Final reviews of 2017

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Last reviews of comics read in 2017:

PAPER GIRLS #18 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. Another issue full of events that are funny and exciting, but difficult to follow. The only thing I specifically remember from this issue is that the bearded future dude turns out to be Jahpo, the cavegirl’s son.

GIANT DAYS #33 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. Having been abandoned by their respective roommates, Esther and Ed both search frantically for housing for next year. This was another hilarious and poignant issue, though not very different from any other issue of Giant Days.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #61 (IDW, 2017) – “Convocation of the Creatures!”, [W] Ted Anderson, [A] Andy Price. Representatives of all the intelligent species gather at Mount Metazoa for a convention. While there, Twilight discovers ancient treaties that state that Canterlot technically belongs to the griffins. This issue has no real plot until the end, but it’s an excellent display of Andy Price’s artwork; it’s full of spectacular crowd scenes and sight gags, like the cat trying to grab the Breezie.

JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS: DIMENSIONS #1 (IDW, 2017) – “Catnap,” [W/A] Sophie Campbell, and “Roll with It,” [W] Kate Leth, [A] Tana Ford. In the first story, the Misfits go on a ski trip. It’s Sophie Campbell’s first Jem story in a long time, and it heavily features Pizzazz’s cat, so it’s got two things going for it. In the backup story, Jem and the Holograms play Dungeons & Dragons. It’s good, but not as good. I think the highlight is Kimber’s pony costume.

MOONSTRUCK #4 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Grace Ellis, [A] Shae Beagle. The protagonists are still trying to get Chet’s horse body back. This issue was not as good as #3, though better than #2, and I can’t remember much about it.

BLACK BOLT #8 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Christian Ward. Black Bolt and Blinky return to Earth, then head off to inform Titania about Crusher Creel’s death. (Wait, he died? I forgot that.) This issue has some spectacular artwork, as usual, but is mostly just an interlude between bigger storylines. The best moment is the splash page where Black Bolt surprisingly gives his estranged son a hug.

USAGI YOJIMBO #164 (Dark Horse, 2017) – “Mouse Trap, Part 2,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. This was a good issue, but I don’t remember much about it specifically. I’ll have more to say about this storyline when I get to issue 165, which I read this morning.

PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS YEAR TWO: LOVE AND REVENGE #2 (Action Lab, 2017) – “Overboard,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Xenia Panfil. Jeremy seems more interested in Raven than in Adrienne, which is his prerogative, but it’s too bad that the main Princeless series has been on hold for more than a year. This issue is an exciting fight scene in which the girls beat up a bunch of male chauvinist pirates. But by the end of the issue, Sunshine still hasn’t been rescued.

SECRETS OF HAUNTED HOUSE #35 (DC, 1981) – “Deathwing, Lord of Darkness!”, [W] Bob Haney, [A] Fred Carrillo, plus other stories. This issue’s first story is full of Haney’s typical nonsense, but it must not have gone over well with readers: it appears to have been intended as the start to an ongoing strip, but the characters in it never appeared again. The second story is a mildly funny piece by Arnold Drake and Al McWilliams, in which aliens visit a post-apocalyptic Earth. The issue ends with a Mr. E story, which has some nice Dan Spiegle artwork, but it’s no wonder that Mr. E failed to become a successful character.

FANTASTIC FOUR #228 (Marvel, 1981) – “Ego-Spawn,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Bill Sienkiewicz. Doug Moench was the worst Fantastic Four writer ever. This issue demonstrates why. Moench includes too much text, he writes unrealistic dialogue, and he wastes too much space on three new characters (Lorrie Melton, Abe Jankowitz and Ego-Spawn) who rarely if ever appeared again. By a weird coincidence, Ego-Spawn’s real name is Franco Berardi, which is also the name of a well-known philosopher.

WEIRDO #5 (Last Gasp, 1982) – various stories, [E] R. Crumb. I’m glad that I finally own an issue of this legendary series, but I can’t say I enjoyed reading it. This issue is an obvious homage to Mad, and like a typical issue of Mad magazine, it contains a lot of different material in various styles, but much of that material is very tedious and poorly done. In particular, the two-page text article by Clifford Neal is unreadable. The highlights of the issue are Crumb’s “The Old Songs Are the Best Songs” and Harry S. Robins’s Professor Brainard strips. Robins is better known as a voice actor, but his artwork and lettering are amazing, though they deserve to be reproduced even bigger.

HAWKEYE #13 (Marvel, 2017) – “Family Reunion, Part 1,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Leonardo Romero. It sucks that this series was cancelled. It’s the worst casualty of Marvel’s recent cancellation bloodbath. I don’t agree with some of the alarmist takes on Marvel’s cancellations, because most comics get cancelled eventually, and some of the cancelled titles had serious flaws (America, Gwenpool, She-Hulk – more on the last one later). But Hawkeye had no such flaws, and it deserved more of a chance. This issue, Kate and Clint team up and fight Eden Vale, the Swordsman’s apprentice. I hope Kate gets to find her mother before the series ends.

LOVE AND ROCKETS VOL. IV #2 (Fantagraphics, 2016) – multiple stories, [W/A] Los Bros Hernandez. This issue begins with the words “Fritz haters will just have to be patient,” which could have been personally addressed to me. I have trouble caring about Fritz and Petra or any of their associated characters, even after reading about them for over a decade. Looking through this issue again, I don’t see much else that I particularly liked, besides the first of the two Jaime stories. But things would improve with issue 3, reviewed below.

FAITH’S WINTER WONDERLAND SPECIAL #1 (Valiant, 2017) – untitled, [W] Marguerite Sauvage, [A] Francis Portela. Faith gets sucked into the world of her favorite childhood TV show. This is much more of an Alice in Wonderland pastiche than a Christmas story, but it’s fun.

LOVE AND ROCKETS VOL. IV #3 (Fantagraphics, 2017) – as above. This issue is much more enjoyable than #2, though maybe it just seems that way in retrospect. It begins with a flashback story about a 14-year-old Maggie. It would be kind of cool if in some future collected edition this story was reprinted in chronological order. There’s also a Beto story which is an obvious Doctor Who parody. The highlight of the issue is the present-day Maggie and Hopey story, which ends on a cliffhanger in which Maggie and Hopey are about to be attacked by Eugene, a very large man. The Fritz/Killer story is still not my favorite, but at least it’s easier to follow when you read multiple issues consecutively, and Luba shows up at the end.

LOVE AND ROCKETS VOL. IV #4 (Fantagraphics, 2017) – Gilbert’s “Since I Don’t Have You” is set just after Soledad’s death in a mental asylum, and incorporates a flashback showing that Pipo was partly responsible for Soledad killing Manuel. This story is a throwback to Gilbert’s very first Palomar story, and to the Palomar stories more generally; for example, it includes a haunting splash page depicting a mysterious statue. I think this was Gilbert’s best story in these three issues. There’s also some more flashback stories by Jaime, depicting the earliest days of Maggie and Hopey’s relationship. Disappointingly, last issue’s cliffhanger with Maggie, Hopey and Eugene is not resolved; we have to wait several months to find out whether Maggie and Hopey will be okay.

SCALES & SCOUNDRELS #4 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] Galaad. The protagonists discover a city at the bottom of Dened Lewen, then they go on past there to a mysterious ruin full of creepy fish people. This is still a pretty standard plot, but this series is worth reading because Lu is an awesome protagonist, and because Galaad’s art is quietly excellent.

CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN #87 (DC, 1978) – “Twelve Million Years to Twilight,” [W] Carla Conway & Gerry Conway, [A] Keith Giffen. This issue guest-stars Deadman and Swamp Thing and includes some effective early Giffen artwork, which resembles his later work on the Legion. But none of that was enough to save the series from cancellation, because this was the last issue. Perhaps that was partly because the Conways’ story is convoluted and forgettable.

YUMMY FUR #4 (Vortex, 1987) – “Forgiven,” [W/A] Chester Brown. Most of this issue consists of a bizarre, surrealistic story that seems to be a chapter of Ed the Happy Clown, though I didn’t realize this at first. The basic idea is that Chester finds himself reliving the life of St. Justin, who cut off his own hand to avoid sinning. Similarly, Chester loses his hand, and when it gets reattached, it just flops around. There is some obvious phallic and masturbatory symbolism here. This St. Justin appears to be Brown’s invention; there are several real St. Justins, but they all lived at different periods from the one in this story. This issue also includes the first chapter of Brown’s adaptation of the Gospel of Mark.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #696 (Marvel, 2017) – “Home of the Brave,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Chris Samnee. Not nearly as good as last issue, despite Chris Samnee’s amazing art. Cap visits a small town incognito but is immediately recognized, creating a media sensation, and the Swordsman immediately comes to town and threatens to blow up the local dam. Cap saves the town, of course, but no one bothers to mention that the town wouldn’t have needed to be saved if Cap hadn’t been there. On top of that, the at the end of the issue we’re expected to believe that the town is safe and no damag is done, but this requires us to forget that the Swordsman murdered a bunch of the workers at the dam.

DC SPECIAL #27 (DC, 1977) – “Danger: Dinosaurs at Large!”, [W] Bob Rozakis, [A] Rich Buckler. Tommy Tomorrow and Captain Comet team up to defeat an attempted dinosaur invasion of Earth. This comic is not especially profound or well-crafted, but it’s silly and fun; all it promises is lots of scenes of future people fighting dinosaurs, and it delivers on that promise. The best part is the panel where Tommy Tomorrow defeats a dinosaur by throwing a rock at it, with a “SOKK” sound effect.

GROO THE WANDERER #98 (1993) – “The Wager of the Gods, Book Three,” [W/A] Sergio Aragonés, [W] Mark Evanier. This was as good as any other issue of Groo, but I don’t remember much about it. The plot of this four-parter is that the god Megatheos is trying to get Arcadio to emulate the feats of other gods’ heroes, but Groo keeps screwing up everything Arcadio does.

SIX FROM SIRIUS #1 (Marvel, 1984) – “Phase 1: Phaedra,” [W] Doug Moench, [A] Paul Gulacy. This space opera story does not have the most original or exciting plot, and it suffers from Doug Moench’s habit of overwriting. But other than that, it’s not bad at all, and it includes some very impressive visual storytelling and draftsmanship. Gulacy’s art has declined over the years to the point where he’s no more than an average artist, but back in 1984 he was still really good.

DETECTIVE COMICS #446 (DC, 1975) – “Slaughter in Silver,” [W] Len Wein, [A] Jim Aparo. A pretty average story in which Batman battles Sterling Silversmith, coupled with impressive art by Jim Aparo at the peak of his career. This issue also includes a Hawkman story in which Carter behaves in a sexist way toward Shiera.

ACTION LAB, DOG OF WONDER #6 (Action Lab, 2017) – “Stash’s Story,” [W] Vito Delsante & Scott Fogg, [A] Reilly Leeds. Action Lab encounters an alien dog. This was a cute issue, but I can’t remember much about it. This series appears to have been silently cancelled.

TALES TO ASTONISH #95 (Marvel, 1967) – “The Power of the Plunderer!”, [W] Roy Thomas & Raymond Marais, [A] Bill Everett; and “A World He Never Made!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Marie Severin. In the Sub-Mariner story, Namor battles Ka-Zar’s brother, the Plunderer. It’s pretty average. The credits don’t make it clear what Marais did, so I assumed he was the co-artist. It turns out he was the co-writer and Everett did all the artwork, but his art is badly hurt by lazy inking. The Hulk backup story is more fun, but it’s kind of weird in that it features the High Evolutionary, one of the most Kirbyesque villains, but is not drawn by Kirby.

GREEN LANTERN #98 (DC, 1977) – “Listen to the Mocking Bird!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Mike Grell. An alien called Ffa’rzz convinces Black Canary that her dead husband is still alive, then tries to kidnap Katma-Tui. The main appeal of this story is Denny’s portrayal of Dinah’s bereavement and Katma’s unfamiliarity with Earth. Unfortunately, this story, like Brave and the Bold #91, becomes really creepy if you accept the retcon that Larry Lance was the Earth-1 Black Canary’s father, not her husband.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #303 (Marvel, 303) – “Dock Savage,” [W] David Michelinie, [A] Todd McFarlane. This issue’s title is lettered in the same font as Doc Savage’s logo. The plot is that Spidey teams up with Silver Sable and Sandman against some neo-Nazis, while MJ wrestles over whether to move with Peter to Kansas so he can take a job there. In the end, MJ grudgingly decides to do it, but Peter decides to reject the job offer because it might ruin MJ’s career and their marriage. This seems like a pretty accurate portrayal of a marital disagreement – it can be a pretty big dealbreaker if two spouses can’t agree on where to live.

HAUNTED LOVE #5 (Charlton, 1973) – “Until We Meet Again,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Steve Ditko, plus other stories. This series must have been Charlton’s attempt to imitate DC’s gothic romance titles like Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love. It even says “Tales of Gothic Romance” on the cover. However, it’s really just a standard Charlton horror comic except that all the stories involve romantic relationships. The three stories in this issue are drawn by Steve Ditko, Joe Staton and Tom Sutton. The latter was probably Charlton’s best horror artist of the ‘70s, and his story is the best one in the issue; it’s about a witch who manipulates her son into getting married so she can be reincarnated as her own grandchild.

JOHNNY DYNAMITE #1 (Dark Horse, 1994) – “Underworld, Book One: Revenge for a Black-Eyed Blonde,” [W] Max Allan Collins, [A] Terry Beatty. This is a revival of the ‘50s Pete Morisi comic of the same name, which was reprinted in some later issues of Ms. Tree. Probably very few people admire Johnny Dynamite as much as Collins and Beatty do, but this adaptation is more than just a pastiche of the source material. This first issue is a very grim hard-boiled detective story, narrated by an old Johnny Dynamite as he’s dying of cancer, in which Johnny avenges his old lover’s death. But at the end of the issue, we’re told that his lover’s killer, Faustino, is going to come back from the dead thanks to a pact with Satan, so the other issues of this series will be much less realistic than this one. I need to look for the other issues of this miniseries.

THUNDERBUNNY #5 (WaRP, 1986) – “Moonlight Miss,” [W] Marty Greim, [A] Brian Buniak. This could also have been called “The Last Rutland Story,” although there were a couple other such stories in the ‘90s. Like several ‘70s Marvel and DC comics, this story takes place at the Rutland, VT Halloween Parade and guest-stars the parade’s co-founder, Tom Fagan. Specifically, the plot is that Thunderbunny/Bobby Caswell visits Rutland for the parade, where he teams up with Moon Miss, a new character his own age, against some villains who are an obvious parody of the A-Team. This comic is heavily aimed at an audience of Greim’s fellow comics fans, and is full of references to other comics, some of which reach the point of copyright infringement. This comic has a rather limited appeal, and Moon Miss is sexualized to a disturbing extent given her age, but otherwise, this issue is a really fun piece of nostalgia.

THIEVES & KINGS #4 (I Box, 1995) – untitled, [W/A] Mark Oakley. The main problem with this comic is that it’s full of giant blocks of text. Oakley makes the questionable choice of using text to narrate things he doesn’t have time to draw. As I have written in many other reviews, if I want to read text, I’ll read a book, not a comic book. Also, this comic has a convoluted and poorly explained plot. I’d buy more issues of this comic if I saw them for under a dollar, but I’d prefer to start with issue 1.

PEACEMAKER #5 (Charlton, 1967) – “The Fire World,” [W] Joe Gill, [A] Pat Boyette. This comic combines some excellent Pat Boyette artwork with a fairly good script. As Dick Giordano points out in an interview published in Last Kiss #2 (reviewed below), Joe Gill wrote so many comics so quickly that he couldn’t devote much effort to any of them, but Peacemaker and Fightin’ 5 were among the few series that he really cared about. The Fightin’ 5 backup story in this issue has much worse art, by Montes and Bache, but an even more sophisticated and politically charged story. In this issue’s letter column, the editor points out that at a price point of 12 cents, a publisher has to sell 100,000 copies of each issue in order to just break even. Things have changed a lot since then.

On December 17, I went to the winter edition of the Charlotte Comic Con. My last Charlotte Comic Con, in August, was pretty disappointing, but this one was fantastic. The main reason was because I’ve rethought my approach to comic collecting. I’ve always read all kinds of comics, but in the past I’ve mostly focused on Marvel and DC from the Bronze Age and up. But now I already have most of the classic post-‘60s Marvel and DC comics, and there aren’t many more of them to collect. The solution is to diversify my interests and look for other kinds of comics to collect. Reading the Slings & Arrows Comic Guide has really helped with that, because it discusses so many obscure but interesting comics. I thought I had a comprehensive knowledge of the comics field, but on almost every page of the Slings & Arrows Guide, I learn about comics I’m not familiar with. So at this latest convention, I specifically looked for cheap but interesting stuff that I haven’t read before, and I was able to find quite a lot of it. My purchases included:

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #105 (Marvel, 1972) – “The Spider Slayer!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Gil Kane. A rare example of a classic Spidey story I hadn’t read. This issue, JJJ hires Spencer Smythe to build a third Spider-Slayer robot, but it turns out that Smythe really intends to use the robot to take control of the surveillance cameras around town. This issue is also full of subplots; Peter stops a protest at the Daily Bugle offices, then goes to a party to welcome Flash home from Vietnam. The five-way love triangle between Peter, Gwen, Flash, MJ and Harry was a prominent feature of this era of Spider-Man.

SNARF #10 (Kitchen Sink, 1987) – various stories, [E] Denis Kitchen & Dave Schreiner. This issue includes something even more rare: an Omaha story I haven’t read. It’s a flashback to Omaha and Chuck’s first meeting, and is extremely cute. After some initial misunderstandings, Omaha and Chuck bond over their shared hatred of roommates. The other stories in this issue aren’t nearly as good, though there’s some work by Mary Fleener, Howard Cruse and Chester Brown. The story by J.D. King includes a scene where two teenagers throw a cinder block off an overpass into traffic. Last October, some teenagers in Michigan killed someone by doing that, and are now facing murder charges.

TWO-FISTED TALES #5 (Russ Cochran, 1951/1993) – various stories, [E] Harvey Kurtzman. One of my best finds at the convention was eight issues of Two-Fisted Tales (the Russ Cochran reprints) for under a dollar each. Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat are the best war comics ever published in America. Unlike the much more jingoistic war comics published by Marvel and DC, Kurtzman’s war comics are bitter, unromantic blackly humorous depictions of war, from the perspective of the common soldier. The standout story this issue is Severin and Elder’s “Chicken!”, about a brutal infantry captain who enforces regulations to the letter, but doesn’t realize that “soldiers are human beings.” Another impressive one is Jack Davis’s “Enemy Contact!”, in which a medic risks his life to save a soldier dying of appendicitis, only for that soldier to get killed by the enemy. Toth’s “Dying City” and Woody’s “Massacre at Agincourt” are less powerful, but brilliantly drawn.

UNICORN ISLE #3 (Apple, 1986) – untitled, [W] Lee Marrs, [A] Nicholas Koenig. This is a very different genre of story from Marrs’s other major work, Pudge, Girl Blimp, but is just as dense and complicated. It’s a fantasy story about two telepathic twins who team up with a sacred unicorn to rescue the unicorn’s mate. This comic has a pretty cool premise, but as noted, it’s extremely dense, to the point that I had a hard time getting through it.

RIO AT BAY #2 (Dark Horse, 1992) – untitled, [W/A] Doug Wildey. This was the last Rio comic published in Wildey’s lifetime, though two more appeared later in IDW’s complete Rio collection. The premise is that Rio arrives at San Francisco with a lot of money, then gets robbed and shanghaied by a crooked casino owner, but gets his revenge. It’s a pretty low-stakes story (no pun intended), but it’s elevated to classic status by Wildey’s incredible artwork. Every panel is lush and gorgeous, drawing upon photo reference and extensive historical research, and the action sequences are thrilling. Doug Wildey was a Hall of Fame-caliber artist, although he’s not in the Hall of Fame, perhaps because he produced a limited body of work and was more famous as an animator.

IRON MAN #16 (Marvel, 1969) – “Of Beasts and Men!”, [W] Archie Goodwin, [A] George Tuska. I read the issue before this one earlier this year. In #14, the Red Ghost tricked the Unicorn into teaming up with him. This issue, Iron Man and the Unicorn reluctantly team up against the Red Ghost. In the end, the Red Ghost’s super-apes get tired of his oppressive behavior and turn on him, which is a rather unexpected and poignant development.

THE ADVENTURES OF EVIL AND MALICE #2 (Image, 1999) – untitled, [W/A] Jimmie Robinson. A comic I would never have bought if I hadn’t read a fairly positive review of it in the Slings & Arrows Guide. It’s about two young superheroines whose father is a supervillain. It’s no Bone, but it’s funny and exciting, with reasonably good manga-style art.

MR. NIGHT #1 (Slave Labor, 2005) – “Mr. Night’s Greek Holiday” and other stories, [W] Glenn Dakin, [A] Phil Elliott. An unjustly obscure comic which, again, I only bought because the Slings & Arrows Guide includes positive reviews of other comics by these creators. It contains three stories about the title character, a gloomy pessimist, and his more sunny friend Mr. Day. These stories are very much in the vein of Eddie Campbell’s Bacchus; they’re drawn in a sort of Clear-Line-esque black and white style, and they have impressive humor and philosophical depth. Dakin and Elliott are two of the many artists who came out of the ‘80s British underground scene and who have been unfairly overshadowed by Eddie Campbell. Other such artists include Shaky Kane, Paul Grist, Rian Hughes, Ed Pinsent, etc.

DOOM PATROL #88 (DC, 1964) – “Revealed at Last the Incredible Origin of the Chief,” [W] Arnold Drake, [A] Bruno Premiani. The Doom Patrol encounters a villain called the Baron who turns out to be sponsored by General Immortus. To explain why he’s scared of General Immortus, the Chief has to reveal his origin: General Immortus was the Chief’s own patron, and as a result of their involvement, the Chief lost his legs. The Chief’s origin story provides a valuable insight into this somewhat enigmatic character. In particular, we learn that he needed private funding because despite being a brilliant scientist, he was so disagreeable that no one would work with him.

THE RETURN OF ALISON DARE: LITTLE MISS ADVENTURES #2 (Oni, 2001) – “Alison Dare and the Secret of the Blue Scarab,” [W] J. Torres, [A] J. Bone. At boarding school, the title character is told that her superhero father, the Blue Scarab, is dead, but she responds by explaining why he can’t die. This comic is similar to Bone or Leave it to Chance, if less successful than either. In particular, the artist’s surname is a weird coincidence because his artwork and lettering are a lot like on Jeff Smith’s. While the story in this comic is entertaining, it concentrates too much on Alison’s parents instead of Alison herself.

JIM #3 (Fantagraphics, 1994) – “The Hindu Marriage Game” and other stories, [W/A] Jim Woodring. This issue includes several short stories. The Jim story is typically bizarre. Jim goes to a party where he’s forced to “marry” a stranger, then she convinces him to fight a dead man for control of the man’s raft, only it turns out the dead man is alive. There are two Frank stories, one in color and one in black and white. In the black and white story, Frank gets a fruit out of its inedible shell by hanging it from a tree, but when Manhog tries to do the same thing with a cube, the cube grows arms and legs and attacks him. So yeah, this is a pretty typical Woodring comic.

TWO-FISTED TALES #6 (Russ Cochran, 1951/1993) – various stories, [E] Harvey Kurtzman. All four stories in this issue are brilliant. Jack Davis’s “Death Stand” is about a soldier who volunteers for a suicide mission, only to survive when all his comrades die. Woody’s “Old Soldiers Never Die,” set in WWI, is about a soldier who survives the entire war, only to be killed at the exact moment hostilities end. Kurtzman’s “Kill!” is probably the highlight of the issue. It’s a parallel story of an American and a Chinese soldier, whose common homicidal tendencies cause them to kill each other. Like many Kurtzman war stories, “Kill!” humanizes the enemy, demonstrating that “they” are just as human as “we” are – though in this case it demonstrates that in a negative sense, showing that the Chinese and the American soldier are both equally barbaric. Finally, Severin and Elder’s “Dog Fight!” is about a flying ace who thinks his girlfriend has stopped writing to him, only for a huge packet of her letters to appear just before he gets killed.

TAILGUNNER JO #1 (Dc, 1988) – “The Curve of Binding Energy,” [W] Peter B. Gillis, [A] Tom Artis. I’ve seen lots of house ads for this series, but, again, I finally felt motivated to buy it because of the Slings & Arrows review. I should have bought it sooner, because I enjoy Peter Gillis’s writing and I’ve corresponded with him on Facebook. This comic is a cyberpunk story about a cyborg warrior whose brain is implanted with the personality of his disabled young daughter. It’s a powerful story about a man whose life is destroyed by an evil corporation, but Jo’s cheerful personality makes this comic less grim than it could have been. I’ll be looking for the rest of this series.

THE UNTOUCHABLES #1 (Eastern, 1988) – untitled, [W/A] Lee Hyun-Se. I was excited to learn that this comic even existed (again thanks to the Slings & Arrows Guide, which gives it a poor review) and I was even more excited to come across all four issues of it. This series is the only English publication of Lee Hyun-Se’s manhwa 공포의 외인구단, which is variously translated as The Terrifying, Alien or Mercenary Baseball Team. It’s one of the seminal works of Korean comics, and is included in Paul Gravett’s list of 1001 comics you must read, although there’s very little English-language information about it. This issue is somewhat poorly translated and reproduced, and represents only a tiny fraction of the entire work, but it’s better than nothing. Lee Hyun-Se’s story is about a father and son who live in the woods, where the father trains his son to become a star pitcher by throwing baseballs at animals. Then they head to town so the son can try out for baseball. While this series is technically a sports comic, it has more in common with Lone Wolf & Cub, and Lee Hyun-Se draws in a style reminiscent of samurai manga. This is a really intriguing comic, and I want to learn more about it. Unfortunately, English-language information about classic Korean comics is very hard to find.

CHIP ZDARSKY’S PRISON FUNNIES #2 (Legion of Evil, 2003) – “Destiny’s Child!”, [W/A] Chip Zdarsky. This early self-published work of Chip Zdarsky is so obscure that it doesn’t have a GCD entry. You would think it would have gone up in value thanks to Chip’s superstar status, but I guess not. As the title suggests, this comic takes place in prison, and it’s full of brutal black humor and hidden messages in tiny text. It’s much cruder than Kaptara or Sex Criminals, which are pretty crude to begin with, and it has limited value on its own, but it’s an interesting glimpse at an early stage of an important artist’s career.

SKELETON KEY VOL. II #1 (Slave Labor, 1999) – “Roots,” [W/A] Andi Watson. I’ve only read one or two other comics by this artist. This comic seems to be about a high school girl who’s friends with a Japanese fox spirit. It’s hard to follow because it assumes knowledge of the previous miniseries, though it does provide some background. It’s drawn in a minimal but appealing style, with impressive emotional depth. Watson reminds me a bit of Colleen Coover, though he’s not as good. I should read more of his stuff.

THE WEDDING OF POPEYE AND OLIVE OYL #1 (Ocean, 1999) – “The Wedding of Popeye and Olive,” [W] Peter David, [A] Dave Garcia. I have sort of a personal connection to this comic because my friend Lisa Palin is the daughter of its publisher, but I hadn’t read it before. This comic is heavily based on the classic E.C. Segar Popeye, rather than any of the later versions. It’s not as successful a pastiche of classic Popeye as Roger Langridge’s version was, but it’s exciting and fun, and shows extensive knowledge of the source material. However, if I didn’t know that Peter David had written it, I wouldn’t have guessed.

BANANA SUNDAY #4 (Oni, 2005) – untitled, [W] Paul Tobin (as Root Nibot), [A] Colleen Coover. In the final issue of this miniseries, we finally learn where the monkeys came from: they’re the original monkeys from the “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” meme, and Kirby found them when they fell out of heaven. Also, this issue resolves the ongoing plot about Kirby’s high school troubles. Like the other issues of this series, it’s an adorable and well-executed piece of work.

I received the following new comics on December 18. These comics arrived three days late to begin with, and I didn’t pick the package up until late at night, because the tracking information was slow to update, and I didn’t realize it had been deilvered.

RUNAWAYS #4 (Marvel, 2018) – “Find Your Way Home Pt. IV,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. Probably the best issue yet. Molly’s house and her grandmother are just what you’d expect. Molly’s house is full of cats and other cute stuff, and her grandmother is such a kind, sweet woman, you have to wonder how Molly’s parents turned out so badly. Molly seems like a truly happy kid. Which makes it even more poignant that the other Runaways, especially Gert and Nico, are so lost and aimless. In the end, Gert chooses to stay with Molly. I’m not sure where the series is going to go from here, but I trust that Rainbow knows what she’s doing. By the way, I have now read two of her novels. I just finished Fangirl, which was one of the best books I read in 2017.

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #27 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Forbidden Pla-Nut, Part 1,” [W] Ryan North, [A] Erica Henderson. Some alien squirrels abduct Nancy so she can tell them how to save their planet from Galactus. Doreen teams up with Loki in order to figure out where Nancy went. And then it turns out that Galactus himself is the herald of an even bigger being that eats universes… no, wait, that’s Moon Girl #25. This is yet another fun issue of Squirrel Girl, and it contains more squirrel characters with speaking parts than almost any previous issue.

MISTER MIRACLE #5 (DC, 2018) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. Another fantastic issue of one of the best comics of the year. Scott and Barda enjoy a last day together before Scott’s execution, including some kinky sex and a meal at Canter’s Deli. It’s appropriate that Scott has a bondage fetish. And then Barda decides she’s not okay with Scott being executed, after all. As someone else pointed out on Facebook, the panel with a naked, bloodstained Barda saying “Stay” is, strangely, one of the most romantic moments in the series.

ROYAL CITY #8 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Kind of an uneventful issue. Tommy has a psychotic reaction while in the car with Richie, and Tara discovers she’s pregnant. Which may explain the cliffhanger in issue 5 where Patrick learns he has a niece.

MY LITTLE PONY HOLIDAY SPECIAL 2017 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] James Asmus, [A] Brenda Hickey. I somehow got the artist’s edition of this issue, with a cover reproduced from Andy Price’s pencils, and that cover is better than the interior story. Flim and Flam try to capitalize on Hearth’s Warming Eve by making everyone buy windigo merchandise. Twilight Sparkle gets rid of them by asking them to give their merchandise away for free, but then everyone gets mad at her for ruining their holiday, and Twilight realizes that they’re right to be angry. This comic could have been a witty critique of the excessive commercialism of Christmas, but instead it ruined its own message, by declaring that a little commercialism is okay if it’s all in good fun.

SLAM! THE NEXT JAM #4 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Pamela Ribon, [A] Marina Julia. This is an okay conclusion to the series, and it’s better than the last couple issues, but it’s still disappointing compared to the first Slam! miniseries. This comic never recovered from the departure of Veronica Fish. At least it lasted more than four issues, unlike some Boom! Box titles.

SHE-HULK #160 (Marvel, 2017) – “Jen Walters Must Die,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Jahnoy Lindsay. Part two of the Leader storyline is worse than part one; there’s nothing as good in this issue as the burgercakes from last issue. This series’ cancellation is disappointing but understandable. Mariko Tamaki is an amazing writer, and her depiction of trauma was groundbreaking, but she has serious problems with pacing.

TWO-FISTED TALES #7 (Russ Cochran, 1951/1994) – various stories, [E] Harvey Kurtzman. The famous story in this issue is Kurtzman’s “Rubble!”, about a Korean peasant who painstakingly builds a house with his own hands, only to see it blown up along with himself and his family. This story depicts the Korean family in a somewhat patronizing way, but it’s a deeply powerful piece of comics storytelling. It demonstrates that our “enemies” are people too, and that what seems like insignificant collateral damage, from the perspective of an entire war, can be a matter of life and death, from the perspective of an individual civilian. Jack Davis’s “Hill 203” is a brutal story about a soldier who sacrifices himself to defend a hill. In Woody’s “Bug Out!”, a starving soldier is so desperate for food and shelter that he sacrifices his sanity and even his humanity. In Severin and Elder’s “Weak Link!”, an individual soldier’s cowardice gets his entire platoon killed. All four stories this issue demonstrate the horrors that war inflicts on average people.

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE CHRISTMAS ANNUAL #nn (Image, 2017) – “Sumer Loving” and other chapters, [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. Each chapter of this story has a different inker. I have mixed feelings about this series, but this annual is fascinating because it shows us the beginning of the gods’ careers, when Lucifer and all the others were still alive and still enchanted with their new powers. It’s also kind of cool to see how McKelvie’s artwork changes with different inkers.

HAND OF FATE #1 (Eclipse, 1988) – “Night of the Siren,” [W] Bruce Jones, [A] Gerald Forton. One of Bruce Jones’s many Eclipse and Pacific titles, Hand of Fate is about a “psychic detective,” though it’s actually his female assistant who’s the psychic. This comic is a well-plotted and exciting private eye mystery, though I’m not sure the plot made complete sense. Gerald Forton’s art is kind of Ditkoesque. His opening splash panel, which is a top-down view of Fate’s office, is impressive.

TALES OF GHOST CASTLE #3 (DC, 1975) – “The Demon’s Here to Stay!”, [W] Jack Oleck, [A] Ernie Chua. The last issue of one of DC’s more obscure mystery titles. It’s no wonder it was the last issue, because none of the three stories in it are very good. The second story, about a man who murders the woman he’s having an affair with, is slightly better than the others because of the Frank Redondo artwork.

GREEN LANTERN #78 (DC, 1970) – “A Kind of Loving, a Way of Death!”, [W] Denny O’Neil, [A] Neal Adams. This is one of only three O’Neil/Adams GL/GA issues I own, although I’ve read all of them in reprinted form. I am a long way from having a complete collection of this run, since I still don’t have #76, #85 or #87. This issue has one of my favorite story titles ever, but the only thing I really remembered about it was the page with Black Canary beating up the bikers (which also includes the unfortunate line about how “you look at her and see a soft, totally feminine woman”). On reading this story again, I realize it’s probably even more topical today than in 1970, since it’s about a crazy racist ideologue who organizes an anti-government militia in the American West. Joshua is sort of a combination of Cliven Bundy and the Ku Klux Klan. The final scene in this issue, where Dinah overcomes Joshua’s mind control and refrains from killing Ollie, is quite powerful.

FANTASTIC FOUR #89 (Marvel, 1969) – “The Madness of the Mole Man!”, [W] Stan Lee, [A] Jack Kirby. Not one of the better Lee/Kirby issues. The FF battle the Mole Man, whose plan is to make everyone on the surface world blind, so he can take over. The highlight of the issue is the angry lecture that Johnny Storm gives the Mole Man after defeating him; Johnny tells the Mole Man to suck it up and stop pitying himself.

TELLOS #2 (Image, 1999) – untitled, [W] Todd DeZago, [A] Mike Wieringo. The late Mike Wieringo’s only major creator-owned work is a somewhat formulaic piece of epic fantasy, but it’s well-drawn and professionally produced, and one of the characters is a giant anthropomorphic tiger. I’d buy more of these if I found them at a low price.

KID LOBOTOMY #3 (IDW, 2017) – “Lost in Franz,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Tess Fowler. As usual with Peter Milligan (and his master Grant Morrison), this comic gets harder and harder to follow as it goes on, but it’s still well-executed enough that I’m enjoying it even when I can’t follow it. I didn’t really notice Tess Fowler’s art when she was drawing Rat Queens, but her art on this series is really impressive.

DEPT. H #21 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. This issue is yet another flashback to Roger and Hari’s past. I guess it’s not surprising that there are so many flashbacks, given that this is a mystery story, and mysteries are all about uncovering what happened before the story began. At the end, Roger tries to get Mia to go to the surface alone, but one of the other characters objects.

SUPERNATURAL THRILLERS #11 (Marvel, 1975) – “The Asp’s Big Score!”, [W] Tony Isabella, [A] Val Mayerik. This Living Mummy story is a convoluted, overwritten piece of work with few interesting characters, although it’s not terrible. One of the principal characters is named Olddan, which is apparently not a typo for Old Dan. The two-page backup story by Tom Sutton is better than the main story.

STRANGE ADVENTURES #214 (DC, 1968) – “To Haunt a Killer,” [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Neal Adams. An awesome Deadman story. Feeling lonely, Deadman possesses a man named Phil who’s desperately in love with his fiancee, or at least she is with him. But then Deadman discovers Phil is a professional assassin. The creators set up a poignant contrast between Phil’s two sides, as a loving husband-to-be and a heartless killer. Adams’s artwork is fantastic, although this issue is full of double-page compositions that are printed ineptly (see https://www.instagram.com/p/Bc_nNtRl0Jz/?taken-by=aaronkashtan).

PSYCHOANALYSIS #3 (Gemstone, 1955/1999) – “Freddy Carter” and other stories, [W/A] Jack Kamen. This is the weirdest comic EC ever published, and that’s saying a lot. It consists of three stories, each depicting a session between a psychoanalyst and his client. Each story is an extremely text-heavy talkfest, in which the analyst and the analysand go over a lot of complicated psychosexual material in an extreme hurry. The analyst is depicted as the Lacanian “subject supposed to know”; he knows everything and has all the answers, and the client’s job is to figure out what the analyst is telling him or her. (As a caveat, my use of Freudian and Lacanian language here may imply that I understand psychoanalysis better than I actually do.) The analyst’s conclusions are unquestionable even when they’re wrong. For example, the father in the first story is an abusive asshole who ridicules his son, yet the analyst only cares about convincing the son to be more fair to the father. In general, this comic is disturbing and poorly executed, but it’s also kind of fascinating. EC’s Psychoanalysis is a fascinating depiction of how people thought about psychoanalysis in the ‘50s, and I’m surprised that there seems to be no scholarship on it – it would be a great project for a psychoanalytically inclined comics scholar. I showed the cover of this comic to my grandfather, who used to be a practicing psychoanalyst, and he was delighted.

New comics received on Friday, December 22:

MS. MARVEL #25 (Marvel, 2017) – “Teenage Wasteland, Part One,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Nico Leon. This is probably the funniest issue of this series ever. Kamala doesn’t appear in this issue. Instead, it focuses on her friends, who are trying to find her while also impersonating Ms. Marvel, so no one realizes that Ms. Marvel is missing too. This premise leads to all sorts of hilarious hijinks and misadventures, and the issue ends with Kamala’s friends confronting a giant iguana in a robot suit. This issue has gotten some attention from non-comics readers thanks to its reference to Orthodox Union kosher certification. The reason Kamala can eat the sandwich Naftali brings her is because kosher is a more restrictive standard than halal, so kosher food is generally considered halal, though not vice versa. This scene is based on G. Willow Wilson’s personal lifestyle: according to her own Twitter page, most halal meat is below her standards for zabihah, or ritual slaughter, so she eats kosher meat instead.

X-MEN: GRAND DESIGN #1 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Ed Piskor. This is a dense, compelling, and provocative work. As a longtime Marvel fan, I loved reading this – it engaged my geek instincts because it kept making me think “That’s not how I remember that happening” or “I didn’t notice that before.” What I’m not sure about is what exactly this comic is trying to do. My initial take was that this comic is Ed’s version of The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck. He’s taking a vast body of stories that were not meant to be read together, and combining them into a cohesive whole. But that analogy doesn’t completely work, because Ed Piskor isn’t necessarily being strictly faithful to the source texts. Peter Sanderson complained that Piskor got a number of things wrong, and Sanderson knows Marvel continuity better than anyone alive, so he’s probably right. (Even I noticed, for instance, that Piskor’s version of the Xavier/Shadow King battle doesn’t exactly match the version in X-Men #117.) So maybe this comic is intended instead as Ed Piskor’s personal and necessarily selective vision of Marvel history. It’s hard to tell at this point. Either way, this is a brilliant and important comic, and I’m excited to see where it goes.

One minor thing I liked about this comic is that on one hand, it doesn’t say that Magneto is Wanda and Pietro’s father, since that is no longer true – but on the other hand, Piskor draws Pietro to look exactly like Magnus.

ANGELIC #4 (Image, 2017) – “Heirs and Graces, Part 4,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Caspar Wijngaard. Things get worse, as Qora and Complainer are caught in the struggle between the monkeys and the manatees. Also, they find a bunch of cryogenically frozen humans. This wasn’t the best issue of Angelic, but I love the panel where the humanoid robot turns out to have tentacles for legs.

FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #5 (DC, 2017) – “Birdman in Invisible Sun!”, [W] Phil Hester, [A] Steve Rude. This is the first Future Quest story not written by Jeff Parker, but Phil Hester does an admirable job of filling in, and the Dude’s artwork is as brilliant as you’d expect. The thing that soured my enjoyment of this issue was that Rude’s depiction of Maori people struck me as offensive. However, I can’t pinpoint anything offensive in particular, except that the people’s faces look a bit apelike. It’s possible that I’m being oversensitive because I’m remembering the blatantly racist depictions of Africans in an earlier Rude comic, The Moth Special #1.

FENCE #2 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] C.S. Pacat, [A] Johanna the Mad. Like issue 1, this issue is heavily influenced by sports manga, but it also has a significant queer subtext that I didn’t notice in issue 1. I guess that means this comic is treading the same territory as The Backstagers, in that it’s a queer comic with an all-male cast. In particular, this issue introduces a new character, Bobby, who… I think he’s a boy, but he’s depicted with visual conventions borrowed from shojo manga. Another thing I notice about this comic is that it’s genre-savvy; Seiji tells Nicholas that “you’re one of those… someone told you once that you had potential [but] hundreds of fencers get told that.” This comic seems somewhat unsure as to what sort of tone it’s going for, but it’s a really interesting piece of work. I just hope it doesn’t get cancelled after four issues.

ASSASSINISTAS #1 (IDW, 2017) – “Dominic Price and the Semester Abroad,” [W] Tini Howard, [A] Gilbert Hernandez. A rare example of a comic written but not drawn by Gilbert Hernandez. However, it feels very much like a Beto comic, with its focus on action girls, family relationships, sex, etc. It’s also somewhat reminiscent of Kill Bill, though that could be because Kill Bill was drawing on the same body of influences. I haven’t heard of Tini Howard before, but her writing is not bad at all.

SHERLOCK FRANKENSTEIN AND THE LEGION OF EVIL #3 (Dark Horse, 2017) – “Part Three: Who is the Metal Minotaur?”, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] David Rubín. An issue full of unexpected developments. The third villain on Lucy’s list is the Metal Minotaur, a battlesuited villain who surprisingly turns out to be a black woman. Also surprisingly, the Metal Minotaur tells Lucy that Sherlock Frankenstein was trying to save the heroes, not kill them, and Lucy realizes that Sherlock has been in Spiral Asylum all along.

MIGHTY THOR #702 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Last Days of the Goddess of Thunder,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] Russell Dauterman. As things get grimmer and grimmer, Jane recruits Hercules, then shames Odin into emerging from his seclusion. Just in time too, because the Mangog shows up on the last page.

SUPERMAN #37 (DC, 2017) – “Super Sons of Tomorrow, Part 1: Dark of the Son,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] Jorge Jimenez. This entire issue is a fight scene between Superman and an alternate-universe Tim Drake who’s become an evil version of Batman. It’s a complete waste of an issue, and I shouldn’t have bought it. Also, this comic’s cover is deceptive in that none of the characters on the cover appear in the comic, except Superman himself.

SUPER SONS #11 (DC, 2017) – “Super Sons of Tomorrow, Part 2: Sundown,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason, [A] Ryan Benjamin. This is even worse than Superman #37 because it’s a wasted issue of a series I was enjoying. This issue does have a cute scene with the Super Sons and the Titans, but it spends too many pages on plot developments that I don’t care about. And the evil Batman is a crappy villain; he’s so grim and dark that he’s not fun to read about, and Super Sons is supposed to be a fun comic. This issue illustrates the problem with crossovers: they interrupt the plots and character arcs of the titles involved, and they’re rarely good enough to justify this interruption.

BACCHUS #1 (Eddie Campbell, 1995) – “The Face on the Bar-Room Floor,” [W/A] Eddie Campbell & Dave Sim, plus other stories. The problem with this series is that almost all the material in it has been published in a variety of other formats, so whenever I read an issue of Bacchus, I always suspect that I’ve already read the stories in it elsewhere. The opening story in this issue is a new Bacchus-Cerebus crossover where Campbell and Sim collaborated on both the writing and the art, but most of the issue is occupied by the first chapter of King Bacchus, and I’m pretty sure I’ve read at least some of this before.

WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #8 (Marvel, 1985) – “Local Super Hero!”, [W] David Michelinie, [A] Geof Isherwood. This is weird and not very good. The opening eight pages of this issue depict the origin of the Smithville Thunderbolt, local superhero of a small Pennsylvania town. The word balloons in this segment all have four words or less, which appears to be a deliberate formal constraint, but not a very successful one. In the second half of the story, Spider-Man goes to Smithville to do a story on the Thunderbolt. It turns out the Smithville Thunderbolt has lost his powers with age, and is now creating disasters so he can solve them. This is an intriguing premise, but Michelinie deals with it way too quickly, wasting the chance to explore its implications.

DOOM PATROL #6 (DC, 2017) – “Brick by Brick, Part 6,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Nick Derington. I quit reading this comic because of its chronic lateness, but when it started appearing on critics’ year-end lists, I decided to get caught up on it. I had trouble remembering what was going on in this series, but this issue is fairly self-contained. The premise is that Crazy Jane has founded a cult of “oneness,” and she wants to drop a gene bomb on herself and her fellow cultists, so as to merge them all into one being. But Jane’s other personalities sabotage the bomb so that it instead kills the version of Jane who’s leading the cult, and leaves Jane’s other personalities intact. This issue is an impressive reimagining of Grant Morrison’s best Doom Patrol character, and it also explores the relationship between Jane and Cliff Steele, which was vitally important in the Morrison series.

DOOM PATROL #47 (DC, 1991) – “The World, the Flesh, and the Devil,” [W] Grant Morrison, [A] Richard Case. Not Morrison’s best issue. It’s mostly a prelude to the Doom Patrol’s battle with Shadowy Mr. Evans. The best moment is when Rebis is informed that hs mother died, and he replies “Which one?”

DOOM PATROL #7 (DC, 2017) – “Into the Scantoverse or Emotional Robots and Psychic Werewolves,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Mike Allred. A weird and wacky story in which Niles Caulder rejoins the Doom Patrol, then leads them on a bizarre adventure that almost gets them killed. It turns out that the Chief is just manipulating the Doom Patrol into helping him settle a debt to the mob, and they all decide they’re better off without him. Gerard Way has a good take on the Chief’s toxic personality, and Allred’s art is some of his weirdest in recent memory.

GIANT-SIZE KUNG FU BIBLE STORIES #1 (Image, 2014) – various stories, [E] Erik Larsen & Bruce Timm. This treasury-sized comic has a cover price of $20. I “only” paid $12 for it, but I still feel like I got ripped off. There’s not much here that justifies the price. Bruce Timm’s story is impressively drawn but is a dumb and outdated piece of superhero parody, and the only truly impressive things in the issue are the pinups and one-pagers by Art Adams and Tom Scioli. Another serious problem with this comic is its unwieldy format. This comic is impossible to store properly because I don’t think they even make boxes that are big enough for it. My copy of this comic is badly damaged because it’s taller than the box I was storing it in, and I piled things on top of that box by accident.

BUG! THE ADVENTURES OF FORAGER #5 (DC, 2017) – “Water, Water Everywhere and Not a Drop to Shrink,” [W] Lee Allred, [A] Mike Allred. Forager meets Omac and they fight Dr. Skuba, the villain who shrinks oceans into cubes (see my review of Omac #7 from earlier this year). Lots of other weird stuff happens. This is another fun issue, but I would rather it had included three blank pages than the Midnight backup story. James Harvey’s style is intriguing, but not well suited to linear storytelling, and his text is overwritten and tedious to read.

PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #298 (Marvel, 2017) – “Escape Plans,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Adam Kubert. Peter is rescued from a questionably legal prison by Human Torch and Ant-Man, then they set out trying to save Peter from the deep state, which is surprisingly tough. Just when things look hopeless, Black Panther shows up. In this storyline, Chip Zdarsky has achieved the difficult feat of making me genuinely wonder how Spider-Man can get out of his predicament.

HEAD LOPPER #8 (Image, 2017) – “Head Lopper and the Crimson Tower, Part 4 of 4,” [W/A] Andrew MacLean. This issue was recalled because of a printing error in which one page was printed twice and another page was omitted. DCBS didn’t get the memo in time and sent me one of the misprinted copies anyway, and I was unpleasantly surprised to discover the printing error after I was 15 pages into the comic. I asked Andrew MacLean if he would post the missing page on Twitter, and he was kind enough to do so, which allowed me to finish reading the comic. This issue is a rather depressing conclusion to the Crimson Tower story. Zhaania Kota Ka discovers that Berserkr is her own mother. She drops her weapons and begs her mother to team up wth her against Ulrich, but in a reversal of the usual cliché, Zhaania’s mother fails to overcome her brainwashing and kills her daughter. In the end, Norgal, Agatha, Twerpal and Bik defeat the enemy, and little Bik becomes the master of the Crimson Tower. And now we have to wait for Norgal and Agatha’s next adventure.

BUG! THE ADVENTURES OF FORAGER #6 (DC, 2017) – “Just Another Bug in the Wall,” [W] Lee Allred, [A] Mike Allred. This issue finally explains what’s been going on in this series, though the explanation isn’t all that clear. It turns out that Chagra, the main antagonist, is a clone of Metron, and Forager and Chagra team up against Metron, who’s the real villain. And then Kuzuko is reunited with her parents, who turn out to be the living embodiment of the Source. It’s pretty cool how this series and Mr. Miracle are so different in tone, and yet they both feel like faithful adaptations of Kirby’s source (no pun intended) material.

DOOM PATROL #8 (DC, 2017) – “Nothing Matters: Part 1 of Nada,” [W] Gerard Way, [A] Nick Derington. In part one of the next major storyline, Casey is reunited with her cat Lotion, who has somehow become a cat-headed human, but continues to act just like a cat. He’s a bit like the human Greebo in Witches Abroad, if a bit more articulate. Finally, Sam Reynolds’s son Lucius tries to summon a demon. At this point I think we can say that there are three major Doom Patrol writers: Arnold Drake, Grant Morrison, and Gerard Way.

DOOM PATROL #9 (DC, 2017) – “NineNineNine99999: Part 2 of Nada,” creators as above. The demon Lucius summons turns out to be Grant Morrison’s greatest Doom Patrol villain, Mr. Nobody, who has put together a new Brotherhood of Dada. I don’t know if the new Brotherhood members are as funny as the originals, but I’m delighted to see Mr. Nobody again. Also, there’s a new villain, The Disappointment, and there’s a subplot involving a superfood called $#!+.

TUROK, SON OF STONE #126 (Whitman, 1981/1970) – “Too Many Signs” and “The ‘Magic’ Arrows,” [W] Paul S. Newman, [A] Jack Sparling. Both stories in this issue are boring and formulaic. In the first story, Turok and Andar find an exit from Lost Valley, but it caves in before they can escape, which is lucky because if they ever got out of Lost Valley, the series would end immediately.

TWO-FISTED TALES #3 (Russ Cochran, 1951/1993) – various stories, [E] Harvey Kurtzman. This wasn’t one of the eight issues I bought at the convention; I already had it, but forgot about it. The highlight of this issue is Kurtzman’s “Pirate Gold!”, in which a pirate is shipwrecked and suffers amnesia. On being rescued, he slowly recovers his memory while hunting down his former comrades, who, he realizes, have betrayed him and stolen his treasure chest. He finds his betrayers and brutally murders them, but his lack of memory is his undoing, because he forgets that he buried his treasure chest in quicksand. I recognized this story because some panels from it are reprinted in R.C. Harvey’s Art of the Comic Book. The second best story in the issue is Woody’s “Devils in Baggy Pants,” in which a paratrooper is ridiculed by his sergeant for cowardice, but bravely sacrifices his life while the sergeant runs away. The other stories are Severin and Elder’s “Massacred!”, in which a North Korean officer outsmarts himself and gets killed by his own men, and Jack Davis’s “Army Revolver”, about a gun whose six bullets kill six man, the last of whom is the gun’s original owner. Because of its focus on an inanimate object and its ironic, circular ending, “Army Revolver” is a bit like an Eisner Spirit story. This issue of Two-Fisted Tales is different from later issues in that only two of the stories about war, while the other two belong to other genres (pirates and cowboys).

STAR-SPANGLED WAR STORIES #193 (DC, 1975) – “Save the Children!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Gerry Talaoc. As a war comic this is vastly inferior to Two-Fisted Tales, not just because it has worse writing and artwork, but also because it lacks realism. Where Two-Fisted Tales focuses on common soldiers, this issue stars the Unknown Soldier, an elite super-commando, and it has a deeply implausible and farfetched plot. The Unknown Soldier impersonates an elite Nazi officer and hangs out with the officer’s wife and children, who somehow fail to notice the impersonation. Then the Unknown Soldier makes it all the way into Hitler’s personal presence, but doesn’t bother trying to assassinate Hitler because he assumes he’d fail – which is odd, since he seems to be able to do anything else the plot requires. This story does have a poignant ending – the Unknown Soldier is unable to save the officer’s wife and children from being sent to a concentration camp. But that’s not enough to save this story. This isn’t a horrible comic, but it pales in comparison to the comic I read just before it. The backup story, written by Arnold Drake, is a little better than the main story.

COMBAT #35 (Dell, 1972) – “Cassino,” [W] unknown, [A] Sam Glanzman. This is reprinted from #9 of the same series, which was misnumbered as #8. The writer is unknown, but I’m guessing Don Segall, because the histrionic tone of the writing reminds me of Kona. The main story in this issue is a dense and deeply researched retelling of the bombing of Monte Cassino. This abbey was a world-renowned artistic and historical treasure, but in 1944 the Allies bombed it because they wrongly suspected that the Germans were occupying it. Glanzman and the unknown writer tell this story with poignant detail, focusing on the abbey’s saintly 80-year-old abbot, Gregorio Diamare. This story is full of precise factual detail, suggesting deep research on the writer’s part. The writer’s style is florid and verbose, but his prose style is not bad at all. The artistic highlights of the story are Glanzman’s powerful splash pages and his almost abstract depictions of the abbey’s bombing. In short, this comic is a forgotten classic. Drew Ford is organizing a Kickstarter to reprint one of Glanzman’s other stories from this series, but someone really ought to reprint the entire run of Combat.

THE UNCENSORED MOUSE #1 (Eternity, 1989) – untitled, [W] Walt Disney, [A] Ub Iwerks and Win Smith. The story behind this comic is better than the comic itself. Eternity’s publishers realized that the earliest Mickey Mouse comic strips were in the public domain, so they published a comic book that reprinted those strips from the beginning. To avoid legal action from Disney, they published the comic under a solid black cover that does not use the words “Disney” or “Mickey.” Alas, Disney sued anyway, and the comic was cancelled after one more issue. The word Uncensored in the title refers to the fact that these comics are reprinted without alteration, but also implies that Disney would rather these strips didn’t see print, since they reflect a crude, unsanitized version of Mickey. The eventual goal of this comic was to reprint Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse strips, which were out of print at the time, and Bill Blackbeard’s essay on this comic’s inside front cover is all about how great Gottfredson was. However, the strips in this issue predate Gottfredson’s tenure on the strip, and are not nearly as good as his work. They’re essentially just silent animation gags in print form, with almost no continuity, and they’re full of blatant racist imagery. So these strips are only of historical interest. Also, this comic is quite poorly printed. Luckily, though The Uncensored Mouse was a failed project, its goal was achieved anyway, since the Gottfredson and pre-Gottfredson Mickey Mouse is now back in print.

UNICORN ISLE #4 (Apple, 1987) – “Unicorn Isle Betrayed, Chapter 4,” [W] Lee Mars, [A] Nicholas Koenig. This comic is a bit easier to follow than chapter 3, but I don’t like it nearly as much as Pudge, Girl Blimp or Lee Marrs’s stories in Star*Reach. The two main kid characters are cute, but the other characters are kind of boring, and the plot is too complicated.

KINGSWAY WEST #2 (Dark Horse, 2016) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Mirko Colak. I kind of regret not getting this when it came out, but it should be easy to find the back issues. This comic is a hybrid of the western and SF genres, with a Chinese-American protagonist. It has some interesting premises, but its plot is hard to understand without having read the first issue.

LAST KISS #2 (Shanda, 2001) – “Widow Ms. Muffet,” [W] John Lustig, [A] Dick Giordano, plus other stories. This comic consists of old Charlton romance comics with new satirical dialogue, although the first story in the issue is entirely new. It was published the same year as Jeanne Martinet’s Truer than True Romance, which also consists of rewritten old romance comics, but Martinet was unaware of Lustig’s work (see http://www.sequentialtart.com/archive/feb02/lustig.shtml). The stories in this comic are reasonably funny in an unsubtle way, but the most interesting thing about this issue is Lustig’s interview with Giordano about his Charlton years. I mentioned this interview in my review of Peacemaker #5 above.

TEEN CONFESSIONS #71 (Charlton, 1971) – “A Cure for Heartbreak,” uncredited, plus other stories. I bought this at a store I visited in Orlando with some friends from UF. The stories in this issue are all pretty bad, and the best thing about them is the ‘70s fashions. The first story includes a scene where the protagonist decides to go to a resort and look for a husband until her money runs out, and her boss says that she can have her job back whenever she wants. I wish my job was like that. (https://www.instagram.com/p/BdJzDnrl0dJ/?taken-by=aaronkashtan)

TANK GIRL: 21ST CENTURY TANK GIRL #2 (Titan, 2015) – “Nanango ‘71” and other stories, [W] Alan Martin, [A] Brett Parson et al. I shouldn’t have bought this because it’s a poor introduction to Tank Girl. It provides no background on the characters, and it’s not all that good on its own. Also, I feel like Tank Girl’s aesthetic is a bit dated today. I do still want to read the original Tank Girl comics, if I can ever afford them.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #1 (Marvel, 2017) – “Fast Burn,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Jim Cheung. Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm are both feeling adrift in life after the disappearance of the Richards family. At Dr. Doom’s prompting, they get together to look for Reed, Sue and the kids. This issue is fairly poignant and funny, but it makes me realize how much I wish Marvel would publish a Fantastic Four comic again.

New comics received on December 30, the last New Comic Book Day of the year:

LUMBERJANES #45 (Boom!, 2017) – “Zoo It Yourself,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Ayme Sotuyo. The best thing in this issue is probably the sleeping giant kitty on the first page. Other than that, this issue is a little underwhelming, and it seems less dense and rich than some earlier issues. It was over too fast. But this is just part one, so we’ll see where this story goes.

MOTOR CRUSH #9 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Babs Tarr, [W] Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart. Domino, Lola and Calax find Julianne, but the mysterious masked dude shows up and interferes, and Julianne decides she doesn’t want to be rescued. This is a very exciting issue, but it doesn’t give us any new information about the central mysteries of the series. This issue does mention the name Ulterion, which we haven’t heard before.

BATMAN: CREATURE OF THE NIGHT #2 (DC, 2017) – “Boy Wonder, “ [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] John Paul Leon. This comic took a long time to finish, mostly because I was exhausted while reading it, but also because it’s a very long and dense piece of work. Bruce Wainwright graduates from college and goes on to a successful business career, while “Batman” continues to fight crime. Bruce starts using his money to sponsor orphans, the first of whom is significantly named Robin. But the issue ends with a shocking revelation: Bruce’s apparently effortless successes are not his doing. Instead, “Batman” is manipulating Bruce’s life to protect him and keep him safe, regardless of the cost to anyone else. This is a brilliant plot twist, and I’m eager to see what happens next.

SCOOBY-DOO! TEAM-UP #33 (DC, 2017) – “The Ghost of Ferro Lad!”, [W] Sholly Fisch, [A] Dario Brizuela. This is a shallow but fun comic. It’s not as good as the Batman ‘66/Legion team-up, but it’s not bad. The Matter-Eater Lad scene is awesome, and using Ferro Lad’s ghost as the fake villain is a clever idea. It’s kind of unfortunate that this comic guest-stars the Adventure Comics Legion, with its total lack of diversity. I had a conversation on social media recently that forced me to realize just how much the Legion falls short of its own ideals of diversity and inclusion, and I wish DC would publish a Legion comic that didn’t have a majority straight white human cast – although any Legion comic is better than none at all.

MOON GIRL #26 (Marvel, 2017) – “1 + 2 = Fantastic Three,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Alitha Martinez. This was a disappointing issue – in general, most of the comics this week were disappointing. I don’t like the idea that Galactus is the herald of an even bigger being that eats whole universes. Galactus creates enough of a sense of wonder on his own. I do like the interactions between the Thing and Moon Girl’s classmate Eduardo.

MISFIT CITY #8 (Boom!, 2017) – An excellent conclusion to the series, though it would have been even better if I had remembered more of the plot. After a Barksian or Indiana Jones-esque treasure hunt and a confrontation with the villains, the girls finally find the treasure. It turns out to be cursed so that it can only be used to benefit the local people, so the girls use it to open a Tillamook Nation Culture Center. I don’t understand what’s going on in the last panel; it suggests that there’s still an unresolved mystery, but I can’t remember what that mystery is.

Total number of comics read this year: 1452, which is by far the highest total since I started keeping track, but I think I can do even better next year.

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Reviews for November

12-2

It’s been a horrible, awful week, and I’m afraid the country will collapse, so let’s write some reviews.

These first reviews include some comics received on November 3rd (actually November 6, when I got back from Seattle), and some others I bought at the Fantagraphics bookstore in Seattle, while attending ICAF.

PAPER GIRLS #17 (DC, 2017) – untitled, [W] Brian K. Vaughan, [A] Cliff Chiang. The main event this issue is the girls’ talk with the new Charlotte/Chuck character. I hardly remember anything about this comic except the discussion of homosexuality.

POWER PACK #63 (Marvel, 2017) – “Rarely Pure and Never Simple,” [W] Devin Grayson, [A] Marika Cresta. As a huge Power Pack fan, I was looking forward eagerly to this, though Devin is not my favorite writer. This issue is surprisingly good. It’s framed as a flashback story that Katie tells to her teacher, though Katie carefully disguises it as a story about normal kids and not superheroes. Like Louise Simonson and June Brigman, Grayson and Cresta depict the Powers as realistic children who act their age, and the climax of the story – where Katie dares Alex to crush her, knowing he won’t do it – is powerful. I also like how this story focuses on the relationship between Katie and Alex, the two Power children who have the least in common. I just wish there were more Power Pack comics in the pipeline.

PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #6 (Marvel, 2017) – “My Dinner with Jonah,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Michael Walsh. This is easily Chip’s best issue yet. It’s the best exploration of Spidey and JJJ’s relationship that I can think of, and it ends with an epic climax in which Spidey tells JJJ his secret identity. For the first time, this Peter Parker series feels like a real, consequential Spider-Man comic.

USAGI YOJIMBO #163 (Dark Horse, 2017) – “Mouse Trap, Part 1,” [W/A] Stan Sakai. Usagi and Inspector Ikeda confront Nezumi, a Robin Hood-esque thief. I remember enjoying this issue, but when I look through it again, it just seems like a standard Usagi comic.

GIANT DAYS #32 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] John Allison, [A] Max Sarin. The girls decide to split up and move out on their own, instead of renewing their lease. It’s a sad moment which seems to presage the end of the series. This issue is full of cute unrealistic stuff like ghosts, hordes of spiders, and a Hyperloop station.

ATOMIC ROBO AND THE SPECTRE OF TOMORROW #1 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. This is fresh in my mind because I just read issue 2. Atomic Robo and Tesladyne are building a new base in the desert, but their neighbors, Richard Branson and Elon Musk, are angry about the construction noise. Robo can’t be bothered to do anything about them because he’s holed up in his lab, working on his nanobots. This is a funny issue, and I like how it includes a scene at a scientific conference.

SAVAGE LOVE #2 (Bear Bones, 1994) – “My First Time… In Drag!” and other stories, [W] Dan Savage, [A] Ellen Forney & James Sturm et al. I didn’t know this comic existed until a month or two ago, and now I have it. I’ve enjoyed Dan Savage’s writing ever since I encountered it in the Minneapolis City Pages in high school, so I was delighted to learn that there was a comic book version of Savage Love, and then to find that comic at the Fantagraphics store. This comic is a collection of stories based on Dan Savage’s life and his Savage Love advice column. Most of these stories are funny, and the last one, about a time in Savage’s childhood when he saw two gay men waiting for a movie, is very poignant.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #695 (Marvel, 2017) – “Home of the Brave, Part 1,” [W] Mark Waid, [A] Chris Samnee. I’ve felt very ambivalent about Mark’s writing lately (see my Champions #10 review), but this comic is the best thing he’s done in a while, and perhaps the best Captain America comic in twenty years. At a time when horrible rich old bullies are trampling this country into the dirt, this comic is a reminder that America should be about protecting the weak, not exploiting them. The comic begins with a flashback in which Cap saves some children from terrorists. Ten years later, he returns to the same town and defeats the same terrorists, with the help of the local people. And he reminds those people that ”we know what’s right. The strong protect the weak. Never forget that.” This is an especially important message at a time when “the strong” are doing just the opposite. This issue is even more powerful because of Chris Samnee’s art. He is Marvel’s best artist right now, except maybe Christian Ward, and he gets better with every issue. He reminds me a lot of Mazzucchelli, but he’s even better at drawing superheroic action.

ARCHIE #25 (Archie, 2017) – untitled, [W] Mark Waid, [A] Audrey Mok. I gave up on this series, but returned to it because it was getting good reviews. As of this issue, Betty has been paralyzed, and her dad has refused to let her and Archie see each other. This issue, Archie’s friends engineer a way for him and Betty to get together. This is a very emotional story, and a big step forward compared to Waid’s earlier issues.

BATMAN FAMILY #14 (DC, 1977) – “Old Super-Heroines Never Die – They Just Fade Away!”, [W] Bob Rozakis, [A] Don Heck, plus other stories. The main story in this issue has a silly plot in which Batgirl and Robin try to stop a mad scientist from releasing a deadly virus. Also, Kathy Kane is involved but I forget how. However, this story has some very cute interactions between Dick and Babs. There’s one panel where Dick asks Babs “You remember everything? Even when we –“ and then he never finishes his sentence, leaving the reader to wonder what they did. The only backup story features Man-Bat behaving somewhat chauvinistically toward his pregnant wife.

BLAMMO #6 (Kilgore, 2010) – various stories, [W/A] Noah Van Sciver. This is an issue of Noah’s self-published comic, consisting of numerous stories. None of the stories really stand out in my memory, though the funniest one is probably the one where the Krampus visits Bob Dylan. What all these stories have in common is distinctive artwork and an irritable, sarcastic tone. The Fantagraphics store had several issues of this series on display near the cash register, and I probably should have bought more than one, because who knows if I’ll get another chance.

THE EXPERTS #nn (Retrofit, 2016) – “The Experts,” [W/A] Sophie Franz. On the last day of ICAF, I visited the Short Run Comix festival, which was held in central Seattle near the Space Needle. By that point in the week, I was exhausted and needed some time to myself, so I didn’t spend as much time at Short Run as I perhaps should have. The show had an excellent guest list, but I had trouble finding anything I wanted to buy. Anyway, after the show, Tom Spurgeon said on Twitter that the standout artist of Short Run was Sophie Franz, and I looked her up and realized that I already had one of her comics, so I read it. The Experts really is a beautiful piece of work. It combines very clear and visually appealing artwork and gorgeous colors, on the one hand, with an inexplicable science fiction plot and an enigmatic mood, on the other hand. Sophie Franz has an amazing design sense, and when she publishes a more substantial piece of work, it ought to be really good.

CUD #1 (Fantagraphics, 1992) – “Oh! The Creative Life!” and two other stories, [W/A] Terry LaBan. Of the three stories this issue, my favorite is the one that introduces Muktuk Wolfsbreath, Hard-Boiled Shaman. This is perhaps the only work of fiction I can think of that’s based on Siberian shamanism. Telling the story of a Siberian shaman in hard-boiled detective novel language is kind of a silly gimmick, but LaBan either knows a lot about indigenous Siberians, or is able to convince the reader that he does. Both the other stories in the issue are realistic, mostly. One of them is about a starving artist who pressures his muse into prostituting herself, and the other is about a naïve college graduate in performance art who gets a job as a stripper. Overall, these stories aren’t at the level of Bagge or Clowes, but they’re entertaining and funny.

BLACK BOLT #3 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Christian Ward. I fell behind on this comic partly because the art is so dense and beautiful, and it takes a while to read. This issue, T’Challa and his fellow prisoners work on escaping from prison, but not much really happens in terms of plot. However, Christian Ward’s art is incredible, and Saladin Ahmed’s characterization is very good, though later issues were even better in this area.

New comics received on November 10:

UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL #26 (Marvel, 2017) – “Comics Extravaganza #26,” [W/A] various. This is probably the best Squirrel Girl comic yet, and that’s saying a lot. The conceit of this comic is that it’s a zine compiled by Squirrel Girl’s friends as a benefit for a library. Guest creators includee Carla Speed McNeil, Michael Cho, Anders Nilsen, and Jim Davis (or more likely his assistants). The best of the individual segments is McNeil’s Loki two-pager, which can be read in either of two directions with opposite meanings. Besides that, most of these stories are insubstantial, but they’re all fascinatingly different, and most of them are funny and full of fourth-wall breaks. This comic is a sort of Squirrel Girl equivalent of Howard the Duck #16, and it’s the best introduction to Squirrel Girl.

MS. MARVEL #24 (Marvel, 2018) – “Northeast Corridor, Part Two,” [W] G. Willow Wilson, [A] Diego Olortegui. Kamala saves the train by having the engineer drive it up hills, so that gravity slows it down. But Red Dagger gets all the credit. This was an okay storyline but was far worse than the one before it.

MISTER MIRACLE #4 (DC, 2017) – untitled, [W] Tom King, [A] Mitch Gerads. Another great issue. Like many Kirby comics, this issue seamlessly blends the cosmic and the eridiculous. Orion puts Mr. Miracle on trial for disobedience… and the trial takes place in Scott and Barda’s living room, and Barda brings a veggie tray. The mundane setting and the veggies create some necessary comic relief, in the midst of a very dark story about depression and totalitarian rule.

RUNAWAYS #3 (Marvel, 2017) – “Find Your Way Home, Part III,” [W] Rainbow Rowell, [A] Kris Anka. Gert, Chase and Nico visit Karolina at college, only to find out that she’s happy with her life and doesn’t want to go back on the run. Gert is equally unpleasantly surprised to learn that her family is growing up without her. The scene with Gert and Chase at the end underscores that this series is really about growing up, and about how you can’t recover the past. I love the moment where the girl walks out of her dorm room, sees Old Lace, and walks right back in with a “nope” sound effect.

SLAM! THE NEXT JAM #3 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Pamela Ribon, [A] Marina Julia. This was better than the last issue, but still below the standards of the previous volume of Slam! Marina Julia’s art is so subpar that I have trouble telling the characters apart.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #60 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Christina Rice, [A] Agnes Garbowska. The CMC hold a cutie mark summer camp, and one of their campers is Gilded Lily, Filthy Rich’s niece. But she refuses to make any progress toward her cutie mark, because her uncle wants her to get a cutie mark in “being important and influential,” and she knows she’s really interested in astronomy. In the end, Gilded Lily gets her cutie mark in astronomy anyway, her uncle is okay with it. This ending is unfortunate, because number one, Gilded Lily should have learned to be herself and stop worrying about what her awful family will think. Number two, until now Filthy Rich has been depicted as a completely negative character, and it seems odd that he would act so nice. But maybe I’m just feeling antipathetic to rich people today.

ROYAL CITY #7 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Jeff Lemire. Tommy goes to the doctor and gets some disturbing news. Meanwhile, we learn how Pete Pike got interested in collecting vintage radios. This was a good issue. I found myself involuntarily remembering the scene where Tommy’s doctor says that he sees something he doesn’t like, and that Tommy needs to see a specialist. It just makes me imagine what it would be like to hear a doctor say that.

NAUGHTY BITS #1 (Fantagraphics, 1991) – “Bitchy Bitch Gets Laid” and other stories, [W/A] Roberta Gregory. One of the highlights of my Seattle trip was having dinner with Roberta Gregory and Donna Barr, at the bar down the street from the Fantagraphics store. I’ve corresponded with them both on Facebook, but it was great to talk with them in person. After dinner I asked Roberta to sign this issue, which I had just bought. This issue includes a number of stories, most notably the first full-length Bitchy Bitch story, as well as a very gruesome story about castration. In the epilogue, Roberta describes “Bitchy Bitch Gets Laid” as “something to make men feel as queasy as all this sexist garbage makes women feel,” and it definitely achieves that. Her Bitchy Bitch stories got more complex and subtle as Naughty Bits went on, but this first issue is already a powerful and politically savvy work.

WIMMEN’S COMIX #6 (Last Gasp, 1975) – “Special Bicentennial Issue,” [E] Becky Wilson & Barb Brown. At ICAF, Leah Misemer gave a paper that discussed this comic, and later she told me it was her favorite issue of Wimmen’s Comix. As usual with this series, this issue includes a lot of stories of varying length and quality. The opening story, about Victoria Woodhull, is a highlight. But beyond any of the individual stories, this comic is valuable for the variety of styles and subject matter that it offers. Through the diverse range of stories that it tells, it represents the breadth of women’s experience worldwide.

CATALYST PRIME: ASTONISHER #2 (Lion Forge, 2017) – “State of Mind,” [W] Alex de Campi, [A] Pop Mhan. This appears to be about a superhero who fights delusional people by being able to see and battle their delusions. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on in this comic, though I enjoyed it.

MICKEY MOUSE #165 (Gold Key, 1976) – “The Viking Raiders,” [W] Carl Fallberg, [A] Paul Murry. This reprints #116 of the same series. It begins with a caption about how Mickey and Goofy are traveling through history in search of a time machine, but there’s no evidence of the time machine in the story itself; it just sems like an alternate universe story in which Mickey and Goofy were born in medieval England. Anyway, in this story, Mickey and Goofy rescue Minnie from Viking kidnappers. This story is fun, but not as good as the next Mickey Mouse comic I read, for which see below.

NEAT STUFF #2 (Fantagraphics, 1985) – “Studs Kirby Gets Drunk by Himself” and other stories, [W/A] Peter Bagge. This issue contains long stories about Studs Kirby and Junior, as well as some short strips in the same vein as Evan Dorkin’s House of Fun. These stories are quite entertaining – for example, in the Junior story, Junior moves in with a cranky old landlord who tells all sorts of implausible stories about his tenants. At this point in his career, Peter Bagge seemed to be trying a bunch of different ideas, prior to settling down with Buddy Bradley.

AMERICAN SPLENDOR #15 (self-published, 1990) – various stories, [W] Harvey Pekar, [A] various. Two of the many stories in this issue stand out. In “A Lull at the Convention,” Harvey is tabling at a convention and encounters Frank from Friendly Frank’s. “Festering” is a flashback to Harvey’s youth when he got in a fight with his father and his uncle. This story is powerful because it ends with no resolution, just after Harvey has punched his uncle in the face. There are also two stories about buying books, and a story where Harvey and Joyce try and fail to rescue an injured squirrel.

SHE-HULK #159 (Marvel, 2017) – “Jen Walters Must Die, Part 1,” [W] Mariko Tamaki, [A] Jahnoy Lindsay. It’s very frustrating that this series has been renamed from She-Hulk to Hulk, and that they’ve decided that the previous issues are included in the numbering of She-Hulk. Now am I supposed to file my copies of Hulk #1-11 under S or under H? Anyway, the best part of this issue is the Burgercakes restaurant, which is just plausible enough to be funny.

THE SAGA OF THE MAN ELF #1 (Trident, 1989) – “Reigns of Power,” [W] Guy Lawley, [A] Steve Whitaker. A confusing and fascinating comic. This issue begins as a certain Miss Brunner has just been elected prime minister, and then we get a flashback to the earlier lives of Miss Brunner and her friends Judy Birch and Jenny Carpenter. Jenny gives birth to the titular Man Elf, Janus, whose father is some kind of cosmic entity. While the story is a bit difficult to understand, it’s grippingly written, and Steve Whitaker’s artwork is beautiful. Neither Lawley nor Whitaker have a lot of comics credits other than this series, and it’s a pity that they didn’t go on to bigger things. This comic is heavily based on Michael Moorcock’s Jerry Cornelius – it features many characters from that series, including Miss Brunner herself as well as Bishop Beesley and Una Persson, and Janus and Jenny Carpenter both share Jerry’s initials. So after reading this comic, I finally felt motivated to read Moorcock’s Cornelius Quartet, and I’m glad I did.

KID LOBOTOMY #2 (IDW, 2017) – “Vile Bodies: Part Two of A Lad Insane,” [W] Peter Milligan, [A] Tess Fowler. This was less difficult than issue one, and Tess Fowler’s art is getting really good. She reminds me of either Fábio Moon or Gabriel Bá, but I forget which. This issue has some very obvious allusions to Kafka’s Metamorphosis, including Kid Lobotomy being hit in the back with an apple.

BLACK BOLT #4 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Christian Ward. While tied up and powerless, Black Bolt and Crusher Creel have a heart-to-heart talk. This issue is fascinating and poignant because it humanizes these two characters – Black Bolt, who normally can’t talk and who seems utterly implacable, and Absorbing Man, who is usually portrayed as a heartless brute. Even more surprisingly, these two men manage to form a sort of rapport, despite their radical differences – you can tell how different they are just from their speech patterns.

BLACK BOLT #5 (Marvel, 2017) – as above, except the first four pages are drawn by Frazer Irving. At the end of last issue, Lockjaw sprung Black Bolt from prison, but this issue he goes back to free the other captives. This issue isn’t as memorable as last issue, though the art is still fantastic.

BLACK BOLT #6 (Marvel, 2017) – as #4 above. Black Bolt and friends defeat the Jailer by having the Absorbing Man absorb Black Bolt’s voice, which is ridiculous but cool. This is an effective conclusion to the story, and Christian Ward’s art just keeps getting better.

SCALES & SCOUNDRELS #3 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Sebastian Girner, [A] Galaad. As previously noted, I have been feeling quite ambivalent about this comic, but this issue convinced me to keep buying it. The plot still sucks, but the artwork, plot and characterization are good enough that this comic is worth buying anyway.

INTERSECT #1 (Image, 2014) – untitled, [W/A] Ray Fawkes. I bought this when it came out, but I finally got around to reading it because I heard someone say something good about Ray Fawkes; I forget who, or what they said. This comic seems to be about two characters who both occupy the same body. However, the storytelling is so unclear that it’s literally impossible to figure out what’s going on. Fawkes fails to provide the reader with any kind of background, or to explain the premise of the comic. According to a review I read, this comic makes more sense if you read it in trade paperback form, and even then only if you read the blurb on the back cover.

ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN #5 (Image, 2017) – “A Hobo Came A-Walkin’,” [W/A] Kyle Starks. This issue is a flashback to Jackson’s past. In 1945, Jackson gets drafted just after his wife has given birth. Afraid of being killed in battle, he sells his soul to the devil in exchange for invincibility. This allows him to personally kill Hitler and steal the Spear of Destiny (why are there so many stories where Hitler has the Spear of Destiny?). But on returning home, Jackson finds that Satan has cheated him by killing off his wife and daughter. This is a poignant story, and Starks’s cartoony art saves it from being unbearably bleak.

BLACK BOLT #7 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] Saladin Ahmed, [A] Frazer Irving. Black Bolt heads to Earth along with Lockjaw and the alien child Blinky. On their way there, they drop off a monster child that was in the prison with them. The scene on the monster planet is funny. Even though Frazer Irving is a star artist, his art pales in comparison to Christian Ward’s.

FRANK #3 (Fantagraphics, 2000) – “Frank’s High Horse” part one, [W/A] Jim Woodring. I saw Jim Woodring speak on a panel at ICAF, and afterward I told him that I find his work very disturbing and creepy, and he took it as a compliment. Also, during the panel, he denied that his work was primarily influenced by classic animation, and mentioned Moorish and Arabesque architecture as another major influence. These two things suggest to me that I’ve misunderstood Woodring. His work definitely draws upon animation tropes, specifically the work of Max Fleisher. But it’s not about animation in the same way as Kim Deitch’s work is. Woodring’s work is its own thing; it’s sui generis. The long story in this issue is a good demonstration of that. In this issue, Frank encounters a creepy-looking moon-faced creature (unnamed, but identified elsewhere as Whim) and they pull some even weirder creatures out of a hole in the sky. This story is difficult to summarize because it’s full of bizarre things with no names, and that’s part of its appeal.

DETECTIVE COMICS #512 (DC, 1982) – “The Fatal Prescription of Doctor Death!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] Gene Colan. This is billed as a 45th anniversary special, but it just feels like a regular issue. The main story is about an evil doctor, and there’s also a Batgirl backup story. Neither is especially good, though Gene Colan’s art on the main story is fairly exciting.

MICKEY MOUSE #225 (Gladstone, 1987) – “The Crazy Crime Wave, Chapter Two,” [W/A] Floyd Gottfredson, [W] Merrill de Maris. In these reprinted newspaper strips, Mickey and Goofy try to solve a bizarre series of thefts in which the thieves only steal hair and flannel underwear. Meanwhile, there’s also a counterfeiting operation going on in the same town. It turns out that the thieves are turning the hair and underwear into pulp, to make paper for counterfeiting currency. I was delighted to realize this because I just read Mark Kurlansky’s book about paper manufacturing. This comic is funny and exciting, and definitely better than #165.

HATE #7 (Fantagraphics, 1992) – “Paranoia Rules Supreme!”, [W/A] Peter Bagge. This issue disappointed me a bit because it barely features Buddy Bradley at all. Instead, the issue is about a date between Buddy’s shut-in nerdy roommate George and his insane future wife Lisa. Because these characters are so different, I expected them to fall in love at first sight, but instead their date is a disaster, which is more in keeping with the tone of Bagge’s work.

New comics received on November 17:

THE WICKED + THE DIVINE #33 (Image, 2017) – “A Little Woden Boy,” [W] Kieron Gillen, [A] Jamie McKelvie. Reading this issue made me realize that I don’t understand this comic’s plot at all. We learn early in the issue that Woden is David Blake, a character we’re supposed to remember even though he hasn’t appeared in several years. So this revelation went right over my head. I did get that David’s son, Jon, is the god Mimir, and his severed head is the source of Woden’s power. Also, Minerva is really Ananke, which makes no sense at all. Generally, this issue was full of powerful revelations, but it would have been much more powerful if I had been reading the series in omnibus form.

PRINCELESS: RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS YEAR TWO: LOVE AND REVENGE #1 (Action Lab, 2017) – “Chapter One: A Ship in the Night,” [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Xenia Panfil. The big event this issue is that Raven starts an affair with Sunshine, then Sunshine falls overboard and Raven nearly drowns trying to rescue her. The art this issue is problematic; I found it quite hard to tell the characters apart. I am glad that Princeless is coming out again, for the first time this year, but I also wish Jeremy would return to the main series.

MECH CADET YU #4 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Greg Pak, [A] Takeshi Miyazawa. This issue was a bit less exciting than last issue because it focused mostly on Stanford himself, rather than Stanford’s mother, who is a much more well-developed character. Still, the action sequence that occupies most of this issue is very exciting. Boom! has thrown a lot of things at the wall this year, and I think they’ve finally found something that’s stuck.

FENCE #1 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] C.S. Pacat, [A] Johanna the Mad. Another example of throwing things at the wall to see if they stick: a comic about fencing. I keep trying to watch fencing in Olympic years, but I find it incomprehensible; it goes too fast and I can never tell who scored and why. Anyway, this comic is about a novice high school fencer from a poor background, who decides to challenge the local fencing prodigy. This sort of plot is very typical of sports manga – I was reminded of Hikaru no Go in particular, except without Fujiwara no Sai – but the main character’s poverty adds a political theme which is absent in Hikaru no Go. This is a promising debut issue, although I fear that this comic won’t last much longer than other recent Boom! Box titles did. I wish the artist had an actual name.

BABYTEETH #6 (Aftershock, 2017) – “Long Live the King,” [W] Donny Cates, [A] Garry Brown. The wizard dude takes Sadie and her family to his secret castle. I wish this comic’s plot would move faster.

MY LITTLE PONY: LEGENDS OF MAGIC #8 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Jeremy Whitley, [A] Tony Fleecs. Stygian tries to recruit Rockhoof for his pony Justice League, but Rockhoof is busy saving a town from lumber bears, which are like timber wolves but worse. After solving that problem, Stygian and Rockhoof collect another recruit, Meadowbrook, who needs help to cure some cute animals that have been brainwashed. I know where this story is going, but it’ll be exciting to see how it gets there.

MISFIT CITY #7 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, (W) Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith & Kurt Lustgarten, (A) Naomi Franquiz. On Halloween, the girls put on costumes and go out, and lots of weird stuff happens. I have no idea how the writers are going to finish their story in just one more issue.

WEIRD WAR TALES #96 (DC, 1981) – “The Mutation of Pvt. Voight!”, [W] J.M. DeMatteis, [A] Dan Spiegle, and other stories. The first story is the best; it’s about a heroin-addicted soldier in Vietnam who either grows wings, or hallucinates that he does, and either way he dies. It’s a bit like Eisner’s “Gerhard Shnobble,” except with heroin. The other stories are drawn by Ruben Yandoc, Tenny Henson, and Vicatan.

DESOLATION JONES #2 (WildStorm, 2005) – “Made in England, Part 2,” [W] Warren Ellis, [A] J.H. Williams III. This issue’s plot is very typical Warren Ellis material and is difficult to understand, but the artwork is just as phenomenal as one would expect. It’s kind of unfortunate that this series was J.H. Williams’s follow-up to Promethea, because it was obscure and was largely overlooked.

WEIRD WAR TALES #20 (DC, 1973) – “Death Watch,” [W] Jack Oleck, [A] Don Perlin, plus other stories. This issue includes not one but two stories by Alfredo Alcala. The first one is impressive enough, although it provides an incorrect account of how Jean-Jacques Dessalines died. But the splash page of the second story is one of the most amazing Alcala illustrations I’ve ever seen. It looks as if he spent hours just drawing the clouds. (See https://www.instagram.com/p/Bbn6xwiF9ME/?taken-by=aaronkashtan)

HAWKEYE #12 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Best There Is,” [W] Kelly Thompson, [A] Michael Walsh. Kate teams up with Wolverine/X-23, along with her even younger clone Gabby and her pet wolverine. Kate and Laura are a natural pairing, and Gabby is adorable. Michael Walsh’s art in this issue is also impressive; there’s one particular two-page splash that looks like it took several days to draw, because it includes about 30 human bodies in action.

SUPER SONS #10 (DC, 2017) – “One Fine Day,” [W] Peter J. Tomasi, [A] José Luis. As the title suggests, this is a self-contained day-in-the-life issue, in which Bruce and Clark build Jon and Damian their own fortress. It’s full of adorable moments, like Jon teaching Damian to “fly.” The “intermezzo” in the middle of the issue seems completely unrelated to the rest of the story, and I wonder if it was inserted as part of some kind of crossover.

MIGHTY THOR #701 (Marvel, 2017) – “The Wrath of the Mangog,” [W] Jason Aaron, [A] James Harren. The Mangog battles the War Thor. Meanwhile, Karnilla goes to Hel and encounters Balder. This was a forgettable issue, particularly since Jane doesn’t appear in it, and Russell Dauterman’s art is missed.

FUTURE QUEST PRESENTS #4 (DC, 2017) – “Galaxy’s Most Wanted!”, [W] Jeff Parker, [A] Ron Randall. In a flashback, Space Ghost hunts down three alien criminals, the Galaxy Trio, and convinces them to go straight. In the present day, Space Ghost decides to try to find the Galaxy Trio again after they’ve vanished fighting Omnikron. This was a fun comic, and because of the weird names, the outer-space milieu, and the team of two men and a women, it felt like a Legion comic. Jeff Parker would be a great Legion writer.

DESCENDER #26 (Image, 2017) – “Rise of the Robots 5 of 5,” [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] Dustin Nguyen. All hell breaks loose as the Harvesters return and Tim encounters his creator. Notable moments in this issue include Tim hugging Telsa, and the surprise four-page splash.

PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #297 (Marvel, 2017) – “Most Wanted, Part 1,” [W] Chip Zdarsky, [A] Andy Kubert. Peter’s home is invaded by some very well-prepared jackbooted thugs, and he has to escape with no spider-sense. This issue has Chip’s best action sequences yet; it really feels at times like Peter has no way out. And JJJ shows up to rescue him at the end, continuing the theme of last issue.

OUR ARMY AT WAR #291 (DC, 1976) – “Death Squad!”, [W] Robert Kanigher, [A] Frank Redondo. Sgt. Rock avenges some villagers who have been massacred by Nazis. This is a fairly powerful story, and a reminder that Kanigher really could write when he wanted to. There’s also a backup story with art by Golden Age artist Norman Maurer.

BLACK CROWN QUARTERLY #1 (IDW, 2017) – various stories, [E] Shelly Bond. This anthology issue has some impressive artwork by Rob Davis and Philip Bond, who I didn’t realize was married to Shelly. But too much of the issue is taken up with previews and text articles, although it’s a worthwhile purchase anyway.

JASON CONQUERS AMERICA #nn (Fantagraphics, 2011) – various stories, [W/A] Jason. This is a collection of previously unpublished short stories by Jason, as well as interviews with him and his colorist Hubert. It’s a quick and fun read which provides some useful insights into Jason’s process. I like Hubert’s qutation “My favorite color is the one I never use: black.”

PLANETARY #26 (Wildstorm, 2006) – untitled, [W] Warren Ellis, [A] John Cassaday. I was reading this series when it was coming out, but somehow I gave up on it before the end, so I’ve never read this story before. This issue, Elijah Snow confronts Randall and Kim, i.e. Reed and Sue, and defeats them using a somewhat poorly explained deus ex machina.

PLANETARY #27 (Wildstorm, 2007) – as above. Last issue was just okay, but this final issue is one of the best Warren Ellis comics I’ve ever read. Most of his work leaves me cold, but this issue has some heart to it. Having defeated the Four, Elijah Snow is determined to rescue Ambrose, a Planetary member who died earlier in the series, and he succeeds. Also, a bunch of his future selves show up to watch him do it.

WONDER WOMAN/CONAN #3 (DC, 2017) – “The Dance of Wicked Crows,” [W] Gail Simone, [A] Aaron Lopresti. In the present-day sequence, Conan and Diana escape from the sharks only to fall into the hands (talons?) of the two raven women. I love how Diana calls the shark “great swallowing prince of many fangs” – in general, I think Gail writes animals very well. In the flashback, young Conan and Diana decide to run away together. This series has been fun, and Gail has managed to convince me that Conan and Diana are a potential couple, despite Conan’s womanizing and Diana’s perpetual virginity.

A BULLETPROOF COFFIN ONE-SHOT: THE 1000-YARD STARE #nn (Image, 2017) – “The 1000 Yard Stare,” [W] David Hine, [A] Shaky Kane. Compared to the previous Shaky Kane comic I read, this one is far better because it at least has a plot. That plot is mostly a bunch of metatextual self-mockery, but it’s well-executed at least, and Shaky Kane’s art is as stunning as usual.

ELRIC #6 (Pacific, 1984) – “At Last – Stormbringer!”, [W] Roy Thomas, [A] P. Craig Russell & Michael T. Gilbert. A very competent adaptation of the end of Elric of Melniboné, although lacking the brilliance of PCR’s Stormbringer adaptation. There’s a lot of stuff in this issue that I forgot about, or didn’t notice when I read the original book. For example, I didn’t realize just how vaginal or anal the Tunnel Under the Marsh was.

ANYTHING GOES! #6 (Fantagraphics, 1987) – various stories, [E] Gary Groth. This anthology issue includes a bunch of seemingly randomly selected stories, some of them reprinted from elsewhere. The best thing in the issue is probably the Matt Howarth story, which features some really weird aliens, and makes me want to read more of his work. The last story, Tom Sutton’s “That Damn Dog,” has brilliant art, but ends very abruptly with no conclusion. After some research, I believe that the reason is because this story is reprinted from a 1977 one-shot called Barn of Fear, except the last page was left out!

LUKE CAGE #1 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] David Walker, [A] Nelson Blake II. I really like the opening sequence of this issue, in which Luke rescues a kidnapped girl. The rest of the issue is not as good. Luke learns that Noah Burstein is dead, so he attends the funeral – which, tritely enough, takes place in the pouring rain – and then goes to New Orleans to investigate Burstein’s death.

LUKE CAGE #2 – as above. Luke encounters Mitchell Tanner and also a bunch of young criminals who Dr. Burstein was experimenting on. This issue is only average, and I really miss Iron Fist and Sanford Greene.

LUKE CAGE #3 – as above. A boring, lifeless issue. By this point it was clear to me that this series is an inferior substitute for Power Man & Iron Fist.

New comics received on November 24:

LUMBERJANES #44 (Boom!, 2017) – “Time After Crime,” [W] Shannon Watters & Kat Leyh, [A] Ayme Sotuyo. Molly chops down the time tree and saves the day. This storyline was fun as usual, but worse than the previous three stories; it was more plot-driven and less rich in detail or characterization. Also, I’m starting to get kind of tired of stories that are driven by Molly’s stepmother problem. I wish the other Lumberjanes would get their own character arcs.

ASTRO CITY #49 (DC, 2017) – “Resistance,” [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] Brent Anderson. This story is nominally about the anti-Trump resistance, but most of it is taken up with the protagonist’s attempt to discover her father’s fate. I love the idea of a group of heroes each of whom gets stronger as their number increases. However, Kurt wastes too much of the issue on plot, and thereby loses the opportunity to make a truly meaningful statement about politics.

RAT QUEENS V2 #6 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Kurtis Wiebe, [A] Owen Gieni. I’ve lost track of what’s been going on in this series, but this is a good issue. The hallucination sequence, drawn in a cartoony style, is a very funny moment.

MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR #25 (Marvel, 2017) – “Fantastic Three, Part 1,” [W] Brandon Montclare, [A] Natacha Bustos. Lunella teams up with Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm and they fight the Silver Surfer. Meanwhile, in what must be a homage to Fantastic Four #2, someone is committing crimes using the Fantastic Four’s powers. This is a fun issue and it makes me wish Marvel was publishing a monthly FF title.

ANGELIC #3 (Image, 2017) – “Heirs and Graces, Part 3,” [W] Simon Spurrier, [A] Caspar Winjgaard. Qora and Complainer continue their quest for Ay. Meanwhile, the other monks, who never cared about Qora before she left them, use her disappearance as a pretext to start a war. This is both an adorable animal story and an effective work of science fiction. I think it’s my favorite Simon Spurrier miniseries besides The Spire.

SNOTGIRL #8 (Image, 2017) – “The Boys Issue,” [W] Bryan Lee O’Malley, [A] Leslie Hung. As the title indicates, this issue focuses on the male characters, and is full of fanservice targeted at female readers. The two primary characters are Lottie’s ex-boyfriend Sunny and Meg’s fiance Ashley – Lottie is Snotgirl and I forget who Meg is, but whatever. Ashley is an amazing depiction of a stereotypical dudebro. He literally thinks about nothing but exploiting women.

ELEANOR AND THE EGRET #5 (Aftershock, 2017) – “Broken Eggs,” [W] John Layman, [A] Sam Kieth. The conclusion to this miniseries does not provide as much clarification as I had hoped for, although we do learn that Anastasia Rüe is some kind of creativity vampire, and Eleanor’s quest is to defeat Anastasia and reclaim all the creativity she stole. I’m still not sure where the egret came from. On Twitter, Layman reported that he and Rob Guillory were unable to get work at Marvel despite the success of Chew. That’s very frustrating.

BATGIRL #17 (DC, 2017) – “Summer of Lies Finale,” [W] Hope Larson, [A] Chris Wildgoose. I had to reread this entire issue just now, because I honestly wasn’t sure if I had finished it or not. I guess when I read this, I was so exhausted that I couldn’t retain it in my memory. But this is a good conclusion to the story, and a poignant examination of Babs and Dick’s relationship.

ADVENTURE COMICS #418 (DC, 1972) – “The Face of the Dragon,” [W] Len Wein, [A] José Delbo, plus other stories. The main attraction of this issue is the eight-page Black Canary story by Alex Toth. Alex is a consummate master of storytelling, and his Dinah Lance is both cute and powerful. It’s too bad that he only did two Black Canary stories – the other appeared in the following issue, which I need to get. This issue’s main story, in which Supergirl and Jonny Double investigate a crime in Chinatown, is okay, but includes some annoying Orientalist stereotypes. This issue also includes a Phantom Stranger reprint, and a previously unpublished Dr. Mid-Nite inventory story from the Golden Age, with new inking by Sal Amendola.

On November 25, I went to a local comic book store – not Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find – for a Black Friday sale. It was not a productive trip. Let me quote how I d escribed this store on Facebook: “Lots of back issues but almost all Marvel and DC, unenthusiastic service, clutter everywhere, boxes that were too full to look through, a limited graphic novel selection… I was there for at least half an hour and could only find $16 worth of stuff I wanted. At one point in my collecting career I would have loved a place like this, but my standards have gotten higher.”

To elaborate on the last line, the store had a pretty big back issue selection, but it was mostly comics I already have. At this point in my collecting career, I already have most of the low-hanging fruit, so it takes more to impress me. One of the comics I did buy at that store was this:

SPIDER-WOMAN #42 (Marvel, 1982) – “The Judas Man,” [W] Chris Claremont, [A] Steve Leialoha. Thanks to the Slings and Arrows Guide, I just learned that Claremont wrote Spider-Woman. In this issue Jessica Drew battles Silver Samurai and Viper, the latter of whom has some sort of personal connection to her. As a result, in this issue the Viper shows some very uncharacteristic humanity and emotion. This issue also has some nice character interaction between Jessica and her roommates. On the whole, this issue isn’t as good as Claremont’s Ms. Marvel, but I’m glad to have something else to collect now that my Ms. Marvel collection is almost complete.

GIANT DAYS 2017 HOLIDAY SPECIAL #1 (Boom!, 2017) – “To Us, You Are Perfect,” [W] John Allison, [A] Jenn St.-Onge. The absence of Max Sarin in this issue makes me realize how essential he is to this series. His art is full of sight gags and magic-realist touches, and it contributes greatly to the comic’s sense of humor. This issue, the girls go to London to stay with a friend, and try to help her choose between her two suitors. This is a good issue, but as noted, Max Sarin is missed.

SHERLOCK FRANKENSTEIN AND THE LEGION OF EVIL #2 (Dark Horse, 2017) – “The Call of Cthu-Lou!”, [W] Jeff Lemire, [A] David Rubín. The second villain on Lucy’s list is Cthu-Lou, a plumber who was transformed into an eldritch monstrosity. The highlight of the series so far is Lucy’s encounter with Cthu-Lou’s little daughter Cthu-Louise. You get the sense that Cthu-Louise parents have made her feel ashamed of herself, and that Lucy’s positive interaction with her might have made a real difference to her self-esteem.

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #70 (Dark Horse, 1993) – “The Madwoman of the Sacred Heart, Part 1,” [W] Moebius, [A] Alejandro Jodorowsky, plus other stories. This issue’s lead story is the first chapter of a BD album about a pompous professor. Moebius’s art is beautiful, but it’s presented in black and white, which is truly unfortunate given the central role that color plays in Moebius’s work. Luckily there’s a color edition of this album. This issue also includes an okay strip by Gary Davis, and some Alec strips by Eddie Campbell, most or all of which I’ve read elsewhere. Among these strips is the one with the line “The successful candidate will not partially fill panels.”

DEPT. H #20 (Dark Horse, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Matt Kindt. This issue reveals the origin of Q, who grew up in the Australian outback and killed his father before embarking on a life of crime. Kindt powerfully depicts Q’s miserable, doomed existence, although he relies a bit on stereotypes of Aboriginal Australians. I was just reading the proofs of my chapter on MIND MGMT, and I’m reminded of the lengths to which Kindt went in order to make that series a materially rich experience. Dept. H is not a bad series, but its materiality is much less powerful.

THE PHANTOM STRANGER #2 (DC, 1969) – “The Man Who Died Three Times!”, [W] Otto Binder, [A] Bill Draut, et al. This issue consists of two old reprinted stories with a new framing sequence. Both the reprints and the new material are stupid, and the Phantom Stranger is depicted as just some vaguely mysterious dude, rather than an ominous being of incredible power. The modern version of the Phantom Stranger didn’t appear until at least #4 of this series.

SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND LOIS LANE #94 (DC, 1969) – “The Lois Lane in the Mystic Mirror,” [W] Leo Dorfman, [A] Curt Swan. Lois uses a magic mirror to switch places with her duplicate from a parallel world, who is married to Superman and has a child. This story doesn’t make any sense – the alternate Lois abandons her husband and son for no reason at all. The backup story, a reprint by Siegel and Schaffenberger, is even worse. It’s so full of misogyny and fat-shaming that it would have been considered offensive even in 1969.

BLACK PANTHER #167 (Marvel, 2017) – “Avengers of the New World, Part 8,” [W] Ta-Nehisi Coates, [A] Leonard Kirk. T’Challa and Shuri forcibly recruit Thunderball as an ally against Klaw, then they travel into the Djalla, i.e. the realm of the ancestors. The interesting things in this issue are, first, getting to see inside Thunderball’s head, and second, the flashback sequence showing how the Wakandans stole their land from the native beast-people. I guess the lesson here is that Wakanda isn’t the perfect anti-colonial utopia.

FANTASTIC FOUR #155 (Marvel, 1975) – “Battle Royal!”, [W] Len Wein, [A] Rich Buckler. A surprisingly fun story from an undistinguished period in the FF’s history. The Silver Surfer discovers that Shalla Bal is on Earth but has somehow become Dr. Doom’s wife.

AVENGERS #287 (Marvel, 1988) – “Invasion!”, [W] Roger Stern & Ralph Macchio, [A] John Buscema. The Avengers search for Marrina, who was kidnapped by the Fixer and Mentallo. Meanwhile, Dr. Druid openly challenges Captain Marvel’s leadership. The subplot about Monica’s leadership problem is interesting, but the main plot of this comic is not, and the Avengers lineup at this point was terrible.

LEGIONNAIRES #81 (DC, 2000) – “Widening Rifts, Part 2: Event Horizon,” [W] Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning, [A] Adam DeKraker. In the midst of a crisis in which Stargates stop functioning, the UP votes to disband the Legion and impeach RJ Brande. This is the last issue of the series, and is followed by Legion Lost and then The Legion. It’s exciting, but also includes some annoying moments, such as Jo and Tinya acting codependent, and Jazmin being rude to Star Boy.

SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #134 (Marvel, 1988) – “Sin-Cere,” [W] Peter David, [A] Sal Buscema. In the first part of the sequel to “The Death of Jean DeWolff,” the former Sin-Eater is paroled. Also, Electro finally defeats Spider-Man after realizing that Spidey uses static electricity to stick to walls. This seems to have been the official explanation of Spidey’s wall-crawling at the time, but was later abandoned. This is an entertaining issue with some cute moments, like the page where Peter surprises MJ taking pictures, but the art is bad and the inking is worse.

SUPERMAN #306 (DC, 1976) – “Backward Battle for the Bizarro World!”, [W] Martin Pasko, [A] Curt Swan. Bizarro invades Earth, mistakenly thinking that Bizarro World has disappeared somehow. Superman proves to him that Bizarro World still exists. A mediocre issue.

SUICIDE SQUAD #17 (DC, 1988) – “Battleground Manhattan,” [W] John Ostrander, [A] Luke McDonnell. Disappointingly, this issue’s first 15 pages are taken up by of an overlong action sequence in which the Jihad invade Manhattan. The rest of the issue consists of more typical Suicide Squad material, and is more fun to read. I do like the idea that the Jihad’s members are all from countries that have been destabilized by American intervention.

MYSTERY IN SPACE #114 (DC, 1980) – “Betrayal on Gamma Nova,” [W] Carl Wessler, [A] Johnny Craig. This issue’s lead story was created by two men with a combined age of well over 100, and it shows. The other material in the issue is better. There’s a three-pager by Levitz and Spiegle in which Earth is saved thanks to the existence of a single good man. The horrible alien creatures in the last panel are a nice touch. Other creators represented in the issue include Dan Mishkin & Gary Cohn, Steve Ditko, and the underrated Tom Yeates. The juxtaposition of Ditko and Yeates in the last two stories is striking.

New comics received on December 1, which was kind of an awful day because I was terrified about the tax bill:

BATMAN: CREATURE OF THE NIGHT #1 (DC, 2017) – “Book One: I Shall Become…”, [W] Kurt Busiek, [A] John Paul Leon. This miniseries is the spiritual sequel to Superman: Secret Identity. Like its predecessor, Creature of the Night is the best story about its title character in many years. It’s clearly a labor of love for both Busiek and Leon, whose art in this issue is the best of his career, as was Stuart Immonen’s art in Secret Identity. Both Alfred and little Bruce are deeply compelling characters. I especially like the implication that Alfred can’t be Bruce’s adoptive father because he’s gay. Besides Secret Identity, this series also bears a heavy resemblance to Batman: Year One, but is much warmer and more emotional.

MOTOR CRUSH #8 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W/A] Babs Tarr, [W] Brenden Fletcher & Cameron Stewart. Domino, Lola and Cal invade a Crush processing plant. Besides being another high-quality issue of Motor Crush, this issue is notable for its spotlight on Catball. Until now Catball was just a generic annoying mascot, but in this issue it finally starts to show a distinct personality.

HI-FI FIGHT CLUB #4 (Boom!, 2017) – untitled, [W] Carly Usdin, [A] Nina Vakueva. For legal reasons this issue was published under a different title, but I refuse to acknowledge that title because it’s dumb. In this final issue, the good guys use the power of music and electronics to rescue the kidnapped band, then the protagonist and her crush start a relationship. This was a fun series, but like so many other Boom! titles, it didn’t get the chance to realize its potential. Both its creators are quite talented, and I hope we see more of them.

MANIFEST DESTINY #32 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Chris Dingess, [A] Matthew Roberts. This issue is narrated by Irene the French maid, a character who I didn’t even realize existed until now, but who, of course, has her own story and her own perspective. All the narration in this issue is in French, which is appropriate because it demonstrates the separation between Irene and the Anglophones who constitute the rest of the party. (I’m proud to report that I can read French and I didn’t need the translation, except for an unfamiliar word or two.) I hope they go on and do an issue narrated by Sacagawea in Shoshone. This issue is also very relevant at the present cultural moment, because the plot is that one of the soldiers has sexually assaulted Irene, and she knows he’s planning to do it again and no one will stop him. So she takes matters into her own hands – or maybe I should say claws – and kills him, with Sacagawea’s unexpected help.

SUPER SONS ANNUAL #1 (DC, 2017) – “Animal Planet,” [W] Peter Tomasi, [A] Paul Pelletier. Stories about teams of super-pets are nothing new at this point, but this is a really good one nonetheless. In the part of the issue involving the pets, all the dialogue is in animal noises, but Tomasi and Pelletier’s storytelling is strong enough that the story makes sense anyway. The pets are funny and have distinctive personalities, especially Streaky, and their adventure is exciting. As a Legion fan, I’m disappointed that Proty was replaced by “Clay Critter.”

ATOMIC ROBO AND THE SPECTRE OF TOMORROW #2 (IDW, 2017) – untitled, [W] Brian Clevinger, [A] Scott Wegener. This issue continues all the subplots from last issue. Also, a bunch of killer robots, resembling the one from the first issue, appear all over the world. So far, this is my favorite Atomic Robo miniseries since Savage Sword of Dr. Dinosaur.

SWORD OF AGES #1 (IDW, 2017) – “Prelude: Castaways,” [W/A] Gabriel Rodriguez. Gabriel Rodriguez’s first full solo work is further proof that he’s one of the best artists in American comics. However, this feels more like a European comic than an American one, since Rodriguez’s artwork and Lovern Kindzierski’s coloring are heavily influenced by Moebius. The subject matter – an adventure on an alien planet that blends SF and fantasy –reminds me of French SF comics like Aquablue or Lanfeust de Troy. Even the chapter titles, in black text inserted into the panel gutters, are reminiscent of Moebius. As suggested, Rodriguez’s draftsmanship and storytelling are amazing, but the plot of this comic is unclear; there are multiple different plotlines with different characters, and it’s not clear how these plots are connected. I’m sure it’ll make sense eventually, though.

SPIDER-GWEN #26 (Marvel, 2017) – “Gwenom,” [W] Jason Latour, [A] Robbi Rodriguez. Besides the Bodega Bandit scene, this is another grim and depressing issue. I wish Gwen would just kill Matt Murdock already. I hope this storyline will have a happy ending.

MARVEL ADVENTURES: FANTASTIC FOUR #35 (Marvel, 2008) – “Go One Way Orrgo Another,” [W] Paul Tobin, [A] David Nakayama. I haven’t collected this series as avidly as the other Marvel Adventures titles, but this issue is fantastic, and a perfect example of Tobin’s ability to blend humor with the Silver Age Marvel writing style. The FF battle Orrgo, a monster from Marvel’s pre-superhero era. Then Johnny and Ben are invited to serve as judges for a beauty pageant, and it turns out Orrgo is the other judge. The scenes with Ben and Orrgo discussing the contestants are as hilarious as you’d expect. There’s also a further plot involving AIM, and Sue Storm teams up with the coincidentally named Chili Storm, from Millie the Model, to save the day.

DC COMICS PRESENTS #31 (Marvel, 1981) – “The Deadliest Show on Earth!”, [W] Gerry Conway, [A] José Luis García-López. Superman teams up with Robin to defeat a circus of criminals. This plot is familiar from lots of Marvel comics, and the writer acknowledges this; at one point Robin suggests that Superman should attack the ringmaster first because “isn’t he usually the guy who’s the mastermind in all the comic books?” At least this story is a bit different from your average Circus of Crime story because of Robin’s circus upbringing. However, the main attraction of this comic is JLGL’s brilliant artwork.

TANTALIZING STORIES PRESENTS FRANK IN THE RIVER #1 (Tundra, 1992) – “Frank in ‘The River’”, [W/A] Jim Woodring. The main story in this one-shot was probably one of Woodring’s first stories in color, and it’s a masterpiece. The artwork and coloring are phenomenal. The plot is clearer than in the previous Woodring comics I reviewed, though its narrative logic is based on magic instead of causality. This issue also includes a backup story by Mark Martin, which is interesting and well-done, but pales in comparison to the lead story.

MISTER MIRACLE SPECIAL #1 (DC, 1987) – “No Escape from Destiny!!!”, [W] Mark Evanier, [A] Steve Rude. Evanier and Rude are the perfect creative team for a Mister Miracle adaptation. The former was Kirby’s assistant on the original Fourth World comics, and the latter has been described (by Jon B. Cooke) as one of the few artists who truly “gets” Kirby. Together, they show a deep understanding of Kirby’s sensibility, resulting in one of the best post-Kirby Fourth World stories. The plot is that Funky Flashman coaxes Scott Free out of retirement for one more show, threatening Scott’s marriage since Barda wants him to stop risking his life. Also, the risk is even worse than Scott realizes, because Funky Flashman is working for Darkseid.

SUPERMAN #263 (DC, 1973) – “Man of Molten Steel!”, [W] Elliot S! Maggin, [A] Curt Swan. An unimpressive effort by my favorite Superman creative team. The plot is about a director named Simon March who makes his actors perform risky stunts, but beyond that, it’s a bunch of mystical mumbo jumbo that makes no sense. The World of Krypton backup story isn’t much better.

TALES FROM THE CRYPT #7 (Russ Cochran, 1994) – various stories, [E] Bill Gaines. This was originally Tales from the Crypt #23. The highlight of this issue is Graham Ingels’s “Last Respects.” In this story, a wealthy but underage heiress secretly marries her chauffeur. Her tyrannical uncle has the marriage annulled, and she dies of grief. The chauffeur murders the uncle in revenge, but then when he visits his wife’s mausoleum to say goodbye, he gets locked in and can’t escape. He survives for a month by eating… well, you can figure out what… but eventually he dies too, from formaldehyde poisoning. This is one of the grimmest, bleakest EC stories I’ve read, thanks in part to Ingels’s “ghastly” art. This issue also includes lesser stories by Feldstein, Davis and Craig. Jack Davis’s “Seance” is the best of these three, though its shock ending is too predictable.

CHARLTON BULLSEYE #1 (Charlton, 1981) – “The Enigma!”, [W] Benjamin Smith, [A] Dan Reed. This Blue Beetle/Question teamup is a piece of hackwork that demonstrates Charlton’s low standards. The story is of no interest at all (notably, the plot is credited to “A. Committee”), and the only time the art is effective is when it’s blatantly copied from Neal Adams.

WORLD OF ANIMOSITY #1 (Aftershock, 2017) – untitled, [W] Marguerite Bennett, [A] Rafael De Latorre. This mostly text-based issue is a compendium of information about the world of the series. It effectively fleshes out Animosity’s world, but is full of tiny text that’s tedious to read. Moreover, at the same time that it tells us more about Animosity’s world, it also provides more evidence that the premise of the series makes no logical sense. For example, Bennett is forced to acknowledge that animals shouldn’t be able to speak if they don’t have vocal cords, though I guess that might be a plot point.

LUKE CAGE #4 (Marvel, 2017) – untitled, [W] David Walker, [A] Nelson Blake. This is the best issue yet, though that’s a low bar to clear. Noah Burstein is, of course, not dead, and on encountering him again, Luke has to confront their dysfunctional and exploitative relationship. Noah claims to be Luke’s father, but really he takes all the credit for all the good Luke does, without accepting blame for the bad consequences of all his other experiments. I’d enjoy this series more if it had more of this kind of storytelling.

SPY SEAL #4 (Image, 2017) – “The Corten-Steel Phoenix” (part 4), [W/A] Rich Tommaso. The first storyline ends in an exciting if somewhat predictable way. As I’ve suggested before, this comic might be underwhelming to French readers, because it’s so similar to Tintin. But in the American market, Spy Seal is a very unusual comic because it’s explicitly influenced by Clear Line comics, and American commercial comics have mostly ignored this source of influence.

ACES HIGH #4 (Gemstone, 1999) – various stories, [E] Bill Gaines. This issue includes aviation stories by George Evans, Bernie Krigstein, Wally Wood and Jack Davis. George Evans is the only artist in this issue who’s not in the Eisner Hall of Fame, and he really should be. His story, “The Green Kids,” is probably the highlight of the issue, though it reminds me a lot of “The Keg” from Piracy #5, also by Evans. Both these stories are about commanding officers who seem to be horrible brutes, but who turn out to have been secretly protecting their men.

BLACK MAGICK #9 (Image, 2017) – untitled, [W] Greg Rucka, [A] Nicola Scott. This issue just advances all the ongoing plotlines a little bit. The cat on the cover only appears on a few pages of the comic.

WILDMAN COMICS #6 (Miller, 1989) – “Wildman & Rubberoy in Paradise,” [W/A] Grass Green. This comic includes three stories by Grass Green: two superhero parodies, and an installment in the long-running saga of his main character, Xal-Kor the Human Cat. Grass Green is known as a fan artist, but his work is of professional quality, though it’s not spectacular. His art is heavily influenced by Ditko, and is more energetic than most of Ditko’s later work.

SHATTER SPECIAL #1 (First, 1985) – “Headhunters,” [W] Peter B. Gillis, [A] Mike Saenz. This is historically important as the self-proclaimed “first computerized comic,” though who knows if that’s really true. Mike Saenz’s art appears to have been created with the same version of MacPaint that was on my childhood computer. It looks hopelessly primitive today, but Saenz’s ability to achieve subtle effects with very crude tools is impressive. Gillis’s story is pretty standard cyberpunk material.

ROWANS RUIN #3 (Boom!, 2015) – untitled, [W] Mike Carey, [A] Mike Perkins. This was pretty good, but I wish I’d had the time to reread issues 1 and 2 before reading it.

POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #83 (Marvel, 1982) – “War Without End!”, [W] Mary Jo Duffy, [A] Denys Cowan. Luke and Danny separately battle Warhawk. Meanwhile some other stuff happens, like Noah Burstein trying to get Luke back together with his ex-girlfriend Claire Temple. This issue passes the black female Bechdel test because of a scene in which Misty Knight and Harmony Young talk about boots. Other than that, this is a well-written issue, but not Duffy’s best, and Denys Cowan’s art is lackluster.

WORLD’S FINEST COMICS #278 (DC, 1982) – “Assault on Thanagar!”, [W] Bob Rozakis, [A] Rich Buckler. The best things in this oversized issue are the Zatanna story drawn by Dan Spiegle, and the Marvel Family story drawn by Don Newton. However, nothing in this issue is truly great.

THE WORLD BELOW: DEEPER AND STRANGER #1 (Dark Horse, 1999) – “The Spare!”, [W/A] Paul Chadwick. In this sequel to an earlier miniseries, some strange people explore an even stranger underground world. The premise of this comic is similar to that of Cave Carson, but Chadwick’s underground creatures and environments are truly bizarre – the trees with ring-shaped branches are just one of the many weird things in this issue. Chadwick is such a brilliant writer that you sometimes forget he’s also a phenomenal artist, and because this story lacks the philosophical and literary depth of Concrete, it gives the reader the chance to appreciate Chadwick’s art.

MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #72 (Marvel, 1981) – “The Might of Maelstrom,” [W] Mark Gruenwald & Ralph Macchio, [A] Ron Wilson. The Thing and the Inhumans battle Maelstrom and his minions. Gruenwald also provides some new or retconned information about the Inhumans’ history. This comic was pretty average.

FRANK #4 (Fantagraphics, 2001) – “Frank’s High Horse, Part 2,” [W/A] Jim Woodring. This issue begins with a summary of part one, which is very helpful, since I read part one but didn’t understand it. It turns out that Whim was teaching Frank to “pull dupes from hidden yonis,” but instead of a dupe, Frank got a High Horse – the thing that looks kind of like an evil stingray. This issue, Frank and his High Horse terrorize a bunch of other innocent creatures, until the High Horse decides to go back into the cosmic vagina that it came from. Frank follows it through, and finds himself in a world full of horrible creatures. I audibly gasped on seeing the two-page spread in which Frank arrives in the High Horse’s dimension. This issue also includes a four-pager in which Frank tries to capture a creature in a jar, but the creature keeps getting bigger. Sadly, this is the last of the Woodring comics I bought in October. I’m going to need to get more.

WOLFF & BYRD, COUNSELORS OF THE MACABRE #5 (Exhibit A, 1995) – “That Model Client,” [W/A] Batton Lash. This issue introduces the model Dawn Devine, Byrd’s future love interest. She becomes Wolff and Byrd’s client when she tries to get out of her modeling contract, and her employer retaliates by revoking the beauty spell he cast on her. This story would be considered fat-shaming if it were published today, but it’s very funny and entertaining, in typical Wolff & Byrd fashion.

KILL OR BE KILLED #2 (Image, 2016) – untitled, [W] Ed Brubaker, [A] Sean Phillips. Needing to kill a bad person, the protagonist remembers having learned of a childhood friend who was repeatedly raped by his older brother, so he tracks down the brother and kills him in cold blood. This issue demonstrates why the protagonist of this comic is a morally ambiguous and disturbing character, more of a villain than a hero. Even if the older brother was a sexual predator, did he deserve to be shot without a trial? You can tell that the protagonist himself is unsure of that.

Eisner Hall of Famers who are or were Jewish

  1. Rube Goldberg
  2. Milt Gross
  3. Jerry Iger
  4. Al Capp
  5. John Broome
  6. Joe Simon
  7. Bill Finger
  8. Joe Shuster
  9. Jerry Siegel
  10. Mort Weisinger
  11. Bob Kane
  12. Dick Sprang
  13. Robert Kanigher
  14. Julius Schwartz
  15. Martin Nodell
  16. Carl Burgos
  17. Mort Meskin
  18. Sheldon Mayer
  19. Jack Kirby
  20. Will Eisner
  21. Bernie Krigstein
  22. Irwin Hasen
  23. Sheldon Moldoff
  24. Will Elder
  25. Jerry Robinson
  26. Stan Lee
  27. Arnold Drake
  28. Harvey Kurtzman
  29. Al Feldstein
  30. René Goscinny
  31. Gil Kane
  32. Joe Kubert
  33. Jules Feiffer
  34. Mort Drucker
  35. Trina Robbins
  36. Harvey Pekar
  37. Marv Wolfman
  38. Steve Gerber
  39. Len Wein
  40. Art Spiegelman
  41. Chris Claremont

Unsuccessful Eisner Hall of Fame nominees

I believe these are all the people who have been nominated for the Will Eisner Hall of Fame, but not elected:

Paul S. Newman

Yves Chaland

Frank Hampson

Frank Robbins

Creig Flessel

Bernard Baily

Lily Renée

Bob Powell

Cliff Sterrett

George Evans

Tarpé Mills

George Tuska

Alberto Breccia

Bob Oksner

Jack Kamen

Frans Masereel

George McManus

Yoshihiro Tatsumi

Kim Deitch

Jenette Kahn

Rodolphe Töpffer

Carlos Ezquerra

Bob Fujitani

Jesse Marsh

Dan O’Neill

Howard Cruse

Bud Fisher

Al Jaffee

Thomas Nast

Gary Panter

Gus Arriola

Philippe Druillet

Fred Kida

Françoise Mouly

Rumiko Takahashi

Edward Gorey

P. Craig Russell

Peter Bagge

Steve Englehart

Justin Green

Roberta Gregory

Jackie Ormes

Posy Simmonds

Garry Trudeau

Some of these have been nominated multiple times, including Oksner, Mills, Tuska, and Newman. This list is in order by when they were first nominated, so some of the names lower down on the list are likely to make it in soon.

Reviews of about 125 comics

10-28-17

New comics received on October 7:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New comics received on 10-13:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New comics received on October 27:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reviews for rest of September

10-8-17

New comics received on September 15:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New comics received on September 22:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New comics received on September 29:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One more week’s worth of reviews

New comics received on Saturday, September 9:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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