It’s that time again.
CARVER: A PARIS STORY 5 (Z2, 2016) – “I Am…”, [W/A] Chris Hunt. I ordered this because the earlier issues of this series had Paul Pope’s name on them. This comic took literally about one minute to read, and I couldn’t understand it at all.
TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE #56 (IDW, 2016) – “Ten to Midnight,” [W] James Roberts, [A] Priscilla Tramontano. This issue does not follow up on the cliffhanger from last issue, where Necroworld blew up. Instead, this issue shifts to an entirely different setting and cast of characters. We are now on Luna 1, where some other characters are trying to revive an army of long-dead giant robots called Titans. I couldn’t see how this story was related to MTMTE’s story arc, and it felt like a waste of an issue.
2000 AD #2279 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “The Citadel 10,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Dan Cornwell. The priest talks with Chopra, the last survivor of Dredd’s team from the flashback sequence. Chopra explains that Dredd did kill his own clone, but only because the clone was a Sov spy. This was an excellent story. Hope: “In the Shadows Reel 1 Part 4,” [W] Guy Adams, [A] Jimmy Broxton. Hope continues investigating. This series has some excellent black and white art. Brink: “Mercury Retrograde Part 10,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] I.N.J. Culbard. The old union boss, Bardot, is assaulted in his house, and the protagonist is interrogated by Habitat Security. Future Shocks: “Relict,” [W] Honor Vincent, [A] Lee Milmore. A monologue by an immortal, time-traveling lab rat. Not much of a story. Fiends of the Eastern Front: “1963 Part 7,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Tiernen Trevallion. Constanta confronts his handler and discovers that a certain Major Green has been manipulating them both, and then someone blows up the handler’s office with a rocket launcher.
CARVER: A PARIS STORY #4 (Z2, 2016) – “Who Am I?”, [W/A] Chris Hunt. Again, this issue takes less than five minutes to read, and it makes no sense. I’m guessing that this series was intended for digital distribution, because most pages have three panel tiers consisting of either one or two panels each. This is a format that would work well on a screen reader, but in print form, it makes for a monotonous reading experience.
TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE #57 (IDW, 2016) – “Last Light,” [W] James Roberts, [A] Priscilla Tramontano. Red Alert breaks free of the false memories he’s been implanted with, and he and Fortress Maximus succeed in delaying the Titans from reaching Cybertron. There are also a lot of flashbacks to past issues, and the series ends with a nostalgic conversation about the Lost Light. This two-parter has no apparent connection to either the previous MTMTE storyline, or the first story in the sequel series, Transformers: Lost Light.
ART OPS #5 (Vertigo, 2016) – “The Assassination of the Mona Lisa,” [W] Shaun Simon, [A] Mike Allred & Matt Brundage. The protagonist defeats the evil Mona Lisa, who, at the end of the issue, is revealed to be pregnant. There’s some stunning artwork in this issue, including some pages that are drawn in a Jackson Pollock style. However, as I have observed before, Shaun Simon just didn’t have sufficient writing skill to realize the potential of Art Ops’s themes, and Art Ops doesn’t reveal any deep or surprising insights into art.
OCCUPY AVENGERS #3 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] David F. Walker, [A] Carlos Pacheco. My sympathies go out to Carlos Pacheco on his ALS diagnosis. This issue, Hawkeye and Red Wolf team up with Walker’s version of Nightwing. This whole series was rather forgettable, and it seems odd that it was published in 2017, when the Occupy movement more or less ended in 2012.
BLACK WIDOW #10 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [W/A] Chris Samnee. Natasha, James and Lion (whoever that is) visit the Blue Area of the Moon to speak with the Watcher, formerly known as Nick Fury. This issue includes no fight scenes, so it doesn’t give Samnee much of an opportunity to display his visual storytelling skills, which were the primary reason to read this series.
TRANSFORMERS: LOST LIGHT #1 (IDW, 2016) – “Dissolution Part 1: Some Other Cybertron,” [W] James Roberts, [A] Jack Lawrence. A prologue sequence introduces two new characters, Anode and Lug. Then the scene shifts to Necroworld, where we finally get a resolution to the cliffhanger from MTMTE #55. The entire planet doesn’t blow up, but Rodimus, Megatron and some other characters decide to teleport to Cybertron, planning to get a ship, pick up everyone else from Necroworld, and then continue looking for the Lost Light. Unfortunately, the teleporter sends them to an alternate-universe version of Cybertron which is ruled by the Functionalist ideology.
BLACK WIDOW #11 (Marvel, 2017) – as above. Some Dark Room assassin girls try to blow up a SHIELD facility in Antarctica, and Natasha has to stop them. Natasha fights Recluse, the Dark Room’s new leader, and loses, and the girls trigger the facility’s self-destruct mechanism. This issue is much more exciting than #10, and it includes a lot of Samnee’s excellent action scenes.
SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #103 (Marvel, 1985) – “Compulsion!”, [W] Peter David, [A] Rich Buckler. I think this was Peter David’s first published comic. It already demonstrates his characteristic style of humor; on page 3, there’s a joking reference to Batman’s origin story. The plot of “Compulsion!” is that three bored college students, Ashley, Thomas and Barry, decide to outsmart Spider-Man by creating a fake supervillain named Blaze. But Spider-Man turns the tables on them by getting the Human Torch to pretend to be the “real” Blaze. This story was inspired by the real-life Leopold and Loeb case, and there is an allusion to that case on the last page.
SUPERMAN #397 (DC, 1984) – “The Born-Again Kryptonite Man!”, [W] Paul Kupperberg, [A] Eduardo Barreto. Superman fights the Kryptonite Man – not the recurring Superboy villain, but a new character who’s descended from ancient inhabitants of Krypton. The Kryptonite Man is also being pursued by the Seeders, led by Lord Sed and Commander Dun, whose names might be a stupid pun on “easier said than done.” This story continued into Supergirl #21, which was the final appearance of this incarnation of the Kryptonite Man.
VIOLATOR VS. BADROCK #3 (Image, 1995) – untitled, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Brian Denham. Badrock is trapped in hell, where he has to save a woman from the Phlebiac brothers. This is one of Alan Moore’s less interesting works for Image in the ‘90s, and Brian Denham is a terrible artist. His style is a copy of Liefeld’s style, but without the detailed linework that’s perhaps Liefeld’s only redeeming feature.
SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR #2 (Dark Horse, 1994) – untitled, [W/A] Frank Miller. Dwight sneaks into the house where his ex-lover Ava is living with her new lover, Damian Lord. Dwight is discovered, and Damian’s bodyguard Manute beats him senseless. Manute must have been named for Manute Bol, even though the fictional Manute is a big stocky bruiser, while the real Manute Bol was extremely tall and thin. Ava comes to Dwight’s place and sleeps with him, but then Manute abducts her and throws Dwight out a window. This series’s art style is easier to appreciate if you think of it as an attempt to imitate the storytelling techniques of manga. However, Sin City is such an excessive, over-the-top example of the film noir genre that it’s hard to take seriously.
RINGSIDE #10 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Nick Barber. I thought I was done reading this crummy series, but here’s another issue I hadn’t read. As usual, Ringside #10 is a quick and insubstantial read, I don’t understand its story, and I don’t feel motivated to try to understand it.
STEVEN UNIVERSE #4 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Melanie Gillman, [A] Katy Farina. Steven and the Gems go to a renaissance fair and participate in some jousts. This is a cute story, but it’s lacking in substance or narrative depth. I suppose I’d have liked it better if I was more of a fan of Steven Universe’s aesthetic.
CONAN THE BARBARIAN #13 (Marvel, 1972) – “Web of the Spider God,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Barry Windsor-Smith. Conan is ambushed from some priests from the spider-haunted city of Yezud, so he travels there to take revenge. In Yezud, Conan battles a giant spider deity, rescues a kidnapped woman, and escapes as the city collapses. This story seems similar to L. Sprague de Camp’s novel Conan and the Spider God, though Marvel later published a separate adaptation of that novel. This is one of Thomas and BWS’s less memorable Conan issues, and perhaps its best moment is when Conan knocks on the city gate of Yezud and annuonces “I am Conan – and your high priest is a slimy jackal I’ve come to slay.”
MOTHER PANIC #5 (DC, 2017) – “Broken Things Part 2,” [W] Jody Houser, [A] Shawn Crystal. Another boring issue. I don’t understand what’s going on in this storyline, and even if I did understand, I wouldn’t care. I don’t get what the point of this series was.
BLACK WIDOW #12 (Marvel, 2017) – as above. Natasha manages to stop the facility from blowing up, and she convinces the six girl assassins to reject Recluse and “come in from the cold.” This was an exciting and touching conclusion to the series, although Mark Waid’s Black Widow was generally inferior to Kelly Thompson’s Black Widow, except in the area of artwork.
TRANSFORMERS: LOST LIGHT #2 (IDW, 2017) – “Dissolution Part 2: Anomie”, [W] James Roberts, [A] Jack Lawrence. The Transformers learn that the alternate Cybertron is ruled by totalitarians who believe that a robot’s alt mode is its destiny. But there’s also a rebel group, the Anti-Vocationist League. The Functionalist Council’s ideology is contradicted by the fact that there’s one transformer with no alt mode, the “Useless One”, but the Council announces their plan to reveal “what the Useless One is for.” The Useless One is none other than Rung. There’s also a subplot about Anode and Lug.
LEGIONNAIRES #72 (DC, 1999) – “Enemies of Science!”, [W] Tom McCraw & Roger Stern, [A] Jeffrey Moy. The Legion fights four villains based on the four elements. By this point in its run the “Archie Legion” had lost any sense of excitement or purpose, and it was about to be replaced by the DnA Legion. This issue has no significant character development, and the four new villains are boring. Still, this era of the Legion was very important to me, and reading this issue made me feel nostalgic.
2000 AD #2280 (Rebellion, 2022) – Another Regened issue. Cadet Dredd: “Red Medicine,” [W] James Peaty, [A] Luke Horsman. A young Dredd convicts a senior Judge of illegally distributing medicine, even though the senior Judge was doing it for altruistic reasons. Lowborn High: untitled, [W] David Barnett, [A] Anna Morozova. Wychdusk High, obviously based on Hogwarts, is Britain’s school for the children of elite wizard families. This story does not take place there, but in Lowborn High, the school for lower-class wizards, which looks like a typical British urban state school (or “public school” in American terms). The walls are crumbling, the kids are all delinquents, etc. Our protagonist, Frost, flunks out of Wychdusk and is sent to Lowborn High, where he has to fit into his new environment. This story is a hilarious reversal of the Harry Potter concept, and it was promising enough that it reappeared in the next Regened issue (see below). Future Shocks: “Smart Home,” [W] Honor Vincent, [A] V.V. Glass. I’m glad to see this brilliant artist again. In this story, a boy creates a sentient Roomba, but then abandons it. Later, he comes back and puts the Roomba in a giant dog-shaped body. The Unteachables: untitled, [W] Karl Stock, [A] Xulia Vicente. In a burnt-out post-apocalyptic city, a teacher tries to teach some teenagers who have been abandoned by all their other teachers. Chopper: “What Goes Up,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Nick Roche. A young Chopper helps Dredd apprehend some rich people who are kidnapping teenagers and using them as pieces in a game.
IRONJAW #2 (Atlas/Seaboard, 1975) – “Ironjaw the King!”, [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Pablo Marcos. Ironjaw discovers that he’s the son of a king. He defeats the usurper who overthrew his father, thus becoming king himself. But in a funny sequence, he discovers that life as a king doesn’t suit him because he hates making public appearances and doesn’t like being given everything, including women, for free. He rides off to return to his immigrant lifestyle. Ironjaw is a lot like Conan, but this scene couldn’t have happened with Conan, who always did want to be a king, and who turned out to be pretty good at that job.
WONDER WOMAN #226 (DC, 2006) – “Cover Date,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Cliff Richards. A series of vignettes depicting the evolution of Superman and Wonder Woman’s relationship over time. Each vignette is preceded by a scandalous tabloid magazine cover about Clark and Diana. At the end of the issue, Clark, Diana and all the magazine covers disappear into a vortex, representing the impending Infinite Crisis. This was the last issue of this Wonder Woman volume and of Greg Rucka’s first run, and it’s a nice send-off.
GRASS KINGS #6 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. I don’t understand this issue, and it doesn’t help that the main characters all look very similar. This is my least favorite Kindt/Jenkins series.
TRANSFORMERS: LOST LIGHT #3 (IDW, 2017) – “Dissolution Part 3: A World Misplaced,” [W] James Roberts, [A] Jack Lawrence. In the alternate universe, Rodimus’s team meets the alternate version of Anode, and the Functionalist Council transforms Rung into a giant mining drill. On Necroworld, the other Transformers fight a villain named Killmaster.
2000 AD #2281 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “An Honest Man 01,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Tom Foster. This is a sequel to “A Penitent Man,” which introduced Kyle Asher, a former Judge who returned from exile on Krypton. Because I never got the prog pack with #2230 to #2233, I never found out how that story ended. At this point, Asher is a judge again, and he uncovers an apparent mob assassination. Brink: as in #2279 above. The HabSec people interrogate the journalist with no result. Hope: as above. Hop interviews a bunch of suspects. Dexter: “Bulletopia Chapter 9: The Thing in the Thing Part 1,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Tazio Bettin. Dexter and his crew find themselves in a bleak, grim Puritan village, where something secret is being kept in a barn. Fiends of the Eastern Front: as above. Constanta has a vision where he’s talking with a many-headed serpent, then he wakes up and is interrogated by Major Green and Grigory Rasputin. This character is another point of similarity between Fiends of the Eastern Front and Hellboy.
TONY STARK: IRON MAN #16 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Ultron Agenda Part One: Man & Machine,” [W] Dan Slott & Jim Zub, [A] Valerio Schiti. The new Ultron, a hybrid of Ultron and Hank Pym, kidnaps Jocasta, who is a hybrid of herself and Janet Van Dyne. Tony and Aaron Stack try to defeat Ultron and rescue Jocasta. This issue is somewhat hard to follow, but it’s entertaining and well-drawn.
Next trip to Heroes:
WYND: THE THRONE IN THE SKY #1 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. This is one of my most anticipated comics of the year. In a flashback, we learn who Oakley’s father is. Then Wynd and his team rest at an inn and learn about the current dangerous political situation. In the Faerie capital, the Duke is arrested. Some faeries invade the inn and try to arrest Wynd and his party too, but the faerie princess gets them out of it. However, they now have to travel through vampire country to get to Northport.
Also, I just realized that because of the coffee-spill incident from last year, I lost my review of the following comic: WYND #10
ONCE & FUTURE #29 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Kings Are Dead” part ???, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. Remember that the last issue ended with the Green Knight cutting Rose’s head off. As I started this issue, I thought, well, that looked bad, but within Arthurian legend, there are several ways Rose could have survived that, including the scabbard of Excalibur. And then I turned to page six and discovered that Rose was wearing the scabbard of Excalibur! Then there’s another brilliant twist, as we learn that Rose, like Arthur, is adopted, and she pulls the sword from the stone and becomes the new king. However, Duncan and Gran still have to pull off their plot to rain Lethe water over Britain, and Beowulf’s dragon is standing in their way. I can’t wait to see how this series ends.
TWIG #5 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Kyle Strahm. Twig discovers that the Horned Beast’s “heart” is metaphorical, not real, and he’s able to complete the ritual and reenergize his stone. Then we learn that Twig’s job is not to use the stone to place the world. Rather, his job is to put the stone where it will be found by an adventurer, and that person will use the stone to defeat the Great Evil. This series was extremely fun, and I hope it does return, as promised on the last page.
SHE-HULK #6 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Luca Maresca. Nightcrawler puts Jen on retainer as Krakoa’s legal liaison, and then Jen and Jack finally sleep together. I’ve never liked Jack of Hearts much, but Rowell makes him and Jen into a cute couple. This issue’s cover, with Jen and Kurt taking tea, is beautiful.
DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #20 (Image, 2022) – “The Rabbit Hole,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Martin Simmonds. Hawk and Martin Barker tell Matty about Cole’s secrets, including Cole’s murder of the two reporters. There’s also a capsule summary of the series’ plot, and a flashback explaining how Cole and Matty met. By the end of this issue, I was no longer convinced that Cole or the Department of Truth were on the right side. I started to think that Black Hat were the good guys. It’s appropriate that this comic is making me question my assumptions about its own plot, since the comic’s theme is the variable nature of truth.
RADIANT BLACK #17 (Image, 2022) – “Return,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Joe Clark, [A] Marcelo Costa. In order to defeat the “Secret Six” team of villains, Marshall and Nathan have to share the Radiant Black powers. So now they’re both Radiant Black, kind of like how there are two different Hawkeyes at once. Marshall and Nathan defeat the villains, but in revenge, one of the villains releases the plans for their technology on the Internet. The cliffhanger is that Wendell, the middle-aged Radiant Yellow, is surprised Marshall is alive, because he expected him to die.
WE ONLY FIND THEM WHEN THEY’RE DEAD #13 (Boom!, 2022) – “We Don’t Do It for Nothing,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Simone Di Meo. Honorhim Bristow kills Dane and subjects Thierry-8 to torture and interrogation, but Bristow’s daughter kills him and frees Thierry. Bristow is a terrifying villain because he knows he’s a complete hypocrite, and he doesn’t care. His religious beliefs are faked, yet he cynically uses these beliefs to gain power. It’s a cathartic moment when he dies, though his daughter may be even worse.
PUBLIC DOMAIN #3 (Image, 2022) – “Past Mistakes,” [W/A] Chip Zdarsky. We realize that Miles is in debt to the mob. Some gangsters beat him up, then Singular Comics tries to strongarm him into accepting a lowball settlement. Syd decides to meet with Singular himself, and he agrees to settle for only enough money to cover Miles’s gambling debts – plus the right to publish Domain comics! This is a brilliant moment because to Syd, this is a perfect outcome, but the reader knows what a terrible deal Syd is getting. Like, if you’re reading this comic at all, then you can be assumed to know how little money there is in comic book publishing.
FARMHAND #20 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Rob Guillory. Jed gives Ezekiel a letter with a handprint, and Ezekiel uses the handprint to access Jed’s memories of his mother’s death. This moment reminds me of the scene in Chew where Tony eats his sister’s finger. Anna tells Ezekiel to do the one thing he’s never done – forgive his father – and this somehow breaks Monica’s hold on him, but then Monica kills Ezekiel. I don’t quite understand what happened here. The last story arc is coming early next year.
I HATE THIS PLACE #4 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Artyom Topilin. Gabrielle and Trudy find the money, but Adrian/Frank Renda pursues them and murders Dante Howitzer, before being carried off by a giant centipede. The issue ends with an enigmatic scene where a person in boots picks up a floating orb.
X-MEN AND MOON GIRL #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Have You Seen This Dinosaur?”, [W] Mohale Mashigo, [A] David Cutler & Marika Cresta. Lunella, Wolverine and Havok, in adorable animal disguises, travel to Counter-Earth to rescue Devil from the High Evolutionary. The Evolutionar.They manage to defeat him and escape through a Krakoan gate, but Lunella’s parents are shocked to find her hanging out with a dinosaur. Overall this series of one-shots was extremely fun. It had the same exuberance and weirdness as the first Moon Girl series, and was less awkwardly written. My only criticism is that the High Evolutionary is not supposed to be a typical supervillain. He doesn’t intend to be evil. Rather, he’s a cosmic entity who is beyond conventional notions of mortality, and he sometimes causes collateral damage because of that.
NEW CHAMPION OF SHAZAM #2 (DC, 2022) – “What’s in a Name?”, [W] Josie Campbell, [A] Evan “Doc” Shaner. Mary’s foster parents have been kidnapped, so she has to leave Vassar and attend community college while trying to solve their disappearance. At her new college, Mary fights an alligator monster and discovers that there’s been a wave of disappearances. Also, she has a charismatic but creepy professor, who I suspect is a member of the Sivana family. I liked this issue a lot better than issue 1. This time around I was less annoyed with the dialogue, and I suspect I was just in a bad mood when I read #1.
BATMAN #127 (DC, 2022) – “Failsafe Part Three,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jorge Jimenez. Batman becomes the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh, who created Failsafe in the first place. Failsafe is Batman’s contingency plan in case all the other superheroes turned evil, and the “Batman of Zur-En-Arrh” personality is Bruce’s backup plan in case Bruce himself went bad. Most of the issue consists of fight scenes. Jorge Jimenez has turned into a spectacular artist. His earlier work in Super Sons was very cute, but in this storyline he’s drawing in the vein of Jim Lee, and he’s doing that very well. In the Catwoman backup story, Selina discovers that the Penguin isn’t really dead.
ANT-MAN #2 (Marvel, 2022) – “Impostor Syndrome,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Tom Reilly. In a flashback to the Secret Invasion storyline, Eric O’Grady, “the worst Ant-Man ever,” tries to loot Scott Lang’s grave for Pym particles. Hank Pym’s Skrull duplicate catches him doing it, but while they’re fighting, Eric is abducted by the future Ant-Man. It’s too bad that this issue doesn’t have the “MRVL narrative experience” captions from last issue, but otherwise this is another fun issue, even though I’m not very familiar with Eric O’Grady.
NEW MASTERS #6 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Shobo Coker, [A] Shof Coker. Ola defeats Ojumah’s plans by releasing the archival information to everyone, and the series ends by suggesting that the future belongs to Ola’s generation. As I’ve stated before, this was the best of the recent Africanfuturist comics. Its plot, characterization and worldbuilding are all well done, and it uses Yoruba and Edo/Benin culture as an essential element in its story.
SANDMAN UNIVERSE: NIGHTMARE COUNTRY #5 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Lisandro Estherren. Daniel and the Corinthian intervene and restore Madison to life. Agony and Ecstasy are sent back to Desire’s domain. A new character, the angel Moroni, appears and tells William about his plan to conquer America through dreams. It’s brave of Tynion to use a central figure in Mormonism as a villain. Moroni’s plan – to give people “a dream of the country that must be” – reminds me of the central premise of Department of Truth.
BUNNY MASK: THE HOLLOW INSIDE #4 (Aftershock, 2022) – “The Ancient Hollow,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Andrea Mutti. Tyler and Bee finally get it on, and this somehow allows Bunny Mask to destroy the Hollow. This issue doesn’t resolve much of anything – in particular, I don’t think it explains Bee’s lack of memories – and I hope there will be a third Bunny Mask miniseries soon.
SURVIVAL STREET #2 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Asmus & Jim Festante, [A] Abylay Kussainov. A flashback sequence shows how Herbert, the Grover character, emigrated to America when his people were massacred by American mining companies. In the present, Herbert assassinates the head of the WRA, i.e. the NRA. Survival Street is a clever parody of Sesame Street, and on top of that, it’s a better piece of satire than Justice Warriors. Both the mining company’s crimes and the WRA’s agenda of giving guns to babies, seem like things that could plausibly happen.
THE WARD #4 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Andres Ponce. The city is plagued by an epidemic of screaming. Luis discovers that the epidemic was caused by a group of anti-supernatural bigots, and figures out how to cure it. Nat, after a tense confrontation with her mother, goes on TV and reveals the existence of St. Lilith’s to the public. This was an excellent miniseries, and it was one of the most plausible depictions of the medical profession that I’ve seen in comics. I will plan on reading more of Cavan Scott’s work.
ROBIN #17 (DC, 2022) – “Lazarus Magic,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Roger Cruz. Damian and his friends defeat Lord Death Man, and then they have a fun day at the beach. This was a really cute and entertaining series, and I’m sorry it’s been cancelled. The new Robin series stars Tim Drake, and I don’t plan on reading it.
NEW MUTANTS #29 (Marvel, 2022) – “Boys Day Out,” [W] Danny Lore, [A] Guillermo Sanna. I put this series on my pull list because Charlie Jane Anders will be writing it, but I should have specified that I wanted to start with issue 31. This issue, Daken and Warpath go looking for Gabby. There are some cute moments in this issue, but I could have done without it.
POISON IVY #4 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Marcio Takara. Ivy gets a job at an Amazon warehouse where her boss, George, is a tyrant and a sexual harasser. When you see this character, you can understand why Ivy wants to exterminate the human race. Ivy gives George his comeuppance and then sleeps with a female coworker. I’m not a big Poison Ivy fan, so this series has been far better than I expected.
MIND MGMT BOOTLEG #3 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] David Rubín. Meru and the Eraser have a psychic fight, and the Zanzibar kids continue their training. Given the amount of time since the previous MIND MGMT series, this issue’s story is hard to understand, and its most notable feature is David Rubín’s art, which is gorgeous as usual.
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #132 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Pablo Tunica. The Turtles train with Oroku Saki, and then they have a vision of Splinter’s ghost. This two-parter was even worse than the story that preceded it. Issues 131 and 132 were just an extended training montage, and they removed the Turtles from their supporting characters, who were the best thing about the series. Luckily it looks like in the next storyline, the Turtles will be back in Mutant Town.
THE DEAD LUCKY #2 (Image, 2022) – “This is Trauma,” [W] Melissa Flores, [A] French Carlomagno. Bibi fights Morrow’s troops and experiments with her robot, and then she’s contacted by one of the cops who’s been following her. I think this series is doing too many things at once. It has at least two major themes – the corportate takeover of San Francisco, and Bibi’s wartime trauma – and it seems like the writer cares more about the latter theme, but the former theme tends to dominate the narrative. My favorite scene in this issue is the scene where the tourists try to order sushi and pho at a Chinese-Mexican restaurant.
MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #41 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Christopher Allen. Miles beats Selim with the aid of Uncle Aaron, for whom Miles has been searching since this storyline began. Miles wins the fight, but the alternate version of Ganke gets killed, and Billie becomes a new superheroine, Spider-Smasher. Then Miles, Aaron and Shift finally return to their home reality. This storyline was just average, and it’s just as well that this series is ending, because Saladin seems to have been running out of ideas.
GOLDEN RAGE #2 (Image, 2022) – “Birds”, [W] Chrissy Williams, [A] Lauren Knight. The protagonists meet the Dead Women, who bury the island’s dead. Then the protagonists confront the evil Red Hats. Again, I like the idea of this comic; it reminds me of Bitch Planet, with the added element that the women are segregated based on their age and/or infertility. However, Golden Age’s characters seem one-dimensional, and its plot is slow-paced.
SINS OF THE BLACK FLAMINGO #3 (Image, 2022) – “Missionary Man,” [W] Andrew Wheeler, [A] Travis Moore. Harlow sleeps with the angel, then he breaks back into his own apartment to retrieve an item that could break the angel’s possession. While he’s there, he gets captured by the same racist creeps who kidnapped the golem. This series is extremely powerful and well-executed, and it’s a major step forward from Wheeler’s previous work, Another Castle.
THE LONESOME HUNTERS #3 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Tyler Crook. Lupe and Howard kidnap one of the magpies, and it leads thm to the magpie queen, who’s even creepier than her flock. She demands Howard’s sword and watch as a price for leaving her alone. I like this series a lot. It’s a creepy horror comic, and the two protagonists have a cute grandfather-granddaughter relationship, despite their differences of race and age.
DEFENDERS BEYOND #2 (Marvel, 2022) – “Yesod: The Second Cosmos,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Javier Rodriguez. The Defenders learn the origin of the Beyonders, but then the Beyonders try to kill them. They have to escape into the White Hot Room, the space beyond even the Beyond, where Taaia becomes Phoenix. This issue is full of spectacular art. Rodriguez’s depictions of the mazelike interior of the Beyonders’ lair are especially impressive. This issue includes a guide explaining which of the archetypes from the Fourth Cosmos, in Defenders #4, were based on which familiar Marvel characters.
IRON FIST #5 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Alyssa Wong, [A] Michael YG. Lin Lie summons his power and defeats Lin Feng, but Lin Feng tricks Lin Lie into opening the door of K’un L’un for him. The cover misleadingly implies that Loki plays a major role in this issue, but he only appears briefly at the end. This issue’s story is continued in A.X.E. Iron Fist #1, which I did not order, because I assumed it was just another dumb crossover tie-in – and maybe it was.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: SYMBOL OF TRUTH #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “Homeland Part 4”, [W] Tochi Onyebuchi, [A] R.B. Silva & Zé Carlos. Cap fights Crossbones in Wakanda, and then Black Panther himself shows up and is not happy about Cap’s incursion into his country. Falcon rescues some kidnap victims, including his own cousin. This issue is entertaining, though it lacks the sophisticated social commentary of issue 1.
MY LITTLE PONY #4 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mary Kenney, [A] Trish Forstner. Pipp gets obsessed with posting stuff on social media. This series is reasonably well-written, but I haven’t been watching the current MLP series, so I have no idea who any of these characters are, and I don’t really care either. I need to take this series off my pull list and just order any individual issues that look interesting, such as the upcoming issue that’s drawn by Andy Price.
SHANG-CHI AND THE TEN RINGS #2 (Marvel, 2022) – “Old Friends,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Marcus To. Shang-Chi and his old lover Leiko Wu go on a mission to rescue Leiko’s other boyfriend, Clive Reston, from Carlton Velcro. But the mission is a sham, because while Shang-Chi is busy, Black Jack Tarr breaks into his home and steals the Ten Rings. This is Yang’s first Shang-Chi story that draws upon the character’s past continuity. Until this issue, Yang’s version of Shang-Chi was effectively a complete reboot. And that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, because the old series was rooted in racism and stereotypes, as much as I enjoyed it. But with “Old Friends,” Yang finally reintroduces Shang-Chi’s classic supporting cast, and he does so in a very clever way.
IMMORTAL X-MEN #6 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Devil’s Party,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Lucas Werneck. This issue is another A.X.E. crossover, but it also focuses on Sebastian Shaw. In a series of flashbacks, we learn that Sebastian hated his rich but abusive father, and that out of spite, Sebastian became deliberately, flamboyantly evil. He summarizes his philosophy as “When my time comes to burn, I will do so with a smile on my face! With a cognac in my hand and a fat roll in my pocket!” Immortal X-Men is easily the best of the X-Men titles I’m currently reading.
GRIM #4 (Boom!, 2022) – “All on Black,” [W] Stephanie Phillips, [A] Flaviano. Jessica and her friends escape The End and arrive in Las Vegas, where Jessica saves a drunk college girl from being hit by a bus, only to discover that the girl is the original Grim Reaper. The girl directs Jessica and friends to the (nonexistent) thirteenth floor of a hotel. There they meet Death himself, in the form of an old man. This series has been a bit underwhelming, but it got more interesting with the next issue; see below.
WEST OF SUNDOWN #5 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Aaron Campbell, [A] Jim Terry. This issue resolves all the series’ dangling plotlines, and it ends with an appearance by Dr. Moreau. West of Sundown had a rather confusing plot, but a fascinating cast of characters, and it’s one of Tim Seeley’s better works – I was going to say his best work since Revival, but I forgot about Money Shot.
THE VARIANTS #3 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Gail Simone, [A] Phil Noto. The various versions of Jessica hang out together, but someone hands Jessica (the protagonist) a note saying DON’T TRUST THEM. There’s a cute moment where Danielle plays Pokemon cards with Misty and Colleen.
HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER #8 (Boom!, 2022) – “Scarlet Part Three,” [W] Sam Johns, [A] Letizia Cadonici. This is the worst Slaughterverse comic yet. The entire issue is a pointless, rambling conversation between Edwin and his paintbrush, and the plot doesn’t advance at all. I don’t know what this writer thinks he’s doing. I’m glad that the next story arc will be written by Tate Brombal again.
AMAZING FANTASY #1000 (Marvel, 2022) – [E] Nick Lowe. A collection of eight stories for Spider-Man’s 60th anniversary. The stories include the following: “Sinister 60th,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Jim Cheung. An elderly Spider-Man suffers life-threatening injuries, and he’s visited in the hospital by all the people he’s saved. This one was touching. “The Kid’s Got a Good Eye,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Olivier Coipel. Peter Parker tries to take some cute photos of ordinary New Yorkers, but the only photo JJJ will accept is a photo of Spider-Man dropping his ice cream cone. Insubstantial but cute. “Slaves of the Witch-Queen!”, [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Terry Dodson. A sequel to Amazing Fantasy #15 – but to one of the long-forgotten backup stories, not the one that introduced Spider-Man. Kurt has used this idea before, specifically in the backup story in Untold Tales of Spider-Man Annual ’96, he tells Pat Olliffe that he wants to adapt another one of Amazing Fantasy #15’s backup stories. It’s a funny idea though. “With Great Power…”, [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Steve McNiven. As a kid, Neil Gaiman reads British reprints of Spider-Man comics, and then he meets Spider-Man himself. This is a cute piece of metafiction, though it’s a lot like Gaiman’s earlier “One Life, Furnished in Early Moorcock.”
DOGS OF LONDON #4 (Aftershock, 2022) – “Man Bites Dog,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Artecida. In a flashback, we learn more about the mysterious poison experiments. One of the revenants, a self-hating gay man, commits a murder at a gay bar. Sir Frank hunts down the doctor who performed the original experiments, and Frank’s wife Flora is forced to kill the doctor. The revenants kidnap Frank’s son and threaten to cut his toes off. I almost hope they do, since the son is a Tory MP.
DETECTIVE COMICS #27 facsimile (DC, 1939/2022) – “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate,” [W] Bill Finger, [A] Bob Kane. A facsimile edition of one of the most important comic books ever published in America: Batman’s first appearance. “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate” is a rather crude story, but it conveys a powerful sense of mystery. This story lacks many of the familiar elements of the Batman mythos, but it does include one very familiar trope: a scene where someone is talking to Batman, and then turns around to discover that he’s vanished. Of the many other stories in this issue, most are pretty bad, and a few are blatantly racist. In particular, Sven Elvén’s “Cosmo, the Phantom of Disguise” is perhaps the most offensive portrayals of Chinese people that I’ve ever seen in comics, and it openly advocates for Chinese exclusion. Besides Batman’s debut, the second best thing in the issue is the Speed Saunders story, which has some slick, appealing art by Fred Guardineer.
DC’S SAVED BY THE BELLE REVE #1 (DC, 2022) – [E] Andrew Marino et al. A collection of eight school-themed stories. The highlight of this issue for me is Cloonan, Fletcher and Kerschl’s “Sophomore Year,” a revival of Gotham Academy, which was probably my favorite DC Universe comic of the 2010s. Seeing Maps Mizoguchi again makes me very nostalgic. Another highlight is Peter Tomasi and Max Raynor’s Super Sons story “Back to School,” in which Jon and Damian protect a nonbinary student from bullying. Dave Wielgosz and Mike Norton’s Green Arrow/Speedy story is a depressing indictment of Ollie’s awful parenting. The other stories in the issue are less interesting.
SPIDER-GWEN: GWENVERSE #5 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Jodi Nishijima. The Gwen-Vengers defat the villains and save the universe. This series was fun, but, much like West of Sundown, it suffered from a confusing plot and an excessively large cast.
HIGHBALL #1 (Ahoy, 2022) – “The Brotherhood,” [W] Stuart Moore, [A] Fred Harper. An alcoholic space pilot has to go to war against an alien race on behalf of the Mentok, a different alien race who have more or less enslaved humanity. This is not bad, although I couldn’t remember much about it until I looked through it again. The best part about this comic is not the alcoholism jokes, but the Mentoks’ constant micromanagement and nickel-and-diming of their human clients.
MINOR THREATS #1 (Dark Horse, 2022) – “A Quick End to a Long Beginning,” [W] Patton Oswalt & Jordan Blum, [A] Scott Hepburn. A former supervillain, Playtime, works at a bar for other supervillains because she can’t find a better job. But then her orderly life is thrown into chaos when a villain named Stickman murders a superhero. Finally she decides she and her fellow villains will kill Stickman themselves. This comic has quite effective writing. I especially like Playtime’s agony over having lost custody of her daughter because of her crimes. But superhero parodies have become as much of a tired genre as superheroes themselves. Scott Hepburn also drew Drax #2, which I read the other day.
TALES OF THE HUMAN TARGET #1 (DC, 2022) – “Oh Here He Is,” [W] Tom King, [A] Greg Smallwood et al. A single story with three different plot threads, each drawn by a different artist (Rafael Albuquerque, Kevin Maguire and Mikel Janin) and narrated by a different JLA member (Guy Gardner, Booster Gold and Fire, in that order). In each story, the shock ending is that a character gets killed, but then we discover that the “dead” person was really the Human Target. The Fire story is the best because it’s serious. The other two stories are annoying to read, because they’re narrated by two annoying characters.
HAWK THE SLAYER #3 (Rebellion, 2022) – “Watch for Me in the Night,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Henry Flint. After some fight scenes, Hawk and his party encounter Voltan and a group of evil wizards. Henry Flint’s artwork in this series is striking, but I probably would have skipped this series if I’d known it was based on a film I hadn’t seen.
ASTRONAUT DOWN #3 (Aftershock, 2022) – “Unfit,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Rem Broo. Douglas learns the information he came to the other reality for, but he decides to abandon his mission and stay in the other reality, since his home reality is pretty awful and it’s already fucked. Honestly I can sympathize with this decision, but the other Douglas’s wife, Maddie, refuses to accept it, and Douglas is forced to use his emergency eject feature. He wakes up in another reality where Maddie is still alive. This is a powerful issue, although this series is less fun than Campisi or Kaiju Score, and also has a premise that’s harder to understand.
A CALCULATED MAN #3 (Aftershock, 2022) – “The Numbers Man,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Alberto Albuquerque. Jack Beans continues assassinating his old enemies in clever ways. The funny part is that he tells his crush, Vera, everything he’s doing, yet she doesn’t believe him. Other than that, this series has been disappointing. I already complained that it’s not about math. Also, it’s difficult to accept that Jack can do any of the stuff he does. In Flash (1987) #125, Major Disaster engineers a series of disasters the same way that Jack does – by predicting events that are about to happen and then screwing with them. However, Major Disaster has actual supernatural powers, while Jack is supposed to just be good at math. This is hard to believe, because not even the greatest mental calculator could do anything that Jack can. Two of the background characters in this issue are named after notable cartoonists: Helen Hokinson and Jackie Ormes.
THE BLUE FLAME #9 (Vault, 2022) – “When I Sleep, I Remember,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Adam Gorham. Dee and Mateo finally get married, but Sam loses his job again, and his assault trial isn’t going well. Also he reveals that the man who killed his fellow superheroes had been previously been rejected from his team (a common plot pattern in Legion of Super-Heroes stories, by the way). In his other trial, Sam calls the Blue Flame as a witness. This is an excellent series, though I wish it was less chronically late.
G.I.L.T. #5 (Ahoy, 2022) – untitled, [W] Alisa Kwitney, [A] Mauricet. A bunch more confusing stuff happens, and then Trista takes over Hildy’s apartment. This series has an interesting feminist voice, as well as an interesting cast of elderly and middle-aged female characters. However, it lacked a unifying theme, and its plot was incomprehensible.
SWAMP THING #16 (DC, 2022) – “Armageddon Part 2,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. Trinity succeeds in pacifying the Parliament of Gears, and Swampy defeats the villain, Harper Pilgrim. This is a satisfying conclusion to the run, although I did think that Swamp Thing, like much of Ram V’s work, felt emotionally cold. He seems to ask readers to observe his characters from an external position, rather than to identify and sympathize with them.
WONDER GIRL 2022 ANNUAL #1 (DC, 2022) – “Legends and Aggressions,” [W] Joelle Jones, [A] Adriana Melo & Sweeney Boo et al. I almost wrote Sweeney Todd there. In this annual, Yara Flor and her fellow Esquecida fight a mythological crocodile monster. This comic is exciting and funny, and I like its use of different art styles and its invocation of Brazilian indigenous culture. However, after reading this issue, I couldn’t remember much about it.
LOVE & ROCKETS #12 (Fantagraphics, 2022) – “More Mind Spurs” etc., [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez & Jaime Hernandez. My favorite story in this issue is Jaime’s “Wedding Wallabaloo.” At Vivian’s wedding, Ray feels uncomfortable listening to his brothers gossip about the bride, and then he and Hopey have probably their longest conversation ever. Then Ray and Maggie decide it’s finally time to get married. I kind of assumed they were married already, but this is a touching moment. Gilbert’s contribution to this issue is another story about Fritz’s movies. I’ve found it difficult to appreciate Gilbert’s recent work, ever since his focus shifted from Luba’s family to Fritz’s family.
ANTIOCH #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Patrick Kindlon, [A] Marco Ferrari. This is a sequel to Frontiersman, and it’s annoying that it wasn’t published under that title. This issue focuses on Antioch, the Frontiersman universe’s version of Namor or Aquaman, but it also has a subplot about Frontiersman’s time in prison. In his editorial column, Kindlon says that “we need a return to title character energy,” but I don’t know what that means. This column also reveals that the Gehenna story arc in Image! is set in the Frontiersman universe.
IMAGE! 30TH ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY #5 (Image, 2022) – [E] Eric Stephenson. Yet again, most of the stories in this issue are too short to be interesting, and it’s impossible to remember each series’s plot. The clear highlight of this issue is Jeff Lemire’s preview of the second volume of Royal City. Richie Pike’s ghost narrates this story and promises to explain how he died. Zoe Thorogood’s “I Think I Might Be Evil” is an apparent tribute to Junji Ito, who I really ought to read. Geoff Johns and Andrea Mutti’s “The Blizzard” is also entertaining, because its plot is simple enough to be easy to follow. Conversely, Brenden Fletcher and Erica Henderson’s story should be the best one, but I have no idea what it’s supposed to be about. The story by Joe Casey and Nathan Fox appears to be about an older, retired version of Cable. This story isn’t actually all that bad, but I’m prejudiced against it because I already hate Joe Casey’s writing.
HAWK THE SLAYER #4 (Rebellion, 2022) – “The Call of My Race,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Henry Flint. Hawk and his team fight the Black Wizards, and Hawk’s ally Gort is killed. I’m not sorry that there’s just one more issue.
RINGSIDE #13 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Nick Barber. This comic’s prose style is annoying, its art is crude, and each issue takes five minutes or less to read. I believe this is the last issue I hadn’t read, and I’m relieved. The backup feature, a preview of Steve Skroce’s Maestro, is far better than the main story, because at least Skroce’s art is visually interesting.
STAR TREK #3 (DC, 1983) – “Errand of War,” [W] Mike W. Barr, [A] Tom Sutton. The Enterprise has to go to Organa, from the TOS episode Errand of Mercy (hence the title), to stop a Federation-Klingon war. This issue at least feels like Star Trek, though Mike W. Barr is a boring writer, and Tom Sutton’s talents would have been better used on a more horror-focused comic. This issue presents the Klingons as one-dimensional villains. This depiction of Klingons was pretty standard until Worf was introduced. This issue includes a couple points that contradict later Star Trek continuity: Kirk tells Scotty to travel at warp 12, and the Klingons have an emperor, named Kahless IV. A different Klingon emperor appears in my favorite Star Trek comics story, “The Trial of James T. Kirk.” It’s now canon that there was no Klingon emperor in the TOS era, but this wasn’t established until the TNG episode “Rightful Heir.”
ECLIPSE MONTHLY #10 (Eclipse, 1984) – [E] Dean Mullaney & cat yronwode. Easily the highlight of this issue is Doug Wildey’s Rio chapter, in which Rio escapes on foot from four mounted outlaws, then turns the tables on them. This issue starts with a story by Wayne Truman in which a pilot and his daughter stop a skyjacking. Wayne Truman was mostly a letterer and designer, and this may be his only full story as a penciler. The last of this issue’s three stories is a Masked Man chapter by B.C. Boyer. Eclipse Monthly ended with this issue, and Masked Man was spun off into its own series.
2000 AD #2282 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “An Honest Man 02,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Tom Foster. Kyle Asher encounters the daughter of the man he killed, and Dredd searches the dead bodies of the people who were assassinated last issue, but Kyle has already removed a “crypto-key” from one of them. Hope: “In the Shadows Reel One Part 6,” [W] Guy Adams, [A] Jimmy Broxton. While continuing to investigate, Hope dies of an apparent heart attack. Brink: “Mercury Retrograde Part 12,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] INJ Culbard. Another chapter in which hardly anything happens. Dexter: “The Thing in the Thing Part 2,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Tazio Bettin. Billi Octavo discovers a weird monster in the locked barn. Fiends of the Eastern Front: “1963 Part 9,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Tiernen Trevallion. If I understand correctly, Constanta discovers that Rasputin is actually the Biblical Cain.
BATMAN #670 (DC, 2007) – “Lazarus Rising,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Tony Daniel. Ra’s al Ghul comes back to life, but wants to use Damian for his own purposes, and Talia has to try to protect him. Batman and I Ching go looking for Ra’s, and Batman battles Dragon Fly, Tiger Moth and Silken Spider, the three other villains from Poison Ivy’s first appearance. It’s cute that Grant Morrison reintroduced these characters. I only knew of them from reading the facsimile edition of Batman #181.
TRANSFORMERS: LOST LIGHT #4 (IDW, 2017) – “Dissolution Part 4: Bad Moon Rising,” [W] James Roberts, [A] Jack Lawrence. On Functionalist Cybertron, Rodimus and Megatron’s team succeeds in rescuing Rung. There are subplots about Cyclonus and about Anode and Lug. Since I have nothing specific to say about this issue, I’ll take this space to mention something that annoys me. The whole plot of MTMTE and Lost Light is that the Lost Light crew are searching for Cyberutopia and the Knights of Cybertron. Yet not only do they never find the Knights of Cybertron, they never make any kind of progress toward them. The Knights story arc finally did get resolved, but only after I had quit buying Lost Light.
MARVEL SUPER-HEROES #14 (Marvel, 1968) – “The Reprehensible Riddle of… the Sorcerer!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Ross Andru. Spider-Man fights a sorcerer and his pet robot. According to the GCD, this story was intended to appear in Amazing Spider-Man, because John Romita suffered a wrist injury that left him unable to draw the next issue of ASM. But Romita recovered sooner than expected and was able to draw that issue, and so the Sorcerer story appeared in Marvel Super-Heroes instead. This story is kind of a hidden gem, since it’s a forgotten story from one of Spider-Man’s greatest eras. However, because it was a fill-in story, it lacks any meaningful continuity, and the Sorcerer is a boring one-shot villain. The story does include a brief scene with MJ, Harry and Gwen, but no other significant plot or character development. The rest of the issue consists of Golden Age reprints. One of them is a ‘50s Human Torch story in which the Torch and Toro examine a strange mystery: all the people who have recently died in their city have been elderly. If it’s mostly old people and not young people who are dying, isn’t that a good thing?
MIND MGMT #6 (Dark Horse, 2012) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. In the conclusion to the first storyline, Meru decides to continue her quest to discover and defeat MIND MGMT. This issue was written so that it could be a satisfying end to the series, in case the series it didn’t get renewed, but instead it sets up the following storyline. I’ve read this issue before, but only in collected form. I was surprised to realize that the back covers of MIND MGMT #1-6 form a mosaic that includes a hidden URL. I’m not sure what the URL is, or whether it works anymore. These back covers are one of MIND MGMT’s many paratextual features that only appeared in the single issues.
ACTION COMICS #514 (DC, 1980) – “Countdown of the Killer Computer!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Curt Swan. Brainiac messes with computers all over America, and then with the devices in Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. Superman defeats Brainiac by reprogramming him to be good instead of evil. This story is rather boring, but the Air-Wave/Atom backup story is even more so.
BLACKHAWK #271 (DC, 1984) – “The Silent Treatment,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Dan Spiegle. The Blackhawks have a new member, Gaynor, who’s a chronic asshole. After he murders three unarmed German spies, the Blackhawks give him the silent treatment (hence the title), and he leaves the team and is later killed mysteriously. The story implies that Gaynor is a spy, but never confirms or denies this. In the backup story, drawn by Joe Staton, the Blackhawks defend a French town valiantly but are forced to evacuate it in the end. I want to like Evanier and Spiegle’s Blackhawk, but I’ve never enjoyed it as much as their other work. Maybe the reason why not is because it has a fairly humorous and lighthearted tone, and such a tone seems unsuitable in a comic about the worst war in history.
SHANGHAI RED #4 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Joshua Hixson. I bought this whole miniseries but never finished reading it, perhaps because of its brutal violence. This issue Molly rediscovers her sister Katie, continues taking revenge on the people who shanghaied her, and organizes a resistance effort against Portland’s police and “crimps,” i.e. criminals who kidnap people and sell them as sailors. Wikipedia says that crimping was a serious problem in America at the turn of the twentieth century, because under American law it was illegal for sailors to leave a ship before their tour of duty was over, even if they were on the ship involuntarily. These laws were finally reformed between 1895 and 1915.
THE PHANTOM STRANGER #34 (DC, 1975) – “A Death in the Family!”, [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Gerry Talaoc. After his father’s alleged death, Charlie Varda is forced to take over his father’s mob, even though Charlie hates organized crime – and on top of that, his father turns up alive. Charlie has to sacrifice his own life to end his family’s crimes, and the Phantom Stranger doesn’t do much to help him. This is a rather grim story. This issue includes a Doctor Thirteen backup story by Skeates and DeZuniga. Here, as in Azzarello and Chiang’s Doctor Thirteen, Terry Thirteen is portrayed as a boring humorless skeptic.
THOR #320 (Marvel, 1982) – “Blake’s Menagerie,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Keith Pollard. An ancient Viking chalice changes five people into creatures from ancient Norse mythology, and they cause all sorts of havoc. Not only is this a boring and badly written story, it also makes no attempt to portray Norse mythology accurately. The five creatures bear no resemblance to any actual Norse mythological characters. The issue begins with an ”Old Norse poem” that must have been written by Moench himself, because it’s complete nonsense and sounds nothing like real Norse poetry; it includes lines like “Let us enter the infinite darkness / and partake of violence divine.” I think Moench may have been the worst Thor writer ever. This issue is a stark contrast to Walt Simonson’s subsequent run. One reason for the greatness of Simonson’s Thor was that he really did try to capture the spirit and tone of the original Old Norse texts.
JLA #38 (DC, 1999) – “World War Three Part 3,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Howard Porter. Since this is part three of six, it mostly depicts the JLA fighting Mageddon’s minions and getting the worst of it. The most prominent quality of Morrison’s JLA was its grandiose epic scope, and this issue is very epic. Howard Porter wasn’t my favorite artist, but he succeeded at depicting the majesty of Grant’s storylines.
MIND MGMT #2 (Dark Horse, 2012) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. I’ve read this one before too, but not in this format. This issue, Meru and Bill flee from the Eraser, and Meru meets Perrier for the first time. Perrier leaves Meru the clue “talk to the dolphins.” The back cover includes another hidden message.
2000 AD #2283 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Kyle encounters a hotheaded young judge, then reveals himself to Zoola, the victim’s daughter. We also learn that Kyle’s stolen crypto-key includes information on the Justice Department’s anti-mob operations. Brink: as above. Another boring chapter. This is already part 13, and still nothing truly exciting has happened yet. Hope: as above. Hope finds himself in hell, and the color red is added to the series’ black-and-white palette. This series has the best art in this issue. Dexter: as above. The Puritans capture Dexter and Billi, but they’re freed by their other companions. Fiends of the Eastern Front: as above. Cain tells Constanta what he’s been doing since Biblical times, then he turns into a dragon, or rather a winged alligator, and flies off with Constanta.
TRANSFORMERS: LOST LIGHT #5 (IDW, 2017) – “Dissolution Part 5: Modes of Production,” [W] James Roberts, [A] Jack Lawrence. The fight with the Functionalist Council continues, but the only way the stranded Transformers can win is by destroying the teleporter that can take them back to Necroworld. There are only a few scenes with the characters who are still on Necroworld.
M.O.D.O.K. ASSASSIN #2 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Christopher Yost, [A] Amilcar Pinna. In a Secret Wars tie-in, MODOK falls in love with Angela, who’s trying to assassinate him. I tend to avoid MODOK stories because they try too hard to be funny. The character is ridiculous enough on his own, but some writers try to make him even more ridiculous, and this results in tasteless excess. But MODOK Assassin has the opposite problem: it’s barely funny at all, and instead it’s just boring. I shouldn’t have ordered this comic.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: RENEW YOUR VOWS #4 (Marvel, 2015) – “Daddy Has to Go Away for a While,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Adam Kubert. In a Secret Wars crossover, Spidey and MJ have an eight-year-old daughter, Annie. While Spider-Man fights a villain named Regent who can steal other superheroes’ powers, MJ tries to keep Annie safe. This effort proves futile, as Annie has the same self-sacrificing heroic streak as her dad. She puts on a costume, and she and MJ prepare to help Peter. This is a cute and entertaining issue. This miniseries counts as issues 752-756 of Amazing Spider-Man’s legacy numbering, perhaps because it was published between the end of the 2014 volume of ASM and the beginning of the 2015 volume.
BATMAN #447 (DC, 1990) – “Earth Day! Demon Night!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Jim Aparo. In Moscow, Batman fights the NKVDemon, a Communist hardliner who’s trying to assassinate the people responsible for the new glasnost policy, including Gorbachev himself. This issue isn’t all that exciting, but it’s interesting for being a contemporary portrayal of the final days of the USSR. I read this comic shortly after Gorbachev died. He was one of the only benevolent leaders Russia has ever had.
X-FACTOR #84 (Marvel, 1992) – “Tough Love,” [W] Peter David, [A] Jae Lee. In an X-Cutioner’s Agenda crossover, X-Factor fights X-Force while Professor X lies dying from an assassination attempt. The X-Cutioner’s Song was a pretty bad crossover, and this is not one of PAD’s better issues of X-Factor. The best moment in this issue is when Rahne is reunited with her old crush Rictor, and she kisses him and then bites him.
2000 AD #465 (IPC, 1986) – Halo Jones: “Breakfast in the Ruins,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Ian Gibson. Halo Jones and her new lover, General Cannibal, share a breakfast of pears in bitter vinegar sauce, which sounds horrible, but it’s the best meal of Halo’s life. This chapter’s title is the name of a Michael Moorcock novel. Strontium Dog: “Max Bubba,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny Alpha and Wulf have been tied to stakes by Max Bubba’s gang. Wulf tries to escape but is shot and killed, and then Johnny himself dies. As we will soon see, Johnny came back to life in the next issue, but Wulf stayed dead for good. In Reading Comics, Douglas Wolk summarizes this story inaccurately, implying that Johnny also stayed dead and that this was the last chapter of Strontium Dog. You can see how this mistake was made, since this chapter ends with “The End” and there’s no indication that the storyline will continue next issue. Ace Trucking Co: “The Doppelgarp,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. Ace and his team smuggle some alcoholic eggs onto a planet of chickens. Like most installments of Ace Trucking Co, this story is ruined by Ace’s annoying style of dialogue. Dredd: “Gribligs Part 2,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Barry Kitson. Mega-City One is invaded by Gribligs, which are like tribbles, but carnivorous. The spaceship captain who brings them to Earth is even named James Kirk. Dredd tries to exterminate the Gribligs, but they escape into a sewer. Future Shocks: “Suds’ Law!”, [W] Oleh Stepaniuk, [A] Kim Raymond. A starship captain tries to capture an alien so it can appear on a soap opera. The twist ending is that the captain’s quest is itself part of a soap opera. I’m not sure I summarized that correctly.
TRANSFORMERS: LOST LIGHT #6 (IDW, 2017) – “Dissolution Part 6: This Machine Kills Fascists,” [W] James Roberts, [A] Jack Lawrence. Rung turns to giant size and fights the moon. The Transformers escape the Functionist universe, but Megatron stays behind to lead the anti-Functionist resistance. Now can we get back to the main plot? James Roberts’s witty dialogue is the main reason to read this series, but a problem with his dialogue style is that all his characters have the same speech pattern, and this makes it hard to tell them apart.
REAL SCIENCE ADVENTURES #6 (IDW, 2017) – “Raid on Marauder Island Part 6,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Lo Baker. The Flying She-Devils finally defeat the pirates. This miniseries was fun, but the lack of Atomic Robo was a severe drawback. This issue also includes the last chapter of the Sparrow backup story. This story is drawn by Wook-Jin Clark, and it feels weird to see him drawing something other than Flavor. I wish there would be a second volume of Flavor.
FATALE #11 (Image, 2013) – “The Case of Alfred Ravenscroft,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Josephine tracks down Alfred Ravenscroft, a sort of blend of REH and Lovecraft. He tells Josephine about a demonic ritual in Mexico, and then shows her his mother’s ghost. At the end of the issue he hangs himself. Meanwhile, a cop is looking for Josephine, but he gives up and tries to kill himself, only to be saved by other people who are also hunting Josephine. I don’t understand how this issue fits into Fatale’s plot, but it’s interesting in its own right.
SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #19 (Marvel, 2013) – “Necessary Evil Part 3: Event Horizon,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Ryan Stegman. This is one of the more confusing issues of the series, thanks to its time travel plot. In the main plot, Spider-Man 2099 tries to prevent his own timeline from coming into being, but he fails, if I understand correctly, and gets stranded in the past. Afterward, Liz Allan founds Alchemax, the company that’s the primary antagonist in 2099. The “Al” part comes from Allan, and I would expect that the Max part is Max Modell, but I’m not sure. In the subplot, Carlie Cooper and Wraith find evidence that Spider-Man is really Dr. Octopus. Superior Spider-Man is included in the legacy numbering of Amazing Spider-Man, and it clearly should be, unlike Renew Your Vows.
LITTLE LULU #60 (Dell, 1953) – “Rich Little Poor Boy” etc., [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. These comics are tough to write about because they’re so formulaic, and because each issue has too many stories to summarize them all. In the first story, Lulu becomes obsessed with an actor named Gregory Gallant, which coincidentally is the real name of the cartoonist Seth. There are a couple stories where Lulu outwits the boys, and one where Wilbur’s mother’s pearls get mixed up with a dog’s bone. As usual there’s also an Ol’ Witch Hazel story, and in the last story, Tubby kidnaps his teacher’s parrot.
WONDER WOMAN #219 (DC, 1975) – “World of Enslaved Women!”, [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Curt Swan. A lot of prominent feminist women have vanished mysteriously. Diana discovers that they’ve all been going to the same “beauty parlor for liberated women,” which is in fact a portal to a world ruled by male chauvinists. The leader of this planet is named Mchsm, almost the same name as Makhizmo, a contemporaneous Fantastic Four villain who was also a super-male-chauvinist. And his plans are ultimately foiled by two women from his own world named Frdn and Stnm, i.e. Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem. These are not the only references to second-wave feminism in this issue; the abducted Earth women include characters based on Billie Jean King and Golda Meir. Overall, this story is kind of clumsy, but at least it makes an effort to engage with feminism.
CEREBUS #138 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1990) – “Jaka’s Story Epilogue 2,” [W/A] Dave Sim. In the second part of the like-a-looks story, the real Lord Julius is finally identified, and he’s not happy about what’s been going on in his absence. Then there’s a sequence where some kitchen staff gossip about Jaka. This may well be the last issue of Cerebus that was genuinely fun. The backup feature is a series of short vignettes by Colin Upton.
SHANGHAI RED #2 (Image, 2018) – “The Queen of the Wolves,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Joshua Hixson. I think I skipped this issue when it came out, and then bought it later as a back issue. In this issue Molly learns that her mother died in her absence. Then, while on her quest for revenge, she finds her sister Katie working in a brothel.
MIND MGMT #16 (Dark Horse, 2013) – “The Housewife,” [W/A] Matt Kindt. This issue focuses on Megan, a housewife in a ‘50s-style suburb, who is in fact a MIND MGMT sleeper agent. She gradually recovers her memory of her real identity, then contacts Meru. This issue mentions the science fiction writer Philip K. Verve (i.e. Philip K. Dick), who later appears in Kindt and Wilfredo Torres’s Bang!
TRANSFORMERS: LOST LIGHT #7 (IDW, 2017) – “After Megatron (A Dissolution Epilogue)”, [W] James Roberts, [A] Jack Lawrence. The various characters react to Megatron’s death in various ways. There are some interesting scenes here, but none of them made much of an impact on me, because I can never tell this series’ characters apart.
SHUTTER #27 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Leila Del Duca. In my opinion, this series jumped the shark after half the cast was murdered. I kept buying it until it ended, but the last issue I read was #26. It’s been so long since I read that issue that I have no idea what’s going on in #27, and the only thing I like about #27 is Leila Del Duca’s art.
MODOK ASSASSIN #3 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Christopher Yost, [A] Amilcar Pinna. Another issue of pointless, unfunny fight scenes. I’m ashamed that I ordered this comic.
DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS #16 (DC, 2016) – “War Stories,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Mirka Andolfo & Laura Braga. For a long time I thought I hated this comic, and Marguerite Bennett’s work in general, but now I think I was judging her too harshly. This comic does have some impressive worldbuilding and costume design, and it’s also well researched. My principal complaints about it are that there are too many characters and plotlines, and that, perhaps as a result of this, the plot never seems to go anywhere, and each issue feels interchangeable with the rest. In this issue, the first half focuses on Kate Kane, and includes a flashback to Jason Todd’s death in the Spanish Civil War. The second half of the issue depicts Mera’s origin and her battle with an usurper to Atlantis’s throne.
TRANSFORMERS: LOST LIGHT #8 (IDW, 2017) – “An Axe to Break the Ice,” [W] James Roberts, [A] Jack Lawrence. On the planet of Troia Major, Anode, Lug and some other Transformers discover some clues to Cyberutopia’s location. It’s good that the Lost Light crew are finally making progress on their primary mission, but why did it take them 63 issues to get this far? It’s also odd that this series is called Lost Light, yet the Lost Light itself hasn’t appeared so far. All the characters in this series have been exiled from the Lost Light and have so far been unable to get back there.
MIND MGMT #17 (Dark Horse, 2013) – “The Home Wrecker,” [W/A] Matt Kindt. All the characters converge on Megan’s suburban neighborhood as it erupts into violence. Megan joins Eraser’s team, and Meru and Bill join Harry Lyme. This issue includes an impressive four-page splash depicting the chaos in Megan’s town. According to this, the back covers of issues #13 to #17 include parts of a URL, which used to go to a page that explained how this splash page was created. However, that URL no longer works.
MODOK ASSASSIN #4 (Marvel, 2015) – as above. Another pointless waste of an issue. The only good thing about it is it’s the last issue of this miniseries that I had. Somehow they managed to drag out this nonsense for a fifth issue, but I didn’t buy that one.
BATMAN #27 (DC, 2014) – “Zero Year: Dark City,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Greg Capullo. Early in Batman’s career, the GCPD almost captures him, and he only escapes thanks to not-yet-Commissioner Gordon. In a flashback, Gordon tells Batman about his discovery that the police were operating a dogfighting ring. Then Batman discovers the Riddler’s doomsday plot. This story is heavily based on Batman: Year One, and it’s sort of redundant, since Batman: Year One already shows us that the Gotham police used to be hopelessly corrupt. But Snyder and Capullo’s storytelling is powerful anyway.
MICHAEL MOORCOCK’S MULTIVERSE #3 (DC, 1998) – “Moonbeams and Roses Part Three: Being and Nothingness,” [W] Michael Moorcock, [A] Walt Simonson. The lead story in this issue is evocative and beautifully drawn, though it’s very hard to understand. It assumes knowledge of Moorcock’s Second Aether trilogy. I have the first book in that trilogy, Blood: A Southern Fantasy, and I was going to read it soon, but I decided that my next Moorcock book should be Mother London, since I’ve owned it for many years already. The next story is The Metatemporal Detective, illustrated by Mark Reeve. It depicts the suicide of Hitler’s niece Geli Raubal. The last story is Duke Elric, with art by John Ridgway. Given my interest in Moorcock, I ought to look for the rest of this series. Someone really ought to do some scholarly work on Michael Moorcock’s influence on comics. In fact, that’s a project I’d like to do if I had more time and energy.
2000 AD #466 (IPC, 1986) – Halo Jones: “Tarantula Descending,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Ian Gibson. Halo Jones realizes that her new lover, General Cannibal, destroyed an entire planet, perhaps using the Rat King that Halo herself saved in an earlier story arc. Halo is forced to asssassinate Cannibal in revenge. Sadly this was the last chapter of Halo Jones. Alan went on to far greater things, but Halo Jones was one of the crown jewels of 2000 AD’s history, and it’s a pity that it ended inconclusively. Future Shocks: “Biological Warfare,” [W] Oleh Stepaniuk, [A] John Stokes. An advertising designer accidentally causes an alien invasion. The aliens in this story are called Vegans, but since the text in the story is in all caps, it’s hard not to misread “Vegans” as “vegans.” Ace Trucking Co: “The Doppelgarp,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. Again this story is frustrating to read because of Ace’s stupid dialogue style, though Belardinelli’s art is beautiful. Dredd: “The Big Sleep Part 1,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Cam Kennedy. In an obvious film noir parody, private detective Flip Marlowe is ambushed and shot, and has to solve his own murder before he dies. Marlowe looks a lot like Kyle Asher, but the thing over Marlowe’s nose is a mask and not part of his face. Strontium Dog: “Smiley’s World,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny Alpha is rescued and nursed back to health. Readers at the time must have been surprised that this issue included a Strontium Dog story at all, since as noted above, the previous chapter gave the impression that Johnny Alpha was dead and the series was over.
DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS #21 (DC, 2017) – “Big Cats,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Mirka Andolfo et al. In Africa, Batgirl and some other superheroines battle Cheetah and Paula von Gunther. Unlike most issues of this series, this one has only a single plotline. I can’t see any connection between this issue’s story and that of issue 16. If I didn’t know which of the two issues happened first, I wouldn’t be able to guess. And I think that proves my earlier point, that this series has a rambling plot, and that it’s hard to tell one issue from another.
WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #596 (Gladstone, 1995) – “The Terror of Duckburg,” [W/A] William Van Horn. Donald makes a New Year’s resolution to avoid getting angry. While trying to keep this resolution, he causes lots of mayhem and gets fined $100. This story is funny, though Van Horn’s duck stories are rarely anything more than funny; they don’t reach the heights of profundity of Barks and Rosa’s work. The backup feature is a chapter of “The Monarch of Medioka,” Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse version of The Prisoner of Zenda. This is an excellent comedic adventure story, and I’d love to read the rest of it.
SHUTTER #5 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Leila Del Duca. My copy of this issue is signed by both Keatinge and Del Duca. I must have gotten them to sign it at NYCC. This issue, Kate meets her little brother Chris, and then she kidnaps him from his creepy caretakers or captors. But then Kate has to explain to Chris that she’s responsible for their father’s death. I don’t know if they ever explained how Chris could be Kate’s brother if he was born several years after their father died.
SUPERMAN #107 (DC, 1995) – “Bottled Up!”, [W] Dan Jurgens, [A] Ron Frenz. In a tribute or sequel to Reign of the Supermen, Steel, Eradicator, Superboy and Supergirl battle the Cyborg Superman, while Superman tries to cure his dying alien friend Mope. I think Jurgens is just an average writer and artist overall, but he was an excellent Superman creator. I have a pretty big Superman collection, but there are massive gaps in it from the 1990s onward, and I would like to fill some of those gaps.
KAMANDI #20 (DC, 1974) – “The Electric Chair!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Kamandi and his gorilla companion Ugash are trapped in a simulated version of gangster-era Chicago. Kamandi is hoping to find some other humans there, but he is saddened to discover that “Chicago” is an amusement park operated by computers, and all the people there are robots. I just visited Chicago, not for the first time, but I wish I could spend even more time there. It seems like every time I go there, I only see the same small part of it.
DAREDEVIL #151 (Marvel, 1977) – “Crisis!”, [W] Jim Shooter & Roger McKenzie, [W/A] Gil Kane. Upon learning that her father has committed suicide, Heather Glenn screams at Matt, then vanishes without a trace. Matt is so depressed that he fails to notice a child being hit by a hijacked bus. Luckily Matt saves the bus passengers, and the child lives. Heather Glenn was one of the worst supporting characters in Marvel’s history, but at least her behavior in this issue is realistic. Gil Kane’s action sequences and his depiction of Matt’s emotions are both excellent, though Klaus Janson’s inks are not a good stylistic match for Kane’s pencils.
SKYWARD #11 (Image, 2019) – “Fix the World Part 1,” [W] Joe Henderson, [A] Lee Garbett. Willa flies through Kansas City trying to decipher a map her father left her, which supposedly points to a way to fix gravity. When she reaches the indicated spot, she finds that Roger Barrow has been following her, but he can’t stop her from pushing a red button. The button opens a door to an underground city, where Willa meets her long-lost mother. I already read the issue after this one.
Next Heroes trip:
MANIFEST DESTINY #47 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. York kills Jensen to prevent him from stealing the baby, but Sacagawea insists on performing the sacrifice anyway. Magdalene is shot in a scuffle and dies, saying “This place will always be of monsters.” I thought this was the last issue, but there’s one more.
NIGHTWING #96 (DC, 2022) – “The Battle for Blüdhaven’s Heart Finale,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo. Dick beats up Blockbuster – including whacking him with a copy of Moby Dick – and his own minions refuse to help him, since Babs has told them that he owns the private prison where they were locked up. In an Easter egg, Dick’s creators Marv Wolfman and George Perez are in the crowd watching this happen. Dick sort-of proposes to Babs. The trouble is that Blockbuster still knows Dick’s secret identity, but Heartless takes care of that problem by murdering Blockbuster. This is a very unsurprising twist – it was obvious that Blockbuster had to die – but that’s a minor objection when this series is so good overall.
DO A POWERBOMB #4 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Daniel Warren Johnson. Lona and Cobrasun win their semifinal match against a team from a medieval fantasy world. One of the two members of Puropack reveals himself as Lona’s Uncle Blood, but then he gets his neck broken in his semifinal match against FYSO. Despite this, FYSO are allowed to proceed to the final rather than being disqualified. Do a Powerbomb is one of the best miniseries of the year, though it has a lot of competition for that title (Twig, Eight Billion Genies, Step by Bloody Step, New Masters, etc.).
DARK SPACES: WILDFIRE #3 (IDW, 2022) – “Flashover”, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Hayden Sherman. “Ma” reveals the story of her young daughter’s tragic death. The house catches on fire, but luckily the protagonists know how to put out fires. However, they realize that the fire was set on purpose, and then some masked gunmen invade the house and shoot Ma. This is another candidate for the year’s best miniseries, and I think it’s my favorite work by Scott Snyder.
RADIANT BLACK #18 (Image, 2022) – “Yellow,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Laurence Holmes, [A] Stefano Simeone. This issue has four simultaneous narrrative srtands, each occupying a separate horizontal tier of each page, and each depicting a different point in the life of Wendell, aka Radiant Yellow. The four strands are set eighteen years apart, on the day of his daughter’s birth and on her 18th, 36th and 54th birthdays. Together, the stories depict the gradual collapse of Wendell’s family and career. Wendell is hired as a manager at a plant, but due to institutional racism he ends up with a lesser position. He devotes his life and energy to his job, at the expense of his relationship with his wife and daughter, and gets nothing in return. By the time of the third story he’s working at Best Buy. The fourth story is even grimmer: it takes place in 2038, in a post-apocalyptic world, where Wendell and (possibly) his granddaughter are trying to reverse whatever happened to the world. It’s not clear whether he succeeds. This issue is perhaps the closest thing I’ve seen to Alan Moore and Rick Veitch’s classic “How Things Work Out.” Of course “Yellow” is not as brilliantly crafted as that story, but that’s an impossible standard to meet.
JONNA AND THE UNPOSSIBLE MONSTERS #11 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Chris Samnee, [W] Laura Samnee. Jonna discovers that she’s the biological child of a world-conquering alien monster – a creature that greatly resembles Starro. So now Jonna and Rainbow have to save their dad from this creature. I think there’s just one issue left.
SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #15 (DC, 2022) – “Siege of Gamorra,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Cian Tormey. Jon wins a stunning victory against Bendix, then he and Jay kiss in front of the international news media. Luthor blows up Bendix’s satellite. This is an entertaining and uplifting story. This series is ending with #18, but I’m not sure whether this is an actual sales-based cancellation or a planned ending. Jon’s tenure as Superman was obviously not going to last long.
USAGI YOJIMBO #31 (IDW, 2022) – “The Secret of the Green Dragon Part 3,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi, Yukichi and Chizu flee the Komori ninja, but are finally caught. To save some innocent bystanders (the two woodcutters), Usagi destroys the document, which Chizu has revealed to be a forgery. Chizu kisses Yukichi, prompting an adorable embarrassed reaction from him, and then leaves. In the epilogue, Chizu gets back the real document, which she had already given to someone else. Then we see Jei and Keiko again. This was an excellent story arc.
BONE ORCHARD: TEN THOUSAND BLACK FEATHERS #1 (Image, 2022) – “They Meet,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. In a flashback, two preteen girls named Trish and Jackie become best friends. In the present, Jackie has apparently died or something. Trish returns to Jackie’s home in Hamilton, Ontario, where she has some terrifying visions. Andrea Sorrentino may be Lemire’s best artistic collaborator. In this issue he shows his stylistic versatility. The flashback sequences are drawn with crisp linework and bright colors, while the present-day scenes are drawn in the style of Gideon Falls. These latter scenes have dull coloring, a lack of distinct lines, and nonstandard page layouts.
EDGE OF SPIDER-VERSE #4 (Marvel, 2022) – [E] Nick Lowe & Devin Lewis. I didn’t order this, but I bought it off the shelf. This was mostly because of David Hein and Luciano Vecchio’s “Once Upon a Spider: The Spinstress Princess,” starring a Disney princess version of Spider-Man. This story is just as ridiculous and funny as you’d expect. Much of the dialogue consists of songs, and while the song lyrics don’t always scan properly, it’s still cute to see Marvel characters randomly breaking into song. The story is also full of Disney easter eggs; for instance, the Disney princess character’s mom is the evil queen from Snow White. The best of the other stories in the issue is Dan Slott and Ty Templeton’s “Drive You Crazy,” which is set in a world of talking cars, with the Spider-Mobile as the local version of Spider-Man. There’s also a Spider-Ham story by Jordan Blum and Michael Shelfer, and a Sun-Spider story by Tee Franklin and Jethro Morales.
PUBLIC DOMAIN #4 (Image, 2022) – “Past Mistakes,” [W/A] Chip Zdarsky. The gangsters harass Miles again, but Dave scares them away with a tattoo gun. Everyone at Singular is happy with Syd’s settlement except Jerry Jasper, who’s afraid that Syd will produce better Domain comics than Singular can. Jasper also fires Tanya, who discovered the existence of Syd’s contract, and she arrives at Syd’s door looking for work. In a touching scene, we see that Syd wants to produce Domain comics again because he’s ashamed of what Singular has done to his character. Jerry Jasper is based on Stan Lee, but Jasper is a bitter, angry old asshole, with none of Stan’s whimsy or charm.
VANISH #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Ryan Stegman. Our protagonist, Oliver Harrison (note the last name), is a grown-up version of Harry Potter. As a kid, he won a war between wizard factions by shooting the head evil wizard, Baron Vanish (i.e. Voldemort), with a gun. But the other evil wizards escaped to the mundane world and disguised themselves as superheroes, and Oliver is forced to become a supervillain in order to fight them. Vanish is a clever blend of the superhero genre with the magical-school genre, and it also reminds me of Birthright, because it’s about what happens when a boy who was the “Chosen One” grows up to be an adult.
CRASHING #1 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matthew Klein, [A] Morgan Beem. Rose is an ER doctor in a hospital for superheroes – which is not a new idea; I think the first version of it that I can remember was in John Varley’s Superheroes prose anthology. Rose is very good at her job, but she’s also a recovering drug addict, and when the pressure of her job becomes too much, she relapses. Then we learn that thanks to her earlier drug addiction, she’s in debt to the underworld and is forced to work as a doctor for supervillains. Crashing is somewhat reminiscent of Shadow Doctor or The Ward, but it’s more focused on the incredible pressure of being a doctor. So far this is among the best of IDW’s recent creator-owned titles.
LOVE EVERLASTING #2 (Image, 2022) – “The Hunt for Love!”, [W] Tom King, [A] Elsa Charretier. This issue is set in Regency or Victorian England. In her latest incarnation, Joan is a housemaid who develops a hopeless love for the son of her wealthy employer. In the end, Joan is shot dead by a cowboy from one of last issue’s stories. This series is funny, but I still have no idea where it’s going, and I’m afraid it’s heading for some sort of disappointing anticlimax, like so many of Tom King’s earlier works.
DAREDEVIL #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Red Fist Saga Part 3,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Rafael De Latorre. Matt recruits Cole North, who was introduced in the previous volume, into his new Fist clan, but fails to recruit Luke Cage. Then Luke is attacked by the Stromwyns, while Matt fights Aka, a Hand ninja who looks like a child. This issue has a number of plot threads and it’s hard to see how they fit together.
CAPTAIN MARVEL #41 (Marvel, 2022) – “Trials Part Four,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Juan Frigeri & Alvaro Lopez. Back in New York, Carol and her friends fight a dragon, only to discover that it’s Lieutenant Trouble, shapeshifted into dragon form by the Enchantress. By not killing the dragon, Carol wins her trial by the magical jury. I liked this storyline a lot. I believe Alvaro Lopez did the pages depicting the alien planet and the trial, and he was by far the better of the two artists on these issues, but the contrast between Frigeri and Lopez’s styles was also effective. This issue has no funny Snat or Snatmen scenes, but there are some cute drawings of Agatha Harkness’s cat.
BATGIRLS #10 (DC, 2022) – “Bat Girl Summer Part 2,” [W] Michael Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Neil Googe. I was right that I was a book cipher, and I was right about which book! I’m proud of myself. Also in this issue, Cass and Steph fight Killer Moth, Kyle Mizoguchi from Gotham Academy makes a cameo appearance, and Babs has a romantic interlude with Dick. I still am a dedicated Dick/Kory shipper, but Dick and Babs’s relationship, in this series and in Nightwing, has very cute.
ORCS: THE CURSE #3 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Christine Larsen. An elf named Daniel leaves his isolationist people to go looking for the evil fart. He runs into Pez, and they team up. Then there’s a Drod story, and we start to realize that the events of the Drod story parallel those of the main story, and that the old witch Zamma used to be Drod’s companion. It’s surprising how the Drod stories, which seemed to just be comic relief, suddenly become relevant. At the end of the issue, Daniel and Pez battle a Rapunzel-like imprisoned maiden who turns into a horrible monster, and they have to teleport back to Daniel’s forest for healing.
2000 AD #2284 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “An Honest Man 04,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Tom Foster. Judge Purcell and Dredd both look for Asher, who’s about to trade the crypto-key to the mob. Dredd arrests a man who’s trying to get mugged on purpose. Future Shocks: “Beat Ya Bully,” [W] John Tomlinson, [A] Steven Austin. A man named Manny Litvak makes a clone of his former school bully, Gaz, so he can kill the clone. Thanks to some mix-ups, Litvak kills the real Gaz and is sent to prison, the one place that’s even worse than school. Hope: “In the Shadows Reel One Part 8,” [W] Guy Adams, [A] Jimmy Broxton. Hope comes back to life, and then one of his suspects tries to kill him again. This chapter is mostly black and white, with some red on the last page. Brink: “Mercury Retrograde Part 14,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] I.N.J. Culbard. Nolan spends four pages talking to his wife, even though he’s not really there. I was surprised to find some good reviews of this story online. Maybe it’s better if you read the whole thing in sequence, but to me, it’s an interminable, boring waste of space. Fiends of the Eastern Front: “1963 Part 11,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Tiernen Trevallion. Constanta fights Cain. “1963” has drifted quite far from its roots in espionage genre.
ICE CREAM MAN #32 (Image, 2022) – “Stop Using and Start Living!”, [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martin Morazzo. A man named Doug Metsker spends a month in a drug rehab facility, where he’s pursued by a demon and a shadowy version of himself. This story includes many touches that are characteristic of Prince’s short stories. It stars an ordinary family man who’s made a complete mess of his own life; it’s full of disturbing horror elements that are never explained; and it ends on a provisionally positive note, with Doug graduating from rehab but hoping not to go back there.
2000 AD #2285 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Asher, the mob and Purcell get into a firefight, and Purcell gets himself shot. Terror Tales: “Wunza,” [W] John Tomlinson, [A] E. Coveney & A. Vitti. The title is short for “one’s a,” and refers to a genre of cop shows with mismatched protagonists: for instance, “One’s a cynical career cop… one’s a street-smart detective.” Our protagonist, Blintz Finnegan, is an award-winning showrunner who works in this genre. Blintz’s former partner Pell, who Blintz framed for murder, escapes from prison and kills both himself and Blintz. This story includes a lot of funny premises for cop shows, and it’s 2000 AD’s best one-shot story in recent memory. Hope: as above. Hope goes to a prison and collects a Glory Hand, i.e. the severed hand of a hanged man. Again this story is black and white with some red highlights. Brink: as above. Nolan spends the entire story talking to a source who tells him about some kind of conspiracy. At this point I don’t even understand what the McGuffin of this story is. Fiends of the Eastern Front: as above. In the concluding chapter, Constanta is debriefed by his boss about his fight with Cain.
ACTION JOURNALISM #1 (Oni, 2022) – “Welcome to New Arcadia!”, [W] Eric Skillman, [A] Miklos Felvideki. Kate Kelly, an “action journalist,” saves Earth from an alien invasion by interviewing the aliens’ kidnapped queen. This is a really fun comic. It’s like Superman if Lois Lane was the main protagonist. There is a Superman character, but he only makes a brief cameo appearance and is not the center of the story, as he usually is in Lois Lane’s solo stories. I also like this comic’s art style and even its handwritten lettering. The trouble is, it’s hard to get excited about new Oni comics when the company seems to be on the verge of collapse.
DAMAGE CONTROL #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Into the Mailstrom,” [W] Adam Goldberg & Hans Rodionoff, [A] Will Robson. A new intern, Gus, gets hired at Damage Control and instantly causes a horrible catastrophe. I was looking forward to this series, but this debut issue was disappointing. The jokes in it are unfunny, and Gus is an annoying and unsympathetic protagonist. Also, it’s hard to accept that Damage Control can summon Nightcrawler and Quicksilver at the drop of a hat. I won’t be buying issue 2.
LEGION OF X #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “A Canticle for Liebenden,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Jan Bazaldua. The title is a reference to the classic SF novel A Canticle for Liebowitz. This issue Kurt and his allies defeat Ora Serrata and the god Tumult, but then Uranos appears, setting up next issue’s A.X.E. crossover. This first story arc was disappointing because of its complicated plot and its lack of a clear theme.
LONESOME HUNTERS #4 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Tyler Crook. Lupe and Howard manage to escape from the magpies with the sword, but now they have to decide what to do with the sword. Howard decides to return the sword to its “proper owner,” which is a problem because his friend, Tina, is secretly an agent of the church that stole that sword from its owner in the first place. This ending suggests the possibility of a sequel, and I hope there is one, because Lonesome Hunters is a very fun series.
THE DEADLIEST BOUQUET #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Erica Schultz, [A] Carla Borelli. In a flashback, it’s implied that Jasmine killed her husband because he was sexually abusing their daughters. The daughters investigate their mother’s murder, while themselves being investigated by the police, and we see more evidence of their conflicting personalities. In particular, Violet gets in a bar fight and spends the night in jail.
SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER 2 #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jody Leheup, [A] Nil Vendrell. After several disastrous attempts at getting a job, Shirtless travels to Hokkaido to learn from Mr. Beeyagi, his former mentor. Mr. Beeyagi tells him to climb Mount Ainu to learn an unpleasant truth about himself. In a subplot, Jaxson Logger, the villain from the last story arc, creates an evil version of Shirtless. This issue invokes some tired old martial arts cliches, but in a funny way.
BRZRKR #10 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Keanu Reeves & Matt Kindt, [A] Ron Garney. Unute travels to the location of his birthplace, and some weird magical stuff happens. This series is just average, and I’m only continuing to read it because I’ve already gotten this far.
WONDER WOMAN #791 (DC, 2022) – “Feral Part One,” [W] Michael W. Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Marguerite Sauvage. An entire issue drawn by Marguerite Sauvage is a rare treat, although this issue isn’t her most exciting work. In “Feral,” Diana travels to the Brazilian Amazon to investigate some disturbing visions experienced by Anahi of the Esquecida. In Brazil, Diana finds some suspicious people who are harvesting toxic flowers, and then she discovers that they’re Veronica Cale’s agents and they’ve kidnapped the Cheetah. This is perhaps the first time a writer besides Greg Rucka has used the character of Veronica Cale. In the backup story, Antiope summons some kind of magical creature.
ACTION COMICS #1 FACSIMILE (DC, 1938/2022) – “The Coming of Superman,” [W] Jerry Siegel, [A] Joe Shuster, etc. This is the single most important comic book ever published, but I’ve never read the whole thing. Superman’s debut story is famous for the “you’re not fighting a woman” panel, but what impressed me about it is Lois Lane. On the second page on which she appears, she slaps a man who’s trying to force her to dance with him. Lois was a revolutionary feminist character from the very start, and DC spent much of the next fifty years trying to domesticate her. The other stories in the issue are very diverse in style and subject matter, and some of them are in black and white. Most of the non-Superman stories are unexciting, though some of them have appealing art by Fred Guardineer and Bernard Baily. At least none of them are blatantly racist. The first Zatara story includes a glaring error where a banana is described as a bullet.
MS. MARVEL & VENOM #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] Dave Wachter. Kamala and Venom team up and fight some boring villain. These three one-shots were extremely disappointing because they’re barely about Kamala at all. They include no appearances by Kamala’s supporting cast, and no references to her religion or ethnicity. The only fact about her character that’s relevant in any of them is that she’s teamed up with Wolverine before. These same exact stories could have been told with any other superhero replacing Kamala, and that’s a sign of a bad superhero story, because it means that the story is not making any use of Kamala’s unique aspects. I liked Jody Houser’s Faith, but all her other work has been disappointing.
QUESTS ASIDE #5 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Brian Schirmer, [A] Elena Gogou. All of Quests Aside’s former customers team up to save the inn from the king’s army. I suppose this series wasn’t completely awful, but I would have liked it a lot more if I’d been more familiar with Dungeons & Dragons-style fantasy. Also, at the point in the issue where the former patrons all show up, I had trouble following the panel-to-panel continuity.
SACRAMENT #2 (AWA, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Marcelo Frusin. Father Vass has no success with the exorcism, so he has to obtain his novice, Rais, as his assistant, even though he has an illicit passion for her. At first I liked Sacrament better than Absolution, but now I’ve flipped my relative rankings of the two series. Sacrament is not bad, but it has a less original plot; it’s more or less a space-opera version of The Exorcist.
TRVE KVLT #2 (IDW, 2022) – “Never a Devil Worshipper Around When You Need One,” [W] Scott Bryan Wilson, [A] Liana Kangas. The cultists kidnap Marty and Alison and order them to kill a man named Doctor Shiver. I’ve never understood the appeal of Liana Kangas’s art, and this issue includes a number of pages with no art at all, just black panels with dialogue. Also, Marty and Alison are both rather annoying characters, and it’s hard to see how this series’ two main themes, fast food and Satanism, are supposed to fit together.
JURASSIC LEAGUE #5 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Daniel Warren Johnson, [W/A] Juan Gedeon. Mostly a lot of fight scenes. This series’ premise – DC superheroes as dinosaurs – is really only funny once, and is not enough to sustain a full six-issue miniseries. All the other issues of this miniseries have felt like rehashes of issue one. Jurassic League would have been more effective as a one-shot or an annual.
SILVER COIN #14 (Image, 2022) – “The Bad Year,” [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Michael Walsh. In December 2020, a man named Darren murders a number of people while under the influence of the coin. This sequence is intercut with flashbacks, told in reverse order, that tell the story of Darren’s relationship with his girlfriend Lauren over the course of 2020. At this point we’re far enough away from 2020 that it’s become possible to tell stories about it, and in this issue, Pichetshote and Walsh succeed in capturing the mood of anxiety and despair that dominated that awful year.
X-MEN RED #6 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Hour of Magneto,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Stefano Caselli. Magneto has had his heart ripped out, but he manages to keep himself alive so he can defeat Uranos’s minions. This issue is a cross-over tie-in, and is thus destined to be forgotten, but it does include some powerful moments.
ELLE(S) #2 (Ablaze, 2022) – untitled, [W] Kid Toussaint, [A] Aveline Stokart. Elle has a meltdown in school, then she tells her friend Maelys about her various personalities. This is an interesting comic, but as I write this, I haven’t felt motivated to read issue 3 yet. I plan to get to it tomorrow.
DUO #5 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Khoi Pham. Kelly and David fight the immortals, and then at the end of the issue, some red aliens show up out of nowhere. This series has an interesting premise, but Greg Pak has squandered the potential of that premise by adding other irrelevant plot elements like immortals and aliens. I wish this series had just been about Kelly and David’s struggles to occupy the same body.
2000 AD #2286 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Asher escapes with the money he’d have been paid for the crypto-key, but the people who would have done his surgery (I assume to fix his disfigured face) aren’t willing to take his call. Instead, he reveals himself to Zoola and gives her the money, then waits to see if Dredd arrests him. Asher is a fascinating character and I hope we see him again soon. Hope: as above. Hope goes to a party, where he finds some mysterious, flammable film reels. Skip Tracer: “Valhalla,” [W] James Peaty, [A] Paul Marshall. I enjoyed the last Skip Tracer story, and I’m glad it’s back. Some years after the previous story arc, Eden is now a preteen. She’s having trouble controlling her telekinetic abilities, and she and her dad have to keep moving around to avoid pursuit. Terror Tales: “Last Days in Porpoise Place,” [W] John Tomlinson, [A] Stuart Moore. A writer, Luke Skelly, moves into the mysterious Porpoise Place – possibly based on the Chelsea Hotel – in order to write about it. On entering the hotel Skelly sees a dead body being carried out. Then he gets trapped in a a time loop, and finally learns that the dead body was his own. This is another effective one-shot story. Brink: as above. The police arrest Nolan but are unable to get anything out of him. Afterward, Nolan learns that something horrible has happened, but we don’t learn what yet.
NEW MUTANTS #30 (Marvel, 2022) – “Still Classic,” [W] Vita Ayala et al, [A] Alex Lins et al. In honor of the 40th anniversary of the New Mutants graphic novel, this issue consists of four stories set in different eras of the series, each by a different creative team. The best story is probably the first one, which is a cute tribute to the early part of Claremont’s run. The trouble is, the conflict in the story is that Bobby breaks Dani’s belt, then he steals it from her room at night so he can repair it and give it back to her. That’s a creepy thing to do, and if Bobby had just told Dani he was going to pay to repair the belt, then there would have been no story. The Karma story is mostly about her queer identity. This is not a new development; she was established to be gay in the 2003 New Mutants series. The Warlock/Wolfsbane story is frustrating because all of Warlock’s dialogue is in emojis. This makes the story impossible to read, and it’s also out of character. I don’t know why the writer couldn’t have just used Warlock’s established speech pattern. The last story in the issue is about Deadpool, so I had no interest in it at all.
FLAVOR GIRLS #3 (Boom!, 2022) – “First Born,” [W/A] Loïc Locatelli-Kournwsky. We start with a silent story that explains the origin of the dragonfruit girl, and then the heroines fight their last battle with the villains, at least for now. This was an enjoyable magical girl story. The main problem with this series was that all the issues were unusually long, which made them daunting to read.
BATMAN: ONE BAD DAY – TWO-FACE #1 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Javier Fernandez. Two-Face takes out his lifelong frustrations with his father by mutilating half his father’s face, and then killing him. Batman is unable to stop him. This story doesn’t tell us much about Two-Face that we didn’t already know. In particular, it seems quite heavily based on Batman Annual #14, which introduced Two-Face’s dad, although I haven’t read that issue in years and don’t remember it well. At least One Bad Day – Two-Face is an enjoyable Batman story, and it’s certainly much better than One Bad Day – The Riddler.
BATMAN: THE KNIGHT #9 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Carmine Di Giandomenico. Bruce and Anton train with Ra’s al Ghul, and in the end, Ra’s forces them to fight to see which of them will be his heir. This series is still my least favorite of Zdarsky’s current comics, though it’s worth reading. There’s a scene in this issue where Bruce and Ra’s engage in a swordfight with no shirts on. This is an obvious reference to their epic battle in Batman #244.
JUSTICE WARRIORS #4 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Rising Signs!”, [W] Matt Bors, [A] Ben Clarkson. The city is plagued by Zodiac-themed terrorists. Again, this comic is plagued by unfunny humor, poor pacing, and a lack of clarity as to what it’s making fun of. I would give up on this series, but there are only two issues left, and I’m an Ahoy completist. I kind of think the quality of Ahoy’s output has gone down lately.
FEARLESS DAWN #1 (Asylum, 2009/2022) – “The Belly of the Beast,” [W/A] Steve Mannion. A scantily clad superhero fights some Nazi monsters. This comic’s plot is mostly an excuse to show some T&A. What makes Fearless Dawn worthwhile is that Steve Mannion’s draftsmanship and visual storytelling are brilliant. He’s one of the few current cartoonists whose work is comparable to that of Dave Stevens or Mark Schultz, although his style of rendering is closer to that of Kevin Nowlan or Eric Powell. He’s equally good at drawing sexy women, horrible monsters, and complicated machinery. I also like how the superhero, Old Number Seven, is sometimes drawn in a simpler style than the other characters, as if he were drawn by C.C. Beck or Scott McCloud. When the art is this good, I don’t care about the plot. I’d like to read more Fearless Dawn, but it’s a hard comic to find.
ABSOLUTION #3 (AWA, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Mike Deodato Jr. Nina’s score goes down when she’s forced to kill a dog. She decides to redeem herself by killing Blake Gerard, the evil rapist oligarch. He gets the drop on her, but she escapes with the help of her doctor, Ann, and kills him. This is a cathartic moment because he’s an utterly loathsome person, and it’s suggested that his death brings closure to his many victims. As stated above, I like this series better than Sacrament now.
2000 AD #2287 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “Grinder,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Dick Dyer. An incorporeal alien entity travels to Earth, hoping to acquire a bodily form with which to devour and dominate Earth’s inhabitants. The first thing he possesses is a garbage can, and this leads to the hilarious spectacle of Dredd fighting a giant animate trash can. Dredd wins that fight, but the alien escapes and moves on to a new “body” – a port-a-potty. This story is very clever and funny. Hope: as above. Hope discovers that the burning film is meant to exert magical influence on his viewers, and he uses the Hand of Glory to escape a trap. Skip Tracer: as above. Nolan and Eden are hunted down by a woman with pointed ears and a girl with anime eyes. Terror Tales: “Music of the Spheres,” [W] Kek-W, [A] Warren Pleece. A musician discovers a type of music that causes Lovecraftian effects. This wasn’t nearly as good as the last two Terror Tales. Brink: as above. The shocking event that wasn’t revealed last issue is that Mercury has gone completely incommunicado. This overshadows Nolan’s discovery that a cult has ben murdering people, or something like that.
I was only able to read a few old comics this week:
TRANSFORMERS: LOST LIGHT #10 (IDW, 2017) – “The Mutineers Trilogy Part 1,” [W] James Roberts, [A] Jack Lawrence. First Aid and his team finally make it back to the Lost Light, only to find that Getaway is ruling the ship with a (literal and figurative) iron fist, and that he’s trapped Thunderclash in a repeating loop of memories. First Aid and the others manage to escape, only to be dragged back to the ship, and we realize they’re in a time loop too. A neat trick in this issue is that the first four pages are repeated as the last four pages, only the second time we read these pages, we understand them differently because we’ve seen them before. And ironically, both versions of the scene end with the line “We’ll return to this conversation later.” This was the last issue of Lost Light that I ordered. By the next month, I must have decided it was stupid to keep buying it when I was already more than a year behind on reading it.
DETECTIVE COMICS #650 (DC, 1992) – “The Dragon,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Graham Nolan. This issue starts with a beautiful Frazetta-esque splash page showing a knight about to fight a dragon. This is part of a dream Harold is having, and when he wakes up, he explores the caverns beyond the Batcave. Meanwhile, Robin tries to prevent Roy Raymond from opening a boobytrapped vault. The two stories coincide when Harold finds himself in the area on the other side of the vault. Batman doesn’t appear in this issue at all. Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan are both talented creators who have totally surrendered to right-wing fascism.
BATTLE STORIES #16 (IW, 1963) – “Furlough, Here We Come”, [W] unknown, [A] Iger Studio, etc. Most of this issue is reprinted from Men in Action #3, published by Farrell in 1957. In the lead story, a GI is on furlough in Korea when he falls for a native woman who proves to be a Communist spy. This story is pretty dumb, although at least it’s not as racist as the Cosmo story from Detective Comics #27. The best story in the issue is “Old Ironsides,” about the USS Constitution. The GCD entry for Battle Stories #16 attributes the artwork to Matt Baker, but the entry for Fantastic Adventures #17, which contains the same story, attributes it to Robert Webb. Whoever drew it, it’s far better drawn than anything else in the issue. In general, these old IW comics are not great, but they’re far easier to find than the ‘50s comics they reprinted.
G.I. JOE #235 (IDW, 2016) – “Snake in the Grass Part 6,” [W] Larry Hama, [A] S.L. Gallant. This story has multiple different plotlines. The most interesting one is about a woman who’s fighting terorists in a country that’s clearly based on Afghanistan. There’s also an interesting conversation between Spirit and Roadblock about the former character’s Native American heritage.
2000 AD #2288 (Rebellion, 2022) – Another Regened issue. Cadet Dredd: “Zootrapolis,” [W] Liam Johnson, [A] Joel Carpenter. A zookeeper is turning people into alien monsters. He gets his comeuppance by being turned into a monster himself. This could have been a regular Dredd story. Lowborn High: “Good Sport,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Anna Morozova. Lowborn High plays against Wychdusk High in quiddish, oops, I mean “orbitus.” Frost is on the Lowborn team, but his family orders him to throw the game. I’m glad this series got a second installment. It’s an awesome idea, and Anna Morozova’s art is very appealing. She draws in a sort of shojo manga style, with lots of curvy lines. Future Shocks: “Into the Void,” [W] Karl Stock, [A] Tom Newell. A “thought courier” has to send a telepathic message that’s too sensitive to write down. This is an unimpressive story, and again, it could have appeared in a regular 2000 AD issue. Scooter & Jinx: “The Big Grand Souffle of Nothing,” [W] James Peaty, [A] Steve Roberts. Scooter and Jinx have to find a missing actor. This story is full of Godard references. The actor’s name is (Jean-Paul) Belmondo, he’s working on a film whose name includes “Souffle” (A Bout de Souffle, i.e. Breathless), he’s hiding in the Alphaville colony, and the client is named Banderpart (Bande à Part, i.e. Band of Outsiders). Pandora Perfect: “Feed the Bird,” [W] Roger Langridge, [A] Brett Parson. Pandora and Gort have to steal some pills that cause chickens to grow gigantic. This story has lots of hilarious moments, though I thought it was less enjoyable than some of Langridge’s other works.
2000 AD SCI-FI SPECIAL 2022 (Rebellion, 2022) – The gimmick with this issue is that all the stories are based on songs, like the story that introduced Nemesis. Dredd: “Ascension”, [W] Mike Carroll, [A] Stewart K. Moore (based on Alphaville’s “Ascension Day”). Just a bunch of action sequences. Sinister & Dexter: “Killer Serial,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Antonio Fuso (Beatles, “Happiness is a Warm Gun”). This story traces the history of a specific gun and the people it’s killed. Fiends of West Berlin: untitled, [W] Karl Stock, [A] Warren Pleece (Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, “From Her to Eternity” [sic]). Captain Constanta enslaves some natives of West Berlin, then orders them to stock up on blood until he comes back. Then he never comes back, so his servants have to keep collecting blood indefinitely. Constanta is the villain in this story, unlike in “1963.” After this feature there are some interviews with various rock stars about 2000 AD’s influence on them. Anderson: “Half of a Heaven,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Emma Vieceli (Kate Bush, “Suspended in Gaffa”). An insane asylum inmate, based on Bush herself, is “psychically attacking” Judges. Anderson tries to save her, but she dies. Middenface McNulty: “Opening Night at the Omegabowl,” [W] David Baillie, [A] V.V. Glass (Neil Young, “Rockin’ in the Free World”). Yay, VV Glass again. Midenface McNulty has to protect a rock star from being assassinated by fascists. Judge Death: “Common Enemy,” [W] Kek-W, [A] Steven Austin (Stealers Wheel, “Stuck in the Middle with You”). In a rather literal interpretation of the song that inspired this story, Dredd and Death get stuck between feuding factions of clowns and Jokers.
RINGSIDE #15 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Nick Barber. In what I sure hope is the last issue of this awful series, one of the protagonists visits the other protagonist’s grave. Ringside, along with Black Cloud, was one of the worst Image comics in recent memory. Its premise was potentially interesting, though not to me. However, it was ruined by some of the laziest, most low-effort art I’ve ever seen.
TRANSFORMERS: LOST LIGHT #9 (IDW, 2017) – “Chasing the Infinite,” [W] James Roberts, [A] Priscilla Tramontano. I read this issue out of order. Anode and Lug continue their adventure on Troia Major, but I don’t understand what they’re doing and why. An old villain, Scorponok, appears on the last page, but I didn’t recognize him until I checked the TF Wiki entry for this issue. The biggest problem with this series, besides its lack of plot progression, is that it assumes the reader already knows everything about Transformers continuity.
WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #606 (Gladstone, 1996) – “Winging It!”, [W/A] William Van Horn. Donald works as a trail guide, but the person he thinks is his client is really an escaped criminal. What happened to the actual client is never explained. Then there’s a long excerpt from Gottfredson’s “Mickey Mouse Outwits the Phantom Blot.” It seems like this story is considered Gottfredson’s masterpiece, and the segment presented here is exciting, but it ends before its central mystery is resolved. WDCAS #605-607 were the only time this story was published in comic book format and without alterations. I have #605 as well, and I should also look for #607, so I can read the whole story at once. Next is a Barks ten-pager where Donald tries to prevent his nephews from playing truant. There’s one other Barks story in the issue, which I already read in Four Color #1047. Besides that, the issue includes two Don Rosa stories, “Fit to Be Pied” and “The Universal Solvent” part 3, but I’ve already read both of them.
ANGELA, QUEEN OF HEL #1 (Marvel, 2015) – “The Queen of Hel Part 1,” [W] Marguertie Bennett, [A] Kim Jacinto w/ Stephanie Hans. Angela rescues her old girlfriend Sera from prison, but Sera is not happy to see her. Stephanie Hans’s flashback sequence has much better art than the main sequence. I don’t remember anything about this issue’s story.
SAVAGE DRAGON #45 (Image, 1998) – untitled, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Dragon, Jennifer and an unconscious Debbie find themselves on Godworld. Larsen’s versions of Heracles and Thor fight each other, causing Debbie’s death as collateral damage, and Heracles wins and claims Jennifer as his prize. There are also a bunch of subplots back on Earth. It was around this point that Savage Dragon’s continuity started to become incomprehensible, with so many alternate worlds and alternate versions of characters that it was impossible to tell them all apart.
MARVEL TEAM-UP #93 (Marvel, 1980) – “Rags to Riches!”, [W] Steven Grant, [A] Tom Sutton & Carmine Infantino. In Los Angeles, Spider-Man teams up with Werewolf by Night to fight Tatterdemalion. Dansen Macabre appears for the first time at the end of the issue. Both these villains appeared in Avengers West Coast #78 as members of Night Shift. I remember that because Avengers West Coast #78 was one of the first comics I ever read. Other than that, nothing about this issue is worth mentioning. You’d think Tom Sutton would have been a good artist for a werewolf story, but his art in this issue is unexciting.
ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #430 (DC, 1987) – “Homeward Bound!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Jerry Ordway. Superman has a pointless fight with the Fearsome Five, causing him to miss his parents’ anniversary dinner. This version of the Fearsome Five includes a new member named Charger, who reappears as a member of the Circle in #435. As stated in my review of that issue, the Circle were part of a dangling plotline that was never resolved. There have been at least five different incarnations of the Fearsome Five. The only characters who have been in every version of the team are Mammoth and Shimmer.
POWER MAN #41 (Marvel, 1977) – “Thunderbolt and Goldbug!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Lee Elias. A man named Jack Smith hires Luke to protect a shipment of gold from a villain called Goldbug, but in fact Goldbug is none other than Smith himself. A new superhero, Thunderbolt, decides to help Luke protect the shipment, but Luke thinks it’s Thunderbolt who’s trying to steal the gold. Thus, Goldbug gets away with the gold, and then in his Jack Smith identity, he has Luke and Thunderbolt arrested for stealing it. This is Thunderbolt’s first appearance in costume, but he was introduced in Daredevil #69 as a civilian.
2000 AD #467 (IPC, 1986) – Strontium Dog: “Smiley’s World,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Wulf is buried, and Johnny embarks on a quest of revenge against Bubba. Tharg: “Supersub!”, [W] uncredited (“TMO”), [A] Eric Bradbury. Tharg’s assistant becomes an intergalactic evangelist for 2000 AD. I’m glad they mostly stopped doing these Tharg stories, because they weren’t much good. Ace: “The Doppelgarp,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. Again, the art in this story is excellent, but the dialogue drives me crazy, and so I don’t care about the plot. Dredd: “The Big Sleep Part 2,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Cam Kennedy. Flip Marlowe discovers it was his agent who framed him for murder. He kills the agent, but gets killed himself. Future Shocks: “The Regrettable Ruse of Rocket Redglare,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Mike White. Thirty years ago, Rocket Redglare (i.e. Flash Gordon or Dan Dare) saved the world from Lumis Logar (i.e. Ming), but now he’s an aging, corpulent, unhappily married has-been. He gets recruited for one last mission, but it turns out to be a lethal trap by Logar. This story is reprinted from #234.
Next trip to Heroes:
WYND: THE THRONE IN THE SKY #2 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. We meet General Eks, the leader of the pro-war faction among the fairies, and he proves to be just as bad as the human king or the vampire leaders. A consistent theme in Wynd is that the people in positions of power, across all three races, are all horrible. Also, the Dukes make an escape plan, and the young protagonists spend the issue hiding out and talking.
EIGHT BILLION GENIES #5 (Image, 2022) – “The First Eight Months,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. We begin with the origin story of Floyd Faughn the Idea Man, who was notorious for his awful ideas, until he used his wish to make people believe in him. As a result he’s been able to accumulate lots of other people’s genies. Inside the shelter, Lifeng has a difficult childbirth. Two of the other people in the shelter still have wishes left, but they refuse to use them to help Lifeng. She gives birth safely anyway, but the group in the shelter is damaged irrevocably. Meanwhile, someone’s made a wish that destroyed the world, except for places like the bar that were protected by other wishes, The Idea Man wishes for the world to be restored to its state prior to the genies. Robbie comes back for his parents. Next up, the first eight years.
MIRACLEMAN #0 (Marvel, 2022) – [E] Nick Lowe. I’m glad Marvel is publishing Miracleman again, but this issue is disappointing. The framing sequence by Gaiman and Buckingham is not new, but is a redrawn version of the framing sequence from Miracleman: Apocrypha #1. The other stories are new, but only one of them, the Warpsmith story by Mike Carey and Paul Davidson, is any good. The contributions by Ryan Stegman and Peach Momoko are pointless non-stories. Also, in the Stegman story, Miracleman is trying to destroy all the nuclear weapons on Earth, but that’s a blatant continuity error, because he already did that in Miracleman #16. Jason Aaron and Leinil Francis Yu is about Miracleman’s encounter with the creator of the Miracleman comics, an artist named Mr. Solomon. The disappointing part is that Mr. Solomon is a fictional construct, rather than a fictionalized version of any real comic book creator. It would have been more appropriate if this character had been based on Miracleman’s actual creator, Mick Anglo. Overall, this issue doesn’t feel like a Miracleman comic at all.
DARK RIDE #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Owen Seasons is hired to work at Devil Land, a sort of horror version of Disneyland. On his first day on the job, he gets killed by actual devils. We also learn about the disturbing history of the Dante family that founded the park. Dark Ride is less immediately captivating than these creators’ previous work, Birthright, but it’s intriguing, and Andrei Bressan provides some beautiful and creative visual imagery for the park.
NIGHT OF THE GHOUL #1 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Francesco Francavilla. In this issue’s framing story, film archivist Forest Inman interviews the elderly film director, T.F. Merrit, whose masterpiece, Night of the Ghoul, was believed lost. Their interview is intercut with what are supposed to be scenes from the film itself. The film begins in World War I-era Italy, where two American soldiers, Kurt and Johnny, discover a castle haunted by a ghoul. Back at home, the influence of the ghoul causes Kurt to become a flesh-eating ghoul himself. Merrit tells Inman that the story of the film is actually true, and that he, Merrit, was “captured” for trying to tell it. So far, Night of the Ghoul is a compelling work of horror, and it continues Snyder’s track rcord of exciting work. Francesco Francavilla’s artwork here is more sedate and understated than in Afterlife with Archie, but it serves the story well.
THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE #10 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Alvaro Martinez Bueno. Walter shows Norah the controls that regulate everything in the house, including whether people can die or not. Walter doesn’t know that Ryan the artist is spying on their conversation, and he inadvertently lets Ryan know that she’s not supposed to be there. After Walter and Norah are gone, Ryan messes with the controls and turns off the immortality setting – just as Rick shoots Naya fatally. This issue would have been much harder to read if not for the character guide on the last page, which includes not just names but full-body images. Even the guide only helps so much, because it depicts Ryan looking different from how she appears in the comic.
ROGUE SUN #7 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Ryan Parrott & Nick Cotton, [A] Zé Carlos. A choose-your-own adventure story in which Rogue Sun battles two villains named Ornate and Lord Viathan. Choose-your-own-adventure comics are no longer a new idea at this point, but I’m still excited whenever I see one. Like some other CYOA stories in comics form (e.g. the ones in Batman: Black and White and Terrifics, and Silver Surfer #11, sort of), this one can only be solved if the reader ignores the suggested choices. (SPOILER) On page 11, both choices, page 8 and page 16, lead to infinite loops. In the context of the story, this represents Ornate trapping Dylan in a time loop. The only way to finish the comic is to just turn the page and continue to page 20, thus allowing Dylan to escape Ornate’s control.
KAYA #1 (Image, 2022) – “Kaya & the Lizard-Riders Chapter One,” [W/A] Wes Craig. This series originally appeared in Image! 30th Anniversary Anthology, where it was one of the better stories, mostly due to the art. Kaya is a fantasy series that takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, where humans are no longer the dominant race, and stars two young siblings. One of them is prophesied to save the world and return mankind to glory. Kaya does not have an obvious central premise or selling point, but it’s exciting and well-drawn.
I HATE THIS PLACE #5 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Artyom Topilin. Frank Renda comes back to life and invades Gabrielle and Trudy’s house. Gabrielle and Trudy manage to force him outside, where he’s finally killed by the ghosts of all his past victims. Then we flash forward to four days later, when Gabrielle’s awful family is trying to bring her “back to the flock.” So far this is a great comic, with Starks’s typical combination of raucous humor and disgusting horror, and I hope there’ll be another story arc soon.
EARTHDIVERS: KILL COLUMBUS #1 (IDW, 2022) – “Here There Be Monsters,” [W] Stephen Graham Jones, [A] Davide Gianfelice. In a postapocalyptic future, a group of Native Americans send one of their number back in time to kill Columbus and change the destiny of America. I really liked Stephen Graham Jones’s novel The Only Good Indians, and it’s exciting to see him doing comics. Like his fiction, Earthdivers has significant postcolonial and indigenous themes. The trouble with Earthdivers is it’s not well paced. I think Jones should have spent more time establishing who the characters are and what’s happened to their world, rather than diving right into the time travel plot.
WICKED THINGS #6 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. I bought this on eBay because I somehow never got it, either at Heroes or from DCBS. This issue, Lottie helps apprehend a ring of casino thieves. Then the comatose Japanese boy detective comes back to life and clears Lottie’s name, but we still don’t know who shot him to begin with. This storyline obviously calls out for a sequel, but if there ever is one, it will probably be in trade paperback form only. I love Wicked Things and other Boom! Box titles like Fence and Goldie Vance, but I have to admit that direct-market comic books are really not a viable publishing format for comics intended for younger readers. That’s the same reason Archie has mostly moved away from the direct market, as I will discuss later.
SINS OF THE BLACK FLAMINGO #4 (Image, 2022) – “Thorn in My Side,” [W] Andrew Wheeler, [A] Travis Moore. Harlow’s kidnapper, Merilee Pepper, exchanges him for the angel Ezekiel, but then she double-crosses Harlow and tries to kill him, and Abel the golem is badly injured saving Harlow and Ofelia. Then Thorndike Scar appears, shoots down Pepper’s helicopter with a rocket launcher, and abducts Ezekiel himself. Harlow has to team up with Pepper in order to get rid of Scar. This miniseries has some fascinating and complex characters.
SPIDER-MAN #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “End of the Spider-Verse Part One: The One and Only-ish,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Mark Bagley. This issue’s legacy number is 157, indicating that it’s a continuation of the adjectiveless Spider-Man (1990) and Peter Parker: Spider-Man (1999). After saving some citizens from a runaway truck, Spidey is attacked by his nemesis Morlun, but he’s saved by Silk, Miles Morales, Jessica Drew, and Spider-Man Noir. Then all four of those characters turn evil and grow giant fangs. Because Dan Slott and Mark Bagley are perhaps the two active creators who are most identified with Spider-Man, this series comes with high expectations that may be impossible to fulfill. This first issue is not bad, though.
BRIAR #1 (Boom!, 2022) – “Nothing Sharp in Sight,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Germán García. This may be Christopher Cantwell’s highest-profile debut issue yet, but so far it’s a big disappointment. Briar appears to be a revisionist version of Sleeping Beauty, but the first issue is a complete mess. It has no clear theme or narrative direction – that is, I can’t tell either where this story is going, or what it’s supposed to be about. An even bigger problem is the dialogue. On page two, Cantwell has Sleeping Beauty say “I do’est wonder,” “on the count of thrice” and “do thouest wish.” All of these are blatant mistakes. Since Cantwell has access to the Internet, he has no excuse for not knowing how to write early modern English. Perhaps this dialogue is supposed to be a parody, but if so, I can’t tell what it’s a parody of. Overall, I expect much more from this writer, and I’m going to give up on this series if it doesn’t improve quickly.
UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #21 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcello Grassi. In the future, Chang, Janet and Ace meet Pavel Bukowski, who I had totally forgotten about. He was an original cast member who last appeared in issue 6. He explains how America conquered the world, but then the Destiny Man shoots him and the other protagonists, and they wake up in an alternate reality where America lost the war. Meanwhile, Charlotte and Val experience the Pearl Harbor attack and then the Civil War.
MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #42 (Marvel, 2022) – “Book of Fate,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Carmen Carnero et al. A fortuneteller does a tarot reading for Miles, and each time she reveals a card, there’s a sequence that shows what’s been happening with Miles’s supporting cast. Billie learns to walk, Miles’s seemignly evil principal wishes him luck, etc. Miles’s friends and relatives are part of what makes this series enjoyable, so it’s unfortunate that they’ve barely appeared at all in the past year, and that we only get to see them again as the series is ending. Still, this issue is a touching conclusion to Saladin’s run. I hope to see more work from him soon, either in comics or in prose.
DEFENDERS BEYOND #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “Tiphareth: The White Hot Room,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Javier Rodriguez. The Defenders find themselves in the White Hot Room, where Taaia turns into Phoenix, and America uses the Eternity Mask to fight her. Meanwhile, the other Defenders encounter various other aspects of the White Hot Room. Notably, Blue Marvel travels to the space behind reality, where he meets a cosmic construction worker who looks kind of like Stan Lee. In the end, Tigra becomes the incarnation of the Tiger God, the incarnation of the Phoenix, and she helps the Defenders to escape from the White Hot Room to the Abyss. There they meet a long-forgotten character, Glorian. Given that this issue focuses on the Phoenix, its title is appropriate, because in X-Men #108, Claremont explicitly associated Phoenix with the sefirah Tiphareth or Tiferet.
DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #21 (Image, 2022) – “All That Glitters,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Martin Simmonds. Colin and Ruby travel to Fort Knox, where the Department of Truth keeps its weirdest stuff. Ruby tells Colin about the origin of Oswald and Petrov’s pact, and then they enter the vault, where they find a posthumous message from Petrov. There’s also a note warning Cole not to trust Matty. Right on cue, Matty contacts the Washington Post to tell them about Cole’s murder of the two reporters.
STILLWATER #15 (Image, 2022) – “Peace and Love,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramon K. Perez. Daniel becomes an evangelist, preaching the value of returning to the outside world. Galen is not pleased with this, and he decides to try to control Galen by torturing Clara. I have to admit I can’t remember who Clara is, but after Daniel rescues her, she confesses that the town’s curse of immortality is her fault.
BATMAN #128 (DC, 2022) – “Failsafe Part Four,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jorge Jimenez. The Justice League fights Failsafe, and it doesn’t go well, since Failsafe was designed to be able to defeat them in particular. But wait, I thought the Justice League were all dead. I guess they got better. The backup story, “I Am a Gun,” appears to be a retelling of the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh’s origin. The artwork looks like it’s by Paul Smith, but it’s actually by Leonardo Romero.
ANT-MAN #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Electric Ant,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Tom Reilly. Scott Lang battles Black Ant, an LMD version of Eric O’Grady. Black Ant was introduced in Rick Remender’s Secret Avengers. At the end of the issue, they’re both transported into the future, where they’re confronted by a villain that’s a merger of Odin and Ultron. This series is very fun, and Tom Reilly’s art has been consistently excellent. He draws in a similar vein to Chris Samnee, Leonardo Romero or David Aja.
MIND MGMT BOOTLEG #4 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Jill Thompson. The Zanzibar Four battle a new villain named Mister Hide. This whole series has been disappointing in terms of writing, and it lacks the metafictional, paratextual elements that made the original MIND MGMT so fascinating to me. However, MIND MGMT Bootleg has been a showcase for some excellent artwork. Jill Thompson’s painted art and coloring in this issue are very lush and beautiful.
ANT-MAN #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “Ant-Man Forever,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Tom Reilly. This issue focuses on Zayn Asghar, the future Ant-Man. It begins with a “deep background info-dump” that includes summaries of some comics that don’t exist yet, such as Mighty Thor #4774. The artwork in this sequence is from the Ultron Forever annuals by Ewing and Alan Davis. Those comics really do exist, and I’d like to own them. In the rest of the issue, the various Ant-Men team up to defeat All-Father Ultron. Tom Reilly draws this issue in a notably different style from the other three. Zayn Asghar’s future is depicted in solid blocks of color, with a minimum of solid outlines. Overall, out of the various Ant-Man solo series and miniseries, this one was probably the best.
GOTHAM CITY: YEAR ONE #1 (DC, 2022) – “Where is the Princess of Gotham?”, [W] Tom King, [A] Phil Hester. Long before Bruce Wayne’s birth, Helen Wayne, the daughter of the current generation of Waynes, is kidnapped. Private detective Slam Bradley is involuntarily drawn into the case, and the Wayne family receives a note that’s signed with the Bat-signal. This is an intriguing debut issue that makes effective use of film noir tropes. But I’m afraid that this comic is going to be frustrating and anticlimactic, like basically all of Tom King’s recent work. I’m confused as to how Richard Bruce and Constance Wayne are related to Bruce Wayne. If they’re his grandparents, then Helen is his aunt, so why have we never heard of her before? On the page where Constance first appears, the painting to her left is Nude Descending a Staircase.
MONKEY PRINCE #7 (DC, 2022) – “Big Stick Energy Part 3,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Bernard Chang. Monkey Prince tries to retrieve his stick from under the sea, but Black Manta wants it too, and the Trench are trying to eat Aquaman. In the sequences set in Aquaman’s palace, Bernard Chang uses a unique page layout where the panel borders look like waves. Like Yang’s Shang-Chi, Monkey Prince draws much of its interest from its creative use of Chinese mythology.
SUPERMAN: SPACE AGE #2 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mike Allred. This issue covers the period from 1972 to 1975. Superman forms the Justice League, marries Lois and has a child with her, and saves the world from Brainiac, but an even greater threat, the Anti-Monitor, is waiting in the wings. This issue is really long, but its length is justified by its conceptual and narrative depth. It’s packed with powerful narrative moments and deep meditations on Superman’s significance to the world. It may be the most sophisticated Superman comic since Superman: Secret Identity. A particularly funny moment in this issue is when Lois discovers the story of the Watergate break-in, and Clark refuses to believe Watergate was a government operation because of all the ridiculous mistakes the “plumbers” made. All these mistakes really did happen in real life. For instance, the burglars’ lookout man really did fail to hear the police coming because he was watching Attack of the Puppet People on TV. A few pages after that, Superman prevents the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, saving 29 lives but depriving the world of a great song.
SANDMAN UNIVERSE: NIGHTMARE COUNTRY #6 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Maria Llovet. This issue focuses on a screenwriter named Jamie and his neighbor Lamia, who’s really Thessaly from A Game of You. They both get drawn into the plotline with Madison Flynn, and Jamie is killed, while Thessaly decides to go on the offensive against Agony and Ecstasy. Issue 7 has not been announced, so I assume that this is the last issue, and that the story will continue in Sandman Universe: Dead Boy Detectives, which will be written by Pornsak Pichetshote instead of Tynion.
POISON IVY #5 (DC, 2022) – untitled, G. Willow Wilson, [A] Marcio Takara. Ivy is hunted down by her nemesis Jason Woodrue. This issue is full of chaotic page layouts that remind me of Steve Bissette’s classic Swamp Thing artwork. In terms of plot, however, this issue is less compelling than the last four. Perhaps the best thing about this series is the interesting people Ivy meets, but in this issue she doesn’t meet anybody new.
SANTOS SISTERS #2 (Floating World, 2022) – “Spit & Shine” etc., [W/A] Greg Petre & Fake Petre. I bought this off the shelf after seeing a positive review of it in the Comics Journal. Almost all “alternative” or “art” comics are now published as graphic novels, so it’s exciting to me when an alternative comic appears in periodical comic book form. Santos Sisters is a superhero/SF story, but printed on newsprint and drawn in a classic Archie style. The clash of style and subject matter is very funny, and so is the characters’ nonchalant attitude toward all the bizarre stuff they encounter. I’m not quite sure what the point of this comic is, but I want to read more of it.
X-MEN RED #7 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Winning Side,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Stefano Caselli. In the aftermath of the fight with Uranos, Magneto finally dies. Then the Great Ring have to deal with the traitor Isca, which is a difficult task since she can’t lose. The Fisher King finds a way of forcing her to resign, and Storm takes Magneto’s seat on the council. Like #6, this issue is a powerful piece of work, but I’m sorry that it’s part of a crossover.
SURVIVAL STREET #3 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Asmus & Jim Festante, [A] Abylay Kussainov. The puppets have to save some child prisoners who are being forced to fight a forest fire without protective equipment. Yes, I really said that, and the writers give a plausible explanation for how such a glaring injustice could have come about. After rescuing the kids, the puppets are unable to escape the forest because it’s bordered by a gated community that charges an exorbitant fee for entrance. Again, this seems eerily plausible, considering the current tendency to charge fees for things that ought to be free. Milo (i.e. Elmo) saves the day, but then the Cookie Monster character betrays the other puppets to the government. As a humorous satire, Survival Street is on the same level as some of Mark Russell’s work.
ORDINARY GODS #9 (Image, 2022) – “Tricks,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Joe Clark, [A] Daniel HDR. I wonder why nearly all of Kyle Higgins’s comics have a co-writer. Part of this issue is a flashback to the past life of one of the gods, and we eventually learn that in this past life, she was Mata Hari. In the present, the gods meet a professor at Shanghai Jiaotong University who has information about the God Machine, but then they have to fight some mind-controlled goons. Ordinary Gods got off to a poor start, but within the past few issues it’s become very interesting. The song that Mata Hari sings in this issue is “Streets of Cairo,” better known as the Arabian riff, or as “There’s a place in France where the naked ladies dance.”
SHANG-CHI AND THE TEN RINGS #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Ring in the Stone,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Marcus To. At the MI-6 headquarters, Tink the faerie – a character introduced by Paul Cornell in the 2006 Wisdom miniseries – merges the ten rings into one. A monster comes out of the merged rings and starts possessing people, and Shang-Chi has to get the ring back. This issue was less interesting than the issues before and after it.
HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER #9 (Boom!, 2022) – “Scarlet Part Four,” [W] Sam Johns, [A] Letizia Cadonici. This issue is mostly flashbacks. That is at least an improvement over issues 7 and 8, which were mostly nothing, but this issue still doesn’t progress the plot at all. I’m not sure this story arc even has a plot. “Scarlet” is a complete disaster and an embarrassment to the Slaughterverse franchise, and I’m tempted to just skip issue 10 and continue with issue 11. I will try to avoid buying any other comics written by Sam Johns.
THE ROADIE #1 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Fran Galán. Mass Acre used to be a world-famous metal band, but now they’re reduced to playing in towns like Glendive, Montana (which really exists). Our protagonist, Joe, is Mass Acre’s roadie. One night, a demoness visits Joe and tells him that Satan was using heavy metal music to increase his influence on Earth. But when Satan was overthrown by another demon, he implemented a backup plan by creating a child who would revive Satan’s music. That child, Shelby Petroski, happens to be Joe’s daughter. The Roadie is a funny riff on the idea that heavy metal is Satan’s music.
OLD DOG #1 (Image, 2022) – “New Tricks,” [W/A] Declan Shalvey. In a flashback, a secret agent, Lynch, is trapped in the explosion of a mysterious device. Eight years later, Lynch wakes up from a coma and is sent on a new mission, with his grown daughter as his partner. I had low expectations for this comic, and its plot is fairly typical. What makes Old Dog worth reading is Declan Shalvey’s thrilling art. The page with the explosion of the machine is especially stunning. Shalvey somehow conveys the impression that the machine is weird and horrifying.
MY LITTLE PONY #5 (IDW, 2022) – “Tales from the Lighthouse,” [W] Casey Gilly, [A] Abby Bulmer. An old lighthouse keeper tells the ponies a bunch of stories about Discord. This issue was exciting at first because the cover is by Andy Price, but the interior art is much more generic. This issue reinforces my determination to give up on this series. It’s not the My Little Pony I love, and I can’t bring myself to care about these new characters. I don’t even know their names.
GOLDEN RAGE #3 (Image, 2022) – “Destruction,” [W] Chrissy Williams, [A] Lauren Knight. The protagonists fight the Red Hats, and then we’re told that “Jay sent us here!” I like the idea behind Golden Rage, but the comic itself has been surprisingly boring. It’s strange that the main conflict is between different factions of women, rather than between the women and the men who sent them to the island. And the island itself is not an interesting milieu. I’d like to know more about the society outside the island, where women are apparently considered to be disposable after menopause.
SKYBOUND PRESENTS AFTERSCHOOL #3 (Image, 2022) – “Sympathetic Ear,” [W] Jill Blotevogel, [A] Lisa Sterle w/ Marley Zarcone. High schooler Leda is forced to spend all her time babysitting her autistic sister Izzy, while their parents are busy with devices and video games. One night, Leda’s online boyfriend Paul invades their house and murders Leda and Izzy’s parents, and the two girls have to collaborate to save each other’s lives. This is at least as good as issue 2, which is already excellent. It’s a thrilling horror story, and probably the most realistic depiction of autism that I’ve seen in comics. Leda and Izzy’s parents are so brutally neglectful that the reader can hardly blame Paul for killing them.
BLOOD SYNDICATE SEASON ONE #5 (DC, 2022) – “My Name Is…”, [W] Geoffrey Thorne, [A] Sean Damien Hill. This issue is mostly about Holocaust, and includes flashbacks explaining how he became so obsessed with power and dominance. Holocaust is a very powerful villain, but the trouble is that this series has focused on him excessively, to the point where it should have been called Holocaust instead of Blood Syndicate. The actual Blood Syndicate members don’t appear until this issue until the last page, and in fact they get less panel space in the issue than Icon and Rocket, who appear as guest stars. In a team comic, it’s vital not to let any one character dominate the series to the exclusion of all the others, and Thorne violates that rule. Overall, Blood Syndicate is the best of the three recent Milestone series I’ve read, but this whole Milestone revival has been a train wreck.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: SYMBOL OF TRUTH #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “Homeland Part 5,” [W] Tochi Onyebuchi, [A] R.B. Silva & Julian Shaw. Shuri blames the American government for invading Wakanda to capture Crossbones, and as a result, all the Americans who applied for asylum in Wakanda are deported. This seems like a really disproportionate and vindictive punishment, and it hardly seems consistent with Shuri or even T’Challa’s character. I guess the point is that Wakanda isn’t as much of a paradise as it seems, but maybe there was a less cruel way to demonstrate that.
GRIM #5 (Boom!, 2022) – “Death & Dying in Las Vegas,” [W] Stephanie Phillips, [A] Flaviano. Death tells Jessica that she’s his child by a human woman, so finally this series’ premise makes some sense. Also, I guess Grim has the same basic idea behind Pretty Deadly, but it’s less annoying and incoherent than Pretty Deadly was. Afterward, Death gets killed saving Jessica from The End, and Adira takes Jessica’s scythe, leaving her trapped in the mortal world. The issue ends by showing us Jessica’s mother in prison.
JUNKYARD JOE #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Geoff Johns & Gary Frank. This is a spinoff of Geiger. In 1972, a group of American soldiers team up with an experimental robot GI. All but one of the human soldiers are killed in action, and when the last one, Muddy Davis, tells people about the robot, nobody believes him. This comic seems like a realistic portrayal of the Vietnam War from the American perspective, and Muddy’s relationship with the robot is cute. For once, Geoff Johns isn’t the worst current writer with the surname Johns (see the review of House of Slaughter #9 above).
SUPERMAN #1 FACSIMILE (DC, 1939/2022) – untitled, [W] Jerry Siegel, [A] Joe Shuster. This issue consists mostly of reprints from Action Comics #1-4. Reading all these Superman comics together is a fascinating experience, because the earliest version of Superman is very different from the familiar version of the character. Instead of being a superhero, in the sense we understand that term, the early Superman is a figure of mystery and even a trickster. Also, as I already knew, Superman is much more liberal and activist than he later became; in this issue he fights domestic abusers, warmongering politicians, corrupt mine owners, and sports gamblers. Well, that last one is a bit of an outlier. The best of these stories is “The Blakely Mine Disaster,” where Superman discovers unsafe conditions in a coal mine, then turns the tables on the mine owners by trapping them in their own mine. This story also reveals Siegel and Shuster’s sympathy with oppressed people. The injured miner who Clark interviews is named Stanislaw Kober and speaks in broken English, suggesting that he’s a poor Slavic immigrant. (A couple pages later Clark is called a “bohunk,” which at the time was a derogatory term for Eastern and Central Europeans). And we see that the miners’ lack of political power allows them to be ruthlessly exploited by their bosses. In later Superman stories, the character’s anarchic and activist elements were drastically toned down. One of the only attempts to return to Superman’s liberal roots was Grant Morrison’s Action Comics run.
PINK LEMONADE #1 (Oni, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Nick Cagnetti. Pink Lemonade is an amnesiac, motorcycle-riding drifter. In this first issue, she meets a single mother and daughter who are obsessed with a cartoon called OJ Bot. Then she gets arrested for trespassing on a film set. Pink Lemonade’s general aesthetic, along with its wacky amnesiac protagonist, reminds me of Madman, although Cagnetti’s drawing style is more like that of Rich Tommaso than Mike Allred. The dream sequence at the start of this issue is a particular highlight. I’m glad that Oni is still capable of producing exciting comics like this, despite being crippled by layoffs. I just hope the company gets back on its feet soon.
HEALTH AND WEALTH, A GRAPHIC GUIDE TO THE US HEALTHCARE SYSTEM (Center for Cartoon Studies, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] James Sturm & Kazimir Lee et al. This comic was distributed for free at Heroes, although it’s good enough that it’s easily worth the price of a normal comic book. Health and Wealth is a nonfiction guide to the inequities and inefficiencies of American healthcare, written and drawn by a team of CCS students under the leadership of Sturm and Lee. The entire book is drawn in the style of Richard Scarry. I know a bit about the American healthcare system, but this comic still told me things I didn’t know, and it powerfully demonstrates that American healthcare is unfair to poor people and minorities, while also being grossly wasteful. The Scarry-esque artwork helps get this message across in an appealing way. Readers are probably more open to a political message if it’s presented like a children’s book, instead of looking like a political tract. The only problem with this comic is that it has a ton of text, and the pictures are sometimes merely illustrative rather than helping to tell the story. But overall this is an important piece of work.
HEART EYES #2 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Dennis Hopeless, [A] Victor Ibáñez. This issue finally explains what the hell is going on. The female protagonist, Lupe, was enslaved by a bookstore owner, who used her in an occult ritual that allowed her to summon eldritch monsters. That’s why she’s the only person the monsters won’t kill, and probably the destruction of the world was her fault. It would have helped if we’d gotten all this information last issue. Also, we learn that “heart eyes” means infatuation.
THE DEAD LUCKY #3 (Image, 2022) – “The Dead Don’t Want Me,” [W] Melissa Flores, [A] French Carlomagno. Morrow and Bibi plot against each other. Bibi’s parents’ restaurant is bombed, and while trying to save her dad, Bibi has a flashback to how she got her ghost powers. This series continues to be plagued by a lack of a clear central theme.
IMAGE! 30TH ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY #6 (Image, 2022) – [E] Eric Stephenson. Easily my favorite story in this issue is “Back and Business,” a revival of Garth Ennis and Amanda Conner’s The Pro. Twenty years after her apparent death, The Pro comes back to Earth to discover that contrary to her wishes, her son has grown up to become a superhero. I just wish this was more than six pages, but it’ll continue next issue. The Rockstar & Softboy sequel by Sina Grace is also kind of interesting. Most of the other stories in this issue are no better or worse than last time. The Hack/Slash story is an unannounced Savage Dragon crossover, since SuperPatriot appears in it.
MINOR THREATS #2 (Dark Horse, 2022) – “Start with the Edges…”, [W] Patton Oswalt & Jordan Blum, [A] Scott Hepburn. Playtime’s colleague Brain Tease leads her team’s effort to track down the Stickman. Eventually the Stickman is found, but he shoots Playtime and knocks her off a roof. By the time I read this issue, I had completely forgotten what issue 1 was about, so issue 2 did not impress me greatly. This series has reasonably good art and dialogue, but it feels like just another tired superhero parody.
HUMAN TARGET #7 (DC, 2022) – “To Shoe a Troop of Horse with Felt,” [W] Tom King, [A] Greg Smallwood. Chance goes on a date with Fire, and eventually gets her to admit that she acquired the water, and that Guy asked her to. This series has beautiful artwork and publication design, but its plot is too long and drawn-out, and its characterization is questionable. I think I saw someone say that Tom King’s version of Ice is a completely new character, and I can’t disagree with that.
MARVEL VOICES: COMUNIDADES #1 (Marvel, 2022) – [E] Lauren Amaro & Sarah Brunstad. The best story in this issue is the one where Miles defeats a villain called Earworm by playing salsa music to drown out Earworm’s music. The song Miles plays is “Hacha y machete” (Axe and Machete) by Hector Lavoe, which I had not heard before. The other stories in this issue are a chore to read. These Marvel Voices specials have included a lot of very mediocre work, and maybe it’s time I stopped automatically buying them.
THE ORDER #2 (Marvel, 2002) – “It’s Our World,” [W] Jo Duffy & Kurt Busiek, [A] Chris Batista. This series was a sequel to Busiek and Larsen’s Defenders. In this issue the Order – Dr. Strange, Silver Surfer, Namor and Hulk – go mad with power and take over Red Robin’s island. The other former Defenders discover that the four Order members are impostors and that their real selves are imprisoned in another dimension. This issue includes an annoying stereotypical character named Papa Hagg, but otherwise I liked it. A funny moment is when the Surfer and Strange create a palace for each of the Order members, and the Hulk’s “palace” is the Las Vegas strip.
MS. TREE QUARTERLY #7 (DC, 1992) – “The Family Way,” [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. Ms. Tree’s stepson Mike falls in love with Lisa Muerta, a member of the Muerta family, Ms. Tree’s nemeses. Frankie Muerta, a terrifying madman even by the standards of his family, escapes from prison and kidnaps Lisa, and the current Muerta family head hires Ms. Tree to get rid of Frankie. In the climax of the story, Ms. Tree stupidly allows Frankie to get the drop on her at least three different times, and she only survives because Mike follows her and kills Frankie. On the last page, Ms. Tree discovers she’s pregnant. There’s also a Midnight backup story by Ed Gorman and Rick Burchett. On the letters page, Collins states that Ms. Tree is not set in the DC universe “although I would love to see Ms. Tree meet Batman.” That would be funny, because Batman would probably perceive her as a deranged serial killer who keeps using her police connections to get away with murdering criminals.
FANTASTIC FOUR #328 (Marvel, 1989) – “Bad Dream,” [W] Steve Englehart (as John Harkness), [A] Keith Pollard. A depowered Ben Grimm has to save the FF from the Frightful Four, whose newest member is Aron the rogue Watcher. At the end, Aron teleports the FF to the moon and shows them that he’s created clones of them. This isn’t as bad as some of Englehart’s other work of this period, but it’s not great either. In this issue Ben and Alicia act as if they’re still a couple.
DETECTIVE COMICS #1031 (DC, 2021) – “Smash the Mirror,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Bilquis Evely. During the mayoral elections, a villain named the Mirror leads a campaign against masked superheroes, and Batman and his sidekicks have to stop a brawl between their own supporters and the Mirror’s supporters. This is a mediocre issue. The best thing about it is the scene where Damian intimidates a corrupt policewoman while petting her cat.
ANGELA: ASGARD’S ASSASSIN #5 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen w/ Marguerite Bennett, [A] Phil Jimenez w/ Stephanie Hans. In the main story, Angela and the Guardians of the Galaxy invade Heven. In the inset story, drawn by Stephanie Hans, Angela fights Thor. BTW, Stephanie Hans was at Worldcon, but I didn’t get to speak to her. Anyway, this is a mediocre issue, and the Guardians and Thor appearances felt gratuitous.
SHADE THE CHANGING MAN #39 (DC, 1993) – “Pond Life,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Chris Bachalo w/ Scot Eaton. This issue has a metatextual gimmick where some of the captions – the ones in yellow – are addressed directly to the reader and describe what the reader is seeing on each page. This parallels how in the comic itself, there’s a writer named Miles Laimling who’s writing a novel about Shade, Kathy and Lenny, and everything he writes ends up happening to them. And partly because of this, Shade and the two women are being terrorized by a fake version of Shade, who I assume is Troy Grenzer in Shade’s body. In the end, Miles burns his manuscript, stripping the fake Shade of its power. Then Miles decides that since he can’t write a novel anymore, he’ll write a comic book, and he’ll write it under the pen name Peter Milligan, since Milligan is an anagram of Laimling. And that comic will be called “Pond Life.” This comic is about as meta as anything Milligan has written (or did he write it?), and I’d like to reread it more carefully.
FUTURE IMPERFECT #1 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Greg Land. In the Maestro’s future, Ruby Summers, a member of the anti-Maestro resistance, encounters the Norse god Odin. But after she leads “Odin” into the rebels’ lair, he reveals that he’s not really Odin, but the Maestro himself. Just as all seems to be lost, the Thing appears to challenge the Maestro. None of these Future Imperfect revivals have been anywhere near as good as the original, and I wish I hadn’t bought any of them.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: RENEW YOUR VOWS #1 (Marvel, 2015) – “Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Adam Kubert. This takes place some years before issue 4, during Annie’s infancy. A villain named Augustus Roman, aka the Regent, is killing superheroes and stealing their powers. At the same time, Mary Jane and Annie are being terrorized by Venom. (This story seems to take place around the #300s of Amazing Spider-Man, when Venom was a terrifying menace.) For the first time in his life, Peter has to choose one responsibility over another, and he chooses to save MJ and Annie from Venom, rather than help fight Regent. As a result, Regent kills the Avengers and takes over the world. This is a sad story, and it explains why superheroes tend to be childfree.
DOCTOR STRANGE #38 (Marvel, 1979) – “Eye of the Beholder!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Dan Green. I think I was reading this issue when I saw that awful, racist Citizens for Sanity commercial for the first time. It kind of killed my enjoyment. In this issue Strange and Clea go on a long-delayed date, but Strange promptly meets his old friend Sara Wolfe, who first appears in this issue, and starts to talk to her and ignore Clea. Then Sarah’s date, Douglas Royce, is killed by two Native American mythological monsters called the Eye Killers, and Strange has to defeat them. The Eye Killers reappeared in Uncanny X-Men #222. In the bar where Strange meets Sara, a band called “Wexford’s own, Pierce and Larry” is playing. This band seems to be based on a real Irish band called Turner and Kirwan of Wexford, whose first names were Pierce and Larry. Claremont must have heard them at some Irish bar.
AMAZING FANTASY #18 (Marvel, 1996) – “The Amazing Spider-Man,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Paul Lee. In the period between Amazing Fantasy #15 and Amazing Spider-Man #1, Spider-Man battles a villain called Supercharger. Kurt Busiek is a very talented Spider-Man writer, but the artwork in this issue is awful. Paul Lee tries to imitate Alex Ross’s style of painting, but he doesn’t have Ross’s talent for realistic rendering, and his faces look as if a child drew them. Also, Supercharger’s costume doesn’t look like a 1960s design. I think there should be a moratorium on stories set during the first couple issues of Amazing Spider-Man, because there have already been too many such stories, and it’s hard to believe that anything else happened to Peter during that period that we don’t already know about. Similarly, I wish they would stop coming up with new things that happened on the day Batman’s parents were killed.
2000 AD #1841 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd: “Wastelands Part 5,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Dave Taylor. Dredd apprehends a criminal who thinks he’s found an untraceable way of ordering people’s assassinations. Defoe: “The Damned Part 6,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Leigh Gallagher. Defoe fights a horde of zombies. Age of the Wolf: “Wolfworld Part 2,” [W] Alec Worley, [A] Jon Davis-Hunt. Some werewolves kidnap a young girl, herself secretly a werewolf, so they can sacrifice her. Sinister & Dexter: “Witless Protection: Last Rights Part 1,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Simon Davis. Ray Right, aka Ray Dexter, and his wife Tracy are living happily in suburbia, ignorant of the fact that the government is looking for them. Simon Davis’s painted art is the best art in this issue, though Leigh Gallagher’s art is also good. The Ten-Seconders: “Godsend Part 3,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Edmund Bagwell. I can’t make head or tail of this story, although it includes a cool-looking greenish monster called Damage.
ONI PRESS SUMMER VACATION SUPERCOLOR FUN SPECIAL #1 (Oni, 2000) – [E] Jamie S. Rich. A selection of original stories starring various Oni characters. I think the best is the Hopeless Savages story by Jen Van Meter and Chynna Clugston-Major, in which all three Hopeless-Savage kids are sent to the principal’s office at school. The second best is the Jingle Belle story by Paul Dini and Stephen Di Stefano. The strangest feature in the issue is a Barry Ween/Whiteout crossover by Greg Rucka and Judd Winick, but it doesn’t feel like Whiteout at all. The other stories in the issue are unimpressive. One of them is “Big Monster Planet” by Martin Ontiveros, who I had never heard of before. His only other credit in the GCD is Crash Metro and the Star Squad, a 1999 one-shot also published by Oni, which was written by Ontiveros and drawn by Mike Allred.
OUR ARMY AT WAR #274 (DC, 1974) – “Home is the Hero!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] George Evans. Sgt. Rock encounters a military policeman, Jerry Baker, who’s looking for a fugitive named Tony Lewis who escaped capture by joining the army. The predictable twist is that Baker is dead, and the man posing as him is really Lewis. After Rock discovers this, Lewis gets hurt protecting villagers from Germans, even though he could have escaped scot-free, and I guess Lewis’s heroic act means he’s redeemed himself for the murders he committed in civilian life. I think this ending is unfortunate. Fine, he’s a hero, but he should still suffer the penalty for his crimes. The backup story includes some beautiful aviation art by Ric Estrada. Speaking of aviation art, George Evans’s art in this issue is not his best, but he really should be in the Hall of Fame. He was nominated at least once, in 2008, but didn’t make it. Besides Jack Kamen, Evans is the only major EC artist who’s not in the Hall of Fame, and I think Evans deserves it more than Kamen.
DETECTIVE COMICS #754 (DC, 2001) – “Officer Down Part 6: Monster in a Box,” [W] Nunzio DeFilippis, [A] Mike Colllins. The Gotham police interrogate Jordan Reynolds, who shot James Gordon, but are unable to get anything out of him. They have to let him go, and then Batman tries to intimidate him into confessing, but is equally unsuccessful. This story is mostly a police procedural, and Batman only plays a minor role in it. The backup story is The Jacobian by Jordan B. Gorfinkel and Jeff Johnson. This story is nonsensical, and it shows why Jordan Gorfinkel was an editor and not a writer.
FLAMING CARROT COMICS #7 (Renegade, 1985) – “When the Shoes Aren’t Worth the Shine…”, [W/A] Bob Burden. An absurdist story with an unsummarizable plot, in a mid-century suburban setting. I want to read more Flaming Carrot comics, but I suspect that if you’ve read one of them, you’ve read them all. It seems like every Flaming Carrot story is just more of the same absurdism. I have the same problem with Reid Fleming and Herbie, both of which have a similar aesthetic to Flaming Carrot.
ACTION COMICS #761 (DC, 2000) – “For a Thousand Years…”, [W] Joe Kelly, [A] German Garcia. One morning Lois is feeling jealous of Wonder Woman. Just then, Wonder Woman invites Superman to join her on a mission, protecting DC’s version of Asgard to avenge the dead Thor. This battle occupies them for literally one thousand years, yet in all that time, they never act on their obvious attraction to each other. Meanwhile Lois questions her own devotion to Clark, because she’s keeping some kind of secret from him. When I read this issue, it reminded me of something, but I couldn’t remember what. I later figured out that it reminded me of the Gentle Man story from Batman #39. It seems that I was not the only one who noticed the similarity between these two stories. Tom King himself had to apologize for acknowledging Kelly and Garcia’s influence on Batman #39.
FORBIDDEN WORLDS #143 (ACG, 1967) – “Just Imagine… No Subways!”, [W] Richard Hughes, [A] Ken Landau. Joe Eisendorfer hates modern life, but when he travels in time to the past and then the future, he realizes that the 20th century isn’t all that bad. Other stories in this issue are about some Lithuanian leprechauns, and a rich but ugly woman who trades her fortune for beauty. In the letter column, the editor provides a biography of ACG writer Brad Everson. Of course this biography is false because there was no Brad Everson; like all of ACG’s “writers,” Everson was a pseudonym for editor Richard Hughes.
ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #442 (DC, 1988) – “Power Play,” [W] John Byrne, [A] Jerry Ordway. Superman and some other Justice Leaguers fight Psi-Phon and Dreadnaught, who have the power to steal superheroes’ powers. In the end, the superheroes beat the villains in the most trite way possible, by giving them so much power to absorb that Dreadnaught overloads himself. This way of defeating villains is such a tired cliché that on the old CBR forums, someone named it the “Law of Limited Capacitance.” In a subplot, Lois helps the disabled José Delgado (Gangbuster) move into his apartment, then kisses him. A fundamental problem with Byrne’s writing is that he himself seems to have a lack of empathy for other people’s feelings, and he transfers this cold, unfeeling attitude to his characters. An example is the lower-left panel on this page from Action Comics #584, although this character is supposed to be a villain.
INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #503 (Marvel, 2011) – “Fix Me Part 3: Fear Itself,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Salvador Larroca. We begin with a flashback to a past encounter between Tony Stark and Dr. Octopus. Back in the present, Tony fights a dying Doc Ock, then makes a proposal to build a city for the Asgardian gods. Tony also begins to suspect that his new colleague Leonard Pimacher is a spy, but he dismisses these suspicions. In fact Pimacher was the Spymaster in disguise.
CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN #44 (DC, 1965) – “The Curse of the Evil Eye,” [W] Bill Finger, [A] Bob Brown. In 1365, an Italian nobleman sentenced an alchemist to death, and the alchemist created a giant disembodied eye and ordered it to kill the count and his kinsmen. Before he could use it, the alchemist died, and the eye was lost for 600 years until it was freed by an explosion. Now the eye is tracking down the nobleman’s living descendants, and the Challengers have to save them. This story is a fun piece of Silver Age unintentional humor, though it’s not as fun as later Challs stories by Arnold Drake. In the backup story, written by Dave Wood, the Challengers fight some gas monsters.
CRISIS AFTERMATH: THE SPECTRE #2 (DC, 2006) – “Dead Again Part Two,” [W] Will Pfeifer, [A] Cliff Chiang. Oddly, this series’s cover title is Infinite Crisis Aftermath: The Spectre, but the indicia title leaves off the word Infinite. I’m just going to file it under Spectre. In “Dead Again,” Crispus Allen is the Spectre’s new human host, but he and the Spectre are separate entities. Crispus wants to use the Spectre’s power to stop crimes, and is frustrated to learn that all the Spectre can do is prevent crimes that have already happened. This story is rather grim and unsatisfying, and Cliff Chiang’s art isn’t his best. In particular, his faces look more cartoony and less detailed than in his later work.
TONY STARK: IRON MAN #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Self-Made Man Part 1,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Valerio Schiti. This is LGY #601. As a kid, Tony Stark defeats Andy Bhang and his colleagues in a robot soccer contest. The name “Bhang” is funny to me because bhang is an Indian version of marijuana, and I wonder if Slott knew that. Many years later, Tony hires Bhang to work in his new robotics workshop, the Foundry, and Bhang immediately has to help Iron Man fight Fin Fang Foom. There’s an awesome scene where Tony fights Fin Fang Foom in a giant Voltron suit. Iron Man is my least favorite of the major Marvel and DC comics, mostly because of its scarcity of quality writers. But I like Slott’s writing, and I want to read more of his Iron Man run.
JONAH HEX #85 (DC, 1984) – “Behold the Gray Ghost,” [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Tony DeZuniga. The Gray Ghost is a former Confederate soldier turned vigilante, and his mission is to hunt down other Confederate veterans who he believes to have betrayed the South. The Gray Ghost’s latest target is Jonah Hex, and he worms his way into Hex’s life in disguise, while Hex is trying to romance a much younger woman named Adrian. In the end, the Gray Ghost is believed dead but escapes, and he appears for the second and last time in issue 87. It kind of makes sense that Fleisher later wrote for 2000 AD, because Jonah Hex has the same bleak, raucous sense of humor that’s 2000 AD’s trademark.
REDNECK #13 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Lisandro Estherren. In a flashback, we see how the protagonist, Uncle Bartlett, turned his lover July into a vampire. While trying to save a young girl, Percy, Bartlett encounters July again, and she shoots him. This issue makes more sense than other issues of Redneck that I’ve read, but Lisandro Estherren’s art is far looser and less detailed than in Sandman Universe: Nightmare Country.
ORION #8 (DC, 2001) – “The Righteous Treacheries of Desaad! or Orion Rules!”, [W/A] Walt Simonson. Orion is the new ruler of Apokolips, but thanks to the treachery of Darkseid’s old minions, Orion has to fight an army of cloned versions of Billion-Dollar Bates, the only human who understood the Anti-Life Equation. Bates’s only actual appearance was in Forever People #8, which I read so long ago that I can’t remember it. The art in this issue, particularly the face of the Hellborer weapon, reminds me of the work of Philippe Druillet. Like Simonson, Druillet is an adapter of the works of Michael Moorcock. This issue’s backup story, by Jeph Loeb and Rob Liefeld, is a complete piece of crap that’s not worthy of this series.
2000 AD #1842 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd: “Scavengers Part One,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Carl Critchlow. In issue 1812, the city of Luna-2 was drowned in the Black Atlantic. Now, someone is threatening to shoot nuclear weapons at Mega-City One from the sunken Luna-2, and Dredd has to save the day. Defoe: as above. Defoe meets the zombies’ controller, Faust, who promises that if Faust aids him, Faust will surrender the murderer of Defoe’s family. Age of the Wolf: as above. The Grey Witch, who looks like a female Odin, fights the werewolves who have kidnapped the girl. Sinister & Dexter: as above. Just after Tracy gets a phone call from Sinister, her idyllic life with Dexter is interrupted by some guy with a gun. The Ten-Seconders: as above. I still can’t understand this story.
WELCOME TO SHOWSIDE #4 (Z2, 2016) – untitled, [W] Ian McGinty, [A] Samantha Knapp. A floating skull named Frank tries to take control of the Teenomicon. This series has a similar style to the Steven Universe or Bravest Warriors comics, or perhaps a better comparison would be Adventure Time, since Ian McGinty worked on that series. Welcome to Showside isn’t based on an actual animated TV show, but it almost feels like a pitch for an animated cartoon that hasn’t been made yet. Anyway, I don’t much like the Adventure Time aesthetic, so Welcome to Showside #4 did not appeal to me.
2000 AD #1843 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd:as above. One of Dredd’s subordinates is killed by a giant octopus, then Dredd and his remaining allies enter Luna-2, where they meet Klegg. Defoe: as above. Defoe refuses Faust’s offer, only to be told that his companion, Jack, murdered Defoe’s personal hero, Colonel Rainsborough. Thomas Rainsborough was a real person who was an early advocate of universal suffrage. After learning this information, Defoe agrees to help Faust destroy the British empire. Sinister & Dexter: as above. Dexter saves Sinister and Tracy from being shot by gunmen, and they head off on another mission. Age of the Wolf: as above. The werewolves try to hold off the Grey Witch by sending children to fight her, but it doesn’t work. The Ten-Seconders: as above. I don’t understand this chapter any more than the last one.
MERCURY HEAT #6 (Avatar, 2015) – “The Long, Slow Dawn”, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Nahuel Lopez. After fighting a man named Saul Volta, Luiza Bora learns that the Mercury colonization project, which has taken an immense toll in human life, was not necessary, and another planet could have been colonized instead. I didn’t understand this plot point until I read this series’ page on TVTropes. This knowledge is so unsettling to Luiza that she edits her memories to remove it.
SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #115 (Marvel, 1986) – “Things Fall Apart,” [W] Peter David, [A] Mark Beachum. The first half of this issue is a series of vignettes without a clear underlying plot. Eventually Peter realizes he’s under the influence of Black Cat’s bad luck powers, and he gets Dr. Strange to remove Black Cat’s curse. As a result, Felicia loses her corresponding good luck powers, which is bad for her, because she was relying on them to fight some much stronger opponents. Mark Beachum’s depictions of women in this issue are rather exploitative. On the last page, Felicia is shown in almost the same posture that Manara used on his notorious Spider-Woman cover. Beachum only worked for Marvel and DC for a couple more years, and since then he’s mostly been doing porn comics.
TRANSFORMERS VS. G.I. JOE #11 (IDW, 2016) – “Escape from Primus,” [W] John Barber, [W/A] Tom Scioli. Much of this issue is a flashback to the past history of Duke and his brother Falcon. Duke’s treatment of Falcon is cruel and abusive, even if Duke is doing it to toughen Falcon up; indeed, that makes it even worse. In the main story, Cybertron itself comes to life and turns into a giant monster. Tom Scioli’s artwork in this issue is brilliant, as usual. The striking thing about his art is the contrast between his crude, childlike draftsmanship and his amazingly complex visual compositions and page layouts. In their commentary at the end of the issue, Barber and Scioli seem to be taking this comic more seriously than it deserves.
AVENGERS #289 (Marvel, 1988) – “The Cube Root!”, [W] Ralph Macchio, [A] John Buscema. Hydrobase Island is attacked by Heavy Metal, a team of robots that have fought the Avengers in the past. Their leader, the Super-Adaptoid, succeeds in his goal: to summon Kubik, the living incarnation of the Cosmic Cube. This issue is very boring, and it features an awful Avengers lineup, with no classic Avengers but a lot of minor characters like Marrina and Black Knight. After “Under Siege,” Avengers went into a long period of decline that didn’t end until Kurt Busiek and George Perez took over.
DRAX #2 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] CM Punk & Cullen Bunn, [A] Scott Hepburn. Drax and Terrax get drunk together and then team up. The version of Terrax who appears in this issue has nothing in common with any depiction of this character ever. Terrax has always been a generic world-conquering tyrant, not the sort of creature who would go drinking in a bar. I don’t remember why I ordered this issue, but I shouldn’t have.
SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING #1 (DC, 1982) – “What Peace There May Be in Silence,” [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Tom Yeates. We start with a recap of Swampy’s origin. In the present, Swampy saves a mysterious mute little girl from being shot, then he tries to return her to her family, but of course the girl’s neighbors all attack Swampy with pitchforks and torches. This issue is okay, and Tom Yeates is an acceptable substitute for Bernie Wrightson, but obviously this series was destined for far greater things. In a backup story, by Bruce Jones and Dan Spiegle, the Phantom Stranger encounters a charlatan preacher who’s stealing poor people’s money.
SECRET SIX #2 (DC, 2006) – “Six Degrees of Separation Part 2: The First Cut is the Deepest,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Brad Walker. A villain named Pistolera (formerly Gunbunny, from Detective Comics #674) tried to assassinate Scandal Savage’s lover Knockout. Scandal tortures Pistolera until she reveals that she was hired by Cheshire, then Deadshot murders Pistolera. The Secret Six then go and find Cheshire, only to discover that she’s given birth to Catman’s illegitimate son. Having children by her enemies is something of a pattern for Cheshire. Catman and Cheshire’s son, Tommy Blake, only made one more appearance and was written out of continuity, so he escaped the tragic fate of Cheshire’s other child, Lian Harper.
SLEEPER SEASON TWO #12 (Wildstorm, 2005) – “Heroes and Villains,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. I don’t understand this comic at all. It seems like the series ends by giving the protagonist, Holden, a happy ending, but according to Wikipedia he’s actually in a persistent vegetative state. Sleeper is important for being Brubaker and Phillips’s first collaboration (besides Scene of the Crime, where Phillips was only the inker), but it’s hard to understand.
X-NECROSHA #1 (Marvel, 2009) – “Necrosha Chapter One,” [W] Craig Kyle & Christopher Yost, [A] Clayton Crain. An introduction to an X-Men crossover in which a lot of dead X-Men characters return to life. Besides the main story, there are backup stories starring Doug Ramsey and Destiny. X-Necrosha has obvious similarities to the contemporaneous DC crossover Blackest Night, which was also about dead characters returning to life, and at the time Necrosha was considered a ripoff of Blackest Night.
THE SANDWALK ADVENTURES #3 (Active Synapse, 2002) – “Darwin Saves the World,” [W/A] Jay Hosler. While Charles Darwin recovers from a fall, the mites in his hair tell each other about Darwin’s theory of evolution. This comic provides a clear explanation of Darwin’s theories, and its art and writing are both very appealing. One funny moment is when Darwin is attacked by an alien conqueror, but Darwin proves that he himself is more evolutionarily fit than the alien, because he’s had children, and the alien hasn’t. Jay Hosler is an excellent artist of educational comics, and it’s too bad that his career began at a time when there wasn’t a market for such comics. He’s a biology professor in his day job, but he has continued to work in comics, and he published a graphic novel with First Second in 2015.
PROVIDENCE #4 (Avatar, 2015) – “White Apes,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jacen Burrows. I have all but one issue of this series, but I stopped reading it after issue 3, perhaps because of the lengthy text pieces at the end of each issue. These text features are each at least ten pages long, and they’re also handwritten, making them hard to decipher. As I have observed on many other occasions, when I’m reading comics, I don’t want to read prose. If I wanted to read prose, I would read a book. It’s too bad that I quit reading Providence, because the actual comic part of it is fascinating. In this issue, Robert Black visits the town of Athol in central Massachusetts, where he meets a creepy old farmer and his equally disturbing daughter and grandson. From these people he learns that his next destination is St. Anselm College in Manchester. A fun sequence in this issue is where the grandson takes some cubes and merges them together into a hypercube. Alan Moore’s Avatar comics, like Providence and Neonomicon, are one of the more obscure parts of his oeuvre. These comics, like everything from Avatar, have low production values and terrible art, and some of them are not original works but adaptations of Moore’s prose writings. Still, they’re among the only Alan Moore comics I haven’t read, and I suppose I should read more of them.
NEXUS #54 (First, 1989) – “Election Day,” [W] Mike Baron, [A] Paul Smith. Tyrone is running for reelection as Ylum’s president, but he can’t campaign because he’s too busy fighting off a Sov invasion. Just as Tyrone is about to get killed, Sundra and Dave rescue him, and he wins the election. A funny line on the last page is “Everyone but Brian of the Bat People has conceded. Brian went berserk and had to be shot.” Meanwhile, Nexus tries to save a sick baby using his healing tank, but the baby dies. Despite my antipathy for Mike Baron, I have to admit this was a pretty good issue. Sometime around this point, Steve Rude left the series and didn’t return until Nexus: The Origin, and the series’ quality took a nose dive.
THE ROCKETEER/THE SPIRIT: PULP FRICTION #4 (IDW/DC, 2013) – “Pulp Friction,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] J. Bone. The Rocketeer and the Spirit team up to rescue President Roosevelt, and in the process they discover that he’s a paraplegic. This comic is okay, but Rocketeer and the Spirit are such classic characters that any teamup between them, without the involvement of their creators, was bound to be disappointing. It’s a shame that this crossover couldn’t have happened while Will Eisner and Dave Stevens were still alive. It feels kind of pointless for anyone else to publish Rocketeer stories, since Stevens set a standard of quality that was impossible for anyone to meet, even Stevens himself.
THE BOOKS OF MAGIC #45 (DC, 1998) – “Slave of Heavens Part 1: The Veil,” [W] John Ney Rieber, [A] Peter Gross. Having given up his magic powers, Tim travels back from the realm of the dead aboard a plane, since his earliest awareness of death came when he watched a film about a plane crash . Back on Earth, he interrupts his father’s wedding and reveals that the “Tim” who’s attending the wedding is a changeling. Books of Magic is an excellent fantasy comic with a unique, whimsical sensibility, although its plot is rather hard to follow.
1602 WITCH HUNTER ANGELA #2 (Marvel, 2015) – “Part Two, in Which All the World’s a Stage and the Guardians Overthrow the Players,” [W] Marguerite Bennett w/ Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans w/ Irene Koh. The 1602 versions of Angela and the Guardians of the Galaxy interrupt the wedding of the 1602 version of Venom. Disappointingly, the 1602 version of Groot is a monk who’s sworn to silence, not a tree. There’s also an inset story, which is below Gillen’s normal level of quality, and also has much less interesting art than the main story. In general, Marvel never quite managed to make Angela a compelling character, and Kieron Gillen’s talents were wasted on her. Also, the 1602 milieu is not worth reading about if Neil Gaiman isn’t the writer.
HAMMER OF GOD: PENTATHLON #1 (Dark Horse, 1994) – untitled, [W] Mike Baron, [A] Neil Vokes. I thought this was the first issue of a miniseries, but it’s a one-shot. In the interplanetary Olympics, Judah enters the pentathlon, whose events are running, swimming, wrestling, cooking, and poetry. His main rival is his old enemy Jacques the Anvil. Judah fails to win any of the events because he’s busy preventing his old allies, the Gucci assassins, from killing people. This is a pretty fun comic – I particularly like the idea of a pentathlon that includes cooking and poetry – but I would have liked this comic a lot more if I were able to separate Mike Baron’s writing from Mike Baron himself.
X-FACTOR #86 (Marvel, 1993) – “One of These Days…”, [W] Peter David, [A] Jae Lee. I was exhausted when I read this, so maybe I judged it unfairly, but I thought it was awful. It’s another X-Cutioner’s Song crossover, so the X-Men and X-Force get as much panel space as the X-Factor members themselves. Also, Jae Lee’s art is awful. Some of his inking techniques are innovative, but his panel-to-panel continuity is unexciting, and his characters all stand in stiff, static poses. He’s a potentially interesting artist, but I haven’t bothered to read his new Image series Seven Sons.
Finally we get to my most recent Heroes trip, which was last weekend:
ONCE & FUTURE #30 (Boom!, 2022) – “Long Live the Queen,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. Gran convinces Mary/Elaine to put her gun down, and the Lethe-water plot is executed successfully. Mary chooses to stay in the underworld. Merlin doesn’t die, because he can’t, so he’s destined to come back eventually. Due to the rain of Lethe water, everyone forgets the events of the series, but Granny has left herself a note saying “vomit now!” She does so, regaining her memories, and she’s about to tell Duncan and Rose to do likewise, but instead she decides to leave them in blissful ignorance. Congratulations to Gillen and Mora on a satisfying end to the best new comic book of the past five years. I’m not an Arthurian scholar, but I’d like to give a conference paper on Once & Future someday.
NIGHTWING #97 (DC, 2022) – “Power Vacuum Part 1,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo. Dick is disappointed to learn that Blockbuster died before he could be brought to justice. Commissioner Montoya decides to take the corrupt mob boss Maroni to Gotham before arresting him, since he can be protected there more effectively than in Bludhaven. The convoy taking Maroni to Gotham is ambushed, and Dick and Babs have to flee with Maroni to one of Bruce’s secret safehouses, where Maroni is forced to listen to them having relations. The next day, a man drives up to the safehouse in a taxi and introduces himself as “Ric Grayson”. This issue has some really cute Dick/Babs scenes. I especially like Babs’s silly pun about Dick stealing her heart. I do have to wonder why they couldn’t just have Superman fly Maroni to Gotham, but I suppose Superman has other things to do.
WYND: THE THRONE IN THE SKY #3 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. The kids find a hot spring, where they have some difficult conversations while bathing. This scene is really cute, especially since this series has had a very bleak mood overall. The Duke and his allies escape from the prison camp. General Eks reveals his plan to sacrifice his own men in order to capture Wynd. He ambushes Wynd and friends while they’re sleeping, but they’re saved by a deus ex machina, a giant named Strawberry. But it’s not clear that they’ve really escaped, because Strawberry then puts them all in a giant-sized jar.
DO A POWERBOMB! #5 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Daniel Warren Johnson. The final round of the tournament is hotly contested, but stunningly, FYSO win in the end. Maggie deals the final blow to Lona while Lona is shocked at the revelation that Cobrasun is her father. Then we learn that the two members of FYSO have each lost a child. And now that they’ve won the tournament, they participate in a final duel to the death, to see which of their children will be resurrected. This plot twist is somewhat disappointing, and I hope we get a more satisfying resolution to Cobrasun and Yua’s story arc.
DARK SPACES: WILDFIRE #4 (IDW, 2022) – “Max Heat,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Hayden Sherman. The assailants overpower the firefighters and tie them up, except for Brooks, who they drag away. Recall that Brooks was the employee of the man who owned the house. Ma manages to escape her bonds by breaking her own wrist, and she frees the other three, but then they discover Brooks giving instructions to the gunmen! So the entire scheme to rob the house was a setup, and I bet if I look back at issue 1, I’ll find that the robbery was Brooks’s idea in the first place… I did check, and yes, it was her idea. What a brilliant plot twist. Dark Spaces: Wildfire is easily the best of IDW’s new creator-owned comics, and I think it’s my favorite work by Snyder.
SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #16 (DC, 2022) – “Reunion,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Romulo Fajardo. We begin with a flashback to when Clark taught Jon to master his super-hearing. Jon heats up his mother’s coffee with his heat vision, deals with some loose ends from last issue, and fights the Ultra-Humanite. In the middle of all this, his dad comes back to Earth, and Jon and Clark share a big hug. This is a cathartic moment.
BONE ORCHARD: TEN THOUSAND BLACK FEATHERS #2 (Image, 2022) – “They Build,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. In one sequence, the two girls design a fantasy world, and in another sequence, their fantasy characters have an adventure in that world. Later, the girls drift apart, and Jackie loses interest in the fantasy world. Then we learn that Jackie vanished ten years ago and was never seen again. This issue again reveals Sorrentino’s ability to draw in multiple different styles, even within a single page. Most of the fantasy-world sequences are drawn in his crisper, brighter style, but the enemies – the Skincrawlers – are drawn in his dark, muddy style, so they seem like an irruption of the real into the realm of the imaginary.
PUBLIC DOMAIN #5 (Image, 2022) – “Make Some Magic,” [W/A] Chip Zdarsky. In a flashback, we learn how Tammy got interested in comics despite her immigrant parents’ disapproval. Syd sets up his new company, Dallas Comics, and it seems like it’ll be a disaster. But then we learn that Dallas’s fan, Mohammed, is a billionaire tech bro, and he’s agreed to fund Dallas Comics for a year. The issue ends with Miles saying “Let’s make some comics.” If this is the last issue of Public Domain, it’s a satisfying conclusion. But I hope it’s not the last issue, because Public Domain is the best comic Chip Zdarsky has ever written, and I want to read more of it. There have been lots of comics about the comic book industry, but most of them have been either nostalgic paeans to the great comics of the past, or pessimistic satires of the industry’s corruption and irrelevance, and Public Domain manages to be both those things at once.
EVE: CHILDREN OF THE MOON #1 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Jo Mi-Gyeong. The two Eves visit the Portage, Michigan rest area to see why it hasn’t been responding to their communication. They discover that the Michigan outpost has been taken over by a sect of fanatical moon-worshippers, who threaten to kill both Eves unless they surrender their robot bear. I’m glad to see a sequel to Eve, which was an excellent miniseries, and the Children of the Moon are a very scary antagonist. I lost my review of issue 5 of the original Eve.
MARVEL FAMILY #1 facsimile (Fawcett/DC, 1945/2022) – “The Mighty Marvels Join Forces!”, [W] Otto Binder, [A] C.C. Beck. This comic was released without much notice, and I’m glad Heroes still had it on the shelf when I visited. It was reprinted to coincide with the Black Adam movie, because Marvel Family #1 was Black Adam’s first and only Golden Age appearance. Black Adam is an impressive villain, and his debut story is an excellent example of the Fawcett style – it’s exciting and funny at once. Why was this Black Adam’s only appearance in a Fawcett comic? Because Uncle Marvel defeats him by tricking him into saying “Shazam,” and he turns into his 5000-year-old mortal form and dies of old age. This is sort of like how Johnny Bates defeats himself in Miracleman #2. Marvel Family #1 includes two backup features: a stupid comedy story, and a cute story where the Marvel Family cares for an abandoned baby.
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #133 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Fero Pe. This issue includes some cute scenes with the Turtles’ supporting cast, so it’s automatically the best issue in months. For example, Lita appears again for the first time since I don’t know when. Unfortunately, this issue is also a tie-in with a crossover called The Armageddon Game. I don’t know what that is, and I don’t care.
BATGIRLS #11 (DC, 2022) – “Bat Girl Summer Part 3,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael Conrad, [A] Neil Googe. This issue guest-stars my favorite new DC character of recent years: Maps Mizoguchi! It’s great to see her again, and my only complaint is she’s drawn to look too young. Watching her interact with the Batgirls is incredibly fun. The main plot of this issue is that the Batgirls follow a trail of clues until it leads them to the Riddler. Neil Googe’s art in this story arc has been quite effective, though he’s not as flashy as Jorge Corona.
CRASHING #2 (IDW, 2022) – “Crashing Part Two,” [W] Matthew Klein, [A] Morgan Beem. The pressure on Rose increases, both from her legal employers, and from the supervillain who’s forcing her to work for him. Also, Rose’s politician husband Don is trying to pass a superhero registration bill, which Rose disagrees with. No wonder Rose is relapsing into drug addiction. When Rose refuses the supervillain’s request to influence Don to withdraw the bill, the supervillain has his henchmen invade Rose’s apartment and kidnap Don. Crashing is a thrilling story that powerfully depicts the impossible stress that doctors are under.
CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SALEM #1 (Archie, 2022) – untitled, [W] Cullen Bunn, [A] Dan Schoening. I’ve mostly given up on ordering new Archie comics, for reasons that will be explained below, but I bought this one off the shelf. I can’t resist a comic with a cat for a protagonist. In this issue, Sabrina’s cat Salem defeats a wizard who’s summoning demons and imprisoning them in animals’ bodies. This issue is suspiciously similar to Beasts in Burden, but it’s still the best Archie comic of the year, mostly because it consists of just a single story. In most of the other current Archie comics, there are several stories per issue, and therefore none of them have enough room to develop.
2000 AD #2290 (Rebellion, 2022) – There was a new prog pack waiting for me at Heroes, but it didn’t include #2289. I can’t imagine why this issue was missing, but I don’t think it’s Heroes’s fault. Dredd: “Special Relationship 02,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Patrick Goddard. Mega-City One and Brit-Cit get into a pissing match over repairs to the Black Atlantic Tunnel. Skip Tracer: “Valhalla,” [W] James Peaty, [A] Paul Marshall. Nolan leaves his daughter behind to go on a dangerous mission. Dexter: “Malice in Plunderland Part 2,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Tazio Bettin. Dexter and Tracy involve themselves in a gang war. Brink: “Mercury Retrograde Part 19,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] I.N.J. Culbard. Yet another chapter in which nothing noteworthy happens. In terms of its glacial pacing, this story is the 2000 AD equivalent of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Black Panther.
DEFENDERS BEYOND #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “Da’at: The Land of Couldn’t-Be-Shouldn’t-Be,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Javier Rodriguez. The Defenders have a fantasy of a utopian world in which all their dreams are fulfilled, but it’s an illusion created by Glorian. The Defenders reject Glorian’s temptation and defeat him by summoning the Never Queen from Dan Slott’s Silver Surfer. The next stop on the Defenders’ journey is the House of Ideas. It goes without saying that Javier Rodriguez’s art on this miniseries has been amazing, though in this issue he uses fewer radical page layouts than usual. One page that stands out is the splash page of Galactus’s distorted face.
IMMORTAL X-MEN #7 (Marvel, 2022) – “Red in Blue,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Lucas Werneck. Nightcrawler is the featured character this issue. Anna Peppard described this issue as a quintessential Nightcrawler story – “It’s been a minute since I’ve seen Kurt Wagner perform the part of Kurt Wagner quite this magnificently… This is a comic book I can point to and say — this. This is why I love this character, and why you should love him, too.” I can’t argue with her. Kurt is presented in this issue as audacious, charming, and deeply empathic. Kieron Gillen writes Nightcrawler so well that it’s too bad he’s not the writer on Legion of X.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: SYMBOL OF TRUTH #6 (Marvel, 2022) – “Pax Mohannda Part 1,” [W] Tochi Onyebuchi, [A] Ig Guara. Mohannda, Wakanda’s neighboring country, is comparable to South Africa or Zimbabwe because of its history of racial tension. Mohannda’s new reformist prime minister, Jani Schonland, comes to America to speak at the UN, only to be assassinated by white supremacist terrorists. This issue is a promising start to the second story arc. However, Symbol of Truth’s first story also started out promisingly, but was derailed by a lot of pointless action scenes, and I hope the same thing doesn’t happen a second time.
WONDER WOMAN #792 (DC, 2022) – “Feral Part Two,” [W] Michael W. Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Marguerite Sauvage. Diana and Cheetah escape from the Cale Industries facility, and we discover that Dr. Psycho is plotting with the goddess Hera to use psychoactive milk to dominate people. This is at least the fourth comic book I’ve read in which milk was used as a delivery mechanism for harmful substances. Others were the Milk Wars crossover, Fantastic Four Annual #17, and Batman: Shadow of the Bat #52 (which I read so long ago that I had trouble identifying it). Marguerite Sauvage’s art here is more conventional than I expect from her, but her linework is still beautiful. In the Young Diana backup story, Diana collapses while trying to heal the mystical creature.
CAPTAIN MARVEL #42 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Chewie Center,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Andrea Di Vito. In an A.X.E. crossover, New York is invaded by aliens, and Carol’s sort-of-cat Chewie has to save the day. This is not the first comic book that’s narrated from a cat’s perspective – earlier examples are Astro City #44 and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #15, not to mention Sandman #18 – but you can never have too many comics about cats, and this is a pretty good one. I also like the two-page spread showing all the people in Carol’s building.
SHANG-CHI AND THE TEN RINGS #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “Game of Rings Part 1,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Marcus To. It’s time for a classic trope from East Asian media: the martial arts tournament. Shang-Chi’s date with his neglected love interest Delilah is interrupted when he’s forcibly entered in an other-dimensional competition. Ten martial artists have to compete to get to the top of the Meritorious Striving Pagoda, and the winner will get to keep the Ten Rings – which is rather unfair since the rings already belong to Shang-Chi. By the end of the issue, there are six competitors left, and Shang-Chi teams up with his old frenemy Shen Kuei, another character from the series’ classic period.
NAMOR: CONQUERED SHORES #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Hope’s Embers,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Pasqual Ferry. This comic is sort of like Waterworld, since it takes place in a future world that’s been drowned by sea level rise. Atlantis now dominates the world, but Namor has abdicated the throne to Namorita, which makes it hard for him to protect the few surviving land-dwelling humans. This comic is rather grim, as I suppose I should expect from Cantwell, but it’s certainly better so far than his other recent debut, Briar. Pasqual Ferry, like Salvador Larroca, is a highly skilled, veteran Spanish artist who’s never gotten enough respect.
2000 AD #2291 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Brit-Cit’s army takes over the Black Atlantic Tunnel, and in Brit-Cit itself, there’s a conversation between two men named Bernard and Modric. Brink: as above. Nolan tries and fails to interview a man named Anish Anoor, and then a man named Evan Leeden approaches him. Yet another chapter with no excitement or action. Skip Tracer: as above. Nolan and his crew are driven nuts by something called the Blackstar. Eden talks with the girl with anime eyes. This is the only story in this issue that really interests me. Dexter: as above. Dexter and Tracy convince the leaders of the two gangs to negotiate with each other. Jaegir: “Ferox One,” [W] Gordon Rennie, [A] Simon Coleby. This is set in the Rogue Trooper universe and stars a character who looks like Venus Bluegenes, but other than that I don’t understand it.
THE DEADLIEST BOUQUET #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Erika Schultz, [A] Carola Borelli. The police implicate Jasmine in a 1978 murder. Her victim, James Asmus, is named after a comic book writer, but I don’t know why; I assume it’s an inside joke. The sisters almost kill Poppy’s husband, thinking he’s an intruder. Rose (I think) throws the murder weapon in the river.
SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER 2 #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jody Leheup, [A] Nil Vendrell. Shirtless climbs Mount Ainu and discovers a mural that reveals that Ursa Major is his father. Then Shirtless fights Ursa Major himself, who is introduced in a splash page that’s an homage to Bill Sienkiewicz’s famous depiction of the Demon Bear. Shirtless loses the fight and wakes up in Japan. There he fights some yakuza bears, or “yakuma,” and is subsequently arrested and convicted of murder. This scene seems like a contrived way of getting Shirtless into prison. Okonomiyaki are described in this issue as Japanese pancakes, which is kind of accurate, but you can’t really eat a stack of okonomiyaki.
SILVER COIN #15 (Image, 2022) – “Into the Fire,” [W/A] Michael Walsh. A man named Louis finds the coin. He repeatedly gives the coin to other people, then takes it back after these people get killed. One of the people who gets the coin from Louis is the waitress from issue 11, but I don’t recognize the other recipients. In the end the coin kills Louis himself, and that’s the end of the series for now.
HIGHBALL #2 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Touring the Facilities,” [W] Stuart Moore, [A] Fred Harper. Highball receives an award, but he and his fellow pilots can’t make it to the award ceremony because it’s behind a door that’s locked by an incomprehensible puzzle. Eventually they give up and start vandalizing the Mentok ship instead. I think the best part of this comic is the Mentoks. A sample Mentok quotation: “For relative bravery, minimal honor, and conduct slightly above the pathetic level expected of his brutish and peculiar people, it is my tedious duty to award the Mentok ‘Medal of Scant Heroism’ to this, ah, this… what is his name again?”
LOVE EVERLASTING #3 (Image, 2022) – “Too Late for Love,” [W] Tom King, [A] Elsa Charretier. Unlike the first two issues, and unlike most of the romance comics it’s based on, this issue tells a single story. Joan is in love with her high school classmate Fred, but she can’t decide whether to marry him or go away to college. Then Joan learns that her school librarian, also named Joan, had a similar choice to make, and chose to leave town. But Joan the librarian eventually went back to her hometown anyway, only to discover that her high school boyfriend was now married with a child – who was named after his lost love. That explains why Joan is named that, and why her parents’ marriage is unhappy. The younger Joan chooses to accept Fred’s proposal, but then the masked man shows up again and murders the older Joan. This is the first issue of Love Everlasting that works as a story in its own right, outside the context of the overarching reincarnation plot.
JURASSIC LEAGUE #6 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Daniel Warren Johnson, [W/A] Juan Gedeon. The dinosaur Justice League finally defeats the dinosaur Darkseid. This series was fun, but it was a single good idea stretched out over six issues. It should have been a one-shot, or a three-issue miniseries at most.
DAREDEVIL #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Red Fist Saga Part 4,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Rafael De Latorre. Matt and Elektra travel to their new hideout, where they meet Stick and Doc Samson. At Stick’s request, Matt and Elektra perform a ritual that makes them king and queen of the Fist, as well as husband and wife. This issue made more sense than the last one.
NIGHTWING #78 (DC, 2021) – “Leaping Into the Light Part 1,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo. I won this on eBay. It’s a third printing, but who cares. Blockbuster, the crime boss of Blüdhaven, murders the city’s current mayor and replaces him with Melinda Zucco, the daughter of the man who killed Dick Grayson’s parents. Meanwhile, Dick saves a dog from being beaten by hooligans. On returning home, Dick learns from Babs that the late Alfred Pennyworth was extremely rich, and Dick is his sole heir. This issue is an excellent start to the best current Marvel or DC comic, and it also explains some plot points I hadn’t quite understood before.
SNARF #2 (Kitchen Sink, 1972) – [E] Denis Kitchen. This is another eBay purchase. It’s in ugly condition, but is still complete and readable. “Alexander Nutsky,” [W] Pete Poplaski. A Polish-themed barbarian adventure story, and also a paean to Polish sausage. “Wild Man Meets Rubberoy,” [W/A] Grass Green. A superhero parody in the vein of Kurtzman and Wood’s Superduperman. By the way, I’ve never read the original run of Mad. It’s a big gap in my comics education. But I don’t know if it’s been reprinted in an affordable form. “Ma Cow,” [W/A] Evert Geradts. A two-pager about cows. This artist is a pioneer of Dutch underground comics. “Crescent City Rollo in the Cabbage Gardens,” [W/A] Wendel Pugh. I’ve never heard of this artist, but he was a very talented draftsman. His art reminds me of both Robert Williams and Justin Green, and his lettering is especially crisp and appealing. This story, like Harold Hedd #2, is about hippies who travel to Latin America to smuggle drugs.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1 HALLOWEEN TRICK-OR-READ 2022 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Zeb Wells, [A] Michael Dowling. This was given out for free at Heroes as part of a Halloween promotion. Confusingly, it has three different numbers – it’s #1, but it’s a reprint of Amazing Spider-Man #88, which was LGY #889. It must have been chosen for the Halloween Trick-or-Read promotion because it’s the first appearance of Queen Goblin, a scary-looking character. However, for a comic intended as an introduction for new readers, it’s a very poor choice. It makes no sense unless the reader is already familiar with the premise behind the Beyond story arc, it stars Ben Reilly instead of Peter Parker, and it’s an uninteresting story anyway.
DUO #6 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Khoi Pham. Kelly and David team up to defeat both the aliens and the immortals. This series had a mildly interesting premise, but it wasted the potential of that premise by introducing too many other irrelevant plot elements.
CAREER SHOPLIFTER #1 (Uncivilized, 2022) – various stories, [W/A] Gabrielle Bell. A collection of Gabrielle Bell’s drawings and sketches from early 2022. Most of the stories are about people she encounters in the coffee shop where she works. She’s become a very talented draftsperson, and her meditations are thoughtful and interesting, though a bit whiny sometimes. I think most of these stories were first published through her Patreon. Her short story collection Inappropriate is on my pile of books to be read soon.
TRVE KVLT #3 (IDW, 2022) – “Soft Skills and C-Minus Nachos,” [W] Scott Bryan Wilson, [A] Liana Kangas. Marty and Alison travel to Dr. Shiver’s lair, where, after experiencing a series of alternate lives, they descend all the way to hell. I liked this issue better than #2, but this series still lacks a consistent tone, and its two protagonists are still annoying.
MONEY SHOT #1 (Vault, 2019) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Sarah Beattie, [A] Rebekah Isaacs. This was another eBay purchase. It’s a later printing, and it was shipped in a wrapper to conceal the obscene imagery on the cover. In 2027, humanity has discovered the existence of extraterrestrial life, but the aliens understandably don’t think humans are worth their attention, while Earth has no money for space exploration. Faced with an inability to obtain funding for their space travel research, a group of scientists have a brilliant idea: they’ll generate revenue by getting people to pay to watch them having sex with aliens. This is a brilliant and funny setup, and it helps me understand the rest of the series. Rebekah Isaacs is an excellent erotic artist who has the rare skill of depicting sex in a tantalizing way, but without being exploitative. (I was going to say “exploitative or tawdry,” but this comic is tawdry, and proud of it.)
HAWK THE SLAYER #5 (Rebellion, 2022) – “Die by the Sword,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Henry Flint. Voltan cuts Hawk’s hand off, but Hawk is still able to control his sword with his severed hand, and he uses it to kill Voltan. This miniseries was mostly pointless, and I should have skipped it.
2000 AD #2292 – Dredd: as above. Some old dude talks to the two British guys from last issue, and then one of them is kidnapped by a woman named Domino. Meanwhile, the Black Atlantic standoff erupts into violence. Skip Tracer: as above. Nolan’s teammate sacrifices himself so that Nolan can escape, and he wakes up in the afterlife, where he’s greeted by Eden’s dead mother Pamela. Dexter: as above. At Dexter and Tracy’s behest, the seconds-in-command of the two gangs murder their bosses and then join forces. Brink: as above. Nolan talks with Evan Leeden, who’s a secret agent, and Eden tells Nolan to give some information to the press. I don’t think I’ve ever read a 2000 AD story that had less action or excitement than this one. Jaegir: as above. I still don’t understand this story’s plot. It does have the best art in the issue, but that’s not saying much.
FEAR THE FUNHOUSE #1 (Archie, 2022) – “Snack Attack,” [W] Micol Ostow, [A] Lissette Carrera, etc. Another in a long line of bad Archie one-shots. All three “stories” in this issue are pointless non-stories. Each one has a mildly interesting setup, at best, but doesn’t go anywhere. This even applies to the Magdalene Visaggio story, which must have been the reason I ordered this comic. Archie has clearly lost interest in publishing comics for the direct market. The main Archie title was cancelled during the pandemic, and there’s no sign that it’s going to be revived. Archie seems to be devoting all their attention to digests, which must be far more lucrative. But if that’s the case, then I don’t see why Archie is even bothering to publish these one-shots at all. They certainly aren’t putting much effort into them.
BATMAN: THE KNIGHT #10 (DC, 2022) – “The Knight Finale,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Carmine Di Giandomenico. Bruce defeats Anton/Minhkhoa and becomes Ra’s al Ghul’s heir, but Anton has informed Bruce that Ra’s is planning to destroy the world, so Bruce sabotages Ra’s plans. Anton saves Bruce at the last minute, Bruce returns to Gotham, and the series ends just before the iconic “I shall become a bat” moment. This is probably the most satisfying issue of the series, because it demonstrates how Bruce’s experiences, throughout all ten issues, have culminated to inform his decision to become Batman.
SACRAMENT #3 (AWA, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Marcelo Frusin. Vass and Rais continue to have no success with exorcising the demon, and in a flashback, we learn that Vass has already broken his vow of celibacy. The demon possesses Rais herself and forces her to seduce Vass. He refuses, and then the demon seemingly kills her. This is a powerful issue, but again, Sacrament feels less original than Absolution.
LEGION OF X #6 (Marvel, 2022) – “Holding the Line,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Rafael Pimentel. Legion fights an epic mental battle with Uranos. The best part of this issue, and perhaps of the series in general, is the splash page where Legion and Zafran compete with each other in a top-hat-and-cane dance and in a guitar-versus-harp battle. In context, this actually kind of makes sense. Given that all of Spurrier’s X-Men comics have had Nightcrawler as the main protagonist, it’s ironic that Kieron Gillen’s Immortal X-Men #7 is so much better than anything Spurrier has done with Nightcrawler.
ELLE(S) #3 (Ablaze, 2022) – untitled, [W] Kid Toussaint, [A] Aveline Stokart. Elle has noticed that there are no pictures of her as a newborn, and that she was born in Batesville, a town 300 miles from her hometown. She and her friends travel to Batesville to investigate this mystery. While there, they notice a man following them. He proves to be a private detective… and his client is Elle’s real mother. This discovery causes Elle to become catatonic. This issue is much more exciting than the first two. It seems as if the setup is over now, and the real plot has begun.
AQUAMAN: ANDROMEDA #3 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Ram V, [A] Christian Ward. After a lot of plot twists, Yvette and Alexei are the sole survivors of the Andromeda. Alexei reveals to Yvette that during the Bosnian War, he murdered a boatload of helpless refugees. He redeems himself by sacrificing his life to destroy the alien ship, while Aquaman saves Yvette. This series was everything that could have been expected from its two star creators. It’s one of the best Aquaman comics in recent memory, and it’s my favorite Ram V comic besides These Savage Shores and Many Deaths of Laila Starr. Christian Ward’s art and coloring here are stunning, and he takes full advantage of the larger page size of the Black Label format.
2000 AD #1844 (Rebellion, 2013) – I have two copies of this for some reason, so if you’ve read this far, please comment on this post and I’ll send you the extra copy. This issue’s cover has a funny caption: “30 Years of Slaine / He Didn’t Think It Too Many.” Dredd: “Scavengers Part 3,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Carl Critchlow. Dredd and Klegg defeat the terrorists who took over Luna-2. Defoe: “The Damned Part 9,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Leigh Gallagher. Defoe sells his soul to Faust in order to fight the British Empire. Slaine: “The Book of Scars,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Clint Langley. In a 30th-anniversary story, Slaine tells his latest lover Vevina the stories behind his various scars. Then Vevina’s womb bursts open to reveal Slaine’s old enemy, the alien Guledig. Clint Langley’s photorealistic painted art in this chapter is beautiful. Age of the Wolf: “Wolfworld Part 5,” [W] Alec Worley, [A] Jon Davis-Hunt. The head wolf hunts down the girl Keira. The Ten-Seconders: “Godsend Part 6,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Edmund Bagwell. Another chapter that makes no sense.
DETECTIVE COMICS #491 (DC, 1980) – Batman: “Riddle of the Golden Fleece,” [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Don Newton. Maxie Zeus tries to steal an artificial version of the Golden Fleece for his daughter Medea, who is introduced in this issue. I don’t know if her mother was ever named, but it makes sense that a character based on Zeus would have an illegitimate child. Jason Bard: “Fragrance of Death!”, [W] Mike W. Barr, [A] Dan Spiegle. A cemetery caretaker notices that Jason Bard keeps putting flowers on the grave of a certain drifter. Jason Bard explains that this grave belongs to the killer of Jason’s father. In a flashback, we see that Jason’s father murdered his mother. Later, Jason found his father with the help of the drifter, Scratch. Then Scratch killed Jason’s father to save Jason, but suffered fatal injuries as a result. I usually don’t like Mike Barr’s writing, but this was a powerful story, the best in the issue. Robin: “The Target of the Death-Dealer,” [W] Jack C. Harris, [A] Alex Saviuk. Robin solves a mystery at Hudson University. At the end of the story, Robin hides behind the scoreboard at a basketball game, and no one sees him. Black Lightning: “Short Circuit,” [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Pat Broderick. Black Lightning loses his powers while solving a crime. Black Lightning reappeared in #494 and #495, but I don’t think he got his powers back until he became a member of the Outsiders. In this issue Black Lightning says he both won the Olympic decathlon and broke the record for the 100-meter dash. It’s not humanly possible for the same person to do both those things, so he must have meant some record other than the world record. Batgirl: “The Assassination of Batgirl!”, [W] Cary Burkett, [A] José Delbo. General Scar hangs Batgirl in effigy. This villain later appeared in World’s Finest #279.
SLEEPER SEASON TWO #11 (Wildstorm, 2005) – “In the Crossfire,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. This doesn’t make any more sense than issue 12. In this series Phillips uses a strange page layout with lots of inset panels. Later in his career his page layouts became more conventional.
REDNECK #14 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Lisandro Estherren. Bartlett wakes up in the care of a woman named Ingrid, who claims to be a representative of the Parliament of Elders. Bartlett has a tense conversation with his old flame July. Ingrid and the Parliament of Elders decide to assassinate the Bowman family. This issue would have been more fun if I’d had any idea who any of the characters were.
DOMINO #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Onimod,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] David Baldeon. Domino and Shang-Chi fight a number of Shang-Chi’s old enemies, such as Shockwave and Razorfist. BTW, I just noticed that Shockwave looks a lot like Wildfire, who debuted three years earlier. There’s also a subplot about Diamondback and Outlaw. This issue is entertaining but insubstantial.
PROVIDENCE #5 (Avatar, 2015) – “In the Walls,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jacen Burrows. Robert Black visits St. Anselm College, but can’t see the Kitab (i.e. the Necronomicon) because its caretaker is away for the week. He takes lodgings in the neighboring small town of Goffs Falls, where he has a series of horrifying dreams. In terror, Black returns to Manchester and stays with Hector North, a college staff member, and North’s male roommate Montague. North and Montague are obviously coded as gay, but the joke is that they’re based on the title character and narrator of “Herbert West – Reanimator,” so everything they say could refer to either gay sex or reviving the dead. In the midst of all this, Black meets a strange little girl, Elspeth West. Again, this issue has a very long and tedious handwritten text piece at the end. Much of this text is superfluous, as it just retells the events of the issue.
BROTHERS OF THE SPEAR #18 (Whitman, 1982) – “The Labyrinths of Aba-Zulu,” [W] Don Glut, [A] Jesse Santos. While out on a picnic, Dan-El and Natongo encounter Lugongo, their father (or adopted father in Dan-El’s case). This provides an opportunity for a recap of the brothers’ origin. Then the evil wizard Nagopa tries to take over Aba-Zulu and replace Dan-El and Natongo with the intellectually disabled son of the dead usurper Hanool. Of course Dan-El and Natongo foil the plot. This story is a reprint of issue 2, and was published six years after issue 17. I have no idea why they chose to publish it. By 1982, Western had abandoned the newsstand market and was only distributing comics in three-packs sold through department stores. Some of the Whitman comics that were only available in this format are extremely rare and valuable, but Brothers of the Spear #18 does not seem to be one of those.
CARVER: A PARIS STORY #1 (Z2, 2015) – “Who Are You?”, [W/A] Chris Hunt. I ordered this because it contains a short story by Paul Pope. That story actually is worth reading, because it has excellent art, and it’s also a cute tribute to Corto Maltese. However, I should have skipped the other issues of the series, as Paul Pope had nothing to do with them. The main story in Carver #1 is a waste of space. All that happens in it is that some people try to intimidate our hero, Carver, and he beats them up and goes looking for the person who sent them. This whole story could have been told in two pages.
PROVIDENCE #6 (Avatar, 2015) – “Out of Time,” as above. On leaving North’s house, Black discovers that the librarian has already been back for more than a week. He spends most of the issue reading the Kitab, and when he finishes, even more time has passed. Elspeth takes him back to her home, where we realize that she’s possessed by some sort of demon, and the demon swaps its mind with Robert’s so that it can force Robert to have sex with Elspeth. This scene is obviously quite disturbing. Robert runs outside into the pouring rain, and then there’s another giant block of text. At least this text is a bit more interesting, since it summarizes what Robert read in the Kitab.
STAR WARS: DOCTOR APHRA #1 HALLOWEEN TRICK-OR-READ 2022 (Marvel, 2020/2022) – “Fortune and Fate Part 1: The Rings of Vaale,” [W] Alyssa Wong, [A] Marika Cresta. Another free comic. It was first published as Star Wars: Doctor Aphra (2020) #1. It may be a bit more new-reader-friendly than Amazing Spider-Man #88, but it’s not particularly good. I have very little interest in the Star Wars franchise.
2000 AD #1845 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd: “Bender Part One,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ben Willsher. A judge named Al Lock has a nightmare about when his father beheaded his mother. Then he teams up with a new partner, Lou Bender, who proceeds to beat up a man for a mild offense. Defoe: as above. Defoe betrays Faust, claiming that their pact was void because Defoe had no soul to sell. In exchange, Faust absconds with Defoe’s friends. Slaine: “The Book of Scars Part 2: The Bride of Crom,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Clint Langley. Either a flashback or an alternate-reality version of the similarly titled story from progs #337-342, in which Slaine saves Medb from being sacrificed to Crom Cruach. Clint Langley’s art here is line-drawn rather than painted, but it’s still brilliant. His depiction of Slaine’s warp spasm is especially gruesome. Age of the Wolf: as above. The witch, Rowan Morrigan, goes looking for her daughter Keira, while the werewolf prepares to sacrifice Keira. The Ten-Seconders: as above. This still makes no sense. I read this issue’s last two stories just yesterday, and I can’t remember anything about either of them.
METAL MEN #7 (DC, 1964) – “The Living Gun!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Ross Andru. Will Magnus and Platinum have a lovers’ quarrel. Then the Metal Men battle the Solar Brain, an evil entity that’s been spontaneously generated in space. The brain forces the Metal Men to turn into a gun and shoot Magnus, but Lead manages to resist the brain’s control. Given that Platinum is the focal character in this story, it would have made more sense for her to be the one who defeated the brain’s plot. This issue is quite funny, but Kanigher’s treatment of Platinum is very sexist.
SIN CITY: THAT YELLOW BASTARD #2 (Dark Horse, 1996) – untitled, [W/A] Frank Miller. Our hero, Hartigan, saves a little girl, Nancy, from being raped and murdered by Roark Jr, the son of a senator. Hartigan suffers severe injuries as a result, and when he wakes up, Senator Roark has Hartigan convicted for Roark Jr’s crimes. There are some powerful scenes in this issue, but what I hate about Frank Miller’s comics is their atmosphere of toxic masculinity. Sin City and 300, in particular, are basically extended dick-measuring contests. For example, much of this issue is devoted to Senator Roark’s speech about how he controls Sin City and nobody will dare to oppose him. Roark makes this speech as a way of exerting dominance over Harrigan. Throughout Miller’s work, it seems as if the only goal of a man is to prove his manliness, and the only way he can do that is by destroying other men. Also, I looked at the spoilers for this series, and it turns out that in the end, Hartigan is unable to defeat Senator Roark, because everyone is too scared of Roark to hold him accountable for his crimes, and Hartigan has to commit suicide in order to save Nancy from her. That feels like an abuse of authorial fiat. In other words, the only way Roark could be that powerful is because the author said so. Maybe I’m being naïve about this, but it seems to me that in real life, no public figure is so scary that everyone is terrified to even say anything bad about them. It’s possible for rich people to escape accountability for their crimes – we see that every day – but they can still get judged in the court of public opinion. In fact, that’s what happens in Daredevil: Born Again, which also has a villain who’s too powerful to be prosecuted for his crimes. At the end of that story, the Kingpin doesn’t go to prison, but his reputation is severely damaged.
MERCURY HEAT #8 (Avatar, 2016) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Nahuel Lopez. Luiza battles some Crossed, from a different Avatar comic. However, she refuses to believe they’re really Crossed, and I think she is later proved right about this. In this storyline there’s a cute visual trope where whenever the Crossed’s private parts appear on-panel, they’re obscured by stickers of cartoon characters. This issue explains this visual trope as the result of Luiza’s “image processing censor.” Apparently the same censor is also applied to the reader.
PUMA BLUES #4 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1987) – “Indistinction,” [W] Stephen Murphy, [A] Michael Zulli. Two different characters go looking for a flying manta ray. Like most of Puma Blues, this issue is less focused on telling a story than creating an atmosphere.
TRANSFORMERS VS. G.I. JOE #10 (IDW, 2015) – “Earth: R.I.P.”, [W] John Barber, [W/A] Tom Scioli. Earth has been destroyed, and the few surviving G.I. Joes have to meet up with the Transformers to continue the fight. Also, there’s an explanation of the origins of Primus and Unicron. This issue is full of bizarre, labyrinthine page layouts. Instead of the usual commentary, this issue ends with a text story.
RESURRECTION #1 (Oni, 2007) – “The Day After,” [W] Marc Guggenheim, [A] David Dumeer. This is a good example of how not to write a debut issue of a comic book. Resurrection’s plot seems to be that the human race has been driven underground by an alien invasion, but now the aliens have been defeated, and the humans are slowly emerging. The trouble is that none of this is ever clearly communicated to the reader. Instead the reader has to piece together what’s going on, and that distracts the reader from actually paying attention to the story. The writer seems to have forgotten that he understands the premise of the story, but hisreaders don’t.
That is finally the end of this stack. Until now I was hesitant to write reviews because I was running out of space in my boxes, but I have solved that problem, at least temporarily, so I will try to write reviews more often.