Reviews of about 125 comics

10-28-17

New comics received on October 7:

PAPER GIRLS #16 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. An exciting start to the new story arc, which is really more of a continuation of the old story arc. As usual, a ton of stuff happens this issue, and I can’t remember or understand all of it. Notably, we get a solution to the Frankie Tomatah mystery, which turns out to be a bit disappointing. I was hoping that the name Frankie Tomatah was a clue that the reader could solve by looking carefully at earlier issues. It turns out that Frankie Tomatah is the name of a comic strip that appeared on the letters pages, and the protagonists just have to go visit the cartoonist who created the strip. I wonder if those letters pages are included in the collected editions.

MOTOR CRUSH #7 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Babs Tarr, [W] Brenden Fletcher & Cameron Stewart. Another excellent issue. Dom discovers that Lola has started seeing someone else since Dom apparently died, but then she finds Catball and her father. I guess that doesn’t sound all that exciting, but it is. I notice that there’s a really sharp color contrast between Dom and Lola, but the creators mostly avoid any suggestion that Dom’s darkness and Lola’s brightness have moral implications.

MOONSTRUCK #3 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Grace Ellis, [A] Shae Beagle. I thought Moonstruck #2 was disappointing because of the lack of any conflict, but this issue was significantly better. The conflict (Chet’s loss of his horse half) is kind of contrived, but Ellis and Beagle handle it quite well. I especially like Chet’s line about colonialism. And the parade scene is full of funny mayhem and cute sight gags.

USAGI YOJIMBO #162 (Dark Horse, 2017) – “The Body in the Library, Part 2,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. An exciting conclusion to last issue’s mystery. The murderer’s motives and true identity are left unclear, creating a hook for a future story. Usagi and Kitsune’s interactions are funny, but also very familiar from other Kitsune stories; however, it’s fun to see Kitsune interacting with Inspector Ishida.

KIM & KIM: LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD #3 (Black Mask, 2017) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. This issue is incorrectly labeled as #4 in the indicia, which made me afraid that I’d missed the actual #3. Otherwise, this issue is witty and well-drawn, but not significantly different from the previous two.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #59 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Christina Rice, [A] Agnes Garbowska. Yet another issue that’s a sequel to a season 8 episode – in this case, an episode that I hadn’t seen when I read the issue. Specifically, this issue is a sequel to “Secrets and Pies,” in which we learn that Rainbow Dash dislikes pie. In MLP: FIM #59, Pinkie Pie attempts to cure Dashie’s pie-phobia by making her try every kind of pie. However, Rainbow Dash turns the tables by demonstrating that Pinkie also hates Dashie’s favorite pastime: sitting around doing nothing. This issue is an effective sequel to “Secrets and Pies” – as Dave van Domelen, I think, suggested, it completes the friendship lesson from that episode – and I wish I’d seen the episode before I read the comic.

GIANT DAYS #31 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Another typical issue. Esther causes a huge friendship problem when her new girlfriend Ingrid runs up an unpayable heating bill. Then for some convoluted reason, Ed and McGraw almost get beaten up by Spanish dudes. Then Esther pays the bill by selling her scooter, but the underlying friendship rift remains.

HAWKEYE #11 (Marvel, 2017) – “Countdown to Doom!”, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Leonardo Romero. After some very well-drawn action sequences, Kate defeats Madame Masque and kisses that one character whose name I forget. But she still has no clue to her mother’s location. I hope that will be the next storyline.

ELEANOR & THE EGRET #4 (Afterhshock, 2017) – “Jailbreak,” [W] John Layman, [A] Sam Kieth. Eleanor and the egret finally decide team up with Belanger and the cat against Anastasia Rue. As usual, this issue is short on plot but has beautiful art. We still haven’t gotten a real explanation of the egret or Anastasia or how they’re connected.

MANIFEST DESTINY #31 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. Sacagawea is an unenthusiastic mother. Charbonneau shows up in time to name the baby. Lewis and Clark’s men are getting insubordinate again. This issue feels like a lull between bigger storylines.

ALIEN WORLDS #4 (Pacific, 1983) – several stories, [W] Bruce Jones, [A] various. This issue is most notable for “Princess Pam,” one of Dave Stevens’s few non-Rocketeer stories, though he’s only credited with the inks. It’s a clever riff on Sleeping Beauty. “Girl of My Schemes,” drawn by Bo Hampton, has a shock ending that makes no sense; it’s about a sexbot who turns out to be an actual woman, except that doesn’t explain her behavior earlier in the story. “One Day in Ohio,” drawn by Ken Steacy, is pointless, though it reminds me a bit of WALL-E. “Deep Secrets,” drawn by Jeff Jones, is just average, but rather misogynistic – which is not an uncommon trend in Bruce Jones’s writing. The last story is drawn by Al Williamson but is far from his best work, and the plot isn’t great either.

VERTIGO: WINTER’S EDGE #2 (Vertigo, 1999) – “The Minx,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Sean Phillips & Kent Williams, with many inset stories. This 100-page special consists of stories about many different Vertigo characters, linked together by a somewhat mediocre framing sequence. The Death story by Gaiman and Jeff Jones should have been the high point of the series, but it’s crippled by poor reproduction. In particular, it looks pixellated. This is especially obvious on the Death logo on the first page. Next is a Sandman Mystery Theatre story which is drawn by Paul Rivoche and explores some of the same ideas about architecture as Mister X. Next is a pretty good Books of Magic story which contains Jason Lutes’s only artwork in a DC comic book. Brubaker and Lark’s Scene of the Crime story, about an abused child who gets shot by accident, is perhaps the high point of the issue. The other three stories in the issue feature Nevada, The Dreaming, and Constantine, but by that point my attention was flagging a bit. The Dreaming story is an interesting exploration of Nuala’s reaction to Morpheus’s death.

DAREDEVIL ANNUAL #4 (Marvel, 1976) – “The Name of the Game is… Death!”, [W] Marv Wolfman & Chris Claremont, [A] George Tuska. Despite the Claremont script, this issue is a waste of space. The plot is needlessly convoluted, and the writers fail to take advantage of the potentially exciting combination of Daredevil, Namor, and the Black Panther.

XIII #1 (Alias, 2005) – “The Day of the Black Sun: I,” [W] Jean Van Hamme, [A] William Vance. This comic reprints the first half of the first XIII album. I don’t know why Alias decided to publish it in comic book format, and it’s obsolete now, since Cinebook has reprinted all of XIII in album format. But at least this issue is a good introduction to one of Europe’s most popular thriller comics. An elderly couple discovers an amnesiac man who has no idea who he is, except he has a tattoo that reads “XIII,” which becomes his name. Some assassins promptly show up at the old couple’s cottage and kill them, but XIII survives and has to uncover his own identity. As Kim Thompson said in his article “A Modest Proposal: More Crap is What We Need,” XIII is an example of “solid, unpretentious, accessible genre fiction.”

ROCKET GIRL #10 (Image, 2017) – “Only the Good…”, [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Amy Reeder. There are two big surprises in this issue: first, that it’s the last issue, and second, that it ends with Dayoung dying. I’m not exactly sure what she died for, since I don’t quite understand the plot of this series, and her death seems like a waste of a great character. On the letters page, Brandon suggests that Rocket Girl will be back. I certainly hope so, because otherwise this series will be remembered, if at all, as just a footnote to Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur.

STRANGE ADVENTURES #210 (DC, 1968) – “Hide and Seek,” [W] Jack Miller, [A] Neal Adams. As usual this comic’s art is fantastic, but unfortunately the lead story is just 12.5 pages (the other half page is an ad). The plot revolves around a cop who gets fired for killing a suspect. It’s sad that in 1968, it could be taken for granted that a cop who unjustly killed someone would be fired. This issue also includes a bad reprinted story. It’s drawn by Nick Cardy, but you can’t tell.

SCENE OF THE CRIME #1 (Vertigo, 1999) – “A Little Piece of Goodnight, Part One,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Michael Lark. I was motivated to read this because of the aforementioned story in Winter’s Edge #2. This series is about a private eye who lives in his elderly aunt and uncle’s mystery bookstore. It’s an exciting and realistic piece of mystery fiction, with a shocking conclusion (“she was dead by morning”). Michael Lark’s art is not as good as in Gotham Central, but it’s getting there. I need to look for the other three issues of this miniseries.

THE DYING AND THE DEAD #3 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Ryan Bodenheim. After this issue, this series went on a two-year hiatus. It resumed in May of this year, but I either forgot or didn’t bother to order the remaining issues. This issue is a significant drop in quality from #1 and #2 because it focuses on the villains, instead of the elderly heroes, who are much more interesting. Also, it includes a preposterous scene where Hirohito kills Hitler and Mussolini with a sword. I’m willing to accept all the magical stuff in this series, but I’m not willing to believe that a Japanese emperor would negotiate personally with people who weren’t his subjects.

ASTRONAUTS IN TROUBLE #1 (Image, 2015) – “Flight Plan,” [W] Larry Young, [A] Charlie Adlard. I ordered this from DCBS at a time when I was ordering a lot of comics that I didn’t read, and I didn’t get any other issues. I’m not entirely sure what this series is about, but it seems like a fairly realistic and well-executed SF story about the US space program. However, there are lots of other comics I want to read before I read any more of this series.

KAIJUMAX #2 (Oni, 2015) – untitled, [W/A] Zander Cannon. I lost interest in this series as soon as I realized that Ulises Fainas wasn’t involved with it – I’m not sure why I thought he was. And the rather grim tone of issue 1 didn’t appeal to me much. When I finally got around to reading issue 2, I had some trouble following it, but it’s funnier and more exciting than I expected. This comic basically has just one joke – namely, the idea of combining the prison and kaiju genres – but it’s a funny joke.

ARCHIE VS. PREDATOR #3 (Archie, 2015) – untitled, [W] Alex de Campi, [A] Fernando Ruiz. Another issue filled with disgusting and hilarious mayhem. This comic may actually be better executed than Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, if not Afterlife with Archie, because it has a clearer idea of the tone it’s trying to create.

SPIDER BABY COMIX #1 (SpiderBaby Grafix, 1996) – various stories, [W/A] Steve Bissette et al. This issue includes several different early stories by Bissette, along with a catalogue of all his published work until late 1979. None of this stuff is absolutely incredible, and some of it is just disgusting for the sake of being disgusting. But it’s a good demonstration of Steve’s gruesome horror artwork and his effective synthesis of various influences, and one of the stories is a prototype for Tyrant. In the text columns at the back of the issue, Steve repeatedly mentions Cara Sherman-Tereno, a Kubert School classmate of his who unfortunately died the year this comic came out.

HEAD LOPPER #7 (Image, 2017) – “Head Lopper and the Crimson Tower, Part 3,” [W/A] Andrew MacLean. The dungeon crawl continues. Nothing truly unexpected happens this issue, but MacLean’s artwork is as brilliant as usual, and the conclusion will be exciting.

MIGHTY COMICS #44 (Archie, 1967) – “The Sinister Powers of the Mad Gadgeteer” and other stories, [W] Jerry Siegel, [A] Paul Reinman. This comic blatantly attempts to copy the ‘60s Marvel style, and fails to do so because of a lack of talent. Jerry Siegel’s stories are implausible and devoid of characterization, and Paul Reinman is a boring artist. Most of the letters on the letters page are rather lukewarm, suggesting that Archie had trouble finding positive letters to print, and no wonder.

CLASSIC STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI #2 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “Return of the Jedi, Book Two,” [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Al Williamson & Carlos Garzon. This is a reprint of Marvel’s adaptation of ROTJ. Despite the high level of talent involved, this comic is disappointing because it’s a very literal film adaptation, and the art isn’t good enough to elevate it above the film it adapts (unlike in Williamson’s adaptation of the Flash Gordon movie). It’s not always easy to tell which pages were drawn by Williamson and which by Garzon.

HERO CATS #18 (Action Lab, 2017) – “Part III: Cosmic Showdown!”, [W] Kyle Puttkammer, [A] Omaka Schultz. The Hero Cats of Skyworld invade the Crow King’s palace. This is an okay story, but the characters aren’t as exciting or well-developed as the Hero Cats of Stellar City.

HERO CATS #19 (Action Lab, 2017) – “Mystery on the Mountain,” [W] Kyle Puttkammer, [A] Andy Duggan. This issue again stars the Hero Cats of Stellar City, who fight a snow monster and then have an adventure with the underground stone people. This issue was nothing spectacular, but it’s nice to have the familiar characters back again.

LIBBY’S DAD #nn (Retrofit, 2016) – “Libby’s Dad,” [W/A] Eleanor Davis. According to the copyright page, this is Retrofit #55. I wish there was a comprehensive catalog of all the Retrofit publications, because there doesn’t seem to be one. This is my first Eleanor Davis comic, and it’s a good place to start. Her artwork is gorgeous and expressive; it appears to be drawn in crayon, which creates a sense that the characters in the story are even younger than they are. The premise is that a girl named Libby invites her friends to her divorced father’s house for a sleepover, but Libby’s dad is rumored to have threatened to kill her mother. As a result, the story has a threatening, oppressive atmosphere, because the girls are worried that Libby’s dad will kill them, but he turns out to be an okay guy. But the narrator comes to the disturbing conclusion that “Libby’s mom is crazy and a liar,” so the happy ending of the story proves to be ambiguous: maybe this is a story about how women learn to distrust each other. I’d like to read more of Eleanor Davis.

AKIKO ON THE PLANET SMOO #1 (Sirius, 1995) – “Akiko on the Planet Smoo,” [W/A] Mark Crilley. This 40-page one-shot was a prequel to the ongoing series, which was just called Akiko. It’s about a ten-year-old girl who is taken by aliens to an alien planet, where she has an adventure that turns out to be a test of her worthiness to marry the planet’s prince. When it came out, this series must have seemed like a candidate for the next Bone, but it was nowhere near as successful as Bone. This may have been partly due to Crilley’s sloppy art: he makes excessive use of computer graphics, and he doesn’t bother to draw backgrounds, which severely hurts his worldbuilding. Still, this is a cute and funny comic.

JONAH HEX #67 (DC, 2011) – “Ghost Town,” [W] Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, [A] Jordi Bernet. Either just before or just after reading this comic, I read the first volume of Torpedo, which gave me a better understanding of Bernet’s style. His artwork in this issue is impressive, but not at the same level as Torpedo, which is an artistic masterpiece. Also, this issue’s plot is hard to follow.

PAST AWAYS #9 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Scott Kolins. In the conclusion to this series, Ursula gets killed, leaving Herb and Marge as the only surviving protagonists. And thanks to the timestream reediting itself, they forget that the other characters ever existed. This is kind of a depressing ending, but it was hard to care much about this series in the first place.

BANANA SUNDAY #2 (Oni, 2005) – untitled, [W] Paul Tobin (as Root Nibot), [A] Colleen Coover. I read this when I was too tired to really appreciate it, but it’s an awesome comic. It’s similar in tone to Bandette, though it has a completely different premise (it’s about a high school girl who has three superpowered monkey companions). As in Bandette, Paul and Colleen do a brilliant job of characterizing even the minor characters. A funny moment is the dream scene on the first page where Kirby, the girl-chasing monkey, is awarded three harems.

New comics received on 10-13:

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #25 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Erica Henderson. I decided to read this first because I feel like I haven’t appreciated this comic enough lately. This issue, Squirrel Girl and her friends use the power of friendship and programming to defeat Dino-Ultron. Besides the dinosaurs, this issue isn’t that different from any other Squirrel Girl comic, but it’s exciting, witty and warm-hearted. I should stop taking this series for granted.

MS. MARVEL #23 (Marvel, 2017) – “Northeast Corridor, Part One,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Diego Olortegui. Kareem (the hero from Pakistan) shows up at Coles High School as a transfer student. In a complete coincidence, the Red Dagger shows up in Jersey City, and he and Kamala have to team up to stop a runaway train, even though they can’t stop bickering. This issue was fun, but it’s a bit of a letdown after “Mecca.”

SLAM! THE NEXT JAM #2 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Pamela Ribon, [A] Marina Julia. This is still a very well-written comic, but Marina Julia is a much less effective artist than Veronica Fish. She fails to create the same level of energy. At least this issue has some cute cats, and a scene where three women who delivered vaginally are standing on a diving board and talking about their loose bladders.

RUNAWAYS #2 (Marvel, 2017) – “Find Your Way Home, Part II,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. Gert comes back to life, but is not happy to discover that the team broke up in her absence. Meanwhile, we get glimpses of Victor (or at least his head) and Molly, who is being stalked by red-eyed cats. There wasn’t a lot of plot in this issue, but Rainbow Rowell shows a deep understanding of the characters and premise of Runaways. After reading this comic, I read her novel Landline and loved it, and I finally got a copy of Fangirl.

ROYAL CITY #6 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. This issue is a flashback to about a decade ago. As we observe the past versions of the characters, we can see them developing the problems that have ruined their lives in the present. The POV character is Richie, who is suffering from the neurological problem that must have killed him. I kind of got the impression that Richie died in childhood, but I guess not.

MISTER MIRACLE #3 (DC, 2017) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. One of the best comics of the week. This issue picks up on an idea that was briefly explored in Kingdom Come: that Orion is no different from his father. We learn that Orion is throwing away the lives of Forager and his people, and then Orion beats the crap out of Scott for daring to question him. And because of his worsening depression, Scott is unable to stand up to his “brother.” In this series, as in The Vision, Tom King is creating a truly oppressive and ominous atmosphere. The hilarious cameo appearance by Funky Flashman is a much-needed piece of comic relief.

BABYTEETH #5 (Aftershock, 2017) – “I Was a Teenage Apocalypse,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. Heather defeats the Prairie Wolf by driving a truck into her, and then some red-eyed wizard in a suit shows up and claims to be Sadie’s bodyguard. This issue was okay but not as good as #2 or #3.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #32 (Image, 2017) – “The Red Shoes,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. The fact that this was the eighth comic I read this week is evidence that my interest in it is flagging. Perhaps this is because of the lack of sympathetic characters other than Baal and Minerva. And this issue Minerva is traumatized by being forced to kill Sakhmet (who totally deserved it). Also, Dionysus gets functionally killed fighting against Woden – I didn’t quite get what was happening here. Also, there’s a hidden passage behind Ananke’s machine, which goes who knows where. Given the number of characters who have been killed lately, this series seems to be approaching its conclusion, which will be something of a relief.

BOOM BOOM #3 (Aeon, 1995) – “Eyeless Ease,” [W/A] David Lasky. I’m only familiar with this artist from his Carter Family graphic novel with Frank M. Young. This issue is his 24-hour comic. It follows dream logic rather than narrative logic; that is, it consists of a series of narrative strands that are connected to each other by shared symbols and characters rather than causality. It’s interesting but not great. The backup story, about a fictionalized version of Jack Kirby and his adaptation of Joyce’s Ulysses, is better than the main story. This story is credited to “Tim Redwing,” but that’s a pseudonym for Lasky, and is meant to indicate that he’s emulating the style of Jim Woodring. That makes more sense to me now that I’ve read an issue of Jim (to be reviewed later).

THE GOON: THEATRE BIZARRE #1 (Dark Horse, 2015) – “Theatre Bizarre,” [W/A] Eric Powell, [A] John Dunivant. I was motivated to read this when I realized that I have a ton of unread Eric Powell comics. Fleeing from something or other, the Goon and his companions have an adventure in a haunted theme park. This park is based on the real-life Theatre Bizarre, which, according to Wikipedia, is an annual Halloween event held in Detroit. This comic’s art is spectacular at times, but other than that it’s forgettable.

HILLBILLY #8 (Albatross, 2017) – [W/A] Eric Powell, [A] Simone Di Meo on the backup story. I keep ordering this comic but not reading it. This issue includes two stories. The main story, with art by Eric Powell, is mostly forgettable, but the second story, drawn by Simone Di Meo, is more interesting. In this story Hillbilly encounters the ghosts of two brothers who found a treasure. One of them reburied it elsewhere, and the other killed him out of jealousy, but then died of despair because he didn’t know the treasure’s new location. This story feels like an Appalachian version of Hellboy. An uncanny thing about this series is that it’s based on Appalachian culture, but it’s set in a fantasy world and has no specific geographical references to America.

TIME & VINE #4 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Thom Zahler. Megan finds her long-lost aunt, then Jack goes back in time for good and leaves the winery to Megan. At the end, Megan encounters a potential love interest. This series was quite stylistically similar to Long Distance, but it was a sweet and touching story, which was less about time travel than about the sad experience of watching one’s parents grow old.

HULK #11 (Marvel, 2017) – “Is Love in the Air for Hulk?”, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Bachan. Jen goes on a blind date which starts out poorly, and gets even worse when her date turns out to be an evil robot. Mariko was trying to have fun here, but I’m not sure that she succeeded. I think humor is not her forte. The fourth-wall breaking was funny but also kind of jarring, since Jen has never previously broken the fourth wall in this series.

MECH CADET YU #3 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. Stanford and his teammates have their first battle, even though they’re supposed to be evacuated. I was lukewarm about this series’ first issue, but it’s gotten really good. The protagonist is kind of a blank slate, but his mother is the real gem of the series. She seems like a terrible person at first, but turns out to be a formidable person with hidden depths.

SCALES & SCOUNDRELS #2 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] Galaad. I think the protagonist of this comic, and I like the artwork and coloring, but the plot is a series of unoriginal fantasy cliches. I’m ambivalent as to whether I want to keep reading this series.

ROCKET #6 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Blue River Score, Part 6: The Mourner,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Adam Gorham. Rocket gets killed, but survives thanks to Joyboy’s powers. He recovers the deeds, but ruins his chances at romance with Gatecrasher, and the end of the issue finds him sitting alone and drinking. I assume this is the last issue. This was a pretty fun take on Rocket Raccoon, but I wish Marvel would stop starting new Rocket series and then cancelling them immediately.

DAN DARE #1 (Titan, 2017) – “He Who Dares Part One,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Alberto Foche. The latest revised version of perhaps the most famous character in British comics. This comic is okay, but it assumes the reader is already familiar with Dan Dare, and I would guess that there are better introductions to this character. I already have one volume of the classic Dan Dare comic strip, but I haven’t read it yet.

ARCHIE VS. PREDATOR #4 (Archie, 2017) – untitled, [W] Alex de Campi, [A] Fernando Ruiz. A hilarious conclusion. The Predator kills Archie, but Betty and Veronica capture the Predator and use Mr. Lodge’s healing machine to turn it into a substitute for Archie. This was a fun series.

HILLBILLY #4 (Albatross, 2016) – “The Fiddle That Screamed for Blood,” [W/A] Eric Powell. Hillbilly encounters a ghost fiddle that possesses people. He defeats it, but only after it kills all the people of a village. This issue is good, but I suspect that if you’ve read one issue of Hillbilly, you’ve read them all.

ARYA #1 (Antarctic, 2017) – “Adventure Quest,” [W/A] Akimiya, and “Grocery Quest,” [W/A] Sofia Davila. I ordered this on a whim and I’m not sure what it is. I think it’s intended an anthology of comics by women. The first of the two stories this issue is about two schoolgirls who become friends thanks to a video game. It’s okay, but it’s so similar to manga that I don’t see why you’d want to read it instead of reading actual manga. The second story is drawn in a more original style. It’s about a girl who goes to the grocery store, but takes a detour and winds up in a magical forest, and in order to escape she has to collect the items she needed from the store. I’m vaguely curious about what happens next, but not curious enough to keep reading this series.

MOONSHINE #5 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Brian Azzarello, [A] Eduardo Risso. The art in this comic is excellent, but the plot is impossible to follow. And even if I could understand what was going on, I wouldn’t care, because there are no interesting characters.

MOONSHINE #6 (Image, 2017) – as above. At this point, I had completely lost interest in this comic’s story and was only reading it for the art. Even then, I was annoyed by this issue’s ending. This miniseries ends on a cliffhanger that resolves absolutely nothing; at the end, we still don’t know which character is the werewolf. Azzarello completely fails to offer any kind of resolution to his story. The last page says “End Book One,” but I doubt there’ll be a Book Two. After reading this series, I suspect that Azzarello was never that great a writer in the first place, and that he just had the good luck to work with Eduardo Risso.

THE UNEXPECTED #210 (DC, 1981) – “Vampire of the Apes,” [W] George Kashdan, [A] Jess Jodloman, and other stories. The stories in this issue are all pretty stupid, though Mike W. Barr’s “Johnny Peril” is at least part of an ongoing continuity. This issue does have some good art by the Filipino artists Jodloman and Vicatan.

RAY BRADBURY COMICS #1 (Topps, 1993) – “A Sound of Thunder,” [W/A] Richard Corben, and two other stories. This issue provides the reader with the unique opportunity to read two adaptations of the same story by two different artists. Besides Corben’s new adaptation of “A Sound of Thunder,” it also includes Al Williamson’s adaptation of the same story from Weird Science-Fantasy. Somewhat to my surprise, Corben’s version is far better. Williamson’s version was hamstrung because the writer, Al Feldstein, decided to include nearly all the text from the original story. The captions and word balloons are so huge that they take up about half the space of each page, rendering Williamson’s artwork nearly invisible. For example, we can barely see the butterfly at the end. Corben’s version isn’t perfect either – for example, his dinosaur is pretty ugly – but at least he tells the story with pictures instead of text, avoiding unnecessary words. So this issue is a good example of what you should and shouldn’t do when adapting prose fiction to comics. The issue also includes an adaptation of a different Bradbury dinosaur story by an artist I’ve never heard of, Antoni Garces.

ORIENTAL HEROES #1 (Jademan, 1986) – untitled, [W/A] Tony Wong. This is one of a number of translated Hong Kong comics published by Jademan in the ‘80s. According to the editorial at the end, its creator, Tony Wong, was personally responsible for 90% of the comics published in Hong Kong at the time. This comic is mostly a series of martial arts action sequences illustrated in a manga-esque style. However, they’re fun action sequences, and the comic has a definite Chinese sensibility. It’s about a courageous hero who defends people against corrupt officials, which seems like a classic Chinese plot. This issue also includes one very funny sequence, where one of the heroes tries to rent a boat (see https://www.instagram.com/p/Baa42o7l7vO/?taken-by=aaronkashtan). I will plan on buying more of these Jademan comics if I find them at a low price.

VERTIGO: WINTER’S EDGE #3 (Vertigo, 2000) – various stories. This issue’s marquee story is “How They Met Themselves” by Neil Gaiman and Michael Zulli, in which Desire encounters Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Lizzie Siddal and Algernon Charles Swinburne. The characters in this story are not explicitly named, and part of the fun of reading it is figuring out who they are. After this there are a bunch of other stories that are more or less forgettable. The Transmetropolitan story is probably the best of these, but I also liked the Books of Magic story, in which Rowland and Paine encounter a gender-swapped Tim Hunter. The Constantine story is especially annoying because it’s illustrated text and not comics. If I wanted to read a lot of prose, I would read a book and not a comic book.

THE DESERT PEACH #2 (Thoughts & Images, 1989) – untitled, [W/A] Donna Barr. Despite his peaceful nature, Pfirsch gets in a bar fight with a belligerent Russian soldier. This story isn’t as complex as the other Desert Peach comics I reviewed last time, but it’s good. It also includes some slight fourth-wall-breaking (on the third page when Rommel drains the black out of the art). The story effectively demonstrates that while Pfirsch doesn’t enjoy violence, he will do so in defense of his men. The best moment in the issue is when the Russian soldier beats up Pfirsch’s assistant, and Pfirsch stands up ramrod straight and says “Mein Herr, your difference is with me, not with my orderly.”

HAWKWORLD #3 (DC, 1990) – “Winged Fury,” [W] John Ostrander & Tim Truman, [A] Graham Nolan. Katar and Shayera pursue some flying criminals into the Cabrini-Green housing projects. They learn to their surprise that they can’t just kill the criminals, because Earth has laws about that. However, they also learn that those laws are not always consistently applied, because they are aided by a black single mother, who is rewarded for her good deed by being arrested for illegal gun ownership. This issue is a good example of what made Hawkworld effective: it’s an exciting and tense story with a strong political angle.

JINGLE BELLE’S ALL-STAR HOLIDAY HULLABALOO #1 (Oni, 2000) – various stories, [W] Paul Dini et al, [A] various. I read one of the other Jingle Belle series and had mixed feelings about it, but this issue is pretty good. It has a good lineup of talent, including Sergio Aragonés, Jeff Smith and Stephen DeStefano. All the stories are funny, and are held together by Jingle Belle’s rebellious and naughty personality.

KAIJUMAX #3 (Oni, 2015) – “No Such Thing as a Halfway Monsta,”[W/A] Zander Cannon. More of the same as last issue. This comic’s plot is not easy to follow, but at least this issue includes a guide to all the monster gangs.

JACK KRAKEN #1 (Dark Horse, 2014) – “Race Relations,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Sophie Campbell, plus other stories. I bought this comic when it came out because of the Sophie Campbell art, but never got around to reading it. The first story in this one-shot was originally published on a digital comics app called Double Feature, and its protagonist is based on a character Seeley created when he was five years old, though neither of these facts is mentioned in the comic itself. Jack Kraken is a half-human, half-squid superhero who lives in some kind of postapocalyptic world. All the three stories in the issue are reasonably good, but Jack Kraken has never appeared again as far as I know, and I don’t understand why Dark Horse chose to publish just one issue with this character.

ADVENTURE COMICS #394 (DC, 1970) – “The Mysterious Motr of Doov!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Win Mortimer, plus another story. This issue’s lead story is a clever pastiche on The Wizard of Oz, and its opening caption box includes an acrostic that reads “The Wizard of Oz.” Unfortunately I spoiled this story’s gimmick for myself because I looked at its GCD entry before I read it. The backup story, by Robert Kanigher and Kurt Schaffenberger, is just awful, though it has much better art than the lead story.

HERO CATS: MIDNIGHT OVER STELLAR CITY VOL. 2 #1 (Action Lab, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kyle Puttkammer, [A] Alex Ogle. I liked this better than the most recent storyline in the main Hero Cats title. In this issue, Rocket teams up with Cassiopeia to defeat some villains who have escaped from prison, starting with two space pirates. Alex Ogle’s art is heavily based on that of Frank Miller, which creates a humorous effect because this story is about cats and not grim dark superheroes.

JONNY QUEST #26 (Comico, 1988) – “Reputation,” [W] William Messner-Loebs, [A] Marc Hempel. Race Bannon is captured by an evil criminal mastermind. Rather than pretending to be scared of the villain’s world-conquering schemes, Race taunts him by telling him a bunch of stories about his (Race’s) history with the Quest family. For example, one of the stories is about an incident when Jonny betrayed his father’s trust, and another is about how Hajji captured some escaped snakes. At the end, it turns out Race told these stories to distract the villain so the other Quests could capture him. As usual with this series, this was a heartwarming and extremely well-crafted story.

HELLBOY AND THE B.P.R.D.: 1953 – BEYOND THE FENCES #2 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola & Chris Roberson, [A] Paolo Rivera. A young Hellboy battles a giant mutated dog. This was just an average Hellboy comic, but Paolo Rivera’s art is excellent.

New comics received on 10/20, when I was exhausted from spending the day at my department’s annual conference. This was one of the biggest new comic book days of the year; I got about 20 new comics this week that I had to read immediately.

LUMBERJANES #43 (Boom!, 2017) – “Time After Crime” (part three), [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Ayme Sotuyo. Rosie gets hit by a bubble and becomes an old lady. The girls use pulleys and ropes to defeat a giant golem. And it turns out that to save the day, the Lumberjanes have to use the axe belonging to the first Lumberjane. This storyline has been fun, but not quite as fun as the previous two. The best line of the issue is “Yeah, it was in my axe corner. Where I keep my axes.”

ASTRO CITY #48 (DC, 2017) – “Dog Days,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Mike Norton. Andy Merton meets the previous owner of his amulet, who tells him about his powers. Then as G-Dog, he joins a team of superpowered pets, including an awesome new character, Dr. Monkey. But in the end, the inevitable happens: the dog dies of natural causes, and Andy leaves the amulet for someone else to find. In the best Astro City tradition, this comic uses superheroes as a metaphor for real life. Andy and his dog become a single entity, but because of the dog’s short lifespan, their closeness is only temporary. As a cat owner, I know how this feels. My cat is my other half, but I won’t have him forever. It seems appropriate that I read this comic while petting my cat.

SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER #5 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jody Leheup & Sebastian Girner, [A] Nil Vendrell. Shirtless defeats the Logger and Brother Bear, then returns to his life of fighting evil bears. This was kind of a one-joke comic, but it was a really funny joke. I’m sorry it only lasted five issues, and I hope there’s a sequel.

SHERLOCK FRANKENSTEIN AND THE LEGION OF EVIL #1 (Dark Horse, 2017) – “Part One: Whatever Happened to Sherlock Frankenstein?”, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] David Rubín. Lucy Weber tries to track down her missing father by contacting all his old enemies, starting with Mectoplasm, who reminds me of Validus. I’m sorry that Black Hammer is on hiatus, but this series is an adequate replacement, and it gives us a lot of interesting new information on Black Hammer’s world. The two-page spread where Lucy is walking to the bottom of Spiral Asylum is very intricate and difficult to follow.

MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC #7 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Tony Fleecs. An unnamed new character encounters some sirens who proceed to brainwash all the people of his town, so he recruits heroes to defeat them, starting with Rockhoof. Now that I’ve seen “Shadow Play,” I know that this new character is Stygian, the future Pony of Shadows. (And I guess maybe this issue was forgettable, because I didn’t recognize Stygian when I saw him in the episode.) The fact that I’ve seen “Shadow Play” also means that I already know where this story is going, but it’ll be fun to see how we get there.

MISFIT CITY #6 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kristen Smith & Kurt Lustgarten, [A] Naomi Franquiz. The girls head through the cave, but fall through a trap and wind up in a sewer. Which makes me wonder how, or if, they can get back to the cave and take the correct path. They also find a clue that points to a location out at sea, but they go there and find nothing. So I’m not sure where the story is going now, and the writers have just two more issues to resolve it.

MIGHTY THOR #700 (Marvel, 2017) – “Blood of the Norns,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Russell Dauterman et al. An excellent anniversary issue with contributions by many great artists, including Walt Simonson, Jill Thompson, Mike Del Mundo and Andrew MacLean. Thor doesn’t actually die in this issue as promised, but there are several different plotlines that intersect in a satisfying way, and it turns out that the Frog Thor subplot is essential to the overall story. It’s appropriate that this issue includes a collaboration between Jason Aaron and Walt Simonson, the two best Thor writers other than Stan Lee.

SUPER SONS #9 (DC, 2017) – “Planet of the Capes, Part 4: It’s a Madhouse!”, [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Jorge Jimenez & Carmine Di Giandomenico. It turns out that Hard Line and Big Shot are clay dolls created by Kraklow, but Kraklow (the good one) stays on their planet to help them, and creates some kid superheroes for them to train. I’d like to see Hard Line and Big Shot again. This was a good issue of one of DC’s best titles. I especially love the panel where Damian says “I have a plan, but it requires everyone to ignore your emotional state and do exactly as I—” and Jon cuts him off.

DESCENDER #25 (Image, 2017) – “Rise of the Robots 4 of 5,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Tim and Bandit’s psychic connection allows Tim to locate Telsa and the evil red-haired Tim. This was an okay issue, but no different from any other issue of Descender.

KID LOBOTOMY #1 (IDW, 2017) – “Do Not Disturb: Part One of A Lad Insane,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Tess Fowler. This is an intriguing comic with excellent art, but I had to read it carefully to figure out what was going on, and now I’ve forgotten what it was that I figured out. I’m going to have to read this comic again when issue 2 comes out.

SUPERB #4 (Lion Forge, 2017) – “No More Secrets,” [W] David F. Walker & Sheena Howard, [A] Ray-Anthony Height & Eric Battle. This issue is mostly a series of fight scenes. I like the page at the end of the issue where Jonah tries to get Abbie and Kayla to stop arguing.

FLASH GORDON #19 (Gold Key, 1978) – “Return to Mongo,” [W] John Warner, [A] Carlos Garzon. This is a very average Flash Gordon story, but Carlos Garzon’s art is interesting. Garzon was a Colombian artist who was brought to America by Al Williamson, and you can see why Williamson liked Garzon’s work, because his style is sort of a watered-down version of Williamson’s.

DRAGON CHIANG #nn (Eclipse, 1991) – untitled, [W/A] Tim Truman. A collection of five stories originally published in Europe. These stories take place in a rather bleak future in which there’s a highway across the Bering Strait and all of America’s wealth is draining into China. The protagonist is a trucker who drives between China and the American Southwest. This comic is fairly exciting and well-drawn, but not as good as Scout.

KANE #27 (Dancing Elephant, 2000) – untitled, [W/A] Paul Grist. This story revolves around an assassin wearing some kind of battlesuit. Like most Paul Grist comics, it features witty dialogue and excellent visual storytelling; however, its plot is very hard to follow.

WONDER WOMAN/CONAN #2 (DC/Dark Horse, 2017) – “Blade and Bracelets, Blood and Sand,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Aaron Lopresti. I think that’s the title; I’m not sure where the first “and” is supposed to go. Conan defeats Diana in the arena, but then they both get sent to a slave ship. Then the ship gets attacked by pirates, and Conan and Diana are tossed overboard to be eaten by sharks. This has been a somewhat predictable story thus far, but it’s been fun.

FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #3 (DC, 2017) – “Ghosts,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Ariel Olivetti. Space Ghost defeats Metallus, the armored energy ghost, by showing him that he’s missed his chance at revenge on the Space Force. But now Space Ghost has some spare power bands, so in the next storyline, he, Jace and Jayna will be looking for people to wear them. This was a fairly good storyline, but I hope we see the Quest family again soon.

BITCH PLANET TRIPLE FEATURE #5 (Image, 2017) – various stories. This issue’s first story is about a feminist grandma who ruins Christmas. This is a clever variation on the present-day trope where the racist grandparent ruins Christmas. The second story is about two actors, one white and one Asian, who go through exactly the same training, but the Asian actor is passed over for a role in favor of the white actor. The trouble with this story is that it doesn’t even qualify as satire; it’s a realistic depiction of the sort of thing that happens in the film industry on a regular basis. The third story is about a white woman who dyes her skin black, because African-American clothing is fashionable, but then gets shot by cops who mistake her for a real black woman. Of course, the cops get off scot-free. This story is also very reminiscent of stuff that happens in real life, but unlike the previous story, it’s just a little bit exaggerated, so that it feels like a satire rather than just an accurate depiction of reality. This is the last issue of BPTF, which is actually somewhat unfortunate, because I’ve been enjoying it more than the main Bitch Planet series.

FAITH AND THE FUTURE FORCE #4 (Valiant, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] Cary Nord. All else having failed, Faith recruits Chris Chriswell, who “defeats” Do-Bot by convincing it that destroying the world is not the best way to take revenge on humanity. This series was okay, but it was much worse than the regular QFaith series.

SPIDER-GWEN #25 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jason Latour, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. Matt manipulates Gwen into taking revenge on the Rhino, even though Matt himself is standing right there and is a much better target for revenge. I’m starting to lose sympathy for Gwen because she’s allowed Matt to completely ruin her life. Matt is at the root of literally all her problems, and yet she lets him continue to manipulate and control her, and I honestly don’t understand why.

PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #5 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Adam Kubert. I was reluctant to read this comic because I’ve been losing patience with this series. It’s neither a great Spider-Man comic nor a great Chip Zdarsky comic. Chip has had to spend so much time on plot and fight scenes that he’s had little opportunity for characterization, which is the whole point of Spider-Man. And since this series is a spinoff title, Chip is not able to make any substantial changes to Peter’s life. At least this issue ends with a funny conversation between Peter and JJJ. And I’ve heard some good things about issue 6 (which I won’t get to read until Monday at least), so maybe this series is going to get better.

DEPT. H #19 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. There’s a flashback to Bob’s past, and then the crew reaches the first of six underwater fueling stations. Not much happened in this issue.

SPY SEAL #3 (Image, 2017) – “The Corten-Steel Phoenix, Part 3,” [W/A] Rich Tommaso. Spy Seal and Kes get thrown off a train, then find themselves in an Alpine village that’s full of spies. This issue is exciting and beautifully drawn, but exactly the same as the first two issues. The train on the cover is named the Flupke Rocket, after one of Herge’s lesser works.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: THE MISFITS: INFINITE #3 (IDW, 2017) – “Infinite, Part 6,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jenn St-Onge. The Holograms and Misfits use the power of music to save the alternate world, then return to their own world, having agreed not to reveal the secret of Synergy. “Infinite” was an underwhelming story and a disappointing conclusion to the Jem saga. The next Jem series is going to be an anthology, but I hope that after that’s over, Kelly will be able to continue her story. In particular, she left Jem and Rio’s relationship unresolved.

ALIEN ENCOUNTERS #4 (Eclipse, 1985) – various stories, [E] cat yronwode. This issue’s first story, by Tim Conrad, is about a member of a brutal alien race who learns about love thanks to a human-created sexbot. The next story is about a little alien kid who destroys Earth by accident. The third story is the best, though none of them are very good. “Wish Upon a Jewel” is one of the last comics Gardner Fox wrote prior to his death the following year. It’s about an astronaut who lands on a planet that grants wishes, but gets himself killed by misusing his wishes. There’s also a two-pager by Tim Truman.

SEA DEVILS #16 (DC, 1964) – “The Strange Reign of – Queen Judy and King Biff,” [W] Hank Chapman, [A] Bruno Premiani. The Sea Devils find themselves on a mysterious uncharted island, where two of their members, Judy and Biff, become king and queen. The island turns out to be a Brigadoon-esque place that appears every hundred years. This comic is just okay, and the best thing about it is the beautiful Russ Heath cover. Heath also did interior art for the first ten issues of this series, which are supposedly very good.

CAP’N DINOSAUR #nn (Image, 2014) – “Cap’n Dinosaur and the Carnevil of Crime!”, [W] Kek-W (Nigel Long), [A] Shaky Kane. This comic is a cute, zany pastiche of Kirby, but not much more than that. It has very little plot. I remember liking That’s Because You’re a Robot more than I liked this comic.

THE LONE RANGER AND TONTO #3 (Topps, 1994) – “It Crawls! Part Three,” [W] Joe R. Lansdale, [A] Tim Truman. The Lone Ranger and Tonto encounter an old Chinese martial artist, then the Lone Ranger reveals to Tonto that he was responsible for the death of Tonto’s tribe. Truman’s artwork on this issue is quite good, though not his best.

BAKER STREET #8 (Caliber, 1991) – “Children of the Night Act III: London After Midnight,” [W/A] Guy Davis. A female cop, Sharon, investigates a modern-day female Jack the Ripper who only kills men, while an American reporter, Sue, follows her around. This comic is a revelation. It’s a gritty murder mystery set in a realistically depicted version of London’s East End. The characters, many of them female, are complex and fascinating. I’m only familiar with Guy Davis’s art thanks to Sandman Mystery Theatre, but his art is even better in black and white than in color, and it benefits from his local knowledge. I hope I encounter some more issues of this comic.

HELLBLAZER #89 (Vertigo, 1995) – “Dreamtime,” [W] Paul Jenkins, [A] Sean Phillips. Constantine visits the Australian outback, where he teams up with an Aboriginal shaman who’s trying to prevent white people from stealing his mob’s land. This comic is well-intentioned, and it shows at least some knowledge of Aboriginal culture, but it also seems heavily reliant on tired old stereotypes of Aboriginal people. Maybe I’m being overly sensitive, but the idea of a white dude participating in Aboriginal religious ceremonies and playing the didgeridoo seems a bit offensive.

JACK STAFF VOL. II #1 (Image, 2003) – untitled, [W/A] Paul Grist. By this point in the week, I was getting into a rut; I was reading comics because I felt obligated to, not because I was having fun. This comic, in which Jack Staff battles some villains apparently based on the Hulk and Iron Man (and maybe also Thor), is okay, but I didn’t love it.

CAVE CARSON HAS A CYBERNETIC EYE #8 (DC, 2017) – “Rest in Peace, Michael Pembrook,” [W] Jon Rivera, [A] Michael Avon Oeming. I’ve fallen behind on this series, and I’m not sure why. In this issue, the underground monster has succeeded in invading the surface and killing lots of people, so there’s all kinds of creepy and disgusting artwork. I liked this comic better when it was taking place in Muldroog.

SUPERMAN #20 (DC, 2017) – “Black Dawn, Chapter 1,” [W/A] Patrick Gleason, [W] Peter Tomasi. I’ve been reading this comic very intermittently because it comes out twice a month, and I usually forget to order both issues. Also, it’s been involved in some crossovers with other comics I’m not reading. This issue is really good, though. Batman and Robin show up in Hamilton to investigate why Jon is losing his powers. It turns out Jon is drinking milk contaminated by aliens or something. Before we learn that, though, there are some really funny and cute interactions between the Kents and the Waynes, including a scene where Damian tells Jon, “Batman doesn’t eat pie.”

HERO CATS: MIDNIGHT OVER STELLAR CITY VOL. II #2 (Action Lab, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kyle Puttkammer, [A] Alex Ogle. Midnight, Cassiopeia and Belle battle the evil paleontologist Dr. Ross Rex, who is trying to romance Galaxy Man’s housekeeper, just like Doc Ock with Aunt May. This is another cute story. With his Batman-like personality, Midnight is an effective foil for the other Hero Cats, who are much nicer.

HERO CATS: MIDNIGHT OVER STELLAR CITY VOL. II #3 – as above. Despite the title, this issue features all the Hero Cats, who team up with the people of Stone City to defeat Ross Rex. I liked this miniseries better than the main Hero Cats title.

New comics received on October 27:

SAGA #48 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. As is traditional, this issue begins with a shocking splash page that depicts Upsher preparing to murder Friendo the walrus. Things get better from there. Ghüs and Squire go on an unsuccessful hunt for food to feed themselves and their starving companions, but when they get back, they find that Marko and Alana have arrived. And Hazel meets Squire, “who would become my brother.” This is the last issue before a hiatus, so I’m glad it ends happily.

SILVER SURFER #14 (Marvel, 2017) – “A Power Greater Than Cosmic,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Mike Allred. This one, on the other hand… Surfer lives through the end of the previous universe and the start of the current one, visits Dawn periodically throughout her life, and then leaves a copy of himself and Dawn’s family on the hologram planet, so the hologram Dawn can have a full life with them. I guess this is technically a happy ending, but I’m just so sad that Dawn is dead. To think that such a vibrant, lifelike character could be gone so fast. I wasn’t prepared for this. In the end, the Slott/Allred Silver Surfer was one of the best Marvel comics of the decade, and easily the best Silver Surfer comic not written by Stan Lee. I’m just sad about the way it ended.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #24 (Marvel, 2017) – “Girl-Moon: Epilogue,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos and three others. In three separate sequences by different artists, Lunella tries out three different partners: the X-Babies, Ghost Rider, and Daredevil. None of them works out. On the letters page, Brandon writes that “Devil Dinosaur will never, ever, ever, ever come back to this title.” I don’t believe that at all, but Brandon’s statement seems to offer little wiggle room, so who knows. I will have some nice things to say about this title in my ICAF paper this Friday.

HI-FI FIGHT CLUB #3 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Carly Usdin, [A] Nina Vakueva. Chris and Dolores resolve their differences, then they solve part of the mystery about the kidnapped band. This is a really fun series that effectively depicts the culture of the ‘90s. I’m just afraid that like so many Boom! Box titles, it’s going to end just as it’s getting interesting.

KIM & KIM: LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD #4 (Black Mask, 2017) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. The Kims finally capture Laz and move on to bigger and better things. I hope this won’t be the last Kim & Kim miniseries, even if the writer is moving on to bigger assignments. In a very short span of time, Magdalene Visaggio has become one of the most exciting writers in the industry.

BATGIRL #16 (DC, 2017) – “Summer of Lies, Part Three,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Chris Wildgoose. Another issue that combines flashback and present-day sequences. In the present-day sequence, we learn that Ainsley Deane can’t be the Red Queen because she’s dead, but I doubt that’s really true. Like Hope Larson’s first Batgirl storyline, this one involves nanotech-based drugs. This comic includes an ad for Doomsday Clock. I wish I could rip that ad out of the comic book, but I can’t because there’s a story page on the other side.

BLACK PANTHER #166 (Marvel, 2017) – “Avengers of the New World, Part 7,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Leonard Kirk. This is billed as “Klaw Stands Supreme Part 1” on the cover. This issue is mostly a flashback to Klaw’s past. I was unable to figure out if Klaw’s girlfriend Julia has ever appeared before, or whether she’s Coates’s invention.

MEAT CAKE #15 (Fantagraphics, 2006) – untitled, [W/A] Dame Darcy. I did not enjoy this. Darcy’s art style is kind of appealing, but much of this issue consists of heavily illustrated prose essays rather than comics. This comic has the same sort of Gothic subject matter as Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, although it’s more sophisticated than that comic, and I have no interest in this sort of subject matter. Also, Darcy’s lettering is so ornate that it’s difficult to read.

METAMORPHO #12 (DC, 1967) – “The Trap of the Test-Tube Terrors!”, [W] Bob Haney, [A] Sal Trapani. Metamorpho visits Simon Stagg’s old college, where he somehow gets involved in a football game against some monsters made of various obscure elements. This is a very bizarre and funny comic and a good example of the Metamorpho formula, but at the time I read it, I was too tired to enjoy it much.

ARCHIE #211 (Archie, 1971) – “Power Mad” and other stories, [W] Frank Doyle, [A] Harry Lucey. A bunch of well-drawn but extremely formulaic stories. Maybe the most memorable is the one where Archie keeps trying to lie in a hammock, but fails every time.

On Saturday, October 28, I went to the annual Heroes Pop Swap, an event where people who aren’t professional comics dealers get together at the Heroes store to buy and sell comics and other pop culture stuff. Only about half the sellers had comics, but I made some amazing finds, and also bought a couple things at the Heroes store. Most of the following comics were among my purchases at this event:

JIM #5 (Fantagraphics, 1995) – “Dive Deep” and other stories, [W/A] Jim Woodring. One seller at the Pop Swap had a bunch of Woodring comics as well as other alternative comics. I’ve only read a little bit of Woodring, and have been reluctant to read more because I find his work extremely disturbing. Jim might be a better introduction to Woodring than Frank. This issue includes some of his black-and-white Frank stories, one of which is autobiographical, except not really; it’s a surrealistic, absurdist dream sequence whose main character resembles Jim Woodring. The backup story in Boom Boom is based on this story and others like it. Despite its title, this issue also includes two Frank stories, including one, “Peeker,” which is in color. Woodring’s silent storytelling is brilliant, but maybe an even better thing about “Peeker” is the colorful, curvilinear environment that Frank lives in. It feels like a real city, but one that was not built by humans.

SHADE THE CHANGING MAN #1 (DC, 1990) – “Execution Day,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Chris Bachalo. I’ve read a lot of issues of this series, but until now I didn’t know how it began. Kathy Greene travels to Louisiana with her black boyfriend Roy to visit her parents, but her parents are murdered by serial killer Troy Grenzer, and then Roy is killed by racist cops who mistake him for the murderer. Grenzer is executed, but then he comes back to life, claiming he’s really a man called Shade from Meta. And thus begins a brilliant series. Reading this issue, I realized that Kathy must be one of the most traumatized characters in any comic book. Besides all the stuff she suffered in this issue, she later had an unwanted pregnancy and died in childbirth along with the baby, although she got better.

ANGELIC #2 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Caspar Wijngaard. I forgot to order this, so I’m glad Heroes had it. Qora teams up with the flying manatees, and with one of them in particular, who is just as much an outcast among the manatees as Qora is among the monkeys. And they head off to look for Ay’s missing eye. At this point, it’s clear that “Ay” is really an AI. This is another in a series of brilliant series by Spurrier.

MADMAN COMICS #1 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “The Living End: A Proem,” [W/A] Mike Allred. Lots of stuff happens in this issue, none of which I can summarize, but it’s all exciting and dynamic and funny. This is perhaps the best Madman comic I’ve read, partly because of Allred’s art. After this comic, Allred developed a very standardized style that changes very little from one of his comics to another, but as of 1994, that style was not fully formed, and he drew with a lot more detail. I feel like now that I’ve read this comic, I have a much better idea of what Madman is about and why it’s appealing.

DEVIL DINOSAUR #5 (Marvel, 1978) – “Journey to the Center of the Ants!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Devil teams up with some other proto-humans to rescue Moon-Boy from some aliens. In this issue, Devil is depicted as much smarter than his human companions, which is a marked contrast to how Brandon Montclare writes him; however, even a really smart dinosaur would still seem stupid compared to Lunella. This issue has one unintentionally funny page where, due to an awkward panel transition, it looks like one of the aliens is about to step on Devil.

MARSHAL LAW #1 (Marvel, 1987) – “Stars and Strippers,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Kevin O’Neill. In a post-earthquake San Francisco, normal people are being tormented by “superheroes” who are in fact hooligans. The protagonist is a superhero who hunts these fake superheroes. This comic is clearly intended as a parody of comics like Watchmen and DKR, but it’s hard to tell that it’s a parody or that we’re not supposed to admire Marshal Law.

HELLBLAZER #41 (DC, 1991) – “The Beginning of the End: Dangerous Habits – Part One,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Will Simpson. In Garth Ennis’s first issue, Constantine is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer thanks to a lifetime of smoking, plunging him into deep despair. The reader knows Constantine will get out of this eventually, but Constantine doesn’t know that, and this issue creates a powerful sense of despair. It also has one hilarious moment, where a waiter castigates Constantine for buying one cup of tea and then sitting for two hours, and Constantine demands a refill.

KILL OR BE KILLED #11 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. I started ordering this series after reading issue 3, but I hadn’t read any more of it yet. I guess the premise is that the protagonist has some kind of compulsion to put on a mask and kill criminals. This issue, he stops killing people and gets his life back together, but he soon gets violently ill, which convinces him that he has to kill people again. This issue is a good piece of work by a very consistent creative team.

SHADE THE CHANGING MAN #7 (DC, 1978) – “The Color Coma!”, [W/A] Steve Ditko, [W] Michael Fleisher. This is clearly a late-period Ditko comic, full of action, abstract art, philosophy, and characters with bizarre short names. This comic has so many characters and such a convoluted plot that it’s difficult to read, but it’s exciting, and Fleisher is a better scripter than Ditko is.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #60 (Marvel, 1979) – “The Terrorist Manifesto!”, [W] Jo Duffy, [A] Marie Severin. Much better than #59, which I reviewed earlier this year. Luke and Danny investigate the attempted bombing attack on the Ducal Cellar restaurant, leading to a lot of plot complications. The issue ends at the Halwani embassy, which was the target of the bombing. Halwan, which appeared in several other ‘70s Marvel comics, is a generic Middle Eastern/West Asian country, but it seems to be based on pre-revolutionary Iran in particular. At the climax, Luke discovers that a bomb has been sent to the embassy disguised as a samovar, and he heads to the embassy and asks Danny, who’s already there, if he’s seen a samovar. And Danny asks “What’s a samovar?” even though he’s standing right in font of it. A poignant subplot in this issue has to do with Misty’s resentment of Alan Cavanaugh, the former IRA terrorist who was wrongly suspected of planting the bomb. It turns out that Misty is angry at him because of her own trauma from having lost her hand in a terrorist attack.

AMERICAN SPLENDOR #11 (Harvey Pekar, 1986) – various stories, [W] Harvey Pekar, [A] Spain, Joe Zabel, etc. This and #15, which I haven’t read yet, were among my best finds at the Pop Swap. None of the stories in this issue are among Harvey’s absolute best, but they’re all funny and relatable. I think the best is one where Harvey listens to two bus drivers talking about how pedestrians don’t watch where they’re going, and then Harvey almost gets run over himself. (By the way, Harvey is depicts African-American English better than perhaps any other white comics writer.) All of these stories are faithful depictions of an America that’s gone, but still survives in the memory of people who experienced it. In the bus story, one of the drivers says “When ah was goin’ t’ school we didn’t have no computers, didn’t have nothin’ but them Chinese things.” And an old man replies, “When ah went t’ schoo’ we didn’ have nothin’ but our haids.” That man is very likely dead now, but his lifetime overlapped with mine, and the time when he went to school is not as far away from 2017 as it seems.

UNEARTHLY SPECTACULARS #3 (Harvey, 1967) – various stories, [E] Leon Harvey. This issue was part of Harvey’s short-lived Thriller line, which, like Archie’s Mighty Comics line, was an unsuccessful imitation of Silver Age Marvel and DC. The best of the various stories in this issue is a five-pager by Reed Crandall, which is actually a reprint from an earlier Harvey title. Of the other stories, perhaps the most interesting is Joe Simon and Jerry Grandenetti’s “Miracles, Inc.”, which has the same wacky, oddball sensibility as their Outsiders story in First Issue Special. It’s about a team of “superheroes” that includes a superheroic chef, a hillbilly with bad luck powers, and so on.

FROM THE ASHES #1 (IDW, 2009) – untitled, [W/A] Bob Fingerman. A story that stars Fingerman and his wife Michele, and is set in the aftermath of an apocalypse. The nature of the apocalypse is not stated, but Fingerman plays it for laughs. Rather than being horrified that nearly everyone in the world is dead, he and his wife are happy that they no longer have to work and that they can have sex outside. The most emotionally affecting part of this comic is in fact the flashback to before the apocalypse, when Michele keeps getting interrupted by her Blackberry whenever she tries to do anything.

DENIZENS OF DEEP CITY #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1988) – “Denizens of Deep City,” [W/A] Doug Potter. I bought this because it was recommended in Frank Plowright’s Slings and Arrows Comic Guide, which I am slowly reading. This is a rather bizarre and uncanny comic. On the first page, a woman eats her young. This is never mentioned again. The main story is about a man named Jason whose TV is stolen. He can’t recover it, nor can he find another TV that will work. He slowly goes insane until he shoots a paperboy and is sent to jail, where he finally has TV again. According to Plowright’s book, this issue is not representative of the rest of the series, so I’d be curious to see what the other issues are like.

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Reviews for rest of September

10-8-17

New comics received on September 15:

LUMBERJANES #42 (Boom!, 2017) – “Time After Crime” (part two), [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Ayme Sotuyo. Jo’s invention causes time to run at weird rates, and then either Ripley becomes huge or Jen becomes tiny. I remember enjoying this issue, but I can’t remember much about it now.

MS. MARVEL #22 (Marvel, 2017) – “Mecca, Conclusion,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Marco Failla. An effective conclusion that also resists providing easy answers to the questions this story has raised. Lockjaw and (perhaps unfortunately) the police and the legitimate government save the day, but Kamala realizes that “the places and people you thought were safe look different once you’ve seen them from another perspective, and you begin to wonder whether they’ve been this way all along, and whether you belong anywhere at all.” The real villains of this story, in other words, are “normal” white Americans like Josh who, thanks to Trump, are now revealed as having been racists and fascists all along.

RUNAWAYS #1 (Marvel, 2017) – “Find Your Way Home,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. Rainbow Rowell is a very popular YA writer (whose books I haven’t read because they’ve never been released in paperback). And her comic book debut is also a revival of the best Marvel comic of the 2000s. So this comic comes with very high expectations, but it does not disappoint. This issue is very exciting and shows a deep understanding of the characters, and also, it’s great to see Gert again. Unlike most of the Runaways writers since BKV, Rowell seems to understand what this comic means to its fans. The only problems with this issue are that it doesn’t provide a whole lot of story, and that we’re not going to see Molly Hayes for a while.

SLAM! THE NEXT JAM #1 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Pamela Ribon, [A] Marina Julia. It’s a relief to see this series again, though I don’t see why the new numbering and subtitle are necessary. As suggested in my LARB review, I think Slam! is one of the two best Boom! Box titles besides Lumberjanes, and I was disappointed when it went on hiatus after four issues. This new issue is a pretty good follow-up to the first series, with lots of relationship and derby drama, but Marina Julia is a much less effective artist than Veronica Fish.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #24 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Ryan North, [A] Erica Henderson. Squirrel Girl and Antonio the Doombot battle dinosaur Ultron. To my annoyance, I can hardly remember anything about this comic, and I had to look through it again just to make sure I had read it. In fact, I have trouble remembering most of the comics I read that day. I must have been tired.

MISTER MIRACLE #2 (DC, 2017) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. Another good issue. Scott encounters his abusive “mother,” Granny Goodness, and has to endure her gaslighting and her lack of regret for what she did to him. There are also some cute scenes with Scott and Barda.

BABYTEETH #4 (AfterShock, 2017) – “Always Faithful,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. This issue is excitingly written but barely advances the story at all. The assassin shows up at Sadie’s house but Sadie’s dad holds her off. Meanwhile, Heather fights some purple-skinned guy.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #9 (Dark Horse, 2015) – various stories, [E] Mike Richardson. As usual this issue is a mixed bag. The new chapters of Groo and Dream Gang are better than the Tarzan adaptation by Mike Grell, whose art doesn’t seem to have evolved at all since the ‘80s. Alex de Campi’s Weird Detective is surprisingly good and deserves to be spun off into its own series. Victor Santos’s “Polar” is drawn in an intriguing Italian/Spanish/Argentine style, but has kind of a trite plot. One of the characters in it is named after Guido Crepax.

TIME & VINE #3 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Thom Zahler. Megan identifies her aunt that she never knew about, and then she and Jack go back in time to the Civil War and get caught in a fire. Another exciting issue, though as is often the case with Thom’s work, it’s somewhat lacking in genuine conflict.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #58 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Thom Zahler, [A] Agnes Garbowska. This was an average issue, but the fascinating part about it was that it included two unfamiliar characters, Mage Meadowbrook and her descendant Cattail, and it seemed to assume that the reader already knew who they were. As I correctly guessed, these characters were going to be introduced in the next TV episode, “A Health of Information,” which aired after the comic was published. So for the week after I read this comic, I was looking forward to seeing the next TV episode so that I could learn who these two new characters were. This is a good example of how a transmedia franchise can use one part of the franchise to build enthusiasm for another part. Overall, this season IDW has done a great job of creating synergy between the comics and the TV show.

MECH CADET YU #2 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. I liked this issue much better than last issue. After a month, I don’t remember why exactly, but my general impression was that this issue had a lot more narrative content. The three principal characters – Yu, his mother, and Cadet Park – are starting to become more well-defined. Yu’s mother is an especially fascinating character; she seems like a typical Asian parent, but women like her are rarely depicted in comic books.

STINZ #1 (Fantagraphics, 1989) – “Draft Horse,” [W/A] Donna Barr. Like Desert Peach #8, reviewed above, this was another exciting discovery. It’s the first chapter of a series starring a centaur who lives in early 20th-century Germany. This issue, he gets drafted into the army and leaves his isolated valley for the first time, encountering people who have never seen a centaur before. This comic is warm and funny and shows a deep knowledge of German culture. I already read one other Stinz comic, but this issue gives me a better idea of what the series is about, and now I’m excited to read more of it.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #4/197 (Dark Horse, 2014) – various stories, [E] Mike Richardson. Another seriously mixed bag. None of the stories are positively bad, but they’re of varying quality. The highlights of the issue are Evan Dorkin’s House of Fun, Brendan McCarthy’s Dream Gang, and de Campi and Ordway’s Semiautomagic, in approximately that order. Tyler Jenkins’s “The Chaining” suggests that one of his major influences is Jeff Jones.

JONAH HEX #58 (DC, 1982) – “The Treasure of Catfish Pond,” [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Dick Ayers. Jonah befriends Ben, a giant intellectually disabled man (kind of like Hodor but with a bigger vocabulary) who knows the location of a lost treasure. Unfortunately, some local villains are on the trail of the same treasure. I was expecting a tragic ending in which Ben and/or his dog would be killed, but the story ends happily. This issue also includes an El Diablo backup story.

THE MAXIMORTAL #1 (Tundra, 1992) – “Cheek, Chin, Knuckle or Knee,” [W/A] Rick Veitch. A gruesome and disturbing reinterpretation of Superman. The main character in this story is the son of a human man and an alien superwoman. Even as a newborn, he looks like a tiny adult, which is very creepy. He is found by a human couple – a prospector and his celibate, obsessively religious wife – and proceeds to terrorize them and destroy their home. This isn’t exactly a fun comic, but it’s intriguing and I ought to read the rest of it. This issue’s letter column includes some Rare Bit Fiends strips.

HULK #10 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Julian Lopez. Jen tries to rescue Oliver while also dealing with her own trauma. Again, Tamaki effectively depicts Jen’s psychology, but this story has been going on too long and it hasn’t been as good as the previous story.

SPY SEAL #2 (Image, 2017) – “The Corten-Steel Phoenix, Part 2,” [W/A] Rich Tommaso. Another issue that’s full of exciting action sequences and gorgeous Clear Line artwork. I’m not sure how innovative this story would be in France, where this style of artwork is nothing new, but Clear Line artwork of this level of quality is almost unknown in American comics.

DESERT PEACH #7 (Mu Press, 1990) – “Spoiled Fruit,” [W/A] Donna Barr. A hilarious comic book. Pfirsch Rommel accidentally takes psychotic drugs, causing him to transform from a carefree layabout into a dedicated and effective general. He leads his men all around North Africa, defeating every Allied unit he encounters and endangering his brother’s plans. At the end, Pfirsch transforms back into his normal laid-back self. Besides being funny, this issue also effectively illustrates Pfirsch’s character by turning him into his own opposite.

RICHARD DRAGON, KUNG-FU FIGHTER #15 (DC, 1977) – “The Axeman,” [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Ric Estrada. This comic has some pretty good Toth-esque artwork, but the writing is horrible. Ben Turner (Bronze Tiger)’s fiancee gets fridged on page five, and he barely seems to care that she’s dead.

BLACK HAMMER #11 (Dark Horse, 2017) – “The Fury of the Robotanist,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. Part of this issue is a spotlight on Barbalien, and it becomes clear that he’s based on the Martian Manhunter. This is an interesting choice; I can’t think offhand of any other superheroes that are explicitly based on J’onn, whereas there are lots of alternate versions of Superman, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, etc. Also, there’s more relationship drama with Barbalien, Golden Gail and the priest.

BLACK HAMMER #12 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] David Rubín. This issue is about Lucy, her conflicted relationship with her father’s memory, and the circumstances behind her arrival at Black Hammer Farm. David Rubín’s guest artwork is a little bit underwhelming.

BLACK HAMMER #6 (Dark Horse, 2016) – “The Cabin of Horrors!”, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. This issue’s featured character is Madame Dragonfly. We learn that she’s a sort of hybrid of Madame Xanadu and Abigail Arcane, and also that she has a baby whose whereabouts are unknown. Also, Barbalien has a really awkward moment with Golden Gail, which explains the poignant encounter between them in issue 11. Reading this series out of order is a bit annoying, but actually not as confusing as you might expect, since this series’ story is presented out of chronological order to begin with.

SWAMP THING #140 (DC, 1994) – “Vegetable Man,” [W] Grant Morrison & Mark Millar, [A] Phil Hester. I had been under the impression that Swamp Thing jumped the shark after Rick Veitch left, but this run might be worth reading. Alec Holland wakes up in a hospital in the Amazon and is informed that his entire life as Swamp Thing was a dream. Then he encounters an indigenous shaman who gives him a really powerful drug, which leads to a really bizarre two-page splash. Then some other weird stuff happens. This story is clearly heavily influenced by Moore and Veitch’s Swamp Thing, and I’d have to read more about it to understand what, if anything, is original about Morrison and Millar’s version of Swamp Thing.

CRITTERS #12 (Fantagraphics, 1987) – various stories, [E] Kim Thompson. This issue includes Waller and Worley’s only other “Speaking Stone” story, besides the one in Critters #20, reviewed earlier. It’s a cute piece of work that includes a surprising fantasy element. The archaeologist and his assistant discover a lost temple of Bast, which turns out to be guarded by giant cat statues that turn into real giant cats when the moon is full. Based on their depiction of the cats, you can tell Waller and Worley are/were cat people. This issue also includes Sam Kieth’s “De Grand Wa-Zoo: Missing Is,” a prototype for The Maxx. The third story is a chapter of Steven A. Gallacci’s “Birthright,” and I thought it was confusing and poorly drawn.

WHITEOUT #1 FCBD (Oni, 2007) – untitled, [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Steve Lieber. This is a reprint of Greg Rucka’s first comic. Like most of his work, it’s a realistic adventure story with a female protagonist. Its unique element is that it takes place in Antarctica. The real revelation here is Steve Lieber’s black and white art, which is exquisitely detailed and reminds me more of Italian or Spanish than American comics. I wonder what happened to him; he seems to have done very little work in comics in the past decade.

THE ADVENTURES OF JERRY LEWIS #71 (DC, 1962) – untitled, [W/A] Bob Oksner. Thanks to his habit of loitering outside science classes so he can carry the female students’ books (that sounds really creepy when I write it out), Jerry gets hired as a rocket scientist. Through a further series of mishaps, he ends up on a rocket headed for the moon. He crashlands and encounters some aliens. This sudden turn from marginally plausible comedy to SF shocked me at first, until it turned out that he was still on Earth and the aliens were midget astronauts from a Communist country. Overall, this was a cute piece of screwball comedy.

ASTONISHING TALES #18 (Marvel, 1973) – “Gog Cometh!”, [W] Mike Friedrich, [A] Dan Adkins. A sequel to Amazing Spider-Man #103-104, except not nearly as good, though Adkins’s art is fairly impressive. At the end of the issue, Gog destroys the Statue of Liberty’s torch. I wonder if this incident was the basis for Web of Spider-Man #29. … No, it seems not. In that issue, the torch was removed because the statue was being renovated, which happened from 1984 to 1986 in real life.

DARK CORRIDOR #3 (Image, 2015) – “Seven Deadly Daughters” and “Red Circle” part 3, [W/A] Rich Tommaso. Again, I can’t follow this issue’s plot because I’ve been reading the series out of order, but Tommaso’s artwork and design are really impressive. I especially like the Eisner-esque title page of the first story.

DARK CORRIDOR #5 (Image, 2015) – as above. Much like the previous issue. This series lasted seven issues, but I didn’t order the last two.

New comics received on September 22:

SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER #4 (Image, 2017) – “Trees Falling in the Woods,” [W] Jody Leheup & Sebastian Girner, [A] Nil Vendrell. Much like the three previous issues. The highlight of the issue is the panel where one of the villain’s human flunkies says “Can’t believe we quit our jobs as comic book editors for this!” and another replies “Maybe we can make our own comic about a guy that fights b—”

GENERATIONS: MS. MARVEL & MS. MARVEL #1 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Paolo Villanelli. This was easily the best of the Generations issues that I’ve read, both because it’s just better written, and because it feels like the writer actually cares. Kamala finds herself in the past, where J. Jonah Jameson hires her to work on Woman magazine. Because of Marvel’s sliding timeline, Wilson is careful not to specify exactly when this story is taking place, but it feels like the ‘70s. The sepia tone of the coloring creates a sense of old-fashioned-ness. Besides helping Carol Danvers defeat a villain, Kamala also tells Carol that Woman magazine needs to combine activism with humor. She has two great lines about this: “Umm… protesting stuff? And unicorns?” and then later “People want equal rights, but they also want permission to have fun and be frivolous sometimes.” This is also a description of the political project of Ms. Marvel as well as other comics like Lumberjanes. Like many Boom! Box writers (as I argued in my LARB article), G. Willow Wilson sees fun and activism as allied; having fun can be a political act, and a story can be entertaining and progressive at once.

MISFIT CITY #5 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kirsten Smith & Kurt Lustgarten, [A] Naomi Franquiz. An exciting Don Rosa-esque dungeon crawl. The girls head through Captain Denby’s cave in search of Black Mary’s treasure, but just as they’re about to find it, the villains show up. It looks like this series may be ending with issue 8, which would be a pity.

WONDER WOMAN/CONAN #1 (DC/Dark Horse, 2017) – “A Crown Without Mercy,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Aaron Lopresti. I haven’t been all that impressed with most of Gail’s recent work, but I like this issue a lot. Conan and Diana are a logical pairing, Gail understands both characters quite well, and the two characters’ childhood friendship is very cute.

BLACK HAMMER #13 (Image, 2017) – “Spiral City Boxing,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. This issue, we finally get to see how the protagonists got to Black Hammer Farm. Then Lucy does the obvious thing and picks up her father’s hammer, causing her to transform into the new Black Hammer. Until after I read this issue, I didn’t realize it was the last issue of this volume. After this, there’s a four-issue Sherlock Frankenstein miniseries and then another volume of Black Hammer. So this cliffhanger will remain unresolved for a while.

HAWKMAN #12 (DC, 1966) – “The Million-Year-Long War!”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Murphy Anderson. Kind of a silly story. Some Thanagarian archaeologists accidentally revive two ancient alien conquerors who have been in suspended animation for a million years. The two aliens restart the war, each using half the population of Thanagar as an army. Katar and Shayera somehow manage to save the day using weapons from their museum on Earth. There’s no character interaction to speak of.

SNOTGIRL #7 (Image, 2017) – “New Face,” [W] Bryan Lee O’Malley, [A] Leslie Hung. I still have trouble following this series because of how infrequently it comes out. Lottie and Caroline/Coolgirl have some relationship drama, Charlene (the one who fell off the building) is recovering, and the cops are getting closer to Lottie. Also, Lottie and her friends go to Comic-Con.

ANGELIC #1 (Image, 2017) – “Heirs and Graces, Part 1,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Casper Wijngaard. The latest in a series of fascinating new series from Simon Spurrier. Besides the misfire of Cry Wolf, all of his recent limited series have been fascinating and well-drawn, and each has been very different from the others. This new one takes place in a post-apocalyptic Earth populated by intelligent animals, like Kamandi or Autumnlands. The protagonist is a female winged monkey who keeps getting reprimanded for her curiosity about the world, and who learns that she’s scheduled to have her wings cut off and become a broodmare. Conveniently, she encounters a seal (I think it’s a seal) who is looking for a female monkey to make a deal with. I’m excited to see where this goes, and I’m annoyed that I forgot to order issue two.

SUPER SONS #8 (DC, 2017) – “Planet of the Capes, Part 3,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Jorge Jimenez. This story begins in media res, and I honestly can’t remember how we got from last issue to this one. Otherwise, this is an exciting story in which Damian and Jon team up with two black girl superheroes, Big Shot and Hard Line, against an evil planet.

PETER PARKER, THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #4 (Marvel, 2017) – “Tinkerer Tailored: Soldier Guy!”, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Adam Kubert. I forgot to order issue 3. This issue is reasonably exciting, and Chip is really good at writing Spider-Man’s witty banter. However, the potential of this series has been hampered by its reliance on bad continuity and its lack of soap-opera relationship drama. I enjoyed Kaptara more than I’m enjoying this comic.

EPIC LITE #1 (Epic, 1991) – I’m not sure if this humor anthology was a one-shot or the only issue of an intended ongoing series. The highlights of the issue are a “Murder Family” story by Evan Dorkin and “Al Space” by Kyle Baker. The latter is a brutal mockery of comics speculators. There’s also a Normalman story by Valentino, which is much better than the last Normalman comic book I read. Other creators in this issue include Hilary Barta, Scott Saavedra and Mike Kazaleh.

BITCH PLANET TRIPLE FEATURE #4 (Image, 2017) – three stories, [E] Lauren Sankovitch. This issue’s first story, “Life of a Sportsman” by Marc Deschamps and Mindy Lee, is about Bitch Planet’s toxic effects on men. It’s about an athlete who’s a hero one day – despite murdering his wife and injuring other players – and a washed-up has-been the next. This story is so similar to much of what goes on in the NFL that it barely qualifies as science fiction. The second story is about women with gruesome body modifications. The third story is about a female thief who gets caught trying to steal a birth control handbook.

KING: THE PHANTOM #3 (Dynamite, 2015) – untitled, [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Ryan Cody. Another chapter in the ongoing crossover story about Ming’s invasion of Earth. I can’t remember much of this issue’s plot, but it has the same clever style of dialogue as Atomic Robo.

DEPT. H #18 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. The characters in the sub try to get back to the surface, but fail. This felt like an issue in which not a whole lot happened. I realized after reading it that I had forgotten to read issue 17.

ONI DOUBLE FEATURE #2 (Oni, 1998) – “Car Crash,” [W/A] Paul Pope, and “Secret Broadcast, Chapter II,” [W/A] Arnold and Jacob Pander. “Car Crash” is a weird slice-of-life autobiographical story in which Paul and his friends meet a woman from Venezuela. It’s drawn in a watercolor style that’s quite different from any other Pope story I’ve read. It illustrates his stylistic range. The other story in the issue is a waste of space.

GOOD GIRLS #2 (Fantagraphics, 1987) – “Number 23” and “Polite Society,” [W/A] Carol Lay. The first story this issue is grimmer and more realistic than I expected. Monica, the advice columnist, goes out with two mean women who pretend to be her friends, and they betray her and almost cause her to be raped. The second story is much lighter, though still with some rather grim implications. Irene Van der Kamp is invited to a Mary Kay party by some snooty women who are only interested in her for her money. The women’s façade of politeness collapses when they see Irene’s disfigured face and are terrified. But the evening is a total loss, because one of the women has a little daughter who thinks Irene looks cool.

THE TWILIGHT ZONE #51 (Gold Key, 1973) – various stories, [E] uncredited. The reason I bought this issue is the last story, Al Williamson’s “Telephone from the Tomb.” It’s not badly drawn, but it’s not his best work either, and it suffers from poor reproduction. The other material in the issue is of no interest.

CATALYST PRIME: SUPERB #3 (Lion Forge, 2017) – “Identity Unveiled,” [W] Sheena Howard & David Walker, [A] Ray-Anthony Height & Alitha Martinez. One of the two pencilers in this issue is much better than the other, but I’m not sure which is which. The highlight of this series is the two protagonists, Kayla and Jonah. They’re both very different and very realistic characters, and the interactions between them are excellent. Judging by this and Power Man & Iron Fist, David Walker has a particular talent for writing buddy comics. This issue also introduces Jonah’s friend Kayla, and in the cliffhanger, we learn that Kayla has superpowers.

CASANOVA: ACEDIA #8 (Image, 2017) – “Hail, Hail the Frog Queen,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Gabriel Bá. The main story this issue is about a young heiress whose father keeps assassinating all her friends. I’ve completely lost the ability to follow the plot of this comic, but Fraction’s dialogue is effective, and Gabriel Bá’s artwork is brilliant.

ELRIC: STORMBRINGER #5 (Topps/Dark Horse, 1997) – “The Chaos Shield,” [W/A] P. Craig Russell. This is the best comic adaptation of Moorcock, and it shows why Craig Russell is such a master of the art of adaptation. Unlike some people (e.g. Roy Thomas in Chamber of Chills #1, reviewed above), Russell is careful to limit how much of Moorcock’s prose he includes. He understands that his job is not to reproduce every little detail of Moorcock’s novel, but to replicate in another medium the feel of reading Moorcock, and he does that perfectly. In particular, he succeeds in imagining what things like the Sad Giant and the Chaos Shield should look like, and then realizing them on the page.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #91 (Marvel, 1978) – “Savage Doings in Shem!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] John Buscema. Conan, Bêlit and Zula are reunited with the Black Corsairs, then they infiltrate the Shemite city of Asgalun. This is a fairly good issue, but its curious aspect is that it includes a flashback sequence which introduces a lot of seemingly irrelevant new characters. The letter column explains that this sequence was written for continuity purposes. Marvel had just recently acquired the adaptation rights to Lin Carter’s “Hawks over Shem,” which takes place in Asgalun a few years after “Queen of the Black Coast,” and the flashback sequence in Conan #91 is intended to provide the background for the upcoming adaptation of “Hawks over Shem” in Savage Sword of Conan. As Roy himself admits, this results in a boring scene that kills the momentum of Conan and Bêlit’s story.

ADVENTURE COMICS #384 (DC, 1969) – “The Heroine Haters!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Win Mortimer. This story is shockingly progressive considering that it was published by DC in 1969, and was written by the man who killed Iris West. Supergirl uses a computerized dating service to pair herself up with Volar, the superhero champion of an alien planet. When Supergirl arrives on Volar’s planet, she discovers that he has no interest in her at all and that he has some kind of mysterious secret. She also learns that on his planet, all the women are domestic slaves and are taught from birth that they’re inferior to men. (So basically this planet is not all that different from Earth. ^_^ ) As you might guess from the above summary, Volar’s secret turns out to be that “he” is a girl disguised as a boy. So her romance with Supergirl goes nowhere, but thanks to Supergirl’s example, she decides to stop pretending to be male: “It won’t be easy to shatter prejudices that have prevailed for centuries! But […] I’ll do it some day!” “The Heroine Haters” turns out to be quite an inspiring example of feminism, which, again, is all the more surprising given that it looks like a very conventional ‘60s DC comic. The backup story is pure crap, but oh well.

MARVEL SPOTLIGHT #17 (Marvel, 1974) – “In the Shadow of the Serpent!”, [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Jim Mooney. To save the world from the cosmic dragon Kometes, the Son of Satan travels back in time to the original Atlantis, where he meets the sorceress queen Zhered-Na. He helps her defeat a creature called Spyros, who turns out to be Adam, as in Adam and Eve. This story is an example of Gerber’s unique ability to combine epic cosmic scope with bizarre silliness.

BUG! THE ADVENTURES OF FORAGER #4 (DC, 2017) – “Hook, Lion & Stinker: Domino Effect Part 4 of 6,” [W] Lee Allred, [A] Mike Allred. Another incomprehensible but exciting story. This issue, Bug teams up with Deadman, who is not a Kirby character but seems somehow appropriate to the overall tone of this comic.

ROCKET #5 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Blue River Score, Part 5: Plunder Squad,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Adam Gorham. Rocket teams up with the Technet in order to steal the Tarka’s World title deeds from a wealthy beaver. But Otta betrays Rocket yet again and shoots him. I’ve been a bit unimpressed by this series now that the novelty of Ewing’s take on Rocket has worn off, but it’s exciting, and I think I want to read issue 6 after I finish writing this review. (Update: I did)

ALL-NEW HAWKEYE #2 (Marvel, 2016) – “The Bishop’s Man, Part Two of Three,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Ramón Pérez. This is reasonably well-written and well-drawn, but it’s not all that exciting and it feels like a ripoff of Fraction and Aja’s Hawkeye. Kelly Thompson’s Hawkeye is a better sequel to that of Fraction and Aja, because it doesn’t try to be exactly the same as that series.

SUPERBOY #56 (DC, 1999) – “Demons!”, [W] Karl Kesel, [A] Tom Grummett. Thanks to a cursed magic glove, the Guardian thinks that it’s still World War II and the employees of Project Cadmus are Nazis. Superboy and Etrigan team up to save the Guardian and recover the glove, except Etrigan has his own agenda. This was an exciting and very Kirbyesque comic.

New comics received on September 29:

SAGA #47 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. Hard to believe this series is already on #47. This issue is a series of flashbacks to notable scenes from The Will’s past. Midway through the issue, we learn that he’s having these flashbacks because he’s being tortured by a mole woman, whose husband he killed on Sextillion. This may be the first issue of Saga in which neither Marko, Alana nor Hazel appears.

SOUTHERN BASTARDS #18 (Image, 2017) – “Gut Check, Part 4,” [W] Jason Latour, [A] Chris Brunner. I thought the art in this issue looked a bit different from usual, and it turns out that that’s because Jason Latour wrote it and Chris Brunner drew it. This issue’s first panel is a sign that says “Grit Pit” in the characteristic Waffle House font. I think I’m going to start referring to Waffle House as Grit Pit, if I ever need to refer to it again. Then we witness the moment when Earl’s as-yet-unseen wife left him and took Roberta with her. In the main story, Roberta tortures Materhead in an attempt to get him to reveal who kills Earl. When that fails, she apparently kills him. I’ve been waiting a long time for Roberta to play a more active role in this series, but she was worth waiting for.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #23 (Marvel, 2017) – “Girl-Moon, Part 5 of 5: There’s More than One Way to Skin Schrödinger’s Cat,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Lunella says goodbye to Ego and Girl Moon, and then, in a surprising move, she takes Devil Dinosaur to his original time and leaves him there. This is an impressively mature decision on her part, I guess, but it also ruins the entire premise of the series, so I have a feeling that Devil will be coming back. But maybe not for a while, since the next storyline is about Lunella’s search for a new sidekick.

HI-FI FIGHT CLUB #2 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Carly Usdin, [A] Nina Vakueva. Chris joins the fight club. Her new teammate/coworker Dolores doesn’t like her, but she finds herself falling for her other teammate, Maggie. Also, there are some new developments in the kidnapping mystery. I didn’t like this as much as the first issue, but it’s a cute coming-of-age story and also an accurate depiction of teenagers in the ‘90s.

RAT QUEENS SPECIAL: ORC DAVE #1 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kurtis J. Wiebe, [A] Max Dunbar. This issue is Orc Dave’s origin story. It turns out that he and his father/son are part of a bizarre two-person succession, in which each of them protects the forest for twenty years at a time, then turns into a baby and is cared for by the other. At least I think that’s how it works. The continuity here is a bit weird. The story clearly takes place before the original Rat Queens series, because it depicts Dave’s first meeting with the Rat Queens. But I don’t recall any mention of Orc Dave having an infant son.

MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC #6 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Brenda Hickey. Mage Meadowbrook saves a village whose inhabitants have all been turned into zombies, thanks to eating grain that was contaminated with frog secretions. The frogs are cute, but otherwise this is an average story. At the end of the issue, Sunburst realizes that the six ponies represent an earlier version of the Elements of Harmony. I assume that Rockhoof = strength, Flash Magnus = bravery, Meadowbrook = healing, Mistmane = beauty, Somnambula = hope, and “sorcery” is either Starswirl himself, or some other pony we haven’t met yet. I suspect that this information is going to be important in the TV show as well as the comic.

DESCENDER #24 (Image, 2017) – “Rise of the Robots 3 of 5,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Instead of resolving last issue’s cliffhanger, this issue presents Driller’s adventures on Dagobah with Yoda. Of course that’s not what they’re called, but the resemblance is obvious. This was a cute issue, and I like Driller a lot, but I think I’m more interested in seeing what happens to Tim and Telsa and so on.

ZODIAC STARFORCE: CRIES OF THE FIRE PRINCE #2 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kevin Panetta, [A] Paulina Ganucheau. Another exciting issue, though nothing spectacular. Zodiac Starforce fights the Fire Prince, then at the end of the issue, they encounter some other people who also claim to be Zodiac Starforce. I have trouble remembering the names of any of the characters in this comic.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: INFINITE #3 (IDW, 2017) – “Infinite, Part Five,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jen Hickman. The Holograms and Misfits resurrect Silica in order to break Synergy’s control over the world. This was an okay issue, but “Infinite” has not been my favorite Jem story.

ELRIC: STORMBRINGER #6 (Dark Horse/Topps, 1997) – “The Lords of Law and the Horn of Fate,” [W/A] P. Craig Russell. Again, PCR puts on a clinic in how to adapt literature to comics. I especially like the sequence set in the realm of Law, where everything is geometric and orderly. And PCR draws some horrible chaos monsters.

GODSHAPER #6 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Jonas Goonface. Ennay encounters two singers who have discovered that they can merge their gods into one. Then he gives the musical performance of his lifetime and saves the day. I’ve lost track of the plot of this comic, and I would need to read the whole thing in one sitting to understand it fully. Despite that, I think this was one of Spurrier’s better works, and “Jonas Goonface”’s artwork has been brilliant. Spurrier seesm to have an unusual ability to identify talented artists – Goonface, Stokely, and now also Wijngaard.

BLACK PANTHER #18 (Marvel, 2017) – “Avengers of the New World, Part 6,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Chris Sprouse & Wilfredo Torres. I don’t remember much about this issue except the ending, which reveals that Dr. Faustus is in league with T’Challa’s greatest enemy, Klaw.

FAITH AND THE FUTURE FORCE #3 (Valiant, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] Diego Bernard & Cary Nord. Faith and her superhero allies make yet another failed attempt to defeat the Do-Bot. So this issue is pretty much the same as last issue. Faith and the Future Force hasn’t been nearly as good as the ongoing Faith series, because it’s been just one action sequence after another, with no room to spare for Faith’s personal life.

FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #2 (DC, 2017) – “The Buried Past,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Ariel Olivetti. Space Ghost, Jan and Jace investigate a cave full of crystal monsters and ghosts. This comic is pretty fun, and Jan and Jace are really cute, but I still think Olivetti’s artwork is inappropriate for this series.

BATGIRL #15 (DC, 2017) – “Summer of Lies, Part Two,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Chris Wildgoose. The flashbacks to Dick and Babs’s shared past are more interesting than the scenes set in the present. I still bristle a little at the idea of Dick and Babs as a couple, because I’m still a Dick/Kory shipper at heart, but Dick and Babs’s interactions in this issue are cute. As in Generations: Ms. Marvel, the flashback scenes in this issue are colored in sepia tones. It’s weird how Dick Grayson hasn’t been Batman’s full-time partner since 1969, and he hasn’t been Robin since 1984. And yet Dick’s career as Robin is always presented as having ended just a little while ago. Dick is always the previous Robin.

BLACK MAGICK #8 (Image, 2017) – “Awakening II, Part 003,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Nicola Scott. Lots of exciting action and character moments, though it’s not clear just where this story is going. The next issue blurb suggests that the birth of Alex’s partner’s baby is going to be relevant to the plot somehow. I had assumed the baby was just a background detail.

SPIDER-GWEN #24 (Marvel, 2017) – “Predators, Conclusion,” [W] Jason Latour, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. After a one-issue break, we’re back to the Gwen/Lizard/Wolverine plotline. Gwen gets possessed by Venom, and discovers that Matt sent her to Japan so she couldn’t protect her father. This feels more like a classic Spider-Man comic than Spectacular Spider-Man does. However, I just saw someone point out that this comic is really dark and depressing, and it’s true. There used to be a meme that Marvel never gave Spidey a happy ending, but Latour not only never gives Gwen a happy ending, he never even gives her an ending that makes her less unhappy than before. It would be nice if she could win a fight sometime soon.

POINT BLANK #1 (Eclipse, 1989) – Dieter Lumpen in “Game of Chance,” [W] Jorge Zentner, [A] Ruben Pellejero; and Marvin in “The Case of Marion Colbran,” [W] Giancarlo Berardi, [A] Ivo Milazzo. This magazine presents two black-and-white stories in the characteristic Italian-Spanish-Argentine style. There’s not really an official name for this style, but it’s the second most important tradition of European comics, after Franco-Belgian comics. The Dieter Lumpen story also appears in the IDW collection of that series, which I have, but I think Pellejero’s art actually looks better in black and white. In the IDW collection, the color makes it harder to see the slickness of his line or the brilliance of his spotting of blacks. The plot of this particular story is sort of similar to Corto Maltese or Torpedo: due to a gambling debt, an adventurer has to kill an old Greek man. The second half in the issue is a film noir detective story drawn by Ivo Milazzo, whose work is almost unknown in America; however, Francesco Francavilla once named Milazzo when I asked him who his influences were. Milazzo’s art on this story is gorgeous and demonstrates deep historical research. The plot is standard film-noir stuff, with the added wrinkle that the protagonist is a WWI veteran.

AIRBOY #8 (Eclipse, 1986) – “Down in the Darkness,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Stan Woch. I lost interest in this series because of my deep antipathy for its writer, but it seems like a fairly quick and fun read. Quick is the key word, though: each issue of this series was just 13 pages, and in that amount of space, it’s hard to deliver a satisfying chunk of an ongoing narrative. The artist, Stan Woch, is kind of similar to Steve Bissette or Tim Truman, but worse.

B.P.R.D.: HELL ON EARTH – NEW WORLD #5 (Dark Horse, 2010) – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola & John Arcudi, [A] Guy Davis. I’m not sure what this issue’s story is about, but the art is impressive. Guy Davis is surprisingly good at drawing horrible ghostly monsters.

DEPT. H #17 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. This is the last in a series of issues each of which focuses on one particular character. This issue the character in question is Mia’s best friend, Lily, who has been so thoroughly relegated to the background that I didn’t even realize she was a character. At the end of the issue, the protagonists learn that the H-virus has spread to the entire surface world.

FREEDOM FIGHTERS #5 (DC, 1976) – “The Rise and Fall of King Samson,” [W] Bob Rozakis, [A] Ramona Fradon. The only redeeming quality of this awful comic is Ramona Fradon’s art, and that artwork suffers from being inked by the worst inker in comic book history, whose name will not be mentioned here. My copy of this issue is signed by Ramona.

ARCHIE VS. PREDATOR #2 (Dark Horse, 2015) – “To Live and Die in a Small Town,” [W] Alex de Campi, [A] Fernando Ruiz. This comic is fully aware of the absurdity of its premise, and it celebrates that absurdity instead of trying to overcome it. It’s full of brutal violence and bloody gore, but the violence is illustrated in the Archie house style, and therefore becomes funny rather than scary. What adds to the humor of this comic is the fact that the characters themselves don’t seem to take their situation seriously, even though they’re being pursued by a murderous alien. Like Afterlife with Archie, this comic is balanced between horror and humor, but unlike in Afterlife with Archie, the balance in this comic is heavily tilted in favor of humor.

TOM STRONG AND THE PLANET OF PERIL #2 (Vertigo, 2013) – “Masks and the Red Death,” [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Chris Sprouse. In search of a cure for Tesla’s pregnancy complications, Tom and Val Var Garm head to Terra Obscura, only to discover that the planet’s civilization has collapsed because of a horrible pandemic. Peter Hogan uses the characters and tropes from Alan Moore’s Tom Strong, but his writing is workmanlike and lacks Alan’s passion and creativity.

PAST AWAYS #8 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Scott Kolins. It’s taken me over a year to finish reading this series, which probably indicates that it’s not all that exciting. The plot is less interesting than all the little captions depicting future inventions. This issue, the three surviving protagonists (Herb, Marge and Ursula) travel back to the future, but are pursued by Phil’s disembodied head, grafted onto some kind of alien monster.

THE AUTHORITY #3 (WildStorm, 1999) – “The Circle, Three of Four,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Bryan Hitch. This is an epic superhero story with impressive art, even if Bryan Hitch seems to me like a bargain-basement Alan Davis. But I don’t get what made this comic so innovative and exciting, or why it was any better than an average Marvel or DC comic.

YOU AND YOUR BIG MOUTH #5 (Fantagraphics, 1995) – “I Didn’t Want to Get My Hair Cut!”, [W/A] Pat Moriarty. I bought this thinking it was by Hunt Emerson, but I was confusing Big Mouth with Citymouth. Pat Moriarty is not as original an artist as Hunt Emerson, but the main story in this issue is not bad. It’s about a man, Doug, whose longtime friend, Guy, becomes more and more intolerable until he finally sleeps with Doug’s girlfriend. It’s kind of like some of the stories I’ve seen on r/relationships, except that all the characters are drawn with spherical heads, which is rather uncanny.

ARCHIE’S GIRLS BETTY AND VERONICA #239 (Archie, 1975) – “Make Believe,” [W] Frank Doyle, [A] Dan DeCarlo. A completely average Archie comic. The third story, in which Veronica gives Archie a massage, includes some perhaps unintentionally suggestive dialogue.

ACTION GIRL COMICS #13 (Slave Labor, 1997) – various stories, [E] Sarah Dyer. The execution of this comic is worse than the idea behind it. Easily the best story in the issue is a Scary Godmother three-pager by Jill Thompson. The second best story is by Elizabeth Watasin, an artist I hadn’t heard of before. It looks like she did a creator-owned series called Charm School but then quit comics. The worst story in the issue is the one by the editor, Sarah Dyer; it suffers from overly repetitive art.

POINT BLANK #2 – as above. This issue includes a new Dieter Lumpen story and the second part of the Marvin story from the previous issue. Unfortunately, this was the last issue, so the third and last part of the Marvin story was never published in English. As far as I know, these two issues of Point Blank are the only English translations of Ivo Milazzo’s comics. His major work, Ken Parker, would be a good candidate for IDW’s Eurocomics line.

THE BLACK BEETLE #2 (Dark Horse, 2013) – “No Way Out,” [W/A] Francesco Francavilla. Just like issue 1, this comic has gorgeous art and coloring, but an awful story which is made up of one film noir cliché after another. Francavilla would be better off working with another writer rather than writing his own material.

One more week’s worth of reviews

New comics received on Saturday, September 9:

ASTRO CITY #47 (DC, 2017) – “Who’s a Good Dog?”, [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Mike Norton. The most adorable Astro City story ever. A petty criminal acquires the power to merge with his (stolen) corgi, resulting in the cutest and least threatening superhero I’ve ever seen. Because his personality also merges with the dog’s, the criminal acquires the dog’s honesty and loyalty, causing him to turn his life around and become a solid citizen. But his superhero days are numbered because… well, I won’t spoil it. This is another excellent Astro City story, and I eagerly await part two, which will guest-star Kitty Hawk. When the cat says “Birds. Clawrip. Bonesnap. Throatbite. Land, birds,” I’m pretty sure that’s an accurate depiction of what cats think about.

MOTOR CRUSH #6 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Babs Tarr, [W] Brenden Fletcher & Cameron Stewart. This comic is also very cute, since most of it is a flashback to when Domino was twelve years old. But it’s also quite depressing, since it shows us how Sullivan Swift lost his leg thanks to his refusal to act as a mob enforcer. This issue is excellent and I’m glad this series is back.

MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC #5 (IDW, 2017) – “Somnambula and the Snake,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Brenda Hickey. I read this issue the same day I saw “Daring Done,” which introduced Somnambula, and this comic is a strong sequel to that episode. After defeating the sphinx, Somnambula confronts a giant snake, which keeps getting bigger and bigger thanks to having swallowed a magic stone. Brenda Hickey’s art includes some nice sight gags, such as the page where the snake eats the three guards in the background while Somnambula is talking to Hisan in the foreground.

POPE HATS #5 (AdHouse, 2017) – “Things to Come,” [W/A] Ethan Rilly. This is my pick for the best comic book of 2017. At 61 pages, it’s also one of the longest and densest. While this story has some fanciful elements, like the panel where Castonguay’s pants fall down, it’s at bottom a very realistic story about the inhumanity of the business world. Frances becomes such a rising star in her law firm that she’s offered the position of office manager. But her professional success comes at the cost of everything else in her life. We see that she works constantly, she suffers from impostor syndrome, and she has no time for her boyfriend. Meanwhile, Frances’s friend (whose name I forget) becomes a Hollywood star, but she knows it’s not sustainable. We also see that Frances’s firm has no loyalty to anyone and that it subjects all its employees to the same pressure Frances is facing. When I read this comic, I feel grateful that I do genuinely important work that I value for its own sake, and that I didn’t go into the corporate world, because if this comic is an exaggeration, it’s not much of one. It also feels like a parable of contemporary capitalism in general, even though it’s a very specific story about two particular people.

SCALES & SCOUNDRELS #1 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] Galaad. I was looking forward to this because it’s written by one of the writers of Shirtless Bear-Fighter, but I was not impressed. So far it seems like just a bunch of trite fantasy tropes. I do like the art, and I’m willing to give this series a few more issues.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #31 (Image, 2017) – “I Don’t Love Anyone,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. I still think this is one of the best comics on the market, but I don’t particularly look forward to reading it. Perhaps this is because the characters, other than Baal and Minerva, are just too unsavory. Also, depressing shit keeps happening, such as Sakhmet tearing Amaterasu’s throat out, which is the big event this issue.

MY LITTLE PONY: THE MOVIE PREQUEL #4 (IDW, 2017) – “Tempest of Equestria”, [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Andy Price. Finally this issue introduces an actual pony: Tempest, a unicorn with a broken horn. I’m curious to see what’s going on with her, especially since (as someone else, probably Dave van Domelen pointed out) Andy is careful to not let us see her cutie mark. But other than that, this is kind of an insubstantial story.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: THE MISFITS: INFINITE #2 (IDW, 2017) – “Infinite Part Four,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jenn St-Onge. On the wrong side of the wall, the Misfits meet the alternate versions of Kimber and Stormer. So I guess Jem’s dad wasn’t telling the complete truth when he said the Misfits were dead. Also, we learn that the alternate world became a dystopia because the secret of Synergy’s technology became public knowledge. This was an okay but not great issue.

USAGI YOJIMBO #161 (Dark Horse, 2017) – “The Body in the Library Part 1 of 2,” [W] Stan Sakai. Kitsune tries to burglarize a rich doctor’s house, only to discover that someone has been there ahead of her and killed the owner. Usagi and Inspector Ishida investigate. I’ve read so much Usagi that I often take Stan for granted, and I forget just how good his storytelling is. This issue also includes a “Chibi Usagi” one-pager co-written by Stan’s wife Julie.

WHAT IS A GLACIER? (Retrofit/Big Planet, 2017) – “What is a Glacier?”, [W/A] Sophie Yanow. The cool thing about the Retrofit line is that it gives me a chance to sample the work of artists whose graphic novels I haven’t read yet. I’ve heard good things about Sophie Yanow’s War of Streets and Houses, but haven’t read it. This comic is drawn in a much simpler style than that graphic novel, but it’s a deep and complex meditation on climate change, as well as travel and aging. It makes me want to read the rest of her work.

GIANT DAYS #30 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. When I posted a Facebook status asking if anyone could explain this comic’s title, Brian Cronin spontaneously decided to pose this question to John Allison and to publish the answer at CBR. That’s kind of cool. It turns out the title is meant to suggest the perceived hugeness of the stuff that happens to you in college. This issue, all the girls are embroiled in relationship drama: Esther and Susan disapprove of Daisy’s romance with Ingrid, but Esther is secretly friends with Emilia, whose boyfriend, McGraw, has secretly been hanging out with Susan.

ROCKET GIRL #9 (Image, 2017) – “Foregone,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Amy Reeder. I still love the idea of this comic, but I still have trouble following the plot. This current storyline has taken about two years to come out, and this issue doesn’t include any kind of recap page. This wouldn’t be a problem if I was reading this series in trade paperback form, but since I’m reading it one issue at a time, it’s a major problem. At one point this issue I found myself wondering if Dayoung was mind-controlled or something, since her behavior seemed very reckless. That point was during the scene in the Javits Center, which I hadn’t realized was in existence in 1986.

HAWKEYE #10 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Enemy Within,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Leonardo Romero. Kate and her friends go out to a club, but it quickly becomes clear that “Kate” is either an LMD or Madame Masque. The writing in this issue is good, but the art is amazing, especially the mostly pink page with the giant BOOM. Leonardo Romero has quietly become an excellent artist.

KING: FLASH GORDON #4 (Dynamite, 2015) – untitled, [W] Ben Acker & Ben Blacker, [A] Lee Ferguson. Zarkov fakes his and Flash’s deaths in order to spark a revolution against Ming. This was a pretty good issue, with very funny dialogue.

CHAMBER OF CHILLS #1 (Marve,l 1972) – “Moon of Madness, Moon of Fear!”, [W] George Alec Effinger, [A] P. Craig Russell, plus other stories. The first story this issue is fairly good; it’s about a reverse werewolf who turns into a human when the moon is full. Then there’s a reprint of an excellent EC-esque story by Stan Lee and Russ Heath, about a brutal prison warden. The third story is much worse. It’s an adaptation by Roy Thomas and Syd Shores of a Harlan Ellison story, but Roy focuses on including as much of Ellison’s prose as he can, and as a result the story becomes unreadable.

STAR-SPANGLED WAR STORIES #148 (DC, 1970) – “Luck is a Puppy Named Schatzi!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Joe Kubert. Simply an incredible comic book. Enemy Ace adopts a stray puppy, Schatzi, who becomes his good luck charm… until Schatzi falls out of Enemy Ace’s plane to his death. Kubert’s art is some of the finest of his career; he is a master aviation artist and storyteller, and he makes the dog look very cute. Schatzi’s death is a stunning moment. These Enemy Ace stories are absolute classics and I’m sorry I waited so long to read them. The backup story, drawn by Ric Estrada, has better art than I expected.

CREATURES ON THE LOOSE #28 (Marvel, 1973) – “Mountain of Thunder!”, [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Vicente Alcazar. Alcazar’s art in this issue is quite good, but the story is a quite literal adaptation of a Thongor story by Lin Carter. The Carter story is just a bad Conan rip-off, and Gerber adapts it so closely that he has no room for originality. The reprinted backup story, by Lee and Ditko, is probably better than the main story.

DC COMICS PRESENTS #24 (DC, 1980) – “The Man Who Was the World!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] José Luis García-López. One of my Facebook friends – I forget who – said that this was their favorite Len Wein story. I don’t agree (I don’t think I have favorite), but this is certainly an excellent story. It’s a true team-up story because the two heroes work together to solve a problem that neither can solve on their own. A scientist, Alex Atley, tries to stabilize his irregular heart rhythm by tying it to the rhythm of the Earth, however that works. But it has the opposite effect, causing the Earth to vibrate in resonance with the scientist’s heartbeat. So Deadman has to keep the scientist alive, at the same time that Superman dives into the earth’s core to retrieve the device the scientist put there. The climactic page, where Deadman literally defeats the Grim Reaper and saves Alex’s life, is an amazing moment.

DAREDEVIL #367 (Marvel, 1997) – “Cruel & Unusual Punishments,” [W] Joe Kelly, [A] Gene Colan. Not all that great. Gene’s artwork is very loose and lacking in detail, and the story, involving the Gladiator and Mr. Fear, is quite hard to follow. Back in the late ‘90s, I had been reading Daredevil but dropped it after Karl Kesel was replaced as writer by Joe Kelly, and it’s probably just as well that I did.

JONAH HEX #84 (DC, 1984) – “Carnival of Doom!”, [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Tony DeZuñiga. Another hilarious Western story. Jonah buys some new guns, then visits New Orleans, where he is hired to protect a rich man’s daughter from assassination. The daughter’s fiancé turns out to be a coward, so she decides to leave him for Jonah – although Jonah’s previous marriage worked out so well, as we are reminded in a brief scene with Mei-Ling and her son.

BACCHUS #19 (Eddie Campbell, 1996) – “A Breath of Fresh Air” and other stories, [W/A] Eddie Campbell. The problem with this series is that so much of it consists of material I’ve already read in other formats. This issue includes chapters of “Banged Up” and “Doing the Islands with Bacchus” plus some Alec McGarry one-pagers. Little if any of this material is new to me. I still want to collect this whole series if I can, just for completism’s sake.

JACK STAFF #3 (Image, 2003) – various stories, [W/A] Paul Grist. Jack Staff fights the Hurricane, who is basically the Hulk. Also lots of other stuff goes on that I couldn’t quite follow. As usual with Paul Grist’s work, I loved the art but didn’t understand the story.

SPLAT! #2 (Mad Dog, 1987) – various stories, [E] Tom Mason. An anthology of mostly British artists, published by Jan Strnad. This issue features an impressive lineup of talent, such as Alan Moore, Eddie Campbell, Hunt Emerson and Peter Bagge, but only includes minor early works by each of them. The best things in the issue are some Maxwell the Magic Cat strips by Moore, and Eddie Campbell’s story about working in a fish and chip shop.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS VOL. 3 #17 (210) (Dark Horse, 2015) – various stories, [E] Mike Richardson. The first three stories in this issue are quite bad, even (especially) the one written by Paul Levitz. The issue subsequently redeems itself with some better work by Carla Speed McNeil, David Chelsea, Alex de Campi and Jerry Ordway, and Brendan McCarthy. The Finder story appears to be about Rachel, the oldest Grosvenor-Lockhart sister.

DEADLINE USA #4 (Dark Horse, 1992) – various stories, [E] Chris Warner. A much better anthology of British comics, consisting of material reprinted from a British comic of the same name (without the USA part). The highlight of the issue is a chapter of Philip Bond’s “Wired World”, a science-fictional story about two girls who go to a zoo to buy a pet. The issue would be worth reading for this story alone, and I hope I can find some more chapters of it. Other creators featured include Shaky Kane, Peter Milligan and Brett Ewins, and Dave Cooper.

BLACK HAMMER #7 (Dark Horse, 2017) – “Black Hammer Falls!”, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. An important issue because we finally learn how the characters got to Black Hammer Farm, and what happened to the title character. It turns out that Black Hammer got his powers from Starlok, i.e. Highfather/Odin, in order to battle Anti-God, i.e. Darkseid. There’s a touching scene where Black Hammer refuses a summons from Starlok in order to attend his daughter’s birthday party, but he has to pay the price for his decision, because Anti-God attacks Spiral City. Black Hammer and the other superheroes defeat him but find themselves in Black Hammer Farm, and when Black Hammer tries to leave, he dies (in the same way that Colonel Weird’s wife Eve died, as noted above). So we’re finally starting to get the big picture of what’s going on in this comic.

THE BOOKS OF MAGIC #16 (DC, 1995) – “Playgrounds, Part Two: Tag… You’re It,” [W] John Ney Rieber, [A] Peter Snejbjerg. Tim and Molly and their fairy companions are both stuck at tiny size. Meanwhile, Khara and Nikki (the demon and her half-angel child) are held captive by some kind of villain. I’m not sure what’s going on here, but it’s funny and weird.

CRITTERS #23 (Fantagraphics, 1988) – various stories, [E] Kim Thompson. I bought this issue because of the story “Teddy Payne: Right to the Blues” by Ty Templeton and A. Van Bruggen. It’s about some teddy bears who play in a blues band, and it’s both ridiculously cute, and rather melancholy. This issue was published with a flexi-disc recording of the teddy bears’ song, but my copy does not have the disc. Unfortunately, this issue is 64 pages and contains a lot of material I could have done without. There’s an Usagi Yojimbo two-parter and a chapter of Freddy Milton’s Gnuff, but there’s also a lot of very low-quality work by lesser artists.

THE HUMANS #10 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Keenan Marshall Keller, [A] Tom Neely. This is the last issue, which is probably a good thing. This series has an interesting premise, is well-drawn, and effectively evokes the spirit of the ‘70s, but it doesn’t have much of a plot, and I don’t care much about the characters.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #78 (Marvel, 1979) – “Claws!”, [W] Bill Kunkel, [A] Don Perlin. A Spider-Man/Wonder Man team-up. Like the classic Avengers #162, this issue focuses on Wonder Man’s fear of death and lack of confidence, but it’s not nearly as good as Avengers #162, although it’s kind of fun.

THE DESERT PEACH #8 (Mu Press, 1990) – “Dressing Down,” [W/A] Donna Barr. I’m Facebook friends with Donna Barr, but I had not previously read her major work, about Erwin Rommel’s gay younger brother Manfred. Now that I have read it, I am seriously impressed. This issue is a convoluted spy caper in which Manfred and his batman (in the military sense) are sent to England to impersonate two female spies. It’s an exciting and funny piece of screwball comedy, Manfred and Udo are an awesome comedic duo, and Donna Barr appears to have a deep knowledge of German culture. The fact that this comic is about WWII-era Nazis means it’s treading on dangerous ground, but to me it doesn’t feel offensive at all. After reading this comic, I read most of the other Barr comics I had (see reviews in next post) and I wish I had more.

CRIMINAL: THE SINNERS #5 (Marvel/Icon, 2010) – “The Sinners, Part Five,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. A story about a priest who becomes the leader of a gang of assassins. It’s fairly good. It has nothing to do with either of the other two issues of Criminal I read this year.

CRITTERS #20 (Fantagraphics, 1988) – various stories, [E] Kim Thompson. This issue begins with “Speaking Stone,” a rare non-X-rated work by Reed Waller and Kate Worley. It’s an anthropomorphic story about an absent-minded archaeologist and his more sensible assistant. It’s not Omaha, but it’s well-drawn, it has good dialogue, and it shows at least some knowledge of Andean culture. This series was unfortunately never finished. This issue also includes another Gnuff chapter and a story by William Van Horn.

August and mid-September reviews

9-6-17

I have about a hundred of these to review, so let’s try to do these quickly.

ASTRO CITY #46 (DC, 2017) – “The Day the Music Died,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Brent Anderson. Joke review: I think I read this comic but I can’t remember it at all. When I think of it, all I can recall is a bunch of dark tentacles and eyes. Serious review: So it turns out that the Jazzbaby/Glamorax/etc. character is the incarnation of music, who keeps reincarnating in different forms. But the Oubor stops him from reincarnating and also makes everyone forget about him. And that’s why he’s spent the entire series appealing to the reader for help. This issue finally explains the weird stuff that’s been going on since the beginning of the series, in an innovative and unexpected way, and hopefully sets the stage for an epic battle in issue 50.

SOUTHERN BASTARDS #17 (Image, 2017) – “Gut Check, Part Three,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Jason Latour. A good issue, but not a surprising one. The tensions between Coach Boss and Colonel Quick McKlusky continue to escalate, while Roberta Tubb finally starts to intervene.

RAT QUEENS VOL. 2 #5 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kurtis Wiebe, [A] Owen Gieni. The best part of the issue is the opening sequence, where each of the Rat Queens is reliving her greatest regret, and Betty’s regret is letting Hannah have the last piece of pie. What a perfect Betty moment. She’s my favorite character in this series, if I haven’t said so already. The moment with the cursed talking sword is also pretty funny. I wonder if the wizard dude at the end of the issue is a reference to Vaughn Bode’s Cheech Wizard.

SPY SEAL #1 (Image, 2017) – “The Corten-Steel Phoenix,” [W/A] Rich Tommaso. I hope that the social media controversy over this comic has led to higher sales, because this is an excellent comic. It’s obviously heavily influenced by the French Clear Line style, but is closer in tone to Chaland or Swarte than Hergé. The humor is witty and the art is painstakingly crafted. Also, this comic benefits from Tommaso’s excellent design sense.

SUPER SONS #7 (DC, 2017) – “Planet of the Capes, Part 2,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Jorge Jimenez. Another terrific issue of DC’s most fun comic. The best part is Kory’s interactions with Jon, especially the scene where she pinches his cheek. But this is just a really fun, cute and well-crafted superhero comic overall.

MISFIT CITY #3 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, (W) Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith & Kurt Lustgarten, (A) Naomi Franquiz. Oddly enough I received two issues of this comic on the same day. This issue was a bit hard to follow because of the delay since issue 2, but this series continues to be an exciting adventure comic.

MISFIT CITY #4 – as above. At the fair, all kinds of weird stuff happens and then it turns out Captain Denby is still alive. I’m glad that this comic, unlike so many other recent Boom! Box and Kaboom series, is not going to end after four issues.

SILVER SURFER #13 (Marvel, 2017) – “Timeless,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Mike Allred. This one was kind of a heartbreaker. Surfer and Dawn try to travel back in time to see Dawn’s dad, but instead they get stuck in the previous universe, where they get married, and Dawn lives to a ripe old age and passes away. I guess it’s a reasonable conclusion, but I mean, Dawn is dead. And even if Norrin got to spend a full life with her, we, the readers, did not, and her death feels very sad and abrupt. I hope this isn’t the end of her story.

BITCH PLANET TRIPLE FEATURE #2 (Image, 2017) – three stories. The stories in this issue are the one about the neck models, the one about self-care, and the one about the biological clock. I think this anthology series may be better than the main title. The best story is probably the second one, which demonstrates the thin line between “self-care” and self-abuse. But the first one, in which a perfect female body is assembled out of the individual body parts of different women, is rather horrifying.

BITCH PLANET TRIPLE FEATURE #3 – as above. The first story is about a police massacre at a gay liberation dance, the second story is about the Family Asset Recovery Agency, and the third one is about a female robot who self-destructs because of the contradictory demands on her. Really that third story sums up this entire series. It’s about how women are forced to follow multiple conflicting demands at the same time, and when they can’t, it’s their fault, not the fault of the men who are imposing those demands. But the other stories are also very chilling. The first one, of course, is a barely fictionalized version of the police murders that occur regularly in real-life America.

On Sunday, August 20, I went to the local Charlotte Comicon. I’m sorry to say this was a very disappointing convention. I had trouble finding anything I really wanted, there were no truly great deals, and no one had any underground comics. I bought a bunch of comics, including three ‘60s Little Archies for $5 each, but I left feeling dissatisfied. I think the problem, as usual, was that my priorities were wrong. I would have had better luck if I had focused on slightly more expensive comics, rather than quarter-box stuff. Here are some of the comics I did buy:

USAGI YOJIMBO #2 (Fantagraphics, 1987) – “Samurai! Part Three & Part Four,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. As a young student of Katsuichi, Usagi attends his first tournament and wins, receiving his own swords as a prize. This story was okay, but nothing great. The “Masked Apple” backup story is notable because of the large number of creators who are namechecked in it.

DEFENDERS #57 (Marvel, 1978) – “And Along Came… Ms. Marvel,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] George Tuska & Dave Cockrum. This is a surprising discovery because it’s guest-written by Claremont and it guest-stars Ms. Marvel. It’s not an indispensable Ms. Marvel story, but it is connected to her ongoing character arc (Mike Barnett appears in it). And it’s fun seeing Carol interact with characters like Hellcat and Nighthawk. Like many Claremont comics but few other ‘70s Marvel comics, it passes the Bechdel test.

ADVENTURES OF LITTLE ARCHIE #19 (Archie, 1961) – “Little Archie Puts Out the Cat” and other stories, [W/A] Bob Bolling and Dexter Taylor. One booth at the convention had several ‘60s Little Archie issues for $5 each. I bought one of them before I left the convention for lunch, then after lunch I went back and bought the other two. They were my most exciting finds at the show, although this issue unfortunately has a loose cover. As good as Bob Bolling was in the ’80s, he was even better in the ‘60s. The most interesting of his four stories in this issue is “Little Archie Puts Out the Cat,” in which Little Archie foils a burglary attempt because of his habit of leaving his toys around the house. A surprising moment in this story is when Archie shoots at the burglar and misses; there must be very few other comics in which Archie almost kills someone. Another notable story is “The Carson’s Creek Story,” in which the ghost of Riverdale’s founder tells Archie about the town’s history. This is an example of how Bolling made Riverdale a place with its own history and identity, not just a generic small town.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #59 (Marvel, 1979) – “Big Apple Bomber,” [W] Jo Duffy, [A] Trevor von Eeden. Luke and Danny encounter Bob Diamond, who looks like a ripoff of Oliver Queen, but is actually a preexisting character from the Deadly Hands of Kung Fu magazine. And then they get involved in a bombing plot. This is an okay issue but it’s not Duffy’s best, and the art is ugly at times.

METAL MEN #48 (DC, 1976) – “Who is Bruce Gordon and Why is He Doing These Terrible Things to Himself?”, [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Walt Simonson. This was part of a brief Metal Man run by Simonson. Pasko’s story is not that special, but he does a good job of capturing the Metal Men’s personalities, and Simonson’s art is excellent. As the title indicates, Eclipso is the guest star.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #73 (Marvel, 1969) – “The Web Closes!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Buscema. I bought this from the same dealer who sold me my copy of ASM #107, reviewed above, and it, too, has severe water damage but is fully readable. It’s a classic issue. It’s part of the long-running story arc with the ancient stone tablet, and includes the first appearances of Silvermane and Man-Mountain Marko.

ROCK’N’ROLL #nn (Image, 2005) – four stories, [W/A] Fábio Moon, Gabriel Bá, Bruno d’Angelo and Kako. This is the kind of comic I love to discover. It’s an early work by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, and I’ve never heard of it before. It’s no Daytripper or Two Brothers, and the story is only average – it’s a wordless story in which a woman is kidnapped by a rock-and-roll cult – but the art is terrific.

JONAH HEX #32 (DC, 2008) – “The Matador,” [W] Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, [A] Jordi Bernet. The great Jordi Bernet’s artwork in this issue is perhaps not his absolute best, although I really haven’t read enough of his work to know what his best artwork looks like. I ought to get around to reading that volume of Torpedo that I bought several years ago. But Bernet’s art is at least very good. And the story, in which a Mexican mobster hires Hex to kill his wife’s matador lover, is surprisingly good. Gray and Palmiotti are underrated as writers.

COMICS FESTIVAL! 2007 (Legion of Evil, 2007) – various stories. This was one of three FCBD comics sponsored by the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, which was a biennial event at the time. This issue has an impressive lineup of talent, including Bryan Lee O’Malley, Cameron Stewart, Chip Zdarsky and Hope Larson. But the highlight is Darwyn Cooke’s four-pager “The Alex”, about an architect who persists in achieving his creative passion despite great adversity. As I correctly guessed, this story is an homage to Darwyn’s hero Alex Toth. I was also impressed by Zach Worton’s story “George Washington Carmack,” and I’m surprised I hadn’t heard of this artist before.

DESCENDER #23 (Image, 2017) – “Rise of the Robots 2 of 5,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. Another good issue, but very similar to most other issues of Descender – at this point I know what I’m getting from this series. It turns out the evil Tim isn’t dead, but Dr. Quon very well may be.

POWER MAN #49 (Marvel, 1978) – “Seagate is a Lonely Place to Die!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] John Byrne. An unexpected creative team. This was also the last issue before the cover title became Power Man and Iron Fist. Luke, Danny and Misty invade Seagate Island to rescue Dr. Noah Burstein from Bushmaster. As usual with this series, the main interest comes from the interactions between the main characters, though John’s artwork is very good.

ADVENTURES OF LITTLE ARCHIE #23 (Archie, 1962) – various stories, [W/A] Bob Bolling and Dexter Taylor. Just two Bolling stories in this issue. In “Venus Revisited,” Archie befriends an octopus-like Venusian drummer named Herbnik and helps him launch his musical career. The GCD points out that “Herbnik’s musical downfall is an obvious reference to the copying of African-American music by white performers in the late ’50s.” “Ga Ga Over Gary” introduces Betty’s rarely seen big sister Polly. It has a cute plot of the type Bolling was really good at, in which Polly has to choose between dating the cutest boy in schoool and keeping a promise to play with her little sister. I forgot to mention earlier that Dexter Taylor was also much better in the ‘60s than later. These issues include some Taylor stories that I initially mistook for Bolling stories, such as (in this issue) a silent story about Archie’s dog.

CREEPY THINGS #2 (Charlton, 1975) – various stories, [E] George Wildman. Tom Sutton’s cover for this issue is excellent. As usual with ‘70s Charlton horror, the stories in this issue are very pedestrian but the art is reallly good. This issue begins with “The Greatest Treasure” by Enrique Nieto, perhaps the most underrated artist in ‘70s mainstream comics, though this story isn’t his best work. There’s also an okay story by Rich Larson, and a well-drawn story by Tom Sutton, about a boy who adopts a little swamp creature, although the swamp creature could have been even weirder.

CREATURES ON THE LOOSE #36 (Marvel, 1975) – “Weird Stone,” [W] David Kraft, [A] George Pérez. This Man-Wolf story is one of George’s earliest works. Even this long ago he was already very good. The story is nothing great but at least it’s not objectionable.

FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #1 (DC, 2017) – “The Quest Reborn!”, [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Ariel Olivetti. This spin-off is an adequate replacement for the original Future Quest series, but the lack of the Jonny Quest characters is unfortunate. Ariel Olivetti’s photorealistic style is very different from that of previous artists Doc Shaner and Steve Rude.

GODSHAPER #5 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Jonas Goonface. There wasn’t much about this particular issue that stood out to me, but this series is probably Spurrier’s best work yet, and Jonas Goonface’s art is also excellent, despite his stupid pen name.

AQUAMAN #15 (DC, 1995) – “Chronicles,” [W] Peter David, [A] Jim Calafiore. I really like this series. It’s certainly the best Aquaman run since the ‘70s. It combined superheroes with sword-and-sorcery in a unique way. This issue, we learn that there’s a giant skull hidden under Poseidonis, and Kordax makes his reappearance.

TIME & VINE #1 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Thom Zahler. Thom’s latest series is about a winery where the wines can be used for time travel. Like most of Thom’s work, this comic is notable for its witty and plausible dialogue and its emotional maturity. The premise isn’t quite as interesting to me as that of Love & Capes or Long Distance.

FANTASTIC FOUR #105 (Marvel, 1970) – “The Monster in the Streets!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Romita. Crystal has to leave Earth because the environment is making her sick. Meanwhile, Reed has to choose between helping Sue fight a monster, or finishing his latest attempt to cure Ben. Jazzy Johnny’s artwork is excellent, but the plot not so much; it feels like in the absence of Kirby, Stan was just rehashing old cliches.

I HATE FAIRYLAND #15 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Skottie Young. The newly good Gert almost escapes from Fairyland, but gets assassinated just before she makes it through the door. She ends up in hell, which is now ruled by the blue-haired girl from earlier in the series. This is a good issue but no different from the standard formula for this series.

DOCTOR STRANGE #20 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Weird, the Weirder, and the Weirdest,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Chris Bachalo & Kevin Nowlan. Zelma and Doc find themselves on Weirdworld, where Zelma allows herself to be contaminated with Doc’s magic in order to save him. This was an effective conclusion to Jason Aaron’s Doctor Strange, which, despite some flaws, was the best Doctor Strange run since the ‘80s. I especially liked the idea that Strange’s magic always comes at a physical cost, because this means that Strange’s powers work logically and have limitations, neither of which was the case before.

MIGHTY THOR #22 (Marvel, 2017) – “A Fistful of Brimstone,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Valerio Schitti. The War Thor invades Muspelheim, but the Jane Thor intervenes and tries to make Volstagg realize that he’s doing the same thing to Muspelheim that they did to the dwarves. The revelation that the dwarves kidnap fire elemental children to feed their forges is very disturbing. Jason is making me very excited for issue 700.

CAPTAIN VICTORY AND THE GALACTIC RANGERS SPECIAL #1 (Pacific, 1983) – “The Space Musketeers,” [W/A] Jack Kirby. I don’t understand why this is a special and not an issue of the regular Captain Victory series (unless because it’s printed on better paper). I don’t understand anything else about this comic either. The artwork and character design are up to Kirby’s usual standards, but the story makes no sense at all. By this point in his life, Kirby was somewhat past his prime.

‘MAZING MAN #4 (DC, 1986) – “Over the River and Through the Woods…”, [W] Bob Rozakis, [A] Stephen DeStefano. This series is a minor classic, a cute and subtly humorous superhero parody. It’s the only great work of either of its creators. This issue contains one story where Maze’s neighbor Katie’s grandmother shows up and causes havoc, and another one where Maze takes care of Bill and Enid’s cat, with disastrous results. There’s also a Zoot Sputnik story with art by Hembeck.

THE POWER OF SHAZAM! #27 (DC, 1997) – “The Tenants of Time,” [W] Jerry Ordway, [A] Peter Krause. Thanks to Sivana’s meddling with the timestream, Billy and Mary’s parents survive and become the Marvel Family instead of their children. I had the impression that this series was kind of bad, but this issue is not bad at all. In the scenes taking place in the timestream, there are a bunch of names hidden in the background (see https://www.instagram.com/p/BYKg56qlUW_/?hl=en&taken-by=aaronkashtan for an example); the first of these names is Neal Adams, who had a habit of hiding messages in his art.

MELVIN MONSTER #2 (Dell, 1965) – “The Door in the Cellar” and related stories, [W/A] John Stanley. I’ve never really understood John Stanley, and I’m not sure this is his best work, but it’s a pretty exciting story. Melvin, the little monster, discovers a door in his parents’ basement that leads to an underground dungeon, leading to a lot of convoluted hijinks. Also, we meet Melvin’s guardian demon, who is a complete fraud, like Mr. O’Malley from Barnaby.

New comics received on August 25:

LUMBERJANES #41 (Boom!, 2017) – “Time After Crime,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Ayme Sotuyo. In the first issue of a new storyline, Jo creates a device for recording temporal anomalies, then Molly sneaks out and uses it after having a nightmare about her mother. Also, the girls make paper airplanes. Molly’s abusive relationship with her mother has been a major theme or at least a subtext of several recent storylines, and here it’s taking center stage again. I don’t mind because I think this topic is fascinating, but it is odd that Molly is the only character in the series who seems to have a character arc; the other girls are mostly static. It would be interesting, for example, to see what sort of conflicts April is dealing with. Ripley’s sleeping position is hilarious.

SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER #3 (Image, 2017) – “Tricks & Traps,” [W] Jody Leheup & Sebastian Girner, [A] Nil Vendrell. Another stellar issue. We learn more details about Shirtless’s origin and the death of his wife, and it turns out that the old grizzled army dude is in league with the enemy. Also there are more references to toilet paper than in any other comic book I know of.

MOONSTRUCK #2 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Grace Ellis, [A] Shae Beagle. I was not in love with this issue. It felt almost too cutesy and lacked any genuine conflict. The cliffhanger, where the centaur character gets turned into a human, felt like a contrived attempt to create such a conflict. But this is still a really promising series, and I have faith in Grace Ellis.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: INFINITE #2 (IDW, 2017) – “Infinite, Part Three,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jen Hickman. The first new Jem comic in over a month, which is an unusually long gap. Jem and the Holograms meet the alternate version of Emmett Benton, only to discover that the alternate universe versions of themselves are dead.

MY LITTLE PONY MOVIE PREQUEL #3 (IDW, 2017) – “Capper of Abyssinia,” [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Andy Price. Another story that focuses on the two cat thieves, one of whom betrays the other. Andy’s art is excellent as usual, but it’s weird reading a pony comic with no ponies in it.

BATGIRL #14 (DC, 2017) – “Summer of Lies, Part One,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Chris Wildgoose. Babs and Dick Grayson team up against a villain called the Red Queen. Also, there are some flashbacks to their youth. Chris Wildgoose (his real name?) is not as gifted an artist as Rafael Albuquerque, but this is a fun issue, and I’m glad I started ordering this series again.

HI-FI FIGHT CLUB #1 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Carly Usdin, [A] Nina Vakueva. My favorite comic of the week besides Lumberjanes. Like Misfit City, this latest Boom! Box series is based on a movie I haven’t seen, in this case Empire Records. But I understand it anyway because I grew up in the ‘90s. Usdin and Vakueva’s depiction of the grunge music era seems very accurate. The protagonist, Chris, is the newest employee at an alternative record store, where it turns out that all the other employees are members of a “teen girl fight club.” This looks like another triumph from Boom! Box, and I look forward to reading more of it.

THE INFERNAL MAN-THING #2 (Marvel, 2012) – untitled, [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Kevin Nowlan. Gerber’s last work would probably be of little interest to people who aren’t already fans of his. For a Gerber fan like me, it’s an effective coda to his career, though it’s not his best work. This issue also includes a partial reprint of Man-Thing #12, to which this miniseries is a sequel.

ASTONISHING TALES #10 (Marvel, 1972) – “To End in Flame!”, [W] Roy Thomas & Gerry Conway, [A] Barry (Windsor-)Smith. Ka-Zar visits an area of the Savage Land inhabited by World War II veterans, the shipwrecked crews of a British and a German vessel. They and their children are still fighting the war, until Ka-Zar forces them to make peace. BWS’s art in this issue is only average; it wasn’t until about a year later that he got really good.

BARON WEIRWULF’S HAUNTED LIBRARY #46 (Charlton, 1978) – “A Real Gone Guy,” [A] Charles Nicholas, plus other stories. All the stories in this issue are reprinted from issue 6 of the same series. Artists in this issue include Nicholas and Alascia, Wayne Howard, and Demetrio Sanchez Gomez. The last of these was a Spanish artist who seems to have been a member of the same studio as José Luis García-López, although he wasn’t as interesting an artist. The Wayne Howard story is the best-drawn of the three. The Nicholas/Alascia story is annoying because the protagonist is a bank manager who breaks into a client’s house in order to prove that the client is performing evil sorcery. A policeman even warns him not to do this, but he does anyway, and suffers no negative consequences. It turns out the client is in fact an evil sorcerer, but you have to wonder who the real villain of this story is.

ARCHIE #219 (Archie, 1972) – various stories, [A] Harry Lucey. A well-crafted but thoroughly average issue. Probably the best story is the one where Reggie makes fake signs to fool Archie.

On Saturday, August 26, I went to Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find, which was having a moving sale, and bought a bunch of 50-cent comics plus a few other things. This was a much more satisfying experience than the convention the previous weekend, perhaps because I had lower expectations, and it made me feel excited about reading comics again. Here are some of the comics I read after the show, some of which I had bought earlier:

BABYTEETH #2 (Aftershock, 2017) – “The Prairie Wolf,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. This issue introduces the protagonist Sadie’s father, a surprisingly decent and kind man. His relationship with his daughter is an interesting contrast to Em’s relationship with her own father in Revival. Also, it turns out the baby drinks blood. The first issue of this series was just okay, but this second issue is seriously compelling and makes me very excited for this series.

KA-ZAR THE SAVAGE #17 (Marvel, 1982) – “Tag You’re It!”, [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Ron Frenz. This is my favorite version of Ka-Zar, and it’s one of only two occasions, besides the Mark Waid run in the ‘90s, when Ka-Zar was more than just a Tarzan clone. In both these series, the overarching theme was Ka-Zar’s conflict between his jungle lifestyle and his nostalgia for the modern world. There is a lot of that in this issue, in which Ka-Zar goes insane and thinks he’s the protagonist of a hard-boiled detective story he’s reading. This issue, like the rest of the series, is also notable for its fairly realistic depiction of Kevin and Shanna’s relationship.

BABYTEETH #3 – as above. Sadie can’t produce enough blood, so her sister Heather goes looking for the baby’s no-good father, who turns out to be dead. Also, a demon raccoon thing falls out of the sky. This was another fun issue.

BODIE TROLL #1 (Red 5, 2013) – “Bodie’s Bargain,” [W/A] Jay Fosgitt. This is Jay’s first major work, and he’s just announced that it’ll be reprinted along with new material. This issue suffers from poor reproduction but is extremely cute and amusing. Bodie is an adorable character, partly because he tries to be scary and fails. I’m glad we’ll be seeing more of this character.

VICKI VALENTINE #2 (Renegade, 1985) – “Let’s Pretend with Vicki and Angel Cake,” [W] Bill Woggon, [A] Barb Rausch. Another example of a comic I’m excited to have discovered. I’ve never read any of Bill Woggon’s comics before, but this comic appears to be very similar to his classic Katy Keene series, except with art by his longtime fan Barb Rausch. The plot is very cutesy and devoid of conflict, but most of the emphasis is on the characters’ costumes, which are designed by fans. Many of the pages of the comic consist of paper dolls of the characters, complete with costumes. I don’t think I could stand very much of this sort of thing, but in small doses it’s not bad.

ADVENTURES OF LITTLE ARCHIE #34 (Archie, 1965) – various stories, [W/A] Bob Bolling and Dexter Taylor. The two Bolling stories in this issue are “The Incredible Cat-Caper” and “The ‘Cuda Complex.” The first of these was reprinted in the 2004 trade paperback, but the second is new to me; it’s about Mad Dr. Doom and Chester and their submarine. Overall this was a good issue as usual, but not my favorite. I need to look for issue 20, which includes Bolling’s masterpiece, “The Long Walk.”

JONAH HEX #51 (DC, 1981) – “The Comforter!”, [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Dick Ayers. Jonah’s wife Mei Ling is about to give birth, but Jonah has to go to town to get her a present. Of course, while in town Jonah runs into a young upstart who challenges him to a fight, then accuses Jonah of cowardice for refusing the challenge. This story is funny and sweet because of the conflict between Hex’s new family duties and his fearsome reputation, but in the very next issue, that same conflict leads to the end of his marriage. This issue also includes an excellent Bat Lash story by Len Wein and Dan Spiegle.

CHAMBER OF CHILLS #24 (Marvel, 1976) – “The Underground Gambit!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Herb Trimpe, plus other reprints. I’m writing this review on the day Len Wein died. I guess he’s been in poor health for a while, but his death is an unfortunate shock. He seems to have been a wonderful man. My Facebook feed is full of sad and affectionate reminiscenes of him, including many from people who aren’t comics creators. “The Underground Gambit,” reprinted in this issue, is the last story of his that I read before he died. It’s about an underground cartoonist, Roger Krass, who secretly hates his fans and his work, so when a wealthy patron offers him an exclusive contract, he jumps at the chance. But of course it turns out the patron is Satan. I had wanted to ask Len whether Roger Krass was based on Robert Crumb or on anyone else in particular, but it turns out he was already asked about this story in an interview, and he couldn’t remember anything about it. Which is no surprise, because it was just one of the thousands of stories he wrote. It’s unfortunate that there won’t be any more.

TIME & VINE #2 (IDW, 2017) – “Vintage 2017,” [W/A] Thom Zahler. On another trip to the past, Megan encounters her own deceased mother and discovers that she has an aunt she never knew about. I couldn’t care less about wine, but the time travel aspect of this comic’s plot is very interesting. I am a big fan of time travel stories (like Iain Pears’s Arcadia, which I just finished today) because of the bizarre narratological tricks they’re capable of. So I’m curious to see where this plot will go from here.

FLASH GORDON #6 (Dynamite, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Evan “Doc” Shaner. On Sky World, Flash and Zarkov are kidnapped by sirens who require men for breeding purposes. Hilariously, they’re more interested in Zarkov than Flash. Other than that, this is just another exciting and well-crafted story by an excellent creative team.

THE FURTHER FATTENING ADVENTURES OF PUDGE, GIRL BLIMP #3 (Star*Reach, 1971) – “This Can’t Be Right… It Feels Too Good,” [W/A] Lee Marrs. This comic book is very long and dense, but worth the effort. It’s a long, rambling story about the life of a… full-figured woman who’s trying to lose her virginity. It’s funny, sensitive and plausible, similar in tone to the work of Roberta Gregory or some of the Wimmen’s Comix artists, and it’s drawn with passion and sincerity. Lee Marrs deserves to be better known. This entire series was reprinted recently, but only in a print-on-demand edition. I want to get the other two issues.

CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA #7 (Archie, 2017) – “Witch-War, Chapter One: The Truth About Demonology,” [W] Roberto Aguirre-Sacassa, [A] Robert Hack. This series was doomed from the start by Roberto Aguirre-Sacassa’s chronic lateness. I almost think it would be better to cancel it than to publish one issue of it every six months. This issue is the origin story of Sabrina’s dad, who is currently inhabiting Harvey’s body. It’s not bad, but it wasn’t worth waiting a whole year for.

BROTHER POWER, THE GEEK #2 (DC, 1968) – “A Visit from the Dead!!”, [W/A] Joe Simon, [A] Al Bare. This is perhaps the weirdest and silliest DC comic I’ve ever read, and that’s saying a lot. Brother Power decides to stop being a hippie and go to work in an aviation plant, which is promptly besieged by an evil engineer called Lord Sliderule. Subsequently, Brother Power fixes a snag in the assembly line that’s costing the factory a million dollars a year. It turns out the solution is to have a left-handed man do a certain job instead of a right-handed man – and somehow “the nation’s leading engineers” couldn’t figure this out. Meanwhile, the hippies start a protest outside the plant, which is about to launch a rocket with Brother Power in it. Also, teenage Nazi reenactors are involved somehow. The issue ends on a cliffhanger, which is never resolved because there was no third issue. This comic is fascinating because of its weirdness and mostly unintentional humor, but it’s no surprise that it only lasted two issues.

BLACK AND WHITE COMICS #1 (Apex Novelties, 1973) – “Squirrely the Squirrel” and other stories, [W/A] R. Crumb. A series of cruel and mean-spirited stories, including “R. Crumb vs. the Sisterhood,” in which Crumb depicts himself climbing inside a woman’s vagina. I previously read this story a while ago, and the image of the woman running around with Crumb inside of her is etched in my memory, and not in a good way. If this comic is a classic, it’s mostly because of the disturbing insight it offers into Crumb’s psychology. I can’t say I enjoyed it, though. I still don’t think I quite get Crumb.

JONAH HEX #54 (DC, 1981) – “Trapped in the Parrot’s Lair,” [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Tony DeZuniga. Now returned to his nomadic lifestyle, Jonah has a second encounter with El Papagayo, the Mexican bandit from earlier issues. This issue also includes a backup story by Dan Mishkin, Gary Cohn and Tom Yeates, which is notable for what is, as far as I can tell, an accurate portrayal of Comanche people. I wonder if Dan and Gary had read Jaxon’s Comanche Moon trilogy.

DETECTIVE COMICS #596 (DC, 1988) – “Video Nasties,” [W] Alan Grant & John Wagner, [A] Eduardo Barreto. Part one of a two-parter about a villain who makes films of people being beaten. I reviewed the second part of this story a while ago. The only thing I really remember about this issue is that Batman identifies one of the villains by observing that one of his legs is shorter than the other.

USAGI YOJIMBO #15 (Mirage, 1995) – “Kaiso,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. In the same vein as other Usagi stories like “Shoyu” or “Taiko,” “Kaiso” is an exploration of a unique aspect of Japanese culture – in this case, seaweed farming. Usagi meets a seaweed farmer and helps him prove that a local merchant is trying to ruin his business. As Stan must have intended, this story is both fun and educational.

SAN FRANCISCO COMIC BOOK #3 (Print Mint, 1970) – various stories, [E] Gary Arlington. This underground comic features interesting work by a large number of artists, including Kim Deitch, Trina Robbins, Justin Green, Willy Mendes, R. Crumb, and Spain. Trina’s story is perhaps her best-drawn story that I’ve read, and the Crumb story is similar in tone to “R. Crumb vs. the Sisterhood”, but more substantial and less horrifying. The real revelation of the issue is an insanely detailed two-page spread by Jim Osborne. I was also impressed by the fourth-wall-breaking strip by George Metzger, drawn in a Steranko-esque style.

New comics received on September 1:

SAGA #46 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. This was a pretty quick read, but the scene where Hazel says goodbye to her never-to-be-born brother is perhaps the most heartwrenching moment of the series.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #22 (Marvel, 2017) – “Girl-Moon, Part 4 of 5,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Lunella tricks Ego into acknowledging his daughter. Meanwhile, Lunella’s parents continue to be the most oblivious parents ever and are unable to tell that their daughter is a robot. I still think this is the best Moon Girl story yet.

KIM & KIM: LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD #2 (Black Mask, 2017) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. One of the Kims consults her grandmother in the afterlife, then the other Kim berates her over her toxic attachment to her evil girlfriend Laz. I like this comic a lot; it’s like Rat Queens, but… I never found a way to finish that sentence. I guess I wanted to point out that it feels more serious somehow, and also it’s written by a woman.

LADY KILLER II #5 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Joëlle Jones. Josie finally gets rid of Irving, with help from her husband and Mother Schuller. But Josie’s husband finally figures out what’s been going on and leaves her, taking the kids. This was a funny series, but the art was better than the writing, and the joke is getting old. Joëlle Jones should move on to something else.

FAITH AND THE FUTURE FORCE #2 (Valiant, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] Barry Kitson & Diego Bernard. The Future Force’s second attempt to defeat Do-Bot is just as unsuccessful as their first, so they try again, this time with a team of superheroes. The best part of this issue was when I figured out that Do-Bot was quoting Plato.

HEAD LOPPER #6 (Image, 2017) – “Head Lopper and the Crimson Tower, Part 2,” [W/A] Andrew MacLean. Another fantastic piece of art and storytelling from Andrew. I don’t have anything to add to my review of issue 5, but I should note that in this issue one of the two surviving warrior women gets killed.

PEEP SHOW #10 (Drawn & Quarterly, 1997) – “Fair Weather, Part Four,” [W/A] Joe Matt. The conclusion of an autobiographical story about Joe Matt’s childhood. Like much of Joe Matt’s work, it’s rather disturbing, it presents the author in a very negative light, and it engages with unsavory topics like shoplifting and voyeurism. But it also has a lyrical, affectionate tone that’s absent from earlier issues of this series; it ends with a cute moment when Joe reconciles with his friend after they’ve been fighting. Therefore, this story feels like an advance over earlier issues of this series.

ANYTHING GOES! #5 (Fantagraphics, 1985) – various stories, [E] Gary Groth. The clear highlight of this issue is Crumb’s “The Goose and the Gander Were Talking One Night,” an emotionally charged, ambivalent story in which two spouses have a pessimistic conversation about the future of the world. I remember once hearing someone say that this was the only Crumb story they liked, and I can see why. Other notable pieces in this issue are a Wolverine McAllister story by Bill Messner-Loebs, and a selection of classic Little Orphan Annie strips.

GENERATIONS: THE UNWORTHY THOR & THE MIGHTY THOR #1 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mahmud Asrar. A time-travel story in which the Odinson Thor encounters the Jane Foster Thor. This was a funny and enjoyable comic and an effective illustration of the difference between the two Thors. I also like the running joke about Thor comforting the dead men’s wives. But this still felt like a comic that didn’t need to exist. It had no significant impact on the plot of the ongoing Thor title, and I wouldn’t have missed much if I hadn’t read it. This comic was published primarily in order to fit into the Marvel Legacy crossover, and only secondarily in order to tell a good story.

SPIDER-GWEN #23 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Hannah Blumenreich, with a framing sequence by Latour and Rodriguez. I couldn’t recall who Hannah Blumenreich was until I Googled her and reminded myself that she drew those adorable viral Spider-Man fan comics. Kudos to Marvel for giving her an opportunity to draw Spider-Man “for real.” This issue interrupts the Gwenom story arc to focus on Mary Jane and the band, back in New York. Blumenreich’s work looks worse here than in her online comics, but her dialogue is fantastic. And the scene where MJ beats up Glory’s creepy stalker is brilliant, precisely because it depicts the sort of harassment that happens to women on a daily basis in real life, but is rarely depicted in popular culture.

SAD SACK AND THE SARGE #145 (Harvey, 1980) – various uncredited stories. This is indistinguishable from Beetle Bailey except that it’s even more tedious.

KING: JUNGLE JIM #3 (Dynamite, 2015) – untitled, [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Sandy Jarrell. This is a fairly exciting story and it’s drawn in a style that resembles Evan Shaner’s, but it’s not all that memorable. The best part is the character who gets drunk so she won’t turn into a snake.

GUMBY’S SUMMER FUN SPECIAL #1 (Comico, 1987) – “Gumby’s Summer Fun Adventure,” [W] Bob Burden, [A] Art Adams. I liked this comic a little bit less than the Winter Fun Special, but it was still a lot of fun. While babysitting some robot kids, Gumby has an adventure involving space bears, space zombies, pirates, etc. In what I assume is Bob Burden’s typical style, this story is absurdist and ridiculous but is presented in a deadpan manner. And amazingly, the plot hangs together logically (at least according to its own logic) and there are few if any dangling plot threads.

TALES OF THE BEANWORLD #5 (Eclipse, 1985) – “The Float Factor,” [W/A] Larry Marder. Beanish makes his first trip to the alternate reality with the floating female head. Meanwhile, Proffy interviews some Hoi Polloi and learns about their surprisingly complex system of decision-making. The highlight of the issue is that it lets us see the Hoi Polloi’s perspective, which is quite different from that of the beans.

GENERATIONS: HAWKEYE & HAWKEYE #1 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Stefano Raffaele. Like Generations: Thor, this comic suffers from didn’t-need-to-exist syndrome. Kate and the younger version of Clint have some cute moments, but young Clint is basically the same character as the current version of Clint. So this comic didn’t provide much we’re not already getting in the regular Hawkeye title.

BLACK MAGICK #7 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Nicola Scott. This is a good issue, but I don’t have anything new to say about it. The highlight is the scene where Rowan and her partner arrest the bigoted old lunatic.

BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT COMIC BOOK #7 (Marvel, 1992) – “Time is Up!”, [W/A] Evan Dorkin. This is hard to follow because I haven’t read the previous issues and it’s been years since I saw the films, but it’s an enjoyable time travel adventure, full of funny jokes and sight gags.

DOCTOR SOLAR, MAN OF THE ATOM #3 (Gold Key, 1963) – “The Hidden Hands,” [W] Paul Newman, [A] Bob Fujitani. This comic is on the borderline between the superhero and science fiction genres, because Doctor Solar doesn’t wear a costume – he started wearing one in the fifth issue. It’s a pretty average comic, and my copy is in awful condition.

ATOM AND HAWKMAN #44 (DC, 1969) – Hawkman in “The Ghost Laughs Last!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Murphy Anderson; and Atom in “Hate is Where You Find It!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Dick Dillin. I liked this issue a lot. The Hawkman story features one of the coolest Silver Age DC villains, the Gentleman Ghost, and has a touching story in which the Ghost falls in love with a blind woman. Hawkman and Hawkgirl have much more personality than other Kanigher characters, although their characterization mostly consists of bickering. The Atom story is written in a much more energetic and Marvel-esque style, and Atom engages in some witty Spider-Man-like banter. The plot involves a man who hates Germans because he thinks they’re all Nazis. Given the time when this comic was published, I suspect that Denny was using anti-German sentiment as a Code-approvable substitute for anti-black racism.

CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA #8 (Archie, 2017) – “Witch War Chapter Two: The Psychopomps,” [W] Roberto Aguirre-Sacassa, [A] Robert Hack. This was published just a month after the previous issue, which, as Bleeding Cool pointed out, is a record. This issue, Sabrina fights her aunts to a standstill after they forbid her to date Harvey. The aunts eventually give up their opposition, but that’s not a good thing because as we recall, Harvey is actually the reincarnation of Sabrina’s dad. This comic, in general, suffers from the lack of any sympathetic characters. All the characters have evil agendas of one kind or another, except Sabrina, who only wants Harvey – and even Sabrina is acting out of wishful thinking and willful ignorance. (She has been told that Harvey is evil, and she refuses to listen.) What sort of positive outcome are we supposed to hope for from this story?

WILD ANIMALS #1 (Pacific, 1982) – “The Land That Time Ignored!”, [W/A] Scott Shaw!, plus other stories. I’ve known Scott Shaw! personally for a long time, but I’ve read very little of his work. The main story in this issue, which is continued from Quack #3, was a pleasant surprise because of its humor and its witty artwork. It’s a convoluted funny animal story that parodies Tarzan, King Kong and a bunch of other stuff. This issue also includes a four-pager by Larry Gonick, a two-pager by Sergio Aragonés, and several one-page strips by Jim Engel, which are rip-offs of Vaughn Bodé and George Herriman. Overall this is an interesting comic that partakes of both underground comics and the emerging independent comics scene, and it’s too bad there wasn’t a second issue.

ALL-STAR COMICS #66 (DC, 1977) – “Injustice Strikes Twice!”, [W] Paul Levitz, [A] Joe Staton. The JSA battles the Injustice Society. There are a lot of fun moments in this issue, but Levitz and Staton never managed to generate as much energy in this series as in Huntress or Adventure Comics.

PROPHET #37 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Giannis Milogiannis. One Prophet clone, Brother John Atum, sacrifices its life to reawaken another one, Brother John Agro. Despite not being written by Brandon Graham, this is very similar to most of Brandon’s issues of Prophet, except maybe slightly less bizarre.

ANGEL LOVE #2 (DC, 1986) – untitled, [W/A] Barbara Slate. Another fascinating issue by an extremely underrated creator. After learning last issue that her new boyfriend, Don, is a cocaine addict, Angel regretfully dumps him. Meanwhile, Angel’s roommate, who is a bit of a black stereotype, gets dumped himself because he’s been neglecting his girlfriend, and her other roommate discovers an injured baby bird (see my review of issue 5 for what happens next). Two of this issue’s three plotlines are as humorous as you would expect from its cartoony artwork, but the Angel and Don plotline is unexpectedly touching and realistic.

MASTER OF KUNG FU #76 (Marvel, 1979) – “Smoke, Beads and Blood!”, [W] Doug Moench, [A] Mike Zeck. Shang-Chi approaches a wise old man for advice, only to discover that the old man has betrayed him to Fu Manchu. Shang-Chi goes home to Leiko and complains about being unhappy. Like much of Doug Moench’s work, this issue is histrionic and full of purple prose, but it’s also rather touching and has some excellent action sequences.

MYSTIC FUNNIES #3 (Fantagraphics, 2002) – “The Hipman” and other stories, [W/A] R. Crumb. I enjoyed this much more than the previous Crumb comic I read (Black and White #1). The longest story in the issue is about a bearded mulleted dude who drives a tiny car, and who falls in love with a woman with huge thighs. It combines two of Crumb’s preoccupations: drawing full-figured women and making fun of dudes with inflated egos. “Don’t Tempt Fate” is about Crumb getting his front teeth knocked out as a child. It’s amusing to think that Crumb is one of two autobiographical cartoonists who have addressed this exact topic, and the other is Raina Telgemeier. There’s also a silly Donald Duck parody. “Cradle to Grave,” on the back cover, may in fact be the best story in the issue.

CATWOMAN #26 (DC, 2004) – “A Knife in the Dark,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Paul Gulacy. Catwoman and Slam Bradley attempt to rescue a kidnapped child. Also, the Penguin appears in one scene. I don’t remember much else about this issue. Paul Gulacy’s artwork is very moody.

CLAW THE UNCONQUERED #9 (DC, 1976) – “Long Die N’Hglthss!”, [W] David Michelinie, [A] Keith Giffen. An early effort by two creators who would go on to do much better work. This issue’s plot is very obviously inspired by Elric; it includes a scene where the Gods of Elder Light recruit Claw to serve as their champion in their struggle against the seven Shadow Gods, whose symbol is a bunch of arrows pointing in different directions (like Moorcock’s Lords of Chaos).

COMMIES FROM MARS #5 (Last Gasp, 1986) – various stories, [E] Tim Boxell. A very late example of underground comics. This issue is difficult to follow because all the stories seem to presuppose that Earth has been taken over by Martians, but the circumstances in which this happened are not explained. Artists featured in this issue include Hunt Emerson, Peter Kuper and Spain, as well as a bunch of people I’ve never heard of. Perhaps the best story is the one by Hunt Emerson, about some thieves who steal everything, then have to abandon it.

BLACK HAMMER #8 (Image, 2017) – “Introducing the Golden Family!”, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. This issue is mostly narrated from the perspective of Golden Gail, who, we realize, is based on Captain Marvel. We also learn that before being sent to Black Hammer Farm, she was having an affair with Sherlock Frankenstein, i.e. Sivana. Meanwhile, Lucy Weber discovers that all the books in town are blank, and Colonel Weird shoots Talky-Walky dead. I’ve been reading this series out of order, but I’m enjoying it anyway.

DETECTIVE COMICS #465 (DC, 1976) – “The Best-Kept Secret in Gotham City!”, [W] David V. Reed, [A] Ernie Chua. Some criminals kidnap Commissioner Gordon because they think he knows Batman’s secret identity, but it turns out Batman has a contingency plan for exactly this situation. David V. Reed is not the most exciting writer, but this is a well-crafted story, and it deliberately leaves open the question of whether Gordon really does know Batman’s secret identity. The Elongated Man backup story is interesting because it’s set at a comic book convention.

BLACK HAMMER #9 (Image, 2017) – “The Ballad of Talky-Walky,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] David Rubin. In a flashback sequence, we learn how Colonel Weird met Talky Walky. Unlike some of the other protagonists in the series, these two don’t seem to be based on any particular characters. David Rubin’s art is as amazing as ever.

BLACK PANTHER #17 (Marvel, 2017) – “Avengers of the New World, Part 5,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Chris Sprouse. I realized as I wrote this that I forgot to order issue 16. This issue, T’Challa and Storm continue to investigate the returning gods. The fascinating part about this issue is how Storm accepts her role as a goddess, rather than trying to deny it, as T’Challa would. Storm’s decision seems ethically questionable, and yet it makes sense; as she points out, you shouldn’t take people’s faith lightly.

ANIMOSITY #9 (Aftershock, 2017) – “God Dam,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Rafael De Latorre. For perhaps the first time in this series, we encounter animals that genuinely behave like animals: a colony of bees that speak with a single voice and are furious that their queen was kidnapped. I wish this series had more of this sort of thing, because I’ve complained before about how the animals in Animosity are too much like people.

BLACK HAMMER #5 (Image, 2016) – “The Odyssey of Randall Weird,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. This issue is Colonel Weird’s origin story. Among other things, we learn that he visits a dimension called the Para-Zone, that he has visions of his future self, and that he got his wife killed when he tried to enter the Para-Zone with her. And now that I look at this issue after having read issue 7, I realize that Eve’s fate is exactly the same as what happened to the Black Hammer when he tried to leave Black Hammer Farm. There’s a clue I missed.

BLACK HAMMER #10 (Image, 2017) – “Abraham Slam Gets Extreme!!”, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dean Ormston. In a parody of the Image Comics style of the early ‘90s, Abraham Slam tries to fight crime wearing a Liefeldian costume, but it fails miserably. Meanwhile, Madame Dragonfly kills the wife-beating local sheriff, after Abraham Slam had threatened to do so himself.

UNSUPERVISED EXISTENCE #1 (Fantagraphics, 1989) – “Morning Becomes Eccentric,” [W/A] Terry LaBan. A slice-of-life story about two lovers: Danny, a taxi driver, and Suzy, who doesn’t seem to have a job. This is quite an enjoyable comic; it’s funny and realistic and it’s drawn in a cute and distinctive style. It reminds me most of Box Office Poison, except without the references to geek culture. Annoyingly, issues 2 through 4 of this series were magazine size, and then the remaining three issues were comic book size.

Comics criticism: Basic questions to ask when reading a comic — version for students

The following is a slightly edited version of this blog post. It strips out some of the more technical language and the more specific examples, so as to be more accessible to students.

This is intended as a resource for students or for academics who are new to reading comics critically. It is a list of basic questions one might want to ask when reading a comic book or graphic novel. Most of these questions have to do with the visual or artistic aspect of a comic — what it looks like — rather than the literary or narrative side (storyline, themes, characterization, etc.). I focus on this because teachers and students tend to have a basic understanding of how to analyze the story of a graphic novel; in doing so, you can apply the techniques you learn in high school English classes. But no one really tells you how to analyze a comic book from a visual perspective, and that’s why a guide like this one might be useful.

1. Art style (draftspersonship). In general, what does the artwork look like? What sort of linework does the artist use? How much detail does the artist employ in drawing people and objects — where does the artwork fall on the continuum between minimalist and hyperdetailed? How does the artist depict characters, including their faces and figures? How does the artist draw backgrounds?

2. Visual storytelling – within the panel. In general, how is each panel composed? From what viewpoint are the panels drawn — are there more close-ups, more long shots, etc.? What “camera angles” does the artist use (bird’s eye view, worm’s eye view, etc.)? How are the panels framed — what does the artist choose to include in each panel, and what does s/he choose to leave out? Does the artist use motion lines to indicate that something is moving? Does the artist use emanata to represent abstract concepts, such as by using a light bulb over a character’s head to represent an idea?

3. Visual storytelling – between panels. How are adjacent panels related to each other? How many action sequences are there, and how good is the artist at depicting action? How much closure does the reader have to do — that is, how much work does the reader need to do in order to understand what happens in the gaps between panels?

4. Page layout and composition. How is each page structured? How many panels are there on each page? What size and shape are the panels? How are the panels arranged relative to each other — for example, does the artist use a 2×2 grid, a 4×2 grid, or what? Does each page have the same page layout (as is often the case in American or European comics) or does each page have a different layout (as is often the case in Japanese comics)? What do the panel borders look like — are they solid borders or just single lines? In what order is the page supposed to be read, and how does the panel structure help guide the reader through the page?

5. Lettering. What does the text in the comic look like? What is the style of the letters? Does the comic use hand-lettering or a font? Is the text in ALL UPPER CASE or in mixed case? How does the lettering contribute to the overall visual appearance of the comic — does it try to be as unobtrusive as possible, or is it a major element of the overall “look” of each page? … Are there sound effects, and if so, what do they look like? Are there caption boxes, thought balloons, neither, or both?

6. Color. Is the comic in black and white or in color? If in black and white, how many shades of gray are there? If in color, how many colors? What general mood is created by the colors or shades of grey — is the comic bright and cheery, dark and gloomy, or what? How does the artist use color as a compositional element or as a way of directing the reader’s gaze? If the comic is in color, what coloring technique was used — the traditional four-color process, computer coloring, watercolor, painting, or what?

7. Materiality and paratext. Are you reading the comic in print or digital form? If in digital form, what sort of device are you reading it on, and what application (e.g. ComiXology) are you using? Are you able to view the entire page at once or only parts of it? If you are reading the comic in print form, is it a comic book, a paperback book, a hardcover, or what? Are you reading the comic in the form in which it was originally published? If not, what changes were made in order to adapt the comic to the form in which you are reading it? Does the comic include any paratextual materials, i.e. materials that are not part of the comic itself but are ancillary to it? (Examples: advertisements, letters pages, introductions, afterwords.)

Latest review post

8-10-17

New comics received on July 28:

LUMBERJANES #40 (Boom!, 2017) – “Let’s Be Prank” (conclusion), [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Ayme Sotuyo. A perfect ending to the storyline. The whole fox business is resolved in a satisfying and funny way, and Ripley’s grandmother steals the show as usual. And then we finally meet Molly’s mother, who is just as horrible as we’ve been led to expect. Rosie’s behavior in this scene is exemplary – she realizes right away that Molly does not want to see her mother, and gets rid of her (i.e. Molly’s mother) in a polite but firm way. Molly’s mom is a stark contrast to Mal’s mom, who throughout the current storyline has been acting like a mother to Molly as well, and I wonder if this plot thread will end with Molly going to live with Mal instead of returning home. That’s assuming this series ever does end, because this issue also confirms that the entire camp is in a time bubble.

SAGA #45 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. For perhaps the first time, I decided to read Lumberjanes before Saga when they both came out on the same day, because I’ve honestly been enjoying Lumberjanes more lately. But I liked this issue more than I was expecting. Maybe because it wasn’t keeping me from reading Lumberjanes. The highlight of this issue is the heartbreaking scene with Hazel and her unborn brother’s ghost. Also, Prince Robot’s return is an exciting “cavalry arrives” moment.

SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER #2 (Image, 2017) – “Part 2: Enter the Hillbilly Warlock,” [W] Jody Leheup & Sebastian Girner, [A] Nil Vendrell. This is probably the funniest comic book of the year – it’s even funnier than the previous issue. The highlight is the scene where Shirtless visits a bunch of different cities and fights bears, and then on the next page, we see him fighting football players in Chicago, and then fighting bearded men in San Francisco. It’s cool how this joke depends almost entirely on the images. The Hillbilly Warlock is also a very funny character, though in a much less subtle way. And there’s also the following exchange: “I thought pandas only lived in China.” “THEY DO NOW.”

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #21 (Marvel, 2017) – “Girl-Moon, Part 3: There’s No Place Like It,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. This is probably the series’ best storyline yet – which is kind of sad because it suggests that Montclare alone is better than Montclare and Reeder. Luna’s meeting with her other-dimensional counterpart, Devil Girl, is funny and cute; predictably, the two Lunas can’t stand each other, but they each realize in the end that the other one isn’t so bad. A running joke throughout the issue is the subtle weirdness of Devil Girl’s world. Everyone wears funny hats in public, and we see a man using a banana as a phone and another man walking an armadillo. And what makes all this weird stuff even funnier is that none of it is mentioned in the dialogue.

MY LITTLE PONY: THE MOVIE PREQUEL #2 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Andy Price. Not as good as last issue. The pirate parrots are cute, but otherwise, this issue just continues last issue’s plot in a predictable way.

FAITH AND THE FUTURE FORCE #1 (Valiant, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] Stephen Segovia. This title is a reference to the old Valiant title Rai and the Future Force. A time-traveling scientist and her dinosaur-girl friend recruit Faith to help them save the universe. Faith gets killed, but it’s okay because they’re time travelers, so they recruit Faith again, and this time she brings some friends. This was a fun comic and I especially like Ank the dinosaur girl, but I think the regular Faith series was better. In particular, I miss Marguerite Sauvage’s art.

DEATH RATTLE #13 (Kitchen Sink, 1987) – various stories, [E] Denis Kitchen & Dave Schreiner. The only good story in this issue is another chapter of Jaxon’s Bulto, later collected under the title “Secret of San Saba.” The second story, “Rainmaker” by John Holland and Dave Garcia, is only notable because it was inked by a young Sam Kieth. The third story is an illustrated adaptation of Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death.” This is not a comic at all, and it’s tedious to read because it includes the entire text of Poe’s story. P.S. Mueller and Bill Hartwig’s “The Voices in My Head” has some creepy Rick Geary-esque art, but no plot to speak of.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #67 (Marvel, 1968) – “To Squash a Spider!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Romita. This issue has an amazing cover – it’s the one with the giant Mysterio hands about to squash Spidey. It’s especially striking because unlike almost all ‘60s Marvel covers, it has no captions. This issue’s fight between Spidey and Mysterio is pretty routine, though Jazzy Johnny’s action scenes are brilliant as ever. Otherwise, the most important thing about this issue is that it introduces Randy Robertson.

SUPER POWERS #6 (DC, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Art Baltazar, [A] Franco. A lackluster conclusion to the storyline that began in Superman Family Adventures. The scene where Superman uses Starro to beat Darkseid is pretty cool. But the best thing about Superman Family Adventures was that it took itself semi-seriously at times, and this issue doesn’t do that.

ARCHIE GIANT SERIES #566 (Archie, 1987) – “Land of the Lost” and “Orphans of the Storm,” [W/A] Bob Bolling. Two Christmas-themed Little Archie stories. In the first story, Archie knocks himself unconscious while traveling through a swamp, and wakes up in the cave of Santa’s elves, who repair lost toys. The best thing about this story is the establishing shot of the creepy, gloomy Hockomock Swamps. I’ve said before that one of Bolling’s greatest skills was his depiction of nature. His version of the Riverdale area is comparable to the forest behind Calvin and Hobbes’s house. In the second story, the kids and Mr. Weatherbee go on a field trip during a snow storm, and the kids start bickering with each other, but when the snow forces them to take shelter at a dilapidated orphanage, they realize how fortunate they are. This story is thematically similar to Bolling’s stories with Sue Stringly.

DC COMICS PRESENTS #28 (DC, 1980) – “Warworld!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Jim Starlin. This is the second appearance of Mongul, and looking at the way he’s drawn in this issue, you can tell how similar he is to Thanos. And Starlin later went on to create this same character a third time, as Papal in Dreadstar. Otherwise, this Superman-Supergirl team-up is pretty formulaic and forgettable. The backup, “Whatever Happened to Johnny Thunder?”, is better than the main story, since it’s a Western story with Gil Kane artwork. It makes the suggestion that Johnny Thunder (John Tane) is an ancestor of Bouncing Boy (Chuck Taine), but this was never mentioned again.

CIRCUIT BREAKER #2 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Kevin McCarthy, [A] Kyle Baker. I should have stopped buying this series after the first issue. The artwork is quite good, but it’s hard to pay attention to the art when the writing is so fatally flawed. The first problem with this series is the incoherent storytelling. I honestly can’t tell who all the characters are or what they’re doing. Even after reading the last four issues in quick succession, I still couldn’t understand the plot. A second problem is that this comic is culturally appropriative, though I’m willing to let that pass, since Kevin McCarthy does seem to have quite deep knowledge of Japanese culture. But that leads to the third problem, which is that McCarthy assumes the reader knows as much about Japan as he himself does. Circuit Breaker is full of, not only unexplained cultural references, but even untranslated Japanese words and phrases. You would have to be an anime and manga expert to get everything in this comic. And if you were an anime and manga expert, why would you read this comic, instead of reading actual manga? That’s a legitimate question because Circuit Breaker is so derivative of anime and manga, it has very little new to offer. Finally, this comic is very self-consciously Japanese, in a way that actual Japanese narratives never are. Anime and manga don’t need to remind you that they’re about Japan, because you know that already, but this comic trumpets its Japanese-ness in every panel, to the point of annoyance. So overall, this series is a waste of Kyle Baker’s talent.

CIRCUIT BREAKER #3 (Image, 2016) – See above.

JONAH HEX: RIDERS OF THE WORM AND SUCH #1 (Vertigo, 1995) – “No Rest for the Wicked and the Good Don’t Need Any,” [W] Joe R. Lansdale, [A] Tim Truman. This miniseries has some brilliant art by Tim Truman, and while the story is needlessly violent and gonzo, that is very much in line with Mike Fleisher’s classic Jonah Hex stories. I certainly want to read the rest of this miniseries and the other one by this team. Johnny and Edgar Winter sued DC because of how they were portrayed in this miniseries, but I don’t think the characters based on them are in this issue.

THE ZAUCER OF ZILK #1 (IDW, 2012) – [W/A] Brendan McCarthy, [W] Al Ewing. Like most of McCarthy’s work, this is tedious, confusing and difficult. But it’s also visually stunning and includes some daring ideas, like the couch potato people with teeth for heads. I feel kind of guilty for liking McCarthy’s work, considering the annoying and offensive stuff he keeps saying on social media.

BATGIRL #2 (DC, 2016) – “Beyond Burnside, Part Two,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Rafael Albuquerque. I quit reading this series after issue 1, and I’m not sure why, because I like both these creators. My verdict on issue 1 was just that “this comic is less interesting than the previous Batgirl run, and I don’t feel highly motivated to keep reading it.” But this issue is better than that review suggests. Rafael’s art is very good, with a Latin American or Italian sensibility, and the story is reasonably exciting and benefits from Hope Larson’s knowledge of contemporary east Asia. I’ve put this series back on my pull list, which is unusual for me.

BATGIRL #3 (DC, 2016) – “Beyond Burnside, Part Three,” as above. I had some trouble following the plot of these two issues, since it’s been a while since I read issue 1. This issue has Babs running all over South Asia after her new boyfriend Kai. It includes some impressive fight scenes.

BATGIRL #4 (DC, 2016) – “Beyond Burnside, Part Four,” as above. This issue we learn that the McGuffin in the current story is a bacterial drug that raises intelligence, and it’s marketed to Chinese students who are struggling to pass the gaokao, the incredibly cutthroat college entrance exam. The gaokao is an actual thing, and I think it’s fascinating that Hope would include it in a story for a non-Chinese audience. This was the last issue of Batgirl I bought before I quit ordering it, and I was kind of sorry that I didn’t have any more to read.

CIRCUIT BREAKER #4 (Image, 2017) – See above.

CIRCUIT BREAKER #5 (Image, 2017) – See above. At this point the story was starting to make a bit more sense, and it contains some interesting ideas, but the flaws of this comic (as described above) are so severe as to outweigh any value it has.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES/USAGI YOJIMBO (Dark Horse, 2017) – “Namazu or The Big Fish Story,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. This is a Stan Sakai comic, so it’s not bad or anything. But it feels like an average, by-the-numbers Usagi comic, and the Turtles don’t really add much to the story. Also, $7.99 is quite a high price.

KING: MANDRAKE THE MAGICIAN #4 (Dynamite, 2015) – untitled, [W] Roger Langridge, [A] Felipe Cunha. This is an exciting and witty comic, but even Roger Langridge can’t make me care very much about Mandrake. Also, Felipe Cunha’s art is just average.

SPACE CIRCUS #3 (Dark Horse, 2000) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. This is not one of Sergio and Mark’s better-known works, and there’s a reason why not. The best thing about this comic is that it gives Sergio a chance to draw a lot of bizarre-looking aliens. Otherwise it’s not all that funny.

GREEN LANTERN #153 (DC, 1982) – “The Secret of the Starcycle!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, Dan Mishkin & Gary Cohn, [A] Joe Staton. Even the script by Mishkin and Cohn, who I like a lot, is not enough to redeem this boring comic. The backup story is even worse because of its implausible premise: it’s about a Green Lantern who’s a complete pacifist and cannot use violence. How did she get to be a Grenen Lantern in the first place then?

JSA #8 (DC, 2000) – “Shadowland,” [W] David Goyer & Geoff Johns, [A] Stephen Sadowski. I think I read this because I took a Sporcle quiz about Green Lanterns, and it reminded me that I used to like Geoff Johns’s Green Lantern. Anyway, this issue the JSA battles an insane Obsidian. This comic is not amazing, but it’s not terrible either; it generates a strong sense of excitement and suspense.

THE HIC & HOC ILLUSTRATED JOURNAL OF HUMOR #1 (Hic & Hoc, 2013) – “Volume One: The United States,” [E] Lauren Barnett & Nathan Bulmer. This anthology comic includes short pieces by a large number of artists, such as Noah Van Sciver, Box Brown, Grant Snider, Julia Wertz and Dustin Harbin. These stories are widely varied in quality, but the best of them are very good, and it’s nice having such a diverse assortment of work in such a convenient package.

THE HIC & HOC ILLUSTRATED JOURNAL OF HUMOR #2 (Hic & Hoc, 2013) – “Volume Two: The U.K. Edition,” [E] Lizz Lunney & Joe List. As the title indicates, this issue focuses on British artists. I was unfamiliar with most of the creators in this issue; the only names I recognized were Luke Pearson and Gary Northfield. As with the previous issue, there was some good work here, but the humor was harder to appreciate because of its British sensibility. This was the final issue of this anthology, although I imagine it was not intended as such.

NUMBER 1 #1 (Retrofit/Big Planet, 2014) – “Kayfabe Quarterly,” [W/A] Box Brown. I bought this directly from Box Brown at TCAF several years ago, but I felt motivated to read it after encountering Box’s work again in Hic & Hoc #1. This issue mostly consists of a long story about pro wrestling. It reminds me of both Joe Keatinge’s Ringside and Adrian Tomine’s hortisculpture story. It’s a very well-done piece of work, and while Box’s artwork is very cubist and minimalist, this is a deliberate stylistic choice. I ought to read more of his work.

DARK CORRIDOR #2 (Image, 2015) – “The Red Circle” and “Seven Deadly Daughters,” [W/A] Rich Tommaso. I read this because Rich Tommaso was in the news, thanks to his public comments about the poor sales of Spy Seal. I bought most of this series when it came out, but only read the first issue – it was a period when I was buying a lot of comics I didn’t read. Having finally read this comic, I think it’s a solid piece of work. I’m not in love with the story, and I can’t quite tell whether this issue’s two stories are self-contained or parts of a serial. But Rich’s design sense and artwork and lettering are amazing. His artwork is powerfully evocative of ‘50s and ‘60s Hollywood, although there are clues that the story takes place in the present day. I’m looking forward to Spy Seal, whose subject matter is more appealing to me.

I HATE FAIRYLAND #14 (Image, 2017) – “Fluff This Maze,” [W/A] Skottie Young. Gert travels through a maze, with the assistance of a bunch of creepy creatures who ask to marry her. And she has to marry the owner of the maze if she can’t complete it in time. This was another pretty good issue; I especially like the page with all the unseen creatures proposing marriage to Gert. The ending, where Gert magically becomes Good Gert, is a surprise.

PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #2 (Marvel, 2017) – “Sister Act!”, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Adam Kubert. This is a good Spider-Man comic, but it’s not the best. Zdarsky does a brilliant job with Spidey’s witty banter, but his story is hampered by being reliant on some awful old stories. Also, I’d like to see more soap opera and relationship drama.

BUG! THE ADVENTURES OF FORAGER #3 (DC, 2017) – “Atlas Bugged: Domino Effect Part 3,” [W] Lee Allred, [A] Mike Allred. The best thing about this comic is still the way it evokes Kirby’s ‘70s DC comics. This issue reintroduces Atlas, who, I believe, only appeared in one issue of First Issue Special. Bug! still doesn’t have much of a plot, but that’s not the point. I’m not sure how I feel about the Midnight backup by James Harvey.

BLUBBER #2 (Fantagraphics, 2016) – “T.A.C. Man vs. Pollum” and other stories, [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. I didn’t like the first issue of this series, and the second issue isn’t much better. It’s full of body horror and creepy sex, and it’s deeply disturbing, but not at all fun.

SECONDS HELPING (Deluxe, 2015) – “Seconds Helping,” [W/A] Jason Fischer. This is a memoir by Jason Fischer, Bryan Lee O’Malley’s assistant, about how he and Bryan created Seconds. There is some interesting stuff here, but I wish there was less stuff about Jason’s personal life, and more about his creative process and his technique.

NORMALMAN #1 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “The Panties ‘n Capes Syndrome!”, [W/A] Jim Valentino. Valentino is a fairly well-respected creator, but from this issue, it’s not clear why. It’s just a trite and unfunny superhero parody, and unlike Don Simpson’s contemporaneous work in this genre, it has nothing else to offer besides bad humor.

New comics for August 4:

UNSTOPPABLE WASP #8 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Ro Stein. Jeremy has now confirmed that this title was cancelled because of poor sales, and not because it was only intended to last eight issues. This is a real shame. Unstoppable Wasp was a sweet, heartfelt comic with a powerful feminist message, and its cancellation is a bad sign for the industry in general. Jeremy has lots of other projects underway, but I wish we’d gotten more of Nadia. At least this issue goes out on a high note. This final issue is again narrated by Janet, and the scene where she talks with Nadia about being abused by Hank is probably the highlight. Hank’s abuse of Jan is one of those dark moments that Marvel can never really erase or recover from (like Carol being raped by Marcus, except they’ve swept that under the rug). But no previous writer has done such a good job of integrating that moment into the characters’ history, without apologizing for Hank. Also, Jan and Nadia’s accidental mother-daughter relationship is lovely.

SEX CRIMINALS #20 (Image, 2017) – “Outs,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Chip Zdarsky. The current storyline is the low point of the series so far. It’s hard to follow and it’s depressing, and reading this comic feels difficult. Sex Criminals is still one of the top ten current monthly comics, but it’s slipped lower down that ranking. This issue, Suzie and Jon finally break up, which was inevitable given how awful Jon has been behaving lately, but still very sad.

ROCKET GIRL #8 (Image, 2017) – “Big G Whiz,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Amy Reeder. I’m very glad to see this again, but it’s been over a year and a half since issue 7, and I’ve completely forgotten what happened in that issue. (Not coincidentally, there have been 20 issues of Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur since the last issue of Rocket Girl.) This issue is not bad, but it was hard to read because of a severe stapling error, which is something I have rarely if ever encountered before. I was able to finish reading the issue, but have asked for a refund.

MECH CADET YU #1 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. Like Amadeus Cho, this comic’s protagonist is a teenage Asian boy, but the similarities mostly end there. Yu is a poor janitor who unexpectedly becomes the pilot of an alien super-robot. (Now that I look at the comic again, Yu’s poverty seems like more of a handicap than his race, because the villain, a smug rich girl, also seems to be Asian.) Anyway, this comic has some powerful and emotional moments, but it suffers from an overly compressed story. When I finished it, I was like, is that all?

HAWKEYE #9 (Marvel, 2017) – “A Fearful Face-Off!”, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Leonardo Romero. Kate wins a fight at the underground fight club, sort of, and rescues Mr. Donnelly. This was a pretty good issue, but I was feeling tired and unmotivated when I read it.

GREEN LANTERN #21 (DC, 2007) – “Sinestro Corps, Chapter One: Fear & Loathing,” [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Ivan Reis. As with all of Geoff Johns’s work, this issue has some mildly innovative ideas in it, but is also bloody and overly violent.

GIANT DAYS #29 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. As a college teacher and a literature major, I found this issue hilarious. Esther is the best student in her Romantic literature course… until Emilia joins the course and turns out to be even better, causing Esther to hate and despise her. Having been in this position a number of times, I know just how she feels – though the issue takes a darker turn when Esther’s professor tries to seduce her. This issue shows that John Allison actually knows something about college and literature: the information about Romantic literature seems to be accurate, and there’s a joke about trigger warnings on the first page.

GRENDEL TALES: DEVILS AND DEATHS #2 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “Devil’s Ways,” [W] Darko Macan, [A] Edvin Biukovic. A powerful and brutal conclusion to this two-parter. The story ends with most of the characters dead, including the blind Grendel leader, who is murdered by his young son. You have to think that this story was influenced by the bloody sectarian violence that was going on in Macan and Biukovic’s country at the time. Biukovic’s European-influenced art is brilliant.

TARGITT #1 (Atlas/Seaboard, 1975) – “Boston Tea Party,” [W] Ric Meyers, [A] Howard Nostrand. This spy comic is so poorly written and implausible, I’m not sure it’s not supposed to be a parody. The hero’s wife and daughter get blown up on the first page, and he barely seems to care. One of the villains says “Do you know what this is? It’s a Combat Magnum .357! One of the most powerful hand guns ever made! It can blow your head clean off” – a blatant plagiarism of Dirty Harry. Those are just the things that stood out to me, but this whole comic is awful, even for an Atlas-Seaboard comic.

IMAGE FIRSTS: THE NIGHTLY NEWS #1 (Image, 2011) – “Chapter 1: I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore,” [W/A] Jonathan Hickman. This comic is about a conspiracy to assassinate journalists, because of fake news. The political message of this comic is kind of naïve. Its main point is that media consolidation is bad and leads to untrustworthy news, which is true, but very obvious. And Hickman gives few if any examples of just how the media lies to us. What does make this comic interesting is the mixed-media art, which is quite unusual, though it’s hampered by too many captions.

FUTURIANS #1 (Lodestone, 1985) – “Aftermath!”, [W/A] Dave Cockrum. This is a little hard to follow because it’s a sequel to a graphic novel. Which I have, and I could have read it first, but I didn’t feel like it. Other than that, this is a pretty good superhero comic, and also has a surprisingly grim tone; it takes place just after most of the large cities in the world have been destroyed, and most of the protagonists have lost family members. But Cockrum is not as gifted a superhero writer as his collaborators such as Claremont or Shooter. His characters are often very similar to various X-Men.

FUTURIANS #2 (Lodestone, 1985) – “The Burrowers Beneath!”, [W/A] Dave Cockrum. See above. One of Cockrum’s talents is his ability to draw horrible monsters, and this issue has some seriously scary ones.

MARVEL ADVENTURES SUPER-HEROES #8 (Marvel, 2011) – untitled, [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Scott Koblish. For some reason the Vision is featured on this issue’s cover even though he barely appears in the issue. Probably this cover was intended for a different issue. This issue, Thor and Nova go on a mission to Asgard where they encounter the Valkyrie. Scott Koblish draws this comic in a very Simonson-esque style, and the story has the same combination of humor, action and grim seriousness that characterized Simonson’s Thor. The three characters are all effective foils for each other. Overall this was a really good issue of an imprint that was never appreciated as much as it should have been.

KING: FLASH GORDON #3 (Dynamite, 2015) – untitled, [W] Ben Acker and Ben Blacker, [A] Lee Ferguson. Not nearly as good as Parker and Shaner’s Flash Gordon, but not bad either, and written with a similar tone. The highlight of this issue is a scene where Dale Arden defeats a giant octopus monster in an arena.

DARK CORRIDOR #4 (Image, 2015) – “The Red Circle, Part Four: Blow Out” and “Seven Deadly Daughters,” [W/A] Rich Tommaso. I didn’t order issue 3, so both stories this issue were difficult to follow, and I’m not sure if they’re even related to the stories from issue 2. The artwork and graphic design are just as impressive as in issue 2, though.

THE FIRST KINGDOM #15 (Bud Plant, 1981) – “Book 15: Tundran is Kenmoor,” [W/A] Jack Katz. This was a revolutionary comic for its time, and it’s still fascinating to read today, but it also has severe flaws. Katz’s plot is much too ambitious – which is a common mistake for first-time SF and fantasy writers – and he has to use really long captions to tell parts of the story that he doesn’t have room to illustrate. There are too many characters to keep track of, and there’s one long flashback that turns out to be irrelevant to the current plot. However, Katz’s art is often breathtaking. He does a great job of drawing naked athletic people, which, it must be admitted, is a big part of the appeal of this series. And he succeeds in making me care what happens to Tundran and Fara, even if they’re not the deepest characters.

CRICKETS #4 (self-published, 2015) – “Blood of the Virgin, Chapter 2,” [W/A] Sammy Harkham. A chapter of a graphic novel about a filmmaker who’s making a B-movie, while his marriage and personal life collapse around him. This is just a brilliant piece of work. Like other Harkham comics I’ve read, it seems like a simple slice-of-life story told with minimal artistic intervention, but it has great power and subtlety. Harkham shows us the hectic pace of life on the film set, and the extreme pressure that the protagonist and his coworkers are under. This is a major work by a cartoonist who’s not very prolific, but whose work is always of top quality.

THOR #233 (Marvel, 1975) – “Midgard Aflame!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] John Buscema. Loki claims the throne of Asgard and leads an army against New York. Ho hum. As with most Thor comics from this period, this issue is only interesting for the Buscema art. There’s one unusual scene where Thor saves a child from being hit by a truck, and for some unexplained reason, no one is driving the truck.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #457 (DC, 1989) – “Echoes,” [W] George Pérez & Roger Stern, [A] Dan Jurgens & Ty Templeton. A surprisingly good issue. The late ‘80s, after Byrne left and before the Death of Superman epic, was quite a good period for Superman. This issue, Superman fights some Intergang thugs who attack a Wonder Woman Foundation gala, while back in Smallville, the Matrix (the future Supergirl) imitates everything Superman does, with disastrous results. At this point, Matrix is shapeshifted into Clark Kent’s form and is referred to with male pronouns, yet I’ve never heard Matrix described as a transgender character.

THE DYING & THE DEAD #1 (Image, 2015) – untitled, [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Ryan Bodenheim. This debut issue is overly long, but sets up an interesting premise. An old soldier dude, whose wife is dying of cancer, is recruited by a supernatural entity for one last mission. This was intended to be an ongoing series, but has gone on indefinite hiatus after three issues.

CRICKETS #6 (self-published, 2017) – “Blood of the Virgin, Chapter 4,” [W/A] Sammy Harkham. Either I forgot to order issue 5, or it was never solicited in Previews, but the conclusion to this story is easy to follow even without reading the third chapter. This story, the protagonist’s life falls apart around him. His wife doesn’t come back from vacation, he gets thrown off his movie and locked out of his own office, and the end of the story finds him in jail for drunk driving. The issue ends with no real resolution, but I’m not sure if this is because it’s not the last chapter, or because Harkham just decided to stop there. I’m not sure if there’s any overarching lesson or moral to this story, but it’s a brutal and subtle portrayal of the collapse of a man’s life and career. When this story is published in collected form, it will earn massive critical acclaim.

ECLIPSE MONTHLY #9 (Eclipse, 1984) – three stories, [E] cat yronwode & Dean Mullaney. The first story in this issue is awful; it’s an implausible and historically inaccurate medieval adventure. The only thing I like about it is the coloring. Luckily the second story is a chapter of Rio by Doug Wildey. This story is exciting and gorgeously drawn. It’s a pity that Wildey didn’t do more comics work in his later years. There’s also a Masked Man story by B.C. Boyer, in which the homoerotic tension between the Masked Man and his friend Barney is so thick that the characters themselves lampshade it.

WAY OUT STRIPS #1 (Tragedy Strikes, 1992) – five stories, [W/A] Carol Swain. I haven’t read any previous work by this artist, and maybe this comic was not a good introduction. As Paul Gravett points out in a one-page introduction, Swain came to comics from painting, and these stories are drawn in a style that resembles surrealist art as much as comics. However, none of these stories is a satisfying narrative. They all seem more focused on mood than storytelling. I finished the issue feeling unsatisfied and confused, but I would like to read more work by Carol Swain.

MEGA PRINCESS #4 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Brianne Drouhard. Max escapes the underwater jail using Rapunzel powers, and encounters an underwater princess who looks just like her and is also missing a baby brother. This comic is cute, but has limited appeal for readers who aren’t small children, not that that’s necessarily a criticism. “Thank you, my hair” is perhaps the best line in the series.

MEGA PRINCESS #5 – as above. It turns out an evil witch turned all the missing princes into frogs. Max and Justine save the day. Somehow I enjoyed this more than most of the previous issues, but I’m not sure why.

DETECTIVE COMICS #590 (DC, 1988) – “An American Batman in London,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. On Guy Fawkes Day, Batman visits London to foil a plot by Middle Eastern terrorists. The leader of the terrorists is Abu Hassan, probably based on Abu Nidal. The terrorists are described as being from “Syraq,” instead of Qurac, which is DC’s usual generic Arab country. This story benefits from Wagner and Grant’s intimate knowledge of London, and it shows at least some understanding of the terrorists’ grievances, which makes it more sophisticated than many later stories about Islamic terrorism.

MARVEL SPOTLIGHT #11 (Marvel, 1973) – Ghost Rider in “Season of the Witch-Woman!”, [W] Gary Friedrich, [A] Tom Sutton. This issue’s villain – Linda Littletrees, an Apache who becomes a Satanic witch while at college – is more interesting than Ghost Rider himself. She is something of a Native American stereotype, but she at least has a personality and a history. She falls off a cliff at the end of the issue, but was not dead, and became a recurring character for a little while. Her name appears to have come from the TV show Laredo.

MAN-THING #2 (Marvel, 1974) – “Nowhere to Go But Down!”, [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Val Mayerik. This may be the only Gerber Man-Thing I hadn’t read. This issue introduces Ruth Hart, Richard Rory’s love interest, who flees from the swamp after inadvertently robbing her biker ex-boyfriend. While Richard is trying to protect Ruth from the biker and his gang, F.A. Schist is trying to kill Manny by replicating the accident that created him. As usual, Gerber’s writing is head and shoulders above that of his contemporaries. I think he’s my favorite comics writer of the ‘70s.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #87 (Dark Horse, 1994) – various stories, [E] Randy Stradley. The most interesting story in this issue is “The Eighth Wonder, Part 3,” a steampunk story with hyper-detailed art by Killian Plunkett. This artist mostly worked on Star Wars comics, which I suppose is why I’m not familiar with him. I’d like to see more of his work. Unfortunately, the Concrete story in this issue is a waste of space; it’s just a four-page origin recap. There are also four one-pagers by Rick Geary, and one other story, “Star Riders” by Etienne Gagnon and Alex Racine, which is terrible.

WHEN I RETURNED (Center for Cartoon Studies, 2016) – This was one of several comics that I received as a prize for winning the Best Online Comics Scholarship award, for my contribution to the Comics as Scholarship issue of Digital Humanities Quarterly. This comic is a collection of stories by CCS students, based on interviews with local veterans about their war experiences. It includes six pieces representing a wide range of styles and subject matter. I think my favorite is the one by JD Lunt and Kelly Swann, which is not about war at all, but about the narrator’s rape at the hands of two other men and the lifelong trauma he suffered as a result. I haven’t heard of any of the contributors to this comic (except Noah Van Sciver, who did the cover), but this comic is a fascinating project and it shows a lot of promise.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #7/200 (Dark Horse, 2015) – various stories, [E] Mike Richardson. This anniversary issue is much more consistent than a typical issue of DHP. There are a couple unimpressive stories, but the level of talent is very high; the issue includes art by Gabriel Bá, Jerry Ordway, Aaron Conley, Matt Kindt, Brendan McCarthy, Sergio Aragonés and Dave Gibbons. The best pieces are a short Groo story and a MIND MGMT story. As pointed out previously by Multiversity Comics, MIND MGMT looks very different when printed on glossy paper instead of newsprint. The Dave Gibbons story is notable for being written by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn.

DEPT. H #16 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. The opening sequence of this issue is brilliant; it creates a powerful sense of just how huge the giant squid is. The rest of the issue is mostly a flashback. I don’t think I knew before that Blake’s last name was Mortimer, i.e. Blake and Mortimer.

THE MIGHTY THOR #21 (Marvel, 2017) – “The War Thor,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Valerio Schiti. Much less impressive than last issue. The War Thor goes back to Muspelheim and beats people up – including Ulik, who, along with his lookalike Blastaar, is one of my favorite minor Marvel villains. Meanwhile, it looks like Jane really is about to die.

THE DYING & THE DEAD #2 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Ryan Bodenheim. This issue, the protagonist rescues some of his old friends from an nursing home, and it becomes clearer what this series is about: old age. Which is a bold decision since the writer is only in his mid-forties, but he shows a fairly sophisticated understanding of what it must be like to be old and forgotten.

WONDER WOMAN #40 (DC, 1990) – “Divided We Fall,” [W] George Pérez & Mindy Newell, [A] Chris Marrinan. Eris, goddess of discord, tries to ruin the Themyscira peace summit, but Diana and the Amazons foil her plot. This wasn’t a terrible issue but it wasn’t great, and it suffered from boring art and no Julia or Vanessa.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #100-4 (Dark Horse, 1995) – This issue includes seven stories, four of which are good, yet it’s the bad ones that stick in my memory. Of the good ones, the best is “The Night Tom Waits Poured Me a Bourbon on the Rocks,” adapted by Ellen Forney from a friend’s true story. It’s a cute story about hero worship. There’s also a well-drawn but anticlimactic Martha Washington story by Miller and Gibbons, and one-pagers by Rick Geary and by Harvey Pekar and Joe Sacco. The bad stories include Mean Mr. Applehead by Brian Sendelbach and Black Cross by Chris Warner, and “Bird Dog,” written by a young Ed Brubaker, which is a piece of self-indulgent navel-gazing that could only be written by a man in his twenties.

TRUE BELIEVERS: KIRBY 100TH – BLACK PANTHER #1 (Marvel, 2017) – “King Solomon’s Frog!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. This reprints the first issue of Kirby’s Black Panther. It’s a typical late ‘70s Marvel Kirby comic, with all sorts of weird artifacts and exciting action scenes. Kirby at least tried to incorporate African motifs into his designs, though there’s not much else about this comic that’s noticeably African. And in general, this run of Black Panther comics had little impact on the future trajectory of the character. Oddly, Kirby introduces a new sidekick to Black Panther – a midget with a monocle – at the start of the issue, but then kills him off. This issue also reprints the Captain America story from Tales of Suspense #98, which is much better written.

New comics received on August 11:

MS. MARVEL #21 (Marvel, 2017) – “Mecca, Part 3,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Marco Failla. Another excellent issue of perhaps Willow’s greatest story. Deciding to fight rather than give in, Kamala helps the detainees escape. This leads to a nice moment when some of the detainees meet a Muslim clergyman for the first time. This scene reminded me of earlier this summer when I visited a mosque for the first time. (And it looked very similar to the one in this comic – a large room with a carpeted floor and no furniture.) And then it turns out that Lockdown is not Kamran, as I expected, but Josh. Here the story takes another brilliant turn, as Josh explains his actions using the same rhetoric that many real white people have used to justify voting for Trump: “I was so sick of being told how lucky I was and how fortunate I was and how easy I had things. If I have it so great in life, why do I feel like this?” Willow doesn’t use words like “white privilege” or “Trump,” but it’s clear that that’s what this conversation is about. In this story, G. Willow Wilson is doing a brilliant job of coming to terms with America in the post-Trump era.

My headcanon is that on the splash page where Kamala surrenders, the cat is staring at the pigeon and ignoring all the other stuff going on.

MISTER MIRACLE #1 (DC, 2017) – “Meet: Mister Miracle,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. This is probably the most important DC title of the year. It was hard to form my own opinion on this comic because I had previously read a bunch of other people’s takes on it. But overall I think this is an impressive work, a strong follow-up to The Vision. This comic is a synthesis of Kirbyesque characters and prose styles with the rather un-Kirbyesque topic of depression. The phrase “Darkseid is” appears throughout the comic as a shorthand for the feeling of horrible despair that depression creates. We’ll have to see where this goes, but so far this comic is a really interesting use of the superhero genre to confront issues of mental illness, similar to Mariko Tamaki’s Hulk.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #23 (Marvel, 2017) – “Young Love (and Doombots) in the Savage Land!!!,” [W] Ryan North, [A] Erica Henderson. I haven’t appreciated this series lately as much as I ought to. It’s been going on for a long time, and sometimes Ryan North’s humor is too obvious and blunt – like, he really belabors the joke about programming montages being boring. But this issue is really funny and sweet. Nancy finds herself falling in love with one of the Latverian students, which is cute and creepy at once. By the way, this may be the first time we’ve ever seen Latverians who are intelligent Doom supporters, rather than rebels or downtrodden peasants.

MANIFEST DESTINY #30 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. Sacagawea’s baby is finally born. Her complicated facial expression on seeing the baby for the first time is one of the most powerful moments of the series. Other than that, the men discover another arch, and the Spanish ghost dude shows up again at the end.

GOTHAM ACADEMY: SECOND SEMESTER #12 (DC, 2017) – “The Ballad of Olive Silverlock, Finale,” [W] Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan & Karl Kerschl, [A] Adam Archer. After lots of crazy stuff happens, Olive tries to commit suicide but Maps saves her, and Olive finally comes to terms with her family history. I’m very sad this series is over; I think it was my favorite DC comic of the decade. I certainly hope we see these characters again in some capacity, especially Maps.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #57 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Thom Zahler, [A] Tony Fleecs. Another issue that’s based on a season 7 episode. It begins with Fluttershy thanking Discord for hosting a tea party (with plaid-flavored biscuits and self-dunking tea), implying that this issue takes place after “Discordant Harmony”. The main plot of the issue is that Pinkie Pie becomes the ruler of Discord’s realm, with the predictable awful consequences. Since this is a Pinkie Pie issue, it includes a bunch of fourth-wall-breaking moments, such as literal word balloons. If I ever revise my essay on transmedia in MLP, I should mention this issue.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #30 (Image, 2017) – “No Rest for the Divine Too,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. Another series I’m not enjoying as much as I’m supposed to. The Baphomet-Dionysus scenes are really good, though.

HULK #9 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Julian Lopez. Another unnecessary issue that could have been combined with the previous issue. Mariko really needs to work on her pacing. The best thing in this issue was the two kids’ conversation on page two.

ROCKET #4 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Blue River Score, Part 4: Dirty Money,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Adam Gorham. This issue, Al Ewing did not succeed in overcoming my dislike of Deadpool, but I did like the fourth-wall breaks involving the prose gutter. Also, I’m glad that the Technet show up again at the end of the issue.

SPIDER-GWEN #22 (Marvel, 2017) – “Predators, Part 4,” [W] Jason Latour, [A] Robbi Rodriguez and Jorge Coelho. The point of this entire storyline is to turn Gwen into Gwenom, and that’s about to happen at the end of the issue, but I don’t quite understand how. What does the Lizard virus have to do with the symbiote? The other thing that happens this issue is that Kraven beats Captain Stacy half to death in prison. Jorge Coelho’s fill-in art is noticeably worse than Robbie’s art.

FLASH GORDON #18 (Charlton, 1970) – “Scourge of the Locust Men!”, [W] uncredited, [A] Pat Boyette. The two Flash Gordon stories in this issue are pretty boring, though the first one is kind of cute because the locust men turn out to be okay people (or insects). What makes this issue memorable is the four-page “Great Battles of History” story by Michael Wm. Kaluta. It details the Battle of Shiraz between Tamerlane and Shah Mansur, which wasn’t great enough to merit a Wikipedia entry. Kaluta’s artwork is a bit crude, but you can tell it’s him, and his draftsmanship is quite good, especially compared to Pat Boyette’s much looser art in the main story.

AQUAMAN #52 (DC, 1970) – “The Traders’ Trap,” [W] Steve Skeates, [A] Jim Aparo; and “Never Underestimate a Deadman,” [W/A] Neal Adams. A fascinating issue. Aquaman #50-52 may have been the best work of Jim Aparo’s entire career. The alternate dimension where the story is set is depicted in a bizarre and breathtaking way – I already raved about this in my review of issue 50. And his draftmanship and storytelling are top-notch. This issue is also unusual in that the Aquaman and Deadman stories intersect with each other. There’s even a two-page Aquaman epilogue after the Deadman story. The two stories don’t completely fit together – there are some plot threads in the Aquaman story that aren’t wrapped up, though I forget what they are – but it was very unusual at the time for multiple stories in the same issue to be coordinated with each other. This issue even includes an epilogue explaining how this coordination was managed.

RED CIRCLE SORCERY #6 (Archie, 1974) – various stories, [E] Gray Morrow. The best stories in this issue are the first two, by Gray Morrow and Ed Davis. The latter artist had a very short and obscure career and there’s very little information available about him, but Howard Chaykin called him the greatest natural draftsman he ever met. There’s another story in the issue by Chaykin himself. The other two stories are by Marvin Channing and Carlos Pino, two creators who are mostly associated with Red Circle comics and nothing else, though Pino seems to have had a long career in Britain.

WHITE LUNCH COMIX #1 (Georgia Straight, 1972) – various stories, [W/A] Rand Holmes and Jim Jones. This one requires a bit of explanation. When I was a kid, my dad had some underground comics that I wasn’t allowed to read. He eventually gave them to me when I got older and became interested in comics, but I filed some of them away in my boxes without ever reading them. The other day I decided to remove them from my boxes and add them to my to-be-read stack (or more accurately, my to-be-read boxes). This is one of those comics. The lead story, Rand Holmes’s “Baldric the Barbarian,” is a Conan parody which is very similar to the actual Conan comic except that it includes explicit nudity and sex. Rand Holmes’s brilliant draftsmanship elevates this comic above the level of mere parody. However, this comic does end with an offensive rape scene, which underscores the point that underground comics were often male power fantasies, just as much as superhero comics were. It’s also unfortunate that almost all the other material in this issue is by Jim Jones. This appears to be the only comic he ever published, and that’s a good thing, because his stories are just second-rate Crumb knockoffs. The only interesting thing about it is the occasional Canadian topical references.

RIBIT! #1 (Comico, 1989) – untitled, [W/A] Frank Thorne. I unfortunately read this comic just before I went to sleep, and I was annoyed to find that it was 28 pages with very dense captions. Besides that, this is a pretty interesting comic. It takes place in a milieu that combines fantasy and SF elements. Thog is a dim-witted assistant to a sorceress, and Ribit is his pet lizard, who later gets turned into a petite woman. Thog and Ribit’s devoted but platonic relationship reminds me of Ghita and Dahib’s relationship in Ghita of Alizarr, Thorne’s greatest work. And it looks like the next issue is going to introduce a character who corresponds to Thenef, Ghita’s other male companion. In general this comic often feels like a sanitized version of Ghita, but it’s clearly a significant work of Thorne, and I want to hunt down the other three issues.

BLACK GOLIATH #5 (Marvel, 1976) – “Survival!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Keith Pollard. This minor ‘70s Marvel comic is notable for a few reasons. First, it’s not bad at all. Keith Pollard does a good job of imitating Perez, and Claremont’s story is surprisingly heartfelt. It ends with the friendly alien guest-star getting killed. Second, this issue takes place on a planet called “Sharra’s Forge,” named after a goddess. I don’t know if this was before or after Claremont introduced Sharra as a Shi’ar deity. Finally, this seems to be the only comic book appeaance of the A’askvarii race, who were mentioned in one line of dialogue in the Guardians of the Galaxy film.

SUPERMAN #45 (DC, 2015) – “Street Justice,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Howard Porter. Whatever his other talents, Gene is just not a talented superhero writer. This issue is a trite story about a superhero fight club. It fails to create any kind of excitement, and it doesn’t feel like a Superman comic. Also, the reader quickly gets tired of trying to pronounce the villain’s name, HORDR_ROOT. The only thing I like about this issue is its use of Filipino mythology.

UNCLE SCROOGE #7/411 (IDW, 2015) – “Mummy Dearest,” [W/A] Romano Scarpa, and “Of Mice and Magic,” [W] Thad Komorowski, [A] Mark De Jonge. I quickly lost interest in IDW’s Disney comics once I realized that they were just European reprints. However, this issue’s lead story is by Romano Scarpa, one of the few European Disney artists I like, and it’s an exciting and very Barksian piece of work in which Scrooge converts the Money Bin into a pyramid. The other story in the issue is a waste of space.

JOHN BOLTON’S HALLS OF HORROR #1 (Eclipse, 1985) – two stories, [W] Dez Skinn and Steve Moore, [A] John Bolton. This issue consists of stories reprinted from an unknown British comic. The first story, adapted from R. Chetwynd-Hayes’s “The Monster Club,” is about a woman who tries to take advantage of a shadmock, a monster that kills by whistling. The depiction of her destroyed body after the shadmock whistles at her is horrific. There’s also a two-part werewolf story set in 18th-century Spain. Overall, this issue effectively showcases the work of a brilliant artist.

SKULL #5 (GCD, 1972) – various stories, [W/A] Richard Corben, Spain Rodriguez, etc. For this issue, the creators had the innovative idea of adapting HP Lovecraft stories in an underground comics style. All of these stories were new to me – I haven’t actually read much Lovecraft – and it’s also fascinating to see them through an underground comics lens. Corben’s “The Rats in the Walls” and Spain’s “The Hand of Kaä” are the highlights. I need to read more Spain comics. The other two stories, by Larry Todd and Charles Dallas, are less impressive. The cat in Corben’s version of “The Rats in the Walls” is named “N**aman” and you can probably guess what are the two letters I left out of that name, and what the cat was named in Lovecraft’s original version of the story.

BATMAN #395 (DC, 1986) – “The Film Freak,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Tom Mandrake. Doug Moench is not my favorite Batman writer, largely because his version of Jason Todd was very annoying. But in this issue, Jason is better than usual; it’s Jason who diagnoses that Batman is acting recklessly and is chasing after Catwoman. At the same time, Batman and Catwoman’s relationship is quite cute, and this issue also introduces the villain named in its title, who has a really cool gimmick.

GHOST MANOR #2 (Charlton, 1971) – “It Will Roam Again,” [W] Joe Gill (?), [A] Steve Ditko, and other work. Two average stories by Ditko and one mediocre story by Nicholas and Alascia. The best thing in the issue is the panel where “Mr. Mooney sits by the fire with his weird-looking cat and he fantasizes.” The Nicholas and Alascia story is set in Haiti, but includes no black people.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #62 (Marvel, 1976) – “Lord of the Lions!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] John Buscema. After reading several comics where the art was more interesting than the writing, I wanted to read something well-written, and this fit the bill. This issue includes the origin story of Amra, a character Roy created so he could have Conan fight Tarzan. Amra is a compelling character, but also a jerk and a borderline rapist, though Roy stops short of suggesting that he may have raped Bêlit. Amra’s jealous girlfriend/concubine Makeda is also an interesting character.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #61 (Marvel, 1980) – “The Coming of Her!”, [W] Mark Gruenwald, [A] Jerry Bingham. This issue reintroduces Her, the female counterpart to Adam Warlock, who had previously appeared as a male character named Paragon. (And yet she, like Matrix, is rarely if ever mentioned as a transgender character.) Starhawk also makes a guest appearance. Mark’s writing was always of variable quality, but this issue was pretty good.

GRASS KINGS #3 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. This series is just okay; I don’t like it as much as MIND MGMT or even Dept. H. I do like how the letters page is a list of all the stores that ordered at least as much of issue 2 as of issue 1.

STRANGE ADVENTURES #215 (DC, 1968) – “A New Lease on Death,” [W/A] Neal Adams. In part one of the epic conclusion to the Deadman saga, Deadman discovers that Hook is Willie Smith and that he killed Boston Brand as an initiation ritual for the League of Assassins. The League and its Sensei make their first appearances in this issue, later to reappear in Neal’s Ra’s al Ghul stories. Neal’s art is brilliant and, unusually, his writing is not bad either. The backup story by John Giunta is awful.

DETECTIVE COMICS #404 (DC, 1970) – “Ghost of the Killer Skies,” [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Neal Adams. I’ve read this before in the Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told volume, but I haven’t revisited it in a long time. It’s both an exciting aviation-themed story, and an affectionate tribute to Kubert and Kanigher’s Enemy Ace (which debuted only five years earlier – somehow I assumed it was published long before this story was). The Batgirl backup story, “Midnight Doom-Boy” by Frank Robbins and Gil Kane, is also worth reading.

STAR-SPANGLED WAR STORIES #138 (DC, 1968) – “The Slayers and the Slain,” [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Joe Kubert. I haven’t actually read Enemy Ace before, so this story was a revelation. Kubert’s artwork is spectacular – he must have been the greatest aviation artist in the history of American comics, besides George Evans. He depicts Enemy Ace’s dogfights with excitement and economy of line. But the story is just as powerful as the art. Enemy Ace is a complex character, tormented by guilt over his own actions and by the inevitability of his own death in combat. This is just an amazing comic. I need to read more of these stories.

SHROUD OF MYSTERY #1 (Gold Key, 1982) – various stories, editor uncredited. The real mystery is why this comic book exists. It’s a one-shot consisting of what are either reprints or inventory stories, by artists like Jack Sparling and Sal Trapani. All the stories are terrible, though one of them has some okay art by Al McWilliams. This must have been one of the last comics Gold Key/Whitman published, and I guess they were desperate for material.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #364 (Marvel, 1992) – “The Pain of Fast Air,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] Mark Bagley. This issue reintroduces Peter Parker’s parents. They’re not yet identified as such, but Michelinie makes it really obvious who they are (or claim to be). Also, Spider-Man fights the Shocker for some reason. This was not one of Michelinie’s better issues.

NAUGHTY BITS #4 (Fantagraphics, 1991) – “Unhappy Holidays,” parts one and two, [W/A] Roberta Gregory. A two-part Christmas-themed story. Part one is a flashback to a Christmas in Bitchy’s childhood, during which she was molested by her creepy uncle. In part two, the adult Bitchy goes home for Christmas and visits the same uncle on his deathbed. The disturbing subject matter of this story is made more palatable by Roberta’s cartoony style and by Bitchy’s well-deserved glee in the knowledge that her abuser has been punished. This story also reveals how awful and cruel childhood can be. In addition, this issue includes an essay by Roberta about how her work was rejected from an anthology of “dyke” comics because she’s bi. That anthology seems to have been Dyke’s Delight, edited by Kate Charlesworth.

IRON MAN #23 (Marvel, 2014) – “Rings of the Mandarin, Chapter 1,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Luke Ross. I wrote a review of this, but lost it when my computer crashed. I’ll just briefly summarize and say that Malekith is the villain of this comic, so it ties in with Kieron’s Journey into Mystery, but is not as good.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #15/208 (Dark Horse, 2015) – various stories, [E] Mike Richardson & Jim Gibbons. I lost my review of this one too. Notable stories are Finder by Carla Speed McNeil, Dream Gang by Brendan McCarthy, and Snow Angel by David Chelsea.

SNOW ANGEL #1 (Dark Horse, 2013) – “Snow Angel,” [W/A] David Chelsea. A one-shot about a little girl who can turn into a superpowered snow angel. This comic has a random and illogical style of humor, perhaps because it originated as a 24-hour comic, but it’s extremely cute and fun.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #214 (Marvel, 1977) – “The Power,” [W/A] Jack Kirby. The last issue of Kirby’s Cap run is rather unimpressive, clearly showing that he’s at the tail end of his career. The action scenes are brilliant, but there’s not much of a story.

FLASH GORDON #2 (King, 1966) – “The Death Trap of Mongo,” [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Frank Bolle. This is not the best Flash Gordon comic – it’s too bad that Al Williamson only drew a couple issues of this series – but Archie’s script is, as usual, well above average.

MS. TREE #10 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “Deadline, Chapter One: Black and White and Red All Over,” [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. While investigating a series of murders, Ms. Tree agrees to grant an interview to a sleazy journalist, only to find the journalist dead. This is the first issue that uses the series’ characteristic two-color process. Also, there’s a scene where Ms. Tree buys a bunch of magazines including Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Soldier of Fortune, and Guns & Ammo.

DETECTIVE COMICS #418 (DC, 1971) – “…And Be a Villain!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Irv Novick, plus other stories. In this issue’s lead story, Batman battles a mind-controlled Creeper. There’s also a Batgirl story (in which we learn that Commissioner Gordon was a rookie cop in the 1920s!) and two reprinted stories. The second of these is the highlight of the issue, because it has some fantastic artwork by Alex Toth.

Pre-vacation reviews

I should finish these reviews soon because I’m about to go out of town. Two more comics from the week of June 30:

BUG! THE ADVENTURES OF FORAGER #2 (DC, 2017) – “Snow Job: Domino Effect Part 2 of 5,” [W] Lee Allred, [A] Mike Allred. Another weird and confusing story full of Kirby characters. This series is doing a good job of evoking the mood of Kirby’s ‘70s DC comics.

FIRST ISSUE SPECIAL #10 (DC, 1976) – “We’re the Outsiders”, [W] Joe Simon, [A] Jerry Grandenetti. A truly bizarre story about a team of weird-looking with appropriately weird artwork. This comic’s writing and art are old-fashioned, and the characters have little interest other than shock value, so it’s no wonder that these characters never appeared again. But this issue is interesting as an oddball one-off story. This issue includes a major continuity error. The issue begins with a flash-forward in which the Outsiders head off to their latest mission, in which they recruit their newest member, a child with a giant head. But at the end of the issue, when we return to the same scene depicted in the flash-forward, the child with a huge head is already a member of the Outsiders.

New comics received on July 7. This was a long week because the next comics shipment didn’t arrive until the following Tuesday.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #29 (Image, 2017) – “The First Degree,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. I don’t remember this issue very well. There’s a lot of intra-group politics, and Persephone sleeps with Sakhmet.

UNSTOPPABLE WASP #7 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jamie McKelvie, [A] Veronica Fish. This issue is narrated by Janet Van Dyne, who I guess is alive again. It has to be considered one of the best stories about this character, right up there with some of Roger Stern’s stories. Jeremy has a specific take on this character which is not necessarily mine, and he describes Hank’s abuse as an ongoing phenomenon rather than a one-time thing, which I don’t quite agree with. But he writes her as a woman who has a forceful personality and who really has her shit together. He correctly demonstrates that Jan’s flightiness and fashion obsession are deceptive. And Jan and Nadia’s stepmom-stepdaughter relationship is really cute. This was a really good issue, and I’m sorry this series appears to be ending.

RAT QUEENS II #4 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kurtis Wiebe, [A] Owen Gieni. Kind of an average issue. The painted art style on the last few pages is intriguing. The rock-cut temple is obviously inspired by the similar-looking building in Petra, Jordan.

KIM & KIM: LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD #1 (Black Mask, 2017) – untitled, [W] Magdalene Visaggio, [A] Eva Cabrera. This is very good. It has witty dialogue, a complicated plot, and detailed and exciting artwork. I especially like how all the background characters look as if they have their own stories.

ZODIAC STARFORCE: CRIES OF THE FIRE PRINCE #1 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kevin Panetta, [A] Paulina Ganucheau. So far this miniseries is very similar to the first miniseries, but I’m glad that this comic is doing well enough to warrant a sequel. This issue has a cute page with a girl watching her turtle eat, and two monsters made of a blender and a washing machine.

GIANT DAYS #28 (Boom!, 2017) – “And So, They Didn’t”, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Some weird noises are coming from the garage that the girls aren’t allowed into, and they think it’s a ghost. It turns out their neighbor is using the garage to breed chinchillas. This issue has some excellent art.

MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC #4 (IDW, 2017) – “Flash Magnus,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Brenda Hickey. The story of how Flash Magnus saves some griffins from a storm, at the risk of causing an international border dispute. This issue was just okay. Legends of Magic is worse than the series it replaced, Friends Forever.

HAWKEYE #8 (Marvel, 2017) – “…They All Fall Down,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Leonardo Romero. We already knew Derek Bishop was a horrible person, but this issue we learn that he’s also a supervillain. Also, there’s another plot thread where Kate goes looking for a girl’s missing father and finds herself in a fight club.

I must have been pretty tired when I read these first eight comics, because I don’t remember much about them. Here’s one I do remember:

CHAMPIONS #10 (Marvel, 2017) – “The One Where Mark Waid Defends Internment Camps” (unofficial title), [W] Mark Waid, [A] Humberto Ramos. I’ve already said a lot about this comic book on Facebook, and I don’t want to repeat myself. I’ll just say that this is a terrible comic, and Marvel needs better editorial oversight so that they won’t continue to print comics like this. The main problem with this comic is the page where the mutant family decides to stay in an internment camp, and Amadeus Cho says that “as an Asian-American” he doesn’t like internment camps, but he supports their decision. This is horribly tone-deaf. There is perhaps an interesting story to be told about people who would rather stay in a concentration camp than be freed, but Mark Waid has neither the writing skill nor the sensitivity to tell that story. I also have issues with the way Mark reacted to the criticism of this story, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to talk about that here. Suffice it to say, this will be my last issue of Champions, and I’ll have to think twice before buying any more Mark Waid comics, and I say that as someone who’s been a fan of his for almost 25 years.

SNOTGIRL #6 (Image, 2017) – “Since You’ve Been Gone,” [W] Bryan Lee O’Malley, [A] Leslie Hung. Glad to see this series again, although it’s hard to remember the plot or the characters. This issue introduces Misty (Cutegirl)’s identical twin sister Bonnie.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: THE MISFITS: INFINITE #1 (IDW, 2017) – “Infinite, Part Two,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Jenn St.-Onge. The Misfits follow the Holograms into Techrat’s alternate universe, which turns out to be a dystopia. Also, the Misfits finally learn Jem’s secret identity. I don’t know why this has to be a different series from Jem and the Holograms Infinite.

CLASSIC STAR WARS: THE VANDELHELM MISSION (Dark Horse, 1995) – “Supply and Demand,” [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Al Williamson. This is a reprint of Marvel’s Star Wars #98. In this story, Han Solo has to protect two bratty kids, who are visually based on Al Williamson’s own children. Goodwin and Williamson are an incredible creative team, and in this issue they turn in an excellent performance. Archie’s story is funny, cute and exciting, and Al Williamson’s art is as incredible as usual. As I read this issue, I got so absorbed in the story that I kept forgetting to admire the incredible craftsmanship of the art.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #81 (Marvel, 1982) – “The Road to Halwan,” [W] Mary Jo Duffy, [A] Denys Cowan. Jeryn Hogarth sends Danny and Luke on a mission to Halwan, the native country of the princess from Marvel Premiere #24, which I reviewed last year. In Halwan, Luke and Danny encounter Boris and Ninotchka from issue 77. This is a good issue, but not as good as the last two Power Man & Iron Fist issues I read.

STRANGE SPORTS STORIES #4 (Vertigo, 2015) – various [W/A]. A mixed bag. The best story in this issue is probably the first, by Genevieve Valentine and Joseba Larratxe, which is an extended comparison between falconry and women’s oppression. The next story, by Brian Buccellato and Megan Levens, is an unimaginative rip-off of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.” “The Time-Grappler!” by Aubrey Sitterson and Max Dunbar is a kind of funny story about a time-traveling professional wrestler. The issue ends with a solo story by Paul Pope, but it’s far from his best work, and I didn’t even realize it was him until I saw the credits.

DETECTIVE COMICS #501 (DC, 1981) – “The Man Who Killed Mlle. Marie!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Don Newton. This issue introduces Julia Pennyworth, the adult daughter of Alfred Pennyworth and Mlle. Marie. It’s also notable because it takes place in Paris and it’s about the legacy of the French Resistance. In 1981, World War II was recent enough that Alfred and Lucius Fox could plausibly be depicted as WWII veterans. The Batgirl backup story, by Cary Burkett and José Delbo, is less bad than I expected.

FANTASTIC FOUR #127 (Marvel, 1972) – “Where the Sun Does Not Shine!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] John Buscema. Suffering from one of his usual temper tantrums, the Thing heads off on his own to look for the Mole Man. He encounters the Mole Man’s fiancee Kala, Queen of the Netherworld, who makes her first appearance since Tales of Suspense #43. Meanwhile, the rest of the FF go looking for Ben, and in a typical piece of sexism, Reed tries to convince Sue to stay home with Franklin. This issue has some stunning John Buscema artwork.

ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN #1 (Image, 2017) – “One evening as the sun went down,” [W/A] Kyle Starks. This is a fantasy comic about Jackson, a veteran hobo with a mysterious past, and his sidekick Pomona Slim, a novice hobo. I’m not in love with the art in this comic, but the writing is funny, and the comic shows an impressive depth of historical research into hobo culture. This issue ends with an essay by Eric Newsom, a professor at the University of Central Missouri, about the song for which this comic is named.

ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN #2 (Image, 2017) – “The bulldogs all have rubber teeth,” as above. For some reason I don’t recall, Jackson visits a hobo fight club where he intentionally loses to another hobo named Hundred Cat.

ALL-STAR COMICS #65 (DC, 1977) – “The Master Plan of Vandal Savage,” [W] Paul Levitz, [A] Wally Wood. This series is worse than Paul’s other major works from the ‘70s (Legion and Huntress), mostly because Power Girl is the only truly interesting character. But this issue isn’t bad. There’s an exciting plot in which the JSA battles Vandal Savage, and Woody’s artwork is spectacular.

BATMAN #605 (DC, 2002) – “Courage,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Scott McDaniel. In the conclusion to the 18-part “Bruce Wayne, Fugitive” saga, Batman proves that David Cain, not Bruce Wayne, killed Vesper Fairchild. I suppose I’d have enjoyed this more if I’d read the previous 18 parts, but this story seems like a pretty average and forgettable crossover. Also, Scott McDaniel’s art is very unimpressive.

COLORFUL MONSTERS (Drawn & Quarterly, 2017) – various [W/A]. This FCBD comic includes stories by Tove Jansson, Elise Gravel, Anouk Ricard and Shigeru Mizuki. The best of the four are Tove Jansson’s Moomin story, which is really weird, and Mizuki’s Kitaro story. However, by the time I read this comic, I was feeling rather tired and I thought the length of the comic was excessive.

ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN #3 (Image, 2017) – “Beside the crystal fountain,” as above. The devil, who has been pursuing Jackson for the whole series, finally catches up to him. Jackson beats him in a fight, because he previously bargained with the devil for the power to defeat any single man in combat. And it turns out that the thing Jackson is carrying is the Spear of Destiny, which is an annoying cliché.

ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN #4 (Image, 2017) – “The Jails Are Made of Tin,” as above. Jackson and Pomona Slim are arrested and sent to prison. Jackson beats up everyone else in the prison, one at a time, then he and Slim escape, and Slim makes the surprisingly sensible decision to leave Jackson and go back home. Now that I’m caught up on this series, it’s not my favorite Image comic, but I’m going to keep reading it.

IMAGE FIRSTS: VELVET #1 (Image, 2014) – “Before the Living End,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Michael Lark. The protagonist of this series is the secretary for a spy agency, who turns out to be quite a badass herself. The overall aesthetic is pretty similar to that of any other Ed Brubaker comic, but Michael Lark’s artwork is spectacular.

SEEKERS INTO THE MYSTERY #1 (Vertigo, 1996) – “The Pilgrimage of Lucas Hart, Chapter One: The Little Man with the Knives,” [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Glenn Barr. This is part of JM DeMatteis’s large and underappreciated body of work in the fantasy genre. The protagonist of this story is a burned-out, washed-up Hollywood screenwriter who, at the end of the issue, encounters a homeless man with magic powers. This first issue is a bit of a slow start, but I’m curious to see where this story goes.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #34 DIRECTOR’S CUT (Marvel, 2008) – “The Burden of Dreams, Part Four,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Steve Epting. Bucky and the Black Widow team up against the Red Skull. This is an exciting story with excellent art, but it also reminds me that I quit reading Ed Brubaker’s Captain America because all the stories resembled each other too much. This issue is a “director’s cut” edition, meaning it includes Brubaker’s original script, which is of limited interest because Brubaker provides very few directions to the artist.

BAREFOOTZ #2 (Kitchen Sink, 1976) – various stories, [W/A] Howard Cruse. Some interesting but uneven early work by the pioneer of gay comics. Most of this issue consists of one- or two-page strips about a character named Barefootz. These strips are not particularly funny and include no references to gay themes. They’re only interesting because of Cruse’s slick draftsmanship and lettering and his effective use of crosshatching and pontillism. A more interesting story is “Gravy on Gay,” in which Barefootz’s gay friend Headcrack encounters a homophobic jerk. This story is also kind of unfunny, but it shows that Cruse was at least starting to think about the gay themes that would be central to his major works.

JONNY QUEST #12 (Comico, 1987) – “Buried Treasure,” [W] William Messner-Loebs, [A] Dan Spiegle. I have raved about this series before, and this is one of its best issues. It’s a perfect depiction of a stepmother/stepchild relationship. Benton Quest is falling in love with Kathy Martin, but Jonny doesn’t want her to replace his mother. Meanwhile, Kathy is afraid that she can’t compete with Benton’s late wife, who (in this continuity) was a reckless adventurer, exactly the opposite of Kathy. When the Quest family go on a mission to rescue a missing girl from a Neanderthal tribe, Kathy nearly gets herself killed trying to be more adventurous, but then saves the day because of her trusting and empathetic nature. And this experience helps Jonny and Kathy to start to feel comfortable with each other. This is just a beautiful story, and it’s a shame that it’s out of print. Based on a conversation I had on Facebook, I understand that there are both technical and legal difficulties with reprinting this material, which is very unfortunate. Jonny Quest was not only the best licensed-property comic book of the ‘80s, but one of the best comic books, period.

TALES OF THE BEANWORLD #6 (Eclipse, 1987) – “Yeah! Yeah! The Clang Twang!”, [W/A] Larry Marder. This is similar to other Beanworld comics, but radically different from any other comic book. The Boom’r Band and Proffy invent a new style of music, and meanwhile, Beanish falls in love with a mysterious floating-head woman from an alternate dimension.

VALERIAN AND LAURELINE #1 (Cinebook, 2010, originally 1976) – “The City of Shifting Waters,” [W] Pierre Christin, [A] Jean-Claude Mézières. This is the first Valerian story to be published as an album. An earlier story, “Les Mauvais Rêves,” was published earlier in serial form but was not collected until much later. In this comic, Valerian and Laureline travel back in time to a New York which has been sunk by a massive flood (maybe this is prophetic). This album is exciting, but the artwork is much looser and cartoonier than in later albums, although there are some really nice splash panels. The most intriguing thing about the story is that it includes one character based on Sun Ra, and another based on Jerry Lewis’s character from The Nutty Professor.

YOUR BLACK FRIEND (Silver Sprocket, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Ben Passmore. This is an important piece of work and should be an Eisner contender. I already sympathize with the argument of this comic, but even then, I found it disturbing. My complaint about this comic is that $5 for eleven pages is exorbitant.

SHANNA THE SHE-DEVIL #4 (Marvel, 1973) – “Cry – Mandrill!”, [W] Carole Seuling & Steve Gerber, [A] Ross Andru. I didn’t know this comic existed until I bought it at Heroes Con. It’s one of the more obscure examples of Marvel’s early-‘70s line of feminist comics. This issue, Shanna and her leopards Ina and Biri encounter the Mandrill and his army of mind-controlled women. Shanna at this point was a somewhat different character than she would eventually become; her primary gimmick is her pet leopards.

DENNIS THE MENACE BONUS MAGAZINE SERIES #180 (Fawcett, 1978) – various uncredited stories. The stories in this issue includes one where Dennis gets Gina’s mother to feed him, one where Dennis and his dad raise some butterflies, and another where Dennis’s dad gets bursitis. One of the short pieces in this issue is reprinted from another issue that I already read. I guess Fawcett reused a lot of material.

SUPERMAN #266 (DC, 1973) – “The Nightmare Maker,” [W] Elliot S! Maggin, [A] Curt Swan. Kind of a weird story in which Superman battles an abominable snowman that’s really a giant alien statue. The best moment in the story is where Steve Lombard sticks Clark Kent with a taxi fare, and in revenge, Clark ruins Steve’s date by making his corsage wilt. There’s also a World of Krypton backup story in which two young siblings encounter a space probe sent to Krypton by the ruler of Atlantis.

DETECTIVE COMICS #459 (DC, 1976) – “A Clue Before Dying!”, [W] Martin Pasko, [A] José Luis García-López. This issue’s lead story is a murder mystery in which the victim is a mystery writer named Elliott Quinn. This name is an obvious homage to Ellery Queen, and one of the suspects is named Inspector Dannay, a reference to Frederic Dannay, the assumed name of one of Ellery Queen’s creators. I assume this story includes other Ellery Queen references I didn’t notice. This issue also has a OMan-Bat backup story by Pasko and Pablo Marcos.

FOUR WOMEN #1 (DC, 2001) – untitled, [W/A] Sam Kieth. A slice-of-life story about four women whose car breaks down while they’re on a road trip. Sam Kieth’s art is quite good, but his dialogue reads like a man’s idea of what women talk about to each other.

A1 #1 (Atomeka, 1989) – various stories, [E] Dave Elliott & Garry Leach. ([E] means edited by.) This anthology has an amazing lineup of talent. The most exciting story is “Ghostdance” starring the Warpsmiths, by Alan Moore and Garry Leach. This story, set in the Miracleman universe, was never published anywhere else until the Marvel edition of Miracleman #4. Other creators featured include Barry Windsor-Smith, Eddie Campbell, Brian Bolland, Bill Sienkiewicz, John Bolton, Dave Gibbons, Ted McKeever, Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, and Glenn Fabry, doing very rare interior art. There’s even a convincing fake Golden Age strip by Paris Cullins and Dave Elliott. In short, this anthology represents the best in ‘80s British comics. The only bad story in the lot is “Wayfarer: A Taste of Gold” by Paul Behrer and Una Fricker. I bought two other issues of this series at Heroes Con, but haven’t gotten around to them yet.

DEATH RATTLE #6 (Kitchen Sink, 1986) – various stories, [E] Denis Kitchen & Dave Schreiner. An excellent horror-themed anthology comic. This issue begins with Tom Veitch and Steve Bissette’s “Roadkills,” about some people who scavenge for roadkill and then become roadkill themselves. “Catcalls” by Jan Strnad and Rand Holmes is a more EC-esque horror story, about a negligent babysitter who kills her clients’ baby and tries to blame it on the cat. Finally, Jaxon’s “Bulto,” part four of a multi-part story, combines his usual Southwestern historical themes with cosmic horror. Jaxon’s depiction of a Lovecraftian god is amazing; I didn’t realize he was so good at that sort of thing.

VANGUARD ILLUSTRATED #3 (Pacific, 1984) – various stories, [E] David Scroggy. This anthology title was intended as a showcase for new talent. The best things in it are the gorgeous Al Williamson cover and the “Freakwave” story by Milligan and McCarthy. It has a weird metatextual ending in which the Drifter, one of the characters in the story, assassinates Milligan and McCarthy themselves. Next is the third installment of Baron and Rude’s encyclopedia salesman story, which was commissioned before Nexus began, but published after. This story isn’t that great but it does demonstrate Rude’s amazing talent. Rex Lindsay’s “Killer in Orbit!” is a bad Ditko pastiche. David Campiti and Tom Yeates’s story is well-drawn, but the story is a gushing homage to Ray Bradbury, a writer who I’ve never liked as much as some people do.

HUNDREDS OF FEET BELOW DAYLIGHT (Drawn & Quarterly, 1998) – “Hundreds of Feet Below Daylight,” [W/A] James Sturm. This is the second installment of the American historical trilogy that began with The Revival and ended with The Golem’s Mighty Swing. It’s a harrowing and exhaustively researched story about a 19th-century Idaho mining town. The characters are powerfully depicted and the story is compelling, although the conclusion leaves a bunch of mysteries unresolved. I didn’t like this story quite as much as The Golem’s Mighty Swing, but it’s at a comparable level of quality. James Sturm is doing great work as the director of the Center for Cartoon Studies, but I hope we see more comics from him soon.

THE ELSEWHERE PRINCE #2 (Epic, 1990) – “The Princess,” [W] Moebius & R.J.M. Lofficer, [A] Eric Shanower. This is a spinoff of Moebius’s Airtight Garage, a comic which is currently unavailable in English, and I hope Dark Horse gets around to reprinting it soon. It’s about an unnamed young man who gets involved in some kind of a war. The writing is fairly similar to Moebius’s usual style, though I assume the Lofficers wrote the script. The artwork is excellent, maybe a smidge below the quality of Age of Bronze, and the coloring is awesome. I should look for the rest of this miniseries, while I’m waiting for Dark Horse to publish more Moebius books.

THE BOOK OF NIGHT #3 (Dark Horse, 1987) – various stories, [W/A] Charles Vess. An obscure work by perhaps the world’s best fantasy artist. All the stories in this issue are reprinted from old issues of Epic Illustrated. These stories were originally in color, but when they’re reprinted in black and white, Charles Vess’s unequalled draftsmanship comes through even more strongly. As with Book of Ballads and Sagas, the stories are a little weak, but it hardly matters when the art is this good. This issue also includes some illustrations done by Vess as early as 1977, proving that he was a world-class artist from the very start of his career.

THE BARBARIANS #1 (Atlas/Seaboard, 1975) – “The Mountain of Mutants,” [W] Gary Friedrich, [A] Larry Lieber. The only issue of this series, which was a spinoff from Ironjaw. I thought this was Ironjaw #1 at first, since the cover displays the name Ironjaw more prominently than the name The Barbarians, and I didn’t understand why the story began in media res. The Ironjaw story is notable only for a scene of near rape which made it past the Comics Code. What’s much more interesting is the backup story, “Andrax.” This is credited to “Rolf Kauka/Bardon” but is actually by Peter Wiechmann and, of all people, Jordi Bernet. It originally appeared in 1973 in a German-language Swiss comic called Primo, and I can’t imagine why Atlas chose to reprint it (I asked David Roach this, and he didn’t know). It’s a fun adventure story, although I wouldn’t have guessed the art was by Bernet if I hadn’t looked it up.

MEGATON MAN MEETS THE UNCATEGORIZABLE X+ THEMS #1 (Kitchen Sink, 1989) – untitled, [W/A] Don Simpson. This one-shot was published after the end of the Megaton Man ongoing series. As the title indicates, it’s an X-Men parody. The parody elements of this comic are kind of outdated and unfunny by now, but there’s more to this comic than that. Besides the scenes with the X-Men stand-ins, there’s also a parallel plot thread involving Trent Phloog, the depowered former Megaton Man, and his friends such as Preston Percy. Don Simpson seems to genuinely care about these characters; they feel like people and not just superhero parodies. Also, this comic is set in Ann Arbor, Michigan and has a strong sense of local specificity. These aspects make this comic more than a bad superhero parody. This issue has one really disturbing scene where the Golden Age Megaton Man commits statutory rape with a character based on Kitty Pryde, but Simpson does seem to understand how creepy this is.

SPOOF #2 (Marvel, 1972) – “Tales from the Creep,” [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Marie Severin, plus other stories. This looks like a bad Mad Magazine ripoff, and it kind of is. But it has some excellent art by Marie Severin, even if some of the jokes fall flat. The second story, a Tarzan parody by Roy Thomas and both Severins, is a somewhat witty parody of colonialist cliches; the joke is that Tarzan returns to Africa after decolonization. The third story, an All in the Family parody by Henry Scarpelli and Stu Schwarzenberg, includes parody versions of a number of comic strips and political cartoons.

GREEN LANTERN #143 (DC, 1981) – “Call Him Auron! God of Light! God of Death!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Joe Staton. I read this bad comic to decompress after reading a number of more emotionally taxing and artistically accomplished comics. This is a Green Lantern story in name only; it’s part of Marv’s Omega Men saga, which ran through Action Comics and New Teen Titans as well as GL, and Hal Jordan only appears on 10 of 17 pages. The Adam Strange backup by Laurie Sutton and Rodin Rodriguez is actually better than the lead story.

New comics received on July 17, several days late:

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #22 (Marvel, 2017) – “Enter the Savage Land,” [W] Ryan North, [A] Erica Henderson. As usual, this issue is hilarious. Doreen and Nancy win a vacation to the Savage Land, where they see some dinosaurs, encounter some Latverian college students, and get involved in a plan to save the Savage Land from dying. Doreen and Nancy’s excitement at seeing the dinosaurs is adorable, and this issue is full of funny jokes, like a book called “Eat, Pray, Doom.” My Facebook friend Bernadette Bosky has a letter published in this issue.

GOTHAM ACADEMY: SECOND SEMESTER #11 (DC, 2017) – “The Ballad of Olive Silverlock, Part Three,” [W] Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan & Karl Kerschl, [A] Adam Archer. Maps gives Olive a piece of her mind, then Maps and some of the other kids go off to Wayne Manor to look for something in the Wayne family vault. This leads to some hilarious interactions between Maps and Damian. I would totally buy a comic that was just Maps and Damian teaming up. For that matter, I would buy a Maps Mizoguchi solo series. I’m sorry that this is the next to last issue.

KIM REAPER #4 (Oni, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Sarah Graley. Kim and Becka fight a bunch of zombies, Becka kills the Grim Reaper CEO with a rolling pin, and then Kim gets her job back and Becka’s scheduled death is cancelled. This was a fun miniseries. I hope there will be a sequel.

ROCKET #3 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Blue River Score, Part 3: Breakout!”, [W] Al Ewing, [A] Adam Gorham. Another in a long series of stories in which Rocket escapes from prison. This was funny, but less original than last issue, and I’m not excited about next issue’s Deadpool appearance.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #56 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Christina Rice, [A] Agnes Garbowska. It turns out that the dragons declared war on the yaks because the yaks violated an ancient treaty by declaring Pinkie Pie an honorary yak. This issue is less interesting because of the plot than because of what it does with Spike’s character. On a number of occasions in the TV series, especially in “Dragon Quest,” Spike has chosen to identify as a pony instead of a dragon. This is really problematic because it suggests that Spike should be ashamed of what he is and should try to be something different. In this issue, however, when people say mean things about dragons or tell Spike that he’s more of a pony than a dragon, Spike gets visibly annoyed. And in the climax of the issue, Spike is able to resolve the conflict because he understands both ponies and dragons. I think this is a vast improvement over the way the TV show usually depicts Spike’s cultural identity, because it suggests that he identifies with both his original and his adopted culture. (An earlier MLP comic that makes this same point is Friends Forever #14.)

BLACK PANTHER #15 (Marvel, 2017) – “Avengers of the New World, Part 3,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Wilfredo Torres & Adam Gorham. (How does Adam Gorham manage to do one and a half comics a month?) The Dora Milaje and the other Wakandan heroes fight a bunch of yeti-esque monsters. Meanwhile, T’Challa has a frank conversation with Storm. This issue was only average, but at least it almost makes me believe in T’Challa and Storm as a couple.

ANIMOSITY #8 (Aftershock, 2017) – “Kingdom of God,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Rafael De Latorre. A bunch of animals talk about religion, and Jesse reveals that she knows Sandor is dying. There are actually some really powerful moments in this issue. I’ve been thinking that I’m getting tired of this series and of Marguerite Bennett’s writing in general, but that may be unfair of me.

HULK #8 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Georges Duarte. Jen investigates the prank in which the gay baker dude was turned into a Hulk. This is a good issue but quite similar to issue 7.

KONA #18 (Dell, 1966) – “Undersea Peril,” [W] unknown, [A] Sam Glanzman. I felt motivated to read this because Sam Glanzman just passed away. This issue is much more straightforward and less insanely bizarre than earlier issues of the series, but it’s a well-drawn and exciting adventure story. I should collect more of this comic.

G.I. COMBAT #177 (DC, 1975) – “The Tank That Missed D-Day,” [W] Bob Haney, [A] Sam Glanzman. Another Glanzman comic. I’ve stopped actively collecting DC war comics because it’s a genre I don’t enjoy, but I happened to have this one. The Haunted Tank story in this issue has some excellent Glanzman art, but an implausible, farfeched plot. That’s not unusual in a Bob Haney comic, and it would be fine if this were a superhero story, but it’s not appropriate to the more serious and grim tone of DC’s war comics. The backup story, by Robert Kanigher and Frank Redondo, has slightly worse art but much better writing. Kanigher actually cared about his war comics, whereas his superhero comics were often written just to pay the bills. “The Avenging Wind” tells two parallel stories about an American and a Japanese boy who grow up to kill each other in aerial combat in World War II. The story ends by depicting an American boy and a Vietnamese boy, suggesting that the cycle will continue.

ODDLY NORMAL #5 (Image, 2015) – “Sticks, Stones, Words & Bones,” [W/A] Otis Frampton. I didn’t like this series at all, and I should have quit ordering it after the first issue, but this issue isn’t so bad. The artwork is imaginative and creepy. Otis Frampton is no match for artists like Mike Maihack or Kazu Kibuishi, but this issue suggests that at least he’s getting better.

STARMAN #58 (DC, 1999) – “Familiar Faces, Some Forgotten,” [W] James Robinson, [A] Tony Harris. The sad thing about this series is that in 1994, Jack Knight was a new and distinctive character, but if he was created today, he would just be a typical hipster dudebro. This issue, Jack and his allies escape from a prison planet and invade Throneworld, where they finally discover Will Payton. Then Will vanishes and Prince Gavyn appears in his place. This was only an okay issue.

ADVENTURE COMICS #475 (DC, 1980) – Aquaman in “Scavenger Hunt!”, [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Dick Giordano. Besides the Aquaman story, this issue includes a Starman (Prince Gavyn) story by Levitz and Ditko, and a Plastic Man story by Martin Pasko and Joe Staton. None of these are all that great, though the Plastic Man story is less bad than I would have expected.

ODDLY NORMAL #2 (Image, 2014) – “A Figment of Your Imagination,” [W/A] Otis Frampton. This issue is much worse than issue 5. This series has an interesting premise, but Frampton is not talented enough to exploit the potential of this premise.

GODSHAPER #4 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Jonas Goonface. This is one of the best new series of the year. It has some awesome artwork and worldbuilding and an exciting story. This issue introduces (or reintroduces?) a character named Desdemona who appears to be central to Bud’s story. Maybe the highlight of the issue is the scene where Ennay publicly comes out as a Shaper, and an embarrassing silence falls.

WINGING IT #1 (Solo, 1987) – “Story One: Synnexus,” [W/A] Roberta Gregory. A rather obscure work, a fantasy story by a creator much better known for her feminist humor comics. It’s about a woman who tries to commit suicide, but instead encounters a fallen angel and a bunch of aliens who are trying to escape from slavery. It’s an intriguing piece of work, and I’d like to read the rest of this story, though the other parts will be tough to find. I believe that this was the only issue published as a comic book, and the story was completed in two graphic novels.

GRENDEL TALES: DEVILS AND DEATHS #1 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “Part 1: Devil’s Lot,” [W] Dark Macan, [A] Edvin Biuković. I’ve never gotten into Grendel (and maybe I should), but this issue is one of the few works of Edvin Biuković, a very talented Croatian artist who died at just 30. This story takes place during a war between Grendel clans, whatever those are. Biuković’s art is excellent – it’s in the same artistic tradition as the work of Eduardo Risso or Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, and his composition, storytelling and lettering are awesome. And this comic has extra weight because it’s about war and it was created in the ‘90s by two Yugoslavian creators, so when you read it, you can’t avoid thinking about the Bosnian war.

TOWER OF SHADOWS #5 (Marvel, 1970) – “The Demon That Devoured Hollywood,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Barry [Windsor-]Smith, plus other stories. A surprisingly excellent issue. The three stories in this issue are each introduced by the artist, but are otherwise unrelated. Thomas and BWS’s lead story is about an actor who sells his soul in exchange for amazing makeup technique. The story is dumb, but BWS’s artwork is very good, and this story is one of his better early works. But the real gem of the issue is Wally Wood’s “Flight into Fear!” It has a flimsy plot about a crippled boy who gets transported into a fantasy world, but the artwork is Woody at his best. The story is full of bizarre creatures, stunning women and creepy castles. It’s very similar in style to The Wizard King, and feels like a prototype of or a lost chapter from that work. I need to look for Tower of Shadows #6 through #8, each of which includes another Wally Wood story. This issue ends with “Time Out!”, a trite haunted house story with good art by Syd Shores.

THE NIGHTLY NEWS #6 (Image, 2007) – “Revenge,” [W/A] Jonathan Hickman. This issue is mostly interesting because of the innovative collage technique Hickman uses in his art. The story, about government attempts to control the media, seems less interesting than the art, though I haven’t read the previous issues.

TALES TO ASTONISH #92 (Marvel, 1967) – Namor in “It Walks Like a Man!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Dan Adkins; and Hulk in “Turning Point!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Marie Severin. Both stories in this issue are formulaic and boring; it feels as if Stan was preoccupied with something else when he wrote them. However, in both cases the artwork is really good.

MEGATON MAN #3 (Kitchen Sink, 1985) – “I Am Called Bad Guy, Mortal!”, [W/A] Don Simpson. As with the other Megaton Man comic reviewed above, the superhero parody scenes in this issue are the least interesting thing about it. What’s much more interesting is the scene depicting Pamela Jointly and Stella Starlight’s life in Ann Arbor after they left Megatropolis. The contrast between these two women, one much older and less naïve than the other, is fascinating. There’s also a subplot starring Yarn Man, which turns out to be a parody of the Mechanics stories from Love & Rockets. After reading these last two Don Simpson comics, I begin to realize that Simpson was more than just a superhero parodist, and his work was not such an inappropriate fit for a publisher like Kitchen Sink.

RIP OFF COMIX #8 (Rip Off, 1981) – various stories, [E] Gilbert Shelton. The first half of this anthology title consists of two stories by Gilbert Shelton, including the hilarious “Phineas Gets an Abortion,” and a chapter of Frank Stack’s “New Adventures of Jesus.” The second half of the issue is a bunch of reprinted British comics. The first of these is a short story by Leo Baxendale about a zookeeper who keeps getting his bosses killed. Baxendale’s style is very difficult to get used to, but at least now I can say I’ve read something by him. His work is very famous but completely unavailable in America. There’s also some work by Savage Pencil, Terry Gilliam and Hunt Emerson. And there’s “Three Eyes McGurk,” a very early work of Alan Moore and Steve Moore (apparently collaborating on both the writing and the art) which is notable for introducing Axel Pressbutton. This is not Alan’s first published work, but it’s pretty close.

New comics received on July 21:

MS. MARVEL #20 (Marvel, 2017) – “Mecca, Part 2,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Marco Failla. This is such an important comic. Ms. Marvel is by far the best Marvel comic of the ‘90s, and issues like this are the reason why. In prison, Aamir gives a powerful speech about how racism leads to radicalism: “[People] get radicalized when they think the only way they can have a starring role in their own lives is by playing the villain.” Meanwhile, Kamala encounters Chuck Worthy giving a speech about how things will get better when all the superheroes are gone. This speech is about superheroes but it’s a thinly disguised version of Republicans’ racist diatribes about Muslims and Latinx-Americans. It’s no coincidence that Chuck’s slogan “Chuck them out” has the same rhythm as “Build that wall.” The idea of using superheroes (or mutants or Inhumans) as a metaphor for real-life ethnic minorities has a long history, and is now something of a cliché. But that metaphor has rarely been deployed with more rhetorical force than in this comic, whose writer and protagonist are both members of one of America’s most scapegoated minorities. Also, Chuck Worthy’s takeover of the Jersey City government is eerily similar to Trump’s destruction of the rule of law. And this is why Kamala is so important – because if Kamala can defeat Chuck Worthy in this comic book, then maybe the American people can defeat Trump’s racist policies in real life.

By the way, I’m calling it now: I think Lockdown is Kamran.

MOONSTRUCK #1 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Grace Ellis, [A] Shae Beagle. This is one of my most hotly anticipated debut issues of the year, and it mostly lives up to my expectations. It’s set in a city full of monsters (hence the comparisons to Brave Chef Brianna) and stars a barista who is also a werewolf. Shae Beagle’s artwork is charming and full of Easter eggs and weird background stuff, and Grace Ellis’s writing reminds me of the writing in Lumberjanes, which is a good thing. I do find some of the dialogue annoying – if I had to work with the gay centaur dude, I would probably strangle him – but this is a minor problem. Also, I love the advice column where all the questions are answered by a mermaid, and her solution to every problem involves drowning people.

BATMAN ’66 MEETS THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES #1 (DC, 2017) – “Atomic Batteries to Power, Flight Rings to Speed,” [W] Lee Allred, [A] Mike Allred. This is the best Legion comic of the current decade, although that is really, really not saying much. Mike and Lee Allred show a solid understanding of the Legion franchise, and this issue feels like a classic Legion story, although (as was typical for the pre-Shooter Legion) the characters don’t have clearly defined personalities. It’s very frustrating that this is just a one-shot. The Legion is still my favorite comic book ever, and I feel that it has tremendous potential and that DC doesn’t understand how to exploit that potential.

SUPER SONS #6 (DC, 2017) – “Planet of the Capes, Part 1: Teen Beat,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Jorge Jimenez. This is an incredibly fun comic, and if there were more DC comics like it, maybe the company wouldn’t be in such trouble. The second page of this issue — where Clark says “Damian’s dad dresses like a bat and gets hit in the head 28 times each night” – has deservedly gone viral. But the rest of the issue is almost as good. Jon goes on patrol with Damian, but then Damian leaves him behind to hang out with the Titans, and Jon’s feelings are badly hurt. Tomasi’s writing and Jimenez’s art are adorable, and Tomasi does a great job of making the reader feel Jon’s emotions.

ROYAL CITY #5 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. A significant improvement over the previous issue. The father (does this character have a first name?) has a near-death experience, allowing him to follow Richie’s ghost around as they observe what’s happening to the other Pikes. It turns out the Pike mother is having an affair, and the girl who Patrick encountered earlier is the child of one of his siblings, but we’re not told which one. There’s a lot of good stuff in this issue, and I like this series a lot.

DESCENDER #22 (Image, 2017) – “Rise of the Robots 1 of 5,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. This isn’t really a new story arc but a continuation of the previous one. Quon rips Tim-22’s head off, while a battle erupts between the robots and the UGC army, and the issue ends with Andy’s ship blowing up.

FABULOUS FURRY FREAK BROTHERS #4 (Rip Off, 1975) – “The 7th Voyage of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers: A Mexican Odyssey,” [W/A] Gilbert Shelton with Dave Sheridan. The Freak Brothers travel to Mexico where they have a series of harrowing drug-filled adventures. This is an extremely funny comic, and it’s a prime example of both the underground comics aesthetic and the hippie subculture. It’s full of Mexican stereotypes, but Shelton seems to have at least some knowledge of Mexican culture. My complaint about this comic is that it’s very, very long. It’s something like 50 pages, and the artwork is very dense. Each page includes a topper strip starring Fat Freddy’s Cat.

SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN #98 (DC, 1966) – “The Four Clocks of Doom!”, [W] Otto Binder, [A] Pete Costanza; and “The Bride of Jungle Jimmy!”, [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Pete Costanza. This issue is famous because of the cover, where Superman dresses up as a witch doctor and conducts a wedding between Jimmy and a giant female ape. After that cover, the rest of that comic is almost an afterthought. “The Bride of Jungle Jimmy,” the story that corresponds to the cover, is almost as funny as the cover. Unfortunately, it also includes some highly racist stereotypes of African people. The other story in the issue is a typical piece of Weisingerian tripe.

THE PHANTOM #47 (Charlton, 1971) – “The False Skull Cave” and other stories, [W] unknown, [A] Pat Boyette. None of the stories in this issue is especially good, but they all have a slightly darker mood than most superhero comics of the time, and Pat Boyette uses some quite radical panel structures. This issue includes a one-page feature on the Swahili language which is credited to “Mwalimu Bahati Njema”, meaning something like “Teacher Good Luck.”

SUPERB #1 (Lion Forge, 2017) – “Do You Know What Your Kids Are?”, [W] David Walker & Sheena Howard, [A] Ray-Anthony Height. This issue is notable because it’s co-written by Eisner-winning comics scholar Sheena Howard, and because it stars a superhero with Down syndrome. Besides that, this issue is interesting for its depiction of bullying and surveillance. It’s not the best debut issue I’ve read lately, but it shows a lot of potential, and I look forward to reading more of this series.

EERIE #88 (Warren, 1977) – various stories, [E] Louise Jones & Bill DuBay. A very bad Warren comic. It begins with a boring Rook story by DuBay and Luis Bermejo. Next is “The Key” by Budd Lewis and José Ortiz, which is allegedly set in Japan but shows an appalling ignorance about Japanese culture. Also, it includes a scene where a woman runs around naked for no reason. “Deathball 2100 AD,” by Bill Mohalley, Nicola Cuti, and Dick Giordano, is a stupid and pointlessly violent story about a basketball game between humans and aliens. The only good thing in the issue is Bruce Jones and Leopold Sanchez’s “Boiling Point,” in which a detective investigates a series of murders taking place in abandoned subway tunnels. Jones’s script is exciting and moody, and Sanchez does some excellent spotting of blacks.

CREEPY #75 (Warren, 1975) – various stories, [E] Louise Jones & Bill DuBay. This issue is famous for Jim Stenstrum and Neal Adams’s “Thrillkill,” one of the most highly acclaimed Warren stories. I’ve read this before, but it’s interesting to revisit it after the recent wave of mass shootings. Many people have observed that when a white man commits a terrorist act, the media characterizes him as mentally ill, but when a person of color commits a terrorist act, the media describes him as a terrorist or a thug. In other words, white terrorists are treated as individuals, POC terrorists as members of a group. This story is an example of that because it’s all about explaining how the killer’s abusive childhood drove him to do what he did. But in 1975, this was not as offensive as it would be today. Another difference between 1975 and today is that mass shootings are unfortunately less shocking now than they were then. “Thrillkill” is pretty closely based on the 1966 University of Texas shooting, an event that would have been shocking and unprecedented at the time. Nowadays, things like that happen practically every week, because our country has given up on sensible gun policy.

Anyway, that’s not the only story in this issue. Of the remaining stories, the best is Alex Toth’s ‘30s detective story “Phantom of Pleasure Island,” a demonstration of Toth’s mastery of visual storytelling. The other stories in the issue aren’t as good, but at least there’s some nice art by José Ortiz and John Severin.