. She’s also an alcoholic who’s made a mess of her life. The best things about this series are Magenta King’s detailed art and Megan Huang’s vivid coloring. Jenny Zero is not the best recent comic about kaiju, but it’s worth reading. 

BLACK KNIGHT: CURSE OF THE EBONY BLADE #2 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Sergio Davila. Dane summons the spirit of Sir Percy and learns that there are four ebony items, not just the blade. Elsa Bloodstone attacks Dane, but then they team up to look for Mordred, who’s collecting the other ebony items. This is a fun series – the Elsa Bloodstone appearance is especially cool – but it suffers by comparison to Once & Future, which is a much deeper investigation of Arthurian mythology. And so far Si Spurrier’s Marvel work hasn’t been as interesting as his creator-owned work. 

CHAMPIONS #6 (Marvel, 2021) – “Killer App!”, [W] Danny Lore, [A] Luciano Vecchio. The Champions investigate Roxxon’s suspicious social media operation. I decided to give up on this series even before I finished reading this issue. Danny Lore’s writing feels like by-the-numbers hackwork; he doesn’t seem to care about his own story, and his versions of Miles, Kamala and Riri are lacking in depth. Also, this issue’s plot is just a rehash of Outlawed, which was bad to begin with. 

RESIDENT ALIEN: YOUR RIDE’S HERE #5 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. Mostly a bunch of cute character interactions. At the end, the government agent finally finds Harry. This is a really cute, gentle series, but it would be more meaningful if I had read the previous volumes. 

HAHA #4 (Image, 2021) –“Gustav in the World of Floating Objects,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Patrick Horvath. While performing at a little boy’s birthday party, a clown somehow gets sucked into his own balloon and finds himself in the “world of floating objects.” Meanwhile, the boy’s mother takes him to visit his grandfather, and after some initial friction, the boy and his grandfather fly a kite together. This is a fairly touching story. The best part is how the grandfather seems like an old tyrant at first, but then he mellows and starts teaching the boy how to fly the kite. 

THE OLD GUARD: TALES THROUGH TIME #1 (Image, 2021) – “My Mother’s Axe,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Leandro Fernandez. Andy tells Nile the story of her axe, which she’s had ever since the Copper Age. She insists it’s still the same axe, even though both the shaft and the head have been replaced countless times. This is of course a rehash of the Ship of Theseus/George Washington’s Axe paradox, but Rucka also suggests a resolution to that paradox: the axe is the “same” axe because it’s the living symbol of Nile’s thousands of years of memories. “Zanzibar and Other Harbors,” [W] Andrew Wheeler, [A] Jacopo Camagni. In Berlin in 1932, an immortal saves another immortal from a Nazi. This isn’t as good as the first story. I haven’t read  anything else by Andrew Wheeler since Another Castle. 

SPIDER-MAN: SPIDER’S SHADOW #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Pasqual Ferry. In this What If story, Peter decides to keep wearing the black costume even after realizing that it’s alive. As a result, the Hobgoblin kills Aunt May, and Peter kills the Hobgoblin in revenge. This is far better than most What If stories becaues of the extended length as well as the greater depth of characterization. Chip has become an excellent writer, and Pasqual Ferry is an underrated artist. 

S.W.O.R.D. #5 (Marvel, 2021) – “Giallo,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Valerio Schiti. Fabian Cortez is put on trial, and meanwhile, the Shi’ar civil war continues. This series is really not that impressive, and maybe I should drop it. The word giallo is Italian for “yellow” but more specifically refers to Italian crime fiction, and it references both this issue’s yellow color and the gruesome things that happen in it. 

PROCTOR VALLEY ROAD #2 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Alex Child & Grant Morrison, [A] Naomi Franquiz. The girls are (correctly) accused of kidnapping the boys. They sneak out of their houses and return to Proctor Valley Road, where they encounter a pack of hyenas or jackals, and then the ghost of “the Landlady.” I like this series so far, but I’m afraid that it’s going to descend into incomprehensibility, like so many other Grant Morrison comics have. 

KARMEN #2 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Guillem March. Cata floats around Palma de Mallorca, watches a man die on an airplane, and encounters the boyfriend whose cheating drove her to suicide. Karmen has a distinctive, unusual plot, and its artwork is beautiful. Guillem March depicts Palma with such specific detail that I was actually able to look at Google Maps and find some of the exact locations in this issue. I even found the bright red sculpture that says PALMA. March and Tony Lopez’s coloring also deserves praise. 

MONSTRESS #33 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. Zinn confronts Maika and her grandfather. Maika argues with the Warlord. I’m still reading this series only because of a misplaced sense of obligation, and I think it may be time to give up on it, because it’s not going to get any less confusing or depressing. 

LUNA #3 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Maria Llovet. Teresa discovers that Lux has imprisoned a one-eyed, blue-skinned god. This god looks like Krishna, except for the missing eye, which suggests Odin. Teresa and the god have sex. The best thing about this comic is its bizarre psychedelic art. 

CANTO AND THE CITY OF GIANTS #1 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] David M. Booker, [A] Sebastián Piriz. I just now realized that this issue has a new artist. Canto and his companions head to the city of giants. They discover that Fra and Ba, the two giants from earlier isssues have been buried up to their necks, and are being eaten by bugs. To free them, Canto and the Misturian witch have to fight a monster called Ferro. This comic is better than I’ve been giving it credit for. I don’t know why it always takes so long for me to read it. 

CEREBUS #93 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1986) – “The Prisoner,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus realizes it was Astoria who killed the Lion of Serrea. While on his way to the dungeon to see her, he passes the Roach, Mick and Keef. The issue ends with Cerebus confronting the imprisoned Astoria. On the letters page there’s an angry exchange between Dave and cat yronwode. 

CATWOMAN #30 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] Ram V, [A] Fernando Blanco. Catwoman gets the Riddler to explain the wing symbol, and he tells her a story which is depicted with panels arranged in a question mark shape. I really like how Ram V writes the Riddler, who is perhaps my favorite Batman villain, although he’s rarely been written well. A mysterious trenchcoated man – the Phantom Stranger? – tells Selina where to find the missing Poison Ivy, and she goes to a gala event at the mansion where Ivy is being held. 

2000 AD #66 (IPC, 1978) ­– Dan Dare: as above. The annoying jokester saves Dare and his crew from a giant one-eyed ice monster. Death Planet: as above. The colonists start building a settlement, but someone sets their houses on fire. Mach Zero: as above except [A] Mike Dorey. Zero befriends some homeless men, then Cousin George catches him in a net. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth Chapter 6: Dark Autumn!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. A telepathic boy named Novar saves Dredd from Morgar and his mutants. The phrase “before they had the war” is repeated several times. Inferno: as above. The Hellcats score a goal. Gruber is ordered to kill Cindy. 

SUPERMAN #11 (DC, 1987) – “The Name Game,” [W/A] John Byrne. In his first post-Crisis appearance, Mr. Mxyzptlk disguises himself as a handsome man named Ben DeRoy and convinces Lois to marry him. Superman tricks Mxy into saying his own name backwards, then, as Clark Kent, he apparently sleeps with Cat Grant. I just realized that Ben DeRoy’s name is an anagram of Beyonder and that he’s drawn to look like that character. See https://www.cbr.com/superman-mister-mxyzptlk-connects-dc-marvel-universes. Also, the bearded smoking man on page 3 may be a caricature of Tom DeFalco. 

CEREBUS #94 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1987) – “So,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus talks with Astoria, she tries to manipulate him into marrying her, and then Cerebus uses his authority as the Pope to divorce Red Sophia and marry Astoria. Then he rapes her. It goes without saying that this is an unforgivable act and that it causes Cerebus to forfeit the reader’s sympathy. However, I don’t think the reader was supposed to sympathize with Cerebus to begin with; at this point in the series, he had already murdered a baby and an old man on-panel.  

BATMAN #459 (DC, 1991) – “Saturday Night at the Movies,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. A bratty little boy and his parents go to see the Karate Cockroaches (i.e. Ninja Turtles) movie, but it’s sold out, so they see The Mark of Zorro instead. The boy is so angry about this that he forces his parents to leave the movie, and predictably, on their way out of the theater they’re ambushed by an armed robber. Batman shows up and prevents history from repeating itself. In a subplot, Commissioner Gordon and Sarah Essen go to the same movie on a date, but just as Gordon is about to go up to Sarah’s apartment, he has a heart attack. This is a fun issue, but both of its plotlines are very predictable. 

After over a year with no comic conventions, two of them came along just three weeks apart. On May 1st I went to Cabarrus Brewing Company for the Concord Micro-Con. I haven’t been to this event before because I wasn’t sure if it was worth the trouble, but I decided to attend this year’s edition, and I had a good time. Some comics I bought there: 

DAREDEVIL #29 (Marvel, 1967) – “Unmasked!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Gene Colan. Daredevil is about to propose to Karen, but he can’t decide whether to do it as Mike or Matt Murdock. The question becomes moot when Karen is kidnapped by gangsters. Daredevil deliberately allow the gangsters to kidnap him as well. As in Amazing Spider-Man #12, the gangsters discover Daredevil’s secret identity but assume he’s an -impostor and not the real thing. Matt saves Karen, but decides not to propose to her, because she’d be too vulnerable. Overall, this issue has some excelent action scenes, but its plot and characterization are stupid. 

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #30 (Marvel, 2017) – “Secret Empire Part Two: Master Planning,” [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Stuart Immonen. Peter has to defend Parker Industries Shanghai from the resurrected Doc Ock, who has access to all the traps he laid in Parker Industries back when he was Spider-Man. This isn’t Slott’s best story, but it feels kind of like a summation of all his previous work. 

UNCANNY X-MEN #256 (Marvel, 1989) – “The Key That Breaks the Locke,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Jim Lee. The Mandarin and Matsuo Tsurabaya force Betsy Braddock to relive her past memories. As she does so, she acquires the Mandarin’s rings one by one, symbolizing her subjugation to him. This was one of just three issues between #143 and #279 that I was missing. It has some excellent Jim Lee artwork, and it helps to flesh out one of Claremont’s least interesting characters. 

WONDER WOMAN #232 (DC, 1977) – “A Duel of Gods,” [W] Martin Pasko (“based on a story by Alan Brennert”), [A] José Delbo. At the convention I saw a bunch of ‘70s Wonder Womans for $2 each. I bought four of them, and I could have justified buying even more. The Wonder Woman comics from this era are all pretty bad, but I think they’re worth buying because they’re so hard to find. “A Duel of Gods” is part of a series of stories that were set in the 1940s. In this installment, Diana and the JSA fight Osira, an ancient alien who helped build the pyramids. 

TELLOS #1 (Image, 1999) – untitled, [W] Todd DeZago, [A] Mike Wieringo. This is Ringo’s only creator-owned work. Tellos is the name of the world where it takes place, not the protagonist. In this first issue, a boy named Jarek and a man-tiger named Koj are being chased by frog soldiers, and they escape aboard an attractive female pirate’s ship. There’s also a glowig green amulet that serves as a McGuffin. Tellos is a fairly standard piece of humorous fantasy, but it’s passionate and exciting, and Ringo draws some beautiful cityscapes and fantastic creatures. The tiger dude is especially striking. 

BATMAN #17 (DC, 2017) – “I Am Bane Part Two,” [W] Tom King, [A] David Finch. At Concord Micro Con I bought a lot of recent Batman comics for $1 each. This issue is hard to understand out of context. After looking it up, I guess the plot is that Batman is trying to protect the Bat-family from being murdered by Bane, and he also needs to get the Psycho-Pirate to heal Gotham Girl, whoever that is. 

DETECTIVE COMICS #934 (DC, 2016) – “Rise of the Batmen Part 1: The Young and the Brave,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Eddy Barrows. Batman as an encoutner with Azrael. Then he and Batwoman recruit a new team of Bat-heroes, including Spoiler, Cassandra Cain, Tim Drake (who in this continuity is a scientific genius), and, surprisingly, a reformed Clayface. James Tynion is very good at writig ensemble cast comics, and this is an enjoyable issue. 

IRON MAN #98 (Marvel, 1977) – “Sunfire Strikes Again!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] George Tuska. When Sunfire attacks Stark Industries, Tony has to put on the Guardsman armor to fight him. But the Guardsman armor lacks the “heart-strengthening circuitry” of the Iron Man armor, so Tony has a heart attack, and Michael O’Brien – who blames Tony for his brother’s death – has to become Iron Man to save Tony. This issue is better than I expected from such a mediocre creative team.  

TEEN TITANS #15 (DC, 2018) – “Super Sons of Tomorrow Part 3: Tomorrow is Never Promised,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] Ed Benes & Jorge Jimenez. This is part of a crossover with Super Sons #11 and Superman #37. I read both those comics when they came out, and I didn’t like them. I liked this issue better, perhaps because I’m nostalgic for these versions of Jon and Damian. However, Tomasi and Gleason’s plot is confusing, and the it’s a good thing Ed Benes only drew half the issue, because his art is awful. There’s one page in this issue that includes two different sets of photostatted panels. 

WONDER WOMAN #233 (DC, 1977) – “Seadeath,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Don Heck. This issue has a memorable Gray Morrow cover showing Diana in the jaws of a giant monster. But otherwise it’s just a boring story where Diana fights a Nazi submarine captain. And when we finally get to see the monster, it looks much less scary than it did on the cover.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #425 (DC, 1986) – “Going the Gauntlet,” [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Jerry Ordway. In his second appearance, the mad scientist Emil Hamilton (named after Edmond Hamilton, according to Wikipedia) tells the tragic story of how Lex Luthor cheated him out of his life’s work. Emil use his inventions to help Superman defeat some terrorists, but gets no credit for it, and finally he goes crazy and gets himself thrown in jail. This is a really depressing story. In this issue Emil is a tragic figure, but later writers instead depicted him as a benevolent, funny character. 

DETECTIVE COMICS #537 (DC, 1984) – “Down Below,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Gene Colan. Batman meets Sixto Morales, an undocumented immigrant who lives in the sewer after fleeing his homeland. Sixto has painstakingly built a replica of his home village, but some criminals find it and destroy it, and Sixto decides to finally come back to the surface. This comic is rather unrealistic, and Sixto is a huge stereotype, but his story is touching anyway. Gene Colan’s Batman artwork in the ‘80s was below his usual standards, perhaps due to Bob Smith’s inking. This issue includes a Green Arrow backup story with good art by Shawn McManus. 

DETECTIVE COMICS #939 (DC, 2016) – “Rise of the Batmen Part 6: The Thin Red Line,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Eddy Barrows. This issue starts with a flashback where Kate Kane comforts Bruce at his parents’ funeral. Surprisingly, this scene indicates that Bruce Wayne is Jewish. Number one, there’s a menorah on the altar. Number two, Kane could be a Jewish name, and Kate Kane’s mother is Martha Wayne’s sister. If Kate is Jewish, then Bruce is too, since Jewish identity is inherited through one’s mother. In the rest of the issue, the Bat-Family defends Gotham from an attack by some terrorists who are targeting agents of the League of  Shadows. These scenes include a lot of strong characterization. 

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #679 (Marvel, 2012) – “I Killed Tomorrow Part 2 of 2: A Date with Predestiny,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Humberto Ramos. Last issue, Peter’s coworker Grady built a time portal to the future, and after going through it, Peter discovered that New York was going to be destroyed the following day. This issue, Peter tries to find and prevent the cause of the disaster, and at the last moment, he realizes that the time portal itself is the problem. This is a very entertaining issue, but I wish I’d read #678 first. 

SUICIDE SQUAD #55 (DC, 1991) – “The Dragon’s Hoard Part III: Dead Man’s Hand,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Geof Isherwood. In Japan, the new Atom, Adam Cray, saves Amanda Waller from being shot by Japanese gangsters. Meanwhile, Thinker, Captain Boomerang and Nightshade investigate some Russian criminals in Japan, and Deadshot, Count Vertigo and Stalnoivolk fight some Khmer Rouge soldiers. The best part of this issue is the scene where Captain Boomerang repeatedly changes his cover story in a failed attempt to fool the Russians. Also, it’s fun seeing Adam Cray use Ray Palmer’s old trick of traveling through phone lines. 

BATMAN #19 (DC, 2017) – “I Am Bane Part Four,” as above. On his way to Bruce, Bane beats up the other Arkham inmates. Because of the juxtaposition of Bane with all the old Batman villains, this issue feels like a tribute to Knightfall. Tom King’s writing highlights the differing personalities of the various villains. I especially like his scenes with Scarecrow and Riddler. 

BATMAN #476 (DC, 1992) – “The Return of Scarface! Part 3: The Gig Heat!”, [W] Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. The cover shows Batman revealing his identity to Vicki Vale, but in the actual comic, he only does this in a dream sequence. Bruce does intend to tell Vicki he’s Batman, but he chickens out in the end. Most of the issue is about Batman’s fight with Scarface’s mob. There are numerous allusions to old crime films, including the issue’s subtitle (“The Big Heat” as pronounced by Scarface) and Scarface’s line “Top of the world, Ma!” 

CEREBUS #96 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1987) – “An Anchor That’s Going Places,” [W/A] Dave Sim. In his note Dave complains about reverse sexism, and particular about an incident where a woman tried to force him to dance. In the story, Cerebus and Astoria discuss the Ascension, and Cerebus realizes that the doesn’t know why he wants to go to the moon, except to rub his triumph in Weisshaupt’s face. Then they argue about males versus females. It’s not clear whether Astoria’s arguments about feminims are meant to be taken seriously, and I think Dave may want the reader to laugh at them, but they often make sense. For example, Astoria that women are more fitted to the creator than men, because women give birth while men only ejaculate, and Cerebus fails to answer this point. Ironically, Astoria is such an effective feminist character that she serves as a rebuttal to Dave’s own arguments against feminism. 

CONAN: THE LORD OF THE SPIDERS #2 (Marvel, 1998) –“Slave of the Lotus,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Stefano Raffaele. In Arenjun, Conan gets in a bar fight and is then kidnapped by he wizard Harpagus, who he previously met in Savage Sword of Conan #207. Conan is saved by the snake woman Helliana. This story is entertaining if unoriginal, although Stefano Raffaele’s art could be better. 

SAVAGE #3 (Valiant, 2021) – untitled, [W] Max Bemis, [A] Nathan Stockman. Savage fights a giant “gecktopus” created by the mad scientist from last issue. This issue is pretty funny, but Savage is only an average series. 

CHAINED TO THE GRAVE #2 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Andy Eschenbach & Brian Level, [A] Kate Sherron. Roy, Dahteste and the kids meet Beau Freeman and his two pet alligators, and Beau joins them because he and Roy both want revenge on the same villain. My favorite thing about this comic is Kate Sherron’s art. Eschenbach and Level’s writing is funny, but their plot is hard to keep straight, and there are too many characters. 

RAIN LIKE HAMMERS #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Brandon Graham. A detective named Mr. Ott travels to Sky Cradle. Meanwhile, Brik Blok finally finds El. This comic is time-consuming and difficult to read – hence why I haven’t read #5 yet – and Brandon Graham is still a jerk, but he’s also still a gifted writer and artist. 

MY DOG JOJO #1 (Uncivilized, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Gabrielle Bell. A series of diary comics,  mostly focusing on the author’s relationships with her mother and her dog. Gabrielle Bell is a major talent. I love her drawing stye and her spotting of blacks, and her stories feel very honest and reflective. I should read more of her work. 

CRIMSON FLOWER #4 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Matt Lesniewski. The alleged villain reveals that Crimson Flower’s handlers have been lying to her for her whole life, and that he didn’t actualy kill her dad. Also, we realize that Crimson Flower believes she lives in a medieval fantasy world, when in fact she lives in modern times. This revelation would have been more effective if it had been the other way around – if the entire  series had been set in medieval times until the final scene, instead of vice versa. Crimson Flower was pretty good, but it was too short to build any real narrative momentum, which was also a problem with Fear Case. 

THE BEQUEST #2 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Lower Whacker,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Freddie Williams II. The War Party fight a “resurrection beast” in the tunnels of downtown Chicago, and Epoch Craev teams up with some white supremacist militiamen. The Bequest is really fun so far. The protagonists, especially Warlock, are entertaining, and their amazement at the modern world is an effective source of humor. 

NIGHT HUNTERS #3 (Floating World, 2021) – untitled, [W] Dave Baker, [A] Alexis Ziritt. This issue has more excellent artwork and coloring, but its plot is hard to follow, and also not very interesting. Dave Baker is not as good a writer as Ziritt’s other collaborator, Carlos Giffoni. 

BATMAN #36 (DC, 2018) – “SuperFriends Part 1,” [W] Tom King, [A] Clay Mann. Lois tries to convince Clark to talk to Batman about his impending marriage, and Selina has a similar conversation with Bruce. Clark and Bruce carry on these discussions while also trying to track down the villain Dr. Double X, who has two bodies – a very appropriate gimmick since the whole issue is about duality and complementarity. This might be my favorite Tom King Batman issue yet. It’s a very sweet treatment of Batman and Superman’s friendship, and it’s also very cleverly plotted. 

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #429 (DC, 1987) – “Old Ties,” [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Jerry Ordway. On a date with Cat Grant, Clark learn that she has a son, Adam, who she’s lost custody of. As Superman, Clark contacts Cat’s ex-wife and begs him to let Cat see her son. This is a horrible decision: Clark knows nothing about why Cat lost her son besides what Cat herself has told him, and even Cat’s side of the story is not very flattering to her, and in any case, why should Superman interfere in other people’s private family matters? To his credit, by the end of the story, Clark does realize that his intervention has only made things worse. I should point out here that Cat Grant is a terrible character. She was always portrayed in a very unflattering way, and her young son was killed off for no good reason. In this issue Superman also fights Concussion, a member of the Circle. As mentioned in my review of #435, the Circle were part of a dangling plot thread that was never resolved. 

DETECTIVE COMICS #962 (DC, 2017) – “Intelligence Finale: Judgment Day,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Alvaro Martinez. The Bat-Family fight a villain named Ascalon who seems to be an evil (or rather, an even more evil) version of Azrael. This issue’s plot doesn’t make sense on its own, but Tynion’s characterization continues to be very good. A high point of this issue is Zatanna’s guest appearance. 

CEREBUS #97 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1987) – “The Unknown Given,” [W/A] Dave Sim. In his essay, Dave complains about the sanctimoniousness of anti-smoking propaganda. I can sympathize because I’ve seen a lot of anti-smoking ads that made me want to start smoking just out of spite. In the story, Astoria continues debating Cerebus and almost convinces him to free her, but Bishop Powers barges in at just the wrong moment, and Cerebus is forced to put Astoria on trial. 

KING IN BLACK: NAMOR #5 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Breaking Wave,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Benjamin Dewey. Dorma manages to neutralize the Unforgotten Stone and defeat the Swift Tide. This was an entertaining minieries, and it completely reinvented the character of Dorma, who used to be just a helpless damsel in distress. However, I hope we

BATMAN #39 (DC, 2018) – “Superfriends Part 3,” [W] Tom King, [A] Joëlle Jones. A hero called the Gentle Man has been fighting a horde of demons for thousands of years, so Wonder Woman and Batman offer to fight them for a bit and give him a break. Meanwhile, the Gentle Man hangs out with Catwoman. This is another very touching issue that provides insight into Batman and Wonder Woman’s relationship, and the Gentle Man is a cool new character. His only other appearance was in #40. 

2000 AD #69 (IPC, 1978) – This prog’s cover is funny: several dozen guns are pointed at Dredd, but he’s pointing his own gun back at them and saying “Come quietly or else there’ll be trouble!” Inferno: as above. Louis causes Gruber to go insane with pain, and Gruber dives into the stands and kills the two syndicate agents who are controlling him. Gruber then vanishes. Mach Zero: “Part 6,” [W] Geoffrey Miller, [A] Ramon Sola. Cousin George forces Mach Zero to play tug of war with some strongmen. The Brotherhood of the Three – that is, the homeles men from #66 – decide to rescue Mach Zero. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth Chapter Nine: The Slay-Riders!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Brian Bolland. A certain “ferry-master” is using stranded aliens as slaves. One of the slaves – Tweak, a furry anteater-like creature who eats rocks – escapes, and Dredd has to defend Tweak from slave-catchers. As one would expect, Bolland draws some extremely lifelike and weird-looking aliens. Death Planet: “Slaves of the Crystal,” as above. The colonists are captured by a space pirate named Zeena. Dan Dare: “Garden of Eden Part 3,” [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Dave Gibbons. In a colony settled by 17th-century Puritans, Dare and his crew fight some mind-controlling plants.

BARBIE #41 (Marvel, 1994) – “Ride ‘Em, Cowgirl,” [W] Trina Robbins, [A] Barb Rausch. I bought a number of Barbie comics from a seller on Facebook. In #41, Barbie visits a dude ranch and uses her lasso skills to catch some cattle rustlers, to the surpries of the ranch owner, who assumed she was a city slicker. Are cattle rustlers even a thing anymore? In the backup story, Skipper makes a new friend who’s ashamed that her mother is deaf. The best thing about this issue is Barb Rausch’s art. I think I’m going to write more about this comic soon, but what I write about it will not be entirely positive. 

BATMAN #44 (DC, 2018) – “Bride or Burglar,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mikel Janín & Joëlle Jones. In the Jones-drawn sequences, Selina breaks into a dress shop and steals her wedding dress. The Janín sequences depict a series of battles between various incarnations of Batman and Catwoman. It’s surprising to see how much she’s changed visually, while remaining more or less the same character. This is another really charming issue. 

2000 AD #70 (IPC, 1978) – Inferno: as above. Clay builds an android replica of Gruber, but it sneaks into his room when he’s asleep. Mach Zero: as above except [A] Mike Dorey. The Three prepare for their raid on Cousin George. Mike Dorey’s art is very grim and moody, with great use of what looks like grease pencil; it’s better art than this rather silly plot deserves. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth Chapter 10: Requiem for an Alien!”, as above. Dredd saves Tweak from the Slay-Riders, and discovers that Tweak’s mate and child were murdered by the slavers. More terrific Bolland art. Death Planet: as above. Richard Cory sacrifices his life to defeat Zeena, and the colonists decide to stay on the planet, even though they could use Zeena’s ship to escape. This was the last Death Planet story. According to https://britishcomics.fandom.com/wiki/Death_Planet, Lorna was the first female protagonist in 2000 AD, though not the best. Dan Dare: as above. Dare and crew fight some brutish aliens called Vrakks, then they discover that the Puritan colonists are actually giant alien worms. 

TARZAN: THE BECKONING #6 (Malibu, 1993) – “Survival Instincts,”  [W/A] Tom Yeates, [W] Henning Kure. This comic may have been originally published in Scandinavia, but I’m not sure. Henning Kure is from Denmark. In this story, Tarzan and Jane are both lost in the African jungle, but Jane has lost her memory and thinks she’s Sheenola the jungle queen, and beyond that I can’t tell what’s going on. But Tom Yeates’s artwork is fairly exciting. 

CEREBUS #99 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1987) – “Accurately Inexplicable,” [W/A] Dave Sim. In his note, Dave says he thinks Cerebus raped Astoria, and he also implies that he didn’t want the reader to approve of Cerebus’s act. Rather, the point is that Cerebus is immune from punishment from rape because he’s the pope, and that this is a bad thing. As depicted here, Dave’s views on rape are more progressive than you would expect from him. in the story, Cerebus’s trial continues, and he has a vision where Suenteus Po (but which one?) is being sentenced to death by a woman who looks like Astoria. I’m not sure what was happening here. 

WONDER WOMAN #242 (DC, 1978) – “Tomorrow’s Gods and Demons,” [W] Jack C. Harris, [A] José Delbo. On V-J Day, Steve is abducted by aliens and is evolved into a super-powered collective identity. Diana convinces the aliens to turn him back to normal. The aliens themselves are never seen on panel. This is a very mediocre issue. 

MARVEL TEAM-UP #26 (Marvel, 1974) – “The Fire This Time…!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Jim Mooney. Jinku, the ruler of the Lava Men, wants to destroy the surface world by making all the volcanoes erupt at once. A renegade Lava Man summons Thor and the Human Torch to save the day. Jinku steals Thor’s hammer and tries to use it to power his volcano machine, but it doesn’t work because after 60 seconds, the hammer turns back into a wooden cane. That’s  a pretty clever twist. They Who Wield Power make a cameo appearance in the last panel. 

THE EDGE #2 (Bravura, 1994) – “The Wheel,” [W] Steven Grant, [A] Gil Kane. This comic is written in a histrionic style, its plot is hard to follow, and it seems to be narrated entirely in flashback; we start with the Edge mourning the death of Winged Victory, and then we see how he died. This makes me wonder what the first issue was about, if it wasn’t about Winged Victory’s death. Also, the costume designs in this comic are kind of dumb. However, I didn’t buy this comic because of any of those things, but rather because it’s full of Gil Kane’s thrilling action scenes. 

SUICIDE RISK #11 (Boom!, 2014) – “Seven Walls and a Pit Trap Part 1,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Elena Casagrande. A man named Leo gets super powers but is mind-controlled into forgetting about his wife and children. When he starts threatening his wife, who he thinks is an impostor, his daughter reveals that she has superpowers too. This comic has some very creepy moments, particularly the scenes with the white-haired villain who can force people to obey him. But I still don’t know what Suicide Risk is supposed to be about. 

BARBIE #42 (Marvel, 1994) – “Celebration,” [W] Lisa Trusiani, [A] Barb Rausch. Skipper is supposed to do a cheerleading performance in a talent show, but her fellow cheerleaders faint from not eating enough. Skipper wins the talent show anyway, and the other cheerleaders aren’t mentioned again; the writer misses a chance to hammer home the lesson that anorexia is bad. There are also stories about a science fair project and about yodeling. 

CEREBUS #106 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1988) – “Greatness Among Flies,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Fred/Ethel/Little Fellow continues to threaten Cerebus, but then he grows too heavy and falls off the tower, and Cerebus ascends the rest of the way to the moon. This isn’t the best issue. 

2000 AD #71 (IPC, 1978) – This is the first of the famous “banned progs.” I had expected these issues to be much more difficult to find than they in fact were. Ant Wars: untitled, [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] José Luis Ferrer. In the Brazilian jungle, some government scientists spray some ants with an untested insecticide that, instead of killing the ants, makes them grow to giant size. A white captain has to team up with a native he calls “Anteater” to kill the ants. All the white people in this story are appallingly bigoted toward the natives, and the writer tacitly endorses their bigotry by not condemning it. Inferno: as above. The Gruber android kidnaps Clay and forces the other Hellcats to meet him at the old Washington Wolves arena. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth, Chapter 11: Battle of the Burger Barons,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. In Kansas, Dredd gets dragged into a war between Ronald McDonald, Burger King and their armies. The reason this and the next prog are “banned” is because IPC used the McDonald’s and Burger King brands without permission. In America this story would have been legally protected as parody, but not in the UK, so to avoid legal action, IPC decided the Burger Barons story would never be reprinted. It finally did get reprinted in 2015 due to changes in UK law. That’s good, because it’s quite a funny story, although the Cursed Earth epic can be understood without it. Mach Zero: as above. The Three confront Cousin George and his goons. Dan Dare: as above. Dare and his crew escape to their ship, only to find that the worms have infested it. 

TARZAN: LOVE, LIES AND THE LOST CITY #3 (Malibu, 1992) – untitled, [W] Henning Kure, [A] Peter Snejbjerg & Teddy Kristiansen. This seems to be an American-Danish co-production, or else an American reprint of a Scandinavian comic. In Opar, La tries to convince Tarzan that Jane is dead, while Jane, who is of course alive, tries to rescue a kidnapped girl named Zora. This is an exciting story and Snejbjerg and Kristiansen’s art is very strong, though I wonder which of them did what. 

IRON MAN #30 (Marvel, 1970) – “The Menace of the Monster-Master!!”, [W] Allyn Brodsky, [A] Don Heck. Tony accompanies a Japanese scientist, his daughter and his assistant to investigate a remote Japanese island. On the island is a villain named Zoga who’s building monsters in order to restore Japan’s prestige. Zoga is killed by his own monster and is unmasked as the scientist’s assistant. This issue is full of Japanese stereotypes, but it’s a rare U.S. comics depiction of Japan from after World War II but before anime became popular in America. Allyn Brodsky was no relation to Sol. 

PHANTOM STRANGER #41 (DC, 1976) – “A Time for Endings,” [W] Paul Levitz, [A] Fred Carrillo. The Phantom Stranger and Deadman try to save Cassandra Craft from an old villain named Nathan Seine. The demons that Nathan summons are drawn in a style that reminds me of Alex Niño’s art. Cassandra Craft later appeared in Superman #344. This issue also has a Black Orchid backup story by Carrillo and Michael Fleisher. 

EERIE #89 (Warren, 1978) – The Rook: “A Time Factory,” [W] Bill DuBay, [A] Luis Bermejo. A humorous time-travel adventure story whose plot I can’t remember. “Crystabelle!”, [W] Bill DuBay, [A] Leo Duranona. A woman bears a child out of wedlock and gives it up for adoption, but then changes her mind, kidnaps the baby, and hides it in her attic. The baby girl, Crystabelle, grows up in the attic, seeing no one but her mother and some spiders. When she’s grown up, a man finds her in the attic, and they have sex. Then she does what she’s seen the spiders do after mating: she kills and eats him. This is the best Warren story I’ve read lately. Its ending is both terrifying and almost hilarious. “Francesca,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Gonzalo Mayo. Scott and Sally Harmon adopt Francesca, a teenage girl who’s just awakened from cryogenic freezing. Francesca develops a crush on Scott, and then stabs him. This story was concluded in #91. There are some hints that this Francesca is the same one from Dante’s Inferno, as in Paolo and Francesca. “The Magician’s Tower,” [W] Budd Lewis, [A] José Ortiz. A weird humorous sword-and-sorcery story that seems to be continued from an earlier issue. “Boiling Point Part 2,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Leopold Sanchez. A cop named Tony and his friend Paul go looking for a serial killer who’s been operating on the subway. It turns out Paul is the killer and that he went insane because he failed to become a cop himself. 

BATMAN #45 (DC, 2018) – “The Gift Part One,” [W] Tom King, [A] Tony Daniel. As a wedding present, Booster Gold goes back in time and saves Bruce Wayne’s parents. He explicitly says that he got the idea from reading Superman Annual #11, or, rather, from hearing an in-universe summary of it. This is another fun issue, but quite confusing. 

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #681 (Marvel, 2012) – untitled, [W] Dan Slott & Chris Yost, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. Thanks to the final plot of the dying Dr. Octopus, Spidey, Human Torch and John Jameson are trapped on a space station in decaying orbit. They survive thanks to effective teamwork. This story led into Ends of the Earth, which itself set up Sensational Spider-Man. 

ADVENTURE TIME COMICS #1 (Boom!, 2016) – [E] Shannon Watters. I’m not really interested in this franchise, but this issue has a strong lineup of talent: Art Baltazar, Katie Cook, Tony Millionaire and Kat Leyh. Tony Millionaire’s art is especially strong. I haven’t read anything by this artist in a long time, but I just ordered some old issues of Sock Monkey. 

SAVAGE DRAGON #53 (Image, 1998) – untitled, [W/A] Erik Larsen. While Dragon is temporarily dead, Stephenson recruits a new Brute Force. This issue includes a very funny scene showing all the lame-ass heroes who try out for Brute Force – like Water Lad, who can only turn his hands into water, and Bubble Boy, who just came for the buffet. The best of these character is Feezle, who’s covered with white fur and talks like Yoda. I wish he’d appeared more often. 

VAMPIRELLA #74 (Warren, 1978) – “Hell from on High,” [W] Steve Englehart, [A] José Gonzalez. This is reprinted from #22. Vampi, Adam and Pendragon are joined by a mysterious priest as they hunt down Cornelius Devlin, who they think killed Pendragon’s brother. The priest, Jonas, proves to be the real culprit. “The Blood Queen of Bayou Parish,” [W] Englehart, [A] Gonzalez. Reprinted from #23. In Louisiana, Vampi and her friends encounter Jonas again, along with other members of his cult. These stories aren’t terrible, but the Vampirella stories were always the worst part of Vampirella. “Wolf Hunt,” [W] Joe Wehrle, [A] Esteban Maroto. Reprinted from #14. An old man kidnaps a werewolf girl, but she turns the tables on him and kills him. Wehrle seems to have been mostly a fan, and I think this story was his only professional comics publication. 

CEREBUS #110 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1988) – “All the Suns Are Daughters,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This may be the laziest issue yet; it begins with a blank white page and ends with a blank black page, and the pages in between are full of nearly blank black panels. It consists of a long rambling conversation between Cerebus and the Judge. By this point in the series, Dave already seems to have entered into a decline from which he never recovered. 

BATMAN #479 (DC, 1992) – “Pagan,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Tom Mandrake. Batman encounters Pagan, a vigilante who’s hunting the men who raped her sister and drove her to suicide. Pagan only ever made two more appearances. That’s a shame because she’s a compelling character, and I think she’s more a hero than a villain – I certainly sympathize more with her than with the Punisher, who’s appeared in thousands of comics. Maybe the idea of a superheroine who hunts rapists was too radical for its time.

2000 AD #72 (IPC, 1978) – This is the second of the banned progs. Mach Zero: as above. Cousin George drowns in a sewer, and Mach Zero wanders off to look for his son. Ant Wars: as above. Anteater destroys some ants by blowing up an oil tanker. Again, this story is rather offensive. It’s clear that Anteater is smarter than Captain Villa gives him credit for, but Captain Villa never faces any pushback against his blatant racism (at least not so far). And we never even learn Anteater’s real name, or anything else about him at all. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth Chapter 12: Burger Law!”, [W] John Wagner, [A] Mike McMahon. Dredd visits MacDonald City, then the Burger King almost hangs him, but his companions arrive and rescue him. Again, it’s a shame this story was out of print for almost 40 years. Inferno: as above. The Hellcats prepare to play against the Wolves of Death for Clay’s life. Dan Dare: as above. Dare and crew defeat the worms and make peace with the Vrakks. Like most of Dave Gibbons’s Dan Dare stories, Garden of Eden was well-drawn but boringly written. 

TARZAN #176 (Gold Key, 1968) – “Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Russ Manning. Tarzan meets two white hunters. One, Wilbur Stimbol, is an asshole, and Tarzan orders him to leave the jungle. The other, James Blake,  discovers a lost civilization of Europeans descended from Crusaders. There’s also a plot thread about a slaver named Ibn Jad. This story is adapted from an ERB novel and it has the typical complexity of ERB’s plots. Russ Manning’s artwork is, of course, incredible. There’s a Leopard Girl backup story by Du Bois and Tom Massey. I don’t think Leopard Girl ever got her own series. 

BATMAN #48 (DC, 2018) – “The Best Man Part 1,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mikel Janin. The Joker kills a bunch of guests at a wedding, and while Batman is taking him into custody, they have a chat about their relationship. The last few Tom King Batman issues I read were all excellent. This one, however, is really, really bad, and even offensive. The main problem is that it’s yet another Joker story and yet another rehash of The Killing Joke. I hate the Joker and I would be happy if he never appeared in any form of media ever again. I’m sick of reading stories about an insane lunatic who’s killed thousands of people and who can never face justice. It has become an ironclad rule that Batman can neither kill the Joker nor stop him from committing murder, and that means that Batman and the Joker’s narrative is permanently frozen. The more speifc problem with this issue is that Batman doesn’t even try to stop the Joker from killing the wedding guests, and he doesn’t seem to care that they’re dead. They’re just treated as collateral damage in Batman and the Joker’s war, and that’s is especially insulting since they’re black people. My Facebook friend Corrina Lawson expressed similar sentiments in her review: https://geekdad.com/2018/06/review-batman-48-joker-goes-to-church/

BARBIE #43 (Marvel, 1994) – “A Turtle’s Tale,” [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Anna-Maria Cool. An intricately plotted story with themes of bookbinding, sailing and ballet. This story has a more clever plot than most Barbie comics, but one false note is the middle-aged black man who has a collection of photo of his great-great-grandparents. I hesitate to point this out, but it’s quite likely that his great-great-grandparents would have been enslaved people, and if so, he would be very lucky to have photos of them. The problem here is that the reader is encouraged to ignore this. A white child who reads this comic is not invited to ask: “Do I know who my great-great-grandparents were? Do I have photos of them? If I was black, would I know my great-great-grandparents’ names or what they looked like?” As also seen in the story about homelessness in Barbie Fashion #26, the Barbie comics were not equipped to encourage that sort of critical thinking. 

THE SHADOW #4 (DC, 1986) – “Blood & Judgment Conclusion,” [W/A] Howard Chaykin. This comic is a typical example of Chaykin’s ‘80s style. It’s full of sexy women, snappy dialogue, exciting action scenes, and innovative lettering by Ken Bruzenak. But its plot doesn’t make sense on its own. I should collect the rest of this miniseries. 

STARSLAYER #19 (First, 1984) – “Old Business,” [W] John Ostrander, Tim Truman. Torin and his allies engage in a lengthy spaceship battle. Ostrander and Truman’s Starslayer may be their least exciting collaboration. Unlike Grimjack or The Kents, Starslayer wasn’t their own creation, and it wasn’t that great even when it was in its original creator’s hands. 

My next Heroes trip was on May 10. On this trip I had an adequate lunch at Fuel Pizza. 

ONCE & FUTURE #18 (Boom!, 2021) – “Long Live the King,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. The protagonists manage to keep Galahad away from the grail, but then the Prime Minister finds out about the whole Arthurian business, despite Sir Jason’s efforts. For the sake of pure political expediency, the Prime Minister tells the entire nation about the supernatural events, and Arthur decapitates him on live TV. The amazing twist here is something the reader has to figure out. As Merlin says, “Bors has made the land drink from the cup of knowledge.” Bors is not Sir Jason Hempleworth, as I thought, but the PM… whose name is not mentioned, but we know it sounds a lot like Bors.

WYND #6 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. The best new series of 2020 is back. We begin with a flashback showing how Wynd’s foster parents discovered him. In the background, two giant birds watch the scene. In Pipetown, the river gate is opened and some vampires force the dying king to ally with them. Meanwhile, Wynd and his friends are on their way to Northport, but they’re being observed by the birds from the flashback. And then the vampires show up in a submarine and open fire on their ship. 

EVE #1 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Jo Mi-Gyeong. Eleven-year-old Eve discovers that she spent her whole life so far in virtual reality, being raised by a VR version of her dad. When she’s released from the VR world, she has to get used to living in a physical body, and she and her robot teddy bear have to travel through a post-lcmiate-change world to find some mangrove seeds. Victor LaValle’s first comics project, Destroyer, is already a classic, and I’m glad he’s returned to comics. Eve has the potential to be just as good as Destroyer. It reminds me of Fallout 3 and B.B. Free, but I particularly like its depiction of the struggle of transitioning from VR to reality. 

THE GOOD ASIAN #1 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Alexandre Tefenkgi. In 1936, Edison Hark is one of the only Chinese cops in San Francisco. He discovers that the Tongs are plotting against white people, a discovery that threatens to cause deadly race riots. This is a fascinating new series that draws upon both the film noir genre and the author’s deep research into Asian-American history. It’s a sort of Asian version of Incognegro. 

ABBOTT 1973 #4 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Sami Kivelä. Abbott and company confront the Randazzos’ men, they teleport away with Amelia, but they leave behind a clue leading to a Masonic temple. Elena goes there, kills an evil wizard, and rescues Amelia, but she herself seems to have turned evil. This issue is mostly plot and it’s one of the less interesting issues of Abbott. 

STRANGE ACADEMY #10 (Marvel, 2021) – “Field Trip!”, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. The team goes on a field trip to Asgard. Shaylee and Toth become a couple, though Toth has nothing to say about it. Alvi is revealed as the son of the Enchantres, which is interesting because Captain Marvel just introduced Ove, who is also the Enhantress’s son. Is this setup for a crossover?  Also, Doyle and Emily have their first kiss. 

FANTASTIC FOUR #31 (Marvel, 2021) – “Self-Examinations,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] R.B. Silva. Ben and Reed go to “thought space” for some male bonding. Alicia teaches Jo and Nicki about art. Bentley is jealous over Valeria’s lack of interest in him. Overall I liked this isuse, and I thought the Bentley scenes were cute, but I saw someone else suggest that Slott was making fun of Val’s asexuality. 

MY LITTLE PONY/TRANSFORMERS II #1 (IDW, 2021) – “The Magic of Cybertron,” [W] James Asmus, [A] Jack Lawrence. Somehow I never got the last issue of the previous miniseries. In this first story, the Decepticons kidnap the Wonderbolts, and the Mane Six follow them through a portal to Cybertron, where Megatron teams up with King Sombra. “A Real Mother,” [W] Sam Maggs, [A] Casey W. Coller. Arcee and Greenlight help Scootaloo’s aunts rescue their niece from a Decepticon. I normally hate Sam Maggs’s writing, but this story was  cute. 

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #8 (Image, 2021) – “The Man in the Black Helicopter,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Martin Simmonds. Back in the present, Cole and Ruby visit the secret facility under the Denver airport – which is a thing some people really believe exists – and they meet a man named Hawk Harrison. Not much happens in this issue, but Martin Simmonds’s art is brililant as usual. 

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #25 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Clone Saga,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Carmen Carnero. Miles learns that Ganke and Barbara are dating, and he reacts by shoving Ganke into a wall. Miles’s reaction is understandable but wrong, and to his credit, he regrets it at once. Then Miles and Peter team up to fight Miles’s clone, but he has two more clones with him. “Big-Time Buzzkill,” [W] Cody Ziglar, [A] Natacha Bustos. Miles meets a silly bee-themed villain named the Bumbler. 

DAREDEVIL #29 (Marvel, 2021) – “Doing Time Part 1,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Checchetto. I dropped this series after the first few issues, but I’ve been hearing good things about it, and I decided to start reading it again. Matt Murdock is in prison for unexplained reasons, and Elektra has become the new Daredevil and is challenging the Kingpin for control of Hell’s Kitchen. (Does anyone even live in Hell’s Kitchen anymore, by the way? Hasn’t it become as gentrified as the rest of midtown Manhattan?) This issue has some very moody, exciting art, and unlike so many other Daredevil comics, it feels like an original story and not just a rehash of Frank Miller’s Daredevil. 

THE NEXT BATMAN: SECOND SON #1 (DC, 2021) – “Second Son Part 1,” [W] John Ridley, [A] Tony Akins & Travel Foreman. I bought this because I’m curious about John Ridley’s writing. In this issue, Lucius Fox’s son Jace, formerly Tim, returns to Gotham, but not all of his family are happy to see him. This comic seems to assume some prior knowledge about the Fox family that I don’t have, but Ridley paints an interesting picture of the relationship dynamics of an African-American family. 

BEASTS OF BURDEN: OCCUPIED TERRITORY #2 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Evan Dorkin & Sarah Dyer, [A] Benjamin Dewey. Emrys and Mullins defeat the disembodied heads, then they meet some shapeshifting raccoons, a cannibalistic woman-spirit, and a pack of Shiba Inus. This is another fun issue. 

SHADECRAFT #2 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Joe Henderson, [A] Lee Garbett. Zadie and Ricky, who is now her shadow, go to school, and Zadie has an appointment with a suspicious school counselor, Angela. Zadie visits the school at night to look through Angela’s office, but Angela catches her there and tells her that she (Zadie) is causing the shadows. I like this series so far. 

NOCTERRA #3 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Tony Daniel. The old man, Val, has to surrender himself to Blacktop Bill so that his granddaughter Bailey and Sundog can escape. Val gives Bailey his journal, but then tells Bill that the journal was a fake. The chase scene in this issue is exciting because the villain is so implacable and scary. 

HELM GREYCASTLE #1 (Image, 2021) – “Devotion & Desire,” [W] Henry Barajas, [A] Rahmat M. Handoko. This comic is hard to understand at first, but it eventually becomes clear, and the RPG campaign materials at the end of the issue are also helpful. In Helm Greycastle, a Dungeons & Dragons party goes on a quest to New Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Mexica empire. So this comic is about an encounter between the tabletop RPG genre and the Aztec world. That’s a pretty cool idea. The Aztec culture in this comic is more or less intact, though they do seem to have encountered Europeans already. 

CROSSOVER #6 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Geoff Shaw. This issue includes a huge number of cameo appearances by characters from other comics. Most of them are listed in the copyright notice, but there are also characters listed there who I don’t remember seeing in the comic. Also in this issue, the little girl returns to her homeworld, the old guy seemingly gets killed, and Ellie reveals that she herself is a comic book character. 

INKBLOT #8 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Rusty Gladd, [A] Emma Kubert. The Seeker visits the city of Springhaven to resolve a conflict between two of her sisters. The sisters go to war anyway, thanks in part to MOW’.s mischief, and then one of the sisters apparently kills MOW. 

THE UNION #5 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Britannia Project Part Five: Meet the NEW Emperor,” [W] Paul Grist, [A] Andrea Di Vito. The team defeats both Steve Darwin and Doc Croc, and the shapeshifting dog eats the Empire Stone and then, um, deposits it in front of 10 Downing Street. That’s not even the most unflattering depiction of the British Prime Minister in this week’s comics. The best thing in this issue is when Snakes loses his sweatshirt and we see that he’s literally just a bunch of snakes. 

THOR & LOKI: DOUBLE TROUBLE #3 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Guriihiru. Thor and Loki end up in Jotunheim, where they fight a bunch of giants and then encounter a female Thor and Loki. I’m glad that the Jane Foster Thor is now an established part of Marvel continuity. For why this matters, see Flegel and Leggatt’s book Superhero Culture Wars. 

ROBIN #1 (DC, 2021) – “Versus the World!”, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Gleb Melnikov. I haven’t bought a new issue of Robin since 2000, although Robin used to be a favorite of mine. I bought this issue because I really like Damian. In this issue, Damian enters the League of Lazarus’s martial arts tournament, but one of his opponents pulls his heart out of his chest. This issue includes a page that’s partially drawn in black-and-white and in a manga style, representing a manga that Damian is reading. 

SHADOW DOCTOR #3 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Three Fathers,” [W] Peter Calloway, [A] Georges Jeanty. We get some flashbacks to  Nathaniel’s youth, including his encounter with a mentor who resembles Stick or Mr. Miyagi. In the Prohibition-era time frame, Capone forces Nathaniel to operate on an injured mobster under unsafe conditions, and then Capone declares a gang war. 

IMMORTAL HULK #46 (Marvel, 2021) – “You and Me Against the World,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. The rejuvenated Hulk fights the U-Foes, then fights Thor in a Manhattan bar called Wein’s. The other Avengers show up, but then Betty arrives to help the Hulk. 

BABYTEETH #17 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Homecoming,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. I’m surprised this comic was published at all. #16 came out more than a year and a half ago, and I expected that Babyteeth’s hiatus would be permanent. Because of the long gap, it’s hard to remember what’s been going on in this series, or to care very much about it. The major revelation this issue is that Sadie’s child is just one of an army of babies fathered by Satan. 

AMERICA CHAVEZ: MADE IN THE USA #3 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Kalinda Vazquez, [A] Carlos Gomez. America’s sister tells her that the Utopian Parallel never existed. America grew up in a test tube because of a deadly illness, and the Utopian Parallel was just a virtual-reality illusion. This is a dreadful retcon that throws America’s entire character down the drain for no reason at all. The whole point of America is that she’s a refugee from a better world than our own, so this retcon destroys her entire reason for existing. After reading this issue I emailed Heroes and had this series removed from my pull list – that’s one advantage of using a brick-and-mortar comic store instead of a mail-order service. I hope this issue’s retcon will be reversed ASAP. 

NUCLEAR FAMILY #3 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Up with the Static,” [W] Stephanie Phillips, [A] Tony Shasteen. While Tim is being tortured, his kids escape their cell and meet a boy named Roger, and then they encounter some kind of radioactive zombie. Roger seems suspiciously well-prepared, and I’m not sure he’s not an actual Russian spy. This series is moving at a slow pace, but it’s an interesting take on ‘50s anti-Communist propaganda. 

THE WRONG EARTH: NIGHT & DAY #4 (Ahoy, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Jamal Igle. The two Dragonflies finally descend into open violence against each other, but then they’re interrupted by yet a third Dragonfly. At this point I’ve gotten hopelessly confused as to which Dragonfly(man) is which. 

THE MARVELS #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Birth of Madness,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Yildiray Cinar. A series of loosely related vigenttes that all revolve around Sin-Cong, a fictional country where America fought a long war at some unspecified time in the past. The Sin-Cong war was introduced in History of the Marvel Universe in order to avoid the problem where past events in the Marvel Universe were tethered to World War II or the Vietnam War. This issue seems kind of pointless, and Kurt’s description of this series – “we get to use the whole Marvel universe” – makes it sound like Astro City with Marvel characters. That’s not a bad thing, but I would prefer the actual Astro City. It’s an unfortunate irony that the best superhero comic of the ‘90s is no longer being published in the comic book format, which is dominated by the superhero genre. 

DIE #16 (Image, 2021) – “THAC0,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans. This issue takes place in the realm of 13, which, I just realized, is appropriate since its theme is horror. On their way to the center of Die, the protagonist visist a creepy Innsmouth-esque town and then descend into the sea, where they encounter the giant sunken corpse of H.P. Lovecraft. Grappling with Lovecraft’s legacy is a difficult but necessary task, since he was a horrible racist but also an inescapable influence on the SFF genre. I’m excited to see what else Kieron does with Lovecraft. 

THE LAST WITCH #5 (Image, 2021) – “A Murder of Crows,” [W] Conor McCreery, [A] V.V. Glass. Saoirse and Hugh fight the Badb, and Saoirse wrestles with her increasingly violent nature. This issue ends on a cliffhanger, with multiple witches left to fight. I really hope we get more issues, or if not, I hope we see more of V.V. Glass, because they’re incredbly talented. 

COMMANDERS IN CRISIS #8 (2021) – “The Action of Security,” [W] Steve Orlando & L. Thornhill, [A] Davide Tinto. The new writer on this issue is listed as the co-creator of American Dreamer. In this issue American Dreamer and Prizefighter fight some hatred cultists, and Frontier returns from the Lightning World. 

USAGENT #5 (Marvel, 2021) – “American Zealot Chapter Five: Rockets’  Red Glare,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Georges Jeanty. The new and old USAgents fight, and a flashback reveals how the Saint’s son was killed by police. Like much of Priest’s work, this comic feels as if it’s really important, but I don’t think I’ve put in the effort necessary to figure out what it’s saying. 

WITCHBLOOD #2 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matthew Erman, [A] Lisa Sterle. I’m not sure why I didn’t order issue 1, because this seems like the sort of comic I like. Matthew Erman’s previous series, Terminal Punks, got fairly good reviews. Witchblood is set in Texas, where a serial killer is murdering female witches. The witches in this series are distinctive and interesting characters, and Lisa Sterle’s art and Gab Contreras’s coloring are appealing. I plan on staying with this series.

SWAMP THING #3 (DC, 2021) – “My Green Amaranthine,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. Swamp Thing meets Ivy, no longer Poison, and Woodrue also shows up. Alec Holland appears and offers to help Levi/Swampy. I still don’t quite get where this series is going.

BITTER ROOT #12 (Image, 2021) – “Legacy Part Two,” [W] David F. Walker & Chuck Brown, [A] Sanford Greene. Johnnie-Ray’s mother turns into a monster. Uncle Charlie explains what happened to him and Sylvester in Barzakh. The old lady appoints Blink the new family head. Enoch figures out something important, but on his way to tell it to his family, he gets ambuhsed by monsters. Meanwhile, in Barzakh, Sylvester realizes the same thing Enoch did. I should be more excited about this series than I am, because it’s really good. Maybe my problem with it is that I have trouble keeping the characters straight. Heroes just announced that they’re hosting a signing by Sanford Greene on June 19, Juneteenth. I might go to that, because that’s a week when I was planning to go to Heroes anyway. 

HOLLOW HEART #3 (Vault, 2021) – “Escape”, [W] Paul Allor, [A] Paul Tucker. Mateo and El manage to escape the facility, and there’s also a subplot about Donnie’s boyfriend. Again, this issue is an overly quick read. 

FEAR CASE #4 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. The Secret Service finally recovers the case and opens it, and it turns out to contain all the evil in the world. The witnesses to the case’s opening all commit suicide. Meanwhile, Mitchum retires from his job. This issue was an adequate conclusion to the series, but as mentioned in my review of Crimson Flower #4, it should have been longer. Matt Kindt’s writing tends to be quite decompressed, and four issues is not enough space to allow him to develop his ideas fully. 

THE MODERN FRANKENSTEIN #1 (Heavy Metal, 2021) – untitled, [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Emma Vieceli. This is literally a modern updating of Frankenstein. The protagonist, Elizabeth, is a student of Dr. James Frankenstein, and she accepts his offer to work with him on some highly unethical research comics. Since this is a comics adaptation of Frankenstein, it invites comparison with Victor LaValle’s Destroyer, and I doubt that Modern Frankenstein is going to have the depth or social relevance of that comic. Modern Frankenstein is still fun, though.  

BLACK WIDOW #6 (Marvel, 2021) – “Widows,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Rafael De Latorre. A girl tries to steal Natasha’s wallet. Natasha rescues the girl from her employer, a crimelord named Apogee. This is a reasonably good done-in-one issue, though I like Elena Casagrande’s art more than Rafael De Latorre’s. 

HAPPY HOUR #6 (Ahoy, 2021) – “A New Hope,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Michael Montenat. While the happy people and the sad people are beating each other up, Kim and Jerry escape in the desert. They’re picked up by a double-decker bus that takes us to the colony of Irony, which, appropriately, is run by British people. I expected that this series was going to end with a trite message about how happiness and sadness are both necessary for a well-adjusted life, but the ending Milligan came up with is much better. Happy Hour was one of his most straightforward and accessible works. 

I BREATHED A BODY #4 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Invisible Hyphael Arteries,” [W] Zac Thompson, [A] Andy MacDonald. I think that should be spelled “hypheal.” The virus starts to spread, but Zoe steals the Taustus, as Mylo suggested. A portal is opened to the “Gelbacut Underland,” a subterranean fungal realm. This series is a powerful piece of horror, though it may be too gross and disturbing for me. 

BATMAN: BLACK & WHITE #5 (DC, 2021) – “Father & Son Outing,” [W/A] Jorge Jimenez. Batman shows Damian how to carefully prepare for a fight, and then Damian ruins everything by charging in and beating the criminals up. Unlike most of this series’ stories by first-time writers, this one is quite good. “Signals,” [W/A] Lee Weeks. This story has some nice black and white art, but a pointless plot and overwritten prose. “Blue,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Emanuela Lupacchino. A flashback to Harvey and Gilda Dent’s wedding. This is a cute story, though I don’t remember much about it specifically, and Lupacchino’s art is quite good. She reminds me of Terry Dodson. “The Riddle,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. This is easily the best story in this series. It’s a Choose Your Own Adventure story in which the goal is to lead Batman through the Riddler’s traps and defeat him and Killer Croc. But every numbered choice leads to Batman’s death, and in order to finish the story, the reader has to ignore all the instructions and read the panels that can’t be accessed by any choice. This twist on the CYOA genre is not new – it dates back to Edward Packard’s Inside UFO 54-40 – but in “The Riddle,” the necessity of ignoring the instructions is actually the entire theme of the story. Gillen and McKelvie succeed in achieving the Oulipo’s highest goal: they make the narrative constraints and the themes of the story reflect each other. If I ever write anything else about Choose Your Own Advetnure comics, this story will feature heavily in it. “The Man Who Flies,” [W/A] Jamal Campbell. A recap of Dick Grayson’s history, including his romance with Starfire. 

CEREBUS #111 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1988) – “Base Tranquility,” [W/A] Dave Sim. The Judge tells Cerebus the future history of the solar system, including the Challenger disaster and a world-ending nuclear war. He also tells Cerebus that Cirin has invaded Iest and seized all Cerebus’s gold. Also, he makes the famous prophecy that Cerebus will “die alone, unmourned and unloved.” Cerebus then finds himself back in the ruins of Iest. That’s the end of Church & State. Instead of a letter column there are several speeches and letters by Dave, Steve Geppi, Frank Miller and Bud Plant, all relating to Dave’s dispute with Diamond over the High Society trade paperback. 

2000 AD #73 (IPC, 1978) – Ant Wars: as above except [A] Lozano. As noted in my review of #42, Lozano may have been Leopoldo Sanchez. 2000 AD had an annoying habit of identifying Spanish artists by only their surnames. In this chapter the ants destroy a generator plant so the humans can’t call for help. Mach Zero: “The Suit, Part 1,” [W] Geoffrey Miller, [A] José Pérez Montero. A man named Harry Winthrop is put into an experimental battlesuit, only to discover he can’t take it off. Mach Zero doesn’t appear in this chapter. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth Chapter 13: The Coming of Satanus!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. A few years ago, some scientists founded an amusement park full of dinosaurs. This comic, of course, was pubilshed many years before Jurassic Park, though Mills didn’t think of the idea of using DNA frozen in amber. Anyway, the park’s star attraction, a giant T. rex called Satanus, has escaped, and Dredd is about to meet him. Satanus is a descendant of Odl One-Eye from Flesh. Inferno: as above. The Hellcats-Wolves game continues. Dan Dare: “Mutiny! Chapter 1,” [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Dave Gibbons. Dan Dare goes nuts and causes his crew to mutiny. 

EERIE #96 (Warren, 1978) – “Fallen Angels” (three stories), [W] Guillermo Saccomanno & Cary Bates, [A] Leo Duranona. This must have been reprinted from some Argentine comic, but I don’t know which one. Bates was just the translator. The Fallen Angels are a group of literal fallen angels who manifest as human misfits. This issue includes three separate Fallen Angels stories. In the first one, the angels help a little boy get revegne for his mother’s death, though the boy decilnes to kill the man who killed his mother. In the second story, an elderly assassin kills the wrong victim and is himself killed by another assassin, who is revealed to be his own son. The Fallen Angels only play a peripheral role in this story. In the third story, a slumlord is blowing up his own buildings for the insurance, but the angels force him to run into his building just as it’s about to explode. Overall these stories are fascinating, with grim black-and-white art and clever writing. Saccomanno was one of many super-talented Argentine comics writers, along with Oesterheld, Trillo, Robin Wood, etc. In Argentina comics writing seems to be (or to have been) a far more prestigious profession than it historically was in America. “Mac Tavish,” [W] Jim Stenstrum, [A] Pepe Moreno. The cover makes this look like a Magnus, Robot Fighter parody, but it’s more of an original SF story in a humorous mode. “The Ark,” [W] Roger McKenzie, [A] Carmine Infantino. During a terrible flood, an old man builds an ark. His neighbors murder him and force their way to the ark. Then the rain stops, and the neighbors get trapped in the now useless ark. “The Shining Sea,” [W] Nicola Cuti, [A] Alfredo Alcala. Gurn is a human trapped on a world of anthropomorphic dolphins. With the help of his dolphin girlfriend, he finds his parents’ spaceship. This story is coincidentally similar to the French comic Aquablue, which I need to read when I have time. 

WONDER WOMAN #240 (DC, 1978) – “Wanted: One Amazon – Dead or Alive!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] José Delbo. This issue has a nice José Delbo cover, but a silly story. The Duke of Deception frames Wonder Woman as a traitor. When she’s put on trial for treason, the trial is invaded by the Nazi villain Seigfried the Speedster. Diana defeats him, thus proving her loyalty to America. As even the dumbest reader must have realized, “Seigfried” is actually the Flash, who appeared earlier in the issue. 

CEREBUS #117 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1988) – “Jaka’s Story 4,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus, Jaka and Rick are now staying in the same tavern. Cerebus is forced to listen to Jaka and Rick almost having sex. There’s also a flashback to when Jaka suffered an injury as a small child. This issue is better than some of the late issues of Church & State. 

KILLER #1 (Eclipse, 1985) – “Daral” and other stories, [W/A] Tim Truman et al. A collection of Truman’s unpublished and rare material. “Daral” is written by Gardner Fox and must have been one of his last works. It’s a sword and sorcery story in a classic vein, except that it includes some frontal nudity. “Braskan Gambit” and “Starmerchant” were done for TSR RPG publications. They both have awful typographic lettering, but they feel like prototypes for Scout and Grimjack respectively. “Braskan Gambit” in particular has the Native American and Southwestern themes of Truman’s major work. 

SHE WOLF #2 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W/A] Rich Tommaso. This series’s first issue felt like a plot summary, but #2 feels more like a story. It’s about an encounter between two young werewolves at a mall. They also experience a series of timeslips. As in much of his work, Tommaso’s greatest strengths are his lettering, coloring and design. 

BROTHERS OF THE SPEAR #12 (Gold Key, 1972) – “Harvest of Fear,” [W] Jerry O’Hara & Russ Manning, [A] Jesse Santos. This is a reprint of issue 1. The evil wizard Nagopa and his pygmies sabotage Aba-Zulu’s grain stores, while Aba-Zulu’s army is attacked by a horde of Tuaregs. Dan-El and Natongo travel to a neighboring kingdom for aid. This story is okay, but it presents the Tuaregs as a faceless evil horde, which is rather offensive to the actual Tuareg people. I doubt if this comic was available in countries that have significant Tuareg populations, but that’s no excuse. 

THE FANTASTIC VOYAGES OF SINDBAD #1 (Gold Key, 1965) – “Prisoners of Indra,” [W] unknown, [A] Dan Spiegle. I’m proud that I was able to identify Spiegle’s art even before I checked the GCD. This comic is not related to the Ray Harryhausen film, and has little to do with the original myth of Sindbad the Sailor, except that its protagonist has the same name and profession. Its plot is that Sindbad and his Viking companion Sigurd visit a city ruled by the evil queen Indra, who worships Shaitan (i.e. Satan). This comic is okay but very unexciting. 

BORIS THE BEAR #11 (Dark Horse, 1987) – “Who in T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Are All These Agents?”, [W] Mike Richardson, [A] James Dean Smith. Some villains dig up the grave of the THUNDER Agents in order to profit off of them. Boris, an anthropomorphic bear, has to defeat the villains so the THUNDER Agents can rest in peace. This comic is a very blunt critique of the comics industry’s greed. It also looks like the original THUNDER Agentss comics because it’s partially inked by Dan Adkins. The weird thing about this comic is that Richardson seems to have believed that the THUNDER Agents were in the public domain, but they were still under copyright. So this comic is an intellectual property violation, although no one seems to have noticed or cared much. There’s also a backup story where Boris watches a comic book store while the owner’s gone, and throws away a lot of the merchandise. I don’t usually like Mike Richardson’s writing, but this comic was funny, and I would buy more issues of it if I found them. 

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #579 (Disney, 1993) – untitled (Turkey Hunt), [W/A] Carl Barks. This is another story with a strange footnote. Donald can’t afford a Thanksgiving turkey, so he decides to hunt one himself. After a series of misadventures, Donald shoots a turkey and takes it to the butcher. But it turns out to be inedible, because it’s not a turkey, it’s a giant quail. Wait, why is that funny, and what’s a giant quail? The answer is that in the original printing, the bird was an eagle. In this reprinting, the next-to-last panel was relettered to change “eagle” to “giant quail,” resulting in nonsense. It would have been better to not reprint the story at all. This issue also includes reprints of a Ll’l Bad Wolf story and a chapter of the Mickey Mouse serial “Riding the Rails.” I’ve read the latter chapter at least once before. 

WELCOME BACK #1 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Jonathan Brandon Sawyer. Mali has moved to Kansas City to get away from everyone who knows her father was a serial killer. But Mali is being stalked by a different serial killer, because she’s part of a war between assassins who reincarnate in order to murder each other. At the end of the issue, Mali finds a little girl in her house who claims to be her father. This comic is yet another example of Christopher Sebela’s skill at coming up with unexpected premises. 

HAUNT OF FEAR #9 (Gladstone, 1951/1994) – [W] Al Feldstein. “What’s  So Horrible?”, [A] Graham Ingels. An old man buries his money with him so that his hated nephews can’t get it. For some reason, he’s legally obligated to leave his money to them, even though that’s not how the law works at all. Anyway, the nephews dig up the grave and the uncle drags them into it. In an obvious reference to Tom Sawyer, two boys witness this while looking for stump water to cure warts. “Forbidden Fruit,” [A] Joe Orlando. Two starving castaways wash up on a desert island. A previous castaway warns them that the fruit trees on the island are deadly, but it’s too late, they’ve already eaten the fruit. The highlight of the story is the horrific image of the first castaway’s rotting body. “The Age-Old Story,” [A] Jack Kamen. A woman dumps her poor boyfriend for a wealthy old scientist, intending to steal all his money. The scientist gets his revenge by making her grow old prematurely. This is one of countless EC stories about a cheating spouse who conspires with her boyfriend to rob and/or murder her husband. Nearly every EC comic seems to have had a story like this. “The Gorilla’s Paw!”, [A] Jack Davis. An obvious takeoff on “The Monkey’s Paw,” with the twist that the gorilla’s paw carries out the wishes itself. For example, its owner wishes he hadn’t bought the paw, so the paw comes to life, murders its previous owner, and returns the money its current owner paid for it. The end comes when the owner says “I wish I had your brains.” 

CLARENCE #1 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] Liz Prince, [A] Evan Palmer. I bought this because Liz Prince wrote it. That was a mistake. This comic is an adaptation of a TV cartoon that doesn’t appeal to me at all. It has nothing in common with Prince’s autobio work. 

BRAVEST WARRIORS #33 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] Kate Leth, [A] Ian McGinty. A character named Jelly Kid is murdered three different times. Three backup features by different creative teams show the reasons behind the three murders. One of these backup feature is notable because it’s a collaboration between Kate Leth and Kat Leyh. 

On May 24, I went back to Heroes. On this trip I had an excellent lunch at the Good Wurst Company. I think they may have the best fries in Charlotte. 

WE ONLY FIND THEM WHEN THEY’RE DEAD #6 (Boom!, 2021) – “Neither Bought Nor Sold,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Simone Di Meo. Many years after the last issue, the supply of godflesh has dried up. Ambassador Marilyn Chen is investigating a cult that worships the last known god, the former Georges Malik. The cultists have hilarious names like Lovegood Arbogast and Honorhim Bristow, but what impresses me about this issue is Marilyn’s people skills, or to put it another way, her skill at lying. Early in the issue, she tells her bodyguard Naom that she ate godflesh once as a child, and that it was delicious. Later, she tells the cultist Lovegood that she was forced to eat godflesh as a child, and that it was indescribably foul. 

STRAY DOGS #4 (Image, 2021) – “Play Dead,” [W] Tony Fleecs, [A] Trish Forstner. If the earlier issues were horrifying, this one is far more so. The other dogs try to convince Earl that the Master is evil. Finally they break inside the master’s shed and find Victor’s flayed skin, as well as a lot of taxidermy eqiupment. Meanwhile, Earl remembers that when the Master  brought him home, there were lots of dogs there already – but they were all different dogs. And then he opens the Master’s closet and finds a display of those dogs’ heads. Stray Dogs is a brilliant and terrifying horror comic, but it should come with a trigger warning for readers who are offended by violence against dogs. 

RUNAWAYS #36 (Marvel, 2021) – “Come Away with Me Part 5,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Andres Genolet. Chase meets a cute girl at the store, but then he meets an older version of  Gert. She’s traveled back from the time when she’s his current age, so that they can resume their romance. But it’s obvious that there’s something she’s not telling him. Meanwhile, the Victor tells the younger Gert that he loves her, and they kiss, but then they run into the older Gert kissing Chase. Awkward. 

SEVEN SECRETS #8 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. The opening of the first secret causes the entire nation of Switzerland to vanish. The seekers manage to escape, but we learn that someone in their party is a traitor. This series continues to be very fun, though it’s not more than that – in other words, it lacks deeper significance. 

JONNA AND THE UNPOSSIBLE MONSTERS #3 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Chris Samnee, [W] Laura Samnee. Jonna and Rainbow meet some other human survivors, then their gathering is interrupted by some kind of monster attack. This is another really fun issue, but its pacing is too slow; hardly anything has happened in these three issues. In this issue it becomes evident that Jonna can’t talk very well. She only says single words or short sentences. I wonder why this is, because she doesn’t appear to be too young to talk.  

RADIANT BLACK #4 (Image, 2021) – “Everything Changes,” [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Marcelo Costa. Nathan has a vision of a giant black robot. Then the “Red Ranger” attacks hm and he, um, dies. Marshall has to become the new Radiant Black. I certainly wasn’t expecting this plot twist. The writer has invested a lot of time in making Nathan sympathetic, while Marshall just seems like a jerk, so it’ll be interesting to see how he adapts to his new superhero role. 

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #97 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Tony Fleecs. The ponies, the kitties and Discord break into the Abyssinian underground. After a fight wth the royal troops, they discover yet another Tree of Harmony, and the cats become another group of Elements of Harmony. Another light goes on in the mysterious set of lights that we saw before. This issue has some more cute cat jokes, though there could have been even more. Two nice moments in this issue both involve Fluttershy. Shadow takes her on a spy mission because no one else can keep quiet, and later, she explicitly says that Discord is her best friend. 

FANTASTIC FOUR #32 (Marvel, 2021) – “Bride of Doom Part 1: Rules of Engagement,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] R.B. Silva. At an event at the Latverian embassy, Johnny runs into Lyja disguised as Sky. All three of them have to team up together when Ultimatum terrorists invade the embassy, but afterward, Sky walks out on Johnny, and he ends up in bed with Zora/Victorious. Then Johnny has to hide under the bed and watch as Dr. Doom proposes marriage to Zora. There is some great relationship drama in this issue, but Johnnys decision to sleep with Zora is regrettable, though not out of character for him.  

ORCS #4 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Christine Larsen. The exiled orcs visit a dwarf market, and then we don’t see them again for the rest of the issue. The old hag discovers that there’s a world-ending fog coming, but the king ignores her, and she tells the kids another Drod story while she’s sulking. The elves meet a giant talking “matron spider” who tells them about the same threat the hag discovered. The spider’s back is covered with babies, which is both horrible and cute. 

BIRTHRIGHT #49 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Mikey and Brennan get back to Terrenos and find their parents, resulting in the weirdest “children walking in on parents having sex” scene ever. Boomer and Brennan decide to remain in Terrenos so that Mikey’s parents can return to Earth. The only remaining loose end is Kalista. By this time, baby Mya is able to talk in complete sentences and sleep in a bed, but she doesn’t seem to be walking yet. I wonder if she has higher than normal intelligence for her age. 

I WALK WITH MONSTERS #6 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Sally Cantirino. Paul defeats the evil politician and turns him into a baby. Jacey is now free to live a normal life. This conclusion is an anticlimax, and overall this series didn’t quite fulfill the potential of its first few issues. 

HOME #2 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Julio Anta, [A] Anna Wieszczyk. Little Juan manages to escape hiis pursuers and contact his American citizen aunt, Gladys. The ICE agents follow him, but they’re actually chasing someone else. Gladys tells Juan that his father also had superpowers. Also, his mother was sent back to Guatemala. This comic continues to be a powerful condemnation of American immigration policy. 

WONDER GIRL #1 (DC, 2021) – “Homecoming, Part 1,” [W/A] Joëlle Jones. Yara Flor goes on  a trip to Rio to learn about her heritage. While she’s at the Iguaçu falls, some creature pulls her into the water. Meanwhile, the Olympian gods and the Amazons of Themyscira and Bana-Mighdall are all very concerned about Yara. This is a great debut issue; Joëlle Jones’s artwork is beautiful, and Yara is a captivating character. I’m glad that Future State: Wonder Woman was promoted to an ongoing series. 

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC ANNUAL 2021 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Brianna Garcia. Rarity, Maud, Big Mac and Meadowbrook visit the kingdom of the Diamond Dogs, except it’s actually two kingdoms, because the two queens and their four sisters have been split in half by a family feud. By this point in Season 10, when I read about six characters who all belong to the same species, I know exactly what’s going to happen. Indeed, when the ponies investigate a mysterious illness affecting the kingdoms, they find yet another Tree of Harmony underground, and the six dogs become six more Elements of Harmony. This causes another of the six lights to turn on. Based on the number of lights, it’s clear that this story takes place before MLP: FIM #97. Despite being overly predictable, this is a fun comic, and the dogs are pretty cute. 

SHANG-CHI #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “Shang-Chi vs. the Marvel Universe Part 1,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Dike Ruan. Shang-Chi’s date with Delilah Wang is interrupted when he has to team up with Spider-Man to fight some more agents of Zheng Zu. Gene Luen Yang is only an average Spider-Man writer, but I like how he depicts Shang-Chi’s interaction with a white American superhero. It again becomes clear that Shang-Chi’s familiar personality and speech pattern are a mask he puts on for white people. This is another case where I’m glad that a miniseries was followed by an ongoing series. 

BLACK HAMMER VISIONS #4 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Diego Olortegui. This issue begins as a soap opera in which Madame Dragonfly and Mr. Talky Walky want to get married, but her father, Abraham Slam, is opposed to it. Then we realize that this story is just a TV show that Lucy and Barbalien are watching while on a spaceship. And that story is a movie that Lucy is directing. This story makes no sense, and its play with metalepsis and mise-en-abyme is confusing rather than intriguing. 

THE MANY DEATHS OF LAILA STARR #2 (Boom!, 2021) – “The Knowledge of Crows,” [W] Ram V, [A] Filipe Andrade. Laila is directed to Darius by a funeral crow. It’s true that crows are involved in some Hindu funeral rituals (https://www.atlasobscura.com/foods/feeding-crows-death-ritual-shradh). Then we see the eight-year-old Darius attending his first funeral – that of his family’s gardener Bardhan. Due to Bardhan’s low occupation, South Indian origin, and dark skin, Darius’s family sees him as beneath them, but Darius loves him anyway. This sequence deals explicitly with Indian class (caste?) prejudice and colorism, a topic which is largely invisible to non-Indian readers. And then Laila dies and has to be resurrected yet again.

THE DREAMING: WAKING HOURS #10 (DC, 2021) – “The Faerie King Part 3,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nick Robles. Sadly this series is ending wih #12. Heather finally meet Nuala, but we soon realize that Nuala is only a figurehead and her creepy broom-headed servant is really in charge. Auberon and Titania have a rather sad encounter, where she complains about him without realizing who he is. We get some more backstory on Heather. Also, there’s a rather terrifying splash page where Ruin reveals his true form. 

WAY OF X #2 (Marvel, 2021) – “Let Us Prey,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Bob Quinn. This issue largely focuses on Legion, who convinces Kurt to kill him so that he can be revived in a more stable form. Legion tells Kurt that Onslaught is coming. Kurt continues to wrestle with spiritual concerns. A cute subtle thing in this issue is that in the early pages, Loa is trying to convince Pixie to help her ask Mercury out. But then later we see Loa and Mercury hugging. 

STILLWATER #7 (Image, 2021) – “We’re the Protectors,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón K. Pérez. Daniel and Laura try to escape, but Laura gets killed immediately, and Daniel gets his hand cut off. Galen, the little boy who fell off the roof, invites Daniel into a tree-city of other Stillwater-born children. The villains in this comic are really awful; all they care about is controlling their neighbors. 

GEIGER #2 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Gary Frank. In Las Vegas, a woman named Carolina steals something valuable and proceeds to head to Cheyenne Mountain with her kids. She gets caught and killed, but the kids escape, and Geiger rescues them from their pursuers. This is an exciting issue, though I’m still very skeptical about this series. 

CHALLENGE OF THE SUPER-SONS #2 (DC, 2021) – “Gotta Get Back in Time,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Max Raynor & Jorge Corona. The boys save Wonder Woman from a minotaur. Then in the backup story, they travel back in time and fight Felix Faust and Vandal Savage. I liked the first story in this issue better than the second. 

CHAMPIONS #7 (Marvel, 2021) – “Killer App! Part 2,” [W] Danny Lore, [A] Luciano Vecchio. Miles gets hired at Roxxon, but Sam doesn’t, because he’s too boring. This comic has no heart or passion at all. It feels like Danny Lore is juts pretending to care about his characters and about the topic of social media activism, whereas it felt as if Eve Ewing really did care. This will be my last issue, unless it’s too late to cancel my order of #8. 

I ordered some really old Dell comics from eBay. Some of them were in barely readable  condition, but these two were quite readable, despite their age: 

TARZAN #8 (Dell, 1949) – “The White Pygmies,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Jesse Marsh. This is the oldest comic in my collection, except maybe for a couple other comics in the same lot that were also from 1949. Tarzan, Boy, Muviro, and Muviro’s grandson Dombie encounter some “white pygmies” and protect them from man-eating vultures. This is kind of a silly plot, but Jesse Marsh’s art is excellent, and Boy and Dombie are cute. For 1949, Muviro and Dombie are fairly progressive depictions of black people, though they’re African and not African-American. I point this out because Corey Creekmur once suggested to me that it was safer to depict black characters positively if they were non-American Africans. 

WILD BILL ELLIOTT COMICS #5 (Dell, 1951) – “Wild Bill Elliott and the Easy Money Gents,” [W] unknown, [A] Bob Jenney. This Western comic’s protagonist shares his name with the actor who played him in a film series. Wild Bill Elliott is not to be confused with the NASCAR driver Bill Elliott. In the first story in this issue, Wild Bill and his eccentric scientist friend rescue a baby who’s being held for ransom. A cute moment is when the baby holds one of the criminals at gunpoint. “Wet Paint Means Murder,” [W] unknown, [A] Cary. According to the GCD, nothing is known about “Cary” at all, and this series is the only work that’s been attributed to them. In this story, a certain Hank Reed is assassinated, and Wild Bill protects his 20-year-old son Dick Reed from being murdered as well. We eventually learn that Hank’s will leaves everything to Dick, but in the event that Dick dies before he turns 21, Hank’s property goes to his former partner Ben Slade. Gee, can anyone guesss who was trying to kill Dick? Or why? 

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #14 (Marvel, 2021) – “Doom’s Will Be Done,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Juan Frigeri. The Guardians fight Dr. Doom, who is wielding a magic sword. The other half of the Guardians discover that they’re on Ego the Living Planet. In a hilarious moment, Doom switches bodies with Rocket Raccoon. This moment is very welcome because the last few issues have suffered from a lack of humor. 

SILVER COIN #2 (Image, 2021) – “Girls of Summer,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Michael Walsh. Teenage Fiona goes to summer camp and is put in a cabin with five other girls who are already friends. The other girls are furious at Fiona because they were expecting to share  the cabin wth their friend Rachel, who cancelled at the last minute. The other girls spend all their time tormenting Fiona and playing  dangerous pranks on her. Finally Fiona finds the silver coin, goes nuts, and kills her cabinmates, and as the reader, I was honestly glad. This comic was almost triggering for me because I’ve had the same experience as Fiona. The summer after either sixth or seventh grade, I went to summer camp and ended up in a cabin with kids who were all a year older, and it was a horrible experience. Kids can be so cruel at that age, and, at least when I was a kid, adults were useless in preventing bullying. Fiona’s mother should have withdrawn her from the camp and then sued the camp for failing to protect her daughter. Since that didn’t happen, it’s no wonder she finally snapped. 

ICE CREAM MAN #24 (Image, 2021) – “Telethon,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo.  Jerry Donaldson dies because no one can be bothered to contribute to a telethon to save his life. And the reader is partly to blame, because the host of the telethon says that if the reader just stops reading, he’ll personally donate enough money to save Jerry’s life. (The host also threatens to kil a dog if the reader doesn’t stop readng, but I’m not a dog person, so if I get to continue reading and kill a fictional dog, that’s a win-win.) The depressing moral of this comic is that people won’t sacrifice anything, even narrative closure, for the sake of another person. This reminds me of the Greek tragedy Alcestis, but in that play Admetus needed someone to die for his sake, not just donate money. 

MARVEL ACTION: SPIDER-MAN #2 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sarah Graley & Stef Purenins, [A] Arianna Florean. Spidey discovers Doc Ock’s secret facility inside the high school, and then fights the Scorpion. Otto gets the idea for his extra arms. This is a fun comic, but it feels less substantial than Untold Tales of Spider-Man or Marvel Adventures Spider-Man. It’s going to be really confusing when Sarah Gailey’s new comics series starts coming out. It was already hard enough to remember which of Sarah Gailey and Sarah Graley was which. 

CATWOMAN #31 (DC, 2021) – “Miss Direction,” [W] Ram V, [A] Fernando Blanco. Catwoman uses the theft of a painting as a distraction so she can rescue Poison Ivy. I don’t think this comic is one of Ram V’s major works, but it’s still fun. I wonder if there will be a crossover between Swamp Thing and Catwoman, since Poison Ivy appears in both. 

BRZRKR #2 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Keanu Reeves & Matt Kindt, [A] Ron Garney. Mostly a flashback to the hero’s birth and adolescence. There are echoes in this issue of the Irish myth of Cuchulain. The hero is called a “dog of war” (the Cu in Cuchulain means “hound”), and like Cuchulain, his first deeds include killing a savage dog and beating up some boys who are playing a ball game. 

RESIDENT ALIEN: YOUR RIDE’S HERE #6 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. Harry decides to remain on Earth, while Jones goes off with the aliens. Steve Parkhouse draws some cool-looking alien technology. This was a really touching story, and it makes me want to read the earlier volumes of Resident Alien. 

PROJECT: PATRON #2 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Greed and Grievances,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Patrick Piazzalunga. The Patron team mourn for Commander Kone, and we learn that his death was caused by a villain who appears to be a stand-in for Luthor. There wasn’t much that was new in this issue, as compared to last issue. 

WONDER WOMAN #772 (DC, 2021) – “Afterworlds Part 3,” [W] Michael W. Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Travis Moore. Diana trades the egg with Nidhogg for the key to Fortress Valkyrie, then she meets Deadman and begins to recover her memory. DC’s versions of Thor and Odin both appear in this issue. Cloonan and Conrad’s Odin is quite funny. This issue includes another Young Diana backup. I love Paulina Ganucheau’s art, but Jordie Bellaire’s writing in these backups has been boring. 

BLACK KNIGHT: CURSE OF THE EBONY BLADE #3 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Sergio Davila. Dane and Elsa Bloodstone fight Mordred. Simon confronts his own literal ghosts, and prepares to drink from the Ebony Chalice, which may be a bad idea. It’s unfortunate that this series is coming out at the same time as Once & Future, which, as I wrote previously, is a far more clever and subtle adaptation of Arthurian myth. 

IMMORTAL HULK: TIME OF MONSTERS #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “Time of Monsters,” [W] Al Ewing & Alex Paknadel, [A] Juan Ferreyra. In the ancient Middle East, a cruel father named Adad sacrifices his son Tammuz in hopes of ending a drought. Tammuz returns to life as a Hulk. This story has some gruesome painted art but is otherwise just okay. The names Adad and Tammuz both come from Mesopotamian mythology. “A Little Fire,” [W] David Vaughan, [A] Kevin Nowlan. The Scarecrow kidnaps some people and forces them to confront their fears. The Hulk saves the day. This story has beautiful art by Kevin Nowlan, but Marvel’s Scarecrow has turned into a ripoff of DC’s Scarecrow, and I even wonder if the writer confused the two characters. Marvel’s Scarecrow did not originally have fear powers, though he acquired such powers later.

CHAINED TO THE GRAVE #3 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Andy Eschenbach & Brian Level, [A] Kate Sherron. While looking for Hank Harlowe, Roy and Beau get in a huge bar fight, then they negotiate with a creepy green guy for a jar of magic salve. Again, this comic is entertaining and has great art, but it’s really hard to remember who all the characters are. 

LUNA #4 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Maria Llovet. Lux tells Teresa that they’re both addicted to the god’s blood. Lux tries to vampirize Teresa, but she’s poisoned her blood in anticipaton of this (reminds me of Suikoden II). Teresa faints and wake up in the god’s arms. I didn’t really understand this issue when I read it, but it made more sense after I wrote my review of issue 3. 

KARMEN #3 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Guillem March. Cata visits her parents’ house, then watches as a man is killed by a car when about to propose to his girlfriend. Karmen gets chewed out by another spirit guide. Along with Shadow Doctor, Karmen is one of the best underrated comics of the year. Its artwork and coloring are gorgeous, and it’s a sensitive treatment of death. 

THE BEQUEST #3 (Aftershock, 2021) –“American Monster,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Freddie Williams II. The War Party fight some monsters, Warlock gets drunk in a bar, and we realize that Craev’s plan is to break into the NSA. This comic is very funny, but it also has a serious subtext about white supremacy, which is a major concern of Seeley’s work – I didn’t finsh reading Dark Red, but it was all about that topic. At the end of this issue, Warlock gives a long speech about why people believe in white supremacy: it’s a way for them to blame someone else, so they can avoid accepting that their cherished ideals are false. 

PROCTOR VALLEY ROAD #3 (Boom!, 2021) – “No One Really Dies Out Here,” [W] Grant Morrison & Alex Child, [A] Naomi Franquiz. The girls fight and kill a minotaur, then the Landlady’s ghost appears again. This is another issue that’s enjoyable and not hard to follow. 

SEA OF SORROWS #5 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Rich Douek, [A] Alex Cormack. The siren continues killing the people on the ship. This miniseries had good art but no real story, and I could have done without reading it. 

SPIDER-MAN: SPIDER’S SHADOW #2 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Pasqual Ferry. Peter goes on a villain-killing rampage, and when Doc Ock reforms the Sinister Six for his own protection, he’s instead killed by Eddie Brock (who of course isn’t Venom in this continuity). Again, this miniseries is far more substantial and far better written than a typical What If? story. 

CANTO & THE CITY OF GIANTS #2 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Sebastián Piriz. Canto and Elda, aka the Misturian Witch, travel through the maze until they encounter the monster, Ferro. I don’t know if the mazes in this issue are solvable, but they’re very intricately drawn. 

THE SYSTEM #1 (Vertigo, 1996) – untitled, [W/A] Peter Kuper. A series of interrelated scenes about various people in New York, drawn in a wordless woodcut-esque style. The meaning of the comic’s title is that New York itself is a system, with moving parts that interact with each other in unexpected, emergent ways. The scenes are linked by recurring characters as well as by cinematic segues; one memorable example of the latter is when a murder victim’s screaming face is juxtaposed to a frontal view of a subway train. Although this comic has no extradiegetic text, it demands careful reading in order to figure out how the stories are related. 

I AM LEGION #1 (Devil’s Due, 2009) – “The Dancing Faun,” [W] Fabien Nury, [A] John Cassaday. This issue was originally published in French as the first half of a BD album, though its artist is American. It has a complicated plot involving espionage and vampires in World War II. It’s a bit hard to figure out just what this comic is about, but it’s an interesting comic, and I’d certainly buy the other five issues if I found them. John Cassaday’s draftmanship here is similar to his draftsmanship in Planetary or Astonishing X-Men, but he uses far more panels per page. 

DAREDEVIL #30 (Marvel, 2021) – “Doing Time Part 2,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Checchetto & Mike Hawthorne. Elektra and her protégé Alice visit a nightclub, where they negotiate with a rival crime lord, and then Alice has to shoot a man to save Elektra. It’ a traumatic moment since Zdarsky had previously emphasized that Alice’s lighthearted, carefree nature makes her a foil to Elektra. Meanwhile, Matt agrees to help out the authorities, but refuses an offer of a shorter sentence as a reward.  

HELL AND BACK: A SIN CITY LOVE STORY #3 (Dark Horse, 1999) – untitled, [W/A] Frank Miller. A long-haired mustached man fights some corrupt cops while searching for his kidnapped girlfriend. I enjoyed this more than I expected to, given my antipathy for Frank Miller’s recent work. His rather minimalistic artwork is easier to accept if you compare it to manga, rather than to his own art from earlier in his career. 

NIGHT MUSIC #2 (Eclipse, 1985) – All stories  [W/A] P. Craig Russell. “Dance on a Razor’s Edge”: A “ballet” about the suicide of Yukio Mishima, perhaps the only 20th-century author who was even more screwed up than Kafka. I don’t know how accurate this story is, but it seems to capture the bizarreness of Mishima’s outlook. As suggested at https://worldqueerstory.org/tag/dance-on-a-razors-edge-a-ballet-on-the-death-of-yukio-mishima/, Mishima may have been a closeted gay man, as PCR was when he published this story. “La Sonnambula and the City of Sleep”: A plotless surrealistic or Symbolist story with beautiful cityscapes and monsters. “The Insomniac”: An autobio story about insomnia. This story includes a list of about 200 other cartoonists who PCR sees as inspirations. 

VOODOO #1 (Image, 1997) – “Legba,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Mike Lopez. Having apparently left the WildC.A.T.s, Voodoo visits New Orleans and gets a job as an exotic dancer. The trouble is that someone is killing exotic dancers. Also, Voodoo encounters incarnations of the Voodoo deities Legba, Baron Samedi and Erzulie. This comic is one of Alan Moore’s more obscure works, but it’s an interesting adaptation of voodoo mythology. It might be interesting to compare it to House of Whispers. Of course, that’s an own-voices work, and Voodoo isn’t. As a side note, I wonder if anyone has tried to create a list of all the Yoruba and Vodun deities and their equivalents in their derived New World religions. I suspect that this might be impossible because there are so many different versions of all these deities. As a further note, Erzulie and Legba both have equivalents in African religions, but Baron Samedi appears to be native to the Americas. 

ROBOCOP VS. THE TERMINATOR #1 (Dark Horse, 1992) – untitled, [W] Frank Miller, [A] Walt Simonson. An unnamed woman from the Terminator future goes back in time to kill Robocop, because he’s the precursor to Skynet. She succeeds in her mission, but then the Terminators send a Terminator back in time to retroactively save Robocop. The last issue of this miniseries was one of the first comics I ever owned, but I never actively tried to collect the other issues. Perhaps I was ashamed to. I shouldn’ t have been, because this series has a brilliant crossover premise, and Simonson’s draftsmanship and page layouts are thrilling. This comic takes place partly in Detroit’s Cass Corridor, where part of Abbott 1973 is also set.  

SCOUT: WAR SHAMAN #4 (Eclipse, 1988) – “Big River,” [W/A] Tim Truman. Scout fights some evil river pirates, alongside Rosa Winter and some cultists who worship Doody as their prophet. This issue also includes an illustrated prose story that’s an adaptation of an Apache myth. I need to read more Scout because it’s a fascinating comic with great writng and art. My friend Jeremy Carnes published an essay on Scout in the Other ‘80s collection that also included my work, but I haven’t read Jeremy’s essay yet. 

SLEEPER SEASON TWO #5 (Wildstorm, 2004) – “Cat’s Cradle,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. A series of vignettes about Lynch’s encounters with an extremely dangerous rogue named Tao. This comic has great writing and art, but I’ve never understood what Sleeper is supposed to be about. Unlike Brubaker and Phillips’s other collaborations, Sleeper is not a standalone work but is heavily tied to Wildstorm Universe continuity. 

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #52 (Dark Horse, 1991) – Bacchus: “Afterdeath,” [W/A] Eddie Campbell w/ Wes Kublick. Simpson tells Bacchus about his (lack of) experiences in the afterlife. I’ve read this story at least once before. Heartbreakers: “That Uncertain Feeling,” [W] Anina Bennett, [A] Paul Guinan. Some kind of outer space war story. It’s a bit like Starstruck. I don’t understand Heartbreakers’s plot, but Paul Guinan’s art is quite good. Sin City: “Episode Three,” [W/A] Frank Miller. Marv escapes some pursuers and visits his parole officer and his mother. Again, Sin City’s art is easier to appreciate if you see it as a deliberate imitation of manga. 

MOONSHADOW #2 (DC, 1985/1994) – “A Very Uncomfortable Thing,” [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Jon J. Muth. Moonshadow, his mother, and his hairball companion discover a pregnant alien aboard a stranded spaceship. Moonshadow’s mother helps the alien give birth, but its monstrous baby kills her. Jon J. Muth’s painted artwork in this issue is very nice, but it’s ruined by a Don McGregor-esque amount of overwriting. There’s one panel on page 9 that has nine separate text boxes. It may be possible to write a good comic that includes such a large amount of text, but I’ve never seen it done. On top of that, Kevin Nowlan’s lettering is hard to read. 

SILVER STAR #1 (Pacific, 1983) – “Homo-Geneticus,” [W/A] Jack Kirby. Morgan Miller is nearly killed fighting in Vietnam and is saved by being put into a silver suit. We also learn that he’s one of a number of post-human children created by his father. And he meets Darius Drumm, who looks a lot like Darkseid. Even though he was about 65 years old at the time of this comic, Kirby was fascinated by futurity and newness, by the new unpredictable things that were coming into existence every day, and we see this fascination throughout his ‘70s and ‘80s work. This issue includes a Last of the Viking Heroes backup story by Michael Thibodeaux. 

ULTRAMEGA #3 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] James Harren. Noah and Gara – the human Klansman from last issue – are captured by the kaiju and forced to fight in an arena. After two other human fighters are killed, Noah manages to save both himself and Gara through his courage and ingenuity. They escape with the aid of a friendly kaiju, but while trying to save Gara, Noah is mortally wounded. I think Ultramega’s writing might actually be stronger than its art, although Harren draws some terrifying monsters. A high point of this issue is Boosh, a creature that looks wimpy but turns out to be a disgusting horror. 

MAE #1 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, [W/A] Gene Ha. Mae lives in a small town in Indiana. Her long-lost sister, Abbie, suddenly reappears in her life, pursued by monsters from a fantasy world. This issue has some nice artwork and coloring, but it reminds me a lot of Birthright, except that it has a less consistent tone to its writing. An interesting gimmick of this series is that all the fantasy creatures have Czech names, although Gene Ha is not himeslf Czech.

SAVAGE #4 (Valiant, 2021) – untitled, [W] Max Bemis, [A] Nathan Stockman. Kevin and Mae fight Nealon and his army of monsters. This issue has reasonably strong artwork, but I’m getting tired of Max Bemis’s mean-spirited writing style, and if Savage #4 wasn’t the last issue, I would drop the series. 

RED ROOM #1 (Fantagraphics, 2021) – “The Antisocial Network,” [W/A] Ed Piskor. Davis Fairfield is a cop who’s just lost his wife and daughter in an accident. He also secretly operates a “Red Room” – an illegal website where he streams videos in which he tortures and kills people. Davis is recruited by a secretive cult that runs a much more successful and secure bigger “red room”, as well as breeding victims to appear in their performances. Red Room is a deliberately gruesome and exploitative horror comic, designed to play upon both old urban legends about snuff films, and contemporary fears of the Dark Web and cryptocurrency. It’s much more difficult to read than Wizzywig or Hip Hop Family Tree, but it’s fascinating. 

CRIME DESTROYER: TRUE TILL DEATH #1 (Floating World, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jason T. Miles & Josh Simmons, [A] Shaky Kane. Crime Destroyer battles a creepy cult of Christian fanatics. This comic is awkwardly paced and plotted, and it’s hard to tell whether the reader is meant to take its story seriously. The main reason to read it is for Shaky Kane’s art. 

FANTASTIC FOUR: LIFE STORY #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “The ‘60s,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Sean Izaaske. A retelling of the Fantastic Four’s origin, up to the point of Franklin’s birth. This issue is unsatisfying because although it includes a bunch of the one-liners or aphorisms that Russell is so good at, it lacks a clear theme or purpose. Russell makes significant changes to FF continuty: in his verson Ben was Johnny’s friend rather than Reed’s, Ben’s girlfriend is named Sally, and Reed has a rival scientist who is basically the same as the anonymous villain from “This Man, Ths Monster,” but who’s named after Rick Jones. None of these changes have any effect on the story, so it’s not clear why they were made. And the basic idea of a historically accurate FF comic has been done before, and much better, in Unstable Molecules. FF: Life Story ultimately feels like an inferior rehash of that comic. 

RAIN LIKE HAMMERS #5 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Brandon Graham. Finally the plot of #1 intersects with that of #2 through #4, as Eugene encounters Brik Blok and El, or rather two of each of them. This issue has some more fantastic artwork, and an added bonus is that it’s the final issue, so I no longer have to feel guilty for continuing to support Graham. 

SOCK MONKEY #1 (Dark Horse, 1998) – untitled, [W/A] Tony Millionaire. In a Brooklyn mansion, a sock monkey and a plush crow try to climb onto a chandelier and end up starting a fire. Despite this, they’re both alive in the next issue. Tony Millionaire’s plot is a gentle piece of absurdism, and his draftsmanship is highly detailed and deliberately old-fashioned. 

CEREBUS #121 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1989) – “Jaka’s Story 8,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Rick hangs out with Oscar and almost spills that Cerebus is living with him. Pud tries to avoid staring at Jaka’s butt. There are also some illustrated prose pages about Jaka’s effort to go through the Locked Door. I now realize that these prose pages are excerpts from the story Oscar is writing about Jaka. There’s a letter by a Minneapolis fan, Al McCarty, in which he complains about Dreamhaven and says that Shinders is a much better store. Ironically Shinders has gone out of business while Dreamhaven is still around, though it’s changed locations twice. (The Dinkytown location McCarty mentions was the original one; the Uptown location that I visited once was just a branch.) But I do miss Shinders. It went out of business in 2007 because of severe mismanagement. 

SHADOW CABINET #7 (Milestone, 1994) – “Shoot the Moon,” [W] Matt Wayne, [A] John Paul Leon. I have no idea what’s going on in this comic, but it has good dialogue. Sadly John Paul Leon just passed away. 

2000 AD #74 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: “Mutiny!”, [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Dave Gibbons. Dare and Hitman fight ther own crewmates and then fall down a shaft. Ant Wars: untitled, [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Alfonso Azpiri. This series had a revolving door of artists. Villa and Anteater try and fail to defend a tobacco plantation against the ants. A humorous moment is when someone tells Villa that “you cannot organise smoke in a tobacco plantation.” The basic irony of Ant Wars is that Anteater is the only competent character in the series, yet everyone else thinks he’s an ignorant savage. Dredd: “Chapter 14: For Whom the Bell Tolls!”, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. Dredd and Spikes are tied up and left to be eaten by Satanus. We get a flashback to Satanus’s first life, when he was killed trying to challenge his mother, Old One-Eye. Mach Zero: untitled (The Suit Part 2), [W] Geoffrey Miller, [A] José Pérez Montero. Mach Zero encounters Harry and agrees to help him get revenge. Inferno: as above. The game continues, and all but five of the Hellcats get killed. 

REDNECK #10 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Lisandro Estherren. A man explains to the police how he helped one family of vampires fight another family. This is just an okay comic. Lisandro Estherren draws silhouetted people in the exact same way Eduardo Risso does – as solid black blocks with eyes and mouths. 

2000 AD #75 (IPC, 1978) – Inferno: as above. Louis manages to destroy the enemy robots, but all the Hellcats except Giant are killed. That’s finally the end of Inferno. Mach Zero: as above. Harry tries to kill his bosses, but his suit overloads and melts, though he himself survives. Dredd: “Chapter 15: Picnic at Black Rock,” as above. Dredd escapes from Satanus, then demands that the people of Repentance evacuate the town before he destroys it. Dare: as above. The infighting continues. Until this chapter, I didn’t realize that Hitman’s gun is attached to his hand. Ant Wars: as above except [A] José Luis Ferrer. Villa and Anteater come across a boat on the river, but the boat is captained by a crook who forces them to play Russian roulette. Then the ants show up, and ironically, the crook has to play Russian roulette with himself, in hopes of killing himself before the ants eat him. 

CEREBUS #127 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1989) – “Jaka’s Story 14,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Jaka and Pud finally have a customer. He leaves a sizable tip that Jaka gives to Pud, who had been nervous because he’s verging on bankruptcy and starvation. Jaka gets angry at Rick and Cerebus for spending all their time playing a ball game. Jaka’s Story is far better than either Melmoth or Flight. 

GOD’S SMUGGLER (Fleming H. Revell, 1972) – “God’s Smuggler,” [W/A] Al Hartley. The allegedly true story of Brother Andrew, who smuggled Bibles into Communist countries. This comic is a blatant piece of Christian propaganda, and I have very little sympathy for Brother Andrew’s cause, but I can’t deny that Hartley’s writing and art are effective. It’s weird to see the Archie art style used for a serious story. 

THE JAM URBAN ADVENTURE #1 (Tundra, 1992) – untitled, [W/A] Bernie Mireault. A colorized reprint of a comic that was first published in B&W by Slave Labor (and which I’ve already read, oops). The Jam, or “Jammer,” meets a man who’s suspended his wife’s brother from a roof by a rope. Meanwhile, a visiting Middle Eastern royal is being pursued by rebels called Flarks. This comic has excellent art and coloring, but I’m not sure what it’s about, or what sort of tone it’s going for. 

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Month and a half of reviews

3-27 

FUTURE STATE: SWAMP THING #2 (DC, 2021) – “Obsidian Sun Part Two,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. In order to save the world and reignite the sun, Swampy has to reabsorb his plant children. This is a sad conclusion to a very intriguing and well-written miniseries. I’m sorry that Ram V’s ongoing Swamp Thing series won’t be in this same continuity. By the way, based on my understanding of South Indian names,  I’m guessing that “Ram” is his only name and V stands for Venktesan, which is not his surname, but his father’s name. 

CEREBUS #40 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1982) – “Campaign,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus and Astoria go looking for votes. One elderly abbess promises him 15 electoral votes if he fires Astoria. Cerebus tries to convince a little boy to shake his hand, but the boy throws mud at him. This issue is one of the best depictions of electoral politics that I’ve seen in comics. 

YASMEEN #6 (Scout, 2021) – untitled, [W] Saif A. Ahmed, [A] Fabiana Mascolo. One of Yasmeen’s classmates falsely accuses her of being affiliated with ISIS. In response, Yasmeen explains how she survived a sniper attack and returned to her father, while her friend Noor was killed. The series ends with Yasmeen recovering from her trauma and being accepted by her classmates. Yasmeen was the most underrated comic of 2020. It’s a brutal and sensitive depiction of the effect of trauma on children, and it’s also a powerful critique of Trump’s Muslim ban, because it demonstrates how the biggest victims of ISIS are other Muslims. 

FAR SECTOR #8 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] N.K. Jemisin, [A] Jamal Campbell. Jo discovers the existence of a black market for human-made memes. That sets up issue 9, which I already read. Heroes didn’t put issue 8 in my file, but they were able to reorder it for me. 

2000 AD #326 (IPC, 1983) – Slade: “The Slaying of Slade Part 15,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. Slade predicts that Deller will try to rob an ancient Egypt exhibit, and sets a trap for him there. Skizz: untitled, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jim Baikie. The protagonists try to escape Birmingham, but Van Owen is on their trail. Dredd: “Cry of the Werewolf,” [W] Wagner & Grant, [A] Steve Dillon. Dredd chases an albino werewolf through the undercity. Time Twisters: “The Visitation,” [W] Jack Adrian, [A] Eric Bradbury. An astronaut somehow finds himself in Viking-age England. Rogue Trooper: “The Vid Vultures Part 4,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Brett Ewins. The vid-bot sacrifices itself to save Rogue. 

CEREBUS #41 – “Heroes,” as above. After more campaigning and some scenes with the Roach and the Regency Elf, Cerebus is exhausted and wants to go to bed. But then he learns that Lord Julius has rammed through a law that eliminates some of his safe electoral districts. The campaign continues. 

JOSIE #36 (Archie, 1968) – “Sock it to Who? .. (Whom?)”, [W] Frank Doyle, [A] Dan DeCarlo. Josie meets a hippie singer named Clyde Didit, who keeps trying to sing a song with the lyric “Sock it to me, baby,” but every time he sings it, someone hits him. The GCD says that Clyde was a redesigned version of a character from Archie’s Mad House. 

BARBIE FASHION #29 (Marvel, 1993) – “Itchin’ and a-Twitchin’” and “Modeling Mix-Up,” [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Dan Parent. Barbie and Skipper go for a walk in the woods, and Skipper gets a poison ivy rash. In the backup story, Ken mistakenly thinks he saw Barbie at the movies with another man. The letter column includes a letter from a fan who wants to know how to find back issues – which could be a sign of Barbie’s distribution problems, but on the other hand, I’ve seen similar letters in Marvel’s superhero comics. 

GENTLE BEN #2 (Dell, 1968) – “Bearnappers!”, [W] D.J. Arneson, [A] José Delbo. Two poachers steal Ben and sell him to a wild animal show. Mark recovers Ben, and the animal show owner forces the poachers to trap more animals for him, which is a good outcome for everyone but the animals, I guess. In the backup stories, Mark and Ben rescue a lost horse and help put out a swamp fire. 

CRIMSON FLOWER #1 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Matt Lesniewski. In Russia, a woman uses her job as a pharmaceutical seller as cover for her quest to kill her father’s murderers. This comic is most memorable for Matt Lesniewski’s gruesome and disturbing art, with its exaggerated renderings of body parts. 

FORBIDDEN WORLDS #97 (ACG, 1961) – “What Now, Little Man?”, [W] Richard Hughes, [A] John Forte. A stingy old man gets shrunk to tiny size and narrowly escapes being eaten by a cat. He returns to normal size and becomes more generous. This story’s title is a reference to a novel by Hans Fallada. “Warning of Danger,” uncredited. A precognitive Japanese man fails to predict the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. “The Case of the Curses,” [W] Hughes, [A] Forte. A series of inset stories about curses. 

2000 AD #327 (IPC, 1983) – Slade: as above. Deller robs the Egyptian exhibit. Stogie stows away inside one of the stolen items, but Deller finds him. Time Twisters: “The Startling Success of Sideways Scuttleton,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] John Higgins. The title character has the ability to travel between parallel realities, but he does it so many times that he can’t find his original reality anymore. Finally he reaches what looks like his home reality, but decides it’s only another alternate reality, because someone gives him a pound coin instead of a pound note. The joke here, which I didn’t understand until I looked it up, is that in April 1983 the UK replaced pound notes with pound coins. So Scuttleton actually did get back to his home world, he just din’t know it. Dredd: as above. Dredd is bitten by the werewolf, then he uses its recorded cry to summon all the other werewolves. Skizz: as above. The escape attempt continues, but Skizz’s chances of escape aren’t looking good. Skizz lies for the first time by telling Roxy that everything will be okay. Rogue Trooper: “Eye of the Traitor Part 1,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Cam Kennedy. The Traitor General murders some doctors and steals their medical robots. Rogue doesn’t appear in this story. 

2000 AD #328 – Slade: as above. Stogie escapes from Deller, but finds himself in space. Stogie is such an awful racist stereotype that he singlehandedly ruins any story in which he appears. Time Twisters: “The Absolutely True and Authentic Story Behind the Hitler Diaries,” [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Mike White. An MI6 agent uses a time machine to create forgeries of famous items like the Hitler diaries. This story was inspired by the Hitler diaries hoax from earlier in the same year. Dredd: as above. Prager rescues Dredd from the undercity, and he’s cured of being a werewolf. Skizz: as above. The people of Birmingham show up to prevent Van Owen from blocking Skizz’s escape, but Van Owen shoots the van’s tires out. Cornelius climbs out of the crashed van to confront Van Owen. I don’t have #329, but I’ve discovered that Skizz Book One actually has a happy ending, which I would not have expected based on the ominous ton of the later chapters. Rogue Trooper: as above. Two grave-robbers named Bland and Brass go looking for the Traitor General. 

STILLWATER #5 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramon K. Pérez. I still think of Chip Zdarsky as an artist, but he’s been far more prolific and perhaps more important as a writer. At the town meeting, the townspeople demand a vote of confidence in the Judge’s leadership, so the judge orders his soldiers to shoot everybody. I don’t see why the Judge’s enemies don’t just all leave the town, since they can’t die, and surely the Judge doesn’t have the manpower to stop all of them. Or will they die if they leave town? I forget. 

CEREBUS #43 – “Election Night,” as above. The issue begins with a eulogy for Gene Day. It seems like Gene Day’s death was a massive trauma for Sim, and I’d even speculate that Dave’s grief over Gene may have contributed to his mental health problems. In the story, Cerebus and Lord Julius listen to election returns while making plans for military action against each other. Finally the election ends in a dead heat. This is a thrilling story, but I’m glad I didn’t read it before the actual election. There’s a backup story by Michael T. Gilbert.

FEAR CASE #1 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. Kindt and Jenkins’s third collaboration is about two Secret Service agents who are trying to solve the agency’s oldest cold case, just before they retire. The case is about a mysterious briefcase with the property that if anyone opens it, they die, and it goes to the person they love most; but instead, they can give it to the person they hate most. I like this series better than Crimson Flower. This issue references Philip Verge from Bang!. 

2000 AD #614 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: “Helios Part 1,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] David A. Roach. Anderson solves a hostage crisis and then heads out to a nightclub. Meanwhile, a mad scientist performs brain experiments on a man named Walther. Future Shocks: “Horn of Plenty!”, [W] Kelvin Gosnell, [A] John Higgins. Reprinted from #248. A space explorer discovers a device that can replicate matter perfectly, but all it’s good for is making coffee. Swifty’s Return: untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Jamie Hewlett. In a sequel to “Sooner or Later,” Swifty and his pal Clinton go to a party in the 21st century, where there are doors opening to various places in the past. Milligan’s story is kind of silly, but Hewlett’s art, as usual, is incredible. Dredd: “Spock’s Mock Chocs,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Brendan McCarthy & Jamie Hewlett. Dredd apprehends a confectioner who’s been selling candy that causes insanity and death. Not a great plot, but the artwork is as incredible as you’d expect from these two creators, especially since the whole story is in color. Night Zero: untitled, [W] John Brosnan, [A] Kev Hopgood. Tanner prepares to confront Nemo, who killed Alanna several times. Future Shocks: untitled, [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Kev Walker. A trite ecological parable. 

FUTURE STATE: IMMORTAL WONDER WOMAN #1 (DC, 2021) – Wonder Woman: “Future State,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad, [A] Jen Bartel. In the far future, Diana fights Darkseid and tries to stave off the end of the universe. This story is well-drawn and exciting, but didn’t make a huge impact on me. Nubia: “Future State,” [W] L.L. McKinney, [A] Alitha Martinez. Nubia fights a blue-skinned villain, then asks her aunt Nancy (i.e. Anansi) for help solving some mysterious thefts. I preferred this to the main story, and I wish it was an ongoing feature. I especially like Nubia’s hair. L.L. McKinney is better known as a YA novelist and as the creator of the #PublishingPaidMe hashtag. 

LASSIE #41 (Dell, 1958) – “Thundering Hoofs,” [W] unknown, [A] Bob Forgione? Lassie and Timmy help rehabilitate an injured race horse, and then rescue it when it gets lost in a swamp. The second story from Gentle Ben #2 is also about a race horse that’s lost in a swamp. In the backup story, an older boy bullies Timmy into playing in a construction site. Inevitably, the boy falls off a bridge, and Lassie has to save him and Timmy from drowning. Both boys learn a valuable lesson about safety. This story has some pretty good characterization.  

2000 AD #615 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: as above. Anderson and her friend go to the club, but Walter shows up there too, and starts a violent rampage. One-shot: “Fast Forward,” [W] Hilary Robinson & Davy Francis, [A] John McCrea. A man travels back in time to commt a theft, but materializes in the air over a construction site, and entombs himself in cement. Swifty’s Return: as above. Swifty and Clinton find themselves in the antebellum South, where they’re imprisoned as escaped slaves. More brilliant art. Dredd: “Crazy Barry, Little Mo Part One,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Chris Weston. A judge named Barry murders a suspect under the influence of Mo, a little blue demon who Barry believes lives inside his head. Strontium Dog: “The Final Solution Part 8,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Simon Harrison. Sagan and the New Church start arresting people they don’t like. Meanwhile, Johnny and Middenface are still in jail. I mostly like Simon Harrison’s art, but he draws some very ugly faces. 

CEREBUS #45 – “Cerebus’s Six Crises, Crisis Number One: The Bureaucratic Rebellion,” as above. This issue and all the other issues until #50 are in sideways format. “Six Crises” is the title of a memoir by Nixon. In this chapter, Cerebus, now Prime Minister, invades a foreign to solve his cash flow problems, but the other country’s treasury proves to be empty. Also, Lord Julius sends Cerebus a box of exploding cigars. There’s a Neil the Horse backup story. 

BARBIE #32 (Marvel, 1993) – “Partyland” and “The Right Red,” [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Barb Rausch. Ken invites Barbie to a wedding reception, but Barbie accidentally attends three other parties instead, including a bar mitzvah. In the backup story, Skipper has a friend who’s so appearance-obsessed she can barely leave the house. Barb Rausch’s art this issue is quite good. She’s mostly forgotten today, but she was a gifted artist and an important advocate of comics for girls. 

MUDMAN #4 (Image, 2012) – “The Tide Turns,” [W/A] Paul Grist. Mudman fights a villain with water-controlling powers. As usual this issue is full of amazing visual storytelling, but its plot and characters are lacking in originality. 

SUPERFUCKERS FOREVER #1 (IDW, 2016) – “The Time Bubble,” [W/A] James Kochalka. An unfunny, offensive Legion of Super-Heroes parody that takes about five minutes to read. I’m starting to hate James Kochalka’s work. There’s a backup story by Jake Lawrence from Teen Dog. 

THE SPECTRE #11 (DC, 1993) – “The Deepest Cut,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Tom Mandrake. The Spectre fights Azmodus with help from Madame Xanadu, while Amy tries to escape being murdered by the Reaver. Quite an exciting issue. 

GREEN ARROW #49 (DC, 1991) – “The Last Lion,” [W] Mike Grell, [A] Rick Hoberg. Dinah contemplates dating someone other than Ollie, who’s been away for a long time now. Meanwhie, Ollie is traveling in East Africa, and he meets a Maasai man who tells him about how the Maasai people are losing their culture because of modernization. Ollie accompanies the Maasai man on a traditional lion hunt. The African language depicted in this comic is Swahili, not Maasai, but otherwise Grell’s treatment of Maasai people seems fairly respectful. 

CEREBUS #48 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “Cerebus’ Six Crises, Crisis Number Four: Upstairs/Downstairs,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus tries to invade New Sepra, but quickly becomes overwhelmed by events. Jaka persuades Cerebus to resign as prime minister and run off with her. Cerebus refuses and even slaps Jaka. Refusing Jaka’s offer is perhaps Cerebus’s worst mistake; later on in Church & State, he changes his mind and tries to get Jaka to run off with him, but by that time Jaka is married and pregnant. The backup story is the first appearance of Wolverine MacAlistaire. 

FAR SECTOR #10 (DC, 2021) – as above. Jo tries to shut down the meme sweatshop, but is arrested by the police, who are clearly in league with whoever’s running the sweatshop. Jo discovers that Marth is behind the sweatshop. The government interferes with the scheduled election and organizes a military coup. I bet I know what was on N.K. Jemisin’s mind when she wrote this story. The line “There are waiting lines down the block […] not all of us can afford to materialize and vote in person!” has an obvious relevance to current events, and probably future events too, given what’s going on in Georgia as I write this. 

2000 AD #616 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: as above. Anderson and her friend Corey stop Walther’s rampage, but he’s already killed some of the people his as-yet-unnamed controller was targeting. Night Zero: as above. Tanner solves Alanna’s murder, he and the latest Alanna clone become a couple, and Tanner arranges it so the perpetually-dark Zero City can have an hour of light each day. This story was a reasonably good hybrid of hard-boiled crime fiction and SF. It and its sequels were the only comics John Brosnan wrote. Swifty’s Return: as above. Swifty and Clinton escape the slaveholders, then travel to ancient Rome where they reenact the myth of Androcles and the lion. More great art hampered by an overly compressed plot. Dredd: as above. Barry passes a lie detector test by having Mo answer the questions for him. Weston’s art and coloring are beautiful. Future Shocks: “Still Life,” [W] David Anderson, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. A young man is cryogenically frozen, but in the future, he’s mistaken for a statue. Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny and Middenface escape from jail, and we meet Feral, an albino mutant who’s a refugee from Sagan’s church. 

FUTURE STATE: SUPERMAN VS. IMPERIOUS LEX #1 (DC, 2021) – “Superman vs. Imperious Lex Part 1,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Pugh. Lexor, the planet where Luthor is a hero, applies for United Planets membership. Luthor maintains his hold on Lexor’s people by employing them to build killer robots. Superman visits Lexor and tries to save his people, but they reject his help. Even then, the UP approves Lexor’s application, and Lois is chosen to lead Lexor’s UP transition team. This comic is good, if not Russell’s best. It’s great to see Lexor again, but sadly, Ardora, Luthor’s Lexorian girlfriend, does not appear; I guess she would have humanized Luthor too much. In this comic he’s an obvious stand-in for Trump. 

BATMAN: BLACK AND WHITE #2 (DC, 2021) – “The Unjust Judge,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. Batman fails to save an old black clergyman from a fire, and sits with him as he dies. This is a powerful story, but maybe a bit emotionally manipulative. “All Cats Are Grey,” [W/A] Sophie Campbell. In a silent story, Batman fights and then romances Catwoman, and their actions are mirrored by two cats, one black and one white. This is the best story in this series so far. Sophie Campbell draws beautiful cats, and her visual storytelling is strong enough that the lack of dialogue is no hindrance. “The Spill,” [W/A] Gabriel Hardman, [W] Corinna Bechko. Batman saves the Joker from drowning. I am so sick of reading stories about Batman’s refusal to kill the Joker. For that matter, I’m sick of the Joker. “Dual,” [W/A] Dustin Weaver. Batman has an aerial dogfight with his father’s ghost. Good art but a dumb story. “The Devil in the Detail,” [W/A] David Aja. I don’t remember what this story was about, but I like how it’s formatted like an old comic strip. 

SEA OF SORROWS #3 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Rich Douek, [A] Alex Cormack. The mermaids cause more chaos. I like Alex Cormack’s art, but otherwise this comic isn’t that great, and I would give up on it except that I’ve already ordered the remaining issues. 

SHANG-CHI #5 (Marvel, 2021) – “Brothers and Sisters Part 5,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Dike Ruan. Shang-Chi and Shi-Hua defeat Zheng Zu, but she refuses to accept his authority. Shang-Chi quits his job at the bakery and becomes the new Supreme Commander. This was the only good Shang-Chi comic not written by Doug Moench, and the first Marvel comic I’ve read that felt like an example of the wuxia genre. I’m glad it’s going to continue as an ongoing series. 

PSYCHODRAMA ILLUSTRATED #4 (Fantagraphics, 2021) – “Little Ones Part 2,” [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. Castor, the dude with the glasses, murders the refugee boy and another man, but then gets shot himself. The refugee girl continues wandering. A woman who looks like Fritz or Pepo makes a cameo appearance at the end. This miniseries is perhaps Beto’s first story that’s explicitly about current American politics, and it’s not a bad first effort in that direction. 

GRAPHIC FANTASY #1 (Image, 2021) – “Revenge!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen, plus other stories. A replica edition of the fan comic that introduced Savage Dragon. I wasn’t planning to buy this because of its inflated price tag, but Heroes included it in my file. “Revenge!” introduces Paul Dragon and his motherless daughter Angel, as well as prototype versions of other Savage Dragon characters. It’s an amateurish and derivative piece of work, and it’s only of interest to people who are even bigger Savage Dragon fans than I am. This issue also includes some even worse backup stories by other artists; it’s no wonder that none of these other creators eaver turned pro. 

EDGAR ALLAN POE’S SNIFTER OF BLOOD #4 (Ahoy, 2021) – “The Tell-Tale Heart,” [W] James Finn Garner, [A] Sandy Jarrell. The only notable thing about this version is that it’s in black and white, except that the victim’s blood is red. “Winston,” [W] Tyrone Finch, [A] Ryan Kelly. A man discovers that his model train village has come to life. 

KING IN BLACK: NAMOR #3 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Tide is Turned,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Benjamin Dewey. Namor, Dorma and Attuma get their asses kicked by the evil Swift Tide, and then they find that the Swift Tide has massacred Attuma’s people. Attuma acquires his iconic helmet. 

GRAPHIC FANTASY #2 (Image, 2021) – “Possessed,” [W/A] Erik Larsen. Thankfully this issue is by Larsen alone and doesn’t include any material by the other creators. Also it’s a bit cheaper. “Possessed” has some cute moments, but is still only interesting as a prototype for Erik’s professional work. I was going to say mature work, but Savage Dragon is anything but mature. 

MONSTRESS #31 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. Maika leaves Ravenna and prepares to confront the Warlord. I kind of wish this series would end soon. I feel obligated to read it, but I don’t enjoy it anymore, and it’s always one of the last comics I read every week. It’s unrelentingly grim and bleak, and its plot has never made any sense. 

I BREATHED A BODY #1 (AfterShock, 2021) – “An Unforeseen Innovation,” [W] Zac Thompson, [A] Andy MacDonald. Mylo Caliban is a bratty, confrontational social media celebrity. Anne is his brand manager. Mylo kills himself on livestream, and some kind of talking fungus grows from his corpse. I somewhat regret buying this series because it’s based on the same body horror aesthetic as Lonely Receiver, and I got sick of Lonely Receiver before it ended. 

CANTO II: THE HOLLOW MEN #5 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. Canto accepts the Shrouded Man’s heart and agrees to return it to him. Also, Canto breaks the curse on the hollow people. This story will continue in the next Canto miniseries. I don’t love Canto, but I’m still willing to read it. 

MAESTRO: WAR & PAX #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “Veni,” [W] Peter David, [A] Javier Pina. The Maestro fights Machine Man, and we’re reintroduced to the Pantheon, who have mostly been in limbo since Incredible Hulk #425. I hadn’t planned on ordering this series, and I’ve asked for it to be dropped from my pull list. 

BARBIE FASHION #30 (Marvel, 1993) – “Lucky’s Lucky Day” and other stories, [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Barb Rausch. Barbie rescues a lost dog and saves an old lady’s flower show. The letter column includes a letter from an 11-year-old girl who wants to lose weight. To their credit, the editors reply by telling the reader that it’s not healthy to try to look like Barbie. The best thing about this series is the Amanda Conner covers. 

MUDMAN #5 (Image, 2021) – “Friends and Family,” [W/A] Paul Grist. Mudman meets a creepy old lady with an axe, and his father tears up the picture of the mysterious woman, claiming that she’s evil. Again this issue is impeded by a lack of original ideas. 

CAPTAIN MARVEL #25 (Marvel, 2021) – “The New World Part Four,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Lee Garbett. The Enchantress reveals Ove’s origin. Carol escapes from captivity and gets her powers back. I’m starting to recognize Lee Garbett’s style of art. 

My next comic store trip was on February 22. This was the trip when I had a somewhat disappointing lunch at The Diamond.  

ONCE & FUTURE #16 (Boom!, 2021) – “Long Live the King,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. Duncan and Gran run from Lancelot, but encounter a dragon instead. Galahad shows up, only he’s a centaur now. There’s also a subplot with Rose and the government agent. 

SWEET TOOTH: THE RETURN #4 (DC, 2021) – untitlled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. In flashback, Father massacres an innocent family of hybrids so he can get inside the vault in Alaska. The elephant hybrid is revealed as Mel’s brother Earl. Father is one of Lemire’s more disturbing villains. He’s the kind of villain who has one goal in mind – reclaiming the surface world from the hybrids – and is willing to do anything at all to achieve it. 

SECOND COMING: ONLY BEGOTTEN SON #2 (Ahoy, 2021) – “The Ledge,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Leonard Kirk. Jesus goes to an evangelical amusement park, but no one recognizes him. On the way back, he saves a depressed man from committing suicide. Another good issue, if very similar to a typical issue of the previous series.  

ABBOTT 1973 #2 (Boom!, 2021) – “The Grip of Fear,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Sami Kivelä. Miss Henrietta dies. Elena’s sexist boss makes him accompany her to a fundraiser as his date, and then treats her like a waitress. Elena storms out and goes home to discover that someone has vandalized her house and kidnapped her girlfriend Amelia. Not quite as eventful as last issue, but still excellent. 

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #12 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcello Grassi. Charlotte convinces the children whose minds are powering Unity to rebel against Dr. Jain. This allows the Destiny Man to reduce Dr. Jain’s power enough that she has to let the protagonists leave Unity and proceed to the next sector. Finally we hear the rest of the message to Charlotte and Daniel, and then the protagonists meet a new Uncle Sam who’s dressed as a pirate. I liked this story arc even better than the first one; it had a much more compelling plot. The series resumes in June. 

FANTASTIC FOUR #29 (Marvel, 2021) – “Soul-Bound,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Zé Carlos. Johnny and Sky go on a date, and Johnny discovers that Sue is spying on him, and has also spied on his dates with his previous girlfriends. This part of the issue is fun, but the rest of the issue is wasted on a dumb fight scene that’s a tie-in with King in Black. 

ORCS! #1 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Christine Larsen. This issue begins with a silly and boring story about an orc heroine named Drod. Luckily it turns out that this is just an inset story which one of the characters in the frame story is telling to some children, and the rest of the issue is much better. Christine Larsen’s orcs are really entertaining; they’re raucous and rude, but well-intentioned. Also, the main plot of this issue is that the orcs fight some vicious squirrels. Christine Larsen’s last series, By Night, was disappointing, but this new series shows that she’s gifted at both writing and art. 

RADIANT BLACK #1 (Image, 2021) – “(Not So) Secret Origin,” [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Marcelo Costa. I first heard of Kyle Higgins because of his Twitter commentary on direct market issues. This new series looked really exciting to me, even though I’m not a fan of the Power Rangers franchise, which it’s based on. Marcelo Costa’s art and costume designs are extremely striking, but the weak link in this issue is the hero, Nathan. To quote my own Facebook post: “The protagonist of the comic is $38000 in debt and thinks he can clear his debt by becoming a crime novelist. He must have been getting very bad career advice, because I’m not a fiction writer and even I know that most published novelists can’t afford to quit their day jobs. Also, he decided to give up his writing career after he’d already found an agent to represent him — which meant he *was* making progress. It’s extremely hard for a fiction writer to get an agent.” Later we learn that the agent only wanted to see a sample chapter, and in four years he wasn’t even able to write that. Overall, Nathan seems like the kind of aimless, unmotivated twentysomething who pretends to be working toward a career, but is actually just a slacker. To be fair, some of this is intentional on Higgins’s part, and by issue 2, Nathan’s character has already evolved.  

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #114 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Sophie Campbell. The Turtles find Tokka and Rahzar, but the monsters only want to see Karai, who’s back at the dojo, and they turn violent. Also, Jennika and Raphael get in a fight. And there’s a subplot about a wizard from the future named Renet. As usual Sophie Campbell shows an incredible ability to draw all sorts of different people and anthropomorphic animals. I do think this series has quite a lot of characters, and it’s often unclear who they are or why they matter. 

BIRTHRIGHT #46 (Image, 2021) – “One Month Later,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. In flashback, we see the start of Mikey and Rya’s romance, and then their wedding. I don’t think any of this has been shown before. In the present, Mikey and Rya hunt down a monster left over from Lore’s invasion, then pick up the baby from daycare. This issue includes some cute moments as well as some beautifully drawn fight scenes. 

ETERNALS #2 (Marvel, 2021) – “Only Death is Eternal Part 2,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Esad Ribić. Ikaris fights Thanos, and then he and Druig and Sersi and Kingo Sunen try to figure out who the traitor is. There’s also a flashback sequence where Ikaris tells a boy to light a bonfire when a montser shows up, and then the bonfire is finally lit by the boy’s grandson. I thought at first that this sequence was just included to illustrate the series’ theme of immortality, but now I think that Toby Robson, the boy at the end of the issue, is a distant descendant of the boy in the bonfire story. I like how Esad Ribić letters his own sound effects.  

LAST WITCH #2 (Boom!, 2021) – “Black Annis,” [W] Conor McCreery, [A] V.V. Glass. Saoirse rescues Brahm from the witch, Black Annis, and returns home, only to find that her dad and the other villagers have died in a plague. The sole survivor is Nan, who’s also a witch, and she tells Saoirse that her quest is to defeat the Cailleach and the other witches. V.V. Glass’s faces are incredibly expressive, and their coloring is beautiful. They’re the best new talent of the year so far. 

I WALK WITH MONSTERS #3 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Sally Cantirino. In  flashback, Jacey’s father luckily dies just before he would have done whatever he was going to do to her. I’m not sure if Jacey or David was responsible. Jacey is placed with some caring foster parents, but is so traumatized that she runs away. In another flashback, we discover that David used to be an awful incel. In the present, Jacey and David prepare to assassinate the evil politician. This is a really good series, particularly because of its depiction of child abuse. 

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #23 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Carmen Carnero. Miles and Kamala team up to fight one of Knull’s dragons. This is pretty much a waste of an issue; it does nothing to advance Miles’s character arc. 

CHAMPIONS #4 (Marvel, 2021) – “On the Run with the X-Men,” [W] Eve L. Ewing, [A] Bob Quinn. I think Bob Quinn is the same artist as Bob Q. Cyclops can’t let the Champions into Krakoa, so instead he lets them hide out on a boat. Meanwhile, Viv talks with an old lady who’s a veteran of the civil rights movement. I didn’t see Wandavision, but I don’t think Viv appeared in it. That’s too bad because this character needs more exposure. 

HOLLOW HEART #1 (Vault, 2021) – “Tether,” [W] Paul Allor, [A] Paul Tucker. El is a monster trapped inside a cyborg battlesuit. His human assistant, Mateo, decides to risk his job in order to help El escape or die. This is a powerful premise, and there’s also a subplot about Mateo’s same-sex relationship.  

SCARENTHOOD #4 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Nick Roche. The parents find an old lady who knows where the Big Boy came from, and with her help, they’re able to rescue Scooper. Cormac almost kisses Jen, one of the other parents, but then Cormac’s wife appears out of nowhere. I’d really like to see a sequel to this miniseries, especially given that I still don’t understand where Cormac’s wife was. 

BARBALIEN: RED PLANET #4 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tate Brombal, [A] Gabriel Hernandez Walta. The highlight of this issue is that Mark tries to tell Miguel that he’s an alien, and Miguel thinks Mark is trying to say that he (Mark) has AIDS. It’s a poignant misunderstanding. The main event this issue is that Boaz finally finds Mark. 

FAMILY TREE #11 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Phil Hester. In the future, the army kidnaps Loretta (the mother) and uses her as bait so they can destroy Meg. The villain in this issue is reminiscent of Father from Sweet Tooth, but Family Tree is not nearly as interesting as Sweet Tooth or Gideon Falls. Partly this is because Phil Hester’s art is serviceable but not exciting. 

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #11 (Marvel, 2021) – “Here We Make Our Stand,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Juann Cabal. The Guardians prepare for their epic confrontation with the Olympian gods. This issue seems well-executed, but its plot is hard to understand since I haven’t read the entire series. Juann Cabal is one of a large number of Spanish artists at Marvel. Many of these artists are extremely talented but don’t seem to have much of a fan following, perhaps because they don’t go to American conventions, or because contemporary Marvel comics are so writer-driven. 

FUTURE STATE: IMMORTAL WONDER WOMAN #2 (DC, 2021) – as above. Superman sacrifices himself to destroy Darkseid, and Diana uses the Spectre’s power to start a new Big Bang. In the backup story, Nubia uses Oshun’s Crown to defeat Grail. I like how Future State included two different and equally interesting versions of Wonder Woman. I want to see more of this incarnation of Nubia. 

FUTURE STATE: AQUAMAN #1 (DC, 2021) – “The Confluence Part One,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Daniel Sampere. Aqualad (Jackson) and Aqualass (Andy) get trapped in another reality. This issue has some very good art and coloring, but its story isn’t that great. 

THE WRONG EARTH: NIGHT & DAY #2 (Ahoy, 2021) – “Night & Day, Chapter Two,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Jamal Igle. The two Dragonflies finally meet each other, and the contrast between their personalities is brilliant. Also, Number One carries out his plot against them.  

AMERICAN VAMPIRE 1976 #5 (DC, 2021) – “The Big Lie,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. The protagonists confront some ancient vampires inside the Matterhorn, and there’s a flashback explaining the origin of American vampires. I hope this is the last issue of this series that I’ll be getting. 

BLACK HAMMER: VISIONS #1 (Dark Horse, 2021) – ‘Transfer Student,” [W] Patton Oswalt, [A] Dean Kotz. This story is told from the viewpoint of two of Golden Gail’s elementary school classmates. Of course, since Gail doesn’t age, she has to keep leaving school and returning in a new identity, while her classmates get older. One of the girls eventually discovers that all the Gails are the same person, and Madame Dragonfly allows her to leave Rockwood. This comic is an obvious tribute to Ghost World, and it ends by quoting Aimee Mann’s song “Ghost World,” which was based on the comic. For a writer with limited fiction writing experience, Patton Oswalt is very good. I’m surprised to learn that the children in Rockwood can grow up; I assumed the humans in town were ageless, like the superheroes. 

SHADOW DOCTOR #1 (AfterShock, 2021) – “Family History,” [W] Peter Calloway, [A] Georges Jeanty. In 1931, Nathaniel Calloway gets a medical degree from the University of Illinois, only to discover that because he’s black, no hospital in Chicago will hire him. Nor will any bank give him a loan to open a private practice. Nathaniel is forced to apply to the only man in Chicago who will lend money to a black doctor: Al Capone. I was skeptical about this comic, but this first issue is really good. It purports to be the actual story of the author’s grandfather, and Peter Calloway tells that story very convincingly. The power of this issue comes from the matter-of-fact nature of the racism that Nathaniel faces; for example, the doorman at Capone’s hotel refuses to let him in because “we have standards to uphold.” 

PANTOMIME #4 (Mad Cave, 2021) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] David Stoll. Many years after #3, the kids are in college, but they still spend summers together and commit thefts. They decide to retire after one last summer of thefts. But then they discover that the Manager has tipped them off to the cops. I just bought #5 but haven’t read it yet. 

SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH VOL. 4 #5 (Archie, 2021) – “Something Wicked Part 5,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Veronica Fish & Andy Fish. Sabrina defeats Delia in a card game, then comes home to find her cousin Ambrose waiting for her with ann invitation to a witch academy. The issue ends with a next issue blurb, but it says “Next!?!?!,” so I’m not sure if there will be another issue. Archie has been publishing very few monthly comics lately. 

2000 AD #617 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: as above. We discover that the title character of the story arc, Helios, was responsible for Walthers’s killing spree. Tales from the Doghouse: “Maeve the Many-Armed,” [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Simon Jacob. A story about a multi-armed SD agent in a milieu based on ancient Ireland. All these Tales from the Doghouse stories are kind of dumb, and Simon Jacob’s art is rather ugly; he uses the same type of shading as Chris Weston, but his anatomy is much worse than Weston’s. Swifty’s Return: as above. Swifty and Clinton get back to the party. Again, this story has beautiful art but a silly plot. Dredd: as above. Barry and Mo cause some more mayhem. Dredd figures out that something is wrong with Barry. Future Shocks: “Computer Dating Agency,” [W] David Anderson, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. Two vampires start a dating agency. This story is mostly talking heads, which is a problem because Belardinelli was great at drawing monsters and cityscapes, but he wasn’t much good at drawing faces. Strontium Dog: as above. Jonny and Middenface are finally on their way to Milton Keynes. Feral continues his fight against the church. 

Here I again had to interrupt my reading of ‘80s 2000 ADs, because I received a shipment of much older 2000 ADs. This lot consisted of about 46 progs from #42 to #96, for a bargain price of under $100, and it even included all the banned issues, though I haven’t gotten to those yet. 

2000 AD #42 (IPC, 1977) – Dredd: “Luna 1,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ian Gibson. Dredd is appointed to serve as the judge-marshal of the moon colony. This is a very early story, so it heavily features Walter the Wobot, and Dredd’s character isn’t well-developed yet. Future Shocks: “Time Past,” [W] Martin Lock, [A] José Ferrer. A time traveler traps himself in the stone age. Invasion: “The Prince,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Mike Dorey. Bill Savage has to smuggle Crown Prince James out of Volgan-ruled Britain. Until I read this story, I didn’t realize the Volgans were Soviets, not aliens. Dan Dare: “Star Slayer,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Dave Gibbons. Dare leads an uprising against the Star Slayer Empire on the planet Drone. Gibbons is the best artist in this issue. MACH 1: “Death Ray,” [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Lozano (Leopoldo Sanchez) & Jaime Marzal Canos. MACH 1 destroys a Soviet doomsday device. In the Warren Companion,  David Roach says that Lozano was Leopoldo Sanchez, and that he used the name of his collaborator Nydia Lozano for unknown reasons. Harlem Heroes: “Inferno,” [W] Tom Tully, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. The Harlem Heroes sports team gets some new members and prepare for an aeroball game against the Sickles. This story is a lot like Mean Arena, except that I don’t understand the rules of aeroball.  

2000 AD #43 (IPC, 1977) – Dredd: “Showdown on Luna 1,” as above. Dredd has a gunfight with a “robo-slinger.” This story is a silly Wild West pastiche. Invasion: as above except [A] Carlos Pino. Savage and his allies fight some Volgans at a circus. Dan Dare: as above. Dare and his crew proceed to the next world in the Star Slayer empire: Grawl, a world of giant barbarians. MACH 1: “Mach Zero,” [W] Steve McManus, [A] Ramon Sola. We’re introduced to MACH 1’s prototype, MACH Zero, who’s a lot like the Hulk. Ramon Sola’s art resembles that of Neal Adams. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Sickles jump out to a quick lead against the Heroes. 

IMMORTAL HULK #43 (Marvel, 2021) – “We’re the Good Guys,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. This issue is infamous for a panel on page 3 that includes anti-Semitic imagery. Joe Bennett claims this was an accident, and Marvel seems to have chosen to believe him, unlike in the case of Ardian Syaf where the offensive imagery was undeniably intentional. I discussed both these incidents further in my paper at ICFA last weekend. Other than that, this issue the U-Foes finally catch up to Hulk, and Gamma Flight goes looking for Rick and the Leader. 

BLACK WIDOW #5 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Ties That Bind Part 5,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Elena Casagrande. Natasha manages to save her family from the fire, but she has to separate from them for their own safety. This was a powerful first story arc, and Elena Casagrande’s artwork is beautiful. 

2000 AD #45 (IPC, 1977) – Dredd: “22nd Century Futsie!”, [W] John Wagner, [A] Ian Gibson. A bureaucrat goes crazy from future shock, and Dredd has to save him from being assassinated by agents of CW Moonie, the crime boss of Luna-1. The Luna-1 saga was technically the first extended Dredd epic, predating The Cursed Earth, but it was mostly a series of short stories that all took place on the moon. And the Luna setting offered little narrative potential; “22nd Century Futsie,” for example, could just as easily have taken place in Mega-City One. Invasion: as above. Savage and his allies rob a bank. The muscular Rosa Volgaska takes command of the Volgans’ operations against Savage. Dan Dare: as above. We’re still on Grawl, where the Starslayer somehow causes Dare’s crew to turn against him. Future Shocks: “Killer Car,” [W] Robert Flynn, [A] Mike Dorey. An intelligent car turns evil and rebels against humans. Unusually, this story is set in the present day, and Tharg’s introduction even points out that this setting is unusual. I wonder if this story was originally intended for a different comic. MACH 1: as above. MACH 1 fights MACH 0. Inferno: as above. The Heroes viisit a mazelike casino to investigate a match-fixing plot. 

SAVAGE #1 (Valiant, 2021) – untitled, [W] Max Bemis, [A] Nathan Stockman. Like Bruce Jones or Mark Waid’s Ka-Zar, this series is about a Tarzan-esque character forced to live in the modern world. The twist is that Savage’s protagonist is also a YouTube star. In this issue he fights some giant monsters and then gets kidnapped by a mad scientist. I don’t remember why I ordered this comic. It’s not bad, but I mostly forgot about it by the time I read issue 2. 

2000 AD #46 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: as above. The Starslayer captures Dare’s crew, but Dare remains free by switching uniforms with one of the Starslayer’s men. From #46 to #58, the cover to each issue doubled as the first page of the Dan Dare story. Future Shocks: “Time Was,” [W] Martin Lock, [A] Ramon Sola. A time traveler sends his entire street back in time. MACH 1: as above. John Probe (MACH 1) thinks he’s saved MACH 0, but his evil boss Sharpe kills MACH 0 anyway. Dredd: “Meet Mr. Moonie,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ian Gibson. Dredd arrests CW Moonie, who has a giant head like Hector Hammond. Invasion: as above except [A] Mike Dorey. Savage and his team escape a Volgan attack while crossing from Scotland to England. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Heroes’ target, Cullen, sends some androids to attack them. I don’t especially like “Inferno,” though it does have some good artwork. 

S.W.O.R.D. #3 (Marvel, 2021) – “Everywhere Man,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Valerio Schiti et al. Eden Fesi, AKA Manifold, talks with two older Aboriginal men and tries to recruit Snarks to fight Knull. This issue seems like a respectful depiction of Aboriginal Australian culture. I especially like it when Eden says that one of the laws of Krakoa is “respect this sacred land,” and then Baz points out that they had to make it a law. But overall, SWORD is Al Ewing’s worst  current series. 

BARBIE FASHION #33 (Marvel, 1993) – “All That Jazz” etc., [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Mario Capaldi. This artist mostly worked in British girls’ comics, including Misty. His only American credits besides Barbie are Marvel’s Zorro and James Bond Jr. This issue, Barbie meets a young jazz musician who wants to be a rock musician instead. The young man’s parents are obviously based on Dizzy Gillespie and Sarah Vaughan. In the backup story, Barbie collects seashells for Skipper’s sick friend. I wonder if any of Skipper’s friends appeared in more than one issue. 

MUDMAN #6 (Image, 2013) – “This is a Test,” [W/A] Paul Grist. The dude in sunglasses trains Owen to use his powers. This was the last issue, and that’s just as well, because Mudman was a boring and unoriginal series. 

LITTLE ARCHIE #24 (Archie, 1962) – “The Gentle Way” etc., [W/A] Bob Bolling and Dexter Taylor. In the first story, Little Archie loses a judo tournament but then uses his judo skills to save his mother from being mugged. Judo must have been a fad in the early ‘60s, because it shows up in lots of comic books from that era. “One Quiet Night” is a slapstick story about Polly Cooper’s cat. The highlight of the issue is “Robots of Doom,” the first appearance of Mad Doctor Doom and Chester. It opens with a gorgeously moody establishing shot of Mad Dr. Doom’s mansion. In “The Chance of a Ghost,” Little Archie dreams he’s turned into a TV set. In “Makes the Eel Kneel,” Archie defeats an escaped criminal. This story is unusually violent for an Archie comic: the criminal shoots at Archie and actually hits him. These stories are all by Bolling, and there are two others by Dexter Taylor. 

2000 AD #47 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: as above. Dare captures the Dark Lord (that’s his name, not Star Slayer) and takes him aboard his ship. The Visible Man: untitled, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Carlos Trigo. Frank Hart is covered with radioiactive sludge in a traffic accident, and wakes up to discover that his skin and muscles have become transparent, leaving his skeleton and organs visible. Future Shocks: “Enemy Agent,” [W] Nick Tufnell, [A] John Cooper. A shapeshifting alien replaces the rulers of the US, USSR and UK with duplicates. Dredd: “Land Race,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Brian Bolland. A new area of the moon is opened for development, and Dredd has to apprehend some corrupt land speculators. Walter falls in wuv with another wobot. This story is still pretty dumb, but the art is the best yet in any of these early progs, especially the opening panel depicting the vehicles assembled for the land race. Invasion: as above. Savage and his team reach Liverpool and are joined by Georgia, who claims to be from the US south but is in fact a double agent for Rosa. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Hellcats (not Heroes, oops) defeat the droids, but Cullen gets killed, so the trail of the gambling syndicate goes cold. 

STILLWATER #6 (Image, 2021) – “1999,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón K. Pérez. In 1999, the brother of Stillwater citizen Mitch Derry is getting overly curious about Mitch’s whereabouts. The Judge sends Ted, a Stillwater resident, back into the outside world to deal with Mitch’s brother.  Ted assassinates Mitch’s brother, but is caught doing it by his old army buddy Kreegs, and has to bring Kreegs to Stillwater. We then pick the story up where we left it in issue 5.  

PENULTIMAN #5 (Ahoy, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Alan Robinson. Antepenultiman puts Penultiman on trial, and it comes out that Penultiman has an inferiority complex; thanks to his upbringing, he’s only happy when he feels worse than someone else. Antepenultiman and Penultiman decide to switch identities. This series was pretty good, but it’s not my favorite Ahoy comic. 

GREEN LANTERN SEASON TWO #11 (DC, 2021) – “Contest of Crowns,” [W] Grant Morrison,  [A] Liam Sharp. Hal visits Athmoora, the world where he’s a barbarian hero, and there’s also a confusing plot about the Golden Giants and Hector Hammond. This is yet another issue that’s impossible to understand, and also, Liam Sharp has jumped the Liam Shark. His computerized art looks amateurish, and he should stick to traditional art. 

CEREBUS #49 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “Cerebus’s Six Crises, Crisis No. 5: The Last Stand,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus collapses into an alcoholic stupor, while Iest fails to defend itself against a barbarian invasion. At the end of the issue, Cerebus realizes that the invaders are Conniptins and not Hsiffies, but I don’t know why this matters. The orientation of the panels changes repeatedly in this issue, perhaps to make the reader share Cerebus’s state of intoxication. This issue includes the conclusion of the first Journey story. 

2000 AD #48 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: as above. The Dark Lord escapes into the nuclear reactor of Dare’s ship, and summons his own fleet to attack Dare. Visible Man: as above. A doctor named Burnard wants to use Frank Hart as a test subject, but Hart escapes Burnard’s lab. Future Shocks: “Substitute,” [W] Robert Flynn, [A] Giorgi. An astronaut gets lost on the moon and is kidnapped and replaced by an alien. Giorgi has no other 2000 AD credits and I can’t find any information about them. Dredd: “The Oxygen Desert Part 1,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ian Gibson. After judging some petty disputes, Dredd goes outside the dome to apprehend a criminal named Butch Carmody, but gets stuck on the lunar surface without oxygen or transportation. Invasion: as above. Savage and his crew get on a ship headed for Canada. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Hellcats get some new cheerleaders who are secretly planning to betray them. 

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #426 (DC, 1987) – “From the Dregs,” [W] Marv Wolfman w/ John Byrne, [A] Jerry Ordway. In part 18 of Legends, an amnesiac Superman finds himself on Apokolips, where he leads the Hunger Dogs in a rebellion against Darkseid. But then we learn that Superman is an agent provocateur working for Amazing Grace (a New God of Apokolips, created by Byrne for this storyline). Legends was a stupid crossover, but Ordway’s art in this issue is quite good. 

BARBIE FASHION #34 (Marvel, 1993) – “The City Kitty” etc., [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Barb Rausch & Kathleen Webb. Barbie rescues a stray cat. In the second story, Barbie and Ken agree to help Ken’s grandparents stay in their house rather than move to a retirement home. Barb Rausch’s art is much better than Kathleen Webb’s. 

GREEN LANTERN #149 (DC, 1982) – “Death by Fire and Ice!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Joe Staton. Hal decides to quit the Green Lantern Corps, but first he has to save Abin Sur’s homeworld of Ungara from an ice age. Meanwhile, an unnamed bald alien is hunting Hal. Arisia guest-stars in this story and has some cute moments. The backup story, by Paul Kupperberg and Don Newton, is about a Wild West sheriff who briefly becomes Earth’s first Green Lantern. The claim that this character was Earth’s first GL is contradicted by both earlier and later continuity. https://www.cbr.com/green-lantern-earth/

2000 AD #49 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: as above. Dare and his crew prepare for their last stand against the Starslayer fleet. Future Shocks: “Fly Guy,” [W] Steve Moore, [A] José Luis Ferrer. Fly-like aliens invade Earth, but are decoyed into being eaten by giant Venus flytraps. Visible Man: as above except [A] Montero. I believe Montero’s first name is José Pérez Montero. Frank Hart tries to cover up his transparent skin with makeup, but it wears off while he’s trying to withdraw all his money from the bank. This chapter is really stupid. Dredd: “Oxygen Desert Part 2: Down and Out!”, [W] John Wagner, [A] Ian Gibson. Dredd survives the desert but pretends to retire in shame over his failure to catch Carmody. Dredd’s retirement turns out to have been a trap which he uses to capture Carmody. Invasion: as above except [A] Carlos Pino. Georgia kills Savage’s friend Silkie and frames another crewman for it. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Hellcats’ latest game continues, and the cheerleader Pearly prepares to assassinate John “Giant” Clay. 

HAHA #2 (Image, 2021) – “Rudolph on the Road to Funville,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Zoe Thorogood. In the past, a crazy woman kidnaps her own daughter and takes her to “Funville,” which proves to be a closed-down amusement park. In the present, the woman’s daughter becomes an exotic dancer. The disappointment when we reach Funville reminds me of the ending of Joyce’s “Araby.” This story is unrelated to issues 1 or 3, except that both #2 and #3 include the name J.C. Wilber. I don’t remember if #1 does as well. 

CEREBUS #52 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “Writing” and two other stories, [W/A] Dave Sim. I was going to wait to read this until I finished the High Society phone book, but I haven’t had time to read that book. This issue includes three short stories. “Writing” is a collection of Cerebus’s hilarious advice on politics. In “Elfguest,” Cerebus meets thinly disguised versions of Cutter and Skywise. I remember someone saying on Facebook that Cerebus and Elfquest seemed like very different works, but they appealed to the same audience simply because they were among the few adult-oriented black and white comic books of their time. In “Insecure Sinecure,” Cerebus meets Prince Silverspoon again and cleverly gets rid of him. There’s a Cutey Bunny backup story by Joshua Quagmire. 

DEADMAN #2 (DC, 1986) – “This Mortal Coil,” [W] Andy Helfer, [A] José Luis García López. David Roach has said that this series is one of JLGL’s greatest works. JLGL’s art in this issue is indeed fantastic. The plot is pretty typical Deadman material: Boston discovers that the League of Assassins is responsible for his brother Cleveland’s death, and goes hunting for the League’s Sensei. There’s also a flashback explaining the origin of Nanda Parbat. 

OMAC #6 (DC, 1975) – “The Body Bank!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. A crime cabal is kidnapping young people in order to transplant old people’s brains into their bodies. OMAC has to stop them. This issue includes some exciting action scenes set on board a subway train. 

2000 AD #50 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: as above. The Grawls, Minians and Drones – alien races  that Dare previously liberated from the Starslayer Empire – send a space fleet to rescue Dare. With the battle nearly won, Dare goes looking for the Dark Lord, but the Dark Lord finds him first and throws a deadly weapon at him. Visible Man: as above. Frank is reunited with his girlfriend, but she finds him as hideous as everyone else does. By this point, The Visible Man had become perhaps the silliest 2000 AD story I’ve read. Its premise is so absurd that I hope Mills didn’t mean for it to be taken seriously. Future Shocks: “The Guardian,” [W] Mike Cruden, [A] John Cooper. A boy’s overprotective robot babysitter leads him to his doom. This story looks like it ends on a cliffhanger, but it’s a one-parter, so I guess we have to assume the boy got killed by mutants. Dredd: “The First Lunar Olympics,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Brian Bolland. An incident at the Lunar Olympics threatens to lead to war between Luna-1 and the “Sov-Cities.” I think this was the first story to mention the Sovs, who would later become the villains in the Apocalypse War. Bolland’s art here is incredible, as usual. Invasion: as above except [A] Mike Dorey. The royal yacht shows up alongside Savage’s ship. Savage and his allies board the yacht only to find Rosa aboard, and Georgia reveals himself as a traitor. Harlem Heroes: as above. Louis Meyer saves Giant from being assassinated by Pearly. 

THE DEVIL’S RED BRIDE #5 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] John Bivens. Ketsuko defeats the main villainess, then tries to kill herself, but the sword won’t let her. This was an unimpressive series and I’m sorry I read the whole thing. 

COMMANDERS IN CRISIS #5 (Image, 2021) – “The Action of Separation,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Davide Tinto. I finally understand the title of this series: it’s a mashup of “commander in chief” and Crisis on Infinite Earths. The main event this issue is that America starts disintegrating from lack of empathy. As I have observed before, this series has too many high concepts and it feels disunified. I like the characterization and art, though. 

2000 AD #51 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: as above. Dare escapes the Star Lord’s attack, and the Star Lord is killed by his own missile. Visible Man: as above. Dr. Burnett recaptures Frank. Future Shocks: “Galactic Garbage,” [W] Richard Burton, [A] Trev Goring. A space garbageman unintentionally saves Earth from an alien invasion. Dredd: “Luna 1 War,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Brian Bolland. The “war” between Luna-1 and the Sovs is resolved by a single combat between Dredd and a Sov champion. The next time Dredd went to war with the Sovs, the casualties would be far higher. Also, Dredd stuffs a microphone in a reporter’s mouth. Invasion: as above. Nessie sacrifices herself to defeat Rosa, and Savage gets the Prince to Canada. Savage would reappear in a prequel, “Disaster 1990,” in 1979, and then not again until 2004. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Hellcats get a new recruit, Regal Eegle. By this point I still wasn’t enjoying Inferno, though maybe that’s because it was always the last story in each prog, and by the time I got to it, I wanted to be done with the prog. 

GREEN LANTERN #112 (DC, 1979) – “Starheart Connection!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Alex Saviuk. Hal, Ollie and Alan Scott team up against a villain named Zalaz who stole Alan’s Starheart. Alan Scott has never fit comfortably into Green Lantern continuity because he was created before the Green Lantern Corps was, and his origin is difficut to reconcile with later continuity. A funny moment in this issue is that at the end, Zalaz summons a woman who’s too beautiful to look at, and she always stands with her back to the reader. 

THE FOX #3 (Archie, 2015) – “The Devil You Know,” [W/A] Dean Haspiel, [W] Mark Waid. This issue’s cover has the blurb “ ‘Perfectly acceptable to new readers’ – Comics Alliance.” That sounds like damning with faint praise. However, this is a pretty fun issue anyway. The main interest of this issue and this entire Fox series was its depiction of the relationship between an older superhero and his newly adult son. 

CEREBUS #57 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1983) – “Suddenly, Sophia,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus wakes up from a drunken stupor to discover that he is now married to Red Sophia. This happened because of Adam Weisshaupt’s scheming, and as President, Weisshaupt has the sole power to dissolve Cerebus’s marriage, so Cerebus now has to do whatever Weisshaupt wants – including write cheesy romance novels. This is a hilarious issue. The backup story is the second appearance of Valentino’s normalman. 

THE MAPMAKER #1 (Scout, 2021) – untitled, [W] Ben Slabak, [A] Francesca Carita. A boring middle-grade story about pirates. This is the only issue of this series, as the story is continued in a graphic novel, but I have no desire to read that graphic novel. 

BLACK KNIGHT #1 (Marvel, 1955/2021) – “Theb Menace of Modred the Evil!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Joe Maneely. Sir Percy of Scandia is the laughingstock of King Arthur’s court, a useless fop who can’t fight. But in his alternate identity as the Black Knight, he protects Arthur from Modred and Morgan Le Fay. (In later Marvel continuity, the Arthurian Modred was renamed Mordred, and the name Modred was used for an unrelated character.) Sir Percy is a sort of hybrid of Prince Valiant and Clark Kent, though his story is also an example of the Fair Unknown/Bel Inconnu trope, in which a newcomer to Arthur’s court is ridiculed at first, usually by Sir Kay, before proving himself as a hero. In the backup story, “The Crusader,” a Saracen warrior discovers himself to be half-English and joins the First Crusade. Joe Maneely’s art is so similar to that of Steve Ditko that it would be easy to confuse the two artists. Maneely draws some great action sequences, though. 

TALES FROM THE HEART #3 (Slave Labor, 1988) – “Fits & Starts,” [W] Cindy Goff & Rafael Nieves, [A] Seitu Hayden. A Peace Corps volunteer arrives in a remote village in the Central African Republic. This issue is a pretty convincing depiction of the shock of arriving in a place with no modern conveniences. 

CEREBUS #59 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “Carroll E. King Reads,” etc. as above. This issue consists of a number of short vignettes. Cerebus gets an invitation to Jaka’s wedding and tears it up, and Weisshaupt talks with Bishop Powers about the selection of a new pope. At this point Cerebus seems to still be Prime Minister. Theres a backup story by Charles Treadwell, whose only other works seem to have been self-published. 

2000 AD #52 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: “Doppelganger,” [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Dave Gibbons. Dare discovers a coffin floating in space. Inside is a second, evil Dan Dare, and the duplicate convinces Dare’s crew that he’s the real Dare. Visible Man: as above. Frank stows away aboard a spaceship so he can escape from the human race. “Visible Man” was a ridiculous storyline, and Frank Hart didn’t appear again until a one-shot strip in 2012. Colony Earth: untitled, [W/A] Jim Watson. A cod-fishing boat stumbles on an alien invasion. Jim Watson was a veteran artist of war comics and TV adaptations, but Colony Earth was his only work for 2000 AD. His draftsmanship is very realistic and thrilling, and he uses Zip-a-Tone really well, but Colony Earth’s plot is boring. Dredd: “The Face-Change Crimes,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Brian Bolland. Some criminals rob a bank disguised as Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, then they disguise themselves again as the Marx Brothers. Dredd apprehends them despite their disguises. The list of names on page five includes many Easter eggs, like Morton Subotnik and Sydney Jordan. Future Shocks: “Solo Flip,” [W] Jack Adrian, [A] Brian Bolland. An astronaut goes crazy while in a flight simulator. Two Bolland stories in one issue is an embarrassment of riches. Harlem Heroes: as above. Regal Eegle rejoins the team, and Louis reanimates the android Pearly. 

LITTLE ARCHIE #98 (Archie, 1974) – “Hit and Run” etc., [W/A] Dexter Taylor. This issue was part of the same eBay lot as #24, reviewed above. I wouldn’t have bought it otherwise. In the first story, Archie rescues Betty from being run over by an illegal street racer. In one of the backup stories, Little Archie and Betty are somehow reading a comic book about the teenage Archie. Taylor doesn’t seem to care that this is logically impossible. 

BARBIE FASHION #36 (Marvel, 1993) – “Horbsing Around” etc., [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Barb Rausch. Skipper takes horse riding lessons, but she falls off the horse and it gets lost. The stories in this series often revolve around Skipper, perhaps because of the intrinsic difficulty of telling an interesting story about Barbie.  In the backup story, Skipper’s friend Courtney deals with acne. The letter column includes a letter from an 11-year-old girl who correctly observes that the main story in issue 26 was a glamorization of homelessness. 

UFOLOGY #2 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV & Noah Yuenkel, [A] Matthew Fox. I’m glad there are so many James Tynion comics for me to collect. I don’t quite get what’s going on in this issue, but it seems to be about a teenage girl who’s recovering from an encounter with an alien. Matthew Fox’s art looks kind of like that of Michael Dialynas. 

IRONJAW #4 (Atlas/Seaboard, 1975) – “And Who Will Forge the Jaw of Iron?”, [W] Larry Lieber, [A] Pablo Marcos. In a flashback, we learn how Ironjaw lost his jaw and had it replaced with a metal prosthetic. In the present, Ironjaw fights a dragon. This is a pretty mediocre barbarian comic, but at least Pablo Marcos’s art is good. Ironjaw was one of a handful of Atlas/Seaboard comics that survived until issue 4. 

FANTASTIC FOUR #221 (Marvel, 1980) – “Tower of Crystal… Dreams of Glass!”, [W/A] John Byrne. The FF fight some aliens who have been buried under the North Pole for centuries. This is a simple but effective story, an interesting preview of Byrne’s run as the regular FF writer/artist. Joe Sinnott’s inking is not well suited to Byrne’s intricate linework. 

BATMAN #565 (DC, 1999) – “Mosaic Part One,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Frank Teran. A No Man’s Land chapter in which the Bat-family fights Black Mask and his zombie army. There are also a ton of subplots. Frank Teran’s art is very gloomy and scratchy, reminding me a bit of Sienkiewicz. 

CAPTAIN MARVEL #62 (Marvel, 1979) – “Earth Skirmish,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Pat Broderick. Mar-Vell and Drax fight a villain named Stellarax who’s trying to take over Washington, DC. This is a fairly boring issue, and Doug Moench was unsuited to this series. This was the final issue of Captain Marvel volume 1. Mar-Vell’s story was continued in a new volume of Marvel Spotlight. 

VICTOR LAVALLE’S DESTROYER #6 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Dietrich Smith. Akai finally kills Frankenstein’s monster, then goes to watch a baseball game. The series ends with a speech about Chicago’s hidden history of racism. I’m very glad that Victor LaValle is going to be publishing more comics soon. 

2000 AD #53 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: as above. Dare kills the doppelganger after a fight involving some cargo buggies. Dare’s ship heads for the planet that the doppelganger came from. MACH 1: “Return to Sharpe,” [W] Roy Preston, [A] José Pérez Montero. Sharpe kidnaps Probe and sends him on yet another mission. Colony Earth: as above. Some scientists investigate the ruins left by the alien invaders on their first visit to Earth. Dredd: “The Killer Car,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ian Gibson. Dave Patton has a self-aware car named Elvis, but Elvis murders its owner and leads other cars on a rampage. Future Shocks: “On the Run,” [W] Robert Flynn, [A] Brett Ewins. A man fails to avert a prophecy of his death in a car accident. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Hellcats discover who built Pearly, then they prepare for a match against the Long Island Sharks. This issue includes a hyper-detailed blueprint of Walter, drawn by Kevin O’Neill. 

Next trip to Heroes was sometime in early March. On this trip I had a disappointing lunch at a food truck. 

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #15 (Boom!, 2021) – “A Game of Nowhere Part 5, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. Erica kills the monsters, Tommy accepts the blame for the killings, and then Erica renounces the House of Slaughter and leaves town with James. I can’t wait for the next story arc. 

STRAY DOGS #1 (Image, 2021) – “Good Girl,” [W] Tony Fleecs, [A] Trish Forstner. This new series by two My Little Pony artists is a big surprise. It starts out as a cute story about a little dog named Sophie who gets adopted into a new home with lots of other rescue dogs. But something has traumatized Sophie so much that she hides and pees on the floor. And then we realize what’s going on: Sophie’s new master abducted her after murdering her previous owner. And he may have done the same to all the other dogs’ masters. But they don’t remember, because dogs have short memories. And in the morning, Sophie has already forgotten what her master has done. The horrific twist in this comic is all the more shocking because the art is so cute. I’m not a dog person, but Trish Forstner draws adorable dogs, and she makes them all look very different. And Tony Fleecs writes the dogs in a very believable way. My favorite of the dogs is the giant one who just sleeps all the time. 

JONNA AND THE UNPOSSIBLE MONSTERS #1 (Oni, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Chris Samnee, [W] Laura Samnee. A spunky little girl uses her superhuman jumping ability to chase a giant monster – and vanishes. Later, her older sister visits a refugee camp to look for her. Not much happens in this issue, and I wish we’d seen more of Jonna, but Chris Samnee’s visual storytelling is incredible. When I saw the two-page splash with Jonna leaping over the monster’s head, I thought, “Only a great artist could have drawn this.” 

MAGNIFICENT MS. MARVEL #18 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Minkyu Jung. At the high school dance, Kamala reconciles with Zoe and then teams up with Amulet to fight Stormranger. And that’s the end of the most important Marvel series of the past decade. I really hope Marvel launches a new series with this character soon. 

BRZRKR #1 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Keanu Reeves & Matt Kindt, [A] Ron Garney. I was hesitant to buy this because it seemed super-overhyped, but I bought it anyway because it was a light week. BRZRKR is about an immortal warrior who was born 80,000 years ago and now fights for the US special forces, possibly against his will. BRZRKR has a very similar premise to The Old Guard, and so far nothing about it seems very original, but it’s good enough to keep buying for now. Ron Garney’s art is very effective. 

THE DREAMING: WAKING HOURS #8 (DC, 2021) – “The Faerie King, Part 1,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nick Robles. Heather, Ruin and Jophiel visit Faerie to save it from Nuala’s rule. Nuala has turned the place into a barren wasteland. Meanwhile, Daniel is worried about having let Ruin leave the Dreaming. This issue isn’t as good as the last one becausse of the lack of Javier Rodriguez art. 

SAVAGE DRAGON #257 (Image, 2021) – “The Dragon and the Thunder God!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Malcolm fights an insane, murderous Thor. In the fight, Thor accidentally kills his own son and blames Malcolm for it. Meanwhile, Paul proposes to Alex, but it’s not clear whether he’s serious. A pretty low-key issue. 

NOCTERRA #1 (Image, 2021) – Like BRZRKR, this is a high-profile comic but I felt skeptical about it. I have mixed feelings about Scott Snyder, and Tony Daniel seems like just a typical Image artist. However, Nocterra #1 is an interesting setup at least. Nocterra is set in a dystopian future where the sun has turned dark, and anyone who’s left in the dark turns into a monster. The protagonist, Sundog, agrees to escort an old man and a child to a legendary place of perpetual sunlight. But a mysterious dark man is hunting them, claiming the old man is to blame for destroying the sun. I really like Nocterra’s premise – the idea that the characters need to be constantly well-lit is an interessting narrative constraint, and it reminds me of Zork, where you need a light source to avoid being eaten by a grue. And Tony Daniel’s art isn’t bad. 

SWAMP THING #1 (DC, 2021) – “Becoming Part 1,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. A man named Levi Kamei travels from Delhi to New York and has visions of turning into Swamp Thing. Meanwhile, Swamp Thing encounters some kind of zombie dude in the Sonoran desert. I don’t quite get what’s going on here, and I don’t enjoy this issue as much as the previous miniseries, but I’ll keep reading and see where this story goes. 

POWER PACK #4 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Nico Leon. This issue is narrated by Jack, who Ryan North writes perfectly, depicting him as self-important and egotistical but secretly loving toward his siblings. This issue, the Wizard kicks the kids’ asses, and then Katie gets Wolverine to agree to be their mentor. Mr. and Mrs. Power have to pretend they don’t know who he is. My headcanon is that Jim and Margaret Power are fully aware their children are superheroes, and they have a secret agreement with all the superheroes to keep the kids safe. 

X-MEN #18 (Marvel, 2021) – “Inside the Vault,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Mahmud Asrar. We finally return to the team that went inside the Vault, I forget how many issues ago. They figt a bunch of unfamiliar villains. The problem with this series is that there are so many characters, and the storyline is so epic and expansive, that each issue can only offer a tiny snapshot of all that’s going on. But at least it’s more narratively satisfying than Bendis’s Legion was. 

KAIJU SCORE #4 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Showdown,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Rem Broo. Mujara defeats Ikattu, despite being a big underdog in the fight, and also kills the annoying man-bunned dude. Yay! I can’t remember the last time I’ve been so thrilled to see a character die. Marco and Michelle complete the heist successfully and then reunite for another job. This was a fun miniseries, but I still wish there had been more emphasis on the kaiju. 

CROSSOVER #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Geoff Shaw. The protagonists, now including Madman, travel to the museum of crossover artifacts – which looks suspiciously like the Hall of Justice. The artifacts inside the museum include the Cosmic Cube, the Ultimate Nullifier, Captain America’s shield, etc. And also a sword called Valofax, which previously appeared in God Country. I have the first volume of that series, but I haven’t read it yet. Crossover has been better than I expected. 

SKULLDIGGER & SKELETON BOY #6 (Black Hammer, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Tonci Zonjic. Skeleton Boy decides to stay with the policewoman and leave Skulldigger and Grimjim (i.e. Batman and the Joker) to their useless, never-ending struggle. This ending is a poignant comment on the repetitiveness of the Batman franchise. Tonci Zonjic’s artwork is amazing, and I love how the coloring in the closing sequence, where the boy comes home, is much brighter and cheerier than in the rest of the series. However, it’s a shame that this series had such massive delays. 

THE UNION #3 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Britannia Project, Part 3: There Shall Come a… Bulldog?”, [W] Paul Grist, [A] Andrea Di Vito. Selwyn forcibly reunites the team, inculding a new character called the Bulldog, and they travel to North Wales to investigate a rogue superhuman. The highlight of this issue is the revelation that the team member named Snakes is literally a bunch of snakes in human clothing. 

FUTURE STATE: LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #2 (DC, 2021) – “Future State Part Two,” [W] Brian Michael Bendis, [A] Riley Rossmo. Another incoherent, plotless mess with inconsistent characterization. Also, Riley Rossmo’s art is kind of ugly, though at least it’s distinctive. As I have often observed, Bendis is by far the worst Legion writer ever, and I can only hope that his train wreck of a run is finally over.  

HAPPY HOUR #4 (Ahoy, 2021) – “In Praise of Melancholia,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Michael Montenat. Kim and Jerry have sex, only to realize that they have to stop, because it’s making them too happy. After being forced to participate in a drug trial, they finally get to Landor Cohen’s commune, which is just as bad as the prison they escaped from. Happy Hour is much easier to understand than most of Peter Milligan’s work. 

NUCLEAR FAMILY #1 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Radio Nowhere,” [W] Stephanie Phillips, [A] Tony Shasteen. Tim McClean is car salesman, recently returned from the Korean War. His biggest problem is his teenage daughter’s smoking addiction… at least until his town gets blown up by a nuclear bomb, and he emerges from his bomb shelter only to be accosted by soldiers who think he’s a communist. This series has an interesting premise, and its depiction of ‘50s small-town America feels accurate. 

FEAR CASE #2 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. The two protagonists trace the progression of the briefcase through a series of owners. Notably, one of the case’s previous owners is a disgusting xenophobic racist, and the reader would have been happy to see him dead. 

GWENOM VS. CARNAGE #3 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Flaviano. An issue-long fight scene between Gwenom and Mary Jane/Carnage. This may be the final issue of Spider-Gwen or Ghost-Spider or Gwenom for now. Flaviano does a good job of imitating the style of Robbi Rodriguez. 

SPIDER-WOMAN #7 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Dennis Hopeless, [A] Javier Rodriguez. Jessica, wearing Porcupine’s costume, is kidnapped, but she escapes and hides out in the trunk of her captor’s car. There’s a clever two-page spread showing how Jess managed the escape. The car takes Jess to a village that seems to be populated solely by women and small children. This story arc is fascinating, and of course I love Rodriguez’s art. 

LO MEJOR DE KALIMAN #86 (Gaea, 1965/1989) – untitled (“La Araña Negra”), [W] Victor Fox, [A] Crisvel. I ordered this from eBay. It’s in an extremely small format and appears to be a colorized reprint of an older story. In it, Kaliman and his sidekick Solín visit Cairo where they encounter an archvillain named La Araña Negra, i.e. the Black Spider. The dialogue and artwork are rather mediocre. I got three other Kaliman comics in the same order, but I haven’t read them yet. The credits are from https://kaliman.fandom.com/wiki/La_Secta_de_la_Mano_Negra:_la_Historieta.

BATMAN #18 (DC, 2013) – “Resolve,” [W] Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV, [A] Andy Kubert & Alex Maleev. In the wake of Damian’s death, Batman goes nuts – or more nuts than usual – and drives himself into his work, until he almost gets killed trying to break up a dogfighting ring. He is saved by Harper Row, a new character who would later join the Bat-family as Bluebird. I liked this more than most of the New 52 Batman comics I’ve read. Batman, as usual, spends the issue acting like a jerk, but Harper’s concern for him is heartwarming. 

CAPTAIN MARVEL #26 (Marvel, 2021) – “The New World Conclusion,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Lee Garbett. Amora sacrifices her life to send Ove back in time. Then Jessica sacrifices her life to send Carol back to the present. And then Carol breaks up with Rhodey because he’s destined to have a child with another woman. This is a very stupid and anticlimactic ending —  not only did Carol fail to beat Ove, she’s also dumped her boyfriend for no good reason. I hope Kelly has a good reason for these weird plot developments. 

FUTURE STATE: SUPERMAN VS. IMPERIOUS LEX #2 (DC, 2021) – “Future State Part 2,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Pugh. Lois’s team discovers that Lexor has incredible mineral wealth (this reminds me of John Scalzi’s novel Fuzzy Nation), but Superman finds a way to make the same materials for free, leaving Lexor penniless. The people of Lexor still think Luthor is the best, because he flatters them instead of actually helping them – another obvious reference to Trump. Unlike most of the Future State miniseries, Superman vs. Imperious Lex is three issues, so this story isn’t over yet. 

2000 AD #54 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: as above. Dare lands on the planet and encounters six different versions of Bear. MACH 1: “The Dolphin Tapes,” [W] Steve McManus, [A] Jesus Redondo. John Probe is sent to foil a plot against a government-funded dolphin research project. Colony Earth: as above. The humans discover some ancient alien technology and then get attacked by an alien robot. This story has excellent art but a boring plot – for that matter, so does the Dan Dare serial in this issue. Dredd: as above. Elvis and the other cars go on a killing spree. Dredd kills the other cars with corrosive spray, but Elvis survives. Future Shocks: “Stasis,” [W] Charles Swift, [A] Jim McCarthy & Brett Ewins. A scientist creates a stasis field that stops time. Her boss turns it on, and it doesn’t work… except actually it does, because when the reader turns the page, the last four panels are all identical, all showing the boss saying that nothing’s happened. This is extremely clever. Harlem Heroes: as above. As the Hellcats are traveling to their match with the Sharks, their “hover-liner” sinks, but they escape. 

EROTIC WORLDS OF FRANK THORNE #1 (Fantagraphics, 1990) – “The Deathman’s Head,” [W/A] Frank Thorne. Frank Thorne just passsed away at a very advanced age. The main feature in this issue is a new Ghita story, which I honestly can’t remember if I’ve read or not. I have the Eros Complete Ghita volume, but I forget if “The Deadman’s Head” is in it. It’s possible that I did read it and forgot about it, because it’s very formulaic. The rest of the issue is filler material. 

TUROK, SON OF STONE #67 (Gold Key, 1969) – “Two Kinds of Terror,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Alberto Giolitti. Turok and Andar travel through a narrow opening and fiind themselves in a land where they’re gigantic, and everything else is small. Thanks to a magical drink, they themselves get shrunk to tiny size, and on returning to the main part of Lost Valley, they have to fight giant insects and people. This story is obviously inspired by Gulliver’s Travels and Alice in Wonderland, but it’s rather boring. 

MEASLES #6 (Fantagraphics, 2000) – “Venus,” [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. A two-pager where Venus finds a buffalo nickel. “Hector and Dexter,” [W/A] Joost Swarte. A bunch of cartoon characters try to publish a newspaper. This series is better known as “Coton et Piston.” Swarte’s Clear Line artwork is amazing, but his story is silly. I’d like to get the Fantagraphics collection of all Swarte’s comics, but it’s not cheap. The other stories in this issue are by Mario Hernandez and Steven Weissman, and I didn’t particularly like either of them. 

BATMAN #421 (DC, 1988) – “Elmore’s Lady,” [W] Jim Starlin, [A] Dick Giordano. Batman tracks down a serial killer, but doesn’t have enough evidence to arrest him – something that never stopped Batman before. The title refers to a homeless man who finds one of the killers’ victims in a dumpster. This issue is just okay. 

SPIDER-WOMAN #8 (Marvel, 2015) – as above. We realize that all the people in Moon’s Hollow are the abused spouses and children of supervillains. Jess agrees not to reveal their existence to the world, as long as they don’t break the law. Ben Urich spikes the story he planned to write about the village. This was a really cute storyline. 

SAVAGE DRAGON #18 (Image, 1995) – untitled, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Dragon fights the Fiend, who unfairly blames him for the death of her daughter Debbie Harris, even though it’s clear that the Fiend was an abusive mother to begin with. There are subplots about the Vicious Circle and about William, Alex and Peter. Even this early in its run, Savage Dragon already had a very complicated plot. 

BPRD: HELL ON EARTH #103 (Dark Horse, 2013) – “The Abyss of Time Part 1,” [W] Mike Mignola & Scott Allie, [A] James Harren. The BPRD discovers the headquarters of an eigteenth-century secret society. Inside is an ancient sword. When one of the BPRD agents picks it up, he’s transported to prehistoric times, and finds that he’s a member of a tribe that’s at war with zombies. James Harren’s art in this issue is very good.

2000 AD #55 (IPC, 1978) –  I already reviewed this in 2013 (https://ogresfeathers.wordpress.com/2013/08/20/more-reviews/#2kad55) but I didn’t understand the context, and I received another copy of it in my eBay order, so I’ll review it again. Dan Dare: as above. Dan Dare blows up the planet of doppelgangers, which is genocide, but the writer doesn’t seem to care. MACH 1: as above. John Probe goes after a kidnapped dolphin. Colony Earth: Hunter finally meets the aliens, who say that they claimed Earth as their colony, millions of years ago. Dredd: as above. Dredd sets a trap for Elvis, but it backfires. Future Shocks: “Space Bug,” [W] V. Wernham, [A] Ferrer. Some humans strike oil on an alien planet, and then some mosquito-like aliens also “strike oil” by landing on the hand of one of the humans. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Hellcats-Sharks game begins. 

CEREBUS #74 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1985) – “Acquired Tastes,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus is shocked to learn that Jaka is married, but demands to see her anyway, and they spend the whole issue talking. At the end, Cerebus takes off his robe and asks Jaka to run away with him. As previously noted, this is a reversal of issue 48 where it’s Jaka asking Cerebus to run off with her. 

FUTURE STATE: AQUAMAN #2 (DC, 2021) – “The Confluence Part Two,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Daniel Sampere. Six years after the last issue, Andy goes looking for a missing Jackson and rescues him from some glowing-faced villains. I wanted to like this miniseries, but this issue is confusing and only mildly fun. 

MAESTRO: WAR & PAX #2 (Marvel, 2021) – “Crossing the Rubicon,” [W] Peter David, [A] Javier Pina. The Pantheon team up with Dr. Doom. There’s a backup story where Prometheus dies. I hope this is the last issue of Maestro that I’ll be getting. 

BARBIE FASHION #41 (Marvel, 1994) – “April Fools,” [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Mary Wilshire. Skipper tris to pull an April Fool’s prank on Barbie. There’s also a metafictional backup story where the Barbie staff is told that the series is being cancelled. It includes appearances by Barbara Slate, Hildy Mesnik, Tom DeFalco, etc. The cancellation is an April Fool’s joke, but the series really did get cancelled less than a year later. 

NEXT MEN #2 (Dark Horse, 1992) – “Worldview,” [W/A] John Byrne. The Next Men escape from prison, and there are numerous references to Byrne’s collaborators like Stern and Ordway. I don’t know why I bother buying this comic, because I don’t like it all that much. 

SPACEMAN #3 (DC, 2012) – “Past 1,000,000,” [W] Brian Azzarello, [A] Eduardo Risso. I think the premise of this series is that some children are being raised to live in space, and one of them gets kidnapped. I don’t really care about the plot because I’m only interestd in this series for the artwork, which as usual is excellent. 

SCARLET TRACES: THE GREAT GAME #2 (Dark Horse, 2006) – untitled, [W] Ian Edginton, [A] D’Israeli. A journalist interviews a veteran of the War of the Worlds, and discovers that the British government has been misleading the people about a lot of things. This issue has a compelling plot and also the best artwork I’ve seen from D’Israeli. He draws some great steampunk architecture and technology, and his coloring is as vibrant as the coloring in French SF comics. 

MARVEL TEAM-UP #72 (Marvel, 1978) – “Crack of the Whip!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Jim Mooney. Spider-Man and Iron Man team up against Whiplash and the Wraith. This is a very generic comic, and the only interesting thing about it is its depiction of the Wraith’s relationship with his sister Jean DeWolff. 

FANTASTIC FOUR #157 (Marvel, 1975) – “And Now… the Endgame Cometh!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Rich Buckler. Dr. Doom disguises a Latverian peasant named Helena as Shalla-Bal so that he can force the Silver Surfer to serve him, and he drains the Surfer’s power and transfers it to his Doomsman robot. In an epilogue, we learn that Helena really was Shalla-Bal, and Doom himself didn’t know it. This story feels like a slightly altered rehash of the first Doom-Surfer story, from exactly a hundred issues earlier. 

HEAVY METAL #3.3 (28) (HM, 1979) – There’s too much material in this issue to mention all of it. Highlights include: Corben and Strnad’s adaptation of Sindbad. Denis Sire’s “The Great Trap,” an action story drawn in a style that reminds me a bit of Kaluta. “Stingaree: Eight Belles,” a superhero story by Gray Morrow. An incoherent piece of crap by Michael Hinge and Neal Adams. “Shelter” by Chantal Montellier, whose art is like Tardi’s but less skilled. “Telefield” by Sergio Macedo. According to one letter writer in this issue, Macedo was the only good artist left at Heavy Metal at this point; I disagree. Macedo was good, but there were other good ones. A prose story by John Pocsik, better known as Corben’s collaborator Simon Revelstroke. I need to collect more Heavy Metal because it’s a convenient way to read a lot of good European comics. 

IMAGINE #4 (Star*Reach, 1982) – “A Dream of Milk & Honey,” [W] Michael T. Gilbert. An old Jewish couple, significantly named Abraham and Sarah, try to colonize an alien planet. At the end, we learn that Sarah is pregnant despite being very old. I don’t know if Gilbert is Jewish, but this story has heavy Jewish themes. “The Summoning,” [W] Paul Levitz, [A] Steve Ditko. Three wizards each petition a god for power, but the god gives the power to a tree instead. Levitz’s writing is underwhelming, and Ditko’s art looks exactly like it did when he was drawing Dr. Strange, which is not necessarily a good thing. “The Awakening of Tamaki,” [W] Lee Marrs, [A] Masaichi Mukaide. A young woman in feudal Japan becomes a samurai. Mukaide was one of the first Japanese cartoonists to be published in America, but he was a fan artist, not a professional mangaka. My sense was that he wasn’t good enough to break into the manga industry, and he randomly happened to get published by Star*Reach instead. There’s also a four-page story by a young Dave Sim. 

BATMAN: BLACK & WHITE #3 (DC, 2021) – “The Cavalry,” [W] John Ridley, [A] Olivier Coipel. A young black Batman and Robin fight some racist henchmen. John Ridley seems to be an important emerging talent. I should have been reading his Other History of the DC Universe. The next two stories are by Bilquis Evely and Bengal, neither of whom has any previoius writing experience, and it shows.  “Unquiet Night,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Kelley Jones. Zatanna helps Batman’s ghost rest in peace. The last story is by Nick Dragotta, who also has no prior writing credits. However, his story is better than Evely’s or Bengal’s because it has minimal dialogue, and Dragotta’s artwork is gorgeous; he draws beautiful robots and monsters. 

CEREBUS #75 – “Terrible Analogies,” as above. Cerebus offers to dissolve Jaka’s marriage, which he can do since he’s the Pope, but Jaka reveals that she’s pregnant. Cerebus and Jaka bid a bittersweet farewell. This is one of the most emotionally affecting issues of Cerebus. 

ANT BOY #1 (SteelDragon, 1988) – “Ant Boy and the Scientist” and other stories, [W/A] Matt Feazell. A bunch of stories about a “superhero” who was raised by ants (after they killed his parents at a picnic) and who still thinks he’s an unusually large ant. It’s a pretty funny premise. The first story in this issue is original, and the others are repritned, mostly from Captain Confederacy. Feazell’s style in these stories is far more detailed than his usual stick-figure style. SteelDragon Press was Emma Bull and Will Shetterly, and this issue includes an ad for their books and those of their associated SF writers. 

BARBIE FASHION #42 (Marvel, 1994) – “Barbie in Fashion,” [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Mary Wilshire. A little girl gets lost in a museum exhibit of Barbie’s old costumes, and runs into the real Barbie. Later, Barbie mentions the girl in a speech at a gala event. Unusually, this story takes up the entire issue. 

2000 AD #56 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: “Waterworld,” [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Dave Gibbons. Dan Dare’s ship is ensnared by a giant sea monster. Dave Gibbons’s composition and draftsmanship are amazing, but Chris Lowder’s Dan Dare stories were consistently boring. I should note that in 2000 AD’s first couple years, Dan Dare was the series’ marquee character, but he was quickly replaced in that role by Dredd. Future Shocks: “Monkey,” [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Carlos? Magallanes. A ripoff of “A Sound of Thunder.” The artist is credited only as “Magullanes,” an obvious misspelling. Colony Earth: as above. The aliens start freezing the oceans to create a new ice age. Dredd: as above (though this chapter is called “Elvis” instead of “The Killer Car”). Dredd finally tricks Elvis by hosting a party for him, and kills him with the corrosive spray. MACH 1: as above (the writer is credited as Oniano but the GCD says this was a pseudonym for Steve McManus). Probe discovers that the missing secret agent Robert Peel has been turned into a man-fish, and that this was the purpose of the dolphin experiments. Harlem Heroes: as above. Half the Hellcats are incapacitated by an explosion. 

IMAGINARY FIENDS #5 (Vertigo, 2018) – “The Cat’s Paw,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Stephen Molnar. Melba’s partner fights the Fraidy Cat. We learn some new information about Melba’s history with Cameron Calle. I honestly didn’t understand this issue’s plot; in particular, I don’t get who Cameron is. This is the last issue of this series that I have. 

On March 15, I received my final DCBS shipment. They were waiting to send it until all my unshipped items arrived, but I asked them to just send it and cancel all the other outstanding items. Most of the comics in this shipment were Marvel comics that I ordered before the pandemic. 

RUNAWAYS #33 (Marvel, 2021) – “Come Away with Me Pt. II,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Andrés Genolet. Gib becomes a football star. Karolina has a mysterious illness. Wolverine arrives at the Hostel and tries to take Molly with him to Krakoa. Molly wears three different hats this issue (a duck hat, a panda hat and a koala hat); that may be a record. 

RUNAWAYS #34 – as above. The high point of this issue comes on page one, when Wolverine is carrying Molly on his back, and Molly jumps down and throws Wolverine over her back. Wolverine thinks Molly sent him a distress call asking him to be taken to Krakoa, but the distress call actually came from a different mutant. While looking for the mutant, the Runaways fight some monsters from the tar pits. Nico casts the spell “Get real!” and it produces surprising results. Now that Ms. Marvel and Squirrel Girl are gone, Runaways is my favorite Marvel title, but it’s at constant risk of cancellation. 

POWER PACK #3 (Marvel, 2021) – as above. This issue is narrated by Julie, and again, Ryan understands her perfectly. He also remembers that Julie got a new girlfriend during the brief Future Foundation series. This issue, the kids fight the Taskmaster, and then Agent Aether unmasks himself as the Wizard and drains their powers. 

THE UNION #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Flag Game,” as above. In this issue we meet Britain’s new superhero team, and then Britannia, the (never-before-mentioned) national superheroine of Britain, is killed by Knull’s symbiotes. As I’ve mentioned before, this is an obvious analogy to Brexit and its potential consequence of the dissolution of the United Kingdom. The TV commercial on the first page is drawn by Grist himself.

CHAMPIONS #3 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Eve Ewing, [A] Bob Quinn. The imprisoned kids start a rebellion. The fugitive Champions hide in a kid’s treehouse, but the CRADLE troops track them down even there. The X-Men show up to save the day. Eve Ewing’s characterization is brilliant, but Outlawed is a dumb storyline and a poor use of her talents. 

AMERICA CHAVEZ: MADE IN THE USA #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Kalinda Vázquez, [A] Carlos Gómez. The previous America Chavez series was a disaster. This new one is also by a writer who hasn’t written comics before, but it’s a lot better; it at least has a coherent plot, and beyond that, it feels touching and honest. In the present day, America and her girlfriend Ramone (from West Coast Avengers) fight some giant moles and save people from a burning building, and in a flashback, we see how America was adopted by the Santana family. 

ATLANTIS ATTACKS #5 (Marvel, 2021) – “Eye of the Storm Part 5,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Robert Gill & Ario Anindito. After some fighting, Mike Nguyen gets killed by a tsunami, and Mrs. Thrasapalat becomes a delegate to Pan’s new governing council. This was a really fun series, and I hope we get to see more of Pak’s version of the Agents of Atlas.

KING IN BLACK: NAMOR #4 (Marvel, 2021) – “Cold Currents,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Benjamin Dewey w/ Jonas Scharf. Attuma’s father dies, inspiring Attuma with a lifelong hatred for Atlantis, which explains why he’s a villain in the present day. The Swift Tide invades Atlantis. Ambrose, Dorma’s fish, reappears and coughs up the Unforgotten Stone. 

RAIN LIKE HAMMERS #2 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Brandon Graham. This issue has no obvious connection to the last one. A thief named (I think) Brik Blok infiltrates a city called  Sky Cradle and transfers his brain into the body of a servant. His goal is to rescue a woman named El from the center of the city. Sky Cradle’s technology includes fingerprint locks and food that’s so refined, only aristocrats can taste it. Rain Like Hammers is gorgeously drawn and full of clever, whimsical ideas. But I still feel guilty about supporting Graham’s work. 

MARVEL VOICES: LEGACY #1 (Marvel, 2021) – variious stories, [E] Sarah Brunstad & Will Moss. A collection of stories celebrating Black History Month. “Good Luck Girl” is the first comic by Tochi Onyebuchi, author of the novel Riot Baby, which I’m waiting to read until it’s out in paperback. Nnedi Okorafor and Chriscross’s “A Luta Continua” is about the #EndSARS movement in Nigeria. I think I mostly learned about #EndSARS from Okorafor’s Facebook posts. 

MONSTRESS #32 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. Maika finally confronts Tuya and the Warlord. Maika summons her grandmother’s spirit. As noted in previous reviews, reading Monstress has come to feel like a chore, but I feel obilgated to keep buying it. 

2000 AD #57 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: as above. The Eagle ship is nearly crushed by water pressure. Dare encounters some aquatic humanoid creatures. MACH 1: as above. Peel sacrifices himself to save Probe’s life, and all the villains end up dead. Colony Earth: as above. Hunter fights some aliens and then investigates a crashed alien saucer. Dredd: “The Oxygen Board,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Brian Bolland. Some criminals replace the moon’s oxygen with tranquilizer gas, allowing them to commit crimes while people are asleep. Ironically, the criminals themselves suffocate because they’ve forgotten to pay their oxygen bill. Brian Bolland is my pick for the greatest artist in the history of 2000 AD, though Carlos Ezquerra was probably more influential. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Hellcats finally win their game against the Sharks. 

CEREBUS #76 – “Varying Reasons of Assorted Depths,” as above. Cerebus visits Weisshaupt, who is on his deathbed. Weisshaupt tells Cerebus that there are two more aardvarks in Estarcion, but dies without identifying them (they’re much later revealed as Cirin and Suenteus Po). In the note and letters page, Dave discusses his visit to Heroes Con. This year’s Heroes Con was just cancelled, a sad but indisputably correct decision. 

MARVELS SNAPSHOTS: CIVIL WAR #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Program,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Ryan Kelly. This issue has Maria Hill on the cover, but its protagonist is Clyde Dobronski, a rank-and-file SHIELD agent. The other focal character is Yusef Abbas, AKA the Helper, an Arab-American superhero from Toledo. In flashbacks, we see how Dobronski’s high moral standards have harmed his career. During Civil War, Dobronski is reassigned to Toledo where he guards Abbas’s cell. Abbas mounts an escape attempt, and Dobronski finally realizes that he sympathizes far more with Abbas than with his tyrannical bosses. Dobronski helps Abbas and another young superhero escape, sacrificing his career and possibly his freedom but saving his soul. This is one of Saladin’s best single issues. 

UNIVERSAL WAR ONE: REVELATION #3 (Marvel, 2009) – “The Patriarch,” [W/A] Denis Bajram. This was originally published in France as an album. It’s a science fiction story involving time travel and a corporation that runs the entire world. This is the sixth in a series of six albums, so its plot is hard to understand. However, Denis Bajram’s plot seems very complicated and clever, he draws beautiful spaceships and futuristic architecture, and his coloring is excellent. There is an English-language hardcover edition of all six albums, and I ought to get it. 

U.S.AGENT #3 (Marvel, 2021) – “Election Day,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Georges Jeanty. This issue reintroduces Lemar Hoskins, formerly known as Bucky and then Battlestar. This character started out as an unintentional racist stereotype – a black man whose code name was a racial slur, and who served as a white man’s sidekick. Priest leans into this by depicting Lemar as a victim of internalized racism. And then Lemar is nearly beaten to death by the new USAgent, aka Saint, who is a much more self-confident and militant black man, but Priest implies that Saint’s attitude is no less problematic than Lemar’s. Also, there’s a plot thread about John Walker. 

ICE CREAM MAN #23 (Image, 2021) – “Late Night Splashes,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. I was reluctant to read this because it’s mostly text: the left-hand pages are mostly text, while the right-hand pages are splash pages. The comics pages show how Mack Benson, a talk show host, is critically injured by a guest’s Burmese python. The prose pages give us the background behind this tragedy, from the separate perspectives of Benson, his wife, his affair partner, his brother, and the animal trainer. This issue is an interesting experiment, and I like how the different stories gradually shed light on each other, but I don’t like it when comics include a lot of prose. 

MARVELS SNAPSHOT: CAPTAIN MARVEL #1 (Marvel, 2021) – “What’s Your Story?”, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Claire Roe. Quoting myself from Facebook: “Maybe I’m just being hypercritical, but the Ms. Marvel flashback in Marvels Snapshot: Captain Marvel is a severe misreading of Ms. Marvel #1. It gives the false impression that Kamala is ashamed of her culture.” A particular problem here is that Kamala says she feels pressured to “celebrate our holidays, not theirs.” G. Willow Wilson made it clear that Kamala loves celebrating Eid – and more broadly, that Kamala is a heroine because of her culture, not despite it. So Mark doesn’t seem to understand this character at all. I also said: “I also agree with this review here: https://www.gamesradar.com/captain-marvel-marvels…/ Jenni’s problem with her parents is that they don’t support her activism, but her activism is of a kind that’s completely uncontroversial among the kind of people who would be reading this comic. Like, she supports BLM and trans rights. As a result, it feels as if she’s fighting against a strawman.” The flashbacks about Carol Danvers’s dad are better writen, and more consistent with past stories, but overall, this issue is a disappointment. And this isn’t even the first time Mark has tried to be progressive but has been offensive instead; see also Strange Fruit and Champions #10. At this point, I think he just has some fundamental blind spots. 

VAGRANT QUEEN: A PLANET CALLED DOOM #6 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Jason Smith. It’s been a whole year since this miniseries began, and I’ve totally lost track of its plot. The main event is that Isaac has to sacrifice his chance of returning to Earth in order to defeat his older counterpart. I wonder if this will be Mags’s last monthly comic; her latest work is in trade paperback format. 

I BREATHED A BODY #2 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Cooperative Resilience,” [W] Zac Thompson, [A] Andy MacDonald. Mylo’s dead body is dissected on a livestream. Anne/Zoe becomes increasingly uncomfortable working for Mylo’s dad. This series is disgusting and disturbing, and I don’t particularly like it. I feel obliged to finish reading it now that I’ve started, but I’ll be hesitant to read Zac Thompson’s future work. 

CRIMSON FLOWER #2 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Matt Lesniewski. Rodion (I only know her name from the next issue blurb) hunts down some more suspects in her father’s murder, and there are a bunch of references to Russian folklore. Lesniewski draws really ugly faces, and hair that looks tentacles. This is on purpose, but it’s creepy.  

EDGAR ALLAN POE’S SNIFTER OF BLOOD #5 (Ahoy, 2021) – “The Adventure of the Three Narrators,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Greg Scott. A rather silly metatextual mashup of Poe and Sherlock Holmes. It’s funny because its silliness is so deadpan.  “Ms. Found in a Bottle,” [W] Kek-W, [A] Alberto Ponticelli. A hollow earth story, except it’s more like an onion earth composed of multiple concentric spheres. This is an interesting idea, but otherwise the story is incoherent. 

2000 AD #58 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: as above. Dare and his crew fight undersea monsters called Slurgs and Snappers. MACH 1: “Swamp Saga”, [W] Roy Preston, [A] John Cooper. John Probe encounters a family of homicidal maniacs in the Everglades. Colony Earth: as above. Hunter plots his assault on the saucer that’s melting the ice caps. Again, Jim Watson’s art is beautiful, but his plot is of no interest. Dredd: “Full Earth Crimes,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Brian Bolland & Ian Gibson. A “full earth” (like a full moon) causes a crime wave. The entire story is credited to Bolland, but it’s obvious that he only did the first two pages. The other four pages appear to be by Mike McMahon, though the 2000 AD website credits them to Ian Gibson. Future Shocks: “Juggernaut,” [W] Hunter Tremayne, [A] Garry Leach. A remote-controlled tank accidentally destroys its own controllers. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Hellcats visit the factory where Pearly was manufactured. This story has two beautiful panels, one depicting a “beehive jungle” and the other a giant garbage robot. 

CEREBUS #84 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1985) – “Chariot of the Queen, Chariot of the Lovers,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus has dinner with Michelle, an old associate of Weisshaupt’s, and she gives him Weisshaupt’s final message. Much of the issue focuses on the Roach and the henchmen Fleagle and Drew. All of them are dressed like Venom and are under the impression that they’re particpating in the “Secret Sacred Wars.” This is an obvious reference to Marvel’s Secret Wars. 

THE BULLETPROOF COFFIN #4 (Image, 2010) – “Red Wraith, Red Wraith, Red Wraith,” [W] David Hine, [A] Shaky Kane. Steve has a further series of surreal, metatextual adventures. Like Hine’s earlier work Strange Embrace, Bulletproof Coffin has a complicated plot with multiple levels of narration, but Bulletproof Coffin is even harder to follow than Strange Embrace was. The main appeal of this comic is Shaky Kane’s psychedelic/Kirbyesque art. 

RED THORN #4 (Vertigo, 2016) – “Castles Made of Sand,” [W] David Baillie, [A] Megan Hetrick. Isla and Thorn visit Morocco and meet a mute boy who knows every language. This series has too many concepts crammed into not enough space, and it lacks a coherent focus. I wish it had just been an urban fantasy set in Scotland. 

GRIMJACK #79 (First, 1991) – “Dragons in the Blood,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Flint Henry. I know of just two comics artists who have the exact same name, but with first name and surname reversed: Flint Henry and Henry Flint. This issue is set 200 years after Grimjack’s classic period, and stars James Twilley, the reincarnation of the deceased John Gaunt. It barely feels like Grimjack, and I have little interest in collecting this era of the series, even though I love Ostrander’s writing. The letters page includes an announcement that First was cancelling all its monthly titles. 

A small eBay order of two underground comics: 

THE MAN #1 (Print Mint, 1972) – untitled, [W/A] Vaughn Bodé. A series of vignettes about  a caveman, his stick, and his pet lizard. A fairly atypical work for Bodé since it includes no women or machinery. The art is cruder and more angular than his art usually was. 

NO DUCKS! #2 (Last Gasp, 1979) – various stories, [E] Tim Boxell. Highlights of this issue include a Star Wars parody by George Metzger, and a slapstick story about evolution by Hunt Emerson. Also Steve Leialoha’s parody of Moebius’s Airtight Garage. Other contributors include Boxell himself and Rich Larson. 

CEREBUS #85 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1985) – “Missing It for the World,” [W/A] Dave Sim. On his way back to the Upper City, Cerebus meets Mick and Keef, i.e. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Mick gives Cerebus his special blend of whiskey and codeine, causing Cerebus to go nuts. This is a pretty hilarious issue. However, by this time, Dave was starting to show his bad qualities. Less and less was happening in each issue of Cerebus, the plot was becoming unfocused, and there was less humor. 

YAHOO #3 (Fantagraphics, 1990) – “The Perfect Day,” [W/A] Joe Sacco. The first story in this issue is an autobiographical piece about Sacco’s annoying experiences working in a library. Then there’s a stream-of-consciousness story that appears to be about Sacco’s childhood in Malta. This story is tedious to read because each page is just a single image on the right, and a wall of text on the left. Also, one of the images is repeated on three different pages. Sacco’s style here is essentially the same as his mature style, with tons of detail and obsessive cross-hatching. It’s weird to read a Joe Sacco comic that’s not journalistic. 

2000 AD #59 (IPC, 1978) – Starting this issue the covers are just normal covers, and the Dan Dare stories no longer begin on the covers. Dan Dare: as above. Dare continues his fight with the Snappers and Slurgs. MACH 1: “Origins,” [W] Nick Landau & Roy Preston, [A] Lothano. While investigating his origin, John Probe is again kidnapped by Sharpe and meets his replacement, MACH 2. “Lothano” is otherwise unknown, but this name could be a misspelling of Lozano, i.e. Leopoldo Sanchez. Colony Earth: as above. Hunter and his allies attack the alien space station. Dredd: “Return to Mega-City,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Mike McMahon. Back on Earth, Dredd witnesses a number of crimes and ignores them all, but only because he hasn’t been sworn back in as a judge yet. After being sworn in, Dredd arrests all the criminals. Future Shocks: “Tin Can,” [W Mike Cruden, [A] José Luis Ferrer. In a postapocalyptic future, two people fight over a tin can that turns out to contain only worthless oil. Harlem Heroes: as above. The scientist who built Pearly has already been murdered, and the Hellcats have to fight the giant robot that killed him. 

JUNGLE ACTION #3 (Marvel, 1973) – Tharn: “Elephant Charge!”, [W] Don Rico, [A] Joe Maneely. Four stories reprinted from the ‘50s. The first one is an obvious Tarzan ripoff, only notable for being drawn by Maneely. The protagonist was originally named “Lo-Zar” and had blond hair, but to avoid confusion with Ka-Zar, he was renamed to Tharn and his hair was recolored red (http://www.toonopedia.com/lozar.htm). This issue also includes two jungle girl stories and a story about lions. All four stories are ’50s reprints. The other artists in the issue are Werner Roth, Jack Katz and Arthur Peddy. 

INCREDIBLE HULK #455 (Marvel, 1997) – “Waiting to X-Hale,” [W] Peter David, [A] Adam Kubert. The Hulk rampages through the X-Mansion, and there are subplots about Betty and Janis. The #440s and #450s were the low point of PAD’s run. As a kid, I dropped the series with #449, and I was right to do it. I still haven’t bothered to collect any of the issues from #450 to #465, except this one. 

FLIGHT PRIMER (Image, 2005) – “Maiden Voyage,” [W/A] Kazu Kibuishi. This FCBD comic was a preview of Flight, an anthology series that helped launch the careers of a lot of YA and middle grade cartoonists. Come to think of it, I should look at Flight for my research. In the first story, a boy and his dog build a plane, but it crashes the first time they fly it. This story includes some impressive art and coloring. There’s a backup story by Jake Parker, about a robot and a bird. 

SAN FRANCISCO COMIC BOOK #2 (Print Mint, 1970) – [E] Gary Arlington. Greg Irons’s “The Wall” is basically a prediction of Trump’s border wall. Kim Deitch’s “Hole Kloth Comics” is about androids that can impregnate women remotely. The longest story in the issue, a six-pager by Larry Welz, is a film noir parody about a narcotics agent. Other contributors to this issue are Rick Griffin, Willy Murphy, Robert Williams, Jim Osborne, Spain, Trina Robbins, R. Crumb, Dan O’Neill and S. Clay Wilson, but most of their contributions are very short. Still, that’s an impressive lineup of talent.  

CHEVAL NOIR #20 (Dark Horse, 1991) – [E] Mike Richardson. This issue begins with a chapter of Tardi’s Mummies on Parade. I have the Fantagraphics volume that contains this album, but I haven’t read it yet. The chapter from Cosey’s “Voyage to Italy” finally explains what this story is about: the little girl is a Vietnamese refugee, and Shirley is trying to keep her illegally, rather than surrender her to an aunt in a refugee camp. NBM later published this album in color under the title “In Search of Shirley.” Andreas’s “The Graveyard of Cathedrals” is poorly reproduced, but includes a stunning two-page splash depicting a literal graveyard of cathedrals. The highlight of the issue is Rosinski and Van Hamme’s “The Great Power of the Chninkel,” a fantasy story that reminds me a bit of Tolkien or Wally Wood. This issue also includes Phil Elliott’s “Post Apocalypse,” Cailleteau and Vatine’s “Fred and Bob,” and Marvano’s adaptation of The Forever War. 

CEREBUS #86 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1986) – “Flying Off the Handle at Oblique Angles,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Elrod shows up and starts babbling about the Secret Sacred Wars. The Roach climbs the wall to the Upper City, and Cerebus climbs after him. Weisshaupt’s ghost appears and warns Cerebus not to let the Roach reach the gold. The Black Tower begins to grow. I didn’t quite understand this issue. 

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #798 (Marvel, 2018) – “Go Down Swinging Part 2: The Rope-a-Dope,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Stuart Immonen. Peter tries to track down Phil Urich, who’s been kidnapped and, unknown to the reader, killed by Norman Osborn. Norman merges with Carnage and demands that Peter stop being Spider-Man, or Norman will kill everyone Peter loves. Compared to Slott’s earlier stories, this issue is just okay, and Norman Osborn is perhaps my least favorite Marvel villain. He ought to have stayed dead. 

TREASURE CHEST #18.16 (Geo. A. Pflaum, 1963) – “The Mystery of Shady Falls,” [W] Ruth Geller & Burton Geller, [A] Reed Crandall. A boring story, but with beautiful draftsmanship. There’s also a lesson on perspective by Frank Borth, a Chuck White story by Fran Matera, and a humor story by Eric St. Clair and Paul Eismann, with some truly hideous art. 

INVISIBLES #9 (DC, 1995) – “23: Things Fall Apart,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Jill Thompson. The number 23 refers to the 23rd hexagram in the I Ching. This issue, the Invisibles are trapped in their headquarters and a lot of enemy soldiers are coming for them. They escape by faking their own deaths and then disguising themselves as the enemy. Also, Jack kills a man for the first time and is traumatized. This issue is less difficult than I expected. 

BATMAN #35 (DC, 2018) – “The Rules of Engagement, Part 3,” [W] Tom King, [A] Joëlle Jones. Catwoman fights Talia, who believes Selina is unworthy of marrying Batman. Selina is totally overmatched, but manages to win Talia’s respect. The disturbing part is that Selina admits that she knows she’ll always come second to Batman’s war on crime. It’s a good thing she ended up not marrying him. This issue also includes some funny dialogue between Dick and Damian. 

VEIL #2 (Dark Horse, 2014) – untitled, [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Toni Fejzula. A black man tries to protect a mysterious teenage girl from the police, but fails. Also, a green-haired dude with glasses performs a magic ritual. The selling point of this comic is Toni Fejzula’s beautiful art, which looks more painted than drawn. 

2000 AD #61 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: “Nightmare Planet,” [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Brian Lewis. Dare lands on a weird planet where he encounters a giant version of the Mekon. Brian Lewis draws some beautifully weird creatures, but overall his art is a step down in quality from Dave Gibbons’s. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Hellcats play against the Virginia Vics. A man named Chubb resurrects a villain named Artie Gruber, who blames Giant for his death. Colony Earth: as above. Hunter destroys the alien flagship. “Even for 1978, [Colony Earth] appeared somewhat dated, leading to suspicions that it had actually been an inventory story created for an earlier title” (https://britishcomics.fandom.com/wiki/Colony_Earth). Dredd: “The Cursed Earth,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Mike McMahon. This is a key turning point in Dredd’s history. It’s technically the second extended Dredd story, the first being “Luna,” but “Luna” was really just a collection of vignettes. “The Cursed Earth” is the first long Dredd story with a cohesive plot. It also massively expands Dredd’s universe by sending him outside Mega-City One. In chapter one, a pilot named Red informs Dredd of a plague that’s ravaging Mega-City Two. After Red himself dies of the plague, Dredd volunteers to cross the perilous Cursed Earth to bring medicine to the dying city. MACH 1: “The Final Encounter,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] José Pérez Montero. This story begins with John Probe’s funeral, and then a flashback depicts the start of his final mission. 

HEAVY METAL #1.11 (HM, 1978) – [E] Sean Kelly & Valerie Marchant. Again I’ll just mention the highlights. Corben’s Den chapter includes a character named Uluhtc, which is almost Cthulhu backwards. Victor Mora and Luis Garcia’s “The Winter of the Last Combat” is the same story that appeared in Vampirella under the title “The Wolves at War’s End,” and that was rated by David Roach as the second best Warren story ever. It’s about a soldier who returns from the Crusades to find Europe in the grip of the Black Death. Garcia’s scratchy artwork is beautiful, and Mora’s story is compelling, but unfortunately this issue only includes half the story. Denis Sire’s “Diabolical Planet” includes some nice machinery and cheesecake art. Druillet’s “Urm” is almost too beautiful and hyperdetailed to actually read. The centerfold of the issue is a gorgeous painting by Alex Niño. Moebius’s “Free Fall” is a wordless story about a man falling. This issue also includes stories by Macedo and Montellier and a chapter of Forest’s Barbarella. 

THE WITCHING HOUR #34 (DC, 1973) – “Dracula Had a Daughter,” [W] Carl Wessler, [A] Nestor Redondo. A woman is suspected of being a vampire, but the real vampire is her uncle. Wessler’s story is stupid, but Redondo’s art is beautiful. “Over My Dead Body,” [W] Wessler, [A] Ruben Yandoc. Frank Morrow accidentally photographs an escaped criminal. Morrow’s Haitian roommate uses a voodoo doll to kill the criminal and save Morrow.  “I Died Last Night,” [W] George Kashdan, [A] Rico Rival. A journalist nearly gets himself killed while trying to write an obituary. 

My next trip to Heroes was on March 25th. That day I had an excellent lunch at Lupie’s Café, but the whole day was overshadowed somewhat by the news of Marvel’s deal with Penguin Random House. I think this deal could have a lot of benefits, but my automatic reaction was to worry that it will mean the end of the direct market. That’s just how my mind works. 

ONCE & FUTURE #17 (Boom!, 2021) – “Long Live the King,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. Lancelot fights the dragon, and Rose gets it to befriend her. Galahad and Percival (Duncan) approach the Grail Castle, now joined by Jason Hempleworth, who we learn is an actual knight. I assume that means he’s going to be Sir Bors. (BTW, the guy who calls him “Sir Hempleworth” is mistaken; it should be “Sir Jason.”) This wasn’t the best recent issue, but I stil love this series. 

SWEET TOOTH: THE RETURN #5 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Gus and Earl start proceeding toward the exit to the overworld – which is exactly what Father wants them to do, since his goal is to have them spread the virus to the hybrids. This is a thrilling miniseries and I’m sorry it’s just six issues. Jeff Lemire may be the preeminent creator in direct market comics at the moment. 

ORPHAN AND THE FIVE BEASTS  #1 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] James Stokoe. Mo, a young martial arts expert, begins a mission to defeat the five beasts that are ravaging her valley. This comic’s plot is obviously inspired by thte wuxia genre, but its visual style is only vaguely Chinese and is simliar to that of Stokoe’s other work. Of course the appeal of this comic is that it’s another masterpiece by the finest draftsman currently working in American comics. Every page of this issue is a masterpiece packed with obsessive detail and visual creativity. This comic takes a while to read, like all Stokoe’s comics, but it’s worth it. 

STRAY DOGS #2 (Image, 2021) – “Stay,” as above. Rusty restores Sophie’s memory by having her smell her old master’s scarf. Rusty and Sophie investigate the room that their master won’t let them enter. In there, Sophie finds a picture of the master of one of the other dogs. Stray Dogs is one of the most believable portrayals of dogs that I’ve seen in comic book. Tony Fleecs seems to understand dog psychology very well. This comic is also surprisingly mature, given that its creators are best known for pony comics. 

STRANGE ACADEMY #9 (Marvel, 2021) – “Parents’ Day,” [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. Calvin has a nightmare about his evil foster parents, then wakes up to discover that it’s Parents’ Day. Luckily Doyle’s dad is not present. Doyle and Calvin explore the school’s treasure vault while the other kids and their parents play games. This issue has some really cute and funny moments. 

SPECTER INSPECTORS #2 (Boom!, 2021) – “The Library,” [W/A] Bowen McCurdy, [W] Kaitlyn Musto. The protagonists visit the library, where they encounter the ghost of a librarian named Agatha Birch. Specter Inspectors is another in a long line of excellent Boom! Box titles. The comic it reminds me of most is Misfit City, because of the small-town setting and the style of art. 

ETERNALS #3 (Marvel, 2021) – “Only Death is Eternal, Part 3,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Esad Ribic. The most impressive thing about this comic is the massive list of Deviant names. I’m guessing that these names were automatically generated, but they’re weird and brilliant. Also in this issue, Ikaris becomes Toby Robson’s bodyguard, and Druig discovers that the Polarian Eternals have ben murdered. 

USAGI YOJIMBO #17 (IDW, 2021) – “Tengu War! Part Two,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi and Sojobo are about to get killed by Guhin Tengu, but Sojobo’s wife Nozomi arrives and saves them. Usagi duels a bird tengu to prove his worthiness to fight alongside Sojobo. This issue is pretty average. 

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #95 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Thom Zahler, [A] Toni Kuusisto. After a very well-executed silent sequence, Pinkie and Cheese discover that the silence spell can be broken by laughter. Pinkie and Cheese talk about how their laughter is better together, a possible allusion to the child they’re going to have. This was a really cute story, and I just got the pun on “muffletta.”

SEA OF STARS #9 (Image, 2021) – “The People of the Broken Moon,” [W] Jason Aaron & Dennis Hallum, [A] Stephen Green. The Zzazteks offer to help Kadyn find his dad. Gil deliberately gets eaten by a giant leviathan. Kadyn uses the war club to summon his dad, but the “dad” who shows up is a monstrous dark man. I like this series a lot, but its plot has gotten hard to follow.  

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #115 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Sophie Campbell. The Turtles use a video call with Karai to calm Tokka and Rahzar down. Lita challenges Bebop and Rocksteady to a battle of the bands. Koya gets sick of the Turtles’ arguing and tells them to “harness your darkness.” This is such a cute and heartwarming comic, just like Sophie Campbell’s Jem was.  

WONDER WOMAN #770 (DC, 2021) – “Afterworlds Part 1,” [W] Michael W. Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Travis Moore. Diana somehow finds herself in Valhalla, fighting alongside Norse warriors. The squirrel Ratatosk asks Diana for help restoring Yggdrasil. There’s also a Young Diana backup story by Jordie Bellaire and Paulina Ganucheau, a highly underrated artist. I was a bit uncertain about reading this series, but I enjoyed this issue. 

BIRTHRIGHT #47 (Image, 2021) – “Two Months Later,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Mikey apprehends a mercenary who’s been selling stolen Terrenos artifacts. Mikey discovers that Brennan has been using his magic to hunt down other magicians on Earth, so his next goal is to find Brennan. Rya and the rest of the cast don’t appear, and we still haven’t seen Mikey’s parents since they got stuck in Terrenos. 

RADIANT BLACK #2 (Image, 2021) – “Better Off Red,” [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Marcelo Costa. This is an improvement on issue 1 because Nathan’s character actually evolves. Nathan’s dad forces Nathan to admit that he’s not making any money from his writing, and demands that Nathan get a job or move out. That’s correct parenting. Also, Nathan fights a costumed criminal who looks just like him, only red instead of black. 

ABBOTT 1973 #3 (Boom!, 2021) – “Mayors and Mafiosos,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Sami Kivelä. At my family’s Zoom seder, I got a chance to show this comic to my uncle who works as a journalist in Detroit. This issue Elena discovers that her girlfriend was kidnapped by gangsters. After fighting a spidery female magician, she asks for help from her previously unseen brother Elmer, a veteran and recovering drug addict. The issue ends with Elena and Elmer preparing to rescue Elena’s girlfriend from the gangsters’ hotel. 

THOR & LOKI: DOUBLE TROUBLE #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] GuriHiru. Loki tricks Thor into stealing a horn from Odin’s treasure vault. Loki blows the horn and summons the Midgard Serpent. I loved Spider-Man/Venom: Double Trouble, and this series is a logical follow-up to that one. I’m glad Marvel is still willing to publish fun and kid-friendly comics like this. 

BLACK KNIGHT: CURSE OF THE EBONY BLADE #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Sergio Dávila. Dane Whitman fights alongside the Avengers, but realizes that none of them take him seriously. Meanwhile, a history grad student visits Dane’s castle to interview him for her thesis. So far my favorite thing about this comic is the deliberately inauthentic medieval dialogue. 

BARBALIEN: RED PLANET #5 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tate Brombal, [A] Gabriel Hernández Walta. Boa Boaz takes Mark back to Mars, but Mark manages to get back, only to see a policewoman shoot Miguel. This is a really trite ending – even in America, it seems hard to accept that a cop would shoot an innocent man in the back in front of a huge crowd of witnesses. Miguel survives in the end; otherwise, this comic would be an example of the “bury your gays” trope. Besides having a weak ending, Barbalien was a pretty good miniseries. 

I WALK WITH MONSTERS #4 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Sally Cantirino. Jacey finally infiltrates the politican’s mansionn and discovers that he’s an enormous giant, or at least that’s how she perceives him. There are flashbacks depicting the origin of Jacey and David’s friendship. I was very confused by the scene on pages 12 to 14 where David sneaks inside a white building. I couldn’t tell whether this was taking place in the past or the present, or what its significance was. 

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #24 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Carmen Carnero. Miles has a new notebook – see my book Between Pen and Pixel for some comments on this style of composition book. Miles and Kamala go on a platonic date, but it’s interrupted when they have to save some slum dwellers from a collapsed buiding. Then they hunt down the building’s landlord. Back at home, Miles discovers that he’s been framed for kidnapping a scientist. I believe the scientist is Peter Parker. 

ORCS! #2 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Christine Larsen. The orcs return from the squirrel woods with a bag full of acorns and angry squirrels. The acorns turn out to be full of gold, but the chief exiles the members of the adventuring party because they used the squirrels to prank him. The exiled orcs come up with a plan to prevent their exile, and as a distraction, tey ask the old lady to tell another story about Drod. Orcs is an extremely fun series. 

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #12 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Time of Mercy is Past,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Juann Cabal. The Guardians fight a giant battle against the Asgardian gods. After winning, they reorganize the team with new costumes and new members. Juann Cabal is one of a large number of Spanish artists who have done excellent work for Marvel. If Warren had a “Spanish invasion” in the ‘70s, Marvel has been having a second Spanish invasion for at least a decade now, and it’s gone largely unnoticed by American fans. 

CHAMPIONS #5 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Eve L. Ewing, [A] Bob Quinn. Viv and Amadeus invade the prison for young heroes and collect some shocking footage. By putting this footage online, they successfully shame Senator Patrick into ending the worst parts of Kamala’s Law. That’s the end of Outlawed, but sadly it’s also the end of Eve Ewing’s run on this title. I’m going to continue reading it for now, but I don’t have nearly as much confidence in Danny Lore. 

PROCTOR VALLEY ROAD #1 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Grant Morrison & Alex Child, [A] Naomi Franquiz. In 1970, some girls are trying to save up eight dollars to attend a Janis Joplin concert. To get the money, they trick some boys into accompanying them on a tour of a supposedly haunted desert road. Except the road really is haunted, and the boys get eaten by a werewolf. This is an entertaining first issue, and I love Naomi Franquiz’s art. 

RESIDENT ALIEN: YOUR RIDE’S HERE #4 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. Harry discovers that Honey was kidnapped by her own father, and helps rescue her. This is almost a slice-of-life comic, without much of a narrative drive, but I like it anyway. 

KARMEN #1 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Guillem March. A woman in a skintight skeleton suit visits an apartment building and finds another woman, Catalina or Cata, lying in a bathtub. We gradually realize that Cata is dead, having committed suicide because her boyfriend left her, and the skeleton woman is taking her to the afterlife. I only bought this because it was a translation of a European comic, but I was really impressed with it. March’s draftsmanship and page layouts are beautiful, and his story is complex and intricate, demanding close reeading to figure out what’s going on. I’m excited to read more of this. 

SHADOW DOCTOR #2 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Ancestral Sin,” [W] Peter Calloway, [A] Georges Jeanty. In a flashback, we see how Nathaniel had to flee Alabama after sleeping (perhaps non-sexually) with a white woman, which would have gotten him murdered. Al Capone refuses to lend Nathaniel any money, but changes his mind after his mother says that Nathaniel reminds her of Capone’s father. But as Nathaniel is walking out of Capone’s nightclub with $1000 in his hand, the nightclub explodes. Shadow Doctor is the next These Savage Shores or Yasmeen: an important comic book which is probably going to get less attention than it deserves, because it’s from a new writer and an independent publisher. 

THE LAST WITCH #3 (Boom!, 2021) – “The Burning of Ballydoolin,” [W] Conor McCreery, [A] V.V. Glass. Saoirse fights the sea witch Bronagh and wins, but the town of Ballydoolin is burnt down in their battle. Brahm is nearly killed, but is saved by a herd of martens for some reason. A poignant moment in this issue is when Saoirse meets a little girl named Ciara in Ballydoolin, and then at the end of the issue, we don’t know if Ciara survived the fire. V.V. Glass’s art continues to be absolutely incredible. 

SAVAGE #2 (Valiant, 2021) – untitled, [W] Max Bemis, [A] Nathan Stockman. Savage escapes from the mad scientist and decides to abandon his social media career. This is far from the best comic I’m currently reading, but I like Max Bemis’s bitter, sardonic style of humor. 

IMMORTAL HULK #44 (Marvel, 2021) – “To Rule in Hell,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. Gyrich begins the issue by quoting his famous line from Avengers #181: “I’m the government, mister.” The U-Foes take turns attacking the Hulk, and X-Ray succeeds in killing him. Meanwhie, the Gamma Flight members find the Rick Jones/Leader creature.  

THE GOON #13 (Albatross, 2021) – “The Diabolical Dr. Alloy Returns to Rise Again… Once More!”, [W/A] Eric Powell. The Goon’s old enemy Dr. Alloy dies. The Goon, Frankie, and Lagarto Hombre visit Dr. Alloy’s castle and find it occupied by another Dr. Alloy from another dimension. This issue is an example of Powell’s vulgar, exaggerated humor, but unlike Ryan Browne, whose work has a similar sensibility, Powell is also a brilliant artist. 

HAHA #3 (Imaghe, 2021) – “Remi Says…”, [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Roger Langridge. A mime is unable to make a living at his profession, so he goes to the dump to collect scrap metal. There he discovers an abandoned robot. The robot becomes part of the mime’s act, until its mad-scientist creator reclaims it. The mime is killed trying to rescue the robot. Appropriately, this is a silent issue, and as we know thanks to Fred the Clown, Langridge is a master of silent storytelling. The only connection between issues 2 and 3 is the name J.C. Wilber. 

CATWOMAN #29 (DC, 2021) – “Bad Habits,” [W] Ram V, [A] Fernando Blanco. Selina breaks into the Riddler’s apartment and finds him about to be killed by a woman in a beehive suit. I like Ram V’s take on the Riddler, but so far his Catwoman run is not as exciting as Joelle Jones’s, though I’m still willing to keep reading it. 

S.W.O.R.D. #4 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Krakoan Sun,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Valerio Schiti. Mostly a long fight scene between the SWORD team members and Knull. I’m not convinced that this series is worth buying. The only thing I liked about this issue was the character Think Tank and the giant robot he creates. 

BATMAN: BLACK & WHITE #4 (DC, 2021) – “A Night in the Life of a Bat in Gotham,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Riley Rossmo. This story is about exactly what the title says. Riley Rossmo’s art is much more appropriate here than in Future State: Legion. “Davenport House,” [W/A] Karl Kerschl. This is my favorite story in the entire series so far because it reintroduces Maps Mizoguchi, and she’s Robin now. I wish DC would bring back Gotham Academy. “The Green Deal,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Nick Bradshaw. Bradshaw’s draftsmanship here is amazing, but otherwise this is just a standard Batman/Poison Ivy story. “Checkmate,” [W/A] Daniel Warren Johnson. Johnson’s story is nothing special, but his Paul Pope-esque artwork is impressive, and makes me want to read more of his work. “The Fool’s Journey,” [W] Becky Cloonan, [A] Terry Dodson. This story is most interesting for the cameo appearance by an infant Dick Grayson, long before his parents’ deaths. Speaking of Dodson, I wonder if Adventureman is coming back. 

BITTER ROOT #11 (Image, 2021) – “Legacy Part One,” [W] David F. Walker & Chuck Brown, [A] Sanford Greene. I have trouble keeping up with this series’ plot because of its large cast of characters and its irregular schedule. But it’s still an extremely important comic. Memorable moments in this issue include the party in Harlem, and the scene where Johnnie-Ray’s parents learn of their son’s death.  

THE WRONG EARTH: NIGHT & DAY #3 (Ahoy, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Jamal Igle. Number One monologues about how the two worlds split apart, and how he created the mirrors. Stinger is reunited with the two Dragonflies, but somehow he fails to recognize Dragonflyman. As usual this issue is very fun. 

BLACK HAMMER VISIONS #2 (Dark Horse, 2021) – “The Cabin of Horrors!”, [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Scott Kolins. A criminal kidnaps a young boy. The boy escapes into Madame Dragonfly’s Cabin of Horrors. The criminal follows him there and is killed by the house’s other inhabitants, while the boy turns into Kid Dragonfly. This is a gruesome, unscary and pointless horror story, and it makes me afraid that Johns’s upcoming series Geiger will be equally bad. 

PANTOMIME #5 (Mad Cave, 2021) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] David Stoll. The word pantomime is confusing because in America it refers to silent performance, but in Britain it refers to a type of musical comedy performed at Christmastime for an audience of children. This issue, the Manager forces the kids back into slavery, and one of them, Max, seems curiously willling to collaborate with him. Kestrel gets caught by the police during a heist, and the other kids, besides Max, come up with a plan to get him out and defeat the Manager. 

HAPPY HOUR #5 (Ahoy, 2021) – “The Swamp of Despond,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Michael Montenat. Kim and Jerry are tortured by happiness-sniffing Mexican coatis. Government agents make it to Landor Cohen’s commune, and they identify Kim as a double agent. Just one issue left. I was briefly worried that Ahoy was going to stop publishing comics, but they’ve just started announcing new titles again. 

COMMANDERS IN CRISIS #6 (Image, 2021) – “The Action of Confession,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Davide Tinto. The Crisis Command members finally go public with the information that this Earth is the last Earth in the multiverse. Also, we meet the Commanders in Crisis version of Aquaman. This series has the same flaw as Red Thorn – too many premises and no clear focus – but it’s better than Red Thorn. This issue has a cute cover by Joe Staton. 

WAY OUT STRIPS #2 (Tragedy Strikes, 1992) – “Sons of Sam” and other stories, [W/A] Carol Swain. Carol Swain’s comics typically make little sense on a narrative level, but they’re more about creating a mood than telling a story, kind of like some of Rick Geary’s work. I really like her smeared, smudged style of draftsmanship. 

THE BEQUEST #1 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Role Initiative,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Freddie E. Williams II. Part of this story is about a party in a Dungeons & Dragons adventure, but then they somehow get transported out of their own world and into present-day Chicago. Bequest has an interesting premise, but Freddie Williams’s art looks like something out of a ‘90s Image comic, and Bequest also has ugly lettering. 

GUNHAWKS #6 (Marvel, 1972) – “Death of a Gunhawk!”, [W] Gary Friedrich, [A] Dick Ayers. Gunhawks might have been Marvel’s last original Western title, besides more recent revivals like Rawhide Kid. This issue, one of the two protagonists, Kid Cassidy, is killed, and the other, Reno Jones, is unfairly blamed. The next issue was called just Reno Jones, Gunhawk, and thus became the second Marvel title to be named after a black character, after Hero for Hire. However, that was the last issue. Besides this historical footnote, “Death of a Gunhawk!” is a dumb, badly drawn story that relies on Native American stereotypes. Gunhawks #6 also includes a reprinted story with art by Ayers. 

2000 AD #62 (IPC, 1978) – “Death Planet,” [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Lopez (César López Vera). Some colonists leave Earth in a spaceship, but their ship crashlands on a dangerous planet. The two protagonists are Lorna Varn, the ship’s captain, and Richard Cory, the leader of the colonists, who may or may not be named after the poem. Harlem Heroes: as above. Artie Gruber comes back to life, and the Hellcats are drawn against his team, the Philadelphia Freaks. 2000 AD: “The Cursed Earth Chapter II: Into the Darkness,” as above. Dredd is given a mobile fortress for his trip through the Cursed Earth, and conscripts a criminal named Spikes Harvey Rotten to accompany him. Dan Dare: as above. Dare fights some monsters, then encounters what seems to be the boatman Charon. MACH 1: as above. John Probe rescues an alien named Frxxxszklds, aka Fred, from a UFO, but Fred contracts a deadly cold.

MINIMUM WAGE #2 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] Bob Fingerman. Rob goes on a couple dates with his new girlfriend and hangs out with his friends. I assume this series must have been good at one point, but this issue is not good. Rob is a boring character – his main character traits are that he likes popular culture, and that he just got divorced. There’s no reason why the reader should care about him. And his banter with his friends is extremely annoying. 

CEREBUS #87 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1986) – “Towers Analogous,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus and the Roach keep climbing. The Black Tower keeps growing ominously. Much of this issue, including its cover, is a parody of The Dark Knight Returns. 

DRYAD #9 (Oni, 2021) – untitled, [W] Kurtis Wiebe, [A] Justin Barcelo. Again, this issue has multiple separate storylines about the parents and the kids. The main plot revolves around someone or something called the Vihiri, but other than that, Ive lost track of what’s going on in this series. 

THUN’DA TALES #1 (Fantagraphics, 1987) – “King of the Lost Lands” and other stories, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Frank Frazetta. I always thought Al Williamson was the greatest draftsman in the history of American comic books, but I havent read much Frazetta, and he’s the one artist who could challenge Williamson for that title. This issue reprints Thun’da #1, the only comic book entirely drawn by Frazetta – the rest of Thun’da’s brief run was drawn by Bob Powell. Thun’da #1 is a treasure which is all the more precious for its uniqueness. The four stories in this issue are generic Tarzan pastiches and are full of casual racism, but Frazetta’s anatomy and compositions are magical. Every panel is like a miniature painting, and looking at these stories, I can see where Williamson and Mark Schultz and Dave Stevens got their inspiration. It’s a pity that there aren’t more Frazetta comics like this. 

THE SHADOW #9 (DC, 1975) – “The Nigt of the Falling Death!”, [W] Michael Uslan, [A] Frank Robbins. The Shadow defeats some smugglers who are concealing contraband in barrels that are being sent over Niagara Falls. At the time when this story was set, Niagara Falls was America’s premier honeymoon destination, and this issue includes a scene where the Shadow and Margo Lane have a fake wedding so that they have an excuse to go there. However, when Margo makes romantic overtures to the Shadow, he stonily ignores her. Frank Robbins was no Frazetta, but he was a gifted visual storyteller. 

SECRET SIX #3 (DC, 2006) – “The Darkest House,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Brad Walker. I bought this comic years ago but never read it. I should have, because it’s good. It’s more like Suicide Squad than Secret Six, in that it stars a cast of villains with unique personalities that interact weirdly with each other. The highlight of this issue is when, after betraying the team, Rag Doll says “Mercy. I can’t see how we shall remain friends after this. I really cannot.” 

ULTRAMEGA #1 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] James Harren. This was another heavily hyped series, mostly on the basis of James Harren’s artwork. While Ultramega’s artwork is good, it’s not good enough to justify a $7.99 price tag all by himself – whereas James Stokoe, for example, actually is that good. However, Ultramega #1 also has a surprisingly effective story. It’s a pastiche of Ultraman, but the Ultraman character and his two allies get killed fighting kaiju, and his wife drowns in the resulting flood, leaving an infant son. The story picks up some years later, now following the son, who seems to have inherited the father’s power. Ultramega #1 is an epic story, and I look forward to the next issue. 

GREEN LANTERN SEASON TWO #12 (DC, 2021) – “The Intelligence Engine,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. Like so many other Grant Morrison comics, this Green Lantern series was interesting at first, but descended into incoherence. Grant’s writing has reached a point where it can only be understood by Grant themself, if by anyone. I’m glad this series is over. This issue’s plot, to the extent that I can follow it, is that Hector Hammond invades Athmoora with an army of toys. 

NIGHT HUNTERS #2 (Floating World, 2021) – untitled, [W] Dave Baker, [A] Alexis Ziritt. This issue has some brilliant draftsmanship and even more brilliant coloring, but its story is hard to folow, and is less interesting than that of issue 1. My sense is that Dave Baker’s writing is not the equal of Alexis Ziritt’s art. 

TARTARUS #10 (Image, 2021) – ‘Threading the Infinite,” [W] Johnnie Christmas, [A] Andrew Krahnke. In trying to get back to Tartarus, Surka destroys all but a small supply of the Aima. The last of the Aima is now in the possession of Surka’s daughter, I think. At the end of the issue, Johnnie Christmas suggests that the series will shift to trade-paperback-only. The trend toward direct-to-trade publication is annoying to me because there are certain series I’ll read as single issues, but not as trades. Like, I bought the first volume of Spell on Whells as a miniseries, but I don’t feel motivated to buy the second volume as a trade. With the amount I spend on single issues, I’m hesitant to spend additional money on trades. But maybe this is just my own weakness. 

2000 AD #63 (IPC, 1978) – Dan Dare: as above. The nightmare planet turns out to be ruled by superintelligent illusionists, and they make Dare forget about their existence. This chapter includes some nice quasi-abstract art. MACH 1: as above. Fred establishes relations between his planet and Earth, but Sharpe sets an ambush for Fred’s people. Dredd: “The Cursed Earth, Chapter 3: The Devil’s Lapdogs,” as above. Dredd visits a Cursed Earth village where, as punishment for stealing food, a young couple have been sentenced to be eaten by flying rats. I don’t quite get why the rats can fly. Death Planet: as above. Cory and Lorna fight some monsters. So far the most interesting thing about this story is the two protagonists’ struggles for authority. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Freaks and Hellcats prepare for their game. 

CEREBUS #88 – “Out with the In Crowd,” as above. The Roach reaches the top and attacks Thrunk futilely. Cerebus also arrives in the Upper City, and Astoria is unhappy to see him. Cerebus uses Weisshaupt’s cannons to destroy Thrunk. An awesome moment is when Cerebus demands that Thrunk admit that Cerebus is the true Tarim. When Thrunk does so, Cerebus says “Damn right” and fires the cannon. 

LUNA #2 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Maria Llovet. A lot of weird stuff happens at the commune, and the protagonist discovers an old spellbook. There’s not much plot in this issue, but Maria Llovet’s art is interestingly weird. I wonder if I should be reading her other series that’s published by Ablaze. 

REDNECK #15 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Lisandro Estherren. Mostly a bunch of conversations and sex scenes, with no action or violence. Lisandro Estherren’s art in this issue is only average, not nearly at the level of other Argentine artists like Leandro Fernandez or Eduardo Risso.  

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #522 (DC, 1995) – “City of Hope,” [W] Karl Kesel, [A] Stuart Immonen. After being destroyed by Luthor, Metropolis is rebuilt by a team of superheroes. Guest-stars in this issue include Maxima and the Warrior version of Guy Gardner. Karl Kesel is an underrated Superman writer. 

SECRET WARS 2099 #2 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Will Sliney. Most of PAD’s comics in the past decade have been kind of bad, but this one is especially bad. It has too many characters and plotlines, and none of them are of any interest.

INCREDIBLE HULK #249 (Marvel, 1979) – “Jack Frost Nipping at Your Soul!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Steve Ditko. The Hulk falls into an icy pit and finds himself in an ice kingdom ruled by Jack Frost, AKA Blizzard. This issue’s premise is coincidentally similar to that of Frozen, but otherwise it’s a boring issue. Bill Mantlo’s run was the worst era of the frist volume of Incredible Hulk. 

THE FROGMEN #8 (Dell, 1964) – “Sunken Jungle!”, [W] unknown, [A] Don Heck. The newly independent African country of Congeria builds a massive new dam, but a white man claims that the dam has flooded his valuable diamond mines. The government of Congeria hires the Frogmen to find proof that these alleged diamond mines don’t exist. Adventures ensue. This is a mildly clever story, and I’d be curious to know who wrote it. I assme it was inspired by the building of the Aswan High Dam in Egypt. 

WAKE VOL. 1 (NBM, 1998) – “Fire & Ash,” [W] Jean-David Morvan, [A] Philippe Buchet. I find it difficut to read BD albums because they’re intermediate in length between comic books and full-length graphic novels, so they confuse my usual reading habits. I think the best way to deal with this is just to start reading more BD albums, if I can find the time. Wake’s protagonist, Navee, is the only survivor of a spaceship crash, and has grown up on an alien planet with only her pet tiger for company. When some alien colonists invade the planet, Navee has to stop them from terraforming the planet beyond recognition. Wake is on the more lowbrow end of the French comics spectrum, but Buchet draws beautiful aliens and SF technology, and Morvan’s story is entertaining. Annoyingly, NBM chose to censor this book by drawing a black line across Navee’s bare breasts in every panel that she appears in. I understand why they had to do this, but I don’t like it. 

RED THORN #5 (Vertigo, 2016) – “In His Hands,” as above. This issue introduces even more new characters into a series that already had too many of them. This is the last issue of Red Thorn that I have, and I’m not in a hurry to collect the rest of the series. 

MOWGLI’S MIRROR (Big Planet/Retrofit, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Olivier Schrauwen. This is also a Franco-Belgian comic, but it could hardly be more different from Wake. In a rewriting of Kipling’s Jungle Book, a naked human man befriends an orangutan and her newborn baby. But then “Mowgli” causes the baby’s accidental death. And after he encounters various other animals, he meets the orangutan again, but her new mate drives him away. At the end, he apparently encounters another human for the first time. Mowgli’s Mirror is a challenging meditation on the difference, if any, between humans and animals. It’s illustrated in a variety of mixed-media styles, and includes some panels that look more like abstract art than normal comics. The coloring is also very striking; the only colors used are blue and orange. 

RAIN LIKE HAMMERS #3 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Brandon Graham. This is a direct sequel to issue 2. Brik Blok continues his quest, and there are also some scenes with El. Graham’s art ontinues to be stunning; a highlight is the two-page splash depicting the aristocratic quuarter of the city. 

CRIMSON FLOWER #3 (Dark Horse, 2021) – as above. Rodion finally finds the man who killed her father, but it looks like she’s going to be the killer’s next victim. Matt Lesniewski’s art continues to be really weird and distinctive. 

HEAD LOPPER #15 (Image, 2021) – “The Mines of Martan,” [W/A] Andrew MacLean. Head Lopper and his allies descend into the Mines of Martan, where they recover the keystone, the second object they were looking for. However, instead of returning the hammer and keystone to the king of Arnak Pluth, they decide to kill him. In exchange, Prince Tarf agrees to lead them to Mulgrid’s stair. I think the character of Christo in this issue is based on the late artist of the same name. 

TATTERED BANNERS #4 (Vertigo, 1999) – “The Mad God Laughing,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Mike McMahon. Curtis Banner finds himself in a strange w*rld where n* *ne can say the letter * and w*men carry their babies in gullet-p*uches. After some (enough of that now) futile escape attempts, Banner is forced to accept his new reality. This is a really weird comic, and I’m not sure it would be any less weird if I had read the first three issues.  But it’s intriguing. 

CEREBUS #89 – “Odd Transformations No. 3: Dead Friends,” as above. Cerebus has a dream where he sees Bran Mac Muffin, Weisshaupt and Thrunk, all now dead. Then he sees the Regency Elf, and he wakes up to find that his gold coins have merged into a sphere. This is a weird issue. 

2000 AD #64 (IPC, 1978) – MACH 1: as above. Sharpe is killed by his own men, and John Probe is himself killed saving Fred. This was John Probe’s last appearance, and his true identity was left a mystery. Dan Dare: “Ice Planet Part 1,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Dave Gibbons. Dare’s crew is trapped on a deadly ice planet. It’s nice that Dave Gibbons is back, as Brian Lewis was no replacment for him. Dredd: as above. Dredd uses a siren to lure the rats away from Deliverance, thus becoming the Pied Piper of the Cursed Earth. Death Planet: “Night of the Animals,” as above. The colonists find a water supply, but Cory nearly drowns while digging a trench. Harlem Heroes: as above. The Hellcats-Freaks game finally starts, and Gruber prepares to assassinate Giant. 

WARLORD #45 (DC, 1981) – “Nightmare in Vista-Vision,” [W/A] Mike Grell. Jennifer Morgan goes looking for her dad. Morgan saves some dwarf girls from being eaten by cyclopes, but somehow fails to think of shooting the cyclopes’ eyes out with his pistol. There’s also a an OMAC backup story by Mishkin, Cohn and LaRocque. 

THE JAM URBAN ADVENTURE #9 (Caliber, 1995) – untitled, [W/A] Bernie Mireault. A man babysits his niece and tells her a story about a murder in Alphabet Town. There’s also a backup story, drawn by Luc Giard with extremely thick spotting of blacks. I don’t know what exactly The Jam is about, but this issue was cute, and I’d like to read more of this series.  

WHERE’S IT AT, SUGAR KAT? #2 (Slave Labor, 2000) – “It’s a Weird, Weird Little World!”, [W] Ian Carney, [A] Woodrow Phoenix. A supermodel fights some “body fat vampires.” This issue looks promising, but it fails to establish a consistent tone or aesthetic, and it’s tedious to read. 

DONALD DUCK #1/368 (IDW, 2015) – “Shellfish Motives Part 1,” [W/A] Romano Scarpa. Donald gets a job working for Scrooge’s younger brother Gideon McDuck, a crusading journalist, and they try to solve some mysterious kidnappings of scientists. This story, originally from 1956, was Gideon’s first appearance. Barks never used him, thus Rosa didn’t either, and his existence is impossible to reconcile with Life & Times. When I saw that “Shellfish Motives” gave Scrooge a brother, my reaction was “Man, that’s such a continuity error.” However, “Shellfish Motives” is still an entertaining story, and I’m curious to see how it ends. One of the backup stories in this issue is drawn by Mau Heymans, who has an interesting style of draftsmanship. 

That’s it for now. Whew. 

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January 2021 reviews

REVIEWS OF EVERY COMIC I READ IN 2021

This project is now in its ninth year, having begun in 2013. 

2000 AD #317 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: “The Slaying of Slade, Part 6,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. Slade returns to earth and witnesses his battle with the God-Droid in prog 174. He realizes that the man who sent the Teeny-Meks was there. Time Twisters: “D.R. and Quinch Have Fun on Earth!”, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Alan Davis. In their first appearance, D.R. and Quinch get revenge on their dean by manipulating the entire history of Earth, so that the continents spell out a message accusing him of embezzlement. I’ve read this story before, but it’s nice to own its original version. Dredd: “The Stupid Gun! Part 2,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. The criminal with the Stupid Gun boards a train, which goes out of control. Rogue Trooper: “Bio-Wire!”, [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Cam Kennedy. Rogue meets a soldier whose squad was wiped out by living barbed wire. Skizz: untitled, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jim Baikie. Van Owen and his men interrogate Skizz. Skizz’s internal monologue in this chapter is very lyrical and beautiful. 

CEREBUS #148 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1991) – “Melmoth Nine,” [W/A] Dave Sim. I’m going to go back to just calling this series Cerebus. I don’t think “The Aardvark” is part of the official title. In his note, Sim discusses how he resents Oscar Wilde for his lack of productivity. In the main story, Oscar finally dies with Reggie and Robert at his side. There are letters about feminism and Quebec separatism. There’s also a terrible 24-hour “comic” that has so little artwork it’s barely a comic. 

CEREBUS #149 – “Melmoth Ten,” as above. In his note, Dave discusses how being a comics fan is like being gay, in that both groups have their own secret language, they both conceal themselves, and they’re both defined by something that they feel makes them special, but that they’re also ashamed of. This is a highly offensive comparison, but it also helps us understand how comics fans think of themselves. I need to return to this later. The main story is about Oscar’s funeral. Dave also reproduces some pages from Reginald Turner and Robert Ross’s letters, which he quoted extensively, and he includes handwritten annotations that show how he altered the quotations. That’s the end of the Oscar Wilde part of Melmoth, and I’m glad it’s over because it was rather tiresome.  

CEREBUS #150 – “Melmoth Eleven,” as above. Dave apologizes to Michael Moorcock for printing a letter falsely attributed to him. Cerebus wakes from his stupor to hear some Cirinists discussing how they executed Jaka, and kills the Cirinists in a fit of rage – finally some action! In a flashback, Cerebus is told that Cirinists are all telepathically connected. The letter column includes some rebuttals to a letter from “M’Oak.” I haven’t read this letter, but the responses indicate that M’Oak was trying to jutsify rape. The backup feature is a photocomic by Ivan Brunetti. 

2000 AD #318 (IPC, 1983) – Slade: as above. Slade revisits a robot war that his past self fought in. Rogue Trooper: “Milli-Com Memories Part 1,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Cam Kennedy. While delirious from injury, Rogue starts talking about secrets from Milil-Com that Gunnar, Helm and Bagman aren’t supposed to know. Dredd: as above. Dredd stops the tram and causes the villain to shoot himself with the Stupid Gun. Skizz: as above. Van Owen tries to teach Skizz  English. Roxy argues with her parents and is bullied at school. Time Twisters: “Going Native,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Mike White. A time-traveling modern human becomes the ancestor of the Cro-Magnon race. This is an unoriginal plot, but Alan’s prose style makes this story far better than a typical installment of Time Twisters. 

GIDEON FALLS #25 (Image, 2020) – “The End,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. The final issue is extra-sized and includes a bunch of spectacular page designs. The five protagonists realize that the Black Barn was created to contain the giant spider monster, which was the product of the original Norton Sinclair’s experiments. Daniel goes back in time and destroys Norton’s machine. He wakes up seemingly happy and reunited with Clara, but then pulls out a shard of the Black Barn. This was a truly excellent series. When it started, Daniel’s facemask just seemed like a creepy affectation; the mask has a different meaning now. 

KING IN BLACK: NAMOR #2 (Marvel, 2020) – “Swift & Sure,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Benjamin Dewey. Young Namor and his allies defeat a Great Old One, but then the Swift Tide get possessed by symbiotes. Another entertaining issue.  I miss Kurt’s writing, especially Astro City.

CEREBUS #151 – “Mothers & Daughters 1,” as above. Dave discusses his upcoming US tour. “Mothers and Daughters” begins by quoting Robert Graves’s adaptation of the Song of Amergin; this poem was also the source of the poem about Eirias in Susan Cooper’s Silver on the Tree. The rest of the issue consists of a lot of scenes with little apparent connection. Cirin throws away a lot of heretical books. The Judge convinces the god of death – who appeared in this form in a very early issue – that he’s not really death, and the god vanishes. Lord Julius has problems with Cirin’s gender equality rules. The Pigts’ Cerebus idol, which was broken in another early issue, recreates itself. A lot of these scenes didn’t make any sense to me until I reread the first phone book. There are a ton of letters, and three one-page backup strips. 

CHEW #16 (Image, 2010) – “Flambé 1 of 5,” [W] John Layman, [A] Rob Guillory. Tony and Valenzano go looking for a “voresophist” who gets smarter the more he eats. Much of the issue takes place at a derelict chicken restaurant. I wonder when Farmhand is coming back. Or Chu. 

BATMAN #519 (DC, 1995) – “Black Spider: Web of Scars,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Kelley Jones. Batman goes looking for Black Mask. Commissioner Gordon is pissed that he’s been replaced as police commissioner by his wife, so he goes around making an ass of himself. The scene on the cover, with Black Spider trying to drown Batman, does not seem to appear in the issue, and Black Spider is barely in the issue at all. Kelley Jones’s art here is too cartoony for me. 

ELRIC: SAILOR ON THE SEAS OF FATE #2 (First, 1985) – “Chapter IV,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Michael T. Gilbert & George Freeman. An adaptation of the first half of Elric, Corum, Hawkmoon and Erekosë’s battle with Agak and Gagak. This is one of my favorite Elric stories because it’s a crossover with two of Moorcock’s other series. The same story is told from Hawkmoon’s perspective in The Quest for Tanelorn, though disappointingly, it does not appear in any of the Corum books. Conversely, the Voilodion Ghagnasdiak sequence appears in the Elric book The Vanishing Tower and the Corum book The King of the Swords, but Hawkmoon isn’t present for it. Anyway, Gilbert and Freeman do an excellent job of capturing the indescribable weirdness of Agak and Gagak’s lair. 

SUPERMAN #208 (DC, 1968) – “The Case of the Collared Crime-Fighter!”, [W] Frank Robbins, [A] Curt Swan. Some crooks make Superman wear a collar that allows them to track his movements. I just read Umberto Eco’s “The Myth of Superman” for a critical theory reading group, and Eco discusses how Superman often fights anonymous mobsters rather than addressing any real problems. The backup story is a reprint from 1959, in which Superman encounters a mayor who thinks it’s Superman’s fault that he wasn’t adopted as a child. This story is really stupid. 

MADMAN COMICS #6 (Dark Horse, 1995) – “Big Guy a Go-Go,” [W/A] Mike Allred, [W] Frank Miller. Madman encounters Big Guy from Miller and Darrow’s Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot. This character also crossed over with Martha Washington. I think Big Guy made more appearances in crossovers than in his own series, which only lasted two issues. This may be because first, Big Guy’s series was published in an awkward large format, and second, Geof Darrow is a rather slow artist. 

CEREBUS #152 – “Mothers & Daughters 2,” as above. Cerebus fights more Cirinists, while the local men cheer him on. There are vignettes depicting the Black Blossom Lotus, from another early issue, and two coins that revolve around each other. I don’t understand why the coins are significant. Throughout Flight, the first part of Mothers & Daughters, there are all these suggestions that some kind of giant catastrophe is coming, but these hints don’t really lead to anything, unless it’s the fall of the Black Tower in Women. The letter column includes a very offensive letter by Thom E. Lake, who expresses views that would get him labeled as an incel or MRA today. 

SWAMP THING #8 (Vertigo, 2004) – “Missing Links,” [W] Will Pfeifer, [A] Richard Corben. A villain named Dekker tries to play The Most Dangerous Game with Swampy, while Tefe deals with bullying. This comic is worth reading mostly for Corben’s art. 

EXCALIBUR #6 (Marvel, 2020) – “Verse VI: Watch the Throne,” [W] Tini Howard, [A] Marcus To. The main plot of this issue is that Betsy, the new Captain Britain, fights Morgan le Fay. This sequence is unappealing because it’s just a standard fight scene, and there’s nothing particularly British about it. All the major Captain Britain and Excalibur writers have actually been British. Come to think of it, Simon Spurrier would be a good writer for this series. Later there’s a scene where Rogue tells Gambit that she doesn’t want children. They should have talked about this before getting married. Also, near the end of Mr. and Mrs. X, it was hinted that Gambit did want kids, and Rogue seemed open to the idea. 

SUPERMAN #69 (DC, 1992) – “Killing is Serious Business!”, [W] Dan Jurgens, [A] Peter Krause. Some terrorists named the Sons of Liberty kidnap Lana Lang in order to coerce Pete Ross into assassinating a witness at a congressional hearing. We’re never told what the Sons of Liberty’s goals are, but a bigger problem is that Pete is so scared of them, he can’t tell Superman that Lana has been kidnapped. Like, Pete turns down multiple chances to tell Superman what’s going on. Why does Pete think Superman wouldn’t be capable of saving Lana? 

SUICIDE SQUAD #39 (DC, 1990) – “Dead Issue,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Luke McDonnell. The Suicide Squad is shut down thanks to scandalous news leaked by the Loa, a group of Haitian villains. This allows the Loa to execute their plot to turn America’s children into berserk zombies, but Waller organizes an unauthorized mission to assassinate the Loa. The mission is successful, but Waller is caught and sent to jail. An excellent issue as usual. 

LASSIE #40 (Dell, 1958) – “Heart of a Dog” and “Forest Guardian,” [W] unknown, [A] Bob Forgione? The child welfare agency wants to take Timmy away from the farm where he’s been living, but a young couple buy the farm and adopt him, and Timmy’s foster brother Jeff gives Lassie to Timmy. This parallels a similar plot development in the Lassie TV show, where Jeff was replaced by Timmy as Lassie’s human companion. Lassie is so strongly associated with Timmy in the popular imagination, that I was surprised to realize she wasn’t always Timmy’s dog. Anyway, in the comic, the unknown writer does a great job of depicting Timmy’s emotional turmoil. In the backup story, Lassie and Timmy help catch a poacher.  

YELLOW DOG #24 (Print Mint, 1973) – various stories, [E] unknown. An unimpressive underground comic. The only major artists included are Howard Cruse, who did a two-pager, and Greg Irons, who drew the back cover. Of the other artists included, the only name I recognize is Tim Boxell. 

CEREBUS #153 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1991) – “Mothers & Daughters 3,” as above. Cerebus exhorts the men of Iest to fight back against the Cirinists. Some men attack the Cirinists and get slaughtered. There’s an inexplicable scene where a nude model sees a tiny Cerebus. There are a ton of letters, one of which mentions Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find, and a preview of A Distant Soil. 

2000 AD #319 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: as above. Slade relives an episode from his service in the Great Robot War. Time Twisters: “The Impossible Murder!”, [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. A man and his brother use time machines to murder each other. Dredd: “Condo Part 1,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Dredd investigates a series of terrorist attacks on space habitats. Skizz: as above. Cornelius Cardew reacts violently to reporters asking him about Skizz. Meanwhile, Van Owen continues to torture Skizz, and Roxy prepares a rescue mission. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue reveals how he saved Gunnar from being rejected from active duty. 

ACTION COMICS #656 (DC, 1990) – “Going to Blaze’s Part One of Three,” [W] Roger Stern, [A] Bob McLeod. Jimmy Olsen and Jerry White have been shot by gunmen. The Black Racer comes for Jimmy, and Superman follows him to Blaze’s realm. The Black Racer doesn’t really fit with the rather serious tone of this Superman run, because he’s a character who’s difficult to depict in a plausible way. 

SHANG-CHI #4 (Marvel, 2020) – “Brothers and Sisters Part 4,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Dike Ruan. Shang-Chi consults the spirit of his uncle Zheng Yi. There’s a running joke about Clif Bars. Again, this series feels genuinely inspired by Chinese culture, in a way that Doug Moench’s MOKF never did. 

IMAGINARY FIENDS #4 (Vertigo, 2018) – “The Cat’s Paw Part 4,”  [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Stephen Molnar. The Fraidy Cat tries to enslave Melba Li. Polly Peachpit fights Charlie Chokecherry, with the landlady’s baby son trapped between them. This is an effective horror comic, but compared to Something is Killing the Children, it’s much less subtle and it relies more on actually showing the reader the monsters. 

DETECTIVE COMICS #670 (DC, 1994) – “Cold Cases,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Barry Kitson. A frozen body is found in the harbor. Of course it’s Mr. Freeze, and he revives while in the morgue. Montoya and a medical examiner are trapped in the police station with him, but Montoya helps Azrael/Batman defeat him. Mr. Freeze is depicted in this issue as a fairly generic villain. The modern depiction of this character, as a tragic figure whose goal is to resurrect his wife, was introduced in the ‘90s cartoon episode “Heart of Ice.” That came out two years before ‘Tec #670, but the new version of Mr. Freeze may not have made it into the comic yet. 

SUICIDE SQUAD #51 (DC, 1991) – “Fractured Image,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Luke McDonnell. Floyd Lawton hunts down Marc Pilar, a common criminal who stole the Deadshot suit. Floyd defeats and kills Marc, but declines to take the costume back. There are also a lot of subplots. Nightshade kisses Nemesis, and the new Thinker tries to kill Waller but fails. 

LETTER 44 #11 (Oni, 2014) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Alberto Jimenez Albuquerque. The new president repeals DADT, only to get impeached. The spacecraft starts to deteroriate, and Astra becomes critically ill. Letter 44 is one of the more detailed depictions of the presidency in American comics. It would be interesting to compare it to the actual Obama and Trump administrations. 

CEREBUS #154 – “Mothers & Daughters 4,” as above except the year is 1992. Cerebus starts flying through the air, I don’t understand how or why. Normalroach, based on Valentino’s Normalman, turns into Punisheroach. The Roach character is Sim’s vehicle for making fun of other comics. There are a bunch of letters about rape, and some photos of fan/running joke Connie Lingus. 

RED THORN #2 (Vertigo, 2016) – “Glasgow Kiss Chapter Two: Rebel of the Underground,” [W] David Baillie, [A] Meghan Hetrick. This issue is radically different in tone from #1; it goes from urban fantasy to epic fantasy. Isla visits Redcap Keep, fights some redcaps, and then meets the title character himself, a naked red-haired demigod. This comic is still interesting and it shows extensive knowledge of Scottish folklore, but I liked the first issue better. 

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #147 (Dell, 1952) – untitled (“A Charitable Chore”), [W/A] Carl Barks. Donald volunteers to host a poor person for Thanksgiving, but inevitably, the “poor” person turns out to be Gladstone. Donald runs away to Florida to escape from Gladstone, but it doesn’t work. Several of the other stories are also Thanksgiving-themed, including the first of the two Mickey Mouse stories. The other one, “The Miracle Master” by Merrill De Maris and Bill Wright, is a redrawn version of an old daily strip sequence, according to the GCD. There’s also a Little Hiawatha strip which is appallingly racist. The back cover is a Wheaties ad depicting NFL Hall of Famer Bob Waterfield. This was so long ago that Waterfield is depicted kicking a field goal as well as throwing passes. 

CEREBUS #156 – “Mothers & Daughters 6: Mind Games V,” as above. The first four chapters of Mind Games were scattered throughout the run. Dave’s note discusses his national tour, which included a stop at the Million Year Picnic in Boston, a store I’ve visited a few times. Cerebus travels through space and has an argument with someone who claims to be Suenteus Po – a name used by many different characters in this series. There are cameo appearances by the Judge, K’cor, the Pigts, and the Regency Elf. Behind the scenes, Punisheroach battles the Cirinist army. Much of this issue made no sense to me. The backup story is a rather whiny autobiographical comic about a trip to Varanasi. 

EDGAR ALLAN POE’S SNIFTER OF BLOOD #3 (Ahoy, 2020) – “The Mystery of Marie Roget,” [W] Rachel Pollack, [A] Alan Robinson. Poe tells the story of Marie Roget to his long-suffering wife. This must be the first new comic by Rachel Pollack in quite a long time. “The Cask of Amontillado – Rediscovered!”, [W] Shaun Manning, [A] Greg Scott. In the future, after Poe’s works have been lost, his descendant tries to rewrite The Cask of Amontillado without having read the original. 

CEREBUS #157 – “Mothers & Daughters 7: Mind Game VI,” as above. Dave describes his visits to St. Louis and Los Angeles. Cerebus reaches the Eighth Sphere, where a voice tells him about his happiest moments – including his first sight of the Great Wall of Tsi, and waking up in Jaka’s arms. Cerebus has a vision of his reelection as Prime Minister, but realizes it’s fake. The voice gives a speech about desire, and then Cerebus finds himself in front of a giant chessboard. There’s another shockingly offensive letter, this one by Larry Dudock, and Dave has an equally offensive response: “I only debate feminism these days with women who can argue sequentially and rationally and who don’t change the subject when I’m winning.” What a troll. 

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #31 (Marvel, 1977) – “My Sweetheart – My Killer!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Ron Wilson. Ben fights Alicia, who’s been turned into a human spider by Hydra agents. Spider-Woman also guest-stars. The McGuffin of the plot is a hidden Nazi treasure. 

ASTONISHING TALES #15 (Marvel, 1972) – “…And Who Will Call Him Savage?”, [W] Mike Friedrich, [A] Gil Kane. In New York, Ka-Zar fights some drug dealers and tries to prevent a sick old scientist from being kidnapped. The predictable twist is that the scientist is the mother of one of the drug dealers. This issue has excellent art, and its story isn’t terrible. 

ICE CREAM MAN #22 (Image, 2020) – “Advent Calendar,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. A simple story about a pregnant teenage girl getting an abortion. The horror part is that she keeps having nightmares about talking ducks. Also, the story is structured as an Advent calendar. Each page is set on a different day, from November 30 to Christmas, and begins with a gift. As the issue goes on, the gifts get weird and creepy. 

HEART THROBS #92 (DC, 1964) – This was from an eBay lot of five old romance comics. All [W] unknown. “Don’t Speak to Me of Love!”, [A] John Rosenberger. Felice’s friend Andrea steals all her boyfriends, until finally one of them rejects Andrea’s advances. What I don’t get is why Felice feels obligated to remain friends with this toxic person. John Rosenberger is a highly underrated artist. “The Edge of Love,” [A] Win Mortimer? Kathy goes to see her boyfriend Lee, but instead falls in love with Quint. The story acknowledges that Quint’s behavior is creepy, but he gets rewarded for it. “The Nights That Never Ended!”, [A] Tony Abruzzo. Poor secretary Michele falls in love with Dean, her boss’s playboy son. Dean’s stepmother lies to Michele and tells her that Dean has been killed. Dean shows up alive the next day. 

CANTO II: THE HOLLOW MEN #4 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. Canto meets two legless giants who ride in a cart. Then he meets the princess, and she tells him that to defeat the Shrouded Man, he’ll have to sacrifice himself. I don’t get how this issue connects with the previous one. 

CEREBUS #158 – “Mothers & Daughters 8,” as above. Dave describes his visits to Denver and Chicago. Behind the chessboard is Suenteus Po, who claims that there are three aardvarks: himself, Cerebus, and Cirin. Po gives a long speech about his previous incarnations. The Pigts prepare for an invasion. Cirin punishes Mrs. Copps (based on a Canadian politician) for trying to interfere with her ascension.

MONSTRESS: TALK-STORIES #2 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. Maika tells a story about a time in her childhood when she went fishing with a merboy friend, just before starting her military training. This issue is cute, but through its contrast with most issues of Monstress, it reminds me how bleak and depressing this series is. 

JINNY HEX SPECIAL #1 (DC, 2020) – “A Man Walks into a Garage…”, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Gleb Melnikov. A distant descendant of Jonah Hex is persecuted by an ancient villain. This is a fun one-shot story, but it seems inconsistent with DC’s current creative direction, to the extent that DC has a direction.  

U.S.AGENT #2 (Marvel, 2020) – “American Zealot Chapter 2: Homeland,” [W] Priest, [A] Georges Jeanty. In flashback, we learn how John Walker’s sister Kate seemingly died in a fire. John goes to Ephraim, WV to help Kate, now a SHIELD agent, with her mission, but the people of Ephraim mistake John for Captain America – ironically, since John started his career as a replacement for Cap. As usual with Priest, this issue is hard to follow. 

GIRLS’ ROMANCES #110 (DC, 1965) – all [W] unknown. “My Secret Love!”, [A] Mike Sekowsky. Lita and Jud are in love, but he ignores her in public. It proves to be a simple misunderstanding. “Shadow of Love!”, [A] Sekowsky. Paula’s sister Amy dies of unspecified causes. Paula visits Amy’s fiance, Nicolas, and falls in love with him. Refreshingly, Paula realizes he only wants her as a replacement for her sister, and she leaves him. “Love is a Boy Named Joey!”, [A] John Rosenberger. (This story, like the other Rosenberger story above, has also been credited to Jay Scott Pike.) Trudy and Joey become childhood best friends when Trudy nurses Joey through an illness. When they’re teenagers, Joey continues to see Trudy as a surrogate mother, so she fakes an accident so that he can save her and see himself as her protector. This is some pretty weird logic, but it works because the writer decides it does. Again, Rosenberger’s (or Pike’s) art is excellent. 

CEREBUS #159 – “Mothers & Daughters 9,” as above. Dave describes his visits to Miami and Madison. Cerebus finds himself in Imesh, where K’cor shows him a vision of a goddess. Cerebus perceives the goddess as Astoria. Back Eighth Sphere, Suenteus Po continues his story. Cirin arranges a meeting with Astoria. Punisheroach meets Elrod. The letter column includes a complaint about a store in Winnipeg. 

2000 AD #320 (IPC, 1983) – Slade: as above. Slade discovers that a scientist named Deller has cloned him without his knowledge. Deller was also responsible for the Teeny Meks that killed Slade. Time Twisters: “Ring Road,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jesus Redondo. A woman escapes from prison and is picked up by a driver. She murders the driver and starts driving along an  endless road. As she drives, time progresses from 1935 to the end of the universe, then back to 1935 again. Finally the woman, now old, stops to pick up a hitchhiker: her younger self, who is about to kill her. A nicely surreal story. Dredd: “Condo Part 2,” as above. Dredd tries to save another space condo from being destroyed, but it starts drifting into the sun. Skizz: as above. Roxy convinces Loz and Cornelius to help her rescue Skizz. Meanwhile, one of Van Owen’s goons tries to remove Skizz’s suit and is fatally electrocuted. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue reveals that Venus Blue Genes was in love with him and not Helm. 

U.S.AVENGERS #6 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Cavalry Stayed Home,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Paco Medina. Sam fights some aliens alongside the Guardians of the Galaxy. 3Dr. Faustus and Hydra try to mind-control the others USAvengers. Good art and coloring, but a forgettable plot. 

ACTION COMICS #506 (DC, 1980) – “The Children’s Exodus from Earth!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. Superman tries to save some children from being abducted by Jorlan, a hairy alien Pied Piper. In a typically convoluted Batesian plot twist, we learn that Jorlan was created by a Kryptonian scientist in a failed attempt to save Krypton’s children from their planet’s destruction. 

PHANTOM FORCE #0 (Genesis West, 1994) – untitled, [W/A] Jack Kirby & Michael Thibodeaux. This was the final series Kirby worked on before his death. This issue has seven or eight pages by Kirby, and the rest is by Thibodeaux. Kirby’s concepts feel like rehashes of his earlier work, and overall this comic is only of interest for historical reasons. Confusingly, issue 0 was published between issues 1 and 2, published by Image, and issues 3 through 8, from Genesis West. 

COPRA #38 (Copra, 2020) – “The Ochizon Saga,” [W/A] Michel Fiffe. Like Eric Shanower and Thom Zahler, Michel Fiffe has moved to a trade-paperback-only model, but is still self-publishing individual issues of Copra on a limited basis. Fiffe published Copra #38 and #39 through his Etsy store, though I also saw them on the stands at Heroes. Copra #38 is a beautiful artifact, with very thick covers and paper and vibrant coloring, and it justifies its $6 cover price. The entire issue is a fight scene involving Copra and the Ochizon agents. As always, Fiffe’s artwork is brilliant, with all sorts of unusual drawing techniques. 

WONDER WOMAN #71 (DC, 1993) – “Home Again,” [W] William Messner-Loebs, [A] Paris Cullins. This is the only issue of Messner-Loebs’s Wonder Woman that I have. These comics are quite hard to find, and I believe there are two reasons for this. The first is the beautiful Brian Bolland covers. The second is that DC was contractually obligated to publish a Wonder Woman comic, but no one was buying it, so each issue had a low print run. Wonder Woman #71 is the conclusion of a story where Diana saves some alien women from slavery. At the end, Diana is reunited with Julia Kapatelis, who had given up on seeing her surrogate daughter again. This issue is unexpectedly good, and I hope I can find more issues from this run. 

CEREBUS #160 – “Mothers & Daughters 10,” as above. Dave describes his trip to Kansas City and Minneapolis, where he appeared at Dreamhaven and the Comic Book College. I think I had already started visiting the Comic Book College by that time, but I was too young to read Cerebus. Dreamhaven may still have been in its old location at the time, on the other side of Uptown from where it later moved. Archbishop Posey is beaten to death in prison, and Suenteus Po reports his death to Cerebus before continuing his history. Some masked guy tries to assassinate Lord Julius, and there are various other subplots. Dave has an additional note where he discusses the Diamond Seminar, which sounds like an earlier version of ComicsPro, and also mentions Heroes Con. In the letter column, Dave expresses some more chauvinistic opinions about women. There are also some letters about the Rodney King riots. 

ACTION COMICS #473 (DC, 1977) – “The Great Phantom Peril!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. The Phantom Zone villains terrorize Metropolis until Superman finds a way to send them back to the Phantom Zone. Faora – who is written as a caricature of a radical feminist – ends up trapped in the Zone with a man who thinks she’s his dead wife. A problem with this story is that at this point in continuity, Mon-El was also in the Phantom Zone, but he’s nowhere to be seen in this issue.

SAUCER COUNTRY #3 (Vertigo, 2012) – “Run Part Three,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Ryan Kelly. Professor Joshua Kidd joins the governor’s presidential campaign, and there’s a subplot about an alien abductee named Michael. This is just a very strange series. 

BATMAN #449 (DC, 1990) – “The Penguin Affair III: Winged Vengeance,” [W] Marv Wolfman & Alan Grant, [A] Mark (D.) Bright. When I read this, I didn’t realize I also had the other two parts of this story. The Penguin has kidnapped an actress, mistaking her for the character she plays. Oswald is also trying to sell his bird-controlling technology to other evil people. Batman saves the day, but the Penguin’s unwilling ally, Harold, escapes. Harold would later return and become a regular cast member. 

CAPTAIN MARVEL #20 (Marvel, 2004) – “Terra Incognita,” [W] Peter David, [A] Aaron Lopresti. Genis travels to the far future and meets Ely, his son by Songbird. Back in the present, Marlo and Moondragon have a compromising moment. I don’t know if Mockingbird had been outed as a lesbian by this point. This comic is okay, but I’ve never liked PAD’s Captain Marvel as much as his Hulk or Young Justice. 

AMERICAN VAMPIRE: LORD OF NIGHTMARES #4 (Vertigo, 2012) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Just as confusing as American Vampire 1976, which I’m removing from my pull list. I ordered Scott Snyder’s new series Nocterra, and I hope I don’t regret it. 

The next comics were from my first Heroes trip of the year. From here on, all new comics are dated 2021. 

SWEET TOOTH: THE RETURN #3 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. The elephant dude helps Gus II and Penny escape from prison. Father prepares for an assault on the surface world. Gus and Penny discover a lab full of other Gus clones. I wish this series was longer than six issues. 

BIG GIRLS #6 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Jason Howard. Tannik tries to kill everyone, but a Jack appears and bites his head off. A preserve is created so that boys in danger of becoming Jacks can grow up in peace. This was a really good debut story. I hope there’s going to be a second story arc. 

USAGI YOJIMBO #16 (IDW, 2021) – “Tengu War! Part One,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi offers his aid to Sojobo (the name of the tengu) against some lesser demons. So far I don’t like this story as much as the previous one, but it’s nice to revisit the more fantastic side of Usagi’s universe. 

THE DREAMING: WAKING HOURS #6 (DC, 2021) – “Intermezzo, Part 1,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Javier Rodriguez. Heather After (introduced in #2) goes out dancing, but runs into Puck, who cuts her with a cursed knife that inflicts unstoppable bleeding. After asking John Constantine for advice, Heather casts a spell to summon help, and it brings her Matthew the Raven and Goldie. Besides Christian Ward, Javier Rodriguez is the best artist currently doing monthly comics. His page layouts, draftsmanship and coloring are all amazing. A  particular highlight of this issue is the club sequence. After some research, I think the name the bouncer was going to call Heather was “sh*m*l*”. See https://womenwriteaboutcomics.com/2021/01/dc-pubwatch-january-2021-edition-future-state-the-flash/.

ETERNALS #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Esad Ribic. Ikaris and Sprite are revived from sleep. Sprite is now female. They fight a rogue Deviant, then encounter Thanos. Kieron does a great job of imagining what it would be like to be immortal, and his Eternals feel Kirbyesque and Kieronesque at once. I love the line “Humans keep on mistaking us for gods for some reason. It annoys the gods enormously.” I also love the list of all 100 Eternals at the beginning. I assume some of these are new characters, but the new names feel consistent with the existing ones. 

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #93 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Mary Kenney, [A] Trish Forstner. I don’t recognize either of these creators’ names. Scootaloo’s parents come back to Ponyville to hang out with their daughter, but they don’t realize that Scootaloo doesn’t like the same things they like. Trish Forstner’s art is very expressive, but this issue’s plot is nothing new. 

SEVEN SECRETS #6 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. The fight doesn’t go well. Tajana sacrifices herself so the other seekers can escape, by going into an alternate dimension hidden inside one of the briefcases. Seven Secrets is mostly an action comic and has little substance beyond that, but it’s fun anyway. 

SAVAGE DRAGON #256 (DC, 2021) – “Jaws of Death!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. At the store I was warned that this issue has a printing error, but I bought it anyway. Malcolm comes home from the hospital, thankfully with his memory intact. Paul fights Mako, not realizing it’s a different and scarier Mako than the one he knows, and gets his arm torn off. Also, Erik addresses the widespread criticism of Savage Dragon’s pornographic tendencies by leaning into it. He has Maxine literally say “Savage Dragon is a porn comic now,” and then later there’s a rather graphic sex scene. At least it’s not quite as bad as the scenes that have caused me to stop reading the comic on at least one occasion. 

THE WRONG EARTH: NIGHT & DAY #1 (Ahoy, 2021) – “Night & Day Chapter One,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Jamal Igle. The two Dragonflies are adjusting to their respective worlds, until they discover that they can use mirrors to get back to their home worlds, and the issue ends as they confront each other. The central joke in this comic is getting a bit old, but it’s still an entertaining comic. A funny moment this issue is when Dragonflyman survives being shot point-blank by using “ultra-sticky dragonfly paper.”  

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #22 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Natacha Bustos. Miles’s dad changes his name to “Jeff” instead of “Jefferson Davis.” I support this decision; Bendis made an inexplicable mistake by giving him that name in the first place. Jeff even gestures to this by saying that the name is tainted, and he doesn’t know what his parents were thinking. Then Miles and Starling fight a giant mummy, he tells her his secret identity, and she kisses him. 

THE LAST WITCH #1 (Boom!, 2021) – “The Tower in the Woods,” [W] Conor McCreery, [A] V.V. Glass. I’m glad Boom! Box is launching some new titles now that Lumberjanes is done. Twelve-year-old Saoirse wants to leave her village and have adventures, but she’s stuck with an overprotective widowed father and an annoying little brother. Finally Saoirse and her brother Brahm leave their village and explore the local witch’s tower, but Brahm mysteriously vanishes. I was skeptical about McCreery’s writing because I didn’t much like Kill Shakespeare, but this issue is fairly well-written. V.V. Glass’ art, however, is phenomenal. Their characters are really cute, and they’ve mastered the Disney style. The little brother and the dying mother (in flashback) are particular highlights. Glass could probably make a lot more money in animation than in comics. 

HAPPY HOUR #3 (Ahoy, 2021) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Michael Montenat. Kim comes back to pick Jerry up, but while driving through a small town, they get kidnapped by the “joy police.” In a subplot, we learn that Landor Cohen’s unhappiness cult is just as scary as the happiness cult. 

SHADOW SERVICE #5 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Corin Howell. The artist dude turns into a giant monster and gets shot. This is a confusing issue and I don’t remember much about it. This series has a ton of stuff all going on at once. 

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #10 (Marvel, 2021) – “I Think I Had This Album,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Juann Cabal. Peter Quill comes back from wherever he’s been, just in time to help the Guardians fight Knull’s invasion. But now the Guardians have to fight some angry Olympian gods. This was just an average issue. 

INKBLOT #5 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Rusty Gladd, [A] Emma Kubert. MOW. goes back to the earliest days of the Seeker and her family. The Seeker’s youngest brother, Inos, decides to keep MOW. safe or else the Seeker will dissect it. I’ve decided that MOW. is the cat’s name. 

FUTURE STATE: WONDER WOMAN #1 (DC, 2021) – “Hell to Pay,” [W/A] Joëlle Jones. A new Wonder Woman, Yara Flor, goes to the underworld with the assistance of an indigenous Brazilian deity, who manifests as a little girl riding a wild pig. This is a pretty fun issue, especially the scene where Yara enters the gate to the underworld, which looks like an airport. (I actually miss airports.) Joëlle Jones’s art is as gorgeous as it always is. I especially like Yara’s facial expressions; she looks as if she’s constantly enthusiastic. 

MARVEL ACTION AVENGERS #3 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Katie Cook, [A] Butch Mapa. Captain Marvel has to help Dr. Strange retrieve his Cloak of Levitation, which was stolen from White Rabbit. As one would expect from Katie, this is a hilarious issue. The cloak (which is sort of alive) and Carol’s cat/flerken are adorable, and there’s a perfectly timed running joke about snickerdoodle cookies. Also this story intersects with the last two issues. 

PANTOMIME #3 (Mad Cave, 2021) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] David Stoll. The kids successfully execute a clever plot to free themselves from the Manager, and it seems like they’ve earned a happy ending. But eight years later, we see one of the kids in a police station, writing a confession. This is a really intriguing series. 

IMMORTAL HULK #42 (Marvel, 2021) – “A Game of Consequences,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] various. Jackie McGee gets some bad news from her horrible boss, and then discovers that she has a gamma mutation that causes her to Hulk out when she feels the need to know something. That’s brilliant, since she’s a journalist. Meanwhile, Gyrich hires the U-Foes. Issue 43 was not in my file when I went to pick it up. I wonder if Heroes decided not to sell it until they get the corrected copies. (Context: https://bleedingcool.com/comics/joe-bennett-apologises-over-immortal-hulk-43-anti-semitic-error/

COMMANDERS IN CRISIS #4 (Image, 2021) – “The Action of Manipulation,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Davide Tinto. A group of anti-empathic villains named the Extinction Society are revealed as the culprits in the death of empathy. We also learn that the world where the series is located is the world where evil is good – in other words, Earth-3. This comic’s plot feels like a metaphor about the current political crisis, but it’s too broad and unspecific a metaphor to really work. I still like this comic, but I also still think it’s overambitious. 

S.W.O.R.D. #2 (Marvel, 2020) – “In the Dark,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Valerio Schiti. A random assortment of X-Men fight the symbiotes. This was a forgettable comic and nothing about it stands out to me. I still intend to keep reading this series because it’s Al Ewing. 

FUTURE STATE: SWAMP THING #1 (DC, 2021) – “Obsidian Sun,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. In a postapocalyptic future world, Swamp Thing leads a party of other plant people in search of the last surviving humans. Before writing this review I had trouble remembering anything about this comic. However, it’s actually very intriguing. I especially like Swampy’s meditations on the process of growing his own children. 

GIRLS’ LOVE STORIES #57 (DC, 1958) – all credits unknown unless specified. “Guest at His Wedding”: Russ is cruel enough to invite his ex-girlfriend Peg to his wedding. While there, Peg falls in love with another man. “Too Dangerous for Love!”: Alicia tries to set up her asshole boss Kevin and her sister Terry, but Kevin starts dating other women besides Terry. Thankfully,  Kevin ends up with neither Terry nor Alicia. In these stories it’s always an unexpected pleasure when the man is a jerk, and he doesn’t end up with the female protagonist. “Exit Happiness!”, [A] John Forte. An actress falls in love with an actor, but he’s just using her for his career. At least he repents in the end. “Picture of Heartbreak!”: Bette loves Dana, but he doesn’t know he exists. Notably, the two female characters in the story are named Bette and Veronica. 

CEREBUS #161 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1992) – “Mothers & Daughters 12,” [W/A] Dave Sim. A dead guy visits Cerebus; I think this is Brad but I’m not sure. Suenteus Po continues lecturing to Cerebus. Something strange happens with the sphere Cirin is building. There’s also a preview sequence consisting of twelve pages from Bone #3. For my current research, it’s important to note that Bone was previewed in Cerebus. 

2000 AD #321 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: as above. Slade witnesses the childhood and adolescence of his clone Sam Scumm. Time Twisters: “I Could Do That,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Mike White. A scientist invents a time machine, but is plagued by future time travelers coming back in time to visit him. There’s a framing sequence where a journalist witnesses these events and sends Tharg the story we just read. Dredd: as above. The condo falls into the sun, though some of its inhabitants escape. Back on earth, Dredd proves that an architect caused the sabotage, leading to half a million deaths, because he was bitter at losing the competition to build the condos. Skizz: as above. Roxy, Loz and Cornelius get some people from the pool hall to spring Skizz. Meanwhile, Skizz tells Van Owen that his people have the power to snuff out suns. Compare Top Ten, where Smax tells Robin that the highest class of superpowered beings are the ones who can snuff or ignite suns. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue reveals that Gunnar inadvertently caused the deaths of some “genetic rejects.” 

CROSSOVER #3 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Geoff Shaw. We start with an obvious reference to Watchmen. Then Ellie (short for Ellipses…) and Ava meet the Paybacks, from an earlier series by the same creators. I have an issue of that series, so I went digging for it, but I found something else I wanted to read first: 

WOLVERINE #11 (Marvel, 2014) – “Killable Part 4 of 6,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Alan Davis. Wolverine and Kitty Pryde fight some Hand ninjas in a mall somewhere in Canada. This issue has some interesting dialogue between Logan and Kitty; notably, Kitty tells Logan that she’s not his child, or a child at all. But the primary appeal of this issue is the artwork. 

THE PAYBACKS #1 (Dark Horse, 2015) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates & Eliot Rahal. The Paybacks are a “super-repo team.” They repossess the equipment of bankrupt superheroes, and they force the superheroes to work for them until the equipment is paid for. This issue, one of the Paybacks’ targets is Doctor Blaqk, who looks suspiciously like Dr. Strange. There are some funny jokes in this issue, such as the Liefeldian character named Bloodpouch. But this series’ premise seems rather limited. As stated in Crossover #3, Paybacks was cancelled because no one read it. 

DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE SORCERERS SUPREME #9 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Robbie Thompson, [A] Javier Rodriguez. Doc, Howard the Duck, and the rest of the team are trapped inside an old book. This results in some great page designs and metatextual jokes. Like, Howard complains about being attacked by the letter E. They escape from the book and fight a creepy monster made of hands. As always, Rodriguez’s art is incredible. 

DETECTIVE COMICS #662 (DC, 1993) – “Burning Questions,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Graham Nolan. This issue has a stunning cover by Sam Kieth. Batman fights the pyromaniac Firefly, while the Riddler is hunted by his former henchmen. I read this issue as a kid, but I don’t remember it well. Chuck Dixon writes the Riddler as an unimpressive character whose riddling is the result of OCD, rather than of a desire to prove his intelligence. 

THE UNION #2 (Marvel, 2021) – “The Britannia Project Part Two: Making Waves,” [W] Paul Grist, [A] Andrea Di Vito. Issue 1 is still on order from DCBS, and it hasn’t arrived yet. The Union are a team of superheroes representing all four nations of the UK, but their leader, Britannia, has been murdered. Union Jack replaces her, and the team fights some of Knull’s symbiotes. Afterward, they try to disband, but Union Jack finds that he’s contractually obligated to serve as the team leader. This entire comic seems like a metaphor for Brexit and its potential to cause the breakup of the UK. A memorable line is when the Choir, the Welsh team member, tells Union Jack that he can’t represent her because he doesn’t know where Merthyr Tydfil is. Paul Grist is British himself, and this issue shows far more knowledge of British culture than Excalibur #6 did. 

PENULTIMAN #4 (Ahoy, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Alan Robinson. Penultiman tries to make himself more positive, but only ends up damaging his reputation further. Antepenultiman builds his own robot, Preantepenultiman, to help him understand his creator better. Preantepenultiman suggests that Antepenultiman should visit Penultiman’s parents. Those names are really annoying.  

CAPTAIN AMERICA #117 FACSIMILE EDITION (Marvel, 2021) – “The Coming of… The Falcon!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Gene Colan. The Red Skull has used the Cosmic Cube to switch bodies with Cap. BTW, the Red Skull’s whole problem is lack of imagination: he’s had the Cosmic Cube on at least three occasions, but all he ever thinks to do with it is torment Cap. Anyway, Cap in the Skull’s body has to fight the Skull’s minions, while the Skull in Cap’s body fawns for the media. Then Cap disguises himself and meets the Falcon, whose first appearance this is. Gene Colan’s art in this issue is beautiful, especially the splash page with Cap/Skull lying on a couch talking to reporters. 

COPRA #39 (Copra, 2020) – “The Ochizon Saga,” [W/A] Michel Fiffe. Another issue-long fight scene. Again, Fiffe’s art is incredible, and this comic is a beautiful artifact. 

HAHA #1 (Image, 2021) – “Bartleby Rejects the Premise,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Vanesa del Rey. A clown goes to work and discovers that the amusement park is closing. His coworker robs him on his way out, and then he goes to the bank to deposit his last paycheck (which the robber missed), only for the bank to also be robbed. He tries to stop the robbery and gets shot in the head, and then things get even weirder; he stops the robbery and returns home, where he perceives his family as balloon animals. This issue is a riff on Batman: The Killing Joke, but I expect the next issue will go in a rather different direction compared to that book. Prince’s depiction of the clown’s chronic bad luck is quite compelling. 

RED THORN #3 (Vertigo, 2016) – “My Beloved Monster,” [W] David Baillie, [A] Meghan Hetrick. Thorn goes looking for a villain named Beluthacadros, while Isla goes to Glasgow in the company of two orcs. This comic suffers from a certain lack of direction. 

CEREBUS #162 – “Mothers & Daughters 12,” as above. Dave describes his visits to Indianapolis, Detroit, Toronto and Atlanta. He mentions three stories I’ve been to: The Beguiling, Oxford Comics in Atlanta, and Dave’s Comics in Detroit, which is unfortunately gone. Cerebus goes back to Earth, and Punisheroach loses his virginity to a sex worker. That’s the end of Mothers & Daughters Part 1: Flight, a confusing and aimless story. There’s a long essay, “The Last Waltz,” in which Dave calls out Gary Groth for his elitism. Dave particularly complains that Gary didn’t know whether Sandman was any good. Most of the letters are about Dave’s tour stops. 

SUPERMAN #326 (DC, 1978) – “A Million Dollars a Minute!”, [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Curt Swan. Superman is mind-controlled into signing a contract that obliges him to reveal his secret identity on TV. The TV-themed villain Blackrock is responsible, or rather the TV executives who created Blackrock. Superman defeats Blackrock and ensures that the TV channel goes off the air, so that no one actually sess him unmask himself. This issue is better than the Cary Bates Superman comics I reviewed earlier. 

GEN13 BOOTLEG #1 (Image, 1996) – “Lindquist’s Fault Part 1,” [W] Mark Farmer, [A] Alan Davis. The Gen13 members travel through a dimensional portal to look for some missing children. Each of them ends up in a separate reality. The most interesting sequence is the one where Fairchild is the leader of a team of preteen superheroes. As always, Alan Davis’s art is beautiful. 

AVENGERS #288 (Marvel, 1988) – “Heavy Metal!”, [W] Ralph Macchio, [A] John Buscema. This issue features one of the worst Avengers lineups ever: Captain Marvel (Monica), She-Hulk, Namor, Black Knight and Dr. Druid. This issue, they fight Machine Man, the Super-Adaptoid, and a Kree Sentry. The only redeeming quality of this issue is Buscema’s art. 

HEAVY METAL #5.10 (HM, 1982) – [E] Julie Simmons-Lynch. There’s way too much stuff in this issue to describe it all. Notable features include: Jim Steranko’s Outland, which indicates the direction he might have taken if he’d stayed in comics. Paul Gillon’s “Mademoiselle My Wife,” a comedy about a married couple who have never met. This seems to be based on some sort of old French play, but the twist is that the characters are robots instead of humans. Gillon’s art is a lot like Al Williamson’s. A series of “Happy Future” segments by various French creators, including a lot of artists who draw in a very similar style to Moebius. Other contributors to this issue include Segrelles, Druillet, Corben, and Jeff Jones.

STRIP #11 (Marvel UK, 1990) – [E] Dan Abnett. This series was a short-lived anthology for mature readers. This issue’s main features are a reprint of part of Marshal Law #6 (an American comic by British creators), and a translation of part of the fifth Thorgal album. I need to read Thorgal, although the Cinebook reprints are censored and the albums are published out of order. 

SKULL #4 (Last Gasp, 1972) – “The Hound,” [W/A] Jack Jackson. A very creepy adaptation of a Lovecraft story. Jaxon’s lettering is hard to read. “The Hairy Claw of Tolen,” [W/A] Charles Dallas. A horror story about a mutant child, narrated in hillbilly dialect. Dallas’s art looks a lot like Spain’s. There are also two more Lovecraft adaptations, drawn by Michael Smith and Herb Arnold. I’ve read far more comics adaptations of Lovecraft than actual works by Lovecraft. 

CEREBUS #163 – “Mothers & Daughters 13,” [W/A] Dave Sim. The start of Book Two: Women. Starting in this issue, there are occasional text pages in which Astoria and Cirin describe their contrasting philosophies. Cirinism and Kevilism both seem like different versions of straw feminism. Astoria prepares for her summit with Cirin, Cerebus returns to earth, and Punisheroach romances his “girlfriend.” As my Facebook friend Kian S. Bergstrom pointed out, Sim’s art was growing more and more beautiful as the series went on, at the same time that Sim himself descended into madness. 

TWISTED TALES #4 (Pacific, 1983) – [W] Bruce Jones. “The Well,” [A] John Bolton. A newlywed husband climbs down a well and is killed by a monster that lives down there. His widow follows him down there and kills the monster, but only after it makes her “pregnant” with its young. “Nick of Time,” [A] Don Lomax. Two wives conspire to frame one of their husbands for murdering the other wife’s husband. Kind of confusing. “The Secret Place,” [A] Jones. A mute boy befriends a stranded alien. 

CHEVAL NOIR #35 (Dark Horse, 1992) – “In Search of Peter Pan,” [W/A] Cosey. A man takes up residence in an Alpine village that’s about to be destroyed by avalanches. The other longer story is “The Birthday” by Cossu and Jamsin, about a man who doesn’t realize he’s dead. This issue includes shorter pieces by Moebius, Rick Geary, and Phil Elliott. 

THE AUTHORITY #20 (WildStorm, 2001) – “Earth Inferno Four of Four,” [W] Mark Millar, [A] Frank Quitely. Some smug asshole steals the Doctor’s powers for a day. As with every other issue of this run, Quitely’s art is beautiful art, but Millar’s writing is rage-inducingly offensive. I don’t know why I keep buying these. 

DONALD DUCK #272 (Gladstone, 1989) – “A Safe Place,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Donald discovers that he owns a valuable stock certificate. He puts it in a safe to protect it from robbers, but then forgets the combination to the safe, just as his offer to sell the stock is about to expire. In a backup story, Donald and Gladstone discover that they’ve both booked the same cabin for their vacation, so they have to split it down the middle. 

THE BOOKS OF MAGIC #13 (Vertigo, 1995) – “Small Glass Worlds Part 1: Transparent Lies,” [W] John Ney Rieber, [A] Peter Gross. Tim and Molly go on a date, only to run into Auberon and Titania. Auberon claims that Tim isn’t Titania’s son. There’s a subplot about Marya. Tim and Molly’s tentative relationship may be the best thing about this series. 

AVENGERS #225 (Marvel, 1982) – “The Fall of Avalon,” [W] Steven Grant, [A] Greg LaRocque. The Avengers are summoned to Avalon to battle the Fomor alongside the Black Knight. The villains in this issue are named after obscure characters from Irish mythology, but otherwise they’re just generic villains. This issue certainly does not have the same Irish mythological flavor as Sláine does. 

ZERO ZERO #21 (Fantagraphics, 1997) – “The Search for Smilin’ Ed,” [W/A] Kim Deitch. In part one, Deitch unsuccessfully tries to track down a kids’ show host named Smilin’ Ed. In part two, Waldo takes over as narrator, and he gradually reveals Smilin’ Ed’s bizarre secrets. The rest of the story is serialized in issues #22 and #24-27. “The Search for Smilin’ Ed” is rather similar to Stuff of Dreams/Alias the Cat, both in its themes and its structure – specifically how it begins as a seemingly true story about Deitch himself, then gets stranger and stranger. But still, this is a major work of Deitch. It was rather hard to find until it was reprinted as a graphic novel in 2010. 

YASMEEN #5 (Scout, 2021) – untitled, [W] Saif A. Ahmed, [A] Fabiana Mascolo. In flashback, Yasmeen finally escapes from her captors. In the present, her classmate Mira makes an unsuccessful suicide attempt, and she beats up a boy who calls her an “ISIS bitch.” I didn’t completely understand this issue because I missed at least one previous issue. Still, Yasmeen may be the most underrated comic of 2020. 

SUICIDE SQUAD #54 (DC, 1991) – “The Dragon’s Hoard Part II: Divine Wind,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Geof Isherwood. The Suicide Squad accepts a private contract to retrieve a cache of guns from Cambodia. While the Squad is on the mission, their client is murdered, and his successor tries to terminate the contract. This issue is good, but not especially notable. 

CEREBUS #164 – “Mothers & Daughters 14,” as above. Cerebus talks with an unnamed old man who’s being held captive by the Cirinists. The man says some grossly offensive things, like “women r*pe men’s minds the way men r*pe women’s bodies.” There’s no reason to think Sim doesn’t believe this nonsense. The Roach turns into Swoon, a parody of Sandman, and Elrod becomes his sister, a parody of Death. (There was an earlier issue where Death appeared in one panel as a joke, but I forget which one.) The Pigt men all get killed in an ill-fated invasion attempt, and the women seem to be better off without them. There’s a long-ass letter by M’Oak, thankfully not about r*pe, and also a lot of letters about direct-market matters. 

KING IN BLACK: GWENOM VS. CARNAGE #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Flaviano. Gwenom returns to her home reality and fights some symbiotes. Mary Jane turns into Carnage. Not bad, but also not especially memorable. 

HEAVY METAL #6.5 (HM, 1982) – [E] Julie Simmons-Lynch. “Freak Show” by Bruce Jones and Wrightson is unimpressive by Wrightson’s standards. Christin and Bilal’s “The Voyage of Those Forgotten,” later translated as The Cruise of Lost Souls, is an early work that’s not in Bilal’s signature painted style. Manara and Silverio Pisu’s “The Ape” is a sexy version of the Sun Wukong legend. “Right Smack in the Middle of the Cold War” has beautiful Clear Line art by Jean-Louis Floch, not to be confused with his more famous brother Jean-Claude Floc’h. Nicole Claveloux’s “The Story of the Flaxen-Haired Princess […]” is a fairy tale with beautiful art that resembles Renaissance engravings. Other artists in the issue include Caza, Corben (Den II), Jeff Jones, Moebius (The Incal), Fernando Fernandez (Zora), and Druillet (Yragael). I haven’t seen Fernandez’s work before, and it’s impressive. However, Druillet’s art is so epic and hyper-detailed as to barely be readable. 

MINIATURE JESUS #2 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W/A] Ted McKeever. This is much wider than a normal comic book, but the same height, and I think it will fit in a drawerbox. It consists of a confusing story about a priest who encounters a series of visions that challenge his faith. McKeever’s style of linework is very unusual and unique, but I suspect his comics are an acquired taste. 

TWISTED TALES #5 (Pacific, 1983) – [W] Bruce Jones. “Terminated,” [A] Richard Corben. A leper is killed by a terrified mob, but his corpse falls into their water supply. “Scritch… Scritch… Scritch,” [A] Bill Wray. A man is driven to suicide by annoying noises no one else can hear. It turns out his dentist had hidden a radio receiver in his tooth, intending to drive the man crazy and steal his wife. “Majority of One,” [A] Val Mayerik. A werewolf is hunted by a mob. He finds refuge with a woman whose baby is also a werewolf. The mob kills all three of them. The twist ending is that the man and woman were being persecuted because they’re not full-time werewolves, and everybody else is. “Banjo Lessons,” [A] Rand Holmes. A man is on death row for murdering his three best friends. In flashbacks, we learn that all three of the friends had tortured, murdered and eaten a black dog named Banjo. We subsequently realize that the depiction of Banjo as a dog was the result of unreliable narration, and he was actually a black man. This issue begins with a long editorial by April Campbell in which she clarifies tat the story is not meant to endorse racism. This should be pretty obvious. I do think that the story sensationalizes racism, but that’s a different matter. 

DRYAD #8 (Oni, 2021) – untitled, [W] Kurtis Wiebe, [A] Justin Barcelo. Yale confronts his estranged brother Lou. The kids go looking for their origins and get arrested along with their new friends. I’m starting to lose track of this series’s plot.

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR #6 (Dark Horse, 1994) – untitled, [W/A] Frank Miller. I don’t quite understand this comic’s plot, but it seems like a lot of macho BS, and Miller’s word balloons contain way too much text. Also, his art is entirely black and white with no shading. My impression is that Miller jumped the shark after Daredevil: The Man Without Fear.  

CEREBUS #165 – “Mothers & Daughters 15,” as above. Dave describes his visits to Portland and New York. Cirin talks with her assistants (two of whom are named after Germaine Greer and Andrea Dworkin) about Cerebus and the golden sphere. Swoon and Elrod do some target practice. There are also some letters about the love triangle between Rob Lavender, Larry Young (not sure if this is Larry Young the cartoonist) and Nicole Rodney. I don’t know if this is a running joke or what, but it seems rather creepy how all these men were discussing Nicole’s relationships in public. 

NEW MUTANTS #81 (Marvel, 1989) – “Faith,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Louis Williams. This appears to be an inventory story. It’s set between #35 and #36 (according to the GCD) and focuses on Magma’s first meeting with Hercules. Magma is initially disappointed by Herc’s lack of resemblance to her god, but after they have an adventure together, Amara learns to respect Herc. Amara is the most underdeveloped character in this series, besides maybe Karma, and this issue helps remedy her lack of characterization. 

BATMAN #448 (DC, 1990) – “The Penguin Affair I: Pawns,” [W] Marv Wolfman & Alan Grant, [A] Jim Aparo. The Penguin uses mind-controlled birds to kidnap a soap opera actress, who he mistakes for her character. We’ve already seen how this story ends. Jim Aparo’s art in this issue is far from his best. I was not able to solve the chess problem on page 18, but it looks like Batman’s solution (Rc2+) is correct. At one point in this issue, the Penguin says “Alfred Hitchcock, eat your heart out,” alluding to the obvious resemblance between The Penguin Affair and Hitchcock’s The Birds.  

IRON MAN #159 (Marvel, 1982) – “When Strikes Diablo,” [W] Roger McKenzie, [A] Paul Smith. Stark International hires a janitor, Al Bido, only he has no references and HR has no record of hiring him. Also he’s an expert in chemical engineering. Under hypnosis, Al Bido realizes that he’s Diablo, and he fights Iron Man and loses. This is a pretty average issue, but the art is very attractive. It’s been a while since I’ve read a Paul Smith comic. 

SUPERMAN #344 (DC, 1980) – “The Monsters Are Among Us!”, [W] Paul Levitz & Len Wein, [A] Curt Swan. Clark Kent attends a seance by Cassandra Craft, who previously appeared in the Phantom Stranger series. Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster appear, intent on claiming Cassandra’s soul, and Superman has to save her. This issue is confusing to a reader who hasn’t encountered Cassandra before. I didn’t even realize she was a preexisting character until after I read it. 

BEST BUY COMICS #nn (Last Gasp, 1979) – various stories, [W/A] Robert Crumb with Aline Kominsky-Crumb. This one-shot consists of stories that appeared in CoEvolution Quarterly, an environmentalist magazine that was spun off from the Whole Earth Catalog, as well as one story that was rejected from that magazine. “R. Crumb’s Modern Dance Workshop” is a typical example of Crumb’s leg and butt fetishism. “Space Day Symposium” is Crumb’s report on a private aerospace industry event. He was the furthest thing possible from the target audience for this event, and his disdain for it is very clear. “The Goose and the Gander Were Talking One Night” may be his greatest story; it has a mature sensibility that’s lacking in most of his work. “The Nerds” is about two guys discussinng religion. There are various other short pieces, and then the rejected story is a collaboration between Robert and Aline, about their visit to the Whole Earth Jamboree. Perhaps it was rejected for its flippant attitude toward this event. 

EDDY CURRENT #3 (Mad Dog, 1987) – “8:00 AM,” [W/A] Ted McKeever. If I recall correctly, this series had a constraint where every issue covered one hour. I don’t understand this issue’s plot, but it has the same unusual style of draftsmanship as Miniature Jesus, and its plot is far more interesting. 

CHEVAL NOIR #41 (Dark Horse, 1993) – “Demon,” [W/A] Masashi Tanaka. A rather generic story about an ogre that terrorizes the Japanese court. Tanaka later became world-famous for his wordless dinosaur manga Gon. This issue also includes “Stan Pulsar” by Cailleteau and Vatine, better known for Aquablue, as well as some short pieces by Moebius, Geary, Phil Elliott and Nicole Hollander. By this point in its run, Cheval Noir had drifted away from its original focus on French comics. 

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #91 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “The Wolves of Saint August 4 of 4,” [W/A] Mike Mignola. Hellboy fights and defeats a werewolf. Mike Mignola’s art here is, of course, beautiful and deeply moody. This issue also includes Bob Schreck’s eulogy for Doug Wildey. This issue also includes a crime story by Robbie Morrison and Frank Quitely, as well as a story by Jim Alexander and Rob McCallum, who’s quite good at drawing robots. 

MUDMAN #1 (Image, 2012) – “Mudman,” [W/A] Paul Grist. This was Grist’s most recent creator-owned title. It’s set in the coastal English town of Burnbridge-on-Sea, and it stars Owen Craig, a schoolboy who discovers a suit that gives him mud powers. Grist’s draftsmanship and storytelling in this issue are brilliantly economical, but Mudman’s story didn’t grab me. 

CEREBUS #166 – “Mothers & Daughters 16,” as above except it’s now 1993. Dave discusses his visits to Cleveland and Denver. Cerebus has a lot of weird dreams. The Black Tower reappears and falls onto the Regency Hotel. The letter column includes short letters by Gary Groth and Shelton Drum, and a long one by Martin Wagner. Dave also includes the transcript of his speech to the Diamond Seminar, and there’s a four-page backup story by someone I haven’t heard of. 

FEARLESS DAWN: THE RETURN OF OLD NUMBER SEVEN! (Albatross, 2021) – “The Return of Old Number 7,” [W/A] Steve Mannion. I bought this on impulse at Heroes because I liked the art style. It’s about an adventuress and her Frankenstein-monster companion. Steve Mannion’s draftsmanship is really good; he draws cute women, scary monsters, and exciting action scenes. This comic reminds me a bit of Tank Girl, which is also published by Albatross. There are lots of other Fearless Dawn comics, but they were mostly pubilshed by even smaller companies than Albatross, and are hard to find. 

SEA OF SORROWS #2 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Rich Douek, [A] Alex Cormack. More undersea horror and scary mermaids. Again, the best thing about this comic is Alex Cormack’s dark, creepy art.

MUDMAN #2 (Image, 2012) – “The Perfect Getaway,” [W/A] Paul Grist. Owen saves his father from crooks, and the crooks get stuck in mud. Owen meets a mysterious woman. I think the best thing about Mudman’s story is its highly distinctive setting. 

AMERICAN VAMPIRE 1976 #4 (DC, 2021) – “Answered Prayers,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. The protagonists go looking for the text of George Washington’s pact with some kind of vampire council. We also meet Mimiteh, a Native American vampire, although she was introduced last issue. I’ve had enough of this series, and I’m not going to finish it. 

YOUNG LOVE #71 (DC, 1968) – “Tall, Dark and Married!”, [W] unknown, [A] John Rosenberger? Arlene falls in love with (and/or is sexually harassed by) her boss Neil, even though he’s married. He eventually reveals that he’s not married; he keeps a fake photo of his wife on his desk to deter “husband-hunters.” “Come to My Arms,” [W] unknown, [A] Mike Sekowsky. Adam falls in love with Joan, who’s passing through Adam’s city while looking for her lover Bill. Joan ends up with Bill and not Adam. Another example of a story that doesn’t end in a happily-ever-after, at least not for Adam. “Life and Loves of Lisa St. Claire,” [W] Jack Miller?, [A] Jay Scott Pike. Part of an ongoing story which began in issue 68. In this chapter, Lisa, a wealthy but lonely heiress, becomes the patron of a (literal) starving artist. Pike uses some unusual page layouts in this story, including a star-shaped panel. See https://www.sequentialcrush.com/blog/2012/05/recurring-characters-of-dc-romance for more on the continuing stories in DC’s romance titles. 

2000 AD #322 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: as above. Sam Slade and Sam Scumm become two souls in the same body. One-shot: “The Hyper-Historic Headbang!”, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Alan Davis. In 5019 AD, a heavy metal band plays a concert that involves time travel to various historical catastrophes. This story has no real plot, but Davis’s art is beautiful. Quinch makes a cameo appearance at the bottom of page two. Dredd: “Day of the Werewolf Part 1,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Steve Dillon. A werewolf terrorizes Mega-City One. This may be the first appearance of the “total relaxation inducer” that allows Judges to get a full night’s sleep in ten minutes. Skizz: as above. Roxy and her friends execute an elaborate plot to steal Skizz back. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue wakes up, defeats some Norts, and convinces Gunnar, Helm and Bagman that his confessions about them were false, though they were in fact true. 

DEVIL’S RED BRIDE #4 (Vault, 2021) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] John Bivens. The conspirators try to take revenge on Lord Kamimura, only to discover that he died, and his palanquin actually contains his wife and young son. I’m giving up on this series too. 

LONELY RECEIVER #5 (AfterShock, 2021) – “A Life: Weave the Wind. I Have No Ghosts,” [W] Zac Thompson, [A] Jen Hickman. I didn’t understand this issue at all. I liked issues 2 and 3 of this series, but the other three were incomprehensible. 

GETTING IT TOGETHER #4 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Sina Grace, [W] Omar Spahi, [A] Jenny D. Fine. Lauren overcomes her anxiety and prepares for her first solo concert. Sina Grace takes over as the artist with page 7 of this issue, and while his art isn’t spectacular, it’s a tremendous improvement over Jenny Fine’s art. On Sina’s pages, it’s actually possible to distinguish one character from another. (In comics, it’s essential that the characters don’t look too similar. They aren’t being constantly referenced by their names, as in prose fiction, so the reader needs to be able to identify them by their visual appearances.)  

CEREBUS #168 – “Mothers & Daughters 18,” as above. Dave’s note consists of technical advice about comics art. Astoria has a dream about her father and Artemis (her name for the Roach character), then wakes up to find herself in the midst of a crisis. Cirin has a dream about Swoon. There are long letters by Charles Brownstein and Jim Ottaviani, and a preview of Nabiel Kanan’s Exit. The actual Cerebus story only takes up half the issue. 

ACTION COMICS #467 (DC, 1977) – “Stop It, Superman – You’re Wrecking the World!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Curt Swan. Superman tries to stop a civil war in the fictional Balkan country of Borotavia. In revenge, a Borotavian scientist finds a way to steal Superman’s energy and use it to cause natural disasters. There’s a backup story in which Krypto encounters Mr. Mxyzptlk. 

SPIDER-WOMAN #6 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Dennis Hopeless, [A] Javier Rodriguez. Jessica tries to track down a villain who’s been kidnapping the children of various minor supervillains. Javier Rodriguez’s draftsmanship in this issue is excellent, but his page designs are unadventurous. 

UNCLE SCROOGE #12 (Dell, 1956) – “The Golden Fleecing,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Scrooge wants clothing made out of gold, but the only way to get it is to find the legendary Golden Fleece. To get it, Scrooge and his nephews have to travel to ancient Colchis and battle the Larkies (rather than Harpies) and a dragon. This is one of Barks’s most thrilling adventure stories. The Larkies are great villains, and the plot has an epic scope, thanks in part to its length: it takes up the entire issue. 

UNCLE SCROOGE #33 (Dell, 1961) – “Billions in the Hole,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Scrooge builds a miniaturizing machine, but then he drops his #1 Dime in an ant hole. To make things worse, the Beagle Boys steal the Atom Subtracter and use it to shrink the Money Bin, and the ants steal that too. This is another masterpiece by the finest storyteller in the history of American comics. The ducks, the Beagle Boys and the ant get into all sorts of fun adventures, and the ending is satisfying, with Scrooge admitting that he needs to spend a dime on an exterminator – but “not this dime.” I love the panel with the ants sitting at a long dining table, with leaves as plates. This issue also includes two more Barks stories: a four-page Gyro Gearloose story and a ten-page Scrooge story, “Bongo on the Congo.” The latter story takes place in Africa and includes some questionable depictions of African people, but it’s not as awful as “Voodoo Hoodoo,” since it mostly focuses on Scrooge’s efforts to get Donald interested in the family  business. This story references the Mau Mau conflict in Kenya. 

CEREBUS #169 – “Mothers & Daughters 19,” as above. Dave gives some more technical advice. Jaka dreams about reading her own story. Cirin and Astoria dream about each other. There’s a two-page text sequence in which an old woman complains about how feminism is ruining families. There are two letter columns, the normal one and another one about the Cerebus ’93 campaign. The issue also includes a preview of Understanding Comics. By this point, Dave almost seemed to be more devoted to promoting Cerebus than writing or drawing it. The promotional material was starting to crowd out the actual Cerebus content. The series was clearly heading downhill by this point, though it didn’t fall off a cliff until #186. 

GENTLE BEN #1 (Dell, 1968) – “Lost!” and other stories, [W] D.J. Arneson, [A] Henry Scarpelli. I saw this on eBay at a low price and had to bid on it, because it’s such a silly premise. Gentle Ben is about a little boy and his pet… bear. Gentle Ben was not just a gag on the Simpsons (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wo3PAfV2EA) but a real TV show. In this issue’s first story, Mark Wedloe and Ben the bear go looking for a lost child in the Everglades. In the other two stories, they fight a poacher and rescue a pilot from a crash landing. So the plots are kind of similar to those of the Lassie comic, except with a bear instead of a dog. DJ Arneson’s writing is not bad at all, though. 

UNCLE SCROOGE #31 (Dell, 1960) – “All at Sea,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Scrooge sells some rubber mills and trees to a newly independent country, but they pay him in gold, and he has to collect it in person by boat. The Beagle Boys find out that Scrooge is about to transport $1 billion in gold by sea, so of course they decide to steal it. Huey, Dewey and Louie bring some rats with them on the boat, and the rats end up saving the day. This is a very clever story, though not quite as classic as the last two Barks stories that I read. This issue includes a short Gyro story and a Scrooge nine-pager, “Two-Way Luck,” in which Scrooge enters a contest to find the biggest emerald. 

CEREBUS #170 – “Mothers & Daughters 20,” as above. More dream sequences. Cirin tells General Greer that she’s been acting like a man, and General Greer agrees with her. When Cirin wakes up fully, she has General Greer executed for this treasonous act. The letter column is shorter than usual; instead, Dave includes his address to Pro Con. By this time, Dave was starting to become like Stan Lee or George R.R. Martin, in that he was more interested in promoting his brand than in doing the thing that earned him his reputation. 

THE SUPERANNUATED MAN #2 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] Ted McKeever. This comic takes place in a society where humans coexist with anthropomorphic animals, but beyond that, I don’t understand its plot. It’s drawn in the same style as Miniature Jesus. 

UNCANNY X-MEN #271 (Marvel, 1990) – “Flashpoint!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Jim Lee. The X-Men and the New Mutants battle the Genoshan Magistrates, while Moira debates the Genegineer on live TV. I read this story in trade paperback form when I was a kid. Revisiting it now, I realize how amazing Jim Lee’s art is. He draws beautiful machinery and anatomy, and he’s internalized the manga style of storytelling: he uses motion lines and diagonal panel borders, and each page has a different layout. 

2000 AD #323 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: as above. Sam Slade/Scumm has to serve a sentence in a “time stretcher” that artificially ages him, but intead he turns it into a time machine and travels to Brit-Cit in the future. Tharg: “The Lethal Laziness of Lobelia Loam,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Rafael Boluda. This story is uncredited, but you can tell it’s by Moore just because of the intricacy of the writing, and it’s included in collections of Moore’s Future Shocks. Tharg’s little nephews are making a big mess, so he reads them a poem about a lazy woman who throws all her trash in a time portal to March 12, 1994. When that date rolls around, the trash comes back and buries Lobelia. Dredd: as above. Dredd shoots and kills one of the werewolves. He discovers that the werewolf was Bram, a judge who was exiled to the Undercity upon retirement. Skizz: as above. Roxy and her friends rescue Skizz. This chapter is very skillfully plotted. At the end, a guard tells Van Owen that he’s going to Gretna Green to marry a stuffed animal, and it kind of makes sense in context. Rogue Trooper: “The Vid-Vultures Part 1,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Brett Ewins. Rogue is harassed by a flying news-robot. 

SAVAGE DRAGON #27 (Image, 1996) – “Will You Marry Me?”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Rapture asks Dragon to marry her. Dragon has nightmarish visions of baby Dragons and Raptures, and finally decide to reject her proposal. His decision was the result of a reader vote, which was 266 to 258 against Dragon saying yes. Rapture then reveals that she’s pregnant. In an example of just how long this series is going on, Rapture’s just-conceived fetus is now the series’ protagonist, and is a father himself. Page 5 of this issue could have appeared in Erik’s Spider-Man run with minimal changes; it shows a red-haired woman waking up and asking “Peter, are you here?” 

WARLORD #11 (DC, 1978) – “Flashback,” [W/A] Mike Grell. As the title indicates, this issue is a flashback explaining how Morgan arrived in Skartaris. It doesn’t feel particularly new or original, and there’s a reason why not. As I learned when I checked the GCD, almost the entire issue is reprinted from First Issue Special #8, which I’ve already read. There is no indication of this in the issue itself, and readers who already owned First Issue Special #8 must have thought that Warlord #8 was a ripoff. 

MILLIE THE MODEL #128 (Marvel, 1965) – “Millie is Engaged,” [W] Stan Lee, [A] Stan Goldberg. My copy of this issue is missing two story pages, probably because those pages had fashion illustrations on their reverse sides, but I was able to find the missing pages online. Millie accepts Clicker’s marriage proposal, but is sad because she doesn’t want to give up modeling, and she thinks Clicker will want her to be a housewife. Millie tells Clicker this, and he comes up with a brilliant solution: she can marry him later, after she’s ready to give up  her career! Why couldn’t Millie have married Clicker and kept her career? Apparently because Stan Lee was unable to imagine the idea of a married woman continuing to work. Stan wrote a lot of blatantly sexist stories in the ’60s, but this one is pretty bad even for him. Other than that, it actually uses a similar style of characterization as the Marvel superhero titles. I must have known, at some level, that Stan drew upon his experience with romance comics when writing superhero comics, but that becomes especially clear from reading a comic like this one. 

MILLIE THE MODEL #163 (Marvel, 1968) – “The Model and the Mutt!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Stan Goldberg or Sol Brodsky. There was a copy of this issue in my mother’s old bedroom at my grandparents’ house; it either belonged to my mother or one of my aunts. So I’ve read this comic before and I remember it well. Sometime between #128 and #163, Millie completely changed format and became a humor comic instead of a realistic romance comic. Millie #163 is drawn in an Archie-esque style, and it consists of several short stories, mostly about Millie’s rivalry with Chili. I just realized that those names were chosen because they rhyme. BTW, Chili’s last name is Storm, but oddly, no writer has ever established that she’s related to Sue and Johnny Storm. This issue is signed “Stan Lee & Solly B,” i.e. Sol Brodsky, but the GCD says it was drawn by Stan Goldberg. The GCD entry for Millie #158 explains: “Although the story is signed “Solly B.” Stan Goldberg has stated that he pencilled some Millie’s under Brodsky’s name when he was working for Archie.” This may have been because Stan didn’t like his artists to work for other publishers. 

CEREBUS #171 – “Mothers & Daughters 21,” as above. Dave tells a story about how Russ Heath had to draw an entire story in one weekend. I once met Russ Heath (RIP) and told him I admired his story “Give and Take,” and he told me it had taken forever to draw. Cerebus and Astoria dream about each other, then Cerebus (who’s been drinking in a tavern for the past several issues) has visions of the Regency Elf and of his younger self. A black-clad figure stalks the streets of Iest; I think this is supposed to be Death. The real one, not the one from Sandman. This issue also reprints Caliber publisher Gary Reed’s guide to self-publishing. There’s a letter claiming that Nicole Rodney’s claims about her relationship with Rob Lavender were contradictory, and Dave agrees with this. Again, it’s really creepy how all these guys were discussing Nicole and Rob’s relationship. She’d have been justified in sending Dave a cease and desist letter, though he would have used it as an excuse for further harassment. 

SHOWCASE #70 (DC, 1967) – Leave It to Binky: “Duel Shiners” and other stories, [W] unknown, [A] Bob Oksner. A bunch of silly teen humor stories, all reprinted from 1950s issues of Leave It to Binky. That series had ended in 1958, but after this tryout in Showcase, DC restarted the series in 1968, initially using reprinted material. Binky was then cancelled in 1971 and was revived again in 1977, but only for one issue. 

YOUNG LOVE #49 (DC, 1965) – “Give Me Something to Remember You By!”,  [W] Jack Miller, [A] John Rosenberger. Marge has a romance with Wade while on summer vacation. When the summer is over, he promises to bring her something to remember him by. Then he comes to see her in person: the “something” he brought is himself. “Your Man is Mine!”, [W] Lee Goldsmith, [A] Werner Roth. Pat’s sister Clea steals all her boyfriends. Finally Clea gets married, but her husband dies. She tries to steal Clea’s current boyfriend, but this time it doesn’t work. Compare “Don’t Speak to Me of Love!” in Heart Throbs #92. “Someone – Hear My Heart!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] John Romita. Part of an ongoing storyline about a nurse named Mary Robin. She falls in love with a surgeon, but has to decide whether she’s a nurse or a woman – as if she can’t be both. At least this story isn’t quite as bad as Millie #128. It’s weird reading a John Romita comic that wasn’t published by Marvel and that includes no action sequences. 

CEREBUS #172 – “Mothers & Daughters 22,” as above. Cirin orders Astoria to surrender. Astoria tries to organize her followers to defend themselves, but one of her own followers accuses her of betraying her own philosophy of shared decision-making. Astoria is perhaps the best character in the entire series, and the Astoria-Cirin conflict is the only part of Mothers & Daughters that’s actually interesting. I wish Dave had focused on that, instead of wasting so many pages on Swoon and Elrod and Suenteus Po and various pointless subplots. There’s a letter where John Davis from Capital Comics objects to some of Dave’s statements. 

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #24 (Marvel, 2010) – “Stark: Disassembled Part 5; …..,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Salvador Larroca. An unconscious Tony has a vision where he encounters lots of dead people from his past. Pepper Potts and Maria Hill try to save Tony from being killed by the Ghost. This issue’s cover says “Eisner Award Winner: Best New Series.” A rebooted Iron Man title hardly seems like an appropriate recipient of that award, even if it was technically eligible.

Going to bed now. Will finish tomorrow. 

2000 AD #324 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: as above. Slade is stuck in the time machine, and even though it’s broad daylight and lots of people are passing by, not a single person will help him escape. This chapter is pretty funny. Time Twisters: “The Time Machine,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jesus Redondo. Harry Bentley uses a time machine to revisit various moments from his life. We finally learn that he’s just jumped off a bridge, and the “time machine” is his life flashing before his eyes as he drowns. Very powerful. Dredd: as above. The werewolves cause even more mayhem. Skizz: as above. Roxy reunites with Skizz and they plan to escape Birmingham, but Van Owen is still hunting for them. Rogue Trooper: “The Vid-Vultures Part 2,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Brett Ewins. By floating above Rogue, the video robot gives away his position to the Norts.  

INCREDIBLE HULK #266 (Marvel, 1981) – “Devolution!”, [W] Bill Mantlo, [A] Sal Buscema. The High Evolutionary wants to die, but his armor won’t let him commit suicide, so he tries to force the Hulk to kill him by turning Betty and Rick into apes. The High Evolutionary is an interesting villain because he’s not really a villain at all; he has good intentions and is kind to his creations.  

BARBIE FASHION #25 (Marvel, 1993) – “Secret Admirer” and other stories, [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Mary Wilshire. I won a bunch of these on eBay. They’re all in rather low grade. Tara has a secret admirer, but it’s not who she thinks it is. In the second story, Skipper helps Kelly deal with her parents’ marital problems. The last story provides some practical advice on hair care. All the letters are from girls aged 7 to 11. 

MUDMAN #3 (Image, 2012) – “All the Things We Leave Behind,” [W/A] Paul Grist. Mudman explores the attic where he found his costume, and discovers a floating robot that tries to kill him and his best friend. On the inside front cover, Grist explains why Jack Staff went on infinite hiatus. It’s too bad Jack Staff ended, because honestly it was better than Mudman. There’s just not enough to distinguish Mudman from any other superhero comic. 

CEREBUS #173 – “Mothers & Daughters 23,” as above. Cerebus decides he’s the champion of men against the scourge of women. As others have noted, it’s hard to reconcile Sim’s extreme misogyny with the existence of characters like Jaka and Astoria. Then he starts flying again. Astoria plans to immolate herself with her followers, but instead leaves the house alone. The Roach turns into a bunch of different parodies of ‘90s comics. There’s a preview of Teri Sue Wood’s Wandering Star, a series I want to read more of. 

2000 AD #325 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: as above. Hoagy finally rescues Sam from the chair, and Sam is reunited with Hoagy and Stogie. It is very annoying to see Stogie again, after having been free of him for five or ten progs. Future Shocks: “Eureka!”, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Mike White. Some space travelers go looking for aliens. The “alien” they discover is a viral idea that spreads from each of them to the people of earth. Tharg ends the story before the alien idea can infect the reader too. What a brilliant premise. Dredd: as above. Dredd goes to the Undercity to look for the source of the werewolves. In the ruins of Times Square, he discovers an albino werewolf being tortured by robots. I’m not sure if this was before or after Times Square changed from a red light district to a tourist trap. Skizz: as above. Roxy insists on seeing her parents before she leaves town. They aren’t happy with her. Cornelius Cardew has an epic moment: he throws a chair through a window, points to the stars, and says “There’s nothing more important than that! Not even pipe-fitting!” Meanwhile, Van Owen discovers people won’t defer to him in England the way they do in South Africa. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue defeats the Norts despite the vid-vulture’s interference. 

BARBIE FASHION #26 (Marvel, 1993) – “The Volunteers” and “Ski Shopping Spree,” as above. Skipper volunteers at a homeless shelter. This story’s depiction of homelessness is very sanitized; the homeless people look like regular middle-class people, and the story makes no attempt to explain why they became homeless. In the backup story, Ken tries to decide what ski clothing to buy for Barbie. The trouble with Barbie as a protagonist is that she’s not really a character. She has no backstory or motivation, she never encounters serious problems, and she’s literally perfect. That’s by design: she was created as a fashion doll, not a character in a narrative. Most issues of Barbie Fashion, including this one, contain letters about how the reader’s mother or grandmother also played with Barbie dolls. 

I went back to Heroes on Friday, February 5: 

ONCE & FUTURE #15 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. Mary-Nimue-Elaine confronts Rose. Duncan and Gran figure out how Galahad was conceived: Mary trapped herself in a boiling cauldron so that Lancelot would appear and rescue her. Like everything else in Once & Future, this is an accurate description of Arthurian myth. Lancelot manifests as a suit of armor filled with water and fish, appropriately since he was raised underwater. Mary tries to shoot Rose, but she’s saved by a government agent, though this may be a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire. Much of the pleasure of this series comes from recognizing the Arthurian legends that Kieron is adapting; however, this may make it difficult for readers who aren’t familiar with Arthurian literature. 

FANTASTIC FOUR #28 (Marvel, 2021) – “All the Ways Your Universe Ends,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] R.B. Silva. Reed sends the Griever to the end of the universe, but only after she’s subjected the FF to their most likely deaths. Reed’s most likely death is being killed by Ben. The Silver Surfer guest-stars in this issue, and I love how Silva and colorist Jesus Aburtov make his skin reflective instead of opaque. The Griever says that Ben’s four guardians are Reed, Sue, Ben, and… Dragon Man, rather than Johnny. That kind of makes sense. Jim and Margaret Power, Agatha Harkness and Jarvis could also count as Franklin’s guardians. 

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #5 (Image, 2021) – “The Shadow Play,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Martin Simmonds. Ruby visits the Denver airport, which is the locus of an obscure conspiracy theory. Cole meets a man named Martin Barker (named after the comics historian?), who tries to convert him to the Black Hat side. According to Barker, the Department of Truth was designed to “reshape the postwar world with America as its center.” Department of Truth is probably the best new comic of 2020. 

ABBOTT 1973 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Sami Kivelä. Detroit is about to elect a new mayor, while Elena Abbott has to deal with a misogynistic new newspaper owner. Here we see an example of intersectionality: Elena simultaneously faces racism from white people, and sexism from a black man. Oh, and also, Elena is being hunted by ghosts, one of which is possessing her elderly friend Henrietta. One reason I love Abbott is that it shows me a different side of Detroit than the one I know. As a kid I went to Detroit every year to visit my grandparents, but they lived in West Bloomfield and Bloomfield Hills, and I rarely saw other parts of the city. I didn’t even know there was a Palmer Park near downtown. 

STRANGE ACADEMY #7 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. Emily wakes from a coma to find Doyle dead. In flashback, we see that Dr. Strange revived Emily by appeailng to Hoggoth, and that Hoggoth has also been consuming all the magical debt Strange has accumulated from running the school. Emily wants to get Dormammu to revive his son, but Strange forces her to accept Doyle’s death. She kisses his corpse goodbye… and he comes back to life. Awwww. 

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #14 (Boom!, 2021) – “A Game of Nowhere Part Four”, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. Erica’s monster manifests its true form: a fairy growing out of a carnivorous plant. Erica, James and Bian figure out how the monsters came into existence. The townspeople try to save themselves from the Order of St. George, who are far worse than the monsters they hunt. This may be my second favorite current series after Once & Future. Too bad it’s going on hiatus. 

WE ONLY FIND THEM WHEN THEY’RE DEAD #5 (Boom!, 2021) – “Look, And You Find Them,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Simone Di Meo. In flashback, we learn why Paula hates Georges. The family history here is confusing; it would have been clearer if I had read the series at one sitting. A bunch of other gods collect the newly dead god’s body. Then nine years later, we see that Georges himself has become a god – at least that’s my reading, though I didn’t get it until I reread the comic just now. This series is a great piece of science fiction, and I hope there’s more of it. 

SPECTER INSPECTORS #1 (Boom!, 2021) – “Welcome to Cape Grace,” [W/A] Bowen McCurdy, [W] Kaitlyn Musto. Recent college graduates Noa, Ko and Astrid, plus teenage Gus, have a YouTube show on paranormal phenomena. In their last episode they captured a disembodied voice on camera. For their next episode they visit Cape Grace, the most haunted town in America. While exploring a creepy old house, Astrid tells Noa that she faked the disembodied voice. Then Astrid gets possessed by a real demon, and they can’t leave Cape Grace until they learn the demon’s name. This is a really promising debut issue, and I’m excited for this series. 

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #94 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Thom Zahler, [A] Toni Kuusisto. Pinkie Pie recruits Cheese Sandwich to help plan the Festival of the Two Sisters, but she soon becomes more interested in Cheese than her job. Just as Pinkie is about to confess her feelings to Cheese, all the sound in Ponyville disappears. I was very skeptical when I learned that Pinkie was going to marry Cheese, because she seems completely devoid of any romantic interest. But Thom succeeds in convincing me that Pinkie and Cheese are attracted to each other, and their interactions in this issue are really cute. I especially like the scene where Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Rarity and Fluttershy get off the train, and Pinkie ignores them because she’s waiting for Cheese. It’s worth noting that Cheese Sandwich can appear more frequently in the comic than on the show, since there’s no need to pay Weird Al Yankovic for voice acting. 

THE DREAMING: WAKING HOURS #7 (DC, 2021) – “Intermezzo Part 2,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Javier Rodriguez. By the time I read this, I had forgotten the plot of #6. Ruin and her friends go looking for Heather, and they run into Matthew and Goldie. There’s a beautiful page showing how one of the other characters perceives Ruin and Zophiel. Heather summons Auberon, and he tells her that Nuala dethroned him and Titania. 

I ordered a bunch more Cerebus comics, plus a few other comics: 

CEREBUS #26 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1981) – “High Society,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus arrives in Iest, the principal setting for most of the run, and discovers that everyone wants his attention because he’s an envoy of Lord Julius. Cerebus gets a free room at the Regency Hotel and makes ridiculous demands on the staff – four bottles of wine from different years “and for dessert, any fruit that’s out of season.” The staff meet his requests with no complaints. Cerebus tries to get into a bar fight, but can’t even do that because the Iest government has assigned him a security detail. This is actually the best issue of Cerebus I’ve read so far. It’s extremely funny, it has great dialogue, and it puts a spotlight on Cerebus’s irritable personality. 

CEREBUS #32 – “Alliance,” as above. Astoria offers Cerebus a business proposition, which essentially means that Astoria makes Cerebus rich, without Cerebus having to do anything. The Regency Elf gets jealous of Cerebus and Astoria’s closeness and tries to frame Cerebus for possessing illegal drugs. Astoria throws the drugs in the fire before they’re discovered, but this causes her to get high and attempt to make love to Cerebus. The Roach barges in on them. Another great issue. Cerebus and Astoria are excellent foils for each other. 

X-MEN #17 (Marvel, 2021) – “Empty Nest,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Brett Booth. A team of X-Men travel to the Shi’ar homeworld to protect Xandra from an anti-colonial conspiracy. Brett Booth’s style of art is outdated, but his art in this issue isn’t too bad. An annoying moment in this issue is when Sam says he’s “babysitting” his own child. 

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #113 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Sophie Campbell. A future version of Lita comes back in time and tries to get Jenny to start a band, or else there will be terrible consequences. And she calls Donatello “dad.” Also, there’s some more development of the election plotline. I actually didn’t realize that Sophie drew this issue herself. 

FUTURE STATE: LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #1 (DC, 2021) – “Future State Part One,” [W] Brian Michael Bendis, [A] Riley Rossmo. An unspecified amount of time after the previous series, the Legion reforms after having disbanded. Unlike the other Future State titles, Future State: LSH has the same characters as the series it’s replacing. Also, it suffers from the same crippling flaws as the main Legion series, including a severe lack of plot or characterization. I shoudn’t have ordered it. 

TARTARUS #9 (Image, 2021) – “Ash and Oath,” [W] Johnnie Christmas, [A] Andrew Krahnke. Hisa, who now has two sick children, visits a dying Svantoo. He reveals that Surka has been collecting Aima and could use it to cure Hisa’s kids. Hisa has to break her oath of nonviolence to protect her kids from rebels. The same rebels (I think) descend on Surka’s tower intending to destroy it. I like this storyline, but it’s hard to follow. 

STRANGE ACADEMY #8 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. Dead Girl counsels Doyle on his return from death. I’m delighted to see this character again. Some of the students go on a field trip with the Guardians of the Galaxy, while the others practice the Images of Ikonn with Agatha Harkness. Something speaks to Emily from behind a door and tells her to let it out. Also, Emily has a horned, winged black cat, and it’s incredibly cute. Strange Academy is a far better teen superhero team comic than the current Legion title. Speaking of which… 

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #12 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] Brian Michael Bendis, [A] Ryan Sook. The Legion fights Rogol Zaar, a pointless villain, as well as Mordru. They win and then have a party. And thus ends the worst Legion series ever published. Bendis’s stories were essentially plotless, and his characters were barely distinguishable from each other. Ryan Sook’s excellent artwork was wasted on Bendis’s (non-)stories. There have been other bad Legion writers in the past, but none of them can match Bendis for sustained incompetence. 

CEREBUS #33 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1981) – “Friction,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus argues with the Roach and Astoria. The Regency Elf writes graffiti accusing Cerebus of peeing in the sink. Astoria teaches Cerebus the difference between inferring and implying. This issue and #32 both contain very poorly drawn backup strips by Brent Alan Richardson. 

MARVEL ACTION CHILLERS #4 (Marvel, 2021) – “Marvel Action’s Tome of Iron Dracula,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Gretel Lusky. All the heroes from the last three issues battle Dracula and the book of Shuma-Gorath. This was a super-fun series and Jeremy must have loved writing it. I’m sorry it was just four issues.  

KING IN BLACK: BLACK KNIGHT #1 (Marvel, 2021) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Jesús Saiz. Dane Whitman teams up with Aero and Swordmaster against Knull’s dragons. This is a one-shot, but it leads into an upcoming series by the same writer. Si Spurrier writes Dane Whitman as a fundamentally flawed man, which seems like a reasonable take. I love how the story is narrated in pseudo-medieval English, and we eventually learn that Dane is writing the captions himself. Spurrier also writes Aero and Swordmaster quite well, emphasizing their cultural differences from Dane. 

COLONEL WEIRD: COSMAGOG #4 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Tyler Crook. This issue’s cover is a reference to The Little Prince. Colonel Weird has some more strange visions, and finally realizes that Talky Walky has been beside him unseen for the entire series. This series was really weird, but I like this conclusion. 

BARBIE FASHION #27 (Marvel, 1993) – “Role Model” and other stories, [W] Trina Robbins, [A] Anna-Maria B. Cool. Skipper’s friend Jennifer is anorexic, so Barbie teaches her how to eat a healthy diet. This story responds to a common critique of Barbie, i.e. that she gives girls an unhealthy body image. In the backup story, Barbie helps  an old woman find her aunt’s hidden treasure and keep her house. There’s another letter from a girl whose mother was also a Barbie fan. 

LUNA #1 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Maria Llovet. In the late ‘60s, a young woman joins a creepy cult and has sex with its leader, who deliberately cuts her with a knife. I was skeptical about this series, but this debut issue has some excellent psychedelic art, and I’m curious to see where this plot is going. 

CHAINED TO THE GRAVE #1 (IDW, 2021) – untitled, [W] Andy Eschenbach & Brian Level, [A] Kate Sherron. In the Old West, Roy Mason emerges from his grave as a zombie, with one hand chained to his tombstone. Roy immediately becomes embroiled in a complicated plot that combines the fantasy and Western genres. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this comic, but this debut issue is a really fun adventure story. Kate Sherron’s style resembles that of Kate Beaton or John Allison. 

CEREBUS #37 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1982) – “It’s Showtime!”, as above. Cerebus attends Petuniacon, a parody of a comic convention. No one wants to see him at first, but then he starts signing autographs and drawing trees, and suddenly everyone wants one of his sketches. The unnamed artist from #25 also shows up. I assume this character is a parody of someone, but I don’t know who. There’s a backup story by Bill (Messner-)Loebs about Benjamin Franklin in hell. It’s drawn and written in the same style as Journey. 

FUTURE STATE: WONDER WOMAN #2 (DC, 2021) – “Hell to Pay Part Two,” [W/A] Joëlle Jones. Yara confronts Hades and Persephone and gets their permission to try to rescue her fellow Amazon Potira. However, Potira gets stuck in the underworld and Yara can’t save her. This was a really fun two-parter, and I’d like to see more of this version of Wonder Woman. 

RAIN LIKE HAMMERS #1 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Brandon Graham. Eugene lives in the Elephant City, which travels through a toxic wasteland. His main pleasures are eating and watching broadcasts. Then Eugene’s boring life is interrupted when his city crashes. I feel ashamed of buying this because, while I love Brandon Graham’s art, he’s a toxic person, and his career should have been over after he released his “diss track.” I only ordered this comic because the offerings in that issue of Previews were rather slim. I do have to admit that Rain Like Hammers is a compelling piece of SF, with some fascinating art. 

INKBLOT #6 (Image, 2021) – as above. The Seeker traps MOW. (by putting out a box, then turning around), and starts experimenting on it. For perhaps the first time in the series, we get to see MOW.’s mouth. The Seeker accidentally transports herself and MOW. back to her darkest moment, when her little brother Inos died. This may have been the cutest issue yet. 

STRANGE ADVENTURES #8 (DC, 2021) – “It could’ve been worse,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads & Evan “Doc” Shaner. The issue starts with some fight scenes, which are confusing because it’s not clear whether they’re flashbacks or present-day scenes. A Pykkt tells Batman and Mr. Terrific that Adam committed genocide against the Pykkts. This is more evidence for what I’ve suspected for a while now: that Adam and Alanna were on the wrong side of the Pykkt war. In flashback, Adam murders a Pykkt prisoner and then takes Aleea camping. I fear that this trip will end in Aleea’s death.  

KAIJU SCORE #3 (Aftershock, 2021) – “Chums,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Rem Broo. The characters figure out a way to use Mujara to steal the safe, but then Pierson, the one with the man-bun, murders Palmiero in cold blood. Then the two kaiju face off. This is a fun series, but I hate all the protagonists. In particular, Pierson is so infuriating that I can’t understand why he’s still alive, when he’s surrounded by people with guns.  

THE WOODS #14 (Boom!, 2021) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. The kids are having an election, only some of them are so awful that I can’t see why anyone would want to be their leader. One of the kids, Barry, dies by either murder or suicide. I don’t really understand this issue, and I can’t keep the characters straight. I need to start rereading this series from the beginning. 

CEREBUS #38 – “Petuniacon… Day Two,” as above. Cerebus appears on a panel with Elrod, Lord Julius and K’cor, who all have hilarious and wildly contrasting personalities. All the convention attendees are obsessed with Elrod, so Cerebus challenges him to a duel. It’s a foregone conclusion that Cerebus will win, but Astoria stops the duel and tells Cerebus that she has a coalition of people who want to make Cerebus prime minister. And she explains why this would be a good thing. A key part of Cerebus’s character development is how he outgrows his initial obsession with food, women and drink and sets his sights on higher goals. This issue includes another Ben Franklin strip by Loebs. 

BARBIE FASHION #28 (Marvel, 1993) – “The Heart of Art,” [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Anna-Maria B. Cool. Barbie helps a friend submit some paintings to an art gallery, but throughh a mix-up, the gallery exhibits Barbie’s work instead. This issue is a mildly funny satire of the art world. 

BARBALIEN: RED PLANET #3 (Dark Horse, 2021) – untitled, [W] Tate Brombal & Jeff Lemire, [A] Gabriel Hernandez Walta. Mark Markz fights Boa Boaz. We meet Dr. Day (the reverse of Night Nurse), a superpowered black woman who treats AIDS patients. Mark and Miguel spend the night together. On the first page of this issue, Dr. Day calls a woman named Dolores Cooper refuses to speak to her dying gay son, but later in the issue, Mrs. Cooper calls Dr. Day back, after her son has died. This is a nicely subtle piece of plotting. 

CEREBUS #39 – “Petuniacon Day Three,” as above. Cerebus meets an old politician named Blakely, who tries to figure out what Lord Julius is doing. The Roach fights two criminals. We don’t actually get to the Petuniacon site in this issue. There’s a backup story that feels like a ripoff of Wally Wood’s fantasy comics. After reading these last six issues of Cerebus, I finally get the appeal of this series. Melmoth, Filght and Women are minor curiosities, but High Society is a masterpiece, with hilarious dialogue and characterization and fast-moving plots. For readers who started reading Cerebus with High Society or earlier, it must have been awful to watch the slow decline of the comic and of Dave’s mental health. 

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Final reviews of 2020

12-31-2020

Finally this awful year is almost over. 

LA DIABLA #1 (Albatross, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Eric Powell. Some kidnappers tell contradictory stories of the origin of an antiheroine named La Diabla, and then La Diabla herself shows up and kills them and frees their victim. This is a fun comic and a good example of Powell’s style. It leads into the graphic novel Lords of Misery. 

LONELY RECEIVER #3 (Aftershock, 2020) – “A Month: Getting Lost in Your Eye,” [W] Zac Thompson, [A] Jen Hickman. Catrin dates Hazel, who she thinks is Rhion. It goes well at first, but then Hazel finds out Catrin is genetically altered. A fight results, and Catrin kills Rhion. Welp. This series began as SF but is now closer to horror. 

PANTOMIME #1 (Mad Cave, 2020) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] David Stoll. Out of the new publisher Mad Cave’s comics, Pantomime is the only one that interests me. Pantomime may be the first comic I’ve read that lists a diversity reader in the credits. It’s about a group of kids at a school for the deaf, who discover that they can get away with stealing stuff. Unfortunately, they steal from a much more experienced criminal, and he demands that they pay him back. Chris Sebela is really good at coming up with unique premises, and Pantomime is another fascinating idea. 

2000 AD #607 (Fleetway, 1988) – Anderson: “Contact Part 1,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Mark Farmer.  Anderson investigates a giant ailen spaceship. Daily Dredd: “Bride of Death Part 2,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. Judge Death invades the set of a movie about his own wedding. Moon Runners: untitled, [W] Steve Parkhouse & Alan McKenzie, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. The dangling plot threads are wrapped up, and we learn why women aren’t allowed in space. This series returned for one more story, in progs 641-644, and then was never seen again. Dredd: “Tyger, Tyger…,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Chris Weston. A man kidnaps a dentist – actually a dental systems programmer – to treat his pet sabertooth tiger. Chaos results. Chris Weston’s art on the two color pages is gorgeous. Night Zero: untitled, [W] John Brosnan, [A] Kev Hopgood. Tanner saves his client from some more criminals. Nemesis: “Deathbringer,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] John Hicklenton. Torquemada fights Nemesis using a hedge trimmer (there were no chainsaws available). Fascinating art but a confusing story. 

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #91 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Andy Price. Zecora and friends have a bunch of adventures that (in the light of next issue) are rather similar to the events of the first episode of the TV show. Also, there’s a song, which is easily the highlight of the issue, and it ends with Zecora and her friends wearing KISS costumes and makeup. At the end of the issue, the zebras enter an old temple where they’re surprised to find the Tree of Harmony. One of the fun things about reading Andy’s comics is spotting each issue’s appearance by the Observer from Fringe. 

MARVEL ACTION: AVENGERS #2 (Marvel, 2020) – “Career Day!”, [W] Katie Cook, [A] Butch Mapa. Captain America and Squirrel Girl visit a kindergarten class for a career event, only to discover that one of the school’s teachers is Paste Pot Pete. This is a super fun and cute comic, and I can tell that Katie had a lot of fun writing it. 

INKBLOT #3 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Rusty Gladd, [A] Emma Kubert. The cat dives into Loch Ness, swims with Nessie (who ever heard of a cat liking water?), and emerges in another world. Here, the cat and Nessie get involved in a battle between two of the divine siblings. This is another entertaining issue, albeit somewhat insubstantial.

2000 AD #609 (Fleetway, 1988) – Anderson: as above. Anderson successfully leads the aliens to Earth, and prevents Dredd from starting a  war with them. Future Shocks: untitled, [W] Larry Watson, [A] José Ortiz. A man is awakened from cryogenic sleep only to discover that Earth is in the grip of nuclear winter. Hap Hazzard: “Life,” [W/A] Steve Dillon. Two young men spend four pages having a rambling conversation. There’s no actual plot. This series is more like Love & Rockets or Wired World than a typical 2000 AD comic. Dredd: “Our Man in Hondo,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Colin MacNeil. Dredd investigates some crimes in future Tokyo. This series illustrates John Wagner’s worst flaw as a writer, his reliance on tired ethnic stereotypes. “Our Man in Hondo” includes a geisha, dialogue in broken English, and lettering that looks like kanji. Night Zero: as above. Tanner’s client Allana comes back to life, he saves her from another assassination attempt, but then they’re attacked by men wearing knights’ helmets. This story includes a minor character who may be transgender. Future Shocks: untitled, [W] John Tomlinson, [A] Simon Jacob. A man named Bernard Lardinelil (i.e. Belardinelli) dies of overeating, but persuades Death to spare him so that he can market unhealthy food to other people, causing even more deaths. 

CAPTAIN MARVEL #23 (Marvel, 2020) – “The New World Part Two,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Lee Garbett. Ove, who’s been killing the surviving heroes, invites Carol and her allies to join him in his home. On the way there, Carol learns some more history about how this future came into existence. At the end of the issue we learn that Ove is Namor’s son, and his home is New Atlantis. 

THE WOODS #9 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. The kids adjust to the community of New London, but they learn that they’ll effectively be prisoners there. Meanwhile, Adrian is shown some flashbacks to New London’s origins. As in Wynd, Dialynas’s worldbuilding is amazing. He’s especially good at drawing weird animals. 

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #24 (Marvel, 2017) – “Night of the Jackals,” [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. The new Jackal, Ben Reilly, fights Dr. Octopus (or a clone thereof?) and then the original Jackal. The Clone Conspiracy wasn’t Slott’s best storyline, though of course it was far better than the Clone Saga. 

DETECTIVE COMICS #613 (DC, 1990) – “Trash,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. A young boy discovers that the mob is plotting to take over his father’s trash collection company. Batman foils the plot, and the head mobster is sucked into a trash compactor, but the boy is killed. The issue ends with the boy’s essay on how the planet is filling up with trash. This is a rather poignant issue, and it reminds me of Derf Backderf’s Trashed. 

BACCHUS #14 (Eddie Campbell, 1996) – “King Bacchus Part 13,” [W/A] Eddie Campbell. The police invade the bar, and then the whole place explodes because of a bomb in the men’s room. Bacchus is hauled off to prison. This issue also reprints two stories from Doing the Islands with Bacchus, including the “red is the cup and deep is the wine” story, which I’ve read at least twice before.  

THE HORROR OF COLLIER COUNTY #3 (Dark Horse, 1999) – untitled, [W/A] Rich Tommaso. Fran and Mel escape from a terrifying poodle, but then some zombies try to break into their house. With this issue we start to see why this series has “horror” in its title. In this issue Fran and Mel listen to the Cocteau Twins, who I just discovered myself. This issue’s front and back covers and its inside covers all double as story pages. I assume that was also the case with issues 1 and 2, but I don’t remember.  

FATIMA: THE BLOOD SPINNERS #4 (Dark Horse, 2012) – untitled, [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. A lot of Beto’s typical body horror, combined with attractive heroines. I didn’t understand this issue’s plot at all. I’ve read a few of the earlier issues of this series, but I don’t remember much about them. 

AMERICAN VAMPIRE #26 (Vertigo, 2012) – “The Nocturnes, Part 1 of 2,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Roger Cruz. In 1954, a black doo-wop band is hired to perform in a small Alabama town, only to discover that this particular town has a habit of hiring black performers in order to murder them. Also, vampires. This issue’s plot is fairly gripping, but first, it feels like racism porn – like, it tries to shock the reader with how awful the South was in the old days. And it does so by inventing an atrocity that never really happened, as if the real Jim Crow South wasn’t bad enough. Second, did Snyder know about the Green Book, or the African-American press? If multiple black musicians really had gone to Midway, Alabama and not returned, the African-American musical community would have quickly learned to avoid that town. 

2000 AD #611 (Fleetway, 1989) – Zippy Couriers: untitled, [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Graham Higgins. Shauna is hired to deliver some cakes, but one of the cakes is alive, and Shauna’s sister’s boyfriend accidentally eats it. Walter the Wobot: “Eisner Block,” [W] Gary Rice, [A] Brendan McCarthy. This is reprinted from the 1981 annual. As its title indicates, it’s a tribute to The Spirt. It starts with a splash panel of a building shaped like the word Walter, and it has an Eisner-esque film noir plot: Walter gets stuck in an elevator with multiple residents of the same building, all of whom are plotting against each other. This story is a minor classic: it’s both funny, and faithful to the Eisner aesthetic. Dredd: as above. More Orientalist crap. Thankfully this is the last chapter. Night Zero: as above. Tanner and Allana descend into the sewers to meet a contact. Future Shocks: “Writers’ Block!”, [W] Mike Collins, [A] Simon Jacob. 2000 AD writer Gavin Alton (Alan Grant?) can’t think of any story ideas, but he ignores the alien invasion happening outside his window.   

BATMAN #477 (DC, 1992) – “A Gotham Tale Part 1: Gargoyles,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Cam Kennedy. Batman tries to prevent the theft of St. Thomas Becket’s shrine from a Gotham museum. Instead, he gets trapped in a vault with two other people, with only enough air for two of them. To pass the time, Batman and his fellow prisoners tell each other the stories of their encounters with the Gotham Gargoyle. This is a fascinating setup, loosely based on the Canterbury Tales. Cam Kennedy’s art in this issue is not nearly as crisp or dynamic as in his 2000 AD work. 

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #174 (Dell, 1955) – untitled (“Ice Boat to Beaver Island”), [W/A] Carl Barks. My copy of this issue is incomplete, but the Barks and Mickey Mouse stories are intact, and those are the only ones I care about. In the Barks story, Donald has to use an ice boat to deliver mail to a remote island in a frozen lake. Thanks to the nephews’ sabotage, Donald destroys both his boat and the island’s post office. In the Mickey story, Mickey and Goofy try to defend a remote mining railroad from sabotage. This entire story arc was reprinted in the 2015 WDC&S 75th anniversary special. 

BLOODSHOT FCBD 2019 (Valiant, 2019) – “Bloodshot (2019) Prelude,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Tomás Giorello. Just some boring action sequences. This Bloodshot series seems far less interesting than the one by Jeff Lemire. This issue also includes a preview of Fallen World by Dan Abnett and Juan José Ryp. 

ACTION COMICS #438 (DC, 1974) – “A Monster Named Lois Lane!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. Thanks to the combination of an alien artifact and a bad cold, Lois turns into a female Hulk. This story has pretty good art but a generic plot. There’s also an Atom backup story, by Pasko and Dillin, in which a villain traps the Atom on an answering machine tape. This is much more cleverly written than the main story.

FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #7 (DC, 2018) – Birdman in “The Light Ahead,” [W] Phil Hester, [A] Steve Rude. The Dude is still one of the finest artists in the industry, and this issue is full of smooth draftsmanship, exciting action sequences, and dynamic compositions. However, its story is boring and hard to follow. 

TOTALLY AWESOME HULK #18 (Marvel, 2017) – “Big Apple Showdown: Conclusion,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Mahmud Asrar. The Protectors – including Amadeus, Shang-Chi, Silk and Kamala Khan – fight a bunch of aliens. This issue is something of a prototype for the New Agents of Atlas, but otherwise it’s just average. 

AVENGERS #38 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Fly That Laid a Billion Maggots,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Ed McGuinness. This was in my pull box for some reason.  I don’t remember ordering it. It’s about a war between Khonshu and Mephisto. It has some nice moments, but I gave up on this series very early on, and this issue doesn’t make me want to start reading it again. I still think Jason Aaron’s Avengers doesn’t feel like an Avengers comic. 

SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL #6 (DC, 2017) – “Homecoming,” [W] Cecil Castellucci, [A] Marley Zarcone. Loma finally gets rid of Megan, whoever that was, and establishes a new life on Earth. As usual with this series, Marley Zarcone’s art style is fascinating, but Cecil Castellucci’s story is boring and confusing. 

hu untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Nahuel Lopez. Luiza fights some zombies and kills their creator, Vika Cox. This issue has a somewhat clever plot: Luiza defeats Cox by getting the zombies to perceive all normal humans as Cox and therefore to refrain from attacking them, except that they see Cox himself as a bunny. However, Kieron seems to have put far less effort into this comic as his other work, and Nahuel Lopez’s art is basically pornographic. 

AMERICAN VAMPIRE 1976 #2 (DC, 2020) – “The Stuff of Legends,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. The main characters steal something or other from a train, and there are a bunch of other subplots. I honestly have no idea what’s going on in this miniseries, and I don’t think I’m going to finish reading it. 

RESIDENT ALIEN: YOUR RIDE’S HERE #1 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. This is Martian Manhunter without the superhero elements: it’s about an alien who lives incognito in a small Washington town. I think the overall plot of this miniseries is that someone is coming from the alien’s home planet to pick him up. But this first issue has a very quiet plot, in which we’re introduced to the people of the town, and not much actually happens. I’m mostly interested in this series because it’s by two veteran British creators. Parkhouse’s art is understated but quite effective. 

GETTING IT TOGETHER #2 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Sina Grace & Omar Spahi, [A] Jenny D. Fine. The female protagonist gets a lead on a possible recording deal, but her bandmates are not interested. Meanwhile, the male protagonist gets really drunk. This series is full of entertaining relationship drama, but it’s impossible to keep all the characters straight, partly because the artist doesn’t do enough to make them look different from each other.  

PRETTY VIOLENT #11 (Image, 20200 – untitled, [W/A] Derek Hunter, [W] Jason Young. Another issue full of pointless mayhem, with a plot I can’t follow. I think this is the last issue, but if there are any more issues, I won’t be buying them. 

U.S.AGENT #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “American Zealot Chapter One: Legend,” [W] Priest, [A] Georges Jeanty. This issue begins in a dying West Virginia town where Virago (Amazon) has set up a hub. Then we flash back to Mount Vernon, NY, where USAgent, John Walker, is kidnapping pizza delivery drivers for some reason. In typical Priest fashion, this issue is narrated out of chronological order and its plot is tough to decipher. But it looks like Priest is using USAgent to tell a story about American nationalism and masculinity, and John Walker is well suited to this role, since he’s always been the embodiment of the ugly American. A new character in this issue is an old Japanese man named Morrie Watanabe. Dave van Domelen confirmed with Priest that this name is a reference to two Marvel veterans, Morrie Kuramoto and Irv Watanabe.

DRYAD #6 (Oni, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kurtis Wiebe, [A] Justin Barcelo. I missed issue 5. This issue, the twins (Grif and Rana) recover from a coma. Then their parents reveal that Grif and Rana started their lives as test subjects in a laboratory belonging to Yale’s father, until Yale and Morgan rescued/kidnapped them. Which means Yale and Morgan are adopted. 

BANG! #5 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Wilfredo Torres. I missed issue 4, but it must have introduced another fictional super-spy, like the first three issues did. Now there are four different super-spies, and in this issue they confront their creator, Philip Verve (i.e. Philip K. Dick) and destroy the books in which he recorded their origins. This series was okay, but perhaps too similar to Kindt’s earlier work. 

SERA AND THE ROYAL STARS #9 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jon Tsuei, [A] Audrey Mok. Sera is reunited with her mother, and then she agrees to wield some sort of evil sword. I always have trouble understanding what’s going on in this series. 

GREEN LANTERN SEASON TWO #9 (DC, 2020) – “The Wedding of the Trillenium!”, [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. Hal and Trilla-Tru visit a planet where two scions of two superheroic families are about to get married, like in the Twilight of the Superheroes proposal. There’s also a second plot, of unclear relation to the first, in which Hal and Star Sapphire fight a giant golden dude. This series has completely lost me, and at this point I’m just buying it out of a sense of obligation. Also, Liam Sharp’s use of computer artwork is not effective at all. This comic looks like something out of the early ‘90s. 

THE ATOMICS #4 (AAA Pop, 2000) – “Fusion,” [W/A] Mike Allred. The Atomics fight a beatnik zombie and a giant fly-headed creature. Then one of the Atomics, Zapman, reveals that he comes from 17 years in the future, and in his species, the females eat the males after mating. Then the fly-headed creature joins the Atomics. This is a pretty fun comic. 

CHASE #6 (DC, 1998) – “Girls’ Day Out,” [W] D. Curtis Johnson, [A] J.H. Williams III. This issue’s cover is an homage to Norman Rockwell’s Freedom from Want. Other covers based on this image are JSA #54 and Fantastic Four #564. This issue, Chase and her sister Terry hang out together, but when they get stuck in the elevator, Chase tells Terry their father’s  backstory. It seems their father was a minor superhero who was murdered by a villain. Terry is traumatized by this knowledge, but seems to forgive Chase for revealing it. I’m not surprised that this issue has spectacular art, but its story is also quite good. 

SHADE THE CHANGING MAN #32 (DC, 1993) – “Ernest and Jim,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Colleen Doran. While in the Area of Madness, Slade meets Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce. This issue has some kind of plot involving Slade’s relations with Meta, but it’s mostly interesting for its depiction of Hemingway and Joyce. Milligan seems quite well acquainted with both writers’ lives and works. My late grad school professor Brandon Kershner was a Joyce scholar, and I think he’d have found this comic amusing. 

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #23 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Moment You Know,” as #24 above. Gwen Stacy’s clone tries to convince Peter to go along with the Jackal’s plots, and she and Peter have a very difficult conversation. Then the Jackal sends a bunch of villain clones to attack Peter, and Gwen’s clone starts to degenerate. This issue is better than #24. It’s interesting seeing Peter interact with the original version of Gwen. 

BTW it’s 2021 now. Good riddance to the worst year of my life. 

Back to Heroes on November 27: 

LUMBERJANES #75 (Boom!, 2020) – “Daylight Savor Part 3,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Brooklyn Allen & Kanesha C. Bryant. The girls get everyone into the camp safely, including Jo, and Diane visits Olympus to seek divine assistance. Mal and Molly share a tender moment, but then Molly turns herself into a deer so she can protect the forest. This is the last issue of the regular series, but the story continues in the End of Summer special. A nice moment in this issue is when April tries to run outside the camp to look for Jo, and it takes all three other girls, plus a giant stone golem, to hold her back. That’s how strong April is. 

ONCE & FUTURE #13 (Boom!, 2020) – “The Parliament of Magpies,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. Now that Lumberjanes is done (sob), this is my current favorite series. This issue, the heroes follow the villains’ trail to a pub called the Lancelot Arms. This turns out to be a hangout of nationalist racists, but just as they’re beating Duncan up, a green knight walks in and asks to play a game. One thing I love about this series is how it constantly surprises me by introducing new medieval texts – in this case, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  

POWER PACK #1 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Nico Leon. This comic was supposed to have come out months ago, and I’m glad it finally showed up. This issue is narrated by Katie, who, as usual, is the most adorable character ever. Katie’s older siblings stop her from revealing their secret identities to their parents (oddly, this is the same premise as in the first issue of Marc Sumerak’s Power Pack revival, and North even acknowledges this). Then they fight and defeat the Bogeyman, only to be arrested by CRADLE agents. I’m a huge Power Pack fan, and Ryan North clearly loves these characters too, and understands them very well. 

USAGI YOJIMBO #14 (IDW, 2020) – “The Return Part Four,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. The cavalry finally arrives, in the form of Katsuichi and Jotaro, and with their aid, Usagi and Kenichi save the village. This is a slight anticlimax, but it’s great seeing Jotaro again. Then Usagi goes off to see his “other teacher,” but we don’t know who that is yet. Although this issue was a bit less exciting than the last three, “The Return” is my favorite Usagi story in years. 

BIG GIRLS #4 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Jason Howard. In a flashback, we learn that Joanna Gulliver, the white-haired villainess, was married to High Marshal Tannik, but he killed their son, who was turning into a Jack. In the present, Ember tries to quit, but Tannik reveals that she’s the last Big Girl. Then Joanna shows up with an entire army of Big Girls. This is a fun and exciting series, especially given Howard’s lack of prior writing experience. 

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #12 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. By interviewing Bian, Erica learns that James inadvertently created the first Oscuratype by pretending that it existed. But something else was also needed to create the monster, and we don’t know what that is yet. Then the other members of the Order of St. George arrive in Archer’s Peak, and that’s not a good thing. 

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #11 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] Brian Michael Bendis, [A] Ryan Sook. Bendis is the worst Legion writer ever – far worse than Gerry Conway, who held that title until now. I have already complained that Bendis’s characterization is vapid and that his plots are totally incoherent. On top of that, he just blatantly makes things up without considering their implications. Like, this issue we learn that Colossal Boy’s people are born adult. How the hell does that work? And Triplicate Girl doesn’t dream… actually that one was established in Legionnaires #24, but that issue gives an actual reason for it. Oh, and Mon-El has three children, but their mother is nowhere to be seen, and Bendis seems to have forgotten whether Mon is dating Shadow Lass or Phantom Girl. This series is not in DC’s March solicitations, and that may be a good thing. I’d almost prefer no Legion comic at all, rather than a Legion comic that’s an aimless, plotless mess. 

FANTASTIC FOUR #26 (Marvel, 2020) – “One Stop from Everywhere,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] R.B. Silva. Val goes through the dimensional portal to visit her boyfriend Arboro, only to learn that he already has a lot of other girlfriends. The Future Foundation kids return to Earth. Aliens from Franklin’s alternate dimensions start coming through the Forever Gate, fleeing from the Griever. But this issue’s most notable event is that Professor X reveals that Franklin isn’t a mutant. This is such a massive retcon that I suspect there must be some extra-textual reason behind it, perhaps related to movie rights – maybe Marvel wants to make sure that the FF are part of the MCU and not the X-Men franchise. But that’s just a guess. 

CHU #5 (Image, 2020) – “The First Course Part 5 of 5,” [W] John Layman, [A] Dan Boultwood. After a lot of mayhem, Tony arrests Saffron, and she’s sent to prison for three years. But while in prison she eats the exact same food as her cellmates, causing her to learn all their abilities, so now she’s an even more dangerous criminal. That’s the end of the first story arc. 

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #3 (Image, 2020) – “Black and White,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Martin Simmonds. This issue is about Sandy Hook truthers, some of the most vile conspiracy theorists of all. Cole and his partner investigate a woman who’s become convinced that her son didn’t die in a school shooting, but was a “crisis actor.” Cole and his partner succeed in recovering the woman’s “evidence” that her son is still alive, but it’s not clear if they did her any favors. This issue is often uncomfortably close to the current headlines (more on that in my forthcoming review of #4), but it’s one of the best new series of the year. Also, Tynion gives Martin Simmonds ample opportunities to show off his artistic brilliance. This issue includes some brilliant splash pages. 

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #10 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. The Destiny Man’s attack on Unity continues. Ace and Valentina discover that Unity is powered by a network of children’s disembodied brains. This is a good issue, but I had forgotten about it by the time I read issue 9. 

SAVAGE DRAGON #254 (Image, 2020) – “Vicious Circle Triumphant!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Dart and the Vicious Circle massacre a bunch of people, then they fight Malcolm and injure him badly. Meanwhile, Angel is marrying Frank, Amy wants to marry her tiger friend, and I don’t understand what’s going on with Paul Dragon. 

BARBALIEN: RED PLANET #1 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tate Brombal w/ Jeff Lemire, [A] Gabriel Hernandez Walta. Mark Markz, the Black Hammer version of J’onn J’onzz, is a cop in Spiral City during the 1980s AIDS crisis. Mark saves his activist friend Miguel from committing suicide, and then follows Miguel to a secret gay bar. Meanwhile, the Martian bounty hunter Boa Boaz is looking for Mark. This is, IIRC, the second Black Hammer series not written by Jeff Lemire, and so far it’s a lot better than Black Hammer ’45. 

X-MEN #15 (Marvel, 2020) – “X of Swords Chapter 20,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Mahmud Asrar. Apocalypse fights his wife, Annihilation, formerly known as Genesis. The Quiet Council debate whether to invade Arakko and rescue Nathan. This issue is better than the last three, but it presupposes knowledge of X of Swords’s plot. 

IMMORTAL HULK #40 (Marvel, 2020) – “So Here’s the Thing,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. Henry Peter Gyrich tries to imprison the Hulk, but the Hulk escapes and falls off the Alpha Flight space station. Upon landing on Earth, he’s met by Ben Grimm, hence the story title. Not a very notable issue.

LOVE & ROCKETS #9 (Fantagraphics, 2020) – various stories, [W] Gilbert Hernandez & Jaime Hernandez. Beto’s “Loss” starts with a flashback to Doralis’s childhood in Palomar, then we visit the present-day Doralis, who is suffering from cancer. Jaime’s “Eche Meve Dis” (eight, nine, ten) is about Tonta, the annoying girl who’s been stalking Maggie and Ray. In Beto’s “Sad Girl in Palomar”, Killer (whose real name is Doralis, a source of some confusion) visits Palomar and becomes the new owner of Luba’s hammer. Jaime’s “Animus” is a science fiction story. One thing I love about Love & Rockets is its sense of deep history. Beto’s stories in this issue include reference to other stories he published almost forty years ago. 

MARVEL ACTION: CHILLERS #2 (IDW, 2020) – “Little Red Fighting Hood,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Gretel Lusky & Bill Underwood. Elsa Bloodstone fights Captain America, who’s been transformed into a werewolf, just like in a certain infamous ’90s storyline. There’s also a framing sequence starring Dr. Strange and Ironheart. This issue is entertaining, but it’s mostly a long fight scene. 

KAIJU SCORE #1 (AfterShock, 2020) – “Rattlesnake in the Bag,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Rem Broo. Four criminals make a plot to steal valuable art from a south Florida museum. The twist is that the plot requires them to get a kaiju to attack south Florida. This comic is a unique blend of the thriller and kaiju genres, but the problem is that there’s too much “score” and not enough “kaiju.” I like the idea of a world where kaiju are an accepted part of life, and there are watches and warnings for kaiju attacks, just like tornadoes. But I’d like to know more about the kaiju and their effects on society, and instead, this comic mostly focuses on the criminals and their heist. Rem Broo’s art resembles that of James Stokoe, except without the obsessive linework. 

MAESTRO #4 (Marvel, 2020) – “Symphony in a Gamma Key Part Four: Minuet,” [W] Peter David, [A] Germán Peralta. Hulk gets Vapor of the U-Foes to kill Hercules, then Hulk kills Vapor. This miniseries is just okay, and I could have skipped it. 

DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS #26 (DC, 2017) – “The Illusion of Death,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Mirka Andolfo et al. Raven reveals her origin, then she, Harley, and Ivy rescue some people from a circus. Supergirl tries to stop a train from being blown up. I hate this series, and I only read this issue in order to remove it from my to-be-read boxes. 

COLONEL WEIRD: COSMAGOG #2 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Tyler Crook. Another patchwork of scenes from different parts of Colonel Weird’s life. I like this series’ non-chronological narrative structure; it mimics Colonel Weird’s own constant state of confusion and disorientation. 

STILLWATER #3 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón Perez. Danny meets more of the people in town, then he exhumes his mother. This issue is much less intense than the last two. 

COMMANDERS IN CRISIS #2 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Davide Tinto. The heroes investigate the murder of empathy. I like this series so far, but it has a lot of different premises at once, and it’s not clear which of them is the core premise. It’s about heroes who 1) all come from different worlds, where 2) each of them was President, and 3) they’re trying to restore empathy to America. I hope Orlando is able to unite all these elements into a coherent narrative. 

BLACK MAGICK #16 (Image, 2020) – “Ascension I Part 005,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Nicola Scott. The white-suited villain tries to mess with Rowan’s mind, and Rowan deliberately crashes her bike to escape her. I still can’t follow this series’ plot, but I remember thinking that Rowan’s real problem is her own self-destructive behavior. This is also the case with other Rucka protagonists, most notably Tara Chace. 

SEA OF SORROWS #1 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Rich Douek, [A] Alex Cormack. Shortly after World War I, some suspicious characters dive into a sunken submarine looking for gold, but they encounter a creepy-looking mermaid. So far this is an interesting horror comic, and I like Cormack’s dark, gloomy renderings of underwater scenes, but I’m ambivalent on whether to continue reading this series.  

DIE #15 (Image, 2020) – “PvP,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans. Ash and Isabelle fight Matt, who is invading Angria. Eventually Matt decides not to kill Ash and Izzy, I’m not sure why not. Then they all prepare to descend into a dungeon that leads to the core of Die. 

SHANG-CHI #3 (Marvel, 2020) – “Brothers and Sisters Part 3,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Dike Ruan. We start with a flashback to the Boxer Rebellion, the subject of Yang’s earlier work Boxers & Saints. Then Shang-Chi’s dad’s ghost shows him a map to Shang-Chi’s uncle’s shrine. Shang-Chi escapes the House of the Deadly Hand and looks for the shrine, but his “brothers” and “sisters” follow him. I like how this series feels like an actual example of the wuxia genre, rather than a pastiche of ‘70s American kung fu TV shows. 

SABRINA: SOMETHING WICKED #4 (Archie, 2020) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Veronica Fish & Andy Fish. Sabrina fixes Radka and Ren, but ruins her relationship with Harvey. Sabrina, Radka and Ren go off to look for the twins’ childhood home, but they find Delia there, and she takes them captive. It was fairly obvious that Delia was going to turn evil. 

THE WALKING DEAD #157 (Image, 2016) – “The Whisperer War Part 1 of 6,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Charlie Adlard. Negan comes to visit Rick, and then Rick and his allies prepare to fight the Whisperers, whoever they are. It’s really not worthwhile to read scattered issues of this series, especially not from so late in the run. Without knowledge of all 156 previous issues, TWD #157 doesn’t make sense. 

2000 AD #612 (Fleetway, 1989) – Anderson: “Beyond the Void,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Mick Austin. Judge Death is summoned back to life by a holy man who lives in a bricked-up cell. Future Shocks: “The Keepsake,” [W] Nicholas Barber, [A] Kev Walker. A time traveler falls lin love with Lisa del Giocondo. He has to dump her to avoid changing the course of history, but he goes back in time and steals her portrtait, not realizing it’s the Mona Lisa. Tales from the Doghouse: “Chameleon,” [W] Stewart Edwards, [A] Simon Jacob. A pointless story whose twist ending is that a bounty hunter named “Billy the Kid” is a goat. I like Simon Jacob’s linework, but his anatomy is very ugly. Dredd: “Return of the Spider Woman,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Will Simpson. The spider woman from Prog 604 returns to Mega-City One to stalk her husband and children. Tanner finds the guy who’s targeting Allana, but then he kills Allana, though I assume she’s coming back. Walter’s Robo-Tale: “Shok!”, [W] Steve McManus, [W/A] Kevin O’Neill. In another reprint from the 1981 annual, an artist buys a deactivated war robot, but it comes to life and tries to kill her. As usual, O’Neill’s art here is amazing. Fleetway filed a successful lawsuit against the producers of the film Hardware for plagiarizing this story. 

2000 AD #613 (Fleetway, 1989) – Night Zero: as above. Tanner beats up Leroy, who I think is his client, and then he picks up another of Allana’s clones. Anderson: as above. Anderson kills the monk who summoned Judge Death, thus preventing Death from manifesting in physical form. Future Shocks: “At Twilight’s Last Gleaming,” [W] John Tomlinson, [A] Stephen Baskerville. An actor is haunted by Rod Serling. Dredd: “That Sweet Stuff,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Vanyo. Dredd arrests a man named Billiam Wurrows for buying illegal sugar. Tales from the Doghouse: “Spud O’Riley,” as above. Another dumb story that ends with a dumb pun: “I guess Spud finally had his chips.” Zippy Couriers: “Butch,” [W] Hilary Robinson, [A] Graham Higgins. A client refuses to pay Shauna for a job, but gives her a talking cat instead. I’d say that’s a fair deal. 

GRUMBLE: MEMPHIS AND BEYOND THE INFINITE #5 (Albatross, 2020) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Mike Norton. Tala saves her mother, but inevitably, Eddie gets stuck in prison instead. The issue ends with the words “End of part one.” I really hope there’s a part two, because Grumble is a fun and unique series and I love it. 

TRUE BELIEVERS: KING IN BLACK – VALKYRIE #1 (Marvel, 1970/2020) – “Come On In… The Revolution’s Fine!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] John Buscema (from Avengers #83). It’s not a good sign when a reprinted comic begins with the disclaimer “This comic is presented as originally created. It contains outdated depictions.” In her first appearance, the Valkyrie convinces the female Avengers to become the Lady Liberators and help her end male supremacy. But the Valkyrie turns out to be the Enchantress in disguise, and the ladies rejoin the Avengers and defeat her. The female Avengers’ legitimate complaints (e.g. Black Widow constantly being rejected from the Avengers, or Medusa’s submissive relationship with Black Bolt) are dismissed as mere “women’s lib bull.” This story is an offensive caricature in feminism, and even in 1970, readers must have realized that. The Valkyrie in this story is an impostor, but Thomas introduced a new version of the character in Hulk #142 the following year. This issue’s main fight scene takes place in Rutland, Vermont, and there are guest appearances by Roy himself, his then-wife Jean, and Tom Fagan. 

I ordered 2000 AD #301 to #328 on eBay for $72, which works out to $2.50 per issue, a pretty good deal. They arrived on December 1. 

2000 AD #301 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: “Play It Again, Sam Part 10,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. Sam Slade has been hired by Iron Aggie, a robot Margaret Thatcher, to infiltrate the anti-robot Human League. (Her Home Secretary is a robot Oswald Mosley.) The Human League, in turn, sends Slade to assassinate Iron Aggie. Also, it’s National Song Year, so this story includes a song to the tune of Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah. The worst part about Sam Slade is his talking cigarette Stogie, who is yet another of Wagner’s tired ethnic stereotypes. Time Twisters: “Revenge of the Guinea-Pig,” [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Kim Raymond. A convict is forced to serve as a test subject for an experimental “time compressor.” It causes him to live fifty years in one minute, and he uses that time to take revenge on the experimenters. Compare Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #31. Dredd: “Shanty Town Part 2,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. Dredd tries to clear out a slum on the outside of Mega-City One, but two of its inhabitants, Mad Mox and Girth, are unwilling to leave. Harry Twenty on the High Rock: untitled, [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Alan Davis. Harry Twenty is falsely imprisoned for twenty years (hence his surname) in an orbital prison. In this story he and some other prisoners get back to Earth and fights a mutated shark, but then Harry learns that one of his companions is an android from the prison. It’s hard to tell that Alan Davis drew this story. Rogue Trooper: “Fort Neuro Part II,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Brett Ewins. Rogue watches a disco dance competition for some reason. This story mentions Sister Sledge and ABBA. This prog also includes some reprinted “micro-pages” from prog 1, as do the next few progs. The reader was supposed to cut out these pages and assemble them into a booklet. 

2000 AD #302 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: as above. Sam assassinates Iron Aggie, wrongly thinking she’s an impostor. There are two songs to the tune of “Land of Hope and Glory” and “The Wanderer.” The Pioneers: untitled, [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Jesus Redondo. A pioneer from 1850 finds himself in contemporary America. This could have been labeled as a Time Twisters story, but is not, perhaps because it was a replacement for this prog’s Rogue Trooper chapter. Dredd: as above. Dredd fights Mad Mox and Girth. Harry Twenty: as above. The robot takes Harry back to prison, where he meets an old ally, Big Red One. This story looks more like Alan Davis. Time Twisters: “Dr. Dale’s Diary,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Rafael Boluda. A time-traveling scientist causes the extinction of the dinosaurs by giving them the flu. 

I WALK WITH MONSTERS #1 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Sally Cantirino. This is one of the launch titles from Vault’s new horror imprint, Nightfall. The protagonist, Jacey, teams up with her werewolf partner, David, to hunt down killers of children. In a flashback, we learn that Jacey was raised by a horrible abusive father who either trafficked or murdred children. And Jacey’s dad sold her brother to a certain politician who, as we learn on the last page, is now running for president. I Walk with Monsters #1 is an exciting debut issue. It’s a terrifying story of child abuse and crime, and it explores darker territory than any other Paul Cornell comic I’ve read. 

MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #158 (Marvel, 1994) – ClanDestine: “Scare Tactics,” [W/A] Alan Davis. This is the first apperance of ClanDestine. In this story, the family engages in a training session, and the adults try and fail to dissuade Rory and Pandora from becoming superheroes. The other three stories in this issue are awful, although one of them is written by Chris Cooper, and another is drawn by Cary Nord. 

SHADOW SERVICE #4 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Corin Howell. Gina helps defeat the demon from last issue. Then she goes looking for Gideon Quill, who was last seen at an up-and-coming artist’s exhibit. On investigating the artist, Gina encounters more demons. There’s also a flashback in which Gina’s fellow Shadow Service member, Darryl Coyle, is cursed with insatiable hunger. I like this series, but it’s hard to remember much about it from one issue to another. 

DEADSHOT #3 (DC, 1988) – “Victims,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Luke McDonnell. Deadshot’s psychiatrist tries to track down his mother. Floyd himself tries to rescue his son from kidnappers, but the boy is killed. Floyd blames his mother for this, and decides to hunt her down. I need to read this entire miniseries at one sitting. … Okay, after typing that, I went back and reread issues 1 and 2. Returning to issue 3, I see how the pedophile kidnapper Wes and his brother are doubles of Floyd and his own dead brother Edward. 

IMAGINARY FIENDS #2 (Vertigo, 2018) – “The Cat’s Paw,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Stephen Molnar. Melba Li, her partner and her imaginary friend go looking for some missing children. On the last page, we find that the children have been kidnapped by an imaginary fiend that manifests as a giant hairless cat, and it’s nursing the children like kittens. Ewww. This series is kind of halfway between Imagine Agents and Something is Killing the Children. 

ACTION COMICS #493 (DC, 1979) – “The Metropolis-UFO Connection!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. Jimmy gets sick with 24-hour flu and gives Clark Kent his signal watch. Superman uses the watch to defeat an alien invasion. A rather boring issue. 

CRUDE #4 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Garry Brown. Piotr discovers that his son, Kiril, was a leader of Blackstone’s underground labor movement. I still don’t like this series much, and I’m not sorry I quit buying it. 

DETECTIVE COMICS #691 (DC, 1995) – “Will It Go ‘Round in Circles,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Staz Johnson. Batman and Robin defeat Spellbinder’s gang, but he himself escapes. At Neron’s prompting (this issue is an Underworld Unleashed tie-in), Spellbinder’s girlfriend murders him and assumes his identity. This is just an okay issue, but it does a good job of reviving a dumb old villain. 

CREEPY #79 (Warren, 1976): “As Ye Sow,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Luis Bermejo. A zombie woman falls in love with a human man. Her family forces them to produce babies for the family to eat. Ewww. “Kui,” [W/A] Alex Toth. An explorer and his girlfriend discover an ancient Fijian temple and get trapped inside. Not much of a plot, but Toth’s visual storytelling is incredible, as always. The splash page, depicting an ancient relief sculpture, is especially stunning. “The Super-Abnormal Phenomena Survival Kit!”, [W] Jim Stenstrum, [A] John Severin. A hilarious story about survival techniques for people who encounter horror movie plots. A highlight is the panel where a one-eyed monster tells a boy “We just ate your mailman, kid.” “The Shadow of the Axe!”, [W] Dave Sim (misspelled Sims), [A] Russ Heath. A little boy discovers that his father is an axe murderer. He murders his father and escapes blame. This story is an early example of Sim’s plotting ability, and Heath’s art is some of his best. “Visitation at Pliny Marsh,” [W] Gerry Boudreau, [A] Martin Salvador. A woman kills her husband with her lover’s aid (a standard EC plot) and dump the corpse in the swamp. Many years later, an alien lands in the swamp and accidentally revives the corpse, causing the murderers to face poetic justice. “The Pit in the Living Room Floor!”, [W] Budd Lewis, [A] Joaquin Blasquez. A man finds a bottomless pit in his floor. He climbs down it only to find himself back in the living room. Blasquez’s art is a good example of the scratchy style that David Roach calls the Spanish “new look.” Overall, this comic is an incredible collection of talent on both the writing and art sides. The only reason I haven’t been reading more Warren comics is that they’re really long. 

2000 AD #303 (IPC, 1983) – Robo-Hunter: as above. Oswald Modroid (Mosley) is revealed as the secret leader of the Human League, and he rounds up all the humans in Brit-Cit. song in this prog is to the tune of “House of the Rising Sun.” Harry Twenty: as above. Harry leads an effort to overthrow the warden of High Rock. This series’s plot is pretty bad, but its art is starting to remind me of ClanDestine or DR & Quinch. Dredd: as above. Dredd defeats the villains and sends the people of Shanty Town to live on food farms in the Cursed Earth. Time Twisters: “I, D.H. Rosencrantz, Wrote Shakespeare!”, [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Eric Bradbury. The title character goes back in time and discovers that Shakespeare never existed, so he “writes” Shakespeare’s plays from memory. This same plot twist appears in Tim Powers’s The Anubis Gates, published the same year, in which a similar time loop is responsible for William Ashbless’s poems. Rogue Trooper: “Fort Neuro Part 12,” as in #301 above. Rogue is reunited with his two “robe-runners,” Roger and Pierre, and they   encounter a robot Napoleon. This story arc is pretty dumb. 

THE WOODS #10 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. The characters from New London try to help the kids escape from being enslaved, we meet some cute dragons, and New London is attacked by an army of green-eyed people, apparently from the black city on the other side of the world. This comic is hard to summarize.

JOHN CONSTANTINE, HELLBLAZER #12 (DC, 2020) – “This Sceptered Isle, Conclusion,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Aaron Campbell. The old Constantine’s plot is to steal the young Constantine’s soul while it’s still free of guilt. But this plot is foiled when the younger Constantine forces Noah to kill Tommy, and then realizes that Noah is his own illegitimate son. So Constantine’s soul is “so rotten I can’t even give it away.” The moral is that with magic “the price is always higher than the prize.” This was an incredible series, and I’m glad that Si Spurrier is now working at Marvel, since DC didn’t appreciate his talent. 

DEATH RATTLE #16 (Kitchen Sink, 1986) – “Bulto: Rabago’s Reign,” [W/A] Jaxon. A villain named Rabago takes over Presidio San Saba and enslaves the local Indians. This story includes some quite scary imagery. “Spacehawk,” [W/A] Basil Wolverton. In a reprinted story, Spacehawk defeats a tyrant with the aid of a friend whose brain has been implanted into a giant dinosaur. I read the Wolverton in Space collection back in high school, and I loved Wolverton’s draftsmanship, but I didn’t quite get how weird his plots are. “Annie,” [W] John Holland, [A] Ron Wilber. A boy sees the ghost of his sister, who died due to their parents’ negligence, and she convinces him to join her in death. This story isn’t up to Death Rattle’s usual standard.

STRAY BULLETS #11 (El Capitán, 1996) – “The Supportive Friend,” [W/A] David Lapham. In 1983, Beth and her friend Nina go to the beach and meet a man and woman who claim to be famous actors. Unusually, this story includes no violence. I don’t get how it fits into Beth’s life story. The difficulty with reading Stray Bullets is understanding how all the stories and characters are related, though this can also be an advantage, as with Criminal. 

KORAK, SON OF TARZAN #10 (Gold Key, 1965) – “When the Rhino Charged,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Russ Manning. Korak meets a white female doctor who works with some benevolent tribespeople. This tribe is attacked by a more warlike one, and Korak defeats the attackers by projecting a film of a charging rhino. This story has obvious racist implications but is exciting and well-drawn. In the backup story, “The Pit,” Korak saves a dead chief’s wives and daughters from being buried alive with him. 

SUPERBOY #163 (DC, 1970) – “Reform School Rebel!”, [W] Frank Robbins, [A] Bob Brown. Clark’s high school classmate is sent to a cruel reform school run by the mob. Superboy uncovers the school’s corruption. In the backup story, reprinted from 1956, Superboy convinces two stupid criminals that they’ve created a superpowered Superboy robot. 

MADMAN COMICS #4 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “Waning of the Weird,” [W/A] Mike Allred. Madman investigates a murder mystery aboard a cruise ship. His archenemy Monstadt proves to be responsible. This story is less weird than a typical Madman comic, though it does get very weird at the end, when Monstadt summons a multi-eyed demon. Also, the demon says Madman is “one of the Four.” I don’t recall if we ever found out what the Four were. 

CAPTAIN AMERICA #269 (Marvel, 1982) – “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste!”, [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Mike Zeck. Cap teams up with Team America, and they fight the Mad Thinker, who has created a town full of robot duplicates of famous historical geniuses. The Team America part of this issue is really, really stupid, but there’s a nice scene at the start of the issue where Cap has breakfast with his neighbors. Roger McKenzie and Roger Stern introduced Bernie Rosenthal, Anna Kappelbaum and Josh Cooper to make up for Steve Rogers’s lack of a supporting cast, and DeMatteis used these characters too, but later writers abandoned them. 

UNCANNY X-MEN #242 (Marvel, 1989) – “Burn!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Marc Silvestri. The X-Men are reunited with Jean Grey, just in time to fight N’astirh, which I’ve never known how to pronounce. This issue is full of terrific character interactions, although Inferno as a crossover was kind of dumb and was only necessary because of meddling by other writers. As I understand it, Claremont intended to write Scott and Maddie out of the series after #201, and all the hints that Maddie was a resurrected Jean Grey were supposed to be red herrings. But then Marvel decided to bring Jean back, and in X-Factor, Bob Layton had Scott leave his wife and child for her. This decision stained Scott’s character permanently. It also turned Maddie into a loose end that had to be resolved somehow, and that was the motivation behind Inferno. 

2000 AD #304 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: as above. Oswald Modroid claims that all Brit-Cit’s humans are Human League members, and sends them all to concentration camps. Kidd organizes the real Human League to resist Modroid. Songs: “Summer Holiday” and “I Do Like to Be Beside the Seaside.” Harry Twenty: as above. The Warden barricades himself in his office, and Harry Twenty goes outside the station to reach him. Dredd: “Prezzel Logic,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. A criminal tries to manipulate Dredd into breaking his own laws. Tharg: “Tharg and the Mice!”, [W] uncredited, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Tharg battles an infestation of mice. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue fights the robot Napoleon.

SUPERMAN #343 (DC, 1980) – ‘The Last Days of Metropolis!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Curt Swan. An ancient Roman magician, Moximus, predicts the destruction of Pompeii, but, like Jor-El, he is not believed. He travels into the future, where he predicts that Superman will destroy Metropolis with a rocket. This time around his prediction is misleading. The story ends with a hint that Moximus will appear again in a Batman comic, but he never did. 

DETECTIVE COMICS #538 (DC, 1984) – “Clothes Make the Cat(Man)”, [W] Doug Moench, [A] Gene Colan. A criminal steals Cat-Man’s costume, which he thinks gives him nine lives. He proceeds to lose most of those lives fighting Batman. Moench and Colan’s Detective Comics run did not represent either creator’s best work. There’s also a backup story where Green Arrow witnesses John Lennon’s assassination, though Lennon is not named or shown. 

MS. TREE #48 (Renegade, 1988) – “Murder Cruise,” [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. Ms. Tree and Mike Mist solve a murder mystery aboard a cruise ship. Ms. Tree kills one of the murderers by shoving him from the roof of a tower. This issue also includes a reprinted Johnny Dynamite strip.

FANTASTIC FOUR #198 (Marvel, 1978) – “Invasion!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Keith Pollard. Dr. Doom prepares to abdicate Latveria’s throne in favor of his son… wait, Doom has a son? Reed assists with Zorba’s rebellion against Doom. This issue caused a serious continuity problem. At the top of page 15, Doom has his mask off in the presence of Sue, Ben and Johnny. Yet in issue #236, Sue sees Doom’s unmasked face and reacts as if she’d never seen it before. In the letter column of issue 241, the editor explained that the FF just didn’t see Doom’s face in #198, “whatever may have seemed to be happening in the pictures otherwise.” See https://www.cbr.com/the-abandoned-an-forsaked-the-fantastic-four-and-dooms-true-face/

2000 AD #305 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: as above. Sam, Hoagy and Stogie plot to escape the concentration camp. Song parodies include “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” and “We Gotta Get Out of This Place.” Harry Twenty: as above. The Warden kills Big Red One and summons reinforcement spaceships from Earth. Dredd: “Trapper Hag Part One,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Steve Dillon. An alien bounty hunter visits Mega-City One in search of some criminals who are wanted on an alien planet. Dredd tries to prevent the alien from capturing the criminals. Time Twisters: “The 200 Years’ War,” [W] Chris Lowder, [A] Mike White. The world has been at war for 200 years, and no one knows why. A man is sent back in time to when the war began. He accidentally triggers a nuclear exchange between the US and USSR, resulting in the same war he sought to avoid. Rogue Trooper: as above. More robot-Napoleon nonsense. “Fort Neuro” is a very tiresome story arc. 

FANTASTIC FOUR #199 (Marvel, 1978) – “The Son of Doctor Doom!”, as above. The uprising begins. Doom’s “son” is revealed to actually be his clone, who has all the FF’s powers, but is good rather than evil. Doom fights and kills his son. He blames Reed for “making” him do this, and the stage is set for an epic battle. 

TARTARUS #7 (Image, 2020) – “A Prison in Paradise,” [WJ Johnnie Christmas, [A] Andrew Krahnke. Surka and Hisa arrive in the utopian city of Auria. An old wizard, Svantoo, breaks the chain tethering Surka to Hisa. Surka causes a lot of violence, and summons the “sky raiders” who attacked Auria in the past. I really like this series, but its plot is quite hard to follow. A substance called “aima” is a major plot point in this issue, but I don’t get what that is. 

TREES #3 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Jason Howard. This is the first Warren Ellis comic I’ve read since the #MeToo accusations against him. I think his public persona is so deeply embedded into his writing that it’s not possible to “separate the art from the artist,” and I feel uncomfortable reading his existing work, let alone his future work. This issue of Trees has one story arc about an Italian professor, and another about a young Chinese man. Neither story has much to do with the namesake trees. 

MARSHAL LAW: SECRET TRIBUNAL #1 (Dark Horse, 1993) – untitled, [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. A members of the League of Heroes (Legion of Super-Heroes) is murdered by an alien, like the one from the Alien franchise. Marshal Law teams up with the Secret Tribunal, a team of Image-esque violent “heroes,” to investigate. Kevin O’Neill’s artwork and lettering in this comic are gorgeous; every page is full of chicken fat. But the parody in this comic is somewhat incoherent. Like, in the League’s boys’ dorm, there’s a sign saying HANDS ABOVE COVERS / DRY DREAMS, but the League’s space station is shaped like a penis. It’s not clear what the actual target of Mills’s satire is. And the Secret Tribunal are hard to distinguish from real Image characters. 

(Starting again on January 11, after a break for MLA and an attempted coup) 

ROYALS #10 (Marvel, 2018) – “We Could Steal Time,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Javier Rodriguez. The Royals fight some cosmic entities called the Progenitors. I don’t quite get this comic’s plot, but its main attraction is Javier Rodriguez’s art. Some of his page layouts in this issue are breathtaking. 

YOU LOOK LIKE DEATH: TALES FROM THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY #3 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W] Gerard Way & Shaun Simon, [A] I.N.J. Culbard. I don’t know why this was in my file – I don’t think I ordered it. This issue’s plot is incomprehensible, and I certainly don’t plan to buy any more of this minseries. I do want to read the original Umbrella Academy miniseries, but its individual issues are very expensive. 

MARVEL VOICES: INDIGENOUS VOICES #1 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Watcher,” [W/A] Jeffrey Veregge, etc. The best part of this one-shot is the three-page framing sequence, drawn in a Northwest Coast style. The rest of the issue is unimpressive. My favorite of the three stories is the one with Dani Moonstar and Rahne Sinclair, but only because I already love these characters. 

2000 AD #306 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: as above. Sam and Kidd escape the concentration camp, and Sam decides to try to resurrect Iron Aggie. The song parody is “Green Door.” Harry Twenty: as above. The inmates shoot down the invading ships and get Earth to agree to not launch any more, but there’s a nuclear-equipped satellite that’s already been launched, and Earth sends it to blow up the prison. Dredd: as above. Trapper Hag finds his target and teleports away. Dredd follows him to his spaceship. Time Twisters: “The Perfect Crime,” [W] Jack Adrian, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. A time traveler steals gold from the Titanic just before it sinks, intending to avoid a time paradox. But in the process he accidentally kills his own great-grandfather and triggers the paradox he meant to prevent. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue fights Robo- Napoleon’s Old Guard and heads to the “Lim-ee” sector of the fort. 

2000 AD #307 (IPC, 1983) – Sam Slade: as above. Sam revives Iron Aggie, who defeats Oswald Modroid and, at Sam’s request, declares an end to National Song Year. Song parodies: “Old-Fashioned Girl” and “My Way.” Time Twisters: “Rogan’s Run,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. A future criminal uses a time travel device to escape to the past, where he cause the Great Fire of London, then kills Louis XVI and gets executed in his place. Dredd: as above. Dredd beats up Trapper Hag and arrests him. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue teams up with some stereotypical British soldiers, and gets his helmet back. Harry Twenty: as above. Harry saves the High Rock from being nuked. The Warden gets himself killed. The prison inmates have 20 years worth of supplies and are now free to roam around space. 

2000 AD #308 (IPC, 1983) – Now here’s the good stuff. Skizz – untitled, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jim Baikie. This is one of the few major Alan Moore works I haven’t read. Part one of Skizz introduces an alien space traveler who crashlands on Earth, begs his computer not to kill him, and finds himself in Birmingham. Alan’s prose style is, as usual, incredible, and he and Baikie powerfully convey Skizz’s alien perspective. Time Twisters: “The Reversible Man,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Mike White. A man lives his life in reverse, starting with his death from a heart attack, and ending with his birth. Alan used this same idea many years later in The Spirit: The New Adventures #1. Dredd: “The Prankster,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Dredd outsmarts a malicious practical joker. Tharg: “Invasion of the Thrill-Snatchers Part 1,” [W] uncredited, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. Some alien “dictators” are infested with Greater Spotted Thrill-Suckers, so they make a deal to send the thrill-suckers to Earth instead. The Thrill-Suckers land on Earth near “Jadwan House” in Kentish Town – a reference to Jadwin House, where the Marvel UK offices were located at the time. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue gets Helm and Bagman back, and his enemy, Admiral Torpitz, orders a strike. 

THE AUTHORITY #22 (Wildstorm, 2001) – “Brave New World One of Four,” [W] Mark Millar, [A] Frank Quitely. Another issue full of offensive, sexist, racist, ultraviolent crap. The worst part is the villain Seth, an infuriating caricature of an American hillbilly. At least Frank Quitely’s art is good. 

MS. MARVEL #18 (Marvel, 1978) – “The St. Valentine’s Day/Avengers Massacre!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Jim Mooney. This was $15 with shipping, perhaps the most I’ve ever spent on any single back issue. But it was a Holy Grail of mine, a comic I’ve been seeking for years, and $15 is an extreme bargain; it was only that cheap because it’s a low-grade copy. Ms. Marvel #18 is expensive because it’s the first full appearance of Mystique. Besides that, it’s mostly a long fight scene, in which Carol and the Avengers battle a villain named Centurion. But even if the actual comic is a bit anticlimactic, Ms. Marvel #18 is perhaps the last great Bronze Age Marvel comic that I had never read, and I’m glad I finally own it. 

2000 AD #309 (IPC, 1983) – Skizz: as above. Skizz is terrified by the things he sees on Earth, including a highway and a bar fight. He finally crawls into a shed and collapses. Time Twisters: “Einstein,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] John Higgins. Some aliens visit a depopulated, postapocalyptic Earth and resurrect some notable humans, including two versions of Einstein. The two Einsteins deduce that they’re in an alien zoo and lead a successful revolt against the aliens. Dredd: “The Starborn Thing Part 1,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. A UFO lands in the Cursed Earth and creates a magnetic field that causes the mountains to come to life. Then the UFO opens and a slimy alien creature emerges. Tharg: as above. The thrill-suckers fight the microbes on Tharg’s skin. This story is really dumb, though Belardinelli draws some beautifully weird creatures. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue fights some giant robots. “Fort Neuro” continues to be boring and stupid, though I like Cam Kennedy’s art. 

SLOW DEATH #2 (Last Gasp, 1970) – Like Death Rattle, this underground comic was effectively Weird Fantasy with more sex and violence. “The Sex Evulsors of Technicus,” [W/A] Dave Sheridan. Some ugly aliens use women’s orgasms as a source of energy. This story is of course completely tasteless, but Sheridan’s art is quite energetic. “The Secret,” [W/A] Jaxon. Some humans discover a planet whose original inhabitants turned into humanoid insects. This story is in the same vein as Bulto from Death Rattle. “Routine,” [W/A] Jim Osborne. Some spacemen visit a dead earth. Osborne’s art reminds me of Bodé and his lettering reminds me of Wolverton. “How Howie Made It in the Real World,” [W/A] Richard Corben. An attractive young couple visit the beach, only to discover that their handsome young bodies are just plastic shells covering their real, withered forms. RIP Richard Corben, a great and unique artist. 

EDGAR ALLAN POE’S SNIFTER OF BLOOD #2 (Ahoy, 2020) – “To Hell Comes a Guest,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Peter Snejbjerg. A sequel to the story about breakfast cereal mascots in #2 of the previous volume. This sequel is just as funny as the first story. “A Tipple of Amontillado,” [W] Devin Grayson, [A] Chris Giarrusso. An even grosser alternative ending to The Cask of Amontillado.  

USAGI YOJIMBO: THE WANDERER’S ROAD #1 (IDW, 2020) – “The Tower,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. I wasn’t planning to buy this, because it’s a reprint series, but the store pulled it for me anyway. In a colorized reprint of Usagi Yojimbo vol. 1 #7, Usagi climbs a watchtower to rescue a tokage from an angry innkeeper, and chaos ensues. The juxtaposition between Stan’s ‘80s style and Ronda Pattison’s modern coloring is kind of strange.

ICE CREAM MAN #21 (Image, 2020) – “The Big Sweet,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. A detective investigates a series of disappearances of ice cream men. As the reader already knows from page one, they’re being murdered by a cult. This issue’s panel structure and color scheme are an obvious tribute to Watchmen, and it’s full of Watchmen references – e.g. a man climbing into an apartment through the window, and an “End Is Nigh” sign.  

DETECTIVE COMICS #663 (DC, 1993) – “No Rest for the Wicked,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Graham Nolan. This issue has perhaps Kelley Jones’s greatest cover: a closeup of a drowning Batman with his head covered in rats. In part ten of Knightfall, Batman saves the mayor from drowning in a flooded sewer. Then he fights three minor villains and returns to the Batcave exhausted, only to find Bane there already. 

MONSTRESS: TALK-STORIES #1 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. Kippa tells the story of the best thing she ever ate. While in a refugee camp, Kippa and her sister Perri made some delicious fried rice, only to be scolded by their mother for drawing attention from their fellow refugees. This is a powerful story, but it’s extremely bleak and depressing. Its depiction of hunger and famine is almost as harrowing as the similar scenes in Barefoot Gen. 

THE DEVIL’S RED BRIDE #2 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] John Bivens. More of the same stuff as last issue, with no real surprises. This series isn’t as good as Girner’s earlier works. 

X-RAY ROBOT #4 (Dark Horse, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Mike Allred. I still don’t know what the hell is going on in this series, but this issue has some excellent art. It also includes a brief cameo appearance by Madman. 

SLOW DEATH #3 (Last Gasp, 1971) – “Dumb Story”, [W/A] Richard Corben. Some primitive aliens lead an idyllic life of constant sex. Humans land on their planet and “civilize” them, resulting in their extinction. A grimmer version of Avatar or The Word for World is Forest. “The Harbinger,” [W/A] Jim Osborne. A wordless story about an angel, dedicated to Lynd Ward. “Gene Shuffle,” [W/A] Jaxon. In a postapocalyptic future, two mutants fall in love and have a child. Ironically, the mutants look like normal people, while all the other humans are horribly deformed. The mutant parents are relieved to discover that their son is normal, i.e. hideous, rather than mutated like them. “Heirs of Earth,” [W/A] Corben. A two-pager starring a character who looks like Den. “The Sleeping Continent,” [W/A] Larry Welz. A postapocalyptic sword-and-sorcery story. Welz used the spelling “Urth” before Gene Wolfe did. 

2000 AD #310 (IPC, 1983) – Tharg: as above. The thrill-suckers penetrate to Tharg’s brain, which is one of those stunning, indescribable scenes that Belardinelli is so good at. Time Twisters: “Chrono-Cops,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Dave Gibbons. One of Alan’s best early short works, about two cops who travel through time to solve a mystery, crossing their own timelines repeatedly. The scene of the cops meeting their past/future selves in the lobby recurs over and over, each time acquiring additional meanings. My friend Elizabeth Sandifer has published a detailed analysis of this story (https://rb.gy/jc49ef). Dredd: as above. The ailen infects Dredd, forcing him to shoot his fellow Judges. Rogue Trooper: as above. In the 19th and thankfully last part of this awful series, Rogue recaptures the fort. Skizz: as above. The series’ second protagonist, the schoolgirl Roxy, is introduced, and she finds Skizz in the shed. 

BATMAN #458 (DC, 1990) – “Night Monsters,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. Harold, a mute, deformed engineering genius, is wrongly suspected of kidnapping a little girl. Batman saves Harold from an angry mob and takes him to the Batcave, where he would become the Batmobile’s full-time mechanic. This isn’t Harold’s first appearance, but it is his debut as a regular supporting cast member. He may have been introduced as a way of explaining how Batman maintained all his vehicles and gadgets, though that’s a problem that didn’t really need a solution. See https://comicsalliance.com/ask-chris-266-batman-mechanic-harold/. Also in this issue, Commissioner Gordon rekindles his old affair with Sarah Essen.  

CHAMBER OF CHILLS #4 (Marvel, 1973) – “The Opener of the Crypt!”, [W] John Jakes, [A] Frank Brunner. In a pastiche of The Cask of Amontillado, Montresor’s modern-day descendant, Paul Montré, finds Fortunato’s corpse, and Fortunato’s corpse traps Montré in the tomb his ancestor built. Brunner’s art here is very spooky. “Pawn of the Demon,” [W] Steve Skeates, [A] Jay Scott Pike. One of Pike’s very few later works outside the romance genre. A shipwreck victim is enslaved by telepathic ants, and turns into an ant himself. “The Demon from Beyond!”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Howard Chaykin. An adventurer saves a woman from being sacrificed to a demon. 

SECRETS OF SINISTER HOUSE #14 (DC, 1973) – “The Man and the Snake,” [W] E. Nelson Bridwell, [A] Alfredo Alcala. An adaptation of an Ambrose Bierce story about snake charming. As usual, Alcala’s draftsmanship is incredible. “The Roommate,” [W] Fred Wolfe, [A] Mike Sekowsky. David’s girlfriend Priscilla has a roommate who, as the reader can easily tell, is a vampire (https://www.instagram.com/p/CI4iXZ_Be3Q/). The vampire kills Priscilla, but David kills her. “The Glass Nightmare,” [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Alfredo Alcala. An old man makes some beautiful snow globes. A thief murders the man and tries to steal the globes, only to find himself trapped in one of them. More gorgeous art. 

BIRTHRIGHT #23 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andres Genolet. Kylen is revealed as a villain and attacks Mastema, who is trying to free Mikey from the Nevermind. With Rya about to go into labor, Wendy has to use Rya’s sword to defend them both. On the last page, Mikey and Rya are finally reunited. 

SILVER STAR #4 (Pacific, 1983) – “The Super-Normals: Are They God’s or Satan’s Children?”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Silver Star encounters Big Masai, a black superhero with size-changing powers. This story includes some impressive depictions of New York slums, and thus it reminds me of Kirby’s classic “Street Code.” There’s also a backup story written by Richard Kyle, with impressive art by Kirby inker D. Bruce Berry. 

Next trip to Heroes: 

LUMBERJANES: END OF SUMMER #1 (Boom!, 2020) – “End of Summer Part 4,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Brooklyn Allen, Alexa Bosy & Kanesha C. Bryant. Ripley summons the Kitten Holy. The girls defeat the Grey with the power of friendship, as embodied by their badges. But summer is over now, and Molly is especially sad to return home to her awful stepmother. In a touching conclusion, the other girls give Molly a present, and she opens it to find Bubbles. So she gets to take something back from the camp to her normal life. So ends the best kids’ comic book since Bone. I’m sad this series is over, but 75 issues plus multiple spinoffs is a great run for a comic that’s not aimed at the direct market audience. I hope Ross Richie is telling the truth when he says there are further plans for this franchise. My main regret is that we never got to see the world outside the camp. If Miss Qiunzella’s is such a feminist utopia, what kind of larger society could have produced it? 

ONCE & FUTURE #14 (Boom!, 2020) – “Long Live the King,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. Rose beheads the Green Knight, who, predictably, picks up his head and tells Rose/Gawain to meet him in a year. A dying racist says that Elaine is looking for a cauldron, presumably the one from the Mabinogi. Elaine appears in Rose’s house and points a gun at her. This is an excellent issue, and it shows that Gillen has expert knowledge of the Gawain myth and of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I like how he emphasizes the poem’s Christmas themes. 

SECOND COMING: ONLY BEGOTTEN SON #1 (Ahoy, 2020) – “Last Night on Zirconia,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Richard Pace. Most of this issue is a flashback to Sunstar’s origin story, which is identical to Superman’s. A hilarious moment is when Sunstar’s dad explains why the rocket is only big enough for a child: because he had to build it on a government scientist’s salary. Russell draws obvious parallels between Zirconia (Krypton)’s fate and the climate crisis. Sunstar, Sheila and Jesus only appear on the last two pages. 

SWEET TOOTH: THE RETURN #2 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Gus II and his new friend Penny are recaptured. It becomes clear that all the characters in the series are normal humans, hiding underground from the virus that killed all the other humans. Gus’ father created him in order to send him aboveground and infect him with another virus, so a to kill the hybrids that now dominate the world. On the last page, an elephant-headed hybrid appears outside Gus’s cell. 

USAGI YOJIMBO #15 (IDW, 2020) – “Sojobo,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi visits his “other teacher”: Sojobo, the tengu from Usagi v3 #65, which happens to be the first Usagi comic I read. In a flashback, we learn how Sojobo defeated a young Usagi in a duel and claimed ownership of Usagi’s hand. Back in the present, Usagi finds Sojobo unconscious and surrounded by dead ratlike creatures. 

WE ONLY FIND THEM WHEN THEY’RE DEAD #4 (Boom!, 2020) – “The Glorious Quest,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Simone Di Meo. In order to save Malik from Paula, the Vihaan has to cut the goddess’s throat. Also, we now know that Paula blames Malik for killing her family. 

THE MAGNIFICENT MS. MARVEL #17 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Minkyu Jung. Kamala defeats Brett the tech bro, aka Monopoly, and convinces Dum Dum Dugan to stop hounding her. Zoe doesn’t apologize for snitching. Stormranger is coming back. 

THE DREAMING: WAKING HOURS #5 (DC, 2020) – “The Bard and the Bard, Finale,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nick Robles. Lindy decides there’s no real Shakespeare, because our perception of Shakespeare is always shaped by our modern circumstances. To me as a literary scholar, that seems like a very sensible claim. Morpheus forgives Ruin, and the first story arc is over. 

BIG GIRLS #5 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W/A] Jason Howard. Joanna and her sons assault the city. Ember reaches out to one of the Jacks and convinces it to turn around. Meanwhile, Gulliver’s assistant Martin tries to fight Tannik, and gets turned into a big man, rather than a Jack. 

SEVEN SECRETS #5 (Boom!, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. The entire Order retreats to a hidden mountain fortress. This proves to be a stupid decision as the Seekers follow them there and begin a siege. This series is a really exciting adventure story. 

FANTASTIC FOUR #27 (Marvel, 2020) – “Borrowed Armor,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] R.B. Silva et al. 4 Yancy Street fills up with weird-looking aliens. Reed gives Franklin a spare suit of Iron Man armor, like when Ben Grimm lost his powers and wore a Thing suit. Reed tries to destroy the Griever by sacrificing Yancy Street, but it doesn’t work. This issue includes some good pieces of characterization: Mr. Sheckerberg complaining to Reed about all the mishegas, and Val reuniting with Bentley. 

GIGA #2 (Vault, 2020) – untitled, [W] Alex Paknadel, [A] John Lê. The authorities interrogate Evan and separate him from his unlicensed AI. An investigation reveals that the dead Giga was killed by the Dusters. I didn’t understand all of this issue’s plot, but I still think this series is fascinating; it’s the one Vault comic I’m most excited about. 

STRANGE ACADEMY #6 (Marvel, 2020) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. The kids follow Calvin’s trail and battle the Hollow. They manage to win, thanks to help from their instructors, but Doyle Dormammu is apparently killed. 

STRANGE ADVENTURES #7 (DC, 2020) – “It Should Happen to Everybody,” [W] Tom King, [A] Doc Shaner & Mitch Gerads. In the flashback, Adam goes on some kind of weird drug trip. I don’t quite understand how this issue is related to the main plot, and this issue doesn’t tell us anything new about the Pykkts and what they want. 

PENULTIMAN #3 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Alan Robinson. Penultiman tries to think more positively, but he only ends up damaging his own reputation even further. I don’t know why I never got issue 2. 

SCARENTHOOD #2 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Nick Roche, [A] Chris O’Halloran. While taking Scooper home, Cormac gets lost in the woods and has to abandon Scooper’s stroller. He and the other adults go back for it but are chased away by a black devil dog. Cormac misses a phone call from his still-unseen wife. One thing I like about this series is its authentic-seeming depiction of small-town Ireland. 

HAPPY HOUR #2 (Ahoy, 2020) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Michael Montenat. Jerry and Kim fight their way out of the asylum and steal a clown car. Jerry insists on a detour to see his dying grandmother, who, of course, is supposed to be happy she’s dying. While Jerry is with his grandmother, Kim drives off, leaving him behind. This comic is much clearer than most of Milligan’s recent work. 

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #21 (Marvel, 2020) – “The Ultimatum Saga, Conclusion,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Marcello Ferreira. Uncle Aaron sacrifices his ilfe to defeat Ultimatum. Miles is left devastated. It’s a sad moment, even though Uncle Aaron’s story was never going to have a happy ending. 

MARVEL ACTION CHILLERS #3 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Gretel Lusky & Bowen McCurdy. In the flashback sequence, Nadia van Dyne battles Venom with minimal assistance from Spider-Man. It’s great to see Jeremy writing Nadia again, and he even includes cameo appearances from some of Nadia’s fellow Agents of G.I.R.L. 

SAVAGE DRAGON #255 (Image, 2020) – “The Empty Grave,” [W/A] Erik Larsen. Dart is shockingly killed by the police. Given Erik’s willingness to kill off characters, I won’t be surprised if Dart actually stays dead. Paul Dragon visits Dimension X and finds Jennifer’s body, and we also see an unexplained baby Dragon. Malcolm is still in the hospital, regenerating his brain. I’m kind of worried for him. 

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #112 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Jodi Nishijima. Mona goes to a support group for mutants, but it degenerates into a brawl between supporters and opponents of Hob. A frog mutant attacks Michelangelo and poisons him. The Turtles decide to hold an election and nominate Sally for mayor. 

JUNKWAFFEL #2 (Last Gasp, 1972) – “Tubs” and other stories, [W/A] Vaughn Bodé. I won three issues of Junkwaffel on eBay, and I accidentally read #2 before #1. “Tubs” is about time travelers who go back in time to hunt for meat to relieve a famine. “The Rudolf” is about an unsuccessful rebellion against a dystopian future society. Both these stories look as if they’re reproduced from pencils. “Cobalt 60,” which has much better print quality, is a sort of Western story about a wandering warrior in a postapocalyptic future. Bodé only did this one story with Cobalt 60, but his son revived the character after Bodé’s death. This issue also includes some Cheech Wizard strips, reproduced sideways, and an anti-war story, War Lizard. My overall judgment on this comic is that Bodé was an incredible draftsman, but not the best writer. His comics are absurdly heavy on text, and he had trouble writing a coherent plot. 

CROSSOVER #2 (Image, 2020) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Geoff Shaw. This comic begins with the murder of Brian K. Vaughn (sp), but otherwise it feels less like a masturbatory celebration of fandom than issue 1 did. This issue, the protagonist plots to rescue the inmates in Denver’s prison for non-super supporting cast members, and the little girl demonstrates some frightening superpowers. 

FAR SECTOR #9 (DC, 2020) – untitled, [W] N.K. Jemisin, [A] Jamal Campbell. Somehow I forgot to get issue 8. This issue, Jo investigates a secret sweatshop where people are being forced to produce memes for the consumption of the @. 

2000 AD #311 (IPC, 1983) – Tharg: as above. The Thrill-Suckers put the entire world to sleep, including Tharg himself. Tharg’s bumbling assistant Burt has to wake him up. This story has some beautiful art, but all these Thrill-Suckers stories are idiotic, and I wonder if anyone actually liked them. Rogue Trooper: “Major Magnum Prologue,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] Brett Ewins. Rogue evades a homing missile attack, then learns that there’s another G.I. on Nu-Earth. Time Twisters: “Joy Riders,” [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Jesus Redondo. A future cop apprehends some time-traveling juvenile delinquents. Dredd: as above. The parasite forces Dredd to invade a mutant settlement. One-shot: “What a Load of Rubbish!”, [W] Alan Grant, [A] Eric Bradbury. People from the future use the year 1999 as a dumping ground for trash from even further in the future. Skizz: Roxy befriends Skizz