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September and October 2022 reviews

10-20-2022

It’s that time again.  

CARVER: A PARIS STORY 5 (Z2, 2016) – “I Am…”, [W/A] Chris Hunt. I ordered this because the earlier issues of this series had Paul Pope’s name on them. This comic took literally about one minute to read, and I couldn’t understand it at all.

TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE #56 (IDW, 2016) – “Ten to Midnight,” [W] James Roberts, [A] Priscilla Tramontano. This issue does not follow up on the cliffhanger from last issue, where Necroworld blew up. Instead, this issue shifts to an entirely different setting and cast of characters. We are now on Luna 1, where some other characters are trying to revive an army of long-dead giant robots called Titans. I couldn’t see how this story was related to MTMTE’s story arc, and it felt like a waste of an issue.  

2000 AD #2279 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “The Citadel 10,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Dan Cornwell. The priest talks with Chopra, the last survivor of Dredd’s team from the flashback sequence. Chopra explains that Dredd did kill his own clone, but only because the clone was a Sov spy. This was an excellent story. Hope: “In the Shadows Reel 1 Part 4,” [W] Guy Adams, [A] Jimmy Broxton. Hope continues investigating. This series has some excellent black and white art. Brink: “Mercury Retrograde Part 10,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] I.N.J. Culbard. The old union boss, Bardot, is assaulted in his house, and the protagonist is interrogated by Habitat Security. Future Shocks: “Relict,” [W] Honor Vincent, [A] Lee Milmore. A monologue by an immortal, time-traveling lab rat. Not much of a story. Fiends of the Eastern Front: “1963 Part 7,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Tiernen Trevallion. Constanta confronts his handler and discovers that a certain Major Green has been manipulating them both, and then someone blows up the handler’s office with a rocket launcher.

CARVER: A PARIS STORY #4 (Z2, 2016) – “Who Am I?”, [W/A] Chris Hunt. Again, this issue takes less than five minutes to read, and it makes no sense. I’m guessing that this series was intended for digital distribution, because most pages have three panel tiers consisting of either one or two panels each. This is a format that would work well on a screen reader, but in print form, it makes for a monotonous reading experience.

TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE #57 (IDW, 2016) – “Last Light,” [W] James Roberts, [A] Priscilla Tramontano. Red Alert breaks free of the false memories he’s been implanted with, and he and Fortress Maximus succeed in delaying the Titans from reaching Cybertron. There are also a lot of flashbacks to past issues, and the series ends with a nostalgic conversation about the Lost Light. This two-parter has no apparent connection to either the previous MTMTE storyline, or the first story in the sequel series, Transformers: Lost Light.

ART OPS #5 (Vertigo, 2016) – “The Assassination of the Mona Lisa,” [W] Shaun Simon, [A] Mike Allred & Matt Brundage. The protagonist defeats the evil Mona Lisa, who, at the end of the issue, is revealed to be pregnant. There’s some stunning artwork in this issue, including some pages that are drawn in a Jackson Pollock style. However, as I have observed before, Shaun Simon just didn’t have sufficient writing skill to realize the potential of Art Ops’s themes, and Art Ops doesn’t reveal any deep or surprising insights into art.

OCCUPY AVENGERS #3 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] David F. Walker, [A] Carlos Pacheco. My sympathies go out to Carlos Pacheco on his ALS diagnosis. This issue, Hawkeye and Red Wolf team up with Walker’s version of Nightwing. This whole series was rather forgettable, and it seems odd that it was published in 2017, when the Occupy movement more or less ended in 2012.

BLACK WIDOW #10 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [W/A] Chris Samnee. Natasha, James and Lion (whoever that is) visit the Blue Area of the Moon to speak with the Watcher, formerly known as Nick Fury. This issue includes no fight scenes, so it doesn’t give Samnee much of an opportunity to display his visual storytelling skills, which were the primary reason to read this series.

TRANSFORMERS: LOST LIGHT #1 (IDW, 2016) – “Dissolution Part 1: Some Other Cybertron,” [W] James Roberts, [A] Jack Lawrence. A prologue sequence introduces two new characters, Anode and Lug. Then the scene shifts to Necroworld, where we finally get a resolution to the cliffhanger from MTMTE #55. The entire planet doesn’t blow up, but Rodimus, Megatron and some other characters decide to teleport to Cybertron, planning to get a ship, pick up everyone else from Necroworld, and then continue looking for the Lost Light. Unfortunately, the teleporter sends them to an alternate-universe version of Cybertron which is ruled by the Functionalist ideology.

BLACK WIDOW #11 (Marvel, 2017) – as above. Some Dark Room assassin girls try to blow up a SHIELD facility in Antarctica, and Natasha has to stop them. Natasha fights Recluse, the Dark Room’s new leader, and loses, and the girls trigger the facility’s self-destruct mechanism. This issue is much more exciting than #10, and it includes a lot of Samnee’s excellent action scenes.

SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #103 (Marvel, 1985) – “Compulsion!”, [W] Peter David, [A] Rich Buckler. I think this was Peter David’s first published comic. It already demonstrates his characteristic style of humor; on page 3, there’s a joking reference to Batman’s origin story. The plot of “Compulsion!” is that three bored college students, Ashley, Thomas and Barry, decide to outsmart Spider-Man by creating a fake supervillain named Blaze. But Spider-Man turns the tables on them by getting the Human Torch to pretend to be the “real” Blaze. This story was inspired by the real-life Leopold and Loeb case, and there is an allusion to that case on the last page.

SUPERMAN #397 (DC, 1984) – “The Born-Again Kryptonite Man!”, [W] Paul Kupperberg, [A] Eduardo Barreto. Superman fights the Kryptonite Man – not the recurring Superboy villain, but a new character who’s descended from ancient inhabitants of Krypton. The Kryptonite Man is also being pursued by the Seeders, led by Lord Sed and Commander Dun, whose names might be a stupid pun on “easier said than done.” This story continued into Supergirl #21, which was the final appearance of this incarnation of the Kryptonite Man.

VIOLATOR VS. BADROCK #3 (Image, 1995) – untitled, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Brian Denham. Badrock is trapped in hell, where he has to save a woman from the Phlebiac brothers. This is one of Alan Moore’s less interesting works for Image in the ‘90s, and Brian Denham is a terrible artist. His style is a copy of Liefeld’s style, but without the detailed linework that’s perhaps Liefeld’s only redeeming feature.

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR #2 (Dark Horse, 1994) – untitled, [W/A] Frank Miller. Dwight  sneaks into the house where his ex-lover Ava is living with her new lover, Damian Lord. Dwight is discovered, and Damian’s bodyguard Manute beats him senseless. Manute must have been named for Manute Bol, even though the fictional Manute is a big stocky bruiser, while the real Manute Bol was extremely tall and thin. Ava comes to Dwight’s place and sleeps with him, but then Manute abducts her and throws Dwight out a window. This series’s art style is easier to appreciate if you think of it as an attempt to imitate the storytelling techniques of manga. However, Sin City is such an excessive, over-the-top example of the film noir genre that it’s hard to take seriously.

RINGSIDE #10 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Nick Barber. I thought I was done reading this crummy series, but here’s another issue I hadn’t read. As usual, Ringside #10 is a quick and insubstantial read, I don’t understand its story, and I don’t feel motivated to try to understand it.

STEVEN UNIVERSE #4 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Melanie Gillman, [A] Katy Farina. Steven and the Gems go to a renaissance fair and participate in some jousts. This is a cute story, but it’s lacking in substance or narrative depth. I suppose I’d have liked it better if I was more of a fan of Steven Universe’s aesthetic.

CONAN THE BARBARIAN #13 (Marvel, 1972) – “Web of the Spider God,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Barry Windsor-Smith. Conan is ambushed from some priests from the spider-haunted city of Yezud, so he travels there to take revenge. In Yezud, Conan battles a giant spider deity, rescues a kidnapped woman, and escapes as the city collapses. This story seems similar to L. Sprague de Camp’s novel Conan and the Spider God, though Marvel later published a separate adaptation of that novel. This is one of Thomas and BWS’s less memorable Conan issues, and perhaps its best moment is when Conan knocks on the city gate of Yezud and annuonces “I am Conan – and your high priest is a slimy jackal I’ve come to slay.”

MOTHER PANIC #5 (DC, 2017) – “Broken Things Part 2,” [W] Jody Houser, [A] Shawn Crystal. Another boring issue. I don’t understand what’s going on in this storyline, and even if I did understand, I wouldn’t care. I don’t get what the point of this series was.

BLACK WIDOW #12 (Marvel, 2017) – as above. Natasha manages to stop the facility from blowing up, and she convinces the six girl assassins to reject Recluse and “come in from the cold.” This was an exciting and touching conclusion to the series, although Mark Waid’s Black Widow was generally inferior to Kelly Thompson’s Black Widow, except in the area of artwork.

TRANSFORMERS: LOST LIGHT #2 (IDW, 2017) – “Dissolution Part 2: Anomie”, [W] James Roberts, [A] Jack Lawrence. The Transformers learn that the alternate Cybertron is ruled by totalitarians who believe that a robot’s alt mode is its destiny. But there’s also a rebel group, the Anti-Vocationist League. The Functionalist Council’s ideology is contradicted by the fact that there’s one transformer with no alt mode, the “Useless One”, but the Council announces their plan to reveal “what the Useless One is for.” The Useless One is none other than Rung. There’s also a subplot about Anode and Lug.

LEGIONNAIRES #72 (DC, 1999) – “Enemies of Science!”, [W] Tom McCraw & Roger Stern, [A] Jeffrey Moy. The Legion fights four villains based on the four elements. By this point in its run the “Archie Legion” had lost any sense of excitement or purpose, and it was about to be replaced by the DnA Legion. This issue has no significant character development, and the four new villains are boring. Still, this era of the Legion was very important to me, and reading this issue made me feel nostalgic.  

2000 AD #2280 (Rebellion, 2022) – Another Regened issue. Cadet Dredd: “Red Medicine,” [W] James Peaty, [A] Luke Horsman. A young Dredd convicts a senior Judge of illegally distributing medicine, even though the senior Judge was doing it for altruistic reasons. Lowborn High: untitled, [W] David Barnett, [A] Anna Morozova. Wychdusk High, obviously based on Hogwarts, is Britain’s school for the children of elite wizard families. This story does not take place there, but in Lowborn High, the school for lower-class wizards, which looks like a typical British urban state school (or “public school” in American terms). The walls are crumbling, the kids are all delinquents, etc. Our protagonist, Frost, flunks out of Wychdusk and is sent to Lowborn High, where he has to fit into his new environment. This story is a hilarious reversal of the Harry Potter concept, and it was promising enough that it reappeared in the next Regened issue (see below). Future Shocks: “Smart Home,” [W] Honor Vincent, [A] V.V. Glass. I’m glad to see this brilliant artist again. In this story, a boy creates a sentient Roomba, but then abandons it. Later, he comes back and puts the Roomba in a giant dog-shaped body. The Unteachables: untitled, [W] Karl Stock, [A] Xulia Vicente. In a burnt-out post-apocalyptic city, a teacher tries to teach some teenagers who have been abandoned by all their other teachers. Chopper: “What Goes Up,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Nick Roche. A young Chopper helps Dredd apprehend some rich people who are kidnapping teenagers and using them as pieces in a game.

IRONJAW #2 (Atlas/Seaboard, 1975) – “Ironjaw the King!”, [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Pablo Marcos. Ironjaw discovers that he’s the son of a king. He defeats the usurper who overthrew his father, thus becoming king himself. But in a funny sequence, he discovers that life as a king doesn’t suit him because he hates making public appearances and doesn’t like being given everything, including women, for free. He rides off to return to his immigrant lifestyle. Ironjaw is a lot like Conan, but this scene couldn’t have happened with Conan, who always did want to be a king, and who turned out to be pretty good at that job.

WONDER WOMAN #226 (DC, 2006) – “Cover Date,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Cliff Richards. A series of vignettes depicting the evolution of Superman and Wonder Woman’s relationship over time. Each vignette is preceded by a scandalous tabloid magazine cover about Clark and Diana. At the end of the issue, Clark, Diana and all the magazine covers disappear into a vortex, representing the impending Infinite Crisis. This was the last issue of this Wonder Woman volume and of Greg Rucka’s first run, and it’s a nice send-off.

GRASS KINGS #6 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. I don’t understand this issue, and it doesn’t help that the main characters all look very similar. This is my least favorite Kindt/Jenkins series.

TRANSFORMERS: LOST LIGHT #3 (IDW, 2017) – “Dissolution Part 3: A World Misplaced,” [W] James Roberts, [A] Jack Lawrence. In the alternate universe, Rodimus’s team meets the alternate version of Anode, and the Functionalist Council transforms Rung into a giant mining drill. On Necroworld, the other Transformers fight a villain named Killmaster.

2000 AD #2281 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “An Honest Man 01,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Tom Foster. This is a sequel to “A Penitent Man,” which introduced Kyle Asher, a former Judge who returned from exile on Krypton. Because I never got the prog pack with #2230 to #2233, I never found out how that story ended. At this point, Asher is a judge again, and he uncovers an apparent mob assassination. Brink: as in #2279 above. The HabSec people interrogate the journalist with no result. Hope: as above. Hop interviews a bunch of suspects. Dexter: “Bulletopia Chapter 9: The Thing in the Thing Part 1,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Tazio Bettin. Dexter and his crew find themselves in a bleak, grim Puritan village, where something secret is being kept in a barn. Fiends of the Eastern Front: as above. Constanta has a vision where he’s talking with a many-headed serpent, then he wakes up and is interrogated by Major Green and Grigory Rasputin. This character is another point of similarity between Fiends of the Eastern Front and Hellboy.

TONY STARK: IRON MAN #16 (Marvel, 2019) – “The Ultron Agenda Part One: Man & Machine,” [W] Dan Slott & Jim Zub, [A] Valerio Schiti. The new Ultron, a hybrid of Ultron and Hank Pym, kidnaps Jocasta, who is a hybrid of herself and Janet Van Dyne. Tony and Aaron Stack try to defeat Ultron and rescue Jocasta. This issue is somewhat hard to follow, but it’s entertaining and well-drawn.

Next trip to Heroes:

WYND: THE THRONE IN THE SKY #1 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. This is one of my most anticipated comics of the year. In a flashback, we learn who Oakley’s father is. Then Wynd and his team rest at an inn and learn about the current dangerous political situation. In the Faerie capital, the Duke is arrested. Some faeries invade the inn and try to arrest Wynd and his party too, but the faerie princess gets them out of it. However, they now have to travel through vampire country to get to Northport.

Also, I just realized that because of the coffee-spill incident from last year, I lost my review of the following comic: WYND #10

ONCE & FUTURE #29 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Kings Are Dead” part ???, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. Remember that the last issue ended with the Green Knight cutting Rose’s head off. As I started this issue, I thought, well, that looked bad, but within Arthurian legend, there are several ways Rose could have survived that, including the scabbard of Excalibur. And then I turned to page six and discovered that Rose was wearing the scabbard of Excalibur! Then there’s another brilliant twist, as we learn that Rose, like Arthur, is adopted, and she pulls the sword from the stone and becomes the new king. However, Duncan and Gran still have to pull off their plot to rain Lethe water over Britain, and Beowulf’s dragon is standing in their way. I can’t wait to see how this series ends.

TWIG #5 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Kyle Strahm. Twig discovers that the Horned Beast’s “heart” is metaphorical, not real, and he’s able to complete the ritual and reenergize his stone. Then we learn that Twig’s job is not to use the stone to place the world. Rather, his job is to put the stone where it will be found by an adventurer, and that person will use the stone to defeat the Great Evil. This series was extremely fun, and I hope it does return, as promised on the last page.

SHE-HULK #6 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Luca Maresca. Nightcrawler puts Jen on retainer as Krakoa’s legal liaison, and then Jen and Jack finally sleep together. I’ve never liked Jack of Hearts much, but Rowell makes him and Jen into a cute couple. This issue’s cover, with Jen and Kurt taking tea, is beautiful.

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #20 (Image, 2022) – “The Rabbit Hole,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Martin Simmonds. Hawk and Martin Barker tell Matty about Cole’s secrets, including Cole’s murder of the two reporters. There’s also a capsule summary of the series’ plot, and a flashback explaining how Cole and Matty met. By the end of this issue, I was no longer convinced that Cole or the Department of Truth were on the right side. I started to think that Black Hat were the good guys. It’s appropriate that this comic is making me question my assumptions about its own plot, since the comic’s theme is the variable nature of truth.

RADIANT BLACK #17 (Image, 2022) – “Return,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Joe Clark, [A] Marcelo Costa. In order to defeat the “Secret Six” team of villains, Marshall and Nathan have to share the Radiant Black powers. So now they’re both Radiant Black, kind of like how there are two different Hawkeyes at once. Marshall and Nathan defeat the villains, but in revenge, one of the villains releases the plans for their technology on the Internet. The cliffhanger is that Wendell, the middle-aged Radiant Yellow, is surprised Marshall is alive, because he expected him to die.

WE ONLY FIND THEM WHEN THEY’RE DEAD #13 (Boom!, 2022) –  “We Don’t Do It for Nothing,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Simone Di Meo. Honorhim Bristow kills Dane and subjects Thierry-8 to torture and interrogation, but Bristow’s daughter kills him and frees Thierry. Bristow is a terrifying villain because he knows he’s a complete hypocrite, and he doesn’t care. His religious beliefs are faked, yet he cynically uses these beliefs to gain power. It’s a cathartic moment when he dies, though his daughter may be even worse.

PUBLIC DOMAIN #3 (Image, 2022) – “Past Mistakes,” [W/A] Chip Zdarsky. We realize that Miles is in debt to the mob. Some gangsters beat him up, then Singular Comics tries to strongarm him into accepting a lowball settlement. Syd decides to meet with Singular himself, and he agrees to settle for only enough money to cover Miles’s gambling debts – plus the right to publish Domain comics! This is a brilliant moment because to Syd, this is a perfect outcome, but the reader knows what a terrible deal Syd is getting. Like, if you’re reading this comic at all, then you can be assumed to know how little money there is in comic book publishing.

FARMHAND #20 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Rob Guillory. Jed gives Ezekiel a letter with a handprint, and Ezekiel uses the handprint to access Jed’s memories of his mother’s death. This moment reminds me of the scene in Chew where Tony eats his sister’s finger. Anna tells Ezekiel to do the one thing he’s never done – forgive his father – and this somehow breaks Monica’s hold on him, but then Monica kills Ezekiel. I don’t quite understand what happened here. The last story arc is coming early next year.

I HATE THIS PLACE #4 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Artyom Topilin. Gabrielle and Trudy find the money, but Adrian/Frank Renda pursues them and murders Dante Howitzer, before being carried off by a giant centipede. The issue ends with an enigmatic scene where a person in boots picks up a floating orb.

X-MEN AND MOON GIRL #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Have You Seen This Dinosaur?”, [W] Mohale Mashigo, [A] David Cutler & Marika Cresta. Lunella, Wolverine and Havok, in adorable animal disguises, travel to Counter-Earth to rescue Devil from the High Evolutionary. The Evolutionar.They manage to defeat him and escape through a Krakoan gate, but Lunella’s parents are shocked to find her hanging out with a dinosaur. Overall this series of one-shots was extremely fun. It had the same exuberance and weirdness as the first Moon Girl series, and was less awkwardly written. My only criticism is that the High Evolutionary is not supposed to be a typical supervillain. He doesn’t intend to be evil. Rather, he’s a cosmic entity who is beyond conventional notions of mortality, and he sometimes causes collateral damage because of that.

NEW CHAMPION OF SHAZAM #2 (DC, 2022) – “What’s in a Name?”, [W] Josie Campbell, [A] Evan “Doc” Shaner. Mary’s foster parents have been kidnapped, so she has to leave Vassar and attend community college while trying to solve their disappearance. At her new college, Mary fights an alligator monster and discovers that there’s been a wave of disappearances. Also, she has a charismatic but creepy professor, who I suspect is a member of the Sivana family. I liked this issue a lot better than issue 1. This time around I was less annoyed with the dialogue, and I suspect I was just in a bad mood when I read #1.

BATMAN #127 (DC, 2022) – “Failsafe Part Three,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jorge Jimenez. Batman becomes the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh, who created Failsafe in the first place. Failsafe is Batman’s contingency plan in case all the other superheroes turned evil, and the “Batman of Zur-En-Arrh” personality is Bruce’s backup plan in case Bruce himself went bad. Most of the issue consists of fight scenes. Jorge Jimenez has turned into a spectacular artist. His earlier work in Super Sons was very cute, but in this storyline he’s drawing in the vein of Jim Lee, and he’s doing that very well. In the Catwoman backup story, Selina discovers that the Penguin isn’t really dead.

ANT-MAN #2 (Marvel, 2022) – “Impostor Syndrome,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Tom Reilly. In a flashback to the Secret Invasion storyline, Eric O’Grady, “the worst Ant-Man ever,” tries to loot Scott Lang’s grave for Pym particles. Hank Pym’s Skrull duplicate catches him doing it, but while they’re fighting, Eric is abducted by the future Ant-Man. It’s too bad that this issue doesn’t have the “MRVL narrative experience” captions from last issue, but otherwise this is another fun issue, even though I’m not very familiar with Eric O’Grady.

NEW MASTERS #6 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Shobo Coker, [A] Shof Coker. Ola defeats Ojumah’s plans by releasing the archival information to everyone, and the series ends by suggesting that the future belongs to Ola’s generation. As I’ve stated before, this was the best of the recent Africanfuturist comics. Its plot, characterization and worldbuilding are all well done, and it uses Yoruba and Edo/Benin culture as an essential element in its story.

SANDMAN UNIVERSE: NIGHTMARE COUNTRY #5 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Lisandro Estherren. Daniel and the Corinthian intervene and restore Madison to life. Agony and Ecstasy are sent back to Desire’s domain. A new character, the angel Moroni, appears and tells William about his plan to conquer America through dreams. It’s brave of Tynion to use a central figure in Mormonism as a villain. Moroni’s plan – to give people “a dream of the country that must be” – reminds me of the central premise of Department of Truth.

BUNNY MASK: THE HOLLOW INSIDE #4 (Aftershock, 2022) – “The Ancient Hollow,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Andrea Mutti. Tyler and Bee finally get it on, and this somehow allows Bunny Mask to destroy the Hollow. This issue doesn’t resolve much of anything – in particular, I don’t think it explains Bee’s lack of memories – and I hope there will be a third Bunny Mask miniseries soon.

SURVIVAL STREET #2 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Asmus & Jim Festante, [A] Abylay Kussainov. A flashback sequence shows how Herbert, the Grover character, emigrated to America when his people were massacred by American mining companies. In the present, Herbert assassinates the head of the WRA, i.e. the NRA. Survival Street is a clever parody of Sesame Street, and on top of that, it’s a better piece of satire than Justice Warriors. Both the mining company’s crimes and the WRA’s agenda of giving guns to babies, seem like things that could plausibly happen.

THE WARD #4 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Andres Ponce. The city is plagued by an epidemic of screaming. Luis discovers that the epidemic was caused by a group of anti-supernatural bigots, and figures out how to cure it. Nat, after a tense confrontation with her mother, goes on TV and reveals the existence of St. Lilith’s to the public. This was an excellent miniseries, and it was one of the most plausible depictions of the medical profession that I’ve seen in comics. I will plan on reading more of Cavan Scott’s work.

ROBIN #17 (DC, 2022) – “Lazarus Magic,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Roger Cruz. Damian and his friends defeat Lord Death Man, and then they have a fun day at the beach. This was a really cute and entertaining series, and I’m sorry it’s been cancelled. The new Robin series stars Tim Drake, and I don’t plan on reading it.

NEW MUTANTS #29 (Marvel, 2022) – “Boys Day Out,” [W] Danny Lore, [A] Guillermo Sanna. I put this series on my pull list because Charlie Jane Anders will be writing it, but I should have specified that I wanted to start with issue 31. This issue, Daken and Warpath go looking for Gabby. There are some cute moments in this issue, but I could have done without it.

POISON IVY #4 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Marcio Takara. Ivy gets a job at an Amazon warehouse where her boss, George, is a tyrant and a sexual harasser. When you see this character, you can understand why Ivy wants to exterminate the human race. Ivy gives George his comeuppance and then sleeps with a female coworker. I’m not a big Poison Ivy fan, so this series has been far better than I expected.

MIND MGMT BOOTLEG #3 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] David Rubín. Meru and the Eraser have a psychic fight, and the Zanzibar kids continue their training. Given the amount of time since the previous MIND MGMT series, this issue’s story is hard to understand, and its most notable feature is David Rubín’s art, which is gorgeous as usual.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #132 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Pablo Tunica. The Turtles train with Oroku Saki, and then they have a vision of Splinter’s ghost. This two-parter was even worse than the story that preceded it. Issues 131 and 132 were just an extended training montage, and they removed the Turtles from their supporting characters, who were the best thing about the series. Luckily it looks like in the next storyline, the Turtles will be back in Mutant Town.

THE DEAD LUCKY #2 (Image, 2022) – “This is Trauma,” [W] Melissa Flores, [A] French Carlomagno. Bibi fights Morrow’s troops and experiments with her robot, and then she’s contacted by one of the cops who’s been following her. I think this series is doing too many things at once. It has at least two major themes – the corportate takeover of San Francisco, and Bibi’s wartime trauma – and it seems like the writer cares more about the latter theme, but the former theme tends to dominate the narrative. My favorite scene in this issue is the scene where the tourists try to order sushi and pho at a Chinese-Mexican restaurant.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #41 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Christopher Allen. Miles beats Selim with the aid of Uncle Aaron, for whom Miles has been searching since this storyline began. Miles wins the fight, but the alternate version of Ganke gets killed, and Billie becomes a new superheroine, Spider-Smasher. Then Miles, Aaron and Shift finally return to their home reality. This storyline was just average, and it’s just as well that this series is ending, because Saladin seems to have been running out of ideas.

GOLDEN RAGE #2 (Image, 2022) – “Birds”, [W] Chrissy Williams, [A] Lauren Knight. The protagonists meet the Dead Women, who bury the island’s dead. Then the protagonists confront the evil Red Hats. Again, I like the idea of this comic; it reminds me of Bitch Planet, with the added element that the women are segregated based on their age and/or infertility. However, Golden Age’s characters seem one-dimensional, and its plot is slow-paced.

SINS OF THE BLACK FLAMINGO #3 (Image, 2022) – “Missionary Man,” [W] Andrew Wheeler, [A] Travis Moore. Harlow sleeps with the angel, then he breaks back into his own apartment to retrieve an item that could break the angel’s possession. While he’s there, he gets captured by the same racist creeps who kidnapped the golem. This series is extremely powerful and well-executed, and it’s a major step forward from Wheeler’s previous work, Another Castle.

THE LONESOME HUNTERS #3 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Tyler Crook. Lupe and Howard kidnap one of the magpies, and it leads thm to the magpie queen, who’s even creepier than her flock. She demands Howard’s sword and watch as a price for leaving her alone. I like this series a lot. It’s a creepy horror comic, and the two protagonists have a cute grandfather-granddaughter relationship, despite their differences of race and age.

BLINK #2 (Oni, 2022) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Hayden Sherman. While Wren and Joel explore the building, they’re pursued by scary dark monsters, and Joel is killed. Wren is rescued by the building’s other inhabitants, who refer to themselves as “the static,” while they call the monsters the Signal. Hayden Sherman’s artwork, both here and in Dark Spaces: Wildfire, is very impressive, especially in terms of page layout. There’s one page in this issue where the panels form a question mark shape, reflecting Wren’s puzzlement about her origins.

DEFENDERS BEYOND #2 (Marvel, 2022) – “Yesod: The Second Cosmos,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Javier Rodriguez. The Defenders learn the origin of the Beyonders, but then the Beyonders try to kill them. They have to escape into the White Hot Room, the space beyond even the Beyond, where Taaia becomes Phoenix. This issue is full of spectacular art. Rodriguez’s depictions of the mazelike interior of the Beyonders’ lair are especially impressive. This issue includes a guide explaining which of the archetypes from the Fourth Cosmos, in Defenders #4, were based on which familiar Marvel characters.

IRON FIST #5 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Alyssa Wong, [A] Michael YG. Lin Lie summons his power and defeats Lin Feng, but Lin Feng tricks Lin Lie into opening the door of K’un L’un for him. The cover misleadingly implies that Loki plays a major role in this issue, but he only appears briefly at the end. This issue’s story is continued in A.X.E. Iron Fist #1, which I did not order, because I assumed it was just another dumb crossover tie-in – and maybe it was.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: SYMBOL OF TRUTH #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “Homeland Part 4”, [W] Tochi Onyebuchi, [A] R.B. Silva & Zé Carlos. Cap fights Crossbones in Wakanda, and then Black Panther himself shows up and is not happy about Cap’s incursion into his country. Falcon rescues some kidnap victims, including his own cousin. This issue is entertaining, though it lacks the sophisticated social commentary of issue 1.

MY LITTLE PONY #4 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mary Kenney, [A] Trish Forstner. Pipp gets obsessed with posting stuff on social media. This series is reasonably well-written, but I haven’t been watching the current MLP series, so I have no idea who any of these characters are, and I don’t really care either. I need to take this series off my pull list and just order any individual issues that look interesting, such as the upcoming issue that’s drawn by Andy Price.

SHANG-CHI AND THE TEN RINGS #2 (Marvel, 2022) – “Old Friends,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Marcus To. Shang-Chi and his old lover Leiko Wu go on a mission to rescue Leiko’s other boyfriend, Clive Reston, from Carlton Velcro. But the mission is a sham, because while Shang-Chi is busy, Black Jack Tarr breaks into his home and steals the Ten Rings. This is Yang’s first Shang-Chi story that draws upon the character’s past continuity. Until this issue, Yang’s version of Shang-Chi was effectively a complete reboot. And that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, because the old series was rooted in racism and stereotypes, as much as I enjoyed it. But with “Old Friends,” Yang finally reintroduces Shang-Chi’s classic supporting cast, and he does so in a very clever way.

IMMORTAL X-MEN #6 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Devil’s Party,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Lucas Werneck. This issue is another A.X.E. crossover, but it also focuses on Sebastian Shaw. In a series of flashbacks, we learn that Sebastian hated his rich but abusive father, and that out of spite, Sebastian became deliberately, flamboyantly evil. He summarizes his philosophy as “When my time comes to burn, I will do so with a smile on my face! With a cognac in my hand and a fat roll in my pocket!” Immortal X-Men is easily the best of the X-Men titles I’m currently reading.

GRIM #4 (Boom!, 2022) – “All on Black,” [W] Stephanie Phillips, [A] Flaviano. Jessica and her friends escape The End and arrive in Las Vegas, where Jessica saves a drunk college girl from being hit by a bus, only to discover that the girl is the original Grim Reaper. The girl directs Jessica and friends to the (nonexistent) thirteenth floor of a hotel. There they meet Death himself, in the form of an old man. This series has been a bit underwhelming, but it got more interesting with the next issue; see below.

WEST OF SUNDOWN #5 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Aaron Campbell, [A] Jim Terry. This issue resolves all the series’ dangling plotlines, and it ends with an appearance by Dr. Moreau. West of Sundown had a rather confusing plot, but a fascinating cast of characters, and it’s one of Tim Seeley’s better works – I was going to say his best work since Revival, but I forgot about Money Shot.

THE VARIANTS #3 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Gail Simone, [A] Phil Noto. The various versions of Jessica hang out together, but someone hands Jessica (the protagonist) a note saying DON’T TRUST THEM. There’s a cute moment where Danielle plays Pokemon cards with Misty and Colleen.

HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER #8 (Boom!, 2022) – “Scarlet Part Three,” [W] Sam Johns, [A] Letizia Cadonici. This is the worst Slaughterverse comic yet. The entire issue is a pointless, rambling conversation between Edwin and his paintbrush, and the plot doesn’t advance at all. I don’t know what this writer thinks he’s doing. I’m glad that the next story arc will be written by Tate Brombal again.

AMAZING FANTASY #1000 (Marvel, 2022) – [E] Nick Lowe. A collection of eight stories for Spider-Man’s 60th anniversary. The stories include the following: “Sinister 60th,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Jim Cheung. An elderly Spider-Man suffers life-threatening injuries, and he’s visited in the hospital by all the people he’s saved. This one was touching. “The Kid’s Got a Good Eye,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Olivier Coipel. Peter Parker tries to take some cute photos of ordinary New Yorkers, but the only photo JJJ will accept is a photo of Spider-Man dropping his ice cream cone.  Insubstantial but cute. “Slaves of the Witch-Queen!”, [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Terry Dodson. A sequel to Amazing Fantasy #15 – but to one of the long-forgotten backup stories, not the one that introduced Spider-Man. Kurt has used this idea before, specifically in the backup story in Untold Tales of Spider-Man Annual ’96, he tells Pat Olliffe that he wants to adapt another one of Amazing Fantasy #15’s backup stories. It’s a funny idea though. “With Great Power…”, [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Steve McNiven. As a kid, Neil Gaiman reads British reprints of Spider-Man comics, and then he meets Spider-Man himself. This is a cute piece of metafiction, though it’s a lot like Gaiman’s earlier “One Life, Furnished in Early Moorcock.”

DOGS OF LONDON #4 (Aftershock, 2022) – “Man Bites Dog,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Artecida. In a flashback, we learn more about the mysterious poison experiments. One of the revenants, a self-hating gay man, commits a murder at a gay bar. Sir Frank hunts down the doctor who performed the original experiments, and Frank’s wife Flora is forced to kill the doctor. The revenants kidnap Frank’s son and threaten to cut his toes off. I almost hope they do, since the son is a Tory MP.

DETECTIVE COMICS #27 facsimile (DC, 1939/2022) – “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate,” [W] Bill Finger, [A] Bob Kane. A facsimile edition of one of the most important comic books ever published in America: Batman’s first appearance. “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate” is a rather crude story, but it conveys a powerful sense of mystery. This story lacks many of the familiar elements of the Batman mythos, but it does include one very familiar trope: a scene  where someone is talking to Batman, and then turns around to discover that he’s vanished. Of the many other stories in this issue, most are pretty bad, and a few are blatantly racist. In particular, Sven Elvén’s “Cosmo, the Phantom of Disguise” is perhaps the most offensive portrayals of Chinese people that I’ve ever seen in comics, and it openly advocates for Chinese exclusion. Besides Batman’s debut, the second best thing in the issue is the Speed Saunders story, which has some slick, appealing art by Fred Guardineer.   

DC’S SAVED BY THE BELLE REVE #1 (DC, 2022) – [E] Andrew Marino et al. A collection of eight school-themed stories. The highlight of this issue for me is Cloonan, Fletcher and Kerschl’s “Sophomore Year,” a revival of Gotham Academy, which was probably my favorite DC Universe comic of the 2010s. Seeing Maps Mizoguchi again makes me very nostalgic. Another highlight is Peter Tomasi and Max Raynor’s Super Sons story “Back to School,” in which Jon and Damian protect a nonbinary student from bullying. Dave Wielgosz and Mike Norton’s Green Arrow/Speedy story is a depressing indictment of Ollie’s awful parenting. The other stories in the issue are less interesting.

SPIDER-GWEN: GWENVERSE #5 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Jodi Nishijima. The Gwen-Vengers defat the villains and save the universe. This series was fun, but, much like West of Sundown, it suffered from a confusing plot and an excessively large cast.

HIGHBALL #1 (Ahoy, 2022) – “The Brotherhood,” [W] Stuart Moore, [A] Fred Harper. An alcoholic space pilot has to go to war against an alien race on behalf of the Mentok, a different alien race who have more or less enslaved humanity. This is not bad, although I couldn’t remember much about it until I looked through it again. The best part about this comic is not the alcoholism jokes, but the Mentoks’ constant micromanagement and nickel-and-diming of their human clients.

MINOR THREATS #1 (Dark Horse, 2022) – “A Quick End to a Long Beginning,” [W] Patton Oswalt & Jordan Blum, [A] Scott Hepburn. A former supervillain, Playtime, works at a bar for other supervillains because she can’t find a better job. But then her orderly life is thrown into chaos when a villain named Stickman murders a superhero. Finally she decides she and her fellow villains will kill Stickman themselves. This comic has quite effective writing. I especially like Playtime’s agony over having lost custody of her daughter because of her crimes. But superhero parodies have become as much of a tired genre as superheroes themselves. Scott Hepburn also drew Drax #2, which I read the other day.

TALES OF THE HUMAN TARGET #1 (DC, 2022) – “Oh Here He Is,” [W] Tom King, [A] Greg Smallwood et al. A single story with three different plot threads, each drawn by a different artist (Rafael Albuquerque, Kevin Maguire and Mikel Janin) and narrated by a different JLA member (Guy Gardner, Booster Gold and Fire, in that order). In each story, the shock ending is that a character gets killed, but then we discover that the “dead” person was really the Human Target. The Fire story is the best because it’s serious. The other two stories are annoying to read, because they’re narrated by two annoying characters.

HAWK THE SLAYER #3 (Rebellion, 2022) – “Watch for Me in the Night,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Henry Flint. After some fight scenes, Hawk and his party encounter Voltan and a group of evil wizards. Henry Flint’s artwork in this series is striking, but I probably would have skipped this series if I’d known it was based on a film I hadn’t seen.

ASTRONAUT DOWN #3 (Aftershock, 2022) – “Unfit,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Rem Broo. Douglas learns the information he came to the other reality for, but he decides to abandon his mission and stay in the other reality, since his home reality is pretty awful and it’s already fucked. Honestly I can sympathize with this decision, but the other Douglas’s wife, Maddie, refuses to accept it, and Douglas is forced to use his emergency eject feature. He wakes up in another reality where Maddie is still alive. This is a powerful issue, although this series is less fun than Campisi or Kaiju Score, and also has a premise that’s harder to understand.

A CALCULATED MAN #3 (Aftershock, 2022) – “The Numbers Man,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Alberto Albuquerque. Jack Beans continues assassinating his old enemies in clever ways. The funny part is that he tells his crush, Vera, everything he’s doing, yet she doesn’t believe him. Other than that, this series has been disappointing. I already complained that it’s not about math. Also, it’s difficult to accept that Jack can do any of the stuff he does. In Flash (1987) #125, Major Disaster engineers a series of disasters the same way that Jack does – by predicting events that are about to happen and then screwing with them. However, Major Disaster has actual supernatural powers, while Jack is supposed to just be good at math. This is hard to believe, because not even the greatest mental calculator could do anything that Jack can. Two of the background characters in this issue are named after notable cartoonists: Helen Hokinson and Jackie Ormes.  

THE BLUE FLAME #9 (Vault, 2022) – “When I Sleep, I Remember,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Adam Gorham. Dee and Mateo finally get married, but Sam loses his job again, and his assault trial isn’t going well. Also he reveals that the man who killed his fellow superheroes had been previously been rejected from his team (a common plot pattern in Legion of Super-Heroes stories, by the way). In his other trial, Sam calls the Blue Flame as a witness. This is an excellent series, though I wish it was less chronically late.  

G.I.L.T. #5 (Ahoy, 2022) – untitled, [W] Alisa Kwitney, [A] Mauricet. A bunch more confusing stuff happens, and then Trista takes over Hildy’s apartment. This series has an interesting feminist voice, as well as an interesting cast of elderly and middle-aged female characters. However, it lacked a unifying theme, and its plot was incomprehensible.

SWAMP THING #16 (DC, 2022) – “Armageddon Part 2,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. Trinity succeeds in pacifying the Parliament of Gears, and Swampy defeats the villain, Harper Pilgrim. This is a satisfying conclusion to the run, although I did think that Swamp Thing, like much of Ram V’s work, felt emotionally cold. He seems to ask readers to observe his characters from an external position, rather than to identify and sympathize with them.

WONDER GIRL 2022 ANNUAL #1 (DC, 2022) – “Legends and Aggressions,” [W] Joelle Jones, [A] Adriana Melo & Sweeney Boo et al. I almost wrote Sweeney Todd there. In this annual, Yara Flor and her fellow Esquecida fight a mythological crocodile monster. This comic is exciting and funny, and I like its use of different art styles and its invocation of Brazilian indigenous culture. However, after reading this issue, I couldn’t remember much about it.

LOVE & ROCKETS #12 (Fantagraphics, 2022) – “More Mind Spurs” etc., [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez & Jaime Hernandez. My favorite story in this issue is Jaime’s “Wedding Wallabaloo.” At Vivian’s wedding, Ray feels uncomfortable listening to his brothers gossip about the bride, and then he and Hopey have probably their longest conversation ever. Then Ray and Maggie decide it’s finally time to get married. I kind of assumed they were married already, but this is a touching moment. Gilbert’s contribution to this issue is another story about Fritz’s movies. I’ve found it difficult to appreciate Gilbert’s recent work, ever since his focus shifted from Luba’s family to Fritz’s family.

ANTIOCH #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Patrick Kindlon, [A] Marco Ferrari. This is a sequel to Frontiersman, and it’s annoying that it wasn’t published under that title. This issue focuses on Antioch, the Frontiersman universe’s version of Namor or Aquaman, but it also has a subplot about Frontiersman’s time in prison. In his editorial column, Kindlon says that “we need a return to title character energy,” but I don’t know what that means. This column also reveals that the Gehenna story arc in Image! is set in the Frontiersman universe.

IMAGE! 30TH ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY #5 (Image, 2022) – [E] Eric Stephenson. Yet again, most of the stories in this issue are too short to be interesting, and it’s impossible to remember each series’s plot. The clear highlight of this issue is Jeff Lemire’s preview of the second volume of Royal City. Richie Pike’s ghost narrates this story and promises to explain how he died. Zoe Thorogood’s “I Think I Might Be Evil” is an apparent tribute to Junji Ito, who I really ought to read. Geoff Johns and Andrea Mutti’s “The Blizzard” is also entertaining, because its plot is simple enough to be easy to follow. Conversely, Brenden Fletcher and Erica Henderson’s story should be the best one, but I have no idea what it’s supposed to be about. The story by Joe Casey and Nathan Fox appears to be about an older, retired version of Cable. This story isn’t actually all that bad, but I’m prejudiced against it because I already hate Joe Casey’s writing.  

HAWK THE SLAYER #4 (Rebellion, 2022) – “The Call of My Race,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Henry Flint. Hawk and his team fight the Black Wizards, and Hawk’s ally Gort is killed. I’m not sorry that there’s just one more issue.

Older comics:

RINGSIDE #13 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Nick Barber. This comic’s prose style is annoying, its art is crude, and each issue takes five minutes or less to read. I believe this is the last issue I hadn’t read, and I’m relieved. The backup feature, a preview of Steve Skroce’s Maestro, is far better than the main story, because at least Skroce’s art is visually interesting.

STAR TREK #3 (DC, 1983) – “Errand of War,” [W] Mike W. Barr, [A] Tom Sutton. The Enterprise has to go to Organa, from the TOS episode Errand of Mercy (hence the title), to stop a Federation-Klingon war. This issue at least feels like Star Trek, though Mike W. Barr is a boring writer, and Tom Sutton’s talents would have been better used on a more horror-focused comic. This issue presents the Klingons as one-dimensional villains. This depiction of Klingons was pretty standard until Worf was introduced. This issue includes a couple points that contradict later Star Trek continuity: Kirk tells Scotty to travel at warp 12, and the Klingons have an emperor, named Kahless IV. A different Klingon emperor appears in my favorite Star Trek comics story, “The Trial of James T. Kirk.” It’s now canon that there was no Klingon emperor in the TOS era, but this wasn’t established until the TNG episode “Rightful Heir.”

ECLIPSE MONTHLY #10 (Eclipse, 1984) – [E] Dean Mullaney & cat yronwode. Easily the highlight of this issue is Doug Wildey’s Rio chapter, in which Rio escapes on foot from four mounted outlaws, then turns the tables on them. This issue starts with a story by Wayne Truman in which a pilot and his daughter stop a skyjacking. Wayne Truman was mostly a letterer and designer, and this may be his only full story as a penciler. The last of this issue’s three stories is a Masked Man chapter by B.C. Boyer. Eclipse Monthly ended with this issue, and Masked Man was spun off into its own series.

2000 AD #2282 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “An Honest Man 02,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Tom Foster. Kyle Asher encounters the daughter of the man he killed, and Dredd searches the dead bodies of the people who were assassinated last issue, but Kyle has already removed a “crypto-key” from one of them. Hope: “In the Shadows Reel One Part 6,” [W] Guy Adams, [A] Jimmy Broxton. While continuing to investigate, Hope dies of an apparent heart attack. Brink: “Mercury Retrograde Part 12,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] INJ Culbard. Another chapter in which hardly anything happens. Dexter: “The Thing in the Thing Part 2,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Tazio Bettin. Billi Octavo discovers a weird monster in the locked barn. Fiends of the Eastern Front: “1963 Part 9,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Tiernen Trevallion. If I understand correctly, Constanta discovers that Rasputin is actually the Biblical Cain.

BATMAN #670 (DC, 2007) – “Lazarus Rising,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Tony Daniel. Ra’s al Ghul comes back to life, but wants to use Damian for his own purposes, and Talia has to try to protect him. Batman and I Ching go looking for Ra’s, and Batman battles Dragon Fly, Tiger Moth and Silken Spider, the three other villains from Poison Ivy’s first appearance. It’s cute that Grant Morrison reintroduced these characters. I only knew of them from reading the facsimile edition of Batman #181.

TRANSFORMERS: LOST LIGHT #4 (IDW, 2017) – “Dissolution Part 4: Bad Moon Rising,” [W] James Roberts, [A] Jack Lawrence. On Functionalist Cybertron, Rodimus and Megatron’s team succeeds in rescuing Rung. There are subplots about Cyclonus and about Anode and Lug. Since I have nothing specific to say about this issue, I’ll take this space to mention something that annoys me. The whole plot of MTMTE and Lost Light is that the Lost Light crew are searching for Cyberutopia and the Knights of Cybertron. Yet not only do they never find the Knights of Cybertron, they never make any kind of progress toward them. The Knights story arc finally did get resolved, but only after I had quit buying Lost Light.

MARVEL SUPER-HEROES #14 (Marvel, 1968) – “The Reprehensible Riddle of… the Sorcerer!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Ross Andru. Spider-Man fights a sorcerer and his pet robot. According to the GCD, this story was intended to appear in Amazing Spider-Man, because John Romita suffered a wrist injury that left him unable to draw the next issue of ASM. But Romita recovered sooner than expected and was able to draw that issue, and so the Sorcerer story appeared in Marvel Super-Heroes instead. This story is kind of a hidden gem, since it’s a forgotten story from one of Spider-Man’s greatest eras. However, because it was a fill-in story, it lacks any meaningful continuity, and the Sorcerer is a boring one-shot villain. The story does include a brief scene with MJ, Harry and Gwen, but no other significant plot or character development. The rest of the issue consists of Golden Age reprints. One of them is a ‘50s Human Torch story in which the Torch and Toro examine a strange mystery: all the people who have recently died in their city have been elderly. If it’s mostly old people and not young people who are dying, isn’t that a good thing?

MIND MGMT #6 (Dark Horse, 2012) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. In the conclusion to the first storyline, Meru decides to continue her quest to discover and defeat MIND MGMT. This issue was written so that it could be a satisfying end to the series, in case the series it didn’t get renewed, but instead it sets up the following storyline. I’ve read this issue before, but only in collected form. I was surprised to realize that the back covers of MIND MGMT #1-6 form a mosaic that includes a hidden URL. I’m not sure what the URL is, or whether it works anymore. These back covers are one of MIND MGMT’s many paratextual features that only appeared in the single issues.

ACTION COMICS #514 (DC, 1980) – “Countdown of the Killer Computer!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Curt Swan. Brainiac messes with computers all over America, and then with the devices in Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. Superman defeats Brainiac by reprogramming him to be good instead of evil. This story is rather boring, but the Air-Wave/Atom backup story is even more so.

BLACKHAWK #271 (DC, 1984) – “The Silent Treatment,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Dan Spiegle. The Blackhawks have a new member, Gaynor, who’s a chronic asshole. After he murders three unarmed German spies, the Blackhawks give him the silent treatment (hence the title), and he leaves the team and is later killed mysteriously. The story implies that Gaynor is a spy, but never confirms or denies this. In the backup story, drawn by Joe Staton, the Blackhawks defend a French town valiantly but are forced to evacuate it in the end. I want to like Evanier and Spiegle’s Blackhawk, but I’ve never enjoyed it as much as their other work. Maybe the reason why not is because it has a fairly humorous and lighthearted tone, and such a tone seems unsuitable in a comic about the worst war in history.

SHANGHAI RED #4 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Joshua Hixson. I bought this whole miniseries but never finished reading it, perhaps because of its brutal violence. This issue Molly rediscovers her sister Katie, continues taking revenge on the people who shanghaied her, and organizes a resistance effort against Portland’s police and “crimps,” i.e. criminals who kidnap people and sell them as sailors. Wikipedia says that crimping was a serious problem in America at the turn of the twentieth century, because under American law it was illegal for sailors to leave a ship before their tour of duty was over, even if they were on the ship involuntarily. These laws were finally reformed between 1895 and 1915.

THE PHANTOM STRANGER #34 (DC, 1975) – “A Death in the Family!”, [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Gerry Talaoc. After his father’s alleged death, Charlie Varda is forced to take over his father’s mob, even though Charlie hates organized crime – and on top of that, his father turns up alive. Charlie has to sacrifice his own life to end his family’s crimes, and the Phantom Stranger doesn’t do much to help him. This is a rather grim story. This issue includes a Doctor Thirteen backup story by Skeates and DeZuniga. Here, as in Azzarello and Chiang’s Doctor Thirteen, Terry Thirteen is portrayed as a boring humorless skeptic.

THOR #320 (Marvel, 1982) – “Blake’s Menagerie,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Keith Pollard. An ancient Viking chalice changes five people into creatures from ancient Norse mythology, and they cause all sorts of havoc. Not only is this a boring and badly written story, it also makes no attempt to portray Norse mythology accurately. The five creatures bear no resemblance to any actual Norse mythological characters. The issue begins with an ”Old Norse poem” that must have been written by Moench himself, because it’s complete nonsense and sounds nothing like real Norse poetry; it includes lines like “Let us enter the infinite darkness / and partake of violence divine.” I think Moench may have been the worst Thor writer ever. This issue is a stark contrast to Walt Simonson’s subsequent run. One reason for the greatness of Simonson’s Thor was that he really did try to capture the spirit and tone of the original Old Norse texts.

JLA #38 (DC, 1999) – “World War Three Part 3,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Howard Porter. Since this is part three of six, it mostly depicts the JLA fighting Mageddon’s minions and getting the worst of it. The most prominent quality of Morrison’s JLA was its grandiose epic scope, and this issue is very epic. Howard Porter wasn’t my favorite artist, but he succeeded at depicting the majesty of Grant’s storylines.

MIND MGMT #2 (Dark Horse, 2012) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. I’ve read this one before too, but not in this format. This issue, Meru and Bill flee from the Eraser, and Meru meets Perrier for the first time. Perrier leaves Meru the clue “talk to the dolphins.”  The back cover includes another hidden message.

2000 AD #2283 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Kyle encounters a hotheaded young judge, then reveals himself to Zoola, the victim’s daughter. We also learn that Kyle’s stolen crypto-key includes information on the Justice Department’s anti-mob operations. Brink: as above. Another boring chapter. This is already part 13, and still nothing truly exciting has happened yet. Hope: as above. Hope finds himself in hell, and the color red is added to the series’ black-and-white palette. This series has the best art in this issue. Dexter: as above. The Puritans capture Dexter and Billi, but they’re freed by their other companions. Fiends of the Eastern Front: as above. Cain tells Constanta what he’s been doing since Biblical times, then he turns into a dragon, or rather a winged alligator, and flies off with Constanta.

TRANSFORMERS: LOST LIGHT #5 (IDW, 2017) – “Dissolution Part 5: Modes of Production,” [W] James Roberts, [A] Jack Lawrence. The fight with the Functionalist Council continues, but the only way the stranded Transformers can win is by destroying the teleporter that can take them back to Necroworld. There are only a few scenes with the characters who are still on Necroworld.

M.O.D.O.K. ASSASSIN #2 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Christopher Yost, [A] Amilcar Pinna. In a Secret Wars tie-in, MODOK falls in love with Angela, who’s trying to assassinate him. I tend to avoid MODOK stories because they try too hard to be funny. The character is ridiculous enough on his own, but some writers try to make him even more ridiculous, and this results in tasteless excess. But MODOK Assassin has the opposite problem: it’s barely funny at all, and instead it’s just boring. I shouldn’t have ordered this comic.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: RENEW YOUR VOWS #4 (Marvel, 2015) – “Daddy Has to Go Away for a While,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Adam Kubert. In a Secret Wars crossover, Spidey and MJ have an eight-year-old daughter, Annie. While Spider-Man fights a villain named Regent who can steal other superheroes’ powers, MJ tries to keep Annie safe. This effort proves futile, as Annie has the same self-sacrificing heroic streak as her dad. She puts on a costume, and she and MJ prepare to help Peter. This is a cute and entertaining issue. This miniseries counts as issues 752-756 of Amazing Spider-Man’s legacy numbering, perhaps because it was published between the end of the 2014 volume of ASM and the beginning of the 2015 volume.

BATMAN #447 (DC, 1990) – “Earth Day! Demon Night!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Jim Aparo. In Moscow, Batman fights the NKVDemon, a Communist hardliner who’s trying to assassinate the people responsible for the new glasnost policy, including Gorbachev himself. This issue isn’t all that exciting, but it’s interesting for being a contemporary portrayal of the final days of the USSR. I read this comic shortly after Gorbachev died. He was one of the only benevolent leaders Russia has ever had.

X-FACTOR #84 (Marvel, 1992) – “Tough Love,” [W] Peter David, [A] Jae Lee. In an X-Cutioner’s Agenda crossover, X-Factor fights X-Force while Professor X lies dying from an assassination attempt. The X-Cutioner’s Song was a pretty bad crossover, and this is not one of PAD’s better issues of X-Factor. The best moment in this issue is when Rahne is reunited with her old crush Rictor, and she kisses him and then bites him.

2000 AD #465 (IPC, 1986) – Halo Jones: “Breakfast in the Ruins,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Ian Gibson. Halo Jones and her new lover, General Cannibal, share a breakfast of pears in bitter vinegar sauce, which sounds horrible, but it’s the best meal of Halo’s life. This chapter’s title is the name of a Michael Moorcock novel. Strontium Dog: “Max Bubba,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny Alpha and Wulf have been tied to stakes by Max Bubba’s gang. Wulf tries to escape but is shot and killed, and then Johnny himself dies. As we will soon see, Johnny came back to life in the next issue, but Wulf stayed dead for good. In Reading Comics, Douglas Wolk summarizes this story inaccurately, implying that Johnny also stayed dead and that this was the last chapter of Strontium Dog. You can see how this mistake was made, since this chapter ends with “The End” and there’s no indication that the storyline will continue next issue. Ace Trucking Co: “The Doppelgarp,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. Ace and his team smuggle some alcoholic eggs onto a planet of chickens. Like most installments of Ace Trucking Co, this story is ruined by Ace’s annoying style of dialogue. Dredd: “Gribligs Part 2,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Barry Kitson. Mega-City One is invaded by Gribligs, which are like tribbles, but carnivorous. The spaceship captain who brings them to Earth is even named James Kirk. Dredd tries to exterminate the Gribligs, but they escape into a sewer. Future Shocks: “Suds’ Law!”, [W] Oleh Stepaniuk, [A] Kim Raymond. A starship captain tries to capture an alien so it can appear on a soap opera. The twist ending is that the captain’s quest is itself part of a soap opera. I’m not sure I summarized that correctly.

TRANSFORMERS: LOST LIGHT #6 (IDW, 2017) – “Dissolution Part 6: This Machine Kills Fascists,” [W] James Roberts, [A] Jack Lawrence. Rung turns to giant size and fights the moon. The Transformers escape the Functionist universe, but Megatron stays behind to lead the anti-Functionist resistance. Now can we get back to the main plot? James Roberts’s witty dialogue is the main reason to read this series, but a problem with his dialogue style is that all his characters have the same speech pattern, and this makes it hard to tell them apart.

REAL SCIENCE ADVENTURES #6 (IDW, 2017) – “Raid on Marauder Island Part 6,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Lo Baker. The Flying She-Devils finally defeat the pirates. This miniseries was fun, but the lack of Atomic Robo was a severe drawback. This issue also includes the last  chapter of the Sparrow backup story. This story is drawn by Wook-Jin Clark, and it feels weird to see him drawing something other than Flavor. I wish there would be a second volume of Flavor.

FATALE #11 (Image, 2013) – “The Case of Alfred Ravenscroft,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Josephine tracks down Alfred Ravenscroft, a sort of blend of REH and Lovecraft. He tells Josephine about a demonic ritual in Mexico, and then shows her his mother’s ghost. At the end of the issue he hangs himself. Meanwhile, a cop is looking for Josephine, but he gives up and tries to kill himself, only to be saved by other people who are also hunting Josephine. I don’t understand how this issue fits into Fatale’s plot, but it’s interesting in its own right.

SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #19 (Marvel, 2013) – “Necessary Evil Part 3: Event Horizon,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Ryan Stegman. This is one of the more confusing issues of the series, thanks to its time travel plot. In the main plot, Spider-Man 2099 tries to prevent his own timeline from coming into being, but he fails, if I understand correctly, and gets stranded in the past. Afterward, Liz Allan founds Alchemax, the company that’s the primary antagonist in 2099. The “Al” part comes from Allan, and I would expect that the Max part is Max Modell, but I’m not sure. In the subplot, Carlie Cooper and Wraith find evidence that Spider-Man is really Dr. Octopus. Superior Spider-Man is included in the legacy numbering of Amazing Spider-Man, and it clearly should be, unlike Renew Your Vows.

LITTLE LULU #60 (Dell, 1953) – “Rich Little Poor Boy” etc., [W] John Stanley, [A] Irving Tripp. These comics are tough to write about because they’re so formulaic, and because each issue has too many stories to summarize them all. In the first story, Lulu becomes obsessed with an actor named Gregory Gallant, which coincidentally is the real name of the cartoonist Seth. There are a couple stories where Lulu outwits the boys, and one where Wilbur’s mother’s pearls get mixed up with a dog’s bone. As usual there’s also an Ol’ Witch Hazel story, and in the last story, Tubby kidnaps his teacher’s parrot.

WONDER WOMAN #219 (DC, 1975) – “World of Enslaved Women!”, [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Curt Swan. A lot of prominent feminist women have vanished mysteriously. Diana discovers that they’ve all been going to the same “beauty parlor for liberated women,” which is in fact a portal to a world ruled by male chauvinists. The leader of this planet is named Mchsm, almost the same name as Makhizmo, a contemporaneous Fantastic Four villain who was also a super-male-chauvinist. And his plans are ultimately foiled by two women from his own world named Frdn and Stnm, i.e. Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem. These are not the only references to second-wave feminism in this issue; the abducted Earth women include characters based on Billie Jean King and Golda Meir. Overall, this story is kind of clumsy, but at least it makes an effort to engage with feminism.

CEREBUS #138 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1990) – “Jaka’s Story Epilogue 2,” [W/A] Dave Sim. In the second part of the like-a-looks story, the real Lord Julius is finally identified, and he’s not happy about what’s been going on in his absence. Then there’s a sequence where some kitchen staff gossip about Jaka. This may well be the last issue of Cerebus that was genuinely fun. The backup feature is a series of short vignettes by Colin Upton.

SHANGHAI RED #2 (Image, 2018) – “The Queen of the Wolves,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Joshua Hixson. I think I skipped this issue when it came out, and then bought it later as a back issue. In this issue Molly learns that her mother died in her absence. Then, while on her quest for revenge, she finds her sister Katie working in a brothel.

MIND MGMT #16 (Dark Horse, 2013) – “The Housewife,” [W/A] Matt Kindt. This issue focuses on Megan, a housewife in a ‘50s-style suburb, who is in fact a MIND MGMT sleeper agent. She gradually recovers her memory of her real identity, then contacts Meru. This issue mentions the science fiction writer Philip K. Verve (i.e. Philip K. Dick), who later appears in Kindt and Wilfredo Torres’s Bang!

TRANSFORMERS: LOST LIGHT #7 (IDW, 2017) – “After Megatron (A Dissolution Epilogue)”, [W] James Roberts, [A] Jack Lawrence. The various characters react to Megatron’s death in various ways. There are some interesting scenes here, but none of them made much of an impact on me, because I can never tell this series’ characters apart.  

SHUTTER #27 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Leila Del Duca. In my opinion, this series jumped the shark after half the cast was murdered. I kept buying it until it ended, but the last issue I read was #26. It’s been so long since I read that issue that I have no idea what’s going on in #27, and the only thing I like about #27 is Leila Del Duca’s art.

MODOK ASSASSIN #3 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Christopher Yost, [A] Amilcar Pinna. Another issue of pointless, unfunny fight scenes. I’m ashamed that I ordered this comic.

DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS #16 (DC, 2016) – “War Stories,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Mirka Andolfo & Laura Braga. For a long time I thought I hated this comic, and Marguerite Bennett’s work in general, but now I think I was judging her too harshly. This comic does have some impressive worldbuilding and costume design, and it’s also well researched. My principal complaints about it are that there are too many characters and plotlines, and that, perhaps as a result of this, the plot never seems to go anywhere, and each issue feels interchangeable with the rest. In this issue, the first half focuses on Kate Kane, and includes a flashback to Jason Todd’s death in the Spanish Civil War. The second half of the issue depicts Mera’s origin and her battle with an usurper to Atlantis’s throne.

TRANSFORMERS: LOST LIGHT #8 (IDW, 2017) – “An Axe to Break the Ice,” [W] James Roberts, [A] Jack Lawrence. On the planet of Troia Major, Anode, Lug and some other Transformers discover some clues to Cyberutopia’s location. It’s good that the Lost Light crew are finally making progress on their primary mission, but why did it take them 63 issues to get this far? It’s also odd that this series is called Lost Light, yet the Lost Light itself hasn’t appeared so far. All the characters in this series have been exiled from the Lost Light and have so far been unable to get back there.

MIND MGMT #17 (Dark Horse, 2013) – “The Home Wrecker,” [W/A] Matt Kindt. All the characters converge on Megan’s suburban neighborhood as it erupts into violence. Megan joins Eraser’s team, and Meru and Bill join Harry Lyme. This issue includes an impressive four-page splash depicting the chaos in Megan’s town. According to this, the back covers of issues #13 to #17 include parts of a URL, which used to go to a page that explained how this splash page was created. However, that URL no longer works.

MODOK ASSASSIN #4 (Marvel, 2015) – as above. Another pointless waste of an issue. The only good thing about it is it’s the last issue of this miniseries that I had. Somehow they managed to drag out this nonsense for a fifth issue, but I didn’t buy that one.

BATMAN #27 (DC, 2014) – “Zero Year: Dark City,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Greg Capullo. Early in Batman’s career, the GCPD almost captures him, and he only escapes thanks to not-yet-Commissioner Gordon. In a flashback, Gordon tells Batman about his discovery that the police were operating a dogfighting ring. Then Batman discovers the Riddler’s doomsday plot. This story is heavily based on Batman: Year One, and it’s sort of redundant, since Batman: Year One already shows us that the Gotham police used to be hopelessly corrupt. But Snyder and Capullo’s storytelling is powerful anyway.

MICHAEL MOORCOCK’S MULTIVERSE #3 (DC, 1998) – “Moonbeams and Roses Part Three: Being and Nothingness,” [W] Michael Moorcock, [A] Walt Simonson. The lead story in this issue is evocative and beautifully drawn, though it’s very hard to understand. It assumes knowledge of Moorcock’s Second Aether trilogy. I have the first book in that trilogy, Blood: A Southern Fantasy, and I was going to read it soon, but I decided that my next Moorcock book should be Mother London, since I’ve owned it for many years already. The next story is The Metatemporal Detective, illustrated by Mark Reeve. It depicts the suicide of Hitler’s niece Geli Raubal. The last story is Duke Elric, with art by John Ridgway. Given my interest in Moorcock, I ought to look for the rest of this series. Someone really ought to do some scholarly work on Michael Moorcock’s influence on comics. In fact, that’s a project I’d like to do if I had more time and energy.

2000 AD #466 (IPC, 1986) – Halo Jones: “Tarantula Descending,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Ian Gibson. Halo Jones realizes that her new lover, General Cannibal, destroyed an entire planet, perhaps using the Rat King that Halo herself saved in an earlier story arc. Halo is forced to asssassinate Cannibal in revenge. Sadly this was the last chapter of Halo Jones. Alan went on to far greater things, but Halo Jones was one of the crown jewels of 2000 AD’s history, and it’s a pity that it ended inconclusively. Future Shocks: “Biological Warfare,” [W] Oleh Stepaniuk, [A] John Stokes. An advertising designer accidentally causes an alien invasion. The aliens in this story are called Vegans, but since the text in the story is in all caps, it’s hard not to misread “Vegans” as “vegans.” Ace Trucking Co: “The Doppelgarp,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. Again this story is frustrating to read because of Ace’s stupid dialogue style, though Belardinelli’s art is beautiful. Dredd: “The Big Sleep Part 1,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Cam Kennedy. In an obvious film noir parody, private detective Flip Marlowe is ambushed and shot, and has to solve his own murder before he dies. Marlowe looks a lot like Kyle Asher, but the thing over Marlowe’s nose is a mask and not part of his face. Strontium Dog: “Smiley’s World,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny Alpha is rescued and nursed back to health. Readers at the time must have been surprised that this issue included a Strontium Dog story at all, since as noted above, the previous chapter gave the impression that Johnny Alpha was dead and the series was over.

DC COMICS BOMBSHELLS #21 (DC, 2017) – “Big Cats,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Mirka Andolfo et al. In Africa, Batgirl and some other superheroines battle Cheetah and Paula von Gunther. Unlike most issues of this series, this one has only a single plotline. I can’t see any connection between this issue’s story and that of issue 16. If I didn’t know which of the two issues happened first, I wouldn’t be able to guess. And I think that proves my earlier point, that this series has a rambling plot, and that it’s hard to tell one issue from another.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #596 (Gladstone, 1995) – “The Terror of Duckburg,” [W/A] William Van Horn. Donald makes a New Year’s resolution to avoid getting angry. While trying to keep this resolution, he causes lots of mayhem and gets fined $100. This story is funny, though Van Horn’s duck stories are rarely anything more than funny; they don’t reach the heights of profundity of Barks and Rosa’s work. The backup feature is a chapter of “The Monarch of Medioka,” Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse version of The Prisoner of Zenda. This is an excellent comedic adventure story, and I’d love to read the rest of it.

SHUTTER #5 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Leila Del Duca. My copy of this issue is signed by both Keatinge and Del Duca. I must have gotten them to sign it at NYCC. This issue, Kate meets her little brother Chris, and then she kidnaps him from his creepy caretakers or captors. But then Kate has to explain to Chris that she’s responsible for their father’s death. I don’t know if they ever explained how Chris could be Kate’s brother if he was born several years after their father died.

SUPERMAN #107 (DC, 1995) – “Bottled Up!”, [W] Dan Jurgens, [A] Ron Frenz. In a tribute or sequel to Reign of the Supermen, Steel, Eradicator, Superboy and Supergirl battle the Cyborg Superman, while Superman tries to cure his dying alien friend Mope. I think Jurgens is just an average writer and artist overall, but he was an excellent Superman creator. I have a pretty big Superman collection, but there are massive gaps in it from the 1990s onward, and I would like to fill some of those gaps.

KAMANDI #20 (DC, 1974) – “The Electric Chair!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Kamandi and his gorilla companion Ugash are trapped in a simulated version of gangster-era Chicago. Kamandi is hoping to find some other humans there, but he is saddened to discover that “Chicago” is an amusement park operated by computers, and all the people there are robots. I just visited Chicago, not for the first time, but I wish I could spend even more time there. It seems like every time I go there, I only see the same small part of it.

DAREDEVIL #151 (Marvel, 1977) – “Crisis!”, [W] Jim Shooter & Roger McKenzie, [W/A] Gil Kane. Upon learning that her father has committed suicide, Heather Glenn screams at Matt, then vanishes without a trace. Matt is so depressed that he fails to notice a child being hit by a hijacked bus. Luckily Matt saves the bus passengers, and the child lives. Heather Glenn was one of the worst supporting characters in Marvel’s history, but at least her behavior in this issue is realistic. Gil Kane’s action sequences and his depiction of Matt’s emotions are both excellent, though Klaus Janson’s inks are not a good stylistic match for Kane’s pencils.

SKYWARD #11 (Image, 2019) – “Fix the World Part 1,” [W] Joe Henderson, [A] Lee Garbett. Willa flies through Kansas City trying to decipher a map her father left her, which supposedly points to a way to fix gravity. When she reaches the indicated spot, she finds that Roger Barrow has been following her, but he can’t stop her from pushing a red button. The button opens a door to an underground city, where Willa meets her long-lost mother. I already read the issue after this one.

Next Heroes trip:

MANIFEST DESTINY #47 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. York kills Jensen to prevent him from stealing the baby, but Sacagawea insists on performing the sacrifice anyway. Magdalene is shot in a scuffle and dies, saying “This place will always be of monsters.” I thought this was the last issue, but there’s one more.

NIGHTWING #96 (DC, 2022) – “The Battle for Blüdhaven’s Heart Finale,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo. Dick beats up Blockbuster – including whacking him with a copy of Moby Dick – and his own minions refuse to help him, since Babs has told them that he owns the private prison where they were locked up. In an Easter egg, Dick’s creators Marv Wolfman and George Perez are in the crowd watching this happen. Dick sort-of proposes to Babs. The trouble is that Blockbuster still knows Dick’s secret identity, but Heartless takes care of that problem by murdering Blockbuster. This is a very unsurprising twist – it was obvious that Blockbuster had to die – but that’s a minor objection when this series is so good overall.

DO A POWERBOMB #4 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Daniel Warren Johnson. Lona and Cobrasun win their semifinal match against a team from a medieval fantasy world. One of the two members of Puropack reveals himself as Lona’s Uncle Blood, but then he gets his neck broken in his semifinal match against FYSO. Despite this, FYSO are allowed to proceed to the final rather than being disqualified. Do a Powerbomb is one of the best miniseries of the year, though it has a lot of competition for that title (Twig, Eight Billion Genies, Step by Bloody Step, New Masters, etc.).

DARK SPACES: WILDFIRE #3 (IDW, 2022) – “Flashover”, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Hayden Sherman. “Ma” reveals the story of her young daughter’s tragic death. The house catches on fire, but luckily the protagonists know how to put out fires. However, they realize that the fire was set on purpose, and then some masked gunmen invade the house and shoot Ma. This is another candidate for the year’s best miniseries, and I think it’s my favorite work by Scott Snyder.

RADIANT BLACK #18 (Image, 2022) – “Yellow,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Laurence Holmes, [A] Stefano Simeone. This issue has four simultaneous narrrative srtands, each occupying a separate horizontal tier of each page, and each depicting a different point in the life of Wendell, aka Radiant Yellow. The four strands are set eighteen years apart, on the day of his daughter’s birth and on her 18th, 36th and 54th birthdays. Together, the stories depict the gradual collapse of Wendell’s family and career. Wendell is hired as a manager at a plant, but due to institutional racism he ends up with a lesser position. He devotes his life and energy to his job, at the expense of his relationship with his wife and daughter, and gets nothing in return. By the time of the third story he’s working at Best Buy. The fourth story is even grimmer: it takes place in 2038, in a post-apocalyptic world, where Wendell and (possibly) his granddaughter are trying to reverse whatever happened to the world. It’s not clear whether he succeeds. This issue is perhaps the closest thing I’ve seen to Alan Moore and Rick Veitch’s classic “How Things Work Out.” Of course “Yellow” is not as brilliantly crafted as that story, but that’s an impossible standard to meet.

JONNA AND THE UNPOSSIBLE MONSTERS #11 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Chris Samnee, [W] Laura Samnee. Jonna discovers that she’s the biological child of a world-conquering alien monster – a creature that greatly resembles Starro. So now Jonna and Rainbow have to save their dad from this creature. I think there’s just one issue left.

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #15 (DC, 2022) – “Siege of Gamorra,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Cian Tormey. Jon wins a stunning victory against Bendix, then he and Jay kiss in front of the international news media. Luthor blows up Bendix’s satellite. This is an entertaining and uplifting story. This series is ending with #18, but I’m not sure whether this is an actual sales-based cancellation or a planned ending. Jon’s tenure as Superman was obviously not going to last long.

USAGI YOJIMBO #31 (IDW, 2022) – “The Secret of the Green Dragon Part 3,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi, Yukichi and Chizu flee the Komori ninja, but are finally caught. To save some innocent bystanders (the two woodcutters), Usagi destroys the document, which Chizu has revealed to be a forgery. Chizu kisses Yukichi, prompting an adorable embarrassed reaction from him, and then leaves. In the epilogue, Chizu gets back the real document, which she had already given to someone else. Then we see Jei and Keiko again. This was an excellent story arc.

BONE ORCHARD: TEN THOUSAND BLACK FEATHERS #1 (Image, 2022) – “They Meet,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. In a flashback, two preteen girls named Trish and Jackie become best friends. In the present, Jackie has apparently died or something. Trish returns to Jackie’s home in Hamilton, Ontario, where she has some terrifying visions. Andrea Sorrentino may be Lemire’s best artistic collaborator. In this issue he shows his stylistic versatility. The flashback sequences are drawn with crisp linework and bright colors, while the present-day scenes are drawn in the style of Gideon Falls. These latter scenes have dull coloring, a lack of distinct lines, and nonstandard page layouts.  

EDGE OF SPIDER-VERSE #4 (Marvel, 2022) – [E] Nick Lowe & Devin Lewis. I didn’t order this, but I bought it off the shelf. This was mostly because of David Hein and Luciano Vecchio’s “Once Upon a Spider: The Spinstress Princess,” starring a Disney princess version of Spider-Man. This story is just as ridiculous and funny as you’d expect. Much of the dialogue consists of songs, and while the song lyrics don’t always scan properly, it’s still cute to see Marvel characters randomly breaking into song. The story is also full of Disney easter eggs; for instance, the Disney princess character’s mom is the evil queen from Snow White. The best of the other stories in the issue is Dan Slott and Ty Templeton’s “Drive You Crazy,” which is set in a world of talking cars, with the Spider-Mobile as the local version of Spider-Man. There’s also a Spider-Ham story by Jordan Blum and Michael Shelfer, and a Sun-Spider story by Tee Franklin and Jethro Morales.

PUBLIC DOMAIN #4 (Image, 2022) – “Past Mistakes,” [W/A] Chip Zdarsky. The gangsters harass Miles again, but Dave scares them away with a tattoo gun. Everyone at Singular is happy with Syd’s settlement except Jerry Jasper, who’s afraid that Syd will produce better Domain comics than Singular can. Jasper also fires Tanya, who discovered the existence of Syd’s contract, and she arrives at Syd’s door looking for work. In a touching scene, we see that Syd wants to produce Domain comics again because he’s ashamed of what Singular has done to his character. Jerry Jasper is based on Stan Lee, but Jasper is a bitter, angry old asshole, with none of Stan’s whimsy or charm.

VANISH #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Ryan Stegman. Our protagonist, Oliver Harrison (note the last name), is a grown-up version of Harry Potter. As a kid, he won a war between wizard factions by shooting the head evil wizard, Baron Vanish (i.e. Voldemort), with a gun. But the other evil wizards escaped to the mundane world and disguised themselves as superheroes, and Oliver is forced to become a supervillain in order to fight them. Vanish is a clever blend of the superhero genre with the magical-school genre, and it also reminds me of Birthright, because it’s about what happens when a boy who was the “Chosen One” grows up to be an adult.

CRASHING #1 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matthew Klein, [A] Morgan Beem. Rose is an ER doctor in a hospital for superheroes – which is not a new idea; I think the first version of it that I can remember was in John Varley’s Superheroes prose anthology. Rose is very good at her job, but she’s also a recovering drug addict, and when the pressure of her job becomes too much, she relapses. Then we learn that thanks to her earlier drug addiction, she’s in debt to the underworld and is forced to work as a doctor for supervillains. Crashing is somewhat reminiscent of Shadow Doctor or The Ward, but it’s more focused on the incredible pressure of being a doctor. So far this is among the best of IDW’s recent creator-owned titles.

LOVE EVERLASTING #2 (Image, 2022) – “The Hunt for Love!”, [W] Tom King, [A] Elsa Charretier. This issue is set in Regency or Victorian England. In her latest incarnation, Joan is a housemaid who develops a hopeless love for the son of her wealthy employer. In the end, Joan is shot dead by a cowboy from one of last issue’s stories. This series is funny, but I still have no idea where it’s going, and I’m afraid it’s heading for some sort of disappointing anticlimax, like so many of Tom King’s earlier works.

DAREDEVIL #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Red Fist Saga Part 3,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Rafael De Latorre. Matt recruits Cole North, who was introduced in the previous volume, into his new Fist clan, but fails to recruit Luke Cage. Then Luke is attacked by the Stromwyns, while Matt fights Aka, a Hand ninja who looks like a child. This issue has a number of plot threads and it’s hard to see how they fit together.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #41 (Marvel, 2022) – “Trials Part Four,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Juan Frigeri & Alvaro Lopez. Back in New York, Carol and her friends fight a dragon, only to discover that it’s Lieutenant Trouble, shapeshifted into dragon form by the Enchantress. By not killing the dragon, Carol wins her trial by the magical jury. I liked this storyline a lot. I believe Alvaro Lopez did the pages depicting the alien planet and the trial, and he was by far the better of the two artists on these issues, but the contrast between Frigeri and Lopez’s styles was also effective. This issue has no funny Snat or Snatmen scenes, but there are some cute drawings of Agatha Harkness’s cat.

BATGIRLS #10 (DC, 2022) – “Bat Girl Summer Part 2,” [W] Michael Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Neil Googe. I was right that I was a book cipher, and I was right about which book! I’m proud of myself. Also in this issue, Cass and Steph fight Killer Moth, Kyle Mizoguchi from Gotham Academy makes a cameo appearance, and Babs has a romantic interlude with Dick. I still am a dedicated Dick/Kory shipper, but Dick and Babs’s relationship, in this series and in Nightwing, has very cute.  

BLINK #3 (Oni, 2022). – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Hayden Sherman. This issue starts with a chase sequence that contains some of Sherman’s most radical page layouts yet. The pages shift from normal to sideways orientation and then back again. Afterward we finally learn Wren’s origin. Many years ago, a lot of people were kidnapped and imprisoned in the abandoned building, and they split into two factions, the Static and the Signal. Wren was born inside the building to two of these captives, and she was the only person who ever escaped from there. As the issue ends, Wren is taken to visit the person who was responsible  for the building and the kidnappings to begin with.

ORCS: THE CURSE #3 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Christine Larsen. An elf named Daniel leaves his isolationist people to go looking for the evil fart. He runs into Pez, and they team up. Then there’s a Drod story, and we start to realize that the events of the Drod story parallel those of the main story, and that the old witch Zamma used to be Drod’s companion. It’s surprising how the Drod stories, which seemed to just be comic relief, suddenly become relevant. At the end of the issue, Daniel and Pez battle a Rapunzel-like imprisoned maiden who turns into a horrible monster, and they have to teleport back to Daniel’s forest for healing.

2000 AD #2284 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “An Honest Man 04,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Tom Foster. Judge Purcell and Dredd both look for Asher, who’s about to trade the crypto-key to the mob. Dredd arrests a man who’s trying to get mugged on purpose. Future Shocks: “Beat Ya Bully,” [W] John Tomlinson, [A] Steven Austin. A man named Manny Litvak makes a clone of his former school bully, Gaz, so he can kill the clone. Thanks to some mix-ups, Litvak kills the real Gaz and is sent to prison, the one place that’s even worse than school. Hope: “In the Shadows Reel One Part 8,” [W] Guy Adams, [A] Jimmy Broxton. Hope comes back to life, and then one of his suspects tries to kill him again. This chapter is mostly black and white, with some red on the last page. Brink: “Mercury Retrograde Part 14,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] I.N.J. Culbard. Nolan spends four pages talking to his wife, even though he’s not really there. I was surprised to find some good reviews of this story online. Maybe it’s better if you read the whole thing in sequence, but to me, it’s an interminable, boring waste of space. Fiends of the Eastern Front: “1963 Part 11,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Tiernen Trevallion. Constanta fights Cain. “1963” has drifted quite far from its roots in espionage genre.

ICE CREAM MAN #32 (Image, 2022) – “Stop Using and Start Living!”, [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martin Morazzo. A man named Doug Metsker spends a month in a drug rehab facility, where he’s pursued by a demon and a shadowy version of himself. This story includes many touches that are characteristic of Prince’s short stories. It stars an ordinary family man who’s made a complete mess of his own life; it’s full of disturbing horror elements that are never explained; and it ends on a provisionally positive note, with Doug graduating from rehab but hoping not to go back there.

2000 AD #2285 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Asher, the mob and Purcell get into a firefight, and Purcell gets himself shot. Terror Tales: “Wunza,” [W] John Tomlinson, [A] E. Coveney & A. Vitti. The title is short for “one’s a,” and refers to a genre of cop shows with mismatched protagonists: for instance, “One’s a cynical career cop… one’s a street-smart detective.” Our protagonist, Blintz Finnegan, is an award-winning showrunner who works in this genre. Blintz’s former partner Pell, who Blintz framed for murder, escapes from prison and kills both himself and Blintz. This story includes a lot of funny premises for cop shows, and it’s 2000 AD’s best one-shot story in recent memory. Hope: as above. Hope goes to a prison and collects a Glory Hand, i.e. the severed hand of a hanged man. Again this story is black and white with some red highlights. Brink: as above. Nolan spends the entire story talking to a source who tells him about some kind of conspiracy. At this point I don’t even understand what the McGuffin of this story is. Fiends of the Eastern Front: as above. In the  concluding chapter, Constanta is debriefed by his boss about his fight with Cain.

ACTION JOURNALISM #1 (Oni, 2022) – “Welcome to New Arcadia!”, [W] Eric Skillman, [A] Miklos Felvideki. Kate Kelly, an “action journalist,” saves Earth from an alien invasion by interviewing the aliens’ kidnapped queen. This is a really fun comic. It’s like Superman if Lois Lane was the main protagonist. There is a Superman character, but he only makes a brief cameo appearance and is not the center of the story, as he usually is in Lois Lane’s solo stories. I also like this comic’s art style and even its handwritten lettering. The trouble is, it’s hard to get excited about new Oni comics when the company seems to be on the verge of collapse.

DAMAGE CONTROL #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Into the Mailstrom,” [W] Adam Goldberg & Hans Rodionoff, [A] Will Robson. A new intern, Gus, gets hired at Damage Control and instantly causes a horrible catastrophe. I was looking forward to this series, but this debut issue was disappointing. The jokes in it are unfunny, and Gus is an annoying and unsympathetic protagonist. Also, it’s hard to accept that Damage Control can summon Nightcrawler and Quicksilver at the drop of a hat. I won’t be buying issue 2.

LEGION OF X #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “A Canticle for Liebenden,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Jan Bazaldua. The title is a reference to the classic SF novel A Canticle for Liebowitz. This issue Kurt and his allies defeat Ora Serrata and the god Tumult, but then Uranos appears, setting up next issue’s A.X.E. crossover. This first story arc was disappointing because of its complicated plot and its lack of a clear theme.

LONESOME HUNTERS #4 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Tyler Crook. Lupe and Howard manage to escape from the magpies with the sword, but now they have to decide what to do with the sword. Howard decides to return the sword to its “proper owner,” which is a problem because his friend, Tina, is secretly an agent of the church that stole that sword from its owner in the first place. This ending suggests the possibility of a sequel, and I hope there is one, because Lonesome Hunters is a very fun series.

THE DEADLIEST BOUQUET #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Erica Schultz, [A] Carla Borelli. In a flashback, it’s implied that Jasmine killed her husband because he was sexually abusing their daughters. The daughters investigate their mother’s murder, while themselves being investigated by the police, and we see more evidence of their conflicting personalities. In particular, Violet gets in a bar fight and spends the night in jail.

SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER 2 #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jody Leheup, [A] Nil Vendrell. After several disastrous attempts at getting a job, Shirtless travels to Hokkaido to learn from Mr. Beeyagi, his former mentor. Mr. Beeyagi tells him to climb Mount Ainu to learn an unpleasant truth about himself. In a subplot, Jaxson Logger, the villain from the last story arc, creates an evil version of Shirtless. This issue invokes some tired old martial arts cliches, but in a funny way.

BRZRKR #10 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Keanu Reeves & Matt Kindt, [A] Ron Garney. Unute travels to the location of his birthplace, and some weird magical stuff happens. This series is just average, and I’m only continuing to read it because I’ve already gotten this far.

WONDER WOMAN #791 (DC, 2022) – “Feral Part One,” [W] Michael W. Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Marguerite Sauvage. An entire issue drawn by Marguerite Sauvage is a rare treat, although this issue isn’t her most exciting work. In “Feral,” Diana travels to the Brazilian Amazon to investigate some disturbing visions experienced by Anahi of the Esquecida. In Brazil, Diana finds some suspicious people who are harvesting toxic flowers, and then she discovers that they’re Veronica Cale’s agents and they’ve kidnapped the Cheetah. This is perhaps the first time a writer besides Greg Rucka has used the character of Veronica Cale. In the backup story, Antiope summons some kind of magical creature.

ACTION COMICS #1 FACSIMILE (DC, 1938/2022) – “The Coming of Superman,” [W] Jerry Siegel, [A] Joe Shuster, etc. This is the single most important comic book ever published, but I’ve never read the whole thing. Superman’s debut story is famous for the “you’re not fighting a woman” panel, but what impressed me about it is Lois Lane. On the second page on which she appears, she slaps a man who’s trying to force her to dance with him. Lois was a revolutionary feminist character from the very start, and DC spent much of the next fifty years trying to domesticate her. The other stories in the issue are very diverse in style and subject matter, and some of them are in black and white. Most of the non-Superman stories are unexciting, though some of them have appealing art by Fred Guardineer and Bernard Baily. At least none of them are blatantly racist. The first Zatara story includes a glaring error where a banana is described as a bullet.

MS. MARVEL & VENOM #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] Dave Wachter. Kamala and Venom team up and fight some boring villain. These three one-shots were extremely disappointing because they’re barely about Kamala at all. They include no appearances by Kamala’s supporting cast, and no references to her religion or ethnicity. The only fact about her character that’s relevant in any of them is that she’s teamed up with Wolverine before. These same exact stories could have been told with any other superhero replacing Kamala, and that’s a sign of a bad superhero story, because it means that the story is not making any use of Kamala’s unique aspects. I liked Jody Houser’s Faith, but all her other work has been disappointing.

QUESTS ASIDE #5 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Brian Schirmer, [A] Elena Gogou. All of Quests Aside’s former customers team up to save the inn from the king’s army. I suppose this series wasn’t completely awful, but I would have liked it a lot more if I’d been more familiar with Dungeons & Dragons-style fantasy. Also, at the point in the issue where the former patrons all show up, I had trouble following the panel-to-panel continuity.

SACRAMENT #2 (AWA, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Marcelo Frusin. Father Vass has no success with the exorcism, so he has to obtain his novice, Rais, as his assistant, even though he has an illicit passion for her. At first I liked Sacrament better than Absolution, but now I’ve flipped my relative rankings of the two series. Sacrament is not bad, but it has a less original plot; it’s more or less a space-opera version of The Exorcist.

TRVE KVLT #2 (IDW, 2022) – “Never a Devil Worshipper Around When You Need One,” [W] Scott Bryan Wilson, [A] Liana Kangas. The cultists kidnap Marty and Alison and order them to kill a man named Doctor Shiver. I’ve never understood the appeal of Liana Kangas’s art, and this issue includes a number of pages with no art at all, just black panels with dialogue. Also, Marty and Alison are both rather annoying characters, and it’s hard to see how this series’ two main themes, fast food and Satanism, are supposed to fit together.

JURASSIC LEAGUE #5 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Daniel Warren Johnson, [W/A] Juan Gedeon. Mostly a lot of fight scenes. This series’ premise – DC superheroes as dinosaurs – is really only funny once, and is not enough to sustain a full six-issue miniseries. All the other issues of this miniseries have felt like rehashes of issue one. Jurassic League would have been more effective as a one-shot or an annual.  

SILVER COIN #14 (Image, 2022) – “The Bad Year,” [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Michael Walsh. In December 2020, a man named Darren murders a number of people while under the influence of the coin. This sequence is intercut with flashbacks, told in reverse order, that tell the story of Darren’s relationship with his girlfriend Lauren over the course of 2020. At this point we’re far enough away from 2020 that it’s become possible to tell stories about it, and in this issue, Pichetshote and Walsh succeed in capturing the mood of anxiety and despair that dominated that awful year.

X-MEN RED #6 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Hour of Magneto,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Stefano Caselli. Magneto has had his heart ripped out, but he manages to keep himself alive so he can defeat Uranos’s minions. This issue is a cross-over tie-in, and is thus destined to be forgotten, but it does include some powerful moments.

ELLE(S) #2 (Ablaze, 2022) – untitled, [W] Kid Toussaint, [A] Aveline Stokart. Elle has a meltdown in school, then she tells her friend Maelys about her various personalities. This is an interesting comic, but as I write this, I haven’t felt motivated to read issue 3 yet. I plan to get to it tomorrow.

DUO #5 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Khoi Pham. Kelly and David fight the immortals, and then at the end of the issue, some red aliens show up out of nowhere. This series has an interesting premise, but Greg Pak has squandered the potential of that premise by adding other irrelevant plot elements like immortals and aliens. I wish this series had just been about Kelly and David’s struggles to occupy the same body.

2000 AD #2286 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Asher escapes with the money he’d have been paid for the crypto-key, but the people who would have done his surgery (I assume to fix his disfigured face) aren’t willing to take his call. Instead, he reveals himself to Zoola and gives her the money, then waits to see if Dredd arrests him. Asher is a fascinating character and I hope we see him again soon. Hope: as above. Hope goes to a party, where he finds some mysterious, flammable film reels. Skip Tracer: “Valhalla,” [W] James Peaty, [A] Paul Marshall. I enjoyed the last Skip Tracer story, and I’m glad it’s back. Some years after the previous story arc, Eden is now a preteen. She’s having trouble controlling her telekinetic abilities, and she and her dad have to keep moving around to avoid pursuit. Terror Tales: “Last Days in Porpoise Place,” [W] John Tomlinson, [A] Stuart Moore. A writer, Luke Skelly, moves into the mysterious Porpoise Place – possibly based on the Chelsea Hotel – in order to write about it. On entering the hotel Skelly sees a dead body being carried out. Then he gets trapped in a a time loop, and finally learns that the dead body was his own. This is another effective one-shot story. Brink: as above. The police arrest Nolan but are unable to get anything out of him. Afterward, Nolan learns that something horrible has happened, but we don’t learn what yet.

NEW MUTANTS #30 (Marvel, 2022) – “Still Classic,” [W] Vita Ayala et al, [A] Alex Lins et al. In honor of the 40th anniversary of the New Mutants graphic novel, this issue consists of four stories set in different eras of the series, each by a different creative team. The best story is probably the first one, which is a cute tribute to the early part of Claremont’s run. The trouble is, the conflict in the story is that Bobby breaks Dani’s belt, then he steals it from her room at night so he can repair it and give it back to her. That’s a creepy thing to do, and if Bobby had just told Dani he was going to pay to repair the belt, then there would have been no story. The Karma story is mostly about her queer identity. This is not a new development; she was established to be gay in the 2003 New Mutants series. The Warlock/Wolfsbane story is frustrating because all of Warlock’s dialogue is in emojis. This makes the story impossible to read, and it’s also out of character. I don’t know why the writer couldn’t have just used Warlock’s established speech pattern. The last story in the issue is about Deadpool, so I had no interest in it at all.

FLAVOR GIRLS #3 (Boom!, 2022) – “First Born,” [W/A] Loïc Locatelli-Kournwsky. We start with a silent story that explains the origin of the dragonfruit girl, and then the heroines fight their last battle with the villains, at least for now. This was an enjoyable magical girl story. The main problem with this series was that all the issues were unusually long, which made them daunting to read.

BATMAN: ONE BAD DAY – TWO-FACE #1 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Javier Fernandez. Two-Face takes out his lifelong frustrations with his father by mutilating half his father’s face, and then killing him. Batman is unable to stop him. This story doesn’t tell us much about Two-Face that we didn’t already know. In particular, it seems quite heavily based on Batman Annual #14, which introduced Two-Face’s dad, although I haven’t read that issue in years and don’t remember it well. At least One Bad Day – Two-Face is an enjoyable Batman story, and it’s certainly much better than One Bad Day – The Riddler.

BATMAN: THE KNIGHT #9 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Carmine Di Giandomenico. Bruce and Anton train with Ra’s al Ghul, and in the end, Ra’s forces them to fight to see which of them will be his heir. This series is still my least favorite of Zdarsky’s current comics, though it’s worth reading. There’s a scene in this issue where Bruce and Ra’s engage in a swordfight with no shirts on. This is an obvious reference to their epic battle in Batman #244.

JUSTICE WARRIORS #4 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Rising Signs!”, [W] Matt Bors, [A] Ben Clarkson. The city is plagued by Zodiac-themed terrorists. Again, this comic is plagued by unfunny humor, poor pacing, and a lack of clarity as to what it’s making fun of. I would give up on this series, but there are only two issues left, and I’m an Ahoy completist. I kind of think the quality of Ahoy’s output has gone down lately.

FEARLESS DAWN #1 (Asylum, 2009/2022) – “The Belly of the Beast,” [W/A] Steve Mannion.  A scantily clad superhero fights some Nazi monsters. This comic’s plot is mostly an excuse to show some T&A. What makes Fearless Dawn worthwhile is that Steve Mannion’s draftsmanship and visual storytelling are brilliant. He’s one of the few current cartoonists whose work is comparable to that of Dave Stevens or Mark Schultz, although his style of rendering is closer to that of Kevin Nowlan or Eric Powell. He’s equally good at drawing sexy women, horrible monsters, and complicated machinery. I also like how the superhero, Old Number Seven, is sometimes drawn in a simpler style than the other characters, as if he were drawn by C.C. Beck or Scott McCloud. When the art is this good, I don’t care about the plot. I’d like to read more Fearless Dawn, but it’s a hard comic to find.

ABSOLUTION #3 (AWA, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Mike Deodato Jr. Nina’s score goes down when she’s forced to kill a dog. She decides to redeem herself by killing Blake Gerard, the evil rapist oligarch. He gets the drop on her, but she escapes with the help of her doctor, Ann, and kills him. This is a cathartic moment because he’s an utterly loathsome person, and it’s suggested that his death brings closure to his many victims. As stated above, I like this series better than Sacrament now.

2000 AD #2287 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “Grinder,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Dick Dyer. An incorporeal alien entity travels to Earth, hoping to acquire a bodily form with which to devour and dominate Earth’s inhabitants. The first thing he possesses is a garbage can, and this leads to the hilarious spectacle of Dredd fighting a giant animate trash can. Dredd wins that fight, but the alien escapes and moves on to a new “body” – a port-a-potty. This story is very clever and funny. Hope: as above. Hope discovers that the burning film is meant to exert magical influence on his viewers, and he uses the Hand of Glory to escape a trap. Skip Tracer: as above. Nolan and Eden are hunted down by a woman with pointed ears and a girl with anime eyes. Terror Tales: “Music of the Spheres,” [W] Kek-W, [A] Warren Pleece. A musician discovers a type of music that causes Lovecraftian effects. This wasn’t nearly as good as the last two Terror Tales. Brink: as above. The shocking event that wasn’t revealed last issue is that Mercury has gone completely incommunicado. This overshadows Nolan’s discovery that a cult has ben murdering people, or something like that.

I was only able to read a few old comics this week:

TRANSFORMERS: LOST LIGHT #10 (IDW, 2017) – “The Mutineers Trilogy Part 1,” [W] James Roberts, [A] Jack Lawrence. First Aid and his team finally make it back to the Lost Light, only to find that Getaway is ruling the ship with a (literal and figurative) iron fist, and that he’s trapped Thunderclash in a repeating loop of memories. First Aid and the others manage to escape, only to be dragged back to the ship, and we realize they’re in a time loop too. A neat trick in this issue is that the first four pages are repeated as the last four pages, only the second time we read these pages, we understand them differently because we’ve seen them before. And ironically, both versions of the scene end with the line “We’ll return to this conversation later.” This was the last issue of Lost Light that I ordered. By the next month, I must have decided it was stupid to keep buying it when I was already more than a year behind on reading it.

DETECTIVE COMICS #650 (DC, 1992) – “The Dragon,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Graham Nolan. This issue starts with a beautiful Frazetta-esque splash page showing a knight about to fight a dragon. This is part of a dream Harold is having, and when he wakes up, he explores the caverns beyond the Batcave. Meanwhile, Robin tries to prevent Roy Raymond from opening a boobytrapped vault. The two stories coincide when Harold finds himself in the area on the other side of the vault. Batman doesn’t appear in this issue at all. Chuck Dixon and Graham Nolan are both talented creators who have totally surrendered to right-wing fascism.

BATTLE STORIES #16 (IW, 1963) – “Furlough, Here We Come”, [W] unknown, [A] Iger Studio, etc. Most of this issue is reprinted from Men in Action #3, published by Farrell in 1957. In the lead story, a GI is on furlough in Korea when he falls for a native woman who proves to be a Communist spy. This story is pretty dumb, although at least it’s not as racist as the Cosmo story from Detective Comics #27. The best story in the issue is “Old Ironsides,” about the USS Constitution. The GCD entry for Battle Stories #16 attributes the artwork to Matt Baker, but the entry for Fantastic Adventures #17, which contains the same story, attributes it to Robert Webb. Whoever drew it, it’s far better drawn than anything else in the issue. In general, these old IW comics are not great, but they’re far easier to find than the ‘50s comics they reprinted.

G.I. JOE #235 (IDW, 2016) – “Snake in the Grass Part 6,” [W] Larry Hama, [A] S.L. Gallant. This story has multiple different plotlines. The most interesting one is about a woman who’s fighting terorists in a country that’s clearly based on Afghanistan. There’s also an interesting conversation between Spirit and Roadblock about the former character’s Native American heritage.

2000 AD #2288 (Rebellion, 2022) – Another Regened issue. Cadet Dredd: “Zootrapolis,” [W] Liam Johnson, [A] Joel Carpenter. A zookeeper is turning people into alien monsters. He gets his comeuppance by being turned into a monster himself. This could have been a regular Dredd story. Lowborn High: “Good Sport,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Anna Morozova. Lowborn High plays against Wychdusk High in quiddish, oops, I mean “orbitus.” Frost is on the Lowborn team, but his family orders him to throw the game. I’m glad this series got a second installment. It’s an awesome idea, and Anna Morozova’s art is very appealing. She draws in a sort of shojo manga style, with lots of curvy lines. Future Shocks: “Into the Void,” [W] Karl Stock, [A] Tom Newell. A “thought courier” has to send a telepathic message that’s too sensitive to write down. This is an unimpressive story, and again, it could have appeared in a regular 2000 AD issue. Scooter & Jinx: “The Big Grand Souffle of Nothing,” [W] James Peaty, [A] Steve Roberts. Scooter and Jinx have to find a missing actor. This story is full of Godard references. The actor’s name is (Jean-Paul) Belmondo, he’s working on a film whose name includes “Souffle” (A Bout de Souffle, i.e. Breathless), he’s hiding in the Alphaville colony, and the client is named Banderpart (Bande à Part, i.e. Band of Outsiders). Pandora Perfect: “Feed the Bird,” [W] Roger Langridge, [A] Brett Parson. Pandora and Gort have to steal some pills that cause chickens to grow gigantic. This story has lots of hilarious moments, though I thought it was less enjoyable than some of Langridge’s other works.

2000 AD SCI-FI SPECIAL 2022 (Rebellion, 2022) – The gimmick with this issue is that all the stories are based on songs, like the story that introduced Nemesis. Dredd: “Ascension”, [W] Mike Carroll, [A] Stewart K. Moore (based on Alphaville’s “Ascension Day”). Just a bunch of action sequences. Sinister & Dexter: “Killer Serial,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Antonio Fuso (Beatles, “Happiness is a Warm Gun”). This story traces the history of a specific gun and the people it’s killed. Fiends of West Berlin: untitled, [W] Karl Stock, [A] Warren Pleece (Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, “From Her to Eternity” [sic]). Captain Constanta enslaves some natives of West Berlin, then orders them to stock up on blood until he comes back. Then he never comes back, so his  servants have to keep collecting blood indefinitely. Constanta is the villain in this story, unlike in “1963.” After this feature there are some interviews with various rock stars about 2000 AD’s influence on them. Anderson: “Half of a Heaven,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Emma Vieceli (Kate Bush, “Suspended in Gaffa”). An insane asylum inmate, based on Bush herself, is “psychically attacking” Judges. Anderson tries to save her, but she dies. Middenface McNulty: “Opening Night at the Omegabowl,” [W] David Baillie, [A] V.V. Glass (Neil Young, “Rockin’ in the Free World”). Yay, VV Glass again. Midenface McNulty has to protect a rock star from being assassinated by fascists. Judge Death: “Common Enemy,” [W] Kek-W, [A] Steven Austin (Stealers Wheel, “Stuck in the Middle with You”). In a rather literal interpretation of the song that inspired this story, Dredd and Death get stuck between feuding factions of clowns and Jokers.

RINGSIDE #15 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Nick Barber. In what I sure hope is the last issue of this awful series, one of the protagonists visits the other protagonist’s grave. Ringside, along with Black Cloud, was one of the worst Image comics in recent memory. Its premise was potentially interesting, though not to me. However, it was ruined by some of the laziest, most low-effort art I’ve ever seen.

TRANSFORMERS: LOST LIGHT #9 (IDW, 2017) – “Chasing the Infinite,” [W] James Roberts, [A] Priscilla Tramontano. I read this issue out of order. Anode and Lug continue their adventure on Troia Major, but I don’t understand what they’re doing and why. An old villain, Scorponok, appears on the last page, but I didn’t recognize him until I checked the TF Wiki entry for this issue. The biggest problem with this series, besides its lack of plot progression, is that it assumes the reader already knows everything about Transformers continuity.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #606 (Gladstone, 1996) – “Winging It!”, [W/A] William Van Horn. Donald works as a trail guide, but the person he thinks is his client is really an escaped criminal. What happened to the actual client is never explained. Then there’s a long excerpt from Gottfredson’s “Mickey Mouse Outwits the Phantom Blot.” It seems like this story is considered Gottfredson’s masterpiece, and the segment presented here is exciting, but it ends before its central mystery is resolved. WDCAS #605-607 were the only time this story was published in comic book format and without alterations. I have #605 as well, and I should also look for #607, so I can read the whole story at once. Next is a Barks ten-pager where Donald tries to prevent his nephews from playing truant. There’s one other Barks story in the issue, which I already read in Four Color #1047. Besides that, the issue includes two Don Rosa stories, “Fit to Be Pied” and “The Universal Solvent” part 3, but I’ve already read both of them.

ANGELA, QUEEN OF HEL #1 (Marvel, 2015) – “The Queen of Hel Part 1,” [W] Marguertie Bennett, [A] Kim Jacinto w/ Stephanie Hans. Angela rescues her old girlfriend Sera from prison, but Sera is not happy to see her. Stephanie Hans’s flashback sequence has much better art than the main sequence. I don’t remember anything about this issue’s story.

SAVAGE DRAGON #45 (Image, 1998) – untitled, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Dragon, Jennifer and an unconscious Debbie find themselves on Godworld. Larsen’s versions of Heracles and Thor fight each other, causing Debbie’s death as collateral damage, and Heracles wins and claims  Jennifer as his prize. There are also a bunch of subplots back on Earth. It was around this point that Savage Dragon’s continuity started to become incomprehensible, with so many alternate worlds and alternate versions of characters that it was impossible to tell them all apart.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #93 (Marvel, 1980) – “Rags to Riches!”, [W] Steven Grant, [A] Tom Sutton & Carmine Infantino. In Los Angeles, Spider-Man teams up with Werewolf by Night to fight Tatterdemalion. Dansen Macabre appears for the first time at the end of the issue. Both these villains appeared in Avengers West Coast #78 as members of Night Shift. I remember that because Avengers West Coast #78 was one of the first comics I ever read. Other than that, nothing about this issue is worth mentioning. You’d think Tom Sutton would have been a good artist for a werewolf story, but his art in this issue is unexciting.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #430 (DC, 1987) – “Homeward Bound!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Jerry Ordway. Superman has a pointless fight with the Fearsome Five, causing him to miss his parents’ anniversary dinner. This version of the Fearsome Five includes a new member named Charger, who reappears as a member of the Circle in #435. As stated in my review of that issue, the Circle were part of a dangling plotline that was never resolved. There have been at least five different incarnations of the Fearsome Five. The only characters who have been in every version of the team are Mammoth and Shimmer.

POWER MAN #41 (Marvel, 1977) – “Thunderbolt and Goldbug!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Lee Elias. A man named Jack Smith hires Luke to protect a shipment of gold from a villain called Goldbug, but in fact Goldbug is none other than Smith himself. A new superhero, Thunderbolt, decides to help Luke protect the shipment, but Luke thinks it’s Thunderbolt who’s trying to steal the gold. Thus, Goldbug gets away with the gold, and then in his Jack Smith identity, he has Luke and Thunderbolt arrested for stealing it. This is Thunderbolt’s first appearance in costume, but he was introduced in Daredevil #69 as a civilian.

2000 AD #467 (IPC, 1986) – Strontium Dog: “Smiley’s World,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Wulf is buried, and Johnny embarks on a quest of revenge against Bubba. Tharg: “Supersub!”, [W] uncredited (“TMO”), [A] Eric Bradbury. Tharg’s assistant becomes an intergalactic evangelist for 2000 AD. I’m glad they mostly stopped doing these Tharg stories, because they weren’t much good. Ace: “The Doppelgarp,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. Again, the art in this story is excellent, but the dialogue drives me crazy, and so I don’t care about the plot. Dredd: “The Big Sleep Part 2,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Cam Kennedy. Flip Marlowe discovers it was his agent who framed him for murder. He kills the agent, but gets killed himself. Future Shocks: “The Regrettable Ruse of Rocket Redglare,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Mike White. Thirty years ago, Rocket Redglare (i.e. Flash Gordon or Dan Dare) saved the world from Lumis Logar (i.e. Ming), but now he’s an aging, corpulent, unhappily married has-been. He gets recruited for one last mission, but it turns out to be a lethal trap by Logar. This story is reprinted from #234.

Next trip to Heroes:

WYND: THE THRONE IN THE SKY #2 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. We meet General Eks, the leader of the pro-war faction among the fairies, and he proves to be just as bad as the human king or the vampire leaders. A consistent theme in Wynd is that the people in positions of power, across all three races, are all horrible. Also, the Dukes make an escape plan, and the young protagonists spend the issue hiding out and talking.

EIGHT BILLION GENIES #5 (Image, 2022) – “The First Eight Months,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. We begin with the origin story of Floyd Faughn the Idea Man, who was notorious for his awful ideas, until he used his wish to make people believe in him. As a result he’s been able to accumulate lots of other people’s genies. Inside the shelter, Lifeng has a difficult childbirth. Two of the other people in the shelter still have wishes left, but they  refuse to use them to help Lifeng. She gives birth safely anyway, but the group in the shelter is damaged irrevocably. Meanwhile, someone’s made a wish that destroyed the world, except for places like the bar that were protected by other wishes, The Idea Man wishes for the world to be restored to its state prior to the genies. Robbie comes back for his parents. Next up, the first eight years.

MIRACLEMAN #0 (Marvel, 2022) – [E] Nick Lowe. I’m glad Marvel is publishing Miracleman again, but this issue is disappointing. The framing sequence by Gaiman and Buckingham is not new, but is a redrawn version of the framing sequence from Miracleman: Apocrypha #1. The other stories are new, but only one of them, the Warpsmith story by Mike Carey and Paul Davidson, is any good. The contributions by Ryan Stegman and Peach Momoko are pointless non-stories. Also, in the Stegman story, Miracleman is trying to destroy all the nuclear weapons on Earth, but that’s a blatant continuity error, because he already did that in Miracleman #16. Jason Aaron and Leinil Francis Yu is about Miracleman’s encounter with the creator of the Miracleman comics, an artist named Mr. Solomon. The disappointing part is that Mr. Solomon is a fictional construct, rather than a fictionalized version of any real comic book creator. It would have been more appropriate if this character had been based on Miracleman’s actual creator, Mick Anglo. Overall, this issue doesn’t feel like a Miracleman comic at all.

DARK RIDE #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. Owen Seasons is hired to work at Devil Land, a sort of horror version of Disneyland. On his first day on the job, he gets killed by actual devils. We also learn about the disturbing history of the Dante family that founded the park. Dark Ride is less immediately captivating than these creators’ previous work, Birthright, but it’s intriguing, and Andrei Bressan provides some beautiful and creative visual imagery for the park.  

NIGHT OF THE GHOUL #1 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Francesco Francavilla. In this issue’s framing story, film archivist Forest Inman interviews the elderly film director, T.F. Merrit, whose masterpiece, Night of the Ghoul, was believed lost. Their interview is intercut with what are supposed to be scenes from the film itself. The film begins in World War I-era Italy, where two American soldiers, Kurt and Johnny, discover a castle haunted by a ghoul. Back at home, the influence of the ghoul causes Kurt to become a flesh-eating ghoul himself. Merrit tells Inman that the story of the film is actually true, and that he, Merrit, was “captured” for trying to tell it. So far, Night of the Ghoul is a compelling work of horror, and it continues Snyder’s track rcord of exciting work. Francesco Francavilla’s artwork here is more sedate and understated than in Afterlife with Archie, but it serves the story well.

THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE #10 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Alvaro Martinez Bueno. Walter shows Norah the controls that regulate everything in the house, including whether people can die or not. Walter doesn’t know that Ryan the artist is spying on their conversation, and he inadvertently lets Ryan know that she’s not supposed to be there. After Walter and Norah are gone, Ryan messes with the controls and turns off the immortality setting – just as Rick shoots Naya fatally. This issue would have been much harder to read if not for the character guide on the last page, which includes not just names but full-body images. Even the guide only helps so much, because it depicts Ryan looking different from how she appears in the comic.

ROGUE SUN #7 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Ryan Parrott & Nick Cotton, [A] Zé Carlos. A choose-your-own adventure story in which Rogue Sun battles two villains named Ornate and Lord Viathan. Choose-your-own-adventure comics are no longer a new idea at this  point, but I’m still excited whenever I see one. Like some other CYOA stories in comics form (e.g. the ones in Batman: Black and White and Terrifics, and Silver Surfer #11, sort of), this one can only be solved if the reader ignores the suggested choices. (SPOILER) On page 11, both choices, page 8 and page 16, lead to infinite loops. In the context of the story, this  represents Ornate trapping Dylan in a time loop. The only way to finish the comic is to just turn the page and continue to page 20, thus allowing Dylan to escape Ornate’s control.

KAYA #1 (Image, 2022) – “Kaya & the Lizard-Riders Chapter One,” [W/A] Wes Craig. This series originally appeared in Image! 30th Anniversary Anthology, where it was one of the better stories, mostly due to the art. Kaya is a fantasy series that takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, where humans are no longer the dominant race, and stars two young siblings. One of them is prophesied to save the world and return mankind to glory. Kaya does not have an obvious central premise or selling point, but it’s exciting and well-drawn.

I HATE THIS PLACE #5 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Artyom Topilin. Frank Renda comes back to life and invades Gabrielle and Trudy’s house. Gabrielle and Trudy manage to force him outside, where he’s finally killed by the ghosts of all his past victims. Then we flash forward to four days later, when Gabrielle’s awful family is trying to bring her “back to the flock.” So far this is a great comic, with Starks’s typical combination of raucous humor and disgusting horror, and I hope there’ll be another story arc soon.

EARTHDIVERS: KILL COLUMBUS #1 (IDW, 2022) – “Here There Be Monsters,” [W] Stephen Graham Jones, [A] Davide Gianfelice. In a postapocalyptic future, a group of Native Americans send one of their number back in time to kill Columbus and change the destiny of America. I really liked Stephen Graham Jones’s novel The Only Good Indians, and it’s exciting to see him doing comics. Like his fiction, Earthdivers has significant postcolonial and indigenous themes. The trouble with Earthdivers is it’s not well paced. I think Jones should have spent more time establishing who the characters are and what’s happened to their world, rather than diving right into the time travel plot.

WICKED THINGS #6 (IDW, 2020) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. I bought this on eBay because I somehow never got it, either at Heroes or from DCBS. This issue, Lottie helps apprehend a ring of casino thieves. Then the comatose Japanese boy detective comes back to life and clears Lottie’s name, but we still don’t know who shot him to begin with. This storyline obviously calls out for a sequel, but if there ever is one, it will probably be in trade paperback form only. I love Wicked Things and other Boom! Box titles like Fence and Goldie Vance, but I have to admit that direct-market comic books are really not a viable publishing format for comics intended for younger readers. That’s the same reason Archie has mostly moved away from the direct market, as I will discuss later.

SINS OF THE BLACK FLAMINGO #4 (Image, 2022) – “Thorn in My Side,” [W] Andrew Wheeler, [A] Travis Moore. Harlow’s kidnapper, Merilee Pepper, exchanges him for the angel Ezekiel, but then she double-crosses Harlow and tries to kill him, and Abel the golem is badly injured saving Harlow and Ofelia. Then Thorndike Scar appears, shoots down Pepper’s helicopter with a rocket launcher, and abducts Ezekiel himself. Harlow has to team up with Pepper in order to get rid of Scar. This miniseries has some fascinating and complex characters.

SPIDER-MAN #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “End of the Spider-Verse Part One: The One and Only-ish,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Mark Bagley. This issue’s legacy number is 157, indicating that it’s a continuation of the adjectiveless Spider-Man (1990) and Peter Parker: Spider-Man (1999). After saving some citizens from a runaway truck, Spidey is attacked by his nemesis Morlun, but he’s saved by Silk, Miles Morales, Jessica Drew, and Spider-Man Noir. Then all four of those characters turn evil and grow giant fangs. Because Dan Slott and Mark Bagley are perhaps the two active creators who are most identified with Spider-Man, this series comes with high expectations that may be impossible to fulfill. This first issue is not bad, though.

BRIAR #1 (Boom!, 2022) – “Nothing Sharp in Sight,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Germán García. This may be Christopher Cantwell’s highest-profile debut issue yet, but so far it’s a big disappointment. Briar appears to be a revisionist version of Sleeping Beauty, but the first issue is a complete mess. It has no clear theme or narrative direction – that is, I can’t tell either where this story is going, or what it’s supposed to be about. An even bigger problem is the dialogue. On page two, Cantwell has Sleeping Beauty say “I do’est wonder,” “on the count of thrice” and “do thouest wish.” All of these are blatant mistakes. Since Cantwell has access to the Internet, he has no excuse for not knowing how to write early modern English. Perhaps this dialogue is supposed to be a parody, but if so, I can’t tell what it’s a parody of. Overall, I expect much more from this writer, and I’m going to give up on this series if it doesn’t improve quickly.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #21 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcello Grassi. In the future, Chang, Janet and Ace meet Pavel Bukowski, who I had totally forgotten about. He was an original cast member who last appeared in issue 6. He explains how America conquered the world, but then the Destiny Man shoots him and the other protagonists, and they wake up in an alternate reality where America lost the war. Meanwhile, Charlotte and Val experience the Pearl Harbor attack and then the Civil War.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #42 (Marvel, 2022) – “Book of Fate,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Carmen Carnero et al. A fortuneteller does a tarot reading for Miles, and each time she reveals a card, there’s a sequence that shows what’s been happening with Miles’s supporting cast. Billie learns to walk, Miles’s seemignly evil principal wishes him luck, etc. Miles’s friends and relatives are part of what makes this series enjoyable, so it’s unfortunate that they’ve barely appeared at all in the past year, and that we only get to see them again as the series is ending. Still, this issue is a touching conclusion to Saladin’s run. I hope to see more work from him soon, either in comics or in prose.

DEFENDERS BEYOND #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “Tiphareth: The White Hot Room,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Javier Rodriguez. The Defenders find themselves in the White Hot Room, where Taaia turns into Phoenix, and America uses the Eternity Mask to fight her. Meanwhile, the other Defenders encounter various other aspects of the White Hot Room. Notably, Blue Marvel travels to the space behind reality, where he meets a cosmic construction worker who looks kind of like Stan Lee. In the end, Tigra becomes the incarnation of the Tiger God, the incarnation of the Phoenix, and she helps the Defenders to escape from the White Hot Room to the Abyss. There they meet a long-forgotten character, Glorian. Given that this issue focuses on the Phoenix, its title is appropriate, because in X-Men #108, Claremont explicitly associated Phoenix with the sefirah Tiphareth or Tiferet.

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #21 (Image, 2022) – “All That Glitters,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Martin Simmonds. Colin and Ruby travel to Fort Knox, where the Department of Truth keeps its weirdest stuff. Ruby tells Colin about the origin of Oswald and Petrov’s pact, and then they enter the vault, where they find a posthumous message from Petrov. There’s also a note warning Cole not to trust Matty. Right on cue, Matty contacts the Washington Post to tell them about Cole’s murder of the two reporters.

STILLWATER #15 (Image, 2022) – “Peace and Love,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramon K. Perez. Daniel becomes an evangelist, preaching the value of returning to the outside world. Galen is not pleased with this, and he decides to try to control Galen by torturing Clara. I have to admit I can’t remember who Clara is, but after Daniel rescues her, she confesses that the town’s curse of immortality is her fault.

BATMAN #128 (DC, 2022) – “Failsafe Part Four,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jorge Jimenez. The Justice League fights Failsafe, and it doesn’t go well, since Failsafe was designed to be able to defeat them in particular. But wait, I thought the Justice League were all dead. I guess they got better. The backup story, “I Am a Gun,” appears to be a retelling of the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh’s origin. The artwork looks like it’s by Paul Smith, but it’s actually by Leonardo Romero.

ANT-MAN #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Electric Ant,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Tom Reilly. Scott Lang battles Black Ant, an LMD version of Eric O’Grady. Black Ant was introduced in Rick Remender’s Secret Avengers. At the end of the issue, they’re both transported into the future, where they’re confronted by a villain that’s a merger of Odin and Ultron. This series is very fun, and Tom Reilly’s art has been consistently excellent. He draws in a similar vein to Chris Samnee, Leonardo Romero or David Aja.  

MIND MGMT BOOTLEG #4 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Jill Thompson. The Zanzibar Four battle a new villain named Mister Hide. This whole series has been disappointing in terms of writing, and it lacks the metafictional, paratextual elements that made the original MIND MGMT so fascinating to me. However, MIND MGMT Bootleg has been a showcase for some excellent artwork. Jill Thompson’s painted art and coloring in this issue are very lush and beautiful.

ANT-MAN #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “Ant-Man Forever,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Tom Reilly. This issue focuses on Zayn Asghar, the future Ant-Man. It begins with a “deep background info-dump” that includes summaries of some comics that don’t exist yet, such as Mighty Thor #4774. The artwork in this sequence is from the Ultron Forever annuals by Ewing and Alan Davis. Those comics really do exist, and I’d like to own them. In the rest of the issue, the various Ant-Men team up to defeat All-Father Ultron. Tom Reilly draws this issue in a notably different style from the other three. Zayn Asghar’s future is depicted in solid blocks of color, with a minimum of solid outlines. Overall, out of the various Ant-Man solo series and miniseries, this one was probably the best.

GOTHAM CITY: YEAR ONE #1 (DC, 2022) – “Where is the Princess of Gotham?”, [W] Tom King, [A] Phil Hester. Long before Bruce Wayne’s birth, Helen Wayne, the daughter of the current generation of Waynes, is kidnapped. Private detective Slam Bradley is involuntarily drawn into the case, and the Wayne family receives a note that’s signed with the Bat-signal. This is an intriguing debut issue that makes effective use of film noir tropes. But I’m afraid that this comic is going to be frustrating and anticlimactic, like basically all of Tom King’s recent work. I’m confused as to how Richard Bruce and Constance Wayne are related to Bruce Wayne. If they’re his grandparents, then Helen is his aunt, so why have we never heard of her before? On the page where Constance first appears, the painting to her left is Nude Descending a Staircase.

MONKEY PRINCE #7 (DC, 2022) – “Big Stick Energy Part 3,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Bernard Chang. Monkey Prince tries to retrieve his stick from under the sea, but Black Manta wants it too, and the Trench are trying to eat Aquaman. In the sequences set in Aquaman’s palace, Bernard Chang uses a unique page layout where the panel borders look like waves. Like Yang’s Shang-Chi, Monkey Prince draws much of its interest from its creative use of Chinese mythology.

SUPERMAN: SPACE AGE #2 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mike Allred. This issue covers the period from 1972 to 1975. Superman forms the Justice League, marries Lois and has a child with her, and saves the world from Brainiac, but an even greater threat, the Anti-Monitor, is waiting in the wings. This issue is really long, but its length is justified by its conceptual and narrative depth. It’s packed with powerful narrative moments and deep meditations on Superman’s significance to the world. It may be the most sophisticated Superman comic since Superman: Secret Identity. A particularly funny moment in this issue is when Lois discovers the story of the Watergate break-in, and Clark refuses to believe Watergate was a government operation because of all the ridiculous mistakes the “plumbers” made. All these mistakes really did happen in real life. For instance, the burglars’ lookout man really did fail to hear the police coming because he was watching Attack of the Puppet People on TV. A few pages after that, Superman prevents the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, saving 29 lives but depriving the world of a great song.

SANDMAN UNIVERSE: NIGHTMARE COUNTRY #6 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Maria Llovet. This issue focuses on a screenwriter named Jamie and his neighbor Lamia, who’s really Thessaly from A Game of You. They both get drawn into the plotline with Madison Flynn, and Jamie is killed, while Thessaly decides to go on the offensive against Agony and Ecstasy. Issue 7 has not been announced, so I assume that this is the last issue, and that the story will continue in Sandman Universe: Dead Boy Detectives, which will be written by Pornsak Pichetshote instead of Tynion.

POISON IVY #5 (DC, 2022) – untitled, G. Willow Wilson, [A] Marcio Takara. Ivy is hunted down by her nemesis Jason Woodrue. This issue is full of chaotic page layouts that remind me of Steve Bissette’s classic Swamp Thing artwork. In terms of plot, however, this issue is less compelling than the last four. Perhaps the best thing about this series is the interesting people Ivy meets, but in this issue she doesn’t meet anybody new.

SANTOS SISTERS #2 (Floating World, 2022) – “Spit & Shine” etc., [W/A] Greg Petre & Fake Petre. I bought this off the shelf after seeing a positive review of it in the Comics Journal. Almost all “alternative” or “art” comics are now published as graphic novels, so it’s exciting to me when an alternative comic appears in periodical comic book form. Santos Sisters is a superhero/SF story, but printed on newsprint and drawn in a classic Archie style. The clash of style and subject matter is very funny, and so is the characters’ nonchalant attitude toward all the bizarre stuff they encounter. I’m not quite sure what the point of this comic is, but I want to read more of it.   

X-MEN RED #7 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Winning Side,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Stefano Caselli. In the aftermath of the fight with Uranos, Magneto finally dies. Then the Great Ring have to deal with the traitor Isca, which is a difficult task since she can’t lose. The Fisher King finds a way of forcing her to resign, and Storm takes Magneto’s seat on the council. Like #6, this issue is a powerful piece of work, but I’m sorry that it’s part of a crossover.

SURVIVAL STREET #3 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Asmus & Jim Festante, [A] Abylay Kussainov. The puppets have to save some child prisoners who are being forced to fight a forest fire without protective equipment. Yes, I really said that, and the writers give a plausible explanation for how such a glaring injustice could have come about. After rescuing the kids, the puppets are unable to escape the forest because it’s bordered by a gated community that charges an exorbitant fee for entrance. Again, this seems eerily plausible, considering the current tendency to charge fees for things that ought to be free. Milo (i.e. Elmo) saves the day, but then the Cookie Monster character betrays the other puppets to the government. As a humorous satire, Survival Street is on the same level as some of Mark Russell’s work.

ORDINARY GODS #9 (Image, 2022) – “Tricks,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Joe Clark, [A] Daniel HDR. I wonder why nearly all of Kyle Higgins’s comics have a co-writer. Part of this issue is a flashback to the past life of one of the gods, and we eventually learn that in this past life, she was Mata Hari. In the present, the gods meet a professor at Shanghai Jiaotong University who has information about the God Machine, but then they have to fight some mind-controlled goons. Ordinary Gods got off to a poor start, but within the past few issues it’s become very interesting. The song that Mata Hari sings in this issue is “Streets of Cairo,” better known as the Arabian riff, or as “There’s a place in France where the naked ladies dance.”

SHANG-CHI AND THE TEN RINGS #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Ring in the Stone,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Marcus To. At the MI-6 headquarters, Tink the faerie – a character introduced by  Paul Cornell in the 2006 Wisdom miniseries – merges the ten rings into one. A monster comes out of the merged rings and starts possessing people, and Shang-Chi has to get the ring back. This issue was less interesting than the issues before and after it.

HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER #9 (Boom!, 2022) – “Scarlet Part Four,” [W] Sam Johns, [A] Letizia Cadonici. This issue is mostly flashbacks. That is at least an improvement over issues 7 and 8, which were mostly nothing, but this issue still doesn’t progress the plot at all. I’m not sure this story arc even has a plot. “Scarlet” is a complete disaster and an embarrassment to the Slaughterverse franchise, and I’m tempted to just skip issue 10 and continue with issue 11. I will try to avoid buying any other comics written by Sam Johns.

THE ROADIE #1 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Fran Galán. Mass Acre used to be a world-famous metal band, but now they’re reduced to playing in towns like Glendive, Montana (which really exists). Our protagonist, Joe, is Mass Acre’s roadie. One night, a demoness visits Joe and tells him that Satan was using heavy metal music to increase his influence on Earth. But when Satan was overthrown by another demon, he implemented a backup plan  by creating a child who would revive Satan’s music. That child, Shelby Petroski, happens to be Joe’s daughter. The Roadie is a funny riff on the idea that heavy metal is Satan’s music.

OLD DOG #1 (Image, 2022) – “New Tricks,” [W/A] Declan Shalvey. In a flashback, a secret agent, Lynch, is trapped in the explosion of a mysterious device. Eight years later, Lynch wakes up from a coma and is sent on a new mission, with his grown daughter as his partner. I  had low expectations for this comic, and its plot is fairly typical. What makes Old Dog worth reading is Declan Shalvey’s thrilling art. The page with the explosion of the machine is especially stunning. Shalvey somehow conveys the impression that the machine is weird and horrifying.

MY LITTLE PONY #5 (IDW, 2022) – “Tales from the Lighthouse,” [W] Casey Gilly, [A] Abby Bulmer. An old lighthouse keeper tells the ponies a bunch of stories about Discord. This issue was exciting at first because the cover is by Andy Price, but the interior art is much more generic. This issue reinforces my determination to give up on this series. It’s not the My Little Pony I love, and I can’t bring myself to care about these new characters. I don’t even know their names.

GOLDEN RAGE #3 (Image, 2022) – “Destruction,” [W] Chrissy Williams, [A] Lauren Knight. The protagonists fight the Red Hats, and then we’re told that “Jay sent us here!” I like the idea behind Golden Rage, but the comic itself has been surprisingly boring. It’s strange that the main conflict is between different factions of women, rather than between the women and the men who sent them to the island. And the island itself is not an interesting milieu. I’d like to know more about the society outside the island, where women are apparently considered to be disposable after menopause.

SKYBOUND PRESENTS AFTERSCHOOL #3 (Image, 2022) – “Sympathetic Ear,” [W] Jill Blotevogel, [A] Lisa Sterle w/ Marley Zarcone. High schooler Leda is forced to spend all her time babysitting her autistic sister Izzy, while their parents are busy with devices and video games. One night, Leda’s online boyfriend Paul invades their house and murders Leda and Izzy’s parents, and the two girls have to collaborate to save each other’s lives. This is at least as good as issue 2, which is already excellent. It’s a thrilling horror story, and probably the most realistic depiction of autism that I’ve seen in comics. Leda and Izzy’s parents are so brutally neglectful that the reader can hardly blame Paul for killing them.

BLOOD SYNDICATE SEASON ONE #5 (DC, 2022) – “My Name Is…”, [W] Geoffrey Thorne, [A] Sean Damien Hill. This issue is mostly about Holocaust, and includes flashbacks explaining how he became so obsessed with power and dominance. Holocaust is a very powerful villain, but the trouble is that this series has focused on him excessively, to the point where it should have been called Holocaust instead of Blood Syndicate. The actual Blood Syndicate members don’t appear until this issue until the last page, and in fact they get less panel space in the issue than Icon and Rocket, who appear as guest stars. In a team comic, it’s vital not to let any one character dominate the series to the exclusion of all the others, and Thorne violates that rule. Overall, Blood Syndicate is the best of the three recent Milestone series I’ve read, but this whole Milestone revival has been a train wreck.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: SYMBOL OF TRUTH #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “Homeland Part 5,” [W] Tochi Onyebuchi, [A] R.B. Silva & Julian Shaw. Shuri blames the American government for invading Wakanda to capture Crossbones, and as a result, all the Americans who applied for asylum in Wakanda are deported. This seems like a really disproportionate and vindictive punishment, and it hardly seems consistent with Shuri or even T’Challa’s character. I guess the point is that Wakanda isn’t as much of a paradise as it seems, but maybe there was a less cruel way to demonstrate that.

GRIM #5 (Boom!, 2022) – “Death & Dying in Las Vegas,” [W] Stephanie Phillips, [A] Flaviano. Death tells Jessica that she’s his child by a human woman, so finally this series’ premise makes some sense. Also, I guess Grim has the same basic idea behind Pretty Deadly, but it’s less annoying and incoherent than Pretty Deadly was. Afterward, Death gets killed saving Jessica from The End, and Adira takes Jessica’s scythe, leaving her trapped in the mortal world. The issue ends by showing us Jessica’s mother in prison.

JUNKYARD JOE #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Geoff Johns & Gary Frank. This is a spinoff of Geiger. In 1972, a group of American soldiers team up with an experimental robot GI. All but one of the human soldiers are killed in action, and when the last one, Muddy Davis, tells people about the robot, nobody believes him. This comic seems like a realistic portrayal of the Vietnam War from the American perspective, and Muddy’s relationship with the robot is cute. For once, Geoff Johns isn’t the worst current writer with the surname Johns (see the review of House of Slaughter #9 above).

SUPERMAN #1 FACSIMILE (DC, 1939/2022) – untitled, [W] Jerry Siegel, [A] Joe Shuster. This issue consists mostly of reprints from Action Comics #1-4. Reading all these Superman comics together is a fascinating experience, because the earliest version of Superman is very different from the familiar version of the character. Instead of being a superhero, in the sense we understand that term, the early Superman is a figure of mystery and even a trickster. Also, as I already knew, Superman is much more liberal and activist than he later became; in this issue he fights domestic abusers, warmongering politicians, corrupt mine owners, and sports gamblers. Well, that last one is a bit of an outlier. The best of these stories is “The Blakely Mine Disaster,” where Superman discovers unsafe conditions in a coal mine, then turns the tables on the mine owners by trapping them in their own mine. This story also reveals Siegel and Shuster’s sympathy with oppressed people. The injured miner who Clark interviews is named Stanislaw Kober and speaks in broken English, suggesting that he’s a poor Slavic immigrant. (A couple pages later Clark is called a “bohunk,” which at the time was a derogatory term for Eastern and Central Europeans). And we see that the miners’ lack of political power allows them to be ruthlessly exploited by their bosses. In later Superman stories, the character’s anarchic and activist elements were drastically toned down. One of the only attempts to return to Superman’s liberal roots was Grant Morrison’s Action Comics run.

PINK LEMONADE #1 (Oni, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Nick Cagnetti. Pink Lemonade is an amnesiac, motorcycle-riding drifter. In this first issue, she meets a single mother and daughter who are obsessed with a cartoon called OJ Bot. Then she gets arrested for trespassing on a film set. Pink Lemonade’s general aesthetic, along with its wacky amnesiac protagonist, reminds me of Madman, although Cagnetti’s drawing style is more like that of Rich Tommaso than Mike Allred. The dream sequence at the start of this issue is a particular highlight. I’m glad that Oni is still capable of producing exciting comics like this, despite being crippled by layoffs. I just hope the company gets back on its feet soon.

HEALTH AND WEALTH, A GRAPHIC GUIDE TO THE US HEALTHCARE SYSTEM (Center for Cartoon Studies, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] James Sturm & Kazimir Lee et al. This comic was distributed for free at Heroes, although it’s good enough that it’s easily worth the price of a normal comic book. Health and Wealth is a nonfiction guide to the inequities and inefficiencies of American healthcare, written and drawn by a team of CCS students under the leadership of Sturm and Lee. The entire book is drawn in the style of Richard Scarry. I know a bit about the American healthcare system, but this comic still told me things I didn’t know, and it powerfully demonstrates that American healthcare is unfair to poor people and minorities, while also being grossly wasteful. The Scarry-esque artwork helps get this message across in an appealing way. Readers are probably more open to a political message if it’s presented like a children’s book, instead of looking like a political tract. The only problem with this comic is that it has a ton of text, and the pictures are sometimes merely illustrative rather than helping to tell the story. But overall this is an important piece of work.

HEART EYES #2 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Dennis Hopeless, [A] Victor Ibáñez. This issue finally explains what the hell is going on. The female protagonist, Lupe, was enslaved by a bookstore owner, who used her in an occult ritual that allowed her to summon eldritch monsters. That’s why she’s the only person the monsters won’t kill, and probably the destruction of the world was her fault. It would have helped if we’d gotten all this information last issue. Also, we learn that “heart eyes” means infatuation.

THE DEAD LUCKY #3 (Image, 2022) – “The Dead Don’t Want Me,” [W] Melissa Flores, [A] French Carlomagno. Morrow and Bibi plot against each other. Bibi’s parents’ restaurant is bombed, and while trying to save her dad, Bibi has a flashback to how she got her ghost powers. This series continues to be plagued by a lack of a clear central theme.

IMAGE! 30TH ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY #6 (Image, 2022) – [E] Eric Stephenson. Easily my favorite story in this issue is “Back and Business,” a revival of Garth Ennis and Amanda Conner’s The Pro. Twenty years after her apparent death, The Pro comes back to Earth to discover that contrary to her wishes, her son has grown up to become a superhero. I just wish this was more than six pages, but it’ll continue next issue. The Rockstar & Softboy sequel by Sina Grace is also kind of interesting. Most of the other stories in this issue are no better or worse than last time. The Hack/Slash story is an unannounced Savage Dragon crossover, since SuperPatriot appears in it.

MINOR THREATS #2 (Dark Horse, 2022) – “Start with the Edges…”, [W] Patton Oswalt & Jordan Blum, [A] Scott Hepburn. Playtime’s colleague Brain Tease leads her team’s effort to track down the Stickman. Eventually the Stickman is found, but he shoots Playtime and knocks her off a roof. By the time I read this issue, I had completely forgotten what issue 1 was about, so issue 2 did not impress me greatly. This series has reasonably good art and dialogue, but it feels like just another tired superhero parody.

HUMAN TARGET #7 (DC, 2022) – “To Shoe a Troop of Horse with Felt,” [W] Tom King, [A] Greg Smallwood. Chance goes on a date with Fire, and eventually gets her to admit that she acquired the water, and that Guy asked her to. This series has beautiful artwork and publication design, but its plot is too long and drawn-out, and its characterization is questionable. I think I saw someone say that Tom King’s version of Ice is a completely new character, and I can’t disagree with that.

MARVEL VOICES: COMUNIDADES #1 (Marvel, 2022) – [E] Lauren Amaro & Sarah Brunstad. The best story in this issue is the one where Miles defeats a villain called Earworm by playing salsa music to drown out Earworm’s music. The song Miles plays is “Hacha y machete” (Axe and Machete) by Hector Lavoe, which I had not heard before. The other stories in this issue are a chore to read. These Marvel Voices specials have included a lot of very mediocre work, and maybe it’s time I stopped automatically buying them.

THE ORDER #2 (Marvel, 2002) – “It’s Our World,” [W] Jo Duffy & Kurt Busiek, [A] Chris Batista. This series was a sequel to Busiek and Larsen’s Defenders. In this issue the Order – Dr. Strange, Silver Surfer, Namor and Hulk – go mad with power and take over Red Robin’s island. The other former Defenders discover that the four Order members are impostors and that their real selves are imprisoned in another dimension. This issue includes an annoying stereotypical character named Papa Hagg, but otherwise I liked it. A funny moment is when the Surfer and Strange create a palace for each of the Order members, and the Hulk’s “palace” is the Las Vegas strip.

MS. TREE QUARTERLY #7 (DC, 1992) – “The Family Way,” [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. Ms. Tree’s stepson Mike falls in love with Lisa Muerta, a member of the Muerta family, Ms. Tree’s nemeses. Frankie Muerta, a terrifying madman even by the standards of his family, escapes from prison and kidnaps Lisa, and the current Muerta family head hires Ms. Tree to get rid of Frankie. In the climax of the story, Ms. Tree stupidly allows Frankie to get the drop on her at least three different times, and she only survives because Mike follows her and kills Frankie. On the last page, Ms. Tree discovers she’s pregnant. There’s also a Midnight backup story by Ed Gorman and Rick Burchett. On the letters page, Collins states that Ms. Tree is not set in the DC universe “although I would love to see Ms. Tree meet Batman.” That would be funny, because Batman would probably perceive her as a deranged serial killer who keeps using her police connections to get away with murdering criminals.

FANTASTIC FOUR #328 (Marvel, 1989) – “Bad Dream,” [W] Steve Englehart (as John Harkness), [A] Keith Pollard. A depowered Ben Grimm has to save the FF from the Frightful Four, whose newest member is Aron the rogue Watcher. At the end, Aron teleports the FF to the moon and shows them that he’s created clones of them. This isn’t as bad as some of Englehart’s other work of this period, but it’s not great either. In this issue Ben and Alicia act as if they’re still a couple.

DETECTIVE COMICS #1031 (DC, 2021) – “Smash the Mirror,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] Bilquis Evely. During the mayoral elections, a villain named the Mirror leads a campaign against masked superheroes, and Batman and his sidekicks have to stop a brawl between their own supporters and the Mirror’s supporters. This is a mediocre issue. The best thing about it is the scene where Damian intimidates a corrupt policewoman while petting her cat.

ANGELA: ASGARD’S ASSASSIN #5 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen w/ Marguerite Bennett, [A] Phil Jimenez w/ Stephanie Hans. In the main story, Angela and the Guardians of the Galaxy invade Heven. In the inset story, drawn by Stephanie Hans, Angela fights Thor. BTW, Stephanie Hans was at Worldcon, but I didn’t get to speak to her. Anyway, this is a mediocre issue, and the Guardians and Thor appearances felt gratuitous.

SHADE THE CHANGING MAN #39 (DC, 1993) – “Pond Life,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Chris Bachalo w/ Scot Eaton. This issue has a metatextual gimmick where some of the captions – the ones in yellow – are addressed directly to the reader and describe what the reader is seeing on each page. This parallels how in the comic itself, there’s a writer named Miles Laimling who’s writing a novel about Shade, Kathy and Lenny, and everything he writes ends up happening to them. And partly because of this, Shade and the two women are being terrorized by a fake version of Shade, who I assume is Troy Grenzer in Shade’s body. In the end, Miles burns his manuscript, stripping the fake Shade of its power. Then Miles decides that since he can’t write a novel anymore, he’ll write a comic book, and he’ll write it under the pen name Peter Milligan, since Milligan is an anagram of Laimling. And that comic will be called “Pond Life.” This comic is about as meta as anything Milligan has written (or did he write it?), and I’d like to reread it more carefully.

FUTURE IMPERFECT #1 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Greg Land. In the Maestro’s future, Ruby Summers, a member of the anti-Maestro resistance, encounters the Norse god Odin. But after she leads “Odin” into the rebels’ lair, he reveals that he’s not really Odin, but the Maestro himself. Just as all seems to be lost, the Thing appears to challenge the Maestro. None of these Future Imperfect revivals have been anywhere near as good as the original, and I wish I hadn’t bought any of them.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: RENEW YOUR VOWS #1 (Marvel, 2015) – “Why We Can’t Have Nice Things,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Adam Kubert. This takes place some years before issue 4, during Annie’s infancy. A villain named Augustus Roman, aka the Regent, is killing superheroes and stealing their powers. At the same time, Mary Jane and Annie are being terrorized by Venom. (This story seems to take place around the #300s of Amazing Spider-Man, when Venom was a terrifying menace.) For the first time in his life, Peter has to choose one responsibility over another, and he chooses to save MJ and Annie from Venom, rather than help fight Regent. As a result, Regent kills the Avengers and takes over the world. This is a sad story, and it explains why superheroes tend to be childfree.

DOCTOR STRANGE #38 (Marvel, 1979) – “Eye of the Beholder!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Dan Green. I think I was reading this issue when I saw that awful, racist Citizens for Sanity commercial for the first time. It kind of killed my enjoyment. In this issue Strange and Clea go on a long-delayed date, but Strange promptly meets his old friend Sara Wolfe, who first appears in this issue, and starts to talk to her and ignore Clea. Then Sarah’s date, Douglas Royce, is killed by two Native American mythological monsters called the Eye Killers, and Strange has to defeat them. The Eye Killers reappeared in Uncanny X-Men #222. In the bar where Strange meets Sara, a band called “Wexford’s own, Pierce and Larry” is playing. This band seems to be based on a real Irish band called Turner and Kirwan of Wexford, whose first names were Pierce and Larry. Claremont must have heard them at some Irish bar.

AMAZING FANTASY #18 (Marvel, 1996) – “The Amazing Spider-Man,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Paul Lee. In the period between Amazing Fantasy #15 and Amazing Spider-Man #1, Spider-Man battles a villain called Supercharger. Kurt Busiek is a very talented Spider-Man writer, but the artwork in this issue is awful. Paul Lee tries to imitate Alex Ross’s style of painting, but he doesn’t have Ross’s talent for realistic rendering, and his faces look as if a child drew them. Also, Supercharger’s costume doesn’t look like a 1960s design. I think there should be a moratorium on stories set during the first couple issues of Amazing Spider-Man, because there have already been too many such stories, and it’s hard to believe that anything else happened to Peter during that period that we don’t already know about. Similarly, I wish they would stop coming up with new things that happened on the day Batman’s parents were killed.

2000 AD #1841 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd: “Wastelands Part 5,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Dave Taylor. Dredd apprehends a criminal who thinks he’s found an untraceable way of ordering people’s assassinations. Defoe: “The Damned Part 6,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Leigh Gallagher. Defoe fights a horde of zombies. Age of the Wolf: “Wolfworld Part 2,” [W] Alec Worley, [A] Jon Davis-Hunt. Some werewolves kidnap a young girl, herself secretly a werewolf, so they can sacrifice her. Sinister & Dexter: “Witless Protection: Last Rights Part 1,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Simon Davis. Ray Right, aka Ray Dexter, and his wife Tracy are living happily in suburbia, ignorant of the fact that the government is looking for them. Simon Davis’s painted art is the best art in this issue, though Leigh Gallagher’s art is also good. The Ten-Seconders: “Godsend Part 3,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Edmund Bagwell. I can’t make head or tail of this story, although it includes a cool-looking greenish monster called Damage.

ONI PRESS SUMMER VACATION SUPERCOLOR FUN SPECIAL #1 (Oni, 2000) – [E] Jamie S. Rich. A selection of original stories starring various Oni characters. I think the best is the Hopeless Savages story by Jen Van Meter and Chynna Clugston-Major, in which all three Hopeless-Savage kids are sent to the principal’s office at school. The second best is the Jingle Belle story by Paul Dini and Stephen Di Stefano. The strangest feature in the issue is a Barry Ween/Whiteout crossover by Greg Rucka and Judd Winick, but it doesn’t feel like Whiteout at all. The other stories in the issue are unimpressive. One of them is “Big Monster Planet” by Martin Ontiveros, who I had never heard of before. His only other credit in the GCD is Crash Metro and the Star Squad, a 1999 one-shot also published by Oni, which was written by Ontiveros and drawn by Mike Allred.  

OUR ARMY AT WAR #274 (DC, 1974) – “Home is the Hero!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] George Evans. Sgt. Rock encounters a military policeman, Jerry Baker, who’s looking for a fugitive named Tony Lewis who escaped capture by joining the army. The predictable twist is that Baker is dead, and the man posing as him is really Lewis. After Rock discovers this, Lewis gets hurt protecting villagers from Germans, even though he could have escaped scot-free, and I guess Lewis’s heroic act means he’s redeemed himself for the murders he committed in civilian life. I think this ending is unfortunate. Fine, he’s a hero, but he should still suffer the penalty for his crimes. The backup story includes some beautiful aviation art by Ric Estrada. Speaking of aviation art, George Evans’s art in this issue is not his best, but he really should be in the Hall of Fame. He was nominated at least once, in 2008, but didn’t make it. Besides Jack Kamen, Evans is the only major EC artist who’s not in the Hall of Fame, and I think Evans deserves it more than Kamen.

DETECTIVE COMICS #754 (DC, 2001) – “Officer Down Part 6: Monster in a Box,” [W] Nunzio DeFilippis, [A] Mike Colllins. The Gotham police interrogate Jordan Reynolds, who shot James Gordon, but are unable to get anything out of him. They have to let him go, and then Batman tries to intimidate him into confessing, but is equally unsuccessful. This story is mostly a police procedural, and Batman only plays a minor role in it. The backup story is The Jacobian by Jordan B. Gorfinkel and Jeff Johnson. This story is nonsensical, and it shows why Jordan Gorfinkel was an editor and not a writer.

FLAMING CARROT COMICS #7 (Renegade, 1985) – “When the Shoes Aren’t Worth the Shine…”, [W/A] Bob Burden. An absurdist story with an unsummarizable plot, in a mid-century suburban setting. I want to read more Flaming Carrot comics, but I suspect that if you’ve read one of them, you’ve read them all. It seems like every Flaming Carrot story is just more of the same absurdism. I have the same problem with Reid Fleming and Herbie, both of which have a similar aesthetic to Flaming Carrot.

ACTION COMICS #761 (DC, 2000) – “For a Thousand Years…”, [W] Joe Kelly, [A] German Garcia. One morning Lois is feeling jealous of Wonder Woman. Just then, Wonder Woman invites Superman to join her on a mission, protecting DC’s version of Asgard to avenge the dead Thor. This battle occupies them for literally one thousand years, yet in all that time, they never act on their obvious attraction to each other. Meanwhile Lois questions her own devotion to Clark, because she’s keeping some kind of secret from him. When I read this issue, it reminded me of something, but I couldn’t remember what. I later figured out that it reminded me of the Gentle Man story from Batman #39. It seems that I was not the only one who noticed the similarity between these two stories. Tom King himself had to apologize for acknowledging Kelly and Garcia’s influence on Batman #39.

FORBIDDEN WORLDS #143 (ACG, 1967) – “Just Imagine… No Subways!”, [W] Richard Hughes, [A] Ken Landau. Joe Eisendorfer hates modern life, but when he travels in time to the past and then the future, he realizes that the 20th century isn’t all that bad. Other stories in this issue are about some Lithuanian leprechauns, and a rich but ugly woman who trades her fortune for beauty. In the letter column, the editor provides a biography of ACG writer Brad Everson. Of course this biography is false because there was no Brad Everson; like all of ACG’s “writers,” Everson was a pseudonym for editor Richard Hughes.

ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #442 (DC, 1988) – “Power Play,” [W] John Byrne, [A] Jerry Ordway. Superman and some other Justice Leaguers fight Psi-Phon and Dreadnaught, who have the power to steal superheroes’ powers. In the end, the superheroes beat the villains in the most trite way possible, by giving them so much power to absorb that Dreadnaught overloads himself. This way of defeating villains is such a tired cliché that on the old CBR forums, someone named it the “Law of Limited Capacitance.” In a subplot, Lois helps the disabled José Delgado (Gangbuster) move into his apartment, then kisses him. A fundamental problem with Byrne’s writing is that he himself seems to have a lack of empathy for other people’s feelings, and he transfers this cold, unfeeling attitude to his characters. An example is the lower-left panel on this page from Action Comics #584, although this character is supposed to be a villain.

INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #503 (Marvel, 2011) – “Fix Me Part 3: Fear Itself,” [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Salvador Larroca. We begin with a flashback to a past encounter between Tony Stark and Dr. Octopus. Back in the present, Tony fights a dying Doc Ock, then makes a proposal to build a city for the Asgardian gods. Tony also begins to suspect that his new colleague Leonard Pimacher is a spy, but he dismisses these suspicions. In fact Pimacher was the Spymaster in disguise.

CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN #44 (DC, 1965) – “The Curse of the Evil Eye,” [W] Bill Finger, [A] Bob Brown. In 1365, an Italian nobleman sentenced an alchemist to death, and the alchemist created a giant disembodied eye and ordered it to kill the count and his kinsmen. Before he could use it, the alchemist died, and the eye was lost for 600 years until it was freed by an explosion. Now the eye is tracking down the nobleman’s living descendants, and the Challengers  have to save them. This story is a fun piece of Silver Age unintentional humor, though it’s not as fun as later Challs stories by Arnold Drake. In the backup story, written by Dave Wood, the Challengers fight some gas monsters.

CRISIS AFTERMATH: THE SPECTRE #2 (DC, 2006) – “Dead Again Part Two,” [W] Will Pfeifer, [A] Cliff Chiang. Oddly, this series’s cover title is Infinite Crisis Aftermath: The Spectre, but the indicia title leaves off the word Infinite. I’m just going to file it under Spectre. In “Dead Again,” Crispus Allen is the Spectre’s new human host, but he and the Spectre are separate entities. Crispus wants to use the Spectre’s power to stop crimes, and is frustrated to learn that all the Spectre can do is prevent crimes that have already happened. This story is rather grim and unsatisfying, and Cliff Chiang’s art isn’t his best. In particular, his faces look more cartoony and less detailed than in his later work.

TONY STARK: IRON MAN #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Self-Made Man Part 1,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Valerio Schiti. This is LGY #601. As a kid, Tony Stark defeats Andy Bhang and his colleagues in a robot soccer contest. The name “Bhang” is funny to me because bhang is an Indian version of marijuana, and I wonder if Slott knew that. Many years later, Tony hires Bhang to work in his new robotics workshop, the Foundry, and Bhang immediately has to help Iron Man fight Fin Fang Foom. There’s an awesome scene where Tony fights Fin Fang Foom in a giant Voltron suit. Iron Man is my least favorite of the major Marvel and DC comics, mostly because of its scarcity of quality writers. But I like Slott’s writing, and I want to read more of his Iron Man run.

JONAH HEX #85 (DC, 1984) – “Behold the Gray Ghost,” [W] Michael Fleisher, [A] Tony DeZuniga. The Gray Ghost is a former Confederate soldier turned vigilante, and his mission is to hunt down other Confederate veterans who he believes to have betrayed the South. The Gray Ghost’s latest target is Jonah Hex, and he worms his way into Hex’s life in disguise, while Hex is trying to romance a much younger woman named Adrian. In the end, the Gray Ghost is believed dead but escapes, and he appears for the second and last time in issue 87. It kind of makes sense that Fleisher later wrote for 2000 AD, because Jonah Hex has the same bleak, raucous sense of humor that’s 2000 AD’s trademark.

REDNECK #13 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Lisandro Estherren. In a flashback, we see how the protagonist, Uncle Bartlett, turned his lover July into a vampire. While trying to save a young girl, Percy, Bartlett encounters July again, and she shoots him. This issue makes more sense than other issues of Redneck that I’ve read, but Lisandro Estherren’s art is far looser and less detailed than in Sandman Universe: Nightmare Country.

ORION #8 (DC, 2001) – “The Righteous Treacheries of Desaad! or Orion Rules!”, [W/A] Walt Simonson. Orion is the new ruler of Apokolips, but thanks to the treachery of Darkseid’s old minions, Orion has to fight an army of cloned versions of Billion-Dollar Bates, the only human who understood the Anti-Life Equation. Bates’s only actual appearance was in Forever People #8, which I read so long ago that I can’t remember it. The art in this issue, particularly the face of the Hellborer weapon, reminds me of the work of Philippe Druillet. Like Simonson, Druillet is an adapter of the works of Michael Moorcock. This issue’s backup story, by Jeph Loeb and Rob Liefeld, is a complete piece of crap that’s not worthy of this series.

2000 AD #1842 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd: “Scavengers Part One,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Carl Critchlow. In issue 1812, the city of Luna-2 was drowned in the Black Atlantic. Now, someone is threatening to shoot nuclear weapons at Mega-City One from the sunken Luna-2, and Dredd has to save the day. Defoe: as above. Defoe meets the zombies’ controller, Faust, who promises that if Faust aids him, Faust will surrender the murderer of Defoe’s family. Age of the Wolf: as above. The Grey Witch, who looks like a female Odin, fights the werewolves who have kidnapped the girl. Sinister & Dexter: as above. Just after Tracy gets a phone call from Sinister, her idyllic life with Dexter is interrupted by some guy with a gun. The Ten-Seconders: as above. I still can’t understand this story.

WELCOME TO SHOWSIDE #4 (Z2, 2016) – untitled, [W] Ian McGinty, [A] Samantha Knapp. A floating skull named Frank tries to take control of the Teenomicon. This series has a similar style to the Steven Universe or Bravest Warriors comics, or perhaps a better comparison would be Adventure Time, since Ian McGinty worked on that series. Welcome to Showside isn’t based on an actual animated TV show, but it almost feels like a pitch for an animated cartoon that hasn’t been made yet. Anyway, I don’t much like the Adventure Time aesthetic, so Welcome to Showside #4 did not appeal to me.

2000 AD #1843 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd:as above. One of Dredd’s subordinates is killed by a giant octopus, then Dredd and his remaining allies enter Luna-2, where they meet Klegg. Defoe: as above. Defoe refuses Faust’s offer, only to be told that his companion, Jack, murdered Defoe’s personal hero, Colonel Rainsborough. Thomas Rainsborough was a real person who was an early advocate of universal suffrage. After learning this information, Defoe agrees to help Faust destroy the British empire. Sinister & Dexter: as above. Dexter saves Sinister and Tracy from being shot by gunmen, and they head off on another mission. Age of the Wolf: as above. The werewolves try to hold off the Grey Witch by sending children to fight her, but it doesn’t work. The Ten-Seconders: as above. I don’t understand this chapter any more than the last one.

MERCURY HEAT #6 (Avatar, 2015) – “The Long, Slow Dawn”, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Nahuel Lopez. After fighting a man named Saul Volta, Luiza Bora learns that the Mercury colonization project, which has taken an immense toll in human life, was not necessary, and another planet could have been colonized instead. I didn’t understand this plot point until I read this series’ page on TVTropes. This knowledge is so unsettling to Luiza that she edits her memories to remove it.

SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #115 (Marvel, 1986) – “Things Fall Apart,” [W] Peter David, [A] Mark Beachum. The first half of this issue is a series of vignettes without a clear underlying plot. Eventually Peter realizes he’s under the influence of Black Cat’s bad luck powers, and he gets Dr. Strange to remove Black Cat’s curse. As a result, Felicia loses her corresponding good luck powers, which is bad for her, because she was relying on them to fight some much stronger opponents. Mark Beachum’s depictions of women in this issue are rather exploitative. On the last page, Felicia is shown in almost the same posture that Manara used on his notorious Spider-Woman cover. Beachum only worked for Marvel and DC for a couple more years, and since then he’s mostly been doing porn comics.

TRANSFORMERS VS. G.I. JOE #11 (IDW, 2016) – “Escape from Primus,” [W] John Barber, [W/A] Tom Scioli. Much of this issue is a flashback to the past history of Duke and his brother Falcon. Duke’s treatment of Falcon is cruel and abusive, even if Duke is doing it to toughen Falcon up; indeed, that makes it even worse. In the main story, Cybertron itself comes to life and turns into a giant monster. Tom Scioli’s artwork in this issue is brilliant, as usual. The striking thing about his art is the contrast between his crude, childlike draftsmanship and his amazingly complex visual compositions and page layouts. In their commentary at the end of the issue, Barber and Scioli seem to be taking this comic more seriously than it deserves.

AVENGERS #289 (Marvel, 1988) – “The Cube Root!”, [W] Ralph Macchio, [A] John Buscema.  Hydrobase Island is attacked by Heavy Metal, a team of robots that have fought the Avengers in the past. Their leader, the Super-Adaptoid, succeeds in his goal: to summon Kubik, the living incarnation of the Cosmic Cube. This issue is very boring, and it features an awful Avengers lineup, with no classic Avengers but a lot of minor characters like Marrina and Black Knight. After “Under Siege,” Avengers went into a long period of decline that didn’t end until Kurt Busiek and George Perez took over.

DRAX #2 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] CM Punk & Cullen Bunn, [A] Scott Hepburn. Drax and Terrax get drunk together and then team up. The version of Terrax who appears in this issue has nothing in common with any depiction of this character ever. Terrax has always been a generic world-conquering tyrant, not the sort of creature who would go drinking in a bar. I don’t remember why I ordered this issue, but I shouldn’t have.

SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING #1 (DC, 1982) – “What Peace There May Be in Silence,” [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Tom Yeates. We start with a recap of Swampy’s origin. In the present, Swampy saves a mysterious mute little girl from being shot, then he tries to return her to her family, but of course the girl’s neighbors all attack Swampy with pitchforks and torches. This issue is okay, and Tom Yeates is an acceptable substitute for Bernie Wrightson, but obviously this series was destined for far greater things. In a backup story, by Bruce Jones and Dan Spiegle, the Phantom Stranger encounters a charlatan preacher who’s stealing poor people’s money.

SECRET SIX #2 (DC, 2006) – “Six Degrees of Separation Part 2: The First Cut is the Deepest,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Brad Walker. A villain named Pistolera (formerly Gunbunny, from Detective Comics #674) tried to assassinate Scandal Savage’s lover Knockout. Scandal tortures Pistolera until she reveals that she was hired by Cheshire, then Deadshot murders  Pistolera. The Secret Six then go and find Cheshire, only to discover that she’s given birth to Catman’s illegitimate son. Having children by her enemies is something of a pattern for Cheshire. Catman and Cheshire’s son, Tommy Blake, only made one more appearance and was written out of continuity, so he escaped the tragic fate of Cheshire’s other child, Lian Harper.

SLEEPER SEASON TWO #12 (Wildstorm, 2005) – “Heroes and Villains,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. I don’t understand this comic at all. It seems like the series ends by giving the protagonist, Holden, a happy ending, but according to Wikipedia he’s actually in a persistent vegetative state. Sleeper is important for being Brubaker and Phillips’s first collaboration (besides Scene of the Crime, where Phillips was only the inker), but it’s hard to understand.

X-NECROSHA #1 (Marvel, 2009) – “Necrosha Chapter One,” [W] Craig Kyle & Christopher Yost, [A] Clayton Crain. An introduction to an X-Men crossover in which a lot of dead X-Men characters return to life. Besides the main story, there are backup stories starring Doug Ramsey and Destiny. X-Necrosha has obvious similarities to the contemporaneous DC crossover Blackest Night, which was also about dead characters returning to life, and at the time Necrosha was considered a ripoff of Blackest Night.

THE SANDWALK ADVENTURES #3 (Active Synapse, 2002) – “Darwin Saves the World,” [W/A] Jay Hosler. While Charles Darwin recovers from a fall, the mites in his hair tell each other about Darwin’s theory of evolution. This comic provides a clear explanation of Darwin’s theories, and its art and writing are both very appealing. One funny moment is when Darwin is attacked by an alien conqueror, but Darwin proves that he himself is more evolutionarily fit than the alien, because he’s had children, and the alien hasn’t. Jay Hosler is an excellent artist of educational comics, and it’s too bad that his career began at a time when there wasn’t a market for such comics. He’s a biology professor in his day job, but he has continued to work in comics, and he published a graphic novel with First Second in 2015.

PROVIDENCE #4 (Avatar, 2015) – “White Apes,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jacen Burrows. I have all but one issue of this series, but I stopped reading it after issue 3, perhaps because of the lengthy text pieces at the end of each issue. These text features are each at least ten pages long, and they’re also handwritten, making them hard to decipher. As I have observed on many other occasions, when I’m reading comics, I don’t want to read prose. If I wanted to read prose, I would read a book. It’s too bad that I quit reading Providence, because the actual comic part of it is fascinating. In this issue, Robert Black visits the town of Athol in central Massachusetts, where he meets a creepy old farmer and his equally disturbing daughter and grandson. From these people he learns that his next destination is St. Anselm College in Manchester. A fun sequence in this issue is where the grandson takes some cubes and merges them together into a hypercube. Alan Moore’s Avatar comics, like Providence and Neonomicon, are one of the more obscure parts of his oeuvre. These comics, like everything from Avatar, have low production values and terrible art, and some of them are not original works but adaptations of Moore’s prose writings. Still, they’re among the only Alan Moore comics I haven’t read, and I suppose I should read more of them.

NEXUS #54 (First, 1989) – “Election Day,” [W] Mike Baron, [A] Paul Smith. Tyrone is running for reelection as Ylum’s president, but he can’t campaign because he’s too busy fighting off a Sov invasion. Just as Tyrone is about to get killed, Sundra and Dave rescue him, and he wins the election. A funny line on the last page is “Everyone but Brian of the Bat People has conceded. Brian went berserk and had to be shot.” Meanwhile, Nexus tries to save a sick baby using his healing tank, but the baby dies. Despite my antipathy for Mike Baron, I have to admit this was a pretty good issue. Sometime around this point, Steve Rude left the series and didn’t return until Nexus: The Origin, and the series’ quality took a nose dive.

THE ROCKETEER/THE SPIRIT: PULP FRICTION #4 (IDW/DC, 2013) – “Pulp Friction,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] J. Bone. The Rocketeer and the Spirit team up to rescue President Roosevelt, and in the process they discover that he’s a paraplegic. This comic is okay, but Rocketeer and the Spirit are such classic characters that any teamup between them, without the involvement of their creators, was bound to be disappointing. It’s a shame that this crossover couldn’t have happened while Will Eisner and Dave Stevens were still alive. It feels kind of pointless for anyone else to publish Rocketeer stories, since Stevens set a standard of quality that was impossible for anyone to meet, even Stevens himself.

THE BOOKS OF MAGIC #45 (DC, 1998) – “Slave of Heavens Part 1: The Veil,” [W] John Ney Rieber, [A] Peter Gross. Having given up his magic powers, Tim travels back from the realm of the dead aboard a plane, since his earliest awareness of death came when he watched a film about a plane crash . Back on Earth, he interrupts his father’s wedding and reveals that the “Tim” who’s attending the wedding is a changeling. Books of Magic is an excellent fantasy comic with a unique, whimsical sensibility, although its plot is rather hard to follow.

1602 WITCH HUNTER ANGELA #2 (Marvel, 2015) – “Part Two, in Which All the World’s a Stage and the Guardians Overthrow the Players,” [W] Marguerite Bennett w/ Kieron Gillen, [A] Stephanie Hans w/ Irene Koh. The 1602 versions of Angela and the Guardians of the Galaxy interrupt the wedding of the 1602 version of Venom. Disappointingly, the 1602 version of Groot is a monk who’s sworn to silence, not a tree. There’s also an inset story, which is below Gillen’s normal level of quality, and also has much less interesting art than the main story. In general, Marvel never quite managed to make Angela a compelling character, and Kieron Gillen’s talents were wasted on her. Also, the 1602 milieu is not worth reading about if Neil Gaiman isn’t the writer.

HAMMER OF GOD: PENTATHLON #1 (Dark Horse, 1994) – untitled, [W] Mike Baron, [A] Neil Vokes. I thought this was the first issue of a miniseries, but it’s a one-shot. In the interplanetary Olympics, Judah enters the pentathlon, whose events are running, swimming, wrestling, cooking, and poetry. His main rival is his old enemy Jacques the Anvil. Judah fails to win any of the events because he’s busy preventing his old allies, the Gucci assassins, from killing people. This is a pretty fun comic – I particularly like the idea of a pentathlon that includes cooking and poetry – but I would have liked this comic a lot more if I were able to separate Mike Baron’s writing from Mike Baron himself.

X-FACTOR #86 (Marvel, 1993) – “One of These Days…”, [W] Peter David, [A] Jae Lee. I was exhausted when I read this, so maybe I judged it unfairly, but I thought it was awful. It’s another X-Cutioner’s Song crossover, so the X-Men and X-Force get as much panel space as the X-Factor members themselves. Also, Jae Lee’s art is awful. Some of his inking techniques are innovative, but his panel-to-panel continuity is unexciting, and his characters all stand in stiff, static poses. He’s a potentially interesting artist, but I haven’t bothered to read his new Image series Seven Sons.

Finally we get to my most recent Heroes trip, which was last weekend:

ONCE & FUTURE #30 (Boom!, 2022) – “Long Live the Queen,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. Gran convinces Mary/Elaine to put her gun down, and the Lethe-water plot is executed successfully. Mary chooses to stay in the underworld. Merlin doesn’t die, because he can’t, so he’s destined to come back eventually. Due to the rain of Lethe water, everyone forgets the events of the series, but Granny has left herself a note saying “vomit now!” She does so, regaining her memories, and she’s about to tell Duncan and Rose to do likewise, but instead she decides to leave them in blissful ignorance. Congratulations to Gillen and Mora on a satisfying end to the best new comic book of the past five years. I’m not an Arthurian scholar, but I’d like to give a conference paper on Once & Future someday.

NIGHTWING #97 (DC, 2022) – “Power Vacuum Part 1,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo. Dick is disappointed to learn that Blockbuster died before he could be brought to justice. Commissioner Montoya decides to take the corrupt mob boss Maroni to Gotham before arresting him, since he can be protected there more effectively than in Bludhaven. The convoy taking Maroni to Gotham is ambushed, and Dick and Babs have to flee with Maroni to one of Bruce’s secret safehouses, where Maroni is forced to listen to them having relations. The next day, a man drives up to the safehouse in a taxi and introduces himself as “Ric Grayson”. This issue has some really cute Dick/Babs scenes. I especially like Babs’s silly pun about Dick stealing her heart. I do have to wonder why they couldn’t just have Superman fly Maroni to Gotham, but I suppose Superman has other things to do.

WYND: THE THRONE IN THE SKY #3 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. The kids find a hot spring, where they have some difficult conversations while bathing. This scene is really cute, especially since this series has had a very bleak mood overall. The Duke and his allies escape from the prison camp. General Eks reveals his plan to sacrifice his own men in order to capture Wynd. He ambushes Wynd and friends while they’re sleeping, but they’re saved by a deus ex machina, a giant named Strawberry. But it’s not clear that they’ve really escaped, because Strawberry then puts them all in a giant-sized jar.

DO A POWERBOMB! #5 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Daniel Warren Johnson. The final round of the tournament is hotly contested, but stunningly, FYSO win in the end. Maggie deals the final blow to Lona while Lona is shocked at the revelation that Cobrasun is her father. Then we learn that the two members of FYSO have each lost a child. And now that they’ve won the tournament, they participate in a final duel to the death, to see which of their children will be resurrected. This plot twist is somewhat disappointing, and I hope we get a more satisfying resolution to Cobrasun and Yua’s story arc.

DARK SPACES: WILDFIRE #4 (IDW, 2022) – “Max Heat,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Hayden Sherman. The assailants overpower the firefighters and tie them up, except for Brooks, who they drag away. Recall that Brooks was the employee of the man who owned the house. Ma manages to escape her bonds by breaking her own wrist, and she frees the other three, but then they discover Brooks giving instructions to the gunmen! So the entire scheme to rob the house was a setup, and I bet if I look back at issue 1, I’ll find that the robbery was Brooks’s idea in the first place… I did check, and yes, it was her idea. What a brilliant plot twist. Dark Spaces: Wildfire is easily the best of IDW’s new creator-owned comics, and I think it’s my favorite work by Snyder.

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #16 (DC, 2022) – “Reunion,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Romulo Fajardo. We begin with a flashback to when Clark taught Jon to master his super-hearing. Jon heats up his mother’s coffee with his heat vision, deals with some loose ends from last issue, and fights the Ultra-Humanite. In the middle of all this, his dad comes back to Earth, and Jon and Clark share a big hug. This is a cathartic moment.

BONE ORCHARD: TEN THOUSAND BLACK FEATHERS #2 (Image, 2022) – “They Build,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. In one sequence, the two girls design a fantasy world, and in another sequence, their fantasy characters have an adventure in that world. Later, the girls drift apart, and Jackie loses interest in the fantasy world. Then we learn that Jackie vanished ten years ago and was never seen again. This issue again reveals Sorrentino’s ability to draw in multiple different styles, even within a single page. Most of the fantasy-world sequences are drawn in his crisper, brighter style, but the enemies – the Skincrawlers – are drawn in his dark, muddy style, so they seem like an irruption of the real into the realm of the imaginary.

PUBLIC DOMAIN #5 (Image, 2022) – “Make Some Magic,” [W/A] Chip Zdarsky. In a flashback, we learn how Tammy got interested in comics despite her immigrant parents’ disapproval. Syd sets up his new company, Dallas Comics, and it seems like it’ll be a disaster. But then we learn that Dallas’s fan, Mohammed, is a billionaire tech bro, and he’s agreed to fund Dallas Comics for a year. The issue ends with Miles saying “Let’s make some comics.” If this is the last issue of Public Domain, it’s a satisfying conclusion. But I hope it’s not the last issue, because Public Domain is the best comic Chip Zdarsky has ever written, and I want to read more of it. There have been lots of comics about the comic book industry, but most of them have been either nostalgic paeans to the great comics of the past, or pessimistic satires of the industry’s corruption and irrelevance, and Public Domain manages to be both those things at once.

EVE: CHILDREN OF THE MOON #1 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Jo Mi-Gyeong. The two Eves visit the Portage, Michigan rest area to see why it hasn’t been responding to their communication. They discover that the Michigan outpost has been taken over by a sect of fanatical moon-worshippers, who threaten to kill both Eves unless they surrender their robot bear. I’m glad to see a sequel to Eve, which was an excellent miniseries, and the Children of the Moon are a very scary antagonist. I lost my review of issue 5 of the original Eve.  

MARVEL FAMILY #1 facsimile (Fawcett/DC, 1945/2022) – “The Mighty Marvels Join Forces!”, [W] Otto Binder, [A] C.C. Beck. This comic was released without much notice, and I’m glad Heroes still had it on the shelf when I visited. It was reprinted to coincide with the Black Adam movie, because Marvel Family #1 was Black Adam’s first and only Golden Age appearance. Black Adam is an impressive villain, and his debut story is an excellent example of the Fawcett style – it’s exciting and funny at once. Why was this Black Adam’s only appearance in a Fawcett comic? Because Uncle Marvel defeats him by tricking him into saying “Shazam,” and he turns into his 5000-year-old mortal form and dies of old age. This is sort of like how Johnny Bates defeats himself in Miracleman #2. Marvel Family #1 includes two backup features: a stupid comedy story, and a cute story where the Marvel Family cares for an abandoned baby.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #133 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Fero Pe. This issue includes some cute scenes with the Turtles’ supporting cast, so it’s automatically the best issue in months. For example, Lita appears again for the first time since I don’t know when. Unfortunately, this issue is also a tie-in with a crossover called The Armageddon Game. I don’t know what that is, and I don’t care.

BATGIRLS #11 (DC, 2022) – “Bat Girl Summer Part 3,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael Conrad, [A] Neil Googe. This issue guest-stars my favorite new DC character of recent years: Maps Mizoguchi! It’s great to see her again, and my only complaint is she’s drawn to look too young. Watching her interact with the Batgirls is incredibly fun. The main plot of this issue is that the Batgirls follow a trail of clues until it leads them to the Riddler. Neil Googe’s art in this story arc has been quite effective, though he’s not as flashy as Jorge Corona.

CRASHING #2 (IDW, 2022) – “Crashing Part Two,” [W] Matthew Klein, [A] Morgan Beem. The pressure on Rose increases, both from her legal employers, and from the supervillain who’s forcing her to work for him. Also, Rose’s politician husband Don is trying to pass a superhero registration bill, which Rose disagrees with. No wonder Rose is relapsing into drug addiction. When Rose refuses the supervillain’s request to influence Don to withdraw the bill, the supervillain has his henchmen invade Rose’s apartment and kidnap Don. Crashing is a thrilling story that powerfully depicts the impossible stress that doctors are under.

CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SALEM #1 (Archie, 2022) – untitled, [W] Cullen Bunn, [A] Dan Schoening. I’ve mostly given up on ordering new Archie comics, for reasons that will be explained below, but I bought this one off the shelf. I can’t resist a comic with a cat for a protagonist. In this issue, Sabrina’s cat Salem defeats a wizard who’s summoning demons and imprisoning them in animals’ bodies. This issue is suspiciously similar to Beasts in Burden, but it’s still the best Archie comic of the year, mostly because it consists of just a single story. In most of the other current Archie comics, there are several stories per issue, and therefore none of them have enough room to develop.

2000 AD #2290 (Rebellion, 2022) – There was a new prog pack waiting for me at Heroes, but it didn’t include #2289. I can’t imagine why this issue was missing, but I don’t think it’s Heroes’s fault. Dredd: “Special Relationship 02,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Patrick Goddard. Mega-City One and Brit-Cit get into a pissing match over repairs to the Black Atlantic Tunnel. Skip Tracer: “Valhalla,” [W] James Peaty, [A] Paul Marshall. Nolan leaves his daughter behind to go on a dangerous mission. Dexter: “Malice in Plunderland Part 2,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Tazio Bettin. Dexter and Tracy involve themselves in a gang war. Brink: “Mercury Retrograde Part 19,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] I.N.J. Culbard. Yet another chapter in which nothing noteworthy happens. In terms of its glacial pacing, this story is the 2000 AD equivalent of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Black Panther.

DEFENDERS BEYOND #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “Da’at: The Land of Couldn’t-Be-Shouldn’t-Be,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Javier Rodriguez. The Defenders have a fantasy of a utopian world in which all their dreams are fulfilled, but it’s an illusion created by Glorian. The Defenders reject Glorian’s temptation and defeat him by summoning the Never Queen from Dan Slott’s Silver Surfer. The next stop on the Defenders’ journey is the House of Ideas. It goes without saying that Javier Rodriguez’s art on this miniseries has been amazing, though in this issue he uses fewer radical page layouts than usual. One page that stands out is the splash page of Galactus’s distorted face.

IMMORTAL X-MEN #7 (Marvel, 2022) – “Red in Blue,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Lucas Werneck. Nightcrawler is the featured character this issue. Anna Peppard described this issue as a quintessential Nightcrawler story – “It’s been a minute since I’ve seen Kurt Wagner perform the part of Kurt Wagner quite this magnificently… This is a comic book I can point to and say — this. This is why I love this character, and why you should love him, too.” I can’t argue with her. Kurt is presented in this issue as audacious, charming, and deeply empathic. Kieron Gillen writes Nightcrawler so well that it’s too bad he’s not the writer on Legion of X.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: SYMBOL OF TRUTH #6 (Marvel, 2022) – “Pax Mohannda Part 1,” [W] Tochi Onyebuchi, [A] Ig Guara. Mohannda, Wakanda’s neighboring country, is comparable to South Africa or Zimbabwe because of its history of racial tension. Mohannda’s new reformist prime minister, Jani Schonland, comes to America to speak at the UN, only to be assassinated by white supremacist terrorists. This issue is a promising start to the second story arc. However, Symbol of Truth’s first story also started out promisingly, but was derailed by a lot of pointless action scenes, and I hope the same thing doesn’t happen a second time.

WONDER WOMAN #792 (DC, 2022) – “Feral Part Two,” [W] Michael W. Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Marguerite Sauvage. Diana and Cheetah escape from the Cale Industries facility, and we discover that Dr. Psycho is plotting with the goddess Hera to use psychoactive milk to dominate people. This is at least the fourth comic book I’ve read in which milk was used as a delivery mechanism for harmful substances. Others were the Milk Wars crossover, Fantastic Four Annual #17, and Batman: Shadow of the Bat #52 (which I read so long ago that I had trouble identifying it). Marguerite Sauvage’s art here is more conventional than I expect from her, but her linework is still beautiful. In the Young Diana backup story, Diana collapses while trying to heal the mystical creature.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #42 (Marvel,  2022) – “The Chewie Center,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Andrea Di Vito. In an A.X.E. crossover, New York is invaded by aliens, and Carol’s sort-of-cat Chewie has to save the day. This is not the first comic book that’s narrated from a cat’s perspective – earlier examples are Astro City #44 and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #15, not to mention Sandman #18 – but you can never have too many comics about cats, and this is a pretty good one. I also like the two-page spread showing all the people in Carol’s building.

SHANG-CHI AND THE TEN RINGS #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “Game of Rings Part 1,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Marcus To. It’s time for a classic trope from East Asian media: the martial arts tournament. Shang-Chi’s date with his neglected love interest Delilah is interrupted when he’s forcibly entered in an other-dimensional competition. Ten martial artists have to compete to get to the top of the Meritorious Striving Pagoda, and the winner will get to keep the Ten Rings – which is rather unfair since the rings already belong to Shang-Chi. By the end of the issue, there are six competitors left, and Shang-Chi teams up with his old frenemy Shen Kuei, another character from the series’ classic period.

NAMOR: CONQUERED SHORES #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Hope’s Embers,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Pasqual Ferry. This comic is sort of like Waterworld, since it takes place in a future world that’s been drowned by sea level rise. Atlantis now dominates the world, but Namor has abdicated the throne to Namorita, which makes it hard for him to protect the few surviving land-dwelling humans. This comic is rather grim, as I suppose I should expect from Cantwell, but it’s certainly better so far than his other recent debut, Briar. Pasqual Ferry, like Salvador Larroca, is a highly skilled, veteran Spanish artist who’s never gotten enough respect.

2000 AD #2291 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Brit-Cit’s army takes over the Black Atlantic Tunnel, and in Brit-Cit itself, there’s a conversation between two men named Bernard and Modric. Brink: as above. Nolan tries and fails to interview a man named Anish Anoor, and then a man named Evan Leeden approaches him. Yet another chapter with no excitement or action. Skip Tracer: as above. Nolan and his crew are driven nuts by something called the Blackstar. Eden talks with the girl with anime eyes. This is the only story in this issue that really interests me. Dexter: as above. Dexter and Tracy convince the leaders of the two gangs to negotiate with each other. Jaegir: “Ferox One,” [W] Gordon Rennie, [A] Simon Coleby. This is set in the Rogue Trooper universe and stars a character who looks like Venus Bluegenes, but other than that I don’t understand it.

THE DEADLIEST BOUQUET #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Erika Schultz, [A] Carola Borelli. The police implicate Jasmine in a 1978 murder. Her victim, James Asmus, is named after a comic book writer, but I don’t know why; I assume it’s an inside joke. The sisters almost kill Poppy’s husband, thinking he’s an intruder. Rose (I think) throws the murder weapon in the river.

SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER 2 #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jody Leheup, [A] Nil Vendrell. Shirtless climbs Mount Ainu and discovers a mural that reveals that Ursa Major is his father. Then Shirtless fights Ursa Major himself, who is introduced in a splash page that’s an homage to Bill Sienkiewicz’s famous depiction of the Demon Bear. Shirtless loses the fight and wakes up in Japan. There he fights some yakuza bears, or “yakuma,” and is subsequently arrested and convicted of murder. This scene seems like a contrived way of getting Shirtless into prison. Okonomiyaki are described in this issue as Japanese pancakes, which is kind of accurate, but you can’t really eat a stack of okonomiyaki.

SILVER COIN #15 (Image, 2022) – “Into the Fire,” [W/A] Michael Walsh. A man named Louis finds the coin. He repeatedly gives the coin to other people, then takes it back after these people get killed. One of the people who gets the coin from Louis is the waitress from issue 11, but I don’t recognize the other recipients. In the end the coin kills Louis himself, and that’s the end of the series for now.

HIGHBALL #2 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Touring the Facilities,” [W] Stuart Moore, [A] Fred Harper. Highball receives an award, but he and his fellow pilots can’t make it to the award ceremony because it’s behind a door that’s locked by an incomprehensible puzzle. Eventually they give up and start vandalizing the Mentok ship instead. I think the best part of this comic is the Mentoks. A sample Mentok quotation: “For relative bravery, minimal honor, and conduct slightly above the pathetic level expected of his brutish and peculiar people, it is my tedious duty to award the Mentok ‘Medal of Scant Heroism’ to this, ah, this… what is his name again?”

LOVE EVERLASTING #3 (Image, 2022) – “Too Late for Love,” [W] Tom King, [A] Elsa Charretier. Unlike the first two issues, and unlike most of the romance comics it’s based on, this issue tells a single story. Joan is in love with her high school classmate Fred, but she can’t decide whether to marry him or go away to college. Then Joan learns that her school librarian, also named Joan, had a similar choice to make, and chose to leave town. But Joan the librarian eventually went back to her hometown anyway, only to discover that her high school boyfriend was now married with a child – who was named after his lost love. That explains why Joan is named that, and why her parents’ marriage is unhappy. The younger Joan chooses to accept Fred’s proposal, but then the masked man shows up again and murders the older Joan. This is the first issue of Love Everlasting that works as a story in its own right, outside the context of the overarching reincarnation plot.

JURASSIC LEAGUE #6 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Daniel Warren Johnson, [W/A] Juan Gedeon. The dinosaur Justice League finally defeats the dinosaur Darkseid. This series was fun, but it was a single good idea stretched out over six issues. It should have been a one-shot, or a three-issue miniseries at most.

DAREDEVIL #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Red Fist Saga Part 4,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Rafael De Latorre. Matt and Elektra travel to their new hideout, where they meet Stick and Doc Samson. At Stick’s request, Matt and Elektra perform a ritual that makes them king and queen of the Fist, as well as husband and wife. This issue made more sense than the last one.

NIGHTWING #78 (DC, 2021) – “Leaping Into the Light Part 1,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo. I won this on eBay. It’s a third printing, but who cares. Blockbuster, the crime boss of Blüdhaven, murders the city’s current mayor and replaces him with Melinda Zucco, the daughter of the man who killed Dick Grayson’s parents. Meanwhile, Dick saves a dog from being beaten by hooligans. On returning home, Dick learns from Babs that the late Alfred Pennyworth was extremely rich, and Dick is his sole heir. This issue is an excellent start to the best current Marvel or DC comic, and it also explains some plot points I hadn’t quite understood before.

SNARF #2 (Kitchen Sink, 1972) – [E] Denis Kitchen. This is another eBay purchase. It’s in ugly condition, but is still complete and readable. “Alexander Nutsky,” [W] Pete Poplaski. A Polish-themed barbarian adventure story, and also a paean to Polish sausage. “Wild Man Meets Rubberoy,” [W/A] Grass Green. A superhero parody in the vein of Kurtzman and Wood’s Superduperman. By the way, I’ve never read the original run of Mad. It’s a big gap in my comics education. But I don’t know if it’s been reprinted in an affordable form. “Ma Cow,” [W/A] Evert Geradts. A two-pager about cows. This artist is a pioneer of Dutch underground comics. “Crescent City Rollo in the Cabbage Gardens,” [W/A] Wendel Pugh. I’ve never heard of this artist, but he was a very talented draftsman. His art reminds me of both Robert Williams and Justin Green, and his lettering is especially crisp and appealing. This story, like Harold Hedd #2, is about hippies who travel to Latin America to smuggle drugs.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1 HALLOWEEN TRICK-OR-READ 2022 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Zeb Wells, [A] Michael Dowling. This was given out for free at Heroes as part of a Halloween promotion. Confusingly, it has three different numbers – it’s #1, but it’s a reprint of Amazing Spider-Man #88, which was LGY #889. It must have been chosen for the Halloween Trick-or-Read promotion because it’s the first appearance of Queen Goblin, a scary-looking character. However, for a comic intended as an introduction for new readers, it’s a very poor choice. It makes no sense unless the reader is already familiar with the premise behind the Beyond story arc, it stars Ben Reilly instead of Peter Parker, and it’s an uninteresting story anyway.

DUO #6 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Khoi Pham. Kelly and David team up to defeat both the aliens and the immortals. This series had a mildly interesting premise, but it wasted the potential of that premise by introducing too many other irrelevant plot elements.

CAREER SHOPLIFTER #1 (Uncivilized, 2022) – various stories, [W/A] Gabrielle Bell. A collection of Gabrielle Bell’s drawings and sketches from early 2022. Most of the stories are about people she encounters in the coffee shop where she works. She’s become a very talented draftsperson, and her meditations are thoughtful and interesting, though a bit whiny sometimes. I think most of these stories were first published through her Patreon. Her short story collection Inappropriate is on my pile of books to be read soon.

TRVE KVLT #3 (IDW, 2022) – “Soft Skills and C-Minus Nachos,” [W] Scott Bryan Wilson, [A] Liana Kangas. Marty and Alison travel to Dr. Shiver’s lair, where, after experiencing a series of alternate lives, they descend all the way to hell. I liked this issue better than #2, but this series still lacks a consistent tone, and its two protagonists are still annoying.

MONEY SHOT #1 (Vault, 2019) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Sarah Beattie, [A] Rebekah Isaacs. This was another eBay purchase. It’s a later printing, and it was shipped in a wrapper to conceal the obscene imagery on the cover. In 2027, humanity has discovered the existence of extraterrestrial life, but the aliens understandably don’t think humans are worth their attention, while Earth has no money for space exploration. Faced with an inability to obtain funding for their space travel research, a group of scientists have a brilliant idea: they’ll generate revenue by getting people to pay to watch them having sex with aliens. This is a brilliant and funny setup, and it helps me understand the rest of the series. Rebekah Isaacs is an excellent erotic artist who has the rare skill of depicting sex in a tantalizing way, but without being exploitative. (I was going to say “exploitative or tawdry,” but this comic is tawdry, and proud of it.)  

HAWK THE SLAYER #5 (Rebellion, 2022) – “Die by the Sword,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Henry Flint. Voltan cuts Hawk’s hand off, but Hawk is still able to control his sword with his severed hand, and he uses it to kill Voltan. This miniseries was mostly pointless, and I should have skipped it.

2000 AD #2292 – Dredd: as above. Some old dude talks to the two British guys from last issue, and then one of them is kidnapped by a woman named Domino. Meanwhile, the Black Atlantic standoff erupts into violence. Skip Tracer: as above. Nolan’s teammate sacrifices himself so that Nolan can escape, and he wakes up in the afterlife, where he’s greeted by Eden’s dead mother Pamela. Dexter: as above. At Dexter and Tracy’s behest, the seconds-in-command of the two gangs murder their bosses and then join forces. Brink: as above. Nolan talks with Evan Leeden, who’s a secret agent, and Eden tells Nolan to give some information to the press. I don’t think I’ve ever read a 2000 AD story that had less action or excitement than this one. Jaegir: as above. I still don’t understand this story’s plot. It does have the best art in the issue, but that’s not saying much.

FEAR THE FUNHOUSE #1 (Archie, 2022) – “Snack Attack,” [W] Micol Ostow, [A] Lissette Carrera, etc. Another in a long line of bad Archie one-shots. All three “stories” in this issue are pointless non-stories. Each one has a mildly interesting setup, at best, but doesn’t go anywhere. This even applies to the Magdalene Visaggio story, which must have been the reason I ordered this comic. Archie has clearly lost interest in publishing comics for the direct market. The main Archie title was cancelled during the pandemic, and there’s no sign that it’s going to be revived. Archie seems to be devoting all their attention to digests, which must be far more lucrative. But if that’s the case, then I don’t see why Archie is even bothering to publish these one-shots at all. They certainly aren’t putting much effort into them.

BATMAN: THE KNIGHT #10 (DC, 2022) – “The Knight Finale,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Carmine Di Giandomenico. Bruce defeats Anton/Minhkhoa and becomes Ra’s al Ghul’s heir, but Anton has informed Bruce that Ra’s is planning to destroy the world, so Bruce sabotages Ra’s plans. Anton saves Bruce at the last minute, Bruce returns to Gotham, and the series ends just before the iconic “I shall become a bat” moment. This is probably the most satisfying issue of the series, because it demonstrates how Bruce’s experiences, throughout all ten issues, have culminated to inform his decision to become Batman.

SACRAMENT #3 (AWA, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Marcelo Frusin. Vass and Rais continue to have no success with exorcising the demon, and in a flashback, we learn that Vass has already broken his vow of celibacy. The demon possesses Rais herself and forces her to seduce Vass. He refuses, and then the demon seemingly kills her. This is a powerful issue, but again, Sacrament feels less original than Absolution.

LEGION OF X #6 (Marvel, 2022) – “Holding the Line,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Rafael Pimentel. Legion fights an epic mental battle with Uranos. The best part of this issue, and perhaps of the series in general, is the splash page where Legion and Zafran compete with each other in a top-hat-and-cane dance and in a guitar-versus-harp battle. In context, this actually kind of makes sense. Given that all of Spurrier’s X-Men comics have had Nightcrawler as the main protagonist, it’s ironic that Kieron Gillen’s Immortal X-Men #7 is so much better than anything Spurrier has done with Nightcrawler.

ELLE(S) #3 (Ablaze, 2022) – untitled, [W] Kid Toussaint, [A] Aveline Stokart. Elle has noticed that there are no pictures of her as a newborn, and that she was born in Batesville, a town 300 miles from her hometown. She and her friends travel to Batesville to investigate this mystery. While there, they notice a man following them. He proves to be a private detective… and his client is Elle’s real mother. This discovery causes Elle to become catatonic. This issue is much more exciting than the first two. It seems as if the setup is over now, and the real plot has begun.

AQUAMAN: ANDROMEDA #3 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Ram V, [A] Christian Ward. After a lot of plot twists, Yvette and Alexei are the sole survivors of the Andromeda. Alexei reveals to Yvette that during the Bosnian War, he murdered a boatload of helpless refugees. He redeems himself by sacrificing his life to destroy the alien ship, while Aquaman saves Yvette. This series was everything that could have been expected from its two star creators. It’s one of the best Aquaman comics in recent memory, and it’s my favorite Ram V comic besides These Savage Shores and Many Deaths of Laila Starr. Christian Ward’s art and coloring here are stunning, and he takes full advantage of the larger page size of the Black Label format.  

2000 AD #1844 (Rebellion, 2013) – I have two copies of this for some reason, so if you’ve read this far, please comment on this post and I’ll send you the extra copy. This issue’s cover has a funny caption: “30 Years of Slaine / He Didn’t Think It Too Many.” Dredd: “Scavengers Part 3,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Carl Critchlow. Dredd and Klegg defeat the terrorists who took over Luna-2. Defoe: “The Damned Part 9,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Leigh Gallagher. Defoe sells his soul to Faust in order to fight the British Empire. Slaine: “The Book of Scars,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Clint Langley. In a 30th-anniversary story, Slaine tells his latest lover Vevina the stories behind his various scars. Then Vevina’s womb bursts open to reveal Slaine’s old enemy, the alien Guledig. Clint Langley’s photorealistic painted art in this chapter is beautiful. Age of the Wolf: “Wolfworld Part 5,” [W] Alec Worley, [A] Jon Davis-Hunt. The head wolf hunts down the girl Keira. The Ten-Seconders: “Godsend Part 6,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Edmund Bagwell. Another chapter that makes no sense.

DETECTIVE COMICS #491 (DC, 1980) – Batman: “Riddle of the Golden Fleece,” [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Don Newton. Maxie Zeus tries to steal an artificial version of the Golden Fleece for his daughter Medea, who is introduced in this issue. I don’t know if her mother was ever named, but it makes sense that a character based on Zeus would have an illegitimate child. Jason Bard: “Fragrance of Death!”, [W] Mike W. Barr, [A] Dan Spiegle. A cemetery caretaker notices that Jason Bard keeps putting flowers on the grave of a certain drifter. Jason Bard explains that this grave belongs to the killer of Jason’s father. In a flashback, we see that Jason’s father murdered his mother. Later, Jason found his father with the help of the drifter, Scratch. Then Scratch killed Jason’s father to save Jason, but suffered fatal injuries as a result. I usually don’t like Mike Barr’s writing, but this was a powerful story, the best in the issue. Robin: “The Target of the Death-Dealer,” [W] Jack C. Harris, [A] Alex Saviuk. Robin solves a mystery at Hudson University. At the end of the story, Robin hides behind the scoreboard at a basketball game, and no one sees him. Black Lightning: “Short Circuit,” [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Pat Broderick. Black Lightning loses his powers while solving a crime. Black Lightning reappeared in #494 and #495, but I don’t think he got his powers back until he became a member of the Outsiders. In this issue Black Lightning says he both won the Olympic decathlon and broke the record for the 100-meter dash. It’s not humanly possible for the same person to do both those things, so he must have meant some record other than the world record. Batgirl: “The Assassination of Batgirl!”, [W] Cary Burkett, [A] José Delbo. General Scar hangs Batgirl in effigy. This villain later appeared in World’s Finest #279.

SLEEPER SEASON TWO #11 (Wildstorm, 2005) – “In the Crossfire,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. This doesn’t make any more sense than issue 12. In this series Phillips uses a strange page layout with lots of inset panels. Later in his career his page layouts became more conventional.

REDNECK #14 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Lisandro Estherren. Bartlett wakes up in the care of a woman named Ingrid, who claims to be a representative of the Parliament of Elders. Bartlett has a tense conversation with his old flame July. Ingrid and the Parliament of Elders decide to assassinate the Bowman family. This issue would have been more fun if I’d had any idea who any of the characters were.

DOMINO #5 (Marvel, 2018) – “Onimod,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] David Baldeon. Domino and Shang-Chi fight a number of Shang-Chi’s old enemies, such as Shockwave and Razorfist. BTW, I just noticed that Shockwave looks a lot like Wildfire, who debuted three years earlier. There’s also a subplot about Diamondback and Outlaw. This issue is entertaining but insubstantial.

PROVIDENCE #5 (Avatar, 2015) – “In the Walls,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jacen Burrows. Robert Black visits St. Anselm College, but can’t see the Kitab (i.e. the Necronomicon) because its caretaker is away for the week. He takes lodgings in the neighboring small town of Goffs Falls, where he has a series of horrifying dreams. In terror, Black returns to Manchester and stays with Hector North, a college staff member, and North’s male roommate Montague. North and Montague are obviously coded as gay, but the joke is that they’re based on the title character and narrator of “Herbert West – Reanimator,” so everything they say could refer to either gay sex or reviving the dead. In the midst of all this, Black meets a strange little girl, Elspeth West. Again, this issue has a very long and tedious handwritten text piece at the end. Much of this text is superfluous, as it just retells the events of the issue.

BROTHERS OF THE SPEAR #18 (Whitman, 1982) – “The Labyrinths of Aba-Zulu,” [W] Don Glut, [A] Jesse Santos. While out on a picnic, Dan-El and Natongo encounter Lugongo, their father (or adopted father in Dan-El’s case). This provides an opportunity for a recap of the brothers’ origin. Then the evil wizard Nagopa tries to take over Aba-Zulu and replace Dan-El and Natongo with the intellectually disabled son of the dead usurper Hanool. Of course Dan-El and Natongo foil the plot. This story is a reprint of issue 2, and was published six years after issue 17. I have no idea why they chose to publish it. By 1982, Western had abandoned the newsstand market and was only distributing comics in three-packs sold through department stores. Some of the Whitman comics that were only available in this format are extremely rare and valuable, but Brothers of the Spear #18 does not seem to be one of those.

CARVER: A PARIS STORY #1 (Z2, 2015) – “Who Are You?”, [W/A] Chris Hunt. I ordered this because it contains a short story by Paul Pope. That story actually is worth reading, because it has excellent art, and it’s also a cute tribute to Corto Maltese. However, I should have skipped the other issues of the series, as Paul Pope had nothing to do with them. The main story in Carver #1 is a waste of space. All that happens in it is that some people try to intimidate our hero, Carver, and he beats them up and goes looking for the person who sent them. This whole story could have been told in two pages.

PROVIDENCE #6 (Avatar, 2015) – “Out of Time,” as above. On leaving North’s house, Black discovers that the librarian has already been back for more than a week. He spends most of the issue reading the Kitab, and when he finishes, even more time has passed. Elspeth takes him back to her home, where we realize that she’s possessed by some sort of demon, and the demon swaps its mind with Robert’s so that it can force Robert to have sex with Elspeth. This scene is obviously quite disturbing. Robert runs outside into the pouring rain, and then there’s another giant block of text. At least this text is a bit more interesting, since it summarizes what Robert read in the Kitab.

STAR WARS: DOCTOR APHRA #1 HALLOWEEN TRICK-OR-READ 2022 (Marvel, 2020/2022) – “Fortune and Fate Part 1: The Rings of Vaale,” [W] Alyssa Wong, [A] Marika Cresta. Another free comic. It was first published as Star Wars: Doctor Aphra (2020) #1. It may be a bit more new-reader-friendly than Amazing Spider-Man #88, but it’s not particularly good. I have very little interest in the Star Wars franchise.

2000 AD #1845 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd: “Bender Part One,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Ben Willsher. A judge named Al Lock has a nightmare about when his father beheaded his mother. Then he teams up with a new partner, Lou Bender, who proceeds to beat up a man for a mild offense. Defoe: as above. Defoe betrays Faust, claiming that their pact was void because Defoe had no soul to sell. In exchange, Faust absconds with Defoe’s friends. Slaine: “The Book of Scars Part 2: The Bride of Crom,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Clint Langley. Either a flashback or an alternate-reality version of the similarly titled story from progs #337-342, in which Slaine saves Medb from being sacrificed to Crom Cruach. Clint Langley’s art here is line-drawn rather  than painted, but it’s still brilliant. His depiction of Slaine’s warp spasm is especially gruesome. Age of the Wolf: as above. The witch, Rowan Morrigan, goes looking for her daughter Keira, while the werewolf prepares to sacrifice Keira. The Ten-Seconders: as above. This still makes no sense. I read this issue’s last two stories just yesterday, and I can’t remember anything about either of them.

METAL MEN #7 (DC, 1964) – “The Living Gun!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Ross Andru. Will Magnus and Platinum have a lovers’ quarrel. Then the Metal Men battle the Solar Brain, an evil entity that’s been spontaneously generated in space. The brain forces the Metal Men to turn into a gun and shoot Magnus, but Lead manages to resist the brain’s control. Given that Platinum is the focal character in this story, it would have made more sense for her to be the one who defeated the brain’s plot. This issue is quite funny, but Kanigher’s treatment of Platinum is very sexist.

SIN CITY: THAT YELLOW BASTARD #2 (Dark Horse, 1996) – untitled, [W/A] Frank Miller. Our hero, Hartigan, saves a little girl, Nancy, from being raped and murdered by Roark Jr, the son of a senator. Hartigan suffers severe injuries as a result, and when he wakes up, Senator Roark has Hartigan convicted for Roark Jr’s crimes. There are some powerful scenes in this issue, but what I hate about Frank Miller’s comics is their atmosphere of toxic masculinity. Sin City and 300, in particular, are basically extended dick-measuring contests. For example, much of this issue is devoted to Senator Roark’s speech about how he controls Sin City and nobody will dare to oppose him. Roark makes this speech as a way of exerting dominance over Harrigan. Throughout Miller’s work, it seems as if the only goal of a man is to prove his manliness, and the only way he can do that is by destroying other men. Also, I looked at the spoilers for this series, and it turns out that in the end, Hartigan is unable to defeat Senator Roark, because everyone is too scared of Roark to hold him accountable for his crimes, and Hartigan has to commit suicide in order to save Nancy from her. That feels like an abuse of authorial fiat. In other words, the only way Roark could be that powerful is because the author said so. Maybe I’m being naïve about this, but it seems to me that in real life, no public figure is so scary that everyone is terrified to even say anything bad about them. It’s possible for rich people to escape accountability for their crimes – we see that every day – but they can still get judged in the court of public opinion. In fact, that’s what happens in Daredevil: Born Again, which also has a villain who’s too powerful to be prosecuted for his crimes. At the end of that story, the Kingpin doesn’t go to prison, but his reputation is severely damaged.

MERCURY HEAT #8 (Avatar, 2016) – untitled, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Nahuel Lopez. Luiza battles some Crossed, from a different Avatar comic. However, she refuses to believe they’re really Crossed, and I think she is later proved right about this. In this storyline there’s a cute visual trope where whenever the Crossed’s private parts appear on-panel, they’re obscured by stickers of cartoon characters. This issue explains this visual trope as the result of Luiza’s “image processing censor.” Apparently the same censor is also applied to the reader.

PUMA BLUES #4 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1987) – “Indistinction,” [W] Stephen Murphy, [A] Michael Zulli. Two different characters go looking for a flying manta ray. Like most of Puma Blues, this issue is less focused on telling a story than creating an atmosphere.

TRANSFORMERS VS. G.I. JOE #10 (IDW, 2015) – “Earth: R.I.P.”, [W] John Barber, [W/A] Tom Scioli. Earth has been destroyed, and the few surviving G.I. Joes have to meet up with the Transformers to continue the fight. Also, there’s an explanation of the origins of Primus and Unicron. This issue is full of bizarre, labyrinthine page layouts. Instead of the usual commentary, this issue ends with a text story.

RESURRECTION #1 (Oni, 2007) – “The Day After,” [W] Marc Guggenheim, [A] David Dumeer. This is a good example of how not to write a debut issue of a comic book. Resurrection’s plot seems to be that the human race has been driven underground by an alien invasion, but now the aliens have been defeated, and the humans are slowly emerging. The trouble is that none of this is ever clearly communicated to the reader. Instead the reader has to piece together what’s going on, and that distracts the reader from actually paying attention to the story. The writer seems to have forgotten that he understands the premise of the story, but hisreaders don’t.  

That is finally the end of this stack. Until now I was hesitant to write reviews because I was running out of space in my boxes, but I have solved that problem, at least temporarily, so I will try to write reviews more often.  

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July and August 2022 reviews

8-18-2022

I need to start writing reviews because I’m running out of room to store comics waiting to be reviewed.

THE WALKING DEAD #150 (Image, 2016) – “Betrayed,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Charlie Adlard. Some people try to assassinate Rick Grimes, but he survives, and then uses the incident to create support for his proposed anti-zombie army. The scene at the end, where the crowd chants Rick’s name, is disturbing because it suggests that Rick is becoming some kind of fascist leader.

2000 AD #444 (IPC, 1985) – Nemesis: “Book Five,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Bryan Talbot. A crossover story that guest-stars the ABC Warriors and Satanus the dinosaur. Rogue Trooper: untitled, [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] José Ortiz. Rogue is led before a firing squad, but the execution is called off because the Norts have surrendered, ending the war. But in the last panel, we see that a common enemy is targeting both the Norts and the Southers. Dredd: “Love Story,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. A woman named Bella Bagley falls in love with Dredd, but of course he’s incapable of returning her feelings, and the story ends with Bella being sent to prison. Bella lives in “Erich Segal Block,” named after the author. of Love Story. This is a classic one-shot Dredd story. Alan Grant sadly passed away in July. Mean Team: untitled, [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. A sports-themed story that’s hampered by Belardinelli’s limited ability to draw people. Future Shocks: “Mind How You Go!”, [W] Oleh Stepaniuk, [A] Geoff Senior. A precognitive man places too much trust in his own visions, and dies as a result.

X-MEN RED #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “Three Short Stories About Death,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Stefano Caselli. Isca debates Magneto, Storm attends a space council where she learns of Xandra’s death, and Sunspot and Rockslide discuss Santo’s death. I don’t remember much of anything about this issue.

MARVEL VOICES: PRIDE #1 (Marvel, 2022) – [E] Sarah Brunstad. The best story in this issue is “Permanent Sleepover” by Charlie Jane Anders, Ro Stein and Ted Brandt, starring two new LGBTQ characters. This story makes me sort of want to read the upcoming New Mutants run by this same creative team. “Permanent Sleepover” also connects to the story in this issue by Grace Freud, “Scott” and “Henderson,” about a support group for trans superheroes.  As usual with these Marvel Voices specials, the other stories are a mixed bag. Amusingly, Marvel commissioned a story for Marvel Voices: Heritage #1 that had to be pulled because it starred Werehawk, a character who Marvel never owned – he’s from Dave Cockrum’s creator-owned Futurians. The Werehawk story has now been released online, and it’s better than any of the stories that did appear in the issue it was commissioned for. 

THE SILVER COIN #11 (Image, 2022) – “The Diner,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Walsh. An aging, disgruntled waitress is given the coin by a customer. She wishes for her restaurant to be full of customers. What unsurprisingly happens is that the restaurant is mobbed by crazy people who can’t stop eating, and in the end the customers and the staff all kill and eat each other. The original customer returns and reclaims the coin. This issue is a gruesome but effective piece of horror.

SABRETOOTH #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “There and Back Again,” [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Leonard Kirk. I think the only interesting thing in this issue is Nekra talking about eating Hoppin’ John with her grandparents. This series is vastly inferior to Destroyer or Eve, yet I still feel obliged to read it because it’s Victor LaValle. And for the same reason I also feel obliged to read the new Sabretooth and the Exiles series that was just announced.

IMMORTAL X-MEN #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “The New Testament of Irene Adler,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Lucas Werneck. This issue’s POV character is Destiny, and it may well be the best story about this character ever. Kieron makes us feel the bitter irony of Destiny’s powers: she can see the future, but she can’t change it. This issue also includes a funny reference to the classic first page of Uncanny X-Men #168. I think Immortal X-Men is the best of the X-Men comics I’m currently following.

BLACK ADAM #1 (DC, 2022) – “Theogony Book One: The Sandbox,” [W] (Christopher) Priest, [A] Rafa Sandoval. The two focal characters in this issue are Black Adam, the ruler of Kahndaq, and Malik Adam White, a young doctor who’s Black Adam’s descendant and heir. Sometime after reading this issue, I realized that I don’t really like Priest’s writing. His stories are always structured in a deliberately confusing way, and I don’t think it’s worth the effort to untangle them. Even before reading issue 2, I decided to drop this series.

G.I.L.T. #3 (Ahoy, 2022) – untitled, [W] Alisa Kwitney, [A] Mauricet. This series is very difficult to follow because of its time travel plot, and because it contains multiple, different-looking versions of the same characters. I think the best thing in this issue is the scene with Dorothy Parker and the dead pigeon, though I’m not sure who the “C.W.” character is.

IMAGE! 30TH ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY #3 (Image, 2022) – [W/A] various. The best story in this issue is the Rumble one-shot by John Arcudi and James Harren. Rumble is a funny character with a distinctive speech pattern, and Harren’s art is striking, as usual. Of the continuing serials, the only one I really like is Shift, because it’s a Radiant Black tie-in. Most of the other serialized stories are too short to have any impact, and it’s hard to remember what happened in the previous installment of each serial. In particular, I want to like the story by Brenden Fletcher and Erica Henderson, but I’m not even sure what it’s about.

SWAMP THING #14 (DC, 2022) – “The Alien Idea,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. Swampy and Green Lantern team up against an alien invasion and the Parliament of Gears. This issue includes some very impressive page designs that remind me of classic Swamp Thing pages by Bissette and Veitch.

NORSE MYTHOLOGY III #5 (Dark Horse, 2022) – “Ragnarok: The Final Destiny of the Gods,” [W/A] P. Craig Russell (though Neil Gaiman is the credited writer since he wrote the source material). I’m not sure why this was in my file at Heroes. I didn’t much like Gaiman’s Norse Mythology. It was just a rehash of the Prose Edda, and so this adaptation is just a rehash of a rehash. PCR’s artwork here is effective, but it’s not much different from anything else he’s done in recent decades.

GHOST CAGE #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Nick Dragotta, [W] Caleb Goellner. Sam, Doyle and Blair defeat the evil old dude and save the world. There’s nothing very surprising in this issue, but overall this was a fun comic that showed a deep understanding of the manga aesthetic. 

THE KILLER: AFFAIRS OF THE STATE #5 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matz, [A] Luc Jacamon. The Killer and his allies plot the mayor’s assassination, while the two cops try to track the assassins down. In France, the three albums of Le Tueur – Affaires d’État is considered a separate series from the original thirteen albums of Le Tueur. However, the two series have the same style of art and writing.

RED ROOM: TRIGGER WARNINGS #4 (Fantagraphics, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Ed Piskor. The federal government runs a sting operation to capture Red Room patrons, one of whom is a parody of Mr. Rogers. Like many previous Red Room stories, this issue is based on a real occurrence. As usual this issue includes lots of lovingly rendered body horror scenes.

BATMAN: THE KNIGHT #6 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Carmine Di Giandomenico. Bruce and Anton travel to the Canadian wilderness to train with Luka Jango, a retired sniper. During this training, Bruce forms his twin resolutions to never use guns or kill anyone. Luka realizes that Anton is a budding supervillain and tries to kill him, but Bruce stops Luka, and Anton kills Luka instead. Batman: The Knight is my least favorite of Chip Zdarsky’s current comics, but it’s not bad.

THE X-CELLENT #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “New Blood, New World Part 4,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Mike Allred. My favorite thing in this issue is the budding relationship between Edie Sawyer’s daughter and Tike Alicar’s son. These two are among the few sympathetic characters in this series. Besides being dated, X-Cellent is frustrating because so many of its protagonists are narcissistic jerks.

Older comics:

AIRBOY #9 (Eclipse, 1986) – “Body Count!”, [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Stan Woch. Valkyrie and Hirota try to rescue Davy from some ninjas, and also there’s a werewolf involved. In a backup story, American airman Link Thorne is held captive in communist China. Despite my loathing for Chuck Dixon, I want to collect more Airboy because it’s a fun series, and also because it ties in with other Eclipse comics.

BATMAN #105 (DC, 2021) – “Ghost Stories Part 4,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Carlo Pagulayan et al. Batman stops Clownhunter from killing Harley Quinn, then fights Ghost-Maker. The high point of this issue is Harley’s speech, in which she apologizes for Clownhunter’s parents’ deaths, but tries to show that she’s changed.

NIGHTWING #80 (DC, 2021) – “Leaping Into the Light Part 3,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo. I ordered this on eBay, and it was the first new comic I acquired after moving into my new apartment. This issue, Nightwing is accused of murder and goes looking for the real murderer, Heartless, who makes his first full appearance this issue. But Heartless traps Dick and Damian on a burning pier with a bunch of children. This issue is full of beautiful art. I still need several other issues of this run, but they’re hard to find on eBay.

SKYWARD #12 (Image, 2019) – “Fix the World Part 2,” [W] Joe Henderson, [A] Lee Garbett. This issue focuses on Lilly, Willa Fowler’s mother, and explains where Lilly has been for Willa’s entire lifetime. After gravity was turned off, Lilly went to Crystal Springs, an underground city built by her husband, and has been there ever since, cut off from the outside world. When Lilly accidentally discovers that her daughter is still alive, she violates her own rules by going outside the city to look for Willa, but then she and Willa go back to Crystal Springs and get trapped inside. This is a well-written issue and it’s a nice break from the series’ regular storyline.

DIE!DIE!DIE! #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Scott M. Gimple. An offensive, gruesome, implausible load of crap, with an uninteresting plot about three assassins who are brothers. A comic in which Kirkman indulges his worst tendencies. I’m glad I didn’t buy this when it came out, and I don’t intend to read any more of it.

MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #7 (Marvel, 1988) – “Save the Tiger Part 7: Things Get Worse!”, [W] Chris Claremont, [A] John Buscema. In Madripoor, Wolverine helps Tyger Tiger fight a gang war. Buscema’s art here is quite good, though Klaus Janson is a poor inker for him. Man-Thing: “Elements of Terror Chapter 7: Boxes,” [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Tom Sutton. A plot that may have been inspired by the Iran-Contra scandal, coupled with extremely effective artwork that invokes both cosmic horror and body horror. Tom Sutton had some weaknesses as an artist, but he was great at drawing horrific creatures and settings. On his Substack, Tom Brevoort described an unpleasant encounter he had with Gerber, and some people on Facebook said that Gerber was temperamental and difficult to work with. I find this surprising, because to me, Gerber is a hero. But maybe I have a romanticized image of him. Master of Kung Fu: “Crossing Lines VII: Hooks,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Tom Grindberg. Very similar to the old MOKF series, but with worse art. Sub-Mariner: “From Sea to Deadly Sea,” [W/A] Steve Ditko. A boring example of Ditko’s late work. Hollis Bright only has seven credits in the GCD, all of which are either Sub-Mariner stories, or stories by Ditko, or both. I can’t find any biographical information about him or her. Addendum: I asked Rob Imes, who’s an expert on Ditko, and he says that Hollis Bright is Terry Kavanagh’s wife.

DETECTIVE COMICS #940 (DC, 2016) – “Rise of the Batmen Part 7: The Red Badge of Courage,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Eddy Barrows. Despite being defeated, Jacob Kane continues to be an unrepentant, smug bastard, and Kate finally knocks him unconscious. Tim Drake sacrifices his life to stop Kane’s drone army from destroying Gotham. This sets up a poignant scene in which Batman confronts a grieving Stephanie. But of course Tim’s not really dead, and the end of the issue reveals that he was rescued and imprisoned by a mysterious figure. Tim’s captor was later named as Mr. Oz, who was in fact Jor-El.

MIRACLEMAN #20 (Eclipse, 1991) – “Winter’s Tale,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Mark Buckingham. I’ve read this before, but I didn’t own the original issue until now. This issue focuses on a woman named Rachel; her daughter Mist, conceived with Miracleman’s donated sperm; her widowed boyfriend Jack; and his young son Glenn. There’s also an inset story about Winter’s adventures in space. On rereading this issue, I realize how dark it is. Little Glenn is adorable, but Rachel’s story is rather grim. She hoped that having a child would cure her lack of emotion, but Mist doesn’t need any parenting, and is such an uncanny child (in the Freudian sense) that she’s difficult to love. For example, she ruins Rachel and Jack’s relationship by offhandedly informing Rachel that Jack is having an affair. On this reading I also listened to the two songs quoted in this issue, “Sophisticated Boom Boom” by the Shangri-Las and “All Grown Up” by the Dixie Cups. The latter song is highly relevant to the story’s themes.

DENNIS THE MENACE #41 (Fawcett, 1960) – various stories, [W] Fred Toole, [A] Al Wiseman. A much more straightforward comic about small children. This issue’s stories mostly have a winter theme. In the first one, Dennis convinces his dad to take him and his friends sledding.

BATMAN: DARK VICTORY #4 (DC, 2000) – untitled, [W] Jeph Loeb, [A] Tim Sale. Batman descends into the sewers to look for Solomon Grundy, who can lead him to Harvey Dent. For a long time I’ve had a very negative impression of Jeph Loeb’s writing, and I avoided reading his prestige-format series with Tim Sale. But this issue was a revelation. Tim Sale’s visual storytelling is amazing. He uses unexpected camera angles and page layouts to add excitement to action sequences that could have been boring. Gregory Wright’s coloring complements Sale’s artwork perfectly. Jeph Loeb’s story is not bad either, though I’m not sure what it’s about. I will try to track down the various other miniseries by this creative team.

FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD SPIDER-MAN #4 (Marvel, 2019) – “Mother of Exiles Part 4,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Juann Cabal. A Spider-Man story written by Tom Taylor seems almost too good to be true. In this issue, Spidey and Johnny Storm save some subterranean children from their vengeful grandfather. This issue lacks the narrative depth of Tom Taylor’s Nightwing or Superman, but it’s very fun, and Juann Cabal is an excellent artist. I especially like the scene where Spidey dodges gunfire while saving a cat.

STAR TREK #2 (DC, 1989) – “The Sentence,” [W] Peter David, [A] James Fry. The Klingons put a bounty on Kirk’s head, while Kirk confronts the fanatical alien Nasgul. A weakness of PAD’s Star Trek run was its reliance on original characters who never appeared anywhere else in the franchise, such as R.J. Blaise and Ensign Fouton. Still, PAD is easily the best writer of Star Trek comics, at least as far as I know. CBR has twice listed Star Trek Annual #3, PAD’s story about Scotty’s late wife, as the best Star Trek comic ever. On the first page of this issue, Jor-El makes an Easter egg appearance. 

CRIMINAL: THE SINNERS #2 (Marvel, 2009) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Tracy Lawless investigates some murders on behalf of his boss, Mr. Hyde. This was one of the only Criminal comics I was missing. It’s been a while since I read the rest of The Sinners, and  issue 2 doesn’t make much sense on its own.

RUMBLE #17 (Image, 2019) – “Belly of Hell” and “Deceitful Above All Things,” [W] John Arcudi, [A] Andrew MacLean & James Harren. I bought this because it’s a crossover between Rumble and Head Lopper. The crossover makes sense because the two series’ protagonists, Rathraq and Nergal, are both sword-wielding monster slayers. In this issue they encounter each other while trapped inside the belly of a giant beast. The interactions between the two characters are amusing, and the contrast between the two artists’ styles is striking; it’s very strange to see Nergal drawn by anyone other than MacLean. I want to read more of Rumble.

SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #15 (Marvel, 2013) – “Run, Goblin, Run! Part 1: The Tinkerer’s Apprentice,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Humberto Ramos. Phil Urich, the current Hobgoblin, goes on a crime spree so that he can pay Roderick Kingsley for the rights to the Kingpin name. There are also some subplots about Tyler Stone, the Wraith, and various other characters. This is an average issue of Superior Spider-Man.

Next trip to Heroes. This was so long ago now that I don’t remember these comics very well.

SAGA #60 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Pia Guerra. Gale interrogates Marko’s mother, Hazel and Squire Robot have a heart-to-heart talk, and then the family goes home only to find their rocket tree on fire. The high point of this issue is the scene at the restaurant that’s based on Chuck E. Cheese. I don’t know why that place is supposed to stop being fun when you’re an adult.

ONCE & FUTURE #27 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Kings Are Dead,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. The heroes defend the sword in the stone, with Sir Hempleworth’s assistance – which is an error, he should be called Sir Jason, not Sir Hempleworth. Galahad finally achieves the Grail with Lancelot’s help, but dies as a result. This issue is just setup for the more dramatic events next issue.

TWIG #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Kyle Strahm. A monster kidnaps Twig and Splat, but they escape. Then they find the Horned Beast, whose heart is one of the items Twig needs. The trouble is that the Horned Beast is really cute, and it’s also still alive and still actively using its heart. This is one of the best miniseries of the year, mostly due to its adorable and weird art. I also like Twig’s rather nonchalant attitude to all the strange things he encounters.

EIGHT BILLION GENIES #3 (Image, 2022) – “The First Eight Days,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. Maybe the funniest part about this issue is Hemingway acting like a jerk, but then he, Dorothy Parker and Jim Morrison all disappear, because the people who wished them into existence are dead. Wang kills the man who was trying to blackmail him, and his wife is revealed to be pregnant. The little boy wishes to become a superhero, then joins up with some other people who made the same wish (this was also the premise of a much older comic, The Good Guys). This is another of the best miniseries of 2022.

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #13 (DC, 2022) – “Dreams and Nightmares,” [W] Nicole Maines and Tom Taylor, [A] Clayton Henry. Nicole Maines is the actress who plays Nia Nal, or Dreamer, who makes her first appearance in mainstream DC continuity in this issue. Dreamer, like Phantom Girl from The Terrifics, is a 21st-century version of a Legion of Super-Heroes character, though unlike Nura Nal, Nia is transgender. Much of this issue is taken up with Nia’s vision of the deaths of the Justice League, and as a result, this issue does little to advance the series’ plot.

STRANGE ACADEMY #18 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. Brother Voodoo tries to forcibly take back the kids, who are hiding out in Dr. Strange’s old mansion. The kids decide to hide out in the Dark Dimension instead. This is the last issue of the current run. Strange Academy is the most fun comic Marvel is currently publishing, and I hope it doesn’t just disappear after the upcoming Finals miniseries. Speaking of Dr. Strange’s mansion, I met Chris Bachalo at Heroes Con, and I asked him what was up with the talking snakes in Dr. Strange’s foyer. He said they’re just snakes that happen to talk. I think it’s funnier if they’re unexplained.

THE CLOSET #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Gavin Fullerton. Thom spends with the night with an old friend, who gives him a stern lecture about how he’s ruining his marriage. We also learn that Thom was having an affair, which may be new information. Jamie has another nightmare about the closet monster. This is yet another of the year’s best miniseries. More on The Closet below.

BATMAN #125 (DC, 2022) – “Failsafe Part One,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jorge Jimenez. A dying Penguin puts a bounty on anyone who has over $5 million in inherited wealth. This is a surprisingly progressive idea, but it seems out of character for the Penguin, who has never shown any socialist tendencies before. At the end of the story, a robot named Failsafe activates inside the Batcave. In the backup story, Catwoman tries to track down the Penguin’s illegitimate children. This is the first new issue of Batman that I’ve bought in a very long time – the last one may have been the final chapter of Hush – and it was worth buying. Jorge Jimenez, in particular, has developed into a top-tier aritst.

FLAVOR GIRLS #1 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Loïc Locatelli-Kournwsky. In a post-apocalyptic world, Earth is protected by three flavor-themed magical girl superheroines. The protagonist, Sara, develops pineapple powers and becomes the fourth Flavor Girl. This seems like a pretty average magical girl comic, but I really like the theme of flavor superpowers. It reminds me of a viral Tumblr post showing the Lady of Shallot (sic) and her fellow Ladies of Onion, Garlic and Chives.

LITTLE MONSTERS #5 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. In a flashback, we see that Yui became a vampire after surviving the atom bombing of Hiroshima. The guy who killed the one twin escapes, but returns to capture the surviving twin. Besides that, this issue is mostly dialogue.

BATGIRLS #8 (DC, 2022) – “Bad Reputation Part 2,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. The Batgirls and Nightwing team up to defeat the Saints. Also there’s a new villain who’s a Quebeçoise sword swallower. This issue has some really fun dialogue and character interactions. 

NEW MASTERS #5 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Shobo Coker, [A] Shof Coker. Ola gets a tour of the Star Pilot Temple, and she discovers that the Eye of Orunmila is evidence of alien contact by the ancient people of Ife. The rest of the family finally confronts Governor Tosin. The old mobster/magnate, Ojumah, decides to besiege the temple to get the Eye back. New Masters is the best of the recent group of Africanfuturist comics, because it’s not just a conventional comic with a cosmetic African setting. Rather, Nigerian culture and mythology are the heart of its story.

THE TIGER’S TONGUE #1 (Mad Cave, 2022) – untitled, [W] Olivia Stephens, [A] Diansakhu Banton-Perry. This is an example of an Africanfuturist comic that’s less successful than New Masters. The Tiger’s Tongue is set in a fantasy kingdom, where two twin princesses are forced to fight each other to decide which of them wil inherit their kingdom’s mystical link to tigers. This comic’s fantasy setting is entirely generic and is not based on any particular African culture. Which I guess is not necessarily a bad thing – lots of fantasy stories are based on generic European cultures – but it’s not all that interesting to me. And Tiger’s Tongue’s plot and characters are only mildly interesting. I’m going to give up on this series.

DOGS OF LONDON #3 (Aftershock, 2022) – “Three Poisonings, One Funeral and a Ripped Off Nose,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Artecida. We find out more about just how the three undead Dogs died. Meanwhile, the revived Dogs rampage through London. And since they’ve been dead for several decades, they’re shocked by the current state of society, and in particular by the open acceptance of gay people. This is one of Peter Milligan’s better recent works.

WEST OF SUNDOWN #4 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Aaron Campbell, [A] Jim Terry. After a lot of mayhem, an undead horse demon tells Constance and Dooley that the cult leader, Herzog Jung, is trying to breach the veil between light and darkness. And Constance has to stop him, or Jung will become an even worse demon. I like this series, but its plot is very convoluted.

SEASON OF THE BRUJA #4 (Oni, 2022) – untitled, [W] Aaron Durán, [A] Sara Soler. Loquita, the ceramic cat, tries to get Althalia to perform a human sacrifice, but she refuses. Instead, Althalia summons a demon and sacrifices it, allowing her to reach the underworld. This was a pretty quick read. Season of the Bruja is this year’s equivalent of These Savage Shores or Yasmeen or Shadow Doctor – an excellent under-the-radar comic that deserves more publicity. I’m kind of surprised that Oni is still announcing new comics.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #19 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcello Grassi. Half the team gets sent back in time to the day of Paul Revere’s ride. The other half, including Janet and Chang Enlou, are sent forward in time to V-Day, when the Destiny Man declares “victory over everything.” He also accuses Janet and Chang of being enemies of America. This new storyline is an interesting variation on the series’ formula. Each previous storyline begins with the team finding themselves in a new region of America, but this time the team is split between two different regions.

BLACK PANTHER #7 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Long Shadow Book 7,” [W] John Ridley, [A] Stefano Landini. Wakanda continues to descend into civil war. This is going to be my last issue of this series. Ridley’s Black Panther is much faster-paced than Ta-Nehisi Coates’s run, but it offers nothing new. Its major theme – the conflict between royal and democratic authority – is a theme that’s already been explored in almost every other important Black Panther comic. Black Panther ought to be one of Marvel’s flagship titles, but none of the series’ recent writers has been able to replicate the excitement created by the movie.

MIND MGMT BOOTLEG #1 (Dark Horse, 2022) – “What Can You Do?”, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Farel Dalrymple. A Tanzanian boy, one of the survivors of the Zanzibar disaster, is recruited into the new MIND MGMT, but it’s not the same one as at the end of the previous series, because his first mission is to kill Meru Marlowe. I’ve been lukewarm about some of Matt Kindt’s recent work, but this issue has the same brilliant use of paratext as the original series, and I love Farel Dalrymple’s draftsmanship. One fairly obvious thing I noticed is that in the ad on the inside back cover, the blue words spell out “This is an actual game, order now.”

DAREDEVIL #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Red Fist Saga Part 1,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Checchetto, and “The Island,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Rafael De Latorre. Matt reveals his secret identity to Spider-Man, then tries to leave New York, but he’s stopped by Robert “Goldy” Goldman, who claims to be Matt’s guardian angel. In the backup story, Elektra meets Stick on an island disputed between China and Russia. I still don’t quite understand the whole business with Matt and Mike Murdock. It’s annoying that this series was renumbered, since it still has the same creative team. At least there’s a legacy number on the cover. I just wish Marvel had started using legacy numbering much sooner.

KING CONAN #6 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Boy in the Tree,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mahmud Asrar. Conan escapes from Thoth-Amon and Princess Prima and heads across the ocean to unknown lands. Thus ends Marvel’s second run of Conan comics, which didn’t last nearly as long as the first. Jason Aaron was the third important Conan comics writer, after Roy Thomas and Kurt Busiek, but I kind of think that his Conan was too domesticated and too much of a typical superhero. Mahmud Asrar’s artwork in this issue is beautiful.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #39 (Marvel, 2022) – “Trials Part Two,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Juan Frigeri & Alvaro Lopez. In a dream, Carol is put on trial for her crimes against magic. In waking life, Carol slays a giant dragon, then discovers its orphaned baby. Back on Earth, Binary and Jessica Drew fight some zombies, then Lauri-El accuses Binary of abducting Carol. One of the jurors in Carol’s trial is Alriac, the king of the Snatmen. I love the Snats and Snatmen, but as with the aforementioned talking snakes, they’re funnier if we don’t know too much about them.

THE WARD #2 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Francis Ponce. Nat has to assist an underground troll woman with a difficult childbirth, while preventing some sewer workers from finding out what’s going on. In Nat’s absence, her coworker Luis causes a banshee’s death through a preventable error, and Nat then discovers that Luis is stealing drugs from the pharmacy for his own use. The Luis scenes remind me of Atul Gawande’s writings about medical errors, and overall this series gives the impression that Cavan Scott knows something about medicine. I did not like his previous creator-owned series, Shadow Service, but The Ward is much more interesting.

SLUMBER #5 (Image, 2022) – “The Edwardian,” [W] Tyler Burton Smith, [A] Vanessa Cardinali. Stetson goes inside Ed’s head to look for Valkira – I don’t quite recall who Ed is. But when Stetson finds Valkira, the creature takes the form of the daughter that Stetson abandoned. A funny scene in this issue is when in order to be granted access to Ed’s dreams, Stetson has to pay a price of “one ceramic diaper gnome.”

POISON IVY #2 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Marcio Takara. At a truck stop in Montana, Ivy meets another woman who’s also running from the law. Ivy also meditates on climate change and on why she’s not a vegetarian. I love how the truck stop is run by a turbaned man who makes biryani and gulab jamun. This is less farfetched than you’d think; see here. I used to think I didn’t like biryani, but now I’ve developed a passion for it.

ASTRONAUT DOWN #2 (AfterShock, 2022) – “Overshoot,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Rubine. Douglas finds himself in a pre-apocalyptic alternate world, but he can’t remember his mission. Back in his home reality, the apocalypse is getting even worse. This series is interesting, but it’s less accessible than Campisi or Kaiju Score.

SABRETOOTH #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Magnificent Eight,” [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Leonard Kirk. Sabretooth sails away from Krakoa in a boat, accompanied by lots of other villains, including Nanny and Orphan Maker. This just feels like a generic X-Men comic, rather than a work of Victor LaValle. I hope this series gets more interesting.

IMMORTAL X-MEN #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “Diamonds Are Forever,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Michele Bandini. This issue focuses on Emma Frost, a horribly unsympathetic character, perhaps even more so than her boyfriend Cyclops.  This issue doesn’t make me like Emma, but it does emphasize some of her positive qualities, including her strength of will and her devotion to her students. Her central tragedy is the death of the Hellions, although I don’t think that incident is mentioned in this issue. In this issue there’s also some more development of the Mr. Sinister plot.

QUESTS ASIDE #3 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Brian Schirmer, [A] Elena Gogou. Barrow trains a new employee, then he fights some arsonists who he thinks were sent by an evil wizard, but they reveal that they were really sent by the king. The good thing about this series is that Barrow is a complex and multifaceted character. But other than that, Quests Aside is not grabbing me, and I’m going to finish it only because I already started it.

LEGION OF X #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “We’re All Mad Here,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Jan Bazaldua. Kurt and his friends continue to hunt for the skinjacker. This is another series that I’m not super-impressed with, but at least it’s written in Si Spurrier’s distinctive voice, with his usual grim sense of humor.

ORDINARY GODS #7 (Image, 2022) – “Pentecost,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Joe Clark, [A] Felipe Watanabe. One of the “good” gods reveals that she’s worse than the bad gods, and is planning to destroy the earth so the gods can get back to their home dimension. This is an interesting plot twist, but so far, Ordinary Gods has been the least interesting of Kyle Higgins’s current titles. I actually thought it had been cancelled, and was surprised to see it again.

WONDER WOMAN #789 (DC, 2022) – “The Villainy of Our Fears Part 3,” [W] Michael Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Emanuela Lupacchino & Eduardo Pansica. Dr. Psycho continues promoting his MRA agenda, and manipulates Siegfried into fighting Diana. Etta is kidnapped by Professor Calculus, a revived Golden Age villain, not to be confused with the similarly named character from Tintin. Dr. Psycho is an effective satire of contemporary misogynist culture. This issue has yet another well-drawn but badly-written Young Diana backup story.

MONKEY PRINCE #6 (DC, 2022) – “Big Stick Energy Part 2,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Bernard Chang. We begin with a brief summary of the original Journey to the West, and then Marcus fights a giant crab creature. We also get to see the Dragontown neighborhood of Atlantis, which is a really cool idea. And the dragons are playing xiangqi. At the end of the issue, Sun Wukong himself wakes up in the Phantom Zone. One thing I like about this series is that it draws upon the strangeness of Chinese mythology, including its extensive repertoire of weird and disturbing creatures.

DEADBOX #3 (Vault, 2022) – “Gunz,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Benjamin Tiesma. This issue is mostly about America’s toxic gun culture. It includes a mass shooting, and a movie that’s a gun-themed version of Cars. Also, the protagonist encounters lots of judgmental attitudes from her neighbors. Deadbox is a brutal send-up of the awfulness of rural America. The problem with it is that, like so many other Vault comics, it’s coming out at a glacial pace. Deadbox #3 is the first new issue in over six months. Vault is having serious issues with lateness. There’s at least one Vault series (Giga) whose final issue was never released at all in comic book form. Instead, it was only published in the trade paperback. I have complained about this practice before, because it’s an insult to people who faithfully bought the single issues. 

ABSOLUTION #1 (AWA, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Mike Deodato Jr. Not to be confused with Sacrament, another new Peter Milligan comic whose title is a religious term. Absolution is a science fiction title starring Nina, a professional assassin, who has to compete against other assassins or else she’ll be killed. I guess this is an intriguing setup, but after reading this issue I had trouble remembering anything about it. I liked Sacrament #1 better (see my review of it below), though that may just be due to recency bias.

JUSTICE WARRIORS #2 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Awareness Month,” [W] Matt Bors, [A] Ben Clarkson. The city is plunged into famine and riots when people start investing in bread. Justice Warriors includes some good ideas, I suppose. The idea of speculating on bread is a funny satire of the NFT craze. However, Justice Warriors suffers from a lack of a clear protagonist or a unifying theme. I think that Matt Bors is used to writing in very short formats, and has not yet figured out how to tell an extended story. I just realized that this comic’s title is a pun on Social Justice Warriors.

THE X-CELLENT #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “New Blood, New World Part 5,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Mike Allred. A blogger named Toodle Pip investigates Zeitgeist and Mirror Girl. Zeitgeist executes a plot to use the Book of the Vishanti to turn himself into a god. I still have the same complaints about this series as always – it’s dated, and even its heroes are unsympathetic. But X-Cellent is far from the worst comic I’m currently reading.

Older comics, mostly from Heroes Con:

SPIDER-WOMAN #9 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Dennis Hopeless, [A] Javier Rodriguez. Jess, Ben Urich and Porcupine go on a road trip where they have a bunch of funny adventures, and then get captured by a Western-themed supervillain. This isn’t one of the better stories by these creators, but this run of Spider-Woman is quite good. It was one of Javier Rodriguez’s earlier major works, and it helped salvage Dennis Hopeless’s reputation after the debacle of Avengers Arena.

G.I. JOE FRONTLINE #1 (Image, 2002) – “The Mission That Never Was, 1: One If by Land,” [W] Larry Hama, [A] Dan Jurgens. The Joes go on a mission to deliver a mysterious package cross-country, and there’s a subplot about Dr. Mindbender. This is a pretty average G.I. Joe comic. Congratulations to Larry Hama on a well-deserved Hall of Fame induction. I met him at Heroes Con and jokingly asked him if he was one of those Marvel guys, in reference to his Facebook post about a driver who tried to pitch a comic idea to him.

BATMAN #116 (DC, 2022) – “Fear State Part 5,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Jorge Jimenez. Batman and his allies fight Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, and Peace-Keeper 01, a character whose name I had to look up. This comic seems exciting, but I have difficulty understanding James Tynion’s Batman because of the complexity of the plot, and because I’ve been reading it out of order. This issue includes an excellent Batgirls backup story by the same creators as the ongoing series.

THUNDERBOLTS #166 (Marvel, 2012) – “The Ripper Tour,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Declan Shalvey. The time-displaced Thunderbolts find themselves in London in 1888, and of course, Mr. Hyde becomes Jack the Ripper. The other Thunderbolts have to team up with Inspector Abberline to recapture him. This issue seems well-researched, and it also gives me nostalgic memories of From Hell. Declan Shalvey’s art throughout the issue is colored in a grim, gloomy style that’s a contrast to this series’ usual color palette.

SAVAGE DRAGON #97 (Image, 2002) – “Enter: She-Dragon,” [W/A] Erik Larsen. While looking for Rock and Janey’s abducted child, Dragon encounters the Savage World version of She-Dragon. Dragon still misses Jennifer and Angel, so he travels back to the world he originally came from. A problem with this story arc, and Savage Dragon in general, is that all the alternate worlds are impossible to keep straight. I can’t remember which worlds are which, or which characters come from which worlds, and I doubt if anyone else can either, even Erik himself.

WONDER WOMAN #248 (DC, 1978) – “The Crypt of the Dark Commander,” [W] Jack C. Harris, [A] José Delbo. A crazy army officer resurrects an evil demon that’s been dead for a million years. How this demon came to be buried underneath New York City is not clear to me. This is no better than any other mid-‘70s Wonder Woman story. The most interesting thing about it is Diana’s conversation with Morgan Tracy’s receptionist. The backup story is Tales of the Amazons by Bob Toomey and Maurice Whitman, two creators I associate with companies other than DC.

AIRBOY #16 (Eclipse, 1987) – “Caribbean Rampage Part 2,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Stan Woch. The Airfighters raid a Caribbean island in pursuit of a villain who killed Skywolf’s mother, or tried to. The drug smuggler at the beginning of this issue looks like Harold Hedd. This is a normal-sized comic, with a 13-page Airboy story and a Skywolf backup story, so it seems that by this point, Airboy had abandoned its original gimmick of a lower price in exchange for fewer pages. In the backup story, Skywolf fights the Ku Klux Klan. It’s ironic that Chuck Dixon depicts the KKK as villains, when he himself is no better than them, since he collaborates with V*x D*y.

CHIMICHANGA #1 (Alabtross, 2010) – untitled, [W/A] Eric Powell. Lula, a bearded girl who works in a circus, discovers an egg that hatches into a monster. She names the monster Chimichanga after her favorite food. This comic is okay, but it’s not as interesting as Eric Powell’s other works.

ARCHIE #206 (Archie, 1971) – various stories, [W] Frank Doyle, [A] Harry Lucey. The best story in this issue is the one where Mr. Weatherbee and Mrs. Grundy drive Archie crazy by confusing him about whether or not they want him to look inside a certain room. We never find out what, if anything, is inside the room. Another of the stories makes fun of overly long coats. Looking at Harry Lucey’s art in this issue, I can sort of see why he was such an influence on Jaime Hernandez. My copy of this issue is missing half of the first page.

BATMAN/JUDGE DREDD: JUDGMENT ON GOTHAM #1 (DC, 1991) – untitled, [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Simon Bisley. Judge Death and Mean Machine Angel use a “dimension belt” to travel to the DC Universe, where they team up with Scarecrow. Dredd and Anderson have to team up with Batman to defeat the villains. This comic has some excellent artwork and dialogue, and there’s a funny moment that’s an obvious tribute to the ”gaze into the fist of Dredd” panel. The problem with this comic is that it wastes too much space on the supporting characters like Anderson and Judge Death. I’d have liked to see a lot more actual interaction between Batman and Dredd, who have personalities that clash in fascinating ways. 

DETECTIVE COMICS #591 (DC, 1988) – “Aborigine!”, [W] Alan Grant & John Wagner, [A] Norm Breyfogle. Umbaluru, an old Australian Aboriginal shaman, travels to Gotham to recover his people’s stolen relics. In the process, he kills some of the people who stole them, including a tycoon named Kerry Rollo. (I wondered if this character was based on Kerry Packer, but it may be a coincidence.) I was afraid this story would be very offensive, but it’s actually quite anti-colonial. Although Umbaluru is technically the villain of the story, Wagner and Grant avoid presenting him as savage or barbaric, and they show clear sympathy for him. Even Batman admits at the end of the issue that Umbaluru was justified in killing the thieves, and Batman has to oppose him only because Batman “can make no allowances for righteous murder.” It’s too bad that Umbaluru never appeared again.

SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #18 (Marvel, 2013) – “Smack to the Future,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Ryan Stegman. Peter teams up with Spider-Man 2099, who’s gone back in time in search of his own ancestor, Tiberius Stone. As usual this was a fun issue, and this storyline was the only time that Marvel 2099 continuity has been successfully incorporated into the current Marvel universe. I look forward to Dan Slott’s new Spider-Man run, even though the end of his Fantastic Four run was disastrous.

UFOLOGY #6 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV & Noah Yuenkel, [A] Matthew Fox. This is the final issue of a miniseries, so I don’t really understand it, but it seems interesting. And Matthew Fox’s art has the same sort of weirdness as Michael Dialynas’s art in The Woods. I didn’t really get into James Tynion until Something is Killing the Children, but he has an extensive body of earlier creator-owned work, and I want to collect all of it.

LAND OF NOD #3 (Dark Horse, 1998) – untitled, [W/A] Jay Stephens. A new version of Jetcat is introduced, and is revealed to be the daughter of the original Jetcat and Space Ape. This plot twist is a little creepy. The new Jetcat is born because her parents are literally the only people in their world, and she grows up having no contact with anyone else, but Stephens doesn’t seem interested in the disturbing implications of any of this. Like other contemporaries of his, such as Mike Allred and Steven Weissman, Jay Stephens made comics that looked childish but were not necessarily aimed at actual children. However, Stephens had far less longevity than Allred, and seeems to be forgotten now.

MS. TREE #16 (Renegade, 1985) – “Runaway Chapter One,” [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. Ms. Tree is contacted by two parents whose teenage daughter has run away, and she has to tell them that there’s no way she can find the girl. Ironically, Ms. Tree then discovers that her own adopted son, Mike Jr, has also run away, and she has to track him down. See below for the other chapters of this story. “Runaway” was not the only ‘80s comic about the phenomenon of runaway teenagers; the other example that comes to mind is New Teen Titans #27-28. There seems to have been a lot of concern at the time about teens running away. I never seem to hear about this problem anymore, though that doesn’t mean it’s no longer a problem.

CEREBUS #114 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1988) – “Jaka’s Story Prologue,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Jaka recalls her earliest memories, while in the present, she gets annoyed with Rick for his general uselessness. Here and throughout Jaka’s Story, the flashback scenes are narrated in illustrated text. Jaka’s Story may be the point where the series jumped the shark, because it established the pattern where every issue only contained a tiny bit of plot. However, Jaka’s Story was still better than Melmoth or most of the stories after it.

SHADOWS ON THE GRAVE #6 (Dark Horse, 2017) – “The Grifter!” etc., [W/A] Richard Corben. I bought three issues of this series at Heroes Con, but I haven’t read the others yet. I’m not sure why I didn’t order this series when it was coming out. In “The Grifter,” a traveling con man visits a town where everyone mistakes him for “Mr. Parrish,” and the townspeople offer him unlimited food and sex. The catch is that they then go on to sacrifice him in exchange for divine protection. The next story, “Trapped,” is about a fur trapper who’s killed by a female were-creature, and “Birthday” is about a man whose therapist makes him remember that at the age of eight, he murdered his own grandmother. The issue ends with a chapter of “Denaeus,” Corben’s final Den story. I’m glad that Dark Horse has finally announced a collection of Den: Neverwhere, and I hope they go on to reprint the rest of Corben’s work.

BATMAN #12 (DC, 2012) – “Ghost in the Machine,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Becky Cloonan. This is apparently the first issue of Batman drawn by a female artist. It details Batman’s first encounter with Harper Row, later known as Bluebird. After Batman saves Harper and her brother from being beaten by homophobic classmates, Harper returns the favor by improving Batman’s surveillance network. While doing so, she realizes Batman is in danger, and she saves him from Tiger Shark. This may be my favorite Scott Snyder Batman story so far. Harper is a cute character, and the way she helps and then rescues Batman is very clever.

STANLEY AND HIS MONSTER #110 (DC, 1968) – “Carnival Caper,” [W] Howard Post, [A] Bob Oksner. Stanley’s babysitter takes him to the carinval, but the monster and the leprechauns cause a lot of havoc. There are two backup stories, one about summer camp, the other about a babysitter. The artists on these are Henry Scarpelli and Win Mortimer. The second backup story is a satire of contemporary folk rock.

FATALE #9 (Image, 2012) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. In Hollywood in the 1970s, Josephine plots against some kind of satanic cult. I don’t remember much about this issue.

SUPERMAN #168 (DC, 2001) – “With This Ring…”, [W] Jeph Loeb, [A] Ed McGuinness. Batman and Lois team up to investigate President Luthor’s hidden agenda, but Superman is obligated to stop them, since he has to protect the President. This issue is extremely fun, and it makes me want to read more comics by these creators. Neither Clark, Lois nor Batman is in the wrong; their conflict comes from their incompatible allegiances. Ed McGuinness’s visaul storytelling is excellent, despite the cartoony way he draws people, and I love how the coloring gets much darker and more monochrome in the Batman sequences.

At this point I went to the Comics Studies Society conference in East Lansing, Michigan, my first comics studies conference since 2019. It was a great time. The following comic was in the grab bag that was given out at the conference:

THE PHANTOM #1 (Moonstone, 2003) – untitled, [W] Ben Raab, [A] Pat Quinn. This comic feels more accurate to Lee Falk’s original mythos, compared to earlier American Phantom comics. It has elements like Mawitaan (formerly Morristown) and the Jungle Patrol. However, Ben Raab’s writing lacks the energy or cleverness of the Swedish-produced Phantom comics that I’ve been reading.

Other older comics:

VELVET #5 (Image, 2014) – “Before the Living End Part Five,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Steve Epting. This comic is mostly a flashback to Velvet’s past history, ending with the night she killed her husband Richard Donovan, wrongly believing him to be a traitor. This comic has excellent writing and art, but its plot is hard to follow because of the multiple time frames.

WAR BEARS #2 (Dark Horse, 2018) – untitled, [W] Margaret Atwood, [W/A] Ken Steacy. I had no idea what to expect from this one. I don’t associate Margaret Atwood with stories about fighting bears. In fact this comic is primarily about the wartime Canadian comics industry, and the war bears appear in some inset sequences that are drawn to look like wartime Canadian White comics. I learned about these comics when I went to TCAF, but I haven’t read any of them yet. War Bears #2 seems like a well-researched depiction of wartime Toronto, and it includes a powerful sequence where one of the protagonists learns of his brother’s death in battle. I’m not quite sure what the point of this comic is, but I’m willing to read more of it. 

LASSIE #23 (Dell, 1955) – “The Treasure of Lima” etc., [W] unknown, [A] Ralph Mayo. Three stories set in South America. These stories aren’t bad, but they’re nothing special. At this point in the series, Lassie was owned by a couple named Rocky and Gerry. These characters were created specifically for the comics. Lassie is now associated in the popular imagination with Timmy, but the “boy and his dog” theme was not introduced into the comics until after the TV show began in 1954, and the first boy who owned Lassie was Jeff, not Timmy.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #200 (Marvel, 1976) – “Dawn’s Early Light!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. In the conclusion to the Madbomb storyline, Cap and his allies invade the Taurey estate and defeat William Taurey, the would-be dictator of America. It took me a while to figure out that Taurey is pronounced “Tory,” because he wants to return America to British domination. Kirby’s Captain America was unpopular at the time because it was an extreme departure from Englehart’s run, but this issue is probably the high point of his time on the series. It’s exciting and inspirational, and it’s a nice tribute to America’s bicentennial. 

STRANGEHAVEN #8 (Abiogenesis, 1997) – “Japanese Robot” etc., [W/A] Gary Spencer Millidge. The centerpiece of this issue is a flashback scene that explains why Strangehaven celebrates Christmas on August 10. The reason is because in 1910, a local child was dying, but wanted one last Christmas before he died, and so for his sake, Christmas was moved up four months. This is a cute and sad scene. Besides that, this issue is full of other interesting random incidents.

DETECTIVE COMICS #966 (DC, 2017) – “A Lonely Place of Living Chapter 2,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Eddy Barrows. Tim Drake meets his future self, who’s become the new Batman, and they team up against Doomsday. We soon learn that the future Tim is so badly traumatized that he’s become a control freak, and he decides to kill Batwoman so that his own future can’t come to pass. This issue is both fun and disturbing.

SUICIDE RISK #1 (Boom!, 2013) – “Getting a Bit Short on Heroes,” [W] Mike Carey, [A] Elena Casagrande. A cop fights and kills a bunch of supervillains. Then he tries to track down the people who are selling the drug that gave the villains their powers. This is an interesting setup, but I’ve read a few of the later issues of Suicide Risk, and I don’t see how they’re connected to this issue.

QUEEN & COUNTRY #4 (Oni, 2001) – untitled (“Operation Broken Ground, Part 4”), [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Steve Rolston. Tara and her fellow Minders capture some Russian spies, only to watch, unable to do anything, as the spies are set free for political reasons. I really liked this story when I read it in trade paperback form, back in 2002. However, I’ve forgotten most of the details of this storyline – the main thing I remember about it is the moment in issue 1 where Paul says that Tara doesn’t have any family. And Steve Rolston’s art here is unimpressive, compared to that of some of the other artists on this series.

ACTION COMICS #904 (DC, 2011) – “Reign of the Doomsdays Finale,” [W] Paul Cornell, [A] Axel Gimenez & Ronan Cliquet. Superman and some other superheroes fight a bunch of Doomsdays, and the issue ends with a cute scene where Clark and Lois go on a date. This was the final issue of Action Comics before the New 52, but besides that date scene, it’s not a very interesting issue.

STUMPTOWN #3 (Dark Horse, 2012) – “The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case Part 3,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Matthew Southworth. Dex finds the guitar, but also discovers that someone was using the guitar’s case to smuggle drugs, without the knowledge of its owner. At the end of the issue, Dex finds the drug dealers and pulls a gun on them. There’s also a cute moment where Dex yells at her brother Ansel, then apologizes to him. Dex and Ansel’s relationship is the emotional heart of this series.

(The next comic waiting to be reviewed was Prowler #2, but I have no recollection of having read it, so I’m going to put it back.)

SUPERMAN #137 (DC , 1998) – “The Mutation War,” [W] Dan Jurgens, [A] Paul Ryan. This was part of the storyline unofficially known as “The Dominus Effect,” in which each of the four Superman titles was set in a separate reality. The realities in the other three titles were based on the Silver, Golden and Bronze Ages, but Superman #136-139 star Klar Ken T5477, the 30th-century Superman. In this issue he teams up with his timeline’s version of the other Justice Leaguers. Klar Ken is a Silver Age character – his first appearance is reviewed below – and so  this comic has a Silver Age sensibility.

STUMPTOWN #4 (Oni, 2012) – as above. The thieves flee from Dex, and most of the issue is devoted to a car chase, which ends when Dex and Mim drive over a drawbridge. Most of the car chase sequence is depicted with sideways-formatted pages. This issue is exciting, but it feels a bit anticlimactic, and it’s a much quicker read than the first three issues.

FOUR COLOR #959 (Dell, 1958) – “The Little People’s Christmas” etc., [W/A] Walt Scott. I bought this at the Curious Bookshop in East Lansing, during my CSS trip. This store had an impressive selection of other old comics, but most of them were a little too expensive. The stories in this issue are reprinted from Walt Scott’s comic strip The Little People, about some forest-dwelling creatures who can talk to animals. These stories are excessively cute and saccharine, but Walt Scott’s artwork is very charming. His style is similar to that of Walt Kelly, and Don Markstein suggests that The Little People was based on Kelly’s version of The Brownies. Walt Scott died in 1969 and is now totally forgotten, but perhaps he deserves more attention.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1.4 (Marvel, 2014) – “Learning to Crawl Part 4,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Ramón Pérez. At the start of his career, Spider-Man battles a sound-themed villain named Clayton Cole, aka Clash. This story shows a detailed understanding of the early Lee-Ditko Spider-Man comics, and Ramón Pérez draws this issue in a Ditkoesque style. Although this comic is entertaining, I think there have been too many stories set during Spider-Man’s earliest days – there was this storyline, Untold Tales of Spider-Man, Amazing Fantasy #16-18, and I don’t know what else. At some point, it becomes implausible that so many things could have happened to Peter during the intervals between the early issues of ASM. Also, Clash’s costume looks too modern to have been created in 1963.

LOVE FANTASY, JACQUES BOIVIN’S #1 (Renegade, 1987) – “Check-Out Girl,” [W] Mike Baron, [A] Jacques Boivin, etc. I bought this at Heroes Con some years ago, but I only read it now because I saw a post about it on social media. I can’t find that post now. The stories in Love Fantasy #1 are all drawn by Jacques Boivin, a Quebecois artist who was most notable for his adaptation of Sylvie Rancourt’s Melody. The first story is about a man who asks out a female cashier at the grocery store She says no, but then when she sees him at his workplace, where he’s a banker, she agrees to a date with him, and they sleep together. This story has rather creepy implications, and in my opinion, men should never hit on women while they’re working. The second story, “The Perfect Guy,” is written by Katherine Collins (under her old name) and is much better. It’s a cute slice-of-life story about a single mom who’s trying to balance parenting, work, and trying to date again. “Royal Con Interlude,” written by Mark Shainblum with additional art by Gabriel Morrissette, is another rather creepy story, about a male comic book artist who’s obsessed with superheroines. This story might be interesting to reread because of its depiction of women in ‘80s comics fandom.

BLACKHAWK #253 (DC, 1982) – “The Private War of Hendrickson,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Dan Spiegle. Hendrickson, the oldest of the Blackhawks, is losing his teammates confidence, especially when he starts siphoning gas out of captured planes’ gas tanks – there’s a funny scene where Hendrickson siphons gas and then spits it out. Also, he keeps writing letters to his wife, even though she’s dead. We finally learn that there is a method to Hendrickson’s madness. By inspecting the planes’ gas tanks, he finds a hidden Nazi base. And he knows his wife is dead, but he writes to her to keep his morale up. This issue is touching, but I still don’t like Blackhawk as much as this creative team’s other work, and I’m not sure why not. 

THE JAM #2 (Slave Labor, 1990) – untitled, [W/A] Bernie Mireault. Much of this issue takes place at a music gig, and there’s also a subplot about an insane Muslim supervillain. I really like this series’ overall sensibility, including its detailed Canadian setting and its unique style of draftsmanship. However, I still don’t understand just what The Jam is about.

TALES OF THE BEANWORLD #8 (Eclipse, 1987) – “Deep Down; Down Deep!”, [W/A] Larry Marder. The Goofy Service Jerks interfere with one of Beanish’s sessions with Dreamishness. Then Gran’Ma’Pa is struck by lightning, and the Jerks reappear and announce that a gift is coming. This leads into the appearance of the Pod’l’pool Cuties, who are introduced next issue. This issue is entertaining, but it doesn’t add very much to the Beanworld mythos.

FIRE POWER #17 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Chris Samnee. The protagonist fights the Serpent, who emerged from captivity last issue. As I have observed before, Fire Power is culturally appropriative. Also, its story isn’t very interesting. The main reason to read it is because of Chris Samnee’s mastery of visual storytelling. This issue is full of well-choreographed action sequences.

SAVAGE DRAGON #61 (Image, 1999) – untitled, [W/A] Erik Larsen. Dragon and Freak Force defeat Brainiape, an ape with Hitler’s brain. In a hilarious moment, the brain tries to run away on its little legs. Then Barbaric takes Dragon to a bachelor party, which is crashed by Dragon’s ex-girlfriend Rapture. Dragon and Jennifer’s wedding took place in the following issue, but was never completed because Jennifer was replaced by an impostor, and then killed. Dragon finally married a different version of Jennifer, from an alternate dimension, in issue 104. See my previous comments about this series’ convoluted continuity.

THOR #335 (Marvel, 1983) – “Runequest’s End,” [W] Alan Zelenetz, [A] Mark D. Bright. Thor, Sif and Keith Kincaid go on a quest for the Possessor’s Runestaff, which may be named after the similar artifact from Michael Moorcock’s Hawkmoon series. This is a generic issue, with no interesting characterization or plot twists, and it barely feels like a Thor comic. After one more issue, Alan Zelenetz was replaced by Walt Simonson, whose Thor run was perhaps the greatest Marvel comic of the ‘80s. Thor #336 and #337 probably represent the greatest increase in quality from one issue to another in Marvel’s history.

THE FADE OUT #5 (Image, 2015) – “The Broken Ones,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Gil and his coworkers travel to Ojai for some filming, and a lot of drama happens. In particular, an old producer, Al Kamp, ties an actress to a tree and tries to photograph her. This issue is exciting, though also confusing because it’s hard to distinguish between flashbacks and present-day sequences. 

BLACK PANTHER ANNUAL #1 (Marvel, 2018) – “Back in Black,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Mike Perkins, etc. This annual consists of three stories by past Black Panther writers. The trouble is that I don’t much like any of these writers. As noted elsewhere in these reviews, I find Priest’s writing to be overly confusing. Don McGregor is the worst overwriter in the history of comic books, and Reggie Hudlin is just bad. As a result, reading this issue was a chore. The Hudlin story is especially annoying because it’s about a utopian future with no conflict.

REDNECK #11 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Lisandro Estherren. I couldn’t follow this issue. It’s another chapter of the series’ boring plot about a feud between vampire families.

BLACK CLOUD #6 (Image, 2017) – “Hearts and Minds, Zelda,” [W] Ivan Brandon w/ Jason Latour, [A] Paul Reinwand. This issue at least sort of explains what this series is about: the protagonist has the ability to access an alternate world where ideas live. But that idea was done much more effectively in Sandman and Promethea. Other than that, this is another bad issue of an unreadable comic. I checked the Goodreads reviews for this comic, and it looks like I’m not the only person who couldn’t understand it.

WHAT IF? #15 (Marvel, 1979) – “What If Someone Else Had Become Nova?”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] various. This issue consists of three stories in which three different people become Nova. In the first story, drawn by Walt Simonson, the new Nova is a police officer’s widow. ‘In the second story, drawn by Carmine Infantnio, it’s a homeless man. In the third story, drawn by Ross Andru, it’s Peter Parker. I don’t care much about Nova, but all three of these stories are more interesting than I expected, and it’s worth noting that this issue’s writer and all three of its artists are Hall of Famers. I’m actually going to discuss Nova in my classes this semester, because I’m having my students read Dale Jacobs’s article on comics and literacy sponsorship.

THUNDERBOLTS #20 (Marvel, 1998) – “Decisions Part 1: Turning Point,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Mark Bagley. This is one of my less preferred Busiek titles, largely because most issues are talkfests, and there are things about Kurt’s style of dialogue that annoy me. Or maybe my problem with the original Thunderbolts is that I don’t especially like any of the characters. Or maybe the trouble is that I was once given a bunch of issues of Fabian Nicieza’s Thunderbolts for free, and I found them to be just average. Anyway, in this issue the Thunderbolts fight the Crismson Cowl’s new Masters of Evil, and then they’re rescued by Dreadknight. When they can’t decide on a new leader, Dreadknight reappears and reveals himself to be Hawkeye. After Kurt left the series, Fabian revealed that the Crimson Cowl was Justin Hammer’s daughter Justine, but Kurt wanted her to be Hank Pym’s former lab assistant Alice Nugent. According to a comment here, the reason for the change was just that Kurt left the series before he could reveal the Crimson Cowl’s identity.

NEXUS #62 (First, 1989) – “Rip Boom!”, [W] Mike Baron, [A] Greg Guler. Stan, Horatio and Sundra fight a giant cyborg that looks like a fat man. This issue is not very interesting, and it alludes to Mike Baron’s conservative politics, in that Stan mentions that he wrote a book called “Reagan, the Last Liberal.” Though I’m not sure just how this reference is to be interpreted. It’s hard for me to read anything by Mike Baron now, because he’s such an unpleasant person. This issue includes a Judah the Hammer backup story by Ian Carney and Steve Epting, but Judah only appears at the very end.

SUPERMAN #187 (DC, 2002) – “Ending Battle Part 5: After School Special,” [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Pascual Ferry. While searching for Manchester Black, Superman has to fight his way through a horde of other villains. Pascual Ferry’s art in this issue is exciting, but it’s annoying how on the splash page, the background is blurred out to the point of invisibility. Like, the artist went to all the effort to draw that background, and then the colorist just blurred it? Other than that, this is just an average issue.

BATMAN #470 (DC, 1991) – “Of Gods and Men,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Norm Breyfogle. In a War of the Gods crossover, Batman seeks to recover a stolen Themysciran goblet from Maxie Zeus. This issue is notable because it guest-stars a supporting character from George Perez’s Wonder Woman, Ed Indelicato.

I went back to Heroes after a three-week absence, so there was a huge stack of comics waiting for me. There were also three 2000 AD prog packs, but I left those in my file, intending to buy them on the next trip.

ONCE AND FUTURE #28 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Kings Are Dead,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. The battle continues, and Gran blows up an undead Winston Churchill with a rocket launcher. Duncan and the Merry Men play King Lear backwards, releasing the original Lir. But just as the heroes are executing their plan, the Green Knight reappears and cuts Rose in half. This of course is not what’s supposed to happen. In Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the Green Knight swings at Gawain twice and misses, and then the third time he wounds Gawain lightly on the neck. I’m excited to see what happens next.

NIGHTWING #94 (DC, 2022) – “The Battle for Blüdhaven’s Heart Part 3,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Geraldo Borges. Dick participates in a sting operation that leads to the arrest of Blüdhaven’s police commissioner. Mayor Zucco chooses Maggie Sawyer as the new commissioner. Blockbuster tells the mayor that Electrocutioner is the mole in their organization, but this proves to be a trap: as soon as the mayor calls Dick to tell him about this, Electrocutioner zaps her. Blockbuster is a scary villain, though as others have noted, he’s very similar to the Kingpin. Geraldo Borges is an adequate fill-in artist for Bruno Redondo.

TWIG #4 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Kyle Strahm. The Horned Beast agrees to sacrifice itself for Twig, but Twig doesn’t have the heart ot kill it. The next item they need is the song of the Boxed Loxs, but in order to get that, they need to unlock the Boxed Loxs’s box, and that seems rather unsafe. Twig does manage to get the song, and his next destination is the moon; however, he’s become pessimistic about his chances of succeeding. I still absolutely love this series. In this issue, I especially like the image of a mysterious creature in a locked box, and it’s almost disappointing when we see what’s inside the box.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #25 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Road to Tribulation Part 5,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. Gabi takes Erica’s stuffed octopus and goes looking for more monsters, and Erica and Riqui have to save her. Meanwhile, Ms. Cutter cruelly murders Big Gary. Yet again we see that the Order of St. George is far worse than the monsters they’re killing. The British woman kills Big Gary in cold blood, just out of sadism. There’s no way this can be justified by the Order of St. George’s mission, even if you believe their bullshit claims about how many lives they’ve saved. A funny line in this issue is “Do not listen to the octopus. It is going to get you killed.”

DO A POWERBOMB #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Daniel Warren Johnson. The alien dude, Necro, tells Lona that he’s holding the tournament because he loves pro wrestling – although he doesn’t realize that pro wrestling is fake. Lona needs a partner to enter the tournament, and she recruits Cobrasun, because he wants to resurrect Lona’s mother as much as Lona does. But the twist ending is that Cobrasun, who killed Lona’s mother, is really her father. This is just about a perfect comic book. The action sequences are exciting, the dialogue is funny and convincing, and the linework is beautiful. I really want to read some of Johnson’s   earlier work.

PUBLIC DOMAIN #2 (Image, 2022) – “The Usual Spot,” [W/A] Chip Zdarsky. The two brothers can’t agree on whether to fight for ownership of The Domain, the father is too old to care, but the mother surprisingly wants to pursue the lawsuit. Her reaction is perhaps the most interesting. She spent the best years of her life caring for Miles and David while Syd slaved over his drawing board, and she wants him to have something to show for it. Miles gets himself thrown out of the Singular (i.e. Marvel) offices when he unwisely reveals that his father has a claim to own The Domain. Then we learn that Miles is so invested in this case because he’s in some kind of trouble. This series is fascinating, especially because of the depth of its characterization. The four members of the Dallas family are all very different, and their differences drive the plot. And the art is full of Chip Zdarsky’s trademark hidden messages.

RADIANT BLACK #16 (Image, 2022) – “Ambush,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Joe Clark, [A] Marcelo Costa. While Radiant Black is performing at a high school basketball game, he’s ambushed by Shift and several other villains. Shift offers Marshall a business deal, which Marshall obviously turns down. The villains almost kill Marshall, but Existence saves him. This issue is entertaining, but not as groundbreaking as earlier issues of the series.

WE ONLY FIND THEM WHEN THEY’RE DEAD #12 (Boom!, 2022) – “That’s the Rule,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Simone Di Meo. We begin with a flashback to the past history of the pilot, Dane Kahoe, and in the process we learn about what’s happened since the second storyline. Dane and Thierry-9 arrive at Malik’s Flight, but a Malikist army has preceded them there, led by Newdawn Bristow, daughter of Honorhim. This series is an excellent piece of space opera, but it’s hard to keep all the characters straight, and it’s also hard to remember the series’ internal timeline. Each sequence is given a date, but these dates are no help when I can’t even remember what year it’s currently supposed to be.

THE CLOSET #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Gavin Fullerton. At a gas station, Thom meets an old man and vents to him about his marital problems. In this conversation, Thom reveals that he himself is the closet monster. He hid some photographs of his affair partner in Jamie’s closet, and while looking for those photos, he woke Jamie up, thus inspiring Jamie’s recurrent monster dreams. This scene is also interesting because of the old man. He initially seems like an example of the Magic Negro trope, but at the end of the conversation, we learn that he has his own story: he’s suffering from cancer, and Thom doesn’t know this because he was too self-centered to ask. Afterward, Thom and Jamie finally arrive in Portland, but he and Maggie instantly get in a fight when Maggie realizes that Thom has lost Jamie’s suitcase. Jamie goes to his room and retreats into the closet. The Closet is a small masterpiece. It seems like a supernatural horror story, but it’s really about something even worse than monsters: a horrible father who destroys his family through his own weakness.

I HATE THIS PLACE #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Artyom Topilin. (Not Toplin, I was spelling it wrong before.) Gabrielle, Trudy and Dante Howitzer fight a pack of monstrous four-legged spiders. Then they encounter a giant man with antlers. Like much of Starks’s work, I Hate This Place is effective because it blends comedy with horror.

FARMHAND #19 (Image, 2022) – “Momma’s Bones,” [W/A] Rob Guillory. Monica Thorne’s servants, including Abigail and Riley, try to dig up Anna’s grave. (Anna’s headstone shows her date of birth as 1985, which seems far too late.) The villains succeed in exhuming the coffin, but it’s empty. This issue is mostly a long action sequence, and I don’t recall much about it.

USAGI YOJIMBO #29 (IDW, 2022) – “The Secret of the Green Dragon Part One,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. While traveling, Usagi and Yukichi meet a courier who is immediately murdered by Komori ninja. Oddly, the ninja take only the courier’s jewel box, leaving behind the jewels in it. Usagi and Yukichi head to Merchant Awase’s shop so they can deliver him the jewels, along with the green dragon from last issue. But someone has already killed Merchant Awase and destroyed all the boxes in his store. The mystery is solved when Chizu shows up and explains that the jewel box contains a document that incriminates Lord Hikiji. But now Usagi, Yukichi and Chizu have to take the message to the capital, while themselves being pursued by the Komori ninja. This is a fascinating start to a new storyline.

BUNNY MASK: THE HOLLOW INSIDE #3 (Aftershock, 2022) – “Space for Small Things,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Andrea Mutti. Bunny Mask tells Bee that she actually died in the cave, hence her lack of memories after that point. The Hollow and the Snitch both harass Tyler some more. Not a whole lot happens in this issue, and looking back on my previous reviews, I see that I had the same complaint about the first two issues. This miniseries has some fascinating characterization, but it’s not nearly as fast-paced as the first miniseries.

LITTLE MONSTERS #6 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. In the opening scene, we see just how long the vampires have been around: the entire city is covered with Romie’s childish graffiti. This scene is a skillful use of the series’ limited color palette. Then the kids divide into two sides, based on whether they’re willing to kill humans. At CSS, I heard someone say that Jeff Lemire was putting out too much material. I suppose you could say that, but his work is consistently high in quality, with a few exceptions like Berserker Unbound.

HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER #7 (Boom!, 2022) – “Scarlet Part 2,” [W] Sam Johns w/ James Tynion IV, [A] Letizia Cadonici. This issue begins with a story about a woman who lost seven children in a flood. Sadly, this is a true story (source). Then the protagonist meditates on what happens when you tie a string to an ant. This issue is evocative, but it doesn’t develop the plot at all.

RADIANT RED #5 (Image, 2022) – “Crime and Punishment,” [W] Cherish Chen, [A] David Lafuente. Satomi manages to escape from Shift and his boss Margo, but her house is destroyed in the process. Satomi finally dumps Owen, then turns herself into the police. This was an excellent miniseries; it turned one of Radiant Black’s best supporting characters into an equally effective protagonist. At times in this series it seemed like Satomi and Owen’s character arcs were going in opposite directions, with Owen redeeming himself while Satomi descended into villainy, but by the end of this issue Satomi has also started her path to redemption. I’d like to know what happens to her next.

DARK SPACES: WILDFIRE #1 (IDW, 2022) – “The Trap,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Hayden Sherman. Ruby Ma Ning, or “Ma,” is the leader of a team of female convict firefighters. While her team is fighting a fire, one of them reveals that her former employer’s house, containing a fortune in cryptocurrency, is in the path of the fire. Ma has to decide if the risk of stealing the crypto is justified by the potential change it could bring to her team’s lives, and eventually she decides the answer is yes. But in a flashforward sequence, we learn that Ma and her entire team are going to be murdered. This is a spectacular debut issue. The basic idea of a comic about inmate firefighters is already fascinating. The idea of prisoners fighting fires is a basic paradox, since these people are horribly exploited: they risk their lives in exchange for almost no pay (although I’ve heard that prisoners still prefer firefighting to other types of prison labor). The heist storyline makes this series even more exciting, but what’s really impressive about it is Hayden Sherman’s art. His draftsmanship is detailed and attractive – I particularly like how he draws faces – and his page layouts are both innovative and dramatic. This series was already optioned for TV, and no wonder.

ROGUE SUN #6 (Image, 2022) – “Family Matters,” [W] Ryan Parrott, [A] Abel. Dylan’s mom forces him to choose between her and his dad, and he grudgingly chooses his dad, taking his mom to be imprisoned in a crystal. This is a deliberately unsatisfying outcome because Dylan’s dad is to blame for his mom’s villainy, and after the fight, Dylan refuses any further help from Marcus and goes to live with his stepmother. Also, Dylan gives up his habit of bullying. Dylan’s character arc in this storyline is fascinating. At the beginning of this series, he’s on the path to becoming as bad as his father. It’s only through encountering Marcus’s ghost, and discovering what an awful man Marcus was, that Dylan learns better.

BATMAN #126 (DC, 2022) – “Failsafe Part Two,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jorge Jimenez. Batman and the Bat-family fight Failsafe, which appears to be an unstoppable robot that Bruce created without knowing he was doing so. At the end, Damian is confronted by what seems to be an evil Batman in a  purple and red costume. Failsafe reminds me of the Fury from Alan Moore’s Captain Marvel, because it seems totally unstoppable. Nightwing makes a cameo appearance in this issue, and steals the show as usual. In the backup story, Catwoman attends the reading of the Penguin’s will, in which the Penguin leaves his estate to two previously unknown children.

THE NEW CHAMPION OF SHAZAM #1 (DC, 2022) – “The New Adventures of Someone Else,” [W] Josie Campbell, [A] Evan “Doc” Shaner. Doc Shaner’s artwork in this issue is beautiful as ever. His work is impressive because he’s good at just about everything, especially facial expressions and action sequences. However, Josie Campbell’s prose style in this issue was annoying, to the point where it became hard for me to concentrate on the art. The Beat liked this comic better than I did, and perhaps I was judging it too harshly. Flipping through it again, I do like the scene with the talking rabbit, and I think Mary Marvel is an excellent character who needs far more exposure.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #40 (Marvel, 2022) – “Empire of the Spider Part III,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Alberto Foche. Miles’s battle with Selim continues, and the shield around Brooklyn is deactivated. Saladin is leaving this series after two more issues. That may not be a bad thing, because it seems as if he’s running out of ideas. I believe this is the only comic book he’s currently writing, and I wonder what he’ll do next. Maybe now he’ll have time to finish the sequel to Throne of the Crescent Moon. I still think of him as primarily a prose writer, but the bulk of his work has been in comics.

SANDMAN UNIVERSE: NIGHTMARE COUNTRY #4 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Lisandro Estherren. Bill shows Madison his vault, which includes a complete run of Chaste, the magazine published by the Bogeyman impostor from Sandman #14. This is a nice throwback to a classic story. Agony and Ecstasy arrive at Bill’s place, and Bill betrays Madison to them, but then the Corinthian comes to crash the party. This is my least favorite of James Tynion’s current comics, but it’s not bad.

POISON IVY #3 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Marcio Takara. Ivy helps a woman do some gardening, then continues on her itinerary, after an encounter with a monster that may have been sent by Jason Woodrue. The woman Ivy helps is another compelling supporting character, much like the fugitive from issue 2.

GOLDEN RAGE #1 (Image, 2022) – “Chaos,” [W] Chrissy Williams, [A] Lauren Knight. A young women finds herself on an island full of old women, who, despite their politeness and affection for cats, are also extremely dangerous. It seems that the women were all exiled to the island because they were post-menopausal, although I didn’t get that until I read this review. Then the island is attacked by “Red Hats.” I love the idea of a comic about action grandmas, and that idea is well-executed here. Across most types of popular narrative, elderly female protagonists are very rare unless they’re witches, so a comic like this one is very welcome.

THE DEAD LUCKY #1 (Image, 2022) – “It’s Not the Good That Die Young,” [W] Melissa Flores, [A] French Carlomagno. Bibi Lopez-Yang, a veteran of Chinese and Mexican descent, is now living in San Francisco, which is under the control of an oppressive megacorporation called Morrow. This corporation is also trying to push out Bibi’s parents from their restaurant. Morrow claims that their protection is necessary, or else San Francisco will be taken over by the “Salvation Gang.” Also, Bibi has some kind of superpowers, and she’s haunted by the ghosts of her dead comrades. This series has several fascinating premises. As a female veteran and an intersectional minority, Bibi is a unique protagonist, and this series also seems like a logical extrapolation from the current state of San Francisco. I understand that San Francisco has already been taken over by tech companies to the point where it’s unrecognizable and unaffordable. I think this series is a Radiant Black spinoff, but it has little to do with any of the other titles in that franchise.

DEFENDERS BEYOND #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Malkuth: The Neutral Zone” (if that’s supposed to be the title), [W] Al Ewing, [A] Javier Rodriguez. The late Doctor Strange’s final spell summons a new team of Defenders, among whom the only recurring character from the previous miniseries is Taaia. The other new Defenders are Blue Marvel, Loki, America Chavez, and Tigra, a character who I really like, since I’m a cat person. Eternity sends the new Defenders outside their current universe so they can fight a threat to the universe itself. That threat proves to be the Beyonder. I spoiled this for myself by looking at the last page of the issue – which I did because the cover of the issue tells you that there’s a spoiler on the last page – but it’s a clever plot twist. As in the previous Defenders miniseries, Al Ewing’s writing is witty, and Javier Rodriguez’s artwork, especially his page layouts, is phenomenal. I wonder why this miniseries doesn’t have a legacy number. There have been about ten different series with “Defenders” in the title, and I don’t think any of them have had legacy numbering. (Update: John Jackson Miller points out that the only titles that have legacy numbers are the ones that were renumbered during the 2017 Marvel Legacy event.)

SHE-HULK #5 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Luca Maresca. Jen fights a mentally disabled man who’s obsessed with Jack of Hearts, and then she and Jack go on a date. At the end, we discover that the man’s caretaker is in fact his wife. I wonder what the story is there. These two characters remind me of Ajax and Atalanta from the Pantheon, but surely they can’t be them. I could have sworn I read that Rainbow Rowell was going to write another Marvel comic, but perhaps I was mistaken.

SKYBOUND PRESENTS: AFTERSCHOOL #2 (Image, 2022) – “The Storkening,” [W] Kate Herron & Briony Redman, [A] Leila Leiz. An exciting horror story based on a ridiculous premise. High schooler Leah discovers that she’s pregnant. According to a myth, when a girl gets pregnant but doesn’t want to keep it, she’s hunted by a monstrous stork. Since this is a horror comic, the myth proves to be true, and Leah has to save herself from the stork in order to end her pregnancy. As noted at the beginning and end of the issue, after this story was written, it became far more relevant than its writers had intended. In light of the Supreme Court’s recent abominable decision, the idea of a monster that forces girls to bear unwanted children no longer seems quite so farfetched.

ORCS: THE CURSE #2 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Christine Larsen. We start with another Drod story, then Zamma (the old hag) brews a potion, but Bog drinks it, and it causes every female orc to be irresistibly attracted to him. Zamma and her daughter and grandchild have to work with the dwarves to break the curse. After the curse is broken, it seeks out the evil wizard from last issue. A nice moment in this issue is when the curse recognizes the trans male ninja orc as a man, not a woman. Also, this issue deepens Zamma’s character by showing that she used to be the chief of the tribe, but she got her people killed.

SINS OF THE BLACK FLAMINGO #2 (Image, 2022) – “Miracle of Love,” [W] Andrew Wheeler, [A] Travis Moore. Black Flamingo tries to rescue the angel from his kidnapper, Mr. Scar, but Mr. Scar is invulnerable to Sebastian’s magical tricks, and he shoots Sebastian dead, or so it seems. This issue didn’t make as big an impression on me as issue 1, but I liked it. I particularly like the party scene where Sebastian meets some old acquaintances, including a ghost in a BDSM suit.

On August 7 I went to another Charlotte Comicon. At this convention I tried to look for older back issues, because I felt that at Heroes Con I had mostly been buying recent back issues. I also resolved to try to spend all the money I’d brought, and to be more willing to pay $5 or more for individual comics. I was very pleased with the comics I got, such as:

AVENGERS #34 (Marvel, 1966) – “The Living Laser!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Don Heck. In his first appearance, the Living Laser tries to kidnap the Wasp so he can win her away from Hank Pym. I think this series got better when Roy Thomas and John Buscema took over, but this is a fun issue anyway. Don Heck’s art is quite impressive, especially his spotting of blacks and his depictions of the Living Laser’s machinery. His reputation has suffered because he wasn’t Kirby or Ditko or Buscema, but he wasn’t bad either. A minor continuity note is that the Living Laser’s fiancee, who appears in this issue, is named Lucy Barton, but it’s never been suggested that she’s related to Clint Barton.

BATMAN #243 (DC, 1972) – “The Lazarus Pit!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Neal Adams. A classic, though not as much of one as “The Demon Lives Again!” in the next issue. In this issue, Batman fights a martial artist named Ling, then he goes looking for Ra’s al Ghul. A memorable scene is when Batman grabs Talia by the wrist, and then Molly Post whacks him from behind with her skis. Molly Post was an intriguing character who only appeared in this storyline, and some writer brings him back. The high point of this issue is the final scene, where Ra’s al Ghul rises from the Lazarus Pit after having been dead (BTW I don’t think we’re ever told how he died). The panel with the line “A mirthless, insane joy glittering in his eyes!” is unforgettable.

SHOWCASE #64 (DC, 1966) – “The Ghost of Ace Chance!”, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Murphy Anderson. Jim Corrigan’s body is possessed by the ghost of a dead gambler, and the Spectre has to go on a mystical adventure to get his body back. This issue is full of the sort of fantastic weirdness that Gardner Fox liked; there’s one scene where the Spectre fights a group of red-robed alchemists armed with the ring of Gyges and the trident of Paracelsus. Gardner Fox is remembered as a superhero writer, but he was also an SFF writer, and that influence shows up all across his comics work. I’d be curious to read his prose work, such as Kothar, Barbarian Swordsman. As for the art in this issue, Murphy Anderson is not well remembered as a Spectre artist, but his art here is enjoyable.

LITTLE ARCHIE #37 (Archie, 1966) – “Ski-Bee” etc., [W/A] Bob Bolling. Sadly this issue includes just one Bob Bolling story, and it’s a minor work. The plot is that Archie keeps coming to school late because he always takes the scenic route, and then when he tries to come to school on time, he makes Mr. Weatherbee late as well. The other stories are all by Dexter Taylor, including the cover story, in which Chic Cooper is trying to push a stalled car off of train tracks.

THOR #145 (Marvel, 1967) – “Abandoned on Earth!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. Odin removes Thor’s powers and leaves him stranded on Earth, and then Thor is forced to work for the Circus of Crime as their new strongman. As is often the case with Lee and Kirby’s Thor, this story is full of gorgeous art, but its plot is trite. In the Tales of Asgard backup story, the Warriors Three help Prince Alibar liberate Hogun’s homeland, Zanadu, from the tyrant Mogul. Alibar and Zanadu are loosely based on the Arabian Nights, but the influence is so subtle that I just thought Zanadu was a generic Oriental setting.

SUGAR & SPIKE #94 (DC, 1971) – “The Mixed-Up Mix-Up”, [W/A] Sheldon Mayer. This issue introduces Raymond, who I believe was the series’ first and only black character. Its cover looks racist, but is actually not, at least to the extent that I can judge this. The point of the joke is not that Raymond is black, but that Spike and Raymond are obviously different. In the story that introduces Raymond, Sugar’s mother picks up Raymond from a bus stop, mistaking him for her nephew, and chaos ensues. This story is kind of problematic because it seems as if the adults can’t tell Raymond apart from Sugar or Spike. That’s a mild sort of colorblind racism: it’s not racist to notice that people have different skin tones. Though I guess the joke is that adults can only recognize babies by their clothing. Other than that, Raymond and his mother are entirely non-stereotypical characters (though, again, I can’t judge that). Mayer grew up long before the civil rights era, and he deserves some credit for engaging with race in a respectful way.

YOUNG LOVE #31 ((Prize, 1962) – “Go Fight Your Heart!”, [W] unknown, [A] Dick Ayers w/ Joe Simon. This is the only Prize or Crestwood comic in my collection. It’s a standard example of the romance comics format. Two of the stories are particularly worth mentioning. In “Hello, Darling – Goodbye!”, a truck stop waitress has two suitors, her boring boss and a romantic truck driver. In the end she learns that the truck driver is romancing lots of other women in other truck stops, and she marries her boss instead. In “High Hopes,” Audrey marries Alec, who claims to be a writer, but has never sold anything and is unwilling to work. Audrey works herself to the bone to support him, until finally she demands that he get a real job, and he walks out on her. Afterward, Audrey edits Alec’s novel until it’s publishable, and they reconcile. The story ends by suggesting that Audrey and Alec’s marriage, like Alec’s novel, is salvageable, but it also suggests that Audrey was right to stay married to Alec, and I vehemently disagree. Alec is a lazy, toxic jerk who refuses to work because he thinks it’s beneath him, and he owes his entire career to his wife’s support and emotional labor. There are lots of men who act like him, and very few of them ever achieve anything.

THE FLASH #175 (DC, 1967) – “The Race to the End of the Universe!”, [W] E. Nelson Bridwell, [A] Ross Andru. Some aliens force Superman and the Flash to compete in a race across the universe. After a series of wild plot twists, we learn that the “aliens” are really Reverse Flash and Abra Kadabra, and the race ends inconclusively; from different angles it looks like each of the two heroes crossed the finish line first. This issue’s plot is far too convoluted, but all of the Superman-Flash races were classic stories. Though in my opinion the Flash should always be faster than Superman. Otherwise, the Flash would have no powers that Superman doesn’t have.

THE WOODS #16 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. I bought a lot of these at the convention. The Woods is difficult to read out of order because of the complexity of the plot and the huge number of characters and plot elements. Besides that, it’s a fascinating series. In this issue, two of the high school kids run for mayor of the human town.

FOUR COLOR #739 (Dell, 1956) – “Luke Short’s Bounty Guns,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Mort Drucker. As usual I was looking for Four Colors at the convention, but this was the only one I could find at a price I was willing to pay. Unusually, this issue is adapted from a novel, not a film or a TV show. I had never heard of Luke Short before, but Wikipedia says that he was a popular Western novelist and that nine of his novels were filmed. Bounty Guns, which was not filmed, is about a bounty hunter who’s hired to figure out which of two feuding clans, the Bollings and the Shields, was responsible for the murder of a gold prospector. The twist is that neither of the clans was responsible; instead it was the bounty hunter’s own client, who hired him as part of a plot to steal the prospector’s claim. This is a reasonably entertaining Western story, and Mort Drucker was a skilled Western artist, though he’s now remembered exclusively for his Mad Magazine work.

TEEN TITANS #29 (DC, 1970) – “Captives!”, [W] Steve Skeates, [A] Nick Cardy. The Titans team up with Hawk and Dove against Ocean Master and some aliens. This issue’s plot is mostly driven by Hawk and Dove’s conflicts over pacifism. Nick Cardy’s art is incredible, as always, though I wish this issue had featured Wonder Girl more prominently. I used to see Steve Skeates’s posts on Facebook often, but I haven’t heard from him in years. However, just before writing this review, I saw a public Facebook post which showed that he’s alive and safe.

SGT. FURY AND HIS HOWLING COMMANDOS #7 (Marvel, 1964) – “The Court-Martial of Sgt. Fury!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. Fury is court-martialed for refusing an order to attack a German ammo depot. Afterward, he develops amnesia and can’t remember why he refused the order. In the end Fury gets his memory back and vindicates himself. This is a really fun issue. Despite being a war comic, it reads just like a Marvel superhero comic, and its central mystery is intriguing. A surprising moment in this issue is when Dum Dum Dugan reads a letter from his mother-in-law. I hadn’t even realized he was married. It seems that his distaste for his mother-in-law was a running joke, but his wife never appeared until Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 (1989), where she was promptly killed. Dum Dum also has at least one grandson, but we don’t know how many children he has, let alone their names or genders.

BLOOD ON THE MOON #1 (Last Gasp, 1978) – untitled, [W/A] Jack Jackson. This was the third part of Jack Jackson’s Comanche Moon trilogy, a historical narrative about Cynthia Ann Parker and her son Quanah. This issue chronicles the Comanche’s brave but doomed resistance against the United States, which ended with their confinement to a reservation. Jaxon’s artwork is gorgeous, blending John Severin’s style with the underground aesthetic, and his narrative is well-researched. He also shows clear sympathy with the Comanches and Kiowas, unlike in his later work Lost Cause, which was rather racist. (Jaxon claimed he was just trying to write it from the Confefderate perspective, but that’s no excuse.) My complaint is that this comic relies too much on caption boxes for narration, and it sometimes feels like an illustrated prose history. One thing that makes this comic enjoyable is Jaxon’s relatable, down-to-earth portrayal of the Comanche people, whose dialogue is written in the style of 1970s Americans. But I wish this comic had had more characterization and less narration.

SUPERMAN #181 (DC, 1965) – “The Super-Scoops of Morna Vine!”, [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Curt Swan. The Daily Planet hires a new female reporter who’s able to get scoops that Lois and Clark can’t, but her secret is that she’s getting the scoops using a destroyed Superman robot that her father repaired. This story is typical Weisingerian nonsense. “The Superman of 2965!”, [W] Edmond Hamilton, [A] Curt Swan. This story is much more interesting because it’s the first appearance of Klar Ken T5477, who reappears in Superman v2 #137. Klar Ken is very similar to Clark Kent, but the idea of a generational lineage of Supermen is really interesting, and has not been explored sufficiently. I first encountered Klar Ken in a fanfic written by DarkMark and the late Dannell Lites, and I assumed he was created for that fanfic. Until reading Superman #137, I didn’t realize he was an actual DC character. There are some obvious contradictions between the 30th century as depicted in Klar Ken’s stories and in the Legion of Super-Heroes stories, and part of the purpose of Dannell Lites’s fanfic was to explain those contradictions.

MY LOVE #7 (Marvel, 1970) – “Did I Make the Wrong Choice?”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] John Buscema. Socialite Valerie Van Dyne decides to marry a poor piano teacher, despite her family’s disdain. This is a boring story, but Big John’s artwork is beautiful. Valerie Van Dyne of  course has the same name and social background as Janet Van Dyne. Probably Stan just forgot he’d already used the name Van Dyne elsewhere, but the name itself must have been inspired by the surnames of New York’s Dutch aristocracy, such as Vanderbilt, Van Cortlandt and Van Rensselaer. The other stories in this issue are reprints with updated art.

THIRTEEN GOING ON EIGHTEEN #16 (Dell, 1965) – “Welcome Home,” [W/A] John Stanley. “Thirteen Going on Eighteen number sixteen” is a funny issue number. This issue is full of early teenage drama. In the first story, Val worries that Billy hasn’t called her immediately upon come from vacation. In the second story, Judy misinforms Val that she’s seen Billy with another girl at the beach, and so on. Like Little Lulu, Thirteen Going on Eighteen has the same formula in every issue, but it’s a formula that works well.

DARK KNIGHTS OF STEEL #2 (DC, 2022) – “Distant Thunder,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Jasmine Putri. A medieval-themed Elseworlds version of the DC Universe. This particular issue focuses on the Black Lightning character and his family. This issue is written in Tom Taylor’s usual thrilling style. I should have been reading this series from the beginning, but I think it’s too late to start reading it now, and I’ll just try to collect all the back issues.

JONNY QUEST #29 (Comico, 1988) – “Kings of the West Part Two,” [W] William Messner-Loebs, [A] Marc Hempel et al. An adventure story about a feud between two Old West theme parks. This issue’s plot is so complicated that I had to reread issue 28 to have any hope of understanding it, and even then I was confused. Besides that, this is a good issue of an excellent series. This issue has a couple funny moments involving Race Bannon: there’s one scene where a lizard crawls all over his face, and another scene where a man breaks a chair over Race’s head, with no effect on Race at all.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #17 (Marvel, 1969) – “And a Child Shall Lead You!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Gil Kane. This is an important issue because it’s the one where Mar-Vell becomes linked to Rick through the nega-bands, so that when one of them is on Earth, the other is in the Negative Zone. Throughout the early part of this series, Captain Marvel’s status quo was constantly in flux, and he never had a consistent premise or identity. By introducing Rick into the series, Roy finally found a version of the character that worked, and it’s this version of Mar-Vell that’s best remembered. In hindsight it seems as though Mar-Vell and Rick always shared a body, even though that idea was not part of Mar-Vell’s original conception. In addition, Gil Kane’s page layouts, action sequences and draftsmanship in this issue are amazing.

G.I. JOE #3 (Marvel, 1982) – “The Trojan Gambit,” [W] Larry Hama, [A] Herb Trimpe. In the bowels of the Pit, a captured Cobra robot comes to life and tries to escape into the outside world, so that it can broadcast the Pit’s location to Cobra. On the above-ground level of the Pit, Hawk is hosting the “chaplain’s assistants’ social tea,” and he has to prevent any of the guests from noticing that something strange is going on below. This is a masterfully crafted story. Larry Hama creates lots of suspense about whether the Joes will be able to destroy the robot and keep their location secret, and the above-ground scenes are great for comic relief. The guests at the tea party keep hearing strange noises and smelling strange smells, and Hawk and Scarlett, who are attending the party, have to keep coming up with excuses. In the end, the underground and above-ground plots intersect when the last of the robot’s drones makes it all the way into the room where the party is held, and Scarlett stomps on it.

(The next comic I read was Thor #188, but then I discovered that I’d already read that issue last year.)

KAMANDI #30 (DC, 1975) – “UFO. The Wildest Trip Ever!”, [W/A] Jack Kirby. Some aliens abduct Kamandi and Ben Boxer and take them to a graveyard full of human artifacts. This issue doesn’t have much of a plot, and its lack of intelligent animals is unfortunate, but as usual Kirby’s artwork is spectacular. Kamandi was perhaps the most fun series from the later part of Kirby’s career.

VELVET #10 (Image, 2015) – “The Secret Lives of Dead Men,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. While on a train, Velvet escapes from some police who are trying to arrest her, but then she falls into a further trap. This issue includes some thrilling action sequences, but this series’ overall plot is very hard to understand. After I collect all of Velvet, I’d like to reread the whole series in a couple sittings, if I ever have the time. On the letters page, Brubaker shows his good taste by recommending Tim Powers’s novel Declare.

BATMAN #92 (DC, 2020) – “Their Dark Designs Part 7,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Guillem March. This issue is the second full appearance of Punchline, and my copy is a variant edition where the cover is a portrait of Punchline. As often with James Tynion’s Batman, this comic’s plot is very convoluted and confusing. It includes one plotline where the Riddler turns Gotham into a giant crossword puzzle, and another plotline where Catwoman and Harley Quinn fight the Underbroker.

DOCTOR SOLAR, MAN OF THE ATOM #6 (Gold Key, 1963) – “The Impostor,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Frank Bolle. Solar’s archemeny Nuro kidnaps Gail and replaces her with a superpowered shapeshifting android. Of course Solar saves the day. This is a fairly entertaining comic, but Paul S. Newman was not really a superhero writer. He was more suited to realistic adventure stories. I tend to assume that “Doctor Solar” is Doctor Solar’s superhero codename, but his superhero name is actually “Man of the Atom.” Doctor Philip Solar (later changed to Raymond Solar) is his secret identity. This was changed in the Valiant series, where his superhero identity was Solar, and his real name was Phil Seleski.

THE JACKAROO #2 (Eternity, 1990) – “Attack of the Killer Barnacle!”, [W/A] Gary Chaloner. A gritty urban superhero comic set in both Sydney and the Australian countryside. I like this comic because of both its skillful art and its local specificity. The comic includes a glossary of the Australian slang that the characters use, and I was able to use Google Maps to locate the precise area of Sydney where this issue takes place. There’s a backup story by Chaloner and another Australian artist, Greg Gates.

DOCTOR WHO #11 (Marvel, 1985) – “The Deal,” [W] Steve Parkhouse, [A] Dave Gibbons, etc. A series of stories reprinted from Doctor Who Weekly. The first two stories are about the Fourth Doctor. The last two are about Abslom Daak, and their creative team is Steve Moore and David Lloyd. This comic is worth reading not just because I’m interested in Doctor Who, but because the creators are all notable veterans of British comics. I want to become more of a Doctor Who fan, but as with other franchises like Star Trek and Conan, I find it eaiser to get into Doctor Who through comics than through its original medium. This issue includes an interview with Terrance Dicks in which he expresses skepticism about the possibility of the Doctor being played by a woman. That eventually did happen, but not until more than thirty years later.

BLACKHAWK #200 (DC, 1964) – “Queen Killer Shark,” [W] Dave Wood, [A] Dick Dillin. A villain named Killer Shark turns Lady Blackhawk into Queen Killer Shark. Rather than a war comic, this issue is a Silver Age superhero comic, and not a very good one. It does include a funny scene where a cat goes insane. In this issue’s backup story, drawn by Dillin and written by either Ed Herron or my near namesake George Kashdan, Blackhawk has to bring in a German prisoner, but it becomes unclear which is the captor and which is the captive. This story is better than the main story.

BIG MAN PLANS #1 (Image, 2015) – “Hang In There,” [W/A] Eric Powell, [W] Tim Wiesch. Our protagonist is known only as Big Man, which is ironic since he’s a little person. After a deprived upbringing and a stint in Vietnam clearing out tunnels, he returns to America to “rage and get respect.” Like most of Eric Powell’s work, this comic is both brutal and funny, but it leans more toward brutal than funny. I had never heard of this series until I found this issue in a dollar box at Charlotte Comicon, and now I want to read the rest of it.

INCREDIBLE HULK #197 (Marvel, 1976) – “…And Man-Thing Makes Three!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Sal Buscema. I bought this mostly because of the Bernie Wrightson cover. This cover may have been his only published illustration of Man-Thing. In the actual comic, the Hulk visits the Florida Everglades and encounters both Man-Thing and the Collector, who’s trying to recapture the Glob from issue 121. Wikipedia says that the Glob was Marvel’s version of the Heap, so this issue is a rare example of a crossover between two members of the swamp-monster family of characters.

More new comics:

HAWK THE SLAYER #1 (Rebellion,2022) – “Watch for Me in the Night,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Henry Flint. This series was originally published in the American format as a supplement to Judge Dredd Megazine. It’s an adaptation of a 1980 sword-and-sorcery film. I’m disappointed that this is an adaptation rather than an original story. Garth Ennis’s writing here is neither his best nor his worst, but the main attraction of this comic is Henry Flint’s detailed and gruesome art.

ROBIN #16 (DC, 2022) – “Lazarus Secrets,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Roger Cruz. Damian teams up with the Japanese Batman to look for Flatline, who, according to Lord Death Man, is going around killing people. The issue ends with Lord Death Man and Mother Soul kissing. Early in this issue, Damian hugs someone. I think he’s softening up a bit. A funny scene later in the issue is when Godzilla appears to be invading Tokyo. It seems that this is an illustration of an actual Godzilla head sculpture in Shinjuku.

SURVIVAL STREET #1 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Asmus & Jim Festante, [A] Abylay Kussainov. In a near-future America, a group of muppets and their human allies lead a resistance campaign against the corporations that dominate the government. This comic is of course based on Sesame Street. The combination of muppets and dystopia is a hilarious idea, and the creators execute it very well. I especially like the scene where the muppets’ stealth mission is ruined when the Sundae Fiend (i.e. Cookie Monster) smells ice cream and goes crazy. This series is somewhat comparable to Justice Warriors, but it’s funnier, and its satire has a clearer target. Abylay Kussainov is from Kazakhstan, and I think he’s the first Central Asian cartoonist I’ve ever heard of.

STILLWATER #14 (Image, 2022) – “An Appointment,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramón Pérez. Galen and his cronies invade the cneighboring town of Coldwater and take it over without firing a shot. But then the situation changes when the “Three” – Daniel, Laura, and I forget who the third is – return to town. The letter column says that this is the final story arc. Ramón Pérez’s art in Stillwater looks very different from his art in Amazing Spider-Man #1.4, reviewed above. He seems to be able to draw in lots of different styles.

THE LONESOME HUNTERS #2 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Tyler Crook. After some action sequences, Howard and Lupe flee to the house of an old friend of Howard’s. This issue is lighter on plot than #1, but it’s still very exciting. The magpies are very creepy, though they’re also kind of cute.

SKYBOUND X #25 (Image, 2022) – [E] Sean Mackiewicz et al. This comic is inspired by the 1994 “Images of Tomorrow” event, when Image published the 25th issues of Stormwatch, Supreme, Bloodstrike and Brigade, even though those issues were more than a year in the future (and the latter two titles were cancelled before they ever reached #25). Thus, Skybound X #25 is a preview of four Skybound titles that are launching next year. Battle Beast is typical ultraviolent Kirkman nonsense, but the next two stories are interesting. Dark Ride, by the same creators as Birthright, is a horror story set in a theme park. Chroma, much like Attack on Titan, is about an embattled human population living in a walled city for protection against monsters. The catch is that the humans are monochromatic, and they believe that colors are dangerous. I plan on reading both these series when they come out. The fourth new series is Scurry. I really want to like it because it’s about squirrels, but Mac Smith’s painted art is unappealing, and his animals don’t have much personality.

SHANG-CHI AND THE TEN RINGS #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Absolute Power,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Marcus To. Shang-Chi plays miniature golf with his new girlfriend, but has to rush home quickly when multiple criminal organizations try to steal the Ten Rings. This comic is identical in style to the previous Shang-Chi series, so I don’t know why they had to renumber it. I’ve been filing this series under “M” for Master of Kung Fu, but maybe instead I should file Master of Kung Fu under S, because every issue of  MOKF had the phrase “The Hands of Shang-Chi” on its cover.

 A CALCULATED MAN #2 (Aftershock, 2022) – “You People Are Weird,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Alberto (Jimenez) Albuquerque. Jack Beans uses his calculation skills to execute a heist and romance a woman. A Calculated Man is an entertaining crime comic, but it’s not really about math. Jack Beans, like Amadeus Cho, is a master of calculation, but that’s not what professional mathematicians do. Mathematicians are not necessarily “good at math” in the sense in which most people would use that phrase; instead, they use logic and abstraction to prove theorems. This does not mean that A Calculated Man is a bad comic, it’s just not what I hoped it would be.

G.I. JOE #4 (Marvel, 1982) – “Operation: Wingfield!”, [W] Larry Hama, [A] Herb Trimpe. Some G.I. Joes invade a camp of extremely well-funded paramilitary terrorists. This issue isn’t as perfectly crafted as #3, but it’s still good. It’s especially poignant when the terrorists’ own followers begin to abandon him, because he’s endangering their families. The terrorists’ leader, Wingfield, doesn’t seem to have a clear ideology; he just seems convinced that civilization is going to collapse. Still, Larry Hama was prescient in being worried about terrorist militias as early as 1982. My sense is that this problem didn’t become truly prominent until the early 1990s, with the Ruby Ridge and Waco incidents.

DETECTIVE COMICS #1044 (DC, 2021) – “Fear State: Nakano’s Nightmare Part 2,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Dan Mora. Batman has to save Mayor Nakano, who hates him, from both a cave-in and an infestation of flesh-eating insects. Meanwhile, Batwoman battles the replacement mayor, “Nero XIX.” The Batwoman sequence is especially striking because almost the only colors used are black and red. The backup story, by Stephanie Phillips and David Lapham, is about the redevelopment of Arkham Tower.

BATMAN #112 (DC, 2021) – “Fear State Part 1,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Jorge Jimenez. Tech genius Simon Saint creates a squad of armored “Peacekeepers” in order to “save” Gotham, but he’s made the mistake of allying with the Scarecrow, who has his own agenda. Meanwhile, Poison Ivy has created an underground jungle. The Bat-Family has to resolve all these crises. After reading this issue, I finally sort of understand Fear State. A poignant moment in this story is the panel where a pregnant woman is boarding up her windows while her toddler son reaches for her. This issue includes a Clownhunter backup story by Brandon Thomas and Jason Howard.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #17 (Marvel, 2006) – “League of Losers Part 3,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Paco Medina. A confusing story about a group of time-traveling superheroes, including some obscure ones like Terror, Inc. This issue has some interesting bits of characterization, but I wish it had followed the usual Marvel Team-Up format of single-issue stories with just two or three protagonists. Marvel Team-Up is another series that should have a legacy number.

NAUGHTY LIST #4 (Aftershock, 2022) – “Queens,” [W] Nick Santora, [A] Lee Ferguson. This issue is full of toilet humor and insufferable macho dialogue. It’s so annoying and offensive that it destroyed whatever good will I had for this series. Luckily this is the last issue for now, or else I would have dropped this series from my pull list at once. This issue ends on a cliffhanger, but I don’t care what happens next.

MY LITTLE PONY #3 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Robin Easter. The new group of ponies go looking for a stolen dog. This comic is okay, but so far I’m not nearly as excited about this series as about MLP: FIM. I can’t tell any of the protagonists apart, because none of them seem to have distinctive personalities or gimmicks, as the Mane Six did.

KAIJU SCORE: STEAL FROM THE GODS #4 (Aftershock, 2022) – “Seeing It Through,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Rem Broo. Michelle is forced to wake up the good kaiju deity so it can deal with the bad one. The heist ends successfully, and then Michelle joins an international council of thieves. This series is a fun, quick read, and I’d like to see a third Kaiju Score miniseries, but I still wish we would learn more about the kaiju and their impact on normal life.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #131 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Pablo Tunica. Shredder trains the Turtles in mystical arts, and they each have a bizarre dream. I don’t understand how this issue fits into the current storyline, or whether it’s a flashback or a present-day sequence. My interest in this series has been dropping, particularly given how long it’s been since Sophie Campbell drew an entire issue herself.

JURASSIC LEAGUE #3 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Juan Gedeon & Daniel Warren Johnson, [A] Rafa Garres. The new artist this issue is much worse than Juan Gedeon. His linework is so loose and crude that it seems incompetent. As for the plot, this issue is just a series of fight sequences. The novelty of Jurassic League’s premise is wearing off.

SIN CITY: LOST, LONELY & LETHAL #1 (Dark Horse, 1996) – “Fat Man and Little Boy” etc., [W/A] Frank Miller. This one-shot includes three short stories. The first two are so short that they’re barely stories at all. The third one, “Blue Eyes,” is better. In this story, a man is hunted by a hitman for no apparent reason. While fleeing, he runs into his old girlfriend, who takes him to bed and then kills him. The twist is that she’s training to become a professional assassin, and to do so, she had to pass a test by killing the love of her life.

THE WALKING DEAD #137 (Image, 2015) – “A Future Uncertain,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Charlie Adlard. Carl continues negotiating with Lydia until he gets her out of prison. She licks his empty eye socket – ewww! – and then sleeps with him. Meanwhile, Maggie’s political opponent invites her to negotiate, then poisons her. I’ve been unimpressed with most of the recent Kirkman comics I’ve read, but this Walking Dead storyline is fascinating because of the depth of its characterization and politics. It validates my decision to keep buying Walking Dead back issues when I come across them.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: SYMBOL OF TRUTH #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “Homeland Part 3,” [W] Tochi Onyebuchi, [A] Zé Carlos & R.B. Silva. Like the last issue, this issue is hampered by an unnecessary and annoying Deadpool guest appearance. I frankly hate Deadpool and have no interest in reading about him. Also, the inclusion of Deadpool is a pointless gimmick meant to drive sales, as if Cap on his own isn’t interesting enough to make people buy this comic. The second half of this issue is better; it focuses more on the new Falcon and border politics.

LOVE ROMANCES #63 (Marvel, 1957) – “We’re Engaged!”, [W/A] unknown, etc. This is the oldest Marvel comic in my collection, and the only one whose indicia says Timely instead of Marvel. The first story in this issue is annoying. Sally and Tommy are engaged, but he has to stop seeing her because he’s going to night school for two months. Sally then discovers that Tommy isn’t really going to the school he said he was attending, but her mother convinces her to have faith in him. After two months, Tommy tells Sally that he had to lie to her because he was going to a “secret government school.” That’s utter nonsense; if he couldn’t tell her what school he was going to, he could have just said so. This story teaches that a woman should believe her boyfriend even when he’s obviously lying. The other stories in this issue are fairly typical romance comics material. The known artists in this issue are John Tartaglione, Jay Scott Pike (who deserves a collection of his work) and Ann Brewster. John Tartaglione’s story includes a panel where a character’s eyes are out of alignment.

 SKYWARD #9 (Image, 2018) – “Here There Be Dragonflies Part 4,” [W] Joe Henderson, [A] Lee Garbett. Willa and Lucas share some romantic moments, but then Willa discovers that the farmers are planning to attack Chicago and cause lots of civilian deaths. Willa decides that she has to stop this plot by freeing her worst enemy, Roger Barrow. Skyward is even better than Shadecraft, which was already quite good.

BATMAN #118 (DC, 2022) – “The Abyss Part 1: Now It’s a Party!”, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Jorge Molina & Mikel Janin. This was given out for free at Charlotte Comicon. Fear State is now over, and everyone is partying. Batman intervenes when a villain-themed party at Gotham’s Billionaires’ Club is invaded by a real villain. There’s a cute moment when a little girl dressed as Punchline asks Batman for an autograph, and he ”signs” a piece of paper with the Bat-Signal. Afterward, Batman discovers that the members of Batman Inc. have been arrested for murdering a villain called Abyss. While visiting Badhnesia to investigate, Batman encounters Luthor.

MS. TREE #17 (Renegade, 1985) – “Runaway Part 3,” [W] Max Allan Collins & Terry Beatty. Ms. Tree follows Mike Jr’s trail to an unnamed Southern town, where she teams up with a Glenn Harwood, a local cop turned social worker. Ms. Tree and Glenn have some romantic sparks, but Glenn is repelled by Ms. Tree’s violent behavior. They discover that Mike Jr was kidnapped by the school’s janitor, who intended to rape and then murder him. Ms. Tree rescues Mike Jr, then murders the janitor in cold blood.

MAN OF STEEL #4 (DC, 1986) – “Enemy Mine…”, [W/A] John Byrne. I believe that Byrne’s redesign of Superman, which began in this miniseries, was ultimately a step backward for the character. However, Man of Steel and Byrne’s subsequent Superman stories were considered classics at one time, and I’m kind of surprised that I didn’t have a complete run of Man of Steel already. This issue, Superman meets Lex Luthor for the first time, and Luthor tests Superman’s powers by having him fight some (stereotypical) South American terrorists, even though Luthor’s own security staff could have handled the terrorists themselves. As a result, Superman arrests Luthor for reckless endangerment, establishing their lifelong enmity. Oddly, by the end of this issue Luthor still has a full head of hair. I think the pre-Crisis mad scientist Luthor was a far better character than the post-Crisis Luthor, who was just another Kingpin type. The old Luthor had a certain nobility, as demonstrated in stories like “The Einstein Connection” or the Lexor stories, while the newer Luthor was an egomaniacal monster. His most memorable story may be “Metropolis 900 Mi.” from Superman #9, in which he ruins a woman’s life just for his own amusement.

THE GOON #28 (Dark Horse, 2008) – untitled, [W/A] Eric Powell. This issue has a funny credit line: “Zombies provided by Jethro and Earl Zombie Wranglerin’ Inc. and The Adopt-A-Zombie Foundation.” In this issue the Goon plots against a fellow mobster named Labrizio. This issue’s plot is not very interesting, but it’s full of gruesome creatures and funny moments, like the two-page spread where the Goon punches a mule in the face.

SUPERMAN/BATMAN #4 (DC, 2004) – “The World’s Finest Part 4: Battle On,” [W] Jeph Loeb, [A] Ed McGuinness. Superman and Batman are trying to save the world from I’m not sure what, but to do so, they have to fight their way through a bunch of other superheroes, led by Major Force on behalf of President Luthor. This issue is disappointing. The story is unoriginal, and Ed McGuinness’s art is far less exciting or creative than in Superman #168.

PLANET TERRY #2 (Marvel, 1986) – “The Saga of Princess Ugly,” [W] Lennie Herman, [A] Warren Kremer. On an alien planet, Terry rescues Princess (shudder) Ugly from Vermin the Vile. The predictable twist is that Princess Ugly is in fact beautiful. Afterward, Terry discovers that his parents’ spaceship is on the same planet. One thing these Star comics have that actual  Harvey comics don’t have is continuity. Most of Harvey’s stories lasted just one issue at most, but the Star titles had plots that evolved from one issue to another.

HAWK THE SLAYER #2 (Rebellion, 2022) – “The Last of Their Kind,” as above. The heroes go looking for Hawk’s evil brother, who was supposed to be dead but isn’t. This series isn’t actively bad, unlike some Garth Ennis comics, but I’m not sure I’m motivated enough to continue reading it.

BLINK #1 (Oni, 2022) – “Lost Footage,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Hayden Sherman. As a child, Wren Booker was found wandering in the street covered with blood, unable to explain what had happened to her. As an adult, while working as a freelance journalist, Wren discovers a clue that might help her understand her past. The trail of clues leads Wren and her  boyfriend Joel to an abandoned building infested with ghouls. This is a really impressive first issue, though when writing this review, I had to remind myself what it was about. Hayden Sherman’s artwork isn’t as stunning here as in Dark Spaces: Wildfire; his linework seems much less crisp.

MONSTROUS: BOOK OF THE DEAD #2 (Source Point, 2022) – untitled, [W] Greg Wright, [A] A. Shay Hahn. This was in my file at Heroes, but I have no idea why. It’s some kind of light fantasy/horror story about mummies. This comic is better than I expected, but it’s not good enough to justify buying any other issues.

ELLE(S) #1 (Ablaze, 2022) – untitled, [W] Kid Toussaint, [A] Aveline Stokart. This seems like a typical slice-of-life high school story, but the twist is that the protagonist, Elle, has multiple personalities, and when each personality takes over, her hair color changes. This comic’s artwork is in an unappealing painted style, but its plotting and characterization seem pretty good. I’m mostly interested in reading it because it’s a French comic. The most striking scene in this issue is when Elle comes home and wants to do homework, but her mother guilts her into helping set the house up so the mother can give a presentation to some clients. That’s pretty terrible parenting: a child’s schoolwork should take precedence over giving a parent unpaid assistance with work.

SPIDER-GWEN: GWENVERSE #4 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Jodi Nishijima. The next version of Gwen is based on Captain Marvel, but she has to sacrifice herself to save the world. This brings about the dystopian future that the Gwens are trying to prevent. This series is very fun, but its plot is hopelessly complicated and confusing.

ICE CREAM MAN #31 (Image, 2022) – “A Scale (Sort of a Poem)”, [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. Warren Williamson. This issue chronicles the life of a man named Warren Williamson, from his daughter’s birth to his own death. Warren narrates the first half of the issue, and his daughter Blossom narrates the second half. Unlike many issues of this series, “A Scale” is tender and warm, though it includes some horrific moments. It shows that W. Maxwell Prince is capable of other emotional affects besides depressing bleakness.  Warren’s book is called “The Etymologist Ascends,” which is almost the title of issue 28. I don’t know if it’s worthwhile to try to tease out the connections between issues of this series.

X-MEN RED #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Hour of Uranos,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Stefano Caselli. In an A.X.E. crossover, Thanos’s great-uncle Uranos invades Arakko. A.X.E. is based on plot elements from Kieron Gillen’s Eternals, so X-Men Red #5 feels more similar to Gillen’s Eternals than to earlier issues of X-Men Red.

GRIM #3 (Boom!, 2022) – “Null & Void,” [W] Stephanie Phillips, [A] Flaviano. The three main characters are trapped in an interdimensional void. They escape, but are chased by a creature called The End. The bearded guy delays it so Jess and the David Bowie lookalike dude can escape. This series is okay, but it’s not as interesting as Boom!’s other flagship titles. The issue begins with a scene set in Mesopotamia in 500 BCE, but it shows people speaking Sumerian. The Sumerian language died out over a thousand years prior to that date, but it continued to be used as a liturgical language afterward, so I guess this scene isn’t totally implausible.  

FOX AND HARE #2 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jon Tsuei, [A] Stacey Lee. I guess it’s only been two months since issue 1, but I’ve already forgotten what happened in that issue. Vault has had severe problems with lateness. Most egregiously, Radio Apocalypse has had only one issue published since November 2021, and Vault just announced that it’s on indefinite hiatus. They really need to do what other publishers do, and not solicit a new series or story arc until the whole thing is complete. Anyway, the best thing about Fox and Hare is its distinctive Malaysian or Singaporean setting, but other than that it seems like a standard adventure comic.

TALES OF SUSPENSE #57 (Marvel, 1964/2022) – “Hawkeye, the Marksman!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Don Heck. Hawkeye, a circus marksman, is jealous that Tony Stark is more famous than him. He decides to become a superpowered criminal, and then he gets recruited by the Black Widow, whose first appearance was in #52. So in his first appearance Hawkeye was just another generic villain. Just like Living Laser in Avengers #34, he becomes a villain out of pure jealousy. He didn’t become a truly classic character until he joined the Avengers. This issue also includes a Watcher backup story by Larry Lieber, in which the Watcher breaks his policy of nonintervention in order to save a planet from an alien invasion. He’s willing to do this because the planet is his own homeworld.

IMMORTAL X-MEN #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “Meditations on the X,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Michele Bandini. This is another A.X.E. crossover, but it also fits into Immortal X-Men’s usual plot structure, in which every issue is a spotlight on a different character. This issue focuses on Exodus and his worship of the Phoenix. A funny moment is when Exodus, who was born in the 12th century, reawakens in modern times and is shocked by vernacular Masses and toilet paper. Exodus’s medieval origin was first revealed in Black Knight: Exodus #1 in 1996, although it seems this origin was not a retcon, since he never had any other origin before that. See here for a detailed history of this character. In this issue’s modern-day plot, the Quiet Council tries to resist an invasion by the Uni-Mind.

THE SILVER COIN #12 (Image, 2022) – “’Til Dawn,” [W] Stephanie Phillips, [A] Michael Walsh. In World War II, some American soldiers are trying to defend a position against German troops. One of the soldiers, Patrick Hart, is given the coin by a captured German soldier, just before the soldier gets shot. Patrick overcomes his fear of killing and wipes out an entire German unit, only to realize that the “Germans” he was killing are his own men. This issue is a successful depiction of the brutality of war.

RINGSIDE #14 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Nick Barber. I don’t know or care what this issue’s plot is about, and again its art is terrible. I can’t think of another published cartoonist in recent memory who draws as poorly as Nick Barber. If you’re going to draw in an extremely minimal style, you have to compensate by being a brilliant visual storyteller, like Alex Toth. But Nick Barber isn’t a sufficiently gifted storyteller to make up for his incompetent draftsmanship.

ANT-MAN #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Alone Against the Ant-Agonists!”, [W] Al Ewing, [A] Tom Reilly. Most of this issue is a flashback sequence in which Ant-Man (i.e. Hank) and the Wasp fight the Time Master. This sequence is written and drawn in the style of the earliest Ant-Man stories, Afterward, another Ant-Man recruits Hank to aid him in protecting the “world of tomorrow.” There’s a framing sequence in which the reader is given instructions for enjoying a “MRVL ™ narrative experience ™”. This is a very funny and exciting issue, and Tom Reilly is an underrated artist. His aesthetic resembles that of David Aja or Chris Samnee or the early Mazzucchelli. Another funny moment in this issue is when the ants spell out HLEP instead of HELP, because English is their second language.

IMAGE! 30TH ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY #4 (Image, 2022) – [W/A] various. Yet again, none of the stories in this issue are really effective. Even if they’re interesting, it’s impossible to remember all their plots from one issue to another. The one story that really stands out to me is Wes Craig’s Kaya, and that’s just because of the cute style of art. I was, however, excited to see that Casanova and Jack Staff will appear in issue 8.

MIND MGMT: BOOTLEG #2 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Matt Lesniewski. The boy from last issue recruits some more people into the new MIND MGMT. Meanwhile, Meru comes looking for an old enemy of hers, whose name I don’t recall. This issue is fairly light on plot, but Matt Lesniewski’s artwork is beautiful and detailed, though also gruesome. He draws people as if they were made of rubber hoses.  

THE WRONG EARTH: MEAT #1 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Meat,” [W] Tom Peyer, [A] Greg Scott. Another issue consisting of two intertwined stories, each about one of the two Dragonflies. Both are about Dragonfly and Stinger’s relationship, and in both, the theme is that Dragonfly(man) has to symbolically “kill” Stinger, or has already done so. This issue is another good illustration of the differences between the two Dragonflies, but because of that, it doesn’t explore any new territory. I’d like to see more stories where Dragonfly and Dragonflyman actually interact.

THE VARIANTS #2 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Gail Simone, [A] Phil Noto. Jessica Jones is another character who deserves a legacy number, although her series have had at least three different titles – Alias, Jessica Jones, and now The Variants. In this issue Jessica has a conversation with Tigra, whose appearances are always a delight, and then a second Jessica Jones Purple Man invades her house and threatens her child. Also, Jessica has a vision of the Purple Man. At the end of the issue, a third Jessica Jones appears, wearing the Jewel costume. It seems like at least half of Jessica’s stories are about the Purple Man and the trauma he caused her, and I wonder if this theme is crowding out other types of stories that could be told about her.

DUO #3 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Khoi Pham. David and Kelly discover that they can both control David’s body. Then they encounter a group of immortals called the Immutables. The business with the Immutables seems irrelevant to the theme of this series. I’m reading this comic because of David and Kelly’s relationship. I don’t see what that has to do with immortals with self-repairing cells.

SACRAMENT #1 (AWA, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Marcelo Frusin. Father Vass is a Catholic priest in a far future where humanity has expanded onto multiple planets, and religion is strictly outlawed. Vass is very good at exorcising demons, but the trouble is that he’s lost his faith in his religion. This series is a compelling examination of religion in a science fiction context. I liked it a lot better than Absolution #1, although I felt more positive about Absolution after I read issue 2; see below.

AQUAMEN #6 (DC, 2022) – “Moments of Silence,” [W] Brandon Thomas & Chuck Brown, [A] Max Raynor. Lots of stuff happens in this issue, but all of it becomes irrelevant after the Justice League, including Aquaman, is reported dead. I liked these creators’ take on Aquaman at first, but DC withdrew their support for this version of Aquaman after just a couple issues, and the miniseries subsequently became an irrelevant lame duck.

CANTO: TALES OF THE UNNAMED WORLD #2 (IDW, 2022) – “My Friend” and “The Trickster and the Farm Boy,” [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker & Shawn Daley. The Malorex tells its story, which is cute and sad, though hard to follow because there’s no dialogue. But the Bard (whose name is Ragno) knows that story already, so next Canto takes his turn. The story Canto tells is the story of the encounter he’s having with Ragno right now, and Ragno doesn’t know that story, because its end hasn’t happened yet. Thus Ragno has to let Canto and his party cross the bridge. This is a clever conclusion to the miniseries.

SWAMP THING #15 (DC, 2022) – “Armageddon Part 1,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. The combined Swamp Thing/Green Lantern creature convinces Jacob to give them its aid against the Parliament of Gears. But the Parliament refuses to listen to them, so Swampy summons Trinity to explain why the Parliament should end the war. I like how the gears have creepy-looking faces.

2000 AD #2267 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “The Dead Chief Judges’ Society,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Rob Richardson. A criminal has visions of all the dead Chief Judges from earlier in the series. I only recognize a couple of these characters. And the visions appear to be real, because the criminal knows things that only the dead judges could have known. This seems like foreshadowing for a future story. Proteus Vex: “Desire Paths Part 6,” [W] Mike Carroll, [A] Jake Lynch. Vex is captured by a member of his own species, named Melody Pen Naday. The Order: “Fantastic Voyage Part 6,” [W] Kek-W, [A] John Burns. The protagonists find themselves on an island, where they’re attacked by an army of “shadow things.” Kingmaker: “Falls the Shadow Part 6,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Leigh Gallagher. Crixus and Yarrow fight a hopeless battle, and then their old enemy Ablard reappears with an army. Saphir: “Liaisons Dangereuses Part 3,” [W] Kek-W, [A] David Roach. Inspector Mucha continues his search for the kidnapped baby. David Roach’s draftsmanship here is beautiful.

LEGION OF X #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “Pillow Talk,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Jan Bazaldua. The most exciting development in this issue is that Kurt and Weaponless Zsen sleep together. Kurt is a very sexy character, as Anna Peppard has shown, and this series had seemed almost shy about exploring Kurt’s sexuality. Besides that, this issue includes some further development of the skinjacker plot.

BLACK ADAM #2 (DC, 2022) – “Theogony Book Two,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Rafa Sandoval. Malik White becomes Black Adam’s successor, White Adam. At this point I decided that I just don’t like Priest’s style of writing, and I don’t care what happens in this series. I’ve removed it from my pull list.

BLOOD SYNDICATE SEASON ONE #3 (DC, 2022) – “Fort Apache, Dakota,” [W] Geoffrey Thorne, [A] Tom Raney & Chriscross. Various Blood Syndicate members team up to resist Holocaust’s attempt to take over the city. I think the best thing about this series is that Holocaust is a terrifying villain. There’s also a funny moment in this issue when one of the characters suggests calling the police, and the other characters pause for one panel, then burst out laughing. The problem is that it’s impossible to remember all the protagonists’ real names and codenames, particularly when none of them have costumes yet. I wish this series had a character guide on the inside front or back cover.

THE KILLER: AFFAIRS OF THE STATE #6 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matz, [A] Luc Jacamon. The Killer assassinates the mayor and escapes from the police, and the series ends with his meditations on how the human race never outgrows its lust for violence. These philosophical meditations are why The Killer is more than just another crime comic. It is a well-crafted piece of entertainment, but it’s also a pessimistic critique of modern European society.

SUPERMAN: SPACE AGE #1 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mark Russell, [A] Mike Allred. It took me a while to read this because it’s really long. In this Elseworlds story, Kal-El’s rocket crashes on Earth just after World War II, so Superman’s early career occurs against the backdrop of Kennedy’s assassination, the Cold War, and the civil rights movement. Superman’s debut occurs when he has to stop Luthor from causing a nuclear war. By the end of the issue, Batman and the other Justice Leaguers have also appeared. Russell’s story is very lengthy, but powerful and well-crafted. Though Russell is mostly a satirical writer, he writes a truly heroic and idealistic Superman. Mike Allred’s Silver Age-style art is perfect for this series’ time period, and he seems to have made a real effort at historical accuracy.

G.I.L.T. #4 (Ahoy, 2022) – untitled, [W] Alisa Kwitney, [A] Mauricet. This series gets more confusing with every issue. I’ve given up on trying to figure out the plot, or to remember which character is which. Alisa Kwitney’s style of writing reminds me somehow of earlier feminist comics, such as Naughty Bits or Pudge, Girl Blimp, but other than that, I find it hard to form an opinion on G.I.L.T. It’s just weird.

AQUAMAN: ANDROMEDA #2 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Ram V, [A] Christian Ward. Aquaman saves the crew from their initial encounter with the alien vessel, but rather than leaving well enough alone, they continue to search the vessel. Black Manta infiltrates the submarine, and a series of flashbacks reveal the traumatic histories of the submarine’s crew. One of the crew members, Murthy, is from India, and his flashback scene is reminiscent of Many Deaths of Laila Starr. Overall, Aquaman: Andromeda is a very compelling series, and the larger page format allows Christian Ward to demonstrate his mastery of color and composition.

2000 AD #2268 (Rebellion, 2022) – I just noticed that there are hidden messages in the copyright notices of each issue. Dredd: “Extraordinary Deaths,” [W] T.C. Eglington, [A] Silvia Califano. A data analyst amuses herself by causing people to die in ironic ways, until Dredd catches her. The Order: as above. The heroes fight a giant shadow monster and its zombie servants. Saphir: as above. Inspector Mucha fights an alien army, and the baby’s kidnapper tries to get the baby to imprint on him. This issue includes a gorgeous two-page spread depicting a surreal space battle. Terror Tales: “Roots,” [W/A] P.J. Holden. A drug addict’s mother turns him into a living plant. Proteus Vex: as above. Vex escapes from Agent Naday.

Here I decided to start reading some older comics that I’ve had for a while:

SANDMAN #7 (DC, 1989) – “Sound and Fury,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Mike Dringenberg. Morpheus baits Dr. Destiny into following him into the Dreaming. There Dr. Destiny destroys the ruby, thinking this will kill Morpheus, but it has the opposite effect: Morpheus absorbs the power he had offloaded into the ruby, allowing him to beat Dr. Destiny effortlessly. This issue is an epic conclusion to the first storyline, but it stands out less strongly in my mind than the issues before and after it. Until I reread this issue, I had trouble remembering what had happened in it, whereas I remember “The Sound of Her Wings” very well.

KILL OR BE KILLED #5 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Dylan shoots some dude in a bathroom, then the rest of the issue is a flashback sequence that shows why and how Dylan did it. Dylan’s victim, Barry Jameston, is a corporate criminal who destroyed his clients’ investments, causing some of them to commit suicide, and got off with a slap-on-the-wrist sentence. So it’s hard to blame Dylan for bringing him to justice. Sean Phillips’s artwork in this issue is excellent as usual, and he makes good use of photo reference.

2000 AD #2269 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “5 in the Cubes,” [W] Arthur Wyatt, [A] Nicolo Assirelli. Dredd takes some teenagers on a tour of the cubes. While he’s there, a rogue Judge kidnaps one of the teens and kills him by aging him 500 years. Dredd sentences the judge to the same amount of time in the cubes. Terror Tales: “Foreclosure,” [W] John Tomlinson, [A] Anna Morozova. A woman stops making payments on her ocular implants. The collection agency deactivates her eyes, then sends a drone to repossess the implants, by cutting them out of her eyes. The details of this repossession are left to the reader’s imagination. Anna Morozova’s style is very similar to that of Joelle Jones. Saphir: as above. The baby is rescued, and he imprints on Inspector Mucha instead of the villain. This was a cute story with gorgeous artwork. The Order: as above. Ben Franklin is badly hurt. His allies take him aboard their ship and leave, but the “shadow-kraken” follows the ship. Proteus Vex: as above. Vex meets a giant lava-dwelling alien named Tsellest.

2000 AD #2270 – This is an extra-sized 45th anniversary issue. Dredd: “The Citadel Part 1,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Dan Cornwell. A priest visits the cubes to grant absolution to Winterton, a prisoner who’s about to be executed. Winterton’s mouth is gagged, but the priest is horrified by this treatment and removes the gag, and Winterton begins to explain how he learned a hidden secret about Dredd. Proteus Vex: as above. Vex’s pursuers arrive where Tsellest is. We learn that Tsellest’s race has been exterminating all other alien races that evolved inside stars, and that Vex’s race has concealed the existence of many other such species. Indigo Prime: “Whatever Happened to Mickey Challis?”, [W] Kek-W, [A] Lee Carter. I don’t understand this story, though it seems interesting; it’s about memes and living narratives, and it mentions Baudrillard at one point. Tyranny Rex appears at the end. This story seems to be a lead-in to a new Indigo Prime story, but that story has not been published yet as far as I know. Kingmaker: as above. Ablard, Crixis and Yarrow join forces against the aliens. Tharg: “Stars on 45,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Robin Smith. Three of Tharg’s robots go back in time and borrow a lot of characters from earlier in 2000 AD’s history, and these characters all join Tharg in performing a song. But when the robots return the borrowed characters to their own times, they put them all back in the wrong places. This is easily the highlight of the issue. It’s a hilarious story and a cute tribute to 2000 AD’s long history. It includes imitations of the styles of many 2000 AD artists, as well as two different parodies of the famous “gaze into the fist of Dredd” panel. The Order: as above. The ship gets absorbed by the Shadow-Kraken. Brink: “Mercury Retrograde,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] I.N.J. Culbard. On an outer space habitat, a husband-and-wife team of journalists investigate a conflict between the habitat’s management and its labor unions.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #9 (Marvel, 2019) – “Captain of Nothing Part III,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Adam Kubert. Another boring issue in which very little happens. Cap’s allies talk about rescuing him from the Myrmidon (a name which makes no sense – a Myrmidon is a person, not a place), but don’t actually do it. Also, Cap is involved in a prison riot.

ACTION COMICS #487 (DC, 1978) – “Super-Origin of Microwave Man!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. Superman meets Lewis Padgett, an old man who had a brief supervillain career in the 1930s, under the name Microwave Man, before being abducted by aliens. Padgett asks the aliens to restore his youth so he can become Microwave Man again. The name Lewis Padgett comes from a pseudonym used by the science fiction writers Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore. There’s also a character in this issue named Mrs. Anson Durgom, which looks like an acronym for something, but I don’t know what. Microwave Man appears for the second and last time in issue 488, which I read so long ago that I can’t remember anything about it. This issue also includes a boring Atom backup story by Bob Rozakis and Alex Saviuk.

MOTHER PANIC: GOTHAM A.D. #2 (DC, 2018) – “Different Bat Channel Part 2,” [W] Jody Houser, [A] Ibrahim Moustafa. Mother Panic tries to rescue her mother from Arkham Asylum. This was by far the worst of the Young Animal titles, and frankly the best thing about this issue is John Workman’s lettering. Besides Faith, I haven’t read much by Jody Houser that I liked.

LUCIFER #2 (DC, 2016) – “Cold Heaven Part Two: Lady Lucifer,” [W] Holly Black, [A] Lee Garbett. Lucifer investigates God’s murder, and there’s a subplot about a depressed woman who hates her sister, and who is being targeted by Azazel. Mazikeen appears at the end of the issue, and is somehow able to speak coherently. I didn’t like this series when it was coming out, but this issue is not bad.

HARLEY QUINN #28 (DC, 2016) – “Shriek Now, and Forever Hold Your Piece,” [W] Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti, [A] John Timms. Harley teams up with Red Tool, an obvious Deadpool parody. His gimmick is that his word balloons are shaped like tools. I hate Deadpool, and while I don’t hate Harley Quinn, I do think that she’s overexposed in the same way as Deadpool is. Therefore, this issue was not my favorite.

AVENGERS #292 (Marvel, 1988) – “The Dragon in the Sea!”, [W] Walt Simonson, [A] John Buscema. The Avengers hunt down Namor’s wife Marrina, who has turned into a giant kaiju. Dr. Druid, probably the worst Avenger ever, tries to undermine Captain Marvel’s leadership, and Kang meets a group of his own alternate-dimensional duplicates. This issue is beautifully inked by Tom Palmer over Buscema’s loose pencils. Sadly we just lost Tom Palmer. He was one of the greatest inkers in comics history, and certainly the best inker for Colan, Buscema or Adams. The one time I can recall meeting him, he seemed like a kind and gentlemanly man.

SECRET SIX #2 (DC, 2015) – “Down the Rabbit Hole,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Ken Lashley. In a flashback, some sadistic asshole imprisons Cat-Man in a cage for twelve months. These scenes are just infuriating. In the present, the Secret Six are imprisoned in a box until they reveal the secret, whatever that is. Ken Lashley’s art in this issue is rather crude and unappealing.

LAZARUS #18 (Image, 2015) – “Poison Part Two,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Michael Lark. Forever Carlyle leads a team of soldiers on an assault on another company’s facility, and meanwhile, a young doctor is brought in to save the Carlyle family patriarch. Despite this series’ all-star creative team and its consistently high level of craft, I hated it. Lazarus’s world is a grim, humorless, loveless dystopia, and its characters are all complete sociopathic monsters. If every single character in this comic died at the same time, I’d be thrilled. The only sympathetic character is Lazarus herself, and she never manages to figure out that her family is exploiting her. This means that it’s hard to care about the interfamily politics that make up much of Lazarus’s plot, because all the family members are equally loathsome.

TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE #50 (IDW, 2016) – “The Dying of the Light,” [W] James Roberts, [A] Alex Milne. I stopped reading this series because I couldn’t follow its plot. There are far too many characters, and I can’t remember who most of them are. This series seems to assume that the reader is familiar with IDW’s entire Transformers continuity. For me, this made it hard to appreciate the brilliance of James Roberts’s dialogue and plotting. I never read #50 because it’s a double-sized issue, and that meant I couldn’t read the issues after it either. However, when I finally did force myself to read #50, I enjoyed it. As noted, James Roberts is a great dialogue writer, and this issue includes a surprising plot twist where Getaway strands Megatron, Rodimus Prime and other characters on the Necrobots’ planet, leaving them no way to return to the Lost Light. #50 also includes a backup story about the Lost Light’s bar.

HEAVY METAL #2.10 (1979) – [E] Sean Kelly & Valerie Marchand. I can’t review everything in this issue individually, but here are some of the highlights: Corben and Strnad’s Arabian Nights. A story by Chaland that looks nothing like his usual Clear Line artwork. Two stories by Bilal, Exterminator 17 and The Planet of No Return. Lulea by Arthur Suydam. The Temple of Karvul by Paul Kirchner, perhaps his only comic I’ve ever read that wasn’t The Bus. There’s also some lesser material, including a boring prose story with illustrations by Gil Kane.

ACTION COMICS #534 (DC, 1982) – “Two for the Death of One!”, [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Curt Swan. Superman travels back in time to medieval Britain, where he fights Lord Satanis and Syrene. It’s hard to tell whether or not these are the same characters as Lord Satanus and Blaze. This issue also includes an Air-Wave story by Rozakis and Saviuk, which, like every Air-Wave story I’ve read, is a waste of space.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #700 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Chris Samnee. In a future America, Cap reconquers the country from a tyrant, then tries to run the entire country singlehandedly while also fighting a war. He proves to be unsuited to the task, because evidently he’s never heard of delegating responsibility. So Cap decides to travel back in time to the past and prevent his current timeline from coming into existence in the first place. This issue, like this entire run of Captain America, is disappointing. Waid’s third Cap run relied upon a very vague, unreflective type of American patriotism, and its message seemed to be that the American dream, whatever that might mean, is a solution to any problem at all. This philosophy reminds me of Bobby Jindal’s infamous “Americans can do anything” speech. This issue includes a backup story with new dialogue by Waid, placed over panels taken from old Captain America stories by Kirby. The GCD has a complete list of the sources of each panel.

FIRE FROM HEAVEN #1 (Image, 1996) – “Gamorra Rising,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Ryan Benjamin. An introduction to a Wildstorm Universe crossover event. Alan Moore’s dialogue in this issue is fantastic, but this issue has way too many characters and not much of a plot, and it’s not one of Alan’s better Image comics. BTW, I just read a very offensive article about Superman, Son of Kal-El, written by a notorious troll whose last name means “of the rice.” This article implies that Tom Taylor invented the name Gamorra as a reference to Gomorrah, but he did not, as proved by the title of Fire from Heaven #1.

TRANSFORMERS VS G.I. JOE #3 (IDW, 2014) – “Funeral for a Friend,” [W/A] Tom Scioli, [W] John Barber. The G.I. Joes stage a funeral for Hawk, but in fact Hawk isn’t dead, and the funeral is a trap. As always with this series, this issue is full of radical page layouts and lettering, and its writing is histrionic to the point of self-parody. Perhaps John Barber was responsible for this writing style, because Tom Scioli’s later work is written in a much more restrained style.

JLA #41 (DC, 2000) – “World War Three Part 6: Mageddon,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Howard Porter. In order to defeat the world-destroying cosmic entity Mageddon, the JLA has to transform the entire human race into superheroes. This issue is about as epic and Kirbyesque as any JLA story ever. It’s a satisfying conclusion to Grant’s classic JLA run, and it’s probably just as well that they left the series after this issue, because it’s hard to imagine how they could have topped World War Three.

LAZARUS #19 (Image, 2015) – as #18 above. Forever is seemingly killed by the enemy, but comes back to life, and there’s some more family politics that I don’t care about. This issue’s main story ends on the left-hand side of the centerfold. The second half of the issue consists of an extended letter column and a preview of Black Magick #1. Black Magick was a much better series than Lazarus, and I wish it would come back.

ALIEN WORLDS #9 (Eclipse, 1985) – “10 Devils,” [W] David Carren, [A] Bo Hampton, etc. Bruce Jones only wrote one of the four stories in this issue: “The Maiden and the Dragon,” drawn by Bo Hampton. This is by far the best of the four. It’s a sarcastic twist on the fairy-tale pattern where the two older siblings (or three in this case) both fail at a task, while the youngest sibling succeeds. Two of the stories in this issue are written by David Carren, who’s mostly a TV and film writer. These stories appear to be his only published comics, except for one story in Twisted Tales, and neither of them is much good. The fourth story in Alien Worlds #9 is both written and drawn by Frank Brunner, and it has attractive art but a vapid plot.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #66 (Marvel, 1980) – “The Serpent Crown Affair Part 3: A Congress of Crowns!”, [W] Mark Gruenwald & Ralph Macchio, [A] Jerry Bingham & Gene Day. Thing, Stingray, and Scarlet Witch battle Roxxon president Hugh Jones, who’s wearing the Serpent Crown and has a mind-controlled army consisting of everyone else who’s worn the crown. This story is all right, but what really makes it impressive is the way that Mark synthesizes all of the earlier Serpent Crown stories into a coherent narrative. One of the earliest comic books I ever owned (if it counts as a comic book) was Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Update ’89 #7. By reading Set’s entry in that comic, I learned the entire history of the Serpent Crown up to that time, long before I read the actual comics that the crown appeared in. (Edit: This comic is a duplicate, but I will allow this review to stand.)  

SUICIDE SQUAD #23 (DC, 1989) – “Weird War Tales,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Luke McDonnell. I ordered this on eBay. It was the only issue of the series I was missing except for the final issue, #66. Suicide Squad #23 is the hardest issue of the series to find because it’s Barbara Gordon’s first appearance as Oracle. The Oracle “appearance” is just a single panel, and it consists only of a computer voice introducing itself as Oracle. There’s no indication yet that Oracle is even a person rather than a computer program, so this single panel hardly seems to justify this comic’s high price. Much of this issue is devoted to a fight scene where the Suicide Squad team up with the Rocket Reds against the Okaarans. Also, Amanda Waller has imaginary conversations with the various people he’s pissed at, and Captain Boomerang returns to Australia and tries to pass himself off as a national hero. But the local people think he’s an embarrassment to his country, and they throw him off a dock.

AMAR CHITRA KATHA #502 (India Book House, 1971/2007) – “Hanuman,” [W] Anant Pai, [A] Ram Waeerkar. Oddly, I found this comic on the used book shelf at a local black-owned bookstore that specializes in African-American literature. There is also a large Indian community in my neighborhood, and there were several other Indian-themed books on the same shelf, none of which I bought. ACK #502 tells the story of the Ramayana from the perspective of Hanuman, the monkey god. This comic is entertaining and also educational, because as a non-Hindu, I only had a vague idea of Hanuman’s story. ACK was created to teach Indian children about their culture, but it’s also useful for readers from other cultures.  

SENSATIONAL SHE-HULK #18 (Marvel, 1990) – “The Dentist in the Iron Mask!”, [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Tom Artis. Jen battles Dr. Doom, not the famous one but a distant relative who’s a dentist. There’s also a subplot where Jen resists the advances of a coworker named Brent. This issue is laugh-out-loud funny. I had forgotten that Gerber is a genuinely skilled writer, and was not just notable for his weirdness. Also, I like Jen’s relationship with Weezie, the former Blonde Phantom, and I wonder why this latter character hasn’t been used in more recent She-Hulk runs.  

ART OPS #6 (Vertigo, 2016) – “Modern Love Part 1,” [W] Shaun Simon, [A] Eduardo Risso. In the ’70s, the Art Ops members have to force a monstrous creature back into the painting it came from. Mike Allred couldn’t save this series from Shaun Simon’s writing, and neither could Eduardo Risso. Also, Risso’s art in this issue is not his best. We don’t even see the creature from the painting until page eight, but prior to that point, it’s not clear that its appearance is supposed to be a surprise.

TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE #51 (IDW, 2016) – “The Dying of the Light Part 2: The Sun in Flight,” as above. The Autobots trapped on the Necrobot’s planet are about to be attacked by the Decepticon Justice Division. They have the opportunity to escape, but they discover that there are some organic lifeforms held in stasis in the Necrobot’s base. Megatron decides to stay behind to defend the organics, and the rest of the crew agrees with him. This issue feels very tense and suspenseful. At the end, two Autobots arrive to join the defenders. One of them is Ratchet, and I don’t recognize the other.

2000 AD #445 (IPC, 1985) – Nemesis: ”Book Five,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Bryan Talbot. Nemesis, Torquemada, and the ABC Warriors defeat some enemies and then prepare to search for Nemesis’s son. This chapter has some really gruesome imagery. Rogue Trooper: “Return to Milli-Com,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] José Ortiz. The Norts and Southers meet for a summit, and violence is barely avoided. Dredd: “The Lemming Syndrome!”, [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. The residents of Flakey Foont Block (an obvious Crumb reference) start jumping off the building for no apparent reason. A funny moment occurs when two residents are watching people fall past their window: “Hey! There’s Mum!” “Never! She’s up on 96 visiting Betty – oh, you’re right! There’s Betty now!” At the end, a Judge makes the depressing suggestion that the suicides are the result of universal unemployment and boredom. Mean Team: untitled, [W] Wagner & Grant, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. The Mean Team escape from whoever is pursuing them. Strontium Dog: “Max Bubba,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. While pursuing a man named Max Bubba, Johnny and Wulf are staked out on the ground and left to die. As they lie there, they start talking about when they first met. Wulf really did die for good at the end of this storyline.

STAR TREK #4 (DC, 1990) – “Repercussions,” [W] Peter David, [A] James Fry. The Klingons and the Nazgul are bickering over which of them gets to kill Kirk, while the Federation is increasingly tired of Kirk’s loose-cannon behavior. Rather than court-martial Kirk, the Federation assigns him a protocol officer. This officer is R.J. Blaise, the best new character from PAD’s Star Trek comics, who makes her debut in this issue. This issue also includes a scene where Scotty and Uhura decide that they’re not romantically interested in each other. This scene is meant as a response to a scene in Star Trek V that implied that these characters were a possible couple. If I’ve ever seen Star Trek V, it was so long ago that I can’t remember anything about it, but it’s always been reviled by the fan community. And Scotty and Uhura seem like a terrible pairing to me.

TOMB OF DRACULA #4 (Marvel, 1972) – “Through a Mirror Darkly!”, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Gene Colan. An elderly former model named Isla Strangway gets Dracula to turn her into a vampire. Frank and Rachel kill Isla, but Taj apparently sacrifices himself to kill Dracula. Colan and Palmer’s art in this issue is beautiful, and this is one of the better-written issues of ToD from before Wolfman took over. This issue includes a scene where Taj uses the sign of the cross to repel Dracula. This is odd because Taj’s name and Indian origin, plus the fact that he wears a turban, all strongly suggest that he’s either a Hindu or a Sikh. According to Uncanny X-Men #159, the cross can only repel Dracula if used by someone who believes in Jesus, although of course that issue was published many years after this one.

VIGILANTE #17 (DC, 1985) – “Father’s Day,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] Jim Baikie. Spousal abuser Carl Linnaker gets out of prison and promptly murders his wife, then goes in pursuit of his young daughter, who managed to escape. The daughter finds refuge with some two workers, but Carl finds her and murders one of the sex workers, and Vigilante has to team up with the other one to track Carl down. This two-parter is one of Alan’s lesser-known works for DC, but Carl is perhaps the single most loathsome character he ever created. This man is an utter monster of misogyny and violence, and when he gets killed in issue 18, it’s a relief. Also, Jim Baikie’s art here is excellent. He collaborated with Alan Moore on at least four different comics – the others were Skizz, Deathblow: Byblows and First American.

DETECTIVE COMICS #764 (DC, 2002) – “Hearts,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Shawn Martinborough. Sasha Bordeaux gets disgusted with Bruce Wayne and Vesper Fairchild’s romance. Meanwhile, Maggie Sawyer replaces Harvey Bullock as the leader of Gotham’s Major Crimes unit. Shawn Martinborough is one of the worst artists in the history of this series. His draftsmanship is competent, but his faces look weird and lifeless, and his art is too reliant on weird color schemes. The Josie Mac backup story, by Judd Winick and Cliff Chiang, may be better than the main story. Cliff Chiang’s style was not yet well developed in 2002, but he was still better than Martinborough. And Josie Mac has a really cool superpower where she can communicate with inanimate objects. She locates a lost child by finding one sock out of a mismatched pair, because it wants to be together with its matching sock.

PROPHET: EARTH WAR #4 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Brandon Graham & Simon Roy, [A] various. This issue is full of gorgeous and weird artwork, but its story makes no sense at all. This Prophet run was always more appealing for its weirdness than for the coherence of its narrative.

TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE #52 (IDW, 2016) – “The Dying of the Light Part 3: Your Fierce Tears,” as above. Megatron negotiates with Tarn, the leader of the DJD, but Overlord stops Tarn from killing Megatron. There are also a lot of character interactions that I didn’t understand because I don’t know who these characters are.

2000 AD #449 (IPC, 1985) – Strontium Dog: as above. In a flashback, Johnny, Wulf and some Vikings go on a voyage in order to stop Ragnarok. Slaine: “The Tomb of Terror,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] David Pugh. Slaine and some allies travel through a dungeon filled with Orgots. Each chapter of “The Tomb of Terror” was accompanied by a section of a role-playing game module based on it. Dredd: “The Lurker,” [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Ron Smith. A vagrant finds a discarded briefcase that he believes contains ten million creds. It actually contains radioactive material that gives off ten million rads, and when he opens the case, he dies in horrifying fashion. Rogue Trooper: as above. The aliens destroy the Nort-Souther peace treaty, and Rogue has to go back to war.

TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED #1 (DC, 2006) – Spectre: “The Cold Hand of Vengeance!”, [W] David Lapham, [A] Eric Battle. The new Spectre, Crispus Allen, investigates the murder of a slumlord. This story arc is so excessively grim and hard-boiled that it feels like a self-parody. The reason to own this comic is the backup story, “Dr. Thirteen: Architecture and Mortality” by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang. This story is the only Brian Azzarello comic that I really like. It’s a witty exploration of DC’s tangled continuity. And it includes some of Cliff Chiang’s earliest artwork in his mature style.

SANDMAN #14 (DC, 1990) – “Collectors,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Mike Dringenberg. This is the one with the serial killer convention. It’s one of the grimmest, most frightening issues of the series, right up there with “24 Hours.” It begins with Gilbert’s gruesome version of the Little Red Riding Hood story, and it only gets grimmer from there. But it also has its funny moments – like the madman who proclaims that he’s God, while sitting at a table and speaking into a microphone. There are some characters in this issue who never appear anywhere else – like Fun Land and Nimrod – yet they’re depicted with such loving detail that we almost sympathize with their madness. Also, this whole story is a spot-on parody of fan culture. This is the one issue of “Doll’s House” that I remember best, along with “Tales in the Sand” and “Men of Good Fortune.”

BATMAN #270 (DC, 1975) – “The Menace of the Fiery Heads!”, [W] David V. Reed, [A] Ernie Chua. A fairly conventional murder mystery. The most realistic part is that the murderer is discovered to be a recently paroled criminal, but Commissioner Gordon was never informed of his parole, because “they changed the system upstate… and it’s been taking much longer…” At the end of the issue, Batman tells some kids that Joe Namath is going to be the guest speaker at their event, and they all cheer. Joe Namath was near the end of his career at the time. He must have been a huge star at the time, but his reputation has declined since then. I always thought that David V. Reed’s real name was David Vern, and the SF Encyclopedia agrees with this, but Wikipedia says his real surname was Levine.

SUPERMAN #406 (DC, 1985) – “The Fight for the Right to Be Superman!”, [W] Paul Kupperberg, [A] Irv Novick. Moe Ramboe, an old professional wrestler, used the name “Superman” before Superman did. Somehow Ramboe siphons powers from Superman and uses those powers to compete against Superman in a wrestling match. Ramboe’s costume is a clever variation on Superman’s. The backup story, “Can You Stump Superman?”, is a lot more interesting. At a charity event, Superman challenges the crowd by telling them that one person in the crowd is doing something Superman can’t do. After Superman foils a plot by some crooks, we learn that the thing he can’t do is smoke, and the person who’s doing it is Perry White.

RENEGADE ROMANCE #2 (Renegade, 1988) – [E] Deni Loubert and/or Trina Robbins. A collection of romantic stories. Deni Loubert and Steve Leialoha’s “Forever is a Long Long Time” is about her aunt’s marriage to a jazz musician. Colleen Doran’s “Eugène” includes a guest appearance by Oscar from Rose of Versailles. I wonder how Colleen was able to access that comic in 1988. I believe that it wasn’t completely translated into English until a few years ago, though there was an earlier partial translation. Trina’s “Red Love” is the conclusion of her adaptation of a novel by Alexandra Kollontai. Jackie Estrada and Barb Rausch’s “Daydreams” is about a woman who spends her entire life pining away for a boyfriend who left her. Barb Rausch’s here is super-detailed. It’s a pity that she’s been largely forgotten since her death. In Dave Hine’s “True Romance,” a bunch of Londoners have varying reactions to a copy of an American romance comic. Rozakis and DeStefano’s “Wedding Day” takes place at a wedding and explores the thoughts of the already-married couples in attendance. Overall this is a really interesting comic, and it even reminds me at times of Wimmen’s Comix. I wish there had been more than two issues of Renegade Romance.

DEFENDERS #6 (Marvel, 2001) – “Rumble in the Sky,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Erik Larsen. Humorously, this issue is narrated by the stupid version of the Hulk. The plot is that the Defenders fight Bi-Beast in Red Raven’s floating island city. This comic offers the same sort of entertainment and excitement as a classic Silver Age Marvel comic. I think I heard that this Defenders series was cancelled after just 12 issues because it was insufficiently grim and excessively fun for contemporary tastes.

 MS. TREE #18 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1985) – “Muerta Means Death Chapter One: Homecoming” etc., [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. Glenn rejects Ms. Tree’s romantic advances, and she returns to her hometown with Mike Jr. By the way, I just realized I’m not sure what city Ms. Tree lives in. Anyway, then Dan Green reappears, now wearing his trademark hook, and promptly goes to take revenge on Dominic Muerta.

My next Heroes trip was on August 21. This will also be my last visit to Heroes until after Worldcon.

NIGHTWING #95 (DC, 2022) – “The Battle for Blüdhaven’s Heart Part 4,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo. Dick saves Mayor Zucco from assassination, but the former police commissioner, who was the prime witness against Blockbuster, is murdered by Blockbuster’s troops. Dick and Maggie Sawyer organize four simultaneous operations against Blockbuster, successfully bringing about the downfall of his organization. Just as Dick seems to have won, Blockbuster holds a child hostage in the burning Haven library, and with no hesitation, Dick surrenders to Blockbuster in exchange for the child’s safety. Blockbuster beats the crap out of Dick and then unmasks him. So I guess now Dick has no choice but to kill Blockbuster to preserve his secret identity? But of course he’s too good to do that. Dick’s willing surrender is an example of how he’s the most truly heroic superhero in any current superhero comic. This issue includes a possible Easter Egg reference to Josep Toutain.

EIGHT BILLION GENIES #4 (Image, 2022) – “The First Eight Weeks,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. 12-year-old Robbie joins the group of other people who wished to be superheroes, but all they do is fight people who wished to be supervillains. When the leader of Robbie’s group dies, he reveals with his last words that he was only eleven. This is the most poignant moment in the series so far. Also, we learn that the bartender is the last remaining genie from the previous time the genies granted everyone wishes. He says that whenever there are about eight billion people in the world, the genies show up to reduce the population. (Which makes me wonder, when have there ever been eight billion people before now? The bartender’s reference to “the last world” implies that there was another world or universe before the current one.)

DO A POWERBOMB #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Daniel Warren Johnson. The tournament begins, and Lona and Cobrasun barely win their first match, against a team of two orangutans. Their next opponents are the “Knights of Rhyne,” but it’s obvious that their opponents in the final will be FYSO, which stands for Fuck Your Stupid Opinions. This is another excellent issue, but I wish the other wrestling teams had been even weirder. Besides the orangutans and another team consisting of two robots, most of the tournament entrants are normal humans.

DARK SPACES: WILDFIRE #2 (Image, 2022) – “Ignition,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Hayden Sherman. Ma decides to carry out the heist. Her team makes it to the rich dude’s house and retrieves the crypto, but then they discover a dead body in the wine cellar. This is another excellent issue. I especially like the scene where the women dress up in the homeowner’s clothes and drink his liquor.

MS. MARVEL & WOLVERINE #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] Zé Carlos. A Krakoan tree in Central Park is attacked by an army of mechanical insects, and Kamala has to team up with Wolverine and the X-Men to stop them. This comic should have been called Ms. Marvel and the X-Men, since there are other X-Men in it besides Wolverine, and Storm in particular is essential to the resolution of the plot. It was fun seeing Kamala interact with Wolverine again, but I felt as if there was something missing from this story, and after reading Ms. Marvel & Moon Knight #1, I figured out what it was. See below.

SHIRTLESS BEAR-FIGHTER 2 #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jody Leheup, [A] Nil Vendrell. Shirtless Bear-Fighter behaves like a complete jerk, until he gets fired from his bear-fighting organization, the Fuzz. Meanwhile, the Hillbilly Warlock announces that the cosmic entity Ursa Major is returning to Earth. Shirtless Bear-Fighter is kind of a one-joke comic, but it’s a funny joke, and this comic is entertaining.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY #20 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcelo Grassi. After reliving Paul Revere’s ride several times, Charlotte and Valentina meet Uncle Sam. He shoots them, and they reawaken on December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy. Chang, Janet and Ace meet some foreign agents, who reveal that Chang and Janet were responsible for America winning World War IV. One of the agents says that she slipped a phone into Chang’s pocket on an earlier page of the issue. If you reread, you do see that she appeared on an earlier page, but you can’t see her putting anything in Chang’s pocket.  

USAGI YOJIMBO #30 (IDW, 2022) – “The Secret of the Green Dragon Part Two,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi, Yukichi and Chizu manage to escape the Komori ninja with the help of some of Chizu’s old allies. As Usagi and company travel to the capital through heavy snow, they’re attacked by more Komori ninja. All their horses get killed, and one of the attackers escapes to come back with more ninja. I assume Usagi isn’t going to make it to the shogun with the document that incriminates Lord Hikiji, because then the series’ overarching plot would end. I was confused by the man at the right of page 4, panel 2, but now I get it: this man is a slave of the Komori ninja, so he foreshadows what’s about to happen to the bandit.

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #14 (DC, 2022) – “Siege of Gamorra,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Cian Tormey. Jon, Jay and some Gamorran teen superheroes plan their assault on Bendix, with unexpected help from Damian. Jon gives Jay a Legion flight ring. BTW, how nice would it be if Tom Taylor was writing the Legion? Then the Legion would be readable again. Not only have I not been buying the current JLA vs LSH title, I haven’t even bothered to flip through it in the store. At the end of the issue, Jon and Jay make it into Gamorra’s prison, where they’re confronted by Jay’s mother.

2000 AD #2271 (Rebellion, 2022) – On my latest Heroes trip I bought the three prog packs that I declined to buy on the previous trip. I still haven’t finished reading all these progs. Dredd: “The Citadel 02,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Dan Cornwell. In a flashback to the Apocalypse War, Dredd organizes a posse of judges to fight the Sovs. One of the judges is mortally wounded, and Dredd asks the dying judge to sacrifice himself to cover Dredd’s party’s escape. In this moment Dredd almost seems tender. Proteus Vex: “Desire Paths Part 10,” [W] Mike Carroll, [A] Jake Lynch. Tsellest decides to get rid of everyone who knows about the Scorchers’ genocidal nature, but Vex escapes from Tsellest’s planet. I still don’t understand  what Proteus Vex is about, but this story’s plot makes a bit more sense in retrospect. The Order: “Fantastic Voyage Part 10,” [W] Kek-W, [A] John Burns. The fight with the Shadow-Kraken continues, while the tiny Paul Bunyan creature fights a smaller version of the Shadow-Kraken inside Ben Franklin’s body. Kingmaker: “Falls the Shadow Part 8,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Leigh Gallagher. Crixus and allies decide to take the fight to the aliens. Brink: “Mercury Retrograde Part 2,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] I.N.J. Culbard. Just some boring discussions of outer-space labor politics. I don’t understand why I should care about any of this stuff, and this series is confusing because of the large number of unexplained acronyms and abbreviations – HSD, Gentau, etc.

LOVE EVERLASTING #1 (Image, 2022) – “Meant to Be” etc., [W] Tom King, [A] Elsa Charretier. In the first story, set sometime in the ‘40s or ‘50s, Joan Peterson falls in love with her boss George. In the second story, set in the ‘60s, the same Joan Peterson falls in love with a hippie musician, but she’s troubled by recollections of her previous lover George. The third story is set in the Old West, but Joan can still remember the previous two stories somehow. This series is a clever parody of romance comics, and I’m curious to find out the explanation for its narrative structure, although I’m afraid that this series will be disappointing, like so many of Tom King’s other works. More on that point later. I do think it’s unfortunate that there are so many parodies of romance comic books, but that hardly anyone has tried to revive the classic romance comic format in a non-ironic way. However, that format would be unlikely to succeed today for a large number of reasons, including its lack of continuity: most classic romance comics had multiple self-contained stories in each issue.

AVENGERS AND MOON GIRL #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mohale Mashigo, [A] Dio Neves et al. Lunella travels to Wakanda and teams up with Shuri and Captain Marvel to look for Devil Dinosaur on the moon. She finds that he’s been captured by the High Evolutionary, but the Evolutionary gets away with Devil. Like Ms. Marvel and Wolverine, this comic has a misleading title, though it’s misleading for the opposite reason: that comic should have been called Ms. Marvel and the X-Men, and this one should have been called Captain Marvel and Moon Girl. Otherwise, this comic is entertaining and goofy in the same way that the original Moon Girl title was.

THE WARD #3 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Andres Ponce. While rescuing people from a collapsing building, Nat gets stuck under some rubble, and Luis has to take his illegal troll supplements to save her. When Nat wakes up, she discovers that her leg is injured, she’s left her child unsupervised, and Luis is stuck in troll form. Even without the fantasy elements, this issue would have been memorable for its harrowing depiction of overworked medical staff and the mistakes they cause. Again I get the impression that this series is drawing upon personal knowledge, though I can’t find any evidence that Cavan Scott has ever worked in the medical field.

THE SILVER COIN #13 (Image, 2022) – “Threshold,” [W] Johnnie Christmas, [A] Michael Walsh. Karena and Brett are having a baby, but Brett denies paternity. Later, while arguing with Brett over a pay phone, Karena finds the silver coin in her change. Then her unborn baby talks to her and announces its plans to take over the world. To defeat its plot, Karena has to stab her own wrist with scissors so she can drop the coin. The baby is born safely, but it and all the other babies born that night have eyes that look like the coin. And significantly, that night is December 31, 1999. Also, Brett gets killed, which is good because he’s an asshole. This issue includes some really gruesome body horror.

SEASON OF THE BRUJA #5 (Oni, 2022) – untitled, [W] Aaron Durán, [A] Sara Soler. Althalia manages to rescue her grandmother from Mictlan, but then she discovers that the ceramic frog is missing, which means Abuelita is really dead. Althalia has to say goodbye to her grandmother. I had to reread the rest of the series in order to figure out what was going on in this issue, but after I did that, I found this issue to be a satisfying conclusion. I hope there’s a sequel to Season of the Bruja, although I wonder if Oni Press will survive long enough to publish it.

BATGIRLS #9 (DC, 2022) – “Bat Girl Summer,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad, [A] Neil Googe. The Batgirls fight KGBeast, and then they discover that their creepy neighbor Mr. Greene has been murdered. Also, they discover a mysterious coded note. This is obviously a book cipher, where each set of three numbers refers to a page, line, and word from a specific book, and the book is probably the edition of Poe that Cass is given by Mr. Dhaliwal earlier in the issue. However, I can’t break the cipher without having access to that edition of Poe. Cass’s    newfound interest in books is really cute. This issue looks visually similar to the earlier issues of the series, despite Neil Googe’s very different style of draftsmanship compared to Jorge Corona, and I believe the reason is because the colorist, Rico Renzi, has been using the same color scheme throughout the series.

THE DEADLIEST BOUQUET #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Erica Schultz. Florist Jasmine Hawthorn has been murdered. Her three daughters, Poppy, Rose and Violet, have to overcome their difficulties and solve the murder. This series is entertaining because of the clashing personalities of the three sisters, and I also like its flower theme.

TRVE KVLT #1 (IDW, 2022) – “You Got Time to Lean, You Got Time to Clean,” [W] Scott Bryan Wilson, [A] Liana Kangas. Our protagonist is an insufferable jerk who thinks he’s a big deal because he manages a fast food restaurant. One day he decides to augment his income by robbing the nearby stores. While doing so, he steals a package from an armored truck, not knowing that the package is the property of a Satanic cult. The funniest moment in this issue is when the guy robs a comic book store, but doesn’t bother to take any of the old comic books, because he believes the owner’s lie that the comics aren’t worth anything. I have never seen the appeal of Liana Kangas’s artwork.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #40 (Marvel, 2022) – “Trials Part Three,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Alvaro Lopez & Juan Frigeri. Carol’s trial continues, and she tries to avoid killing the orphaned baby dragon. Eventually she solves that problem and discovers that she’s been in the Bar with No Doors all along. Back on Earth, the Enchantress kidnaps Lieutenant Trouble. The best part about this issue is the panel where Alriac, King of the Snatmen is eating Snat Corn.

2000 AD #2272 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Dredd’s team continues their journey to the Citadel, whatever that is. Throughout this story Dredd is depicted as a ruthless but efficient military commander. Proteus Vex: as above. Vex and Agent Naday continue their escape. The Order: as above. The shadow creatures from “The Gulf” try to recruit Ben Franklin to their side. His comrade, whose name I don’t remember, saves him but gets lost at sea. That’s the end of this story arc. Kingmaker: as above. A corporate representative, Von Bek (a Moorcockian name), tells Crixus that he now owns his planet and is obligated to mine its reserves of “quintessence.” Brink: as above. Another chapter in which nothing interesting happens.

TIGER’S TONGUE #2 (Mad Cave, 2022) – untitled, [W] Olivia Stephens, [A] Diansakhu Banton-Perry. The two sisters compete in the first of several trials. This comic is not terrible, but neither is it good enough to continue reading. Again, I’m disappointed at the generic nature of Tiger’s Tongue’s African setting. I was hoping that this comic would be more Africanfuturist, and that it would engage with some particular African culture.

JURASSIC LEAGUE #4 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Juan Gedeon, [W] Daniel Warren Johnson, [A] Jon Mikel. More of the same stuff as last issue, but at least the quality of the artwork is much higher.

2000 AD #2273 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Dredd and his team continue to fight their way to the Citadel. By this point, this was my favorite story in each prog. Kingmaker: as above. This chapter is mostly a conversation between Crixus and Ablard. Proteus Vex: as above. Vex and Naday continue to evade pursuit. Fiends of the Eastern Front: “1963 Part 1,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Tiernen Trevallion. In 1963, while flying over the Soviet Union, an American spy pilot is killed by spiders. The Americans receive intelligence on this from a Soviet necromancer who wants to defect. This version of Fiends of the Eastern Front is a Cold War espionage story, while the original version from 1980 was a war story. Brink: as above. More pointless nonsense, except that at the end of the story, we witness the unions performing a strange mystic ritual.

SLUMBER #6 (Image, 2022) – “Waking Life,” [W] Tyler Burton Smith, [A] Vanessa Cardinali. There’s a flashback to Valkira’s origin, and then Stetson kills Valkira, but Valkira comes back to life and joins her dream detective agency. I don’t quite understand this ending. Slumber was interesting, but it’s not among the top tier of recent Image comics.

WONDER WOMAN #790 (DC, 2022) – “The Villainy of Our Fears Finale,” [W] Michael W. Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Emanuela Lupacchino et al. Diana’s mirror duplicate sacrifices herself to save Diana from Dr. Psycho, and then Diana kicks Dr. Psycho’s ass. Dr. Psycho is depicted here as not just a horrible MRA, but also a domestic abuser. He insults and controls the mirror-girl (who he calls “sweetheart,” but she in fact has no name), even though he’s dependent on her protection. It’s a cathartic and sad moment when she breaks his control, only to die immediately. I disliked this issue’s Young Diana story less than I usually do. Antiope’s manipulation of Diana is eerily convincing, and Hippolyta plays right into Antiope’s hands by trying to tear Diana away from Antiope.

HEART EYES #1 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Dennis Hopeless, [A] Victor Ibáñez. In a postapocalyptic world filled with me, a wandering girl is rescued by a group of survivors. This comic has some interesting artwork and characterization, but a severe lack of setup or worldbuilding. We don’t get enough background information, and it’s not clear to me just what caused the catastrophe, or what makes the monsters show up. By contrast, Human Remains is a fairly similar comic to this one, but in Human Remains, the way the monsters worked was clear from the start.

MS. MARVEL AND MOON KNIGHT #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] Ibraim Roberson. Kamala teams up with Moon Knight, a character I’ve never cared about, against the same menace from the previous one-shot. After reading this issue I realized what was the problem with Jody Houser’s Ms. Marvel: there’s no supporting cast, and we never see Kamala in her civilian identity. Kamala is interesting not because of her powers, but because of her connection to her family, friends, and community. Because Ms. Marvel and Moon Knight includes none of those things, it’s just a generic superhero comic.

DAREDEVIL #2 (650) (Marvel, 2022) – “The Red Fist Saga Part 2,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Chechetto, et al. While fighting with Matt, Goldy claims that he was secretly responsible for every major development in Matt’s life. I prefer to believe that these are not actual retcons, and that Goldy is just lying to Matt. Goldy is certainly not a reliable source, and he’s also a smug, self-righteous asshole. Various pages of this issue are drawn by classic Daredevil artists of the past, including Alex Maleev, Chris Samnee and John Romita Jr. However, it’s annoying that there’s no indication of which pages are by which guest artists. This issue includes a backup story by Ann Nocenti and Zdarsky, which is impossible to understand because of its overly compressed plot. There are also some strips by Chris Giarrusso, who I strongly dislike, and a gallery of all 650 Daredevil covers.

ORDINARY GODS #8 (Image, 2022) – “Ordinary Dogs,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Joe Clark, [A] Felipe Watanabe. The dog, Gracie, singlehandedly rescues the other good guys from the evil old blonde lady. By the way, I don’t think the villain’s name is mentioned anywhere in this issue, and I wish this series had a character guide. There’s no possible way I can remember all the gods’ names. Anyway, then the gods discover that they have one key to the God Machine, and the other key is in Shanghai.

BLACK ADAM #3 (DC, 2022) – “Whom the Gods Would Destroy: Theogony Book 3,” [W] Christopher Priest, [A] Rafa Sandoval. Black Adam fights Ereshkigal and the Bull of Heaven. I like this series’s use of Mesopotamian mythology, but by this point I had already decided that this issue would be my last.

2000 AD #2274 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. The team travels through the sewers to the Citadel, and Dredd continues to assert his absolute authority. Again, this is easily the best story in the issue. Kingmaker: as above. Crixus decides to destroy the quintessence mining rigs, much to Von Bek’s annoyance. Proteus Vex: as above. This chapter is mostly about the aliens who look like giant legless dolls. I’m not sure if these are the same race as Proteus Vex or not. Mercifully, this is the last chapter of this story arc.  Fiends of the Eastern Front: as above. A vampire and a voodoo sorcerer team up to investigate the disappearance of the pilot. BTW, each of the progs after #2270 includes a page that summarizes some notable past issues of 2000 AD. Brink: as above. This is another boring chapter, and it includes an annoying number of blacked-out curse words.

2000 AD #2275 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Dredd’s team, now much reduced, finally makes it into the Citadel. Kingmaker: as above. Ichnar the Wraith-King comes back to life, and the quintessence company arrives with a giant spaceship. This is the  end of this story arc. Intestinauts: “The Bowel Impactors Part 1,” [W] Arthur Wyatt, [A] Pye Watt. The Intestinauts are intelligent robots designed to clear harmful materials out of a spaceport’s sewers. While performing their mission, they come across a giant fatberg. This story is a breath of fresh air (though that phrase might not be appropriate, given the subject matter) after a bunch of rather boring progs. Intestinauts’s story is hilariously disgusting, and Pye Watt’s art and coloring are very vivid. Fiends: as above. The defecting necromancer is not who he claims to be, and he cuts the vampire’s head off. The voodoo sorcerer comes across Baba Yaga’s hut. Brink: as above. Yet another boring chapter.

DUO #4 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Khoi Pham. This issue sort of explains why the Immutables are relevant to the plot, and it also includes more of interactions between David and Kelly. That’s good because those interactions are the main reason to read this comic. Still, this series is underwhelming and it’s not Greg Pak’s best work.

BLOOD SYNDICATE SEASON ONE #4 (DC, 2022) – “4 the Hard Way,” [W] Geoffrey Thorne, [A] Chriscross & Sean Damien Hill. Holocaust declares himself the king of Paris Island, and we’re introduced to a couple new Blood Syndicate members, Brickhouse and Third Rail. This is another disappointing series. Holocaust is an impressive villain, but he takes up too much of this issue, and there’s not enough room to explore all the other characters. To be fair, when I checked this issue again, I realized I was overestimating the number of pages that were devoted to Holocaust.

ABSOLUTION #2 (AWA, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Mike Deodato Jr. Nina assassinates a bunch of mobsters, but gets low ratings for it, and it’s revealed that some of her victims were undeserving of death. Meanwhile, Nina gets a message from a woman, “Magicah,” whose employer is r*p*ng her, and this gives her a new idea about who she should target. This issue is much more captivating than issue 1, mostly due to Magicah’s frustrating plight, and it makes me excited about this series.

JUSTICE WARRIORS #3 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Keep It Peaceful,” [W] Matt Bors, [A] Ben Clarkson. The price of bread crashes, the Prince dude decides to drop money out of the sky, a cop is killed by a mob, and a zodiac-sign-obsessed gang makes its appearance. This series still seems unable to decide what it’s about or what it’s making fun of. It has no coherent plot or theme. I’m continuing to read it only because I’m an Ahoy completist, and because I like Matt Bors’s political cartoons.

FLAVOR GIRLS #2 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Loïc Locatelli-Kournwsky. A complex story that’s full of characterization and worldbuilding. There’s also a backup story that’s an adaptation of a Japanese horror film. And we learn that all the girls’ powers are based on fruit flavors. I do wonder how this series’ plot can be wrapped up in just one more issue, but other than that, it’s quite a fun comic.

BATMAN: ONE BAD DAY – THE RIDDLER #1 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. I hated this comic. It’s the latest in a series of disappointing efforts from Tom King, who is quickly squandering the goodwill he built up with The Vision and Mister Miracle. The overall problem with these One Bad Day one-shots is that each of them is a different Batman villain’s version of The Killing Joke, but The Killing Joke itself was a mistake, and DC ought to pretend that it never happened. The problem with this comic in particular is that it wastes the potential of the Riddler’s character. The Riddler is my favorite Batman villain because he’s the living embodiment of mysteries and questions. He ought to be written as a brilliant puzzlemaster, and as a puzzle himself. But instead Tom King chooses to turn him into just a worse version of the Joker. In his depiction, the Riddler knows everything about everyone, he can kill anybody for any reason, and Batman can’t stop him without killing him. As this review points out, it’s implausible that the RIddler is so omnipotent and omniscient. Also, when a villain is this powerful, it becomes impossible to tell interesting stories about him, and so this issue ends with Batman killing the Riddler, because there’s no other way it can end. The trouble with the Riddler is that only a few writers can write him properly, and Tom King is not one of those writers.

BATMAN: THE KNIGHT #8 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Carmine Di Giandomenico. Bruce trains with an academic named Daniel Captio, hoping that Dr. Captio can help him overcome his moral constraints. After an encounter with Anton and an agent of Ra’s al Ghul, Bruce decides that he can’t give up his morality. Bruce and Anton go off to meet Ra’s for the first time. (Addendum: According to my collection database, I did buy Batman: The Knight #7, but somehow I never read it. Maybe I misplaced it.)

QUESTS ASIDE #4 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Brian Schirmer, [A] Elena Gogou. I guess there’s some reasonably good characterization in this issue, but its jokes aren’t funny, and I don’t care about any of its characters. I think there’s just one more issue, or else I would give up on this series. I just realized that Brian Schrimer wrote Fairlady, which I also  disliked, and I’m going to avoid his work from now on.

2000 AD #2276 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. As they fight through the Citadel, Dredd and his team inexplicably run into an exact duplicate of Dredd. Hope: “In the Shadows,” [W] Guy Adams, [A] Jimmy Broxton. A murder mystery set on a Hollywood movie set. Jimmy Broxton is an excellent artist, with impressive mixed-media technique and a black-and-white art style that reminds me of Sean Phillips or David Roach. Intestinauts: as above. The Intestinauts encounter their enemies, the Bowel Impactors. This chapter includes an utterly spectacular two-page spread depicting the landscape of the sewers. Fiends: as above. The vampire and the sorcerer both wake up in Baba Yaga’s house, and the vampire releases its astral form. This is the most Hellboy-esque 2000 AD story I’ve ever seen. Brink: as above. There’s still nothing here of any interest.

Older comics:

THE PROWLER #2 (Eclipse, 1987) – “Blood and Evil,” [W] Tim Truman, [A] John K. Snyder III. An elderly superhero teams up with a young sidekick against a creepy eternal life cult. This is perhaps not Tim Truman’s best work of the ‘80s, but it’s interesting. There’s also a backup story, co-written by Michael H. Price and drawn by Graham Nolan, that takes place  during the Prowler’s 1940s career (although the cover says that this story is set in the 1930s).

TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE #53 (IDW, 2016) – “The Dying of the Light Part 4: At Close of Day,” [W] James Roberts, [A] Alex Milne. The besieged Autobots prepare for the final battle against the DJD. There’s a poignant moment in this issue where six of the Autobots swear eternal friendship with each other. Also, Minimus Ambus and Dominus Ambus become the new Ultra Magnus.

LOCKE & KEY: HEAD GAMES #5 (IDW, 2009) – untitled, [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. I’ve had this comic in my to-be-read boxes for a long time, but I thought I’d already read it, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I hadn’t. In this issue Dodge uses the head key and the teleportation key to cause all sorts of havoc, and he also seduces Kinsey.

TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE #54 (IDW, 2016) – “The Dying of the Light Part 5: Rage, Rage,” as above. The Autobots gain super powers using a “spark spasm,” but the new powers don’t last long. Megatron discovers that “fool’s energon” is just a placebo, and this somehow motivates him to join the battle in person. He defeats a bunch of the enemy singlehandedly, but then his cannon is destroyed, and Tarn and Overlord appear to shoot him dead. By this point I was enjoying this series a lot, despite my incomplete understanding of its plot.

VAMPIRELLA #5 (Dynamite, 2016) – untitled, [W] Kate Leth, [A] Eman Casallos. This issue is mostly an action sequence where Vampi fights some monstrous blonde lady. The context for this fight is not explained, and overall this issue isn’t interesting at all.

PROPHET: EARTH WAR #5 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Brandon Graham & Simon Roy, [A] various. This issue includes some scenes with Glory. These scenes were supposed to have been drawn by Sophie Campbell, but she was unable to, and Brandon Graham drew them himself. As usual, this issue’s plot makes no sense.

ART OPS #9 (Vertigo, 2016) – “Popism Part 2: The Neighborhood of Dads,” [W] Shaun Simon, [A] Matt Brundage. This is another poorly written issue, and it isn’t even drawn by Mike Allred or Eduardo Risso, as earlier issues were. This comic wants to be Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol, but Shaun Simon is a far less skillful writer than Morrison. The villains of this storyline are a group of stereotypical suburban dads. They claim Fredric Wertham as one of their members, although Wertham himself had no children, as far as I can tell.

SECRETS OF LOVE AND MARRIAGE #24 (Charlton, 1961) – “There’s Always Tomorrow,” [W] Joe Gill?, [A] Joe Sinnott, etc. A collection of four boring, predictable stories with lifeless art. Charlton’s romance comics were of such low quality that I often don’t bother to buy them, even if they’re very cheap.

SUPERMAN #38 (DC, 1989) – “Unnatural Disaster,” [W/A] Jerry Ordway. Emil Hamilton tries to cure Jimmy Olsen of a mysterious disease, but instead exchanges him for an ancient creature called Husque. This character and his sister Tehra were introduced in Adventures of Superman #443. Also, Superman searches fruitlessly for Brainiac, then saves some people from a tidal wave. This issue’s plot is rather odd, but it includes some very striking artwork, especially the two-page splash depicting the tidal wave.

EERIE TALES #12 (I.W., 1964) – “The Werewolf of Warsham Manor!”, [W] unknown, [A] Moe Marcus. This comic is an unauthorized reprint of Eerie #1, published by Avon in 1951. It consists of four horror stories, three of which are boring, overwritten, and poorly drawn. The fourth story, “The Subway Horror!”, drawn by Fred Kida, is head and shoulders above the other three. It has a funny plot about a henpecked husband (or an abused husband, as we would now say) who tries and fails to kill his wife, and Kida’s visual storytelling is exciitng and Eisner-esque. This story was first published in Eerie Comics #1, a 1947 one-shot (the 1951 series did not have “comics” in its title), and Fantagraphics liked it enough to include it in the 2010 book Four Color Fear.

SUGAR & SPIKE #98 (DC, 1971) – “Sugar & Spike Meet a Real Halloween Goblin!”, [W/A] Sheldon Mayer. Two of the stories in this issue are reprints from earlier in the series, but the other two, both guest-starring Bernie the Brain, are original. The better of the two new stories is “Who Fooled the Fooler?” In this story, a scammer tries to sell a fake “youth and beauty box” to Spike’s dad’s company, but Sugar and Spike accidentally foil this scheme. This was the last issue of the series, though there is no indication of this in the issue itself. Mayer continued to create new Sugar & Spike for foreign markets, There was an issue 99, but it was published in 1992, after Sheldon Mayer’s death.

TARZAN: THE BECKONING #5 (Malibu, 1993) – “Into the Web,” [W] Henning Kure, [W/A] Tom Yeates. Tarzan has a flashback involving an encounter with an immortal witch doctor, and Jane has an adventure in a hidden valley. This issue has some exciting artwork, though its plot is not very impressive. It seems like the point of this issue is to explain Tarzan and Jane’s unnatural lifespan.

2000 AD #2277 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. The two Dredds argue with each other, then flee from the Sovs’ pursuit. Brink: as above. The journalist dude talks with an old union member who takes him into the underworks below the city. This chapter is a bit more interesting than the earlier ones.  Hope: as above. A detective, Mallory Hope, is hired to solve last issue’s murder, in exchange for information about his missing wife. Intestinauts: as above. The Intestinauts meet some intelligent microbes known as “Tummy Pals,” and then they fight the Bowel Impactors again. The art in this storyline continues to be brilliant. Fiends: as above. The three main characters escape from Baba Yaga’s hut.

TOTALLY AWESOME HULK #7 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Alan Davis. As usual, Bruce Banner wakes up lost and naked in the middle of nowhere, but this time he can’t turn into the Hulk. Luckily Amadeus Cho shows up and rescues him. Now that he can’t Hulk out, Bruce goes around endangering his life on purpose, until Tony Stark comes to collect him. Alan Davis is a favorite of mine, and I’m not sure why I didn’t read this comic much sooner.

BLACK WIDOW #9 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Chris Samnee. In an isolated cabin, Natasha and Bucky fight another super-spy, the Recluse. This issue has a pretty boring plot, but Chris Samnee’s action sequences are thrilling. Chris Samnee is an excellent artist who’s had the bad luck to work on a bunch of poorly written comics, such as Fire Power and this Black Widow series.

TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE #55 (IDW, 2016) – untitled, [W] James Roberts, [A] Alex Milne. Tarn’s true identity is revealed to be Glitch, but I don’t know the significance of this. Some time-traveling Autobots appear out of nowhere. Megatron uses black hole powers to defeat the DJD in a somewhat anticlimactic way. Then Rung and Nightbeat travel to the inside of Necroworld, which is a mirror of the surface of Cybertron, and they accidentally trigger a planet-destroying bomb.

SUPERMAN #346 (DC, 1980) – “Superman’s Streak of Bad Luck!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Curt Swan. While moonlighting at the Daily Planet, Superman investigates a new game show on which celebrity guests compete to lose their money. This game show seems to be based on The Price is Right. In his investigation, Superman keeps suffering from bad luck. He discovers that the bad luck is being caused by Professor Amos Fortune, whose appearance in this story is surprising because he’s mostly a Justice League villain. I wonder if Amos Fortune was named after the Newbery Medal-winning novel Amos Fortune, Free Man.

ART & BEAUTY #3 (Fantagraphics, 2016) – untitled, [W/A] Robert Crumb. This is a very disturbing comic – although it’s not really a comic at all, but a collection of illustrations with commentary. It consists of Crumb’s drawings of various women, some from photographs and some from life. Crumb’s draftsmanship is beautiful as always, but throughout the issue he shows no interest in the women as people. He discusses them only as collections of surfaces and volumes. What’s even worse is that some of the women are drawn from “candid” photos. In other words, Crumb photographed them himself without their consent, or allowed other people to do so, and then he redrew these photographs and exhibited these drawings in a gallery. So Crumb appropriates these women’s images in a very unfair and creepy way, and then he tries to justify this act by including a lot of pseudo-intellectual quotations and meditations about art. I don’t think Crumb cares about art, at least at this point in his career. I think his alleged artistic intentions, at least in this comic, are just an excuse for gratifying his fetish for thighs and asses, and it’s dishonest of him to pretend otherwise.  

2000 AD #2278 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Dredd and his surviving teammates escape into the sewers. Dredd throws his clone into the water, where the clone is eaten by a sea monster. Back in the present, Winterton asks to whisper something in the priest’s ear, then grabs the priest’s ear with his teeth. Hope: as above. Hope interviews the director of the film on which an actor was murdered. Then Hope starts to choke to death while talking on the phone. One of the minor characters in this chapter appears to be named after Jesus Blasco. Intestinauts: as above. The Intestinauts and Tummy Pals defeat the Bowel Impactors. This was a very fun story. Fiends: as above. This story’s resemblance to Hellboy grows even greater, as the last panel shows Baba Yaga talking with Rasputin. Brink: as above. The journalist and the old dude discuss the superstitions associated with the habitat’s underworks.

FORBIDDEN WORLDS #125 (ACG, 1964) – “Magicman!”, [W] Richard Hughes, [A] Pete Costanza. This story introduces Magicman, perhaps ACG’s only real superhero. Magicman is the son of the legendary wizard Cagliostro, and thus he’s immortal and has rather ill-defined powers. In the present day, he saves an American senator from being captured by the Viet Cong. This story’s positive portrayal of the Vietnam War is unusual, though Don Markstein says that at this time, the war wasn’t as unpopular as it soon became. (BTW, Markstein himself has a letter in this issue.) Later in its run, Magicman abandoned its Vietnam setting and became more of a parody. This issue also contains two self-contained stories. One of them, drawn by Kurt Schaffenberger, is an allegedly true story about a banker’s mysterious disappearance, and the other, drawn by George Wilhelms, is about some microscopic creatures who enlarge themselves and try to invade Earth. The concept of a microverse is most familiar from Marvel’s stories with the Micronauts, Jarella and Psycho-Man, but Marvel’s first microverse was introduced in 1943. I wonder what was the first story to include a microscopic civilization.

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR #3 (Dark Horse, 1994) – untitled, [W/A] Frank Miller. Dwight and Marv get in a bar fight. Then Dwight goes looking for a woman named Ava, but after he kills Ava’s husband or boyfriend, Ava shoots him. Frank Miller’s artwork in this series was considered revolutionary at the time, but I’m not sure whether I agree.

CEREBUS #137 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1990) – “Like-a-Looks,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Three or four of Lord Julius’s duplicates try to decide which of them, if any, is the real one. This issue is full of the sort of brilliant humor that used to be one of Cerebus’s key selling points. By this point in its run, Cerebus was rarely funny anymore, and as a result it was less readable. Also, after this two-parter Lord Julius mostly vanished from the series, and that was a pity because he was one of its most fascinating characters. This issue’s cover says “Jaka’s Story Epilogue 1,” but “Like-a-Looks” has little to do with “Jaka’s Story.” This issue’s backup feature is a preview of Brat Pack #1.

PROPHET: EARTH WAR #6 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Brandon Graham & Simon Roy, [A] various. This issue doesn’t feel like any kind of conclusion to Brandon Graham’s Prophet run. And for some reason it ends with a long series of single-panel flashbacks and flashforwards, none of which have any apparent connection to each other. And thus we finally come to the end of this stack.

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June/July 2022 reviews

6-29

2000 AD #2239 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: “Removal Man Part 4,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Colin MacNeil. Dredd saves the busload of old people and brings Bick to justice. Aquila: “The Rivers of Hades 1.2,” [W] Gordon Rennie, [A] Patrick Goddard. The dead people take over a ship. The eponymous protagonist of this story, a Nubian gladiator with no soul, is more or less the same character as Blackhawk from Tornado. Department K: “Cosmic Chaos Part 6,” [W] Rory McConville, [A] Dan Cornwell. We meet the aliens who were inhabiting the purple inverted pyramid that was hunting the locust. Then Blackcurrant, the purple Department K member, enters the pyramid and confronts the aliens. Skip Tracer: “Eden Part 3,” [W] James Peaty, [A] Paul Marshall. In a flashback, Nolan Blake sleeps with a woman named Hastings. In the present, Hastings shows up again, accompanied by a baby who is obviously Nolan’s. Chimpsky’s Law: “The Talented Mr. Chimpsky Part 6,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] P.J. Holden. Amanda Jepperson tries to leave all her money to Chimpsky, since she sees him, rather than her brainless descendants, as her real heir. But Chimpsky runs away and gets in a fight with the mandrill dude. The two Chimpsky stories, this one and the one with Captain Cookies, are perhaps the best 2000 AD stories in the last couple years.

JOE HILL’S RAIN #5 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] David Booher, [A] Zoe Thorogood. Honeysuckle figures out that Templeton’s mother, Ursula, was responsible for the rain of nails. Then Ursula gets killed saving Templeton’s life, Honeysuckle discovers a possible way to stop the rain, and she and Templeton walk off into the sunset. This ending seems contrived and excessively simple. I had assumed that Rain was similar to The Walking Dead, in that the causes of the disaster didn’t matter, and what did matter was the relationships between the characters. So it’s a surprise that the plot gets tied off in such a neat way.

IMMORTAL X-MEN #2 (Marvel, 2022) – “Here Comes the Harvest,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Lucas Werneck. Angry at being rejected from the Quiet Council, Selene summons a giant monster to attack Krakoa. Hope assassinates Selene so that she can be resurrected on Krakoa and be forced to get rid of the monster. This wasn’t the most notable issue.

THE FOX: FAMILY VALUES #1 (Archie, 2022) – “Mid-Life Pisces,” [W/A] Dean Haspiel. As the title indicates, the Fox confronts a mid-life crisis and impostor syndrome. There’s also another original story by Vito Delsante and Richard Ortiz, and a reprint of the Alex Toth story from Black Hood #2, a comic I already own. Dean Haspiel’s Fox is okay, but it’s never been a favorite of mine, and I could have skipped this issue.

THE WRONG EARTH: PURPLE #1 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Purple,” [W] Stuart Moore, Fred Harper. On Earth-Kappa, a villain, obviously based on Prince, tries to convince the local version of Dragonfly to be a better corporate citizen. This issue has less of an obvious theme than the last two Wrong Earth one-shots, although Stuart Moore claims it’s a commentary on the “greed is good” mentality of the ‘80s. https://aiptcomics.com/2022/05/17/stuart-moore-we-purple-qa/ This issue’s theme of madness-inducing architecture is reminiscent of Mister X.

THE BLUE FLAME #8 (Vault, 2022) – “Beyond the Cosmic Horizon,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Adam Gorham. Dee is confined to bed rest and is unable to work, while Mateo is still stuck in ICE prison, and Sam is languishing in a homeless shelter. The reporter, Gordon, convinces Sam to man up and stop letting Dee bear the entire weight of the world on her shoulders. Dee’s situation is kind of heartbreaking – this woman is about to give birth but is unable to take maternity leave, and on top of that, her boyfriend is in prison, and she’s also supporting her lazy bum of a brother. Sadly all of these things have been normalized in America. Meanwhile, in the other plotline, the Blue Flame travels to the edge of the universe, and his lawyer follows him. I’m increasingly starting to think that none of the outer-space stuff is “really” happening.

2000 AD #2240 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “Now That’s What I Call Justice! Part 1,” [W] John Wagner, [A] John Higgins. A group called Justice Watch is producing pirate broadcasts in which they rank the most brutal arrests performed by Judges. Meanwhile, someone is murdering Judges, and a convict named Gort has just gotten out of prison and is seeking revenge. This story’s title is a funny reference to Now That’s What I Call Music. Aquila: as above. The protagonists continue their journey through the underworld, and the villain, Lady Cruciata, appeals to Dis Pater – the Roman version of Hades – for assistance against them. Department K: as above. The remaining Department K members travel through the locust’s corpse until they’re confronted by the two aliens from last issue. Skip Tracer: as above. Blake and Pamela Hastings are attacked by some goons, and the baby, Eden, uses her psychic powers to start an earthquake and defeat them. An assassin named Nimrod is dispatched to hunt down Blake and Pamela. Chimpsky’s Law: as above. Chimpsky almost kills Burdell the mandrill, but discovers that Burdell was just protecting his family. Chimpsky decides to return to Earth and use Jepperson’s money to improve Mega-City One.

BLIND ALLEY #1 (Behemoth, 2022) – “A History,” [W/A] Irra. A man named Jesus, who seems to be some kind of common criminal, returns to his hometown of Sevilla. I bought this because it’s a Spanish comic and it seems to have been well-received in Spain. However, this first issue is lacking a clear plot or theme.

BOLERO #5 (Image, 2022) – “20 Years Later” etc., [W] Wyatt Kennedy, [A] Luana Vecchio. After a lot of confusing stuff I don’t understand, Devyn gets her life back together. Overall I did not enjoy this series. In the first place, it felt like a Brandon Graham comic, even though he didn’t literally write or draw it. In the second place, I only understood the plot of the first issue, and from the second issue onward, I was completely lost.

RED ROOM: TRIGGER WARNINGS #3 (Fantagraphics, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Ed Piskor. This issue is partially inspired by the real-life phenomenon where people own millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrency, but are unable to access that currency because they’ve forgotten their password. The most famous example of this is the case of Stefan Thomas, who lost the password to a USB drive containing $321 million in bitcoin, and had only two more chances to guess the password before the drive encrypted itself irreversibly. In Red Room: Trigger Warnings #3, a certain Mr. Lansdale acquires a drive that holds $400 million in bitcoin (by murdering the owner. Lansdale takes the drive to Pitcairn Island so that Satoshi Nakamoto – named after the pseudonymous inventor of bitcoin – can unlock it for him. But Nakamoto has turned Pitcairn Island into an inbred cult society based on human sacrifice. So this issue is an example of Red Room’s unique combination of digital culture with gruesome schlock horror. I talked to Ed Piskor at Heroes Con (more on this later) and we discussed this story a bit.

G.I.L.T. #2 (Aftershock, 2022) – untitled, [W] Alisa Kwitney, [A] Mauricet. Hildy and Trista travel back in time to 1973, but while trying to stop Hildy from screwing up her life, they transport an entire Pan Am plane into 2017. The surprising thing in this issue is that Trista is 53, meaning she belongs to the same generation as Alisa Kwitney herself. I had had the impression that she was a lot younger.

BATMAN: THE KNIGHT #5 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Carmine Di Giandomenico. Bruce and Anton train with a KGB spy, and they compete to steal a book from the American embassy in Russia. This issue has some clever plot twists, especially how Bruce wins the competition with Anton by stealing the book out of Anton’s pocket. However, there’s not much about this issue that stands out in my mind.

ETERNALS #12 (Marvel, 2022) – “Hail Thanos, Finale,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Esad Ribic. Thanos gets the codes to the Machine, but discovers that the Machine can’t recognize him. Then he tries to use the Machine to blow up the world, but Druig has already put in a fail-safe so that that won’t work. Druig is elected the new Prime Eternal, and decides that the mutants on Krakoa all count as “excess deviation.” This was an entertaining conclusion. I like the Avengers appearances in this storyline, because the Avengers and the Eternals are utterly unable to understand each other.

THE X-CELLENT #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “New Blood, New World Part 3,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Mike Allred. The conflict between the X-Cellent and the new X-Statix continues. I don’t remember much about this issue in particular, and this whole series feels like an unoriginal rehash of the original X-Statix series. This issue includes a character named Uno who has somehow become a giant disembodied eye, and is angry at the world as a result. This premise appears to be borrowed from a Far Side cartoon about a man named Mr. Pembrose.

THE MARVELS #10 (Marvel, 2022) – “A Journey into the Mystery,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Yildiray Cinar. Beyond the doors, the heroes travel through a strange wasteland until they find a comic book shop filled with classic Marvel comics. Its proprietor is Threadneedle, who’s been making sporadic appearances throughout the series. This entire series has been kind of weird and rambling, and I’m not sorry it’s almost over.

2000 AD #2241 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Justice Watch claims responsibility for the murders of more judges, but Dredd begins to suspect that some of the Judges are being murdered by a copycat. Meanwhile, Gort assassinates an elderly Judge, Elrik. Skip Tracer: as above. Nolan and Pamela have a conversation about how people are going to pursue them because of the baby. This scene illustrates how Skip Tracer is kind of similar to Saga, in that it’s about two new parents who are in the grip of forces beyond their control. Then Nimrod shows up at Pamela’s house and kidnaps the baby. Department K: as above. It’s revealed that the aliens – the Valox – are trying to use the dead Locust to destroy the multiverse, but Blackcurrant arrives to save the day. Sinister: “Bulletopia Chapter Five: Its Own Devices, Part 1,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Steve Yeowell. Sinister and Tracy Weld wake up and are confronted by a rogue AI. I’ve never understood Sinister Dexter’s continuity, but this chapter has a funny exchange: “Nice tatts.” “You too. You said tatts, right?” “Yeah, but what’s a vowel between friends?” Aquila: as above. The protagonists get transportation from some minotaurs or centaurs, but then the villainess arrives and summons Cronus the titan.

2000 AD #2242 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Dredd investigates Erlik’s murder, and not much else happens. Skip Tracer: as above. Nimrod kills Pamela, leaving Nolan a single parent. This is an annoying piece of fridging, and it also ends the resemblance between Skip Tracer and Saga. Department K: as above. The Department K agents fight the Valox. Sinister: as above. The AI orders Sinister and Tracy to assassinate Dexter and two others, including Carrie Hosanna. Aquila: as above. Aquila defeats Cronus and opens the passage into Tartarus.

A few older comics:

CEREBUS #244 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1999) – “Going Home 13,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This is barely a comic at all. Half the pages are excerpts from F. Stop Kennedy’s “novel” Singularity, which is really a rambling philosophical monologue, and the other pages are surrealistic illustrations. Dave is frankly a terrible prose writer. His writing is histrionic and exaggerated, and it seems intended to insult the reader, and to prove that Dave is smarter than the reader is.  What Dave is good at is writing dialogue, and it’s regrettable that the later years of Cerebus have so much narrative prose and so few interesting character interactions.

THE PHANTOM #1385 (Frew, 2004) – “The Mysterious Commander,” [W] Lennart Moberg, [A] Bob McLeod. A man named Doe is captured by the Jungle Patrol after robbing a bank. When he gets out of prison many years later, he seeks revenge on his accomplice Simon, who he blames for his capture. We eventually realize that Simon is long dead, because a deceitful Jungle Patrol member, Wallace, killed him and stole the loot from the bank robbery. A loyal  Jungle Patrol officer, Weeks, helps the Phantom capture Wallace, and also finally learns his commander’s secret identity. This issue is a clever mystery story with a bunch of well-developed characters. At Heroes Con, I talked to Alex Saviuk about his work on Egmont’s Phantom comics. He was surprised that there was someone at the show who had read those comics. Bob McLeod was at Heroes Con, but I forgot that he had also worked on the Phantom, or I would have talked to him about the Phantom too. Maybe he’ll be back next year.

HEAVY METAL #2.5 (HM, 1978) – [E] Sean Kelly & Valerie Marchant. This issue includes chapters of Corben and Strnad’s Sindbad, Moebius’s Airtight Garage, Claveloux and Zha’s Off Season, and Druillet’s Lone Sloane, all of which I’m familiar with already. Some other features: Gray Morrow’s Orion is an interesting sword-and-sorcery strip, though it’s hampered by too much text. Jaime Brocal Remohi’s “The Horror of G’zalth.” is more or less a Conan story. Barbarians seem to have been Brocal Remohi’s favorite genre. (https://darkworldsquarterly.gwthomas.org/the-artists-of-sword-sorcery-jaime-brocal-remohi-1936-2002/) Dick Lupoff’s prose story “Nebogipfel at the End of Time” is a rewriting of The Time Machine. The name Nebogipfel comes from H.G. Wells’s prototype version of that novel. Ted Benoit’s “The Sweet Smell of Science” is a surrealistic story drawn in a Moebius-esque style. I thought at first that this story was by some other artist named Benoit, because Ted Benoit was a Clear Line artist, and “Sweet Smell of Science” is not drawn in a Clear Line style at all. Tom Sutton’s “Croatoan” is an adaptation of a Harlan Ellison story. It’s inked by Alfredo Alcala in his usual overpowering style.

THUNDERBOLTS #150 (Marvel, 2011) – “Old Scores,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Kev Walker. The Avengers visit The Raft and accompany the Thunderbolts on a mission. But the Ghost interferes with Man-Thing’s teleportation, and the Avengers and Thunderbolts travel to an alternate dimension, where they get in a big fight. This issue is full of great moments. When Thor meets Troll, he offers to make her a Valkyrie, but she responds by biting his finger. Ghost almost kills Iron Man, but then Tony reveals that he’s no longer a corporate CEO, and since Ghost’s entire motivation is his anti-corporate beliefs, he lets Tony go. On entering the alternate dimension, the Avengers meet a talking frog, but sadly, when the frog goes back through the portal, it turns into a normal frog, then gets squashed. Bonus features in this issue include a recap of the Thunderbolts’ entire history, and a complete reprint of Thunderbolts #1. While at Heroes Con, I talked to Michel Fiffe and discovered that he wasn’t familiar with Jeff Parker’s Thunderbolts. I recommended it to him, since I like it for the same reasons I like Suicide Squad.

FANTASTIC FOUR #329 (Marvel, 1989) – “Bad Dream Part 2: …And You Can’t Wake Up!”, [W] Steve Englehart (as John Harkness), [A] Rich Buckler. The Fantastic Four and Shary reenact the FF’s first battle with the Mole Man, but it soon becomes clear that these aren’t the real FF, but clones created by Aron the Watcher. The funny part is how the FF clones behave exactly like the FF behaved in the earliest Lee-Kirby stories, but in the context of the ‘80s, Reed’s chauvinism and Sue’s uselessness are hints that these characters are clones, not the originals. This issue was much less convoluted than some of Englehart’s other FF stories.

SUPERMAN #341 (DC, 1979) – “The Man Who Could Cause Catastrophe!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Curt Swan. Major Disaster tries to forcibly transfer his disaster-causing power to Superman. Major Disaster’s power is kind of similar to that of the Legion supporting character Calamity King. “The Man Who Could Cancel Catastrophe!”, [W] Wein, [A] Swan. I just noticed the parallelism of those two titles. In this story, the con man J. Wilbur Wolfingham, based on W.C. Fields (and named after J. Wellington Wimpy?), sells fake amulets that are supposed to prevent disasters.

BATMAN ’66 #24 (DC, 2015) – “Diamond Disaster,” [W] Ray Fawkes, [A] Jon Bogdanove. Batman and Robin fight Marsha, Queen of Diamonds. Ray Fawkes lacks the sense of humor of this series’ main writer, Jeff Parker, and so “Diamond Disaster” feels like a pointless generic story.

SECRET SIX #6 (DC, 2015) – “Whippings and Apologies,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Tom Derenick. The Secret Six fight the Riddler and his henchmen. This issue is okay, I guess, but I don’t remember anything about it, and Gail doesn’t do anything interesting with the Riddler. As I have probably said before, the Riddler is my favorite Batman villain, but few if any comic book writers have done him justice. My favorite Riddler story in a comic book is “When is a Door” from Secret Origins Special #1, but I think the best version of the character is the one in the Arkham games.

CAPTAIN MARVEL AND THE CAROL CORPS #3 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick & Kelly Thompson, [A] David Lopez. Carol and her fellow pilots plan their escape attempt, but a squadron of Thors comes after them. I just noticed that this miniseries is written by both DeConnick and Thompson, so it serves as a kind of transition between their runs. DeConnick and Thompson are two of the three major Carol Danvers writers, along with Claremont.

HEAVY METAL #5.3 (HM, 1981) – [E] Leonard Mogel. This issue starts with an intriguing interview with Corben, and then there’s a chapter of Bloodstar, a heavily expanded adaptation of REH’s “The Valley of the Worm.” This story was adapted more literally by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane in Supernatural Thrillers #3. A highlight of this chapter is the giant blind worm monster on the last page. Other things in this issue include: * A chapter of Enki Bilal’s Nikopol, which I read a long time ago and have mostly forgotten. * A preview of Steranko’s last major work, Outland. Steranko was at Heroes Con, but I have no interest in meeting him. * Guido Crepax’s Valentina. I’d love to read more of this, but Fantagraphics’s Complete Crepax volumes are super-expensive. * Chaykin’s Cody Starbuck. At Heroes Con, someone told me that Starbuck was the inspiration for Han Solo, and I can believe that.

CEREBUS #249 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1999) – “Going Home 18,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus and Kennedy travel along the river and listen to a Cirinist sermon. This issue includes some beautiful scenery, but not much of a plot.

THE PHANTOM #1392 (Frew, 2004) – “The Courier,” [W] Claes Reimerthi, [A] Alex Saviuk. The young Phantom goes back to his old high school in America, looking for Diana. He discovers that she’s gone to Bermuda for a swimming competition, so he follows her there and saves her from being framed for smuggling cash out of Cuba. But when Phantom finally meets Diana in his Kit Walker identity, she gets mad at him for standing her up on a date, and says she never wants to see him again. Of course we know that they’re going to get married. See my previous note about Alex Saviuk. His artwork in this issue is very effective. There’s one particularly nice panel where he depicts Diana diving by combining multiple images of her in the same panel, a technique that Gil Kane often used.

FABLES #77 (Vertigo, 2008) – “Life in a Headless Empire: Chapter 1 of The Dark Ages,” [W] Bill Willingham, [A] Mark Buckingham. A bunch of vignettes depicting how various characters are reacting to the end of the war with the Adversary. One of this issue’s plot threads introduces two characters based on Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. I hate Bill Willingham so much that I can’t really enjoy his writing, but I do have to grudgingly admit that he writes very good dialogue.

2000 AD #1839 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd: “Wastelands Part 3,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Dave Taylor. This story seems to be about a gang war, but I can’t recall anything about it. Defoe: “The Damned Part 4,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Leigh Gallagher. Defoe fights an army of zombies. Anderson: “One in Ten Part 7,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Anderson apprehends some guy who’s been selling people as meat. Sinister Dexter: “Witless Protection Part 4: In Plain Shite,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] John M. Burns. Dexter assassinates some criminals. This story is partly painted and partly line-drawn, and Burns sometimes uses both methods within the same panel. The Ten-Seconders: “Godsend Part 1,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Edmund Bagwell. This series is about a war between humans and superpowered alien gods. The title refers to the amount of time that people tend to live after they meet a god.

CEREBUS #281 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 2002) – “Latter Days 16: And It Came to Passe,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Most of this issue is a conversation between Cerebus and Woody Allen, formatted as a typewritten play script with illustrations. There are also a few pages from Woody Allen’s journal, formatted as handwritten journal entries with illustrations. There are only a couple pages of actual comics. The content of the conversation and the journal entries is confusing and impenetrable. Cerebus tries to draw a distinction between God and “Yoowhoo,” but I don’t know why I should care. This was the last of the 100-plus issues of Cerebus that I ordered in December 2020. At this point, I’m going to continue filling in the gaps in my run of Cerebus #1 to 200, but I don’t want to buy any more issues from after that point, unless they’re extremely cheap. I kind of want to read #300, but that’s it. The issues from the later years of Cerebus are mostly not worth the time they take to read.

LUKE CAGE #166 (Marvel, 2017) – “Caged! Part 1,” [W] David F. Walker, [A] Guillermo Sanna. While traveling back home from the previous storyline, Luke stops in a small town, where he’s arrested by the Ringmaster’s minions and thrown in prison. Superheroes being harassed in a small town is kind of a cliché – I think I first encountered it in Green Lantern vol. 2 #76 – although scenes like this are much scarier when the superhero involved is black. Other than that, this comic is pretty boring.

BRITANNIA: LOST EAGLES OF ROME #4 (Valiant, 2018) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Robert Gill. Antonius recovers the lost legionary eagles and brings them back to Rome, only to discover that the chief Vestal Virgin wanted him to fail to find the eagles, so that the emperor, Nero, would be embarrassed. This series feels like a well-researched recreation of ancient Rome.

SUPERBOY #123 (DC, 1965) – “There is No Superboy,” [W] Otto Binder, [A] George Papp. Superboy visits the neighboring town of Gulchdale, which is used as a hideout by criminals, since it’s outside the jurisdiction where the criminals committed their crimes. (Because I guess there’s no such thing as interstate extradition.) Superboy tricks the criminals into committing crimes so that they can be arrested in Gulchdale, and he arrests so many of them that Gulchdale has to build a new jail, which I guess is a good thing somehow. “When Krypto Was Sold,” [W] Edmond Hamilton, [A] George Papp. Superboy sellls Krypto to a rich boy, Ronnie, in order to cure Ronnie’s annoying behavior. “The Curse of the Superboy Mummy!”, [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Curt Swan. Superboy and Lana excavate a pair of mummies who resemble them exactly, and are almost killed by the mummies’ curse. This issue includes the line “O mighty Isis,” which coincidentally was the catchphrase of the TV superhero Isis, created a decade later.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #702 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Leonardo Romero w/ Rod Reis & Howard Chaykin. Jack Rogers excavates Captain America’s shield, but while doing so, he accidentally frees the Red Skull. There are also two flashback sequences, drawn by Reis and Chaykin. Mark Waid’s third Captain America run was by far the worst of the three.

I went back to Heroes on June 3, I think. My dad was visiting me that weekend, and he came with me. I read some of the comics while we were driving to Asheville the next day.

SAGA #59 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Fiona Staples. Gale murders some poor guy with six eyes on stalks. Alana parts ways with Bombazine and the creepy drug dealer. Squire declares his love for Hazel. Besides the Gale scene, this issue was less intense than usual.

ONCE & FUTURE #26 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Kings Are Dead,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. Brigitte concocts a plan to make it rain Lethe water all over England, so that everyone forgets about Otherworld. But this plan requires them to wait until next Christmas, and it will fail if Robin Hood declares his loyalty to a true king. Inconveniently, on December 24, a sword in a stone appears outside London, inscribed “Whoever draws this sword shall be the rightful king of England.” This issue skips over a year’s worth of Duncan and Rose’s adventures, and there’s a funny page summarizing some of the adventures we didn’t get to read about.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #23 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Road to Tribulation Part 3,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. We meet Big Gary, a sick old man who’s Erica’s mole within the House of Slaughter. Sheriff Thomas interrogates Erica. An Order of St. George agent, Ms. Cutter, arrives in America, and the first thing she does is murder an annoying xenophobic woman. Then she and Cecilia Slaughter head off to hunt Erica down. Cutter’s victim is awful enough that I don’t feel sorry for her, but this scene illustrates how the Order are no better than the monsters they hunt. In fact, they’re worse, since the Oscuratypes are just non-sentient animals, while the Order are morally responsible for their own actions.

ADVENTUREMAN #9 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Terry Dodson. Claire and the Crossdraw Kid go ice skating, and the ghosts revive an old villain named Johnny Caspar. This series comes out much too sporadically, but it’s very sweet and warm and funny.

NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE #9 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Alvaro Martinez Bueno. The houseguests start building their own buildings. They also figure out that they can’t be physically harmed, even by acupuncture, though I kind of thought they already knew that. Norah tries to communicate with the other houseguests by writing messages in the condensation on their windows. There’s a lot of stuff in this issue, but no particularly shocking developments.

LITTLE MONSTERS #4 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. A flashback reveals the origin of the two creepy twins, Ray and Ronnie. The human girl leads the vampire kids to her campsite, where the kids start massacring the other humans. But then one of the humans cuts Ronnie’s head off. Ronnie deserves it, but this is a shocking moment anyway.

THE CLOSET #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Gavin Fullerton. Thom, his wife Maggie, and their four-year-old son Jamie are about to move to a new house, even though their marriage is collapsing because Thom is an alcoholic and a terrible father. Little Jamie is terrified of the monsters in his closet, and the second half of the issue is a dream sequence in which Jamie sees one of the monsters. This issue is an example of James Tynion’s ability to write really creepy horror stories. This story, like The Turn of the Screw, is even creepier because the protagonist is a child. The Closet was first published on Tynion’s Substack, and I’m glad it’s available in print.

KING CONAN #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Ballad of Thoth-Amon of the Ring,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mahmud Asrar. Just before reading this issue, I finished reading the first of Del Rey’s three collections of Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories. I’ve read hundreds of Conan comics, but I’d never read much of REH before, and I had the impression that he was a terrible writer. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I really like REH’s Conan, and that Roy Thomas’s Conan comics are quite faithful to the original stories. King Conan #5 begins with the origin story of Thoth-Amon, who first appeared in the very first Conan story, “The Phoenix on the Sword.” Then he and Conan escape the island and prepare for their last stand against Princess Prima.

STEP BY BLOODY STEP #4 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. Girl travels across a desert, hauling Giant’s severed hand, until she reaches a mysterious stone wheel. Girl uses Giant’s hand to activate the wheel. She has a vision that seems to show what would have happened if she hadn’t abandoned Giant last issue. Then Girl puts on Giant’s armor, another baby girl is created, and Girl, now Giant, trudges off carrying the baby. So I guess now she has to try again to do whatever she was supposed to do. This series was mysterious, compelling, and beautifully drawn, and it may be Si Spurrier’s best work before, although I’ve also said that about other works of his.

The next comic I read was 2000 AD #2247, but then I discovered I read it out of order, so I will review it after I review #2246.

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #18 (Image, 2022) – “War Games,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Martin Simmonds. Just after the end of the Cold War, Oswald meets Grigori Petrov, his Soviet counterpart. There are a couple historical figures named Grigori Petrov, but I don’t know if this one is based on any of them. Then Petrov is contacted by Martin Barker, head of Black Hat, who may be named after a British comics scholar. Back in the present, Cole tries to go on a date with his husband, but they’re interrupted by Oswald. Cole and Oswald go to the Smithsonian, where they find Petrov’s corpse, lying next to the moon landing vehicle. Cole is a somewhat weak protagonist, who passively observes and listens without doing much, and this issue gives him some important character development. As always, Martin Simmonds’s art is stunning. I especially like the Pizzagate page.

RADIANT RED #3 (Image, 2022) – “Great Expectations,” [W] Cherish Chen, [A] David Lafuente. Radiant Red and Shift prepare for a heist, and Shift makes a pass at her. Satomi’s boyfriend Owen is in rehab for his gaming addiction. The journalist, Alicia, asks Satomi what she knows about Radiant Red. This issue is interesting but has no really big plot advancements.

ROBIN #14 (DC, 2022) – “Shadow War Part 7,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Roger Cruz. On Facebook, some artist criticized this issue’s cover, but I forget who the artist was. This issue is a crossover tie-in, and most of it is of no interest to me. Many of the pages don’t include Robin at all, or if they do, he only appears in a couple panels. The only parts that are relevant to Robin are his conversation with Bruce about Alfred’s death, and his discovery that Respawn is dead.

STILLWATER #13 (Image, 2022) – “Some Sort of Miracle,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Ramon K. Perez. The characters all deal with the fallout from Laura expanding the map’s borders. Unfortunately, Galen figures out that if Laura can redraw the map, he can too – and that by conquering neighboring towns, the people of Stillwater can break the monotony of their immortal lives. I look forward to seeing what happens next.

FOX AND HARE #1 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jon Tsuei, [A] Stacey Lee. This comic has been cancelled and resolicited at least twice, and so it wasn’t in my file, and I had to buy it off the shelf. Fox and Hare is a near-future cyberpunk story set in Mazu Bay, which is based on either Malaysia or Singapore – the word “lah” on the first page is a giveaway. Fox and Hare’s setting is very distinctive and interesting, though so far there’s nothing super-original about the plot.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #38 (Marvel, 2022) – “Trials Part One,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Juan Frigeri & Alvaro López. Binary travels around town having adventures, including a fight with an unexplained kaiju. Meanwhile, Carol Danvers visits an alien planet, fights a giant monster, and then has a vision of Agatha Harkness. This is a pretty cute issue, and it includes four different cats.

2000 AD #2243 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as #2242 above. Dredd arrests the leaders of Justice Watch, but Gort is still at large. Skip Tracer: as above. Nolan has a vision where Pamela is still alive and Eden is fifteen years old. Then he wakes up to find himself held captive by a villain, Colonel Fanshaw, who interrogates him about Eden. Department K: as above. Afua absorbs the Locust’s power and uses it to defeat the Valox. Dexter: “Bulletopia Chapter 6: Somewhere Beyond the Sea, Part 1,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Tazio Bettin. Dexter, Hosanna and another character travel through the sewers until they meet a pirate, Alura Bates. Aquila: as above. The protagonists travel through the frozen city of Cocytus.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #38 (Marvel, 2022) – “Empire of the Spider Part 1,” [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Christopher Allen. Miles and Shift travel to an alternate reality where Selim rules Brooklyn and no one can leave. The twist is that in this reality, Peter Parker is still alive. This issue was okay, but I miss Miles’s supporting cast. BTW, What If? Miles Morales #4 was in my file, but it got such awful reviews that I didn’t buy it.

ROGUE SUN #4 (Image, 2022) – “A Sour Note,” [W] Ryan Parrott, [A] Abel. Dylan’s mother discovers he’s been cheating at school, but Dylan is utterly unrepentant. This scene makes me very angry at Dylan, since I teach writing for a living. Then Dylan and his dad fight Demonika, the villain who was released last issue, and it’s revealed that Dylan’s mom also has superpowers.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #129 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [W] Tony Gregori. The Turtles fight the Punk Frogs. Shredder helps Donatello escape from Jasper Barlow and rescue Venus. The dinosaur girl’s spaceship crashes to Earth, thus finally connecting the main plot with the subplot. This storyline has been disappointing, and I wish Sophie Campbell would return to doing the artwork.

MY LITTLE PONY #1 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Celeste Bronfman, [A] Amy Mebberson. This reboot of the MLP franchise takes place many years after Friendship is Magic, and stars a new group of ponies who are looking for the Unity Crystals. At the end, one of the ponies discovers the ruins of Canterlot. I’m going to keep reading this series for now, but I doubt it could possibly be as good as MLP: FIM. I was glad to see that at least one future issue will be drawn by Andy Price, who I spoke with at Heroes Con.

LEGION OF X #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Do What Thou Wilt,” [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Jan Bazaldua. Kurt creates a team of misfit X-Men inside Legion’s mind, hence the title “Legion of X” has a double meaning. Way of X was kind of disappointing, and so far I’m not super excited about Legion of X either, though it does have its moments. I especially like the character Forget-Me-Not, who nobody can remember. I really wish Si Spurrier was writing a different Big Two  series whose title begins with “Legion of.” For that matter, I wish anybody besides Brian Michael Bendis was writing that series.

2000 AD #2244 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Dredd identifies the connection between Gort’s victims, and discovers that he himself is Gort’s next target. This whole story is a sequel to the classic “Letter from a Democrat” from #460, which I have not read. Skip Tracer: as above. Nolan has a vision where an older version of Eden is protecting him. Dexter: as above. Dexter and the pirates agree to an alliance against the rogue AI, and Sinister comes looking for Dexter. Terror Tales: “The Way of the World,” [W] John Tomlinson, [A] Smudge. This might be 2000 AD’s first story about the pandemic. Except in this story, the pandemic causes people to turn into werewolves, and when they return to the office after lockdown, they start eating their coworkers. Aquila: as above. The protagonists meet some dead evildoers, including Nero. The villainess’s name, Lady Cruciata, is finally mentioned. As I wrote in a recent Facebook post, I sometimes have trouble remembering the names of characters in comics. In fiction, characters’ names are constantly mentioned in the narration, but in comics, this is not the case. Characters in comics are distingushed from each other by their visual appearances, not by their names.

AQUAMEN #4 (DC, 2022) – “Scavenged,” [W] Chuck Brown & Brandon Thomas, [A] Sami Basri. Jackson fights the Scavenger, The Atlantean sleeper agents try to blow up the United Nations. It’s hard to care about this version of Aquaman when I know that it’s only going to last two more issues. Chuck Brown was at Heroes Con, but I didn’t talk to him.

NAUGHTY LIST #2 (AfterShock, 2022) – “The Track,” [W] Nick Santora, [A] Lee Ferguson. Santa visits a reindeer racing track to look for leads on who stole his list. Eventually he learns that he has to go to New York. We are also told that Santa has the power to give people visions of their best Christmas memories. An interesting thing about this issue is the hints that Naughty List’s world is not quite the same as ours. For example, reindeer racing does exist in real life, but only in Scandinavia, and it’s not like horse racing. The jockeys don’t sit on the reindeer, but instead ride behind it in sleds or on skis.

THE RUSH #6 (Vault, 2022) – “The Wake,” [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Nathan Gooden. Nettie has to kill her son to put him out of his misery. Then she helps a pregnant demon give birth, which somehow destroys all the other villains. The series ends by making a point about how parents sacrifice everything for their children. The Rush is a powerful horror story, but its plot is quite confusing. Also, this is a nitpicky point, but the cover design, with the giant logo and the grayish bar on the left, is, very ugly.

PSYCHODRAMA ILLUSTRATED #5 (Fantagraphics, 2022) – “Return to Mystery,” [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez. Another series of confusing stories about Fritz and her family. It’s often hard to tell whether this comic’s scenes are taking place in the “real” world, or in one of Fritz’s films. I talked to Harley Yee at Heroes Con and told him that Beto had used his name in an issue of Love & Rockets. He had not been aware of this, and he said he didn’t know Beto well. I wonder if maybe Beto was confusing Harley Yee with Hartley Lin.

NEWBURN #7 (Image, 2022) – “Getting Away with Murder,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jacob Phillips. Newburn investigates the murder of a yakuza boss. While doing so, he discovers that the Russian mobster Alexei has ratted out Emily to the Albano mob, since Emily was involved in the death of an Albano family member, as depicted last issue. Emily happens to be visiting Sydney’s police precinct when the Albanos order a hit on her, and to save Emily, Sydney has to arrest her for murder. Newburn is a really impressive series, and I don’t know why I’m not more excited about it.

2000 AD #2245 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Gort tries to assassinate Dredd, but Dredd kills him. The “Now That’s What I Call Justice” countdown ends with Dredd’s nuclear destruction of East-Meg One. Skip Tracer: as above. Nimrod causes the other prisoners to go carzy and escape, then assassinates Colonel Fanshawe, but just as Nimrod is about to kidnap Eden, Nolan wakes up with his powers intact. Dexter: as above. Sinister and Tracy fight Dexter and his allies in a sea battle. Terror Tales: “The Torturer’s Apprentice,” [W] Paul Starkey, [A] James Newell. Maria Grant finds a book in which people’s names are signed in red. She finds out that these people have all sold their souls to the devil, and she makes each person pay her to burn the page with that person’s name. But the last person on the list is the devil himself, and he claims Maria’s soul. Aquila: as above. Aquila is saved by the shades of his fellow revolted slaves, who lead him to their commander, Spartacus. When I read this story, I didn’t know anything about Spartacus except for the famous “I’m Spartacus” scene.

HARDWARE SEASON ONE #6 (Milestone, 2022) – “What You Deserve,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Denys Cowan. After fighting a villain who can duplicate himself, Hardware brings Edwin Alva to justice. This series was hampered by unappealing art and chronic lateness, and if there is a Season Two, I’m not going to read it.

WE HAVE DEMONS #3 (Dark Horse, 2022) – “Burn It Down” etc., [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Greg Capullo. Lam and Gus manage to fight off a horde of demons and recover a Halo meteorite, even though the demons disguise themselves as Lam and Gus’s loved ones. This was an excellent miniseries, but I wonder why it was only three issues. I hope there’s a sequel.

2000 AD #2246 (Rebellion, 2021) – A “Regened” issue intended for younger readers. Cadet Dredd: “The Block with No Name,” [W] Liam Johnson, [A] Duane Redhead. Dredd infiltrates a group of homeless teens who are living in an old block that’s about to be demolished. The kids in this story are really cute. One of them looks like a cross between the Top and Matter-Eater Lad. Mayflies: “The Way Forward,” [W] Michael Carroll, [A] Simon Coleby. A group of escaped Genetic Infantrypeople flee from both the Norts and the Southers. This story is drawn and colored in the same style as a typical 2000 AD story, whereas most of the Regened stories are much brighter and clearer-looking. ‘Splorers: untitled, [W] Gordon Rennie & Emma Beeby, [A] Neil Googe. The adventures of two young children whose parents are interdimensional explorers. Future Shocks: “Trash Culture,” [W] Karl Stock, [A] Steve Roberts. A scavenger looks for treasure on the “Great Debris Plain.” The best part of this story is the protagonist’s digital device, which communicates in emojis. Chopper: “Chopper Don’t Surf,” [W] David Barnett, [A] Nick Roche. An early adventure of Marlon Shakespeare, aka Chopper. This character did not die at the end of Song of the Surfer; he survived and appeared in several other stories.

2000 AD #2247 (Rebellion, 2021) – As noted above, I read this issue earlier, but in the wrong order. Dredd: “The House on Bleaker Street Part 1,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Nick Percival. Some criminals kidnap a baby and hide out in an alleged haunted house. Dredd goes in there after them. This story is narrated by the house itself. Skip Tracer: as above. Nolan and Nimrod fight to a standstill. Meanwhile Eden wakes up. Dexter: as above. While trying to escape the pirate ship, Dexter confronts Sinister and shoots him. Then Klinks, a character I don’t know, appears to rescue Dexter. Tharg’s 3rillers: “The Mask of La Verna Part 1,” [W] Robert Murphy, [A] Stephen Austin. A thief named Genadi Chakarov acquires the mask of the Roman goddess of thieves, Laverna, and uses it to summon Laverna herself. Adelphi, an Oracle or “god whisperer,” has to recover the mask. Jaegir: “The Path of Kali Part 1,” [W] Gordon Rennie, [A] Simon Coleby. I’m not quite sure what this story is about, but it’s set in the Rogue Trooper universe.

SWAMP THING #13 (DC, 2022) – “Machination,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. Swampy and Jack Hawksmoor defeat the monster that’s possessed the city of Detroit. Trinity, a living incarnation of the atomic bomb tests, starts causing havoc. Hal Jordan makes a cameo appearance at the end.

IMAGE! 30TH ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY #2 (Image, 2022) – [E] Eric Stephenson? I didn’t  particularly like any of the stories in this issue, even the one by Brenden Fletcher and Erica Henderson. My sense is that because each issue contains so many different stories, the individual chapters of the stories are all too short to build any narrative momentum.

BLOOD STAINED TEETH #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Christian Ward, [A] Patric Reynolds. Atticus Sloane tracks down one of the “sips” he created, a boxer named Duke Ellis. Blood Stained Teeth’s premise is uninteresting, and the name “sip” for second-generation vampires is really annoying. I’m going to drop this series from my pull list.

ARROWSMITH: BEHIND ENEMY LINES #5 (Image, 2022) – “Trollhome,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Carlos Pacheco. Fletcher and Guy reach the realm of the trolls, and Guy explains the history behind the Peace of Charlemagne. I forgot to mention that the SFF writer Lawrence Watt-Evans wrote some of the backstory for Celeste. Fletcher and Guy get a clue to the fairy princess’s location, but when they leave the Trollhome, the werewolves from last issue are waiting for them.

DEVIL’S REIGN OMEGA #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Fall and Rise,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Rafael De Latorre. All the heroes gather for Matt Murdock’s funeral, though we all know it’s really Mike. Luke Cage discovers that the law against vigilantism is still in effect. This story leads into Zdarsky’s new Daredevil series. There are also two uninteresting backup stories.

LAND OF THE LIVING GODS #4 (AfterShock, 2022) – “We All Deserve to Live,” [W] Isaac Mogajane, [A] Santtos. Naledi’s cellmate Lutho tells her about his birth as the child of a Living God. Kaelo saves Naledi from having her hand amputated. The trouble with this series is that it feels like a generic sword-and-sorcery story, only with African names. I can’t say whether New Masters is a more genuinely African narrative, if there is such a thing, but New Masters at least has a more original plot and characters.

ICE CREAM MAN #30 (Image, 2022) – “Experimental Storytelling,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. Two people enroll in a clinical trial testing the effects of a hallucinogenic drug. One of the participants, Kenneth Molloy, thinks he’s been given a placebo, but he discovers otherwise when he starts going crazy. Then we discover that the experimenter is himself the subject in another trial, and it’s being run by Dr. Naik, who was first introduced  as the other subject of the original trial. The fascinating part about this issue is the interaction between the multiple levels of its narrative. I like how Dr. Naik initially seems to be a character in the lowest level of the narrative, and then turns out to be controlling the entire story. I’m not sure if this issue is any more experimental than other issues of Ice Cream Man.

THE KILLER: AFFAIRS OF THE STATE #4 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matz, [A] Luc Jacamon. The antagonist, Mathurin, figures out that there’s a spy in his organization, so he gathers his suspects together and kills all of them, including the Killer’s ally Adil. Besides that, the most notable thing in this issue is the Killer’s meditation on genocides and public executions and how they have and haven’t changed over time.

RINGSIDE #8 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Nick Barber. As usual, this issue is uninteresting, and it can be read very quickly, because the art is minimalistic and frankly crude.

LEGENDS OF THE DC UNIVERSE 80-PAGE GIANT #1 (DC, 1998) – “Detour,” [W] John Francis Moore, [A] Paul Guinan. In this issue’s framing sequence, Rip Hunter takes Chronos (Walker Gabriel) on a tour of various episodes in DC Universe history. Each of the scenes Walker witnesses is a separate story by a separate creative team. Unfortunately, these stories all appear to be old inventory material, and none of them are much good. The artists include Steve Ditko and Dave Gibbons, but Ditko’s pencils are incompatible with Kevin Nowlan’s inking, and Gibbons’s Doom Patrol story is hampered by its Silver Age page layouts and by Sal Buscema’s inks. The only interesting story in the issue is the one about the New Teen Titans, which is written by Wolfman and Perez and drawn by Phil Jimenez; however, even this story is just a rehash of older comics.

BATMAN #39 (DC, 2015) – “Endgame Part Five,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Greg Capullo. Batman fights the Court of Owls, trying to find something called Dionesium, but he discovers that the Dionesium is actually implanted in the Joker’s spine. I have mixed feelings about Scott Snyder’s Batman; it’s very epic and dramatic, but sometimes it goes too far and becomes histrionic. More on this later. I might have gotten more out of this story if I’d read it after Batman #8 and #9, reviewed below. 

2000 AD #2248 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Dredd and another Judge, Tenza, enter the house and fight a bunch of zombies. The main villain, who is also a former Judge, kidnaps the baby. Skip Tracer: as above. Eden somehow ages herself into a teenager and defeats Nimrod. Then one of Fanshaw’s soldiers pulls a gun on Blake. Dexter: as above. Dexter and his allies manage to escape, but a badly injured Sinister emerges from the ocean, saying “No more Mr. Nice Guy.” Tharg’s 3rillers: as above. Genadi hunts down an old enemy, Chessington, but Adelphi comes to the rescue. Jaegir: as above. Jaegir discovers someone or something called Kali. I don’t understand this series.

HELLBLAZER #57 (DC, 1992) – “Mortal Clay,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] Steve Dillon. Chas’s uncle Tom dies suddenly. After the funeral, Constantine and Chas find some men stealing the body. They follow the men’s trail and discover a facility where a company is using human corpses to test ballistics. This issue has no supernatural elements at all, but Ennis and Dillon make the reader feel fury and horror at what the company is doing. I particularly like pages two and three, where we see some scenes from the lives of the people whose bodies are being desecrated. As brief as these panels are, they remind the reader that these corpses used to be human beings, and that they deserve better than to be shot at and blown up.

TWISTED TALES #2 (Pacific, 1983) – [W] Bruce Jones. “Over His Head,” [A] Mike Ploog. A lonely, unattractive man falls in love with a beautiful “woman,” who turns out to be a doll that he’s keeping in an aquarium. This story makes good use of Mike Ploog’s ability to draw sexy women and underwater scenes. “Nightwatch,” [A] Ken Steacy. An army of soldiers fight an endless, pointless war against giant rats. The twist is that the “soldiers” are toy soldiers, belonging to a little boy who treats them sadistically. This twist was pretty obvious to me because there was a similar depiction of toy soldiers in Toy Story, ten years later. “Infant Terrible,” [A] Val Mayerik. A poor teenage girl’s aborted baby turns into a swamp monster. This story was kind of hard to follow, though I think I may have missed a page on my first reading. “Speed Demons,” [A] Rand Holmes. Two teenagers have sex in the back of a taxi cab, while paying the driver to go faster and faster. Eventually the driver crashes and gets killed, but the two teenagers survive and flag down another taxi. I think this was Rand Holmes’s first story for a non-underground comic.

SUGAR & SPIKE #84 (DC, 1969) – “Bernie the Brain’s Biggest Blunder!”, [W/A] Sheldon Mayer. Bernie the Brain creates a robot that turns evil and starts turning people into robots. Bernie teams up with Sugar and Spike to defeat the robot. This is one of the most farfetched Sugar & Spike stories, but it’s entertaining.

SPIDER-WOMAN #47 (Marvel, 1982) – “Twisted,” [W] Ann Nocenti, [A] Brian Postman. Spider-Woman battles Daddy Longlegs, a frustrated young black dancer who’s been mutated to have absurdly long limbs. I probably wouldn’t have bought this issue if I’d realized it wasn’t written by Claremont, but I have to admit that Daddy Longlegs is an intriguing character, depsite his ludicrous appearance. Ann Nocenti is underrated as a creator of villains; a bunch of characters in Copra are based on villains from her Daredevil run.

THE FLASH #110 (DC, 1996) – “Dead Heat Fourth Lap: Cut to the Quick,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Oscar Jimenez. Wally and Jesse Quick battle Savitar and Lady Flash. This issue is mostly fight scenes with little character interaction, and Savitar is a boring villain. After Dead Heat he rarely appeared again.

FLEX MENTALLO #3 (Vertigo, 1996) – “After the ‘Fact’ Part 3: Dig the Vacuum,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Frank Quitely. My copy of this issue appears to be signed by both Morrison and Quitely, even though I don’t recall ever meeting Quitely, and I only met Morrison once, a long time ago. Like so many other later Morrison comics, Flex Mentallo #3 feels fascinating, but it doesn’t make any sense on its own. Sooner or later I need to read the entire series in order.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #212 (Marvel, 1993) – “To Live as Gods… To Die as Men,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Rafael Kayanan.  Conan and Valeria encounter a tribe of black people, and Conan has to convince the tribe’s witch-man to accept them. The interplay between Conan and Valeria in this story is quite funny, though at times Conan engages in blatant sexual harassment of Valeria. Rafael Kayanan’s draftsmanship imitates the style of Barry Windsor-Smith, since this story arc is a sequel to Red Nails. “The Blood of Bel,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Ernie Chan. Conan teams up with the priestess Suva Marsa to defend her city from the conqueror Nhuzemdar. Conan and Suva Marsa sleep together on the eve of battle, but then she gets killed, though Conan avenges her death.

MASTER OF KUNG FU #24 (Marvel, 1975) – “Massacre Along the Amazon!”, [W] Doug Moench, [A] Al Milgrom et al. Shang-Chi gets involved in a battle between Fu Manchu and a Nazi terrorist. The latter is presented as a greater evil than even Fu Manchu. This issue is pretty average. The four credited pencilers also include Walt Simonson and Jim Starlin, both of whom I met at Heroes Con. I watched Walt do some sketches, and got my picture taken with him.

MUNDEN’S BAR #1 (First, 1988) – [E] Rick Oliver. An anthology of stories by different creative teams, each set in Munden’s Bar from Grimjack. The first story, by Steve Moncuse, feels like a plug for his series Fish Police. The next story is a lot better; it’s by Mike Baron and Steve Rude, and guest-stars Clonezone from Nexus. There’s a funny ending where we think Clonezone has eaten some musical insects, but in fact he’s kidnapped them. Another highlight is “Doppelganger” by Ostrander and Ordway, which has a theme of palindromes and mirror reversals; the main characters are named Lewel, Otto, Ada and Sykys. But perhaps the best thing in the issue is “Mother’s Calling,” which has gorgeous artwork by Brian Bolland.

THUNDERBOLTS #151 (Marvel, 2011) – “Ghost Story,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Kev Walker. The Ghost tells Moonstone his origin story. The Ghost, whose real name is blacked out every time it appears, was a brilliant programmer and engineer, but his company ruthlessly exploited him, even hiring a woman to seduce him in order to keep him motivated. After discovering what was going on, the Ghost went nuts, murdered his former bosses, and became an anticorporate terrorists. This issue succeeds in deepening our knowledge of one of Marvel’s creepiest villains, without dispelling his fundamental mystery.

2000 AD #2249 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Dredd defeats the evil Judge and saves the baby, and we’re shown how the events of this story stemmed from Necropolis. Tharg’s 3rillers: as above. Adelphi manipulates Genadi into being killed by his own Laverna mask. The story ends with a hook that leaves open the possibility of further Adelphi stories. Skip Tracer: as above. Nolan escapes with Eden, and we realize that he’s been telling this story to a slightly older Eden. She falls asleep as Nolan looks at a picture of Pamela. This was an enjoyable story, but I wish Pamela hadn’t been fridged. Terror Tales: “The Thing in Cell 4,” [W] John Tomlinson, [A] Silvia Califano. I don’t quite understand this one, not even after giving it a cursory reread. It has something to do with a creature that can give people visions of their own deaths. Jaegir: as above. I still don’t know what this story is about, but thankfully this is its last chapter.

MYSTERIES OF LOVE IN SPACE #1 (DC, 2019) – [E] Alex Antone & Dave Wielgosz. A series of science-fiction-themed love stories. In James Tynion and Jesus Merino’s “An Apokoliptian Love Story,” two lovers, Markus and Saraqel, try to resist Darkseid and his mnions, but they’re captured, and Markus is revealed as Darkseid himself. Paradoxically, this experience turns Saraqel into an even more effective Female Fury. “Old Scars and Fresh Wounds,” by Kyle Higgins and Cian Tormey, begins with Kilowog going on a blind date, but it’s not really a love story; it’s more about Kilowog’s attempt to cope with the destruction of his planet. Saladin Ahmed and Max Dunbar’s Bizarro story is cute but forgettable. Cecil Castellucci and Elena Casagrande’s Starfire/Green Lantern story is annoying because it implies that Starfire doesn’t understand the idea of true love. That was certainly not true of the original version of the character. There are also stories about Space Cabbie and Crush, and a reprint of an old Adam Strange story.

THE PHANTOM #1396 (Frew, 2004) – “The Lethal Trap,” [W] Claes Reimerthi, [A] Kari Leppanen. This story takes place shortly after #1392. Diana Palmer is still pissed at Kit Walker. Meanwhile Diana’s uncle, the police superintendent, is trying to wipe out organized crime in Watertown, and the local criminals are not happy about it. The Phantom helps defeat the criminals and save the Palmers, and Kit reconciles with Diana, though, in Lois Lane fashion, she still isn’t sure whether she loves Kit or the Phantom.

BATMAN #453 (DC, 1990) – “Dark Knight, Dark City Part II,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Kieron Dwyer. Batman tries to rescue some abducted babies from the Riddler, who is behaving in an unusually cruel and sadistic manner. A flashback depicts the history of the demonic ritual that the Riddler is trying to perform. “Dark Knight, Dark City” is one of the best Riddler stories in comic book form, although that’s kind of sad, because it’s not at the same level as the best Joker or Two-Face or Penguin stories. As I mentioned above, the Riddler has rarely been written in a way that fulfills his potential.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #6 (Marvel, 1973) – “…As Those Who Will Not See!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Gil Kane. Spider-Man and the Thing team up against the Puppet Master and the Mad Thinker. This issue has some great art, but it’s most notable for revealing Alicia’s origin story. Conway reveals that Alicia’s father, Jacob Reiss, was Philip Masters’s scientific collaborator. Because of his unrequited love for Jacob’s wife, Philip caused an explosion that killed Jacob and blinded Alicia. I believe all of this was new information at the time.

SLOW DEATH #5 (Last Gasp, 1973) – “Last Gasp,” [W] Tom Veitch, [A] Greg Irons. Possessed by an alien entity, Shuggahoo, Ron Turner prints the latest issue of Slow Death with a subliminal Zipatone pattern that will cause the readers to become possessed by Shuggahoo as well. Veitch and Irons try to stop Turner’s plot, but it’s too late – in fact, the comic printed with the subliminal pattern is the same one we’re reading right now. Oops. The next story, by Charles Dallas, is kind of ugly, but Rand Holmes’s “Museum Piece” is a beautiful reimagining of Wally Wood’s EC stories. Richard Corben’s “Melton’s Big Game,” about a hunter who gets killed by his own prey, includes some more excellent art.

SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN #214 (Marvel, 1993) – “The Reign of Thulandra Thuu,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Ernie Chan. This story is set just after Conan usurps the crown of Aquilonia from Numedides. Thulandra Thuu, Numedides’s court wizard, seemingly drowns Conan and imitates Conan’s appearance, then returns to Tarantia and reigns as a tyrant. Of course, Conan comes back and defeats the wizard. This issue’s backup feature is a collection of concept art and plot treatments for an unfinished 1930s Conan film. This feature is a joke – the plot treatments are fake, and the art was created specifically for this issue by Sandy Plunkett – but it’s a funny and plausible joke.

WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #273 (DC, 1981) – “In the Citadel of the Weapon Master,” [W] Cary Burkett, [A] Adrian Gonzales. The stories in this issue are all average at best. Perhaps the highlight of the issue is the E-Man story by Pasko and Staton, which is sort of a preview of their run on E-Man. The Captain Marvel story has some nice artwork by Don Newton.

2000 AD #2250 (Rebellion, 2021) – All the stories in this issue are new. Dredd: “The Hard Way Part 1,” [W] Rob Williams & Arthur Wyatt, [A] Jake Lynch. A villainess called The Reine Rouge hires a number of other villains to assassinate a judge named Maitland. The most interesting of these villains is “Qaganon the Living Meme,” who’s the living incarnation of QAnon. Diaboliks: “Arrivederci Roma,” [W] Gordon Rennie, [A] Antonio Fuso. Ravne and Jenny try to steal some item from a secret Vatican gathering. This story is in black and white, but Antonio Fuso’s art is less minimal than that of Dom Reardon. Scarlet Traces: “Storm Front Part 1,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] D’Israeli. A Venusian, Ahron, has a vision where he returns home. He wakes up to find that he and his human companion, Iykarus, are on a spaceship traveling to Jupiter to appeal for the Jovians’ help against Mars. Besides D’Israeli’s gorgeous art and coloring, the memorable thing about this story is Iykarus’s shock when he realizes the ship no longer has enough fuel to return to Earth, and he can’t see his wife and child again. Anderson: “Be Psi-ing You,” [W] Maura McHugh, [A] Lee Carter. This story is a one-shot, and I don’t understand it. Pandora Perfect: “Mystery Moon Part 1,” [W] Roger Langridge, [A] Brett Parson. Pandora Perkins and her robot companion Gort are professional thieves. Zebediah Juggs, aka Bartleby Spugg, president of a sausage farm, hires them to steal the Wonga Diamond. As the summary indicates, this is a humor story. Future Shocks: “The Guardian & the Godchild,” [W/A] Chris Weston. A shaggy dog story where the pun is that a samurai adopts a baby alien insect, becoming “Lone Wolf and Grub.” The Out: “Book Two Part 1,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Mark Harrison. Cyd Finlea travels to “the Out,” a sort of extra-dimensional milieu, to look for other surviving humans. As in later chapters, Mark Harrison’s art and coloring are spectacular.

BLACK WIDOW #7 (Marvel, 2016) – “No More Secrets,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Chris Samnee. A flashback depicts Natasha’s first assassination mission, when she was a young child. In the present, Natasha goes looking for more victims of the Red Room. Chris Samnee’s artwork here is excellent as always, but Mark Waid writes this series like a generic espionage comic, and Brubaker and Epting’s Velvet is a better Black Widow story in the spy genre. Conversely, Kelly Thompson’s Black Widow was far more entertaining than Mark’s was.

INCREDIBLE HULK #334 (Marvel, 1987) – “Grave Circumstances,” [W] Peter David, [A] Todd McFarlane. This is one of the only PAD Hulk comics I haven’t read. This issue Bruce finds Betty having an affair with a sleazy Hispanic stereotype named Ramon – though we’re explicitly told that Betty and Ramon didn’t sleep together.  Then the Hulk fights Half-Life, who PAD later used much more dramatically in issue 342. At this point in the series, PAD was still a pretty inexperienced writer and was still feeling the character out.

SAVAGE TALES #4 (Marvel, 1974) – “Night of the Dark God,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Gil Kane & Neal Adams. Conan returns home to his village in Cimmeria and discovers that his childhood sweetheart, Mala, has been kidnapped by Vanir. Conan pursues and defeats the Vanir, but Mala commits suicide to avoid a forced marriage. That’s a pretty sad ending. The combination of Kane and Adams is fascinating but strange; it’s hard to tell which of them did what. This issue also includes a reprinted Crusader story drawn by Joe Maneely, and then a black-and-white reprint of “The Dweller in the Dark” from Conan the Barbarian #12. Some of the panels in this story were censored for nudity, but BWS cut out and kept the original versions of the panels. The GCD says that the Savage Tales reprinting of the story includes the original, uncensored panels, but the original panels can be seen at https://www.comicartfans.com/gallerypiece.asp?piece=1699146, and they don’t look like the ones in Savage Tales #4. That site says that the uncensored panels were printed for the first time in Comic Book Artist magazine.

THE PHANTOM #1447 (Frew, 2006) – “Black Fagin,” [W] Claes Reimerthi (as Michael Tierres), [A] Kari Leppanen. In Morristown’s slum of Shedtown, a man named Black Fagin (referencing Oliver Twist) is leading a gang of child thieves. The Phantom discovers that the project to clean up Shedtown has been delayed due to institutional corruption among Morristown’s business elite. With the aid of one of the child thieves, Joshua, the Phantom brings both Black Fagin and the corrupt businessmen to justice. Perhaps the best part of this story is Joshua, who is both adorable and courageous. Also, Reimerthi and Leppanen make the reader share the Phantom’s distress at the plight of the residents of Shedtown.

BATMAN #343 (DC, 1982) – “A Dagger So Deadly,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Gene Colan. Batman fights a villain named Dagger, whose motivation is that his family’s knife business is declining. This villain rarely if ever appeared again. In a subplot, Poison Ivy tries to force the Wayne corporation to sell off all its stock. There’s also a Robin backup story by Conway and Trevor von Eeden.

CHEVAL NOIR #43 (Dark Horse, 1993) – [E] Jennie Bricker. By this point Cheval Noir had abandoned its original mandate of reprinting quality European comics. The only European story in this issue is Cailleteau and Vatine’s Stan Pulsar. There’s also Suburban Nightmares by Cherkas and Hancock, Demon by Masashi Tanaka, and Randy the Skeleton by Aidan Potts and Ian Carney. The Tanaka story is very short and is not reflective of this artist’s strengths, but the other two stories are at least interesting. I bought a couple Cherkas and Hancock comics at Heroes Con, but have not read them yet.

SPIDER-WOMAN #46 (Marvel, 1982) – “Yakuza,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Steve Leialoha. Jess is kidnapped by a yakuza boss, Ieyasu “Sam” Imura, but he turns out to be a benevolent type, and Jess helps him prevent a gang war between the Kingpin and General Nguyen Ngoc Coy. General Coy’s appearance is a tie-in to New Mutants. This issue is not bad, though it’s an example of Claremont’s typical Orientalist depiction of Japan. I don’t know if it’s plausible that a modern Japanese person would have the same personal name as Tokugawa Ieyasu. Chris Claremont was at Heroes Con, but I didn’t get to talk to him because his line was too long.

ACTIONVERSE #0 (Action Lab, 2015) – “The Savage Maxim,” [W] Vito Delsante & Jamal Igle, [A] Ray-Anthony Height & Sean Izaakse. A crossover between a number of different Action Lab characters, including Molly Danger and Midnight Tiger. The writers assume the reader is already familiar with these characters, and they don’t do much to introduce them. The only really interesting character is Molly. Action Lab’s superhero universe could have been exciting, but it never really went anywhere.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #4 (Marvel, 2016) – “Rise of the Alpha Flight Part 4,” [W] Michele Fazekas & Tara Butters, [A] Kris Anka & Felipe Smith. Kris Anka’s art in this issue is excellent, but Fazekas and Butters’s story is of no interest. This was the worst Captain Marvel series in recent memory.

TEEN TITANS #13 (DC, 2004) – “Beast Boys and Girls Part 1: Concrete Jungle,” [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Tom Grummett. Children in San Francisco start developing the same powers as Beast Boy, while Gar loses his own powers. Meanwhile, Raven and Impulse get tattoos, but Impulse’s tattoo wears off at once because of his high metabolism. When this series was originally coming out, I hated it because of its lack of focus on the older Titans, but on its own merits, this issue is not so bad. This issue implies that Gar is nineteen years old at most. I have trouble believing that.

THE RING OF THE NIBELUNG #1 (DC, 1989) – “The Rhinegold,” [W] Roy Thomas, [A] Gil Kane. This is Roy Thomas’s second adaptation of Wagner’s Ring cycle, following Thor #294 to #300. This first issue covers the entire first opera, Das Rheingold. Overall, Thomas and Kane’s Ring adaptation is inferior to P. Craig Russell’s version because Thomas and Kane only care about adapting the story, and they make no attempt to also depict the music, as PCR does. However, Thomas and Kane’s version is still interesting. Kane’s art is very striking, though he depicts the gods as if they were superheroes. He also makes it obvious that Alberich is a blatant anti-Semitic stereotype.

RADIOACTIVE MAN #412 (Bongo, 1994) – “In ze Clutches of Dr. Crab!”, [W] Steve Vance, [A] Bill Morrison. Dr. Crab seemingly kills Radioactive Man, but he comes back. This comic is a funny superhero parody, but nothing about it is unusually striking or clever. Bill Morrison was at Heroes Con, but I couldn’t think of anything to talk to him about. I did buy an issue of his original series for Bongo, Roswell.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #15/172 (Dark Horse, 2012) – [E] Mike Richardson. This anthology is daunting to read because it’s 88 pages. Frankly,I could have done without some of those pages, and even the best stories in this issue would have read better in collected form. The best thing in the issue is probably the chapter of Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder. There’s also a chapter of Tony Puryear and Erika Alexander’s Concrete Park, a series I should read more of. And there’s a Nexus story, but I’ve completely lost interest in Nexus because of Mike Baron’s toxicity. Other creators in this issue include Kelly Sue DeConnick, Phil Noto, Doc Shaner, Sam Kieth, and David Chelsea.

SECRET SIX #2 (DC, 2008) – “Unhinged Part Two: The Way of the Traitor,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Nicola Scott. Batman fights Catman, and the other Secret Six members escape from prison. This issue has lots of funny dialogue, but I don’t understand how it fits into the series’ overall plot.

MARVEL FANFARE #14 (Marvel, 1984) – “Dangerous Vision,” [W] Roger McKenzie, [A] Rick Leonardi. The Mad Thinker and Klaw kidnap the Vision and manipulate him into attacking the Fantastic Four. This must have originated as an inventory story, and it reads like one. I’m not clear on where it fits into continuity. The beginning of the story implies that Wanda has left Vizh, but they were still a couple until 1989. This issue includes a Quicksilver/Inhumans backup story by Jo Duffy and Alan Weiss.

HITMAN #38 (DC, 1999) – “Dead Man’s Land Part Two,” [W] Garth Ennis, [A] John McCrea. Tommy and his friends fight a bunch of vampires. I still hate this series. It’s just a bunch of violence and immature low humor.

2000 AD #2251 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: “The Hard Way Part 2,” as above. Dredd fights a bunch of assassins in a highway tunnel, and then the villains flood the tunnel. Diaboliks: as above. The protagonists win an auction for a book called the Codex Infamia, but the “book” is in fact a little girl. Scarlet Traces: as above. Ahron and Iykarus meet the Jovians and learn about the Martians’ past atrocities. The Jovians refuse to help them, but Iykarus tries to convince them otherwise. Pandora Perfect: as above. Pandora and Gort steal the Wonga Diamond. The Out: as above. Cyd Finlea attends the funeral of a space-dwelling human, and meets his alien widow. 

CAPTAIN AMERICA #704 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Leonardo Romero. Jack Rogers teams up with the Red Skull to fight the Kree, and then he beats the Red Skull and saves his son. This issue takes a jingoistic, uncritical view of America, which is very hard to support after recent events. Also, Waid keeps using the Red Skull, but he never manages to make him an interesting character. Waid’s Red Skull is just a generic evil mastermind.

THE SANDMAN #4 (DC, 1989) – “A Hope in Hell,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Sam Kieth & Mike Dringenberg. A classic story in which Morpheus travels to Hell to reclaim his helmet from a demon. This issue is most important for introducing Lucifer Morningstar, but it also has the memorable scene where Morpheus wins the duel with Choronzon by saying “I am hope.” Other notable scenes in this issue are Squatterbloat’s “there’s one at the door” speech, and Morpheus’s encounter with Nada, whose story would be told in issue 9. Elizabeth Sandifer told me that in the Absolute Sandman reprinting of this story, Morpheus’s skin was colored brown during this scene, which causes the reader to read the scene differently.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #8 (Marvel, 2019) – “Captain of Nothing Part II,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Adam Kubert. Yet another boring issue with no significant plot developments. TNC’s editor should have told him to include more story beats in each issue.

L.E.G.I.O.N. ’92 #39 (DC, 1992) – “Payback Time!”, [W] Alan Grant, [A] Barry Kitson. The L.E.G.I.O.N. defeats Max G’odd, who is eaten by his own pets, and Dox declares “L.E.G.I.O.N. lives again!” Dox confronts his ex-girlfriend Ig’nea, G’odd’s daughter, but we don’t see what happens to her afterward. He must have let her go, because she comes back about a year later and causes a lot of havoc.

ATOMIC ROBO: DOGS OF WAR #5 (Red 5, 2008) – “It’s a Lovely Day Tomorrow,” [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. Some Nazis try to use Atomic Robo to power a giant weather cannon. Despite losing his legs, Robo escapes and defeats the Nazis with the assistance of a Scottish commando, James “Scottie” Milligan. The best thing about this issue is Scottie’s exaggerated Scots dialogue. For example, while hauling Robo’s legless body around, he says “Whitever they’re gee’in you fer tea, oof, tell them tae put a wee bit less stanes in it.” (That is, “tell them to stop putting rocks in your dinner,” i.e. “you weigh too much.”)

BLACK CLOUD #10 (Image, 2018) – “I’m going to finally finish what I started,” [W/A] Ivan Brandon, [W] Jason Latour. Just as confusing and incoherent as every other issue of this comic. Jason Latour was at Heroes Con. I didn’t speak to him, and I was surprised he was willing to show his face there, now that we know what he did at previous Heroes Cons.

BARBIE #46 (Marvel, 1994) – “Trailblazers,” [W] Lisa Trusiani & Angelo DeCesare, [A] Win Mortimer & Mary Wilshire. Barbie and her friends go camping and then visit a “pioneer fair.” This story is a good example of the intrinsic flaws with Marvel’s Barbie comics. First, it has no conflict and no plot. Second, it glosses over important issues – specifically, the fact that American “pioneers” were not the first people on the land they were occupying. This issue perpetuates the myth that Western pioneers were settling on unexplored, virgin country, when in fact they were stealing that country from its indigenous population. This issue’s only reference to Native Americans occurs in one page where Christie puts on a generic Native American outfit and says “Native Americans played a part in pioneer life too, Barbie!” That’s only true in a vapid sense; it’s like saying that Anglo-Saxons played a part in the Norman Conquest. (I can think of an even more appropriate comparison, but I won’t say it.) The problem here is that Barbie comics were incapable of dealing with serious issues, even in a child-appropriate way.

BIRTHRIGHT #25 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Andrei Bressan. After a fight with Mastema, Kallista kidnaps Brennan. Meanwhile, Rya gives birth to her and Mikey’s daughter, but Mikey’s mom won’t let him near the baby because she doesn’t trust him. This must be one of the better childbirth scenes in a non-realistic comic. 

1602: WITCH HUNTER ANGELA #3 (Marvel, 2015) – “In Which Hearts Rend and Heads Roll,” [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Stephanie Hans. I don’t quite understand what’s happening in this issue, but it’s less bad than I’ve come to expect from this writer. Some of the artwork in this issue is by Frazer Irving. It’s surprisingly hard to tell which pages are by which artist; Hans and Irving are more similar than I realized.

TOTALLY AWESOME HULK #11 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Mahmud Asrar. Amadeus Cho is trying to take revenge on Hawkeye for killing Bruce Banner. Black Panther tracks Amadeus down, but Amadeus abandons the fight and travels to Austin, where he saves his sister Maddy from a crab-monster. But the monster beats Amadeus up and abducts a baby. Mahmud Asrar is a pretty good Hulk artist.

SCOOBY-DOO, WHERE ARE YOU? #76 (DC, 2017) – “Ghost Writers,” [W] Sholly Fisch, [A] Scott Jeralds. Two literary-themed stories. In the first one, a fake ghost tries to steal some Shakespeare and Poe manuscripts; in the backup story, a fake ghost steals the dust jackets from a collection of classic first-edition novels. Both these stories demonstrate a certain lack of research. There aren’t any original manuscripts of any Shakespeare plays, with the sole possible exception of Sir Thomas More, and that manuscript is in the British Library. And hardcover books didn’t have dust jackets until the 1820s, although maybe the books in the second story are all later than that.

FLASH #95 (DC, 1994) – “Terminal Velocity Mach One: The Dead Yet Live,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Salvador Larroca. I read this when it came out, but I didn’t buy it, I got it from the library, and I haven’t reread it in years. This issue, Wally returns from the Speed Force dimension, but with the terrifying knowledge that if he runs too fast, he’ll lose his humanity. Meanwhile, Kobra is plotting to conquer Keystone City. There’s an infamous moment in this issue where Bart kisses a woman on the street. This is both creepy and inconsistent with the way Bart’s character evolved; in later appearances, he never showed any sexual interest in women. There is some evidence that the version of Bart on the Young Justice TV show is gay. On page 6 of this issue, Salvador Larroca uses four slightly different versions of the same panel, with Bart, Iris, Linda and Jay sitting around worrying. This is a terrible page, but it would have been a great page if Bart had been sitting in a different place in each panel.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA #190 (DC, 1981) – “Our Friends, Our Enemies,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Rich Buckler. Half the JLA battles Starro, who has taken control of the other half of the team, including Superman. This issue isn’t bad, but Brian Bolland’s beautiful cover, showing the entire JLA with stars on their faces, is better than anything in the interior of the issue. One of the best cosplays I saw at Heroes Con was a man with a Starro star on his face. https://www.instagram.com/p/CfPnk7Uvmhc/

BLACK WIDOW #8 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled [No More Secrets Part 2], [W] Mark Waid, [A] Chris Samnee. One of the Red Room girls goes on a field trip to the White House, intending to assassinate the President. Natasha tracks the girl down and has to stop her from completing her mission, but without letting her be harmed. This issue has some excellent action sequences and is much more exciting than issue 7.

JON SABLE, FREELANCE #21 (First, 1985) – “Widowmaker,” [W/A] Mike Grell. Jon Sable has been shot by a cop, who, unlike most cops who shoot people, is very sorry about it. In the hospital, Jon discovers that Paul, one of his pentathlon opponents from the 1972 Olympics was murdered by his own wife, Carla. Jon leaves the hospital against medical advice and stalks the woman, until he causes her to become paralyzed in a riding accident. Sable’s behavior toward Carla is very disturbing, even if it’s justified. Perhaps the best scene in this issue is Jon and Myke’s conversation where Jon admits that he’s still traumatized over his family’s death. Mike Grell was at Heroes Con, and I went to his panel. TBH I only went to the panel because I was tired and wanted to get off the floor, but it was quite interesting.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #7 (Marvel, 2019) – “Captain of Nothing Part 1,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Adam Kubert. Steve turns himself in for Thunderbolt Ross’s murder, and Winter Soldier fights some villains in an attempt to find out who really killed Ross. Like most of TNC’s comics, this issue is a talkfest. As I mentioned in an earlier review, TNC is fundamentally an essayist. In an essay, it’s fine if the writer rambles a lot and doesn’t come to a definite conclusion; indeed, often that’s the whole point. But in a superhero comic, there needs to be a clear plot and a lot of exciting action. Dialogue is important – indeed, it can be more important than fight scenes – but it should serve the plot and characters. But in TNC’s comics, the dialogue exists for its own sake, and it just goes around in circles and leads nowhere. That would be fine in some kinds of comics, but not in Captain America.

SPECTRO #1 (AfterShock, 2022) – four stories, [W/A] Juan Doe. Four short stories on science-fictional and horror thmes. Perhaps the best is the one where Pluto is voted out of the order of planets, but in revenge, Pluto murders the other planets. There’s also a story where a rich man insists on climbing Olympus Mons on Mars, even though he’s already died.

BACCHUS #31 (Eddie Campbell, 1997) – “Ye Gods! Your Fate is in Their Hands,” [W/A] Eddie Campbell with Marcus Moore & Pete Mullins. Bacchus visits heaven, where Joe Theseus is reigning as God. Next is “Staring at the Sun,” in which Simpson explains how Hephaestus created two eyes that embody Empedocles’s principles of love and strife. Finally there’s an early Alec story. I think I’ve read at least two of these stories before in other reprinted forms.

THE SANDMAN #6 (DC, 1989) – “24 Hours,” [W] Neil Gaiman, [A] Mike Dringenberg. Dr. Destiny visits a diner, where he uses the other patrons as playthings, then eventually murders them. This is probably the scariest issue of the series, with the possible exception of the one with the serial killer convention, and I’ve always been hesitant to reread it. What makes it particularly hard to read is that Dr. Destiny’s victims are all given distinctive personalities. After this issue, Gaiman moved more in the direction of fantasy than that of horror. For more on this point see: https://www.polygon.com/comics/2020/10/22/21527442/sandman-best-horror-comics-neil-gaiman

MOTHERLANDS #6 (Vertigo, 2018) – “Six,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Rachael Stott. The protagonist’s mother dies and is buried next to her (the mother’s) clone, whose tombstone reads “beloved mother.” Other than that I don’t understand this issue’s plot. Motherlands was probably the worst of Si Spurrier’s recent miniseries.

2000 AD #1840 (Rebellion, 2013) – Dredd: “Wastelands Part 4,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Dave Taylor. Dredd fights a pair of assassins. Defoe: “The Damned Part 5,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Leigh Gallagher. Defoe disguises himself as a zombie in order to try to assassinate their controller. Sinister Dexter: “Witless Protection Pt. 5: In Plain Shite,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] John M. Burns. This chapter is just a long gunfight, but Burns’s half-painted, half-line-drawn art is excellent. Age of the Wolf: “Wolfworld Part 1,” [W] Alec Worley, [A] Jon Davis-Hunt. A story about a war between werewolves and humans. The Ten-Seconders: “Godsend Part 2,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Edmund Bagwell. I don’t understand this one.

VELVET #15 (Image, 2016) – “The Man Who Stole the World Part 5,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Steve Epting. In a flashback sequence, Velvet is killed in a fiery car crash. Of course her death is faked, and she comes back, confronts her enemies, and murders them. In his note at the end of the issue, Brubaker promises that more Velvet comics are coming, but so far this promise remains unfulfilled. This issue mostly makes sense even out of context, and Velvet is what Waid and Samnee’s Black Widow should have been. It’s powerful and realistic-seeming, and it has the feel of a classic spy novel.

SCARLET TRACES: THE GREAT GAME #1 (Dark Horse, 2006) – untitled, [W] Ian Edginton, [A] D’Israeli. This issue is set in an alternate version of WWII-era London, where the UK government has used the War of the Worlds against Mars as a pretext to establish a fascist dictatorship. This issue focuses on Lotte, a reporter, and Bernie, her gay Jewish publisher, as they try to investigate the suspicious destruction of the BBC. Finally, Bernie is murdered by fascist thugs, but a man named Robert Autumn appears to rescue Lotte. This issue probably has the best art I’ve seen from D’Israeli. His coloring is the same as in recent Scarlet Traces stories, but his draftsmanship is far more detailed, and his renderings of cities and vehicles are amazing. I particularly like how all the vehicles have six insectoid legs, instead of wheels.

WONDER WOMAN #64 (DC, 1992) – “The Heart of the City,” [W] Bill Messner-Loebs, [A] Jill Thompson. Diana apprehends a crook who’s kidnapped his toddler daughter, and saves both the crook and the girl from getting killed. This is an exciting and touching story, though it lacks the cosmic, mythic scope of most Wonder Woman comics. Bill Messner-Loebs tended to write superheroes who were very human. I think perhaps his Wonder Woman run is underrated because it’s expensive and difficult to collect, thanks to the low print runs and the Brian Bolland covers.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #54 (Marvel, 1978) – “The Big Bang Theory,” [W] Scott Edelman, [A] George Tuska. Mar-Vell fights Nitro, while Rick Jones tries to cope with life without Mar-Vell. The Rick Jones scenes in this issue are more entertaining than the Mar-Vell scenes. This issue’s last page and the last panel of the previous page were redrawn by Dave Cockrum, because Tuska’s original panels showed Mar-Vell fighting Wonder Man, but the editor decided to remove that character from the story. Edelman no longer remembers why. The original last page can be seen here: http://www.scottedelman.com/2009/08/29/george-tuskas-unseen-captain-marvel/

OUR ARMY AT WAR #262 (DC, 1973) – “The Return!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Russ Heath. Sgt. Rock returns to Easy Company after being thought dead, only to discover that the company has a new sergeant, Decker. We soon discover that Decker is a far less effective leader than Rock – because, as we later learn, he blames himself for getting his previous unit killed – and Decker gets killed attacking a German-held building. Russ Heath’s art in this story is amazing. On Facebook, Brian Cronin asked who was the best war comic artist besides Joe Kubert, and most people named Heath. He was unequalled in his ability to draw realistic-looking military equipment, and he was equally good at drawing people. This issue includes a USS Stevens backup story by Sam Glanzman, which is a wordless montage of images of dead soldiers and civilians killed in war. It ends with the title: “Where Have All the Heroes Gone?”

MARVEL COMICS PRESENTS #10 (Marvel, 1989) – Wolverine:“Save the Tiger Chapter 10: The Resolution,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] John Buscema. Wolverine helps Jessan Hoan, aka Tyger Tiger, become the new crimelord of Madripoor. Claremont implies that Tyger Tiger is going to become a major love interest for Wolverine. She went on to appear often in Wolverine’s solo series, but I either haven’t read those stories, or I don’t remember them. Man-Thing: “Elements of Terror,” [W] Steve Gerber, [A] Tom Sutton. Sutton’s art here includes some very effective body horror, although it’s not well served by the coloring. Machine Man: “Meets the FF,” [W/A] Steve Ditko, [W] Mike Rockwitz. A standard example of Ditko’s later work. Colossus: “God’s Country Part 1,” [W] Ann Nocenti, [A] Rick Leonardi. An unsubtle, heavy-handed examination of the differences between the USSR and America.

CURSE WORDS SUMMER SWIMSUIT SPECIAL #1 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Joe Quinones. Sizzajee and his minions go to the beach to have some fun. Wizord and Ruby Stitch take the opportunity to go off and have sex, but inconveniently, Ruby Stitch realizes at once that she’s pregnant. This is a fun issue, as usual, but Joe Quinones’s art is below his normal level. His linework seems to lack its usual crispness.

GREEN ARROW #23 (DC, 1989) – “Blood of the Dragon Part 3: KIA,” [W] Mike Grell, [A] Dan Jurgens. Ollie and Shado try to rescue her (or in fact, their) child from the yakuza. Black Canary doesn’t appear in this issue, and that’s too bad; whenever she was absent from this series, she was much missed. This issue’s splash page shows a Chinese dragon lurking under the pool Ollie and Shado are drinking from. This is appropriate because in Chinese culture, dragons are strongly associated with water.

Y: THE LAST MAN #38 (DC, 2005) – “Paper Dolls Chapter 2,” [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Pia Guerra. Yorick and Agent 355 try to prevent the news of Yorick’s existence from becoming public. Agent 355 falls out a window while fighting a woman who knows where Beth is. This issue also includes an interesting discussion about women in politics. An Australian woman says that in her country, female politicians are accused of being lesbians if they don’t have children, and if they do, they’re accused of being unfit to serve. Australia later did have a female prime minister, Julia Gillard, but she faced a ton of misogynistic opposition.

TOTALLY AWESOME HULK #12 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Mahmud Asrar. The crab monster is unmasked as Christian Sung, an asshole who wants to increase his own  powers by making Amadeus angry and feeding off of Amadeus’s gamma radiation. Amadeus defeats Christian and saves the baby, but Maddie is pissed at him for his repeated failure to manage his anger. Afterward, Amadeus tracks down Clint Barton but doesn’t kill him. This series was not bad, though it was totally overshadowed by Immortal Hulk.

LOVE FIGHTS #6 (Oni, 2003) – untitled, [W/A] Andi Watson. A combination of superheroes, romance, and metatextual commentary on the comics industry. This issue suffers from an excess of “inside baseball”. It’s full of stuff that only makes sense to people who already read comics, even though its art style and its romantic themes make it potentially appealing to people who aren’t already comics fans. I’m not sure if I like Andi Watson’s charming but minimalistic art style.

JAMES BOND 007: A SILENT ARMAGEDDON #2 (Dark Horse, 1993) – “A Silent Armageddon,” [W] Simon Jowett, [A] John M. Burns. This comic’s plot revolves around a little girl who’s a computer genius. I’m not a big James Bond fan, but this comic is interesting because it shows him in a tender, fatherly role, while he usually seems to be an unemotional robot. The main attraction of this comic for me is John M. Burns’s art. Here he uses more linework than painting, and his coloring is less lush than in his recent 2000 AD work. His art is still impressive, though.

SPIDER-WOMAN #10 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Dennis Hopeless, [A] Javier Rodriguez & Veronica Fish. In this Civil War II crossover, Jess goes on a bunch of missions at the prompting of Ulysses. There’s a funny scene where Jess apprehends a pet-eating slime monster in its apartment, and then an even funnier scene about an elderly antique store owner with reality-warping powers. The best part of this latter scene is how the woman’s cats react to their house being swallowed by a black hole. At the end of the issue, Jess learns that Hawkeye has killed Bruce Banner. This scene is also funny because of Jess’s delayed reaction. Jess finds out while she’s on the phone with Carol Danvers, who has already heard. Carol keeps trying to tell Jess that it’s not a good time to talk, but Jess won’t let her get a word in edgewise, and then Jess turns around and sees the news on the TV.

THE BATMAN ADVENTURES #31 (DC, 1995) – “Anarky,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Dev Madan. Robin saves Gotham’s power brokers, including Bruce Wayne, from being executed by Anarky. This issue is effectively a Robin solo story, since Batman only appears in it as Bruce Wayne, and spends the entire issue in captivity. It’s not clear whether the writer agrees with Anarky’s politics or not. When Anarky accuses his other three victims of various crimes, Bruce Wayne points out that they also give a lot of money to charity. Anarky replies that their charity contributions are just a fig leaf to salvage their conscience, and Bruce doesn’t reply.

TALES OF THE BEANWORLD #15 (Eclipse, 1989) – “Jump’n Beanish!”, [W/A] Larry Marder. Proffy tries and fails to teleport to Dreamishness’s dimension, like Beanish does. Meanwhile, the Chow Sol’jers can’t find any accessible Chow, but Mr. Spook finds a clever solution to the problem. At the end of the issue, Beanish realizes that the hearts that surround Dreamishness are the same ones that appear when Hoi Polloi are suffering from sprout-butt fever. There’s also a backup story about the Goofy Jerks.

L.E.G.I.O.N. ’90 #15 (DC, 1990) – “Nightmares,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Barry Kitson. Garryn Bek uses the Emerald Eye to turn himself into a god. Lobo infiltrates Dagon-Ra’s gang. Pulsar Stargrave kidnaps the infant Lyrissa Mallor and ages her to adulthood. This issue goes far beyond passing the Bechdel Test: it includes a scene where four different female characters (Stealth, Phase, Strata and Lydea Mallor) talk about things other than men. Not only that, these characters all have entirely different personalities.

QUEEN & COUNTRY #8 (Oni, 2002 ) – “Crystal Ball Part 1,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Leandro Fernandez. Tara and the other Minders capture a laptop from an al-Qaeda terrorist, and then there’s some wrangling about which intelligence agencies have rights to the laptop. Meanwhile, another terrorist turns himself in to the US embassy in Cairo. I thought I had read this issue before, but I was wrong; I started collecting this series with issue 9. Leandro Fernandez’s artwork here is already impressive, but by the time of Old Guard, he had gotten even better.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #703 (Marvel, 2018) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Leonardo Romero. Jack Rogers begs the Cosmic-Cube-powered Red Skull to save his child. There’s also an inset sequence drawn by Alan Davis. This is another bad issue of a bad storyline. This story’s main redeeming quality was Leonardo Romero’s art.

RISE OF THE BLACK PANTHER #6 (Marvel, 2018) – “Underground Spiritual Game,” [W] Evan Narcisse, [A] Javier Pina. Mostly a long fight scene between T’Challa and Killmonger. There’s not much in this issue that’s new or original, and this whole miniseries was underwhelming.

ASTRO CITY #5 (Image, 1995) – “Reconaissance,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Brent Anderson. I’ve read this issue before, but not for a long time. Mr. Bridwell, a reclusive old man, is secretly an agent of a warlike alien race, later named as the Enelsians. Both names are references to E. Nelson Bridwell. Mr. Bridwell’s job is to send his bosses a message telling them to invade Earth, but he can’t decide whether to do so or not, because he begins to appreciate the inherent nobility of humans. The surprise in this issue is that in the end, Bridwell does send the signal, whereas in a classic Marvel or DC comic, he would have decided not to. In rereading this issue, I realize I remembered it wrong. I thought that the reason Bridwell gave up on humankind was because of his encounter with Crackerjack, a sexist, showboating hero who takes credit for others’ achievements. Crackerjack is indeed depicted as an asshole. But what actually destroys Bridwell’s faith in humanity is that Crackerjack accidentally reveals himself to be Bridwell’s neighbor Eugene Wallace, and then their other neighbors – a bunch of annoying old ladies – pretend that they knew Wallace was Crackerjack all along. And Bridwell is disgusted at their hypocrisy, because earlier in the issue, he heard these same women gossiping about how Eugene couldn’t hold down a job and was probably gay. The Enelsians reappeared in the Confession story arc, where they carried out their planned invasion of Earth.  

SUICIDE SQUAD: DANGEROUS ALLIES #3 (DC, 2008) – “Allies,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Javier Pina. Amanda Waller assembles a new Suicide Squad team that includes Rick Flag, who’s somehow not dead. This issue is well-written, but it lacks the character interaction that made the original Suicide Squad such a classic. Also, at this point Ostrander wasn’t able to use some of his classic Suicide Squad characters. There’s a sad moment at the end where we learn that Captain Boomerang is dead, although he’s been replaced by his son.

BLACK LIGHTNING #4 (DC, 1977) – “Beware the Cyclotronic Man,” [W] Tony Isabella, [A] Trevor von Eeden. Black Lightning rescues Jimmy Olsen from a villain called the Cyclotronic Man, but then Superman shows up to save Jimmy, mistakenly thinking Black Lightning is trying to kill him. This is a pretty mediocre comic.

FUTURE IMPERFECT #5 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Greg Land. The Maestro puts on the Destroyer armor and uses it to kill Dr. Doom and become the ruler of the world. But then Rick Jones reveals that the Maestro is just having a vision, and the Maestro reverts to an elderly Bruce Banner. So basically this issue has the same ending as Superman Annual #11. Future Imperfect seems to be PAD’s personal favorite among his Hulk stories, and he’s revisited it many times. But none of the revised versions have been as good as the original, because PAD has declined as a writer.

CONVERGENCE: NEW TEEN TITANS #2 (DC, 2015) – “Game of Heroes,” [W] Marv Wolfman, [A] Nicola Scott. The classic Titans fight to save their personal chunk of Battleworld. Also, Dick and Kory resolve their crumbling marriage, and Jericho officially comes out as gay. The scene where Jericho comes out is slightly ambiguous; he does so by making the ASL sign for “gay.” This issue contains a notable piece of fanservice: in the third-to-last panel, Kory has her hand on Dick’s butt.

AIRBOY-MR. MONSTER SPECIAL #1 (Eclipse, 1987) – “The Café at the Edge of the World,” [W/A] Michael T. Gilbert w/ Mark Pacella. Golden Age cartoonist Everett Coleman – presumably based on Bill Everett and Jack Cole – has gained the power to summon his own creations into existence by drawing them. One of Coleman’s creations, Black Axis, tries to convince Everett to commit suicide, but Mr. Monster, the Heap, and Airboy team up to save Everett. In a public Facebook post, MTG said that he wrote this story as a Mr. Monster/Heap crossover, but his editor ordered him to include Airboy as well. He did so reluctantly, but never worked for Eclipse again. MTG recently restored this story to its original form, and plans to publish it soon.

VELVET #4 (Image, 2014) – “Before the Living End Part 4,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Steve Epting. Velvet visits the Carnival of Fools in Monaco, where she rescues an old enemy and lover named Roman. Afterward, Roman casuallly mentions that Mockingbird, Velvet’s husband, has been killed. This is another excellent issue.

DETECTIVE COMICS #571 (DC, 1987) – “Fear for Sale,” [W] Mike W. Barr, [A] Alan Davis. The Scarecrow creates a drug that causes people to lose their inhibitions and to endanger their own lives recklessly. Batman gets infected with the drug, and Robin (Jason) tries to defeat the Scarecrow himself, but gets captured. Batman overcomes the drug’s influence and saves Robin, by “replacing the fears the drug nullified with a different fear” – namely, the fear of Robin’s death. That’s a pretty ironic ending, given what happened to Jason just a year later. Mike W. Barr’s writing tends to be boring and humorless, and the best thing about this issue is Alan Davis’s adorable depiction of Jason. According to the imaginary tombstone at the end of the issue, Jason is only twelve years old at most.

DAREDEVIL #82 (Marvel, 1971) – “Now Send… the Scorpion,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Gene Colan. The Scorpion kidnaps Black Widow and her chauffeur Ivan, and Matt has to save them. Meanwhile, Karen is torn between her love for Matt and for her agent Phil, and Foggy is being blackmailed by someone called the Assassin. I think Conway and Colan’s Daredevil run was the best era of Daredevil prior to Frank Miller’s arrival.

MIRACLEMAN #11 (Eclipse, 1987) – “Olympus Chapter One: Cronos,” [W] Alan Moore, [A] John Totleben. I’ve read this before, but not for a long time. In this issue, Miracleman is contacted by two Qys aliens. In the process of kicking his ass, they learn he has a child, and they head off to look for Liz and baby Winter. Then Avril Lear shows up to save the day, appearing as Miraclewoman for the first time. This issue also includes a Laser Eraser and Pressbutton backup story.

JOJO’S BIZARRE ADVENTURE FCBD 2015 EDITION (Viz, 2015) – “Phantom Blood,” [W/A] Hirohiko Araki. This FCBD comic includes chapters of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and Yu-Gi-Oh. I’d be interested in trying both of these comics, but neither of these chapters tells a complete story on its own.

SPIDER-MAN 2099 #2 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Will Sliney. Miguel wakes up from a coma to discover that his girlfriend is dead. He doesn’t appear in costume until the very end of the issue. Neither the second nor the third volumes of Spider-Man 2099 were any good, and I shouldn’t have bothered buying either of them.

I went back to Heroes on June 19. This was a pretty light week, because some of the comics that were supposed to arrive that week were delayed, and I didn’t get them until July 3.

TWIG #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Kyle Strahm. With the Pathsayer dead, Twig has to figure out for himself how to operate the Pathsayer’s quest-granting machine. In using the machine, Twig figures out where to take his gem, but also drains the power from the gem, and he has to visit the “Nektarmancer” to learn how to recharge the gem. The Nektarmancer tells Twig to go and collect three plot coupons, one of which is on the moon. He also reveals that this is the last gem that has to be placed, and afterward, the world will enter into a new era of harmony. This comic’s characters and setting are absolutely amazing. Each panel is full of weird creatures and devices and architectural or geographical features. I especially love the Pathsayer’s Rube Goldberg/Dr. Seuss device, and the village of faceless glowing-eyed people with bird-shaped hats. These things all feel intriguing and mysterious, even though they’re not relevant to the story. I also like how Twig’s world feels weird and alien, but in a gentle, non-threatening way. I’ve never seen The Dark Crystal, but I feel like Twig must be like The Dark Crystal. Skottie Young was at Heroes Con, but there was always a long line at his table. I did manage to see him briefly and tell him how much I like Twig.    

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #12 (DC, 2022) – “Insiders,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Cian Tormey. Nightwing plants a bug in Luthor’s office, allowing him, Jon and Jay to listen to a conversation  in which Luthor and Bendix mention a plot involving a senator. Jon and Jay confront the senator and expose the plot, but the senator turns into a giant tentacled monster. Jay defeats the monster by phasing inside it and removing Bendix’s control device, but in the process, he reveals his own secret identity.

FARMHAND #18 (Image, 2022) – “Allergy Season,” [W/A] Rob Guillory. Riley tries to draw a comic, but finds that it’s harder than it looks. Tree (the preacher) and Mae battle two of Thorne’s agents. Zeke and Mae’s marriage continues to deteriorate. Monica Thorne asks Jed for his late wife Anna’s body. He responds by spitting in her face, but she decides to take the body anyway.

SAVAGE DRAGON #262 (Image, 2022) – “Scorched Earth!”, [W/A] Erik Larson. Malcolm and Paul fight some Vicious Circle villains. Horridus dies of COVID due to refusing the vaccine. Afterward, her doctors try to cure patients of COVID by injecting themselves with Dragon’s blood, but they only succeed in killing themselves and their patients. This issue was a bit disappointing after such a long hiatus; it’s only the second new issue this year. I still think Erik is easily going to reach a higher issue number than Dave Sim did, and he’s going to do it without going completely nuts.

DO A POWERBOMB #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Daniel Warren Johnson. Yua Steelrose is both a successful professional wrestler, and a mother to a young daughter. But at the peak of her career, she suffers a fatal injury in the ring. Ten years later, Yua’s daughter Lona is trying to become a wrestler herself, but her father interferes with her career and prevents her from finding a trainer, not wanting Lona to suffer her mother’s fate. But then a necromancer recruits Lona for an other-dimensional wrestling tournament, where if she wins, she can resurrect her mother. I haven’t read Daniel Warren Johnson’s comics before, but I became interested in him when he was nominated for several Eisners. This issue is a great  introduction to his work. His style reminds me of Paul Pope, and his characters are believable and sympathetic. He was at Heroes Con, but I didn’t meet him, and I couldn’t find any back issues of his previous series, Murder Falcon and Extremity.

SANDMAN PRESENTS: NIGHTMARE COUNTRY #3 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Lisandro Estherren. Agony and Ecstasy burn down Madison Flynn’s apartment. She flees to her friend Robbie, who is visiting his lover, a Republican billionaire. There’s an inset sequence with art by Francesco Francavilla. So far this series has been a bit disappointing. It’s not as exciting as James Tynion’s other current titles.

JUSTICE WARRIORS #1 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Bubble City,” [W] Matt Bors, [A] Ben Clarkson. A political satire about cops who only protect the privileged residents of a bubble city, while terrorizing everyone else. This comic is funny, but has some problems with pacing, and it feels as if Bors isn’t entirely sure what tone he’s going for. I believe that Bors is mostly a political cartoonist and that Justice Warriors is his first extended work of fiction.

GRIM #2 (Boom!, 2022) – “The End,” [W] Stephanie Phillips, [A] Flaviano. In Mexico, a giant Grim Reaper starts killing people to “balance the ledger.” In the underworld, Jess gets suspended from her job as a reaper, and she tries to figure out the secrets behind her suspension. This series’s premise is very compelling. Stephanie Phillips was at Heroes Con, but I didn’t get to see her. I was surprised to realize that until now, I’ve been confusing Stephanie Phillips with Stephanie Williams. They are two different people.

BUNNY MASK: THE HOLLOW INSIDE #2 (AfterShock, 2022) – “The Hollow Inside,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Andrea Mutti. Bee discovers she has no memories of her childhood. Bunny Mask murders some jerk who’s blackmailing a woman with revenge porn photos. This issue is entertaining, but it barely advances the plot. I met Andrea Mutti briefly at Heroes Con.

2000 AD #2252 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as #2251 above. Dredd fights the Sentientoid, an octopus-esque Soviet robot. Qaganon hypnotizes Dredd’s fellow Judges into turning against him. Diaboliks: as above. We are shown that the Vatican has an entire library of children who are being used as living repositories of information. Scarlet Traces: as above. The Jovians agree to fight the Martians. Pandora Perfect: as above. Pandora discovers that the diamond she stole was a fake, and she gets sentenced to prison. Meanwhile, Spugg steals Gort and starts cloning him. The Out: as above. Cyd Finlea meets some more humans.

ORCS: THE CURSE #1 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Christine Larsen. I’m very glad to see this series again. In this new miniseries, an evil wizard tries to enlist the orcs in his service, but the orcs refuse to do so unless they’re paid. Angry, the wizard turns his anthropomorphic crows into a giant crow monster, which he sends to attack the orcs. With the aid of a couple of crows who escaped the transformation, the orcs defeat the wizard. This issue is as fun as the last miniseries was, and the orcs are still their raucous, vulgar selves.

WONDER WOMAN #788 (DC, 2022) – “The Villainy of Our Fears Part 2,” [W] Michael Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Emanuela Lupacchino. While Diana is visiting the Hall of Justice, Dr. Psycho stages a men’s-rights protest which turns into a terrorist attack. Psycho blames Diana for causing the attack herself. At the end of the issue, a “classic” Wonder Woman villain, the Duke of Deception, is reintroduced. I put “classic” in quotation marks because I don’t know if this character ever appeared in any good stories. I like how the writers are using Dr. Psycho to directly confront the topics of toxic masculinity and MRA-ism.

POISON IVY #1 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Marcio Takara. Poison Ivy travels around the country causing ecological catastrophe. Harley Quinn makes a cameo appearance in a flashback. This series doesn’t seem relevant to the typical themes of G. Willow Wilson’s work, but this issue does include some interesting meditations about ecology and the impact of humans on the world.

UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY: DESTINY MAN ONE-SHOT (Image, 2022) – “Destiny Man,” [W] Scott Snyder & Charles Soule, [A] Giuseppe Camuncoli & Leonardo Marcello Grassi. In #18, we learned that the Destiny Man is Charlotte and Daniel’s unknown brother, Alexander. This issue explains how Alexander was born, as a sort of backup plan in case something went wrong with Charlotte and Daniel, and how he became the ruler of the Destiny Zone. Project Aurora plays a key role in this issue, but I’m still not entirely sure what Aurora is.

SEASON OF THE BRUJA #3 (Oni, 2022) – untitled, [W] Aaron Durán, [A] Sara Soler. A creepy old priest plots Althalia’s assassination in the name of Hernán Cortés. Althalia tries and fails to contact her grandmother’s spirit. Not much happens in this issue, but Season of the Bruja has been excellent so far. Season of the Bruja is yet another excellent series that is probably not getting the publicity it deserves. BTW, I hope everything is okay with Oni. It’s distressing that they’ve fired their two top executives.

JURASSIC LEAGUE #2 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Juan Gedeon, [W] Daniel Warren Johnson. Dinosaur Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman battle dinosaur Bizarro and Atrocitus. We also meet a proto-human version of Robin. This issue is entertaining, but the joke isn’t as funny the second time around.

BATGIRLS #7 (DC, 2022) – “Bad Reputation Part 1,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. The Batgirls allow Seer to be kidnapped by the Saints, so they can track her and follow her to the Saints’ lair. They follow Seer’s trail to the Iceberg Lounge, and Babs and Dick go there on a date. Babs and Dick are such a cute couple, both in this series and in Nightwing, that I almost forget I’m a lifetime Dick/Kory shipper. This issue has the same excellent character interaction as in the previous storyline, but Jorge Corona’s art is much missed. Robbi Rodriguez was the subject of #MeToo allegations, but it appears that his career has survived.  

MONKEY PRINCE #5 (DC, 2022) – “Big Stick Energy,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Bernard Chang. Marcus moves to Amnesty Bay and fights Shellestriah, the daughter of the King of the Trench, who I assume is an Aquaman villain. Aquaman himself is not in this issue, but Black Manta is. A problem with Gene Luen Yang’s Shang-Chi is its overreliance on guest stars, and I fear Monkey Prince will have the same problem. I like how Yang is taking advantage of the terrifying monsters that are characteristic of Chinese folklore.

X-MEN RED #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “Loss,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Stefano Caselli. Tarn almost beats Vulcan for a seat on the Great Ring. But Roberto is sitting in the audience next to Isca, whose power is that she can never lose, and he says to Isca “I bet you Tarn wins.” Of course he loses that bet. This is a brilliant moment. I also like the scene where Magneto laments his inability to revive his oldest daughter, Anya.

ARCHIE & FRIENDS SUMMER LOVIN’ #1 (Archie, 2022) – “Carnival Love,” [W] Tee Franklin, [A] Dan Parent. This story introduces Eliza Han, Archie’s first disabled protagonist. It’s just five pages, and it’s not much of a story. This is the first Tee Franklin comic I’ve read in a while. Her promising career was derailed by revelations of her rude behavior toward the artists she was working with. Dan Parent was at Heroes Con, but I didn’t talk to him. “Windsurfing Woes,” [W] Tom DeFalco, [A] Pat Kennedy & Tim Kennedy. This takes up most of the issue. It starts out as a typical Archie story, whose plot is that Veronica gets a crush on a windsurfer, Biff Logun. The atypical twist ending is that Biff turns out to be gay. Tom DeFalco was supposed to be at Heroes Con, but cancelled. This was disappointing to me because I wanted to ask him about Marvel’s Star imprint.

2000 AD #2253 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. The battle continues, and we meet another of the assassins, a giant female alien named Keeper Hag. Qaganon’s dialogue in this chapter is very funny; the memes he promulgates include TimeCube and sovereign citizen theory. Diaboliks: as above. The protagonists try to rescue the codex-children from the Vatican. Pandora Perfect: as above. Pandora escapes from prison and looks for Gort. She discovers Gort and his clones working in Spugg’s “sausage mine.” Scarlet Traces: as above. The Martians and Jovians go to war. The Out: as above. During a stopover on Cyd’s trip, her bag is stolen by crooks. It’s rather awkward that Pandora Perfect and Cyd Finlea both have a bag of holding. I didn’t notice this fact myself; I think it was pointed out in the letter column of one of these progs.

QUESTS ASIDE #2 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Brian Schirmer, [A] Elena Gogou. Barrow receives another offer to sell his pub, but he decides he can’t, because it’s his home and his family. There’s a subplot about the relationship problems of two of the bar employees, one of whom is a skeleton. The best part about this issue is the “Adventurers Anonymous” support group.

HULKLING & WICCAN #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Possibilities,” [W] Josh Trujillo, [A] Jodi Nishijima. Wiccan and Hulkling are unhappy with their long-distance marriage. Agatha Harkness causes each of them to have a vision where he’s married to someone else. Teddy and Billy manage to see through the visions and reaffirm their love for each other. This issue is okay, but I’m not a particular fan of either of these characters. This comic was originally published as a digital “Infinity Comic.” Marvel did a good job of converting it to print form without damaging the quality of the art. It’s easy to screw this up – an example is Dark Horse’s print version of Dorkin, Dyer and Humiston’s Calla Cthulhu, where the size of the lettering was inconsistent from one panel to another.

ASTRONAUT DOWN #1 (AfterShock, 2022) – “Did I Overcook the Chicken?”, [W] James Patrick, [A] Rubine. The world is about to be destroyed by runaway quantum-mechanical mutations. Three astronauts are selected for “Mission Politzer,” which is somehow intended to save the world by sending the astronauts into an alternate reality. I don’t understand how all of this works. James Patrick does a good job of depicting the three astronauts’ very different personalities and motivations. Another theme of this issue, as conveyed in the emails appearing after the story, is that the quantum mutation tragedy was caused by humanity’s lack of will to do anything to stop it.

SKYBOUND PRESENTS AFTERSCHOOL #1 (Image, 2022) – “Spineless,” [W] Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead, [A] Greg Hinkle. A high school girl discovers that her dog is a sentient alien. She helps send him home, through a disgusting process that requires her to dissect some animals. This experience gives her the confidence she needs to become her class valedictorian, but as she’s giving her valedictorian speech, Earth is invaded by aliens from the dog’s planet. Benson and Moorhead haven’t written comics before, but this is a creditable professional debut. “Spineless” is an effective combination of humor and gruesome body horror.

DOGS OF LONDON #2 (AfterShock, 2022) – “Who Let the Dogs Out,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Artecida. In a flashback, we see that when Frank and the other Dogs were inmates in a borstal – that is, a juvenile detention center – they were subjects in an unethical scientific study that killed one of their fellow inmates. Another later flashback shows that when Frank’s girlfriend became pregnant, she was murdered by her own brother, a member of a rival gang. Back in the present, the government takes custody of the exhumed bodies of the three dead Dogs. Terry tries to destroy the bodies by blowing up the hospital where they were taken, but the bodies come back to life. I’m fascinated to see what happens next.

BLOOD SYNDICATE SEASON ONE #2 (Milestone, 2022) – “Where I’m From,” [W] Geoffrey Thorne, [A] Chriscross. This issue is disappointing because it focuses almost entirely on Wise Son, and the other future Blood Syndicate members play only a minor role. At this point, we’ve hardly seen any of the team members yet, and if the series continues at this pace, the first season is going to end before the team is assembled. Maybe the highlight of this issue is the scene where Holocaust takes control of Dakota’s gangs by murdering all his rivals. Thorne’s version of Holocaust is terrifying.

THE MARVELS #11 (Marvel, 2022) – “A Journey into Mystery,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Yildiray Cinar. In Threadneedle’s comic book store, the superheroes discover a comic book that explains how the nation of Siancong started out as a person. This whole series has been very strange, and this issue is the strangest of all. I’m still not sure what the point of this series is.

BLIND ALLEY #2 (Behemoth, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Irra. This comic has a rambling plot that goes nowhere – or maybe it just seems that way because of the incompetent translation. As an example of how this comic is translated, when one character sneezes, another character says “Jesus, Maria and Jose.” Then the following exchange ensues: “Do you know what used to happen to people who sneezed and didn’t say those words?” “What are you talking about?” “God blows your head off.” “Then… if your head explodes, world hunger ends!” Not only is this awkward and unidiomatic English, but the last line is a non sequitur. Also, Blind Alley’s smaller-than-normal format is annoying. I’m going to give up on this series.

2000 AD #2254 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Dredd convinces his robot judge allies to overcome Qaganon’s influence and help him fight the Keeper Hag. Diaboliks: as above. The protagonists make it to the Choir of Codices, where the children are held. Pandora Perfect: as above. Pandora identifies the real Gort among all the clones, and then Gort tells her that the sausage planet is alive. A funny moment in this chapter is when Pandora tries to find the real Gort by singing a song, in order to see which of the robots sings along – but it doesn’t work, because they all sing along. Scarlet Traces: as above. The Jovian-Martian battle continues. The Out: as above. Cyd gets her bag back.

LEGION OF X #2 (Marvel, 2022) – “Let Us Prey,” [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Jan Bazaldua. Kurt’s Legion fights a “skinjacker,” a villain who can control people’s bodies. This issue is okay, but I’m still not super-impressed with Si Spurrier’s X-Men comics.

AQUAMAN: ANDROMEDA #1 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Ram V, [A] Christian Ward. The main character in this issue is not Aquaman himself but marine biologist Yvette Verne, a member of the crew of a submarine on a mysterious underwater mission. Like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which inspired Yvette’s name, Aquaman: Andromeda’s main theme is the majestic weirdness and mystery of the sea. This theme is conveyed in large part by Christian Ward’s moody art and coloring. Ward’s skill with color is the reason he’s one of the best artists in the industry. This issue also includes a scene where Aquaman meets an old woman, and they greet each other with “amgiichxizax” and “aang.” According to Google, these words come from the Aleut language, which is native to Alaska and Kamchatka. Indigenous culture is also a major theme in Ram V’s Swamp Thing.

THE SPECIALIST V1 (Catalan, 1982/1987) – “Full Moon in Dendera,” [W/A] Magnus. I’d like to make an active effort to get through my backlog of European comics albums. Magnus is an important Italian cartoonist, but this volume of The Specialist is one of his only works available in English. This volume has such a compressed and economical narrative that it’s often hard to follow, and it demands active effort from the reader. It’s very interesting, though, and it demonstrates Magnus’s mastery of black-and-white art. This volume is an espionage thriller, but with a strong theme of Egyptian mythology, and its combination of realistic adventure with mysticism reminds me of Corto Maltese.

TARZAN #79 (Dell, 1956) – “The Black Cloaks,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Jesse Marsh. Tarzan  saves some monkeys who were enslaved by black baboons. In the second story, “Buto Takes a Vow,” Tarzan helps an African man hunt down an elephant. There’s also a Brothers of the Spear story by a young Russ Manning. His draftsmanship here is kind of crude and scratchy, without his usual slickness of line.

BATMAN #396 (DC, 1986) – “Box-Office Smash,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Tom Mandrake. Batman and his allies hunt down the Film Freak. Doug Moench is not my favorite Batman writer, but this issue was much better than I expected. Moench does lots of funny stuff with the Film Freak’s gimmick of patterning his crimes after classic films. For example, Film Freak knows what the police are going to do because he’s been watching them from the window across the street, like in Rear Window.

THE FADE OUT #2 (Image, 2014) – “The Death of Me,” [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. At Valeria Sommers’s funeral, Charlie reveals to the reader that he’s been suffering from writer’s block for years, and all his scripts are written by his blacklisted, alcoholic friend Gil. Lots of other stuff happens, but that’s the main thing I remember. The Fade Out is a fascinating mystery comic which also demonstrates deep knowledge of the classic Hollywood era – or the end of it; at one point in this comic, there’s a reference to the 1948 court decision that ended the old studio system.  

CAMELOT 3000 #8 (DC, 1983) – “Judas Knight,” [W] Mike W. Barr, [A] Brian Bolland. Arthur proves that Sir Kay betrayed the Round Table, even though I think it was really Tristan who did that. This series’s version of Tristan is an early example of a transgender comic book character, though perhaps not an example of positive transgender representation. Tristan was a man in his first life, then was reborn as a woman, and is willing to do anything to become a man again. Anyway, Camelot 3000 is a disappointing series because first, Mike W. Barr is a boring and humorless writer, and he only had a casual knowledge of Arthurian myth. Second, the main selling point of the comic was Brian Bolland’s art, but under the constraints of a monthly schedule, he was not able to do his best work.

FUTURE IMPERFECT #4 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Peter David, [A] Greg Land. The Maestro goes looking for Ulik, who eventually leads him to Rick Jones. This is another average issue. I do think Ulik is a fun villain who doesn’t appear often enough.

COMPANIONS OF THE DUSK VOL. 1 (Catalan, 1984/1991) – “The Spell of the Misty Forest,” [W/A] François Bourgeon. François Bourgeon is a major BD artist, whose specialty is historical fiction, but this is his only work available in English. Companions of the Dusk is set in 1350 and follows the adventures of a knight and a peasant boy and girl, all of them refugees from the Hundred Years’ War. While traveling through the countryside, they have a dream where they’re captured by goblins and forced to go on a quest. Bourgeon’s artwork is incredibly lush and detailed; his characters are realistic, if rather unsympathetic; and he conveys the brutal horror of medieval warfare. The highlight of the book is the goblin scene. Bourgeon’s fairies look sexy and alluring, but also tawdry and threatening, and the translator makes a noble effort to translate their rhyming dialogue. I want to read the other two volumes of this series, and also Bourgeon’s masterwork Les Passagers du Vent, but I’ll have to look for the French editions.

2000 AD #2255 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Dredd defeats the Keeper Hag, but can’t save Atlantis from being destroyed by flooding. Judge Maitland vows revenge on the Red Queen. Diaboliks: as above. The protagonists save the codex-children. Pandora Perfect: as above. Spugg gets eaten by the sausage planet, and Pandora reveals that she has the real Wonga Diamond. This story was funny, but I didn’t like it as much as Nakka of the S.TA.R.S. Scarlet Traces: as above. Ahron and Iykarus are saved by a certain Captain Skellern, and Iykarus is reunited with his wife and newborn daughter. The Out: as above. Cyd meets some more humans, the last of whom is a recluse who refuses to open the door to her.

DENNIS THE MENACE BONUS MAGAZINE SERIES #123 (Fawcett, 1973) – “Oh Christmas Tree, Ow! Christmas Tree,” uncredited. Four stories with Christmas themes. In the first one, Dennis causes his dad to pay way too much money for a Christmas tree. In the second story, Dennis’s mom tries to hide his Christmas presents, but Dennis finds them anyway. I have nothing in particular to say about these stories, but they’re funny.

SPIDER-WOMAN #8 (Marvel, 2016) – untitled, [W] Dennis Hopeless, [A] Javier Rodriguez. Jess fights Tiger Shark and a giant octopus, while talking on the phone with Roger about child care. This issue doesn’t have a super-exciting plot, but it’s extremely well-drawn. Javier  Rodriguez’s is so good with panel compositions and page layouts, that he can take even a fairly generic superhero fight scene and turn it into a masterpiece of comics storytelling. I especially like the establishing shot of Tiger Shark’s apartment, and the scene where the octopus falls through the roof of a fancy apartment while the occupants are having dinner.

MOTHER PANIC #9 (DC, 2017) – “Victim Complex Part 3,” [W] Jody Houser, [A] Tommy Lee Edwards. I’m not sure what this comic is about, and honestly the best thing in it is the John Workman lettering. I should have given up on this series after the first issue.

THE WOODS #7 (Boom!, 2014) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. This issue’s focal character is Ben, the big black kid. In the flashback sequence, we see that Ben is gay but has a homophobic father, and he manipulates Kayla into pretending to be his girlfriend. Back in the present, there’s a chase sequence where the kids flee from a horde of multi-armed monkeys.

LOBSTER JOHNSON: THE IRON PROMETHEUS #4 (Dark Horse, 2007) – untitled, [W] Mike Mignola, [A] Jason Armstrong. Lobster Johnson fights some kind of supernatural menace. I feel like if you’ve read one of these Hellboy spinoffs, you’ve read them all. They all have the same basic mood and aesthetic, regardless of who is drawing them, and it’s hard to tell them apart. (An exception is The Visitor: How and Why He Stayed.)

JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS #6 (Archie, 2017) – untitled, [W] Cameron DeOrdio & Marguerite Bennett, [A] Audrey Mok. Alexander Cabot imprisons the Pussycats in his Antarctic lair. The major problem with this comic is that Marguerite Bennett’s dialogue tries too hard to be witty. Just about every single line is some kind of a quip. But some of the quips are funny. At one point in the comic, one of the Pussycats addresses a polar bear as “Iorek,” and then later, the polar bears all suddenly have armor on, with no explanation of where the armor came from.

RINGSIDE #9 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Nick Barber. Nothing new to say about this comic. As a wrestling-focused comic book, Ringside is vastly inferior to Do a Powerbomb.

STEVEN UNIVERSE #3 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Melanie Gillman, [A] Katy Farina. Mayor Dewey holds a “food truck rally,” but it doesn’t go well, I’m not sure why. Then he holds a “community picnic” and it succeeds. This is a cute comic, but I don’t quite get the point of it, and I still can’t get into Steven Universe. I think that the Cartoon Network aesthetic is just not for me.

I went to Heroes Con from June 24 to 26. The convention was unfortunately overshadowed by Friday morning’s horrifying news that I don’t want to talk about. Other than that, it was perhaps the most fun time I’ve had since 2019. I met lots of old friends, plus some new ones. I bought a ton of comics, and I moderated two panels. I thought that the censorship panel was a particular success because of the timeliness of the topic, and the audience really seemed to get into it.

My comics purchases were a little disappointing compared to past years, but that’s because I was mostly going for quantity over quality. I bought a lot of comics for 25 or 50 cents, but I didn’t buy a whole lot of big-ticket items. I do think I need to be willing to spend more money on individual back issues. Here are some of the comics I bought:

AVENGERS #46 (Marvel, 1967) – “The Agony and the Anthill!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] John Buscema. The Whirlwind – making his first appearance under that name, rather than as the Human Top – seeks revenge on Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne. This was the most expensive back issue I bought at Heroes Con, at $10. I bought it right at the end of the show, when I was running low on money and wanted to buy something a little more expensive. This issue is full of fun character interactions, which are the main thing I’m looking for in an Avengers story. Roy Thomas was at the con, but only for one day, and I didn’t get to talk to him.

SOLO AVENGERS #14 (Marvel, 1989) – “When the Widow Calls!”, [W] Tom DeFalco, [A] Al Milgrom. I must have seen this comic hundreds of times, but I never bothered to buy it until now, because it looks completely uninteresting. And indeed the first story is pretty bad. However, the backup story, “Court Costs!”, is a hidden gem: a She-Hulk story by Chris Claremont and Alan Davis. In this story, Jen Walters is trying her first case before the Supreme Court, but she keeps getting interrupted by Titania, who demands that Jen come outside the court and fight her. This story is very funny, and Alan Davis’s art is beautiful. I especially like how he depicts the gradual deterioration of Jen’s hair and clothing. It’s too bad that this story is about the Supreme Court, because I’m not feeling very fond of the Supreme Court right now, but let’s not talk about that.

NIGHTWING #81 (DC, 2021) – “Leaping Into the Light Part 4,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo. At the convention I looked everywhere for the Tom Taylor Nightwings I was missing, but I was only able to find two of them. In this issue Dick fights Heartless – who reappears in the latest issue – while trying to save a bunch of children. Meanwhile, Boss Zucco’s daughter is elected mayor of Blüdhaven, but when Dick confronts her, she claims that her real father is John Grayson, and that she’s Dick’s sister. Bruno Redondo’s art in this series is amazing. Nightwing elevated him from a nobody to a superstar.

SCOOBY-DOO MYSTERY COMICS #22 (Gold Key, 1973) – “The Gypsy’s Curse,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Dan Spiegle. This was one of my better finds at the con, because Evanier/Spiegle Scooby comics are very rare, I’m not quite sure why. This issue’s stories are about a phony g*ps* curse and a phony volcano god. Evanier’s writing in both stories is very witty. In the first story this issue, an innocent man is hypnotized into believing he’s a werewolf by the use of a “sleep-teacher… like people use to learn foreign languages!” It turns out that sleep-teaching doesn’t really work. I always thought it did work, but only because of a Garfield episode where Jon Arbuckle learns Spanish by listening to tapes in his sleep. And who wrote that episode? Mark Evanier.

THE WOODS #1 (Boom!, 2014) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Michael Dialynas. The students and staff of Bay Point Preparatory High School in Milwaukee are somehow transported to a terrifying alternate reality. The adults have no idea what to do, but one of the students, the sociopathic Adrian, decides he knows how to save everyone, and he leads his classmates on a quest. The Woods appears to be inspired by Kazuo Umezu’s The Drifting Classroom, but it’s a fascinating comic in its own right, and it’s a precursor to this creative team’s other great work, Wynd.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #159 (Marvel, 1976) – “Arm-in-Arm-in-Arm-in-Arm-in-Arm-in-Arm with Doctor Octopus,” [W] Len Wein, [A] Ross Andru. This issue has one of the funniest story titles in the history of Marvel Comics. The story itself is not bad either: Spider-Man teams up with Dr. Octopus to save Aunt May from Hammerhead. Wein and Andru were an underrated Spider-Man creative team.

HOUSE OF X #1 (Marvel, 2019) – “The House That Xavier Built,” [W] Jonathan Hickman, [A] Pepe Larraz. Certainly the most important X-Men comic since Grant Morrison’s run. House of X and Powers of X revitalized the X-Men after a long period of creative and sales stagnation, making X-Men Marvel’s flagship title again. In this issue Magneto gives a presentation about Krakoa to some ambassadors, thus introducing the new version of Krakoa to the reader as well. I don’t think the resurrections are mentioned yet. Meanwhile, Hickman also introduces Orchis, who will become the X-Men’s major antagonists.

2000 AD #423 (IPC, 1985) – My favorite dealer at Heroes Con is Jason Hamlin, who always has a lot of fascinating alternative and underground comics and magazines that nobody else has. This year he also had a box of old 2000 AD’s, and he gave me a nice deal on some of them. All these issues were from the #400s, which are perhaps my favorite period of the series. Anderson: untitled (Four Dark Judges), [W] John Wagner & Alan Grant, [A] Cliff Robinson. Anderson fights the Dark Judges. Slaine: “The Time Killer,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] David Pugh. Slaine fights the alien Cythrons and their minions. This Slaine story is unusual because of its science-fictional plot. As the series evolved, Mills mostly abandoned science fiction in favor of fantasy and Irish mythology. David Pugh draws some detailed fight scenes and some  gruesome monsters, though his draftsmanship is a bit ugly. Dredd: “99 Red,” [W] Wagner & Grant, [A] Ian Kennedy. A Judge goes crazy, and Dredd is forced to apprehend him. Rogue Trooper: “Antigen of Horst,” [W] Gerry Finley-Day, [A] José Ortiz. Rogue Trooper looks for an antigen that can restore his three comrades to their bodies. This story has the best art in the issue. Strontium Dog: “Big Bust of 49,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny and Wulf compete with another bounty hunter, Darkus, for the bounty on a criminal. This story includes a brilliant Dickensian pun: “You don’t have to die, Darkus.” “All die sometime, Stront dog – Darkus is willin’!”

SPACE USAGI #3 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “White Star Rising Part 3,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Space Usagi helps the Shirohoshi clan win their war with the Kajitori, but Usagi’s love, Tomoeh, is killed in battle. This was the only issue of Space Usagi that I was missing. This issue is both exciting and sad. It’s also full of clever puns. Early in the issue there’s the line “Sub-Terminal 54 – where are you?”, a reference to the TV show Car 54, Where Are You? Later, Usagi tells [/p9Tomoeh “I love you,” and she replies “I know, silly” (like Leia to Han). Space Usagi later did get a happy ending. At the end of Usagi Yojimbo: Senso #6, we see that he’s married to a woman named Mariko, who hadn’t appeared before, and that she’s pregnant.

BLAST-OFF #1 (Harvey, 1965) – “Lunar Goliaths,” [W/A] Jack Kirby, etc. The stories in this issue were originally intended for Race for the Moon #4, which was supposed to be published in 1958, but was cancelled. Race for the Moon presented the unusual combination of pencils by Kirby with inks by EC artists, including Reed Crandall, Al Williamson and Angelo Torres. It’s a strange combination, but it works very well, and Kirby’s (and possibly Simon’s) writing is unexpectedly intelligent and exciting. One of the stories in the issue, “The Space Court,” even has pencils by Williamson, and another one, “The Little Earth,” is penciled by Crandall and inked by Williamson. Overall this issue is a hidden gem, especially given that Race for the Moon itself is probably beyond my price range.

VOYAGE TO THE DEEP #1 (Dell, 1962) – “Voyage to the Deep,” [W] Lionel Ziprin?, [A] Sam Glanzman. A submarine crew tries to stop the Soviets from detonating a nuclear bomb in the Mariana Trench and knocking the Earth out of orbit. I bought this just because it was a Dell comic and it was only $2. I was delighted to discover that it was drawn by Sam Glanzman. I was even more delighted to realize that it’s obviously written by the same writer as Kona, Monarch of Monster Isle. It has that writer’s typical histrionic and philosophical style. A high point of the issue is the extended sequence where Admiral Leigh imagines New York being flooded, and the writer goes into great detail about all the neighborhoods and landmarks that would be destroyed. This scene goes on for eight whole pages. There is a theory that this unknown writer was Lionel Ziprin, a New York beatnik poet and kabbalist. I’ve always been skeptical of that, but on the back cover of Voyage to the Deep #1, there’s a text piece about how the Book of the Angel Raziel, a medieval kabbalistic text, might allow mankind to rebuild Noah’s Ark. This is the strongest evidence I’ve yet seen for the claim that Ziprin was the anonymous Kona writer.

CEREBUS #65 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1984) – “Anything Done for the First Time Unleashes a Demon,” [W/A] Dave Sim. At Heroes Con I was able to fill in most of the remaining holes in my Cerebus run. In less than two years I’ve assembled almost a complete run of Cerebus #25 to #230, and I think that’s as much Cerebus as I need. Bishop Powers tries to get Archbishop Posey to tell Cerebus some bad news, but Cerebus intimidates Posey into submission. Then Cerebus addresses the people of Iest and orders them to give him all their gold. This issue shows Cerebus at his peak. He manipulates Archbishop Posey and the people of Iest in a beautifully cynical way.

TANK GIRL: THE ODYSSEY #1 (Vertigo, 1995) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Jamie Hewlett. I was glad to find this because comics with Jamie Hewlett art are very elusive. Hewlett’s art here is perhaps not as spectacular as in his Deadline stories, but this comic is still a lot of fun, and unlike the early Tank Girl, it has a coherent (though surrealistic) plot. A highlight of this comic is all the references to Joyce’s Ulysses, such as “Tank Girl eats with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowl and anything else that’s put in front of her.”

LOCKE & KEY: CLOCKWORKS #3 (IDW, 2011) – “The Tamers of the Tempest,” [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. Thanks to the TV show, back issues of Locke & Key have become hard to find, and I’m always delighted when I do find them. In this issue, Tyler and Kinsey use the Timeshift Key to observe past events in the house’s history, ending with a visit to their father’s high school days. Rendell and his friends have a lot of relationship drama, and then Rendell decides that the friends should have one last adventure with the keys, because as soon as they graduate from high school, they’re going to forget that the keys exist. Unfortunately, Rendell’s idea is a recipe for disaster, since one of his friends is Dodge.

SEA HUNT #10 (Dell, 1961) – “Pirates’ Holiday,” [W] Eric Freiwald & Robert Schaefer, [A] Russ Manning. In the first story, a simulated hunt for pirate treasure turns real. In the second story, an old enemy of Mike Nelson’s escapes from prison and seeks revenge. Sea Hunt isn’t an all-time classic like Magnus, but it’s full of great Russ Manning artwork. He was especially good at drawing underwater combat.  

TALES OF SUSPENSE #69 (Marvel, 1965) – Iron Man: “If I Must Die, Let It Be with Honor!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Don Heck. Tony fights the Titanium Man, a villain who embodies Americans’ anxieties about Russian communists. Meanwhile, the love triangle between Tony, Happy and Pepper continues. I think this run of Tales of Suspense was the best Iron Man run prior to Michelinie and Romita Jr. Captain America: “Midnight at Greymoor Castle,” [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers. Cap tries to save Bucky, who is a prisoner in Greymoor Castle. This story isn’t as exciting as later Cap stories in this series.

SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #7 (Marvel, 2013) – “Troubled Mind, Part 1: Right-Hand Man,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Humberto Ramos. Doc Ock, in Spidey’s body, fights Cardiac and nearly kills him, unaware that Cardiac is committing thefts not for selfish reasons but to save his patients. The Avengers summon Spidey/Doc Ock and ask him what the hell is going on, and Doc Ock fights them too. Superior Spider-Man is fascinating because of Otto’s character arc: he starts out as a selfish, vengeful, power-hungry villain, but through Peter’s influence, he gradually evolves into a good man.

BATMAN #8 (DC, 2012) – “Attack on Wayne Manor,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Greg Capullo. Bruce Wayne defends the Batcave from the Court of Owls’s Talons. In a backup story, by Snyder, Tynion and Rafael Albuquerque, the Court of Owls hunts down Gotham’s leading citizens. I still find it hard to get into Scott Snyder’s Batman, but it was probably the best New 52 launch title, besides Animal Man.

THE FLASH #121 (DC, 1961) – “The Trickster Strikes Back!”, [W] John Broome, [A] Carmine Infantino. This is by far the oldest Flash comic in my collection. This issue’s first story is an early appearance of the Trickster. I generally think Silver Age DC is inferior to Silver Age Marvel because of Silver Age DC’s lack of characterization. However, the Trickster is a really fun villain, and Carmine Infantino’s artwork is dynamic and exciting. The backup story, “Secret of the Stolen Blueprint!” by Broome and Infantino, is not as exciting; it’s mostly about Barry getting a timid man to propose to his girlfriend. In this issue’s letter column, a fan, Tom Batiuk, mentions that he practices his own art by imitating Infantino’s drawings, and the editor promises to send him the original art for an entire Flash story so that he can study it. This is an example of how comics publishers used to treat original art as if it had no value. At least Batiuk put the art to good use, because he grew up to be the artist of the successful comic strip Funky Winterbean. Later in the letter column, the editor promises to send a different fan the original art for another Infantino story.

THE SPIRIT #43 (Kitchen Sink, 1949/1988) – “Dolan Walks a Beat” etc., [W/A] Will Eisner. At the con I bought a bunch of Kitchen Sink Spirit comics. I was surprised to realize that the editorial material in some of these issues was written by Tom Heintjes, who I know from past Heroes Cons. I talked to him during the con, and he told me how he prepared these columns with the assistance of Eisner himself and his brother. The first three stories in The Spirit #43 are a trilogy, in which Dolan deputizes the Spirit as an agent of the police force, but the Spirit then discovers that this new role is too limiting, and he returns to his old hideout under Wildwood Cemetery. The last story, “Hamid Jebru,” is the most interesting to me. It’s an Orientalist fantasy in which the Spirit and a criminal, Hamid Jebru, race each other to find a treasure hidden in the Egyptian desert. A long time ago I saw an isolated sequence from this story – the scene that ends “I found what I had been seeking… the crypt of Alakkan… and Hamid Jebru!” I forget where I saw this, but it was presented out of context, and I’ve always wanted to read the full story it came from. Now I have.

THUNDERBOLTS #165 (Marvel, 2012) – “Golden Age Thunderbolts Part 3: The Fiery Death from Above”!, [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Kev Walker. Having traveled back in time to World War II, the Thunderbolts team up with Captain America and fight Baron Zemo. As always, what makes this comic work is the characters’ bizarre personalities and the ways that these personalities clash with each other. I especially like Troll, and I think it’s because of her that I first got into this series.

FIRE POWER #16 (Image, 2021) – untitled, [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Chris Samnee. I’m not willing to buy new issues of Fire Power, because I think it’s a piece of Orientalist cultural appropriation, but I do buy the back issues when I find them in cheap boxes. Fire Power #16 has a typical trite kung fu plot, and the main reason to read it is because of Chris Samnee’s excellent visual storytelling. In the letter column, Kirkman claims that he’s “doing what I can to broaden the spectrum of hero characters,” even though he’s a “dumb white guy.” But precisely because Kirkman is a white man, he doesn’t have the cultural sensitivity to write about Chinese or Chinese-American people in the way that Gene Luen Yang or Alyssa Wong can. As a result, although Fire Power is better drawn than the current versions of Shang-Chi or Iron Fist, it’s not as interesting.

LASER ERASER AND PRESSBUTTON #1 (Eclipse, 1985) – “The Depths of Depravity,” [W] Steve Moore, [A] Steve Dillon. I think I now have the entire run of this miniseries. Steve Moore obviously tends to be overshadowed by his Warrior colleague, Alan Moore, but he was a fine writer in his own right. In this issue, Laser Eraser and Pressbutton are hired by a community of ultra-repressed Puritans, and their mission is to rescue a member of the community from a planet devoted to sexual debauchery. In the backup story, Laser Eraser goes on a solo mission on an all-female world. The other backup story, “Twilight World” by Steve Moore and Jim Baikie, is a short story in the same vein as 2000 AD’s Future Shocks. It’s reprinted from an issue of Warrior.

AMAR CHITRA KATHA #15 (Amar Chitra Katha, 1970) – “Rama,” [W] uncredited (Anant Pai?), [A] Pratap Mullick. I bought this from a dealer who also had several other ACK comics, including an issue of Tinkle. They were all $3, so I only bought one of them. This comic provides a basic summary of the Ramayana, adapted from the early modern version by Tulsidas. For me as a non-Hindu, this comic is useful because it gives an overview of the entire legend, and I only know bits and pieces of it. And indeed, the original purpose of ACK was to teach Indian children about their cultural heritage. Pratap Mullick’s pencils are kind of loose, but his artwork effectively enables the reader to imagine the visual environment of ancient India.

NIGHTWING #84 (DC, 2021) – “Fear State Part 1 of 3,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. Nightwing teams up with Batman to fight the Magistrate’s robots, who are brutally enforcing a city-wide curfew. Dick’s interactions with Babs and Bruce in this issue are very well written. A highlight of this series is Tom Taylor’s development of Dick’s various relationships. I also love the scene where Dick brings his dog to Clancy’s apartment, and Clancy’s children grab the dog out of Dick’s hands, before Dick even realizes what’s happened.

STRANGEHAVEN #4 (Abiogenesis, 1996) – “Flying/Just Good Friends/The Fish People,” [W/A] Gary Spencer Millidge. Alex looks for a map of the immediate area, but can’t find one, and lots of other weird stuff happens. Strangehaven is an intelligent, literate, tender, and weird depiction of rural England, and it’s one of the more underrated comics of its time. I hope it gets finished someday.  

STUMPTOWN #2 (Oni, 2012) – “The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case Part 2,” [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Matthew Southworth. Dex begins to suspect that her client is using her guitar case to smuggle drugs. Then Dex returns home and discovers that her brother’s caretaker is playing the stolen guitar Dex has been looking for. At the con I also got the next two issues, and I think those were almost the only issues of Stumptown I was missing. I love Stumptown, partly because it’s so much less grim than most of Rucka’s work, and its adventures are on a much smaller scale.

THIRTEEN GOING ON EIGHTEEN #21 (Dell, 1967) – “Where There’s Smoke” etc., [W/A] John Stanley. A series of short stories about teenage relationship drama. As with Little Lulu, all the issues of this series are very similar, but they’re all worth reading because of John Stanley’s incredible ability to create funny situations. Perhaps the best story in this issue is the one where Val keeps falling asleep while talking to Judy on the phone.

VAMPIRELLA #76 (Warren, 1978) – “Curse of the Pasha’s Princess,” [W] Bill DuBay, [A] José Gonzalez. A silly but exciting and well-drawn piece of Orientalist fantasy. Vampirella fights the vengeful ghost of a pasha’s wife, and discovers that the ghost’s motivation was that she was jealous of all the pasha’s other wives. “Gravity Field,” [W] Bob Toomey, [A] Pepe Moreno. An Irish revolutionary tries to take over a spaceship, and then it turns out he and the rest of the ship’s crew were being manipulated by a sentient black hole. “The Games of Sharn,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Ramon Torrents. An alien in human form has to play a deadly game to save the people of Earth. This one is pretty weird. “Swift Sculpture,” [W] Bob Toomey, [A] Val Mayerik. A barbarian woman and her pet wolf go on a quest to find a dragon. I wonder if this story’s title is a reference to Theodore Sturgeon’s story “Slow Sculpture.” “Time for a Change,” [W] Nicola Cuti, [A] Alex Niño. An alien kills a spaceship’s entire crew except for one woman. The alien tries to convince the woman to become its lover, rather than kill him and spend the next three years alone, until her relief crew arrives. The woman doesn’t take the offer. Cuti’s story is pretty average, but Niño’s page layouts are brilliant. There are no panel borders in the entire story; each page is a single big image, and the word balloons tell the reader in what order to read it. Niño’s Warren stories were probably the high point of his career. “The Haunted,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Russ Heath. Roland spends his whole life trying to prove he’s as brave as his brother Michael, a decorated veteran. Finally, Roland goes insane after spending the night in a haunted house. Afterward, Michael appears and reveals that his bravery was a sham, and he never went to war at all. Jones and Heath were a great team, and this is the best story in the issue.

DETECTIVE COMICS #936 (DC, 2016) – “Rise of the Batmen Part 3: Army of Shadows,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Alvaro Martinez Bueno. Batman recruits allies to deal with the Batmen, a gang of terrorists who imitate Batman himself. But one of the allies is Jacob Kane, and he turns out to be leading the Batmen himself. The characterization in this issue is excellent. Tynion’s Detective Comics is more a team book than a solo Batman title, and just like the current Batgirls and Nightwing, it depends on the interaction between the various Bat-people. The main focus of this issue is on Kate Kane’s troubled relationship with her dad.  

MUPPETS #4 (Marvel, 2012) – “The Four Seasons: Winter,” [W/A] Roger Langridge. A Christmas-themed story. Miss Piggy tries to bait Kermit into getting her an engagement ring as a Secret Santa gift, but instead he gives her a pair of gloves. There are also a ton of other subplots. Roger Langridge’s Muppets stories are a perfect expression of his comic genius.

FOUR COLOR #1197 (Dell, 1961) – The Aquanauts: “Sea Search” and “The Deep Six,” [W] unknown, [A] Dan Spiegle. I’m willing to buy just about any issue of Four Color, because even if they’re not good, they’re interesting and fun to own. The Aquanauts, the TV show adapted in this issue, was pretty much the same show as Sea Hunt, though I don’t know if there was any connection between the two. Four Color #1197 includes some effective undersea action sequences, though Dan Spiegle wasn’t as good at that as Russ Manning. However, this issue is ruined by some awful sexism. “Sea Search” is a taming-of-the-shrew story in which Drake Andrews, the protagonist, is hired to babysit Lynn, a spoiled, reckless heiress. After Drake saves Lynn from being killed by a manta ray, Lynn tells her fiancee that she just has one adventure left: “It’s called marriage! And I’m going to spend my time where a woman belongs… in the kitchen!” If I tried to write an intentional parody of ‘50s chauvinism, it would probably be less sexist than that.

THE GOON #40 (Dark Horse, 2012) – “Prohibition, or the End of Sexy Times,” [W/A] Eric Powell. A parody of stock car racing and its origins in Prohibition-era bootlegging. The Goon and Franky set up an illegal moonshine business, but they end up having to compete in an auto race against their rival bootleggers, and the loser of the race is going to be dragged down to hell by a demon. This sequence is also a parody of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” The art in the third chapter of the story is based on Big Daddy Roth’s Rat Fink. Like Hitman, The Goon is heavily reliant on low humor, but Powell is funnier than Ennis, and he’s a better artist than McCrea.  

AIRBOY #1 (Eclipse, 1986) – “On Wings of Song,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Tim Truman. When David Nelson Sr is killed in a terrorist attack, his son Davy discovers that his father was the World War II superhero Airboy, and Davy becomes the new Airboy. This comic’s gimmick was that the issues were just 16 pages long, but in exchange they cost 50 cents. The main reason I’ve hesitated to collect Airboy is because of my dislike of Chuck Dixon, but Airboy was a well-done and exciting series, and it kind of reminds me of Jonny Quest.

CUD COMICS #1 (Dark Horse, 1995) – Eno and Plum: “You Can Bank on It,” [W/A] Terry LaBan. Eno, a twentysomething slacker, needs a job. He discovers he’s surprisingly good at donating sperm, but his career ends when he meets someone who’s even better at it. This story is quite funny, despite being an obvious male sex fantasy. (Well, sort of – Eno is so busy donating sperm that he loses interest in sex with his girlfriend Plum.) This issue also includes “Mickey Pimple, Teen Adventurer,” a funny Terry and the Pirates parody, though it contains some unfortunate Orientalism. There are various other features, some of which are about Eno and Plum’s cat. In general, Terry LaBan was an underrated and funny artist, a sort of stylistic heir of Gilbert Shelton, and I look forward to reading more of his work.

LONE RANGER #58 (Dell, 1953) – “The Smiling Caballero,” [W] Paul S. Newman and Tom Gill. The Lone Ranger battles a Mexican bandit. Juan Lopez, the eponymous smiling caballero, is a rather stereotypical character, but he’s fun because he’s gleefully, unrepentantly evil. In the second story, by the same team, the Lone Ranger and Tonto cure an Apache chief’s son’s illness and prevent a war between the Apache and the whites. The trouble with all these Dell Lone Ranger comics is their racist depiction of Tonto, but the Young Hawk backup stories compensate for this somewhat. In this issue’s Young Hawk story, Young Hawk and Little Buck help some Northwest Coast Indians steal some canoes from their rivals. The nice thing about Young Hawk is that unlike most old comics, it shows awareness of the cultural differences between Native American nations. Young Hawk and Little Buck visit lots of different indigenous groups, and these groups live in different environments and have different material cultures.

BATMAN: THE DETECTIVE #1 (DC, 2021) – “The Detective Part 1,” [W] Andy Kubert, [A] Tom Taylor. In this counterpart series to The Knight, Batman visits England, where he teams up with Knight and Squire against the Gentleman Ghost and a bunch of terrorists in white Batman costumes. This is the companion series to The Knight, and I think it might be even better than The Knight. Maybe I should be buying the current issues of The Detective.

SPACE RIDERS: VORTEX OF DARKNESS #1 (Black Mask, 2019) – untitled, [W] Carlos Giffoni, [A] Alexis Ziritt. I bought this directly from Alexis Ziritt at the con. He not only signed it, but he was unable to make change, so he was kind enough to just let me take it and then pay for it later when I had exact change. This issue is a blend of science fiction with psychedelia and Mexican mysticism. Alexis Ziritt’s art and coloring are stunning; he turns every page into a panorama of weird colors and bizarre people and settings. His artwork kind of reminds me of murals or album covers. It’s too bad his comics have mostly been published by small presses. I’ve always had trouble finding Space Riders comics because of Black Mask’s poor distribution. I wish some bigger publisher would give Ziritt a more prominent platform for his talent.

HERE COME THE BIG PEOPLE #1 (Event, 1997) – untitled, [W] Trace Beaulieu, [A] Amanda Conner. Trace Beaulieu is best known as a TV writer, and this one-shot was his only work in comics. That’s probably a good thing, because Here Come the Big People is a disturbing, uncomfortable story in which the human race is conquered by a horde of giant pink maternal robots. The explicit point of this story is that all adults desire to be infantilized. The reason I bought this comic was because of Amanda Conner’s art. At this point her linework wasn’t as slick as it later became, but her art is still super impressive, and her panels are filled with entertaining chicken fat.

JOSIE #26 (Archie, 1967) – “The Minstrel Mechanic” etc., [W] Frank Doyle, [A] Dan DeCarlo. A bunch of typical Archie stories. Some of them have mild musical themes, but this was before Josie evolved into Josie and the Pussycats. Dan DeCarlo’s art is appealing, but I can’t quite tell him apart from any other Archie artist. Though maybe that’s because he was the artist who defined the Archie style in the first place.

AXA #1 (Eclipse, 1987) – “The Adopted,” [W] Chuck Dixon, [A] Enrique Badía Romero. In a post-apocalyptic world, scantily clad heroine Axa and her boyfriend Mark save some children from raiders. There’s also a poignant scene where Axa reveals that she can’t have her own children because she’s a clone. Axa originated as a comic strip in The Sun, but this comic book version was created for the American market, and Wikipedia says that the American version was toned down to be a lot less sexy. Still, Axa #1 is a reasonably entertaining comic. The original strip was reprinted in a series of books from Ken Pierce, and I would buy those if I saw them.

HARVEY HITS #49 (Harvey, 1961) – “Two-Gun Titan” etc, [W] unknown, [A] Warren Kremer. This was the first comic book that starred Stumbo the Giant. Some of the stories in it were reprinted from Hot Stuff. All these stories are humor strips where the humor mostly comes from Stumbo’s size. The best thing about this comic is how Stumbo’s massive height allows Warren Kremer to experiment with unusual page layouts.

SKYWARD #8 (Image, 2018) – “Here There Be Dragonflies Part 3,” [W] Joe Henderson, [A] Lee Garbett. Willa, the protagonist, visits a meatpacking plant and discovers that she’s been eating bug meat all her life. Then she talks with a potential romantic interest, and at the end of the issue, she discovers that the people running the plant have kidnapped her enemy, Barrow. One thing I like about Skyward is its realistic worldbuilding. It feels as if Henderson and Garbett have really thought about how a world without gravity would work. For example, the beds have straps on them to prevent the occupants from floating out of them.

SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN #14 (Marvel, 2013) – “A Blind Eye,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Humberto Ramos. Doc Ock/Spidey uses his robots to demolish Shadowland, the Kingpin’s Hell’s Kitchen base. Doc thus earns a taste of true heroism. This issue’s focal characters are a man and his young son, who are bystanders to the fight between Doc Ock and the Kingpin. A funny moment in this issue is when the Kingpin fakes his own death by murdering an underli4wng who looks like him.

SCOOBY-DOO #8 (Marvel, 1978) – “The Phantom of Youth,” [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Dan Spiegle. The Scooby gang goes looking for the Fountain of Youth. Unusually, it turns out that the Fountain of Youth is real rather than a hoax, but the Scooby gang destroys it to prevent its power from being misused. This is another very fun issue. Due to a printing error, pages 1 and 30 of this comic were transposed, so the title of the main story seems to be “The Shadow Knows” but is in fact “The Phantom of Youth.”

BATMAN #9 (DC, 2012) – “Night of the Owls,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Greg Capullo. The battle with the Talons continues, and the temperature in the cave starts dropping to an unsafe level. Batman manages to beat the Talons with the help of the bats in his cave. An awesome moment in this issue is when the dinosaur statue comes to life and stomps on the Talons. At the end of the issue, Bruce goes looking for the Talons’ last target, Lincoln March, and finds him dying, because the Owls have gotten to him already. It would later be revealed that March is in fact the leader of the Court of Owls.

2000 AD #424 (IPC, 1985) – Anderson: as #423 above. Anderson destroys Judge Fear, and the other Dark Judges retreat. Slaine: as above. Slaine meets the Cythrons’ leader, the Guledig, who is just a giant head with three arms growing out of it. Ewww. Future Shocks: “The Mousetrap!”, [W] Alan Hebden, [A] Massimo Belardinelli. An insane man believes that mice are plotting to overthrow the human race. This turns out to be true. Dredd: “Midnight Surfer,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Cam Kennedy. Chopper practices for the upcoming Supersurf 7. This is a pretty basic Chopper story, but it’s exciting. It’s really a Chopper solo story in which Dredd has a minimal role. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue gets a lead on a man named Moho who knows where the antigen is, but he doesn’t know that Moho is a collaborator with the Norts. Strontium Dog: as above. Johnny and Wulf defeat Xen, who has possessed Middenface McNulty. I love Middenface’s use of Scots dialect. At the end of this issue, Middenface mentions he has a wife, but I think she was later retconned away. He also says he has a “wee but and ben,” which I thought meant a son and a daughter, but actually a “but and ben” is a two-room house.

KAFKA #2 (Renegade, 1987) – “Monday,” [W] Steven T. Seagle, [A] Stefano Gaudiano. I was skeptical about buying this, but it was only 25 cents, and it was by two notable creators. However, Kafka #2 has an indecipherable plot, and although Gaudiano’s storytelling is reasonably good, his draftsmanship is very crude. Nothing about this comic is particularly Kafkaesque.

DOCTOR WHO CLASSICS #4 (IDW, 2009) – “Nemesis of the Daleks Part 4,” [W] Richard Starkings, [A] John Tomlinson, etc. Three stories starring the Seventh Doctor, reprinted from Doctor Who Magazine #155-158 (1989-90). The best is Paul Cornell and John Freeman’s “Stairway to Heaven,” about a cruel “artist” who creates a living art exhibit of creatures who hatch from eggs, build the next step on a stairway, and then jump off the stairway to their deaths. The first story guest-stars Abslom Daak, Dalek Killer, who was created by Steve Moore and Steve Dillon. Marvel tried to spin off Abslom Daak into his own non-licensed title, but never did.

EERIE #87 (Warren, 1977) – Rook: “A Chinese Fortune Cookie or Bad, Bad Granny Gadget,” [W] Bill DuBay, [A] Luis Bermejo. Bishop Dane and the Rook’s robots fight Granny Gadget, an old lady who blames Rook for her roboticist husband’s death. The Rook himself doesn’t appear in this story. Luis Bermejo was an unshowy but excellent artist. Scallywag: “The Black Demon’s Sword,” [W] Budd Lewis, [A] José Ortiz. In Japan, an American, Hickey J. Lubus, fights some ninjas and samurai who are looking for “the Screaming God.” This story must take place sometime between the 1854 reopening of Japan and the Meiji Restoration, which abolished the samurai class. “Years & Mind Forever,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Richard Corben. A time travel story that reads like a prototype for Rip in Time. It ends with the human race being rendered extinct by a time paradox. Corben’s depictions of dinosaurs and sexy people are beautiful. Gaffer: “Second Wish,” [W] Roger McKenzie, [A] Leo Duranoña. Gaffer is an old black man who somehow has three wishes. In this story he uses the second wish to help a young black girl who’s pregnant with an alien baby. This might be the best-written story in the issue. I especially like the full-page depiction of the glories of the baby’s father’s planet. Leo Duranoña’s art is kind of gruesome, but he was a skilled artist. “The Incredible Illusions of Ira Israel,” [W] McKenzie, [A] Leopoldo Sanchez. A German-Expressionist-themed story about two magicians who are secretly werewolves. Hunter 3: “What Price Oblivion,” [W] Jim Stenstrum, [A] Alex Niño. The third incarnation of Hunter fights some evil frogs. As in Vampirella #76, Niño’s page layouts are utterly stunning. This story is printed sideways, and  each two-page splash is meant to be read as a single giant page. This story’s combination of lizards and diminutive sexy women makes me wonder if Niño had been reading Vaughn Bodē. Joe Brancatelli’s column in this issue mentions how a certain DC war comic was cancelled because it was only selling 100,000 copies – which, nowadays, would have made it a bestseller. In hindsight, this column includes lots of red flags pointing to DC’s coming collapse.

FOUR COLOR #1336 (Dell, 1962) – untitled, [W] Ken Fitch, [A] Frank Bolle (w/ Mike Sekowsky?). In an adaptation of Leonard Starr’s Mary Perkins strip, Mary Perkins helps produce an unknown author’s play which is based on newly discovered Shakespearean documents. This is an exciting story that vividly depicts the process of getting a play produced. Frank Bolle was Leonard Starr’s assistant on On Stage, and in this issue he beautifully imitates Starr’s lush, detailed style. Oddly, Frank Bolle worked for both World Over, a Jewish comic, and Treasure Chest, a Catholic comic.

AVENGERS #18 (Marvel, 2019) – “Crisis on Ten Realms,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Ed McGuinness. In a War of the Realms crossover, the Squadron Supreme battle frost giants, but then we learn that Phil Coulson is holding the Squadron Supreme captive, and their adventures are occurring inside their own heads. I started reading Jason Aaron’s Avengers when it came out, but didn’t much like it. However, this issue is not an Avengers story at all, but a very funny Justice League parody. I like how in this issue, Stanley Stewart, the Squadron Supreme version of the Flash, is named Blur. I guess they finally noticed the unfortunate connotations of the name Whizzer.

ROBIN, SON OF BATMAN #7 (DC, 2016) – “Fight the Nightmare,” [W] Patrick Gleason & Ray Fawkes, [A] Scott McDaniel. In a Robin War crossover, Damian and a bunch of other Robins fight the Court of Owls. Lincoln March, who I last saw in Batman #8, appears at the end. There’s a character in this issue who looks kind of like Maps Mizoguchi, but it’s not her. I believe this was Patrick Gleason’s last issue of Robin, Son of Batman, and I think I can skip collecting the remaining issues.

RICHIE RICH & CASPER #8 (Harvey, 1975) – “Dr. Frankenspook,” [W] unknown, [A] Warren Kremer. Richie and Casper team up against Dr. Frankenspook, who, as the name suggests, is a hybrid of a ghost and Dr. Frankenstein. This character appeared twice more in this series, including in #13, which I already read. Warren Kremer’s art in this story is very exciting. Throughout this issue, Richie thinks the whole story is a dream. I think Richie believed that all of his encounters with Casper were dreams. I guess this was a way of separating Richie’s more “realistic” milieu from Casper’s supernatural one, but Richie’s stories were already pretty farfetched to begin with.

THE WALKING DEAD #135 (Image, 2014) – “Face to Face,” [W] Robert Kirkman, [A] Charlie Adlard. I’m not in love with this series, but I’m willing to buy back issues of it if they’re cheap. This issue is exciting, though. Maggie interrogates a little girl who’s been traveling around wearing zombie skin. Carl befriends the girl, but meanwhile, some of the other people in Maggie’s community decide they’ve had enough of her leadership. This issue demonstrates Kirkman’s greatest skill: his ability to write about difficult moral dilemmas and political conflicts.

INNER CITY ROMANCE #1 (Last Gasp, 1972) – “Choices,” [W/A] Guy Colwell. This was one of the only underground comics I was able to find at the con. In this story, two black men, Marvin and James, and a white man, Paddy, are released from prison. Marvin goes straight back to his old life of pimping and drug abuse, but James decides he wants something more. He meets a woman with an Angela Davis hairdo, who tells him he needs to reform Marvin’s destructive ways. On the last page, James goes back to see Marvin and Paddy, and he imagines two possible futures: one where he falls back into drug-fueled debauchery, and another where he shoots Marvin, Paddy and their lovers dead. The story ends there. This is an utterly fascinating comic, a vivid depiction of the Bay Area in the ‘70s. Guy Colwell was white, but he was one of the few underground cartoonists, along with Spain, who seriously tried to be antiracist. His work is an antidote to Crumb’s blatant racism, and someone ought to write about him. In the scenes where Marvin and Paddy are on drugs, Colwell’s art becomes very surrealistic, and he uses a technique that’s sort of a precursor to Mary Fleener’s use of cubism. The beginning of this comic includes a quotation of Bob Dylan’s “George Jackson,” a song which is relevant to the comic’s theme of black radicalism, since it’s about a Black Panther who was shot while escaping from prison.

SHAMAN’S TEARS #1 (Image, 1993) – “Warcry,” [W/A] Mike Grell. This series was mentioned during Grell’s panel at Heroes Con, so I thought I might as well read it. Shaman’s Tears stars Joshua Brand, a Lakota man who, like Manuel Santana in Scout, becomes the champion of his people. There’s also a subplot in which the US government creates genetically engineered monsters. Grell’s depictions of Sioux religion are very detailed, to the point where I wonder if they’re based on some kind of insider knowledge. He himself is not indigenous, but in his panel, he said he was working with people who were. Grell’s page layouts in this issue are even more experimental than in his earlier work.

MARVEL TEAM-UP #31 (Marvel, 1974) – “For a Few Fists More!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Jim Mooney. Spider-Man and Iron Fist battle Drom the Backwards Man, a character who never appeared again. At the end of the issue, Drom ages in reverse until he vanishes, and Spidey forgets all about him. This issue is nothing spectacular, but it’s fun.

PLANETOID: PRAXIS #5 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Ken Garing. Onica and her daughter have a fight, then a team of Planetoid natives tries to destroy the Heliocor plant. This was a fun miniseries. I think I almost have a complete run of Planetoid now.

CEREBUS #91 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1986) – “Talking to Tarim,” [W/A] Dave Sim. A mysterious white glowing thing tells Cerebus that in order to complete the Final Ascension, he needs to ascend to the top of the Black Tower with a pure gold sphere. This information is essential for understanding what happens later in Church & State and then in Mothers & Daughters. Cerebus isn’t sure why he should want to make the Final Ascension, but he decides to do it so that nobody else can. Then the white light returns Cerebus to the Regency Hotel, where Lord Julius and Bishop Powers have some news for him. As we learn next issue, the news is that the Lion of Serrea has been killed, and Cerebus is now the only Pope. The backup story, “The Applicant,” is by Colleen Doran, with inks by Dave, and is based on Doran’s experience of being sexually harassed by an industry bigwig. This story was intended for Cerebus Jam #2, which was never published.

DETECTIVE COMICS #938 (DC, 2016) – “Rise of the Batmen Part 4: Enemy at the Gates,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Alvaro Martinez (Bueno). This issue begins with a flashback, drawn by Al Barrionuevo, in which the young Kate Kane runs away from school to her mother’s grave. When her father finds her, she tells him that she wants to be a soldier like him. In the present, the Bat-family continues their fight with the Batmen. A highlight of this issue is when Cass comes out of an elevator and is confronted by a whole squad of Batmen, and then when we see her again, all the Batmen are lying on the ground unconscious, and Cass just says “Hi.” This reminds me of the scene in X-Men #168 where Lockheed eats an entire nest full of alien eggs.

LOCKE & KEY: CLOCKWORKS #6 (IDW, 2012) – “Curtain,” [W] Joe Hill, [A] Gabriel Rodriguez. Dodge kills Rendell’s classmate Mark, takes the Crown of Shadows, and tries to open the Black Door, but Rendell and his friends manage to defeat and kill Dodge. However, Dodge has already created a failsafe which can return him to life. This story leads into Locke & Key: Omega, the end of the Dodge saga. I don’t understand the fishhook at the end.

GREEN LANTERN #94 (DC, 1977) – “Lure for an Assassin!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Mike Grell. Hal collapses mysteriously, and John Stewart has to take him to Oa. This issue is John Stewart’s second appearance in this title, though his actual second appearance was Justice League of America #110 (thanks to Dan Larkin for that information). Then Ollie goes to chase down some crooks, but Dinah goes after him and gets captured. I read Green Lantern #95 years ago, when I was in high school, but I never understood why Ollie had a clean-shaven face in that issue. #94 explains that he shaved his beard and mustache off as a disguise.

Next trip to Heroes, on Sunday, July 3:

SEVEN SECRETS #18 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. We finally learn that Caspar is a god, and the seven secrets represent his seven separated attributes. Caspar defeats the demon that’s been possessing Amon, then Caspar’s divine self separates itself back into the seven secrets, allowing Caspar to live his normal life. This is a cute ending to a very enjoyable series. I hope Tom Taylor does some more creator-owned work soon.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #24 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. The issue starts with another attack by a new type of monster. Gabi revisits her home, gets scratched by an angry cat, and talks to Erica’s octopus doll. Erica talks to the woman who saved Gabi. Ms. Cutter plots against Erica. This issue again shows us that the House of Slaughter are more worried about maintaining their own secrecy than about killing monsters. The Old Dragon says that Erica “would risk Order secrets to protect a single child.” Isn’t that worth the risk? Well, no, because it “endanger[s] the dozens our order saves every day around the world.” But we haven’t seen the Order actually doing that. All they seem to care about is protecting their secrets, just for the sake of doing so. (And anyway, “dozens” sounds a bit underwhelming. I know I’ve heard of a principle that organizations often to care more about their own continuity and success than about their stated goals. I might be thinking of Jerry Pournelle’s iron law of bureaucracy.

EIGHT BILLION GENIES #2 (Image, 2022) – “The First Eight Hours,” [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. The bar owner reveals that he’s a super-prepared survivalist who has a huge stash of stuff. The black father wishes for his wife to come back. The Chinese husband wishes to be prepared for his journey across town. Outside the bar, the world starts blowing up. At the end of the issue, Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker and Jim Morrison walk into the bar. So far, this series is successfully exploiting the fascinating potential of its premise. I like how the genies all resemble the people they’re attached to. This issue includes a couple references to Soule’s earlier works. The president is the same one from Letter 44, and I think also from Curse Words. And in the bathroom there’s a sign that says Sizzajee.

NIGHTWING #93 (DC, 2022) – “The Battle for Blüdhaven’s Heart Part 2,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo. Blockbuster throws Heartless out a window, Nightwing flees from the police, and then Dick Grayson publicly exposes the police as being responsible for the vandalism of Haven. This is another great issue of the best current superhero comic. My favorite moment in this issue is when Dick accidentally uses the L-word to Babs (not “lesbians”, the other one) and then they both do a double take.

RADIANT BLACK #15 (Image, 2022) – “Unauthorized,” [W] Kyle Higgins & Alec Siegel, [A] Eduardo Ferigato w/ Marcelo Costa. Radiant Black has become so famous that they’re making a movie about him, right in his hometown of Lockport. Marshall is not happy about this and tries to interfere with the movie shoot, but when he realizes that Will Friedle (a real actor) is going to play him, he changes his mind. Meanwhile, Nathan finds himself gradually being frozen out of Marshall’s superhero life, even though Nathan is still somehow having visions of Existence. This issue does something I’ve never seen before: it includes a poster for the “Radiant Black vs. Blaze” movie, and the poster has a QR code, which links to an animated Radiant Black cartoon. Yes, this comic comes with its own animated cartoon, and the cartoon expands the narrative of the comic. That’s a good example of transmedia storytelling.

I HATE THIS PLACE #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Artyom Toplin. Gabrielle and Trudy go to a fortune teller, but every card she draws from her tarot deck is the Death card. “Adrian” does all sorts of suspicious stuff, including not remembering that he’s using the name Adrian. At night, the farm is invaded by ghosts, and one of the farmhands, Ramon, is killed. Gabrielle and Tracy hire a “ghost hunter” with the dubious name of Dante Howitzer. I Hate This Place is an excellent horror comic. I spoke to Kyle Starks briefly at Heroes Con.

JONNA AND THE UNPOSSIBLE MONSTERS #10 (Oni, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Chris Samnee, [W] Laura Samnee. Jonna saves Rainbow from being crushed between two monsters, and then they discover a giant egg. Just as the egg cracks open, five more monsters show up, and Jonna and Rainbow have to retreat inside the egg. This issue has some beautiful visual storytelling, but it’s a very quick read, as is often the case with this series.

MILES MORALES & MOON GIRL #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Have You Seen This Dinosaur?”, [W] Mohale Mashigo, [A] Ig Guara. When Devil Dinosaur mysteriously vanishes, Lunella tracks him to Brooklyn. She enrolls at Brooklyn Visions Academy so she can follow Devil’s trail, and she ends up fighting alongside Miles Morales against Taskmaster. In this comic Mashigo and Guara come up with a logical way for Miles and Lunella to team up, and their interactions are well-written and entertaining. I’m glad Lunella is back, even if only for a series of one-shots.

WE ONLY FIND THEM WHEN THEY’RE DEAD #11 (Boom!, 2022) – “What is Alive?”, [W] Al Ewing, [A] Simone Di Meo. Jason Hauer and a new character, Dr. Lucy Agyei, create an artificial intelligence called Thierry-9. Thierry-9 is made from Georges Malik’s heart, so he has Malik’s memories. Lucy’s hope is that Thierry-9 can remember how Malik became a god, so that other people can replicate Malik’s achievement. The next step is for Thierry to repeat Malik’s last mission. At the end of the issue Thierry has a vision of someone who I think is Paula, the villain of the first storyline. This is another exciting story arc, but I wish this series would have a list of characters, or even a family tree of the Maliks. I can never remember which character is which.

SHE-HULK #4 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Luca Maresca. This is probably my favorite current Marvel title, and that’s not good, because I don’t like it nearly as much as Rowell’s Runaways. Marvel is going through a mild slump at the moment, or else I’m not reading the best Marvel titles. This issue, Jen and Titania meet up for a recreational fight, Jen meets with a bunch of superhero clients, and then Jen and Jack of Hearts go on a sort-of date.

A CALCULATED MAN #1 (AfterShock, 2022) – “Kill Them All,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Alberto (Jimenez) Albuquerque. A crime comic about a crook with uncanny mathematical abilities. This is an interesting debut issue, but it’s tough to write a work of popular fiction about math, because mathematical research is very difficult to explain to a popular audience. The title character, Jack Beans, is really good at arithmetic and calculation, but that’s not the main thing that professional mathematicians do. (I should admit here that I have a casual interest in math, and that I kind of regret that I stopped studying math after high school.) Early in this issue, we’re told that Jack can “prove the existence of three differently-sized infinities by use of the continuum hypothesis.” Gordon Arsenoff tells me that this is easy to do even without the continuum hypothesis.

ROGUE SUN #5 (Image, 2022) – “Making a Murderer,” [W] Ryan Parrott, [A] Abel & Simone Ragazzoni. I think I should have realized this at the end of issue 4, but this issue makes it clear that it was Dylan’s mother who murdered his father. And he frankly deserved it. In a series of flashbacks, we see that Marcus callously dumped Gwen when Dylan was a baby. Then he showed up fifteen years later and told Gwen that he was going to be in Marcus’s life whether Gwen liked it or not, and he said, “I’m a superhero. If I want to see my son, how are you going to stop me?” Given that Marcus literally threatened Gwen and her child, I can’t blame her for killing him. Marcus is a rare example of a superhero who’s just a complete and utter prick – he’s as bad as some of the people I read about on Am I The Asshole? In terms of the present-day plot, not much happens in this issue, except that Marcus’s fight with Demonika continues.

NEWBURN #8 (Image, 2022) – “They Know Me,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jacob Phillips. Newburn manages to save Emily and also appease both the yakuza and the Albanos, by getting the man who killed the yakuza boss to take the fall for killing Mario Albano. When a police detective objects to letting Sydney’s actual murderer go free, Newburn tells the detective “You work for me. And I run this town.” I hadn’t realized this before, but it’s true. Afterward, the Albanos discover that it was really Sydney who killed Saburo, and they take their well-deserved vengeance on him. This was my favorite Newburn story so far, and it makes me realize that Newburn is a crime comic of the same caliber as Criminal.

NOCTERRA #11 (Image, 2022) – “Pedal to the Medal 1/5,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Greg Capullo. Bill forces Adam to reveal the location of Eos, then kills him. Val sacrifices herself so the rest of the team can escape, so I guess Piper is the new protagonist. The surviving protagonists head to Eos, even though the villains are also on the way there. At the end of the issue, Val emerges from the water, transformed into a Shade.

ALBATROSS EXPLODING FUNNYBOOKS #1 (Albatross, 2022) – “Terror Toilet” etc., [W/A] Eric Powell. An anthology of four different stories by Powell, starring his creations The Goon, Hillbilly, Lester of the Lesser Gods, and La Diabla. All these stories are very funny, and taken together, they demonstrate Powell’s stylistic range. Lester of the Lesser Gods is perhaps the highlight because of its deadpan humor. This anthology format allows Powell to write all four of these series at once, rather than just concentrating on one of them at a time. I do wonder how frequently he can publish an entire 48-page comic.

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #19 (Image, 2022) – “The Man with the Movie Camera,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Martin Simmonds. Cole’s marriage to Matty is starting to collapse. While Cole is off on another trip with Rudy, a Black Hat agent approaches Matty in a bar and shows him a film of when Cole murdered the two Washington Post reporters. This issue forces me to question my assumption that the Department of Truth are the good guys. If the House of Slaughter are evil, then why not the Department of Truth as well? After reading the Black Hat agent’s speech, about how people should have the right to decide what reality they live in, I’m beginning to sympathize with Black Hat.

PUBLIC DOMAIN #1 (Image, 2022) – “Weren’t We the Bad Guys?”, [W/A] Chip Zdarsky. I think this is Chip Zdarsky’s first major project as both writer and artist, if you don’t count his early small-press work. He’s been focusing on writing lately, and it’s nice to see his art again. I forgot about all the hidden messages and Easter eggs he hides in his artwork. Public Domain is a fictionalized version of the history of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The Kirby character is Syd Dallas, the artist who created Domain, the world’s greatest superhero. The Stan Lee character is Jerry Jasper, who got all the credit for Domain, and who has a much nastier personality than Stan did. After Jasper’s assistant Tanya meets Dallas at the premiere of the Domain movie, she goes looking through Jasper’s archives – and finds proof that Dallas is the legal owner of Domain. This comic portrays the entertainment business very realistically. One thing I noticed is that the director of Domain movie thanks Singular Studios (i.e. Marvel) for “letting me play with their toys.” That’s a standard cliché, but one that I haven’t seen in a comic before. But Public Domain is more than just a metatextual, by-fans-for-fans comic, because it’s also about the personalities involved in the struggle over Domain. The focal character is not Syd but his son Miles, who’s been living in the shadow of his famous father.

RADIANT RED #4 (Image, 2022) – “Things Fall Apart,” [W] Cherish Chen, [A] David Lafuente. Satomi has some unpleasant confrontations with the reporter and her boyfriend. Then she and Shift pull off a successful heist, but Shift double-crosses her. The pivotal scene in this issue is when Owen tells Satomi that she’s turning into a “bank-robbing monster,” and that she’s refusing to do anything to stop her descent into villainy. I was all ready to get angry at Owen here, but he’s actually right. As awful as Owen is, he’s at least trying to cure his gambling addiction, while Satomi refuses to fix her problem of what a letter writer calls “toxic responsibility.” On the letters page, Cherish Chen makes the intriguing suggestion that Satomi’s habit of excessive self-sacrifice derives from her Asian diasporic background.

ROBIN #15 (DC, 2022) – “Parent Trap,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Roger Cruz. Okay, here’s  one that doesn’t require a long review. Talia escapes from the DEO’s custody, and she and Bruce get into a fight about which of them Damian will stay with. Damian breaks up the fight and begs them to leave each other alone and let him remain on his own. This is a remarkably mature decision. Afterward, Damian goes back to Lazarus Island, where Mr. Death Man appears and reports that Flatline has gone on a killing spree.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: SYMBOL OF TRUTH #2 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tochi Onyebuchi, [A] R.B. Silva. I didn’t like this nearly as much as issue 1. There’s not much politics or character interaction, and there’s also an unnecessary Deadpool guest appearance, as if Sam isn’t interesting enough on his own. It’s worth noting that this issue has a legacy number, and the latest issue of Sentinel of Liberty does not, so I guess Symbol of Truth is considered the primary Captain America title.

BLACK PANTHER #6 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Long Shadow Book 6,” [W] John Ridley, [A] Stefano Landini. This issue is mostly a bunch of action sequences. At the end, T’Challa and Storm have a serious conversation, but John Ridley’s version of Storm doesn’t feel right. It’s not just that he violates the rule that Storm never uses contractions, because many other writers also break that rule. His Storm just sounds wrong to me. In general, this series has been disappointing, and I’m going to drop it from my pull list.

THE BEST ARCHIE COMIC EVER #1 (Archie, 2022) – “Once We Were Heroes!”, [W] Fred Van Lente, [A] Tim Seeley. The Pureheart the Powerful story in this issue is my favorite Fred Van Lente story in a long time. It’s clever and funny. I especially love the homage to the “Spider-Man pointing” meme. The Jughead/Conan parody is also funny. However, I’ve gotten tired of all these Archie one-shots. I wish they would go back to doing continuing stories, but they seem to be losing interest in the direct market – and no wonder, since they must be making a lot more money from digests.  I didn’t bother ordering their latest one-shot, Chilling Adventures Presents Weirder Mysteries.

THE WARD #1 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Cavan Scott, [A] Andres Ponce. I didn’t order this, but I saw a preview of issue 2 and it looked intriguing, so I bought issue 1 off the shelf. The Ward is about Nat Reeves, a nurse and single mother who works at a hospital for supernatural creatures. So kind of like Wolff & Byrd, but with doctors instead of lawyers. Nat is a compelling and three-dimensional protagonist, Cavan Scott’s writing demonstrates at least some medical knowledge, and Andres Ponce makes the hospital’s supernatural patients look scary and weird.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #130 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Pablo Tunica. The Turtles escape from Dr. Barlow and meet Seri, the triceratops girl. Venus befriends a shark mutant named Bludgeon. Leonardo talks to Oroku Saki. One of the Punk Frogs acts kind of sympathetic, but the rest are still assholes. This storyline has been disappointing. There’s too much focus on the dinosaur planet plot, and not enough character interaction.

BRZRKR #9 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Keanu Reeves & Matt Kindt, [A] Ron Garney. Unute has a vision of his father, then he turns into a giant egg, and then the egg hatches and Unute comes out and starts killing people. This series is only average, but I am kind of curious to see how it ends.

KAIJU SCORE: STEAL FROM THE GODS #3 (AfterShock, 2022) – “Off the Rails,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Rem Broo. Carlito is killed off-panel in a rather anticlimactic way. Then Michelle’s team travels inside Prodathu’s corpse to collect the shipwreck it ate, but their Russian contact betrays them and deliberately wakes up the monster, endangering the entire world. A pretty fun issue.

MY LITTLE PONY #2 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Celeste Bronfman, [A] Amy Mebberson. In the ruins of Canterlot, the five ponies meet an elderly Discord, who tells them about his plan to get rid of magic completely. I still don’t like this series as much as FIM, mostly because I’m not familiar with the new protagonists – indeed, I can barely tell them apart or remember their names. But at least this comic feels like a My Little Pony comic. I especially like the running joke where Discord’s pet opossum, Reginald Fursome, keeps “speaking” by holding up signs.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #39 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Alberto Foche. Miles talks with Peter, then they fight Mindspinner, who previously appeared (in a different dimension) as one of the Assessor’s clones. Shift meets a potential love interest, Johnetta. I like how Shift has a personality of his own, despite being nonverbal. He could maybe be read as a depiction of a nonverbal autistic person. At the end, Miles discovers that Uncle Aaron is being used to power Selim’s machines.

BLOOD-STAINED TEETH #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Christian Ward, [A] Patric Reynolds. I liked this better than the last two issues; it’s fairly exciting, and it includes fewer uses of the word “sip.” But I still haven’t changed my mind about dropping this series.

SLUMBER #4 (Image, 2022) – “Swan Song,” [W] Tyler Burton Smith, [A] Vanessa Cardinali. Stetson discovers that “Valkira” is an impostor, and goes looking for the real Valkira, only to discover that she’s still in Stetson’s office. This issue is full of fun weirdness. I especially like the scene where Stetson opens her closet and reveals a bunch of strange things, including a disembodied talking head named Gary. However, it’s hard to tell the characters in this comic apart. In particular, this issue includes two brown-haired women in glasses, and I thought at first that they were the same.

COPRA #43 (Copra, 2022) – “I Must Not Think Good Thoughts,” [W/A] Michel Fiffe. Three Copra agents fight the Asesinos. Meanwhile, “Shade” visits “Dr. Strange” and recovers his helmet, which is possessed by “Clea.” The full-page splash showing Clea, merged with the helmet, is the best of this issue’s many brilliant images. At the end of the issue, we meet some new characters (new to me at least), two of whom are based on Hawkgirl and Count Vertigo. As I mentioned, I talked to Michel Fiffe at Heroes Con, and he mentioned how some of the characters are based on multiple inspirations. For example, Xenia is based on both Clea and Enchantress (June Moone).

SINS OF THE BLACK FLAMINGO #1 (Image, 2022) – “Love is a Stranger,” [W] Andrew Wheeler, [A] Travis Moore. Sebastian Harlow, aka the Black Flamingo, a flamboyant gentleman thief. A Mr. and Mrs. Steinem hire him to steal a clay tablet from an exhibit of Nazi memorabilia. It turns out that the tablet is used to activate a golem made by Mr. Steinem’s grandfather. On his next heist, the Black Flamingo discovers an imprisoned angel. I enjoyed Another Castle, which was the last Andrew Wheeler comic I read, but Sins of the Black Flamingo is even better. It’s an entertaining crime/fantasy comic, and it also has a strong queer and progressive angle.

WEST OF SUNDOWN #3 (AfterShock, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Aaron Campbell, [A] Jim Terry. When Dooley and Constance return to town, all hell breaks loose, with a bunch of different enemies all showing up at once. This issue is a bit hard to follow because of the large number of characters, but it’s fun. I met Aaron Campbell at Heroes Con, but I forgot he was co-writing this series.

IRON FIST #4 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Alyssa Wong, [A] Michael YG. Iron Fist battles Fat Cobra and Bride of Nine Spiders, who were introduced in Immortal Iron Fist. Danny Rand and Luke Cage make a cameo appearance as they travel to Lin Lie’s town. Lin Lie wakes up to find his brother and nemesis, Lin Feng, demanding the shards of the sword back. (This character’s name is Lin Feng, not Feng Gege; “gege” just means big brother.) This issue is a quick read, but it’s fun. I like how one of the page layouts is based on the yin-yang symbol.

DUO #2 (Milestone, 2022) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Khoi Pham. Kelly and David try to adjust to having to share a body with each other. Also, they fight a bunch of drones. The premise of two minds occupying a single body has been done before – Mar-Vell, Firestorm and Dr. Mirage all come to mind – but Duo is unique because of its deep exploration of what it would actually be like to share a body with your lover.

NAUGHTY LIST #3 (AfterShock, 2022) – “Roshambo,” [W] Nick Santora, [A] Lee Ferguson. Santa goes looking for Roshambo, the only known troll-human hybrid. I feel sorry for this character; he’s an unrepentant villain, but only because he was exiled from both his ancestral species. Incidentally, we learn that all of Santa’s reindeer are female, and that he doesn’t really use the chimney.

LONESOME HUNTERS #1 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Tyler Crook. Howard, a very old man, obtained a magic sword in his youth. A century later, Howard’s young neighbor Lupe steals a pocket watch from her uncle, which the uncle previously stole from someone else. The watch somehow summons a magical magpie that eats the uncle’s brain, and Lupe appeals to Howard for help. I had low expectations for this series, because I think it’s the first thing Tyler Crook has written. I only bought it because I didn’t see much else of any interest in Dark Horse’s solicitations. But I was pleasantly surprised by this comic. It’s a creepy horror story with two intriguing and completely dissimilar protagonists. I especially like the magpies, which are an inherently creepy type of bird, and this comic even quotes the famous magpie-counting rhyme (one for sorrow, two for joy, etc.).

BATMAN #102 (DC, 2021) – “Ghost Stories Part 1,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Carlo Pagulayan. Batman fights Ghost-Maker and Clownhunter, who are not the same person. This comic is okay, but it lacks the strong supporting cast of Tynion’s Detective Comics. The highlight of this issue is when Harley Quinn goes looking for an apartment and asks if the landlord is okay with hyenas.

2000 AD #426 (IPC, 1985) – Strontium Dog: “Slavers of Drule,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Carlos Ezquerra. Johnny and Wulf accept a mission to save some kidnapped children from alien slavers. Slaine: as above. Slaine fights some more Cythron agents, then learns he has to fight an invincible “type three battle-orgot.” Dredd: as above. Chopper successfully evades the judges, and now feels ready for Supersurf 7. Rogue Trooper: as above. Rogue kills Moho, but not before getting a lead on the location of the antigen. Anderson: as above. Anderson continues her battle with the Dark Judges. Although this issue isn’t as slick and polished as recent 2000 AD comics, it has a vitality and novelty that the current 2000 AD lacks. Also, back in the ‘80s, the artists were better at exploiting the massive size of the tabloid page.

SPIDER-GWEN: GWENVERSE #3 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Jodi Nishijima. The four Gwens go looking for Iron Gwen, the adopted child of Howard Stark. She seems to exist in the same timeline as the Captain America version of Gwen. The issue ends by introducing the Gwen version of Ms. Marvel. This series has basically the same premise as What If? Miles Morales – what if Gwen/Miles were all the other Marvel heroes? But Gwenverse is executing that premise more effectively, and without engaging in blatant racism.

EXTERMINATOR #1 (Boom!, 2012) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Jeffrey Edwards. I hadn’t heard of this comic until I saw it in the cheap boxes at Heroes Con. It tells two parallel stories about Nox (i.e. Batman) and Red Reaper (i.e. the Joker). One of the storylines is set in the past and is a fairly standard superhero story. The other storyline takes place after a global apocalypse. At this point, Nox and Red Reaper have teamed up, and Red Reaper keeps trying to get Nox to abandon his vow against killing, in order to protect himself against the monsters that are taking over the world. This comic isn’t quite as interesting as some of Spurrier’s later work, but I did buy several other issues of it at Heroes Con, and I’m curious to see how its plot evolves.

RESIDENT ALIEN: THE SAM HAIN MYSTERY #3 (Dark Horse, 2015) – untitled, [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. Harry talks with an old woman, who eventually confesses to the murder of her abusive husband. Harry decides not to tell anyone about the murder. We also discover that the woman’s little great-granddaughter can see that Harry is an alien. Resident Alien actually reminds me a bit of Strangehaven because it’s a tender, affectionate depiction of a small town. It’s kind of a cozy mystery series, except with an alien.

FOUR COLOR #675 (Dell, 1956) – Steve Donovan, Western Marshal: “Showdown,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Everett Raymond Kinstler. In an adaptation of a Western TV show, a U.S. marshal brings law to a lawless Wild West town. I was amazed to see who drew this comic. Everett Kinstler worked in comics in the ‘40s and ‘50s, but left comics to become a portrait painter, and went on to paint eight U.S. Presidents as well as countless other celebrities. I’ve never read any of his comics work before. This issue reveals him to be a master of storytelling and composition. He draws beautiful action sequences, and he makes great use of negative space. He even includes his name in a few panels, circumventing Dell comics’s lack of credits. I’d love to read more Kinstler comics. It would be nice if someone would publish a collection of his work. Kinstler is one of a number of Golden Age cartoonists who are universally acclaimed, but who have fallen into obscurity because their work is not easily accessible. Other artists in this category include Lou Fine, Mort Meskin, L.B. Cole, and Mac Raboy.

AQUAMEN #5 (DC, 2022) – “All Points,” [W] Chuck Brown & Brandon Thomas, [A] Sami Basri. Mera and Jackson try to construct a “broadcast tower” to break the Atlantean sleeper agents’ mind control, while Aquaman and Black Manta fight the sleeper agents. I’ve lost interest in this series, since it’s ending after one more issue, but I might as well finish reading it.

CREEPY #85 (Warren, 1977) – “Like Icarus Falling,” [W] Roger McKenzie, [A] Leopoldo Sanchez. Two vampires have a centuries-long rivalry, which finally ends with their deaths, after the rest of the world has been wiped out in an apocalypse. “Hide and Go Mad,” [W] Budd Lewis, [A] Carmine Infantino. A famous actor searches for yetis in the Himalayas. He finds a yeti, kills it, and wears its skin, but it appears to be a dream, because his guards find him dead, having ripped off his own skin before freezing to death. Unusually, the inker on this story is Walt Simonson. “The Thing in the Well,” [W] McKenzie, [A] Leo Duranoña. Ten-year-old Nancy’s stepfather kills her mother and throws the body in a well. When Nancy starts investigating the well, the stepfather kills her too, but then the mother returns to life and kills the stepfather. Duranoña’s art here is very creepy, especially in the panels where we’re looking up from the bottom of the well. “Orem Ain’t Got No Head Cheese!”, [W] Bill DuBay, [A] José Ortiz. This is one of the most disgusting comics I’ve ever read in my life. A man and his girlfriend are walking in the woods. Aron, who’s dying of brain cancer, is walking in the woods with his girlfriend. A pair of cannibalistic, incestuous hillbillies, Orem and “Honey Gal,” murder Aron and his girlfriend, planning to eat their bodies. When they find Aron’s brain tumor, they throw it away in their trash pit. The tumor comes to life and tries to sleep with Honey Gal before slithering off toward civilization. This story is tasteless and gruesome, combining body horror, cannibalism and incest. It’s also hilarious, and it’s easily the highlight of this issue. “The Terrible Turnip of Turpin County,” [W] Roger McKenzie, [A] Martin Salvador. A sentient alien turnip creates a horde of turnip zombies. Martin Salvador was the most restrained and realistic of Warren’s Spanish artists. “A Way in the Woods,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Luis Bermejo. A pilot crashlands in the Canadian wilderness, where he falls in love with a woman who turns out to be a werewolf. He becomes a werewolf too.

THE WRONG EARTH: CONFIDENCE MEN #1 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Confidence Men,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Leonard Kirk. On Earth-Alpha, Stinger loses his confidence, and Dragonflyman  disguises himself as a villain in order to restore Stinger’s courage. On Earth-Omega, Stinger becomes overconfident, and Dragonfly pretends to be a villain in order to teach Stinger to follow orders. This is the best story Mark Waid has written lately. It has a very clever plot, and it clearly illustrates the differences between the two Dragonflies.

LAND OF THE LIVING GODS #5 (AfterShock, 2022) – “Tell Them Everything,” [W] Isaac Mogajane, [A] Santtos. Naledi defeats Shandu and resumes her quest for the Land of the Living Gods. This series was disappointing because it’s just a generic fantasy, and it doesn’t seriously engage with South African culture, except for the names and the South African vocabulary. Buckhead had a similar problem, but at least that series’s plot was based on genuine Yoruba traditions.

ARROWSMITH: BEHIND ENEMY LINES #6 (Image, 2022) – “Wizardry and Warlords,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Carlos Pacheco. Guy teaches Fletcher that he has actual magical powers, and then the two of them head for the mountain where Frederick Barbarossa is buried. We begin to suspect that Barbarossa is in fact the evil Blood Emperor. At this point, the series is going on hiatus because both Kurt and Carlos have been suffering from health problems. I wish them all the best. I’ve waited almost two decades for more Arrowsmith, and I can wait a little longer for the rest of this story.

THE VARIANTS #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Gail Simone, [A] Phil Noto. Jessica Jones has to confront her traumatic memories of being kidnapped by the Purple Man. When she comes home from a pretrial hearing for another of the Purple Man’s victims, she finds another version of herself in her apartment, wearing Captain America’s costume. This is an intriguing start.

CANTO: TALES OF THE UNNAMED WORLD #1 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] David M. Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. While Canto and his companions are crossing a bridge, a catlike creature refuses to let them pass until they tell him a story he hasn’t heard before. Canto’s two companions each tell a story, but the creature already knows both of them. The two stories are illustrated by Liana Kangas and Jorge Corona. I don’t understand why anyone likes Liana Kangas’s art, but Jorge Corona’s story is excellent. This issue is a nice break from the typical Canto formula.

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Reviews for April and May 2022

5-23-22

2000 AD #1595 (Rebellion, 2008) – Dredd: “The Edgar Case Part 7,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Patrick Goddard. Dredd arrests a fellow judge who conspired to murder a criminal. I didn’t quite understand this one. Defoe: “Brethren of the Night Part 7,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Leigh Gallagher. Defoe investigates some murders of linkboys – that is, boys who carried lights at night to guide pedestrians, before there was artifical light. Linkboys really did exist. The Vort: “Part Seven,” [W] Simon Spurrier (as G. Powell), [A] D’Israeli. I don’t understand this, but it has some evocative prose and beautiful art and coloring. Sinister Dexter: “The Importance of Fleeing Ernest Part 1,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Anthony Williams. Someone tries to assassinate Sinister and Dexter. Nikolai Dante: “Amerika Part 7,” [W] Robbie Morrison, [A] Simon Fraser. Nikolai and his latest girlfriend fight a bunch of cyborgs. Nikolai is a somewhat similar character to Jerry Cornelius, though he tends to be flamboyant where Jerry is cool and aloof.

CAPTAIN MARVEL AND THE CAROL CORPS #4 (Marvel, 2015) – untitled, [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick & Kelly Thompson, [A] Laura Braga w/ Paolo Pantalena. In Kelly Sue’s final Captain Marvel story, the Battleworld version of Carol finally gets a chance to fly above the skies. This story emphasizes the central theme of Kelly Sue’s Captain Marvel run: the thrill of flight. I’m actually not sure Kelly Sue DeConnick is a better Captain Marvel writer than Kelly Thompson, but she (the former) essentially recreated the character.

Next trip to Heroes:

SEVEN SECRETS #16 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. The heroes travel into Faerie, and Caspar reunites with the fairies who raised him. But then Amon invades Faerie, turns into a god, and cuts Caspar’s head off. Oops. I’ve come to realize that Seven Secrets isn’t quite as good as Nightwing, but Seven Secrets is still extremely fun.

SANDMAN UNIVERSE: NIGHTMARE COUNTRY #1 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Lisandro Estherren & Yanick Paquette. A young woman named Madison Flynn is having disturbing dreams. In these dreams she sees the “Smiling Man,” a creature with mouths for eyes. This earns her the attention of the Corinthian. It’s annoying to me that the Corinthian has become such a breakout character, because there are more interesting characters in the Sandman mythos. But James Tynion is a brilliant horror writer, and this comic is quite creepy. Lisandro Estherren’s artwork in this issue is significantly better than in Redneck.

LITTLE MONSTERS #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. The injured man reveals that there are other human survivors nearby. One of the child vampires drinks the man’s blood and discovers that human blood is far tastier than animal blood. Then a human girl shows up and shoots one of the vampires with an arrow. The children in this comic are extremely creepy, especially the bowl-haired twins. Dustin Nguyen is very good at drawing realistic kids, as he previously demonstrated in Batman: Li’l Gotham and Descender.

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #10 (DC, 2022) – “Reputation,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Cian Tormey. Lex Luthor publicly denounces Jonathan, and then when Jon tries to save some people from a disaster, they fear him more than the disaster. However, Lois proves that Luthor’s accusations are false. Then Jon comes out to his mother, and of course she accepts him, saying “I love every single part of you.” As Brian Cronin mentioned on Facebook, Jon and Lois are perhaps the most positive example of a mother/child relationship in all of superhero comics. The issue ends with Batman warning Jon not to trust Jay.

RADIANT RED #2 (Image, 2022) – “The Crucible,” [W] Cherish Chen, [A] David Lafuente. Satomi/Radiant Red goes to the rendezvous and is ambushed by a villain named Shift. Then Shift’s employer, Margo, stops the fight and offers Satomi a job. This was not as memorable as the previous two stories starring this character.

IMAGE! 30TH ANNIVERSARY ANTHOLOGY #1 (Image, 2022) – [E] Eric Stephenson? This issue includes a lot of different stories, but many of them were forgettable, and they’re all too short to give us much of an idea of where they’re going. I think the most promising story is “Like Red Stitches in Blood” by Brenden Fletcher and Erica Henderson. There’s also a story that explains the origin of Shift, the villain from Radiant Black and Radiant Red.

WEST OF SUNDOWN #1 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Aaron Campbell, [A] Jim Terry. During the Civil War, a poor Irish soldier, Dooley O’Shaughnessy, becomes the servant of a vampire, Constance Der Abend. She takes him to New York, where they live in luxury until vampire hunters burn down their house, destroying Constance’s coffins full of her native soil. Now Dooley has to take Constance across America to her homeland, somewhere on the west coast. This is an exciting first issue, and it seems historically accurate.

SHE-HULK #3 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Rogê Antônio. Jen reunites with Awesome Andy and tries to help Jack of Hearts adjust to being alive again. This series should almost be called She-Hulk and Jack of Hearts, not just She-Hulk. But Rainbow’s dialogue in this  series is excellent, as always. And I like how she includes characters from Dan Slott’s run, which is probably the high point in She-Hulk’s history.

NOCTERRA #9 (Image, 2022) – “Pedal to the Metal 1/3,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Tony Daniel. The protagonists continue their journey to Luna, and Blacktop Bill tries to convince Piper to betray her allies. This issue doesn’t advance the plot very much.

2000 AD #2260 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: “The Musical Part 2,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Chris Weston. Klegg puts on his musical, but we discover that the musical was funded by a villain named Enormo Overdrive III, and he wants to use it as an opportunity to assassinate Dredd. This story is hilarious, and it’s full of references to classic Dredd stories. Notably, the first page depicts actors dressed as the Green Giant, the Michelin Man, and other characters from the four banned progs. Diaboliks: “London Calling Part Four,” [W] Gordon Rennie, [A] Dom Reardon. Solomon Ravne accomplishes his mission, but a villain prophesies an ominous fate for him. Dom Reardon’s style is much looser and less detailed than that of other 2000 AD artists, and his stories are always in black and white. I wonder if Rebellion keeps giving him work because he’s cheaper than other artists. Or maybe he’s just faster. Dexter: “Lordy Jordy, King of Everything,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Tazio Bettin. Dexter and his companions try to escape from a horde of dinosaurs. Scarlet Traces: “Storm Front Part 10,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] D’Israeli. I don’t know what’s going on here, but D’Israeli’s art and coloring are beautiful. The Out: “Book Two Part 10,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Mark Harrison. The protagonist lands on a planet that’s about to be attacked by the Tankinar. Mark Harrison’s art here is gorgeous, and makes brilliant use of digital imagery and color.

HUMAN REMAINS #7 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Sally Cantirino. Anjali manages to escape the hippie commune with the fungus. The preacher plans to hold a public prayer meeting, but his lover publicly accuses him of lying to her, and is killed by a monster. Jess’s abusive partner McStay finally tracks her down, but a monster intervenes and kills him, but, as we learn next issue, it spares her. McStay is a sadly realistic portrayal of a domestic  abuser.

X-MEN RED #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Broken Land,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Stefano Caselli. Storm, Sunspot, Magneto and Agent Brand develop a plan to turn Arakko into a functioning society by giving it its own team of X-Men. This series is a sort of continuation of Al Ewing’s S.T.O.R.M., but with its focus shifted from space to Arakko.

BATGIRLS #5 (DC, 2022) – “One Way or Another Part 5,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael Conrad, [A] Jorge Corona. Cass and Steph fight the Saints, then look for clues in Arkham Asylum. Spellbinder invades Babs’s headquarters and knocks her unconscious. This issue is fun, and again, Jorge Corona’s art here is better than anything he’s done before.

MONKEY PRINCE #3 (DC, 2022) – “Enter the Monkey Part 3,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Bernard Chang. Marcus discovers that his love interest is The Riz’s sister, then he has to save The Riz from being interrogated by Robin. Marcus then discovers that his parents have been abducted by the Penguin. This series makes me want to actually read Journey to the West, but the revised edition of the Anthony C. Yu translation is very expensive. 

DEVIL’S REIGN #6 (DC, 2022) – “Conclusion,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Checchetto. The  heroes finally defeat the Kingpin and the Purple Man, but Matt lets the Kingpin live, and Butch rescues him from prison. Some other crimelords offer to make the Kingpin the president, but he refuses the offer, then literally sails off into the sunset with Typhoid Mary. Devil’s Reign was better than a typical crossover series because it had a non-trivial amount of characterization.

NEW MASTERS #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Shobo Coker, [A] Shof Coker. The protagonists accept a contract to steal the Eye of Orunmila. They pull off the heist during an event at the Jovian Embassy, where Governor Tosin is declaring Earth’s independence from Jupiter. The heist appears to be successful, but then the thieves are pursued by Tosin’s troops. This is a fun issue, and I’m no longer confused about how this series’ plot threads fit together. I would like to write about this series at some point, but I have higher priorities right now.

THE THING #6 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Next Big Thing Conclusion,” [W] Walter Mosley, [A] Tom Reilly. Ben helps Alicia escape the realm of the dead, with unexpected assistance from Dr. Doom. Ben and Alicia reconcile. This was an extremely fun series, all the more so considering the writer’s lack of prior comics experience. In fact, it’s one of the best Thing solo comics I can think of.

WONDER WOMAN #786 (DC, 2022) – “Trial of the Amazons, Part 5,” [W/A] Becky Cloonan, [W] Michael W. Conrad, [A] Rosi Kämpe. The four champions find themselves in a labyrinth beyond Doom’s Doorway, where they fight Echidna. I’m not a huge fan of this crossover, but at least it’ll be over soon. This issue also includes a Young Diana backup story. I love the art in these backup stories, but I can’t say the same about the writing.

2000 AD #2261 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Enormo Overdrive III’s plot fails, but Klegg’s producer dies saving Klegg from a sniper, and Klegg himself is arrested for “using a judge’s image for commercial enterprise without proper authorisation.” This is a very funny story, and Klegg is one of the few truly admirable characters in the Dredd universe. The Out: as above. Cyd escapes the Tankinar attack by jumping into her own bag, which works like a bag of holding, or Drywall from Scud. Scarlet Traces: as above. The story arc ends with the discovery of the “lost Martian homeworld.” Dexter: as above. One of Dexter’s companions declares herself the “empress of the synthosaurs” and gives Dexter’s group an hour to escape the dinosaur lair.

BLACK PANTHER #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Long Shadow Book Five,” [W] John Rudley, [A] Juann Cabal w/ Stefano Landini. T’Challa is put under house arrest, but escapes, and is pursued by the Hatut Zeraze. Shuri and Omolola try to help him out. This is a very unimpressive issue. It’s an overly quick read, and it depicts T’Challa in an unsympathetic way.

FANTASTIC FOUR #42 (Marvel, 2022) – “Protocol Zero,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Rachael Stott. For some stupid reason, Reed lets Ben think that Alicia and the kids have been killed, and Ben almost beats Reed to death before the truth is revealed. Also, there are other plot developments that hardly seem to matter. I’m tempted to say that this series has jumped the shark, except I still hold out hope that after this awful Reckoning War story is over, Slott will start telling interesting stories again.

2000 AD #2262 (Rebellion, 2022) – This is a 100-page “mega-special.” Dredd: “Trinity,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Richard Elson. Thanks to a dimensional portal, the comic book Dredd teams up with the versions of Dredd from the 1995 and 2012 films. This is a brilliant and funny idea, though a lot of the jokes in this story went over my head, since I haven’t seen either of the films. Most of the jokes have to do with the differences between the comics version of Dredd and the two movie versions. The Fall of Deadworld: “Jessica,” [W] Kek-W, [A] Dave Kendall. A woman is pursued by a zombie heavy metal band. The musicians sing as they try to kill her. This story is funny, though I don’t understand its premise. Kingmaker: “Falls the Shadow,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Leigh Gallagher. Crixus the orc and Yarrow the elf defeat their wizard mentor Ablard, who is possessed by the evil Wraith-King, but the Wraith-King’s essence escapes. This story was tough to understand at first, and I wondered if it was a sequel to something else, but it’s not. Dexter: “Bulletopia Chapter 8: Hosanna,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Tazio Bettin. I don’t know where the first seven parts appeared. In this part, Dexter is looking for medication for his companion Hosanna, and he fights Weld, a  former friend who’s been turned into a cyborg assassin. The Order: “Fantastic Voyage,” [W] Kek-W, [A] John Burns. A steampunk story starring Benjamin Franklin and various fictional contemporaries of his. John Burns’s art here looks more line-drawn and less painted than in his Nikolai Dante story. I was surprised to realize that he’s not only still alive but still working, at the age of 84. Tales of Mega-City One: “Christmas Comes to Devil’s Island,” [W] Karl Stock, [A] James Newell. Devil’s Island is a prison located on an artificial island in the middle of several highways. A Judge infiltrates the prison in order to apprehend an inmate who’s somehow still committing murders on the outside. In an epilogue, we learn that the Judge was the young Dredd. The Out: as above. Cyd explores the inside of the bag, until the bag throws her out, claiming that she’s contaminated. Proteus Vex: “Desire Paths Part One,” [W] Mike Carroll, [A] Jake Lynch. Just as incomprehensible as every other Proteus Vex story I’ve read.  This issue also includes an interview with Doug Church, the art director for the first few issues of 2000 AD.

G.I.L.T. #1 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Chapter One,” [W] Alisa Kwitney, [A] Mauricet. In 1973, Hildy Winters is about to get married. Almost fifty years later, Trista Lefever arrives at Hildy’s apartment to start a job as her home care assistant. Then Trista discovers a time portal in Hildy’s apartment that sends them both back to 1973. This comic is fascinating because of how it explores the generational differences between its two protagonists.

FUN WITH LITTLE ARCHIE AND FRIENDS SPECIAL #1 (Archie, 2022) – “Critter Junction,” [W] Shannon Watters, [A] Erin Hunting, etc. This is a reasonably well-done kids’ comic, but it has nothing in common with Bob Bolling’s classic Little Archie. It’s annoying how Archie has completely ignored Bolling’s legacy. He was one of the great creators of adventure stories in the history of American comics, and yet his work is mostly out of print, and no other Archie creator has tried to follow in his footsteps.

KAIJU SCORE: STEAL FROM THE GODS #1 (AfterShock, 2022) – “The Sweet Spot,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Rem Broo. Michelle, one of the two survivors from the first Kaiju Score series, is trying to maintain a low profile. So when an old man tries to hire her to recover a treasure from inside the body of an ancient kaiju deity, she refuses. But then another criminal puts out a hit on her, and she’s forced to accept the old man’s contract. This is a fun issue, but I still have the same complaint as about Campisi and the original Kaiju Score: I want to learn more about the world of these series, where giant monsters are an accepted part of modern life.

WHAT IF…? MILES MORALES #2 (Marvel, 2022) – “What If Miles Morales Became Wolverine?”, [W] John Ridley, [A] Farid Karami. In this continuity, Miles is Wolverine, Uncle Aaron is Sabretooth, and Ganke is Professor X. This issue is better than the last one, but still not nearly as interesting as Miles’s regular series.

RADIO SPACEMAN #2 (Dark Horse, 2022) – “Mission to Numa 4,” [W] Mike Mignola, [A] Greg Hinkle. Radio Spaceman helps save the astronaut from a vampire and a bunch of giant monsters. This comic is entertaining and creepy, but it’s essentially just a Hellboy comic without the continuity baggage.

ETERNALS #11 (Marvel, 2022) – “Hail Thanos Part 5,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Guiu Vilanova. Some of the Eternals fight the Avengers, while others prevent a town from being destroyed. Meanwhile, Thanos and Druig travel into Mentor’s consciousness. A funny moment in this issue is Kingo pretending to be the Obsidian Liege of the Mort-o-Verse. However, Guiu Vilanova’s art is a big step down in quality from Esad Ribic’s art.

HEATHEN #3 (Vault, 2017/2022) – untitled, [W/A] Natasha Alterici. Aydis finds herself in the Valkyries’ castle, where she learns that she’s not the first mortal to rescue Brynhild. At this point my Heathen collection is complete. I realize now that this comic has a pretty interesting plot, while before I was mostly interested in it because of Natasha Alterici’s art.

2000 AD #2263 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “Working Girl Part 1,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Patrick Goddard. Mona Plankhurst, the sky courier/single mom from #2219, is forced to accept an illegal contract from a creep named Sharksey. I liked the story that introduced this character, and it’s nice to see her again. Proteus Vex: as above. Vex fights a bunch of criminal clones. This story is starting to make more sense than it did before, but I still couldn’t explain what it’s about. The Order: as above. The crew arrives at the island of the dead. Kingmaker: as above. The story pivots from fantasy to science fiction, as we discover that the Wraith-King has traveled into space and allied with some hostile aliens. The Out: as above. Cyd turns into a Tankinar war body and is compelled to kill everyone she sees.

BLACK WIDOW #15 (Marvel, 2022) – “Die by the Blade Part 4,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Elena Casagrande. Natasha and her friends defeat the Living Blade, and Natasha accepts the loss of her family. It’s too bad this series was over. It was the best Black Widow comic ever, with the possible exception of her earliest solo stories in Amazing Adventures.

BUCKHEAD #5 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Shobo Coker, [A] George Kambadais. A predictable conclusion: the kids defeat the evil Yoruba deity, and Toba adjusts to his new life. This series was disappointing because it didn’t lean hard enough into its Yoruba mythological background, and other than that, it was just a standard kids’ comic.

APACHE DELIVERY SERVICE #4 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. Ernie finds the gold, but Sobrat follows him to it. Ernie escapes and calls in an air strike on the treasure site, which both gets rid of Sobrat, and ensures that no one else will bother the native people who are guarding the gold. Which makes me realize that this comic is sort of about cross-cultural solidarity between indigenous people. The series ends with Ernie back at home, fishing. I liked Apache Delivery Service, but like several of Kindt’s other recent works, it was too short to fully develop its themes.

2000 AD #2264 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Mona, Sharksey and the other couriers are pursued by Judges, and Sharksey reveals that all the couriers are wired with bombs. Mona is a powerful depiction of a woman who’s forced to do dangerous and illegal things for the sake of her child, because Mega-City One’s society gives her no other option. Incidentally, Mona’s child’s father is never mentioned at all. Proteus Vex: as above. I still don’t understand this one. The Order: as above. This chapter focuses on Cassiopeia, a young woman born into slavery. Kingmaker: as above. The space people refuse to ally with the Wraith-King, so he kills them. The Out: as above. Cyd’s daughter tells her to use the Warbody to destroy the other Tankinar. By doing so, Cyd survives the invasion, but then she’s imprisoned.

2000 AD #2265 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. All the other couriers get killed, and Sharksey tells Mona that he’s the only one who’s carrying the real merchandise. Proteus Vex: as above. Vex negotiates with a creature called Tiorn. The Order: as above. The protagonists all survive, but then they’re attacked by a pack of flying whales. Kingmaker: as above. The Wraith-King takes over the space fleet and invades the surface, and we see Crixus and Yarrow again, after they were absent from the last chapter. Saphir: “Liaisons Dangereuses Part 1,” [W] Kek-W, [A] David Roach. In a fantasy version of fin-de-siecle Paris, a detective, Inspector Mucha, discovers that he’s unknowingly fathered a child with an alien. I don’t know what the title Saphir refers to, as it doesn’t seem to be the name of any character.

THE WRONG EARTH: FAME & FORTUNE #1 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Fame & Fortune,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Michael Montenat. Two parallel stories in which the two versions of Dragonfly(man) each invest in building a new stadium. In both realities, the stadium is built as ‘cheaply as possible, and it collapses during its opening game, but Dragonfly(man) manages to dodge any blame. Ultimately there’s no difference between the two Dragonflies except their optimistic and pessimistic attitudes, and I guess that’s the point. This story is very clever, although it’s inconsistent with previous Wrong Earth stories because it portrays both Dragonflies as evil and unscrupulous. I might accept this characterization in the case of Dragonfly, but Tom Peyer has depicted Dragonflyman as a good man with no ulterior motives. 

JOE HILL’S RAIN #4 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] David Booher, [A] Zoe Thorogood. Honeysuckle escapes from the convict and eventually makes it back to Templeton. Rain is a pretty standard postapocalyptic story, but the characterization of the two central characters is very effective, and I like Zoe Thorogood’s art.

ONE-STAR SQUADRON #5 (DC, 2022) – “Things Lost in the Fire,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Lieber. Red Tornado investigates the fire and Gangbuster’s death. Eventually he figures out that Minuteman was responsible, but instead of turning him in, Reddy gives Minuteman some money and lets him escape. At first I thought this series was bitter and cruel, and it is, but it also has some heart to it. On a separate matter, I think I voted for Not All Robots for the Eisner for Best Humor Publication, because it was the only nominee I read. However, I don’t think of Not All Robots as a humor comic. It’s funny, but in a very bleak way.

ROCKSTAR AND SOFTBOY #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Sina Grace. A slice-of-life story with mild fantasy elements, in which two gay roommates try to throw a party, but they have to deal with a literal party animal. This comic is full of twentysomething relationship drama, which has become less interesting to me as I’ve gotten older. But it’s funny and heartfelt, and it has a cute talking cat.

STATICS #1 (Fantagraphics, 2022) – “Gravity Gal! Zappy! Meteorite Mite!” etc., [W/A] Jeffrey Lewis. I couldn’t remember why I ordered this, but the reason is because it was published by Fantagraphics. This issue contains several different stories, the best of which is “Stories My Dad Tells,” about the author’s father’s sea voyages in the ‘60s. Jeffrey Lewis’s art is very detailed, with effective spotting of blacks. I’d like to read his other solo series, Fuff, though I’m not sure where I could get it.

MIDNIGHT ROSE #1 (AfterShock, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jim Starlin, [A] Nikkol Jelenic. Midnight Rose uses her plant-based powers to kill a bunch of men. Later she settles down with a rich husband, and ultimately dies of old age, but four younger versions of her sprout from her grave. Midnight Rose is very similar to Poison Ivy, but the differences between the two characters are substantial enough that this comic isn’t just a Poison Ivy story. Overall, Midnight Rose isn’t the best, but it’s better than much of Starlin’s other later work.

RED ROOM: TRIGGER WARNINGS #2 (Fantagraphics, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Ed Piskor. Teenage criminal Richie and his pregnant girlfriend Jan discover that they can make even more money from making Red Room videos than from dealing drugs. Their narration heavily implies that the story is going to end with Richie and Jan’s well-deserved deaths. But what in fact happens is that Richie and Jan frame their rivals Donnie and Brenda for their crimes, and it’s Donnie and Brenda who die, while Richie and Jan escape the country and get off scot-free. And their son is going to grow up to be like them. This story is a sort of guilty wish-fulfillment fantasy: the two protagonists’ crimes are repulsive, yet because they’re the protagonists, I can’t help but sympathize with them, and I feel sort of relieved when they survive. It just occurred to me that the protagonists’ names, Ricky Corbeau and Jan Strand, are references to Richard Corben and Jan Strnad.

MONKEY MEAT #4 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Juni Ba. Astou, Monkey Meat’s most devoted fan, has to save a man who’s been possessed by dead souls. As a result, she discovers that the Monkey Meat company is responsible for massacring the “Oompa” tribe, obviously named after the Oompa-Loompas. This issue has some very impressive art, but I’m getting a little bored with stories about how evil the Monkey Meat corporation is.  

THE RUSH #5 (Vault, 2022) – “The Thaw” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Nathan Gooden. Nettie tries to seduce the Inspector, but he reveals to her that while he can’t stake a mining claim himself, he’s been getting very rich off all the other men’s mining claims. Also, he’s discovered that Nettie killed her husband. Then he leaves Nettie to be killed by a winged bat-thing… which calls her “momma.” The Rush is a very scary horror comic, though its plot is a bit confusing. For example, I’m not entirely sure that the man Nettie killed was her husband.

2000 AD #2266 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: as above. Mona completes the mission, and Sharksey is killed, and good riddance. But now Mona has to work for something called the “Masque of the Twenty-Three Faces,” or her father will be killed. I hope we see this character again soon. Proteus Vex: as above. Vex and Ko Andrum escape from the creatures they’ve been negotiating with. The Order: as above. The flying whales aren’t as bad as they seem. The chapter ends with a rain of debris from the future. Kingmaker: as above. Crixus and Yarrow fight the Wraith-King. Saphir: as above. Mucha learns how his child was conceived. Then the child is kidnapped, even though Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was trying to protect it.

WONDER WOMAN HISTORIA: THE AMAZONS #1 (DC, 2021) – untitled, [W] Kelly Sue DeConnick, [A] Phil Jimenez. In ancient times, the goddesses create thirty immortal Amazons, divided into six tribes. Later, Hippolyta, a widowed midwife’s assistant, is forced to expose an unwanted newborn girl. Instead she runs away with the child, but while looking for it, she’s captured by slavers. Then the Amazons appear and kill the slavers and free her, and Hippolyta follows them. This comic has a gripping and original narrative, but it especially deserves praise because it’s the finest work of Phil Jimenez’s career. He’s always been in the shadow of George Pérez (RIP), but this comic shows that he’s evolved his own style. His page layouts are stunning, his art is full of gorgeous detail, and he put massive thought and effort into creating an original design for each Amazon tribe. This comic was nominated for three Eisner awards, and while I didn’t vote for it in any of those categories, the nominations were deserved.

SUICIDE SQUAD #56 (DC, 1991) – “The Dragon’s Hoard Part V: Dragon’s Teeth,” [W] John Ostrander & Kim Yale, [A] Geof Isherwood. Another chapter of the story about the stolen weapons. This issue is full of great characterization, but nothing about it particularly stands out.

CEREBUS #104 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1987) – “Earnest Nonsense,” [W/A] Dave Sim with Bob Burden. During his trip to the moon, Cerebus encounters the Flaming Carrot, who’s drawn by Bob Burden in each panel in which he appears. Cerebus and the Flaming Carrot’s interactions are quite funny, since nothing the Carrot says makes any sense. I ought to look for more Flaming Carrot comics.  

HAUNT OF FEAR #22 (EC, 1953/1998) – [W] Al Feldstein. “Wish You Were Here,” [A] Graham Ingels. An adaptation of “The Monkey’s Paw,” with the twist that the protagonists, a bankrupt husband and wife, have read the original Monkey’s Paw story. Despite that, they make awful wishes. As a result, the husband dies, but comes back to life with his blood replaced by formaldehyde, and is unable to die again even when the wife chops him to pieces. Ewww. “Chess-Mate,” [A] George Evans. An old man is a world-class chessplayer, but refuses to ever remove his hat. Finally, circumstances force him to take it off, and we discover that his hat is concealing the severed head of his conjoined twin brother. Which is why he was so good at chess – because he had two brains. “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” [A] Jack Kamen. A stupid fairy tale parody that would have been more at home in Mad than Haunt of Fear. “Model Nephew,” [A] Jack Davis.  Ne’er-do-well Sidney murders his uncle, a retired sailor who builds ships in a bottle, but then finds himself trapped in one of those ships.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #6 (Marvel, 2014) – untitled, [W] Dan Slott, [A] Humberto Ramos. Black Cat and Electro kidnap Sajani Jaffrey. Spider-Man and Silk rescue her, while trying to ignore their animalistic attraction to each other. The story seems to end happily, but on the last page, we learn that Sajani has already given Felicia a plan to destroy Parker Industries.

SKYBOUND X #5 (Image, 2021) – [E] Sean Mackiewicz. The highlight of this issue is a new Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton story that stars Darwin, yet another of Keaton’s co-stars. As usual, Keaton gets angry at Darwin and tries to beat him up. What’s not usual is that Darwin is a chimpanzee. This issue also introduces C.O.D.E. (Combat Orb Defense Engines), a new solo series by Jason Howard.

WONDER WOMAN HISTORIA: THE AMAZONS #2 (DC, 2022) – as above except [A] Gene Ha. This issue isn’t nearly as gorgeous and striking as #1, but that may not be a bad thing, because #1 took forever to read. The simpler art style of #2 makes it easier to concentrate on the story, in which Hippolyta joins up with some other women freed from slavery by the Amazons. Then Hippolyta finds the Amazons again and convinces them to allow her and the other enslaved women to join them.

2000 AD #1617 (Rebellion, 2009) – Dredd: “The Ecstasy Part 1,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Paul Marshall. On the Day of the Dead, a seemingly immortal gunman shoots a bunch of criminals. Greysuit: “The Old Man of the Mountains Part 2,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] John Higgins. This seems like a Punisher story, except that it involves something called “primals.” Other than that I don’t understand it. Marauder: “Part 2,” [W] Robbie Morrison, [A] Richard Elson. An expelled former cadet Judge gets into a conflict with a corrupt Judge. Red Seas: “Signs and Portents Part 2,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Steve Yeowell. Some sailors are marooned on an island inhabited by fish creatures. Strontium Dog: “Blood Moon Part 2,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Carlos Ezquerra & Hector Ezquerra. I believe this is a flashback story starring the young Johnny Alpha.

WONDER WOMAN #236 (DC, 1977) – “Armageddon Day,” [W] Gerry Conway, [A] José Delbo. In order to save Steve Trevor, Wonder Woman has to fight a Nazi villain named Armageddon. Dr. Mid-Nite makes a cameo appearance. This is a rather boring issue.

ROBIN, SON OF BATMAN #5 (DC, 2015) – “Year of Blood Part 5,” [W/A] Patrick Gleason. Damien and Nobody fight Talia and the Lu’un Darga. The Sons of Batman – a group of grotesque Batman clones created by Ra’s – sacrifice their lives to save Damian. Nothing about this issue stands out in my memory.

2000 AD #1642 (Rebellion, 2009) – Dredd: “High Spirits Part 3,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Dave Taylor. Exorcist judge Lamia helps Dredd investigate some supernatural murders. Dave Taylor also drew the truck stop story in the #1580s. Sinister Dexter: “Wish You Were Here Part 1,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Anthony Williams & Rob Taylor. I don’t understand this story,  though there’s one page that includes cameo appearances from a large number of other 2000 AD charactersm like Slaine and Rogue Trooper. Cradlegrave: “Part 10,” [W] John Smith, [A] Edmund Bagwell. Some sort of grotesque urban horror story. Defoe: “Queen of the Zombies Part 3,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Leigh Gallagher. Defoe hunts some zombies in London’s sewers. There’s one scene where an Irish woman fights a Cromwellian soldier.

BATMAN #406 (DC, 1987) – “Year One Chapter 3: Black Dawn,” [W] Frank Miller, [A] David Mazzucchelli. Batman escapes from a trap set by the police, Selina Kyle becomes Catwoman, and Commissioner Gordon has an emotional affair with Sarah Essen. Things that occur to me on rereading this story: 1. In the few brief Catwoman scenes in this story, Miller and Mazzucchelli effectively created the modern version of this character. 2. Selina’s cats are adorable. And she has about eleven of them. 3. Despite his otherwise heroic behavior throughout this story, Gordon’s affair with Sarah is reprehensible.  

UNCLE SCROOGE #69 (Gold Key, 1967) – “The Cattle King,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Scrooge tries to teach his nephews to be cattle ranchers, but they have to contend with a gang of rustlers led by a certain McViper. This was the last issue-length story that Barks both wrote and drew, although the last one to be published was “The Doom Diamond.” “The Cattle King” has some funny gags, but is lacking in depth or originality.

CEREBUS #129 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1989) – “Jaka’s Story 16,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Jaka has some relationship drama with Rick and Oscar Wilde, and there’s a flashback sequence in which a younger Jaka meets an unimpressive potential fiancé. Not a whole lot happens in this issue, and I wonder if the series had already started to take a downward turn at this point.

VAULT OF HORROR #15 (EC, 1996) – “Two of a Kind!”, [W/A] Johnny Craig. Actress Willow Dree falls in love with her co-star Brad Phillips. It quickly becomes obvious that Willow is a vampire, but the further twist is that Brad is a flesh-eating ghoul. When they get snowbound in a cabin, neither can bear to eat the other, so Willow drinks her own blood, while Brad eats his own flesh. Ewww. But also awww. “Craft in Concrete!”, [W] Al Feldstein, [A] Jack Davis. Four corrupt city councilmen conspire to design a new road so that it passes by their own properties. But one of the councilmen insists that some bodies be exhumed so that the road can pass through the cemetery he owns, and then when the councilmen are driving down the road, the bodies come back to life and take their revenge. Jack Davis was really good at drawing rotting corpses. “Half-Way Horrible!”, [W] Feldstein, [A] Sid Check. Basically Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, except that the Jekyll character tries to get rid of Hyde by hiring a voodoo priest to destroy the ”evil half” of his self. The result is that the left half of his body dies. “Hook, Like, and Stinker!”, [W] Feldstein?, [A] Graham Ingels. Bernice and Stanley have been a couple for fifteen years, but Stanley refuses to marry Bernice because he cares more about his fishing trips. Finally Bernice discovers that when Stanley claims he’s going fishing, he’s actually cheating on her. She gets her revenge by killing him and mounting him on the wall like a fish. This and “Two of a Kind “are the best stories in the issue.

At this point I tried to read some of my backlog of Warren magazines, starting with:

EERIE #57 (Warren, 1974) – Spook: “Stridespider Sponge-Rot,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Esteban Maroto. In his debut appearance, the Spook, Warren’s zombie hero, battles his old lover Sarena. As discussed at https://www.angelfire.com/zine2/warrenverse/Spook.html, the Spook was Warren’s equivalent to Marvel’s Simon Garth. “Hunter,” [W] Bill DuBay, [A] Paul Neary. In the last chapter of his first story, Demian Hunter battles his father, the evil wizard Ofphal, but is unable to force himself to kill him, and Ofphal kills Hunter instead. Hunter came back to life a few issues later. Paul Neary is an underrated artist. “Hide from the Hacker!”, [W] Steve Skeates, [A] Tom Sutton. An overconfident Victorian detective tries to track down a murderer, but himself becomes the murderer’s victim. “Child,” [W] Greg Potter, [A] Richard Corben. A variation on Frankenstein in which the widowed Dr. Clervel (presumably named after Clerval from Frankenstein) creates a monster to replace his never-born son. Unlike the original Frankenstein monster, Child loves his father, and when Clervel is murdered, Child takes a brutal revenge. This is the only color story in the issue, and Corben’s coloring is gorgeous. “The Terror of Foley Mansion!”, [W] Carl Wessler, [A] José Gual. An average haunted house story, but with some excellent art. Doctor Archeus: “A Switch in Time…,” [W] Gerry Boudreau, [A] Isidro Mones. A Victorian criminal systematically murders the members of the jury that condemns them to death. Each murder is based on the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” This is a very creepy story, with moody and realistic artwork.

STANLEY AND HIS MONSTER #3 (DC, 1993) – “Parental Discretion,” [W/A] Phil Foglio. Stanley’s monster causes a great deal of problems for Stanley’s parents, and finally gets abducted to hell. This is a very funny issue, although Phil Foglio’s artwork is kind of sloppy.  At one point in the issue Stanley’s mother receives a package from DreamHaven books in Minneapolis. The address on the package is the address of DreamHaven’s old Dinkytown location.

SHERIFF OF BABYLON #12 (DC, 2017) – “Jim from Ops,” [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. In American-controlled Baghdad, three characters conspire to assassinate a traitor. This comic has many of the flaws of Tom King’s later work: it takes itself too seriously, its plot makes no sense out of context, and King’s dialogue is annoyingly reminiscent of Bendis’s.  

FANTASTIC FOUR #317 (Marvel, 1988) – “Last Kiss,” [W] Steve Englehart, [A] Keith Pollard. This comic’s main plot is a sequel to Comet Man, a series that no one remembers. Englehart did not create Comet Man, so I’m not sure why he bothered to revive him, but it seems to have been for the sake of continuity. Here, as throughout his FF run, Englehart is more interested in tying together various continuity threads than in telling an effective FF story. Also, there’s some relationship drama between Johnny, Alicia and Crystal. This issue includes a really disturbing scene where Thing and She-Thing appear to be having sex.  

CEREBUS #191 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1995) – “Mothers & Daughters 41,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus yells at Tarim, then falls into the Great Red Spot on Jupiter. There’s also a preview of Jason Lutes’s Jar of Fools.

DONALD DUCK AND MICKEY MOUSE #7 (Gladstone, 1966) – Donald: “Donald’s Bay Lot,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Donald buys an oceanside cabin from a crooked realtor. Various slapstick adventures result, until Donald sells the cabin back for a profit. Donald & Mickey: “On the Ball,” [W] Dave Rawson, [A] Daniel Branca. Donald, Mickey and Professor Dustibones travel back in time to an ancient Southeast Asian empire, where they have to rescue the rightful queen from a warlord. Not bad for a European Disney story.

VAMPIRELLA #75 (Warren, 1978) – “The Blob Beast of Blighter’s Bog,” [W] Bill DuBay, [A] José González. Vampi fights an old film producer who turns out to be an alien. “Peter, Peter,” [W] Gerry Souter, [A] Leo Duranona. Peter Marley, an immigrant to colonial America, has a rare talent for woodcarving. But when his wealthy clients all refuse to help him save his sick wife, he uses his talent to take supernatural revenge on them, and then to kill himself in a gruesome way. “Sasquatch Love,” [W] Cary Bates, [A] José Ortiz. Sort of like Crumb’s “Whiteman Meets Bigfoot,” but with a more tragic ending. “Business is Booming,” [W] Bob Black, [A] Isidro Mones. A coroner is tired of doing boring autopsies, so he murders his shrewish wife, then a bunch of other people, but eventually his victims return to life and kill him. This issue includes a much more gruesome variation on the scene in Fritz Lang’s M where the killer encounters Elsie Beckmann while she’s playing with her ball, and then the ball rolls away, while Elsie is nowhere to be seen. In Mones’s version, we see the young victim’s head rolling on the ground, rather than the ball. “A Matter of Principle,” [W] Budd Lewis & Len Wein, [A] Alfonso Azpiri. A gruesome post-apocalyptic story about cannibals.

SPACE CIRCUS #1 (Dark Horse, 2000) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. A space-traveling circus crashlands on Earth, and a young boy sneaks aboard the circus’s ship. This is not one of Sergio and Mark’s best works. It’s only mildly funny, and Sergio’s alien designs are gruesome-looking.

STAR-SPANGLED WAR STORIES #176 (DC, 1973) – “Target: The Unknown Soldier,” [W] Frank Robbins, [A] Jack Sparling. The Nazis try to trap the Unknown Soldier by creating a disguised secret agent of their own. “Charge!”, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Frank Thorne. A retelling of the Civil War Battle of Franklin, which ended in horrible disaster for the Confederate army. I think I liked this story better than the first one.

MIRACLEMAN: APOCRYPHA #3 (Eclipse, 1992) – “Waiting on a Star,” [W] Steve Moore, [A] Alex Ross. Some kids make wishes on a falling star. But the “star” is really a misfiring rocket, whose pilot deliberately refuses Miracleman’s help. This story is a reiteration of the series’ recurring theme of humans not wanting to become obsolete. We see this theme, for example, in Miracleman #16, when Liz refuses Miracleman’s offer to make her a superheroine. “A Bright and Sunny Day,” [W] Fred Schiller, [A] Val Mayerik. Young Miracleman meets a scientist who’s living life at an accelerated pace. After Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #31, every other story on this theme feels disappointing. “Gospel,” [W] Steven Grant, [A] Darick Robertson. An isolationist cult worships Johnny Bates and hates Miracleman. This story is not to be confused with “Prodigal” in issue 2, which is also about isolationist cultists. Miracleman: Apocrypha #3 also includes framing sequences by Gaiman and Buckingham.

OVER THE GARDEN WALL #2 (Boom!, 2015) – “The Tale of Fred the Horse,” [W] Pat McHale, [A] Jim Campbell. Fred the horse explains how a ghost caused him to be falsely accused as a criminal. This comic is funny, though I shouldn’t have ordered this series in the first place.

POWER COMPANY #5 (DC, 2002) – “Shadows Linger,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Tom Grummett. This title may be borrowed from a Glen Cook novel. In this issue Bork and Sapphire look for an apartment (as I recently had to do; see below), and DePaul encounters Asano Nitobe and Christine St. Clair, from Goodwin and Simonson’s Manhunter saga. This may have been the only issue of Power Company I hadn’t read.  

CITY OF SILENCE #1 (Image, 2000) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] Gary Erskine. Since the #MeToo stories about Warren Ellis broke in 2020, I have been very hesitant to read any comics by him. City of Silence is kind of like Transmetropolitan, in that it’s a satirical, sort-of-cyberpunk SF comic set in a fairly near future. However, it doesn’t have a clear premise, and it depends heavily on shock value and deliberate edginess. Now that we know what we know about Ellis, his attitude of “I’m cooler than you are” has become difficult to believe in.

X-MEN: CHILDREN OF THE ATOM #4 (Marvel, 2000) – “Child’s Play,” [W] Joe Casey, [A] Paul Smith & Michael Ryan. A retelling of the X-Men’s origin, taking place slightly before X-Men #1. The main attraction of this series was Steve Rude’s art in the earlier issues. Paul Smith is an excellent artist in his own right, but here, as in Nexus, his art feels like an inferior substitute for the Dude’s art, and Michael Ryan is far worse than either of them. Also, Joe Casey’s dialogue is very annoying, and his depiction of Cyclops, in particular, seems out of character.

2000 AD #1644 (Rebellion, 2009) – Dredd: “Rehab Part 1,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Karl Richardson.  Dredd apprehends a genocidal murderer named Rage Hard, but then someone abducts him from his cell, along with fifteen other criminals. Red Seas: “The Chimes at Midnight Part 1,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] Steve Yeowell. The members of the “Brotherhood of the Book” prepare for a confrontation with Lucifer, but one of them, Sir Isaac Newton, disagrees with his brothers’ approach and prepares to battle Lucifer on his own. Cradlegrave: as above. A typical John Smith story, with beautiful prose but an incomprehensible plot. Sinister Dexter: as above. Dexter and Sinister visit a cyborg surgeon named Bonehinge in order to save someone they accidentally shot. Bonehinge reminds me of some of Ian Gibson’s robots from early Robo-Hunter stories. Defoe: as above. Defoe heads to “Nonsuch House” to prepare for a confrontation with a villain named Prussian Blue.

CEREBUS #229 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1998) – “Rick’s Story 10,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Cerebus tries to leave the bar, and then Dave himself comes in as a customer. Dave tells Cerebus “You might be surprised at who you’re driving crazy – staying in one place this long, I mean.” The accompanying image shows the corner boxes for issues 201 through 228. This scene shows a surprising amount of self-awareness on Dave’s part: he did in fact realize how boring “Guys” and “Rick’s Story” were. The trouble is that he didn’t care. His later work could be called masturbatory, in that he wasn’t interested in whether anyone was enjoying it.

EERIE #60 (Warren, 1974) – I’ve owned two copies of this issue, but the first copy was missing its entire color section. Thus I bought another copy, at a much higher price, but didn’t get around to reading it until now. Night of the Jackass: “24 Hours of Hell!”, [W] Bruce Bezaire, [A] José Ortiz. The guests in a hotel are besieged by an army of “jackasses” – people who’ve taken a drug that makes them go berserk for 24 hours, and then die. Only two of the guests survive, and one of them loses his newlywed wife. “Nightfall,” [W] Bill DuBay, [A] Bernie Wrightson. A little boy – named Nemo in an obvious reference to the classic comic strip – thinks there are monsters in his bedroom, but his parents don’t believe him. Of course the  monsters are in fact real. Wrightson’s art here isn’t his absolute best, but the monsters look scary, and he draws some impressive drapery and shadows. Exterminator One: untitled, [W] Bill DuBay, [A] Paul Neary. A cyborg assassin is forced to murder his own daughter. Again I’m impressed with Paul Neary’s art, though he’s the least flashy of the artists in this issue. Child: “Childhood’s End,” [W] Budd Lewis, [A] Richard Corben. Child discovers an alien space probe, but then a human boy finds it and gets infected with alien spores. Child saves the boy, but is chased away by an angry mob. This is the best story in the issue, and Corben’s art and coloring are gorgeous, though some of his pages have way too many panels. “The Man Hunters,” [W] Gerry Boudreau, [A] Wally Wood. A female astronaut’s husband has his brain transplanted into an alien body. Woody draws some sexy women and some realistic-looking technology, but his aliens are unconvincing. “The Unholy Creation,” [W] Steve Skeates, [A] Leopoldo Sanchez. Just before Jason Boswell’s wedding, Dr. Schwartz kidnaps him and turns him into a Frankenstein monster. Boswell takes his revenge on the doctor, but is now stuck in a monstrous body. Dr. Archaeus: “Interlude,” [W] Gerry Boudreau, [A] Isidro Mones. Dr. Archaeus assassinates Miles Sanford, the detective who’s been trying to bring him to justice.

THE PHANTOM #1223 (Frew, 1999) – This issue is a 76-page special. “Mystery of the Crypt,” [W] Claes Reimerthi, [A] Joan Boix. In 1790, Chris, the future 13th Phantom, spends the summer with his friend Billy at Billy’s uncle’s vicarage. But then Chris and Billy discover a  treasure hidden in the vicarage, and the Phantom has to stop the uncle from killing them to protect the treasure. This is an exciting adventure story. Also, as I recently realized, one of the narrative advantages of the Phantom is that there’s a lineage of Phantoms stretching back to the 16th century, and they’re all indistinguishable from each other. So it’s possible to tell a Phantom story set in 1790 without violating continuity, whereas this wouldn’t be possible with Batman, unless the story was labeled as an Elseworlds. “The Dakk Pirates,” [W] Lee Falk, [A] George Olesen. The Phantom visits Dakk, a small country that sponsors pirates, and forces its ruler to stop the piracy. “Hzz and Hrz,” [W] Lee Falk, [A] Sy Barry. The Phantom’s caveman friend Hzz goes crazy and runs off. The Phantom pursues Hzz and discovers he was searching for a female of his species, who is of course named Hrz.

CEREBUS #230 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1998) – “Rick’s Story 11,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Jaka walks into the bar, and she and Cerebus talk a lot and sleep together. Compared to the awful issues that preceded it, this issue is almost enjoyable, since Jaka is more interesting than most of the  characters in Guys and Rick’s Story. Come to think of it, the only significant female character in either storyline is Joanne, who is a blatant sexist stereotype.

FOUR COLOR #413 (Dell, 1952) – “Robin Hood,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Morris Gollub & Jon Small. An adaptation of Disney’s 1952 Robin Hood film, which is far less well remembered today than the 1938 version starring Errol Flynn. Four Color #413 hits all the standard Robin Hood cliches, but it contains one scene I haven’t seen elsewhere, in which Robin steals the Sheriff’s gold and uses it to pay King Richard’s ransom. Here as elsewhere in the Robin Hood legend, King Richard I is depicted as a great patriot and King John as a villain. In fact Richard I, though he was a great soldier, hardly spent any time in England, while John was a better ruler than he gets credit for. An unusual feature of Four Color #413 is that it’s lettered in mixed case, rather than all upper case, and in a style that looks like italic type.

DONALD DUCK #301 (Gladstone, 1997) – Donald: “The Smugsnorkle Squatty,” [W/A] Carl Barks. Donald buys an expensive purebred dog, but the dog can’t do anything except retrieve game, and when he tries to do that, he almost destroys Donald’s house with dynamite. In the end, Donald trades the dog for the nephews’ pet mutt. This issue also includes some Donald Duck strips from 1939, all of which are generic gag strips, and a short backup story by Tony Strobl.

CREEPY #76 (Warren, 1975) – “Goodbye, Mr. Lincoln,” [W] Bill DuBay, [A] José Ortiz. Mrs. Russell’s young son Daniel is the latest reincarnation of Abraham Lincoln, Matthew Collins, and John F. Kennedy. If one of those names doesn’t sound familiar, it’s because Matthew Collins, a Reconstruction-era black leader, is a fictional character. Bill DuBay created him because he needed someone whose life spanned the period between Lincoln’s death and Kennedy’s birth. Anyway, before Daniel can grow up to become an even greater leader than his previous incarnations, he’s killed by demons. “Ensnared,” [W] Rich Margopoulos, [A] Alex Toth. This should be the high point of the issue, but it’s one of the worst Toth stories I’ve read. Three of its six pages have more text and negative space than actual artwork. Also, Toth didn’t do the lettering himself. He produced at least two alternate versions of this story’s title page, . They can be seen at http://pangolinbasement.blogspot.com/2014/10/toth-alex-toth-kitchen-sink-1995.html, and I think they’re both better than the version that was published. “A Flash of Lightning,” [W] Gerry Boudreau, [A] John Severin. A drifter gets a job working on a ranch, but we soon discover that he’s a vampire, and that he’s fallen in love with the farmer’s daughter. The farmer kills the drifter, but the daughter is already pregnant by him. “My Monster… My Dad,” [W] Jan Strnad, [A] Martin Salvador. An unnamed white single mother marries a black man as her second husband. The woman’s young son, Robert, is infected by his grandmother’s vicious racism, and in the end Robert murders his new stepfather. This story makes me feel uncomfortable. I guess it’s supposed to be a condemnation of racism, but neither Robert nor the grandmother face any consequences (because the story ends right after the murder), and this story depicts their racist attitudes so vividly that it almost seems to endorse those attitudes. “In Darkness It Shall End,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Vicente Alcazar. A fairly conventional Victorian vampire story, except it has an epilogue set in modern times, when the vampire comes back to life. Alcazar’s art is a beautiful example of the scratchy, photorealistic Spanish style. “The Imp of the Perverse,” [W] Rich Margopoulos, [A] Luis Bermejo. An adaptation of a Poe story. The ”perverse” here refers to the human tendency to do things simply because one knows one shouldn’t do them. The protagonist’s perversity leads him to kill his uncle, but then confess to the murder in public, resulting in his execution.

THE PHANTOM #1236 (Frew, 1999) – “The Gold Buddha,” [W] Claes Reimerthi, [A] Carlos Cruz. The Phantom’s friend Chou Chan, a Chinese detective, has vanished, and the Phantom teams up with Chou’s daughter to look for him. They discover that Chou was kidnapped while investigating some Japanese criminals, and the criminals are trying to recover a gold Buddha statue that the Japanese army stole from the Philippines during the war. The Phantom gets the statue back, but the main criminal is killed by some ninjas before the Phantom can apprehend him, and the story ends by suggesting that the ninjas want to kill the Phantom too. Claes Reimerthi was a very good writer of adventure stories.

2000 AD #1646 (Rebellion, 2009) – Dredd: as above. We discover that the criminals were abducted by Judges from a utopian alternate universe, and these Judges are more interested in rehabilitation than strict justice. Red Seas: as above. Newton goes looking for his ally, Augustus, but discovers that Augustus was kidnapped by a mad scientist who dismembers people to make his clockwork robots. Sinister Dexter: as above. We’re introduced to some criminals with punny names, as well as Carrie Hosanna, who appears in recent progs. Future Shocks: “Sanctuary,” [W] Michael Carroll, [A] John Cooper. In an overpopulated dystopian world, a scientist creates some robots that are programmed to kill everyone over the age of 21. But he writes < instead of > in his code, with the result that the robots kill everyone under that age. Defoe: as above. At Nonsuch House, Robert Hooke shows off his clockwork monsters. As far as I know, Defoe and Red Seas are not in the same continuity, but they seem to have lots of themes in common.

KOBRA #4 (DC, 1976) – “Brother’s Keeper – Brother’s Killer,” [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Pat Gabriele. Kobra teams up with some aliens, but Kobra’s brother Jason Burr foils their plot. This is a very unimpressive comic. Wikipedia quotes Pasko as saying “I wrote all of Kobra with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek—it was a preposterous exercise dumped in my lap,” and it’s not hard to believe that.

GREEN LANTERN #154 (DC, 1982) – “Rotten to the Corps,” [W] Mike W. Barr, [A] Joe Staton. While visiting sector 2813, Hal meets a fellow Green Lantern, Dalor, who’s set himself up as the local people’s god. Hal becomes indignant with Dalor’s actions and beats him up, and the Guardians summon them both for a trial. I know there are other stories about Green Lanterns being worshipped as gods, but I’m not sure if this was the first one. “A Matter of Snow,” [W] Paul Kupperberg, [A] Paris Cullins. A surprisingly grim story in which some cute, gentle aliens are murdered by more hostile aliens. The Green Lantern in this story is Medphyll.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #701 (Marvel, 2018) – “Promised Land Part 1,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Leonardo Romero w/ Adam Hughes & J.G. Jones. In a seemingly utopian future, Steve Rogers’s descendant Jackson tries to steal the Super-Soldier formula in order to save his dying son. But Jackson is caught and branded as a criminal. There are also two inset sequences drawn by Romero and Jones. The art in this issue is excellent, but none of Waid’s subsequent Captain America runs have been anywhere near as good as his first one, from 1995 and 1996.

FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #11 (DC, 2018) – “Godhood’s Beginning,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Aaron Lopresti. Last issue, Dorno, the child member of the Herculoids, was turned into a god by a creature called Animan. This issue, Dorno discovers that Animan himself is a child (compare Fantastic Four #7 and the Star Trek episode “The Squire of Gothos”), and Animan’s parents help Dorno resurrect his dead family and become a kid again. This story is all right, but it’s among the less impressive Future Quest stories.

REDNECK #12 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Lisandro Estherren. A bunch of gruesome fight scenes between rival vampires. This comic’s story doesn’t make sense on its own, and Lisandro Estherren’s art is far looser and less impressive than in Sandman Universe: Nightmare Country.

STAR-SPANGLED WAR STORIES #142 (DC, 1969) – “Vengeance is a Harpy!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Joe Kubert. Enemy Ace defeats and kills the Hangman, a British pilot, in a dogfight, even though the Hangman and his sister previously helped Von Hammer. The Hangman’s sister, Denise, reinvents herself as the Harpy and tries to avenge her brother’s death, and Enemy Ace has to prevent either of them being killed. Enemy Ace may have been Kubert’s masterwork. His page layouts are beautiful, and his writing is a gripping depiction of the insane logic of war. You can also see in this issue how Kubert influenced Neal Adams. In particular, the last panel on page 8, with the ghostly image of Denise’s face, reminds me of a similar depiction of Ra’s al Ghul in Batman #232.

CREEPY #78 (Warren, 1975) – “The Horseman,” [W] Bruce Bezaire, [A] Miguel Quesada. During World War I, a peaceful centaur rescues a Canadian soldier, but is forced to battle the German soldiers who come looking for the Canadian. I believe Bruce Bezaire himself was from Windsor, Canada, and this is his second story I’ve read that had a Canadian theme. “Unreal!”, [W/A] Alex Toth. In 1926, a silent film star turns out to be a robot. “Unreal” has a thin plot, but it’s far better than “Ensnared” because it has less wasted space and better visual storytelling, and is lettered by Toth himself in his distinctive style. “Creeps,” [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] John Severin. Lester Finch thinks everyone he sees is a creep, and he starts killing all the creeps he sees, including his own mother. Finally he sees his own reflection, realizes he’s a creep too, and kills himself. Severin’s art here is detailed and immersive, with effective cross-hatching and placement of shadows. I should also have praised his art in #76. “Lord of Lazarus Castle,” [W] Gerry Boudreau & Carl Wessler, [A] Jorge Moliterni. Geoffrey and Katrina use their inherited castle as bait to attract victims, who they murder and sell to Malcolm, a cannibal. But then Geoffrey runs out of victims, and Malcolm kills Katrina instead. This story is by Jorge Moliterni, an Argentine artist, but is mistakenly credited to Claude Moliterni, a French writer and editor. I have a BD album written by this other Moliterni, but have not read it yet. “The Nature of the Beast,” [W] Budd Lewis, [A] Martin Salvador. A modern man is bothered by memories of his past life as a caveman, and kills himself to escape those memories. Martin Salvador’ art is extremely skilled, though more subtle than that of the other artists in the issue. “God of Fear,” [W] Jeff Rovin, [A] Vicente Alcazar. A Smithsonian archaeologist is possessed by an ancient Algonquin Indian demon called Uturuncu. Alcazar’s  artwork is incredible, with beautiful shading and mixed-media techniques, but the Native American references in this story are all made-up. “Uturuncu” is the name of a volcano in Bolivia, nowhere near the territory of any Algonquian people.

CEREBUS #231 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1998) – “Epilogue,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Bear and two other characters from “Guys” return to the bar. Cerebus and Jaka finally leave the bar, meaning that after 31 issues of stagnation, the plot is maybe going somewhere again. This issue includes a “Mama’s Boy” essay that I don’t think I bothered to read.

2000 AD #1683 (Rebellion, 2010) – Dredd: “The Talented Mayor Ambrose Part 10,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Colin MacNeil. P.J. Maybe has disguised himself as Mega-City One’s mayor Ambrose. He disguises his sexbot Inga as former Chief Judge Hershey, and sends her to assassinate the present Chief Judge. Damnation Station: “The Sun Always Shines Part 2,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Boo Cook. Some people are marooned on an alien planet, where they fight some armadillo-like aliens. Boo Cook’s art looks highly three-dimensional. Ichabod Azrael: “The Grievous Journey of Ichabod Azrael Part 7,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Dom Reardon. I’m not sure what this story’s premise is, but it appears to be a combination of the steampunk and Western genres. Zombo: “Zombo’s 11 Part Nine,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Henry Flint. A gruesome but humorous zombie story. Again,  I don’t understand its premise. Nikolai Dante: “Heroes Be Damned,” [W] Robbie Morrison, [A] Simon Fraser. This chapter is mostly about a villain named Dmitri. I don’t think Nikolai appears in it.

I went back to Heroes on May 7, for the first in-person Free Comic Book Day event in three years. It was a fun time, though I was extremely stressed that entire week because I was searching for a new apartment. I did find one, and I’m feeling much less anxious now. Also, the Concord Comic Con was on the same day as FCBD, and I didn’t feel up to attending both, so I skipped the convention.

SAGA #58 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Pia Guerra. The deer-headed creep threatens to reveal Bombazine’s secrets to Alanna. Meanwhile, Alanna meets a cute wolf-headed guy, but her romantic interest in him vanishes when she discovers he’s not a reader. Finally, Director Croze orders Special Agent Gale to murder not only Hazel, but everyone she knows, including Petrichor and Ghus. I don’t remember either Corze or Gale. I wonder where this series’s overarching plot is going. The overall narrative of the war and the hatred between the two sides seems to have been lost, as the series has been more focused on Hazel’s early childhood.

ONCE & FUTURE #25 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Wasteland,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Dan Mora. Duncan, Brigitte and Rose join Robin Hood’s Merry Men, and Brigitte suggests that “Robin is the part of Britain that gets miffed at kings.” Robin Hood is often portrayed as a loyal follower of King Richard I, but my friend Valerie Johnson tells me that Richard is a later accretion to the Robin Hood myth, and that the only king mentioned in the earliest ballads is named Edward. Also in this issue, a steampunk version of Arthur appears, and time speeds up so that the Green Knight reappears earlier than expected. And there’s a reference to Eliot’s The Waste Land.

SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN #22 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Road to Tribulation Part 2,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Werther Dell’Edera. Gabi runs away from Erica, and then Erica gets arrested while trying to investigate Gabi’s house. Meanwhile, two scary House of Slaughter agents are looking for Erica. This issue felt more substantial than #21. I voted for this series for the Eisner for Best Continuing Series, although my favorite current series is Once & Future (well, and Saga).

NIGHTWING #91 (DC, 2022) – “Get Grayson Part 4,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Geraldo Borges. Dick and Wally fight KGBeast, and then an assassin named La Agente Fúnebre. (“Fúnebre” is the correct Spanish spelling; in French it’s “funèbre”.) The interactions between Dick and Wally in this issue are beautifully written. Taylor makes it clear that they’re lifelong best friends who know each other inside and out. Again, Geraldo Borges is an adequate replacement for Bruno Redondo.

FARMHAND #16 (Image, 2022) – “Fallow Earth,” [W/A] Rob Guillory. I’m very glad this series has returned. This issue is much darker than earlier issues. By this point, Monica Thorne’s plant hybrids have taken over the town, and the few intact humans are hiding out in a hotel.  The main plot event is that Abigail and Riley go to visit their grandfather without their parents’ permission, Ezekiel yells at them, and then we see that Abigail is possessed by Monica Thorne.

RADIANT BLACK #14 (Image, 2022) – “Retaliation,” [W] Kyle Higgins, [A] Marcelo Costa & Eduardo Ferigato. We learn that Accel unfortunately survived last issue, and Nathan and Marshalll get into an argument. Then some “crypto bros” start selling NFTs of Radiant Black’s skull, and Marshall goes and destroys their operation. Nathan and Marshall reconcile, but a fireman finds a drone camera in the ruins of the crypto bros’ hideout. I’m not sure why this is significant.

THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE #8 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Alvaro Martínez Bueno. The protagonists start designing their own buildings. Ryan, the artist, discovers yet another hidden inhabitant of the house. Not much happens in this issue, but there’s some good characterization, although it’s hard to remember all the characters, even with the guide page at the end of the issue. I voted for Tynion as Best Writer in the Eisners.

TWIG #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Kyle Strahm. An adorable blue-furred creature takes a new job as a “placeling,” who goes on quests at the direction of a “pathsayer.” But Twig soon discovers that his pathsayer has been murdered. This is a gorgeous and cute comic, full of weird, interesting creatures and settings, though its plot doesn’t really begin until the last page.

JONNA AND THE UNPOSSIBLE MONSTERS #9 (Oni, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Chris Samnee, [A] Laura Samnee. The issue begins with a flashback scene that appears to show Jonna’s egg crashing on Earth (or whatever planet this is) from space. Then Jonna and Nomi escape from underground, and Gor and Nomi find them. As usual this issue is a quick read, though Chris Samnee’s storytelling is impeccable. There was also a Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters FCBD comic, but it was just a reprint of the first issue.

LITTLE MONSTERS #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. The issue begins with the origin story of Billy, one of the younger child vampires. The human girl finds her dad dead, then discovers that Romie is a vampire. The other vampire kids start drinking the dad’s blood. This comic is mostly in black and white, but the adult human’s blood is colored red.

MS. MARVEL: BEYOND THE LIMIT #5 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Samira Ahmed, [A] Andrés Genolet. Kamala defeats Qarin by borrowing energy from her future selves, and the series ends happily. Also, we get a rational explanation for the Bollywood scene earlier in the series. This comic was fun, but other than the Bollywood references, it wasn’t as good as Kamala’s ongoing titles. I’m glad there are some Ms. Marvel one-shots coming, but I wish she would get her own series again.

MANIFEST DESTINY #46 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. The demon Navath emerges from the last arch, but rather than allow little Pompey to be sacrificed, York grabs the baby and runs off. Then Jensen appears out of nowhere and shoots York from behind. I have to admit I can’t remember who Jensen is or why he hates York. There are two issues left.

BONE ORCHARD #1 FCBD 2022 (Image, 2022) – “Shadow Eater,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. A writer goes to a house by a lake to try to work, and also to escape from his collapsing marriage. Because this is a horror comic, a mysterious masked creature kills the writer and assumes his identity. This story is short but frightening, and Andrea Sorrentino’s art is creepy and powerful, though not as radical as in his last two collaborations with Lemire.

BUNNY MASK TALES #1 (AfterShock, 2022) – “They Were Sickness,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Andrea Mutti. Bunny Mask shows her “gratitude” to Tyler by bringing him the corpses of various dead evildoers. “The Hole Where I Watch My Neighbor,” [W] Tobin, [A] Roberta Ingranata. Tyler’s neighbor drills a hole through their shared wall for voyeuristic purposes, but the hole starts working strangely: first it shows him other parts of the apartment than the room with the hole, then it allows him to see Tyler and Bee wherever they are, and then it shows him the cave. Finally Bunny Mask tells the neighbor that something is watching him through the hole, and the neighbor vanishes mysteriously. This issue ends with a preview of the new Bunny Mask miniseries.

ROBIN #13 (DC, 2022) – “Shadow War Part Four,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Roger Cruz. This issue contains some fun interactions between Damian and Bruce, but it’s a crossover issue, so its plot is mostly irrelevant to Damian. The main plot development that does matter to Damian is that he discovers that Deathstroke’s young partner, the new Ravager, is his (Damian’s) clone.

BEST OF 2000 AD FCBD 2022 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “Hard Talk,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] V.V. Glass. A talk show host repeatedly accuses Dredd of being soft on crime, until Dredd arrests him for spitting when he talks. This story is very funny, and it’s surprising to see who drew it. I only know V.V. Glass from The Last Witch, a comic that has nothing in common with Dredd. This issue also includes a Future Shock by Chris Burnham, about some flat-earthers who discover that the earth is hollow, and some classic reprints, including “Terror Tube,” the first appearance of Nemesis and Torquemada.

STEP BY BLOODY STEP #3 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Si Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. Let’s call our protagonists Girl and Giant. A prince invites Girl, who now seems to be teenaged, to his floating city, and she goes with him, leaving Giant behind. Then the city is attacked by a huge army of orcs, and Other Girl, from issue 1, is shot with an arrow while fleeing from them. Giant tries to rescue Girl but gets blown up. This is a beautiful comic, and it has a surprisingly complex plot, given its lack of legible dialogue.

MONKEY PRINCE #4 (DC, 2022) – “Enter the Monkey Part 4,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Bernard Chang. Marcus, Damian and Pigsy rescue Marcus’s parents from the monsterized Penguin, but then Marcus’s family has to move again, to a place called Amnesty Bay. I think this was the setting of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Aquaman run. This first storyline was rather basic, but entertaining. Along with Shang-Chi and Iron Fist, Monkey Prince is one of several current Marvel and DC titles that are heavily inspired by Chinese mythology and folklore. I may have more to say about that later.

NEVERLANDERS #1 (Razorbill, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Jon Sommariva. This comic initially seems like a slice-of-life story about a gang of runaway children living in a junkyard. Then we realize it’s a Peter Pan adaptation: the newest member of the gang has a fairy companion, and they take the other children with them to Neverland. This plot twist should have been obvious given the title of the comic, but it surprised me. Neverlanders isn’t as instantly gripping as Tom Taylor’s other current titles, but it’s interesting, and Jon Sommariva’s art is very expressive. I would consider buying the graphic novel that this comic is excerpted from.

AQUAMEN #3 (DC, 2022) – “Shadow of the Bat,” [W] Chuck Brown & Brandon Thomas, [A] Max Raynor. The Aquamen and Black Manta end up in Gotham City somehow. This series is entertaining, but it feels pointless, as DC has already decided to abandon this take on Aquaman.

ROGUE SUN #3 (Image, 2022) – “The Crystal Menagerie,” [W] Ryan Parrott, [A] Abel. We meet Dotty Perrine, who keeps each of Rogue Sun’s defeated enemies imprisoned inside a diamond. That’s a really cool idea. Then a young girl, who looks a lot like Marcus’s daughter, frees one of the villains from its diamond. Meanwhile, Marcus suspects that his younger son, Brock, caused his death, but he and Dylan learn that Brock was only trying to bring his dad back to life.

DOCTOR WHO: FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2022 (Titan, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jody Houser, [A] Roberta Ingranata (who also drew the second story in Bunny Mask Tales). In 1962, the Fugitive Doctor meets some Earth children whose “toys” turn out to be resource-harvesting aliens. The Doctor decides they like Earth, and a year later, their next incarnation, the First Doctor, returns to Earth with his companion Susan. This is an insubstantial but fun story. I’ve never been able to get into Doctor Who, but I might start watching it when the new series begins.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #128 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Sophie Campbell, [A] Pablo Tunica. I’m not sure which parts of this issue are drawn by Sophie Campbell, but I’m guessing it’s just the flashbacks. This issue, we find out what Barlow has been doing to Venus de Milo, and the dinosaur girl finally leaves her planet.

SEASON OF THE BRUJA #2 (Oni, 2022) – untitled, [W] Aaron Durán, [A] Sara Soler. Althalia discovers that her grandmother isn’t dead for good, and meanwhile, some evil clergymen are conspiring against her. This comic is entertaining, and its artwork is heavily influenced by Mexican art, particularly the designs of the two living figurines. This issue includes a number of references that I had to look up. The song on page one is “La calabaza” by La Arrolladora Banda El Limón. “Wishram” is a Native American tribe from Oregon that does or did speak a Chinookan language. “Estrellas con pollo” is chicken soup with pasta stars. The place where the two priests meet is an outdoor shrine in Portland known as The Grotto.

TEX IN THE LAND OF THE SEMINOLES FCBD (Epicenter, 2022) – untitled, [W] Mauro Boselli, [A] Michele Rubini. In the Florida swamps, Tex, who is posing as Ben Walker, has to avoid being killed by either the American army or the Seminoles. This comic has an exciting story and excellent black-and-white art, and its depiction of the Seminoles seems accurate. It’s interesting how the Seminoles tell Tex/Ben  that they accept runaways, but only if they’re black. I don’t know if that was actually true. The trouble with this comic is that the translation is just awful. It’s even more unidiomatic than Joe Johnson’s translations for NBM, which I have often complained about. Epicenter is doing a good thing by publishing Bonelli comics in English, but I suspect that these comics have a very limited audience, since most American readers have no idea what they are. Also, Bonelli is publishing these comics at a rather high price point. When Dark Horse published some Bonelli comics in the late ’90s, they were closer in price to regular American comics (and even then, nobody bought them or understood what they were).

SPIDER-GWEN: GWENVERSE #2 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Jodi Nishijima. Spider-Gwen and Thorgwen meet Gwen Rogers and also Wolvergwen, who is an adorable little ball of rage. We also see the origin of Iron Gwen. This comic is full of entertaining dialogue, though its plot is so convoluted that it’s best not to try to understand it.  

BLACK HAMMER REBORN #11 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Caitlin Yarsky. Elliot and Rose discover that the new version of Black Hammer Farm is located in the real world, the one where I’m living right now. I don’t know how that works exactly, since but it’s a cool twist.  Then Inspector Insector shows up, followed by a police car.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY: TRESE: LAST SEEN AFTER MIDNIGHT (Ablaze, 2022) – “Last Seen After Midnight,” [W] Budjette Tan, [A] KaJo Baldisimo. Alexandra Trese is a Manila detective who can contact Filipino spirits. This issue, she solves the case of a woman who was abducted by human traffickers and murdered. Trese is the most famous contemporary Filipino comic, and I’ve already ordered the first volume of it. This FCBD issue makes me even more excited to read more Trese. This comic is moody, exciting, and deeply rooted in Filipino culture and folklore. BTW, one of the creatures Trese summons is Santelmo, i.e. St. Elmo’s Fire. This creature seems to be the result of syncretism between Filipino and Spanish culture. See https://www.esquiremag.ph/long-reads/features/santelmo-origin-trese-a00293-20210614-lfrm.

MAX MEOW: CAT ON THE STREET COMICS SPECTACULAR (Random House, 2022) – “Cake Mistake,” [W/A] John Gallagher. Two very simple stories about a pair of cat superheroes. I  suppose this comic is cute, but it has little to interest an adult reader.

GALAXY: THE PRETTIEST STAR FCBD SPECIAL EDITION 2022 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jadzia Axelrod, [A] Jess Taylor. A preview of a graphic novel about Taylor, a high school boy, who is actually Galaxy, an alien princess.  This comic is a good example of transgender representation, and Jess Taylor’s painted art is beautiful. As with some of these other FCBD comics, I’d be interested in reading the full graphic novel, but I’m not in any rush to go and buy it. Jadzia Axelrod is herself trans, and she named herself after Dax from DS9, who is also transgender. https://epgn.com/2020/05/06/jadzia-axelrod-comic-genius/

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2022: ALL AGES (Dark Horse, 2022) – ATLA: “Aang’s Unfreezing Day,” [W] Kelly Leigh Miller, [A] Diana Sim w/ Christianne Gillenardo-Goudreau. A stupid non-story drawn in a chibi style. I call it a non-story because it ends with a “to be continued” before its plot is resolved. It’s not remotely as good as Yang and GuriHiru’s Avatar comics. Korra: “Beach Wars,” [W/A] Meredith McClaren. An elderly Katara and Toph have a conversation on the beach. This story is pretty cute.

DARK CRISIS #0 FCBD SPECIAL EDITION 2022 (DC, 2022) – “Who Are the Justice League?”, [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Jim Cheung. After the Justice League vanishes, Wally Wood fights Clayface and then talks with a young boy about starting a new Justice League. The highlight of this story is pages 2 and 3, where Jim Cheung draws a bunch of different versions of the JLA in period-approriate styles. There’s also a preview of Dark Crisis #1, which I don’t plan to read.

THE LAST SESSION #5 (Mad Cave, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jasmine Walls, [A] Dozerdraws. The party resolve their differences with Cassandra, and then their characters finish the campaign by defeating the evil nobleman who hired them. This was a fun miniseries.

ROBINS #6 (DC, 2022) – “Being Robin Part 6,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Baldemar Rivas. Bruce reveals that the “first Robin,” Jenny Wren, is in fact the zeroth Robin. She preceded Dick as Batman’s partner, but then Batman abandoned her when she killed a criminal. The Robins team up with Batman to defeat Jenny Wren and the Escape Artist. This was also an entertaining miniseries. Tim Seeley succeeded in distinguishing the five Robins from each other, and in making them interact in interesting ways.

ENEMIES FREE PREVIEW (Yen, 2022) – “Enemies,” [W/A] Svetlana Chmakova. In the latest Berrybrook Middle School book, rivals Felicity Teale and Joseph Koh compete against each other to make a business plan. This comic seems very similar to the first three books in the series (the fourth was a do-it-yourself guide). I presented a paper on Chmakova at the 2022 MLA convention.

DOG MAN AND FRIENDS SUPER COMIC TEASER (Scholastic, 2022) – three stories, [W/A] Dav Pilkey. This contains previews of three of Dav Pilkey’s kids’ comics series, Captain Underpants, Dog Man and Cat Kid, the first of which is illustrated prose rather than comics. Dav Pilkey’s work is important, and I need to address it somehow in my research, but I don’t personally like it. BTW, I’m going to file this under “Captain Underpants” because that’s the first name listed on the cover.  

BLOOD STAINED TEETH #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Christian Ward, [A] Patric Reynolds. The premise of this story is that there are two kinds of vampires: First Borns can turn normal humans into Sips, but Sips can’t turn anyone. One First Born, Atticus Sloane, is ordered to kill all the people he turned into Sips. My biggest problem with this series is that the word “Sip” is extremely annoying. Otherwise, this comic is just average, and I liked Tommy Gun Wizards better.

CLEMENTINE #1 FREE COMIC BOOK DAY (Image, 2022) – “Clementine,” [W/A] Tillie Walden. Clementine, from the Telltale Walking Dead games, meets a survivor who builds her a new prosthetic leg. I’m not a huge Walking Dead fan, and I wasn’t planning to buy the Clementine graphic novels, but this preview actually makes me want to read them. Tillie Walden is the best young cartoonist in America, and her work here is very powerful and emotionally subtle. This issue also includes a preview of Irma Kniivila and Tri Vuong’s Everyday Hero Machine Boy. This comic is super cute, and I would certainly order it if it was a comic book, but I’m more reluctant to buy graphic novels. The last story, Mairghread Scott and Pablo Tunica’s “Sea Serpent’s Heir,” has some detailed and immersive art, but it’s the worst of the three.

DISNEY MASTERS: DONALD DUCK & CO. FCBD 2022 SPECIAL EDITION (Fantagraphics, 2022) – Donald: “Sore Losers,” [W/A] William Van Horn. Donald has recurring dreams about being given money by Scrooge. Van Horn is a skilled imitator of Barks, but he’s no Don Rosa, and he doesn’t seem interested in telling adventure stories, only humor stories. This issue also contains some unimpressive stories about Super Goof, Donald and Fethry, and Li’l Bad Wolf.

BLACK PANTHER LEGENDS #4 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tochi Onyebuchi, [A] Enid Balám & Ramón F. Bachs. A boring and unoriginal rehash of Fantastic Four #52. I think it’s because of this comic that I felt reluctant to read Captain America: Symbol of Truth #1, which is also written by Onyebuchi. (But that comic was better than I expected. See below.)

NAUGHTY LIST #1 (AfterShock, 2022) – “A Strange Man in the Woods,” [W] Nick Santora, [A] Lee Ferguson. A flashback depicts how a medieval Belgian peasant turned into Santa Claus. In the modern day, someone steals Santa’s naughty list and uses it to take vigilante justice on criminals. But when innocent children get killed as a result of this, Santa realizes he needs to intervene. This comic is obviously reminiscent of Klaus, and Santora and Ferguson’s art and writing are not at the same level as Morrison and Mora’s. However, Naughty List presents a significantly different take on Santa Claus from Klaus, and it’s interesting enough to be worth reading.

SLUMBER #2 (Image, 2022) – “Shadowplay,” [W] Tyler Burton Smith, [A] Vanessa Cardinali. Detective Finch investigates Stetson, under the guise of coming to her as a client. Stetson discovers that Finch has seen a certain dream creature named Valkira, and she goes looking for Valkira in Stetson’s dreams. The best line in this issue is “Don’t worry about the ostrich. Ignore the ostrich.”

LAND OF THE LIVING GODS #3 (AfterShock, 2022) – “None of This is Normal,” [W] Isaac Mogajane, [A] Santtos. Kaelo sells Naledi to a slave dealer, but then has second thoughts, and is appalled to discover that the dealer has sold Naledi to the witch for sacrifice. Meanwhile, in prison, Naledi meets Lutho, who was sacrificed in the last issue but came back to life.  I like this series, though it’s not as impressive as another Africanfuturist comic, New Masters.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #0 (Marvel, 2022) – “Future Proof,” [W] Tochi Onyebuchi, Jackson Lanzing & Collin Kelly, [A] Mattia De Iulis. A preview of the two upcoming Captain America titles – one starring Steve Rogers and written by Lanzing and Kelly, and another starring Sam Wilson and written by Onyebuchi. This is an exciting comic with impressive painted art, but I’m only interested in reading the Sam Wilson series and not the Steve Rogers series.

WE HAVE DEMONS #2 (Dark Horse, 2022) – “Tough Mother” and other chapters, [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Greg Capullo. Gus reveals his origin, then he and Lam and their allies fight some demons aboard their plane. This may be a reference to Snakes on a Plane. When the team gets to a safehouse, Lam’s dad’s corpse is possessed by demons. This is a fun series with impressive worldbuilding, but it deserves more than three issues.

ICE CREAM MAN #29 (Image, 2022) – “Living Will,” [W] W. Maxwell Prince, [A] Martín Morazzo. A man named Will Parson dies at only 37, and the story is structured as a list of his bequests in his will. The pun on Will and will is perhaps too obvious to mention. This is a powerful story, but Ice Cream Man is just unrelentingly bleak, to the point of monotony.

SHANG-CHI #11 (Marvel, 2022) – “Blood and Monsters Part Three,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Marcus To. Shang-Chi is imprisoned in Ta Lo, but his father appears to him and tells him to escape and steal the Jade Emperor’s ten bracelets. These bracelets appear to be the same as the Mandarin’s rings, though unlike the Mandarin’s original rings, they go on the arms and not the fingers, and they don’t have ten different powers. This may be a retcon introduced in order to harmonize the comics with the movies.

BRZRKR #8 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Keanu Reeves & Matt Kindt, [A] Ron Garney. I don’t quite understand this issue. Unute somehow vanishes, but his handlers develop a way of tracking him and making clones of him.

NEWBURN #6 (Image, 2022) – “My Lucky Night,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jacob Phillips. In 2006, a young Emily forms a lifelong resolution to be a detective. In 2016, she goes to police academy, but accidentally kills a fellow cadet in a fight, with another cop, Sydney, as the only witness. In 2022, Sydney is in debt to a Russian mobster, Alexei. He discovers that Emily has left the police academy and become Newburn’s partner, and he sells Alexei Emily’s secret. A significant theme of this story is Emily’s sense of divided loyalty, as a black woman and an aspiring cop.

QUESTS ASIDE #1 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Brian Schirmer, [A] Elena Gogou. In a Dungeons & Dragons-esque fantasy world, Barrow and King Durk were adventuring partners, but Barrow retired from adventuring and opened an inn, Quests Aside. But then the king tells Barrow that the inn has to be converted to a barracks in thirty days. This is a fun comic, but I found its plot extremely hard to understand. There are a ton of characters, none of whom are introduced properly. By the end of the issue I mostly understood what was going on, but I fear that issue 2 will be just as confusing.

ONE-STAR SQUADRON #6 (DC, 2022) – “Aftermaths and Long Divisions,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Lieber. Reddy falsely reports Terry (Minuteman) to have died, but then discovers that Terry is alive and has cleaned himself up. Reddy realizes that he really is a hero, despite his own doubts. I disliked this series at first, but by its end, it was very subtle and emotionally affecting. However, I still think Russell wrote Power Girl in a completely out-of-character way.

THE YEAR OF VALIANT FCBD 2022 SPECIAL (Valiant, 2022) – Bloodshot: “Instead,” [W] Deniz Camp, [A] Jon Davis-Hunt, plus other stories. A collection of previews of upcoming Valiant titles. The only one that I’d even consider buying is Jeff Parker’s Ninjak. The Archer & Armstrong preview is funny, but I consider Archer and Armstrong to be Barry Windsor-Smith’s characters, and I’m not interested in reading another writer’s version of them. Archer and Armstrong are more or less the same characters as Aram and Axus from Freebooters. Sadly there’s no chance of Freebooters ever being completed.

BATMAN: THE KNIGHT #4 (DC, 2022) – “The Knight Part 4,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Carmine Di Giandomenico. Bruce becomes a student at a dojo atop Paektu Mountain in Korea. Oddly the leader of the dojo, Kirigi, is Japanese and not Korean. Zdarsky tries to offer a plausible reason for this, but probably the real reason is that Kirigi was created in 1989, by a writer who couldn’t tell Japanese and Korean names apart. Also, I suspect Kirigi’s name was borrowed from Frank Miller’s Daredevil. Anyway, Bruce discovers that Kirigi is training members of the League of Assassins, and he has to team up with his fellow student Anton to escape the dojo with his life. I think Anton is the future Night-Slayer, another ‘80s character.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2022: GENERAL (Dark Horse, 2022) – Stranger Things: “Creature Feature,” [W] Michael Moreci, [A] Pius Bak. I have no knowledge of Stranger Things, so I’m not sure what this story was about. Resident Alien: “The Ghost,” [W] Peter Hogan, [A] Steve Parkhouse. Harry visits an old lady, Myrtle, whose house appears to be haunted. The “ghost” is in fact an undocumented immigrant who’s been hiding out in Myrtle’s attic, and Myrtle allows him to stay there for free and declines to press charges. This story is kind of heartwarming.

THE INCAL UNIVERSE: FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2022 (Humanoids, 2022) – [E] Mark Waid & Jake Thomas. A summary of the original Incal epic, followed by previews of upcoming titles set in the same universe. The only one of these that I’d consider reading is the one that’s written by Mark Russell. Otherwise, while I love the original Incal, and also Metabarons, I don’t have much interest in reading Incal Universe stories that aren’t by either Moebius or Jodorowsky.

TRIAL OF THE AMAZONS: WONDER GIRL #2 (DC, 2022) – “Trial of the Amazons Part 6,” [W/A] Joëlle Jones, [A] Adriana Melo. In another tedious chapter of Trial of the Amazons, Wonder Girl (Cassie) proves that Artemis murdered Hippolyta. This comic doesn’t have enough Yara Flor or enough Joëlle Jones artwork, and it’s not very interesting.

REFRIGERATOR FULL OF HEADS #6 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Rio Youers, [A] Tom Fowler. The villain turns into a snake and gets eaten by the shark. One of the heads survives, creating a plot hook for a sequel. If there is a third XXX Full of Heads miniseries, I’m probably going to skip it unless it’s written by Joe Hill.

IT WON’T ALWAYS BE LIKE THIS FCBD (Ten Speed, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Malaka Ghraib. A graphic memoir in which the author spends the summer at an Egyptian resort with her dad and her new stepmother Hala. Ghraib’s story is intriguing, and I like the interactions between her and her stepmother. However, Ghraib’s drawing is very underwhelming. Her artwork tells the story successfully, but is uninteresting to look at. I do believe it’s not necessary to be a virtuousic draftsperson in order to create comics, and I’ve published a comic myself despite having no drawing ability. But I do wonder if Ghraib might have been better off working with an artistic collaborator.

HARDWARE SEASON ONE #5 (Milestone, 2022) – “Barrage,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Denys Cowan. Edwin Alva continues trying to kill Hardware. This series is frankly boring, and I think I’m going to quit reading it. There’s a two-page spread at the end of this issue that consists of 18 panels, 17 of which are exactly the same. There is rarely a good reason for this sort of artistic laziness.

BYLINES IN BLOOD #4 (AfterShock, 2022) – “The Hidden King,” [W] Erika Schultz & Van Jensen, [A] Aneke. Satya finally solves the murder, and then a young man asks her to help his brother out of trouble. This miniseries was entertaining, but it didn’t make much of an impression on me.  

NUBIA: CORONATION SPECIAL #1 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Stephanie Williams & Vita Ayala, [A] Marguerite Sauvage et al. This issue has a framing sequence by Marguerite Sauvage, with inset sequences by Colleen Doran, Darryl Banks, Jill Thompson and Alitha Martinez. The best of the sequences is the one that’s set in the ‘70s, where Nubia saves a woman from a predator, but is herself arrested by racist police. The Jill Thompson sequence has beautiful painted art, but a dumb plot. Overall I’ve been unimpressed with these Nubia comics, and I feel like the authors are telling us that Nubia is a great heroine, but not showing us what’s so great about her. I think I’m going to skip reading Nubia, Queen of the Amazons.

SWAMP THING #12 (DC, 2022) – “Jericho’s Rose,” [W] Ram V, [A] Mike Perkins. Harper Wallace Pilgrim – or the entity possessing his corpse – creates a new Parliament of Gears, the counterpart to the existing elemental parliaments. Levi Kamei comes back to life and sleeps with Jennifer. I generally like this series, but I don’t understand who the villains are, or what they’re trying to accomplish.

DOGS OF LONDON #1 (AfterShock, 2022) – “The Dog’s Bollocks,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Artecida. Contrary to the impression given by its cover, this comic is not about anthropomorphic dogs – at least not yet. The “Dogs of London” are London gangsters Frank Babbs and Terry Larkin and their three friends. The Dogs get involved in a gang war with the Quinn family. For reasons not yet revealed, Frank and Terry kill their three friends and bury them  We then cut to 2010, when Frank is now Sir Frank and lives in a mansion, and his son is an aspiring Tory MP (bleccch). Then Frank learns that the bodies of the other three Dogs have been exhumed, in intact condition and still appearing to be in their twenties. I like this setup, particularly because of the way it bridges two time periods, and I’m curious to see where this story goes.

SABRETOOTH #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “Whisper Campaign,” [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Leonard Kirk. Sabretooth has discovered that he and his fellow prisoners can manifest in psychic form on the surface of Krakoa, and the prisoners use this ability to prepare their escape. This comic is okay, but it’s nowhere near as good as Destroyer or Eve.

THE BEST ARCHIE COMIC EVER #0 FCBD EDITION #0 (Archie, 2022) – [E] Jamie Lee Rotante. This comic consists mostly of excerpts from other Archie comics, with an original framing sequence. This makes it rather confusing. I read the sequence with Jughead and Betty at the carnival, and I was like, wait, I’ve read this before. I actually went and checked my boxes to see whether I already had a copy of this comic. I discovered that that sequence was reprinted from the Archie Love & Heartbreak special, which came out earlier this year. This comic is likely to be even more confusing to new readers. It would have been better if Archie had just published an FCBD comic consisting of new material.

PRIMOS FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2022 (AWA, 2022) – untitled, [W] Al Madrigal, [A] Carlo Barberi. This is my least favorite of this year’s FCBD comics. Primos draws upon Mexican culture and mythology, but only as cosmetic trappings. It’s just a standard superhero story in which the characters happen to be dressed in Mesoamerican costumes. Madrigal’s letter explains how he wanted this comic to be a positive example of Latino representation, but Season of the Bruja is doing a much better job of that. I do like how this comic includes two versions of the same story, one in English and one in Spanish.

HULK: GRAND DESIGN – MADNESS #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Jim Rugg. This issue covers Incredible Hulk #300 to #467, with a very brief epilogue covering everything that’s happened since. This was easily the worst of the Grand Design titles. In X-Men: Grand Design, Ed Piskor took many decades of X-Men stories and showed how they all formed a single narrative. But Jim Rugg doesn’t need to do that for the Hulk, because Al Ewing already did it in Immortal Hulk, and anyway Rugg doesn’t even try. Hulk: Grand Design is just a plot summary, with no indication of how the events in the Hulk’s life are logically connected. Meanwhile, Fantastic Four: Grand Design was interesting because of the ways its story diverged from the continuity we know, but Rugg doesn’t add anything original to the Hulk’s narrative. As a result, for a reader who’s already read PAD’s Hulk run, Hulk: Grand Design offers nothing new. At least it has some good art.

FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 2022: MARVEL’S VOICES #1 (Marvel, 2022) – Moon Girl: “Time is on Your Side,” [W] Nadia Shammas, [A] Luciano Vecchio. A cute story where Lunella meets her own elderly future self. This is the only original story in the issue. The others are all reprinted from earlier Marvel’s Voices specials.

ANIMAL CASTLE #5 (Ablaze, 2022) – untitled, [W] Xavier Dorison, [A] Félix Delep. The standoff over the wood continues. Finally Silvio realizes that if he doesn’t relent, all the animals will die. But to save face, he blames the head dog, No. 1, for everything, and he gives No. 1 to the animals so they can tear him apart. As the narrator comments, this is a win for Silvio, and “victory was further away than ever.” Animal Castle is one of the best comic books currently being published by anyone, and it deserves to get a bunch of Eisner nominations next year. However, it’s so depressing and harsh that it’s always one of the last comics I read.

GHOST CAGE #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Nick Dragotta. Doyle finally realizes that the Ohm CEO, Karloff, is manipulating her, and she and Sam team up with Karloff’s daughter against him. I read this comic when I was quite tired, and there were probably things in it than I missed, but I’m still impressed by Dragotta’s mastery of the manga style. I like how the incarnation of wind power is named Quixote.

FRONTIERSMAN LOCK-UP SPECIAL #1 (Image, 2022) – “Professional Courtesy,” [W] Patrick Kindlon, [A] Nicolò Assirelli. After the events of the previous series, Frontiersman is in jail. A superhero named Free Will tries to free him and his fellow inmates by turning them intangible. But Frontiersman doesn’t want to be freed, so he knocks Free Will unconscious and gets stuck in an intangible state. His lawyers, including a superhero named the Public Defender, have to rescue him. This is an entertaining issue, and it also shows some knowledge of the law. The scenes with the lawyers are vaguely reminiscent of Wolff & Byrd.

THE GOOD ASIAN #10 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Alexandre Tefenkgi. Edison finally figures out that Victoria killed Ivy Chen, or whoever the original victim was, and that Mason killed Edison’s mother. Edison gives Mason and Victoria’s confessions to a reporter, on the condition that they only be made public if Mason stops investing in Chinatown. The series ends by using chop suey as a metaphor for Chinese-American identity. Good Asian was an exciting detective comic and a groundbreaking exploration of Chinese-American identity, but it was hampered by a plot that was impossible to follow.

ARROWSMITH: BEHIND ENEMY LINES #4 (Image, 2022) – “North and West,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Carlos Pacheco. Guy reveals to Fletcher what their mission is: they’re trying to rescue a kidnapped faerie princess, so the faeries will allow the Allies to use their territory for teleportation. Also, Guy himself is the illegitimate son of the king of Albion. But some horrible werewolves are on Guy and Fletcher’s trail. Guy is an intriguing new character.

MONKEY MEAT #5 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Juni Ba. A creature called Golo starts consuming all the monkey meat it can find. The Monkey Meat Corporation creates a robot to fihght Golo, and the island is devastated by the battle between them. At the end of the issue, we discover that the whole story was set in a hypothetical future. I liked this series, especially because of Juni Ba’s unique art style, but his sense of humor is very grim.

THE KILLER: AFFAIRS OF THE STATE #3 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matz, [A] Luc Jacamon. The mayor, Marchand, tries to use the ongoing gangwar to increase his own political standing, and the Killer considers killing the mayor himself. A nice moment in this issue is when two groups of characters – the Killer and his companion, and the two detectives investigating the murders – walk right past each other without recognizing each other.

BOLERO #4 (Image, 2022) – “Etoile et toi: In her own words,” [W] Wyatt Kennedy, [A] Luana Vecchio. This issue is told from the perspective of Devyn’s best friend Natasha. Bolero has some very cute artwork and characterization, but to me it feels like a Brandon Graham comic; it has not only Graham’s lettering, but also his style of dialogue. And that’s probably why I’m not enjoying Bolero as much as I could be: because I’ve soured on Brandon Graham.

CEREBUS #233 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1998) – “Going Home 2,” [W/A] Dave Sim. While traveling to Sand Hills Creek, Cerebus and Jaka run into one of Lord Julius’s like-a-looks in a bar. This is the best issue of Cerebus in a long long time; it actually has some plot and some witty dialogue, and it reminds me of when the series was good. Of course, after literally a hundred issues of complete crap, one good issue is not enough to redeem the series. On the inside front cover, Dave goes on a rant about child-proof cigarette lighters, which he sees as stupid idea. Dave is wrong here, as he usually is. Of course young children shouldn’t be around cigarette lighters in the first place, but the point of making cigarette lighters childproof is that children inevitably will get access to them.

THE PHANTOM #1267 (Frew, 2000) – “The Black Queen,” [W] Terrence Longstreet, [A] Romano Felmang. “Terrence Longstreet” is a collective pseudonym for three Team Fantomen writers, Jens Hansegård, Ken Ikonen, and Kim McLaughlin. In 1591, Queen Helena of Carpatia is kidnapped by her evil sister Ilinca. Just as Ilinca is about to be crowned the new queen, the  Phantom appears, leads a peasant rebellion against Ilinca, and defeats Ilinca’s consort in a duel, thus returning Helena to the throne. This is a fun adventure story, and it’s another example of how Phantom stories can take place in a wide range of historical settings.  

2000 AD #1645 (Rebellion, 2009) – I read this one in the wrong order. Dredd: as in #1644 above. A deep-cover Judge, Trebeck, gets sent to prison on purpose so he can be abducted by whoever is abducting judges. This chapter begins with a very funny scene where Trebeck starts a riot at a “competitive politeness” match, by arguing over whether “scone” is pronounced “scone” or “scone” (i.e. the two pronunciations are spelled the same). Red Seas: as above. Newton goes looking for Chevalier Augustus and finds that he’s disappeared. Sinister Dexter: as above. Bonehinge performs surgery on the patient, who reveals that “Isobel” is being held captive by “the Mover.” Terror Tales: “Counts as One Choice,” [W/A] Chris Weston. 2000 AD reader Vaz Nerdiman joins the Black Hole Book Club, i.e. the Science Fiction Book Club. But then he goes into debt to the book club and is unable to cancel his membership, and his soul is taken as collateral. This story is a funny piece of metafiction. Defoe: as above.  Defoe goes to a party at Nonsuch House. Meanwhile, a bunch of zombies escape from their cells.

EERIE #90 (Warren, 1977) – The first four stories in this issue are all based on the cover, by Richard Corben, which shows a scantily clad woman sitting on a blue alligator-like monster. Confusingly, this same cover was used for Creepy #132, which also reprinted the Corben story from Eerie #90. “Carrion,” [W] Gerry Boudreau, [A] Gonzalo Mayo. A somewhat humorous fantasy story in which the woman and the monster fight an evil wizard, and in the end, the woman has to eat the monster to survive. “The Show Must Go On!”, [W] Roger McKenzie, [A] Leo Duranona. In this story the girl and the monster are the sole remaining employees of a carnival. This is the worst of the four stories inspired by the cover, because its plot is stupid, and because Leo Duranona is no good at drawing aliens. This story mentions a drink called “plevitz,” i.e. Paul Levitz. “A Woman Scorned,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Richard Corben. Easily the best of the four. Here the woman, Pamela, has the power to manipulate reality. But after her boyfriend cheated on her, she wished that the world would go away, and it did. Now the monster is unsuccessfully trying to get her to bring the world back. Corben’s art and coloring here are incredible. “The Fianchetto Affair,” [W] Bob Toomey, [A] José Ortiz. Man-eating alien monsters have taken over the earth. One of them, Dr. Shike, falls in love with a human, Lucinda, who’s being raised for meat, but his attempt to free her is unsuccessful, and the story ends with him eating her. This one is rather disgusting. The last story in the issue is not connected to the cover. The Rook: “Edge Surfers,” [W] Bill DuBay, [A] Alex Niño. This is perhaps the most beautiful Alex Niño story I’ve ever seen. Every page of this story is a sideways double-page splash, and Nino takes advantage of this massive amount of space by creating radical page layouts and detailed renderings of aliens. “Edge Surfers”’s writing takes a back seat to its artwork, but the story does have a coherent plot, in which the Rook makes peace between two alien races at the edge of the universe. Alex Niño is a masterful artist, and it’s a shame that he’s rarely worked with writers who were capable of taking advantage of his talent.

SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON LOST IN SPACE #24 (Gold Key, 1967) – “The Savage Earth,” [W] Gaylord Du Bois, [A] Dan Spiegle. The family travels to prehistoric Earth, where they visit Atlantis before its collapse. This issue’s backup story, by the same creator, includes an engineer named Scotty who speaks in a vaguely Scottish accent. It’s possible that this character was inspired by Scotty from Star Trek, but it’s also possible that both characters were inspired by a history of stereotypical depictions of engineers as Scottish. The reason for the stereotype is because Scotland was on the cutting edge of the Industrial Revolution.

THE MAXX #7 (Image, 1994) – “Maxx vs. Pitt,” [W/A] Sam Kieth, [W] William Messner-Loebs. The Maxx encounters Pitt, Image’s other version of the Hulk, in the Outback. In the real world, Mr. Gone, disguised as a clay brick, asks Sarah to smuggle him into Julie’s apartment. This issue includes some beautiful painted depictions of Outback monsters.

CEREBUS #235 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1998) – “Going Home 4,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Sadly this is another issue where not much happens. Cerebus spends most of the issue watching Jaka sleep and wondering how he can clean her clothes for her. This issue includes some elaborate page layouts, but also a lot of pages that consist of at least 50% negative space. If every issue of Cerebus had included as much narrative content as a typical chapter of “High Society,” then Cerebus would have been the most massive epic ever created in comics form. Instead, Sim chose to create dozens of issues like this one, in which nothing happens at all.  

THE PHANTOM #1266 (Frew, 2000) – “Fight Evil! Conclusion,” [W] Claes Reimerthi, [A] Romano Felmang. The Phantom teams up with policewoman Joanne Fitzgerald to solve some murders in Morristown. The culprit proves to be a rejected applicant to the Jungle Patrol. The murderer was angry because he was unable to follow in the footsteps of his father, a patrolman killed in the line of duty. Joanne Fitzgerald is an effective partner for the Phantom, perhaps more so than Diana, who is not really an action heroine.

2000 AD #1684 (Rebellion, 2010) – Dredd: “The Talented Mayor Ambrose Part 11,” as #1683 above. Dredd kills Inga the robot, then discovers that it’s got Mayor Ambrose’s DNA on it. Damnation Station: as above. The humans defeat the armadillo aliens. Zombo: as above. Again, this story is very gruesome, but I don’t understand what it’s about. Ichabod Azrael: as above. I guess the plot here is that Ichabod is dead, but he’s trying to come back to life. Dom Reardon’s art style in this story, as elsewhere, is far less detailed than that of other 2000 AD artists, and some of his pages have a ton of empty space. Again it seems as if Rebellion was trying to save money by hiring him. Nikolai Dante: as above. We begin with a flashback in which Dante sleeps with a woman named Jena. Ten years later, Nikolai duels Jena’s new boyfriend, Dmitri, and Dmitri causes Nikolai to explode or something.

LOVE & ROCKETS #10 (Fantagraphics, 2021) – [W/A] Gilbert Hernandez & Jaime Hernandez. I forgot to read this when it came out. The Beto stories in this issue are mostly about Fritz’s daughter Rosy. As an example of my lack of familiarity with Beto’s recent work, I was like, wait, isn’t Fritz’s daughter Venus? But no, Venus is Fritz’s niece. Also, I forgot Doralis had died of cancer. In the Jaime stories, Tonta is initially afraid of Maggie, but eventually she encounters Maggie at the beach and discovers that she’s not so bad.

EERIE #82 (Warren, 1977) – “The Man Whom Time Forgot!”, [W] Bill DuBay, [A] Luis Bermejo. This is the first appearance of The Rook, who became Warren’s most notable continuing character other than Vampirella. This story begins in media res, as Restin Dane – known as Rook because he travels through time in a machine shaped like a chess rook – has just returned from a time trip to 1874. With him is his great-great-grandfather, later named as Bishop Dane. Then Rook goes even further back in time to the battle of the Alamo, where he tries to rescue an earlier ancestor, Parrish Dane. Rook fails to save Parrish, but does save a young boy who later grows up to be Bishop. This is an entertaining story, but it’s tough to remember which of Rook’s ancestors is which. Tombspawn: “The Game is Afoot,” [W] Gerry Boudreau, [A] Carmine Infantino. A weird SFF story that I couldn’t quite follow. The first page is formatted like a board game. Scallywag: “Castle of the Assassin,” [W] Budd Lewis, [A] José Ortiz. An old Irish sea captain fights some ninjas. Besides Maroto, José Ortiz was perhaps the best of Warren’s Spanish artists. He was a master of black-and-white art, particularly spotting of blacks. However, Budd Lewis shows very limited knowledge of ninjas; he seems to have thought they were a clan or an ethnic group, not a profession. “The Pea Green Boat,” [W] Budd Lewis, [A] Leopoldo Sanchez. In a postapocalyptic world, two friends try to investigate some sunken World War II ships for canned food. They’re interrupted by raiders (of the type that always appear in postapocalyptic stories) who demand the food for themselves. One of the friends kills the raiders using the cannon of a tank that was in one of the sunken ships. An obvious question here is, would the cannon still be able to fire after being submerged for so many years?

WONDER WOMAN #194 (DC, 1971) – “The Prisoner,” [W/A] Mike Sekowsky. This story is an obvious gender-swapped version of The Prisoner of Zenda, and it even says on page two that it’s adapted from a story by Anthony Hope. Diana goes to visit the small European country of Paldonia, and discovers that she looks exactly like the country’s princess, Fabiola. When Fabiola is kidnapped by a would-be usurper, Diana has to substitute for her, which is a bit inconvenient because Fabiola is about to get married. This is a fun story from the best Wonder Woman run between those of Marston and Pérez.

DENNIS THE MENACE GIANT #75 (Fawcett, 1969) – [W/A] unknown. A collection of Christmas stories, with a common theme of maintaining the Christmas spirit all year round. Oddly, these stories seem to take place over two different Christmases, but Dennis doesn’t get any older. This comic’s indicia just says DENNIS THE MENACE MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU with no issue number.

HATE #25 (Fantagraphics, 1996) – “It Had to Happen,” [W/A] Peter Bagge w/ Jim Blanchard. Early in this issue there’s a scene where Buddy and Jay are very rude to their customers. This reminded me of a similar scene in Eltingville Club #1, and I had to pause writing this review  in order to write a paragraph about that scene for my book manuscript. Anyway, the main event this issue is that Buddy’s girlfriend Lisa goes out and never comes back, and Buddy tries to track her down, greatly inconveniencing Jay in the process. When Buddy does find Lisa, she makes it clear that they’re broken up. That didn’t stick, because a few issues later they got married.

ACTION COMICS #512 (DC, 1980) – “Luthor’s Day of Reckoning!”, [W] Cary Bates, [A] Curt Swan. Lex Luthor has reformed and has gotten engaged to a bald woman named Angela. But we soon discover that it’s all part of a complex plot. Luthor has hypnotized himself into thinking he’s reformed, and he’s created a clone of the real Angela, who’s died of an illness. The point of all this was to trick Superman into kissing the bride at Luthor and Angela’s wedding. This story is stupidly convoluted, and also very cruel. The last panel shows Luthor with tears streaming down his face, and I suspect that Cary Bates actually enjoyed inflicting this sort of psychological torture on his characters. This issue includes an Air-Wave backup story.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #10 (Marvel, 2019) – “Captain of Nothing Part IV,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Adam Kubert. Cap fights Baron Strucker in prison. Cap’s ruminations in this issue are somewhat interesting, but TNC’s Captain America run, like his Black Panther run, was crippled by overly slow pacing. I think that he’s an essayist at heart and not a fiction writer, and he doesn’t have a fiction writer’s sense of narrative momentum or rhythm.

CEREBUS #236 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1998) – “Going Home 5,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Another issue in which something happens! Jaka goes shopping for clothes, then she attends a party where everyone treats her like a celebrity, while Cerebus goes off alone to drink. After the party, Jaka discovers that there are loyalists who are willing to launch a rebellion on her behalf. Again, Cerebus would have been better if every issue had included this much content. And also if Dave hadn’t gone nuts. This issue’s letter page includes another one of his typical misogynistic rants. Early in this issue, Cerebus casually mentions “where Iest used to be.” This is a disturbing example of the series’ descent into narrative incoherence. Until this point I didn’t even realize that Iest, the setting of more than 100 earlier issues, had been destroyed. And I don’t think it’s ever explained just when, why or how this happened.

THE PHANTOM #1355 (Frew, 2003) – “Hostage of the Singh Pirates,” [W] Ulf Granberg, [A] Jaime Vallve. In a reprinted story from the ‘70s, Diana is kidnapped by the Phantom’s archenemies, the Singh Pirates. The Phantom has to invade the pirates’ underwater base to rescue her. Jaime Vallve’s art style reminds me of that of Don Newton or Alan Davis, and he was really good at drawing underwater action.

2000 AD #1685 (Rebellion, 2010) – Dredd: as above. Dredd and Hershey look for evidence against Ambrose/PJ Maybe. Savage: “Crims Part 1,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Patrick Goddard. Savage browbeats some guy into giving him access codes to a sewer, then shoots him. We learn that Savage’s goal is to destroy a particle accelerator underneath London. Then he shoots the guy. Nikolai Dante: “A Farewell to Arms,” [W] Robbie Morrison, [A] Simon Fraser. Nikolai has a bunch of bizarre dreams or visions, then wakes up in a field hospital. Ichabod Azrael: as above. Ichabod Azrael meets an old man who looks like Odin.

DENNIS THE MENACE BONUS MAGAZINE SERIES #91 (Fawcett, 1971) – “Hearing Things” etc., [W] Fred Toole, [A] Al Wiseman. A large number of stories, all reprinted from Dennis the Menace #34, #39 and #40. I’ve read at least one of these issues, so I’ve already seen the story where Dennis meets Gina for the first time. Of the stories I haven’t read before, the best is the one where Dennis’s dad thinks he needs to replace his entire duct system, because the heat isn’t working, but the real problem is that Dennis’s teddy bear is stuck in the pipes. And Dennis keeps trying to tell his dad this, but Henry won’t listen. There’s another story where Dennis is babysat by two teenage girls who talk to him in jive talk. This must have been cringeworthy even when first published in 1960.

LUKE CAGE #5 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] David F. Walker, [A] Nelson Blake II. The end of a boring story about Noah Burstein. This Luke Cage series was far worse than its predecessor, Power Man & Iron Fist, because it had neither an interesting supporting cast, nor Sanford Greene artwork. This series was cancelled after five more issues.

NIGHT’S DOMINION SEASON TWO #2 (Oni, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Ted Naifeh. I stopped reading this series after the first issue or two, so I couldn’t follow this issue’s plot. I wish I’d been reading Night’s Dominion more regularly.

AQUAMAN #46 (DC, 1998) – “Fish Tartarus,” [W] Peter David, [A] Jim Calafiore. The title is a silly pun on “fish tartare.” Aquaman intentionally dies and goes to Tartarus to resurrect the dead Poseidon, so he can deal with his son Triton, who’s been terrorizing Atlantis. By this point PAD’s Aquaman was running out of steam, but this issue isn’t bad.

WARLORD #18 (DC, 1979) – “Bloodmoon,” [W/A] Mike Grell. Morgan and Tara are abducted by some aliens, from the planet of Alces Shirasi, who travel in a spaceship that looks like a red moon. “Alces Shirasi” sounds like an acronym for something, but Googling shows that it’s the scientific name for a subspecies of moose. Morgan gets de-evolved into a minotaur, but he and Tara escape and continue looking for their son.

G.I. JOE #36 (Marvel, 1985) – “All the Ships at Sea,” [W] Larry Hama, [A] Rod Whigham. This issue intercuts between several sequences: two sea battles (or parts of the same battle) between Cobra and GI Joe, and Cobra’s attempt to kidnap Snake Eyes and Scarlett. This issue is pretty exciting, because Larry knows how to edit the sequences together so as to create maximum tension. The most memorable scene in the issue is the one where the Joes keep getting the Cobra gunners to point their guns in the wrong direction.

BACCHUS #12 (Eddie Campbell, 1996) – “King Bacchus Part 11: Proportion and Perspective,” [W/A] Eddie Campbell. Collage announces her pregnancy, and a prospective bridegroom gets dropped out a window. Then there are two older stories, both of which I’ve previously read in Deadface: Doing the Islands with Bacchus #2, and then an interesting text essay about the difficulties of printing comics in Australia.

CEREBUS #243 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1999) – “Going Home 12,” [W/A] Dave Sim. While sailing on a riverboat, Cerebus and Jaka meet F. Stop Kennedy, a.k.a. F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Cerebus has visions of Rick baptizing people. This is a fairly boring issue.

2000 AD #1686 (Rebellion, 2010) – Dredd: as above except [A] Mike Collins. Dredd figures out that PJ Maybe impersonated Mayor Ambrose by exchanging his own DNA records with Ambrose’s. That’s the end of this story arc. Savage: as above. Savage attends the funeral of a crook named Tommy Cleever. Damnation Station: “A Bone to Be Chewed Part 1,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Simon Davis. A French-speaking, white-bearded sea captain fights a giant monstrous shark. I have no idea how this story connects to the previous Damnation Station story, with the armadillo aliens. Ichabod Azrael: as above. The old man can’t be Odin because he has two eyes. Each of the previous couple chapters had just one color panel, but this chapter has 2/3 of a page worth of color.

THE PHANTOM #1363 (Frew, 2003) – “The Treasure in Ronda,” [W] Per-Erik Hedman, [A] Carlos Cruz. The 17th Phantom visits the town of Ronda in southern Spain. There he meets young Rosa, her boyfriend Juan, and Juan’s mother Mercedes. Rosa and Mercedes are the last heirs to a treasure buried by the Moors on their expulsion from Spain. Juan is an aspiring bullfighter, and in order to browbeat Mercedes into revealing the treasure’s location, a villain forces Juan to fight four bulls at once. The Phantom saves Juan and helps locate the treasure. He receives Juan’s bullfighting suit as a memento, and centuries later, Diana wears the suit and looks very attractive in it. Ronda is a real town in Andalusia, and this story, like most historical Phantom stories, feels historically accurate. According to Lambiek, Carlos Cruz himself was from this area of Spain.  

DARK HORSE MAVERICK 2000 (Dark Horse, 2000) – [E] Diana Schulz. A collection of short stories by an all-star lineup of artists. In “Mercy” by Frank Miller, a drunk driver hits a deer, killing his passenger and fatally injuring himself and the deer. A hunter comes and shoots the deer to put it out of its misery, but on seeing the driver’s open bottle, the hunter spits on the driver and leaves him to his fate. The highlight of the issue is a new Concrete story, “Family Night,” in which Concrete and Larry get into a car accident, and while looking for help, Concrete saves an abused woman from being shot by her husband. Then later on, Concrete talks to his friend Burke Klugelhorn about how “families are overrated.” Afterward Concrete goes home to Larry and Maureen, and it’s subtly implied that these people are Concrete’s found family. Other stories in the issue are by Scott Morse, Stan Sakai (a two-pager about a trip to Norway), Jason Pearson, Brian Ralph and Dylan Horrocks. The latter’s story is an adaptation of the Middle English poem “Western Wind.”

POWER MAN & IRON FIST #103 (Marvel, 1984) – “Doombringer,” [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Greg LaRocque. Luke and Danny try to protect two rival Middle Eastern diplomats from being assassinated. This comic is okay, but it’s full of Arab stereotypes. The highlight of the issue is when Misty and Colleen, on a visit to the country of one of the diplomats, find a doll belonging to a child who was killed in a terrorist attack.

INCREDIBLE SCIENCE FICTION #11 (EC, 1956/1995) – This reprints Incredible Science Fiction #33, the last comic book EC published. “Big Moment,” [W] Jack Oleck, [A] Wally Wood. In a postapocalyptic future, all the animals and plants have grown really big, while humans have stayed the same size. The few surviving humans discover that in fact everything else has stayed the same, and humans have gotten smaller. This is a dumb story, though it has good artwork. “Kaleidoscope,” [W] Oleck, [A] Jack Davis. Humans have been enslaved by Venusians. An old man builds a spaceship and uses it to fly through the shield the Venusians have built around Earth, but then we see that the old man is just imagining his escape. “One Way Hero,” [W] Oleck, [A] Bernie Krigstein. Would-be astronaut Johnny Sawyer tells another astronaut about how he wanted to be an astronaut like his big brother Mart, but instead he (Johnny) became marooned on Mars forever, because on his first space voyage, he discovers that the immensity of space causes him to go crazy. Johnny doesn’t realize that the person to whom he’s telling this story is Mart himself, who has suffered the exact same fate. I wouldn’t have guessed this story was by Krigstein, because it includes none of his trademark page layouts. “An Eye for an Eye,” [W] unknown, [A] Angelo Torres. Jo-Sep and Lita think they’re the only non-mutated humans in the world. After Lita is killed, Jo-Sep finds some people who he believes to be other normal humans, but he discovers that they have gills, and they kill him. When Jo-Sep dies, we learn that he had a third eye on the back of his neck. This story did not appear in the original version of Incredible Science Fiction #33 because it was rejected by the  Code. After some cursory research I’m still not sure why it was rejected, but I’m guessing it was because the main characters are half-naked. Instead, Gaines decided to reprint “Judgment Day” from Weird Fantasy #18. That led to the famous phone call where Code administrator Charles Murphy declared that the last panel of “Judgment Day” had to be changed to a white man, thus rendering the story meaningless. Gaines and Feldstein both refused to do that, and Murphy “compromised” by telling them to just take off the beads of sweat, and Gaines and Feldstein both shouted “Fuck you!”

CLASSIC STAR WARS #6 (Dark Horse, 1993) – untitled, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] Al Williamson. This issue consists of reprinted newspaper strips. Luke says goodbye to his love interest Tanith Shire, a character who only appeared in these strips. Then the Millennium Falcon gets trapped in a spaceship graveyard. Al Williamson’s draftsmanship in these sequences is beautiful, but the panels are all chopped up and rearranged, making it impossible to appreciate Williamson’s storytelling.

ONI DOUBLE FEATURE #11 (Oni, 1999) – This issue’s inside front cover has a new Usagi Yojimbo strip. Blue Monday: “Sherlockette,” [W/A] Chynna Clugston-Major. Bleu Finnegan is falsely accused of stealing the school mascot’s head, and she has to prove who really did it. This story is inspired by the Buster Keaton film Sherlock Jr, which I have not seen. “Drive-By Part 2,” [W] Steven T. Seagle, [A] Jan Solheim. A white male photographer visits a black neighborhood and browbeats a black woman until she lets him photograph her. Afterward, the man is killed in a drive-by shooting. It seems to me that this story is trying to be anti-racist, but is in fact racist. The white man blatantly harasses and patronizes the black woman, and he intrudes himself into a black space, as the woman herself points out. I read the previous chapter of the story and discovered that a month ago, the man witnessed the woman being beaten, but refused to intervene. So I guess by trying to photograph her, he thinks he’s helping her somehow, but he’s really just indulging his white savior complex. Chapter 1 of the story depicts the man’s girlfriend as a blatant racist, but he himself is no better. It’s not clear whether the creators intend to endorse his behavior, but they endorse it anyway by making him the protagonist. At least Jan Solheim’s art is interesting; his style recalls that of Jason or Mark Beyer.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Winter in America Part 4,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Leinil Francis Yu. Steve Rogers tries to rescue Sharon Carter, who’s being held in prison in Alberia. This is another boring issue. To expand on my earlier review of #10, TNC’s stories tend to be slow, meditative, and more concerned with ideas than action. All of those things are advantages in a nonfiction essay, but are fatal flaws in a superhero comic.

DOMINO #7 (Marvel, 2018) – “Soldier of Fortune Part 1,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] David Baldeon. A Wakandan woman hires Domino and her companions to retrieve a box from somewhere in far northern Europe. To recover the box, Domino and friends have to fight through a horde of vampires. They open the box and find Michael Morbius inside. This comic is funny, but like much of Gail’s writing, it feels like it lacks depth or sincerity. But at least it’s a lot more fun than Captain America #4.

Next trip to Heroes, on Sunday, May 22:

NIGHTWING #92 (DC, 2022) – “The Battle for Blüdhaven’s Heart,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo. This issue begins with a flashback sequence in which a teenaged Dick Grayson intervenes in a riot, against Batman’s orders, and is injured. Alfred prevents Bruce from punishing Dick. The brilliant thing about this sequence is that it’s colored in an old-fashioned flat style, with lots of visible halftone dots (https://www.instagram.com/p/Cd3oenhraEk/). When we return to the present-day sequence, the color palette is totally different, and this creates the sense of a sharp distinction. Then in the present, Dick prevents Alfred’s memorial park from being destroyed by rioters. The two-page splash with Dick thinking “I leap in” is just a stunning moment. Overall, Nightwing is the best current comic set in either the DC or Marvel universes, and it would be a worthy recipient of the Eisner for Best Continuing Series, though I didn’t vote for it in that category. Its main problem is that the main villain, Blockbuster, is identical to the Kingpin.

CROSSOVER #13 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates, [A] Geoff Shaw. The assembled superheroes combine to defeat Negan, but Donny Cates is mortally wounded, thus literalizing the metaphor of the death of the author. With his last breath, Cates realizes that comics are created by artists, not writers, and so what Ellie and Ryan need to do next is “kill Geoff Shaw.”

GRIM #1 (Boom!, 2022) – “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” [W] Stephanie Phillips, [A] Flaviano. Bryan Andrews is killed in a car accident, and a Grim Reaper, Jessica Harrow, collects his soul. But Bryan steals Jessica’s scythe and returns to the world of the living, and when Jessica goes looking for him, she discovers that she can be seen by mortals. I wasn’t super impressed with Stephanie Williams’s writing in either Nuclear Family or Nubia, but Grim has an intriguing premise, and Flaviano’s art style is quite distinctive, thanks in large part to Rico Renzi’s moody coloring. This comic reminds me of Grim Fandango. I’ve never finished that game, but I want to return to it soon.  

HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER #6 (Boom!, 2022) – “Scarlet Part One,” [W] Sam Johns, [A] Letizia Cadonici. I groaned when I saw the name “Johns” on this comic’s cover, but to my relief, it’s not Geoff Johns. In this new story, there’s a rash of unexplained eye injuries at a summer camp. Edwin, a House of Slaughter agent who draws monsters as a hobby, visits the camp to investigate. So far I’m not sure what to think about this story.

FARMHAND #17 (Image, 2022) – “The Bridge,” [W/A] Rob Guillory. Ezekiel has developed an “inhibitor” that can protect Jacob’s patients against Monica Thorne’s influence, but a lot of the patients refuse to take it for ideological reasons. Gee, could that be a metaphor for some real-world event that’s happened since the last Farmhand storyline? The last patient Ezekiel is supposed to contact is Jacob Roy, but he was killed in the previous storyline, and now his young daughter is infected with the plague. Afterward, Thorne’s agent, Joe Thibodeaux, blackmails Ezekiel by threatening to reveal that Ezekiel cheated on his wife while she was pregnant. Then Monica herself tells Ezekiel “You are the seed.” Issue 16 was mostly devoted to reestablishing the premise of the series, but issue 17 significantly advances the plot.

EIGHT BILLION GENIES #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. For no apparent reason, every person on Earth acquires a personal genie that can grant one wish for them. In St. Clair Shores, Michigan, a bar owner is smart enough to wish “that no wish made outside this bar can affect the bar or anyone or anything inside it.” So the bar is safe, but outside, all sorts of ridiculous chaos is going on. This is a fascinating setup, and this series feels like a worthy successor to Curse Words.

SEVEN SECRETS #17 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. Usually Seven Secrets is one of the first comics I read, but this week I was more excited about Nightwing, and I didn’t want to read two Tom Taylor comics in a row. This issue, two of Caspar’s allies reveal themselves as Ching Shih (the pirate queen) and Alexander the Great, and they sacrifice their lives so that Caspar can come back to life as a god.

BLACK HAMMER REBORN #12 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Caitlin Yarsky. Skulldigger becomes Spacedigger. Colonel Weird takes Lucy to the new Black Hammer Farm, and she decides to stay there with her kids. Anti-God returns. This was the least exciting of the three main Black Hammer series, and it feels like just a prologue to the forthcoming Black Hammer: The End.

USAGI YOJIMBO #28 (Dark Horse, 2022) – “The Long Road,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi and Yukichi encounter an art dealer who’s being attacked by bandits. They fail to save the dealer, but they decide to guard his apprentice so he can deliver the jade statue that the dealer was carrying. But Usagi discovers that the apprentice is in league with the bandits. The bandits kill the apprentice, Usagi and Yukichi kill the bandits, and then Usagi proposes that he and Yukichi should keep the statue for themselves. Yukichi recoils at this idea, and Usagi reveals that he was just testing Yukichi. This was an entertaining story, but I got the feeling that Usagi and Yukichi’s behavior was just a little dishonest. In particular, it’s a bit creepy when they force the apprentice to let them accompany him, even if he does later turn out to be a traitor.

2000 AD #2234 (Rebellion, 2021) – There were five prog packs waiting for me at Heroes last week, but I decided to just buy two of them and save the other three for next time. I’ve been getting these prog packs out of order, so the two that I bought were much earlier than the ones I got in February. I still haven’t received progs #2230 to #2233. Dredd: “Adios, Rowdy Yates,” [W/A] Chris Weston. Rowdy Yates Block, where Dredd used to live with Walter and Maria, is being demolished. A sniper tries to stop the demolition, but Dredd gets rid of him, and the sniper is crushed by a statue of Rowdy Yates. A joke in this story is that no one knows who Rowdy Yates was. Neither did I, but it seems that he was Clint Eastwood’s character on Rawhide. Mechastopheles: “The Hunting Party Part 1,” [W] Gordon Rennie & Lawrence Rennie, [A] Boo Cook. I have no idea what this story is about. Department K: “Cosmic Chaos Part 1,” [W] Rory McConville, [A] Dan Cornwell. Department K is the division of the Judges that deals with extradimensional affairs. This issue, a starfish-like alien begs them to help save his home dimension from “dark and sinister forces.” Feral & Foe II: “Part Ten,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Richard Elson. This is the one about the adventuring party whose minds are in the wrong bodies. This issue, the witch Golgone reveals that Phaeton Gyre’s body was the host for Haggart Morn, an even greater villain. Chimpsky’s Law: “The Talented Mr. Chimpsky Part 1,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] P.J. Holden. Chimp detective Noam Chimpsky is hired to solve a murder mystery among the Jepperson family, who are responsible for creating Chimpsky’s race of intelligent apes. Noam Chimpsky was also the hero of the Captain Cookies story in progs 2221-224. There was also a real ape named Nim Chimpsky. Both names, of course, are references to Noam Chomsky.

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #11 (DC, 2022) – “The Right Path,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Cian Tormey. Jon and Pa Kent try to calm Batman’s suspicions about Jay. Jon realizes that Bendix put a bomb inside Lachlan, who Jon brought to the Justice League satellite in an earlier issue. (though Lachlan’s name wasn’t mentioned before), and Jon has to team up with Flash and Atom to save both Lachlan and the JLA. This issue is full of entertaining interactions between characters, including Nightwing, who makes a cameo appearance.

BUNNY MASK: THE HOLLOW INSIDE #1 (AfterShock, 2022) – “Something is Missing,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Andrea Mutti. Tyler is still having visions of Bunny Mask, he still has unresolved sexual tensions with Bee, and Bunny Mask is still killing people. This is mostly an introductory issue, and it includes few major plot developments.

NOCTERRA #10 (Image, 2022) – “Pedal to the Metal 1/4,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Tony Daniel.  The team infiltrates the Luna facility, where Blacktop Bill was created. They find the location of Eos, but then they’re attacked by William, who’s even worse than Bill. Adam tries to save the protagonists by shutting off the power to Luna, even though that exposes them to being eaten by giant shark shades. This issue is more exciting than #9 was.

NEW MASTERS #4 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Shobo Coker, [A] Shof Coker. Ola’s family are captured by Tosin’s agents, who want the data that the family stole last issue. Ola and her uncle manage to escape from their ship, and they’re rescued by the Star Pilots who guard the Temple of Benin. I don’t know if the pilots or the temple are based on anything in particular. I assume that Benin here refers to Benin City in Nigeria, not the country of Benin. In real life, Benin City is about 200 miles from Lagos.

SANDMAN UNIVERSE: NIGHTMARE COUNTRY #2 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Lisandro Estherren. Madison and the Corinthian visit Lucien’s library in the Dreaming. Then two creepy-looking villains set fire to Madison’s apartment. This comic’s description of Lucien’s library is very evocative, but in general, this series isn’t quite as interesting as Tynion’s other titles. But he has been setting an extremely high standard.

HUMAN REMAINS #8 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Sally Cantirino. Predictably, Reverend Hays’s outdoor prayer meeting leads to a massive monster attack, but Anjali takes the Oregon fungus and survives contact with the monsters, proving that the fungus works. Six months later, the widespread adoption of the fungus has allowed life to return to normal, but there are some people who’d rather be eaten by monsters than take the cure. The analogy to the COVID vaccine becomes obvious at this point, but it comes as a surprise because up until now, Human Remains didn’t seem to be about COVID at all. Overall, Human Remains was Peter Milligan’s best miniseries in I don’t know how long.

DUO #1 (DC, 2022) – “Part One,” [W] Greg Pak, [A] Khoi Pham. Scientists and lovers Kelly Vu and David Kim have developed a nanotech process that allows for telepathic connections between people. The “Healerist” corporation refuses to fund their project, but offers to buy it for a billion dollars. When Kelly and David refuse, Healerist sets fire to their apartment. David wakes up to find that Kelly was killed in the fire, and the nanotech saved him by using material from her body to repair his. But then David realizes he can see Kelly in his mind. This is a fascinating new comic, though its premise is a cross between Firestorm and Dr. Mirage. There’s no particular reason why it has to be a Milestone title and not a DC title. I notice that the surnames Vu and Kim are Vietnamese and Korean, respectively, and those are also the ethnicities of Pham and Pak themselves (again in that order).

I HATE THIS PLACE #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Kyle Starks, [A] Artyom Toplin. In a prologue, a criminal shoots two other criminals. Later, Gabrielle and her partner Trudy move onto a cattle ranch that Gabrielle inherited from her aunt Marilyn. They soon discover that the ranch is rather unusual, and they find a videotape in which Marilyn tells them that they can never leave, and also the house is extremely haunted. Also, one of their farmhands is the same criminal from the prologue. I Hate This Place #1 is a scary horror comic, but the cute interplay between Gabby and Trudy keeps it from being too oppressive.

JURASSIC LEAGUE #1 (DC, 2022) – “The Jurassic League!”, [W/A] Juan Gedeon, [W] Daniel Warren Johnson. The Justice League, but with dinosaurs. This is a super-fun premise, and Gedeon and Johnson succeed in exploiting its potential for humor and awesomeness. This is the first of Johnson’s comics that I can recall reading, but he was nominated for a bunch of Eisners.  

2000 AD #2235 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: “Brief Encounter,” [W] Ken Niemand, [A] Dylan Teague. Dredd arrests a bunch of criminals, then makes them wait hours to be processed. While waiting, two of the criminals fall in love. But when the bus finally arrives to take them to prison, they’re separated, and they realize they don’t know each other’s names. This story’s title is a reference to an old British movie about a similarly doomed romance. Ken Niemand is a very clever writer, and I hope he gets hired to write comics for the American market, as so many other 2000 AD writers have done. Mechastopheles: as above. Still no idea what this story is about. Department K: as above. The Department K agents travel to the dimension of the alien, Trill, and are attacked by an army of sharp-toothed armored aliens. Feral & Foe II: as above. Golgone tries to destroy Haggart Morn’s spirit, but discovers that the spirit possessing Phaeton Gyre was not Morn, because Morn is already possessing Krod, the orc-like protagonist. Chimpsky’s Law: as above. We meet the Jeppersons, who are all examples of various stereotypes, and the mandrill who bosses around their chimp servants. Then more Jeppersons get murdered.

BATGIRLS #6 (DC, 2022) – “One Way or Another Part 6,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad, [A] Jorge Corona. The Batgirls defeat Spellbinder and Tutor, and we’re made to think that Steph was killed, but really it was just the car, Bondo, that was destroyed. On the last page, a woman with giant green spectacles asks for the Batgirls’ help. This whole storyline was excellent, but it’s too bad Jorge Corona won’t be back next issue. I hope to see his art again soon.

KAIJU SCORE: STEAL FROM THE GODS #2 (AfterShock, 2022) – “Whatever It Takes,” [W] James Patrick, [A] Rem Broo. Michelle and her allies prepare to travel down the kaiju god’s throat, while also dodging Carlito’s hired assassins. Then we learn that Javier, Michelle’s current employer, is planning to betray her. This is a fun crime comic, and Michelle is a compelling protagonist. Because I like her, it scares me when she keeps getting into worse and worse predicaments. However, this comic still has too much “score” and not enough “kaiju.”

WEST OF SUNDOWN #2 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley & Aaron Campbell, [A] Jim Terry. In a flashback, we see how Constance – originally Rosa – became a vampire at birth, when her father accidentally killed her mother. Constance and Dooley reach Constance’s home soil in New Mexico, but it’s already occupied by a scary cult. This series is an impressive example of the rare genre of historical horror, and it could be one of Tim Seeley’s best series.

2000 AD #2236 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “Removal Man Part One,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Colin MacNeil. Bick Bickford, an assassin, is trying to earn enough money to buy a new robot body for his dying wife. Bick takes out a contract to assassinate a man who Judge Dredd is about to arrest, but he allows himself to be seen by a young boy. Mechastopheles: as above. This chapter features a giant octopus and a giant robot. I still don’t know what this story’s premise is. Department K: as above. The Department K agents discover that there’s a rift in Trill’s dimension, caused by an interdimensional “locust,” i.e. a super-powerful alien. And the locust has somehow been killed by something even more powerful. Chimpsky’s Law: as above. There are a bunch more murders, and after Chimpsky saves another ape from being blown out an airlock along with two of the Jeppersons, Chimpsky himself becomes the prime suspect. This is one of the more entertaining 2000 AD stories of 2021. Feral & Foe II: as above. The other two protagonists are forced to kill Krod/Morn, who has already dealt with Golgone. So now the protagonists are heroes, but they’re broke and jobless.

FANTASTIC FOUR #43 (Marvel, 2022) – “Knight After Knight,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Rachael Stott. If this hadn’t been in my subscription folder, I wouldn’t have bought it. Reckoning War is the worst story Dan Slott has ever written. It lacks a clear premise, it’s too convoluted, and it’s so cosmic that the reader can’t take it seriously, because all of its plot developments (including the destruction of the moon) will inevitably be reversed as soon as it ends. In this issue, Slott digs the hole even deeper by including a panel where the Cormorant, a villain introduced in #25, defeats Squirrel Girl. This is a very lazy way of “selling” a new villain. Slott is saying: How powerful is the Cormorant? So powerful he did what Thanos, Dr. Doom and Galactus couldn’t: he beat Squirrel Girl! Also, after all the character development that Doreen got in her own series, it’s frustrating to see her used as cannon fodder. Dan Slott is responsible for Doreen’s popularity, but that doesn’t make it appropriate for him to treat her in this way. Since the next story after Reckoning War will be written by a guest writer, I think I’m just going to stop reading this series after this issue. I’ll start reading it again when Slott comes back, in the hope that he’ll remember how to write good comics.

SLUMBER #3 (Image, 2022) – “Under the Skin,” [W] Tyler Burton Smith, [A] Vanessa Cardinali. A flashback reveals that Stetson is looking for Valkira because Valkira abducted her daughter Lyla. Then Stetson finally locates Valkira inside Finch’s head, but Finch pulls a gun on Stetson, claiming that Valkira is his brother. The dream sequences in this comic seem very accurate; they have the irrational, associational logic of actual dreams.

WONDER WOMAN #787 (DC, 2022) – “The Villainy of Our Fears Part I,” [W] Michael W. Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Emanuela Lupacchino. The writers’ names are given in the opposite order here as in Batgirls. This issue Diana fights Altium; Diana hangs out with Siggy, Etta and Steve; and Dr. Psycho organizes a new Villainy Incorporated. I’m glad that that boring crossover is over, so that we can get back to stories about Diana.

KING CONAN #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “Conan vs. Conan,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mahmud Asrar. In a flashback, Conan fights his son Conn, then Conn reveals that he cares much more about the business of monarchical rule than Conan does, and Conan abdicates in Conn’s favor. The fight between the hero and his son is a common epic motif, appearing in the stories of Rustam and Cuchulain, as well as the German Hildebrandslied. The outcome of Conan and Conn’s fight also reminds me of Tennyson’s “Ulysses,” in which Odysseus leaves his kingdom to his more practical-minded son, then goes off to have some more adventures. Meanwhile, in the present-day sequence, Princess Matoaka is now named Princess Prima and is wearing much more clothing. It was clearly necessary to redesign and rename this character, but I do think it’s jarring that her sudden change of name and appearance is not mentioned either in the story or the letters page. On the other hand, when this story is reprinted, it will seem as if Princess Prima was always called that.

IRON FIST #3 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Alyssa Wong, [A] Michael YG & Sean Chen. Lin Lie’s big brother, Lin Feng, is possessed by the evil deity Chiyou. I only know that name from the Persona games. Meanwhile, Lin Lie embeds the Sword of Fu-Xi even deeper into his hands, so that he can fight the demon that was posing Mei Min’s dad. Then Lin Lie and friends travel to a tomb guarded by the Tribe of Nü-Wa. This comic, like Monkey Prince and Shang-Chi, is impressive because it draws heavily upon Chinese mythology and folklore. Fuxi and Nüwa are actual Chinese deities, and are often considered to be two of the Three Sovereigns, the mythological earliest rulers of China, although some sources don’t include Nüwa among the three. When she is included, the third sovereign is usually Shennong.  

SHANG-CHI #12 (Marvel, 2022) – “Blood and Monsters Finale,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Marcus To. Chieftain Xin steals six of the ten rings. Shang-Chi pursues him and gets the six rings back, but then has to resist being corrupted by his father’s influence as he’s using them. Shang-Chi defeats Xin and returns the Ten Rings to the Jade Emperor, and the Five Weapons disperse. But then the Ten Rings appear to Shang-Chi again, thus setting the stage for the next miniseries.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: SYMBOL OF TRUTH #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “Homeland Part 1,” [W] Tochi Onyebuchi, [A] R.B. Silva. I was hesitant to read this because I’ve been unimpressed by Onyebuchi’s Black Panther Legends. But this issue is really impressive. It begins with an exciting action scene in which Sam teams up with the new Falcon, but the real highlight is Sam’s not-a-date with Misty Knight. The dialogue here is realistic, and touches on some deep issues. I especially like the moment where Sam criticizes people who want to leave America for Wakanda. Hunter/White Wolf appears at the end of the issue, suggesting that Wakanda will have a significant role in this storyline.

WHAT IF…? MILES MORALES #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “What If Miles Morales Became the Hulk?”, [W] Anthony Piper, [A] Edgar Salazar. Easily the best issue of the series so far. It has entertaining dialogue and characterization, and it offers a logical way that the scenario in the title could have happened. It also stresses the basic similarity between Miles and Peter: they both suffered a foundational trauma involving an uncle, although “our” Miles’s uncle was not killed by a criminal, but became a criminal himself. A funny moment in this issue is when Miles Hulks out after stepping on a Lego.

2000 AD #2237 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Bickford kills the boy who saw him shoot Manning, but an entire busload of tourists witnesses Bickford’s murder of the boy. So now I can guess where this storyline is going: the number of people Bickford needs to kill will keep escalating. Mechastopheles: as above. Again, no idea what’s going on here. Department K: as above. The team travels inside the locust’s body. Skip Tracer: “Eden Part One,” [W] James Peaty, [A] Paul Marshall. Based on the title, this story must be about a bounty hunter, but other than that I don’t understand it. Chimpsky’s Law: as above. Chimpsky figures out that the space mansion’s AI was involved in all but one of the murders, but the Jeppersons insist on believing Chimpsky himself is the killer. Chimpsky escapes from the mandrill, but decides to continue solving the crime, even though he would be totally justified in leaving the Jeppersons to their fate.

X-MEN RED #2 (Marvel, 2022) – “Man on Fire,” [W] Al Ewing, [A] Stefano Caselli. Vulcan goes insane, thinking that his dead friends Petra and Sway are with him. An Arakko village is attacked by alien Progenitors, and Agent Brand and Storm’s groups team up to defeat the aliens. Afterward, Storm beats Vulcan in a fight, but Agent Brand convinces Vulcan to join the Arakko council.

2000 AD #2238 (Rebellion, 2021) – Dredd: as above. Bick prepares to assassinate the busload of elderly people who witnessed his previous murder. Meanwhile, Dredd begins to close in on Bick. One of the pseudonyms Bick uses in this story is Upton O’Good, i.e. “up to no good.” Aquila: “The Rivers of Hades Book One: Part 1,” [W] Gordon Rennie, [A] Patrick Goddard. Three Greek or Roman soldiers travel to Hades, despite still being alive, for reasons that I don’t understand. I guess some of these stories would make more sense if I would read the explanatory blurbs at the start of each prog. I don’t know why I never do that. Department K: as above. Afua has a vision of the locust’s death, and a giant living pyramid appears in the sky. Afua is probably not named after Afua Richardson; the name is a common one in Ghana, given to girls born on Friday. Skip Tracer: as above. Nolan Blake, aka Skip Tracer, meets his latest client, but the client leads him into a trap. Chimpsky’s Law: as above. Chimpsky discovers that the entity he thought was the ship’s AI is actually Amanda Jepperson, the original creator of the evolved apes. And besides killing her relatives, she decides to subject Chimpsky to some kind of surgery.

BLOOD SYNDICATE SEASON ONE #1 (DC/Milestone, 2022) – “Across 220th St.,” [W] Geoffrey Thorne, [A] Chriscross. A soldier returns from Sadaqah (i.e. Iraq) to Dakota, which, in the wake of Icon and Rocket’s cleanup of the local criminals, is now being terrorized by Holocaust. The soldier joins a group of people who are hiding out from criminals in a firehouse, but Holocaust’s minions come and shoot the place up. I don’t like the new Hardware at all, but so far this new Blood Syndicate is a lot more interesting. Besides Holocaust, this issue introduces four future Blood Syndicate members: Fade (Carlos), Flashback (Sarah), Tech-9 (Rolando) and Wise Son (Hannibal). As in the original series, Fade appears to be gay. I wonder why there’s not a new Static series.

MARVEL’S VOICES: IDENTITY #1 (Marvel, 2022) – [E] Darren Shan. The biggest name in this issue is Pornsak Pichetshote, but his Jimmy Woo/Shang-Chi story doesn’t meet my expectations of him. I do like how it raises the issue of divisions between Chinese-Americans and Chinese people from China. The highlight of the issue is the story where Ms. Marvel meets Kamran again, and he tries to seduce her for selfish reasons, again. The Mantis story is confusing to me since I’m not familiar with her recent history. The Wong story is cute, but it feels like a series of random incidents, not a story.

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2022 Eisner votes

Best Short Story

“Funeral in Foam,” by Casey Gilly and Raina Telgemeier, in You Died: An Anthology of the Afterlife (Iron Circus)

(Didn’t read any of the nominees)

Best Single Issue/One-Shot (must be able to stand alone)

Nightwing #87: “Get Grayson,” by Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo (DC)

Best Continuing Series

Something Is Killing the Children, by James Tynion IV and Werther Dell’Edera (Boom Studios)

Though my own pick would have been Once and Future.

Best Limited Series

Stray Dogs, by Tony Fleecs and Trish Forstner (Image)

This was just amazingly good. The Many Deaths of Laila Starr is a close second.

Best New Series

The Nice House on the Lake, by James Tynion IV and Álvaro Martínez Bueno (DC Black Label)

Though I also love Radiant Black.

Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 8)

I Am Oprah Winfrey, by Brad Meltzer and Christopher Eliopoulos (Dial Books for Young Readers)

I read none of the nominees. I’ll just vote for this one because of the attempts to ban it.

Best Publication for Kids (ages 9-12)

Salt Magic, by Hope Larson and Rebecca Mock (Margaret Ferguson Books/Holiday House)

Didn’t read any of these.

Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17)

Wynd, by James Tynion IV and Michael Dialynas (Boom Box)

Best Humor Publication

Not All Robots, by Mark Russell and Mike Deodato Jr. (AWA Upshot)

This was the only one I read, though I think it’s too depressing to be called a humor publication. I ought to get Thirsty Mermaids.

Best Anthology

The Silver Coin, by Michael Walsh and various (Image)

Didn’t read any of the others.

Best Reality-Based Work

The Black Panther Party: A Graphic History, by David F. Walker and Marcus Kwame Anderson (Ten Speed Press)

I haven’t read any of the nominees, but Dave Sim certainly shouldn’t win.

Best Graphic Memoir

The Secret to Superhuman Strength, by Alison Bechdel (Mariner Books)

I also liked Parenthesis, and I have both Run and Save It for Later, but have not read them yet.

Best Graphic Album—New

Monsters, by Barry Windsor-Smith (Fantagraphics)

I haven’t read this yet. I also have Ballad for Sophie, but have not read that either.

Best Graphic Album—Reprint

Middlewest: The Complete Tale, by Skottie Young and Jorge Corona (Image)

This was an excellent series, and a major creative step forward for Skottie.

Best Adaptation from Another Medium

After the Rain, by Nnedi Okorafor, adapted by John Jennings and David Brame (Megascope/Abrams ComicArts)

Didn’t read any of these.

Best U.S. Edition of International Material

Ballad For Sophie, by Filipe Melo and Juan Cavia, translation by Gabriela Soares (Top Shelf)

Just guessing here. I also love Schuiten and Peeters, but I don’t remember if I got Shadow of a Man. 

Best U.S. Edition of International Material—Asia

Spy x Family, by Tatsuya Endo, translation by Casey Loe (Viz Media)

I’ve been looking forward to reading this, though I haven’t yet.

Best Archival Collection/Project—Strips (at least 20 years old)

Trots and Bonnie, by Shary Flenniken, edited by Norman Hathaway (New York Review Comics)

A strip that I’ve wanted to read for many years, and it’s finally available. Friday Foster is also an important project, but I’ve seen that book at the store and have not felt motivated to buy it.

Best Archival Collection/Project—Comic Books (at least 20 Years Old)

Farewell, Brindavoine, by Tardi, translation by Jenna Allen, edited by Conrad Groth (Fantagraphics)

Best Writer

James Tynion IV, House of Slaughter, Something Is Killing the Children, Wynd (Boom Studios); The Nice House on the Lake, The Joker, Batman, DC Pride 2021 (DC); The Department of Truth (Image); Blue BookRazorblades (Tiny Onion Studios)

Best Writer/Artist

Barry Windsor-Smith, Monsters (Fantagraphics)

Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Tea

Bruno Redondo, Nightwing (DC)

Though my own pick might be Javier Rodriguez.

Best Painter/Multimedia Artist (interior art)

Juan Cavia, Ballad for Sophie (Top Shelf)

Best Cover Artist

Bruno Redondo, Nightwing (DC)

Though I am surprised to realize that Yoshi Yoshitani did the covers for four different comics I read. 

Best Coloring

Filipe Andrade/Inês Amaro, The Many Deaths of Laila Starr (Boom Studios)

Best Lettering

Crank!, Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters, The Tea Dragon Tapestry (Oni); Money Shot (Vault)

Though none of them really stood out to me.

Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism

WomenWriteAboutComics.com, edited by Wendy Browne and Nola Pfau (WWAC)

Best Comics-Related Book

The Art of Thai Comics: A Century of Strips and Stripes, by Nicolas Verstappen (River Books)

I haven’t read this, but I really want to.

Best Academic/Scholarly Work

The Life and Comics of Howard Cruse: Taking Risks in the Service of Truth, by Andrew J. Kunka (Rutgers University Press)

Best Publication Design

Crashpad, designed by Gary Panter and Justin Allan-Spencer (Fantagraphics)

This was the only one that I read.

Best Webcomic

Lore Olympus, by Rachel Smythe (Webtoon),

I haven’t read this, but I bought the print edition.

Best Digital Comic

Days of Sand, by Aimée de Jongh, translation by Christopher Bradley (Europe Comics)

I didn’t read any of these.

Categories
Uncategorized

Two months of reviews

4-2-22

>ARCHIE: LOVE & HEARTBREAK SPECIAL #1 (Archie, 2022) – “Bughead in The Best Things in Life Are Free,” [W/A] Thomas Pitilli, etc. Three romantic stories featuring various unusual pairings of Archie characters, all set in a carnival. This comic was okay, but I barely remember anything about it. I’m disappointed that Archie has only been publishing one-shots and digests, and has seemingly moved away from ongoing series or even miniseries.

BUCKHEAD #3 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Shobo, [A] George Kambadais. The kids continue investigating the mysterious stuff going on in town. This is a pretty standard young adult adventure comic. The only really interesting thing about this issue is the backstory, which is about a war between the Orisha and the Ajogun. I had never heard of the Ajogun before, but Google research suggests that they’re an authentic element of Yoruba religion, and that Shobo’s account of them in this issue is accurate.

THING #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Next Big Thing Part 4,” [W] Walter Mosley, [A] Tom Reilly. Ben, Amaryllis and Bobby travel to the Blue Area of the moon, where Ben gets mortally wounded by a robot, but is then healed. And then he’s attacked by Terrax, the Faceless One and a new villain called Berserker. This is another very fun issue. For someone who’s never written comics or fantastic fiction before, Walter Mosley is really good at it.

ECHOLANDS #6 (Image, 2022) – “Hope’s Crucible,” [W/A] J.H. Williams III, [W] W. Haden Blackman. The party leaves the Oracle and heads for Horror Hill, taking along Romulus, the treacherous Kirbyesque guy. At Horror Hill they fight a giant horde of zombies, and then King Vaslav addresses Rosa as his queen and gives her a crown. As usual, the artwork in this issue is superior to anything else in current comics.

2000 AD #2258 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “Tread Softly, Part 2,” [W] Mike Carroll, [A] Simon Coleby. Dredd and another judge apprehend a drug dealer, and we discover that the point of the entire case was for the other judge to evaluate Dredd. Diaboliks: “London Calling Part Two,” [W] Gordon Rennie, [A] Dom Reardon. Jake and Ravne invade Karswell House to get Jake’s stuff back. Ravne encounters an old enemy of his from Nazi Germany. Dexter: “Bulletopia Chapter 7: Lordy Jordy, King of Everything, Part One,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Tazio Bettin. What a title. Dexter and his allies fight a bunch of dinosaurs in a sewer. I’m not sure why this is just Dexter and not Sinister Dexter. Scarlet Traces: “Storm Front Part 8,” [W] Ian Edginton, [A] D’Israeli. A space battle between humans and Jovians. The Out: “Book 2 Part 8,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Mark Harrison. The protagonist continues her talk with the David Bowie stand-in. This story has easily the best art in the issue.

MY LITTLE PONY: GENERATIONS #5 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Casey Gilly, [A] Michela Cacciatore. The two generations of ponies defeat the s’monies and make piece with Grackle and Dyre. This comic was better than some of the earlier issues, but this whole series has felt like an irrelevant afterthought, given that Hasbro is winding down this version of the MLP franchise.

I AM BATMAN #6 (DC, 2022) – “Empire State of Mind Part 1,” [W] John Ridley, [A] Ken Lashley. Jace moves to New York and starts a new crimefighting career. At this point I decided to give up on this series. I’ve never been able to follow its plot, and I don’t think it’s all that interesting anyway. I will not be getting issue 7.

APACHE DELIVERY SERVICE #2 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. The best thing about this issue is the revelation that the protagonist’s lack of a name was deliberate. His name is in fact Ernie Nez, and he’s Navajo, not Apache. His namelessness was meant to indicate his comrades’ lack of knowledge about him. Also, Ernie and Sobrat go looking for the Japanese gold and fall into a trap.

SHANG-CHI #8 (Marvel, 2022) – “Family of Origin Finale,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Dike Ruan. Shang-Chi and the other Five Weapons fight off Chieftain Xin’s attack, and we get more backstory about Xin and Zheng Zu. Xin kidnaps Shang-Chi’s mom and takes her back to Qilin Island. The other day there was a small debate on my Facebook wall about how Simu Liu, the actor who played Shang-Chi, refuses to sign old Master of Kung Fu comics. I personally love Master of Kung Fu, but those comics were created entirely by white people, and they showed no authentic knowledge of Chinese culture. And you can see this by contrasting those comics with the current Shang-Chi series.

NEWBURN #3 (Image, 2022) – “We’ve All Lost Men,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jacob Phillips. Newburn and Emily solve a series of murders of mobsters. Then the police tell Newburn they want to hire him. This series is generally quite good, but it doesn’t excite me as much as some of Zdarsky’s other work, perhaps because I’m not a huge fan of crime fiction.

2000 AD #2259 (Rebellion, 2022) – Dredd: “The Musical! Part 1,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] Chris Weston.  Sensitive Klegg, a terrifying but poetic crocodilian alien, is recruited to star as Judge Dredd in a musical. This is a very funny story, and I hope I eventually get prog 2260 so I can see how it ends. Also, Chris Weston’s art is still excellent. Diaboliks: as above. Ravne is teleported back in time to World War II. Dexter: as above. The protagonists find the man who’s been breeding the dinosaurs. Scarlet Traces: as above. This chapter makes no sense to me, but D’Israeli draws some really weird aliens. The Out: as above. The protagonist, Cyd, has a vision of her daughter. Then the Bowie dude’s planet is attacked by aliens.

ONE-STAR SQUADRON #3 (DC, 2022) – “Room and Board,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Lieber. Jack O’Lantern, a Heroz4U employee, allows some shipwreck victims to drown because he gets invited to a Halloween party. As a result, Superman decides to withdraw the “Hall of Justice”’s endorsement of Heroz4U, and the company’s board asks Red Tornado to come and see them. Reddy thinks he’s being fired, but instead the board members (a bunch of horrible sociopathic techbros) tell him to fire half the office staff, including Power Girl. This issue makes some effort to portray Red Tornado in a sympathetic way, making up for his unappealing depiction in the first two issues. However, this whole series is still very grim and mean-spirited, and I’m not enjoying it much.

MONKEY MEAT #2 (Image, 2022) – “Haricot,” [W/A] Juni Ba. A college dropout gets a job at Monkey Meat Island, where he gets possessed by a god inhabiting a can of soda. Haricot has a giant fight with Thaddeus Lug, and then he gets recruited to lead Monkey Meat Island’s army. This issue has some fascinating art, but I was not captivated by its story.

DEVIL’S REIGN #4 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Checchetto. The heroes break out of prison, and Kingpin uses the Purple Man’s power to remember Daredevil’s secret identity. This series is better written than most crossover titles.

X-CELLENT #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “New Blood, New World Part 1,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Mike Allred. The new X-Statix, featuring U-Go Girl’s daughter and Tike Alicar’s son, battles Zeitgeist and his X-Cellent team. At the end of the issue, Vivisector is mortally wounded. X-Cellent isn’t bad, but it’s a revival of a classic old series, and those are never as good as the original.

GEIGER 80-PAGE GIANT #1 (Image, 2022) – “Who Is Redcoat?”, [W] Geoff Johns, [A] Bryan Hitch, etc. A series of stories about various characters in the Geiger universe. These stories offer an impressive variety of art styles and topics, and they do a reasonable job of expanding the scope of Geiger’s universe. My favorite of the stories is the one about how Geiger got his two-headed wolf-dog. In this story, the book Geiger is putting back on his shelf is Naguib Mahfouz’s Palace Walk.

THE MARVELS #8 (Marvel, 2022) – “Almost Positive,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Yildiray Cinar. The heroes invade Siancong but are captured. We learn the origin of the new Warbird, who is half Wakandan and half Shi’ar. The heroes escape from prison and discover a mysterious door. The Marvels is okay but it’s not among my favorite of Busiek’s works.

FANTASTIC FOUR: LIFE STORY #6 (Marvel, 2022) – “The ‘10s,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Sean Izaakse et al. Dr. Doom executes his ultimate plan for world domination, but Reed manages to break out of his coma and save the world. This series did not give me what I was hoping for. In particular, since the FF has a strong family theme, I wish there had been more second- or third-generation FF members. But in this universe there’s no Valeria, and we never learn anything about Franklin’s family.

A THING CALLED TRUTH #4 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Iolanda Zanfardino, [A] Elisa Romboli. The two women visit Madrid, where they do a bunch of dumb stuff, and then their next stop is Paris. I honestly don’t like this series at all. It’s an insubstantial piece of romantic comedy, with a trite message about enjoying your life and ignoring silly rules (even if those rules are there for everyone’s safety). I only read issue 5 because I had already ordered it.

DARK RED: WHERE ROADS LEAD #1 (AfterShock, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Corin Howell. A vampire rescues an old army buddy from demonic possession. This story also references Papa Legba and the devil-at-the-crossroads myth. This comic is reasonably good, and it makes me want to go back and read the rest of the original Dark Red series. Tim Seeley is an underrated writer.

SUICIDE SQUAD: BLAZE #1 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Aaron Campbell. This comic has the same premise as Strikeforce: Morituri – a bunch of people are given superpowers that will kill them in short order. The only twist is that the people with the lethal superpowers are criminals, not heroes. Besides that, this comic is a litany of pointless violence, with a cast of unsympathetic psychopaths. It may be Simon Spurrier’s worst comic to date, and that’s a shame because Spurrier and Campbell seemed like an excellent creative team. I won’t be getting the next issue.

2000 AD #1323 (Rebellion, 2003) – Dredd: “Aliens: Incubus Part 3,” [W] John Wagner & Andy Diggle, [A] Henry Flint. Dredd and the other judges fight some xenomorphs. Henry Flint’s art here is similar to Ezquerra’s. Caballistics Inc: “Going Underground Part 3,” [W] Gordon Rennie, [A] Dom Reardon. Some people fight a bunch of zombies in a sewer. Sinister Dexter: “Relode Part 2,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Ben Willsher. The protagonists are stranded 15 years in the past, and there’s a funny running joke where they’re trying to avoid causing a “Sound of Thunder” situation, so they can’t eat anything. Nikolai Dante: “Hell and High Water Part 3,” [W] Robbie Morrison, [A] John Burns. Dante plays with the two orphaned kids and then saves them from some sea monsters. John Burns’s art is beautiful, though it looks odd when printed on modern glossy paper. Slaine: “Moloch III,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Clint Langley. Slaine battles and defeats Balor, but his next opponent is Balor’s pal Moloch. Clint Langley’s art looks like the cover art for a heavy metal album.

KILL OR BE KILLED #10 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Lily stalks Dylan, and meanwhile Dylan has a tense encounter with Kira, and then sees a painting of his father’s that depicts the same demon as in his visions. The only issue of this series that I’m still missing is issue 1.

LETTER 44 #7 (Oni, 2014) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Joëlle Jones. A flashback story showing what the characters were doing before they were recruited for the space mission. Notably, Charlotte almost gets killed by Brazilian indigenous people, discovers she’s pregnant, wins the Nobel Prize, and then loses the baby.

CEREBUS #222 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1997) – “Rick’s Story 3,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This issue has some beautiful artwork, depicting Rick’s supernatural visions, but it has no particular plot. There’s a long letter at the end from some antifeminist asshole.

WELCOME BACK #5 (Boom!, 2016) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Claire Roe. The protagonist of this issue is a little girl who’s the reincarnation of a soldier in a war between immortals. Welcome Back has a somewhat similar premise to Ordinary Gods, but I like Welcome Back a lot better, at least based on the two issues of it that I’ve read.

GROO: PLAY OF THE GODS #3 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. The conquistadors try to convince Groo to lead their crusading army, and meanwhile a lot of new gods show up in heaven. There’s a running joke where one of the new gods keeps saying “I am Otid, god of repetition!” Ahax and Taranto also appear in this issue. Overall this comic is much better than some of the other recent Groo miniseries, and I regret that I didn’t read it when I first got it. There’s a running joke where one of the new gods keeps saying “I am Otid, god of repetition!”

STEVEN UNIVERSE #8 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Melanie Gillman, [A] Katy Farina. Steven and the Crystal Gems encounter a giant monster in a corn maze. I want to like this franchise, but I haven’t been able to get into it.

RINGSIDE #11 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Nick Barber. An unmemorable crime comic about professional wrestling, with artwork that’s so loose it seems unprofessional. I should have given up on this series after just one or two issues. Ironically, the reason I didn’t was because I was just buying it and not reading it, and I somehow felt obligated to keep buying it.

REVIVAL #15 (Image, 2013) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Mike Norton. A lot of different subplots, with no real central theme. Much of what happens in this issue is the result of Aaron Weiner’s death. I have no sympathy for him at all, because he was a college instructor who was sleeping with a student (a theme that also appears in Luke Healy’s How to Survive in the North).

2000 AD #1325 (Rebellion, 2003) – Dredd: as above. A bunch of Judges get killed fighting xenomorphs. Two of the characters in this story are named Millar and Brubaker. Caballistics Inc: as above. The protagonists discover a mystical bomb underneath London. This chapter reminds me a bit of the chapter of From Hell with the tour of London. Dante: as above. Dante and the kids are kidnapped by a pirate queen, and Dante defeats the pirate queen’s champion by kicking him in the face. More beautiful art. I like Nikolai Dante; his impish expression in the last panel perfectly sums him up. Sinister Dexter: as above. The protagonists get back to their own time with the help of their past selves. Slaine: as above. Slaine’s wife Niamh is r***d and murdered by Moloch. This is a brutal scene to read, and it seems to have caused some understandable controversy at the time. https://forums.2000ad.com/index.php?topic=3957.45 Niamh later reappeared in the series in various reincarnated forms. 

GROO: PLAY OF THE GODS #4 – as above. Groo gets the native people to build a temple for the colonialist priests, but they dedicate the temple to Groo himself, rather than to the priests’ god Diothos. There’s a running joke where one of the new gods keeps saying “I am Otid, god of repetition!” Since people are worshipping Groo now, Groo himself ascends to heaven with the other gods, which means the gods in heaven are now stuck with him. Also, Groo manages to sink Ahax’s ship again. There’s a running joke where one of the new gods keeps saying “I am Otid, god of repetition!”

RINGSIDE #12 (Image, 2017) – as above. More of the same thing as last issue. I don’t think I’d have enjoyed this series even if I cared about professional wrestling. I do intend to read Daniel Warren Johnson’s new series Do the Powerbomb, but that comic’s art is more interesting.

2000 AD #1326 (Rebellion, 2003) – Dredd: as above. The xenomorphs invade a maternity ward. Slaine: as above. After Niamh’s funeral, Slaine resigns as high king so he can seek revenge on Moloch. Slaine finds Moloch and stops him from sacrificing some children, and the story ends with Slaine and Moloch falling off a cliff together. This chapter is unusually long at ten pages. Caballistics: as above. Ravne defuses the bomb, and then some old guy in Israel sees him on TV and recognizes him as a Nazi. Dante: as above. Dante sleeps with the pirate queen, but meanwhile, her lieutenant, the one who Slaine kicked in the face, drugs the children and threatens to kill them.

CEREBUS #223 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1997) – as above. Rick has more religious visions and flirts with Joanne, while Cerebus gets increasingly more annoyed with him. This is yet another issue in which nothing happens at all.

STEVEN UNIVERSE #7 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Grace Kraft, [A] Meg Omac. Steven and the Crystal Gems go on a fishing trip and encounter a sea monster. I don’t think this series ever had the narrative complexity of IDW’s My Little Pony comics. Perhaps one reason why Steven Universe appeals to me less than MLP is because its episodes are only 11 minutes.

DEMONIC #1 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Niko Walter. Police officer Scott Graves has a young daughter who is dying of a rare disease. Scott is also possessed by a demon, and the demon offers to heal Scott’s daughter if Scott kills a bunch of people on the demon’s behalf. Like most of Sebela’s work, this series has a fascinating premise, and I want to read more of it. In his author’s note Sebela recommends Junji Ito’s Uzumaki. I need to read that sooner or later.

THE PHANTOM #1056 (Frew, 1993) – “Kukailomoko – The Destroyer of the Earth,” parts 2 and 3, [W] Sverre Årnes, [A] Carlos Cruz. The 11th Phantom and his friend Pedro are trapped in Kahoolawe, where the Phantom has to protect the local people from being conquered by King Aladai, the father of Kamehameha the Great. In the second chapter, the Phantom sails to Spanish California and protects some mission Indians from pirates. In both chapters the Phantom scares his enemies by masquerading as a god. Carlos Cruz’s black-and-white artwork is very appealing, and reminiscent of Jim Aparo’s work. The history in this story is only sort of accurate; there was a Hawaiian chief named Alapa’i, not Aladai, and he was Kamehameha’s great-uncle, not his father.

2000 AD #1327 (Rebellion, 2003) – Dredd: as above. The judges try to track down a criminal named Futsie who is responsible for the alien plague. Bec & Kawl: “Enlightenment,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Steve Roberts. Bec and Kawl summon a green monkey god so it can tell them the “universal truth,” but they don’t learn anything useful. This series may have been Simon Spurrier’s first major work. The VC’s: “Look on the Bright Side,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Anthony Williams. I’m not sure what this series is about, but it was the most notable contribution to 2000 AD by Garry Leach, who sadly just passed away. Terror Tales: “The Statue Garden,” [W] Gary Wilkinson, [A] Dom Reardon. An art lover goes looking for a sculptor, who, in an unsurprising twist, turns out to be a gorgon. Dante: as above. This chapter focuses on Dante’s mother. John Burns is quite effective at drawing aging women.

FOUR COLOR #727 (Dell, 1956) – The Nature of Things: “The Giraffe” and two other stories, [W] unknown, [A] Jesse Marsh. Three educational vignettes about giraffes, camels and elephants. Jesse Marsh was a skilled artist of wildlife, but this comic is pretty boring, and it includes some patronizing depictions of African and Asian people.

CEREBUS #224 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1997) – “Rick’s Story 5,” as above. Yet another issue with beautiful artwork but no plot at all. The main event is that Rick has a giant bump on his head, and then Cerebus and Joanne argue about a bar rag. I can’t imagine why anyone would have enjoyed this story.

DETECTIVE COMICS #826 (DC, 2007) – “Slayride,” [W] Paul Dini, [A] Don Kramer. Tim Drake is forced to ride in the passenger seat of the Joker’s car as the Joker runs over helpless people. As I have said before, I am thoroughly sick of the Joker, and I would be thrilled if DC vowed to never publish another story about him. All modern Joker stories are ultimately about how the Batman is unable to stop the Joker from murdering people, and where is the fun in reading about that? What saves this issue is that it also includes some cute scenes where Tim is talking with Dick Grayson about Batman. I like Dick Grayson’s role as the big brother to the other Robins.

FAKER #1 (Vertigo, 2007) – untitled, [W] Mike Carey, [A] Jock. Protagonist Jessie, a student at Minnesota University at St. Cloud, seduces her professor into giving her a better grade, then blackmails him. Then some guy climbs up the college clock tower and threatens to jump, claiming that he’s not real. Since this is a Vertigo comic, I assume there’s some kind of supernatural element to it, but I can’t tell what it is. I suppose I’d buy the other issues of this series if I found them for a low price, but there are lots of other Mike Carey comics that are more interesting than this one. Minnesota University at St. Cloud is fake, though there is a real St. Cloud State University.

PRISM STALKER #3 (Image, 2018) – untitled, [W/A] Sloane Leong. The protagonist continues her studies in company with a bizarre group of other aliens. This series is very reminiscent of Brandon Graham’s Prophet, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Like Graham and Roy, Leong is very good at depicting weird nonhuman aliens. I need to get around to reading the rest of this series.

EXCELLENCE #3 (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Khary Randolph. Spencer deals with the fallout from issue 1, when he misused his powers to save his dying great-grandmother. This issue also seems to suggest that the job of the black magicians is to protect white people, and this has some deliberately disturbing implications. I think this series is still going on now – issue 12 came out in January – and I would consider adding it to my pull list, if I could get caught up on the back issues.

WILDC.A.T.S #22 (Image, 1995) – untitled, [W] Alan Moore, [A] Kevin Maguire. Half of the team arrives on Khera but quickly discovers that it’s not the paradise they expected. There’s also a subplot with the half of the team that’s still on Earth, but I don’t understand what’s going on with them. I haven’t read an Alan Moore comic in a while, and I sometimes forget how brilliant his dialogue and pacing are. Also, Kevin Maguire was capable of realizing Alan’s artistic intentions, unlike some of the other artists Alan worked with at Image.

MARVEL ADVENTURES: AVENGERS #9 (Marvel, 2007) – “A Not-So-Beautiful Mind,” [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Juan Santacruz. MODOC (not MODOK because the last letter stands for Conquest, not Killing) turns all the other Avengers into MODOCs. However, instead of using their new mental powers for evil, they use them to defeat Attuma and the Leader. This issue is fun, although somehow I’ve never found MODOK to be as funny as he’s supposed to be. One of Attuma’s monsters is named after C.B. Cebulski.

ART OPS #10 (Vertigo, 2016) – “Children: Part Three of Popism,” [W] Shaun Simon, [A] Matt Brundage. Reggie and Mona’s child is abducted at birth, and a lot of other stuff happens that I don’t understand. This series wanted to be an art version of The Unwritten, but Shaun Simon is not as skilled a writer as Mike Carey, and he never managed to realize this series’ potential. The only thing Art Ops really had going for it was Mike Allred, and Matt Brundage’s artwork in this issue is a pale imitation of Allred’s.

Next trip to Heroes:

SAGA #56 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Pia Guerra. Hazel has to go on a mission for some asshole with deer antlers, while King Robot is looking for vengeance for his son’s death. Also there are a lot of random cute moments, like Hazel discovering what a guitar is. One of the fun parts of this series is watching Hazel evolve from a newborn infant into a child with a distinct personality. It’s wonderful to finally be getting more Saga, after such a long wait.

SUPERMASSIVE #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Kyle Higgins, Ryan Parrott & Mat Groom, [A] Francesco Manna et al. In the first Radiant Black spinoff, Marshall teams up with two new heroes, Rogue Sun and Inferno Girl Red. The strange thing about this comic is that it’s a crossover between Radiant Black and two other series that hadn’t been published yet. But Supermassive is extremely fun, especially because of the interactions between the three protagonists. Two memorable moments are Inferno Girl Red misunderstanding the name Waffle House, and Rogue Sun saying that he has experience with giant monsters because he’s been married twice. The artwork in this comic is very exciting, and there’s a surprise foldout four-page splash during the decisive fight scene. I’m not sure just how the Radiant Black universe is supposed to be different from all the other superhero universes, but Supermassive is an exciting introduction to that universe.

MS. MARVEL: BEYOND THE LIMIT #3 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Samira Ahmed, [A] Andres Genolet. Kamala gets acquainted with Qarin, a shapeshifter from an alternate univesre. But at the end of the issue Qarin accuses Kamala of killing the Ms. Marvel of Qarin’s own universe. This issue has a lot of funny moments. Samira Ahmed sometimes seems to imply that Kamala is diabetic; if she’s not, she certainly seems to get hungry a lot.

STEP BY BLOODY STEP #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Matías Bergara. This creative team’s second collaboration, after Coda, is an entirely silent comic. (There is some dialogue, but it’s written in illegible symbols.) It begins with a little girl waking up in the palm of a giant robot. The robot carries the girl through a series of strange landscapes, until they reach a farm. Here the girl befriends the child of the farmers, but then the robot carries her away, and opens its helmet to reveal that it has a woman’s head. At the end, some creepy blue-skinned people arrive at the farm looking for the girl and the robot. Matías Bergara’s art here is even better than in Coda. His creatures and landscapes are stunningly creative. And he achieves the rare feat of telling an intelligible story with no dialogue.

PRIMORDIAL #6 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Andrea Sorrentino. The alien ship finally returns to Earth, and Yelena is reunited with Laika. This ending feels kind of flimsy. The real point of this issue is not the story, but Andrea Sorrentino’s stunning page layouts and his depictions of the alien ship. However, I would still have liked to know more about what happens after the aliens show up. Jeff Lemire has a tendency to end his stories at the most emotional moment, without providing an epilogue or a “what happened next”.

ORPHAN AND THE FIVE BEASTS #4 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] James Stokoe. Orphan defeats the autocannibalistic chef, whose final act is to fall into his pot and cook himself. It’s interesting to compare this comic to Fire Power. They’re both inspired by the wuxia genre, but Orphan and the Five Beasts feels far less culturally appropriative. Of course it also has a completely different artistic style. I can’t say that either Stokoe or Samnee is a better artist than the other, because they have such different intentions. This series was announced as only lasting four issues, but issue 4 doesn’t say that it’s the final issue, and by the end of #4, only three of the beasts have been defeated. I hope there will be a second season of this series, though given Stokoe’s extremely labor-intensive style, I don’t expect it any time soon.

HOUSE OF SLAUGHTER #5 (Boom!, 2022) – “The Butcher’s Mark Part 5,” [W] Tate Brombal, [A] Chris Shehan. In the present, Jace reveals that he’s been raising children who were orphaned by monsters, rather than delivering them to the Order of St. George. In the past, Aaron stops Jace from assassinating the Old Dragon. I’ve never enjoyed this series as much as Something is Killing the Children, but it’s still good, and it effectively fleshes out the SIKTC universe.

DEPARTMENT OF TRUTH #16 (Image, 2022) – “Deviation 5: Free Love,” [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Alison Sampson. In San Francisco in 1968, Lee Harvey Oswald shares sex and drugs with a mysterious woman, who turns out to be the woman with X eyes. She tells Oswald that the counterculture is just an attempt to distract America from revolutionary change, and that it was created by the same entities who killed JFK and RFK and Martin Luther King Jr. Appropriately, this comic is drawn and colored in a psychedelic style. I’m not familiar with this artist, but she was an excellent choice for this story.

USAGI YOJIMBO #26 (IDW, 2022) – “Crossroads Part Two,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Jei somehow decides to let Yukichi go, and he reaches Usagi in time to help him defeat the six bandits. One of the bandits survives, but not for long, because he escapes Usagi and Yukichi only to run into Jei. Whenever Jei shows up, I always expect that Stan is planning some kind of epic final confrontation between him and Usagi, but so far that has not happened. I don’t recall if Jei appears in the epic “final” Usagi story, Senso.

NIGHTWING #88 (DC, 2022) – “Get Grayson Part 2,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo. Blockbuster’s minions try to assassinate Dick Grayson, but his fellow Titans save him – including Starfire, to my delight. The splash page where Dick shouts ‘Titans together!” is an epic moment. Nightwing is easily the best current DC title, if you don’t count Nice House on the Lake. This issue’s first page may be inspired by Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog.

MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #35 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Michele Bandini & Luigi Zagaria. Miles and Shift finally confront the Assessor, and also Quantum, who I don’t remember. They discover an interdimensional portal, which Miles decides to use to find Uncle Aaron. This series is quite fun, but the last few issues have been entirely composed action sequences, and I wish there’d be more focus on Miles’s private life.

MY DATE WITH MONSTERS #4 (AfterShock, 2022) – “The Dog is Fine,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] Andy MacDonald. Risa and Croak travel through the dream world to the Risa Training Facility, where one of the surviving soldiers fails to recognize Rise and tries to shoot her. Meanwhile, Machi goes on a date with a cute boy. Like much of Paul Tobin’s best work, this series strikes a delicate balance between adorable and horrible.

BLACK HAMMER REBORN #9 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Caitlin Yarsky. Lucy discovers that the real villain is the evil version of her father, the previous Black Hammer. This series hasn’t been quite as exciting as the original Black Hammer series or Age of Doom, though it’s still fun. This issue does not have an Inspector Insector backup story.

KING CONAN #3 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Princess of Golden Ruin,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Mahmud Asrar. This comic was widely criticized because it introduces a villain who’s an evil, hypersexualized version of Pocahontas. Many people called out this depiction as being offensive to Pocahontas’s Native Americans; see https://bleedingcool.com/comics/marvel-comics-alters-art-for-king-conan-2-after-pocahontas-criticism/. I honestly didn’t see anything wrong with this comic when I first read it, but that just indicates my own blind spots as a non-indigenous person. I do understand what’s wrong with this comic now, though that doesn’t matter, because it’s not up to me to decide whether this comic is offensive or not.  Jason Aaron has since apologized for this comic, and has donated the money he received for it to an indigenous women’s charity, and future printings of this story will be heavily edited.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES #126 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] Sophie Campbell, [A] Pablo Tunica. The Turtles confront the Punk Frogs, and they also encounter a mad scientist named Jasper Barlow. Meanwhile there’s a subplot that takes place on the alien planet. This story arc has been disappointing so far. I’m not sure why any of the stuff happening on the alien planet is relevant to the Turtles.

FANTASTIC FOUR #40 (Marvel, 2022) – “Every World on Fire,” [W] Dan Slott, [A] Rachael Stott. This is the worst issue of this entire volume. It’s full of so many shocking plot twists and epic cosmic moments that none of them have any impact. Like, the moon literally blew up last issue, and it doesn’t even seem to matter because there’s other stuff going on that’s even more shocking. (And besides, the moon will obviously be back to normal after this story is over.) I don’t know why Dan Slott thought this story was a good idea, and I hope it will be over soon.

DIRTBAG RAPTURE #5 (Oni, 2022) – “The Day I Tried to Live,” [W] Christopher Sebela, [A] Kendall Goode. God turns out to be totally unhelpful, but Kat and her ghost friends succeed in defeating both the angels and demons anyway, and Kat returns to her former life of escorting ghosts to their final rest. This was an extremely strange series, but that’s kind of the point.

AQUAMAN: THE BECOMING #6 (DC, 2022) – “Before & After,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Serg Acuña & Diego Olortegui. Jackson and his relatives stop the terrorist attack on the peace conference and save the day, but Jackson’s mom is seriously hurt. People start calling Jackson “Aquaman,” but he’s not able to enjoy it much. This was a fun miniseries and it effectively set up the next ongoing.

ROBIN #11 (DC, 2022) – “Field Trip,” [W] Joshua Williamson, [A] Gleb Melnikov (misspelled Melkinov in the credits). Various loose ends from the previous storyline are tied up, and Damian and Flatline kiss. Damian returns to Gotham to use some Lazarus resin on Alfred’s grave. Flatline seems to have replaced Nobody as Damian’s romantic interest.

STRANGE ACADEMY #16 (Marvel, 2022) – “Winter Formal,” [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. Brother Voodoo expels Calvin from school for selling drugs. Doyle invites Emily to the dance, but when Emily discovers Calvin sulking, she chooses to comfort him rather than go to the dance, and Doyle is heartbroken at being stood up. This is an effective piece of drama because all of the three main characters’ actions are understandable, and consistent with their character. None of them acted with truly evil intentions – not even Calvin, because although he was endangering his fellow students, he did so because he thought it was his only way to be included. Yet their actions lead to Calvin’s expulsion from school and the possible end of Doyle and Emily’s romance.

NIGHTWING #89 (DC, 2022) – In a really cute opening sequence, Dick rescues and comforts young Jon Kent after he gets lost. This is another example of Dick’s role as an older brother to younger heroes. In the present, Dick and Jon team up again to solve a series of murders of superheroes. One of the victims is Risk from Dan Jurgens’s Teen Titans, but that was a very forgettable series, and I don’t really care that Taylor got rid of Risk for dramatic effect. This story is a crossover with Superman, Son of Kal-El, and indeed, the continuity of the two titles is tied together so tightly that this almost seems like an issue of Superman and not Nightwing. I don’t mind this either, though, since I was already reading Superman, Son of Kal-El anyway.  

AQUAMEN #1 (DC, 2022) – “Sins of the Father,” [W] Chuck Brown & Brandon Thomas, [A] Sami Basri. The two Aquamen team up to defend the United Nations from Ocean Master, and Black Manta unexpectedly appears to help the Aquamen. Meanwhile, Atlantean sleeper agents start reactivating. This is a fun first issue.  

BATMAN: THE KNIGHT #2 (DC, 2022) – “The Knight Part 2,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Carmine DiGiandomenico. In Paris, Bruce becomes an apprentice to a cat burglar named Lucie. Bruce kisses Lucie while she’s bandaging his wounds, but she quickly shuts that down. I think we’re meant to see her as a precursor to Catwoman. Meanwhile, Paris’s great detective, Henri Ducard, investigates a series of murders. I have now learned that Ducard is a recurring character dating back to the ‘80s, and that he’s the grandfather of Nobody from Robin, Son of Batman. I must have enjoyed this issue when I read it, but when I read #3, I didn’t remember anything about #2.

WONDER WOMAN #784 (DC, 2022) – “Through a Glass Darkly Finale,” [W] Michael Conrad & Becky Cloonan, [A] Marcio Takara. Diana defeats the mirror dude, who turns out to be Siggy’s ghost – and that explains why he’s a new character and is not just called Mirror Master. Dr. Psycho rescues one of the glass Wonder Woman duplicates. There’s a backup story that leads into Trial of the Amazons. This was an unmemorable issue.

GETTING DIZZY #4 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Shea Fontana, [A] Celia Moscote. Dizzy defeats the Negatrixes and saves the day. I suppose this series was all right, but it was very simplistic even for a kids’ comic. Come to think of it, Getting Dizzy’s premise is problematic because it implies that bad feelings as being the result of monsters, rather than genuine disagreements and incompatibilities between people. Also, Getting Dizzy may be the lowest-impact superhero comic I’ve ever read. What I mean by that is, all the villains are trying to do is make people angry, and Burb Defender is not defending the entire universe or even the entire country, but just a single neighborhood. So Getting Dizzy fails to give the sense that anything important is at stake.

HEATHEN #1 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Natasha Alterici. I regret buying this because it’s not a new comic, but just an expensive prestige-format reprint of Heathen #1, which is already in my collection. I wish Vault had communicated this more clearly.

HUMAN TARGET #5 (DC, 2022) – “This is a Good Block,” [W] Tom King, [A] Greg Smallwood. This issue is extremely confusing because it’s narrated as a series of visions in Chance’s mind, and the order of these visions is unclear. I suppose the point of this narrative structure is to illustrate the essential strangeness of J’onn J’onzz, who is the focal character in this issue, but to me it was just mystifying. We finally do learn that J’onn was responsible for the poison, and also that he was sleeping with Fire, which I didn’t even realize until I read a review of this issue (https://dccomicsnews.com/2022/03/19/review-the-human-target-5/). Also this issue includes a Titanian telepath named Emra, but she’s explicitly not Saturn Girl.

RADIO APOCALYPSE #2 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Ram V, [A] Anand RK. This issue has some very interesting and distinctive art, but I had trouble understanding its plot, mostly because of the amount of time that’s passed since issue 1. That’s a consistent problem with some Vault comics – the other one I’m thinking of is Giga – they come out so infrequently that their plots become hard to follow.

SHANG-CHI #9 (Marvel, 2022) – “Blood and Monsters Part One,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Marcus To. In Hawaii, Shang-Chi and his friends fight some self-cloning monsters called taotie. The taotie is a genuine Chinese mythological creature. It’s mentioned in the Shan Hai Jing (Classic of Mountains and Seas) as one of the four malevolent animals, along with the hundun, previously seen in this comic, and the more obscure taowu and qiongqi. Otherwise, this is a fairly forgettable issue.

REFRIGERATOR FULL OF HEADS #4 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] Rio Youers, [A] Tom Fowler. More backstory on the four Norse mythological weapons, together with more ridiculous and gory mayhem. Unlike its predecessor, this series relies on shock and gruesomeoness rather than genuine fear or realistic characterization, and that makes it a lot less effective. I might as well finish reading it though.

CANTO III: LIONHEARTED #6 (IDW, 2022) – untitled, [W] David Booher, [A] Drew Zucker. Canto finally defeats the Furies, and the series ends by setting up the next miniseries, Tales of the Unnamed World. I like Canto, but I wish I understood its plot better. One reason I want to keep reading it is because IDW is publishing so few comic books these days.

CRASHPAD #1 (Fantagraphics, 2021) – untitled, [W/A] Gary Panter. Gary Panter is one of the most important living cartoonists in America, but his comics are quite hard to find, and his art style is difficult and lacking in popular appeal. Therefore his influence seems to have been mostly indirect; his own work may be less prominent than the work of the cartoonists he inspired. Crashpad #1 is about a bunch of anthropomorphic animal hippies who have a bizarre drug trip and encounter a bigoted cop. It makes more sense than some of the other Panter comics I’ve read, and it displays some incredible draftsmanship. I guess one of Panter’s skills is his stylistic versatility, and his art in this issue doesn’t really have the scratchy, blocky style that I associate with him. However, this comic’s subject matter feels outdated.

HARDWARE SEASON ONE #4 (DC, 2022) – “Reprisals,” [W] Brandon Thomas, [A] Denys Cowan. Hardware’s friends blow the whistle on Edwin Alva’s crimes, and Edwin responds by trying to assassinate them. This series has been a disappointment, partly because it’s been coming out so infrequently, and also because Denys Cowan’s art is unpleasant-looking.

REGARDING THE MATTER OF OSWALD’S BODY #4 (Boom!, 2022) – “Changing the World,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Luca Casalaguida. Oswald spends half the issue delivering a long, annoying monologue, until finally Rose decides she’s had enough of listening to him talk, and she shoots him dead. This is a cathartic moment; by that point in the issue, I was so sick of Oswald that I’d probably have shot him too. Then the protagonists bury Oswald and prepare for their escape.

SILVER COIN #9 (DC, 2022) – “The Dancer,” [W] Vita Ayala, [A] Michael Walsh. The coin’s new owner is a corrupt cop who’s in debt to the mob. A little black girl witnesses him trying to burn down a building to pay his debt. While trying to kill the girl, he instead saves her and is publicly celebrated as a hero. His efforts to murder the girl are unsuccessful, and the next time he tries to commit another act of arson, his own unwilling henchmen lock him inside the building. He dies and is posthumously revealed as a villain. His police chief inherits the coin from him. The “hero cop” (who I don’t think has a name) is the most disgusting character in this entire series. He’s literally willing to murder a child in order to conceal his own crimes, and on top of that, he’s a vile racist.

IRON FIST #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Alyssa Wong, [A] Michael YG. The new Iron Fist is Lin Lie, formerly known as Swordmaster, who appeared in the series of that name and also in one of Si Spurrier’s Black Knight comics. Lin Lie meets Danny Rand, and then we learn that after his sword was shattered (in a comic I didn’t read), Lin Lie washed ashore in K’un L’un and was rescued by a local woman named Mei Min. Now his hands hurt and his chi is disrupted, and also Mei Min’s dad seems to be possessed by some kind of demon. Like the new Shang-Chi, this series is informed by actual Chinese culture rather than by the ‘70s kung fu craze, and it feels culturally accurate. I wonder what Michael YG’s name stands for – I assume those are initials, because I’ve never heard of “Yg” as a surname.

BRZRKR #7 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Keanu Reeves & Matt Kindt, [A] Ron Garney. Unute works with a scientist named Caldwell to locate historical artifacts that he’s encountered over the course of his life. We get the interesting suggestion that Unute himself is responsible for keeping civilization alive by spreading technology.

THE KILLER: AFFAIRS OF THE STATE #1 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matz, [A] Luc Jacamon. The Killer is hired to kill a certain Nabil Jebbouri, who poses as a champion of immigrant communities but is actually a crimelord. This series is not a great work of art, and its protagonist is deliberately impossible to sympathize with. But The Killer is well-executed, and I think Jacamon’s art has improved since earlier volumes of this series. I do think it’s problematic that the villain appears to be a North African or Middle Eastern immigrant to France. That feels like a stereotype.

THE LAST SESSION #3 (Mad Cave, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jasmine Walls, [A] Dozerdraws. We begin with a flashback depicting Walter’s tense relationship to his overprotective parents, and then there’s another campaign session. Cassandra figures out the solution to the adventure, but none of the other party members are willing to listen to her. A reasonably fun issue.

UNTIL MY KNUCKLES BLEED #1 (Behemoth, 2022) – “Extremely Damaged Part 1,” [W/A] Victor Santos. Gabin, aka Damager, was an ultraviolent superhero in the ‘90s. Now he works as a bouncer in a strip club, protecting human-trafficked Eastern European girls from their clients. This series has a fascinating premise, and Santos captures a sense of ‘90s nostalgia by imitating the styles of Liefeld and Frank Miller (specifically Sin City). However, the ending of this series was disappointing. More on that below.

IMPOSSIBLE JONES #3 (Scout, 2022) – untitled, [W] Karl Kesel, [A] David Hahn. Jones fights a villain called the Saint of Knives. Two superheroes rescue her and mistakenly assume she’s a superhero herself, and she decides not to correct them. Meanwhile, her roommate is kidnapped by a villain named Homewrecker. I liked issue 4 better than this one. I was in a pretty bad mood when I read some of these comics; I may explain that more later.

THE RUSH #4 (Vault, 2022) – “The Crime,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Nathan Gooden. Nettie and her pals fight a terrifying half-spider, half-man creature. When she defeats him with the help of the marshal, he claims her son is alive, just before being attacked by a terrifying harpy. While the harpy and spider are fighting, the humans are attacked by a terrifying glowing-eyed moose. This series is a very effective piece of horror, but I find it hard to read because it’s so bleak and cheerless.

ARROWSMITH: BEHIND ENEMY LINES #2 (Image, 2022) – “Shadows Over the Land,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Carlos Pacheco. Fletcher is in a prison camp in occupied Europe. He’s interrogated by some terrifying priests, and then witnesses a flying duel between a British pilot and the Arrowsmith version of the Red Baron. Arrowsmith has never been my favorite Busiek comic, but reading it after an 18-year hiatus makes me feel nostalgic.

EDGAR ALLAN POE’S SNIFTER OF DEATH #5 (Ahoy, 2022) – “A Pound of Flesh,” [W] Kirk Vanderbeek, [A] Jon Proctor. A man drives his friend to suicide by borrowing money from him and refusing to pay it back. The friend’s ghost drives the man insane. This story is pretty dumb. The backup story is by the same writer and has an even flimsier plot, but Shane Oakley’s psychedelic artwork is impressive.

ANIMAL CASTLE #3 (Ablaze, 2022) – untitled, [W] Xavier Dorison, [A] Felix Delep. This is always one of the last new comics I read, because it’s brilliant, but also heartbreaking and difficult to endure. This issue, the animals start fighting back against Silvio and the dogs by painting graffiti pictures of flowers. Silvio is of course angry about this, but it gives the people hope, which is itself a victory. When one reads this comic right now, it’s hard not to compare Silvio to Putin, and hopefully they will both suffer similar downfalls.

BOLERO #2 (Image, 2022) – “Boys and Girls Like Me and You,” [W] Wyatt Kennedy, [A] Luana Vecchio. Devyn travels through a bunch of different alternate realities. I like the art in this issue, but Devyn is an unappealing protagonist, and I feel like this comic is somehow tainted by its association with Brandon Graham. I still haven’t felt motivated to read issue 3.

NUBIA AND THE AMAZONS #5 (DC, 2022) – “A Champion’s Last Quest,” [W] Stephanie Williams & Vita Ayala, [A] Alitha Martinez. Nubia defeats and saves Nubia, and the issue ends with a tie-in to Trial of the Amazons. I really didn’t much like this miniseries, and yet I felt obligated to order the first issue of the new Nubia series.

MY BAD #4 (Ahoy, 2022) – “My Life, My Creed” and other stories, [W] Mark Russell & Bryce Ingram, [A] Peter Krause. The Chandelier prepares for his final confrontation with Emperor King, who has befriended Rush Hour. This whole series has been silly, pointless, and only occasionally funny. One of the good jokes this issue is a lion character named Lion L. Richie.

MARVEL VOICES: LEGACY #1 (Marvel, 2022) – various stories, [E] Sarah Brunstad. Like most of the Marvel Voices specials, this one is a mixed bag. I really like the Moon Girl and Shuri stories, particularly since the latter has art by Natacha Bustos. However, Cody Ziglar’s one-page stories are annoying pieces of filler that are worse than ad pages. The Ninki Nanka, from the Shuri story, seems to be a real West African mythological creature.

SUPERGIRL, WOMAN OF TOMORROW #8 (DC, 2022) – “Ruthye, Supergirl, and Krem of the Yellow Hills,” [W] Tom King, [A] Bilquis Evely. I’m tired so I’ll just quote my own Facebook post: “Like so many other Tom King comics, Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow has an anticlimactic, bait-and-switch ending that is difficult to reconcile with the rest of the series. Tom King needs to learn to end stories in a straightforward and satisfying way, rather than always trying to fool the reader and outsmart himself. In this case, the twist is that Krypto was never sick at all. Kara just told Ruthye they needed to find Krem to cure Krypto, so that she could stop Ruthye from killing Krem. That’s an extremely manipulative thing for Kara to do, and I don’t understand what it accomplished. Also, it’s obvious that Ruthye was never going to kill Krem, because that would violate the moral code of superhero comics. So it’s annoying that Tom King spent the whole series making the reader *want* Ruthye to kill Krem. It’s just a deliberate deferral of satisfaction. This is the same reason I’m sick of reading about the Joker — because Joker stories always make us *wish* Batman would kill the Joker, but that wish can never be granted.” After I wrote all that, I read the last page, where Ruthye claims that Supergirl killed Krem herself, but we can’t tell if Ruthye is telling the truth or not. That doesn’t make the ending any more satisfying.

2000 AD #1328 (Rebellion, 2003) – Dredd: “Vs. Aliens: Incubus, Part 8,” [W] John Wagner & Andy Diggle, [A] Henry Flint. A villain named Mr. Bones tells Futsie how he brought the xenomorphs to earth, then he feeds Futsie to the xenomorphs, and we see that the alienshave laid a whole bunch of eggs. Bec & Kawl: “Eeevil.com Part 1,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Steve Roberts. While surfing the Internet, Kawl is abducted by a sentient cybernetic spider. Before Kawl can do anything about it, some men in black come to the door and shoot her. This series is always very funny. The VCs: “Shotgun,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Anthony Williams. I didn’t understand this story. Dante: “Hell and High Water Part 8,” [W] Robbie Morrison, [A] John Burns. Nikolai convinces his mother to help him defeat Lord Murakami, and then joins his mother’s crew. I’m not sure what happened to the two kids.

BLACK WIDOW #14 (Marvel, 2022) – “Die by the Blade Part 3,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Elena Casagrande. Natasha and her team fight the Living Blade and his employers, and the Blade seemingly cuts Natasha’s arm off. We’ve just learned that this series has been cancelled. That’s too bad, because it had some excellent art, and it was certainly the best Black Widow solo series.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #36 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Last of the Marvels Part 5,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Sergio Dávila. Carol and a bunch of other heroes team up to beat Vox Supreme. This issue was a predictable conclusion to a rather boring story arc. At one point in the issue, Carol tells Lauri-Ell to summon Spectrum, Iron Man, Moondragon, Star-Lord and Black Panther, but she never tells Star-Lord or Black Panther to do anything.

FOUR COLOR #744 (Dell, 1956) – Little Beaver: “The Howling Cavern” and other stories, [W] unknown, [A] Dan Spiegle? This was part of a small eBay order containing four ‘50s Western comics. Little Beaver is an adventure comic starring a small Navajo boy. The three stories in the issue are fairly standard Dell material, and this would be a reasonably entertaining comic if not for the fact that Little Beaver’s dialogue is appallingly racist. His first speech balloon is “Aiee! Sound-um like evil spirits back in haunted canyon!” and he keeps talking in this sort of “Tonto Talk,” as TVTRopes calls it, throughout the issue. It’s possible that he talks like this because he’s a child, not because he’s Indian, because the adult Indians in the comic sometimes speak in more intelligible English. But it’s still really annoying to read this sort of dialogue. It’s particularly nonsensical that this comic shows Navajo people speaking in pidgin to each other, because the whole point of pidgin and creole languages is to enable communication between people who don’t share a common language. Also, I don’t know if this comic’s depiction of Navajo people is accurate, but I rather doubt it.

THE PHANTOM #1057 (Frew, 1993) – “Wanted: For Murder!”, [W] Idar Pettersen, [A] Stefan Nagy. This is sort of a stealth Phantom/Punsiher crossover. In Morristown, a man wearing the Phantom’s costume is going on a killing spree, shooting criminals dead with assault weapons. The actual Phantom is accused of the killings, but President Luaga gives him a one-week grace period, and the Phantom apprehends the impostor. The fake Phantom proves to be a policeman named Charlie McClane whose family was murdered by criminals. Again, I assume this character is an intentional reference to the Punisher. Stefan Nagy’s black-and-white art in this issue is appealing, though some pages are printed poorly.

THE FLASH #143 (DC, 1998) – “Like Wildfire,” [W] Mark Waid & Brian Augustyn, [A] Pop Mhan. Wally goes hunting for Cobalt Blue, but Cobalt Blue traps Wally inside Barry Allen’s tombstone, and then reveals himself as Malcolm Thawne, Barry’s unknown twin brother. Also, Wally is single because Linda Park has somehow been erased from history. Wally’s future daughter, Iris, makes a brief cameo appearance. None of Mark’s subsequent Flash runs have been as good as his first one, but this issue is okay.

CEREBUS #225 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1997) – “Rick’s Story 6,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This is perhaps the single most tedious comic book in my entire collection. Reading it is an extremely frustrating chore. The main reason is because this issue includes several pages of the phony Bible that Rick writes based on his misinterpretation of Cerebus’s doctrine. These “Bible” pages are printed in tiny text, with faux-sixteenth-century spelling, and their content is vapid (example: “And three of the stooles of The Barre wre vpon Cerebvses right hande, and three of the stooles of The Barre wre vpon Cerebvsesleft hande”). One particular page includes three whole columns of this nonsense (https://www.instagram.com/p/Ca3mTiKuXM2/). On top of all that, this issue again has no plot at all, and the letter column includes yet another letter that’s an awful piece of misogyny.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #24 (Marvel, 1977) – “Does Anyone Remember… the Hijacker!?”, [W] Bill Mantlo & Jim Shooter, [A] Sal Buscema. The Thing and Black Goliath battle a dumb villain named the Hijacker. This character was introduced in a very early Ant-Man story in 1963, but MTIO #24 was his first appearance since then, and he was subsequently murdered by the Scourge of the Underworld. He later returned in Dark Reign along with a bunch of other Scourge victims, which is unfortunate since Gruenwald’s whole purpose for creating Scourge was to get rid of a bunch of dumb old villains. Anyway, other than that, MTIO #24 is a boring issue and there’s not much to say about it.

WONDER WOMAN #248 (DC, 1990) – “Fang and Claw,” [W] George Pérez, [A] Jill Thompson. Diana and Donna Troy battle Circe, with the aid of Anna and Theo, two lovers who Circe transformed into a werecat and a centaur. Anna and Theo both get killed in the end, and the twist is that Theo was originally a horse, not a man – though I didn’t understand this point at first. The issue ends with some cute moments between Donna and Diana, and also Vanessa befriends Cindy, the daughter of Donna’s adoptive mother Fay Stacey Evans. Again I wasn’t sure who Cindy was at first – she appears in New Teen Titans #38, one of my favorite comics ever, but almost nowhere else. In post-Crisis continuity, this story was Diana and Donna’s first team-up. Donna’s continuity was a horrible mess from the start, and it was broken beyond repair by Crisis. The basic problem was that because of Crisis, it no longer made sense for Donna to be Wonder Woman’s younger sidekick, and DC never managed to redefine her as a character who was independent of Wonder Woman.

SUE AND SALLY SMITH, FLYING NURSES #51 (Charlton, 1963) – “The Surgeon Had to Die,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Joe Sinnott, etc. Like so many other Charlton comics, this series took over the numbering of a previous series, My Secret Life. (Charlton did this because the postal rates were higher for new series than for existing ones.) “Flying nurses” in this context refers to nurses who reach their patients by parachuting in from a plane. I bought this comic because it looked stupid, and it is, but at least it’s not totally incoherent. The first story, about a hillbilly who’s suspicious of modern medicine, is actually kind of poignant.

DAREDEVIL #70 (Marvel, 1970) – “The Tribune,” [W] Gary Friedrich, [A] Gene Colan. Matt fights the Tribune, an ultraconservative villain who tries to frame young protesters as terrorists. This is one of Marvel’s most politically charged comics of this era – the Tribune is kind of like Sam Bullitt from Spider-Man #91-92, but is even more starkly depicted as a Nixonite, pro-war, conservative reactionary. Friedrich shows obvious sympathy for the protesters, depicting them as idealistic youths who are scapegoated for not blindly obeying their elders. Gene Colan’s art, of course, is beautiful. At one point in the issue, one of the protesters says that the Tribune can’t convict them “because our hair is long.” There’s a nearly identical line from Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” which came out the following year. I doubt if there’s any direct connection between these two texts; the idea of being oppressed because of long hair must have been a common meme at the time.

STRAIGHT ARROW #6 (Magazine Enterprises, 1950) – various stories, [W] Gardner Fox, [A] Fred Meagher. This is from the same order as Four Color #744. It’s based on a radio program about a half-Comanche rancher who has a superhero secret identity. The stories in this issue are pretty average, but Fred Meagher’s artwork is beautiful. If I didn’t know otherwise, I’d have guessed this issue was drawn by John Severin or even Frazetta. Fred Meagher left the comics industry only a few years later, and is now totally forgotten, which is a shame. Straight Arrow #6 seems less offensive than Four Color #744 in terms of its representation of Native Americans. However, it does seem rather inaccurate. The first story suggests that Comanche warriors are better at hand-to-hand than mounted combat, and that they don’t know how to use lances. My understanding is that this is completely backwards; in fact, in the 19th century the Comanches were considered the best horsemen in the world.

2000 AD #1329 (Rebellion, 2003) – Dredd: as above. The judges keep looking for the aliens, and Mr. Bones prepares to blow up the Hall of Justice. Bec & Kawl: as above. The Men in Black robots have an early example of a conversation conducted entirely in emoji. Bec’s friend Norm arrives with a bunch of fellow geeks. They travel into cyberspace and are confronted by the “Arch-Geek” – who I think is Bill Gates – piloting a giant robot. The VC’s: as above. Another chapter that doesn’t make much sense, though there is a funny bit about a game of rock-paper-scissors with unusual rules. Tales of Telguuth: “The Black Arts of Strixlan Nort,” [W] Steve Moore, [A] Jon Haward. Strixlan Nort is a wizard who can summon demons by drawing them. He uses this talent to defeat an evil warlock. Atavar II: “Part 1,” [W] Dan Abnett, [A] Richard Elson. A science fiction story starring weird nonhumanoid aliens.  

HERCULES UNBOUND #9 (DC, 1977) – “Finale,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] Walt Simonson & Bob Layton. Hercules and his friends try to prevent a nuclear war, but in doing so, they cause the nuclear war that occurred in 1986, in the series’ backstory. This series was never all that impressive.

Next Heroes trip:

THE NICE HOUSE ON THE LAKE #7 (DC, 2022) – untitled, [W] James Tynion IV, [A] Álvaro Martínez Bueno. I’m very glad this is back. Part of this issue focuses on Norm, formerly Norah, who Walter imprisoned behind a mirror, just like he did with Reg. Meanwhile, the other protagonists decide to build their own houses. The most annoying thing about this series is the difficulty of remembering all the characters, and it’s very helpful that this issue includes a character guide on the last page.

SEVEN SECRETS #15 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Daniele Di Nicuolo. The sixth case opens to reveal a demon baby. Caspar’s love interest Titus is tragically killed fighting the traitors. Caspar’s mom tells him that his case is useless because he himself is the seventh secret. It might be nice if this series was less fast-paced, so we would have more time to get to know the characters. But I love it anyway, and if I could vote for the Eisners right now, I’d vote for Tom Taylor as Best Writer.

CROSSOVER #12 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Donny Cates w/ Robert Kirkman, [A] Geoff Shaw w/ Phil Hester. On Facebook I wrote, “This is a super self-indulgent, masturbatory, by-fans-for-fans comic, and that’s why it’s so funny.” The jokes in this comic don’t make sense unless you’re a hardcore comics fan, but if you are, they’re hilarious. The issue begins with a ten-page sequence written by Robert Kirkman, in which Kirkman is murdered by his own creation, Negan. Hester draws this sequence in a style that parodies the ultra-violent artwork of Invincible and Walking Dead. Meanwhile, Donny Cates stabs his interrogator with the spiky tail of a word balloon. (The use of word balloons as material objects is an old trope that goes back to Felix the Cat cartoons, and I discuss it extensively in my dissertation.) Also, Cates shaves his beard off “between panels. The Alan Moore thing was just confusing people.” Given that Image has been making genuine efforts to reach out to new readers, I think it’s okay that they’re also publishing a comic like Crossover, which is exclusively meant for people who already read comics.

SHE-HULK #2 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Rogê Antônio. Jen nurses Jack of Hearts back to health, but some villain is looking for him. Not a whole lot happens in this issue, and it’s unfortunate that this series is tied to current Marvel continuity. One reason Rainbow Rowell’s Runaways was so good was because it had limited ties to the rest of the Marvel Universe.

LITTLE MONSTERS #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. A postapocalyptic world is populated only by a gang of vampire children, who spend their nights doing the same things over and over again. At the end of the issue, things finally change when they encounter an adult human. I was in a bad mood when I read this comic, so I didn’t enjoy it as much as I ought to have, but it seems like another effective piece of work by Lemire and Nguyen.

ADVENTUREMAN #8 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matt Fraction, [A] Terry Dodson. Not a whole lot happens in this issue, though it’s fun anyway. Claire’s sisters stage an “adventurevention” for her, and the plots about the ghosts and the Crossdraw Kid are further developed.

STRANGE ACADEMY #17 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Skottie Young, [A] Humberto Ramos. While Brother Voodoo is confronting Gaslamp, Doyle starts a big fight with Iric in the cafeteria. Brother Voodoo returns to the school to find that all the students have left. This is another fun issue of an excellent team superhero comic.

SUPERMAN, SON OF KAL-EL #9 (DC, 2022) – “World’s Finest Sons Part 2 of 2,” [W] Tom Taylor, [A] Bruno Redondo. This is effectively an extra issue of Nightwing, just as Nightwing #89 was an extra issue of Superman, Son of Kal-El. This sort of tight connection between two series is sometimes annoying, but in this case I don’t mind because I’m reading both series already. Jon and Dick’s interactions in this issue are adorable, and I love the line “We could ask this guy, but I mean, he headbutted Superman, so he’s clearly not the cleverest.”

ROGUE SUN #1 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Ryan Parrott, [A] Abel. We already met Rogue Sun in Supermassive, but this ongoing series instead focuses on his son (Rogue Son?), Dylan, who, unlike most teenage superheroes, is a bully and an asshole. Perhaps this is because his father Marcus, the Rogue Sun from Supermassive, left his mother to start a new family. When Marcus, the Rogue Sun from Supermassive, dies in a car accident, Dylan is surprised to discover that he’s inherited his father’s superpowers, but the catch is that he’s also possessed by his father’s spirit. Rogue Sun has a vaguely similar premise to Firestorm – a young superhero with an older man inside his head – but what makes Rogue Sun unique is Dylan’s unpleasant personality and his vexed relationship with his father.

MONKEY PRINCE #2 (DC, 2022) – “Enter the Monkey Part 2,” [W] Gene Luen Yang, [A] Bernard Chang. (Notably, in the credit box, the creators’ names are written in both English and Chinese.) Zhu Baijie saves Marcus from Batman and Damian, and the Penguin turns into a qi-eating vampire. This issue is fun, but it’s a predictable continuation of last issue. The name Marcus Shugel-Shen suggests that he’s both Chinese and Jewish.

RADIANT RED #1 (Image, 2022) – “Brave New World,” [W] Cherish Chen, [A] David Lafuente. This new series stars Satomi, the same character from Radiant Black #6. Unfortunately she’s still robbing banks in order to cope with her asshole boyfriend’s gambling habit. Some dude tries to blackmail her into working for him, or else he’ll harm her sister’s family. Meanwhile, a journalist seems to have uncovered her connection to Nathan. Radiant Black #6 was perhaps the best issue of that series so far, and I’m glad that Satomi has gotten her own series.

HUMAN REMAINS #6 (Vault, 2022) – untitled, [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Sally Cantirino. Anjali visits a community of survivalists who have discovered a fungus that repels the monsters, and there’s also some minor progress on the other subplots. This is Peter Milligan’s best series in recent years, partly because its plot is easy to follow.

BATGIRLS #4 (DC, 2022) – “One Way or Another Part 4,” [W] Becky Cloonan & Michael Conrad, [A] Jorge Corona. The Batgirls capture the Tutor and deliver him to Charles Dante, who reveals himself as the villain Spellbinder. Jorge Corona’s artwork in this series is perhaps the best of his career so far.

COPRA #42 (Copra, 2022) – “Games on Display,” [W/A] Michel Fiffe. Changó, Yasuda and Wir fight a bunch of villains in order to prevent some dude from being assassinated. Vincent reassembles Rax’s helmet, but Rax comes back for it. The individual issues of Copra are very expensive, but I’m willing to buy them in order to support an independent creator, and also because they’re beautiful artifacts, in terms of both their art and their publication design.  

ROBINS #4 (DC, 2022) – “Being Robin Part 4,” [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Baldemar Rivas. The Robins, except Tim, all chase after Anarky and end up in the same place. Batman discovers that the Escape Artist, Cormac Dodge, is somehow involved in what’s been happening to the Robins. Tim realizes that the original Robin has manipulated him into executing her plot. This issue is interesting, but its plot is tough to follow.

NOCTERRA #8 (Image, 2022) – “Pedal to the Metal,” [W] Scott Snyder, [A] Tony Daniel. The team tracks down Blacktop Bill, who agrees to team up with them in order to find the location of Eos. Given how Snyder has been bending over backwards to convince us that Blacktop Bill is the worst villain ever, it’s annoying that he’s now being presented as a lesser evil than whatever the Big Bad is.

NEW MASTERS #2 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Shobo Coker, [A] Shof Coker. There are two plot threads focusing on the technicians, Sulesh and Persio, and their daughter, Ola. This issue the parents turn down a job from a criminal, and then they discover that their most recent project has been sabotaged. Some things that make this series fascinating are Shof Coker’s art, the Africanfuturist setting, and the constant references to Nigerian culture. For example, this issue we see the characters eating efo and akara. I have had the former but not the latter. I think I might propose a paper on Africanfuturist comics for this year’s Worldcon.  

THE WRONG EARTH: TRAPPED ON TEEN PLANET #1 (Ahoy, 2022) – “Trapped on Teen Planet,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Walter Geovani & Bill Morrison. This is the first of several Wrong Earth one-shots by guest creators. This issue, Dragonfly, Stinger and Deuce find themselves in the Wrong Earth version of Riverdale. This comic is pretty hilarious. I forget if either Gail or Bill Morrison has ever written an actual Archie comic, but they’re both very good at parodying Archie.

FANTASTIC FOUR #41 (Marvel, 2022) – “Will You Watch as Our Universe Burns?”, [W] Dan Slott, [A] Rachael Stott. Another issue full of pointless fight scenes and unconvincing attempts at epic grandeur. Also, Johnny returns to the Unparalleled’s world and discovers that Sky now has a new boyfriend, Citadel. But given the way that Sky’s world works, Citadel should have had another fiancee already, so what happened to her? Anyway, I hope this dumb story arc ends soon, and I wish Slott would stop torturing Johnny Storm.

DAREDEVIL: WOMAN WITHOUT FEAR #3 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Rafael De Latorre. Elektra fights Kraven and wins, then encounters her old handler, Aka. Goldy tells Elektra that Matt has been murdered, though I find that hard to believe. I think that this is the last issue and that the series will continue with a new Daredevil #1.

BUCKHEAD #4 (Boom!, 2022) – untitled, [W] Shobo Coker, [A] George Kambadais. The kids invade the school at night. Toba has a vision where his father helps him retrieve a sword from the ruins of the palace of Benin. Buckhead is not nearly as interesting as New Masters because its African elements feel like cosmetic trappings on a generic adventure story. Because of its Nigerian setting and entirely African cast, New Masters feels less like a typical science fiction comic. BTW, the modern Benin City is in Nigeria, not Benin. The reason is because Benin is named after the Bight of Benin, which is itself named after the city and historical kingdom of that name. The country of Benin used to be called Dahomey, but that name was changed in 1975, perhaps because the kingdom of Dahomey only included part of Benin’s current territory.

APACHE DELIVERY SERVICE #3 (Dark Horse, 2022) – untitled, [W] Matt Kindt, [A] Tyler Jenkins. The issue begins with a myth explaining the origin of Van Cat village, where the gold is hidden. The people of Van Cat capture Ernie and Sobrat, but Sobrat escapes by killing some visiting hippies. This series seems kind of insubstantial, and I wonder if just one more issue will be enough to resolve anything.

THE BLUE FLAME #7 (Vault, 2022) – “Divine Intervention,” [W] Christopher Cantwell, [A] Adam Gorham. While Mateo languishes in an ICE lockup, Sam is arrested for beating up the guy who betrayed Mateo. Dee pays Sam’s bail, but then throws him out of her house, and Sam winds up in a homeless shelter. Meanwhile, the alien trial continues, though it now seems as though it’s entirely occurring in Sam’s head. This is an excellent series, but I wish it would come out more often – see my previous complaint about Radio Apocalypse.

THE THING #5 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Next Big Thing Part 5,” [W] Walter Mosley, [A] Tom Reilly. After some fight scenes, Dr. Doom arrives in the Blue Area and explains his plot to save his mother by destroying Death herself. Then we learn that Amaryllis is Death, while Bobby is a juvenile Watcher. This series is weird and wacky, and that’s why I love it.

WHAT IF….? MILES MORALES #1 (Marvel, 2022) – “What If Miles Morales Became Captain America?”, [W] Cody Ziglar, [A] Paco Medina. The answer is that nothing especially interesting would happen. Also, the big reveal in this issue is that the Prowler is Uncle Aaron. How is that a surprise? I’m going to avoid buying any further comics written by Cody Ziglar.

RADIO SPACEMAN #1 (Dark Horse, 2022) – “Mission to Numa 4,” [W] Mike Mignola, [A] Greg Hinkle. A radio-operated astronaut tries to save a female astronaut from being sacrificed to a Lovecraftian monster. I might not have bought this if there had been more offerings from Dark Horse this month, but it’s not bad. It has the same aesthetic as Hellboy, without being tethered to Hellboy continuity.

LOVE & ROCKETS #11 (Fantagraphics, 2022) – various stories, [W/A] Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez. The Jaime stories in this issue are mostly about Maggie’s vexed relationship to Tonta. At the end we learn that Vivian, the Frogmouth, is about to marry Ignacio Dominguez. I forget who that is, but he must be related to Ray. The most interesting of the Beto stories are the ones that take place at a comic convention. In “Weird, Weird World” there’s a funny metatextual moment when Rosario asks Venus if comics about comics are dumb. Two pages later we see Harley Yee signing autographs. The next time I see Harley Yee at a comic convention, I want to ask him if Beto meant anything specific by this.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #91 (Marvel, 2022) – “What Lurks Behind Door Z?”, [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Sara Pichelli & Fran Galán. In the depths of the Beyond Corporation, Peter and the Daughters of the Dragon fight a bunch of weird creatures, including a fanged housecat-like creature that can clone itself, and a chicken with boxing gloves. Then ”Door Z” opens to reveal the Lizard, grown to giant size. This is an entertaining issue, and I’m sorry that I have to stop buying Spider-Man soon because the new writer is Zeb Wells, who I don’t like.

X-MEN LEGENDS #12 (Marvel, 2022) – “Start Again,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Scot Eaton. In a story set between X-Men #227 and Excalibur #1, Kurt and Kitty fight the Harriers in order to stop Mystique from killing Forge. It’s too bad that Alan Davis only drew the cover of this issue and not the interior. Otherwise, this comic is a nice piece of nostalgia, with all sorts of connections to X-Men continuity. It’s especially poignant seeing Kurt and Kitty’s despair over the presumed death of the X-Men. And Claremont derives dramatic irony from the fact that the reader knows Mystique is Kurt’s mother, but that Kurt himself doesn’t know this.

BLACK PANTHER #4 (Marvel, 2022) – “The Long Shadow Book Four,” [W] John Ridley, [A] Juann Cabal. T’Challa comes to suspect Omolola of betraying him. They fight, and then Shuri and Hunter show up. This feels like a waste of an issue.

RED ROOM: TRIGGER WARNINGS #1 (Fantagraphics, 2022) – untitled, [W/A] Ed Piskor. This issue has three separate stories depicted on separate panel tiers. The middle tier is another series of Red Room torture shows. The top tier is printed in color, unlike the rest of the series so far, and focuses on Brianna, the daughter of the cop/serial killer/Red Room performer Davis Fairfield. On a visit to Davis’s lakehouse, Brianna and her friend gradually figure out that Davis is involved in something illegal, and when they get home, they find that Davis has been arrested for downloading Red Room videos. This is the most suspenseful part of the comic; I was expecting Brianna and her friend to be killed at any moment. The bottom tier is about Davis himself, as he tries to remain in the good graces of the Red Room management while avoiding the law. I should mention here that Piskor and Jim Rugg were widely criticized because Rugg’s variant cover for Trigger Warnings #3 was based on Maus. Rugg, Piskor and Fantagraphics pulled the cover almost as soon as it became public. I don’t want to disagree with the critiques of the cover, but I do suspect that this controversy was fueled by the fact that Maus has been all over the news lately.

DEVIL’S REIGN #5 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Marco Checchetto. After a series of fight scenes, the Purple Man turns a crowd of people into zombies. Meanwhile, the Kingpin beats Matt Murdock to death, or at least it seems to be Matt Murdock. This issue was competent but not spectacular.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #92 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Kelly Thompson & Jed MacKay, [A] Fran Galán et al. Behind Door Z, Peter, Misty and Colleen find Morbius. Ben Reilly has a vision where he’s being eaten by carnivorous sandwiches. Kelly Thompson would be an ideal Spider-Man writer if she was given sole creative control of the franchise. Though really, Kelly Thompson would be an ideal writer of almost any superhero comic.

SABRETOOTH #2 (Marvel, 2022) – “Know Your Enemy,” [W] Victor LaValle, [A] Leonard Kirk. Sabretooth gets to know his new cellmates, and he develops a plan to escape. So far this comic is my least favorite Victor LaValle work. As mentioned in my review of #1, this comic’s critique of prisons falls flat because the protagonist is a man who should be in prison.

NUBIA AND THE AMAZONS #6 (DC, 2020) – “Trial of the Amazons Part 2,” [W] Stephanie Williams & Vita Ayala, [A] Alitha Martinez. The first half of the issue depicts Hippolyta’s funeral, and then the Amazons prepare for the contest. This issue is not really about Nubia at all, and it should maybe have been published under the title of Trial of the Amazons. Overall this miniseries was less interesting than I’d hoped.

SPIDER-GWEN: GWENVERSE #1 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Tim Seeley, [A] Jodi Nishijima. Gwen’s life continues to suck, and she’s still having adventures in the multiverse, against her father’s wishes. But on her latest attempt to visit Earth-616, Gwen gets stuck in the wrong universe, and meanwhile, a new, very strange Sinister Six is pursuing her. It’s hard to remember what exactly happened in this issue, but it’s a fun issue.

WOMEN OF MARVEL #1 (Marvel, 2022) – [E] Sarah Brunstad. This is effectively a Marvel’s Voices comic, though it doesn’t have Voices in its title. It begins with a story by Mirka Andolfo that introduces an intriguing new heroine, Patty Prue. I don’t generally like Mirka Andolfo’s writing, but I liked this story. The highlight of the issue is the Squirrel Girl/Black Widow team-up written by Charlie Jane Anders. Like most of the other Marvel Voices comics, this issue also includes some less interesting material. I should note here that in the Squirrel Girl story, the Mad Thinker refers to himself as the Mad Thinker. This is a common mistake. He just calls himself the Thinker. It’s everyone else who thinks he’s mad.

HAWKEYE: KATE BISHOP #5 (Marvel, 2022) – untitled, [W] Marieke Nikjamp, [A] Enid Balam. With the aid of America Chavez and Cassie Lang, Kate and Susan invade the Bishop  mansion and recover the Cosmic Cube fragment. This was a fun miniseries that was reminiscent of both Young Avengers and Kelly Thompson’s Hawkeye.

NEWBURN #4 (Image, 2022) – “Bring Some Heat,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jacob Phillips. Newburn is forcibly “hired” by the Police Benevolent Association of New York City, which, as Zdarsky observes, is the one union that makes other unions look bad. The police want Newburn to solve a gang killing. Newburn finds a way to resolve the killing without earning the enmity of all the gangs, and also discovers that the person who hired him has been embezzling union funds. This issue is fun because it confronts Newburn with a seemingly intractable problem, and yet he manages to solve it with his life and reputation intact.

A THING CALLED TRUTH #5 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Iolanda Zanfardino, [A] Elisa Romboli. Dorian and Magdalene break up, but then Magdalene runs through an airport in search of Dorian, somehow managing not to get arrested, and they finally kiss. This series was frankly awful. It was a stupid piece of romantic comedy, with no attempt at realism or serious consequences, and I don’t know why Image chose to translate it when there are so many other better European comics.

SUPERGIRL, WOMAN OF TOMORROW #7 (DC, 2022) – “Hope, Help, and Compassion,” [W] Tom King, [A] Bilquis Evely. I forgot to buy this until after issue 8 came out. I honestly could have done without it, but I wanted to have a complete set of the series. In this issue, Supergirl fights a bunch of pirates while Comet the Super-Horse tries to keep Ruthie from killing Krem.

MONKEY MEAT #3 (Image, 2022) –“Troll!”, [W/A] Juni Ba. This issue starts with a framing sequence in which a homeless man named Karl tells Lug a fairy tale. In the fairy tale, a boy is abducted by fairies, and then as an adult, he volunteers to take a package across a bridge guarded by a troll. The troll refuses to let any “living thing” cross the bridge, so the boy finds a way to kill himself and still cross the bridge. Then he rescues another child who was replaced by a changeling, and that child herself makes an appearance after Karl finishes the story. This was the best issue of Monkey Meat yet. I love Juni Ba’s artwork, but the first two issues didn’t  tell a complete, satisfying story, and this one did.

ONE-STAR SQUADRON #4 (DC, 2022) – “One Downsize Fits All,” [W] Mark Russell, [A] Steve Lieber. Reddy announces that he has to fire half the staff, but then he decides that he can’t do it, and he’s going to tell his bosses so. Just as Reddy is about to tell off the company’s owners, they reveal that they’ve found a buyer for the company. Reddy returns to the Heroz4U office only to find it on fire. I disliked this series at first, but the last couple issues have been better because they depict Reddy as a more sympathetic character – although Russell’s portrayal of Power Girl is still wildly contrary out of keeping with her character. If nothing else, One-Star Squadron is a lot better than My Bad. One-Star Squadron seems to be influenced by Glengarry Glen Ross. The owners of Heroz4U are like “Mitch and Murray,” in that they sit in their office downtown and do nothing, while sending flunkies to communicate their decrees to their employees.

ETERNALS #10 (Marvel, 2022) – “Hail, Thanos, Part 4,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Esad Ribic. A team of Eternals tries to rescue the child Starbrand from the Avengers’ headquarters. Meanwhile, Thanos confronts his resurrected mother Sui-San. I’ve been displeased with this series ever since I read Charles Hatfield’s negative review of it, but maybe I’m allowing myself to be too influenced by his opinion. I did enjoy the most recent one-shot; see my review of it below.

THE GOOD ASIAN #9 (Image, 2022) – untitled, [W] Pornsak Pichetshote, [A] Alexandre Tefenkgi. Edison Hark escapes an assassination attempt, then he takes off his bandage and reveals his new face, and he prepares to confront Victoria. I’ve completely lost track of this series’ plot, and I’m glad there’s just one more issue.

Older comics:

2000 AD #1330 (Rebellion, 2003) – Dredd: as above. The judges fight a giant infestation of aliens. Bec & Kawl: as above. Bec and Kawl defeat the Bill Gates character. This storyline was very fun, although its depiction of the Internet is somewhat dated now. The VCs: as above. I still don’t know what this storyline is about. Tales of Telguuth: “Pagrok the Infallible Part 1,” [W] Steve Moore, [A] Jon Haward. Some parents hire a wizard to find their kidnapped daughter. The wizard, Pagrok, discovers that the daughter has been arrested for stealing and is about to be sacrificed to a lightning deity. Jon Haward’s art is creative and full of weird details. Atavar II: as above. Again this story makes no sense.

2000 AD #1453 (Rebellion, 2005) – Dredd: “Mandroid,” [W] John Wagner, [A] Kev Walker. Sergeant Nate Slaughterhouse suffers severe battle wounds and returns to Mega-City One as a “mandroid,” with almost no human body parts remaining. Dredd only appears in the last panel of the chapter. Savage: “Out of Order Book Two,” [W] Pat Mills, [A] Charlie Adlard. A revival of one of the oldest 2000 AD characters. In this chapter, Savage saves his niece Jan from being killed in a guerrilla attack against the Volgans. Based on reading Wikipedia, I think the protagonist in this chapter is Bill Savage, disguised as his dead brother Jack. Leatherjack: “Chapter 4,” [W] John Smith, [A] Paul Marshall. Like much of John Smith’s work, this story has beautiful, evocative dialogue, but an impenetrable plot. Breathing Space: “Part 3,” [W] Rob Williams, [A] L. Campbell. This story takes place in the Judge Dredd universe, but I’m not sure what it’s about. Robo-Hunter: “Stim! Part 4,” [W] Alan Grant, [A] Ian Gibson. Sam Slade’s granddaughter, Samantha, escapes an assassination attempt. Like John Burns’s art in Nikolai Dante, Ian Gibson’s art here is beautiful, but looks weird when printed on glossy paper. It’s unfortunate that this story includes an appearance by Stogie, perhaps the most offensive character ever to appear in 2000 AD.

DETECTIVE COMICS #433 (DC, 1973) – “The Killer in the Smog!”, [W] Frank Robbins, [A] Dick Dillin. Someone is murdering people by strangling them with a scarf. There are three suspects. Batman eventually figures out that all three of them are guilty. Like in Strangers on a Train, they each agreed to kill the intended victim of one of the others, so that their motives would be hard to figure out. In the backup story, by Robbins and Heck, someone frames Jason Bard for trying to assassinate a senator.

CEREBUS #226 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1998) – “Rick’s Story 7,” [W/A] Dave Sim. This issue includes more text from Rick’s fake Bible, and it’s only a little less tedious to read than #225 was. Also, yet again, literally nothing happens in the entire issue. Reading Rick’s Story, I find it hard to remember that Cerebus used to have exciting and clever plots. Instead of a letter’s page, this issue has an essay by Sim called “Mama’s Boy,” but I didn’t bother to read it.

KANE #24 (Dancing Elephant, 1999) – “Meyer Culpa,” [W/A] Paul Grist. This issue is an interesting storytelling experiment. It has two parallel plot threads. In one of them, Kane and his partner interrogate a man named Meyer who’s suspected of robbing the bank where he works. In the other sequence, we see how the bank robbery happened: Meyer actually did try to rob his own bank, but a gang of criminals was robbing it at the same time. Meyer drugged them and escaped with the money, but was caught by the police. When the police go on to catch the real criminals, they falslely think Meyer is a hero. Meyer himself is a colorless, dull man, so he never says anything in the entire issue, and the flashback sequences from his perspective are completely silent.  

ROBIN, SON OF BATMAN #9 (DC, 2016) – “Better Angels,” [W/A] Patrick Gleason. This issue begins with a poignant scene where Damian watches as a child falls from a piece of playground equipment, but is caught by his parents. Then there are some action sequences that I don’t understand, and then Damian introduces Goliath to his pet dog, cat and cow. I like this issue, but it’s hard to understand without having read the whole series in order.

UNCANNY X-MEN #278 (Marvel, 1991) – “The Battle of Muir Isle,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Paul Smith. This was Claremont’s second to last issue before he was unceremoniously fired. It consists of a number of separate plot threads, most of which somehow involve the Shadow King. It’s a shame that Claremont was fired, because in his final year on the series, he was writing better stories than he had in years. And he had additional stories in mind that he was never able to tell, and if he told them now, they wouldn’t have the same impact. Paul Smith’s artwork in this issue is hard to recognize as his, perhaps because of Hilary Barta’s inking.

THE MAXX #6 (Image, 1993) – untitled, [W/A] Sam Kieth, [W] William Messner-Loebs. The main event this issue is that Maxx fights Savage Dragon’s enemy Mako. There are also some scenes set in the Outback, and these scenes include some beautiful painted illustrations that seem to be inspired by Frazetta.  

ID #1 (Fantagraphics, 1990) – untitled, [W/A] R. Crumb. This comic consists mostly of sketches of women, with just a few pages of actual comics. Crumb’s draftsmanship is beautiful, but his depictions of women are sexist and misogynistic. Throughout the issue he presents women as sex toys rather than people. It’s no wonder if younger cartoonists no longer see him as an influence.

RINGSIDE #7 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Joe Keatinge, [A] Nick Barber. Another boring crime comic with ugly art. At least the art is less crude-looking than in subsequent issues.  

BLACK PANTHER AND THE CREW #5 (Marvel, 2017) – “We Are the Streets Part 5: Down These Mean Streets,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Butch Guice et al. Manifold and some other superheroes fight some armored “Americops.” I never particularly liked this series. With the exception of Shuri, the spinoffs from Coates’s Black Panther were unimpressive.

THE PHANTOM #1075 (Frew, 1994) – “Carlyle’s Good Mark,” [W] Lee Falk, [A] Wilson McCoy. A reprint of a 1958 daily strip continuity. This story contains the first full explanation of the Phantom’s “good mark,” which he uses to designate people worthy of his protection. Tony Carlyle is the descendant of a man who received the good mark. He’s kidnapped while visiting the Bangalla jungle on his honeymoon, and his wife takes advantage of the good mark to save him. This is an exciting and narratively sophisticated story. A notable scene is when a tribal chief wants to let Tony free rather than execute him, but he doesn’t dare, because he’s afraid that the young men of the village would perceive him as weak. The Phantom has to find a way for the chief to let Tony go while saving face. There’s a running joke where a drummer keeps sending the wrong message on the tom-tom.

CEREBUS #227 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, 1998) – “Rick’s Story 8,” [W/A] Dave Sim. Yet another issue with excellent art and lettering, but a total lack of plot. The letters page includes the second part of Sim’s Mama’s Boy essay. Again, I couldn’t be bothered to read this.

LOVE & ROCKETS #39 (Fantagraphics, 1992) – three stories, [W/A] Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez. I would eventually like to assemble a complete run of this series, though it’s not a high priority, since I already have most of its content. This issue includes chapter 11 of Poison River and the final chapters of Wigwam Bam and Love & Rockets X. Wigwam Bam is a classic, but I never quite understood Poison River. Love & Rockets X is the only major story from the original L&R run that I haven’t read. It’s not included in the Locas hardcover. The chapter in this issue is fascinating, and I want to track down the rest of the story. It looks like both Poison River and Love & Rockets X are reprinted in the volume Beyond Palomar.

2000 AD #1454 (Rebellion, 2005) – Dredd: “Mandroid Part 2,” as above. Slaughterhouse can’t find a job, his neighbor tries to get him to join a protection racket, and someone kidnaps his wife. Savage: as above. Savage rescues Jan again, and plots to assassinate the Volgan president on his visit to Britain. Leatherjack: as above. Again I can’t tell what’s going on here. Breathing Space: as above. Or here either. Robo-Hunter: as above. Samantha Slade fights some kind of robot dinosaur.

UNCLE SCROOGE #88 (Gold Key, 1970) – “The Unsafe Safe,” [W/A] Carl Barks. This is reprinted from issue 38. Scrooge’s scientists create an unbreakable variety of glass, and Scrooge uses it as the door for his vault. Magica de Spell discovers that the cry of a bird called the “Tanganyika yeeker” can break the glass. Despite Scrooge’s best efforts, Magica succeeds in using a yeeker to steal Scrooge’s Old Number One dime, and she is only defeated because her stun ray runs out of batteries. I wonder if this was Barks’s only story in which he used both the Beagle Boys and Magica.  

CURSE WORDS SPRING SPECIAL (Image, 2019) – untitled, [W] Charles Soule, [A] Ryan Browne. This flashback story begins with Margaret’s birth. Ruby Stitch manages to hide her pregnancy from an oblivious Sizzajee, but as soon as Margaret is born, Clearboy discovers her existence and kidnaps her. Sizzajee kills Ruby Stitch and Wizord, then revives them with no knowledge of their child’s existence, and curses them to never be happy. It’s a rather heartwrenching story, despite Browne and Soule’s humorous approach.

WONDER WOMAN #39 (DC, 1990) – “Poisoned Souls,” [W] George Pérez & Mindy Newell, [A] Chris Marrinan. The peace summit on Themyscira turns disastrous as everyone starts fighting everyone else, because Menalippe’s golden apples have been replaced by Eris’s apples of discord. There’s also a subplot with Hermes and Steve Trevor.

WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES #149 (Dell, 1953) – untitled (“Flip Decision”), [W/A] Carl Barks. A quack professor converts Donald to the philosophy of “flipism,” where he makes decisions by flipping a coin. Which is also one of Two-Face’s gimmicks, but I suspect that this is just a coincidence. Anyway, this story is most notable for introducing Daisy’s nephews April, May and June, although they only appear in three panels and are unnamed. The Mickey Mouse story in this issue is a reprint of a Gottfredson newspaper strip sequence in which Mickey becomes the master of a genie. This issue also contains the usual filler material, including a Little Hiawatha strip that’s even more offensive than Four Color #744.

FORBIDDEN WORLDS #141 (ACG, 1966) – “Phantom Revenge!”, [W] Richard Hughes, [A] Bob Jenney. In this issue’s first story, two criminals are apprehended by the ghosts of a young couple who were murdered a hundred years previously. The fun part is how the ghosts’ dialogue is the same in the present-day sequence as in the flashback sequence depicting their murder. Next is a rather trite mummy story, and then an adventure of Magicman. The latter character was one of ACG’s few superheroes, although he’s really more of a superhero parody.

HELLBLAZER #25 (DC, 1990) – “Early Warning,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] David Lloyd. Constantine visits a town that has been ruined by Thatcherism, and is trying to restore its civic pride by reviving an ancient masking festival. But some local mad scientist is driving the townspeople insane by bombarding their brains with microwaves. This issue is a brilliant meditation on nationalism and Thatcherite economics, and David Lloyd’s art is beautifully moody. The story meant to appear in Hellblazer #25 was “Hold Me,” perhaps the best Hellblazer story ever, but yet “Early Warning” isn’t that much worse than “Hold Me.”

CAPTAIN AMERICA #6 (Marvel, 2019) – “Winter in America Part VI,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Leinil Francis Yu. A boring, slow-paced story that focuses on Alexander Lukin and his wife Alexa. Cap himself doesn’t appear until late in the issue. I should have given up on this series after just a couple issues, but I kept reading it out of a misplaced sense of obligation.

THE PHANTOM #1131 (Frew, 1996) – “The Search for Byron,” [W] Jim Shepherd, [A] Glenn Ford. The Phantom travels to Burma to rescue an old friend, an aviator named Byron whose plane crashed in the jungle. In rescuing him, the Phantom also solves the real-life mystery of the disappearance of Charles Kingsford Smith, Australia’s greatest aviator. “The Search for Byron” is the first Phantom story I’ve read that was an original Australian production. Glenn Ford’s artwork is not nearly at the same level as the art in t