Reviews for most of October

New comics received on October 8:

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES: MILLENNIUM #2 (DC, 2019) – untitled, [W] Brian Michael Bendis, [A] various. Again, this issue is disappointing because it’s barely a Legion comic; it’s more of a tour of the DC Universe’s future. In this issue Rose & Thorn travels through a bunch more future eras of the DCU, meeting Omac and visiting the Space Museum. The Legion does appear on one two-page spread at the end, and they look fascinating. Here Bendis’s habit of extreme overwriting is actually an advantage because it means that a lot of different Legionnaires get their own dialogue. Still, I’m getting impatient to read a real Legion comic.

RUNAWAYS #25 (Marvel, 2019) – “Canon Fodder Pt. 1,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Andres Genolet. Now that Squirrel Girl is ending and G. Willow Wilson has left Ms. Marvel, Runaways is my favorite Marvel title. This issue, Nico and Karolina meet Doc Justice, an old enemy of the Pride who has somehow never been mentioned before. And it looks like the Runaways have to accept his offer to work with them, because their home is being destroyed by construction. This issue includes some cute cat moments.

FANTASTIC FOUR #15 (Marvel, 2019) – “Point of Origin, Part Two: The Invasion,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Paco Medina. In a cute gimmick, this issue is narrated from the perspective of the Unparalleled, an alien superhero team whose planet is being “invaded” by the Fantastic Four. Therefore, most of the Fantastic Four’s dialogue in the issue is written in illegible symbols. It’s easy, but tedious, to translate these symbols into English, and so this issue took forever to read. The most notable thing about the Unparallelled’s planet is that all its inhabitants are assigned a future spouse at puberty, and one of the Unparalleled thinks that Johnny Storm is her intended. I’m curious to see where this plotline goes.

MARVEL COMICS #1001 (Marvel, 2019) – numerous stories, [W] Al Ewing et al, [A] various. This is basically a collection of all the extra material that couldn’t be included in Marvel Comics #1000. As with Marvel Comics #1000, the vignettes in #1000 are a mixed bag. Some of them are brilliant, like Marc Sumerak’s return to the Fantastic Four, or Amanda Conner’s Tigra story. Others, like Will Murray and Derek Charm’s Squirrel Girl story, are pretty bad. Notably, this issue includes a story about Kamala Khan, which addresses one of the major complaints about Marvel Comics #1000.

SEA OF STARS #4 (Image, 2019) – “Lost in the Wild Heavens,” [W] Jason Aaron & Dennis Hallum, [A] Stephen Green. Kadyn meets an alien woman named Dalla the Despised who thinks he’s her people’s messiah, Quasarro. It turns out the alien artifact that Kadyn touched, back in issue 1, was Quasarro’s war club. Meanwhile, Gil is pursued by some alien hunters who belong to the same race as Dalla. So the overall plot of this series is finally becoming clear.

STAR PIG #3 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Delilah Dawson, [A] Francesco Gaston. I just saw Delilah Dawson and her collaborator Kevin Hearne at an event at Park Road Books in Charlotte. They mostly talked about their novels, but I asked her a question about how she writes differently for comics and for prose. I also bought a copy of her first novel with Kevin Hearne, Kill the Farm Boy. In Star Pig #3, Vess meets a cute alien boy, Theo, whose people’s culture is based on Earth popular culture. But it looks like Theo is some kind of carnivorous monster in disguise. This issue includes a lot of cute moments, such as a scene where Vess tries on a bunch of funny costumes (this reminds me of the clothes-generator sequence in X-Men #157).

MANIFEST DESTINY #37 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. This series has been on hiatus for so long that I was afraid it was cancelled. But I saw Matthew Roberts at Heroes Con and he assured me it was coming back, and I’m glad that he was telling the truth. This issue, the Corps of Discovery has survived a harsh winter and Pryor’s attempted rebellion, but as spring begins, they encounter a giant underground mammalian worm. Also, Sacagawea’s baby is adorable, but Sacagawea is showing a notable lack of interest in motherhood.

FUTURE FOUNDATION #3 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Will Robson & Paco Diaz. Rikki Barnes’s origin is explained, and we learn that she previously appeared in Jeremy’s Exiles series. The FF escape from the alien planet, but they’re not out of trouble yet, and one of the prisoners they rescued is actually Lyja the Lazerfist. It’s a bit hard to care about this series when it’s ending in just two more issues.

LOIS LANE #4 (DC, 2019) – “Enemy of the People Part 4,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Mike Perkins. This issue begins with a really cute scene with Lois and Jon. Given how last issue ended, I expected this encounter to be much more awkward than it was. It’s nice that Lois and Jon are so comfortable with each other. Jon also tells Lois that he’s been invited to join the Legion. The rest of the issue mostly focuses on the subplots with the Question and the Russian spies.

BIRTHRIGHT #40 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Little Mikey has an unproductive discussion with Mastema. The five wizards try to recreate the spell separating Earth from Terrenos, but it fails. Samael stabs Mastema, and monsters from Terrenos start pouring into Earth. This series has about 10 issues left, and is heading towards an epic conclusion.

DIE #8 (Image, 2019) – “Legacy Heroes,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans. We’re back in Angria. Ash explains how she has an 18-year-old son. Matt goes to meet some other knights representing other emotions. At the end, Isabelle shows up in Angria – but without Chuck. This issue was rather low-key, compared to the previous few issues.

IMMORTAL HULK #24 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Steel Throne,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. The Hulk finally defeats Reginald Fortean and somehow absorbs Fortean’s personality into himself. The Hulk becomes the new commander of Fortean’s base. In two scenes at the beginning and end of the issue, we see that the Hulk will be the last survivor of this universe, like how Galactus was the last survivor of the previous universe. Oh, also, the second to last survivor will be Mr. Immortal. That’s both silly and entirely logical.

NO ONE LEFT TO FIGHT #4 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Aubrey Sitterson, [A] Fico Ossio. Vale, Timor and Krysta finally reach the home of their old friends Quon and Kaya. More relationship drama ensues. At the end of the issue, Hierophant shows up and resurrects Bruton, the ultimate villain. Just one issue left in this very entertaining series.

BERSERKER UNBOUND #3 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Mike Deodato Jr. Some other homeless dudes try to steal the old man’s stuff, but the Mongrel King drives them off. Then the Mongrel King’s old enemies show up. This whole miniseries has been awful; it’s far below Jeff’s usual standards. I think the problem is that Mike Deodato draws very few panels per page, so there’s not enough room in each issue for any real plot or characterization.

GREEN LANTERN #12 (DC, 2019) – “Return of the Qwa-Man,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. Hal battles the Qwa-Man, his own antimatter counterpart, who is executing the plan of Controller Mu. Hal almost gets killed, but is saved at the last minute by his fellow Blackstars. The Blackstars tell Hal that he’s the final component in the doomsday device they’ve been creating throughout the series, which they call the Miracle Machine. This leads into the next miniseries, Blackstars. Grant Morrison’s Green Lantern has been amazing, and he may even be the best Green Lantern writer since Steve Englehart.

POWERS IN ACTION #3 (Action Lab, 2019) – “The Dusk of Vortexial Time!”, [W/A] Art Baltazar. Just a generic kid-oriented superhero comic. I guess that makes sense because Art created all these characters when he himself was a kid.

EVERYTHING #2 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “The Evil That Never Arrived,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] I.N.J. Culbard. Another difficult and confusing issue, partly because it has no main character; in fact, none of the characters are memorable at all. The plot seems to be that the mall is causing people to go insane and die, and the Mr. Bear dolls from the toy store are somehow responsible.

MARVEL ACTION: BLACK PANTHER #3 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kyle Baker, [A] Juan Samu. T’Challa and his friends defeat the evil businessman’s plot to take over Wakanda. The businessman is revealed as King Cadaver, a villain created by Don McGregor and Billy Graham. This story was okay, but it was neither a great Black Panther comic nor a great Kyle Baker comic.

ABSOLUTE CARNAGE: IMMORTAL HULK #1 (Marvel, 2 019) – untitled, [W] Al Ewing, [A] Filipe Andrade. Bruce Banner wakes up with no memory of where he’s been, and discovers that the Hulk has manipulated him into tracking down the stolen corpse of Thunderbolt Ross. Also, Hulk gets infected with the Venom symbiote. This issue is much better than Absolute Carnage: Miles Morales, and is worth reading even though I have no interest in the Absolute Carnage crossover. This issue’s narrative strategy is very effective: when Bruce wakes up, he doesn’t know what’s going on, any more than the reader does, and the reader and Bruce discover the situation together.

THE DREAMING #14 (DC, 2019) – “Shevirat, the Shattering,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. This issue reunites Spurrier with his brilliant artistic collaborator from Coda. After a one-issue interlude, we’re back to the main storyline, as Dora plays a game with a demon in order to learn some answers about her origin. The twist is that Dora is really playing two demons at once, and using each of their moves against the other. As a reward for winning, Dora learns that the man who “broke her” is a certain Hyperion Keter, who is now on his deathbed.

CANTO #5 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. Canto and his friends battle three flying women. This sequence was hard to follow because I didn’t realize there were three of them and not one. Then Canto confronts the Shrouded Man. I don’t understand this issue’s plot, and I wish I’d read issues 2 and 3.

COPRA #1 (Image, 2019) – “End of Complications,” [W/A] Michel Fiffe. This issue is the major-publisher debut of a long-running self-published comic. Copra is an homage to John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad, but it’s drawn in a radically experimental style, with scratchy artwork, weird page layouts, and innovative drawing techniques. It’s the leading example of a contemporary school of comics that’s influenced by both ‘90s mainstream comics and alternative comics – by both Rob Liefeld and Gary Panter, so to speak. Other representatives of this school include Ed Piskor, Tom Scioli, Charles Forsman, and Ben Marra. I’ve read the first two Copra trade paperbacks, and I have the next two, but I don’t remember much about the plot. Luckily, this issue is pretty accessible, and it includes biographies of the main characters and plot summaries of all the self-published issues. Michel Fiffe’s artwork in this issue is not as radical as in early issues of Copra, but it’s more interesting than his artwork in GI Joe or Bloodstrike Brutalists. Part of the fun in this series is identifying which Marvel and DC characters the members of Copra are based on.

ALL-TIME COMICS: ZEROSIS DEATHSCAPE #4 (All Time, 2019) – “To Annihilate the Future!”, [W] Josh Bayer & Josh Simmons, [A] Julia Gfrörrer & Trevor von Eeden. As with last issue, this issue’s first nine pages are much more interesting than pages 10 to 32. In this issue, Julia Gfrörer, whose work I haven’t seen before, draws a sequence in which a superheroine battles a villain called the Misogynist. In the rest of the issue, Trevor von Eeden’s work reminds me of Neal Adams’s late-period work for Continuity Comics.

Older comics:

WHERE IS JAKE ELLIS? #4 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Nathan Edmondson, [A] Tonci Zonjic. This is the first Jake Ellis comic I’ve read, and it was a poor place to start; its plot makes no sense out of context. Tonci Zonjic’s art is good, but not good enough to carry the whole plot by itself. I bought the TPB of the previous miniseries, Who Is Jake Ellis, but I never read it. And now I’m disinclined to read it because I’ve learned that Nathan Edmondson is a sexual predator.

ENIGMA #5 (Vertigo, 1993) – “Lizards and Ghosts,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Duncan Fegredo. The Interior League and Envelope Girl continue to murder people. Titus Bird and Michael Smith go to Arizona to investigate. It becomes clear that all the Enigma’s villains have something to do with lizards. This is another good issue, but it doesn’t contain any major revelations or plot twists.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Winter in America: Part V,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Leinil Francis Yu. Cap fights the Taskmaster, and there’s also another plot involving Selene and Aleksander Lukin. TNC’s Captain America was really boring, and I wish I had stopped ordering it much sooner t hani did.

SUICIDE SQUAD #30 (DC, 1989) – “Endgame,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] John K. Snyder. This is part ten of “The Janus Directive,” a crossover in which Suicide Squad and Checkmate teamed up against Kobra. This issue, the president orders a nuclear strike against Kobra’s base, but Captain Atom prevents it. Also, Lois Lane gets hit with a pie. This is a thrilling and well-written comic, which still makes sense even without having read parts 1 through 9. However, it’s a bit ironic that Copra has far better art than the actual Suicide Squad comic ever had.

COMET #2 (Archie, 1983) – untitled, [W] Bill Dubay, [A] Carmine Infantino. A ponderous and confusing comic, which makes a noble attempt to use the superhero genre to address the issue of child abuse, but ultimately collapses under its own weight. The plot is tough to follow because there are a ton of characters who aren’t adequately introduced to the reader, including two different Comets. Also, at the end of the issue, the Comet is shamed for not forgiving his abusive father before the latter dies. That’s a bad message to send. Children of abusers should not be forced to forgive their parents. This issue is inked by Alex Niño, whose style was a poor match for Infantino’s, though Infantino himself wasn’t much good by this point in his career.

CROSSING MIDNIGHT #1 (Vertigo, 2006) – “The Shrine Part 1 of 3,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Jim Fern. This was an ongoing series, though it only lasted 19 issues. This first issue introduces Kai and Toshi, two Japanese teenagers whose grandmother is an atomic bomb survivor. As they grow up, Kai and Toshi discover that they have some strange abilities, and ultimately they learn that this is because, before their birth, they were dedicated as offerings to a rather nasty kami. Crossing Midnight is a comic about Japan by a non-Japanese writer, but unlike David Mack in Kabuki (see previous post), it feels like Mike Carey has genuinely done his research. For example, at one point in the issue we see Toshi reading Pink, a classic manga that hadn’t been published in English at the time. Jim Fern’s art in this issue is the best of his career, though he’s had a mediocre career.

SWEET SIXTEEN #5 (Marvel, 1991) – “What Can I Get a Princess?” and other vignettes, [W/A] Barbara Slate. More stories that follow the typical Sweet XVI formula. One of these stories is mildly progressive because it shows a girl beating some sexist boys at sports. I briefly talked about this series with Barbara Slate when I interviewed her, and I hope to write about it in more detail elsewhere.

ENIGMA #6 (DC, 1993) – “The End of the World,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Duncan Fegredo. This issue we finally start to understand Enigma’s origin: as a child, he fell into a well and couldn’t get out, and sustained himself by eating lizards. The issue ends with the pivotal moment of the entire series, when Enigma helps Michael realize that he’s gay, and that his angry reaction to Titus Bird in #3 was the result of his own internalized homophobia. This is a powerful moment. At the time, it may have been the most realistic and sensitive coming-out scene that had yet been portrayed in a commercial comic book. It’s still an impressive scene now, when depictions of LGBTQ people in comics are far more common. The letter column includes editor Art Young’s comments on the allegedly homophobic scene in #3. I wonder if I might write about Enigma for that upcoming roundtable on paratexts in comics. I want to contribute to that, but no topic has come to mind yet.

THE WALKING DEAD #163 (Image, 2017) – “Conquered,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Charlie Adlard. Rick Grimes’s city gets attacked by a huge horde of zombies. This is an exciting issue. However, it was published as a special 25-cent issue for new readers, but it’s not as accessible as it could have been. It doesn’t include a plot summary or profiles of the characters, and I had trouble recognizing any of the characters, even Rick.

THE CAPE: GREATEST HITS #1 (IDW, 2018) – untitled, [W] Jason Ciaramella, [A] Zach Howard. This is an adaptation of a short story by Joe Hill. The protagonist, Eric, is a lazy, childish ne’er-do-well who sponges off his girlfriend until she can’t stand him anymore. After moving back into his mother’s basement, Eric discovers a magic flying cape, which he uses to murder his girlfriend. This comic somehow got an Eisner nomination, but it shouldn’t have, because it’s a mean-spirited, offensive piece of crap. I have read so many posts on r/relationships by women complaining about boyfriends like Eric, and in every case, the correct advice is that the woman should just dump the boyfriend. The Cape #1 makes it abundantly clear that Eric is an emotionally stunted manchild and that the girlfriend was right to dump him. But because The Cape #1 follows the visual conventions of superhero comics, the reader is encouraged to identify with Eric and to see his girlfriend as an object to be desired and possessed. Also, Eric is the narrator, which further biases the reader in his favor. As a result, this comic manipulates readers into sympathizing with Eric when they should despise him. Maybe you’re supposed to read this comic and feel ashamed of yourself for identifying with Eric, but if that’s the point, I think readers are likely to miss the point and instead just see Eric as the hero.

IMMORTAL IRON FIST #4 (Marvel, 2007) – “The Last Iron Fist Story Part 4,” [W] Ed Brubaker & Matt Fraction, [A] David Aja w/ Travel Foreman & Derek Fridolfs. Danny Rand fights alongside the previous Iron Fist, Orson Randall, and there’s also a subplot about Davos the Steel Serpent. This is an exciting issue that feels kind of like an actual wuxia film or novel. Pages 9 and 10 of this issue are drawn by a different artist (Derek Fridolfs, I assume) whose style contrasts oddly with that of the rest of the issue.

REVIVAL #6 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Mike Norton. Dana investigates a murder, and there are a bunch of other subplots. The two most notable things in this issue are the scene where Cooper is playing with his toys, and the scene where May Tao talks with an old Hmong woman (in English, oddly).

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #370 (Marvel, 1992) – “Life Stings! Invasion of the Spider-Slayers, Part 3,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] Mark Bagley. Another bad issue of a bad storyline, although at least it’s drawn by a real Spider-Man artist, unlike #366. At least Richard and Mary Parker only appear on a couple pages; most of the issue is devoted to a fight between Spidey, Black Cat and Scorpion. Michelinie wrote Richard and Mary as a pair of aloof, anxious old busybodies, and I doubt if any readers liked them very much. There’s a backup story written by JM DeMatteis in which Aunt May visits Uncle Ben’s grave. This story is a little too syrupy, but it’s better than the main story.

ELEPHANTMEN #8 (Image, 2007) – “Moxa Cautery!”, [W] Richard Starkings, [A] Moritat. This is a gangster story with animal protagonists – so it’s like Blacksad, but with much worse art. There’s also a flip book story starring protagonist Hip Flask’s pet frog, as well as a lot of ancillary materials that are only of interest to hardcore fans. According to Wikipedia, Hip Flask was created to appear in Starkings’s ads for Comicraft, and somehow ended up getting his own comic.

FOUR WOMEN #2 (Image, 2002) – untitled, [W/A] Sam Kieth. Four women driving alone at night are assaulted by a bunch of men who try to break into their car. The artwork in this comic is fairly interesting. However, it’s obvious that Four Women #1 was written by a man. As I observed in my review of issue 1, Four Women feels like a man’s idea of how women talk to other women. This issue is even worse, because Sam Kieth is trying to imagine how women react to being threatened by men, and it doesn’t seem like he has any knowledge of this. He’s just extrapolating from how men would react in an analogous situation. According to Wikipedia, in the rest of the series, the situation escalates even further; one of the women gets raped, and another of them, who is narrating the series, blames herself for it. I guess Sam Kieth deserves credit for being willing to engage with the topic of rape, but he’s just not a good enough writer to be able to tackle a story like this.

B.P.R.D.: THE DEAD REMEMBERED #3 (Dark Horse, 2011) – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola & Scott Allie, [A] Karl Moline. A young Liz Sherman confronts the ghosts of some of the victims of the Salem witch trials. Like most Mignolaverse comics not solely written by Mignola, this issue is okay, but it’s nothing great.

MANHUNTER #27 (DC, 2007) – “Unleashed, Part Two: Chains of Evidence,” [W] Marc Andreyko, [A] Javier Pina & Fernando Blanco. Kate Spencer defends Wonder Woman before a grand jury, there’s a subplot about the Order of Saint Dumas, and the supposedly dead Ted Kord shows up alive. The courtroom sequence in this issue feels very realistic, so much so that it made me think Marc Andreyko was an actual lawyer, although as far as I can tell, he is not.

ENIGMA #7 (Vertigo, 1993) – “Sex in Arizona,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Duncan Fegredo. Michael Smith has sex with the Enigma, and then they try to cure Victoria Yes, who was turned into Envelope Girl. But they’re interrupted by Enigma’s mother, a monstrous hunchback. Enigma’s origin is also revealed in detail, and the issue ends with an impressive splash page depicting the moment where Enigma climbs out of the well and sees the sky for the first time.

HELLBLAZER #113 (Vertigo, 1997) – “You’re Just a…,” [W] Paul Jenkins, [A] Sean Phillips. This issue gets off to a promising start, as John talks with Bran the Blessed, a character from Welsh mythology. But after that, the story descends into incoherence.

POWER & GLORY #2 (Malibu, 1994) – untitled, [W/A] Howard Chaykin. The government creates a new superhero, Allan Powell, but he turns out to be a distasteful, incompetent jerk who hates being touched. So his handler, Michael Gorski, has to do all the actual superhero stuff. I have little interest in Chaykin’s current work, because it’s problematic for a lot of reasons that I don’t want to go into. This issue has some problems too; for example, it includes a scene which would be considered transphobic today, in which a transvestite uses a urinal next to a man. Still, Power & Glory is interesting, and it may have been Chaykin’s last truly major work.

QUANTUM & WOODY #0 (Valiant, 2014) – “Get Your Goat” and other vignettes, [W] James Asmus, [A] Tom Fowler. This is billed as “Quantum & Woody: Goat” on the cover. It depicts the origin of Quantum and Woody’s goat, and its doomed romance with Dolly the cloned sheep. It’s written in the same style as the classic Q&W series, with a bunch of vignettes in non-chronological order. However, James Asmus is not nearly as funny a writer as Priest.

JOE KUBERT PRESENTS #4 (DC, 2013) – The Redeemer in “The Golden Warrior,” [W/A] Joe Kubert, plus two other stories. This issue’s first story introduces The Redeemer, a character who has multiple lives in various eras. It was drawn in 1983 but never published. It’s okay, but it’s indistinguishable from any other Kubert comic, and it takes too much of a both-sides attitude toward the Civil War. This issue also includes an Angel and Ape story by Brian Buniak, which is not well written but has amazing art. This artist deserves to be better known. There’s also a USS Stevens story by Sam Glanzman, but it’s extremely text-heavy and doesn’t have much of a plot.

FLASH #32 (DC, 1989) – “Welcome to Keystone City,” [W] William Messner-Loebs, [A] Greg LaRocque. Wally, Piper and Mason move to the impoverished Keystone City. There they encounter two villains named Sloe and Steddy (heh) who have kidnapped Piper’s family. This issue is okay, but not nearly as good as an average issue by Mark Waid.

GLADSTONE’S SCHOOL FOR WORLD CONQUERORS #4 (Image, 2011) – untitled, [W] Mark Andrew Smith, [A] Armand Villavert. This comic has excellent art and some cute character moments, but it’s mostly a long fight scene whose context is unclear.

STATIC #26 (Milestone, 1995) – “Two Tickets to Paradise,” [W] Ivan Velez Jr, [A] Wilfred. This is part of the “Long Hot Summer” crossover. The premise of this crossover a giant state-of-the-art theme park opens in the middle of Dakota’s black neighborhood, whose inhabitants are mostly unable to pay to get into the park. The racial implications of this are obvious; there’s a literal giant wall separating Utopia Park from the housing projects and condemned buildings surrounding it. This issue also has some nice character moments, including a scene with Virgil and his girlfriend Daisy. I need to read more Milestone comics.

BOX OFFICE POISON #15 (Antarctic, 1999) – multiple vignettes, [W/A] Alex Robinson. Last issue ended on a cliffhanger when Sherman’s girlfriend Dorothy asked to move in with him. This issue, Sherman says no, and Dorothy is not happy. Then Sherman goes to work at a bookstore, encountering rude customers and a mean new boss, and then he runs into his deadbeat asshole of a father. The issue ends with a cathartic moment in which Sherman tells his dad off. I really enjoyed this issue. Like Martin Wagner, Alex Robinson is heavily influenced by Dave Sim, but he has a distinctive style of art, and he shows a solid understanding of both male and female characters. I really need to read more Box Office Poison. I started reading the collected edition on my Kindle, but never finished it, and I hate reading comics on screens anyway. I should probably just try to collect all the single issues of it. Alex Robinson is an excellent cartoonist, and it’s unfortunate how his work doesn’t seem to have much of an audience at the moment.

ENIGMA #8 (Vertigo, 1993) – “Queer,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Duncan Fegredo. This issue wraps up all the loose ends, and reveals that Enigma created all of the villains. The series concludes on a cliffhanger as Enigma, Michael and Titus confront Enigma’s mother. And then we learn that the narrator of the series was one of the lizards from Enigma’s well. Like all of Peter Milligan’s comics, Enigma is quite difficult to follow, but it’s one of the most satisfying and artistically successful things he’s done. It deserves to be more widely read.

Thanks to “severe staffing issues” at DCBS, I again received two comics shipments in one week. The first one arrived on Wednesday, October 16:

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #49 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. The “penNUTimate issue” consists of a long fight scene, complete with a “chance-of-winning-the-big-fight-scene-o-meter” that swings back and forth between bad guys, good guys and “anyone’s guess.” Just as Doreen and her friends are getting stomped, there’s a heartwarming plot twist when the cavalry arrives, consisting of all the former villains that Doreen turned into friends. Except then Doreen has to throw herself on top of a bomb. Just one more issue to go in this incredible series.

THESE SAVAGE SHORES #5 (Vault, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ram V, [A] Sumit Kumar. Bishan and Kori travel to England and defeat the evil vampire, but Kori is a vampire herself now, so their romance is ruined. The twist ending of this issue made a lot more sense after I Googled “Andhana” and discovered that he was a demon who created new copies of himself whenever his blood touched the ground. This is another example of Ram V’s trust in his readers: this comic requires some knowledge of Indian culture and history, and Ram trusts his readers to acquire that knowledge. Ram has deservedly gotten some higher-profile assignments as a result of this miniseries, but Sumit Kumar should also be praised for his thrilling fight scenes and realistic, moody settings.

MAGNIFICENT MS. MARVEL #8 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Joey Vazquez. Kamala defeats Josh, Becky and “Uncle Brett,” whose funny gimmick is that he’s a supervillain who looks and talks just like a techbro. The message of this story is that “growth is usually a good thing … but growth can be something else – something terrible.”

USAGI YOJIMBO #5 (IDW, 2019) – “The Hero, Part Two,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Because of Japanese patriarchy, Lady Mura’s dad is forced to return her to her jealous, abusive husband, who promptly has her killed. This outcome was foreshadowed at the start of the issue, when Usagi wishes the hero and heroine of Mura’s novel could have lived happily ever after, and she says, “That is not our tradition… in our stories the hero never gets the girl at the end.” (See Ivan Morris’s The Nobility of Failure.) Lady Mura has her revenge from beyond the grave, when her husband discovers that she’s more famous than he is, and kills himself in shame. “The Hero” is a heartbreaking tale of a woman killed by her society’s sexism, and it shows that Stan is still the finest storyteller in American comics.

OUTER DARKNESS #11 (Image, 2019) – “Castrophany of Hate Pt. 11: Shore Leave,” [W] John Layman, [A] Afu Chan. Rigg is on the verge of killing Satalis when the ship arrives at its station. Over Prakash’s objections, Rigg treats his crew to a liquor-fueled orgy with alien sex priests. Prakash’s dad orders Rigg to recover the spirit of a dead leader of the Dryx, the race with which the humans are at war. Rigg knocks out Dryx’s dad and returns to his ship, where his crew are being massacred by the alien sex priests. Rigg obviously has some kind of bizarre and devious plan, and I can’t wait to find out what it is.

BLACK HAMMER/JUSTICE LEAGUE: HAMMER OF JUSTICE #4 (DC/Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Michael Walsh. Mr. Mxyzptlk is revealed as the villain behind it all, and he tells the heroes that they can only return to their worlds if they all agree to – including Golden Gail, who’s just been restored to her normal age. This has been a reasonably good miniseries.

WONDER WOMAN #80 (DC, 2019) – “Loveless Part 4,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Jesús Merino & Tom Derenick. Diana is about to defeat Cheetah, but discovers that Veronica Cale betrayed her, and the beaker that was supposed to defeat Cheetah only made her more powerful. So Diana is screwed. With so few issues left in Willow’s run, I’d have appreciated more of a focus on her supporting cast; I’m not in love with either Veronica or Cheetah.

RONIN ISLAND #7 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Giannis Milogiannis. In a series of flashbacks, we see the younger Hana and Kenichi learning to work as a team to defend the island. In the present, Hana finally gives up on Sato and stabs him. I keep remembering her line “I gave you so many chances.” Then Hana and Kenichi finally decide to start working together. This series has been extremely grim, with the situation worsening each issue. But in #7, it finally seems like Hana and Kenichi understand what they should be doing.

BATTLEPUG #2 (Image, 2019) – “War on Christmas Part II,” [W/A] Mike Norton. The Kinmundian meets the queen of the Northland Elves, i.e. Mrs. Claus. Meanwhile, the other characters encounter an old dude who says “scribbly” and “scrabbly” after every sentence, and then a herd of mean pastel-colored ponies. I don’t quite understand this series’ style of humor yet, but I like it so far.

WONDER TWINS #8 (DC, 2019) – “Reunions,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mike Norton. How did he manage to draw two comic books in one month? Anyway, this issue is the principal’s high school reunion, and while there he has to confront the librarian, who used to be his girlfriend. They don’t get back together, but their reunion is a sweet moment. Also, Polly Math breaks out of prison, and Zan tells her that he has a plan to get her father back.

GINSENG ROOTS #1 (Uncivilized, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Craig Thompson. I have mixed feelings about Craig Thompson. I used to love Blankets, but I haven’t read it in years, and I don’t think it holds up well. It’s a very young man’s book, and its gender politics are rather simplistic. I still haven’t read Habibi or Space Dumplins. Someone suggested to me recently that his best book was actually Carnet de Voyage, and that may be true. Luckily, Ginseng Roots is more like Carnet de Voyage than like Blankets. It’s a slow-paced, muted meditation on Craig’s youth, when he worked on a ginseng farm. It reveals that Craig still has the best linework of any American cartoonist; his draftsmanship is just heart-achingly beautiful. In this issue he draws upon Chinese visual culture, e.g. ink painting and calligraphy, but he does it in a way that feels respectful rather than appropriative. Ginseng Roots suggests that Craig is continuing to evolve as an artist. For selfish reasons, I’m also glad he published it in the comic book format, although I wish it had been the standard comic book size, so it would have fit in my boxes.

CATWOMAN #16 (DC, 2019) – “Year of the Villain…?”, [W/A] Joëlle Jones. I’m surprised Joëlle Jones is back; I had thought Ram V was the new permanent writer. And it’s an especially pleasant surprise that she drew this issue as well as writing it. In this issue Selina visits a children’s party to look for Raina Creel. There’s also a silent backup story in which Selina uses the Lazarus Pit to revive herself. I don’t understand why she was dying in the first place, but I love how her cat saves her, not by doing anything but by shaming her into getting up and saving herself.

EDGAR ALLAN POE’S SNIFTER OF TERROR SEASON TWO #2 (Ahoy, 2019) – “The Tell-Tale Black Cask of Usher,” [W/A] Dean Motter. The first volume of this series was the only Ahoy title I didn’t read. As its title indicates, this issue is a humorous mashup of a bunch of different Poe stories. It’s cleverly written and funny, and shows evidence of historical research, but Dean Motter’s art style is too slick and polished for me.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #14 (DC, 2019) – “Wicked Burn, Part 2,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson & Dan Watters, [A] Matthew Dow Smith. Djuna’s marriage gets worse, and the firebreathing chicken gets more aggressive. Damballah reappears at the end. There wasn’t much in this issue that wasn’t already in issue 13, but I do like this comic’s dialogue. It includes some Caribbean English words (like “rahtid”) that I had to look up.

COLLAPSER #4 (DC, 2019) – “Manic,” [W] Mikey Way & Shaun Simon. This comic has some excellent art, like the splash panel on page 3. But Collapser is just another standard superhero comic, with no truly new ideas, and I hate its protagonist. I didn’t order issue 5.

ABSOLUTE CARNAGE: MILES MORALES #3 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Federico Vicentini. A complete waste of Saladin’s talents. The only interesting thing in this issue is the scene where Miles saves the shopkeeper and is offered a free pair of sneakers. Otherwise, this comic is so generic that anybody could have written it.

IMMORTAL HULK DIRECTOR’S CUT #5 (Marvel, 2019) – “In Every Mirror,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. Sasquatch is possessed by the spirit of Bruce Banner’s dad. Hulk defeats him, but somehow removes Walter’s ability to turn into Sasquatch. Hulk looks into a mirror and sees his dad’s face. Something weird is going on here. I don’t understand how the Hulk absorbed his father’s personality, but it must have been the same way that he absorbed Reginald Fortean in issue 24. I almost wish Immortal Hulk Director’s Cut was continuing after this issue, because I’m still missing issues #7 and #9-15.

GHOSTED IN L.A. #4 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Sina Grace, [A] Siobhan Keenan. In a flashback, we see that Maurice was a toxic asshole all his life, until he thankfully died from a fall. After death, he continues to be a toxic asshole, forcing the other ghosts to exorcise him to protect Daphne. Then the ghost of the just-deceased rock star Zola Tesla appears in the mansion. A nice moment in this issue is when the ghosts tell Daphne to put flowers on a grave, and she also puts a stone on the grave, as is the Jewish custom. I hadn’t even realized Daphne was Jewish.

DOOM PATROL: WEIGHT OF THE WORLDS #4 (DC, 2019) – “Whatever Happened to Destiny Beach?”, [W] Gerard Way & Jeremy Lambert, [A] Nick Pitarra. This series appears to have been cancelled. That’s too bad, but its chronic lateness may be partly to blame. This issue, Flex Mentallo wins a bizarre fitness competition and is exiled into space. Meanwhile, Cliff Steele becomes Cliff Fixit. Nick Pitarra’s artwork in this issue is extremely hyper-detailed. Despite having had several artists, this version of Doom Patrol has had a very consistent graphic style thanks to Tamara Bonvillain’s coloring.

DEADPOOL VS. X-FORCE #1 (Marvel, 2014) – untitled, [W] Duane Swierczynski, [A] Pepe Larraz. Deadpool goes back in time to the American Revolution for some reason, and X-Force follows him. This issue takes place before New Mutants #98, though this is not made clear until the info page at the end. I ordered this because it was just 70 cents, and I’m glad I didn’t pay any more for it.

The next shipment arrived on Friday, October 18:

ONCE & FUTURE #3 (Boom!, 2019) – “The King is Undead,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. This issue consists msotly of action sequences, but there are some really fun interactions between Duncan, his grandmother and his girlfriend. In this issue Kieron continues to demonstrate the depth of his knowledge. The name “Clarent” for the sword in the stone seems to be authentic, and the grandmother is correct that Galahad gradually replaced Percival as the hero of the Grail quest. I don’t know if any of my medievalist friends are reading this comic, but they should be.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #2 (Boom!, 2019) – “The Angel of Archer’s Peak Part Two, [W] James Tynion, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. The weird monster hunter girl continues to investigate, and we learn that her stuffed octopus toy is actually alive. We’re also introduced to Tommy, the brother of one of the victims. There’s also a reference to how millennials are killing Applebee’s. I read this comic while I was exhausted after returning from work, but I liked it.

STEEPLE #2 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] John Allison. Billie tries to befriend some delinquent teens, and also tries to make peace between the reverend and the sea monsters. Again, I was falling asleep while I read this comic, so I don’t remember it well, but it was pretty good.

SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #4 (DC, 2019) – “The Crazy Board of Irresponsible Blogger Timmy Olsen,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Steve Lieber. Jimmy disguises himself as Timmy, a YouTube prankster. Jimmy shows Lois his cork board, which contains his evidence that Luthor is conspiring to take control of all the data in Metropolis, and that Luthor is trying to kill Jimmy because he knows about this plan. There are a lot of great moments in this issue (like Jimmy’s reference to “Ocean’s Razor,” and this series continues to be fascinating.

GIDEON FALLS #17 (Image, 2019) – “The Pentoculus: Part 1 of 5 ‘Forever and Ever,’” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. Danny/Norton and Father Fred have now switched places. Father Fred meets the bishop, who’s constructed some kind of bizarre dimensional transport machine. Meanwhile, Danny/Norton’s father has a bizarre vision which is depicted on solid black backgrounds with red lineworks, and then he wakes up and kills someone with a knife and fork. That description notwithstanding, his is actually not the weirdest issue of Gideon Falls.

TREES: THREE FATES #2 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Jason Howard. Sergeant Klara continues to investigate the murder, and while visiting the tree, she sees her ex-boyfriend Sasha. Then there’s a flashback to a conversation they had eleven years ago. This issue is a really quick read.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #83 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Thom Zahler, [A] Kate Sherron. Twilight and Spike investigate the theft of the racing turtle Silver Blaze. This whole issue is a parody of the Sherlock Holmes story “The Adventure of Silver Blaze,” and it’s full of Holmesian puns, including some that I probably missed. For example, the police detective is Leigh Strade (Lestrade) of Trotland Yard. The climactic turtle race is as funny as one would expect.

AQUAMAN #53 (DC, 2019) – “Amnesty, Part 4:StrangeBeasts,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Robson Rocha & Eduardo Paniccia. Aquaman confronts Tristan Maurer. Mera, now visibly pregnant, heads to Amnesty Bay to track down the ship that invadedAtlantis. Arthur and Mera barely get to confront each other before they’re interrupted by Black Manta’s attack. The same symbol appears on the last pages of this issue and Catwoman #16. This symbol must have something to do with the Year of the Villain crossover.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #11 (Marvel, 2019) – “Falling Star Conclusion,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Carmen Carnero. Star almost kicks Carol’s ass, but Hazmat arrives to save the day, and then Carol beats Star by pulling out her syphon… I think. I don’t quite understand what Carol did. The fight is televised nationwide, restoring Carol’s reputation. This was perhaps Kelly’s best issue yet, thanks to the high stakes of the fight and the very real sense that Carol could lose. I especially love the scene where the little girl jumps between Carol and Star. By knocking the girl down, Star demonstrates how far she’s gone off the deep end.

HISTORY OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE #4 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Javier Rodriguez. This issue covers everything from X-Men #101 to Onslaught. That’s 20-plus years of stories summarized in a single comic book. There’s no way to synthesize so many different comics into a single overarching narrative, and Mark doesn’t really try. Also, as far as I could tell, there was no new information in this issue. As a result, although Javier Rodriguez’s artwork is as brilliant as ever, HOTMU #4 was tedious to read.

ARCHIE: THE MARRIED LIFE 10TH ANNIVERSARY #3 (Archie, 2019) – “The Only Thing Constant is Change!” and “New York, New York – A Hell of a Town!”, [W] Michael Uslan, [A] Dan Parent. In the first story, Veronica is coerced into taking over her father’s company. In the second story, Archie is offered his big break in the music business, but only if he spends the whole year on the road. The problem with both these stories is that they try to have realistic plots about adult characters, but they’re drawn in the Archie house style, and this combination doesn’t work for me. When Archie and Veronica talk about work and marriage counseling, but they’re drawn like the teenage Archie and Veronica, it’s hard to take them seriously. NY Times comics journalist George Gene Gustines appears in this issue.

REVENGER HALLOWEEN SPECIAL 2019 #1 (Floating World, 2019) – “Mala Carne,” [W/A] Charles Forsman. Revenger is not to be confused with Slasher. I’ve read one previous issue of Revenger, but I don’t remember much about it. Revenger appears to be some kind of monster hunter. In this issue she encounters a little girl who’s been turned into a vampire, and the girl accompanies her while she kills a bunch of other vampires. “Mala Carne” is a pretty standard adventure comic, but it’s drawn in an alternative-comics style – see my review of Copra #1 above – and it’s very exciting. I wish more alternative cartoonists would publish their work in the comic book format.

MARVEL ACTION: BLACK PANTHER #4 (Marvel, 2019) – “King for a Day,” [W] Vita Ayala, [A] Arianna Florean. T’Challa exchanges places with one of his subjects, a vibranium worker, and uncovers corruption in the vibranium industry. This comic depicts Wakanda as too much of a utopia (something which Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Black Panther has avoided) and has too little conflict. Also, T’Challa’s behavior is stupid. He realizes his boss is corrupt, but tries to expose the corruption immediately, thus exposing himself to danger. It would have been much smarter to expose the corruption after he was back in his palace.

STRAYED #3 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “Oblivia,” [W] Carlos Giffoni, [A] Juan Doe. Lou the cat meets the creator of the flowers and learns what they are, but on returning to his body, he falls into a coma. Meanwhile, we see more of Premier Peely’s plot for universal domination. As hinted on the letters page, this whole story is an allegory about colonialism. The alien in this issue can understand Lou, so Lou gets a few lines of dialogue. I would rather Lou didn’t talk, but at least he talks like a cat. The artwork and coloring in this issue are gorgeous, though at times, like on page one, it’s hard to figure out what I’m looking at.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #10 (Marvel, 2019) – “Dark Cavern, Dark Crystal,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Alan Davis. Roy Thomas is the greatest Conan comics writer, and this issue shows that he still writes Conan as well as ever. This issue, two Corinthians hire Conan to lead them through the lands of the Afghulis in search of a treasure. While on the trip, Conan tries to make himself the chief of the Afghulis, but they decide to hang him from a tree instead. The high point of this issue takes place at the start, right after Conan has killed a man in a bar fight. The two Corinthians come into the bar and approach Conan, mistaking him for someone named Guptar. Conan points to the corpse of the man he just killed and says “That’s Guptar.”

ADVENTURE FINDERS: THE EDGE OF EMPIRE #3 (Action Lab, 2019) – “The Tireless Pursuit – No Rest for the Harried,” [W/A] Rod Espinosa. Some soldiers try to save Clari and her companions from the enemy Verbolgs. But the soldiers’ leader gets killed, and his second-in-command decides to retreat, leaving Clari alone in enemy territory with a few exhausted soldiers and a bunch of nuns and small children. This is the best Rod Espinosa comic I’ve read yet. It creates a real sense of the terror and exhaustion of warfare. I still think Rod’s backgrounds are too obviously computer-generated.

THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU #2 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ted Adams, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. On Facebook, I recently wrote: “When adapting a prose novel or story into a comic, the single biggest mistake you can make is to keep too much of the original text.” I had this specific comic in mind when I wrote that. In adapting The Island of Dr. Moreau,Ted Adams retains way too much of H.G. Wells’s text, resulting in a very slow-paced comic with no sense of narrative momentum. Also, Wells’s prose style doesn’t match Rodriguez’s art style. Ellie looks like a 21st-century woman, but she speaks in Victorian English. On top of that, Rodriguez’s storytelling is very unclear, and I was never quite able to follow the plot of the novel. Overall, this is an awful comic. While Gabriel Rodriguez’s draftsmanship is as amazing as it always is, his time would have been better spent working on something else.

TRUE BELIEVERS: UNCANNY X-MEN – JUBILEE #1 (Marvel, 2019) –“Ladies’ Night,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Marc Silvestri. This reprints Uncanny X-Men #244, one of the only late Claremont issues that I don’t have. This issue is most notable as the first appearance of Jubilee, but there are a few other notable things about it. First, it only includes the female X-Men, while issue #245 only included the male X-Men. Both issues were parodies: #245 was a parody of DC’s Invasion, and #244 includes a group of villains named M-Squad who are obviously based on the Ghostbusters. One of the M-Squad members even says that they left New York and changed jobs. The individual M-Squad members are all based on science fiction writers who were Claremont’s fellow contributors to the Wild Cards anthology series. One of the M-Squad is based on George R.R. Martin, already a veteran SF writer but not yet an international celebrity. Besides all that, this is a really fun issue, but it’s about as ‘90s as you can get. The whole issue takes place in a mall, and it’s full of cheesecake imagery and made-up ‘90s slang.

THE DARK TOWER: THE DRAWING OF THE THREE/REVENGE SAMPLER #1 (Marvel, 2014) – two untitled stories. This free flipbook comic includes previews of two upcoming Marvel graphic novels. Half of the issue is a preview of an adaptation of Stephen King’s The Drawing of the Three, but it’s an unlettered preview, so it made no sense at all. The other is a preview of something called Revenge, but I couldn’t understand this preview either, even though it did include dialogue.

ALL-NEW BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #7 (DC, 2011) – “Shadows & Light,” [W] Sholly Fisch, [A] Rick Burchett. Batman teams up with a distrustful Alan Scott and ends up convincing Alan of his good intentions. This issue is a quick and reasonably fun read.

KING KONG #1 (Fantagraphics, 1991) – untitled, [W/A] Don Simpson. I think I bought this comic because of its gorgeous Dave Stevens cover, but it’s a good comic in its own right. Although I don’t remember much about the original King Kong movie, I get the sense that Don Simpson’s adaptation adds a lot to the movie. I feel like he explores the personalities and motivations of the characters more deeply than the original film did. He also draws some really expressive faces. This comic includes some mildly offensive depictions of indigenous people, but King Kong is an inherently racist text anyway.

ELFQUEST: SHARDS #14 (WaRP, 1996) – “Reunion,” [W/A] Wendy Pini, [W] Richard Pini. This is a black-and-white comic, but a previous owner seems to have colored in some of the pages with colored pencils. “Reunion” would have been an exciting comic if I had been able to follow the story. Its plot involves Winnowill and Grohmul Djun and the Palace and the Scroll of Colors and a lot of other stuff. I’ve never been able to understand the large-scale structure of Elfquest’s plot, and I’m not sure it’s worth trying.

CRITTERS #16 (Fantagraphics, 1987) – “Return of the Wizard,” [W/A] Stan Sakai, plus two other stories. This issue begins with a Nilson and Hermy story in which a wizard tries to kill the two heroes, but Nilson kills him instead. This story is funny, but it’s far from Stan’s best. Most of the issue is devoted to Freddy Milton’s “For the Love of Gnellie, Part 2,” in which Gnuff’s wife Gnellie encounters an old lover. This story is touching and is also extremely Barksian; it’s no surprise that Milton was a longtime Disney artist. The issue ends with a chapter of Steven A. Gallacci’s “Birthright,” a comic I severely dislike because of its minimal artwork and ugly lettering.

BALTIMORE: THE INQUISITOR #nn (Dark Horse, 2013) – “The Inquisitor,” [W] Mike Mignola & Christopher Golden, [A] Ben Steinbeck. During World War I, a judge interviews a prisoner and tells the prisoner his backstory. Just like most Hellboyverse comics, Baltimore: The Inquisitor is stylistically similar to the main Hellboy title, but is not nearly as good. Ben Steinbeck’s style is about as close as you can get to Mignola’s style without being Mignola.

DOOM PATROL/SUICIDE SQUAD SPECIAL #1 (DC, 1988) – “Red Pawn,” [W] John Ostrander & Paul Kupperberg, [A] Erik Larsen. This issue is important in terms of continuity because it includes the deaths of the Thinker, the Weasel, Mr. 104 and Psi. Otherwise, this comic is pure crap. It consists of a single long fight scene in which Doom Patrol tries to rescue Hawk from Nicaragua, while the Suicide Squad tries to kill him. The fight sequences are boring, and there’s no characterization to speak of. This issue is a Suicide Squad comic in name only; the only regular Suicide Squad character in it is Rick Flag, and his teammates are four throwaway characters who all get killed, as noted above. Also, this comic’s politics are very simplistic, and its depiction of Nicaraguans is offensive. There’s one page where a Nicaraguan soldier tells Hawk “Es halcón estación… hawk season!” and then Hawk calls him “taco brain.” Estación means station, not season, and tacos are not a major staple food in Nicaragua (see https://jezebel.com/fox-news-host-is-pretty-sure-nicaraguan-co-host-grew-u-1441110911for another example of the same mistake).

FANTASTIC FOUR ANNUAL #33 (Marvel, 2012) – “Through a Dark Glass Paradoxically,” [W/A] Alan Davis. This is the first part of a three-part crossover story starring Alan Davis’s ClanDestine. I bought all three parts when they came out, but never read any of them until now. In this annual, Reed and Sue are on vacation with the kids, and Ben and Johnny are lying unconscious in front of the TV. Then Reed’s interdimensional alarm goes off, and Ben and Johnny are drawn into a time-traveling adventure with Vincent, one of the Destine siblings. Alan’s artwork in this issue is excellent, but the timeline of this issue was very hard to follow, and I didn’t quite understand what w as giong on with Vincent until I read the other two annuals.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #73 (Marvel, 1978) – “A Fluttering of Wings Most Foul!”, [W] Gary Friedrich, [A] Kerry Gammill. This must have been one of Gary Friedrich’s last comics for Marvel. Besides that, there’s not much else about it that’s notable. It’s a formulaic team-up story in which Daredevil and Spider-Man fight the Owl.

THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS #6 (Image, 2012) – “Star City,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Nick Pitarra. I have a large number of unread issues of this series. This issue is a spotlight on Helmut Gröttrup, who, in real life, was an engineer who worked under Wernher von Braun in Nazi Germany, and then under Sergei Koralev in Soviet Russia. In Manhattan Projects’s alternate universe, his history is essentially similar, except that his bosses are working on bizarre science fiction projects, and one of them is a disembodied brain. Whether working for the Nazis or the Soviets, Gröttrup is an abject slave. Manhattan Projects is an interesting series, but it’s never really excited me, which is why I have so many unread issues of it.

ROCKETEER ADVENTURES VOL. 2 #2 (IDW , 2012) – three stories, [E] Scott Dunbier. The most interesting story in this issue is the first one, which has a minimal plot, but excellent artwork and lettering by Colin Wilson. This artist is from New Zealand but has mostly worked for the British and French markets. Next is a story by Paul Dini and Bill Morrison in which a jealous Cliff spies on Betty as she’s making a movie. This story is slight but funny. In the last story, by Walt Simonson and John Paul Leon, Cliff meets Judy Garland.

DAREDEVIL ANNUAL #1 (Marvel, 2012) – “A Tourist in Hell,” [W/A] Alan Davis. Daredevil encounters Kay, aka Cuckoo, another of the Destine children. Vincent’s spirit possesses the Plastoid, a robot that previously appeared in Daredevil #49, and Matt and Kay team up to fight it. This issue is much easier to understand than FF Annual #33, but it’s not Alan’s best work.

THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS #7 (Image, 2012) – “Above and Beyond,” as above. The Soviet characters hold a secret summit with the American characters in order to collaborate on something, I don’t know what. I didn’t quite understand this issue, and I would have a hard time explaining what this series is about.

WOLVERINE ANNUAL #1 (Marvel, 2012) – “The Greater Evil,” [W/A] Alan Davis. The last of the three annuals is the best because it guest-stars Rory and Pandora, the two youngest Destine children. The emotional heart of the ClanDestine saga is Rory and Pandora’s relationships with each other and with their much older siblings. This issue, Rory, Pandora and the rest of the family team up to battle a spirit that might or might not be Vincent. I think this issue is the last ClanDestine story published to date, and it’s a reasonable conclusion to the saga.

CRIMINAL #8 (Icon, 2007) – “Lawless Part Three,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Tracy Lawless sleeps with a fellow criminal, Mallory, while continuing to secretly investigate his brother Ricky’s murder. This is a good issue, but it doesn’t advance the plot significantly. On the letters page, Brubaker recommends a novel I’ve never heard of, The Name of the Game is Death by Dan Marlowe.

DEN #4 (Fantagor, 1988) – “The King of Air and Darkness,” [W] Simon Revelstroke, [A] Richard Corben. Den fights an aerial battle with a villain named Scon. Corben is an unexpectedly good aviation artist. There’s also a backup story, “Encounter at War,” which was originally published in 1972.

Three weeks of reviews

My next DCBS shipment was severely delayed for some reason, and as a result I received two shipments on consecutive days. The following comics arrived on Friday, September 20:

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #48 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. This is billed as “the antepeNUTimate issue.” Too much happens in this issue to summarize it all, but it’s a thrilling issue with lots of twists and turns. I’m going to miss Squirrel Girl when it’s gone. I’m relieved to learn that Mew survived the destruction of the apartment.

ISOLA #9 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Brenden Fletcher, [W/A] Karl Kerschl, [A] Msassyk. The witch hypnotizes Rook into falling in love with her, but Olwyn exposes the witch’s evil and frees the children she turned into animals. It’s a cathartic moment when the kids thank Olwyn for saving them. As always, the artwork in this issue is spectacular.

WONDER WOMAN #78 (DC, 2019) – “Loveless Part 2,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Romulo Fajardo. With Aphrodite dead, the entire world becomes awful, or more awful than it was already. Dinah enlists Veronica Cale to reverse engineer the Godslayer sword. The high point of this issue is when Etta Candy points out that with Aphrodite dead, people have stopped going to work. Diana: “You mean they loved their jobs?” Etta: “No, they hate their jobs, but they loved their families. So they put up with their jobs.” I’m probably not going to keep reading this series after Willow leaves. The next writer, Steve Orlando, is good, but not as good as Willow.

BLACK HAMMER/JUSTICE LEAGUE: HAMMER OF JUSTICE #3 (DC/Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Michael Walsh. The Black Hammer and Justice League worlds start bleeding into each other. Zatanna helps Golden Gail transform into her elderly self. This series has been fun, but not quite as good as the primary Black Hammer series.

OUTER DARKNESS #10 (Image, 2019) – “Castrophany of Hate Part 10: Hate Blossoms,” [W] John Layman, [A] Afu Chan. Thanks to some “hate blossoms,” the Outer Darkness crew members are trapped in a series of visions in which they all murder each other. By chance, the cat discovers the hate blossoms, and in a truly epic moment, it destroys them by knocking a lantern off a table and starting a fire. Therefore, an alternative title for this issue is “The One Where the Cat Saves the Day by Doing What Cats Do.”

DIAL H FOR HERO #6 (DC, 2019) – “Anyone Can Be a Hero,” [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Joe Quinones. Mr. Thunderbolt turns all the people of Metropolis into superheroes, causing widespread mayhem, but Miguel and Summer save the day. This issue has some of the most spectacular artwork in the entire series. Just in the first few pages, there are visual references to the Simpsons (or Futurama maybe), Scott Pilgrim, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Squirrel Girl, Captain Harlock (?), Major Bummer (?), Dark Knight Returns, Xenozoic Tales, Rocketeer, and lots of other stuff I couldn’t identify. There’s also an extended sequence where Quinones imitates the style of Daniel Clowes, including his coloring. I love this series, and I think it deserves an Eisner nomination for best artist.

GOGOR #5 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Ken Garing. While reading this issue, I saw a Bleeding Cool story that said that the individual issues of Princeless vol. 9 had been cancelled. That made me feel very pessimistic about the future of the direct market. Then I started thinking, well, at least the direct market can still produce a series as bizarre and creative as Gogor. But then I got to the end of Gogor #5 and learned that it was the last issue, thanks to poor sales. That made me even more depressed. I mean, I know the comics medium is going to be fine. I just like to buy stuff in single issues, and I’m afraid that fewer and fewer comics will appear in that format. At least Gogor #5 is a good issue. I especially like the sequence where Armano uses a spider to create a key. The issue ends with a short comic strip in which Ken Garing ruminates about the cancellation of the series. In this strip he depicts a bookshelf with several volumes of Corben’s Den, confirming my realization that Corben is his primary influence.

PRETTY VIOLENT #1 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Derek Hunter, [W] Jason Young. This is sort of a superhero version of I Hate Fairyland. It’s a superhero comic drawn in a cartoony style (reminiscent of Andrew MacLean’s style), but it’s deliberately ultraviolent and offensive. The protagonist is a novice “superheroine” who fails to save anyone, and instead kills lots of people in horrifying ways. At the end, we learn that she comes from a family of supervillans. Again like I Hate Fairyland, Pretty Violent is kind of a silly one-joke comic, but it’s a funny joke so far.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #10 (Marvel, 2019) – “Falling Star Part 3,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Carmen Carnero. Carol discovers that her old enemy, Dr. Minerva, exposed her Kree heritage and is now channeling her power into Star. Carol manages to cut off Star from her power, but instead Star begins draining energy from all the other local people. I still have yet to be truly impressed by Kelly’s Captain Marvel. This was an okay issue, but it wasn’t nearly as good as most of Kelly’s other work.

TREES: THREE FATES #1 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Jason Howard. This issue begins with a vignette where two lovers are fighting, and then one of them gets crushed by one of the giant alien trees. Eleven years later, the same woman, Klara Voronova, investigates a murder occurring below the same tree. Trees is a rare comics example of the SF trope known as “Big Dumb Objects.” But so far, this series is less about the trees themselves than about how they impact the lives of individual people.

Some more comics arrived on Saturday, September 21:

SECOND COMING #3 (Ahoy, 2019) – “You Can’t Go Home Again,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Richard Pace. Jesus and Sunstar rescue a young supervillain (I like the scene where Sunstar bullies him into studying something other than film theory). Then Sunstar goes to look for his missing grandmother, while Jesus learns how badly people have distorted his teachings. This is another brilliant issue. I think the best line in it is “I asked James to spread my word. I asked Peter to spread my word. I never even asked Paul to spread the jelly!” This reminds me of the scene in James Morrow’s Only Begotten Daughter where Jesus is shocked to learn that his religion has become popular among gentiles.

ONCE AND FUTURE #2 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. The neofascists perform a ritual to resurrect King Arthur, and he starts recruiting Knights of the Round Table. A key moment in this issue is when Arthur kills some of the fascists because they’re not Britons but Anglo-Saxons (a term which has caused immense controversy in medieval studies). This issue wasn’t quite as surprising or as dense as issue 1, but Once and Future is an extremely promising series. Kieron Gillen is building a complex and varied body of work, and he may be the best writer in mainstream comics right now.

THE MAGNIFICENT MS. MARVEL #7 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Joey Vazquez. Kamala, Nakia and Zoe go on a road trip, only to encounter Josh, Becky and their army of zombies. I think the high point of this issue is the scene where Kamala and Nakia feel nervous sitting in an empty restaurant. Meanwhile, the subplot about Kamala’s dad’s illness continues, and Kamala’s baby nephew makes a cameo appearance.

STEEPLE #1 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] John Allison. In John Allison’s follow-up to Giant Days, a young woman travels to a remote Cornish village to take up a job as a curate. But it turns out that the local priest spends every night battling a mysterious creature with a giant eye for a head. So far this series is much more promising than By Night, thanks largely to its eerie, disturbing rural setting. I’m also glad that John Allison is drawing it himself.

BLACK HAMMER: AGE OF DOOM #12 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. All the heroes except Lucy go back to the farm. Gail, Abraham and Barbalien get to be with their lovers. The series ends happily ever after. This ending is a huge anticlimax, so much so that I hardly believe it even is the ending. I was hoping for an epic confrontation with Anti-God. I know there’s more Black Hammer material coming, and I can only hope that this series will get a more satisfying ending.

MIDDLEWEST #11 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. Abel and Fox head into a city. Abel gets pissed at Fox for no reason and runs off, and he’s kidnapped by a human trafficker, who turns out to have also kidnapped Bobby. The key moment in this issue is when Fox tells Abel that he’s behaving like his father – which is a central theme of this series, that victims of abuse become abusers themselves.

HISTORY OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE #3 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Javier Rodriguez. This issue covers the ‘60s and ‘70s, from Fantastic Four #1 to X-Men #101. It’s mostly a summary of old stories; the only new information I noticed was Franklin’s conversation with Galactus. As with the previous two issues, Javier Rodriguez’s artwork is brilliant, and Mark’s depth of research is impressive.

SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #3 (DC, 2019) – “Desperadoes Under the Leaves!” and other vignettes, [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Steve Lieber. Again, this issue consists of a bunch of vignettes in no apparent order. The comic acknowledges its own unconventional story structure: there’s a caption t hat says “Like, in what actual order do these scenes occur? Keep reading, for there is a method to our madness!” This makes me very curious to find out what is going on, and what this series is about. This issue introduces a possibly new character named Doctor Mantel, whose black hole technology may or may not be central to the plot.

STRAYED #2 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “Chapter Two: Systemisch,” [W] Carlos Giffoni, [A] Juan Doe. You can tell this comic is good because it’s endorsed by Nnedi Okorafor’s cat. This issue, we learn that the protagonist’s masters want to find more flowers so they can make themselves gods, never mind the cost to billions of innocent aliens. This series is heartbreaking because of the contrast between Kiara and Lou’s mutual love, on the one hand, and their bosses’ horrible inhumanity, on the other hand.

GRUMBLE #10 (Albatross, 2019) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Mike Norton. Eddie and Tala retrieve the McGuffin from inside Jimmy, but Tala is shot, and Eddie has to use Arachne’s Fang to save her instead of restoring himself. Eddie reveals that he’s Tala’s father, although I think this was already spoiled somewhere. Tala and Eddie, who’s still a dog, head off to Memphis to find Tala’s mother. On its own this would be a satisfying conclusion to the series, but there’s a second volume coming next year.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN # 10 (Marvel, 2019) – “Celebration,” [W] Saladin Ahmed & Javier Garrón. It’s Miles’s birthday, although he’s still traumatized from his encounter with the Assessor. Miles has to miss his own birthday party to fight some villains, one of whom turns out to be an alternative (and white) version of Miles himself. The bakery where Miles gets his birthday cake is called “Aricebo”; this must be a misspelling of Arecibo. There’s a backup story explaining the origin of Starling, Vulture’s granddaughter and protegee. This story is unusual because it depicts Adrian Toomes as a positive role model.

RONIN ISLAND #6 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Giannis Milonogiannis. Some brigands try to torture Kenichi into revealing the location of the island, but Kenichi recruits them to help him kill the shogun. Meanwhile, Hana watches the shogun continue to act like a real jerk. This series is full of fascinating black-and-gray morality and moral dilemmas, as I’ve observed before. But it’s also far grimmer and more depressing than Mech Cadet Yu, even though both titles seem to be aimed at the same audience.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #82 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kate Sherron, [A] Toni Kuusisto. Rarity is forced to take care of Cerberus because none of the other ponies are willing to. This issue is okay, but its plot is rather contrived. I’m glad to learn that the pony comics are going to continue after the show ends.

IRONHEART #10 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Enemy Within…,” [W] Eve Ewing, [A] Luciano Vecchio. Like Nnedi Okorafor’s Shuri, Ironheart passes the “black female Bechdel test” with flying colors. This issue includes four named black female characters, each of whom is quite different from the others. Riri, Shuri and Silhouette’s conversation during the plane trip underscores how much their backgrounds and personalities differ from each other, despite the adorable nickname Shuriri. My other favorite moment in this issue is when Riri’s friend asks her if they have jollof rice in Wakanda.

AQUAMAN #52 (DC, 2019) – “Amnesty, Part 3: Giants and Monsters,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Robson Rocha. Aquaman and his friends fight a giant dragon thing. Tristan Maurer shows up at the end of the issue. Mera and Vulko do not appear. This was a pretty forgettable issue.

WONDER TWINS #7 (DC, 2019) – “Trials and Twinulations,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Stephen Byrne. A meteor is about to destroy the earth, and Superman and the rest of the Justice League don’t seem to care. Also, we’re introduced to a very lonely superhero/villain named Repulso, who has to live in isolation because of his horrible smell. This issue was good, but not as memorable as the Scrambler storyline.

SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH #5 (Archie, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Veronica Fish. Sabrina defeats the villain, who turns out to be Professor Sampson. Unfortunately, the cat gets shrunk back to normal size. Sabrina decides to postpone choosing between her two love interests. According to the last page, there’s going to be a sequel to this series in 2020, though Archie does not have a good track record with publishing Sabrina comics on time.

VALKYRIE: JANE FOSTER #3 (DC, 2019) – “The Sacred and the Profane Part III,” [W] Jason Aaron & Al Ewing, [A] Cafu et al. I guess “Jane Foster”is part of this comic’s official title. Heimdall has been killed by Bullseye. Jane takes him on a tour of the Marvel Universe’s afterlives, including Heven, Hades and “the Far Shore” (possibly a Le Guin reference). Each afterlife sequence is drawn by a different artist. The best of them is the Far Shore sequence, by the super-underrated Frazer Irving. Also, Jane learns that her horse talks – with a Northern English accent, to be precise – and the Grim Reaper appears at the end.

HASHTAG: DANGER #5 (Ahoy, 2019) – “The Cry of Night is – Sudden Death!”, [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Chris Giarrusso. The baby yeti’s mother finally shows up, and then we see how Sugar Rae turns into a supervillain, as predicted in an earlier issue. I think that’s the end of this series. Hashtag: Danger was funny, but I think it was my least favorite Ahoy title yet. This issue’s letters page includes an exciting list of upcoming Ahoy titles.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #13 (Vertigo, 2019) – “Wicked Burn, Part 1,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson & Dan Watters, [A] Matthew Dow Smith. This issue has a really cute cover: Erzulie’s neighbor is surprised to see Erzulie’s pet, a giant rooster creature, picking up the morning paper. The interior story focuses on the same neighbor, whose name is Djuna, like Djuna Barnes. As if Djuna’s abusive boyfriend wasn’t making her suffer enough, she opens her fridge to discover a mysterious egg that hatches into a firebreathing chicken monster. This story is an interesting change of pace from the Anansi epic.

YEAR OF THE VILLAIN: THE RIDDLER #1 (DC, 2019) – “Thanks for Nothing,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Scott Godlewski. The gimmick behind Year of the Villain is that Luthor gives gifts to all the villains, like Neron did in Underworld Unleashed. But in YOTV: Riddler, Luthor gives the Riddler nothing, just some advice. As a result, the Riddler realizes that his career is going nowhere, and he quits. Mark Russell has become the industry’s best writer of single-issue stories, but this one was a bit anticlimactic. It doesn’t quite feel like a Riddler story. The funniest moment in the issue is when the tiger ruins the “lady or the tiger” challenge by roaring from behind its door.

KING THOR #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “Twilight of the Thunder God,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Esad Ribic. Jason Aaron’s farewell to Thor is set in the far future, when Loki is trying to destroy the universe. This issue includes several characters from earlier in Jason’s run: Thor’s three granddaughters; Shadrak, god of various alliterative things; and Gorr the God-Butcher. The future Thor storylines have never been my favorite part of Jason’s Thor, and Esad Ribic isn’t my favorite artist, but this series is worth reading anyway.

BABYTEETH #16 (AfterShock, 2019) – “Revelations,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. This issue takes place five years after #15. In a flashback, we see that Satan tried to kidnap the baby, but Marty prevented him. Then Olivia dies, and then Sadie, Clark and Simon return to Earth, which has been taken over by demons. And Sadie’s mom shows up again. I’m losing interest in this series. This issue is full of exciting plot twists, but none of them have any real impact, although Marty’s reappearance was a nice moment.

ARCHIE: THE MARRIED LIFE – 10TH ANNIVERSARY #2 (Archie, 2019) – “Twists & Turns,” [W] Michael Uslan, [A] Dan Parent. Lots of stuff happens in this issue’s Archie Marries Veronica story, but the main event is that Hiram Lodge dies. Hilariously, his last words are “If only I had spent more time at work.” The Archie & Betty story is full of relationship drama, but has nothing as funny as Hiram’s last words. I don’t love either of the individual storylines in this comic; they both suffer from shallow characterization and overly compressed plotting. However, the contrasts between Archie’s two possible futures make this series interesting.

GHOSTED IN L.A. #3 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Sina Grace, [A] Siobhan Keenan. This issue starts with a flashback to an argument between two gay men in 1980. One of these men became one of the ghosts of the mansion, and given the timeframe, I can guess how he died. The rest of the issue focuses on Daphne’s relationship with Ronnie, who turns out to be gay. Also, one of the other ghosts is getting really pissed at Daphne’s interference with the mansion’s life.

CATWOMAN #15 (DC, 2019) – “Hermosa Heat Part Two,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mirka Andolfo. Catwoman fights Lock-Up, then interrupts a dinner where the villains are eating ortolan. I believe Ram V’s description of how ortolans are cooked and eaten is accurate. Otherwise I barely remember anything about this issue.

ARCHIE ’55 #1 (Archie, 2019) – “…Whatever Became of Archie Andrews?”, [W] Brian Augustyn & Mark Waid, [A] Tom Grummett. A Facebook friend of mine was making fun of this comic the other day, but I don’t think he’s familiar with the idea behind it. In this sequel to Archie 1941, Archie is a budding rock-and-roll star, which comes as a shock to his friends and his parents. A notable scene in this issue is when Archie’s black friend takes him to a black nightclub to listen to Big Earl Dixon, possibly based on Little Richard or Louis Jordan. This scene raises some uncomfortable questions about racism and cultural appropriation, but it’s also an accurate portrayal of how the rock-and-roll sound developed.

COLLAPSER #3 (DC, 2019) – “Black Holes and Revelations,” [W] Mikey Way & Shaun Simon, [A] Ilias Kyriazis. This comic has pretty good art, but its storyline is overly complicated and confusing. And the writers give us no reason to care what happens to Liam James, who is a rather annoying protagonist. I have stopped ordering this series.

TEST #4 (Vault, 2019) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Jen Hickman. Test gets stranger with every issue. Every time I think I understand what it’s about, I’m proven wrong. I think Test is an important series, and I’m going to keep reading it, but I can’t say I’m enjoying it.

INVISIBLE WOMAN #3 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Mattia De Iulis. Sue tracks down Aidan Tintreach’s wife, who turns out to be another secret agent. Then she infiltrates an expensive celebrity event in Rome. This series is not Mark’s best work, but it’s entertaining, and it provides lots of interesting insights into Sue’s character.

IMMORTAL HULK DIRECTOR’S CUT #3 (Marvel, 2019) – “Point of View,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett et al. This is probably the most unique issue of the series. It’s a Marvel version of Rashomon, in which the Hulk’s latest rampage is narrated from the viewpoint of four different characters. The four characters’ narratives are drawn by four different artists, including Paul Hornschemeier, Marguerite Sauvage, Leonardo Romero, and Garry Brown. I recently posted a negative review of Hornschemeier’s latest comic, but his and Sauvage’s styles are a powerful contrast to Bennett, Romero and Brown’s more conventional superhero artwork. Thanks to these contrasting styles, this comic is a collage of different types of art, representing different people’s ways of seeing the world.

ARCHIE VS. PREDATOR II #2 (Archie, 2019) – “Pleased to Meet Me,” [W] Alex de Campi, [A] Robert Hack. A bunch of Predators invade a Halloween dance. This series has a very different feel than the previous Archie vs. Predator, thanks to Robert Hack’s gritty, realistic-looking art. It results in the same kind of incongruous effect as in Afterlife with Archie, although with a subtle difference, since Archie vs. Predator II is funnier than Afterlife with Archie. The Predator-Archie’s dialogue is impossible to understand because he speaks in emojis.

ADVENTURE FINDERS: THE EDGE OF EMPIRE #2 (Action Lab, 2019) – “The Wounded Beast,” [W/A] Rod Espinosa. The attack on the wagon continues. Rod Espinosa’s style of storytelling is entertaining, but I still don’t quite get what this series is about, or who is fighting who and why.

CANTO #4 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. I forgot to order issues 2 and 3 of this series, and I may have missed my chance to get them, because Canto seems to have become a target for speculators. In #4, Canto and his companions arrive at the City of Dis, where they have to negotiate their way past the monsters guarding the gate. Then once they’re inside, they have to fight some Furies. Not having read issues 2 and 3, I wasn’t quite sure what was going on in this issue.

IGNITED #4 (Humanoids, 2019) – “Triggered Part 4,” [W] Mark Waid & Kwanza Osajyefo, [A] Phil Briones. More of the same thing as in the first three issues. I think the themes of this series are very important, but the plot is monotonous, and I can’t remember anything about any of the characters. I’m at the point of giving up on it.

THE KENTS #5 (DC, 1997) – “Brother vs. Brother Part 1,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Tim Truman. Nathaniel’s black friends are kidnapped by slavers, though Nathaniel rescues their son and also survives being shot. The Civil War begins, and inevitably, Nathaniel and Jeb find themselves on opposite sides of the same battle. By now, Nathaniel and Mary Glenowen are an official couple.

THE KENTS #6 (DC, 1997) – “Brother vs. Brother Part 2,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Tim Truman. Nate finds his enslaved friend Sarah, just in time to watch her die. Riding with Quantrill’s gang, Jeb invades Lawrence, Kansas and massacres a lot of people. Like most of the events in this series,the Lawrence massacre really happened. On the letters page, the editor basically admits that The Kents’ connection to Superman is tenuous, but “without tying into a known entity such as Superman, the market, as it is, would probably be unkind to a historical Western.” I think I have the other six issues of this maxi-series, but I’m not sure where in my boxes they are.

GROO THE WANDERER #114 (Marvel, 1994) – “The Birds of Vultura! Part One of Two,” [W/A] Sergio Aragones, [W] Mark Evanier. Groo visits a town where everyone is starving, because their crops are being stolen by raiders who ride giant vultures. Groo then meets the raiders and joins them, without, of course, realizing that they’re the ones who are raiding the town. The raiders take Groo to their mountaintop lair, but Groo falls off the mountain to his apparent death. I believe I have issue 115, but I can’t remember how Groo saves himself. At one point in this issue, Groo asks “Me? Fly through the air like the bird or the bee or the bull?” Later Groo fights a man who boasts of having killed his parents. Groo defeats the man, but decides to spare him because he’s an orphan. This gag is based on an old joke which has been used as a definition of chutzpah.

SUPERMAN #24 (DC, 2017) – “Black Dawn Chapter 5,” [W] Patrick Gleason & Peter Tomasi, [A] Doug Mahnke. Yet another issue that makes no sense at all if you haven’t been reading the other Superman titles. I really should have quit ordering this series.

CHAMPIONS #9 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Humberto Ramos. I dropped this series because of the previous issue’s offensive line of dialogue about Japanese internment. However, by that point I had already ordered issue 9. Champions #9 introduces Red Locust, an indigenous superheroine from San Diego, and there’s also a scene where the characters watch the Avatar episode with the “secret tunnel under the mountain” song. This issue isn’t as bad as #8, though it’s not great.

New comics received on Thursday, September 26:

LUMBERJANES #66 (Boom!, 2019) – “It’s a Myth-Tery Part 2,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Kanesha C. Bryant. The Lumberjanes are all fascinated with Freya, except Diane, who finds her suspicious. Meanwhile, the other group of Lumberjanes discuss Hes’s crush on Diane while looking for crop circles. At the end of the issue, Freya steals Marigold the giant cat. This was a really fun issue. The only problem is that it’s hard to tell which Lumberjanes are in which group, perhaps because the author doesn’t draw backgrounds.

DIAL H FOR HERO #7 (DC, 2019) – “The New Heroes of Metropolis!”, [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Joe Quinones et al. After the visual explosion of issue 6, this issue was disappointing at first because most of it is not drawn by Joe Quinones. However, it’s still an effective artistic experiment, just in a different way. This issue consists of four vignettes, each drawn by a different artist, about ordinary Metropolis citizens who get turned into superheroes. The best of these sequences are the ones by Erica Henderson and by Stacey Lee, an aritst I’m not familiar with. All four of the new heroes find it difficult to act in a heroic way, but they’re all inspired by a mysterious heroine named Guardian Angel. In Stacey Lee’s sequence, we learn that Guardian Angel is a dog turned into a human. This is a funny twist, and it turns the entire story into a witty comment on the nature of heroism.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #47 (Marvel, 2019) – “Ms. Fantastic Part Two of Two,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Alitha E. Martinez. Lunella finishes her contest with Mr. Fantastic, and the series ends. The letters page makes it explicit that the series is cancelled, not just on hiatus. I always had problems with how Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur was written, but it wasn’t intended for me. It was intended for readers Lunella’s age, and it seems to have been a huge success among those readers – yet that success didn’t save it from cancellation, because its sales were not coming from the direct market. The success of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur really ought to have made Marvel rethink its entire approach to selling comics, but I’m not sure if they understand or care why it did so well.

CRIMINAL #8 (Image, 2019) – “Cruel Summer Part Four: On the Edge of No Escape,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. This issue is narrated from Jane’s perspective. She follows Ricky and discovers that he’s gone off to assassinate some junkie, so she takes pity on him and kills the junkie on his behalf. On the letters page, Brubaker states that if you don’t understand why this man was killed, the clues are in this issue and the previous one. I went back and reread #7, and it seems clear that the junkie raped Ricky while he was in juvenile detention. Also in this issue, Jane learns that a man has been looking for her, but she doesn’t pay attention, even though this information seems important. I wonder if the man was Dan the detective.

WONDER WOMAN #79 (DC, 2019) – “Loveless Part 3,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Scot Eaton. Atlantiades meets Maggie again. Veronica Cale engineers a countermeasure to the Godslayer sword, and Diana uses it to defeat Cheetah. Steve and Diana break up. This is a pretty depressing issue.

FEARLESS #3 (Marvel, 2019) – “Campfire Song Part 3,” [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Claire Roe. Katie’s science project summons a bunch of toad aliens. Kamala realizes that the camp director caused this to happen on purpose. I’m enjoying this storyline a lot. In the first backup story, by Zoe Quinn, Patsy Walker gets a new sidekick who’s a cat demon. There’s also a short backup story about Jubilee, but this story is forgettable and it ignores all the recent changes to Jubilee’s character.

WHITE TREES #2 (Image, 2019) – “I Raised Him,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Kris Anka. The heroes discover that it was their own king who kidnapped their children. They rescue the kids and defeat the king, but at the cost of Krylos’s life. Despite being only two issues, White Trees was an excellent miniseries with very strong characterization and worldbuilding, as well as beautiful art. It’s a powerful portrayal of parent-child relationships and queer identity. I hope there will be more comics set in this world.

BRONZE AGE BOOGIE #6 (Ahoy, 2019) – “(It’s Fun to Serve in the) YMCA,” [W] Stuart Moore, [A] Alberto Ponticelli. YMCA in this context means Young Monkeys’ Chronal Authority. This issue, the good guys win after a big fight, and we discover that the Shang-Chi character is gay. At the end of the issue, a time traveler named Rake Lovelost summons the heroes to help him out in the 69th century. Hopefully there will be another miniseries so that this cliffhanger can be resolved. The back matter in this issue includes a crossword puzzle, which I actually finished.

WARLORD OF MARS ATTACKS #4 (Dynamite, 2019) – “Back to Barsoom,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Dean Kotz. John Carter and his companions return to Barsoom, where John and Dejah Thoris are reuinted. At the end of the issue, Dr. Norman is shot by a Martian. Just one issue left.

GHOST SPIDER #2 (Marvel, 2019) –“Candy Store,” [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. Gwen makes a new friend who turns out to be spying on her on behalf of Miles Warren. Meanwhile, on Gwen’s Earth, Man-Wolf is released from prison. This issue is not bad, but not particularly memorable either.

PRETTY VIOLENT #2 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Derek Hunter, [A] Jason Young. Rae’s supervillain siblings make fun of her attempts at heroism, and then she unknowingly saves the city from her brother and sister’s plot. This is another fun issue. Despite this series’ deliberately offensive plot and artwork, Rae is an interesting and sympathetic character.

ETHER: THE DISAPPEARANCE OF VIOLET BELL 1 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] David Rubín. Boone’s wife and daughter are dead, and his old enemy Ubel has taken over the Ether. Boone returns to action to solve the kidnapping of the faerie princess Violet Bell. David Rubín’s art in this issue is amazing, especially in the opening montage about the Seven Lucky Gods (who are lucky only because they survived and the eighth one didn’t). I’m looking forward to the rest of this miniseries.

ABSOLUTE CARNAGE: MILES MORALES #2 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Federico Vicentini. This is slightly better than issue 1, and it gives us some interesting insights into the psychology of Venom symbiotes. However, this series is still not nearly as good as the main Miles Morales title.

BLACK PANTHER #16 (Marvel, 2019) – “Two Thousand Seasons” part four, [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Daniel Acuña. This issue is mostly a series of conversations. At the end, Changamire, Tetu and Zenzi show up again. TNC’s Black Panther has always been kind of boring, and “The Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda” has gone on way too long.

DOCTOR MIRAGE #2 (Valiant, 2019) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Nick Robles. In a flashback, Dr. Mirage and her dead husband investigate the cult of Isis. In the present, Grace takes Dr. Mirage into some kind of hallucinogenic world. I think the best thing about this comic is the coloring. This and Strangelands seem to be Mags’s only current titles. Marilyn Manor has been cancelled, and Sex Death Revolution seems to have been totally forgotten.

THE AVANT-GUARDS #8 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Carly Usdin, [A] Noah Hayes. This issue’s featured character is Tiffany, the occult Goth girl. We learn this issue that Tiffany’s interest in occultism is ironic because her father is a famous astronaut. Also, the Avant-Guards win their playoff game, but there may not be any funding to keep their league around for another season. In a case of art imitating life, Avant-Guards #9 has been cancelled, and issues 11 and 12 haven’t been solicited yet. Avant-Guards #8 does not indicate that it’s the last issue, and the story ends on a cliffhanger, but I can’t find any information on whether or how the series will be completed.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #6 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Clint McElroy, [A] Ig Guara. Kamala and Carol fight both the Kree Starforce and Wastrel. The Kree sentence Walter to community service, and they part with Kamala and Carol on good terms. This series had a promising start, but Eve Ewing left after three issues, and Clint McElroy wasn’t nearly as good. I’m not sorry this title was cancelled.

TOMMY GUN WIZARDS #2 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Christian Ward, [A] Sami Kivelä. Eliot’s fight with the mob continues, and we learn that Lick is made from the secretions of a giant alien toad. This is a really exciting issue with some nice worldbuilding. I’m glad to learn that Christian Ward is a solid writer as well as a brilliant artist.

RAGNAROK: THE BREAKING OF HELHEIM #2 (IDW, 2019) – “Through the Gates of Helheim…,” [W/A] Walt Simonson. Thor arrives at Helheim, which is now ruled by Freyr, though apparently not the Asgardian god of that name. Freyr throws Thor into his soul mines, where he meets Hagen, the leader of Freyr’s slaves. This issue’s letter column discusses Ratatoskr’s resurrection and Thor’s lack of a lower jaw.

THE TERRIFICS #20 (DC, 2019) – “If We Could Turn Back Time,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Stephen Segovia & Brent Peeples. The Bizarros decide to go back in time to obtain Superman’s Phantom Zone crystal, and the Terrifics have to follow them. This is a fun issue, and I’m enjoying this series enough to keep reading it, even though Gene Luen Yang is a worse superhero writer than Jeff Lemire.

ACTION COMICS #646 (DC, 1989) – “Burial Ground,” [W] Roger Stern, [W/A] Keith Giffen. Superman goes to Antarctica to dispose of the Eradicator (the device, not the person). While there he fights a giant alien worm. This issue is drawn and co-plotted by Keith Giffen, so it looks a lot like an issue of the early v4 Legion. Like that series, Action #646 includes some very lazy artwork; there’s a two-page sequence where every drawing of Superman is a solid black silhouette.

IMMORTAL HULK DIRECTOR’S CUT #4 (Marvel, 2019) – “Time of Death,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. Walter Langkowski tells Jackie his origin story, then he and Jackie go looking for the Hulk. But before they find him, Walter is apparently stabbed to death while trying to break up a bar fight. Immortal Hulk #4 isn’t experimental like #3 was, but it’s good anyway.

Most of the following comics were purchased many years ago, in 2014 or earlier:

IMPULSE #58 (DC, 2000) – “Flashing Before My Eyes,” [W] Todd DeZago, [A] Jamal Igle & Grey. I read this series when it was first coming out, but I dropped it after Mark Waid left. I later bought a couple of the later issues from cheap boxes. This issue is a Max Mercury solo story that includes a flashback to his Wild West days. There’s also a backup story, drawn by Ethan van Sciver, that’s a homage to/ripoff of Calvin & Hobbes.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #368 (Marvel, 1992) – “On Razored Wings: Invasion of the Spider-Slayers Part One,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] Mark Bagley. Spidey battles a Spider-Slayer, and there are a few scenes with Peter and his parents. There’s also a backup story written by JM DeMatteis, in which JJJ asks Peter for an exclusive interview with the parents, and Peter uncharacteristically gets furious and attacks his boss. The latter part of David Michelinie’s Spider-Man run was really not that great, mostly because it was bogged down by stuff like the Clone Saga and the Richard and Mary Parker story. I grew up reading these comics, but they haven’t necessarily aged well.

MAGNUS ROBOT FIGHTER #3 (Dynamite, 2014) – “Leeja Clane, Human Hunter,” [W] Fred van Lente, [A] Cory Smith. Mostly a fight scene between Leeja and Magnus. This issue begins with a song that includes lines like “Strong female human protagonist! Her aggressiveness does not compromise her femininity! Her subjectivity and sexuality exist independent of the male gaze!” However, these claims are contradicted by the way Leeja is drawn in the actual comic, and it feels like Van Lente is making fun of the language of feminism, rather than quoting it with sincere intent.

JON SABLE, FREELANCE #42 (First, 1986) – “Appointment with a Lady,” [W/A] Mike Grell. This feels like a much earlier issue of Jon Sable because the drawings are fully rendered. Grell doesn’t use the ugly, lazy style that he used in most late issues of this series. This issue, Sable encounters Rachel, the Israeli secret agent from earlier in the series, and they end up having to work together to defeat a terrorist bomber.

INCORRUPTIBLE #19 (Boom!, 2011) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Marcio Takara. I hadn’t realized I owned so many issues of this series. This issue, Max Damage recruits an old enemy of his, Whelan, to serve as the governor of Coalville. But then some other villain tears Whelan’s heart out. This issue also includes a character named Safeword who can make people freeze in place by yelling ”Stop!”

THE STARDUST KID #3 (Image, 2005) – “Another World, “ [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Mike Ploog. This series was a follow-up to DeMatteis and Ploog’s Abadazad, which was left incomplete when CrossGen went out of business. It’s about four human kids and their adventures with fairies. The Stardust Kid includes some of the finest art of Mike Ploog’s career. It’s f ull of enchanting and weird depictions of fairies, witches, trolls, giant bugs, mushrooms, etc. However, the power of Ploog’s art is diminished because every page is full of unnecessary captions. For example, there’s one gorgeous splash page that has 13 different caption boxes. Most of the captions in this comic are just purple prose. They could have been deleted without losing any essential information, and I wish they had been cut.

GREEN ARROW #54 (DC, 2005) – “Heading into the Light Part One: His Name is My Name Too,” [W] Judd Winick, [A] Tom Fowler. Ollie, Black Lightning, and the good Dr. Light battle the evil Dr. Light. This was a rather pointless issue.

ATOMIC ROBO PRESENTS REAL SCIENCE ADVENTURES #10 (Red 5, 2013) – untitled, [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Erich Owen. I lost interest in this series because it was worse than the main Atomic Robo series. However, this issue is still very funny and entertaining, especially by comparison to the previous few comics I read. In this issue’s main story, Harry Houdini, Nikola Tesla and some other characters disguise themselves as firefighters in order to steal an earthquake device. In the backup story, Atomic Robo battles the Yonkers Devil. I think I might already have read this story somewhere else, but I’m not sure.

BATMAN #509 (DC, 1994) – “KnightsEnd Part 1: Spirit of the Bat,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Mike Manley. Recovering from having his back broken by Bane, Bruce Wayne goes to Lady Shiva for martial arts training. This comic is kind of similar to Master of Kung Fu in its fantastical portrayal of martial arts. However, by the ‘90s, Doug Moench’s depictions of kung fu and Chinese culture were getting rather dated.

THUNDERBOLTS #17 (Marvel, 1998) – “Matters of Gravity,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Mark Bagley. The Thunderbolts and Great Lakes Avengers fight Graviton. Moonstone gets Graviton to go away by pointing out that he doesn’t know what he wants in life. This is an astute observation on Busiek’s part: Graviton is one of the most powerful villains in the Marvel Universe, but he never achieves anything because he has no clear goals. Meanwhile, Baron Zemo fights the new Citizen V.

DOKTOR SLEEPLESS #8 (Avatar, 2008) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Ivan Rodriguez. I first met Steven Shaviro at a conference where he gave a paper about this comic. As an Avatar comic, Doktor Sleepless has crummy art and production values. But it also has an interesting story, about a mad scientist who wants to destroy the world so Lovecraftian Old Ones can’t destroy it first. I’d read more of this series, but there are other Warren Ellis comics that interest me more.

THE WEIRD WORLD OF JACK STAFF #2 (Image, 2010) – untitled, [W/A] Paul Grist. According to Wikipedia, this series was renamed because it was about Jack Staff’s supporting cast as much as Jack Staff himself. This issue consists of multiple vignettes taking place at different points in time, all revolving around a villain who’s a flaming skeleton.

CRIMINAL #7 (Icon, 2007) – “Lawless Part Two,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Tracy Lawless helps rescue a man named Simon from prison so that Simon can help with an even bigger heist. There are also some flashbacks to Tracy’s past, and an appearance by Leo Patterson, who was the best friend of Leo’s brother Ricky. It’s too bad I’ve been reading Criminal out of order, because this issue gives me some important information about the Lawless family that I’d been unaware of. I’m not sure I even realized that Tracy and Ricky Lawless were different characters.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #87 (Marvel, 1979) – “The Razor’s Edge!”, [W] Steven Grant, [A] Gene Colan. A villain named Hellrazor impersonates Black Panther in order to frame him for kidnapping a man who defrauded the Wakandan government. This is a pretty mediocre issue, and Colan’s art is not his best. Hellrazor’s only other appearance was in Captain America #319, where he was killed by Scourge.

THE FLASH #9 (DC, 1987) – “The Chunk,” [W] Mike Baron, [A] Jackson Guice. This issue introduces Chunk, one of the signature characters from Baron and Messner-Loebs’s Flash runs. Also, Wally’s mother treats his girlfriend Tina very rudely. Mike Baron’s Flash was truly weird. It hardly seemed like a superhero comic at all, partly because Baron wrote Wally as a selfish, hedonistic jerk. According to https://www.cbr.com/flash-supporting-cast-william-messner-loebs-mark-waid/, Mark Waid didn’t use any of Loebs’s supporting characters, like Chunk and Mary West, because Loebs was planning to use them himself in Wonder Woman. That still doesn’t explain why Wally’s mother almost never appeared in Mark Waid’s Flash, even after Loebs was no longer writing Wonder Woman. I can only include that Mark decided to ignore Wally’s mom’s existence because she was a horrible old shrew.

THE FLASH #173 (DC, 2001) – “Blood Will Run… Part 4: Uneasy Idol,” [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Scott Kolins. Wally defeats Cicada, but all of Cicada’s followers get killed. Also, Wally and Linda’s house is destroyed. In an epilogue, we encounter a baby that we’re made to think is Wally’s son, although it was later revealed that he wasn’t the father. This is a competently written and exciting issue, but it suffers from a certain lack of humor or fun.

TEEN TITANS #42 (DC, 2007) – “Devil-May-Care,” [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Peter Snejbjerg. A spotlight on Kid Devil, who is not a new character but was introduced in Gary Cohn and Dan Mishkin’s Blue Devil run. It turns out that Kid Devil (Eddie)’s life was going nowhere, so he bargained with Neron for superpowers. The catch was that if Eddie lost his trust in his old mentor Blue Devil before he reached the age of 20, his soul would be forfeit to Neron. As soon as Eddie makes the deal, Neron tells him that Daniel was responsible for the death of Eddie’s beloved aunt. So what does Eddie go and do? He asks Daniel whether Neron’s claim is true, and Daniel admits it is true. Eddie then says “I don’t trust you,” ensuring his own damnation. I really don’t like this ending because number one, Eddie was an idiot to take Neron’s deal in the first place. In the second place, if he did take the deal, then he was even more of an idiot to ask Daniel that question before he turned 20. But the biggest problem with this story is that it demonstrates Geoff Johns’s habit of torturing his characters for no reason. It’s not bad enough that Eddie was an orphan or that his beloved aunt died. No, Geoff Johns wasn’t satisfied until he’d found a way for Eddie to condemn himself to hell.

THE FLASH #8 (DC, 1987) – “Purple Haze,” [W] Mike Baron, [A] Jackson Guice. In a Millennium crossover, Wally battles the Soviet speedster teams, Blue Trinity and Red Trinity, and then he discovers that his father is a Manhunter. Also, Wally’s dad claims that his mother was drowned, but she sadly turns out to be alive. The problem with this issue is Wally’s nonchalance. In this issue Wally learns that his father is an evil alien agent and that his mother is dead (though the latter proves false), but he never reacts with the shock or grief that an ordinary person would have shown. I should note that Wally’s dad has always been depicted as an awful man, so it was no loss when he was written out of the series. A possible in-universe reason why Wally’s parents rarely appeared in Mark’s Flash run is that Wally never liked his parents anyway, so he decided to go low-contact with them.

BATMAN INCORPORATED #6 (DC, 2011) – “Nyktomorph,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Chris Burnham. Bruce Wayne creates an international army of Batmen, who have multiple simultaneous adventures. Early in the issue, Bruce uses some Batman robots to defeat a gang of crooks wearing emoticon masks. Those masks are the best thing in this issue, but it’s an excellent issue overall, largely because of Chris Burnham’s art. He may be the next best thing to Frank Quitely.

THE INTREPID ESCAPEGOAT/THE STUFF OF LEGEND FCBD (Th3rd World, 2011) – “The Princess and the Pyramid,” [W/A] Brian Smith. A competent but mediocre kids’ comic, in which an anthropomorphic goat thief has an adventure in an Egyptian pyramid. The flip side of this issue is a Stuff of Legend story, but it’s more of a plot summary than an actual story.

SEAGUY: THE SLAVES OF MICKEY EYE #2 (Vertigo, 2009) – “Viva El Macho,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Cameron Stewart. Seaguy has a vision in which he’s a “bull-dresser” – a matador who puts clothes on the bulls instead of killing them – and also he has a pregnant Spanish girlfriend. Also, lots of other weird stuff happens. Seaguy is probably Grant’s most surrealist comic, and he’s written a lot of surrealist comics.

SUPER-VILLAIN TEAM-UP #15 (Marvel, 1978) – “The Invaders!”, [W] Larry Lieber, [A] Wally Wood. A reprint of the Dr. Doom stories from Astonishing Tales #4 and #5, both of which I already own.

ACTION COMICS #459 (DC, 1976) – “Superman’s Big Crack-Up!”, [W] Elliot S! Maggin, [A] Curt Swan. I met Elliot S! Maggin at Comic-Con. It’s too bad he’s no longer working in comics, although I doubt his writing would be as innovative now as it was in the ‘70s. This issue concludes Superman’s battle with the TV-themed villain Blackrock. I don’t know if Elliot had started writing for TV when this comic was published, but he at least creates the impression that he has expert knowledge of the TV business, and Blackrock’s dialogue is full of TV puns. There’s also a Private Life of Clark Kent story in which Clark rescues a boxer who has a habit of writing poetry. I assume this was a reference to Muhammad Ali and his rhymes. One of the minor characters in this story is named Taine – perhaps he was an ancestor of Bouncing Boy.

SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE #42 (DC, 1996) – “The Phantom of the Fair Two,” [W] Matt Wagner & Steven T. Seagle, [A] Guy Davis. I still have a lot of unread issues of this series. This issue, Wes and Dian investigate a murder at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. Notably, Wesley Dodds himself first appeared in a promotional comic published to commemorate this same World’s Fair. This issue includes a couple scenes set in a gay bar.

ARCHER & ARMSTRONG #7 (Valiant, 1992) – untitled, [W] Barry Windsor-Smith, [A] Art Nichols. Archer and Armstrong visit a French chateau that turns out to be a front for some kind of criminal organization. The lack of BWS artwork makes this issue much less interesting than other issues of this series. Art Nichols does his best to draw like BWS, but he’s no BWS.

AVENGERS #294 (Marvel, 1988) – “If Wishes Were Horses…”, [W] Walt Simonson, [A] John Buscema. There’s a funny scene in this issue where Dr. Druid has a vision of himself as an Adam Strange-esque superhero. Later in the issue, Monica Rambeau nearly dies from expending too much energy in last issue’s fight against Marrina, and Dr. Druid hypnotizes the other Avengers into electing him leader. Walt Simonson’s Avengers represents the point where the series jumped the shark. It never returned to its former level of quality until Kurt Busiek’s run. This is not entirely Walt’s fault; I get the impression that he was forced to use bad characters like Dr. Druid and Gilgamesh.

NIGHT FORCE #12 (DC, 1982) – “Mark of the Beast, Chapter 2: …Greater than the Sum!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Gene Colan. Baron Winters and Vanessa van Helsing travel back in time to 1934 and fight a giant eight-headed lion. Then back in the present, Winters has to save Vanessa and her husband Jack Gold from some other peril. This series is a spiritual sequel to Tomb of Dracula, and Vanessa and Jack remind me a lot of Rachel and Frank. I’ve been feeling rather negative about Marv Wolfman’s work lately, but I ought to complete my collection of Night Force.

IMPULSE #76 (DC, 2001) – “Missing You,” [W] Todd DeZago, [A] Carlo Barberi. Bart is depressed after losing his best friend, Carol, under circumstances the writer doesn’t explain. Max takes Bart to see Dr. Morlo to cure his depression. Then Bart has an adventure with his old frenemy White Lightning. This issue was much better than #58, reviewed above. It had a lot of genuine emotion.

HELLBLAZER #8 (DC, 1988) – “Intensive Care,” [W] Jamie Delano, [A] John Ridgway. John Constantine is immobilized in a hospital bed, but a demon comes and frees him in order to enlist his aid, possibly to defeat the fundamentalist Christian cult that’s depicted at the start of the issue. Jamie Delano’s Hellblazer, like Mike Baron’s Flash, is very strange; it hardly feels like a Hellblazer comic, mostly because John himself rarely seems to be at the center of the plot. Delano’s version of John seems like more of a bystander than a facilitator of events. I get the sense that at this point in John’s history, his character hadn’t been clearly defined.

OMEGA THE UNKNOWN #7 (Marvel, 1977) – “Blockbuster!”, [W] Scott Edelman, [A] Jim Mooney. The original Omega the Unknown series only lasted ten issues, and two of those were fill-ins. According to a comment at http://www.supermegamonkey.net/chronocomic/entries/omega_the_unknown_110.shtml, Jim Shooter spontaneously asked Scott Edelman and Roger Stern to write these two issues because Gerber was chronically late. Scott Edelman’s issue of Omega is consistent with Gerber’s version of the series, but it’s not nearly as good as any of Gerber’s issues. Omega #7 consists mostly of a fight between the Omega android and a villain named Blockbuster.

STAR-SPANGLED WAR STORIES #170 (DC, 1973) – “Legends Don’t Die!”, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Jack Sparling. In this issue’s first story, the Unknown Soldier impersonates a kidnapped Marine officer, thus giving his men the morale they need to capture a Japanese-held island. This story is reasonably good, but the backup story, “UFM,” is more interesting because it’s Walt Simonson’s second published comic (after Weird War Tales #10). Even at the start of his career, Walt was already brilliant. His panel structures in “UFM” are radically experimental, and he draws some gorgeous machinery and architecture. In the letter column, Archie points out that he had trouble spotting Walt’s signature even after he knew what panel it was in. Of course, this was before everyone knew that Walt’s signature is a dinosaur.

KABUKI: CIRCLE OF BLOOD #1 (Caliber, 1995) – “For Her,” [W/A] David Mack. I think the only previous David Mack comic I’ve read was his run on Daredevil, back in the 2000s. Kabuki is a much more conventional comic than David Mack’s Daredevil, withline-drawn rather than painted art, but it’s still really weird. Mack’s panel structures are bizarre – some pages have no panel borders, others have tons of panels, and there are large blocks of text everywhere. Kabuki’s story is set in Japan, but its actual plot is not made clear, and nothing really happens in this issue. It’s hard to tell whether this is a groundbreaking and innovative comic, or a piece of amateurish nonsense. A more serious complaint about this comic is that it’s cultural appropriation. David Mack is not Japanese, and as a reader, I get the impression that his knowledge of Japan is rather shallow.

ASTRO CITY #3 (Image, 1995) – “A Little Knowledge,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Brent Anderson. A common criminal accidentally learns Jack-in-the-Box’s secret identity, but it does him no good. He becomes paranoid that his knowledge will get him killed, and eventually leaves Astro City for Alaska. I read this issue in trade paperback form a long time ago, but it’s still good. It’s one of the grimmest issues of the whole series.

SWEET TOOTH #24 (Vertigo, 2011) – “Endangered Species: Part Five,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Gus and Tommy are reunited, but only after Gus has been shot. While Tommy tries to save him, Gus has a series of horrific and beautifully drawn nightmares. This issue is a quick read, but it’s good.

PLANETARY #4 (WildStorm, 1999) – “Strange Harbours,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] John Cassaday. Planetary is excavating an alien “shiftship” that travels between dimensions. Chasing a thief, a man named James Wilder jumps onto the shiftship and is transported to another dimension. As a result he gains superpowers. According to Wikipedia, James Wilder is based on Captain Marvel, although the link between the two characters is pretty tenuous. The best thing about this issue is John Cassaday’s spectacular depictions of alien technology.

ONCE UPON A TIME: SHADOW OF THE QUEEN/AVENGERS: ENDLESS WARTIME FREE PREVIEW (Marvel, 2013) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Mike McKone. A free preview of two upcoming Marvel comics. One of them is a tie-in to the TV show Once Upon a Time and is totally forgettable. The other comic, Avengers: Endless Wartime, is billed as Marvel’s first original graphic novel, which is a blatant lie. However, the preview story is actually good, and I think I’ve seen excerpts of it on Scans_Daily or some other website. It shows the Avengers going through their morning routine and interacting with Jarvis. A cute moment is when Jarvis convinces Cap to let him make the coffee, even though Cap can do it himself.

ENIGMA #3 (DC, 1993) – “The Good Boy,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Duncan Fegredo. I have this entire series, but I read the first two issues and didn’t understand them at all. Surprisingly, the third issue makes a lot of sense on its own. This issue, Michael Smith goes to look for the writer of Enigma, the comic book that comforted him when he was orphaned as a child. Enigma the comic is reminiscent of Steve Ditko’s Shade, but Titus Bird is no Steve Ditko; he’s a gay man who wrote Enigma while under the influence of various substances. Late in the issue, Michael reacts violently when Titus assumes he’s gay. As explained in a later letter column, this scene is not evidence of the writer’s homophobia; rather, Michael himself is in denial of his own homosexuality. This issue also introduces a new villain, Envelope Girl. Duncan Fegredo’s art in Enigma is fascinating; he’s like a muddier version of Chris Bachalo. Also, Enigma is a brilliant design. Peter Milligan’s comics have included a lot of great costume designs, some of which Brendan McCarthy was responsible for.

BATWOMAN #11 (DC, 2012) – “To Drown the World Part Six,” [W] J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman, [A] Trevor McCarthy. Another pretty boring issue. The only interesting moment is when Maggie Sawyer tells Kate Kane about her daughter. Unlike Christian Ward, J.H. Williams III was not remotely as good at writing as he is at art.

ENIGMA #4 (DC, 1993) – “And Then What?”, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Duncan Fegredo. Michael Smith and Titus Bird return to Michael’s hometown of Pacific, where the Interior League and Envelope Girl are committing massacres. There’s one page in this issue that’s supposed to be from the ‘70s Enigma comic. Also, Michael breaks up with his girlfriend Sandra. This is another interesting issue, but it doesn’t advance the plot very much.

REFLECTIONS #13 (Icon, 2009) – various non-comics material, [W/A] David Mack. This is not a comic but a collection of David Mack’s sketches and paintings, including a couple that he did as a child. I have mixed feelings about this issue. On one hand, David Mack is a brilliant painter. On the other hand, he’s not brilliant enough that I would actually want to pay $5.99 (the cover price of this issue) for a collection of his outtakes and works-in-progress. Reflections is only of interest to hardcore Mack fans. I’m surprised that there were enough such fans that Marvel was willing to publish multiple issues worth of Reflections.

IMPRACTICAL JOKERS TRUTV EDITION 2013 (DC, 2013) – “The Secret Origins oftruTV’s Impractical Jokers,” [W] Doug Wagner, [A] Adam Archer. A stupid free preview comic about a stupid reality TV show.

SAVAGE DRAGON #39 (Image, 1997) – untitled, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Dragon has been expelled from the police force, and at the end of the issue he’s replaced by She-Dragon. Meanwhile, Dragon fights Dung, Chaos and Control. The latter two villains have a really cool gimmick: Chaos is a giant rampaging monster, and Control, well, controls Chaos by putting his eyes on Chaos’s horns.

THE FOX #5 (Archie, 2014) – “Freak Magnet Part 5,” [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Dean Haspiel. Mark Waid’s Fox was not that great, but JM DeMatteis’s Fox is actively bad. This issue, the Fox is forced to collaborate with other WWII-era superheroes from Britain, Germany and Japan. This demonstrates that the world’s problems could be solved if people from different countries would love each other. That’s a trite but well-intentioned message; however, it’s extremely offensive to suggest that an American should collaborate with a Nazi and a Japanese imperialist. DeMatteis himself realized this, and at the end of the issue he reveals that the German superhero, Master Race, was unaware of the Holocaust. That doesn’t solve the problem, because it’s hard to believe that a person who fought for the Nazi party and called himself “Master Race” would have been unaware of his own government’s atrocities.

XOMBI #3 (DC, 2011) – “The Ninth Stronghold Part Three: Exit Strategies,” [W] John Rozum, [A] Frazer Irving. I thought I remembered reading that John Rozum disavowed this series, but I may have been thinking of his New 52 Static series. However, John Rozum did say that Xombi was cancelled before it was even available to preorder. (https://www.bleedingcool.com/2013/09/13/john-rozum-talks-milestone/) That’s a pity because Rozum and Irving are both very talented, and it’s also unfortunate that Rozum has rarely been able to achieve his potential as a writer. This issue, Xombi battles a lion-headed creature called Maranatha.

JON SABLE, FREELANCE #37 (First, 1986) – “Ivory Apes & Peacocks,” [W/A] Mike Grell. This issue has the ugly, unfinished style of art that I complained about in my review of #42 above. By this point in the series, Grell was incapable of maintaining his standard of artistic quality, and he should have hired someone else to draw Jon Sable for him. In this issue, Jon and Myke go on a safari for some reason I didn’t get, and Jon gets mauled by a leopard.

INCORRUPTIBLE #7 (Boom!, 2010) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Horacio Domingues. Jailbait is injured after last issue, so Annie takes her costume and becomes the new Jailbait. Meanwhile, Max Damage fights some anti-immigrant punks, but falls asleep, thus losing his powers. I don’t know if I have any further unread issues of Incorruptible.

B.P.R.D.: HELL ON EARTH – MONSTERS #2 (Dark Horse, 2011) – “Monsters, Part 2,” [W] Mike Mignola & John Arcudi, [A] Tyler Crook. Liz Sherman fights some kind of cult in a trailer park. This issue wasn’t terrible, but I couldn’t follow its plot.

ELFQUEST: BLOOD OF TEN CHIEFS #12 (WaRP, 1994) – “Coyote,” [W] Terry Collins, [A] Mat Nastos, Jen Marrus & Barry Blair. A flashback story about a former Wolfrider chief who liked to trick humans. At the end of the issue, he meets his counterpart, a human who likes to trick elves. This is a silly comic, and it includes some of Barry Blair’s typical creepy, quasi-pornographic art.

Reviews for most of September

9-21

Starting again on September 21 with the rest of the comics from the week of August 28. I didn’t want to write any more reviews because I was running out of space in my boxes, but I received another package of drawerboxes yesterday.

ASCENDER #5 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Another thrilling issue. Telsa doesn’t want to help Andy and Mia, but her decision is made for her when Mother’s troops show up. Andy gets stabbed through the chest, and Telsa and Mia have to sail off without him, though the end of the issue reveals that he’s not dead. Meanwhile, Mother discovers that Bandit is the Hound with the Backwards Tongue.

STAR PIG #2 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Delilah Dawson, [A] Francesco Gaston. Vess the human and Theo the space tardigrade meet Johnny B. Goode, a spore colony who collects human memorabilia. The jewel of his collection is “a Keanu Reeves” – i.e. Keanu Reeves himself, cryogenically frozen. Johnny turns out to have ulterior motives, but Vess tricks him into trapping himself in a spacesuit. Then she injures herself trying to escape, but all three of them are rescued by other humans. This is another fun comic by Delilah Dawson, and it’s very different in tone from either Ladycastle or Sparrowhawk.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #81 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Thom Zahler, [A] Nicoletta Baldari. Scootaloo and Rumble, an injured Wonderbolt, visit the Wonderbolt museum. While there, they learn the story of Wind Sock, the only earth pony to become a Wonderbolt. This is a reasonably good issue, but not all that memorable. Speaking of Thom, I wonder if Love & Capes: The Family Way is going to be published as single issues or if it’ll go straight to trade paperback.

MOON GIRL & DEVIL DINOSAUR #46 (Marvel, 2019) – “Ms. Fantastic, Part One,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Alitha E. Martinez. Lunella has an unpleasant encounter with Mr. Fantastic, and decides to prove she’s smarter than him. This was only an average issue, and I felt that Reed was acting somewhat out of character, but it’s always nice to see Lunella’s parents. Sadly, Marvel seems to have stealth-cancelled this series. It’s not clear why they decided to do this now and not several years ago, since it’s never sold well in the direct market. It seems like Marvel never really understood why this series was so successful in trade form, because they haven’t made any real effort to create more titles like it.

WONDER WOMAN #77 (DC, 2019) – “Loveless Part 1,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Jesus Merino. Diana, Steve and Atlantiades return home to find Aphrodite dead. Diana rushes off to seek revenge on Cheetah, but it doesn’t go well. This issue wasn’t as interesting as #78, to be reviewed later (probably in a separate post).

SPIDER-MAN: LIFE STORY #6 (Marvel, 2019) – “All My Enemies,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Mark Bagley. This issue introduces Miles Morales, and its plot is based on Dying Wish and other recent storylines. As expected, Peter dies heroically, and Miles takes over as the new Spider-Man. This was a really enjoyable series, a brilliant use of the What If format.

THE TERRIFICS #19 (DC, 2019) – “Forward to the Past!”, [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Max Raynor. The Terrifics encounter their Bizarro counterparts, the Terribles. Most of the issue is narrated from Bizarro’s perspective. Gene Luen Yang writes some funny Bizarro dialogue and sound effects, but this series is no longer as special or unique as when Jeff Lemire was writing it.

ABSOLUTE CARNAGE: MILES MORALES #1 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Federico Vicentini. A boring crossover installment that gives Saladin no opportunity to demonstrate his writing skills. It’s mostly a long fight scene. I shouldn’t have ordered this.

SERA AND THE ROYAL STARS #2 (Vault, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jon Tsuei, [A] Audrey Mok. Sera fights alongside the first Royal Star, Aldebaran/Tascheter/the Bull. Then they go to look for the other three stars: the Fish, the Scorpion and the Lion. The idea of the four Royal Stars seems to be based on genuine Zoroastrian mythology. I don’t know where Tsuei and Mok are getting their information about Iranian culture, but I love that they’re using it as a source. I also really like the colors and costume designs in this comic; they make this comic look very different from most superhero comics.

THOR #16 (Marvel, 2019) – “Once Upon a Time in Asgard,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mike del Mundo. Thor misses his own coronation party because he’s too busy doing good deeds. Writing this review a few weeks later, I had trouble remembering this issue, but it’s a satisfying finale to the series (though the actual finale is the upcoming King Thor). The first page, with Thor rebuilding the church, has gone somewhat viral.

BABYTEETH #15 (AfterShock, 2019) – “Get Thee Behind Me,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. God leads an army of angels to capture the baby. Sadie’s dad sacrifices himself so the rest of the family can escape. The impact of this issue is lessened by the fact that it’s been eight months since the previous issue. After such a long wait, it was hard to remember or care what was happening in this series.

BLACK PANTHER #15 (Marvel, 2019) – “Book 3: Two Thousand Seasons,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Daniel Acuña. I’m glad this overly long storyline is approaching its end. Not much happens in this issue, though there are some cute scenes with T’Challa and Storm.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #5 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Clint McElroy, [A] Ig Guara. Carol and Kamala confront Walter Lawson, a character from Mar-Vell’s first appearance. This issue was pretty forgettable, and this series has already been cancelled. It’s too bad that Eve Ewing only wrote the first story arc.

BATGIRL #38 (DC, 2019) – “Oracle Rising Part 2,” [W] Cecil Castellucci, [A] Carmine Digiandomenico. This issue has a complex plot involving Killer Moth, a new Oracle, and the Terrible Trio. This comic is okay, but it doesn’t make me feel the spark I felt when I read Fletcher and Stewart or Larson’s Batgirl. I don’t think I’m going to continue reading this series.

TOMMY GUN WIZARDS #1 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Christian Ward, [A] Sami Kivelä. Christian Ward is the preeminent artist in comic books right now, but this is the first comic he’s written, and I was a little apprehensive about it. I liked it, though. It’s set in a fantasy version of 1930s Chicago, where Prohibition is a ban on not alcohol but “lick,” a magical drug (like akker in Coda). The series stars Eliot Ness, an anti-lick crusader who turns out to be a lick addict himself. The action sequences in this issue are pretty good, but the highlight of the issue is the scene with Eliot sitting at his sleeping young son’s bedside. This is a promising debut issue.

MARVEL BOY #5 (Marvel, 2000) – “Zero Zero: Year of Love,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] J.G. Jones. Noh-Varr is held captive by Oubliette, who’s been led to believe that she’s hideously ugly, when she’s actually beautiful. And because this is a Grant Morrison comic, lots of other weird and confusing stuff happens. I didn’t quite understand this issue, but it made me curious to read the rest of this miniseries.

EXCALIBUR #89 (Marvel, 1995) – “Dream Nails 2: Easy Tiger,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] David Williams. Warren Ellis’s Excalibur had two severe problems. The first was terrible art. The second was Pete Wisdom, a Gary Stu character who was hard to tell apart from any of Ellis’s other male protagonists. Ellis also didn’t write Kitty Pryde very well, mostly because he had to write her as a person who would be attracted to someone like Pete Wisdom. Allowing for all of that, Ellis was still the best (and only good) Excalibur writer other than Claremont or Davis. This issue is mostly a Kitty and Pete solo story, focusing on their mission to the Dream Nails facility, though there are some other subplots as well.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2017: GENERAL (Dark Horse, 2017) – “Brothers,” [W] Sherri L. Smith, [A] Doug Wheatley, and “The Village,” [W] Brian Wood, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. This issue’s first story is an adaptation of James Cameron’s Avatar, a movie I hate. It’s a blatant white savior narrative, and its stance on issues of technology, embodiment, and disability is very disturbing. Like, there’s something deeply unsettling about a story where the protagonist literally gives up the body he was born with in exchange for another one that’s depicted as 100% better. Anyway, there’s no reason I’d want to read a comics adaptation of this movie, and this particular comics adaptation isn’t much good either. The backup story is a preview of Brian Woods’s Briggs’ Land. Brian Wood has been dogged by accusations of sexual misconduct for several years, and Dark Horse has finally fired him as a result. On top of that, he’s also a boring and unsubtle writer, and I have no interest in his work.

IZOMBIE #28 (Vertigo, 2012) – “The End Conclusion,” [W] Chris Roberson, [A] Mike Allred. I think this is the final issue. Gwen Dylan and her friends defeat a Lovecraftian monster called Xitalu, and then the series ends with a where-are-they-now sequence. I mostly didn’t understand this issue, but it’s well-drawn and reasonably exciting.

THE IMMORTAL HULK: DIRECTOR’S CUT #2 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Walking Ghost,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. Bruce Banner visits a small town that’s suffered an epidemic of inexplicable deaths. It turns out the deaths are the result of a mad scientist’s experiments with gamma radiation. This is a pretty good issue, but the “Director’s Cut” material – mostly consisting of Joe Bennett’s original pencils to the entire issue – is not worth the extra price tag. I wish they had just reprinted Immortal Hulk #1-6 at their original cover price.

THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST #8 (Marvel, 2007) – “The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven Part 1,” [W] Matt Fraction & Ed Brubaker, [A] David Aja & Roy Allan Martinez. Danny Rand represents K’un L’un in a tournament between the eponymous seven capital cities. The best part of the issue is the splash page that introduces the champions of the other six cities. This splash page subtly informs us about all these characters’ personalities; for example, Fat Cobra is sitting at a table covered with food, Dog Brother #1 is accompanied by his dog, and the Prince of Orphans is completely alone with only a cup on his table. I read this series occasionally when it was coming out, but I ought to go back and collect the rest of it. Immortal Iron Fist had an impressive lineup of talent, and although it could be accused of cultural appropriation, this issue feels like a fairly respectful use of Chinese popular culture.

STARMAN #66 (DC, 2000) – “Grand Guignol: Cinquieme Partie,” [W] James Robinson, [A] Peter Snejbjerg. This is one of the few issues of this series that I hadn’t read. Grand Guignol may have been the low point of James Robinson’s Starman. It went on too long, and I don’t much like the main villain, Culp. This issue gives us Culp’s backstory, and it’s particularly bad because it’s narrated by Culp himself, in his annoying Cockney style of dialogue. And there are some pages with 10 or 20 caption boxes, so it’s a tough comic to get through.

WARLORD #28 (DC, 1979) – “The Curse of the Cobra Queen,” [W/A] Mike Grell. Morgan fights a yellow-skinned scaly woman who turns out to be a giant cobra. The backup story inroduces Wizard World and Mongo Ironhand. The Wizard World setting feels like a ripoff of Marvel’s Weirdworld or Wally Wood’s The Wizard King, or perhaps Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards, although those may all have been drawing on the same sources.

TEST #3 (Vault, 2019) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Jen Hickman. In their apartment, Aleph-Null discovers a secret passage that leads to the free part of Laurelwood. This series gets weirder with every issue. I’m still not quite enjoying it, but this issue is at least interesting.

DOCTOR MIRAGE #1 (Valiant, 2019) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Nick Robles. Shan Fong Mirage is devastated by the loss of her husband, but she’s tracked down by a mentally ill girl who claims to be able to see her husband’s ghost. Like most of Mags’s comics, this series is about a woman – or in this case two women – who is recovering from severe trauma, and is trying to learn how to cope with life again. This first issue is an interesting setup.

THE AUTHORITY #19 (Wildstorm, 2000) – “Earth Inferno,” [W] Mark Millar, [A] Frank Quitely. Faced with an apocalyptic threat, the Authority evacuates the entire population of Earth into alternate dimensions. This issue includes some excellent visual storytelling, and I’d be willing to collect more of this series just because of the artwork. Unfortunately this comic is written by Mark Millar, so it’s violent, offensive, and completely lacking in subtlety. Even in a superhero comic, the idea of evacuating everyone in the world is difficult to accept. At least there’s nothing in this issue that’s as bad as the maternity ward scene (see the review of Authority #8 above).

REVIVAL #19 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Mike Norton. This issue advances a bunch of different plots, but has no truly important moments. Perhaps the most memorable thing in the issue is the scene where Ibrahim treats Dana for some infected wounds caused by broken glass. The issue ends with Dana being approached by some FBI agents from New York.

WONDER WOMAN #194 (DC, 2003) – “The Game of the Gods Part 6: The Passion of Trevor!”, [W] Walt Simonson, [A] Jerry Ordway. I believe that I bought some of the other issues of this storyline when they came out, but for some reason I didn’t get this issue. In the conclusion of “Game of the Gods,” Diana’s boyfriend Trevor Barnes sacrifices himself to defeat some kind of mythological villain. This issue is reasonably good, but not as good as Greg Rucka’s run, which began in the following issue.

MINISTRY OF SPACE #1 (Image, 2001) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Chris Weston. Yet another in Warren Ellis’s long list of miniseries. Ministry of Space is an alternative universe story in which England builds a space program instead of America. It starts with a flashforward to the technologically advanced England of 2001. Then we flash back to 1945, when England led a mission to capture Nazi Germany’s rocket scientists before America could get to them. This series has an interesting setup, and Chris Weston’s art is brilliant. I think Warren Ellis is fundamentally a science fiction writer. In series like Ministry of Space or Ocean or Trees or even Planetary, he imagines that something about technology or history is different than in the real world; then he imagines what kind of world would result from this difference.

MASTER OF KUNG FU #78 (Marvel, 1979) – “Tread the Night Softly,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Mike Zeck. Shang Chi tracks down a villain named Zaran, who is responsible for nearly killing Leiko Wu. Meanwhile, Black Jack Tarr is being held captive by Zaran’s collaborator, Sarsfield. This is a very fun issue. I keep forgetting how entertaining and exciting MOKF is, despite its severe overwriting.

FANTASTIC FOUR #312 (Marvel, 1988) – “The Turning Point!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Keith Pollard. A team-up between two awful teams: Steve Englehart’s Fantastic Four (with Sharon and Crystal instead of Reed and Sue) and X-Factor Investigations. There’s a lot of characterization in this issue, as usual with Englehart, but his characters are either boring or dislikable. In particular, this issue focuses heavily on the Beast, and it takes place during the period when he got dumber every time he used his strength. That period was the lowest point in Hank McCoy’s entire history. Watching this brilliant, funny man lose his intelligence and personality is rather depressing. Also, Sharon Ventura spends much of this issue whining about her ugliness and wishing she was dead.

JACK STAFF #4 (Image, 2003) – “Hurricane” and other vignettes, [W/A] Paul Grist. The Hurricane, apparently based on the Hulk, invades Castle Town. This is another entertaining issue, but not as unique as other Jack Staff comics I’ve read lately. I wish someone would make a guide to the inspirations for all the characters in this series. Some of them are easy for me to recognize (Janus Stark, Steel Claw), but others are impossible for a non-British reader to identify.

CAREER GIRL ROMANCES #73 (Charlton, 1973) – “Beware of His Kisses,” [W] Joe Gill?, [A] Charles Nicholas, plus other stories. This comic is exactly what it says on the tin: it consists of romance stories about professional women. These stories are sort of feminist, but only in a very limited way; for example, the third story is about a woman who wants to be a pilot, but she ends up getting married instead. The first story is a cautionary tale in which a social worker falls in love with the cheating boyfriend of one of her clients. Then she finds him making out with another woman. The second story is perhaps the best, mostly because of the scene where the protagonist’s date is shocked to learn that she’s a policewoman. https://www.instagram.com/p/B17uc5khpVn/

SWEET TOOTH #26 (Vertigo, 2011) – “The Taxidermist Part 1 of 3: The Hinterlands,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Matt Kindt. This storyline may be the only comic written by Lemire and drawn by Kindt, unless you count Black Hammer ’45, which I wouldn’t. They also cowrote The Valiant. “The Taxidermist” is a flashback story whose connection to Sweet Tooth is not immediately obvious. In 1911, a scientist leads an expedition into the Arctic, but things start to go horribly wrong when someone kills his sled dogs. I guess this story will explain the origin of the plague that created the animal children.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #16 (Marvel, 2015) – “The Graveyard Shift Part One: The Late, Late Mr. Parker,” [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Humberto Ramos. Peter has to make a high-stakes presentation to investors, but he’s busy fighting the Iguana (a rather redundant character, given the existence of the Lizard and Stegron). The dialogue in the fight scene is amazing. The Iguana is offended that Peter is talking on the phone while fighting him (https://www.instagram.com/p/B17xE79BjFh/), and then Peter beats up the Iguana while bragging about his compassion. There’s also a backup story starring the Black Cat.

SCENE OF THE CRIME #2 (Vertigo, 1999) – “A Little Piece of Goodnight,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Michael Lark. It’s been a while since I read issue 1, so this issue was hard to follow, but it’s good. Scene of the Crime is a tightly plotted and exciting detective story with strong characterization. It’s too bad this series lasted four issues, but it was sort of a prototype for Criminal.

MISTY #4 (Marvel, 1986) – “Misty’s Fairy Tale,” [W/A] Trina Robbins. I sat near Trina at Kim Munson’s breakfast in San Diego, and we talked a bit about Misty and California Girls. I hope to interview her at some point, if time ever permits. In this issue’s first story, Misty is babysitting two bratty kids, and she tells them a fairy tale. This fairy tale is probably an homage to the “poor little girl” stories in Little Lulu. In the backup story, Misty goes to New York for a photo shoot with Heaventeen magazine, but the photographers are more interested in photographing Aunt Millie, once they realize she’s Millie the Model. Misty is jealous of her aunt for stealing attention from her, but in a touching ending, Misty realizes Millie wasn’t doing it deliberately and was just glad for a second chance at modeling. This issue includes more costumes drawn by Gilbert Hernandez, Barb Rausch, Renaldo Barnette, etc.

DEN #3 (Fantagor, 1988) – “The House of Silence,” [W/A] Richard Corben, [W] Simon Revelstroke. Looking for Kath, Den visits the tower of the wizard Lusque. There’s also a Corben backup story which is a sort of parody of Adam and Eve, plus another backup story by someone else, which is a blatant Vaughn Bodé ripoff. After reading Den, I finally realized what Gogor reminds me of. Gogor has the same bizarre, whimsical atmosphere as much of Corben’s work has, and Den in particular seems to have been a huge influence on Gogor. You can see some volumes of Den in the epilogue to Gogor #5 (to be reviewed later).

CONAN THE AVENGER #4 (Dark Horse, 2014) – “Shadows Over Kush Part Four,” [W] Fred Van Lente, [A] Eduardo Francisco. Conan leads an army in a siege on a Kushite city. This comic isn’t as bad as I expected, but it’s not great either, and I don’t like how Fred Van Lente writes Conan. His Conan is too bloodthirsty and bombastic.

WYTCHES #6 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Jock. Charlie Rooks sacrifices himself so his daughter Sail can escape from a horde of zombies chanting “Pledged is pledged.” I’ve warmed up to this series a little bit, but I still don’t like it that much.

GROO & RUFFERTO #1 (Dark Horse, 1998) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. An evil king named Ravenus is obsessed with his riches, but needs a place where he can escape with them if something goes wrong. Ravenus’s court wizard invents a time-travel procedure that can transport Ravenus into the future. But the wizard needs an animal to test the time travel method on, so he kidnaps Rufferto and sends him into the late 20th century. Then Groo shows up looking for his missing dog. This will not end well. I didn’t like Groo & Rufferto #1 as much as I liked #3, but it’s still a hilarious issue.

THOR #611 (Marvel, 2010) – “The Fine Print, Part 1,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Rich Elson. Thor holds a funeral for the people killed in the latest epic storyline, and there’s also a plot involving Hela and the Disir. Kieron Gillen’s Thor has been overshadowed by his Journey into Mystery and by Jason Aaron’s Thor, and this issue isn’t especially memorable.

FANTASTIC FOUR #529 (Marvel, 2005) – “Appointment Overdue,” [W] J. Michael Straczynski, [A] Mike McKone. Another team of scientists tries to replicate the experiment that gave the FF their powers. (Compare the new FF # 14,where we meet the people who were supposed to go on the flight instead of Sue and Johnny.) Meanwhile, Reed and Sue are investigated by CPS for their delinquent parenting. This is an okay issue, but at the time it would have been a huge disappointment, compared to Mark Waid’s recently concluded FF run.

SUPERMAN #32 (DC, 2017) – “Breaking Point Part Two,” [W] James Bonny, [A] Tyler Kirkham. An execrably bad fill-in story. “Breaking Point,” in which Superman fights Deathstroke, is supposed to be an investigation of why Superman doesn’t kill. However, practically every line of dialogue in the issue is a cliché, and there’s no characterization and no genuine excitement. There’s a reason I’ve never heard of this writer before.

CRIMINAL #3 (Image, 2008) – “Female of the Species,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. This one-shot issue stars Danica, a black female sex worker and drug addict. This character is something of a stereotype, but at least this story explains how she got to be how she is, and it has a fairly clever plot structure. I don’t know how Danica fits into the overall narrative of Criminal, though I think she may have been present at the Dungeons & Dragons game in issue 7 of the current series.

ONE FOR ONE: AXE COP: BAD GUY EARTH #1 (Dark Horse, 2014) – “Bad Guy Earth Part One of Three,” [W] Malachai Nicolle, [A] Ethan Nicolle. The same thing as Axe Cop: President of the World, except even more incoherent, since the kid was even younger at the time. I think this comic is exploitative and unethical. Malachi Nicolle was not capable of giving consent for his stories to be shared with a mass audience. At the very least, I hope the kid had a good lawyer.

BATWOMAN #4 (DC, 2011) – “Hydrology 4: Estuary,” [W/A] J.H. Williams III, [A] W. Haden Blackman. I bought this comic several years ago, but didn’t read it. I’d have read it much sooner if I’d realized it was drawn as well as written by J.H. Williams III. This issue’s plot is only average, but the artwork offers further evidence that Williams is the finest comic book artist of his generation. Each page of this issue is part of a two-page composition with a unique and intricate layout, and Williams uses multiple different styles of draftsmanship, often on the same page. I need to get the other issues of this storyline. I wonder what Williams has been doing since finishing Sandman: Overture.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #254 (Marvel, 1981) – “Blood on the Moors,” [W] Roger Stern, [A] John Byrne. I read this long ago in trade paperback form, but it’s worth reading again. This is the one where Cap kills Baron Blood. Stern and Byrne were probably the best Captain America creative team since Lee and Kirby, though their run only lasted nine issues. Cap #254 is a thrilling adventure story, and also a nice tribute to England. Cap beheading Baron Blood with his shield is an unforgettable moment.

JSA #82 (DC, 2006) – “Ghost in the House,” [W] Paul Levitz, [A] George Pérez. A flashback story about a battle between the Earth-2 Superman and the Gentleman Ghost, framed as a story that Ma Hunkel reads to Power Girl from the Earth-2 Lois Lane’s journal. The inset story in this issue is pretty mundane, and I wonder if it originated as an inventory story.

ONE FOR ONE: CONAN THE BARBARIAN #1 (Dark Horse, 2014) – “Queen of the Black Coast, Part 1,” [W] Brian Wood, [A] Becky Cloonan. See the above review of FCBD: General 2017 for more comments on Brian Wood. Becky Cloonan’s art in this issue is excellent, but Brian Wood’s story is boring. He doesn’t provide us with anything we didn’t already get in Thomas and Buscema’s version of “Queen of the Black Coast.”

MORNING GLORIES #41 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Nick Spencer, [A] Joe Eisma. I don’t much like this series anymore, but I also don’t like how Nick Spencer abandoned it without resolving any of its dangling plotlines. The main event this issue is that teams are chosen for the annual Towerball event, where the red team somehow always beats the blue team. Also, there’s a subplot about Jun and Hisao. I would have to literally reread the entire series to figure out which of Jun and Hisao is which.

TALES OF THE BEANWORLD #3 (Eclipse, 1985) – “Big Fish Story,” [W/A] Larry Marder. I met Larry Marder at Comic-Con. I ordered this issue a few years ago because I was thinking of writing a book chapter about Beanworld, but I ended up writing it about something else. This issue explains how Mr. Spook got his fork, and how the fork made it possible to collect Chow much more efficiently and with less harm to the Sprout-Butts.

SWAMP THING #22 (DC, 2013) – “The Whiskey Tree Part 1 of 2,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Kano. Swamp Thing is chasing a villain named Seeder. This issue, he follows Seeder to a Scottish village which has become destitute since its distillery closed. Seeder saves the village by making whisky grow from a tree. However, it turns out that the whisky makes people crazy. Also, John Constantine makes a guest appearance. Charles Soule missed a golden opportunity: he could have called this story “I Am Going, I Am Going, Where Trees of Whiskey Are Growing.”

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS #6 (DC, 2011) – “Scared Little Girls,” [W] Nick Spencer, [A] Cafu. Another boring issue with a forgettable plot, including a rather Orientalist scene where the Iron Maiden rescues some women from human trafficking. Nick Spencer had no understanding of what made T.H.U.N.D.ER. Agents special; he just wrote it as a generic superhero comic.

RAT GOD #2 (Dark Horse, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Richard Corben. Another really weird Lovecraft-influenced story. This issue, the protagonist finds himself in a town where all the people look like rats. This comic’s depiction of Native Americans is a little problematic, and overall I’m not sure whether it’s a good comic or not, but it’s interesting.

THE FLASH #154 (DC, 1999) – “Dimensionally Challenged,” [W] Mark Waid & Brian Augustyn, [A] Paul Pelletier. The new Flash, whose identity is as yet unrevealed, battles a villain named Gauss who can move between dimensions (i.e. he can make himself two- or four-dimensional). Meanwhile, Bart, Max and Jesse try to figure out who the Flash is. There’s also a subplot in which Linda Park is lost in another dimension (i.e. another reality). The issue ends with the new Flash revealing himself as an older, scarred Wally West. By this point in the series, Mark seems to have run out of ideas, no pun intended.

POWER PACK #58 (Marvel, 1990) – “Star Struck,” [W] Michael Higgins, [A] Tom Morgan. The four Power kids battle Nova (Frankie Raye), who’s gone insane. Meanwhile, Franklin Richards is trapped on Friday with an old hobo and an alien. Later in the issue, Jim and Margaret Power discover that their kids are superheroes and go crazy. In general, this is a bad issue with an incoherent plot and minimal characterization. A fundamental problem with the Power franchise is that if Mr. and Mrs. Power don’t know that their children are superheroes, then they’re the most oblivious parents ever; and if they do know but pretend they don’t, then they’re the most irresponsible parents ever. I think it’s best to deal with this problem by ignoring it.

POWER PACK #3 (Marvel, 2000) – “Split Decision,” [W] Shon Bury, [A] Colleen Doran. After reading Power Pack #58, I thought, “That was the worst Power Pack comic ever.” But this issue is even worse. It’s badly overwritten (i.e. it has too much text), its plot is a rehash of plot elements from the previous volume, and it’s way too serious for its own good. It’s completely lacking in humor or cuteness, and it has no appeal even to hardcore Power Pack fans. Even Colleen Doran’s art doesn’t save it. Shon Bury was recently in the news for abusive behavior toward his coworkers: https://www.bleedingcool.com/2017/11/28/space-goat-shon-bury-sexism-abusive-behavior/?fbclid=IwAR3Mf13-WYvtmBr183L5i6HIbDhd-u0RIGZSi4ArnzrnpMCFq7dvprNllK0

IRREDEEMABLE #3 (Boom!, 2009) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Peter Krause. The Plutonian’s greatest enemies get together in his ally Inferno’s secret headquarters (i.e. the Batcave) to plot against him. But they find Inferno there already, and he kills them all. This series is brutal, but its violence is so over-the-top that it’s almost funny. See also the review of Pretty Violent #1, to be posted later.

New comics received on September 9:

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #45 (Image, 2019) – “In Memoriam,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. This issue takes place 40 years after #44, at the funeral of Cassandra, who married Laura at some point in the intervening decades. The overall theme of the issue is that there are no gods anymore, so it’s up to ordinary people to decide their own fate. The series ends with Laura saying “The future is a—“, followed by several blank pages. This issue is a satisfying conclusion to a series I enjoyed, even if I never quite understood it.

GIANT DAYS #54 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. With this issue, the finest humor comic of the decade comes to a close. Giant Days #54 is an affectionate farewell to a group of characters we’ve known and come to love. It reminds me of my own last day of college, which was one of the most bittersweet moments of my life. Highlights of the issue include Esther’s parents discovering her tattoo, and the line “Behold the welcoming new face of comics!” I’m glad there’s going to be another special issue, and John Allison has already moved on to another project (see Steeple #1 review below), but Giant Days will be sorely missed.

USAGI YOJIMBO #4 (IDW, 2019) – “The Hero Part One,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. This issue begins with Usagi fighting a bunch of zombies, and then we discover that this is a story Usagi is reading. Then we meet the author of the story, Lady Mura, and Usagi protects her from being kidnapped by her jealous husband. This is an exciting story as usual, though Lady Mura seems too much like a modern Western idea of an author. Until reading the letters page I failed to realize she was based on Murasaki Shikibu.

FUTURE FOUNDATION #2 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Will Robson & Paco Diaz. This series has already been cancelled, which is a sad sign of Marvel’s lack of faith in Jeremy or in younger readers. This series hasn’t been my favorite Jeremy Whitley comic so far, but it’s been entertaining, and it deserves more than five issues. Marvel could at least have given Future Foundation a little more time to build an audience. This issue we learn that the mysterious new girl from last issue is Rikki Barnes. The highlight of the issue is Phyllis vowing revenge on everyone who made fun of her name. https://www.instagram.com/p/B2NBeJAh4ef/

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #9 (Marvel, 2019) – “The God Below,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mahmud Asrar. Conan finds himself inside a weird red cave, where he defends a bunch of other random people from various perils, all but one of which are familiar to him. In the end we learn that the “cave” is a giant monster’s stomach, and the people in the cave are the people the monster ate. And the last enemy Conan fought inside the monster is the demon that’s eventually going to kill him. This was an okay issue, but the twist (i.e. that Conan was inside a monster’s belly all along) was rather obvious.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES: MILLENNIUM #1 (DC, 2019) – untitled, [W] Brian Michael Bendis, [A] Jim Lee et al. When I learned Bendis would be writing the Legion revival, it was like the “Corrupt a Wish” game. My favorite comic was finally back after a six-year hiatus, but it was going to be written by a writer I can’t stand. But I like Ryan Sook’s designs for the Legionnaires, and I’m cautiously optimistic for Bendis’s Legion. However, this introductory issue includes no actual Legionnaires. It stars the immortal Rose Forrest, aka Rose and the Thorn, as she lives through various eras in the DC Universe’s future. This issue is okay, and the dialogue is not as bad as I’d feared. but it’s too bad we have to wait until next issue to see the Legion.

SEA OF STARS #3 (Image, 2019) – “Lost in the Wild Heavens,” [W] Jason Aaron & Dennis Hallum, [A] Stephen Green. Kadyn has some ridiculous adventures with a “quarkshark” and other creatures, while Gil struggles to keep himself alive and avoid despair. This is another good issue, and I love how this series’ two subplots have two completely different tones. This series has a lot in common with Star Pig, but I think that’s a coincidence.

FANTASTIC FOUR #14 (Marvel, 2019) – “Point of Origin Part One: Wanderlust,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Paco Medina. The FF’s original rocket (now retroactively named Marvel-1) is installed in the Smithsonian, and we meet Duke and Sandy, who were supposed to have gone on the FF’s rocket trip instead of Sue and Johnny. Then there are some flashbacks to the FF’s origin, containing some new information. And then Reed decides to build a second rocket, the Marvel-2, so the FF can complete their original mission from back in 1961. This new storyline is exciting, and this issue is full of great moments, like the woman telling her child “We don’t point at the disfigured.”

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #1 (Boom!, 2019) – “The Angel of Archer’s Peak Part One,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. This series has been heavily hyped, and I thought I had forgotten to order it, so I was glad to discover that I had indeed ordered it. This new horror title is set in the town of Archer’s Peak, where a boy named James is the only survivor of an incident in which three other boys were mysteriously killed. Later, James meets a strange white-haired girl who’s come to town to kill the monster that killed the other boys. This debut issue is an effective piece of horror, and I like Werther Dell’Edera’s moody and realistic artwork.

BATTLEPUG #1 (Image, 2019) – “War on Christmas Part One,” [W] Mike Norton, [A] Allen Passalaqua. Battlepug chronicles the adventures of the Last Kinmundian, a Conan-like character who rides a giant pug. (As a result of this series and Grumble, Mike Norton is justifiably worried about being pigeonholed as “the pug guy.”) This issue, the Kinmundian defeats Covfefe, a politician who wants to make Ashkum great again – the parody here is rather obvious. Then the Kinmundian sets off to confront his evil foster father, the King of the Northland Elves, i.e. Santa Claus. This series is another in a long line of Conan parodies, but it’s funny and affectionate, and the characters are endearing. I haven’t read any of the Battlepug graphic novels, but after reading this issue, I want to.

DIE #7 (Image, 2019) – “Wisdom Check,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans. This issue follows the other half of the party, Isabelle and Chuck. They get involved in some elven politics, and also Izzy asks her goddess, Mistress Woe, to curse Chuck. The most memorable thing about this issue is Chuck, who is a completely toxic, self-destructive asshole, but also a very realistic and complex character. Sadly, characters like these are much more compelling in fiction than in real life. Which is kind of an appropriate comment, because a running theme in this issue is Chuck critiquing how well-written all the other characters are.

CROWDED #9 (Image, 2019) – “Babes Never Die,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Ro Stein. After executing a convoluted plot, Charlie and Vita get in to see Quincy, a combination of a modern-day techbro and Howard Hughes. Charlie and Vita manage to get some help from Quincy before they have to parachute out of his apartment. This is another thrilling issue. I’ve already mentioned that Vita and Charlie’s relationship is the main appeal of this series, but also, Sebela and Stein’s near-future worldbuilding is amazing.

IRONHEART #9 (Marvel, 2019) – “Ironheart Goes to Wakanda,” [W] Eve Ewing, [A] Luciano Vecchio. Riri follows Midnight’s Fire’s trail to Wakanda, where she meets Shuri. Riri and Shuri’s relationship gets off to a poor start because they’re too similar to each other. Yet Eve Ewing also demonstrates that they’re not the same character; they’re both black girl scientists, but they come from radically different backgrounds and have different personalities. As the issue goes on, Riri and Shuri resolve their differences by working together to save people, and then the former New Warrior, Silhouette, shows up at the end.

THE DREAMING #13 (DC, 2019) – “Tiqqun, the Rectification,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Dani. Perhaps the saddest issue yet. This issue focuses on a support group for mythological creatures who are being forgotten, and thus disappearing. I couldn’t identify all these characters, but they include the Green Man and El Bufeo Colorado, a legendary Amazonian creature. A nice touch is that one of the characters is the Gentle Goellan, and over the course of the issue, he fades from memory until he no longer even has a Wikipedia entry. There is no Wikipedia page for the Gentle Goellan, or any other Internet references to him, except in the context of this issue. Does that mean that the Goellan is a fictional creature invented by Spurrier? Or has he been forgotten in real life, not just in this comic? I didn’t notice any connections to the rest of the Sandman universe in this issue, but I didn’t mind.

BIRTHRIGHT #39 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Mastema tells a sob story about her dead lover Klay, who, as it turns out, was not a person but a statue she animated. Mikey’s attempts to enlist Mastema’s help against Lore are a total failure. The issue ends with Mastema reverting Lore to his child self. This is another good issue, though there’s nothing unique about it.

BERSERKER UNBOUND #2 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Mike Deodato Jr. The Mongrel King hangs out with a homeless man, then they head over to the nearby city. This is Jeff Lemire’s worst creator-owned comic yet. It’s extremely slow-paced, and I think it’s actually worse than What If? vol. 1 #11 and #43.

EVERYTHING #1 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “Grand Opening!”, [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] I.N.J. Culbard. Christopher Cantwell’s second ongoing series is even weirder than his first, and that’s saying a lot. Everything takes place in 1980 in Holland, Michigan, where a new giant department store is opening. The first issue consists of a number of vignettes that all relate to the Everything store somehow. I have no idea yet where this comic is going or what it’s about, though I’m curious to find out.

BATMAN #181 (FACSIMILE EDITION) (DC, 1966/2019) – “Beware of—Poison Ivy!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Sheldon Moldoff. This issue’s first story introduces Poison Ivy, but it depicts her as a generic female villain. It has the kind of dumb sexist plot that was typical of Kanigher: Poison Ivy tries to prove that she’s greater than three other female villains, none of whom ever appeared before or since. Poison Ivy’s trademark plant gimmick wouldn’t be introduced until later. This issue’s backup story is by Gardner Fox and Chic Stone. It’s a fairly well-crafted mystery, and is better than the Poison Ivy story.

AGENTS OF ATLAS #2 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Portal City of Pan Part 2,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Nico Leon & Pop Mhan. Amadeus Cho gets increasingly convinced that something is wrong with Pan, though his teammates don’t share his concern. Then the Pan troops try to shoot some Madripoorian undocumented immigrants, and Amadeus has to fight them. Meanwhile, sparks fly between Amadeus and his teammate Luna Snow. The scene with the Madripoorians is an obvious comment on real-world politics.

IMMORTAL HULK #23 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Face of the Enemy,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. The Hulk and his friends continue their assault on Fortean’s base. Fortean spits acid on the Hulk and makes him tear his face off. High points in this issue include the disgusting last page, and Rick’s “Ira member you” joke.

GREEN LANTERN #11 (DC, 2019) – “Quest for the Cosmic Grail,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. Hal teams up with an other-dimensional Star Sapphire against Lost Zundernell, the Golden Lantern. But there’s another even worse villain on the horizon: the Qwa-Man from issue 9. The best part of this issue is the scene where all the Green Lanterns are reciting their oaths, one of which ends “When other Lanterns lose their sh[…] / we keep the magic lantern lit.” This series is both the best Green Lantern comic and the best Grant Morrison comic in a long time.

SECTION ZERO #6 (Image, 2019) – “Ring of Fire,” [W] Karl Kesel, [A] Tom Grummett. This issue is full of interlocking plots, and it’s hard to follow everything that happens in it. But it does seem like Kesel and Grummett managed to resolve all the dangling plot threads. Amusingly, the climactic scene of the issue happens in the Mall of America. I don’t know why Section Zero is just a six-issue miniseries; I’d like to read more of it.

NO ONE LEFT TO FIGHT #3 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Aubrey Sitterson, [A] Fico Ossio. Winda tries to seduce Vâle, but he turns her down because he thinks she’s too young. However, he then has a vision of Winda pregnant with his child. Maybe he really rejected her because he’s afraid of commitment. Also, Vâle encounters a mysterious character called the Hierophant. Beyond its Dragon Ball trappings, No One Left to Fight is a pretty sophisticated story about growing up.

DOOM PATROL: WEIGHT OF THE WORLDS #3 (DC, 2019) – “Time in Goliath,” [W] Gerard Way, Jeremy Lambert & Steve Orlando, [A] Evan “Doc” Shaner. The artwork and coloring in this issue are brilliant. It would be unfair to describe Doc Shaner as the next Darwyn Cooke, but the film noir atmosphere in this issue reminds me of Darwyn’s work. The other brilliant thing about this issue is its use of metatext. On page two, we discover that this issue is reprinted from “Doom Patrol #172, published March 2031.” There are other references to other comics that haven’t been published yet, and the plot is that a future version of the Doom Patrol is using clues in books to track down Steve Dayton. Eventually we learn that the entire issue is a vision that the DPers had when they encountered a time-traveling future version of Steve.

LOIS LANE #3 (DC, 2019) – “Enemy of the People Part Three,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Mike Perkins. Lois confronts Clark about his overprotectiveness. Meanwhile, Renee Montoya encounters Vic Sage, aka Charlie, the previous Question. At the end of the issue, Lois mistakes Clark for Jon in a very awkward way. This is a very well-executed issue. A nice subtle moment is the last panel on page 5, where Lois and Renee’s hair blows in the wind created by Superman’s arrival.

MARVEL ACTION: SPIDER-MAN #8 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Delilah S. Dawson, [A] Fico Ossio. Peter, Miles and Gwen fight some escaped leopards at a zoo. There are some hilarious cat moments in this issue, like the panel where Peter uses a web as a ball of yarn for one of the leopards to play with. But besids that, this comic is pretty average, and I’m not all that interested in the characters. I don’t plan on continuing to order this.

ALL-TIME COMICS: ZEROSIS DEATHSCAPE #3 (Floating World, 2019) – “Stabbing Toward Zero Hour,” [W] Josh Bayer & Josh Simmons, [A] Josh Simmons, Tom Toye & Trevor von Eeden. The first 13 pages of this issue are amazing, especially the first six, where Simmons draws in a style resembling that of Michael DeForge. This comic reminds me that I need to get around to reading Simmons’s graphic novel Black River. The section of the issue that’s drawn by Trevor von Eeden is much more conventional. One of von Eeden’s pages is a tribute to the splash page from Captain America #113 where Cap lifts the Hydra agent over his head.

TRUE BELIEVERS: HULK – HEAD OF BANNER #1 (Marvel, 1963/2019) – “The Incredible Hulk vs. the Metal Master!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Steve Ditko. This is a reprint of Incredible Hulk vol. 1 #6. This issue’s villain is the Metal Master, an alien who has the same powers as Magneto, hence why he rarely ever appeared again. The “Head of Banner” title refers to a scene in which Bruce inexplicably turns into the Hulk but retains Bruce Banner’s head. This issue also introduces the Teen Brigade. Hulk #6 is a very early Marvel Universe comic, and it feels kind of weird and old-fashioned, in the same way as early issues of FF and Thor. It also has a surprisingly compressed narrative; Stan packs a ton of plot points into just one issue.

BATWOMAN #22 (DC, 2013) – “His Blood is Thick: Hits,” [W] J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman, [A] Trevor McCarthy. Due to the lack of Williams artwork, this comic is much less interesting than #4. Its plot makes little sense out of context, and is also rather boring. This issue guest-stars two of Williams’s pet characters, Chase and Mr. Bones.

THIEF OF THIEVES #7 (Image, 2012) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman & Nick Spencer, [A] Shawn Martinborough. This comic mostly focuses on the theft of an item from the FBI’s evidence storage. The theft is executed in a clever way, but besides that, this comic is pretty average.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #366 (Marvel, 1992) – “Skullwork!”, [W] David Michelinie, [A] Jerry Bingham. Peter has some awkward interactions with his newly resurrected parents, then investigates whether the Red Skull is responsible for their return. The “return of Peter’s parents” story was pretty bad, although it’s forgotten today because it led into the clone saga, which was even worse. It’s painful to see Peter, a grown, married man, being treated like a child by his parents. Also, Jerry Bingham is a good artist, but he was not suited to drawing Spider-Man. His Spider-Man action scenes are stiff and unexciting.

18 DAYS #3 (Graphic India, 2015) – “The Unholy Birth of Duryodhana,” [W] Sharad Devarajan & Gautam Chopra, [A] Francesco Biagini. This issue is much better than I expected, mostly because of Francesco Biagini’s art. It’s a flashback to the birth of the 100 Kauravas, the sons of Dhritarashtra and Gandhari. Biagini uses effective spotting of blacks to create eerie backgrounds and settings. When Gandari gives birth to a giant amorphous lump of flesh (which will later be divided to create her 100 sons), it looks horrible.

ACTION COMICS #843 (DC, 2006) – “All Out Action: Back in Action Part 3,” [W] Kurt Busiek & Fabian Nicieza, [A] Pete Woods. Superman and a bunch of other heroes (including Busiek’s creation Skyrocket) battle the Auctioneer. This issue is entirely composed of action sequences, and it’s not Kurt’s best Superman story, but it’s well-done.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #39 (Marvel, 1974) – “The Dragon from the Inland Sea,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] John Buscema. One of the few Roy Thomas issues of Conan the Barbarian that I hadn’t read. After fighting some bandits, Conan meets an exiled village chieftain and his niece. The chieftain explains that he was exiled by a wizard who had the power to summon a giant dragon lizard from the sea. Conan accompanies them back to the village and gets rid of both the wizard and the dragon – really more of a giant crocodile – but it turns out the wizard was the chieftain’s brother and the niece’s father. The best thing about this issue is that the fight with the dragon is very tense and exciting.

DEATH RATTLE #14 (Kitchen Sink, 1988) – three stories, [E] Denis Kitchen & Dave Schreiner. Three fascinating stories by three very different artists. Mike Baron and Rand Holmes’s “Bummer” is about a concert where a rock band tries to sacrifice the audience to a demon. It’s a rather slight story, but it feels like a realistic depiction of a ‘70s rock concert, and Holmes’s art is amazing. Next is a chapter of Jaxon’s “Bulto,” which includes an accurate depiction of the 1759 Battle of the Twin Villages (as Wikipedia calls it). Last is a reprinted Spacehawk story by Basil Wolverton. I may have read this story before in Dark Horse’s Wolverton in Space volume, but I read that book a long time ago. Looking at Spacehawk again now, I realize how truly bizarre and unique Wolverton’s style was.

THUNDERBOLTS #167 (Marvel, 2012) – “The Ripper Tour, Part 2,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Declan Shalvey. This issue’s cover is an early work by Mike (or Michael) del Mundo. In the interior story, some of the Thunderbolts travel back in time to investigate the Jack the Ripper murders. As previously noted, Jeff Parker’s Thunderbolts was a sort of Marvel version of Suicide Squad, in that its main source of interest was the interactions between the various bizarre characters. This issue is good, but not as impressive as other issues of this run.

JUGHEAD #15 (Archie, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid & Ian Flynn, [A] Derek Charm. Sabrina curses Josie and the Pussycats so they’ll fall in love with Jughead. This issue is okay, but it pales in comparison with Chip Zdarsky’s Jughead. The major knock on Mark Waid’s Jughead was that he ignored Zdarsky’s decision that Jughead is asexual. This issue, he mostly avoids the question of Jughead’s sexuality by focusing instead on Sabrina and on Josie and her bandmates.

DAREDEVIL #5 (Marvel, 2011) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Marcos Martin. Daredevil tries to protect a blind linguist, Austin Cao, who’s been targeted for assassination by the mob because he heard something incriminating, though he doesn’t know what. This is an exciting comic with very impressive art. The best moment is when Matt makes Austin remember the incriminating conversation by triggering Austin’s sense of smell.

AVENGERS #310 (Marvel, 1989) – “Death in Olympia!”, [W] John Byrne, [A] Paul Ryan. The Avengers fight Blastaar with assistance from the Warriors Three. Blastaar is a really cool and underused villain, but otherwise this is a mediocre issue. This issue feels like an Acts of Vengeance installment because it has the Avengers fighting a Fantastic Four villain; however, Acts of Vengeance didn’t officially start until the next month.

JOE HILL’S THE CAPE: FALLEN #3 (IDW, 2019) – “Hide and Seek and Die,” [W] Jason Ciaramella, [A] Zach Howard. Some nerds go on a LARP vacation in the woods, with no phone reception and no way back to civilization. A crazy dude with superpowers starts killing them one by one. This comic is brutal and sadistic, and of all the comics about crazy superheroes murdering people, it may be the worst.

BATMAN/THE MAXX: ARKHAM DREAMS #2 (IDW/DC, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Sam Kieth. I did not enjoy issue 1 of this series, but issue 2 is better than I expected. Sam Kieth’s art is impressive, and his writing is at least not terrible, though he would have been better off hiring someone else to write his dialogue.

IRREDEEMABLE #4 (Boom!, 2009) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Peter Krause. This comic has a very similar premise to The Cape, but unlike The Cape, it’s cleverly written and has interesting characters. This issue, the Plutonian murders the entire population of Singapore on a petty whim. Thinking about this comic in hindsight, I guess it suffers from one of Mark Waid’s characteristic flaws: he tries too hard to top himself, creating increasingly epic stories with ever higher stakes. Some of his later Captain America stories were notable examples of this, like the one where the Red Skull becomes omnipotent. But Irredeemable is an ongoing series, so the reader knows that the Plutonian’s destruction of Singapore is just one moment in a bigger story. In order for the story to continue, the Plutonian’s former enemies have to be able to effectively fight against him, and as a reader I’m curious as to how they’re going to do that. It’s weird how all the ads in this comic are for other Boom! comics that I’ve never heard of, mostly in the SF and horror genres. In the decade since Irredeemable #4, Boom! has completely transformed itself as a publisher.

FCBD 2011 GREEN LANTERN FLASHPOINT SPECIAL EDITION #1 (DC, 2011) – “Secret Origin Book 2,” [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Ivan Reis. This issue has the same cover as Green Lantern (2005) #31, but it reprints the story from #30 of that series, which is a retelling of Hal Jordan’s origin. I read Green Lantern #30 when it came out, and when I read it again, it barely rang a bell. It must have been a forgettable issue. There’s also a backup story that’s a preview of Flashpoint.

SPIDER-MAN: LIFELINE #3 (Marvel, 2001) – “A Taste of Infinity: Lifeline Part 3,” [W] Fabian Nicieza, [A] Steve Rude. Spider-Man fights the Lizard, Hammerhead and Boomerang in order to protect the secret of the ancient stone tablet. This issue is a very faithful tribute to Lee and Romita’s Spider-Man, to the point where I even assumed it was taking place somewhere around the #70s or #80s of Amazing Spider-Man. I was surprised to realize that it takes place much later, after Gwen Stacy’s death. In addition to demonstrating his usual artistic brilliance, the Dude does a great job of imitating Romita’s style of art.

EXCALIBUR #22 (Marvel, 1990) – “Shadows Triumphant?”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Chris Wozniak. This is an installment of the interminable Cross-Time Caper epic. Claremont’s Excalibur stories were much worse when they weren’t drawn by Alan Davis. This issue is so confusing that I can’t make head or tail of it, and Chris Wozniak is a boring artist.

THE POWER COMPANY: BORK #1 (DC, 2002) – “Vulnerability,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Kieron Dwyer. This was part of a series of one-shots that led into the short-lived Power Company ongoing series. This one stars Bork, a villain whose only previous appearance was in Brave and the Bold #81. For this reason, Kurt has the freedom to do whatever he wants with Bork, and he writes him compellingly as a man with no real purpose in life, who wants to redeem himself and gain his mother’s respect. Bork is a bit like Steeljack, from an Astro City story that had concluded a couple years before. I just noticed that on the first page of this issue there’s a sign that says Haney’s Deli, in honor of the writer of Bork’s only previous story.

AVENGERS #293 (Marvel, 1988) – “And Flights of Angels…”, [W] Walt Simonson, [A] John Buscema. Namor’s wife Marrina has turned into a giant monster, and Namor and the Avengers are forced to kill her. It’s a sad end for a character no one really cared about. At the end of the issue, we learn that Marrina has laid three eggs, implied to have been fathered by Namor, and the eggs start hatching. Only one of Namor and Marrina’s three children ever appeared again; the others have vanished into limbo. See https://www.cbr.com/avengers-namor-marrina-children/2/.

THUNDERBOLTS #16 (Marvel, 1998) – “Thunder & Lightning,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Mark Bagley. The Thunderbolts fight the Great Lakes Avengers, who are now calling themselves the Lightning Rods. This is a fun issue, though Kurt isn’t the best humor writer. It’s probably because of this issue that the Great Lakes Avengers later got their own miniseries, and therefore this issue is indirectly responsible for popularizing Squirrel Girl.

MS. TREE #41 (Renegade, 1987) – “Coming of Rage, Chapter One: This Awful Heritage,” [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. Ms. Tree sends her stepson Mike to an exclusive private school, where he meets the daughter of the Muerta family. There’s also a reprinted Johnny Dynamite story. Johnny Dynamite was a surprisingly entertaining piece of crime fiction, and it deserves to be reprinted – and for that matter, so does Ms. Tree. On the letters page, Max writes that in order for Ms. Tree to return to its old format with a full-length story in every issue, its sales would have to double. The series only lasted nine more issues before moving to DC, where it was a quarterly title. The letters page also briefly mentions the Friendly Frank’s case.

THE FLASH #172 (DC, 2001) – “Blood Will Run Part III: Close to Home,” [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Scott Kolins. Wally battles his ex-girlfriend Magenta and a cult leader named Cicada. I think Magenta has been Wally’s psychotic, villainous ex-girlfriend for much longer than she was his actual girlfriend. There’s also a subplot about two policemen named Chyre and Morillo. At this point in Geoff Johns’s career, his work still felt fresh and original.

GREEN ARROW #54 (DC, 1991) – “The List Part 2,” [W] Mike Grell, [A] Rick Hoberg. Ollie Queen and Eddie Fyers hide out in the Seattle Underground (which really exists), where they fight a bunch of assassins. This issue has some nice action sequences but is otherwise forgettable.

NEXUS #79 (Dark Horse, 1991) – “Skip Day,” [W] Mike Baron, [A] Hugh Haynes. Nexus’s next execution target is Dexter Qassat, an old black man who committed a number of murders while fighting for independence (note that this issue came out the year after Nelson Mandela was released from prison). After spending a day with Qassat, Nexus decides that he’s reformed and that he no longer deserves to die. The Merk is not happy about this, so Nexus executes three other people instead – including a baby who’s the reincarnation of a dead murderer. This is a fun issue, and it reminds me that I still love Nexus, even if Mike Baron’s toxic politics and online behavior have made me unwilling to buy his comics.

JUGHEAD #16 (Archie, 2017) – untitled, [W] Ian Flynn & Mark Waid, [A] Derek Charm. Jughead arrives at the Josie and the Pussycats concert only to discover that the entire audience has fallen in love with him. There’s a clever sequence early in the issue that’s a deliberate ripoff of Afterlife with Archie. Otherwise, this comic is only mildly funny. This volume of Jughead was cancelled after this issue.

SUPERMAN #26 (DC, 2017) – “Brains vs. Brawn,” [W] Michael Moreci, [A] Scott Godlewski. Clark tries to teach Jon to be more restrained and less hotheaded. In flashbacks, we see Pa Kent trying to teach Clark himself the same lesson. In this continuity, Ma and Pa Kent are apparently dead. The issue ends with Clark and Jon teaming up to fight Psi-Phon and Dreadnought, two villains I had completely forgotten about. Superman #26 feels like a fill-in issue, but it’s fairly enjoyable and touching; it’s certainly much better than Superman #32.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #9 (Marvel, 1971) – “The Garden of Fear,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Barry [Windsor-]Smith. Conan’s annoying girlfriend Jenna is kidnapped by a green winged dude, and to save her, Conan has to infiltrate a tower that’s surrounded by carnivorous plants. This is far from BWS’s best Conan story, but at this point in the series he was already breaking free from Kirby and Steranko’s influence and developing his own style.

THE KENTS #2 (DC, 1997) – “Bleeding Kansas Part 2,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Tim Truman. I believe I have this entire miniseries, but I’ve only read the first issue. I finally located my copy of #2 (my boxes of unread comics are in order by when I bought them, not by title) and decided to read the rest of the series. The Kents is a sort-of Western comic, chronicling the early history of Smallville and the Kent family during the Civil War era. Issue 1 ended with the death of Silas Kent. #2 focuses on Silas’s sons Nate and Jeb as they get involved in the volatile politics of 1850s Kansas. There are cameo appearances by famous historical figures like Wild Bill Hickok and John Brown. I enjoyed this issue enough that I went straight on to:

THE KENTS #3 (DC, 1997) – “Bleeding Kansas Part 3,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Tim Truman. This issue begins with Preston Brooks’s famous assault on Charles Sumner. After that, the Kents’ hometown of Lawrence is attacked by pro-slavery forces, and Jeb Kent inexplicably lets them burn down his family’s print shop. This is the start of Jeb’s descent into evil. Meanwhile, Nate meets his future love interest, Mary Glenowen. At this point, I was starting to think that The Kents is one of Ostrander and Truman’s best collaborations. It shows evidence of deep research, and it tells a compelling story full of fascinating characters.

INCORRUPTIBLE #16 (Boom!, 2011) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Marcio Takara. Incorruptible is a spinoff of Irredeemable and has the opposite premise. It stars Max Damage, a former villain who’s become a hero. This issue is mostly a fight sequence in which Max battles some unreformed supervillains who practice sex magic (as we discover in a funny scene). Also, Max tries and fails to rescue his former sidekick Headcase. Alana Patel, the Lois Lane character from Irredeemable, makes a guest appearance.

INCORRUPTIBLE #17 – as above. Alana Patel tries to strike a deal between Max Damage and the fabulously rich Hayes Bellamy. Incorruptible may not be Mark’s greatest work, but it’s a quick and entertaining read, and I’d like to collect more of it.

SUPERMAN #608 (DC, 2002) – “Dawn’s Early Light,” [W] Joe Casey, [A] Derec Aucoin. This issue includes several pages that use the same format as the TV show sequences in Dark Knight Returns. As a result, this comic is tedious to read. Its plot is that a bunch of villains are attacking Clark Kent’s friends and associates, like his high school coach.

MAJOR BUMMER #3 (DC, 1997) – “Alone Against the Other Guys!”, [W] John Arcudi, [A] Doug Mahnke. Major Bummer (Lou Martin) fights a bunch of stupid villains who also got their powers from the aliens Zinnac and Yoof. Also, he meets Martin Lewis, the man who Zinnac and Yoof were supposed to turn into a superhero. Martin Lewis seems to be based on Icon. I’m not a particular fan of either Arcudi or Mahnke, but they created something memorable and unique in this series. I especially like Mahnke’s bizarre depictions of aliens and monsters. Lou Martin works at a VCR repair store, which shows you how long ago this comic was published.

THE KENTS #4 (DC, 1997) – “Bleeding Kansas Part 4,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Tim Truman. Nate Kent realizes that even though he’s an abolitionist, he doesn’t know any black people, so he introduces himself to his black neighbors. This scene is kind of cringeworthy; Nate’s heart is in the right place, but he’s literally looking for someone to be his Black Friend. A few pages later, Mary Glenowen incorrectly states that the Delaware people are one of the five original tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy. Besides these false notes, this is another good issue. The main event is that the infamous William Quantrill tries to kidnap Nate’s new black friends, and when Nate tries to protect him, Jeb shoots him from behind. Also, Mary gives Nate a blanket with the Superman symbol on it.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #21 (Marvel, 1972) – “The Monster of the Monoliths!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Barry Windsor-Smith. According to this issue’s letters page, BWS only did rough sketches for most of the issue, and they were finished by Val Mayerik and P. Craig Russell. Still, this issue shows a tremendous improvement compared to #8. By this point, BWS’s ornate, detailed style was fully developed. In “The Monster of the Monoliths,” the rulers of Makkalet send Conan on a mission, but it turns out that they meant for him to be sacrificed to a frog demon. Conan survives by figuring out that the frog is attracted to the armband the queen of Makkalet gave him. Overall, this is of BWS’s best issues of Conan. The splash page where the frog charges from the monoliths toward Conan is one of the most striking moments of BWS’s run; it creates a powerful sense of mystery and danger. And I love the sequence two pages later where Conan tosses the amulet to the other dude, and then the frog’s shadow appears over his face.

INCORRUPTIBLE #6 (Boom!, 2010) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Horacio Domingues. Max Damage rescues his sidekick Jailbait from another villain called Deathgiver. However, Jailbait then tries to commit suicide. Meanwhile, Max’s other sidekick, Annie, is trapped in a burning house. I don’t remember much about this issue.

CATWOMAN #11 (DC, 2002) – “Final Report,” [W] Steven Grant, [A] Brad Rader. This issue is just credited to “Grant,” with no first name. According to https://www.cbr.com/catwoman-11-contents-changed-steven-grant-writes-issue/, it was written by Steven Grant, not Alan. “Final Report” is a fill-in issue, but a good one. This story depicts Catwoman’s successful theft of a jewel from a rival criminal. It’s a bit confusing at first because it starts in medias res and seems to be continued from a previous issue; however, it offers an effective capsule summary of what kind of character Catwoman is. What really impresses me about this issue is Brad Rader’s art. He draws in an animation-influenced style resembling that of Bruce Timm or Darwyn Cooke or Cameron Stewart, and he’s really good at it. I’m sorry that he didn’t do more work in comics.

FLASH #58 (DC, 1991) – “The Way of a Will,” [W] William Messner-Loebs, [A] Greg La Rocque. Wally and Piper travel to an isolated, snowbound mansion to attend the reading of the Icicle’s will. (I assume the Icicle died of redundancy, since DC had so many other villains with cold-related gimmicks.) But the Icicle’s relatives are also in attendance, and they’re not happy that Wally stands to inherit his money. This is an obvious setup for a murder mystery, and indeed, later in the issue the relatives start getting murdered. William Messner-Loebs was really not suited to writing superhero comics, and this issue feels weird and awkward. Also, it’s hard to reconcile Mike Baron and Bill Loebs’s version of Wally West with Mark Wadi and subsequent writers’ version of the character.

Reviews for August

Starting again on August 24 with some more comics I read the week of August 8:

AXE COP: PRESIDENT OF THE WORLD #3 (Dark Horse, 2012) – “President of the World Part 3 of 3,” [W] Malachai Nicolle, [A] Ethan Nicolle. The gimmick of this series is that it’s written by an eight-year-old and drawn by his 31-year-old brother. This gimmick is mildly funny at first, but quickly becomes annoying instead, because the writer has no sense of logic or plausibility or narrative structure. I also think it’s ethically questionable for Ethan Nicolle to distribute his brother’s work in this way. I also wrote a lot of stories when I was eight years old, but as an adult, I wouldn’t want anyone else to see them. On top of that, Ethan Nicolle is a Gamergate supporter. I don’t intend to collect any more of this series.

SAVAGE DRAGON #87 (Image, 2001) – “Havoc in the Hidden City,” [W/A] Erik Larsen. Compared to Axe Cop, Savage Dragon feels like the best-written comic ever. Erik is not the best writer, but at least he understands things like pacing and dialogue. In this installment of the Savage World saga, Dragon beats up a giant fish and then climbs up a mountain to the hidden city of the gods. It’s a lighthearted and fun comic.

SECTION ZERO #5 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Karl Kesel, [A] Tom Grummett. Section Zero investigates a giant carnivorous plant in a swamp, and then the Loch Ness monster. Meanwhile, some people called the Ghost Soldiers recruit a little boy who turns out to be the reincarnation of one of their members. I don’t remember this issue very well.

INVISIBLE WOMAN #2 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Mattia de Iulis. I really like the way this artist draws faces; on the fourth panel of the page right after the title page, Wanda’s facial expression is amazingly realistic, and she has a face type I rarely see in comics. This comic is fun, but it’s kind of a generic spy story, and it feels more like a Black Widow comic than an Invisible Woman comic. Of course the problem here is that Sue has rarely had a story to herself without her family involved. It’s hard to imagine what an Invisible Woman comic, without any of the other FF members, would look like. Creating such a story is Mark Waid’s task in this series, and I’m not sure how much he’s succeeded.

SINESTRO: YEAR OF THE VILLAIN #1 (DC, 2019) – “Micron Management,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Yildiray Cinar. As part of some dumb crossover I don’t care about, Sinestro is fighting “Paragons,” giant demigods who automatically heal themselves. It turns out this is because each demigod is inhabited by a society of Microns, tiny intelligent beings who devote their entire lives to healing their Paragon. Sinestro convinces the Microns to live for themselves instead of the Paragons. Of course, because he’s a villain, he finds a way to exploit the Microns and turn their newfound freedom into a curse. In this issue, as he does so often, Mark Russell turns a stupid premise into a brilliant meditation on contemporary social issues – in this case, the authoritarian personality, and the problem of devoting your life to an institution that doesn’t care about you. Sinestro: YOTV #1 is one of his best single issues yet.

IMAGE FIRSTS: TREES #1 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Jason Howard. A bunch of giant alien structures appear in the midst of various cities. Many years alter, a young Chinese man from the provinces arrives in the walled city of Shu. Meanwhile, in the Arctic, some scientists try to figure out what the trees are. Trees is a fascinating series, and I’m looking forward to the upcoming second volume.

THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU #1/a> (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ted Adams, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. This comic is full of fascinating artwork by one of the best artists in the industry. However, Ted Adams’s writing is not worthy of Gabriel Rodriguez’s art. Adams makes the most common mistake people make when adapting novels to comics: he includes too much of the original text. His word balloons are overly long and are tedious to read, sapping the energy created by the art. As a result, this is an annoying comic to read.

IGNITED #3 (Humanoids, 2019) – “Triggered Part 3,” [W] Mark Waid & Kwanza Osajyefo, [A] Phil Briones. This is reasonably good, but I was tired when I read it. The premise of this series, about school shootings, is much more interesting than the characters or their powers. In fact, I hardly remember anything about the characters at all.

G.I. JOE #73 (Marvel, 1988) – “Divided We Fall,” [W] Larry Hama, [A] Ron Wagner. This is the first part of the Cobra civil war storyline, which ends in #76, reviewed earlier this year. The main plot is that Serpentor and Cobra Commander’s rivalry erupts into open battle when they disagree over possession of a mysterious black box. Like #73, this is an entertaining issue with lots of humor and complicated plotting. Some of the characters in this issue (Quick Kick and  Captain Minh) are ethnic stereotypes, but Larry Hama was good at doing interesting things with silly characters.

INVISIBLES #5 (DC, 1995) – “Arcadia Part 1: Bloody Poetry,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Jill Thompson. A scattershot and confusing but fascinating issue. In the main plot, Dane/Jack Frost gets to know his new teammates, and they travel back in time to the French Revolution. Meanwhile, there’s a subplot starring Lord Byron and Percy Shelley. There’s also another scene that seems to echo the scene in Animal Man where Buddy’s ghost appears to Maxine. The first page of the issue is a seemingly accurate account of Javanese puppet theatre.

ONYX #1 (IDW, 2015) – “The Arrival,” [W] Chris Ryall, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. This comic has the same problem as Island of Dr. Moreau #1. Gabriel Rodriguez’s art is incredible, but Chris Ryall’s story is trite, overwritten and boring. None of the characters or premises are interesting at all, and the entire comic feels like a ripoff of Rom, which Chris Ryall also wrote – or alternately Metroid, since the armored space warrior turns out to be a woman. Gabriel Rodriguez is perhaps the finest draftsman in the comics industry, but he needs to stop working with writers who are unworthy of his talents.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE #23 (Vertigo, 2012) – “Death Race Part 2 of 4,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. This may have been the last great Vertigo series. I’ve been harshly negative about Scott Snyder’s work lately, but American Vampire #23 was much better than I expected. I don’t understand the plot of this series, but this issue is a thrilling car chase with exciting artwork.

SWEET TOOTH #14 (Vertigo, 2010) – “Animal Armies Part Two,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Gus and the other animal kids begin their escape from the research facility, while Jepperd leads an army of cultists against the same facility. The highlight of this issue is a scene where Gus is forced to beat an alligator hybrid boy to death in order to save another child.

DOLL #4 (Rip Off, 1990) – untitled, [W/A] Guy Colwell. A philosopher, Holger, has sex with a living sex doll in an attempt to cure his neuroses. While doing so, he goes on a long monologue about how women are attracted to awful men. This is a really weird comic, and mostly in a good way, but it’s kind of tedious to read because of the extreme amount of dialogue. Also, a lot of the stuff Holger says reminds me of contemporary incel and MRA propaganda, although his comments wouldn’t have had that resonance in 1990.

FACTS O’ LIFE FUNNIES #1 (Rip Off, 1972) – various stories, [E] Lora Fountain. This is a public service comic devoted to sex education, and it includes informational features such as a list of failure rates for common contraceptives. But it’s mostly devoted to underground comics about sex. The high point of the issue is Gilbert Shelton’s laugh-out-loud funny “Fat Freddy Gets the Clap.” There’s also Crumb’s “Strawberry Fields,” some “Trots and Bonnie” strips by Shary Flenniken, and stories by Ted Richards, Bobby London and Lora Fountain. In general, this is one of the more entertaining and accessible underground comics. It’s also an intriguing historical artifact. 1972 was prior to the AIDS crisis, so the characters in the comic are mostly worried about gonorrhea and chlamydia.

MR. MONSTER PRESENTS (CRACK-A-BOOM!) #2 (Caliber, 1997) – “Eel’s Well That Ends Well!!” and other stories, [W/A] Michael T. Gilbert et al. A collection of Mr. Monster stories by MTG and other creators. In the opening story, a young Strongfort Stearnn battles a vampire in a pet shop. As usual with this artist, this story is ridiculously over the top and is full of Easter eggs. The best story in the issue has nothing to do with Mr. Monster; it’s a Wolff & Byrd story called “The 1040 from 2032,” in which the IRS sends agents back from the future to collect delinquent taxes.

SWEET TOOTH #16 (Vertigo, 2011) – “Animal Armies 3,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. The title is an error; this issue is actually part 4. The main cultist dude reveals that his wife gave birth to five hybrid children, who then ate her. Ewww. Then Jepperd invades the research facility and fights the main scientist dude, who reveals that Jepperd’s son is still alive. That cliffhanger leads into…

SWEET TOOTH #17 (Vertigo, 2011) – “Animal Armies Part 5,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Jepperd almost finds his son, but the boy is dragged off by the cultist’s sons, and I guess he shows up again later in the series. Jepperd and Gus’s groups of characters are reunited, and they head off to Alaska, where Gus’s parents originally came from. It is unfortunate that I’m reading this series out of order, but “Animal Armies” was a thrilling storyline.

AQUAMAN #6 (DC, 1962) – “Too Many Quisps,” [W] Jack Miller, [A] Nick Cardy. At my last few conventions I’ve looked for old Aquaman comics and failed to find any, so I was glad to see that I already had this one. However, this issue is less interesting than later Aquaman issues because there’s no Mera yet. Also, this issue has a silly plot where Aquaman thinks Quisp (his version of Bat-Mite or Mxyzptlk) has gone evil, but it turns out Quisp has two evil twins. Nick Cardy’s art here is good, but not his best.

VALENTINO #1 (Renegade, 1985) – “Drafted!!” and other stories, [W/A] Jim Valentino. A series of autobiographical stories by Jim Valentino. This artist is perhaps most notable for his role in turning Image into a serious comics publisher, rather than for his own work, but the stories in this issue are pretty interesting. The stories are about Valentino’s efforts to dodge the Vietnam draft, his wedding, and how he quit smoking. These stories are drawn in a fairly mainstream style, but their content makes them reminiscent of alternative comics, especially the one about being drafted. Unfortunately the second half of the issue consists of an illustrated prose story about Valentino’s grandmother’s death. This story shows deep emotion, but it’s clumsily written, and I wish it had been a comic instead of a prose story.

ZOOT! #1 (Fantagraphics, 1992) – “Art d’Ecco and the Gump,” [W/A] Roger Langridge, [W] Andrew Langridge. A collection of short humorous stories, some of them starring characters from the Langridge’s previous series, Art d’Ecco. The best story is the one where a man’s car is towed even though it’s legally parked. When he tries to get it back, he encounters a Kafkaesque level of indifference and bureaucratic inefficiency, and in the end he discovers his car was destroyed. Even back in 1992, Roger Langridge was already an incredible artist and designer. Every page of this comic is impeccably drawn and lettered.

INVISIBLES #6 (Vertigo, 1995) – “Arcadia Part 2: Mysteries of the Guillotine,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Jill Thompson. In the 1790s, the Invisibles battle some Cyphermen and recruit the Marquis de Sade. Back in the present, they encounter the dude who’s spent the last two issues killing random people. There’s also a subplot where Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley encounters some creepy dude in a carriage. Jill Thompson’s artwork in Invisibles #5 and #6 is in her more conventional style, meaning it’s quite good, but not as distinctive as her art in Scary Godmother or Little Endless.

SILVER SURFER #12 (Marvel, 1988) – “Sick!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Marshall Rogers. This issue reunites one of the greatest Batman creative teams, but by 1988, neither Englehart nor Rogers was as good as in 1978. This issue mostly focuses on three villains – Reptyl, the Contemplator, and Clumsy Foul-Up – and the Surfer himself is barely in the issue at all. At the end, there’s a disgusting scene where Reptyl eats the Contemplator, justifying the issue’s title.

SUICIDE SQUAD #37 (DC, 1989) – “Threads,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] John K. Snyder III & Geof Isherwood. The Squad returns from a mission with the body of Amanda Waller’s aide Flo, who was killed. Murph figures out that Captain Boomerang is responsible for the pie-throwing attacks that have been a running joke since #21 (see https://www.cbr.com/suicide-squad-pie-throwing-mystery/). There’s also one subplot about an old Soviet superhuman, and another about a war between voodoo houngans. The voodoo character are featured on the cover despite only appearing on a few pages.

AGE OF BRONZE #7 (Image, 2000) – untitled (A Thousand Ships 7), [W/A] Eric Shanower. As previously noted, this issue begins with Deidamia giving birth to Pyrrhus/Neoptolemus. Agamemnon recruits Nestor for his army, and we get a flashback explaining the origin of the suitors’ oath. In Troy, there’s a scene that sets up the Troilus/Cressida romance. The issue ends with Palamedes exposing Odysseus’s feigned madness and forcing him to join the army. Even though I’ve already read this issue, it’s worth revisiting.

CREATURES ON THE LOOSE #25 (Marvel, 1973) – “The Wizard of Lemuria!”, [W] George [Alec] Effinger & Tony Isabella, [A] Val Mayerik. On Twitter, Osvaldo Oyola expressed his regret that he passed up a chance to buy an issue of Creatures on the Loose starring Thongor of Lost Lemuria. I told him not to worry, because these comics show up all the time. Also, they’re not all that good. Lin Carter’s Thongor was a blatant Conan ripoff, and COTL #25 is worse than an average issue of Conan. Roy Thomas could easily have turned this issue into a Conan story by changing all the names (as he sometimes did with non-Conan stories), and if he’d done that, the results would have been better.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #572 (Marvel, 2008) – “New Ways to Die Part 5: Easy Targets,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] John Romita Jr. Norman Osborn uses Radioactive Man to create a new Scorpion, while also hiring Bullseye to assassinate Spider-Man. Meanwhle, Peter, Harry and Lily are caught in a love triangle. There’s too much going on in this issue to summarize or remember it all, but that’s actually its main strength. Dan Slott’s complicated, exciting plots resemble those of other great Spider-Man writers like Stan Lee and Roger Stern.

TREES #9 (Image, 2015) – “Steps We Take,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Jason Howard. A woman named Jo is hired to go to the Orkney islands to survey the tree there. This issue is a pretty quick read, and has little to do with issue 1 besides being set in the same world.

CHEW #7 (Image, 2009) – “International Flavor Part 2,” [W] John Layman, [A] Rob Guillory. Tony travels to the Pacific island of Yamapalu to investigate an illegal chicken scheme. Coincidentally, his brother Chow Chu is also headed to Yamapalu to open a new restaurant. We’re also introduced to USDA agent Lin Sae Woo and her pet rat. Why have I not heard of this character before? Because she gets killed at the end of the issue. This is a fun issue as usual; the rivalry between Tony and Chow is particularly funny.

SCRIBBLENAUTS UNMASKED: A CRISIS OF IMAGINATION #1 (DC, 2014) – “The Last Laugh?”, [W] Josh Elder, [A] Adam Archer & Ben Bates. I bought this when it came out because I wrote about Scribblenauts in my dissertation, but I never felt like reading it. I love the ideas behind Scribblenauts; however, the games themselves never fulfilled their massive potential, and I quit playing them after Super Scribblenauts. If even the Scribblenauts games are disappointing, the comics are still more so. Like Angry Birds or Plants vs. Zombies, Scribblenauts has no real plot or characters, so adapting it into a comic is a questionable idea. As of Scribblenauts Unlimited, 5th Cell came up with a backstory for Maxwell and Lily, but this backstory is stupid and adds nothing to the game. And the Scribblenauts Unmasked comic is just a generic kids’ DC comic that guest-stars the Scribblenauts characters and uses the game’s graphic style. As I argued in my dissertation, the Scribblenauts game is all about handwriting and drawing, which are also the fundamental elements of comics, and a Scribblenauts comic could have been far more interesting than this issue was.

HITMAN #54 (DC, 2000) – “Closing Time: 2,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] John McCrea. I pretty much hate most of Garth Ennis’s comics besides Hellblazer, and Hitman is the prime example of why I don’t like his work. The entire series is a litany of gratuitous violence and gross-out humor. This issue is no exception. The main event in this issue is that Tommy Monaghan’s apartment gets blown up, he saves a CIA agent named Kathryn McAllister, and then they make out on the fire escape.

ACTION COMICS #745 (DC, 1998) – “Polyesteryear Part 1: Ready, Fire, Aim,” [W] Stuart Immonen, [A] Anthony Williams. This issue is part of the Dominus Effect crossover, where each Superman title took place in a different era of Superman’s history. Action Comics was set in the ‘70s, and in this issue Clark tries to foil various plots by the Prankster. “Ready, Fire, Aim”  is a pretty average story, and it doesn’t feel like a real ‘70s Superman comic. They should have just hired Elliot S! Maggin or Cary Bates to write this issue.

ACTION COMICS #681 (DC, 1992) – “Odds &… Endings,” [W] Roger Stern, [A] Jackson Guice. At STAR Labs, Superman teams up with Rampage to fight Hellgrammite. Roger Stern did not create Rampage, but he used her a lot, both here and in his Starman series. She was a fairly unique character – kind of like She-Hulk, except she’s a scientist and not a lawyer. The Superman titles in the early ‘90s had a consistently high level of quality, though my opinion of them may be influenced by nostalgia, since I read them when I was a kid.

ADVENTURE COMICS #476 (DC, 1980) – “The Poseidon Effect,” [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Dick Giordano, plus two other stories. In this issue’s lead story, Aquaman battles the god Poseidon, or someone claiming to be him. This story is pretty mediocre, like most Aquaman stories between Arthur Curry Jr’s death and Peter David’s run. Next is a Starman (Prince Gavyn) story by Levitz and Ditko, which is the best story in the issue, though it’s still not great. Finally there’s an average Plastic Man story by Pasko and Staton. By a weird coincidence, in both the Aquaman and Starman stories in this issue, the hero defeats the villain by breaking his staff.

THE FLASH #158 (DC, 2000) – “Reverse Flash,” [W] Mark Waid & Brian Augustyn, [A] Paul Pelletier. Mark Waid’s second run on this volume of Flash was not nearly as good as his first. This issue is way too confusing and convoluted, with a plot involving both the Reverse Flash and Abra Kadabra, and it ends with yet another reiteration of how much Wally and Linda love each other.

JON SABLE, FREELANCE #41 (First, 1986) – “The Fan Part II,” [W/A] Mike Grell. Jon Sable saves an actress from being murdered by a psychotic stalker fan. By this point in the series, Grell’s draftsmanship had deteriorated badly; he hardly seemed to be trying. At least this issue is better drawn than #34, reviewed earlier this year, and it has a fairly exciting plot. I realize I’ve been writing a lot of bad reviews, but that’s because I’ve been reviewing a bunch of comics that I’ve owned for years without ever reading them.

PRIVATEER: THE LINE OF DUTY #1 (self-published 2011) – untitled, [W] Adrian McIlroy Speed, [A] Randyl Bishop. I was given this for free by one of the creators. It’s a science fiction comic set in a vaguely Star Trek-like universe. It includes some interesting ideas, but it’s unmistakably a fan comic, and it would be unfair to review it the way I would review a professional comic.

TRANSMETROPOLITAN #16 (DC, 1998) – “Year of the Bastard 4: Hate,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Darick Robertson. Thanks to his writing about politics, Spider Jerusalem is now a major celebrity. And he hates it, because as his editor explains, he’s only capable of writing when people hate him. So Spider exploits his newfound popularity by walking through a trendy hipster neighborhood and getting people to follow him. Then he leads them into the adjacent neighborhood, a rundown housing project full of diseased children. In a heartbreaking moment, Spider asks a scarred, half-blind child what he wants to be when he grows up, and he says “Nothing.” I’ve read a bunch of issues of Transmet lately, and this is probably the best one.

YUMMY FUR #31 (Drawn & Quarterly, 1993) – untitled, [W/A] Chester Brown. This issue begins with a wordless, surrealistic story that appears to be a tribute to Chester’s romance with his new girlfriend Sook-Yin. There’s also an adaptation of Matthew 9:31 to 10:42. Most of the pages in this issue are just a few panels surrounded by a ton of blank space. In the letters page, a fan named Marc Payton complains about this, saying that each issue of Yummy Fur can be read in just ten minutes. In response, Chester admits that Yummy Fur is not a good deal, at least in terms of the time it takes to read. There was just one more issue of the series, and Chester eventually abandoned the periodical comics format in favor of graphic novels.

FANTASTIC FOUR #316 (Marvel, 1988) – “Cold Storage!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Keith Pollard. On page 1, we’re told that this issue will include the one word we never expected to see again in a Marvel comic. Sadly, that word is “Beyonder.” Other than that, in the first half of this issue, the new FF (Ben, Johnny, Sharon and Crystal) fight some ice creatures. Then there’s a long flashback explaining the origin of the Savage Land, and there’s also some relationship drama between the FF members and Alicia. Englehart’s FF is kind of interesting, but not particularly good, and his characters are often very unappealing. For example, when Johnny is reunited with his wife Alicia, he thinks that she’s just what he needed to make him forget about Crystal.

PLANETARY #10 (Wildstorm, 2000) – “Magic & Loss,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] John Cassaday. A good example of the brilliance of this series. While investigating the Four’s base, the Planetary members find a trophy room containing a cape, a lantern and some bracelets. Then there are some flashbacks depicting the origin of three characters who are obvious analogues of Superman, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman. But then we see how the Four killed all of these characters before they could begin their superhero careers. There’s one brutal page where the Human Torch character murders the infant Superman character in his rocketship. This issue is amazing, and it powerfully demonstrates the central thesis of this series, namely that the Marvel Universe sucked all the life out of the comics and fantasy genres. (Though it’s not as if there aren’t still tons of Superman and Green Lantern and Wonder Woman comics.) My main complaint is that John Cassaday is not good at drawing aliens. There’s one impressive splash page depicting a ton of Green Lantern corps members, but this page could have been far better than it was.

THE SPECTRE #2 (DC, 1993) – “Crimes of Passion,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Tom Mandrake. The Spectre tries to put a murdered woman’s ghost to rest by finding her killer. He solves the mystery, but the ghost continues reliving her murder. Also, when he falsely accuses a man of the murder, the man hangs himself in his prison cell. (Maybe that’s what really happened to Jeffrey Epstein.) This issue is brutal and depressing, but intentionally so, and it’s rather powerful.

AGE OF BRONZE #8 (Image, 2000) – untitled (A Thousand Ships 8), [W/A] Eric Shanower. Odysseus joins the army. At Delphi the Greeks encounter Calchas, who tells them where to find Achilles. Odysseus uses a trick to reveal Achilles’s identity and convince him to come to Troy. In addition to its excellent story, this issue has some interesting letter column responses. For example, Eric mentions his sources for Deidamia’s childbirth method and for the libation trough at Nestor’s palace.

BLACK PANTHER #53 (Marvel, 2003) – “Black and White Chapter 3: Shadrach in the Furnace,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Jorge Lucas. Kevin “Kasper” Cole, the son of a cop, is the new Black Panther, but he’s embroiled in a rivalry with the White Wolf. He’s also trying to save his father from being executed. The present-day scenes are interspersed with flashbacks depicting Kasper’s relationship with his father. As usual with Priest, this comic is very confusing, but also gripping and enjoyable.

SUPERMAN #16 (DC, 2017) – “Multiplicity Conclusion,” [W] Peter Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] Tony Daniel & Clay Mann. This is part of a crossover in which a bunch of Superman from different realities fight a cosmic villain. As noted in my review of #13 above, this volume of Superman jumped the shark because it participated in too many crossovers. This issue makes no sense at all without knowledge of the other Superman titles. Also, there’s no Jon or Lois. At the end of this issue, Clark and Kong Kenan eat xiaolongbao and gan shao niu wa. These are real Shanghai dishes, but the description of the latter dish is plagiarized from https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/shanghai-best-dishes/index.html.

JONAH HEX #22 (DC, 1979) – “Requiem for a Pack Rat!”, [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Vicente Alcazar. Jonah Hex saves a prospector and his family from being killed by bandits. This is an exciting issue, but its racial politics are dubious. The issue begins with a scene where a black man is hanged. That’s a pretty bad look,  even though in context, the man is a murderer and deserves to be executed. The bandits and the prospector’s family are all black, so that’s kind of progressive, but it also makes Jonah a white savior. Vicente Alcazar’s artwork in this issue is very good.

THE AUTHORITY #7 (Wildstorm, 1999) – “Shiftships Three of Four,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Bryan Hitch. The battle with Sliding Albion continues. Jenny Sparks confronts a Blue who used to be her husband. Apollo nearly dies from exhausting his solar energy. There are subtle hints in this issue that Midnighter and Apollo are a couple, but it’s not confirmed until #8. This issue is okay, but it’s an overly quick read.

AMERICAN VAMPIRE #14 (Vertigo, 2011) – “Ghost War,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. During World War II, some soldiers fight vampires on a remote island. I like the art in this issue, but the story isn’t as exciting as that of #23.

JACK STAFF #12 (Dancing Elephant, 2003) – “Time’s Up!”, [W/A] Paul Grist. A few individual panels in this issue are in color. In a story told out of chronological order, Jack Staff, Charlie Raven and some other characters are trapped in a locked vault that’s about to be flooded. Charlie Raven engineers their escape, while in flashback scenes, we see how they got into the vault to begin with.

My next comics shipment arrived around 10:30 am on August 16. It’s lucky that it didn’t arrive any later, because at noon that day I had to leave for a work retreat. I read some of the week’s new comics while at the retreat.

SECOND COMING #2 (Ahoy, 2019) – “Life of the Party,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Richard Pace. Patton Oswalt promoted this comic on Twitter, and specifically praised the scene where Heaven’s food court is full of defunct chain restaurants. But there’s lots of other great stuff in this issue besides that. The main plot is that Sunstar’s girlfriend is being harassed by an “oyster pirate” – which was an actual thing, but only in the 19th century. Sunstar is offended by this insult to his male pride, so he harasses the man he thinks is the oyster pirate and possibly kills him. But it turns out the oyster pirate was someone else, and the man whose life Sunstar ruined was innocent. This illustrates Jesus’s point that the greatest temptation is not to do evil, but to “be seen doing good.” Sunstar is a good example of toxic masculinity, while Jesus is a good example of the opposite phenomenon, tender masculinity.

FANTASTIC FOUR #13 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Fight of Your Life,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Sean Izaakse. I skipped to the end of this comic and was disappointed to see that Ben and Alicia don’t get to consummate their marriage. But this is a great issue anyway. Ben defeats the Hulk not by being physically stronger, which he isn’t, but by having a greater heart. In that sense, this issue is a throwback to a classic Thing story, Marvel Two-in-One Annual #7. Meanwhile, Alicia saves herself and the other trapped people without needing Ben’s help. This issue addresses a chronic problem with Alicia’s character: she’s always been depicted as kind, generous and understanding, but also as a helpless victim. Her usual role in stories is to take care of the kids or to be rescued. So it’s ipmortant that in this issue she gets to save the day.

BLACK HAMMER/JUSTICE LEAGUE #2 (DC & Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Michael Walsh. The Justice Leaguers and Black Hammer characters try to adapt to each other’s worlds, while Colonel Weird may hold the key to resolving the situation. At the end of the issue, we learn that Barry Allen died on arriving at the farm, just like the original Black Hammer did. The fun part of this series is seeing each team of heroes adjust to being stuck in the other team’s world, but I hope the two teams get to interact soon.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #47 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. The final Squirrel Girl storyline reintroduces Doreen’s greatest enemy, Melissa Morbeck. Doreen discovers Melissa is back by decoding a very clever hidden message left by a kidnapped Brain Drain. Then, in a sort of tribute to Daredevil: Born Again or Knightfall, Melissa reveals Doreen’s secret identity, destroys her apartment, and send all her old enemies after her. This storyline is going to be a great way to end the series.

USAGI YOJIMBO #3 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “Bunraku Part Three,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi and Sasuke defeat Takagi the puppetmaster in a fairly clever way, by burning his puppets. This storyline was a good introduction to the new volume.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #9 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Garron. Miles’s father and uncle save him from the Assessor’s prison, although we don’t learn who the Assessor was working for. This is a fun issue, and I really appreciate its focus on Miles’s family. It’s nice that Miles doesn’t always have to save himself, and that he can rely on other people once in a while. Uncle Aaron is a fascinatingly complex character.

GOGOR #4 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Ken Garing. Armano gets to the city of Azimuth, and makes his way inside by putting a talking frog on his head – it makes sense in context. Azimuth has a libertarian economy where nothing can be given away for free, and all the inhabitants are obsessed with handheld devices that are obvious parodies of smartphones. Eventually Armano gets thrown in prison. The political satire in this issue may be a bit too obvious, but it’s another fun and weird issue. Later addendum: After reading an issue of Richard Corben’s Den (see below), I finally realize what Gogor reminds me of.

WONDER WOMAN #76 (DC, 2019) – “Mothers and Children,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Lee Garbett. I read this sitting in a chair facing the Blue Ridge Mountains. I squeed so hard at the first page, where Hippolyta is doing Diana’s hair. I squeed even harder at the scene where Diana reunites Veronica Cale with her daughter. Steve’s encounter with Atlantiades is also cute, and I like how Lee Garbett’s Cheetah has the mannerisms of an actual cat. Sadly, the issue ends with Cheetah using the God Killer sword to murder Aphrodite. It’s too bad that Willow is leaving this series already. She has had a fairly long run, thanks to the biweekly publication schedule, but I still feel like she hasn’t reached her full potential as a Wonder Woman writer.

MY LITTLE PONY: SPIRIT OF THE FOREST #3 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Brenda Hickey. When all hope for saving White Tail Woods seems lost, Diamond Tiara takes her father Filthy Rich on a tour of the woods, and reminds him of his pleasant memories of his great-grandmother’s cabin. As a result, Filthy Rich agrees to implementing a “sustainable forest development” plan that allows logging without destroying the woods. The actual Spirit of the Forest shows up on the last page. This was a sweet story with a nice lesson about environmentalism.

OUTER DARKNESS #9 (Image, 2019) – “Castrophony of Hate Pt. 9: Slasher,” [W] John Layman, [A] Afu Chan. The Charon encounters another ship, the Ouroboros, whose crew all went crazy and killed each other with swords. Captain Rigg and First Officer Satalis lead an away team to the Ouroboros. Some of the away team members pick up the swords and go crazy too, and Rigg and the other non-redshirts narrowly escape with their lives. Rigg realizes that Satalis is intentionally trying to kill him. This series’ debt to Star Trek becomes more obvious with every issue, but it’s also a fun comic in its own right.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #12 (DC, 2019) – “The Dogs of War,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson & Dan Watters, [A] Domo Stanton. The two girls save the day by throwing weapons at a dog… again, it makes sense in context. Erzulie finally defeats Ananse, but at the cost of her husband Agwe’s life. This issue feels like the conclusion to the entire series, but it ends with the Corinthian discovering the counterpart to the House of Whispers: the House of Watchers.

WHITE TREES: A BLACKSAND TALE #1 (Image, 2019) – “Part One: This is Death,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Kris Anka. In a fantasy world, a hero’s daughter and the son of two other heroes are kidnapped, and their fathers (including a gay couple) have to go on a quest to find them. By now I’ve forgotten a lot about this issue, but I liked it a lot, and I think it may be Chip’s best solo work. I especially like the scene where the heroes are tempted by succubi. The gay hero encounters a male succubus; the straight hero, a female succubus; and the bisexual hero, both at once. The main story is interspersed with flashbacks showing Sir Krylos’s vexed relationship with his son. This is a fascinating series, and it’s too bad there’s only one more issue, but the subtitle “A Blacksand Tale” indicates that Chip may intend to do more comics set in the same world.

ORPHAN AGE #5 (Aftershock, 2019) – “Exodus,” [W]  Ted Anderson, [A] Nuno Plati. The three protagonists escape from Albany, which I guess is the one in Georgia, not the one in New York.  The last page includes a quotation from a George Oppen poem. This is a good issue, but as with previous issues of this series, it’s a very quick read.

GIDEON FALLS #16 (Image, 2019) – “All Those Little Scars,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. There’s a flashback to Clara and Daniel’s childhood – I think we saw Clara before at the start of this series, but I don’t remember. Then Norton/Daniel wakes up and Clara takes him to her father. The issue is full of creepy images of the Black Barn and the red-eyed murderer dude, but there are no truly exceptional page layouts.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #9 (Marvel, 2019) – “Falling Star Part 2,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Carmen Carnero. Carol fights a giant kraken, then Tony discovers she has some kind of Kree weapon inside her chest, which is causing her powers to vanish. This is just an average issue. Kelly’s Captain Marvel still hasn’t been as exciting as her other series like Hawkeye or Mr. & Mrs. X.

CATWOMAN #14 (DC, 2019) – “Hermosa Heat Part One,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mirka Andolfo. It looks like Joelle Jones is done with this series, but I’m still enjoying it for now, so I might as well keep ordering it. This issue, Selina steals a briefcase that contains evidence against all the other local criminals, but that makes her a target. Also she encounters the Gentleman Ghost, an awesome villain who hardly ever appears, and pets a cat.

COLLAPSER #2 (DC, 2019) – “It’s a Bad Day, Liam James,” [W] Mikey Way & Shaun Simon, [A] Ilias Kyriazis. Liam spends the entire issue seeing horrible visions that no one else can see. I love Ilias Kyriazis’s art, but the plot of this series is only mildly interesting, and Liam is a really annoying protagonist.

GHOSTED IN L.A. #2 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Sina Grace, [A] Siobhan Keenan. I hate it when I can’t remember the name of a comic’s protagonist, and neither can I look it up easily. This comic’s protagonist is named Daphne. In this issue, Daphne goes on a date with a horrible asshole named Brint. When Brint gets them thrown out of a concert, Daphne tries to get away from him, but he won’t leave her alone. Luckily Daphne is able to get rid of him by leading him into the house with the ghosts. This issue is a frightening and effective depiction of dating violence. Brint is a scary character because he’s plausible.

THE AUTHORITY #8 (Wildstorm, 1999) – “Shiftships Four of Four,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Bryan Hitch. In this issue, the Authority finally defeats Regis and Sliding Albion. While I was reading either this issue or issue 9, I realized that I’ve been misjudging Warren Ellis for many years. I thought he wrote the issue of Authority where the evil superhero blows up a maternity ward. It turns out that Mark Millar wrote that issue. Ellis’s Authority is often violent and brutal, but it’s never that tasteless or disgusting. And it’s part of the tradition of British SF and superhero comics. The main problem with Ellis’s Authority is its lack of substance. Bryan Hitch specializes in giant epic panels where not much happens, so there’s not much content in each issue. Oh, except that this issue reveals that Authority and Midnighter are a couple. A gay superhero couple is so relatively unremarkable now, it’s hard for me to remember what a big deal this moment was in 1999.

SUPERMAN #422 (DC, 1986) – “Dark Moon Rising,” [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Curt Swan. Superman fights a werewolf, and we’re misdirected into thinking the werewolf is the celebrity Lois Lane is dating. This issue is most notable for its amazing cover by Brian Bolland. It’s hard to care about Lois’s relationship problems, though, because this is the last regular issue of the pre-Crisis Superman title. Issue #423 was part one of “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow,” and after that the series became Adventures of Superman.

THE FLASH #220 (DC, 2005) – “Rogue War Chapter 1,” [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Howard Porter. The Rogues cause a lot of mayhem, and meanwhile, Wally and Linda learn that they still can’t have children. This issue is depressing and overly violent. Geoff Johns is good at introducing new elements into old continuity, but he treats his characters in a heartless, sadistic way. Why did he have to kill Wally’s children before birth, and then add insult to injury by making him unable to have any more children? It’s just pointless tragedy for tragedy’s sake.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #31 (Marvel, 2002) – “Wish List,” [W] Peter David, [A] Derec Aucoin. On the cover, the letters “vel” in Marvel are crossed out and replaced with “lo,” making this an issue of Captain Marlo. Also, for some reason my copy of this issue is half an inch shorter than most other comic books. This issue focuses on Marlo, whose life is flashing before her eyes because she fell (in a comic book store) and hurt herself. Just in time, Phyla-Vell shows up and saves Marlo. Meanwhile, there are three flashbacks to past moments when Marlo narrowly escaped death. Captain Marvel himself only appears on the last page. This is a fun issue, and certainly much better than the previous two comics I read.

THE PHANTOM #30 (Charlton, 1969) – “The Secret of the Golden Ransom,” uncredited, plus other stories. Two boring Phantom stories, plus two boring horror/mystrey stories without the Phantom in them. The second Phantom story has questionable racial politics, because it’s about a native who leaves the jungle and learns to distrust his native beliefs. Of course, for that matter, the entire Phantom franchise has dubious racial politics, though it’s popular in developing countries. This story was written by Gary Poole, whose spent most of his career as a comedy writer, and now lives fairly near me.

ACTION COMICS #673 (DC, 1992) – “Friends in Need,” [W] Roger Stern, [A] Bob McLeod. This issue advances several plotlines at once. Bibbo takes care of a homeless Jimmy Olsen, Hellgrammite accepts a contract to kill Lex Luthor Jr, and Mannheim puts on some Apokolips armor and fights Superman. I really like this era of Superman, although maybe that’s because of nostalgia, since these were the Superman comics I grew up with. Superman comics by writers like Dan Jurgens and Roger Stern have the passion and heart that’s missing in Geoff Johns’s  work.

DETECTIVE COMICS #635 (DC, 1991) – “Mind Games,” [W] Louise Simonson, [A] Jim Fern. Some villains try to kill Commissioner Gordon by making him see visions of video game characters. Then they do the same to Batman. This is a pretty forgettable issue which is notable mostly for how it depicts video games; see my review of Blue Ribbon Comics #11.

FANTASTIC FOUR #322 (Marvel, 1989) – “Between a Rock and a Hard Place!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Keith Pollard. In the middle of Inferno, the FF fight Graviton, a villain whose powers are incredible but whose massive ego prevents him from ever achieving anything. This is a pretty boring issue. It’s not even weird in a funny way, like some of Englehart’s FF comics.

THE AUTHORITY #9 (WildStorm, 2000) – “Outer Dark One of Four,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Bryan Hitch. In the first issue of Warren’s last Authority storyline, the Earth is attacked by horrible Lovecraftian monsters that are basically God. The highlight of this issue is the astronaut’s “last words of a dead man” speech. It’s a horrific moment.

THE IMMORTAL HULK: DIRECTOR’S CUT #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “Or Is He Both,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. This reprint of Immortal Hulk #1 is overpriced, but even then it’s probably much cheaper than the original issue, which has become a speculation target. This issue begins with a criminal murdering several people while robbing a gas station. Unluckily for him, one of the people is Bruce Banner. Bruce returns to life as the Hulk and exacts a horrifying revenge for the murder. This is a simple story, but it’s told with brutal power. It’s a good start to the best Hulk series since Peter David’s first run.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN: EXODUS #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “Exodus,” [W/A] Esad Ribic. A wordless story in which Conan fights some wild animals, then gets crucified by some soldiers, but escapes. I regret buying this comic. Esad Ribic’s art is good, but not that good. Moreover, the #1 rule when creating a wordless comic is that your storytelling has to be exceptionally clear. The first two-thirds of this story are easy to understand, but when Conan encounters other people, it becoems difficult if not impossible to tell what’s going on. This story gains nothing from being wordless, and could have used some explanatory dialogue. Even with dialogue, though, I doubt it would tell us anything new or unexpected about Conan.

THE AUTHORITY #10 (WildStorm, 2000) – “Outer Dark Two of Four,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Bryan Hitch. This issue, the horrible monsters kill more people and start terraforming the planet to suit them. The Doctor discovers that the monsters were responsible for creating human life in the first place, so they’re more or less God. And only he (the Doctor) can stop them. I bought the first ten issues of this series at Comic-Con some years ago, but not #11 and #12, so I will have to look for those.

RAT GOD #1 (Dark Horse, 2015) – “The Rat God with Mag the Hag,” [W/A] Richard Corben. I think I have this entire miniseries, but I haven’t read any of it. In the first half of this issue, two precolonial Native Americans try to escape from an undead monster. Then the time shifts to the 1920s or so, and we’re introduced to Clark Elwood, a character apparently based on H.P. Lovecraft. We learn a bit about his background, and then he almost gets killed by a panther. This could be an interesting series, but I haven’t been motivated to read any more of it yet.

EXCALIBUR #90 (Marvel, 1996) – “Dream Nails Part 3: Blood Eagle,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] four pencilers. I accidentally read this before #89, which I also have. The main plot of this issue is that Kitty and Pete Wisdom have broken into a secret facility called Dream Nails. While there, Pete Wisdom confronts a yellow-faced dude named Shrine. Meanwhile, Kitty learns about some aliens called the Uncreated who believe that they’ve killed God. The scene with the Uncreated is the most interesting thing in the issue. There are also some subplots, one involving Rahne and Moira, and another involving Rory Campbell, who’s destined to become Ahab. This issue is hampered by ugly art from four different artists.

SUPERBOY #20 (DC, 1995) – “The Hunt,” [W] Eddie Berganza, [A] Darryl Banks & Joe St. Pierre. Eddie Berganza is an infamous sexual predator who will hopefully never work in comics again. He’s not much of a writer either. Superboy #20 is a boring fill-in issue where Superboy and Green Lantern (Kyle) investigate a shipwreck and fight a villain called the Technician.

DONALD DUCK #181 (Gold Key, 1977) – “The Desert Sands of Abou-Bou,” [W/A] Bob Gregory. A boring story where Scrooge and the nephews encounter the Beagle Boys in the Arabian desert, followed by a boring story in which Donald goes to a class reunion. Bob Gregory is perhaps most notable as the father of Roberta Gregory.

THE ASTOUNDING WOLF-MAN #19 (Image, 2009) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Jason Howard. Wolf-Man and some other superheroes fight a giant monster called Gorgg. This comic felt rather pointless, and this whole series was never all that great. Robert Kirkman had a couple big hits, but over time his writing gets less and less impressive in hindsight.

SCRIBBLENAUTS UNMASKED: A CRISIS OF IMAGINATION #2 (DC, 2014) – “Imperious Lex,” [W] Josh Elder, [A] Adam Archer & Ben Bates. More of the same pointless nonsense as issue 1. The idea behind this franchise was great, but the execution was consistently disappointing.

THE SAVAGE DRAGON #85 (Image, 2001) – “Peril in Pittsburgh!”, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Dragon teams up with Madman and the Atomics against Cyberface. This issue is a good example of the typical Savage Dragon formula.

New comics received on August 22, the day after I started teaching for the year:

THE MAGNIFICENT MS. MARVEL #6 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Minkyu Jung. My friend who disliked issue 5 also disliked this issue. When reading it, I tried to see his perspective, but I still liked this issue. I do think it’s dumb that Kamala’s parents no longer remember her secret identity. But other than that, this issue is not bad at all. Saladin’s take on Kamala is different from Willow’s, but that’s the whole advantage of multi-authored franchises.

MIDDLEWEST #10 (Image, 2019) – “Hello, Grandson…”, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. Abel confronts his grandfather, who turns out to be just as abusive as Abel’s father. This was the worst issue of Middlewest yet. It was an overly quick read, and it felt insubstantial. And Abel’s grandfather’s abusive behavior seems to lack a motive or excuse, though that may be on purpose.

STRAYED #1 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Carlos Giffoni, [A] Juan Doe. There have been a lot of great cat comics lately, but this one is unlike any of the others. Dr. Kiara Rodriguez is the only person who can communicate with Lou, a cat with the power of astral projection. A savage imperialist government uses Kiara and Lou to track down new worlds to colonize. This comic poignantly depicts Kiara and Lou’s relationship and their distress at being separated from each other. Juan Doe is really good at drawing cats, and he makes the reader feel Lou’s pain and suffering.

BRONZE AGE BOOGIE #5 (Ahoy, 2019) – “Hard to Be a Godd,” [W] Stuart Moore, [A] Alberto Ponticelli. The main event this issue is that Lydda has a vision of a creature named GODD, who may be responsible for this series’ entire plot. Also there are a lot of fight scenes. There’s a backup story called “Who Is… the Moon-Thing?” in which a robot fights a Frankenstein monster. It’s not clear to me whether the Moon-Thing is the robot or the monster.

CRIMINAL #7 (Image, 2019) – “Cruel Summer Part Three,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. This issue begins with a scene in which a Dungeon & Dragons session goes badly wrong. I don’t play D&D, but I’m sure that if I did, this scene would ring very true. The rest of the issue retells some of the same events as the last two issues, but from Ricky Lawless’s perspective. Jacob Kurtz and Leo, the “Coward” from the namesake story arc, also appear as Ricky’s childhood friends. I hadn’t realized that these characters all knew each other. I like the use of multiple narrators in this story arc; it forces the reader to solve the puzzle of how all these stories fit together. I assume that one of the later issues will be narrated by Jane/Marina.

GRUMBLE #9 (Albatross, 2019) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Mike Norton. All the villains converge on the house in the New Jersey Pine Barrens where Tala and Eddie are hiding out. At the full moon, Jimmy the Keeper turns into a werehouse – not a warehouse – and Tala and Eddie walk inside him. Meanwhile, the army shows up. This storyline is setting up for an exciting finish.

FEARLESS #2 (Marvel, 2019) – “Campfire Song Part 2,” [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Claire Roe. In part two of the serialized story, Sue, Ororo and Carol arrive at camp, while Kamala also arrives as a camper. Not a whole lot happens in this story, but the dialogue is really good. I didn’t realize the counselor was a mutant at first – I thought her weird skin colors were just a (cute) fashion choice. Like issue #1, Fearless #2 also includes a backup story starring a forgotten female Marvel character – this time it’s Night Nurse. Her story, in which she fights Stegron, is funny although somewhat insubstantial. There’s also a short backup story by Eve Ewing and Alitha Martinez, which is a veiled critique of the Trump administration’s kids-in-cages policy.

SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #2 (DC, 2019) – “You Can’t Keep a Good Olsson Down!” and other vignettes, [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Steve Lieber. My friend Corey Creekmur recommended this issue highly, and I liked it too, though I read it when I was too tired to appreciate it fully. The emotional heart of the issue is the scene where Jimmy says “I do silly. That’s what people want.” That kind of defines the relationship between Jimmy and Superman. As my other friend Craig Fischer pointed out, the montage of past Jimmy Olsen moments is also a highlight. There’s one panel where Jimmy and Superman are turned into horses, and another panel where Jimmy, Lois and Clark are embedded reporters in Iraq. Overall, this is an impressive series so far.

SNOTGIRL #14 (Image, 2019) – “The Bachelors Issue,” [W] Bryan Lee O’Malley, [A] Leslie Hung. Lottie’s friends learn about her pet names for them (Cutegirl, Normgirl, etc.), and there are also some plot developments that I was unable to follow. This is still a really fun series, but following it in single-issue form is not really ideal. It only comes out a couple times a year, yet each issue requires the reader to remember the previous issue’s plot.

VALKYRIE #2 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Sacred and the Profane Part II,” [W] Jason Aaron & Al Ewing, [A] Cafu. Jane Foster defeats Bullseye by shattering the previous Valkyrie’s sword, but Bullseye kills Heimdall. The fight scene in this issue is exciting, but it takes up the entire issue, leaving no room for any quieter moments.

MARVEL ACTION: CAPTAIN MARVEL #1 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Sam Maggs, [A] Sweeney Boo. I wouldn’t have bought this if I’d realized who wrote it, because I’ve hated the other Sam Maggs comics I’ve read. This issue is less bad than Sam Maggs’s two pony comics, mostly because the plot revolves around cats. Carol battles an apparent invasion of Flerkens, and one of them eats her.  Unfortunately, all the cats in this issue are drawn with the exact same facial expression.

GHOST SPIDER #1 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. Spider-Gwen moves to Earth-616 to attend college, with Peter Parker as her mentor. I gave up on the previous volume of Ghost Spider because I couldn’t understand it without reading the other Spider-Man titles. This new issue stands on its own much better, and I like its college theme. I plan on continuing to read this series.

BATMAN #232 (FACSIMILE EDITION) (DC, 1971/2019) – “Daughter of the Demon,” [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Neal Adams. This is a true facsimile edition, with all the original ads and letters pages as well as the story. An actual copy of Batman #232 is outside my budget, so this reprint is the next best thing. The printing quality on the ads and letters pages is rather low, but that may have been unavoidable. Batman #232 is of course a major key issue because it introduces Ra’s al Ghul. My favorite part of this story is the mountain scene on pages 12 and 13. First there’s the mountain in the shape of Ra’s’s face, and then there’s the panel where Ra’s talks about his “love for emptiness [and] desolation,” while his face is superimposed on the mountains in front of him.

AQUAMAN #51 (DC, 2019) – “Amnesty, Part 2: Light in the Darkness,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Robson Rocha. Aquaman hangs out with his new sidekick/partner Jackson Hyde, Mera prepares for the wedding, and Luthor gives Black Manta a new Mecha Manta robot. Kelly Sue’s Aquaman is entertaining because it’s written with care and affection, and it’s not overambitious, like some of her works. Speaking of which, I’m not getting the new Pretty Deadly miniseries.

SHE COULD FLY: THE LOST PILOT #5 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “Grounded,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Martin Morazzo. Luna meets Mayura’s children, then she and Bill figure out how to fix Mayura’s jetpack. Luna decides to “fly” by hanging onto a giant balloon panda – I don’t know why she couldn’t use the jetpack. Bill tries to save her with the jetpack, but gets shot. Then the crazy teacher lady does save Luna, but keeps on flying, and in perhaps the most horrific scene in the series, she burns up in the atmosphere with a smile on her face. (The mythological reference here is obvious.) Luna wakes up five months later, surrounded by all the surviving characters. This was a brilliant series, but it was also one of the most disturbing comics this side of Phoebe Gloeckner.

THE AVANT-GUARDS #7 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Carly Usdin, [A] Noah Hayes. Olivia is horribly depressed after the team’s first loss, so her teammates organize a sports movie marathon to cheer her up. It works, and also, Liv discovers that her romance with Charlie is an open secret. This is a really fun comic, but ominously, Boom! cancelled issue 9 with no explanation. I hope this series will be completed.

MARVEL ACTION: SPIDER-MAN #7 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Delilah Dawson, [A] Fico Ossio. Peter, Miles and Gwen fight the Black Cat. This is a competently written and reasonably well-drawn comic, but it doesn’t captivate me the way Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man did. I don’t plan on ordering any more of this series. I wonder how Fico Ossio can draw both this series and No One Left to Fight. Speaking of Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man, I wish we would see Chat again.

ADVENTURE FINDERS: THE EDGE OF EMPIRE #1 (Action Lab, 2019) – “The Long March,” [W/A] Rod Espinosa. Rod left Antarctic Press during the controversy over Jawbreakers, and I’m glad he found a better publisher. I do have mixed feelings about this comic. The synopsis of the plot is hard to understand, and while the art in this issue is very detailed, not much happens in the story. Mostly the entire issue is about a caravan traveling to I don’t know where. Also, Rod’s characters are really cute, but his backgrounds are too obviously computer-generated. Given all of that, I was feeling lukewarm about this comic, but by the end of the issue, I felt curious about what was going to happen next. It looks like I already ordered the next two issues of this series, and I’m not sorry I did.

HISTORY OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE #2 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Javier Rodriguez. One amazing thing about this comic is Javier Rodriguez’s art. Another is the depth of Mark Waid’s research. His notes at the back of the issue refer to hundreds of old Marvel comcs, some of them very obscure. It’s amazing that Mark was able to synthesize all these often conflicting sources into a coherent narrative.

A few specific notes: This issue officially confirms that Mystique and Destiny were lovers. It depicts the infant Wanda Maximoff, but avoids specifying who her father was. I’ve spent my whole life believing that Magneto was Pietro and Wanda’s father, and I refuse to accept the retcon that Django Maximoff was their father. This issue establishes that the Marvel Universe had a fictional “Sin-Cong War,” and that this was the war Reed Richards and Ben Grimm fought in, as well as other characters. This retcon is kind of clumsy, but unavoidable. The alternative, which Marvel previously tried, is to keep retconning which war Reed and Ben were in. First it was WWII, then the Vietnam War. It’s easier to avoid tying Marvel continuity too closely to specific historical events.

WARLORD OF MARS ATTACKS #3 (Dynamite, 2019) – “Warlord of Earth,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Kyle Hotz. John Carter recovers his memory and fights the Martians, and then the other protagonists figure out how to transport him back to Barsoom. This was good, but not as funny as last issue.

EVE STRANGER #3 (Black Crown, 2019) – untitled, [W] David Barnett, [A] Philip Bond. Eve sings “The Irish Rover” with a drunken gorilla – this scene was the clear highlight of the issue – and then she goes on another mission. Eve’s mother turns up alive at the end of the issue. There’s also a backup story drawn by Liz Prince. I’m enjoying this series, but I’ve noticed that IDW hasn’t solicited or announced any new Black Crown titles. They’ve hinted that a new Black Crown title by Joe Hill and Martin Simmonds is coming this winter, but that’s it. I hope the Black Crown imprint hasn’t been silently cancelled.

INFINITY 8 #2.2 (Lion Forge, 2019) – “Back to the Führer Part 2,” [W] Lewis Trondheim, [A]  Olivier Vatine. I stopped reading this series because of the anti-Semitic stereotypes in the previous issue, but I kept ordering it because of my interest in French comics. I suppose it’s time to get caught up on it, since it’s now the only comic I’m buying but not reading. Luckily, in this issue Shlomo Ju, the anti-Semitic stereotype from #2.1, emerges as a more complex and multifaceted character, and he gets to help save the day. The main event of the issue is that Hitler figures out how to control the ship’s robots, enabling him to threaten the survival of the whole ship. As always with this series, the artwork is on a higher level than that of most American comics. Olivier Vatine is a successful artist in France, and his artwork and coloring in Infinity 8 are spectacular.

SLOW DEATH #6 (Last Gasp, 1974) – various stories, [E] Ron Turner. This was an underground comics series with horror and environmentalist themes. In this issue’s first story, Charles Dallas’s “Call of the Wild,” a pet shop employee frees all the pets, and they eat the owner. Charles Dallas’s art isn’t amazing, but it’s intriguing and distinctive. George Metzger’s “The Long Sleep” is about an astronaut who wakes up from suspended animation aboard a spaceship. Metzger’s art is excellent, but his story is just okay. In Rand Holmes’s “Raw Meat,” a woman picks up a creepy sexist dude at a bar, then takes him back to her apartment, where she feeds him to her pet dinosaur. This story is the high point of the issue, but the monster in the last panel looks silly and unrealistic. Jack Jackson’s “The White Man’s Burden” is a sort of parable in which colonized people gain the upper hand on their colonizers, only to become just as racist. This story has good intentions, but it sends the problematic message that oppressed people are just as bad as their oppressors.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #573 (Marvel, 2008) – “New Ways to Die Part Six: Weapons of Self Destruction,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] John Romita Jr. Spider-Man and Anti-Venom team up against Green Goblin and Scorpion. This is another spectacular issue of a great Spider-Man run. Most of the issue consists of fight scenes, but there’s also a lot of plot, and some soap-opera moments between Peter, Harry and Lily. This issue includes a backup story in which Spider-Man meets Stephen Colbert and saves him from the Grizzly.

VERTIGO POP! LONDON #1 (Vertigo, 2003) – “My Generation Part 1,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Philip Bond. I think I’m going to file this under M for Milligan, not V for Vertigo. It’s a purely self-contained series, aside from a casual reference to King Mob. Vertigo Pop: London stars an aging British Invasion rock musician; he reminds me of George Harrison because of his obsession with Indian culture. While in India, he learned how to swap bodies from a swami. Decades later, suffering from a midlife crisis, he swaps bodies with a young musician who seems to be based on Liam Gallagher – the one song this character sings is a thinly disguised version of “Wonderwall.” This is an interesting series, but Philip Bond’s art here is not as amazing as in Eve Stranger.

INCREDIBLE HULK #130 (Marvel, 1970) – “If I Kill You – I Die!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Herb Trimpe. Unfortunately this issue’s front and back covers separated from each other as I started reading it. That made the comic difficult to read, and dampened my enjoyment of it. Otherwise, this is a pretty good issue, in which a scientist named Raoul Stoddard devises a method to physically separate Bruce Banner and the Hulk.

IRREDEEMABLE #2 (Boom!, 2009) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Peter Krause. This series is about a Superman-esque superhero, the Plutonian, who goes insane and tries to conquer the world. Most of this issue is a flashback sequence, framed as an interview with the Plutonian’s reporter girlfriend Alana Patel (i.e. Lois Lane). When Plutonian tells her his secret identity, she gets angry and reveals his secret to her entire newsroom. Then he goes nuts and threatens to kill everyone in the newsroom if they ever tell anyone else, and most of them go on to commit suicide. This comic is an effective piece of horror, and the Plutonian is a terrifying villain. This whole series is kind of an extended version of Miracleman #15. I want to collect more of it.

A TOUCH OF SILVER #2 (Image, 1997) – “Dance,” [W/A] Jim Valentino. As a kid in 1962, Jim Valentino (or a fictional character based on him) has a puppy-love romance with a girl, and his mother throws away his comic books. This comic feels very cute and authentic, though the art and lettering are sometimes clumsy. At one point there’s a mention that Valentino suffers from discrimination because of his dark skin, but this is not elaborated upon further.

I AM GROOT #4 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Forgotten Door,” [W] Christopher Hastings, [A] Flaviano. This was easily the worst of Marvel’s Groot and Rocket Raccoon comics. Christopher Hastings’s plot is completely incoherent. It’s based on some nonsense about a forgotten door, and there’s one character with a dog’s head and another character with three heads, but there’s no reason why the reader should bother figuring out what’s going on. Also, the jokes in this comic aren’t funny at all. I should have given up on this series after one or two issues.

STAR HUNTERS #3 (DC, 1978) – “The Sowers of Holocaust,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] Mike Nasser. This comic is now totally forgotten, but it was better than I expected. It’s a reasonably exciting piece of space opera, and as an added bonus, the main female character looks like Phantom Girl. One of the planets in the comic is named Darkever, a probable reference to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover. Star Hunters  is an example of ‘70s DC’s willingness to experiment with new things. Sadly, it was one of the many titles cancelled because of the DC Implosion.

FORLORN FUNNIES #1 (Fantagraphics, 2017) – “Fehlender Geist” and other stories, [W/A] Paul Hornschemeier. I read Paul Hornschemeier’s book Mother, Come Home some years ago, but I haven’t followed his work since then. Hornschemeier is often compared to Chris Ware, but in this issue he mostly abandons his Chris Ware influence and draws in a loose, cartoony style. However, that new style is not particularly interesting; his art in this issue mostly looks crude and ugly. The one exception is the story “Captain All in ‘The Devouring Turn,’” but this story is just a surrealist parody of Silver Age comics. Also, this issue wastes seven pages on a prose story. I hate it when comic books contain prose stories, and this particular story is terrible; it wouldn’t be publishable anywhere else. Overall, this comic does not make me optimistic about Hornschemeier’s future work.

BIRTHRIGHT #16 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Rya and Wendy have dinner with  Mastema, while Samael takes the boys to his vault so he can heal Mikey’s injuries. The most fun part of this issue is spotting all the Easter eggs in Mikey’s vault. In a single two-page splash, we can see the Iron Throne, the Ten Commandments, Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors, Aladdin’s lamp, the crocodile from Peter Pan, Captain America’s shield, the Monster Book of Monsters, and lots of other stuff.

THE PUMA BLUES #16 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1988) – “Man Ray,” [W] Stephen Murphy, [A] Michael Zulli. Like most issues of Puma Blues, this issue is evocative and beautifully drawn, but impossible to follow. This issue consists of a fight scene interspersed with scenes of flying manta rays migrating. As with Cerebus, the letter columns and backup features in Puma Blues are often almost as interesting as the comics themselves.

I AM GROOT #5 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Forgotten Door, Part 5,” as above. Another terrible issue, in which Groot fights Shuma-Gorath, but the reader doesn’t care who wins. It’s no wonder this was Marvel’s last Groot comic to date.

SUPERMAN #42 (DC, 1990) – “The Day of the Krypton Man Part IV,” [W/A] Jerry Ordway. As mentioned above, I think this era of Superman is significantly underrated. In this storyline, Superman has lost his normal personality and become a complete jerk, possibly due to an encounter with the Eradicator. This issue he fights Draaga and his sidekick K’raamdyn, based on Ralph Kramden from The Honeymooners. There are also some subplots about Jose Delgado, Emil Hamilton and Cat Grant.

UNCLE SCROOGE #282 (Gladstone, 1993) – “The Trouble with Dimes,” [W/A] Carl Barks. In this issue’s Barks ten-pager, Donald discovers a rare dime, so he buys it from Scrooge for a dollar, then  sells it for five. Then he discovers that Scrooge has more of those dimes, so he buys five more of them, then sells them for 25 dollars, and so on. Unfortunately, by continuing to do this, Donald increases the supply of the dimes until they’re worthless. Meanwhile, the nephews discover an even rarer dime… This story is hilarious, and is also a good lesson in basic economics. The other stories in the issue are forgettable. The letter column includes a somewhat tone-deaf defense of Barks’s racist depictions of natives in “The Secret of Hondorica.”

GROO & RUFFERTO #3 (Dark Horse, 1999) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. Groo is angry that someone has stolen Rufferto, so he vows not to let anyone cross a certain bridge until he gets Rufferto back. This has unexpected positive effects. On one side of the bridge is the castle of a tyrannical king who taxes his people into starvation. The king’s people are trapped on the other side, and since the king’s tax collectors can’t reach them, they set up a self-sufficient, prosperous society of their own. (When I summarize it like this, the story sounds like something by Ayn Rand, but I think it’s a critique of predatory taxation, not taxation as such.) Meanwhile, Rufferto is stuck in the 20th century somehow. This is a hilarious issue that reminds me why I love Groo.

YOUNG LUST #7 (Last Gasp, 1990) – multiple stories, [E] Jay Kinney & Susie Bright. This is much better produced and more professional-looking than most underground comics, although considering when it was published, it’s more of an alternative than an underground comic. All its stories have some sort of romantic etheme. Young Lust #7 has a spectacular lineup of creators: Dan Clowes, Bill Griffith, Michael McMillen, Diane Noomin, Spain (two stories), Phoebe Gloeckner, Harry S. Robins, Justin Green, and Jennifer Camper, among others. Perhaps the most memorable story is Griffith’s surrealist “Hot Tears for Tamara,” where the hero falls in love with a woman who turns out to be Tammy Faye Bakker. Harry Robins’s “Grace” has phenomenal artwork and is written in verse that scans perfectly. Robins could have been a major artist if he’d done more comics. I even like the issue’s first story, Jay Kinney and Paul Mavrides’s “Guilt-Edged Bonds,” in which Bettie Page falls in love with Kim Il-Sung.

STORMWATCH #43 (Image, 1996) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Tom Raney. Jack Hawksmoor investigates a series of murders in Manhattan. It turns out the murderer is the illegitimate son of President Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe, though this is not stated explicitly, only implied. The writing in this issue is really good, but Tom Raney’s art is not at the same level as Ellis’s story. Raney’s drawings look nice, but lack any substance.

INFINITY 8 #2.3 (Lion Forge, 2018) – “Back to the Führer Part 3,” [W] Lewis Trondheim, [A] Olivier Vatine. The protagonist manages to survive Hitler’s assault long enough for the ship to “reboot,” rewinding time to before Hitler’s invasion. This is an exciting conclusion to the storyline. I still haven’t had the energy to read any more Infinity 8, but I will get to volume 3 soon.

SUPERMAN #706 (DC, 2011) – “Breaking News: A Grounded Interlude,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Amilcar Pinna. “Grounded” was perhaps the worst Superman storyline ever published, but this issue is better than the rest of the storyline because it’s a fill-in. With Clark Kent out of town, Perry White is anguished that the Planet is losing readers to social media. And then a local blog announces plans to publish an article on the Daily Planet’s improper relationship with Superman. So Perry sends one of the Planet’s young reporters to infiltrate the blog and sabotage the planned article. Perry’s actions in this issue are ethically problematic, and the whole story shows uncritical nostalgia for traditional journalism as opposed to digital journalism. But at least “Breaking News” is well-written, and it shows Willow’s understanding of digital media and youth culture.

SUICIDE SQUAD #52 (DC, 1991) – “The Death and Life and Death and Life and Death and Life of Dr. Light,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Jim Fern. Perhaps the funniest issue of this series. Dr. Light mysteriously comes back to life, and tells Amanda Waller how this happens. It turns out that the two Dr. Lights, Arthur Light and Jacob Finlay, both died and went to hell. However, some demons decided to resurrect them, but in such a way as to ensure they’ll just die again. First, Arthur Light, the evil Dr. Light returns to life inside his coffin, and promptly suffocates. Then Jacob Finlay, the good Dr. Light, returns to life as a zombie. He saves a family (a parody of Bruce Wayne and his parents) from a robbery, but the robber’s victims think he’s a demon and stomp him to death. Finally, Arthur and Jacob both get resurrected in the same body, and they encounter the other Dr. Light, Kimiyo Hoshi. An Easter egg in this issue is that one of the graves in Arthur Light’s graveyard belongs to Stevie Ray Vaughan, who had just died.

BIRTHRIGHT #17 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bresson. Samael battles Enoch, the last of the five wizards. Meanwhile, Brennan tries to cure Mikey of the Nevermind that’s possessing him, but it doesn’t work. The issue ends with Brennan getting an awesome new suit of armor.

DAREDEVIL #125 (Marvel, 1975) – “Vengeance is the Copperhead!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Bob Brown. The Copperhead in this issue is completely different from the Serpent Society member of the same name. He’s named after copper because he’s based on Doc Savage, the Man of Bronze, as well as the Shadow. The plotline in this issue is that Copperhead is the son of an author who created a pulp fiction hero named the Copperhead. But he thinks he’s the actual Copperhead, and he tries to collect royalties from a paperback publisher who’s been reprinting “his” adventures. This issue has problems with overwriting and boring artwork, but its pulp-fiction-based plot makes it more interesting than a typical issue of Marv Wolfman’s Daredevil.

BACCHUS #18 (Eddie Campbell, 1996) – “Banged Up Part 3: Visiting Privileges,” [W/A] Eddie Campbell. I’ve read both of this issue’s Bacchus stories already. One of them has the line “We didn’t even get a chance to discuss my pregnancy,” and the other one has the line about how Zeus “was off raping a maiden.” The third story in the issue, “Legless,” is new to me. It’s a retelling of the myth of Procrustes, and it includes some panels inked byJosé Muñoz, as well as other panels drawn (not written) by Alan Moore. There’s also an Alec story, “The Swop,” which I think was reprinted in the King Canute Crowd volume.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #106 (Marvel, 1984) – “…And an Ill Wind Shall Come!”, [W] Alan Rowlands, [A] Greg LaRocque. I had never heard of Alan Rowlands before, and I can’t find any biographical information about him. I wondered if he might be a different writer using a pseudonym, but I can’t find any evidence of that either, and he does seem to have some other credits for Marvel and other publishers. This issue, Luke and Danny are hired to protect a woman from her stalker boyfriend, who turns out to be David Cannon, a.k.a. Whirlwind. But when they track Cannon down to his home neighborhood, his neighbors take his side and protect him. This is a reasonably well-written issue, but it could have taken a less lukewarm stance on stalking and dating violence. This story could have featured any villain at all, but using Whirlwind was a clever choice, because he’s spent his entire career stalking the Wasp.

WARLORD #4 (DC, 1977) – “Duel of the Titans,” [W/A] Mike Grell. I haven’t read an issue of Warlord in several years. This issue, Travis Morgan besieges the city of Thera in order to save Tara, who’s been kidnapped by Deimos. Morgan defeats Deimos, and there’s a twist ending where we learn that Deimos’s powers are based on holograms. Warlord isn’t the best comic ever, but it’s an exciting piece of fantasy/SF, and I wouldn’t mind reading more of it.

New comics received on Wednesday, August 28:

LUMBERJANES #65 (Boom!, 2019) – “It’s a Myth-Tery,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Kanesha C. Bryant. The Roanokes and Zodiacs go on a trip to watch a meteor shower. A giant meteorite lands, and the goddess Freya comes out of it. The Zodiac girls, especially Hes, play a big role in this issue. There’s a cute scene where Hes asks Mal for relationship advice, since Mal and Molly are the official camp couple. Kanesha Bryant’s art is good, but will take some getting used to; her facial expressions are kind of strange.

RUNAWAYS #24 (Marvel, 2019) – “But You Can’t Hide Part VI,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Andrés Genolet. Nico and Karolina put on superhero costumes and go on patrol, but they can’t find any civilians who need saving. Then they get in a fight with some actual villains and lose, but a new character, Doc Justice, shows up to help them. This is obviously going to lead into Doc Justice and the J-Team, which was announced as a new series but was soon identified as just the next Runaways story arc. This issue also advances some of the other plotlines. There’s a cute scene where Gert tries to feed Gib by “sacrificing” a cheeseburger to him.

POWER PACK: GROW UP #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “Growing Pains,” [W] Louise Simonson, [A] June Brigman. This was one of the cutest, sweetest comics of the year. It felt just like an issue of the original Power Pack series. The plot of the first story is that Alex wants to have a birthday party with the incredibly perfect Alison, and is annoyed that his siblings come too. And then the party is interrupted when Kofi shows up, pursued by some Snarks.  The backup story, “The Gift,” with art by GuriHiru, may be even better. Katie was supposed to buy Alex a birthday present, but instead she used the money to buy herself a Lila Cheney doll. As a result Katie suffers an attack of guilt, but as a result of something that happened in the first story, she’s able to salvage both her conscience and her relationship with her oldest sibling. Overall, this issue is both a lovely gift to longtime readers, and a reminder that Weezie, June, and GuriHiru are really good at creating comics for kids.

PLANET OF THE NERDS #5 (Ahoy, 2019) – “Battle for the Planet of the Nerds,” [W] Paul Constant, [A] Alan Robinson. Alvin hires the three bullies to serve as spokesmen for his cryogenics technology. However, it turns out the technology doesn’t in fact work, and also Alvin is a Nazi. At Alvin’s press conference, the bullies reveal the truth. Mayhem ensues, and Alvin and Chad both get cryogenically frozen, with no way to thaw them. But Drew and Steve get a happy ending, and the series ends with Steve in bed with a man. There’s a funny backup story that shows how Alvin learned the bullies were alive. This was a really entertaining series, but unlike some of the other Ahoy comics, it leaves no room for a sequel.

MARVEL COMICS #1000 (Marvel, 2019) – many stories, [W] Al Ewing et al, [A] various. This comic is a tribute to Marvel’s 80th anniversary, and consists of 80 stories by different creative teams. It has possibly the greatest lineup of talent in Marvel’s history, though the best stories in the issue aren’t necessarily the ones by the best creators. Each page is based on a particular year in Marvel’s history; however, some pages have only a tenuous connection with the year they’re associated with, and some important events in Marvel history are ignored (for example, as Adrienne Resha pointed out, Kamala Khan doesn’t appear anywhere in the issue). It seems like the editor must have decided the lineup of creative teams and characters first, and that each story must have been assigned to a particular year only later. Because of the huge number of stories in the issue, it’s hard to choose a particular favorite, but some of the pages in this issue have gone viral – for example, “The End of the Day,” depicting what Iron Man and Dr. Doom did after Iron Man #150, or “The Last Word,” about a failed attempt to interview the Hulk. I was especially delighted that this issue includes Neil Gaiman’s first new Miracleman story since the ‘90s. Other highlights include Jeremy Whitley’s America story and Paul Hornschemeier’s parody of Little Nemo. Another really fun part of this issue was trying to identify each of the artists before looking at the credits. All of Al Ewing’s stories in this issue are linked together, and they show how the entire history of the Marvel Universe was influenced by a certain mysterious mask. These stories are a lead-in to an upcoming new Marvel title.

Reviews from two conventions

7-30-19

Some comics I read after finishing the previous round of reviews:

NORMALMAN #10 (Renegade, 1985) – “Normalman for President,” [W/A] Jim Valentino. This was much better than issue 1, which I read a couple years ago. It’s very reminiscent of Cerebus because of its political themes and its inclusion of characters based on the Marx brothers, and it even includes a cameo appearance by Cerebus himself. But it feels like an interesting story in its own right, rather than just a Cerebus ripoff like Hepcats #12, reviewed below, or a superhero parody like Normalman #1.

THE UNWRITTEN #9 (Vertigo, 2010) – “Inside Man Conclusion,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. At this point in the series, Tommy Taylor and Savoy are in prison in Italy, and the villains have invaded the prison to assassinate them. Tommy and Savoy escape with the aid of the flying cat Mingus, but in a heartbreaking scene, they fail to save the prison warden’s two children from being killed. Even though I’ve been reading this series out of order, it’s starting to come together in my mind, and I really like it.

THE UNWRITTEN #11 (Vertigo, 2010) – “Jud Süss: The Canker,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter  Gross. I forget what happened in issue 10, but in this issue, Tommy, Savoy and Lizzie are in a standoff with a fictional version of Joseph Goebbels. They defeat Goebbels, but not before he projects Tommy inside a story. That story is Lionel Feuchtwanger’s Jud Süss, a novel written from a Jewish perspective; however, the Nazis turned it into an infamous anti-Semitic propaganda film. As a result, Jud Süss becomes a “canker”: a story that gets corrupted and turned against itself, thus becoming a monster. Tommy succeeds in purifying the story, and he and his sidekicks return to the real world three months after they left it. Mike Carey’s account of Jud Süss in this issue is accurate, and the way he uses it is brilliant.

STORMWATCH #1 (Wildstorm, 1997) – “Strange Weather One of Three: Hard Rain,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Oscar Jimenez. Of the cartoonists named Jimenez or Gimenez, Oscar is the worst. The best, of course, is Carlos, followed by Juan, and then Phil and Jorge. Stormwatch #1 is confusing at first because it doesn’t continue directly from issue 50 of the previous volume. In the gap between “Change or Die” and “Strange Weather,” Jackson King has replaced Henry Bendix as Weatherman, and he’s created a new Stormwatch Black that’s not accountable to the UN. As a result, Stormwatch gets expelled from the United States. The theme of superheroes as an unaccountable, supra-governmental agency foreshadows The Authority.

BIRTHRIGHT #15 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Mastema confronts Wendy and Rya, while meanwhile, Kylen conducts a “test” of Mikey’s abilities that turns into an attempt to kidnap him. The issue ends with the revelation that Samael is Mikey’s grandfather. I think Joshua Williamson was at Comic-Con, but I did not see him; more on Comic-Con below.

BATMAN #677 (DC, 2008) – “Batman R.I.P.: Batman in the Underworld,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Tony Daniel. Batman tries to track down the Black Glove, but meanwhile, his new love interest Jezebel Jet accuses him of being insane. This is a fun issue, but like many Morrison comics, it’s hard to understand without having read the rest of the storyline.

STRAY BULLETS #7 (El Capitán, 1996) – “Freedom!”, [W/A] David Lapham. As a child, Ginny lives with her parents and her older sister Jill. When Ginny’s dad leaves, her mother starts abusing her. Then when Ginny’s dad comes back, he gets cancer and slowly dies. This issue is very emotionally affecting, and it’s a departure from the rest of the series because it’s a pure slice-of-life story, without any crime. The only violence is one harrowing scene of child abuse.

BACCHUS #16 (Eddie Campbell, 1996) – “Banged Up Part 1” and other stories, [W/A] Eddie Campbell. At Comic-Con, I asked Eddie about the two versions of the first Bacchus story, and he told me that he revised that story in order to make Bacchus look more like the character he later became. Oh, also, Eddie and I were both nominated for Eisners in the same category, and netiher of us won. Oh well. “Banged Up” part 1 is an eight-pager in which Bacchus is put on trial for his actions during “King Bacchus.” Next, “Gods, Monks and Corkscrews” is a historical account of the invention of champagne, “Afterdeath” is a monologue by Simpson on his experience in the afterlife, and “Josephine” is an Alec and Danny Grey story from 1981.

THE UNWRITTEN #19 (Vertigo, 2011) – “Leviathan Part One,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. A sort of in-between issue. Tommy, Lizzie and Richie Savoy visit the Herman Melville museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. There are also a lot of vignettes depicting other members of the cast.

AMERICA’S ARMY #0 (IDW, 2009) – “The Briefing,” [W] M. Zachary Sherman, [A] Scott R. Brooks & Matt Hess. Besides being mediocre, this comic is ethically questionable because it’s propaganda for the U.S. Army.

PREACHER SPECIAL: SAINT OF KILLERS #1 (Vertigo, 1996) – untitled, [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Steve Pugh. I had been thinking of collecting Preacher, as I’m doing with Transmetropolitan and Unwritten. But this comic makes me significantly less interested in Preacher, because it reminds me why I often hate Ennis’s work. Saint of Killers #1 is the origin story of one of Preacher’s major villains. Before becoming immortal, the Saint was a former Confederate soldier. In this issue, he goes on a mission to collect medicine for his dying family, but gets delayed by encounters with a bunch of sadistic murderers. After a lot of gratuitous and implausible violence, the Saint gets home to find his family dead. This comic is a brutal, offensive orgy of violence, with no purpose other than shock value, and I wouldn’t read the rest of this miniseries unless you paid me.

SCOUT #12 (Eclipse, 1986) – “Me and the Devil,” [W/A] Tim Truman. I’ve always been lukewarm about this series, though it’s not bad. In Scout #12, Scout and Rosa Winter invade a military base that’s been taken over by a crazy holy man. Tim Truman’s draftsmanship in this issue is too loose, compared to his art on Grimjack.

THE ORIGINAL ADVENTURES OF CHOLLY & FLYTRAP #1 (Image, 2006) – multiple stories, [W/A] Arthur Suydam. Arthur Suydam is a thief and a plagiarist, and he should never get any more work or be invited to any more conventions; see https://bit.ly/2OrFGKoand https://bit.ly/31bfCVv. It’s a shame that he’s also a talented artist. The Heavy Metal stories reprinted in this issue are reminiscent of Wrightson, Vaugn Bodé, Moebius, or Sam Kieth, but they also have a level of photorealistic detail that those artists’ work usually lacks. These stories have no real plot; they’re just about ugly creatures wandering around a post-apocalyptic world. Unfortunately, Image did a terrible job of reprinting this artwork. The reproduction in this issue is so blurry that it often obscures the details of the art.

New comics received on Monday, July 15, two days before I left for Comic-Con:

SECOND COMING #1 (Ahoy, 2019) – “Second Coming,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Richard Pace. This comic was cancelled by Vertigo before finding a new home at Ahoy, and I’m glad it’s finally come out. As one would expect from a comic where Jesus and Superman are roommates, it’s extremely irreverent and satirical. But it also has a serious message about Jesus’s teachings and about how those teachings have become corrupted and distorted. I’m not Christian, but to me, Mark Russell’s Jesus seems much closer to the Biblical version than the Jesus of the protesters who got this comic cancelled. Second Coming also asks what it means to truly be good, or to save the world. And of course it has a lot of Mark Russell’s characteristic humor, including a rather unflattering portrayal of the Old Testament God. I’m sorry I missed seeing Mark Russell at Comic-Con; I still really want to meet him.

BLACK HAMMER/JUSTICE LEAGUE: HAMMER OF JUSTICE! #1 (DC/Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Michael Walsh. I did meet Jeff Lemire at Comic-Con, though I didn’t get to talk to him much. This comic starts out with two very conventional vignettes about the Justice League and the Black Hammer Farm characters. It gets more interesting when an unnamed villain switches the two teams with each other, so the Black Hammer characters are now fighting Starro, while the Justice Leaguers are stuck on the Black Hammer farm. The whole premise of this crossover seems redundant since Black Hammer is already based on the Justice League, but I trust that Jeff will be able to make this series exciting.

INVISIBLE WOMAN #1 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Mattia De Iulis. This new series’ premise is that Sue Storm used to do missions for SHIELD, and now she’s been recruited again to rescue an old ally of hers, Aidan Tintreach. Sue is my favorite Fantastic Four member, at least when she’s being written in a non-sexist way, and I like Mark Waid’s take on her.

WONDER WOMAN #74 (DC, 2019) – “Return of the Amazons Part 1,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Jesus Merino & Xermanico. Diana fights an evil Hippolyta robot, then finally finds the Amazons again – but not all of them. It turns out that Grail, Darkseid’s daughter, has overthrown Hippolyta and besieged Themyscira. See the review of next issue, below.

GOGOR #3 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Ken Garing. Tetra Hedron gives Armano some information and equipment, then sends him on a new quest. We learn that Gogor can regenerate itself as long as it doesn’t lose any bones, but then Gogor does lose a bone in a fight with a giant orange dude. This is still a very entertaining series with a distinctive style. I have not yet seen any issues of Ken Garing’s previous comics.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #8 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Javier Garron. In the grimmest issue of the series yet, Miles is kidnapped by a creature called the Assessor who subjects him to constant tests of his powers, while referring to him only as “the subject.” Miles thinks he’s escaped, but it turns out that his escape was yet another test. The bleakness of this story is amplified by the use of tiny, separate panels against a solid black background. Under the current political circumstances, it’s hard not to read this story as an allegory for immigrant detention camps.

IRONHEART #8 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Eve Ewing, [A] Luciano Vecchio. Riri visits Dr. Strange for advice about Midnight’s Fire and the Wellspring. Eve and Dr. Strange’s interactions are fun, but I feel that Dr. Strange’s mansion could have been even weirder. I miss the chatty snakes from Jason Aaron’s run. I forgot that Midnight’s Fire is the leader of the Ten Rings, a name which alludes to the Mandarin. I thought that Marvel had stopped using the Mandarin because of his Yellow Peril associations, but I guess they still do use him.

OUTER DARKNESS #8 (Image, 2019) – “Castrophony of Hate Pt. 8: Turncoat,” [W] John Layman, [A] Afu Chan. This issue’s spotlight character is Ensign Hydzek, a star officer candidate who was assigned to the Charon for unclear reasons. She’s assigned to babysit Sister Magdalena Antona. They become friends, and it turns out the nun is pregnant. Funny moments in this issue include Hydzek’s ignorance of Christianity, and the scene where it starts raining on the bridge, and the captain wants to know WTF is going on.

BITTER ROOT SUMMER SPECIAL #1 (Image, 2019) – “Etta” and other stories, [W] David F. Walker & Chuck Brown, [A] various. A series of vignettes drawn by different artists, each of which fleshes out a different aspect of the Sangeryes’ world. These stories are often too short to have much impact. My favorite is the one that introduces Wu, who belongs to a Chinese-American equivalent of the Sangerye family, and suffers from sexism just as Blink does. I like the idea that other American ethnic communities have their own versions of the Sangeryes and the Jinoo. Another of the stories is about the Tulsa Massacre. At Comic-Con I went to two different panels that included David Walker, but I don’t think I spoke to him. (Sanford Greene was also on one of those panels, but I see him at conventions all the time.)

GHOSTED IN L.A. #1 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Sina Grace, [A] Siobhan Keenan. I ordered this because it’s a Boom! Box comic, but I had very low expectations for it, because I haven’t liked any of Sina Grace’s other work. However, Ghosted in L.A. was better than I expected. It’s about a Montana girl who follows her boyfriend to college in Los Angeles, only to be promptly dumped. Also, her roommate is horrible. In a fit of depression, she wanders into a house that’s full of ghosts. This comic’s fantasy/horror plot is actually less interesting to me than its depiction of the first-year experience. This issue reminds me how much it sucked to share a room with a randomly selected stranger.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #11 (Vertigo, 2019) – “For I Know What I Do Must Be Wrong,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson & Dan Watters, [A] Domo Stanton. Erzulie has now lost her contest with Ananse, but Corinthian continues the contest on her behalf. It looks like he’s won, but Anansi springs a trap and captures both Corinthian and everyone else on the boat. Back on earth, Erzulie’s followers perform a sacrifice to resurrect her in her most violent form, that of Marinette. This series is still excellent, but its plot has been dragging a bit, and I wish we would get some resolution. “Dodger in the Colonies” is not an actual unfinished Dickens novel.

WONDER TWINS #6 (DC, 2019) – “The Great Scramble,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Stephen Byrne. Faced with the threat of the Great Scramble, the world’s governments scramble (heh) to come up with laws that will solve all the world’s problems. Of course, just before the laws are scheduled to take effect, Zan “saves the day” by locating and defeating the Scrambler. Thus, as so often happens in real life, the only people who have the power to do the right thing decide not to do it. This comic is depressing, but that’s because it’s an effective and incisive piece of satire.

ORPHAN AGE #4 (Aftershock, 2019) – “Loss,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Nuno Plati. Princess and company make it to Albany, a metropolis founded by apocalypse survivors. Then the religious terrorists show up right after them. This issue is a quick read, but it provides an interesting picture of how a society would evolve if it was created entirely by children. Essentially, the children do everything the way they remember their parents doing it.

MORNING IN AMERICA #5 (Oni, 2019) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Claudia Aguirre. I spoke to Magdalene Visaggio a couple times at Comic-Con. This issue, the entire town gets destroyed, but the two remaining protagonists manage to survive by hiding in a bomb shelter. That’s kind of a disappointing conclusion, and it leaves me unclear as to what the point of this series was.

THOR #15 (Marvel, 2019) – “War’s End,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mike del Mundo. This issue wraps up a bunch of loose ends from War of the Realms. The emotional high point of the issue is when Odin finally admits that he’s proud of Thor. He did already say that at the end of Thor #353, but that was a long time ago.

BLUBBER #5 (Fantagraphics, 2019) – “Corazon” and other stories, [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. This issue includes one story, “Corazon,” that almost makes logical sense, but other than that it’s another onslaught of violence, bestiality and scat. I frankly hate this comic. I hope there won’t be a sixth issue, because on one hand I feel obliged to buy anything by Los Bros, but on the other hand I may not be able to make myself read any more Blubber.

MARVEL ACTION: BLACK PANTHER #2 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kyle Baker, [A] Juan Samu. T’Challa and Shuri confront a series of ecological catastrophes, which turn out to have been deliberately caused. This isn’t the best Black Panther comic I’ve read, but Kyle’s dialogue is really good. I especially like how he writes Shuri.

GIANT-SIZE X-STATIX #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “Hereditary-X,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Mike Allred. In 2001 and 2002, X-Statix (previously X-Force) was Marvel’s best ongoing title. However, it feels outdated now, and earlier attempts to revive it, like All-New Doop, have not succeeded. As a result I wasn’t expecting much from this latest revival, but Giant Size X-Statix #1 turned out to be surprisingly good. This issue focuses on Katie, who thinks she’s the little sister of the late Edie Sawyer, or U-Go-Girl, but is actually her daughter. Until reading this issue I had totally forgotten about Katie, but she really was introduced in Milligan and Allred’s X-Force run. As a teenager, Katie is contacted by the few living members of X-Statix, plus the children of some of the dead ones, and becomes involved in a plot to recreate the team. This issue succeeds because it acknowledges the length of time that’s passed since X-Statix. Rather than trying to start right where the previous series left off, it asks what X-Statix’s legacy is now, almost twenty years later.

CATWOMAN #13 (DC, 2019) – “Far from Gotham,” [W] Joëlle Jones, [A] Fernando Blanco & Hugo Petrus. I’m still enjoying this series, but it’s been kind of lackluster lately; it feels like nothing has really happened in the last few issues. This issue, the old lady with the missing nose performs a blood sacrifice to unlock the power of the Mayan mask.

CRIMINAL #6 (Image, 2019) – “Cruel Summer Part Two,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Ed Brubaker was at Comic-Con and was signing at the Image booth, but I never got to talk to him because his line was too long. Criminal #6 retells the same events as #5, but from Teeg’s perspective. Teeg is hopelessly in love with Jane, a.k.a. Marina, but their honeymoon is disrupted when Dan Farraday shows up. That’s as far as we got last issue. Subsequently, Teeg decides to arrange a big score with his friend Tommy Patterson, but it turns out Tommy is already housing Teeg’s ne’er-do-well son. The plot is thickening.

SHE COULD FLY: THE LOST PILOT #4 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “Dipshit,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Martin Morazzo. This issue was more enjoyable and made more logical sense than last issue, though I’d still have trouble summarizing just what’s going on in this series. At Comic-Con, I attended the Berger Books panel that Christopher Cantwell was on, and I got to talk with him briefly.

STRANGELANDS #1 (Humanoids, 2019) – “Faith Alone,” [W] Magdalene Visaggio & Darcie Little Badger, [A] Guillermo Sanna. This new series stars two siblings who cause explosions when they get too far from each other. Darcie Little Badger is Native American, and this comic has indigenous themes, but it’s not an effective first issue. The writers make no attempt to introduce the characters or tell us what’s going on, and as a reader, I felt lost. I won’t be getting issue 2.

In late July, I went to Comic-Con for the first time since 2014. As always, it was an overwhelming experience. The main reason I went was to attend the Eisners, and even though I didn’t win, going to the Eisner ceremony as a nominee was a highlight of my career. Another high point was the Wednesday meetup and Saturday breakfast with Kim Munson and a bunch of comics scholars and creators. I used to attend Comic-Con with a lot of other people from the Comic Book Resources forums, but most of those people have long since quit going, and the last two times I went to Comic-Con, I felt kind of lonely, as if I didn’t have a community there. But thanks to Kim, I feel I have a Comic-Con community again.

The panels and other events at Comic-Con were great, but the exhibit hall was a bit disappointing. Compared to previous years, it felt like there just weren’t as many people tabling or doing signings, and the dealer’s room was the worst it’s ever been. There were still a lot of comics dealers, but they were mostly selling expensive stuff. I did come home with a modest stack of comics, including:

AGE OF BRONZE #34 (self-published, 2019) – “Betrayal 15,” [W/A] Eric Shanower. I was shocked to see this at Eric’s table. It turns out that while Age of Bronze series is now digital-only, he’s still publishing paper copies for conventions. It’s a thrill and a relief to finally read a new issue of this phenomenal series, which has been on hiatus for six years. I always hoped Eric would get back to it someday, and I’m glad he finally found the time. Other than being in color, Age of Bronze #34 follows directly from #33 as if no time had passed. Hecuba, Helen and Laodike have all given birth recently, and on their way back to Troy, Helen encounters Achilles for the first and last time. This results in a fascinating conversation that deepens our knowledge of two of the series’ main protagonists.

LITTLE ARCHIE MYSTERY #2 (Archie, 1963) – “The Strange Case of the Mystery Map,” [W/A] Bob Bolling. This barely feels like an Archie comic; it’s drawn in Bolling’s most realistic style, and it includes no Archie characters besides Little Archie himself. It has a complicated plot where Archie teams up with a teenage reporter to foil an attempt to steal a treasure map. It lacks the tenderness and emotion of some of Bolling’s other work, but it’s a thrilling adventure story, reminiscent of Jonny Quest or even Tintin. While most of Bolling’s Little Archie stories are kid humor comics with overtones of mystery or science fiction, Little Archie Mystery is a full-fledged adventure comic, and it shows that Bolling could have been a major artist in that genre.

More comics from Comic-Con, as well as new comics that were waiting for me when I got back:

USAGI YOJIMBO #2 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “Bunraku Part Two,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. I got to talk to Stan a bit at Comic-Con, and he mentioned Shusaku Endo as an influence on “The Hidden.” I went on to read Endo’s Silence, which I already had, and I loved it. In Bunraku part 2, Usagi and Sasuke investigate the puppet murders and learn that the puppetmaster isn’t really blind. The highlight of the issue is this exchange: “It’s as if he was attacked by children!” “It’s something much more sinister!” “More sinister than children?”

ASSASSIN NATION #5 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Erica Henderson. The surviving assassins manage to defeat Rankin, and it turns out he set up all the events of the series in order to establish himself as the #1 assassin. But afterward, we’re introduced to a whole bunch of new assassins. I didn’t realize this until later, but one of the new assassins, The Professor, is based on my friend Andrew Kunka.

UNSTOPPABLE WASP #10 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] GuriHiru. A very satisfying ending in which the good girls win, and everyone lives happily ever after. It’s such a shame that this series was cancelled again. Clearly the direct market is not the appropriate home for a comic like this one. Marvel should have tried to market this series in the same way as Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur, but it seems like they’re not learning enough from the success of that title.

SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #1 (DC, 2019) – “The Pal Who Fell to Earth” and other vignettes, [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Steve Lieber. An excellent debut issue that fully embraces Jimmy’s bizarreness. It begins with Jimmy turning into a giant turtle and falling to Earth from space, and there are also allusions to Jimmy’s other adventures, including “The Bride of Jungle Jimmy.” In this issue, after getting sick of Jimmy’s antics, Perry sends him to Gotham City. While Matt Fraction is obviously the star of this show, Steve Lieber is also an excellent and highly underrated artist.

BRONZE AGE BOOGIE #4 (Ahoy, 2019) – “You Are a Magnet – I Am Steel!”, [W] Stuart Moore, [A] Alberto Ponticelli. I went to one of Stuart Moore’s panels at Comic-Con, and I think I spoke to him briefly. I don’t remember there being an Ahoy booth. The main event this issue is that we’re introduced to Jackson Li’s deadbeat dad. Jackson is mostly based on Shang-Chi, but his origin is reminiscent of that of Iron Fist. Also, there’s a two-page spread that looks like a Viewmaster reel.

GIDEON FALLS #15 (Image, 2019) – “The Misplaced Man,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. This issue is fairly confusing and it doesn’t introduce any new versions of Gideon Falls, but it does end with Father Fred meeting Dr. Xu for the first time. There’s one disgusting two-page spread where a hanged woman’s face explodes into insects.

ONCE AND FUTURE #1 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. I met Dan Mora briefly at Comic-Con, and I saw Kieron Gillen on the Boom! panel, but didn’t get to speak to him. This exclusive advance edition of Once and Future #1 was given out for free at that panel. Once and Future is based on a fascinating conceit: what would it mean for King Arthur to return today, in an age where English national identity has essentially been co-opted by Nazis? More broadly, who owns the myth of King Arthur? This first issue begins with some white nationalists stealing the scabbard of Excalibur from an archaeological dig. We then meet the protagonist, Duncan, and his grandmother Bridgette. After a disastrous date, Duncan and Bridgette meets the Questing Beast. (My friend and former officemate, Valerie Johnson, used to have her students’ pictures of the Questing Beast on our office door.) Then she makes him take her to Arthur’s tomb at Glastonbury, where the white nationalists are already headed. Once and Future could be just as important as The Wicked + The Divine; it asks tough but important questions, and it’s super-relevant to contemporary politics. Also, I don’t know if Kieron Gillen is aware of the current controversy over race in medieval studies, but Once and Future is highly relevant to that controversy as well.

SERA AND THE ROYAL STARS #1 (Vault, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jon Tsuei, [A] Audrey Mok. This comic’s creators were at Comic-Con, but I didn’t meet them. Sera and the Royal Stars is a well-done but fairly conventional fantasy story, with a female protagonist. What makes it unique is that it’s based on Persian mythology. It takes place in a country called Parsa, and it references things like Mitra, Hormuzd and yazatas. Persian mythology is a vast treasury of stories and characters, but has gone almost unused as a source of inspiration for American writers. The key text of Persian literature, the Shahnameh, is one of the world’s great works of literature, but is almost unread in America. I’m excited that Tsuei and Mok are drawing upon this tradition, though I don’t know if they’re Iranian themselves. More broadly, I like how Vault is publishing comics based on cultures that are unfamiliar to American readers, including this series as well as These Savage Shores.

AVENGERS #76 (Marvel, 1970) – “The Blaze of Battle… the Flames of Love!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] John Buscema. The Avengers fight Arkon, who wants to destroy Earth in order to power his world’s dying sun, and also to abduct the Scarlet Witch as his bride. The artwork in this issue is spectacular. Buscema plus Tom Palmer is an excellent combination, though Palmer makes Buscema look kind of like Adams. This issue also has some nice characterization, though the suggestion of romantic sparks between Arkon and Wanda is creepy. There’s one scene where Wanda recites Tennyson’s “Flower in the Crannied Wall.” This reminds me of the “Ozymandias” scene in Avengers #57, and there was also a Bacchus story where the Eyeball Kid quoted this same poem.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #8 (Marvel, 2019) – “Falling Star Part 1,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Carmen Carnero. Carol meets a new heroine named Star, and then her friends stage an intervention for her. As I complained in my review of #7, the problem with this series is that it still has yet to establish any identity for itself. We still don’t know kow Kelly’s Captain Marvel is different from any other writer’s take on the character. The problem is that Carol has become Marvel’s flagship character, so her titles keep getting hijacked by crossovers. I forgot to mention that the “send her home” chants have an eerie political relevance right now, even though this issue was written before Trump’s racist attacks on Ilhan Omar.

SHORT ORDER COMIX #2 (Family Fun, 1974) – various stories, [E] Art Spiegelman. While I didn’t buy a ton of comics in San Diego, I did buy a lot of underground comics. In particular, I bought a stack of stuff from the Last Gasp booth, which had a huge selection of underground and alternative comics. This particular comic is sort of a prototype for Arcade, which started the next year. It includes two major Spiegelman stories, “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” and “Ace Hole, Midget Detective,” as well as some absurdist work by Bill Griffith. Other contributors include Diane Noomin, Michael McMillen, Willy Murphy, and Rory Hayes. I haven’t seen any comics by Hayes yet, and his work is truly insane.  Unfortunately, the overall quality of the issue is dragged down by a blatantly racist story by Joe Schenkman, about how God created black people.

THIRTEEN #12 (Dell, 1964) – “Wrong Numbers” and other stories, [W/A] John Stanley. Like Little Lulu, Thirteen tends to follow the same formula every issue, but it’s a very effective formula. This issue begins with a story where Val and Billy are on the beach and Val tries to make Billy jealous. There are also some other teenage Val and Judy stories, and a couple Judy Junior stories. As always, the comic timing of John Stanley’s stories is perfect. It’s hard to identify any individual moments in his stories that are particularly effective, because each joke flows so naturally from the previous one.

SCOOBY-DOO #7 (Marvel, 1978) – “The Faceless Phantom,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Dan Spiegle, plus other stories. I don’t understand why, but Evanier Scooby-Doo’s tend to be very expensive, and I’m always excited when I can find an affordable one. This issue’s Evanier story is about a scientist who claims to have invented a teleportation device, which proves to be fake. As in his other Scooby-Doo stories, Evanier’s brilliant dialogue and plotting, together with Spiegle’s realistic and exciting art, results in a story that transcends its rather limited source material. There really ought to be a collection of all the Scooby-Doo comics by this creative team. The high point of this story is a panel where Shaggy orders extra-spicy chili at a restaurant, and the waiter serves it with tongs and a radiation suit. I don’t think I saw Mark at Comic-Con, although I’m sure he was there.

IMMORTAL HULK #21 (Marvel, 2019) – “A Secret Order,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Ryan Bodenheim. This issue is narrated by General Ross’s lieutenant Reginald Fortean, who is obsessed with maintaining order and minimizing chaos, and has little regard for individual rights. Ryan Bodenheim’s guest art job is quite effective and is a nice break from Joe Bennett. In general, Immortal Hulk is probably the best Hulk comic since Peter David and Gary Frank’s run ended. It’s a rare example of a Marvel comic that does something genuinely new with an old character.

SUBVERT COMICS #3 (Saving Grace, 1976) – untitled Trashman story, [W/A] Spain Rodriguez. Spain may be my favorite artist from the first generation of underground comics. I love his draftsmanship, especially his machinery and his spotting of blacks, and his storytelling is dynamic and innovative, showing the influence of Steranko. (According to an interview I found, Spain was a fan of Steranko, which surprised me because I wouldn’t have expected him to be a Marvel reader.) This issue begins with a sex scene, in response to “complaints about the dearth of explicit sexual material in our previous issue.” The rest of the issue is an adventure story in which Trashman searches for a renewable power source that’s disguised as a hubcap. Spain’s storytelling is confusing at times, but overall this story makes much more logical sense than some underground comics, and it’s exciting and funny. I should note, however, that Trashman is an obvious male power fantasy.

SLUTBURGER #1 (Rip Off, 1990) – “The ‘Jelly’” and other stories, [W/A] Mary Fleener. I sat across from Mary Fleener and Krystyne Kryttre at Kim Munson’s breakfast. I still don’t know either of their bodies of work very well, but they both seem very friendly and engaging, and it was nice getting to know them. Slutburger #1 includes a number of mostly autobiographical stories that are drawn in Fleener’s unique cubist style. I love the way she uses cubism to suggest extremes of emotion, and her stories are exciting and sometimes harrowing. There’s one where she’s out on a boat and almost gets busted for cocaine possession, and another where she takes a hitchhiker to a dangerous neighborhood. The first story in this issue is a bit troubling; the protagonist’s response to her roommate’s sex life would be considered slut-shaming today.

BLACK BADGE #12 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. The new Black Badge helps to solve a humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. This is a fun issue and a satisfying conclusion to the series. It’s a lot like NEW MGMT #1. I ran into Matt Kindt once at Comic-Con, at the Fantagraphics table.

BATGIRL #12 (DC, 2017) – “Troubled Waters,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Eleonora Carlini. I think this was the last Hope Larson Batgirl I was missing. It’s a self-contained story in which Batgirl helps save a grad student who was sent into an alternate dimension, thanks to her evil advisor. Also, Babs sets up her friend Qadir with a new girlfriend. This is an entertaining issue, and overall, I loved Hope Larson’s Batgirl run.

AQUAMAN #50 (DC, 2019) – “Amnesty, Part 1: The Call,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Robson Rocha & Eduardo Pansica. Aquaman returns to the town where he was living before, accompanied by the old sea gods. Meanwhile, Mera decides to marry Vulko of all people, and Black Manta shows up at the end of the issue. After a slow start, Kelly Sue’s Aquaman is getting really good. However, this issue assumed too much knowledge of the run that came before Kelly Sue’s.

JACK STAFF #6 (Image, 2004) – multiple vignettes, [W/A] Paul Grist. I bought a bunch of Jack Staffs from a 75-cent box. It was one of the few booths in the room that was selling comics for under a dollar, and the stock was refilled every day. This issue introduces Bramble and Son, two underemployed vampire hunters, and there are also a lot of other scenes with other characters. See the review of Jack Staff vol. 1 #1 below for more on this series.

Before I’d even finished the new comics from the week of Comic-Con, I got another new shipment of comics on Thursday, July 25:

LUMBERJANES #64 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] AnneMarie Rogers. The girls manage to move the space station so the dinosaurs can complete their migration, and then the sasquatches show up and lead them back to camp. This was another thrilling issue. Watters, Leyh and Rogers are working very well together now. This series has abandoned any pretense of an overarching plot, and it’s clear that the summer won’t be ending anytime soon, but that’s fine with me. The only Lumberjanes creator I met at Comic-Con was Lilah Sturges.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #44 (Image, 2019) – “Better No Devil at All,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. Baal sacrifices his life to kill Minerva, then the other gods are sentenced to life in prison, apparently, but Laura doesn’t seem to mind very much. By this point, most of the loose ends of the series have been wrapped up, and that just leaves the epilogue. I’m curious to see what Kieron will come up with for the final issue.

DIAL H FOR HERO #5 (DC, 2019) – “Secret Origins of the Heroverse!”, [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Joe Quinones. Disappointingly, this issue includes no scenes where characters use the dial, and no imitations of other artists. It does include a lot of panels borrowed from old DC comics, plus some other really impressive artwork. This issue, Miguel discovers that Mr. Thunderbolt is Robby Reed, and that he’s also the embodiment of the universal force of heroism, so he was involved in lots of DC heroes’ origins. That’s where the borrowed artwork comes in. Then at the end of the issue, the entire population of Metropolis gets turned into heroes.

THE MAGNIFICENT MS. MARVEL #5 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Minkyu Jung. Kamala saves the alien planet and gets a new costume, but back at home, she discovers that her dad has a rare disease. Also, Kamala’s parents lose their knowledge of her secret identity. One of my friends decided to drop the series with this issue, partly because of Kamala’s parents’ mindwipe. I agree that this plot twist is unnecessary and that it erases a lot of the development of Kamala’s relationship with her parents. However, I’m still enjoying this series, and I trust that Saladin knows what he’s doing.

INVISIBLE KINGDOM #5 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “Walking the Path Part Five,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Christian Ward. Vess and Grix manage to survive until a government ship intervenes to save them. But they’re no longer welcome in the Dunian system, so they have to head out into nowhere. This is another thrilling issue. Along with Ronin Island, Invisible Kingdom is the best new series of the year.

PLANET OF THE NERDS #4 (Ahoy, 2019) – “Conquest of the Planet of the Nerds,” [W] Paul Constant, [A] Alan Robinson. Steve makes an extremely awkward attempt to Jenny, but she reveals that she knows he’s gay. This comes as a surprise to him. Afterward, the bullies try to break into Alvin’s house, but he’s waiting for them with armed guards. Steve and Jenny’s conversation is a very powerful moment. But there’s also lots of funny stuff in this issue, including the running joke about Jenny’s vibrator, and the various things that the bullies find surprising about the world of 2019.

ASCENDER #4 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. I talked with Dustin Nguyen briefly at Comic-Con. In Ascender #4, Andy and Mila are chased by Mother’s monsters, but in a brilliant twist, they’re saved when they jump off a cliff onto a giant flying turtle. Then they reach Telsa, only to find that she’s a hopeless drunk. There’s also a plot thread involving an assassination attempt against Mother.

FARMHAND #10 (Image, 2019) – “In Vocation,” [W/A] Rob Guillory. Monica Thorne continues taking over the town, and we see that she has a giant vagina in her shed. Also, Zeke goes to work at Jed’s farm. There’s also a cameo appearance by an FDA inspector who, like all the FDA members in Chew, has a food pun for a name: Roland Matcha. Farmhand is a humor comic, but it’s more than just that; it’s also about family relationships, about moving back home as an adult. And it draws heavily on Rob’s rural Louisiana background. Like Skottie Young in Middlewest, Rob is showing in Farmhand that while he’s best known for his humor work, he’s versatile enough to do serious work as well.

MIDDLEWEST #9 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. Speaking of Middlewest, this issue Abel ends up with some turkey-riding forest natives (not squirrels, as I had thought when I read #9). They send him into a giant tree called Homji Billo to confront the bear spirit Nokoyuna. These names both appear to be completely made up. The two-page spread that introduces Nokoyuna is spectacular. Nokoyuna sends Abel to the Winter Woods, where he’s greeted by a voice that calls him “grandson.” Meanwhile, Bobby leaves the carnival to go look for Abel.

SHURI #10 (Marvel, 2019) – “Living Memory,” [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Rachael Stott. I met Nnedi Okorafor briefly after the Berger Books panel. This issue, Shuri and her allies solve their Space Lubber problem with some help from Wakandan ancestors, including the wrestler Mgwazeni. I wonder if this character is inspired by Igbo wrestling. Afteward, Shuri voluntarily gives up being Black Panther. This was an extremely fun series, and I’m sorry Nnedi doesn’t have any more comics projects that have been announced yet. I will continue to follow her work in other media.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #80 (IDW, 2019) – “Live-Action Role Pony!!”, [W] Sam Maggs, [A] Kate Sherron. The Mane Six play a live-action RPG. This issue is slightly better than #79, but it’s still bad. It’s a retread of the episode “Dungeons & Discords,” and it doesn’t tell us anything new or interesting about the ponies. I hope this will be Sam Maggs’s last pony comic. If she writes any more MLP comics, I may skip ordering them.

STAR PIG #1 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Delilah S. Dawson, [A] Francesco Gaston. I met Delilah Dawson at Comic-Con, but missed my chance to get a free copy of her novel. In Star Pig #1, a teenage girl is on a field trip in space when her ship collides with a giant alien water bear. She’s the only survivor. The girl and the tardigrade then encounter a non-humanoid alien that collects Earth memorabilia. Star Pig is Delilah Dawson’s third original series, and all three have been completely different from each other, but they’ve all been excellent in their own ways. This latest series is mostly humorous; the deaths of the other kids on the ship aren’t taken too seriously.

WONDER WOMAN #75 (DC, 2019) – “Return of the Amazons Part 2,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Xermanico, Jesus Merino & Vicente Cifuentes. Diana defeats Grail and is finally reunited with her mother, but Cheetah and Luthor find Grail’s God Killer sword, setting up the next story arc. This was a pretty straightforward issue, but Diana and Hippolyta’s reunion was a nice cathartic moment.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #45 (Marvel, 2019) – “Field Trip,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Alitha Martinez. I saw Alitha Martinez on a panel at Comic-Con, the same one that Sanford Greene and David Walker were on. This issue, the kids go on a field trip to a museum, where Devil falls in love with a tyrannosaurus skeleton. This was a cute but forgettable issue.

GRUMBLE #8 (Albatross, 2019) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Mike Norton. Tala, Eddie and Jimmy are pursued by a bunch of mobsters, as well as two magical assassins – one with a bird’s skull, and another with a purple thing on her shoulder. Nothing all that spectacular happens in this issue, but Grumble is still one of the funniest and most underrated series on the market.

THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN VOL. 4: THE TEMPEST #6 (Top Shelf, 2019) – “Then, the Immortal Blue…”, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Kevin O’Neill. This issue is designed to look like an issue (prog) of 2000 AD. Each segment begins with a 2000 AD-style credits box, containing anagrams of the actual creators’ names (Noel O’Mara, Lionel Vinke, etc.). The story in the Tempest #6 is a little bit easier to follow than that of the previous issues, and there’s one brilliant scene where Alan and Kev try to crash a wedding and are thrown out an airlock. This is an homage to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s cameo appearance in Fantastic Four Annual #6. Although I enjoyed this issue more than the others, I’m glad this series is over.

VALKYRIE #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Sacred and the Profane Part 1,” [W] Jason Aaron & Al Ewing, [A] Cafu. Jane has become Valkyrie instead of Thor, but she’s still facing the same problem of being torn between her mortal and Asgardian selves. This issue she fights some humorously lame villains, then investigates a murder, which turns out to have been committed by Bullseye. So far, this series is a nice follow-up to Jason Aaron’s previous stories about Jane.

CRIMINAL #7 (Icon, 2008) – “Bad Night Part Four,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Jacob Kurtz discovers that his lover Iris is in league with Detective Starr, who is obsessed with convicting Jacob of murdering his (Jacob’s) wife. Jacob kills Starr, then drives off a cliff with Iris, killing her and crippling himself. Also, Jacob realizes he actually is to blame for his wife’s death. This issue is very bleak and grim, but that’s kind of the point. It’s weird how I like Criminal even though I normally don’t enjoy this style of fiction. Perhaps I enjoy how all the stories fit together in subtle ways. I assume Bad Night happens after Bad Weekend, but I’m not sure.

DYNAMITE DAMSELS #1 (self-published, 1976) – various stories, [W/A] Roberta Gregory. This is Roberta Gregory’s first solo comic, predating Naughty Bits by many years. It’s mostly a series of semi-autobiographical stories about a woman named Frieda, focusing on her coming-out experience and her involvement with second-wave feminism. It’s an interesting historical portrait of ‘70s feminism, as well as an effective piece of autobiography. It lacks the raucous humor of Naughty Bits, and feels closer to Dykes to Watch Out For (which I need to read more of). I don’t know if this comic has ever been reprinted; if not, it should be.

TITS & CLITS #4 (Last Gasp, 1977) – various stories, [E] Lyn Chevli & Joyce Farmer. After buying this issue at Comic-Con, I got Lee Marrs to sign it. Meeting her was a thrill. This issue begins with her story “My Deaf Groin,” and another notable story is Roberta Gregory’s “Free Enterprise,” about women who insert subliminal feminist messages in porn films. The other highlight of the issue is Karen Feinberg and Joyce Farmer’s “The Two Sisters of Barrow,” an original fairy tale with an anti-rape message. Farmer’s artwork in this story is hyper-detailed and gorgeous.

ARCHIE VS. PREDATOR II #1 (Archie, 2019) – “The Darkness at the End of the Lane,” [W] Alex de Campi, [A] Robert Hack. The fact that Robert Hack is drawing this comic, and not Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, is another sign that the latter series is never coming back. At the end of the previous Archie vs. Predator series, all the characters except Betty and Veronica got killed. And a Predator’s mind got transplanted into Archie’s body, so now he can only communicate in emojis. This issue, Betty, Veronica and “Archie” leave Riverdale only to find themselves in a different version of Riverdale, because it turns out that Dilton Doiley has found a way to connect different dimensions together. Like the original AvP, this series is a lot of fun, but Robert Hack’s grim, gritty art makes it less blatantly silly than the first series was.

SPIDER-MAN: LIFE STORY #5 (Marvel, 2019) – “Civic Engagement,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Mark Bagley. The ‘00s issue of Life Story focuses on Civil War and J. Michael Straczynski’s Morlun story arc. In the midst of a war between heroes, Morlun kills Ben Reilly and then goes after Peter’s family. Life Story has been a really fun and original series, but it’s also very creepy. It’s weird seeing how old all the heroes and supporting cast members have gotten. This issue even casually mentions JJJ’s funeral. As I’ve mentioned before, Life Story demonstrates why Marvel characters can never be allowed to get older.

LOVE & ROCKETS #7 (Fantagraphics, 2019) – various stories, [W/A] Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez. The most memorable story in this issue is the one where Tonta goes to a convention, and then visits her weird mother’s house with a friend. I don’t understand how Tonta is related to Maggie or anyone else, and it took me a while to get that she’s also named Anoush. I ought to get the Love & Rockets Companion so I can figure out who all these characters are. Gilbert’s story “And Another Punk Rock Reunion” includes an appearance by the band Love & Rockets, but not the real-world one.

WARLORD OF MARS ATTACKS #2 (Dynamite, 2019) – “The Lost Hero,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Dean Kotz. The funniest moment in this issue is when the Martians kill a bunch of annoying people, including an Airbnb-owning woman who demands to speak to a manager. In terms of the plot, the main event is that the protagonists make their way to John Carter’s tomb, where Carter comes back to life and saves them from the Martians. So far this is a very entertaining series.

CLUE CANDLESTICK #3 (IDW, 2019) – “Shaw in the Studio with the Candlestick,” [W/A] Dash Shaw. I felt guilty for reading this without having tried to solve the mystery myself, but there are only so many hours in the day. Also, solving some of the puzzles in the previous issues would have required defacing them. This issue, the mystery is solved in a fairly satisfying way, and there are lots more weird page layouts and bizarre formal tricks. Overall, Clue Candlestick was one of the best miniseries of the year.

COLLAPSER #1 (DC, 2019) – “Constellation Prize,” [W] Mikey Way & Shaun Simon, [A] Ilias Kyriazis. Liam James, a twentysomething DJ and nursing home worker, gets a black hole embedded in his chest. Ilias Kyriazis’s artwork here is brilliant, and is the main reason to read this comic. The story didn’t grab me as much as the art. I thought Liam was an annoying protagonist, and it’s weird how he gets a mysterious package and then never bothers to open it.

HISTORY OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE #1 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Javier Rodriguez. A retelling of the entire history of the Marvel Universe, from the Big Bang to the 19th century. This comic is mostly a showcase for Javier Rodriguez’s artistic genius. He’s the best artist at Marvel right now, and this comic’s nonlinear narrative gives him a chance to demonstrate his unconventional page layouts. As for the writing, this comic is just a summary of thousands of years of history, and it’s not intended to tell a linear story, but to untangle Marvel’s continuity. It does that fairly well, and Mark Waid is well qualified to write this comic, since Mark Gruenwald is sadly not available.

MARVELS EPILOGUE #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “Marvels Epilogue,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Alex Ross. On Facebook, I called this comic a shameless cash grab. Several people disagreed with that, so I concede that Kurt and Alex probably did do this out of a genuine desire to revisit Marvels after 25 years. However, that doesn’t justify this comic’s $4.99 price tag. The new story in Marvels Epilogue #1 is only 16 pages, and nothing really happens in it. The rest of the comic consists of preview pages and interviews. I would rather that this comic had been just 16 pages for just $2 or even $3, without all the filler material. Also, Alex Ross only knows how to draw one kind of comic, and that kind of comic is not very interesting, not if you’ve seen it before. And his style has not evolved one bit in the past 25 years.

SMOOTH CRIMINALS #7 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kurt Lustgarten, Kiwi Smith & Amy Roy, [A] Leisha Riddel. Brenda confesses in exchange for immunity for Mia. But Mia intentionally gets sent back to the same prison, and she and Brenda engineer a plan to capture the people who really did steal the Net of Indra. There’s a funny line in this issue about how Blockbuster will be around forever and ever.

THE TERRIFICS #18 (DC, 2019) – “The God Game Conclusion,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Stephen Segovia. The Terrifics defeat the Noosphere and save the day. Disappointingly, we never get to the tenth plague, so the Chekhov’s gun with Plastic Man’s firstborn is never fired. This is a reasonably good series, but I’m not sure it’s still worth buying.

GHOST TREE #4 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Bobby Curnow, [A] Simon Gane. I wanted to talk to Bobby Curnow at Comic-Con, but he was signing with Kevin Eastman, so there was a prohibitively long line for him. This issue is a pretty boring conclusion, although there’s a refreshing twist, in that the protagonist doesn’t get back together with his wife in the end. Simon Gane’s artwork in this miniseries isn’t as good as in They’re Not Like Us, and in general, this minieries was not a success.

RAGNAROK #7 (IDW, 2015) – “The Games of the Gods,” [W/A] Walt Simonson. I spoke to Uncle Walt at Comic-Con, and also passed by Louise a few times, but never got to talk to her. I quit reading this miniseries after issue 6, perhaps because it wasn’t all that fun, but I continued buying it anyway. When the new Ragnarok series came out in July, it gave me an excuse to get caught up on Ragnarok. In issue 7, Thor fights Regn, then inexplicably murders Drifa.

RAGNAROK #8 (IDW, 2016) – “The Games of Fire,” [W/A] Walter Simonson. Thor and Regn fight a giant horde of zombies, then Thor gives Regn a “clear shot” at killing him. The fight scenes in Ragnarok #7 and #8 are amazing, but both issues suffer from monotony. They’re just pure cosmic Kirbyesque action, with no humor and minimal character interaction. Simonson’s Thor was a classic because along with cosmic epics, it also had stories like “The Frog of Thunder” and comic relief characters like Volstagg. The lack of humor and optimism is probably why I got bored with Ragnarok back in 2015.

INNER CITY ROMANCE #5 (Last Gasp, 1978) – “Good for You” and other stories, [W/A] Guy Colwell. A bunch of dealers at Comic-Con had comics by Guy Colwell. He’s an intriguing artist because although he himself was white, much of his work consists of sympathetic depictions of black people. Fantagraphics has been bringing his work back into print. Inner City Romance #5 begins with a wordless story that depicts two black people having sex. It’s very tender and lyrical, and offers a nice contrast to the bleak tone of the rest of the issue. The next story is kind of a non sequitur, but the one after that, “Interkids,” is a rather grim story about an inner-city black kid who watches a fire and then runs from bullies. In 1978, the Bronx was in the midst of an arson epidemic. The next story, “Sex Crime,” is even bleaker. A white woman is almost raped by a white man, then a second white man “rescues” her, only to rape her himself. She shoots the rapist, and then when a black man shows up and asks if she’s okay, she shoots him too. The issue ends with another idyllic sex scene. Throughout the issue, Guy Colwell demonstrates solid draftsmanship and a wide variety of representational styles.

RAGNAROK #9 (IDW, 2016) – “The Games of Life and Death…,” [W/A] Walt Simonson. Thor uses Mjolnir to resurrect Drifa, the same way he resurrects his goats. Then Thor finds that Drifa has killed Ratatosk, and a squirrel funeral is held. This moment is a nice change of pace; it’s sad, but in a pathetic way. Thor turns his two giant lizard steeds, Lady and Fury, into goats, and Thor, Regn and Drifa head off to confront Angantyr. The issue ends with Ratatosk waking up inside his grave. This issue is much more fun than the last two.

TRANSFORMERS #66 (Marvel, 1990) – “All Fall Down,” [W] Simon Furman, [A] Geoff Senior. I bought this and three other Transformers comics at the San Diego public library, where the events for educators and librarians were held. They were selling a bunch of comics at the library bookstore. Getting from the convention center to the library and back was very annoying. Marvel’s Transformers was one of the first comic books I ever read, but I haven’t returned to it since it was cancelled in 1991. Reading this issue, I realized with surprise that it’s basically a British science fiction comic. It has the characteristic tone and art style of Judge Dredd or some other 2000 AD series. “All Fall Down” is the conclusion to a story in which Optimus Prime battles Thunderwing and the demon that’s corrupted the Matrix.

FEARLESS #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “Campfire Song,” [W] Seanan McGuire, [A] Claire Roe, plus two other stories. This issue’s main story is part one of a serial, in which a summer camp is trying to get Storm, Captain Marvel and Invisible Woman to show up for an event. There are also two one-shot stories. “Style High Club” by Leah Williams and Nina Vakueva is a rare modern story starring Millie the Model. It even includes some paper dolls. “Unusual Suspects” by Kelly Thompson and Carmen Carnero is a silly gag. Overall, Fearless #1 is impressive, and much better than some of Marvel’s past attempts at all-female anthology titles.

LOVE & ROCKETS #28 (Fantagraphics, 1988) – various stories, [W/A] Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez. Until now I haven’t been collecting Love & Rockets vol. 1, because I already have all the Maggie and Hopey stories in other formats. But original Love & Rockets issues are not hard to find, and I’m a completist, so I will plan on getting more of them when I can. This issue begins with three short Jaime stories. “Boxer, Bikini, or Brief” is the one where Ray tries to paint a picture of Maggie. “Tear It Up, Terry Downe” provides essential information on Hopey’s history before meeting Maggie, and “Li’l Ray and the Gang” is a sort of preview of later Jaime stories like “Home School.” The centerpiece of the issue is Beto’s classic “Frida”: a biography of Frida Kahlo, illustrated with surrealist, symbolist art. It’s a powerful tribute by one great artist to another. The issue ends with another Jaime story, “Lar’Dog: Boy’s Night Out #1398,” in which Ray and Doyle hang out with an asshole “friend.”

RAGNAROK #10 (IDW, 2016) – “The Game of the Hammer…,” [W/A] Walt Simonson. Thor and Regn defeat the jotun that’s been appearing throughout the last few issues, then they head to Angantyr’s lair. This is a straightforward issue in which not much happens.

RAGNAROK #11 (IDW, 2016) – “The Game of the Sword,” [W/A] Walt Simonson. Thor and Regn finally get to Angantyr. He apparently kills Regn, and meanwhile, Thor collapses because his divine apples aren’t enough to sustain him. By now I was starting to enjoy this series more.

RAGNAROK #12 (IDW, 2017) – “The Games of Death and Magic,” [W/A] Walt Simonson. Ratatosk  comes back to life and saves Thor and Drifa. Regn and Angantyr are killed fighting each other, and Thor leaves Drifa with some friendly villagers before going off on his next adventure. The star of this issue is Ratatosk; his cuteness and funny dialogue provide some much-needed comic relief in a very bleak series.

HEPCATS #12 (Double Diamond, 1994) – “Snowblind Chapter X: Exorcism (b),” [W/A] Martin Wagner. This issue focuses on an anthropomorphic young woman named Erica. The first half of the issue is a dream sequence, and in the second half,  she tries to escape from an abusive relationship. Martin Wagner’s style is blatantly derivative of Dave Sim’s; he uses the same style of page layouts as Sim, the same style of linework, the same combination of a nonhuman protagonist and a realistic world, etc. Hepcats even has a four-page letter column with lengthy replies, just like Cerebus. Unfortunately, Martin Wagner imitated Dave Sim not only in his art but also in his public persona. If anything, he was even pricklier than Dave Sim. The one thing he couldn’t match was Sim’s consistency. Although Hepcats was briefly very popular, it was never profitable, and Wagner never released any more issues before he quit the comic industry in 1998. Hepcats is mostly just of historical interest. I saw another issue in a cheap box at last weekend’s con (more on this later) and I didn’t buy it.

THE MUPPET SHOW #2 (Boom!, 2010) – “On the Road Part 2: His Wackiness, Clint Wacky!”, [W/A] Roger Langridge. Fozzie is replaced on the Muppet Show by a terrible comedian named Clint Wacky, and the Muppets travel to a town where everyone is related to Statler and Waldorf. This issue is another brilliant demonstration of Langridge’s humor.

WEIRDO #19 (Last Gasp, 1986) – various stories, [E] Aline Kominsky-Crumb. A bunch of Weirdo artists (including the aforementioned Mary Fleener and Kristine Kryttre) were in San Diego to celebrate my friend Jon B. Cooke’s new Book of Weirdo. I bought this issue of Weirdo at Quimby’s in Chicago during MLA, but never got around to reading it. Embarrassingly, the main reason I don’t read more magazine-size comics is because they didn’t fit in the box I was using to store comics waiting to be reviewed. I found a solution to that, and I’ve been reading a lot more magazines lately. The new Crumb story in Weirdo #19 is “Mother Hulda,” a Brothers Grimm adaptation. It’s not overtly sexist, but the women are all drawn in Crumb’s trademark zaftig style. Mark Zingarelli’s “The Talker” is an autobio story about being beaten up by an asshole in a diner. I haven’t seen any Zingarelli comics before, and he’s an interesting discovery. Dennis Eichhorn and Michael Dougan’s “Dennis the Sullen Menace” is a gripping if somewhat implausible autobio story about life in prison. Then there’s a Kim Deitch story that was later reprinted in Shadowland #1, and Aline’s “Sex-Crazed Housewife.” Other contributors to this issue include Peter Bagge, Frank Stack, Penny Moran, and Scott Nickel. Regrettably, this issue also includes S. Clay Wilson’s disgusting and racist “Captain Pissgums.”

WEIRDO #20 (Last Gasp, 1987) – various stories, [E] Aline Kominsky-Crumb. This is the best of the three issues of Weirdo I’ve read so far. After short stories by Dori Seda and Mary Fleener, it starts out with Aline’s meditation on Jewish food. This story made me nostalgic for the food I grew up with. Next is Crumb’s “Footsy,” about the origins of his foot fetish. It’s an incisive piece of self-examination, though it suffers from Crumb’s usual sexism. It’s drawn in the same style as “Hypothetical Quandary,” with heavy spotting of blacks. Next, Mark Zingarelli’s “The ‘Cockeyed’ Cook” is a grim true crime story about a brutal serial killer. The best thing in the issue is Carol Tyler’s “Uncovered Property,” in which the young Carol learns that she can never go outside with her shirt off, and no one can explain why. Besides being beautifully drawn, it’s a gentle indictment of sexist double standards. The last long story is Michael Dougan’s “TV Evangelist,” in which he tries and fails to save his grandmother from being fleeced by a televangelist. I’ve heard that in the ‘80s there was a sort of conflict between the Raw and Weirdo schools, and both these issues of Weirdo include some not entirely flattering references to Raw. I think I prefer Raw to Weirdo, but I definitely need to read more of both.

WIMMEN’S COMIX #16 (Rip Off, 1990) – various stories, [E] Rebecka Wright. This is the final issue of Wimmen’s Comix, and it focuses on men. Half the issue consists of a Desert Peach story depicting a sexual encounter between Pfirsch and his boyfriend. The other stories are all short. The stories by Phoebe Gloeckner and Angela Bocage are beautifully drawn; the latter is also the centerfold of the issue, and it’s a male version of a Playboy centerfold. Roberta Gregory’s one-pager “Men and Women” is funny: it’s about the annual councils where men and women decide things that are universally true of each gender.

RAGNAROK: THE BREAKING OF HELHEIM #1 (IDW, 2019) – “The Doom of the Powers,” [W/A] Walt Simonson. This new series has an even more epic scope than the previous one; it begins by introducing a whole bunch of villains Thor will have to fight. Then there’s a retelling of what happened during Ragnarok while Thor wasn’t there. Ratatosk acts as Thor’s sidekick or pet for the whole issue, so this volume of Ragnarok is already more fun than the first volume was.

THE QUIET KIND #1 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Chuck Brown, [A] Jeremy Treece. A one-shot that introduces a bunch of teen superheroes. I did not enjoy this comic. There’s nothing in this new superhero universe that we haven’t seen many times before, and none of the characters were interesting or original. Also, at 48 pages, this comic is too long, and it fails to adequately explain its premise. If there’s an ongoing Quiet Kind series, I won’t plan on reading it.

LITTLE BIRD #5 (Image, 2019) – “The Fight for Elder’s Hope Chapter Five,” [W] Darcy van Poelgeest, [A] Ian Bertram. I didn’t order issue 4. Little Bird #5 depicts an epic confrontation in which most of the main characters get killed, but there’s still some room for a sequel. Little Bird’s story is fairly average, but Ian Bertram’s artwork is amazing, and based on that alone, this miniseries deserves an Eisner nomination.

YOUNG LUST #1 (Last Gasp, 1971) – various stories, [W/A] Bill Griffith and Jay Kinney. This was Bill Griffith’s first comic book, and it’s rather crude compared to his later work. All the stories in this issue are mildly pornographic parodies of romance comics. This issue is most notable because it also includes Art Spiegelman’s one-pager “Love’s Body,” one of his earliest and least impressive works. It’s not nearly as innovative or visually impressive as his two stories in Short Order Comix #2, which appeared just three years later.

ALL-NEW HAWKEYE #4 (Marvel, 2015) – “Wunderkammer,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Ramón Pérez. This issue has an interesting gimmick where the top 3/4 of each page are a flashback, depicting how the young Clint Barton became a criminal. The bottom 1/4 take place in the present day, and depict a roof party that’s invaded by terrorists. The present-day sequence is drawn in a normal style, while the flashback sequence is drawn to look painted. Jeff Lemire’s Hawkeye is one of his less accomplished works, because it’s too derivative of Fraction and Aja’s Hawkeye, but at least this issue is original.

VAMPIRELLA #88 (Warren, 1980) – “Night of the Hell Dream,” [W] Will Richardson, [A] Rudy Nebres, plus two other stories. This issue’s Vampirella story is mediocre, though Rudy Nebres’s draftsmanship is good. The two other stories are credited to Archie Goodwin and Bruce Jones, but it’s not clear which is which, because the writers for the issue are listed in alphabetical order. “Nightwalk” is a dumb EC-esque story in which a woman named Lucenda drowns, and her lover, Bob, thinks he’s seen her ghost. It turns out that Lucenda is plotting with Bob’s best friend Rick to have Bob murder her husband, a cemetery guard. In the end, all the characters but Bob end up dead. Lucenda and Rick’s murder plot is ridiculously complicated, and there’s no explanation for why she couldn’t have just divorced her husband. Finally “The Talent of Michael Crawley” is actually good. It’s about a telekinetic boy who suffers from child abuse, but is recruited by some wealthy power brokers, and ends up using his power to kill them as well as himself. I’m guessing this story is the one written by Archie Goodwin, because several years later, in Psi-Force #1, he created a different telekinetic boy named Michael Crawley.

VÖGELEIN #5 (Fiery Studios, 2002) – “Book Five,” [W/A] Jane Irwin. I remember hearing about this when it came out, probably through my friend Greg Hatcher, but I haven’t thought about it in years. It turns out Vögelein is not just a random curiosity but is genuinely good. The protagonist is a miniature “clockwork faerie” who is immortal, but is dependent on other people to wind her mechanism. Jane Irwin’s tender writing and subtle facial expressions effectively convey the pathos of Vögelein’s life. She also demonstrates effective research and historical knowledge, telling us exactly where Vögelein came from and how. Somehow this comic reminded me of Charles de Lint’s books, and he does seem to have been an influence on Irwin. In addition to this five-issue miniseries, there was also a standalone Vögelein graphic novel. I need to track that down.

THE HORROR OF COLLIER COUNTY #2 (Dark Horse, 1999) – untitled, [W/A] Rich Tommaso. The protagonist, Fran, goes for a walk and encounters a creepy stalkerish dude. But it turns out he’s not that bad; he thought she was following him, because there’s another worse dude who’s been stalking them both. Not much else happens in this issue, but Tommaso continues to powerfully evoke the atmosphere of Florida. I hope I can find the rest of this series.

REAL DEAL #8 (Fantagraphics, 2018) – “The Psyop,” [W/A] Lawrence Hubbard. I met Lawrence Hubbard at Comic-Con, while he was signing at the Fantagraphics booth. In this issue’s main story, the gangster protagonist, G.C., is recruited by a criminal mastermind who claims to have been controlling G.C.’s life. Hubbard’s art and lettering are rather crude, but they’re crude in the same way as some of Gary Panter’s work, and so I enjoyed this story. Hubbard is also a rare example of a black artist working in an underground comics idiom. The second story in the issue, by William Clausen, isn’t nearly as good.

PAKKINS’ LAND #1 (Tapestry, 1996) – untitled, [W/A] Gary Shipman, [W] Rhoda Shipman. A young boy travels through a cave into a land of talking animals. Gary Shipman’s art is quite good, but this comic has a boring plot and hideous lettering, and it feels like a ripoff of Bone.

THE HIGHEST HOUSE #2 (IDW, 2018) – “Obsidian’s Bargain, Part 2,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. In the second issue of this fantasy series, the young slave protagonist, Moth, starts working as a roofer alongside his mentor Fless. Moth and Fless are both tyrannized by an evil cook. Moth makes a bargain with a mysterious being trapped inside a rock, enabling him to get rid of the cook. This series has a fascinating story and gorgeous art. It reminds me a lot of Gormenghast, thanks to being set in a giant ancient castle with a hidebound, hierarchical society. The evil cook dude is very similar to Swelter.

MELODY #8 (Kitchen Sink, 1993) – “Big City Welcome,” [W] Sylvie Rancourt, [A] Gabriel Morrissette. Mellody and her boyfriend Nick move from Abitibi to Montreal. Nick gets a job dealing drugs. Melody has a tense encounter with her awful mother. This series is an interesting slice-of-life story, but it suffers from an awkward translation. And it feels as if it’s more Gabrile Morrissette and Jacques Boivin than Sylvie Rancourt. I’d like to read the other version of Melody that Rancourt drew herself. (Confusingly, Drawn & Quarterly has published one volume of Melody with another one coming next year, but neither of them is a collection of the Kitchen Sink series.)

LITTLE ARCHIE #163 (Archie, 1981) – “The Christmas Ducks or Yule Quack Up Over Time,” [W/A] Bob Bolling, plus other stories. This issue’s only Bob Bolling story stars Little Veronica and Sue Stringly. For Christmas, Sue Stringly wants to install a light on the watertower near her house, so as to prevent bird strikes. (Which are a real danger; the new Minnesota Vikings stadium was widely criticized for not being bird-friendly.) Veronica decides to help her keep the birds safe, but they both get stuck on top of the tower. This is an impressive work by Bolling, one of his few stories in which Little Archie doesn’t appear. This issue also includes some inferior stories by Dexter Taylor.

GOOD GIRLS #3 (Fantagraphics, 1988) – “Beauty and the Beast with Two Heads,” [W/A] Carol Lay. Irene van de Kamp is kidnapped by a rich man who collects strange women, including a three-breasted woman and a Padaung woman with neck rings. It turns out her kidnapper has two heads, one of which is evil. Mayhem ensues. There’s also a subplot about Irene’s blind stalker Kurt. This issue has hilarious writing and exciting artwork. At one point in the issue, another character mentions that Irene is beautiful when wearing her lip disk, and that’s actually true.

JACK STAFF #1 (Dancing Elephant, 2000) – “Good Morning, Castletown!”, [W/A] Paul Grist. When I bought this at Heroes Con in 2018, I thought it was the same story as the Image Jack Staff #1, which I already owned. It turns out that the Image Jack Staff series had totally different stories from the self-published series. In this debut issue, we’re introduced to Jack Staff himself and the major characters in his universe, including Becky Burdock, Helen Morgan, and Tom Tom the Robot Man. Most of these characters are based on preexisting British superheroes, some of which are obscure; for example, Tom Tom is based on a character called Robot Archie (no relation to Archie Andrews). As always, Paul Grist’s artwork in this comic is excellent.

SUPERMAN #13 (DC, 2017) – “Supermonster Part Two,” [W] Peter Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] Doug Mahnke. This series started off very well, but quickly jumped the shark because of excessive involvement in crossovers. This issue is really confusing at first, but gets better as it goes on. The guest stars, Frankenstein (the Grant Morrison version) and his wife, are interesting characters, and their tortured relationship with their son is an interesting foil to Clark and Lois’s relationship with Jon. The issue ends with a touching scene where Clark and Lois watch Jon sleeping.

SUPURBIA #4 (Boom!, 2013) – untitled, [W] Grace Randolph, [A] Russell Dauterman. A confusing issue with an unclear plot. The issue mostly revolves around the murder of a journalist named Hayley Harper. There’s also a subplot where the Wonder Woman character has been imprisoned for trying to kill her son, or save him from being killed, I’m not sure which. I still think this series is fascinating, and its artwork is good.

HAUNTED LOVE #6 (Charlton, 1974) – “Sleep, My Love,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Tom Sutton, plus another story. Although this issue begins with a story by Fred Himes, it’s mostly a showcase for Tom Sutton’s brilliant art. In “Sleep, My Love,” a Paris doctor is hired to care for a hideous old lady, but falls in love with her young companion. Alas, the old woman turns out to be a witch, and she tries to possess the companion’s body and seduce the doctor. Tom Sutton’s draftsmanship is crude at times, but the best pages in this issue, as well as the cover, are intricate and psychedelic.

THE HIGHEST HOUSE #3 (IDW, 2018) – “Obsidian’s Bargain, Part 3,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. In this issue, Moth starts to play the role of Steerpike. He falls in love with the young daughter of the castle’s lord, and Obsidian engineers a situation in which Moth saves the daughter’s life. As a result, Moth is offered his freedom, but chooses to ask for Fless’s freedom instead. He then becomes the personal servant to the lord. The issue ends with Moth discovering the daughter having sex with her maidservant. This series is amazing so far, and I need to read the last three issues soon.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #561 (Marvel, 2008) – “Peter Parker: Paparazzi Part 3: Photo Finished,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Marcos Martin. Early in the Brand New Day era, Peter Parker is assigned to track down the new girlfriend of a star named Bobby Carr. It turns out that girlfriend is Mary Jane, though Peter never finds that out. Also, a two-dimensional villain named Paper Doll is obsessed with Bobby, and Peter has to save him from her. This is a thrilling and well-plotted issue, and I love the idea of a paper-thin villain.

New comics received on Friday, August 2:

PAPER GIRLS #30 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. An affectionate finale to the series. The issue starts with a shared dream sequence, and then the papergirls head out for their last paper route, but they decide to remain friends even after they’re no longer working together. So even though the girls don’t remember any of their time-traveling adventures, they’re still friends. Kudos to BKV and Cliff on the conclusion of an excellent if very confusing series.

FANTASTIC FOUR #12 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Honeymoon Crasher,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Sean Izaakse. Ben’s once-a-year return to human form is coming up, so he and Alicia finally go on their honeymoon, but of course the Hulk shows up to interrupt them. Or rather, a Hulk puppet controlled by the Puppet Master. This issue also includes a preview of Jeremy Whitley and Will Robson’s new Future Foundation title. In this story, Alex Power recruits his sister Julie to help him teach the FF kids. This story is really cute, and develops the two older Powers’ relationship in an interesting way. I’m eagerly looking forward to the ongoing FF title. According to Jeremy on Twitter, Alex is now in his mid-twenties.

RUNAWAYS #23 (Marvel, 2019) – “But You Can’t Hide Pt V,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Andrés Genolet. I went to Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks’s panel at Comic-Con, and later met Rainbow briefly at the Eisners. This issue, Victor tries to convince Doombot to assume its old nice personality again, while back in the real world, the other Runaways are having all kinds of relationship drama. I like the splash page where Molly’s stuffed animals are arranged in a circle around Doombot’s bed, and the cat is sitting between them as if it’s an additional stuffed animal.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #8 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Life & Death of Conan Part Eight: Homecoming,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Gerardo Zaffino. Conan goes back to Cimmeria for a visit, but finds that all his fellow tribespeople have been turned into zombies by Thoth-Amon. Just as Conan is about to die, his grandmother breaks out of her trance and saves him. The clear high point of this issue is Granny Conan, a giant old battleaxe who reminds me of a brawnier Granny Weatherwax. She’s exactly what you would expect Conan’s grandma to be.

MONSTRESS #24 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. I’ve never really been able to follow the political machinations and intrigues in this comic, but this issue has a lot of nice character interactions. Maika is finally reuinted with Ren and Kippa, but then they have to air their dirty laundry. The other major event this issue is that a city gets blown up by some kind of atom bomb, which sparks a major war between the various factions.

GREEN LANTERN ANNUAL #1 (DC, 2019) – “The Wireless Ones,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli. During a family reunion, Hal and his cousin Air-Wave battle a bunch of creatures from a radio dimension. The art in this issue is only average, but the story is thrilling, and the radio creatures are a really cool idea. Grant never explains who Air-Wave actually is, so this comic will likely be confusing to new readers.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #4 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Clint McElroy, [A] Ig Guara. Kamala Khan teams up with Carol Danvers to fight some Kree villains, and it turns out that one of them is Mar-Vell. I’m sorry that Eve Ewing isn’t the permanent writer on this series, but Clint McElroy’s dialogue is impressive. I especially like the scene where Carol and Kamala awkwardly convince Kamala’s parents to let Kamala accept an internship.

RAT QUEENS #17 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ryan Ferrier, [A] Priscilla Petraites. This series has jumped the shark. In this issue, Ryan Ferrier writes Violet out of the series due to pregnancy, and he assassinates Hannah and Betty’s characters: he makes Hannah act horrible to her friends for no reason, and he turns Betty into a hopeless alcoholic. Ferrier doesn’t accomplish anything by destroying his characters in this way, because his Rat Queens is not even remotely fun. This series was excellent for its first year or so, but it should probably have been cancelled when Roc Upchurch was fired. Since then it’s been a mere shadow of what it originally was. Issue 17 will be my last.

HEATHEN #8 (Vault, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Natasha Alterici. Aydis gets thrown off the ship, but makes it to Heimdall island anyway with the aid of one of the mermaids. Meanwhile, back in Asgard or wherever, there’s some political stuff going on that I don’t understand. This issue ends with an ad for Heathen #9, but I don’t think that issue has been solicited yet.

AMERICAN CARNAGE #9 (Vertigo, 2019) – “Sacrifice,” [W] Bryan Hill, [A] Leandro Fernandez. Richard forces Sheila to kill him, which somehow results in Wynn’s senatorial campaign being discredited. This was a gripping and extremely well-drawn comic, but it suffered from a total lack of sympathetic characters. Indeed, the most sympathetically portrayed character in the series is the white nationalist patriarch’s daughter. Hill also fails to offer any real hope that white nationalist fascism can be defeated. And by focusing so much on Richard and Sheila’s flaws, he may even be suggesting a “both sides” approach to the problem of white nationalism.

On August 3, I went to yet another local convention. I felt kind of ashamed of spending more money on comics after having just been to two major conventions, but what was I going to do, ignore an opportunity to buy comics? Besides, after this, the next convention isn’t until December.

For the second year in a row, the August Charlotte Comic Con was a two-day event. I went on the first day. It was held in a bigger room than usual, or rather, a bigger configuration of the same room. I enjoyed this con a lot more than last year’s August event; there were a lot more dealers, and some excellent cheap boxes. Some of the comics I bought were:

JIM #6 – oops, it turns out I already had this, even though it wasn’t listed in my database. I liked it a lot better than the previous time I read it, though it’s not the best issue of Jim.

CRIMINAL #1 (Marvel, 2007) – “Coward, Part One of Five,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. The debut issue of Criminal is about Leo, a thief who’s really good at running away. It’s a well-executed piece of crime fiction, but it lacks the complexity or depth of later Criminal stories. Curiously, a character in this issue says that Leo’s late father Tommy killed Teeg Lawless. I guess that’s a clue to what’ll happen in the current Criminal story arc. I had assumed that Dan Farraday was going to kill Teeg. This issue also includes one of Jacob’s Frank Kafka strips.

IRON MAN #20 (Marvel, 1969) – “Who Serves Lucifer?”, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] George Tuska. Charlie, a poor white security guard, is pissed that he’s not as rich as Tony Stark. So when Lucifer, an alien supervillain, recruits Charlie as a pawn in his world domination scheme, Charlie eagerly goes along with him. So basically, this story depicts how Donald Trump got elected President. The only difference between Charlie and a Trump voter is that Charlie comes to his senses when his wife appeals to his humanity. Its political implications aside, this is a well-written and entertaining comic.

WOLFF & BYRD, COUNSELORS OF THE MACABRE’S SECRETARY MAVIS #1 (Exhibit A, 1998) – “The World’s Greatest Secretary!”, [W/A] Batton Lash. Batton Lash was the kindest and friendliest comics professional I ever met. It sucked that he wasn’t there to greet everyone at Comic-Con this year. He was also a brilliant storyteller. In Mavis #1, Wolff & Byrd’s secretary Mavis has just received a marriage proposal from her boyfriend Toby Bascoe. She goes home to her parents to think it over, but finds that Toby has beaten her there. Also, some of her younger relatives have just discovered a ghost that kidnaps eligible bachelors. The romantic and supernatural subplots come together in a clever and plausible way, and Batton portrays Mavis’s emotions with subtlety and realism. Toby ends up retracting his proposal because Mavis isn’t ready yet, which is a satisfying outcome.

THE SAGA OF THE MAN-ELF #3 (Trident, 1990) – “Book One: Reigns of Power,” [W] Guy Lawley, [A] Richard Weston. I met Guy Lawley at last year’s UF comics conference, and had some interesting conversations with him. He told me that Saga of the Man-Elf was intended to tell an actual story about Jerry Cornelius, since Moorcock’s Cornelius novels mostly didn’t have plots. This issue, the title character, Janus Carpenter, meets Jerry Cornelius, and we discover that they’re not the same character – though I guess they’re both incarnations of the Eternal Champion. Meanwhile, there’s a parallel plot thread involving the machinations of Miss Brunner (one of the many avatars of Margaret Thatcher in British comics) and other villains. This series is hard to find, but it’s fascinating; it deserves to be remembered alongside Luther Arkwright. Too bad there were only five issues.

HERO FOR HIRE #4 (Marvel, 1972) – “Cry Fear… Cry Phantom!”, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Billy Graham. The Gem Theater seems to be haunted by a ghost. Luke investigates and discovers a complex plot involving a secret passage, a dead theatre impresario, and a big guy and a little person with a giant friend. Hero for Hire #4 is a complicated but exciting mystery, with a gritty sense of realism. It feels like an accurate depiction of pre-gentrification Times Square – it feels like it’s about the same place described in Delany’s Times Square Red, Times Square Blue.

SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #22 (Marvel, 2014) – untitled, [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Humberto Ramos. Peter/Doc Ock gives a hilarious speech where he uses standard super-villain rhetoric to motivate his employees. He also quotes a line from Watchmen. There’s an awkward moment where Aunt May assumes Peter/Otto only hired Anna Marie for affirmative action reasons. In the main event of the issue, Spidey intervenes in a fight between Agent Venom and the Crime-Master, and is more interested in fighting the former than the latter. Agent Venom unmasks himself as Flash Thompson, not knowing that the current Spider-Man has no idea who that is. This issue is just as entertaining as Dan Slott’s regular Amazing Spider-Man series. Since I’m already collecting that series, I also want to start collecting Superior Spider-Man.

SABRINA #4 (Archie, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Veronica Fish. Sabrina’s aunts are missing, but before looking for them, she has to deal with some cute high school drama. Sabrina walks out on both of her love interests when they start fighting over her. Salem claims that as a cat, lying comes naturally to him. Sabrina uses some magical items to “upgrade” herself as well as turning Salem into a giant panther. This Sabrina series is less original than the previous one, but it’s just as good in its own way.

YUMMY FUR #10 (Vortex, 1988) – “Destroy All Vampires,” [W/A] Chester Brown. Unlike most installments of Ed the Happy Clown, the one in this issue has a coherent plot, albeit an absurdist one. Ed is barricaded inside a museum with Josie, a vampire, and some dead pygmies. The police hire a pygmy hunter to capture them, but then some vampire hunters show up and offer to assist. But the vampire hunters kill the pygmy hunter by mistake, allowing Ed and Josie to escape. I did say it was an absurdist plot. This issue also includes Chester’s adaptation of part of chapters 8 and 9 of Mark. The letters page, which is hand-lettered by Chester, provides some interesting information about Yummy Fur’s distribution and publicity.

MURDER ME DEAD #1 (El Capitán, 2000) – “Murder Me Dead,” [W/A] David Lapham. The co-owner of a restaurant is found hanged. Her husband, Steven, emerges as a prime suspect. David Lapham did this series as a side project so he wouldn’t get bored with Stray Bullets. It’s different from Stray Bullets only in that it’s more of a conventional murder mystery. So far it doesn’t include Lapham’s brutally realistic depictions of violence, but otherwise it’s well-executed and intriguing.

AGE OF BRONZE #6 (Image, 2000) – untitled (A Thousand Ships 6), [W/A] Eric Shanower. I found Age of Bronze #6-8 in a 50-cent box. I already have the trade paperback with these issues, but I’m a completist, and I wasn’t going to turn them down for just 50 cents each. In this issue, Menelaus rushes to Agamemnon with the news of Paris’s consensual kidnapping of Helen. Agamemnon’s initial attempt to get her back is unsuccessful, so he comes up with a grand plan to besiege Troy. Meanwhile on Skyros, Achilles is getting sick of pretending to be a girl. The issue ends with Achilles’s rape of Deidamia. The next issue begins with Deidamia giving birth to the resulting child. This sequence reads differently in the trade paperback, where the rape and the childbirth occur on adjacent pages. One of this series’ greatest strengths is its distinctive and three-dimensional characters. For example, Eric writes Achilles as a confused little boy who is also capable of terrifying violence.

PLANETARY/BATMAN: NIGHT ON EARTH (DC, 2003) – “Night on Earth,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] John Cassaday. Elijah Snow, Jakita Wagner and the Drummer visit Gotham City, where they encounter John Black, an insane villain with reality-shifting powers. They chase John Black across a bunch of parallel realities, encountering a different version of Batman in each reality. “Night on Earth” is a thrilling epic adventure which is mercifully free of the confusing continuity of the regular Planetary series. It’s also a showcase for John Cassaday’s incredible art. He draws Batman extremely well, and in a bunch of different styles. And this is a weird thing to point out, but I really like Cassaday’s realistic drapery.

CAPTAIN VICTORY AND THE GALACTIC RANGERS #3 (Pacific, 1982) – “Encounters of a Savage Kind,” [W/A] Jack Kirby. This comic has some impressive art, but its plot makes no sense, and it feels like a rehash of New Gods. It’s also hindered by Mike Thibodeaux’s ugly inking and lettering. But it’s still Kirby at least. The best part of this comic is the floating head dude, one of Kirby’s typical comic relief characters. This issue includes a Ms. Mystic backup story by Neal Adams. As always, Neal’s writing here is terrible, though at least he has a serious point to make about the impending extinction of the bald eagle.

SHOWCASE #86 (DC, 1969) – “River of Gold!”, [W/A] Joe Kubert. Firehair, a white boy raised by Indians, saves a white prospector from Crow Indians. He ends up having to fight the Crow chief’s son. Meanwhile, the prospector has found gold on the Crow’s land, which is exactly what the Crow were afraid of. Compared to other contemporaneous comics (e.g. Rawhide Kid #61), Showcase #86 makes a better effort to portray Indians sympathetically. The white prospector is the villain of the story, and the Crow chief is a kind man, while his son is a rash hothead. Kubert also did enough research to know, for example, that the Crow call themselves Absaroke (now spelled Apsáalooke). As usual, his artwork in this issue is stunning.

OCEAN #1 (Wildstorm, 2004) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Chris Sprouse. One hundred years in the future, Inspector Nathan Kane visits the moon to investigate a murder mystery. Based on this first issue, I’m not sure yet what Ocean is about, but what makes it interesting is Ellis and Sprouse’s depictions of near-future technology. The opening scene in New York is especially interesting: there are taxis and bagel shops, but also a street grating that automatically disintegrates trash. Nelson gets to the moon using a disc-shaped rocket shuttle, and to get there he passes through a space station named Arthur C. Clarke, possibly in reference to The Fountains of Paradise.

IMAGE FIRSTS: GODLAND #1 (Image, 2010) – “Cosmic Wheels in Motion,” [W] Joe Casey, [A] Tom Scioli. This debut issue introduces a bunch of different Kirbyesque characters. Tom Scioli’s artwork is stunning, and he imitates Kirby very well; however, in this issue he doesn’t do much more than that. There’s not much in Godland #1 that’s unique to Scioli rather than Kirby. In more recent works, Tom has developed a more personal style. I also don’t like Joe Casey’s writing. However, I still do plan on collecting more Godland when I find it at low prices.

TEST #2 (Vault, 2019) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Jen Hickman. Aleph Null discovers that the entire town of Laurelwood is a testing ground for new products. This issue is really confusing, and I had difficulty following it. Also, Aleph Null is such an abject, hopeless character that it’s hard to sympathize with them. Some of the confusion in this comic is deliberate: we’re not supposed to know yet who the good guys are, if anyone.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY AND NICKELODEON AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER/STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS (Dark Horse, 2011) – “Relics,” [W/A] Johane Matte, plus other stories. The main story in this FCBD comic takes place during season one of Avatar. Aang finds an Air Nomad relic, but it turns out to be part of a trap set by Admiral Zhao. This story lacks the complexity or originality of the Avatar graphic novels, but Johane Matte does a good job of mimicking the TV show’s style. This comic also includes a four-page vignette by J. Torres and GuriHiru, taking place after the Gaang has met Toph, and a Star Wars story that I couldn’t understand at all.

DOCTOR STRANGE #172 (Marvel, 1972) – “…I, Dormammu!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Gene Colan. Disappointing given the talent involved. It’s mostly just a long fight between Dr. Strange and Dormammu, and there’s little genuine weirdness, nor is there much characterization. It feels like an inferior rehash of Ditko’s Dr. Strange. At least the art is good.

SWEET TOOTH #10 (Vertigo, 2010) – “In Captivity Interlude: Back Woods,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. I also saw Sweet Tooth #3 at the convention, but didn’t realize I was missing that issue. In #10, Gus is at the research facility, and his captors hypnotize him and make him remember his childhood. As a result we learn a lot of information about Gus’s childhood, and the researchers eventually find the location of Gus’s father’s secret hideout, which was what they were looking for. There’s one memorable two-page spread in this issue which depicts Gus and the hypnotist walking over Gus’s antlers.

A.D.: AFTER DEATH BOOK TWO (Image, 2016) – “The Goodbye Suit,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Jeff Lemire. A frustrating waste of Jeff’s artistic talent. Jeff’s artwork in A.D. is beautiful, and he uses a watercolor technique which is rare in his other work. The problem with this comic is Snyder. A.D. Book Two is about 70 pages, but about one-third of those pages are illustrated prose rather than comics. Now first, when I read a comic book, I want to read comics. I already spend enough time reading prose. Second, I don’t want to be a prescriptive critic, but I think that including lengthy prose passages in a comic book is a severe mistake. It’s a waste of the potential of comics. What’s the point of writing “He lifts the suit from its case. He does this carefully, respectfully,” when you could instead draw him lifting the suit out – perhaps with a caption stating that he does so respectfully? Worse than that, Snyder sometimes wastes our time telling us things we can already see in the art. Right after the line I just quoted, Snyder gives us an extensive ekphrastic description of the suit – but the previous two pages were a two-page spread depicting that exact same suit. I can’t see any excuse for such redundancy. In addition to all that, the story of A.D. is terrible. Snyder fails to adequately explain the comic’s premise or to make the reader care about the characters, and his prose is histrionic and pompous; it’s as if he’s trying to make the story seem more compelling than it is. I have rarely if ever read a good Scott Snyder comic, and I get the impression that he’s one of the more overrated writers in the industry.

ALL-TIME COMICS: ZEROSIS DEATHSCAPE #2 (All-Time Comics, 2019) – “Birth of the Nightmare,” [W] Josh Bayer & Josh Simmons, [A] Trevor von Eeden with Benjamin Marra. This is very similar to the previous issue, but I liked it better. I like how the creators combine superheroes with an alternative, Panter- and Fort Thunder-influenced aesthetic. The rather crude lettering actually helps, because it fits that aesthetic better than slick lettering would have done. Trevor von Eeden’s art is still heavily influenced by Neal Adams, but he uses some nicely experimental page layouts.

BLACK PANTHER #14 (Marvel, 2019) – “Two Thousand Seasons,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Daniel Acuña. Some more fight scenes, plus some negotiations between the characters on Earth and in space. Like “Avengers of the New World,” “The Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda” is getting way too long. I’d like to teach a Black Panther comic next semester, but TNC’s Black Panther is not a good candidate because it would bore the students.

JOE HILL’S THE CAPE: FALLEN #4 (IDW, 2019) – “One by One They Were Consumed,” [W] Jason Ciaramella, [A] Zach Howard. I suppose this comic would make more sense if I had read any previous issues of The Cape. But to me it just seems like a gruesome horror story, in which a psychopathic supervillain murders some innocent people and acts extremely smug about it. It’s like a worse version of Miracleman #15. I shouldn’t have ordered this comic.

EXCALIBUR #96 (Marvel, 1996) – “Fireback,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Carlos Pacheco. Excalibur investigates the Hellfire Club’s plots, and there’s also some okay characterization. I haven’t read much of Warren Ellis’s Excalibur, and I need to look into it more. Unfortunately it often suffered from bad art, and even Pacheco’s artwork in this issue is not very good.

AIRBOY #24 (Eclipse, 1987) – “Bio-Hazard!”, [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Ron Randall. Airboy encounters the Heap, who is written to be indistinguishable from Man-Thing. There’s also a backup story depicting a Korean War battle. This story makes Dixon’s anticommunist politics really obvious.

JADEMAN KUNG FU SPECIAL #1 (Jademan, 1990) – various stories, [W/A] Tony Wong et al. A series of excerpts from and summaries of various Jademan comics, together with a bunch of text articles that lionize Tony Wong’s achievements. This comic has little if any original content, but it makes me want to read more Jademan comics. At one point the translator, Mike Baron, makes fun of the massive number of characters by saying that there’ll be a test later.

GLOW #4 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Tini Howard, [A] Hannah Templer. The battle royale never happens for lack of time, but the two groups of wrestlers agree on a rematch. I like the art in this comic, but it seems designed for readers who already know the Netflix show and can remember all the characters (see previous review). I was never able to tell any of the characters apart.

ALEX NINO’S NIGHTMARE #1 (Innovation, 1989) – “Nightmare,” [W/A] Alex Niño. This comic has a vapid story, but also has mind-expanding, radical artwork by the most underrated of the Filipino artists. It’s full of page after page of bizarre, abstract, Lovecraftian compositions. It shows that Alex Niño is a genius of draftsmanship and page composition. It’s too bad that he rarely if ever worked with a writer worthy of his talents. A lot of his best work was wasted on terrible comics like God the Dyslexic Dog. Nightmare #1 includes a next-issue blurb, but no other issues ever appeared.

FANTASTIC FOUR #99 (Marvel, 1970) – “The Torch Goes Wild!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. Johnny has a temper tantrum because he misses Crystal, so he flies off and invades the Great Refuge. This issue’s story is pretty straightforward and unoriginal, but the art is far better than in Captain Victory #3, largely because of Joe Sinnott’s inking. There’s one cute page where the FF visit some Himalayan nomads. On the splash page, the Thing calls himself a “boomshusher.” From context, this must mean a good skier, but I can’t find any Google results for this word, other than references to this same page.

TALES OF SUSPENSE #99 (Marvel, 1967) – “At the Mercy of the Maggia,” [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Gene Colan, and “The Man Who Lived Twice!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. In the Iron Man story, Tony is kidnapped by Whiplash. The best part of the story is a sequence in which Jasper Sitwell bullies his way into an airport. In the Iron Man story, Cap teams up with T’Challa to fight Baron Zemo, who is somehow alive. This “Zemo” turned out to be an impostor. After this issue, Tales of Suspense became Captain America, and Iron Man was briefly left homeless.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #789 (Marvel, 2017) – “Fall of Parker Part 1 – Top to Bottom,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Stuart Immonen. Prior to this storyline, Peter was the CEO of Parker Industries, but he had to dissolve the company and destroy all its technology in order to avoid an even worse disaster. This issue, Peter is couchsurfing with Mockingbird, while trying to avoid angry mobs that want his blood. Peter decompresses by getting into costume and fighting the Griffin. This issue is thrilling and funny, though it’s sad to see Peter engaging in self-destructive behavior. Dan Slott was a brilliant Spider-Man writer. I regret that I wasn’t reading his Spider-Man when it was coming out, but I was deterred by all the controversies it sparked. (And also, I rarely follow top-tier Marvel and DC titles; I’m not even reading Jonathan Hickman’s X-Men now.)

NEW MUTANTS #72 (Marvel, 1989) – “Demon Reign,” [W] Louise Simonson, [A] Bret Blevins. An Inferno crossover, with one plotline about Magik’s battle with N’astirh (Marvel’s most unpronounceable villain) and another plotline focusing on the other New Mutants. Because this issue is an Inferno installment, it includes some bizarre and surrealistic art. Louise’s writing could be crude at times, but she’s good at crafting interesting characters and creating emotional intensity.

UNICORN ISLE #2 (WaRP, 1986) – untitled, [W] Lee Marrs, [A] Nicholas Koenig. The twins, Nils and Nola, recover from the death of their mother, while the villains execute their plan to steal one of the Sacred Unicorns. I think the best thing about this series is the two spunky young protagonists, and it’s a charming and entertaining fantasy title overall. There’s just one more issue left that I don’t have.

WEST COAST AVENGERS #24 (Marvel, 1987) – “Before We Were So Rudely Interrupted!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Al Milgrom. The WCA battle Dominus, a member of the same species as Lucifer (see Iron Man #20 review above), and his desert-themed minions. Englehart’s West Coast Avengers was his last great work, though it’s inferior to his Avengers or Justice League. He’s good at combining fight scenes with characterization; for example, throughout the Avengers’ fight with Dominus, it becomes clear that Tony Stark and Simon Williams can’t stand each other. Though of course my favorite West Coast Avenger is Tigra.

THUNDERBOLTS #158 (Marvel, 2011) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Kev Walker. In a Fear Itself crossover, the Thunderbolts B-team fights some zombies in Najaf, Iraq, site of the world’s largest graveyard (which I hadn’t known until I read this issue). Meanwhile, Juggernaut turns into an avatar of Cytorrak and starts causing mayhem. Like John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad, this comic is interesting because its characters are all weird and unique, and their interactions are fascinating. The best character in the issue is Centurius, who cares more about scientific experimentation than saving his teammates’ lives.

Reading West Coast Avengers #24 and Thunderbolts #158 made me realize something. As I explained on Facebook: “An effective superhero team comic needs epic fight scenes and action sequences, because these are a requirement of the genre. But it also needs to have distinctive characters whose personalities mesh or clash in interesting ways. The second requirement is more important than the first, at least according to my personal tastes. I tend to prefer the Avengers to the Justice League because Avengers comics usually have better character interactions.”

BEWARE THE CREEPER #3 (Vertigo, 2003) – “Prenez Garde au Creeper,” [W] Jason Hall, [A] Cliff Chiang. In interwar Paris, a female Creeper causes mass panic, while a bunch of subplots play out among Paris’s citizens. It’s not clear which of the characters in this issue is the Creeper, but there are several candidates. I bought this issue because of Cliff Chiang’s art, which is brilliant. He demonstrates extensive research, and creates a realistic and creepy version of ‘20s or ‘30s Paris. But Jason Hall’s writing is also impressive. His characters are intriguing, and he shows an understanding of the cultural climate of the era he’s writing about. I especially love the scene where some Surrealists praise the Creeper as surrealism incarnate. I’ll be looking for the rest of this miniseries.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #14 (Marvel, 1969) – “When a Galaxy Beckons…,” [W] Gary Friedrich, [A] Frank Springer. Captain Mar-Vell battles Iron Man, who is being mind-controlled by the Puppet Master. This issue is part of a crossover with Avengers and Sub-Mariner, and includes an early Carol Danvers appearance. Other than that, it’s pretty boring, and it’s plagued by awful inking by the inker who must not be named. At one point in this issue, Mar-Vell mentions having gotten his powers from an entity called Zo. There have been multiple different explanations of who Zo was; see https://www.cbr.com/captain-mar-vell-god-zo/.

QUANTUM & WOODY #13 (Valiant, 1998) – “Enough Already,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] M.D. Bright. Quantum and Woody have had their bodies switched. After a lot of mayhem, they get their original bodies back, but even more mayhem results from that. Also, their young protégé Taylor is murdered by a villain. In typical Priest fashion, this issue is narrated in a nonlinear order, contains multiple flashbacks, and is generally confusing, so my summary is very incomplete. Nonetheless, this is a brilliant and hilarious comic. According to the credits page, some of the technobabble in this issue was written by my Facebook friends Dave van Domelen and Greg Morrow.

SUPURBIA #2 (Boom!, 2013) – untitled, [W] Grace Randolph, [A] Russell Dauterman. This issue contains part of the Hella Heart/Hayley Harper plot from issue 4. I don’t understand this plotline, but there’s also a plot thread where Batu (Wonder Woman) and her son have been kidnapped by Amazons. Batu wins her son’s freedom, but only on the condition that he immediately start “seeding” the other Amazons! Also, there’s some relationship drama between the Batman and Robin characters. Supurbia is an entertaining series, though it’s difficult to follow when read out of order.

FANTASTIC FOUR #311 (Marvel, 1988) – “I Want to Die!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Keith Pollard. Unlike Englehart’s West Coast Avengers, his Fantastic Four is not a major work because its plots are too stupid. Sharon Ventura spends half of this issue trying to commit suicide because she hates her new She-Thing body. The image of a giant, rock-skinned woman weeping and attempting suicide is more funny than tragic, partly because Keith Pollard draws Sharon to look ridiculous. This issue also continues the subplot where Crystal has an affair with a real estate agent from New Jersey. I don’t know why Englehart decided to throw Crystal under the bus in this way. Englehart’s dialogue and plotting are still good enough that I enjoyed this issue despite its objective lack of quality.

BIRTHRIGHT #11 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. In a flashback, Mikey narrates how he first encountered the Nevermind when, in violation of Rook’s orders, he saved a little girl kidnapped by Kallista. This is an exciting issue with excellent art. I just realized that the Kallista in this issue is the same character from #38; see below.

SILVER SURFER #11 (Marvel, 1968/2003) – “O, Bitter Victory!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Buscema. I don’t have any issues of the original Silver Surfer series. I need to change that. This issue is a reprint. In “O, Bitter Victory,” the Surfer intervenes in a civil war in one of Marvel’s innumerable fictional Latin American countries. As usual, the Surfer takes a “both sides” approach, condemning both the government and the rebels for their indiscriminate fighting. There’s also a subplot involving Shalla Bal and another Zenn-Lavian, Yarro Gort. (Do all Zenn-Lavians have a two-syllable first name and a one-syllable surname?) While the story of Silver Surfer #11 is trite, the artwork is brilliant. John Buscema is a master of simple, stark compositions, and his draftsmanship in this issue is some of his best.

MICKEY MOUSE #223 (Gladstone, 1987) – “Editor-in-Grief Chapter Two,” [W/A] Floyd Gottfredson, [W] Ted Osborne. As the editor of a newspaper, Mickey finds evidence of a corrupt garbage contract between Peg-Leg Pete and the city government. Mickey sneaks into Pete’s office to steal the contract, then foils Pete’s plot to destroy his printing press before the contract can be published. This is a thrilling adventure story that reveals Gottfredson’s mastery of comic strip narrative. On the letters page, the editor gives an interesting account of how John Clark converted Gottfredson’s daily strips into comic book pages. Throughout the issue Goofy is called by his original name of Dippy.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #790 (Marvel, 2019) – “Fall of Parker Part 2 – Breaking Point,” [W] Dan Slott & Christos Gage, [A] Stuart Immonen. Peter Parker gets sick of apologizing to his laid-off employees, so he gets into costume. But as Spider-Man, he ends up fighting Johnny Storm, who’s pissed that Peter has bought the Baxter Building and is now selling it. At the same time, a villain named Clash has broken into the Baxter Building to steal stuff. This is another highly entertaining issue that shows Slott (and Gage)’s deep understanding of Peter’s personality. Immonen is pretty good at drawing the Kirbyesque machinery inside Reed’s labs. The issue ends with Joe Robertson hiring Peter as a science writer for the Bugle.

JACK STAFF #10 (Dancing Elephant, 2002) – “Open the Box! Take the Money!”, [W/A] Paul Grist. Becky Burdock’s editor holds a contest to guess the contents of a mystery box. The contest is interrupted by the Claw, based on the classic British supervillain the Steel Claw. Then the box turns out to contain Charlie Raven, based on Janus Stark – the protagonist of a classic British comic that’s totally unavailable today. There’s one funny sequence in this issue where Becky Burdock is talking to a horoscope writer, and his dialogue seems nonsensical, but he’s actually responding to what she’s about to say. See https://www.instagram.com/p/B05AoJCBaR6/.

Comics received yesterday, August 8:

GIANT DAYS #53 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Daisy spends her entire last week of school waiting for Coralie to pull off a disastrous prank. It turns out that was Coralie’s plan, to make Daisy waste her time. There’s a hilarious moment when Daisy sits down on a counter and it collapses. This issue reminds me of how sad and nostalgic I felt when I was about to graduate from undergrad.

FUTURE FOUNDATION #1 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Will Robson. Julie Power breaks into a prison to rescue a girl named Rebecca. We’re not supposed to know yet who she is. Meanwhile, the other FF members rescue someone who they think is Reed Richards, but it’s really a villain who looks just like Reed. This is an exciting comic full of great characterization, and I can’t wait for the next issue. Curiously, Vil and Wu are mentioned on the title page but don’t appear in the issue.

SEA OF STARS #2 (Image, 2019) – “Lost in the Wild Heavens,” [W] Jason Aaron & Dennis Hallum, [A] Stephen Green. Gil escapes from the giant space monster that ate him, then finds his way to a space freighter that’s full of carnivorous plants and hostile robots. Kadyn only appears briefly at the end of the issue, and there’s a flashback depicting his earlier years and his mother’s death. I like how Aaron and Hallum write Gil as a regular working-class dude who’s bewildered by all the stuff that’s happening to him. Stephen Green’s art is quite good.

GREEN LANTERN #10 (DC, 2019) – “Guardians of the Multiverse,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. Hal teams up with a bunch of other-dimensional Green Lanterns to fight Athmoora, and perhaps some even worse villains. One cool thing about Grant’s Green Lantern is how every issue has felt different. This issue is perhaps the most Kirbyesque and mind-expanding yet; it’s full of weird new characters and worlds. I especially like the hippie pothead Green Lantern.

RONIN ISLAND #5 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Giannis Milonogiannis. Hana finds herself forced to serve the idiotic fake Shogun, while Kenichi is kidnapped by bandits who use him as zombie bait. Ronin Island is one of the top new titles of the year, but it’s really depressing. As Sato points out in this issue, the characters in this series all care only about their own survival and have little regard for anyone else, and it’s hard to imagine how Kenichi or Hana’s situation could get better.

DIE #6 (Image, 2019) – “The Grind,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans. The bigger half of the split party – Ash, Matt, Angela and Sol – are stuck in Glass Town. To get out, they need to collect enough money in a single day to power their equipment, but they can’t. So in a heartbreaking scene, Angela has to euthanize her dog in order to save the money needed to power him. There are also some flashbacks in which Angela compares her current situation to her career as a game developer, especially the part where she has to work nonstop for no reward. Labor conditions in the gaming industry are a severe problem, as Kotaku has documented at length. The issue ends with the party reaching Angria, where they’re welcomed by a person who calls Ash “mother.” Die #6 is a powerful, emotionally wrenching comic, and this whole series is a tremendous achievement. It may well become the equal of The Wicked + The Divine.

THE DREAMING #12 (Vertigo, 2019) – “Wisdom,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Bilquis Evely. Emissaries from other realms gather at the gates of the Dreaming, just like at the start of Season of Mists – in fact, Bast, Thor, Odin, Kilderkin and Jemmy are all visible in the crowd. Inside the Dreaming, the Moth realizes that Daniel has abandoned his realm for a totally new reality, and that it itself is doomed. Also, Abel realizes that the Moth is dangerous. Lots of stuff happens in this issue, but what’s most impressive about it is Bilquis Evely’s art. Drawing all those alien creatures and bizarre dreamscapes was a Herculean task, and she achieved it brilliantly.

CROWDED #8 (Image, 2019) – “Jump into the Fire,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Ro Stein & Ted Brandt. In Las Vegas, Charlie and Vita come up with a plan to get help from Charlie’s old friend, but first they have to do some shopping. Also, that one quiet assassin from the last story arc has tracked them down to Vegas. This is another thrilling issue with lots of cute stuff, such as the “Corleone’s” casino whose name is lettered in the Godfather font. Reading this issue, I realized that this comic is about a serious, hypercompetent black woman who works to save a carefree, entitled white woman from getting herself killed. Charlie and Vita are perfect foils for each other, and their relationship is at the heart of this series, but the racial politics of that relationship are worth mentioning.

NO ONE LEFT TO FIGHT #2 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Aubrey Sitterson, [A] Fico Ossio. I met both Sitterson and Ossio at Comic-Con, and they seemed a bit surprised when I said that I was enjoying this series even though I didn’t grow up with Dragon Ball. This issue, Vâle, Timor and Krysta visit the old orphanage where Vâle and Krysta grew up. Vâle encounters his old friend Windy, but is oblivious of her massive crush on him, at least until she sneaks into his bedroom. Meanwhile, it becomes clear that Timor is massively jealous of Vâle. I think that even for a non-fan of Dragon Ball, this comic is interesting because of its depiction of adults revisiting their childhood memories.

BIRTHRIGHT #38 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Mikey, Rya and friends fight their way into Mastema’s lair, only to realize that she’s given up on both Earth and Terrenos. Meanwhile, Brennan uses his new astral projection powers to visit Kallista in prison. I feel like I have a fairly good handle on what’s going on in this series, even though I’m coming into it so late.

MY LITTLE PONY: FEATS OF FRIENDSHIP #1 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ian Flynn, [A] Tony Fleecs. This is Ian Flynn’s first pony comic, although he has extensive experience writing other licensed-property comics for kids. It’s also the first pony comic starring the Young Six. The school is hosting a “Feats of Friendship” competition, and Twilight asks the Young Six to form a team along with a new transfer student named Swift Foot. It soon becomes clear that Swift Foot is another Cozy Glow, and she intentionally ruins the Young Six’s friendship by exploiting their racial tensions – for example, the fact that Smolder’s friends haven’t helped her get food she can eat, or that Yona’s friends haven’t learned to speak yak. This is a really smart plot, and despite his lack of prior experience, Ian Flynn shows a solid understanding of the pony aesthetic.

DOOM PATROL: WEIGHT OF THE WORLDS #2 (DC, 2019) – “Space Divorce,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Jeremy Lambert. The highlight of this issue is a giant double-page map of Danny the Planet. Also, Negative Man gives birth to three eggs, Lotion eats one of them, the Doom Patrol resolves a “space divorce” between two planets, and then the egg Lotion ate combines with Negative Man to turn him into Positive Man. So this is another bizarre and brilliant issue. Jeremy Lambert’s art in this issue is phenomenal, especially the two-page splash at the end with Lotion embracing the two planets. He’s going to be a star artist.

HASHTAG: DANGER #4 (Ahoy, 2019) – “Three on a Bulls-Eye! Part 1,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Chris Giarrusso. The Hashtag Danger crew go back in time to visit a “World Fiduciary Council” party, because photos show that they were already there. When they get to the event, they discover that the people in the photos were impostors who had a plan to destroy the world’s monetary supply. This is another funny issue, though Hashtag Danger is still my least favorite Ahoy title.

IMMORTAL HULK #22 (Marvel, 2019) – “Who’s There,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. Doc Samson, Absorbing Man, Titania and Puck (just noticed that those are both Shakespearean fairy names) teleport into Fortean’s base for a surprise attack. But it turns out Fortean predicted they were coming. What he didn’t predict was that Hulk and Betty are also invading the same base at the same time. This is another strong issue.

LOIS LANE #2 (DC, 2019) – “Enemy of the People Part Two,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Mike Perkins. Lois investigates a scandal involving a businessman named Agger (a reference to Dario Agger from Marvel?), but before he can tell her anything, he’s murdered. Meanwhile, the Question continues investigating a mysterious plot that involves Russian agents. This is a pretty standard Greg Rucka comic. I like how Perry White prints out Lois’s story because he can only edit on paper. I’m the opposite.

BERSERKER UNBOUND #1 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Mike Deodato Jr. The Mongrel King, who is basically Conan, returns from an adventure to find his wife and daughter murdered. In his grief, he wanders into a time portal to the 21st century. Berserker Unbound #1 is a below-average Jeff Lemire comic. The main emphasis is on the artwork rather than the writing, and Mike Deodato’s art is good, but not good enough to carry the entire comic by itself. Also, the idea of Conan visiting the modern era is no longer original.

AGENTS OF ATLAS #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Portal City of Pan Part 1,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Nico Leon. A businessman named Mike Nguyen uses portals to connect all of Asia’s biggest cities into a single super-metropolis, Pan. The city of Pan even has its own new superhero. The name Pan is a nice pun on the term “pan-Asian,” and this comic has a lot of fun moments, including some references to food. I wish this series was an ongoing and not a miniseries. Marvel’s Asian and Asian-American characters deserve more than just nine issues.

ARCHIE: THE MARRIED LIFE – 10TH ANNIVERSARY #1 (Archie, 2019) – two untitled stories, [W] Michael Uslan, [A] Dan Parent. I did not like the “Archie Marries Veronica” story in this issue. In the first place, Veronica and Hiram Lodge are horrible people, and Hiram forces his son-in-law to overwork himself, at the expense of his marriage and family life. In the second place, Dan Parent’s artwork and facial expressions aren’t suited to this story. When Archie asks Veronica if she’s leaving him, he just looks mildly surprised, not terrified. The “Archie Marries Becky” story is much better. Somehow Dan Parent is able to convincingly convey the emotion Archie feels when he has to put his father in a nursing home, even though he couldn’t convince the reader that Archie was worried about his marriage.

Post-Heroes-Con, pre-Comic-Con reviews

New comics received on Thursday, June 27:

RUNAWAYS #22 (Marvel, 2019) – “But You Can’t Hide IV,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Andrés Genolet. Karolina saves a falling window washer. Molly makes another failed attempt to feed Gib. But the main part of the issue focuses on the Chase/Gert/Victor love triangle.  It turns out Chase was waiting for Gert to get older so that their age gap wouldn’t be an issue, and now he’s pissed that she didn’t wait for him. Chase’s angry reaction to Gert and Victor’s relationship is understandable, but he’s clearly wrong to think that he has “dibs” on Gert. Oh, also, Victor resurrects the Doombot, but without the failsafe that stopped it from being evil. Runaways is technically a superhero comic, but in most superhero comics, the soap opera and day-in-the-life elements are secondary to the superheroic action, whereas in Runaways, the exploration of the characters’ relationships is the whole point of the series.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #7 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Life & Death of Conan Part Seven: Barbarian Love,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mahmud Asrar. Each issue of this storyline has examined on a different aspect of Conan, and this issue explores Conan’s sexy side. Conan hires five prostitutes, but not for the usual reason; instead, he takes them on a mysterious secret mission. We eventually realize that this story takes place just after Bêlit’s death, and Conan is using the five women as part of his plot to assassinate one of Bêlit’s old enemies. Of course, after the mission is accomplished, Conan sleeps with all five women at once. This is actually not the sexiest Conan story I’ve read, but it’s not bad. A line of dialogue at the end of the issue suggests that Conan and Zenobia only had one son; in the earlier Marvel continuity, they also had a second son.

DIAL H FOR HERO #4 (DC, 2019) – “Detroit City Blues,” [W] Sam Humphries, [A] Joe Quinones. This is the most visually striking issue yet, and that’s saying a lot. Miguel and Summer visit the JLA’s old Detroit headquarters, where they find Snapper Carr. Then they’re attacked by robots, and all three of them use the dial. Summer turns into Chimp Change, based on Frank Miller’s Sin City; Snapper turns into Alien Ice Cream Man, based on Moebius; and Miguel becomes Lil Miguelito, based on Dennis the Menace. Disappointed, Miguel dials again and turns into Nancy, Cathy, and Hagar the Horrible. Maybe the highlight of the whole series so far is the panel where Miguel has a Nancy hairstyle, a Hagar the Horrible helmet, and a T-shirt that says SUMMER IS LIT – a reference to the “Sluggo is lit” meme.  Joe Quinones deserves an Eisner nomination for the artistic virtuosity he’s shown in this series, and Sam Humphries’s writing isn’t bad either.

FANTASTIC FOUR #11 (Marvel, 2019) – “License to Quantum Drive,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] four artists. Franklin and Valeria have to take a driving test in order to be able to pilot the Fantasticar. This leads to some massive sibling rivalry, because Valeria is so much smarter than Franklin and seems guaranteed to pass the test, and Franklin resents her for it. Of course, the driving test is interrupted by a villain from Microworld, and Franklin ends up passing the test while Valeria fails. I’m a bit surprised by Dan Slott’s depiction of Franklin, but I think it’s reasonable. For most of his history, Franklin was too young to have a clearly defined personality. His main distinguishing quality was his extreme power, and it makes sense that his loss of that power troubles him so much. Dan Slott seems to share Brian K. Vaughan’s love of water bears.

ISOLA #8 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Brenden Fletcher, [W/A] Karl Kerschl, [A] Msassyk. In this issue, Rook falls ill and is nursed by a witch named Miluše. But it soon becomes clear that Miluše kidnapped the kids from the mining town in issue 7. Besides Christian Ward, Karl Kerschl is the best artist in comic books right now. It’s just too bad that this comic comes out so infrequently, because it’s hard to remember what happened last issue.

THE MAGNIFICENT MS. MARVEL #4 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Minkyu Jung. This issue is narrated by Kamala, and explores how Kamala sometimes feels stifled by her parents. I like the sequence where Kamala says “Sometimes, when my head is echoing with everyone else’s stories about me… I have to raise my voice to tell mine.” I’m not from Kamala’s culture, but her relationship with her parents seems very realistic. This issue also includes some further development of her relationship with Bruno, though he only appears in flashback. The plot isn’t as interesting as the characterization; the main event is that the Beast Legions turn out to be real. By the way, this is off-topic, but I just read David Low’s book chapter about the depiction of charter schools in Bendis and Pichelli’s first Miles Morales story. I don’t believe Saladin’s Miles Morales series has ever commented on the politics of charter schools, and I think it would be nice if he examined this question. I’ll say more about this the next time I write a review of Miles Morales.

STEEL CAGE #1 (Ahoy, 2019) – three stories, [E] Tom Peyer. This comic’s gimmick is “3 Comics Enter… 1 Comic Leaves!” It includes three stories by different creators, and readers are invited to vote on which of them should become an ongoing series. The first story, Peyer and Alan Robinson’s “True Identity,” stars a Superman knock-off who represents the next-to-last stage in human evolution. So he’s far more evolved than normal humans, but still feels inferior in comparison to the ultimate humans who created him. Next is Stuart Moore and Peter Gross’s “Bright Boy,” starring a brilliant but insufferable scientist who repeatedly saves the world, but leaves a trail of destruction in his wake. Finally, Mark Waid and Lanna Souvanny’s “Noah Zark” features a young space explorer who’s searching for homes for his menagerie of bizarre alien creatures. But he doesn’t know where to find his own home, Earth. After reading this issue, I immediately went online and voted for Noah Zark. This series’s premise is touching, and Lanna Souvanny’s alien creatures are adorably weird. I really want to see more of this comic. True Identity’s premise is intriguing, but seems to have limited potential. Meanwhile, Bright Boy has a loathsome protagonist, and I’m not sure what its main premise is. However, I definitely plan on buying whichever of these comics wins the contest.

MARILYN MANOR #1 (IDW, 2019) – “Living on Video,” [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Marley Zarcone. Mags Visaggio’s latest new series is about the president’s daughter, a bratty teenager who enjoys throwing parties in the White House and dodging her Secret Service agent. The president in this story is a sort of combination of Kennedy and Clinton, but like Morning in America, the series is set in the ‘80s. This comic is a lot of fun, but feels less deep and substantial than Mags’s other work.

ASCENDER #3 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Andy and Mila’s journey to Telsa is interrupted by flashbacks to Mila’s birth and infancy. The last of these flashbacks shows how Effie got killed. Incidentally, I can’t recall if Andy and Effie ever had sex during the Descender series, and I wonder if Mila was conceived before they got divorced. At the end of the issue, Bandit shows off its previously unknown “guard dog” mode.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #44 (Marvel, 2019) – “Your Place in the World,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Alitha E. Martinez. Lunella accidentally time-travels to the 1960s, where she meets her own grandmother, JoJo. In a rather sad development, she has to prevent her grandmother from taking an advanced placement test, rather than allow the timeline to be compromised. Because this is a time travel story with a black female protagonist, it calls Octavia Butler’s Kindred to mind; however, Montclare doesn’t explicitly refer to racial issues. (Actually it’ s kind of progressive how this series doesn’t present Lunella as unusual or different because of her race.) Doctor Strange appears in the ‘60s sequence as an adult. I initially thought this was a huge continuity problem – how can he be so much older than Lunella’s grandmother? – but it turns out he also got there by time travel.

BOOKS OF MAGIC #9 (Vertigo, 2019) – “Storytime, [W] Kat Howard, [A] Tom Fowler. Another complete waste of an issue, full of scenes that could have been narrated in one page, but are stretched out across three or four pages. The scene where Ellie escapes from a prison made of words is kind of cool, but it wasn’t worth a whole issue. Also, Kat Howard missed an opportunity for something even cooler. Instead of burning the words, Ellie could have escaped by rewriting them; for example, the words include “lock” and “unbreakable,” so she could have just changed them to “unlock” and “breakable.” I’m not getting issue 10.

MARVEL RISING #4 (Marvel, 2019) – “Heroes of the Round Table!”, [W] Nilah Magruder, [A] Roberto Di Salvo & Georges Duarte. Another extremely disappointing issue. It’s just a completely generic superhero comic. The characters are impossible to tell apart, the fights are boring, the humor is unfunny, and nothing about this comic is creative or original. Marvel’s younger readers deserve much better than this. In a flashback in this issue, we see that King Arthur killed Morgaine le Fay’s mother. That was a weird thing for him to do, since Morgaine’s mother was King Arthur’s mother too. Maybe this will be explained next issue, but I won’t be reading that issue.

XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS #2 (Dynamite, 2019) – untitled, [W] Vita Ayala, [A] Olympia Sweetman. I thought I hadn’t ordered this, but it turned out I did order it, and my copy slipped between some boxes. It’s a thoroughly average comic, of interest only to existing Xena fans.

WONDER WOMAN #73 (DC, 2019) – “The Queen and the Empress,” [W] Steve Orlando, [A] Aaron Lopestri. This is a fill-in issue, but not a bad one. Steve Orlando was a good Wonder Woman writer, though not as good as Willow. This issue explains what Dimension Chi is: an evil mirror universe created by Hippolyta. Most of the issue is a flashback in which Hippolyta battles her evil duplicate with the aid of a young Diana.

MY LITTLE PONY: SPIRIT OF THE FOREST #2 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Brenda Hickey. The CMC disguise themselves as the Spirit of the Forest and convince Filthy Rich to close down the lumber mill, but Filthy Rich discovers the deception and reopens the mill. Throughout the issue the CMC’s big sisters are notably unsympathetic and unhelpful. There’s a cute metatextual moment on page one, when Applejack correctly predicts that there’s about to be a crisis.

EVE STRANGER #2 (IDW, 2019) – “Nowhere to Run,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Philip Bond. In flashbacks, we learn that Eve’s superpowers and memory loss are the result of her father’s nanotech. Also, Eve has some more bizarre adventures, including escorting a little person through the running of the bulls in Pamplona. Philip Bond’s artwork continues to be amazing. Eve calls her father Pabbi, and he calls her Fiflar; these terms appear to be Icelandic.

THE TERRIFICS #17 (DC, 2019) – “The God Game, Part 3,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Stephen Segovia. The Terrifics fight some more plagues. This series is no longer as good as when Jeff Lemire was writing it, but it’s good enough to continue reading. Considering what the tenth plague was, Plastic Man’s firstborn son is in some danger.

TRANSMETROPOLITAN #36 (Vertigo, 2000) – “Gouge Away Part Three,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Darick Robertson. Spider Jerusalem has just implicated a presidential aide in a sex scandal. This issue, the aide commits suicide, and the White House goes into crisis mode. Spider’s employer fires him, but Spider already has an escape plan prepared. There’s also a scene in this issue where a woman is killed by a sniper, probably the same one from #44. Transmetropolitan does three things really well: it has a bizarre and funny setting, Spider Jerusalem is a fascinating protagonist, and the series investigates serious questions about journalism and truth.

PUNKS NOT DEAD: LONDON CALLING #5 (Black Crown, 2019) – “…To the Underworld,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Martin Simmonds. Julie dies and goes to the afterlife with Beleth. Sid survives – if that’s the right word, since he was already dead – and he and Fergie head off to New York. This was another really fun miniseries with great art, and I hope there’s another sequel. Asif’s father’s story about the snow leopard woman appears to be based on a story collected by the anthropologist John Mock: https://snowleopardconservancy.org/text/myth/pakmyths.htm. All the Google hits for the place name “Lenarz Keshk” are references to this source.

SECRET ROMANCE #37 (Charlton, 1976) – “Bus Ride Blues,” [W] unknown, [A] Demetrio Sánchez Gómez, plus two other stories. The stories in this issue are of no interest, but the first story has some fascinating art. Demetrio Sánchez Gómez is very similar to Enrique Nieto because he was a Spanish artist whose only U.S. work was for Charlton, and he put much more effort into his work than was justified by Charlton’s page rates. In “Bus Ride Blues,” Demetrio shows great skill at drawing clothing and hair, and he draws a lot of abstract decorative swirls in the background. As a result, his pages look kind of like psychedelic posters or something. The second story in the issue is by Nicholas and Alascia, and the third one is by Jorge Badia Romero, the brother of the Modesty Blaise artist Enrique Romero.

VICTOR LAVALLE’S DESTROYER #5 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Dietrich Smith. There’s a lot of fascinating stuff in this issue, but the most fascinating thing is the flashback to Akai’s murder. It turns out that a woman called the cops on him because she saw him walking down her street with a baseball bat, and she mistook him for an adult with a rifle. And her willful blindness had tragic consequences. In a sense, the police are the same sort of destructive monstrosity as Destroyer’s fictional Frankenstein creatures. As previously stated, this is a brilliant comic, and it might be a good comic to teach.

WAR OF THE REALMS: NEW AGENTS OF ATLAS #4 (Marvel, 2019) – “Fire and Ice Chapter 4,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Gang Hyuk Lim, Moy R. & Pop Mhan. The Agents of Atlas defeat the Queen of Cinders, and it turns out that Pele is a simulacrum, not the real thing. And that leads us into the next miniseries. This issue is mostly just fight scenes rather than character interactions, but I do like the characterization of Sun Wukong as a showboating attention seeker.

THOR #14 (Marvel, 2019) – “To Hell with Hammers,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Scott Hepburn. Malekith has kidnapped Odin and Freya and has magically prevented anyone except Thor from coming to rescue them. So Thor recruits his past and future selves, as well as Jane Foster, as his allies. During the course of the ensuing fight with Malekith-plus-Venom, Thor’s younger self becomes worthy to lift Mjolnir for the first time. This is a pretty fun issue, with lots of funny dialogue between Thor’s three selves.

WAR OF THE REALMS #6 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Storm of Thors,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Russell Dauterman. This issue retells some of the same events as Thor #14, but from a different perspective – Thor #14 was narrated by the younger Thor. In War of the Realms #4, Thor forges a new Mjolnir out of the last chip of the old one, and uses it to finally defeat Malekith. Afterward, Thor becomes the new All-Father. This is kind of a predictable conclusion, since we all knew Thor would get Mjolnir back eventually. But War of the Realms is better than a typical crossover because it’s the culmination of seven years of Thor comics, and it has a top-tier creative team. It’s a reasonable conclusion to the second or third best era of Thor.

BLACK PANTHER #13 (Marvel, 2019) – “Two Thousand Seasons,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Daniel Acuna. Another issue in which not a lot happens, except that the Wakandans from Earth-616 finally contact T’Challa. Surprisingly, one of the highlights of TNC’s Black Panther run is Storm. I always thought T’Challa and Ororo’s marriage was a publicity stunt, but TNC writes Storm really well, and he makes me believe that she and T’Challa love each other.

MR. & MRS. X #12 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Lady & the Tiger Part 2,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Javier Pina. Rogue and Gambit defeat Belladonna and Candra, then return home to their cats. It turns out they’re not ready for kids yet, but maybe someday. This was a truly entertaining series, probably Marvel’s most realistic portrayal of a married couple, and I’m sorry it only lasted twelve issues. It was too good for the current industry.

GLOW #3 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Tini Howard, [A] Hannah Templer. This issue is a spotlight on Carmen, one of the GLOW girls, who takes it upon herself to become the coach of the others.  Glow is a reasonably enjoyable comic, but the cast is so large that it’s impossible to remember all the character’s names, and only a few of them get any significant development.

LETTER 44 #16 (Oni, 2015) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Alberto Jiménez Albuquerque. Two major events this issue: newborn Astra has a heart-to-heart talk with her mother, and the President stops his Secret Service agent from kidnapping the First Lady. Then the First Lady murders the agent in cold blood, and I don’t blame her at all. This is a really entertaining and well-written series, but I wish I wasn’t reading it out of order.

CANTO #1 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. I was skeptical about this series because I don’t like its art style, but Canto #1 is a strong debut. Canto is an example of clockwork fantasy, if there is such a genre. Its protagonists are nameless clockwork robots who are enslaved by a race of beast-men. One of them gives himself a name and falls in love, and he goes on a quest to retrieve his lover’s stolen heart. Canto is a powerful and evocative story, although at times its storytelling is hard to follow. I couldn’t understand the sequence where Canto picks up the stone and then the beast knocks it out of his hand.

ANIMOSITY #13 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Howl,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Rafael De Latorre. This series concludes the story arc about the bee colony, and then at the end, an older man kidnaps Jesse and takes her to the Walled City. I’ve already stated what I think about this series, but the bee story is better than most Animosity comics, because it revolves around animals that have an alien way of thinking. Most of the animals in Animosity act exactly like humans, and that’s one of the major flaws of the series.

ANIMOSITY: EVOLUTION #3 (Aftershock, 2018) – “Lex Animata: Part 1,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Eric Gapstur. This is a more typical issue of Animosity. In this issue, an important witness in a corruption trial is murdered by a poison-arrow frog, which gets into the witness’s room by crawling through the vents. This is an example of the absurdity of this comic’s premise. Animals can do literally anything, and therefore, there are no meaningful constraints on what can happen in this comic’s plot. As a tangent, this year I’ve been trying to read every new comic book I receive each week, before the next week’s shipment arrives. I’ve mostly succeeded, and because of this, if I’m not enjoying a comic, I can quit ordering it immediately. In the past I didn’t have this policy, and as a result, I often kept ordering comics out of a sense of obligation, even though I hadn’t read the earlier issues of those comics. That’s how I ended up with so many unread issues of Animosity, as well as other comics like DC Comics Bombshells, Ringside, Curse Words, Black Cloud, etc.

SUPERGIRL #71 (DC, 2002) – “Pyramid Schemes,” [W] Peter David, [A] Jamal Igle. At this point in the series, Linda Danvers and Mary Marvel are searching for Supergirl, who has become a separate entity from Linda. They follow Supergirl to the Mexican archaeological site of Teotihuacan, where they fight some native people who have traveled forward in time. That leads us into…

SUPERGIRL #72 (DC, 2002) – “Spiders and Snakes,” [W] Peter David, [A] Leonard Kirk. Linda and Mary battle the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, along with a spider deity. The Pyramid Schemes/Spiders and Snakes two-parter is impressive because of Linda and Mary’s interactions and because of PAD’s use of Jewish mysticism. PAD makes intelligent use of concepts like the Shekhinah and the angel Metatron. What’s less impressive about this series is its depiction of ancient Mexican natives as bloody savages. Obviously even the most extreme moral relativists will have trouble defending human sacrifice. However, this comic implies that Aztecs practiced human sacrifice solely because they wanted to be evil.

STUMPTOWN #8 (Oni, 2015) – “The Case of a Cup of Joe: Part Three,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Justin Greenwood. In this installment of the coffee story, Dex defeats an attempt to steal her coffee beans, but then her awful sister pretends to have been kidnapped in order to extort Dex for reward money. This issue is full of coffee jokes. Overall, “The Case of a Cup of Joe” is an excellent story, perhaps the high point of Stumptown volume three. See below for more thoughts about the Stumptown series.

ARTBABE #1 (Fantagraphics, 1997) – “As I Live and Breathe,” [W/A] Jessica Abel. I believe I have this story in the Mirror, Window collection, but I’ve had that book for years without reading it. I’m much more likely to read comic books than graphic novels. “As I Live and Breathe” is a slice-of-life story about an awkward relationship. It’s nothing spectacular, but it’s a sensitive and nuanced story about relationships. It demonstrates Jessica’s intelligence and her ability to see multiple perspectives.

X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN – X-TINCTION #2 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Ed Piskor. This issue covers everything up to the X-Tinction Agenda, But when we get to the end of that story arc, it doesn’t end the way it did in the published comics. Instead, the U.S. drops a bunch of nukes on Genosha, and this triggers the Days of Future Past timeline. The series ends with the adult Kitty Pryde being sent back in time to the past. It’s suggested that her mission succeeds, and that from this point, things are going to happen the same way they did in the 616 universe. I’m not sure how to interpret this ending, but it feels like instead of adapting the actual end of Claremont’s X-Men, Ed is trying to imagine what would have happened if Claremont had been able to continue his story. Claremont had plans for X-Men #300 and beyond, but he fired or was quit after #279. And even before that point, Jim Lee and Whilce Portacio had already taken over the plotting, according to Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. Therefore, X-Men: Grand Design offers us an intriguing glimpse of how Claremont’s “grand design” might have continued, if he had been allowed to tell it.

THE AVANT-GUARDS #6 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Carly Usdin, [A] Noah Hayes. The Avant-Guards defeat the College of Endocrinology, then their next game is against the Royal Academy of Punk Rock. But in one of the funniest moments in the series, the punks forfeit the game because they can’t be bothered to wear regulation uniforms. Finally, the Avant-Guards lose in a heartbreaker to the Institute of Internet Influencers. Of course there’s also a ton of relationship drama. The Avant-Guards is an entertaining series that reminds me a bit of Giant Days. I especially like all the weird other colleges in this issue.

SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “Spider-Ham in : Boared Again!”, [W] Jason Latour, [A] David Lafuente. Based on the cover, you would think this was Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham #1, and it stars that character. This annual is full of animal jokes, many of which went over my head – accordnig to the beginning of the issue, you can get a No-Prize for identifying all the animal-themed villains, nut I was not able to do it. David Lafuente’s artwork is reasonably good. But I think Jason Latour overestimates how funny Spider-Ham is, and overall I was not thrilled with this issue.

MIRACLEMAN #14 (Eclipse, 1988) – “Book III Chapter Four: Pantheon,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] John Totleben. A ton of stuff happens in this issue. Winter heads off to outer space, the Firedrake Huey Moon is introduced, Liz leaves Michael Moran for good, and then Michael says “Kimota” for the last time and symbolically commits suicide. That all happens by page ten, out of a sixteen-page story. But the most significant event this issue is when Johnny Bates is raped by his classmates, and saves himself by turning into Kid Miracleman. And then he kills not only his tormentors, but also the one person who was nice to him, and we all know what he goes on to do next.  As noted in my review of issue 13 above, Miracleman is an idiot; after he heard Johnny say “Miracleman” without transforming (in issue 2), he naively assumed that Johnny was no threat, and allowed him to be neglected and abused. As a result, the blood of every murdered person in London is on Miracleman’s hands. This issue also includes a backup story by Doug Moench and Jim Sullivan, which reads like a rejected submission to Alien Worlds or Twisted Tales. I now have every issue of Miracleman up to #14, but an interesting quandary is whether I should hang on to my Marvel reprints of #13 and #14, now that I have the originals. Those issues include some reprinted Mick Anglo stories, but I wouldn’t have bought them if I’d already had the original Eclipse issues.

GHOST TREE #3 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Bobby Curnow, [A] Simon Gane. It turns out Bobby Curnow is the editor of the My Little Pony comics, so I’d like to interview him sometime. However, Ghost Tree is a pretty average comic. The only thing I really like about it is Simon Gane’s art, and even that’s not as good as his art on They’re Not Like Us.

INVISIBLES #2 (Vertigo, 1994) – “Down and Out in Heaven and Hell Part 1,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. Dane McGowan meets Tom o’Bedlam, the same one from Macbeth, who gives him a basic education in being an Invisible. At the end of the issue, Dane encounters some men in dark glasses and fox-hunting clothes. The highlight of this issue is Tom o’Bedlam’s brilliantly written dialogue. He has a fantastically bizarre speech pattern, and even when he’s not directly quoting Shakespeare, he sounds like he is. His best line is “Could you give us some money? I won’t lie, sir, it’s for drink. I’m alcoholic and must have drink, that’s all.” Invisibles #3 also includes the first reference to Barbelith.

SUPERGIRL #22 (DC, 1998) – “Comet’s Tale,” [W] Peter David, [A] Leonard Kirk. In this issue PAD comes up with a funny way to rehabilitate a rather embarrassing and creepy old character. His version of Comet the Super-Horse is a jockey who was paralyzed in a racing accident and was “healed” by being implanted with horse DNA. Other than that, this is an average comic. I have other unread issues of PAD’s Supergirl, and I’m more likely to read them now that I understand the premise of the series.

BONE #11 (Cartoon Books, 1994) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Smith. I read this after reading Annette Wannamaker’s brilliant book chapter “‘ This Is a Well-Loved Book’: Weighing (in on) Jeff Smith’s Bone,” which analyzes the different materialities of the various versions of Bone. (For full disclosure, I also wrote a chapter of the book in which this essay appeared.) I already had the Image reprint of Bone #11, and the Cartoon Books version of that issue is exactly the same as the Image version; they even both include the same letters page. The only difference is that the Cartoon Books printing has different ads.

CRIMINAL #5 (Marvel, 2008) – “Bad Night Part Two,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. I should have read this before issue 6. This issue, Iris and her boyfriend Danny force Jacob (who is indeed the same Jacob from “Bad Weekend”) to make them a fake FBI badge. Then Danny strongarms Jacob into accompanying them on a heist. Afterward, when things inevitably go badly, Iris and Jacob are forced to kill Danny. This issue creates a powerful sense of suspense: Jacob is terrified of Danny, but can’t report him to the police because of his own criminal history. There’s also a gimmick where the Dick Tracy-esque protagonist of jacob’s comic strip keeps appearing and giving him advice.

DEADFACE #1 (Harrier, 1987) – untitled (“Immortality Isn’t Forever Part 1,” [W/A] Eddie Campbell. This is the same story as Bacchus #1 (1995), which I already have. However, the 1987 printing of “Immortality Isn’t Forever” is very different from the later versions, because the reprinted versions are extensively redrawn. Most notably, in the 1995 version, Bacchus is redrawn to have a much bulkier body and a more sardonic, world-weary facial expression. In the 1987 version, Bacchus looked like a skinny scarecrow, and his facial expressions were manic and half-crazed. See https://www.instagram.com/p/BzZU14ah_nr/for an example of the differences between the two versions. As a result, these these two comics have exactly the same dialogue, the same visual content, and even the same lettering, and yet they feel like different comics. Comparing the two versions offers a fascinating example of how even minor alterations to a comic can completely change the way it looks and feels.

FLASH GORDON #25 (Gold Key, 1979) – “Volcano!”, [W] Gary Poole, [A] Carlos Garzón. This comic has a pretty formulaic story, but Carlos Garzón’s artwork is quite good. He’s mostly remembered today as an inker and assistant to Al Williamson, but he was one of the foremost comics artists in his native Colombia. His artwork in this issue is very similar to Williamson’s, to the point where it’s hard to tell the difference if you don’t look too closely.

INVISIBLES #3 (Vertigo, 1994) – “Down and Out in Heaven and Hell Part 2,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. Tom hangs out with Danny some more, and shows him a bunch of weird visions. Tom gives a weird speech about how cities are viruses, and then he tells Danny that they’re going to jump off the Canary Wharf building. Steve Yeowell’s artwork in this storyline is quite sober and ordinary, creating a contrast with the bizarre writing.

HEAD LOPPER #12 (Image, 2019) – “Head Lopper and the Knights of Venora, Part 4,” [W/A] Andrew MacLean. Norgal and Brishka fight a bunch of giant flying snakes, Norgal uses the power of Agatha’s head to save Venora, and at the end of the issue, some mysterious figure on a throne learns that Norgal is alive. I’m glad this story arc is over because it was very difficult to follow. A complicated plot and a quarterly publication schedule don’t mix.

TRUE BELIEVERS: SPIDER-MAN VS. MYSTERIO #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Menace of… Mysterio!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Steve Ditko. A reprint of Mysterio’s first appearance from Amazing Spider-Man #13. I already had the issue of Spider-Man Classics that reprinted this story, but the True Believers reprint has the original cover and is printed on better paper. The best part of ASM #13 is the scene where Peter flirts with Liz, and then Flash says Liz is beautiful with her new hairstyle, and she says (in a word balloon with an icy border), “Really, Mister Thompson?? And what was I before, pray tell?”

THOR #131 (Marvel, 1966) – “They Strike from Space!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. A great comic which is unfortunately hampered by the worst inker in comics history, whose name will not be mentioned here. On the first page, Thor and Hercules teleport into Olympus, and there’s a giant expanse of white space below their feet. I have little doubt that Kirby originally drew something there, and the inker erased it. Otherwise, this is a good issue that leads directly into the classic Ego/Black Galaxy storyline. This issue, Tana Nile reveals herself as a Rigellian Colonizer. The Colonizers are both awe-inspiring and funny, reminding me of some of Kirby’s later ‘70s creations. I especially like the scene where an old lady sees one of the Rigellians and says “Can this be one of those avant-garde New York happenings that I sometimes read about?” This story also includes a collage panel, though it’s printed so dark that it’s hard to appreciate. In addition, this issue has a Tales of Asgard backup story, about Harokin and the Warlock’s Eye (not the same as the Evil Eye).

HUNGRY GHOSTS #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Salty Horse” and “The Heads,” [W] Anthony Bourdain & Joel Rose, [A] Leonardo Manco and Mateus Santolouco. I wasn’t impressed with the first issue of this miniseries, but #2 is better because it combines humor with horror. “Salty Horse” is about a wealthy horse breeder who’s so obsessed with horsemeat that he eats all his horses, and is finally possessed by a horse ghost. Leonardo Manco makes horsemeat look delicious, so that we feel that the protagonist’s problem is not that he eats horse in the first place, but that he overindulges in it. The backup story, about floating head demons, is not as good. I just read Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential after reading this comic, and it turns out he was a skilled writer of both fiction and memoirs, as well as being a celebrity chef.

NEOZOIC #5 (Red 5, 2008) – “Outside Bad, Inside Worse,” [W] Paul Ens, [A] J. Korim. A boring fantasy story about dinosaurs, with ugly lettering. This comic was published by the same company as Atomic Robo, but it ain’t Atomic Robo.

HENCHGIRL #9 (Scout, 2016) – untitled, [W/A] Kristen Gudsnuk. I already have the trade paperback of Henchgirl, so I feel kind of guilty for having bought one of the single issues, but it was only 50 cents. Also, Kristen Gudsnuk’s work is so dense that it’s hard to read in large doses; it’s full of sight gags and hidden messages. I read the Henchgirl collection so quickly that it was hard to fully appreciate it. Therefore, I don’t mind reading it again. In this issue, Mary Posa/Henchgirl saves her parents and her golden-girl sister from a villain named Gunpowder. But she kills Gunpowder while doing it, so instead of getting any credit, she gets arrested.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #115 (Marvel, 1969) – “Now Begins the Nightmare!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Buscema. The Red Skull gets the Cosmic Cube again and uses it to torment Cap, including switching his and Cap’s minds. John Buscema’s art in this issue is excellent, but the plot depends on the Red Skull being an idiot. Like Green Lantern’s ring, the Cosmic Cube has no limits except its wielder’s imagination, and every time the Red Skull gets the Cosmic Cube, he can’t imagine anything to do with it except humiliate Cap.

G.I. JOE #76 (Marvel, 1988) – “All’s Fair,” [W] Larry Hama, [A] Ron Wagner. The G.I. Joes intervene in the Cobra civil war between Cobra Commander and Serpentor. G.I. Joe #76 is much better than #37 because it feels realistic. Despite the wildly implausible characters, vehicles and weapons, it feels like an accurate depiction of war, from the perspective of both strategists and common soldiers. The war is resolved when Zartan kills Serpentor by shooting him in the eye with an arrow, as supposedly happened to Harold Godwinson at Hastings. Serpentor’s gimmick is that he keeps making references to military history. However, at one point he mistakenly claims that “von Student” tried to assassinate Hitler despite having just one eye and one arm. Here either Larry Hama or Serpentor has confused Kurt Student with Claus von Stauffenberg. One of the Joes appearing in this issue is a stealth pilot, and there’s a running joke where no one can remember his name. The explanation is that this character’s official name was “Ghost Rider.” Marvel didn’t want to refer to him by name because they already had a different character named Ghost Rider. So instead Larry came up with a joke where Ghost Rider, the G.I. Joe character, was so stealthy that no one could remember his name.

STUMPTOWN #2 (Oni, 2014) – “The Case of the King of Clubs, Part 2,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Justin Greenwood. Dex investigates the beating of a fan at a Portland Timbers game, and encounters rumors that Seattle soccer fans might be responsible. This would be the MLS’s worst nightmare because it could lead to European-style football violence. Stumptown is one of Greg Rucka’s less ambitious projects, but also one of his best, despite Justin Greenwood’s pedestrian art. Stumptown creates a powerful sense of local specificity, and it makes the reader feel affection for Dex, her disabled brother, and their city.

STRANGE ADVENTURES #209 (DC, 1968) – “How Many Times Can a Guy Die? Part 3,” [W] Jack Miller, [A] Neal Adams. As uusal, Neal’s artwork on this issue is incredible. He was head and shoulders above any other DC artist at the time. I especially like the opening two pages, a silent sequence in which where a worker removes a poster of Boston Brand and replaces it with a poster of an acrobat called the Eagle. This issue follows the typical Deadman formula where Deadman mistakes a criminal – in this case, the aforementioned Eagle – for his killer. During the climactic fight scene, Deadman seems to temporarily forget that he can jump out of the body he’s occupying and possess the Eagle’s body.

INCREDIBLE HULK #128 (Marvel, 1970) – “And in This Corner… the Avengers!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Herb Trimpe. The Hulk is traveling underground in the direction of the San Andreas fault, and the Avengers are summoned to prevent the Hulk from starting an earthquake. This leads to an entertaining fight scene. Herb Trimpe’s art in this era of Hulk comics was fantastic. This issue may have been the first time the Hulk met the Vision.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #219 (Dell, 1958) – untitled coyote story, [W/A] Carl Barks, plus other stories. I love how I can actually afford to own comics with original Carl Barks stories. In this issue’s Barks ten-pager, Donald and the nephews are staying at Grandma’s farm when a baby coyote starts eating Grandma’s chickens. The ducks try to tame the coyote, but it turns out to be much smarter and fiercer than them. The coyote’s thoughts are depicted using visual thought balloons, a device I haven’t seen Barks using elsewhere. Otherwise this story is a light but funny piece of slapstick. This issue also includes a Mickey Mouse story by Paul Murry, along with some lesser material.

SANDMAN #3 (DC, 1989) – “…Dream a Little Dream of Me,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Sam Kieth & Mike Dringenberg. Morpheus requests John Constantine’s aid to get back his missing pouch of dust. The first Sandman story arc shows some of what TVTropes calls “Early Installment Weirdness.” In this storyline Morpheus acts like a superhero with well-defined powers (e.g. the ability to travel through dreams) and accessories (the helmet, pouch and ruby). Later in the series, Morpheus’s superhero trappings tended to be taken for granted, and Morpheus himself was often de-emphasized in favor of the other characters around him. However, Sandman #3 still has some really good writing, and the interactions between Sandman and Constantine are entertaining. I especially like how throughout the issue, whenever the radio is on, it’s playing a song about the Sandman or dreams.

THE INVISIBLES #4 (DC, 1994) – “Down and Out in Heaven and Hell Part 3,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. Tom o’Bedlam dies and bequeaths his position to Dane McGowan, a.k.a. Jack Frost. Dane/Jack meets the other Invisibles for the first time, including King Mob and Ragged Robin. This first story arc is a good introduction to the series, though I still don’t get just what the Invisibles are fighting against.

TRANSMETROPOLITAN #20 (Vertigo, 1999) – “The New Scum 2: New City,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Darick Robertson. This issue consists of a bunch of loosely related scenes which all revolve around the upcoming presidential election. Spider saves a man from being stoned to death by Christian fundamentalists, then gets hit by an “information bomb,” then later there’s a splash page depicting a cannibal restaurant called “Top of the Food Chain.” In the stoning scene, one of the fundamentalists gives a long list of sins, one of which is “fogletism.” I thought this was some kind of inside joke, but apparently a “foglet” is a type of nanotech creature that was introduced in an earlier issue. At the end of the issue, Spider is offered an interview with the President.

STARSTRUCK #5 (IDW, 2010) – “Hugs and Kisses,” [W] Elaine Lee, [A] Michael Wm. Kaluta. On her 21st birthday, Molly/Galatia 9 is imprisoned, then allowed to escape on the orders of her evil sister. There’s also a Galactic Girl Guides backup story. Starstruck is a fascinating series with beautiful art, though it’s very dense and difficult.

THE UNWRITTEN #24 (Vertigo, 2011) – “Stairway to Heaven,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. This issue was deservedly nominated for an Eisner. It’s a standalone issue starring Pauly Bruckner, who was imprisoned in a storybook by Wilson Taylor, as previously depicted in issue 12. In “Stairway to Heaven,” Pauly escapes into a world where a bunch of fairytale animals are climbing an endless stairway. He becomes their leader and the lover of the Moomintroll-esque Quark Maiden, who narrates the story. He even has three kittens by her, but at the end of the story, he cravenly abandons the other animals and escapes. However, Quark Maiden and the other animals take inspiration from him and continue their quest. Peter Gross’s artwork in this issue an amazing combination of lighthearted fairytale whimsy and Gothic grimness, thanks in large part to the finishes by Al Davison.

SAUCER COUNTRY #9 (Vertigo, 2013) – “The Reticulan Candidate Part Two,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Ryan Kelly. Some dude tries to assassinate Arcadia, the presidential candidate who is this series’ main protagonist. There’s also a plot thread that explains the origin of the “men in black” trope. This series is okay, but not nearly as good as another comic that blended science fiction with politics, Letter 44.

WYTCHES #4 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Jock. Sailor has been kidnapped by a witch, and her parents are scrambling to find her.I read this issue and #3 in the wrong order, but it doesn’t matter because I don’t like this series anyway; I think Snyder is a very overrated writer. Jock’s art in this comic is actually kind of pedestrian, but includes some striking coloring effects.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #135 (Marvel, 1971) – “More Monster than Man!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Gene Colan. I bought this years ago, but never read it because of its poor condition. In this issue, Cap and Falcon battle a scientist named Dr. Gorbo who turns himself into a human ape. Curiously, Dr. Gorbo already looks like an ape even in his human form. Gene Colan’s artwork in this issue is amazing, perhaps due to very precise inking by Tom Palmer.

GREEN LANTERN CORPS #44 (DC, 2010) – “Red Badge of Rage Part 2,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Patrick Gleason. A bunch of Green Lanterns battle Guy Gardner, who has been turned into a Red Lantern. Despite having the same creative team as Super Sons, this is a pretty boring crossover installment.

MADAME XANADU #16 (Vertigo, 2009) – “Broken House of Cards Chapter One: Ladise’ Harm Journal,” [W] Matt Wagner, [A] Amy Reeder Hadley. In 1957, a housewife is experiencing bizarre magical effects. She consults Madame Xanadu, who discovers that someone has cursed her. I disliked this issue at first because of its shallow depiction of ‘50s domesticity; it seems much less historically accurate than Lady Killer or Hex Wives. However, Wagner and Reeder Hadley do a good job of arousing the reader’s curiosity. By the end of the issue, I was really curious as to who cursed Mrs. Reynolds and why.

DETECTIVE COMICS #820 (DC, 2006) – “Face the Face Part 7 of 8,” [W] James Robinson, [A] Leonard Kirk & Andy Clarke. James Robinson had a bizarre career trajectory. In the ‘90s he wrote Starman, the best DC superhero comic of its time, as well as Leave It to Chance, an excellent kids’ comic. But none of his subsequent comics was anywhere near that level, and some of them, like Justice League, Cry for Justice, were horrendous. Detective Comics #820 is such an average comic that it would be hard to even summarize what it’s about. The main event is that Scarecrow makes Batman and Robin think they’re fighting other versions of themselves, and also Superboy-Prime.

SUPERMAN #700 (DC, 2010) – “The Comeback,” [W] James Robinson, [A] Bernard Chang, plus two other stories. This issue begins with a boring story where Superman saves Lois from the Parasite. Next, “Geometry” by Dan Jurgens, is the best of this issue’s three stories, though it’s much more about Robin than Superman. The last story, by J. Michael Straczynski and Eddy Barrows, a woman slaps Superman at a press conference. She explains that her husband died of a cancer that only Superman could have cured, because Superman was away in space. As a result of this, Superman decides that he’s lost touch with the common people, and he decides to spend some time seeing the real world. This entire story is a bunch of emotionally manipulative nonsense. If Superman hadn’t been doing whatever he was doing in space, many more people would have died. There have been many far better and more subtle treatments of the theme of superheroes failing to save people. See for example Superman vol. 2 #64, in which Superman fails to save a man from dying of a brain tumor. But instead of feeling guilty, Superman accepts the fact that he can’t save everyone. (Other less directly relevant examples are Spectacular Spider-Man #310 or Flash #87-89). Worse, this story is the prologue to “Grounded,” the worst Superman story ever published.

New comics received on Saturday, July 6:

GIANT DAYS #52 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Esther has her job interview, but discovers that investment banking is not for her. Esther leverages her connections with Ken Lord to get Shelley Winters a publishing contract, and in return, one of Ken’s friends hires Esther for a publishing position. Giant Days #52 is another brilliant issue of a comic that will be sorely missed. The best part of the issue is when Esther’s future coworkers talk about attending a “money and cocaine party”.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #46 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. I complain sometimes about Ryan North’s writing style, but this issue reminds me what a brilliant writer he is. At the start of the issue, Squirrel Girl reveals her plan to defeat the frost giants by eliminating their food source, which, as she explains, is the same way the province of Alberta got rid of rats. Alberta is so cold that there’s nothing there for rats to eat, except humans’ food, and the Alberta government takes aggressive measures to exterminate any rats found on houses or farms. When I read this sequence, I hadn’t heard of Alberta’s control policy before, but I instantly knew that Ryan North’s description of it must be accurate. He wouldn’t put something like that in his comic unless it was true. And indeed his account is substantially true. Ryan’s prose style is condescending sometimes, but he shows utmost respect for his readers by always providing them with accurate facts. And somehow those facts are always weirder than anything he could make up. Anyway, on the next page Ryan mentions “the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea.” I love Stan Rogers’s music, and I was delighted at this reference to “Northwest Passage,” Canada’s unofficial national anthem. Besides that, there’s a ton of other great stuff in this issue, including a fight between whales and frost giants, and a scene in which Doreen and Rachel convince the Frost Giants to turn on their leader by reading to them from John Locke.

THE WORLD OF BLACK HAMMER ENCYCLOPEDIA (Dark Horse, 2019) – many vignettes, [W] Tate Brombal w/ Jeff Lemire, [A] various. A Black Hammer version of the Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe or Who’s Who in the DC Universe. This comic (if that’s the proper term) is full of fascinating data on Black Hammer’s characters and settings, some of which we haven’t seen yet. The highlight for me is the entry on the Quantum League, in which we finally get a complete list of all 27 Leaguers. However, I’m disappointed that there’s no entry on the Star Sheriffs. Dr. Star is referred to as Dr. Andromeda throughout this issue, even in the ad at the end. There’s no official explanation for this yet, but the speculation is that someone else has the rights to the name Dr. Star.

SEA OF STARS #1 (Image, 2019) – “Lost in the Wild Heavens,” [W] Jason Aaron & Dennis Hallum. The idea behind this comic is that it’s two series in one: a lighthearted adventure story about a little boy lost in space, and a grim, mature story about the boy’s father’s search for his son. Sea of Stars #1 is a thrilling debut issue that effectively sets up both stories. Kadyn is an adorable little brat, and Stephen Green’s artwork is gorgeous; he’s great at drawing both technology and alien creatures. He reminds me a bit of Sean Murphy. Rico Renzi’s moody, dark coloring also helps a lot. I look forward to reading more of this series.

BLACK HAMMER: AGE OF DOOM #11 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. In New World (aka New Genesis or the Rock of Eternity), Lucy encounters her father, who’s not dead. He tells her that Anti-God is coming back because the balance between good and evil is broken, and the only way to stop Anti-God is to keep the other heroes from returning to Earth. Then there’s a sequence where the other heroes recruit Madame Dragonfly, who’s masquerading as a suburban housewife. This was an okay issue. I strongly suspect that Lucy’s dad is lying to her.

PRINCELESS VOL. 8: PRINCESSES #3 (Action Lab, 2019) – “Chapter Three: Angoisse,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Newt Taber & Takeia Marie. I thought I’d forgotten to order this, but I did order it, they just delivered it out of order. In this issue, Angoisse stops some unauthorized logging, and then her goblin friends have an election, which is an obvious parody of the 2016 presidential campaign. The goblin election sequence is funny, but has nothing to do with Adrienne and her sisters’ story. The Black Knight doesn’t appear in this issue, as she did in #1, #2 and #4.

NO ONE LEFT TO FIGHT #1 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Aubrey Sitterson, [A] Fico Ossio. Vale, a wandering martial artist, visits his identical friend Timor, now married with a family, and old tensions start to boil over. This series is explicitly based on Dragon Ball; it’s been advertised as an examination of what happens to Goku when, as the series indicates, he runs out of people to fight. I have only mild familiarity with Dragon Ball, so I’m sure I missed a lot of the references in this comic. I assume that Vale = Goku, Timor = Vegeta, and Krysta = Bulma. But even without knowledge of Dragon Ball, I enjoyed this comic. Fico Ossio’s art and coloring are excellent, and I really like the pet octopus.

CROWDED #7 (Image, 2019) – “Time to Pretend,” [W] Christoper Sebela, [A] Ro Stein & Ted Brandt. I’m glad that my favorite Chris Sebela comic is back. This issue, Charlie and Vita take a train to Las Vegas, defeating an assassination attempt on the way. But when they arrive, it turns out there’s a Reapr convention in town. Funny things in this issue include Charlie’s “Loose Slots Here” shirt, the bench that “reaches melting temperature after 1 hour,” and “Marie’s Condos, minimum space, maximum joy.”

ADVENTURES OF THE SUPER SONS #12 (DC, 2019) – “Gang War Conclusion,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Carlo Barberi. Jon and Damian meet the living hypercube who created the planet of kid supervillains. They defeat the villains and make it back in time for school. The series ends with another framing sequence with the elderly Jon and Damian and their grandkids. This comic was a lot of fun, but 12 issues may have been too many. Long before this comic was finished, it had already been rendered obsolete by developments elsewhere in the DCU, and it no longer felt relevant.

MS. MARVEL ANNUAL #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Sting,” [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Jon Lam. Kamala encounters a new superhero, Captain Hero. It turns out Captain Hero is really the Super-Skrull, seeking revenge for the destruction of the Skrull Throneworld. A friend of mine wrote an as yet unpublished review which critiques this comic’s politics. I don’t have the same objections as my friend does, but that’s mostly because in my opinion, this comic’s politics are too incoherent to be worth criticizing. In the end, Kamala tells Kl’rt that the past isn’t coming back and they need to build a better future, which is a completely vapid principle. Also, it’s weird how Kl’rt waited until now to take revenge for Throneworld’s destruction, which happened over thirty years ago in real-world time. Overall this issue is far below Mags’s usual standards, and I didn’t like the art either. And the new character introduced in this issue, Shebang, is a complete cipher. This issue may be the first time we’ve seen Kamala’s mother with her hair uncovered. I forget whether she’s usually shown wearing a headscarf around the house.

THE DREAMING #11 (Vertigo, 2019) – “Understanding,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Bilquis Evely. Dora and Matthew arrive at the Worlds’ End inn, where all the patrons are listening to three people telling stories. The three stories belong to different genres (fantasy, SF and crime) and are drawn in different styles, but each story ends with a person starting to tell one of the other stories, so none of the stories ever ends. And everyone else is so mesmerized by the stories that they don’t realize the inn is burning down. In the end, Dora saves the day by narrating her own ending to all the stories at once. This issue is a brilliant piece of experimental narration, as well as a meditation on the power of storytelling – a power which can be destructive, because the desire for narrative closure is so strong. Besides drawing in multiple different styles, Bilquis Evely does a great job of depicting the bizarre creatures that hang out at Worlds’ End.

BLACK AF: DEVIL’S DYE #4 (Black Mask, 2019) – untitled, [W] Vita Ayala, [A] Liana Kangas. I shouldn’t have ordered this, but it’s too late now. I’m totally unable to follow this comic’s plot, and I fail to understand the appeal of Liana Kangas’s art. I suppose her storytelling is good, but her linework is sloppy and ugly. I really want Black to be good, but it’s not, and I won’t be ordering the next Black miniseries.

LOIS LANE #1 (DC, 2019) – “Enemy of the People,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Mike Perkins. Lois investigates stories about Russian interference and human trafficking. Greg Rucka has written lots of comics starring confident, super-competent women – Queen & Country, Lazarus, Black Magick, Stumptown, etc. His version of Lois is just as formidable as any of those series’ protagonists, and I like her so far. This comic also has some obvious relevance to current politics. It’s notable that Lois’s son is only mentioned once in this issue. Over the past few years, Lois has been essentially defined by her role as a mother, and I actually thought at first that this comic must be taking place before Jon was born. I still think it’s odd that Jon is nowhere to be seen in this comic. On the other hand, Peter Tomasi’s portrayal of Lois was borderline sexism at times, and I’m glad that this series is exploring other aspects of Lois’s life besides her relationship to her family.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #79 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Sam Maggs, [A] Toni Kuusisto. The second worst pony comic IDW has published, after issue 40, the one that depicted Twilight Sparkle as a preteen single mother. The main problem with this issue is its complete lack of a plot. Apple Bloom distracts Mayor Mare so that the other ponies can arrange a surprise anniversary celebration. Then Mayor Mare comes back to city hall, and Sunset Shimmer plays a concert. That’s literally the whole issue. On top of that, the storytelling is incoherent at times, especially on the page with Bulk Biceps’s audition. Sam Maggs is best known as a journalist and critic, and she clearly has limited experience writing comics.

HEATHEN #7 (Vault, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Natasha Alterici. Frigga and Odin have an argument, and then Aydis falls overboard in a storm, and one of the pirates rescues her but loses a foot as a result. This issue was difficult to follow, but Natasha Alterici’s artwork is brilliant. I love her light-dark contrasts and the way she draws diverse body types. Issue 8 is the last one that’s been solicited so far, and I don’t see how this story can be completed in one more issue. Maybe more issues will be solicited later.

THE LONG CON #10 (Oni, 2019) – untitled, [W] Dylan Meconis & Ben Coleman, [A] E.A. Denich. Destiny and Victor finally make it in to see the Special Guest, a fictionalized version of Gene Roddenberry. In a flashback, we learn that the catastrophe was caused by Marla, the computer from the Skylarks franchise. It turns out that Marla was real, and she kept getting smarter and more obsessed with maintaining continuity. And according to Skylarks continuity, a worldwide apocalypse happened in the year 2018 (like how in Star Trek continuity, the Eugenics Wars started in 1993), so when that year came around and there wasn’t an apocalypse, Marla made one happen. Marla’s next step is to launch everyone at the convention into deep space. But just in time, Victor and Dez realize that Marla’s true goal is to keep the fans happy, and they convince her that this is inherently impossible, thus saving the day. This ending is brilliantly metatextual, and overall, The Long Con is one of the best miniseries of the past year. It’s an incisive satire of fandom. I wish people were paying more attention to it.

HASHTAG: DANGER #3 (Ahoy, 2019) – “The Ape in the Iron Mask!”, [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Chris Giarrusso. The team goes to the moon to look for a supervillain who turns out to not exist. There’s no mention of the cliffhanger from last issue, where Sugar becomes a supervillain. This issue includes a backup story in which a Trump supporter gets punched in the face. Hashtag: Danger is probably my least favorite Ahoy title, though it’s still good.

BIRTHRIGHT #37 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. The good guys prepare for a mission to recruit Mastema, the daughter of the primary villain, Lore. We also encounter Mikey and Aaron’s grandfather Samael, who is himself some kind of wizard. Birthright is one of those series where there’s not much difference between one issue and another.

SWEET TOOTH #15 (Vertigo, 2011) – “Animal Armies 3,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. This issue includes two parallel plot threads, one about Gus and the other about Tommy Jepperd. The highlight of the issue is when Gus and Tommy are both dreaming, and for two consecutive two-page spreads, the left page depicts Tommy’s dream while the right page depicts Gus’s dream. Then on the following two-page spread, the two dreams merge into a single big thought balloon, and Gus and Tommy both wake up in shock. This effect is easier to see than to describe, and it’s the sort of trick Jeff Lemire is really good at.

IMMORTAL HULK #20 (Marvel, 2019) – “Metatron,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. The Hulk dies from having his heart cut out, but dying restarts his healing factor, and he and the Harpy team up to defeat the Abomination. Then there’s an enigmatic sequence where Bruce Banner encounters the angel Metatron. Immortal Hulk may be the best Hulk comic since PAD’s first run.

TEST #1 (Vault, 2019) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Jen Hickman. Chris Sebela seems to be competing with Mags Visaggio to see who can start the most new series. This comic stars Aleph Null (a name derived from mathematics, specifically set theory), a “professional guinea pig” who makes a living by being experimented upon. Like the protagonist of Jen Hickman’s previous series Moth & Whisper, Aleph Null appears to be transgender; at one point their gender is stated as “various given.” In this issue, Aleph Null travels to a mysterious midwestern town called Laurelwood. I’m not sure yet what this series is about, but it’s interesting so far.

GREEN LANTERN #9 (DC, 2019) – “The Day the Stars Fell Down!”, [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Liam Sharp. This issue starts with a sequence where a cosmic villain destroys a world full of superheroes, including Vartox. Then the scene shifts to a fantasy world called Athmoora, where Hal is taking a vacation. While there, he encounters an other-dimensional version of Abin Sur, and then he’s attacked by the same villain from the first sequence. It’s called Qwa-Man (Qwa = Qward?) and seems to be some kind of reverse version of Hal. Then the issue ends with Hal being recruited by three alternate Hal Jordans from other realities. This was a very dense issue, and I don’t quite understand this storyline yet. I do like how every issue of Grant’s Green Lantern has been very different from the others.

DOOM PATROL: WEIGHT OF THE WORLDS #1 (DC, 2019) – “Damaged,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] James Harvey. This excellent but chronically delayed series is finally back. I was disappointed by the lack of Nick Derington art, but James Harvey, who I haven’t heard of before, is equally brilliant in a different way. He does amazing stuff with coloring and lettering and page layout. This issue, the new Doom Patrol visits a planet where the naturally sphere-shaped inhabitants have been forced to contort themselves into human shapes. Meanwhile, the newly human Cliff Steele is rejected by his elderly father, and in grief, Cliff drives himself off a cliff, trying to replicate the accident that made him Robotman.

SECTION ZERO #4 (Image, 2019) – “A Long Time Dead,” [W] Karl Kesel, [A] Tom Grummett.  Confusingly, this issue starts 18 years after #3. I guess that’s because this is the first new issue, while the first three were reprints from the original Gorilla series. In this issue, the Section Zero characters visit a daycare where all the children turn out to be changelings.

TALES TO ASTONISH #86 (Marvel, 1966) – “The Wrath of Warlord Krang!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jerry Grandenetti, and “The Birth of… the Hulk-Killer!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Buscema. In this issue’s Namor story, Namor tries to rescue Dorma from Warlord Krang. Dorma was a pretty boring superhero girlfriend, and overall this is an average story. The Hulk story is a bit better, although the villain is Boomerang, whose costume is hideous. In general, Tales to Astonish was one of the lesser ‘60s Marvel titles

IGNITED #2 (Humanoids, 2019) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid & Kwanza Osajyefo, [A] Phil Briones. In the wake of the shooting and the superheroes’ appearance, tensions at the school erupt into violence. There’s also a backup story written by Carla Speed McNeil. This issue is just okay; it lacks the impact of issue 1.

PUMA BLUES #3 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1986) – “Strings,” [W] Stephen Murphy, [A] Michael Zulli. Another issue that has a minimal plot, but creates a powerful sense of mood and atmosphere. The overarching theme of Puma Blues is ecological catastrophe, and this issue narrates that theme from several viewpoints. Sequences in this issue include a dream about nuclear war, narrated by a college professor, and a TV movie about the Rapture.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #108 (Marvel, 1968) – “The Snares of the Trapster!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. A thrilling story full of epic action sequences. Unfortunately it stars Marvel’s dumbest villain ever. At least by this point he’s calling himself the Trapster instead of Paste Pot Pete, but he still has a bizarre belief that there’s no problem that can’t be solved with paste.

WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #154 (DC, 1965) – “The Sons of Batman and Superman!”, [W] Edmond Hamilton, [A] Curt Swan. This issue introduces the Super Sons, though they’re distinctly different from the ‘70s versions of those characters. Notably, these Super Sons’ mothers are named as Lois Lane and Kathy Kane, while in Bob Haney’s Super Sons stories, their mothers were never identified. This first Super Sons story is very cute and lighthearted.  A very young Kal-El Jr and Bruce Jr get into a fight, and their mothers forbid them to see each other. They decide to run off together, but Kal Jr gets kidnapped by a villain, and Bruce Jr rescues him. Kal Jr and Bruce Jr appeared again a few issues later, then were forgotten until the ‘70s. World’s Finest #154 also includes a reprinted Green Arrow backup story.

WYTCHES #3 (DC, 2014) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Jock. Sailor Rooks’s dad searches for his kidnapped daughter and instead finds a man who’s been stuffed inside a tree. There’s also an extended flashback depicting Sailor and her parents at a playground. This is an okay comic, but not great. I’m not surprised there wasn’t a sequel after the initial six issues.

THE UNWRITTEN #20 (Vertigo, 2011) – “Leviathan 2,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. Tom Taylor and Lizzie Hexam visit Pittsfield, Massachusetts for the annual Moby Dick festival, which is sadly not a real thing, although Herman Melville was in fact born in that town. Tom gets sucked inside the book and discovers that his father is Captain Ahab. There’s a flashback in which a young Tom and Lizzie discuss the difference between “real truth” and “story truth.” As usual, this issue is fascinating; it’s full of literary references and metatextual moments.

HUNGRY GHOSTS #3 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “Deep” and “Boil in the Belly,” [W] Anthony Bourdain & Joel Rose, [A] Sebastian Cabrot and Paul Pope. “Deep” is about a chef who’s sexually harassed by a senior coworker. Another coworker kills the evil chef by summoning a kappa to rip out his shirikodama, or the ball in his ass – apparently this business about the ball is a real part of kappa mythology. This story is inspired by Bourdain’s own experiences working in abusive, hierarchical restaurant kitchens. At one point, a senior chef says “I make two chefs like you in the toilet every day!” In Kitchen Confidential,Bourdain attributes this exact same insult to his culinary school professor. The backup story is about a man who develops a second mouth in his belly, and because it’s drawn by Paul Pope, it has the best art in the entire miniseries.

HUNGRY GHOSTS #4 (Dark Horse, 2018) – “The Snow Woman” and “The Cow Head,” [W] Anthony Bourdain & Joel Rose, [A] Irene Koh and Francesco Francavilla. “The Snow Woman” is about an encounter with Yuki-Onna, the snow spirit. This story is disappointing because it’s not about food at all. “The Cow Head” is about a minotaur who visits a famine-starved town, where the people kill and eat him. It has some pretty good artwork, though I’ve seen better art from Francavilla. Overall, Hungry Ghosts is a moderately successful experiment. Bourdain’s stories benefit from his expert knowledge of food, but most of them are unsatisfying in terms of narrative; they’re too short and their twist endings are nonsensical. Sadly, he never got the chance to develop his comics writing skills any further.

TRUE BELIEVERS: WOLVERINE VS. SABRETOOTH #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “24 Hours,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] John Buscema. This story is reprinted from Wolverine #10. It intercuts between two sequences: a flashback to the day Sabretooth killed Silver Fox, and a present-day sequence in which Wolverine hunts for Sabretooth in Madripoor. The latter story thread guest-stars Jessica Drew and her partner Lindsey McCabe, two old Claremont characters. “24 Hours” is very well-constructed and exciting, and effectively reveals the characters of both Wolverine and Sabretooth. It’s a small gem, and it was well worth reprinting. However, John Buscema’s pencils and Bill Sienkiewicz’s inks don’t mix well.

CRIMINAL #4 (Icon, 2007) – “Coward Part Four,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. This issue’s protagonist is a career criminal named Leo. His friend Ivan dies from overdosing on some stolen heroin, and Leo heads off to town to deal with the owners of the heroin, leaving his girlfriend Greta alone in the country with the drugs. At the end of the issue, we realize that the people Leo is looking for in town have already tracked down Greta in the country. I’m not quite sure what the larger context of this story is, but it’s an exciting story. I think Criminal is probably Ed Brubaker’s masterpiece.

ANIMOSITY: EVOLUTION #6 (AfterShock, 2018) – “Lex Machina: Part 1,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Eric Gapstur. Someone has just killed all the animal-machine hybrids except Wintermute herself, who barely survived, and this issue deals with the aftermath of that. There’s one scene in this issue where a pig explains that when the animals all came alive, the humans and their pets felt like they had lost their freedoms. But “their freedoms were astonishing luxuries that the rest of us” (i.e. the other animals) “could never dream of… ‘the most meager step towards equality’ will, to those in power, always feel like ‘relentless oppression.’” Here we see what Animosity could have been. It could have been the ultimate expression of the principle that “when you’re used to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” It could have explored the feelings of animals who have been tortured and killed for generations, and who are finally free to become something more than food. However, the series wasted this potential by failing to treat the animals as animals. As I’ve said many times before, the animals in Animosity are just humans in smaller bodies. They all think and talk like humans, except the bees. They seek for freedom and equality entirely on human terms. Therefore, Animosity can’t seriously explore the question of what it might mean for mice or cows or bats to be equal to people. It just assumes that an animal’s version of freedom and equality is the same as a human’s version. Animosity also fails to seriously confront other problems with its premise, like the fact that some animals have to eat other animals to live. In the end, Animosity promised far more than it could deliver.

ZAP COMIX #7 (Last Gasp, 1974) – “Sangrella,” [W/A] Spain, plus other stories. This comic is an expression of the underground movement at its peak, and that’s both a good and a bad thing. Zap #7 is an incredible demonstration of graphic virtuosity, to such an extent that it’s a rather labor-intensive reading experience. There’s a major story by Spain, two stories by Robt. Williams (both of which are heavily influenced by classic animation), multiple stories and pinups by S. Clay Wilson, and short pieces by Rick Griffin and Victor Moscoso. Compared with all this material, the two stories by Crumb almost feel like breaks from the difficulty and complexity of the rest of the issue. While the stories in Zap #7 are visually brilliant, they’re also full of testosterone and misogyny. S. Clay Wilson’s stories are some of the most gruesome material ever printed in a non-pornographic comic, and the entire issue is full of male sex fantasies. Even though Spain’s “Sangrella” has a female protagonist, it too seems intended to appeal to the male gaze. A comic like this shows you why It Ain’t Me, Babe and Wimmen’s Comix were necessary correctives.

GRIP: THE STRANGE WORLD OF MEN #1 (Dark Horse, 2002) – “Grip of Fear,” [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. This issue is less difficult than some of the later issues of the series, but still very weird. A man wakes up with no memory and no idea who he is. He encounters various other bizarre people, and we gradually realize that his skin and his body belong to different people. On the last page, his empty skin is found in his bed, with no body inside it. Grip has the same sort of disturbing body horror as Blubber, but unlike Blubber, Grip also has a coherent story.

HATE #13 (Fantagraphics, 1993) – “In Search of the Enigmatic George Cecil Hamilton the Third,” [W/A] Peter Bagge. Buddy’s old roommate, George, writes an article slandering Buddy as an example of the worst qualities of Generation X, and publishes the article in a free newspaper with nationwide distribution. After making a futile attempt to steal all the copies of the newspaper, Buddy tracks down George and forces him to publish a retraction. The sequence where Buddy discovers the slanderous article is hilarious; I was laughing my ass off as I read. The second half of the issue isn’t as funny. There’s also a backup story that shows what happened to Leonard/Stinky after “Follow That Dream.”

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE ANNUAL #1 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Declan Shalvey. Dr. Doom and Ben Grimm visit an alternate reality, where they fight a different version of Doom. This comic has some useful insights into the relationship between Doom and the FF, but it’s not nearly as entertaining as the current FF series. Surprisingly, this issue shows both versions of Doom with bare faces, although it doesn’t technically break the taboo on showing Dr. Doom’s face: one of the Dooms is from an alternate reality, and the other has previously had his face healed.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #140 (Dell, 1952) – untitled Gladstone story, [W/A] Carl Barks, plus other stories. In this issue’s Barks story, Donald and the nephews are sick of Gladstone’s constant good luck. They decide that he must have some kind of good luck charm, so they visit his house and find that he has a locked safe. With Scrooge’s help, they break into Gladstone’s house and open the safe, which turns out to contain a dime. Gladstone explains that this dime is the only money he ever earned by working, and he was so ashamed of it that he hid it in the safe. The symmetry of this is brilliant. Scrooge’s Old Number One dime represents the beginning of his life of hard work and honest earning. Gladstone’s dime is the exact opposite; it represents his allergy to work, and his faith that random chance will provide for his needs. In general, Gladstone represents the exception to the Protestant logic of Scrooge’s universe, according to which success is the reward for hard work. As with most of these old WDC&S comics, the non-Barks stories in this issue are of no interest at all, though the Grandma Duck story has some good artwork.

TRUE BELIEVERS: MARVEL KNIGHTS 20TH ANNIVERSARY – IRON FIST BY THOMAS & KANE #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “The Fury of Iron Fist!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Gil Kane. This reprints Marvel Premiere #15, Iron Fist’s first appearance and origin story. This issue is valuable because I didn’t actually know Iron Fist’s origin before; I knew some of the separate pieces of this story, but I wasn’t sure how they fit together. “The Fury of Iron Fist!” introduces a number of important concepts and characters, like Danny’s parents, Howard Meachum, K’un L’un, and the August Personage in Jade. Gil Kane’s art in this issue is excellent, though I’m not sure he understood how to draw martial arts action, as opposed to Western styles of combat.

STORMWATCH #50 (Image, 1997) – “Change or Die Part 3,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Tom Raney. This is the storyline that leads into The Authority, but not directly; prior to The Authority, there was a second volume of Stormwatch. Reading this issue, I was confused as to how Warren, in the space of one issue, could advance the story to the point where The Authority begins, but it turns out he didn’t have to. Besides that, Stormwatch #50 creates further confusion because it has a ton of characters who aren’t clearly identified, and Tom Raney’s art is kind of bad. But besides all that, “Change or Die” is an important story. The basic idea is that Stormwatch battles a group of superheroes, the Changers, who want to remake the world on their terms. Stormwatch wins, but later, some of the Stormwatch members decide that the Changers’ goal was correct, though their methods were flawed. And that’s how we get to The Authority.

THE UNWRITTEN #13 (Vertigo, 2010) – “Dead Man’s Knock: Monsters,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Peter Gross. Tom Taylor, Lizzie Hexam and Savoy are in London searching for Wilson Taylor. Meanwhile, the impending release of the fourteenth Tom Taylor book has led to a massive media frenzy, but what no one realizes is that the book is a complete train wreck, full of obvious plagiarism. This issue is full of fascinating stuff; its most striking moment is a two-page splash depicting a giant whale made up of people carrying umbrellas.

THE UNWRITTEN #14 (Vertigo, 2010) – “Dead Man’s Knock: Atrocities,” as above. While searching through my boxes, I discovered that I also have #9 and #11, but I decided to read #14 first. It begins with an excerpt from the new Tom Taylor novel, in which we encounter a black runesword that hungres for souls, a “Powder, with a capital P” that “is the raw stuff of sentience,” an “emerald telescope,” and a “blade of subtlety.” These obvious plagiarisms of Michael Moorcock and Philip Pullman are very funny. Next, Lizzie Hexam contacts Wilson Taylor by cutting her hand and throwing the blood onto the pages of a book, but Wilson’s message is that she’s on her own. Then Tom and Savoy fend off an attack by agents of some unknown power, and the issue ends with Lizzie projecting herself into the world of a Dickens novel. I’m not sure how all the pieces of this story fit together, but Unwritten is an amazing comic. It’s an inspired piece of metatextual playfulness, and it also offers a satisfying story.

DOMINO #6 (Marvel, 2018) – “Killer Instinct Conclusion,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] David Baldeon. I only read this because I was tired and wanted to read something simple, and I didn’t expect to enjoy it. Surprisingly, I did. My main complaint about this series is its lack of passion, but in her fight with Topaz, Domino displays a lot of passion. Also, this comic’s dialogue is very funny, and David Baldeon’s art is excellent. I take back some of the negative things I said about Gail’s writing.

First batch of post-Heroes Con reviews

6-26-19

I received a new comics shipment on June 13, the day before Heroes Con. Before picking up these comics, I had actually been to Heroes Con already to get my badge and meet Andy Kunka for dinner.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #45 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Derek Charm. Squirrel Girl and Ratatoskr have a disagreement and break up, but then they team up again to fight the frost giants. Also, Ratatoskr mind-controls a frost giant named Daisy and makes her sing a song. The best part of the issue is the sequence where Doreen feeds a deer while reciting “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” This is perhaps the sweetest and most lyrical moment in the series. And it’s true that this poem recently did enter the public domain.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #78 (IDW, 2019) – “Cosmos Episode Five: I Hate Myself for Loving You,” [W] Katie Cook, [A] Andy Price. The ponies and Discord finally defeat Cosmos by having Spike eat her stars. This may or may not be a reference to Matter-Eater Lad eating the Miracle Machine. This whole story is another masterpiece from Katie and Andy, with clever writing and gorgeous art. As usual, it’s full of references that younger fans will miss (e.g. “Beratis Kesla Redjac” is a Star Trek reference), and it’s one of the grimmest pony comics yet. At Heroes Con, I moderated a My Little Pony panel with Katie, Andy, and Jeremy Whitley, and it was an amazing experience. Besides being brilliant creators, all three of them are a delight to talk to.

GRUMBLE #7 (Albatross, 2019) – untitled, [W] Rafer Roberts, [A] Mike Norton. Tala and Eddie execute a complicated plot to kidnap Jimmy the Keeper. As part of the plot, Eddie sells his soul to the devil, or an aspect thereof. This was only an average issue, compared to the previous few. The panel with Jimmy the Keeper swallowing a car is horrifying.

BRONZE AGE BOOGIE #3 (Ahoy, 2019) – “Who Watches the Walkman?”, [W] Stuart Moore, [A] Alberto Pontichelli. Jackson Li and Lynda Darrk use a magical teleporting Walkman to escape back to Brita Constantina’s time period. But now Jackson is in the hands of the Martians, while Brita and Lynda are stuck in the past. I forget if I mentioned this before, but Jackson’s sequences are narrated in second person, just like Doug Moench’s Master of Kung Fu. This issue includes another chapter of Major Ursa, which is by far the best of Ahoy’s backup features.

PRINCELESS VOL. 8: PRINCESSES #4 (Action Lab, 2019) – “Chapter 4: Antonia & Andrea,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Robin Kaplan. I must have forgotten to order issue 3, and Jeremy didn’t have any single issues for sale at Heroes Con. This issue, Antonia and Andrea turn each other into a cat and a rabbit, leading to a ton of funny moments. Besides looking like a bunny, Andrea is terrified and has a craving for carrots, and Antonia feels compelled to pounce on people and rub up against objects. After some additional mayhem, Antonia and Andrea are recruited by the Black Knight, like all their sisters were.

CALAMITY KATE #4 (Dark Horse, 2019) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Corin Howell. Kate leaves LA and, I guess, decides to get to work on herself. Thirteen years later, a now grown-up Jade becomes a monster hunter herself and discovers that she’s been given Kate’s car. And that’s the end of the series. Calamity Kate was excellent but short; it could have used a couple more issues. On Twitter, I saw where someone claimed that this series was plagiarized from an independent comic which is also about transgender monster hunters. Even if this accusation is true, and there is some circumstantial evidence to support it, I don’t think it matters. Calamity Kate seems to have only superficial similarities to the other series; if Mags did borrow the other series’s premise, she took it in a direction of her own, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In Calamity Kate, the monster hunting is not the point; the comic is about Kate’s internal struggles, and it’s not clear whether the monsters are even “real” or whether they’re just a metaphor.

GOGOR #2 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Ken Garing. Armano and Gogor continue their journey and meet some more weird creatures. At the end of the issue, they encounter the sorceress Tetra Hedron, who promises to explain what’s going on. This is a fascinating comic with distinctive artwork and writing. It reminds me of the Hulk or Swamp Thing on one hand, and Weirdworld or Wally Wood’s The Wizard King on the other hand, but it doesn’t resemble any of these very much. It feels like a sui generis thing. I didn’t see any of Ken Garing’s other comics at Heroes Con, but I expect I will come across them sooner or later.

WONDER TWINS #5 (DC, 2019) – “Magic and Games,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Stephen Byrne. This issue is a parody of recent incidents in which white people have killed black people and gotten off scot-free. Sylvia from the League of Annoyance zaps Filo Math with a Kryptonian cell phone, apparently killing him, though in fact she just sends him to the Phantom Zone. She becomes “Cell Phone Sylvia” (like BBQ Becky), and the media narrative focuses entirely on her victimhood, ignoring Filo Math. At the end of the issue, Scrambler decides he’s sick of this sort of injustice, so he enforces the Rawlsian veil of ignorance: he announces that in thirty days, he’ll scramble the brains of everyone on earth, because “the powerful will only make a system that works for everybody today if they don’t know whether they are going to be powerful tomorrow.” Another great one-liner, in the previous panel, is that “those worth the power to change the world don’t have any incentive to do so.” BTW, I am really glad that this series and Dial H for Hero have both been extended to 12 issues.

IRONHEART #7 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Eve Ewing, [A] Luciano Vecchio. Riri teams up with Nadia van Dyne to battle a zombie apocalypse. Like Faith Erin Hicks’s Zombies Calling, this issue derives much of its humor from the characters’ knowledge of the conventions of the zombie genre. It wasn’t the best issue of Ironheart, but I like how Marvel has such a big stable of teen heroes. I hope Nadia will continue to appear in other titles even though her own series was cancelled again.

OUTER DARKNESS #7 (Image, 2019) – “Castrophony of Hate Pt. 7: Haunted,” [W] John Layman, [A] Afu Chan. The ship encounters a medieval church floating in space. Inside is a 20th-century nun, Sister Magdalena Antonia, who becomes the newest crew member. This is a rather slow issue, but the image of the floating, glow-in-the-dark church is brilliant. It reminds me of something out of Star Trek: TOS, which is of course the inspiration for this series.

HOUSE OF WHISPERS #10 (DC, 2019) – “But Some of Us Were Brave,” [W] Nalo Hopkinson & Dan Watters, [A] Domo Stanton. The kids escape from the wyvern with Damballah’s help, but Erzulie loses her storytelling contest with Ananse, and things aren’t looking good for her. This is the best current Vertigo title, although this issue was anticlimactic.

And then it was time for Heroes Con. This was an incredible convention, one of the most enjoyable cons I’ve ever attended. Highlights included the two panels I moderated (the one on My Little Pony, as mentioned above, and another on all-ages comics), the Don Ault tribute panel that Craig Fischer organized, and the after-party at the Heroes store. I don’t know who did the catering for that party, but the food was some of the best BBQ I’ve had in Charlotte. In general, I’m starting to feel like an actual member of the local comics community, rather than just a spectator, and that makes Heroes Con even more fun.

Some of the comics I bought at the con, as well as the remaining comics from the June 13 shipment:

MIRACLEMAN #23 (Eclipse, 1992) – “The Secret Origin of Young Miracleman!”, [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Mark Buckingham. Near the end of the con, I found this in a $5 box. I was amazed because this comic has been on my want list for decades, and I’ve never had much hope of owning it. Miracleman #23 and #24 had low print runs and have never been reprinted in any form, although Marvel keeps promising that they’ll reprint these issues as well as the completion of the Silver Age storyline. Miracleman #23 begins with a scene where three of Miracleman’s superpowered children play-fight with each other, causing massive property damage. Then Miracleman resurrects his dead sidekick Young Miracleman, aka Dicky Dauntless, who turns out to be totally unprepared for life in the post-Olympus world. My overwhelming reaction to this issue is that Miracleman is kind of an idiot; he seems to have failed to anticipate Dicky’s reaction to waking up in a completely unrecognizable world. Dicky is also kind of a naïve idiot with outdated racist values, and maybe he should have been allowed to rest in peace (on this point see also Dash Shaw’s Doctors, which I just read this morning). The scenes with Miracleman’s kids are funny, but also disturbing because of the kids’ lack of respect for the damage they’re causing. This issue’s letters page includes a blatantly homophobic letter from a JD Ryder.

TRUST FALL #1 (Aftershock, 2019) – “New Meanings to Old Worlds,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Chris Visions. This series appears to be about a girl who belongs to a family of superpowered criminals. It resembles House Amok or Lazarus, in that the protagonist has spent her life in a toxic environment with skewed values, and therefore fails to understand that her situation isn’t normal. However, Trust Fall’s plot is hard to follow, and Chris Visions’s unclear storytelling adds to the confusion. His style is very distinctive and unusual style, but it doesn’t appeal to me.

CATWOMAN #12 (DC, 2019) – untitled, [W] Joëlle Jones, [A] Fernando Blanco & Hugo Petrus. Selma steals an ancient Mesoamerican mask and has a couple encounters with cops. I don’t remember much about this issue, either because it was a rather uneventful issue, or because I was exhausted and drunk when I read it. This issue includes several panels depicting Selina’s cats.

WONDER WOMAN #72 (DC, 2019) – “Love is a Battlefield Finale,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Jesús Merino & Tom Derenick. Diana and Maggie defeat the minotaur, then with Atlantiades’s help, they battle some frog monsters and find the way to Themyscira. This issue is a pretty quick read, but the interactions between Diana and her allies are very entertaining.

SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #310 (Marvel, 2018) – “Finale,” [W/A] Chip Zdarsky. I was glad to find this at the convention because I forgot to order it, and it was the most acclaimed issue of its run; it’s currently up for an Eisner. After reading this issue, I believe it’s probably the best comic Chip has written. It’s his equivalent of “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man.” “Finale” is framed as a series of interviews with random people about Spider-Man, but the main plot is that Spider-Man defeats some criminals and discovers that one of them is a young boy, Kyle. Spidey befriends Kyle and even helps him with school, but tragically, the other criminals think Kyle betrayed them to Spider-Man, so they murder him (i.e. Kyle). And then we see that Spider-Man’s kindness to his friends is matched only by his fearfulness to his foes. A key reason this story works so well is its tastefulness and subtlety. Another writer might have concentrated on Peter’s guilt over his role in Kyle’s death. Chip instead emphasizes that Peter “tries to do the right thing” but “can’t save everyone.” Overall, this story is a perfect summary of who Spider-Man is.

UNCLE SCROOGE #49 (Gold Key, 1964) – “The Loony Lunar Gold Rush,” [W/A] Carl Barks. As mentioned above, at Heroes Con I was on a tribute panel to my late mentor Don Ault. Don must have read Uncle Scrooge #49 when it came out, but at the time, he only knew its creator as the Good Duck Artist (he didn’t learn the name Carl Barks until several years later). “The Loony Lunar Gold Rush” is a late Barks story, but it reveals the storytelling genius that earned Barks his nickname. It must have been inspired by the Apollo space program, because it begins with astronauts discovering gold on the moon, leading to a gold rush. Obviously, Scrooge can’t resist going to the moon himself. Despite the best efforts of a villain named Dan McShrew (a reference to Robert W. Service’s “The Shooting of Dan McGrew”), Scrooge makes a fortune by selling supplies at inflated prices to all the other prospectors. This story implies that during the Yukon gold rush, Scrooge made his original fortune as a shopkeeper rather than as a prosectpr. That contradicts a lot of other continuity, but Barks wasn’t all that worried about continuity.

BY NIGHT #12 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Christine Larsen. A confusing and anticlimactic ending to a bad series. I think the problem with By Night was that it tried to be a self-contained story of novelistic scope, and that’s not the type of story that John Allison is good at. His talent lends itself to writing short stories or vignettes that eventually combine into a bigger tapestry. His next series, Steeple, will only be five issues, and I hope that length will suit him better.

ORPHAN AGE #3 (Aftershock, 2019) – “Wild,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Nuno Piati. Daniel, Willa and Princess encounter a wild man who was raised by animals after his parents died in the apocalypse. Princess feels sorry for the feral man and tries to feed him, but in the end, Willa has to kill him. At times Orphan Age feels like just a generic postapocalyptic story, but this issue shows an interesting way in which this apocalypse is different from others. If all the adults died, then naturally there would be lots of kids who grew up with no human contact. Anderson’s portrayal of the wild man seems quite plausible. As usual, one of the highlights of this issue is Plati and João Lemos’s coloring.

X-MEN #129 (Marvel, 1980) – “God Spare the Child!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Terry Austin. This was another of my best finds at Heroes Con. It’s a genuine key issue, and I was shocked when I got it for just $5, though of course my copy is in low grade. X-Men #129 starts with the team’s return from Scotland, and the scene where Jean says “And I you, Scott, with all my heart” for the first time. I’ve always hated this line of dialogue, but unfortunately it’s consistent with Claremont’s usual prose style. Notice how in this scene, Byrne creates a greater sense of emphasis on Scott and Jean by not including backgrounds or panel borders; later in his career, he avoided drawing backgrounds because of simple laziness. Anyway, the main event in this issue is the second half, where Kitty Pryde and Emma Frost make their first appearances. Kitty’s first encounter with the X-Men includes the unfortunate “we got black kids in our school” line, but besides that, what stands out in this scene is that in Kitty’s first appearance, she was already a well-developed character. We already see that she loves to dance, that she’s worried about puberty and about the collapse of her parents’ marriage, and that she’s very brave.

DETECTIVE COMICS #475 (DC, 1978) – “The Laughing Fish!”, [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Marshall Rogers. This was the last of my three best finds at Heroes Con, and like Miracleman #24 and X-Men #129, it only cost me $5. It’s the only Englehart/Rogers Batman issue I was missing. In my opinion, “The Laughing Fish” is the best Joker story ever published. It depicts a Joker who is terrifying and insane, but whose actions are logically consistent. His “plan” in this story is to put Joker faces on fish, then claim intellectual property rights to the fish. That’s ridiculous, but it also makes a certain kind of sense. This issue also includes some important scenes with Englehart’s two major supporting characters, Silver St. Cloud and Rupert Thorne. Pages 2 and 3 of this issue, where Batman visits Silver in her apartment, are analyzed in R.C. Harvey’s The Art of the Comic Book.

USAGI YOJIMBO #10 (Mirage, 1994) – “Slavers Part 2,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Stan was one of the guests of honor at Heroes Con. I only got to exchange a few words with him, because there was always a massive line at his table (and an even longer line for Sergio Aragonés, who was also there). I hope I see him again at Comic-Con. This issue is the sequel to one that I read last year; see https://ogresfeathers.wordpress.com/2018/05/12/enormous-review-post/#uy9for a summary. This issue, it turns out that the village boy who escaped the slavers wasn’t actually dead, and he helps Usagi defeat the slavers. But the head slaver escapes with Usagi’s swords, which leads into the next storyline. There’s also a backup story in which Jei encounters a very unfortunate fisherman.

ADAM STRANGE/FUTURE QUEST SPECIAL #1 (DC, 2017) – “Strangequest,” [W] Jeff Parker & Marc Andreyko, [A] Steve Lieber. I somehow forgot to order this, even though it was the most appealing of the DC/Hanna-Barbera crossover titles. “Strangequest” is a pretty straightforward adventure story, but it’s exciting, and seeing the Quest family again is really fun. Also, Steve Lieber is an excellent and underrated artist.  As a minor note, it’s nice how when Benton Quest meets Adam, he introduces both Hadji and Jonny as his sons. Other Jonny Quest stories often give the impression that Hadji isn’t really Benton Quest’s son.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #146 (Marvel, 1975) – “Scorpion… Where is Thy Sting?”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Ross Andru. Much of this issue is devoted to a fight between Spider-Man and the Scorpion. There’s a cute scene at the end where Spidey forces the Scorpion to apologize to Aunt May for scaring her, and Aunt May tells him off. But the most important part of this issue is the subplot involving the Jackal and the clone of Gwen. There’s a rather depressing scene where “Gwen” kisses Peter and is hurt by his lack of response. Gwen doesn’t know that since “her” death, Peter has fallen in love with Mary Jane.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #14 (Marvel, 2006) – “Invincible,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Cory Walker. This is a crossover between Spider-Man and Invincible, but really it’s an issue of Invincible that guest-stars Spider-Man. Unlike most crossover stories, this one has a premise that makes sense. At the time Invincible had been fighting Angstrom Levy, who had been sending him into a bunch of different dimensions – and it turns out that one of those dimensions was the Marvel Universe. I don’t think Kirkman’s writing style is appropriate for Spider-Man, because he’s fundamentally too dark. But as a one-time thing, this issue is lots of fun, and it derives a lot of humor from the two heroes’ unfamiliarity with each other. For example, Spidey calls Invincible Hair-Boy.

NANCY #166 (Dell, 1959) – various stories, [W] John Stanley, [A] Dan Gormley. This issue is in such poor condition that I hesitate to remove it from its bag. Its cover split in half as I was reading it. John Stanley’s Nancy is very similar to his Little Lulu, except that the jokes revolve around Sluggo’s poor hygiene instead of Tubby’s obesity. The most notable story in the issue is about Oona Goosepimple, a character Stanley created. She resembles Wednesday Addams and has a labyrinthine house that people get lost in. There’s also a story about an escaped prisoner who tunnels into a cage at the zoo.

BARBIE #18 (Marvel, 1992) – “Planes, Boats, Trains & Cars,” [W] Trina Robbins, [A] Anna-Maria Cool. I was actively looking for Barbie comics at Heroes Con. I just submitted a draft of a book chapter about Amethyst, Angel Love, and other ‘80s girls comics published by the Big Two. The idea of the article was to examine earlier efforts to market comic books to girls, prior to the contemporary “blue age” of comics, as Adrienne Resha calls it. In doing research for this article, I realized that Marvel’s Barbie comics are an important part of this history, and that I need to start collecting them. I even included some material about Barbie in a previous draft of the Amethyst/Angel Love essay, but it had to be cut for lack of space.

I’ve talked to three Barbie comics creators so far – Barbara Slate, June Brigman and Lisa Trusiani, the last two of whom were at Heroes Con. The impression I’m getting is that working on Barbie was a challenge because of the severe restrictions imposed by Mattel. Barbie couldn’t make mistakes, and she couldn’t do anything the doll couldn’t. This issue is hurt by those constraints, because it doesn’t have much of a conflict. Barbie and her bandmates accept a challenge to perform a concert in all 50 states (in a possible homage to Around the World in 80 Days), and they succeed without much of a challenge. The artwork in this issue is rather static, and the characters really do look like dolls.

IMMORTAL HULK #19 (Marvel, 2019) – “Butterfly,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Joe Bennett. The Hulk’s fight with the Abomination goes rather poorly, since the Abomination’s spit neutralizes the Hulk’s healing factor. Betty Ross Banner shows up in the form of the Harpy, but instead of saving the Hulk, she rips his heart out and eats it. This continues to be the best and most original Hulk comic in many years.

XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS #3 (Dynamite, 2019) – untitled, [W] Vita Ayala, [A] Jordi Pérez. This isn’t terrible, but it’s not memorable in any way, and I’m not a fan of the Xena franchise. I shouldn’t have ordered this comic.

SPIDER-MAN: LIFE STORY #4 (Marvel, 2019) – “Brothers in Arms,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Mark Bagley. It’s the ‘90s. Aunt May is finally dead for good, and Peter is dating Jessica Jones. Otherwise, Peter’s life is not going well. When Ben Reilly shows up and is (falsely) revealed as the original Peter Parker instead of the clone, Peter is happy to surrender his life and identity to Ben. The issue ends with Peter returning to MJ and their children. This series gets more depressing with every issue, because all the familiar characters keep getting older. This whole series is a good demonstration of why Marvel and DC characters can’t be allowed to age in real time. Of course if this was the real Spider-Man series, Peter would probably have been replaced as the main character by his children, just like in Savage Dragon.

SHE COULD FLY: THE LOST PILOT #3 (Dark Horse, 2019) – “Harold,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Martin Morazzo. This issuse includes some more excellent depictions of mental illness. I especially like the scene where Luna thinks she’s hit someone with her car. This seems to be a common manifestation of OCD. However, this series’s plot is getting so confusing that I can barely follow it.

MORNING IN AMERICA #4 (Oni, 2019) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Claudia Aguirre. This issue focuses on the Latina protagonist, Nancy. She witnesses her parents splitting up, then infiltrates the Marathon factory, where we see some scientists talking about a plot to summon alien beings through a wormhole. I don’t remember this issue very well, but Morning in America has been a pretty fun series so far.

GLOW #2 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W] Tini Howard, [A] Hannah Templer. The GLOW girls prepare for their match against a team of more serious female wrestlers. I’ve lost my enthusiasm for Tini Howard’s writing, but this series has some witty dialogue and good art. It also has a feminist message, because it’s about the struggles of women in a male-dominated field. Overall it feels like a Boom! Box comic, which is why I’m reading it. However, there are so many characters in Glow that I can’t tell them apart.

SMOOTH CRIMINALS #6 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kurt Lustgarten, Kiwi Smith & Amy Roy. The Net of Indra is moved to a new facility, so Mia and Brenda have to completely rethink their plans. But of course something goes wrong – specifically, Mia’s mother betrays them. The interactions between Mia and Brenda are really fun, but I think Smooth Criminals’s story is getting stretched too thin; it’s too insubstantial of a story to support a twelve-issue maxiseries.

ATOMIC CITY TALES #1 (Black Eye, 1994) – “Atomic City Tales,” [W/A] Jay Stephens. This is the first Jay Stephens comic I’ve read. I bought an issue of Land of Nod last year, but haven’t gotten to it yet. Atomic City Tales #1 is about an encounter between Stephens himself and a superhero named Big Bang. It feels very similar to Madman, because it’s influenced by Silver Age comics and ‘60s hipster culture, and its goal is to be entertaining in a campy way. However, unlike Madman, it doesn’t have much of a plot, and Big Bang is a blatant wish fulfillment fantasy. Despite all that, Jay Stephens’s style is really interesting, and I want to read more of his work.

MANHUNT #1 (Print Mint, 1973) – various stories, [E] Terry Richards. I’m not sure what the origin of this comic was, but it’s an underground comic with both male and female creators, and it feels like a parody of romance comics. As usual with underground comics, the stories in this issue are of widely varying quality. The highlight of the issue is probably Sharon Rudahl’s strip about Calamity Jane, on the inside back cover. Other creators include Shary Flenniken (under a pseudonym), Aline Kominsky and Bobby London. Aline Kominsky’s strip “My Fat Came Between Us” is intentionally disgusting. Willy Murphy’s “Henry Henpeck Breaks Out” appears to be a parody of The Lockhorns.

BATGIRL #10 (DC, 2017) – “Son of Penguin Part 4,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Chris Wildgoose. Babs breaks up with Ethan and has a heart-to-heart chat with Dick Grayson, while continuing to try to defeat Ethan’s plot. The issue ends with a confrontation between Ethan and his father, the Penguin. This isn’t my favorite Hope Larson Batgirl issue, but it’s not bad. The relationship drama is more interesting than the plot.

SUPERGIRL #1 (DC, 1996) – “Body & Soul,” [W] Peter David, [A] Gary Frank. I’ve never quite understood this series’ premise, so I was glad to finally find a copy of the first issue. As Supergirl #1 begins, a woman wakes up with no memories. She discovers that her name is Linda Danvers, and that she was believed to have been murdered by her boyfriend Buzz. But it’s more complicated than that, because “Linda” is really Supergirl, aka the shapeshifting Matrix. As the original Linda died, Matrix somehow absorbed her memories and personality. It’s a fascinating premise, which transforms the rather boring post-Crisis Supergirl into an interesting character. Now that I know what’s going on in this series, I look forward to reading more of it.

INVISIBLES #1 (DC, 1994) – “Dead Beatles,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Steve Yeowell. The first issue of Invisibles focuses on Dane McGowan, a Liverpool teenage boy who has no interests other than committing crimes and causing property damage. After an encounter with the ghosts of John Lennon and Stuart Sutcliffe, he commits a further crime and is sentenced to Harmony House, a Dickensian workhouse that tries to destroy its inmates’ emotions. But King Mob, one of the so-called Invisibles, shows up and rescues him. Invisibles #1 doesn’t make it entirely clear what the series is about; so far, it seems to have a rather simplistic message about the superiority of emotion to reason. But there’s a lot of fascinating stuff in this issue, and it displays deep research and erudition (especially in the Lennon/Sutcliffe scene). I plan on actively collecting this series.

DAREDEVIL #37 (Marvel, 1967) – “Don’t Look Now, but It’s… Dr. Doom!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Gene Colan. This issue has a simple but iconic cover, showing Daredevil fighting Dr. Doom on a black background. As the issue begins, Daredevil fights Doom and obviously loses because he’s overmatched. In a flashback, we see how Doom survived crashing into Galactus’s barrier in Fantastic Four #60. Then Doom switches bodies with Daredevil for some reason. I assume that the next issue begins with Doom discovering the hard way that Daredevil is blind. This was an okay issue, but not a classic.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #32 (Marvel, 2017) – “Personal Demon,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Greg Smallwood. This issue is a Norman Osborn solo story. Prior to this issue, Spider-Man injected Norman with nanites that prevent his super-strength serum from working. In the tradition of Baron Mordo and Dr. Strange, Norman Osborn goes to a remote mountain monastery to get his powers back. The monks train him and endow him with magic powers, which he uses to kill Spider-Man. Then he turns his powers on the monks as well. But at that point we learn that Norman’s training and the subsequent events never really happened. The monks were testing him by making him think he had powers, so that so they could see what he would do with those powers. And Norman failed the test. This is a surprising twist, and the entire issue, with its echoes of Dr. Strange, is a good example of Dan Slott’s ability to connect different parts of the Marvel Universe.

STRANGEHAVEN #5 (Abiogenesis, 1996) – “Cooking for Alex,” [W/A] Gary Spencer Millidge. Strangehaven takes place in a remote English village where the protagonist, Alex, has recently arrived as a teacher. The main event of the issue is that Alex has dinner with a local woman named Janey, but deeply hurts her when he rejects her sexual advances. Throughout the issue there are hints that something… strange is going on in Strangehaven, but Millidge is less interested in plot than in creating a mood and a sense of local specificity. He portrays rural England with great verisimilitude; it seems like he has intimate knowledge of villages like Strangehaven. I hope I come across some more issues of this series. One panel early in the issue depicts a shop window full of fake ads, including an ad for Alec McGarry’s home-brewed wine and ale.

PRISM STALKER #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Sloane Leong. This series was well-reviewed when it came out, and I regret that I didn’t order it. Prism Stalker starts out very confusingly, but we eventually realize that it’s about humans who are enslaved by aliens. In return for the aliens saving them from extinction, the humans have to “uproot” the aliens’ eggs by singing to them. But then the protagonist, Vep, is ordered to travel to a different planet to attend a “Chorus Academy.” Prism Stalker’s main attractions are its weirdness and its lyricism. The aliens have a bizarre biology and culture, which is presented to us with weird artwork and with captions like “Infinite blue instead of wet hive-green.” Prism Stalker has a very similar sensibility to Brandon Graham’s Prophet, and its aliens look a lot like one of the alien species from that series. This is no coincidence, because Sloane Leong worked on Prophet.

CHEW #6 (Image, 2019) – “International Flavor Part 1 of 5,” [W] John Layman, [A] Rob Guillory. I was surprised to discover that I’m missing a bunch of issues of Chew. I kind of assumed that I had all of them except the first few. This issue is mostly about Tony Chu and John Colby’s troubled relationship. They spend the issue investigating a black market chicken operation, but at the end, Tony discovers that the “chicken” is in fact Gallsaberry, a plant that tastes just like chicken. A notable moment in this issue is when Chu and Colby decide to do some conventional detective work to track down the criminals, when they could have gotten the same information by eating a pile of feces.

HAUNT OF FEAR #8 (Russ Cochran, 1994) – four stories, [E] Al Feldstein. This issue begins with Graham Ingels’s “Hounded to Death!”, about a woman unhappily married to a hunter who abuses his dogs. Like so many other wives in EC comics, she cheats on her husband with another man, and her husband murders her lover by throwing her to his dogs. The lover comes back as a zombie and kills the husband, Ingels’s artwork in this story is brilliant. George Roussos’s “The Very Strange Mummy!” is a generic mummy story, with the twist that the mummy is also a vampire. In Ed Smalle’s “Diminishing Returns,” an explorer lures a wealthy client to his death at the hands of Ecuadorean headhunters, but the client’s shrunken head somehow comes to life and kills the explorer. Ed Smalle worked in comics from about 1940 to 1956, but this was his only story for EC. The best story in the issue is Jack Davis’s “The Irony of Death.” Steel mill foreman Jeffrey Slag (heh) wants to marry the mill owner’s daughter, but the owner refuses, so Jeffrey murders him by throwing him into a vat of molten iron. Then he takes further sadistic revenge by using the iron from the vat to make tools. But two of the ingots from the vat are misplaced. Later, while visiting a museum, Jeffrey gets inside an iron maiden to see how it works. Of course, the iron maiden closes on him and kills him, and it turns out to have been made from the two missing ingots.

GREEN LANTERN #82 (DC, 1971) – “How Do You Fight a Nightmare?”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Neal Adams. This is the one where Sinestro teams up with a bunch of alien harpies and Amazons (no apparent relation to the Amazons from Wonder Woman). It’s the worst issue of O’Neil and Adams’s Green Lantern, because its plot is confusing, and its treatment of feminism is very superficial. The villain Medusa is a straw feminist who just wants vengeance against all men. Dinah’s line “It would forever stain our honor as women to slay man at the bidding of man” rubs me the wrong way; it’s as if Dinah is saying that she and Medusa should have common interests, simply because they’re both women. However, even the worst issue of GL/GA still includes all sorts of amazing artwork. I especially like the panel with Ollie shooting an arrow through a ring. Also, this issue does have some cute scenes between Ollie and Dinah.

VICTOR LAVALLE’S DESTROYER #3 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Dietrich Smith. This series’ plot is very intricate, and I have not found issue 1 yet, so I didn’t understand everything in issue 3. But the parts I do understand are fascinating. The main protagonist, Dr.  Baker, is a black female nanotechnologist. Her young son Akai was murdered by police on the way home from a baseball game (more on this in my review of issue 5, much later). She used her nanotech processes to resurrect him, thus turning him into a modern Frankenstein’s monster. And now Dr. Baker and Akai are being pursued by both the government and the original Frankenstein’s monster. This series is a brilliant combination of the Frankenstein myth with the contemporary police brutality crisis. An especially powerful moment is when Dr. Baker draws a connection between her son’s murder and that of Medgar Evers. I hope that Destroyer won’t be Victor LaValle’s only work in comics.

TRANSMETROPOLITAN #44 (Vertigo, 2001) – “Dirge Part 2,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Darick Robertson. A sniper is going around killing people at random. The cops are all off work because of “blue flu” (i.e. a strike disguised as a sickout), and the weather is terrible. This all creates a situation where Spider Jerusalem and his “filthy assistants” are the only people on the city streets. This story creates a great sense of suspense, and I’d like to know what happens in issue 45. As with Invincibles, I’ve decided to start actively trying for a complete run of Transmetropolitan.

BATMAN #322 (DC, 1980) – “Chaos – Coming and Going!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Irv Novick. Captain Boomerang shows up in Gotham and blackmails a newspaper called the Gotham Guardian. It turns out the Gotham Guardian is run by Gregorian Falstaff, who was the primary villain of this era of Batman. Meanwhile, Selina Kyle is trying to go straight, but she learns that she has a rare disease which can only be cured by certain herbs that were known to the ancient Egyptians. And conveniently, there’s an Egyptian exhibit going on at a Gotham museum. Batman #322 isn’t the best Batman comic, but it’s a lot of fun. Len Wein brought a Marvel-esque sensibility to the character.

INCREDIBLE HULK #123 (Marvel, 1969) – “No More the Monster!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Herb Trimpe. Bruce Banner finally gains the ability to control his transformations into the Hulk. Overjoyed, he proposes marriage to Betty Ross. But just as Bruce is enjoying a rare moment of happiness, Thunderbolt Ross recruits him to test a new weapons system, and the Leader shows up and tries to steal it. I believe it’s next issue where Bruce is forcibly transformed into the Hulk during his own wedding. Herb Trimpe’s artwork in Hulk #123 is brilliant. The next issue blurb is funny: Bruce says “This I swear… that I will never become the Hulk… not even… if my life depends on it!” Caption at bottom: “Next issue: IT DOES!”

METAL MEN #47 (DC, 1976) – “The ‘X’ Effect,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Walt Simonson. In Antarctica, the Metal Men battle the Plutonium Man and his robot, which can take on the properties of any element. This issue’s story is only average, but Walt Simonson’s artwork is spectacular. Both the compositions and the draftsmanship are dynamic and exciting. Simonson’s Metal Men is an important transitional chapter between his two greatest works, Manhunter and Thor.

KANE #9 (Dancing Elephant, 1995) – “His Story,” [W/A] Paul Grist. This issue is the origin story of Oscar Darke, the series’ primary villain. This comic’s plot is difficult to follow; I had to look up who Oscar Darke was. Paul Grist’s artwork is extremely minimalistic, and his panel compositions are stark and simple. He uses the absolute minimum of linework to tell his story, and as a result he reminds me of Alex Toth. His artwork in Jack Staff is usually much more complex, though still quite minimalistic.

AVENGERS #37 (Marvel, 1966) – “To Conquer a Colossus!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Don Heck. The Avengers battle Ixar the Invincible, a boring villain who never appeared again. Black Widow saves the day by threatening to kill Ixar unless he surrenders. This would be a violation of the Avengers’ oath, but at this point Natasha isn’t an Avenger yet. Avengers #37 has some good characterization, but it’s not the most memorable issue.

CRITTERS #19 (Fantagraphics, 1987) – four stories, [E] Kim Thompson. I bought this issue because it includes a three-page Sam and Max story, “Night of the Cringing Wildebeest.” I believe this makes Critters #19 the only Sam and Max comic in my collection. These characters are famous thanks to their starring roles in other media, but their actual comics appearances are very rare and difficult to find. That’s a shame because Steve Purcell is a brilliant cartoonist. Even three pages of Sam and Max are worth the price of an entire issue. Sam and Max are memorable characters who are effective foils for each other: Sam is a self-important blowhard, and Max is a tiny homicidal maniac. Also, their stories use metatext in very funny ways. In Critters #19, Sam tells the criminal “I can’t think of anything to say in this panel. Take care of him, Max,” and in the next panel Max says “I’ve been authorized by the jurisdiction of whatever city this is to punish you in whatever way I can think of!” This issue also includes Gnuff, Lizards and Fission Chicken stories.

MIRACLEMAN #13 (Eclipse, 1987) – “Chapter III: Hermes,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] John Totleben. I already have the Marvel reprint of this issue, but I wasn’t going to pass up a chance to upload my reprint into an original. In this issue, Miracleman and Miraclewoman help mediate a peace treaty between the Qys and the Warpsmiths, but then Miracleman comes home to find that his wife is leaving him. Meanwhile, Johnny Bates is amnesiac and powerless, but his Kid Miracleman personality is demanding to be freed. This issue includes some beautifully lyrical writing and art, like the opening page with the “and/oroid” creature. I love  how the and/oroids have a word for “nostalgia for a hole’s intriguing shape once it’s been filled.” However, this issue also gives the sense that Miracleman is kind of an idiot; he ignores his wife’s postpartum depression and her feelings of inadequacy, and he makes no attempt to prevent Johnny Bates from turning back into Kid Miracleman. This issue’s main story is only 16 pages, so it also includes an old Marvelman reprint.

PALOOKA-VILLE #1 (Drawn & Quarterly, 1994) – “I Should’a Ran,” [W/A] Seth. An autobiographical story in which a young Seth is beaten by thugs who think he’s gay. This comic isn’t bad – the scene of the beating is shocking and brutal – but it feels more like a Joe Matt comic than a Seth comic. It lacks the lyricism and nostalgia that I associate with Seth, except in one silent panel that depicts a woman waiting for a bus on a snowy night.

THE FURTHER FATTENING ADVENTURES OF PUDGE, GIRL BLIMP #1 (Last Gasp, 1973) – multiple stories, [W/A] Lee Marrs. At the height of the hippie era, an overweight teenage girl runs away to San Francisco to find herself and lose her virginity. Pudge, Girl Blimp is Lee Marrs’s masterpiece. It’s funny, heartfelt, and extremely dense; each page has a ton of panels, and each panel is packed with dialogue and sight gags. It also depicts San Francisco with incredible detail and verisimilitude; you can tell it was drawn in the same place and at the same time as the events it narrates. The chapters of Pudge’s story are interspersed with scenes from the story of Mei-Lin Luftwaffe, Aerial Infant. These pages are drawn in a much simpler style. I also got Pudge, Girl Blimp #2 at Heroes Con, but haven’t read it yet. It’s too bad that there are only three issues, and that Lee Marrs wasn’t able to continue this fascinating project.

SUICIDE SQUAD #44 (DC, 1990)  – “Grave Matters,” [W] John Ostrander & David de Vries, [A] Luke McDonnell. This issue is a spotlight on Captain Boomerang, the most entertaining character in the series. While attending his mother’s funeral, Boomerbutt tells Deadshot his origin story. As a kid growing up in Australia, George Harkness was obsessed with boomerangs. But his abusive father neglected him, and George grew up to be a criminal.  Eventually, George is forced to flee to America to seek help from his “uncle” Walt W. Wiggins, a character from his first appearance in Flash #117. This starts the chain of events that leads to Captain Boomerang becoming a villain. Back in the present, we discover the explanation for George’s troubled family life: Walt Wiggins is his biological father. George rejects both his fathers and goes “where we’re loved. Back to Momma Waller.” It’s a touching ending to a powerful story, one which helps to humanize an entertaining but rather unsympathetic character. This was the only issue of Suicide Squad where David de Vries got a credit. I assume he was brought in as a consultant because he’s from Australia.

BIRTHRIGHT #9 (Image, 2015) – unknown, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. In the present, Mikey battles a creature known as a Diviner, while in a flashback, we see how Mikey first learned about the Diviners. The issue ends with Wendy encountering Rya, her grandchild’s mother, for the first time.

TREES #6 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Jason Howard. Apparently this series’ main plot is about some giant alien monoliths that land all over Earth. But Trees #6 is mostly about a young Chinese man who’s fallen in love with a transgender woman. It’s a sensitive and nuanced depiction of transgender issues. I especially like the line “On a healthy planet, gender is a continuum.”

VERY VICKY #1 (Meet Danny Ocean, 1994) – “Yesterday’s Coming Back Tomorrow,” [W] John Mitchell, [A] Jana Christy. Basically a slice-of-life story about an aloof, quiet teenage girl who vacations with her aunt and uncle on the beach. This comic suffers from a lack of a distinctive voice or aesthetic. It’s not clear just what effect Mitchell and Christy are trying to create, and Vicky never quite emerges as a distinctive character. However, I appreciate that Mitchell and Christy were at least trying something original. This comic is also relevant to my interests because it’s a ‘90s comic aimed at female readers, and I’d like to read more of it, if only to get a better understanding of what’s going on with it. See also this review: https://www.zompist.com/bob9.html

BATMAN AND ROBIN #38 (DC, 2015) – “Superpower – Fly Robin Fly,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Patrick Gleason. Prior to this issue, Damian Wayne has somehow acquired superpowers, and he spends most of this issue trying out his new powers and grappling with his vexed relationship with his mother Talia. I enjoyed this issue reasonably well, and that makes sense because I already love Tomasi and Gleason’s Superboy and Superboy/Robin stories.

DOCTOR STRANGE #174 (Marvel, 1968) – “The Power and the Pendulum,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Gene Colan. Clea is now living on Earth full-time, and she has to adjust to her new environment, her new relationship with Dr. Strange, and her jealousy over Strange’s closeness to Victoria Bentley. Halfway through the issue, Strange and Bentley go to England to visit Lord Nekron (no relation to the later Green Lantern villain Nekron), who turns out to have sold his soul to Satannish for a year of power. By the terms of the deal, Nekron’s powers will increase constantly over the course of the year, but at the end of the year, he’ll be damned unless he can find another sorcerer to substitute for him. Because Nekron is an idiot, he waits until the last hour of the year to confront Strange, and Strange defeats him by casting a spell that makes time go faster, so the hour ends and Nekron is claimed by Satannish. Besides the scenes with Clea, the main appeal of this issue is Gene Colan’s spectacular artwork. I especially like the page where Strange is guided into Nekron’s lair by a grid of dazzling lights.

New comics received on June 21:

LUMBERJANES #63 (Boom!, 2019) – “The Fright Stuff,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] AnneMarie Rogers. The Lumberjanes are attacked by a dinosaur, but it turns out to be Jonesy, the velociraptor that Ripley befriended in an earlier story. Jonesy now has feathers and looks exactly like an enormous bird. Then there’s a thrilling and funny chase sequence, and at the end of the issue, the girls discover that the dinosaurs’ migration is blocked by the wreckage of a crashed space station. This issue is much faster-paced and less dense than #62, but it’s still excellent.

USAGI YOJIMBO #1 (IDW, 2019) – “Bunraku Part One,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. This is Usagi Yojimbo’s fourth volume from as many publishers, but the only difference from the third volume is that it’s in color. Tom Luth is obviously the ideal choice as colorist, and he does a great job. “Bunraku” begins with Sasuke fighting some demons, and then we cut to Usagi watching a bunraku (puppet theater) performance with some very lifelike puppets – a bit too lifelike, in fact, because they’re alive. This is a good start to volume 4, and I’m glad that Stan is back on a regular schedule again. I talked to him briefly at Heroes Con, but I’d have liked to ask him some more questions. (Was “The Hidden” inspired by his personal faith? Is he ever going to do a story about kaiseki?)

INVISIBLE KINGDOM #4 (Image, 2019) – “Walking the Path Part Four,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Christian Ward. Vess and Grix escape the ship that’s pursuing them, then they appeal to the local government, but get no help. And then an even bigger ship shows up. Invisible Kingdom is an exciting adventure story and a showpiece for Christian Ward’s phenomenal art. But it’s also a subtle examination of Willow’s overarching theme of religious faith. What does it mean to have faith in a religion, when that religion’s leadership is totally corrupt and hypocritical?

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #7 (Marvel, 2019) – “A Day in the Lives,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] four artists. Day-in-the-life stories are perhaps my favorite kind of superhero comics, and this is a pretty good one. The main event this issue is that Miles learns that his parents are having another baby.

SHURI #9 (Marvel, 2019) – “Godhead,” [W] Nnedi Okorafor, [A] Rachael Stott. Shuri and Storm pursue the Space Lubber to the vibranium mines, which are full of hallucinogenic coral. The Space Lubber is an adorable villain, and this series is a lot of fun in general. I’m just sorry that there’s only one issue left. I hope Nnedi will return to comics soon.

UNSTOPPABLE WASP #9 (Marvel, 2019) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] GuriHiru. This issue is a series of fight scenes, but Jeremy uses the fight scenes as a way of revealing more about the protagonists. Nadia escapes from the Boogeyman, while Janet beats the crap out of her insane stalker Whirlwind. David Cannon’s portrayal in this issue shows Jeremy’s understanding of stalkers’ creepy logic.

PLANET OF THE NERDS #3 (Ahoy, 2019) – “Beneath the Planet of the Nerds,” [W] Paul Constant, [A] Alan Robinson. Chad continues to act like a complete shit, and his own lack of social skills prevents him from getting any closer to Alvin. Part of the fun of this comic is that it lets us witness a high school bully getting his comeuppance, not after he grows up, but while he’s still a high schooler. At the end of the issue, Steve encounters his girlfriend Jenny, who’s gotten much older. A backup story reveals that Chad became a bully because of his abusive father. This information helps us understand Chad better, but doesn’t make him any more sympathetic; he could have chosen not to act like his father.

MONSTRESS #23 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Marjorie Liu, [A] Sana Takeda. The Lord Doctor (I guess this is Maika’s dad’s name) tricks Maika into eating human flesh, and we learn that Maika has to eat people to stay alive. This may not be new information, but I didn’t realize it until now, and it makes the central themes of the series a lot clearer. If Maika is an obligate cannibal, that explains why she’s a monster. At the end of the issue, the Lord Doctor tells Zinn that he conspired with someone named Marium to betray the Shaman-Empress. Kippa and Ren only make a cameo appearance in the issue.

GODDESS MODE #6 (Vertigo, 2019) – “End of File,” [W] Zoe Quinn, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. This issue has some good lines of dialogue, such as “Hope is something you make.” But its story makes no sense, even though I’ve read issues 1 through 5. I’ve completely lost sight of who the Tall Poppies are fighting or why. Goddess Mode got off to a good start, but quickly declined in quality because Zoe Quinn made a mistake common to new fiction writers: she tried to do way too much. This series is full of ambitious concepts and themes, but these concepts and themes don’t fit together well, and none of them gets enough attention.

BLACK BADGE #11 (Boom!, 2019) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. The Black Badges defeat the corrupt Honor Society, but now they have to go back to the orphanage. At the end of the issue, they’re approached by an unseen character who tells them that they still have a lot of work to do. This issue reminds me of the ending of MIND MGMT, where Meru defeats the evil leadership of her organization, and then has to rearrange it on a superior basis. In general I like this series much more than Grass Kings, though not as much as MIND MGMT.

MIDDLEWEST #8 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Jorge Corona. At Heroes Con, I told Skottie Young that Middlewest proves he can write in genres other than humor, and he seemed pleased to hear it. This issue begins with Bobby criticizing Magdalena for throwing out Abel. I honestly can’t blame Magdalena. She had to protect everyone in the circus, not Abel, and Abel had already burned through the goodwill he’d established with her. But Bobby’s reaction also makes sense. Next, Dale gets in a bar fight with a man who recognizes him as an abusive father, and Abel and Fox travel through a forest, where they’re surrounded by a horde of creepy squirrels.

GIDEON FALLS #14 (Image, 2019) – “The Village Near the Centre,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. Father Fred finds himself in a village whose people who seem to understand the nature of the Gideon Falls universe. Meanwhile, in 1953, Father Jeremiah Burke, who looks exactly like Father Fred, wakes up after a 50-year coma. The issue ends with a scene depicting am apparent villain named Bishop Burke. I assume that Fred, Jeremiah Burke, and Bishop Burke are all the same man, but how they relate to each other is not clear. As usual, this issue includes some brilliant artwork. Given the relative tameness of Andrea Sorrentino’s art in War of the Realms: War Scrolls, I assume that Jeff is at least partly responsible for Gideon Falls’s radically experimental page layouts.

RAT QUEENS #16 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Ryan Ferrier, [A] Priscilla Petraites. In this issue Betty asks “Remember when all this was fun?” That perfectly expresses my feelings about Rat Queens, because this issue is not fun at all. For example, one of the central moments is that Betty gets an intervention for alcoholism. That’s quite realistic, but I don’t want Rat Queens to be realistic. I want it to be a raucous, anarchic, feminist story about women who drink, fuck, and fight. Rat Queens hasn’t been that sort of story for several years. The characters have been so consumed by their internal struggles that they’ve forgotten how to have fun. Possibly the same thing has happened to the comic’s creators. Rat Queens has suffered from constant problems on the creative front, starting with the revelation that its original artist is a spousal abuser. Kurtis Wiebe is no longer interested in writing this comic, and I see no reason why another writer could do a better job. I was willing to give Ryan Ferrier a chance, but Rat Queens #16 offers no hope that the franchise will reverse its decline, and I’m giving up on it. I think it should have just been cancelled.

ASSASSIN NATION #4 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Erica Henderson. I had dinner with Kyle Starks at Heroes Con – well, sort of; he was at the table next to where Andy Kunka and I were sitting. Assassin Nation #4 is another fun issue of a very entertaining series. After yet another exaggeratedly gruesome fight scene, the assassins discover that their client, Rankin, has been setting them up to be killed.

FARMHAND #9 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Rob Guillory. The transplant patients start to get even creepier, and the new mayor begins to execute her plan. This issue is more focused on horror than humor, and it shows that Farmhand is not just a humor comic.

SUPERMAN #1 (DC, 2016) – “Son of Superman,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Patrick Gleason. This issue doesn’t have much plot, but it’s an effective introduction to the Kent family. The main event this issue is that Jonathan uses his heat vision to save a cat from a hawk, but accidentally kills both creatures, and a little girl sees him do it. I mostly love Peter Tomasi’s Superman Family stories; however, they are rather heteronormative, and a friend of mine has complained about Tomasi’s somewhat sexist portrayal of Lois.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #581 (Marvel, 2009) – “Mind on Fire Part One: The Trouble with Harry,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Mike McKone. Harry Osborn’s new girlfriend’s dad is running for mayor. Peter Parker accompanies Harry to see his estranged wife and child, Liz Allan and Normie. It turns out that Liz is living with her stepbrother the Molten Man, and he wakes up, destroys the house, and sets it on fire. This issue is a pretty effective portrayal of the Osborns’ screwed-up family dynamics. It’s kind of a sequel to Spectacular Spider-Man #189 and #200. Normie Osborn doesn’t seem to have aged much in the past twenty years of stories.

AQUAMAN #49 (DC, 2019) – “Mother Shark Part Two,” [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Viktor Bogdanovic. This issue’s title has something of a double meaning, since it turns out to be about impending parenthood. In a flashback, we see what happened before Unspoken Water began: Mera told Arthur she was pregnant, and Arthur was so terrified by this news that he caused an earthquake. Arthur and Mera’s reactions both seem completely plausible: it makes sense that Arthur is scared to be a father, and that Mera is offended that he’s scared. I feel like this whole issue wouldn’t have happened if Arthur had just politely asked Mera to be quiet for a moment and let him calm down. I wonder if DC’s edict that Arthur and Mera can’t get married is still in force.

SECRET HEARTS #151 (DC, 1971) – “Mother, Let Me Go!”, [W] Jack Miller, [A] Lee Elias. This issue’s lead story is about a girl, Elaine, whose mother drives her crazy by trying to set her up with boys. Eventually, Elaine falls in love on her own. However, the problem of the mother’s interference is never solved; even in the last panel, the mother is saying that Elaine should listen to her. I imagine that if Elaine were to have children, her mother would constantly criticize and undermine her parenting. There are also two other less interesting stories, one of which is a reprint with updated hairstyles and clothing. By 1971 the romance comics genre was already moribund, and Secret Hearts was cancelled with #153.

WARLORD OF MARS ATTACKS #1 (Dynamite, 2019) – “Mysteries of Mars,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Dean Kotz. This crossover series begins as the evil brain-headed Martians attack Barsoom. Dejah Thoris nukes the city of Helium to defeat them, but teleports John Carter back to Earth so that he at least can survive. The scene then shifts to Earth, which is being invaded by the same evil Martians. The Eath segment focuses on two scientists and an insufferable slob named Ramon. At the end of the issue, they head to Arizona, where John Carter has just been teleported. This is a fun series so far, though I’m already sick of Ramon.

NAUGHTY BITS #13 (Fantagraphics, 1994) – “Bitchy Bitch Goes Back to Work,” [W/A] Roberta Gregory. Midge returns to work after her vacation, and discovers that her new coworker is someone she knew in high school. There’s also a lot of the usual office politics and family drama. In an earlier review, I complained that Very Vicky didn’t have a coherent narrative voice, and that’s exactly what Naughty Bits does so well; it has a unique, distinctive style of storytelling. On the letters page, a reader named Tiel Jackson complains that Bitchy is unsympathetic and that her character never develops. That’s true, but I don’t think it’s a problem, because we’re not supposed to completely sympathize with Bitchy. A lot of the humor of the series comes from her histrionic personality and her exaggerated reactions to common problems.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #7 (Marvel, 2019) – “Strange Trip Part 2,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Annapaola Martello. Dr. Strange and Captain Marvel manage to master each other’s powers enough to defeat the Enchantress. This isn’t a bad comic, but it’s very unfortunate that “Strange Trip” was published at the same time as Marvel Team-Up #1-3, which featured a much better story about superheroes switching bodies. The best part of this issue is the scene where Black Widow beats a crocodile to death in the background, while Doc and Carol are having a conversation in the foreground.

SWEET TOOTH #4 (Vertigo, 2010) – “Out of the Deep Woods Part 4,” [W/A] Jeff Lemire. I’m getting close to a complete run of Sweet Tooth, but I still haven’t found issue 1. This issue, Gus and Tommy visit a brothel where the enslaved women pretend to be animals. They kill the brothel owners and escape, but the women choose to stay. This issue is fairly powerful, but less complex than later issues of the series. At the end, Gus says he doesn’t think Tommy is a bad man. That’s a nice piece of dramatic irony if the reader already knows that Tommy intends to betray Gus.

SABRINA #3 (Archie, 2019) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Veronica Fish. Although this issue includes a fair amount of plot, it’s mostly notable for having the best cat moment in any comic this year. After a long day of magical adventures, Sabrina lies down in bed and starts petting Salem. But Salem gets offended, telling Sabrina that he’s her familiar and not her pet. Sabrina says “Can’t you just be both?” and Salem grudgingly agrees to accept pets, saying “ Fine! But I’m not going to enjoy it!” And then in the next panel, he starts purring as she pets him. This scene is a perfect expression of the cat-human bond.

BATGIRL #11 (DC, 2017) – “Son of Penguin Finale,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Chris Wildgoose. Batgirl finally defeats Ethan/Blacksun by luring him into a park, where he doesn’t get cell phone reception, so his mind control won’t work. This was a really good storyline, and overall, Hope Larson’s Batgirl was at least as good as that of Fletcher, Stewart and Tarr.

YAHOO #5 (Fantagraphics, 1991) – “How I Loved the War,” [W/A] Joe Sacco. Joe Sacco is my primary example of a cartoonist whose work I appreciate but don’t enjoy. His skill is undeniable, and his work is very important, but his comics are not fun to read, nor are they supposed to be. Like all of Sacco’s work, Yahoo #5 is a brutal reading experience, but in this case it’s mostly because of Sacco’s portrayal of himself. Much of the issue focuses on his excessive drinking and relationship problems, rather than his journalism, and he depicts himself as unflatteringly as Joe Matt does. Sacco always presents himself in a negative light, but it’s usually not this negative. This issue does include some of the journalism and foreign affairs analysis that Sacco is famous for. There’s one vignette where he’s teaching German to Palestinians, and there’s a story called “War Junkie” that’s about Sacco’s obsession with Gulf War news – the first Gulf War, that is. (The first Gulf War started on my little sister’s birthday. I was just eight at the time, and I didn’t understand why the war was such a bad thing. I thought it was kind of cool.)

CLUE CANDLESTICK #2 (IDW, 2019) – untitled, [W/A] Dash Shaw. Much of this issue is about Mr. Boddy’s obsession with Miss Scarlet, an artist’s model. The issue is full of puzzles and bizarre page layouts, and at the end of the issue, we’re told that if we do all the puzzles, we have enough information to solve the mystery on our own. The main puzzle in this issue requires colored pencils or markers to solve, and I don’t know if I’ll have the energy to solve this or any of the other puzzles by myself, but it’s really cool that the mystery is solvable. Another fascinating moment in this issue is when we witness Mrs. Boddy’s murder, and then on the next page, we’re asked to remember what the murderer looked like – the color of his shoes, the pattern of his shirt, what he was holding, etc. I couldn’t remember any of this information without looking it up, and this sequence is a vivid demonstration of the fallibility of memory.

AMERICAN CARNAGE #8 (DC, 2019) – “Mercy,” [W] Bryan Hill, [A] Leandro Fernandez. Another issue full of politically charged crime drama, but not many decisive events. Leandro Fernandez’s artwork is as beautiful as ever, but I strongly dislike all the characters in this series, and that makes it hard to care what happens to them. I won’t be sorry when this comic ends.

WAR OF THE REALMS: WAR SCROLLS #3 (Marvel, 2019) – “The God Without Fear Part Three,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. Part three of “The God Without Fear” is no more impressive than the first two. As noted in my Gideon Falls #13 review above, “The God Without Fear” includes none of Sorrentino’s trademark weird page layouts, and it’s only an average story overall. The next story, written by Christopher Cantwell from She Could Fly, is a bit more interesting, though still not great. The most interesting thing about this story is that it includes some examples of the Latverian language, and Latverian seems to be closely related to Hungarian. I guess it was already canon that Latverian was based on Hungarian, but I don’t know where this was established. The best story in the issue is the last one, which I believe is the first comic by Nebula-winning novelist Charlie Jane Anders. It’s not a great story, but it’s a cute exploration of She-Hulk and Thor’s relationship. However, as other people have noted, the current version of She-Hulk basically ignores everything that happened to the character in Mariko Tamaki’s series.

BY THE TIME I GET TO WAGGA WAGGA #1 (Harrier, 1987) – “Dapper John Minds the Baby” and other stories, [W/A] Eddie Campbell. This one-shot is a collection of stories that were drawn in the late ‘70s and were later released as minicomics. These stories, along with other material, were later collected by Fantagraphics under the title In the Days of the Ace Rock ‘n’ Roll Club, but that book is long out of print, and I don’t think any of these stories are included in the Alec omnibus edition. So in short, By the Time I Get to Wagga Wagga #1 is a collection of early work that Eddie has more or less repudiated. That’s a shame because “Dapper John Minds the Baby,” in particular, is a touching and funny story. It’s about a young ne’er-do-well who’s stuck babysitting his baby nephew. He heads to the local bar (the Ace Rock ‘n’ Roll Club), where he inveigles a woman into helping him care for the baby. This story is a good example of Eddie’s early work; it’s in basically the same style as the stories collected in Alec: The King Canute Crowd. See http://eddiecampbell.blogspot.com/2007/07/munch.htmlfor a few comments by Eddie about this story.

WONDER WOMAN #163 (DC, 1966) – “Giganta – the Gorilla Girl!” and “Danger – Wonder Woman!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Ross Andru. This issue is the first Silver Age appearance of two Golden Age villains, Giganta and Paula von Gunta (i.e. Gunther). It’s the only Wonder Woman comic in my collection from before the no-costume era. Reading this issue, I realize that there are good reasons why I don’t collect Wonder Woman comics from this period. This comic is frankly awful; it’s thoroughly boring, and it lacks any characterization or any genuine excitement. It’s well known that Kanigher hated Wonder Woman. Jill Lepore quotes him referring to her as “the grotesque inhuman original Wonder Woman” (the source for this is an interview in the DC archives). Probably he was only writing Wonder Woman because someone had to; under the terms of DC’s contract with the Marston estate, they had to continuously publish Wonder Woman comics in order to retain the rights to the character. And the result of all this was two decades of bad Wonder Woman comics like this one.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #698 (Marvel, 2013) – “Dying Wish Prelude: Day in the Life,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Richard Elson. A brilliant piece of narrative sleight of hand. This issue begins by showing us Dr. Octopus on his deathbed. Then we cut to Peter Parker, who is finally doing all right for once. He loves being Spider-Man, and he has all sorts of great ideas for new inventions. But then Doc Ock starts asking for “Peter Parker.” Spider-Man visits the dying Doc Ock… who tells him “I’m Peter Parker.“ And then we realize that the Peter Parker from the first half of the comic was not Peter at all, but Doc Ock’s mind in Peter’s body, and vice versa! Realizing this, we look back earlier in the issue and notice clues we missed, especially “Peter’s” reference to Aunt May as a “dear, sweet woman.” Of course I knew there had been a story where Peter and Doc Ock switched bodies, but the final reveal was shocking anyway, because I didn’t realize that this was the issue where we learned about the body switch. ASM #698 must have been massively controversial when it came out, but now that the Superior Spider-Man story arc is over, I can look back on this issue and appreciate Dan Slott’s stunning storytelling.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #699 (Marvel, 2013) – “Dying Wish: Outside the Box,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Humberto Ramos. While Doc Ock is off being Peter, the actual Peter is trapped inside Doc Ock’s nearly dead body. Faced with one of the direst predicaments of his life, Peter manages to mentally activate Doc Ock’s last-ditch contingency plan, which involves getting Hydro-Man, Scorpion and Trapster to break him out of jail. So Peter survives the issue, but he’s still immobile and dying, and he’s allied himself with villains. How is he going to get out of this one? Or is he? I need to find issue 700 if I don’t already have it.

TALES TO ASTONISH #64 (Marvel, 1965) – “When Attuma Strikes!”, [W] Leon Lazarus, [A] Carl Burgos, and “The Horde of Humanoids!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Steve Ditko. Leon Lazarus sounds like a pen name for Larry Lieber, but he was a real person. He was finally tracked down in 2005, shortly after his death, and Jim Amash’s interview with him was published in Alter Ego. The Giant-Man/Wasp story in TTA #64 was the only Marvel Universe story he wrote. It’s a very average story, and according to Amash’s interview, Lazarus was not comfortable with the Marvel method. This issue’s Hulk story is much better. It’s the third appearance of the Leader, and it includes a fight between the Hulk and a bunch of humanoids. At this point, the Hulk was mean and savage, but could still speak in full sentences.

CRIMINAL #6 (Icon, 2008) – “Bad Night Part Three,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Jacob (the same Jacob from “Bad Weekend,” I think) and a woman named Iris have to dispose of a dead body. But the police may be on to them. I had trouble following this story, and I confused it with issue 4 of the current Criminal series, which has kind of a similar plot. But this comic is a really effective piece of crime fiction. I especially like the psychosexual aspects of this story; it turns out that Jacob and Iris are both aroused by danger, panic and tawdriness.

BATMAN #301 (DC, 1978) – “The Only Man Batman Ever Killed!”, [W] David V. Reed, [A] John Calnan. This comic’s cover is shocking; it depicts Batman standing over a dead man, a smoking gun in his hand, while the man’s wife accuses Batman of murdering him. Sadly, the story inside the comic does not live up to the cover. Batman doesn’t actually kill the man, he just pretends to have done so, and it’s not clear why. And the plot, involving a criminal overlord and a society of “wire-heads,” is confusing and incoherent.

DEFENDERS #7 (Marvel, 1973) – “War Between the Waves!”, [W] Steve Englehart & Len Wein, [A] Sal Buscema. Hawkeye joins the Defenders as they battle Attuma and the Red Ghost. The highlight of the issue is a panel where the Red Ghost compares porpoises to apes (https://www.instagram.com/p/BzKAEoIh_m5/). For some reason the first half of the issue is written by Steve Englehart, and the second half by Len Wein. This gives the reader a rare opportunity to directly compare their styles.

MIGHTY SAMSON #27 (Gold Key, 1975) – “Noah’s Ark,” [W] Allan Moniz, [A] José Delbo. Samson and his friends encounter a madman who pretends to be the biblical Noah, along with his ark full of preapocalyptic animals. This comic isn’t great, but it has some fun moments. I especially like the “pentopus,” an octopus with five tentacles and a crab’s claw.

CHEW #4 (Image, 2009) – “Taster’s Choice Part 4,” [W] John Layman, [A] Rob Guillory. Tony Chu and Mason Savoy (not yet revealed as a villain) investigate an Arctic observatory that’s implicated in a black market chicken ring. It turns out the observatory is monitoring one particular planet, and this is the beginning of the plot thread about aliens, which continues throughout the series. This issue has some awesome moments, such as the scene where Savoy holds up an urn of human ashes in front of an electric fan.

WONDER WOMAN #235 (DC, 1977) – “The Biology Bomb!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] José Delbo. During World War II, Diana and Dr. Mid-Nite battle Steve Trevor, who’s essentially been turned into the Hulk. This comic isn’t spectacular, but at least it’s readable and has an adequate level of storytelling and characterization. Therefore, it’s vastly better than Wonder Woman #163.

SPIDER-WOMAN #38 (Marvel, 1981) – “Criminal at Large!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Steve Leialoha. Jessica Drew teams up with some of the X-Men to fight Black Tom, Siryn and Juggernaut. This issue feels like an extra issue of Claremont’s X-Men; it even has Tom Orzechowski lettering. It’s also the answer to a trivia question: “Name an ‘80s comic written by Chris Claremont in which Colossus battles the Juggernaut, besides Uncanny X-Men #183.” In the last panel of this issue, three of the books on Jess’s bookshelf are Valerian albums. One of these is Metro Chatelet Direction Cassiopeia, which had come out the previous year, and would not be translated into English for decades. So one of this comics’ creators must have been reading French comics in the original French.

TRINITY #2 (DC, 2008) – “A Personal Best at Giant Robot Smashing,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Mark Bagley. I ought to be collecting this because it’s written by Kurt Busiek. This issue is a very simple and straightforward superhero story, but a well-crafted one. The first story stars Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, hence the title of the series. There’s also a backup story starring John Stewart, co-written by Fabian Nicieza.

AIRBOY #2 (Eclipse, 1986) – “The Wolf and the Phoenix,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Tim Truman & Tom Yeates. I detest Chuck Dixon so much that I’m hesitant even to read a thirty-year-old comic he wrote. But Airboy had some other good creators, it’s a well-crafted comic, and it’s also a very quick read. I kind of like the idea of a biweekly comic that’s just 16 pages. This issue, Airboy meets Skywolf and tries to learn more about his father’s relationship with Valkyrie, who shows up at the end of the issue.

STARSTRUCK #4 (IDW, 2009) – “Make a Wish” and other material, [W] Elaine Lee, [A] Michael Wm. Kaluta. Starstruck has such a confusing publication history that it’s hard to know where to start reading it. Briefly, Starstruck was first published in the Spanish magazine Comix Internacional, and then first published in English in Heavy Metal. Those same stories were collected as Marvel: Graphic Novel #13, and were then reprinted in an expanded form by Dark Horse in 1990. The 2009 IDW Starstruck series contains all that material, plus the first issue of the 1985-1986 Starstruck series published by Epic. IDW later reprinted the other five issues of that Epic series, along with new material, under the title Starstruck: Old Proldiers Never Die. So it seems like if I get all the issues of Starstruck (2009) and Starstruck: Old Proldiers Never Die, I’ll have all the Starstruck comics that exist.

Okay, now to the actual comic. Starstruck’s actual content is just as weird as its history. This issue’s first half is a series of flashbacks to the childhood of the main protagonist, Galatia 9, a.k.a. Molly. It emphasizes her troubled relationships with her mother, stepfather and half-sister, who become the main antagonists. There’s also a backup story about the Galactic Girl Guides, who are kind of like the Lumberjanes in outer space. Overall, Starstruck is a very difficult comic, but it has an appealing anarchist and feminist streak, and Kaluta’s artwork is beautiful. I bought three other issues of IDW’s Starstruck at Heroes Con, and I want to get to them soon.

LITTLE BIRD #1 (Image, 2019) – “The Fight for Elder’s Hope Chapter One,” [W] Darcy Van Poelgeest, [A] Ian Bertram. I just noticed that this comic’s inside front cover says “‘Little Bird’ was written on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Musqueam people.” I haven’t seen a land acknowledgement in a comic book before. As I inferred from reading issue 1, Little Bird is about a First Nations girl who rebels against an oppressive United States-led dictatorship. In this comic, she breaks into a prison for superheroes and rescues an old superhero named the Axe, who we eventually realize is her grandfather. Meanwhile, the American dictator known as Bishop, who is also Little Bird’s father, is trying to recapture her with the aid of his young protégé Gabriel. Little Bird is one of the best debut titles of the year; its story is more complicated than it seems, and Ian Bertram’s artwork is phenomenal. He reminds me at times of Carla Speeed McNeil, Andrew Maclean, and Frank Quitely, but he has his own original style. I enjoyed this issue so much that I immediately reread issue 2, and then moved on to issue 3:

LITTLE BIRD #3 (Image, 2019) – as above. Little Bird and Axe lead an attack on the government forces, but it ends disastrously. Little Bird meets Gabriel, who looks exactly like her. Axe apparently gets killed, and Bishop stabs Little Bird through the chest, while also confirming that he’s her father. Now I’m caught up on this series, although I missed my chance to order issue 4.

SUPURBIA #1 (Boom!, 2012) – untitled, [W] Grace Randolph, [A] Russell Dauterman. As noted in previous reviews, Supurbia was billed as a superhero version of Desperate Housewives, but it’s not all that different from a typical superhero comic. It often reminds me of Mark Gruenwald’s Squadron Supreme, which also included a lot of characters with families. Supurbia #1 introduces us to the characters, all of whom are obviously based on famous superheroes. The best part about this issue is the Wonder Woman character and her family. She’s a militant female supremacist who neglects her son in favor of her daughter.

LITTLE LULU #79 (Dell, 1955) – “Wishing Well” and other stories, [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. In this issue’s lead story, Tubby fools the girls into thinking that his wishes are being granted by a wishing well. As usual, Lulu turns the tables on him and tricks him into beign trapped inside the well. There are also a bunch of other stories, one of which stars Alvin and Witch Hazel. John Stanley’s Little Lulu comics are very formulaic, but the formula was a good one, and Stanley kept coming up with new ways for Lulu to outsmart Tubby.

BARBIE FASHION #20 (Marvel, 1992) – “Get Me the Scoop!”, [W] Barbara Slate, [A] Dan Parent. A nosy reporter is trying to get some dirt on Barbie. Meanwhile, Barbie is trying to get more funding for a day care center. Barbie eventually comes up with a way to use each problem to solve the other. This comic is better than Barbie #18 because it has a much more interesting plot. However, it still has the fundamental problem that Barbie is impossibly perfect, and therefore not interesting to read about.

G.I. JOE #37 (Marvel, 1985) – “Twin Brothers,” [W] Larry Hama, [A] Frank Springer. I bought a bunch of G.I. Joe comics at Heroes Con. I have a bunch more at my parents’ house, but they’re in terrible shape, and I hesitate to add a lot of additional comics to my boxes when I’m already low on storage space. It might be better to just buy new copies of those comics, if I can find them in quarter boxes or whatever. Anyway, G.I. Joe #37 isn’t the best example of the series. A group of Joes fight Tomax and Xamot at a carnival, but it’s not clear what the Cobra agents are doing at the carnival, or what their overall goal is. In general, this comic feels like a toy commercial rather than a realistic war story, and of course G.I. Joe is always the former, but it’s sometimes the latter as well.

UNCLE SCROOGE #283 (Gladstone, 1993) – “Foxy Relations,” [W/A] Carl Barks, plus other stories. In this issue’s Barks ten-pager, Donald has to go on a fox hunt, and of course it ends disastrously. The excuse for the fox hunt is that Scrooge wants to buy “two billion acres of oil lands” from an English nobleman, but the nobleman  won’t sell to anyone who isn’t a sportsman. Two billion acres is about half the United States, or five percent of all the land in the world. As with most Gladstone comics, the other stories in this issue are far less impressive. One of them is a Gyro Gearloose storty in which he has to publish a paper in order to save his job. But Gyro doesn’t publish papers, he just invents stuff. But then why can’t he just publish a paper describing one of his inventions?

BATMAN #465 (DC, 1991) – “Debut,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. Tim Drake goes on his first mission as Robin, and saves an actor from a psychotic stalker. Meanwhile, Batman catches two criminals and realizes that as Bruce Wayne, he’s paying to sponsor them through college. This is an understated but excellent issue. Now that Alan Brennert is finally getting the credit he deserves, I think Alan Grant is the most underrated Batman writer.

SEVEN SOLDIERS: FRANKENSTEIN #1 (DC, 2006) – “Uglyhead,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Doug Mahnke. I was surprised to discover this near the back of my unread comics boxes. The villain of “Uglyhead” is an ugly, telepathic high school kid who tries to enslave all the popular kids. I assume he’s connected with the Sheeda in some way. Frankenstein(’s monster) shows up and defeats Uglyhead. Seven Soldiers was a very complicated project, but it was written in a modular format where each issue and each miniseries was supposed to stand alone. So this issue was enjoyable, even though I wasn’t quite sure how it connected to the rest of the Seven Soldiers comics.